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December Beer Club

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In 2009, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men and women promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the West Chester underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as drinkers of craft beer. If you have a problem... if no one else can help... and if you can find them a local BYOB in which to meet... maybe you can hire... The Beer Club Team.

Well, that didn't work as well as it did in my head, but I'm going to leave it there as a reminder to myself that my stupid references aren't as funny as I think. Take that, self! What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folks from my work. We meet up once a month at a local BYOB and sample all sorts of beers. Decent turnout tonight, and some great beers too:

Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

Half remembered thoughts on each beer are below. For posterity, you understand. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order depicted above:

  • Harpoon UFO White - I could have sworn we've had this at beer club before, but I can't find any reference to it... Holy coriander, Batman! Very powerfully spiced for a simple wheat beer, but it made for a nice, bland start to the evening. B
  • Kaedrin Saison - Man, this thing is drinking perfect right now! Huge carbonation, spicy, crisp, and dry. Great with food, and I'm really disappointed that I only have a couple bottles of this left. This may end up being one of my better beers of all time. B+ or A- material here.
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Alas, this has not quite carbonated itself so well just yet. Disappointing. I had one last week, and it seemed like it was doing well, but nope, tonight's was lower carbonated than the last one I had. Weird. I'll give it a few more weeks before opening another (it seems that the regular saison is peaking right now, after several months) and leave it at that for now...
  • Ken's Homebrewed Winter Warmer - Very solid example of the style, very well spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, it came out really smooth and almost creamy, with that spicy kick. I really enjoyed this, even more than the other Winter Warmer/Holiday beers of the night. B+
  • Sly Fox Christmas Ale - Another winter warmer, and one I look forward to every year. Alas, they change up the recipe every year, and I have to admit, I'm not in love with this year's version. It's fine, to be sure, but not as good as previous years (or Ken's homebrew!) B-
  • Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale - It's amazing how little repetition there is in beer club. I can probably count on one hand the number of times that someone has brought a beer that's been at beer club before... This one was just at beer club back in September, which wouldn't be that bad except that no one really likes this beer! It's so thin and the bourbon barrel treatment doesn't really come through in any meaningful way (it's got some of that bourbon flavor, but it feels watered down and just flat). It's not a hideous abomination, but it's not particularly good either. C
  • Trappistes Rochefort 6 - A classic that I've already reviewed, and a welcome relief from the previous beer!
  • Affligem Noël - This was one of my favorite beers when I started the blog... but I didn't respond quite so well this time around. Not sure if it's just the context of beer club and a beleaguered palate, or if this really isn't as good as I remember. The balance is certainly off here, a little boozy, not enough malt and spice to counteract that. It's certainly not bad at all, and I do still really enjoy it, but perhaps not as much as I originally did... Let's call it a B or B+ now.
  • Southern Tier Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale - A late arrival, this perhaps should have been opened earlier in the night... but even then, I suspect this would underwhelm. C+
  • Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad - Dana and I shop at the same beer store. She shared hers, I greedily drank mine by myself. As I rated on Monday, B+
  • Stone Suede Imperial Porter - It's a fine porter, light roast, some complexity from those weird flower and jasmine adjuncts, but ultimately this is a beer that doesn't really float my boat. It's fine, I could probably take one down on my own, but I'm glad I was trying it in a tasting setting... B
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout - Another Dana special, I'm really glad she brought this... mostly because it's just awesome beer (that I've reviewed before). Still an A
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout - And this one was my contribution for the night. I had this last year and loved it, but it had aged for a few months before I cracked it open. This year, I had one fresh and thought I absolutely had to share this. I don't particularly love coffee, and this thing is a huge coffee bomb. It's amazing how much the coffee fades in the beer after a few months (I know the coffee is different every year, so maybe that's a factor this year too, but it's still dominated by coffee, to the point where I can barely get the bourbon barrel out of this, though it is there). Since some members of beer club are big coffee fans, I thought I should share it while it's fresh. It did not disappoint.
  • Fort Collins 1900 Amber Lager - I will refrain from talking much about this because after the Bourbon County, this was basically like water. A simple palate cleanser. That being said, it does not seem like my kinda thing...
And that wraps up yet another successful beer club. Already looking forward to ringing in the new year with beer club...

Affligem Dubbel

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Affligem Abbey was founded in the middle of the 11th century by a group of six "pillaging knights" who had reformed themselves into Benedictine monks. Brewing activities began as early as 1074 and the abbey was apparently intimately involved in the hop trade (apparently hops still grow near the monastery). History being what it is, the abbey's buildings were sacked several times over the centuries, and always rebuilt, though after it was destroyed during World War II, the monks decided to contract a local brewery to make their beer. That brewery was eventually bought out by Heineken, but the monks retain the Affligem brand name and certain controls over their beer (and like the Trappists, they use their proceeds for charitable purposes).

They claim their current recipes are a modernized version of the same beers being brewed nearly a thousand years ago. The modernization was apparently lead by a monk named Tobias, who called the result "Formula Antiqua Renovata". I assume that this is all marketing fluff and that "modernization" consisted of completely redesigning the beers or that the original recipe went something like: water, barley, hops. Anyway, Affligem appears to be most famous for their Tripel or perhaps their Noël, but they first came to my attention because of their most excellent Dubbel (which people rarely talk about for some reason):

Affligem Dubbel

Affligem Dubbel - Pours a cloudy brown/amber color with a couple fingers of white head. As you get towards the bottom of the bottle, you can see yeast sediment as well. Smell is filled with dark fruits (raisins, plums) and Belgian yeast character (spicy). Flavor is rich, sweet and fruity with a well matched spiciness and nice dry finish. There's something else here that's contributing to that richness - almost like molasses or brown sugar. Sometimes I'm even getting a note of chocolate in there. It gives the beer a most welcome distinctive quality. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied and it's got those rich flavors, but this is definitely easy to put down. At 7%ABV, it's not going to kill you either. Overall, one of my favorite dubbels! A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 1/20/12.

This beer does share a certain character with Ommegang's Abbey Ale, though this isn't quite as heavy. I remember picking up a bottle of this stuff in my fledgling beer nerd days when I knew nothing about beer. I picked it because it had a tasteful design and I knew I liked dubbels - not quite Belgian beer roulette, but pretty close. I remember being somewhat disappointed by their Tripel when I circled back on it, but it's something I'm going to need to revisit at some point.

Affligem Noël

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After the Christmas festivities, I just wanted to site down and relax with some good beer, so I popped open one of my favorites of the season:

Affligem Noel

Affligem Noël: It's strange, I don't see much about Affligem in the beer nerd community. Perhaps because they have a relatively steady lineup of 4 beers (including Noël, the one seasonal on their roster). That being said, according to the bottle, this Abbey has been brewing beers according to a recipe orginating in 1074, and damn, everything they make is great, including the Noël. It's gorgeous color, a deep orange/brown with a finger of light-colored head. Smell is crisp and clear, a little yeasty and maybe some fruit. Taste starts sweet with some dark fruit flavors, then you get some spiciness and a crisp, but not very bitter finish. It's a wonderful and well balanced beer. The carbonation is a bit high, but given the relatively high ABV, that actually makes it more drinkable. This carbonation subsides a bit as it warms, at which point it begins to take on a more boozy flavor, but nothing overwhelming or bad. It's a little more different than Affligem's standard Dubbel (one of my favorites) than I was expecting, but it's a fantastic beer and among the best of the winter seasonals I've had this year. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

I believe this marks the end of this year's formally holiday beer, though I do have a few stouts and other wintry seasonals waiting in the wings.

Decembeer Club

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Towards the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This month's haul:

Decembeer

It was a mostly holiday ale theme. Conditions aren't exactly ideal for tasting, so take the following with a grain of salt, but here's what I thought of each:

  • Affligem Noël: My contribution and one of my favorites of the night. Much like their dubbel, but a little spicier. Great beer that I plan to revisit in more detail this holiday season (I have another bottle on my shelf).
  • Anchor Special Christmas Ale 2010 - My other contribution, I've already written about this, but it went over well with other folks too...
  • Delirium Noël: Raisiny and sweet, another popular beer and something I want to revisit in detail.
  • Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf: Super boozy red ale. Not terrible, but the high alcohol overpowers everything. I'm not sure I could drink a 12 oz bottle of this, but it's interesting nonetheless...
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - Not as dark as the Delirium, but it shares that certain raisin smell and flavor, a little syrupy sweet too. Not bad.
  • Ridgeway Reindeer Droppings - Doesn't sound appetizing, but a solid light flavored beer (technically an English Pale Ale). Not a favorite, but a decent session beer.
  • Ridgeway Warm Welcome: A reasonable brown ale, I think this one was overshadowed by some of the above beers.
  • Southern Tier Unearthly IPA - Solid DIPA, but not the top of the line (like Dogfish 90 Minute or Stone IPA)
  • Ridgeway Lump of Coal Stout: I suppose this is a reasonable stout, but there's nothing special about it and there's no holiday style to it either. Not offensively bad or anything, but not especially noteworthy either.
  • New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale - Nothing really holiday about this, but a solid session beer (I assume that this is someone's Yuengling Lager style beer).
  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde - A first time beer club attendee brought this. Hard to fault him for that, as I love this beer.

Well, that about covers it! Again, not an especially rigorous tasting session, with the palate cleansed by a burger and fries, but still, as always, a really good time. After beer club, a few of us hit up the local beer distributer. It being PA, we could only buy a full case of stuff, but someone became enamored with Anchor's Christmas ale and bought a case of that, and four of us went in on a St. Bernardus variety pack (each of us got 6 St Bernardus beers, which is pretty awesome). As usual, I'm already looking forward to next month.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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