Recently in Alesmith Category

AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout

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According to BeerAdvocate, there are currently 34 different variations of AleSmith's venerable Speedway Stout, ranging from numerous different coffee varieties to different barrel aged treatments to totally wacky shit like Tiramisu or Maple Blueberry Pancake. In general, though, what you see at the store is the original Ryan Bros. Coffee version, which is fantastic, to be sure, but you hear about all these variants and can't help but wonder... The grand majority of this stuff is probably brewery-only distribution, but one can't help but pine for a taste. So I was more than a little surprise when a little birdy told me that a local beeratorium was going to be tapping a keg of Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout, a particularly prized variant. Despite my legendary antipathy towards coffee stouts, I rather enjoyed regular Speedway, and still wanted to get a taste of the good stuff.

So what makes this special? First made in 2012, this beer utilizes a blend of four Vietnamese coffees, known in Vietnam as cà phê sa đá, that are then slow roasted at low temperature (a salient point, and perhaps one of the reasons I like this - that treatment supposedly lends a less bitter, less roasty, less burnt flavor, though I'm obviously taking someone's word for this since I'm not a coffee guy) and brewed using traditional Phin-style filter. Looking into this, it seems a bit odd, because the Phin-style filter is a single-cup, gravity driven brewing tool, so did they brew enough for a full batch of beer using single cups? Whatever the case, it worked, because the result is a wonderful beer (erm, not the greatest picture, sorry about that):

AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout

AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout - Yes, it's black with half a finger of tan head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smell has a great vanilla component, but the typical roasty, coffee, dark chocolate notes also make the requisite appearance, seems less intense but more complex. Taste is all rich, dark malts, caramel, vanilla, well balanced hop bitterness, a healthy roastiness, and yes, a very nice mellow coffee, especially in the finish. We all know I'm no coffee fiend, but this is my kind of coffee beer. I had this a second time later in the week and felt that the vanilla component wasn't as prominent, but I'm guessing that was just because I had it after drinking a bunch of other beers. Mouthfeel is full bodied and moderately carbonated, well balanced but a little boozy heat makes itself known, especially as it warms up. Overall, right up at the top of my coffee beer ranking... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap (10 ounce pour). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/7/15.

After getting a small taste of BA Speedway, and now this, I'm thinking I need to get on the ball with AleSmith's special releases!

Things I Can't Get Worked Up About

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The beer nerd world gets worked up about things on a regular basis. Today, it's the whole Lagunitas sell-out thing, which, yes, has an ironic component given the deranged ramblings of their owner in the past. But I'm sorry, I just can't get worked up about it. I've got too much beer to drink, not to mention all the other stuff going on in my life. Here's a few other things I could care less about:

  • Pumpkin Beer in July! Every year with these people. Yeah, it's faintly ridiculous that a big, heavy, spicy fall beer shows up on shelves in July, and no, I don't want to drink one whilst embroiled in a humid heat wave. That's why I don't buy pumpkin beers in July! No one is forcing you to buy them and there's plenty of other stuff on the shelves. We're drowning in a glorious deluge of great, varied beer these days. I can't get worked up about pumpkin beer showing up a little early.
  • The definition of Craft! Dear lord, why? It's fermented sugar water, and it's delicious. That's pretty much all I need. Look, I enjoy pedantic labeling exercises as much as the next guy, and if you want to see me rant about what the hell constitutes a saison, I'll go on about it for hours. That is something I can get worked up about, for some reason. But "craft" is basically meaningless to me, no matter how you define it. I'm sure I've used the term on here before, but the thing is, you probably understood what I was talking about without needing to delve into how many barrels a given brewer puts out in a year. Language is sometimes ephemeral, and I have a hard time getting worked up about the definition of craft. In certain contexts (i.e. if I worked for a trade organization dedicated to a certain group of brewers), I'm sure it's super important, but I don't exist in such a context.
  • Malty and Hoppy are lazy descriptions! And yet, non-beer-nerds seem to get it right away when I use those words. When I say biscuity or bready, they turn their head at me the way a cat looks at their owner when the food bowl is empty. I'm not trying to dumb it down or condescend, but I also don't want to lecture someone on the minutiae of malt and hops unless they're genuinely interested. My brother could care less about this stuff, but if I tell him something is hoppy or an IPA or something, he gets the picture and runs in the other direction. That's all he wants, and I'm not going to force feed him information on hop terroir and the flavor wheel and my personal system for ranking how dank a beer's hops are. I generally don't use these broad words here when writing tasting notes, but occasionally one slips out, and I simply can't get worked up about it.

None of these things are ridiculous, of course, and obviously these are popular topics to write about, I just can't get worked up about them. This perhaps explains my modest traffic here, as I rarely come down hard on a given controversy. In fact, for a guy who sez he can't get worked up over this stuff, I just wrote a bunch about it, so um. Hey, look below, beer!

What do I get worked up about? Beer! Here's a few things I've had recently that I didn't take notes about because I was hanging out with friends, new and old, and didn't want to bury my nose in my phone because I'm not a total jerk.

BeerNERDS Bottle Share
(Click to Embiggen)

I went to a local beer collective's bottle share recently and met a whole slew of new beer friends. A good time was had by all, and the bottles were pretty impressive. I didn't take notes, but a few did stand out:

Alesmith Barrel Aged Vietnamese Speedway Stout

de Garde Yer Bu

That's Alesmith Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout, which was spectacular (despite my legendary indifference to coffee) and de Garde Yer Bu, a delicious little Berliner Weiss that clocks in at a measly 2.5% ABV. Also of note was Tuckahoe Marigolden, an obscure NJ brewery making a pretty darn solid American Wild Ale. Literally everything else that was at there share was great too, but those were the standouts.

101 North High Gravity IPA

Speaking of sharing, a friend was over recently and I decided to share some of the haul from my trade with Jay of the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog. This was a quite dank, powerful little DIPA, it felt like a light barleywine with a little age on it, quite nice.

Tilquin Squared

At a local beeratorium, I spied this Tilquin Gueuze Squared. Apparently created by accident when they inadvertently over-carbonated a bunch of bottles. They gave it some more time in barrels before rebottling, but that meant that the ABV had risen a bit higher than normal. Perhaps not better than your typical Tilquin Gueuze, but a happy accident nonetheless, and quite delicious!

Union Duckpin Pale Ale

I've sung this underrated beer's praises before, and while it's not going to blow your head off, it's a great little pale ale, citrusy and quaffable. Worth checking out, and if you see Double Duckpin, definitely go for it!

Weekend Agenda: Slashers and Beer

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Back in the early days of this blog, I used to harbor the notion that I would differentiate myself by pairing movies and beer. Even though I'm often watching movies as I drink, it was never a particularly well thought out idea and eventually fell by the wayside (though it is occasionally revived). But every once in a while, an opportunity presents itself. I'm sure fans of bad horror movies know where I'm going with this, but this past weekend marked the convergence of two great slasher movies, and in one case, the perfect beer to match.

First, Friday was the 13th, so I plopped in my favorite installment of that venerable series: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Not many franchises can boast the sixth movie in the series as the best, but this is one of them (I will accept cases for the original or Part IV, but VI remains my favorite). It's got the best opening in the series, culminating in a cheeky tribute to the James Bond title sequence. It's very self-aware and funny (a full decade before Scream), but also has some genuinely creepy visuals and plenty of gory death (in, like, a fun way). Oddly, it's the only movie where actual children show up at Camp Crystal Lake (i.e. not just camp councilors). Certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but as slasher movies go, it's pretty tops. I didn't have anything particularly relevant to pair with the movie, so I just grabbed this IPA made in LA because it was mildly fresh and I didn't want to let it linger in the fridge for too long (and besides bitter hops and horror movies go together well, right?)

Beachwood Melrose IPA

Beachwood BBQ Melrose IPA - Pours a mostly clear, pale gold color with a finger of white fluffy head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells amazing, huge citrus bomb, big grapefruit and mango aromas, maybe some pine and floral notes too. Taste hits those big citrus hop flavors hard, lots of grapefruit, not as much mango as the nose, a little floral and pine, and a moderate bitter bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lighter end of medium bodied, relatively dry finish, moderately quaffable. Overall, nothing hugely revolutionary here, but it's a rock solid, well above average IPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/13/15. Bottled: 1/26/15.

Next, Saturday was Valentines Day, and since slasher movies have mined the calendar of holidays pretty thoroughly, we've got My Bloody Valentine. Part of the seemingly endless glut of Halloween and Friday the 13th imitators put out in the early 80s, this is one of best non-franchise efforts out there. It hits all the standard slasher tropes and it's a lot of fun. It's pretty silly at times too, but the whole miner's suit and pickaxe make for a great villain, and I love the little poems he leaves for the police ("Roses are red, violets are blue, one is dead, and so are you"). It had a remake in 2009 (in 3D!) that didn't quite capture the magic, though I guess is fine in its own right. Anywho, someone over at Alesmith must be a big horror movie fan, because they make a beer called Evil Dead Red and a cousin called, yes, My Bloody Valentine. On paper, both horror themed beers seem almost identical - both red ales, both with the saucy ABV of 6.66%, same IBUS, etc... In practice, well, let's take a look:

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine - Pours a deep, dark red color with ruby highlights (yes, robey tones) and a finger of tannish head. Smells of crystal malts, a hint of toast, maybe some light caramel and some earthy hops. Taste follows the nose, very malt focused, crystal malts, a bit of toast, maybe some chocolate, caramel, with a crisp, earthy hop bite towards the finish that rounds it out nicely. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and medium bodied, quite approachable. So this is a much more traditional red ale than Evil Dead Red, which incorporates much more in the way of big, citrusy, piney American hops. They don't specify the hops for this, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were old-school noble hops or something along those lines, maybe Cascade. I tend to prefer my reds on the more piney, resinous side (Evil Dead Red is definitely my speed), but this was a nice change of pace too. As the Beer Rover notes, "This beer will not stun you with its brilliance, but it will not disappoint, either." B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a teku glass on 2/14/15. Bottled: 12/19/14.

I really must figure out a way to snag me some barrel aged Alesmith brews. I'm not a huge coffee fan, but the BA Speedway does sound mighty tasty. Still, might be better off with BA Old Numskull or BA Wee Heavy. Someday...

AleSmith Evil Dead Red

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I'll swallow your soul! Or maybe just your beer. I'm talking to you, Mr. Alesmith. Once a draft only beer, I was surprised to see this one show up in the area and snapped up what looked like the last bottle. It's one of them hoppy red ales, the sort of thing Jay of the now defunct Beer Samizdat blog would love, and it was a great beer to accompany my weekend horror movie binging. Groovy.

Alesmith Evil Dead Red

AleSmith Evil Dead Red - Pours a clear but dark amber color, very pretty when held up to the light, with a finger or two of light tan head that leaves some nice lacing and sticks around a while too. Smells sugary sweet, full of crystal malts and citrusy, piney American hops. Taste starts with that crystal malt sweetness, maybe a caramel note, with the citrus and pine hops kicking in when we get to the middle and lasting through the finish, which has a well balanced dry bitterness. Mouthfeel is utterly perfect. Well carbonated, medium bodied yet almost quaffable, thanks partially to a relatively dry finish. Overall, this is a rock solid amber ale. A-

Alesmith has another beer released around Valentine's day called My Bloody Valentine (another horror movie reference, I love these guys). The describe the two beers as "cousins", but they both seem to be a hoppy red ale with a plucky 6.66% ABV. Perhaps the hop varieties and/or schedule is different. I guess there's only one way to find out. If, that is, Alesmith starts distributing Bloody Valentine here. And I need to figure out a way to get ahold of some barrel aged Alesmith. That's the ticket. Anywho, happy Halloween folks. Stay tuned, lots of interesting stuff in the coming weeks.

Speedway Stout


Ticking another top 100 coffee-based imperial stout, though this one is definitely more my speed than most, as the coffee adds complexity without being too prominent. Trolling Alesmith's Beer Advocate page reveals that there are over 20 variations on this beer, some using different varieties of coffee (including the dreaded weasel poop coffee, Kopi Luwak), many aged in bourbon barrels (amongst other spirits barrels), and some really weird ones with shit like Pistachios or Spearmint.

What I've got here is the regular, widely-available version, brewed with fancy Ryan Bros. coffee, featuring the silkscreen bottle and silver foil wrapping. Newer bottles seem to have a grey/black color in the wrap, so I'm not sure what's up (and I'm pretty sure this dude on BA who suggests that "The silver foil contained a substance that, when heated sufficiently and ground to powder, could be used for the mass production of meth" is just a wiseass). Regardless, this is a beer to seek out, and if you ever see those barrel aged variants, buy two, drink one, and send me the other (though I'm pretty sure you're more likely to drink both once you realize how awesome it is...)

Alesmith Speedway Stout

Alesmith Speedway Stout - Pours a thick, very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown, creamy looking head that has great retention and leaves tons of spotty lacing as I drink. Smells of rich, dark crystal malts, a little roast and some coffee notes too, but they're in the background. Taste starts with those sweet, rich caramel flavors, quickly moving into a light roasty flavor, not much in the way of coffee at all, perhaps some chocolate showing up in its place. There's a nice hoppy component as well, with some resinous notes showing up and even a slight bitterness that goes well with the roast and chocolate character. Some hot booze shows up in the taste as well. Mouthfeel is rich and chewy, full bodied, a little alcohol burn in the mouth followed by the warming sensation in the belly. Overall, I can see why this is a prized brew and would love to try, well, just about any of the variants (of which there are many). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 1/27/13.

Alesmith is truly awesome, I'm going to have to find a way to get ahold of some of their barrel aged stuff. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for their standard lineup... which is still pretty awesome.

Alesmith Wee Heavy


According to the collective wisdom of a bunch of (probably inexperienced, disinterested, hype-driven, haters-gonna-hate hipster1) strangers, this is the second-best Scotch Ale2 in the world. Score one for the home team. I'm sure no one in Scotland knows how to make these things. Incidentally, the number one beer is... a barrel aged version of Alesmith Wee Heavy. Of course it is!3

So it seems that Alesmith's got the style all locked up... though it's not like this is one of them trendy styles that every brewer is pouncing on. Or drinkers for that matter. I mean, I get a nice vibe from the style, but I've only reviewed 3 of them in the past two years (and one of those was a barrel aged version of another), though I will say that Dieu Du Ciel's Équinoxe Du Printemps was a superb beer, even if I probably wouldn't have pegged it as a Wee Heavy in a blind tasting. So let's see how Alesmith fares:

Alesmith Wee Heavy

Alesmith Wee Heavy - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of rich, sweet caramel along with some malty fruitiness. Taste is very sweet, less caramel and more toast than in the nose (but both are present here), maybe a hint of smoke (perhaps even peat?), and some booze in the finish. Less of that dark fruit than the nose as well, though it's still peeking through. It's not bitter, but it's got enough oomph to balance out the big malt character. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, creamy, full bodied, a bit boozy (nice warming sensation in my belly from that alcohol), very slight stickiness. Overall, this is a very nice, well balanced, traditional Scotch ale, on the upper end of a B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/3/12.

So Dieu Du Ciel remains my standard bearer, but this one comes in a close second. Alesmith continues to impress, and while this doesn't make me want to explore every Wee Heavy I can get my hands on, it does make me want to explore more Alesmith beer. Go me.

1 - I am, of course, just kidding, but sometimes it's hard to take reviewers on these sites seriously. On the other hand, who am I kidding? I have a blog with hundreds of reviews of varying quality and I'd still consider myself inexperienced. So fiddlesticks. Wait, what? Am I still typing? Dammit, stop.

2 - Also known as Wee Heavy, a phrase I pedantically dissected a while back. You're welcome.

3 - This might sound sarcastic or snarky, but I'm so in the bag for barrel aged stuff that I wrote this with the utmost sincerity and didn't realize that the tone might be interpreted in another way until I reread the post, hence this footnote. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you have one of these things, we should set up a trade or something.

YuleSmith Summer Holiday Ale

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In an effort to confuse and confound their customers, Alesmith makes two different beers with the same name: YuleSmith Holiday Ale. One is a hoppy red ale released during the winter holidays, which makes a certain sorta sense. The other his a double IPA released in June, which... doesn't. The word "Yule" is derived from a Germanic winter festival that was absorbed by Christmas (like a lot of holiday traditions), so the summer one doesn't really fit unless you consider the dubious holiday of Christmas in July an event worth celebrating. And if you look at the bottle, it seems to be portraying the 4th of July, what with the fireworks and all (and Christmas in July is usually celebrated on the 25th of the month). Alesmith makes good beer though, and this one has quite the reputation, so who am I to complain?

Alesmith YuleSmith Summer

YuleSmith Summer Holiday Ale - Pours a hazy orange color with almost no head. A little worried about that, as the bottle didn't seem to have much pressure going on when I popped the cap. Aroma is very nice though, lots of pine and caramel malt character. The taste is sweet, caramel malts with a ton of resin and pine hop flavor coming out in the middle, and some citrusy goodness coming out to play a little too. That resin is the dominating flavor though, and it seems to be driving the bitterness in the finish. It's actually quite nice, and reminiscent of a lighter version of Alesmith's Old Numbskull (their barleywine). Mouthfeel is a little too light on the carbonation, as feared, and it comes off a little sticky, especially in the finish. The carbonation is at a cromulent level, but it could really use a little more of a kick in that respect. It gets better as it warms, but I'd still like to see some more carbonation in this. It's got the markings of a great beer, but it didn't quite get there even if it's certainly very good even like this. Truth be told, once I started drinking, the stuff went down awfully quick! B or B+ (I can't seem to make up my mind...)

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/12.

Looking closer at the bottle, the text on the back of the bottle sez that this is YuleSmith Holiday Ale 2011? This is actually printed in the description - there doesn't appear to be a bottled-on or best-by stamp on the bottle, so I don't know if this is actually from 2011 or if Alesmith just neglected to update the text on the back of the bottle this year. I wouldn't be surprised if I accidentally bought a year old bottle, as perhaps that would explain the carbonation issues...

Regardless, Alesmith continues to be one of the more interesting breweries out there, and I will most certainly be exploring more of their catalog!

Update: I have it on good authority that the bottle I had here actually was from 2011. Poop. But at least it explains some things about this beer...

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Carla Companion wants to talk about an unsung hero:

What is the one beer style usually makes up the first position in the sample flight, but yet is usually the one that we never get really excited about? The Pale Ale.

Your mission - if you choose to accept it - it so seek out and taste two different pale ales. Tell us what makes them special, what makes them forgettable, what makes them the same or what makes them different. Then, share it with us.

First of all, I love the idea. One of the cornerstones of this blog is that of the Double Feature. Pick two beers of similar style, compare and contrast, all whilst taking in a filmic double feature. It's a really helpful tactic for learning about beer, especially when used with beers that sometimes have very similar flavor profiles... like pale ales!

Pale ales have a weird rap here in the beer nerd community. You never hear people raving about pale ales the way they do for the latest hopped-up double IPA, face melting Imperial Stout, or Brett-dosed sour bombs. And yet, a lot of folks will tell you that they got into craft beer the moment they tasted something like the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Indeed, a lot of breweries got their start with pales, even ones we think of as being extremist or weird. Stone's first beer was their most excellent Pale Ale (which seems to me like Arrogant Bastard's little brother, very flavorful). Hard as it may be to believe, Dogfish Head's Shelter Pale Ale was their first foray into "off-centered" beer. Pale Ales are a cornerstone of the craft beer world, a stepping stone for fledgling beer geeks, and a fantastic alternative to macro light lagers for regular folks.

Indeed, it's not like there's a shortage of big selling pale ales. Locally, we've got Yards' Philly Pale and Victory's Headwaters, both of which apparently do gangbusters (and oh yeah, they're excellent too). I'm no stranger to huge face-melting beers and I have to admit that sometimes the notion of checking out a "simple" pale ale seems like it might be boring, but there's plenty of interesting stuff going on in the pale ale world right now. I didn't go bonkers for Maine's Peeper like most folks, but it was an intriguing change of pace, a very interesting beer. Even if it wasn't particularly my thing, I love that they did something different with their beer, and that's the sort of stuff I like to try.

Speaking of which, I think it's about time to try out a few beers, as ordered. One is eminently interesting and experimental, the other is a bit more on the standard side, though it's got some interesting aspects too...

Victory Bavarian Mandarina Pale Ale

Victory Bavarian Mandarina Pale Ale - Victory recently released a series of beers utilizing experimental German hops, including this one, which has just received it's official name: Mandarina. Pours a golden orange with a finger of head and a ton of lacing. Smells of herbal, spicy hops, with a an orange citrus note and a little caramel malt too. Taste has a nice malt backbone, but it's not huge - it provides a nice background to highlight these new hops. Plenty of those citrusy, herbal hop flavors coming in the middle and more spicy bitterness emerging in the finish... Mouthfeel is surprising for a pale ale, a little heavier than expected, but quite nice nonetheless. This is actually the second time I've had this beer in the past couple weeks, and on the second tasting, I think I got a lot more of the orange character than the first time. Overall, a very solid, interesting change of pace. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on tap (16 oz). Drank out of a nonic pint on 5/31/12.

Alesmith X

Alesmith X - Pours a bright straw yellow color with two fingers of fluffy white head and some lacing as I drink. Smells of more grassy, citrusy hops, along with a nice bready yeast and malt character. Taste is sweet, with that bready yeast and malt really coming through, though not in a strong or overpowering way. Light grassy hops and citrus come through a bit in the taste as well. The finish is relatively dry, with a very slight bitterness. The mouthfeel is hit with a huge carbonation at the start, very effervescent, but it smooths out by the finish, which is quite nice. Despite the bite from the carbonation, it's a light, crisp, and refreshing beer. In a lot of ways, this reminds me of a Belgian style pale ale (I bet if you were to substitute something like a saison yeast in the same recipe, you'd end up with a similar, if a bit spicier...), but it still feels like an American Pale Ale. Overall, I'm really enjoying this beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/31/12.

Overall, the Alesmith was lighter in color and body than the Mandarina, and it had a more traditional, grassy citrus pine hop character, while the Mandarina hops brought a specific orange character, with lots of more herbal notes. Both are very good beers, and I'm really happy I got to try them. I also got to try one of the other Victory beers that was experimenting with new hops, this one called Polaris. It was an IPA, and thus not suitable for this post, but it was quite good, reminiscent of those New Zealand hops I've been digging lately. I love that Victory is playing with experimental hops, and the Pale Ale format really does provide a good platform for highlighting these new varieties. As summer goes on, I'm sure pale ales will be a staple of my beer diet...


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

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