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BBQ Beer Club

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Due to the capricious whims of Mother Nature, we had to push beer club back a ways, very nearly missing the month of January. But thanks to a no-show on yesterday's storm, conditions were fine (if a little cold) tonight, where we hit up a new BYOB BBQ place, shared some beer, did some "Adult" Mad Libs ("I need a noun." "Assless Chaps."), and generally just had fun. For dinner, I ordered something called "Loose Meat", and drove everyone crazy attempting to make double entendres about it. In case you were wondering, this is what loose meat looks like:

Loose Meat
(Click to Embiggen)

It has a nice phallic arrangement, but the feng shui could be a little better if the brisket and pulled pork were a little far back, don't you think? Also of note, the parsley merkin. Anyways, it was good stuff, and we had some decent beer to go with it:

January Beer Club 2015
(Click to Embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, thoughts on each are below. Standard beer nerd disclaimers apply. I'm sorry, but the BBQ place did not have a hermetically sealed environment suitable for proper note taking. Also, I didn't really take notes. I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Kaedrôme Saison - Hey, remember that saison I dosed with Brett, like, a year ago? It's doing reasonably well right now. It's carbed up to a drinkable state, though still not as effervescent as I'd like. But the flavor is there, and it's doing reasonably well. B
  • New Belgium/Three Floyds Lips Of Faith - Grätzer - My first Grätzer, and um, it's a weird style. Light smokiness, very thin, with a weird tartness in the finish. A perfect beer for this situation, as I'm happy to try something like this, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way for more. C+
  • Left Hand St. Vrain Tripel - A pretty standard American take on a tripel, a little too sticky, but a nice palate cleanser after the Grätzer. B
  • Wicked Weed Terra Locale Series - Appalachia - I've heard great things about Wicked Weed, so I was really looking forward to this, and a Brett saison made with sweet potatoes and grits sounds like it could work, but I found it a bit on the bland side. Nothing wrong with it, per say, but there's not a lot of funk, and it just felt a little on the dry side. It's certainly cromulent and I could probably drink plenty of it, and maybe it was just that this is not ideal for a tasting like this, but I was disappointed. B
  • Chimay Red - Yep, it's Chimay all right. I've never been a huge fan of this particular expression though. B
  • Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale - Rock solid take on a brown ale. Not going to knock your socks off, but it's a tasty alternative to macro slop. B+
  • Almanac Devil's Advocate - Another fantastic little sour from Almanac, very tasty, vinous, sour, oaky, delicious. I don't normally think of "hoppy" and "sour" going together very well, but these folks are doing it right. Probably my favorite beer of the night. A-
  • SoChesCo Valentine's Day Chocolate Milk Stout - A friend's homebrewed milk stout, asolid take on the style, very tasty. B
  • SoChesCo Pennsyltucky Chocolate Milk Stout - The same stout as above, conditioned on bourbon soaked oak, which wound up as a light character. You could definitely taste the difference drinking them side by side, but I don't think I'd have pegged this as a bourbon oaked beer if I drank it blind (my own Bourbon Oaked Bomb & Grapnel fared little better on that account). B
  • Bière De L'Amitié (Green Flash & Brasserie St. Feuillien) - A very interesting and different beer. Standard Belgian yeast spice and fruit, but also some citrus hoppiness, and something that really felt like they dosed it with white grape juice (I don't think they did, but that's what kept coming to mind). B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Creme Brulee Stout Clone - Holy vanilla, Batman! Like the Southern Tier inspiration, this is incredibly sweet and it's got a great nose that I could just sniff all night long. I think there might be more vanilla here, but I love me some vanilla. B
  • Stone Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale - Another beer that I was looking forward to, but which didn't quite live up to expectations. It was a fine beer, one of the better of the night actually, but I didn't get a tone of Bourbon barrel character out of this. It felt like the barrels muted the aromatic aspects of the hops while leaving the bitterness. Fortunately, the Bourbon sweetens it up a little, so it's still reasonably well balanced (er, for Arrogant Bastard), but it's not something you really need to drop everything and try (like, for example, Stone's Fyodor's Classic). B+
At this point, we decided to call it a night, and we didn't get to the last two beers. Oh well, there's always next month, which should come up soon!

Almanac Dogpatch Sour

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In San Francisco, they grow dogs right out of the ground like those orcs from Lord of the Rings. This beer is named after these "Dogpatches", which are really only present in one specific neighborhood because ewwww, Doggie Orcs. I... don't know where the hell I'm taking this, so I'll just note that no dogs were grown or harmed in the brewing of this beer. To my knowledge. California Rainier cherries, on the other hand, were slaughtered by the bushel. Cherries come in bushels, right? Jeeze, what is wrong with me tonight? I'm the worst.

Seriously though, this is one of Almanac's standard Farm to Barrel offerings where they incorporate uber-fresh locally sourced fruits into their beers which are then aged in old (presumably also somewhat local) wine barrels with their, yes, Dogpatch yeast. The Dogpatch is actually a real neighborhood in San Francisco, and I'm pretty sure they don't grow dogs there, orc-style. However, there is no definitive explanation for name, so let's not rule it out just yet. Instead, let's just drink some of this mighty fine beer:

Almanac Dogpatch Sour

Almanac Dogpatch Sour - Pours a beautiful, clear golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells very funky, lots of musty barnyard and a little in the way of cherries and tart fruit. Taste starts of sweet, with some oak kicking in towards the middle, as well as the fruit, sour cherries and tart fruit, with a more intense, puckering sourness picking up in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry but also quite acidic. Overall, a rather nice sour beer, complex but approachable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/9/15. Batch No. 2. Bottled March 2014.

Almanac is one of those quietly awesome breweries that probably deserves more acclaim than they get. Seek these out, I know I will continue to do so. I already have something Called Devil's Advocate, billed as a hoppy sour ale... which has actually never been something that completely worked for me, but if anyone can do it, I'm thinking these folks can...

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot

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If you've been following along, and you should be, you'd know that the tiny San Francisco brewery Almanac has been doing this local Farm to Barrel thing for quite some time now, incorporating uber-fresh locally sourced fruits and produce into their barrel aged sours. They've steadily been picking up steam and many an admirer - including me, even though I'm about 3000 miles away.

This one is made with Pluots, that unholy crossbreed of plums and apricots. Chuck several varieties of that mutant fruit (each of which has a fantastic, evocative name: Dapple Dandy, Honey Punch, Flavor Queen, Black Kat & Dapple Jack) into some old wine barrels along with Almanac's house "Dogpatch" sour culture (a mix of American and Belgian yeasts, along with some other critters, like a San Francisco sourdough starter). The result is quite a fine sour ale, if I may say so:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Pluot

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot - Pours a cloudy but bright, luminous straw yellow color with a finger of white head and good retention. The smell is very funky, some oak, lots of fruit, and something I can't quite place. The taste is beautiful, lots of tart fruit character, peaches, plums and the like. Some oak in the middle, finishing up with a fruit juice spritz. The sourness is there, especially in the finish, but it's far from overpowering. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, juicy, light and crisp, with a small acidic note from the sourness. Overall, this is a fantastic little sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a flute on 6/14/14. Batch FR-P. Bottled 031414.

This is my favorite Almanac beer yet, not that I've managed to wrangle that many of them. I am, however, fortunate enough to have another waiting in the wings, so you'll be hearing more about Almanac soon enough. Indeed, I've been on something of a sour jag of late, a consequence more of availability than anything else, but I ain't complaining.

Almanac Bière De Mars

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Made with real, 100% Heirloom Organic Martians from a small artisanal farm in Cydonia. Some people frown on using sentient beings as an ingredient in beer and those wacky brewers at Almanac may be starting a war of the worlds, but damn, this stuff tastes good!

In all seriousness, Bière De Mars is brewed in March, which is actually what "Mars" translates to. It's a variation on the Bière de Garde style, which means "beer worth keeping" (or guarding, heh) and were historically brewed in Winter or Spring for consumption in Late Summer or Fall (due to the fact that brewing was difficult during the hot months of summer). In that sense, I feel like Bière De Mars shares a certain kinship with the German Märzen (aka Oktoberfest), and it feels like they both have a similar character of slightly toasted malts and noble hops, though Bière De Mars also uses a Belgian ale yeast strain which is what really distinguishes this from Märzens.

This particular beer is made by those tiny artisanal brewers at Almanac, and like most of their beers, it was a one-off batch that was brewed in collaboration with local farms, this time using Santa Clara Valley Fennel. This marks the last beer in my first beer trade, so extra special thanks to Jay of the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog for digging up such gems (seriously, all of the stuff he sent me was in the great to sublime range of quality)...

Almanac Biere de Mars

Almanac Spring 2012 Bière De Mars - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a finger of fluffy white head that shows pretty good retention and lacing. Smells of bready Belgian (apparently French) yeast along with sorta herbal spices (apparently fennel!) and even some of that caramelized malt. Tastes sweet, with assertive spicing and a sorta nutty, caramelly character in the start, maybe a hint of toasted malt flavor too. It's reminiscent of an Oktoberfest beer, but with more spicy Belgian character. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, medium carbonation, easily drinkable, with a drier finish than I'd expect. Overall, this is excellent, well balanced, flavorful stuff. So glad I got to try some! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/26/12. Label sez: 05540 March 2012.

So Almanac has definitely established a foothold in Kaedrin mindshare, which is a bit of a problem since they don't really distribute here, but I'm hoping I can beg, borrow, or steal some more at some point. Wish me luck.

Almanac Winter Wit

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Meet Almanac Beer Company, a tiny Northern California brewery specializing in seasonal ales brewed with local ingredients. Up until recently1, this meant the brewery produced only one-off beers, one per season. In a world where it seems most breweries boast a portfolio of 50+ beers, it's kinda refreshing to see a brewery that makes one beer per season, period. They're apparently contract brewers, but their reputation seems more like that of a gypsy brewer. In other words, they have a pretty darn good reputation.

Of course, being a local-obsessed brewery has its drawbacks, namely that it's only really available locally... but thanks to the magic of beer trades, I got my greedy little hands on their 2012 offerings. So a tip of the hat to Jay from Beer Samizdat, who I must admit, is the one who got me interested in this brewery and their awesome, classy labels long before the trade ever came up. This particular beer is their Winter offering, a Belgian style Wit brewed with three varieties of early-season oranges and a helping of ginger root. Now, one doesn't typically think of this style when talking about Winter beers, but on the other hand, at 7% ABV, it's certainly heftier than most examples of the style (without going overboard).

Also, what the hell, it was August when I ended up drinking it, so it fit in quite nicely as I fired up the home theater system for some action packed adventure in the form of The Raid. I should mention that I'm almost always watching a movie whilst drinking2, but the pairings don't always strike me enough that I want to post about it. In this case, the light, refreshing Wit contrasted rather sharply with the bombastic action, making it a memorable combo. So let's get to it, shall we?

Almanac 2012 Winter Wit

Almanac 2012 Winter Wit - Pours a cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of bubbly head. Nose is filled with wheat and spice, some orange peel or other citrus character. Taste has a moderated sweetness along with all of those spices from the nose (apparently ginger, but I also get the typical Wit notes of coriander and clove) and a well integrated citrus component. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, just a hint of spicy bite, and a relatively light body. This thing doesn't drink like a 7% ABV beer, it reads much lighter to me. This is a good thing, as the other "big" wheat beers I've had get to be overbearing - completely overwhelming the delicate wheat flavors. Overall, this is a well crafted, tasty take on a style that often feels muted. Right up there with my favorite Wit beers...B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of tulip glass on 8/18/12. Label sez: 5973 (presumably bottle number), 12.29.2011.

I've also got a bottle of Almanac's Spring 2012 Bière de Mars, which I'll probably be cracking open sometime in September, as the weather starts to chill up a bit.


1 - They've just released their year-round California Table Beers (a saison and pale ale), but I think the focus continues to be on their limited seasonal wonders...

2 - I used to talk about this more often than I do now, with the notable exception of Double Feature posts... which, come to think of it, have been pretty sparse of late. I shall have to rectify that, but at the same time, this is a beer blog, not a movie blog, so I expect that side of things to continue to fall by the wayside, with occasional mentions like the one in this post.

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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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