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Avery Rumpkin

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Sometimes the Kaedrin beer acquisition department conspires to kick my ass with their high-ABV game, which of course, means they've gone on a purchasing jag of Avery beers. First, there was the rather fantastic 5 Monks a couple weeks ago, a beer which has earned the dubious title of most-alcoholic-beer-I've-ever-consumed. Then their machinations directed me to a bar serving a recent incarnation of The Beast Grand Cru, which depending on its exact vintage was somewhere between 16%-18% (and with that one, you could really tell*). This reminded me of the Kaedrin cellaring department's meticulous aging of a bottle of 2010 Beast, which I figure is about ready to drink (the cellarman has been instructed to make preparations).

Finally, this past weekend, a chance occurrence lead a Kaedrin rep to overpay for a bottle of Rumpkin (amongst other treasures). In a bit of serendipity, circumstances sought to keep clean and sober for most of Saturday, so when I finally had a chance to dip into my fridge for a libation, this single bottle seemed mildly appropriate. Clocking in at 16.73% ABV, it's not quite the monster that 5 Monks was, but it shares a lot of similar flavors. It is basically a huge imperial pumpkin ale that has been aged in rum barrels, one of their regular barrel aged releases. The flavor profile is similar to 5 Monks, but it's got those additional pumpkin pie spice notes that really do differentiate it. It's an admirable and intense take on a much maligned style, but it matched well with my annual horror movie marathon (which is being chronicled over at my generalist blog, if you are so inclined) and of course, 'tis the season for mutated fucking gourds:

Avery Rumpkin

Avery Rumpkin - Pours a very dark amber color, brown in the glass, but with beautiful highlights when held up to the light, finger of off white head that has decent retention. Smells intense, lots of pie spice, cinnamon and ginger coming through loud and clear, and the rum barrel character adds a rich sweetness to the proceedings, a complement to the spice rather than something that overpowers. Taste is very sweet, lots of rich, sugary molasses, a little caramel, with a spicy/fruity note emerging in the middle (that pumpkin and pie spice coming through), followed by boozy rum, vanilla, and oak. Mouthfeel starts of very smooth, full bodied, rich, and syrupy, with ample carbonation, ultimately yielding to a more boozy, hot finish. Overall, this is very complex and interesting, a little sweet and boozy, but well, this is my kind of pumpkin beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.73% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter on 10/11/14. Batch No. 4. Bottled Sept 22, 2014.

Alas, aside from the cellared Beast, no more Avery brews on the future horizon, but I wouldn't put it past the acquisition department springing a couple monster Avery beers on me. Bring it on, I say. In the meantime, they've got some other treats in store, and a line on some others.

Update: I have spoken too soon. A particularly ambitious Kaedrin purchasing rep from the acquisition department has informed me that I have a bottle of Pum[KY]n (Bourbon Barrel Pumpkin Porter) incoming. I'm pretty sure he's trying to kill me. Please send help.

* Seriously, The Beast was uber boozy and hot. I didn't take copious notes, but I plan on comparing this one to a cellared bottle in a few weeks or so. A friend got a coffee stout called Tweak, which also clocks in at around 16% ABV (I took a sip, and boy, the alcohol was much more hidden in that sucker. A pity it had so much coffee in it. Worth trying if you like coffee beers...)

Avery 5 Monks

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Well, let's hope this goes better than the last time I tried a beer from Avery's Barrel-Aged Series. Black Tot sounded good in theory, but wound up infected. Such are the perils of barrel aging. This one shows promise, if you can call not being infected promise. Which I think I can, so I will. You're not the boss of me!

So anyway, they're calling this a Belgian Style Quintupel ale, which is like 5 times better than regular beer. It's kind of a joke, but then this does clock in at a hefty 19.39% ABV which, yes, looks to have nudged out Black Tuesday as the strongest beer I've ever had. Fortunately, this time around, we've got a simple 12 ounce bottle, so it appears that Avery isn't trying to completely annihilate me. The ultra-high ABV game gets tiresome pretty quickly, but sometimes it can work. Is that the case here? Only one way to find out:

Avery 5 Monks

Avery 5 Monks - Pours a turbid, muddy brown color with half a finger of tan head that fizzes down to a ring around the edge of the glass pretty quickly. Smells of dark fruits, molasses, and boozy bourbon. The taste hits pretty hard with that molasses character, with some really rich caramel and brown sugar, maybe even a hint of dark chocolate, less in the way of dark fruit than the nose would imply, though maybe some of it peeks through. Tons of booze, bourbon, and a little of the rich sugary oak and vanilla character from the barrels. It's sweet, but never approaches cloying levels. Mouthfeel is rich, chewy, thick, and full bodied, a real monster. Lots of alcohol heat, it doesn't quite burn on the way down, but you'll get a warming feeling in your belly pretty quickly. Despite this prominent alcohol character, it's not as overwhelming as you might expect - there's enough other stuff going on that it all works. Very well carbonated and a surprising lack of stickiness make it more approachable than you might think. Overall, this is intense and complex, a boozy monster that has no real pretensions of balance, but works nonetheless. Kinda reminiscent of a boozier version of The Bruery's anniversary beers, with more molasses than fruit. It's probably the sort of thing that should be shared 3 ways from a 12 ounce bottle like this, but it made for an excellent sipping beer, something that works over long periods of time. I like. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 19.39% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 9/27/14. Bottled: July 17 2014.

So yes, I will most certainly be seeking out more Barrel Aged Avery. I actually have a bottle of something I've been aging for a while that might be worth pulling out now, so keep your eyes peeled. I'm sure we'll get to it soon enough.

November Beer Club

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded friends from work who get together every month at a local BYOB for libations and fun. This month, we hit up a local BBQ joint, which is always nice. Got me some smoked Chorizo, Brisket, and some fixins which made for a great accompaniment to all the beer. And there was a lot of it this time around. The picture is actually missing a bunch of bottles because we did not account for people showing up later with their own stuff.

beerclub-november13.jpg
(Click for larger version)

So yeah, lots of stuff this month, so these notes are almost certainly useless, but for the sake of posterity, I'm including them anyway. Because I'm a good person, that's why. Yeah, let's get to it: in approximate order of drinking (not necessarily pictured):

  • Southern Tier Krampus - An "Imperial Helles" is sorta like a contradiction in terms, but hey, it's an amped up Helles, and it works well enough. Nice uncommon hop character gives an otherwise clean beer the punch it needs. Really quite nice. B+
  • Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold - Bottle wasn't quite a gusher, and we managed to not lose any, but it was hugely carbonated and most of us poured a cup of foam that resolved into more normal beerlike appearance in a minute or two. Once we got to it, it was pretty damn good. Nice Belgian yeast character, wheat is there but not as dominant as you might think (slightly reminiscent of something like St. Bernardus Tokyo). This was one of the first beers we tasted, and I liked it a lot, but we revisited it towards the end of the night and damn, it got almost (not quite) sour. Big fruity esters started showing up when it was warm. Again, not quite sour, but it was going in that direction. All in all, I enjoyed this more than the Ithaca Excelsior Rye beer I had recently... B+
  • Victory Root Beer - Yep, it's a root beer! I'm no expert (hay, there's no alcohol in this!?), but it's really good as root beers go.
  • Sprecher Bootlegger's Bourbon Barrel Hard Root Beer - Not sure I would have pegged this as having anything to do with a bourbon barrel, let alone an alcoholic beverage at all, but perhaps the power of suggestion lead me to believe that there was some bourbon present in the taste. Or something. Ultimately, it drinks like a good root beer, which is nice...
  • Avery White Rascal - A beer I've had before and greatly enjoyed, it doesn't quite fit in with a tasting like this - it is easily overwhelmed by the other brews of the night. Still, I like this as a lawnmower beer on a hot day (alas, it's pretty cold here these days). B
  • River Horse Double Wit - I don't know if it's the 7% ABV or the way this was spiced, but it didn't really connect with me. It's not bad at all, and other folks appreciated the different take on spice and booze level, but it never quite hit me where I wanted it to. B-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Schwarzbier - We need to get on Ken to start entering his beers into untappd or something, because these are getting good. Not my favorite style, but it's a nice dark lager style beer, clean and crisp, lighter than it looks, and quite flavorful. Toasty but not quite full on roast. Me likey. B+
  • Kaedrin Xmas Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel, with a slight dose of cinnamon when I was bottling, is actually drinking really well right now. The regular dubbel has really matured and changed a lot over time, getting more and more raisiny, but this one was more subdued (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'll leave it at B+
  • Lost Abbey Deliverance - One of my other contributions, and a beer I've reviewed before! It's still great. A-
  • Atwater Vanilla Java Porter - While opening this directly after Deliverance was a supremely bad idea, I still get the impression that this would underwhelm. It does have a nice vanilla character, but it's a little thinner than I generally want out of a stout and while I'm not a big fan of coffee, it's nonexistent here. Certainly a drinkable beer and would be welcome change of pace at a macro bar, but it's not something to really seek out. C+
  • Spring House Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout - Can I just point you to a review from a couple weeks ago? No? Well too bad, cause that's what I'm doing. Still a B+ in my book.
  • Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale - The younger, weaker, smaller sibling to Really Old Brown Dog is a rather straightforward brown ale, which naturally has its merits (nice toasted malt and some heft to it) but again, should've probably opened this earlier in the night. Still glad I tried this, just to give context to Really old Brown Dog if not for its regular solid nature. B
  • Saucony Creek Chocolate Cherry Schnickelfritz - An object lesson in things sounding better than they taste, this seems to be a relatively well made imperial milk stout, but it's got this artificial feeling cherry aspect that sorta ruined the beer for me. Not an abomination, but not particularly good either. I guess all the beers I bring can't be winners! C
  • Ommegang Game Of Thrones #2 - Take the Black Stout - These Game of Thrones beers are actually pretty solid introductions to the whole Belgian beer world, and they work well enough for beer dorks too (a neat trick, appealing to the jaded hardcore and mainstream alike). I actually would call this more of a roasty Belgian Strong Dark rather than a full on stout, but to each their own. It's got a nice Belgian yeast character, spice and light fruit, with a hint of that roasted malt too, but the carbonation (and presumably attenuation) cuts through more than your typical stout. Still, it's very good, if not my favorite Ommegang beer. B+
  • River Horse Special Ale - No idea why this was opened so late in the night, but it's such a profoundly average beer that I doubt it would have made that much of an impression earlier in the night. There's absolutely nothing wrong wit it, and it's certainly a step up from fizzy yellow stuff light lagers, but its not really something to get excited about. C+
  • Victory Harvest Ale - I totally fell in love with Victory's Harvest Ale last year (and while I'm not a big Pils guy, the Harvest Pils was pretty good too), but this year's take fell completely flat to me. Not bad, per say, but something about this is rubbing me the wrong way. Perhaps it was a different hop variety, perhaps they used their Kolsch yeast instead of their normally clean IPA yeast, but whatever the case, it didn't inspire like last years. Again, it's pretty good, but it's disappointing. And I had this a couple weeks ago straight from the source too, so it's not just palate fatigue talking here! B
Yikes, that was a lot of beers. Luckily there were a lot of people in attendance, so my tastes were limited on most of these (yet another reason to take my notes with a grain of salt), but this was a really fun installment. Here's to hoping the December one will be just as great!

Avery Black Tot

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Infection! With my love for barrel aged beers, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Barrels are difficult to sterilize and their rough, permeable surface provides an environment conducive to wild beasties like bacteria or wild yeasts. Of course, brewers like Russian River and Jolly Pumpkin are intentionally trying to sour their beers, so they love to use barrels because of the way they can harbor said beasties. However, this beer, the third in Avery's barrel aged series, was meant to be an imperial oatmeal stout aged in rum barrels. A few months after release, random reports of the "tot taint" started trickling in, and Adam Avery quickly responded to the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer communities, allowing folks with sour bottles to send the empty back to the brewery and get some sort of compensation. Very big of him, if you ask me. I'm not sure if every bottle is infected, but in Avery's letter, they mentioned that you should drink it as soon as possible (so, uh, I guess I shouldn't have drank this 3 years after bottling!)

Avery Black Tot

Avery Black Tot - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger of light brown head. Smells faintly of that rum barrel aging, along with some fruity malt character that could foretell infection. Tastes... yep, infected. Definite sourness here, perhaps not completely overwhelming, but not exactly pleasant either. Astringent, with some bitterness apparent, not a particularly good combo. Mouthfeel is fine, full bodied, well carbonated, a little too astringent though. Overall, I'd love to have had a non-infected bottle of this stuff. As it is, it's a slog to get through... D

Beer Nerd Details: 10.08% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 2/16/13. Bottled: Jan 13 2010. Production: 315 cases.

It's a shame, as I don't think I've ever had a rum barrel aged beer before, and I'd really like to see how that turns out. Fortunately, I've got another, untainted bottle of rum barrel aged beer that came along in the same trade with Dave, so be on the lookout for that one. (I still made out well on the trade overall, so no worries there!) Despite the infection on this beer, I'm still looking forward to hitting up Avery from time to time. I've actually got at least one Avery beer aging in the cellar, one of the few, the proud, the purposely aged!

Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

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Great moments in trademark history: When Adam Avery of Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing realized they both had a beer in their lineups called "Salvation" they considered several options. They could have pursued lawsuits, but that's boring and costly. They could have taken their dispute to Thunderdome, but they couldn't book the venue in time (also: it's a fictional venue). Instead, they simply decided to blend the two beers together, neatly defusing the crisis. Apparently over a drunken night at Russian River's brewpub (well, probably not, but I like to think of my brewing heroes as being constantly drunk), they mixed together the two beers in varying degrees and figured out the right proportions, eventually scaling the process up to commercial levels and releasing the result as "Collaboration Not Litigation Ale". It's pretty much the poster child of craft brewer solidarity and it's one of the reasons beer nerds love this whole craft beer thing (though there are obviously some folks who just don't get it...)

I've seen bottles of this around in rare instances, but never pulled the trigger. After my Pliny the Younger adventure on Sunday, I noticed this was also available and thus made the best of the situation:

Avery and Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation

Russian River and Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale - Pours deep brown color with a little amber peeking through and a solid finger of light tan head... Tons of lacing, industrial strength stuff, you could barely see through the glass even after I was finished. Smell is very spicy and peppery with a little bready Beligian character too. Taste is also quite spicy, with a nice sweet flavor, perhaps dark candi, and a little fruit. Mouthfeel very smooth, lightly carbonated, but still enough to cut through the malt and alcohol... As it warms, the texture becomes almost creamy... Overall, quite good and I'm really glad I got to try one of these! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.72% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 3/18/12.

Russian River's Salvation has actually been on my to-drink list for a while, I just haven't gone out and gotten a bottle. For that matter, I've not had Avery's Salvation either. I think it'd actually be very interesting to try one of each, then the collaboration, just to see how the flavors have blended. Avery is certainly a brewery I haven't had a ton of exposure to, but I've had almost uniformly good experiences with them (and Russian River too)...

Oak Aged Double Feature

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Continuing the Oak Aged posting this week, here I've got two big Oak Aged beers, matched with gorgeous but flawed films. First up, Tarsem Singh's Immortals, a horribly scripted Greek mythology story that is nonetheless worth watching for some wonderful, stylized action sequences and Tarsem's trademark visual style (a feast for the eyes!) Next, I watched Terrence Malick meditative The Tree of Life, a non-narrative fever dream, again gorgeously photographed and mesmerizing, but going on for way too long and, odd as it may be to say this, too much dialogue (and there's not really much dialogue in the movie, but what's there is kinda insipid). Very pretty movies, both, but also flawed. The beers I drank to match were big and flavorful.

Founders Backwoods Bastard

Founders Backwoods Bastard - Does the backwoods bastard pictured on the label look like Gandalf the Grey to anyone else? No? I'm the only nerd here? Great. Anyway, you don't see this style of beer, a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, aged in barrels very often (or, uh, ever - this is the only one I'm aware of*). This beer actually starts out as Founders' year-round brew, Dirty Bastard, which is then aged in old bourbon barrels, bringing up the ABV and imparting the usual complexity of bourbon barrel notes. Pours a dark, deep brown color with very little head. Aroma is full of bourbon and oak, with some of that underlying scotch ale character coming out. Taste starts with sweet malts, followed by a big wallop of boozy bourbon and oak. Ends with a surprisingly dry finish (well, not super dry, but more dry than I would have expected). The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied - not as heavy as I was expecting, which makes this very easy to drink. I wouldn't say the booze is hidden, but it's not as powerful as the ABV would suggest, which is interesting. Overall, a really good beer, something I'd like to try again, but also something that could probably use some additional aging to marry the flavors together a little more. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11.

Avery Samael Ale

Avery Samael's Oak Aged Ale - Back in the day, when I first started posting things on the internet, message boards were all the rage. Along with that came the use of handles, basically online nicknames people took for themselves. I've since grown out of that fad**, but there are still some folks I met back in the 1990s message boards that I think of by their handles, rather than their real names. One such person is my friend Roy, who I always knew as Samael (which is also apparently the name of the prince of demons, but whatever). As such, during my recent Texas excursion, I saw this beer and had to have it, despite not being a native Texas beer (it's not something I've seen around these parts though, so it's still something mildly ungettable for me). So I got one and greedily smuggled it back to PA***.

It pours a deep brown color with minimal head. Smell is full of dark fruitiness and caramel, with just a little of the vanilla oak flavor. Caramel flavors dominate the taste, along with a heaping helping of booze. The oak and vanilla is there too. As it warms, dark fruity notes emerge. Really complex stuff here, though not particularly well balanced. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, with a sticky finish. A really big alcohol presence here, a little on the harsh side. Overall, it's a very good beer, but like the Backwoods Bastard, I'm thinking this one would benefit from some aging in order to let all the intricate flavors to balance each other out. When it's this young, it's a little too hot to handle, maybe even a bit cloying towards the end, though still enjoyable. B

Beer Nerd Details: 15.31% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11. Bottles released in April 2011 (batch no. 7)

A theme seems to be emerging from a lot of barrel aged beers I've had lately, which is that they could probably use some more time to mature. The complex marriage of flavors that makes a barrel aged beer great seem to be difficult to balance, though when it's done right, it's a big revelation. That being said, I generally enjoy even these young versions, so it's not like you won't be seeing any more barrel aged beer reviews (indeed, one more already in the pipeline, and several more in my basement that I might just let sit for a while). I'm also really interested to see how Dark Intrigue matures, given that it seemed pretty well balanced to me on its first day of release...

* Not that I'm an expert on the style, but still.

** My handle was tallman, a reference to a cheesy but cherished 70s horror film that I was in love with at the time (and still am, to a degree). And no, I'm not very tall.

*** Using the same giddy packing techniques I did for that Wytchmaker beer. I'm still amused at the prospect of becoming a bootlegger.

Happy Hour

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The hour so happy it lasts 5 hours! Usually bars around here have a handful of craft taps to go along with the usual macros, but tonight, I went to a place that unexpectedly had a huge selection of big craft beers. I wasn't expecting it at all, but when I arrived, someone handed me the beer menu (the fact that there's a beer menu in itself is pretty awesome) and scanning through it I saw a few beers I didn't recognize (always an interesting venture) along with some heavyweights like The Bruery (rarely seen around here), Lagunitas, and some other worthy beers. Good times. Here's what I had:

  • Bavarian Barbarian Grumpy Pumpkin - Well, most pumpkin beers tend to be on the lighter side, but this marks the second time in a few days in which I've had a dark pumpkin ale. This time it's more of a pumpkin porter, and it was a very solid beer (not quite as good as the imperial pumpkin stout we had at the most recent beer club). Very muddy brown color here, with almost no head. Lots of pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...), but it doesn't overpower the typical dark beer flavors as well. This wasn't quite as well matched as the Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout I had earlier this week, but it's along similar lines. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)
  • Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Wild Ale - I wasn't sure what to expect out of this one. The description on the menu talked a lot about Belgian characteristics, but I would have called it more of a DIPA or Imperial Red than a Belgian Pale Ale. That being said, there is a hint of that Belgian yeast in the taste, enough to differentiate this from the throngs of other hoppy beers.


    Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Wild

    But the hops are really taking center stage here. Filled with pine and resin flavors, with a full body and a sticky finish, it was quite a beer. I suppose it's not a super bitter beer, though it's clearly there. Once again, I find myself resolving to seek out more Lagunitas beers. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 8.85% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

  • Boxcar Brown Ale - After two approximately 9% whoppers, I had to slow down a bit, so I picked this uber-local 5% brown ale. Boxcar is basically right down the street, and they only have a couple of beers. Their launch beer was solid, though not particularly special. They've since expanded to a couple other standard styles, including this brown ale. It's super cloudy looking (you can tell despite the even brown color) and bursting with flavor. Lots of caramel, a little bit of a nutty flavor, and even some chocolate. Indeed, I got the impression that I was drinking a sorta liquid brownie at some point, though that notion doesn't really survive the whole session. I've actually had this before, but it was from a bottle and it was very different. From the bottle it was much more muted. On tap, it was quite a bit more assertive. Full bodied, but still easy to drink. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap (16 oz). Drank out of a shaker pint.)
  • Avery Maharaja - Well, so much for moderation. Here comes another 10.5% ABV monster. It's actually the only beer of the night to be even remotely clear, with a pale orangish color and a finger of head. Features a lot of the same characteristics as the Lagunitas beer I tried earlier, but this strangely had a lighter body and seemed like it would be a more refreshing brew (if it wasn't already the 4th beer of the night). Perhaps a bit more bitter, with a similar pine and citrus character, but less of the stickiness in the mouthfeel and again, lighter bodied. A really solid beer, and something I should probably try again with a cleaner palate... B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.)

I had really wanted to get a glass of The Bruery's Rugbrød, but apparently the keg had just kicked. Damnit! But that's ok, because as the ratings above show, I had a pretty great night. Did I say that I was going to cut down on my beer intake? Well apparently not this week! That being said, I had a great time tonight and I've found a new local place to get some good craft beers.

Texas Beer Dispatch

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As previously mentioned, I spent the last week watching horror, SF, action and just plain weird movies, not to mention hobbits beating the crap out of each other (see my other blog for thoughts on the movies and other events of Fantastic Fest). Of course, nearly all of this was accompanied by beer. I must say, the Alamo Drafthouse is one awesome venue for a number of reasons, but right now, I'll just say that it represents a melding of two passions: beer and movies. They've got some common offerings, but most of their beer menu is local craft stuff, and I spent most of the week sampling beers I've never heard of and can't really get up here in PA. As I mentioned in an update to my previous post, I was tracking my beers via Untappd all week, but then, I was also watching movies and talking a lot, so take the below thoughts with a grain of salt. Alright, here goes (in roughly the order in which they were drank):

  • Live Oak Oaktoberfest - So not only local beers, but local seasonals - and this is a pretty damn good one. I wouldn't say it's a spectacular beer, but it was exactly what I was looking for out of an Octoberfest beer, and one of the better examples I've ever head of that style. B+
  • Shiner Bock - You can't got to Texas and not have at least one of these, right? And Shiner happened to be a sponsor of the festival, so these were available in abundance, sometimes even being handed out for free. I've talked about this beer before, though that was on another trip so I didn't actually rate it. It's certainly nothing special, but it's a solid beer and it's hard to argue with free pints, right? B
  • New Belgium Hoptober - Ok, so this isn't a local Texas beer, but New Belgium doesn't really distribute here (though they have started in Maryland) so I always try some of their stuff whenever I can. I would have described this as a very good IPA, but BA calls it an "American Blonde Ale"? Strange because, as the name suggests, it's massively hoppy. A really nice piney hop aroma. Well matched sweetness and hop bitterness in the taste. Overall, a really good brew, one of my favorites of the week. B+
  • Lagunitas Mystery Red Ale - So on Friday, my local Austin friends took me out and I ended up getting some sort of Lagunitas seasonal beer which I can't recall, but it was a red ale of some sort, very hoppy and tasty. I actually enjoyed this one immensely, so I wish I remembered what it was called. I think it may have been the Lucky 13, but who knows. B+
  • Independence Brewluminati Braggot - Well, braggot has gone from a style I'd never heard of to a style I've had two examples of in the past few weeks or so (the other being Weyerbacher's Sixteen). Go figure. I don't know that this one was as good as Weyerbacher's offering, but it was still a nice change of pace and worthy beer. It was lighter in color, so honey flavors dominated the taste more, but I still really enjoyed it. B
  • Real Ale Fireman's #4 - Another blonde ale and apparently another of Austin's typical session beers, as it was available all over. It's not a mind-blowing beer or anything, but pretty good for a simple blonde ale. It's got some subtle bready caramel notes, but is otherwise pretty straightforward. I only had one, but it's certainly a worthy session beer and I'd try it again. B-
  • North by Northwest Black Jack (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - Local friends took me out to dinner at this most excellent brewpub, where I had their bourbon barrel aged black ale (BA calls it a Belgian dark ale, but I don't think that's right). It's quite fantastic. I didn't detect a ton in the nose, but damn, that taste is fantastic (and once I had some headroom in the glass to swirl the beer around, the nose came out more). Rich flavors of caramel malts, bourbon, vanilla, a light oakiness, and maybe even some chocolate. Just a hint of toasted malts, but nothing like a stout. Very well balanced - no flavor dominates, making for a very complex brew. Appropriately carbonated, but a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Not too heavy and not too boozy, but it's certainly not a lightweight either. Probably my favorite beer of the week. A-
  • Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA - This is the sort of beer that makes me feel like IPAs are kinda... samey. It's hoppy in the nose and the taste, and it's bitter, but it's kinda one-note. Not much going on here. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but there wasn't really anything special about it. C+
  • (512) IPA - Now this IPA, on the other hand, was maybe the best I'd had all week. Great citrus/pine nose, well balanced sweet/bitter combo in the taste (with some of that citrus/pine shining through). Nice and complex, a very well made beer. And damn, I didn't try any other (512) beers. Given this one, I probably should have sought them out! B+
  • Left Hand Milk Stout - Another non-TX beer that isn't super common in PA, so I gave this one a shot too. It's very good, roasty, coffee and chocolate flavors and that milk stout chalkiness (probably the wrong way to describe it, but it seems common to the milk stouts I've had recently). Well done, but nothing super special either. B
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard - So this one's really not local, nor is it something hard to come by, but I'd had a bunch of drinks that night, and was settling in for the Fantastic Feud, so I gots me a comfort beer. If you're reading this blog and need me to describe Arrogant Bastard... I'm sorry. Actually, I wouldn't call it a favorite, but it's of course very good. B+
  • Independence Bootlegger Brown - I have to admit that I'm no expert on brown ales, but this one didn't really do the trick for me. It was fine for what it was - a dark, roasty, almost stout-like ale, but there wasn't really much complexity to it. I had no problems putting one down, but it doesn't really stick out for me at all either. B-
  • Live Oak Hefeweizen - I enjoy a good Hefe as much as the next guy, but they do tend to get pretty boring... but not this one! Wow, what a fantastic (pun intended) brew. If I had this earlier in the week, I'd have certainly had more of them. Really wonderful aroma of bananas and clove. Typical wheat and yeasty flavors mixed with a surprising fruitiness. Well balanced, complex, and a joy to drink. A-
  • Avery White Rascal - Another non-TX beer, but since I was rockin the wheat beers, I gave this one a shot. It's... not as good as the Live Oak, but it is pretty tasty all the same. Perhaps if I didn't have these two wheat beers back to back, I would have rated this higher. B
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 - Yeah, I've had this before and of course it's very good. I don't really have much to say about it - hoppy and bitter! - but if you like a good IPA, it hits the spot. B+
Well, there you have it, a successful outing and quite a variety of new beers I'd never heard of before. If you're ever in Austin, I recommend anything by Live Oak, as they seemed to have put together the best lineup (yeah, I only had 2 of their beers, but BA seems to rate the others pretty highly too). Before I left, I did stop off at a grocery store and picked up a big beer to bring home: Jester King's Wytchmaker Rye IPA in a fancy 750 ml bottle. Look for a review... uh, in the next month or so! Overall, I'm pretty jealous of Austinites. Not only do they have the best movie theater I've ever been too, but they can drink beer there too. We really need to get us some Alamo Drafthouse style places up here.

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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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