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Decembeer Club II: Electric Boogaloo

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As usual, a core group of stalwarts showed up, along with some new faces and other return guest stars. All told, a solid turnout, plenty of good beer, and a fun time had by all.

Decembeer Club 2012
(Click for bigger image)

Apologies for the image quality. Brightness kinda got away from me there. Stupid flash. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. Standard disclaimers apply, though I think I've achieved a new level in beer nerdom in that I've already had (and probably reviewed) a lot of the beers presented here. Go figure. Roughly (yeah, yeah, gimme a break, it's a social gathering after all, you're lucky I can do this much) listed in order of drinking, not the order in the picture above:

  • Hitachino Nest White Ale - This has actually been on my radar for a while, but it's not something I've ever tried before. It's a very solid Belgian wit beer, not super strong on the wheat (though it's there), more defined by the Belgian yeast character of fruit and dry spice. Sorta reminded me of St. Bernardus' Tokyo beer, which is not suspicious at all, as Hitachino is Japanese (I swears, I didn't realize it when I was drinking, except perhaps subconsciously because Hitachino does sound pretty Japanese). Really worth checking out, and it won't break the bank like St. Bernardus will. A-
  • Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer - This must be the 4th or 5th time I've had this. I've always enjoyed it too, though I didn't have any sticky toffee dessert dish to pair it with (like I normally do). A solid contribution from a beer club newcomer. B+
  • Ommegang Scythe & Sickle - Malt-focused, Belgian-style harvest ale, recently reviewed! Well chosen and well placed in the tasting. This works well with food (which came out as I was drinking this)... B+
  • Ballast Point Sculpin IPA - Yep, another that I've had several times before, but I do love this beer. It seems that some beer club members have been doing some research on Beer Advocate and this is a pretty good choice. Well played, Paul. A-
  • Magic Hat Hi.P.A. - A decent enough IPA that I think just pales (pun intended!) in comparison with Sculpin. Flavors seemed muted and a little bland, but seemingly well crafted enough. Not something I'd seek out again, but I wouldn't turn it down if you handed me one. B-
  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel Xmas - A variant on my homebrewed abbey dubbel beer, when I was bottling and I got to the bottom of the bucket I added a cinnamon stick and some clove to the remaining beer. Alas, I didn't get much additional spice out of this, at least in my small sample. However, I feel like the beer has finally conditioned into something solid. Still not quite what I was going for, I think perhaps too much in the Special B department, yielding a bit too much in the way of toasted malt character, but still, it's coming along well. I will refrain from rating this for now, as I don't think it's peaked yet, but perhaps a full review will be forthcoming.
  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) - Just reviewed this one yesterday (along with the 2011 variety). This was one of my contributions, so of course it was good.
  • Evolution Secret Spot Winter Ale - I've enjoyed most of Evolutions offerings that I've tried so far, and this one is no exception. But it's not really exceptional either. Another beer that may have suffered a bit by comparison to the previous beer. Technically an altbier, this drinks kinda like a winter warmer without the spice. I like. Want to try again in better context. B
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Yep, just reviewed this one too. Big flavors do well in beer club setting.
  • Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2011 - One of my contributions... I've had the 2010 vintage, and though Mikkel claims to tweak the recipe every year, this seemed pretty similar to me. It's listed as a Belgian Strong Dark, but it reads more like an Imperial Stout. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts, smooth, well hidden booze. It's said that this is a spiced beer, but it's hard to detect in this. Definitely a complex beer, and I'm guessing the spices contribute to that without being overpowering. Overall, a very good beer, worthy of the holiday. A-
So there you have it. Another successful beer club. Good company, good food, good beer. As always, already looking forward to the next installment.

Ballast Point Sculpin India Pale Ale

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According to Beer Advocate's Top Beers list, Sculpin is the 46th best beer in the world. Whatever the virtues of automated lists based on aggregate ratings, one of the biases of such an exercise is that "extreme" beers tend to get a disproportionate amount of attention. But Sculpin is a "regular" IPA. Clocking in at 7% ABV, it's at the upper end of that spectrum, but it's a pretty standard beer. It's not seasonal or super rare or hard to find, and while Ballast Point has a generally good reputation in the beer nerd community, I don't think of them as anointed in the way of, say, Russian River or The Bruery. And in fact, there's only 4 regular ol' American IPAs on the list (and no English varieties either). Now, Double/Imperial IPAs? That's a different story. There are 4 DIPAs in the top 10 alone. So Sculpin must be something pretty special, eh?

Ballast Point Sculpin

Ballast Point Sculpin India Pale Ale - Pours a clearish golden color with a finger of head and decent retention. Smells strongly of sugary sweet malts with a big citrus hop component, very aromatic, I could just sniff this stuff all night. The taste hits with that sweetness up front, followed by a ton of citrusy hops, with perhaps a little more floral components coming out in the taste, and a well balanced, barely even bitter finish. In fact, that bitterness emerges earlier in the taste than I'm used to, but it's not nearly as strong or overwhelming as it normally is in an IPA. It's a 7% ABV beer, so I don't expect it to be small, but it drinks like a higher ABV beer - not in a boozy or bad way, but in a depth and balance of flavor way. Mouthfeel is smooth, carbonation is light and tight, very well balanced and easy to drink. But it's something you want to relish, not gulp down. Overall, a really nice IPA, and I can see why it's got such a reputation. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 5/19/12.

I may have to make myself better acquainted with Ballast Point. Incidentally, if you're looking for another example of a "normal" style making a surprising appearance in the top 100: Live Oak Hefeweizen. Of course, I don't think that one gets a particularly big distribution, but I'll be damned if it isn't a spectacular beer - something you don't hear much of when people talk of Hefeweizens...

Febrewary Beer Club

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I'm a little behind on posting stuff here, so bear with me as I play catchup this week. At 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 particular meeting was a long time coming, as weather and a hectic holiday schedule conspired to delay this session multiple times. We went to a different BYOB this month... it's a legitimate restaurant, and thus the mood lighting wasn't quite conducive to picture taking, but here's what we brought (you can click for a larger version):

Febrewary Beer Club

The theme this month was beers with a picture of an animal on the label, though there were a couple of non-qualifying beers. Conditions weren't ideal, so no grades here, but I've included some thoughts on each beer:

  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière - My contribution to the theme went over pretty well, though it would probably make a better summer beer than a winter one. Still, it was quite refreshing, light colored ale with a little citrus. Again, would make a great summer beer.
  • Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintners Blend - Technically, it's "beer and wine" club, but I don't really have a clue when it comes to wine. Still, this one was pretty good. Sweeter and less dry than I'm used to from a red wine, but whatever... Also, hard to see in the image, but the Ravenswood logo is awesome.
  • Ballast Point Sea Monster Imperial Stout - I'd call this one an above average stout, a little more on the oatmeal side of things, and a good counterpoint to the other stouts people brought. I didn't have enough to make a good judgement though, so it's something I want to revisit at some point...
  • Terrapin Hop Karma IPA - The first in a hoppy trio of beers from Terrapin, this one was interesting, but ultimately didn't blow me away. Again, didn't have a lot of this, so I should probably reserve judgement. Cool label though.
  • Terrapin Rye Pale Ale - Seemed like a pretty standard, but well executed, Americal Pale Ale. Another cool label.
  • Terrapin Hopsecutioner: Pretty standared IPA territory here, though I love the label on this one. Little guy looks like a TMNT.
  • Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot - I'm going to review this one in detail at some point in the near future, so I'll leave it at that. I'll just say that it seems like a pretty good European style barleywine.
  • Founders Breakfast Stout and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - I've already written about these before. Coffee drinkers seemed to like the Founders one better than me, though I don't think anyone thought it was as good as BA says...
  • River Horse Tripel Horse - I was looking forward to this, as River Horse is one of the few semi-local breweries I'm not that familiar with, and the Tripel is one of my favorite styles. However, I found it quite disappointing. I didn't have a lot of it, but it didn't seem much like a Tripel at all, and it had this strange kick to it that I'm having trouble remembering.
  • Wintertraum Christkindles Gluhwein - Another wine. Sorta. Not sure how this is classified, but it was super-sweet tasting reddish wine. Not bad for what it is, I guess, but not really my thing either.
Another successful beer club! Like I said, not exactly ideal conditions for formal reviews, but a great time. The restaurant we went to was pretty good too. Not the best sushi in the area, but a welcome addition that didn't break that bank. As usual, I'm 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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