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Cascade Sang Rouge

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I was going to put a bunch of effort into working a Le Cercle Rouge reference in here, but I figured the tenuous connection (zomg, they both use the French word for Red) and obscurity means I shouldn't bother. Any Jean-Pierre Melville fans in the house? No? Alright then, moving on.

This is yet another in Cascade's long line of sour ales; a blend of red ales that were aged in oak wine barrels and oak foudres for for up to three years. Previous iterations have mentioned that it was a blend of as many as nine lots of beer, which is always an interesting exercise. Sometimes blending can add complexity and balance, other times it just sorta levels out all the spiky bits, covers up imperfections, making for a less complex but more consistent beer. While this is certainly another Cascade win, I'm also betting this trends towards the latter speculation. This is still very good, but it doesn't really stand out if you know what I mean. Or not. I'm not even really sure what I mean by that. Give me a break. Let's take a closer look at this "red blooded" sour and plan some elaborate beer heists:

Cascade Sang Rouge

Cascade Sang Rouge - Pours a clear but very dark amber or ruby color with a finger of fizzy but long lived off-white head. Smells great, vinegar, cherries, musty funk, a little oak and vanilla too. Taste hits those sour notes pretty hard, sweet, tart fruit, cherries, blackberries and the like, some of that oak and vanilla pitching in where it can, then more sourness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, some oaky richness, well carbonated, plenty of acidity. Overall, a nice little sour number. Could be an A-, but I'm not feeling generous at the moment, so B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 11/21/15. Vintage: 2013 Project (2015 Release).

Cascade certainly has their house sour style dialed in, and with a single freak exception, I've enjoyed everything I've had from them. I'm sure this won't be the last we see of them on the blog...

September Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and general revelry. This time, we stopped in at a local Pizza place for some deep fried dough, strombolis, and yes, pizza. It's not a big place and the pizza isn't as spectacular as the last beer club gathering, but we always manage to make due. Good attendance tonight too, and plenty of beer.

September Beer Club Selections
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some half-addled thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, this was a social gathering, so I wasn't paying too close of attention to what I was drinking and you should totes ignore what I'm writing and make up your own mind because I'm totally the worst and this post is definitely an ill-advised idea that I'm only doing out of tradition because I've done it for all previous iterations of beer club and are you even reading this? Why? The beer notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured (and some later attendees brought some stuff that is not pictured):

  • Platform Speed Merchant White IPA - Not expecting much out of this Ohio beer brought back by a visitor, fantastic citrusy nose, more typical IPA-like taste. Quite solid though, and worth a look on its own. B+
  • Pizza Boy Hop Test #1 (Cascade Single Hop) - Yep, it's a pale ale. The very definition of cromulence, this does nothing particularly special, but it's an enjoyable little pale ale. B
  • New Belgium Pumpkick - Whoa there, this is quite perfumey, moar ginger than anything else, but that perfumey character really overpowers everything else with this beer. Not horrendous, but not a particularly good pumpkin beer either. C+
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack - Back in the early days of this blog, this would have been an A worthy beer, but grade inflation is a bitch. It's still an accomplished and emminently accomplished IPA, well worth checking out. Delicious citrus/pine/malt balance. B+
  • Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau - Very nice little tart beer, tart, crisp, refreshing, very light bodied and easy going, sorta beginner sour stuff but quite nice on its own. B+
  • Overshores Tripel Brun - Bottle a bit of a gusher, and thus carbonation levels a bit off, but this is basically a very raisiny Belgian strong dark. B
  • Brasserie De Blaugies / Hill Farmstead La Vermontoise - I know I've had this before, but apparently I never reviewed it. It's not quite up to speed with the best of Hill Farmstead, but it's a rock solid saison, earthy and spicy, quite delicious. B+
  • Fantôme Coffee Ruby - One of my contributions, this came off as surprisingly muted. There's some coffee character that is definitely present, but it's not overpowering at all, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be a ton of other stuff going on with this beer. It's got a very, very mild funk to it, and the combination of the base with coffee doesn't entirely blesh, but it's certainly an interesting beer. A little weird, but could more interesting with more funk. Keeping in mind my legendary indifference to coffee, I'll give it a B
  • Cascade Figaro - This is typical Cascade sour here, which is to say, it's a fantastic little sour. I don't get a lot of fig or lemon peel out of it, but it's got that trademark Cascade lactic sour and oak character that just work so damn well. Generally agreed to be one of the best of the night. A-
  • White Birch Indulgence Ale (2014) - Not sure which version of this beer I tried (I think it's this retired 2014 version), but it was labeled as a Belgian Imperial Stout, and it definitely had a sorta brighter take on the imperial stout style that worked really well. Lots of rich malt, light roast, some hints of Belgian character, but with the style's inherent dark malt sweetness (i.e. not a dry or highly carbonated beer). Actually quite nice and among the better of the night. B+
  • Brewmaster Jack Barrel Aged Prinsipia Quad - Sounds great, but came out kinda limp, very boozy, a little raisiny Belgian character, but not at all balanced. Not terrible, but not quite getting the job done either. B-

And that just about covers it. We just got this one in under the wire, last day of the month. Will need to try and plan the next beer club soon. Great time, as always.

Bourbonic Plague

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I like puns as much as the next fella, hell I'll even chuckle at the most overused of beer puns: the hop pun. But even I have to question the wisdom of naming your beer with a pun that refers to one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. Welcome to the Raccoon Lodge & Brewpub, here's your bottled pestilence! On the other hand, it is a beer soured with bacteria, so there is a certain sense of propriety, I guess. Consider my question withdrawn.

I've had the occasional misfire from Cascade, and at these prices, those are not pleasant affairs (even when the beer is ultimately not all that bad), but they're always interesting, and when they're on, they're really on. I've had my eye on this one for a while, in part because I initially thought it wasn't a sour. It's a blend of spiced double porters that were aged in Bourbon and wine barrels for 18 months before aging on dates and spices for up to an additional 12 months. Nothing in there screams sour. Except for the part on the label that sez it's a Northwest Style Sour Ale. That's kinda a dead giveaway. I am, as has been amply established, the worst. Anywho, bourbon barrels aren't typically used for sours, and I've found that when they are, the bourbon gets lost behind the sourness (with the notable exception of Cuvée De Tomme). This one falls somewhere inbetween...

Our opponent is running a black deck, so watch out for plague rats and gird your buboes, because we're going in for a closer look at this Bourbonic Plague:

Cascade Bourbonic Plague

Cascade Bourbonic Plague - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head that quicky fizzes down to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells funky, a little sour, but you get some spice and vanilla (almost like a coke), oak, maybe some vinous fruit, and something deeper and darker lurking in the background. Taste is very sweet, some of that vinous fruit, a nice sour punch, rich dark malts (but not roasty at all), spice and vanilla (again with the almost coca cola character, like if coke was sour? Maybe not the best description, but there's something to it), and some booze, maybe even actual bourbon (not Cuvée De Tomme levels, but it's there). Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, a little heavy and acidic, nice booze factor. Intense, complex, and interesting, it's a sipper for sure, and probably should be shared. Overall, a fascinating piece of work, not sure I've had anything quite like it. B+ but certainly worth seeking out.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 4/25/15. Vintage: 2011 Project.

Yet another interesting winner from Cascade, and at least one more in the pipeline sometime in the near future. Not to mention lots of their beers that remain unexplored territory for us... territory we'll surely enjoy charting.

Cascade Sang Royal

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I was going to just make a Royale With Cheese joke and whine about the metric system, but as with the beer itself, DDB beat me to it by a few years. Instead I'll have to rely on pedantic translation backgrounding, like Sang Royal being French for "Royal Blood" and how popular it is to pretend that a given grape-based beverage is blood. Indeed, we're about the celebrate the birth of the guy who popularized the concept in just a few days.

The last couple Cascade beers I've had wound up being a little disappointing. The Vine, another grape-based beer, was fine I guess, but not as sour or oaky as I've come to expect from Cascade (It tasted more like a tripel dosed with grape juice than a funky sour). The Blueberry had a slight case of the Smoketômes, which was clearly not doing it any favors. Given the expense of acquiring these bottles, I wasn't sure if this would be worth the stretch, but it's one of their better regarded beers (which is saying something) and it's not like I haven't had some great beers from them, so I rolled the dice and I'm glad I did.

So what makes this one so special? Well, it's a blend of red ales that have been aged in wine (depending on where you look, these are Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon barrels) and Port barrels for up to 20 months on Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It clocks in at a rather hefty 10.12% ABV, which I usually view as a little too high for a sour. Something about high alcohol and high acidity is hard to get right, but I'll be damned if Cascade didn't figure it out. This ain't a gulper, to be sure, but it's phenomenal:

Cascade Sang Royal

Cascade Sang Royal - Pours a dark ruby red color, almost brown, with half a finger of off white head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells fantastic, vinous fruit, sour cherries, vinegar, a little oak and vanilla. Taste is very sweet, lots of dark vinous fruit, sour cherries, tannins, plenty of oak and vanilla and a pretty bracing sourness throughout, but especially in the finish. As it warms, more funky, earthy notes emerge, tobacco and leather come out and mesh well with the sour fruit. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, that oak really contributes here, moreso than most 10+% ABV sours, a pleasant vinegar acidity too. Overall, yep, pretty fantastic here. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10.12% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/19/14. Vintage: 2012 Project.

So Cascade certainly came through on this one. I'm sure opinions vary on the $25+ price tag, but it is phenomenal beer. A few more Cascades in the Kaedrin pipeline, including Bourbonic Plague and Figaro, coming early next year.

Belated BBQ Beer Club Recap

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Last week was Beer Club, and in a heinous act of negligence, I'm only getting to the recap now. I know, I'm the worst. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and fun (which part is not optional). This month we hit up a local BBQ joint, loaded up on smoked meats, and cracked open quite a few beers:

October Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we had are below. The usual disclaimers apply, and you'll want to amplify your skepticism even further due to the fact that I'm writing this about 5 days later than normal. Great, so now that we've established that the proceeding descriptions are completely devoid of merit, we can begin. In order of drinking, not necessarily the order in the picture, and in fact, there are several beers not pictured (and we didn't get to some of the ones that were):

  • Neshaminy Creek County Line IPA - I know "East Coast IPA" isn't a real thing, but I think it kinda describes stuff like this. A local IPA with plenty of hop character that's balanced out by plenty of crystal malts (much more than you get in typical West Coast IPAs). Its enjoyable, but it won't blow minds. The very definition of a B, though sometimes I want to bump that up to a B+, which I guess means it's not the very definition of a B, but give me a break, I'm not under oath here.
  • Anchorage Whiteout Wit Bier - Belgian Wit beer aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces? Sign me up. Nice funk to it, with plenty of typical wheat beer character. Worth checking out. B+
  • Upstate I.P.W. - A friend brought a bunch of beers that he grabbed whilst in New York, and this India Pale Wheat ale was quite nice. One of those things I could see myself reaching for, were I a local. Great citrus/pine hop character, light wheat, crisp, and refreshing. B+
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pecan Brown - Wow, that pecan character really comes through on the nose and in the taste. A little lighter in color than your typical brown ale, but that pecan character really sets this apart, and I very much enjoyed it.
  • Sly Fox Incubus - A beer I've reviewed before (a looong time ago), but I'll just say that this bottle had a more distinct raisiny note than I remember. On the other hand, it is a bit high on the booze and stickiness factor, something I'm not huge on when it comes to Tripels. Still a solid B in my book.
  • The Beer Diviner Very! Brown Ale - Another New York beer, my friend apparently stumbled on it by asking his phone to point out breweries near his location. This one turned out to be a guy brewing out of his house on a farm or something like that. This particular beer was a pretty standard brown ale, nutty and toasty, if a bit stronger than normal. B
  • Cascade Apricot - One of my contributions, and a beer we've reviewed relatively recently, so I don't have much to add to that. A-
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack - A beer I've had many times at this point, and as Black IPAs (or whatever you want to call them) go, it's probably the best regularly available option out there. Big citrus and pine hop component along with the typical roast of a stout, without letting either character overwhelm (or making you wish you had a straight IPA or stout). B+
  • Founders Dark Penance - This is a relatively recent addition to Founders lineup, and like everything Founders makes, it's a solid take on the style. However, having it in close proximity to Wookey Jack made me feel like this was lacking. It was fine, to be sure, and it'd probably be worth trying in a less chaotic environment. B
  • Two Roads Conntucky Lightnin' Bourbon Ale - Well, I didn't get a ton of Bourbon out of this, and it seemed a bit thin for what it proclaims on the label. Not really bad, or anything, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Breckenridge Agave Wheat - Seemed pretty bland, though that sweet agave does come through in the taste. Probably should have opened this much earlier in the night, but here we are. C+
  • Pizza Boy Bean Dream - It's supposed to be a milk stout with vanilla beans, but I don't get a ton of vanilla. On the other hand, it is a pretty solid milk stout, smooth with a nice chocolatey roast character. I really need to get out to Pizza Boy one of these days... B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Bourbon Porter - This was a pretty solid take on the style, and the bourbon oak character comes through well enough, actually much better than that Conntucky Bourbon stuff from earlier. Go Ken!
  • Bonus Beer: Otter Creek Brewing / Lawson's Double Dose IPA - Whilst at beer club, someone found out that a local drinkery tapped some Lawson's Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead, so after beer club, a small cadre of attendees made a slight detour. Now, both of the beers we had were actually collaborations that are more widely available than the typical entries from those breweries (HF sometimes sends kegs down here, but Lawson's never does), but I'm not complaining, because these were both great beers. This DIPA is fabulous. Huge hop character, citrus and pine and something almost zesty. Not quite Double Sunshine great, but definitely something I want more of. B+
  • Bonus Beer: Grassroots Convivial Suaréz - A sorta funky saison made with hibiscus, I really enjoyed this, though I didn't take any real detailed notes. Nice funky character, and the hibiscus actually does come through. B+
And another successful beer club, fun and smoked meat had by all. Already looking forward to our next meeting...

Cascade Blueberry Ale

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There's a huge amount of amazing sour ale out there for the taking these days, which I think belies the difficulty of brewing sour beers. Wild yeasts and bacterial beasties can do unpredictable things, and sometimes those things don't happen until the beer's been in the bottle for a while. Is that what happened here? Is this a bad bottle situation? I got a distinct, but not very powerful smokey funk note (along the lines the recent Smoketôme epidemic, though perhaps not as overpowering). This can work in some beers, but the mixture of smoke with a fruited sour struck me as odd, even if the rest of the beer was rather spectacular... I guess they can't all be winners. I will most certainly be on the lookout for new and exciting Cascade beer, and if Blueberry makes another appearance next year, I'll give it a shot. In the meantime, lets take a closer look at this one:

Cascade Blueberry Ale

Cascade Blueberry Ale - Pours a very striking rose color with a finger of fizzy pink head. Smells of musky funk, tons of fruit, that sour twang, and plenty of oak. The taste has a nice sweetness to it, huge amounts of funk, moreso than usual with Cascade, a little tart fruit and general sourness before that funk comes back strong, with an almost smokey character to it. Not overpowering like the recent Fantomes and the rest of the beer is fine, but it's definitely there, and I'm not sure it works. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and a little acidic. Overall, this is good, but that slight smokey character is disappointing. Without that aspect, I could see this as being spectacular. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.75% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Charente glass on 9/19/14. 2013 Project.

This was a bit disappointing, as I was expecting something more along the lines of the Kriek or even Apricot entries. Still, as I mentioned above, I will always be on the lookout for some of the more interesting Cascade offerings, even if I don't really have a line on anything new at this point...

Cascade The Vine

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Cascade Brewing out of Oregon has quite the reputation, and we were able to confirm that a couple times last year, to the point where I now blind buy any new bottle I see. I love the idea of a brewery that got its start specializing in sour beers (rather than the tired old pale ale, amber, and porter lineup that a lot of new breweries roll out). Apparently the folks who started the brewery were sick of the whole "hops arms race" and didn't want to chase the same dragon as pretty much every other brewer out there. So they looked for something that would provide a similar intensity (but without the hops), and thus settled on sour beers. Despite being a rather tiny brewer, they are probably one of the most consistent and largest sour brewers out there, which is saying something.

I recently managed to get my greedy paws on a few new bottles (and some old favorites) of Cascade beers, including this one, a blend of strong blond ales aged in barrels with fresh pressed grapes. I could be wrong, but I get the impression that most fruited sours use macerated fruit, not "pressed". I call this out because when I was drinking this, I got a very distinct "grape juice" vibe out of it that seemed uncommon in grape based sours.

If I were a better person, I would have made a Vine of me pouring this stuff in a glass or something more creative, but that would have been, like, 6 seconds of extra work, and who has time for that kinda hassle. I got beer to drink here:

Cascade The Vine

Cascade The Vine - Pours a hazy yellow color with a couple fingers of bubbly, fizzy head that quickly resolves to a cap that remains for a bit. The smell is full of funk and grape juice, with some more typical tripel type aromas lurking in the background. The taste follows the nose, lots of funk, a very light lactic character, not even really sour (maybe very light up front, but it fades quickly), a hint of oak (but not much at all), heaping helpings of grape juice, and something earthy and musty in the finish. Honestly, it drinks more like a grape flavored tripel than an oak aged sour, though it does work well enough for what it is. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, a little bit of booziness. Overall, it's really good, but I was hoping for a little more sourness and oak. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.3% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 5/16/14. 2013 vintage.

Reading other reviews seems to indicate that others got more sourness out of this than I did, making me wonder if I just got an odd bottle. I love me some Cascade, but one thing I do not love is the price tag, and I can't say as though I'm rushing out to grab another of these (the Kriek or Apricot beers are another story). I also got my hands on the Blueberry beer, which I've got high hopes for (look for that in the next few weeks)...

Cascade Apricot Ale

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Nothing sez Halloween like spooooky... apricots? Alright, that's a stretch, but I always jump at the chance to try a new Cascade beer. This one appears to be their most popular beer, having garnered the most reviews and yet maintained a pretty great rating. The base for this is apparently a Belgian style tripel (which explains some of that musty character mentioned in the notes below, I think) which is aged in old oak barrels for about a year, then aged on fresh apricots for an additional 8 months. It looks like older vintages of this beer were higher ABV (and varying stays in barrels too), so maybe that tripel has been downgraded a bit, but whatever, this beer still sounds excellent, so let's dig in:

Cascade Apricot Ale

Cascade Apricot Ale - Pours a hazy yellow color with a couple fingers of fizzy white head that still sticks around a bit. Smells very musty, maybe even some spice like from Belgian yeast, with the fruitiness barely peeking out from behind that sour twang. Taste is quite sour, not as much fruit as you might expect (though it's there), and did I mention sour? As it warms, I feel like the apricot starts to come through loud and clear, and that sharp sourness softens (or my gumline has just gone numb or something), with some tannic oak tempering things towards the end and lingering into the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, tannic, a little acidic, but crisp and relatively dry enough to make it approachable. Overall, it's a very well executed oak-aged sour, more sour and less fruity than expected, but still damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 10/26/13. Vintage: 2012 Project.

Another winner from Cascade, I'll have to figure out when and where to pick up some bottles of their more limited releases (anything that starts with "Sang" sounds pretty awesome to me). Or find a mule in a state where they can ship beer (stupid PA liquor laws, and DE and NJ aren't excused on this one either, as Cascade can't ship there either). In other news, I'll have actual Halloween themed beers for you later this week.

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