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Dock Street Prince Myshkin

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Dock Street has been around for forever and has had its ups and downs, but this is a beer that I've had a few times in the past few years, and it's one of my favorite local beers to revisit. Dock Street is tiny, so naturally these bottles don't come around that often, but it flows on tap throughout the winter months and is possibly the best local imperial stout that is regularly available (notwithstanding various one offs from the likes of Tired Hands or Tröegs - though both of those beers did return, you never know if you'll see them again). Are those fighting words? Maybe a bunch of Shackamaximum fans will come out of the woodwork and drown me in hateful scorn, but I'm doubting it.

The Barrel Aged version of Prince Myshkin suffered from an intentional lack of carbonation (generally a deal breaker for me), but aside from that, it would have been truly great. As it is, I'll settle for this base beer, a hefty but not overpowering Russian imperial stout. This particular bottle is getting a bit old, but it's still doing quite well:

Dock Street Prince Myshkin Imperial Stout

Dock Street Prince Myshkin Russian Imperial Stout - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of beautiful light brown head. Smells very sweet, with the roasted malts taking a back seat to the sweet, almost fruity aromas. Taste also goes the sweet route, though nothing cloying here, and there's ample bitterness on the back end to balance it out. Roasted malts come out to play a little more in the taste than the nose, and you get some of that almost fruity character too, along with hints of caramel and chocolate. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, smooth and creamy, not a trace of booze. It's a beer that could serve as a sipper if you so desired, but it's easy going enough to be dangerous too. Overall, this may be my favorite thing I've had from Dock Street (I've had it a couple times before, and my opinion has not changed), a rock solid imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/25/14. Bottled 1/30/13.

If you're ever in the Philly area in the winter, it's worth stopping in at Dock Street for a glass of this and some solid pizza (sorry, I've never had anything else there, but the pizza is good). Here's to hoping they age this in barrels again sometime soon (and that they let it carbonate this time).

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

Dock Street Flemish Red

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Finally ticking the last of five beers I bought at the Dock Street bottle release way back when. A flanders red aged for 2.5 years in old Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, then (unintentionally) further aged in the bottle for another year and a half or so. Color me interested:

Dock Street Flemish Red

Dock Street Flemish Red Sour Ale - Pours a dark amber brown color with minimal, slow forming, big bubbled, white head. Smells of oak and cherries, with a very sharp twang that indicates sourness, quite nice. Taste is very sweet and extremely sour, with that sourness hitting almost immediately, lots of fruitiness, sour cherries, vinegar, jolly ranchers, and some oak making itself known in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel is a little low on carbonation, but nothing excessively low (like some of Dock Street's other barrel aged brews). It works well enough at the start, but it feels a little flat towards the end of the bottle. Medium bodied, an acidic vinegary feel, very slight slickness. Overall, this is a good example of the style, but not quite world beater status. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.75% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands glass on 6/8/13. Bottled November 2011.

It seems like every one of Dock Street's barrel aged brews has just one minor flaw that holds in back from true greatness. They've all been pretty good as they are, but tended to be a little low on carbonation, or in this case, a little high on the acidity. Part of it could always be the age of the bottle, but then, they claimed the low carbonation was intentional, so there is that. I'll probably continue to check out their annual barrel aged brew, and some of the staple beers are pretty great too. One of these days they'll really knock one out of the park...

Dock Street Devil's Double IPA

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As I slowly explore the world of trading, I find myself in the need of interesting bottles of local beer from time to time. Dock Street doesn't have a trendy reputation, but they put out solid product, and their bottle releases are low stress affairs and their last release aligned perfectly with a trade I was setting up, so I took a trip to the brewpub and picked up a couple bottles of Prince Myshkin RIS (the regular version, not the near-flat Barrel Aged one). While there, the bartender upsold me on this newly released Double IPA (yes, I'm a weak man).

Now, I've got plenty of beer to drink over here, but I've also reached a point of my beer nerdery where IPAs have to be consumed fresh. For you hopheads out there, this one's made with Simcoe, Citra, and Sorachi Ace. So let's buckle up and hope we don't get so drunk the Devil asks us to double for him, like in that horrible movie.

Dock Street Devils Double IPA

Dock Street Devil's Double IPA - Pours a cloudy dark orange color with a couple fingers of off white head, lots of lacing. Smells of big citrus and pine hops, a little resinous, and an additional hop aroma I'd call "green" (this is definitely the Sorachi Ace making itself known). Taste leans towards the east coast IPA, lots of robust crystal malt character providing a backdrop for those big hop flavors. More resinous pine than citrus, but the unique thing here is that "green" herbal character, like cilantro or dill or something (again, this is clearly the Sorachi Ace hops throwing their muscle around, holding their own with the more popular Simcoe and Citra). Mouthfeel is medium bodied, ample carbonation but very smooth. Goes down easy. Overall, a well done DIPA, reminiscent of DFH 90 Minute, though those Sorachi Ace hops differentiate it big time. An interesting change of pace from your typical DIPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/26/13 and 4/27/13. Bottled 2/5/13 (may have been 3/5, label got cut off a bit).

So Dock Street continues a streak of solid brews that nevertheless feel a bit underachieving. That being said, I may have saved the best for last, their Flemish Red sounds pretty darn good. Will probably get to that in the coming months...

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter

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This one's going to live up to its name, so stay frosty folks: Dock Street describes this as a "Vatted porter blended with a small dose of Prince Myshkin Russian Imperial Stout. Aged in an Apple Brandy barrel for 3.5 years with brettanomyces and Cantillon wild yeasts!" So yes, this is certainly full of funk, both figuratively and literally. Lets see if all that funk translates to greatness:

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter

Dock Street Man Full Of Funk Porter - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of big bubbled tan head that actually has decent retention. Nose is filled with funk and that twang that indicates sourness, quite nice, actually. Taste is less funky than the nose would have you believe, only a very light sourness, just a little oak, but enough that the roasty, toasty porter flavors don't really overpower the taste either. There's a slight vinous character that works well enough here, but isn't super prominent. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, with low carbonation, but nowhere near flat(definitely much more here than in the BA RIS or Barleywine, though it's still low overall). This has a sorta muted flavor profile, but it's also well balanced. Overall, a solid beer, not something that is going to weaken the knees, but really nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/13/13. Bottled 9/23/12.

Not quite the sour funk bomb that I was expecting, but really good, probably my favorite of their barrel aged treatments, but only because it had mildly appropriate carbonation (that BA Prince Myshkin would have been perfect if it wasn't almost completely still) and I still have one more to try (a Flemish Red, which actually has a pretty good reputation). Speaking of Dock Street, they're doing another bottle release on Saturday and I plan to pick up at least a couple bottles, so this Dock Street train will continue on.

Dock Street Barrel Aged Barley Wine

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Back in November, I bought a whole boatload of Dock Street bottles. I really enjoyed the La Biere Des Amis Saison, but the Oak Aged Prince Myshkin's RIS, while featuring a wonderful barrel aged character, was showing its age a bit. It was also completely uncarbonated. I had chalked that up to age before, but now I learn that this may have been an intentional strategy on Dock Street's part. While looking into this Barrel Aged Barley Wine, I learned a little more about the process (emphasis mine):

This very special batch of our immense ale has been tempered by 10 months of quiet aging in oak barrels that had previously been the home of Chadds Ford Pinot Noir wine. The result is a sensual synthesis of the worlds of beer, oak, and wine. The aromatics leave the drinkers to believe that they may be about to taste a port wine or brandy. The malt is the true star here, with the bitterness of the hops dying away to reveal flavors of coconut, caramel, and rum. It all comes together with a slightly acidic and tannic woody finish. The initial hint of alcohol slowly fades into a warming burn.

This Dock Street Barley Wine has been lovingly hand bottled strait from the barrels, and bottle-conditioned by our brewers. The carbonation was left intentionally low so you can taste how it did pulled right from the cask.

Well, I guess that explains it. Oddly, I felt that this Barley Wine was better carbonated than the RIS I had, though it's still damn near still. So like with the stout, I really enjoyed this, but that low carbonation level really held it back from true greatness for me (whether intentional or not, I'm just finding that I appreciate carbonation in beer).

Dock Street Barrel Aged Barley Wine

Dock Street Barrel Aged Barley Wine (2009 Vintage) - Pours a deep, dark brown color with about half a finger of slowly forming head. Really weird. Poured it with some authority, and it basically took about 20 seconds for the head to actually form up. Never seen anything like it. Actually, now that I think about it, it's kinda reminiscent of how Guinness does its thing when you first pour it. Anyways, it smells amazingly good. Rich caramel, vanilla, and oak, some fruitiness and hops too. Taste features a lot more of that fruity malt character, raisins and figs, some oxidation here - definitely showing its age, but not in a bad way. Again, we've got rich caramel, brown sugar/molasses, and that great vanilla and oak barrel aged character. Maybe a little red wine. Really fantastic depth of flavor here. Unfortunately, it's all betrayed by the carbonation. Mouthfeel is extremely low on the carbonation front (which is bad), but it is very rich and full bodied (which is good). Once again, I find myself wishing for a little more carbonation, which would have made this perfect. As it is, I'm left with just a really good barley wine that has a great barrel aged quality, but not enough carbonation. I'll leave it at a B+ and hope they do something like this again, but decide to liven up the carbonation a bit.

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 4/5/13. 2009 Vintage.

I do have to wonder if four years in the bottle didn't impact that carbonation a little, so I do so wish I got a fresh bottle of this stuff. Anyways, I still have a couple of Dock Street beers in the cellar, both funky sours, so look for those soon. And apparently they're doing another bottle release soon - I may need to pick up a few bottles of the "regular" Prince Myshkin's RIS, which was excellent when I tried it fresh at the brewery last year.

How to put this... Do you ever get that not so fresh feeling? This is a common beer nerd trope, so I won't harp on it too much, but it's something I've become much more attuned to over the past year or so. It's especially pernicious when it comes to beers that rely heavily on hops, but it's hardly limited to IPAs and the like. Take this Russian Imperial Stout from Dock Street, which was aged for a year on Hungarian red wine barrels (which were previously used to age a barleywine), then further aged for about 2 years in the bottle (well, technically, it was first released in 2010, but I bought my bottle in 2012). I really wish I'd gotten to try a fresh bottle of this stuff, because I'm positive that it would have blown me away. As it is, I was pretty well impressed, but it's definitely showing its age. I mean, you can pretty much tell what you're in for just by looking at the stuff:

Dock Street Oak Aged Prince Myshkin RIS

Dock Street Oak Aged Prince Myshkin's Russian Imperial Stout - Pours a thick, gloopy black color with an almost imperceptible head, just the faintest ring of light brown on the edge of the glass. Smells utterly fantastic, rich caramel, vanilla, and oak. There's a fruity character too, almost like port. The oak is so nice that if I didn't know better, I'd think bourbon was involved. Tastes follows suit with rich caramel, a less prominent but still present vanilla and oak, some dark chocolate, and a trace of bitter roasted malt in the finish. Alas, its age comes out in the mouthfeel, which is definitely way too low on the carbonation, but otherwise full bodied, thick, and chewy. It was certainly drinkable, and I put down the whole 750 without much of a thought, but if this were a bit more carbonated, it would have been sublime. As it is, it feels thinner than it should. For now, I'll hit it with a B+, though it was probably way up in the A range when fresh.

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/22/13.

Least you think I'm just wanking about this old beer crap, I was reminded to hit up my Dock Street stash last week when Rich on Beer noted that this BA Myshkin was definitely getting a little long in the tooth. And it looks like his beer didn't have quite the carbonation problems mine did - his picture even displays some semblance of head! That or Rich is more tolerant of low carbonation in his beer, which is certainly possible. I've noticed this is something that bothers me more than most. Anywho, I've actually got a few other Dock Street beers in the cellar, including the 2009 barleywine that was in these Pinot Noir barrels before Myshkin and some funky sours too, though none are in the immediate pipeline.

La Biere Des Amis

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Back in November, I went to a Dock Street bottle release and loaded up on bottles... and despite some Thanksgiving shenanigans, I haven't dipped into my stash since then. Well, it's about time we change that, isn't it?

This beer, a sessionable saison, is a collaboration between Dock Street Brewer Scott Morrison and Daniel Thiriez, the owner and brewer of a French brewery called, oddly enough, Thiriez. They claim it's the first US-French collaboration on American soil, and why wouldn't it be? Insert French joke here.

So how did this "beer of friends" turn out?

Dock Street and Thiriez La Biere Des Amis

Dock Street and Brasserie Thiriez La Biere Des Amis - Pours a very pretty, light golden yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy head, great retention, and plenty of lacing. Smells of spicy belgian yeast, pepperery with a nice bready character too. The taste is sweet and spicy, classic Belgian yeast profile here, very well balanced flavors. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, refreshing, and dry. Clocking in at 4.5% ABV, this is a compulsively drinkable beer. It's not going to melt anyone's face, but it might raise an eyebrow here or there, and it's making a great accompaniment to my sushi dinner tonight. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 2/22/13.

And the Dock Street jamboree continues tomorrow with a 3 year old barrel aged brew. Stay tuned.

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

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