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Evolution Nouveau Rouge

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Maryland's Evolution Craft Brewing Co. joins the ranks of the few, the proud, the patient: practitioners of the Solera method in the beer world. The base beer is a rather straightforward American Amber Ale called Prelude Red, but it's placed in barrels (along with some bacterial beasties), soured, and blended with younger batches in the style of a Flanders Red. Evolution has added their Solera'd wrinkle, blending each new batch with all previous batches (and only bottling a small portion of the result, thus leaving enough liquid for future blending). Each cycle increases the average age of the bottled liquid, adding maturity and depth while retaining a certain level of freshness. Some Sherry producers have been known to do this for over 50 years, with each release theoretically containing traces of each and every batch. Evolution is only in their third year, so while this still feels very much like a standard Flanders Red, I'm really curious to see what it's like in a few years (and onward).

Evolution Nouveau Rouge

Evolution Nouveau Rouge No. 2 - Pours a mostly clear amber orange brown color, nice highlights when held up to light, and a finger or so of off white, fluffy head. Smells of vinous fruits, cherry, plums, oak, vanilla, vinegary sour twang. Taste follows the nose: vinous fruit, cherry, plums, oak, and vanilla notes are certainly there, perhaps not as intense as the nose suggests, but really good. Mouthfeel is on the lighter side of medium bodied, a little acidic, pleasant vinegar. Starts with a nice richness, though it doesn't quite last through the finish - something I imagine solidifying over time with future iterations. Overall, this is already a pretty good Flanders Red, but I'm really excited to see the evolution of future batches (pun intended!) B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a copita glass on 2/15/14.

Evolution continues to be a solid semi-local contributer that I need to explore more thoroughly. I expect to snag some of their Migration series soon enough, so keep an eye out. And, of course, Lot 3 and Lot 6 are nice IPAs that are in the rotation somewhere (come to think of it, I haven't had one of either in a while).

Evolution Menagerie #8

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Evolution sez that the Menagerie series is comprised of one-off brews that will "probably" never be seen again. Each entry in the series is different and numbered sequentially, with most also featuring some sort of barrel aging and blending (except when it's not). Their website sez that #8 is the latest one, but I feel like I've been seeing it pop up again this year. Has this been brewed again? Or maybe the bottles are just well aged. Not that I'm complaining, as this Belgian Strong Dark aged in Red Wine Barrels (not for souring purposes) is right up my alley and since I've been overloading on IPAs of late, this was a welcome change of pace. Rev up that Star Trek episode and prepare for court martial:

Evolution Menagerie #8

Evolution Menagerie #8 - Pours a deep, dark brown, with massive amounts of tan head. Smells of Belgian yeast, lots of spiciness, clove and the like, with some fruitiness showing up too. Maybe even some oak and vinous character as well. Really great nose here. That red wine barrel comes through much more in the taste, which hits those notes hard without reaching towards sour. There is a nice fruitiness to it, some molasses-like sweetness, maybe even some chocolate (a nice match for the fruity notes), and plenty of spice up front, with the wine character reasserting itself in the finish. Mouthfeeel is highly carbonated and dry, making this feel lighter than it is. The alcohol is very well hidden, and you only really feel it as it warms your belly (because it is very easy to drink too quickly...) In the past, I've found that non-sour barrel-aged Belgian styles were sorta hit or miss. I'm happy to report that's not the case with this beer. I'm putting it somewhere in the A- range, though it's a borderline affair...

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a Tired Hands glass on 9/14/13.

Another solid showing from Evolution, and I naturally need to check out more of their Menagerie series (if they continue!) and their Migration series (I'd definitely like to retry the Winter Migration at some point, but they all sound interesting enough)...

Evolution Brewing, out of that craft beer mecca of Maryland, has been uniformly impressive when it comes to their series of IPAs. Lot 3 is a very solid single IPA, and Lot 6 doubles things up, a fantastic beer. But what about their other beer? They have a reasonable regular lineup, but I've been seeing a lot of interesting one-offs and barrel-aged stuff showing up in shops lately, so I decided to take the plunge. This is described as a Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale (or an American Strong Ale), but really it's pretty much a stout aged in bourbon barrels. It's part of their Migration Series, which are released in each season. Let's see how it fared:

Evolution Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale - Winter Migration 2012

Evolution Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale - Winter Migration 2012 - Pours a deep black color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of roasted malt, a little caramel, and just a faint hint of bourbon and oak. Taste is very sweet, less in the way of roast (though that's still there) and more in the way of dark chocolate and bourbon, especially in the finish. A little boozy, some caramel, vanilla and oak opening up as it warms. Mouthfeel is smooth, full bodied, a little boozy. Light carbonation, but not undercarbonated. Overall, this is a solid BBA beer, not mind-blowing or anything, but it's doing its job well enough. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 3/17/13. Bottle 1102 of 1400.

Not blown away, but it's a good showing, for sure, and I'm curious to try out their Menagerie #8, a one-off Belgian Strong Dark aged in Red Wine barrels. And, of course, I'm sure I'll come back to Lot No6 at some point now that it's in bottles.

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.

Evolution Lot No3 IPA

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Maryland's Evolution Craft Brewing Company has been making the rounds in the Philly beer scene for the past few months, and I've been lucky enough to try a few of them. In particular, I've enjoyed their IPAs, which are decidedly of the East Coast variety. I'm actually not a big proponent of making that coastal distinction (there's room for differing takes on a style within that same style - an IPA is an IPA, dammit), but apparently that's a thing, and Evolution's Lot series of IPAs certainly qualify as East Coast. There's more of a malt backbone, perhaps a bit less straight bitterness, but to me, it's still the same style. Whatevers, here's Evolution's flagship IPA:

Evolution Lot No3 IPA

Evolution Lot No3 IPA - Pours a clear golden orange color with a finger of whitish head. Smells of big, piney hops, with some orangey citrus and floral notes. Taste is along similar lines, tons of citrus, pine, and floral hop character, with a solid malt backbone and a light bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and medium bodied, drinks really well. Overall, this is a very well crafted IPA, would make a great go-to beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 10/5/12.

At this point, I've actually had Evolution's Lot No6 a few times - it's a double IPA that's basically got the same flavor profile as the above, but amped up a little more. It's a really nice beer, and I'm happy to see Evolution expanding. Perhaps I'll get my hands on some others soon...

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

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