Recently in Fegley's Brew Works Category

It's pretty common for a brewery to have a series of sinister beer names, and Fegley's Brew Works have a few in their lineup, including this one, called Insidious. Apparently, this bourbon barrel aged version was inspired by Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill, quoted as saying "It puts the potion in the barrel" (with the unspoken implication that if it doesn't, it'll get the hose again). Was it worth kidnapping the regular old Insidious and holding it hostage in bourbon barrels for a year or so? Let's find out, shall we:

Fegleys Brew Works Bourbon Barrel Insidious

Fegley's Brew Works Insidious Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger of tan head. Smells of roasted malt, with a hint of sweetness, presumably from the bourbon. The taste starts roasty, followed by some nice caramel and vanilla oak notes in the middle, finishing with a small but distinct kick of sweet bourbon, leaving an aftertaste of bourbon mixed with roasted malt. Mouthfeel is rich, thick, and chewy. Plenty of carbonation, but well matched and smooth. Goes down surprisingly easy. Overall, this is a fantastic beer. Not a huge amount of bourbon, but enough to know it's there, very well balanced. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 5/5/12.

I'm trying to think if I've ever had a bad beer from these guys... and I don't think I have. Indeed, they even have a few monsters in their lineup, like Hop'solutely (which I would love to try fresh) and the regular Insidious.

June Beer Club

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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 (and the occasional cider or wine) once a month. A very big turnout this month, and lots of good ol' fashioned pizza place BYOB fun (I actually had a sandwich whose description was: "It's like a cheesesteak and an Italian hoagie had a baby... it was very good, but the most popular dish of the night were these deep fried stromboli-like things that were amazing.) Good times were had by all...

June 2012 Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As usual, these were not ideal conditions, so these notes are probably not very reliable. Or rock solid. The point is that I have thoughts about these beers, and I'm going to share them, and you're going to like it. I hope. Ok, fine, maybe not, but I'm putting them here anyway. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Prism Bitto Honey IPA - An offering from a relatively new, relatively local brewery called Prism (which, for whatever reason, always reminds me of the premium cable channel from way back when that eventually turned into Starz, I believe). Anywho, I actually got a taste of this stuff at the Philly Beer Week preview a couple weeks back. It is basically a very nice, sweet IPA, with a pleasant floral citrus hoppiness that is offset by a prominent honey character. I would not call it a favorite, but it's a unique take on the style, which I certainly appreciate. B
  • Kaedrin Earl Grey Bitter - My homebrewed English Style Bitter, brewed with Earl Grey tea and bitter orange peel. The taste actually continues to evolve, though it remains a highly drinkable, light, citrusy take on the traditional English Bitter. Believe it or not, the tea-like character seems more prominent now than ever. Beer club peeps seem to enjoy it, and I'm glad I've got an ample supply leftover for summer drinkin... B+
  • Magic Hat Elder Betty - A wheat beer brewed with elderberries, it came off a bit on the muddled side. It didn't particularly have a strong wheat feel to it, and the elderberry was there, but not super strong. It certainly wasn't bad, but it wasn't knocking my socks off either. A nice alternative to macro swill, for sure, but not something to go out of your way for... B-
  • North Coast Blue Star Great American Wheat Beer - Now this one is a little more like it, though it's not exactly a spectacular beer either. Still, I got that nice wheat character out of this, and it was a really solid take on a standard style. Again, not something that will melt your face, but it's pretty good! B
  • Victory Summer Love - I had this beer a few times last year and I have to say that I was not impressed. However, trying it again tonight, I was quite surprised with this one. It was much hoppier than I remember, sorta like a lighter ale version of their classic Prima Pils. We weren't outside, but that's what this beer is made for... B+
  • Fegley's Brew Works Monkey Wrench - A very solid take on the Belgian Saison style, a little sweet, very spicy, but not overwhelming the palate. A relatively full mouthfeel, yet it still leaves you with a light impression, which is strange, but nice. A well crafted take on the standard sweet and spicy version of the style. B+
  • Weyerbacher Blasphemy - My other contribution for the night, this is a bourbon barrel aged version of Weyerbacher's Quad. I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of the Quad, which I found a bit too sweet and boozy for my tastes. I mean, it's good and all, but not among my favorite quadrupels. Unfortunately, the bourbon barrel aging treatment hasn't improved things as much as I'd thought it would. It comes off as being extremely boozy, with that bourbon really dominating the finish and aftertaste. But I'm not getting the richness or vanilla oak flavors out of this that I normally get out of bourbon barrel aged beers. It's still good, but I was expecting a bit more... At 11.8% ABV, we didn't actually finish off the whole bottle, so I may take another sample of this sucker soon, so perhaps I'll have a better idea of this then... B
  • Elysian Avatar Jasmine IPA - Holy weirdness Batman! This thing was the weirdest beer of the night. Granted, we probably should have cracked this before Blasphemy, but even still, it had a very strange floral note, almost like perfume, in both the nose and taste. Presumably, that's the Jasmine that's dominating the beer. As I drank, I gradually got more of the floral hops, but nothing really seemed to mesh with this beer. It was sorta a mess, definitely not my thing. C+
  • MacTarnahan's Spine Tingler - A Belgian style Tripel, and a pretty well crafted one at that. It's perhaps not perfect, maybe a bit too sweet, but still eminently drinkable stuff. Very nice spicy, bready Belgian yeast character, lots of sweetness, a very good beer. B+
  • 5even Helles Bock - My friend Dana's homebrewed beer wasn't quite ready, but we tried it anyway. It was actually pretty good, nice and sweet, malt-forward beer. She things it will clear up with some more conditioning time, but it seemed quite nice to me, though I'd like to try it in another month and see where it's at...
And that just about covers it. Good times were had by all, and as usual, I'm already looking forward to the July beer club!

Novembeer Club

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Another month, another beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is just a monthly gathering of friends from work for dinner and, of course, lots of beer (and often other alcoholic wonders). We had an average turnout, but still lots of fun and we had so much beer that we couldn't even get to all of it... A transitional period in terms of seasonal beers. Some leftover fall seasonals, some holiday beers, but the majority of beers were regular offerings:

beerclub-nov11.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or as sacred scripture (as I'm sure you do with all my other posts). The choice is yours. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat - A very solid Hefeweizen from semi-local Tröegs. I've actually had this a few times before, but there's nothing particularly unique about it. A really nice example of the style though. B
  • Amager Julebryg 2008 - Dark color, with a wonderful aroma that is filled with crystal malts and caramel flavors (and maybe some subtle spicing). Taste is a little more roasty than I was expecting from the nose, with some coffee and maybe a little chocolate apparent. Full bodied but smooth, a really nice beer. It feels more like a solid stout than a holiday beer, but it's good either way (Beer Advocate calls it a dubbel, which sorta fits, but I probably wouldn't have guessed that from the beer itself). The bottle sez it was spiced, and it was certainly complex, but nothing particularly stood out (this is actually a good thing). Brewer Amager warrants further exploration. B+
  • Guinness Black Lager - This feels like a more crisp, carbonated version of Guinness' famous dry stout with less roastiness. It's an easy drinking beer, but the flavor seems oddly muted (perhaps because of the other brews of the night). Nothing wrong with it, but not a particularly special beer either. C+
  • Abita Turbodog - A great name for a beer that turns out to be a standard brown ale. Certainly nothing wrong with it and a solid example of the style, but not particularly special either. B-
  • Wychwood King Goblin - According to the bottle, this beer is only brewed under a full moon. It's got that typical Wychwood style label which is fantastic. Unfortunately, the beer doesn't quite live up to the branding. Lots of head and perhaps as a consequence, a little too light on the carbonation. Not quite flat, but it wasn't a good mouthfeel at all. Taste was hoppy, but not in the typical American pale ale way - perhaps this is more of an English pale ale (BA has it pegged as an English Strong Ale). Not a horrible beer, but not something that I could really connect with either. I don't know, Wychwood beers seem to be hitting me the wrong way lately... C
  • Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale - An interesting example of the style as it seems to emphasize the pumpkin more than the spices (which are still there, but not anywhere near as prevalent as they typically are in pumpkin ales). Smooth, tasty, and easy to drink. Nothing revelatory, but a good example of the style. B
  • Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes - One of my contributions for the night, this is a really interesting combination. Basically a Scotch ale brewed with Belgian yeast, it features the hallmarks of both styles. Unlike a lot of style mixtures, I think these two styles complement each other well. Very sweet and malty, with that typical Belgian yeast character coming out in a prominent way. I actually have another bottle of this sitting around, so look for a full review at some point...
  • Fegley's Brew Works Rude Elf's Reserve - Another beer I'll probably review separately, but I will say that this is a hugely alcoholic (10.5% ABV) spiced beer. Kinda like an overspiced pumpkin beer without any pumpkin (I had one of these earlier, along with a pumpkin ale, and found this one sharing a lot of the pumpkin spices)... Look for a separate review sometime this holiday season...
  • Dana's Homebrewed Dubbel - A nice dubbel style beer, only recently bottled, so it could probably use some more time to condition, but it's still pretty good. Nice traditional Belgian yeast character with a medium body. Easy to drink.
We didn't get to try a few of the beers in the picture, including Troegenator, Hoptober, and Amish Four Grain Pale Ale. All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I'm already looking forward to the next installment, as we will most likely be drinking all Holiday beers (aka, my favorite seasonals).

Hop'solutely

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Ah, the delicious world of hop puns. I know lots of folks hate puns, but I always get a kick out of them, even though they're dreadfully overused, especially with respect to IPAs and hop puns. Smooth Hoperator, Hopacalypse Now, Hoptical Illusion, Black Hop Down (for an American Black Ale), Hoptimus Prime, Modus Hoperandi, Tricerahops, Hoptober, Hoppy Ending, Hopzilla, Secret Hoperative, Hopular Mechanics, Hopencrantz and Gilderhops are Hops, by Tom Hoppard and ok, fine, some of those are made up by people who hate hop puns, but most of them are actual beers. Ultimately, the only thing that really matters is how the beer tastes, so let's get to it, shall we:

Fegleys Brew Works Hop-solutely

Fegley's Brew Works Hop'solutely - Billing itself a "triple" IPA, this 11.5% ABV monster isn't exactly sporting my favorite hop pun, but again, it's what's in the bottle that counts, not what's on the label. Local beer critic Joe Sixpack actually named this his 2010 beer of the year, saying "Is Hop'solutely as good as Pliny the Younger? In a word, yes." Pliny the Younger is, of course, the other "triple" IPA - the exceedingly rare big brother of Russian River's Pliny the Elder. The general consensus is that both of the Pliny beers are among the best in the world, but there are always contrarians who will argue otherwise. And in the case of the Younger, a beer I've never had, I have to wonder if its rarity is part of the reason it gets ranked so highly. Well, my bottle of Hop'solutely was actually sitting on my shelf longer than it probably should have. I don't know if there's any substance to the notion that a caged and corked IPA degrades faster than a capped bottle, but if so, this one probably aged more than it should have. It almost certainly lost some of its hoppy character. But on the other hand, at 11.5%, it should be able to stand up to some longer-term aging. Well, regardless, here was my initial reaction:

Pours a dark gold color with a finger of white head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells nice and hoppy - pine, citrus, caramel and booze are prominent. There's even some earthy floral notes in the aroma as well. As it warms, the hoppiness fades a bit, but it still smells great. The taste is very sweet, nice flavor from the caramel malts, some citrusy notes, and just a little bitterness. Oh, and lots of booze in the finish, lasting through aftertaste. As it warms, that booze takes on an even more prominent position... A really nice warming effect coming from the alcohol. Mouthfeel is very heavy, almost chewy, but it remains smooth. Just a bit of stickiness in the finish. This is powerful stuff. Not quite a sipping beer, but not really something you want to gulp down quickly either. Overall, it's quite a good beer. I would really like to try this again when it's fresher, as the bottle I had was sitting around for a while. I'll give it a B+ for now, but I suspect it could be higher depending on my mood...

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on... um... sometime in early/mid September. I.B.U.: 100+. Hops: Cascade, CTZ, Summit, Amarillo and Chinook hops. Dry hopped with Chinook and Amarillo.

Someday, perhaps, I'll do a double feature of Pliny the Younger and Hop'solutely, declare a winner, then pass out because I'll be totally shitfaced. Speaking of double features, I haven't done one in quite a while. I'm not sure why this is, but I may have to rectify this grievous oversight this weekend.

Rise of the Devious Pumpkin

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Pumpkin beers are an interesting and apparently divisive breed. Many folks seem to really dislike the style, or to at least think it's a bit on the repetitive side. And it certainly can be repetitive: most make liberal use of standard pumpkin pie spicing like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Of course, one of the big challenges with this type of beer is that brewing with any kind of spice is really, really difficult. When it comes to hops, it's easy. If you know the alpha acid content of the hops, there are simple measurements and calculations you can make, thus making it easy to balance the rest of the brew to match. Spices don't have any such easy calculations and their potency varies greatly. This isn't an excuse, but it also represents a big challenge to brewers and when done right, it adds subtle flavors and complexity without overwhelming. For pumpkin beers, though, subtlety is rarely the order of the day. Pumpkin itself doesn't have a particularly strong flavor, but the typical spices are quite potent and can be overpowering. Which, I suppose, is why some folks are leery of the style. Personally, I like it, though I'm glad it's confined to a seasonal exercise.

Fegleys Brew Works Devious

Fegley's Brew Works Devious Imperial Pumpkin - Pours a mostly clear amber color with a finger of white head. Smell is pure pumpkin pie. Lots of spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc... Taste is very sweet and spicy along with some bracing booziness. The mouthfeel is well carbonated but still smooth and velvety. It leaves a nice sticky feeling in the finish too. Folks who dislike the tendency to over-spice pumpkin beers will certainly not enjoy this, but I'm having a good time with it. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/30/11.

I'm many reviews behind at this point, but in the interest of seasonality, I'm skipping ahead to some of the more recent things I've drank (hopefully I'll get back to the older ones later). I've got a few more seasonals lined up, and the blog is approaching its one year anniversary as well. I don't have anything special planned, but, hey, maybe I'll have a beer.

Septembeer Club

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Today was beer club! The event seems to have waned a bit in recent months, but we've always got a core group of about 4-5 folks who always come and always bring new beers. I'm pretty excited for the next beer club meetup in about two weeks, which will be at The Whip, an English style pub that we went to a while back. Anyway, tonight's offerings included:

Septembeer Club

No real theme this month, though one member had just gotten back from a cruise and thus had smuggled some Caribbean beer. Otherwise, it was kinda stoutish this month. Here's what we had (listed in order of left to right from the picture above):

  • Cayman Islands Caybrew - This is apparently the premium beer of the Cayman Islands. And it is quite bad! Well, no, it's not the worst beer ever, but it's got a very typical American Macro aroma and flavor going on, very Millerish (think High Life or MGD), and it's packaged in a green bottle! Would probably be decent after sitting in the sun all day, but it didn't really do anything for us tonight. D+
  • Belize Belikin - Another Caribbean lager in the style of a Macro, this one even less flavorful and nondescript. It's pretty horrible. D-
  • North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout - My contribution for the night, and probably the best beer I had all night. Nice and sweet, with a surprising hop aroma and flavor. Perhaps because of that, it's got a nice, almost fruity character to go along with the typical sweet and roasty flavors. At 9%, it's got a bit of a booziness to it, but very well matched. I quite enjoyed it. I've had a couple of these before, and I believe I have another one in the fridge, so perhaps I'll do a dedicated review at some point. For now, let's give it a B+, though it might eek its way into A- territory, depending on my mood.
  • Mackeson Triple XXX Stout - Apparently once a classic British Milk Stout, this beer has since been acquired by Inbev (scourge of the beer world) and discontinued, though for a time it was contract brewed in the US (but even that brewery is now defunct). There is apparently a 3% version (non XXX?) brewed by Wells & Young in England, but this one was a 4.9% Milk Stout brewed in Trinidad & Tobago (no idea if this is the same recipe as the discontinued beer, or if it's still owned by Inbev). Whatever the case, it's actually a pretty solid Milk Stout. It reminded me a lot of the Lancaster Milk Stout I reviewed recently. Not especially my style, perhaps a little too roasty or coffee-like, but definitely well made. B
  • My Homebrewed Stout - My other contribution. It's definitely come out a bit more on the roasty side than I planned, but then, it's also got a nice caramel characteristic as well. It seemed to go over very well with the Beer Club crowd. Some even preferred it to Old Rasputin! Personally, it's not exactly what I was going for, but I do really enjoy it. I should probably catch up on all my homebrews in terms of reviews at some point, but for now, I'll give it a solid B (it's also still a bit on the young side, so it may even get better).
  • DuClaw Naked Fish - The bottle sez it's a Chocolate Raspberry Stout and boy does that aroma sell it. It smells very much like that raspberry syrup that you get on fancy dessert plates, with some chocolate and very faint roasty aromas also around. In terms of taste, it's more dark chocolate than raspberry, again with just a hint of roastiness. I did enjoy this, but it also seemed a bit on the light side (which makes a bit of sense for a 4.6% beer). I'd rather have it hit with more sweetness and a richer, deeper body. Still, this is pretty well done. I'd try it again. B
  • Allentown Brew Works Funky Monkey - Beer club member from Allentown brought this local brewpub growler of a beer I can't seem to find any listing for. It's a saison-style beer, and from the aroma and taste, I'd say it's got a very light dose of Brettanomyces as well (and given the title "Funky" Monkey and that the Brew Works makes other saisons Monkey Wrench and Space Monkey, that sorta makes sense). It's actually quite good, nice and sweet with just a bit of that distinctive Brett twang. Not sour at all, but definitely funky. B
  • Dana's Homebrewed Imperial Wheat - The bottle was a bit of a gusher, but once we got it settled down, it was pretty darn good, though the Imperial Wheat style can be a bit weird. The typical wheat flavors are there, but in a muted fashion. Very sweet and extremely boozy - so much so that it sorta overwhelms the typical wheatines. Not sure if that's typical of the style or what, but I did enjoy drinking this, even if it was a bit on the strong side. B
And that about covers the beer. As usual, take the ratings with a grain of salt, as conditions were not ideal for uber-beer-nerdery (but they were ideal for fun, so there). I do kinda fudge the club name a bit, as it's more of a "beverage club" or even just a "supper club", meaning that not everyone who comes drinks beer. In the past, we've had Sake, root beer, and almost always wine. This month was no exception - we had a bottle of Coppola Merlot, which to my palate tasted quite sweet, with a nice dry finish. But then, I just finished sampling a bunch of roasty stouts. All in all, another successful outing. Look for the Whip recap in about two weeks! And it would probably make sense to do a fall seasonal theme next month too. Exciting!

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

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