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Fiddlehead Understable

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Is it surprising that people in Vermont like to play Disc Golf? Is it surprising that world champions Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins actually play Disc Golf for a living? Is it surprising that Vermonters like Nate and Valarie really like beer and are homebrewers? Is it surprising that a visitor from Vermont very generously gifted this beer to me? To answer those questions: No. Yes. No. Yes!

It's always funny when you meet people you know from the internet out here in real life. This has happened to me a few times, most recently this past weekend when @LipstickNLager visited the Philly area (we met up with some other beer Twitter peeps). Much fun was had by all, and she generously offered a couple of us cans of this exclusive Fiddlehead Session IPA that were brewed for the Green Mountain Disc Golf Championship (and only really available there). Fiddlehead is one of the new crop of Vermont brewers tearing up the scene and I've quite enjoyed most of what I've had from them, so this was a most welcome development. I know squat about Disc Golf, but near as I can tell "Understable" is a reference to disc stability (i.e. it's tendency to bank laterally). I can't find any details on hops used, but my SWAG is that this is some Nelson Sauvin juice right here, very nice:

Fiddlehead Understable

Fiddlehead Understable - Pours a slightly hazy, very pale yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head, retention, and lacing. Fabulous nose on this, lots of juicy citrus hops, but also some grassy, floral notes. Taste starts off with those floral characteristics, moves on to the citrus towards the finish, which has a nice, bitter bite to it. Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and refreshing, very dry, crushable. Overall, this is a rock solid session IPA, the sort of thing you'd love to have on a hot afternoon in the sun (while disc golfing, I guess). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/18/15. Caned 09/16/15.

Fiddlehead continues to be a winner in my book, and I will always be keeping an eye out for Second Fiddle and whatever else they have available. Many thanks to LipstickNLager again for sharing this beauty with us!

June Beer Club

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Beer club was tonight! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and fun. Astute observers will notice that we skipped the month of May, which primarily came down to laziness and the fact that a couple of key attendees were embarking on Operation Cheddar/Chowder. That said, our triumphant return was quite the success, good attendance, great beer, and some rather fine sushi.

June Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. As usual, these are mostly from memory because I'm not a total dick and was socializing at the time, so take these impressions with a gigantic nugget of salt or something. Here goes, in order of drinking, not necessarily how they appear in the photo:

  • Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA - This must be the gazillionth time this has made an appearance at beer club, but it made for a nice warm up beer for the folks who arrived early. B+
  • Evil Genius Shut Up, Meg! - Evil Genius is this weird brewery that seems to always be mentioned as a PA brewery, yet they brew all their stuff in Connecticut. Also, almost all of their beers have pup culture reference names, such as this obvious reference to Family Guy. It's a pretty straightforward Belgian farmhouse ale or saison with a hint of hoppy goodness added in for character. Nothing particularly special and suffers in comparison to much better executed examples of the style (which we'll get to in a moment). B
  • Troegs / Appalachian / Pizza Boy (717) Collaboration - Slightly more interesting than Shut Up, Meg!, this one had a similar feel, but it was a little more tart and hoppy focused. Still not going to light the world on fire, but it was decent enough. B
  • Jester King Das Wunderkind! Saison - Ah, now this is more like it. A beer that shares certain characteristics with the above two beers, but is wholly better. It's a funky saison with a light tartness and a nice dry hopped citrus nose. Really pleasant and refreshing, a great summer beer. I really should try to track down more Jester King! B+
  • Hill Farmstead Dorothy - I'm not sure what precipitated this run on hoppy farmhouse ales, but this is certainly the high point in the style (at least, with tonight's entries) and represents a wonderful balance between spicy saison and citrusy hops. Really a beautiful beer that I will most certainly be revisiting in more detail soon enough! A-
  • Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip Of Sunshine - Hey, didn't I just write about this? Of course I did. A-
  • Scotchy, Scotchy, Scotch, Get In My Belly - A friend's homebrew, and it's a fantastic little Scotch ale aged on Scotch soaked oak chips. Really nice Scotch wiskey flavor, but not overpowering the malt backbone, which has a nice caramel and toffee character, accentuated by the Scotch and hint of oak. I've yet to have a homebrew that really gets at the really great barrel character, but this is still quite nice! B+
  • Rock Art Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale - An interesting contrast to the previous beer, a little darker and with more barrel character, but with substantially more carbonation that almost ruins the beer. I'm pretty sensitive to carbonation issues, and that usually means something being undercarbonated, but in the case of a Scotch ale, I usually expect something smooth and rich, and this was effervescent and not quite as rich as it could have been. Certainly not bad at all, but a bit of a disappointment. B
  • Fiddlehead Tejas Marron - Yup, another VT beer I recently reviewed, it perhaps does not fare so well in a tasting scenario as it does on its own, but it's still quite nice. B+
  • Forest & Main Paradisaeidae - Alright fine, it's another beer I recently reviewed, but it's a really good one worth sharing.B+
  • Elysian Avatar Jasmine IPA - Yet another beer we'd had before at beer club, and one I do not particularly care for. My feelings have not changed at all, and if anything, I'm less forgiving of this beer than I was last time. I must not be that big of a fan of jasmine... C
  • Shiner Birthday Beer Chocolate Stout - Man, this thing has an absolutely amazing nose. Lots of chocolate brownie character, really sublime. Alas, the taste doesn't quite deliver on the promise of the nose, lots of chocolate, but really thin, almost watery, very disappointing. An imperialized version of this might work wonders, but we're left with something in the middle of the road. B
And that just about covers it. Another successful beer club, and I'm already looking forward to next month's edition...

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron

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Fiddlehead was the first stop of Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder and while we struck out on Second Fiddle cans (which we later got to consume in Boston, oddly enough), we did manage to get our hands on some cans of Tejas Marron, a hoppy brown ale brewed with unrefined dark brown sugar, which sounds awfully nice. Not sure what makes it a Texas brown ale (as the name implies) or why the can has Spanish for "The Devil's Right Hand" included, but who cares - it sounds great:

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron

Fiddlehead Tejas Marron - Pours a hazy brown color with a finger of light tan head that sticks around a while. Smells of citrus and pine, maybe hints of brown sugar. Taste is surprisingly tame given the color, some citrus and pine hops again, especially up front, with the brown sugar emerging towards the finish, which seems well balanced between sweet malts and bitter hops. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lower end of medium bodied, not thin at all, but not quite what it appears to be either. It feels a lot like an IPA that has some darker elements incorporated... without getting into stout/black IPA territory. Overall, it's a rock solid brew, not my favorite thing ever, but I'll have no hesitation in polishing off the 4 pack! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a Charente glass on 6/5/15. Canned: 05/22/15. Can also has a note that says "T for Timbuktu" (or something like that - batch designation?)

I like this a lot, and I shared a Hodad with a friend a while back which was nice, but it's still pretty clear that Second Fiddle is the best thing I've had from these fellas. That being said, I will certainly be on the lookout for more from them on subsequent Operation Cheddars!

Operation Chowder

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"That's 'chowdah'! Chowdah! I'll kill you! I'll kill all of you, especially those of you in the jury!"

The encore to Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder was a trip to Boston for more beery fun, with the centerpiece being the American Craft Beer Festival, though due to my late addition to this trip, I only went to the Friday evening session (the Saturday sessions were sold out). This was no big loss to me, for reasons I'll get into later, but I'm getting ahead of myself. After Thursday morning's sorties on the Warren Store, Burlington, and Worthy Burger, we high tailed it to Boston (or, to be more accurate, Cambridge). First stop while we were there, was the most excellent bar, Lord Hobo:

Lord Hobo
(Click to embiggen)

What a fantastic place. It was a little more crowded than we were used to (it turns out that the weekday crowd in Waterbury doesn't quite compare to happy hour during the weekend in Cambridge, go figure), but what do we have here:

Fiddlehead Second Fiddle.jpg

Yes, after flinging ourselves all over Vermont for a few days, we had to go to Boston to get us some Second Fiddle cans. And it was fantastic! No formal tasting notes, but it's got a great juicy citrus thing going on, a little more dank and resinous than your Heady Topper or Hill Farmstead stuff, certainly holds its own with the greats and represents a cool alternative if you can find it (perhaps not as under-the-radar as you might think, if the folks in the bar are any indication). The other highlight of Lord Hobo was the relatively local Wormtown Be Hoppy, though I can't really remember anything about it other than it being a really fabulous IPA. We also had a duck-based charcuterie plate (I'm not normally a pate guy, but I'll be damned if the duck pate wasn't delicious) and the cheese plate, one of the better dining decisions we made (remember, we loaded up on Worthy Burgers not that long before this time, so these plates were perfect). Super duper.

Friday morning, we hop on the T and head into Boston proper for a trip to Trillium Brewing, a tiny little operation that only does growler fills and bottle releases at this point. There was a short line, so we popped in and bought us some bottles:

Trillium Haul
(Click to embiggen)

So the haul includes: Trillium, Congress Street IPA, Sunshower Super Saison, and Vicinity Double IPA. Pretty darn good.

From there, we hopped over to a restaurant called Row 34, which from all appearances is an amazing seafood place with a pretty solid beer selection. It was right during the lunch rush though, so we didn't get any food here, instead standing at some of the pillars (which had little ledges for your beer, etc...) and drinking a pre-fest beer just to get the system primed (we're still 4-5ish hours away from the start of the fest though).

Pivovar Kout 12

The standout on the menu, surprising to me, but I'm super glad I made the stretch, was Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka, a glorious Czech pilsener that I grabbed because I recognized the name from Evan Rail's short little book The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest (apparently a refurbished brewery in the middle of nowhere, the recipes come from a book discovered in the old brewery, or something like that). Pilseners aren't really my jam, but this hit the spot, grainy, earthy, almost spicy hops, but still light, crisp, and refreshing on a warm day after a long walk, and I'm really glad I gave it a shot. Would be really interested in checking out some more of Kout's brews if they ever become available over here!

From there, we had a sorta lazy afternoon, grabbed a Lobster sandwich from Alive and Kicking Lobsters (it's not a Lobster roll, it's a sandwich!) hit Whole Foods for some Massachusetts beer (the source of those Night Shift Morph cans in my previous post) and generally relaxed until we hopped on the train for the ACBF.

Longtime readers (all 3 of you) might recognize that I'm not much of a beer fest kinda guy given that I've covered approximately zero of them in the five-ish years of this blog. Large crowds, drunk people, tiny samples, and did I mention the large crowds? I'm not anti-social or anything, but I hate crowds and as a massive introvert, I just get exhausted by these types of events. Also, whatever you may think about the amount of beer I drink, I don't generally enjoy getting smashed. I've been to festivals in the past, and after the first several tastes, I start to get a little woozy, but my novelty instinct is still engaged full force, so I feel like I need to keep sampling at top speed or else I'll miss out. By the end, I have no idea what I'm tasting, not just because I'm drunk, but because I've been obliterating my palate. The other thing about beer festivals, at least the local ones around here, is that they tend to be comprised mostly of local breweries... most of which I've already had a lot of before (or could easily get anytime). It's not that there's nothing special being poured, but they're few and far between, and again, after your first rush of tastes, your palate gets wonky and perceptions get weird.

That being said, the ACBF was actually great! There were lots of crowds, but the space was huge, so that wasn't too annoying. The crowds also meant lines, especially at the more prominent breweries, but that had the benefit of keeping me going at a sustainable pace rather than rushing through everything. I ended the fest with a nice buzz on, but not shitfaced at all. And because the fest was in Boston, there were a ton of Northeast Breweries that don't often make their way down here, and even the ones that do, don't often send the special stuff. I didn't really take many pictures during this leg of the trip because I'm the worst, but here are some highlights from the fest:

And there were a ton of other great beers, but those were definitely the standouts and I don't want to sit here and list out the other 20 beers I liked (or the handful that I didn't). Lawson's definitely had the longest line (it moved well enough, and we were able to get through 3 times pretty easily - I heard things were considerably more difficult on Saturday), though Fiddlehead was also doing pretty well for itself (indeed, there was even a staffer who had to provide traffic control because of the location of their booth). Definitely a worthwhile pursuit that I'd do again, but I was also perfectly fine with the one session. I got pretty much everything I could have wanted and a bunch of stuff I didn't even know I wanted (about half the highlights above were completely unexpected). I was told that the Saturday afternoon session was way more crowded and the lines were a lot longer, which I probably wouldn't have liked. We hit up brunch at a place called Cafe Luna, and got this beautiful Lobster Eggs Benedict plate:

Lobster Eggs Benedict

Delicious! And my friend got the Steak and Lobster BLT Benedict, which was the same thing, with added slice of steak, some bacon, and a big slice of tomato. He had trouble finishing. I was more than pleased with my "regular" dish. While my friends went to the early ACBF session, I met up with a local friend and we tooled around Boston for a while. We hit up the MIT museum (totally worth checking out for the Arthur Ganson Gestural Engineering exhibit alone), had a couple drinks at Meadhall, which has a huge taplist, but also seemingly less in the way of local stuff, and ate dinner at Regina Pizzaria in the North End ("The Original"). It's a tiny little place, and you actually need to wait in line to get in, but we got there early enough that the line was short, so we got in pretty quickly, and hot damn, that is some fantastic pizza. Best I've had in a while, crispy crust, chewy interior, well proportioned sauce, cheese, and toppings, and totally worth looking up if you find yourself in Boston. (As we exited, we seemed to run into a bizarre ritual of two dudebros having a pushup contest on the street... quite amusing!)

Phew! That about covers the festivities, and what a lovely week it was! That being said, I think perhaps Operation Cheddar and Operation Chowder would do better with some time between them for recovery and emptying of trunk space, rather than crammed together like this. I was pretty worn out in the end, though I regret nothing! Time will tell if we go through this again next year. Right now, it's a distinct possibility! And believe it or not, I may end up in Vermont again sooner rather than later, stay tuned! In the meantime, there will be a crapton of reviews headed your way...

Not long ago, in a watering hold not far away, a few friends mentioned that they might be taking a trip to Vermont to visit a few breweries and squirrel away some bottles for rainy day (or just regular day) fun. As a veteran of two invasion campaigns (Operation Cheddar and Operation Cheddar II: Sharp Cheddar), I was fully on board. As it turns out, there was a secondary operation to this trip which took us to Boston for the American Craft Beer Festival and other wanderings. I shall dub this portion of the trip Operation Chowder and cover it in more detail tomorrow1.

Unlike the surgical strikes of Operation Cheddars I and II (single day affairs, with only a few tactical maneuvers), part III was a more extended campaign, stretching out across three days (with some travel time embedded in the first and last day) and reaching a more varied list of targets. It turns out that Vermont Beer is more than Hill Farmstead, Lawson's Finest Liquids, and Heady Topper. Not that we didn't partake in that holy trinity as much as possible, just that we hit up other places as well:

Fiddlehead sign
(Click to embiggen)

First stop was Fiddlehead brewery, before we even arrived at our hotel. It's a pretty small little tasting room for filling growlers and selling cans, but alas, no cans of the fabled Second Fiddle were available. We partook in some small samples and snagged a 4 pack of something else (covered below). There is also an attached pizza place, which a friend in Boston mentioned was better than the grand majority of pizza available in Boston (he also mentioned that this was not a particularly high bar - moar on Boston pizza tomorrow), though we did not partake as we wanted to get to our hotel, which was the Best Western just north of Waterbury.

The Waterbury Triangle

When I mentioned my trip to Vermont on twitter, VT beer peeps came out of the woodwork to provide recommendations and planning for our attacks. The Vermont Beer Bros mentioned that we were near the fabled Waterbury triangle, a series of bars in "downtown" Waterbury arranged as the picture above shows. It was a bit of a lengthy walk, but totally doable (and honestly, I find walking a bit before and after drinking to be a good thing and enjoyed the walks, though my friends were a little less excited, especially at the big hill near the hotel). The first place we went was the place I'd heard the most about:

Prohibition Pig
(Click to embiggen)

The Prohibition Pig is a bar that has a little brewery attached in the back. They serve their own beer, but also a pretty fantastic selection of local VT beer. It turns out that there was a Waterbury-wide Hill Farmstead tap takeover the previous weekend, so while we missed out on some of the more limited brews (we shall meet someday, Flora), there were a bunch of things we hadn't had on tap. Not to mention some Lawson's (Sip of Sunshine and Super Session IPA), amongst others. I sampled some of Pro Pig's brews too, and would recommend Bantam, a DIPA that holds its own against the other stuff I was drinking (the other stuff I had was not as successful, but still nice). Also of note, Pro Pig has a rather fantastic Bourbon selection:

Pro Pigs Bourbon Selection Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15
(Click to embiggen)

BTAC, Pappy, and lots of other stuff you don't see too often (at least, around here!) I was on the fence, but when the bartender mentioned that Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 was on its last pour and didn't quite have a full 2 ounces left so he'd charge half price, I was on board. It was fantastic, rich and spicy, silky smooth and didn't drink at all like a highish proof bourbon... but I don't think it's really worth the $48 pour (and while I'm glad I tried it, $24 was still a bit much for the 1.5ish ounces I got, though obviously much more manageable). I can see why the hype is there, but that doesn't make it any less overhyped. This basically represented my only non-beer drink during the trip, and I was pretty glad I chose it.

Of the other bars in the Waterbury Triangle, the other one that really stood out was the Blackback Pub (the one in the center of the triangle). The taplist was great (if similar to Pro Pig and the Reservoir), but we made immediate friends with the bartender and scored some beer that wasn't available at Pro Pig either (more on this in a later post!) Also of note is that the Blackback has some pretty good food, and as a Philly native, I was very tickled to see their emphasis on using Amaroso rolls (Italian rolls that they somehow get delivered up to them). It's a great bar, a little smaller, but seemingly more lively, perhaps because we were chatting with the bartender for a while. The Reservoir was also pretty great, comparable beer selection, though we never ate there (but they seemed like they had a decent menu). The Blue Stone was the only one we didn't really get much out of... we were actually planning on grabbing some pizza there, but by the time we got there (around 9 or 9:30), their kitchen was closed (!?) so we didn't really stick around (and headed over to the Blackback for some snacks). Next time, Blue Stone!

Ultimately, staying in Waterbury was a fabulous idea, and as there's plenty to do and it's a pretty central location when you start to visit breweries, etc... Recommended!

Day 2 started off at a little supermarket and a rather fantastic bottle shop called Craft Beer Cellar (right across from Pro Pig), where we picked up some cans of Heady and Sip (more on that later), amongst other miscellaneous beers:

Miscellaneous Haul
(Click to embiggen)

What we have here are some Jack's Abby Framinghammer Baltic Porter, Barrel Aged Framinghammer, Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer, and Saxonator. Also some Switchback Citra-Pils and Foley Brothers Fair Maiden. Super excited for pretty much all of this! Next stop, that old chestnut:

Hill Farmstead Sign
(Click to embiggen)

Hill Farmstead Haul
(Click to embiggen)

Not much to say about Hill Farmstead. The beer is excellent as ever, and seemed more plentiful than the last times I made the trip (though it appears we missed out on more limited stuff like Flora the previous week... and dammit, this week too - poor timing, I guess). As for the haul, I got some Dorothy, Arthur, and Grassroots Brother Soigné bottles, and growler fills of Susan, Harlan, and Double Citra. Quite a successful sortie. Next up, Lost Nation:

Lost Nation
(Click to embiggen)

It was starting to rain at this point and we were hungry, so we decided to get some lunch here and holy crap, that was the best decision ever. They have some fantastic food here. I had a smoked lamb flatbread thing (with some sort of garlic feta aioli) that was out of this world good. Definitely a recommended stop! I was driving, so only had a couple sips of beer, but it seemed good enough to snag some bottles/cans.

Not far away from that is Rock Art, which had a little tasting room and lots of other bottles and general stuff for sale. Once again, I was driving, so I didn't really drink much beer, but snagged a few bottles:

Lost Nation and Rock Art Haul
(Click to embiggen)

So the haul from those two breweries begat us a few bottles (cans covered somewhere below), including: Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta and The Wind and Rock Art Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout (Smugglers Notch Barrels) and Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale. Another successful sortie, and thus day 2 closed with another trip around the Waterbury triangle (already covered above).

The Warren Store. Again!
(Click to embiggen)

Day 3 began with a trip to one of my favorite little VT stores, The Warren Store. Got some nice cans and the requisite breakfast sandwich (fantastic, as always, eaten outside on the deck by the creek).

We also managed to pop over to the Burlington to hit up a couple of breweries, Zero Gravity and the Vermont Pub & Brewery. Alas, we ran out of time and had to begin the trek to Boston before I got a chance to stop at some of the other Burlington targets, particularly Four Quarters Brewing. Ah well, next time.

All in all, a pretty successful trip, and here are some more of the beer we picked up:

Nice Cans
(Click to embiggen)

What we have here is some Lawson's Sip of Sunshine, Alchemist Heady Topper, Fiddlehead Tejas Marron, and some cans of Lost Nation Lost Galaxy and Gose. On the end there, two lonely cans of Night Shift Morph that are actually from Operation Chowder, but included here as a bonus or something.

Glassware
(Click to embiggen)

The glassware haul turned out well too, with Pro Pig, Lawson's, and Blackback Pub glasses, which I guess you'd call snifters, though they're also kinda tulip-ish. Whatever they are, the VT breweries seem to love them, because everyone had one like that, and most restaurants had them in several sizes...

Syrup, Hot Sauce, and Jelly, Oh My!
(Click to embiggen)

I also bought some things that were not beer. Astounding, I know. What we have here is some VT Maple Syrup aged in Bourbon Barrels (hnng), some VT Habanero hot sauce, and some sort of weird beer jelly stuff (from Rock Art). I also snagged a couple of tshirts, not pictured here because come on, this post is long enough and we still have to cover our final Vermont stop:

Worthy Burger beer menu
(Click to embiggen)

Per a recommendation from our bartender friend Eric from the Blackback Pub, we stopped at Worthy Burger on our way to Boston for some lunch. As you can see, it's another fabulous tap list, and they have this great wood burning grill where they cook their burgers, which are rather fabulous:

An actual Worthy Burger
(Click to embiggen)

Quite tasty! Once again, I was driving, so I partook in some local root beer, which was also rather nice. Oh, and we shared a strip of heavenly deep fried bacon as well (let's just say it was good). While a bit out of the way of most other VT beer stops, if you can make it work, it's worth a trip...

Well, this trip was quite a bit more eventful than previous Operations Cheddar, but totally a good time. Stay tuned for the slightly more tame Operation Chowder, wherein we actually managed to snag some of the VT beer we missed out on in our travails above!

1 - I named this Operation Chowder despite the fact that no Chowder was actually consumed at any point in our Boston wanderings (not exactly Chowder weather). We did, however, get a fair amount of Lobster, but I'm saving Operation Lobster for the inevitable Maine invasion, should that ever happen.

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

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Fiddlehead category.

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