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Well, folks, it's been a long week, and while I wasn't able to post anything due to technical difficulties, I was (of course) still partaking in some interesting beer. The most exciting thing that happened was a quick Philly Beer Week preview event in which I got to try Brasserie Dupont's first collaboration beer, made specially for Philly Beer Week 2012 in collaboration with Iron Hill's brewer. I won't belabor the story about how the collaboration came to pass, but while the beer was made specially for Philly Beer Week, I've also heard that it will be getting a wider distribution (according to the PBW website, it will be available "coast to coast" after its introduction in Philly).

For the uninitiated, Iron Hill is a local chain of brewpubs that's become quite popular and well respected around here. I like them a lot, and Dupont makes some of my favorite beers, so I was quite looking forward to this beer:

Dupont Speciale Belge

Iron Hill and Dupont Spéciale Belge - I should probably explain at this point that my notes here are sparse, so take this review with a grain of salt. The short story is that I really enjoyed the beer. It's a pale amberish color with tons of head, but it's brewed with Dupont's distinctive yeast, and that pleasant Belgian yeast spice and ester character is the driving force behind this beer. Lots of spice in the nose, and compared to Dupont's bigger saisons, it's got a lighter, fruitier felling to it (from the yeast, not the hops). According to the story, it's made using smoked malt, but I wasn't really picking up any smoke at all (a friend who was also in attendance didn't pick up on it either, but I've resolved to buy myself a bottle of the stuff and try it again anyway, so I'll have to look a little harder next time). Light to medium bodied, it's actually very refreshing, which was really nice because this event was outside and it was quite warm. Overall, a really nice beer. Does it rival the classic Saison Dupont? Well, maybe not, but that's a pretty high bar to clear. I'll give it a tentative B+ or maybe even A-, though again, I'd love to try this again.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.75% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute? Goblet? Whatever that glass in the picture is... on 5/16/12.

I'm trying to decide how active to be during Philly Beer Week. A lot of the events are in the city, which aren't really that convenient for this suburbanite, but who knows, maybe I'll hop on a train or two and attend some events. Definitely looking forward to the Hill Farmstead event at Teresa's, but as of right now, I haven't really planned out anything else for the week.

Lucha Libre de Cervezas

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After last week's homebrew session, I was hungry and in no mood to cook, so I popped over to Iron Hill for a burger and some of their brewpubby goodness. Iron Hill doesn't really have national exposure, but it was part of the Craft Beer Class of 1996, which also featured local mainstays like Victory, Yards, Dogfish Head, and Flying Fish. That's pretty good company, and I do believe that much of what Iron Hill puts out compares favorably with their brethren (to see the various founders fooling around, check out this video from 2010 Philly Beer Week). Anyway, I had just walked in the door when what to my wondering eyes should appear?

Lucha Libre de Cervezas

Mexican wrestling? Beer? I'm in! Of course, the actual event was a week away, but both of the contestants were available, so I figured I'd do a preview of the main event and see who I thought should win.

Iron Hill Kryptonite

Iron Hill Kryptonite - Apparently, they've been making this one for a few years, but the recipe seemingly changes from year to year. Beer Advocate has it at 10.5% ABV, but everything I'm seeing about it has it lower. Iron Hill's website has it at 9% (and the brewer made a blog entry a couple years ago that confirms it), and judging from what I had, that seems right. According to various sources, this is an Imperial IPA brewed with massive amounts of Colombus, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo, Simcoe, and Citra hops. As the brewer sez: "There are enough hops in this beer to make even the mighty Superman buckle at the knees." I guess Superman isn't a hophead. As it turns out, I had this one on its second day of release, so it was quite fresh, which might account for at least part of my reaction.

From the first sip, I knew I had tasted a winner. Pours a darkish gold/amber color and a small finger of head that leaves lots of lacing as I drank. The smell is amazing - lots of citrus and pine along with that sugary sweet aroma I love so much. The sweetness comes through in the taste as well, but there's a nice bitterness that emerges in the middle and fully balances out the sweetness in the finish. It is utterly delicious. Perfect carbonation and mouthfeel, very easy to drink despite the high ABV (which is pretty well hidden). It's an extremely well balanced beer, and it's probably my favorite Iron Hill beer of all time (and I've had many an Iron Hill beer over the years). Indeed, I just had another Pliny the Elder the other day, and I do believe this compares favorably. High praise? Perhaps, but it deserves it. I don't know who won the official Lucha Libre de Cervezas event on Friday, but I would put my money on Kryptonite. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 8/13/11. Depending on what source you're looking at (or perhaps what batch you're drinking), the IBUs are anywhere between 80 and 155.

Iron Hill Hopkowski

Iron Hill Hopkowski - BA actually has this as a retired beer and once again, the ABV is different there than it is on Iron Hill's website. This is actually an imperial red ale, but with a name like Hopkowski, you can bet it's got a ton of hoppy character involved. Not sure what the story here is, but their website does mention that it was "Made with the help of assistant brewer Mike Rutkowski and as many Polish-American friends that we could get in the brewery." Well, that sounds fun.

This one pours a darker amber/red color, with a finger of head and lots of lacing. Not as much going on in the nose, but still enough hoppy aromas to go around. The taste is again very sweet, but this time there's a bit of a spicy character going on in addition to the typical hoppy flavors and a hop bitterness that grows throughout the taste. Though very bitter, it's not quite at the same level as the Kryptonite. The mouthfeel is definitely stickier, but also creamy and easy to drink. It's actually quite good, but in comparison to the Kryptonite, it falters considerably. This is perhaps unfortunate, but that is the way of things. B+ but it would probably be higher if I hadn't drank it at the same time as the Kryptonite.

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap. Draink out of... whatever you call that glass on 8/13/11. Around 100 IBUs.

I don't know what the outcome of the actual Lucha Libre de Cervezas event was, but again, I think my money is on Kryptonite (I meant to head over there, but other events conspired to keep me busy on Friday night, so no beer for me). At this point, I'm probably going to go and pick up a growler of the stuff for next weekend. Iron Hill also has a series of "bottled reserve" beers, which I'm in the process of checking out (they're pretty pricey though). I got a bottle of their Dubbel that's been calling my name lately, so look for a review (probably in a while). One last thing to note about Iron Hill, right now, Beer Advocate has 207 beers listed, and 85 retired (and as established above, some of the retired stuff comes back from time to time). Perhaps unsurprising, given that they're a chain of brewpubs, but that's still impressively prolific. I can't believe I haven't reviewed any of their beers before...

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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