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August Beer Club

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Today was beer club! Due to various factors, the variety of beer was somewhat limited this month, but there was still plenty of merriment to be had, and when we got to the BYOB restaurant, we saw this sign out front:

Free Beer!

Certainly a good omen! Apparently the restaurant had some Lager, but since they had no liquor license, they were just giving it away for free. Score! There was no real theme for the month, but we did end up with about 7 different beers (not including the free Yuengling) as well as some wine, cider and homemade Limoncello (unpictured, but it was very sweet and incredibly alcoholic!) Here's a quick picture of what we had:

August Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

As usual, tasting conditions were less than ideal, so take the following with a grain of salt (beers listed below are basically in order from left to right in the picture, not necessarily the order in which we drank them):

  • Victory Sunrise Weissbier - Hey, I've actually reviewed this before! A friend had been at the brewery lately, so they had picked up a growler of the stuff. It struck me as being somewhat better than the last time I had it, but I'll leave it at a B-. Solid hefeweizen style beer, but not particularly special either.
  • My Homebrewed Saison - I know I mentioned this last time, but this is definitely my best homebrew yet, and the first that I think is truly good. Sweet, spicy, well carbonated and easy to drink, it came out really well. Indeed, I'd probably give this a B+ or maybe even an A-. I should really review my other homebrews, which I'd probably rate much lower.
  • Lancaster Milk Stout - Yep, I just reviewed this one too. I think the coffee flavors were more prominent this time around, but otherwise it's pretty much the same. B+
  • Founders Dirty Bastard - Yet another beer I've reviewed before. Indeed, I've had a few of this since I originally reviewed it, and I do believe I like it better now than I did that first time. I had originally noted that there wasn't any fruitiness in the flavor, but in the recent tastings, I've definitely gotten a really nice fruity quality out of this. Tonight I could also really taste the alcohol as well. It certainly wasn't unpleasant, but I think it might have been a reflection of the other relatively low ABV beers of the night. B+
  • Samuel Adams Rustic Saison - A very light example of the style, though still very flavorful and smooth (looking at it now, I'm surprised it's only 4.35% ABV), featuring a nice twang in the nose and taste that I couldn't place, but which someone had mentioned might be honey. It's not a beer that will melt your face or anything, but it's definitely a quality brew and well worth a drink. At 4.35%, it would probably be a decent session beer as well. B
  • Samuel Adams East-West Kölsch - Not a style that typically fares well here at Kaedrin (or at beer club, for that matter), but this one was apparently brewed with Jasmine, and that addition really does make this a much more interesting beer than it would have otherwise been. Again, not setting the world on fire, but a quality brew that's worth trying. B-
  • Cave Creek Chili Beer - When I first saw Aaron's awesome video review of this beer, I thought he had to be exaggerating, but that first swig of this beer gave me that same, out-of-breath, it's so spicy feeling. It was a really weird experience too - the spiciness seems to really hit at the back of your throat and tongue, but the rest of my mouth/tongue didn't really pick anything up. And that spicy hot aftertaste didn't go away either (I'm glad we opened this last). It was really, truly horrible. When you open the beer, it almost smells like you've opened one of those pepper bottles with the brine in it - overpowering chili pepper aromas and not much else. I can't imagine drinking an entire bottle, and indeed, I could only really take a few sips of it. Unanimously the worst beer club beer ever. In some ways, I'm glad I got to try this, as it certainly is an experience. In another way, I really hope I don't burp this up later tonight. F
Despite the fact that I'd had/reviewed half these beers before, I think it was another successful outing for the beer club. It's looking like we might get a bonus beer club meet at The Whip in addition to our normal meetup next month. Score!

Lancaster Milk Stout

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Yes, "research" into milk stouts continues. It occurs to me that I kinda rushed into the whole thing yesterday, so just to back up a bit, I want to talk about what actually constitutes a milk stout. Given that phrase, one might expect the rather disgusting addition of actual milk somewhere in the brewing process, but fortunately, that is not the case (though the lactose intolerant might still want to steer clear of these beers). Without getting into too much detail about how beer is brewed, I'll say that beer basically starts out as sugar water. Then you add yeast, which eats the sugar and converts it into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and various flavor compounds. Now, yeast typically doesn't eat all the sugar - typically it only consumes around 65-85%. This is why beer is still sweet enough that you need to add hops (which cuts the sweetness with bitterness). One of the implications of this process is that the more sugar you put into the process, the more alcohol you get. You also end up with a lot of residual sugars. This is why a lot of imperialized beers end up being really sweet.

On the other side of the scale, when you don't put that much sugar into the process, you end up with a beer that has less alcohol, but also less residual sugars and thus less body. One way to make up for that is to add unfermentable sugars to the brew, thus increasing the body and the sweetness without increasing the alcohol. As it turns out, lactose (which is basically the sugar in milk) is unfermentable, so it's often used to add body to beer. Hence the phrase Milk Stout, though the style is also referred to as cream stout or just sweet stout (and to be fair, not all sweet stouts necessarily use lactose - other unfermentable sugars can be used as well). Yesterday's beer was probably a horrible example of the style, but today's example is much more typical:

Lancaster Milk Stout

Lancaster Milk Stout - A semi-local brew from Lancaster, PA, this one is probably the brewery's most popular beer. Pours a very dark brown color, with a finger of tightly beaded head. The smell is full of roastiness, and maybe some chocolate or coffee. That roastiness hits at the beginning of the taste, but it quickly yields to a well matched sweetness followed by the return of roastiness and maybe a little hop bitterness in the finish. There's maybe a hint of coffee in the roastiness as well, but probably a bit more chocolate, though neither flavor is dominant. Indeed, the flavors here are very well matched. Medium bodied and well carbonated, it still goes down smooth and is pretty easy to drink. Overall, a really nice beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.3% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a pint glass on 8/7/11.

Quite enjoyable, and I think I could probably safely order the Northern Brewer kit. On the other hand, it might be worth checking in with the local homebrew shop and seeing if maybe he has some recommendations for me... Plus, it might be time to upgrade my equipment as well. Perhaps invest in some glass carboys, and so on.

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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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