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Octobeerfest

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together once a month to share good beer, a good meal, and good company! We typically congregate at a local BYOB, and this time we hit up America's Pie, probably the best pizza joint in West Chester. Lots of food and beer and mirth was had by all. Things started small but grew as the night progressed, so this picture doesn't quite capture all the beers that arrived later:

beerclub1012.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As per usual, these beers were not consumed under ideal conditions, but hey, these were really fun conditions, which, come to think of it, are ideal enough for me. But you may want to take these notes with a giant rock of salt. Anywho, here's the impressions I'm left with (in the order of drinking, not necessarily from the picture above):

  • Lakefront Pumpkin Lager - A strangely muted flavor profile that features all the typical pumpkin pie flavors nonetheless, this was actually a decent way to start off beer club. Very aromatic, light, spicy, straightforward beer. Not going to light the world on fire, but a worthy brew. B
  • Duvel - This is generally considered to be a classic beer, but I have to admit, I've always come away somewhat underwhelmed by Duvel. I feel like this bottle was much better than any of my previous tastings. Sweet, spicy Belgian yeast character in the nose and taste. Last time I had this, I was a little turned off by what I perceived to be tart, lemony notes, but that didn't appear to be in tonight's bottle at all. Strange. I still wouldn't call this one of my favorites or anything, but I could bump it up to a B
  • Original Sin Hard Cider and Dana's Homemade Applewine - I tend to call this event "beer club", but lots of other alcoholic beverages make appearances. This usually amounts to wine, but some folks who don't like beer will go for some cider too (especially this time of year, I guess). Me, I don't really care for that sort of thing. I tried a couple offerings and thought, yep, that's got apple flavor, and left it at that.
  • Cigar City Guava Grove - One of my contributions for the night, this is a big, delicious ball of spicy, fruity saison goodness. Great orangey color, spicy Belgian yeast character in the nose and taste, with a level of fruitiness, presumably coming from the guava. Generally considered to be the best beer of the night, I jokingly mentioned that I wished I kept it all for myself. But I kid. Anywho, exceptional beer. I really must figure out how to get my hands on some more Cigar City stuff. A-
  • War Horse India Pale Ale - Probably suffered a little in comparison to the Guava Grove, but yeah, it's an IPA, focusing on the earthy, floral notes, with a strong malt backbone and a fair bitterness in the finish. I found it to be somewhat unremarkable, but it was generally enjoyed by the group (we are easily amused). B-
  • DuClaw Mad Bishop - Ah, it was about time someone broke out the other major seasonal style, the Oktoberfest. Not one of my favorite styles, but as these things go, I found myself enjoying this one quite a bit. It seemed a little sweeter than your typical, authentic examples of the style, but that's not a horrible thing in my book. Very nice. B
  • Lindemans Framboise - Another offering that was popular with the cider/wine crowd, I found it a little on the cough syrupy side of things. Nice raspberry flavors and it's pretty thick and sweet for such a tiny ABV beer, but I don't know, maybe I'm spoiled by better lambics at this point. B-
  • Great Lakes Nosferatu - This is one of them Imperial Red Ale beers that goes heavy on the citrus and pine hops, certainly a welcome development at this point in the night. Even with my palate probably being in pretty bad shape, I found this to be quite good. And you've just gotta love the label/name of this beer too. I should pick up a bottle of the stuff and give it a fair shake, though I'll still hand it a B+ rating, making it one of the better beers of the night.
  • Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale - One of those late arrivals, this one actually held its own against some of the bigger beers I'd been drinking. Big citrus and pine character in the nose and taste, making it seem more like a straight up IPA than a lowly Pale Ale. Quite enjoyable and again, one of the better beers of the night. B+
  • St. Bernardus Tripel - Another beer I've actually reviewed before, though this time my feelings on the beer haven't changed much. I didn't have a lot of it tonight, but it's pretty much exactly what I remember about it. Excellent Belgian Tripel, if not quite my favorite.
  • Yuengling Oktoberfest - At this point in the night, my palate is pretty well wrecked, but again, it seemed like a really solid, traditional take on the Oktoberfest style. Not exactly my thing, but I could probably put a few of these down in a session if duty called for such. Indeed, I might even prefer this to the ubiquitous Yuengling Lager... B
  • Lavery Stingy Jack Pumpkin Ale - My other contribution for the night, I think this one comported itself quite well. It's got that big, chewy pumpkin pie thing going on here, but the balance of malt, pumpkin, and spice was pretty well honed here, as I really enjoyed it. Now, again, I was pretty well in the bag at this point, but the bomber I brought seemed to go pretty quickly, and folks seemed to enjoy it. I'll give it a provisional B+
Phew, that ended up being quite a list of beers. Oddly, they were all pale colored - not a single stout to be had. The closest thing to a dark beer was Nosferatu, which probably couldn't be counted as pale, but it's no stout either. Not that I'm complaining. Indeed, I shall declare this gathering yet another success. I'm already thinking ahead to our next meeting...

Lavery Imperial Red Ale

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So I've heard a lot about these Erie, PA brewers from the guys over at Aleheads, who did a great interview with the founder, Jason Lavery. As such, when I noticed a few bottles popping up here in Eastern PA, I jumped at the chance to try some of this stuff. Selection is still limited and I'm holding out hope for their summer seasonal, apparently a huge saison-style beer. In the meantime, I figured I'd check out this Imperial Red Ale.

This can be a bit of a strange style. A lot of times, it comes out like a reddish IPA or DIPA (think Gordon/G'Knight or Yule Smith Winter), but in this case, it was much more recognizable as a souped up Irish Red Ale. Knowing more about the brewery now, this is unsurprising, as these brewers are Irish, and you can see that influence all throughout their catalog.

Apparently the recipe for this has changed significantly. They originally used all Amarillo hops, one of the most popular and trendy varieties out there, but apparently small breweries can experience supply problems... From the Aleheads interview: "It's a really sad story. The Imperial Red Ale was originally all Amarillo. From the hops in the kettle to the dry hops, but our hop contractor told us that since we're so small, we won't be getting any more Amarillo until 2013." Well, crap. I love me some Amarillo hops. They've got this bright, juicy citrus flavor and aroma that's just very difficult to replicate, hence Lavery's woes. The beer I had was apparently a blend of Centennial, Cascade, and Nugget, but I'd love to get my hands on some of that Amarillo version someday (perhaps next year!), assuming the great hop contractor conspiracy deems it acceptable.

Anyway, I cracked this open to celebrate the return of Game of Thrones. It's not a very... Irish... show or anything, but something about this beer seemed to fit with the atmosphere of that series quite well. Go figure.

Lavery Imperial Red Ale

Lavery Imperial Red Ale - Pours a deep, dark red color with two fingers of small bubbled head. Smells are interesting... definitely some sugary sweetness and plenty of hop character, but when put together it's hard to place. Is it... is it like a fruit rollup, but with earthy, piney hops instead of fruit? Geeze, I hate it when reviewers say stuff like that, but that's what I'm getting out of this. The taste features a well balanced sweetness and bitterness, with neither overpowering the other - a relatively mild seeming beer. The malt backbone is similar to that of an Irish Red (amber and caramel malt, probably a hint of roasted malts for color), but unlike most in the style, strong hop flavors hit in the middle with a burst of citrus and pine (but not a lot of that resin character that I usually expect), leading in to a very dry finish. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light to medium bodied, and again, the finish is extremely dry. Overall, it's more like a hopped up Irish Red Ale than anything else, but I like that concept and would gladly try this again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/1/12.

Well, there you have it. An interesting first taste, but I'm intrigued by a lot of Jason's experimental talk in the Aleheads interview... though I have to wonder how much of that stuff will make it over to us Easter PA folk. As previously mentioned, I'm really hoping to get my hands on some of their Imperial French Ale, apparently a summer seasonal...

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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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