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Smarch Beer Club

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Due to a calendar misprint, the Smarch edition of beer club came later than normals, but we had it all the same. For the uninitiated, beer club is where a bunch of booze-minded folks from my work get together and sample beers and usually other beverages of choice. We always hit up a local BYOB and tonight, we didn't even get banned! Good times had by all, and we got to drink some pretty good beer too:

Smarch Beer Club
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In accordance with tradition, I will henceforth record some disgruntled, freakish opinions on each beer below. You know, for posterity. Of course none of these notes are reliable because I wasn't in a sensory deprivation chamber and didn't chemically cleanse my palate after every sip, so read them at your own risk. In order of drinking (not in order of picture, and due to some tardy attendees, some are not even pictured):

  • Kaedrin Fat Weekend IPA - My homebrewed IPA, one of the last bottles at this point, seemed to go over pretty well. Again, I hope to do a more detailed review at some point, but in short, it came out super dank, very piney and resinous hop character dominates the flavor. A little overcarbonated, but I should be able to correct that in future batches. I'll refrain from rating right now, but aside from the carbonation issues, I really like this.
  • Wagner Valley IPA - I've used this description before, but it's perfect for a beer like this: It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over most macro lagers, but not particularly accomplished either. C+
  • DuClaw Naked Fish - A beer we've had before (at beer club, even), and my thoughts haven't changed much at all. It's got a really nice raspberry and chocolate character mixed with a really low-octane stout base. Easy enough to drink, but it's not going to blow you away. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Oktoberfest - New homebrewer Ken brought one of his first batches, an Octoberfest beer that probably still needs some conditioning time, but was drinkable as it was. It had some apple-like off flavors, but it was actually sorta pleasant anyway...
  • Magic Hat Pistil - Super light, flowery, herbal, crisp and refreshing, would make a great summer beer. Not something that will blow away jaded beer nerds or anything, but it was actually a nice palate cleanser and certainly a lot more pleasant than macro stuff. B
  • Flying Dog Lucky S.O.B. - A pretty straightforward Irish Red Ale. Not bad or anything, but not particularly distinguished either. Nice malt backbone, easy drinking stuff. B-
  • Kaedrin Stout - Another of my homebrews, this thing is about a year and a half old, and it's actually drinking really well! Complex malt character, caramel, roast, dark chocolate, still packs a whallop of flavor and hasn't really lost anything over the year and a half in my cellar. On the other hand, this has always been a beer that's worked well in small pours. Still, I think I may revisit the recipe next year, perhaps amp it up a bit more, give it some more hops, get a higher attenuating yeast. It's pretty good right now, but it could be great.
  • Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheatwine - It's like a hefeweizen, only moreso. In my limited experience with big wheat beers, I've always gotten cloying, sticky sweet notes that just made it unpalatable. But this drinks like a slightly boozy hefeweizen. Huge banana and clove weizen yeast character in the nose, and you really don't get that big boozy flavor until the finish, and even then, it doesn't quite feel like a 9.1% monster. Still not my favorite style, but this was among the best I've had. B+
  • DuClaw Bourbon Barrel Aged Devil's Milk - The regular Devil's Milk is a wonderful little barleywine, this bourbon-barrel aged version makes a nice complementary offering. It's a huge, bourbon forward beer, lots of caramel and vanila, much less in the way of hops than the base, but still an eminently drinkable brew. Would like to try again sometime, but I'll give it an tentative A-
  • Weyerbacher Riserva (2012) - Picked this up at the release at the brewery this past weekend (will have a more detailed post later, stay tuned), even briefly crossed paths with Rich on Beer and fam on my way to pick up some Riserva and the last NATO beer (Zulu, which, again, will be covered in a separate post at some point). Anyways, Riserva is an oak aged beer made with raspberries. It's going to be distributed, but as American Wild Ales go, it's pretty solid stuff. It's not a top tier Russian River killer or anything, but it's got a place at the table, and I'm continually surprised at how well sour beers go over with the beer club crowd. Even non-beer drinkers gave this a shot and really enjoyed it. For my part, I found it to be a bit hot, but otherwise a pretty solid beer. Funky, intensely sour, but with a nice oak character balancing things out. A little astringent and boozy, but still really enjoyable. Not sure about knocking back an entire 750 ml of this, but I'm sure it will happen someday. B+
And that about covers it. Good times had by all, and already planning next month's meetup, since this month happened so late.

Decembeer Club II: Electric Boogaloo

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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 once a month. As usual, a core group of stalwarts showed up, along with some new faces and other return guest stars. All told, a solid turnout, plenty of good beer, and a fun time had by all.

Decembeer Club 2012
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Apologies for the image quality. Brightness kinda got away from me there. Stupid flash. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. Standard disclaimers apply, though I think I've achieved a new level in beer nerdom in that I've already had (and probably reviewed) a lot of the beers presented here. Go figure. Roughly (yeah, yeah, gimme a break, it's a social gathering after all, you're lucky I can do this much) listed in order of drinking, not the order in the picture above:

  • Hitachino Nest White Ale - This has actually been on my radar for a while, but it's not something I've ever tried before. It's a very solid Belgian wit beer, not super strong on the wheat (though it's there), more defined by the Belgian yeast character of fruit and dry spice. Sorta reminded me of St. Bernardus' Tokyo beer, which is not suspicious at all, as Hitachino is Japanese (I swears, I didn't realize it when I was drinking, except perhaps subconsciously because Hitachino does sound pretty Japanese). Really worth checking out, and it won't break the bank like St. Bernardus will. A-
  • Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer - This must be the 4th or 5th time I've had this. I've always enjoyed it too, though I didn't have any sticky toffee dessert dish to pair it with (like I normally do). A solid contribution from a beer club newcomer. B+
  • Ommegang Scythe & Sickle - Malt-focused, Belgian-style harvest ale, recently reviewed! Well chosen and well placed in the tasting. This works well with food (which came out as I was drinking this)... B+
  • Ballast Point Sculpin IPA - Yep, another that I've had several times before, but I do love this beer. It seems that some beer club members have been doing some research on Beer Advocate and this is a pretty good choice. Well played, Paul. A-
  • Magic Hat Hi.P.A. - A decent enough IPA that I think just pales (pun intended!) in comparison with Sculpin. Flavors seemed muted and a little bland, but seemingly well crafted enough. Not something I'd seek out again, but I wouldn't turn it down if you handed me one. B-
  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel Xmas - A variant on my homebrewed abbey dubbel beer, when I was bottling and I got to the bottom of the bucket I added a cinnamon stick and some clove to the remaining beer. Alas, I didn't get much additional spice out of this, at least in my small sample. However, I feel like the beer has finally conditioned into something solid. Still not quite what I was going for, I think perhaps too much in the Special B department, yielding a bit too much in the way of toasted malt character, but still, it's coming along well. I will refrain from rating this for now, as I don't think it's peaked yet, but perhaps a full review will be forthcoming.
  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) - Just reviewed this one yesterday (along with the 2011 variety). This was one of my contributions, so of course it was good.
  • Evolution Secret Spot Winter Ale - I've enjoyed most of Evolutions offerings that I've tried so far, and this one is no exception. But it's not really exceptional either. Another beer that may have suffered a bit by comparison to the previous beer. Technically an altbier, this drinks kinda like a winter warmer without the spice. I like. Want to try again in better context. B
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Yep, just reviewed this one too. Big flavors do well in beer club setting.
  • Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2011 - One of my contributions... I've had the 2010 vintage, and though Mikkel claims to tweak the recipe every year, this seemed pretty similar to me. It's listed as a Belgian Strong Dark, but it reads more like an Imperial Stout. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts, smooth, well hidden booze. It's said that this is a spiced beer, but it's hard to detect in this. Definitely a complex beer, and I'm guessing the spices contribute to that without being overpowering. Overall, a very good beer, worthy of the holiday. A-
So there you have it. Another successful beer club. Good company, good food, good beer. As always, already looking forward to the next installment.

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
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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!

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

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