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September Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and general revelry. This time, we stopped in at a local Pizza place for some deep fried dough, strombolis, and yes, pizza. It's not a big place and the pizza isn't as spectacular as the last beer club gathering, but we always manage to make due. Good attendance tonight too, and plenty of beer.

September Beer Club Selections
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some half-addled thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, this was a social gathering, so I wasn't paying too close of attention to what I was drinking and you should totes ignore what I'm writing and make up your own mind because I'm totally the worst and this post is definitely an ill-advised idea that I'm only doing out of tradition because I've done it for all previous iterations of beer club and are you even reading this? Why? The beer notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured (and some later attendees brought some stuff that is not pictured):

  • Platform Speed Merchant White IPA - Not expecting much out of this Ohio beer brought back by a visitor, fantastic citrusy nose, more typical IPA-like taste. Quite solid though, and worth a look on its own. B+
  • Pizza Boy Hop Test #1 (Cascade Single Hop) - Yep, it's a pale ale. The very definition of cromulence, this does nothing particularly special, but it's an enjoyable little pale ale. B
  • New Belgium Pumpkick - Whoa there, this is quite perfumey, moar ginger than anything else, but that perfumey character really overpowers everything else with this beer. Not horrendous, but not a particularly good pumpkin beer either. C+
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack - Back in the early days of this blog, this would have been an A worthy beer, but grade inflation is a bitch. It's still an accomplished and emminently accomplished IPA, well worth checking out. Delicious citrus/pine/malt balance. B+
  • Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau - Very nice little tart beer, tart, crisp, refreshing, very light bodied and easy going, sorta beginner sour stuff but quite nice on its own. B+
  • Overshores Tripel Brun - Bottle a bit of a gusher, and thus carbonation levels a bit off, but this is basically a very raisiny Belgian strong dark. B
  • Brasserie De Blaugies / Hill Farmstead La Vermontoise - I know I've had this before, but apparently I never reviewed it. It's not quite up to speed with the best of Hill Farmstead, but it's a rock solid saison, earthy and spicy, quite delicious. B+
  • Fantôme Coffee Ruby - One of my contributions, this came off as surprisingly muted. There's some coffee character that is definitely present, but it's not overpowering at all, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be a ton of other stuff going on with this beer. It's got a very, very mild funk to it, and the combination of the base with coffee doesn't entirely blesh, but it's certainly an interesting beer. A little weird, but could more interesting with more funk. Keeping in mind my legendary indifference to coffee, I'll give it a B
  • Cascade Figaro - This is typical Cascade sour here, which is to say, it's a fantastic little sour. I don't get a lot of fig or lemon peel out of it, but it's got that trademark Cascade lactic sour and oak character that just work so damn well. Generally agreed to be one of the best of the night. A-
  • White Birch Indulgence Ale (2014) - Not sure which version of this beer I tried (I think it's this retired 2014 version), but it was labeled as a Belgian Imperial Stout, and it definitely had a sorta brighter take on the imperial stout style that worked really well. Lots of rich malt, light roast, some hints of Belgian character, but with the style's inherent dark malt sweetness (i.e. not a dry or highly carbonated beer). Actually quite nice and among the better of the night. B+
  • Brewmaster Jack Barrel Aged Prinsipia Quad - Sounds great, but came out kinda limp, very boozy, a little raisiny Belgian character, but not at all balanced. Not terrible, but not quite getting the job done either. B-

And that just about covers it. We just got this one in under the wire, last day of the month. Will need to try and plan the next beer club soon. Great time, as always.

Intangible Ales Future Primitive

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Pizza Boy brewing cohabitates with Al's of Hampden (an actual pizza joint), which I tend to think of as basically the same operation, though I guess distinctions need to be made. I'm sure there's some nerdy, pencil-pushing reason for such distinctions, but whatever. Enter Intangible Ales. Brewed at the same location. Using the same equipment. By the same brewer. Wait, why is this a separate brand now? What are you central PA people getting up to over there? And while we're at it, this beer is technically called FuTuRe PRiMiTiVe - what do you have against vowels and normal capitalization? What is going on? GET OFF OF MY LAWN!

Ahem. Near as I can tell, Intangible Ales is a collaboration between Pizza Boy head brewer Terry Hawbaker (formerly of PA stalwarts like Bullfrog and Farmer's Cabinet) and local photographer extraordinaire Kristen Mullen. Still not sure why it's a distinct brand, but Mullen's photography certainly makes for some cool labels (and the beer ain't bad either!):

Intangible Ales Future Primitive

Intangible Ales Future Primitive - Pours a hazy yellow color with a finger or two of white, fluffy head with great retention. Smell has some musty funk, hints of the barnyard, but also a very nice fruity aroma, bananas and pineapple, and just a hint of yeasty spice in the background. Taste starts off like a typical sweet and spicy saison of the Dupont mold, but then the funky Brett character kicks in about midway through the taste, bringing some earthy barnyard character and a little fruitiness, finishing off with a dry bitterness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, light, crisp, and very dry. Overall, this is a rock solid funky saison. It's not in the Logsdon level God tier saison realm, but it's a very nice beer nonetheless. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/24/15. Batch #1. Bottle #265/2700.

Pizza Boy continues to impress, even when it's an alternate label like this. I should really explore more of their stuff, and will probably do so soon enough. Stay tuned.

Pizza Boy Golden Sour

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I've been enjoying the Pizza Boy bottles that have slowly been making their way to the Philly area, but so far, I've not had a chance to try any of Pizza Boy's most famous beers, whichare, in general, their sours. They are quite pricey, but so far, they seem worth it.

Enter the Golden Sour, a svelt 3.7% ABV ale aged in white wine barrels with lemon zest. According to Stouts and Stilettos, they asked the brewer and "found out it's a blend of Cantillon, Fantome & Drie Fonteinen cultures." Damn. Go big, or go home, I guess. And hoo boy, did this go big:

Pizza Boy Golden Sour

Pizza Boy Golden Sour - Pours a cloudy golden color with visible sediment and a finger of bubbly head that recedes to a cap. Smells great, tart fruit, lemons, musky funk, pleasant barnyard, and oak. The taste starts very sweet, quickly hits a high sour note with lemons and vinous fruit, a little funk, then retreats into oak before a finish which sorta ties all the flavor components together. Great balance between sweet fruit, sourness, and oak. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and refreshing, well carbonated with moderate acidity, it's still quite crushable. I will say, this does not feel like 3.7% at all - not that sours need a high abv to pack a punch, but usually when it's this low, there's some degree of thinness or something. Not so here. It's either labeled wrong or really impressive (and I'm inclined to think the latter). Overall, this is fantastic, no questions. A

Beer Nerd Details: 3.7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Charente glass on 1/30/15. 2014 Release.

So I've got something called Future Primitive that appears to be brewed at Pizza Boy, but is under an Intangible Ales label. Don't know what's up there, but mayhap I'll dig into that next time...

Pizza Boy West Shore IPA

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"West Shore IPA" is not some sort of mutated take on "West Coast IPA", it's actually a reference to the Western shore of the Susquehana river near Harrisburg, PA, where Pizza Boy Brewing is located. Of course, depending on how you define the hallowed West Coast IPA (and let's not get into that Holy War right now), this is also a decent take on the style. As such, it appears to be Pizza Boy's flagship beer, such that when opportunities for bottling and distribution came about, this was one of the first brews packaged. And indeed, it's a pretty standard take on the style, well worth checking out:

Pizza Boy West Shore IPA

Pizza Boy West Shore IPA - Pours a standard golden orange color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of citrus hops, grapefruit, a hint of pine in the background. Taste starts sweet with a very nice citrus and hefty pine hop character, yielding to a dry, bitter finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lower end of medium bodied, and dry. Overall, a very nice, if a bit typical, take on an IPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/28/14.

This is pretty emblematic of all the stuff I've had from Pizza Boy - really solid and well worth trying. I need to get out there someday and sample their sours, which seem to have a pretty good reputation. Until then, I'll just have to make due with their distributed offerings!

Pizza Boy Simcoe SamuRYE

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A few years ago, Al's of Hampden was your typical PA pizza joint. For the uninitiated, Pizza is everywhere around here. I live in the suburbs, and I have about 4-5 pizza places within about half a mile radius of my house (and probably double or triple that if you make it a mile). Because of this, some places have to differentiate themselves and Al's of Hampden had glommed onto the whole Craft Beer revolution, featuring a bunch of takeout bottles* and taps. But as craft beer continued to explode, Al found that he had some trouble keeping his taps flowing, and rather than whine about it, he installed a brewhouse and started making his own beer to make up for the shortfall. It appears to be a small operation, allowing them to experiment with all sorts of weird stuff, including some barrel aging and sours and whatnot. Music to my earballs. The brewing operation is known as Pizza Boy brewing, and it's been steadily building up a good reputation amongst local beer nerds. Alas, they're located in Enola, PA (a 1-2 hour drive from Kaedrin HQ), and I've been far too lazy for far too long. Fortunately for my laziness, Pizza Boy has started to bottle some of their brews and even distribute them. I hope this is a sign of things to come, but for now, I was happy to snag one of these Red Rye IPAs made with Simcoe hops.

Pizza Boy Simcoe SamuRYE

Pizza Boy Simcoe SamuRYE - Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown, with a finger of dense, off white head that has decent retention and leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells amazing, lots of Simcoe's characteristic citrus and pine merged very nicely with some sugary sweet malt aromas. Taste follows the nose, lots of citrus and pine hops, a little dank, some rye spiciness with a hefty malt backbone. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, medium to full bodied, extremely well balanced. Overall, this is among the best rye IPAs I've had. On the upper end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/14.

So here's the plan. On some fine day, I'll need to take a road trip to visit some PA breweries, hitting Tröegs in Hershey first, then Al's/PizzaBoy, then Selin's Grove (a place I really need to check out at some point). Round trip, I'm figuring 6-7 hours though, so don't hold your breath. I don't think I'd even attempt this until next year, but it will happen someday. Oh yes. In the meantime, I'll just have to hope that some of Pizza Boy's more interesting experimental stuff makes their way down here...

* Again, for you non-PA residents, out fine commonwealth does not generally allow for beer distributors to sell by the bottle (only by the case). This is a fact that I've bemoaned many times before, but the good news is that there is a bit of a loophole in that restaurants are allowed to sell by the bottle, hence there are several places, like Al's, that have really stepped up their selection to serve the hungry market.

Belated BBQ Beer Club Recap

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Last week was Beer Club, and in a heinous act of negligence, I'm only getting to the recap now. I know, I'm the worst. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and fun (which part is not optional). This month we hit up a local BBQ joint, loaded up on smoked meats, and cracked open quite a few beers:

October Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we had are below. The usual disclaimers apply, and you'll want to amplify your skepticism even further due to the fact that I'm writing this about 5 days later than normal. Great, so now that we've established that the proceeding descriptions are completely devoid of merit, we can begin. In order of drinking, not necessarily the order in the picture, and in fact, there are several beers not pictured (and we didn't get to some of the ones that were):

  • Neshaminy Creek County Line IPA - I know "East Coast IPA" isn't a real thing, but I think it kinda describes stuff like this. A local IPA with plenty of hop character that's balanced out by plenty of crystal malts (much more than you get in typical West Coast IPAs). Its enjoyable, but it won't blow minds. The very definition of a B, though sometimes I want to bump that up to a B+, which I guess means it's not the very definition of a B, but give me a break, I'm not under oath here.
  • Anchorage Whiteout Wit Bier - Belgian Wit beer aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces? Sign me up. Nice funk to it, with plenty of typical wheat beer character. Worth checking out. B+
  • Upstate I.P.W. - A friend brought a bunch of beers that he grabbed whilst in New York, and this India Pale Wheat ale was quite nice. One of those things I could see myself reaching for, were I a local. Great citrus/pine hop character, light wheat, crisp, and refreshing. B+
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pecan Brown - Wow, that pecan character really comes through on the nose and in the taste. A little lighter in color than your typical brown ale, but that pecan character really sets this apart, and I very much enjoyed it.
  • Sly Fox Incubus - A beer I've reviewed before (a looong time ago), but I'll just say that this bottle had a more distinct raisiny note than I remember. On the other hand, it is a bit high on the booze and stickiness factor, something I'm not huge on when it comes to Tripels. Still a solid B in my book.
  • The Beer Diviner Very! Brown Ale - Another New York beer, my friend apparently stumbled on it by asking his phone to point out breweries near his location. This one turned out to be a guy brewing out of his house on a farm or something like that. This particular beer was a pretty standard brown ale, nutty and toasty, if a bit stronger than normal. B
  • Cascade Apricot - One of my contributions, and a beer we've reviewed relatively recently, so I don't have much to add to that. A-
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack - A beer I've had many times at this point, and as Black IPAs (or whatever you want to call them) go, it's probably the best regularly available option out there. Big citrus and pine hop component along with the typical roast of a stout, without letting either character overwhelm (or making you wish you had a straight IPA or stout). B+
  • Founders Dark Penance - This is a relatively recent addition to Founders lineup, and like everything Founders makes, it's a solid take on the style. However, having it in close proximity to Wookey Jack made me feel like this was lacking. It was fine, to be sure, and it'd probably be worth trying in a less chaotic environment. B
  • Two Roads Conntucky Lightnin' Bourbon Ale - Well, I didn't get a ton of Bourbon out of this, and it seemed a bit thin for what it proclaims on the label. Not really bad, or anything, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Breckenridge Agave Wheat - Seemed pretty bland, though that sweet agave does come through in the taste. Probably should have opened this much earlier in the night, but here we are. C+
  • Pizza Boy Bean Dream - It's supposed to be a milk stout with vanilla beans, but I don't get a ton of vanilla. On the other hand, it is a pretty solid milk stout, smooth with a nice chocolatey roast character. I really need to get out to Pizza Boy one of these days... B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Bourbon Porter - This was a pretty solid take on the style, and the bourbon oak character comes through well enough, actually much better than that Conntucky Bourbon stuff from earlier. Go Ken!
  • Bonus Beer: Otter Creek Brewing / Lawson's Double Dose IPA - Whilst at beer club, someone found out that a local drinkery tapped some Lawson's Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead, so after beer club, a small cadre of attendees made a slight detour. Now, both of the beers we had were actually collaborations that are more widely available than the typical entries from those breweries (HF sometimes sends kegs down here, but Lawson's never does), but I'm not complaining, because these were both great beers. This DIPA is fabulous. Huge hop character, citrus and pine and something almost zesty. Not quite Double Sunshine great, but definitely something I want more of. B+
  • Bonus Beer: Grassroots Convivial Suaréz - A sorta funky saison made with hibiscus, I really enjoyed this, though I didn't take any real detailed notes. Nice funky character, and the hibiscus actually does come through. B+
And another successful beer club, fun and smoked meat had by all. Already looking forward to our next meeting...

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

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