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Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA

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Previously, on Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project: ¡Magnifico!, a 3.4% ABV, charitably hopped Belgian Pale Ale. Today, we're talking about Pretty Things' first American IPA, the prospect of which had beer nerds positively salivating. It's named after a bird or something (Wikipedial describes the males as having "extensively red or yellow underparts") and it's brrewed with the new hotness in American and New Zealand hops (Galaxy, Bravo, and Citra). They're saying that this may thus be one of them limited supply beers that fly off the shelves due to the scarce availability of trendy hops and a refusal to compromise on the recipe. So drink 'em if you got 'em, cause these ain't aging beers and they probably won't show up again until next year. Meadowlark and ¡Magnifico! showed up on shelves around the same time, but a week later, the Meadowlark was gone, while ¡Magnifico! was still hanging out as of this past weekend. I'd say check them both out, if you can find them:

Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA

Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a finger of white head and good retention/lacing as I drink. Big aromas of sugary sweet citrus and pine, maybe some floral notes, one of those beers you could just sit around and sniff for a while. Taste is sweet with a well matched bitterness emerging in the middle and through the finish. Again, juicy citrus and pine flavors are prominent in the taste, well balanced with it all. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but tight and smooth and almost quaffable. Overall, excellent, well balanced IPA. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/29/12. Hops: Galaxy, Bravo, and Citra. IBUs: 60.

I feel like I've been saying this about an awful lot of breweries, but Pretty Things continues to impress. Though they've previously been focused mostly on Belgian and English styles, this thing shows their impressive range. Another brewery that may have elevated itself to "Buy anything of theirs that I see" status...

Pretty Things ¡Magnifico!

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Beer dorks get all excited when Massachusetts-based Pretty Things release a new beer, but on the other hand, this is a curious offering. So curious that Pretty Things did a sorta soft launch last year to see if anyone would notice. Why the hesitance? Well, beer dorks usually don't get all that excited for beers with only 3.4% ABV... but apparently the soft launch went swimmingly, and now Pretty Things is bottling the stuff and distributing it.

I kinda love the title of the beer, though it does represent something of a confusing heritage. Magnifico is Italian for "Magnificent" and is usually used to indicate a person of distinguished rank or importance. I love it when a beer name has punctuation, but the leading inverted exclamation is a Spanish convention, right? And the beer itself is a Belgian style (at least, that's what it's labeled as on Beer Advocate, though Pretty Things leaves it a mystery on their site - hey, why don't we call it a saison?) In any case, I was intrigued, so I picked up a bottle:

Pretty Things Magnifico

Pretty Things ¡Magnifico! - Pours a slightly hazy, light yellowish gold color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells of herbal, grassy hops along with a very light amount of Belgian yeast. The taste most prominently features those herbal, grassy hop flavors, not a lot of malt character (which is to be expected in something like this) and just a wee bit of spicy Belgian yeast flavors. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but also extremely dry. There's enough subtle complexity to elevate this above a lot of beers, but it's not going to rock your world either. Then again, that's probably not the point. It's a welcome change of pace and I kinda wish there were more well-crafted low ABV options out there... They might not blow your mind, but they get the job done. B

Beer Nerd Details: 3.4% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/13/12. Bottled in June 2012.

Also appearing in stores recently, Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA, their first take on that most popular of styles (spoiler: it's quite good!) Look for a review soon. And hey, look, I'm only a couple of weeks behind on reviews, so this might come sooner rather than later.

Baby Tree

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So this beer is labeled as a Quadrupel. I've written about a few Quads on the blog, but I've never really written much about the style, instead just referring to it as "mildly mystifying", which is certainly true (I've also said it's a brew "which is like, 4 times better than regular beer, right?"). It's usually referred to as a style of Trappist origin, though obviously lots of non-Trappist brewers make beers in the style. Beer Advocate describes the style thusly:

Inspired by the Trappist brewers of Belgium, a Quadrupel is a Belgian style ale of great strength with bolder flavor compared to its Dubbel and Tripel sister styles. Typically a dark creation that ranges within the deep red, brown and garnet hues. Full bodied with a rich malty palate. Phenols are usually at a moderate level. Sweet with a low bitterness yet a well perceived alcohol.
What's more, BA lists about 150+ examples of the style, including heavyweights like Rochefort 10, Westvleteren 12, and St. Bernardus Abt 12. The weird thing about the style, though, is that it seems to date back to... 1991. That's the year Koningshoeven (known to us Yanks these days as La Trappe), the only non-Belgian Trappist brewery, supposedly coined the term Quadrupel. The sourcing is somewhat vague about this. My meager collection of beer books has very little to say about the style. In Brew Like a Monk, Stan Hieronymus refers to it as a "style that's not quite a style." With the help of google books, I see a reference in The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer that says La Trappe/Koningshoeven's Quad is "the beer that supposedly coined the Quadrupel name." (Curious, that. While Quads are indeed very strong, I was not aware that they had gained the power of speech and were coining controversial style terminology.) Notorious beer history wonk Martyn Cornell takes a more measured approach:

[Koningshoeven] made Dubbel and Tripel for a long time and has "reinvented" (Tim Webb) the terms Enkel and Quadrupel to extend its beer range at either end of the strength scale. The terms double and single for different strengths of beer were used across Northern Europe: the three commonest styles of Swedish beer before the middle of the 19th century, for example, were dubbelt öl, or double ale, enkelt öl, or single ale, and svagöl, "weak ale".
From a common sense point of view, it seems wise to acknowledge that the term "Quadruple" (and various fancy/foreign spellings of such) could have been applied to various strong beers for a long time. But it does indeed appear that Koningshoeven has succeeded in reinventing the term, as when people talk about a Quadrupel these days, they're generally referring to the style that Koningshoeven began to brew in 1991. Of course, that does little to explain why this is a distinct and separate style from, say, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Indeed, the BJCP doesn't list Quads as a style, instead classifying them under Belgian Strong Ales or Belgian Specialty Ales. Ah, the joys of pedantic style debates. Well, enough of that, let's drink some Baby Tree, a particularly good example of the style:


Pretty Things Baby Tree

Pretty Things Baby Tree - Pours a beautiful dark amber brown color with just a bit of head that seems to persist reasonably well. The aroma is filled with dark fruitiness and sweet malts. The taste is bursting with dark fruit (apparently plums), with just a bit of spiciness to offset it. Extremely well balanced taste (generally the hallmark of a great beer for me). The mouthfeel is rich and full bodied but very smooth, making this extremely easy to drink (especially for a 9% ABV beer!) I suppose it could be a bit of a sipper... if I wasn't gulping the stuff down so quickly because it's so smooth and full of awesome. In reality, 9% is actually rather low for this style that isn't a style, so I guess that makes a sort of sense. Whatever the case, the alcohol is hidden really well, and this is just an all around fantastic beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a goblet on 10/29/11. Bottled June 2011.

Pretty Things (another of them newfangled "gypsy brewers") are now on the list of breweries where I'll need to seek out more of their stuff. And naturally, I want to get me some more of this particular beer as well. As for other Quads, I will say that it's among my favorite styles, so expect to see some more of them (or, at least, Belgian Strong Darks, which seem to be popular this time of year). I think I may even have a line on a bottle of the fabled Westy 12!

Pretty Things Jack D'Or

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In the past, I've attempted to separate the saison style into two main groups - sweet and spicy (a la Saison Dupont) and funky, tart saisons brewed with Brett (a la Fantôme). Of course, that's a drastic simplification of a style that is extremely broad. One additional subcategory that you could argue for is dry saisons. I've had a few of these lately, and while I enjoy them, they tend to have a narrower range than the other subcategories. Dryness is a fine characteristic for a beer, and it's actually really great to drink a nice, dry saison along with a meal. Dry beers complement what you're eating well, while the sweeter beers may sometimes overpower your meal. Of course, the general guideline for matching beer with food is to match the intensity, but dry beers tend to work for a much wider range of dishes. But if you're drinking a dry beer by itself, the dryness can make it a bit of a strange experience.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with any of this. There's no one true style to rule them all, only a beer that's good for you right now. Or something. Anyway, here's a dry saison that's garnered many accolades.

Pretty Things Jack d ore

Pretty Things Jack D'Or - Pretty Things is another one of them Gypsy Brewers, like Mikkeller and Stillwater, and their beers have been highly sought after for a while, but I seem to be seeing them all over the place these days. This beer seems to use a ridiculous blend of malts, hops, and yeasts (I mean, seriously, how many beers do you know that are fermented with a blend of four different yeasts?) It pours a light yellowish gold color, mostly clear, with a finger or so of bubbly head. The aroma is surprisingly earthy, but not in a typical Belgian yeast way. The taste has some sweetness to it, but it's mostly dominated by dryness throughout and especially in the finish, where things get a little bitter too. Actually reminds me a bit of Ommegang's recent BID beer, as well as Stillwater's various dry saisons. It's light and crisp, and overall a pretty good brew. Not something that's really lighting my world on fire, but I suspect I would enjoy it much more with a meal. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank from a tulip glass on 7/30/11. Label sez it was bottled in May 2011. Batch 26.

I've got a bottle of Pretty Things Baby Tree, a Belgian style quadrupel that I'm greatly looking forward to. These Gypsy brewers sure seem to know what they're doing!

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

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