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February Beer Club

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Yeah, so I'm still running dry on beer puns. Fortunately, there's a pretty good chance you don't care about that, so I'll just explain that Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. It ended up being a rather small gathering this month, with just the core group showing up... and yet, plenty of fantastic beer was had by all.

Beer Club February 2013
(Click for bigger image)

Despite the less than ideal conditions, I'm going to record my thoughts on each sampled beer. For posterity! Yeah, the sip test is often unreliable, so take this with a giant boulder of gourmet sea salt, you nerd (he sez, as if it's a bad thing). Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Samuel Smith's Organic Lager - Pretty standard Euro-lager affair here, though perhaps a higher quality version of such. Nice noble hoppiness and a surprising yeast character (nowhere near a Belgian strain, but it did add character to an otherwise normal beer). B
  • Eagle Rock Jubilee - One of my contributions for the night, or should I say, it's actually Jay's contribution, as this was part of our trade. I figured I shouldn't hog all of it to myself, though perhaps I should have, as this was reallly good. Smooth, creamy, spiced but not harshly so, this was a beauty. They call it a spiced old ale, but it feels a whole lot like a winter warmer and heck, let's just call it good beer. Beer Club crowd seemed mighty impressed as well. A-
  • Cisco Lady of the Woods - My other contribution, I liked it so much the first time, that I just had to share another with everyone else. I'm always surprised at how well received sour beers are by the Beer Club crowd, though perhaps I shouldn't be. I tend to call this beer club, but it originally began as beer and wine club, and this beer certainly has a nice Chardonnay character that turned some heads. Still an A by my reckoning...
  • Heavy Seas Black Cannon - One of them semi-local Maryland breweries, this wound up being a very solid black IPA. Beautiful nose, slight roasted malt character dominated by piney, resinous hops and maybe a bit of citrus. Alas, the taste didn't quite hold up, though again, still a very solid beer. B
  • Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve - Hoo boy, I hope you like clove, cause they must have packed this thing to the gills with cloves. Fortunately, I do like that, though the beer is pretty straightforward otherwise. B
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers - One of my long time favorites, just as good as ever. Fancy new label, too...
  • Heavy Seas Bourbon Barrel Aged Siren Noire - Holy chocolate milk, Batman! Seriously, like drinking slightly boozy yoohoo. Not getting much bourbon at all, though perhaps it's contributing to the almost creamy, vanilla character that goes so well with the chocolate flavors that dominate this beer. Really enjoyable and perhaps the most interesting beer of the night, if not exactly the best. B+
  • BrewDog Tokyo* - Another beer I've had before, this thing is a total monster. Clocking in at over 18% ABV, it's a pretty potent beer, though the solid malt backbone and addition of cranberries and jasmine help even that out a bit. Still a B+ in my book.
And with that, we had to cut things a bit short. A few sad beers were left unopened, but it was starting to snow and we didn't want to crack open that bottle of 14% Samichlaus (seriously, beer club compatriot Anthony brought Samichlaus and Tokyo*, which average out to somewhere around 16% ABV, pretty badass if you ask me. As a fan of older vintages of Samichlaus, I advised him to cellar this 2010 vintage until at least next Christmas and he seemed pretty excited about that prospect). So that just about covers it for this beer club. At the next beer club, my Fat Weekend IPA should be ready to go, so I'm pretty excited.

January Beer Club: Hoppy New Beer!

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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. We had an average turnout this month, with 5 folks drinking beer and one pregnant club member who actually brought some non-alcoholic beer for us to try:

January Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or a giant hunk of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale - I already reviewed this beer last month, but this bottle seemed a lot better than the one I had before. Not sure what the deal is there, but it was a better balanced brew than I remember, and certainly not a C. Maybe an upgrade to a B- is warranted.
  • Clausthaler Premium - The first of our non-alcoholic beers, this one was actually not the worst thing I've ever had. It's not particularly great either, but it's certainly comparable to a solid macro lager, maybe even better. If you're pregnant, this would certainly hit the spot (though apparently there's an amber version that is better). I give it a C
  • Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale - I've had this a few times before, but it's actually better than I remember. Very nice, lots of hop character in the nose and the taste (nice floral and pine notes), but not overwhelmingly bitter or anything. I don't get a ton of oak out of this, but it's definitely more complex than the standard Arrogant Bastard. A-
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale - Rogue's collaboration with the Voodoo Doughnut shop generated a lot of buzz when it was announced, but once it was released, it got denounced as a "foul abomination". Fortunately, it's not that bad, though it's certainly not a mainstream beer. It smells very strongly of maple syrup with a little smoke coming through. The bacon comes out a little in the taste, but I'm still getting more maple syrup than anything else. There's some smoke there too, but it's not an overpowering flavor. Mouthfeel is actually quite nice, though it's still not an easy drinkin beer. I'm not sure I'd want to drink an entire bottle, but I did seem to like it a lot more than most beer club peeps. Perhaps because I was drinking this along with the burger I had ordered? Whatever the case, it is a bit of a gimmick, but I kinda enjoyed it. B-
  • Kaliber - This is the other non-alcoholic beer we tried, and we had high hopes. It's brewed by Guinness, and when my pregnant friend asked around, this was one of the recommendations she got. But yeah, this is horrible beer. Bland and watery with some off flavors or something. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was a kinda nice palate cleanser after the strong character of the Voodoo Doughnut (but then, water would probably have done just as well or better). F
  • The Bruery Mischief - A classic. I reviewed this a while back, and it's just as good as it was the first time. Still an A and probably my favorite beer of the night.
  • Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock - Very sweet and malty beer, I rather enjoyed this, though it was far from my favorite beer of the night. Perhaps a bit too sticky sweet, though still quite solid. I actually have one of these in my fridge somewhere, so I'll have to give this some closer attention at some point. For now, I'll give it a B
  • Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper - During a beer run in early December, I actually bought one of these (along with a few others) and put it on my passenger's side seat for the trip back home. At some point, I had to brake suddenly and my beer went flying... and this one broke open. I knew what happened right away, but since I was driving I couldn't really address it until I got home. For the next week or so, my car smelled of imperial stout... which, actually, wasn't that bad. I eventually picked up another bottle, but never drank it, so I brought it to beer club. It's quite a solid imperial stout. Roasty aroma with a taste that features a lot of dark chocolate and roasted malts. It was quite good, though perhaps my taste buds were a bit shot at this point of the night, as this wasn't quite as great as I was expecting. I'll give it a B for now.
  • My Homebrewed Christmas Beer - I think this is perhaps my best crafted beer yet and other folks at beer club certainly seemed to enjoy it (it went pretty quickly, which is pretty gratifying). I keep saying this, but I should really do some reviews of my homebrewed beers at some point.
  • Dana's Homebrewed Tripel - This did not come out as Dana had planned - there was a bit of a sour flavor present in the beer - but it actually turned out ok. Very citrusy nose and the taste, while not a typical tripel, was actually pretty good.
And that covers all the beer that we drank. As always, a great time was had by all, and we're already looking forward to February.

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale

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Like Anchor's Christmas Ale, these are apparently vintage dated and feature new artwork on the label each year. Unlike Anchor, the recipe appears to be the same each year. While I haven't sampled a lot of Samuel Smith's catalog, what I've had so far has been uniformly solid stuff. No face melters, but really well executed examples of classic styles like oatmeal stouts and brown ales. As such, I was quite looking forward to this beer. Alas, my hopes were dashed.

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale - Pours a clear amber color, lighter than I'd expect, but with a nice couple fingers of head. The smell reminds me more of an English Pale Ale - light malts and grassy hops. The taste is also like an English Pale Ale. Light malts in the beginning with some buttery notes (typically not a good thing, but they're light here) and earthy hops coming out in the finish. Not a bitter bomb, but it's there. There's a slight spiciness to it, but it wouldn't surprise me if they got all that character out of yeast and hops. Mouthfeel is definitely a bit too light. It works well enough to start, but as I got towards the end, the carbonation was too low. It wasn't a bad beer, but it's not particularly in my wheelhouse either and it's not something I see myself revisiting anytime soon. C

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a, uh, glass. I mean, you can see the picture, right? I don't know what to call that glass. But I drank it on 12/2/11.

A disappointing effort from Samuel Smith, but I'm still a fan of their stuff and will most certainly be trying something else from them in the near future. Well, if I keep buying beer the way I have been lately, it probably won't be the near future. Seriously, I've got a lot of stuff in my cellar these days. Good stuff. Stuff I should really drink soon. Not to mention 4 cases of homebrew. But I digress. Beer club tomorrow! See you then.

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale

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"Nut." Tee hee.

In all seriousness, does anyone else really hate the foil wrapping stuff that comes on these beers? Sure, it looks nice and I've apparently been conditioned to buy fancily packaged beer (fucking Pavlov), but most fancy packaging is pretty easily dealt with. Not the fancy foil wrapping that's on Sam Smith's beers, though. Seriously, the entire surface area of that foil is seemingly superglued to the bottle, which means you have to pick and snip at it with various kitchen utensils, which just causes the brittle foil to flake into this annoying glitter-like substance that gets everywhere. And even once you cut around the cap enough that you can use a bottle opener, you have to worry about how you pour the beer and will it touch the glue and will those glittery flakes become airborne and land in my beer and give me cancer and stuff? No? Just me? Oh. Well then. Carry on.

Samuel Smith Nut Brown ale

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale - The bottle was a bit of a gusher (tee hee) when I opened it, but not excessively so, and it settled down quickly enough. Pours a very pretty, clear dark brown color with a finger of tan head. It looks very dark, but when held up to the light, I can see right through it. Smells on the roasty side of things. The taste also features that roast, along with some more complex notes. Either I'm a sucker for the power of suggestion or this is a nut brown beer that actually features nutty aromas and flavors. Indeed, it's probably the most prominent characteristic of the taste. The mouthfeel is quite nice as well. Medium bodied and eminently quaffable. Brown ales are not among my favorite styles, but this may be the best I've ever had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a gigantic mug on 8/28/11.

You know, I've only had two of Samuel Smith's beers, but they've both been pretty damn good. Not face melting experimental beers, just really solid takes on classic styles. But then, you know, fancy foil wrapping...

Double Feature: Stouts

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This weekend's double feature was a pair of Australian crime flicks: Animal Kingdom and Red Hill. Both are good and well worth a watch, though for different reasons. Animal Kingdom is a better made film, perhaps more realistic, though also a bit too deliberate in its pacing. Excellent performance by Jacki Weaver as the Matriarch of a family of bank robbers (who happen to be in a feud with overzealous coppers). Also notable for featuring a teenager that actually acts like a teenager (i.e. he's generally an idiot) and not a precocious mastermind who outsmarts everyone. Again, good movie, maybe moving a bit too slow. Also covers some unpleasant subject matter. Red Hill, by comparison, moves quicker and features quite the badass villain (would have certainly given the other nominees a run for their money in my movie awards). The only recognizable star in the movie is Ryan Kwanten, who you might recognize from True Blood. He's not as moronic in this role as a cop who moves out to a small town, only to find it under siege from an escaped prisoner. Things proceed in a somewhat cliched manner, but again, well worth a watch.

On the beer side of things, I threw back a few stouts, starting with one I've been meaning to drink for a while:

Samuel Smith Oatmal Stout

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout - Pours an opaque black color with a medium beige head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. It doesn't appear to be as thick as some of the other stouts I've been having recently. Smells bready and roasty. That roastiness comes out in the taste as well. It's got a smooth, medium body with just the right amount of carbonation. It's perhaps not as complex as some of the other stuff I've been having lately, but it's very well balanced and something you could drink all night. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (550 ml). Drank out of a pint glass.

From there, I kicked things up a notch with one of Weyerbacher's "big" beers:

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout - It's perhaps a bit unfair to compare a standard style with an imperial style beer, but this is what I had in my fridge. It also pours an opaque black color with a bit of a darker head than the Sam Smith. Lacing too, but not as much. The nose is full of roastiness, as is the taste. There's more of a chocolateyness to the taste, both in terms of sweetness and bitterness. As expected, it's a bit more intense than the Sam Smith, and it's got a fuller body and heavier feel (even the appearance of the pour makes this beer look thicker). More intense and more complex, but perhaps not quite as well balanced. A well crafted beer nonetheless and well worth a try, even for stout amateurs like me. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of the stout style. I've never really been a big fan, but I'm starting to see why everyone seems to like them so much, even if it's still not my favorite style. I've got several more sitting on my shelf or in my fridge, so expect some more reviews soon.

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

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