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The Bruery Mash

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I've made no secret of the fact that I don't drink coffee and thus am not a huge fan of it in beer. Indeed, longtime readers (all three of you) are probably rolling their eyes right now, as I probably mention my apathy towards coffee too often. While I do feel like I've come around a bit on coffee beers and have had several that I really enjoyed, I usually still find myself wondering what it would be like without the coffee. Fortunately, that option is actually available most of the time, and in this case, the Bruery came up with an interesting experiment.

I imagine the process of infusing coffee flavors into beer to be a complicated one with many variables that are difficult to control. What coffee are you using, how does it match with the base beer, when in the process are you adding the coffee, are you using the beans, the grinds, or actual brewed coffee (or some combination thereof)? Each one of those questions has a lot riding on it, so when the Bruery went to make a coffee-infused barleywine, they did some pilot batches and played around with a bunch of factors, but ultimately decided to release two beers: one unsoiled without any coffee at all (called Mash), and one with a very, very powerful coffee component (called Mash & Grind), the idea being that Reserve Society members will get bottles of each beer, open them at the same time, and blend them together to find their ideal level of coffee.

I'm pretty sure that my ideal blend wouldn't be a blend at all, just Mash - the bourbon barrel aged 12.5% ABV English style barlewine, all by its lonesome. So I was pretty happy to see this in a LIF haul a while back (and that I got this one and not the "Grind" version) and have been hankering for a taste every since. The Hulk would totally smash this, but I'll just mash with it:

The Bruery Mash

The Bruery Mash - Pours a murky brown color (dirty penny) with half a finger of white head that sticks around a bit at the start. Smell is nearly the platonic ideal of a bourbon barrel barleywine. Rich caramel and toffee, fruity malt, figs, coconut, a little booze, and a well balanced bourbon, oak, and vanilla kicker. And amazingly, the taste lives up to the nose (though maybe Platonic ideal was a bit overkill, eh?). Lots of rich malt character, molasses, caramel, and fruit coming through strong, coconut, raisins, and figs in the middle with the bourbon, oak, and vanilla pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but smooth, very rich, a little boozy bite towards the finish. Extremely well balanced. Overall, this is superb and absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/28/14. Bottled 05/24/13.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm really glad there was no coffee in this. I'm sure that if there was, I still would have enjoyed it, but it would been a "It's good... for a coffee beer" kinda situation. In any case, it wasn't, and I loved it, so there is that. Anyone want to be my Bruery Reserve Society proxy? It's a long shot, but I'm sure I could make it worth your while.

The Bruery 6 Geese-A-Laying

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So I either drank this about 2 months later than I was supposed to, or about 6 years before I was supposed to, depending on how patient you are. Yes, this is the latest installment in The Bruery's 12 year long mission to create a beer for each verse of the 12 Days of Christmas. For the perseverant among us, the idea is to cellar each installment until 2019, when 12 Drummers Drumming is released and you can have an epic vertical tasting of a dozen 11%+ ABV beers and then die happy. For the rest of us, it's a fun annual exercise.

Last year's release, 5 Golden Rings, was a bit of a misfire. I didn't hate it, but I don't think it came together the way The Bruery had hoped and it currently holds the lowest grade I've ever given to a Bruery beer (others were less generous). That was disappointing, as I really loved 3 French Hens and 4 Calling Birds wasn't half bad either. So, will 6 Geese-A-Laying represent a return to form? Only one way to find out, even if I am drinking it 2 months late (or 6 years early, though screw all that - I'm drinking it now, you gotta problem with that?):

The Bruery 6 Geese-A-Laying

The Bruery 6 Geese-A-Laying - Pours a deep, dark amber color (chestnut?) witha finger of off white head. Smells of Belgian yeast, light spice and high esters, dark (but not roasty) malts offset by fruity aromas (clearly the gooseberries). As it warms, the nose takes on a very nice pie aroma, cherries and plums, or something like that (probably gooseberry pie, but I've never had that). Taste is very sweet, malt-forward, crystal malts up front with Belgian yeast spice coming in the middle and those berries making themselves known towards the finish. As it warms, some booze comes out to play, and that pielike character hits the taste too. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, a little sticky but with enough carbonation to make it approachable. Not a lot of booze until it warms up a bit, but it's fine. Feels pretty heavy, low attenuation stuff, though it works and it should give the beer legs for aging. Overall, this is very good stuff. I can't say as though it's mindblowing or anything, but it works. I'll give it a B which is technically the same grade I gave 5 Golden Rings, but due to escalating grade inflation in the past year, I'm going to downgrade that one to a B-, as this was clearly superior, even if it's not blowing my mind.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a wine glass on 2/7/14.

I'll be curious to see how age treats this one, so I'd like to track down another bottle (incidentally, I haven't seen this in PA for some reason, which is odd). When I picked this one up, there were still bottles of 5 Golden Rings laying around, which further underscores its disappointing performance. Anywho, I pine for the return of barrels to this series, which were great in 3 French Hens and apparently spectacular in 2 Turtle Doves. According to Ed, The Bruery doesn't know what 7 Swans-A-Swimming will be "as we haven't brewed a pilot batch yet", which leaves little time for Barrel experimentation. I'm crossing my fingers anyway. In the meantime, I've got a couple other Bruery beers burning a hole in my cellar, so keep an eye out for more reviews in the next few weeks.

The Bruery Rueuze

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What beer to drink on New Years Eve? I've typically fallen on a big, effervescent saison for this task, but the true answer to this conundrum is the Champagne of Beer: Miller High Life. Unfortunately, I was fresh out, so I had to settle for an American imitation of a Gueuze (which is the actual Champagne of Beer, for the record). I've mentioned a few times recently that brewing is not an activity for the impatient, and these Bruery folks certainly seem to have a lot of foresight and patience in developing their Barrel Aging program.

They've got a 5 year old Solera series going with their Anniversary beers (like Coton or Bois), and this Rueuze beer calls to mind the great Belgian lambic aging traditions. This is a blend of three different vintages of oak aged sour blond ale. The traditional Gueuze is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics, and The Bruery is conspicuously silent on the age of their three vintages, so I'm guessing it's not an exact parallel, but I'm not going to complain because this is pretty good, if a bit pricey:

The Bruery Rueuze

The Bruery Rueuze - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of fizzy white head that quickly subsides to a cap that hangs out for a while. Smells funky, some musky, earthy aromas, but also a very nice fruity, vinous note, and that barrel character is definitely making itself known. Taste starts off with a bang of sourness, a little sweetness, tart vinous fruit, musky notes in the middle, and towards the end, a very nice oak character pitches in along with an intense sourness to pucker that finish, but in a balanced way. Good pucker factor. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, effervescent really, a little pleasant acidity from that sourness, not super dry, but in that direction. Overall, this is a rock solid beer, complex, balanced stuff that doesn't quite hit the heights of the best lambics, but comes pretty close. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/13. 2013 Vintage.

Solid stuff. I'm a bit behind on my Bruery beers, so you'll probably see a few new ones pop up in the coming month or two, including one that appears to use the same oak aged sour blonde ale base (though this other one is fruited). The other is Mash, a bourbon barrel aged barleywine (truly a beer after my heart).

The Bruery Bois

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The Bruery's Anniversary beers have become an annual tradition around here at Kaedrin (see Coton, the second anniversary beer, for more on why this is so). Each beer is based off an old ale recipe that is blended with previous batches using the Solera method. Initial offerings were blends of barrel aged and young beer, but the last couple have been 100% barrel aged.

The names of the beers follow along with the French translation of traditional wedding anniversary gifts. Bois is French for "Wood" and I believe it's pronounced *Inception Horns*. Hard to believe it's only been 5 years since The Bruery popped up and started melting faces.

So I buy one of these every year, but clocking in at 15% ABV and packaged only in 750 ml bottles, it's a big beer and not exactly an everyday thing. Let's make this a week of stupid memes and continue my lame Inception joke at the same time:

Leo Likes Titanic Beer

We need to go deeper. It's funny, but the dream within a dream structure sorta matches the beer within a beer Solera method thing going on with these Anniversary beers. Or I'm full of shit (or a piece of shit, full of shit?) Alrighty then, let's get incepted by some monster beer:

The Bruery Bois

The Bruery Bois - Pours a viscous, deep, murky brown color with just a cap of light tan head. Smells strongly of Bourbon, vanilla, and oak, lots of booze, with some sugary fruit notes creeping around too. Taste is full of rich caramel, sticky toffee, and dark fruits (raisins, plums, and so forth), with a big wallop of boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Very complex, evolving as it warms. Mouthfeel is thick and syrupy, very rich, with enough carbonation to cut the sweetness, but still very smooth. A heaping helping of booze burn and a nice warming as you drink too (even if you drink slowly). It would be difficult to call this balanced, but it's my kinda unbalanced (others will certainly find it too rich), and the barrel aging is very well done. Overall, it's spectacular and I love it. A

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of a Only Void snifter on 6/29/13. Bottled 4/10/13.

This was the standard Bourbon barrel offering, but to mark their 5th year, The Bruery did some next level aging in other kinds of barrels like Brandy, Rye, and new American and French Oak. Alas, those variants aren't getting distributed beyond the brewery and some are only available to their society members. We'll just have to make due with Bourbon, I guess.

The Bruery Black Tuesday

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The notion of a white wale in the beer dorkosphere is a sorta moving target. When you're a newb or even an intermediate beer nerd, stuff like KBS or just about anything remotely desirable that's outisde your normal distribution chain can feel like a whale. Then you discover the swanky world of beer trading and realize that true .rar wales are a whole other level. Fortunately, I'm fine with regular ol' shelf-wales or stuff like Black Tuesday, a limited (if you consider 3-5 thousand bottles limited - shit sold out in 10 minutes, though, so there is that), brewery-only release that is nevertheless available to those of us fortunate enough to find a mule willing to pick your beer up for you. Big ups to DDB for muling my bottles (and, apparently, lots of others).

So, what's the big deal here? Well, this is a 19.2% ABV imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels for over a year, and the opinions of a bunch of strangers on the internet seems to indicate that it's really fucking awesome. Indeed, this might very well be the strongest beer I've ever actually tried, and for crying out loud, it only comes in 750 ml bottles. It's either something you need to share with a bunch of people, or something you greedily keep to yourself so that you achieve your goal of contracting diabetes. I opted for the latter option, clearing out my Saturday to slowly take this sucker down. I started drinking this bottle at 5, ended at 10. Now, "strong" does not always translate to "awesome", but in this case, spiking the blood sugar levels was totally worth it, and it was a worthy finale to my Bruery fueled, wallet lightening winter:

The Bruery Black Tuesday

The Bruery Black Tuesday (2012) - Pours a deep, dark brown color, almost but not quite a black hole from which no light can escape, with a thin cap of light brown head. Smells incredible, tons of bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, booze, and a very light touch on roast. Taste follows suit. Rich, chewy caramel, bourbon, oak, vanilla, chocolate, maybe even some coconut, a heaping helping of booze, finishing with that hint of roast. Amazingly complex, picking up new subtleties with each sip. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, thick, and chewy, with some definite alcohol heat on the backend, but nothing unpleasant at all. Even after a small sip, my mouth is coated, leaving the aftertaste to linger for a while. A sipping beer, for sure, but in the best possible way. I wish it was colder and that I could sit in front of a fireplace or some shit. It's approachable, but astoundingly complex. It's hard to call something this intense well balanced, but there's no really dominant aspect either, and like I said, I keep discovering new bits with each sip. Overall, this beer is fill with a richness and complexity that few others can approach. Amazing, face-melting stuff. A

Beer Nerd Details: 19.2% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of a tulip on 3/9/13. Label sez: "Contains Alcohol" which I think is right.

Potential A+ stuff here, though I have a semi-rule that I won't hand one of those out unless I try something on at least two separate occasions. Fortunately, I have another bottle of this stuff in the cellar, so this is an actual possibility. Plus, I will most likely try for this again next year, perhaps even trying my hand at the next level variants like Chocolate Rain or Grey Monday. Or not. Maybe by that point I'll be swimming in Blaeber and the actual walez like 2009 Black Tuesday. Time will tell (but, uh, I wouldn't count on that).

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

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The 5th installment of The Bruery's 12 year long project matching beers with each verse of the 12 Days of Christmas. For the patient among us, the idea is to cellar each installment until 2019, when 12 Drummers Drumming is released and you can have an epic vertical tasting. Of course, the beers are ready for drinking at the time of their release too, and I was a big fan of both 3 French Hens and 4 Calling Birds (alas, I never got my hands on the first two installments), so I was really excited for this latest installment, 5 Golden Rings. It's the first light colored beer in the series, though I suppose it makes a bit of sense given the name of this verse. On the other hand, the verse doesn't quite mean what you might think. Courtesy of The Dogs of Beer:

Modern artwork associated with the song typically depicts five bands of gold, like rings you'd wear on your finger. And 5GR is no exception, it's not obvious at first, but the swirl of the label is made up of repetitive groups of interlocked five rings. But as I somewhat alluded to last year, the song is about preparing for a Christmas festival, with the first seven verses describing birds (game or otherwise) that were being brought to the festival as food. In this case the five golden rings referring to five male, ring neck pheasants.
Huh. Never knew that. Well, let's crack this thing open and see how it fares:

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

The Bruery 5 Golden Rings - Pours a sorta turgid, cloudy golden orange color, sorta brownish, with a finger of bubbly white head (surprised I got that much out of it). Smells full of clove, with other spices making an appearance as well as a bready, cakelike aroma that's quite pleasant. I get the impression that this is actually spiced, not just relying on Belgian yeast character to provide such aromas. Taste is very sweet, with that spiciness from the nose taking a back seat to sugary sweet malts and booze. It finishes on a surprisingly juicy, boozy note (upon closer inspection of the bottle, I'm guessing this is due to the pineapple juice used in brewing and yes, as I drink more, that pineapple is pronounced throughout the taste). As it warms, I get some more of that peppery, bready yeast, which actually helps temper the sweetness. Mouthfeel is heavy, a little sticky, could potentially get cloying, with low to moderate carbonation. Some light booze astringency and maybe some warming alcohol in the belly, but this isn't a gulping beer and as such, that warming factor doesn't play too much of a role. Overall, I don't feel like this came together as well as The Bruery hoped. It's not undrinkable or anything, it's a solid brew, but perhaps a bit too sweet and strong. I'm really curious to see how it ages. From what I'm having here, it could go either way... If the age dries it out (which sometimes happens with older strong Belgian pales, like Tripels) and the booze mellows a bit, that could perhaps work wonders with this beer. Or not. But in the here and now, it's not really lighting the world on fire. B

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a goblet on 12/14/12.

So my Bruery-fueled, liver-destroying, wallet-lightening, amazing-beer-filled winter continues. If I can clear some time off my schedule to knock back one of their true monster beers, I'll have a review of that coming soon. And I'm sure I'll hit up that bottle of Cuir that's been in my cellar for a while too. Might as well just make this a full year of Bruery, instead of just a winter.

The Bruery Oude Tart

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The Bruery's Coton recently became just the fourth beer to earn the coveted Kaedrin A+ rating. Next up in my Bruery-fueled, liver-destroying, wallet-lightening, amazing-beer-filled winter is Oude Tart, a Flemish Red Ale aged in oak barrels. This is a descendant of Bruery brewer Tyler King's first homebrewed sour beer (which he attempted at the ripe age of 17 or 18), though obviously that recipe has been tweaked and honed through the years (I'm guessing they didn't age their original batch in giant oak barrels for a year), to the point where this was also the Bruery's first major award-winning beer.

So I'm continuing my orbit around sour beers, though at this point, I should probably just land this crazy spaceship and partake in all the sour beer I can find. But enough babbling, let's drink this stuff:

The Bruery Oude Tart

The Bruery Oude Tart - Pours a dark brown color with half a finger of bubbly off-white head that quickly subsides to a ring that shows pretty good retention. Smells of slightly twangy funk, some earthiness, a nice oak character, and plenty of fruity aromas, maybe cherry. Taste starts with a slap of sourness, with sweet, bright sour cherry notes quickly emerging along with some subtle oak notes, a little earthiness, with that sourness reasserting itself in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, lightly carbonated and smooth, a little acidic. A little mouth coating goodness here, but nothing overwhelming. Overall, a top tier sour beer! A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/10/12. Label sez: 060712 LOT39 (presumably bottling date)

This winter is shaping up to be pretty awesome. I've got a couple more Bruery beers lined up, including one absolute monster that just arrived in the mail, not to mention a couple of upcoming bottle releases by local breweries and, uh, some other trades (no jinxing, but some other whales will be had in the next few months).

The Bruery Coton

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As a lowly beer neophyte reading raves about California's The Bruery on all the cool blogs, I made a pact with myself to hunt down some of their beer. This was the first thing I found, and I purchased it blind, price tag be damned. I had no idea what I was in for, but the label was pretty and it even had a fancy strip of tape covering the cap. The guy who sold it to me said "It's really good. Boozy, but good." Well, I drank it and my face melted. My original notes on this said it was very good but "maybe a bit too powerful". It was a real eye opener though. I'd never had anything like that beer before and it really pushed the boundaries of what I thought beer could be. It was a memorable experience and I can still recall the night vividly, right down the movies I was watching as I partook. I even saved up some shekels and bought another, with the thought that some of that booze would mellow out over time. And thus it's been burning a hole in my fridge for about 2 years now.

The Bruery Coton Label and Taped Cap

Coton was The Bruery's second anniversary ale, part of a series of beers named after traditional wedding anniversary gifts. The first anniversary beer was called Papier (French for "paper") and it was brewed in the style of an English Old Ale, but using The Bruery's house Belgian yeast strain. Coton uses the same recipe as Papier, but they blended a portion of Bourbon Barrel Aged Papier into the "young" beer to add complexity. The fancy shmancy term for this process is the Solera method. Each year, young beer is blended with previous batches, adding complexity and creating an older average age to the beer. The process is typically used in the production of wine and appears to be exceedingly rare in the world of beer. Aging beer is an expensive proposition for most breweries and a Solera project requires a great deal of foresight, ambition, and planning. Fortunately, The Bruery is clearly up to the task.

I've been purchasing these Anniversary beers every year, but truth be told, knocking back a 750 of 14.5% ABV beer takes something of a commitment. But it's been nearly two and a half years, I figured it was time to clear a few hours of the ol' schedule and bite the bullet on this thing. I've had beers that were rare or hard to get before, but this one weighed on me more than I expected, perhaps because it loomed so large in my mind. I know the general beer nerd consensus on this beer is mixed, but I have a personal connection with this beer that most don't share. It was a beer of firsts for me (first Bruery, among my first Barrel Aged brews, first time I broke the $20 barrier, and probably the highest ABV beer I'd had at the time, though I've long since surpassed that), and while I loved it the first time I had it, I'm always a little anxious about revisiting beers from that period.

Am I putting it on a pedestal? Will this hold up to my expectations? Well, I'm happy to report that it actually managed to exceed expectations... to the point where I'm even going to award it the vaunted Kaedrin A+ (only beer so far this year to earn that distinction).

The Bruery Coton

The Bruery Coton - Pours a deep dark amber (mahogany!) color with a sliver of light tan head. Smells strongly of brown sugar/molasses, dark fruits, and boozy bourbon with just a hint of oak and vanilla. Taste is very sweet, lots of that crystal malt character, rich caramel flavors, brown sugar/molasses, raisins and other dark fruits, even some spiced character, like cinnamon, and of course, that vanilla, oak, and bourbon killer combo. Big, complex flavors. Mouthfeel is full bodied, a little syrupy, but surprisingly drinkable. I don't want to call it thin, but it's not as thick and chewy as you'd expect for such a monster, and this is a very good thing in this beer, which has the potential to overwhelm, but never really does so. The carbonation is ample, which keeps this from feeling too syrupy and may help contribute to that drinkability too, keeping things smooth and almost creamy. It seems ridiculous to call a 14.5% ABV beer balanced, but it kinda is... The booze seems to have mellowed out with time as well, though I still get that warming alcohol feeling in my belly as I drink. This thing is drinking like a massive bourbon barrel, Belgian style barleywine, or something like that. It's exceptional, and it is kicking my ass tonight. A unique, complex, just all around superb beer, and it seems to have mellowed a little with time, which I think may have been for the better. I don't hand these out often, but this earns the coveted Kaedrin A+

Beer Nerd Details: 14.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and taped). Drank out of a goblet on 10/27/12. Bottled May 2010. Bottle Number 02592. 75% Ale, 25% Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels.

So there you have it. I've got bottles of Cuir and Fruet (3rd and 4th anniversaries, respectively) in the cellar, and some other Bruery whales are incoming, so stay frosty folks. This is looking like a Bruery-filled, liver-destroying, wallet-lightening winter.

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

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