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February Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a gathering of beer minded individuals from my work who get together about once a month at a local BYOB for good company and libations. As per usual, a good turnout, with a good representation from the core team, but also some very welcome new faces. About half of us are, at this point, avid homebrewers, so discussion veered into a rather nerdy realm from time to time, but that's all good, and there was also a nice contingent of non-beer drinking peeps who were bemused by our nerdery, but steered the discussion other ways as well. Good times had by all.

February Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, initial thoughts on each beer are captured below. As you might guess, conditions here are not ideal, nor did I always drink a full portion, so take this with a gigantic grain of salt if you dare. Or not. I am pretty awesome, so I'm sure these inchoate notes are all you'll really need. In order of drinking (not necessarily in order pictured):

  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale - A pretty basic Blonde Ale, comparable to most macro slop, but a step above such extremes. B-
  • Kaedrôme Saison - This is drinking well, though it still has not carbonated as well as I'd have liked. I don't know if this is because the yeast is just so old and overstressed or if it's because it's been so cold lately and my cellar is just so cold that it's taking the beer a while to condition. Whatever the case, the flavors are at the right place, and there is enough carbonation to make it drinkable, it's just that I wish there were more. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen - Holy curry, Batman! At first, the curry seemed to overpower everything else, but as I drank and as it warmed (we had some of this later in the evening as well), the coconut and hefeweizen notes came out a bit more. Its a very interesting, weird beer, but I don't think it's quite the right combination of flavors for beer. C+
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids - I think you all know how much I love me some saisons, even weird, incoherent takes on the style, but this one seemed to be filled with a sorta burnt rubber band aid flavor that overpowered everything else. Perhaps not totally undrinkable, but I'm really, really happy I only tried a smallish sample of the stuff. D
  • Green Jack Rippa - I've seen this around and been curious about an "English Triple" beer, and it was an interesting beer, though it came off as being incredibly boozy, which is a bit odd for an 8.5% beer. To be sure, that's not a whimpy ABV, but it's also not something I'd expect to be quite so powerfully boozy. It had a nice malt backbone too, but not enough to stand up to the booze. C+
  • Ken's Homebrewed ESB - A light take on the style, though perhaps it just seemed that way because we had this after the boozy bomb previously mentioned. Still, very easy drinking stuff, malt forward but quaffable. B
  • Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale - Now, this beer club group occasionally visits an authentic (at least, to us Yanks, it seems so) British pub called The Whip Tavern. They have this rather spectacular dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding, so hopes were somewhat high for this beer. To be sure, I was tempering my expectations by the fact that a lot of English ales, even stuff like this that is flavored with adjuncts, come off with hints of diacetyl, but in this case, my fears were unfounded. It's nowhere near as good as the actual dessert, but it had a really nice toffee/caramel character that worked really well for the beer. B
  • Chimay Tripel (White) - A beer I've obviously had many times before, and it's just as good as ever, though I seem to have veered away from a lot of the Belgian styles that initially hooked me on good beer. Still, this is a nice one. I'd probably downgrade to a B+, but it's still very nice.
  • Starr Hill Psycho Kilter - A nice take on the Scotch Ale style, certainly not a top tier effort, but a nice, malt forward, relatively low carbed beer that doesn't quite bely its relatively high 9.3% strength. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked Version) - This is the version of my RIS homebrew that was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes. In this version, the charred oak really comes through strong. Not a ton of bourbon, though it is there. The charred oak is pretty strong at this point, which makes me think that perhaps I should have soaked the oak cubes in bourbon for longer than the 1-2 weeks I employed. Still, this turned out well, though the blended version seems to be the best version. B+
  • Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - A beer I've had and reviewed before. It is still pretty fantastic stuff. A-
  • Deschutes Jubelale - Another beer I've had a few times this year, and it's a nice winter warmer style beer, malt forward with lots of spice, quite enjoyable (and surprisingly did not suffer from a no doubt beleaguered palate at this point in the night). B
And that just about covers it. Already looking forward to the March beer club, where I'll be able to share some Fat Weekend IPA...

November Beer Club

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded friends from work who get together every month at a local BYOB for libations and fun. This month, we hit up a local BBQ joint, which is always nice. Got me some smoked Chorizo, Brisket, and some fixins which made for a great accompaniment to all the beer. And there was a lot of it this time around. The picture is actually missing a bunch of bottles because we did not account for people showing up later with their own stuff.

beerclub-november13.jpg
(Click for larger version)

So yeah, lots of stuff this month, so these notes are almost certainly useless, but for the sake of posterity, I'm including them anyway. Because I'm a good person, that's why. Yeah, let's get to it: in approximate order of drinking (not necessarily pictured):

  • Southern Tier Krampus - An "Imperial Helles" is sorta like a contradiction in terms, but hey, it's an amped up Helles, and it works well enough. Nice uncommon hop character gives an otherwise clean beer the punch it needs. Really quite nice. B+
  • Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold - Bottle wasn't quite a gusher, and we managed to not lose any, but it was hugely carbonated and most of us poured a cup of foam that resolved into more normal beerlike appearance in a minute or two. Once we got to it, it was pretty damn good. Nice Belgian yeast character, wheat is there but not as dominant as you might think (slightly reminiscent of something like St. Bernardus Tokyo). This was one of the first beers we tasted, and I liked it a lot, but we revisited it towards the end of the night and damn, it got almost (not quite) sour. Big fruity esters started showing up when it was warm. Again, not quite sour, but it was going in that direction. All in all, I enjoyed this more than the Ithaca Excelsior Rye beer I had recently... B+
  • Victory Root Beer - Yep, it's a root beer! I'm no expert (hay, there's no alcohol in this!?), but it's really good as root beers go.
  • Sprecher Bootlegger's Bourbon Barrel Hard Root Beer - Not sure I would have pegged this as having anything to do with a bourbon barrel, let alone an alcoholic beverage at all, but perhaps the power of suggestion lead me to believe that there was some bourbon present in the taste. Or something. Ultimately, it drinks like a good root beer, which is nice...
  • Avery White Rascal - A beer I've had before and greatly enjoyed, it doesn't quite fit in with a tasting like this - it is easily overwhelmed by the other brews of the night. Still, I like this as a lawnmower beer on a hot day (alas, it's pretty cold here these days). B
  • River Horse Double Wit - I don't know if it's the 7% ABV or the way this was spiced, but it didn't really connect with me. It's not bad at all, and other folks appreciated the different take on spice and booze level, but it never quite hit me where I wanted it to. B-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Schwarzbier - We need to get on Ken to start entering his beers into untappd or something, because these are getting good. Not my favorite style, but it's a nice dark lager style beer, clean and crisp, lighter than it looks, and quite flavorful. Toasty but not quite full on roast. Me likey. B+
  • Kaedrin Xmas Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel, with a slight dose of cinnamon when I was bottling, is actually drinking really well right now. The regular dubbel has really matured and changed a lot over time, getting more and more raisiny, but this one was more subdued (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'll leave it at B+
  • Lost Abbey Deliverance - One of my other contributions, and a beer I've reviewed before! It's still great. A-
  • Atwater Vanilla Java Porter - While opening this directly after Deliverance was a supremely bad idea, I still get the impression that this would underwhelm. It does have a nice vanilla character, but it's a little thinner than I generally want out of a stout and while I'm not a big fan of coffee, it's nonexistent here. Certainly a drinkable beer and would be welcome change of pace at a macro bar, but it's not something to really seek out. C+
  • Spring House Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout - Can I just point you to a review from a couple weeks ago? No? Well too bad, cause that's what I'm doing. Still a B+ in my book.
  • Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale - The younger, weaker, smaller sibling to Really Old Brown Dog is a rather straightforward brown ale, which naturally has its merits (nice toasted malt and some heft to it) but again, should've probably opened this earlier in the night. Still glad I tried this, just to give context to Really old Brown Dog if not for its regular solid nature. B
  • Saucony Creek Chocolate Cherry Schnickelfritz - An object lesson in things sounding better than they taste, this seems to be a relatively well made imperial milk stout, but it's got this artificial feeling cherry aspect that sorta ruined the beer for me. Not an abomination, but not particularly good either. I guess all the beers I bring can't be winners! C
  • Ommegang Game Of Thrones #2 - Take the Black Stout - These Game of Thrones beers are actually pretty solid introductions to the whole Belgian beer world, and they work well enough for beer dorks too (a neat trick, appealing to the jaded hardcore and mainstream alike). I actually would call this more of a roasty Belgian Strong Dark rather than a full on stout, but to each their own. It's got a nice Belgian yeast character, spice and light fruit, with a hint of that roasted malt too, but the carbonation (and presumably attenuation) cuts through more than your typical stout. Still, it's very good, if not my favorite Ommegang beer. B+
  • River Horse Special Ale - No idea why this was opened so late in the night, but it's such a profoundly average beer that I doubt it would have made that much of an impression earlier in the night. There's absolutely nothing wrong wit it, and it's certainly a step up from fizzy yellow stuff light lagers, but its not really something to get excited about. C+
  • Victory Harvest Ale - I totally fell in love with Victory's Harvest Ale last year (and while I'm not a big Pils guy, the Harvest Pils was pretty good too), but this year's take fell completely flat to me. Not bad, per say, but something about this is rubbing me the wrong way. Perhaps it was a different hop variety, perhaps they used their Kolsch yeast instead of their normally clean IPA yeast, but whatever the case, it didn't inspire like last years. Again, it's pretty good, but it's disappointing. And I had this a couple weeks ago straight from the source too, so it's not just palate fatigue talking here! B
Yikes, that was a lot of beers. Luckily there were a lot of people in attendance, so my tastes were limited on most of these (yet another reason to take my notes with a grain of salt), but this was a really fun installment. Here's to hoping the December one will be just as great!

Lost Abbey Saint's Devotion

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The Lost Abbey: Inspired Beer for Sinners and Saints Alike... and also for: the Antichrist! Tomme Arthur's middle name? Damien! Does he have the number of the beast birthmark? Of course he does! Number of days since the last freak accident at the brewery? Two. Somehow a lose pane of glass was launched horizontally through the brewery, hitting a mild mannered bottling line worker right in the neck, popping his head off like a cork (well, a cork in a well carbonated beer, so, like, not a Lost Abbey cork). The disembodied head tumbled through the air, carromed off a couple of bottles of Cable Car and landed directly in the trash can. The tragedy was mostly averted, though, because the bottles of Cable Car were unharmed.

Well, Antichrist or not, Tomme "Damien" Arthur sure seems to know what he's doing on the beer front. This beer is a variant of one of their old standbys, a dry-hopped but relatively straightforward Belgian Pale Ale called Devotion. It's solid but not exactly lighting the world on fire. So they dosed it with Brettanomyces, which jacked the ABV up to (wait for it) 6.66%. Does the beginning of this post make sense now? No? Well fine then, here, look at the pretty picture:

The Lost Abbey Saints Devotion

The Lost Abbey Saint's Devotion - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a ton of fluffy head. Smells utterly fantastic, spicy Belgian yeast and a beautiful fruity Brett character not unlike Logsdon Seizoen Bretta or Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire iO (which is high praise). The taste starts with a sweet and spicy Belgian pale note, with that fruity, earthy Brett popping in towards the finish. Nice balance of flavor here, with no element getting too uppity. All cracks about poor carbonation aside, the mouthfeel for this one is highly carbonated, effervescent, and very dry. Crisp and refreshing, this could pull food pairing duty or perhaps a nice daydrinking deal, or just by itself. Overall, this is a fantastic brew! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 6/1/13. Vintage 2013 A (I think, date on the bottle kinda got smudged)

I will say, this was a bit pricey. I generally expect that from Lost Abbey, but I've heard it can be found for sub-$10 in some places, which would be a bargain. Not sure if it was just a bottle shop markup or what... Legit beer though, especially if you like those Bretty saisons/pales.

April Beer Club

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In the Beer Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The drinkers who investigate crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. They meet once a month at a local BYOB to sample beers. These are their stories:

beerclub-april13.jpg

The following notes, compiled by our resident stenographer, should be taken with a grain of salt as I'm pretty sure the stenographer was also drunk (as evidence, well, the stenographer was me). In order of drinking (not in order of picture, and sadly, we didn't get to all beers in the picture either):

  • Starr Hill The Love - A pretty straightforward but enjoyable hefeweizen. Super carbonated, overwhelming head, but a nice banana/clove weizen yeast character, highly drinkable stuff. B
  • The Captain's Brew House All American - This is actually a buddy's homebrew, and I arrived a bit late, so I only really got to try the yeasty dregs of the bottle, but it seemed pretty darn good - easily the equal of the previous beer. Would like to try it fresh sometime. Still, truly a beer worthy of Captain America (i.e. the namesake of my buddy's home brewery).
  • Ommegang Hennepin - You know, I've mentioned this beer numerous times on the blog, but I've never actually reviewed it. It's a really nice beer, one of my favorites, the beer that introduced me to the world of good beer. Nice Belgian yeast character, light, crisp, refreshing, quaffable stuff. I might be into chasing more funky varieties of saison these days, but it's always fun to revisit this beer and it holds a special place in my heart. A
  • Ommegang Rare Vos - The slightly maltier sibling of Hennepin, I also love this beer (which, yes, I've actually reviewed before), one of those beers that is also probably impacted by nostalgia for me, but it's just as good as ever. A
  • The Captain's Brew House Shameless IPA - Another homebrew, this one is actually a Northern Brewer Dead Ringer. It was very good, with a big malt backbone, but also a nice hop character. I'm not a huge fan of centennial single hopped IPAs, but this one was solid.
  • Kaedrin Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel continues to evolve, with an almost coffee-like character emerging right now (but not straight coffee, and not really a roast either, somewhere perhaps between those flavors). It's actually quite interesting. I'll be interested in trying this again in isolation, as beer club isn't exactly the best setting for my palate!
  • Trappistes Rochefort 8 - Truly a classic beer, one of my favorites of all time. Previously reviewed.
  • Boulevard Collaboration No. 3 - Stingo - A collaboration with Kaedrin favorite Pretty Things, this one goes a more English route, though it's souped up a bit more than that might lead you to believe. Nice subtle hints of breadiness and toffee with maybe a hint of dark chocolate. Didn't really strike a big chord with me, but it was certainly a well made beer. B
  • Starr Hill Double Platinum - A solid, if a bit boozy DIPA. Nice hop character, but the booze was more prominent than I expected for an 8.5% ABV beer. It was probably a little warmer than it should have been, but I'll leave it at a B for now.
  • Lost Abbey Red Poppy - Another of my contributions for the night, this is still a spectacular beer, and made a lot of waves with the attendees, even folks who don't normally go in for "beer". Previously reviewed, and still an A in my book.
  • Firestone Walker §ucaba - Very generously contributed by Kaedrin friend Dana (she's not a huge bourbon fan, but knows that some of us other beer club members are), this sucker is as good as ever. Previously rated and still an A in my book.
And that just about wraps up this episode of Law & Order & Beer. Fortunately, all As and Bs, so no District Attorneys needed. See you next month.

Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout

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Because you don't know the power of the dark side until you try it:

Lost Abbey Serpents Stout

The Lost Abbey Serpent's Stout - Pours a pitch black color (darker than a politician's heart, you know, while we're talking about serpents and good vs. evil and all) with a gorgeous two finger light brown head. Seriously dark head here, and it leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Smells of rich, dark malts, a nice roast, chocolate, maybe some coffee. Taste starts with those rich dark malts (a richness I usually associate with barrel aged stuff, though I don't think this is barrel aged), then the roast hits hard, black coffee and bitter dark chocolate asserting themselves, and a well matched finish too. Not really bitter, per say, but there's plenty here that balances out the sweetness. Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, lots of rich malts, but there's plenty of carbonation to balance things out too, making this a pleasant sipper (impressive for such a big, heavy beer). Overall, this is a fantastic imperial stout, near top tier (and certainly one of the best that's readily available in the area). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/29/13. 2013 Vintage.

Every time I have a Lost Abbey beer, I'm tempted to take out a second mortgage and go all in to acquire some of their .rar sours or whatnot. Stupid serpent with it's forked tongue. In the meantime, I'll be keeping an eye out for that Brett dosed Devotion that sounds rather yummy. Also got another bottle of Red Poppy, which is just superb.

Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale

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The Lost Abbey distributes here, but as near as I can tell, rarities like this oak-aged, sour-cherry-soaked wild ale aren't readily available (I've certainly never seen it around here). This was first released a few years ago to rapturous reviews, and by all accounts, the hype is well deserved (or maybe not, there's always a dissenter). I got a hold of this bottle via that trade with Jay from Beer Samizdat that I've been lording over all my readers about for a month or so (don't worry, only a couple beers left in that haul). My flirtation with the sick world of sour beers has slowly been solidifying into a more, uh, solid enthusiasm, and it's beers like this that have fanned the flames:

Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale

The Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale - Pours a clear brown color with beautiful amber hues when held up to light, along with a finger of light colored head. Smells of earthy funk and a fruity, tangy sweetness. Maybe a little oak too. One of those beers that I was sniffing a lot, which would be really weird if I were in mixed company, but fortunately I felt free to explore the nose on this. Taste starts with a rich sweetness, some tart cherries and the lightest of sour twangs emerging in the middle, with some very well incorporated oak character rounding things out. Complex, but perfectly balanced flavor profile here. Mouthfeel is wonderful. Full, rich body tempered by ample carbonation, making this thing quite drinkable. Overall, this is among my favorite sours ever. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/30/12. Vintage 2012 C (I think that's what the label sez, it's a little smudged).

You know what this reminded me of? It seems like a more intense version of Rodenbach Grand Cru, which ain't no slouch either (it's got a Kaedrin A rating as well). This makes me want to beg, borrow, or steal some of those other rare Lost Abbey sours, like the Veritas beers, or Cable Car, or any of a handful of other rarities. Who knows what kind of success I'll find on that quest, but in the meantime, I can always track down a Serpent's Stout or other "regular" Lost Abbey ales...

Lost Abbey Deliverance

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How is it possible that I've only had (and reviewed) two Lost Abbey beers since starting this blog? I'm really at a loss to explain this. I love me some Belgian style beers, and there are only a few American breweries that really specialize in that realm, so I'm not sure about the cause of my neglect. It's not like the stuff isn't readily available in my area, so I figure I should rectify this situation before the beer dork police knock down my door and confiscate my beer.

Lost Abbey shares its facilities (and staff, including head brewer Tomme Arthur) with Port Brewing and in a very real sense, they're simply two different approaches taken by the same brewery. Lost Abbey is inspired by the monastic brewing traditions of Belgium, but since no actual Abbeys were harmedinvolved in the production of the beer, they called it a "Lost" Abbey. They've got quite a good reputation and a large catalog of beers that, again, I should really become better acquainted with...

And this looks to be a spectacular start - a blend of two other beers: bourbon barrel-aged Serpent's Stout and brandy barrel-aged Angels Share (I've had the bourbon barrel-aged Angel's Share on tap before, and loved it, even if I thought it was a bit hot).

Lost Abbey Deliverance

Lost Abbey Deliverance - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a practically non-existent head. The nose is full of caramel, oak, and vanilla, with plenty of booze - the bourbon and brandy are apparent. The taste delivers what the nose promises. Caramel, oak, vanilla, brandy, bourbon, and booze, booze, booze. Mouthfeel is smooth, thick, and chewy, barely carbonated... but there's enough to make it palatable. Lots of hot booze and warming alcohol character, making this a beer I want to sip and savor slowly. Overall, a wonderful beer, perhaps even better than the simple Bourbon Barreled Angel's Share (though that may be more due to the age or bottling than the blend). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 5/27/12. 2011 vintage.

I actually have a bottle of the bourbon barrel-aged Angel's Share in the cellar. Given that I found it a bit "hot" on the first go around, I thought I'd give it some more time in the cellar. In the meantime, I certainly have a lot of other Lost Abbey beers to get through, so while I don't currently have any in the pipeline, I'll almost certainly be hitting some up this summer.

The Angel's Share

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When a distiller lays down a barrel of bourbon or scotch for aging, something strange happens. Some of the precious liquid is lost. It seeps into the wood and evaporates. Our friends in Kentucky and Scotland refer to this lost liquid as "The Angel's Share". As it turns out, when you barrel age beer, the same thing happens. But oh, it is so worth paying the Angels their share:

Lost Abbey The Angels Share

Lost Abbey The Angel's Share - Pours a very dark brown color (I know the picture above looks kinda like chocolate milk, but I didn't realize my new phone has a flash on it, so it looks brighter in the picture than it did whilst drinking) with minimal, quickly disappearing head. Smells strongly of caramel, oak, vanilla and bourbon. Taste is full of rich, sweet malts, maybe some dark fruitiness, that oak and vanilla, with the bourbon coming out in the middle and intensifying through the finish. The booze comes out more in the finish as well, along with a nice warming alcohol feeling. Mouthfeel is full bodied; super rich, almost syrupy but with just the right amount of carbonation. As it warms, the bourbon and booze become even more prominent. This is an outstanding beer, though I wish I had a bottle of it to lay down for a year or two. It's really fantastic right now, but I imagine a slightly mellowed out version of this being near perfect. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a snifter on 11/11/11.

It's been a bourbon barrel soaked couple of weeks here at Kaedrin HQ. The above was an unexpected catch at a local beer bar's anniversary celebration, but I've had a few other barrel aged wonders recently, and we're rapidly approaching Dark Wednesday, when Victory will be releasing their Dark Intrigue (basically bourbon barrel aged Storm King stout). They did this last year too, and it sold out rather quickly. Apparently this is the last time they'll be making this, so this is also my last chance to get some. I'm excited.

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

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