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January Beer Club

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Just in the nick of time. This was scheduled for earlier in the month but got delayed due to snow and other such things. But we persevered, and Beer club marched on. For the unawares, beer club is a gathering of beer minded folks from my work, who get together once a month at a local BYOB for beverages and fun.

January Beer Club 2014
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As per usual, these are off the cuff responses with no formal notes, so they're basically useless for you, but I'm including them anyway because why should I care what you think of my drunken recollections of these beers? In order of drinking (and not in the order pictured above, and there are definitely a couple beers not pictured at all because I took the picture early and didn't feel like updating it later and why are you so confrontational about this, it's just a thing, and fine, you want to fight about it? Let's do this thing. Or not. Whatever. What were we talking about?)

  • Stone Double Bastard - Probably not the best beer to start off a tasting with, but it worked just fine, and it was as good as I remember. Which is to say, it's good, but not mind blowing. B+
  • Unibroue Éphémère - This is not as apple-flavored as I remember, though that character is still fully present in the beer, which is a pretty solid Belgian Wit style affair and would make a great summer beer.
  • Boxcar CarKnocker IPA - The uber local (i.e. within a couple miles of my house) brewery's take on a standard IPA, it's decent, but not quite as good as their original (kinda, sorta Belgian style) IPA. B-
  • DC Brau The Corruption - A beer I reviewed in more detail just yesterday.
  • Bell's Midwestern Pale Ale - A fine offering, but perhaps sampled too late in the the night, as it sorta suffered in comparison to the other IPAs. B-
  • Boxcar Belgian Tripel - One of uber-local Boxcar's best beers, it's still a pretty straightforward Belgian style tripel. Along those lines, it's pretty good. Not a top tier effort, but quite nice. B+
  • Element Brewing Dark Element - A rather nice India Black Ale (or whatever you want to call that hoppy stout style), this sucker had just a hint of roast, a nice malt backbone, and plenty of dank, piney, resinous hops. One of the best of the night. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Hybrid Thingy - A sorta beer/wine/mead hybrid, this was made with some barley, copious amounts of honey, and muscat grapes. This is some crazy Dogfish-head style shit, but it actually worked pretty darn well. Clocking in at around 10% ABV, this thing didn't feel like it at all, making it dangerously easy to drink. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Blend) - This is the version that contains a blend of straight RIS and Bourbon Oaked RIS. It turned out pretty darn well, though the oak character is a bit muted here. I don't know that I'd be able to pick it out blind, but regardless, it turned out pretty well and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Look for a triple feature (with all the variants) soon. I'll give it a B+ for now, though it could easily be higher.
  • Spring House Satan's Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout - One of my contributions, this was a fascinating sorta Girl Scout Thin Mint beer. Not sure if I would have reacted so positively if I drank the whole thing by myself, but it's a perfect beer for the setting. The mint chocolate chip character comes through strong, but not in an overpowering way. Very nice, and I enjoyed muchly. B+
  • Boulevard and Sierra Nevada Terra Incognita - A whiskey barrel aged beer that shows off that character pretty well. I still think that stouts and barleywines work better on that front, but this was certainly a fine effort. B
And that just about covers it. Good times had by all, and I'm already looking forward to the next installment (which should be sooner, rather than later... hopefully!)

Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve

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A few years ago, the Canadian brewers at Unibroue made their 17th anniversary ale. It was quite popular at the time, and indeed, I remember reading of this brew after the fact and thinking I'd never get my hands on the stuff. But apparently Unibroue kept winning awards with this stuff. Despite being bottled in 2007, it was winning "World's Best Dark Ale" awards every year. So in 2011, Unibroue made some more, affixing the bottle with the "Grande Reserve" appellation to indicate its quality for aging (they also upgraded the packaging, including individually numbered bottles). As a dark ale on lees (i.e. a bottle conditioned dark ale) clocking in at 10% ABV, it certainly ticks most entries on the beer aging checklist.

Of course, while I have been toying with the concept of aging beer, I didn't really have the patience in this case. I snatched up a bottle of the stuff and drank it just a few short weeks later. I'm not entirely sure if this beer was made in the exact same fashion as the original batch from 2007... Jay found this recent incarnation to be overly sweet, but I was more taken with it (I found it sweet, but not cloying, and even a bit dry).

Unibroue 17

Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve - Pours a murky dark brown color with a finger or two of light tan head. Smells strongly of dark fruits and spice (clove). The taste follows the nose. Sweet, very spicy, plenty of fruitiness, maybe even a little in the way of roast or slight chocolate. Really complex flavors here, it keeps evolving. Some light, nutty oakiness is apparent (but not strong), as well as a bit of a molasses character. Mouthfeel is spectacular. Highly carbonated and effervescent, but dry enough that it's compulsively drinkable. The 10% ABV is certainly well hidden, though you might get a bit of warming from it when you drink quickly. Overall, a wonderful beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 6/22/12. Bottle No. 2011-90241. Best before 12/12/2016.

Unibroue is a brewery I tend to take for granted, and I'm not really sure why. They're readily available, and they brew some fantastic stuff (indeed, La Fin Du Monde is one of the lucky few that have garnered the coveted Kaedrin A+ grade). I think I've had most of their year-round catalog, but there are still plenty of beers I haven't tried just yet. Heck, I should probably revisit some of the other stuff I've had from them while I'm at it...

Maudite

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I know what you're thinking. This isn't a holiday beer! Well, it is one of Unibroue's year-round brews, but the story behind it is rather interesting. The word "Maudite" means "damned", and the story follows a group of French-Canadian woodsmen who made a deal with the devil to make it home by Christmas by flying their canoe (this is apparently a variation on a class of flying canoe legends). One of the woodsmen broke the pledge, and thus the canoe plunged to the ground. Pleasant story, eh? For a more detailed telling of the legend in a funny French-Canadian accent, check out the video on Unibroue's website. Anyway, let's drink this thing:

Unibroue Maudite

Unibroue Maudite - Pours a deep orange brown color with a lot of white head. Aroma is full of peppery Belgian yeast and dark fruits. Taste is very sweet, lots of that fruitiness coming through strong. Plenty of spiciness here too, and no real bitterness at all. Extremely well balanced taste here. Mouthfeel is a little on the harsh side (in a good way). In the past, I've always found this beer to be undercarbonated, but this time it seems just right. Overall, it's quite a nice beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/10/11.

Unibroue has one of the best year-round lineups out there, and this one is widely available and usually pretty cheap too. Well worth a try this holiday season!

April Beer Club

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Every month, a bunch of friends and I get together at a local BYOB and drink lots of beer. I seem to have run out of beer puns for this month, but there was no shortage of beer at tonight's gathering (despite only 7 attendees):

April Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

No real theme this month, but lots of new beers, along with some new ones. Not all of the pictured beers were cracked open, but most of them were (I believe only 4 left unopened, though there was still some beer left in a couple bottles). For reference, here's what I tried:

  • Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale - Intense blueberry aromas and very fruity taste. Overwhelmingly blueberry. Not bad, but not especially accomplished either. C+
  • Unibroue Éphémère - Again, an intense sour apple aroma and flavor, this one is much better balanced and an interesting beer. I've actually had this a few times before, and it's something I've always enjoyed, even if it's not my favorite of Unibroue's offerings. Everyone seemed to enjoy it though, and it's probably a good gateway craft beer. B
  • Southampton Biere De Mars - A very nice looking beer, with a nice spicy aroma and a flavor that is quite unusual, but still drinkable. The consensus among attendees was somewhat mixed, but I enjoyed it, even if it's not exactly a favorite. There's a flavor there that I couldn't quite place, but which made this a rather unique tasting beer. Fellow beer club members had a similar feeling. I'll give it a tentative B
  • Ommegang Rare Vos - One of my all time favorites, I've actually got a bottle of this in the fridge, so expect a full review... at some point. A great beer though, and very popular with the beer club crowd, even with the non-beer nerds.
  • Victory Prima Pils - I have had many of these over the years, and it's one of those beers that tastes very different out of the bottle than it does on tap. And honestly, I think I prefer the bottled version. For a pilsner style beer, it's extremely hoppy, but I rather like that distinction. Well worth a try, and probably something I'll give a more thorough review to later. For now, I'll leave it as a B+
  • Oskar Blues Gordon Imperial Red Ale (aka G'Knight) - One of my contributions for the night, and a solid DIPA. Expect a full review at some point in the near future. Beer club crowd seemed to enjoy it, despite it's hoppy nature.
  • Peak Organic Simcoe Spring Ale - It's got that pine resin aroma and flavor from the Simcoe hops, but it's otherwise a pretty standard IPA. Not particularly popular with the overall beer club crowd, but it's solid, if nothing special. B
  • Long Trail Pollenator - Holy shit, is this a terrible beer. And of course, I ended up taking more of this than most other brews. I immediately regretted the decision. Tasted like skunked piss. My first F since starting the blog.
  • Oscar Blues Ten Fidy - A very roasty 10.5% stout. I enjoyed it, but those who don't typically go in for stouts didn't seem to care for it. Not to get all sexist or anything, but all the guys seemed to enjoy it, while the females seemed to dislike. I have a couple more of these, so expect a full review at some point in the indeterminate future.
  • Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy - Smells and tastes of a sorta carbonated lemonade. Very little beer flavor and I really did not enjoy, though some of the more girly beer club members seemed to like it. D
  • Blue Point Spring Fling - A very average pale ale. Not bad, but absolutely nothing special about it. Profoundly average beer. C
  • My Homebrew Tripel - I brought a nice 22 oz bottle of my tripel, which has really undergone a transformation since bottling. I've been trying about one bottle per week since I bottled, and it's gone from an overly-sweet and under-carbonated beer to something much more drinkable. It used to be a very bright orange color, but it has since matured into a more appropriate lightish brown color. The taste is still a little too sweet and too alcoholly, but it's still a pretty good attempt, and I have a feeling it will mellow out with more time. Expect a more thorough review of this homebrew at some point. If nothing else, I do believe it came out better than my first attempt. This was one of the first beers we opened though, and someone did mention that it could have been a bit of a palate-killer because it's so intense (but luckily most people only took a small sample). It certainly was a strong beer - more than one person commented that they got the sorta wine-flush feeling from the alchohol. So far, I'm pretty happy with this beer, and I think it's only been getting better with time.
  • Dana's Maibock Homebrew - Fantastic homebrew brewed by my friend Dana from a Mr. Beer specialty kit. Very sweet with a nice tang in the finish that I couldn't quite place. Still, very enjoyable beer, maybe my favorite from Dana's homebrewing efforts. Most of the Mr. Beer stuff is pretty average (and Dana also brought a Red Ale which was pretty normal stuff), but their specialty kits seem to produce some really good beers, and this one is a prime example (I also rather enjoyed Dana's specialty Tripel from a while back). We made a deal to trade some of my tripel with some of her maibock. Excellent stuff
So yeah, I suppose you could take the ratings above with a grain of salt (as conditions were not optimal for tasting), but I think the ones I actually rated are pretty accurate. And several of the others will be reviewed on this blog in the near future. It may seem like the above are pretty low, and there were definitely a couple of real stinkers, but some of the ones I didn't provide a rating for will most likely come in to the B to A range, so there were definitely some great beers that were available tonight...

All in all, another successful outing for the beer club. I was surprised at the amount of beer that we ended up getting through, even if we did leave some of the beers pictured above unopened (though I will say that the only unopened beer that I've never had before was the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter). As always, I'm already looking forward to next month!

Decembeer Club

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Towards the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This month's haul:

Decembeer

It was a mostly holiday ale theme. Conditions aren't exactly ideal for tasting, so take the following with a grain of salt, but here's what I thought of each:

  • Affligem Noël: My contribution and one of my favorites of the night. Much like their dubbel, but a little spicier. Great beer that I plan to revisit in more detail this holiday season (I have another bottle on my shelf).
  • Anchor Special Christmas Ale 2010 - My other contribution, I've already written about this, but it went over well with other folks too...
  • Delirium Noël: Raisiny and sweet, another popular beer and something I want to revisit in detail.
  • Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf: Super boozy red ale. Not terrible, but the high alcohol overpowers everything. I'm not sure I could drink a 12 oz bottle of this, but it's interesting nonetheless...
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - Not as dark as the Delirium, but it shares that certain raisin smell and flavor, a little syrupy sweet too. Not bad.
  • Ridgeway Reindeer Droppings - Doesn't sound appetizing, but a solid light flavored beer (technically an English Pale Ale). Not a favorite, but a decent session beer.
  • Ridgeway Warm Welcome: A reasonable brown ale, I think this one was overshadowed by some of the above beers.
  • Southern Tier Unearthly IPA - Solid DIPA, but not the top of the line (like Dogfish 90 Minute or Stone IPA)
  • Ridgeway Lump of Coal Stout: I suppose this is a reasonable stout, but there's nothing special about it and there's no holiday style to it either. Not offensively bad or anything, but not especially noteworthy either.
  • New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale - Nothing really holiday about this, but a solid session beer (I assume that this is someone's Yuengling Lager style beer).
  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde - A first time beer club attendee brought this. Hard to fault him for that, as I love this beer.

Well, that about covers it! Again, not an especially rigorous tasting session, with the palate cleansed by a burger and fries, but still, as always, a really good time. After beer club, a few of us hit up the local beer distributer. It being PA, we could only buy a full case of stuff, but someone became enamored with Anchor's Christmas ale and bought a case of that, and four of us went in on a St. Bernardus variety pack (each of us got 6 St Bernardus beers, which is pretty awesome). As usual, I'm already looking forward to next month.

Grindhouse Double Feature: Tripels

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One of the crimes of modern cinematic history is the failure of Grindhouse at the box office and the subsequent lack of proper DVD/BD distribution (which was, in itself, a result of the bad box office). Grindhouse was one of my favorite movies of 2007, so this was most distressing to me. Sure, the two feature films that made up the total experience were available individually, but they were different cuts of the films and they were missing one of the key features of the Grindhouse experience: the trailers. Amazingly enough, this egregious oversight was recently corrected with the Blu-Ray release of Grindhouse (in it's full cinematic glory). Tonight, I watched that movie, and took the opportunity to retry two of my favorite beers. As I write this post, I'm watching the movie with the Audience Reaction Track on. It's kinda lame. Just a lot of hooting, cheering, and hollaring. But the movie is awesome, so there's that.

Westmalle Tripel

Westmalle Abby Tripel: Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle is a Belgian Trappist Brewery, one of only 7 in the world. Yes, this beer is brewed by Monks, and as it turns out, they're among the best brewers in the world (and have been for a long time). Some reading around on Wikipedia indicates that this brewery in particular is responsible for inventing (or at least popularizing) two key Belgian beer styles: the Dubbel and the Tripel (which I'm drinking tonight). Pours a hazy golden color with an impressively huge head. Lots of bubbly activity in the head, good retention and a smell of sweet malty goodness with a little bit of fruit and some spiciness added in for good effect. Taste of fruity malts and a yeasty kick, with a nice warming booziness. Good carbonation and medium body, a near perfect taste. It's not hard to see why this beer is considered the standard for the style. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

As Planet Terror ends and the glorious fake trailers begin, I pop the cork off what could be my all time favorite beer:

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde: The perfect beer. Pours that same hazy gold color, with that same large, active head. There's a bit less retention here, and the smell is more spicy. Taste has a similar malty goodness, and the spiciness is more pronounced - lots of coriander and orange peel detectable here, and maybe a little clove (these spices are seemingly favored by Unibroue, as a lot of their paler ales have that sort of mixture). Spicy sweet, this beer is perfectly balanced. Medium body and good carbonation, with perfect taste and like the Westmalle, the strong alcohol content gives it a nice, warming, boozy kick. The name translates to "The End of the World", and given that name and the high alcohol content, this makes for a great last beer of the night (or, you know, if you ever think the world is going to end)! A+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.0% ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked bottle). Drank from a goblet.

Whew, drinking two 750 ml tripels in one night is perhaps not entirely advisable, but if you ever cross paths with either of these, give them a shot. You won't be disappointed.

Unibroue Don De Dieu

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Canada's Unibroue brewery has quickly become one of my favorites. If nothing else, they make La Fin Du Monde - perhaps my favorite beer evar. But everything I've had from them has been fantastic (or at least worth a try) and thanks to their habit of bottle conditioning ("ale on lees" as they say on the bottles), their beers seem to be available far and wide (and won't break your wallet either). This one has been evading me for a while, but I finally caught up to a bottle:

Unibroue Don De Dieu

Unibroue Don De Dieu - Translates literally as "Gift of God", which is pretty audacious, even for French Canadians. While that may be setting the bar a bit high and this beer doesn't quite reach the heights of Unibroue's best, it's certainly a worthy effort and still at the top of the brewery's offerings. Pours a light, hazy orangish color with a small head. Smells strongly of citrus and coriander/clove (a spicy combo seemingly favored by Unibroue, at least for their lighter beers) with the flavor to match. Good carbonation and nice medium drinkability, which is surprising considering the high alcohol content. BA calls it a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, but Unibroue says it's an "abbey-style triple wheat ale". Well, it would certainly place well in either category for me, though again, it's not quite the perfection that is La Fin Du Monde (though it does have a similar flavor profile). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass.

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

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