Recently in Union Category

Union Chessie

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To celebrate their underrated brewery's anniversary, Union brewing makes a barleywine named after local legend Chessie, a sea monster said to live in the midst of the Chesapeake Bay. As with most local legends of this ilk, there are many sightings but no actual evidence of its existence. Funnily enough, speculation meant to explain the sightings sound even more far fetched than a legendary sea monster and include a "mutant eel" theory, large river otters, prehistoric Zeuglodons, and South American anacondas escaping from 18th- and 19th-century sailing ships.

Fortunately, there's plenty of evidence for the beer's existence: namely that I was able to purchase and drink a bottle. It's a little over a year old and I get the impression it would be better fresh, but as it is now, it occupies that same strange territory in the DIPA/TIPA/Barleywine triangle. Regardless, Chessie's come out to play and behold! Photographic evidence:

Union Chessie Barleywine

Union Chessie 3rd Anniversary Barleywine - Pours a dark amber brown color with a finger or two \ of fluffy off-white head that sticks around for quite a while. Smells of faded citrus and resinous pine hops with some crystal malts lurking in the background. Taste also hits the citrus and pine hops pretty hard, with a light crystal malt backbone and dry, bitter hop finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, and surprisingly dry for the style. Not red wine dry, but still much more attenuated than your typical barleywine. Overall, this is an interesting beer, somewhere in that DIPA, TIPA, Barleywine triangle, tasty too. Would like to try fresh (or aged in a barrel). B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/23/16. Released: August 2015. Bottle No. 336/800.

This was the third anniversary beer, but they also released the second anniversary Chessie that had been aged in Elijah Craig 12 barrels last year. Here's to hoping I can snag the BA version later this year...

Union Royal Farmhouse Double IPA

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Baltimore's Union Craft Brewing continues to be an underrated gem. They don't put out a huge variety of beers, but their Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin are both fantastic go-to beers that aren't too difficult to track down. The single Duckpin, in particular, is an underrated beer that deserves more attention. Or not, because I like being able to reliable grab some anytime I'm in the Maryland area.

This is one of their one-offs, a Double IPA made with Columbus, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe hops and fermented with a farmhouse yeast strain to give it a little Belgian kick. Not my favorite mashup of styles, to be sure, but it's always nice to change things up from time to time and hell, that farmhouse Rooster on the can has a crown on its head and thus deserves some semblance of respect. Or at least a review:

Union Royal Farmhouse DIPA

Union Royal Farmhouse Double IPA - Pours a mostly clear golden orange color with a finger of big bubbled white head that sticks around for a while and leaves lacing as I drink. Smells very nice, big citrus and resinous pine, hints of musty Belgian yeast. Taste hits those Belgian notes harder than the nose, some spicy phenols, but a nice fruity ester character that matches well with the citrus and pine hops, finishing with a nice bitter bite. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry, with just a hint of boozy heat. Overall, I've never been a huge Belgian IPA guy, but this is good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/27/16.

I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to find more Union beer to review. I always grab something during my periodic pilgrimages to State Line Liquors in MD, but it's hard to pass up the Duckpins, so I rarely branch out. I probably should!

Things I Can't Get Worked Up About

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The beer nerd world gets worked up about things on a regular basis. Today, it's the whole Lagunitas sell-out thing, which, yes, has an ironic component given the deranged ramblings of their owner in the past. But I'm sorry, I just can't get worked up about it. I've got too much beer to drink, not to mention all the other stuff going on in my life. Here's a few other things I could care less about:

  • Pumpkin Beer in July! Every year with these people. Yeah, it's faintly ridiculous that a big, heavy, spicy fall beer shows up on shelves in July, and no, I don't want to drink one whilst embroiled in a humid heat wave. That's why I don't buy pumpkin beers in July! No one is forcing you to buy them and there's plenty of other stuff on the shelves. We're drowning in a glorious deluge of great, varied beer these days. I can't get worked up about pumpkin beer showing up a little early.
  • The definition of Craft! Dear lord, why? It's fermented sugar water, and it's delicious. That's pretty much all I need. Look, I enjoy pedantic labeling exercises as much as the next guy, and if you want to see me rant about what the hell constitutes a saison, I'll go on about it for hours. That is something I can get worked up about, for some reason. But "craft" is basically meaningless to me, no matter how you define it. I'm sure I've used the term on here before, but the thing is, you probably understood what I was talking about without needing to delve into how many barrels a given brewer puts out in a year. Language is sometimes ephemeral, and I have a hard time getting worked up about the definition of craft. In certain contexts (i.e. if I worked for a trade organization dedicated to a certain group of brewers), I'm sure it's super important, but I don't exist in such a context.
  • Malty and Hoppy are lazy descriptions! And yet, non-beer-nerds seem to get it right away when I use those words. When I say biscuity or bready, they turn their head at me the way a cat looks at their owner when the food bowl is empty. I'm not trying to dumb it down or condescend, but I also don't want to lecture someone on the minutiae of malt and hops unless they're genuinely interested. My brother could care less about this stuff, but if I tell him something is hoppy or an IPA or something, he gets the picture and runs in the other direction. That's all he wants, and I'm not going to force feed him information on hop terroir and the flavor wheel and my personal system for ranking how dank a beer's hops are. I generally don't use these broad words here when writing tasting notes, but occasionally one slips out, and I simply can't get worked up about it.

None of these things are ridiculous, of course, and obviously these are popular topics to write about, I just can't get worked up about them. This perhaps explains my modest traffic here, as I rarely come down hard on a given controversy. In fact, for a guy who sez he can't get worked up over this stuff, I just wrote a bunch about it, so um. Hey, look below, beer!

What do I get worked up about? Beer! Here's a few things I've had recently that I didn't take notes about because I was hanging out with friends, new and old, and didn't want to bury my nose in my phone because I'm not a total jerk.

BeerNERDS Bottle Share
(Click to Embiggen)

I went to a local beer collective's bottle share recently and met a whole slew of new beer friends. A good time was had by all, and the bottles were pretty impressive. I didn't take notes, but a few did stand out:

Alesmith Barrel Aged Vietnamese Speedway Stout

de Garde Yer Bu

That's Alesmith Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout, which was spectacular (despite my legendary indifference to coffee) and de Garde Yer Bu, a delicious little Berliner Weiss that clocks in at a measly 2.5% ABV. Also of note was Tuckahoe Marigolden, an obscure NJ brewery making a pretty darn solid American Wild Ale. Literally everything else that was at there share was great too, but those were the standouts.

101 North High Gravity IPA

Speaking of sharing, a friend was over recently and I decided to share some of the haul from my trade with Jay of the most excellent Beer Samizdat blog. This was a quite dank, powerful little DIPA, it felt like a light barleywine with a little age on it, quite nice.

Tilquin Squared

At a local beeratorium, I spied this Tilquin Gueuze Squared. Apparently created by accident when they inadvertently over-carbonated a bunch of bottles. They gave it some more time in barrels before rebottling, but that meant that the ABV had risen a bit higher than normal. Perhaps not better than your typical Tilquin Gueuze, but a happy accident nonetheless, and quite delicious!

Union Duckpin Pale Ale

I've sung this underrated beer's praises before, and while it's not going to blow your head off, it's a great little pale ale, citrusy and quaffable. Worth checking out, and if you see Double Duckpin, definitely go for it!

Double Duckpin

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A couple years ago, a friend invited a bunch of folks over for a barbecue and, naturally, beers were involved. Everyone was to bring cans of beer, and flush with a couple cases of Heady from the original Operation Cheddar, I naturally opted to share the wealth. Much beer was had, I ate some great pulled pork (courtesy of The Dogs of Beer), a French press and full leaf hops appeared, and merriment was had by all.

Believe it or not, the most memorable beer I had that day was Duckpin Pale Ale from a relatively small Baltimore brewery called Union Craft Brewing. Clocking in at a svelt 5.5% ABV, it was refreshing and quaffable in the extreme. Juicy citrus hops and tropical fruits all over the place, crisp and refreshing (perfect for the backyard barbecue setting). It was a great beer and would be a total go-to if I was closer to Maryland (even as it is, I try to keep my eyes open whenever I'm there). Tickers on certain sites have no idea what they're talking about (not that it's rated badly, per say, but still). So when news hit that they were releasing Double Duckpin, an amped up DIPA version of Duckpin, I was immediately on board. Thanks to the diligence of a friend, I snagged a can and the rest is history (thanks Danur!) The fantastic semi-local DIPA game has been getting pretty crowded of late, but that's a good problem to have, right? So let's set up our Double Duckpins (which, come to think of it, would probably just be regular bowling pins, would they not?) and go ten frames:

Union Double Duckpin

Union Double Duckpin - Pours a very nice golden orange color with a finger of white head that leaves some spotty lacing as I drink. Smells nice, juicy citrus, tropical fruits, and floral hop aromas, I'm thinking Citra is involved, maybe Amarillo (and yep, it looks like Columbus, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe are the culprits here). Taste is fantastic, nice sweet malt backbone, huge citrus and floral hop flavors, a hint of dank pine lingers in the well balanced bitter finish. Mouthfeel is perfect, well and tightly carbonated, medium bodied, surprisingly quaffable for a DIPA. Overall, we've got another top tier semi-local DIPA on our hands. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/5/14.

Between this, 077XX, and The Shape of Hops to Come (not to mention old hats like Victory and the one-off masters at Tired Hands) we're in pretty good shape with the DIPAs over here. Between Tired Hands and Forest & Main, we're hitting the saisons and sours pretty hard too. Now we just need to step up our bourbon barrel stout/barleywine game, and we'll really be rolling in it.

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

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Union category.

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