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Oktober 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, someone decided to bring beers she thought would be disgusting. And they were! We should probably discourage this practice, but on the other hand, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and try some Cave Creek Chili Beer or, in this case, some of Rogue's recent offerings.

Oktober Beer Club

Half-blinkered thoughts on each beer are recorded below for posterity, though standard tasting disclaimers apply and I'm a moron so take it all with a grain of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pictar):

  • Tired Hands Jason - One of my contributions, and a great way to start the night. I'll probably talk more about this at some other time, but for now it's a very nice, juicy IPA, great hop character and that citrus fruit really comes through. Reminiscent of last year's "Vampire" beer. A-
  • Rogue Beard Beer - This beer's gimmick is that it's made using yeast that was found in their head brewer's beard. Sounds appetizing, no? Well, no, but the beer itself was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. It felt sorta like a bland Belgian pale ale, with some light spicy yeast notes and some sweetness. So not the worst thing ever, but perhaps I set the bar too low on this one. B-
  • Jerry's Homebrew "SB" - Mystery homebrew from one member who got it from a friend of a friend, or something. Don't know what "SB" stands for, but that's all it was labeled with. But it turned out to be a pretty good beer in the style of a brown ale or soemthing like that. Not something to go crazy over, but a good homebrew. B
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale - I actually had no real problem with the first Voodoo Doughnut beer, but then again, it's a smoked beer and no one likes those. I don't know why they thought it was a good idea to continue this collaboration with Voodoo Doughnuts, but I guess they're actually selling this stuff. This was a pretty terrible beer. I get hints of that chocolate and peanut butter, but they feel... wrong, like they were buried in Pet Semetary or something. This is an unbalanced, sloppy mess. Not entirely undrinkable, but in no way good. D
  • Terrapin Dos Cocoas Chocolate Porter - Now this one gets the chocolate thing right, and the base porter matches really well with it. Not my favorite style ever or anything, but it works well enough. B+
  • Trappist Westvleteren 12 - Yep, it's still amazing. Certainly opened some eyes with other folks too.
  • Perennial Vermilion Winter Ale - Excellent English style barleywine, lots of caramel, toffee, and almost fruity malt notes, really nice. A little heavy, but that's what you want out of this sort of thing. The sort of beer that makes me want to put on a smoking jacket, sit by a fire next to my bearskin rug on a cold night, making haughty rich person noises. Another eye opener for some folks. Me, I really liked this sucker, and may snag another bottle if it's around (it looks like it was a 2012 one-off, but I've definitely seen it around). A-
And that just about covers it. You may have noticed that it's only been a little over 2 weeks since the last beer club, but we had to reset to the beginning of the month, due to the November and December holidays. So stay tuned, moar to come.

Trappist Westvleteren 8

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I've already written about this beer's bigger brother, the legendary Westy 12 - purported to be the best beer in the world (maybe second best) - and most of what I said goes for this beer as well. It's just as hard to obtain (I got my bottle along with the 12), it's got that same spare Trappist aesthetic (no labels, just some info crammed on the crowns to identify them), and while its ratings might not be quite as high as its brethren, it's still extremely well reviewed (it currently resides at #16 on Beer Advocate's list and #15 on RateBeer's list). So let's take a closer look, shall we:

Westy 8 Cap

Trappist Westvleteren 8 - Pours a dark brown color with some amberish highlights and a couple fingers of light tan head. The aroma and taste have the same profile as the 12, but somewhat more subdued. Lots of dark fruit in the nose, plums, raisins and the like, and some of that musty Belgian yeast character. Taste is also very flavorful with that dark fruity sweetness and dry finish. Mouthfeel is a dream, just like the 12. Perfectly carbonated, dry (but not too dry), and just a hint of booze. It's definitely lighter bodied, and the flavors are slightly less rich. Overall, a fantastic beer, but not the equal of its big brother. A-

Westy 8

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 1/13/12. The cap has a date printed on it that says 07.10.14.

Amazing stuff. I feel like I should have more to say about it, but nothing else is coming to mind. If you ever get the opportunity to try any Westvleteren beer, don't pass it up. I'm not going to go out of my way to try the Blonde, but perhaps I will luck into one at some point in my life. Or perhaps not. These are rare beers, after all!

Trappist Westvleteren 12

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My first beer of the year and I may have just shot myself in the foot. I mean, yeah, January 1st just another day and our penchant for creating end of the year lists is an entirely arbitrary practice, but still. This sets the bar pretty high.

Trappist Westvleteren 12. The fabled Westy 12. Both Rate Beer and Beer Advocate have it ranked as the #2 best beer in the world, and it's been there for a long time. Indeed, it is often in the #1 slot, occasionally falling to a Pliny the Younger or Kaggen Stormaktsporter. In short, it's a legendary beer.

Of course, it's impossible to get. Almost literally. To buy a case of it, you have to fly to Belgium and even then you have to jump through all sorts of hoops, calling the Monastery at the magic time, going to the secret pickup place at the secret time, doing the elaborate 42 step handshake with the attending monk, ducking below the booby traps (Only the penitent man will pass!), then bribing the airport baggage handlers so they don't just "lose" your package, and so on. Apparently the monks also sell some bottles to their local cafes, so you can get one there too, but for most of us, the Westy is a pipe dream. Why do they do this? Well, the monks at the Saint Sixtus Abbey only sell their beer in order to financially support the monastery (occasionally, they will also use their earnings to support a charitable cause). This means not much beer is made, and apparently the local folks like this stuff too, so it sells out quickly. Go figure.

How did I get one? Let's just say I'm a weak, weak man. I bought a "collectible bottle" that just happened to be unopened. Wink, wink. I feel a little bad about it, but not really. It was expensive but not obscene (the way a lot of "collectible bottles" are), and it's pretty much the only way I'd be able to actually get my hands on one of these things. Ok enough preamble, let's do this:

Trappist Westvleteren 12

Check out that bottle. You've got to love a brewery that's so badass it doesn't even need to put labels on their bottles. The only real identifier is the gold cap.

Trappist Westvleteren 12 Cap

Pours a cloudy dark brown color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smell is strong with dark fruits - raisins and plums - along with some bready Belgian yeast. The taste has that same dark fruit character to it, very strong and rich flavors, sweet, well matched, a little booze, and a nice dry finish. The mouthfeel is absolutely perfect. Full bodied, a little chewy, but very easy to drink. Perfectly balanced carbonation that lasts throughout the entire taste. There's a little booze in there, but its true strength is hidden well by the rich flavor profile. Overall, an exceptional beer. A

Trappist Westvleteren 12 Closeup

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 1/1/12. The cap has a date printed on it that says 15.06.14.

So is it the best beer in the world? Probably not, but it's up there. I mean, I've only had the one and it was superb, but I'd like to try it a few more times before I put the best in the world label on something. I suspect even then it wouldn't be at the very top of my list (though perhaps a top 10 slot would be fitting). Heresy? Maybe, but who really cares? When you get to beer that is this good, it doesn't really matter how you rank it. I've also got a bottle of the less infamous but just as hard to get Westy 8 that I'm hoping to crack open this weekend, so look for another review soon!

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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