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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...

Drie Fonteinen Zwet.be

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Drie Fonteinen is one of the powerhouse lambic breweries, so this beer is something of a curiosity. It seems that famed master-blender Armand Debelder saw fit to branch out and try something only tangentially related to lambic. This is basically an English style porter beer that is brewed with wild yeast cultured from lambic casks. If this sounds like some sort of blasphemous experiment, well, it's not. Porter didn't always resemble what it does now.

I'll leave the history to those who know better than I, but suffice to say that descriptions of 19th century porter tended to use words like: sour, tart, astringent, and acid. As Martyn Cornell notes in the linked post, these are not words you will find in the descriptions of porter in the latest Brewers Association beer style guidelines. To greatly simplify the possible reasons for this tartness, it seems to be attributable to both age and wild yeast infection (the combination of which are a virtuous circle, as wild yeasts do their thing over very large amounts of time).

So basically, this beer isn't the lunacy that it might initially sound like. Indeed, I've seen various other breweries take on this concept of sour porter as well, though I can't really speak to historical accuracy for any of these beers. But forget about historical accuracy, do these suckers taste good? Let's give it a shot, eh?

Drie Fonteinen Zwet.be

Drie Fonteinen Zwet.be - Pours a dark brown color with a couple fingers of tan head that leave plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells very much like a porter, lots of roast and toast, but also a sweetness or fluffiness that indicates something less intense. Taste features a nice, light roast and toast, as befitting a porter, but the finish has a slight tweak to it that lightens things up a tad. It's not quite sour or really all that tart, but perhaps in that direction. Mouthfeel starts off full bodied and highly carbonated, but that sorta yields to a gentler feeling towards the finish. Again, it's not sour and won't cut up your gums like an American Wild Ale, but there might be an ever so slight hint of acidity. Overall, a solid, interesting take on a porter, though not quite as "wild" as I thought. That being said, I'd rather have this than most other porters (admittedly, they're not my style, but still). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (11.7 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/17/14.

I'd be curious to see if the wild elements come out more over time, so if I find me another bottle, I might just stash it away for just such an experiment. That being said, I'd probably rather have me some Drie Fonteinen lambics if they could be had...

Oude Quetsche Tilquin

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Once upon a time, Gueuzerie Tilquin made a believer out of me when it came to sour beers. Before Tilquin Oude Gueuze, I was like those scared apes at the beginning of 2001, cautiously approaching the sour beer monolith and giving it a tap every now and again. Throw a bottle in the air, smash cut to the space age, and now I'm rubbing vinegar on my gums in between sour beers just to keep things interesting.

Given the near impossibility of finding Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen on the shelf these days, it's amazing to me that Tilquin is out there for the taking. I almost don't want to speak so highly of them for fear that these wonderful beers will disappear forever. The thrill of the hunt is all well and good, but it can get old after a while. It's nice to pop over to State Line Liquors every now and again and see a "new" (I believe this came out last year) Tilquin beer like this one and just pick it up. But this is legit lambic, and I'd actually hold the Gueuze up above the standard Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen offerings (the non-standard ones, on the other hand, are another story, but that's still saying a lot). I originally graded the Gueuze an A-, but I've had it a couple times since then and I'd give it a firm upgrade to straight A territory.

This particular expression is a blend of 1 and 2 year old oak aged lambics that are then put in a stainless steel tank with "destoned fresh purple plums" for an additional 4 months (the sugars from the plums are fermented and mixed with the standard lambic). Color me intrigued:

Oude Quetsche Tilquin

Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L'Ancienne - Pours a golden orange color with a sorta pinkish hue and a finger of white head. Smells deeply of funk and oak, earthy, fruity, with the sour twang tickling in the nose. Taste starts out sweet with tart fruit, some earthy character picking up in the middle along with a dollop of oak, followed by an intense sourness that charges through the finish. I don't know that I'd pick out plums here, but it's clearly fruited, and it's a very well balanced melding of the standard Tilquin with a more fruity character. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and crisp, with some tannic oak, plenty of acidity and some puckering, especially towards the finish. Overall, this is fantastic. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/14/13. Best before: 29/01/2023.

So very good. The only Tilquin I've not yet had is the draft version, which is a slightly younger lambic with a lower ABV. I'll have to jump on that the next time I see it...

December Beer Club

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In 2009, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men and women promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the West Chester underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as drinkers of craft beer. If you have a problem... if no one else can help... and if you can find them a local BYOB in which to meet... maybe you can hire... The Beer Club Team.

Well, that didn't work as well as it did in my head, but I'm going to leave it there as a reminder to myself that my stupid references aren't as funny as I think. Take that, self! What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folks from my work. We meet up once a month at a local BYOB and sample all sorts of beers. Decent turnout tonight, and some great beers too:

Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

Half remembered thoughts on each beer are below. For posterity, you understand. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order depicted above:

  • Harpoon UFO White - I could have sworn we've had this at beer club before, but I can't find any reference to it... Holy coriander, Batman! Very powerfully spiced for a simple wheat beer, but it made for a nice, bland start to the evening. B
  • Kaedrin Saison - Man, this thing is drinking perfect right now! Huge carbonation, spicy, crisp, and dry. Great with food, and I'm really disappointed that I only have a couple bottles of this left. This may end up being one of my better beers of all time. B+ or A- material here.
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Alas, this has not quite carbonated itself so well just yet. Disappointing. I had one last week, and it seemed like it was doing well, but nope, tonight's was lower carbonated than the last one I had. Weird. I'll give it a few more weeks before opening another (it seems that the regular saison is peaking right now, after several months) and leave it at that for now...
  • Ken's Homebrewed Winter Warmer - Very solid example of the style, very well spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, it came out really smooth and almost creamy, with that spicy kick. I really enjoyed this, even more than the other Winter Warmer/Holiday beers of the night. B+
  • Sly Fox Christmas Ale - Another winter warmer, and one I look forward to every year. Alas, they change up the recipe every year, and I have to admit, I'm not in love with this year's version. It's fine, to be sure, but not as good as previous years (or Ken's homebrew!) B-
  • Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale - It's amazing how little repetition there is in beer club. I can probably count on one hand the number of times that someone has brought a beer that's been at beer club before... This one was just at beer club back in September, which wouldn't be that bad except that no one really likes this beer! It's so thin and the bourbon barrel treatment doesn't really come through in any meaningful way (it's got some of that bourbon flavor, but it feels watered down and just flat). It's not a hideous abomination, but it's not particularly good either. C
  • Trappistes Rochefort 6 - A classic that I've already reviewed, and a welcome relief from the previous beer!
  • Affligem Noël - This was one of my favorite beers when I started the blog... but I didn't respond quite so well this time around. Not sure if it's just the context of beer club and a beleaguered palate, or if this really isn't as good as I remember. The balance is certainly off here, a little boozy, not enough malt and spice to counteract that. It's certainly not bad at all, and I do still really enjoy it, but perhaps not as much as I originally did... Let's call it a B or B+ now.
  • Southern Tier Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale - A late arrival, this perhaps should have been opened earlier in the night... but even then, I suspect this would underwhelm. C+
  • Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad - Dana and I shop at the same beer store. She shared hers, I greedily drank mine by myself. As I rated on Monday, B+
  • Stone Suede Imperial Porter - It's a fine porter, light roast, some complexity from those weird flower and jasmine adjuncts, but ultimately this is a beer that doesn't really float my boat. It's fine, I could probably take one down on my own, but I'm glad I was trying it in a tasting setting... B
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout - Another Dana special, I'm really glad she brought this... mostly because it's just awesome beer (that I've reviewed before). Still an A
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout - And this one was my contribution for the night. I had this last year and loved it, but it had aged for a few months before I cracked it open. This year, I had one fresh and thought I absolutely had to share this. I don't particularly love coffee, and this thing is a huge coffee bomb. It's amazing how much the coffee fades in the beer after a few months (I know the coffee is different every year, so maybe that's a factor this year too, but it's still dominated by coffee, to the point where I can barely get the bourbon barrel out of this, though it is there). Since some members of beer club are big coffee fans, I thought I should share it while it's fresh. It did not disappoint.
  • Fort Collins 1900 Amber Lager - I will refrain from talking much about this because after the Bourbon County, this was basically like water. A simple palate cleanser. That being said, it does not seem like my kinda thing...
And that wraps up yet another successful beer club. Already looking forward to ringing in the new year with beer club...

Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly

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Oh boy, I've been down this road before. I can't stand even the slightest hint of diacetyl in my beer. That buttery/butterscotch flavor that seems to be a common component in a lot of English pale ales just kills a beer for me. I've been over this before, so I won't belabor the point, but this was a Scotch Ale made in Belgium, then aged in Port barrels, what could go wrong? Diacetyl, apparently.

Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly

Brasserie de Silly Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly - Pours a deep, dark amber brown color with a finger of whitish head. Smells sweet, lots of vinous fruit (presumably from the port), but uh oh, is that diacetyl I'm picking up here? Taste starts off well enough, nice rich malt backbone, some fruit, a vinous note from the port, maybe a hint of oak, but also that slight diacetyl note that I just can never stand in beer. And it lasts through the finish, too. It's not super prominent, but it's really dragging this beer down for me. Mouthfeel starts out great, full bodied and rich, but it thins out a bit towards the finish. Overall, dammit, this is an otherwise excellent beer, but I will brook no diacetyl. Would still prefer this to most crappy macro beers, but it's a big disappointment. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/22/13. Vintage: 2013.

I really enjoy a glass of Porto from time to time, so it's depressing that every time I try a Port barrel aged beer, it turns out like this. One day, I'll get one that works. One day.

Framboise For A Cure

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Every year, the fine folks at Russian River host a month long fundraiser for breast cancer awareness, with the centerpiece being Framboise For A Cure, a sour blonde ale comprised of 80% Temptation and 20% of something called Sonambic, a new beer they've been working on using a traditional Coolship (just like them official lambic makers). The blend is then aged in Chardonnay barrels with fresh raspberries. It sounds heavenly, no?

Fortunately for me, the owner of Philly institution Monk's Cafe, Tom Peters, is good friends with the folks at Russian River and every year, they host a fundraiser of their own. They even release a small amount of bottles, which, alas, I was not able to secure because I'm lazy and didn't get there until a little after opening. However, I was still fortunate enough to get a taste on tap (and I also picked up another bottle that will no doubt be making an appearance on the blog sometime soon), so let's get going:

Russian River Framboise For A Cure

Russian River Framboise For A Cure - Bright ruby red color (so many robey tones, you guys), almost no head, though a cap of pinkish hued stuff sticks around so maybe it was just the initial pour or something. Smells of funk, oak, and twangy raspberry. Taste hits that raspberry sweetness up front, oak kicking in towards the middle, with a sourness also coming to the fore in the middle and lasting through the finish, where that raspberry returns and everything ties together. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp and sharp, a little sticky in the finish. Overall, this is a superb, well balanced, complex sour. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/19/13.

Because Monk's is awesome, they were also pouring some other limited gems that I couldn't resist... it's for a cure people! And not to go all dudebro on you, but I like breasts. Sue me.

Cantillon Vigneronne

Cantillon Vigneronne - This is a lambic made with hand-picked muscat grapes, and it's apparently one of the rarer varieties due to the scarcity of grapes (not to mention Cantillon's general capacity issues). Pours a clear gold color, again with the no head. Smells like a gueuze, taste has a vinous character matched with gueuze-like oak and biting sourness. It is, perhaps, not quite as powerful as a full gueuze, presumably the influence of the grapes. Mouthfeel has a snap to it, well carbonated, just a bit of stickiness in the finish... Overall, I think drinking these two beers back to back pretty much obliterated my palate, but it was totally worth it, and this was clearly another winner from Cantillon. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/19/13.

Not bad for a lowly Saturday afternoon. I'm going to have to find a way to drag myself out of bed earlier next year and maybe snag a bottle. In any case, I was quite happy to try it on tap and as I mentioned, I managed to snag a bottle of something pretty special, so it was a good day, is what I'm saying.

Fantôme Santé 15!

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The word "Santé" roughly translates to "to your health", and as such, is often used as a toast, akin to "Cheers" or "Prost" and so on. But in this case, it has a double meaning. Fantôme brewer Danny Prignon brews a new beer every year for a charity that helps those in need of healthcare not provided by standard means, and thus a second meaning of Santé comes into play. That sneaky ghost, always doing the right thing. It's hard to find much info on these beers, but I gather that the recipes are different every year, though they are always saisons (as befitting Fantôme's general nature). This particular edition is actually from 2011, and seems to be particularly well regarded, though it is clearly showing its age at this point:

Fantome Sante 15!

Fantôme Santé 15! - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of bubbly white head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edges that stays around for a while. Smells of earthy, fruity funk, Brett is clearly doing its thing here. Taste is very sweet with a surprising fruity note, almost raisiny, like an aged dubbel or quad, though this is clearly its own thing. That Brett kicks in towards the middle with some tart fruit that intensifies into a full blown sour note in the finish. Mouthfeel is on the upper end of medium bodied, with lower than normal carbonation for Fantôme, but still ample enough to work. A bit of stickiness lingers in the finish as well. Overall, this is yet another interesting offering from Fantôme. It's showing its age a bit, but it's really brightening my outlook after a long day at work. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 10/18/13. Bottled July 2011, Released 6&7 August 2011 (charity weekend).

Fantôme continues to fascinate, and I'm always up for trying a bottle of the stuff. You never know what you're going to get.

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.

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

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