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September Beer Club

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Due to various scheduling mishaps and vacations and whatnot, the August beer club never happened, and September ended up being a little on the delayed side. But we finally made it, and a good time was had by all. For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of like minded coworkers who get together for food and optional libations at a local BYOB. Tonight we hit up a regular Mexican establishment and had a rather good time.

Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, tentative thoughts on each beer are below, though they should be taken with a grain of salt, since tastings like this are not exactly ideal conditions. So here we go, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured).

  • Kona Castaway IPA - A surprisingly decent IPA, lots of mango in the aroma and flavor, tropical fruit hops and so on. It's not a mind-blowing beer by any stretch, but it's actually pretty damn decent. B+
  • Devil's Backbone Catty Wompus - A Belgian IPA that kinda come off a little light on the Belgian and even IPA character, though it did have a pretty solid amount of bitterness towards the finish. That being said, it felt like the Belgian elements were canceling out the hop character, rather than combining with each other. Certainly not a disaster, but not really my thing either. B-
  • Victory Prima Pils - A beer I've obviously had on numerous occasions, and it's as good as it ever was. Pilsners are not really my style, but if I was asked what I would want to drink within the style, this would be a worthy candidate. B
  • Victory Headwaters Pale Ale - I always forget how good this beer is, even if it's still not my favorite pale ale evar or anything that silly. Still, it's a rock solid take on a standard style. More thoughts here. B+
  • Sly Fox Oktoberfest - A decent take on a standard style. Nice toasty malt character, and a very drinkable beer for this time of year. B
  • Round Guys The Berliner - This Berliner weis is almost like a sorta crazy lemonade/beer hybrid. It's got a nice tarness to it, and the color is crazy pale, almost white. It's an interesting beer, something I'd like to try someday on its own, though it seems ideally suited for hot weather, and we're sorta heading away from that these days. B+
  • Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black - Not quite as good as I remember from last time I had this, but it's still got a nice roast and coffee base with a bit of hoppiness to follow. The first one of these I had a while back seemed a little more balance and hop focused, so who knows what's going on here. That being said, it was still quite nice to revisit this beer. B
  • Kaedrin Trystero Barleywine - So I gave up on hoping that my barleywine bottles would carbonate, dumped everything I had into my keg, and attempted to force carbonate the stuff. The result is decent, though I need to figure out a better way to transport the stuff (carbonation is better from the tap, but loses some of its punch in traveling in a resealable bottle). On the other hand, this turned out rather well, with a really nice bourbon and oak character to it. B+
  • Element Extra Special Oak (ESO) - This is quite an interesting beer, even if it's not particularly fantastic. It's a sorta amped up English ESB, with a little more alcohol and some oak aging. For something oak aged, there wasn't a whole lot to salvage, but it does have that sorta rich barrel feel that often pervades these types of beers. B
  • Neshaminy Creek Punkless Dunkel - Basically the same thing as last year's Punkle Dunkle (no idea why the name had to change), with a slightly different label (that, so far, is the only meaningful difference we've found yet. Big pumpkin and spice (cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and the like) notes, fabulous carbonation and smooth, wheatey mouthfeel. Really fantastic brew, just as good as last year, and probably my favorite of the night. A-
  • Elysian Oddland Ginger Berry Brown Ale - Doesn't seem like much of a brown ale, it's very pale, like an IPA. But this is brewed with ginger and wheat, so it should work itself out. On the other hand, I don't care much for ginger, so I'm obviously not going to love this. Still, it was decent enough. C+
  • DuClaw Bourbon Barrel Aged Serum - I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of BBA pale ales, or pale beers in general (i.e saisons, etc...). It comes off as more of a barrel aged barleywine than a DIPA... It's got the richness imparted from the oak and bourbon, but the playfulness has disappeared. Decent enough, but nothing particularly famous. B+
And that's all for now. Already looking forward to the next meetup...

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black

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This pair of part-time Kiwi contract brewers greatly impressed me last time around with a peat smoked beer that had no business being as good as it turned out. Perhaps not a mainstream sort of beer, it nevertheless appealed to my penchant for Scotch and made this jaded beer nerd's heart grow three times larger. As such, I picked up the only other beer of theirs I've run across, their flagship beer, Pot Kettle Black. They call it a porter, but you would probably know it better as a Black IPA (or American Black Ale or whatever the heck you call that style) So let's find out why the eponymous Pot is such a goddamn racist hypocrite, shall we?

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black - Pours a very dark brown color with colossal amounts of head. I swears, I didn't pour this thing like an asshole, it's just very well carbonated! Aroma has hints of roast, but is mostly herbal, spicy, floral hops. Taste has a surprising richness to it, lots of crystal malt character, again just a hint of that roast, and the herbal, floral hops are subtle, but prominent. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, but not overcarbonated. Full bodied, rich, but finishing drier than expected (and perhaps the carbonation has something to do with that). Overall, this doesn't really fit with a typical American Black Ale (or Black IPA, or whatever you call it), but it's not really a porter/stout either. Unique, complex, interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/23/13.

Well, that marks two really weird, but really good entries from this obscure NZ brewery. I'm going to have to find more stuff from them, as I appear to have exhausted my local bottle shop's supply of different beers (which, at 2, wasn't exactly overflowing, but still). (I suppose I should note: despite the date and corresponding obscurity of the brewer, I do legitimately like this brewer/beer, which totally does exist and is well worth trying out. Ok, so reading that sentence back makes it seem like I'm trying to throw you off the scent of my delightful April Fools prank, but I swears, this is totally, completely serious. Well, not completely serious, as I did make that crack about the pot being a racist hypocrite because he called the kettle black, but you get my point. Right? So to recap, this is a legitimate post. For reals. Ok, dammit, is there a way to say that that doesn't come off as ironic or sarcastic? No? I should just stop? Well too bad, because now I'm worried that I'm overselling this beer/brewery. I mean, I really enjoyed it when I drank it, but the A- was probably a bit generous. Or maybe not. Maybe I should try another. Are you still reading this? I sure hope not. Then why am I still writing it? Don't try and change the subject. The real question is: why on earth are you still reading this? I think I've written more in this pointless parenthetical than I have in the whole rest of the post, so I guess I should actually stop now. It's been real. Thanks for reading, I guess. Have a good one!)

Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude

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In the rough and tumble world of beer blogging, it's easy to become jaded. That's why it's sometimes good to throw caution to the wind and take a flier on something obscure, like this fanciful New Zealand brewing duo who have a punnily named brewery and take some ridiculous chances with their beer. Case in point: Rex Attitude, a beer with an absurdly simple recipe. No fancy specialty grains here, just a single golden malt (ok, I'm being a bit facetious here, but we'll get to that in a moment). No trendy hop blends, just 31 IBUs driven by the mild character of Willamette hops. No estery, phenol driven Belgian yeast monsters, just a clean fermenting US yeast.

The thing that makes this beer so interesting is that that single golden malt also happens to be smoked. And not just any smoke: peat smoke. Scotch fans just raised an eyebrow. Most smoked beers burn traditional wood to get that smokey flavor - stuff like beechwood, hickory, ash, maple, and, uh, vampire stakes. But historically, you used what you had, and Scottish folks had lots of peat moss. So that's what they use to smoke their malt. These days, that malt is mostly used in service of Scotch Whisky (I'm unclear as to whether or not Scottish breweries used to use peat moss to dry their malt back in the day, but Scotch ales don't usually feature peat smoked malt).

So these wacky Kiwis took that heavily-peated Scottish distillers malt and made their beer with it. And thanks to the simplicity of the rest of the recipe (mild hops, clean yeast), that peat smoked malt is the true star here. This is an absolutely ludicrous idea and I expected disastrous results. But that's just this jaded blogger being a goober, because this thing is a real eye opener. I cannot believe they got this to work as well as it does, and it's nice to know that after years of obsessing about beer, I can still be blind-sided by something this surprising:

Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude

Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude - Pours a cloudy golden color with a couple fingers of billowy, fluffy head and tons of lacing. Smells of smokey, peated malts and not much else... but it works shockingly well. I could sniff this all night. It's like the nose from peated Scotch (think Islay), but it won't singe your nose hairs. The taste has a nice sweetness to it, well balanced against the smoke, which is ever-present, but not at all overbearing. Indeed, it's extremely well balanced and quite tasty. And we haven't even gotten to the best part, which is the mouthfeel. Highly carbonated and relatively dry, reminiscent of the feel you get from a well attenuated Belgian yeast, but without the fruity or spicy notes. Medium bodied, but this thing drinks like a champ. It's like drinking an Islay Scotch, but without any of that burning booze. Probably not for anyone, but I'm a bit of a peat freak, so this beer pushed the right buttons for me. Overall, this beer has no business drinking this well, one of the most unique and interesting experiments I've had in a while. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/19/13.

There's a doubled up version of this very beer called XeRRex that is supposedly just as audacious and successful, despite being a 10% monster. I must find that beer. In the meantime, I'll have to hit up my local bottle shop for their Pot Kettle Black (which they call a hoppy porter, otherwise known as Black IPA). Yeastie Boys came to my attention by way of Stephen Beaumont, and I'm glad I caught that post. Yeasty Boys is a contract brewing operation, but Stephen notes: "in New Zealand, where a small population base is stretched across a long and isolated land mass, or rather, masses, that is a status without the perception issues that tend to dog it still in North America and parts of Europe. Indeed, contract craft brewing seems at times almost the Kiwi norm rather than the exception." So this is the only one of their beers I've had, but if it's any indication, these guys are worth seeking out. And thus ends Smoked Beer week. I hope you had fun, I know I did. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a fresh box of West Coast beer to scarf down this weekend. Stay tuned.

Hopwired

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The crazy growth of craft beer is certainly not limited to the U.S. Here we have a beer made with malt and hops grown exclusively in Mordor New Zealand. To give a misleading, overly broad, and probably deathly wrong summary of geographic hop characters, European hops tend to be earthy, herbal, spicy and pungent. American hops have a citrus and pine character that is quite different (even U.S. grown European hop varieties - like Fuggle - tend to have more citrus than their European counterparts). Well, the Kiwi hops used here are apparently also quite citrusy, but while American varieties tend towards grapefruit, NZ hops seem to be more tropical. On their website, they say: "Passion fruit, limes, oranges and Sauvignon Blanc grapes to name but a few. A local Marlborough winemaker even said it smelled like gooseberries... Gooseberries? When did you last actually smell a gooseberry??"

IPAs do tend to get a bit on the samey side sometimes, so it's really refreshing to try a beer like this that has distinct and unique flavors, while still conforming to the general idea of the style:

8 Wired Hopwired

8 Wired Hopwired IPA - Pours a clear, deep golden orange color with a finger or two of white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells strongly of fruity, bright and citrusy hops, with maybe a bit of a floral component as well (this becomes more prominent as it warms). The taste is quite sweet, plenty of light malts here, with a bracing hop bitterness emerging towards the finish. That fruity, floral hop flavor makes its way into the taste as well, and as mentioned above, it's distinct from that grapefruit and pine character of American hops - more tropical, I guess. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with tiny bubbled carbonation, and a relatively dry finish. Overall, this is quite a nice change of pace, and I'm really glad I got to try some of this stuff. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip on 5/5/12. IBUs: 70. Hops: Southern Cross, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin.

A good first showing from these hobbits brewers of NZ, and I'll almost certainly be checking out some of their other stuff. If I can find it!

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

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