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Idletyme IPA

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It's time for round two of Vermont Roulette, wherein I purchase random Vermont beer that I've never heard of, drink it, and see if I survive. While round 1 was not tremendously successful, I did live to play again and this time, I think I've stumbled onto something rather good.

I purchased this at the Warren Store, and when I asked the guy about it, he said he hadn't tried it yet, but that it was brand new and that the brewery really just got started. Looking around ye olde internets reveals that the location has been around for a while, but that distribution is starting to expand. Or something like that. It used to be called The Shed, a pub built on an old youth camp called, yes, Camp Idletyme. The beer itself is a svelt 8% ABV DIPA with what seems like a relatively light malt bill and lots of "new" aroma focused hops. According to the brewer, they're still experimenting with the dry hop varieties (you know the story, small breweries can have a difficult time contracting for hops, especially the popular ones), but to my mind, they're on the right track. Good tymes!

Crop Bistro Idletyme IPA

Crop Bistro & Brewery Idletyme IPA - Pours a hazy, pale yellow with just a hint of orange and a couple fingers of fluffy white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of beautiful citrus hops, juicy and clean. As it warms, a sorta minty aroma arises out of that citrus. The taste has a nice sweetness to it, lots of that bright, juicy, citrus hop character, and only a hint of bitterness on the back end. As it warms, the hops get a little more earthy or herbal, but still bright, like the mint that emerges in the nose. Mouthfeel is reasonably well carbonated, light bodied, bright, crisp, and clean, quaffable. Overall, this is a very pleasant surprise. It's probably not a Heady Topper killer or anything like that, but it's a worthy take on the style, for sure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/30/14.

So there you have it, a solid DIPA that's bound to be underrated due to the gravity well of more famous Vermont beer. Worth a shot if you can find a fresh bottle (I get the impression that this beer would age poorly, even moreso than a lot of other IPAs), and I assume it's just as good on tap. So an unqualified success for Vermont Roulette. At least one more round coming, another relatively new brewery's take on an IPA.

Lost Abbey Track #8

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So a couple years ago, the Lost Abbey started a series of beers inspired by rock music that was themed by heaven or hell (as befitting the Last Abbey's general brand). Each month, they released a new "track", a special edition beer available only at their tasting room and limited to just 450 bottles each. These are exactly the sort of beers that an east coast dork like myself could never dream of acquiring. But at the end of the year, Lost Abbey did a "Box Set" of all the beers, and some seemed popular enough to brew again.

As far as I'm aware, this is the only one that was made again, and it's received pretty broad distribution (so I'm guessing significantly more than 450 bottles this time around). This takes their Judgment Day, a Belgian Quad made with raisins, and ages it in Bourbon barrels along with cinnamon and chile peppers. The result was one of the more popular tracks in the series. Why it's got the subtitle of The Number of the Beast (why wouldn't that be track #6?), I don't know, but it's got a nice story about how Damien was tricked into writing the number of the beast onto his gradeschool chalk board. It's all for you, Damien. Or in this case, the beer is all for me:

Lost Abbey Track 8 - Number of the Beast

Lost Abbey Track #8 - Number Of The Beast - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of fizzy tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, and vanilla along with some dark fruits, raisons and the like, and just a bit of Belgian yeast spice. As it warms up, you get more sorta Christmas spice character, cinnamon and the like. Taste is very sweet, with some nice fruity esters, dark fruits, raisins and the like, spicy phenols, maybe some of that cinnamon, rich caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla. As it warms, the spicy chile emerges a bit, but it's just enough to add complexity and never threatens to overwhelm or knock anything out of balance. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, rich, full bodied, a little sticky as it warms up. I've found that Belgian styles have mixed success when barrel aged, but this works very well. Overall, this is among the better barrel aged Belgian quads I've ever had, rich and complex, well worth seeking out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 8/23/14. Vintage: 2014.

Yet another winner from Lost Abbey. Someday, I'll need to get around to trying Cuvee De Tomme or Duck Duck Gooze, but until then... I'll just have to deal with all this other beer I have laying around.

Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker

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When it rains, it pours. No sooner than I got back from my trip to Vermont, a friend got back from her trip bearing tidings of Three Floyds, so now I find myself flush with amazing hoppy beers.

There's not much out there about this beer other than its 9% ABV, 100 IBU DIPA style. Cimmerians were a real ancient people, having flourished for a few hundred years around 600 BC. It's rumored that Robert Howard claimed his most famous creation, Conan the Barbarian, was descended from Cimmerians. This certainly fits the axe weilding maniacs and woolly mammoths on the label and is typical of Three Floyds' branding, so let's crush our enemies, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentations of their women. Oh, and drink their beer:

Three Floyds Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker

Three Floyds Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker - Pours a murky orange color with a finger of off white head that sticks around a while and leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of big citrus and dank pine, with some sort of "green" hops as well, and even a little crystal malt caramel or maybe even toffee. Taste is very sweet, with that rich toffee and caramel from the nose coming through strongly. Dank, resinous hops with just a bit of citrus character come in the middle and balance out all that sweetness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a bit sticky. Overall, it's a big DIPA with enough malt presence to put this in strong ale or maybe even barleywine territory with just a few tweaks. Regardless, I'm enjoying it greatly. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/23/14. 100 IBU. Bottled 7/25/14.

Certainly not my favorite Three Floyds DIPA, but then, they apparently have a ton of them, and you'll be seeing some more of them in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Hill Farmstead Triple Feature

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We love Hill Farmstead here at Kaedrin, so when we took a slight, uh, 9 hour detour into Vermont to nab some of their prized beers, we availed ourselves of everything we possibly could. While I'm not a particularly huge fan of growlers, I absolutely had to fill up my limit whilst I could. Growlers are not known for their longevity but fortunately, these are beers that do not last long in this household. First up, Harlan, a beer I cracked open for a little scenic drinking just a few hours after returning from my trip.

Harlan IPA

Hill Farmstead Harlan IPA - A slightly bigger version of Edward Pale Ale that is dry hopped with additional Columbus hops. Pours a very pretty, cloudy pale orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells intensely of citrus hops, stone fruits, oranges, and your typical grapefruit notes along with a big dank note that isn't quite pine (I suspect the pine would be more prominent if this weren't so fresh). The taste follows the nose with tons of citrus hop flavors and that fresh dankness too. Light malt backbone, but not as bitter as you'd expect from such a hoppy beer. Mouthfeel is perfect, medium bodied, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, this reminds me a lot of the type of stuff you see at Tired Hands, and I think that speaks well of both breweries. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV from a growler (fancy 2L swing top). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/14/14. Growler filled on 8/14/14.

Society and Solitude #5

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude 5 - As of right now, this is the best received entry in this series of experimental DIPAs. This one features a rather fantastic blend of American and New Zealand hops. Pours a murky yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Huge citrus aroma, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, mangoes, the whole shebang. The taste is dominated by those citrusy hops, with that same melange of tropical fruit notes. It got a well balanced sweetness to it, evened out by hops, but not bitter. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, perfectly carbonated, absolutely quaffable. Overall, a spectacular IPA, the clear winner of this trip so far (and that's saying something!) A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/16/14. Growler filled on 8/14/14.

Friendship and Devotion

Hill Farmstead Friendship & Devotion - Brewed in collaboration with Luc Bim Lafontaine, formerly of Dieu du Ciel! (and soon to be heading up some sort of special Japanese brewery), this is an IPA that is described as "citrusy, salty IPA with notes of grapefruit". Pours a very pale orange color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Again with the big citrus hop aroma, tropical fruit, herbal and grassy notes, but also some sweetness... Taste goes along similar lines, lots of citrus hops, hints of pine in the background, and something else playing around in the middle. HF sez that it's salty, so maybe that's what I'm getting, but it's not like it's a gose or something - if its salty, it's tucked into the rest of the flavor profile pretty well. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and yes, quaffable. Overall, another winner, though perhaps not quite as much as the above two... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/16/14. Growler filled on 8/14/14.

So there you have it. I'm getting pretty close to exhausting Hill Farmstead's standard brews. Someday, I may have to fill a growler with something I've had before, like Abner. The horror! Already looking forward to it!

Billy's Pale Ale

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This is the first in a series of what I'll call "Vermont Roulette", wherein I purchase some random Vermont beer that I've never heard of off the shelf and see what happens. In this case, it turns out that the beer is from Massachusetts, but I bought it in Vermont, and it appears to be a rather obscure beer. I didn't take a picture of it, but the bottle caps were clearly those Brewery's Best thingies that homebrewers use. I suspect this is a rather small operation. Only 2 reviews on BA, and this Howler Brewery doesn't even have a website. All the bottle sez is that it's a pale ale brewed with Nugget and Cascade hops, which, you know, sploosh. But then I opened this sucker and bam, Belgian yeast. Unexpected, but cromulent enough, I suppose:

Howler Billys Pale Ale

Howler Billy's Pale Ale - Pours a golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells... like Belgian yeast, lots of spicy, musty, estery yeast, maybe a hint of those advertised hops. That Belgian yeast follows into the taste, which has a nice spicy character, cloves and the like, and some citrus hop notes melding with the yeast character, some hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, and relatively dry. Overall, it's an unexpected but pretty straightforward Belgian pale ale with just a hint of a hoppy kick. Worth trying, but don't let that label fool you - this ain't no straight pale ale. B-

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/18/14.

Not an entirely encouraging start to Vermont Roulette, but then, when your points of comparison are Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, and Lawson's Finest Liquids, there's a pretty tough bar to clear. Stay tuned for some more obscure Vermont brews...

Black Butte XXVI

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Bend, Oregon brewers at Deschutes started their brewery off with a pretty standard porter for a flagship beer. In the current craft beer bonanza, this wouldn't be that unusual. Boring, even. But considering that Deschutes opened 26 years ago, this was actually a bold choice. Fast forward twenty years, and they could see that it was the right choice. That's when Deschutes started brewing up a special anniversary beer to celebrate their success. They took their old flagship, amped it up a few notches, chucked in some adjuncts (different every year, but usually including chocolate), and aged a portion in old Bourbon barrels.

This year's iteration (their 7th) is a complex blend of ales incorporating adjuncts like pomegranate molasses, cocoa nibs, and cranberries. 50% was aged in Bourbon barrels, and the final product clocks in at a hefty 10.8% ABV. So grab yourself a plate of mashed potatoes and start sculpting yourself a butte*:

Deschutes Black Butte XXVI

Deschutes Black Butte XXVI - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of brown sugar, caramel, marshmallow, maybe a hint of roast and chocolate, with some of that bourbon, oak, and vanilla. The taste is very sweet, hints of roasted malt, chocolate, a light caramel, molasses, marshmallow character that intensifies as it warms up, maybe even some tart, fruity notes (presumably that cranberry peeking through, and that also gets more prominent as it warms). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lighter end of full bodied, feels more attenuated than your typical BBA porter. It's certainly not thin, and not really dry, but it doesn't have that huge, chewy mouthfeel either. It is, however, very well balanced. Overall, this is an excellent, well crafted beer. It's not like a lot of BBA porters, but it's still really good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 8/8/14. Best After 06/16/14.

I still can't help but wonder what a full BBA version of this (or their famous Abyss) would be like, but I guess that's not to be. As it is, this winds up being rather unique, so you can't fault them for that sort of thing. Also, someday I'll remember that Deschutes uses a "Best After" date on their big beers like this.

* If I actually knew what a butte was, I would have totally cooked up some mashed potatoes and gone all Richard Dreyfuss on that stuff. In fairness, a nice plate of meat and potatoes would probably be a decent pairing for this, so it's not a totally unrelated reference. Well, probably not, but work with me here.

Forest & Main Lunaire

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I've been hitting the local brews pretty hard this past week or so, and I don't see any reason to stop now. Here we have another two year old local brewpub specializing in English and Belgian styles, with a particular focus on saisons. As I've mentioned before, they share a fair amount of DNA with what makes Tired Hands a Kaedrin favorite, so you know I'm interested when they do a bottle release. They're a bit further away from me, so I don't always get up there for bottle releases, but on the other hand, they tend to be low stress affairs, much like the laid back atmosphere they cultivate.

Here we have the second release of Lunaire, a saison aged in Chardonnay barrels for about six months. So strap in, it's time we take Le Lunaire Voyage*

Forest and Main Lunaire

Forest & Main Lunaire - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a finger of tight white head that sticks around for a while as I drink. Beautiful nose, musty funk, bright citrus, wine, and lots of oak. The taste amps up that funk a bit, lots of earthiness, a little citrus tartness, vinous fruit, and tons of oak. I suspect there are some who'd say this is over oaked, but I'm not complaining at all. That being said, I'd be really curious to see what this does over time, perhaps that oak will mellow out some (fortunately, I have a few extra bottles to lay down). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, light bodied, tannic, with just a bit of acidity. Overall, this may be my favorite Forest & Main beer yet. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/2/14. Batch 2 (I think... definitely the second bottling), bottled May 21, 2014.

I seem to be drowning in excellent, funky, local saisons aged in wine barrels of late. I'm not really complaining about that, I love me some farmhouse and I've been trying to live off my cellar for the past few months instead of continually buying more than I could even drink, but I also try to write about more diverse stuff. I'll have to see what I can do in the near future about that. Incidentally, I've got a line on some midwest Gold, and even a potential trip to Vermont next week, so I'll most likely be stocking up again in the near future. Stay tuned!

* For the non film nerds amongst you, I was trying to evoke the early cinematic classic Le Voyage dans la Lune (aka A Trip to the Moon)with that quip, but the fact that I'm even writing this footnote is probably a bad sign, no? I'll just stop then.

I Am The Emptiness

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Another in an ongoing series of saisons aged in wine barrels with various local fruits sourced from rockstar farmer Tom Culton, this is what happens when you add strawberries and your cellar is full, so you just release it on tap because there's no space for any bottles. This sort of thing will be remedied shortly once their new facility is up and running, but for now, I'll just have to suffer through drinking this excellent beer on tap and in a growler:

Tired Hands I Am The Emptiness

I Am The Emptiness - Pours a deep, dark orange color with a finger of off white head. Smells fantastic, strawberries, fruity funk, musty, just a hint of earthiness, some yeasty spice, a little oak and vanilla, did I mention strawberries? Taste has a more prominent oak character, lots of fruitiness with those tart strawberries really coming through well, but not dominating. Sour, but not overpoweringly so, because there's that typical saison backbone, a little spice, and even a little citrus hops poking through, with perhaps more bitterness than expected from this Emptiness series. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, reasonably well carbonated (less than the last couple bottles, which were perfect), only a bit of acidity from that sourness. Overall, though I may prefer the persimmon variant, this is still another winning entry into the Emptiness series. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV from a growler (1L swingtop). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/26/14, growler filled earlier that day.

I had this on tap last week too (it kicked while I was sitting there finishing up a glass), and I found it slightly better than in the growler (but that's my general feeling with growlers). Up next in the Emptiness series are The Emptiness is Not Eternal bottles. Jean sez the bottle conditioned version is better than the one that was on tap during the Second Anniversary, which makes me wonder if I Am The Emptiness would similarly improve if bottled... Anyway, after that one comes You Are The Emptiness, which is made with peaches, and therefore represents some sort of beer nerd singularity that will draw quite a crowd when released.

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

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