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Alpine Captain Stout

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Back in ye olde usenet days, you could start a holy war by asserting a preference for one starship captain over another. Kirk or Picard? These days, such a posting would be seen as obvious trolling or quaint geekery. This is what we aspire to at Kaedrin, so let's get on with it: As a child of the 80s and 90s, Picard has always been my captain, and I never quite understood Kirk. Well, there's certainly charisma there, a confident swagger and physicality that Picard didn't get to demonstrate very often, but I'm a nerd, and Kirk never seemed particularly logical. Cool guy to have a beer with, but not a guy to lead your ship in a confrontation with the Romulans. As I've grown older, I've gained more of an appreciation for both captains. I've actually been rewatching some of the OG Star Trek series, and what I'm realizing is that Kirk isn't that interesting on his own, but the thing that made that show work wasn't Kirk alone, it was the trio of Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Their dynamic is what made the show great. Kirk didn't need to make sense because he had Spock and Bones backing him up with various aspects of logic and rationality. Picard has elements of all three, presenting a wholly different experience (which is as it should be, otherwise TNG would have just been a boring retread). I've never much gotten into the other Star Trek shows, so I don't have much of an opinion on Sisko or Janeway. Archer, though, always made me chuckle because Scott Bakula is such a terrible actor and I kept thinking they'd do a Quantum Leap crossover. Uh, Ziggy says you have to win the war with the Klingons before you can leap.

Of course, Alpine is talking about a local Fire Captain, hence the illustration of the Fire Truck on the label. What we have here is a nice little chocolate oatmeal dry stout, rocking the 6% ABV. Not the sexiest thing in the world, but damn this is tasty. It's simple, so says the captain! Face forward, move slow, forge ahead...

Alpine Captain Stout

Alpine Captain Stout - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with half a finger of light tan head. Smells great, roasted malt, chocolate fudge, some caramel, and maybe even some vanilla. Taste has a nice roasted malt character, a little coffee and dark chocolate, whisps of bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, not watery, but lighter than you'd expect, medium carbonation, smooth. Overall, it's a nice little stout, pairs well with food, and it's sturdy enough to stand on its own, even if it's not an imperial monster. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/24/15.

The labels of Apline beers say "Drink Alpine or go to bed!" Well, if those are my choices, send me more Alpine please.

Tired Hands Astral Plane

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When Tired Hands opened the new Fermentaria a few months ago, one of the big, eye-catching features was three rather large oak foeders. For the uninitiated, foeders are very large oak vessels used for long-term aging of beer (among other fine liquids). They are capable of harboring wild yeast and bacterial beasties and imparting some of that oaky character, but despite their size, the actual surface area touching the beer is smaller and the amount of oxygenation is usually less than traditional barrels. They're good as fermentation vessels and their much larger volume allows for more blending than your traditional barrels (foeders are somewhere on the order of 1500 gallons, whereas a traditional barrel is a little more than 50 gallons). Indeed, lots of Belgian breweries are famous for using foeders in their wild and blended beers, most famously Rodenbach and their blended Flanders Reds.

So Tired Hands has been playing with these new toys of late, and several beers have gone on tap from the foeders. It's an interesting and distinct feel from regular barrels, so far I'm seeing less in the way of sour and oak, but still some funk in its own way. Astral Plane was a recent bottle release, and to my knowledge, the first such release to originate from a foeder. For my part, I tend to prefer the more typical barrel approach, but this represents a nice change of pace:

Tired Hands Astral Plane

Tired Hands Astral Plane - Pours a hazy yellow gold color with a finger of whispy head that is not long for this world, very nice looking beer. Smells wonderful, lots of funk, some fruity esters, a little earthiness poking around, great saison nose. Taste has a little more oak to it (not a ton though), some sticky malt, but it's got a lightly funky saison spice and fruit thing going on too, finishing back with that sticky note. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, low to moderate carbonation, more sticky than I'm used to from Tired Hands (lower attenuation? Lord knows I'm super sensitive to lower carbonation, and this might be falling into that spot a bit...), but nothing untoward or improper here. Move it along. Overall, pretty solid little saison with enough funk to keep things interesting and pretty damn tasty in any case. I'm betting some time in the cellar will do wonders for this, and fortunately, I have a few more bottles to test that theory on. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/24/15.

Of course, I'm totally in the bag for this stuff, so I'm curious to see how these new techniques evolve as Tired Hands continues to expand. They've still got plenty of regular barrels hanging around as well, so it's not like they're going away (thank goodness!)

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Strawberry

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There's this Portlandia skit where two diners ask pedantic questions about the origins of the chicken they're about to eat. It's a neat skewering of Farm to Table fanatics. Even after presented with an information sheet on the exact chicken they'll be consuming (his name was "Colin"!), they feel the need to further investigate, making their way to the actual farm itself, interviewing the workers, and so on. This is obviously a ludicrous exaggeration, which is the point, but sometimes it's nice to see where your food comes from. Take this beer, part of Almanac's Farm to Barrel series (naturally), a sour beer fermented with their house yeast, then aged in old wine barrels atop uber-fresh local fruit. But where does this fruit come from? In this case, we've got strawberries grown at Dirty Girl Farms in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. Some of you might be thinking how nice it would be to meet the eponymous girls in question, and you people are probably pretty dirty in yourselves. Get your minds out of the gutter, is what I'm saying. Let's get our mind off this lurid subject with some beer:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Strawberry

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Strawberry - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a finger off white head (it's not even pink, who are they fooling?) Smells strongly of tart fruit, strawberries, kiwi, and the like, with some oak and vanilla kicking in for fun. Taste starts sweet, quickly moving into sour fruits leavened by some oak before sharply ramping up the sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is crisp and light bodied, quite acidic but still pleasant enough. Overall, yes, it's another Farmer's Reserve winner from Almanac, moar sour than usual, but that seems to be the way of the strawberry. Who am I to question that? A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/17/15. Batch 10:1 031215 FRSTRAW.

Always on the lookout for more Almanac, they've never really let me down and have pretty steadily gotten better as time goes on. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of their offerings sooner rather than later...

Deschutes Jubel 2015

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We're big fans of Christmas here at Kaedrin. We love the whole season, even some of the crass things that everyone hates, like creeping start dates for decorations, horrifying music, and terrible Hallmark movies. Christmas in July isn't a real holiday and most folks see it for what it really is: a blatant marketing appeal and opportunity to clear out last year's Christmas inventory in preparation for the upcoming season. Historically, there's some obscure references to the idea, but it didn't really catch on until the greeting card industrial complex got behind it. If this sounds cynical, well, I work for a big online retailer and trust me, there's never a time when we're not planning some sort of Christmas event (last weekend was the kickoff of this year's Christmas season for us, after which things will only intensify. Fingers crossed that I don't pull guaranteed delivery duty this year.)

But it doesn't have to be that way. No reason we can't break out some wintery heavy hitters in July, you know? Even better, I've been practically bathing in saisons and IPAs of late, so despite the hot weather, it's worth taking a dip into some darker brews. Enter Jubel, an imperialized version of Jubelale, Deschutes traditional winter warmer. Also referred to as Super Jubel, Deschutes employed their customary partial barrel aging strategy, with a 50% aged in Pinot and Oregon Oak barrels (I assume this to mean Pinot Noir and new oak barrels). The label sez this was conceived of as a once-a-decade beer, but they didn't want to wait another five years, so here we are with a pretty good way to start Christmas in July festivities:

Deschutes Jubel 2015

Deschutes Jubel 2015 - Pours a deep, dark, cloudy amber color with a finger of tan head that lingers for a bit but quickly subsides. Smell is rich caramel and fruity malt, hints of mulling spices in the background, a little oak. This was quite intense up front, but as I made my way through the bottle, it started to dissipate a bit. Taste is not quite as intense as the nose would have you believe, not as rich or fruity, but it's got some caramel and fruit in the game, and the spice actually comes through a little more here too. Mouthfeel is high medium bodied, dryer than I'd expect (relatively speaking), maybe a faint hint of booze, and as it warms, the booze comes out a bit more. It feels perhaps a bit too attenuated, but then, I think that's what they're going for. Overall, this is a decent beer, but it's not quite as impressive as it could have been. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.4% ABV bottled (22 ounce waxed bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/18/15. Best After: 1/23/16.

Someday I'll remember to save one of these Deschutes beers until the best after date. Someday. In other news, big Christmas in July blowout on Saturday. Lots of imperial stouts, right in time for a big heatwave around here. Perfect. Check out Kaedrin Beer's Twitter to follow along on Saturday night... and expect a full recap next week.

Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar

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Hot on the heels of Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder, only about a month later, I embarked upon the more familiar, single-day incursion into Vermont. This being the case, I'm not going to cover the trip in as much detail, considering that you can go back and read recaps of my previous sorties into Vermont. Instead, I'll recap a few beers I've had, and let you know about a few new places I visited this time around.

First up is a brewery that's not even in Vermont. I know, I'm the worst, but it was literally walking distance from the place I was staying and it had just opened less than a week before I visited. How could I not check it out? Enquiring minds want to know about all these new breweries popping up all over the place, and someone has to take up the slack. And until they do, you'll have to deal with my silly notes. It's called Fulton Chain Brewing (named after the chain of lakes that winds its way through the Adirondacks), and it's got a promising start. They only had 4 beers on tap, but plan on having more (things were still coming up to speed for them, they were still waiting on glassware for flights and even empty growlers). Between three friends and myself, we tried all of them, and they're decent. The clear highlight for me was Lake Hopper IPA, an 8.5% ABV DIPA made with 8 hops to represent the 8 lakes in the Fulton Chain. Nice juicy DIPA, super cloudy stuff, a little raw, but very promising. Not exactly a Heady killer or anything, but pretty darn good for a place down the road.

Fulton Chain Lake Hopper DIPA

I also tried a beer called Stealth Buddha, a Scotch ale made with small amounts of smoked malt, quite approachable. Not going to inspire road trips or anything, but nice enough. Really happy this place opened up, and I'm looking forward to visiting again once they're more established. They appear to be quite small, but they've got a gorgeous tasting room (including an amazing single piece countertop that snakes its way throughout the space), a nice location, and they show promise.

As for Vermont, I made a few of the typical stops, including the Warren Store, a couple places in Waterbury, Lost Nation (got a great pulled pork thing that wasn't quite as good as the smoked lamb pita sandwich I had last time, but was still fantastic), and Hill Farmstead.

Hill Farmstead

Some spoils of war:

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - bottles

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - Cans

(click to embiggen)

I didn't snap a pic of everything because I bought a bunch of stuff at Lost Nation and Hill Farmstead that I had snagged last time. Some new stuff includes my most prized acquisition, Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience 14 (barrel aged blend of Anna and Florence), some of this year's batch of Florence (I still have some of last year's batch, so I'm hoping to do a comparison). Also some Sip of Sunshine (it comes in bottles and cans!) and a bottle of Rock Art's Bourbon Barrel Aged Vermonster. Lots of Lost Nation Cans, including some Mosaic and Vermont Pilsner (both of which are very nice), and of course, some Gose. Moar Sip of Sunshine cans, and I took a flier on 14 Star Tribute DIPA... Finally, I made my way to Four Quarters brewing to fill up some crowlers.

Four Quarters Brewing - Barrels
Four Quarters Barrel Room (click to embiggen)

Another pretty small operation, they impressed me during the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston last month and I was really hoping to snag some bottles. Alas, it was not to be, but I did get some crowlers. Here's Chrysalis, a smoked hoppy amber ale:

Four Quarters Crysalis

Four Quarters Chrysalis - Pours a very nice, mostly clear dark amber color with a finger of bubbly light tan head that sticks around for a while. Smells of citrusy hops initially, but then you get that malty, smoky background that actually sets the hops off rather nicely. Taste starts off on the sweeter side, typical amber and crystal malts, and the smoke is somewhat muted, but it's there and playing along reasonably well. Hints of piney, bitter hops come in towards the finish as well. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and silky smooth, pretty easy going stuff. The smokey character is not dominant at all, and just adds a bit of complexity to a pretty typical hopped red ale. Overall, it's a very nice beer, not mind blowing, but interesting enough... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV canned (32 ounce crowler). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/12/15. Crowler filled on 7/9/15.

I also got a crowler of Opus Dei (a very nice, quaffable little Belgian Pale Ale) and shared it with some friends when I got back. Sorry, no detailed notes there. Another thing I shared with some Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #1, a great little DIPA (what else would you expect from them), not quite as juicy or citrusy as I've come to expect, but there's nothing wrong with that, and it actually matched very well with some smoked chicken we were having. It went over quite well. I managed to squirrel away my last growler though:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 4

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 - Pours a cloudy, bright golden color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells amazing, huge citrus aromas, pure mango juice or something like that. Taste is very sweet, again with a massive blast of mango juice, well balanced finish, not bitter, but just perfectly balanced. Feels kinda like and amped up Susan, but even more fruity. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, smooth, medium bodied, and almost quaffable. Overall, what a surprise, HF hits it out of the park. Again. With a citrusy wonder. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/12/15. Growler filled on 7/9/15.

Finally, this last one is a spoil from Operation Cheddar III, but I think you still want to know about it, right?

Rock Art Smugglers Notch Barrel Aged RIS

Rock Art Smuggler's Notch Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout - Smuggler's Notch is a Vermont micro-distillery, so I took a flier on this one rather than going with the more traditional straight bourbon barrel approach. Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, and lots of vanilla, hints of roast and dark chocolate. Taste is surprisingly muted, some of that bourbon and oak, but not much, vanilla, and a big hit of hop bitterness towards the finish. As it warms, some roast comes out to play, and it becomes more expressive. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, and while not dry, per say, it's more attenuated than I'd expect. Overall, this isn't top tier stuff, but it's an interesting take on the style. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/3/15.

Well, that was more involved than I thought it would be! Another successful incursion into Vermont, and there will be more. Oh yes.

The Bruery Cuivre

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The Bruery's Anniversary beers hold a certain sentimental value for me, and as such, they've become a much anticipated annual tradition. As with the past few years, we've got a massive Old Ale base aged in Bourbon Barrels along with some of last year's batch (meaning that every batch of Anniversary beer contains a small amount of every previous batch, a process called the Solera method). Fortunately, after last year's substantial bump up to 16.9% ABV (from 15%), this one sees a slight decrease, though it still tips the scales at a hefty 16.2% ABV. It's their seventh anniversary, so it was named Cuivre, translating to Copper, after the traditional gift for such an anniversary. Alas, they appear to have given up on waxing these bottles, and we're left with one of those imitation wax foil things. Decent as they come, but not quite as sexy as a waxed bottle.

The ultra-high ABV game gets tiring pretty quickly, but there are some things that make it significantly more palatable. One is that the beer needs to be really good, something The Bruery is generally able to achieve. Another thing that The Bruery is not particularly good at is bottle size. I get it, they're a small brewery and would rather invest their money in more barrels and beer than upgrading their bottling line to accommodate smaller bottles. It's hard to argue with that. On the other hand, Black Tuesday is somewhere in the range of 18-20% ABV every year and it's a bit of a project to get through a bottle. A wonderful, delicious project, to be sure, but still. Sometimes, even sharing that much beer, at that high of an ABV, can be a challenge. I like to have people over from time to time, but I don't want them to leave completely sloshed, you know? In short, I think Patrick Rue is trying to kill us. All of us. No pity, no remorse, just large bottle formats. At least the other high-ABV culprits, like Avery or even Dogfish Head, will package their heavy hitters in 12 ounce bottles. The Bruery? Well, I guess I'll just have to live with making a night out of some of these things. And, to be sure, they're usually pretty fantastic nights:

The Bruery Cuivre

The Bruery Cuivre - Pours a cloudy, dense, brown color with a finger of light tan head that has decent retention but dies down to a ring around the edges and eventually disappears. Smells great, huge bourbon, oak, and vanilla character, with lots of rich caramel, toffee, werther's original, some of that almost fruity, raisiny malt character in the background, maybe even some spicy phenols like cinnamon in the mix. Taste is very sweet, lots of rich caramel up front, toffee, werther's, hints of fruity, raisiny malt, boozy in the finish, with just a hint of the spice box. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, heavy stuff with lots of hot booze, a little sticky, and did I mention booze? A sipping beer for sure. Overall, a slight rebound from last year's overly boozy, one-note (but that one note was so good) affair, but it still feels like some of the earlier vintages were better. This series is still one of my favorites though, and hopefully always will be. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.2% ABV (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/2/15. Vintage: 2015.

This is a little on the expensive side, but it's also pretty widely available, and you don't see beers of this quality that often, so it might be worth the expense if you're into this sort of ultra-rich, high-ABV, bourbon barrel aged stuff. I'm a sucker for this series though, so take that with a grain of salt. Interestingly, I still have a bottle of Cuir, the second anniversary brew, sitting in my cellar, that for some reason (*ahem* the high ABV and large bottle format *ahem*) I've never opened. Maybe I'll get to that this year...

Lost Nation The Wind

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So we know how much I enjoyed Lost Nation's flagship Gose, a perfect summer beer. What happens when you take that, dry hop it with Citra, and add some grapefruit to the mix? You get The Wind, once a limited draft-only brew that they have recently started bottling. Tilt those windmills, we've got to deal with The Wind:

Lost Nation The Wind

Lost Nation The Wind - Pours a cloudy straw yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head that resolves down to a small cap of head that has pretty good retention. Smells wonderful, that dry hopping coming through strong with citrus and floral notes, but the underlying brackish and spicy Gose character is still there and plays well with the hops. Taste starts off more Gose-like than the nose, sweet, salty, spicy, with a zesty, lemony, tartness emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, tart, and relatively dry, making for a very quaffable glass. Definitely more intense and layered than the base Gose. Overall, I'm rating this higher but it's hard to call this "better" than the base beer because it's quite different, but it is more complex and intense while still being very well balanced. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/27/15.

Lost Nation has quickly emerged into a must-visit stop during Operation Cheddars. This represents that last of my Operation Cheddar III cache, but fear not, I stopped in again last week and restocked with a couple new ones. You will be seeing more from these guys in the near future.

Crux Tough Love [Banished]

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The first time I heard of Crux Brewing was a couple of years ago when Jay from the on-again, off-again, and freshly back-in-action Beer Samizdat took a trip on the Bend, Oregon Brew Bus. He mentioned a couple of their hoppy brews, but the first one I managed to snatch up was this imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels. Brewed with black strap molasses, unspecified spices, rye, smoked wheat, and who knows what else, it sorta reminded me of a more barrel-forward version of The Abyss, which makes sense when I learned that Crux was started by Larry Sidor, the former brewer for Deschutes (and presumably the originator of the Abyss). Well, it appears that Sidor's still got it, as this was quite good. Nice distinctive label (that I'm sure is a huge pain in the arse to apply), waxed cap, and a cork. Someone wanted to keep this genie secured in the bottle, but I managed to pry it loose. Eventually.

Crux Banished Tough Love

Crux Tough Love [Banished] - Pours a deep, very dark amberish color, almost black really, with half a finger of light brown head. Smells of caramel, molasses, vanilla, dark chocolate, oak, and hints of bourbon. Taste starts off with some rich caramel and toffee with oak, then that molasses kicks in, brown sugar, vanilla, hints of candied fruit, maybe a little chocolate, cinnamon?, plenty of boozy character in the finish. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, but well carbonated, which helps with the viscous and thick body. A little boozy, but nothing excessive or unpleasant and would probably calm down after a few months in the cellar. The closest I can think of for this would be something like Berserker or Abyss... Overall, it's a rock solid barrel aged RIS that has just enough personality to set it apart from the crowd, though it doesn't quite take top honors. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed, capped, and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/26/15. Vintage: 2014 [Banished] series.

Certainly a brewery to keep my eyes on. In the meantime, I'll have to make do with this all this piddling Vermont beer from the just recently completed Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar (look for a recap, um, soonish - I'm a little backed up in the reviews department). The horror!

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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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