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Casita Cerveceria Del Árboles

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Casita Cerveceria is a contract brewery (funny and yet welcome that they don't go for the formerly trendy "Gypsy" designation) mostly based at Hill Farmstead. Let that sink in for a moment. It turns out that brewer Ryan Witter-Merithew has a long history with Sean Hill, having collaborated on Hill's initial run of Grassroots beers in Europe as well as working together at Denmark's Fanø Bryghus. Heck, rumor has it that Hill considered him a sort of unofficial successor in case of tragedy ("I told my brother Darren that if I died or something he should reach out to Ryan and have Ryan take over the brewery."). After a stint at England's Siren brewing (where he again collaborated with Hill Farmstead on that Lemon Cello IPA), Witter-Merithew returned to the US to work at Hill Farmstead for a spell, and now he's heading up his own operation, using some of the excess capacity from Hill's recent expansion.

My one prior exposure to Casita Cerveceria beer was something I didn't even realize at the time, a collaboration with Stillwater called On Fleek, a big 13% Imperial Stout that was wonderful (I neglected to take notes whilst drinking because I was not expecting it to be anything particularly special - I was wrong, because I am the worst).

Del Árboles (Spanish for "The Trees" and featuring a nifty, anthropomorphized evergreen on the label) is a saison brewed with Juniper, Pine, and Cedar. It's also brewed in collaboration with another contract brewery operation centered in Vermont called Wunderkammer. The label sez: Del Árboles tienen ojos, meaning that the trees have eyes. Ok, this is getting scary, let's see how it stacks up:

Casita Cerveceria Del Arboles

Casita Cerveceria Del Árboles - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of white head and ok retention. Smells fabulous, lots of funky, fruity twang, some more earthy notes, a healthy dose of oak. Taste starts sweet, some spicy phenols, earthy funk but not quite barnyard (perhaps the spruce and juniper give it a fruity, floral kick), finishing with a well balanced sourness and oak. I say oak, but I can't find anything saying it's barrel aged, so perhaps it's cedar? I don't know cedar well. Whatever, it has the character of something barrel aged. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated and dry up front, but that lessens as the sour acidity takes over in the finish. Overall, this is a very well done saison in the Hill Farmstead mold and certainly compares favorably, which is high praise indeed. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 9/16/16. Brewed in May 2016.

Two beers, two winners. So yes, this is a brewery to look out for. I know I will be hunting down more as soon as possible. Alas, I only have more of this beer readily available. I know, boo hoo, right?

Hill Farmstead Table Dorothy

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So if Shaun Hill was such a big fan of the Golden Girls and if this beer is brewed with wheat, wouldn't it be better named Blanche? What's that? It's named after a family member? Well that makes more sense. Thank you for being a friend.

What we have here is a low alcohol version of regular Dorothy, their Citra dry-hopped saison made with wheat and Brett. This one drops the alcohol down to 4.5%, but is supposed to otherwise be the same. The concept of a "table" beer, something appropriate for anytime drinking in a wide variety of circumstances often served with food, is great, but a little rough when it comes to a smallish brewery like Hill Farmstead. That being said, if I had an inexhaustible supply of this stuff, I'd be a happy camper. As it is, I traveled down the road and back again to get some bottles:

Hill Farmstead Table Dorothy

Hill Farmstead Table Dorothy - Pours a hazy straw yellow color with copious, bubbly white head that sticks around for a while and leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells of spicy farmhouse yeast, a little funky earthiness, some fruity esters peeking out and complementing a light citrus hop character. Taste hits a cereal note, earthy minerals, only a hint of funk, a little bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, highly carbonated, crisp, bone dry, and eminently quaffable. Overall, this is a very well done light saison with hints of hops, but less farmhouse than I'm used to from HF. Really solid and crushable. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/9/16. Bottled: 2016 07 07

Luckily, I did buy a few bottles of this stuff so I think maybe I can use it as a table beer. Only for a couple of dinners, but hey, better than nothing. No more Hill Farmstead in the immediate pipeline, but an adjacent brew that holds much interest, so buck up, fair readers. More fun incoming soon enough.

The Bruery Mélange No. 14

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The Bruery's Mélange series is their line of experimental blends. They've amassed quite a few barrels of beer and have been siphoning off small portions of those barrel aged wonders for blending purposes for quite a while now. Most appear to be one-offs, but a few are recurring. They've generally had limited availability, but this particular iteration looks to have been spread far and wide. The components used in this beer are 85% of "some of our most vintage barrels of barleywine and old ale" (presumably stuff like their Anniversary beers and Mash) and 15% of "both Tuesday-themed releases and Share This" (i.e. imperial stouts).

I would be genuinely curious about exact proportions of components, as blending is a tricky beast. Of course, I don't have any particular experience with it, but my blatant speculation is that it would be very difficult to blend such strongly flavored beers in such a way that would allow them to become more than the sum of their parts. Indeed, I suspect many attempts at blending lead to one component dominating the others, or perhaps even resulting in a beer that is less than the sum of its parts. Blending in other arenas is often done to smooth out rough flavors, but that also has the added effect of making the result blander and more homogeneous. I don't think that's what the Bruery is going for here, and most of these Mélange beers seem to be well received, so I guess they're doing a pretty good job.

The Bruery Melange No 14

The Bruery Mélange No. 14 - Pours a muddy looking, vivid dark brown color with a half finger of light tan head. Smells of rich caramel, bourbon, oak, vanilla, toffee, a hint of something darker lurking in the background. Taste is very sweet, lots of crystal malt, much more on the fruity side, dark fruits, maybe coconut, plenty of booze. As it warms, the fruit subsides a bit and the bourbon and oak come out more, but it's still distinct from your typical Bruery BBA lineup. Mouthfeel is on the lighter end of full bodied, moderate richness, finely carbonated, some pleasant boozy heat. Very complex, lots going on, a slow sipping beer for sure. Overall, this is really nice, typical Bruery barrel character, complex, maybe a bit off balance and muddled, but still delicious. More delicious than its components? I'm not so sure. I definitely have a thing for the Anniversary beers and I love Mash and Black Tuesday. This is a nice change of pace, I guess. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/9/16. Bottled: 05/23/16.

Always fun taking a trip through the Bruery's barrel program. I've always wanted to try Melange No. 3 (a blend of Anniversary, White Oak Sap, and Black Tuesday) and would be really curious about Melange No. 1 (a blend of Oude Tart and Black Tuesday) even if it seems a bit odd to blend a sour with a stout. I also realized that I neglected to review this year's anniversary beer, but then, I've reviewed most of them already, so there's little else to say... No more Bruery on the horizon, but we'll certainly see more from them on here sometime.

Burley Oak Sour Diesel

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Not wanting to (literally) beat around the bush, beer has a relationship with weed. Not one that I'm especially interested in or care much about (not my thing), but it's hard not to recognize the affinity amongst certain infamous brewers. There's often an almost certainly false speculation that hops and marijuana are biologically related, mostly because they sure look and smell similar. Then again, this requires a working knowledge of biology and, well, my main takeaway from this examination is basically: "1) Don't become an angiosperm taxonomist unless you love frustration, because 2) taxonomy can be a giant pain in the butt." Which is to say, well, they're both plants and it passes a literal sniff test, so that's probably good enough for most.

So what the hell am I talking about weed for? Well, after my exhaustive research session of searching Google for "Sour Diesel", this beer is clearly named after an infamous strain of Marijuana. Not sure why that's a great name for weed or beer though. I mean, yeah, I guess it indicates a certain dynamic flammability, but that's not generally something I look for in beer. Anywho, starting life as a stout made with chocolate rye malts and fermented in oak barrels, this was then soured (er, sour dieseled?) with lactobacillus (no mention of Brett or Pedio, for what it's worth). The label sez it's a "satisfyingly dank experience", so let's find out:

Burley Oak Sour Diesel

Burley Oak Sour Diesel - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with practically no head whatsoever. Smells nice, fruity, that sour twang, maybe some cherries. Taste hits those sour cherry notes hard, lots of dark, sour fruits, some heft from the dark malt, a little one note, but tasty. Not particularly dank, but sure, it's sour. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, low carbonation (maybe just enough, but lower than I usually want out of a beer like this), moderate sourness. Overall, this is a nice lactic sour, a little one note, but a good enough note. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/10/16.

One more Burley Oak sour in the pipeline, but I've had it before. It's also a sour stout, but it felt like it had more character than this one, even if I feel like it might strip all the enamel off of my teeth if I drink a whole bottle. Stay tuned!

Tired Hands Bottle & Can Directory

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The other day, someone posted a thread on Facebook asking folks to post their top two breweries with the highest count of unique beers tasted (Untappd helps keep track of this sort of thing). For me, number two was Victory with 60 different brews.

Not too shabby, but regular readers (all 3 of you) who remember my epic recaps of hundreds of Tired Hands beers might guess that brewery would place number one. And they'd be correct! How correct? Oh, you know, something to the tune of 356 different beers. That's all. Ok, fine, before you start preparations for my intervention, there are a few mitigating factors. One is that, according to Untappd, there are 975 different Tired Hands beers (Beer Advocate only lists 769 beers though). So I haven't even had half of them! Second, the grand majority of these have been 4 or 8 ounce pours, with the occasional bottle and very rare pint (i.e. there were times where I've visited and had the equivalent of two pints, but that's 8 beers in 4 ounce increments). Finally, this is over the course of three years and while I used to pop over to Tired Hands every week, I've slowed my roll considerably of late.

Anywho, I've mostly given up on writing up notes when I visit, but I do tend to take note of their bottled offerings, so I'll probably continue posting these roundups from time to time, even if they're nowhere near as comprehensive as they once were. I've also managed to snag some cans from time to time, but they're generally released on Wednesdays at 4 pm or 5 pm and I have this thing called a job that prevents me from waiting in line for a few hours. I know, priorities, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Some of these are more detailed tasting notes, and others are more general observations, so take them with the appropriate mountain of salt.

Tired Hands Only Void Single-Origin Awake Minds Ethiopian Coffee

Tired Hands Only Void (Single-Origin Awake Minds Ethiopian Coffee) - Cold conditioned on heavy amounts of Awake Minds Ethiopian coffee from ReAnimator Coffee - I feel like people slept on this release, as I just kinda walked up an hour after the release had started and snagged a couple four packs. You all know I'm not a big coffee person and while this doesn't exactly change my mind, it was a superb example of the style. Tons of roast and coffee, rich, intense but incredibly well balanced. Not sure how these cans are drinking now (released in April), but worth looking out for the next release. Since I didn't take formal notes and it's been several months, I'll refrain from rating, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

Tired Hands Living With Ourselves As We Are

Tired Hands Living With Ourselves As We Are - French oak fermented wheat Saison conditioned on heaps of Meyer lemon purée - Pours a very pale straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells of tart fruit, those lemons coming through here, but a nice dollop of funk and oak pairs well. Taste has a nice sweet backbone, plenty of tart fruit, again with the lemons, but maybe some other fruity notes making themselves known (vinous fruit?) and plenty of oak, finishing on those sour lemons. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, moderately sour, quite well balanced. Overall, this is very nice, one of the better bottles of the year... A-

Beer Nerd Details: ??% ABV bottle (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/16/16.

Tired Hands Rustic Pentagram

Tired Hands Rustic Pentagram - Sour Mango Saison. Brewed with Wheat. Hopped with Amarillo. Fermented in one of our large French oak foudres. Conditioned atop freshly made mango purée. - Had this at the Fermentaria anniversary and loved it, but it's even better out of the bottle. Pours a very pale, almost radiant yellow color, only slightly hazy, with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing. Smells amazing, a beautiful funk character mixed with a well balanced mango aroma and some oak playing go-between. Taste is sweet up front, with those mangos coming through strong, almost immediately followed by a big sour bite, then comes something a little more earthy, funky, almost cheesy and gueuze-like, and a well balanced oaky streak ties the whole thing together, finishing with another sour bite. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate to high acidity, but very well balanced. Overall, this is spectacular, best TH bottle in a while. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV bottle (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/29/16.

Tired Hands Pineal
(Click to Embiggen)

Pineal - Have had this a few times on tap, one of Tired Hands' first recurring IPAs (and by recurring, it's like, once a year for the first two years? Though more often since they've started canning), it's always struck me as a pretty standard Tired Hands IPA. Fantastic, especially when compared to most other breweries, but not quite top tier TH single IPA. In the can? It's cloudier and juicier, I rather like it better. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can, like a man, on 7/31/16.

Tired hands Milkshake IPA
(Click to Embiggen)

Tired Hands Milkshake IPA - I went over the origins of this before in discussing the Northeast IPA, basically an IPA brewed with lactose, wheat flour, and strawberries - Pours a turbid, chicken broth looking pale yellow color with a finger of white head (I poured some out to see, but drank most out of the can). Smells great, huge wafts of juicy citrus, pineapple, orange, vanilla. Taste hits those big juicy citrus notes hard, lactose sweetness, mild bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, and chewy, well carbonated, did I mention thick? Overall, surprisingly enough, this is absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can, like a man, on 7/30/16.

Tired Hands Believers Club Bottle 1

Tired Hands Believer's Club Bottle 1 - Fermented and conditioned with our magickal Saison yeast in French oak barrels. It was conditioned atop a copious amount of mango at a rate of one and a half pounds per gallon of beer and then dry hopped with Mosaic. - Pours a slightly hazy but still radiant straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells great, lots of musty funk, stone fruit, mangos, oak. Taste is sweet and tart up front, some of that mango showing itself, followed by some earthy notes and oak, finishing on that sour mango swerve. Mouthfeel is medium to light bodied, a tad lower on carbonation, moderate acidity, all very well balanced. Overall, this is fabulous, very, very similar to Rustic Pentagram and I could see it growing more complex over time too. We're splitting hairs here, so let's just go A- for now, though I'm guessing it will continue to evolve over time.

Beer Nerd Details: ??% ABV bottle (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/2/16.

Tired Hands ROOMARAK

Tired Hands ROOMARAK - Saison brewed with local Deer Creek Malthouse barley and wheat, fermented and aged in a Vin Santo foudre with a ton of Merlot grapes from local Karamoor Winery - Pours a striking reddish orange color, robey tones, very little head that doesn't stick around at all. Smells very nice, musty funk, vinous fruit, oak. Taste hits that vinous fruit character hard, apparently that Merlot making itself known, even getting some wine tannin here, a little oak, finishing with a sour bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, only mildly acidic. Overall, an interesting wine/beer hybrid and a tasty beer. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: ??% ABV bottle (750 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 9/3/16.

Phew, I think that's enough for now. Next up on the Tired Hands bottle front: Parageuisia 6 and 7 are being released this Sunday. If you are in the area, it's worth trying to snag a bottle, they're wonderful.

Hill Farmstead Dry Hopped Arthur

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Farmhouse yeast! Well water! Segal Ranch Cascades! The reanimated corpse of Sean Hill's grand-uncle Arthur! YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Ugh, stupid Mark. Clickbait goes in the headline, not the body of the post. I'm the worst. You know what's not the worst? Hill Farmstead! They are, in fact, the best. Arthur is one of their flagship saisons and this particular bottle went through an additional dry-hopping process with, you guessed it, Segal Ranch Cascades. They're really cornering the market in Cascade hops you guys. Let's see how much that treatment impacted the base (hint: not much, but who cares):

Hill Farmstead Dry Hopped Arthur

Hill Farmstead Dry Hopped Arthur - Segal Ranch Cascade - Pours a slightly hazy, very pale yellow gold color with a finger of white, fluffy head and decent retention. Smells great, typical Hill farmhouse character, fruity, hints of that dry hopping contributes additional resinous citrus notes, but it's really quite subtle (very much like... regular Arthur). Taste starts sweet, hits a nice tart fruit character, lemony, a little farmhouse in the middle, maybe a little of that citrus and resin hop character, but it's very, very subtle, finishing on a clean lactic sourness. Mouthfeel is crisp, light bodied, and refreshing. A little more acidic (lactic, not at all acetic) than I remember, but no worse for it, it's actually very refreshing. Overall, yep, it's Arthur all right; the dry-hopping is quite subtle, but nice. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/27/16. Bottled: 2016 06 30 DH (that appears to be the only indicator of the dry hopping process on the label).

Oh, another world-class saison from Hill Farmstead? Go figure. Stay tuned, we've got a couple other Hill Farmstead (or HF adjacent) efforts on the way.

Union Royal Farmhouse Double IPA

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Baltimore's Union Craft Brewing continues to be an underrated gem. They don't put out a huge variety of beers, but their Duckpin Pale Ale and Double Duckpin are both fantastic go-to beers that aren't too difficult to track down. The single Duckpin, in particular, is an underrated beer that deserves more attention. Or not, because I like being able to reliable grab some anytime I'm in the Maryland area.

This is one of their one-offs, a Double IPA made with Columbus, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe hops and fermented with a farmhouse yeast strain to give it a little Belgian kick. Not my favorite mashup of styles, to be sure, but it's always nice to change things up from time to time and hell, that farmhouse Rooster on the can has a crown on its head and thus deserves some semblance of respect. Or at least a review:

Union Royal Farmhouse DIPA

Union Royal Farmhouse Double IPA - Pours a mostly clear golden orange color with a finger of big bubbled white head that sticks around for a while and leaves lacing as I drink. Smells very nice, big citrus and resinous pine, hints of musty Belgian yeast. Taste hits those Belgian notes harder than the nose, some spicy phenols, but a nice fruity ester character that matches well with the citrus and pine hops, finishing with a nice bitter bite. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry, with just a hint of boozy heat. Overall, I've never been a huge Belgian IPA guy, but this is good. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/27/16.

I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to find more Union beer to review. I always grab something during my periodic pilgrimages to State Line Liquors in MD, but it's hard to pass up the Duckpins, so I rarely branch out. I probably should!

For centuries, the the Delmarva Peninsula of Maryland has been known for producing bottles of barrel-aged sours that grow on trees. Truly a freak of nature, Maryland's own Evolution Craft Brewing has exploited that land for their "Hand Picked" series of beers. Straight from the tree!

Alright, fine, they grow fresh fruit on the the Delmarva Peninsula and that just happens to be right by Evolution, who use that in their series of barrel aged beers. I may have gotten some of the continuity wrong, all right? Get off my back. Anyway, I recently spent some time in Ocean City, Maryland, and on the way back to Kaedrin HQ, I met up with some friends and toured a few Maryland breweries. You will most certainly be hearing about them in later posts, but for now, we'll hit up Evolution. We're no strangers to their generally well received wares here, and these limited sours seemed worth a flier.

Both use their standard Belgian-style pale ale as a base, but the treatments are slightly different. One is aged in red wine barrels for 18 months with half a bushel of peaches per barrel and a melange of fermenting bugs: Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus, and L. Brevis. The other is aged in port barrels for 16 months with 100 pounds of raspberries and just Brettanomyces Lambicus. First up, the superior treatment:

Evolution Hand Picked Series Peach Sour

Evolution Hand Picked Series Peach Sour - Pours a dark orange color with half a finger of fizzy, short lived head and visible sediment/floaters. Smells great though, lots of peach and a hefty oak character. Taste starts off sweet, lots of peaches, oak, some light lactic sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, medium acidity. Overall, this is a rock solid sour, a little one-note, but the peach matches well. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/19/16.

Evolution Hand Picked Series Raspberry Tart

Evolution Hand Picked Series Raspberry Tart - Pours a reddish brown color with a finger of fizzy, short lived head (no sediment/floaters in this one). Smells nice, raspberry fruit rollups dominate, but that oak is there too. Taste seems a little more muddled, much less raspberry than the nose would have you believe, muted oak, not even particularly sour, an almost bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and lightly acidic. Balance seems a bit off here and the raspberry comes off a bit too artificial, but it's not excessively bad either. Overall, it's fine, but disappointing and the Peach was a lot better. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/21/16.

So yeah, go for the Peach. They're better than raspberries anyway. Stay tuned for more from the Maryland trip, which should be coming once I finish drinking my way out of all these Vermont IPAs...

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

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