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Melting Down with Root Down

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Root Down Brewing opened its doors earlier this year, and it was an event I had been anticipating for a while. The owner/brewer, Mike Hamara, was the guy who sold me my homebrew setup many moons ago. On at least one occasion, he improvised a complete recipe from scratch for me because I needed something quick and didn't have time to prepare (I'm the worst). To put it mildly, this is a guy who knows what he's doing, and has been planning this operation for years, if not decades.

Root Down Graffiti

Located in Phoenixville, PA, the building is deceptively large and punctuated by graffiti inspired decor. Chances are, there will be some sort of obscure martial arts film playing on the TVs (though they will cave in and put the Eagles game on if someone asks), and indeed, some of the beer names (like the below Flying Guillotine IPA) are inspired by said movies (truly a brewery after my heart). I didn't have any food during my visit, but they have a menu of BBQ goodies and even a whole page dedicated to Vegan offerings, such that I'll definitely be checking this stuff out upon future visits.

Root Down Flying Guillotine IPA

I visited on a Sunday when they were releasing a particular beer made in cahoots with BeerNERDs (N.E.R.D. stands for Network of Educated Refined Drinkers), with proceeds going to Main Line Deputy Dog, a local charity that helps with training service dogs for those in need. For the uninitiated, BeerNERDs is a group of, well, nerds centered in southeastern PA with smatterings of members from MD, DE, and NJ. There's a Facebook Group of 5000 plus members, which naturally leads to the occasional, erm, argument. Tensions mount, some people can't handle it, others pile on, and then a full blown meltdown ensues. One particular meltdown centered on Root Down taking forever to deliver an ordered beer. I can no longer find specifics of the complaint, but the guy was awfully strident in his distaste and apparently greatly exaggerated his experience, as it was later revealed that he had only been around for a scant 107 seconds before up and leaving the place. But these details are unimportant; Root Down and BeerNERDs decided to relax and remember that it's just beer, eventually deciding to collaborate for charity.

So finally we get to the beer, a 10.7% ABV (I see what they did there) imperial oatmeal stout brewed with bitter chocolate and slow molasses. Sounds wonderful, so let's kick it root down:

Root Down Melt Down

Root Down Melt Down - Pours a very dark, deep brown, almost black color with a finger of brown head. Smells of roasted malt, dark chocolate, maybe a little coffee note, and that molasses tang in the background. Taste is rich and sweet up front, with a bitter roastiness emerging quickly, leavened a bit by the molasses, then returning to roast, coffee, and chocolate in the finish. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, solid carbonation, a hint of boozy heat. Overall, rock solid imperial stout. Rumors of barrel aged variants in the future, so let's leave some room for such endeavors in the rating, making this a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a snifter on 11/12/17. Canned 11/6/17. Batch: DOOMA DOOMA.

Very much looking forward to more trips to Root Down, as well as seeing some of their barrel aging efforts come to fruition...

Jackie O's Double Feature

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The impression I get is that Jackie O's is a sort of hidden gem. Perhaps because they're located in Ohio, or perhaps because they don't have that one walezish offering that everyone goes bonkers over (an arguable point, I'm sure, but still). I've had a few things in informal settings, and recently came into a couple of staple bottles that would be a reasonable introduction. So let's get into it:

Hockhocking

Jackie O's Hockhocking - I'm pretty sure Jackie O's isn't known for this sort of thing, a mixed fermentation saison aged in wine barrels. Named after a river and music festival that takes place on the banks of said river, this is certainly a worthy entry into that crowded style. Pours a pale, slightly hazy yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells sweet, vinous fruit, lactic funk. Taste starts off sweet, with lots of tart, vinous fruit, maybe a hint of saison spice in the middle, with the finish having a funky, lactic tartness to it. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, medium bodied, moderate acidity, quaffable. Overall, this is a pretty great little saison. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/11/17. Vintage: 2017.

Oil Of Aphrodite

Jackie O's Oil Of Aphrodite - An imperial stout brewed with black walnuts and Belgian candied syrup. Pours black with a finger of light brown head. Smells very sweet and sugary, not much roast, a little caramel and vanilla. Taste follows the nose, a little more roast here than the nose, but still very sweet, caramel and vanilla, some piney hops in the finish balance things out a bit. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbed. Overall, a pretty straightforward imperial stout, a little on the sweet side, but quite nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 11/17/17.

A promising start. Now I just need to snag some of their barrel aged offerings, which I've heard good things about...

Marshal Zhukov

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Georgy Zhukov was a Soviet Army officer who commanded troops during the Battle of Berlin, eventually resulting in the defeat of Nazi Germany. He attained the rank of Marshal (the highest military rank in the Soviet Union), but also became Minister of Defence amongst taking on other political roles. Infamously stubborn and hot-tempered, he was known to risk life and limb by heatedly arguing with Stalin over this or that policy (normally surrounded by sycophants, Stalin respected Zhukov's independent thought, while presumably also being annoyed by his stubbornness, which is the sort of thing people got disappeared for...) Basically, a decent guy to name a Russian Imperial Stout after. In a mildly refreshing change of pace, there's nothing particularly special about this stout (other than it being really good). No weird ingredients, no spices or vanilla, not even barrels. Just barley, hops, yeast, and water. Spaseeba!

Marshal Zhukov

Cigar City Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout - Pours a deep black color with a pretty brown head that quickly dissipates. Smells great, lots of sweet malt, caramel, hints of roast, vanilla. Taste hits those same notes, rich caramel, hints of roast, a touch of vanilla, a little booze. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, moderate carbonation, a little boozy heat. Overall, fantastic straightforward imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.2% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 10/29/17.

There are tons of variants of this, some of which I've had (a couple of coffee dosed versions), but I'd love to try a barrel aged one sometime (of which there are several varieties). Someday!

Casey Saison

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Colorado's Casey Brewing and Blending was unleashed upon the world in 2013 and the trading boards have been awash with ISOs ever since. They focus on wild fermentation, oak aging, and blending, which attracts a certain type of beer dork. Including me, apparently.

What we have here is their base saison offering. Made with all Colorado ingredients, this is initially fermented in open oak barrel fermenters, then moved into other oak barrels (presumably sealed ones) for further aging. Casey has probably become much more famous for their fruited variants of this sort of thing, but this one isn't anything to sneeze at. SO STOP SNEEZING AT IT.

Casey Saison

Casey Saison - Pours a hazy, very pale straw yellow color with half a finger of quickly dissipating head. Smells nice, oak, vinous fruit, a little lactic funk, hints of saison spice. Taste is sweet and tart, vinous fruit up front, with some sourness kicking in quickly, followed by some of that yeast spice, finishing with another sour bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, with moderate acidity. Goes down quick. Overall, this is a great sour saison. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/13/17. Bottled: 3/28/17.

I have had the good fortune to have tried three other Casey beers, one of which, the Casey Family Preserves Montmorency Cherry, was one of the best years I had all of last year. I will obviously be on the lookout for more of their wares.

Carton IDIPA

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Every year around Halloween, I gird my loins and make a trek into New Jersey for some spooky beer hunting. Alright, fine, it's a day with some sort of seasonal-themed mini-golf and a haunted restaurant, and while I'm there, I hit up some Jersey liquor stores to see what I can find.

Carton has been a reliable little brewery for a while now, and I really enjoy Boat beer and 077XX, so when I saw this newish IPA offering that was unheard of by me, I grabbed a four pack. I was initially confused by the name, thinking it was some form of Double IPA, though I couldn't figure out what the leading "I" stood for. It turns out that this beer is actually a reference to the Id (and that Carton also makes beers called EGOIPA and SUPEREGOIPA, the latter being a whopping 13% ABV). Very Freudian:

Carton IDIPA

Carton IDIPA - Pours a clear golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells of dank, resinous hops, a little citrus. Taste is sweet, some crystal malt here, with citrus and pine hops. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, easy going. Overall, solid old-school IPA here, a little more muted than I'd expect, but I'm chalking that up to freshness (though it should probably keep this long) and it's not like it's really bad at all or anything. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/28/17. Canned on 10/03/2017.

Carton continues to interest me, of course, and I will always snag something from them when I see it...

The Spice Must Flow

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The most wonderful time of the year has rolled around, bringing with it the requisite leaf piles, mutilated pumpkins, paper skeletons, decorative corpses, "fun" cobwebs, and other oxymoronic traditions that are nominally ghastly but suddenly become socially acceptable during this season of seasons. Oh there's also tons of complaining about pumpkin beer and other pumpkin spiced abominations. As per my personal orthodoxy of "extremist moderation", I generally find everyone's reaction here overblown. Pumpkin beers are fine and I always make room for a few in my beer drinking agenda, especially when I can find one that's an interesting take (read: someone put it in a barrel).

This year's entry in the "pumpkin beers can be perfectly cromulent" sweepstakes is Bottle Logic's The Spice Must Flow. Since everyone's first joke of the season is now (and frankly should be) Decorative Gourds, I have started to rely on my backup of Dune related humor. Fortunately, Bottle Logic has already gone and done that work for me. Clearly members of House Atreides. (Kaedrin: Come for the beer, stay for the cutting edge cultural references.)

Anywho, Bottle Logic is one of the new hotness breweries out of Anaheim, CA and their wares have been melting faces amongst a certain subset of the beer dork community, particularly when it comes to their barrel-aging (and I guess coffee-dosing) program. What we have here is an ale brewed with pumpkin, coffee, and spices, then aged in rum and bourbon barrels. Look, I know some of you hate pumpkin beers, but this sort of beer is why I end up drinking some every year. It feels a little weird for this to be the first thing I write about, but then, everyone knows about Fundamental Observation and Darkstar November (I've had the latter, it's great). Not everyone can fold space and time, as the spice melange can:

The Spice Must Flow

Bottle Logic The Spice Must Flow - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells of coffee and pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, a little caramel and brown sugar too. Taste hits some rich caramel, toffee, brown sugar, with coffee and pumpkin spice emerging quickly, followed by oak and vanilla, a hint of bourbon and rum. As it warms, the coffee takes a backseat to the pumpkin spice. I'm sure some would hate that, but my coffee ambivalence means that I kinda love it. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but rich and full bodied, hints of pleasant booze, perfectly balanced. Overall, this is awesome, even with the coffee. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 10/7/17. Vintage: 2017. Batch: 2 (label sez Level 2)

I've had a couple barrel aged offerings from these folks and they're fantastic. Some of their more normal beers are solid too, but the Barrel Aged stuff is where it's at. I will most certainly be looking for more.

Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale

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According to my records, I haven't done a proper review of an Ommegang beer in almost 5 years. Can you imagine that?! Yes, well, you are pretty sharp, so I'm not surprised that you can, indeed, imagine that. My three readers are the best. Anyway, it's perhaps fitting that the last review was Ommegang's XV Anniversary beer, a rock solid Belgian Strong Dark. Since that time, Ommegang seems to be most famous for their Game of Thrones series of beers, popular but mostly unremarkable. Ommegang does occupy a special place in Kaedrin history though (being that they were the ones that introduced me to great beer way back during the turn of the century timeframe), so I'm glad they've stepped up their game for this 20th Anniversary brew.

This beer starts out as something similar to that XV Anniversary beer, a Belgian Strong Dark, but then it spent a few months in old Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels. Sometimes I find that bourbon barrels overwhelm the more subtle Belgian ale characteristics. Will that be the case here? Spoiler: nope, this is great!

Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale

Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale - Pours a clear, very dark amber brown color with a finger of off-white head. Smells great, lots of fruity esters, dark fruit, some spice, clove, and hints of boozy bourbon. Taste hits more of those spice notes than the nose, lots of clove, some sweet, rich caramel, molasses, a little of those fruity esters, finishing on a boozy note. A light touch on the bourbon and oak character, but it's clearly there. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium to full bodied, moderately rich, a little booze. Intense, but very well balanced. The bourbon contributes while not overpowering the more subtle Belgian notes. Overall, this is pretty darn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/14/17. Vintage: 2017.

Good ol Ommegang. It's been far too long, old friends, and I see you've been doing some more interesting stuff, like brett-dosed beers and more barrel aged variants. Nice.

de Garde Oude Desay

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de Garde has made a several variants of a beer called Saison Desay. Near as I can tell, they had no real reason to use the word Desay (I mean, maybe they're big fans of the crappy electronics company or perhaps the unique wooden window found in Kathmandu, but I'm doubting it)... until I saw this beer. Did... did de Garde wait three years to blend this beer just so they could make an Odyssey pun with this beer name? I'm probably just the worst, but I like to think that someone at de Garde was willing to go to such elaborate lengths for such a trivial pleasure.

Anyway, this beer is a blend of one, two, and three year-old oak barrel and oak tank matured Petit Desay. A neat, gueuze-like approach to the blending (though obviously not an actual gueuze, which has additional rules concerning wheat in the mashbill and aged hops, etc...) makes this one of the more intriguing offerings I managed to acquire from these Oregonian spontaneous ballers... I couldn't find any details on the proportions of the blend, but I think it's safe to assume that there is more of the younger components and less of the older. Whatever the case, it's a worthwhile exercise. A beer odyssey, you might say:

de Garde Oude Desay

de Garde Oude Desay - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with tons of head that sticks around and even leaves a bit of lacing. Smells great, saison yeast spicy phenols and fruity esters, definitely a light, raisiny character that aged Belgian styles give off, but also some musty, earthy funk lingering in the background. Taste hits those saison notes up front, spicy with cloves, fruity with vinous fruit, hints of raisin, but this is all overtaken by a growing sourness in the middle through the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, dry, highly carbonated and effervescent, with a moderate and pleasant acidity. Overall, this is the best de Garde I've had yet, certainly reminiscent of the others (they're all saisons of similar stock, so I guess this makes sense), but with more complexity and balance. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/8/17. Batch 2 (I think?)

As per usual, I'm always interested in checking out more from these fellows at de Garde. Alas, nothing in the pipeline. Woe is me.

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

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