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2SP Bourbon Barrel Aged The Russian

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Delaware County is a weird place. I say this as a man born and raised there. Blue collar with lots of Irish Catholics (I wen't to St. Dot's and Cardinal O'Hara). I'm surprised there's not a Delco flag. It's weird for a place to choose its identity based on its county, but Delco is a way of life. Apparently. Alright, fine, I'm exaggerating for effect here, but there is something a little... off about Delco. The point is, when a brewery opens up there, you can expect them to embrace their roots and take pride in their county. Whatever that may be.

2SP is the recently opened (er, last year) brewery arm of Two Stones Pub, a small chain of solid little beer bars located mostly in Delaware. Head brewer and Delco's native son Bob Barrar made a name for himself brewing for Iron Hill Brewpub in Media, earning numerous medals at GABF and other big contests. One of his most famous creations is Iron Hill's Russian Imperial Stout, a beer that he's adapted for new life at 2SP. As local imperial stouts go, it's great and I look forward to seeing it around more often. Now they've put it in Bourbon Barrels and aged it for 8 months? Sold, even if it is a pricey bottle. I've often mentioned the need for a more regularly available local BBA stout; will this beer fill that need? Well, maybe?

2SP Bourbon Barrel Aged The Russian

2SP Bourbon Barrel Aged The Russian - Pours a deep, dark brown color, almost black, with a solid finger of light brown head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of molasses, caramel, vanilla, with hints of the bourbon and oak pitching in as well. Roast comes out a bit more in the taste, along with similar elements from the nose, light caramel and vanilla, with just a bit of vanilla and oak. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated (moreso than typical for the style - not inappropriate, but it does lighten this beer up a bit more than it probably should), a nice sipper. Overall, it's solid, but not a top tier affair. Honestly, I might like the regular The Russian better... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 5/20/16. Batch No. 001. Bottle No. 459.

I've generally enjoyed everything I've had from 2SP, so I'm looking forward to keeping tabs on them in the coming years. As for a world class local BBA stout? This isn't quite there yet, but we've got another candidate coming soon. Stay tuned.

Wicked Weed Double Feature

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One of these days, I'll have to make my way down to Asheville, North Carolina and check out their brewpub scene, but for now, I'll have to make due with muled bottles of Wicked Weed. I've had good luck with their barrel aged sours, but was really happy to get my grubby little hands on these IPAs. They have a pretty good reputation as a standard West Coast take on the style, which is a nice change of pace for those of us enmeshed in that whole Northeast Milkshake IPA thang. Let's not waste any more time babbling about this and dive in:

Wicked Weed Pernicious

Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA - This appears to be their flagship IPA, lots of hops and minimal malt influence. Pours a crystal clear golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head. Smells primarily of citrus and floral hops. I feel like I should say more, but that's pretty much what it is, and it's great. Taste has a nice light sweetness to it providing an ample platform for those citrusy, floral hops, maybe a bit of pine emerging here too, finishing with a light bitterness. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and tightly carbonated, making for a nice, quaffable glass. Overall, a rock solid IPA, maybe even above average, but this is a crowded category... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (11.2 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 5/20/16. Bottled 04.21.16

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature Double IPA

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature Double IPA - They call this a "San Francisco inspired hoppy monster", but I'm not entirely sure what makes it so other than the West Coast approach. They mention adjunct additions to dry out the beer, so maybe they used Rice-A-Roni. You know, the San Francisco treat? No? Alright, that's stupid, let's just get to the beer: Pours a slightly darker, but still clear golden yellow color with a finger of white head. The smell has a sweeter note to it, but the hop profile is similar to Pernicious, lots of citrus and floral aromas, also some pine peeking in. Taste is definitely sweeter, but the hops are more prominent to match, citrus and pine with floral notes. On the other hand, the finish is less bitter. Mouthfeel is definitely a bit heavier, medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry. Overall, this is bigger and bolder, but still approachable and tasty. An improvement on Pernicious, but still a B+, but, like, a higher B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/20/16. Bottled 05.03.16.

Many thanks to Kaedrin friend Danur for procuring these bottles for me. Will definitely be on the lookout for more from these fellas, and if I ever make my way down to Asheville, I will most certainly be spending time at their establishments...

Sante Adairius Saison Bernice

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When I was in college, my friends and I were on the Campus Activities Team (I ran the movie program, natch) and we had this (in retrospect) utterly bizarre habit of designating office supplies with old-people names. Of particular note were tape dispensers named Phyllis and Gertrude. I don't think we had anything named Bernice, but we certainly should have. I'm... glad I was able to write about this, and I know you are too.

I'll let eponymous owner Adair Paterno describe this Brett dosed saison in more detail: "I think that Saison Bernice is the purest expression of what our house culture can do to a base saison, specifically, our house saison, Anais, without oak and/or a significant amount of aging time." Presumably they named it after someone important in their lives, but I'd like to think that somewhere at the SARA headquarters there's a tape dispenser with the name Bernice scrawled on the side in whiteout. Let's dig in:

Sante Adairius Saison Bernice

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Saison Bernice - Pours a bright, luminous yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells wonderful, nice earthy funk component, especially as it warms up, with lots of vinous fruit, lemons, tangerines, nectarines, you know, fruit type stuff. We get real technical here at Kaedrin, get used to it. Taste hits those same elements, a little more in the way of earthy funk here, but it's all brightened up by those notes of juicy fruit, lemony tartness creeping in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and utterly quaffable, very refreshing and croosh. Overall, this is a fabulous saison in the Logsdon Seizoen Bretta mold, maybe even a little more nimble; definitely funky, complex, juicy, and delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/6/16.

Drinking SARA beers is always a pleasure. Many thanks to the hibernating blogger Jay from BeerSamizdat for sending this one my way. Fortunately, there is another SARA beer in the pipeline, so look for a review in the near future...

Other Half Stacks On Stacks

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Ok Mark, be cool. This is totally a Soulja Boy reference. The artwork even has stacks of money flying everywhere. Don't start talking protocol stacks or data structures, LIFO, FIFO for your life. Oh. Wait, crap, I just did exactly what I wasn't supposed to, didn't I? I'm the worst. Quick, change the subject! Beer, we're supposed to be talking about beer!

So I was just talking about the recent-ish emergence of great brewing in NYC, and Other Half is certainly on that list, lining up NYCers for blocks on end to get a taste of their Northeast IPA flare. I had the good fortune to sample a few of their brews at ACBF last year, and a friend generously gifted me this can, a lovely little Northeast DIPA number made with Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops. I'll take it!

Other Half Stacks On Stacks

Other Half Stacks On Stacks - Pours a pale, slightly hazy golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells fabulous, huge citrus hop component with lots of tropical fruit, grapefruit, pine, and the like. Taste follows that nose up front, then diverges into more floral hop notes before hitting a nice bitter hop finish. No date on the can, but this is clearly pretty fresh. Moughfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated, still quaffable, hints of stickiness as it warms. Overall, yep, it's a hum-dinger of a DIPA, and I can see why this stuff is sought after. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounces). Drank out of a Charente glass on 5/6/16.

So yes, I need to get me some more Other Half, and you will most certainly be seeing more of them on this blog soon enough.

Old Perseverance

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So you're making a beer celebrating Winston Churchill, what do you do? Obviously start with an English style, in this case an Old Ale, something that is distinctly English. Should probably name it after something that embodies his spirit, and perseverance is unquestionably something Churchill had in abundance. I mean, any survey of famous quotes is bound to find a Churchill quip that is pertinent here. For example: "If you are going through hell, keep going." Yes, sir. Then, naturally, you need to amp up the alcohol. I mean, sure, the notion that Churchill was a functioning alcoholic is almost certainly exaggerated, but the man did certainly enjoy imbibing and liked to promote his seemingly "bottomless capacity." So high ABV it is! This sounds like a job for Adam Avery. Yes, another behemoth from Avery's Barrel-Aged Series that stretches beyond the 18% ABV mark. So, like, not an everyday drinker, but after a long weekend of not drinking much, this one was perfect. Will I persevere in finishing this beer? So it would appear:

Avery Old Perseverance

Avery Old Perseverance - Pours a clear amber brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smells of fruity malt, a little of that maple syrup, and hints of bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Taste is very rich, again with the almost fruity malt character, figs and the like, with some toffee notes and a little caramel pitching in (but not as much as you'd expect), and just enough boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, plenty of well balanced carbonation, and lots of booze. Intense, such that it would be nice to share a single 12 ounce bottle... Overall, this is very good, rich, tasty, worth checking out, but it's not going to make you fall down and see God. It is an interesting spin on the style while still retaining its distinct attributes though, which is admirable. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 18.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce bottle). Drank out of a snifter on 5/1/16. Bottled: March 3, 2016. Production: 783 cases.

Never, never, never give up! And I won't, Winston. In fact, I will be seeking out some more in the way of Old Ales in the near future, I think. It will require some hoop jumping though, so wish me luck.

Grimm Bourbon Barrel Double Negative

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New York City has quietly begun to establish itself with some standout breweries. They've always had Brooklyn, and last time I was there, Captain Lawrence was the lone savior on generally tepid taplists, but now places like Other Half and Grimm Artisan Ales popping up, putting out cans of beer that have godforsaken beer dorks lining up for hours.

Or wait, where is Grimm from? This label sez it's brewed by Grimm at Beltway Brewing Co, Sterling, VA. Looks like we have another Gypsy on our hands you guys (oops, they call themselves a "Nomadic" brewer, a thousand pardons for not glomming onto the right hipster codeword), and yes, it looks like they're collaborating their arse off as well. Some interesting stuff coming, too. In particular, they brewed a batch of Mosaic hopped Braumeister Pils with Victory (this will hopefully show up around here soon, and I'm most excited to try it) and collaborated with Fantôme on a saison. My kind of Gypsy, is what I'm getting at here.

So what we have here is a nice little imperial stout aged in 11 year old bourbon barrels (original batch was aged in Elijah Craig 12 barrels, so mayhaps the new NAS barrels were used for this?) No big whoop.

Grimm Bourbon Barrel-Aged Double Negative

Grimm Bourbon Barrel Double Negative - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with half a finger of light brown head. Smells of roasted malt, vanilla, caramel, and a little bourbon and oak. There's something I can't quite place here as well, not brown sugar, but maybe something along these lines. Taste starts very rich, some roasted malt character, and then that weird flavor I can't place, and maybe even some bitter hops in the finish. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, thinning out a bit towards the finish (not thin, but not as rich as the beginning). Overall, this is very good, but not top tier stuff. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.3% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/22/16.

There's also a Maple Bourbon version of this beer which is, you know, sploosh, but I'm pretty on board with the whole Grimm program. I also recently got a taste of their Super Spruce Gose which was very impressive. At this point, I'm definitely seeking out more from these guys.

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

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These days, anytime I get a chance to snag a bottle of barrel aged Midnight Sun beer, I jump at the opportunity. This Belgian Style Barleywine aged in High West bourbon barrels was no exception. Looking into it a little more, it seems like this has a pretty interesting heritage. A little over ten years ago, Midnight Sun celebrated their 1000th batch of beer with, you guessed it, a Belgian Style Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels called simply "M" (I knew Roman numerals were good for something). These days, this concept isn't particularly noteworthy. Everyone does this sort of thing. Hell, even I've homebrewed a bourbon oaked barleywine (that I'm positive is drastically inferior to anything produced by Midnight Sun, I'm the worst). But back in 2005? It was apparently a revelation. Bottles of M are among the most prized beers in existence, going for thousands of dollars at auction. Why? Partly it's the rarity, but it is also supposed to be uniquely well suited to aging. Ratings are still sky high, even a decade after bottling.

Of course, I have not had M, nor does it seem likely that I ever will. However, as you might imagine, the requests to Midnight Sun to rebrew it are numerous. A couple years ago, current brewer Lee Ellis answered some questions about M and let a few interesting nuggets slip. To bring this digression into relevance, here's a few quotes:

Hmmm, I'll just say that if we did re-release it, we wouldn't call it M. It is impossible to re-create it exactly. While Gabe Fletcher was an amazing Brewer, he sure sucked at documentation.

...As for more M, I'll say that Termination Dust is probably the closest re-creation we have done to date. Fairly similar malt bill, and very similar yeast blend. But again, it's kind one of those "that time, that place" beer. I love making big, dark, barrel aged belgians, stouts, and barley wines. Our Alaskan clientele demands it. As we say, session beers start at 8% up here.

Well that's nice to hear! Naturally, this beer doesn't seem to be making the waves that M did, but perhaps in a few years, these bottles will emerge as a wale, bro. Or M was just that ephemeral, one of a kind brew that will never be replicated.

Hope springs eternal though, so let's take a closer look. Termination Dust is basically the first light snow that signals the end of summer, something that generally carries more weight in a land of extremes like Alaska than it does for us doofuses down here. Brewed with a blend of Belgian yeasts and aged in High West barrels, this clearly isn't an exact duplicate of M. For one, it's a little stronger, and for another, High West didn't exist back in 2005 (and presumably, higher quality barrels were much more widely available back then). Still, this is Midnight Sun we're talking about here, so let's dig in:

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

Midnight Sun Termination Dust - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of tan head that is relatively short lived. Smells of caramelized brown sugar, bourbon, oak, some fruity esters, faint hints of spice. Taste hits those brown sugar notes hard, toffee, caramel, maybe even some Belgian yeast spice, and that boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Very sweet, and even moreso once it warms up, though the spicy phenols also come out more. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, moderate and smooth carbonation that fits well, a little boozy heat. Overall, certainly another winner from Midnight Sun, though I don't think it's better than Arctic Devil. Yet. I think this could age fabulously, so let's check back in a few years, shall we? Still, this ain't no slouch, so we'll go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/15/16. Bottled: 9/16/15.

I shall have to track down another bottle of this stuff to age. In the meantime, I'm sure we'll be seeing more from these Alaskan ballers soon enough.

Ale Apothecary Sahalie

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There are lots of breweries that use highfalutin terms to describe themselves. Craft has long since devolved into meaninglessness and debate that I could not care less about. Independent is the new hotness, but that's distressingly prosaic and not really what I'm getting at. Artisanal? Bespoke? Hand made? Now that's what I'm talking about. While usually belying a nugget of truth, I think most of use see these as the marketing codewords and hipster signaling that they really are.

Ale Apothecary describes themselves as "A Vintage Batch Oak Barrel Brewery Buried in the Mountain Wild of Oregon. Producing the finest hand made beer using our own innovative brewing process, which melds the ancient art of brewing with traditions of wine & champagne production." Engage cynical hipster codeword scanners. 8%.... 19%... 42%...95%... Scan Complete. Results: Signaling present, more data needed. Alright, so yeah, maybe I'm feeling paranoid right now, but dropping $30 on a bottle of beer will do that to you. Then again, the process described on their website, in all its wonky glory, does seem to fit with their marketing fluff. Their beer appears to spend nearly all of its time in oak barrels (presumably only really excluding the boiling stages), from mashing in to fermentation to aging to dry hopping, it's all done in barrels. Each batch appears to be from a single barrel as well, meaning really tiny 50ish gallon bottle runs. Each barrel appears to be lovingly named (rather than just using boring old numbers) and presumably reused frequently in order to build up their yeast strains and bacterial beasties. Truly small scale stuff, with a price tag to match.

Sahalie is their flagship ale. It spends over a year in a barrel, followed by a one month dry hopping period in another barrel (they appear to only use Cascade hops at their brewery, which is something I've never heard of before - single hop brewery?) This particular bottle began life in August 2014 and was aged for over 1 year in a barrel named "Reno", after which it was dry hopped for a month in a barrel named "Bagby". Finally it was bottled, using an oddly designed cork and twine contraption to seal the bottle and allow it to condition for a few weeks. The result? Well, my paranoid ramblings appear misplaced, this is phenomenal:

Ale Apothecary Sahalie

Ale Apothecary Sahalie - Pours a hazy pale yellow with a couple fingers of fluffy white head that sticks around for a bit and even leaves some lacing. Smells fabulous, lots of vinous fruit, oak, musty funk. Taste follows the nose, fruity and spicy Brett, musty funk, finishing off with that big vinous fruit kick and maybe a hint of booze. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent up front, but leveling off a bit in the finish, which has a note of pleasant booze, even if it hides the alcohol pretty well. Still, it's pretty intense, so it's not quite a pounding beer if you know what I mean. Overall, this is fantastic, complex, delicious.. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.45% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and, um, twined?) Drank out of a flute on 4/8/16. Batch 135, August 2014, aged in barrel Reno for 1+ years, dry hopped in barrel Bagby for one month with Cascade hops. Label sez: Batch: Nov 20 2016, which I think means this comes from the future. My scanners seem particularly unsuited to parsing a lot of this stuff. I'm the worst.

Well that was nice. Who knows if I'll ever get to try more from Ale Apothecary, but I'd totally be willing to shell out the scheckels for more of this (or any of the other varieties they produce).

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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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