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Lost Abbey Agave Maria

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It used to be that you'd see the occasional Bourbon barrel aged beer. Everyone would lose their minds, and they'd fly off shelves, and it was all well and good. I, for one, welcomed our bourbon barrel overlords, but the past few years have seen brewers diversifying their barrel aged offerings. You've got rum barrels, apple brandy barrels, and wine barrels galore.

Enter the dreaded tequila barrel. Lost Abbey brewer Tomme Arthur even decided to double down on this offering, brewing the base beer with Agave syrup. The fine folks over at Lost Abbey run a pretty tight Keebler tree, so despite some rightfully dubious responses, I figured I'd drop some coin on a bottle of this stuff and see what the deal is. In short, while not "worse than undrinkable", that's also setting the bar too low. I'd rather drink this than most macro slop, and it is a unique, interesting beer, but it's not something I'd go out of my way for again.

Lost Abbey Agave Maria

Lost Abbey Agave Maria - Pours a murky dark brown color with a finger of khaki head. Smells very sweet, with an almost honey-like note, something kinda like char, and plenty of barrel character. The taste explodes with sweetness up front, very sugary sweet, something like honey (presumably that agave doing its thing), and less of that barrel character than I'd like. I suspect that a 750 of this would get cloying, but the 375 format just barely clears the bar. But then, I'm an odd duck, so your mileage may vary. The mouthfeel is full bodied and rich (so that part of the barrel treatment works), sugary, highly carbonated (way to go Lost Abbey!), with a bit of saccharine stickiness in the finish. Overall, this is an interesting, unique little beer. Not something that makes me want to try a lot of other tequila aged beers, but I'm glad I tried one. B

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/19/14. Vintage 2014A.

I'm all for barrel diversification, but you know what, you should probably also just throw some Serpent's Stout in Bourbon Barrels, because that would be killer. Yeah, Deliverance has BBA Serpent's Stout in the blend, but I'm sure the straight up juice would be even better. Ah well, I'll just stop pretending like I actually know better than people who do this for a living now. I'm a moron.

Buffalo Trace Black Magick

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It's been over a year, but I'm still mining some black gold out of Voodoo's Barrel Room Collection. It's been a generally successful venture, and I'm happy I waited in line for the privilege of buying these beers.

Sidebar! According to wikipedia, there are many things that "black gold" could be referring to. The obvious one, for all you hillbillies out there, is crude oil (Texas tea!). Along similar and unsurprising lines would be coal. A little more unexpected: black pepper. It turns out that at one time, this was prized, rare, and compact enough to be universally accepted as payment (a commodity money). More unexpected would be Marmite, that salty yeast extract that's used as a food spread in the Anglosphere. This one seems to be a relatively new coinage, linked to a recent shortage (dubbed the Marmageddon). Finally, we have coffee, which is a little dubious, but you all know my feelings on coffee at this point.

Well, I think Bourbon barrel imperial stouts should probably be added to the list of substances that qualify as black gold. And this one is certainly worthy of the label, if not quite as spectacular as its Pappy aged sibling. So prep your cauldrons and consult your Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook, it's time to drink some Black Magick potions:

Voodoo Brewing Buffalo Trace Black Magick

Buffalo Trace Black Magick - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a cap of light brown head. Smells fantastic, huge bourbon character, some caramel, lots of vanilla, and plenty of oak. Taste is full of rich caramel, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, tons of sugary sweetness, and some char and roasted malt notes emerging towards the finish. Maybe a bit of booze as it warms up as well. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, smooth, and chewy. Not oppressively huge, but there's a decently hot booze character. Overall, it's a fantastic barrel aged stout, certainly a worthy take on a crowded style, though clearly not the pinnacle. This might be the beer's age speaking, and next time, I shall have to drink these suckers with more haste. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (12 oz. Blue Wax). Drank out of a snifter on 7/18/14. Bottle #777. Bottled 1-18-13.

Alas, my Barrel Room Collection stash is dwindling, only a pair Lairds Apple Brandy barrel aged stouts left. Look for those reviews soon enough. It looks like their next barrel room collection release is TBD, but they posted a new picture on their site. Alas, the barrels are not labeled. And if the last couple batches were any indication, these things sit for quite a while in the barrel before being released. Still, we are coming up on about a year since the last release, so there is that... Here's to hoping they have another Philly release. Otherwise, a 5 hour drive might be a bit much to undertake.

Tired Hands So It Goes...

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If you're going to try and decode Tired Hands beer names, one place to start would be familiarizing yourself with Kurt Vonnegut. This reference, at least, is a straightforward one from Vonnegut's most famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. It's a refrain that occurs frequently throughout the novel (like, over 100 times), usually associated with death or mortality in some way.

The beer bills itself as a Pennsylvania Sour Red Ale, brewed with a plethora of specialty malts, then aged in a variety of barrels for ten months. This calls to mind Flanders Red ales, but is definitely asserting its own identity (thus falling into that nebulous American Wild Ale designation). The minimalist label is actually rather eye catching, and I waited in line a couple hours to get ahold of two bottles of the stuff. That's a long time, but so it goes...

Tired Hands So It Goes...

Tired Hands So It Goes... - Pours a really rather pretty dark orange amber color with half a finger of white head that sticks around a bit. It looks like a lighter, brighter Flanders Red. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and a nice acetic sour twang. The taste hits similar notes, vinous fruit and cherries are there, but not as strongly as in the nose. It's not as sweet as I typically expect from a beer like this, but it's not really bitter at all either. The oak is doing its thing throughout, and there's a nice puckering sourness that emerges in the middle and lasts through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, and on the lighter end of medium bodied (lighter than expected). Plenty of acidity to go along with that sourness, but it's not overwhelming or anything. Overall, it's becoming impossible to grade all these Tired Hands sours, because they've really been killing it with their recent sours (particularly the Emptiness series beers and those Parageusia beers). This is an A-, but on the lower end of their bottled sours.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute on 7/12/14.

Mark your calendars beer nerds, Parageusia1 release on Sunday. Totally worth the effort, and it looks like it'll be a nice day. See you there.

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amarosa

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The Lost Abbey always has fantastic events during Philly Beer Week, but due to a variety of factors (general listlessness, apathy, and the fact that I have a job), I can never seem to get there. So I missed out on coveted pours of Cuvee de Tomme and Duck Duck Gooze, but managed to snag a few interesting bottles, including this Framboise De Amarosa.

The base for this beer is Lost Abbey's standard Lost & Found ale, a dubbel brewed with raisins. Take that, add in an ample dose of raspberries, and age in oak (Tomme sez it's a blend of 9 and 12 month old beer), and you've got something that sounds rather spectacular. It's named after Amorosa, a biblical reference to a courtesan... which reminds me of Cantillon's rather risque label on Rosé De Gambrinus. Are raspberries associated with loose women, or is this just a cheeky coincidence?

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amorosa

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amarosa - Pours a dark red color with a finger of head that sticks around for a bit. The aroma is full of rasperberries, some oak and vanilla, but raspberiies rule the day. The taste follows the nose, a nice, intense raspberry sweetness with plenty of balancing oak and vanilla. Really delicious. Mouthfeel is also well balanced, well carbonated, nowhere near as acidic as a lot of intense sours, but it's there too. Overall, this is a fantastic raspberry beer, intense and complex, but not overpowering. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/11/14. Vintage 2014 A.

Another winner from Lost Abbey, and I've got a bottle of Agave Maria standing in the wings as well. Look for a review of that tequila barrel aged sucker soon enough...

Boulevard Saison-Brett

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There are beers that I pine after (like any good beer nerd) that would rightly be called a White Wale. In the past, I've mentioned the sort of arbitrary, moving goalpost nature of White Whale beers, which leads neckbearded tickers to call stuff like Black Tuesday a Khaki Wale (unless you snag the 2009 vintage, in which case you're totally slayin walez, bro), but a beer like this wouldn't really even qualify for that dubious honor. It's mildly limited and PA is not in Boulevard's distribution, so there is that, but it's not a beer that lights fires, except in that certain corner of beer dorkery occupied by saison addicts. But this does happen to be my corner of dorkery, so why has it taken so long for me to procure a bottle of this stuff? I don't have a good answer, but I did finally manage to drink a bottle, so let's get to it, shall we. This is Boulevard's Tank 7 saison that's been conditioned on Brettanomyces for 3 months, and it's one of the better examples of Brett Saisons out there:

Boulevard Saison-Brett

Boulevard Saison-Brett - Pours a slightly hazy, light yellow color with massive amounts of whispy head. The smell is pure funk, musty, earthy, spicy, floral, and even a little fruity. The taste has a nice Belgian yeast character, fruity esters and spicy phenols, banana and clove, but then that funk shows up and starts trashing the place with it's earthy, musty, barnyardy, flowery goodness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and efferevescent, dry, light body but still substantial enough that it carries its weight and can stand up to food. Sometimes dry beers with high carbonation tend to be dominated by the mouthfeel, but in this case, those characteristics seem to pull out the flavor rather than mask it. It's complex enough to keep the jaded beer dorks interested, but approachable enough that anyone who likes Belgian pales will probably get a kick out of it. Overall, this is indeed a very good funky beer and probably my favorite Boulevard offering to date. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 6/27/14. 2014 vintage. Batch Number: SB14058-1. Best By Date: 02-2016.

It's always nice to tick that long unticked box, and it's nice to see what all the fuss is about.

The Bruery Sucré

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The Bruery's Anniversary beers hold a certain sentimental value for us Kaedrinians, and as such, they've become a much anticipated annual tradition. We're just bananas for this stuff. Like the previous couple batches, this is a massive Old Ale style beer, aged in Bourbon barrels and blended using the Solera method. The names of each anniversary brew correspond to the French translation of the traditional wedding anniversary gifts. Last year's was Bois, and it was fantastic. This year's is Sucré, which means Sugar (or probably more likely, Candy).

Those who are familiar with The Bruery's low attenuation, high ABV barrel aged brews will know that Sucré is particularly apt for this brew, as it's is indeed quite sweet and sugary. Not to mention boozy. The previous iterations have all been in the 14.5% to 15% ABV, but this one clocks in at a whopping 16.9% ABV. I'm not sure what they did differently this year, but that's quite a bump from last year, and you can really tell, even if it's still a fabulous brew that I really enjoyed.

The Bruery Sucre

The Bruery Sucré - Pours a murky brown color with a finger of off white head. Smells fantastic, sugary, lots of boozy bourbon, oak, and vanilla, a little bit of dark fruits. The taste is rich and sugary, with the typical Bruery barrel treatment taking over quickly, lots of bourbon, oak, and vanilla, very boozy but not super hot. The dark fruits are there, but take a back seat to the booze and bourbon. As it warms, it seems to even itself out a bit. That or I was just getting shitfaced. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, with a big boozy bite that's almost spicy. Overall, this is another fantastic brew in the series, more intense than previous versions, though perhaps not quite as harmonious right now. I'm betting the aging potential is high though. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/21/14. Bottled 2/25/14.

If you've had any of The Bruery's Bourbon barrel aged stuff, you sorta know what you're in for here. I plan on grabbing another of these bottles for my cellar, just because I have one for every year since Cuir (3rd Anniversary). Speaking of which, I never drank that Cuir, which I should totally get around to at some point. Of course, I only have the normal, 25% BBA version, but we can't all be Bruery Hoarder ballers, can we?

Like any good craft brewery, the fine folks at Tired Hands like to collaborate. These often show up at the brewpub (and presumably at the collaborator's brewery), but a couple of recent instances involved Jean traveling to Europe and working with various kindred spirits to produce some stuff that would be bottled and then imported. I've totally been slacking on these, so I figured it was time to catch up with them.

Crushable Saison

Brasserie de la Senne and Tired Hands Crushable Saison - This was basically a hoppy saison. Pours a cloudy but bright straw yellow color (very typical of Tired Hands) with huge amounts of fluffy, bubbly head that sticks around for a while and leaves lots of lacing (perhaps not as common for Tired Hands - they tend to be lighter in carbonation than this appears). Smells of grassy citrus hops (I get some standard Euro hop feel here, but also some straightforward American hops, like Cascade or Simcoe or something like that), some light peppery yeast, clove, and a little fruity kick too. The taste features a similar quality, lots of Belgian yeast character, very light spicy notes (pepper and clove), hints of fruity esters, and some grassy citrus hops (maybe a bit of hop bitterness in the finish). Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, very light body on this, and it is super dry. Given the name, I think they've achieved their goal though: it's super quaffable and yes, emminently crushable. Overall, this is a nice, delicate, quaffable saison. It's not going to light the world on fire, but I could drink a couple gallons of this stuff, which, seems to be what they were going for. It's not a glamorous face melter, but it's the sort of thing you could probably expect to be pouring at the brewpub on most visits. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a flute on 6/20/14. Bottled 10/10/13. Best By 10/10/14

Lost and Found

De Molen and Tired Hands Lost & Found - Check out these pics of Jean and Menno grooving at the De Molen brewery. This is a hoppy black ale fermented with 100% Brett. I can't tell if oak was involved, but I didn't really get much oak out of the taste. Pours a turbid brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of Brett funk, a little fruity, citrus and pine hops (maybe a little faded, yielding more piney notes), with some dark malt presence and a hint of tartness. The taste has more of that tart fruitiness, and that dark malt character comes on much stronger. Some earthy funk too. The hops seem a little lost in the taste, or at least not as harmonious as in the nose. Mouthfeel is really strange, grainy, a little astringency from that tartness, medium carbonation, medium body. Overall, there's some nice elements here, but the balance is a little off, and the disparate elements don't really come together as well as I'd hoped. It's not unpleasant or anything, but it was a little disappointing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/20/14. Bottled 27 Nov 2013 (I think that's the bottling date).

Both are imported by Shelton Brothers, so they should be out and about. Of the two, I'd recommend Crushable Saison much more, as it's more representative of their style... and cheaper too! That being said, if you are ever in the Philly area, it's worth making the detour out to Ardmore to visit the brewpub (but given my general enthusiasm for Tired Hands on this here blog, I probably don't need to tell you that).

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot

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If you've been following along, and you should be, you'd know that the tiny San Francisco brewery Almanac has been doing this local Farm to Barrel thing for quite some time now, incorporating uber-fresh locally sourced fruits and produce into their barrel aged sours. They've steadily been picking up steam and many an admirer - including me, even though I'm about 3000 miles away.

This one is made with Pluots, that unholy crossbreed of plums and apricots. Chuck several varieties of that mutant fruit (each of which has a fantastic, evocative name: Dapple Dandy, Honey Punch, Flavor Queen, Black Kat & Dapple Jack) into some old wine barrels along with Almanac's house "Dogpatch" sour culture (a mix of American and Belgian yeasts, along with some other critters, like a San Francisco sourdough starter). The result is quite a fine sour ale, if I may say so:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Pluot

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot - Pours a cloudy but bright, luminous straw yellow color with a finger of white head and good retention. The smell is very funky, some oak, lots of fruit, and something I can't quite place. The taste is beautiful, lots of tart fruit character, peaches, plums and the like. Some oak in the middle, finishing up with a fruit juice spritz. The sourness is there, especially in the finish, but it's far from overpowering. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, juicy, light and crisp, with a small acidic note from the sourness. Overall, this is a fantastic little sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a flute on 6/14/14. Batch FR-P. Bottled 031414.

This is my favorite Almanac beer yet, not that I've managed to wrangle that many of them. I am, however, fortunate enough to have another waiting in the wings, so you'll be hearing more about Almanac soon enough. Indeed, I've been on something of a sour jag of late, a consequence more of availability than anything else, but I ain't complaining.

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

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