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Double Feature: Coca-Cola

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Before I was obsessed with beer, I was obsessed with Coke. This may seem odd given how much of a novelty whore I am when it comes to beer, but I spent decades of my life pining for but one drink: Coca-Cola. When I was but a wee nerd, during the early stages of the cola wars, my parents would limit my brother and I to one cola a week. They didn't take sides in the cola wars, preferring to simply buy whatever was on sale. My brother and I, however, took up arms for Pepsi and Coke respectively. For reasons beyond my understanding, my parents decided to fan the flames of this conflict, pitting my brother and I against each other.

We finally got fed up with the constant attrition of war and decided to make an appeal to a higher authority. We left a note for none other than Santa Claus himself, explaining our dilemma. We providing a can of each soft drink along with some chocolate chip cookies, with the understanding that Santa would choose one over the other and thus decide the fate of the cola wars in one swift maneuver. I'm sure you remember the nervous energy of Christmas Eve and the challenges that presents to sleep, but this particular year was especially grueling. Nevertheless, we soldiered on and when the big morning finally arrived, we bound down the steps to find... an empty glass and a note that said "I prefer milk." That magnificent, clever bastard! And my parents were apparently pretty good too.

Anyway, my love for Coke continued unabated for many moons, but it wasn't meant to last. As my love for beer waxed, my love for coke waned. It was not an easy transition, but I managed to break the habit by giving it up for Lent for a couple years. So the irony isn't lost as I spend some time during this Lenten season, when I vowed to drink less beer and explore other beverages, returning to Coke.

This past weekend, I drank two different Cokes. Believe it or not, I've already covered the debacle of New Coke on the blog (in relation to how sip tests like the "Pepsi Challenge" lead everyone astray, and how small samples of beer can do the same), but the short story is this: Coke replaced their main brand with New Coke, saw the disastrous sales that resulted, and reintroduced the original recipe as "Classic Coke" with one tiny little change: instead of using pure cane sugar, they used the newer, cheaper high fructose corn syrup. However, that little change only really happened in the US. Other areas of their world still use straight cane sugar, including our neighbors over in Mexico. What's more, you can sometimes find bottles of Mexican Coke*, which are labeled as "Coca-Cola Refresco" and come in the classic glass bottle as well. So I snagged a bottle of that stuff and compared it to the standard corn syrup offering.

Coca-Cola Refresco

Coca-Cola Refresco - Pours a clear, dark brown amber color with a finger of quickly disappearing head. Smells sweet, with that undefinable spice character. You know how they say when you're brewing beer that if you can pick out the specific spice you used, you used too much? Well Coke certainly doesn't use too much, as you really can't pick out stuff that is supposed to be in the recipe, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander. Still, you do get a bit of a kick, and some of the other ingredients kinda show themselves. Taste is very sugary sweet, maybe the faintest hints of vanilla and caramel, with a slight spice component that lingers a bit in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, smooth, and a little syrupy towards the finish. Overall, yes, this is Coke alright. According to Wikipedia, sometimes Mexican Coke still uses HFCS, but this was definitely different from the regular offering.

Coke Nerd Details: 12 oz capped glass bottle. Drank out of a willybecher glass on 3/28/14. Best by: 05NOV14.

Coca-Cola Classic - The color is a little more brown and the highlights less amber, but otherwise pretty similar appearance. The nose is obviously similar, but having these back to back, they do kinda smell a little different. Nothing dramatic though. The taste is also very similar, with less of an aftertaste. Mouthfeel is where I'm getting the biggest difference, as this feels more effervescent, highly carbonated, and less syrupy. That's not necessarily better, just different.

Coke Nerd Details: 20 oz screw cap plastic bottle. Drank out of a willybecher glass on 3/28/14. Best by: MAY0514.

Overall, I have to admit, I don't really have a big preference for either... they are clearly different though, and would both hit the spot if I was ever in need of a Coke. I will say that I was expecting the Refresco to be definitively better than the regular, but I don't see it. Certainly different though. I did not rate either of these because realistically, there are only, like, 5 options here, so, what? Coke gets an A, Pepsi gets an F? Right.

Beer Nerd Musings: I've always wanted to make a batch of homebrew that utilized Coke as a sugar addition. It's mostly just sugar, so it should get eaten up completely by the yeast, just leaving whatever flavoring elements are in Coke, which could be interesting. I've actually been accumulating a bunch of odd ingredients in my regular homebrewing duties (a pound of unneeded DME here, an ounce of extra hops there) and so I thought it might be interesting to just throw it all together and hit it up with some Saison yeast, with the result being called "Clusterfuck Saison" or something like that. And I guess I could use Coke as a sugar addition, because why not? It's not like it's going against the Saison style definition (of which there really isn't any). This summer, perhaps.

So there you have it. At this point, I'd just like to observe that I went for the entire post without making any lame cocaine jokes. Until now, I guess, but I'm going to pat myself on the back for showing some sort of restraint. Anywho, tomorrow, we talk Rye Whiskey. Stay tuned.

* You can also find pure cane-sugar sweetened Coca-Cola in select 2 Liter bottles during Passover (as HFCS is apparently not Kosher enough for Passover). It can be hard to find and unpredictably stocked (it doesn't fly off shelves like BCBS, but it's not an easy get either), but Passover Coke is not a legend, I've definitely had some back in my Coke-obsessed days and basically done the above comparison. Passover starts on 4/14, so keep an eye out for 2 liter bottles with yellow caps!

Double Feature: Victorious Monkeys

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So just what the hell is being depicted on the Golden Monkey label? Let's take a closer look:

Victory Golden Monkey Logo

This label never made sense to me until someone told me that it was referencing the Three Wise Monkeys, a famous Japanese pictorial maxim that embodies the proverb "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". And yeah, I can kinda see that. There's clearly a finger being jabbed into an ear (only one ear, but I'll go with it) and a hand over the eyes and mouth too. But then, why does this monkey have four arms and a gigantic eyeball protruding from it's belly?

Anywho, Golden Monkey is one of my old favorites, one of the brews that got me into "good" beer back in the day (near as I can tell, it remains a draw to "non-beer drinkers"). I haven't had one of these in, oh, say 2 or 3 years. Will it hold up to scrutiny, or have I grown beyond it? And will sticking it in old white wine barrels make it even better? There's only one way to find out, so I picked up a bottle of each, and drank them both last Friday. First up, the regular ol' Monkey:

Victory Golden Monkey

Victory Golden Monkey - Pours a bright, mostly clear golden color with a couple fingers of bubbly white head. Smells of bready Belgian yeast and lots of spice, particularly coriander and maybe some clove too. The taste starts of sweet and bready, with spice (coriander and clove) hitting in the middle, and a well matched bitterness lingers in the finish. Not bitter like an IPA or anything, but enough balance that this doesn't quite feel like a 9.5% beer... Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated, a slight slickness in the finish. No real booze notes, but it's easy to drink this fast enough that you get that warming sensation in your belly. Overall, this is a really solid, spiced take on the style. I probably would have rated this higher a couple years ago, but it's still a really nice beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 3/8/13. Bottle sez: Enjoy by Jan 9 2016

Victory White Monkey

Victory White Monkey - Pours a slightly darker, clear golden color with a finger of bubbly white head. Smells similar, bread and spice, but with a nice white wine aspect. That wine character doesn't come through quite as strongly in the taste, but it's still there, and it's got a light buttery, vinous character to it. Mouthfeel is still medium bodied, but less carbonated, lending a more sticky mouthfeel to the brew than the base beer. Overall, a nice variant of a nice beer, though I don't know that it's any better than its base. After drinking the bottle, I found myself a little disappointed in this, but I guess it's an interesting change of pace and I'm glad I got to try some. I suspect it's just that I'm not much of a white wine guy, unless we start talking about sours... B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/8/13. Bottled on Feb 13 2013.

Well, I was hoping the Monkey would hold up to my original notions, and to be sure, it's a fine beer, but I'm just not as taken with it these days. And I'm just not that big a fan of white wine either, so perhaps the deck just wasn't stacked that well for me on Friday. Again, both fine beers, a gazillion times better than macro stuff, but a little underwhelming. Probably shouldn't have bought an extra, but hey, maybe some white wine fanatics would love this. This just about wraps up Victory's announced barrel aging efforts, of which the clear winner is Oak Horizontal. However, their new brewery comes on line soon, so I'm looking forward to some more experimentation, perhaps even the return of the most excellent Wild Devil (Hop Devil with Brett)...

La Trappe Double Feature

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La Trappe always seems like a lesser Trappist due to the fact that they're the only one not located in Belgium. On the other hand, they seem to be the only Trappist that does much in the way of creative new beers. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Breweries like Chimay and Westmalle trace their recipes back to the 19th and early 20th century, originating and codifying some of the styles we know and love today, like dubbels and tripels. La Trappe, on the other hand, coined the nebulous style Quadrupel way back... in the 1990s. And they're still going. Both of today's beers were first released within the past couple years (though one is simply an old beer that was barrel aged).

Alas, since I have no pre-bankruptcy Hostess snacks to pair these with, I had to settle for my normal pairing of beers with movies. In this case, since we have two very different beers, one relatively light (but not super pale), one relatively big and dark, I went with the cinematic whiplash pairing of ParaNorman and A Separation. I can't say as though I recommend the pairing, but each movie was pretty good in its own right, especially A Separation, which I found a little languid at the start, but slowly and deceptively turned into a captivating movie. I felt sorta like the frog placed in cold water that was slowly heated to boiling, cooking me alive in the process. Or something. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, beer:

La Trappe Isidor

Koningshoeven La Trappe Isid'or - When I first saw this, I thought it was a Lord of the Rings tie-in (Yeah, yeah, not the same spelling, so sue me in nerd court. I'll totally go free because of the Irony defense.) But no, this was brewed to celebrate the 125th anniversary of La Trappe, and is named after their first brewer, Brother Isidorus. It pours a hazy light brownish orange amber color with tons of fluffy white head. Smells of fruity, spicy Belgian yeast, one of them bananas and clove affairs. Taste is sweet and spicy, again with the lighter fruits and lots of Belgian yeast spice, more malt character than you typically get out of a Belgian pale, but it's not a dubbel or anything. It's actually a hard beer to classify, which isn't to surprising whenever you're talking about Belgian beers, but it's very fruity and doesn't really fit in with the usual pales, nor is it particularly dark. Somewhere inbetween. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, spicy, relatively dry, all in good proportions. Overall, a very well crafted Belgian ale. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a goblet on 12/30/12.

La Trappe Quadrupel oak aged batch 7

Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged) - Batch #7 - I previously had batch #3 of the oak aged Quadrupel and really enjoyed it. That one was aged in a mixture of new oak, old Port wine barrels, and previously used quadrupel barrels, and it was all a pretty great match with the beer style. This time around, we've got a batch that was aged in old Scotch barrels. The distilleries in question (Bowmore, Tamdhu, Strathspey and Laphroaig) seem to be a mix of Speyside and Islay, which can be troubling. In particular, I've found that beers aged in old Islay Scotch barrels are a bit challenging in that the peaty, smoky flavors really tend to overpower the beer. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Islay Scotch (Ardbeg 10 is a standard at my house, and their Uigeadail is a recent acquisition that I'm sure will find a place in the rotation), but mixing those strong flavors with a beer that is as highly attenuated as this seems to be a lot trickier than, say, mixing stouts with bourbon. I thought perhaps the Speysides would calm things down a bit, and indeed, this isn't the worst attempt at an Islay barrel aged beer, but it's not particularly special either.

Pours a dark brown color with some orangey amber highlights and almost no head, just a ring of bubbly stuff around the edge of the glass. The smell is mostly Scotch, lots of peat, some smoke, and some of that base Quadrupel spiciness and fruitiness, though the Scotch character is clearly the star here. Taste is all Scotch, lots of peat, but that smokey, medicinal character comes out a lot more here and overpowers things. Mouthfeel is much less carbonated than the usual quad, making this feel a little gloopy. Overall, this is a lot less balanced than the regular Quadrupel or even Batch #3, and the flavors just aren't meshing well. As it warms up, things even out a bit, and like I said, I like me some Islay Scotch, but it's still not working that well. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 12/30/12.

It looks like Batch #7 is the odd man out, a misfire in a series of otherwise pretty well received oak aged beers. Batch #8 is supposed to also use Scotch barrels, but they blended that with new oak, which I think could really help tone down some of that peaty, smokey flavor (the reviews on RateBeer and Beer Advocate seem to bear that out). Batches 9 through 11 were aged in old Malbec barrels, and batch 12 used old Bourbon and Cognac barrels. So yeah, pretty much every batch of this sounds great, but avoid #7.

Double Feature: Victory's Harvest

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Fall is home to some of the beer nerd's most distinctive seasonal styles. The most popular are, of course, pumpkin beers and Oktoberfest beers. Very different styles, but both represent the season well. In recent years, a third seasonal brew has been charging ahead as well, albeit a somewhat less defined one: the harvest beer. Usually, this involves freshly harvested hops, used within a couple days of being picked off the vine, but there's also the occasional barley harvest beer too. Still, the hoppy harvest seems to be the thing that inflames beer geeks' passions. Using fresh hops gives a slightly different flavor profile to a beer than you would get from dried or pelletized hops, and this is basically the only time of the year to get such beers.

I imagine that west-coasters get the better end of the deal here, as the majority of hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest, so they'll probably have the easiest access to fresh hops... whereas us east-coasters have to make due with tiny local hop farms. I had a few Harvest Ales last year, but for whatever reason, none really blew me away, including Victory's offering. Fortunately, this year has gone much better:

Victory Harvest Ale

Victory Harvest Ale - Brewed with fresh Cascade hops harvested just hours earlier from the Catskills in New York state, near as I can tell, this is the same recipe they made last year, but I'll be darned if I didn't fall in love with it this year. Pours a clear, bright orange color with a couple fingers of frothy white head and tons of lacing (this seems to be typical when drinking beers at Victory's brewpub). Smells of bright citrus and big pine aromas, really nice. Taste is also underpinned by that citrus and pine hop character, but some earthy and maybe even spicy notes too, and a well matched malt backbone keeps it balanced. Mouthfeel is excellent, well carbonated but smooth, light to medium bodied, quaffable. Overall, this is an excellent beer. Victory calls it "highly aromatic and sensual"... sensual? Ok, sure. I call it delicious, complex, balanced, and quaffable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 10/12/12.

Victory Harvest Pils

Victory Braumeister Harvest Pils - Braumeister Pils is Victory's draft-only pilsener that they seem to use as a playground for playing with various hop varietals (for instance, earlier this year they played with a bunch of experimental and new German hops, even going so far as to do a series of batches, each using the same hop varietal, but from different hop fields, which apparently yielded subtle differences between the batches). So it makes sense for them to make a harvest version using freshly picked Mt. Hood hops, again picked straight from New York. Pours a clear yellowish gold color, with a finger of fluffy white head (and again, tons of lacing). Smell has a surprisingly bright citrus character, along with some of those more common, Pilsnery spicy/earthy notes. Taste emphasizes the typical earthy and spicy Pilsner profile, but that bright citrus lightens things up a bit. Mouthfeel is light and smooth, a little lighter on carbonation than the regular harvest, but still appropriate. Overall, this is a good pilsner, and I appreciate the fresh, bright character... but Pils just isn't my style. I'm sure Pilsner fanatics would love this take on the style, but I'll give it a solid B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of of Victory's 0.3L glass on 10/12/12.

There you have it. Lots of exciting Victory stuff coming up, so stay tuned for that. And check back in tomorrow for a look at Tröegs' Fresh Hop Ale (and something else called Special HOPS Ale).

Despite the fact that the IPA style seems to be my most reviewed style on the blog, I do find that you need to strike a bit of a balance with drinking them. At the extremes - drinking only IPAs all the time or barely drinking any - the style seems to get a bit... samey. But if you find the right balance, they can be a revelation. One of things that I've found most interesting about IPAs is drinking two of them back to back (I find diminishing returns after two though). This gives you an opportunity to compare and contrast, and if you choose your beers right, you can discover a huge variation in the style. So here we have two Founders IPAs, one their basic, year round Centennial, and the other being their souped up Double IPA. In some ways, this isn't really fair, as DIPAs generally pack in a lot more flavor, but it's still an instructive exercise.

Of course the point of these posts is to pair beer with movies, and in this case I took in a Walter Matthau double feature: Charley Varrick and Hopscotch. Both are fun little 70s and early 80s flicks about things like crooks and spies. Neither really blew me away, but I had a blast with my IPAs and viewing material...

Founders Centennial IPA

Founders Centennial IPA - Pours a cloudy orangish color with a finger of whitish head and plenty of lacing. The smell is filled with floral hops, maybe some sweet citrus too. The taste starts sweet, with some of that citrus character giving way to more pungent, spicy, and floral hop flavors, followed by a nice bitter bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is great, medium bodied, a little bit of a bite to it, but well carbonated. Overall, a very well crafted IPA. Unfortunately, Centennial hops don't seem to jive that well with me, at least in this formulation. I like this beer, but it's not my preferred IPA... B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/11/12.

Founders Double Trouble

Founders Double Trouble IPA - Pours a golden yellow color, lighter and a little more clear than the Centennial, with a finger of white head and plenty of lacing. Smells strongly of sweet hops, a ton of grapefruit character. At this point, I'm guessing Simcoe hops. Taste starts off sweet with an immediate bitter balance, both of which intensify through the middle, finishing with a little bit of extra bitter dryness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with plenty of tight carbonation, and maybe just a hint of booziness. Overall, very nice, better than average double IPA, though not quite best in class. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.4% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/11/12.

As usual, Founders doesn't disappoint... and there's still quite a few of their beers that I haven't yet tried either. Nothing else in the immediate pipeline, but I'm sure we'll get our hands on some more of their beers at some point...

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Carla Companion wants to talk about an unsung hero:

What is the one beer style usually makes up the first position in the sample flight, but yet is usually the one that we never get really excited about? The Pale Ale.

Your mission - if you choose to accept it - it so seek out and taste two different pale ales. Tell us what makes them special, what makes them forgettable, what makes them the same or what makes them different. Then, share it with us.

First of all, I love the idea. One of the cornerstones of this blog is that of the Double Feature. Pick two beers of similar style, compare and contrast, all whilst taking in a filmic double feature. It's a really helpful tactic for learning about beer, especially when used with beers that sometimes have very similar flavor profiles... like pale ales!

Pale ales have a weird rap here in the beer nerd community. You never hear people raving about pale ales the way they do for the latest hopped-up double IPA, face melting Imperial Stout, or Brett-dosed sour bombs. And yet, a lot of folks will tell you that they got into craft beer the moment they tasted something like the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Indeed, a lot of breweries got their start with pales, even ones we think of as being extremist or weird. Stone's first beer was their most excellent Pale Ale (which seems to me like Arrogant Bastard's little brother, very flavorful). Hard as it may be to believe, Dogfish Head's Shelter Pale Ale was their first foray into "off-centered" beer. Pale Ales are a cornerstone of the craft beer world, a stepping stone for fledgling beer geeks, and a fantastic alternative to macro light lagers for regular folks.

Indeed, it's not like there's a shortage of big selling pale ales. Locally, we've got Yards' Philly Pale and Victory's Headwaters, both of which apparently do gangbusters (and oh yeah, they're excellent too). I'm no stranger to huge face-melting beers and I have to admit that sometimes the notion of checking out a "simple" pale ale seems like it might be boring, but there's plenty of interesting stuff going on in the pale ale world right now. I didn't go bonkers for Maine's Peeper like most folks, but it was an intriguing change of pace, a very interesting beer. Even if it wasn't particularly my thing, I love that they did something different with their beer, and that's the sort of stuff I like to try.

Speaking of which, I think it's about time to try out a few beers, as ordered. One is eminently interesting and experimental, the other is a bit more on the standard side, though it's got some interesting aspects too...

Victory Bavarian Mandarina Pale Ale

Victory Bavarian Mandarina Pale Ale - Victory recently released a series of beers utilizing experimental German hops, including this one, which has just received it's official name: Mandarina. Pours a golden orange with a finger of head and a ton of lacing. Smells of herbal, spicy hops, with a an orange citrus note and a little caramel malt too. Taste has a nice malt backbone, but it's not huge - it provides a nice background to highlight these new hops. Plenty of those citrusy, herbal hop flavors coming in the middle and more spicy bitterness emerging in the finish... Mouthfeel is surprising for a pale ale, a little heavier than expected, but quite nice nonetheless. This is actually the second time I've had this beer in the past couple weeks, and on the second tasting, I think I got a lot more of the orange character than the first time. Overall, a very solid, interesting change of pace. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on tap (16 oz). Drank out of a nonic pint on 5/31/12.

Alesmith X

Alesmith X - Pours a bright straw yellow color with two fingers of fluffy white head and some lacing as I drink. Smells of more grassy, citrusy hops, along with a nice bready yeast and malt character. Taste is sweet, with that bready yeast and malt really coming through, though not in a strong or overpowering way. Light grassy hops and citrus come through a bit in the taste as well. The finish is relatively dry, with a very slight bitterness. The mouthfeel is hit with a huge carbonation at the start, very effervescent, but it smooths out by the finish, which is quite nice. Despite the bite from the carbonation, it's a light, crisp, and refreshing beer. In a lot of ways, this reminds me of a Belgian style pale ale (I bet if you were to substitute something like a saison yeast in the same recipe, you'd end up with a similar, if a bit spicier...), but it still feels like an American Pale Ale. Overall, I'm really enjoying this beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/31/12.

Overall, the Alesmith was lighter in color and body than the Mandarina, and it had a more traditional, grassy citrus pine hop character, while the Mandarina hops brought a specific orange character, with lots of more herbal notes. Both are very good beers, and I'm really happy I got to try them. I also got to try one of the other Victory beers that was experimenting with new hops, this one called Polaris. It was an IPA, and thus not suitable for this post, but it was quite good, reminiscent of those New Zealand hops I've been digging lately. I love that Victory is playing with experimental hops, and the Pale Ale format really does provide a good platform for highlighting these new varieties. As summer goes on, I'm sure pale ales will be a staple of my beer diet...

Devine Double Feature

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I think the reason I have a high opinion of Brewdog stems wholly from this beer. It happens to be a collaboration with Gypsy brewer extraordinaire Mikkeller, which probably has a lot to do with it, but except for one curious case, I've had a very positive experience with Brewdog beers. This one was a revelation though, and might be my favorite from either brewer. I wasn't a big barleywine guy at the time, nor was I particularly well versed in barrel aged beers, so this one was a big turning point for me. Unfortunately, they've only made two batches of the stuff, one in 2009 and one in 2010. I managed to get my hands on one of each last year, and they've been aging in my cellar ever since. I do hope they get together again and make something like that 2009 version, because it truly is sublime.

Anyway, I cracked these beauties open recently whilst taking in a pair of documentaries about filmmaking. Waking Sleeping Beauty tells the story of the animation renaissance at Disney from 1984 until 1994. Reasonably interesting stuff, though the story isn't quite as compelling as the origins of Pixar (which, actually, is rather intertwined with the general Disney renaissance). The other documentary I watched covered a decidedly different type of film. Machete Maidens Unleashed! covers the "untold story" of exploitation filmmaking in the Philippines in the 60s and 70s. It was completely unintentional, but this documentary actually covers the making of the movies I watched whilst drinking Devine Rebel the first time... Speaking of which:

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2009

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel (2009) - To recap, this beer is fermented with both ale and champagne yeast, features a single hop (which I believe is that fabled Kiwi hop, Nelson Sauvin), and is partially aged in Speyside whisky barrels... It pours a deep, dark brownish amber color with minimal head. Smells strongly of fruity malts, with plenty of well matched Scotch aromas. Taste is sweet, lots of rich malt character, some fruitiness (maybe raisins), and a bit of that barrel aged vanilla and oak Scotchiness. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, very smooth, but with enough carbonation that it never gets cloying. There's a little booze character too this, and I feel like I can taste the age of the beer, but it's still damn good. Well balanced, complex, unique. Overall, a fantastic beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/12. Batch 243, bottled on 7/5/09 (same as the last one I had).

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010 - As it turns out, this beer is not quite the same recipe. I think the general idea and process was the same (ale and champagne yeast, Nelson Sauvin hops, and partially aged in old Scotch barrels), but they say: "More malt, more hops, more oak and more alcohol than last year's edition." And indeed, this one is a whopping 13.8% ABV! The appearance is a little more on the brown side, with just a hint of that amber color, and about a finger of head (though it disappeared quite quickly). The aroma is very similar. Sweet fruit aromas (raisins), Scotch, and booze. The taste is much more powerful. Lots of booze. There's a fruity malt character, but the Scotch and booze overwhelmed some of that character. Still lots of complex flavors, but perhaps not as well balanced as the original version. Mouthfeel is a little bigger and fuller. More carbonated, less smooth and creamy, more warming alcohol. Cleary shares DNA with the original Devine Rebel, but quite distinct. Still a good beer, but not quite as perfectly balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/12. Batch 406, bottled on 11/2/10.

It was an interesting (and intoxicating) night. I would love for them to make some of this stuff again, but who knows if that's on the horizon. In the meantime, I'm going to have to make do with another of their collaborations, called I Hardcore You, which is actually a blend of Mikkeller's I Beat yoU and Brewdog's Hardcore (which, incidentally, I reviewed in a double feature post of their own a while back!)

Another Dubhel Feature

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Ola Dubh is a series of beers aged in Highland Park Scotch casks. There are 5 vintage of casks used for this purpose, 12, 16, 18, 30, and 40 years old. A while back, I cracked open the 16, which was very nice, and the 40, which was astounding. Today, I'm ticking off two more vintages, so huzzah for that!

Interestingly enough, Scottish distilleries are also huge beneficiaries of the secondary oak barrel market caused by the legal rules surrounding Bourbon. Part of the reason Scotch tends to be aged longer than Bourbon is that the oak is usually on it's second use at that point, and a lot of the easily captured flavors have already been stripped from the wood. Or something. I'm sure there's some Scotch that is aged on new oak too...

For the filmic side of this double feature, I watched a pair of Japanese films from little known director Yoshihiro Nakamura. He was a discovery from Fantastic Fest last year, but unfortunately, most of his work is not available in America. However, they have slowly been trickling over, and the two movies I watched are both available on Netflix. The Booth is an interesting, if a bit unremarkable thriller. It was one of his early movies, and it shows. It's not bad, per say, just not something I'm very enthusiastic about. On the other hand, Fish Story is a wonderful movie that I highly recommend. It's about how a punk rock song saves the world, which is about all I'll say about the movie, because the less you know, the better. One of my favorite recent discoveries, and it went quite well with the beery side of this double feature:

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18 - I have to say, I really love the label design of all these beers, even the ones that don't come in fancy boxes like the 30 and 40. Pours a deep, dark brown color with a small cap of light brown head. Smells beautiful - tons of whisky character (not very Scotchlike though - no peat or smokiness), a little oak and vanilla and caramel, maybe just a hint of roasted malts in the nose. The taste has tons of that Scotch character, and unlike the nose, I'm getting a lot of peat and heather in the taste (not much in the way of smoke), along with a prominent oak character. There's plenty of that balancing malt character too, caramel and dark chocolate come through well, and maybe just a hint of that roasted malt flavor. Mouthfeel is surprisingly medium bodied; a light richness, but very easy to drink. Overall, very well balanced, complex brew, definitely better than the 16. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 4/20/12. Bottle Number: 06270. Bottled in February 2009.

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30

Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 - Pours a little bit deeper and darker than the 18, with a bit more head too. Again, smells very nice, perhaps not quite as strong as the 18, but very well balanced aromas of whisky, oak, and caramel, with a little roast. Taste is very similar. Lots of Scotch, a little peat and oak, some caramel, plenty of chocolate character, and a hint of roast in the finish. Mouthfeel is a little fuller, but but that richness is about the same, and it's still very easy to drink. Overall, it's very good, but I find myself think that it's comparable with the 18, rather than being much better. Don't get me wrong, this is still a great beer, but tonight, the 18 was better. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 4/20/12. Bottle Number: 06942. Bottled in March 2009.

So, after trying four of the five varieties, I'd say the best was the 40, followed by the 18, then the 30, and finally, the 16. Now I just need to get my hands on the 12. Strangely, it seems to always be sold out whenever I see some of this stuff, perhaps because it's also the cheapest of the family (and this stuff really is expensive!) I also have to wonder how the age has impacted these bottles. Every bottle I've ever had has been from 2009, including the two varieties I had last year. Would a "fresher" 30 be better? Perhaps! I guess there's only one way to find out, eh?

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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.

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