Recently in A- Category

Alchemist The Crusher

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I've already wonked out on the history of Alchemist, but basically they started out as an obscure brewpub that was destroyed by the dread Tropical Storm Irene. Fortunately, they had just built a production brewery and canning line, so they survived by making tons of Heady Topper and pretty much only Heady Topper for a few years. The brewpub was never reopened, but a couple years ago, they started reviving old recipes and doing limited releases. Flash forward a couple years, and they've opened a new (gorgeous) production brewery that basically doubled their capacity and allowed them to start making those other recipes on a more regular basis. The focus of the new brewery seems to be Focal Banger, their 7% IPA, but they also have some capacity dedicated to a "rotating" beer, which for now is The Crusher.

The Crusher is an odd duck, something I have a little trouble wrapping my head around. I mean, yeah, sure, it's delicious, but it occupies a weird territory somewhere in the middle of the DIPA, TIPA, and Barleywine triangle, like this diagram I spent a whole 5 minutes creating:

The DIPA TIPA Barleywine triangle

Rich, hoppy, and boozy, it's a tasty little monster. I don't think I like it any better than Focal or Heady, which oddly makes this the "worst" beer I've ever had from The Alchemist, but that's a silly way to look at it since it's still glorious. Let's look closer:

The Alchemist The Crusher

The Alchemist The Crusher - Pours a dark golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head, good retention, and lacing. Smells good, citrus and resinous pine hops, crystal malt, maybe some honey-like aromas, not as aromatic as Focal or Heady but still great. Taste starts off with rich, sweet crystal malt, notes of caramel and honey, with those citrus and resinous pine hops kicking in towards the middle, maybe a little booze too, finishing on a nice, bracing bitter note. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, rich, and well carbonated, finishing dryer than most TIPAs. I wouldn't call it balanced, but that feels like the point. Add some more malt here and you've got a very nice Barleywine. Overall, this is really good. Not quite the paradigm establisher that Heady or Focal represent, but a worthy entry in The Alchemist's portfolio. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a snifter on 8/12/16.

Now I really want to try more of Alchemist's back catalog. Luscious, Beelzebub, Ouroboros, Petit Mutant, the list goes on. Hopefully the "rotating" slot at the new brewery will rotate, even if The Crusher seems quite popular...

Frost Beer Works Plush

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Moar Vermont Double IPAs! VT DIPAs forever!

This one hails from Frost Beer Works, a bit southeast of Burlington. Not technically VT beer roulette since I'd actually heard of these guys before and Eric recommended I grab a bottle as it had just been released and was thus fresh. Oh, and it's apparently pretty good. It's part of Frost's "Research Series", basically their experimental arm of one-offs (or are they? This seems to have been made before, so perhaps they're still "researching" this, though from what I can see, it's clearly ready for the big time). Supposedly this is a double-dry hopped version of their standard DIPA, called Lush, though their website lists a different Research Series beer that was also that, so who knows?

The description sez it's a double dry-hopped DIPA with a soft mouthfeel and juiciness reminiscent of stuffed animals and STP. Er, what? Like, STP the motor oil? Stone Temple Pilots? Or ohhhh, 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine - a psychotropic known by the street name STP (meaning Serenity, Tranquility and Peace)? Oh wait, there's more on the label: "Where ya going to tomorrow?" I see, so we're back to Stone Temple Pilots and yes, they have a song called Plush and that's a lyric, duh, I'm the worst. Let's drink this thing:

Frost Beer Works Plush

Frost Beer Works Plush - Pours a hazy dark gold color with a finger or two of fluffy white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells quite nice, sweet, candied citrus, mangoes. Taste also hits those sweet notes up front, lots of citrus of the mango kind, not much bitterness here but enough to feel balanced. Mouthfeel is finely carbonated, medium bodied, surprisingly quaffable for an 8% DIPA - I downed quite a bit of this without noticing how much. Overall, whoa, another VT DIPA that's really good, shocker. B+ or A-, I don't know anymore, my palate is drowning in hops. In, uh, a good way I guess.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/12/16. Bottled: 07/28/16. Label sez: A tribute to Scott W (RIP)

Damnit, another VT brewery I need to explore more from? You know it. Alas, nothing else from this trip, so you'll have to wait for Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar (tentative name). In the meantime, one more VT DIPA review on its way until things return to normal...

Burlington Beer Co. Double Feature

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I know what you're thinking: Ugh, more Vermont Double IPAs? Well, um, get used to it jerks, because we got a few more VT DIPAs in the pipeline this week. And for good reason! These VT brewers love them some hops, and when Kaedrin friend Cian McGuire heard I was passing through town, he suggested I stop in and say hello, which was a great idea. I got a small taste of Strawberry Whale Cake (a tasty little hoppy cream ale made with strawberries) and saw Cian packaging some beer, and picked up a bunch of stuff. In fact, I think the only dark beer I picked up during Operation Cheddar V was from here (a peanut butter porter called Chunky), so there is that. But first we've got to drink those hoppy beers fresh, so we've got a pair of DIPAs for your perusal.

First up is the awesomely named It's Complicated Being A Wizard, their year-round DIPA brewed with wheat and oats. Lovely artwork, and the title inspired me to break out the AD&D rulebooks. I am such a dork. It turns out, it really is complicated being a Wizard. So many spells, man. Just ask the Harrys, Potter and Dresden:

Its Complicated Being A Wizard
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Burlington Beer Co. It's Complicated Being A Wizard - Pours an almost clear (imagine that) golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell has a sweetness to it along with a decent citrus and pine hop aroma. Taste follows the nose, sweet, citrus and pine hops, hint of bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is finely carbonated, light to medium bodied, crisp and clean. Goes down faster than your typical 8% DIPA. Overall, yet another tasty VT DIPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/13/16. Canned: 7/20/16. Batch: OCTARINE.

Next comes Peasant King, which is a heftier DIPA bordering on TIPA territory. I'd like to make another D&D reference here, but it seems there's actually a pretty robust history of commoners becoming monarchs. Go figure.

Peasant King

Burlington Beer Co. Peasant King - Pours a slightly hazier yet brighter golden yellow color with a finger of big bubbled head. Smells sweeter, with more citrus and pine hops. Taste starts off sweet, hits those citrus and pine notes, finishes with a bigger bitter bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a little boozy. Overall, this is quite good. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/13/16. Canned: 7/27/16. Batch: HE IS HAPPIEST.

Phew, that's a lot of hoppy beer. Stay tuned, we've got two more doozies coming up this week. Then things should return to a more normal Saison and BBA stout fest.

Foam Built To Spill

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Foam Brewers opened their doors just over four months ago and you know how on-top-of-the-game we are here at Kaedrin, so I simply had to scout them out. Or, you know, I could have just stumbled upon it at the recommendation of @HopSnobbery and @LipstickNLager during my annual Operation Cheddar sorties into VT. It's a pretty standard small-brewery tasting room operation, but it's situated at a gorgeous location, right next to the Burlington waterfront (with plenty of parking too).

Started by alums of Switchback (and apparently, before that, Magic Hat), these fellas have seemingly dialed in their IPA and DIPA game already... which is really saying something for a Vermont brewery. I had a small glass of Lupi Fresh whilst there and snagged this DIPA in growler form for the haul back to PA. At this point, I'm regretting not filling up a few other growlers, because I am the worst. Built to Spill seems like a pretty straightforward Northeast DIPA named after an indie rock band (the other DIPA on tap was called Pavement, I see what they're doing there), and it's fabulous:

Foam Built To Spill

Foam Built To Spill - Pours a very hazy, very pale straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells very nice, sweet, juicy citrus hops, tropical fruit, pineapple, you know the deal. Taste hits a nice balance of sweetness and juicy citrus, hints of bitterness in the finish but it's definitely on the sweeter side (without being cloying, of course). Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated, nice balance of sweet and bitter. Doesn't really drink like a DIPA actually. Overall, this is one damn fine DIPA, holding its own against its VT brethren. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/5/16. Growler filled: 8/4/16.

Quite a nice first impression. From what I can see, they're not quite there yet with saisons, but they're well on their way. Hopefully by the time I make my triumphant return (and I will most certainly be returning here), they'll be nailing those down too.

Operation Cheddar V: Bride of Cheddar

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When I was a teenager, I drove cross-country with my brother and uncle. One feature of such a trip is that once you get past major population centers, you tend to see the same people over and over again. There are only so many major highways and if you're both traveling in the same general direction, you'll find yourself stopping at the same gas stations, eating at the same roadside stops, and even camping at the same campgrounds. There's a (admittedly trashy) movie called Road Games that relies on this dynamic, making it a sorta moving version of Hitchcock's Rear Window.

I noticed something similar going on during Operation Cheddar V: Bride of Cheddar, only instead of gas stations and campsites, I kept seeing the same people at breweries. Go figure. This is my fifth such trek through the wilds of Vermont in search of beer, and as per usual, it was a lot of fun.

This started off, as per usual, at the Warren Store, where I always go to pick up some of Lawson's Finest Liquids. Alas, both available options were things I'd had before, but then, they're both great:

Lawsons Finest Liquids (and a Frost too)
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That's Sip of Sunshine and Super Session #2, for those keeping count. I also snagged a freshish bottle of Frost's Plush, as I'd heard good things about them.

The Alchemist in Stowe
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From there, I headed up to The Alchemist's new digs in Stowe, VT. For the uninitiated, during the first Operation Cheddar I was able to go to The Alchemist's cannery in Waterbury, VT. However, due to the high level of traffic and with consideration for their town and neighbors, they closed that location to the public and started distributing their beer throughout the state. This made their beer more difficult to snag (at least, for passers-through like myself), but due to intense demand, they were able to open a new brewery facility in Stowe. While the cannery still puts out as much Heady Topper as possible, the new brewery focuses on their other brews, notably Focal Banger and Crusher.

Mixed Case of Alchemist Beerz
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Limit of one case, but you could get a variety, so I got a mix of Heady Topper, Focal Banger, and The Crusher. That last one is something I've never had before, so you will most certainly be seeing more about that in the near future.

Just a hop and a skip away from there is Lost Nation, which has become a mandatory stop, if for no other reason than their food is just astonshingly good. I had some sort of smoked beef sandwhich, which was great, of course. And I snagged some Gose and The Wind while I was at it.

Amazing sandwich at Lost Nation
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Next up is another mandatory stop, Hill Farmstead. They've been doing some expansions of their own, and while lots of folks were there, the lines and waiting have been reduced considerably (though now you get bottles and growlers at two different locations). They also had some vintage bottles for sale, though only for onsite consumption (a bit pricey, to be sure, but probably worth it). I must have hit them at a weird time, as their bottle selections were dwindling rapidly, but hey, it's hard to complain when you get bottles of world class beer:

Beer haul from Hill Farmstead
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That's Casita Cerveceria Del Arboles (this is a contract brewing operation that brews at Hill Farmstead, which is something that obviously requires more scrutiny that will be provided at a later date), Dry-Hopped Arthur (I believe this is another beer that uses Segal Ranch Cascades), Table Dorothy, and growlers of Sumner, Single-Hop Citra, and Single-Hop Nelson Sauvin. What the hell, let's review some of those growlers right now, while we're here and all:

Hill Farmstead Citra

Hill Farmstead Citra Single-Hop Pale Ale - This is pretty much what it sez. I missed out on this during my first exposure to Hill Farmstead many moons ago during Philly Beer Week, so I was glad to finally catch up with it. Pours a cloudy orange-yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head and decent retention. Smells wonderful, bright, juicy citrus leavened by that floral note I tend to get out of Citra. Taste follows the nose, lots of juicy hops, a little of that earthy floral character, finishing on a bitter note. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with fine carbonation and a bit of dryness, quite drillable. Overall, yep, it's fabulous and I feel like even grading on a curve, this rates an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/5/16. Growler filled 8/4/16.

Hill Farmstead Sumner

Hill Farmstead Sumner American Pale Ale - Brewed with Simcoe, Citra, and Mosaic hops? Well, ok, if you're going to twist my arm. Pours a little less cloudy, paler yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells similar, but with less floral character and more dank, resinous pine - still plenty of citrus though! Taste is again more on the dank side, plenty of citrus, a little less bright, but juicy enough, with a little less bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, finely carbonated, less dry, very crushable stuff. Overall, less intense, but still quite good. Again grading on a curve, maybe B+ or A-? This is getting impossible you guys.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/6/16. Growler filled 8/4/16.

Then I popped over to Burlington Beer Company, the first time I'd visited. There I met with Kaedrin friend Cian McGuire, who works at the brewery and was busily bottling some beer when I arrived. We had a nice chat and I picked up plenty of beer. Naturally, I forgot to take pictures of the facility, so you'll just have to deal with the haul pic:

Burlington Beer Company haul
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That's It's Complicated Being a Wizard, Peasant King, Peach of Mind, Brettanomyces Incident, and Chunky. Check out that artwork, so nice. Looking forward to these!

Finally, I stopped in at Foam brewery to visit with Lipstick n Lager and try some of their wares. They've only been open for about 4 months, but they're really nailing their IPAs, which in Vermont is really saying something. I only snagged a single growler from them, but you will most definitely be hearing more about it in the near future. And I will almost certainly stop here again next year.

Foam Brewing
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From there, it was a simple jaunt back to the Adirondacks (where I was staying last week) to enjoy my spoils. I should also mention that I went back to Fulton Chain brewing, which was within walking distance of where I was staying. If you recall, during Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar, I stopped in to this place mere weeks after they had opened. I was glad to see that they seem to be well established at this point, with a healthy crowd and many more taplines open.

Fulton Chain Flight
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Highlights were Go Fluff Yourself (made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff) and Flooded Tent (a cucumber lime saison). Not quite Vermont levels awesome, but hey, walking distance. I should also add that Officer Bob enjoyed Eskimo Strong, an imperial red/amber:

Officer Bob
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Also of note, Wakely's Speakeasy on the other side of town (awesomely named Thendara, NY) that had probably the best Bourbon selection I've ever seen. Very secretive, need a passphrase to get in, and no cell phones/pictures allowed. But live music and again, great whiskey selection (not so good on the beer front, but whatevers). Apparently the owners were from Kentucky, so they've got their connections. Well worth stopping in if you're ever in the area...

And that just about covers another successful Operation Cheddar. Now if you'll excuse me, all this VT beer ain't going to drink itself. I'll leave you with some pictures of Tired Hands beers that I was drinking all week in preparation for Operation Cheddar...

Tired hands Milkshake IPA
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Tired Hands Pineal
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It was a fun vacation, is what I'm saying. Already looking forward to my next VT odyssey.

Softly Spoken Magic Spells

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After sleeping on these SingleCut beers for a while, I'm slowly making my way through celebrating their entire catalog, and yes, this has been a good idea. As per usual, their beers are named after some sort of rock music reference and in this case, we're talking about a line from Pink Floyd's "Breath (Reprise)" (aka the end of "Time") from The Dark Side of the Moon. It's a wonderfully evocative line, calling to mind love and loss and... hobbits. So lets get to it. I predict mystery, enchantment, and hops:

Singlecut Softly Spoken Magic Spells

SingleCut Softly Spoken Magic Spells - Pours a murky orange color with a finger of white head. Smells of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple, grapefruit and the like, very nice nose. Taste starts off sweet, hits that juicy citrus character pretty hard, followed by some dankness in the middle, finishing back on the tropical fruit tip with just enough bitterness to keep things interesting. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, dense, moderately carbonated, hints of pleasant booze, goes down easy. Overall, yup, it's fantastic, maybe a step above 18-watt. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/23/16. Bottled on 7/13/16. Ultra fresh buddy.

So these beers are quickly escalating to must buys, and you'll no doubt be seeing more from SingleCut in the nearish future.

Toad the Brett Rocket

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Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland. Flamboyant ambidextrous Rex apparently fell off the back of a motorcycle. "Fell off the back of a motorcyclist, most likely," quipped ace drummer Jumbo McClooney upon hearing of the accident. Plans are now afoot for a major tour of Iceland.

And thus did Monty Python birth the name of alt rock heroes, Toad the Wet Sprocket, in an old sketch called "Rock Notes". Apparently the band was a big fan of Python and couldn't settle on a name, so they just snagged this one. It was meant to be temporary, but it just stuck.

Fortunately, the multitude of differing and evolving beers that show up in brewpubs lends itself to eccentric names, obscure references, lame/awesome puns, and so on. Thus Toad the Brett Rocket, a dry hopped saison aged in wine barrels with Brettanomyces, was born. With an awesome label depicting a toad riding a barrel-shaped rocket. This is not quite the revelation that Hallowed Ground was, but these bottle releases are not to be slept on. Er, strike that. Let's keep these things manageable and not get out of hand. Nothing to see here, move it along:

McKenzie Toad the Brett Rocket

McKenzie Toad the Brett Rocket - Pours an almost clear golden yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells very nice, citrusy hops, vinous fruit, earthy Brett. Taste starts off sweet, hints of white wine, lemon peel, citrusy hops, a bit of tartness, then it moves on into more funky, earthy Brett territory, light but lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and lightly acidic, very refreshing summer spritzer type of thing. Overall, this is another winner, though perhaps not quite as great as Hallowed Ground, it still earns an A- in my book. Er, blog. This is a blog.

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/8/16. Released: 6/28/16.

It's nice to see that older local breweries are still managing to do interesting things, and I will most definitely be snagging more McKenzie bottles whenever Nate puts them out.

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel

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Remember the days when anything Belgian, even American imitations of such, was noteworthy? Alright, maybe you don't, but I spent a goodly portion of my youth pining for generally unavailable Belgian abbey ales and so on. Even earlier in the days of this blog, you could see wildly inflated ratings for well made dubbels and tripels. These days I'm so addled by juicy milkshake IPAs, tropical fruit hops, funky brett saisons, tooth-enamel-stripping sours, and bourbon barrel aged wonders that taking a step back and pondering a simple Belgian style tripel actually feels novel and refreshing.

Simple, but I should add: not easy. Most American takes on the Tripel style are a little too sticky sweet, not dry enough, and/or not carbonated enough. These styles are flavorful, but not in a way that is easily masked by adding craptons of hops or coffee or whatever the adjunct of the week is... Belgian beers really get their character through fermentation and yeast, and that's not as easy as it sounds. There's a delicate balance that those Trappist Monks over in Belgium seem to have mastered. The occasional American take works well, and of course we like to explode the style with Apple Brandy Barrel treatments and souring bugs and whatnot, but those things don't really count, do they?

Enter Florida's Barrel of Monks, a year-ish old brewery in Boca Raton that specializes in the regular-ol' Belgian pantheon, including a whole series of Abbey styles and the occasional special release. No IPAs, no Goses, just straight up Belgian standards, and if this tripel is any indication, the 8 years they spent developing these recipes were well worth it. Three Fates is an allusion to three sister deities in Greek Mythology who controlled life and destiny. So let's make like Atropos, cut the thread of this introduction, and get to the review:

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel

Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel - Pours a slightly cloudy pale with a finger and a half of head, lots of visible carbonation. Smells nice, light on the fruity esters, heavier on spicy phenols, clove and the like. Taste hits the same Belgian yeast notes, fruity and spicy, cloves, etc... Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, almost effervescent, relatively dry. Overall, this is an exceptional take on the style from an American brewer. Maybe it's just because I haven't had a great one in a long while, but I'm feeling generous so let's go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 6/25/16.

Thanks again must be given to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Steve for slinging this my way. I may need to acquire some more of these fellas wares.

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

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