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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...

Dead Eye Double Feature

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Today we feature two off-shelf imperial stouts from the dead-eye twins, Mikkel and Jeppe:

Dead Eye Twins

Those eyes, man. They look like sociopaths, but they can brew some good beer. To be sure, they both have a large catalog filled with a wide range of styles and experimental series, so they both have their fare share of hits and misses. Since both are highfalutin "gypsy" brewers, those misses tend to be expensive misses, but I've had pretty good luck with both, especially when it comes to their imperial stouts, the details of which are covered below, along with my amazing tasting notes. Up first, Vanilla Shake:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake - Yet another variation on the Beer Geek Breakfast (stout with coffee) theme that Mikkel has been riding for a few years now, this one made at a higher ABV with both coffee and vanilla. You should know by now that I'm not a big coffee guy, but I do really love me some vanilla, so I had big hopes for this. It pours a pitch black color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of coffee, dark malts, and lots of vanilla, in roughly equal measures. Taste has lots of that coffee character tempered by rich caramel and lots of vanilla, with that roasty coffee reasserting itself in the finish, along with a hint of bitterness. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium/low carbonation, not at all boozy. Overall, it's a rock solid coffee based stout. I enjoyed it, but you know, coffee. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/27/14.

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout - So this is basically another variant on Jeppe's famous Even More Jesus recipe. What's the difference? As the story goes, it was "brewed at a different brewery in bigger scale. Since we had to adjust the recipe to the new system, we gave the beer a new name as it is not the same, though it will be similar." Ironically, I had the coffee version of Even More Jesus, and actually quite enjoyed it (actually moreso than Vanilla Shake), but I really found myself wishing I got to try the non coffee version. Well, I basically got my wish with this beer. Pours a black color with a very pretty brown head. Smells of dark, roasty malt, rich caramel, maybe even some vanilla. The taste starts sweet, but that's tempered by some roasty dark malt, rich caramel in the middle, and a little bitter dark chocolate and hop bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium carbonation, no real booze here either. Overall, we have another rock solid stout here, and because I'm not a big coffee person, I like this better than the vanilla shake. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/28/14. Bottled 04/16/14.

So there you have it. Jeppe wins this round, but only really because coffee, and if other beer geeks are any indication, the coffee stuff would probably be treated more fairly. I know, I'm the worst. I actually think the Evil Twin one will age really well, so I may try to snag some more of that.

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?

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.

June Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to an Indian/Thai restaurant and despite a medium turnout, had much in the way of fun.

June Beer Club Lineup

For the sake of posterity, I'm documenting my nearly incoherent thoughts on each beer below, which is my way of saying that you should not trust any of these ratings because as we've established recently, I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Red Star Zingerbuch Kombucha - So the first beer of the night... was not beer! This is some sort of bizarre fermented tea concoction with ginger and hibiscus. It was very aromatic, flowery, and ginger aley. It was not exactly my bag, but this is the perfect setting for weird crap like this. No rating because I don't even really know what this is.
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale - Basically a palate cleanser, and a beer I've already covered before. B+
  • Founders All Day IPA - So the new trend is to call pale ales a "session IPA" or something like that? Ok, whatever, this is a pretty solid example, and I could probably drink a bunch of these with no complaints. Nice hop presence, but light and quaffable. B+
  • Surly Furious - Ah, now this is an IPA! Surly does not distribute to PA... except during Philly Beer Week. One of our attendees tonight was fortunate enough to attend a Surly event and snag a few cans, and generous enough to share with the rest of us. I've heard so many great things about Surly that I was afraid they wouldn't live up to the hype, but this is indeed a really fantastic IPA. Citrus and lots of pine and resinous hops, but exceedingly well balanced stuff, lots of hops and enough crystal malts that it didn't feel super bitter despite being 99 IBU. Probably the best beer of the night. I'll leave it at A- territory for now, but I definitely want to get some more of this (it could warrant an upgrade).
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Dammit, this still has not carbonated as much as I'd like, but it is still a tasty beer, light on the funk, but still a nice peppery saison flavor. I'm guessing that if it hasn't carbonated much by now, it's not going to get much better... which is fine, since I probably only have 6-12 bottles of the stuff left. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Chile Beer - Made with chile peppers and smoked malt, this sucker was spicy but flavorful. Not really my thing, but it's an interesting beer, and certainly not the abomination that Cave Creek Chili Beer was...
  • Lost Abbey Carnevale - A Brett does saison? Sign me up, this was one of my favorites of the night. Nice fruity, earthy funk pervading the whole thing, a pleasure to drink. It's no Logsdon or anything, but it's really nice. A high B+
  • Southern Tier Compass - Perhaps it was just because we opened it towards the end of the night, but this felt exceedingly bland to me, with the only real dominant note being the flowery aromas and flavors. Not really my thing. C
  • Brooklyn Wild Streak - A belgian strong pale aged in Bourbon barrels with Brett? Well ok then. The Brett has a minimal, but still detectable presence. But the taste is more dominated by that pale ale aged in bourbon barrel character that never really works as well for me as it does for stouts or barleywines. It's fine for what it is, but it's not really my thing. B-
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Blend) - The imperial stout is doing quite well. This blend has faint hints of the bourbon and oak, but nothing like a BBA stout. That being said, it's delicious and only getting better over time. I'll still leave it at a B+
And that is all for now. We will probably return to regular blogging next week, so stay tuned.

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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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