Recently in A- Category

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

| No Comments

Man, what's going on in NYC these days? This is the third brewery we've covered in just the past few months (granted, these breweries have been around for a while and it's not like I'm discovering them or anything, but still) and they seem up to par with their brethren at Other Half and Grimm. I've been a little lazy on the uptake with these things, but I think that's come to an end.

SingleCut is a reference to a body style of guitar, and most of their beer names appear to be music references of some kind. This particular beer is named after an 18-Watt amplifier and while I'm not positive what Billy refers to, Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top fame and bearded glory) seems to favor the 18-Watt in his setup. SingleCut makes a series of "Billy" beers though, including Half-Stack and Full-Stack (also amplifiers), so who knows? What is this, a music blog? Let's get back to the beer, which looks to be one of them newfangled Northeast IPAs, though this is the low-wattage version clocking in at 5% ABV, so you could probably take down a few of these no problem:

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA

SingleCut Billy 18-Watt IPA - Pours a very cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing, very Northeast Milkshake IPA appearance. Smells that way too, tons of green hops, floral aromas, huge, juicy citrus, tropical fruits, mangoes and tangerines and the like, really nice. Taste follows the nose, lots of juicy citrus, some floral and herbal notes, and a nice, tight bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbed, crisp, and relatively dry, light body, quaffable stuff. Overall, yup, this is some fantastic stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/16. Bottled: 6/10/16 (I think that's what the label sez).

Yeah, so I think we'll be seeing more from these folks in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Rodenbach Alexander

| No Comments

Pop culture is awash with fan attempts to keep their favorite media alive. From Trekkies keeping their beloved three seasons in syndication for years and finally convincing Paramount to bring the crew back on the big screen to more modern (and sometimes failed) attempts to save Chuck or Firefly, fans tend to live up to the linguistic origin of that term: fanatics. Depending on your point of view, these campaigns can range from inspirational and noble to whiny and entitled (and everywhere inbetween). However you judge such advocacy, you can't deny that it is sometimes effective. And sometimes it happens in the beer world.

Rodenbach Alexander is a cherry-dosed Flanders Red that went defunct somewhere around the turn of the century. The beer scene wasn't quite as hot then, and was actually contracting due to a minor bubble burst of speculation before the craft movement fully got its legs under it. So Rodenbach made due with their Classic and Grand Cru beers, truly world-class stuff, until they couldn't ignore the demand for Alexander to return. I'm sure the success of Caractère Rouge (a similar fruited Flanders Red) helped too. I don't know of a pop-culture-like campaigns to bring it back, but when the few remaining bottles of Alexander start going for 4-digits on the black market, you've got to think that a brewery would notice that there's a market to be tapped there... so 2016 sees the first batch of Alexander in 17 years. Actually, it's just in time for the 30th anniversary of the first time they brewed this beer in 1986 in order to commemorate the 200th birthday of Alexander Rodenbach (obviously one of the founders of the brewery). All of which is good news indeed:

Rodenbach Alexander

Rodenbach Alexander (2016) - Pours a striking, almost clear ruby red color with a finger of fizzy off white (maybe some pinkish hues). Smells of sour cherries, vinous fruit, with a little oak and vanilla pitching in. Taste hits that sour cherry and vinous fruit character pretty hard, but there's just enough of the background acetic flanders red character anchoring it, moderate sourness, vinegar, a little oak and vanilla providing depth. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderate acidity, medium to high (but appropriate) carbonation. Overall, this is along the lines of Caractère Rouge, but not quite as fizzy fruity tooty. That... means something, right? Whatever, this is great right now, but I suspect it could age fabulously. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/28/16. Best before: 01-02-2019.

Rodenbach delivers, as always. I might have to track down another bottle of Caractère Rouge, you know, for reasearch, to see how it compares.

Oude Geuze Boon Black Label

| No Comments

So it's called "Black Label" despite the fact that the label is clear? Well, ok then, fine, be that way. What we have here is an oude geuze blended to commemorate the brewery's 40th anniversary. It's indirectly the result of a collaboration with Mikkeller, but since the barrels that Mikkeller blended were not empty, Boon decided to put out their own version. The resulting beers should be similar, but since the blends use differing proportions, the results are slightly still distinct. Mikkeller's goal was to blend a lambic that was as dry as possible, almost 100% attenuation. However, the Black Label contains less older lambic (it's still got 1, 2, and 3 year old lambic in there though, so no worries) and is thus more full-bodied and slightly less dry.

Oude Geuze Boon Black Label

Oude Geuze Boon Black Label - Damn that cork pops with authority. Watch where you aim that sucker. Pours a hazy golden orange color with visible carbonation bubbles and tons upon tons of bubbly white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice and funky, some light stone fruit and lemon zest but also some spice and earthy notes, typical Boon house style stuff. Taste hits those fruity notes harder than expected, tart lemons, finishes dry, less of the earthy funk, but it's still there. Mouthfeel is bone dry and effervescent, light bodied, moderate acidity, this is where things diverge from your typical Boon offerings, in a good way I think... Overall, this is quite nice, like a drier version of Boon's other offerings and better for it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 5/29/16. Bottled on: 26/03/2015. Best by: 26/03/2035.

I hesitate to say that this is something that you'll see on shelves since this sold pretty quickly around here. Not, like, people lining up for it, but I got the last bottle a couple days after it went on shelves. I'm sure it's around elsewhere and I'd like to see how it ages, so I'm going to try and track down another bottle or two. Boon continues to be a nice solid option when in need for a lambic fix. Not as good as the big two (3F and Cantillon), but generally available... and sometimes you can find specialty variants like this one, which is nice. Stay tuned, we've got another Belgian wild ale review coming later this week!

Free Will Ralphius

| No Comments

I have often mentioned my quest to find a local imperial stout that is aged in bourbon barrels and yet this goal still remains elusive (what we have seen recently is a rash of exceptional BBA coffee stouts, but my legendary antipathy towards coffee always makes me pine after the non-coffee variants). There have been many candidates over the years, and several of those have been very good on their own, but there's nothing that really approaches BCBS or Parabola levels, let alone anything that transcends the style, like Pappy Black Magick... Now we've got Free Will's take, dubbed Ralphius which, coupled with the picture of a dog on the label, presumably means this was named after a beloved pet named Ralph (or maybe my mind just goes there because I once had a beagle named Ralph). At 14.2% ABV with ample barrel character, I think we've gotten as close as ever:

Free Will Ralphius

Free Will Ralphius - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of striking brown head that sticks around for a bit and even leaves a bit of lacing. Smells very nice, caramel, oak, vanilla, hints of chocolate and roast. Taste goes sweet up front, caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, hints of roast, just a bit of hop bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated but appropriate for the style, a sipper, but not unapproachable. Overall, this is a great BBA stout, not quite top tier, but close enough and perhaps the best straight up local BBA stout that is regularly available! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14.2% ABV bottled (12 Ounces). Drank out of a snifter on 05/21/16...

Free Will has been upping their game as of late, especially with their barrel aged stuff. I'm sure we'll see more from them soon enough...

Lindemans Kriek Cuvée René

| No Comments

I think my first lambic evar was a draft pour of Lindeman's straight up Kriek. It was not a great beer... and it still isn't particularly good. Why? It turns out that the process for the regular kriek is to take young lambic and add cherry juice and artificial sweetener. In the past, this included something called Acesulfame K, which I know sounds delicious, but is actually pretty gross. These days they use Stevia, but it still tastes odd. It's a cheaper process and thus the beer is more widely available, but then all these sweetened lambics basically taste like sugary Robitussin.

Lindemans Cuvée René Gueuze, though, is a decent example of that style and doesn't cut such corners. Now they've expanded the line to include Kriek Cuvée René, where they blend lambic that is at least 6 months old and throw it into an oak foudre with actual whole cherries (pits and all) to age for another 6 months or so. The result is wholly different and a vast improvement over the regular kriek. Let's dive in:

Lindemans Kriek Cuvee Rene

Lindemans Kriek Cuvée René - Pours a deep, dark red color with a finger of fizzy, short-lived pink head. Smells great, plenty of cherries of course, but also a really nice musky funk. Taste is sweet, with those cherries up front, followed by a little oak and vanilla, finishing with an intense blast of sourness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, with lots of acidity, especially in the finish. This sucker is drinking really well right now, but from my experience, it seems like the sort of thing that will age really well too. Overall, this is great, seek it out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/13/16. Bottled 12 Aug 2015.

I've been getting more and more enchanted with lambics of late, which is kinda bad news since they are so expensive and hard to find. Still, with stuff like this hitting shelves semi-reliably, there's plenty to explore. This one is worth checking out for sure. I'm curious to see if Lindemans steps up their game in other ways, too...

Other Half Stacks On Stacks

| No Comments

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

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

Other Half Stacks On Stacks

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

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

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

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

| No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

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

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

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

Lambickx Kriek

| No Comments

Vanberg & DeWulf is an importer with a long history of bringing Belgian beer to America, even back in the Dark Ages of U.S. beer in the 1980s. At various times, they handled the likes of Duvel, Rodenbach, and Boon, but those operations eventually outgrew Vanberg & DeWulf's small-scale focus. These days, they're probably best known as the importers of Brasserie Dupont and, for you lambic dorks out there, Geuzestekkerij DeCam. They also seem to have good relationships with Oud Beersel, De Troch, and Boon, sometimes importing one-offs or oddball lines like the Bzart series of champagne/lambic hybrids.

I'm not huge into the business side of beer, but one aspect that does interest me a bit is the sort of strange commodity market that has evolved around lambic. This sort of thing seems to happen more often with aged booze, and given the 3 year lead time for a good Gueuze (typically a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambic) it seems to be present in Belgium. Granted, it's probably not as widespread as NDP bourbon and Scotch houses, but there's a few blenderies that don't actually make the beer, but rather just age and blend it. And they're not scrubs either; Tilquin has quickly become a Kaedrin favorite, for instance. This is also how you end up with all those weird mad scientist blends that we've been covering lately.

Anyway, Vanberg & DeWulf's founder Don Feinberg used his connections in the lambic world to purchase his own lambic reserves and bottle his own selections under a the Lambickx brand. Some of these have clear provenance (usually an unblended DeTroch lambic), but others label the source as the cryptic "Private Domain". Vanberg's website says they're from De Troch and Oud Beersal, but other sources claim Boon is also involved. What we have here is actually the Kriek, two year old lambic with cherries added (actual fruit, none of that syrupy, artificial adjunct gunk they put in the cheap fruited lambics). It hails from that ever-mysterious Private Domain, but it's actually one of the better fruited lambics I've had outside of the big boys (i.e. Cantillon and 3F). I've always been scared away from the regular Lambickx offerings because they're unblended and nearly still, and I have this thing about carbonation and whatnot, but this one is actually pretty well carbonated. Let's take a closer look:

Lambickx Kriek

Vanberg & DeWulf Lambickx Kriek - Pours a striking clear red, so many robey tones bro, with avery pretty finger of pink head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, lots of sour cherry and some earthy funk, maybe some hints of oak. Taste is very sweet, lots of cherries up front, buttressed by oak and earthy funk in the middle, ending back on cherry character, more syrupy this time, in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, lightly acidic, with just a hint of syrupy character but then, it kinda dries out in the finish. Overall, this is an excellent Kriek, one of the better ones that I've snagged off of a shelf. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/9/16. Batch 2. Brew Year: 2012. Bottle Year: 2014. Number of Bottles: 9867. Region: Zenne Valley. Source: Private Domain. Barrel Type: 650 liter, Oak and Chestnut.

This was good enough that I'd like to snag another sometime and age it, see if that funk blossoms over time. Someday, I'm sure I'll take a flier on regular Lambickx, despite the supposed lack of carbonation. In the meantime, I've got a couple other Kriek lambic reviews coming your way, so stay tuned.

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the A- category.

A+ is the previous category.

B is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.