Recently in A- Category

Dark Wednesday Redux

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About 4 years ago, I waited in line at my first beer release. I have since cycled through degenerate FOMO line-waiting and beer-hunting into a much more relaxed cadence. But it all started with Victory's Dark Intrigue in an event dubbed Dark Wednesday. Releasing something special on the day before Thanksgiving has become something of a tradition for Victory, though for reasons unknown, they never revisited Dark Intrigue (and claim they won't make it again). I loved that beer when fresh, and since I bought a case of the stuff, I've enjoyed checking it out over time. Other releases included Red Thunder and Earth & Flame.

The hype surrounding these releases has died down, but they're definitely worth checking out. Victory has grown considerably since then as well, opening new brewpubs throughout the area and even a new production facility in Parksburg. This year's Thanksgiving Wednesday release was called Java Cask, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout made with coffee from local restaurant and indie rock venue, Johnny Brenda's. Unlike Dark Intrigue (or indeed, most of Victory's barrel aged efforts), the base beer does not appear to be something in the regular lineup, and the result clocks in at a whopping 14.3% ABV (to my knowledge, the highest they've ever brewed). It was much anticipated locally, but since the release was spread out across several locations, it was all very low key. I rolled up a little after opening, waited about 5 minutes and got myself some bottles. That being said, there wasn't that much left and I'm told it sold out not long after I snagged mine...

I love the local brewing scene, but I have also noticed a distinct lack of great bourbon barrel stouts. With Java Cask, we've now seen two new BBA Imperial Coffee Stouts in the past year alone (the other being Weyerbacher's Sunday Morning Stout). This is nice, but given my legendary aversion towards coffee, I wouldn't mind seeing some non-coffeed versions floating around every now and again. A man can dream. That being said, I feel like I'm gaining a better appreciation of great imperial coffee stouts, so let's get to the main event. Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I rooted around my cellar and found a bottle of Dark Intrigue to commemorate the occasion and compare both Dark Wednesday beers. Totally unfair comparison, but fun nonetheless.

Dark Intrigue

Victory Dark Intrigue 2011 - This is long past its prime, but it's still a worthy pour. Faded piney, resinous hops and oxidation are prominent, but the malt backbone and barrel aging keep things interesting. It felt much better integrated when fresh or within 1-2 years. It's fine now, just very, very different, and the bourbon barrel character has faded. If you have one of these tucked away, it's probably long past time to drink it, but it's still worth checking out. Chalk this one up in the "drink one fresh, save one to age" category... Difficult to rate this one, but if this was my first taste, it'd be somewhere in the low B range.

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 11/25/15. Bottled: Nov 08 2011.

Victory Java Cask

Victory Java Cask - Pours a deep, dark, oily brown, almost black color, thick looking, with half a finger of very short lived light brown head. Smells of coffee, coffee, and more coffee, roast coffee, chocolate coffee, and did I mention coffee? It's got a lot of coffee. Taste is less coffee focused, though it's still playing a lead role. Starts off sweet, with rich caramel, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, roast, and finally that coffee really takes over in the finish. As it warms, it gets more complex and the flavor elements come out more. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, and plenty of boozy heat. This is a delicious, intense coffee stout, and if I wasn't such a coffee ambivalent fella, this would be full on A material, but I'm not, so you get A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14.3% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 11/25/15. Enjoy by: 10 Nov 2016.

It's been a while since I've reviewed a Victory beer, which is weird, since they are one of my most reviewed breweries. This was great, but man, I really want a non-coffee version of this. Fingers crossed that we'll see something like that in the future.

Sante Adairius Jose Pimiento

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In Brew Like a Monk, Stan Hieronymus relates an anecdote from Michael Jackson (the beer critic, not the pop star):

In one of the many stories he likes to tell about German, English and Belgian brewers, Michael Jackson first asks a German how beer is made. "Pils malt, Czech hops," the brewer replies. Then Jackson asks the German brewer down the road the same question. "It's the same as Fritz said. That's how you make a Pilsener, that's what we learn in school."

After getting a different answer from a British brewer, Jackson turns to a Belgian brewer. "First of all, you take one ton of bat's droppings. Then you add a black witch," the Belgian answers. "The brewer down the road uses a white witch." Jackson concludes with the lesson: "Belgium is a nation of tremendous individualists."

The notion of beer "styles" is so ingrained in our current beer culture that it's hard to imagine coming to it fresh, the way Jackson was doing 40 or so years ago. It's faintly amazing that we ended up with something even remotely workable, especially considering the tremendous individualism of Belgian beer.

Enter Sante Adairius' 16e series of one-off beers. It's a nod to Tim Clifford's time as a homebrewer, as he "gained a lot of notoriety" in competitions, especially with beers in BJCP Category 16e, a nubulous "catch-all" category of Belgian beer used to capture all those weird bat dropping and witch based ales and whatnot. Basically, it's Sante Adairius' line of experimental and weird beers that defy categorization.

This particular entry is called Jose Pimiento. I don't know who that is or why they named this beer after him, but Jose presumably enjoys chile peppers, because this is a sour blonde ale aged in barrels with dried chile peppers. This is... not a combo you're likely to see again, and is vaguely terrifying, but it appears they used a gentle touch with the chiles, as it adds complexity and flavor without overwhelming...

Sante Adairius Jose Pimiento

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales 16e Jose Pimiento - Pours a very pale, straw yellow color with a finger of white head that sticks around a bit. Smells of vinous fruit and oak, funky but very bright. If you do the equivalent of squinting with your nose, you can maybe, kinda, sorta find the pepper, but it's not really a prominent aroma at all. Taste starts off with those vinous fruit flavors up front, lactic sourness emerging quickly and lasting through the taste, and that spicy chile pepper comes out a bit more here, but it's still shy and introverted (like me!), and as a result, it adds complexity without overwhelming anything. It reminds me of the old Belgian brewing adage of spice - if it's identifiable, you've done it wrong. If I didn't know this involved peppers, I might note something, but I doubt I'd pinpoint it as dried chile peppers. Mouthfeel is well carbonated up front, but quickly falling off into a more sticky finish, some bright acidity here, and yes, faint hints of chile heat. Overall, this is a bit odd, but still another winner from Sante Adairius. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 11/13/15.

Another winner from SARA! Many thanks to Jay from BeerSamizdat for sending it my way. Keep them coming, Jay, I need to get my hands on moar SARA!

AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout

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According to BeerAdvocate, there are currently 34 different variations of AleSmith's venerable Speedway Stout, ranging from numerous different coffee varieties to different barrel aged treatments to totally wacky shit like Tiramisu or Maple Blueberry Pancake. In general, though, what you see at the store is the original Ryan Bros. Coffee version, which is fantastic, to be sure, but you hear about all these variants and can't help but wonder... The grand majority of this stuff is probably brewery-only distribution, but one can't help but pine for a taste. So I was more than a little surprise when a little birdy told me that a local beeratorium was going to be tapping a keg of Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout, a particularly prized variant. Despite my legendary antipathy towards coffee stouts, I rather enjoyed regular Speedway, and still wanted to get a taste of the good stuff.

So what makes this special? First made in 2012, this beer utilizes a blend of four Vietnamese coffees, known in Vietnam as cà phê sa đá, that are then slow roasted at low temperature (a salient point, and perhaps one of the reasons I like this - that treatment supposedly lends a less bitter, less roasty, less burnt flavor, though I'm obviously taking someone's word for this since I'm not a coffee guy) and brewed using traditional Phin-style filter. Looking into this, it seems a bit odd, because the Phin-style filter is a single-cup, gravity driven brewing tool, so did they brew enough for a full batch of beer using single cups? Whatever the case, it worked, because the result is a wonderful beer (erm, not the greatest picture, sorry about that):

AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout

AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout - Yes, it's black with half a finger of tan head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smell has a great vanilla component, but the typical roasty, coffee, dark chocolate notes also make the requisite appearance, seems less intense but more complex. Taste is all rich, dark malts, caramel, vanilla, well balanced hop bitterness, a healthy roastiness, and yes, a very nice mellow coffee, especially in the finish. We all know I'm no coffee fiend, but this is my kind of coffee beer. I had this a second time later in the week and felt that the vanilla component wasn't as prominent, but I'm guessing that was just because I had it after drinking a bunch of other beers. Mouthfeel is full bodied and moderately carbonated, well balanced but a little boozy heat makes itself known, especially as it warms up. Overall, right up at the top of my coffee beer ranking... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap (10 ounce pour). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/7/15.

After getting a small taste of BA Speedway, and now this, I'm thinking I need to get on the ball with AleSmith's special releases!

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 time around, I'm hosting a discussion on Double Features:

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that's fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I'm a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point. The possibilities are endless!
Endless indeed, hence I'm going to post at least two double features this week in anticipation of the big event on Friday.

First up, a double feature of convenience. Longtime readers know I'm a big fan of San Francisco's Almanac Beer Co. and while I've been able to snag a bottle here or there through means, they've just recently started distributing to the Philadelphia area in earnest. As such, every time I go to the store, I find myself drawn to purchase another of their delicious beers I've not had before. A hearty welcome to Pennsylvania from all of us (i.e. me) here at Kaedrin:

Welcome to PA

Anywho, here are two beers I cracked open this weekend whilst viewing a bunch of horror movies in honor of Halloween (notably Trick 'r Treat and Ghostbusters, neither of which are particularly well suited to the beers I'm drinking except that, well, they're all quite good!) First up is Citra Sour, the first of a new series of single hopped sour beers (up next is Simcoe Sour), an interesting fusion of styles that has never quite caught on, but which might if efforts like this keep things going. Truth be told, I think I prefer the straight up fruited sours moreso than hopped sours, but variety is a good thing, and this is pretty tasty.

Citra Sour

Almanac Citra Sour - Pours a cloudy straw yellow with a finger of white head that sticks around for a while. Smells... interesting, that Citra hop character is prominent, floral citrus notes, but an underlying sour twang is there as well. Taste is a good deal more vinous than the nose would suggest, clearly those wine barrels kicking in, and the oak features prominently as well. The Citra hops do kick in about halfway through and persist through the sour finish. Quite puckering, actually, I think the hops only serve to intensify the sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light, bright, and quite acidic. Overall, I'm still not convinced that high amounts of hops are a great match with sour, but this is still rather nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/30/15. Bottled July 2015.

After letting the palate cool off for a bit, I cracked open Farmer's Reserve Citrus, which I believe is the same base Sour Blond Ale aged in wine barrels, but instead of hops, we've got a melange of citrus fruits, including Buddha's Hand Citron, Blood Orange, and Yuzu. The Farmer's Reserve stuff have been my favorite offerings from Almanac, and this one did not disappoint:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Citrus

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Citrus - Pours a mostly clear golden yellow color with a finger of short lived white head. Smells more funky, some citrus and sour twang, but some earthy Brett character pitching in here too. Taste again hits with that earthy, musty funk, lots of tart citrus fruit, a little wine barrel, oak and vanilla, and finishing with a nice sour bite. Mouthfeel is slightly less carbonated, still light and bright, the acidity feeling a bit less intense too. Overall, this is not quite as intense, but it is much more balanced than the Citra Sour. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/30/15. Bottled June 2015.

So there you have it. Next up in the Double Feature realm will be a much more harmonious beer and filmic pairing centered around Wes Craven. Stay tuned! And if you've got a blog, feel free to play along. More details on The Session and how to participate can be read here!

Logsdon Far West Vlaming

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Everyone loses their mind when a brewery sells out, but the business of brewing is one of those topics I just can't seem to get too worked up about. That being said, I can get on board with the anxiety of a sell out if it's one of your favorite breweries. There's a natural worry that your favorite beer will be reformulated or go away completely because the new regime is unenlightened or something. So when I heard news of David Logsdon's sell out of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales along with a simultaneous announcement that Brett Porter was leaving (one of the best brewer names ever, right up their with Wayne Wambles) I was a little worried. Seizoen Bretta is one of my favorite beers and a go-to way to blow less-beer-focused minds, Oak Aged Bretta is spectacular, and Peche 'n Brett is delicious. I don't want to lose these brews!

Fortunately, there are a few bright spots in this whole transaction. Firstly, this wasn't a sellout to a giant multi-national conglomerate, but to another relatively small beer-focused local business. Second, Logsdon will still be involved: "I am not stepping away from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales. I am stepping away from the day to day operations of running this farmhouse brewery. I will still be overseeing the brewing and recipe development and quality control with no plans to remove myself from that." Finally, this might even involve more availability, which would be a great thing for this beer. So it appears all my old favorites aren't going away and will still be under the watchful eye of David Logsdon. That's a relief! To celebrate, lets crack one of their specialties...

Far West Vlaming is a reference to the West-Flanders style of beer historically brewed by the Flemish people (a Germanic ethnic group who speak dutch, and to bring it all together, Flemish translates to Vlaming in Dutch). I'm not an expert on brewing this style, but there are some distinct practices here. It's a mixed fermentation, meaning standard saccharomyces yeast in primary, followed by a wild secondary fermentation (Brett and souring bacterias) and a long stint in oak. The resulting juice is then blended with young beer to balance out the sourness. Logsdon's take differs from most Flanders Reds that I've had in two ways: 1. It's highly carbonated and effervescent (the style is usually lower to medium) and 2. It's mostly a lactic sourness as opposed to an acetic sourness (i.e. no real vinegar type flavors here). Of course, there's nothing wrong with either of those things, and the resulting beer is delicious, but it doesn't really feel anything like other Flanders Reds that I've had... Let's take a closer look:

Logsdon Far West Vlaming

Logsdon Far West Vlaming - Pours a very pretty, deep orange amber color with a finger or two of fluffy white head that actually sticks around for a change. Smell has that characteristic Logsdon funk, musty with a little earth and lots of fruity esters. Hints of oak and vanilla as it warms. Taste starts off sweet, hits some vinous fruit notes, a little lactic tartness but not super sour, circling back to earthy funk in the finish. Again, as it warms, maybe a little oak comes out, but it's not a big influence. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, only a hint of acidity kicking around. Overall, this ain't no Flanders anything, but it's pretty darned good in its own right and maybe you could just think of it as a different take on a classic style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml waxed). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/16/15.

I usually try to have some Logsdon bottles around the house in case I get an opportunity to share, and it usually goes over like gangbusters. Well worth seeking out.

Avery Insula Multos Collibus

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During this, my most favoritest of seasons, I like to tie one on whilst watching horror movies. I try to select appropriate beers to match what I'm watching (for instance, last week's Pumpkin beer jamboree was paired with a trio of cheesy Larry Cohen films, making for a nice sorta gimmicky match), but this week was a Frank Henenlotter marathon and, well, there's no matching beers with that (and if there were, I don't think anyone would want to drink such things). So I just snagged this Avery beer with the Latin name, thinking perhaps I might inadvertently summon a demon or something.

Alas, that was not in the cards, but what I got was pretty good nonetheless! Insula Multos Collibus is Latin for "Island of many hills", but if you translate to Dutch, it basically means "Manhattan". It turns out that this is something of an ode to the cocktail. Aged in bourbon barrels with cherries and Avery's house souring cultures, which I guess gets you close enough to a Manhattan without getting too kooky (though wouldn't you use Rye barrels for this? Eh, better not overthink it.) So get your grimoire out and turn to the evocation passages, it's time to summon a cocktail in beer form:

Avery Insula Multos Collibus

Avery Insula Multos Collibus - Pours a murky amber color with a finger or two of short lived, tan head. Smells of a sorta bourbon cherry pie, rich and sweet, oaky, fruity. I'm no Manhattan expert, but I guess this is close enough while still hewing to (sour) beer. Taste starts off on the sweet side, fruity, boozy, but then it sorta dries out and a bracing fruit sourness kicks in towards the finish. Not as pie-like as the nose would have you believe, but admirable nonetheless. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, rich up front but it dries out by the finish, a little heat from the booze, and a bracing acidity. Overall, this is quite an interesting beer, better than your typical one note American Wild Ale, perhaps a bit too strong, but given the goal to emulate a pretty strong cocktail, we'll let it slide. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.7% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/2/15. Bottled: APR 16 2015. Production: 1308 Cases. No 27 in Avery's Barrel Aged Series.

This was certainly an interesting one, really quite happy I grabbed a bottle when I could. No more Avery reviews in the pipeline, though I did have a Rumpkin (which clocks in at 18% ABV this year, so lookout!) and might snag a Pump[KY]n if it shows up again... And any of these Barrel-Aged series beers generally interest me, so it probably won't be too long until we see another on here.

September Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for drinks, food, and general revelry. This time, we stopped in at a local Pizza place for some deep fried dough, strombolis, and yes, pizza. It's not a big place and the pizza isn't as spectacular as the last beer club gathering, but we always manage to make due. Good attendance tonight too, and plenty of beer.

September Beer Club Selections
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some half-addled thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, this was a social gathering, so I wasn't paying too close of attention to what I was drinking and you should totes ignore what I'm writing and make up your own mind because I'm totally the worst and this post is definitely an ill-advised idea that I'm only doing out of tradition because I've done it for all previous iterations of beer club and are you even reading this? Why? The beer notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured (and some later attendees brought some stuff that is not pictured):

  • Platform Speed Merchant White IPA - Not expecting much out of this Ohio beer brought back by a visitor, fantastic citrusy nose, more typical IPA-like taste. Quite solid though, and worth a look on its own. B+
  • Pizza Boy Hop Test #1 (Cascade Single Hop) - Yep, it's a pale ale. The very definition of cromulence, this does nothing particularly special, but it's an enjoyable little pale ale. B
  • New Belgium Pumpkick - Whoa there, this is quite perfumey, moar ginger than anything else, but that perfumey character really overpowers everything else with this beer. Not horrendous, but not a particularly good pumpkin beer either. C+
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack - Back in the early days of this blog, this would have been an A worthy beer, but grade inflation is a bitch. It's still an accomplished and emminently accomplished IPA, well worth checking out. Delicious citrus/pine/malt balance. B+
  • Weyerbacher Tarte Nouveau - Very nice little tart beer, tart, crisp, refreshing, very light bodied and easy going, sorta beginner sour stuff but quite nice on its own. B+
  • Overshores Tripel Brun - Bottle a bit of a gusher, and thus carbonation levels a bit off, but this is basically a very raisiny Belgian strong dark. B
  • Brasserie De Blaugies / Hill Farmstead La Vermontoise - I know I've had this before, but apparently I never reviewed it. It's not quite up to speed with the best of Hill Farmstead, but it's a rock solid saison, earthy and spicy, quite delicious. B+
  • Fantôme Coffee Ruby - One of my contributions, this came off as surprisingly muted. There's some coffee character that is definitely present, but it's not overpowering at all, despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be a ton of other stuff going on with this beer. It's got a very, very mild funk to it, and the combination of the base with coffee doesn't entirely blesh, but it's certainly an interesting beer. A little weird, but could more interesting with more funk. Keeping in mind my legendary indifference to coffee, I'll give it a B
  • Cascade Figaro - This is typical Cascade sour here, which is to say, it's a fantastic little sour. I don't get a lot of fig or lemon peel out of it, but it's got that trademark Cascade lactic sour and oak character that just work so damn well. Generally agreed to be one of the best of the night. A-
  • White Birch Indulgence Ale (2014) - Not sure which version of this beer I tried (I think it's this retired 2014 version), but it was labeled as a Belgian Imperial Stout, and it definitely had a sorta brighter take on the imperial stout style that worked really well. Lots of rich malt, light roast, some hints of Belgian character, but with the style's inherent dark malt sweetness (i.e. not a dry or highly carbonated beer). Actually quite nice and among the better of the night. B+
  • Brewmaster Jack Barrel Aged Prinsipia Quad - Sounds great, but came out kinda limp, very boozy, a little raisiny Belgian character, but not at all balanced. Not terrible, but not quite getting the job done either. B-

And that just about covers it. We just got this one in under the wire, last day of the month. Will need to try and plan the next beer club soon. Great time, as always.

Tahoe Mountain Double Feature

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Tahoe Mountain is a new brewery to me, introduced by our mutual friend Jay from Beer Samizdat in a recent cross-country trade. They appear to hail from Truckee, CA, on the Eastern side of the state near, you guessed it, Lake Tahoe. In fact, it appears they're just a few miles down the road from Kaedrin favorite FiftyFifty, which makes Truckee a pretty impressive little brewing town considering its location. They seem to be big on experimentation and barrel-aging, which is music to my earballs, so let's take a closer look at the two beers Jay flung my way, drunk whilst engaging in a mini-Larry Cohen horror movie marathon.

First up is their "full-bodied, yet sessionable rustic multi-grain Farmhouse Ale", a description bound to annoy English readers since it clocks in at 6.2% ABV. Perhaps these guys graduated from the Adam Avery "They're all session beers" school of thought, though this is admittedly a pretty easy going beer. Strap in folks, it's going to be a relatively smooth ride, but you can never be too careful:

Tahoe Mountain Provisions

Tahoe Mountain Provisions - Pours a hazy golden yellow color with several fingers of fluffy white head that sticks around and leaves lacing all over the place. Smells spicy, bready belgian yeast, with an almost grapelike fruit aroma kicking in too. Taste crackles with that spicy character, a little bit of a bite there, with only hints of yeasty esters lingering towards the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, very dry, but with enough firepower to keep it from feeling slight. Overall, what we have here is yet another rock solid but traditional style saison. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a Teku glass on 9/25/15.

Next up, we have a wild ale "aged two years in oak cabernet barrels with fresh cherries and blueberries", which sounds a mighty bit more experimental than the previous beer. Let's see what's up:

Tahoe Mountain Viejo Rojo

Tahoe Mountain Viejo Rojo - Pours a dark amber color, deep robey tones, nice looking when held up to light, with a finger of off white head. Smells Flandersy, acetic sour cherries, a little oak and vanilla rounding things out. Taste has a nice rich sweetness to it, some of those sour cherries pitching in, dark vinous fruit, clearly some dark (but not roasty) malts contributing, vinegar and a nice, well matched sourness puckering things up in the finish. As it warms, the tartness creeps up earlier into the taste, but regardless, it's more sweet than sour. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated, some vinegary acidity cuts through it all, but is not overpowering. Overall, this is a really nice sour, along the lines of a Flanders red, and makes me want to check out more Tahoe Mountain stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 9/25/15.

Certainly a promising start for a brewery I've never heard of before. Here's to hoping Jay slings more of these my way in future trades!


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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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