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Telegraph Gypsy Ale

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Many moons ago, all the cool kids were talking about this rad wild ale brewed with Brett and plums and lo, I was jealous. In typical Kaedrin fashion, I'm about four years late to the party, but I have to say, it was totally worth the wait. Telegraph feels like an underrated gem. Everytime I have something from them, I come away happy, and they've only grown in my estimation over time. This Gypsy Ale is the best I've had yet. What is it, you ask? In an interview with our friends over at Beer Samizdat, Telegraph brewer Brian Thompson recounts this beer's origin story:

Our Gypsy Ale was born from a conversation at the brewery over some beers. Paul Rey, one of our brewers, has very eclectic musical tastes. He had some Roma Gypsy music playing one day and we got to talking about what a Gypsy beer would be like. Definitely wild, we thought, and rustic, with some less common grains, like rye. And we remembered a Serbian guy we know who, at parties, always pulls out these re-used plastic water bottles full of slivovitz plum brandy he brings back with him from visiting his mother. Since I have a big plum tree in my yard, it clicked. We would add plums to a barley- and rye-based strong ale, and age it with Brettanomyces.
Well, sign me up... Opa!

Telegraph Gypsy Ale

Telegraph Gypsy Ale - Pours a mostly clear golden orange color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells great, spicy, fruity, funky, earthy, very, very nice nose. Taste follows the nose, spicy up front, followed by lots of tart stonefruit, plums, cherries, and the like, leavened by some earthy funk, with an almost acetic sourness pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and bright, medium bodied, slightly but pleasingly acidic, easy to polish off the 750. Mouthfeel is always something Telegraph has excelled at for me, and this is no exception, it's wonderful. Overall, this is a complex, delicious beer, certainly an underrated beauty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 8/28/15. Vintage: 2014.

These guys distribute out here in PA, but they only show up sporadically. Well worth seeking out! Many thanks to Jay for parting with this one, and I'm very sad that another Telegraph ale didn't survive the cross country trek. I actually snagged a bottle of Reserve Wheat to share with some friends in a few weeks, hoping to blow some minds (it was certainly an eye opener for me!)

Trillium Farmhouse Ale

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Boston's Trillium brewing very quickly sashayed their way into our hearts during Operation Chowder earlier this year, and I'm already jonesing for more of their wonderfully crafted beers. So far, they've amply demonstrated their proficiency with hoppy beers, creating some fabulously aromatic examples of the style that put them in the upper tier for me. But how's their farmhouse game? Sunshower was a nice dry-hopped example, but can they swing a straight up saison? The answer is yes, and this eponymous brew stands out as one of the better American takes on a standard (non-funky, non-BA) saison:

Trillium

Trillium Farmhouse Ale - Pours a slightly hazy yellow color with a finger of fluffy head and some lacing. Smell has a nice Belgian yeast profile, peppery spice, some fruity esters, very nice nose (typical of Trillium). Taste has a nice sweet and spicy thing going on, feels Dupont-like in that respect, but a little brighter in terms of hop profile. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, on the dry side, pretty easy going stuff. Overall, rock solid non-funkified saison, up there with the Duponts and Apex Predators of the world. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/21/15. Bottled 05/21/15.

I have another bottle of this to coddle, but am otherwise all out of the Trills, need moar. Also, after a week of putting dumb images and memes on my posts, I've fallen off the wagon again, but I really wanted to get a gif of Jim Carrey sashaying through a restaurant in Cable Guy (for whatever reason, this one tiny bit of a scene imprinted on me or something) but either my Google-fu is weak, or no one has made this gif. Both seem unlikely, but then, here we are.

Update: Screw it, I made the Cable Guy gif. This is Trillium sashaying their way into my heart:

The Cable Guy is Trillium in this metaphor

I love you too, Trillium.

Pizza 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 fun. This time we went to a favorite discovery of mine, Ravanesi Pizzaria, a tiny little joint out in the burbs that scratch makes almost everything. Pizza places are a dime a dozen around here, but these guys really distinguish themselves. It's one of those places where they open at 4:30 pm and close whenever they run out of dough. Yes, it takes approximately 30 hours to make the dough, so they do run out fairly frequently. As a veteran BYOB attendee (because of beer club), most places aren't so busy on Tuesdays and thus welcome a bunch of beer nerds who take up a table and drink a lot of beer whilst occasionally munching on their food. This place was pretty much bumping from around 5 pm until we left at around 8 pm. But the pizza. The pizza is almost absurdly good. And it's not like Philly is bad at pizza (there's plenty of bad pizza, but we've got our hotspots). Check it:

ravanesi-pizza.jpg

A most excellent backdrop for beer club.For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we had are below. Usual nerdy disclaimers apply, this was not ideal tasting conditions and I didn't exactly take detailed notes, so take it all with the requisite mountain of salt. In order of drinking, not necessarily how they appear in the photo:

August Beer Club at Ravanesi Pizza

  • Otter Creek/Jack's Abby Joint Custody - Yep, it's a pilsner, but it's a pretty darn good one, crisp, light, and refreshing. Certainly a step up from your typical macro, and perhaps worthy of a closer look this next weekend. B+
  • Night Shift Santilli - A rock solid IPA, nice citrus and dank pine character, nice and crushable. B+
  • Two Roads Road Jam Raspberry Wheat Ale - Holy hell, this is terrible. Robitussin tones, artificial raspberry flavor, and the like. Perhaps not quite that bad, but not at all good. D
  • Vault Mosaic Imperial IPA - Does this sound familiar? Of course it does, I just reviewed it yesterday. In fact, it performed supremely well in this tasting format, pairing well with the spicy Sopressata pizza and just generally standing up to the other beers pretty well. May be tempted to raise this one to an A-
  • Night Shift Trifecta - Brewed with three Trappist ale yeasts, I found this a bit disappointing. It's got some decent Belgian yeast character, but it isn't quite carbonated or dry enough to really work well. Disappointing C+
  • Smuttynose Spank - For a beer that labels itself as a "hoppy saison", I have to admit that I find little in the way of hops here, even if it's an otherwise unremarkable beer that is far from bad, but which won't exactly light the world on fire. B-
  • Adroit Theory Ortolan Bunting - A very odd beer, almost quad-like, but without the full fruit character, but a very nice nose that doesn't quite live up to the straightforward taste, with some dark malts, perhaps even some smoked malt. Fine, but not quite a top tier effort. B
  • Lickinghole Creek Enlightened Despot - One of the best beers of the night, a clear winner, Pappy 15 barrel aged imperial stout, is quite tasty, very sweet, loads of coconut and vanilla from that barrel, delicious stuff. A-
  • Smuttlabs Durtay - Smuttynose - A rum barrel aged brown ale, this one works pretty darn well, very sweet, a little boozy, but a nice barrel and molasses character comes through too. B+
And that just about covers it. I really love this pizza and want to come here as often as possible, but it's also a little out of the way, so I'm guessing it won't be quite as regular as some other BYOB places. Still worth the trip though, so we'll see...

Grassroots Brother Soigné

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Grassroots is kinda like the collaborative arm of Hill Farmstead, so it's always surprising that these beers don't command more attention. Some of them you'll even find sitting on a shelf! The horror! In general, they're up to par with Hill Farmstead's "regular" farmhouse offerings, but then, I guess that's not what gets people amped up about them either. Not that I'm complaining, the more people who sleep on saisons, the more saisons for me.

Mr. Burns the beer nerd, sleeping on Grassroots saisons

This is a collaboration with Luc Bim Lafontaine (formerly of Dieu du Ciel!, now toiling away in Japan or something) and it's a saison brewed with Lime and Blood Orange (and possibly, depending on who you ask, hibiscus). Sounds good to me. So let's start a Grassroots campaign to drink more saisons:

Grassroots Brother Soigné

Grassroots Brother Soigné - Pours a clear orange color with an almost pinkish hue and a finger of white head. Smells of tart fruit, citrus zest, and some farmhouse yeast esters, very nice nose. Taste starts sweet, hits some spicy saison notes, then comes some tart fruit, don't know that I'd have picked lime out blind, but it's there, and some orange too, not quite sour but headed in that direction. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, lower-medium bodied, lightly acidic, and relatively dry. The 750 went down quicker than I thought it would, and I was left here wondering if someone snuck into my house and poured themselves a glass or something stupid like that. Overall, a nice estery saison number, not going to light the world on fire, but well worth the stretch. Somewhere in the B+ to A- continuum. It's getting hard to rate this stuff.

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/1/15. Bottled 04/16/2015.

I've got a couple more bottles of this in the cellar, and I'm told it cellars well, which would be exciting... if I can manage to not drink them all in the next few months. Check the line in Vegas to see where that's at these days, but it's not a particularly safe bet.

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Strawberry

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There's this Portlandia skit where two diners ask pedantic questions about the origins of the chicken they're about to eat. It's a neat skewering of Farm to Table fanatics. Even after presented with an information sheet on the exact chicken they'll be consuming (his name was "Colin"!), they feel the need to further investigate, making their way to the actual farm itself, interviewing the workers, and so on. This is obviously a ludicrous exaggeration, which is the point, but sometimes it's nice to see where your food comes from. Take this beer, part of Almanac's Farm to Barrel series (naturally), a sour beer fermented with their house yeast, then aged in old wine barrels atop uber-fresh local fruit. But where does this fruit come from? In this case, we've got strawberries grown at Dirty Girl Farms in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. Some of you might be thinking how nice it would be to meet the eponymous girls in question, and you people are probably pretty dirty in yourselves. Get your minds out of the gutter, is what I'm saying. Let's get our mind off this lurid subject with some beer:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Strawberry

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Strawberry - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a finger off white head (it's not even pink, who are they fooling?) Smells strongly of tart fruit, strawberries, kiwi, and the like, with some oak and vanilla kicking in for fun. Taste starts sweet, quickly moving into sour fruits leavened by some oak before sharply ramping up the sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is crisp and light bodied, quite acidic but still pleasant enough. Overall, yes, it's another Farmer's Reserve winner from Almanac, moar sour than usual, but that seems to be the way of the strawberry. Who am I to question that? A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/17/15. Batch 10:1 031215 FRSTRAW.

Always on the lookout for more Almanac, they've never really let me down and have pretty steadily gotten better as time goes on. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of their offerings sooner rather than later...

Operation Cheddar IV: Smoked Cheddar

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Hot on the heels of Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder, only about a month later, I embarked upon the more familiar, single-day incursion into Vermont. This being the case, I'm not going to cover the trip in as much detail, considering that you can go back and read recaps of my previous sorties into Vermont. Instead, I'll recap a few beers I've had, and let you know about a few new places I visited this time around.

First up is a brewery that's not even in Vermont. I know, I'm the worst, but it was literally walking distance from the place I was staying and it had just opened less than a week before I visited. How could I not check it out? Enquiring minds want to know about all these new breweries popping up all over the place, and someone has to take up the slack. And until they do, you'll have to deal with my silly notes. It's called Fulton Chain Brewing (named after the chain of lakes that winds its way through the Adirondacks), and it's got a promising start. They only had 4 beers on tap, but plan on having more (things were still coming up to speed for them, they were still waiting on glassware for flights and even empty growlers). Between three friends and myself, we tried all of them, and they're decent. The clear highlight for me was Lake Hopper IPA, an 8.5% ABV DIPA made with 8 hops to represent the 8 lakes in the Fulton Chain. Nice juicy DIPA, super cloudy stuff, a little raw, but very promising. Not exactly a Heady killer or anything, but pretty darn good for a place down the road.

Fulton Chain Lake Hopper DIPA

I also tried a beer called Stealth Buddha, a Scotch ale made with small amounts of smoked malt, quite approachable. Not going to inspire road trips or anything, but nice enough. Really happy this place opened up, and I'm looking forward to visiting again once they're more established. They appear to be quite small, but they've got a gorgeous tasting room (including an amazing single piece countertop that snakes its way throughout the space), a nice location, and they show promise.

As for Vermont, I made a few of the typical stops, including the Warren Store, a couple places in Waterbury, Lost Nation (got a great pulled pork thing that wasn't quite as good as the smoked lamb pita sandwich I had last time, but was still fantastic), and Hill Farmstead.

Hill Farmstead

Some spoils of war:

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - bottles

Operation Cheddar IV Haul - Cans

(click to embiggen)

I didn't snap a pic of everything because I bought a bunch of stuff at Lost Nation and Hill Farmstead that I had snagged last time. Some new stuff includes my most prized acquisition, Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience 14 (barrel aged blend of Anna and Florence), some of this year's batch of Florence (I still have some of last year's batch, so I'm hoping to do a comparison). Also some Sip of Sunshine (it comes in bottles and cans!) and a bottle of Rock Art's Bourbon Barrel Aged Vermonster. Lots of Lost Nation Cans, including some Mosaic and Vermont Pilsner (both of which are very nice), and of course, some Gose. Moar Sip of Sunshine cans, and I took a flier on 14 Star Tribute DIPA... Finally, I made my way to Four Quarters brewing to fill up some crowlers.

Four Quarters Brewing - Barrels
Four Quarters Barrel Room (click to embiggen)

Another pretty small operation, they impressed me during the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston last month and I was really hoping to snag some bottles. Alas, it was not to be, but I did get some crowlers. Here's Chrysalis, a smoked hoppy amber ale:

Four Quarters Crysalis

Four Quarters Chrysalis - Pours a very nice, mostly clear dark amber color with a finger of bubbly light tan head that sticks around for a while. Smells of citrusy hops initially, but then you get that malty, smoky background that actually sets the hops off rather nicely. Taste starts off on the sweeter side, typical amber and crystal malts, and the smoke is somewhat muted, but it's there and playing along reasonably well. Hints of piney, bitter hops come in towards the finish as well. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and silky smooth, pretty easy going stuff. The smokey character is not dominant at all, and just adds a bit of complexity to a pretty typical hopped red ale. Overall, it's a very nice beer, not mind blowing, but interesting enough... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV canned (32 ounce crowler). Drank out of a wine glass on 7/12/15. Crowler filled on 7/9/15.

I also got a crowler of Opus Dei (a very nice, quaffable little Belgian Pale Ale) and shared it with some friends when I got back. Sorry, no detailed notes there. Another thing I shared with some Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #1, a great little DIPA (what else would you expect from them), not quite as juicy or citrusy as I've come to expect, but there's nothing wrong with that, and it actually matched very well with some smoked chicken we were having. It went over quite well. I managed to squirrel away my last growler though:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 4

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 - Pours a cloudy, bright golden color with a finger of white, fluffy head. Smells amazing, huge citrus aromas, pure mango juice or something like that. Taste is very sweet, again with a massive blast of mango juice, well balanced finish, not bitter, but just perfectly balanced. Feels kinda like and amped up Susan, but even more fruity. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, smooth, medium bodied, and almost quaffable. Overall, what a surprise, HF hits it out of the park. Again. With a citrusy wonder. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/12/15. Growler filled on 7/9/15.

Finally, this last one is a spoil from Operation Cheddar III, but I think you still want to know about it, right?

Rock Art Smugglers Notch Barrel Aged RIS

Rock Art Smuggler's Notch Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout - Smuggler's Notch is a Vermont micro-distillery, so I took a flier on this one rather than going with the more traditional straight bourbon barrel approach. Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of bourbon, oak, and lots of vanilla, hints of roast and dark chocolate. Taste is surprisingly muted, some of that bourbon and oak, but not much, vanilla, and a big hit of hop bitterness towards the finish. As it warms, some roast comes out to play, and it becomes more expressive. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, and while not dry, per say, it's more attenuated than I'd expect. Overall, this isn't top tier stuff, but it's an interesting take on the style. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/3/15.

Well, that was more involved than I thought it would be! Another successful incursion into Vermont, and there will be more. Oh yes.

The Bruery Cuivre

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The Bruery's Anniversary beers hold a certain sentimental value for me, and as such, they've become a much anticipated annual tradition. As with the past few years, we've got a massive Old Ale base aged in Bourbon Barrels along with some of last year's batch (meaning that every batch of Anniversary beer contains a small amount of every previous batch, a process called the Solera method). Fortunately, after last year's substantial bump up to 16.9% ABV (from 15%), this one sees a slight decrease, though it still tips the scales at a hefty 16.2% ABV. It's their seventh anniversary, so it was named Cuivre, translating to Copper, after the traditional gift for such an anniversary. Alas, they appear to have given up on waxing these bottles, and we're left with one of those imitation wax foil things. Decent as they come, but not quite as sexy as a waxed bottle.

The ultra-high ABV game gets tiring pretty quickly, but there are some things that make it significantly more palatable. One is that the beer needs to be really good, something The Bruery is generally able to achieve. Another thing that The Bruery is not particularly good at is bottle size. I get it, they're a small brewery and would rather invest their money in more barrels and beer than upgrading their bottling line to accommodate smaller bottles. It's hard to argue with that. On the other hand, Black Tuesday is somewhere in the range of 18-20% ABV every year and it's a bit of a project to get through a bottle. A wonderful, delicious project, to be sure, but still. Sometimes, even sharing that much beer, at that high of an ABV, can be a challenge. I like to have people over from time to time, but I don't want them to leave completely sloshed, you know? In short, I think Patrick Rue is trying to kill us. All of us. No pity, no remorse, just large bottle formats. At least the other high-ABV culprits, like Avery or even Dogfish Head, will package their heavy hitters in 12 ounce bottles. The Bruery? Well, I guess I'll just have to live with making a night out of some of these things. And, to be sure, they're usually pretty fantastic nights:

The Bruery Cuivre

The Bruery Cuivre - Pours a cloudy, dense, brown color with a finger of light tan head that has decent retention but dies down to a ring around the edges and eventually disappears. Smells great, huge bourbon, oak, and vanilla character, with lots of rich caramel, toffee, werther's original, some of that almost fruity, raisiny malt character in the background, maybe even some spicy phenols like cinnamon in the mix. Taste is very sweet, lots of rich caramel up front, toffee, werther's, hints of fruity, raisiny malt, boozy in the finish, with just a hint of the spice box. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, heavy stuff with lots of hot booze, a little sticky, and did I mention booze? A sipping beer for sure. Overall, a slight rebound from last year's overly boozy, one-note (but that one note was so good) affair, but it still feels like some of the earlier vintages were better. This series is still one of my favorites though, and hopefully always will be. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 16.2% ABV (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/2/15. Vintage: 2015.

This is a little on the expensive side, but it's also pretty widely available, and you don't see beers of this quality that often, so it might be worth the expense if you're into this sort of ultra-rich, high-ABV, bourbon barrel aged stuff. I'm a sucker for this series though, so take that with a grain of salt. Interestingly, I still have a bottle of Cuir, the second anniversary brew, sitting in my cellar, that for some reason (*ahem* the high ABV and large bottle format *ahem*) I've never opened. Maybe I'll get to that this year...

Lost Nation The Wind

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So we know how much I enjoyed Lost Nation's flagship Gose, a perfect summer beer. What happens when you take that, dry hop it with Citra, and add some grapefruit to the mix? You get The Wind, once a limited draft-only brew that they have recently started bottling. Tilt those windmills, we've got to deal with The Wind:

Lost Nation The Wind

Lost Nation The Wind - Pours a cloudy straw yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head that resolves down to a small cap of head that has pretty good retention. Smells wonderful, that dry hopping coming through strong with citrus and floral notes, but the underlying brackish and spicy Gose character is still there and plays well with the hops. Taste starts off more Gose-like than the nose, sweet, salty, spicy, with a zesty, lemony, tartness emerging in the middle and intensifying through the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, tart, and relatively dry, making for a very quaffable glass. Definitely more intense and layered than the base Gose. Overall, I'm rating this higher but it's hard to call this "better" than the base beer because it's quite different, but it is more complex and intense while still being very well balanced. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/27/15.

Lost Nation has quickly emerged into a must-visit stop during Operation Cheddars. This represents that last of my Operation Cheddar III cache, but fear not, I stopped in again last week and restocked with a couple new ones. You will be seeing more from these guys in the near future.

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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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