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March Beer Club

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I won't lie, this was a really good night. I went a solid week and a half without beer before completely falling off the wagon this past weekend (as planned, to be sure) and drinking a bunch of beer (and bourbon, and moonshine, and other stuff) during Fat Weekend (a gathering of portly individuals from across the northeast, and some points west, for drinking, fun, and fatness). Now here I am a few scant days later, drinking more beer (again, as planned). 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 a classic Beer Club venue, Jimmy's BBQ. Lots of smoked meat, dirty corn, beer, and fun was had by all:

March Beer Club
(Click for larger image)

Meat induced thoughts on each beer are below. This is for posterity, so I will be sure to be honest, though you might want to take this with a grain (or giant block) of salt, as this BYOB wasn't a hermetically sealed isolation chamber that is ideal for precise tasting notes. Caveats aside, here we go, in order of drinking, not necessarily in order pictured:

  • Kaedrin Fat Weekend IPA - This year's batch finally got that Simcoe and Amarillo loving that I've been trying to get for a few years. My only issue is that I'm still getting a handle on this kegerator operation here, so I feel like I frittered away a significant amount of aroma in the process of trying to get the carbonation and pressure right. I think I've figured out this process well enough that I won't ruin future batches, and it's not like this one turned out bad or anything. Indeed, just a few of us housed 3 whole growlers during Fat Weekend (we would have done so on Friday night if I didn't insist we save one for Saturday). So yeah it was good, and it compared somewhat favorably to tonight's IPA lineup, which was considerable. I'll give it a B for now, though I think it could easily go higher with some slight tweaks to recipe and kegging procedure.
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute - The old standby, I feel like the last couple times I've had this, it hasn't been quite the mindblower it once was for me. Still a rock solid brew, though I might downgrade it to a B+
  • Maine Lunch - One of my contributions. In case you can't tell by the first three beers of the night, we overcompensated for the past couple of beer clubs and brought a shit ton of IPAs this month. Not that I'm complaining, as they were all pretty damn good (to spectacular). This one was a really nice citrus and pine take of the style, in competition for my favorite Maine beer. B+ (though it might go higher outside of this setting)
  • Petrus Aged Pale - Nothing like a sour to cleanse the palate, eh? A very nice oak aged sour beer, something I've had before, and one of those things I'd use to help convert the heathens to the world of sours/good beer. B+
  • DC Brau On The Wings Of Armageddon - Many thanks to Dana for rocking the DIPAs tonight, including this rarity (at least, to us PA folk), which turns out to pretty much live up to the hype, a super piney, dank take on the DIPA, nice body, really well rounded and delicious beer (along the lines of those Pipeworks IPAs I had a while back). Really fantastic, and I hope to someday snag a few fresh cans of this for myself. A-
  • Sixpoint Hi-Res - Alright, so we're getting to a point where specifics about given IPAs are starting to blend together in my head, but I my thoughts on this one are that it comported itself very well in this rather strong lineup of IPAs and DIPAs, actually better than I was expecting (though I'm not sure why, as Sixpoint has always been a pretty solid brewery for me). We'll go with B+ and leave it at that.
  • John's Homebrewed Porter - A relative newcomer to beer club, John made his first batch of beer in about 20 years recently. He went with a pretty straightforward porter that, to be sure, turned out well. But he's working on some interesting stuff in future batches, including a port wine soaked oak beer, possibly even a wile beer, so I'm quite looking forward to it. B
  • Alchemist Heady Topper - Yeah, we've already beaten this one to death before on the blog.
  • Bell's Hopslam - Another one we've covered before, but I certainly ain't complaining, as I do really enjoy this beer and this is the first time I've ever had it out of a bottle. Thanks again to Dana, who brought a crap ton of DIPAs tonight.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Coffee Porter - No real coffee added, but it used some sort of special coffee malt. Not sure if that's malt soaked in coffee or something like that or if it's just roasted to a point that it gives off coffee character, but whatever, it came through well in the beer and did not overpower it at all. Granted, coffee porters aren't really my thing, but this seemed to work reasonably well. B-
  • North Coast Pranqster - A nice little Belgian pale ale, very sweet for it's relatively middling ABV, but still well carbonated enough that it works really well. I enjoyed, and it fit after all those IPAs. B+
  • Widmer SXNW - It came in a fancy box, so it has to be good, right? Well, it's made with Pecans, Cacao beans, and Green Chiles, so I was fearing another hot pepper beer, but it turns out that the dominant character came from that cacao. Huge chocolate notes in the nose, with a corresponding taste. The chiles are there, but in the background, just providing some complexity. Overall, it's an interesting beer, though not one I'd really seek out again. B
  • Humboldt Black Xantus - So I didn't realize this when I bought it, but this is apparently one of them barrel aged Firestone Walker beers, even if it's bottled under the older Nectar Ales brand. That barrel aging comes through loud and clear, and it's quite nice, but there's also apparently a coffee component that also shows up, though it's not as dominant as, say, BCBCS. One of my favorites of the night, though not quite Parabola levels awesome (but still regular beer levels awesome). A-
So there you have it, an enjoyable night had by all. Already looking forward to the next installment of beer club...

Crooked Stave L'Brett d'Or

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We've already established that Chad Yakobson is a mad scientist who makes all of his beer using various strains of Brettanomyces. He's a fan of wild yeast, and apparently also a fan of Luis Buñuel's surrealist films from the 1930s:

The idea spur for the name of this beer came from a 1930′s Surrealist film L'Age d'Or by Luis Buñuel and written by himself and Salvador Dali. In the opening scenes footage of scorpions are shown from a short science film. During this are captions in French talking about 5 prismatic articulations which finally culminate in a stinger.. For this reason we chose to use 5 prismatic strains of Brettanomyces for our surreal golden sour and name the beer L'Brett d'Or "The Golden Brett".

The movie is on YouTube, if you dare. Lord knows I've not seen enough Buñuel, and there's no time like the present.

So primary fermentation with 5 strains of Brett (picked to emphasize "citrusy type characteristics"), then a dose of Lactobacillus (a bacteria that produces sour flavors in beer) and a lengthy nap in old Napa Chardonnay barrels. Sign me up:

Crooked Stave LBrett dOr

Crooked Stave L'Brett d'Or - Pours a yellow color with half a finger of fluffy white head that nonetheless sticks around a while. Smell is pure funk, earthy, fruity Brett, and a light but well matched oak note. Taste follows suit, lots of funky Brett, some earthiness and oak up front, followed by a strong tart fruit sourness. The oak is a really nice presence throughout the taste and helps keep that sourness in check. Mouthfeel is a bit light on the carbonation, but it still works very well. It's bright and refreshing, with a pleasant acidity. Overall, this is yet another fantastic effort from Crooked Stave. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/28/14. Vintage 2013/Batch 2.

It's pretty amazing that a brewery can sustain itself by brewing only wild beers, and I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more from them. In fact, I have another of their beers just sitting on the shelf, ready for drinking. We'll get to it soon enough.

HaandBryggeriet Odin's Tipple

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Odin, the chief god of Norse mythology, is associated with war and death, but also wisdom and poetry (amongst other things). I'll have what he's having. But then, we should be careful. Odin once drank from the Well of Wisdom, but to do so, he had to sacrifice one of his eyes. So, have you got what it takes to tipple with Odin? I'd like to think that I do, but I'm a little disappointed with my choice of drinking vessel, as I did not have any giant fucking ram's horns laying around (like Odin has on the label). I'll just have to make due with this snifter glass and this Mjolnir thing.

I've heard some conflicting things about this Norwegian beer from HaandBryggeriet. Some folks have noted that the recipe can change from year to year. It's labeled a Dark Norse Ale, but the Shelton Brothers website sez they use "wild yeast", which is something I didn't really get out of the beer (though perhaps that flavor I attributed to chalkiness is really more of a funky, musty thing?) To my mind, this is definitely in the mold of an Imperial Stout, wild yeast or no. Whosoever tipples this beer, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Odin!

HaandBryggeriet Odins Tipple

HaandBryggeriet Odin's Tipple - Pours darker than a politician's soul (sorry, watching House of Cards tonight), black with a finger of brown head that quicky resolves into a ring around the edge. Smells of rich dark malts, chocolate, caramel, a hint of roast, maybe even some coffee. Taste is very rich, much larger roast here than the nose would imply, coffee too, maybe a hint of chalkiness, but plenty of rich caramel and chocolate too, and for a beer this big and rich, it's got a good ofsetting bitterness, especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, a little pleasant booze. A bit burly, so the 500 ml packaging is a good fit and hey, it's a cold winter over here at Kaedrin HQ, so burliness is welcome. Overall, this is a really fantastic non BA imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/21/14. Batch 487.

I've got to haand it to these wacky Norwegians, they're pretty good at these dark beers. I should really take some time to explore more of their catalog.

Firestone Walker XVII - Anniversary Ale

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Every year, Firestone Walker invites their neighboring Winemakers to the brewery to tie one on and blend a series of barrel aged component beers for their Anniversary Ale. The Winemakers (no strangers to blending) are divided up into teams and compete to make the best blend. It's apparently quite cutthroat, though fortunately, no murders this year. I'm trying to be concise here, because this is a subject I've already described in wonky, exhaustive detail before. Suffice to say, for barrel aged fanatics like myself, this is one of the most interesting releases each year, and they can vary dramatically too.

The XV blend heavily favored barleywines, and most of the component beers were aged in bourbon and/or brandy barrels (and oh yeah, it was spectacular). The XVI blend was more equitable, a much darker brew though barleywines still had a slight edge overall. The other big change in XVI was the inclusion of Tequila barrels into the blend. This year, things swing back towards the barleywine a bit, though not as much as XV. Here's the component beers:

  • 30% Bravo (13.6% ABV) Imperial Brown Ale. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels.
  • 25% Stickee Monkee (15.3% ABV) English Barley Wine. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels.
  • 15% Velvet Merkin (8.7% ABV) Traditional Oatmeal Stout. Aged in Bourbon barrels.
  • 15% Parabola (12.8% ABV) Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Aged in Bourbon Barrels.
  • 8% Double Double Barrel Ale (12% ABV) Double Strength English Pale Ale. Aged 100% in Firestone Union Barrels.
  • 4% Helldorado (11.5% ABV) Blonde Barley Wine. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels.
  • 3% Wookey Jack (8.3% ABV)- Black Rye India Pale Ale. 100% Fresh, Dank & Hoppy 100% Stainless Steel

So we've got around 67% barleywines, 30% stout, and 3% Black Rye IPA (which sorta splits the difference between the two). Also notable is that this year's blend "only" utilizes 7 component beers (while the previous two used 8), and that PNC with Tequila barrels is nowhere to be seen. So this comes in somewhere between XV and XVI in terms of the components, and I will say that it does taste more like a barleywine than anything else, though I don't quite think it reached the heights of XV:

Firestone Walker XVII - Anniversary Ale

Firestone Walker XVII - Anniversary Ale - Pours a brown amber color, garnet tones, a finger of light tan head that sticks around a bit. Smells of various spirits, boozy but not hot, some caramel-like notes and bready malt too. Taste starts off sweet, quickly moving into a rich caramel note, maybe a hint of fruity malt character, then comes various spirits and the one-two punch of oak and vanilla. The spirits here seem much less Bourbon focused than in years past, and looking at the component beers, perhaps that Brandy is asserting itself more than in previous years, though not in a dominant way. Call it the power of suggestion if you like, but this taste is very complex and evolves as it warms up, with the various flavors emerging or mellowing as I drink. The taste profile is more akin to a barleywine than anything else, closer to XV (which was clearly barleywine) than XVI (which was much more muddled, though still very nice). Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, but velvety smooth. Some pleasant booziness, a bit of heat, but given the cold weather of late, this is a welcome feature, not a bug. Overall, yep, it's fantastic. Better than XVI, but not quite at XV levels. But when you're playing at this level, these distinctions are really splitting hairs. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.3% ABV bottled (22 oz. boxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 2/14/14.

Of course, all of Firestone Walker's barrel aged beers are spectacular and worth seeking out. It's seeming like I've missed out on last year's release of Velvet Merkin (local beermonger sez that government shutdown last year delayed and maybe even limited distro in this area, which could be total BS, but I still hope to track down a bottle somehow, someway). Rumor has it that Stickee Monkee will be coming to bottles and seeing distribution for the first time this year as well, and then there's their first wild ale, The Feral One. So what I'm saying is that I'm going to be hunting for lots of Firestone beer in 2014 (because don't forget about world class bottles like Sucaba and Parabola)

February Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a gathering of beer minded individuals from my work who get together about once a month at a local BYOB for good company and libations. As per usual, a good turnout, with a good representation from the core team, but also some very welcome new faces. About half of us are, at this point, avid homebrewers, so discussion veered into a rather nerdy realm from time to time, but that's all good, and there was also a nice contingent of non-beer drinking peeps who were bemused by our nerdery, but steered the discussion other ways as well. Good times had by all.

February Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, initial thoughts on each beer are captured below. As you might guess, conditions here are not ideal, nor did I always drink a full portion, so take this with a gigantic grain of salt if you dare. Or not. I am pretty awesome, so I'm sure these inchoate notes are all you'll really need. In order of drinking (not necessarily in order pictured):

  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale - A pretty basic Blonde Ale, comparable to most macro slop, but a step above such extremes. B-
  • Kaedrôme Saison - This is drinking well, though it still has not carbonated as well as I'd have liked. I don't know if this is because the yeast is just so old and overstressed or if it's because it's been so cold lately and my cellar is just so cold that it's taking the beer a while to condition. Whatever the case, the flavors are at the right place, and there is enough carbonation to make it drinkable, it's just that I wish there were more. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen - Holy curry, Batman! At first, the curry seemed to overpower everything else, but as I drank and as it warmed (we had some of this later in the evening as well), the coconut and hefeweizen notes came out a bit more. Its a very interesting, weird beer, but I don't think it's quite the right combination of flavors for beer. C+
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids - I think you all know how much I love me some saisons, even weird, incoherent takes on the style, but this one seemed to be filled with a sorta burnt rubber band aid flavor that overpowered everything else. Perhaps not totally undrinkable, but I'm really, really happy I only tried a smallish sample of the stuff. D
  • Green Jack Rippa - I've seen this around and been curious about an "English Triple" beer, and it was an interesting beer, though it came off as being incredibly boozy, which is a bit odd for an 8.5% beer. To be sure, that's not a whimpy ABV, but it's also not something I'd expect to be quite so powerfully boozy. It had a nice malt backbone too, but not enough to stand up to the booze. C+
  • Ken's Homebrewed ESB - A light take on the style, though perhaps it just seemed that way because we had this after the boozy bomb previously mentioned. Still, very easy drinking stuff, malt forward but quaffable. B
  • Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale - Now, this beer club group occasionally visits an authentic (at least, to us Yanks, it seems so) British pub called The Whip Tavern. They have this rather spectacular dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding, so hopes were somewhat high for this beer. To be sure, I was tempering my expectations by the fact that a lot of English ales, even stuff like this that is flavored with adjuncts, come off with hints of diacetyl, but in this case, my fears were unfounded. It's nowhere near as good as the actual dessert, but it had a really nice toffee/caramel character that worked really well for the beer. B
  • Chimay Tripel (White) - A beer I've obviously had many times before, and it's just as good as ever, though I seem to have veered away from a lot of the Belgian styles that initially hooked me on good beer. Still, this is a nice one. I'd probably downgrade to a B+, but it's still very nice.
  • Starr Hill Psycho Kilter - A nice take on the Scotch Ale style, certainly not a top tier effort, but a nice, malt forward, relatively low carbed beer that doesn't quite bely its relatively high 9.3% strength. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked Version) - This is the version of my RIS homebrew that was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes. In this version, the charred oak really comes through strong. Not a ton of bourbon, though it is there. The charred oak is pretty strong at this point, which makes me think that perhaps I should have soaked the oak cubes in bourbon for longer than the 1-2 weeks I employed. Still, this turned out well, though the blended version seems to be the best version. B+
  • Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - A beer I've had and reviewed before. It is still pretty fantastic stuff. A-
  • Deschutes Jubelale - Another beer I've had a few times this year, and it's a nice winter warmer style beer, malt forward with lots of spice, quite enjoyable (and surprisingly did not suffer from a no doubt beleaguered palate at this point in the night). B
And that just about covers it. Already looking forward to the March beer club, where I'll be able to share some Fat Weekend IPA...

Tired Hands Compilation

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It's been a while since I've recapped recapped some recent Tired Hands beers, and these notes just keep piling up, so here goes nothing. Note that the earliest of these is from late August, so it really has been a while since I've attempted to stoke the jealousy of my readership with these local gems. Most are one-offs that will never be brewed again, but we've gotten to a point where I'm starting to recognize rebrews of some of their beers, so you never know.

Screeching Loud Thrashing Death Metal Offensive Song

SCREECHING LOUD THRASHING DEATH METAL OFFENSIVE SONG - 10.5% ABV blended old ale - Named after a review on Yelp where someone complained about the, shall we say, eclectic mix of music you hear when at TH (it looks like someone told her that they brewed this beer in her honor, so she updated her review, but the original one is still there.) A blend of 9 month old Flemish red (25%), fresh Barleywine (65%), and rye whiskey barrel fermented Barleywine (10%). Very interesting! Not a ton in the nose, but the taste is unique and interesting. I'm getting lots of chocolate, and maybe even coffee-like notes. Faint hints of cherries and a note of something bright escaping in the finish (prolly that Flemish red). Unique beer, never had anything like it. B+

Singel Hop Saison Citra - 5% ABV saison - Hurm, either this has gotten a lot better since my last glass (my previous note expressed surprise that Citra wasn't that potent - but it was great this second time), or my palate got destroyed by Vermont beer and is only coming back... Juicy citrus hops and saison spice. Glad I gave it another shot, upgrade! A-

Tabel, Sacred - 4.2% ABV spiced saison - Brewed with oats and Holy Basil, fermented with a touch of grapefruit and pomegranate. Is there a touch of funk in here? Not sure, but it's a nice, quaffable saison, with some citrus rind character, maybe a hint of lemon, an herbal note, and slight spicy yeast notes. B+

Mt.Sharp - 7.2% ABV Citra and Columbus IPA - Interesting sticky icky citrus and pine combo. Sticky and yet creamy? This is striking a chord that I can't place, but who cares, because its awesome! A-

SuchUnique - 8.2% ABV Double IPA, Simcoe & Centennial hops - Nice floral and citrus notes, mango, flowers, good stuff. Well hidden ABV. Good! A-

Pub Style Ale - 4.5% ABV pale ale brewed with oats & Centennial hops - Great nose, lots of citrus, big floral hops in the taste. Quaffable! B+

Sad State of Affairs - 8.2 % ABV DIPA - A less profane reference to the cease and desist for FarmHands? Regardless, this is a rock solid DIPA, citrus and pine, a little slickness but still well balanced. Fantastic! A-

Lizard Queen - 5.2% ABV Motueka & Centennial Pale Ale - Yep, another great pale ale, juicy citrus nose (maybe even a lemon note), some earthy floral notes too. Crushable. A-

Euphoric Sunshine Drip - 5.7% ABV spiced saison with Meyer lemon and pink peppercorn - Another typically great Tired Hands farmhouse saison, not quite funky, but that lemon makes overtures in that direction, and the peppercorn accentuates the yeast well... A-

The Multiverse - 8.1% ABV pear farmhouse DIPA - Wow, really nice pairing (pearing?) of farmhouse spice (funk?) and hops, with neither dominating, but instead melding into something different. Really nice! A-

Critical Anxious - 7.8% ABV Biere De Garde - And I didn't take any notes on this one, though I did write down that I had it, so, um, I dunno. Mulligan.

Oktüberfest - 6.1% ABV Ser Gut Yam Bier - Very nice Oktoberfest style beer, mild, light toasted bread, but still relatively sweet. Great mouthfeel on this one too. Not really my style, but this is my kinda take on the style. B+

My Favorite Show - 5.7% ABV classical modern saison - Typically great Tired Hands saison, almost funky, nice peppery notes, highly drinkable, like a slightly amped up FarmHands (er, SaisonHands). B+

Communication is the Key - 5.5% ABV crushable Simcoe pale ale - Typically great Tired Hands pale ale, big juicy fruit notes, hint of pine, crushable is a perfect descriptor. A-

Tired Hands Murky Growlers
(Click for larger picture)

So I'm at the bar one night and Jean fills a couple of growlers. He gives them to some guy who's making a trip to Hill Farmstead and says that Shaun Hill likes his beer extra cloudy, so he renamed "Communication is the Key" to "Communication is the Murky" and "We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating At The Same Frequency" to "We Are All Hazy As Hell Vibrating at the Same Cloudiness".

Fall Precious - 6.6% ABV autumnal saison - Really nice saison, it's got that typical Tired Hands farmhouse character, but it's carving out an identity of its own. Sweet up front, maybe some fruit, with the spice emerging towards the finish. A-

H.C.S. - 5.9% ABV viscous and delicious saison - Power of suggestion, or is this really viscous? Definitely a fuller body than your typical TH saison, very cloudy, a little yeasty spice, well done. B+

MortalGrade - 8.2% ABV DIPA brewed with wheat, oats, Chinook, Citra, Zythos, and Simcoe - Fantastic, one of my favorite Tired Hands DIPAs! Huge juicy citrus, some grassy, floral, and pine hop notes too. Obscenely quaffable for its ABV, no real hint of booze. Great stuff! A

MoMoCoe - 5.5% ABV Motueka, Mosaic, and Simcoe pale ale - Great juicy hop character, lots of grapefruit, nice bracing bitterness, really good! A-

Singel Hop Saison, Chinook - 5% ABV - The 8th singel hop saison, and probably around the middle of the pack. Indeed, the hops and saison yeast seem a little at odds here. Still good, of course, but not the best of the bunch. B+

Under Pressure - 7.6% Blended Artisanal Farmhouse Biere de Garde - Excellent malt forward Brett beer, some nice malty fruit notes, with some peppery yeast and complementary Brett. Great! A-

Coulton Hop - 5.5% heirloom cider/pale ale - 49% of the fermentables came from cider made of apples, pears, and quinces. Hopped with Simcoe and that's really what stands out, but it's amazing that they were able to coax something so beerlike out of something comprised of so much cider... As I drink more, the cider twang becomes more pronounced... Really nice. B+

Coulton Sour - 5.5% heirloom cider/Berliner Weiss - Similar approach with the cider used as fermantable. Holy sour patch kids, this is super tart, and you really get that cider side of things here too. Really interesting beers here. A-

Cosmic Slop - 8.3% DIPA - Tired Hands' 200th batch is a typically great fruit and hop forward DIPA, lots of citrus, pine, and floral notes, very well done B+

Hail Santa - 6.4% ABV Rye IPA - Slightly darker than typical, but still a pale yellow, beautiful juicy hop nose, with some floral and spicy notes hitting in the taste. Really good! B+

I See a Darkness - 8.5% ABV porter brewed with coffee and honey - Collaboration with Sante Adairius, very nice, bigger than normal porter. Tried getting some a few days later, but they were out... B+

Sgt. Salamander - 5% ABV Holiday Sour Berliner Weiss - Wow, this has a typical Berliner nose, but the taste is all sorts of great. Really tight lactic sourness, puckering really, and it's great. Also had some dosed with cinnamon & vanilla bean syrup that just puts this miles ahead. Super flavorful. B+ (regular) and A- (with syrup)

Trendler - 5.5% ABV alt bier - Very interesting and different, Jean is branching out here, malt forward but not heavy at all... B+

Praise Bee - 9% 2X honey IBA - Zombie rides again... Sorta! Doesn't quite live up to zombie levels, but it's really good, nice hop character, well matched dark malts, excellent. A-

Circumambulation - 7.2% biere de garde - Fermented with kolsch yeast and lagered three weeks, this is a subtle beer, super creamy head, not a typical TH feel, but still very good, lots of muted flavors, complex but not overwhelming... B

Bucolic Overlord

Bucolic Overlord - 8% DIPA - Brewed with oats, Citra, Columbus, and Simcoe hops. Great stuff, dank and resinous, with floral and citrus notes rounding it out. Superb! A

VOID ego VOID - 9.8% ABV blended imperial stout - Partially barrel aged in Tuthilltown rye whiskey barrels for 7 months... Not a lot of barrel character, roasty up front, sweet towards the finish with a nice hit of vanilla. Not as thick or heavy as you'd expect, but it still has admirable heft. I really enjoyed this! A-

Principal Eel - 6% sour farmhouse IPA - Well this is unusual, better than the last sour IPA I had from TH last year, but something about the strong hop and sour combo doesn't completely work for me... B

All-O-Gistics - 5.9% Experimental IPA - Experimental hop #05256 - Whoa carbonation! Not that I'm complaining, but this is more carbonated than your typical Tired Hands beer. Great juicy hop nose, citrus, pine, and grass. Maybe something like green onion. Taste is more piney and it's got a sharp bitterness. Definitely not your typical Tired Hands IPA, but still great. A-

Can't Keep Up - 6.2% Spontaneous Saison - Fermented in old Tuthilltown rye barrels that had previously been used to make some apple cider (by frequent TH collaborator, Tom Culton), only 10 gallons produced. Amazing, nice oak character, sharp but very pleasant sourness, almost vinous tart fruit, really great. I love this! A

And that just about covers it. If you're local and heading over to the next release on Sunday, let me know!

Grassroots Arctic Saison

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Before the tiny juggernaut of Hill Farmstead, there was Grassroots. It's the oft-collaborative label of Hill Farmstead's Shaun Hill, who began Grassroots during his 20 month tenure at Denmark breweries like Nørrebro Bryghus and Fanø Bryghus. The idea was to start a contract/gypsy/collaborative brewery called Grassroots that would build enough capital to move brewing operations to Hill Farmstead in Vermont. Grassroots started in Denmark, but has moved all around the world as Hill has collaborated with a variety of other brewers (including local Kaedrin heroes, Tired Hands, amongst many others). I've only had a couple Grassroots beers, but they've been uniformly excellent.

This particular beer is a saison fermented in oak tanks with Brett. It's a collaboration with Anchorage brewing in Alaska, and because it was brewed at Anchorage's larger facility, it's actually received a reasonable distribution (some Grassroots brews are made at Hill Farmstead, and thus don't really make their way out of Vermont). Me, I got this by waiting in line at Hill Farmstead during Operation Cheddar, but for some unfathomable reason, this beer sits on shelves at various places around the country. Given the obscene (yet somehow appropriate) hype surrounding Hill Farmstead, it's surprising that this beer isn't more highly sought after. I guess most folks don't know what to make of this whole separate, subsidiary label. I'm not complaining though, as that just means more for those of us in the know.

Grassroots Arctic Saison

Grassroots Arctic Saison - Pours a slightly hazy straw yellow color with a couple fingers of bubbly head that has great retention. Smell is pure funk, lots of Brett, light earthiness with a fruity kick. Taste starts sweet and spicy, with that funky Brett bringing some earth and fruit to the story, slightly tart finish. Mild oak character, but really loght... Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a high, effervescent carbonation, some spice, a little rough, but very drinkable. Overall, this is pretty great stuff! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/26/14. Batch 1 May/2013.

This marks the last of my Vermont treasures, and thus I think I need to start planning another trip up north to stock up on more Alchemist, Lawson's, and Hill Farmstead.

January Beer Club

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Just in the nick of time. This was scheduled for earlier in the month but got delayed due to snow and other such things. But we persevered, and Beer club marched on. For the unawares, beer club is a gathering of beer minded folks from my work, who get together once a month at a local BYOB for beverages and fun.

January Beer Club 2014
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As per usual, these are off the cuff responses with no formal notes, so they're basically useless for you, but I'm including them anyway because why should I care what you think of my drunken recollections of these beers? In order of drinking (and not in the order pictured above, and there are definitely a couple beers not pictured at all because I took the picture early and didn't feel like updating it later and why are you so confrontational about this, it's just a thing, and fine, you want to fight about it? Let's do this thing. Or not. Whatever. What were we talking about?)

  • Stone Double Bastard - Probably not the best beer to start off a tasting with, but it worked just fine, and it was as good as I remember. Which is to say, it's good, but not mind blowing. B+
  • Unibroue Éphémère - This is not as apple-flavored as I remember, though that character is still fully present in the beer, which is a pretty solid Belgian Wit style affair and would make a great summer beer.
  • Boxcar CarKnocker IPA - The uber local (i.e. within a couple miles of my house) brewery's take on a standard IPA, it's decent, but not quite as good as their original (kinda, sorta Belgian style) IPA. B-
  • DC Brau The Corruption - A beer I reviewed in more detail just yesterday.
  • Bell's Midwestern Pale Ale - A fine offering, but perhaps sampled too late in the the night, as it sorta suffered in comparison to the other IPAs. B-
  • Boxcar Belgian Tripel - One of uber-local Boxcar's best beers, it's still a pretty straightforward Belgian style tripel. Along those lines, it's pretty good. Not a top tier effort, but quite nice. B+
  • Element Brewing Dark Element - A rather nice India Black Ale (or whatever you want to call that hoppy stout style), this sucker had just a hint of roast, a nice malt backbone, and plenty of dank, piney, resinous hops. One of the best of the night. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Hybrid Thingy - A sorta beer/wine/mead hybrid, this was made with some barley, copious amounts of honey, and muscat grapes. This is some crazy Dogfish-head style shit, but it actually worked pretty darn well. Clocking in at around 10% ABV, this thing didn't feel like it at all, making it dangerously easy to drink. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Blend) - This is the version that contains a blend of straight RIS and Bourbon Oaked RIS. It turned out pretty darn well, though the oak character is a bit muted here. I don't know that I'd be able to pick it out blind, but regardless, it turned out pretty well and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Look for a triple feature (with all the variants) soon. I'll give it a B+ for now, though it could easily be higher.
  • Spring House Satan's Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout - One of my contributions, this was a fascinating sorta Girl Scout Thin Mint beer. Not sure if I would have reacted so positively if I drank the whole thing by myself, but it's a perfect beer for the setting. The mint chocolate chip character comes through strong, but not in an overpowering way. Very nice, and I enjoyed muchly. B+
  • Boulevard and Sierra Nevada Terra Incognita - A whiskey barrel aged beer that shows off that character pretty well. I still think that stouts and barleywines work better on that front, but this was certainly a fine effort. B
And that just about covers it. Good times had by all, and I'm already looking forward to the next installment (which should be sooner, rather than later... hopefully!)

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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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