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Tree House Julius

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Oh brother, another top tier Northeast IPA. How big is this tier!? Look, this is definitely one of those tiny breweries with high demand and thus ridiculous hype, so I'd love to be able to wave you off of this stuff, but damn, it seems that the top tier can accommodate this one. Structural integrity appears to be holding.

This is a NEIPA apparently inspired by "Trader Joe's Unsulfured Just Mango Slices" and made with copious, unspecified hops (not sure what the big secret is, my guess: Citra). Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your beers. All hail Caesar! Or at least Julius.

Tree House Julius

Tree House Julius - Pours an opaque, murky orange yellow color with a finger of white, tight bubbled head that sticks around a while and leaves lacing as I drink. Smells great, huge waft of juicy citrus, grapefruit, orange, with some dank pine lurking in the background. Taste hits those citrus hops hard, a little more floral here, but juicy citrus is the driver, with a nice dry bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, tight, crisp, medium bodied, very well balanced, and relatively dry, making this utterly quaffable. Very flavorful but not a palate-wrecker. Overall, well shit, it's living up to the hype. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/15/17. Canned 07/06/17. Batch: I'VE BEEN TOLD TO EXPECT IT.

A good beer to drink in July. Many thanks to Kaedrin friend Danur for the can! I obviously need moar.

Burley Oak Quadruple Feature

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Every summer, I find myself vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland. I'm not one of those people who go to the beach every weekend (I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. /Vader), but I enjoy it every once in a while, and it's a way to get out of my Philly rut in many ways. Including beer! A couple of years ago I discovered Burley Oak Brewing, just a hop and a skip away in Berlin, MD, and it just so happened that this year's OCMD trip perfectly coincided with a can release of four different beers.

Such releases come in many flavors. There are infamous national attractions, like Dark Lord day, that are more like festivals, but the grand majority of releases at most breweries tend to be relatively mellow affairs. You maybe go a little early and wait in line, but often even that level of committment isn't needed. Then there is a kooky tier of relatively small breweries that nevertheless generate an insane demand. Local Kaedrin favorite Tired Hands falls into that category, and while their releases have calmed down somewhat on the whole, they still get insane for certain beers (notably Milkshake variant cans and Parageusia bottles). There are some other PA breweries that generate a lot of angst over releases (i.e. Voodoo, Bullfrog, etc...) but in general, these are the events that make the normals think that beer nerds are degenerates (and, well, they're not wrong).

All of which is to say, I was expecting something akin to a low-level Tired Hands release for this Burley Oak event (i.e. people in line, but nothing bonkers). A friend cautioned me to get there two hours early, which was certainly a surprise for me. I've had a bunch of Burley Oak beer in the past, but with all due respect, nothing that warranted this sort of crazy. Then again, a big release of popular beers on a holiday weekend is just asking for trouble. Fortunately, the timing of my independently planned departure from OCMD perfectly aligned with that recommendation, so that's what ended up happening. And I'm glad it did, because that line got all kinds of stupid as time went on (it basically encircled the entire brewery and parking lot). Let's dive in:

Burley Oak 100

Burley Oak 100 - Double IPA tripple dry-hopped with Mosaic and named after an emoticon? My kinda stupid. - Pours a murky golden yellow color with a finger of white, dense head. Smells nice, lots of tropical fruit, mangoes, pineapple, and the like. Taste follows the nose, lots of tropical fruit, juicy citrus stuff, mild finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well but tightly carbonated. Overall, this is the best Burley Oak IPA I've had, it compares favorably to the typical NEIPA purveyors, worth waiting in line. And I've had a couple more of these over the past couple of weeks and damn, it's only grown in my estimation. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/1/17. Canned: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)

Burley Oak Blueberry Strawberry J.R.E.A.M.

Burley Oak Blueberry Strawberry J.R.E.A.M. - Sour ale with lactose conditioned on blueberries and strawberries. Incidentally, the acronym stands for "Juice Rules Everything Around Me", just in case you were wondering. - Pours a cloudy but bright, almost luminous maroon color with a finger of bubbly head that doesn't last long. Smells of bright citrus and a little Berliner-like twang. Taste is very sweet, those strawberries an blueberries coming through in a sorta generic jammy way (not sure I'd pick them both blind, but I might get one), a nice lactic tartness pervades, especially in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, moderate to high acidity, but nothing untoward. Overall, a nice little tart ale here, though it kinda begs for oak. B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/1/17. Released: 7/1/17 (nailed it!)

Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M.

Burley Oak Apricot Raspberry J.R.E.A.M. - Sour ale with lactose conditioned on apricots and raspberries. - Pours a cloudy but bright reddish orange color with a finger of quickly dissipating head. Smells more of raspberry than apricot, jammy, a little of that lactic funk. Taste hits that raspberry pretty hard (with hints of apricot, but again, I doubt I'd be able to place that blind), very sweet, jammy, with a little less sourness, though it's still pretty puckering. Mouthfeel is rich, medium to full bodied, well carbonated, less acid than the other variant, but still moderate to high. Overall, I like this better than the blueberry/strawberry, but it still sorta begs for some oak to leaven things a little. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a charente glass on 7/2/17. Released: 7/1/17.

Burley Oak Coffee N' Cream

Burley Oak Coffee N' Cream - Cream ale with Burley Oak's house made cold brew coffee. Hey look, this is apparently the first time I've written about a cream ale. Score? - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of white head. Smells strongly of roast coffee and not much else. Taste hits that coffee flavor pretty hard too, an underlying sweetness peeks out a bit too. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and easy to drink. Overall, this is not a beer for coffee-ambivalents like myself, but if you do like coffee, you may enjoy. For me, I'll give it a C+ because I'm the worst.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/3/17. Released on 7/1/17.

So there you have it. I probably won't be going to far out of my way for these releases, but there is that annual trip to OCMD, so there's always a chance!

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

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I was impressed by Florida's Barrel of Monks when I sampled their Three Fates Tripel last year and have finally managed to procure more of their wares. Their wheelhouse appears to be straightforward Belgian styles or Trappist ales that don't inspire as much beer nerd enthusiasm as freaky sours or barrel-aged pastry stouts and the like. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, but it is genuinely nice to take a step back and try a straightforward Belgian Tripel or Dubbel. So when these two bottles came my way, I was ready.

First up is actually something a little more trendy that might twixt beer dorks' nethers more than the straightforward stuff. Monk de Soleil (Monk of the Sun?) certainly starts off as a simple Belgian Pale Ale, but it then undergoes a secondary fermentation with added Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and then endures some dry-hopping. This collaboration with 7venth Sun Brewery certainly hits that funky sweet spot that beer geeks crave:

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil

Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with lots of head that sticks around for a bit. Smells fantastic, great earthy funk mixed with fruity esters and a little clove. Taste hits that funky Brett note pretty well, plenty of spicy phenols, a little bit of that fruit. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated and dry. Overall, this is a great little Brett beer. A

Beer nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 6/24/17. Released 4/29/17.

Next, we've got a humble Belgian Dubbel. Not much else to it, except that like their Tripel, this is a very well executed take on a style most American brewers don't even try, let alone do well...

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno

Barrel of Monks Abbey Terno - Pours a dark amber brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, that trademark dubbel raisins and fruity esters, spicy phenols, clove. Taste has a great sweet and spicy character, a little caramelized dark fruit, raisins, plums, maybe a hint of toast in the background. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, highly attenuated, relatively dry, making this dangerously quaffable. Overall, rich, c omplex, again one of the better American takes on a vaunted, traditional Belgian style. A-

Beer nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 6/27/17.

So these folks are 3 for 3. Not necessarily lighting the beer world on fire with trendy stuff, but I really appreciate the well executed Belgian styles.

Checking in with Levante Brewing

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For a brewery that is as local as Levante (a place that I visit regularly) I sure haven't kept up with them when it comes to reviews. This is mostly just because I'm the worst, but also because I'm generally palling around with local beer nerds and don't really take the time to write down detailed notes (see, maybe I'm not the worst).

In the year and a half since I last wrote about them, they've grown considerably, branched out a bit, and started bottling/canning beer. After working out some kinks, they appear to be dialed in on that front, as these two recent can releases were fantastic! Both are Northeast IPA style beers with trendy, citrus-forward hops and they stack up favorably amongst the growing throngs of NEIPA producers in the region (and it should be noted, they still put out more typical West Coast IPA style stuff on occasion as well). While I'm at it, I figure I'll throw out some notes on the latest iteration of Bullit Train (their bourbon barrel aged vanilla stout), because why not?

Levante 3D Hippo

Levante 3D Hippo - An IPA brewed with Citra and Galaxy hops - Pours a cloudy dark yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of bright, tropical fruit, juicy citrus. Taste starts sweet, again lots of citrus and tropical fruit, juicy, a bit of a bitter bite to round things off in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, thick, bright. Overall, one damn fine NE style IPA, on par with (if not better than) some of the recent Tired Hands cans I've sampled. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/29/17. Canned on 05/24/17. Batch: MUCH LOVE!

Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel on draft

Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel - A DIPA brewed with an unspecified blend of New Zealand and Australian hops (from talking to the brewer, I believe it involves at least Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, but probably more). This was initially released on tap in February, and it was spectacular. Bursting with juicy citrus hops in both aroma and taste, great mouthfeel, just a wonderful beer.

Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel

I guess people wouldn't shut up about how awesome it was, because they decided to brew another batch and can it a few months later. I will note that the can was perhaps not quite as spectacular as it was on draft, but it's pretty darn close and it's been my favorite can release so far. A (on tap), A- (canned)

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/1/17 (on tap), 3/31/17 (can), and several times thereafter, bro. On tap: 2/1/17. Canned: 03/27/17.

Levante Bourbon Barrel Aged Bullit Train Bottle

Levante Bourbon Barrel Aged Bullit Train - So I already reviewed this back when it was initially released, and they had a batch after that that was incredible as well... but the initial bottle release left something to be desired. The bottles were way overcarbonated, which just cut through the rich flavors and made it unsatisfying. BUT! The following bottle release fared significantly better, and the good folks at Levante made the stand-up decision to allow people to trade-in the old, overcarbed bottles to get a new one. Great decision, and a great beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter glass.

So there you have it. I hope to show you more from these fine folks in the near future, so stay tuned...

Burial The Persistence Of Memories

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One of the leading lights of the Asheville, NC craft beer community has sold out to the Great Satan, AB Inbev, whatever shall we do!? Well, Asheville is one of the most densely populated cities in the country when it comes to breweries (second only to Portland, OR), so there's no shortage of alternatives. Among them is Burial, which I've heard good things about, but only been able to sample once at a share (i.e. not exactly ideal conditions).

They started tiny, with a 1 barrel brewhouse, now sporting a 10 barrel brewhouse and tasting room, and will soon be spinning up an additional 20 barrel production facility with associated "urban farm" and a restaurant/brewpub-like facility. Sounds peachy, but let's take a look at this Double IPA to see if all this expansion is justified (hint: it is)

The Persistence of Memories is a Double IPA brewed with El Dorado, Mosaic, and Equinox hops, and a pretty obvious reference to Salvador Dali's famous painting. So let's brush up on our surrealism and drink some beer, eh?

Burial The Persistence Of Memories Double IPA

Burial The Persistence Of Memories Double IPA - Pours a pale yellow gold color with a finger of finely bubbled head that has good retention and leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of sugary sweet citrus hops with a hint of pine. Taste starts off sweet, lots of citrus, with some pine emerging in the middle, finishing with a balancing bit of bitterness and dank pine. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, very easy going. Overall, this is a great IPA. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/19/17. Canned: 4/27/17. Batch: #CANDYISDANDY

Many thanks to fellow beerNERD Danur for bravely exploring the environs of Asheville and snagging this can for me. I will most certainly be keeping an eye out for more Burial (and what the hey, more Asheville breweries while I'm at it).

Victory Red

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In the dim and distant days of 2012, Victory did a Q&A culled from comments and emails. One asked about sour beers, and the ultimate response was this:

I can tell you that Victory has begun the process of making a sour beer. But we will not release just any sour beer. We are doing small-scale experimentation so that when we do have a sour beer for you, it will be a beautifully balanced, refreshing Flemish-style sour beer. Unfortunately, we are years away from a final product, because once we figure out how to do it, a commercial size batch will be produced and could take more than three years to be ready to blend with younger sour beer.

Cut to four years later, and Victory quietly releases Red, a Flemish-style red beer. Well, they did say it could take more than three years, and indeed, Red is comprised of beer aged in oak barrels for three years and blended with younger beer. It wasn't a big event like the Java Cask releases, but I'm quite happy I grabbed a bottle of this:

Victory Red

Victory Red - Pours a brilliant, clear golden amber color with a finger of white head. Smells fabulous, tons of oak, vinegar, tart fruit, sour cherries, and the like. Taste follows the nose, is also fabulous, lots and lots of oak, a little tart fruit and vinegar, light on the sourness which is balanced by the oak. Mouthfeel is perfect, medium to full bodied, rich, light acidity. Overall, I tend to like my Flanders style beers oaky, and this one really pulled that off. It's wonderful. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 1/21/17. Bottled on 18 Nov 2016. Released on 15 Dec 2016.

Always nice to see Victory continuing to expand their horizons, and I look forward to seeing what they do next with this sort of thing. If you're local, you may still be able to snag a bottle of this (even though it was released in late December), well worth the effort.

Presumably because my limited sorties into Vermont have all occurred in summer months, most of my acquisitions have been IPAs or Saisons. Obviously the hop fetish is a year round thing (that isn't particularly limited to VT either), but it seems that the colder months of the year are accompanied with some bigger, heavier, darker beers. Aside from Hill Farmstead's Everett (of things labeled "porter", I'd probably put this at the top of the list) and their Society & Solitude #2 (another contender for best in style, this time the waning Black IPA), my exposure has been limited. Until now!

Lawson's Finest Liquids makes a big, burly imperial stout using almost two gallons of VT maple syrup per barrel. This base beer has been given a variety of barrel-aged treatments, and what we have here is the Apple Brandy variant (no provenance on this bottle, though previous releases have specified Lairds or the more local Mad River Malvados). The base is presumably named after the town of Fayston, VT, itself honoring the Fays, a family that figured prominently in the founding of VT. The label sez this beer is "Made for sub-zero nights and pairing with decadent desserts." Well, it was around 19°F when I drank this, so that will have to do (though, come to think of it, that does translate to -7°C, so take that, pedants!)

Lawsons Finest Liquids Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Fayston Maple Imperial Stout

Lawson's Finest Liquids Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Fayston Maple Imperial Stout - Pours black with a half finger of brown head. Smells of roasted malt, vanilla, oak, and maple syrup. Taste hits some rich caramel notes up front, leavened with roast in the middle, oak and vanilla, hints of booze (not bourbon, but not really recognizably Apple Brandy either), maple syrup and roast finish. As it warms, it gets a little sweeter and the maple comes out more. The brandy emerges more too, though I'm still not getting any specific apple notes. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, low to moderate carbonation (appropriate for the style), a bit of booze. Overall, this is fantastic! A

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 1/7/17. Bottled November 2016.

This was a Christmas present from an awesome person, so thanks Adam! Lawson's Finest Liquids continues to impress, so I will most certainly be seeking out more from them, hopefully sooner than later...

Firestone XX

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Alright folks, you know the drill: Blah blah blah, blended, barrel-aged, Voltron-esque super beer. Blah blah blah, collaboration with local wineries. Blah blah blah, delicious. We've covered each edition of this beer since XV, so while there's lots to be said about the process here, I've pretty much already wonked out on everything worth wonking out over.

Each installment in this series of Anniversary blends varies considerably. Some veer towards the Barleywine components, like XV and XVII, others hew closer to the dark side, like XVIII and XIX. XVI went for more balance between those two poles (as a result, it might be my least favorite, actually). So what does the XX blend look like?

  • 40% Parabola (13% ABV) Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Aged in New Oak and Bourbon Barrels.
  • 20% Stickee Monkee (12.3% ABV) English Barley Wine. Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels.
  • 17.5% Velvet Merkin (8.5% ABV) Traditional Oatmeal Stout. Aged in Bourbon barrels.
  • 12.5% Bravo (12.9% ABV) Imperial Brown Ale. Aged in Bourbon Barrels.
  • 10% Helldorado (13.5% ABV) Blonde Barley Wine. Aged in Bourbon Barrels.

So this is one of the more stout-like blends out there, with 70% hitting the dark side of the force. In any case, any blend consisting of 40% Parabola has to be pretty good, right? Let's take a closer look:

Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale

Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of light tan head. Smells beautiful, rich caramel, vanilla, oak, boozy bourbon, hints of roast and chocolate. Taste hits those rich caramelized malt notes hard, hints of roast, plenty of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is full bodied but nimble, not a beast like most imperial stouts of this ABV, well carbonated, a little pleasant booze in the finish. It feels like the barleywineish components of this blend have lightened the body and hidden the booze a little more than normal for a beer this big, a neat little trick. Overall, yes, it's another winner for the Anniversary blends! A

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/20/16.

There's just no stopping Firestone Walker's barrel program. I look forward to this release every year, and it has never disappointed. Indeed, pretty much any of their barrel-aged, boxed beers are fabulous and I'm always on the lookout. Lately, more of their wild ales have been showing up in the Philly area, like Agrestic and Lil Opal, so here's to hoping for more of that in the future too.

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