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Allagash Farm To Face

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Wherein Allagash cuts out the middle man (you know, those greedy tables) and delivers a fresh fruit sour right to your face. All anthropomorphic jokes aside, I prefer to think of this as a subtle but scathing indictment of the three tier system of alcohol distribution put into place after Prohibition. Viva la fermentación! Well played, Allagash.

It's also a beer! Farm to Face starts life as a lowly Belgian pale ale, fermented with Allagash's standard house yeast. After primary fermentation is complete, they add pediococcus and lactobacillus and age the whole concoction on 6000 pounds of peaches. Bucking the current oaky fashion, the aging is done in stainless steel tanks, but don't let that fool you, this is superb stuff:

Allagash Farm to Face

Allagash Farm To Face - Pours an almost clear golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells amazing, lots of earthy funk and bright citrus fruit, peaches and the like. Taste hits the same notes as the nose, a very nice lactic sour punch, stone fruit, some earthy funk, and yes, more sourness. Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and refreshing, well carbonated, quite acidic, but still pleasant and balanced with the rest. Overall, this is delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/20/15. Bottled: July 16, 2015.

Another winning sour from Allagash. I shall have to seek out their more obscure offerings on that front. Someday. Someday...

Wes Craven Double Feature

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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! This is the second iteration on the theme I've posted this week.

This time, we've got a more harmonious double feature, two beers and two movies themed around Wes Craven. Since his passing, I've been catching up with some of his work I hadn't seen before and revisiting his classics. On Halloween, we had a little mini-marathon, starting off with his most famous work, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The premise alone establishes it as one of the purest distillations of horror ever committed to film. Is there anything more inescapable and terrifying than a monster that can get you in your dreams? We could debate some third act issues, but it's still a classic.

Nightmares on Brett Street

To pair with this, we've got a doozy from Colorado, Crooked Stave's Nightmare on Brett, a clear reference to Craven's masterpiece (also paired with some Eclat Chocolate, because why not?) There are a bazillion variants of this beer, but this one was aged in Leopold Bros. Whiskey barrels with cherries. Previous iterations indicate that the base for this was a soured baltic porter, and the aging intervals are usually pretty long (1 year plus). I'm also not sure if the cherries were included in the past, but this one is pretty clear. Clocking in at the cheeky ABV of 9.666% ABV, it was the perfect accompaniment and tribute to Craven and his movie:

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) - Pours like a stout, a murky black color with a finger of light brown head, quite nice looking. Smells fantastic, an almost chocolate covered cherry aspect that pervades the nose, but also a hint of roast and musty funk. Taste goes in with sweet and sour up front, cherries, actually let's call them rich caramelized cherries, less in the way of chocolate but those dark malts are there and come out more towards the finish, which is also quite sour and a bit funky. Lingers a bit on those sour and funky notes. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium to full bodied, with a barrel aged richness cut by moderate acidity. Pretty easy going for the ABV. Overall, this is quite spectacular. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.666% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/31/15. Bottled September 2015.

Next up, some lesser Craven, a movie called Deadly Blessing. One of the few Craven directed movies I've not actually seen, there's certainly a reason for that, but as with literally everything I've seen from Craven, he has this X-factor, a way of getting under your skin that is usually present in varying levels. It's true, this isn't a tremendous film, but it's got lots going for it, and some really effective sequences that make it worth seeking out for students of the genre. To match, we cracked open a growler of an unsoured baltic porter from Tired Hands called, appropriately, Craven (part of their Horror Auteurs theme for the season - which includes beers named after Carpenter, Argento, Hitchcock, and others!) Just one of the many reasons I love Tired Hands so much. The beer's pretty good too:

Tired Hands Craven

Tired Hands Craven - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells nice, sweet dark malts, hints of roasted marshmallow, baker's chocolate, maybe even coffee (maybe even coffee with sugar and creme). Taste has much more of a roasted character to it, some coffee-like flavors coming through, but also dark chocolate and just a hint of molasses, finishing back on that roasted tip. Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, and well attenuated (not dry, but not a sugar bomb either), no hints of the booze at all despite the highish ABV of 9.8%. As it warms, it feels a little more rich and chewy, but nothing ridiculous. Tired Hands isn't really known for their darker beers, and this probably won't change that, but it's certainly worthy. Overall, a rock solid baltic porter here, tasty and complex enough to stand apart from the crowd. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV from a growler (1L swingtop). Drank out of a charente glass on 10/31/15. Growler filled 10/31/15.

It was quite a night. Is it really fair to compare a soured baltic porter with a non-soured baltic porter? Nope! But it was interesting nonetheless, and while it's hard to compare the two against each other, they do work well as contrasts. Anywho, we popped in Scream after Deadly Blessings, though we were still working our way through Craven. It's very much a product of its time, but if you keep that in mind (as you should), it holds up reasonably well.

Big thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Jeff for smuggling the Nightmare on Brett bottle back from Colorado when he went to GABF back in September!

There may be one more Double Feature this week, or maybe not, depending on my mood (it wouldn't be beer anyway, so don't hold your breath), and of course, the roundup will be posted this weekend. I hope you're all toiling over your posts as we speak!

The Bruery Cuir

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The Kaedrin beer cellaring program, also known as that shelf in my basement, is getting out of hand. As such, I think it behooves us to dip into some of these well aged bottles and see how they're doing. Tonight we tackle a bottle that we've intentionally aged for a while, The Bruery's third anniversary ale, Cuir (French for "leather", corresponding to traditional wedding gifts). This series holds a certain sentimental value for me, so the Kaedrin cellarman always ensures I have a bottle to age each year. We know from experience that these age reasonably well, though at 4ish years old, this represents the oldest Bruery Anniversary beer I've had yet.

2011 was also the last year where only a portion of the standard release was aged in bourbon barrels (25% of this bottle was BBA, though there was a 100% BBA version that the cool kids got to drink), so I expect the fruity aspects to come out more than the recent, more Bourbon forward entries. I won't rehash the pedantic Solera discussion yet again, but it is one of the more interesting long-term projects going on in the beer world these days. Clocking in at 14.5% ABV, this is a bit of a project to take down, but it's a delicious project and certainly more manageable than the recent 16+% ABV entries. I actually wonder if it might be beneficial to do another blending year in order to keep the ABV in check, and allow for some additional complexity. Anywho, enough preamble, let's get down with some swanky leather sugar water:

The Bruery Cuir

The Bruery Cuir - Pours a deep, murky brown color, maybe some robey tones if you look at it right, and just a cap of slowly-forming, off-white head. Smells deeply of dark fruit, plums, raisins, caramel, toffee with just enough oak and vanilla to offset the fruit and malt. Taste starts off sweet, with rich caramel, toffee, vanilla, and oak, but those dark fruit notes come through strong too, maybe some chocolate covered fruit caramels or something like that (do such glorious things exist?), hints of unidentifiable spice (cinnamon?), finishing with a bit of booze and that fruit. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, low to medium but perfectly calibrated carbonation, some sticky sugary qualities, a bit of boozy heat but it doesn't quite feel as strong as it is. Overall, this is a beauty, rich, intense, and complex, but it's right up my alley. It's definitely showing its age, but hasn't started a decline just yet. A

Beer Nerd Details: 14.5% ABV bottled (750 ml black waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 10/23/15. Vintage: 2011. Bottle Number: 06677.

A delicious trip into the cellar. More are sure to be coming in the near(ish) future, so stay tuned...

Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007)

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A couple weekends ago, I celebrated my birthday, and with it, uncorked a few prized possessions including this hallowed lambic from Drie Fonteinen, a blend of lambics aged on mostly whole raspberries from the fabled Pajottenland, but also includes some cherries and probably some other twists and turns. They don't call Drie Fonteinen's Armand DeBelder a master blender for nothing, and this beer was made in honor of his late father, Gaston DeBelder, so you know Armand went all out with this one. They've only made this twice, once in 2007 and once in 2013. I figured 8 years was enough aging for this one and dug into that first. It did not disappoint.

I don't put much credence to the pretty ridiculous White Whale list, but on a hunch I just looked it up and yes, this marks the first time I've had a beer from that ridiculous list (note that the 2013 vintage didn't make the cut). As you all know, rarity makes beer taste better, so let's fire up those three big fountains and get a load of this amazing beer:

Drie Fonteinen Hommage

Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) - Pours a very pretty pink hued amber, robey tones, finger of fizzy off white head that nonetheless sticks around for a bit. Nose is beautiful, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, berries galore, along with a deep, earthy funk and a little oak too. Taste goes in hard on that jammy berry front, again with the berry cornacopia, predominanty raspberry, but some other berries for good measure. Things get a little acetic and sour in the middle, followed by some of that deep, earthy funk, a unique character actually, but quite tasty. Finishes off with a nice oak and vanilla component that yields to a lingering sour note. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied and rich, jammy, slightly acidic, moderate to high carbonation cuts through nicely, certainly not a gulper, but very well balanced and a great sipping experience. Overall, this is intense, complex, funky, and balanced, leaning more to the rich and oaky side of fruited lambics (like Cantillon Kriek) than the light an airy (like, say, Fou Foune or St. Lamvinous), a wondrous beer, absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/13/15. Bottled: 14/02/2007.

Bottling date for the doubters

Wales, bro. Well that was impressive. After this one, I cracked a 2012 BCBS, which was holding up exceptionally well. Let's just say it was a good night. I actually have a 2013 vintage Hommage that I may have to hold onto a little longer, but I'm betting it will be opened sooner rather than later. I love these lambics, but they're a bear to get ahold of these days. Even Kaedrin secret Tilquin is starting to disappear from shelves these days. I have a couple Drie Fonteinen Gueuze in the cellar as well, and hope someday to try some of their other stuff. Cantillon has the reputation for better fruited lambics, but if this beer is any indication, they're basically on the same hallowed field.

Tired Hands Conspectus

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Now that the Fermentaria is open, it's getting difficult to keep up with the sheer variety of awesome emanating from the fine brewers at Tired Hands. I still hit up one location or another pretty often, but the small batch style simply yields a lot of new brews. Also, I'm getting more and more lazy about writing down any sort of notes on the beer I'm having, which means it's getting difficult to even remember what I've had. Still, I manage to squirrel away some notes every now and again, so I might as well append them to the more detailed tasting notes on two highly prized bottles.

First up is Parageusia5, a Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented Ale, aged for approximately 12 months. This is a prized line of sours, and this one takes a distinctly more Flandersy take than previous Parageusias, and while it doesn't quite live up to the hallowed realms of the first few iterations, it's pretty darned fantastic. This quote accompanies the beer:

"Trigeminal prisim on a sunny hillside. Will you engage indefinitely?" - Christian Zellersfield

I can kinda, sorta parse that, and my answer is yes. I will engage indefinitely. Or I would, but I only had this one bottle:

Tired Hands Para5

Tired Hands Parageusia5 - Pours a very dark, clear amber color, very pretty when held up to light, with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and acetic sourness, kinda Flandersy. Taste starts rich and sweet, cherries and oak followed by a bit of acetic sourness, vinegar, vinous fruit, finishing on that sour note. Mouthfeel is full and rich up front, but less so towards the finish, moderate sourness and acidity, reasonably well carbonated. Overall, doesn't quite compare to the initial Parageusia offerings, but is pretty impressive in its own right. Also: match with dark chocolate. Delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/6/15.

Next we have one of them swanky beer and music collaborations, in this case it's jazz musician Mike Lorenz, who released an album of Black Sabbath and Nirvana covers along with this beer (Jean provided the art for the album, git that vinyl while it's still around), Scentless And Senseless. Lorenz is a fixture at Tired Hands, playing a show once a week and sometimes humoring the beer nerd masses during bottle releases. This beer is an oak fermented Saison dry hopped with Equinox and Mosaic, right up my alley:

Tired Hands Scentless and Senseless

Tired Hands Scentless And Senseless - Pours a very pale, cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell definitely has that foudre thing going on, a little oak and vanilla, big citrus aromas too, partly from the funk, partly from hops. Taste hits again with that foudre character pretty hard, dry oak, vanilla, some citrusy fruit in the middle, just a bit of tartness, followed by some earthy funk in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light body, hints of sourness, some very dry character happening, right up front too. Overall, a step up from the previously released foudre bottle (Astral Plane), and pretty delicious in its own right. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/12/15.

Dudholio - 4.5% ABV maize saison with motueka and Brett - Great little saison, light Brett feel, moderate fruity hops, and well carbed, really enjoying this! A-

Milkshake IPA - 7.4% ABV blackberry and blueberry IPA brewed with lactose sugar and Mosaic and Citra hops - So a while back one of the "Bros." from BeerAdvocate published a review of a cloudy pour of HopHands and called it a mess (the Bros. have a bug up their arse about beer clarity, I guess), saying literally "Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with modern styles... No excuses." In response, Jean and crew have put together a series of "Milkshake" IPAs (that actually use lactose and are also generally cloudy beers); as usual, it's a fun way to respond to criticism. Anywho, this was a great Tired Hands style IPA, juicy fruit, fuller bodied than normal but velvety smooth, great! A

Hissing at Snakes - 7.5% ABV Rye IPA - Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin, typically great TH IPA with a spicy rye kick, really nice! A-

Neutral Impulse From The Visual Cortex - 6.2% ABV IPA - Nice citrus hops and a surprising honey note, almost creamy mouthfeel... B+

Expansive Vestibule - 6.1% ABV sturdy Porter - Nice nose, dark chocolate and vanilla, with a more roasty taste and a relatively light body... B+

Einsteinium - 5% ABV hoppy sour - Not a huge fan of hoppy sours in general, though this is working just fine... B

Rutilant - 5.9% ABV Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe IPA - Beautiful little IPA, typical Tired Hands stuff but with significantly more carbonation, really nice... (IIRC this is one of the first beers I had at the Fermentaria, which seems to have a different carbonation profile) A-

Temporary Shape of My Own Person - 5.2% ABV Grissette - Like a slightly tart version of a typical th saison, crisp and light, refreshing summer drinking... B+

Vaporizer - 6.8% ABV IPA - Ah, now this is a typical TH IPA , bright, juicy citrus hops, something a little more on the green, grassy, floral hop side as well. Nice! B+ or A-

I'm Sad - 8.5% ABV imperial honey coffee Porter - Interesting interplay between the honey and coffee, both are there, but the combo sorta works for me, despite not particularly liking either honey or coffee! B

Can't Keep Up 23 - 5% ABV blended sour saison - Whoa cucumbers, blend of HandFarm, Parageusia, and Saisonhands conditioned on lemon, cucumber and agave nectar, tasty! Have liked other Can't Keep Up beers better, but this is nice. B+

Slowly Rotating Mass With Bright Lights - 5.2% ABV crushable pineapple IPA - Solid IPA, delicious and juicy, very light and quaffable, A-

Rigel - 6.8% Rye India Black Ale - This is all I wrote about this beer, and yeah, I don't really remember anything about it, though I'm guessing that means it didn't melt my face (nor did it make me do a spit take in disgust).

Fripp - 4.5% ABV American Bitter - Very nice bitter base with sweeter, more citrusy hop character, quaffable in the extreme! B+

Honey, I Love You - 5.8% ABV Honey Saison - Beautiful little saison here, nice citrus and spice character, a little oak and tartness in the finish... Foudre beer starting to come into its own. Delicious! A-

Avoiding Purgatory #1 - 6.6% ABV India Black Ale - Hrm, surprisingly muted hops and roasted malt here, one of those IBAs that makes me wish I was drinking an IPA or Stout instead of this quasi hybrid. Lack of roast probably has to do with the use of debittered black malt, but the hops (lemon drop and centennial) aren't doing the trick... Not really bad, to be sure, but TH has done much better in this realm! B

Yup - 5.1% ABV hoppy blonde ale - Amazing citrus nose, lemons and tropical fruit, tasty stuff! B+

Nope - 4.2% ABV dry stout - Polar opposite of Yup, dark, roasty, earthy goodness. B+

Rob "Strawberry" Berliner - 6% ABV strawberry Berliner Weisse - Very nice, lots of ripe, tart strawberry goodness, very well balanced, delicious. A-

Wound - 7.3% oat IPA - Awesome, back to basics Tired Hands style IPA, citrusy and floral, delicious! A-

Calm - 4.2% crushable IPA - Nice light pale ale, quaffable and refreshing. B+

Tuff Leather - 1.5% table saison - Whoa, beer nerd lite beer, nice carbonation profile, grassy, bready, a little watery, but not in a bad way for what this is... Very impressive for such a low ABV beer. B+

It's Okay - 7.6% ABV IPA - Nice IPA, sweeter than normal, lots of citrus, hints of dank pine, more body than normal, but really good stuff here... B+

Yellow & Green - 5.6% ABV dry hopped Pilsner - Dry hopped with Ella and Helga, 2 hops I've never heard of before! Earthy, grassy, floral, with enough citrus to take it away from traditional pils profile, nice! B+

Perfectly Preserved Brain - 8.2% ABV English Smoked Barleywine - Moar earthy than expected, sweet, slightly burnt bread, interesting, but not amazing.. B

Lambos & Mansions - 4.8% ABV crushable Galaxy IPA - Nice citrus hop character, dry, quaffable stuff, very nice! B+

Fuzzy Yellow - 6.3% ABV local peach IPA - Typically solid th IPA, citrusy, balanced, tasty! B+

Petalite Songbird - 5.2% ABV gooseberry saison - Whoa, was not expecting the tart, fruity funk on this, really nice, looks like Emptiness culture stuff, which explains it. Great stuff... A-

Minnow - 8% ABV DIPA - Nelson Sauvin & Citra Very nice, sweet, delicious, juicy, almost vinous stuff. A-

Kuro - 5.5% lime leaf schwarzbier - Muted black malt, burnt sugar, something bright, very nice! B+

Pathway of Beauty - 6.8% ABV Citra IPA - Holy hell, this is amazing, juicy hops, compulsively quaffable, delicious IPA, a kinda successor to Psychic Facelift (one of my favorite TH IPAs of all time)... A

Tired Hands Freedom from the Known
Freedom from the Known

Freedom from The Known - 7.2% ABV Cherry saison - Whoa, this is the most cherry I've ever gotten out of a beer, ever. Sometimes cherry flavors in beer are overwhelmed by other elements, but not at all here. Cherries are the star. Kind of like a cherry version of Peche 'n Brett. Amazing, tart, delicious, a little oak mellows things out, dryish, great stuff. A

Mosaic MagoTago - 7% Mango IPA - An interesting twist on the standard Simcoe Mago, beautiful juicy citrus IPA. Hard to believe this was on at the same time as regular Mago, Pathway of Beauty and Freedom from the Known. An embarrassment of riches at the Fermentaria! A

FunnieDuddie - 6.5% ABV Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe IPA - Typically good th IPA, but damn, this suffers from the comparison to the rest of the tap list right now. B+?

Yellow Fog - 3.7% cucumber Berliner wieise - Really nice, cucumber comes through well, still a nice tart beer, tasty! B

Lychee Milkshake IPA - 7.2% IPA made with lactose sugar, lychee purée, vanilla, and citra/Mosaic hops - Sweet and juicy, lots of citrus, almost rich, full bodied mouthfeel... Great! A-

Phew, that covers about 6-8 months of visits to Tired Hands, and honestly, I probably missed a few things. Indeed! I forgot to mention that the latest couple batches of SaisonHands, Tired Hands' flagship saison (and one of two beers that is almost always available) that used to be a rock solid standard-approach saison, but now spends time in the foudre and wow! You can really tell, this beer has changed a ton since the Fermentaria opened, and it's pretty amazing that it's this regularly available. This is the sort of thing that keeps me coming back (also the potential for that one night they had MagoTago, Pathway to Beauty, and Freedom from the Known on tap, seriously astounding).

Allagash Cuvée D'Industrial

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Back in the day, my first introduction to good beer was Belgian style stuff, which in America basically meant Ommegang and Allagash. At the time (turn of the century timeframe), they were roughly comparable in their offerings, but Allagash seemed a little more expensive and I was just out of college and poor. Many moons, and Allagash really stepped up their game, especially when it came to their sour program. Ommegang has played with wild yeast a few times, but seems content to put out their old standards and some new Game of Thrones stuff, which is fine, to be sure, but not quite as fun as Allagash's barrel aged wonders. Allagash was one of the first breweries in the US (citation needed!) to install a coolship (basically a long, wide, open fermenter), open their windows, and invite spontaneous fermentation, lambic style. Then they dump the resulting melange of wort inoculated with wild yeasts and bacterial beasties into a variety of old oak, wine, and bourbon barrels for extended slumbers (sour beers are not for the impatient).

This particular Cuvée is a blend of 38 barrels ranging from 1 to 5 years old. Last time I had one of these Allagash blends, they thoughtfully included a full breakdown of each barrel, complete with tasting notes and even listing barrels that weren't used because of various flaws. Alas, no breakdown here, but I did notice that they used the hashtag #passwordistaco on their Instagram post, and these barrels have infamously been attracting attention on brewery tours for a while now (apparently since October 2013 if the barrel heads are to be believed). I guess there's a lot of fans of The League out there.

Allagash Password is Taco Barrel

Other barrel codes you can see in various pictures around the internets include Peterman (2012), Victoria (2009), Lawrence (2011), Nimbus (2013), and Cracker Barrel (2012). This, of course, means nothing (and who knows if all of those barrels made it in the final blend), but I like the goofy names they use on their barrels. Let's take a closer look at the result:

Allagash Cuvee D Industrial

Allagash Cuvée D'Industrial - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells amazing, earthy funk, oak and vanilla mixed with the barnyard, but also lots of bright fruit, feels almost like a gueuze. Taste starts off with a bright, tart fruity note that quickly transitions towards more earthy, pungent barnyard funk territory, finishing off with a well balanced sour note. Mouthfeel is crisp and refreshing, effervescent, on the dry side with a bright, bracing acidity. Overall, this is some fabulous stuff, delicious and complex. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/8/15.

I need to find a way to pick up more of these Allagash sours, which have been pretty fantastic so far...

Alchemist Focal Banger

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In the dark days of the aughts, The Alchemist was basically an obscure little brewpub that made a name for itself by perfecting IPAs and DIPAs. In 2011, they expanded their operation to a production brewery and cannery... right before Tropical Storm Irene laid waste to the pub. Having just opened the cannery, they opted to just sell cans of Heady Topper for a few years while they recouped their losses. They only made that one beer for a couple years, but I guess you can get away with that when it's the single highest rated beer on the planet. Nevertheless, The Alchemist certainly had a growing stable of recipes that were languishing in obscurity, and starting last year, they started doing limited runs of some other beers and dialing in the recipes to be scaled up and brewed on their new system.

One such beer was Focal Banger, a 7% ABV American IPA made with copious amounts of Citra and Mosaic hops, yielding a beer that is distinct enough from Heady Topper while retaining the DNA that serves that flagship so well (presumably that Conan yeast in action). The canned runs of this were severely limited last year, and they didn't even have approval to send them out via traditional distribution channels (they sold them at little pop up events). Well, they recently got their new artwork approved, and started producing proper cans, though distribution is still severely limited. We managed to snag some cans at the Blackback Pub during Operation Cheddar III: Cheddar Harder a couple weeks back (and we were lucky enough to grab another at The Reservoir the next night). According to the bartender, once The Alchemist's new brewery and retail space opens (presumably next Spring, fingers crossed), production will increase dramatically, and Focal Banger will have similar availability to Heady Topper (and here's to hoping some other stuff makes its way into the mix as well!) Enough preamble, let's get to it:

Alchemist Focal Banger

Alchemist Focal Banger - It doesn't pour because you DRINK IT FROM THE CAN, as ordered (the artwork on the can is beautiful though). Beautiful citrus nose, maybe more tropical than Heady, I keep sticking my nose into the can like a dope (or, come to think of it, like the guy on the can). Taste is hugely citrus, tropical fruits, light bitterness in the finish. The Mosaic hops seem to be dominant here. Citra is no slouch, but it has some more subtle components that tend to fall by the wayside when Mosaic is in play, but then, Mosaic really plays well with that Conan yeast, yielding a really juicy, citrusy feel. Mouthfeel shines, well carbonated, silky smooth, almost creamy, compulsively quaffable. Overall, hot damn, another beautiful Alchemist beer, distinct enough from heady, but in a similar vein... A!

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can, like a man, on 5/26/15.

Totally worth trying to track down if you find yourself in Waterbury, but it sounds like we won't have to wait too long until production ramps up either. Can't wait to be able to actually bring some of this stuff home. Also hoping that the expansion will also include some of their other brews... would love to try one of their imperial stouts, just to see how they handle that sort of contrast. In the meantime, I've got plenty of other Vermont beer to get through, so stay tuned.

Alpine Nelson

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Inspired by a 2003 trip to New Zealand (the image on the label is a bay from the Nelson region of NZ) where the owner of Alpine stumbled upon NZ hops (then not used very much in the US) and decided to make a Kiwi inspired beer. The hop bill is comprised of all NZ hops with Nelson Sauvin being a specific focus, though others are clearly in use.

This video mentions that the first hop addition is extra double super secret, the second is Nelson Sauvin, the third is Southern Cross, and the fourth is a combo of Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross. There is a dry hopping period as well, but the hops used are unspecified (my not particularly insightful swag: Nelson Sauvin and Southern Cross). My impression is that Nelson Sauvin is an intense citrus, grapefruit, almost wine-like hop, while Southern Cross is a more mild, floral affair that would match really well with the rye in the recipe. I was very much impressed with Duet, so let's see how Nelson stacks up:

Alpine Nelson

Alpine Nelson - Pours a clear, very pale, golden yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells of citrusy, vinous fruit, grapefruit and the like, maybe something more floral and earthy lurking in the background. Taste has a beautiful grapefruit and vinous fruit character to it up front, followed by some rye spice in the middle, and a well balanced, light, dry bitterness in the finish. Great hop character without overpowering anything, and perhaps the first time I really get Nelson Sauvin. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, and crisp, absolutely and dangerously quaffable. Overall, another spectacular IPA from Alpine. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/22/15.

I also managed to score some Hoppy Birthday whilst out and about because Alpine distributes here now, and it was quite nice (I didn't take notes because I'm the worst, but it was very light and quaffable, great hop character, though not quite as potent as Nelson or Duet). I'll also be checking out some Captain Stout at some point in the near future as well, and who knows, if they keep distributing out here, I'll almost certainly be drinking more of their goodness.


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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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