Recently in B- Category

Funky Buddha Double Feature

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Funky Buddha has a reputation for gimmicky sorcery and artificial flavoring. Like most things, this cuts both ways. Some of these beers are absolutely wonderful, others are less successful. As I gather from a Florida-based friend of mine, even the great stuff can get old pretty fast, but in small doses, these can be really fascinating beers (this is something that doesn't hit me as hard, as I only get dribs and drabs once or twice a year, so it's all still a novelty to me). Thanks to that same Florida man, I've recently received a cache of Funky Buddha beers in the mail, so let's dive into a couple of them to see what's kickin' in the sunshine state.

First up is Undefeated Saison, brewed in honor of the Miami Dolphins' 1972 campaign where they became the only NFL team to complete an undefeated season and win the Super Bowl. Back in the day, I had a well worn copy of the Sega Genesis game Madden '93 and used to play with the 72 Dolphins a lot, relying heavily on Larry Csonka, who seemed like an invincible truck. Anywho, the beer bills itself as a "French Countryside Style Ale" (i.e. a saison and my unsubstantiated guess is that it's using the 3711 yeast strain) brewed with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape must and fermented with saison and Champagne yeasts. Sounds good, though I feel like this could have been improved with the addition of some Brett and/or a touch of oak. Also needs more Csonka:

Funky Buddha Undefeated Saison

Funky Buddha Undefeated Saison Brut - Pours a orange amber color with a finger of dense white head that sticks around for a while. Smells of vinous fruit, a little 3711 yeasty esters and spice. Taste is sweet and a little spicy, that vinous fruit shows up again and intensifies through the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated and somehow both sticky and dry, maybe even some winelike tannins pitching in. Overall, this is an interesting little saison, nothing to go too crazy over and it begs for some Brett and/or barrel treatment, but it's fine as is (well, maybe a little disappointing, but a far cry from bad). B-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 5/12/17. Released: November 1, 2016.

Next we have Butta' Cup, a double brown ale made to evoke, yes, the fabled peanut butter cup. No brand specified, but you know they're talking about Reese's, because what other one can you really name? I mean, yeah, sure, I know your local chocolatier has a handmade version that is spectacular, but does anyone really think about those? Did you get those when you went trick-or-treating? No. And as I've mentioned before, there's something about peanut butter beer that, while certainly gimmicky, still manages to evoke a feeling of nostalgia and warmth. Or something. So is their artificial flavoring wizardry game doing better than their saison game? Why don't you build me up, butta' cup?

Funky Buddha Butta Cup

Funky Buddha Butta' Cup - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of light tan head. Smells of peanuts, vanilla, and a little chocolate, as advertised. Taste has a nice sweetness to it, less peanut butter than the nose would imply, less chocolate too, but a good amount of vanilla. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little astringent, but that goes away as it warms. Overall, this is really nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/12/17.

So a pretty good showing here, nothing to rival the best of Funky Buddha that I've had (Last Snow and Wide Awake It's Morning), but they're always interesting, that's for sure.

Tired Hands Bottle & Can Chronicle

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It's been a while since I've covered these Ardmore dorkuses, what with their saisons and their IPAs and rows of empty chairs at can releases and yes, even a bourbon barrel aged stout. I've basically given up on keeping track of every Tired Hands beer I try, and indeed, my visits have decreased in recent months, but they are still, by far, the brewery I've had the most different beers from. I can't see anyone overtaking them anytime soon either. So let's get with the program and check out the last 6 months or so of bottle releases (with the occasional can and growler).

The Emptiness is in Bloom

The Emptiness is in Bloom - Oak barrel fermented saison conditioned on locally harvested honeysuckle and elderflowers - Pours a very pale straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smells, tart, floral, delightfully funky, earthy. Taste has a nice, tart sweetness to it up front, moving into an earthy funk and oaky middle, followed by a tart and funky floral finish. As it warms a nice saison spice emerges. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light bodied, and moderately acidic. Overall, it's great to be back in the Emptiness series. While not the best Emptiness offering, it's still a gem. A-

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/20/17.

Clourison - Standard Ourison saison conditioned atop clementines (juice and zest) - Pours a hazy golden color with a finger of moderately lived white head. Smells hugely of clementines, tones of citrus fruit, with that saison funk, spice, and hint of oak lingering in the background. Taste again hits huge notes of clementine, really strong, then there are hints of the saisonhands base beer to even things out a bit, a little earthy funk, oak, spice. Clementine is really the star here, really intense. Mouthfeel is moderately carbonated, light, and refreshing. Overall, this is really nice, the intensity of the fruit reminds me of Freedom from the Known, but the saisonhands base can't stand up to it as well. Still really nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/30/16.

Strawrison - Standard Ourison saison conditioned atop strawberries - Pours an almost radiant golden orange color with half a finger of white head. Smells funky, tart fruit, strawberries certainly, maybe a little yeasty spice. Taste again has more funk than I'm used to from the Ourison line, earthy, not quite cheesy or smokey, but edging in that direction; tart fruit still apparent though, strawberries, saison spice, and a little oak. Mouthfeel is light bodied but not as crisp or dry as Ourison and a little less carbonated (but still enough). Overall, this is quite nice right now. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 1/2/17.

Blourison - Standard Ourison saison conditioned atop blueberries - Pours a ridiculous dark ruby red, looks almost like a rose, with a finger of pinkish blue head. Smells nice, lots of oak, a little saison spice, and those tart blueberry aromas coming through well. Taste is blueberry forward, sweet and tart, with some saison spice and oak peeking in during the middle to finish, which also has that tart note. Mouthfeel is light bodied, a little thin, decent carbonation but not as much as ourison. Overall, this is nice, but as much as I love Saisonhands and Ourison, I'm not sure how great a platform for fruit that base really is... B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of charente glass on 1/15/17.

Individuation: Florid - Slightly spiced blended orange-hued Saison aged in French oak - Pours a golden honey color with a finger of head and ok retention. Smells quite nice, vinous fruit and plenty of oak, going to be a sour one. Taste is sweet up front, with a nice oak character coming through in the middle, maybe some funk there too, and then the sourness ramps up into the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate to high acidity, but still pleasant. Overall, is your typical TH style sour saison, which is a very good thing indeed. A-

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV bottled (750 ml Green Bottle). Drank out of a Teku glass on 10/15/16.

Individuation Florid, Dry Hop and regular version

Individuation: Florid, Dry Hopped - The same as Individuation: Florid, but dry hopped with Hull Melon - Pours that same golden honey color with that same finger of head. Smells very different though, clearly that Hull Melon dry hopping coming through, honeydew and lemons, with oak taking a backseat in this variant. The taste starts off sweet and sour, hop flavor overtaking the oak here too, finishing with that sour note. Less oaky, more hoppy and maybe even more sour (or at least the perception of more sourness). Mouthfeel is pretty much the same as regular, but again, slightly more astringency. Overall, this is more complex, but I'm not sure if it's better. Hull Melon certainly isn't my favorite hop, but it is definitely distinct. B+

Beer Nerd Details: ? ABV bottle (750 ml Brown Bottle). Drank out of a charente glass on 10/15/16.

Tired Hands Bourbon Barrel Aged Only Void

Tired Hands Only Void Bourbon Barrel Aged - Imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels for over a year - Pours deep black with a finger of short lived light brown head. Smells of caramel, oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Taste starts off sweet, rich caramel, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, the richness fading a bit after the middle and into the sweet finish. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied up front, but it thins a bit in the finish, a little pleasant boozy heat as I drink. Overall, hell yes, I've been waiting for this for a long time. I still really wish they bottled it, but it's a solid BBA imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV growler (1 Liter). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/15/16. Growler filled 10/15/16.

Tired Hands Permashore - Oak fermented gose with lemon drop hops - a radiant, clear yellow color with half a finger of bubbly head. Smells oaky, but you get that gose spice (coriander) and tart fruit, lemon, lime thing in the background too. Taste starts out with the gose spice character, moves into oak town, and adds in a salinity and a little tartness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is light bodied, a bit undercarbonated, pleasant, low acidity. Overall, this is very nice. The oak overwhelmed the style a bit, but it still comports itself well. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 11/12/16.

Whatever, Nevermind - Oak aged "yule" saison, 2015 bottle - Fun fact: this beer was the 200th checkin at Tired Hands Brew Cafe. I loved it. Then they bottled it a year later or something. And now it's a year after that! And it's still great. Nice tart, oaky foeder character, really tasty. Really enjoy this. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 12/3/16. Vintage: 2015.

Heavy Gem Humanimal Stasis

Heavy Gem Humanimal Stasis - Collaboration with Half Acre, Double IPA brewed with Equinox, Mosaic, and Simcoe - Pours a cloudy, darkish golden yellow color with a finger of white head and some lacing as I drink. Smells very floral an almost spicy, a little pine, but not as much citrus or pine as you'd want. Taste also hits floral and spicy hop notes, with a little dank pine emerging in the middle, and a relatively bitter finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, maybe a hint of booze too. Overall, this is not in your typical Tired Hands style; it's alright but nowhere near the ratings I'm seeing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/24/17. Canned on 3/19/17.

The Deepest and Most Wonderful Secret

The Deepest and Most Wonderful Secret - Yuzu Triple IPA brewed with Simcoe, Galaxy, Azacca, and Equinox - Pours a hazy pale orange color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells citrusy and almost tart, some of those typical TH juicy IPA notes. Taste is very sweet with an almost tart kick (apparently that yuzu), some citrus and floral hops, and a little booze. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full bodied, lightly acidic, a little alcohol heat but it drinks lighter than it is... Overall, a solid take on a triple IPA, really tasty. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a mason jar on 3/3/17. Canned 03/01/17. Batch: GO DEEP.

Phew, that's quite a few beers. And, of course, I already have a couple more on deck, so look for another recap in the nearish future. It feels like can releases are getting a little less insane, so maybe I'll snag a few more of those in the future...

Vintage Victory

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So I've been aging beer for a while now, both intentionally and unintentionally, and it's often an interesting exercise. However, it's also pretty rare for a beer to get better over time. It's usually different and sometimes worse than fresh, but better is, again, rare.

In general, my advice continues to be to drink fresh. If you can only get one bottle of something special, drink it fresh. If you can get a second bottle, it's a fun exercise to age it, but seldom does a beer age incredibly well. At least, not for very long periods of time. Lots of beers can get better or be just as good over a few months, but not many will last over a year and the ones that can last 5 years are even more rare. Of course, there are many variables. My "cellar" doesn't exactly have ideal conditions, so you may have better luck. Bottle variation exists, especially when it comes to wild ales. Some people don't like harsh booziness and time can clear that up sometimes. And so on.

Since Victory is local, I've stockpiled plenty of their offerings over the years. Readily available, not too pricy, and quality beer - they make good candidates for aging experimentation. Let's see if this patience has paid off:

Victory V-Twelve 2011

Victory V-Twelve (2011) - This is a special one. I loved it fresh back in the day and squirreled this away to see how it would age. High alcohol, darkish beer, I thought it would do well. Naturally, I haven't thought too much about it in the intervening time, especially as my tastes evolved over the years. In a recent attempt to drink down a bit of my cellar I noticed something curious. The bottle sez "Should be enjoyed within 5 years" and the bottling date was Nov 11 2011. So of course, I popped the cork on Nov 11 2016. Nailed it.

Victory V-Twelve Bottling Date

Pours a murky amber orange brown color with just a cap of off white head. Smells nice, lots of yeast-driven, rich, dark fruit, brown sugar, maybe even a little floral aroma, toffee too, hints of spice. Taste is rich and sweet, ample malt backbone, dark fruit, raisins, dates, yeasty esters, a little oxidation definitely showing, but nothing overwhelming, sherry, toffee, brown sugar, finishing with hints of Belgian yeast spice and a bit of booze. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, a sipper for sure. Overall, this is still fantastic. I haven't had it fresh since, oh, 2011, but it's holding up pretty darned well. A high B+ (I originally rated this an A, but taking into account ratings inflation puts this about on par with my feelings on it fresh.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/11/16. Bottled: Nov 11 2011. "Should be enjoyed within 5 years" (Nailed it.)

Victory Java Cask (2015) - The story on coffee beer is that the coffee tends to fade over time and hoo boy is that the case here. For the coffee ambivalents like myself, that's not a huge deal, but this was a huge coffee bomb when fresh, and while the coffee character is still there if you look for it (or if you're particularly sensitive to it, ahem), the bourbon barrel stout character is now the majority of this beer. It's actually quite pleasant, but then, I'm one of the aforementioned coffee ambivalents, so I would be like that. I'm still hoping that Victory will put out a non-coffee version of this same beer someday, but that's not in the cards this year (FYI, this was written in November 2016 - ed.). We've got a Rye barrel variant this year, as well as a rebrew of this, but I hold out hope. Still, I'm quite enjoying this and won't even drop the grade. Again, coffee-heads will be disappointed by an aged bottle of this stuff (and anecdotally, I'd say most of the dropoff had occurred within 6 months). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14.3% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/8/16. Fucking election day. Enjoy by: 10 Nov 2016, cutting it close.

Victory Otto (2011) - A smoked dubbel? Not your common style, and at the time, the smoke completely overwhelmed any Belgian yeast characteristics. Pours a dark amber color with a finger of almost white head. Smells of belgian yest, raisins, and just a bit of smoke. Taste goes similarly, the smoke has really mellowed out over time (fresh, the smoke was potent and overpowering, now it's barely there). Proooobably held on to it too long, but it's held up much better than your typical dubbel. Will try the Bourbon Barrel version next (it was a massive improvement over the original). B- (Update, I brought Otto in Oak to a share recently and it has fared a little better, but is also well past its prime. Solid B material.)

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/1/16. Bottled: Sept 21 2011 (I think that's what it sez)

Victory Old Horizontal 2013

Victory Old Horizontal (2013) - No fancy stories here, just realized it had been about 3 years, which is plenty for a beer like this. Turns out, I think it could probably stand up to more, but I'm still really glad I opened this when I did. Pours a dark amber color with a finger of white head. Smells of caramel and toffee, hints of dried, candied fruit. Taste also has that rich caramel and toffee character, sweet but not cloying, some modest hop character too. Some oxidation present, but nothing overwhelming and it ends up adding complexity. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, moderate carbonation, hints of booze. Overall, this has aged very well, would do again. I still have a couple of Oak Horizontals laying around, so I should probably strap one of those in next. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/22/16. Enjoy by Oct 25 2018. (deduced bottling date: October 25 2013)

So there you have it. 5 years probably too long, even for something like V-Twelve. Three years, though, seemed fruitful. Stay tuned for more vintage drinking, including one that was 7 years old (and still drank incredibly well).

The Veil Quadruple Feature

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Richmond, Virginia's The Veil Brewing Co. opened it's doors around six months ago. Brewer Matt Tarpey spent some time at several Northeast breweries, including the likes of The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead, as well as completing an apprenticeship with Jean Van Roy at Cantillon in Belgium. That's a pretty impressive pedigree. Since they're just getting started, I imagine their spontaneous fermentation program will take some time to develop, but their IPA game is already turning heads amongst the beer dork community.

The name of the brewery comes from Tarpey's time in Belgium. He was discussing pellicles, the thin film that forms on top of the beer during spontaneous fermentation, and he noted that "Jean has a lot of friends in Italy that are natural winemakers and he told me that his friends in Italy call pellicles 'the veil.' That moment was very special and I just remembered it..."

I managed to get my grubby little biscuit snatchers on four different cans of relatively fresh stuff. No spontaneous fermentation here, but one great IPA, two interesting takes, and one that didn't work out. So a pretty decent batting average and a promising start. I'm really intrigued to see where these folks go next.

The Veil Crucial Crucial Aunt Aunt

The Veil Crucial Crucial Aunt Aunt - Double Mango Double Dry Hopped Double IPA - Pours a cloudy, turbid yellow orange color (orange juice looking) with a finger of white, fluffy head, good retention, and some lacing. Smells of pure, unadulterated, juicy citrus hops. Taste starts off very sweet up front, hitting lots of those juicy citrus hops in the middle before heading to a balancing bitter hop town in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, fine, medium bodied, juicy up front but more dry in the finish. Overall, this is a rock solid Northeast IPA and it's delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/7/16. Canned on 09/20/16.

The Veil Joooseee Boizzz

The Veil Joooseee Boizzz - Triple IPA with Raspberries, a collaboration with Monkish (another brewery that I need to become more familiar with) - Pours a milky orange amber color with a couple fingers of off white, almost pink head. Smells of fruity, juicy hops, but also a sorta fruit roll ups or fruit by the foot aroma. Taste follows the nose, lots of citrus hops, ample malt backbone, and some more gummy fruity notes. Sometimes this came off as a sorta artificial feel, as befits fruit roll-ups, but it was still pretty darn tasty. Mouthfeel is full bodied and heavy, well carbed, but certainly a sipper. Overall it's an interesting and tasty beer, worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/9/16. Canned on 09/20/16.

The Veil Boss Man

The Veil Boss Man - Sour Double IPA - Pours a golden orange color with a finger of white head that doesn't last too long. Smells of citrus and some sort of souring twang. Taste is quite sour right from the start, some resinous citrus hops, but mostly dominated by that sourness with a bitter hop note towards the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and quite acidic. Overall, the notion of sour IPAs always seems to disappoint me. It is well crafted, for sure, but not really my thing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/14/16. Canned on 09/19/16.

The Veil That Part

The Veil That Part - Double IPA hopped exclusively with New Zealand Wai-iti hops - Pours a murky golden color with a couple fingers of fluffy head. Smells... odd, almost like bubble gum, but with some strange notes. Hop notes almost absent. Not bad, per say, but certainly not your traditional IPA. Taste is, ugh, not good. Something is wrong with this. Astringent, off flavors, weirdly spicy, and earthy (and not in a good, funky way). I'm guessing it's a yeast problem and I'm curious if it fared better when it was initially canned... but then, it's only been a little more than three weeks. Mouthfeel is again kinda weird, medium bodied, well carbed, but again with some sort of strange astringency. Overall, yeah, avoid this one. I may have gotten a bad can or something, but this is really awful. F

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/14/16. Canned on 09/20/16.

Many thanks to fellow beer nerd Nick for making the trip down to Virginia and securing these cans for me. He's a great American, and I'll be discussing more of his generous acquisitions later this week as well.

2SP Barrel-Aged Dead of Night Saison

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Ah the Dark Saison, everyone's favorite! By which I mean no one really likes or appreciates these things. They're all liars. But they've got good taste and that's got to count for something, right? The answer is no.

In all seriousness, this is not the most common style, and even the really good ones we do get tend to be more American Wild Ales than saisons... but now we're just splitting hairs. The truth is that it's difficult to really nail this sort of thing, a dark saison aged in American Oak barrels, and I've only had a couple that I've really enjoyed. That being said, I'm always looking for a beer to turn me around on an underwhelming style. It's happened many times before, did 2SP manage it with this entry? Alas, the answer is again: no. It's perfectly cromulent, to be sure, but not something that will change hearts and minds:

2SP Barrel-Aged Dead of Night Saison

2SP Barrel-Aged Dead of Night Saison - Pours a very dark brown color with hints of amber when held in light, a finger of very light tan head. Smells of dark chocolate, hints of that musty saison base, and a little tart funk peeking through. Taste has a nice richness to it, some chocolate, some saison spice, a very light funky tartness, and a slightly discordant boozy note. It never quite reaches that chocolate covered fruit character that the best entries in the style have. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, decent carbonation, a little boozy. Overall, this is interesting and cromulent enough, but I'm not sure it's entirely baked. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/23/16. Batch date: 11/15. Bottle No.: 252. BBL Aged: American Oak.

I've really enjoyed a lot of 2SP's beers, but for some reason the two barrel-aged entries have underwhelmed. It still feels like there's a lot of potential here though, so I will most certainly be trying some more...

Birrificio Del Ducato Beersel Mattina

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This is becoming a habit, I think. Yet another Italian mad scientist has blended a small amount of lambic into their beer. This one has its roots in Drie Fonteinen's infamous "Thermostat Incident" in which much of their stock was lost. In need of a quick infusion of cash, Armand Debelder sought to sell off his remaining lambic barrels as quickly as possible. Enter Birrificio Del Ducato, which was more than happy to take up the call. Alas, that batch was many moons ago and these days, they use lambic from the more readily available Oud Beersel.

18% of this is 18 month old lambic (I see what they did there), with the remaining 82% being one of their standard spiced saisons, Nuova Mattina. But, you know, if you're going to blend something into your beer, lambic seems like a better choice than a lot of the weird stuff we're seeing from "innovative" breweries these days. I mean, yeah, sure, I want to try that beer made with ample helpings of Cheeto dust*, of course I do, but it's more out of morbid curiosity than because I think it will taste good. This lambic blending thing, though, is something that is promising, if a bit difficult to tame if my experience is any indication.

Birrificio Del Ducato Beersel Mattina

Birrificio Del Ducato Beersel Mattina - Pours a slightly hazy golden color with almost no head at all, just some big bubbles from the vigorous pour. Smell has a nice Euro component to it, at first I felt it was kinda skunky, but that lambic is what really makes it work, slight funk, tart fruit. Taste has a decent enough saison spice to it, then that lambic pitches in with a sour, fruity, oaky note that finishes things off. Falls down on mouthfeel, which is nearly still. Can't tell if this is just a bad bottle or not, but I've seen pictures of this beer with billowing head, so something's off here... There's just a hint of finely bubbled carbonation and that's it. Medium bodied, lowish acidity, quite drinkable. Overall, this improves as I drank it, but was still a little disappointing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a charente glass on 4/2/16.

Near as I can tell, these bottles seem to be a little inconsistent in terms of the carbonation. Some folks get bottles like mine, others are well carbonated. This is pretty expensive too, so it's a bit of a gamble. Caveat Emptor! Ducato makes some decent Belgian style beer though, and the base for this beer is quite nice.

* Too my knowledge, this beer does not exist. Yet. Though I'm positive some enterprising homebrewer has tried it.

Aged Beer Jamboree

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Over the past several months, I've been dipping into my cellar to try out some aged beer. You may have noticed a few of these showing up on the blog already, but I've been keeping a running log of some of the less unique bottles I've opened as well. Some of these were aged intentionally, some were just sitting in the back of my fridge or in my basement for far too long. What can I say, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my liver. My cellar isn't as insane as many you'll see out there, but it's getting sizable, so I sometimes try to take a break from keeping up with the new releases and check out some of these old suckers.

There's something very romantic about aged booze, I think, but with beer it's a bit of a dicey proposition. It's rare that I've had a beer get better over time. It can certainly be different, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's also not usually what you expect. It's worth trying, but if you ever find yourself with a nice bottle of something that might age well, drink it fresh. If you can snag another bottle, age that. If not, just be happy you got your hands on a fresh bottle. Let's take a closer look at some of these:

2014 Abyss

2014 Deschutes Abyss - Finally got around to drinking one of these Deschutes beers after their "Best After" date (usually a year in the future when they release the beer). Pours a deep black color with a finger of light brown head, very nice. Smell brings a lot of the non-stoutlike elements to the fore, vinous fruit, caramel, anise, liquorice, vanilla, maybe even some dank hops. Taste starts with rich caramel, moves right on to more fruity notes, followed by a wallop of dry hop bitterness. As it warms, I get hints of that roasted malt character that I found much more prominent in fresh Abyss. Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, more dry than I remember it being fresh. Overall, I don't know that it's improved with age exactly, but it feels very different and it's certainly not worse, making it an interesting candidate for aging. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a teku glass on 1/31/16. Best After: 11/10/15.

Firestone Walker XV - Anniversary Ale

2011 Firestone Walker XV Anniversary Ale - My first Anniversary Ale, this one lives up to my memory. A bottle shop recently celebrated their anniversary or something by releasing a bunch of aged beer, and I managed to snag this one (so it hasn't been sitting in my cellar for quite so long, probably wouldn't have lasted!) Age has treated it well, though I don't think it's any better than it was back in the day. With time, it's got a little less zip, but the flavors have blended together more. It still feels very barleywineish, lots of dark fruit, rich caramel, some nice barrel character. Overall, this was worth aging and is doing well these days, but it was probably still a little better when it was fresh. This is probably good advice overall for the Firestone Anniversary beers - worth aging, but not at the expense of drinking it fresh. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 1/1/16.

Plead the 5th Stout

2013 Dark Horse Plead the 5th Stout - This has held up well. The intense roasty character is much faded, only really revealing itself in the finish. In its place we get caramel and an almost dark fruit note, like port wine or something. This hasn't really been my favorite stout, but it holds up well. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 1/30/16.

Angel's Share 2011

2011 Lost Abbey Angel's Share - Bourbon Barrel Aged - The first time I had this, I thought it was a bit hot and could use some aging. Fortuitously, I came into a bottle not long after, and promptly hid it away in my basement and basically forgot about it. What was lost was found, so I figured 4 years was long enough to age the sucker. Wow, just look at that head. Yes, this was before Lost Abbey got their carbonation game on track. Fortunately, this is a tasty beer. Age is definitely showing, some oxidation apparent, but it still smells and tastes great. Great dark fruit character matches well with the bourbon barrel treatment, reminiscent of early Bruery Anniversary beers. Age definitely mellowed the booze, though perhaps not as much time is actually needed to accomplish that feat. Carbonation is an issue for me. Verdict: Uncertain! Newer vintages are better carbonated and might hold up better. I'd say 1-2 years is ideal aging time. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/24/15.

Smoketome!

2013 Fantôme Saison - From the Smoketôme era, I was curious to see if the smokey, burnt latex funk worked itself out over time. The answer? Nope! I suppose it's probably mellowed some, but I feel like all the elements mellowed, so the smoke is still there in the same proportion as before. Like my other bottle, this isn't dominated by the smoke, and it adds a sort of complexity rather than straight burning latex and bandaids (as some of the worst Smoketomes exhibited). I really wish I had saved some of my first bottles of Fantome though, from the 2009-2010 era, as those were really special, even if I had no idea what I was drinking at the time. If you've got a smoketome, I say hold on to it. Let's see how that bitch tastes in 5-10 years, eh? C+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 11/30/15.

Merry Monks 2010

2010 Weyerbacher Merry Monks - Back in 2010, I bought a variety case of Weyerbacher, and promptly found myself disappointed by this beer. I gave it a few tries, but this one just sat around for, well, 5 years I guess. It was time. Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells sweet, lots of raisins, maybe a hint of spice. Taste is again very sweet, and again has tons and tons of raisins. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but almost creamy in texture, really nice, but as it warms, a boozy note hits pretty hard. Overall, this is maybe an improvement over the regular, but I'm not really a fan of either. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.3% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/11/15. Bottled 11/23/10. Best By: 11/23/12.

Founders Breakfast Stout 2010

2010 Founders Breakfast Stout - Pours a pitch black color with a gorgeous light brown head. Smells of coffee and creme and more coffee, roasty coffee, spent coffee grounds, did I mention coffee? Taste features lots of that roasty character, less intense coffee here but it's still pretty prominent. Coffee is supposed to fade over time, but this is still pretty intense, even more out of balance than when fresh. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, a little thin actually, though it feels more full as it warms. Overall, I like this and it's held up remarkably well, but it's still not a massive improvement over the base, which seems more balanced. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/11/15.

Of course, this barely puts a dent in the cellar, so after this semi-hiatus from beer, expect to see some more of these aged beer reviews. In the meantime, I've got some wine, bourbon, and Scotch coming your way. And maybe a few more beer posts peppered in...

New Holland Double Feature

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One of the more interesting crossovers between beer and bourbon is New Holland's Beer Barrel Bourbon. First, they get old bourbon barrels to age their imperial stout in, resulting in Dragon's Milk (that accessible beginners BBA beer that is a reliable standby). Next, they went out and sourced some bourbon (presumably from MGP, because who else?) at 110-115 proof, then dumped that into the old Dragon's Milk barrels (i.e. this is a third use barrel). The result is a beer barrel finished bourbon that lots of people seem to enjoy and that I thought I'd never find. However, during a recent jaunt to the Garden State, I spied a bottle of this very juice and immediately snatched it up, knowing in my heart that I would also snag a Dragon's Milk to complete the double feature. So let's get it on with some hot bourbon on beer action:

Beer and Beer Barrel Finished Bourbon
(Click to Embiggen)

New Holland Dragon's Milk - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light tan head. Smells sweet, lots of vanilla, a little caramel, hints of roast. Taste has a nice caramel and vanilla character to it, roast in the background. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, smooth and creamy, no real evidence of booze. Overall, it's not quite the revelation it once was, but it's a rock solid BBA stout and you have to admire the price point and availability. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 12/12/15. Vintage: 2015.

New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon - Pours a light golden color. Smells kinda new makish, but with a nice kick, vanilla and caramel and toffee. The vanilla seems most prominent. Taste again has some new make rawness to it, a little more prominent in the taste than the nose, but there is some hints of vanilla in the background. Mouthfeel is light and smooth, hardly even boozy (ah, it's 80 proof, that explains it). Overall, its a little disappointing, but it's also interesting enough that I tried it. Was it worth the flier on the whole bottle? I'd have to drink more to find out for sure. Who knows, maybe it will grow on me. For now: B-

Whiskey Nerd Details: 40% ABV bottle (750 ml). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 12/12/15.

Beer Nerd Musings: The beer barrel almost certainly lent some of those vanilla, caramel, and toffee notes to the bourbon, but my guess is that cutting it down to 80 proof did this a disservice. I'm not looking for barrel proof here, but maybe give us a little more heft, let those beery notes shine, you know? I'm betting this would be fine cocktail material though, and I should really try that. There are apparently some other beer barrel finished whiskeys out there. Sku has tried Abraham Bowman Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon (which used barrels from Hardywood's BBA Gingerbread Stout) and found it interesting, but perhaps not whole bottle interesting. Berkshire Mountain Distillers has a whole series of beer cask finished bourbons, using barrels from the likes of Troegs, Sam Adams, and Terrapin. I'm sure there are others, but the all appear to be small micro-distilleries, and thus it feels like they'd all be a little young. I'd gladly try more though!

This was fun, and something I will clearly need to try again soon. It appears that New Holland has even started putting out some variants of Dragon's Milk, though none of them sound particularly exciting to me. If I see one, I might take a flier on it, because I'm the worst.

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

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