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Blaugies Saison D'Epeautre

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Started by a pair of married schoolteachers in their hometown of Blaugies, these folks have been brewing in their quaint farmhouse garage since 1987. That's a pretty long time for an American brewer, but in Belgium, where some brewers have histories dating back centuries, it's a young brewery (Michael Jackson once quipped that this beer was "A fine revival"). Everything they make is a saison, so you know it's a good bet, even if you're playing Belgian roulette. This particular example is made with Spelt and Dupont's yeast strain, but despite being very yeast-driven, it manages to remain distinct from most of Dupont's classic beers:

Blaugies Saison D Epeautre

Brasserie de Blaugies Saison D'Epeautre - Hoo boy, the pressure in this bottle must've been massive, that cork could have punctured the ceiling if I wasn't careful. Pours a slightly cloudy straw yellow color with massive amounts of bubbly head and decent retention, though little in the way of lacing. Smells of dusty, musty belgian yeast, a little spice, like clove and coriander, and faint hints of fruity esters. Taste has a big spice note to it, the clove and coriander from the nose, plenty of musty yeast, with hints of bright fruit coming through. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, quite dry as well. Overall, this is a fantastic, very well executed example of a rather straightforward saison, one I'd like to revisit for sure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/2/15.

Well, now I need to go find everything Blaugies ever brewed. Super.

Bourbonic Plague

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I like puns as much as the next fella, hell I'll even chuckle at the most overused of beer puns: the hop pun. But even I have to question the wisdom of naming your beer with a pun that refers to one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. Welcome to the Raccoon Lodge & Brewpub, here's your bottled pestilence! On the other hand, it is a beer soured with bacteria, so there is a certain sense of propriety, I guess. Consider my question withdrawn.

I've had the occasional misfire from Cascade, and at these prices, those are not pleasant affairs (even when the beer is ultimately not all that bad), but they're always interesting, and when they're on, they're really on. I've had my eye on this one for a while, in part because I initially thought it wasn't a sour. It's a blend of spiced double porters that were aged in Bourbon and wine barrels for 18 months before aging on dates and spices for up to an additional 12 months. Nothing in there screams sour. Except for the part on the label that sez it's a Northwest Style Sour Ale. That's kinda a dead giveaway. I am, as has been amply established, the worst. Anywho, bourbon barrels aren't typically used for sours, and I've found that when they are, the bourbon gets lost behind the sourness (with the notable exception of Cuvée De Tomme). This one falls somewhere inbetween...

Our opponent is running a black deck, so watch out for plague rats and gird your buboes, because we're going in for a closer look at this Bourbonic Plague:

Cascade Bourbonic Plague

Cascade Bourbonic Plague - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head that quicky fizzes down to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells funky, a little sour, but you get some spice and vanilla (almost like a coke), oak, maybe some vinous fruit, and something deeper and darker lurking in the background. Taste is very sweet, some of that vinous fruit, a nice sour punch, rich dark malts (but not roasty at all), spice and vanilla (again with the almost coca cola character, like if coke was sour? Maybe not the best description, but there's something to it), and some booze, maybe even actual bourbon (not Cuvée De Tomme levels, but it's there). Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, a little heavy and acidic, nice booze factor. Intense, complex, and interesting, it's a sipper for sure, and probably should be shared. Overall, a fascinating piece of work, not sure I've had anything quite like it. B+ but certainly worth seeking out.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 4/25/15. Vintage: 2011 Project.

Yet another interesting winner from Cascade, and at least one more in the pipeline sometime in the near future. Not to mention lots of their beers that remain unexplored territory for us... territory we'll surely enjoy charting.

Intangible Ales Future Primitive

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Pizza Boy brewing cohabitates with Al's of Hampden (an actual pizza joint), which I tend to think of as basically the same operation, though I guess distinctions need to be made. I'm sure there's some nerdy, pencil-pushing reason for such distinctions, but whatever. Enter Intangible Ales. Brewed at the same location. Using the same equipment. By the same brewer. Wait, why is this a separate brand now? What are you central PA people getting up to over there? And while we're at it, this beer is technically called FuTuRe PRiMiTiVe - what do you have against vowels and normal capitalization? What is going on? GET OFF OF MY LAWN!

Ahem. Near as I can tell, Intangible Ales is a collaboration between Pizza Boy head brewer Terry Hawbaker (formerly of PA stalwarts like Bullfrog and Farmer's Cabinet) and local photographer extraordinaire Kristen Mullen. Still not sure why it's a distinct brand, but Mullen's photography certainly makes for some cool labels (and the beer ain't bad either!):

Intangible Ales Future Primitive

Intangible Ales Future Primitive - Pours a hazy yellow color with a finger or two of white, fluffy head with great retention. Smell has some musty funk, hints of the barnyard, but also a very nice fruity aroma, bananas and pineapple, and just a hint of yeasty spice in the background. Taste starts off like a typical sweet and spicy saison of the Dupont mold, but then the funky Brett character kicks in about midway through the taste, bringing some earthy barnyard character and a little fruitiness, finishing off with a dry bitterness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, light, crisp, and very dry. Overall, this is a rock solid funky saison. It's not in the Logsdon level God tier saison realm, but it's a very nice beer nonetheless. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.2% bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/24/15. Batch #1. Bottle #265/2700.

Pizza Boy continues to impress, even when it's an alternate label like this. I should really explore more of their stuff, and will probably do so soon enough. Stay tuned.

Hair of the Dog Adam

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The case against Portland, Oregon's Hair of the Dog basically comes down to inconsistency across batches, especially when it comes to carbonation. That has certainly been the case in my (admittedly limited) experience, though I should note that I'm especially sensitive to carbonation issues. It's clear HotD makes good beer, and while consistency is admirable, inconsistency can be charming if you do it right.

Bottle conditioning of high alcohol beers can be uneven, and to HotD's credit, they will often reduce the price of their limited beers if they're having a lot of carbonation issues. It's also possible that bottles will get better over time, and while I am carbonation-challenged, the beers I've had from them seem like they'd do well in the cellar. Brewer Alan Sprints has commented on this in the past:

Each batch is a moment in time, unique, like we are. Some of the batches that I have not been happy with have turned into the most popular ones after a few years. Beer is more than bubbles.
Hard to argue with that. Adam was the first beer they made at Hair of the Dog, a recreation of the historical Old Ale style, and from what I've seen, it certainly rivals the best of them (carbonation or no):

Hair of the Dog Adam

Hair of the Dog Adam - Pours a very dark brown color with just a cap of slow forming head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Carbonation seems present, but clearly low. Smells great, lots of brown sugar and molasses, candy, dark fruits, cherries and the like. Taste is malt forward, brown sugar and molasses again, more of a crystal malt feel, less in the way of fruit, maybe a hint of chocolate. Mouthfeel is full bodied and viscous, minimal carbonation (not completely flat, but still a little low for my tastes - keep in mind that I'm generally sensitive to carbonation issues), a hint of boozy heat. Overall, this is very nice, but once again, Hair of the Dog's infamous low carbonation tempers my enthusiasm for what would otherwise be a fabulous beer (even if it wasn't as bad as last time). But at least there was some this time, and by the end of the bottle, I was quite pleased. I'll give it a B+ for now, but this could easily enter A- or even A realms if there were just a little more carbonation...

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a teku on 4/18/15. Batch 93.

I'd be willing to take a few more fliers on this beer in the hopes of getting one that's better carbonated, and naturally, I'd absolutely love to score some Adam from the Wood (though I'd guess the higher ABV and aging process would make carbonation issues more likely, but then, I might be more amenable to that in a barrel aged beer...) Also, Old Ales are another style that I seem to mostly enjoy whenever I find one, so I should probably seek out some more (I'm coming for you, BB4D!)

Neshaminator

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The Easter season is typically time for German Doppelbocks, all of which are named with an "or" suffix (i.e. Salvator, Celebrator, etc...), but emerging local favorite Neshaminy Creek broke with tradition by making their Easter beer a Weizenbock, but giving it the traditional "or" suffix anyway. As a lifelong fan of the original Terminator movie (and someone who laments most of what followed, even including the generally well received T2), I figured I had to check out the bottle with the clear homage to a T-800 foot crushing a human skull. Also, despite the fact that I haven't had a ton of weizenbocks, I do generally enjoy them quite a bit. So come with me, if you want to live:

Neshaminy Creek The Neshaminator

Neshaminy Creek Neshaminator - Pours a dark amber brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of typical weizen yeast clove, but with a huge candied citrus character, orange, honey, it's complex and sweet. Taste starts off with a more typical weizenbock note, very sweet and spicy, a hint of dark, rich malt, hint of molasses, some more fruity esters emerge towards the finish, along with what I assume is that honey. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, with a touch of richness but also relatively dry (no real stickiness at all, and this is exactly what I look for from the style). Overall, it's a rock solid take on the style, with a slight twist that matches well enough. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/10/15.

Neshaminy Creek continues to grow in Kaedrin's local mindshare. I will continue to explore their offerings, and am quite looking forward to the upcoming Rum barrel aged version of this beer. Let's just say that I'll be bock. Get it? GET IT? Also Genisys looks absolutely terrible in the best way and I can't wait to watch it. I mean, it's going to be terrible and not deserving of comparison with the original, but it feels like it will be ironically fun in a so bad it's good kinda way.

April Beer Club

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Beer club was yesterday! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and general merriment. Since the last beer club was sparsely attended, we ended up back at Couch Tomato for some excellent pizza, strombolis (having had both, I would recommend the stromboli over the pizza), and some sort of weird greek plate. Better weather means better attendance, and we had a rather fantastic selection of beer to work our way through:

April Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. As per usual, I'm going almost purely from memory, and this was from last night, so take these notes with the appropriate shakers of salt. Or call it a sacred text and analyze it like the Zapruder film. I'm not here to tell you what to do. I am here to write indefensible notes on beer, so let's get to it:

  • Kaedrin Crom Approved - So it appears that this is doing ok, but I really feel like my challenges that lead to a clogged keg and having to transfer it to another keg really ruined this beer. Ok, perhaps ruined isn't the right term. This has a fantastic, tropical fruit hop nose. The taste definitely feels a bit oxidized, which I unfortunately makes sense and definitely detracts from what I was going for. I'm giving it a B, but the really disappointing thing is that when I first kegged it, I was thinking this was A level stuff. Oh, well, lessons learned, onwards and upwards. My next batch of this beer will be great.
  • Adroit Theory New Zealand Rye (Ghost 179) - I heard about this Virginia brewery a while back and have been curious to try their beers. A regular beer club attendee got down there last weekend and picked up a few beers to try. This one was a pretty solid rye DIPA, more malt and spicy rye than hops, but it also clocks in at a hefty 11% ABV and didn't feel like it at all. It was very nice. B+
  • Crooked Stave St. Bretta (Autumn) - Absolutely delicious beer, funky, light sourness, juicy fruit, really fantastic stuff, along the lines of the Summer (which I've had before)
  • Flying Dog Supertramp - This had a sorta berliner weiss feel to it, but not quite that tart, and while you could get some cherry character out of it, it also had a weird aftertaste. I just never got into this beer. C
  • Modern Times Blazing World - Dank, piney hops with a nice, hefty malt backbone, this is very nice. Just about in line with anything I've had from Modern Times, who seem pretty fantastic. B+
  • Intangible Ales (Pizza Boy) Acidulated Hive - One of Pizza Boy's Intangible Ales label beers (not sure why this is listed as a separate brewery), this is a great little saison. It reminds me of Saison Dupont, except with a lightly funky addition (I don't get much honey out of it, but it does perhaps remind me a bit of funky version of Dupont's Bier de Miel). Well worth seeking out B+ or A-
  • The Lost Abbey Lost & Found Abbey Ale - A pretty standard dubbel that is overwhelmed by raisiny flavors. Nothing bad here, but also nothing particularly special. B-
  • Adroit Theory Lux (Ghost 132) - This is labeled as a wheatwine, and unfortunately, it falls prey to a saccharine, sticky sweet character that would be cloying if I were trying to drink a whole bottle. As a sample in a situation like this, it was fine, but it's not really my thing. C+
  • Central Waters Bourbon Barrel La Petite Mort - A beer I've already reviewed, and it was just as good, if not better this time around. In fact, I think I'll bump it up to an A-
  • Oskar Blues Bolivia Newton John - A relatively low ABV coffee stout (6%), this is obviously not in my wheelhouse, but it seemed like a very well executed coffee stout. B
  • Weyerbacher Sunday Morning Stout - Another coffee stout, this one is an imperial stout that's also been aged in bourbon barrels. This is much more my speed, though again, I never really connected with it as much as I'd like. The coffee seems very well integrated, and the barrel aging adds a nice richness to the proceedings, even if I felt the barrel character was a little too light. Still, while not quite KBS level, it's on the same playing field, and you won't have to jump through many hoops to get ahold of this stuff. B+
  • Bonus Review: Boxcar Brewing Nitro Stout - After beer club, we walked over to Boxcar Brewing's new brewpub and had some stuff there. I grabbed this Nitro stout, a Dry Irish Stout, that might be my favorite thing I've ever had from Boxcar. Now that the brewpub is open, I'm hoping for good things from them... they're the brewery most local to me, but I've always been somewhat underwhelmed by their brews. This was really nice though. B
And there you have it. A fantastic selection this time around, and I am, of course, already looking forward to the next iteration...

Beer Club February

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Beer club was last Thursday! I started to write this recap when I got home, but I didn't get very far. As has been established frequently, I am the worst. But I'm here now to make amends. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and general merriment. This time we checked out the newly opened West Chester branch of The Couch Tomato, a rather fine pizza establishment (in a sea of pizza places, this has immediately established itself in the local upper tier with America's Pie). I had a rather fine stromboli (called the "Italian Stallion") whilst imbibing the usual beery wares:

Beer Club for February 2015
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. Since it's been a few days, these thoughts will be even more unreliable than normal, so take them with a giant, asteroid-sized lump of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Evil Genius Stacy's Mom - Has moderate amounts of goin' on. Citra hops come through a little, but it's not particularly accomplished compared to its Citra-based brethren. B
  • Jailbreak Welcome To Scoville Jalepeno IPA - Definitely a peppery beer, but not a ton of heat, which is nice. On the other hand, I feel like whatever hops it has going on are sorta canceled out by the pepper character. B-
  • Flying Dog Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout - Now this one has some heat to it, but it's a very well matched heat that matches better with the roasty chocolate notes of the base stout than an IPA. That being said, it wasn't exactly blowing me away. B
  • Alaskan Smoked Porter - I get the impression that sometimes people bring beers they bought but realized they don't actually want to drink a whole bottle of. I'm as guilty as anyone, and this is one such example. I don't mind the occasional smoked beer, but really haven't been in much of the mood for this sort of thing lately. As Smoked Porters go, this is a pretty great example. Still not exactly my thing though, and I'm glad I shared. B
  • Stone Enjoy By 02.14.15 IPA - Tastes about 5 days too old. Oh snap, breaking the law! Just kidding, it was fine, despite not following the rules on the bottle. It's a decent beer, and it's definitely grown on me, but I've never gotten the absolute love some folks show for this (and yes, I've had it fresh before too). B
  • Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA - Ah now this is the stuff. One of my contributions and a rock solid citrus and pine bomb, well balanced and tasty. B+
  • Armstrong Ales Bold Thady Quill - A pretty nice take on an Irish Dry Stout, roasty and light bodied. Not going to melt your face, but it'd make for a nice session. Also, probably not the best setting for this kind of beer. Would still love to try more from this local upstart. B
  • Kaedrin Trystero Barleywine - I feel like my keg should be empty right now, but it appears to be bottomless. The keg feels nearly empty, but I just filled up this 1 liter growler with no problem. Need to finish off that keg so I have somewhere to put an IPA! The beer itself is doing well enough. I do feel like I perhaps dosed it with a bit too much in the way of bourbon, which cuts down on some of the fruitier malt characters in the beer. Still good though. B+
  • Prairie Bomb! - Another of my contributions, I have to admit that I didn't realize this was a coffee dosed beer. I was really excited to try it, then initially disappointed by the coffee character. Still, I ended up drinking more of this than usual, and it grew on me. Rock solid and I can see why it's so popular, but it doesn't really approach my top tier. B+
  • Victory Moving Parts 03 - Technically, we'd left beer club and moved the party over to a local bar, which was having a Victory event. This was our initial pour, a Belgian IPA. Nice enough on its own, but nothing particularly eventful here. B
  • Victory Deep Cocoa - On cask with vanilla and something else that I don't remember. It could have been that I was just drunk at the time, but I kinda loved this. Deep, rich chocolate, vanilla, full body, really delicious stuff. Have not tried the regular version but this cask was hitting the spot, so let's give it an A-
And there you have it. Attendance was a little low, so I probably drank more than normal this time. Also, we didn't get to the Nugget Nectar, mostly because we've all had it several times already this year (even out of the can, which is, yes, very nice) but also because there were less of us there that night than normal. Crazily enough, some people didn't come because it was just super cold out (not snowing or anything, just really cold, low-single digits). I don't know what their problem is. Maybe I'm not the worst after all.

Weekend Agenda: Slashers and Beer

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Back in the early days of this blog, I used to harbor the notion that I would differentiate myself by pairing movies and beer. Even though I'm often watching movies as I drink, it was never a particularly well thought out idea and eventually fell by the wayside (though it is occasionally revived). But every once in a while, an opportunity presents itself. I'm sure fans of bad horror movies know where I'm going with this, but this past weekend marked the convergence of two great slasher movies, and in one case, the perfect beer to match.

First, Friday was the 13th, so I plopped in my favorite installment of that venerable series: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Not many franchises can boast the sixth movie in the series as the best, but this is one of them (I will accept cases for the original or Part IV, but VI remains my favorite). It's got the best opening in the series, culminating in a cheeky tribute to the James Bond title sequence. It's very self-aware and funny (a full decade before Scream), but also has some genuinely creepy visuals and plenty of gory death (in, like, a fun way). Oddly, it's the only movie where actual children show up at Camp Crystal Lake (i.e. not just camp councilors). Certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but as slasher movies go, it's pretty tops. I didn't have anything particularly relevant to pair with the movie, so I just grabbed this IPA made in LA because it was mildly fresh and I didn't want to let it linger in the fridge for too long (and besides bitter hops and horror movies go together well, right?)

Beachwood Melrose IPA

Beachwood BBQ Melrose IPA - Pours a mostly clear, pale gold color with a finger of white fluffy head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells amazing, huge citrus bomb, big grapefruit and mango aromas, maybe some pine and floral notes too. Taste hits those big citrus hop flavors hard, lots of grapefruit, not as much mango as the nose, a little floral and pine, and a moderate bitter bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lighter end of medium bodied, relatively dry finish, moderately quaffable. Overall, nothing hugely revolutionary here, but it's a rock solid, well above average IPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/13/15. Bottled: 1/26/15.

Next, Saturday was Valentines Day, and since slasher movies have mined the calendar of holidays pretty thoroughly, we've got My Bloody Valentine. Part of the seemingly endless glut of Halloween and Friday the 13th imitators put out in the early 80s, this is one of best non-franchise efforts out there. It hits all the standard slasher tropes and it's a lot of fun. It's pretty silly at times too, but the whole miner's suit and pickaxe make for a great villain, and I love the little poems he leaves for the police ("Roses are red, violets are blue, one is dead, and so are you"). It had a remake in 2009 (in 3D!) that didn't quite capture the magic, though I guess is fine in its own right. Anywho, someone over at Alesmith must be a big horror movie fan, because they make a beer called Evil Dead Red and a cousin called, yes, My Bloody Valentine. On paper, both horror themed beers seem almost identical - both red ales, both with the saucy ABV of 6.66%, same IBUS, etc... In practice, well, let's take a look:

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine - Pours a deep, dark red color with ruby highlights (yes, robey tones) and a finger of tannish head. Smells of crystal malts, a hint of toast, maybe some light caramel and some earthy hops. Taste follows the nose, very malt focused, crystal malts, a bit of toast, maybe some chocolate, caramel, with a crisp, earthy hop bite towards the finish that rounds it out nicely. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and medium bodied, quite approachable. So this is a much more traditional red ale than Evil Dead Red, which incorporates much more in the way of big, citrusy, piney American hops. They don't specify the hops for this, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were old-school noble hops or something along those lines, maybe Cascade. I tend to prefer my reds on the more piney, resinous side (Evil Dead Red is definitely my speed), but this was a nice change of pace too. As the Beer Rover notes, "This beer will not stun you with its brilliance, but it will not disappoint, either." B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a teku glass on 2/14/15. Bottled: 12/19/14.

I really must figure out a way to snag me some barrel aged Alesmith brews. I'm not a huge coffee fan, but the BA Speedway does sound mighty tasty. Still, might be better off with BA Old Numskull or BA Wee Heavy. Someday...

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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