Recently in B+ Category

Birra Del Borgo Duchessic Ale

| No Comments

Given my heritage, it's surprising how little Italian beer I've sought out. I suppose most Italians reach for a glass of wine with their meals, but I've been hearing for years that the Italian beer scene has been exploding. Alas, I've not had a ton of great Italian beer. I've always chalked this up to availability. It's not like Italians are getting that sweet Tired Hands juice on the reg, so it stands to reason that I'm not seeing the best of their scene either. A friend who recently went to Italy mentioned that a lot of wineries sorta do brewing on the side, stuff that I assume doesn't get distributed far and wide. This obviously means I need to get off my arse, renew my passport, and tour some Italian winery/brewery hybrids.

In the meantime, I'll have to make due with the stuff that does find its way over here. The Italian beer I have enjoyed usually has a distinctly Belgian bent to it, and this is no exception. Indeed, look closely and you'll see that this is a blend of Birra Del Borgo's standard Duchessa saison (not a particularly heralded beer) and 1 year old lambic. Upon even closer inspection, it turns out this is a collaboration with Cantillon. I mean, if you're going to blend 20% of lambic into your beer, I guess Cantillon would do the trick. Maybe. The releases of this are somewhat irregular and they apparently sometimes suffer from that ropey Brett viscosity (drinkers of Fantome know what I'm talking about) that they fix before it's released (there's a video explaining this... but it's not subtitled, so have fun with that.) Anywho, this marks the second time in the past month that I've drank a beer blended with a small amount of lambic. So far, these don't seem to have the complexity or elegance of their fully lambic counterparts, but the blending does add some nice notes for sure. How does this one fare?

Birra Del Borgo Duchessic

Birra Del Borgo Duchessic Ale - Pours a hazy yellow color with a few fingers of white, fluffy head that has lots of retention and leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Smells of Belgian yeast, a little bready, some spicy phenols, and plenty of fruity notes, but then the lambic makes itself known with hints of musty, earthy funk and tart fruit. That lambic funk comes out even more in the taste, which has a very nice little tartness to it, fruity and a little funky. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, lightly acidic and absolutely bone dry. Overall, this is a nice catch for those looking to get a mildly Cantillon-esque feel, and it comes off like a tart saison (which, I guess, is what it ultimately is). Well worth seeking out, though not quite mind-blowing in complexity. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV bottled (11.1 ounce). Drank out of a flute on 2/6/15.

I don't know how widespread this was distributed, but I know of at least two places that have it sitting on the shelf right now, and they've been there for a while. I guess being sequestered in the Italian beer section gets them passed over or something. I should really seek out more of my Italian brethren's beer sometime. For now, I think I'll just snag some Italian wine for the upcoming beer fast...

Allagash Double Feature

| No Comments

We've been mightily impressed with Allagash's seemingly expanded sour program, so we've been keeping an eye out for more of this stuff, and fortunately, Allagash has obliged my whims. A pretty steady stream of new bottles has been showing up from time to time, and I'm always willing to take a flier on these, even if they are a bit of a pricey proposition. Interestingly, several of their sour beers are aged on stainless steel rather than more traditional barrels, and I have to say, it doesn't make as big of a difference as I'd think. I loved Farm to Face, and the better of today's double feature was also a straight stainless steel offering (of course, it was still aged 2 years, so maybe that's part of it).

First up is Tiarna, a blend of two beers, one a Brettanomyces fermented ale aged on oak, and the other a Belgian ale aged on stainless steel. It's a nice beer for sure, but not quite up to their best offerings:

Allagash Tiarna

Allagash Tiarna - Pours an almost clear pale yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a while. Smells quite nice, typical belgian yeast spice notes of clove and maybe anise, some fruity esters, but also that earthy Brett funk. Taste hits more bready and yeasty than expected, hints of those spicy phenols and fruity esters (not really tart at all), a bit of funk, a little oak pitching in too. Was really hoping for a little more funk and oak here. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, lightly bodied, relatively dry. Overall, this is like an entry level funky saison. It's complex and well crafted, but restrained. I have to wonder if the funk would increase over time in the bottle, but for now: B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 1/30/16. Bottled: Sept. 16, 2015.

Next up is James and Julie, presumably named after two people who worked at the brewery or something. Or just two random people off the street, for all I know. It's their take on a Flanders Oud Bruin, a sour brown ale that is aged on stainless steel with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus cultures. Rumor has it that this is the base beer for Neddles (which is the same thing aged on Rum barrels and named after a former employee), but I'll be damned if this isn't pretty spectacular just by itself. It's not super funky, but it's got a very nice sourness and balance to it that just works beautifully:

Allagash James And Julie

Allagash James & Julie - Pours a light brown amber color with a finger of off white head that holds its own for a while. Smells of vinegar, tart fruit, sour cherry, maybe a hint of earth. Taste starts off sweet, lots of flavor, sour cherries, vinegar, perfectly balanced amount of sourness here, really tasty. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, perfectly balanced amount of acidity. Overall, intense but balanced, this is a true winner. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet/chalice on 1/30/16. Bottled: Aug. 24, 2015. Released: Black Friday 2015.

Always enjoyable catching up with Allagash, and I will of course be keeping an eye out for more stuff, particularly their sours, which seem to hit me just right.

Logsdon Szech 'n Brett

| No Comments

We're big fans of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales here at Kaedrin. They really know their Brettanomyces, and produce some of the better funky saisons that are generally available (... where they distribute, at least). They've done great things with oak aging and added fruit as well, so it's time to tackle a session saison. Well, sorta.

Szech 'n Brett is kinda toned down from their flagship Seizoen Bretta and it's got added Szechuan spice (I see what they did there) to make up for the shortfall. Kinda. At 6.5% ABV, this isn't toned down all that much... Now, I'm not a British session zealot, but I'm not an Adam Avery "17% ABV beer is sessionable, your session just ends sooner" type either, so this does feel a bit off. Nothing worth getting in a twist about, but to my mind, if you're going to go "session", go all the way. On the other hand, that's all just kinda marketing fluff, what about the juice? Let's dive in:

Logsdon Szech n Brett

Logsdon Szech 'n Brett - Pours a very pale, cloudy yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head and great retention. Smell has that trademark Logsdon house funk, more fruity than earthy, pears and the like, plus a little spice... um... spicing up the nose. Heh. Taste also hits those juicy pear notes, a little more funky Brett earth that melds pretty well with whatever spice is being brought in here, something peppery (turns out it's Szechuan pepper), though I don't know that the spice is necessary. Mouthfeel is lightly bodied, highly carbonated, and effervescent, quite dry but with a little juicy kick in the finish that suits it well. At 6.5%, this is approachable, but not really a session beer. Overall, this is another solid entry from Logsdon. I prefer Seizoen Bretta, but this is certainly a worthy twist on the saison. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/29/15. Bottle No. 6949. Best By: 10/2019.

Always on the lookout for new Logsdon stuff, and they do seem to be slowly expanding their lineup over time, which is nice. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about them sooner rather than later.

Perennial Abraxas

| No Comments

Remember when Imperial Stouts were special? Just regular stouts that happened to be higher in alcohol than normal? Those things like Storm King, Kate the Great, Darkness, and so on? Then people started going nutso for barrel aged imperial stouts. I should note at this point that I'm not really waxing nostalgic or complaining here, I'm fully on board the barrel aged train to impy stout town, I just wanted to note a progression here. It's not a perfect progression, but in broad strokes it works. We start with big stouts, move on to barrel aging, and then people started losing their minds over imperial coffee stouts (and to a certain extent, they still do). As frequently opined here (I won't shut up about it and I am totally the worst), I'm pretty ambivalent towards coffee. I have gained a certain appreciation for coffee stouts, but I'm almost always wondering what the regular, non-coffeed version would be like.

Nowadays, the trend is towards adjuncts and a kitchen sink of ingredients. Stuff like Hunahpu's, Bomb!, Mexican Cake, and today's beer: Perennial's Abraxas. It's an Imperial Stout brewed with ancho chili peppers, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks. There are other versions with even more ingredients, but this is the regular one lowly mortals like myself can get my hands on. I've not been particularly on the ball with these adjunct stouts, having only had a couple, so let's see if this is a trend worth hunting:

Perennial Abraxas

Perennial Abraxas - Pours black and viscous looking with a cap of short lived light brown head. Smells of roasted malts that give it a coffee or dark chocolate feel, with notes of vanilla and spice, definitely getting cinnamon, a little less in the way of chili (though that comes out a bit more as it warms). Taste has a light roast to it, again with the dark chocolate (less in the way of coffee), hints of vanilla, with the chili pepper coming more to the fore here. It's got a bit of a kick to it and the flavor comes through, but it's not really hot either. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied (I mean, it's not watery, but I was expecting a more substantial body here, especially when considering that it looked pretty thick as I was pouring), very low carbonation, not still, but close, and a little bit of heat from the chili peppers. There's a fine line between a complex beer and an unbalanced mess, and I kinda went back and forth on this one, eventually settling on complex, but it also strikes me as the sort of thing that will be different every time I have it. Overall this is good, and it gets better as it warms, but it's not the mind-blowing stout of the future I was lead to believe it would be. Perhaps a matter of dashed expectations, but it's still a solid beer that I'd totally seek out and drink again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 1/22/16. Bottled: 11/2015.

I could see barrel aging pulling this beer together, but from the looks of the trading boards, I don't feel like the hoop jumping would be worth it. This is a fine beer, but even this was too hard to get ahold of...

Marius Double Feature

| No Comments

Forest & Main's Marius series of oak-aged, fruited saisons is pretty clearly their most anticipated release. While normally laid back affairs, Marius releases tend to sell out right away. As a result, I've missed out on the first few releases. I finally got my act together for the most recent release, which was three different variants: Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. I split the Cherry with some friends and loved it (but never wrote down any notes - I'm the worst) so I was quite excited to crack open the other two whilst embarking on the great 2015 movie catchup. The Big Short kinda came out of nowhere and has a pleasingly odd pedigree, and I loved it. It's actually kinda the best explanation for the 2008 economic crisis I've seen (save the source material, of course) and the humor is mildly effective at toning down just how insane the whole situation was (and kinda still is). Kung Fu Killer is, erm, less successful, though it has some nice martial arts action sequences that'd make it worthwhile for fans of that sort of thing. Fortunately, this beer made up for any of that film's shortcomings:

Forest and Main Marius (Peach)

Forest & Main Marius (Peach) - Pours a striking, clear yellow color with a finger of fluffy head that has great retention that leaves a little lacing (for what it's worth, the second pour was more cloudy). Smells nice, some musty funk, but lots of fruit too, those peaches coming through well. Taste has a very nice earthy, musty funk to it with a fruity peach kicker, some tartness and oak pitching in towards the middle and lasting through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and dry, lightly acidic, almost quaffable. Overall, this is a winner, rivaling the Cherry though probably not exceeding it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

Forest and Main Marius (Plum)

Forest & Main Marius (Plum) - Pours a much more cloudy, darker yellow color with more head, at least two fingers, great retention, some lacing. Definitely has a distinctly different smell here, still some musty funk, but moreso than the Peach, and the plums certainly lend a different fruit character. Taste has more of a yeasty character to it, some of that earthy, musty funk, but also some more traditional estery feel along with the plum fruit, not as sour as the peach either, though there is a bit of tartness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and very dry, less acidic, though there is still something there. Overall, this too, is a winner, though not quite up to the level of Cherry or Peach. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/2/15. Bottled 11/4/15. Released 12/20/15.

More great efforts from Forest & Main. They've got an expansion underway, so I'm expecting to see great things from them in the nearish future.

Stout Rullquin

| No Comments

New Year's Eve has emerged as a time to drink lambic. At least, for me it has. So we cracked a couple bottles, and I found this to be the more interesting of the two. It's a very strange beer. It's a collaboration between Gueuzerie Tilquin and Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles wherein Tilquin blended 7/8 of La Rullés Brune with 1/8 of 1 year old lambics from Tilquin's stores (Tilquin does not brew their beer, but they do age and blend it) and then aged the result in barrels for 8 months. Truth be told, I almost didn't notice it sitting on the shelf because the (rather nifty) label blends the two collaborators' artistic styles (though not proportional to the blend of beer, but if they did that, Tilquin would get almost none of the label!) Tilquin used to be reliably available, but has been getting more scarce lately, so my eyes always perk up with I see their distinctive labels. We did it, you guys! We made another great beer hard to find!

This actually marks the second time I've had this beer, but the first time was at a share and I only had a small taste. At that time, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much the lambic came through. I mean, it was clearly a toned down character, but it was prominent and quite tasty. I had already procured this bottle and became quite excited at the prospect of getting a full pour. Then a curious thing happened. This bottle tasted different. Still good, but perhaps not as well balanced as the first pour. That or my palate was just way off that night. Regardless, it's still quite an interesting beer, and I wouldn't mind snagging a bottle and putting a little age on it to see how it fares. Until then, we're left with this:

Stout Rullquin

Tilquin/Rulles Stout Rullquin - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head. Smells musty, maybe some toasty malt character, definitely some straight Belgian yeast going on here, but you get hints of twangy funk in there too. Taste starts off like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, spicy, bready Belgian yeast, hints of toasty malt brightened by that funky lambic addition. It's not as big of an influence in this bottle as the last one I had, but it's there. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, pretty easy going. Overall, it's an interesting beer, and both times I've had it, it wasn't what I expected... but it was good nonetheless! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/15. Best Before: 31/03/2025. Released: September 2015.

Tilquin's Gueuze was the beer that made me see the light when it comes to sour beer, so I'm always on the lookout for their stuff. Would really love to try the blackberry lambic they recently made, but who knows when that will show up (and when it does, I'm sure it'll go quick).

Christmas Beer Recap

| No Comments

My favorite time of the year is the Halloween through Christmas corridor, and part of that is the seasonal beer we get. It's not fashionable to be into Christmas beers, winter warmers and the like, but I love them and always make room for some of them during the holidays. I know I just got done mentioning that I don't feel the need to write about every beer I drink, but now that the holidays are over, I need some way to occupy my time that doesn't involve poopsocking it through Fallout 4, so here's a sampling of two beers I drank for last minute Christmas wrapping fuel, and two that were gifts.

Ballantine Burton Ale

Ballantine Burton Ale - So Pabst revived the Ballantine name with a decent IPA, and for Christmas, they put together this little barleywine number. According to a bunch of strangers on the internets, this is the single best beer Pabst has ever made. Let's see, shall we? Pours a clear amber orange color with a finger of head and some lacing. Smells sweet, lots of dank, piney hops and a little dark fruit. Taste is also quite sweet, more of the dark fruit here, but the hops balance things out without feeling too bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tight carbonation, hints of booze, a sipper for sure. Overall, it's a solid little barleywine, tasty, and I haven't had something like this in a long time... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2015.

Samichlaus Classic 2010

Samichlaus Classic 2010 - It's become something of a Kaedrin tradition to do last minute Christmas wrapping whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies and imbibing a Samichlaus of some kind (or maybe, um, two of them). This year was no exception, and in the spirit of dipping into the cellar to drink some of my aged stock, I grabbed a 5 year old bottle. Pours a deep dark amber orange color with a half finger of head that quickly disappears. Smells intensely of clean, dark fruits, very sweet, a little booze. Tastes very sweet, sticky, sugary sweet, with muted dark fruit, and did I mention it was sweet? Not cloying though, age has treated this well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated. Overall, it's very good with some age on it, among the better I've had. I'm going with a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2010.

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo - My brother isn't a big beer guy, but usually manages to get some decent stuff. For instance, this year's selections included a Sierra Nevada Celebration, a La Fin Du Monde, and a few other beers I genuinely love yet rarely revisit. Then there's this one, which sounds like the most interesting of the lot on paper... English Strong Ale aged in oak barrels for over a year? Well sign me up! Alas, this runs into that Belgian pale ale character that I always find distressing and the oak aging doesn't feel harmonious at all. Something odd going on here. Pours a murky amber color with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smell has a lot of fruity character to it, some toffee and maybe some butterscotch, possibly diacetyl. Taste has more of that dark fruit, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, and a hint of tart astringency. Not, like, infected, but I think it's the result of that barrel aging. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but medium to full bodied. Overall, this seems well crafted, but it's just not really my thing. C

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Ridgeway Lump of Coal - A gift from a coworker, I knew I was in for trouble because I've never had a Ridgeway that I've ever liked, despite the fact that they put out, like, ten Christmas beers. Pours a clear dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of off white head. Does not smell like a stout at all, getting that toffee and butterscotch and diacetyl here. Taste is along the same lines, diacetyl and maybe even some skunking, this is terrible! Notes of death and decay. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, appropriate for the style I guess, but the problem lies not here. Overall, this is terrible! It doesn't even warrant taking the time to upload the image I took. I don't hand these out often, but this one earned it: F

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

A decidedly mixed bag this year. I shall have to endeavor to do better next year. In the meantime, New Years Eve drinking was more palatable, so I'll cover that one tomorrow.

A Few Trips to Levante Brewing

| No Comments

It's hard to keep up with the throng of newly christened breweries in the area, but when the brewery in question is only a mile or two away, how can I not stop in? Of course, proximity isn't the only factor in play here, otherwise I'd be chatting up uber-local Boxcar's generally mediocre offerings (to be fair, they have opened a new brewpub, and it's a fantastic space, even if their beer still seems to be subpar). But being close helps, and Levante has more to offer than Boxcar ever did. (Full disclosure, one of the brewers there is a former coworker.)

They formally opened about six months ago, but had been open on a provisionary basis for a month or two before that. I've actually been there several times over the past few months, but I've only just recently gotten around to taking some formal tasting notes. The tasting room is just part of the little warehouse where they've set up their brewery, but they've done a good job making it a welcoming area, and they have a great little nook for food trucks to sidle up to the building. They're only open a few days a week, but they've gradually been expanding that, and their distribution footprint is getting larger as well.

Their standard lineup is comprised of your common opening break of styles (IPA, Pale, Rye, Wit, Kolsh, etc...), but their rotating limited releases have only gotten better over time. Out of the standard lineup, I've enjoyed Pallido Pale Ale and Ranger Rye the most (and the blended, bourbon barrel aged version of Ranger Rye? Excellent!). I've also quite enjoyed the Glen Mills Mild (now dubbed Mild Porter because no one understood what a mild was (I don't think I have any British readers, but I'm guessing some facepalms are in order)), a perfect little 3.2% session ale. They've been somewhat less successful with Belgian styles, though their most recent attempts have been improving.

But where they've really nailed it is with stouts. Longtime readers know I've been pining for a local brewery to really embrace stouts, and I appear to have found my savior. Darkness is Spreading was a superb little milk stout with well balanced chocolate and vanilla additions. And then we come to Bullit Train, an excellent imperial stout made with bourbon vanilla. Both stouts were delicious, so when my brewer buddy informed me that they'd be releasing a bourbon barrel aged blend of Bullit Train on the day after Christmas, I was all over it. Merry Boxing Day! Some notes on that and a double IPA are below:

Levante Bullitt Train Bourbon Vanilla Stout

Bullitt Train Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Stout - A blend of three batches, one of which was aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, then it was put on the nitro tap. Pours a deep black color with a finger or two of gorgeous, dense light brown nitro head. Smells nice, big wafts of vanilla, caramel, hints of roast and chocolate. Taste follows the nose, lots of vanilla, some more roast than the nose, hints of the caramel and chocolate. The bourbon is there, but it's a light touch (I don't know the details, but I'm guessing only half or so of the blend was BBA). Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, as befits a nitro pour. High medium to full bodied, very approachable at 10.5%, no real boozy notes at all. Overall, Levante has proven quite adept at stouts, and this is no exception! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (nitro pour). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/26/15.

Levante Panic Room

Panic Room - I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Levante's single IPA, The Chief. However, their double IPAs are a different beast altogether. This pours a pale golden orange color with a finger or two of fluffy white head. Smells great, big citrus and pine hops. Taste hits the hops hard, again citrus and pine, with a substantial but well balanced bitter bite to it that lasts through the finish. This isn't one of them newfangled northeast "juicy" IPAs, but it's well crafted and delicious. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, no discernable booze, very nice. Overall, rock solid DIPA! B+ maybe an A- if I'm generous...

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/26/15.

A promising start from an uber-local brewery! I am greatly looking forward to where Levante goes next. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about them in the near future, so stay tuned!

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the B+ category.

B is the previous category.

B- is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.