Recently in B+ Category

AleWerks Lover's Greed

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How do you do, dear reader? I am your most obedient servant and I am right heartily glad to see you. Forsooth, I have a most curious beer to discuss with you. Hailing from the honorable brewery known as Aleworks, situated close to the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia, this elixir began its life in a traditional brick wrapped brewhouse with open flame (as opposed to the modern heathens who useth more gentle steam systems), then slumbered for nearly 18 months in French oak barrels formerly used to age red wine. Truly a testament to the fleeting virtue of patience, that most humble of qualities. Hold ye onto thine britches, for these suds pack a sour punch:

AleWerks Lovers Greed

AleWerks Lover's Greed - Pours a pale, hazy reddish orange color with a finger of fizzy head that quickly resolves into a cap of head that sticks around for a while. Smells of vinous fruit, sour cherries, and tart vinegar. Taste is surprisingly mellow, definitely lots of tart fruit, cherries and grapes, vinegar tones, a little in the way of oak and vanilla, sour but not overpoweringly so. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated but smooth, slightly acidic but not a monster. Overall, a nice American wild ale; it's quite approachable and goes down rather easy, comporting itself well in a crowded and competitive style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/16/15. Vintage: 2014.

Many thanks to Danur for the bottle! Also, I beg your pardon for my horrid attempts at colonial speech. It's funny, AleWerks has even dropped Williamsburg from their name, so I'm guessing they're trying to distance themselves from that connotation. Regardless, I've enjoyed most everything I've had from this small operation, and have been on the lookout for Bitter Valentine for a while now... There's always next year.

A Pair of Forest & Main Releases

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I've been doing a better job keeping up with Forest & Main's bottle releases lately, in part because they're such low-pressure affairs. Unlike a Tired Hands release, where you need to arrive at least a couple hours early, I can roll up right around opening time and still snag a bunch of bottles. People do wait in line, but it's definitely a more relaxed atmosphere and everything moves swiftly once the doors open. Oh yeah, and the beer's pretty good too.

Two beers at the latest release. One was Paradisaeidae, named after a family of birds known as the Birds of Paradise, a barrel-aged saison brewed with Forest & Main's local saison yeast, conditioned on lemongrass and lime, and dry hopped with Motueka. I never knew this, but Forest & Main's saison yeast is foraged from a variety of flowers and fruits growing within a few blocks of the brewpub ("Cultures from mulberries, cherries and honeysuckle made the final cut.") They switch up the yeast every year, so you can expect significant variations between vintages.

It's unclear if every saison they make uses this foraged yeast, but the second bottle I snagged, Ash & Alder (presumably a reference to the trees used to make Fender guitar bodies) was a more traditional saison except that it was dry hopped with Mosaic and Mandarina Bavaria. Unlike Paradisaeidae, this is not barrel aged and isn't really suitable for aging. I'm sure it would do just fine, but judging from the nose on this sucker, you really want to drink it fresh. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's take a closer look at both of these beers:

Paradisaeidae

Forest & Main Paradisaeidae - Pours a hazy golden orange color with a finger of dense white head. Smells funky, sour, fruity, with some oak pitching in for good measure. A very well integrated nose, actually. Taste starts off with a sour little snap that quickly subsides as things get earthy in the middle, funk and oak, some fruity hops and hop bitterness emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, lightbodied, moderate sourness and acidity, a little dryness in the finish. Overall, a nice sour saison, but not quite the equal of some of their other offerings, notably Moeder saison or Marius variants. Still very nice, a solid B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/10/15. Bottled: Feb 26 2015 (Released May 2015)

Ash and Alder

Forest & Main Ash & Alder - Pours a more hazy, slightly darker golden color with tons of fluffy white head. Absolutely beautiful nose, perfect melding of saison spice, fruit, and funk with citrusy hops. Great tropical fruit aromas, oranges and the like. Taste is a little more subdued than the nose would have you believe, and the balance definitely leans more towards the spicy saison up front, with the hops kicking in towards the bitter finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, crisp and clean, and very, very dry. Overall, this is one of the better hoppy saisons that I've had, well worth checking out when fresh. A high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/10/15. Bottled: Feb 13 2015 (Released April/May 2015)

As per usual, solid work from Forest & Main. Always consider heading up there and should really visit more often. I am getting better, I swears.

Hammerhead

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No, this beer is not named for the awesomely badass shark. Like all of Hanger 24's Barrel Roll series beers, it's named after an aerial maneuver which is, in itself, named after the badass shark. I think. I mean, I guess it could also be named after, you know, the head of a hammer. But I prefer to think it's the shark that drove the name. It's a turn-around maneuver where the plane goes vertical, appears to stall, then rotates as the plane descends in a quarter loop so that it's made a full 180° turn. Or something. I'm clearly not a pilot, and haven't even really played one in video games.

After Pugachev's Cobra introduced me to Hangar 24's barrel aged beer program, I quickly resolved to sample more from the series, and this Barleywine aged in rye whiskey and bourbon barrels certainly did the trick. So let's take this highway to the danger zone:

Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No 4 Hammerhead

Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 4 Hammerhead - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of slow forming head. Smells sticky sweet, toffee and caramel, werthers original, a little bourbon, oak, and vanilla, a sorta rum-soaked fruit thing going on too. Taste is very sweet, some sticky toffee, light caramel, brown sugar, rum soaked fruit, with boozy bourbon hitting in the finish. The mouthfeel starts out in a way that makes you think this is a big, rich, chewy, full bodied beer, but it quickly thins out a little, with the barrel aged richness dissipating into the hot, boozy finish. It is perhaps not as hot as Pugachev's Cobra, but it gets the job done. Overall, this is a pretty great barleywine, not quite top tier, but well worth the stretch. A high B+, maybe A- territory, but will need to try again. If only someone would twist my arm and give me another bottle.

Beer Nerd Details: 13.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 5/2/15. Vintage: March 2015.

Would be really curious how a spell in the cellar would treat this one, and may actually have an opportunity to try that out. In the meantime, will be brushing up on my aerobatics and on the lookout for more Barrel Roll beers.

Three Floyds BackMasking

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Remember all the paranoia about Satanic cults back in the 80s? This manifested in many ways, but one of the coolest is something called backmasking. That's when you can discover a hidden message if you play a recording backwards, usually something Satanic or generally meant to corrupt the youth of the day. The Beatles famously popularized the notion of backmasked music, but thanks to human beings' predilection for pareidolia (i.e. finding meaning in something that is random, like shapes in the clouds), rumors of hidden messages became rampant in the 60s and 70s (the Beatles' good natured exploration came back to plague them later with rumors of Paul's death).

None of this was new, of course. Thomas Edison noticed the phenomenon almost immediately after inventing the phonograph, and even the Satanic connection dates all the way back to 1913, when Aleister Crowley wrote a book that advised those who were interested in black magic to "learn how to think and speak backwards." Along with related paranoia surrounding subliminal messaging, backmasking and satanism peaked in the 80s and has subsided as it's been proven that such techniques aren't exactly effective. But it's fun to go back and read all those irrational fears.

The advent of digital recording technology has lead to a bit of a resurgence in backmasking, as it's a lot easier to accomplish now. Artists being artists, they've always fought against the false accusations by using backmasking for humorous or satiric effect. For instance, there's a Mindless Self Indulgence song called Backmask which, when played forward, has all the nasty lyrics like "go kill yourself", but when played backwards, the hidden message is revealed: a soothing female voice tells the listener to be good, "Don't stay out too late", "Get dressed for church" and so on. Irony! (For the record, it's a clever idea, but the song ain't exactly great.)

So this beer is an ode to that Satanic scourge, with a perfectly executed label. Very much fitting with Three Floyds' brand. Oh. Oh no, I'm talking about branding now. What is wrong with me? Please forgive me, dear reader, I deal with this stuff for my day job sometimes. I try not to let it bleed through to the beer blog and... why are you looking at me like that? Stop judging me! Beer. The beer! So this is a relatively straightforward Oatmeal Stout that is variously reported as 6% or 8% ABV, depending on who you ask. I'll assume 8% because that's what Three Floyds' website sez, even if their labels frustratingly omit ABV for some unfathomable reason.

I was going to try and unearth some Satanic messages in this beer, but decided that "drinking beer backwards" would not be very fun (and apparently peeing doesn't count) so I'll have to lead it as an exercise for the reader, if you're so inclined.

Three Floyds BackMasking

Three Floyds BackMasking - Pours a deep black color with a finger of tan head that has decent retention and leaves a little lacing as I drink. Smells sweet, dark malts, but not super roasty, not quite caramel or toffee either, but closer to those than your typical stout. Taste is where the roasty hell-like notes come in to play, brimstone and the like, but there's lots of other things going on. Not as sweet as the nose would imply, but it's got notes of caramel and vanilla, some faint piney hops and a little hop bitterness towards the finish. As it warms, the hops come out a little more. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, thinner than expected but still pretty substantial, well attenuated, faintly satanic, plenty of carbonation and a silky feel. Overall, it's a rock solid moderate-ABV stout, well worth seeking out. B+ would try again.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/1/15.

As always, Three Floyds is worth the stretch and they have great brandin... dammit, I'm doing it again. Leave me alone, I learned it from watching you! What? I'm... sorry, I don't know what is going on right now.

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!)

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

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