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September Beer Club

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Due to various scheduling mishaps and vacations and whatnot, the August beer club never happened, and September ended up being a little on the delayed side. But we finally made it, and a good time was had by all. For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of like minded coworkers who get together for food and optional libations at a local BYOB. Tonight we hit up a regular Mexican establishment and had a rather good time.

Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, tentative thoughts on each beer are below, though they should be taken with a grain of salt, since tastings like this are not exactly ideal conditions. So here we go, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured).

  • Kona Castaway IPA - A surprisingly decent IPA, lots of mango in the aroma and flavor, tropical fruit hops and so on. It's not a mind-blowing beer by any stretch, but it's actually pretty damn decent. B+
  • Devil's Backbone Catty Wompus - A Belgian IPA that kinda come off a little light on the Belgian and even IPA character, though it did have a pretty solid amount of bitterness towards the finish. That being said, it felt like the Belgian elements were canceling out the hop character, rather than combining with each other. Certainly not a disaster, but not really my thing either. B-
  • Victory Prima Pils - A beer I've obviously had on numerous occasions, and it's as good as it ever was. Pilsners are not really my style, but if I was asked what I would want to drink within the style, this would be a worthy candidate. B
  • Victory Headwaters Pale Ale - I always forget how good this beer is, even if it's still not my favorite pale ale evar or anything that silly. Still, it's a rock solid take on a standard style. More thoughts here. B+
  • Sly Fox Oktoberfest - A decent take on a standard style. Nice toasty malt character, and a very drinkable beer for this time of year. B
  • Round Guys The Berliner - This Berliner weis is almost like a sorta crazy lemonade/beer hybrid. It's got a nice tarness to it, and the color is crazy pale, almost white. It's an interesting beer, something I'd like to try someday on its own, though it seems ideally suited for hot weather, and we're sorta heading away from that these days. B+
  • Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black - Not quite as good as I remember from last time I had this, but it's still got a nice roast and coffee base with a bit of hoppiness to follow. The first one of these I had a while back seemed a little more balance and hop focused, so who knows what's going on here. That being said, it was still quite nice to revisit this beer. B
  • Kaedrin Trystero Barleywine - So I gave up on hoping that my barleywine bottles would carbonate, dumped everything I had into my keg, and attempted to force carbonate the stuff. The result is decent, though I need to figure out a better way to transport the stuff (carbonation is better from the tap, but loses some of its punch in traveling in a resealable bottle). On the other hand, this turned out rather well, with a really nice bourbon and oak character to it. B+
  • Element Extra Special Oak (ESO) - This is quite an interesting beer, even if it's not particularly fantastic. It's a sorta amped up English ESB, with a little more alcohol and some oak aging. For something oak aged, there wasn't a whole lot to salvage, but it does have that sorta rich barrel feel that often pervades these types of beers. B
  • Neshaminy Creek Punkless Dunkel - Basically the same thing as last year's Punkle Dunkle (no idea why the name had to change), with a slightly different label (that, so far, is the only meaningful difference we've found yet. Big pumpkin and spice (cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and the like) notes, fabulous carbonation and smooth, wheatey mouthfeel. Really fantastic brew, just as good as last year, and probably my favorite of the night. A-
  • Elysian Oddland Ginger Berry Brown Ale - Doesn't seem like much of a brown ale, it's very pale, like an IPA. But this is brewed with ginger and wheat, so it should work itself out. On the other hand, I don't care much for ginger, so I'm obviously not going to love this. Still, it was decent enough. C+
  • DuClaw Bourbon Barrel Aged Serum - I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of BBA pale ales, or pale beers in general (i.e saisons, etc...). It comes off as more of a barrel aged barleywine than a DIPA... It's got the richness imparted from the oak and bourbon, but the playfulness has disappeared. Decent enough, but nothing particularly famous. B+
And that's all for now. Already looking forward to the next meetup...

Three Floyds Man-O-Awe

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Most breweries will have an American Pale Ale in their portfolio. Three Floyds has ten. Alright, that's a bit disingenuous, as looking closer at a few, I see a couple things that may have only been made once or in extremely limited quantities for special events. On the other hand, two of their most popular beers, Alpha King and Zombie Dust, are featured amongst the ten along with several other popular offerings, and I'm not including the similar stuff like Gumballhead (a pale wheat ale). Plus, it's not like Three Floyds shies away from regular old IPAs and Double IPAs, which represent a similar proportion of their output.

They like hops, is what I'm trying to say. So all these pale ales have to have some differentiation, and in this case, we've got a beer made primarily with Michigan hops. This is not that far from Three Floyds, which is situated in the northwest corner of Indiana, and thus somewhat local. Alas, Michigan is not exactly known for their hops. As per usual, Three Floyds does not really mention what specific hop varieties are used, but I'm guessing it's along the lines of classic American C hops like Cascade, Centennial, or Chinook. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that, and it's probably a good idea to decentralize hop production in the US (which is currently centered on the Pacific Northwest), but it means that this beer probably won't be blowing the hats off of snobby beer nerds in the way that Three Floyds manages to do with many of their other beers, like the Citra-based Zombie Dust.

But I'm a big tent guy, and when you have ten pale ales, you have to differentiate them somehow, so let's drink some Michigan hopped beer, least that aggressive looking gentleman-o-awe on the label get angry.

Three Floyds Man-O-Awe

Three Floyds Man-O-Awe - Pours a bright orange/amber color with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells of straightforward citrus and pine hops, with some grassy notes and a little crystal malt hanging around to say "Hi". Taste goes along similar lines, decent malt backbone, with crystal malt doing its thing, and plenty of grassy citrus and pine from the hops hitting in the middle, with a slightly bitter, pretty standard pale ale finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of medium bodied, and it sorta thins out towards the finish, which has a slight drying aspect to it that makes it go down rather quickly. Overall, this is a pretty standard pale ale, which would be fine, except you know, Zombie Dust. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/12/14. Bottled: 06/17/14.

Damn, this was almost three months old by the time I got to it... but then, I still rather enjoyed it. I suspect it would be even better fresh. Speaking of which, I've nearly exhausted my Three Floyds beer supply. They were mostly hoppy, so I wanted to get through them pretty quickly... I feel like I've been really hitting the hops pretty hard over the past month, so bear with me. We'll have plenty of other interesting stuff in the near future...

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

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When my beer mule texted me from Three Floydia (that's where the brewery is, right?) and asked me if I wanted a bottle of Apocalypse Cow, I had several thoughts. First, I responded asking her to purchase as much as she could fit in her car, and that I'd reimburse her with Vermont beer (as you can tell from recent posting, she fully complied and is, in fact, the bestest evar). Second, I kinda assumed this would be a milk stout (what with that "Cow" in the name), something akin to Moloko. Then I looked it up and hmm, an 11% ABV IPA? Well ok. It turns out that I wasn't that far off the mark, as this is an IPA brewed with a lactose addition. An unusual choice, considering that most 11% ABV beers don't particularly need any additional unfermentable sugars in the mix, but on the other hand, the added sweetness and velvety mouthfeel allow for moar hops. This is actually the first time I'd even heard of lactose in anything other than a stout, so I guess we're in for an interesting experiment.

It works better than you might think. Now, why there's a very angry, cyclopic cow on the label is a bit of a mystery, but then, Three Floyds isn't exactly known for sensible label artwork. At least in this case, the artwork is very well done. Alrighty then, I think that's enough babbling. You can either surf, or you can fight! Or, um, drink. Colonel Kilgore seems like a guy who'd enjoy beer.

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow - Pours a deep, dark orange color with a finger of off white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells enormously dank, piney and resinous, with some citrus and almost spicy hop notes playing along as well. The taste is very sweet, with that dank pine and resin kicking in quickly, leaving the juicy citrus notes and spicey hops towards the finish, which has just enough bitterness to balance out the sweetness. Mouthfeel is almost full bodied, but smooth and creamy (that lactose in action), with enough carbonation to cut through it all, though it does feel a bit sticky in the finish. While it certainly feels like a strong beer, the alcohol is reasonably well hidden... The full 22 ounces is a bit much, so perhaps it's a good one to share. Overall, this is a very interesting beer, and I haven't really had anything quite like it. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 9/6/14.

My Three Floyds supply is slowly but surely dwindling. But don't worry your pretty ears (ears? What's wrong with me?), there's plenty more to come.

Jack's Abby Hopstitution

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While it's easy for a homebrewer to pop over to a shop and purchase all the ingredients needed to make a beer, things are a bit more complicated for larger scale brewers. Ingredients like malt and hops are often purchased under contracts that need to be signed years in advance. Small or new breweries are often squeezed out of the most popular hops because they're all contracted out for several years. That being said, sometimes small quantities of popular but supply constrained hops will often become available. If you're a tiny brewpub operation that is constantly churning through new brews (a la Tired Hands), you can probably swing that sort of inconsistent approach. But if you're a larger brewer (and believe it or not, most are), that small amount of hops might allow you to make one batch of beer, but not more.

Hopstitution is Jack's Abby's answer to this conundrum. They'll make the same recipe, a 5.5% ABV extra pale lager, with every batch, only varying the hops based on what's available. What I have here is batch four, made with Australian hops (the label sez Aussie Rulez). Specifically, this was made with Ella, Topax, and Galaxy hops. I've actually not even heard of Ella or Topax, but Galaxy is one of the trendiest and thus supply constrainediest of hops, so let's see how this little experiment pays off:

Jacks Abby Hopstitution 4 Aussie Rulez

Jack's Abby Hopstitution #4 Aussie Rulez - Pours a slightly hazy, golden yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Aroma is beautiful, tons of tropical fruit hops. Taste is somewhat less powerful than the nose implies, though there's plenty of hop flavor to go around, with less bitterness than expected. Mouthfeel is crisp and clean, light bodied, quaffable. Overall, this actually might be my favorite Jack's Abby beer yet. B+

Beer nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/6/14. Bottled: 7/31/14 (I think? The day is hard to read on my bottle).

I also had a Session Rye IPL from my little Vermont Trip that was pretty darned good. I suspect Jack's Abby would be a regular purchase if they were local, and I should really figure out a way to try some of the more sought after brews...

Three Floyds Space Station Middle Finger

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Recent acquisitions have tended towards the hoppy, so I think you better hop aboard the hop train to delicious, as we'll be spending a lot of time there in the next few weeks. Here we have an American Pale Ale from the midwest ballers and Conan fans at Three Floyds. I don't normally go in for marketing blurbs, but this one is pretty funny:

From the dawn of time, humans have looked to the sky for answers. Space Station Middle Finger replies to all from its eternal orbit.
The notion of expending the resources to create a space station in this shape tickles me. A beer like this calls for proper glassware:

Three Floyds Space Station Middle Finger

Three Floyds Space Station Middle Finger - Pours a hazy gold color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head with good retention and lacing. Smells of citrus hops, with some piney and floral aromas poking in too. The taste amps up the floral hop aspect a bit, but those citrus and pine notes stick around and an ample hop bitterness rounds things out in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light bodied, thin, relatively dry, highly quaffable. Overall, this is a solid pale ale, but it's not really in Zombie Dust territory (which might not be fair, except it's the same brewery and it sorta begs the comparison). Not that I'm complaining, as I could drink this all damn day. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of whatever you call that Star Wars glass on 9/1/14.

Three Floyds sure knows how to craft themselves a pale ale, and I'm lucky enough to have a couple more in the wings, not to mention a sour and a couple other rarities (well, rare for us lowly East Coasters).

Collage - Conflux No. 1

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This collaboration between Deschutes and Hair of the Dog is aptly named, and is thus pretty complicated, so stay frosty. It's a blend of four different beers: Deschutes' The Dissident (a Flanders Oud Bruin) and The Stoic (a rather light colored take on an Quadrupel), and Hair of the Dog's Fred (from that nebulous American Strong Ale style) and Adam (an old ale). So that's a lot of stuff to combine, but then take the result and age in a variety of barrels. And I do mean a variety: Rye Whiskey, Cognac, Sherry, Pinot Noir, Bourbon, new American Oak, and new Oregon Oak. Naturally, the beer is finished off with another blending exercise, this time with all the results from the barrels. So get out your scrapbooks and prepare your embellishments, it's time to drink a collage.

Deschutes and Hair of the Dog Collage Conflux No. 1

Deschutes and Hair of the Dog Collage - Conflux No. 1 - Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown, with half a finger of light head. Smells of dark fruits, oak, vanilla, but also an unexpected vinegar note (I did not realize that The Dissident was a sour when I cracked this open and recorded my initial notes). Not necessarily a bad thing, I just didn't realize this was going to be a sour. The taste is quite complex, lots of varied fruits, cherry, grapefruit and the like, rich caramel, toffee, a certain mustiness, leather, spice, oak, vanilla, bourbon, vinous notes, wine, and other boozy notes with the sourness picking up towards the finish but not in an overpowering way. As it warms, those sour notes do start to become more prominent, but it's still part of a whole, rather than a really defining characteristic. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, rich, chewy, full bodied, and just a bit of acidity from the souring aspects. Overall, this is incredibly complex, I keep picking out new notes as I drink, even if it perhaps doesn't come together into a unified whole, it is still a fascinating beer that I would gladly try again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.6% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 8/30/14. Bottled: 4/30/12. Best After: 4/30/13.

Hey look, I finally managed to drink a barrel aged Deschutes beer after the Best After date. Of course, I only bought this beer a couple weeks ago, so it's apparently still available after two years. Not sure if my local beermonger was holding on to these and finally decided to let it fly, or if it's something Deschutes is still releasing... Whatever the case, I'm glad I got to try some.

Idletyme IPA

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It's time for round two of Vermont Roulette, wherein I purchase random Vermont beer that I've never heard of, drink it, and see if I survive. While round 1 was not tremendously successful, I did live to play again and this time, I think I've stumbled onto something rather good.

I purchased this at the Warren Store, and when I asked the guy about it, he said he hadn't tried it yet, but that it was brand new and that the brewery really just got started. Looking around ye olde internets reveals that the location has been around for a while, but that distribution is starting to expand. Or something like that. It used to be called The Shed, a pub built on an old youth camp called, yes, Camp Idletyme. The beer itself is a svelt 8% ABV DIPA with what seems like a relatively light malt bill and lots of "new" aroma focused hops. According to the brewer, they're still experimenting with the dry hop varieties (you know the story, small breweries can have a difficult time contracting for hops, especially the popular ones), but to my mind, they're on the right track. Good tymes!

Crop Bistro Idletyme IPA

Crop Bistro & Brewery Idletyme IPA - Pours a hazy, pale yellow with just a hint of orange and a couple fingers of fluffy white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of beautiful citrus hops, juicy and clean. As it warms, a sorta minty aroma arises out of that citrus. The taste has a nice sweetness to it, lots of that bright, juicy, citrus hop character, and only a hint of bitterness on the back end. As it warms, the hops get a little more earthy or herbal, but still bright, like the mint that emerges in the nose. Mouthfeel is reasonably well carbonated, light bodied, bright, crisp, and clean, quaffable. Overall, this is a very pleasant surprise. It's probably not a Heady Topper killer or anything like that, but it's a worthy take on the style, for sure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/30/14.

So there you have it, a solid DIPA that's bound to be underrated due to the gravity well of more famous Vermont beer. Worth a shot if you can find a fresh bottle (I get the impression that this beer would age poorly, even moreso than a lot of other IPAs), and I assume it's just as good on tap. So an unqualified success for Vermont Roulette. At least one more round coming, another relatively new brewery's take on an IPA.

Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker

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When it rains, it pours. No sooner than I got back from my trip to Vermont, a friend got back from her trip bearing tidings of Three Floyds, so now I find myself flush with amazing hoppy beers.

There's not much out there about this beer other than its 9% ABV, 100 IBU DIPA style. Cimmerians were a real ancient people, having flourished for a few hundred years around 600 BC. It's rumored that Robert Howard claimed his most famous creation, Conan the Barbarian, was descended from Cimmerians. This certainly fits the axe weilding maniacs and woolly mammoths on the label and is typical of Three Floyds' branding, so let's crush our enemies, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentations of their women. Oh, and drink their beer:

Three Floyds Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker

Three Floyds Cimmerian Sabertooth Berzerker - Pours a murky orange color with a finger of off white head that sticks around a while and leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of big citrus and dank pine, with some sort of "green" hops as well, and even a little crystal malt caramel or maybe even toffee. Taste is very sweet, with that rich toffee and caramel from the nose coming through strongly. Dank, resinous hops with just a bit of citrus character come in the middle and balance out all that sweetness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, a bit sticky. Overall, it's a big DIPA with enough malt presence to put this in strong ale or maybe even barleywine territory with just a few tweaks. Regardless, I'm enjoying it greatly. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/23/14. 100 IBU. Bottled 7/25/14.

Certainly not my favorite Three Floyds DIPA, but then, they apparently have a ton of them, and you'll be seeing some more of them in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

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

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