Recently in B+ Category

Funky Buddha Nikolai Vorlauf

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We've already established that Funky Buddha has a thing for kooky ingredients that they are mystically able to incorporate into good beers. Now it's time to take a look at a more unassuming take on a classical style. Sure, it's got oats and lactose, but those aren't particularly unusual in a big imperial stout, so this is about as close as it gets.

At first glance, I could not find any information on this fellow Nikolai Vorlauf, so I concocted a story based on the bear pictured on the label. A performer at the infamous Moscow State Circus, Nikolai got himself into trouble when he started walking on his hind legs and... exposing himself to passers by (hence the censored strip on the label). Thus began Nikolai's decades-long quest for revenge upon the cruel taskmasters at the circus. Alas, this speculation was foiled by the truth (imagine that!) It turns out this beer is named after two different things. One is Nikolai Volkoff, a WWF wrestler famed for his bearhug (he teamed up with The Iron Sheik to win the tag-team championship at the first Wrestlemania). The other is a brewing term, vorlauf, which is the process of clarifying the wort being drawn out of the mash tun. Not as fun as my version, but hey, it works:

Funky Buddha Nikolai Vorlauf, look at the bear on the label

Funky Buddha Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Stout - Pours a very dark brown color, almost black, with a finger and a half of tan head. Smells sweet, caramel and vanilla, hints of roast. Taste starts off sweet, that caramel and vanilla are here, typical milk stout feel too, a light smokey roast emerges in the middle, finishing on another sweet note. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied up front, but thinning out in the finish, low carbonation, maybe a hint of booze. Overall, this is rock solid, but nothing exceptional. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 7/15/16. Bottled on 11/18/15.

Many thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Steve for slinging this my way. More southern Florida goodies will be had in the near future, for sure, so stay tuned.

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir

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Once upon a beer trade, many orbital cycles ago, Jay of the quasi-defunct Beer Samizdat sent me a bottle of Eagle Rock Jubilee. Being a sorta hybrid old ale/winter warmer, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. So I kept my eyes open for Eagle Rock. Three years later, and lo, I hath finally secured another bottle of Eagle Rock wares. This is a red wine barrel aged dark mild ale (they use the genuinely sessionable Solidarity as the base) that has soured up nicely. Insert beer-themed film noir joke here:

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of musty, dusty funk, sour, vinous fruit, a little oak and vanilla. Taste has that sour vinous fruit character, less of the musty, earthy funk, finishing with a nice puckering sourness. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light bodied and nimble, well carbonated, with medium acidity. Overall, this is really quite nice. On the higher end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/16/16. Bottled: October of 2015. Batch: 002.

Nice, let's check in on them in another three years to see where they're at. Or, you know, we could try and do it before then. Only following the orbital cycles will tell.

Fantôme Forest Ghost

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So it's called Forest Ghost, but it's got palm trees and a beach on the label? Like, I'm sure ghosts enjoy traveling and vacations and all, but what's going on here? It turns out that this beer is brewed with Brazilian spices and since Brazil is known for their palm trees and forests, et voila! As per usual, I went into this with no idea what to expect and of course bustin' always makes me feel good:

Fantome Forest Ghost - Light

Fantôme Forest Ghost (Light) - Pours a mostly clear dark orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy, dense white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, candied malt, typical earthy Brett funk, maybe hints of fruit too, banana and raisins maybe? Taste has a nice sweetness up front, followed by some of that earthy Brett, noble hops, maybe some unidentifiable spice (peppery? Maybe it is identifiable), and finishing with that raisiny banana note. Mouthfeel is fuller bodied and richer than expected, though it's not a monster by any stretch. Well carbonated, tight, and balanced. Overall, rock solid stuff here, yet another interesting spin from Dany. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/15/16.

I've got the "Dark" version of Forest Ghost in the pipeline as well, though I may end up sharing that one with some friends. Always looking for more Fantôme!

Barrel-Aged Tröegs Double Feature

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Semi-local Tröegs has been steadily expanding of late, and one beneficiary of their success has been their barrel-aging program, which they call their "Splinter" series. They've been doing them for a while, but the initial offerings were very rare and dare I say, walezish. Recent expansions have allowed them to step up their game and the availability of these beers has been getting better (though nothing seems to approach those original sour offerings just yet), even for those of us who hesitate to drive out to Hershey on a whim. The two I have here were relatively recent releases, basically just barrel aged versions of standard-lineup offerings. Oddly, their names have changed from "Bourbon Barrel-Aged" to just "Barrel-Aged", though I'm not sure if that means anything. In at least one case, the newer vintage has not lived up to the reputation of its predecessor, but it's still pretty nice. Let's dive in:

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator - Pours a dark amber brown color with half a finger of off white head that is short for this world. Smells nice, lots of fruity malt character, raisins, light on the barrel-aged character, but oak and vanilla are definitely there and it's an improvement on the base. Taste hits the barrel aging notes more than the nose, adding rich sweetness, caramel, oak, vanilla, and booze notes to the base fruity malt character, which is lessened here in the taste. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated but smooth, with a warming alcohol note. Overall, this is really nice, certainly an improvement on the base. A strong B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/18/16. Bottled: 02/23/16.

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan - Pours a deeper, darker amber brown color with a finger of off white head. Smells good, less in the way of fruity malt but the slack is picked up with hops, again the barrel character is light in the nose, but it's there, imparting some of that booze, oak, and vanilla. Taste again plays up those hops, a little dankness here before the booze, oak, and vanilla kicks in... Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, perhaps a bit less smooth, but still with the warming alcohol. Overall, this is very nice, but far from a top tier BA barleywine, and honestly, I think I might prefer BA Troegenator... I could still give it a weak B+ though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/19/16. Bottled: 03/17/16.

Now they just need to put Impending Descent into barrels (and maybe amp up that ABV to original Scratch offering levels before that) and I'll be a happy camper. Regardless, I'm excited to see what comes out of the Splinter series in the coming months and years.

RAR Marylan

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One of the laziest things a brewer can do is make a blonde style beer (ok, not that part, that is kinda interesting as it's an underappreciated style) and then slap a label on it that features a (usually tastelessly buxom) blonde woman. It's been done a billion times before and even if it was the first time anyone had done it, it's still on the nose and not very clever (and that's before we get into how classy the artwork is). And yet... this beer manages to swing it. First, the design is great, a well composed silhouette in black. So how do we know it's a blonde? Well, Realerevival (a sorta play on Real Ale Revival, abbreviated RAR) is located in Maryland and if you remove the "d" you get Marylan, which sounds like Marilyn and I knew that face looked familiar! Gentlemen prefer blondes. It's on the borderline, but I'll allow it. What? Because my opinion matters, that's why? No? Well, you're right, so let's just fire up WinRAR to compress some files, shall we?

RAR Marylan

RAR Marylan American Blonde - Pours a hazy golden yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head and great retention. Smells very nice, light citrusy hops with a candied sweetness. Taste starts sweet, again with a sorta candied malt feel, and moves into a nice, mellow hoppiness without a real bitter bite. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, tight, crisp, quaffable. Overall, this is a very nice, aromatic, crushable can, perfect lawnmower or summer beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a willibecher glass on 6/10/16.

Many thanks to fellow beer nerd Gary for throwing a can my way. Am now much more curious to try me some more RAR beers...

Avery Callipygian

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Venus Callipyge is an ancient Roman statue depicting a partially draped woman with her head looking back and down, as if to evaluate her bare buttocks. Little is known of its origins or the original artist. Indeed, it is thought to be a copy of an even older ancient Greek statue, also of unknown origins. Let's just call the original sculptor Sir Mix-a-Lot, to recall a more modern appreciator of posteriors.

What does this have to do with beer? Well, Avery seems to think this 17.4% ABV monster is "well-rounded", which is a bit of a stretch. Full bodied and bodacious? Certainly! This is along the lines of something like Uncle Jacob's Stout, but with the ever-so-popular kitchen sink approach to ingredients. A big, bourbon barrel aged stout with coffee, cocoa, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans added. I would make some sort of additional Baby Got Back reference, perhaps adapting it to beer, but I will not sully such a lyrical masterpiece and instead, will just get to it:

Avery Callipygian

Avery Callipygian - Pours a deep black color with half a finger of short lived tan head. Smells of rich caramel, oak, bourbon, and vanilla, a little of that coffee is apparent and gets more prominent as it warms, but this is no coffee bomb (nowhere near something like Tweak). Taste hits similar notes, rich carmel, oak, vanilla, coffee, and lots of boozy bourbon. Again, the coffee is there, but far from dominant. Still, there's enough to raise my coffee indifference meter a bit. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, lots of boozy heat. To some people a 17% ABV beer will never be balanced, but this one seems a little more out of whack than similar efforts, though it gets more unified as it warms. Overall, a nice tweak (pun intended? Sure, why not.) on the bourbon barrel stout, kinda like a more complex, even less balanced version of Uncle Jacob's... B or, what the hey, I'm feeling generous: B+

Beer Nerd Details: 17.4% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 6/3/16. Bottled: Apr 25 2016. Production: 1174 Cases.

I'm liking that these barrel aged efforts are becoming more widely available around here, even if my favorites tend to be the simpler versions. Still, looking forward to trying more of these in the near future...

2SP Bourbon Barrel Aged The Russian

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Delaware County is a weird place. I say this as a man born and raised there. Blue collar with lots of Irish Catholics (I wen't to St. Dot's and Cardinal O'Hara). I'm surprised there's not a Delco flag. It's weird for a place to choose its identity based on its county, but Delco is a way of life. Apparently. Alright, fine, I'm exaggerating for effect here, but there is something a little... off about Delco. The point is, when a brewery opens up there, you can expect them to embrace their roots and take pride in their county. Whatever that may be.

2SP is the recently opened (er, last year) brewery arm of Two Stones Pub, a small chain of solid little beer bars located mostly in Delaware. Head brewer and Delco's native son Bob Barrar made a name for himself brewing for Iron Hill Brewpub in Media, earning numerous medals at GABF and other big contests. One of his most famous creations is Iron Hill's Russian Imperial Stout, a beer that he's adapted for new life at 2SP. As local imperial stouts go, it's great and I look forward to seeing it around more often. Now they've put it in Bourbon Barrels and aged it for 8 months? Sold, even if it is a pricey bottle. I've often mentioned the need for a more regularly available local BBA stout; will this beer fill that need? Well, maybe?

2SP Bourbon Barrel Aged The Russian

2SP Bourbon Barrel Aged The Russian - Pours a deep, dark brown color, almost black, with a solid finger of light brown head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of molasses, caramel, vanilla, with hints of the bourbon and oak pitching in as well. Roast comes out a bit more in the taste, along with similar elements from the nose, light caramel and vanilla, with just a bit of vanilla and oak. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated (moreso than typical for the style - not inappropriate, but it does lighten this beer up a bit more than it probably should), a nice sipper. Overall, it's solid, but not a top tier affair. Honestly, I might like the regular The Russian better... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 5/20/16. Batch No. 001. Bottle No. 459.

I've generally enjoyed everything I've had from 2SP, so I'm looking forward to keeping tabs on them in the coming years. As for a world class local BBA stout? This isn't quite there yet, but we've got another candidate coming soon. Stay tuned.

Wicked Weed Double Feature

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One of these days, I'll have to make my way down to Asheville, North Carolina and check out their brewpub scene, but for now, I'll have to make due with muled bottles of Wicked Weed. I've had good luck with their barrel aged sours, but was really happy to get my grubby little hands on these IPAs. They have a pretty good reputation as a standard West Coast take on the style, which is a nice change of pace for those of us enmeshed in that whole Northeast Milkshake IPA thang. Let's not waste any more time babbling about this and dive in:

Wicked Weed Pernicious

Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA - This appears to be their flagship IPA, lots of hops and minimal malt influence. Pours a crystal clear golden yellow color with a few fingers of fluffy white head. Smells primarily of citrus and floral hops. I feel like I should say more, but that's pretty much what it is, and it's great. Taste has a nice light sweetness to it providing an ample platform for those citrusy, floral hops, maybe a bit of pine emerging here too, finishing with a light bitterness. Mouthfeel is light bodied, crisp, and tightly carbonated, making for a nice, quaffable glass. Overall, a rock solid IPA, maybe even above average, but this is a crowded category... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (11.2 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 5/20/16. Bottled 04.21.16

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature Double IPA

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature Double IPA - They call this a "San Francisco inspired hoppy monster", but I'm not entirely sure what makes it so other than the West Coast approach. They mention adjunct additions to dry out the beer, so maybe they used Rice-A-Roni. You know, the San Francisco treat? No? Alright, that's stupid, let's just get to the beer: Pours a slightly darker, but still clear golden yellow color with a finger of white head. The smell has a sweeter note to it, but the hop profile is similar to Pernicious, lots of citrus and floral aromas, also some pine peeking in. Taste is definitely sweeter, but the hops are more prominent to match, citrus and pine with floral notes. On the other hand, the finish is less bitter. Mouthfeel is definitely a bit heavier, medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry. Overall, this is bigger and bolder, but still approachable and tasty. An improvement on Pernicious, but still a B+, but, like, a higher B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/20/16. Bottled 05.03.16.

Many thanks to Kaedrin friend Danur for procuring these bottles for me. Will definitely be on the lookout for more from these fellas, and if I ever make my way down to Asheville, I will most certainly be spending time at their establishments...

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

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