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Cascade Sang Rouge

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I was going to put a bunch of effort into working a Le Cercle Rouge reference in here, but I figured the tenuous connection (zomg, they both use the French word for Red) and obscurity means I shouldn't bother. Any Jean-Pierre Melville fans in the house? No? Alright then, moving on.

This is yet another in Cascade's long line of sour ales; a blend of red ales that were aged in oak wine barrels and oak foudres for for up to three years. Previous iterations have mentioned that it was a blend of as many as nine lots of beer, which is always an interesting exercise. Sometimes blending can add complexity and balance, other times it just sorta levels out all the spiky bits, covers up imperfections, making for a less complex but more consistent beer. While this is certainly another Cascade win, I'm also betting this trends towards the latter speculation. This is still very good, but it doesn't really stand out if you know what I mean. Or not. I'm not even really sure what I mean by that. Give me a break. Let's take a closer look at this "red blooded" sour and plan some elaborate beer heists:

Cascade Sang Rouge

Cascade Sang Rouge - Pours a clear but very dark amber or ruby color with a finger of fizzy but long lived off-white head. Smells great, vinegar, cherries, musty funk, a little oak and vanilla too. Taste hits those sour notes pretty hard, sweet, tart fruit, cherries, blackberries and the like, some of that oak and vanilla pitching in where it can, then more sourness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, some oaky richness, well carbonated, plenty of acidity. Overall, a nice little sour number. Could be an A-, but I'm not feeling generous at the moment, so B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 11/21/15. Vintage: 2013 Project (2015 Release).

Cascade certainly has their house sour style dialed in, and with a single freak exception, I've enjoyed everything I've had from them. I'm sure this won't be the last we see of them on the blog...

Cismontane Black's Nocturne

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I'm continually fascinated by the subtleties of barrel aging. It's fun to try and reverse engineer what makes one beer great and another not as successful, though I'll be the first to admit that my SWAGs are just that. I am totally the worst, as has been amply demonstrated in this here blog. There are so many things that could impact the final product (i.e. the base beer recipe, the barrel conditions, the brand of bourbon used, the time in the barrel, and so on) that it's hard to pinpoint causality. But it's still fun, because I'm the worst! So let's look at a couple of cases.

Last year, I was blown away by Stone Fyodor's Classic, a revelatory BBA imperial stout. As such, when this year's vintage rolled around, I was fully on board and went out of my way to procure some. I excitedly popped the cork on the new bottle and quickly found myself underwhelmed. It was fine, but it was not the revelation of the previous year's vintage. Surely this is just subjectivity at work, right? Revelations tend to be one time things and I do kinda hate when people quickly proclaim that this year's batch of this or that hyped beer is not as good as last year's (a perennial complaint about Pliny the Younger and Hopslam, for instance), so I kinda wrote off my reaction as unwarranted. Then I had another underwhelming bottle and noticed something on the back. Because I'm a packrat that saves empty bottles of beer I really liked (I am the worst), I checked last year's bottle and lo:

Back label details of two vintages of Fyodors Classic
(click to embiggen)

7 months in the barrel versus 12 months. It appears I was not imagining things (not the worst? Eh, let's reserve judgement on that one.); the extra time in the barrel apparently works wonders! But then, given all the other variables, we can only really apply this conclusion to Stone's IRS. Other beers aged for 7 months or less have still turned out well, so age probably isn't always the operative factor. But it clearly made a difference here, and I have to wonder how many people bought this year's vintage after having heard the praise of the previous year...

In the case of California's Cismontane brewery and their Black's Nocturne, I'm at a disadvantage since I've never had the original vintage. This will not stop me from speculating though, since I am the worst (see? Told you.) The beer actually has a great reputation, and while I enjoyed this new bottle, I don't think it rivals the best of the bourbon barrel aged stouts. It's true that this is a high bar to clear, but after I drank this and looked at the reviews, I was surprised by the discrepancy. So I looked into it, and a few things jumped out at me. This year's vintage is "aged in Markers Mark bourbon barrels for 289 days" and clocks in at 11% ABV. The previous iteration? A 12% ABV beer "aged ... for nearly a year in fresh Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels, which we then blended in an attempt to tame the bourbon beastliness." So there's lots of differences here. First, Heaven Hill versus Maker's Mark should make a difference (and honestly, I'm not a huge fan of Maker's), then you've got the ABV, and finally a blending with fresh beer. All of which is to say, this year's vintage probably does not resemble the previous vintage. I'd be really curious to test out that hypothesis, but I don't think that's in the cards. In the meantime, let's take a closer look at this sucker:

Cismontane Blacks Nocturne

Cismontane Black's Nocturne - Pours a deep black color with a finger of quickly dissolving tan head that nevertheless leaves a little lacing. Smells sweet, lots and lots of vanilla, less in the way of bourbon and oak, hints of caramel and roast but they're not as prominent as expected. Taste has some of that rich caramel, a little bit of roast, hints of liquorish, and a surprisingly clean finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, and while it's not dry, it's surprisingly light on its feet. That being said, absolutely no hint of the high-ish ABV here at all, though it's still a sipper. Overall, it's an interesting and tasty beer that I'd certainly try again, but nowhere near top tier BBA stouts. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 11/13/15. Bottled 150902.

I'd certainly try this again, but I'll be even more curious to try next year's vintage, if I can swing it.

Boon Vat 77 Mono Blend

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If not for the 10% young lambic blended into this beer (which provides enough lively yeast and fermentables to allow for carbonation in the bottle), it would be something akin to Single Barrel Lambic, an intriguing concept. The other 90% is sourced from a single oak foudre, numbered (you guessed it) 77. This particular cask was originally made in 1907, and while it's survived two world wars and undoubtedly seen other uses during its long history, it's been used by Boon to age three year old lambic for use in their gueuze blends since 1986. Apparently Frank Boon has a particular love for the beer that comes out of this cask, and so when they started this mono-blend series, it was only a matter of time before it was selected for a release. These fine folks even managed to snag a picture of the foudre:

The actual Vat 77
(Click to embiggen)

Of course, these foudres are gigantic (averaging 8,000 liters each), so don't expect to see anything like the Single Barrel Bourbon or Scotch world, where local stores pick a barrel and bottle it, but wouldn't that be neat if beer could pull off something like that? You know someone would take a flier on a Password is Taco barrel or snag a single barrel BCBS, or fly to Belgium and snag a Cantillon barrel. I doubt most breweries would be all that keen on the prospect, but who knows? Maybe one of these big barrel programs will differentiate themselves with this sort of thing (and, you know, do a better job than Retribution). In the meantime we'll have to make due with approximations like this Mono Blend, which was actually a really interesting beer and something I'd like to compare against future releases... Let's take a look at how it's drinking now:

Boon A L ancienne Vat 77 Mono Blend

Boon Oude Gueuze A L'ancienne Vat 77 Mono Blend - Pours an almost clear golden color with a finger of fluffy head that lasts for a bit, but not indefinitely. Smells quite funky, lots of earthiness, lots of farmhouse, maybe even some funky cheese character. Taste also goes quite earthy, and frankly doesn't feel all that sour at all, lots of leathery farmhouse character, not as cheesy as the nose would have you believe I guess, but still quite different than I'm used to for a Gueuze. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, only a very slight hint of acidity, much more funky than sour. Overall, this is an interesting beer! I don't quite know what to make of it, actually, as it's really quite nice, but also not your typical Gueuze... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tumbler on 11/7/15. Brewed 10/26/11 and 10/27/11. Bottled 10/24/13. Best before 10/24/2033.

Next up in the Mono Blend series is Vat 79, which is apparently the oldest cask they have, dating back to 1883. Would love to compare these two next to each other someday. In the meantime, Boon is one of the few Lambic producers who you can actually find, so go out there and snag some of those Marriage Parfaits, they're pretty good too.

So we all know about Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien due to their delicious hybrid beer/wine nature and pricey vintages. Those swanky Swiss brewers make some damn fine beer, but those releases are all big blends of a variety of barrels. However, they do make some individual barrel releases to hone in on a specific character, and those beers are marked with the Grand Cru designation (remember, though, Grand Cru means almost nothing in the world of beer and is never consistently applied between brewers). This particular bottle comes from Rum casks, and is labeled "Megamix Rum Casks Vol 2", which I assume means this is the second time they've done rum casks or something like that. It would be interesting to taste a few different Grand Cru expressions, and I'm sure I could afford the second mortgage it would take to make that happen. We'll just have to live with the single bottle my procurement department scrounged up. Woe is me.

BFM Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien Grand Cru 2015 (Megamix Rum Casks Vol 2)

BFM Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien Grand Cru 2015 (Megamix Rum Casks Vol 2) - Pours a moderate amber color with a cap of off white head. Smells along the lines of regular old Bon-Chien, hints of vinegar, oak, and vanilla, but with less of a vinous feel. I don't really get rum, per say, but it does feel more spirits based than wine based, so that type of barrel character is coming through in the nose. Now the taste, on the other hand, does feature rum rather prominently, along with typically mellow Bon Chien acetic sourness, and some general malt sweetness that plays well with the rum sweetness. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, not as sour or acidic as usual, but that's there too. Carbonation a little low, but that might be a general feature of Bon Chien. Overall, this is an interesting twist on the Bon Chien paradigm, tasty and worth checking out, but perhaps not as complex or balanced as regular Bon Chien. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a wine glass on 11/6/15. Brewed in 2013. Bottled in 2015 (somewhere around March 2015).

Not too shabby, and I'd have to imagine some barrels would be better for this treatment than others, so I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for more...

Wes Craven Double Feature

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session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This time around, I'm hosting a discussion on Double Features:

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that's fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I'm a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point. The possibilities are endless!
Endless indeed! This is the second iteration on the theme I've posted this week.

This time, we've got a more harmonious double feature, two beers and two movies themed around Wes Craven. Since his passing, I've been catching up with some of his work I hadn't seen before and revisiting his classics. On Halloween, we had a little mini-marathon, starting off with his most famous work, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The premise alone establishes it as one of the purest distillations of horror ever committed to film. Is there anything more inescapable and terrifying than a monster that can get you in your dreams? We could debate some third act issues, but it's still a classic.

Nightmares on Brett Street

To pair with this, we've got a doozy from Colorado, Crooked Stave's Nightmare on Brett, a clear reference to Craven's masterpiece (also paired with some Eclat Chocolate, because why not?) There are a bazillion variants of this beer, but this one was aged in Leopold Bros. Whiskey barrels with cherries. Previous iterations indicate that the base for this was a soured baltic porter, and the aging intervals are usually pretty long (1 year plus). I'm also not sure if the cherries were included in the past, but this one is pretty clear. Clocking in at the cheeky ABV of 9.666% ABV, it was the perfect accompaniment and tribute to Craven and his movie:

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) - Pours like a stout, a murky black color with a finger of light brown head, quite nice looking. Smells fantastic, an almost chocolate covered cherry aspect that pervades the nose, but also a hint of roast and musty funk. Taste goes in with sweet and sour up front, cherries, actually let's call them rich caramelized cherries, less in the way of chocolate but those dark malts are there and come out more towards the finish, which is also quite sour and a bit funky. Lingers a bit on those sour and funky notes. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium to full bodied, with a barrel aged richness cut by moderate acidity. Pretty easy going for the ABV. Overall, this is quite spectacular. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.666% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/31/15. Bottled September 2015.

Next up, some lesser Craven, a movie called Deadly Blessing. One of the few Craven directed movies I've not actually seen, there's certainly a reason for that, but as with literally everything I've seen from Craven, he has this X-factor, a way of getting under your skin that is usually present in varying levels. It's true, this isn't a tremendous film, but it's got lots going for it, and some really effective sequences that make it worth seeking out for students of the genre. To match, we cracked open a growler of an unsoured baltic porter from Tired Hands called, appropriately, Craven (part of their Horror Auteurs theme for the season - which includes beers named after Carpenter, Argento, Hitchcock, and others!) Just one of the many reasons I love Tired Hands so much. The beer's pretty good too:

Tired Hands Craven

Tired Hands Craven - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells nice, sweet dark malts, hints of roasted marshmallow, baker's chocolate, maybe even coffee (maybe even coffee with sugar and creme). Taste has much more of a roasted character to it, some coffee-like flavors coming through, but also dark chocolate and just a hint of molasses, finishing back on that roasted tip. Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, and well attenuated (not dry, but not a sugar bomb either), no hints of the booze at all despite the highish ABV of 9.8%. As it warms, it feels a little more rich and chewy, but nothing ridiculous. Tired Hands isn't really known for their darker beers, and this probably won't change that, but it's certainly worthy. Overall, a rock solid baltic porter here, tasty and complex enough to stand apart from the crowd. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV from a growler (1L swingtop). Drank out of a charente glass on 10/31/15. Growler filled 10/31/15.

It was quite a night. Is it really fair to compare a soured baltic porter with a non-soured baltic porter? Nope! But it was interesting nonetheless, and while it's hard to compare the two against each other, they do work well as contrasts. Anywho, we popped in Scream after Deadly Blessings, though we were still working our way through Craven. It's very much a product of its time, but if you keep that in mind (as you should), it holds up reasonably well.

Big thanks to Kaedrin beverage compatriot Jeff for smuggling the Nightmare on Brett bottle back from Colorado when he went to GABF back in September!

There may be one more Double Feature this week, or maybe not, depending on my mood (it wouldn't be beer anyway, so don't hold your breath), and of course, the roundup will be posted this weekend. I hope you're all toiling over your posts as we speak!

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This time around, I'm hosting a discussion on Double Features:

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that's fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I'm a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point. The possibilities are endless!
Endless indeed, hence I'm going to post at least two double features this week in anticipation of the big event on Friday.

First up, a double feature of convenience. Longtime readers know I'm a big fan of San Francisco's Almanac Beer Co. and while I've been able to snag a bottle here or there through means, they've just recently started distributing to the Philadelphia area in earnest. As such, every time I go to the store, I find myself drawn to purchase another of their delicious beers I've not had before. A hearty welcome to Pennsylvania from all of us (i.e. me) here at Kaedrin:

Welcome to PA

Anywho, here are two beers I cracked open this weekend whilst viewing a bunch of horror movies in honor of Halloween (notably Trick 'r Treat and Ghostbusters, neither of which are particularly well suited to the beers I'm drinking except that, well, they're all quite good!) First up is Citra Sour, the first of a new series of single hopped sour beers (up next is Simcoe Sour), an interesting fusion of styles that has never quite caught on, but which might if efforts like this keep things going. Truth be told, I think I prefer the straight up fruited sours moreso than hopped sours, but variety is a good thing, and this is pretty tasty.

Citra Sour

Almanac Citra Sour - Pours a cloudy straw yellow with a finger of white head that sticks around for a while. Smells... interesting, that Citra hop character is prominent, floral citrus notes, but an underlying sour twang is there as well. Taste is a good deal more vinous than the nose would suggest, clearly those wine barrels kicking in, and the oak features prominently as well. The Citra hops do kick in about halfway through and persist through the sour finish. Quite puckering, actually, I think the hops only serve to intensify the sourness. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light, bright, and quite acidic. Overall, I'm still not convinced that high amounts of hops are a great match with sour, but this is still rather nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/30/15. Bottled July 2015.

After letting the palate cool off for a bit, I cracked open Farmer's Reserve Citrus, which I believe is the same base Sour Blond Ale aged in wine barrels, but instead of hops, we've got a melange of citrus fruits, including Buddha's Hand Citron, Blood Orange, and Yuzu. The Farmer's Reserve stuff have been my favorite offerings from Almanac, and this one did not disappoint:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Citrus

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Citrus - Pours a mostly clear golden yellow color with a finger of short lived white head. Smells more funky, some citrus and sour twang, but some earthy Brett character pitching in here too. Taste again hits with that earthy, musty funk, lots of tart citrus fruit, a little wine barrel, oak and vanilla, and finishing with a nice sour bite. Mouthfeel is slightly less carbonated, still light and bright, the acidity feeling a bit less intense too. Overall, this is not quite as intense, but it is much more balanced than the Citra Sour. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/30/15. Bottled June 2015.

So there you have it. Next up in the Double Feature realm will be a much more harmonious beer and filmic pairing centered around Wes Craven. Stay tuned! And if you've got a blog, feel free to play along. More details on The Session and how to participate can be read here!

Prairie Okie

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Okie is the shortened form of Okie Dokie, which is itself an alternate way to say Okay, which can be abbreviated OK, which is the two letter state code for Oklahoma, which is where Prairie Artisan Ales is based, which is why this beer is named Okie. Though clearly it should be called Oakie, since this is a whiskey barrel aged imperial brown ale. We will give them the benefit of the doubt and guess that these Prairie guys don't enjoy puns as much as most brewers. You stay classy Prairie. In the meantime, I will drink your beer:

Prairie Okie

Prairie Okie - Pours a clear, deep brown color with some amber highlights and half a finger of white head. Smells of dark malts, toasty, nutty, toffee, not a lot of barrel character, but some vanilla comes through. Taste is very sweet, some of that typical brown ale toast character, a little nutty, maybe hints of molasses, again very little bourbon barrel, but it's there, and it contributes to the sweetness factor. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, very sweet, almost creamy. Full bodied, but not super heavy, and it feels mellower than you'd expect from a BA imperial brown. Overall, this is quite nice, though one could wish for a little more barrel character. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 10/24/15. Bottled July 11, 2015 (I think).

I think I've generally enjoyed everything I've ever had from Prairie, but few things have blown me away. This one is on the upper end, and I have generally been impressed with their barrel aged stuff. Nothing on the immediate horizon, but I will clearly be seeking out more from these fine gentlemen.

Fiddlehead Understable

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Is it surprising that people in Vermont like to play Disc Golf? Is it surprising that world champions Nate Doss and Valarie Jenkins actually play Disc Golf for a living? Is it surprising that Vermonters like Nate and Valarie really like beer and are homebrewers? Is it surprising that a visitor from Vermont very generously gifted this beer to me? To answer those questions: No. Yes. No. Yes!

It's always funny when you meet people you know from the internet out here in real life. This has happened to me a few times, most recently this past weekend when @LipstickNLager visited the Philly area (we met up with some other beer Twitter peeps). Much fun was had by all, and she generously offered a couple of us cans of this exclusive Fiddlehead Session IPA that were brewed for the Green Mountain Disc Golf Championship (and only really available there). Fiddlehead is one of the new crop of Vermont brewers tearing up the scene and I've quite enjoyed most of what I've had from them, so this was a most welcome development. I know squat about Disc Golf, but near as I can tell "Understable" is a reference to disc stability (i.e. it's tendency to bank laterally). I can't find any details on hops used, but my SWAG is that this is some Nelson Sauvin juice right here, very nice:

Fiddlehead Understable

Fiddlehead Understable - Pours a slightly hazy, very pale yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head, retention, and lacing. Fabulous nose on this, lots of juicy citrus hops, but also some grassy, floral notes. Taste starts off with those floral characteristics, moves on to the citrus towards the finish, which has a nice, bitter bite to it. Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and refreshing, very dry, crushable. Overall, this is a rock solid session IPA, the sort of thing you'd love to have on a hot afternoon in the sun (while disc golfing, I guess). B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/18/15. Caned 09/16/15.

Fiddlehead continues to be a winner in my book, and I will always be keeping an eye out for Second Fiddle and whatever else they have available. Many thanks to LipstickNLager again for sharing this beauty with us!


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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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