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Lost Abbey Agave Maria

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It used to be that you'd see the occasional Bourbon barrel aged beer. Everyone would lose their minds, and they'd fly off shelves, and it was all well and good. I, for one, welcomed our bourbon barrel overlords, but the past few years have seen brewers diversifying their barrel aged offerings. You've got rum barrels, apple brandy barrels, and wine barrels galore.

Enter the dreaded tequila barrel. Lost Abbey brewer Tomme Arthur even decided to double down on this offering, brewing the base beer with Agave syrup. The fine folks over at Lost Abbey run a pretty tight Keebler tree, so despite some rightfully dubious responses, I figured I'd drop some coin on a bottle of this stuff and see what the deal is. In short, while not "worse than undrinkable", that's also setting the bar too low. I'd rather drink this than most macro slop, and it is a unique, interesting beer, but it's not something I'd go out of my way for again.

Lost Abbey Agave Maria

Lost Abbey Agave Maria - Pours a murky dark brown color with a finger of khaki head. Smells very sweet, with an almost honey-like note, something kinda like char, and plenty of barrel character. The taste explodes with sweetness up front, very sugary sweet, something like honey (presumably that agave doing its thing), and less of that barrel character than I'd like. I suspect that a 750 of this would get cloying, but the 375 format just barely clears the bar. But then, I'm an odd duck, so your mileage may vary. The mouthfeel is full bodied and rich (so that part of the barrel treatment works), sugary, highly carbonated (way to go Lost Abbey!), with a bit of saccharine stickiness in the finish. Overall, this is an interesting, unique little beer. Not something that makes me want to try a lot of other tequila aged beers, but I'm glad I tried one. B

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/19/14. Vintage 2014A.

I'm all for barrel diversification, but you know what, you should probably also just throw some Serpent's Stout in Bourbon Barrels, because that would be killer. Yeah, Deliverance has BBA Serpent's Stout in the blend, but I'm sure the straight up juice would be even better. Ah well, I'll just stop pretending like I actually know better than people who do this for a living now. I'm a moron.

June Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to an Indian/Thai restaurant and despite a medium turnout, had much in the way of fun.

June Beer Club Lineup

For the sake of posterity, I'm documenting my nearly incoherent thoughts on each beer below, which is my way of saying that you should not trust any of these ratings because as we've established recently, I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Red Star Zingerbuch Kombucha - So the first beer of the night... was not beer! This is some sort of bizarre fermented tea concoction with ginger and hibiscus. It was very aromatic, flowery, and ginger aley. It was not exactly my bag, but this is the perfect setting for weird crap like this. No rating because I don't even really know what this is.
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale - Basically a palate cleanser, and a beer I've already covered before. B+
  • Founders All Day IPA - So the new trend is to call pale ales a "session IPA" or something like that? Ok, whatever, this is a pretty solid example, and I could probably drink a bunch of these with no complaints. Nice hop presence, but light and quaffable. B+
  • Surly Furious - Ah, now this is an IPA! Surly does not distribute to PA... except during Philly Beer Week. One of our attendees tonight was fortunate enough to attend a Surly event and snag a few cans, and generous enough to share with the rest of us. I've heard so many great things about Surly that I was afraid they wouldn't live up to the hype, but this is indeed a really fantastic IPA. Citrus and lots of pine and resinous hops, but exceedingly well balanced stuff, lots of hops and enough crystal malts that it didn't feel super bitter despite being 99 IBU. Probably the best beer of the night. I'll leave it at A- territory for now, but I definitely want to get some more of this (it could warrant an upgrade).
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Dammit, this still has not carbonated as much as I'd like, but it is still a tasty beer, light on the funk, but still a nice peppery saison flavor. I'm guessing that if it hasn't carbonated much by now, it's not going to get much better... which is fine, since I probably only have 6-12 bottles of the stuff left. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Chile Beer - Made with chile peppers and smoked malt, this sucker was spicy but flavorful. Not really my thing, but it's an interesting beer, and certainly not the abomination that Cave Creek Chili Beer was...
  • Lost Abbey Carnevale - A Brett does saison? Sign me up, this was one of my favorites of the night. Nice fruity, earthy funk pervading the whole thing, a pleasure to drink. It's no Logsdon or anything, but it's really nice. A high B+
  • Southern Tier Compass - Perhaps it was just because we opened it towards the end of the night, but this felt exceedingly bland to me, with the only real dominant note being the flowery aromas and flavors. Not really my thing. C
  • Brooklyn Wild Streak - A belgian strong pale aged in Bourbon barrels with Brett? Well ok then. The Brett has a minimal, but still detectable presence. But the taste is more dominated by that pale ale aged in bourbon barrel character that never really works as well for me as it does for stouts or barleywines. It's fine for what it is, but it's not really my thing. B-
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Blend) - The imperial stout is doing quite well. This blend has faint hints of the bourbon and oak, but nothing like a BBA stout. That being said, it's delicious and only getting better over time. I'll still leave it at a B+
And that is all for now. We will probably return to regular blogging next week, so stay tuned.

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

Tired Hands Second Anniversary

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It's hard to believe that it's only been two years since Tired Hands arrived on the scene and started melting faces with their amazing saisons and quaffable pale ales, amongst other strange and beautiful beers. To a beer nerd like myself, having a brewery of this quality and with these specialties even remotely close to my home has been a Godsend. Two years of fantastic beer, and the future is looking rather bright.

Like last year, the second anniversary celebration yesterday was a total madhouse, and given what they were pouring, totally worth it! I was fortunate enough to snag a seat at the bar rather early on, and my neighboring bar sitters were a lot of fun, which was great. For the sake of posterity and to instill jealousy in you, my valued readers, some half remembered thoughts (based on hastily entered notes jotted into Evernote that I'm trying to decipher right now) on what I had are below.

The Emptiness Is Not Eternal

The Emptiness is Not Eternal - 7% ABV Oak fermented Sorrel & Dandelion Saison - The Emptiness series of collaborations with rockstar farmer Tom Culton continues with this beautiful oaky sour beer, a little more herbal and floral than previous incarnations (all of which were fruited, to be sure). Someone was saying that this resembled Hill Farmstead Vera Mae, though I feel like this is an entirely different beast (in particular, I think the oakiness of this separates it considerably, though the emptiness bugs that bring the funk are also distinct from whatever HF is using). That's all academic though, as they're both great beers. As Emptiness beers go, I think I prefer the fruited versions, but this is still fantastic. A-

St.Twoer

St.Twoer - 6% ABV Citrus IPA - Brewed with clementines and a wicked combo of Galaxy, Simcoe, and Motueka hops, this greatly resembles St.Oner (though this one has less notes of pun). Beautiful juicy IPA, lots of bright fruit and citrus hops, the $4 pint deal on this was well worth it.

Handfarm - 5% ABV Barrel Fermented Saison - At this point, I think I've had some of every batch of Handfarm. I've always loved it, but I think this is the first time I've ever seen it on tap and hmm, I think I might like it slightly better that way. A nice vinous and fruity funk character with a more balanced oak presence, I could have probably drank this all day. Still an A- in my book.

Tired Hands Only Void Garlic Cask

Only Void - Garlic Cask - 11% ABV Imperial Stout Cask Conditioned on local black garlic (!?) - Tired Hands has made some weird beers and done some wacky cask conditioned stuff before, but this one really takes the cake. Their description on the draft list they handed out: "Wweeeiiiiiiirrrdddddddd!" This is pretty accurate. The garlic comes through very powerfully in the nose, and much less so in the taste. This is a good thing. The nose is actually really interesting, almost like... pizza? Yeah, kinda like that. Roasty chocolate pizza? Er, not sure. It's perhaps not something I would seek out again, but I'm very happy I tried it because it is a billion times better than it sounds. One of those beers that's just fun to experience. No idea how to rate, so I'll just slap a B on it and be done with it.

American Youth - 5.5% ABV APA collaboration with Half Acre - One of two Half Acre collaborations on tap, this one was a quaffable pale ale that is basically comprised of a blend of Daisy Cutter and HopHands, with the result being a very aromatic, very light bodied and refreshing beer. I seem to be saying this about a lot of these beers, but I could have drank this all day. A-

Geodesic - 6.5% ABV Hoppy Spelt Saison - Alright, so I'm not afraid to say that I was pretty far gone by this point, so my memory here is a little hazy. That being said, it was a very nice funky saison, almost sour (but then, my palate may have just been completely wrecked at this point). This was the last beer of the day for me, so take this with a grain of salt, but instinct sez rate it a B+

Alright, so now we get to the weirdest thing of the whole event, which was the Parageusia Bar. For the uninitiated, Jean has been posting cryptic comments about some dude named Christian Zellerfield, described as the "talented Future Rustic contract-brewer", for a while now. No one really knew what was up with this guy or these Parageusia beers we kept hearing about, and the research department here at Kaedrin turned up almost nothing about them (other than Jean's cryptic pronouncements on social media). So at the Anniversary, you could buy two (very pretty) pieces of glassware, which would entitle you to a fill of each of the beers available (Parageusia1 and Parageusia2) at a little popup bar they set up in the tiny little second floor office. Only two people were allowed in at any given time, the room was all dark and moody, and the whole thing was very hush hush. When we got in there, we asked what was up with the beers, and the Euro-accented "representative" (who was not Christian Zellerfield) gave us the skinny: Cabernet Franc Barrel Fermented sour ales, one at 6.5% ABV, the other at 8.2% ABV. We asked where this guy was, and honest to God, his answer was that he was traveling in space, but that he had chosen Tired Hands to be the one place to distribute his beer in the Milky Way Galaxy (to me, this implied that other galaxies were awash in Parageusia beer, but the representative was evasive when I tried to press him on that).

So the rumor is that Jean is basically fucking with us, and this whole thing is an elaborate ruse. Or that Parageusia is real, but basically brewed entirely by Jean and his crew, and this Christian guy is the one who is yanking our chains. Whatever the case may be, it doesn't really matter, because both of these beers were spectacular. And that glassware is beautiful too...

I do not remember how to spell this awesome beer

Parageusia1 - 6.5% ABV Cab Franc Barrel Fermented Ale - Wow, this is an amazing beer, rivaling the best of Tired Hands' output. Very sour, beautiful oaked character, funky, vinous, fruity, absolutely delicious. This was probably my favorite beer of the night. A

This one too, it is para-something

Parageusia2 - 8.2% ABV Cab Franc Barrel Fermented Ale - A slightly darker beer, a little more intense on the sour end of things, perhaps not as great as the Parageusia1, but still really wonderful in its own right (and really close in terms of the flavor profile). A-

The word Parageusia is apparently the medical term for a bad taste in the mouth, which could not be further from the truth. I don't know what the future plans for these beers are, but Jean has teased that bottles are coming, so I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for that. Or whatever this crazy space traveling brewer brings to us in the future (or, perhaps, from the future?)

All in all, it was a fantastic day, though I will note that I was happy I took the train to get there! The only thing I didn't get to try was Negative Creep, an oak fermented Kiwi sour ale (it had not tapped as of my departure around 5 pm). Congrats to Tired Hands on two years of spectacular beer, and things are only looking up from here. The next year should see a new brewery and a corresponding increase in output, which is most exciting. Stay tuned, I plan on continuing to make you jealous.

France is clearly more enamored with wine than beer, but seeing as though they share a border with Belgium, it's not a surprise that French-inspired beers tend to share that rustic farmhouse quality. Supposedly there has been a recent proliferation of smaller breweries making interesting stuff, though I have no real experience with that. And it's not like today's beer is actually from France, though it was made with some strains of French saison yeast (in Erie, PA). It's got wheat and rye in the grain bill, IPA sized American hop additions, and it clocks in at a rather hefty 11.5% ABV. So it's appropriately weird enough to call it a saison. Oh, and this particular batch was aged in 30 year old rum barrels from Jamiaca. The bottle mentions nothing of this treatment , but the waxed cap (and, uh, the guy at the bottle shop) gave it away. I've seen mixed results from barrel aged Belgian styles, but this one seems hefty enough to take on the added complexity without getting overwhelmed. Only one way to find out:

Lavery Rum Barrel Aged Imperial French Ale

Lavery Rum Barrel Aged Imperial French Ale - Pours a murky, turbid golden brown color with a finger or two of large bubbled head that nevertheless manages to stick around for a bit. Smell has a lot of what I'd call Belgian yeast character (or is that French yeast?), spicy and fruity, but also a rich element of booze, presumably the rum and oak coming through. And yes, that rum comes through very strongly in the taste, rich caramel and oak, with tons of rummy booze, especially in the finish. Some general spicy fruity yeast characteristics also come through in the middle, but this is clearly a rum bomb. Mouthfeel is rich, nearly full bodied, and very, very boozy. Lots of alcohol heat from that rum. Overall, what we have here is a pretty unbalanced brew. That rum and barrel character come through well and I like that about it, but it's perhaps a bit too hot for its own good (the base is perhaps a bit too dry to really stand up to the barrel). Still a worthy and interesting brew, I've not really had anything like this before... B

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (750 ml red waxed cap). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/23/14.

Lavery continues to be an interesting little brewery, and I'd love to try some more from their barrel program... and I'll probably grab a bottle of Liopard Oir next time I see it.

April Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we went to a local Pizza place, got our fill of deep fried pizza pockets and other such delights, and naturally partook in lots of beer:

April Beer Club Selections
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, completely unreliable notes on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers apply, and other such waffling. Great, now I have a sudden craving for waffles. Thanks a lot. Anywho, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Green Flash Le Freak - Labeled a Belgian IPA, I didn't get much in the way of hops out of this, but it remained a pretty solid Belgian Strong Pale nonetheless. Nice spicy Belgian yeast character. B
  • Ovila Abbey Saison - Bog standard saison material, nothing special at all, though certainly not bad or anything like that. Still, there wasn't much to make it really stand out in a setting like this. Mild Belgian yeast character, maybe a hint of lemon peel if you are really looking for it. B-
  • Stone Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA - Rock solid IPA that feels like it's actually made with grapefruit (as opposed to only hops that lend a grapefruity character). I don't actually know if that's the case for sure, but that's what it feels like. Beautiful nose, what seems like Stone's trademark hop profile, and a heaping helping of citrusy but astringent grapefruit. An interesting beer. B
  • Evil Twin / Crooked Stave Ryan And The Gosling - One of my contributions for the night, this is dominated by funky Brett. This is quite welcome in the nose, and the front end of the taste is fantastic, but the finish is very odd. That funk turns super earthy, almost savory in the finish, which brings this down a bit. Still an interesting beer to try though. B
  • Allagash Midnight Brett - Hey, look at that, a beer I just reviewed yesterday. And it held up rather well in this setting as well.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Honey IPA - Brewed with a bunch of New Zealand hops, this was quite nice.
  • Sly Fox Nihilist - An interesting take on the imperial stout style, huge carbonation, dryer than I'd normally expect, but a nice roast character, with hints of booze (but not overpowering). It's definitely a decent brew. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel - Straight up imperial stout, this one compared very favorably to the Nihilist, definitely thicker and more creamy, less roast, but really quite nice. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked) - Interestingly, I feel like the char that came through on early bottles has mellowed out, and the bourbon seems to be lessening the roast as well, making this an interesting blend of flavors. It's turned out quite well, though not at all like your typical bourbon barrel aged stout. Still, not bad for a first attempt, and quite nice on its own. B+
  • DuClaw Dirty Little Freak - Holy hell. Huge chocolate nose, like powdered cocoa. Less chocolate in the taste, as it takes a back seat to a big coconut character. Surprisingly not super sweet, and it works well enough I guess (certainly a unique beer), though I was a little disappointed. B-
  • DuClaw Cocoa Fuego - Brewed with dark chocolate and chipotle peppers, its the latter that seems to dominate this beer, even contributing a sorta smokey flavor that's pretty tough to overcome. There's some peppery heat that takes up residence in your jaw, but it's not punishing or anything like that. Not the worst hot pepper beer I've had, but not a beer that I connected with either. C+
  • DuClaw Hell on Wood - Ah, now this is more like it. This is DuClaw's excellent Devil's Milk barleywine aged on bourbon barrels, and it turned out reasonably well. Clearly not a top tier BBA barleywine, but it works really well on its own. B+
So all in all, quite a nice night. As per usual, already looking forward to next month... In the meantime, stay tuned for another .rar wale review tomorrow.

March Beer Club

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I won't lie, this was a really good night. I went a solid week and a half without beer before completely falling off the wagon this past weekend (as planned, to be sure) and drinking a bunch of beer (and bourbon, and moonshine, and other stuff) during Fat Weekend (a gathering of portly individuals from across the northeast, and some points west, for drinking, fun, and fatness). Now here I am a few scant days later, drinking more beer (again, as planned). For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to a classic Beer Club venue, Jimmy's BBQ. Lots of smoked meat, dirty corn, beer, and fun was had by all:

March Beer Club
(Click for larger image)

Meat induced thoughts on each beer are below. This is for posterity, so I will be sure to be honest, though you might want to take this with a grain (or giant block) of salt, as this BYOB wasn't a hermetically sealed isolation chamber that is ideal for precise tasting notes. Caveats aside, here we go, in order of drinking, not necessarily in order pictured:

  • Kaedrin Fat Weekend IPA - This year's batch finally got that Simcoe and Amarillo loving that I've been trying to get for a few years. My only issue is that I'm still getting a handle on this kegerator operation here, so I feel like I frittered away a significant amount of aroma in the process of trying to get the carbonation and pressure right. I think I've figured out this process well enough that I won't ruin future batches, and it's not like this one turned out bad or anything. Indeed, just a few of us housed 3 whole growlers during Fat Weekend (we would have done so on Friday night if I didn't insist we save one for Saturday). So yeah it was good, and it compared somewhat favorably to tonight's IPA lineup, which was considerable. I'll give it a B for now, though I think it could easily go higher with some slight tweaks to recipe and kegging procedure.
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute - The old standby, I feel like the last couple times I've had this, it hasn't been quite the mindblower it once was for me. Still a rock solid brew, though I might downgrade it to a B+
  • Maine Lunch - One of my contributions. In case you can't tell by the first three beers of the night, we overcompensated for the past couple of beer clubs and brought a shit ton of IPAs this month. Not that I'm complaining, as they were all pretty damn good (to spectacular). This one was a really nice citrus and pine take of the style, in competition for my favorite Maine beer. B+ (though it might go higher outside of this setting)
  • Petrus Aged Pale - Nothing like a sour to cleanse the palate, eh? A very nice oak aged sour beer, something I've had before, and one of those things I'd use to help convert the heathens to the world of sours/good beer. B+
  • DC Brau On The Wings Of Armageddon - Many thanks to Dana for rocking the DIPAs tonight, including this rarity (at least, to us PA folk), which turns out to pretty much live up to the hype, a super piney, dank take on the DIPA, nice body, really well rounded and delicious beer (along the lines of those Pipeworks IPAs I had a while back). Really fantastic, and I hope to someday snag a few fresh cans of this for myself. A-
  • Sixpoint Hi-Res - Alright, so we're getting to a point where specifics about given IPAs are starting to blend together in my head, but I my thoughts on this one are that it comported itself very well in this rather strong lineup of IPAs and DIPAs, actually better than I was expecting (though I'm not sure why, as Sixpoint has always been a pretty solid brewery for me). We'll go with B+ and leave it at that.
  • John's Homebrewed Porter - A relative newcomer to beer club, John made his first batch of beer in about 20 years recently. He went with a pretty straightforward porter that, to be sure, turned out well. But he's working on some interesting stuff in future batches, including a port wine soaked oak beer, possibly even a wile beer, so I'm quite looking forward to it. B
  • Alchemist Heady Topper - Yeah, we've already beaten this one to death before on the blog.
  • Bell's Hopslam - Another one we've covered before, but I certainly ain't complaining, as I do really enjoy this beer and this is the first time I've ever had it out of a bottle. Thanks again to Dana, who brought a crap ton of DIPAs tonight.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Coffee Porter - No real coffee added, but it used some sort of special coffee malt. Not sure if that's malt soaked in coffee or something like that or if it's just roasted to a point that it gives off coffee character, but whatever, it came through well in the beer and did not overpower it at all. Granted, coffee porters aren't really my thing, but this seemed to work reasonably well. B-
  • North Coast Pranqster - A nice little Belgian pale ale, very sweet for it's relatively middling ABV, but still well carbonated enough that it works really well. I enjoyed, and it fit after all those IPAs. B+
  • Widmer SXNW - It came in a fancy box, so it has to be good, right? Well, it's made with Pecans, Cacao beans, and Green Chiles, so I was fearing another hot pepper beer, but it turns out that the dominant character came from that cacao. Huge chocolate notes in the nose, with a corresponding taste. The chiles are there, but in the background, just providing some complexity. Overall, it's an interesting beer, though not one I'd really seek out again. B
  • Humboldt Black Xantus - So I didn't realize this when I bought it, but this is apparently one of them barrel aged Firestone Walker beers, even if it's bottled under the older Nectar Ales brand. That barrel aging comes through loud and clear, and it's quite nice, but there's also apparently a coffee component that also shows up, though it's not as dominant as, say, BCBCS. One of my favorites of the night, though not quite Parabola levels awesome (but still regular beer levels awesome). A-
So there you have it, an enjoyable night had by all. Already looking forward to the next installment of beer club...

Nebraska Sexy Betty

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In my grading system for this here blog, a B is actually a pretty good score. It's not going to melt your face (that's, uh, a good thing for me) but it's unambiguously good beer that is worth seeking out. So the fact that every Nebraska Brewing Company beer I've ever had has been a B in my book isn't a hideous disaster, but it's starting to get a little tiresome (Indeed, I see that my previous foray into their beer contains a similar lament). Granted, this is only my fourth beer from them, but on the other hand, buying four of Nebraska's reserve series beers means that I had to seek council from a local loan shark (because I already have three mortgages and the bank has long since cut me off). I don't normally factor price into my reviews because it's all about the taste. But in general, when shelling out $20+ for a bottle of beer, I can at least talk myself into thinking it was a worthwhile affair. For whatever reason, Nebraska, while never truly disappointing, has also never really delivered in that respect.

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't really matter because I'm just some dork on the internets, and like a dope, I keep coming back for more. Like Jay suggests, I should really just admit that I've been beaten here and leave it be. In this case, I talked myself into the purchase because it's a barrel aged imperial stout, truly one of my favorite things in the world, and while I'm a BA nut, I really haven't had many Brandy barrel aged beers. And this one boasts 50 year old American Brandy barrels, which sounds pretty cool to me. Alas, it was not quite as Sexy as it sounded, though again, it's not really bad either.

Nebraska Sexy Betty

Nebraska Sexy Betty - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head that fades relatively quickly. Par for the course so far. Smells of rich dark malts, roast, a little caramel, maybe a hint of that Brandy barrel, but it's very faint. Taste is similar. It's got a big roasty note, maybe some chocolate, grainy stuff, and if I really look for it, a hint of that Brandy coming out a bit towards the finish, but again, not much in the way of oak. If I didn't know this was barrel aged, I might not pick it out blind. Mayhaps a 50 year old barrel has already given all its going to give? Mouthfeel is full bodied, well carbonated, heavy but still a bit nimble (perhaps that Brandy lightening the mood a bit), though definitely still a sipper of a beer. Overall, it's a solid imperial stout, but I would have really liked to see more barrel character. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 3/1/14. Bottled 09/23/13.

Apparently the initial incarnation of Sexy Betty used 50 year old Cognac barrels (so French, not American brandy), was sufficiently more rare, and more highly regarded too. Whatever the case, I don't know how much more Nebraska you're going to see on this blog. Maybe in another year or two, I'll forget again and decide to take a flier on Black Betty (the base beer for this one), but I wouldn't hold my breath because I have to figure out how to dodge this loan shark for a while.

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

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