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Beer Club February

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Beer club was last Thursday! I started to write this recap when I got home, but I didn't get very far. As has been established frequently, I am the worst. But I'm here now to make amends. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and general merriment. This time we checked out the newly opened West Chester branch of The Couch Tomato, a rather fine pizza establishment (in a sea of pizza places, this has immediately established itself in the local upper tier with America's Pie). I had a rather fine stromboli (called the "Italian Stallion") whilst imbibing the usual beery wares:

Beer Club for February 2015
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. Since it's been a few days, these thoughts will be even more unreliable than normal, so take them with a giant, asteroid-sized lump of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Evil Genius Stacy's Mom - Has moderate amounts of goin' on. Citra hops come through a little, but it's not particularly accomplished compared to its Citra-based brethren. B
  • Jailbreak Welcome To Scoville Jalepeno IPA - Definitely a peppery beer, but not a ton of heat, which is nice. On the other hand, I feel like whatever hops it has going on are sorta canceled out by the pepper character. B-
  • Flying Dog Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout - Now this one has some heat to it, but it's a very well matched heat that matches better with the roasty chocolate notes of the base stout than an IPA. That being said, it wasn't exactly blowing me away. B
  • Alaskan Smoked Porter - I get the impression that sometimes people bring beers they bought but realized they don't actually want to drink a whole bottle of. I'm as guilty as anyone, and this is one such example. I don't mind the occasional smoked beer, but really haven't been in much of the mood for this sort of thing lately. As Smoked Porters go, this is a pretty great example. Still not exactly my thing though, and I'm glad I shared. B
  • Stone Enjoy By 02.14.15 IPA - Tastes about 5 days too old. Oh snap, breaking the law! Just kidding, it was fine, despite not following the rules on the bottle. It's a decent beer, and it's definitely grown on me, but I've never gotten the absolute love some folks show for this (and yes, I've had it fresh before too). B
  • Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA - Ah now this is the stuff. One of my contributions and a rock solid citrus and pine bomb, well balanced and tasty. B+
  • Armstrong Ales Bold Thady Quill - A pretty nice take on an Irish Dry Stout, roasty and light bodied. Not going to melt your face, but it'd make for a nice session. Also, probably not the best setting for this kind of beer. Would still love to try more from this local upstart. B
  • Kaedrin Trystero Barleywine - I feel like my keg should be empty right now, but it appears to be bottomless. The keg feels nearly empty, but I just filled up this 1 liter growler with no problem. Need to finish off that keg so I have somewhere to put an IPA! The beer itself is doing well enough. I do feel like I perhaps dosed it with a bit too much in the way of bourbon, which cuts down on some of the fruitier malt characters in the beer. Still good though. B+
  • Prairie Bomb! - Another of my contributions, I have to admit that I didn't realize this was a coffee dosed beer. I was really excited to try it, then initially disappointed by the coffee character. Still, I ended up drinking more of this than usual, and it grew on me. Rock solid and I can see why it's so popular, but it doesn't really approach my top tier. B+
  • Victory Moving Parts 03 - Technically, we'd left beer club and moved the party over to a local bar, which was having a Victory event. This was our initial pour, a Belgian IPA. Nice enough on its own, but nothing particularly eventful here. B
  • Victory Deep Cocoa - On cask with vanilla and something else that I don't remember. It could have been that I was just drunk at the time, but I kinda loved this. Deep, rich chocolate, vanilla, full body, really delicious stuff. Have not tried the regular version but this cask was hitting the spot, so let's give it an A-
And there you have it. Attendance was a little low, so I probably drank more than normal this time. Also, we didn't get to the Nugget Nectar, mostly because we've all had it several times already this year (even out of the can, which is, yes, very nice) but also because there were less of us there that night than normal. Crazily enough, some people didn't come because it was just super cold out (not snowing or anything, just really cold, low-single digits). I don't know what their problem is. Maybe I'm not the worst after all.

Weekend Agenda: Slashers and Beer

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Back in the early days of this blog, I used to harbor the notion that I would differentiate myself by pairing movies and beer. Even though I'm often watching movies as I drink, it was never a particularly well thought out idea and eventually fell by the wayside (though it is occasionally revived). But every once in a while, an opportunity presents itself. I'm sure fans of bad horror movies know where I'm going with this, but this past weekend marked the convergence of two great slasher movies, and in one case, the perfect beer to match.

First, Friday was the 13th, so I plopped in my favorite installment of that venerable series: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Not many franchises can boast the sixth movie in the series as the best, but this is one of them (I will accept cases for the original or Part IV, but VI remains my favorite). It's got the best opening in the series, culminating in a cheeky tribute to the James Bond title sequence. It's very self-aware and funny (a full decade before Scream), but also has some genuinely creepy visuals and plenty of gory death (in, like, a fun way). Oddly, it's the only movie where actual children show up at Camp Crystal Lake (i.e. not just camp councilors). Certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but as slasher movies go, it's pretty tops. I didn't have anything particularly relevant to pair with the movie, so I just grabbed this IPA made in LA because it was mildly fresh and I didn't want to let it linger in the fridge for too long (and besides bitter hops and horror movies go together well, right?)

Beachwood Melrose IPA

Beachwood BBQ Melrose IPA - Pours a mostly clear, pale gold color with a finger of white fluffy head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells amazing, huge citrus bomb, big grapefruit and mango aromas, maybe some pine and floral notes too. Taste hits those big citrus hop flavors hard, lots of grapefruit, not as much mango as the nose, a little floral and pine, and a moderate bitter bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lighter end of medium bodied, relatively dry finish, moderately quaffable. Overall, nothing hugely revolutionary here, but it's a rock solid, well above average IPA. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/13/15. Bottled: 1/26/15.

Next, Saturday was Valentines Day, and since slasher movies have mined the calendar of holidays pretty thoroughly, we've got My Bloody Valentine. Part of the seemingly endless glut of Halloween and Friday the 13th imitators put out in the early 80s, this is one of best non-franchise efforts out there. It hits all the standard slasher tropes and it's a lot of fun. It's pretty silly at times too, but the whole miner's suit and pickaxe make for a great villain, and I love the little poems he leaves for the police ("Roses are red, violets are blue, one is dead, and so are you"). It had a remake in 2009 (in 3D!) that didn't quite capture the magic, though I guess is fine in its own right. Anywho, someone over at Alesmith must be a big horror movie fan, because they make a beer called Evil Dead Red and a cousin called, yes, My Bloody Valentine. On paper, both horror themed beers seem almost identical - both red ales, both with the saucy ABV of 6.66%, same IBUS, etc... In practice, well, let's take a look:

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine - Pours a deep, dark red color with ruby highlights (yes, robey tones) and a finger of tannish head. Smells of crystal malts, a hint of toast, maybe some light caramel and some earthy hops. Taste follows the nose, very malt focused, crystal malts, a bit of toast, maybe some chocolate, caramel, with a crisp, earthy hop bite towards the finish that rounds it out nicely. Mouthfeel is well carbonated and medium bodied, quite approachable. So this is a much more traditional red ale than Evil Dead Red, which incorporates much more in the way of big, citrusy, piney American hops. They don't specify the hops for this, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were old-school noble hops or something along those lines, maybe Cascade. I tend to prefer my reds on the more piney, resinous side (Evil Dead Red is definitely my speed), but this was a nice change of pace too. As the Beer Rover notes, "This beer will not stun you with its brilliance, but it will not disappoint, either." B

Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a teku glass on 2/14/15. Bottled: 12/19/14.

I really must figure out a way to snag me some barrel aged Alesmith brews. I'm not a huge coffee fan, but the BA Speedway does sound mighty tasty. Still, might be better off with BA Old Numskull or BA Wee Heavy. Someday...

Tired Hands bottle releases happen about once a month or two, but in the past month, Jean has seen fit to hold 3 bottle releases. In January. I suspect Jean is trying to breed a new cold-resistant strain of beer nerd. Or perhaps to kill off lesser beer nerds, thus keeping the line to a manageable size. Judging from the incredulous Main Liners driving by and asking what the hell everyone is waiting in line for ("Justin Bieber tickets"), sitting around on the curb for 2-3 hours out front for just a few bottles of beer is a dubious way to spend time, but I usually manage. Best case, the folks around me are cool and we partake in much discussion and merriment. Worst case, I put in my headphones and zone out to an audiobook (chances are, if I were at home, I'd be in bed reading anyway). Still, after 3 releases in the freezing cold, I'm ready for my Believer's Club membership to go into effect.

Most releases are announced well in advance, but there are the occasional stealth releases, and sometimes they're at weird times. One such occasion was Thanksgiving eve, 2013. Jean announces that bottles of the first Emptiness series beer, Out of the Emptiness, would be available when they open at 4. Now, typical bottle releases range from about 400-600 bottles, with a bottle limit of 2-4 (generally optimizing it so that 150-200 folks can snag a bottle). I don't remember the specific number of bottles available that day, but Jean must have been feeling capricious and whimsical, because that day was on the lower range of bottles available, but the bottle limit was 6. I managed to get off work early, but missed out on bottles by about 10 folks in line. Dejected, my new friend Andrew (met in line) and I retired to the bar upstairs where we drowned our sorrows in the always stellar taplist and discussed the merits of aging Samichlaus (it being the holiday season and all). Then Jean saunters up, pours three glasses from an unmarked bottle, and gives them to three of us at the bar (in fact, this generosity may have been the result of the third guy, who seemed to be friends with Jean).

So thanks to that, I actually did get to try Out of the Emptiness, a wine-barrel fermented saison conditioned atop local Italian plums. As fate would have it, a second batch was made, and released just a couple weeks ago. So I finally got to enjoy a bottle of this stuff in the comfort of my own home:

Out of the Emptiness

Tired Hands Out of the Emptiness - Pours a beautiful, almost radiant amber orange color with a finger of fluffy very light pink (almost white) head. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, plums, fruit by the foot, with some barnyard funk. The taste hits with that fruit up front, cherries, plums, grapes, with a bunch of oak tannins kicking in rather quickly, a bit of sourness emerges later in the taste. Finishes oaky and dry. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and effervescent, mildly acidic, dry oak. From memory, batch one had a much less carbonated mouthfeel, which is something that does make a big difference for me. Not sure if the b1 bottles ever carbed up better, but I'm glad this new batch turned out well. Overall, really pleased I waited in line to snag some of these. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/31/15. Batch 2 (2015 vintage).

In case it's not abundantly clear, and if you've gotten this far, it really should be, I end up at Tired Hands often. They usually have 8 taps on, and at least 2-3 will change over from week to week (and sometimes even more). Two and a half years in, they've remade a handful of their favorite stuff, but for the most part, once it's done, it's done, and you won't see it again. To that end, I figure I need to lord it over all you plebians, and post whatever notes I've taken over the past, yikes, year or so. In fairness, I don't take notes upon every visit (especially if, for example, I'm with a friend or otherwise conversing with the friendly folks at the bar), but I've still got quite a few notes piled up. I'll start with a recent one, but after that one, we've got beers dating back a year or so.

StonerWitch

StonerWitch - 10.5% ABV Black Barleywine brewed with clementine juice and zest - I gather a lot of folks found this weird and off style. I found it strange and beautiful, which I believe was the intention, and really, really enjoyed it. Pours a deep dark brown, indeed almost black, with half a finger of short lived tan head. Looks almost like a stout, but the smell is decidedly more barleywinish, some juicy fruit aromas, wheat, toffee, caramel, very slight dark malt component too. Taste is rich and hearty, some caramel and toffee up front, a bready middle, with juicy citrus in the finish (presumably that clementine juice at work). Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, dense and full bodied, just enough carbonation to tie it all together. Overall, I actually love this beer. It's quite an unusual take on a barleywine, but it still hits the right notes, and is downright delicious. A-

Shep's Memory - 3.7% ABV Bitter - Good for the style, biscuity malts with a very light hop component, light bodied and crushable. B+

BrainHands - 5.5% ABV Pizza Inspired Gose - Whoa, this is unexpectedly fantastic. Nice lemony citrus sourness tempered by earthy spices (does not taste like pizza, but who cares, this is great!) tingly and spicy, even a little heat... A-

Al Baby - 6.8% ABV Hoppy Honey Brown Ale - Nice hoppy brown, solid, easy going stuff. B+

Uyawa Pog - 8% ABV Imperial IPA - Really bright citrus and a sorta honeyed malt backbone, really nice. The citrus is super peach-like too, which is not common (and I don't think they actually used peaches for this, perhaps they're getting this out of the Simcoe/Nelson Sauvin combo?) A-

Stout Budino - 6.3% Dessert Stout - Smore like ingredients, not quite as sweet or rich as that would imply, but a really nice stout, chocolate and roast, like. B+

I Love You, Friend - 7% ABV Rye IPA - Juicy citrus hops up front, rye finish, great... A

Broken Basement - 6.3% ABV IPA - Hopped with Ahtanum and Simcoe, a typically fantastic IPA, maybe some more malt character than usual, still great. A-

Shambolic - 6.5% ABV dry hopped spelt saison - Nice, I feel like it's been a while since TH did something like this, great peppery saison character with a citrus, vinous hop kick... (Update: I opened a bottle of this recently, after a few months in the cellar), and while the hop character is still there, the farmhouse saisony elements came to the fore as well. Great.) A-

Lord Ladybug - 6% ABV dark sour cherry Berliner Weisse - Very tart, puckering sour beer. Chocolate covered cherries. Me likey. B+

EXTOL - 7.6% ABV Imperial Porter - my kinda porter, sweet, low roast, dark chocolate (hint of coffee?), very nice B+

Wilbur - 5.9% ABV Rye IPA - nice rye character, floral hops, well matched, very good! B+

Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt - 6.6% ABV Black Coffee Saison - Interesting mixture of elements, earthy saison yeast, fruity hops, and just a bit of that roasty coffee. B+

PowerChord - 4.2% ABV Crushable IPA - Beautiful citrus hop nose (clearly Mosaic hops involved here), more floral and piney in the taste, quaffable. B+

Exact Negative Charge - 7.7% ABV emptiness saison - Typical funky TH saison, very nice, really fruity, light earth, not a ton of funk, but really nice! B+

Sunulate - 6.4% ABV blood orange & chamomile saison - Solid stuff, not as funky, but really nice floral and citrus notes... B+

Go Ride A Bike - 5.5% ABV crushable IPA - Motueka bomb, lots of citrus and a little dank pine, crushable! A-

Exploding Nuclear Cauldron - 5.1% hoppy honey Grissette - Lemon zest, light spice, grassy hops, soft feel, really nice and refreshing... A-

Experience Neutral Chamber - 5.7% ABV emptiness saison - Bright, fruity funk, light salinity, lemon zest, quaffable... B+

Modern Artisinal Tragedy - 6.8% honey saison - Straightforward saison stuff, typical TH quality, very nice peppery spice and light hop character... B+

BloodRoot - 6.6% hoppy red saison - Brewed with rye, and you can tell, big spicy note along with peppery yeast, and a good amount of hop character, including more bitterness than I'm used to from TH - nothing wrong with that, of course... B+

Only Void 2014 - 11% imperial stout - This year's version is slightly less alcohol and not as sweet as last year's version. As a result, more roast and chocolate come to the fore. Still very nice. A

Here Lies - 2.5% hoppy bitter - Whoa, very tasty for such an extremely low alcohol beer. Beautiful hoppy nose, perhaps not as intense, but really tasty. Totally quaffable, not as thin as you'd expect, but very light. Crushable! B+

Gose is My Copilot - 4.7% Gose - Wheated Gose with sea salt, lime juice and zest, and cilantro from Jeans garden. Well balanced, sour, a little sticky. I'm not really a huge Gose fan or anything, but this is very nice (I got a growler, made a Top Gun ("Talk to me, Gose") joke on twitter, but no one got it, or they did and didn't care). B+

Savage Gold - 5.2% ABV IPA - Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc... Typically great tired hands ipa, beautiful hop character, crushable. A-

Boogie Board - 5.2% ABV blended saison (some 4 month cab franc barrel aged saison in the blend) - Very nice saison, light barrel character, but a big juicy fruit kick, tart lemons and grapes, some typical saison spice, super smooth, a little acidic, highly drinkable. A-

Fool in the Full Moon - 6% ABV coffee wheat porter - So I entered the name for this beer, but took no notes. I'm the worst. I'm pretty seriously doubting that anyone will ever actually read this though. Why am I even doing this?

Carpet on your Heart - 6% ABV Rye IPA - Darker and more substantial than your typical TH IPA, perhaps even more bitterness than usual, but great hop presence, juicy citrus, very well composed. B+

Watching Trees Decompose - 7% ABV blueberry IPA - Very pretty, a striking amber purple with light purple head... Taste has an extra sweetness that battles with the citrus hops, still decent beer though. B+

Reincarnated as a Cloud - 6.1% ABV Wheat IPA - More of a bitter bite here than normal, but a very nice citrus and pine hop character and clean wheat makes this worthy. B+

Green Fuzz - 7% ABV Cucumber Galaxy IPA - holy cucumber, Batman! I don't think of cucumber as being a particularly powerful aroma or flavor, but it's here in spades... Though more standard ipa notes come through too. B+

Red Fuzz - 6.5% Raspberry & Sumac Saison - Another one where I wrote the name, but not any notes. I really am the worst.

Psychic Facelift - 6.5% ABV Citra IPA - Beautiful, juicy IPA, all sorts of citrus, super quaffable, absolutely superb! Drank, like, 3 liters of this stuff during the one week it was on tap (it's rare that I get something more than once, so that's saying something). A

Yeast & Cats - 6.4% ABV wheat saison - Typically great TH saison, distinctive farmhouse awesome. B+

Ambassador Aardvark - 4.5% ABV Berlinerweiss - I seem to be relying on the "typical TH style" description for these reviews, and this is no exception - this is a typical TH Berliner and it's quite nice. Tart, tasty, and refreshing. B+

I See A Darkness - 8.5% ABV imperial honey espresso porter - Relatively light on the coffee, which is a good thing in my book, but it's really tasty, nice roast character, a little espresso, really solid stuff. B+

Singel Hop Saison Cascade - 5% ABV - This is a really interesting melding of farmhouse and hops, with neither element dominating. This represents a more balanced take in the series, and it's really nice... A-

Purple Fuzz - 6% ABV blackberry and purple basil Saison - Nice farmhouse going on here, spicy and fruity, though the fruit is not super powerful, well balanced, a little weird in a good way... B+

Yellow Fuzz - 7.2% ABV peach ipa - Beautiful juicy citrus, quaffable, typically great TH IPA! A-

Many Mouths With Pointy Teeth- 6% ABV Rye IPA - Very nice ipa, citrus hops and spicy rye, well carbonated and quaffable. A-

Cyclical Paranoia - 6% ABV Mohogany Hued saison - Light farmhouse with typical saison yeast character, but also some almost vinous notes. B+

Aphillyation - 6.6% Cabernet Franc IPA- Interesting, floral hops, a little grape character and an almost creamy mouthfeel. B+

Paranormalized - 8.2% blended barrel fermented super saison - Very nice saison, spice and fruit, with a very light sourness and decent oaky character. Delicious! A-

Pope Lick Monster - 8.5% imperial Porter - nice and dark, creamy tan head, sweet and roasty, with a mallow finish. B+ or A-

Mind Meet Mind - 6% ABV Coffee IPA - My ambivalence towards coffee is world renowned, but I still enjoyed this well enough. Great hop character, juicy citrus, with some coffee peeking through... B

Funny Top Hat Serenade - 7% ABV Classical Progressive Saison - Very nice saison of the TH house style, with a nice fruity hop character (not bitter though) B+

The Still-Beating Heart of the Hummingbird - 7% ABV Barrel Fermented Saison - Whoa, slightly lactic sourness, but not really that sour. A little oak, and that TH funk, very good! A-

GrassMan - 8.7% ABV Honey Double IPA - Hugely dank DIPA, Nelson Sauvin coming through strong, tropical fruits all over. I'm sure the Citra is contributing to that, but it's got a distinctly grassy character too. A-

Deathtripper - 6.7% ABV IPA - Fabulous, dank, juicy ipa, lots of citrus and pine, delicious. A-

Ekstra - 6.6% ABV collaborative saison - Collab with pizzeria beddia, first TH use of Hallertau... B

Cannibal Okt - 6.2% Sweet Potato IPA - A sorta heftier IPA, more of a balance between hops and sweetness here, quite nice! B

Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp - 6.2% ABV IPA - Another great TH house style IPA, less juicy, but still citrus and pine all over, higher than normal carbonation, great! A-

Chupacabra - 6.6% mole Porter - Whoa coffee! A little thinner than your typical Porter, but that matches nicely with the roasty coffee, so it's still tasty! If only I liked coffee more. B

Dobhar-chú - 4.2% heirloom squash bitter - Very nice, clean, malt forward, tasty... Not on cask right now, but would be perfect from the hand pump! B+

Watcher in the Dark - 6% ABV India Black Ale - whoa, beautiful citrus hops is the nose, with that slight roast coming through a little more in the taste, utterly fantastic! A

Corpse Finder - 4.4% ABV Galaxy IPA - Nice citrus, substantial considering the ABV, maybe a little more bitter than typical, but still quite crushable B+

Foliage - 8% ABV Double IPA - awesome, darker than typical TH IPA, sweet, citrusy and floral hops, smooth, medium bodied, delicious! A-

Infinite Universe Mind - 6% ABV sour IPA - Nice! I don't normally go in for sour IPAs but this is very well balanced, light sourness, well integrated, tasty! B+

Fifth Level - 6.2% Single Hop Motueka IPA - Typical TH house style IPA, very nice, juicy hops, yum. B+

Alien Church

Alien Church - 7% ABV IPA - My only notes were: Must. Get. Growler. (And I did. This was a great IPA) A

Window Mirror Section - 6.8% Hearty Wheat Saison fermented in oak barrels with our Emptiness culture and conditioned on oranges - Holy hell, this is Emptiness level stuff. Nice balanced with the oak, funk, and juicy, tart fruitiness. A

ALTAR - 4.6% ABV Berliner Weisse with hibiscus, Madagascar vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks - I usually enjoy TH's berliners, but this one is a step above the norm. Very well done. A-

Such Passion - 7.5% Simcoe IPA conditioned on passionfruit purée - Um, yes please. Very good. A-

Whatever, Nevermind - 8.1% ABV barrel saison - According to Untappd, this was my 200th checkin at Tired Hands. Holy Crap. A-

So I'll end it there. Despite waiting in line several times over the past month, it's actually been a few weeks since I've made my way over there. I love the Winter, but it's cold and so easy to just stay home. We shall rectify that soon enough, and in time, the new production facility will open and I'll be drinking as much as ever... Alas, I don't know that I'll keep doing these posts. I can't imagine anyone actually reading through all of this, and it's starting to get repetitive (not to mention that just about everything gets B+ or A-, TH breaks my grading scale. Can't even do a curve, really.)

BBQ Beer Club

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Due to the capricious whims of Mother Nature, we had to push beer club back a ways, very nearly missing the month of January. But thanks to a no-show on yesterday's storm, conditions were fine (if a little cold) tonight, where we hit up a new BYOB BBQ place, shared some beer, did some "Adult" Mad Libs ("I need a noun." "Assless Chaps."), and generally just had fun. For dinner, I ordered something called "Loose Meat", and drove everyone crazy attempting to make double entendres about it. In case you were wondering, this is what loose meat looks like:

Loose Meat
(Click to Embiggen)

It has a nice phallic arrangement, but the feng shui could be a little better if the brisket and pulled pork were a little far back, don't you think? Also of note, the parsley merkin. Anyways, it was good stuff, and we had some decent beer to go with it:

January Beer Club 2015
(Click to Embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, thoughts on each are below. Standard beer nerd disclaimers apply. I'm sorry, but the BBQ place did not have a hermetically sealed environment suitable for proper note taking. Also, I didn't really take notes. I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Kaedrôme Saison - Hey, remember that saison I dosed with Brett, like, a year ago? It's doing reasonably well right now. It's carbed up to a drinkable state, though still not as effervescent as I'd like. But the flavor is there, and it's doing reasonably well. B
  • New Belgium/Three Floyds Lips Of Faith - Grätzer - My first Grätzer, and um, it's a weird style. Light smokiness, very thin, with a weird tartness in the finish. A perfect beer for this situation, as I'm happy to try something like this, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way for more. C+
  • Left Hand St. Vrain Tripel - A pretty standard American take on a tripel, a little too sticky, but a nice palate cleanser after the Grätzer. B
  • Wicked Weed Terra Locale Series - Appalachia - I've heard great things about Wicked Weed, so I was really looking forward to this, and a Brett saison made with sweet potatoes and grits sounds like it could work, but I found it a bit on the bland side. Nothing wrong with it, per say, but there's not a lot of funk, and it just felt a little on the dry side. It's certainly cromulent and I could probably drink plenty of it, and maybe it was just that this is not ideal for a tasting like this, but I was disappointed. B
  • Chimay Red - Yep, it's Chimay all right. I've never been a huge fan of this particular expression though. B
  • Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale - Rock solid take on a brown ale. Not going to knock your socks off, but it's a tasty alternative to macro slop. B+
  • Almanac Devil's Advocate - Another fantastic little sour from Almanac, very tasty, vinous, sour, oaky, delicious. I don't normally think of "hoppy" and "sour" going together very well, but these folks are doing it right. Probably my favorite beer of the night. A-
  • SoChesCo Valentine's Day Chocolate Milk Stout - A friend's homebrewed milk stout, asolid take on the style, very tasty. B
  • SoChesCo Pennsyltucky Chocolate Milk Stout - The same stout as above, conditioned on bourbon soaked oak, which wound up as a light character. You could definitely taste the difference drinking them side by side, but I don't think I'd have pegged this as a bourbon oaked beer if I drank it blind (my own Bourbon Oaked Bomb & Grapnel fared little better on that account). B
  • Bière De L'Amitié (Green Flash & Brasserie St. Feuillien) - A very interesting and different beer. Standard Belgian yeast spice and fruit, but also some citrus hoppiness, and something that really felt like they dosed it with white grape juice (I don't think they did, but that's what kept coming to mind). B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Creme Brulee Stout Clone - Holy vanilla, Batman! Like the Southern Tier inspiration, this is incredibly sweet and it's got a great nose that I could just sniff all night long. I think there might be more vanilla here, but I love me some vanilla. B
  • Stone Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale - Another beer that I was looking forward to, but which didn't quite live up to expectations. It was a fine beer, one of the better of the night actually, but I didn't get a tone of Bourbon barrel character out of this. It felt like the barrels muted the aromatic aspects of the hops while leaving the bitterness. Fortunately, the Bourbon sweetens it up a little, so it's still reasonably well balanced (er, for Arrogant Bastard), but it's not something you really need to drop everything and try (like, for example, Stone's Fyodor's Classic). B+
At this point, we decided to call it a night, and we didn't get to the last two beers. Oh well, there's always next month, which should come up soon!

Another Forest & Main Visit

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Forest & Main is a tiny little brewpub in Ambler, PA, which is not really that far from Kaedrin HQ in the grand scheme of things, but is probably a hair too far across the border of what is actually convenient for me, so I don't get my butt up there as often as I probably should. Also, as I've noted before, they share a certain DNA with their chums over at Tired Hands, and I always feel like I'm cheating on my favorite brewpub when I hit up F&M. That being said, they're a solid little brewery and I'm always intrigued by their offerings. Also I don't actually feel like I've been cheating on Tired Hands. That's absurd. Anywho, I've been very neglectful of posting about my visits, so I actually took some basic notes this time. Not great notes, but notes nonetheless. Work with me here. I was drinking.

Double Dan PA

Double Dan PA - Made with two dudes named Dan and a generous helping of American and Australian hops (um, the Dans in question were not, like, ingredients or anything. This isn't a drink of my blood situation or anything). Fantastic citrus nose, with a little pine sneaking around too. More dank resin and pine in the taste, with that citrus brightening things up... Medium bodied, well carbonated, crisp, refreshing, well balanced stuff. Overall, this is probably the best IPA I've had from Forest & Main (though it's not like I've had a ton) and a worthy, distinct take on the style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV on tap (16 ounce). Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 12/30/14.

Telemachus - Described as a golden Barleywine made with orange blossom honey. It has a very distinctive, flowery, sweet nose, probably that orange blossom honey coming through strong. Taste is similar, mostly that honey character coming through with very little in the way of malt backbone, though you do get a bit in the way of booze. Low carbonation (if I remember correctly, it was on cask) and medium bodied. This is a very interesting beer, but it doesn't really tickly my subjective fancy, if you know what I mean. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap (10 ounce). Drank out of a wine glass on 12/30/14.

Rum Barrel-Aged Gmork - Black as night, not much head. Smells of caramel, brown sugar, molasses, rum, vanilla, and the faintest hint of roast. Taste follows the nose, very, very sweet, no roast at all, brown sugar and molasses, rum, almost fruity. Mouthfeel is full bodied, moderate carbonation, slight booziness. Overall, a unique take on the style, I wish I'd actually had the base beer to compare it to, but this is pretty darn good on its own. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap (10 ounce). Drank out of a nonic half-imperial-pint glass on 12/30/14.

And there you have it. I had a saison that was on tap that night with my burger, but I neglected to take notes because my hands were full and as we've already established, I'm the worst. Hopefully I'll make this more of a regular thing in the future. In the meantime, I think I hear Tired Hands' siren song...

Miscellaneous Holiday Beer Roundup

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Once upon a blog, I used to really hit the holiday beers hard. And yeah, I wrote about a few of them recently, but this year, I kinda reserved all these beers for the actual holiday itself. Alas, it seems silly to be writing about some of this stuff after the holiday has passed, so I'll just lump it all together and call it a season. First up, a beer I should have drank on December 23:

Manayunk Festivus 2014

Manayunk Festivus 2014 - Man, I haven't been to the Manayunk brewpub in probably a decade. It's not a place I've ever been particularly in love with, but when you live near there, it's convenient. Now they've started canning and distributing, and I have to admit, this holiday beer for the rest of us (or uh, you) makes me want to put up my aluminum pole, air some grievances, and conduct some feats of strength. But how's the beer? Pours a deep dark brown with dark amber highlights and a finger of white head. Smells very unique, lots of brown sugar, plums, raisins, and some sort of spice that I cannot place (apparently: cardamom!) but which is definitely familiar. Taste is less intense than the nose implies, but it's decent, a fruit and spice come through well in the middle and finish. Mouthfeel is on the lighter end of medium bodied, well carbed, a little bit of dry spice. Overall, an interesting and unique change of pace for the style, thus fitting for this singular holiday. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/24/14. 2014 Vintage.

Samichlaus Barrique

Samichlaus Barrique 2013 - Every Christmas Eve, I break open some vintage of Samichlaus as last minute wrapping fuel. Given the 14% ABV, it's amazing that I don't cut off a limb in a scissor mishap or label the presents wrong or something. I have vintages of this dating back to 2009, and of my experiments with aging, these have been among the best. This year, though, I took a flier on the Barrique variant, which is the standard Samichlaus (what with its already long 10 month conditioning stage) aged in German wine barrels (apparently Chardonnay) for an additional 5 weeks. I wasn't quite sure how well this would work, but it turns out to be a really good idea. Pours a clear dark amber color with a bit of big bubbled head that quickly subsides. Smells of dark fruits, sticky sugar, and of course, booze. The taste is rich and sweet up front, lots of dark, vinous fruit flavors pepper the middle, and the booze hits pretty hard in the finish. The barrel character is not super strong, but I feel like it does take some of the bite out of the booze considering the young vintage (which is usually quite hot at this stage) and it contributes to a more well rounded mouthfeel. Speaking of which, this is rich, more carbonated than I remember from Samichlaus, but still very sticky, with a heaping helping of booze. Again, I feel like the barrel character maybe contributes a bit to the richness of the mouthfeel, though it's not a huge impact. In general, it feels like the barrel aging smooths out some of the sharp edges of young Samichlaus. B+ but I'm wondering if age will treat this even better than the standard stuff.

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/14. 2013 Vintage.

HaandBryggeriet Nissefar

HaandBryggeriet Nissefar - We're big fans of these Norwegians here at Kaedrin, and this beer, not particularly exciting on paper (a 7% Old Ale?), turns out to be possibly my favorite holiday beer of the year. Named after the Nisse, one of the many European precursors/contemporaries/versions of Santa Claus. A gift giver, but much more gnome-like in appearance. The beer itself pours a deep, dark brown with the barest hint of amber in the highlights and half a finger of light tan head. Smells faintly of dark fruit (plums and raisins), brown sugar, caramel, and maybe even some unidentifiable spice. Taste has a hearty malt backbone, some dark malts, dark chocolate, brown sugar, with more fruity notes emerging in the finish, which also throws up some bittering hops to dry things out a bit. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied, substantial but not a monster, with a very well matched, tight carbonation, and while I wouldn't call this "dry", it does veer in that direction towards the finish. Easier to drink than a sipping beer, but not really a chugger either, they've found a fine middle ground here. Overall, this is my kinda winter beer! Complex, well balanced, tasty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/25/14. Batch: 611. Total Bottles: 2280.

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout

Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout - Narwhals are Christmassy, right? How about barrel aged Narwhals? Alright that's pushing it, I guess, but this was my nightcap on Christmas night, and it was a nice one. Perhaps not quite the surprise that BA Bigfoot was, but it's a solid BA stout. I didn't really take extensive notes, but this was a pretty good, but standard take on the barrel aged imperial stout: dark color, tan head that quickly disappeared, nice barrel character with bourbon, vanilla and oak in both the nose and the taste, mellowing out some of the stronger roast character of the base stout, and leaving this with a nice caramel and chocolate character that worked very well. Perhaps not a top tier BA stout, but close. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/14.

And there you have it. We shall move on to regular fare soon enough, but I'm already thinking about taking a break again this year, like I did last year. That will probably be a few months away at this point because I have some great beer incoming, so stay tuned.

Anchor Christmas Triple Feature

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Every year, I grab a sixer of Anchor's Our Special Ale, their Christmas/New Year's beer. I drink one or two, and reserve the rest for vertical tastings in the future. This marks the second year in a row where I've managed to save 3 years worth of beers for comparison, and the fifth year I've been drinking these beers. I also have a lone 2011 bottle that I'm reserving for a larger vertical at some point in the unspecified future (for the record, 2011 hase been my favorite vintage so far, though granted, I've only really been following since 2010...) On the other hand according to Anchor's brewer Bob, I might be hitting the sweet spot right now anyway:

I prefer years one through three myself, depending on the hop and spice profile of the original vintage. Obviously, if there is more hop and spice to begin with, there will be more carryover from year-to-year as the product ages, but by year five they all pretty much taste the same. Not necessarily bad, but not very interesting either.

I did a ten-year vertical tasting of our Christmas Ales once and found that by year seven, they really all did taste the same - and frankly, not very good.

I don't believe you Bob! In actuality, I do believe that, but I still want to see for myself. In the meantime, I'll follow Bob's advice and just look at the last three vintages to see what's up.

Anchor Christmas 2014

Anchor Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas) - Pours a dark brown color with a finger or two of fluffly, light tan head that leaves tons of lacing as I drink. Smells of mulling spices, cinnamon, ginger, maybe a little clove. Taste has a strong malt backbone, almost more like a brown ale than previous years, and those spices are more subtle and well matched as well. As it warms, that toasty, nutty brown ale character comes out a little more, as do the spices. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and well carbonated, with the spice taking hold in the finish. Overall, solid beer, not going to bowl you over, but well crafted and balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/20/14.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas) - Similar appearance, but a more amber hue to it, with beautiful highlights when held up to light (those are not present in the 2014). Spices more prominent in the nose. It feels like the ginger has taken over here, but the standard retinue of mulling spices are around somewhere. Taste is not quite as deep as the 2014, less of a malt presence, spices again more prominent, with the ginger standing out more here than I remember from last year. Mouthfeel is lighter bodied than 2014. Overall, it's fine, but I like the 2014 better! B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/20/14.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Anchor Christmas) - Very similar to the 2013. Amber highlights, more prominent mulling spice in the nose and taste, though it's clear that the age is tempering that spice a bit too. The spice seems to have fared better here than the 2013, and retains a certain complexity, but again, age is clearly having an impact here. I suspect the reason the spices feel more prominent in the 2013 and 2012 vintages is that the malt backbone is lighter, which means that the spice stands out more. Once again, I'm left with the 2014 as the best of this lot, but this 2012 is pulling in at number 2 (so age has treated this better than the 2013)... B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/20/14.

Overall, I still think the 2011 has been the best vintage I've tried so far, but 2014 took the honors tonight. I also suspect that it will age better than other recent vintages. Next year, I will technically be able to do a 5 year vertical, but I may want to wait a year or two before going too crazy (I should be able to do a 4 year vertical next year and still have enough 2012 to last another year or two). Per Bob, after 5 years, things apparently get samey, but who wants to believe that guy?! Happy Holidays everyone, see you next week!

7 Swans-A-Swimming

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One of the simultaneous strengths and weaknesses of American craft beer is its relationship to traditional style, or lack thereof. On the one hand, if it can be brewed, it's probably being brewed in America somewhere. Want a braggot? Sahti? Grätzer? Someone in America is keeping these obscure styles alive. Want a beer brewed with goat brains? We got you covered. On the other hand, who are we kidding? IPAs and Stouts are mainstays and they're where the buzz is at (I suppose sours can be included in that these days). And to be honest, it can get a bit tiresome to wade through all of the "off centerd", "genre-tilting", "innovative" beers that are continually being thrust our way. That goat brain beer? I think it's both awesome and a little gross that it exists.

The Bruery is one of those breweries that straddles the line. They do some (more or less) traditional stuff, but then, they also like to put big twists on traditional styles. Their 12 Days of Christmas series, in which they release a new beer every year that is meant to last until the release of 12 Drummers Drumming (making for one heck of a vertical), started off with some traditional stuff. Partridge In A Pear Tree was basically a Belgian Strong Dark, 2 Turtle Doves was a little more adventurous, a sorta Belgian Porter made with cocoa nibs, toasted pecans, and caramelized sugar, and aged in bourbon barrels (seems to be the best received entry), 3 French Hens was another straightforward Belgian Strong Dark, but it was partially aged in French Oak, 4 Calling Birds was a sorta Belgian Winter Warmer (almost a stout, if I remember correctly), 5 Golden Rings went way off the reservation, being a Belgian Strong Pale Ale made with Pineapple juice (and, quite frankly, the worst in the series so far), 6 Geese A Laying returned to the Belgian Strong Dark formula, but incorporated Gooseberries. For the most part, this has been a series of diminishing returns and escalating weirdness (or "off centeredness" or "innovative" or whatever you want to call it). I've not had the first two entries, but they have decent reputations. The 3rd and 4th entries were quite nice. All the ones up to that point were pretty straightforward. The 5th was... not bad, per say, but not particularly good either, and that pineapple juice made it a little too weird. The 6th was better, but not quite up to par with the rest of The Bruery's output, and the gooseberries made it a little weird.

And now we come to 7 Swans A Swimming, which returns to traditional brewing tactics land. It's basically a straight up Quadrupel, period. No weird adjucts or additions, just traditional Belgian Strong Dark beer. Not having had Partridge in a Pear tree, they seem similar, but I can't say for sure. So how does this fare?

7 Swans-A-Swimming

The Bruery 7 Swans-A-Swimming - Pours a dark brown color with hints of amber when held up to light and a nice finger or two of head. Smells nice, bready belgian yeast, spice, dark fruits, plums, and the like. Taste is also nice, lots of dark fruits, plums, a little raisin, plenty of yeast spice to cut through it. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated (but not quite as perfect as top tier quads), and a little sticky in the finish. Overall, its a very nice, on-style take on the quadrupel. Drinking a whole 750 makes it feel a bit one note, and I feel like the complexity sorta fades as it goes, but it works nonetheless. I'll still give it a B, but it's a high B and I like it better than the last couple entries in the series (ratings inflation continues unabated).

Beer nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 12/13/14. Bottled 11/10/14.

At some point, I thought it would be cool to save up all the 12 days of christmas beers for a big vertical (which is coming up fast), but I basically only have 4 Calling Birds in my cellar. This is the first time since then that I'm seriously considering grabbing another bottle for the cellar, even if it wasn't particularly spectacular (it seems like it could age well). I guess we'll see.

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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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