Recently in B Category

Lemon Cello IPA

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Limoncello is a spirit of Italian origin that is made by steeping lemon peel in a neutral spirit long enough to extract the oils out of the lemon peel. The result is then mixed with some simple syrup and served as an after-dinner digestif. Clocking in at around 30% ABV, it's a sipping drink, but the bright lemony tartness gives it a more refreshing kick than your typical spirit. It's not my favorite thing, but it's definitely something worth trying after a hearty Italian meal.

The idea for this beer was to create a much more drinkable version of a Limoncello. It's kinda like a beer/Limoncello hybrid, with the tart and refreshing nature of the spirit mixed with the quaffability of beer. This is accomplished by doing a quick sour mash, adding lemon peel and juice to the mixture, and then adding lactose to sweeten things up*. Finally, they add a bunch of Sorachi Ace and Citra hops to the mixture, each of which contributes additional citrus notes. Despite the hop additions, I feel like calling this an IPA is a bit misleading. It's got some nice aromas and the balancing bitterness is there, but the beer is otherwise dominated by its tart, lemony character. This was the intention, of course, so I'm not saying its a failure or anything, but it feels more like a wild ale than an IPA.

This beer was a collaboration made at Siren brewing in the UK. I've never had any of Siren's beers before (they're a relatively new operation), but their collaborators are some of my favorites. Hill Farmstead is in the running for best brewery in the world, while Mikkeller certainly makes some of the best beer in the world, though occasionally he engages in flights of fancy and experimentation that don't always pan out. This beer seems like one of those flights of fancy, so how did they do? I don't really know.

Lemon Cello IPA

Siren / Mikkeller / Hill Farmstead Lemon Cello IPA - Pours a deep golden color with a finger of fluffy white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of big citrus hops, with an herbal component, and what is presumably that lemon peel peeking through, melding with the citrusy hops and providing its own interesting character. Taste is, whoa, tart and lemony, almost like, well, lemoncello. Nothing in the nose betrayed this sort of flavor, but it's fine for what it is. It's very sweet, and the hops are there along with some bitterness on the backend. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, well carbonated, a little acidic, medium bodied. Ah, yes, this is made with lactose, and that does come through in both the sweetness of the beer, and the mouthfeel. I don't normally go in for the hoppy sour beers, but this one is working well enough. Overall, it's a very interesting beer, if not something I'd really go out of my way for again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.1% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 9/26/14.

Vermont beer treasures are rapidly depleting at this point, though there's at least one remaining Hill Farmstead beer coming up, so stay tuned.

* Most of the time lactose is reserved for Milk Stouts (the sweetness balancing out some of the bitter roasty character), but this marks the second time in just a few weeks that I've had a pale beer with lactose. Go figure.

Foley Brothers Native IPA

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This will be the fourth, and sadly, final round of Vermont Beer Roulette that we'll be playing this year. For those not following along, this is when I pick up a random Vermont beer that I've never heard of and drink it to see what happens. So far, we've had decent luck, but I have to admit to cheating a bit with this one, since Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale was a beer I snagged last year, so this is not as "random" as the other roulette contestants. It's ok, go ahead and clutch your pearls in horror at my transgression, I deserve it.

Foley Brothers Native IPA

Foley Brothers Native IPA - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of fluffy white head. The smell is full of citrus and pine hops, maybe some floral notes poking around as well. The taste follows those lines, with lots of citrus and pine hop flavors, some floral, maybe even herbal notes picking up towards the bracing, bitter finish. Mouthfeel is very light, maybe even a bit on the thin side, but it's very crisp and clean and goes down quickly. Overall, a solid IPA, nothing earth-shattering, but worthy of a try. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/14.

My Vermont haul goodies are dwindling at this point, so you can expect the near relentless onslaught of hoppy beer reviews to slow a bit in the near future. It's one of the tragedies of beer acquisition that it seems like I always end up with, like, 10 amazing beers in the same or similar styles. I really do try to keep things varied in terms of what I review, but sometimes I end up reviewing 10 IPAs in just a few weeks. We will hopefully get away from that in the coming weeks...

September Beer Club

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

Beer Club

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

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

Bent Hill India Pale Ale

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This is the third round of Vermont Roulette, wherein I drink a random Vermont beer I've never heard of, and see what happens. So far we've had one big success and one... not quite as good.

Bent Hill is a brand new brewery, having opened their doors in June, so information is a bit sparse. The founders were environmental engineers or somesuch, and thus have all sorts of grand plans, including an initiative to grow most of their hops locally and, as I generally presume of so-called "green" brewers, the creation of a weather control doomsday device. One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them. And I, for one, welcome our brewing overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted blogging personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their hop fields.

In the meantime, let's see how this rather unconventional take (at least, for an American brewer) on an IPA goes:

Bent Hill IPA

Bent Hill India Pale Ale - Pours a cloudy, dark orange color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells distinctly English, earthy, spicy, floral hops, with some berries and pine in the background, with a substantial malty aroma, in the crystal malt or biscuit mold. Taste again feels more in line with an English IPA, with those earthy, herbal, spicy, floral hops doing their thing, and some citrus and pine playing along too, with a substantial malt backbone, light caramel and biscuits. While most IPAs tend to overdo the hops, this one may have overdone the malt side, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing either. It never reaches diacetyl levels English, which is a good thing, but it still feels very English in execution. The label sez they use Cascade, East Kent Goldings, and Chinook hops, so I guess it's a sorta old-school hybrid English/American IPA type of thing. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, generally pretty easy going. Overall, it's an interesting change of pace and completely off the path of what your typical American brewer is doing with IPAs... which is refreshing in its own way. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/5/14.

Three rounds of Vermont Roulette, and I survive to play the final round, coming next week. Stay tuned.

Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer minded individuals at a local BYOB for libations and fun. Tonight we returned to a mainstay of our beer club experience, a local sushi place that we have all grown to love. Reasonable turnout, and some rather fantastic beers:

Beer Club for July 2014

For the sake of posterity, some basic thoughts on each below. Usual disclaimers apply, this is clearly not an isolation chamber environment, so please take this with the requisite grain (or boulder) of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily in the order pictured):

  • Forest & Main Palomino - One of my contributions and a favorite of the night, this is just as good as it was when it was fresh, if not even better. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pilsner - Nice typical pilsner hop nose, incredibly light and quaffable, this is the sort of thing that would be a perfect hot day drinking beer. This was Ken's first all-grain brew, and it turned out really well, even if it's not my favorite style. B
  • Anthony's Homebrewed ESB - Another homebrew (we seem to attract those types at beer club, I don't know why), this one has all the hallmarks of a good ESB, nice muted hop character, some solid biscuity malt, but also an almost brown sugar component that works really well. Another beer that would make for a great session, even if it might be slightly too much ABV... B+
  • Crown Valley Big Bison Ale - A fairly malty, well carbonated take on the dubbel style, though it's a bit more raisiny than expected, with maybe even a hint of diacetyl, which we never really appreciate here at Kaedrin. Not at all terrible, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Anderson Valley Boont Barl Bourbon Barrel Amber Ale - Not as much bourbon barrel character as expected, and as such beers go, this is decidedly low cctane, but it actually drinks reasonably well. Decent balance, the bourbon is there, but it's very light. Not something I'd seek out, but it's a reasonably decent beer. B
  • Terrapin Pineapple Express - The bottle sez this is a smoked pineapple Helles, not something that seems like it would work out. In reality, it's not as bad as I feared, but it was cromulent enough. Very sweet, with only a light smoky character (it's not one of those beers where you'll wonder who put their cigar out in your beer!) I'm glad I tried it in this setting, as I don't know that I'd want to take down a full bottle of this. B-
  • Kaedrin Barleywine - I'm pretty sure I screwed up the carbonation factor of this beer. The flavor and aroma are there in spades, it just hasn't quite carbed up to the point where I thin it works well. And actually, this regular version is probably the best carbonated of them, which is not encouraging. The Bourbon one tastes a lot better, but it's also flatter... B-
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub Nitro - Much better than the standard Old Chub (which I always felt was too dry and too well carbonated to be a great Scotch ale), really smooth and creamy (typical of the nitro), malty, tasty stuff. B+
  • Green Flash Road Warrior Imperial Rye India Pale Ale - Tons of Moscaic hop character out of this, tropical fruits with that spicy rye character, this is a really solid beer worth checking out. B+
  • Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break - I've actually had this a few times before, and it's really nice, especially if you like coffee. As I'm pretty much ambivalent to coffee, I thought this was fine, if not the best evar, though it seemed to go over really well. This was another favorite of the night amongst the beer club peeps, but I'll go B+, but only because my coffee feelings are well documented (could easily be higher for most other folks).
  • Blue Point (Sour) Cherry Imperial Stout - I have to admit that I'm not the biggest sour stout fan out there, but this worked well enough, with that rich malt and sour twang, maybe even a hint of that cherry. A few of us tried blending this beer with the Imperial Biscotti Stout, just to see what would happen, but it didn't turn out particularly great. This beer by itself is better, but still around a B level beer for me.

So there you have it. August may be a weird month in terms of beer club, but I'm sure we'll work something out. In any case, stay tuned for some moar local awesomeness this week on Kaedrin.

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.

Independence Day

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Every year, a local drinkery puts together a killer taplist on the 4th of July, and for the past two, I've tried to make it over there. Of course, it helps that they're pouring stuff like Hill Farmstead (insert stupid image of Wolverine pining after beer here), and this year there were 2 that I had not managed to wrangle before. In addition, I snagged my first Funky Buddha beer, and a little midwest coffee stout. Let's just say that it was a good day.

Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison

Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison - Pretty excited to try this one, a collaboration with Kissmeyer and Cambridge brewing. Apparently we got some of this before it was even released at HF! Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a whispy layer of head on top that basically just disappears. Smells nice, Belgian yeast, light saison funk, almost fruity notes. Taste follows the nose, light funk, some yeasty character, fair amount of sweetness, a little balancing bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is lightly carbonated (generally a problem for me) and a little heavier than your typical saison. Overall, this is a fine saison, but coming from the likes of HF, I generally expect more (Arthur was on tap, and was far superior). B

Beer Nerd Details: ??% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

Hill Farmstead George

Hill Farmstead George - This looks to be a pretty standard American Brown Ale style beer. It's not a style that you would expect to wow you, and it doesn't, though of course, HF's take is amongst the best I've ever had (if not the best). Dark brown color, solid finger and a half of light tan head. Smells about what you'd expect from a brown ale, mild, toasted malt, hints of coffee, chocolate, and roast, maybe a teensy bit of hops, but nothing dramatic. Taste follows the nose, mild toast and roast, well balanced sweetness and bitterness, and so on. Mouthfeel is fantastic, well carbonated, medium bodied, everything blends together well. Overall, this is an exceedingly well balanced, tasty take on the style. It's not going to melt your face, but it's really well done. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

So I know what you're thinking, two Hill Farmstead beers and no A level ratings? Well fear not, Abner, Susan, and Arthur were also on tap and are all as fantastic as ever. But after the above two, I jumped ship for my first Funky Buddha beer. They're a Florida brewery that doesn't get much in the way of distribution, but Philly really is a wondertown in that respect, so a few kegs make their way up here from time to time. This offering was, by far, the weirdest thing I had all day.

Funky Buddha Last Snow

Funky Buddha Last Snow - This is a coffee Porter made with coconut, white chocolate and caramel, and it is weirder than it sounds. Looks like a typical stout or porter, half a finger of fluffy tan head. That coconut and coffee come through strong in the nose. I don't think I'd call it balanced, but it comes off as being toasted coconut or something, and it works. The taste perhaps features a little more of that roasted malt and coffee, but the coconut sweetness still pervades the taste and again, it works reasonably well. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light on its feet, well carbonated, pretty easy going. Overall, it's a really interesting, unique, complex beer. Not something that I'd expect to take the world by storm, but an interesting first impression. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

Perennial Sump

Perennial Sump Coffee Stout - A big ol' imperial stout brewed with coffee. I think we all know how I feel about coffee stouts (I like them, but am still mostly ambivalent about the coffee aspect), so I wasn't expecting much out of this sucker, and it was basically what I expected. My tasting notes are pretty sparse from this point on, so I'm just going from memory here, but this did have a nice coffee character to it, and a solid imperial stout base. It was not a super drinkable stout, and took my a while to work through. I liked it, but was not going as crazy over it as everyone else. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

So this was a very good day. Lots of new, interesting beer, and some real, genuine classics that I'd had before but will always jump to try again (looking at you, Abner!) Already looking forward to next year's 4th of July celebration!

Posting will probably be light this week, but never fear, we'll be talking great beer again in no time.

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.

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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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