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Duvel Distilled

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While beer is obviously my main squeeze, I do like to dip my toes into other realms of boozy glory. I'm far from an expert in these other worlds, but that's part of the fun, and it turns out that there are a lot of intersections between beer and other libations. Witness my near obsession with beer aged in wine or spirits barrels. But there are other intersections beyond that... one of which is distilled beer.

I read a fair amount of beer blogs, but I also check in on a fair amount of whiskey bloggers. One of my favorites is Sku's Recent Eats, and as it turns out, he has a penchant for distilled beer. This has always intrigued me, so when I saw his recent post on Duvel Distilled, I commented that I'd love to try the beer and the distilled version together, just as an experiment. Well it turns out that the fine gentleman who sent Sku his samples saw my post and arranged to send me some samples as well. A month later, and I get to partake in that experiment. Many thanks to Dimitri for sending me this sample (and a few others, which I'm sure I'll post about at some point as well).

I've had a somewhat rocky relationship with Duvel in the past. I was distinctly unimpressed the first few times I had it, but I've had it twice in the past year and in both cases, it turned my head. Perhaps I had gotten bad bottles before. Whatever you may think of this, Duvel is generally known as the quintessential ur-example of a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (this is a pretty generalized category, but that's Belgian beer for you).

I'm no expert on this aspect, but as fodder for distillation, Duvel doesn't seem particularly well suited. It's mostly pale barley malt and very lightly hopped with mild European hops (i.e. very little inherent flavor from those ingredients). Instead, Duvel gets its distinct character almost entirely from the Belgian yeast - huge fruity esters and spicy phenols, with a high attenuation (resulting in a highly carbonated, dry beer). So what we have here is distilled Duvel that is then aged for six years in bourbon and sherry barrels. It's apparently somewhat rare and highly sought after, so it seems extra thanks should be sent Dimitri's way.

I know from reading Sku's posts that heavily hopped beers retain their hoppy character in the finished product. So the question is whether or not Duvel's yeast character will survive the distillation and aging process. Alas, it appears the answer is "not really".

Duvel and Duvel Distilled
(Click for bigger image)

Duvel - Pours a slightly hazy straw yellow color with several fingers of fluffy white head. Smells fantastic, primarily a Belgian yeast joint with huge fruity esters and spicy clove in the nose. The taste follows the nose with big spicy yeast notes, clove and the like, with some fruitiness peeking through. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but light bodied and dry, making it a good match for food. Overall, definitely better than my first few tastes, and clearly a classic Belgian Strong Pale. I keep upgrading this every time I have a bottle, and so we're up to a B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/6/14.

Duvel Distilled - Pours a very, very light yellow color. The nose smells pretty bland, definitely light on the fruity malt presence and heavy on the booze. I get none of the great fruity or spicy notes of the beer in the nose at all. It feels like that generic booze I first sampled as a teenager (not an entirely unpleasant memory, but then, not a particularly trustworthy one either). The taste doesn't change all that much, lots of general alcohol flavor, some grainy malt presence, but that's about it. None of the fruit or spice from the beer, nor any real discernible barrel character either (Sku's comment: "It's hard to believe this was aged in six years unless it was in seventh fill barrels or something like that."). Mouthfeel is actually pretty harsh and boozy, almost rougher than that 60%+ single barrel Four Roses stuff I got a hold of recently. Perhaps that's a bit unfair, but at least the Four Roses has some semblance of balance or at least an intensity of flavor that matches the booze level. Here, the balance is off... Overall, this is a bit of a disappointment. There's no way I'd peg this as being related to the beer at all, and even as a spirit in itself, it feels like a young, unrefined potion. There's nothing inhernently wrong with it, and it's certainly drinkable, but it's not something I'd recommend seeking out. This apparently has a cult following and fetches high prices on the secondary market, but I'm not entirely sure why... C

Spirit Nerd Details: 40% ABV bottled (sample size). Drank out of a glencairn glass on 8/6/14. 2013 vintage (I think?)

Despite not being in love with the actual Duvel Distilled product, I have to thank Dimitri yet again for the opportunity, as I love exploring these intersections between my potion of choice and the rest of the booze world. I felt a little bad about this until I realized that both Sku and Dimitri mentioned that they weren't the biggest fans of this stuff either...

Now if I can just get ahold of some of that Charbay whisky (distilled from Bear Republic's excellent flagship Racer 5 IPA), things might turn around. And some day, I really want to try New Holland's Beer Barrel Bourbon (which is bourbon finished on a third use barrel, with the first use being Bourbon and the second use being New Holland's Dragon's Milk Imperial Stout).

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.

December Beer Club

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In 2009, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men and women promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the West Chester underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as drinkers of craft beer. If you have a problem... if no one else can help... and if you can find them a local BYOB in which to meet... maybe you can hire... The Beer Club Team.

Well, that didn't work as well as it did in my head, but I'm going to leave it there as a reminder to myself that my stupid references aren't as funny as I think. Take that, self! What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folks from my work. We meet up once a month at a local BYOB and sample all sorts of beers. Decent turnout tonight, and some great beers too:

Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

Half remembered thoughts on each beer are below. For posterity, you understand. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order depicted above:

  • Harpoon UFO White - I could have sworn we've had this at beer club before, but I can't find any reference to it... Holy coriander, Batman! Very powerfully spiced for a simple wheat beer, but it made for a nice, bland start to the evening. B
  • Kaedrin Saison - Man, this thing is drinking perfect right now! Huge carbonation, spicy, crisp, and dry. Great with food, and I'm really disappointed that I only have a couple bottles of this left. This may end up being one of my better beers of all time. B+ or A- material here.
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Alas, this has not quite carbonated itself so well just yet. Disappointing. I had one last week, and it seemed like it was doing well, but nope, tonight's was lower carbonated than the last one I had. Weird. I'll give it a few more weeks before opening another (it seems that the regular saison is peaking right now, after several months) and leave it at that for now...
  • Ken's Homebrewed Winter Warmer - Very solid example of the style, very well spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, it came out really smooth and almost creamy, with that spicy kick. I really enjoyed this, even more than the other Winter Warmer/Holiday beers of the night. B+
  • Sly Fox Christmas Ale - Another winter warmer, and one I look forward to every year. Alas, they change up the recipe every year, and I have to admit, I'm not in love with this year's version. It's fine, to be sure, but not as good as previous years (or Ken's homebrew!) B-
  • Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale - It's amazing how little repetition there is in beer club. I can probably count on one hand the number of times that someone has brought a beer that's been at beer club before... This one was just at beer club back in September, which wouldn't be that bad except that no one really likes this beer! It's so thin and the bourbon barrel treatment doesn't really come through in any meaningful way (it's got some of that bourbon flavor, but it feels watered down and just flat). It's not a hideous abomination, but it's not particularly good either. C
  • Trappistes Rochefort 6 - A classic that I've already reviewed, and a welcome relief from the previous beer!
  • Affligem Noël - This was one of my favorite beers when I started the blog... but I didn't respond quite so well this time around. Not sure if it's just the context of beer club and a beleaguered palate, or if this really isn't as good as I remember. The balance is certainly off here, a little boozy, not enough malt and spice to counteract that. It's certainly not bad at all, and I do still really enjoy it, but perhaps not as much as I originally did... Let's call it a B or B+ now.
  • Southern Tier Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale - A late arrival, this perhaps should have been opened earlier in the night... but even then, I suspect this would underwhelm. C+
  • Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad - Dana and I shop at the same beer store. She shared hers, I greedily drank mine by myself. As I rated on Monday, B+
  • Stone Suede Imperial Porter - It's a fine porter, light roast, some complexity from those weird flower and jasmine adjuncts, but ultimately this is a beer that doesn't really float my boat. It's fine, I could probably take one down on my own, but I'm glad I was trying it in a tasting setting... B
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout - Another Dana special, I'm really glad she brought this... mostly because it's just awesome beer (that I've reviewed before). Still an A
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout - And this one was my contribution for the night. I had this last year and loved it, but it had aged for a few months before I cracked it open. This year, I had one fresh and thought I absolutely had to share this. I don't particularly love coffee, and this thing is a huge coffee bomb. It's amazing how much the coffee fades in the beer after a few months (I know the coffee is different every year, so maybe that's a factor this year too, but it's still dominated by coffee, to the point where I can barely get the bourbon barrel out of this, though it is there). Since some members of beer club are big coffee fans, I thought I should share it while it's fresh. It did not disappoint.
  • Fort Collins 1900 Amber Lager - I will refrain from talking much about this because after the Bourbon County, this was basically like water. A simple palate cleanser. That being said, it does not seem like my kinda thing...
And that wraps up yet another successful beer club. Already looking forward to ringing in the new year with beer club...

November Beer Club

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded friends from work who get together every month at a local BYOB for libations and fun. This month, we hit up a local BBQ joint, which is always nice. Got me some smoked Chorizo, Brisket, and some fixins which made for a great accompaniment to all the beer. And there was a lot of it this time around. The picture is actually missing a bunch of bottles because we did not account for people showing up later with their own stuff.

beerclub-november13.jpg
(Click for larger version)

So yeah, lots of stuff this month, so these notes are almost certainly useless, but for the sake of posterity, I'm including them anyway. Because I'm a good person, that's why. Yeah, let's get to it: in approximate order of drinking (not necessarily pictured):

  • Southern Tier Krampus - An "Imperial Helles" is sorta like a contradiction in terms, but hey, it's an amped up Helles, and it works well enough. Nice uncommon hop character gives an otherwise clean beer the punch it needs. Really quite nice. B+
  • Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold - Bottle wasn't quite a gusher, and we managed to not lose any, but it was hugely carbonated and most of us poured a cup of foam that resolved into more normal beerlike appearance in a minute or two. Once we got to it, it was pretty damn good. Nice Belgian yeast character, wheat is there but not as dominant as you might think (slightly reminiscent of something like St. Bernardus Tokyo). This was one of the first beers we tasted, and I liked it a lot, but we revisited it towards the end of the night and damn, it got almost (not quite) sour. Big fruity esters started showing up when it was warm. Again, not quite sour, but it was going in that direction. All in all, I enjoyed this more than the Ithaca Excelsior Rye beer I had recently... B+
  • Victory Root Beer - Yep, it's a root beer! I'm no expert (hay, there's no alcohol in this!?), but it's really good as root beers go.
  • Sprecher Bootlegger's Bourbon Barrel Hard Root Beer - Not sure I would have pegged this as having anything to do with a bourbon barrel, let alone an alcoholic beverage at all, but perhaps the power of suggestion lead me to believe that there was some bourbon present in the taste. Or something. Ultimately, it drinks like a good root beer, which is nice...
  • Avery White Rascal - A beer I've had before and greatly enjoyed, it doesn't quite fit in with a tasting like this - it is easily overwhelmed by the other brews of the night. Still, I like this as a lawnmower beer on a hot day (alas, it's pretty cold here these days). B
  • River Horse Double Wit - I don't know if it's the 7% ABV or the way this was spiced, but it didn't really connect with me. It's not bad at all, and other folks appreciated the different take on spice and booze level, but it never quite hit me where I wanted it to. B-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Schwarzbier - We need to get on Ken to start entering his beers into untappd or something, because these are getting good. Not my favorite style, but it's a nice dark lager style beer, clean and crisp, lighter than it looks, and quite flavorful. Toasty but not quite full on roast. Me likey. B+
  • Kaedrin Xmas Dubbel - My homebrewed dubbel, with a slight dose of cinnamon when I was bottling, is actually drinking really well right now. The regular dubbel has really matured and changed a lot over time, getting more and more raisiny, but this one was more subdued (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'll leave it at B+
  • Lost Abbey Deliverance - One of my other contributions, and a beer I've reviewed before! It's still great. A-
  • Atwater Vanilla Java Porter - While opening this directly after Deliverance was a supremely bad idea, I still get the impression that this would underwhelm. It does have a nice vanilla character, but it's a little thinner than I generally want out of a stout and while I'm not a big fan of coffee, it's nonexistent here. Certainly a drinkable beer and would be welcome change of pace at a macro bar, but it's not something to really seek out. C+
  • Spring House Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout - Can I just point you to a review from a couple weeks ago? No? Well too bad, cause that's what I'm doing. Still a B+ in my book.
  • Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale - The younger, weaker, smaller sibling to Really Old Brown Dog is a rather straightforward brown ale, which naturally has its merits (nice toasted malt and some heft to it) but again, should've probably opened this earlier in the night. Still glad I tried this, just to give context to Really old Brown Dog if not for its regular solid nature. B
  • Saucony Creek Chocolate Cherry Schnickelfritz - An object lesson in things sounding better than they taste, this seems to be a relatively well made imperial milk stout, but it's got this artificial feeling cherry aspect that sorta ruined the beer for me. Not an abomination, but not particularly good either. I guess all the beers I bring can't be winners! C
  • Ommegang Game Of Thrones #2 - Take the Black Stout - These Game of Thrones beers are actually pretty solid introductions to the whole Belgian beer world, and they work well enough for beer dorks too (a neat trick, appealing to the jaded hardcore and mainstream alike). I actually would call this more of a roasty Belgian Strong Dark rather than a full on stout, but to each their own. It's got a nice Belgian yeast character, spice and light fruit, with a hint of that roasted malt too, but the carbonation (and presumably attenuation) cuts through more than your typical stout. Still, it's very good, if not my favorite Ommegang beer. B+
  • River Horse Special Ale - No idea why this was opened so late in the night, but it's such a profoundly average beer that I doubt it would have made that much of an impression earlier in the night. There's absolutely nothing wrong wit it, and it's certainly a step up from fizzy yellow stuff light lagers, but its not really something to get excited about. C+
  • Victory Harvest Ale - I totally fell in love with Victory's Harvest Ale last year (and while I'm not a big Pils guy, the Harvest Pils was pretty good too), but this year's take fell completely flat to me. Not bad, per say, but something about this is rubbing me the wrong way. Perhaps it was a different hop variety, perhaps they used their Kolsch yeast instead of their normally clean IPA yeast, but whatever the case, it didn't inspire like last years. Again, it's pretty good, but it's disappointing. And I had this a couple weeks ago straight from the source too, so it's not just palate fatigue talking here! B
Yikes, that was a lot of beers. Luckily there were a lot of people in attendance, so my tastes were limited on most of these (yet another reason to take my notes with a grain of salt), but this was a really fun installment. Here's to hoping the December one will be just as great!

The End of Weyerbacher Hops Infusion

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I bought a bottle of the stuff, and then Weyerbacher discontinued it! In all seriousness, Weyerbacher has been talking about a new IPA for a while now, and they recently launched their new Last Chance IPA (for which they'll donate a portion of the sales to local animal shelters). Well, I don't have any of that stuff (yet!), but I tried some of the retired brew recently:

Weyerbacher Hops Infusion

Weyerbacher Hops Infusion - Pours a clearish dark orange color (copper?) with a finger of head and some decent retention. Smells of earthy hops, with a little citrus and maybe some sugary malt. There's a bit of a tinny twang here that I detected at first... not overpowering or anything, but perhaps I got a bad bottle. Taste also has a light caramel malt flavor, with a fair amount of earthy, floral hops and maybe just a hint of citrus. Not getting a ton of bitterness, but it's there in the finish, along with that same tinniness from the nose. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and it goes down easy. Overall, I may have gotten a bad bottle, but I have a feeling that this would be a rather straightforward IPA in any case... C

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/25/12.

Well, I can't say as though I'll be upset that this is no longer available... Even if I didn't get a bad bottle, I suspect it would have been somewhat underwhelming. But I do love me some Double Simcoe, and Weyerbacher is releasing their anniversary beer soon too, which is always worth checking out...

January Beer Club: Hoppy New Beer!

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. We had an average turnout this month, with 5 folks drinking beer and one pregnant club member who actually brought some non-alcoholic beer for us to try:

January Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Or a giant hunk of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale - I already reviewed this beer last month, but this bottle seemed a lot better than the one I had before. Not sure what the deal is there, but it was a better balanced brew than I remember, and certainly not a C. Maybe an upgrade to a B- is warranted.
  • Clausthaler Premium - The first of our non-alcoholic beers, this one was actually not the worst thing I've ever had. It's not particularly great either, but it's certainly comparable to a solid macro lager, maybe even better. If you're pregnant, this would certainly hit the spot (though apparently there's an amber version that is better). I give it a C
  • Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale - I've had this a few times before, but it's actually better than I remember. Very nice, lots of hop character in the nose and the taste (nice floral and pine notes), but not overwhelmingly bitter or anything. I don't get a ton of oak out of this, but it's definitely more complex than the standard Arrogant Bastard. A-
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale - Rogue's collaboration with the Voodoo Doughnut shop generated a lot of buzz when it was announced, but once it was released, it got denounced as a "foul abomination". Fortunately, it's not that bad, though it's certainly not a mainstream beer. It smells very strongly of maple syrup with a little smoke coming through. The bacon comes out a little in the taste, but I'm still getting more maple syrup than anything else. There's some smoke there too, but it's not an overpowering flavor. Mouthfeel is actually quite nice, though it's still not an easy drinkin beer. I'm not sure I'd want to drink an entire bottle, but I did seem to like it a lot more than most beer club peeps. Perhaps because I was drinking this along with the burger I had ordered? Whatever the case, it is a bit of a gimmick, but I kinda enjoyed it. B-
  • Kaliber - This is the other non-alcoholic beer we tried, and we had high hopes. It's brewed by Guinness, and when my pregnant friend asked around, this was one of the recommendations she got. But yeah, this is horrible beer. Bland and watery with some off flavors or something. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was a kinda nice palate cleanser after the strong character of the Voodoo Doughnut (but then, water would probably have done just as well or better). F
  • The Bruery Mischief - A classic. I reviewed this a while back, and it's just as good as it was the first time. Still an A and probably my favorite beer of the night.
  • Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock - Very sweet and malty beer, I rather enjoyed this, though it was far from my favorite beer of the night. Perhaps a bit too sticky sweet, though still quite solid. I actually have one of these in my fridge somewhere, so I'll have to give this some closer attention at some point. For now, I'll give it a B
  • Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper - During a beer run in early December, I actually bought one of these (along with a few others) and put it on my passenger's side seat for the trip back home. At some point, I had to brake suddenly and my beer went flying... and this one broke open. I knew what happened right away, but since I was driving I couldn't really address it until I got home. For the next week or so, my car smelled of imperial stout... which, actually, wasn't that bad. I eventually picked up another bottle, but never drank it, so I brought it to beer club. It's quite a solid imperial stout. Roasty aroma with a taste that features a lot of dark chocolate and roasted malts. It was quite good, though perhaps my taste buds were a bit shot at this point of the night, as this wasn't quite as great as I was expecting. I'll give it a B for now.
  • My Homebrewed Christmas Beer - I think this is perhaps my best crafted beer yet and other folks at beer club certainly seemed to enjoy it (it went pretty quickly, which is pretty gratifying). I keep saying this, but I should really do some reviews of my homebrewed beers at some point.
  • Dana's Homebrewed Tripel - This did not come out as Dana had planned - there was a bit of a sour flavor present in the beer - but it actually turned out ok. Very citrusy nose and the taste, while not a typical tripel, was actually pretty good.
And that covers all the beer that we drank. As always, a great time was had by all, and we're already looking forward to February.

Decembeer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. Tonight, we wondered why we don't do this more than once a month. We had a strange turnout this month. Lots of people, but really only 4 of us were drinking lots of beer (other folks bring wine or don't drink at all). Still, a good time was had by all, and we had a pretty nice selection of beers:

December 2011 Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so take it all with a grain of salt. Actually, no. It's the final word on the subject. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Harpoon Winter Warmer - A pretty straightforward winter warmer style beer. Not quite as dark as I'd expect, lots of holiday spices in the nose and taste. Decent, but nothing special... B-
  • Achouffe N'Ice Chouffe - Achouffe's holiday beer brewed with spices turned out to be a bit disappointing. Pours a nice brown color with a bunch of head and a nice Belgian aroma. But the taste is filled with sweet raisiny character that doesn't always work well for me. It got a little less powerful as it warmed up a bit. Very sweet and raisiny. A decent beer, but I expect more out of Achouffe... B-
  • Great Lakes Christmas Ale - It's got all the standard winter warmer characteristics, but it's also brewed with honey, and you really get that additional honey character in the taste. It makes this a somewhat unique brew, and it's actually well balanced. That being said, I've never been that big of a honey person, so it's still not knocking my socks off. B
  • Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown - I've never been one for Leinenkugel's beers, and I don't think this was anything special, but it's a reasonably well executed brown ale with a nice nutty flavor. Not something I anticipate trying again, but it wasn't repugnant either. B-
  • Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale - I actually reviewed this last year and my thoughts on the beer have changed very little. A decent beer, but not something I'd go out of my way for...
  • Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager - My least favorite beer of the night, this one wasn't really offensive so much as it didn't really have much going for it. Flavors seemed a bit muted (especially considering the context of a beer tasting) and while it was crisp and clean, it just didn't do much for me. C
  • Goose Island Christmas Ale - ZOMG! It's a beer mostly owned by Anheuser Busch. I have a reflexive dislike for that, but then, this was actually one of the better beers of the night. A really well balanced and tasty winter warmer style beer. Hop flavors of pine and spruce dominate the palate, but it's not particularly bitter either, which is an interesting combination and everything is rather well matched. B+
  • Heavy Seas Yule Tide - A Belgian style tripel, this one doesn't really have much in the way of holiday spirit, but it's a decent strong pale ale. Typical Belgian yeast flavors are there, but it is extremely sweet. This worked fine for the limited portions of beer club, but to be honest, I'm positive this would become overly cloying if I tried to drink an entire bottle of the stuff. B-
  • My Homebrewed Christmas Ale - I've been trying these ever since I bottled it, but this particular bottle seemed a bit under-carbonated. My regular 12 ounce bottle sseem to be fine (I'm sipping on one right now, actually), but this 22 ounce bottle seemed a bit light on the carbonation. Not sure what to make of that, but it should hopefully work itself out by Christmas...
A few of the beers in the picture were not actually opened. We ended up using them as a sorta Holiday beer exchange/white elephant style gift for each other. Overall, we all had a good time and I'm already looking forward to the January edition of beer club. Until then, expect a whole slew of additional holiday beer reviews!

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale

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Like Anchor's Christmas Ale, these are apparently vintage dated and feature new artwork on the label each year. Unlike Anchor, the recipe appears to be the same each year. While I haven't sampled a lot of Samuel Smith's catalog, what I've had so far has been uniformly solid stuff. No face melters, but really well executed examples of classic styles like oatmeal stouts and brown ales. As such, I was quite looking forward to this beer. Alas, my hopes were dashed.

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale - Pours a clear amber color, lighter than I'd expect, but with a nice couple fingers of head. The smell reminds me more of an English Pale Ale - light malts and grassy hops. The taste is also like an English Pale Ale. Light malts in the beginning with some buttery notes (typically not a good thing, but they're light here) and earthy hops coming out in the finish. Not a bitter bomb, but it's there. There's a slight spiciness to it, but it wouldn't surprise me if they got all that character out of yeast and hops. Mouthfeel is definitely a bit too light. It works well enough to start, but as I got towards the end, the carbonation was too low. It wasn't a bad beer, but it's not particularly in my wheelhouse either and it's not something I see myself revisiting anytime soon. C

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a, uh, glass. I mean, you can see the picture, right? I don't know what to call that glass. But I drank it on 12/2/11.

A disappointing effort from Samuel Smith, but I'm still a fan of their stuff and will most certainly be trying something else from them in the near future. Well, if I keep buying beer the way I have been lately, it probably won't be the near future. Seriously, I've got a lot of stuff in my cellar these days. Good stuff. Stuff I should really drink soon. Not to mention 4 cases of homebrew. But I digress. Beer club tomorrow! See you then.

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

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