Recently in Miscellaneous Category

Habanero Heady

| No Comments

As I make my way through my annual beer hibernation, I try to explore some beer adjacent realms, and this sometimes goes to some odd places, like... hot sauce? Last year, I discovered a new favorite, the BLiS Blast, which is aged in old KBS (or is it CBS?) barrels. It's not especially hot, but it packs a lot of flavor and it's got a character that was missing in my regular hot sauce repertoire (which it has now joined).

This year, we've got Habanero Heady, which I believe is sometimes called Heady Topper Owner's Reserve, and other times Red Heady (not to be confused with my poorly made homebrewed red ale that used yeast harvested from Heady Topper cans). They seem to name every batch differently and from what I can tell, they're all different anyway. Here's a video of them making a batch that does seem similar (but not quite the same as) my batch:

Whatever the case, I snagged a bottle of this from the brewery during last year's Operation Cheddar sortie into Vermont, and have been slowly making my way through it (yeah, it takes me a while to get through a bottle of hot sauce, wanna fight about it?) Made in collaboration with the Butterfly Bakery of VT and Maple Wind Farm, it uses Habanero peppers and a little Heady Topper (along with the usual hot sauce base of distilled white vinegar). Bright hops and spicy peppers actually go together reasonably well, so let's take a closer look:

Habanero Heady

Butterfly Bakery of Vermont Habanero Heady Owner's Reserve - Appears a chunky light orange brown color, visible pepper chunks and seeds. Smells of habanero peppers with a little vinegar tang. Taste has that big spicy habanero character and tons of heat, pretty straightforward and more hot than flavorful. Mouthfeel is chunky and extremely hot. Not a ton of balance here, and the heat tends to overwhelm the taste. I certainly don't get any hops out of the flavor. Not bad at all, but also not exactly a must try. Overall, an interesting hot sauce, but not one that I see myself revisiting. Interestingly, in applications where it's mixing with something liquidy or creamy (like a sunny side up egg or mac & cheese), it actually works better, as the heat is diluted a bit and the flavor actually has room to emerge. More simple additions, like wings or similar things, the pepper overwhelms the rest. B

Hot Sauce Nerd Details: Bottled (5 ounces). Batch #: 1638. Bottle #: 463. Heat Level: 4/5 "Pretty Hot" (not sure I want to know what the 5/5 level, "Crazy Hot", is like).

There are apparently lots of other sauces they make, including other Alchemist based sauces that aren't quite as potent. I'd definitely like to check that out.

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around Jon Abernathy wants to talk homebrewing: "the good, the bad, your experiences, ideas, (mis)conceptions, or whatever else suits you, as long as it starts the conversation!" That sounds good, so I'm just going to talk about each of those things, though not necessarily in that order. I know, that probably doesn't make sense to you, but you'll get it in a minute, I promise. Wait, where are you going? Stahp!

My Experiences: I've been homebrewing for, huh, 7 years? But that's incredibly misleading, as I don't brew very often, and I think I've only made something like two batches in the past two years. However, I did just keg an Northeast IPA, which should be ready for the SuperBowl (go Iggles), so there is that. Also, I'm pretty basic with my setup, still doing extract brewing. I've played around with oak aging and even Brett once, to mixed results. Basically, I have an idea of what homebrewing is all about, but I'm far from an expert.

The Good: One of the reasons I started home brewing is that I spend most of my time working in a virtual world. Everything I produce for my job is digital in nature, and most of my home projects are also digital, so I really appreciated the idea of making something out here in meatspace. And when I manage to make a great batch of homebrew, it tastes so much better. Plus, getting familiar with the process of making beer is a great way to learn about beer, and you start to understand how various aspects of the process impact even beer you didn't make. Finally, I really enjoy huffing empty hop packets.

The Bad: Well, I've managed to make some rather lackluster batches, and, well, having five gallons of a lackluster beer sitting around isn't the most exciting thing in the world. One of the good things about having made a decent batch is that you get to share with friends and family... but when you make a bad batch? Nope! This is all compounded by the fact that it's pretty rare that I drink the same beer over and over again. I mean, I'm getting better at drinking beers I've had before without thinking of it as a moral failure, but I'm still a novelty whore at heart, so drinking lot of the same beer, even when it's decent, can still get me down. In addition, my eyes are bigger than my liver, so I almost always have way too much beer on hand at any given time, and homebrew only adds to that.

Ideas: I like the experimentation that a lot of homebrewers engage in, and I've done a little of that, like making an Earl Grey Bitter. I haven't quite cracked the oak aging process, but my last attempt, a barleywine I calle Trystero did turn out pretty good (though I did have some issues with carbonation). My next batch of beer will include some oak aging, this time using oak cubes soaked in Aberlour A'Bunadh Scotch. As with my previous oak aging batches, I plan on splitting the batch in secondary, with some aging on oak, some not, and then when I get to bottling, do some plain, some oak aged, and some blend of the two. Then! I'm going to do few bottles of what I'll call "fortified beer", meaning that I'll add some more straight Scotch to a small proportion of beer, bringing the ABV up to 15-20%. Could be a disaster, but hey, it's worth trying, right? Whatever, I'm doing it anyway.

Misconceptions: I hope you are very patient and that you like cleaning things a lot, because you'll need both of those things.

I'm really glad that I've played around with homebrewing and would definitely recommend the experience for anyone interested in learning more about beer. Or drinking a lot of the same thing. Whichever.

2017 Year End Musings

| No Comments
Another orbital cycle has passed, which means its time to take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we're going. There are always things to dislike about a given year, but rarely do I come down on beer as being one of those things, which is nice, since this is a beer blog and all. So what happened this year?

  • The End of Novelty? Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. But the fact remains that I'm drinking more repeat beers than ever. This is to be expected, as I've been at this for a while, but even beyond that, there are annual releases I look forward to drinking every year, and sometimes I will even *gasp* buy a four (or six) pack and drink all of them. There are tons of people for whom this is a trivial occurrence (and who are no doubt confused if they're reading this), but I spent several years as a total novelty whore, where basically every beer I drank was different and a repeat beer seemed like a moral failure. That is silly, of course, and I've moved on. I regret nothing, and both approaches are fun, and it's not like I don't go in for new, novel beers or anything.
  • The Rise of Lambic? One thing I've found myself reaching for more and more over the past couple of years is Lambic and in particular, Gueuze. This goes along with the above, since what is regularly available is usually something I've already had, and yet I do keep reaching for these beers whenever I get a chance. I've definitely reviewed more lambic in the past couple of years, but there's still less opportunity to do so. I've also found that lambic purchases contributed to:
  • Aged Beer Coming to Fruition? The past couple of years have seen a lot of aging experiments come to fruition. For instance, this year I reviewed a host of vintage Victory and Dogfish Head beers that had been sitting in my cellar for 5 years or so (there were a bunch of others that I never got around to posting about either). Of course, only some of these were intentionally aged beers, and not all were of good aging stock, so results were mixed. But then, aged beer results have always been mixed in my estimation. My general advice remains: Aging beer is fun, but if you've only got one bottle and you're debating whether to drink fresh or age it, drink it fresh. One exception to this seems to be Lambic though. I haven't done much formal evaluation of this, but informally, I've had some aged lambic (in the 3-15 year aged range) and seen some fascinating results. As such, my cellar is filling up with lambic to age.
  • The Rise of the Local Beer Release? Ok, so this one isn't particularly new at all, but I was talking with a friend recently about good beer distributers in PA and realizing that I pretty rarely go to them anymore. For the uninitiated, PA law changed at the beginning of 2017 to allow distributers to sell singles or 4/6 packs (previously, you had to buy a case if you wanted something - a ridiculous law that basically meant I never went to beer distributers), but while I've popped in to a few of them from time to time, I find that I still get most of my beer from local brewery releases (or travel to other brewery releases, as with Operation Cheddar, or muled releases, or trades, etc...) The only thing I really go to package stores for anymore is lambic. Doesn't mean I won't pick up something else while I'm there (always in the mood for some BA Firestone Walker, etc...), but still.
  • The Decline of Blogging? The rate of new posts here has also been slowly dropping over the past couple of years, but has seen a more steep decline of late. This is partly due to some of the factors discussed above: less novelty and more repeat beers means less reviews to blog about. Plus, I'm starting to run a little dry when it comes to writing up a new beer. There's only so many quick brewery profiles or style recaps to go through, and sometimes a beer's backstory isn't all that interesting. I've got a backlog of reviews right now, of course, but I've been slow to pick them off. This might augur more general or creative writing about beer, which could possibly be in the cards, but wouldn't be as frequent as reviews. Then again, blogging in general has been in steep decline for, like, a decade, and it's not like anyone is reading this (if you are, thanks!)
  • What happened to Homebrewing? No homebrewing all year. I had hoped to turn that around this fall, but I got sick at the wrong times and it just never aligned. I still hope to rebrew Crom Approved and that oak-aged Scotch Ale that I've been threatening for a while now (tentatively named Barlennan, a particularly nerdy reference - if you get it, we really need to be friends).
  • Other Stuff: I took another break from beer this year, and I still find this a very valuable exercise. From a health perspective, though, I had a not so great year. I've managed to right the ship by the end of the year, but I suffered through a weird toe injury (that prevented exercise) and then I had a cold and ear infection that have lingered on for far too long, which makes drinking and general health a bit challenging. Still, I'm hoping the new year will really get me going again. I've ticked some great stuff this year, but less in the way of walez, bro. Not complaining at all, just a note. Ratings inflation continues unabated, and I never managed to induct a new class of A+ beers, but perhaps we'll just make that a bi-annual event anyway.
So it's been an interesting year in beer. In accordance with the decline in blogging and increase in repeat beers, my top "new to me" beers of the year list is shrinking. This year, I'm only slotting in 25 beers with reviews... though I will have a list of unreviewed beers that I had a shares, etc... Standard disclaimers apply: this is not an all time list, it's a list of beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you're favorite isn't on it, that might just be because I reviewed it in a previous year, or perhaps I haven't had it at all. Or maybe I had it and hated it and you have bad taste. I've also tried to limit brewery appearances so as not to be a list of the 20 best Hill Farmstead beers I've had this year. This is a naturally arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with it and enjoy making lists like this. After all, lists are American! So let's get on with it.

  1. Lawson's Finest Liquids Apple Brandy Fayston Maple Imperial Stout (Imperial Stout)
  2. Tree House Julius (IPA)
  3. de Garde Oude Desay (Saison)
  4. Victory Red (Flanders Red Ale)
  5. Burley Oak 100 (DIPA)
  6. Levante South Pacific Hop Cartel (DIPA)
  7. Burial The Persistence Of Memories (DIPA)
  8. Upper Pass First Drop (American Pale Ale)
  9. Barrel of Monks Monk de Soleil (Saison)
  10. Pretty Things Our Finest Regards (Barleywine)
  11. Hill Farmstead Sue (American Wild Ale)
  12. Casey Saison (Saison)
  13. Rare Barrel Wise Guise (American Wild Ale)
  14. Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend (Gueuze)
  15. Founders CBS (Imperial Stout)
  16. Tired Hands The Emptiness is in Bloom (Saison)
  17. Bottle Logic The Spice Must Flow (Pumpkin Beer)
  18. Oude Mûre Tilquin à L'ancienne (Lambic)
  19. Ommegang 20th Anniversary Ale (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
  20. Fantôme Vertignasse (Wheat Beer)
  21. Bissell Brothers LUX Rye Ale (Rye Beer)
  22. Tired Hands Only Void Bourbon Barrel Aged (Imperial Stout)
  23. Firestone Walker Bravo (American Brown Ale)
  24. Interboro Premiere IPA (IPA)
  25. Civil Society Fresh (IPA)
The Unreviewed
Beers that where I had small samples and/or never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.

  1. Hill Farmstead Aaron (Barleywine)
  2. Modern Times Monsters' Park Aged In Nicaraguan Rum Barrels With Cherries & Vanilla (Imperial Stout)
  3. Anchorage A Deal With the Devil (Barleywine)
  4. Cycle Trademark Dispute: Hazelnut (Imperial Stout)
  5. Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th (Imperial Stout)
  6. Other Half/Monkish Twice Baked Potato (DIPA)
  7. Casey Fruit Stand - Bing Cherry (Saison)
  8. Voodoo Tenacious Wee - Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged (Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy)
  9. Angry Chair Dulce de Pepe (Imperial Stout)
  10. OEC Antioch (American Wild Ale)

Anchorage A Deal With The Devil

I may need to make some real deals with the devil if I am to land that caliber of beer again. Or, you know, like, try. I could do that. And not risk my immortal soul. Or something. There are a few things I drank last year (even including stuff from way back in the middle of the year) that I still haven't written up at all, but I guess they can wait until next year. So it's been a fun year, and hopefully many more to come. Enjoy your beer folks!

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Gail Ann Williams of Beer by BART wants to talk about "New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers" and that's a subject that interests us here at Kaedrin, so here goes.

Of course, I've already said my piece on Northeast IPAs and Milkshake Beer (in addition to reviewing lots and lots and lots and lots of them). Indeed, I've just completed a quick, day-long tour through Vermont in order to acquire various Northeast IPAs (and saisons, and stouts, and lagers, and everything else, but NEIPA is clearly the driver), the sixth such incursion in the past five years. Here's some Hill Farmstead Walden from the latest sorty:

Hill Farmstead Walden

Since I've already opined on the subject, I shall try not to repeat myself too much. The short story, in my mind, is that the entire trend is driven by yeast. This harkens back to the days of Greg Noonan and the Vermont Pub & Brewery, where he pioneered the use of the fabled Conan yeast. An English strain, it tends to accentuate the citrusy character of hops, lending a distinctly "juicy" feel to the resulting beer. Yes, the beer tends to be a little hazier (ok, sometimes a lot hazier or downright cloudy), but that's a red herring. You can make super hazy IPAs with a clean American Ale yeast strain, but that won't capture the Northeast feel. Of course, not everyone uses Conan, but when you look into the Hill Farmsteads and Tired Hands of the world, you find some sort of English strain of yeast that accentuates that juicy character. (Again, more detail in my previous post on the subject.)

Part of the reason I attribute this to yeast (other than it actually being the most important, defining difference between NEIPA and traditional or West Coast IPAs!) is that when I finally got my greedy biscuit snatchers on some "Vermont Ale" yeast, I basically took an old IPA recipe and made the same thing (it ended up having slightly higher ABV and slightly less IBUs) but with different yeast and I was shocked at how different the resulting beer was. Yes, again, it was cloudy, but all my homebrew is relatively cloudy. The flavor was light years away from the original brew (which was a nice, solid little West Coast style IPA). Up next, I'm probably going to try a similar recipe, but using the easier to find Wyeast 1318 London Ale III strain (rumored to be close to what local Kaedrin favorite Tired Hands uses).

I could keep going, but I'd just be repeating myself, so let's give a quick whirl to the questions Gail posed:

The encounter: Do you remember your first NEIPA - if so, what was that like? Details, please. And how has your perception of the style changed over time?

I didn't know it at the time, but it was during a Philly Beer Week event with Hill Farmstead. My first was their What is Enlightenment? but I guess that's technically an APA, so let's go with Abner, which was the true revelation of the day. Of course, at the time, I didn't really know exactly how to describe how it was different, I just knew that it was delicious. It was actually during that event that I learned of Tired Hands, our local purveyor of NEIPA, and not long after that, I started going regularly (their lack of regular, staple beers means that I've had literally hundreds of different NEIPAs from them). Shortly after that, I got my claws on some Heady Topper, and I was hooked. I've been in love with the style ever since, and I've gotten better at being able to describe, distinguish, and differentiate NEIPA from regular IPA...

Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend ... why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does "IPA" still apply in a way that's helpful to drinkers?

I tend to go with Northeast IPA, but I'm not too picky and most of the other names work. Ultimately, though, they're still IPAs. I don't think that we absolutely need a new BJCP style or something (though perhaps easing some of the restrictions on clarity and IBU might be in order).

Or the crusade: Testify! Exactly why do you love or hate these beers? How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you. Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?

I love these beers because they're delicious! Is there any other real reason? Of course, there's no accounting for taste. If you don't like them, more power to you (and please lay off, these things tend to be in short supply, so fewer drinkers translates to better/easier availability... but of course, I'm not holding my breath on that count.)

Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style?

I've already explained this a little above, but it basically amounts to pale malt (with much less in the way of crystal than a lot of IPAs, but other adjuncts like oats, rye, and wheat often in the mix), copious amounts of newfangled "flavor" hops (i.e. mostly American citrus and pine bombs, but also NZ and Australian hops, but these days, even Germany is starting to jump on the bandwagon - it's the citrus notes that are probably most important), and of course, the all-important yeast. Note that "cloudiness" is not an absolute requirement. I've had some of these that are no cloudier than an equivalent unfiltered West Coast IPA. Of course, I've had others that literally look like orange juice or chicken broth, but again, not an absolute requirement. Bitterness tends to be lower, but it doesn't need to be (I suspect the juicy character leads to a sweeter perception no matter what the IBU). Milkshake IPA should include lactose. Flaws tend to be in the mouthfeel (some can get excessively grainy) and it's worth noting that these beers often don't last - they sorta require drinking as fresh as possible.

Alright, so I could probably go on and on about this stuff, but the short story is that I like these beers a lot, and I hope they continue to be a thing.

The Session #125: Mark SMaSH!

| No Comments

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Mark Lindner SMaSH! No, he's not the Hulk, he's talking about "single malt and single hop" beers. Frankly, this is not a topic I'm particularly well versed in, so I'll just vamp on some of his questions:

Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, ...) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?

This does appear to be trendy amongst a relatively small segement of homebrewers, but I wouldn't peg it as a more general beer trend. I've apparently had a couple of these without even realizing it, which says something. It feels like a trend requires people to be seeking out these beers because they are SMaSH, which isn't something I see much of...

What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally. Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?

There are four main ingredients of beer (water, barley, hops, yeast), so strictly controlling two of them reduces the variables, making it an interesting experiment, especially when part of a series. This can go multiple directions, highlighting a particular malt, hop, or even yeast or water, depending on what you vary from batch to batch. This does sorta depend on having a series of SMaSH beers to compare, but comparative drinking is something I enjoy and can be illuminating for novices or experienced lushes alike.

Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a "style," however you define that?

The great thing about niches is that you can never have too many, so even if I doubt that this will break out into the mainstream, this has a place (again, as mentioned above, doing a series of these could be illuminating). This isn't really a "style" unto itself though, as evidenced by the fact that you can find wildly divergent SMaSH profiles out there (then again, it's not like some established styles are particularly coherent - I'm looking at you, saison!)

Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.

I've only had a handful (that I know of) and they've been decent enough, though I can't think of anything that really melted my face. That being said, I'd be willing to bet I had a great one that I didn't even realize was SMaSH...

Do you brew them?

I have never brewed a SMaSH beer. I wouldn't rule out the possibility and I like the idea of working within restraints, but at the same time, I don't brew often enough to really get the most out of the idea.

Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)

Absolutely! You could achieve this sort of thing with various lager styles (maybe a Kolsh?) or Belgian styles. In fact, as mentioned above, I'm virtually certain that I have had SMaSH beers that would fall under those styles that simply don't advertise the simplicity of their recipes (or that weren't made with SMaSH in mind, but nonetheless qualify as SMaSH anyway).

session_logo.jpgThe Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

This time around, Josh Weikert wants to know: Is the Internet Helping or Hurting Craft Beer? He suggests a list of topics which I'll just use as a template. In short, technology and the internet is a double edged sword and any discussion of such is bound to resolve into a series of tradeoffs. Human beings don't so much solve problems as they exchange one set of problems for another in the hopes that the new set is more favorable than the old. I suspect you'll see such tradeoffs play a role in each topic below.

Marketing beer in the internet age

Social media has to be a boon to a small brewery operation, allowing breweries to connect with drinkers and advertise new offerings or events with relative ease and on the cheap. On the other hand, beer nerds are fickle and marketing can rub people the wrong way, especially when it gets gimmicky. It's great to be connected to the community, but it can be difficult to be on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism due to a trivial mistake (let alone a geniune mishap). As long as you're willing to engage and get better, this usually works out, but it can be difficult.

The astounding influence of beer bloggers to make or break breweries (just kidding, but seriously, what's the effect of all of this quasi-journalistic beer commentary on the drinking and brewing public?)

With the dozens of readers I have (dozens, I tell you!), my influence is certainly formidable and I sometimes struggle with the power I have to make or break a brewery. In the words of Ben Parker, "with great power comes great responsibility." On the other hand, I'm pretty sure about half of my visitors are bots and search engines, so there is that. Obviously, I'm joking here (uh, not about the visitors, sadly), but the idea of quasi-journalistic beer commentary being done at the grassroots level clearly has some influence on our community.

How are beer reviews (expert and mass-market) affecting what gets brewed and drank?

As someone who reviews a lot of beer and has dozens (dozens!) of readers, I feel confident in saying that beer reviews have a low impact. Personally, I find a lot more benefit in actually writing a review than I do in reading others. Trying to put into words what I smell/taste/feel about a beer has been a good learning experience for me, but that doesn't exactly make it very interesting to read (especially if you've never had the beer in question before). On the other hand, grappling with this sort of thing does make it a little easier to decode other reviews, cut through the flowery or absurd descriptors, see mistakes for what they are, and get a pretty good idea of what you'll get from a beer. Since this post is turning into a wall of text, let's do a quickie:

Against the Grain London Balling
Barrel-aged English style barleywine, rich caramel, light barrel character, too much carbonation. More boring details below*.

Aggregate beer ratings are another matter and probably do probably have a moderate impact and give a nice at-a-glance overview of the general feeling of the community. It's most useful at the extremes (i.e. high number of ratings along with a very low or very high score) and obviously there are other caveats that must be considered (locals tend to be more forgiving, rarity has more of an impact than it probably should, etc...), but it can be a useful way to get a quick read on a beer, even if it shouldn't be your absolute guidance.

Are beer apps for tracking and rating overly-"gamifying" beer (or does that make drinkers more adventurous)?

Tickers gonna tick, as evidenced by the fact that they were doing so well before Untappd and other similar apps. Those outliers aside, while I think that a lot of people do patronize beer tracking apps and while they may flirt with the gamification aspects of those apps, I think their usage ultimately boils down to a pragmatic desire: in a world with 5300 breweries in the US alone, I want to know if I've had something before or not. I suspect this drives app usage more than badges or other gamification elements. I'm sure I went a little out of my way for certain badges back when I first downloaded Untappd, but I can't think of any time in the past 4 or 5 years that I did so...

Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

This is a tricky one. I suspect these "aleholes" impact craft beer adoption less than they impact those specific message boards (or Facebook groups or whatever). Every community is different, but honestly I feel like the more mainstream ones are more of a turnoff because the folks on them aren't used to the tenor of interacting online.

The internet is a low-trust environment. But I've been around long enough to see different waves of people adjust to this state. When I was first online (early 1990s), no one trusted anyone, everyone was using pseudonyms, there were warnings galore about dangerous predators and the like. With each successive leap that the internet makes, there is an influx of people that just don't get it yet. BBS users went through this a bit. AOL and email caused a few of these in the early days too. Widespread broadband caused some of it. Message boards and blogs went through their own growing pains.

Nowadays, a lot of this is driven by social media. We've gotten great at breaking down barriers to entry and there's been this push towards using "real names" and verified users in the past decade as well. All of this means that there are lots of people who aren't used to having their statements scrutinized or haven't encountered a really good troll (as in, like, effectiveness, not "good" as in a moral statement, obvs) before. It doesn't help that a lot of platforms encourage lower wordcounts, which provides lots of opportunity for misinterpretation. Twitter is especially bad at this sort of thing.

I think TalkBeer, BeerAdvocate, and RateBeer all strike a decent enough balance. But I belong to a few groups on Facebook that are orders of magnitude larger than those specialized communities, and the tenor there, while mostly positive, can spiral out of control when someone has a meltdown (a recent example involved people who, for some ungodly reason, love to post chugging videos. It evolved into this weird callout culture that started to really rankle other members, and one dude in particular started harassing people, which then escalated. Eventually, he was kicked out and started his own chugging group that is super exclusive and I guess more power to him, but it didn't need to be anywhere near as acrimonious as it was.) Also, you know, fake news.

Time will pass, people will identify some of these issues as damage and find ways to route around them. It's happened before and it will happen again. This goes for pretty much all of the preceding questions, actually. As mentioned above, we never really solve problems. We just exchange one set for another. Funnily enough, what didn't work in the past might work now, and vice versa. The internet is a living platform, there's no one answer.

* Detailed review to demonstrate how awful tasting notes are:

Against The Grain London Balling - Pours a cloudy brown color with amber highlights and a solid finger of off-white head. Smells of rich malt, some citrus, vanilla and oak. Taste starts off sweet, rich caramel, with a light bourbon, oak, and vanilla character emerging in middle with a boozy finish. Supposed to be aged in Angel's Envy barrels, and the bourbon character is certainly there, but not super heavy. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, surprisingly so, almost effervescent, not enough to completely sink it, but enough to bring it down a grade. Medium to full bodied, and a little boozy heat. Overall, it's really quite solid, but that carbonation is a bit too much. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter on 4/30/17.

See? The worst.

Hot Sauce Double Feature

| No Comments

I'm not one of those capsaicin-addicted thrill-seekers hunting down obscure pepper-walez like the Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango ("...grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum.") but I do enjoy spicy food and hot sauces. As per usual, you should remember that this is a beer blog and I am the worst, so you'll need to take my ramblings with the appropriate boulder of salt. Or not. I'm not your mother.

Anyway, these are at least beer-adjacent hot sauces, so there is that. Choosing a favorite hot sauce is probably about as difficult as choosing a favorite beer (i.e. impossible), as different offerings fill different needs. I always have at least 3 or 4 different hot sauces on hand, sometimes more. Frank's Red Hot is, of course, a constant and utterly necessary for wings (I generally don't mind sampling another flavor of wing, but I'm invariably let down by the experience and regret not ordering the regular ol' buffalo wing), but it's nice to have some differing flavor profiles or textures around too. Before we get to the hot sauce, I wanted to give a shout out to Serious Eats' recent Top 30 Hot Sauce list, which is a pretty fantastic resource that lead me to our first selection...

BLiS Blast and Pappy and Company Hot Pepper Sauce

BliS Blast is up first. BLiS (an acronym for Because Life is Short) is most famous for making a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup (that is nice, but not as great as the Pappy aged one I reviewed last week), but they make a whole line of barrel aged goodies, like this hot sauce, comprised of chipotle, arbol and cayenne chilies aged for up to a year in barrels that have previously been used to age bourbon, maple syrup, and Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). The order of the aging is unclear to me, and there are a couple of possibilities. If the various aging processes occurred in the order listed, I think the resulting beer would have actually been Canadian Breakfast Stout (regular KBS doesn't have the maple syrup component, but CBS does). Or perhaps separate bourbon barrels, some having aged syrup and some having aged KBS are blended together in the end. Whatever the case, the result is pretty great.

Pours a dark, grainy, browninsh red color. Smells complex, sweet, but almost smokey, maybe coffee, lots of cayenne peppers, chipotle comes out as well, and yes, relatively sweet too. Taste follows the nose, sweet with a smokey, almost roasty character and a light spice heat. Mouthfeel is rich and sweet, light spice heat but it lingers for a bit. Overall, this is a fascinating hot sauce, hints of almost barbecue going on here, but it's got a nice, light heat and smokey, roasty character that is really well done and complex. Relatively mild as hot sauces go, but the barrel character seems to actually come through and contribute more here than I'd expect.

Hot Sauce Nerd Details: Bottled (375 ml). Heat level: Mild (estimated)

Next up, Pappy & Company Barrel-Aged Pepper Sauce. This is a collaboration with Midland Ghost, a hot sauce made from first generation Ghost Peppers and aged in Pappy barrels of unspecified expression (my guess is the 10 and 12 year, as with the syrup). A little more straightforward, but still quite nice.

Pours a light, bright orange color, pepper chunks visible. Smells more evenly of pepper, apparently ghost pepper. Taste is more obviously hot sauce than the BLiS stuff, lots of peppers, vinegar, and moderate to high heat. Mouthfeel is lighter and thinner but spicer, hotter than BLis (though it's not overly-so, nor is it something that will get the Scoville-addicts who've built up a resistance excited). Overall, this is hot, tasty, and interesting. I don't get a ton of bourbon or anything to indicate its provenance, but it's still pretty good... if a little disappointing since the maple syrup they make has such a great bourbon character.

Hot Sauce Nerd Details: Bottled (5 ounces). Heat level: Medium (estimated)

Verdict? The BLiS is more interesting and unconventional and I think I like it better overall, but the Pappy & Co offering is still a good, if more conventional, hot sauce. That being said, the world of hot sauce is so large that it's hard to justify the Pappy premium for something that isn't as distinctive as you might think.

Pappy Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

| No Comments

Various expressions of Pappy Van Winkle are widely considered to be the best Bourbon in the world. They are also widely derided as overrated and overhyped, which naturally has the effect of making Pappy even more prized in an unintential, reverse-psychology sort of way. We're kinda trapped in Pappy dominance with no real way out, is what I'm saying.

The cachet of Van Winkle has, of course, spread. Spent Pappy barrels are a prized commodity and are used to age everything from beer to, yes, maple syrup. What we have here is a collaboration between Pappy & Co and Ohio's Bissel Maple Farm. It's made with sap harvested in the Spring of 2016 and aged 6 months in Van Winkle 10 and 12 year old barrels (a previous batch was aged in Pappy 23 barrels - I'm guessing that's the one that shows up on ridiculous Maple Syrup Walez lists that I'm sure actually exist because lol, this is the internets). It's pricey, but is it worth the stretch?

Pure Maple Syrup Aged in Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels

Bourbon Barrel Aged Pure Maple Syrup Aged in Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels - Pours a very dark amber color. Smell has a very distinct bourbon note, moreso than any other Bourbon Barrel Aged syrup I've had (and, um, I've actually had a few different kinds), really interesting mix with the more typical maple syrup character. That bourbon note follows to the taste, again creating a distinct character from typical maple syrup and even other bourbon barrel-aged syrups. Bourbon flavor, but no real booze, which is, uh, a good thing. Overall, it's pricey af, but really tasty!

Beer Nerd Musings: So obviously Pappy Van Winkle barrel aged beer is almost as ridiculously hyped as the bourbon itself. Sometimes with reason. Pappy Black Magick might vie for the title of best beer I've ever had. Other beers aged in Pappy barrels weren't as successful, which speaks to the importance of other factors, I think (in that case, I don't think the base beer was a good choice for barrel aging). Obviously maple syrup and beer also go together pretty well, and some of the most prized beers have been aged in maple syrup barrels that previously held bourbon (though not these Pappy syrup barrels, I don't think). Bissel Maple Farm has specifically shown up as an element of Goose Island's Proprietor's Reserve Bourbon County line as well. I've actually not had the beers I'm referencing, but I'm most certainly on the lookout. My guess is that we'll see more of these over time...

So yes, quite pricey, but I think it's worth a shot at least once. Treat yo self. Pappy & Co. also make a bourbon infused hot sauce which we'll hopefully cover next week, along with another beer/bourbon adjacent hot sauce, so stay tuned.

Categories

Monthly Archives

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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.

Follow me on Twitter

Like me on Facebook

Toast me on Untappd

About this Archive

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

Interviews is the previous category.

Other Spirits is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.