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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
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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!

AleSmith Evil Dead Red

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I'll swallow your soul! Or maybe just your beer. I'm talking to you, Mr. Alesmith. Once a draft only beer, I was surprised to see this one show up in the area and snapped up what looked like the last bottle. It's one of them hoppy red ales, the sort of thing Jay of the now defunct Beer Samizdat blog would love, and it was a great beer to accompany my weekend horror movie binging. Groovy.

Alesmith Evil Dead Red

AleSmith Evil Dead Red - Pours a clear but dark amber color, very pretty when held up to the light, with a finger or two of light tan head that leaves some nice lacing and sticks around a while too. Smells sugary sweet, full of crystal malts and citrusy, piney American hops. Taste starts with that crystal malt sweetness, maybe a caramel note, with the citrus and pine hops kicking in when we get to the middle and lasting through the finish, which has a well balanced dry bitterness. Mouthfeel is utterly perfect. Well carbonated, medium bodied yet almost quaffable, thanks partially to a relatively dry finish. Overall, this is a rock solid amber ale. A-

Alesmith has another beer released around Valentine's day called My Bloody Valentine (another horror movie reference, I love these guys). The describe the two beers as "cousins", but they both seem to be a hoppy red ale with a plucky 6.66% ABV. Perhaps the hop varieties and/or schedule is different. I guess there's only one way to find out. If, that is, Alesmith starts distributing Bloody Valentine here. And I need to figure out a way to get ahold of some barrel aged Alesmith. That's the ticket. Anywho, happy Halloween folks. Stay tuned, lots of interesting stuff in the coming weeks.

Tired Hands Anthology

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It's been a few months since I recapped some Tired Hands brews, and these notes have just been piling up, so I figure it's time to pull that trigger and share the wealth with you all... Of course, most of this stuff will probably never see the light of day again, but some of the big ones will probably be brewed again...

Tortoise - 6.7% ABV Brett Amber Ale - Dark amber brown, funky nose. Funk is reminiscent of the Darwin Solera series, some earthiness and even a touch of salinity. Stronger malt backbone makes this a little more complex than the Darwin series, which is nice. Good stuff! B+

Perfect Hole in One - 6.5% ABV IPA - Counter programming because the PGA tour was in town... A typically great IPA, huge citrus & pine notes, very Simcoe, really nice. A-

Guillemot - 8.5% ABV Dense & Dark Oak Aged Saison - This is sorta the base beer for Guillemot Nebula (and Prunus). Dark, slightly sour, nice balance with a creamy malt backbone. Really smooth and creamy, with a slight acidic kick in the finish. Strong beer, maybe not quite as great as Nebula was, but still a worthy A-

Cassie - 6% ABV Motueka Farmhouse IPA - A delicious mash up of the saison and IPA styles, really well matched hop to saison ratio, better than their singel hop saison Motueka (and most of the others in the singel hop series)... Delicious and quaffable. I really loved this beer. A

Tired Hands 5 out of 5

5 out of 5 - 10% ABV Imperial Stout brewed with cacao, peanut butter, marshmallow, PA maple syrup, vanilla beans, and One Village Coffee espresso beans. They gave a concise tasting note at the brewpub: "Notes of everything in the description" Big roasted malt notes in the nose, with all that wacky stuff showing up more in the taste. Definitely a stout, but lots of other stuff going on... Super complex, really weird, but really well done. Not even a hint of booze. Not quaffable or anything, but not a monster either. Some folks don't like Tired Hands' stouts, but I actually really enjoyed this. A-

Sunbather IPA - 5.8% ABV honey Meyer lemon hibiscus IPA - Wow, very pretty orange amber color, not your typical tired hands pale (which is cloudy straw yellow). Lots of floral hop notes (or maybe that's the hibiscus?) and lots of citrus (again, both from hops and other ingredients). Tasty stuff, really nice. A-

Due to an equipment malfunction TH lost a batch of DIPA and to fill the taps, they dipped into their cellars supply of aged, Brett dosed saisons:

Tavna - 6.6% ABV blended Brett saison - Solid beer with Tired Hands' trademark Brett character, salty, spicy. Great nose. Solid taste, not super quaffable, but good stuff. B+

Whalagos - 7.5% ABV Well aged blended saison - Similar to Tavna, but with more of a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, really nice. Mouthfeel definitely puts this one ahead of Tavna... A-

Singel Hop Saison Pacifica - 5% ABV - Usual cloudy straw yellow, bubbly white head. Nose hits with a sorta green hop character, reminiscent of the Pacific Jade version, and the taste bears that out. Grassy, a little earth, and typical peppery saison goodness. B+

Sleep - 7.6% ABV chamomile saison - Cloudy golden orange color with a finger of creamy head. Seems to have that trademark Tired Hands salty funk going on, but it works well. B+

We Are 138 - 7.6% ABV India Black Ale, brewed with pineapple - Black color, tan head, very nice nose, that pineapple coming through and matching well with those citrus & pine hops. No roast in the nose, but it comes out a bit in the taste, which is still very hop forward. Nice balance though, and very tasty. Overall, really great, delicious beer. A-

We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating At The Same Frequency

We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating At The Same Frequency - 6.2% IPA - Mostly clear golden color, amazing juicy citrus hop nose, tastes fantastic. Top tier IPA! A

Mr.Alien - 4% ABV Berliner Weiss - Nice refreshing beer, just a bit on the tart side, really easy drinking, decent stuff... B+

Tired Hands Ellipses

... (Ellipsis) - 7.6% ABV red hued Brett dubbel - Nice amberish color, that Tired Hands Brett in the nose, but hot damn does it match well with the base beer. Nice spicy Belgian yeast, with those dark fruit flavors, and that almost salty funk character tying it all together. I originally pegged this as an A-, but had another glass on a subsequent visit and it totally warrants an upgrade. Really superb stuff. A

Tired Hands Phantom With Three Different Colored Eyes

Phantom With Three Different Colored Eyes - 8% ABV citrus IPA - Whoa! Nice citrusy pine hop nose, but the taste and mouthfeel are absurdly great. It's got an almost creamy texture, with a great balance of sweetness from the malt and bitterness from the hops, and that juicy citrus holding it all together. Just superb! A

Penelope - 6.4% Farmhouse IPA - Typical cloudy light yellow color, nice Tired Hands funk in the nose along with some citrus hop aromas. Taste has that Tired Hands funk too, a little Belgian yeast spice, and some hops. Crisp, smoove, very easy drinking. B+

Kickphone iFlip - 5.5% ABV Citra & Amarillo IPA - A great light IPA, typical Tired Hands profile, beautiful citrus hop character, off the charts drinkable. A-

Pleasant - 5.8% ABV hoppy black ale, Simcoe single hopped - Nice looking beer, black with light brown head, but I'm not getting as much Simcoe out of this as I was hoping for. Still a nice beer, and if I didn't just have some superb TH stuff, this might get rated better. B

HappyHands - 5.2% ABV heirloom tomato Berliner Weiss - Well, yeah, that tomato actually comes through. Nice sharp acidic bite to this one. I'm not a big tomato person, so this isn't my favorite, but it's obviously well crafted. B

The Rest of Your Life - 6.4% ABV classic modern saison - A really nice saison, not quite funky, though its got that farmhouse feel. Typical Tired Hands stuff here, which is to say that it's great, if a bit straightforward. B+

Safe & Sound - 4.5% ABV crushable IPA - Pours a surprisingly dark color, murky brown (maybe some amber highlights), nice malt and hop combo, maybe some rye or oats going on here, surprisingly full bodied for such a small beer... I don't know that I would have ever pegged this as an IPA, but it's still pretty good for whatever style it is... B+

Singel Hop Saison Citra - 5% ABV - I'm surprised that Citra is not quite as potent as some of the others in this singel hop series, but this is still pretty damn good! A-

And that takes us up to stuff that was just tapped yesterday. See you in a few months with more Tired Hands goodness. Or maybe sooner if they have another quick bottle release...

August Beer Clubbery

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folk from my work who get together every month at a local BYOB for drinkery and fun. A light turnout this week, so we didn't actually get through every beer pictured below, but we made a valiant effort and actually drank a few that aren't pictured. I know, I'm disappointed by my neglect to capture those additional beers in photographic form too, but we'll just have to live with this:

August Beers
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Standard tasting note disclaimers apply: these notes are not trustworthy in any way, shape, or form, because whatever, I had fun tonight. In approximate order of consumption, not necessarily how pictured.

  • Fantôme Saison - One of my contributions, it seems that Fantôme hasn't quite emerged from their smoky, rubbery funk phase just yet, though this one wasn't quite as janky as the one I reviewed recently. It actually had more of a Saison Dupont feel, with just a bit of smoky, barnyard funk to make things interesting. I'll keep it at a B+ and pine for the lemony, sour Fantômes of yore.
  • Dale's Pale Ale - Pretty standard fare, but excellent as such beers go. Always a good choice, and I'll hit it with a B+, just like before.
  • Kaedôme Saison (regular version) - So my regular homebrewed saison is actually drinking quite well at this point, big spicy yeast notes, plenty of Saaz hops, not as much Nelson Sauvin hops as I was going for, but quite a pleasant brew nonetheless. About half the batch is still in secondary, dosed with Brettanomyces (like Fantôme, hence the name of this beer). Probably still a few months away from that sucker, but even this non-funky version is doing pretty well. Another B+
  • Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale - Rock solid hoppy amber ale, not quite as mindblowing as some of those hoppy imperial reds, but a worthy, highly drinkable beer. Yet another B+. I swears, not everything in this post will be rated the same.
  • Ken's English White Beer - My buddy's homebrew, this one was made with wheat, rose hips, and an English ale yeast. A rather odd combination, but it works out reasonably well in the end. Nice wheat character, not much in the way of rose hips, but some English yeast character (thankfully without the diacetyl note that I often get from such yeasts)> Not a mind-blower, but a nice summer beer. B-
  • Ken's Roggenbier - Another of Ken's homebrews, and possibly my favorite of the homebrews tonight. Nice spicy rye character mixed with hefeweizen notes from the yeast. Really nice combination that works very well. B+
  • Port City Essential Pale Ale - Terrible. Ok, not quite that bad, but not particularly good either. A sorta muddy mess of hops and malt, never quite coalescing into good.C+
  • Dominion Oak Barrel Stout - Now this one is legitimately terrible. Ok, so some people like that British diacetyl note sometimes, but I cannot stand it, and it just overshadowed everything else about this beer for me. Not undrinkable, but definitely not good. D
  • Stone / Farking / Wheaton W00tstout - Ah, now we come to my favorite beer of the night, the Wil Wheaton collaboration with Stone and Fark.com, a huge imperial stout made with pecans, wheat, and rye, partially aged in bourbon barrels. Great rich sweetness, a hint of that bourbon and oak, with a nice overall malt character. A bit heavy, but quite a nice beer, really glad I got to try some. A-
  • Ken's Irish red Ale - Another homebrew, this time a pretty straightforward Irish Red that was made with potatoes, a pretty nice combo. Sweeter than your typical Irish Red, though it keeps that same flavor profile and works well enough. I'll go with a standard B for this one.
And that just about covers it. For those who saw the Eclipse beer in the picture and are upset that we didn't get to it, do not fear, I reviewed it a while back. You're welcome. See you next month...

Quick Hits

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When I started this blog, I was generally looking to write about every new beer I tried. I learned a lot, which was the point, but I'm also sure it was boring. Being the 3583756th blog to review Sierra Nevada Pale Ale isn't particularly constructive or, frankly, all that interesting. I don't want to read that, let alone write it and inflict it upon you. So what I'm getting at here is that I might not review every beer I try anymore, and I might do more posts like this, with just a few quick hits on mildly interesting beers I've had lately. In fact, this has been happening for a while now, and it's part of the reason I feel like everything I review is really good - I'm not putting much energy into those bad beers. Anyways, I'm sure you're devastated by all this, but I'll try to make up for it by drinking and reviewing interesting beer and maybe even writing things that aren't just reviews. So for now, let's just look at a few beers I've had over the past couple months, but which haven't inspired posts of their own:

Marooned On Hog Island - 21st Amendment

21st Amendment Marooned On Hog Island - Jay loved this and I always fall in love with 21st Amendment's artwork, but then, I'm not a particularly big fan of oyster stouts either. Something about the salinity that most of them have just doesn't work that great for me, though it can make for an interesting change of pace. This one pours a black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of sweet roasted malts along with something I can't quite place (brininess? Presumably the oysters...) Taste is straight on stout, sweet with plenty of roasted malt and that briny oyster character coming through towards the finish, which retains a bitter roast too. Mouthfeel is very nice, well carbonated, lighter bodied than I'd expect, but still substantial. Overall, it's a solid beer, but it didn't hit me in the gut like I wanted. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Duck-Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale - Man, Duck-Rabbit sounds like it'd be right up my alley - a brewery specializing in dark ales? Sign me up! And yet I'm almost invariably disappointed by their wares. Granted, I haven't had anything other than their regular lineup, but still. I like Scotch ales, but this one doesn't feel like the style at all. It pours a deep, dark brown, maybe copper color with a finger or two of fluffy light tan head. Smells rather odd, kinda like a soda. Caramel and fruit are there, but perhaps a uncommon yeast character is showing up as well. Taste is similar, plenty of caramel, some fruit, and that soda-like character from the nose. Mouthfeel is more carbonated than expected, and I'm guessing this has a higher attenuation than your typical scotch ale. I mean, it's not dry, but it's nowhere near what a Scotch ale is supposed to be either. Feels a little unbalanced, sloppy, though it's not at all unpleasant. Overall, I guess I'm just not feeling this one. Certainly not a bad beer, but a little disappointing and not really on-style. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Milwaukee Brewing Louies Resurrection

Milwaukee Brewing Louie's Resurrection - I got a pair of these beers in that trade that brought me a bunch of Three Floyds, and I had one right away that was pretty darn good. Not mind-blowing, but a really nice bourbon character mixed with a typical malty red ale. Solid stuff, but then I think I let the other one sit around for a bit too long. It pours a brownish amber color with a finger of off white head. Smells of toffee, caramel, light bourbon. Taste hits with that toffee and caramel right away, very sweet start, rich flavors, mild bourbon character, some euro hop flavor. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, very easy drinking. Overall, a very nice beer. Not going to expand consciousness or anything, but good. B+ (fresh) or B (not so fresh)

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Green Flash West Coast IPA - This one would probably qualify as a boring review of a regular beer, but it happens to be my first Green Flash beer ever, which is surprising given their wide availability in the area. Will have to seek out more from them. This one pours a deep orange color with a finger of white head, plenty of lacing. Smells like an IPA! Lots of citrus and pine hops. Taste follows the nose, a little more crystal malt character than I was expecting from a "West Coast" IPA, but as an east coaster, this does not bother me at all. Again with the citrus and pine, maybe some herbal spice too, nice bitter finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, crisp, easy drinking stuff. Overall, solid beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout - This one came to be via my first BIF trade (which is something I'll explain in a later post). Pours a very dark brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, light brown head. Smells like a sweet stout, caramel malts and some roast apparent, but also maybe some floral, citrusy hops. Taste starts sweet, with a light roastiness emerging quickly and lasting through the finish. Some floral and citrus hops make themselves know, but they're not aggressive, just adding a nice complexity and balancing bitterness to the brew. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, with a slightly yet pleasant astringent character, medium bodied. Overall, it's an above average stout, more along the lines of what I look for in a stout. It didn't blow my mind, but it's a worthy brew. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

So there you have it. Tomorrow, we return to the realm of amazing barrel aged monsters, so grab your broad sword and strap on a shield, things are going to get elemental up in here.

Voting With My Clown Shoes On

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When I was putting together a trade with Jay from Beer Samizdat, I wanted to find an imperial red ale for him. He loves the style, but it's not ubiquitous enough that every brewer makes one, so I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to procure a good one (at least, one that's not already distributed to CA). There's a pretty good local take on the style called Atomic Raygun, but bottles are scarce and I know for a fact that the one at my local bottle shop has been sitting on the shelf for a long time (talk about that not so fresh feeling). Fortunately, I totally stumbled upon this Clown Shoes collaboration with Three Heads Brewing, a 50/50 blend of Eagle Claw Fist and Loopy Oatmeal Red Ale. Serendipitous!

It was released in preparation for last year's election, and the brewers encouraged a write-in vote for Three Heads founder and upstart presidential candidate Geoff Dale (he chose "beer" as his running mate). I was a little hesitant when I saw the bearded dude flashing the shocker on the label, but it sounded good, a bunch of strangers on the internet seemed to think it was decent, and looking at my other options, this was my best bet. Fortunately, Jay was quite happy with it, so mission accomplished. In fact, he liked it so much, I had to go out and get myself a bottle, just to see how awesome I am.

So, can this imperial red ale overcome our misunderstood friend, the elecoral college, what with the way most states implement a winner-takes-all, first-past-the-post system (the combination of which sorta encourages a two party system - what? Come on, work with me here...)?

Clown Shoes Third Party Candidate

Clown Shoes & Three Heads Brewing Third Party Candidate - Pours a very pretty dark amber color, robey tones, so much clarity, a finger of fluffy off-white head and plenty of lacing. Smells of sugary crystal malts and piney, resinous hops. Taste is filled with sweet, rich caramel, balanced out by a very well matched resinous hop flavor. Good balance of sweetness and bitterness, with a hint of booze apparent. Mouthfeel is rich and almost creamy, very smooth, with a hint of booze, though nothing that would indicate 10% (i.e. booze is actually well hidden here). Overall, we have a classic imperial red here, extremely well balanced malt and hop character, right up there with the best I've had in the style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 3/3/13. Bottled 8/2012.

I did not realize this was bottled so long ago, but given the way an imperial red relies on malts for a lot of its character, it all worked out well enough in the end. It's currently listed as "Out of Rotation" on Clown Shoes' website, so I'm not sure if they'll ever bring it back... and come to think of it, so is Eagle Claw Fist... Jeeze, guiz, what'm I supposed to send Jay for our next trade? This is by far the best Clown Shoes beer I've had so far, so I'm actually looking forward to that imperial stout I have in the cellar now...

January Beer Club

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I've more or less run out of beer puns for beer clubs, so you'll just have to deal with it. I know, you all love puns, so you're all broken up about it, but you'll just have to deal. Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As per usual, this gathering is anchored by a core group of stalwarts, along with assorted return guest stars. So it was a solid turnout, lots of beer, good BBQ and just an all around good time.

January Beer Club 2013
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In accordance with tradition, my thoughts on each beer we sampled are recorded below for posterity. Standard disclaimers regarding non-ideal tasting isolation conditions apply, so all you pedants better stay frosty, as nearly all of this will be untrustworthy/awesome. Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer - Things started off on a bizarre note. It's basically alcoholic ginger ale, which is fine for what it is, I guess, and definitely attracts the non-beer folk due to it's high sweetness and ginger spicing, but I found it kinda poopy. It's actually good that we had it in this sort of setting where I only had to try a tiny sample, but I'll give it a D, because fuck ginger beer. Seriously guiz.
  • Belhaven Scottish Ale - Belhaven is supposed to be one of the top Scottish ale styles out there, but man, we must have gotten a bad bottle. It has that gross diacetyl buttery flavor that I get out of a lot of British pale ales and have grown to hate. I'm not sure if that's just the beer, or if it's the clear bottle, or what, but it felt kinda skunky too. Not totally undrinkable, but I was again glad that I only took a very small sample of the stuff. D
  • Abita Jockamo IPA - While a big improvement over my first two tastes of the night, this strikes me as being a fairly unremarkable IPA. It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over BMC (or, since we're talking about my college years, Natty/Beast), but nothing special at all. A nice hop aroma, but a taste that fell a little flat and bland. B-
  • Old Forge Overbite IPA - Ahhh, now that's more like it. A really nice semi-local IPA, lots of that citrusy, floral hop goodness, maybe a little pine too, was a real breath of fresh air after the first three beers of the evening. It's not a world beater, to be sure, but these guys are totally making a name for themselves in the Philly area, and this makes for a pleasant enough IPA. B+
  • Birrificio Del Ducato Nuova Mattina - Guest star Steve contributed this very nice Italian beer to the proceedings, a Belgian style pale with lots of sharp carbonation, sweet and spicy (lots of spices used in making this, and they contribute, but not overwhelmingly so), bready, with a touch of light fruit. Overall, it's got a really nice rustic quality, an almost quaffable beer, really enjoyable. B+
  • Widmer Brrr - A totally solid winter warmer, pretty light on the spices actually, though it works well enough. It's not the sort of thing that stands out in a tasting like this, but it's totally serviceable and would probably get the job done if needed. B
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale (2011) - A vintage bottle of my very own homebrew? It's still doing pretty well, actually, though I do believe it has peaked and is now on a bit of a downward swing. It's still retained that sorta creamy vanilla caramel base, and the spices are still there, particularly clove with a hint of cinnamon, though those are diminished from last year. It's held up about as well as I could have hoped, though it's not quite as fantastic as it once was. B+
  • Allagash Fluxus 2012 - Another of my contributions for the night, it's a totally solid Belgian pale ale, actually quite similar to that Nuova Mattina beer, though with less carbonation. Still, a very nice Belgian yeast character, spicy and biscuity. Not especially a standout, especially amongst Allagash's lineup, but a solid beer nonetheless. This could be tasting fatigue setting in, but I'll go with min instinctual rating of a B
  • Traquair House Jacobite - Ah, now this is a Scottish brewery I can get behind. Of course, this is a slightly stronger style, but I like me some Wee Heavy/Scotch Ales, and this is a pretty superb example of the style. Big rich malt character, brown sugar, some fruitiness, a light booziness, and all of this is very well balanced against each other. Truly a solid beer, and widely available too, well worth checking out for the Scotch Ale fan and a contender for best of the night. A-
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale - Once again, this might be tasting fatigue setting in, but I was expecting more out of this. Don't get me wrong, it's a totally good beer. Not very red in appearance, but it certainly smells/tastes like an imperial red, big, well integrated citrus and pine hops mixed with those crystal and red malts. Very nice, would like to try again in better conditions. For now, we'll give it a provisional B+
  • DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus - Perhaps the strangest beer of the night, but it worked surprisingly well. You could say it's gimmicky, it being a "Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter", but this is quite possibly the perfect beer for a tasting like this. Exclamations of "Whoa" and "It smells like peanut butter" all around the table. It tasted like peanut butter brownies that were perhaps a bit overcookied so that you got that roastiness. Kinda like the edge/corner piece (which, you know, I love). It worked surprisingly well in this setting. I have no idea how I'd react if I were to drink an entire bottle, but I'm feeling generous enough to hand it a B+ (though it's probably more of a B)
  • Victory Oak Horizontal - Another of my contributions for the night, it's just as good as I remembered it. The bourbon, while prominent, was not overpowering at all, which endeared it to some folks who don't tend to like bourbon. Still an A- and a fitting end to the evening.
So there you have it. After a shaky start, things livened up quickly, and this sort of ratings distribution is actually quite nice. I mean, this isn't the most exclusive of beer clubs, after all, and only a few of us a really huge beer nerds, but it's a lot of fun and I always look forward to beer club. February's meeting will come soon enough!

Double Feature: Itchin For Some Tröegs

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Continuing on the theme of wet hopped beers, this past weekend, I cracked open a couple of Tröegs Scratch beers (cause, you know, I had an itch for such local exclusives). It's funny, while my past experience with Tröegs has certainly been cromulent, the only offering of theirs that I've grown to love is Nugget Nectar (a beer that I was initially unimpressed with, but which has grown considerably in my mindshare over the past couple years) and Flying Mouflan. Their Scratch series has always been interesting, but none have really pushed my buttons (though it should be noted that Flying Mouflan was apparently derived from a Scratch series beer at some point). I even sampled their Fresh Hop beer last year, but I came away underwhelmed. However, much like the Victory Harvest beers I mentioned in a recent post, Tröegs seems to have greatly improved their Fresh Hop offering (and for good measure, I also checked out another hoppy Tröegs brew). I cracked these open last weekend whilst taking in a couple of nonsensical (but gloriously fun) Italian Horror movies...

Troegs Scratch 78 (Fresh Hop Ale)

Tröegs Scratch Beer 78 - 2012 (Fresh Hop Ale) - The main wet hop component of this beer comes from Citra hops quickly imported from Yakima valley in Washington state. In addition to the wet Citra hops, they also apparently use some Amarillo and Nugget hops to round out the flavor/aroma profile. Near as I can tell, this is similar to what they did last year, though this is a slightly bigger beer in terms of alcohol. Pours a golden color with a finger of tight white head. Smells utterly fantastic, with a ton of citrus and pine, but also some grassy floral notes. Taste hits all the same notes; big fruity citrus and resiny pine flavors with some grassy floral hops along for the ride. Not a lot of bitterness in the finish, but there's enough to balance the sweetness of the malts, and it actually finishes with a sweet sorta resin character that I'm really enjoying. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, crisp, suprisingly light, and refreshing. This stuff goes down way too easy, downright quaffable. Overall, a big improvement over last year's Fresh Hop Scratch Beer and one of my favorite harvest ales yet. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass on 10/19/12.

Troegs Scratch 76 (Special Hops Ale)

Tröegs Scratch Beer 76 - 2012 (Special HOPS) - Not strictly a wet hopped beer, but it does retain such qualities. It's a highly hopped imperial red ale brewed for charity to benefit injured soldiers. Pours a dark amber color with a couple fingers of creamy off white head. Smells of citrusy, piney hops and some caramel malt too. Taste also has that rich caramel malt character fused with citrus and resiny pine hop flavors and a well balanced resinous finish. Mouthfeel is perfectly carbonated, smooth, heavier and more intense than the Fresh Hop Ale. Not quite as quaffable but that's fine by me. Overall, this is actually an exceptional beer, well balanced, complex interactions between malt and hops, downright delicious stuff. I'd probably put it above the Fresh Hop Ale, though I'll still rate it an A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a tulip glass on 10/19/12.

I really enjoyed both of these beers, but I was so taken with the Special HOPS beer that I sent off an email to Tröegs asking them for some help with the recipe, as I'd really like to brew something along those lines for my next batch... Fingers crossed that they'll get back to me with some interesting info. In the meantime, it appears that Tröegs has earned their recent wins at the GABF. I will certainly be on the lookout for more of these Scratch beers, and here's to hoping they make the Special Hops beer a regular option for us...

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

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