Recently in Amber Ale Category

At this point, the annual sorty into Vermont for beer (codename: Operation Cheddar) has a consistent plan of attack: Warren Store, CBC in Waterbury, Alchemist Visitor's Center, Lost Nation for Lunch, Hill Farmstead, and Foam are always onboard, with the occasional target of opportunity presenting itself (this year: Fiddlehead came into our sights). It's a fun day trip for me (embedded as it is in a vacation rooted in upstate NY, which is like, totally closer to VT than PA), but since I do it every year, I'll try not to bore you with repetition. Again. Anywho, enjoy some pics from the trip, a recap of the haul, and a few quickie reviews (that are light on tasting notes and heavy on ruminations, so less skippable than usual).

Alchemist Artwork
Some artwork from the Alchemist Building, it's purty.

Lunch at Lost Nation
Lunch at Lost Nation, a smoked chicken sandwich thing that was great. If you're ever ripping through Vermont, it's worth stopping here for lunch, the food is excellent.

Fiddlehead Logo
A Fiddlehead sign

Hill Farmstead Poetica 2

Hill Farmstead Poetica 2 - Operation Cheddar involves a lot of driving, so I'm generally reticent to partake in actually drinking beer at all. The only exception is usually a 5 ounce pour of something at Lost Nation. But since it looked like I was going to be at Hill Farmstead for a while and they actually had this interesting sounding thing on tap, I figured I'd give it a swing. You see, Hill Farmstead was hosting their annual Festival of Farmhouse Ales in the coming weekend, so they were packed with newly arrived beer dorks. Alas, since they planned on releasing a bunch of limited stuff during the festival, I had to settle for their "normal" shelfies (which are still phenomenal, to be sure). This was a special DONG release though, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Poetica 2 is basically Hill Farmstead's Mary, a pilsner, but instead of simply lagering in stainless, they lagered in a single French oak puncheon in their cooler for three months. After that, they moved it to a stainless tank and krausened it with a new batch for carbonation (this is apparently a step they always do when lagering). Anywho, the result is a very good pilsner, much like Mary. Grassy, earthy hops, minerality, quaffable stuff. I was not detecting much in the way of oak and I didn't take detailed notes, but I do want to say that it had more complexity than I'm used to from a pilsner. This, of course, means that the beer was a placebo and Hill Farmstead is now experimenting with mind control and we should indeed be quite worried because they're good at everything so why not world domination? Ok, that got away from me there for a second, so I'll just say that the beer is very nice and fans of Pilsners should look for future iterations on this mind control potion oaked lager. Let's just say B+ and get on with it.

Beer Nerd Details: ~5.6% ABV on draft (10 ounce pour). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/2/18. Batch 2.

And so we come to the haul pics. For the record, some duplicate cans/bottles not pictured, nor did I hoard all these cans for myself. Indeed, I would say the majority of my purchases were passed along to (or shared with) friends. I'm not exactly a full time mule, but I enjoy spreading the wealth. So here goes:

Nice Cans

Can Haul - Part 1: Hill Farmstead Citra IPA (seems to have been rebranded as an IPA, and I'll say that these cans were straight fire, very nice), Hill Farmstead Works of Love: Earl Grey Tea & Lactose, Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4, Hill Farmstead Walden, Fiddlehead Mastermind.

Moar Cans. Mark likes cans.

Can Haul - Part 2: Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine, Alchemist Holy Cow IPA, Simple Roots New North End, Foam Built to Spill (many thanks to Kaedrin friend Eric for gifting this can and a few others to me when I met with him at Foam), 14th Star Make the Cut (not pictured, see below), Upper Pass First Drop, Alchemist Focal Banger, Alchemist Lightweight, Suarez Family Brewing Palatine Pils (not technically an Operation Cheddar acquisition, full explanation to come in a separate post), Alchemist Heady Topper, and Alchemist Hellbrook.

Funny observation: While Hill Farmstead was packed with long lines due to FoFA, Alchemist had a practically nonexistent line. Each year, the Alchemist gets less crowded. Plenty of people milling about, but I basically just walked up to the counter and got my beer. Go figure.

Haul of growlers

Growler Haul: Foam Galaxie 500, Hill Farmstead Abner (we will be talking more about Abner sometime in a separate post), Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #9, Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4.

Haul of Hill Farmstead bottles that I want to lick

HF Bottle Haul: Hill Farmstead Arthur, Anna, Grassroots Brother Soigne, Florence, Dorothy, and Clara.

Miscellaneous Haul

Miscellaneous Haul: von Trapp Golden Helles Lager, von Trapp Dunkel, Jack's Abby Cordon Rouge Barrel-Aged Framinghammer, Good Measure Tawny (#BiL), Lost Nation The Wind Bretta (not to be confused with the "plain" Wind), Stone Corral Bad Rooster IPA, Rock Art Citra DIPA, Burlington Peak Nostalgia, and Lawson's Finest Liquids Super Session #7.

Moar Miscellaneous Haul

Moar Miscellaneous Haul: 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Cuvée Armand & Gaston 1.5 L Magnum, Suarez Family Brewing Postscript, Proclivity, and Call to Mind (again, not technically Operation Chowder, but we'll cover that in a separate post), and Crooked Stave Blueberry Origins.

The non-beer haul

Non-Beer Haul: Alchemist Red Heady hot sauce and Cheddy Topper cheddar cheese.

Phew, that's quite a bit of beer. Now let's take a closer look at a few of these that I drank:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 9

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #9 - Pours a cloudy, golden yellow with a solid finger of white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells nice, sweet, lots of tropical fruit hops, mango, pineapple, and so on. Taste is also quite nice, sweet, citrusy, pine, balance in the finish. Mouthfeel is perfect, tight, soft carbonation, medium bodied, drinks like a dream. Overall, oh jeeze, another excellent HF IPA, stop the presses. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/4/18. Growler filled on 8/2/18.

Foam Galaxie 500

Foam Galaxie 500 - Pours a very cloudy, milky looking straw yellow color with half a finger of white head that doesn't stick around too long. Smells of bright citrus, tropical fruit, stone fruit, and the like. Taste is very sweet, lots of those bright citrus hops, with a sharp edge to it, finishing sweet and juicy. Mouthfeel is a tad low on the carbonation, medium bodied, with a sharp alcohol note. Overall, this is a really nice Galaxy DIPA, a bit on the strong side, but no less delicious for it. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/4/18. Growler filled on 8/2/18.

Alchemist Holy Cow - Apparently one of their staples during the halcyon days of the old Alchemist brewpub, it was a local favorite long before Heady became the hotness. Pours, well, I don't know, because I drank it from a can. I'm guessing pale. Smells citrusy, bright graprefruit. Taste is light and citrusy, finishing with a nice balancing bitterness. Mouthfeel is crisp, clean, and dry, good carbonation, light, quaffable stuff. Overall, it's not going to blow people away, but I could drill a four pack of these with ease. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.16% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of the can (like a man) on 8/5/18.

Alchemist Hellbrook

Alchemist Hellbrook - A pretty straightforward Amber ale, a style I can appreciate when done well (and when hopped to high heaven), this doesn't quite live up to the reputation of the Alchemist's best work. Indeed, I think the pattern is that after Heady and Focal, there's a distinct stairstep in quality to their other offerings. I don't know that I've had anything outright bad, to be sure, but all of these others are somewhat standard takes, if well executed. None are quite the style-defining heights of Heady or Focal... This one pours a dark amber, almost brown color with a couple fingers of off-white head. Smells of citrus and dank, resinous pine, with crystal malt lurking in the background, light caramel tonez. Taste hits that crystal malt character, with plenty of piney, resinous hops in the middle, finishing with a balancing bitterness and dank hop profile. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and pretty well balanced. Overall, another solid brew here. Not going to make headlines, but it's better than your typical amber ale, if not quite at the top of the style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/5/18.

Alchemist Lightweight - Look, I'm not sure what I was expecting from this American Blonde Ale, but what I got was an almost Kolsh-like easy drinker, earthy, grassy, and herbal. Nice lawnmower beer, but again, not going to set the world on fire like you might expect from the Alchemist. I feel like I'm bagging on Alchemist here, but in reality, these are all solid little beers. Sometimes they're disappointing due to the high bar set by Heady and Focal, but I will say that I'm still going to continually seek out additional varieties of Alchemist stuff. None of it is bad, and it sometimes approaches the sublime, so why not? B-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.4% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/5/18.

Frost Beer Works Lush - I had the Plush DIPA a while back, which is a variant of this beer, and heck, they're both really good DIPAs. Typical Northeast IPA type stuff, not going to replace the top tier, but certainly worth a flier if you're making your way through VT's hop laden waters. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/6/18.

Lawson's Finest Liquids Super Session #7 - If you've had any of the Super Session beers, you know what you're in for here (I haven't had them in close enough proximity to notice a major difference, but who knows...) Typical session IPA territory, but it doesn't quite feel like a "diet" IPA like some of them do, it's a really nice, quaffable, citrus IPA that is light and crisp. It may not stand out against a sea of DIPAs, but it's a nice summer beer. B

Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/10/18.

Foam City Lights: Pineapple & Tangerine - A pretty straightforward kettle soured fruit beer, it reminds me a bit of Burley Oak's JREAM beers, though I think those are better. For whatever reason, this one didn't quite connect with me. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV canned (12 ounce). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/11/18.

Simple Roots New North End IPA - Pretty straightforward NEIPA stuff, not top tier, but better than the last Simple Roots stuff I had on a previous Operation Cheddar mission. One thing about these non-hyped cans that always gives me pause is that they tend to be a bit less fresh, which will have an impact. This is not entirely their fault either, as I bought this on 8/2 (when it was already a couple weeks old), but didn't drink it until 8/17. Not a ton of time, to be sure, but this wasn't the can I was rushing to try either, and you can see that the highest rated stuff in this post tends to be the freshest as well. Freshness isn't the only lever here, but that's probably a part of it. Regardless, this is a fine beer, worth a flier if you're in VT. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/17/18.

Burlington Peak Nostalgia - This is a Strawberry Milkshake IPA with Vanilla & Milk Sugar, a style that is hyped to high heaven thanks in large part to Kaedrin's local Tired Hands, who make a whole series of Milkshake beers that are awesome. This Burlington take certainly emphasizes the strawberry aspects well (moreso even than the Tired Hands equivalent), but the balance isn't quite on point and it's overall a little disappointing. But my frame of reference is the Tired Hands Milkshakes. I've certainly had worse takes on the style, and while it's a wholly different beer, this beer is far better than Burlington's Strawberry Whale Cake, which I got on a previous Operation Cheddar. B

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/17/18.

14th Star Make the Cut Saving Grace

14th Star Make the Cut Saving Grace - Apparently there's a local homebrew competition where the winner's recipe is scaled up and brewed at 14th Star. This is a very nice Northeast IPA dry hopped with Mosaic, Citra, and Ekuanot. And it's really good, lots of juicy citrus and pine, good mouthfeel and pretty easy going. Would try again, though I suspect we've seen the last of this particular beer due to its origins. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/18/18.

Phew! That's a lot of beer, folks. Many apologies for the lack of blogging recently, I hope this makes up for it. I've still got quite the backlog of reviews, and plenty of things from this trip that I haven't dug into yet, so much moar to come. Stay tuned.

This brings this year's Operation Cheddar to a close. Next year promises to hold at least a minor shakeup in that Lawson's Finest Liquids is finally opening a brewery, taproom, and retail store in Waitsfield, VT (not far from the Warren Store, which was always my scheduled stop to find Lawson's and thus will probably fall out of the rotation next year). Most exciting!

Bottle Logic Red Rover

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I drank this on Friday, April 13th, so yes, I'm far behind on reviews here. A thousand pardons. That date being what it is, I decided to have a little movie marathon and broke out my 8 movie set of Friday the 13th films. Yes, I still use physical media from time to time, wanna fight about it? Also, yes, for some reason I love the Friday the 13th series of films, such that I'm probably going to spend a lot more time writing about them in this post than the beer in question. We can fight about that too, if you like.

So I started off with the original Friday the 13th. Made in 1980, it's not an ur example of the slasher genre or anything, but it may be a codifier of a few conventions. In other words, it's derivative as all get out, but it solidified the template that many of the trashier examples of the genre follow. There's not much in this movie that was not done earlier and better by the likes of Black Christmas or Halloween, but this shows how lesser filmmakers imitate greatness. Some elements are still great. Tom Savini's makeup and effects are a step up from earlier examples, even when they're lifting gags wholesale from obscure proto-slashers like Bay of Blood. The ending is also a notable example of a broader horror movie trope (I won't spoil it here, but it's a good one, despite the implication that it's a dream sequence? Whatever, it works.) It suffers a bit in my mind for the lack of Jason, though it's also interesting in that respect. It was fun revisiting this, but it's not the one I usually reach to rewatch.

Next up was Friday the 13th Part 2. Made on the cheap just a year later, this one features Jason for the first time, though he's still in backwoods overalls and with a bag over his head (which again, are elements stolen from earlier films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown, etc...) Again, decent makeup and effects work here, and the film is still aping Bay of Blood for its kills, but the real standout of the film is Ginny (played by Amy Steel), arguably the best final girl of all time. She fights Jason with a kick to the nards, a machete, a pitchfork, a chainsaw, and of course, a cable knit sweater (or, like, her wits, whatever). She also subverts a lot of the supposed final girl conventions, which are generally overstated to make a case that slashers are conservative morality plays (which they can be, but aren't always). Anyway, the film is a bit marred by Steve Miner's unimaginative direction and the nonsensical ending, but it's still a fun little flick.

Ginny kicking ass

Realizing that I probably wouldn't get through all of the series in one night, I then skipped ahead to Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, the much maligned fifth installment of the series. While certainly not one of the best of the series (a distinction that belongs to Parts IV and VI), I do think it's a bit underrated. It's got a neat-ish idea. Since Jason was "killed" in part IV, they decide to follow the little boy who killed him. Now grown up, he's haunted by visions of Jason. Currently living in a halfway house with other troubled teens, people start dying, and it's implied that Jason may be returning, perhaps as a copycat. Or something. It's not a very well executed idea, but the movie still has some fun characters or moments here or there. I mean, come on, how can you not like Violet?

Violet doing the robot

Well that's probably way more about Friday the 13th movies than you wanted to know (and I'm betraying way too much about my knowledge of these movies), so let's get to one of the beers drank whilst watching. Bottle Logic's barrel aged beers are hyped and praised to the point where obtaining them tends to be rather difficult, but it's not so bad for lesser efforts like this one, an Imperial Red Ale made with Cassia Bark (basically cinnamon), aged in Mitcher bourbon barrels, then finished on French oak. It's all done in collaboration with Barks of Love, a dog rescue organization, so it's for a good cause too. Red Rover, Red Rover, I call Jason over:

Bottle Logic Red Rover

Bottle Logic Red Rover - Pours a dark amber brown color with a solid finger of dense, off-white head that leaves a bit of lacing as I drink. Smells very nice, a spicy, cinnamon-like character, floral and almost fruity aromas, woodsy, with a bit of boozy bourbon lurking around. Taste hits the same profile as the nose, sweet and spicy, cinnamon, a little fruit, rich toffee, some bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, hints of spice and booze on the palate, but in a balanced way. Overall, tasty, complex, refined, and balanced stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/13/18. Release: 2018. Level 1.

Alright folks, maybe I won't wait a month to post again. Maybe.

So this annual sorty into Vermont to secure beer has become a hallowed tradition here at Kaedrin, and is thus well tread ground at this point. Every year, there are some minor tweaks, but the general shape of the invasion has cohered into a firm(ish) state: Start at Warren Store, hit CBC in Waterbury, new Alchemist visitor's center, Lost Nation for lunch, Hill Farmstead, and now Foam, all before heading back to my vacation spot in upstate NY.

It's a fun little day trip, and I'm happy I get to do it, but I'll try not to bore you with repetition, so enjoy some brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, brewery pictures, hauls, and a few quickie reviews (that are light on tasting notes and heavy on ruminations, so less skippable than usual, heh).

The Alchemist Brewery
A wide shot of the new Alchemist site, it's purty

The Alchemist Brewery Interior
Some brewery equipment at the Alchemist

A Sandwich from Lost Nation
Lunch at Lost Nation, some sort of smoked beef sandwich with pickled onions on top, glorious as always

I know I post a picture of this Hill Farmstead sign every year, but I like it, so you get another.
Obligatory Hill Farmstead sign that I post every year because I like it and you should too

The Hill Farmstead Compound
A wide shot of the Hill Farmstead compound, which kinda makes it sound like a cult and, um, that's not too far off for a lot of visitors (sadly not excluding myself)

The entrance to Foam
The entrance to Foam

Hill Farmstead Difference and Repetition

Hill Farmstead Difference & Repetition - First things first, this is a perfect name to describe the never-ending succession of IPAs that everyone offers these days. To outsiders, this must seem ludicrous. When I got back from Vermont, my brother asked what the difference was between all these IPAs and it's like, ugh, he doesn't want a lecture on yeasts and hop terroir and it's funny, because these mostly taste the same to him. Even to a grizzled veteran, drowning in IPAs can lead to a sorta palate fatigue. You can see differences, but it all starts to feel samey after a while. Or... different but repetitive, if you will. Anyway, this orangish yellow IPA is brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo, & Galaxy hops (just a citra away from my own Crom Approved homebrew) and smells and tastes fabulous, ripe mangoes, citrus, a hint of dankness, with a well balanced, light bitterness towards the finish. Easy going and quaffable. Overall, yeah, no crap, stop the presses, this Hill Farmstead IPA is great. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Foam Experimental Jet Set

Foam Experimental Jet Set - Named after a Sonic Youth album (all of Foam's names appear to be indie-rock references), I don't really know much about it. At first, I assumed it used experimental hops, and maybe that is indeed why they referenced this album, but who knows, the details of the recipe aren't readily available. I was quite impressed with Foam during last year's Operation, and loved their Built to Spill (I snagged another growler of that this year for a friend), so I was excited to get another taste of their wares. It turns out that this is one of the murkier, more turbid entries in the NEIPA style (cleaning the growler revealed lots of sediment gunk in the bottom of the bottle, which seems pretty rare for a growler), but it's pretty darned tasty. It looks like milky orange juice, smells of sweet, juicy citrus hops with a taste that follows the nose. The mouthfeel is a bit chewy and sticky, with some booziness too. Overall, an interesting NEDIPA, a bit boozy for my tastes (I tend to prefer my DIPAs in the 8%ish range), but worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 9.27% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/5/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Hill Farmstead Dharma Bum - An all Simcoe IPA, this one takes me back. Simcoe was, perhaps, one of the first hops I kinda grew to recognize and differentiate. It's always been a favorite for my homebrewing (my first homebrewed IPA was single-hop Simcoe and I still always use it for bittering, at least, when making an IPA). It's got a nice citrus and pine character that isn't entirely overwhelmed by the juicy flavors and aromas imparted by whatever yeast strain HF uses. It makes for an interesting, almost transitional NEIPA beer. Really nice Simcoe character imparted here, and just enough NEIPA juiciness to keep tings interesting. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV growlered (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a charente glass on 8/6/17. Growler filled 8/3/17.

Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo

Simple Roots Citra And Amarillo - When I was walking into the Warren Store (my usual first stop of Operation Cheddar, usually just to get some Lawson's, but I always end up taking a flier on something I've never heard of), I noticed someone carrying two cases of beer from their car into the cooler. I asked, and it turned out it was these Simple Roots cans. After Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo have also been a mainstay in my homebrewed IPAs, and are definitely favorites. Pours a, a, a... is that clear? What the hell guys? Clear golden yellow with finger of white head that leaves lacing. Floral, citrusy hops, a little cereal grain in the background. Light bodied and crisp, well carbonated and quaffable. Overall, do we call these things throwbacks now? Clear, almost west-coast inspired APA? It's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.1% ABV canned (16 ounce pounder). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/12/17.

Burlington Amber Ridge

Burlington Amber Ridge 2017 - A "robust" maple amber ale aged in bourbon barrels, my kinda stuff. This beer changes from year to year (last year was a brown ale base), but the idea remains the same. Presumably named after Amber Ridge Maple farm and the maple syrup they provided, it was also aged in Stonecutter Spirits whiskey barrels (of which, I don't know much about.). The result is a pretty darned good take on the style. Nice amber color with off white head, good barrel character, maple, caramel, oak, and vanilla, relatively light and nimble for its 12% ABV (I mean, still medium bodied, but something like this is usually much heavier), I liked this a lot. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 8/12/17. Vintage: Limited Release 2017.

Moar reviews to come, so stay tuned. I'll leave you with some haul pics because that's always fun too:

Can Haul

Can Haul: Alchemist Skadoosh IX, Heady Topper, Pappy's Porter, and Beelzebub. Burlington Strawberry Whale Cake. Upper Pass First Drop and Cloud Drop. Lawson's Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine. Simple Roots Citra and Amarillo (see above).

Miscellaneous Bottles Haul

Miscellaneous Bottle Haul: Central Waters BBA Scotch Ale, BBA Barleywine, BBA Stout. Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett with Blueberries and regular ol Nightmare on Brett. Tilquin Gueuze. Burlington Amber Ridge (see above)

Hill Farmstead Bottle Haul

Hill Farmstead Bottles Haul: Farmer Wave, Anna, Arthur, Clara, Edith, Florence, Brother Soigné, and Convivial Suaréz.

And if you think that's a lot, well, I didn't actually capture, *ahem*, all of the bottles and cans I bought. I know that's the cool kid thing to do, but that was, like, way too much work and you don't need to see a hundred bottles and cans splayed all over your monitor. Anywho, this basically concludes Operation Cheddar VI: Night of the Living Cheddar. More to come in terms of actual reviews, so stick around...

April Beer Club

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Beer club was yesterday! For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers and acquaintances at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and general merriment. Since the last beer club was sparsely attended, we ended up back at Couch Tomato for some excellent pizza, strombolis (having had both, I would recommend the stromboli over the pizza), and some sort of weird greek plate. Better weather means better attendance, and we had a rather fantastic selection of beer to work our way through:

April Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. As per usual, I'm going almost purely from memory, and this was from last night, so take these notes with the appropriate shakers of salt. Or call it a sacred text and analyze it like the Zapruder film. I'm not here to tell you what to do. I am here to write indefensible notes on beer, so let's get to it:

  • Kaedrin Crom Approved - So it appears that this is doing ok, but I really feel like my challenges that lead to a clogged keg and having to transfer it to another keg really ruined this beer. Ok, perhaps ruined isn't the right term. This has a fantastic, tropical fruit hop nose. The taste definitely feels a bit oxidized, which I unfortunately makes sense and definitely detracts from what I was going for. I'm giving it a B, but the really disappointing thing is that when I first kegged it, I was thinking this was A level stuff. Oh, well, lessons learned, onwards and upwards. My next batch of this beer will be great.
  • Adroit Theory New Zealand Rye (Ghost 179) - I heard about this Virginia brewery a while back and have been curious to try their beers. A regular beer club attendee got down there last weekend and picked up a few beers to try. This one was a pretty solid rye DIPA, more malt and spicy rye than hops, but it also clocks in at a hefty 11% ABV and didn't feel like it at all. It was very nice. B+
  • Crooked Stave St. Bretta (Autumn) - Absolutely delicious beer, funky, light sourness, juicy fruit, really fantastic stuff, along the lines of the Summer (which I've had before)
  • Flying Dog Supertramp - This had a sorta berliner weiss feel to it, but not quite that tart, and while you could get some cherry character out of it, it also had a weird aftertaste. I just never got into this beer. C
  • Modern Times Blazing World - Dank, piney hops with a nice, hefty malt backbone, this is very nice. Just about in line with anything I've had from Modern Times, who seem pretty fantastic. B+
  • Intangible Ales (Pizza Boy) Acidulated Hive - One of Pizza Boy's Intangible Ales label beers (not sure why this is listed as a separate brewery), this is a great little saison. It reminds me of Saison Dupont, except with a lightly funky addition (I don't get much honey out of it, but it does perhaps remind me a bit of funky version of Dupont's Bier de Miel). Well worth seeking out B+ or A-
  • The Lost Abbey Lost & Found Abbey Ale - A pretty standard dubbel that is overwhelmed by raisiny flavors. Nothing bad here, but also nothing particularly special. B-
  • Adroit Theory Lux (Ghost 132) - This is labeled as a wheatwine, and unfortunately, it falls prey to a saccharine, sticky sweet character that would be cloying if I were trying to drink a whole bottle. As a sample in a situation like this, it was fine, but it's not really my thing. C+
  • Central Waters Bourbon Barrel La Petite Mort - A beer I've already reviewed, and it was just as good, if not better this time around. In fact, I think I'll bump it up to an A-
  • Oskar Blues Bolivia Newton John - A relatively low ABV coffee stout (6%), this is obviously not in my wheelhouse, but it seemed like a very well executed coffee stout. B
  • Weyerbacher Sunday Morning Stout - Another coffee stout, this one is an imperial stout that's also been aged in bourbon barrels. This is much more my speed, though again, I never really connected with it as much as I'd like. The coffee seems very well integrated, and the barrel aging adds a nice richness to the proceedings, even if I felt the barrel character was a little too light. Still, while not quite KBS level, it's on the same playing field, and you won't have to jump through many hoops to get ahold of this stuff. B+
  • Bonus Review: Boxcar Brewing Nitro Stout - After beer club, we walked over to Boxcar Brewing's new brewpub and had some stuff there. I grabbed this Nitro stout, a Dry Irish Stout, that might be my favorite thing I've ever had from Boxcar. Now that the brewpub is open, I'm hoping for good things from them... they're the brewery most local to me, but I've always been somewhat underwhelmed by their brews. This was really nice though. B
And there you have it. A fantastic selection this time around, and I am, of course, already looking forward to the next iteration...

Weekend Agenda: Slashers and Beer

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

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

Beachwood Melrose IPA

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

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

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

Alesmith My Bloody Valentine

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

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

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

Pizza Boy Simcoe SamuRYE

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A few years ago, Al's of Hampden was your typical PA pizza joint. For the uninitiated, Pizza is everywhere around here. I live in the suburbs, and I have about 4-5 pizza places within about half a mile radius of my house (and probably double or triple that if you make it a mile). Because of this, some places have to differentiate themselves and Al's of Hampden had glommed onto the whole Craft Beer revolution, featuring a bunch of takeout bottles* and taps. But as craft beer continued to explode, Al found that he had some trouble keeping his taps flowing, and rather than whine about it, he installed a brewhouse and started making his own beer to make up for the shortfall. It appears to be a small operation, allowing them to experiment with all sorts of weird stuff, including some barrel aging and sours and whatnot. Music to my earballs. The brewing operation is known as Pizza Boy brewing, and it's been steadily building up a good reputation amongst local beer nerds. Alas, they're located in Enola, PA (a 1-2 hour drive from Kaedrin HQ), and I've been far too lazy for far too long. Fortunately for my laziness, Pizza Boy has started to bottle some of their brews and even distribute them. I hope this is a sign of things to come, but for now, I was happy to snag one of these Red Rye IPAs made with Simcoe hops.

Pizza Boy Simcoe SamuRYE

Pizza Boy Simcoe SamuRYE - Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown, with a finger of dense, off white head that has decent retention and leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smells amazing, lots of Simcoe's characteristic citrus and pine merged very nicely with some sugary sweet malt aromas. Taste follows the nose, lots of citrus and pine hops, a little dank, some rye spiciness with a hefty malt backbone. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, medium to full bodied, extremely well balanced. Overall, this is among the best rye IPAs I've had. On the upper end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/31/14.

So here's the plan. On some fine day, I'll need to take a road trip to visit some PA breweries, hitting Tröegs in Hershey first, then Al's/PizzaBoy, then Selin's Grove (a place I really need to check out at some point). Round trip, I'm figuring 6-7 hours though, so don't hold your breath. I don't think I'd even attempt this until next year, but it will happen someday. Oh yes. In the meantime, I'll just have to hope that some of Pizza Boy's more interesting experimental stuff makes their way down here...

* Again, for you non-PA residents, out fine commonwealth does not generally allow for beer distributors to sell by the bottle (only by the case). This is a fact that I've bemoaned many times before, but the good news is that there is a bit of a loophole in that restaurants are allowed to sell by the bottle, hence there are several places, like Al's, that have really stepped up their selection to serve the hungry market.

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!

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.

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

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

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