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June Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to an Indian/Thai restaurant and despite a medium turnout, had much in the way of fun.

June Beer Club Lineup

For the sake of posterity, I'm documenting my nearly incoherent thoughts on each beer below, which is my way of saying that you should not trust any of these ratings because as we've established recently, I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Red Star Zingerbuch Kombucha - So the first beer of the night... was not beer! This is some sort of bizarre fermented tea concoction with ginger and hibiscus. It was very aromatic, flowery, and ginger aley. It was not exactly my bag, but this is the perfect setting for weird crap like this. No rating because I don't even really know what this is.
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale - Basically a palate cleanser, and a beer I've already covered before. B+
  • Founders All Day IPA - So the new trend is to call pale ales a "session IPA" or something like that? Ok, whatever, this is a pretty solid example, and I could probably drink a bunch of these with no complaints. Nice hop presence, but light and quaffable. B+
  • Surly Furious - Ah, now this is an IPA! Surly does not distribute to PA... except during Philly Beer Week. One of our attendees tonight was fortunate enough to attend a Surly event and snag a few cans, and generous enough to share with the rest of us. I've heard so many great things about Surly that I was afraid they wouldn't live up to the hype, but this is indeed a really fantastic IPA. Citrus and lots of pine and resinous hops, but exceedingly well balanced stuff, lots of hops and enough crystal malts that it didn't feel super bitter despite being 99 IBU. Probably the best beer of the night. I'll leave it at A- territory for now, but I definitely want to get some more of this (it could warrant an upgrade).
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Dammit, this still has not carbonated as much as I'd like, but it is still a tasty beer, light on the funk, but still a nice peppery saison flavor. I'm guessing that if it hasn't carbonated much by now, it's not going to get much better... which is fine, since I probably only have 6-12 bottles of the stuff left. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Chile Beer - Made with chile peppers and smoked malt, this sucker was spicy but flavorful. Not really my thing, but it's an interesting beer, and certainly not the abomination that Cave Creek Chili Beer was...
  • Lost Abbey Carnevale - A Brett does saison? Sign me up, this was one of my favorites of the night. Nice fruity, earthy funk pervading the whole thing, a pleasure to drink. It's no Logsdon or anything, but it's really nice. A high B+
  • Southern Tier Compass - Perhaps it was just because we opened it towards the end of the night, but this felt exceedingly bland to me, with the only real dominant note being the flowery aromas and flavors. Not really my thing. C
  • Brooklyn Wild Streak - A belgian strong pale aged in Bourbon barrels with Brett? Well ok then. The Brett has a minimal, but still detectable presence. But the taste is more dominated by that pale ale aged in bourbon barrel character that never really works as well for me as it does for stouts or barleywines. It's fine for what it is, but it's not really my thing. B-
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Blend) - The imperial stout is doing quite well. This blend has faint hints of the bourbon and oak, but nothing like a BBA stout. That being said, it's delicious and only getting better over time. I'll still leave it at a B+
And that is all for now. We will probably return to regular blogging next week, so stay tuned.

Tired Hands Second Anniversary

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It's hard to believe that it's only been two years since Tired Hands arrived on the scene and started melting faces with their amazing saisons and quaffable pale ales, amongst other strange and beautiful beers. To a beer nerd like myself, having a brewery of this quality and with these specialties even remotely close to my home has been a Godsend. Two years of fantastic beer, and the future is looking rather bright.

Like last year, the second anniversary celebration yesterday was a total madhouse, and given what they were pouring, totally worth it! I was fortunate enough to snag a seat at the bar rather early on, and my neighboring bar sitters were a lot of fun, which was great. For the sake of posterity and to instill jealousy in you, my valued readers, some half remembered thoughts (based on hastily entered notes jotted into Evernote that I'm trying to decipher right now) on what I had are below.

The Emptiness Is Not Eternal

The Emptiness is Not Eternal - 7% ABV Oak fermented Sorrel & Dandelion Saison - The Emptiness series of collaborations with rockstar farmer Tom Culton continues with this beautiful oaky sour beer, a little more herbal and floral than previous incarnations (all of which were fruited, to be sure). Someone was saying that this resembled Hill Farmstead Vera Mae, though I feel like this is an entirely different beast (in particular, I think the oakiness of this separates it considerably, though the emptiness bugs that bring the funk are also distinct from whatever HF is using). That's all academic though, as they're both great beers. As Emptiness beers go, I think I prefer the fruited versions, but this is still fantastic. A-

St.Twoer

St.Twoer - 6% ABV Citrus IPA - Brewed with clementines and a wicked combo of Galaxy, Simcoe, and Motueka hops, this greatly resembles St.Oner (though this one has less notes of pun). Beautiful juicy IPA, lots of bright fruit and citrus hops, the $4 pint deal on this was well worth it.

Handfarm - 5% ABV Barrel Fermented Saison - At this point, I think I've had some of every batch of Handfarm. I've always loved it, but I think this is the first time I've ever seen it on tap and hmm, I think I might like it slightly better that way. A nice vinous and fruity funk character with a more balanced oak presence, I could have probably drank this all day. Still an A- in my book.

Tired Hands Only Void Garlic Cask

Only Void - Garlic Cask - 11% ABV Imperial Stout Cask Conditioned on local black garlic (!?) - Tired Hands has made some weird beers and done some wacky cask conditioned stuff before, but this one really takes the cake. Their description on the draft list they handed out: "Wweeeiiiiiiirrrdddddddd!" This is pretty accurate. The garlic comes through very powerfully in the nose, and much less so in the taste. This is a good thing. The nose is actually really interesting, almost like... pizza? Yeah, kinda like that. Roasty chocolate pizza? Er, not sure. It's perhaps not something I would seek out again, but I'm very happy I tried it because it is a billion times better than it sounds. One of those beers that's just fun to experience. No idea how to rate, so I'll just slap a B on it and be done with it.

American Youth - 5.5% ABV APA collaboration with Half Acre - One of two Half Acre collaborations on tap, this one was a quaffable pale ale that is basically comprised of a blend of Daisy Cutter and HopHands, with the result being a very aromatic, very light bodied and refreshing beer. I seem to be saying this about a lot of these beers, but I could have drank this all day. A-

Geodesic - 6.5% ABV Hoppy Spelt Saison - Alright, so I'm not afraid to say that I was pretty far gone by this point, so my memory here is a little hazy. That being said, it was a very nice funky saison, almost sour (but then, my palate may have just been completely wrecked at this point). This was the last beer of the day for me, so take this with a grain of salt, but instinct sez rate it a B+

Alright, so now we get to the weirdest thing of the whole event, which was the Parageusia Bar. For the uninitiated, Jean has been posting cryptic comments about some dude named Christian Zellerfield, described as the "talented Future Rustic contract-brewer", for a while now. No one really knew what was up with this guy or these Parageusia beers we kept hearing about, and the research department here at Kaedrin turned up almost nothing about them (other than Jean's cryptic pronouncements on social media). So at the Anniversary, you could buy two (very pretty) pieces of glassware, which would entitle you to a fill of each of the beers available (Parageusia1 and Parageusia2) at a little popup bar they set up in the tiny little second floor office. Only two people were allowed in at any given time, the room was all dark and moody, and the whole thing was very hush hush. When we got in there, we asked what was up with the beers, and the Euro-accented "representative" (who was not Christian Zellerfield) gave us the skinny: Cabernet Franc Barrel Fermented sour ales, one at 6.5% ABV, the other at 8.2% ABV. We asked where this guy was, and honest to God, his answer was that he was traveling in space, but that he had chosen Tired Hands to be the one place to distribute his beer in the Milky Way Galaxy (to me, this implied that other galaxies were awash in Parageusia beer, but the representative was evasive when I tried to press him on that).

So the rumor is that Jean is basically fucking with us, and this whole thing is an elaborate ruse. Or that Parageusia is real, but basically brewed entirely by Jean and his crew, and this Christian guy is the one who is yanking our chains. Whatever the case may be, it doesn't really matter, because both of these beers were spectacular. And that glassware is beautiful too...

I do not remember how to spell this awesome beer

Parageusia1 - 6.5% ABV Cab Franc Barrel Fermented Ale - Wow, this is an amazing beer, rivaling the best of Tired Hands' output. Very sour, beautiful oaked character, funky, vinous, fruity, absolutely delicious. This was probably my favorite beer of the night. A

This one too, it is para-something

Parageusia2 - 8.2% ABV Cab Franc Barrel Fermented Ale - A slightly darker beer, a little more intense on the sour end of things, perhaps not as great as the Parageusia1, but still really wonderful in its own right (and really close in terms of the flavor profile). A-

The word Parageusia is apparently the medical term for a bad taste in the mouth, which could not be further from the truth. I don't know what the future plans for these beers are, but Jean has teased that bottles are coming, so I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for that. Or whatever this crazy space traveling brewer brings to us in the future (or, perhaps, from the future?)

All in all, it was a fantastic day, though I will note that I was happy I took the train to get there! The only thing I didn't get to try was Negative Creep, an oak fermented Kiwi sour ale (it had not tapped as of my departure around 5 pm). Congrats to Tired Hands on two years of spectacular beer, and things are only looking up from here. The next year should see a new brewery and a corresponding increase in output, which is most exciting. Stay tuned, I plan on continuing to make you jealous.

Tired Hands Compilation

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It's been a while since I've recapped recapped some recent Tired Hands beers, and these notes just keep piling up, so here goes nothing. Note that the earliest of these is from late August, so it really has been a while since I've attempted to stoke the jealousy of my readership with these local gems. Most are one-offs that will never be brewed again, but we've gotten to a point where I'm starting to recognize rebrews of some of their beers, so you never know.

Screeching Loud Thrashing Death Metal Offensive Song

SCREECHING LOUD THRASHING DEATH METAL OFFENSIVE SONG - 10.5% ABV blended old ale - Named after a review on Yelp where someone complained about the, shall we say, eclectic mix of music you hear when at TH (it looks like someone told her that they brewed this beer in her honor, so she updated her review, but the original one is still there.) A blend of 9 month old Flemish red (25%), fresh Barleywine (65%), and rye whiskey barrel fermented Barleywine (10%). Very interesting! Not a ton in the nose, but the taste is unique and interesting. I'm getting lots of chocolate, and maybe even coffee-like notes. Faint hints of cherries and a note of something bright escaping in the finish (prolly that Flemish red). Unique beer, never had anything like it. B+

Singel Hop Saison Citra - 5% ABV saison - Hurm, either this has gotten a lot better since my last glass (my previous note expressed surprise that Citra wasn't that potent - but it was great this second time), or my palate got destroyed by Vermont beer and is only coming back... Juicy citrus hops and saison spice. Glad I gave it another shot, upgrade! A-

Tabel, Sacred - 4.2% ABV spiced saison - Brewed with oats and Holy Basil, fermented with a touch of grapefruit and pomegranate. Is there a touch of funk in here? Not sure, but it's a nice, quaffable saison, with some citrus rind character, maybe a hint of lemon, an herbal note, and slight spicy yeast notes. B+

Mt.Sharp - 7.2% ABV Citra and Columbus IPA - Interesting sticky icky citrus and pine combo. Sticky and yet creamy? This is striking a chord that I can't place, but who cares, because its awesome! A-

SuchUnique - 8.2% ABV Double IPA, Simcoe & Centennial hops - Nice floral and citrus notes, mango, flowers, good stuff. Well hidden ABV. Good! A-

Pub Style Ale - 4.5% ABV pale ale brewed with oats & Centennial hops - Great nose, lots of citrus, big floral hops in the taste. Quaffable! B+

Sad State of Affairs - 8.2 % ABV DIPA - A less profane reference to the cease and desist for FarmHands? Regardless, this is a rock solid DIPA, citrus and pine, a little slickness but still well balanced. Fantastic! A-

Lizard Queen - 5.2% ABV Motueka & Centennial Pale Ale - Yep, another great pale ale, juicy citrus nose (maybe even a lemon note), some earthy floral notes too. Crushable. A-

Euphoric Sunshine Drip - 5.7% ABV spiced saison with Meyer lemon and pink peppercorn - Another typically great Tired Hands farmhouse saison, not quite funky, but that lemon makes overtures in that direction, and the peppercorn accentuates the yeast well... A-

The Multiverse - 8.1% ABV pear farmhouse DIPA - Wow, really nice pairing (pearing?) of farmhouse spice (funk?) and hops, with neither dominating, but instead melding into something different. Really nice! A-

Critical Anxious - 7.8% ABV Biere De Garde - And I didn't take any notes on this one, though I did write down that I had it, so, um, I dunno. Mulligan.

Oktüberfest - 6.1% ABV Ser Gut Yam Bier - Very nice Oktoberfest style beer, mild, light toasted bread, but still relatively sweet. Great mouthfeel on this one too. Not really my style, but this is my kinda take on the style. B+

My Favorite Show - 5.7% ABV classical modern saison - Typically great Tired Hands saison, almost funky, nice peppery notes, highly drinkable, like a slightly amped up FarmHands (er, SaisonHands). B+

Communication is the Key - 5.5% ABV crushable Simcoe pale ale - Typically great Tired Hands pale ale, big juicy fruit notes, hint of pine, crushable is a perfect descriptor. A-

Tired Hands Murky Growlers
(Click for larger picture)

So I'm at the bar one night and Jean fills a couple of growlers. He gives them to some guy who's making a trip to Hill Farmstead and says that Shaun Hill likes his beer extra cloudy, so he renamed "Communication is the Key" to "Communication is the Murky" and "We Are All Infinite Energy Vibrating At The Same Frequency" to "We Are All Hazy As Hell Vibrating at the Same Cloudiness".

Fall Precious - 6.6% ABV autumnal saison - Really nice saison, it's got that typical Tired Hands farmhouse character, but it's carving out an identity of its own. Sweet up front, maybe some fruit, with the spice emerging towards the finish. A-

H.C.S. - 5.9% ABV viscous and delicious saison - Power of suggestion, or is this really viscous? Definitely a fuller body than your typical TH saison, very cloudy, a little yeasty spice, well done. B+

MortalGrade - 8.2% ABV DIPA brewed with wheat, oats, Chinook, Citra, Zythos, and Simcoe - Fantastic, one of my favorite Tired Hands DIPAs! Huge juicy citrus, some grassy, floral, and pine hop notes too. Obscenely quaffable for its ABV, no real hint of booze. Great stuff! A

MoMoCoe - 5.5% ABV Motueka, Mosaic, and Simcoe pale ale - Great juicy hop character, lots of grapefruit, nice bracing bitterness, really good! A-

Singel Hop Saison, Chinook - 5% ABV - The 8th singel hop saison, and probably around the middle of the pack. Indeed, the hops and saison yeast seem a little at odds here. Still good, of course, but not the best of the bunch. B+

Under Pressure - 7.6% Blended Artisanal Farmhouse Biere de Garde - Excellent malt forward Brett beer, some nice malty fruit notes, with some peppery yeast and complementary Brett. Great! A-

Coulton Hop - 5.5% heirloom cider/pale ale - 49% of the fermentables came from cider made of apples, pears, and quinces. Hopped with Simcoe and that's really what stands out, but it's amazing that they were able to coax something so beerlike out of something comprised of so much cider... As I drink more, the cider twang becomes more pronounced... Really nice. B+

Coulton Sour - 5.5% heirloom cider/Berliner Weiss - Similar approach with the cider used as fermantable. Holy sour patch kids, this is super tart, and you really get that cider side of things here too. Really interesting beers here. A-

Cosmic Slop - 8.3% DIPA - Tired Hands' 200th batch is a typically great fruit and hop forward DIPA, lots of citrus, pine, and floral notes, very well done B+

Hail Santa - 6.4% ABV Rye IPA - Slightly darker than typical, but still a pale yellow, beautiful juicy hop nose, with some floral and spicy notes hitting in the taste. Really good! B+

I See a Darkness - 8.5% ABV porter brewed with coffee and honey - Collaboration with Sante Adairius, very nice, bigger than normal porter. Tried getting some a few days later, but they were out... B+

Sgt. Salamander - 5% ABV Holiday Sour Berliner Weiss - Wow, this has a typical Berliner nose, but the taste is all sorts of great. Really tight lactic sourness, puckering really, and it's great. Also had some dosed with cinnamon & vanilla bean syrup that just puts this miles ahead. Super flavorful. B+ (regular) and A- (with syrup)

Trendler - 5.5% ABV alt bier - Very interesting and different, Jean is branching out here, malt forward but not heavy at all... B+

Praise Bee - 9% 2X honey IBA - Zombie rides again... Sorta! Doesn't quite live up to zombie levels, but it's really good, nice hop character, well matched dark malts, excellent. A-

Circumambulation - 7.2% biere de garde - Fermented with kolsch yeast and lagered three weeks, this is a subtle beer, super creamy head, not a typical TH feel, but still very good, lots of muted flavors, complex but not overwhelming... B

Bucolic Overlord

Bucolic Overlord - 8% DIPA - Brewed with oats, Citra, Columbus, and Simcoe hops. Great stuff, dank and resinous, with floral and citrus notes rounding it out. Superb! A

VOID ego VOID - 9.8% ABV blended imperial stout - Partially barrel aged in Tuthilltown rye whiskey barrels for 7 months... Not a lot of barrel character, roasty up front, sweet towards the finish with a nice hit of vanilla. Not as thick or heavy as you'd expect, but it still has admirable heft. I really enjoyed this! A-

Principal Eel - 6% sour farmhouse IPA - Well this is unusual, better than the last sour IPA I had from TH last year, but something about the strong hop and sour combo doesn't completely work for me... B

All-O-Gistics - 5.9% Experimental IPA - Experimental hop #05256 - Whoa carbonation! Not that I'm complaining, but this is more carbonated than your typical Tired Hands beer. Great juicy hop nose, citrus, pine, and grass. Maybe something like green onion. Taste is more piney and it's got a sharp bitterness. Definitely not your typical Tired Hands IPA, but still great. A-

Can't Keep Up - 6.2% Spontaneous Saison - Fermented in old Tuthilltown rye barrels that had previously been used to make some apple cider (by frequent TH collaborator, Tom Culton), only 10 gallons produced. Amazing, nice oak character, sharp but very pleasant sourness, almost vinous tart fruit, really great. I love this! A

And that just about covers it. If you're local and heading over to the next release on Sunday, let me know!

January Beer Club

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Just in the nick of time. This was scheduled for earlier in the month but got delayed due to snow and other such things. But we persevered, and Beer club marched on. For the unawares, beer club is a gathering of beer minded folks from my work, who get together once a month at a local BYOB for beverages and fun.

January Beer Club 2014
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. As per usual, these are off the cuff responses with no formal notes, so they're basically useless for you, but I'm including them anyway because why should I care what you think of my drunken recollections of these beers? In order of drinking (and not in the order pictured above, and there are definitely a couple beers not pictured at all because I took the picture early and didn't feel like updating it later and why are you so confrontational about this, it's just a thing, and fine, you want to fight about it? Let's do this thing. Or not. Whatever. What were we talking about?)

  • Stone Double Bastard - Probably not the best beer to start off a tasting with, but it worked just fine, and it was as good as I remember. Which is to say, it's good, but not mind blowing. B+
  • Unibroue Éphémère - This is not as apple-flavored as I remember, though that character is still fully present in the beer, which is a pretty solid Belgian Wit style affair and would make a great summer beer.
  • Boxcar CarKnocker IPA - The uber local (i.e. within a couple miles of my house) brewery's take on a standard IPA, it's decent, but not quite as good as their original (kinda, sorta Belgian style) IPA. B-
  • DC Brau The Corruption - A beer I reviewed in more detail just yesterday.
  • Bell's Midwestern Pale Ale - A fine offering, but perhaps sampled too late in the the night, as it sorta suffered in comparison to the other IPAs. B-
  • Boxcar Belgian Tripel - One of uber-local Boxcar's best beers, it's still a pretty straightforward Belgian style tripel. Along those lines, it's pretty good. Not a top tier effort, but quite nice. B+
  • Element Brewing Dark Element - A rather nice India Black Ale (or whatever you want to call that hoppy stout style), this sucker had just a hint of roast, a nice malt backbone, and plenty of dank, piney, resinous hops. One of the best of the night. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Hybrid Thingy - A sorta beer/wine/mead hybrid, this was made with some barley, copious amounts of honey, and muscat grapes. This is some crazy Dogfish-head style shit, but it actually worked pretty darn well. Clocking in at around 10% ABV, this thing didn't feel like it at all, making it dangerously easy to drink. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Blend) - This is the version that contains a blend of straight RIS and Bourbon Oaked RIS. It turned out pretty darn well, though the oak character is a bit muted here. I don't know that I'd be able to pick it out blind, but regardless, it turned out pretty well and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Look for a triple feature (with all the variants) soon. I'll give it a B+ for now, though it could easily be higher.
  • Spring House Satan's Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout - One of my contributions, this was a fascinating sorta Girl Scout Thin Mint beer. Not sure if I would have reacted so positively if I drank the whole thing by myself, but it's a perfect beer for the setting. The mint chocolate chip character comes through strong, but not in an overpowering way. Very nice, and I enjoyed muchly. B+
  • Boulevard and Sierra Nevada Terra Incognita - A whiskey barrel aged beer that shows off that character pretty well. I still think that stouts and barleywines work better on that front, but this was certainly a fine effort. B
And that just about covers it. Good times had by all, and I'm already looking forward to the next installment (which should be sooner, rather than later... hopefully!)

December Beer Club

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

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

Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

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

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

September Beer Club

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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 libations and fun. I should note that what I call beer club is offically called "social club", and there are frequently attendees who want nothing to do with beer. We've often had folks who bring wine or even stuff like sake or just plan, non-alcoholic root beer. In short, usually, only a portion of attendees are drinking the beer. Well, we had a great turnout tonight, and most everyone drank most every beer. I think only one beer was left unopened (a Brooklyn Oktoberfest), and most everything else was kicked almost as soon as it was opened. So it was an impressive showing tonight! Check it:

September Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, some half-remembered thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, these are not ideal tasting conditions and I was only half paying attention and you'd be a fool to trust most of these ratings. Except for the ones I've had before. Those are mostly awesome. Here goes:

  • Ken's Homebrewed Pumpkin Ale - Really nice pumpkin ale homebrew from my friend Ken. He had kegged it and transferred to a growler this morning, so the carbonation was a bit on the low side, but it was otherwise a pretty damn good take on the style. I was going to say that it's the best homebrewed pumpkin ale I've ever had, but it's also the only homebrewed pumpkin ale I've ever had, so that doesn't really tell you much. But it was good, and I liked it. B+
  • Stone Enjoy By 09.13.13 IPA - I know, heresy! We drank this almost a week after we were supposed to "enjoy by", and yet, I can't help but thinking that I enjoyed this more than the fresh bottle I had. I didn't get that weird plasticky character that I had from the fresh version, though I could kinda see where it came from. The slightly faded hops actually improved this for me! I know, heresy, right? I still feel like I'm pretty sensitive to faded hops these days, but this one tasted fine. Perhaps it was stored better than my last bottle? I'll still leave it at a B, but better than the last bottle I had (which was also a B)
  • Neshaminy Creek County Line IPA - I've not reviewed this, but I've mentioned it before on the blog, and I enjoy it. A local brew, this is your typical East Coast IPA, well balanced, more malt character than your West Coast IPAs, but a nice light hop character too. B or B+
  • Kaedôme Saison (regular version) - My regular ol' homebrewed saison is still drinking pretty well. The hop character has mellowed a bit and never quite achieved the Nelson Sauvin awesomeness I was hoping for, but it's still a pretty kickass saison and seemed to be very well received by the beer club crew. The Brett version of this is still in secondary, and probably has a solid month or two left it in before I bottle. I'll leave this at a B+
  • Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale - Proof that "Bourbon Barrel Aged" does not always translate to "good"... this wasn't especially bad or anything, it was just sorta bland. It was pale in color, and I didn't get much bourbon or oak out of this at all... nor did I get much else. Which is to say, it's better than most macros, but nothing to write home about. Perhaps it would fare better in a non-sampling context, but for tonight it was a lowly C+
  • Erie Brewing Mad Anthony's APA - Oh wow, this is just awful. It's got a certain blandness to it, but also a diacetyl note that I always hate. Some might be willing to put up with that, but not I. F
  • The Alchemist Heady Topper - I don't need to say much beyond my review, but yeah, it went over pretty well with the beer club peeps. Still a solid A in my book.
  • Saucony Creek Captain Pumpkin's Maple Mistress - Extremely sweet and a little boozy, this is an interesting take on the pumpkin ale. It's got some spice, but not quite your typical pumpkin spice, and I can sorta detect that maple syrup character as well. It's unbalanced, but in a sorta endearing way. One of those beers that's excellent in this sort of sampling context, but which would probably become cloying if you tried drinking a whole bottle. I enjoyed it well enough and will give it a B
  • Finch's Fascist Pig Ale - I didn't really get much of this, just the dregs of the can, but it seemed like a nice enough amber ale. I'll give it a provisional B, but even considering the context of beer club, I need more of this to really give it a fair shake.
  • Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin - You know what, I really enjoyed this beer. It's a more-or-less traditional take on a pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie flavors all the way, but perhaps the lopsided affair of Captain Pumpkin's Maple Mistress made this one appear better by comparison. It's not as interesting, but it's maybe a better crafted beer. B or B+
  • Cascade Kriek Ale - One of my contributions for the night, this sucker is just as good as I remember it, maybe even better. It was a big hit with beer club peeps as well, and definitely the most unique beer of the night. I love this stuff and might be tempted to upgrade it to A status, but I'll leave it at A- for now, trusting my previous judgement.
  • FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Heaven Hill Rittenhouse Rye - My other contribution, and another eye opener for the beer club crew. I've had this before and absolutely loved it, which is one of the reasons I wanted to bring it to beer club. Happily, it went over very well. A
And that just about covers it, another successful night, and I am already anticipating the next meeting!

Switchback Ale

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Another random impulse buy from the Warren Store during Operation Cheddar. I'd never heard of this before, but when I brought it up to the counter with my bottles of Double Sunshine, I received a knowing nod from another patron who commented on my purchase of "the usual suspects". I asked about this one, but I had trouble getting a read on what he thought on this. After having the beer, I have to admit that I kinda get that. The label sez that "Switchback Ale was developed as a flavor concept, not adhering to any style guidelines", and it sorta drinks like that. Sorta. I found it strongly reminiscent of a pumpkin beer... but without pumpkins or pie spice. Whatever that means.

It's one of those beers that makes me wonder why I even bother posting a rating. As noted in the comments recently, my ratings tend to be relatively high, especially lately. This is partly because, well, who wants to write about mediocre beer? Also, as Rich speculated, there are enough resources out there and I obsessively read enough blogs/twitter feeds to have some intuitive sense of what's going on. This beer kinda threw me for a loop though. I liked it well enough, and it is clearly a very well crafted and interesting beer. I couldn't see it being something I reached for often (if it was regularly available to me)... but writing this post a week later, well, I could see myself cracking one of these every once in a while. I rated it relatively "low" on my scale though. Of course, a B is nothing to sneeze at, and that's not objectively low at all. So take that.

Switchback Ale

Switchback Ale - Pours a dark amber orange color with a finger of white head. Smells of bready malts, maybe buscuit malt, with some earthy hop notes for good measure. That breadiness may be coming from the yeast too... Taste is also very malt forward, mildly sweet breadiness and biscuit flavors (again, perhaps accentuated by the yeast), just a bit in the way of earthy, herbal hops. Mouthfeel is light bodied, well carbonated, crisp, and relatively dry. Goes down very easy. BA calls this a Pale Ale, but this sorta feels like the base for a pumpkin ale (i.e. no pumpkin or pie spice or anything, but with the malt/hop/yeast bill along those lines). Overall, well crafted and balanced but very subtle. It's making a very nice accompaniment to dinner and it's something I could see trying again, but it's not among those face melting VT beers worth making the trip for (though it's probably worth trying if you're already there, and why wouldn't you be)... It actually seems like it could be a really great alternative to those who want to celebrate the fall weather, but don't like the heavy handed use of pumpkin and spice in so many beers. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a willybecher glass on 8/30/13.

Apparently Switchback only started bottling last year (after a decade of keg only brewing), and they seem to be doing well. I'd be curious to try some of their other stuff some day...

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
(Click for larger version)

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...

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

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