Recently in American Wild Ale Category

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Strawberry

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There's this Portlandia skit where two diners ask pedantic questions about the origins of the chicken they're about to eat. It's a neat skewering of Farm to Table fanatics. Even after presented with an information sheet on the exact chicken they'll be consuming (his name was "Colin"!), they feel the need to further investigate, making their way to the actual farm itself, interviewing the workers, and so on. This is obviously a ludicrous exaggeration, which is the point, but sometimes it's nice to see where your food comes from. Take this beer, part of Almanac's Farm to Barrel series (naturally), a sour beer fermented with their house yeast, then aged in old wine barrels atop uber-fresh local fruit. But where does this fruit come from? In this case, we've got strawberries grown at Dirty Girl Farms in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. Some of you might be thinking how nice it would be to meet the eponymous girls in question, and you people are probably pretty dirty in yourselves. Get your minds out of the gutter, is what I'm saying. Let's get our mind off this lurid subject with some beer:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Strawberry

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Strawberry - Pours a slightly hazy golden orange color with a finger off white head (it's not even pink, who are they fooling?) Smells strongly of tart fruit, strawberries, kiwi, and the like, with some oak and vanilla kicking in for fun. Taste starts sweet, quickly moving into sour fruits leavened by some oak before sharply ramping up the sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is crisp and light bodied, quite acidic but still pleasant enough. Overall, yes, it's another Farmer's Reserve winner from Almanac, moar sour than usual, but that seems to be the way of the strawberry. Who am I to question that? A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/17/15. Batch 10:1 031215 FRSTRAW.

Always on the lookout for more Almanac, they've never really let me down and have pretty steadily gotten better as time goes on. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of their offerings sooner rather than later...

Tired Hands Parageusia4

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Parageusia is the medical term for a bad taste in the mouth (though there are some definitions that are more charitable and call it it "an abnormal or hallucinatory sense of taste" which is perhaps more fitting in this context), but that doesn't stop beer geeks for going bananas about this stuff. After the initial and bizarrely theatrical first taste of Para1 and Para2 at last year's Anniversary, the two subsequent bottle releases were the most crowded I'd been too (even if I still managed to secure my allocation). Parageusia3, having built on its younger siblings' reputation, had an absolutely cuckoo nutso release. I got there 3 hours early and was almost certainly a couple hours too late (I did not stay to find out, but I've heard that my position in line was far from viable). And this wasn't one of those gorgeous weather days or anything, it was the day after a snowstorm, so everything was slushy and icy. It appears Tired Hands were successful at breeding that new, cold-resistant strain of beer nerd. Something about these sour ales aged in barrels seems to really strike a chord with the local coterie of beer dorks.

Given my (sad lack of) experience with Para3, I was overjoyed that my Believer's Club membership started taking effect with the release of Parageusia4. No waiting in line for me, just a leisurely stop in at the brewery a couple days after the general release. Alas, only a 1 bottle limit, making this a fair rarity and totally worth waiting in line, even if I didn't have to. It is a 12 month old Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented sour ale, so let's see what kind of abnormal or hallucinatory tastes pop out:

Tired Hands Parageusia4

Tired Hands Parageusia4 - Liquid gold in appearance, with a finger of fluffy white head. Smells nice and funky, musky earth and vinous fruit all over the nose. Taste definitely goes more vinous than previous iterations, lots of grape here, a little oak, and a well balanced lactic sourness in the middle to finish. Mouthfeel has decent carbonation, but a little light compared to previous iterations (perhaps more time in bottle would have solved that), light bodied, crisp and refreshing, only a very mild sense of sour acidity here. Overall, it's another winner, though it doesn't quite compare to Para1 level awesomeness (but few do!) A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15.

Will be so happy once the barrel aged wonders they're making at the new Fermentaria start to come of age in the next several months/year. In the meantime, I'll just have to cry into regular old top-tier IPAs and saisons. Woe is me.

Avery Tectum Et Elix

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The last year has seen many breweries upgrading their facilities and increasing production, often dramatically. Colorado's Avery brewing is among those ranks, with a new facility, increased production, and a greatly expanded barrel aging program. 2 years ago, they had 250 barrels aging a variety of beers in their warehouse and they're now at around 2000 barrels. This a welcome development and probably explains how I could get my grubby hands on several of their barrel aged beers over this past year. I'm pretty enamored with those beers, so when this beer, part of a recent trend that's been dubbed Sour Spring, showed up in my local bottle shop, I took the plunge despite never having had any of their sours before (unless you count the infected Black Tot, I guess).

Tectum Et Elix translates to "roof and grains", a reference to their new brewing facility. The new building also seems to be the inspiration for the cryptic little description for this beer, number 26 in their barrel aged series: "Conceived in the alley. Born under a roof on Nautilus. Where 'drain' isn't just a noun but finally, once again, a verb as well. FINALLY!" The new brewery is located on Nautilus Court in Boulder, Colorado, so that line is easy to figure out. Presumably there's an alley next to the building where people hang out and come up with beers or something. And the notion of drain being a verb rather than just a noun is perhaps a reference to draining barrels after a long wait? This beer spent 9 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels along with a mix of yeasts and bacterial beasties (apparently straying from their normal Brett strain to experiment with others). Worth the wait? Let's take a closer look:

Avery Tectum Et Elix

Avery Tectum Et Elix - Pours a clear, golden orange color, radiant with a finger of white head. Smells intensely earthy, lots of funk, hints of fruit, sour cherries, but really earthy, horsey, barnhouse stuff (supposedly due to the use of different Brett strains than normal Avery sours). Taste is more on the fruity side, sour cherries, some earthy funk, sweet fruit, and a little vinegary sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, moderately acidic, light bodied. Given that the normal barrel aged Avery beer is somewhere north of 14% ABV, this sucker feels downright approachable at 5.5%... Overall, it's a nice little sour number, nothing ecstatic, but really very nice and quite tasty and it grew on me as I drank. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/24/15. Bottled: Apr 16 2015. Production: 908 cases.

On deck is Insula Multos Collibus, a sour aged in bourbon barrels with cherries. After that, who knows. The production on these things is way, way up, so I'm sure we'll see more Avery barrel aged wonders as time goes on. In the meantime, I've got my hands full with VT and Boston beer, so it may be a while...

AleWerks Lover's Greed

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How do you do, dear reader? I am your most obedient servant and I am right heartily glad to see you. Forsooth, I have a most curious beer to discuss with you. Hailing from the honorable brewery known as Aleworks, situated close to the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia, this elixir began its life in a traditional brick wrapped brewhouse with open flame (as opposed to the modern heathens who useth more gentle steam systems), then slumbered for nearly 18 months in French oak barrels formerly used to age red wine. Truly a testament to the fleeting virtue of patience, that most humble of qualities. Hold ye onto thine britches, for these suds pack a sour punch:

AleWerks Lovers Greed

AleWerks Lover's Greed - Pours a pale, hazy reddish orange color with a finger of fizzy head that quickly resolves into a cap of head that sticks around for a while. Smells of vinous fruit, sour cherries, and tart vinegar. Taste is surprisingly mellow, definitely lots of tart fruit, cherries and grapes, vinegar tones, a little in the way of oak and vanilla, sour but not overpoweringly so. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated but smooth, slightly acidic but not a monster. Overall, a nice American wild ale; it's quite approachable and goes down rather easy, comporting itself well in a crowded and competitive style. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/16/15. Vintage: 2014.

Many thanks to Danur for the bottle! Also, I beg your pardon for my horrid attempts at colonial speech. It's funny, AleWerks has even dropped Williamsburg from their name, so I'm guessing they're trying to distance themselves from that connotation. Regardless, I've enjoyed most everything I've had from this small operation, and have been on the lookout for Bitter Valentine for a while now... There's always next year.

Bourbonic Plague

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I like puns as much as the next fella, hell I'll even chuckle at the most overused of beer puns: the hop pun. But even I have to question the wisdom of naming your beer with a pun that refers to one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. Welcome to the Raccoon Lodge & Brewpub, here's your bottled pestilence! On the other hand, it is a beer soured with bacteria, so there is a certain sense of propriety, I guess. Consider my question withdrawn.

I've had the occasional misfire from Cascade, and at these prices, those are not pleasant affairs (even when the beer is ultimately not all that bad), but they're always interesting, and when they're on, they're really on. I've had my eye on this one for a while, in part because I initially thought it wasn't a sour. It's a blend of spiced double porters that were aged in Bourbon and wine barrels for 18 months before aging on dates and spices for up to an additional 12 months. Nothing in there screams sour. Except for the part on the label that sez it's a Northwest Style Sour Ale. That's kinda a dead giveaway. I am, as has been amply established, the worst. Anywho, bourbon barrels aren't typically used for sours, and I've found that when they are, the bourbon gets lost behind the sourness (with the notable exception of Cuvée De Tomme). This one falls somewhere inbetween...

Our opponent is running a black deck, so watch out for plague rats and gird your buboes, because we're going in for a closer look at this Bourbonic Plague:

Cascade Bourbonic Plague

Cascade Bourbonic Plague - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of light tan head that quicky fizzes down to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells funky, a little sour, but you get some spice and vanilla (almost like a coke), oak, maybe some vinous fruit, and something deeper and darker lurking in the background. Taste is very sweet, some of that vinous fruit, a nice sour punch, rich dark malts (but not roasty at all), spice and vanilla (again with the almost coca cola character, like if coke was sour? Maybe not the best description, but there's something to it), and some booze, maybe even actual bourbon (not Cuvée De Tomme levels, but it's there). Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, a little heavy and acidic, nice booze factor. Intense, complex, and interesting, it's a sipper for sure, and probably should be shared. Overall, a fascinating piece of work, not sure I've had anything quite like it. B+ but certainly worth seeking out.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 4/25/15. Vintage: 2011 Project.

Yet another interesting winner from Cascade, and at least one more in the pipeline sometime in the near future. Not to mention lots of their beers that remain unexplored territory for us... territory we'll surely enjoy charting.

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...

Cuvée De Tomme

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Back in the day, The Lost Abbey suffered from complaints of low carbonation in their bigger, barrel aged expressions. There were a couple of infamous batches of Angel's Share that, to this day, seem to rankle veteran beer nerds because of their near complete lack of carbonation. And I suppose that's understandable, given the typically high price points of Lost Abbey beers. As someone who is especially sensitive to such issues, you'd think I'd have a problem with this brewery, but I've had pretty good luck. I've had a bottle of Angel's Share that weren't quite where it should be (a 2010 or 2011 vintage, if I remember), but later vintages were fine. Deliverance was barely carbonated, but enough that I still enjoyed it. Other than that, I've had pretty fantastic luck. It turns out that Lost Abbey has done a lot of work on this over the years, to the point where they have developed methods of pre-carbonating the beer and bought specialized equipment that lets them check carbonation, even in corked beer. Good for them.

But one of the problem childs has always been Cuvée De Tomme, a beer I've heard mixed things about for a while now. Again, carbonation issues in the bottle are the culprit. What's the problem? Well, these beers are bottle conditioned, which means that they are primed with extra sugar and dosed with more yeast. The yeast eats the sugars and produces carbonation (and slightly more alcohol), and since the yeast is still alive, it will continue to evolve the beer with time. The challenge with something like Cuvée De Tomme is that it's a high alcohol beer (a blend of barrel aged Judgement Day, a 10.5% Quad) that also happens to have a low pH (i.e. it's a sour). These are two environments that yeast does not like, and indeed, the yeast usually just dies off after a day or two. Apparently the 2014 batch was looking especially inhospitable.

As luck would have it, that 2014 batch of Cuvée De Tomme ran into some bottling line scheduling issues and Lost Abbey decided to just make it a draft-only affair. Since kegs aren't really meant to cellar, they are force carbonated, so no issues there. This is a beer that doesn't make its way out to Philly that often (there are usually some sightings at Philly Beer Week), but with the change up, more got distributed this year and during a recent trip to Tired Hands, I noticed that Teresa's had this on tap. So I hopped on the train and got me some. Let's just say that it was a good night.

Cuvee De Tomme

The Lost Abbey Cuvée De Tomme - Whoa, darker than expected, almost black, minimal head. Smells of, wow, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, with some sour cherry notes too. Taste is rich, sweet, puckering sour cherries, vinous fruit, and plenty of vanilla, oak, and booze. This is really the only time I've gotten bourbon out of a sour (I feel like it's usually overwhelmed by the sourness), which I imagine contributes to the booziness here. As it warms, the barrel character gets even more pronounced and the sourness feels better integrated as well. Mouthfeel is full bodied with a great richness and ample carbonation, some sour acidity and hot booze too. Overall, very complex and interesting, not to mention delicious! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/5/15.

This is fantastic and even though I'm not a huge fan of high-ABV sours, this works really well. I still love me some Red Poppy though.

Pizza Boy Golden Sour

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I've been enjoying the Pizza Boy bottles that have slowly been making their way to the Philly area, but so far, I've not had a chance to try any of Pizza Boy's most famous beers, whichare, in general, their sours. They are quite pricey, but so far, they seem worth it.

Enter the Golden Sour, a svelt 3.7% ABV ale aged in white wine barrels with lemon zest. According to Stouts and Stilettos, they asked the brewer and "found out it's a blend of Cantillon, Fantome & Drie Fonteinen cultures." Damn. Go big, or go home, I guess. And hoo boy, did this go big:

Pizza Boy Golden Sour

Pizza Boy Golden Sour - Pours a cloudy golden color with visible sediment and a finger of bubbly head that recedes to a cap. Smells great, tart fruit, lemons, musky funk, pleasant barnyard, and oak. The taste starts very sweet, quickly hits a high sour note with lemons and vinous fruit, a little funk, then retreats into oak before a finish which sorta ties all the flavor components together. Great balance between sweet fruit, sourness, and oak. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and refreshing, well carbonated with moderate acidity, it's still quite crushable. I will say, this does not feel like 3.7% at all - not that sours need a high abv to pack a punch, but usually when it's this low, there's some degree of thinness or something. Not so here. It's either labeled wrong or really impressive (and I'm inclined to think the latter). Overall, this is fantastic, no questions. A

Beer Nerd Details: 3.7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Charente glass on 1/30/15. 2014 Release.

So I've got something called Future Primitive that appears to be brewed at Pizza Boy, but is under an Intangible Ales label. Don't know what's up there, but mayhap I'll dig into that next time...

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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 American Wild Ale category.

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