Recently in American Wild Ale Category

Crooked Stave L'Brett d'Or

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We've already established that Chad Yakobson is a mad scientist who makes all of his beer using various strains of Brettanomyces. He's a fan of wild yeast, and apparently also a fan of Luis Buñuel's surrealist films from the 1930s:

The idea spur for the name of this beer came from a 1930′s Surrealist film L'Age d'Or by Luis Buñuel and written by himself and Salvador Dali. In the opening scenes footage of scorpions are shown from a short science film. During this are captions in French talking about 5 prismatic articulations which finally culminate in a stinger.. For this reason we chose to use 5 prismatic strains of Brettanomyces for our surreal golden sour and name the beer L'Brett d'Or "The Golden Brett".

The movie is on YouTube, if you dare. Lord knows I've not seen enough Buñuel, and there's no time like the present.

So primary fermentation with 5 strains of Brett (picked to emphasize "citrusy type characteristics"), then a dose of Lactobacillus (a bacteria that produces sour flavors in beer) and a lengthy nap in old Napa Chardonnay barrels. Sign me up:

Crooked Stave LBrett dOr

Crooked Stave L'Brett d'Or - Pours a yellow color with half a finger of fluffy white head that nonetheless sticks around a while. Smell is pure funk, earthy, fruity Brett, and a light but well matched oak note. Taste follows suit, lots of funky Brett, some earthiness and oak up front, followed by a strong tart fruit sourness. The oak is a really nice presence throughout the taste and helps keep that sourness in check. Mouthfeel is a bit light on the carbonation, but it still works very well. It's bright and refreshing, with a pleasant acidity. Overall, this is yet another fantastic effort from Crooked Stave. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/28/14. Vintage 2013/Batch 2.

It's pretty amazing that a brewery can sustain itself by brewing only wild beers, and I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more from them. In fact, I have another of their beers just sitting on the shelf, ready for drinking. We'll get to it soon enough.

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!)

The Bruery Rueuze

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What beer to drink on New Years Eve? I've typically fallen on a big, effervescent saison for this task, but the true answer to this conundrum is the Champagne of Beer: Miller High Life. Unfortunately, I was fresh out, so I had to settle for an American imitation of a Gueuze (which is the actual Champagne of Beer, for the record). I've mentioned a few times recently that brewing is not an activity for the impatient, and these Bruery folks certainly seem to have a lot of foresight and patience in developing their Barrel Aging program.

They've got a 5 year old Solera series going with their Anniversary beers (like Coton or Bois), and this Rueuze beer calls to mind the great Belgian lambic aging traditions. This is a blend of three different vintages of oak aged sour blond ale. The traditional Gueuze is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics, and The Bruery is conspicuously silent on the age of their three vintages, so I'm guessing it's not an exact parallel, but I'm not going to complain because this is pretty good, if a bit pricey:

The Bruery Rueuze

The Bruery Rueuze - Pours a golden yellow color with a finger of fizzy white head that quickly subsides to a cap that hangs out for a while. Smells funky, some musky, earthy aromas, but also a very nice fruity, vinous note, and that barrel character is definitely making itself known. Taste starts off with a bang of sourness, a little sweetness, tart vinous fruit, musky notes in the middle, and towards the end, a very nice oak character pitches in along with an intense sourness to pucker that finish, but in a balanced way. Good pucker factor. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, effervescent really, a little pleasant acidity from that sourness, not super dry, but in that direction. Overall, this is a rock solid beer, complex, balanced stuff that doesn't quite hit the heights of the best lambics, but comes pretty close. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/13. 2013 Vintage.

Solid stuff. I'm a bit behind on my Bruery beers, so you'll probably see a few new ones pop up in the coming month or two, including one that appears to use the same oak aged sour blonde ale base (though this other one is fruited). The other is Mash, a bourbon barrel aged barleywine (truly a beer after my heart).

La Cabra Brettophile

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Last year, the Brewers Association estimated that the number of breweries-in-planning had surpassed 1300. I'd wager that a sizeable portion of these are paper tigers that will never actually see the light of day. Others, though, have been building an underground following with their homebrewed beers. One such operation is La Cabra Brewing, out of Malvern, PA (just a hop and skip away from Kaedrin HQ), where brewer Dan Popernack has been busy dialing in his portfolio and building up his fleet of barrels. Since La Cabra is not federally licensed as a brewery, he can't actually sell his wares, but he does maintain an email list and periodically releases beers for feedback purposes. I have been fortunate enough to procure a couple of these brews. A few weeks ago, Joe Sixpack published an article focusing on a few local breweries-in-planning, including La Cabra, and I hope to have an interview with Dan in the near future, so I'll leave it at that for now. You'll be hearing more about La Cabra soon!

In the meantime, let's check out one of these beers. Brettophile is a golden ale fermented entirely with Brettanomyces and aged in new American oak. My kinda beer, so let's see how it turned out:

La Cabra Brettophile

La Cabra Brettophile - Pours a very pretty, almost radiant golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells full of Brett funk, mild barnyard, earthy with a big dollop of fruity esters. Taste starts off with some earthy barnyard funk, a hint of spice, with a noticeable oak character pitching in towards the middle, and a juicy tartness that starts in the middle and intensifies through the finish. The sourness opens up a bit as it warms, lemons and pineapple, but it's still very well balanced. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, refreshing, with a pleasant pucker factor from the sourness. Overall, this sucker could compete with the big boys for sure. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet on 11/1/13. Vintage: 2013.

The label sez that this beer "May contain trace amounts of awesome.." which is simply untrue. It's all awesome! Or maybe I'm just excited by the prospect of another local brewery that has the ambition to do some crazy barrel aged stuff like this. Also, free beer always tastes better. Still, I think this one is a true winner and could really put this brewery on the map when the finally get off the ground.

Cascade Apricot Ale

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Nothing sez Halloween like spooooky... apricots? Alright, that's a stretch, but I always jump at the chance to try a new Cascade beer. This one appears to be their most popular beer, having garnered the most reviews and yet maintained a pretty great rating. The base for this is apparently a Belgian style tripel (which explains some of that musty character mentioned in the notes below, I think) which is aged in old oak barrels for about a year, then aged on fresh apricots for an additional 8 months. It looks like older vintages of this beer were higher ABV (and varying stays in barrels too), so maybe that tripel has been downgraded a bit, but whatever, this beer still sounds excellent, so let's dig in:

Cascade Apricot Ale

Cascade Apricot Ale - Pours a hazy yellow color with a couple fingers of fizzy white head that still sticks around a bit. Smells very musty, maybe even some spice like from Belgian yeast, with the fruitiness barely peeking out from behind that sour twang. Taste is quite sour, not as much fruit as you might expect (though it's there), and did I mention sour? As it warms, I feel like the apricot starts to come through loud and clear, and that sharp sourness softens (or my gumline has just gone numb or something), with some tannic oak tempering things towards the end and lingering into the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, tannic, a little acidic, but crisp and relatively dry enough to make it approachable. Overall, it's a very well executed oak-aged sour, more sour and less fruity than expected, but still damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 10/26/13. Vintage: 2012 Project.

Another winner from Cascade, I'll have to figure out when and where to pick up some bottles of their more limited releases (anything that starts with "Sang" sounds pretty awesome to me). Or find a mule in a state where they can ship beer (stupid PA liquor laws, and DE and NJ aren't excused on this one either, as Cascade can't ship there either). In other news, I'll have actual Halloween themed beers for you later this week.

Framboise For A Cure

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Every year, the fine folks at Russian River host a month long fundraiser for breast cancer awareness, with the centerpiece being Framboise For A Cure, a sour blonde ale comprised of 80% Temptation and 20% of something called Sonambic, a new beer they've been working on using a traditional Coolship (just like them official lambic makers). The blend is then aged in Chardonnay barrels with fresh raspberries. It sounds heavenly, no?

Fortunately for me, the owner of Philly institution Monk's Cafe, Tom Peters, is good friends with the folks at Russian River and every year, they host a fundraiser of their own. They even release a small amount of bottles, which, alas, I was not able to secure because I'm lazy and didn't get there until a little after opening. However, I was still fortunate enough to get a taste on tap (and I also picked up another bottle that will no doubt be making an appearance on the blog sometime soon), so let's get going:

Russian River Framboise For A Cure

Russian River Framboise For A Cure - Bright ruby red color (so many robey tones, you guys), almost no head, though a cap of pinkish hued stuff sticks around so maybe it was just the initial pour or something. Smells of funk, oak, and twangy raspberry. Taste hits that raspberry sweetness up front, oak kicking in towards the middle, with a sourness also coming to the fore in the middle and lasting through the finish, where that raspberry returns and everything ties together. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp and sharp, a little sticky in the finish. Overall, this is a superb, well balanced, complex sour. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/19/13.

Because Monk's is awesome, they were also pouring some other limited gems that I couldn't resist... it's for a cure people! And not to go all dudebro on you, but I like breasts. Sue me.

Cantillon Vigneronne

Cantillon Vigneronne - This is a lambic made with hand-picked muscat grapes, and it's apparently one of the rarer varieties due to the scarcity of grapes (not to mention Cantillon's general capacity issues). Pours a clear gold color, again with the no head. Smells like a gueuze, taste has a vinous character matched with gueuze-like oak and biting sourness. It is, perhaps, not quite as powerful as a full gueuze, presumably the influence of the grapes. Mouthfeel has a snap to it, well carbonated, just a bit of stickiness in the finish... Overall, I think drinking these two beers back to back pretty much obliterated my palate, but it was totally worth it, and this was clearly another winner from Cantillon. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 10/19/13.

Not bad for a lowly Saturday afternoon. I'm going to have to find a way to drag myself out of bed earlier next year and maybe snag a bottle. In any case, I was quite happy to try it on tap and as I mentioned, I managed to snag a bottle of something pretty special, so it was a good day, is what I'm saying.

Sante Adairius Love's Armor

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It used to be that a new brewery would have to establish their bona fides for a few years, pushing out old standards like porters and pale ales, establishing a base on blandness, and only then rocking the world with something completely bonkers. In the parlance, you've got to earn your bullshit. But there's something about the current beer craze has lead to new, often tiny breweries popping up and immediately dropping bombs on unsuspecting beer nerds. For example, Hill Farmstead started putting out amazing beers way back in... 2010. Earlier this year, they're voted best brewery in the world. I suspect the same honor will be up for grabs from any number of new, idiosyncratic brewers that seem to be sprouting up at an amazing rate.

Heck, we've already covered two such candidates this week alone (not to mention recent fantastic offerings from Pipeworks, Half Acre, my beloved hometown wizards Tired Hands, and many others) and now we hit our third of the week: Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (aka SARA) has been making small batches of mind blowing beer in the small coastal town of Capitola, California for a year or so, but they somehow managed to establish an amazing reputation before they even opened. I've been following along on Jay's blog, Beer Samizdat, for a while now, aching to get a chance to try anything from this brewery. When we put together a quick trade back in August, I was wondering if he'd be able to find some bottles (they're apparently quite rare and released on unpredictable schedules) and was overjoyed to see not just one, but two offerings in my haul. Many thanks to Jay for being such a great American and snapping these up for me.

This first taste is a blend of barrel aged sour beers, one a dark saison they call Farmhouse Noir and the other a robust rye porter called Chavez. Love's Armor has proven itself to be quite formidable, wreaking major havoc with my THAC0...

Sante Adairius Loves Armor

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Love's Armor - Pours a deep dark brown color with a finger of khaki head. Smells full of twangy funk, with an almost chocolate covered cherry sorta aroma that is beautiful. Sourness hits in the taste right up front, sour cherries, yielding to some chocolate malt, maybe even some roast in the middle, then heading back to sourtown for the finish. Nice leathery Brett funk, maybe tobacco, matched with a hint of oak too. Really complex, I keep picking out new subtleties as I drink, but also well balanced. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, not quite full bodied, but definitely more here than, say, a flanders red. Overall, I feel like I've been saying this a lot lately, but this is superb! An excellent, non-standard sour. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a flute on 9/20/13.

Amazing first impression here, and I'm supes excited for that next bottle... and will need to start begging Jay for more almost immediately.

June Beer Club

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You know the drill: a bunch of beer-minded colleagues and I get together at a local BYOB and drink our faces off. A low turnout this month due to scheduling, but still good times. I was negligent and forgot to take a picture of the beers on offer, so I made this fancy artist's rendering in MS Paint:

The middle one is a lambic, which is why its in a green bottle.

I think I may have missed my calling. For the sake of posterity, some half-remembered notes are recorded below. You're welcome.

  • The Captain's Invisible Moon - Which, if named after the style, would be "The Captain's Cream Ale", which just sounds gross. Unless you're a big Chris Evans fan. Like, a really big fan. Oh yeah, the beer. A homebrewed cream ale, it came out pretty well, kinda like a wheat beer, but with that smooth texture of a cream ale. Really easy drinking and a good way to start the night.
  • Brewer's Art Ozzy Ale - Nice Belgian yeast character, lots of spice (clove) and again, pretty easy drinking. It's a perfectly cromulent beer, but nothing to go nuts over. B
  • Boulevard Coffee Ale - This was one of those beers I got from the BIF trade, but since I wasn't a big coffee guy, I figured I'd share it with some people who might appreciate it a bit more. The coffee wasn't overwhelming at all, which is nice, especially since this isn't a stout either. Lots of malt character with that coffee taking a prominent place. It's not really my thing at all, but I was glad I got to share it (even though, uh, it seemed that a most beer club peeps were also not coffee people either). C+
  • Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale - I have actually had this before (and incorporated it into my Choose Your Own Adventure Beer Review epic), and in this setting, it stood out pretty darn well. I could probably be tempted to upgrade the rating, but I'll leave it at a B for now.
  • Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l'Ancienne - This is the green bottle in the artist's rendering above! One of my other contributions of the night, this one is every bit as good as I remember, and compares favorable with the big boys at Cantillon and 3F (at least, when it comes to their regular lineup). Still an A- in my book.
  • Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout - Another of my contributions, I actually bought a Dark Horse variety pack a while back, and since Dark Horse apparently loves to make stouts, they have a sorta numbered series of beers, this being the third. It's got a big blueberry aroma and even a little taste, but it doesn't feel artificial either, which actually kinda works. B
  • Boulevard Love Child No. 3 - Label sez it's aged in bourbon barrels, but I should have inspected more closely, because this sucker is actually a wild ale. A malt-forward base with some very tart, sour notes that hit quickly, but fade towards the finish, making this a pretty darn good drink. Decent funk, actually one of my favorites of the night. A-
  • John Henry West Indies Pale Ale - A pale ale aged on rum oak spirals... I would have expected that boozy rum to dominate, but it doesn't. Unfortunately, it doesn't really add much either. I feel like the rum and oak sorta fought the hops, sorta canceling each other out. What we're left with is fine, I guess, but not as flavorful as you might think. B-
  • Dark Horse Too Cream Stout - Another of Dark Horse's stout lineup, this one is a milk stout. Smooth, but big and burly, it's a bit of a bear, but it actually acquitted itself really well considering it was the last beer we opened. B
Well, there you have it. We'll return to normal review blogging for the next few days. It is actually Philly Beer Week, so I should probably hit up some other places this weekend and write about a few things I've already seen. Or something.

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

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