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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...

BBQ Beer Club

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Due to the capricious whims of Mother Nature, we had to push beer club back a ways, very nearly missing the month of January. But thanks to a no-show on yesterday's storm, conditions were fine (if a little cold) tonight, where we hit up a new BYOB BBQ place, shared some beer, did some "Adult" Mad Libs ("I need a noun." "Assless Chaps."), and generally just had fun. For dinner, I ordered something called "Loose Meat", and drove everyone crazy attempting to make double entendres about it. In case you were wondering, this is what loose meat looks like:

Loose Meat
(Click to Embiggen)

It has a nice phallic arrangement, but the feng shui could be a little better if the brisket and pulled pork were a little far back, don't you think? Also of note, the parsley merkin. Anyways, it was good stuff, and we had some decent beer to go with it:

January Beer Club 2015
(Click to Embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, thoughts on each are below. Standard beer nerd disclaimers apply. I'm sorry, but the BBQ place did not have a hermetically sealed environment suitable for proper note taking. Also, I didn't really take notes. I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Kaedrôme Saison - Hey, remember that saison I dosed with Brett, like, a year ago? It's doing reasonably well right now. It's carbed up to a drinkable state, though still not as effervescent as I'd like. But the flavor is there, and it's doing reasonably well. B
  • New Belgium/Three Floyds Lips Of Faith - Grätzer - My first Grätzer, and um, it's a weird style. Light smokiness, very thin, with a weird tartness in the finish. A perfect beer for this situation, as I'm happy to try something like this, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way for more. C+
  • Left Hand St. Vrain Tripel - A pretty standard American take on a tripel, a little too sticky, but a nice palate cleanser after the Grätzer. B
  • Wicked Weed Terra Locale Series - Appalachia - I've heard great things about Wicked Weed, so I was really looking forward to this, and a Brett saison made with sweet potatoes and grits sounds like it could work, but I found it a bit on the bland side. Nothing wrong with it, per say, but there's not a lot of funk, and it just felt a little on the dry side. It's certainly cromulent and I could probably drink plenty of it, and maybe it was just that this is not ideal for a tasting like this, but I was disappointed. B
  • Chimay Red - Yep, it's Chimay all right. I've never been a huge fan of this particular expression though. B
  • Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale - Rock solid take on a brown ale. Not going to knock your socks off, but it's a tasty alternative to macro slop. B+
  • Almanac Devil's Advocate - Another fantastic little sour from Almanac, very tasty, vinous, sour, oaky, delicious. I don't normally think of "hoppy" and "sour" going together very well, but these folks are doing it right. Probably my favorite beer of the night. A-
  • SoChesCo Valentine's Day Chocolate Milk Stout - A friend's homebrewed milk stout, asolid take on the style, very tasty. B
  • SoChesCo Pennsyltucky Chocolate Milk Stout - The same stout as above, conditioned on bourbon soaked oak, which wound up as a light character. You could definitely taste the difference drinking them side by side, but I don't think I'd have pegged this as a bourbon oaked beer if I drank it blind (my own Bourbon Oaked Bomb & Grapnel fared little better on that account). B
  • Bière De L'Amitié (Green Flash & Brasserie St. Feuillien) - A very interesting and different beer. Standard Belgian yeast spice and fruit, but also some citrus hoppiness, and something that really felt like they dosed it with white grape juice (I don't think they did, but that's what kept coming to mind). B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Creme Brulee Stout Clone - Holy vanilla, Batman! Like the Southern Tier inspiration, this is incredibly sweet and it's got a great nose that I could just sniff all night long. I think there might be more vanilla here, but I love me some vanilla. B
  • Stone Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale - Another beer that I was looking forward to, but which didn't quite live up to expectations. It was a fine beer, one of the better of the night actually, but I didn't get a tone of Bourbon barrel character out of this. It felt like the barrels muted the aromatic aspects of the hops while leaving the bitterness. Fortunately, the Bourbon sweetens it up a little, so it's still reasonably well balanced (er, for Arrogant Bastard), but it's not something you really need to drop everything and try (like, for example, Stone's Fyodor's Classic). B+
At this point, we decided to call it a night, and we didn't get to the last two beers. Oh well, there's always next month, which should come up soon!

Almanac Dogpatch Sour

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In San Francisco, they grow dogs right out of the ground like those orcs from Lord of the Rings. This beer is named after these "Dogpatches", which are really only present in one specific neighborhood because ewwww, Doggie Orcs. I... don't know where the hell I'm taking this, so I'll just note that no dogs were grown or harmed in the brewing of this beer. To my knowledge. California Rainier cherries, on the other hand, were slaughtered by the bushel. Cherries come in bushels, right? Jeeze, what is wrong with me tonight? I'm the worst.

Seriously though, this is one of Almanac's standard Farm to Barrel offerings where they incorporate uber-fresh locally sourced fruits into their beers which are then aged in old (presumably also somewhat local) wine barrels with their, yes, Dogpatch yeast. The Dogpatch is actually a real neighborhood in San Francisco, and I'm pretty sure they don't grow dogs there, orc-style. However, there is no definitive explanation for name, so let's not rule it out just yet. Instead, let's just drink some of this mighty fine beer:

Almanac Dogpatch Sour

Almanac Dogpatch Sour - Pours a beautiful, clear golden orange color with a finger of white head. Smells very funky, lots of musty barnyard and a little in the way of cherries and tart fruit. Taste starts of sweet, with some oak kicking in towards the middle, as well as the fruit, sour cherries and tart fruit, with a more intense, puckering sourness picking up in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, relatively dry but also quite acidic. Overall, a rather nice sour beer, complex but approachable. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/9/15. Batch No. 2. Bottled March 2014.

Almanac is one of those quietly awesome breweries that probably deserves more acclaim than they get. Seek these out, I know I will continue to do so. I already have something Called Devil's Advocate, billed as a hoppy sour ale... which has actually never been something that completely worked for me, but if anyone can do it, I'm thinking these folks can...

Cascade Sang Royal

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I was going to just make a Royale With Cheese joke and whine about the metric system, but as with the beer itself, DDB beat me to it by a few years. Instead I'll have to rely on pedantic translation backgrounding, like Sang Royal being French for "Royal Blood" and how popular it is to pretend that a given grape-based beverage is blood. Indeed, we're about the celebrate the birth of the guy who popularized the concept in just a few days.

The last couple Cascade beers I've had wound up being a little disappointing. The Vine, another grape-based beer, was fine I guess, but not as sour or oaky as I've come to expect from Cascade (It tasted more like a tripel dosed with grape juice than a funky sour). The Blueberry had a slight case of the Smoketômes, which was clearly not doing it any favors. Given the expense of acquiring these bottles, I wasn't sure if this would be worth the stretch, but it's one of their better regarded beers (which is saying something) and it's not like I haven't had some great beers from them, so I rolled the dice and I'm glad I did.

So what makes this one so special? Well, it's a blend of red ales that have been aged in wine (depending on where you look, these are Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon barrels) and Port barrels for up to 20 months on Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It clocks in at a rather hefty 10.12% ABV, which I usually view as a little too high for a sour. Something about high alcohol and high acidity is hard to get right, but I'll be damned if Cascade didn't figure it out. This ain't a gulper, to be sure, but it's phenomenal:

Cascade Sang Royal

Cascade Sang Royal - Pours a dark ruby red color, almost brown, with half a finger of off white head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells fantastic, vinous fruit, sour cherries, vinegar, a little oak and vanilla. Taste is very sweet, lots of dark vinous fruit, sour cherries, tannins, plenty of oak and vanilla and a pretty bracing sourness throughout, but especially in the finish. As it warms, more funky, earthy notes emerge, tobacco and leather come out and mesh well with the sour fruit. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, that oak really contributes here, moreso than most 10+% ABV sours, a pleasant vinegar acidity too. Overall, yep, pretty fantastic here. A

Beer Nerd Details: 10.12% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/19/14. Vintage: 2012 Project.

So Cascade certainly came through on this one. I'm sure opinions vary on the $25+ price tag, but it is phenomenal beer. A few more Cascades in the Kaedrin pipeline, including Bourbonic Plague and Figaro, coming early next year.

We all know that Three Floyds has a reputation for their hoppy beers (rightfully so), and while I wasn't particularly taken with Dark Lord, they seem to strike a chord on that dark beer front as well. Sours, on the other hand, seem less like their thing. Of course, not having had any, that is just blind speculation based on scattered ramblings of strangers on the internets, which is totally reliable enough for the purposes of this post.

Named after a French knight and military commander who was famous for his use of the Fabian strategy (basically a war of attrition, rather than direct confrontation) during the Hundred Years' War. Supposedly quite the badass and not at all a cheese-eating surrender monkey. Though I do suspect he actually did partake in cheese on occasion. The beer brewed in his honor is an American Wild Ale aged in old wine barrels with blueberries added. The last blueberry sour I tried had a slight case of the Smoketômes, so let's hope this one works out a little better:

Chevalier Bertrand Du Guesclin

Three Floyds Chevalier Bertrand Du Guesclin - Pours a deep, dark amber with a sorta purple tint to it, and the finger or so of fluffy head has a similar reddish purple tint to it. It's actually quite pretty. Smells of tart fruit, blueberries, cherries, maybe even strawberry, a little oak and vanilla peeking through as well as some funk. The taste goes in for that tart fruit pretty hard, again with the blueberries and cherries, maybe some strawberry, a little oak and vanilla to set things off, and a puckering sourness throughout. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, slightly acidic, with a little stickiness in the finish. It never quite reaches fruit-by-the-foot levels of stickiness and the flavors never approach that sort of artificial sweetening, but it feels like a few missteps would have lead that way (this is a good thing). Overall, this is a pretty fabulous blueberry sour. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV? (it's hard to find any info on the ABV) bottled (750 ml blue wax). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/25/14. 2014 Vintage.

This is the best of the beers (so far) I got from my FFF beer mule earlier this year, but now my FFF supply is running dangerously low. Only one more left, a stout. Look for that review soon enough (though it'll probably be a little while).

Belated BBQ Beer Club Recap

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Last week was Beer Club, and in a heinous act of negligence, I'm only getting to the recap now. I know, I'm the worst. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and fun (which part is not optional). This month we hit up a local BBQ joint, loaded up on smoked meats, and cracked open quite a few beers:

October Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we had are below. The usual disclaimers apply, and you'll want to amplify your skepticism even further due to the fact that I'm writing this about 5 days later than normal. Great, so now that we've established that the proceeding descriptions are completely devoid of merit, we can begin. In order of drinking, not necessarily the order in the picture, and in fact, there are several beers not pictured (and we didn't get to some of the ones that were):

  • Neshaminy Creek County Line IPA - I know "East Coast IPA" isn't a real thing, but I think it kinda describes stuff like this. A local IPA with plenty of hop character that's balanced out by plenty of crystal malts (much more than you get in typical West Coast IPAs). Its enjoyable, but it won't blow minds. The very definition of a B, though sometimes I want to bump that up to a B+, which I guess means it's not the very definition of a B, but give me a break, I'm not under oath here.
  • Anchorage Whiteout Wit Bier - Belgian Wit beer aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces? Sign me up. Nice funk to it, with plenty of typical wheat beer character. Worth checking out. B+
  • Upstate I.P.W. - A friend brought a bunch of beers that he grabbed whilst in New York, and this India Pale Wheat ale was quite nice. One of those things I could see myself reaching for, were I a local. Great citrus/pine hop character, light wheat, crisp, and refreshing. B+
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pecan Brown - Wow, that pecan character really comes through on the nose and in the taste. A little lighter in color than your typical brown ale, but that pecan character really sets this apart, and I very much enjoyed it.
  • Sly Fox Incubus - A beer I've reviewed before (a looong time ago), but I'll just say that this bottle had a more distinct raisiny note than I remember. On the other hand, it is a bit high on the booze and stickiness factor, something I'm not huge on when it comes to Tripels. Still a solid B in my book.
  • The Beer Diviner Very! Brown Ale - Another New York beer, my friend apparently stumbled on it by asking his phone to point out breweries near his location. This one turned out to be a guy brewing out of his house on a farm or something like that. This particular beer was a pretty standard brown ale, nutty and toasty, if a bit stronger than normal. B
  • Cascade Apricot - One of my contributions, and a beer we've reviewed relatively recently, so I don't have much to add to that. A-
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack - A beer I've had many times at this point, and as Black IPAs (or whatever you want to call them) go, it's probably the best regularly available option out there. Big citrus and pine hop component along with the typical roast of a stout, without letting either character overwhelm (or making you wish you had a straight IPA or stout). B+
  • Founders Dark Penance - This is a relatively recent addition to Founders lineup, and like everything Founders makes, it's a solid take on the style. However, having it in close proximity to Wookey Jack made me feel like this was lacking. It was fine, to be sure, and it'd probably be worth trying in a less chaotic environment. B
  • Two Roads Conntucky Lightnin' Bourbon Ale - Well, I didn't get a ton of Bourbon out of this, and it seemed a bit thin for what it proclaims on the label. Not really bad, or anything, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Breckenridge Agave Wheat - Seemed pretty bland, though that sweet agave does come through in the taste. Probably should have opened this much earlier in the night, but here we are. C+
  • Pizza Boy Bean Dream - It's supposed to be a milk stout with vanilla beans, but I don't get a ton of vanilla. On the other hand, it is a pretty solid milk stout, smooth with a nice chocolatey roast character. I really need to get out to Pizza Boy one of these days... B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Bourbon Porter - This was a pretty solid take on the style, and the bourbon oak character comes through well enough, actually much better than that Conntucky Bourbon stuff from earlier. Go Ken!
  • Bonus Beer: Otter Creek Brewing / Lawson's Double Dose IPA - Whilst at beer club, someone found out that a local drinkery tapped some Lawson's Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead, so after beer club, a small cadre of attendees made a slight detour. Now, both of the beers we had were actually collaborations that are more widely available than the typical entries from those breweries (HF sometimes sends kegs down here, but Lawson's never does), but I'm not complaining, because these were both great beers. This DIPA is fabulous. Huge hop character, citrus and pine and something almost zesty. Not quite Double Sunshine great, but definitely something I want more of. B+
  • Bonus Beer: Grassroots Convivial Suaréz - A sorta funky saison made with hibiscus, I really enjoyed this, though I didn't take any real detailed notes. Nice funky character, and the hibiscus actually does come through. B+
And another successful beer club, fun and smoked meat had by all. Already looking forward to our next meeting...

Various and Sundry

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Astute readers will note that the grand majority of reviews here are for beers that I drink at home. This is not to say that I don't visit any local drinking establishments, just that I'm usually with other people and I don't want to be that dork who ignores his friends to write obsessive tasting notes. However, I do take my fair share of pictures and maybe check in to Untappd or somesuch. So I do have a fair amount of beer porn in my picture repository that doesn't really see the light of day. Until now! Enjoy these pictures and muddled recounting of various and sundry beers I've had recently, including a rather epic Birthday lineup. In fact, let's start there. It all started, naturally, at Tired Hands:

Tired Hands Cant Keep Up 8

Tired Hands is a small but very popular operation, so every once in a while, especially on weekends, they sell through more beer than is ready. At that point, Jean dips into the cellar and blends up a stopgap, often using some proportion of barrel aged awesome. The resulting beers are called Can't Keep Up, and this was the 8th installment in the series, made with beer from one of Christian Zellersfield's barrels (if he really exists). And my oh my, it was spectacular. Perhaps not quite Parageusia levels awesome, but for a beer that was whipped together under duress, it was rather spectacular. Speaking of spectacular, the other highlight of Tired Hands that day was a Citra IPA called Psychic Facelift. It turns out that I'd already visited Tired Hands earlier in the week and loved this, indeed, I even housed a growler of the stuff.

Tired Hands Psychic Facelift

It seems like Tired Hands always has great IPAs on tap, but this wan was exceptional even for them. Huge, juicy citrus character, absolutely quaffable stuff. Just superb. It's rare that I drink the same beer more than twice in short succession these days, and I think I had about 2 liters in the course of a couple days (I totally should have filled the larger growler, but hindsight is 20/20). Anywho, after some time there, we headed over to Teresa's Cafe (a few miles down the road) for some more substantial food and, of course, great beer. I had a Pliny the Elder, because how can you ignore that when it's on tap? Then my friends proved adventurous and generous, and we went in on a bottle of Cantillon Iris:

Cantillon Iris

It was fantastic, great balance between funk, sourness, and oak, really beautiful beer. And you can't beat the full pomp and circumstance, what with the proper glassware and pouring basket thingy... I had a few other beers, and they were all good, but I had a great birthday.

Some more random beer porn:

Double Sunshine

I guess I could have put up some Double Sunshine for trade, but I just couldn't handle having these in my fridge. I had to drink them.

Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA Citra

It's no Double Sunshine, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA (Citra). I usually don't enjoy IPAs when they get into the 10% ABV range, but this was extremely well balanced between sweet and bitter, and it had that great Citra hop character, tropical fruits, floral notes, and even a bit of herbal goodness. I've always enjoyed Citra-based beers, but I think I'm starting to really crave the stuff, which is going to be dangerous.

Bulldog Top Banana

This was from a long time ago, but it was another surprise, ordered totally at random one night. It's Bullfrog Top Banana, and it was a really solid saison made with bananas. I know that sounds a bit gimmicky and it's not one of those crazy funkified saisons either, but the banana fit seamlessly into their standard saison yeast profile, and it was an absolutely refreshing and tasty brew. Worth checking out if you see it. I should checkout this PA brewery sometime, perhaps go to a bottle release or something. Time will tell.

And that just about covers it. I hope you've enjoyed this rather lame stroll down beer lane. Until next time!

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

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