Recently in American Wild Ale Category

Logsdon ZuurPruim

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I usually try not to get too worked up about things like a brewery's ownership change or brewer switchups, but it's hard not to be concerned when it's a brewery you really like. At least Logsdon's buyout wasn't coming from a huge multi-national corporation like the great satan, AB Inbev, but it apparently did lead some to some weird PR and distribution mishaps that might shake a beer dork's confidence. That being said, things seem to have calmed down. Their brewer corps has solidified and they seem to have a decent focus on independence and innovation. They've even managed to start a spontaneous fermentation program and have been expanding their barrel aging efforts.

ZuurPruim (literal translation: sourpuss!) is a barrel-aged tart plum ale that first saw release in December of last year. Aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with 100 pounds of plums per barrel, the initial batch was split into two releases, each of which received a small portion of that spontaneously fermented beer for added complexity. In short, Logsdon appears to be back on track.

Logsdon ZuurPruim

Logsdon ZuurPruim - Pours a cloudy, almost murky orange color with a finger of white head that has good retention and leaves a little lacing. Smells fabulous, tons of fruit, those plums coming through, maybe something more vinous too, some oak, and a little bit of earthy funk livening things up too. Taste hits a lot of those notes from the nose, sweet, vinous fruit, plums, a little bit of earth, tart, bordering on sour in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, not as well carbed as accustomed to from Logsdon (there's enough, but this isn't as effervescent as usual), and perhaps as a result, this feels a bit heavier than other offerings, low to medium acidity. Perhaps a bit less attenuation here than usual as well, though nothing outside the boundaries of good. Overall, this is a solid little Plum sour, perhaps not as light on its feet or nimble as something like Peche 'n Brett, but still pretty great on its own. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.4% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/22/17. Bottle No. 250. Best by: 11/2021.

Seizoen Bretta remains one of my favorites and something I like to keep around in case anyone stops by, but most of what I've had from Logsdon is great, and it sounds like they're moving in the right direction these days, so I'm sure you'll see more from them someday soon...

La Cabra Aleatory #1

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La Cabra continues to chug along, quickly establishing itself as a regular brewpub on the Kaedrin beat (a position all breweries aspire to, I assure you), and now, as if on cue, they've had their first bottle release. A nice online pre-sell made for a convenient and easy-going release day, no long lines of empty chairs or ridiculous waits here.

I originally thought this was names as some sort of beer pun, like ALE-atory (get it?), but it turns out that aleatory is a real, bona-fide word and everything. It means an object (or form of art) that relies on random elements or a roll of the dice during its production. In this case, we've got an American Wild Ale made with 500 pounds of raspberries that, if the name has any meaning, were probably lucked into at some point. It's then aged in virgin oak for 4 months. While perhaps not the face melter that Brettophile was back in the day, this is a great little initial bottle release.

La Cabra Aleatory 1

La Cabra Aleatory Series #1 - Pours a bright, almost luminous ruby red color with a finger of off white (maybe a little pink?) head. Smells nice, a hint of earthy funk, a kiss of oak, lots and lots of raspberries. Taste has a nice raspberry kick to it, tart but not super sour, again, not a lot of oak or funk here, but enough to balance things out. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, dry, low acidity. Overall, a very nice little raspberry ale. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/16/17. Bottle No. 204 of 351.

A solid first offering from a brewpub that I expect great things from in the near future. I talked to them about Brettophile, which apparently takes a bit longer to make, but they're thinking maybe late this year for the first release. Until then, I'll just have to keep visiting the taproom...

Rare Barrel Wise Guise

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Another concoction from those barrel jockeys in California, this one takes a golden sour beer and blends it into one of Rare Barrel's other offerings, Ensorcelled (a dark sour with raspberries). I was lucky enough to get a small taste of Ensorcelled a while back, but my only tasting note was "Hnng!" which I think means I loved it. Will this live up to those expectations? Let's see if this guise is as wise as the label claims:

The Rare Barrel Wise Guise

Rare Barrel Wise Guise - Pours a murky reddish brown color with a finger of fizzy, very short-lived head that completely disappears within seconds. Smells of tart raspberries, musty funk, and oak. Taste starts sweet, quickly hitting that oak, then moving into raspberries and a sourness that intensifies through the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, quite acidic but not overly so. Overall, it's another winner from Rare Barrel (if, perhaps, not Ensorcelled-level good). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 2/24/17. Vintage: 2016. Blend No. 038.

Another strong showing, so we'll be on the lookout for more Rare Barrels in the future. In the meantime, we've got a couple of darker offerings on tap for this week, followed by the now annual beer slowdown in which we will be discussing a limited selection of wine, bourbon, tea, and other glorious beverages.

Rare Barrel Shadows Of Their Eyes

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We covered de Garde, a pioneer in the next generation of American sour beer, on Monday. Today, let's take a look at a contemporary located in California. While perhaps not as ambitious as de Garde's all-spontaneous program, these hippies in Berkeley still managed to come up with a novel approach. They limit themselves to sour beers (still somewhat unusual, even in today's landscape) and periodically initiate an extensive search of their barrel house to find the eponymous "Rare Barrel", the finest sour they have aging at the moment. Naturally, that beer is released, but the barrel is then used to inoculate future batches of beer too. Not exactly natural selection, but evolutionary enough, I guess. And the "search party" isn't exactly filled with scrubs. They've had folks like Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River and Lauren Salazar of New Belgium (both early adopters in American Sour beer). I've managed to snag a few tastes of their stuff and I can attest: This approach works.

Shadows of Their Eyes is a dark sour aged in, yes, oak barrels. The name looks to be a reference to Harry Nilsson's song Everybody's Talkin'... I can't see their faces. Only the shadows of their eyes:

The Rare Barrel Shadows Of Their Eyes

The Rare Barrel Shadows Of Their Eyes - Pours a clear, very dark brown color with ruby highlights, appears almost black, with a half finger of off white head that quickly fizzes out. Smells of dark malts, dark fruit, cherries, oak, and vanilla. Taste is sweet and sour, some dark malt presence, oak, dark fruits, cherries, and did I mention sourness? Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, with a richness associated with barrel aging and moderate to high acidity. Overall, this is a pretty fantastic dark sour. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 2/11/17. Batch 4 (2016).

So we will be seeing more of the Rare Barrel soon enough. Oh yes. Stay tuned.

de Garde Double Feature

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One of the most interesting breweries to open their doors in the past few years, Tillamook, Oregon's de Garde brewing has been making waves in the beer dork community. I got my first taste of their wares at a share last year, their Yer Bu (one of many Berliner Weisse inspired variants) was incredibly nimble at just 2.3% ABV and yet turned out to be one of the highlights of the night. Since then, I've heard enough about these folks to know that they make beer that's worth seeking out.

What makes them so special? While some breweries have worked with spontaneous fermentation (notably Allagash and Jester King, amongst others), it appears that de Garde is the only U.S. brewery to rely solely on spontaneous fermentation for their beer. And what does that mean? They don't use laboratory cultured yeast, they simply cool wort in a coolship, which is basically a huge, wide pan that exposes the wort to naturally occuring yeast and microflora, after which the wort is dumped into oak barrels of varying sizes and left to slumber until ready to be blended. As Pat's Pints opined, "the brewers at de Garde pitch yeast with the same frequency that the Trappist monks in Westvleteren have sex."

I've had discussions with wine-loving friends about terroir in beer, and while I usually point towards hops in said discussions, I think this sort of brewery deserves mention. It turns out that the year round temperate climate mixed with a mess of rivers and estuaries leading into the nearby Tillamook Bay has created conditions ideal for spontaneous fermentation. Indeed, they even experimented for over a year in trying to find a location for the brewery:

So we took wort and exposed it in different areas up and down the coast and tracked fermentation circuits over the course of a year or more. We narrowed it down to a few places and proceeded to do more trials to see if there's consistency. Finally, we narrowed it down to Tillamook for the most viable opportunity. In the US we don't have the benefit of a long history of this truly wild and natural brewing. So it took this extra exploration to see what works.
Tillamook: it's not just for cheese. Anyway, that's some serious dedication there, and from what I've seen, it's paid off. I've had small pours of a few beers from them (all uniformly excellent), but these are the first I've managed to procure for myself. They aren't the most prized releases and indeed are among the offerings that take the least amount of time to produce, but they're quite nice nonetheless and someday I hope to procure the more lambic-like releases (which they seem to be gravitating towards anyway). For now, we've got saisons!

de Garde Saison Facile

de Garde Saison Facile - A wild farmhouse ale aged in an oak foeder - Pours a clearish honey gold color with a finger or two of fluffy, medium bubbled white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells nice, big waft of musty Belgian yeast spice, a little earthy funk, some fruity notes. Taste hits the sweet, tart, lemony fruit notes much harder than the nose would imply, but that yeasty spice and light funk are still there, with a light sour bite in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, not quite dry but the carbonation lends that impression, with low to moderate acidity. Overall, a rock solid foudred saison. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a teku glass on 2/3/17.

de Garde Petit Blanc

de Garde Petit Blanc - A tart farmhouse ale aged in oak with late harvest Riesling grapes - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of fluffy, dense head that quickly dissipates. Smells nice, lots of spicy Belgian yeast, a little oak, plenty of vinous fruit. Taste is sweet, vinous, fruity, with some spice in the middle, followed by oak and a little tartness emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, less dry than the Facile but quite nice. Overall, another great saison offering. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/10/17.

Must. Get. Moar. Would love to try their more lambic-inspired beers. Alas, those seem quite prized (see: The Broken Truck) and until production increases, I'm guessing it'll be saisons and Bu variants for me. I know, boo hoo, poor me.

The A+ Class of 2016

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I have this thing where I rarely rate something the highest (or lowest) rating. For once, I am not the worst. I simply have standards, people. Way back when, I wrote about Kaedrin's Grading System, I felt that reaching the highest grade would require a few things. Obviously, it has to be a great beer (that goes without saying even though I'm saying it). Next, it has to be something I have had more than once (a non-trivial challenge, as many top tier beers are one offs or exceedingly rare). Finally, there's that X-factor. Perhaps something personal or a particular experience that simply elevates this beer above its peers. There's a push and pull in the criteria, hopefully leading to some idiosyncratic choices. Maybe you think these are too pedestrian, or maybe you think they're unobtainable, but that's the fun part. Life would be boring if we all loved the exact same things.

Thus far, only 4 beers have earned the coveted A+. Only one doesn't quite meet the conditions (because it was reviewed before the criteria were established). Two are straight up Belgian styles that are both exceptional, but my tastes have evolved a bit since then. The most recent would almost certainly retain its A+ status, but it only kinda sorta lives on (it's part of a solera series, so current bottlings technically have some of that one left in it). Basically, I'm long overdue for some A+ picks. These are three of my favorite beers, which I've sought out and drank (a few times, even) over the last year.

I've reviewed all of these before so I won't bore you with tasting notes, but I will give some quick thoughts on each and why I think they deserve to be elevated to A+ status.

Russian River Supplication

Russian River Supplication - The prototypical dark American Wild Ale, all oak and cherries, sour fruit and vinegar, it's a beautiful beer that's surprisingly versatile. Works in any weather. Pairs amazingly well with BBQ and dark chocolate, and it's obviously delicious on its own too. There are more complex or intense beers out there, but few reach this level of balance and just as importantly, this is something that is regularly available. Original rating was only an A-. It graduated to an A one time at a share where we were eating BBQ (and it paired exceptionally well), and that's when I first realized this was an A+ candidate. Of course, that was 4 years ago. Maybe I am the worst? No, I'm just thorough. I've had this many times since my original ratings, and it's definitely graduated to the coveted A+

Firestone Walker Parabola

Firestone Walker Parabola - Platonic ideal of bourbon barrel stouts, tons of boozy bourbon, oak, rich caramel, and vanilla. It's a big, intense, complex beer, a bruiser, a character that initially held me back a bit when I first tried this. Funnily enough, Parabola was my backup order at a Philly Beer Week event where I got shut out of Velvet Merkin, which at the time was not being bottled and was exceedingly rare (and which, once I happened upon it, turned out to be mildly disappointing). Upon subsequent tastings, I realized my horrible mistake. Again, part of the appeal is that this is something that is regularly available. I would gladly also induct Pappy Black Magick into the A+ realm, but I'm not even sure if it'll ever be made again, let alone acquired and tasted again. I've built a history with Parabola, a great beer that has only gotten better with each additional tasting. This is not a common trajectory and truly a thing of beauty. A+

The Alchemist Heady Topper

The Alchemist Heady Topper - These beers are all relatively well known, but this may be the most hyped beer I've ever rated. Under such circumstances, it's tempting to play the contrarian, and yet, it lives up to the hype and remains the standard against which all Northeast IPAs are compared. Have I had better NEIPAs? Maybe! I can think of one or two Tired Hands beers I'd put up against Heady... but as with most TH beers, they were one offs. Even for repeated TH beers, it's worth noting their lack of consistency. Not so with The Alchemist. I manage to snag cans of this every year, sometimes multiple times, and yet they're always consistently great. This might be the first beer I truly traveled a great distance to obtain (along with other VT goodies), and I'm so glad that I did. Juicy, balanced, delicious. I think I'll drink one tomorrow. A+

So there, I've nearly doubled the number of A+ ratings on the site. I hope you're happy now. Hopefully I'll be able to do this a little more often than once every three years. In fact, I'd like to find a way to put a saison in here someday. Until then...

I'm not always great about aligning my drinking up to the occasion, but Halloween is one holiday where I try to make the extra effort. I embark upon a six week horror movie marathon and generally attempt to drink some seasonally appropriate beers (or, at least, rationalize completely irrelevant choices). Halloween night always begets something special. Last year, I watched a duo of Wes Craven movies and paired with beers inspired by his work.

One of those beers was Crooked Stave's Nightmare on Brett, a series of sour baltic porters (all of which clock in at the vaguely antichristian ABV of 9.666%) aged in barrels. There are tons of variants, but the one I had last year was aged in Leopold Bros. whiskey barrels with cherries. This year, we take on their newest variant, which is basically the same thing, but aged with blueberries instead of cherries. Sounds glorious, so let's grab our fedora and knife-glove-thingy and haunt the dreams of some beer:

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett with Blueberries

Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett with Blueberries (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a finger of tan head. Smells great, hints of roast and chocolate, I don't know if I get blueberries specifically, but it's definitely got a nice chocolate covered berries sort of feel, maybe a note of whiskey and oak too. The blueberries actually do come out in the taste though, their distinct flavor inflecting the sourness, which is pretty substantial (I want to say moreso than the cherry version I had last year, but who knows?) Less in the way of roast or chocolate, as the balance has flown towards the blueberries, but this is still very clearly a sour stout and you kinda get that. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, medium bodied, with a sharp but pleasant acidity. Moderate richness from the barrels, and a bit of warming booze too. Overall, this is great, but I want to say that the one I had last year was better. I guess I need to do a taste test with both at some point. Woe is me. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.666% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/31/16. Batch: January 2016 (pretty sure it was only released in September though).

Crooked Stave does it right, as per usual. Will always be on the lookout for more of their wares. Many thanks to Kaedrin friend Danur for procuring this bottle and smuggling it back to PA for me.

Allagash FV 13

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In 2008, Allagash acquired a 2,700-gallon oak foudre and filled 'er up. For the uninitiated, the FV in the name stands for Fermentation Vessel and though you might think this was their 13th such vessel, it actually wasn't. They had a whole fleet of stainless steel fermenters and, being superstitious, they decided to skip the number 13. Apparently they managed to get over their Triskaidekaphobia before setting up their foudre.

As befits their first foray into this type of aging, they went through quite a labor intensive process. Primary fermentation happened in one of the lucky stainless fermenters with Allagash's house yeast strain, then moved to the unlucky foudre along with two strains of Brett, souring bugs (lactobacillus and pediococcus), Sherry yeast, and Allagash's reserve yeast. Then they waited four years before bottling. Sadly, I missed out on that 2012 vintage, but it's been another four years, another batch has been dispensed, and this time Kaedrin's beer acquisition department was ready to pounce.

What's different this time? Well, it seems that instead of just distributing the entire 2,700 gallons back in 2012, they kept some in reserve and used it to inoculate the next batch. Due to this sorta solera-like approach, each batch will be different (and we'll have to wait 4 years between batches). If this batch is any indication, I don't think 13 is as unlucky a previously thought:

Allagash FV 13

Allagash FV 13 - Pours a orange hued golden color with half a finger of white head. Smells quite nice, musty funk, vinous fruit, dark fruit, cherries. Taste hits those notes, lots of fruit notes, cherries, vinous fruit, estery, mild funk, plenty of oak, a nice acetic sour bite, quite balanced. It has a sorta oxidized sherry note to it that is quite nice. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, moderate to high but still pleasant acidity. Complex and very well balanced. Overall, something about Allagash's sour program hits my palate just right, I guess. A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/23/16. Bottled: May 5, 2016.

As per usual, Allagash is killing it with these sours. As mentioned above, something about these things just clicks with me. One of these days, I really want to seek out some of their Coolship beers (i.e. spontanously fermented beers). Until then, I'm glad Kaedrin's beer acquisition department has been keeping tabs on these things...

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

American Strong Ale is the previous category.

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