Recently in American Wild Ale Category

Victory Wild Devil

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A few years ago, Victory siezed on the trend of the day and put out a Brettanomyces laced version of their flagship IPA. The result was Wild Devil, a beer I remember enjoying, but truth be told, I had no idea what Brett was or what it was contributing to the finished product. As I got up to speed with wild ales and sours, this beer mysteriously disappeared off shelves, victim of the same capacity issues that plagued Old Horizontal and a few other Victory rarities. Well, now that Victory's new production brewery in Parkesburg is up and running, we're starting to see the return off these excellent, but more time intensive beers . I was very curious to see how my more Brett attuned palate would react to this beer. I'm happy to report that is as good as ever. It's not going to fetch you any interesting brews on a trading board or anything, but it's an interesting and worthwhile take on an old classic:

Victory Wild Devil IPA

Victory Wild Devil - Pours a clear amber orange color with tons of billowy off white head that leaves lacing as I drink. The aroma has a very nice, well matched funk to it, lots of earthy aromas mix with the typical floral hop and bigger-than-typical malt character of Hop Devil. Taste follows the nose, very nice earthy, barnyard funk shows up right away and lasts pretty much throughout the taste, but there are plenty of dank citrus and pine hops in the mix along with some sweet crystal malt character, and your typical IPA bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and medium bodied, only a moderate Brett presence, but enough to add a twist. I find that Brett IPAs can sometimes feel a bit muddled, but Victory has found an excellent balance here. Overall, the Brett adds a welcome dimension of complexity to an old standard, and it's even better than I remember it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.7% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/26/14. 2014 vintage.

I am curious to see how this sort of thing would last over time, and it seems like a good sort of beer to have laying around, just in case. I meant to grab myself a regular HopDevil to compare, but it turns out that this was not necessary, as the Brett, while mild, was immediately noticeable. I'm long overdue for a trip to the brewery. It used to be a regular stop, but I've fallen out of the habit and have been patronizing some other locals in its place (which has its own benefits, to be sure!).

Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer minded individuals at a local BYOB for libations and fun. Tonight we returned to a mainstay of our beer club experience, a local sushi place that we have all grown to love. Reasonable turnout, and some rather fantastic beers:

Beer Club for July 2014

For the sake of posterity, some basic thoughts on each below. Usual disclaimers apply, this is clearly not an isolation chamber environment, so please take this with the requisite grain (or boulder) of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily in the order pictured):

  • Forest & Main Palomino - One of my contributions and a favorite of the night, this is just as good as it was when it was fresh, if not even better. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pilsner - Nice typical pilsner hop nose, incredibly light and quaffable, this is the sort of thing that would be a perfect hot day drinking beer. This was Ken's first all-grain brew, and it turned out really well, even if it's not my favorite style. B
  • Anthony's Homebrewed ESB - Another homebrew (we seem to attract those types at beer club, I don't know why), this one has all the hallmarks of a good ESB, nice muted hop character, some solid biscuity malt, but also an almost brown sugar component that works really well. Another beer that would make for a great session, even if it might be slightly too much ABV... B+
  • Crown Valley Big Bison Ale - A fairly malty, well carbonated take on the dubbel style, though it's a bit more raisiny than expected, with maybe even a hint of diacetyl, which we never really appreciate here at Kaedrin. Not at all terrible, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Anderson Valley Boont Barl Bourbon Barrel Amber Ale - Not as much bourbon barrel character as expected, and as such beers go, this is decidedly low cctane, but it actually drinks reasonably well. Decent balance, the bourbon is there, but it's very light. Not something I'd seek out, but it's a reasonably decent beer. B
  • Terrapin Pineapple Express - The bottle sez this is a smoked pineapple Helles, not something that seems like it would work out. In reality, it's not as bad as I feared, but it was cromulent enough. Very sweet, with only a light smoky character (it's not one of those beers where you'll wonder who put their cigar out in your beer!) I'm glad I tried it in this setting, as I don't know that I'd want to take down a full bottle of this. B-
  • Kaedrin Barleywine - I'm pretty sure I screwed up the carbonation factor of this beer. The flavor and aroma are there in spades, it just hasn't quite carbed up to the point where I thin it works well. And actually, this regular version is probably the best carbonated of them, which is not encouraging. The Bourbon one tastes a lot better, but it's also flatter... B-
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub Nitro - Much better than the standard Old Chub (which I always felt was too dry and too well carbonated to be a great Scotch ale), really smooth and creamy (typical of the nitro), malty, tasty stuff. B+
  • Green Flash Road Warrior Imperial Rye India Pale Ale - Tons of Moscaic hop character out of this, tropical fruits with that spicy rye character, this is a really solid beer worth checking out. B+
  • Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break - I've actually had this a few times before, and it's really nice, especially if you like coffee. As I'm pretty much ambivalent to coffee, I thought this was fine, if not the best evar, though it seemed to go over really well. This was another favorite of the night amongst the beer club peeps, but I'll go B+, but only because my coffee feelings are well documented (could easily be higher for most other folks).
  • Blue Point (Sour) Cherry Imperial Stout - I have to admit that I'm not the biggest sour stout fan out there, but this worked well enough, with that rich malt and sour twang, maybe even a hint of that cherry. A few of us tried blending this beer with the Imperial Biscotti Stout, just to see what would happen, but it didn't turn out particularly great. This beer by itself is better, but still around a B level beer for me.

So there you have it. August may be a weird month in terms of beer club, but I'm sure we'll work something out. In any case, stay tuned for some moar local awesomeness this week on Kaedrin.

Tired Hands So It Goes...

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If you're going to try and decode Tired Hands beer names, one place to start would be familiarizing yourself with Kurt Vonnegut. This reference, at least, is a straightforward one from Vonnegut's most famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. It's a refrain that occurs frequently throughout the novel (like, over 100 times), usually associated with death or mortality in some way.

The beer bills itself as a Pennsylvania Sour Red Ale, brewed with a plethora of specialty malts, then aged in a variety of barrels for ten months. This calls to mind Flanders Red ales, but is definitely asserting its own identity (thus falling into that nebulous American Wild Ale designation). The minimalist label is actually rather eye catching, and I waited in line a couple hours to get ahold of two bottles of the stuff. That's a long time, but so it goes...

Tired Hands So It Goes...

Tired Hands So It Goes... - Pours a really rather pretty dark orange amber color with half a finger of white head that sticks around a bit. It looks like a lighter, brighter Flanders Red. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and a nice acetic sour twang. The taste hits similar notes, vinous fruit and cherries are there, but not as strongly as in the nose. It's not as sweet as I typically expect from a beer like this, but it's not really bitter at all either. The oak is doing its thing throughout, and there's a nice puckering sourness that emerges in the middle and lasts through the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, and on the lighter end of medium bodied (lighter than expected). Plenty of acidity to go along with that sourness, but it's not overwhelming or anything. Overall, it's becoming impossible to grade all these Tired Hands sours, because they've really been killing it with their recent sours (particularly the Emptiness series beers and those Parageusia beers). This is an A-, but on the lower end of their bottled sours.

Beer Nerd Details: 8.3% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute on 7/12/14.

Mark your calendars beer nerds, Parageusia1 release on Sunday. Totally worth the effort, and it looks like it'll be a nice day. See you there.

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amarosa

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The Lost Abbey always has fantastic events during Philly Beer Week, but due to a variety of factors (general listlessness, apathy, and the fact that I have a job), I can never seem to get there. So I missed out on coveted pours of Cuvee de Tomme and Duck Duck Gooze, but managed to snag a few interesting bottles, including this Framboise De Amarosa.

The base for this beer is Lost Abbey's standard Lost & Found ale, a dubbel brewed with raisins. Take that, add in an ample dose of raspberries, and age in oak (Tomme sez it's a blend of 9 and 12 month old beer), and you've got something that sounds rather spectacular. It's named after Amorosa, a biblical reference to a courtesan... which reminds me of Cantillon's rather risque label on Rosé De Gambrinus. Are raspberries associated with loose women, or is this just a cheeky coincidence?

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amorosa

Lost Abbey Framboise De Amarosa - Pours a dark red color with a finger of head that sticks around for a bit. The aroma is full of rasperberries, some oak and vanilla, but raspberiies rule the day. The taste follows the nose, a nice, intense raspberry sweetness with plenty of balancing oak and vanilla. Really delicious. Mouthfeel is also well balanced, well carbonated, nowhere near as acidic as a lot of intense sours, but it's there too. Overall, this is a fantastic raspberry beer, intense and complex, but not overpowering. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 7/11/14. Vintage 2014 A.

Another winner from Lost Abbey, and I've got a bottle of Agave Maria standing in the wings as well. Look for a review of that tequila barrel aged sucker soon enough...

Like any good craft brewery, the fine folks at Tired Hands like to collaborate. These often show up at the brewpub (and presumably at the collaborator's brewery), but a couple of recent instances involved Jean traveling to Europe and working with various kindred spirits to produce some stuff that would be bottled and then imported. I've totally been slacking on these, so I figured it was time to catch up with them.

Crushable Saison

Brasserie de la Senne and Tired Hands Crushable Saison - This was basically a hoppy saison. Pours a cloudy but bright straw yellow color (very typical of Tired Hands) with huge amounts of fluffy, bubbly head that sticks around for a while and leaves lots of lacing (perhaps not as common for Tired Hands - they tend to be lighter in carbonation than this appears). Smells of grassy citrus hops (I get some standard Euro hop feel here, but also some straightforward American hops, like Cascade or Simcoe or something like that), some light peppery yeast, clove, and a little fruity kick too. The taste features a similar quality, lots of Belgian yeast character, very light spicy notes (pepper and clove), hints of fruity esters, and some grassy citrus hops (maybe a bit of hop bitterness in the finish). Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, very light body on this, and it is super dry. Given the name, I think they've achieved their goal though: it's super quaffable and yes, emminently crushable. Overall, this is a nice, delicate, quaffable saison. It's not going to light the world on fire, but I could drink a couple gallons of this stuff, which, seems to be what they were going for. It's not a glamorous face melter, but it's the sort of thing you could probably expect to be pouring at the brewpub on most visits. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a flute on 6/20/14. Bottled 10/10/13. Best By 10/10/14

Lost and Found

De Molen and Tired Hands Lost & Found - Check out these pics of Jean and Menno grooving at the De Molen brewery. This is a hoppy black ale fermented with 100% Brett. I can't tell if oak was involved, but I didn't really get much oak out of the taste. Pours a turbid brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of Brett funk, a little fruity, citrus and pine hops (maybe a little faded, yielding more piney notes), with some dark malt presence and a hint of tartness. The taste has more of that tart fruitiness, and that dark malt character comes on much stronger. Some earthy funk too. The hops seem a little lost in the taste, or at least not as harmonious as in the nose. Mouthfeel is really strange, grainy, a little astringency from that tartness, medium carbonation, medium body. Overall, there's some nice elements here, but the balance is a little off, and the disparate elements don't really come together as well as I'd hoped. It's not unpleasant or anything, but it was a little disappointing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/20/14. Bottled 27 Nov 2013 (I think that's the bottling date).

Both are imported by Shelton Brothers, so they should be out and about. Of the two, I'd recommend Crushable Saison much more, as it's more representative of their style... and cheaper too! That being said, if you are ever in the Philly area, it's worth making the detour out to Ardmore to visit the brewpub (but given my general enthusiasm for Tired Hands on this here blog, I probably don't need to tell you that).

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot

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If you've been following along, and you should be, you'd know that the tiny San Francisco brewery Almanac has been doing this local Farm to Barrel thing for quite some time now, incorporating uber-fresh locally sourced fruits and produce into their barrel aged sours. They've steadily been picking up steam and many an admirer - including me, even though I'm about 3000 miles away.

This one is made with Pluots, that unholy crossbreed of plums and apricots. Chuck several varieties of that mutant fruit (each of which has a fantastic, evocative name: Dapple Dandy, Honey Punch, Flavor Queen, Black Kat & Dapple Jack) into some old wine barrels along with Almanac's house "Dogpatch" sour culture (a mix of American and Belgian yeasts, along with some other critters, like a San Francisco sourdough starter). The result is quite a fine sour ale, if I may say so:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Pluot

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Pluot - Pours a cloudy but bright, luminous straw yellow color with a finger of white head and good retention. The smell is very funky, some oak, lots of fruit, and something I can't quite place. The taste is beautiful, lots of tart fruit character, peaches, plums and the like. Some oak in the middle, finishing up with a fruit juice spritz. The sourness is there, especially in the finish, but it's far from overpowering. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, juicy, light and crisp, with a small acidic note from the sourness. Overall, this is a fantastic little sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a flute on 6/14/14. Batch FR-P. Bottled 031414.

This is my favorite Almanac beer yet, not that I've managed to wrangle that many of them. I am, however, fortunate enough to have another waiting in the wings, so you'll be hearing more about Almanac soon enough. Indeed, I've been on something of a sour jag of late, a consequence more of availability than anything else, but I ain't complaining.

June Beer Club

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

June Beer Club Lineup

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

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

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

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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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