Recently in American Wild Ale Category

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir

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Once upon a beer trade, many orbital cycles ago, Jay of the quasi-defunct Beer Samizdat sent me a bottle of Eagle Rock Jubilee. Being a sorta hybrid old ale/winter warmer, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. So I kept my eyes open for Eagle Rock. Three years later, and lo, I hath finally secured another bottle of Eagle Rock wares. This is a red wine barrel aged dark mild ale (they use the genuinely sessionable Solidarity as the base) that has soured up nicely. Insert beer-themed film noir joke here:

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir

Eagle Rock Tarte Noir - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of musty, dusty funk, sour, vinous fruit, a little oak and vanilla. Taste has that sour vinous fruit character, less of the musty, earthy funk, finishing with a nice puckering sourness. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light bodied and nimble, well carbonated, with medium acidity. Overall, this is really quite nice. On the higher end of B+

Beer Nerd Details: 4.9% ABV bottled (375 ml waxed and capped). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/16/16. Bottled: October of 2015. Batch: 002.

Nice, let's check in on them in another three years to see where they're at. Or, you know, we could try and do it before then. Only following the orbital cycles will tell.

Ale Apothecary Sahalie

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There are lots of breweries that use highfalutin terms to describe themselves. Craft has long since devolved into meaninglessness and debate that I could not care less about. Independent is the new hotness, but that's distressingly prosaic and not really what I'm getting at. Artisanal? Bespoke? Hand made? Now that's what I'm talking about. While usually belying a nugget of truth, I think most of use see these as the marketing codewords and hipster signaling that they really are.

Ale Apothecary describes themselves as "A Vintage Batch Oak Barrel Brewery Buried in the Mountain Wild of Oregon. Producing the finest hand made beer using our own innovative brewing process, which melds the ancient art of brewing with traditions of wine & champagne production." Engage cynical hipster codeword scanners. 8%.... 19%... 42%...95%... Scan Complete. Results: Signaling present, more data needed. Alright, so yeah, maybe I'm feeling paranoid right now, but dropping $30 on a bottle of beer will do that to you. Then again, the process described on their website, in all its wonky glory, does seem to fit with their marketing fluff. Their beer appears to spend nearly all of its time in oak barrels (presumably only really excluding the boiling stages), from mashing in to fermentation to aging to dry hopping, it's all done in barrels. Each batch appears to be from a single barrel as well, meaning really tiny 50ish gallon bottle runs. Each barrel appears to be lovingly named (rather than just using boring old numbers) and presumably reused frequently in order to build up their yeast strains and bacterial beasties. Truly small scale stuff, with a price tag to match.

Sahalie is their flagship ale. It spends over a year in a barrel, followed by a one month dry hopping period in another barrel (they appear to only use Cascade hops at their brewery, which is something I've never heard of before - single hop brewery?) This particular bottle began life in August 2014 and was aged for over 1 year in a barrel named "Reno", after which it was dry hopped for a month in a barrel named "Bagby". Finally it was bottled, using an oddly designed cork and twine contraption to seal the bottle and allow it to condition for a few weeks. The result? Well, my paranoid ramblings appear misplaced, this is phenomenal:

Ale Apothecary Sahalie

Ale Apothecary Sahalie - Pours a hazy pale yellow with a couple fingers of fluffy white head that sticks around for a bit and even leaves some lacing. Smells fabulous, lots of vinous fruit, oak, musty funk. Taste follows the nose, fruity and spicy Brett, musty funk, finishing off with that big vinous fruit kick and maybe a hint of booze. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent up front, but leveling off a bit in the finish, which has a note of pleasant booze, even if it hides the alcohol pretty well. Still, it's pretty intense, so it's not quite a pounding beer if you know what I mean. Overall, this is fantastic, complex, delicious.. A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.45% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and, um, twined?) Drank out of a flute on 4/8/16. Batch 135, August 2014, aged in barrel Reno for 1+ years, dry hopped in barrel Bagby for one month with Cascade hops. Label sez: Batch: Nov 20 2016, which I think means this comes from the future. My scanners seem particularly unsuited to parsing a lot of this stuff. I'm the worst.

Well that was nice. Who knows if I'll ever get to try more from Ale Apothecary, but I'd totally be willing to shell out the scheckels for more of this (or any of the other varieties they produce).

Allagash Double Feature

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We've been mightily impressed with Allagash's seemingly expanded sour program, so we've been keeping an eye out for more of this stuff, and fortunately, Allagash has obliged my whims. A pretty steady stream of new bottles has been showing up from time to time, and I'm always willing to take a flier on these, even if they are a bit of a pricey proposition. Interestingly, several of their sour beers are aged on stainless steel rather than more traditional barrels, and I have to say, it doesn't make as big of a difference as I'd think. I loved Farm to Face, and the better of today's double feature was also a straight stainless steel offering (of course, it was still aged 2 years, so maybe that's part of it).

First up is Tiarna, a blend of two beers, one a Brettanomyces fermented ale aged on oak, and the other a Belgian ale aged on stainless steel. It's a nice beer for sure, but not quite up to their best offerings:

Allagash Tiarna

Allagash Tiarna - Pours an almost clear pale yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a while. Smells quite nice, typical belgian yeast spice notes of clove and maybe anise, some fruity esters, but also that earthy Brett funk. Taste hits more bready and yeasty than expected, hints of those spicy phenols and fruity esters (not really tart at all), a bit of funk, a little oak pitching in too. Was really hoping for a little more funk and oak here. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, lightly bodied, relatively dry. Overall, this is like an entry level funky saison. It's complex and well crafted, but restrained. I have to wonder if the funk would increase over time in the bottle, but for now: B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.1% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a wine glass on 1/30/16. Bottled: Sept. 16, 2015.

Next up is James and Julie, presumably named after two people who worked at the brewery or something. Or just two random people off the street, for all I know. It's their take on a Flanders Oud Bruin, a sour brown ale that is aged on stainless steel with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus cultures. Rumor has it that this is the base beer for Neddles (which is the same thing aged on Rum barrels and named after a former employee), but I'll be damned if this isn't pretty spectacular just by itself. It's not super funky, but it's got a very nice sourness and balance to it that just works beautifully:

Allagash James And Julie

Allagash James & Julie - Pours a light brown amber color with a finger of off white head that holds its own for a while. Smells of vinegar, tart fruit, sour cherry, maybe a hint of earth. Taste starts off sweet, lots of flavor, sour cherries, vinegar, perfectly balanced amount of sourness here, really tasty. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, perfectly balanced amount of acidity. Overall, intense but balanced, this is a true winner. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a goblet/chalice on 1/30/16. Bottled: Aug. 24, 2015. Released: Black Friday 2015.

Always enjoyable catching up with Allagash, and I will of course be keeping an eye out for more stuff, particularly their sours, which seem to hit me just right.

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru

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While the concept of a "Grand Cru" is formally defined for wine, there's little to distinguish it from a marketing tactic in beer. Nothing particularly wrong with that, it's just good to know that beery Grand Crus are not quite as reliable. But most brewers do try to make their Grand Cru special in one way or another, and when a brewer of the stature of Almanac introduces a series of beers with the designation, it's enough to pay attention.

So far, there have been two released, one of which we have here. Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru is an imperial version of their sour blonde ale (and base for a whole series of fruited sours that we very much enjoy here) with California-grown Muscat Blanc grapes added and then aged in white wine French oak barrels for over a year. Finally, it's packaged in a gorgeous looking bottle. There's been this persistent myth that beer and wine people don't get along, but California brewers seem to be continually turning that notion on its ear, frequently collaborating with their neighbors in many ways. This sort of beer/wine hybrid isn't on every shelf, but it's not particularly uncommon either, and it's always fun to see what happens when boozy buddies take inspiration from one another. "As the old saying goes, in vino veritas, in cervesio felicitas - in wine there is truth, in beer there is happiness." With this, I think they've hit both nails on the head:

Almanac Farmers Reserve Grand Cru.

Almanac Farmer's Reserve Grand Cru - Pours a light, hazy golden yellow color with a finger of white fluffy head that sticks around for a bit. Smells wonderful, lemon zest, vinous fruit, white wine, oak, very nice. Taste is more reserved than the nose might lead you to believe, but it's got tons of that vinous fruit, white wine barrel, some tart acidity lingering in the finish. Mouthfeel is moderately carbonated, medium bodied, light to medium acidity, a bit of boozy heat, and just a bit of stickiness in the finish. Despite the booze, this does not drink like a 10.2% sour, it's pretty light on its feet. Overall, this is really fantastic stuff, certainly worth seeking out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.2% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/23/16. Bottled: Autumn 2015.

The other release is Dogpatch Grand Cru, basically an imperialized version of their Dogpatch Sour made with a variety of red wine grapes (instead of the typical cherries), which I plan to share with a few friends soon. As usual, Almanac is a reliable source of excellent sours that are readily available in Philly these days (which is certainly a boon).

Stout Rullquin

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New Year's Eve has emerged as a time to drink lambic. At least, for me it has. So we cracked a couple bottles, and I found this to be the more interesting of the two. It's a very strange beer. It's a collaboration between Gueuzerie Tilquin and Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles wherein Tilquin blended 7/8 of La Rullés Brune with 1/8 of 1 year old lambics from Tilquin's stores (Tilquin does not brew their beer, but they do age and blend it) and then aged the result in barrels for 8 months. Truth be told, I almost didn't notice it sitting on the shelf because the (rather nifty) label blends the two collaborators' artistic styles (though not proportional to the blend of beer, but if they did that, Tilquin would get almost none of the label!) Tilquin used to be reliably available, but has been getting more scarce lately, so my eyes always perk up with I see their distinctive labels. We did it, you guys! We made another great beer hard to find!

This actually marks the second time I've had this beer, but the first time was at a share and I only had a small taste. At that time, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much the lambic came through. I mean, it was clearly a toned down character, but it was prominent and quite tasty. I had already procured this bottle and became quite excited at the prospect of getting a full pour. Then a curious thing happened. This bottle tasted different. Still good, but perhaps not as well balanced as the first pour. That or my palate was just way off that night. Regardless, it's still quite an interesting beer, and I wouldn't mind snagging a bottle and putting a little age on it to see how it fares. Until then, we're left with this:

Stout Rullquin

Tilquin/Rulles Stout Rullquin - Pours a deep dark brown color with amber highlights and a couple fingers of tan head. Smells musty, maybe some toasty malt character, definitely some straight Belgian yeast going on here, but you get hints of twangy funk in there too. Taste starts off like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, spicy, bready Belgian yeast, hints of toasty malt brightened by that funky lambic addition. It's not as big of an influence in this bottle as the last one I had, but it's there. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, medium bodied, pretty easy going. Overall, it's an interesting beer, and both times I've had it, it wasn't what I expected... but it was good nonetheless! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/31/15. Best Before: 31/03/2025. Released: September 2015.

Tilquin's Gueuze was the beer that made me see the light when it comes to sour beer, so I'm always on the lookout for their stuff. Would really love to try the blackberry lambic they recently made, but who knows when that will show up (and when it does, I'm sure it'll go quick).

Yuletide Beer Club

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I don't know why I called this a "Yuletide" beer club except that 'tis the season and I am a bit tipsy (alas, none of the beers we tasted were particularly festive). For the uninitiated, Beer Club is a monthly get together amongst friends and coworkers (and former coworkers) to share some beer and partake in general revelry. We have been woefully neglectful of late, and indeed, after just barely sneaking a September meeting in at the very end of that month, we did not manage a meetup in October or November. But we're back on track and managed a pretty good showing.

Yuletide Beer Club
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are listed below. Standard disclaimers apply, we were at a sushi place, not a sensory deprivation chamber. Notes are below, in order of tasting, not necessarily in the order pictured.

  • Fat Head Trail Head Pale Ale - It's like a toned-down version of Fat Head's Headhunter, dank, piney hops, tasty, a decent start for the night. B
  • Lost Nation Gose - Yup, a beer we've had many times here, and it's a nice, light, tart beer that works well as a warmup beer.
  • Rubber Soul Dropout - A super fresh crowler from this brand newish (less than 6 months old) Maryland brewery that is rather obviously comprised of Beatles Fans. This is a pretty solid DIPA, nice citrus and pine hop presence, and a decent amount of bitterness too (this will come into question later in the tasting). B+
  • Trinity Red Swingline - Was not expecting much from this beer named after an Office Space reference, but it wound up being one of the better of the night, super funky and earthy, with a decent amount of hop presence, and only a hint of sourness. One of these days, I'm going to buy a waxed beer that will totally lead me astray, and I thought this might be it, but I guess not. Also of note, the wax job was rather weird, like they dipped it once, realized that wouldn't be enough, so they dipped it again, and then just said "fuck it" and dipped it a third time because why the hell not. This is important, and I am totally justified in writing more about the wax job than the beer itself. B+
  • Free Will DC Cranberry Farmhouse - I picked this up at the semi-local Free Will release on Sunday. A pretty nice little saison number, but it's more subtle than the beer we just drank, so I think it suffered a bit from the comparison. Still, it seemed pretty darned good. B or B+
  • Pretty Things Jack D'Or - Thus begins a little, informal tribute to the sadly now defunct Pretty Things brewing company, this is a little more sweet and raisiny than I remember, but it's still relatively dry and a great match for the sushi we were eating at this point. B
  • Pretty Things Hopfenpop! - This was not a fresh bottle and you could sorta tell, but it was nevertheless pretty good and held up pretty well. I would have liked to have tried this one fresh, but for this, I'll give it a B
  • Stone Double Bastard In The Rye - This wound up being a sweeter take on the Double Bastard (as compared to, say, Southern Charred or even the base beer), but the hop character survived and tries its darnedest to counteract the sweetness. Still one of my favorites of the night though, and pretty fantastic. B+ or A-
  • Troegs Impending Descent - The Scratch beer that keeps on giving, I managed to get up to Troegs this Black Friday and pick up some of this solid imperial stout, perhaps not as great as their initial vintage, I still love it.
  • Pretty Things Fumapapa - A very nice imperial stout with all the standard notes and an additional and very complementary smoked malt character that manages to make itself known without overwhelming anything (or making you wonder who put their cigar out in your beer). Very tasty, and damn, I'm going to miss these guys. A-
  • Dogfish Head Hoo Lawd - Yes, this beer's premise, brewed to 658 IBUs (apparently the highest confirmed measurement ever, despite some others with higher "theoretical" IBUs), is gimmicky and such things tend to be hit or miss, but this was indeed an interesting beer to try. It pours a jet black color (i.e. not very IPAish), has a nice hoppy nose, dank citrus and pine, and the taste starts off just fine, like a malt-forward IPA, then the bitterness starts coming in towards the finish and building through the aftertaste. It's kinda like when you eat a hot pepper and you're all this isn't so bad and then 10 seconds later your mouth is on fire and 10 seconds after that you think you might die. Alright, so it never quite approaches fear-of-death levels of bitterness, but it is very bitter, which isn't that unusual, except that this lingers for much longer than normal. I'm really happy I got to try it and would recommend getting a sample if you see it, but the smallish pour I got was plenty, and it's not something worth really hunting for. Interesting though and one of those things that makes it hard to rate. B
After the Hoo Lawd, we opened a couple of "palate cleansers" that were IPAs that basically tasted like water, so I won't really go into detail on those. The Rubber Soul Dropout fared slightly better, but still didn't taste bitter at all. Go figure. So that wraps up this beer share, look for more in January, I hope!

Cascade Sang Rouge

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I was going to put a bunch of effort into working a Le Cercle Rouge reference in here, but I figured the tenuous connection (zomg, they both use the French word for Red) and obscurity means I shouldn't bother. Any Jean-Pierre Melville fans in the house? No? Alright then, moving on.

This is yet another in Cascade's long line of sour ales; a blend of red ales that were aged in oak wine barrels and oak foudres for for up to three years. Previous iterations have mentioned that it was a blend of as many as nine lots of beer, which is always an interesting exercise. Sometimes blending can add complexity and balance, other times it just sorta levels out all the spiky bits, covers up imperfections, making for a less complex but more consistent beer. While this is certainly another Cascade win, I'm also betting this trends towards the latter speculation. This is still very good, but it doesn't really stand out if you know what I mean. Or not. I'm not even really sure what I mean by that. Give me a break. Let's take a closer look at this "red blooded" sour and plan some elaborate beer heists:

Cascade Sang Rouge

Cascade Sang Rouge - Pours a clear but very dark amber or ruby color with a finger of fizzy but long lived off-white head. Smells great, vinegar, cherries, musty funk, a little oak and vanilla too. Taste hits those sour notes pretty hard, sweet, tart fruit, cherries, blackberries and the like, some of that oak and vanilla pitching in where it can, then more sourness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, some oaky richness, well carbonated, plenty of acidity. Overall, a nice little sour number. Could be an A-, but I'm not feeling generous at the moment, so B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 11/21/15. Vintage: 2013 Project (2015 Release).

Cascade certainly has their house sour style dialed in, and with a single freak exception, I've enjoyed everything I've had from them. I'm sure this won't be the last we see of them on the blog...

Allagash Farm To Face

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Wherein Allagash cuts out the middle man (you know, those greedy tables) and delivers a fresh fruit sour right to your face. All anthropomorphic jokes aside, I prefer to think of this as a subtle but scathing indictment of the three tier system of alcohol distribution put into place after Prohibition. Viva la fermentación! Well played, Allagash.

It's also a beer! Farm to Face starts life as a lowly Belgian pale ale, fermented with Allagash's standard house yeast. After primary fermentation is complete, they add pediococcus and lactobacillus and age the whole concoction on 6000 pounds of peaches. Bucking the current oaky fashion, the aging is done in stainless steel tanks, but don't let that fool you, this is superb stuff:

Allagash Farm to Face

Allagash Farm To Face - Pours an almost clear golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells amazing, lots of earthy funk and bright citrus fruit, peaches and the like. Taste hits the same notes as the nose, a very nice lactic sour punch, stone fruit, some earthy funk, and yes, more sourness. Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and refreshing, well carbonated, quite acidic, but still pleasant and balanced with the rest. Overall, this is delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/20/15. Bottled: July 16, 2015.

Another winning sour from Allagash. I shall have to seek out their more obscure offerings on that front. Someday. Someday...

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

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