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The Bruery Mash

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I've made no secret of the fact that I don't drink coffee and thus am not a huge fan of it in beer. Indeed, longtime readers (all three of you) are probably rolling their eyes right now, as I probably mention my apathy towards coffee too often. While I do feel like I've come around a bit on coffee beers and have had several that I really enjoyed, I usually still find myself wondering what it would be like without the coffee. Fortunately, that option is actually available most of the time, and in this case, the Bruery came up with an interesting experiment.

I imagine the process of infusing coffee flavors into beer to be a complicated one with many variables that are difficult to control. What coffee are you using, how does it match with the base beer, when in the process are you adding the coffee, are you using the beans, the grinds, or actual brewed coffee (or some combination thereof)? Each one of those questions has a lot riding on it, so when the Bruery went to make a coffee-infused barleywine, they did some pilot batches and played around with a bunch of factors, but ultimately decided to release two beers: one unsoiled without any coffee at all (called Mash), and one with a very, very powerful coffee component (called Mash & Grind), the idea being that Reserve Society members will get bottles of each beer, open them at the same time, and blend them together to find their ideal level of coffee.

I'm pretty sure that my ideal blend wouldn't be a blend at all, just Mash - the bourbon barrel aged 12.5% ABV English style barlewine, all by its lonesome. So I was pretty happy to see this in a LIF haul a while back (and that I got this one and not the "Grind" version) and have been hankering for a taste every since. The Hulk would totally smash this, but I'll just mash with it:

The Bruery Mash

The Bruery Mash - Pours a murky brown color (dirty penny) with half a finger of white head that sticks around a bit at the start. Smell is nearly the platonic ideal of a bourbon barrel barleywine. Rich caramel and toffee, fruity malt, figs, coconut, a little booze, and a well balanced bourbon, oak, and vanilla kicker. And amazingly, the taste lives up to the nose (though maybe Platonic ideal was a bit overkill, eh?). Lots of rich malt character, molasses, caramel, and fruit coming through strong, coconut, raisins, and figs in the middle with the bourbon, oak, and vanilla pitching in towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, but smooth, very rich, a little boozy bite towards the finish. Extremely well balanced. Overall, this is superb and absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 2/28/14. Bottled 05/24/13.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm really glad there was no coffee in this. I'm sure that if there was, I still would have enjoyed it, but it would been a "It's good... for a coffee beer" kinda situation. In any case, it wasn't, and I loved it, so there is that. Anyone want to be my Bruery Reserve Society proxy? It's a long shot, but I'm sure I could make it worth your while.

Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine

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Back before Goose Island sold out to the great satan, AB Inbev, they took their already wonderful Bourbon County Brand Stout and started making some variants. Some, like the one incorporating coffee, appear every year. Others were one-offs that will probably never happen again. One such one-off was Bourbon County Rare, which used the same base as plain old BCBS, but aged it in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels (which are indeed quite rare) for 2 years. It seems that Pappy mania has extended from the bourbon world to also infect the beer world, as this beer initially sat on shelves (due to a high price tag) but is now a highly sought after rarity in the secondary market or trading boards.

After BCBS Rare, Goose Island took those barrels and deployed them for a third use, this time with a rather large barleywine. The result, dubbed King Henry, was also quite a hit amongst beer dorks. So much of a hit, that a couple years later, Goose Island has revisited the general concept of a barleywine aged in third use barrels (first use was bourbon, second use the straight up BCBS) and rebranded the package as Bourbon County Brand Barleywine. It's only been a few weeks and it's always wise to give people some time to work through the hype, but the general consensus seems to be that it's pretty great. DDB sez it's not as good as King Henry was, but it's better than King Henry is now. I've not had King Henry (either fresh or aged), but this seems like an intuitive result. So let's take a drip down Bourbon County way, shall we?

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine - Pours a very dark brown color, maybe a hint of dark amber or crimson here, with just a cap of light head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells heavily of bourbon and vanilla, oak, fruity malt and booze, maybe even something like brown sugar. Taste hits up front with a wallop of rich caramel, turning to fruity malts in the middle, along with a heaping helping of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. The finish has a pleasant note of booze to it, along with the return of that fruity malt. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, rich, and chewy. Some booze, but nothing hot or unapproachable. Overall, this is exceptional. My face melted. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz. capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/7/13. Bottled on: 17SEP13 0934.

I'm very happy that I have a fair amount of BCBS and variants left, as this stuff is truly spectacular. I even managed to get ahold of this year's Backyard Rye variant (aged in Rye Barrels with a bunch of berries), so be on the lookout for that at some point in the near future.

Yards Olde Bartholomew

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I tried to find out who this "Old Bart" really was, but the only thing I could find was that he was "a free spirit who bent elbows with the best of 'em", which is pretty cool, to be sure, but not quite informative enough. There feels like a story here, and one that is not related to Saint Bartholemew (who has his own fair share of wacky stories). Nevertheless, what we've got here is a by-the-books English barleywine:

Yards Olde Bartholomew

Yards Olde Bartholomew - Pours a very striking, clear orange amber color with a finger of white head that leaves a bit of lacing as I drink (the clarity is surprising since the older blurbs about this beer indicate that it's unfiltered, but this is so clear that this fact must have changed when the switched their bottling line to 750s). The aroma feels very English, lots of Euro hops, earthy, herbal, very spicy hops, with some malt sweetness peeking out too. Taste is very sweet, with those earthy, herbal, spicy hops providing the bulk of flavor, and some malt character peeking through with a clear bit of booze lasting through the finish too. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, smooth, heavy, a bit boozy. Overall, this is a solid beer, but it's a bit simplistic for a a big, full 750. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10.3% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 11/15/13.

Yards continues to be one of the local breweries I take for granted, but they do put out a fair amount of interesting stuff, so stay tuned. Maybe I'll luck into a Barrel Aged version of this, which I feel could be a big improvement...

Telegraph Obscura Aurantium

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When you live in Pennsylvania, it feels like out-of-state liquor stores are magical. I'm not going to turn this into a rant about the PCLB; suffice to say, it sucks. Then I read about places like K&L Wine Merchants in California, and my brain explodes. They appear to have an excellent selection of wine, spirits, and beer (for the uninitiated, in PA, you can't sell Wine and Spirits in the same building as Beer, unless you're a bar), and what's more, they actually commission bottlings of various spirits and beers (I can't speak to wine, but I assume it goes on there too). And we're not talking piddly bottom-shelf blended Scotch (you know, the ones that taste like gasoline) either. One of their recent releases: a 1997 Laphroaig 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (the other one was a 21 year old Cambus, which is also an impressive get). Some readers of Kaedrin are drooling right now.

These K&L folks know their stuff, is what I'm saying. So it makes sense that they tapped Telegraph brewing for a special K&L exclusive beer. "I really gave Brian and the guys at Telegraph free run to do whatever it was that they thought would be interesting and delicious." See? Smart people. And the result was certainly interesting. Telegraph's Rhinoceros is a barleywine brewed with a hefty dose of rye (you might call it a "rye wine"), and for this bottling, they took that base beer, added Seville orange peels, and aged the whole concoction in a bourbon barrel. It's a single barrel bottling, so only 21 cases were produced (so we'll say somewhere on the order of 250 bottles). Special thanks to Jay from the (sadly now defunct) Beer Samizdat blog for snatching this up and slinging it cross-country to my liquor-store-challenged commonwealth.

Telegraph Obscura Aurantium

Telegraph Obscura Aurantium - Insert joke about Adamantium here (Aurantium is actually the scientific name for the Seville orange). Pours a very pretty Orange hued brown color with a couple fingers of bubbly, fizzy head that nevertheless manages to stick around for a while. Smells of rich, boozy bourbon, oak, vanilla, and yes, those oranges too. Taste is all spicy rye and bourbon, Belgian yeast spiciness hits in the middle too, followed by yet more booze. Mouth feel is highly carbonated and as a result this doesn't feel as heavy as a lot of big barrel aged beers. On the other hand, there's nothing to restrain the booze either, and it hits pretty hard here. A little burn and some definite warming in the belly. Not unapproachable and I rather enjoyed it, but yeah, it's boozy. I'm usually a little leery of non-wild Belgian styles aged in bourbon barrels. The highly attenuating yeast sometimes doesn't leave enough residual sugars to stand up to the bourbon barrel treatment (like this). Fortunately, this beer clears the bar. Yes, it's very boozy, but it's got enough going on that it works well. Overall a solid, interesting, complex brew. It grew on me as I drank it, too, but maybe that's the booze talking... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 10/11/13. Batch No. 124.

After the interesting failure of Obscura Cacao, I'm happy to get back on the Telegraph wagon and will happily seek out more of their stuff.

Oktober Beer Club

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded friends from work who get together every month at a local BYOB for libations and fun. This month, someone decided to bring beers she thought would be disgusting. And they were! We should probably discourage this practice, but on the other hand, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and try some Cave Creek Chili Beer or, in this case, some of Rogue's recent offerings.

Oktober Beer Club

Half-blinkered thoughts on each beer are recorded below for posterity, though standard tasting disclaimers apply and I'm a moron so take it all with a grain of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pictar):

  • Tired Hands Jason - One of my contributions, and a great way to start the night. I'll probably talk more about this at some other time, but for now it's a very nice, juicy IPA, great hop character and that citrus fruit really comes through. Reminiscent of last year's "Vampire" beer. A-
  • Rogue Beard Beer - This beer's gimmick is that it's made using yeast that was found in their head brewer's beard. Sounds appetizing, no? Well, no, but the beer itself was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. It felt sorta like a bland Belgian pale ale, with some light spicy yeast notes and some sweetness. So not the worst thing ever, but perhaps I set the bar too low on this one. B-
  • Jerry's Homebrew "SB" - Mystery homebrew from one member who got it from a friend of a friend, or something. Don't know what "SB" stands for, but that's all it was labeled with. But it turned out to be a pretty good beer in the style of a brown ale or soemthing like that. Not something to go crazy over, but a good homebrew. B
  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale - I actually had no real problem with the first Voodoo Doughnut beer, but then again, it's a smoked beer and no one likes those. I don't know why they thought it was a good idea to continue this collaboration with Voodoo Doughnuts, but I guess they're actually selling this stuff. This was a pretty terrible beer. I get hints of that chocolate and peanut butter, but they feel... wrong, like they were buried in Pet Semetary or something. This is an unbalanced, sloppy mess. Not entirely undrinkable, but in no way good. D
  • Terrapin Dos Cocoas Chocolate Porter - Now this one gets the chocolate thing right, and the base porter matches really well with it. Not my favorite style ever or anything, but it works well enough. B+
  • Trappist Westvleteren 12 - Yep, it's still amazing. Certainly opened some eyes with other folks too.
  • Perennial Vermilion Winter Ale - Excellent English style barleywine, lots of caramel, toffee, and almost fruity malt notes, really nice. A little heavy, but that's what you want out of this sort of thing. The sort of beer that makes me want to put on a smoking jacket, sit by a fire next to my bearskin rug on a cold night, making haughty rich person noises. Another eye opener for some folks. Me, I really liked this sucker, and may snag another bottle if it's around (it looks like it was a 2012 one-off, but I've definitely seen it around). A-
And that just about covers it. You may have noticed that it's only been a little over 2 weeks since the last beer club, but we had to reset to the beginning of the month, due to the November and December holidays. So stay tuned, moar to come.

Tired Hands FatherBeast

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This is the, er, I guess we'll call it the spouse of Tired Hands MotherAnimal (a barleywine conditioned on coffee and vanilla). Near as I can tell, FatherBeast is the same beer, sans the coffee... oh, and it was aged in Dad's Hat Rye barrels. Beast Mode: Engaged. Not being a big coffee person, I expect this to be more my speed, and what do you know, I loved it:

Tired Hands FatherBeast

Tired Hands FatherBeast - Pours a slightly cloudy dark brown color with beautiful robey tones and just a minimal cap of head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells deeply of crystal malt, caramel and dark fruits, with some vanilla and oak pitching in as well. As it warms, more whiskey comes out to play too. Taste is very sweet, filled with a fruity crystal malt character, with the whiskey and vanilla sweetness kicking in towards the middle, then leaning back to the intense fruity malt towards the finish. Mouthfeel has a relatively low carbonation which leads to a very smooth and approachable feel, medium to full bodied, not much to indicate the ABV. It's pretty easy going for a sipper. Overall, this is some great stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped and waxed). Drank out of the FatherBeast snifter on 9/27/13. "Roughly" 150 bottle release.

Worth waiting in line for, and check out that fancy snifter. Bitchin. As per usual, expect moar posts on Tired Hands in the near future, because I'm a jerk and like to post about beers that will never see the light of day again. You're welcome.

Arcadia Brewing Company is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, also home to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg... Yes, the guy who invented breakfast cereal. Battle Creek has thus become known by the name Cereal City, USA, complete with a massive "breakfast food funhouse" (whatever that means). Arcadia either hates the moniker, or they just really love puns and couldn't resist naming their English Barleywine "Cereal Killer". There's a lot of text on the label, so I guess you wouldn't call it minimalist, but I really like the one tiny graphical element they have: a hand gripping a spoon like it's the psycho knife (and for added verisimilitude, they've included some dripping milk which... also calls to mind Psycho.)

This particular bottle was aged in Bourbon Barrels (part of the same release as that Imperial Stout I enjoyed a while back). Like the Stout, this one features the same industrial strength waxed cap and rumor has it that this was aged in those mythical Pappy Van Winkle barrels that magically transform mediocre beers into spectacular face melters. Not having ever had the regular Cereal Killer, I can't really say, but I did find that this treatment worked better for the barleywine than it did for the stout. This is some pretty fantastic stuff.

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer

Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer Barleywine - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a cap of off white head that resolves into just a ring of head pretty quickly. Smell is pure bourbon and caramel, some toffee, oak, and vanilla playing too. Taste hits the same notes, lots of caramel and toffee mixed with that bourbon, oak and vanilla character. Mild booziness is apparent too, and that bourbon character becomes more prominent as it warms up. Textbook bourbon barrel barleywine stuff here. Wouldn't call it balanced, but it's unbalanced in, like, a good way! Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, a little boozy, decent carbonation but smooth too. Overall, a really nice BA barleywine, textbook stuff... but like, a really good textbook. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz. waxed). Drank out of a snifter on 6/15/13. Bottled on 12/18/12.

I've got another one of these in the cellar, and I'm glad for that. I'm guessing that aging in barrels for 22 months is not something they're set up to do on a rolling basis, but who knows. Maybe we'll see some of this every year. Definitely worth seeking out.

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale

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I'll be the first to admit that my palate isn't the most refined of them all, but one of the things I appear to have absolutely no tolerance for is Diacetyl. It's a byproduct of fermentation that can yield powerful flavors of butter or butterscotch to a finished beer. I know what you're thinking: Butter and Butterscotch are awesome! And yes, it is, but you wouldn't put a pat of butter in your beer, would you? That's kinda gross, is it not? Well, to me it is, but to some, low levels of diacetyl are actually desirable (high levels, not so much). Notably, a lot of English pale ales tend to lean in that direction. Not all of them are like that, of course, but that just makes sampling British beers a bit of a crapshoot for me. In this case, an expensive crapshoot, as I (wrongly) assumed that a port cask aged barleywine would have minimal diacetyl.

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale

J.W. Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale - Pours a cloudy orange brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smells of toffee and some fruitiness, presumably from that port cask. The toffee has that buttery diacetyl note that I generally hate in British beers. And yep it's prominent in the taste too. I've had worse examples of this, but I just can't get on board with that particular character. Otherwise, it's got some nice port notes, and some caramel and toffee that are nice. Mouthfeel is rich and smooth, full bodied. Overall, it's clearly well made, I just can't get past that diacetyl. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV bottled (adorable little 9.3 oz bottle). Drank out of a snifter on 6/1/13. Brewed in 2011.

A pity, as I like a good Porto every now and again and you rarely see US beers aged in Port barrels. Yeah, so anyway, I'm probably not going to check out the various other barrel aged treatments of this stuff, especially given the expense (for a tiny bottle, no less). Fortunately, I had some other great beer this weekend that would make up for this one, so stay tuned.

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

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