Recently in Barleywine Category

Vintage Dogfish Head

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Once the darlings of the craft beer community, it seems that Dogfish Head's fortunes have been on the wane in recent years. Sure, they're still chugging along and are often the savior of a BMC dominated taplist, but their beers aren't quite as heralded as they once were. This might be due to the hit-or-miss nature of their sometimes gimmicky approach, or perhaps just plain snobbery. Personally, I tend to enjoy their more "normal" takes on beer, though some of the "off-centered" stuff hits its mark from time to time as well. I had the good fortune to visit the original Rehoboth Beach brewpub last year, and it was a really good time. I had some brewpub exclusives like Porter by Proxy and SeaQuench Ale (now a regular release) that I really enjoyed (and others that were... less successful, like Choc Lobster).

Anyway, I knew that I'd squirreled away a few bottles of Dogfish Head's more extreme efforts a few years ago, so I lit my torch and made the trek into the deepest, darkest catacombs of my cellar. After fighting off a hoard of mummies and centipede-like creatures, I managed to extricate a few vintage bottles of Dogfish Head from several years of cobwebs and dust.

As per usual, there are two sides of the coin when drinking well-aged beer. On one side, it's always an interesting and sometimes sublime experience. On the other, while it's always a different beer than it was fresh, it's rarely a better beer. I'm happy to report that, in this case at least, Dogfish Head's wares held up remarkably well. Of course, you'll also have to note that these are among the more extreme varieties they make in terms of ABV and thus are particularly good candidates for aging. I suspect most of their other offerings would not fare so well. I've got some comments about each beer that are incorporated below, so read on, fearless drinker:

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine - A barleywine brewed with figs, I always found the label's "Directions" charming: "Open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. Or: Walk hand-in-neck into the middle of the woods. Use a shovel to dig a 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal the bottle in a plastic bag. Place in hole & pack with dirt. Memorize location & leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open & enjoy." Well, I didn't pack it in dirt and I left it in the catacombs of castle Kaedrin for 5 years instead of just 1, but this still held up pretty well. I'd probably recommend a little less time in the cellar if you're looking to age your own, but it definitely takes on age gracefully. This is probably one of Dogfish Head's more underrated beers. This is actually the last beer from Dogfish Head that I did a proper review for, and it's from 2012... I may need to remedy that, but for now, let's look at our well aged 4-5 year old bottle.

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Pours a very murky brown color with a half finger of off white head. Smells of dark fruits, those figs and prunes, crystal malt, dank resinous hops (typical of aged beers, but it's a subtle presence here, lending complexity). Taste hits that fruity malt character, rich caramelized figs and prunes, crystal malt, light on the resinous hops, followed by a heaping helping of booze. There's a little oxidation going on here, but it's not overwhelming the beer. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, lots of boozy heat but nothing unapproachable. A sipper for sure. Overall, this has held up remarkably well. Would try again. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 15% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/4/17. Bottled in 2012B.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - Perhaps Dogfish Head's most famous beer, it's one of the few that does seem to still command a devout following. One thing you'll hear a lot of people say about this beer is that it's almost undrinkable when fresh, which I've always counted as an exaggeration, but I never did manage a well-aged version until new. This has to be one of the most remarkable transformations I've ever seen in an aged beer. When fresh, it's certainly boozy and hot, but it's got lots of great citrus and pine hop character going on. I liked it. With age, especially once we start talking about 5-6 years, it essentially turns into a malt-forward barleywine. Even just the color of the beer changes dramatically. I managed to dig up a picture from ye olde digital catacombs that shows what it was like with about 6 months on it (you can click to embiggen all the images in this post, but I'm afraid this one isn't exactly high quality. Please direct complaints to my old cell phone):

2012 Picture of a freshish bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

And with 6 years on it (these two bottles were from the same 2011B batch), oxidation takes hold and turns this a much darker color:

A six year old Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA from the same batch as previous picture

Whoa. Pours a murky, very dark amber color with a finger of white head. Smells like a malt-forward barleywine, lots of oxidized aromas, a little bit of dank, resinous hops (way different than fresh). Taste is rich and sweet, again, malt forward, more like a barleywine, certainly a little oxidized, a little faded, dank, resinous hops, finishing boozy. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, and quite boozy, not as hot as fresh, but plenty of warming sensations as I drink. Overall, I may have kept this just a bit too long, but it's still quite interesting. I'd like to try one with 3 or so years on it to see how it compares. For now B or B+

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/18/17. Bottled in 2011B.

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout - Of the Dogfish Beers I've aged, I'd expect this one to do the best. It ticks all the right checkboxes for the ideal beer-aging candidate: dark malt-focused ale with extremely high alcohol, no flavor additives likely to fade too much over time (i.e. coffee, vanilla, etc...), and so on. This is the sort of beer that drinks pretty hot fresh, but ages considerably well. At 2 years old, it was a really tasty treat. With 5-6 years under its belt, it's even better. This appears to be one of the few beers that actually does get better over time.

A vintage bottle of 2011 Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a half finger of tan head that disappears quickly. Smells rich and malty, caramel, dark fruit, even some roast and dark chocolate remaining. Taste is very sweet, caramel, dark fruit, almost port-like character here, again, still a little roast and chocolate. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, and chewy, plenty of booze but it does not at all feel like 18%. Overall, this has held up remarkably well, could probably last much longer! A-

Beer Nerd Details: 18% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a snifter glass on 5/1/17. Bottled in 2011A.

So there you have it. I've depleted my entire supply of Olde School, but I still have a 120 (same vintage) left, and a 2010 WWS slumbering in the cellar. I'm guessing the WWS could take several more years before showing significant degradation, but the 120 should probably be drunk soon (and if I had Olde School, that seems to be at its limit as well). All three of these beers are good for long term aging though, and my recommendation would be to pick up a 4 pack of each, and drink a bottle every 1 or 2 years.

Vintage Victory

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So I've been aging beer for a while now, both intentionally and unintentionally, and it's often an interesting exercise. However, it's also pretty rare for a beer to get better over time. It's usually different and sometimes worse than fresh, but better is, again, rare.

In general, my advice continues to be to drink fresh. If you can only get one bottle of something special, drink it fresh. If you can get a second bottle, it's a fun exercise to age it, but seldom does a beer age incredibly well. At least, not for very long periods of time. Lots of beers can get better or be just as good over a few months, but not many will last over a year and the ones that can last 5 years are even more rare. Of course, there are many variables. My "cellar" doesn't exactly have ideal conditions, so you may have better luck. Bottle variation exists, especially when it comes to wild ales. Some people don't like harsh booziness and time can clear that up sometimes. And so on.

Since Victory is local, I've stockpiled plenty of their offerings over the years. Readily available, not too pricy, and quality beer - they make good candidates for aging experimentation. Let's see if this patience has paid off:

Victory V-Twelve 2011

Victory V-Twelve (2011) - This is a special one. I loved it fresh back in the day and squirreled this away to see how it would age. High alcohol, darkish beer, I thought it would do well. Naturally, I haven't thought too much about it in the intervening time, especially as my tastes evolved over the years. In a recent attempt to drink down a bit of my cellar I noticed something curious. The bottle sez "Should be enjoyed within 5 years" and the bottling date was Nov 11 2011. So of course, I popped the cork on Nov 11 2016. Nailed it.

Victory V-Twelve Bottling Date

Pours a murky amber orange brown color with just a cap of off white head. Smells nice, lots of yeast-driven, rich, dark fruit, brown sugar, maybe even a little floral aroma, toffee too, hints of spice. Taste is rich and sweet, ample malt backbone, dark fruit, raisins, dates, yeasty esters, a little oxidation definitely showing, but nothing overwhelming, sherry, toffee, brown sugar, finishing with hints of Belgian yeast spice and a bit of booze. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, a sipper for sure. Overall, this is still fantastic. I haven't had it fresh since, oh, 2011, but it's holding up pretty darned well. A high B+ (I originally rated this an A, but taking into account ratings inflation puts this about on par with my feelings on it fresh.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/11/16. Bottled: Nov 11 2011. "Should be enjoyed within 5 years" (Nailed it.)

Victory Java Cask (2015) - The story on coffee beer is that the coffee tends to fade over time and hoo boy is that the case here. For the coffee ambivalents like myself, that's not a huge deal, but this was a huge coffee bomb when fresh, and while the coffee character is still there if you look for it (or if you're particularly sensitive to it, ahem), the bourbon barrel stout character is now the majority of this beer. It's actually quite pleasant, but then, I'm one of the aforementioned coffee ambivalents, so I would be like that. I'm still hoping that Victory will put out a non-coffee version of this same beer someday, but that's not in the cards this year (FYI, this was written in November 2016 - ed.). We've got a Rye barrel variant this year, as well as a rebrew of this, but I hold out hope. Still, I'm quite enjoying this and won't even drop the grade. Again, coffee-heads will be disappointed by an aged bottle of this stuff (and anecdotally, I'd say most of the dropoff had occurred within 6 months). A-

Beer Nerd Details: 14.3% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 11/8/16. Fucking election day. Enjoy by: 10 Nov 2016, cutting it close.

Victory Otto (2011) - A smoked dubbel? Not your common style, and at the time, the smoke completely overwhelmed any Belgian yeast characteristics. Pours a dark amber color with a finger of almost white head. Smells of belgian yest, raisins, and just a bit of smoke. Taste goes similarly, the smoke has really mellowed out over time (fresh, the smoke was potent and overpowering, now it's barely there). Proooobably held on to it too long, but it's held up much better than your typical dubbel. Will try the Bourbon Barrel version next (it was a massive improvement over the original). B- (Update, I brought Otto in Oak to a share recently and it has fared a little better, but is also well past its prime. Solid B material.)

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/1/16. Bottled: Sept 21 2011 (I think that's what it sez)

Victory Old Horizontal 2013

Victory Old Horizontal (2013) - No fancy stories here, just realized it had been about 3 years, which is plenty for a beer like this. Turns out, I think it could probably stand up to more, but I'm still really glad I opened this when I did. Pours a dark amber color with a finger of white head. Smells of caramel and toffee, hints of dried, candied fruit. Taste also has that rich caramel and toffee character, sweet but not cloying, some modest hop character too. Some oxidation present, but nothing overwhelming and it ends up adding complexity. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, moderate carbonation, hints of booze. Overall, this has aged very well, would do again. I still have a couple of Oak Horizontals laying around, so I should probably strap one of those in next. B+ or A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 5/22/16. Enjoy by Oct 25 2018. (deduced bottling date: October 25 2013)

So there you have it. 5 years probably too long, even for something like V-Twelve. Three years, though, seemed fruitful. Stay tuned for more vintage drinking, including one that was 7 years old (and still drank incredibly well).

A Trip to Hidden River Brewing Company

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Hidden River brewing opened its doors a little over a year ago. So many local breweries have opened recently that I'm having a hard time keeping up, but I'd been hearing some buzz about these beers of late. These guys aren't in the most convenient location (Douglassville, PA, not quite the middle of nowhere, but far enough from me), and I'm the worst so it took me a while to get in gear, but now that I've been there, I will most definitely be making return trips.

Hidden River Sign

It's still a tiny operation, located in the beautiful Historic Brinton Lodge. It's a deceptively large facility though, broken up into a small bar area, several dining rooms, and a pretty great outdoor bar. The lodge is supposedly haunted and the owners apparently run various events along those paranormal lines, which I'll most certainly have to take advantage of next Halloween. So it's a great space, and the decor works too.

Charcuterie Plate

The food menu is somewhat limited, but everything I had was great (charcuterie plate and a panini, great bread too). A solid and ever-rotating taplist helps things along (more on that below). All in all, it reminds me a lot of the original Tired Hands location, before the hype and expansions.

I've now been there twice, and while I didn't take formal tasting notes, I'll give you a broad overview of what I got:

Hidden River Green Mass

Green Mass - A 5.9% pale ale made in the Northeast IPA mold, super cloudy, juicy hops, and so on. Would love to try a higher ABV version of this, but this was quite a nice first impression.

Hidden River Fresh Press

Fresh Press - A 6% dry-hopped saison, very nice. Again with the super-cloudy beer (does look like orange juice) and juicy hop character, along with some nice saison yeast character. Definitely a highlight.

Hidden River Kings Watch

King's Watch - An 8% Baltic Porter that really impressed me. I've often noted that many local breweries aren't great at dark beer, but this is a really impressive take. Not quite HF Everett or Maine King Titus, but along those lines. Fantastic.

Hummingbird High - A 9.5% DIPA, this one doesn't quite live up to the expectation built up by my first three tries. It's certainly a fine beer, but not a top tier DIPA (and, perhaps tellingly, seemed like less of a Northeast IPA style).

Golden Oak Magic - I suppose if they were really aping Tired Hands, they would have named this "Golden Oak Magick", heh. A 4.8% saison brewed with Shiitake and Black Poplar mushrooms, cilantro, and a bunch of lime zest, this one appears extremely clear, and has a more traditional saison yeast character too it, with some savory earthiness (but not really funky and you can't exactly pick out the mushrooms...)

Melt Banana Face - A 7.6% IPA made with, you guessed it, bananas. And they do come through strong, though that means they sorta overwhelm the Northeast IPA base. All in all, a very interesting beer, would drink again, but sorta one-dimensional...

Hidden River Rum Barrel Aged Mapping the Past

Rum Barrel Aged Mapping the Past - An 11% English Barleywine aged on coconuts in Rum Barrels. My initial reaction was of sugary, rum soaked raisins, but once I figured out the coconut component (didn't see that in the description before ordering), I really started to get that too. Not sooper boozy or anything, and could probably use a little more malt backbone, but it's still a pretty fantastic offering that I enjoyed immensely...

So there you have it, everything was very good to great, one of the better hit to miss ratios I've seen at a new(ish) brewery in a while. I greatly look forward to sampling more of their wares in the future. I do not look forward to making the trek out there, but the results do seem worth it!

Union Chessie

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To celebrate their underrated brewery's anniversary, Union brewing makes a barleywine named after local legend Chessie, a sea monster said to live in the midst of the Chesapeake Bay. As with most local legends of this ilk, there are many sightings but no actual evidence of its existence. Funnily enough, speculation meant to explain the sightings sound even more far fetched than a legendary sea monster and include a "mutant eel" theory, large river otters, prehistoric Zeuglodons, and South American anacondas escaping from 18th- and 19th-century sailing ships.

Fortunately, there's plenty of evidence for the beer's existence: namely that I was able to purchase and drink a bottle. It's a little over a year old and I get the impression it would be better fresh, but as it is now, it occupies that same strange territory in the DIPA/TIPA/Barleywine triangle. Regardless, Chessie's come out to play and behold! Photographic evidence:

Union Chessie Barleywine

Union Chessie 3rd Anniversary Barleywine - Pours a dark amber brown color with a finger or two \ of fluffy off-white head that sticks around for quite a while. Smells of faded citrus and resinous pine hops with some crystal malts lurking in the background. Taste also hits the citrus and pine hops pretty hard, with a light crystal malt backbone and dry, bitter hop finish. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, medium bodied, and surprisingly dry for the style. Not red wine dry, but still much more attenuated than your typical barleywine. Overall, this is an interesting beer, somewhere in that DIPA, TIPA, Barleywine triangle, tasty too. Would like to try fresh (or aged in a barrel). B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.8% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/23/16. Released: August 2015. Bottle No. 336/800.

This was the third anniversary beer, but they also released the second anniversary Chessie that had been aged in Elijah Craig 12 barrels last year. Here's to hoping I can snag the BA version later this year...

Barrel-Aged Tröegs Double Feature

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Semi-local Tröegs has been steadily expanding of late, and one beneficiary of their success has been their barrel-aging program, which they call their "Splinter" series. They've been doing them for a while, but the initial offerings were very rare and dare I say, walezish. Recent expansions have allowed them to step up their game and the availability of these beers has been getting better (though nothing seems to approach those original sour offerings just yet), even for those of us who hesitate to drive out to Hershey on a whim. The two I have here were relatively recent releases, basically just barrel aged versions of standard-lineup offerings. Oddly, their names have changed from "Bourbon Barrel-Aged" to just "Barrel-Aged", though I'm not sure if that means anything. In at least one case, the newer vintage has not lived up to the reputation of its predecessor, but it's still pretty nice. Let's dive in:

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator - Pours a dark amber brown color with half a finger of off white head that is short for this world. Smells nice, lots of fruity malt character, raisins, light on the barrel-aged character, but oak and vanilla are definitely there and it's an improvement on the base. Taste hits the barrel aging notes more than the nose, adding rich sweetness, caramel, oak, vanilla, and booze notes to the base fruity malt character, which is lessened here in the taste. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated but smooth, with a warming alcohol note. Overall, this is really nice, certainly an improvement on the base. A strong B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/18/16. Bottled: 02/23/16.

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan

Tröegs Barrel-Aged Flying Mouflan - Pours a deeper, darker amber brown color with a finger of off white head. Smells good, less in the way of fruity malt but the slack is picked up with hops, again the barrel character is light in the nose, but it's there, imparting some of that booze, oak, and vanilla. Taste again plays up those hops, a little dankness here before the booze, oak, and vanilla kicks in... Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, well carbonated, perhaps a bit less smooth, but still with the warming alcohol. Overall, this is very nice, but far from a top tier BA barleywine, and honestly, I think I might prefer BA Troegenator... I could still give it a weak B+ though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.7% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 6/19/16. Bottled: 03/17/16.

Now they just need to put Impending Descent into barrels (and maybe amp up that ABV to original Scratch offering levels before that) and I'll be a happy camper. Regardless, I'm excited to see what comes out of the Splinter series in the coming months and years.

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

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These days, anytime I get a chance to snag a bottle of barrel aged Midnight Sun beer, I jump at the opportunity. This Belgian Style Barleywine aged in High West bourbon barrels was no exception. Looking into it a little more, it seems like this has a pretty interesting heritage. A little over ten years ago, Midnight Sun celebrated their 1000th batch of beer with, you guessed it, a Belgian Style Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels called simply "M" (I knew Roman numerals were good for something). These days, this concept isn't particularly noteworthy. Everyone does this sort of thing. Hell, even I've homebrewed a bourbon oaked barleywine (that I'm positive is drastically inferior to anything produced by Midnight Sun, I'm the worst). But back in 2005? It was apparently a revelation. Bottles of M are among the most prized beers in existence, going for thousands of dollars at auction. Why? Partly it's the rarity, but it is also supposed to be uniquely well suited to aging. Ratings are still sky high, even a decade after bottling.

Of course, I have not had M, nor does it seem likely that I ever will. However, as you might imagine, the requests to Midnight Sun to rebrew it are numerous. A couple years ago, current brewer Lee Ellis answered some questions about M and let a few interesting nuggets slip. To bring this digression into relevance, here's a few quotes:

Hmmm, I'll just say that if we did re-release it, we wouldn't call it M. It is impossible to re-create it exactly. While Gabe Fletcher was an amazing Brewer, he sure sucked at documentation.

...As for more M, I'll say that Termination Dust is probably the closest re-creation we have done to date. Fairly similar malt bill, and very similar yeast blend. But again, it's kind one of those "that time, that place" beer. I love making big, dark, barrel aged belgians, stouts, and barley wines. Our Alaskan clientele demands it. As we say, session beers start at 8% up here.

Well that's nice to hear! Naturally, this beer doesn't seem to be making the waves that M did, but perhaps in a few years, these bottles will emerge as a wale, bro. Or M was just that ephemeral, one of a kind brew that will never be replicated.

Hope springs eternal though, so let's take a closer look. Termination Dust is basically the first light snow that signals the end of summer, something that generally carries more weight in a land of extremes like Alaska than it does for us doofuses down here. Brewed with a blend of Belgian yeasts and aged in High West barrels, this clearly isn't an exact duplicate of M. For one, it's a little stronger, and for another, High West didn't exist back in 2005 (and presumably, higher quality barrels were much more widely available back then). Still, this is Midnight Sun we're talking about here, so let's dig in:

Midnight Sun Termination Dust

Midnight Sun Termination Dust - Pours a very dark brown color with half a finger of tan head that is relatively short lived. Smells of caramelized brown sugar, bourbon, oak, some fruity esters, faint hints of spice. Taste hits those brown sugar notes hard, toffee, caramel, maybe even some Belgian yeast spice, and that boozy bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Very sweet, and even moreso once it warms up, though the spicy phenols also come out more. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, moderate and smooth carbonation that fits well, a little boozy heat. Overall, certainly another winner from Midnight Sun, though I don't think it's better than Arctic Devil. Yet. I think this could age fabulously, so let's check back in a few years, shall we? Still, this ain't no slouch, so we'll go A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 4/15/16. Bottled: 9/16/15.

I shall have to track down another bottle of this stuff to age. In the meantime, I'm sure we'll be seeing more from these Alaskan ballers soon enough.

Christmas Beer Recap

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My favorite time of the year is the Halloween through Christmas corridor, and part of that is the seasonal beer we get. It's not fashionable to be into Christmas beers, winter warmers and the like, but I love them and always make room for some of them during the holidays. I know I just got done mentioning that I don't feel the need to write about every beer I drink, but now that the holidays are over, I need some way to occupy my time that doesn't involve poopsocking it through Fallout 4, so here's a sampling of two beers I drank for last minute Christmas wrapping fuel, and two that were gifts.

Ballantine Burton Ale

Ballantine Burton Ale - So Pabst revived the Ballantine name with a decent IPA, and for Christmas, they put together this little barleywine number. According to a bunch of strangers on the internets, this is the single best beer Pabst has ever made. Let's see, shall we? Pours a clear amber orange color with a finger of head and some lacing. Smells sweet, lots of dank, piney hops and a little dark fruit. Taste is also quite sweet, more of the dark fruit here, but the hops balance things out without feeling too bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, tight carbonation, hints of booze, a sipper for sure. Overall, it's a solid little barleywine, tasty, and I haven't had something like this in a long time... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11.3% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2015.

Samichlaus Classic 2010

Samichlaus Classic 2010 - It's become something of a Kaedrin tradition to do last minute Christmas wrapping whilst watching cheesy Christmas movies and imbibing a Samichlaus of some kind (or maybe, um, two of them). This year was no exception, and in the spirit of dipping into the cellar to drink some of my aged stock, I grabbed a 5 year old bottle. Pours a deep dark amber orange color with a half finger of head that quickly disappears. Smells intensely of clean, dark fruits, very sweet, a little booze. Tastes very sweet, sticky, sugary sweet, with muted dark fruit, and did I mention it was sweet? Not cloying though, age has treated this well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, well carbonated. Overall, it's very good with some age on it, among the better I've had. I'm going with a high B+

Beer Nerd Details: 14% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 12/24/15. Vintage: 2010.

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo - My brother isn't a big beer guy, but usually manages to get some decent stuff. For instance, this year's selections included a Sierra Nevada Celebration, a La Fin Du Monde, and a few other beers I genuinely love yet rarely revisit. Then there's this one, which sounds like the most interesting of the lot on paper... English Strong Ale aged in oak barrels for over a year? Well sign me up! Alas, this runs into that Belgian pale ale character that I always find distressing and the oak aging doesn't feel harmonious at all. Something odd going on here. Pours a murky amber color with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smell has a lot of fruity character to it, some toffee and maybe some butterscotch, possibly diacetyl. Taste has more of that dark fruit, raisins, toffee, butterscotch, and a hint of tart astringency. Not, like, infected, but I think it's the result of that barrel aging. Mouthfeel is well carbonated but medium to full bodied. Overall, this seems well crafted, but it's just not really my thing. C

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Ridgeway Lump of Coal - A gift from a coworker, I knew I was in for trouble because I've never had a Ridgeway that I've ever liked, despite the fact that they put out, like, ten Christmas beers. Pours a clear dark brown color with amber highlights and a finger of off white head. Does not smell like a stout at all, getting that toffee and butterscotch and diacetyl here. Taste is along the same lines, diacetyl and maybe even some skunking, this is terrible! Notes of death and decay. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, appropriate for the style I guess, but the problem lies not here. Overall, this is terrible! It doesn't even warrant taking the time to upload the image I took. I don't hand these out often, but this one earned it: F

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass.

A decidedly mixed bag this year. I shall have to endeavor to do better next year. In the meantime, New Years Eve drinking was more palatable, so I'll cover that one tomorrow.

Tired Hands Conspectus

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Now that the Fermentaria is open, it's getting difficult to keep up with the sheer variety of awesome emanating from the fine brewers at Tired Hands. I still hit up one location or another pretty often, but the small batch style simply yields a lot of new brews. Also, I'm getting more and more lazy about writing down any sort of notes on the beer I'm having, which means it's getting difficult to even remember what I've had. Still, I manage to squirrel away some notes every now and again, so I might as well append them to the more detailed tasting notes on two highly prized bottles.

First up is Parageusia5, a Cabernet Franc barrel-fermented Ale, aged for approximately 12 months. This is a prized line of sours, and this one takes a distinctly more Flandersy take than previous Parageusias, and while it doesn't quite live up to the hallowed realms of the first few iterations, it's pretty darned fantastic. This quote accompanies the beer:

"Trigeminal prisim on a sunny hillside. Will you engage indefinitely?" - Christian Zellersfield

I can kinda, sorta parse that, and my answer is yes. I will engage indefinitely. Or I would, but I only had this one bottle:

Tired Hands Para5

Tired Hands Parageusia5 - Pours a very dark, clear amber color, very pretty when held up to light, with a finger of off white head that sticks around for a bit. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, oak, and acetic sourness, kinda Flandersy. Taste starts rich and sweet, cherries and oak followed by a bit of acetic sourness, vinegar, vinous fruit, finishing on that sour note. Mouthfeel is full and rich up front, but less so towards the finish, moderate sourness and acidity, reasonably well carbonated. Overall, doesn't quite compare to the initial Parageusia offerings, but is pretty impressive in its own right. Also: match with dark chocolate. Delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: Squiggle, Squiggle ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap, no ABV listed, just various squiggles and tentacled creatures on the label). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/6/15.

Next we have one of them swanky beer and music collaborations, in this case it's jazz musician Mike Lorenz, who released an album of Black Sabbath and Nirvana covers along with this beer (Jean provided the art for the album, git that vinyl while it's still around), Scentless And Senseless. Lorenz is a fixture at Tired Hands, playing a show once a week and sometimes humoring the beer nerd masses during bottle releases. This beer is an oak fermented Saison dry hopped with Equinox and Mosaic, right up my alley:

Tired Hands Scentless and Senseless

Tired Hands Scentless And Senseless - Pours a very pale, cloudy straw yellow color with a finger of white head. Smell definitely has that foudre thing going on, a little oak and vanilla, big citrus aromas too, partly from the funk, partly from hops. Taste hits again with that foudre character pretty hard, dry oak, vanilla, some citrusy fruit in the middle, just a bit of tartness, followed by some earthy funk in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light body, hints of sourness, some very dry character happening, right up front too. Overall, a step up from the previously released foudre bottle (Astral Plane), and pretty delicious in its own right. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/12/15.

Dudholio - 4.5% ABV maize saison with motueka and Brett - Great little saison, light Brett feel, moderate fruity hops, and well carbed, really enjoying this! A-

Milkshake IPA - 7.4% ABV blackberry and blueberry IPA brewed with lactose sugar and Mosaic and Citra hops - So a while back one of the "Bros." from BeerAdvocate published a review of a cloudy pour of HopHands and called it a mess (the Bros. have a bug up their arse about beer clarity, I guess), saying literally "Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with modern styles... No excuses." In response, Jean and crew have put together a series of "Milkshake" IPAs (that actually use lactose and are also generally cloudy beers); as usual, it's a fun way to respond to criticism. Anywho, this was a great Tired Hands style IPA, juicy fruit, fuller bodied than normal but velvety smooth, great! A

Hissing at Snakes - 7.5% ABV Rye IPA - Simcoe, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin, typically great TH IPA with a spicy rye kick, really nice! A-

Neutral Impulse From The Visual Cortex - 6.2% ABV IPA - Nice citrus hops and a surprising honey note, almost creamy mouthfeel... B+

Expansive Vestibule - 6.1% ABV sturdy Porter - Nice nose, dark chocolate and vanilla, with a more roasty taste and a relatively light body... B+

Einsteinium - 5% ABV hoppy sour - Not a huge fan of hoppy sours in general, though this is working just fine... B

Rutilant - 5.9% ABV Nelson Sauvin & Simcoe IPA - Beautiful little IPA, typical Tired Hands stuff but with significantly more carbonation, really nice... (IIRC this is one of the first beers I had at the Fermentaria, which seems to have a different carbonation profile) A-

Temporary Shape of My Own Person - 5.2% ABV Grissette - Like a slightly tart version of a typical th saison, crisp and light, refreshing summer drinking... B+

Vaporizer - 6.8% ABV IPA - Ah, now this is a typical TH IPA , bright, juicy citrus hops, something a little more on the green, grassy, floral hop side as well. Nice! B+ or A-

I'm Sad - 8.5% ABV imperial honey coffee Porter - Interesting interplay between the honey and coffee, both are there, but the combo sorta works for me, despite not particularly liking either honey or coffee! B

Can't Keep Up 23 - 5% ABV blended sour saison - Whoa cucumbers, blend of HandFarm, Parageusia, and Saisonhands conditioned on lemon, cucumber and agave nectar, tasty! Have liked other Can't Keep Up beers better, but this is nice. B+

Slowly Rotating Mass With Bright Lights - 5.2% ABV crushable pineapple IPA - Solid IPA, delicious and juicy, very light and quaffable, A-

Rigel - 6.8% Rye India Black Ale - This is all I wrote about this beer, and yeah, I don't really remember anything about it, though I'm guessing that means it didn't melt my face (nor did it make me do a spit take in disgust).

Fripp - 4.5% ABV American Bitter - Very nice bitter base with sweeter, more citrusy hop character, quaffable in the extreme! B+

Honey, I Love You - 5.8% ABV Honey Saison - Beautiful little saison here, nice citrus and spice character, a little oak and tartness in the finish... Foudre beer starting to come into its own. Delicious! A-

Avoiding Purgatory #1 - 6.6% ABV India Black Ale - Hrm, surprisingly muted hops and roasted malt here, one of those IBAs that makes me wish I was drinking an IPA or Stout instead of this quasi hybrid. Lack of roast probably has to do with the use of debittered black malt, but the hops (lemon drop and centennial) aren't doing the trick... Not really bad, to be sure, but TH has done much better in this realm! B

Yup - 5.1% ABV hoppy blonde ale - Amazing citrus nose, lemons and tropical fruit, tasty stuff! B+

Nope - 4.2% ABV dry stout - Polar opposite of Yup, dark, roasty, earthy goodness. B+

Rob "Strawberry" Berliner - 6% ABV strawberry Berliner Weisse - Very nice, lots of ripe, tart strawberry goodness, very well balanced, delicious. A-

Wound - 7.3% oat IPA - Awesome, back to basics Tired Hands style IPA, citrusy and floral, delicious! A-

Calm - 4.2% crushable IPA - Nice light pale ale, quaffable and refreshing. B+

Tuff Leather - 1.5% table saison - Whoa, beer nerd lite beer, nice carbonation profile, grassy, bready, a little watery, but not in a bad way for what this is... Very impressive for such a low ABV beer. B+

It's Okay - 7.6% ABV IPA - Nice IPA, sweeter than normal, lots of citrus, hints of dank pine, more body than normal, but really good stuff here... B+

Yellow & Green - 5.6% ABV dry hopped Pilsner - Dry hopped with Ella and Helga, 2 hops I've never heard of before! Earthy, grassy, floral, with enough citrus to take it away from traditional pils profile, nice! B+

Perfectly Preserved Brain - 8.2% ABV English Smoked Barleywine - Moar earthy than expected, sweet, slightly burnt bread, interesting, but not amazing.. B

Lambos & Mansions - 4.8% ABV crushable Galaxy IPA - Nice citrus hop character, dry, quaffable stuff, very nice! B+

Fuzzy Yellow - 6.3% ABV local peach IPA - Typically solid th IPA, citrusy, balanced, tasty! B+

Petalite Songbird - 5.2% ABV gooseberry saison - Whoa, was not expecting the tart, fruity funk on this, really nice, looks like Emptiness culture stuff, which explains it. Great stuff... A-

Minnow - 8% ABV DIPA - Nelson Sauvin & Citra Very nice, sweet, delicious, juicy, almost vinous stuff. A-

Kuro - 5.5% lime leaf schwarzbier - Muted black malt, burnt sugar, something bright, very nice! B+

Pathway of Beauty - 6.8% ABV Citra IPA - Holy hell, this is amazing, juicy hops, compulsively quaffable, delicious IPA, a kinda successor to Psychic Facelift (one of my favorite TH IPAs of all time)... A

Tired Hands Freedom from the Known
Freedom from the Known

Freedom from The Known - 7.2% ABV Cherry saison - Whoa, this is the most cherry I've ever gotten out of a beer, ever. Sometimes cherry flavors in beer are overwhelmed by other elements, but not at all here. Cherries are the star. Kind of like a cherry version of Peche 'n Brett. Amazing, tart, delicious, a little oak mellows things out, dryish, great stuff. A

Mosaic MagoTago - 7% Mango IPA - An interesting twist on the standard Simcoe Mago, beautiful juicy citrus IPA. Hard to believe this was on at the same time as regular Mago, Pathway of Beauty and Freedom from the Known. An embarrassment of riches at the Fermentaria! A

FunnieDuddie - 6.5% ABV Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe IPA - Typically good th IPA, but damn, this suffers from the comparison to the rest of the tap list right now. B+?

Yellow Fog - 3.7% cucumber Berliner wieise - Really nice, cucumber comes through well, still a nice tart beer, tasty! B

Lychee Milkshake IPA - 7.2% IPA made with lactose sugar, lychee purée, vanilla, and citra/Mosaic hops - Sweet and juicy, lots of citrus, almost rich, full bodied mouthfeel... Great! A-

Phew, that covers about 6-8 months of visits to Tired Hands, and honestly, I probably missed a few things. Indeed! I forgot to mention that the latest couple batches of SaisonHands, Tired Hands' flagship saison (and one of two beers that is almost always available) that used to be a rock solid standard-approach saison, but now spends time in the foudre and wow! You can really tell, this beer has changed a ton since the Fermentaria opened, and it's pretty amazing that it's this regularly available. This is the sort of thing that keeps me coming back (also the potential for that one night they had MagoTago, Pathway to Beauty, and Freedom from the Known on tap, seriously astounding).

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