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Febrewary Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. An interesting turnout this month, as a few stalwarts were absent, but new attendees picked up the slack. This time around, we visited a Mexican BYOB with quite the ostentatious decor:

February Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

Phew, that place has some brightly colored furniture. But amazing salsa and good food too. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so you can and should be skeptical of my notes. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale - Wow, very rich malt flavors here, like a Scotch ale, but with something more. I got a distinct barrel aged character out of it, though this not one of those versions (apparently there are bourbon, port or brandy barrel aged versions, which I'd love to try). Fantastic beer, got the night going in style, though it may have set the bar unreasonably high for the following beers. I'd love to get me some more of this. A candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Appalachian Jolly Scot Scottish Ale - A somewhat local PA beer, this is another malt-forward ale that, unfortunately, didn't stand up too well to the Hairy Eyeball. It was fine, to be sure, and I'd probably really enjoy one of these by itself, but it came off as being a biton the thin side after the rich flavors of the Hairy Eyeball. B
  • Blue Moon Belgian White - I know, it's brewed by Coors, but hey, it actually worked really well at this point in the night. After two malt forward beers, it was a really refreshing change of pace, and I honestly have no problem with this beer anyway. Obviously not something I would ever go out of my way for, but a lot of places that only stock macros will have this on tap, and it's actually a nice beer. No, it won't melt your face, but it's a good gateway beer. Lots of wheat and citrus, it's refreshing and made for a nice palate cleanser tonight. B
  • Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale - Big brown ale brewed with Maple Syrup, you do get that character coming through pretty strongly here. A big, rich ale, no real hop presence, but lots of malts and that maple syrup adds a nice richness to the proceedings. Very well done, and another candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA - Well hopped (citrus and a little pine), plenty of balancing malts, and some of that distinctive rye character (though I never got the full-on rye bread character people seem to talk about). It didn't blow my mind, but a very solid beer that I could probably drink often. B+
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8 - Not pictured (late arrival), but it's a classic. Already reviewed here.
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) - Another beer I reviewed a while back, this is one of the more interesting beers of the night. Massive aroma, intense flavors of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, maybe even some coffee. I could just sniff this stuff all night. Great stuff, maybe even a little better than I remember (though I think my chief complaint last time was that it's a bit too sweet to drink a whole bottle). A strange beer because I wouldn't call it one of my favorites, but it's so distinctive and interesting that I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone. A great dessert beer.
  • Dominion Ale - Any beer that follows the intense flavors and aroma of Creme Brulee was probably doomed to failure, and this turned out to be a rather standard English Pale Ale, a style I'm coming to dislike quite a bit these days. I always feel like there are buttery off flavors in these beers, and this one is no exception. I even threw in a small slice of orange, which helped mellow it out a bit, but blegh. Not a fan of this beer. D
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale - My homebrewed winter warmer style beer (a kinda spiced red ale), this thing has to be my best beer yet. Very nice spicy aroma, picking up lots of that cinnamon and clove, tastes quite nice, almost creamy mouthfeel. I really hope this wasn't some sort of fluke. I should really do a recap of all my homebrews at some point on the blog, so no rating for now, but I would seriously put this up against any of the winter warmer style beers I've had over the past couple years.
  • Boxcar Brewing A Long Winter's Night - This is probably as local as I can get. The (tiny) brewery was literally a few blocks away from where we were tonight (and this limited edition brew doesn't even warrant a page on BA, apparently). This winter ale was very interesting. I didn't get a lot of spice or anything out of it, but it was a very nice cloudy brown color with... it's hard to describe. Roasted chocolate? But not at all like a stout. More like a brown ale, but with no coffee and some chocolatey overtones (to be honest, it's very much like their regular brown ale, but perhaps less nutty). Very solid beer. B
All in all, a pretty great night! We didn't manage to get to all the beers in the picture, though I ended up taking a can of pale ale home with me, so perhaps a review of that in the coming weeks... That's all for now.

The Whip

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Back in March, we had a beer club outing at The Whip Tavern, an English style pub. At the time, it was a bit cold and pouring rain, so we resolved to come back later in the year and sit outside. Well, a few weeks ago, we did just that. England doesn't really have a reputation for great cuisine, but both meals I've had here have been really great. The first was Bangers and Mash, and it was perfect. This time around I had some delicious duck contraption. For whatever reason, it seemed like the taplist was a bit more limited this time around, but I still managed to get my hands on a few seasonals and interesting beers nonetheless. I'm going from my sparse Untappd notes and memory here, so take the following with a grain of salt (also no pictures - sorry):

  • Dock Street The Great Pumpkin - Another pumpkin ale, this one somewhat more subdued in the alcohol and spice departments, which isn't really a bad thing, but which also doesn't really set this apart from any other pumpkin ale. Pretty standard stuff, though certainly something I could drink a few of... B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Weyerbacher Harvest Ale - It's the time of year when hops are harvested and breweries grab a portion of fresh "wet hops" (normally hops are dried in order to preserve them) to make various hoppy styles (a practice that deserves a closer look on the blog at some point). This beer gave off a really fantastic hoppy aroma. It's a little on the earthy/grassy side, with just a little citrus peeking through. The taste was nice and bitter, with an almost spicy hop character to it. Perhaps this is just me buying into the hype, but it tasted fresh. It's not a face melter or a revelation or anything, but a well executed IPA. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Leavenworth Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen - Not terribly familiar with the style, but it was kinda like a stout mixed with delicate wheat flavors. I have to say, I didn't really care for it. No off flavors or anything, it just wasn't working for me. Perhaps the roasty flavors were the cause of my issue, but whatever. I didn't have a problem drinking or finishing it, and it was certainly more interesting than a macro, but still not particularly inspiring. C (Beer Nerd Details: 4.7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Theakston Old Peculier - I've always heard good things about this beer, but I must have gotten a bad bottle because I didn't care much for it and the flavors I got out of it don't seem to match up with much of the BA nerds' thoughts... I got a distinct apple aroma out of this, which is typically a sign of problems. I also got some raisins in both the aroma and taste. It wasn't undrinkable, but it wasn't particularly good either. D (though I may revisit it at some point). (Beer Nerd Details: 5.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.)
  • Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer - I had this the last time I went to the Whip as well, perhaps because it goes really well with one of the desserts. This time around, I got a better feel for the oak and caramel/toffee flavors in the beer and was quite pleased that I got another. So I will up this to a B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Spaten Oktoberfestbier - I was going for a German Octoberfest beer; what I got was a skunked bottle of dishwater. Yes, it was in a green bottle, and it was bad. I couldn't get much out of this beer at all, and didn't finish it. This does kinda bring up the question of how to rate beers that are clearly defective, but in this case, it's all due to the green bottle choice, so I have no problem giving it an F. (Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a pint glass.)
Well, there you have it. Even considering that the drafts were mostly half-pints, I probably drank too much, but it was still a fun night out (we even stayed long enough to play a couple rounds of quizzo). I'm sure I'll be returning to this place at some point soon.

Fiddler's Elbow

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I'm so used to Americanized versions of English styles that I thought it might be interesting to wade into some actual British versions. In this case, we have a simple, hoppy pale ale, though oddly, it's a beer that brewer Wychwood doesn't even list on their website. In searching around, there are apparently a few different versions of this beer, some of which even incorporate wheat in the recipe. My "imported ale" version doesn't say anything about wheat on it and seems to have a higher ABV than the British version, though who really knows. Information about this specific beer is a bit sparse, though I love the evocative name of the beer (my nerdy assumption being that it was the old-timey equivalent of medical condition now known as Wii-elbow - ok, it's also apparently the name of a nearby town in England, but that's just boring). I should note that I also love the artwork on all of Wychwood's beers (and even the unique bottle itself features the witch logo ingrained in the glass). They're actually quite appropriate for this time of year:

Wychwood Fiddlers Elbow

Wychwood Fiddler's Elbow - Pours a hazy golden orange color with less than a finger of big-bubbled head. Aroma is very distinct from typical American pale ales. Smells hoppy, but with lots of malt and yeast character as well. Even some caramel and toffee notes in the nose. The taste is more malt focused, again with the buttery toffee (perhaps even too much of that, and it's got an almost burnt or toasted character to it as well - perhaps it's butterscotch, typically a sign of a problem), though there is a small hop bite towards the finish and in the not-to-pleasant aftertaste. The hop presence here isn't anywhere near as pronounced as American varieties. It's got a medium body, and that overpowering toffee/butterscotch flavor makes it less quaffable than I'd really want for a beer like this. It's an interesting change of pace for me, but it's also not something I'd really go out of my way for either... I have to wonder if I perhaps got an old bottle, or one that had some other defect. It was certainly drinkable, but something seemed very off to me. D

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/4/11.

I've had a couple of Wychwood's other beers, so this was quite the disappointment. I will one day return to this brewery, but I don't see it happening anytime soon, as I have quite a backlog of bottles to get through and we're coming up on my favorite time for seasonal beers...

Beer Club: The Ales of March

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Yes, my beer pun abilities have declined considerably. I have no idea what I'm going to do for April. Anyway, this month's beer club convened at an English style pub called The Whip Tavern. We're enjoying a freakishly large rainstorm right now, but I suppose that's part of the British experience, right? The pub is kinda in the middle of nowhere, but a few of us were able to brave the storm and the flooded roads to attend, and we were rewarded with some wonderful beer.

  • 21st Amendment Fireside Chat: A winter seasonal at the end of its run, this one was a dark brownish color with a hint of red and about a finger of head. Aroma was sweet with a hint of caramel or maybe toffee. Taste was similar - very sweet (again with the caramel or toffee) and doughy with a twang of something spicy in the finish. A relatively strong beer, the alcohol was present, but subtle. A pretty full body and warming mouthfeel as well. I don't know what the Beer Advocate geeks are smoking though, as this is certainly not a C+. More like a B or even a B+. Perhaps the fact that I was having it on tap made a difference (apparently this is typically seen in cans). (Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% on tap. Drank out of a wine glass.)
  • Twin Lakes Tweeds Tavern Stout: The uber-local Twin Lakes brewery doesn't even bottle or can their beers - they're only available on tap. This one was an extremely basic stout. Dark brown in color, with hints of amber when held to the light. Roasted aromas in the nose, with a very basic stout-style taste. Roasted malts, slightly bitter finish. An enjoyable beer, but also probably an example of what I'm not a big fan of in a stout. Plenty of carbonation and a medium body, just not a whole lot to go around in terms of flavor. Again, not a bad beer, but certainly not a great one either. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)
  • Yards Extra Special Ale (on Cask): Again! Since this was an English style pub, I was really hoping for a cask conditioned beer... and it turns out that what they had was the same one I had last weekend. When we first got there, the waitress said they had Victory Yakima Glory on cask, which I immediately jumped on, but apparently it kicked right before we arrived. Dammit. I still ordered a half-pint of the ESA, and it was quite enjoyable (again!) though perhaps not quite as good as it was at the brewery. (Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on cask, drank from a half-pint glass)
  • Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer: This being an English pub with a wide variety of imported beers, I figured I should actually avail myself of such an opportunity. After consulting the menu (and beer advocate on my phone), I settled on this beer. On the bottle, it says it's aged for 77 days in oak barrels (which seems kinda short to me, but what do I know?)


    Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer

    I was a little worried about the fact that this came out in a clear colored bottle (most beer bottles are brown because they protect against light, which can damage beer and cause off flavors), but it was ultimately pretty enjoyable. It's a clear, golden colored beer with an ample white head. Aroma seemed kinda funky, maybe even a bit tart. Taste was sweet with an almost white wine tint to it (just a hint of tartness there), which seemed strange. Perhaps it did get hit by some light on its journey to America. Well regardless of whether or not it was intentional, it tasted interesting to me. Again, I'm not terribly well versed in oak aging of beers, but there was a good amount of complexity in the taste. Light to medium bodied, not a lot of carbonation, but just enough to make it go down easy. Again, a very interesting beer. It was actually quite expensive, so I'm not sure it was worth it, but at the same time, I'm glad I got to try it. B (Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (11.9 oz). Drank out of a half-pint glass.)

  • Tetley's English Ale: Not a cask ale, but it was so smooth and creamy that it kinda felt like one. Unfortunately, that's just about all it had going for it. It had a rather bland taste, kinda like a toned-down Yards ESA. On the one hand, it's not something I'm going to go out of my way for, but on the other hand, it's certainly not bad and I could probably drink these all day without getting too bloated or drunk. At 3.6% ABV, it's not exactly a monster, but I can see why the British are into their session beers (i.e. this is something you could drink all day and not get too sloshed on). The name Tetley reminds me of tea, and I almost even detected a flavor of tea in the beer, but I'm pretty sure they have nothing to do with each other (was I imagining things then?) I'll give it a C+, which is fine for what it is. (Beer Nerd Details: 3.6% ABV on tap. Drank out of a half-pint glass.)


I was very disappointed by the lack of Victory Yakima Glory on cask, and I also attempted to order a bottle of Brewdog Punk IPA, but alas, they were out of it. Nevertheless, great times were had by all, and I ordered me some Bangers and Mash which turned out to be quite fantastic. There was also quite the delicious toffee cake desert thing that went quite well with the Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer. I look forward to our triumphant return to the Whip (probably sometime this summer).

Decembeer Club

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Towards the beginning of every month, a bunch of friends from work and I meet up at a local BYOB and bring some new/interesting beers to try. This month's haul:

Decembeer

It was a mostly holiday ale theme. Conditions aren't exactly ideal for tasting, so take the following with a grain of salt, but here's what I thought of each:

  • Affligem Noël: My contribution and one of my favorites of the night. Much like their dubbel, but a little spicier. Great beer that I plan to revisit in more detail this holiday season (I have another bottle on my shelf).
  • Anchor Special Christmas Ale 2010 - My other contribution, I've already written about this, but it went over well with other folks too...
  • Delirium Noël: Raisiny and sweet, another popular beer and something I want to revisit in detail.
  • Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf: Super boozy red ale. Not terrible, but the high alcohol overpowers everything. I'm not sure I could drink a 12 oz bottle of this, but it's interesting nonetheless...
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - Not as dark as the Delirium, but it shares that certain raisin smell and flavor, a little syrupy sweet too. Not bad.
  • Ridgeway Reindeer Droppings - Doesn't sound appetizing, but a solid light flavored beer (technically an English Pale Ale). Not a favorite, but a decent session beer.
  • Ridgeway Warm Welcome: A reasonable brown ale, I think this one was overshadowed by some of the above beers.
  • Southern Tier Unearthly IPA - Solid DIPA, but not the top of the line (like Dogfish 90 Minute or Stone IPA)
  • Ridgeway Lump of Coal Stout: I suppose this is a reasonable stout, but there's nothing special about it and there's no holiday style to it either. Not offensively bad or anything, but not especially noteworthy either.
  • New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale - Nothing really holiday about this, but a solid session beer (I assume that this is someone's Yuengling Lager style beer).
  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde - A first time beer club attendee brought this. Hard to fault him for that, as I love this beer.

Well, that about covers it! Again, not an especially rigorous tasting session, with the palate cleansed by a burger and fries, but still, as always, a really good time. After beer club, a few of us hit up the local beer distributer. It being PA, we could only buy a full case of stuff, but someone became enamored with Anchor's Christmas ale and bought a case of that, and four of us went in on a St. Bernardus variety pack (each of us got 6 St Bernardus beers, which is pretty awesome). As usual, I'm already looking forward to next month.

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

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