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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).

A Beertastic Saturday

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So this past weekend was a most unexpected experience. On Friday, I learn that a brother of a friend of mine was having a bachelor party in Philly on Saturday. I had nothing better to do, so I hopped on a train and met up with everyone in the city. It turns out that a bunch of us were big beer nerds, so it wound up being a pretty exciting day for beer (amongst other things).

Things started off unimpressive on the beer front though. We had club box seats for the Flyers game on Saturday afternoon, which means free beer... but the choices were severely limited. I settled on Bud and Bud Light, and drank quite a few. I must have built up a bit of a tolerance with all my recent big beer drinking though, as I was barely buzzed by the end of the game (a disappointing third period loss, though some of my friends were Sabers fans, so they were at least happy). After the game, we hopped on the train again and ended up at the Yards Brewery:

Yards Brewery

We didn't get to take a tour, but we hung out at the restaurant/tasting room for a while. I had a few interesting beers:

  • General Washington's Tavern Porter (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - Exactly what I was hoping to find! I commented in my earlier review of the base Washington's Tavern Porter that the bourbon barrel aging could help impart some additional complexity and flavor notes to an already solid beer. I'm certainly not an expert when it comes to picking out barrel aging flavors, and I didn't drink both versions of the beer (even though both were available - perhaps a future Double Feature is in order), but I really enjoyed it.

    Yards Washington Tavern Porter (bourbon barrel aged)


    Perhaps it was just that I had spent the majority of the afternoon drinking Bud Light, but I did enjoy this quite a bit. The last time I had this, I felt like the mouthfeel was a bit too light. The bourbon barrel aged version seems to be fuller bodied than the standard version, and there's a bit of a bite to the beer which I can only assume is coming from the bourbon. Otherwise, the standard roasty chocolate flavors that characterize the style dominate the beer (as they should). The barrel aging effect is subtle, but there seemed to be enough additional complexity to make it worthwhile. I'll reserve judgement in lieu of a true double feature, but hey, if you see the Bourbon Barrel Aged version of this beer, get some! Porter style beers are still not my favorite, but I'm definitely acquiring a taste for them and I might be convinced to up my rating of the standard version of this beer to an A-, though again, I'd like to taste both together to get a better feel for the differences. (Beer Nerd Details: 7.0% ABV on tap, drank from a small goblet)

  • Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale - Alas, no bourbon barrel aged versions of this around (perhaps they'll have some later in the year). The last time I had this, I felt that the alcohol dominated the taste, leading to an oily mouthfeel that I thought wasn't especially well balanced with the rest of the beer. Well, maybe I got a bad bottle, as the goblet I got straight from the brewery was much better. The sticky alcohol flavors and oily mouthfeel were nowhere to be found. The alcohol was certainly present in the taste, but it's much better balanced with the malt backbone, and the carbonation lead to a better mouthfeel. Overall, I was quite pleased. I'd probably revise this up to a B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8.0% ABV on tap, 12 oz in a small goblet)
  • Extra Special Ale (on Cask) - I'd never had a beer on cask before, and boy was this a revelation. I've had the ESA before and while I enjoyed it, I also didn't think it was anything special (with the caveat that I was drinking it in less than ideal conditions). But the version on cask was quite different.

    Yards ESA from a cask

    It poured a dark amberish color with a thick, creamy head (almost like you'd get out of a nitro tap). The taste has a nice malt backbone with some bitterness in the finish, but the real difference here was the mouthfeel and carbonation. There is some light carbonation, but it's not nearly as strong or assertive as it was from the bottle. Sometimes beers with low carbonation seem, well, flat, but not in this case. It was perfectly balanced and a joy to drink. I can see why our British friends are obsessed with "Real Ale" (which is what they call ale served from a cask), as this would make an excellent session beer (though it's perhaps a bit too strong for that sort of thing). I'm going to have to find me some more places around here that serve cask beer. Provisional B+, maybe even an A- (though that's probably the novelty of the cask talking). (Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on tap, drank from a pint glass)

We had reservations at Fogo De Chao for dinner, so alas, we had to leave the brewery. The restaurant is a Brazilian steakhouse, one of them all-you-can-eat affairs where you have a little card in front of you that you can turn "green" to let the servers know you want more food. Leave it on for a while and you've got a plate full of roasted meat. It's amazing. Beer selection was a bit sparse, so I started with the only interesting beer on the menu:

Xingu Black Ale

Xingu Black Beer - Pours a dark, well, black color with minimal head. Aroma of sticky dark fruits, with a surprisingly sweet taste to match. I got a distinct flavor of raisins out of this, which was a rather interesting beer and went with the massive helpings of meat rather well. Despite the black color, there was little in the way of roastiness, which was surprising, but welcome. I wouldn't say that it was particularly special or earth-shattering, but it was pretty tasty for such a low ABV beer and definitely the most interesting thing on the menu. I would give it a solid B. (Beer Nerd Details: 4.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a small goblet.)

At this point, we had sorta switched to Wine and I was also downing water like crazy, but it was otherwise quite an enjoyable meal. Many perfectly prepared hunks of meat were had by all, full stomachs and meat sweats all around. Our hope at this point was to hop across the street and hit Lucky Strike Lanes, but we were informed that the wait was 3 hours, and thus began nomadic trek through the city, eventually ending up on Delaware ave at about midnight. Mass transit had stopped running at this point, but we were only about 15 blocks away from the hotel, so we decided that hey, if we're going to walk 15 blocks, we might as well stop and have drink at every opportunity. I had a few other drinks, including a Victory Golden Monkey (one of my favorites, so I'll save that for its own review at some point), but the real fun began when we arrived at Eulogy (previous trip to Eulogy here). Of course, we had to move further away from the hotel to get there, but the beer nerds in the crowd all wanted to check the place out. It was surprisingly not that crowded, and I ended up having two good beers before last call.

  • Eulogy's Busty Blonde - House Beers are an interesting breed. The first time I saw one (at this point I don't remember where), I assumed it was brewed in-house and ordered it eagerly, only to find that it was basically some boring Genesee monstrosity (or something, I don't remember what it was). I've since learned that nearly all house beers are like that - a macro beer that the restaurant just came up with a new name for in the hopes of suckering naive patrons like myself into buying it. But I always give it a try, and being the awesome Belgian Beer Bar that it is, it looks like Eulogy's house beer is actually brewed in Belgium by Brasserie La Binchoise (of course, I've never heard of them or any of their beers, but they still seem a lot more promising than a relabeled American macro). I didn't know it at the time, but I figured I'd give it a shot anyway, trusting that Eulogy wouldn't steer me wrong (apologies for the craptacular picture, but that's all I could get):


    Eulogy Busty Blonde

    And it turns out to be quite good. Beer Advocate is listing it as "retired", so maybe that's not the same as what I was drinking, but it seemed like an archetypal blonde ale. Cloudy light yellow/orange (er, blonde?) color, some citrus and spiciness in the nose, and a taste to match. It was quite refreshing at that point in the night, if perhaps a bit less complex than some of the bigger beers I'd already had. Definitely worth a shot, I give it a provisional B. (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV (on tap). Drank from a big goblet.)

  • Mikkeller Koppi Coffee IPA - I hadn't had anything that was particularly hoppy all day, so after consulting with the ever-helpful bartender, I settled on this beer, despite the fact that I generally dislike coffee (see here for some respectful coffee hate). They poured me a little taste of it, and it was decent, so I got me a full snifter of the stuff and was glad I did. (Again, sorry bout the picture quality, it was dark and, uh, I was drinking.)

    Mikkeller Koppi Coffee IPA

    It was also a pretty good beer. It's not my favorite IPA style beer, but it was quite good (especially for a non-double IPA). Strong citrusy hop aromas, a nice sweet, malty start with bitterness in the finish, and just the right twang of coffee in the finish and aftertaste. I wonder if I'd even have picked up that it was coffee if the bartender didn't tell me (or if the name of the beer didn't say it), as it's really quite subtle. Given that I don't really care for coffee in my beer, that subtlety is actually quite nice. It adds complexity and flavor without overpowering or dominating the taste. A provisional B+! (Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV (on tap). Drank from a snifter.)

That was pretty much the end of beer-related happenings of the night, which, of course, featured lots of other happenings that are perhaps best left undocumented (nothing inappropriate, I swears). There were still a few hours left in the night, including a trip to some strange pizza place where I burnt the shit out of my mouth (good thing I was done drinking at that point). I haven't quite partaken in this sort of all day affair in a long time, but it was a welcome surprise and a great time.

Triple Play

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The Phillies are in the playoffs, which basically means lots of beer drinking (hopefully continuing throughout October). Tonight, a solid win to take the series to 1-1 and three craft beers:

Yards Extra Special Ale (ESA) - Drank straight from the bottle, so I don't know the color, but it seems like a dark beer. Not quite a Porter or a Bock, but along those lines. BA has it as an "Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)" and that seems appropriate. It's got a lightly bitter, chocolatey finish that actually works reasonably well. This isn't exactly my preferred style of beer, but it was very drinkable and I'll probably have another one later this week (game 4?) B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank straight from the bottle (like a man!)

After this, I cleansed my palate with a helping of Doritos and grabbed another brew:

Dundee Oktoberfest - Holy crap, it's a stealth macro! If you count Genessee as a macro, I guess. I don't especially care about that sort of thing, but I was a bit surprised. Anyway, I saw this one and thought I should give it a shot given my recent Shoktoberfest Adventures. It smells of an Oktoberfest, but the taste is a little different. Not bad - a little spicier than your typical Oktoberfest, but otherwise pretty similar. Probably somewhere near the bottom of recent tastings, but still a lot better than typical macro beers. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank straight from the bottle (like a man!)

Some more Doritoes and pretzels, and now the coup de grâce:

Fire Island Lighthouse Ale - Wow, is this bad. Maybe I just got a stale bottle, but it was very bland and not at all interesting. About the only thing it had going for it was a medium drinkability and good carbonation. Taste was stale and bland. I'm surprised I managed to finish it. D

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank straight from the bottle (like a man!)

Go Phillies.

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

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB) category.

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