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Belated BBQ Beer Club Recap

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Last week was Beer Club, and in a heinous act of negligence, I'm only getting to the recap now. I know, I'm the worst. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and fun (which part is not optional). This month we hit up a local BBQ joint, loaded up on smoked meats, and cracked open quite a few beers:

October Beer Club
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we had are below. The usual disclaimers apply, and you'll want to amplify your skepticism even further due to the fact that I'm writing this about 5 days later than normal. Great, so now that we've established that the proceeding descriptions are completely devoid of merit, we can begin. In order of drinking, not necessarily the order in the picture, and in fact, there are several beers not pictured (and we didn't get to some of the ones that were):

  • Neshaminy Creek County Line IPA - I know "East Coast IPA" isn't a real thing, but I think it kinda describes stuff like this. A local IPA with plenty of hop character that's balanced out by plenty of crystal malts (much more than you get in typical West Coast IPAs). Its enjoyable, but it won't blow minds. The very definition of a B, though sometimes I want to bump that up to a B+, which I guess means it's not the very definition of a B, but give me a break, I'm not under oath here.
  • Anchorage Whiteout Wit Bier - Belgian Wit beer aged in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces? Sign me up. Nice funk to it, with plenty of typical wheat beer character. Worth checking out. B+
  • Upstate I.P.W. - A friend brought a bunch of beers that he grabbed whilst in New York, and this India Pale Wheat ale was quite nice. One of those things I could see myself reaching for, were I a local. Great citrus/pine hop character, light wheat, crisp, and refreshing. B+
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pecan Brown - Wow, that pecan character really comes through on the nose and in the taste. A little lighter in color than your typical brown ale, but that pecan character really sets this apart, and I very much enjoyed it.
  • Sly Fox Incubus - A beer I've reviewed before (a looong time ago), but I'll just say that this bottle had a more distinct raisiny note than I remember. On the other hand, it is a bit high on the booze and stickiness factor, something I'm not huge on when it comes to Tripels. Still a solid B in my book.
  • The Beer Diviner Very! Brown Ale - Another New York beer, my friend apparently stumbled on it by asking his phone to point out breweries near his location. This one turned out to be a guy brewing out of his house on a farm or something like that. This particular beer was a pretty standard brown ale, nutty and toasty, if a bit stronger than normal. B
  • Cascade Apricot - One of my contributions, and a beer we've reviewed relatively recently, so I don't have much to add to that. A-
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack - A beer I've had many times at this point, and as Black IPAs (or whatever you want to call them) go, it's probably the best regularly available option out there. Big citrus and pine hop component along with the typical roast of a stout, without letting either character overwhelm (or making you wish you had a straight IPA or stout). B+
  • Founders Dark Penance - This is a relatively recent addition to Founders lineup, and like everything Founders makes, it's a solid take on the style. However, having it in close proximity to Wookey Jack made me feel like this was lacking. It was fine, to be sure, and it'd probably be worth trying in a less chaotic environment. B
  • Two Roads Conntucky Lightnin' Bourbon Ale - Well, I didn't get a ton of Bourbon out of this, and it seemed a bit thin for what it proclaims on the label. Not really bad, or anything, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Breckenridge Agave Wheat - Seemed pretty bland, though that sweet agave does come through in the taste. Probably should have opened this much earlier in the night, but here we are. C+
  • Pizza Boy Bean Dream - It's supposed to be a milk stout with vanilla beans, but I don't get a ton of vanilla. On the other hand, it is a pretty solid milk stout, smooth with a nice chocolatey roast character. I really need to get out to Pizza Boy one of these days... B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Bourbon Porter - This was a pretty solid take on the style, and the bourbon oak character comes through well enough, actually much better than that Conntucky Bourbon stuff from earlier. Go Ken!
  • Bonus Beer: Otter Creek Brewing / Lawson's Double Dose IPA - Whilst at beer club, someone found out that a local drinkery tapped some Lawson's Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead, so after beer club, a small cadre of attendees made a slight detour. Now, both of the beers we had were actually collaborations that are more widely available than the typical entries from those breweries (HF sometimes sends kegs down here, but Lawson's never does), but I'm not complaining, because these were both great beers. This DIPA is fabulous. Huge hop character, citrus and pine and something almost zesty. Not quite Double Sunshine great, but definitely something I want more of. B+
  • Bonus Beer: Grassroots Convivial Suaréz - A sorta funky saison made with hibiscus, I really enjoyed this, though I didn't take any real detailed notes. Nice funky character, and the hibiscus actually does come through. B+
And another successful beer club, fun and smoked meat had by all. Already looking forward to our next meeting...

Various and Sundry

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Astute readers will note that the grand majority of reviews here are for beers that I drink at home. This is not to say that I don't visit any local drinking establishments, just that I'm usually with other people and I don't want to be that dork who ignores his friends to write obsessive tasting notes. However, I do take my fair share of pictures and maybe check in to Untappd or somesuch. So I do have a fair amount of beer porn in my picture repository that doesn't really see the light of day. Until now! Enjoy these pictures and muddled recounting of various and sundry beers I've had recently, including a rather epic Birthday lineup. In fact, let's start there. It all started, naturally, at Tired Hands:

Tired Hands Cant Keep Up 8

Tired Hands is a small but very popular operation, so every once in a while, especially on weekends, they sell through more beer than is ready. At that point, Jean dips into the cellar and blends up a stopgap, often using some proportion of barrel aged awesome. The resulting beers are called Can't Keep Up, and this was the 8th installment in the series, made with beer from one of Christian Zellersfield's barrels (if he really exists). And my oh my, it was spectacular. Perhaps not quite Parageusia levels awesome, but for a beer that was whipped together under duress, it was rather spectacular. Speaking of spectacular, the other highlight of Tired Hands that day was a Citra IPA called Psychic Facelift. It turns out that I'd already visited Tired Hands earlier in the week and loved this, indeed, I even housed a growler of the stuff.

Tired Hands Psychic Facelift

It seems like Tired Hands always has great IPAs on tap, but this wan was exceptional even for them. Huge, juicy citrus character, absolutely quaffable stuff. Just superb. It's rare that I drink the same beer more than twice in short succession these days, and I think I had about 2 liters in the course of a couple days (I totally should have filled the larger growler, but hindsight is 20/20). Anywho, after some time there, we headed over to Teresa's Cafe (a few miles down the road) for some more substantial food and, of course, great beer. I had a Pliny the Elder, because how can you ignore that when it's on tap? Then my friends proved adventurous and generous, and we went in on a bottle of Cantillon Iris:

Cantillon Iris

It was fantastic, great balance between funk, sourness, and oak, really beautiful beer. And you can't beat the full pomp and circumstance, what with the proper glassware and pouring basket thingy... I had a few other beers, and they were all good, but I had a great birthday.

Some more random beer porn:

Double Sunshine

I guess I could have put up some Double Sunshine for trade, but I just couldn't handle having these in my fridge. I had to drink them.

Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA Citra

It's no Double Sunshine, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA (Citra). I usually don't enjoy IPAs when they get into the 10% ABV range, but this was extremely well balanced between sweet and bitter, and it had that great Citra hop character, tropical fruits, floral notes, and even a bit of herbal goodness. I've always enjoyed Citra-based beers, but I think I'm starting to really crave the stuff, which is going to be dangerous.

Bulldog Top Banana

This was from a long time ago, but it was another surprise, ordered totally at random one night. It's Bullfrog Top Banana, and it was a really solid saison made with bananas. I know that sounds a bit gimmicky and it's not one of those crazy funkified saisons either, but the banana fit seamlessly into their standard saison yeast profile, and it was an absolutely refreshing and tasty brew. Worth checking out if you see it. I should checkout this PA brewery sometime, perhaps go to a bottle release or something. Time will tell.

And that just about covers it. I hope you've enjoyed this rather lame stroll down beer lane. Until next time!

Lemon Cello IPA

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Limoncello is a spirit of Italian origin that is made by steeping lemon peel in a neutral spirit long enough to extract the oils out of the lemon peel. The result is then mixed with some simple syrup and served as an after-dinner digestif. Clocking in at around 30% ABV, it's a sipping drink, but the bright lemony tartness gives it a more refreshing kick than your typical spirit. It's not my favorite thing, but it's definitely something worth trying after a hearty Italian meal.

The idea for this beer was to create a much more drinkable version of a Limoncello. It's kinda like a beer/Limoncello hybrid, with the tart and refreshing nature of the spirit mixed with the quaffability of beer. This is accomplished by doing a quick sour mash, adding lemon peel and juice to the mixture, and then adding lactose to sweeten things up*. Finally, they add a bunch of Sorachi Ace and Citra hops to the mixture, each of which contributes additional citrus notes. Despite the hop additions, I feel like calling this an IPA is a bit misleading. It's got some nice aromas and the balancing bitterness is there, but the beer is otherwise dominated by its tart, lemony character. This was the intention, of course, so I'm not saying its a failure or anything, but it feels more like a wild ale than an IPA.

This beer was a collaboration made at Siren brewing in the UK. I've never had any of Siren's beers before (they're a relatively new operation), but their collaborators are some of my favorites. Hill Farmstead is in the running for best brewery in the world, while Mikkeller certainly makes some of the best beer in the world, though occasionally he engages in flights of fancy and experimentation that don't always pan out. This beer seems like one of those flights of fancy, so how did they do? I don't really know.

Lemon Cello IPA

Siren / Mikkeller / Hill Farmstead Lemon Cello IPA - Pours a deep golden color with a finger of fluffy white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of big citrus hops, with an herbal component, and what is presumably that lemon peel peeking through, melding with the citrusy hops and providing its own interesting character. Taste is, whoa, tart and lemony, almost like, well, lemoncello. Nothing in the nose betrayed this sort of flavor, but it's fine for what it is. It's very sweet, and the hops are there along with some bitterness on the backend. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, well carbonated, a little acidic, medium bodied. Ah, yes, this is made with lactose, and that does come through in both the sweetness of the beer, and the mouthfeel. I don't normally go in for the hoppy sour beers, but this one is working well enough. Overall, it's a very interesting beer, if not something I'd really go out of my way for again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.1% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 9/26/14.

Vermont beer treasures are rapidly depleting at this point, though there's at least one remaining Hill Farmstead beer coming up, so stay tuned.

* Most of the time lactose is reserved for Milk Stouts (the sweetness balancing out some of the bitter roasty character), but this marks the second time in just a few weeks that I've had a pale beer with lactose. Go figure.

Carton 077XX

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Pennsylvanians like myself tend to give New Jersey a hard time in all things, and beer is no exception. Of course, this sort of attitude is kinda like high-school-style posturing and is probably not all that true. Still, while they've got some mainstay breweries like Flying Fish or longtime specialty breweries like Ramstein, it used to be an otherwise unexciting beer destination. But lately, there have been a few newer breweries making waves, like Kane and Carton.

I still have not sampled any of Kane's brews, but Carton has been showing up with regularity in the Philly area (on tap, at least), and they've been a welcome addition. In particular, I've enjoyed their Boat beer, one of them so called "session IPAs" (aka American Pale Ales or as Beerbecue suggests, Half IPA or HIPA). Based on reports from my beer mule, the brewery is a rather small operation, and they don't really distribute their cans much. Fortunately, beer mules gonna mule, so I got some Boat beer and this lovely Double IPA called 077XX. I initially thought the name was some sort of weird code number applied to experimental hops, but it's actually a reference to the local Monmouth County zip codes, most of which start with 077. And hot damn, this is one fantastic little number:

Carton 077XX

Carton 077XX - Pours a very pretty, almost clear yellow color with a couple fingers of fluffy head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. The nose is beautiful, juicy citrus hop aromas abound, tropical fruits, some pine and floral notes as well. Taste is very sweet, with that juicy hop character pervading the taste and the pine and floral notes hanging around as well. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, much lighter than expected, crisp and refreshing up front, a bit sticky towards the finish, and considering the non-trivial 7.8% ABV, dangerously drinkable. Overall, this is absolutely fantastic, and I will most certainly be seeking this out again. A

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV canned (16 ounce). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 9/19/14.

I'll have to get around to reviewing some of Carton's other stuff. I've had many a Boat beer, but never reviewed. I've also had Epitome, a decent and powerful black IPA that I'd like to try again at some point. And I've had a few others that don't seem as common (I had a sip of a friends coffee IPA the other day, not really my thing, but well made). And, of course, I really need to get out to Kane sometime. And I'll have to stop giving New Jersey a hard time about their beer. With beers like this, that'll be easy.

Foley Brothers Native IPA

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This will be the fourth, and sadly, final round of Vermont Beer Roulette that we'll be playing this year. For those not following along, this is when I pick up a random Vermont beer that I've never heard of and drink it to see what happens. So far, we've had decent luck, but I have to admit to cheating a bit with this one, since Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale was a beer I snagged last year, so this is not as "random" as the other roulette contestants. It's ok, go ahead and clutch your pearls in horror at my transgression, I deserve it.

Foley Brothers Native IPA

Foley Brothers Native IPA - Pours a clear golden color with a finger of fluffy white head. The smell is full of citrus and pine hops, maybe some floral notes poking around as well. The taste follows those lines, with lots of citrus and pine hop flavors, some floral, maybe even herbal notes picking up towards the bracing, bitter finish. Mouthfeel is very light, maybe even a bit on the thin side, but it's very crisp and clean and goes down quickly. Overall, a solid IPA, nothing earth-shattering, but worthy of a try. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/14.

My Vermont haul goodies are dwindling at this point, so you can expect the near relentless onslaught of hoppy beer reviews to slow a bit in the near future. It's one of the tragedies of beer acquisition that it seems like I always end up with, like, 10 amazing beers in the same or similar styles. I really do try to keep things varied in terms of what I review, but sometimes I end up reviewing 10 IPAs in just a few weeks. We will hopefully get away from that in the coming weeks...

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

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When my beer mule texted me from Three Floydia (that's where the brewery is, right?) and asked me if I wanted a bottle of Apocalypse Cow, I had several thoughts. First, I responded asking her to purchase as much as she could fit in her car, and that I'd reimburse her with Vermont beer (as you can tell from recent posting, she fully complied and is, in fact, the bestest evar). Second, I kinda assumed this would be a milk stout (what with that "Cow" in the name), something akin to Moloko. Then I looked it up and hmm, an 11% ABV IPA? Well ok. It turns out that I wasn't that far off the mark, as this is an IPA brewed with a lactose addition. An unusual choice, considering that most 11% ABV beers don't particularly need any additional unfermentable sugars in the mix, but on the other hand, the added sweetness and velvety mouthfeel allow for moar hops. This is actually the first time I'd even heard of lactose in anything other than a stout, so I guess we're in for an interesting experiment.

It works better than you might think. Now, why there's a very angry, cyclopic cow on the label is a bit of a mystery, but then, Three Floyds isn't exactly known for sensible label artwork. At least in this case, the artwork is very well done. Alrighty then, I think that's enough babbling. You can either surf, or you can fight! Or, um, drink. Colonel Kilgore seems like a guy who'd enjoy beer.

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow - Pours a deep, dark orange color with a finger of off white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Smells enormously dank, piney and resinous, with some citrus and almost spicy hop notes playing along as well. The taste is very sweet, with that dank pine and resin kicking in quickly, leaving the juicy citrus notes and spicey hops towards the finish, which has just enough bitterness to balance out the sweetness. Mouthfeel is almost full bodied, but smooth and creamy (that lactose in action), with enough carbonation to cut through it all, though it does feel a bit sticky in the finish. While it certainly feels like a strong beer, the alcohol is reasonably well hidden... The full 22 ounces is a bit much, so perhaps it's a good one to share. Overall, this is a very interesting beer, and I haven't really had anything quite like it. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 9/6/14.

My Three Floyds supply is slowly but surely dwindling. But don't worry your pretty ears (ears? What's wrong with me?), there's plenty more to come.

Bent Hill India Pale Ale

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This is the third round of Vermont Roulette, wherein I drink a random Vermont beer I've never heard of, and see what happens. So far we've had one big success and one... not quite as good.

Bent Hill is a brand new brewery, having opened their doors in June, so information is a bit sparse. The founders were environmental engineers or somesuch, and thus have all sorts of grand plans, including an initiative to grow most of their hops locally and, as I generally presume of so-called "green" brewers, the creation of a weather control doomsday device. One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them. And I, for one, welcome our brewing overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted blogging personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their hop fields.

In the meantime, let's see how this rather unconventional take (at least, for an American brewer) on an IPA goes:

Bent Hill IPA

Bent Hill India Pale Ale - Pours a cloudy, dark orange color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells distinctly English, earthy, spicy, floral hops, with some berries and pine in the background, with a substantial malty aroma, in the crystal malt or biscuit mold. Taste again feels more in line with an English IPA, with those earthy, herbal, spicy, floral hops doing their thing, and some citrus and pine playing along too, with a substantial malt backbone, light caramel and biscuits. While most IPAs tend to overdo the hops, this one may have overdone the malt side, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing either. It never reaches diacetyl levels English, which is a good thing, but it still feels very English in execution. The label sez they use Cascade, East Kent Goldings, and Chinook hops, so I guess it's a sorta old-school hybrid English/American IPA type of thing. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, generally pretty easy going. Overall, it's an interesting change of pace and completely off the path of what your typical American brewer is doing with IPAs... which is refreshing in its own way. B

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/5/14.

Three rounds of Vermont Roulette, and I survive to play the final round, coming next week. Stay tuned.

Idletyme IPA

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It's time for round two of Vermont Roulette, wherein I purchase random Vermont beer that I've never heard of, drink it, and see if I survive. While round 1 was not tremendously successful, I did live to play again and this time, I think I've stumbled onto something rather good.

I purchased this at the Warren Store, and when I asked the guy about it, he said he hadn't tried it yet, but that it was brand new and that the brewery really just got started. Looking around ye olde internets reveals that the location has been around for a while, but that distribution is starting to expand. Or something like that. It used to be called The Shed, a pub built on an old youth camp called, yes, Camp Idletyme. The beer itself is a svelt 8% ABV DIPA with what seems like a relatively light malt bill and lots of "new" aroma focused hops. According to the brewer, they're still experimenting with the dry hop varieties (you know the story, small breweries can have a difficult time contracting for hops, especially the popular ones), but to my mind, they're on the right track. Good tymes!

Crop Bistro Idletyme IPA

Crop Bistro & Brewery Idletyme IPA - Pours a hazy, pale yellow with just a hint of orange and a couple fingers of fluffy white head that leaves plenty of lacing as I drink. Smells of beautiful citrus hops, juicy and clean. As it warms, a sorta minty aroma arises out of that citrus. The taste has a nice sweetness to it, lots of that bright, juicy, citrus hop character, and only a hint of bitterness on the back end. As it warms, the hops get a little more earthy or herbal, but still bright, like the mint that emerges in the nose. Mouthfeel is reasonably well carbonated, light bodied, bright, crisp, and clean, quaffable. Overall, this is a very pleasant surprise. It's probably not a Heady Topper killer or anything like that, but it's a worthy take on the style, for sure. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a Willibecher glass on 8/30/14.

So there you have it, a solid DIPA that's bound to be underrated due to the gravity well of more famous Vermont beer. Worth a shot if you can find a fresh bottle (I get the impression that this beer would age poorly, even moreso than a lot of other IPAs), and I assume it's just as good on tap. So an unqualified success for Vermont Roulette. At least one more round coming, another relatively new brewery's take on an IPA.

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the IPA category.

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