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Notes From Philly Beer Week

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So Philly Beer Week is here, and of course, I'm too lazy to get my butt into the actual city proper, but fortunately, there are plenty of events out here in the burbs. On Saturday, I actually hit up two locations, the first being Pinocchio's, who had a bunch of Firestone Walker stuff on tap. It wasn't a big event or anything, though earlier in the day, they had tapped a keg of Velvet Merkin, an apparently very rare (at least, 'round these parts) and very unique bourbon barrel aged oatmeal stout. The base beer is only 5.5% ABV, but the angels must be damn thirsty, as the barrel aging seems to raise it up to around 8-8.5% or something. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that folks would be lining up outside the place before it opened to get a taste of this stuff, so I missed out.

So I had to make do with a glass of Parabola (I know, boo hoo, right?), another bourbon barrel aged stout, this one clocking in at an impressive 13% ABV (it was, uh, the only thing I had for a few hours on Saturday). Unfortunately, I seem to have neglected the picture of this one, so you'll have to use your mind's eye to visualize from these scintillating tasting notes, hastily tapped into my phone one handed as I browsed the bottle shop's wares:

Firestone Walker Parabola - Pours a black as night color with practically nonexistent head (there was a ring of brownish stuff clinging to the side of the glass, but not much going on with the rest). Smells of strongly of bourbon, chocolate, caramel, vanilla and oak. Taste is full of that same rich caramel, vanilla, bourbon and oak, with some chocolate for good measure. Mouthfeel is rich and velvety, low carbonation, but enough to keep it from being cloying. I had no idea this thing was 13% as I was drinking, but I kinda felt that way at the end of my (fortunately small) glass. Overall, fantastic beer, something I hope to get some more of at some point... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV on tap. Drank out of a small snifter-like glass (I'm guessing 8-10 oz).

So I hung out at the shop for a while, shot some shit with the locals and beermongers, picked out a few bottles to take home, grabbed a piece of pizza and and glass of water to calm myself down, then I headed over to Wayne, PA for the Main Line Jazz and Food Fest, where Teresa's Cafe (one of my favorite beer bars) was doing a big Tröegs tasting. Wayne ave was closed off for a block or so, and a bunch of local restaurants and other businesses set up tents and tables and whatnot, along with a live jazz band playing on the stage. It was a pretty low key, family friendly affair, but the weather was gorgeous and beer was flowing like wine!

Ironically, my first beer was not even a Tröegs - when I spied some Sierra Nevada ExPortation (a porter aged in barrels over at Russian River), I had to make sure I got some, as it was my first sour revelation and I thought I'd never see the stuff again (it was a one time Beer Camp brew, though perhaps they've made more batches for beer week). It was excellent, though I think some of the other sours I've had this year might outrank it (stiff competition though). If you get a chance to try some, you totally should.

Ad this point, I hunkered down for some dinner, and ordered me a Brotherly Suds, a special Philly Beer Week collaboration between Victory, Sly Fox, Yards, Iron Hill, Stoudts, Nodding Head, and Tröegs (who hosted the brewing session). It apparently started out as a Vienna lager... but then they used a Kölsch yeast (i.e. an ale yeast), American hops (Centennial and US Tettnanger), and rye. It seemed more like a Kölsch or British Pale Ale to me, though. Unfortunately, I came away a bit underwhelmed:

Troegs Brotherly Suds 3

Brotherly Suds #3 (Tröegs Scratch #67) - Dark amber color with a finger or two of head. Smells a bit like a British pale ale, lightly fruity, some grassy, earthy hops. Taste has some nice complexity, some delicate fruit and hop flavors, maybe some light spiciness, but it's all rather muted, and it's got that British pale ale or Kölsch feel that I don't usually care for. Mouthfeel is nice, surprisingly light bodied. Overall, it's ok, but not my thing... I probably shouldn't have drank this after the ExPortation - it actually would have made a nice walking around outside beer, but not so much as a complement to dinner. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 4.6% ABV on tap. Drank out of a pint glass.

And finally, after dinner, I headed back outside for some browsing and Jazz and walking around and whatnots, picking up a cup of Tröegs Perpetual IPA, something I'd not had before, and which was excellent:

Troegs Perpetual IPA

Tröegs Perpetual IPA - Apparently the reason I hadn't seen this before is that it was a limited seasonal brew, only available in august. Tröegs has recently just moved to new digs, and their expanded brewing capacity means they can now turn this into a year-round brew. Pours a golden orange color with a little head... Huge hoppy pine in the nose, with a little grassy citrus too. Taste has that same huge piney, resiny flavor, a little grassy citrus, and a mild, pleasant bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light to medium bodied, and very easy to put down. Conditions were probably not ideal here, but it was a really nice walking around outside beer. I'll give it a provisional B+, but it's on the A- bubble...

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a fancy plastic cup.

Well, there you have it: lame, unreliable notes from a day of drinking and merriment. I'm still not sure how many other events I'll hit up this week, but I'll definitely be going to a Hill Farmstead event on Saturday (also at Teresa's)...

August Beer Club

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Today was beer club! Due to various factors, the variety of beer was somewhat limited this month, but there was still plenty of merriment to be had, and when we got to the BYOB restaurant, we saw this sign out front:

Free Beer!

Certainly a good omen! Apparently the restaurant had some Lager, but since they had no liquor license, they were just giving it away for free. Score! There was no real theme for the month, but we did end up with about 7 different beers (not including the free Yuengling) as well as some wine, cider and homemade Limoncello (unpictured, but it was very sweet and incredibly alcoholic!) Here's a quick picture of what we had:

August Beer Club
(Click for bigger image)

As usual, tasting conditions were less than ideal, so take the following with a grain of salt (beers listed below are basically in order from left to right in the picture, not necessarily the order in which we drank them):

  • Victory Sunrise Weissbier - Hey, I've actually reviewed this before! A friend had been at the brewery lately, so they had picked up a growler of the stuff. It struck me as being somewhat better than the last time I had it, but I'll leave it at a B-. Solid hefeweizen style beer, but not particularly special either.
  • My Homebrewed Saison - I know I mentioned this last time, but this is definitely my best homebrew yet, and the first that I think is truly good. Sweet, spicy, well carbonated and easy to drink, it came out really well. Indeed, I'd probably give this a B+ or maybe even an A-. I should really review my other homebrews, which I'd probably rate much lower.
  • Lancaster Milk Stout - Yep, I just reviewed this one too. I think the coffee flavors were more prominent this time around, but otherwise it's pretty much the same. B+
  • Founders Dirty Bastard - Yet another beer I've reviewed before. Indeed, I've had a few of this since I originally reviewed it, and I do believe I like it better now than I did that first time. I had originally noted that there wasn't any fruitiness in the flavor, but in the recent tastings, I've definitely gotten a really nice fruity quality out of this. Tonight I could also really taste the alcohol as well. It certainly wasn't unpleasant, but I think it might have been a reflection of the other relatively low ABV beers of the night. B+
  • Samuel Adams Rustic Saison - A very light example of the style, though still very flavorful and smooth (looking at it now, I'm surprised it's only 4.35% ABV), featuring a nice twang in the nose and taste that I couldn't place, but which someone had mentioned might be honey. It's not a beer that will melt your face or anything, but it's definitely a quality brew and well worth a drink. At 4.35%, it would probably be a decent session beer as well. B
  • Samuel Adams East-West Kölsch - Not a style that typically fares well here at Kaedrin (or at beer club, for that matter), but this one was apparently brewed with Jasmine, and that addition really does make this a much more interesting beer than it would have otherwise been. Again, not setting the world on fire, but a quality brew that's worth trying. B-
  • Cave Creek Chili Beer - When I first saw Aaron's awesome video review of this beer, I thought he had to be exaggerating, but that first swig of this beer gave me that same, out-of-breath, it's so spicy feeling. It was a really weird experience too - the spiciness seems to really hit at the back of your throat and tongue, but the rest of my mouth/tongue didn't really pick anything up. And that spicy hot aftertaste didn't go away either (I'm glad we opened this last). It was really, truly horrible. When you open the beer, it almost smells like you've opened one of those pepper bottles with the brine in it - overpowering chili pepper aromas and not much else. I can't imagine drinking an entire bottle, and indeed, I could only really take a few sips of it. Unanimously the worst beer club beer ever. In some ways, I'm glad I got to try this, as it certainly is an experience. In another way, I really hope I don't burp this up later tonight. F
Despite the fact that I'd had/reviewed half these beers before, I think it was another successful outing for the beer club. It's looking like we might get a bonus beer club meet at The Whip in addition to our normal meetup next month. Score!

Julytful Beer Club

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Get it? Julytful, like delightful! Eh, so yeah, good beer puns are sometimes hard to come by. Consider yourselves lucky, as a British attendee to this month's beer club contributed this one, which superceded my initial thought of Brewly Beer Club (which isn't the worst possible beer pun, but still pretty terrible). For the uninitiated, the beer club is basically just a bunch of folks from my work who get together once a month to enjoy a nice dinner together... along with lots of different beers and wines and other alcoholic wonders. A relatively small group of people this month, but lots of beer (thanks mostly to a club member who was just on vacation in Ohio recently, and thus was able to bring a bunch of beers we've never seen or heard of before!). Here's what we had:

July Beer Club Beers
(Click for bigger image)

For reference, here are some brief thoughts on each. As usual, this isn't exactly ideal tasting conditions, so take them with a grain of salt, but still... From left to right in the picture:

  • Troegs Dead Reckoning - Very nice porter. Roasty and smooth, but not overpowering. I'm not normally a huge fan of porters, but this one's pretty decent. Not something that's lighting the world on fire, but good in it's own way. Unfortunately, it was probably overshadowed by a couple of stouts we had later in the tasting... I'll give it a B
  • Ohio Brewing Verich Gold - A kolsch style ale that's not particularly good. It reminded me of a typical Bud/Miller/Coors style beer, with a bit of a twang. It's a beer that might be ok on its own, but when drank side-by-side with a bunch of other good beers, it just pales in comparison. I suppose it just ain't my style of beer.. but then, it was also pretty much the unanimous worst beer of the night among beer club peeps. D
  • Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale - Probably the worst time of the year to drink a winter warmer style beer, but I quite enjoyed this spicy beer. It's relatively dark, but not roasty. Very spicy with a full malt backbone. Some folks thought it was almost too spicy ,but I quite enjoyed this beer. B+
  • Great Lakes Holy Moses White Ale - Seriously one of the best Belgian wit beers I've ever had, rivaling the likes of Victory's Whirlwind Wit and Ommegange's Witte. Very effervescent, almost lemony, but with lots of balancing spiciness of the light variety (coriander, orange peel, etc..) Right up there at the top of the list for wheat beers. B+
  • Thirsty Dog Cerberus Belgian Tripel - Nice fancy foil packaging, with a beer to match. Extremely sweet and boozy, it's a bit hot for the style, but very good. There was a bit of a twang to it that I could place, but which differentiated it from other examples of the style. Quite good. B+
  • Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA - I've had this beer a few times before... and have never really enjoyed it. It's not particularly bad, but it's definitely a victim of circumstances, as I always find myself trying one when I've already had much better beers. By the time I got to this tonight, it just wasn't doing it for me. Again, not a bad IPA, but not particularly accomplished either. C+
  • Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout - We tried to drink the beers listed here from lightest to darkest, and this one ended up being the last beer of the night... and the best! Dark as night and seemingly thick, with a nice brownish head. Very sweet, chocolaty, and roasty, with a nice booziness apparent. A wonderful imperial stout. The name of the bear stands for "Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout", and it's well worth the moniker. A-
  • Hoppin' Frog Turbo Shandy - A shandy is normally a beer mixed with a citrus flavored soda like 7up or Sprite. Usually this is something that happens after the fact - a beer coctail, as it were. But some breweries release shandies right in the bottle... and in this case, the beer really does taste like a 7up/Sprite... Extremely sweet and crispt, maybe some lemony/lime feeling to it, and you can't really even detect the relatively strong 7% ABV. Would perhaps make a good lawnmower beer, but not particularly something I'm all that interested in... C+
  • Rogue Shakespeare Stout - Another oatmeal stout, this one was second to last in the drinking order, and quite a solid example of the stile. Very chocolately, but with a surprising earthy feel to it. This is quite good, but not great. B+
  • Red's Rye Pale Ale - I know next to nothing about Rye beer, but I have a few more of these in the fridge, so expect a full review in the nearish future. Initial impressions are quite positive.
  • My Homebrewed Saison - This actually turned out far better than I was expecting. It seemed to be a general success with the folks of beer club, and it's the first beer I've made so far that I really enjoy drinking from start to finish. It's very light in its way, but it makes up for that with some Belgian yeast spiciness and a nice hoppy aproma/taste character (though it's not particularly bitter). My favorite batch so far. Makes me want to pour my last batch down the drain!

And that covers all the beer we had... Someone did bring a bottle of Australian wine, but they said they were a bit disappointed by it (no idea what it was called). Good times, as always, and I'm already looking forward to the next meetup.

Mission Blonde Ale

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I picked this up mostly because it had a nice label and I associate the term "blonde" with Belgian style pale ales, which I enjoy. When I looked at this a little closer, I realized that it was a Kölsch. I'm not terribly familiar with the style, but it seems to be to be a whole lot closer to "yellow fizzy beer" that exemplifies the macros than something I'd really want to try. My only recent exposure to the style was Flying Dog's Tire Bite Ale, and it's my least favorite offering from that brewery. This is not particularly encouraging, is it? But then, maybe setting the bar so low will lead to an unexpected surprise!

Mission Blonde Ale

Mission Blonde Ale - Pours a slightly cloudy (but mostly clear) golden yellow color with a finger of quickly disappearing head. Some fruitiness and maybe sweet candi aromas in the nose. I got a distinct candy/bubblegum aroma feeling out of this, but I can't quite place it. Interesting and definitely the best part of the beer. Taste is pretty straightforward and a bit sweet, with just a little bitter dryness in the finish. Very crisp mouthfeel though and a surprising amount of body. Unfortunately, it's a fairly delicate beer, and it didn't quite stand up to, well, the pizza I was eating at the time. Is that unfair? Maybe. It strikes me as the sort of beer that could be quite pleasant or thirst quenching after mowing the lawn or something... but it doesn't seem to hold up to competition (whether that be from other beers or food). B-

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

Despite the relatively low rating, I have to say that I'm now a little more open to the style. There's enough interesting stuff going on with this beer that I'm sure a better version exists somewhere. Not to bag too much on Mission - they seem like an interesting little brewery, and I have another of their brews on my shelf that I hope to check out soon.

Flying Dog

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A little while ago I picked up Flying Dog's variety pack and in between all of the holiday beers and whatnot, I've been working my way through them and their awesome Ralph Steadman artwork.

Flying Dog Logo
  • In Heat Wheat: Sweet, light, crisp and wheaty - a rather typical wheat beer. More details here. B-
  • Tire Bite Golden Ale: Light and crisp, perhaps a small step above crappy "fizzy yellow stuff", but not by much. C-
  • Old Scratch Amber Lager: Nice amber color, medium body, a little sticky and overall, it's a very drinkable session beer along the lines of Yuengling lager (maybe even a little better, but that's hard for me to admit!). B
  • Snake Dog India Pale Ale: A nice west-coast style hoppy, earthy IPA. It does well on its own, but pales (pun intended!) when compared to other good IPAs (including Flying Dog's own Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA). B
  • Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale: Solid hoppy pale ale, a little darker than the IPA, but a nice quality session beer and maybe the best overall beer in this pack. B
  • Road Dog Porter: Dark and a bit roasty, it wasn't quite as complex as I'd have hoped. I've never been a big fan of the style though, so that's probably part of my distaste. It's not bad, but definitely not my thing. C+

Overall, while most of them are quite drinkable and solid beers, none are really all that exceptional. This isn't to say that they don't make exceptional beers though: Raging Bitch IPA is actually a big step up from the Snake Dog IPA, and I've heard good things about the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

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

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