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February Beer Club

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Yeah, so I'm still running dry on beer puns. Fortunately, there's a pretty good chance you don't care about that, so I'll just explain that Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. It ended up being a rather small gathering this month, with just the core group showing up... and yet, plenty of fantastic beer was had by all.

Beer Club February 2013
(Click for bigger image)

Despite the less than ideal conditions, I'm going to record my thoughts on each sampled beer. For posterity! Yeah, the sip test is often unreliable, so take this with a giant boulder of gourmet sea salt, you nerd (he sez, as if it's a bad thing). Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Samuel Smith's Organic Lager - Pretty standard Euro-lager affair here, though perhaps a higher quality version of such. Nice noble hoppiness and a surprising yeast character (nowhere near a Belgian strain, but it did add character to an otherwise normal beer). B
  • Eagle Rock Jubilee - One of my contributions for the night, or should I say, it's actually Jay's contribution, as this was part of our trade. I figured I shouldn't hog all of it to myself, though perhaps I should have, as this was reallly good. Smooth, creamy, spiced but not harshly so, this was a beauty. They call it a spiced old ale, but it feels a whole lot like a winter warmer and heck, let's just call it good beer. Beer Club crowd seemed mighty impressed as well. A-
  • Cisco Lady of the Woods - My other contribution, I liked it so much the first time, that I just had to share another with everyone else. I'm always surprised at how well received sour beers are by the Beer Club crowd, though perhaps I shouldn't be. I tend to call this beer club, but it originally began as beer and wine club, and this beer certainly has a nice Chardonnay character that turned some heads. Still an A by my reckoning...
  • Heavy Seas Black Cannon - One of them semi-local Maryland breweries, this wound up being a very solid black IPA. Beautiful nose, slight roasted malt character dominated by piney, resinous hops and maybe a bit of citrus. Alas, the taste didn't quite hold up, though again, still a very solid beer. B
  • Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve - Hoo boy, I hope you like clove, cause they must have packed this thing to the gills with cloves. Fortunately, I do like that, though the beer is pretty straightforward otherwise. B
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers - One of my long time favorites, just as good as ever. Fancy new label, too...
  • Heavy Seas Bourbon Barrel Aged Siren Noire - Holy chocolate milk, Batman! Seriously, like drinking slightly boozy yoohoo. Not getting much bourbon at all, though perhaps it's contributing to the almost creamy, vanilla character that goes so well with the chocolate flavors that dominate this beer. Really enjoyable and perhaps the most interesting beer of the night, if not exactly the best. B+
  • BrewDog Tokyo* - Another beer I've had before, this thing is a total monster. Clocking in at over 18% ABV, it's a pretty potent beer, though the solid malt backbone and addition of cranberries and jasmine help even that out a bit. Still a B+ in my book.
And with that, we had to cut things a bit short. A few sad beers were left unopened, but it was starting to snow and we didn't want to crack open that bottle of 14% Samichlaus (seriously, beer club compatriot Anthony brought Samichlaus and Tokyo*, which average out to somewhere around 16% ABV, pretty badass if you ask me. As a fan of older vintages of Samichlaus, I advised him to cellar this 2010 vintage until at least next Christmas and he seemed pretty excited about that prospect). So that just about covers it for this beer club. At the next beer club, my Fat Weekend IPA should be ready to go, so I'm pretty excited.

BBQ Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together once a month to share good beer, a good meal, and good company! We typically congregate at a local BYOB, and this time we hit up Jimmy's BBQ. It's not gonna blow away folks used to spectacular BBQ, but for us unwashed Yanks, it was solid stuff, and quite frankly, our options for good BBQ up here are somewhat limited. As usual, a good time was had by all, and we had quite a nice selection of beers available:

Beer Club Beers for August 2012
(Click for bigger image)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer are below. Naturally, these were not ideal conditions, but then again, what were you expecting? It's not like this BBQ place had a sensory deprivation chamber that would allow us to truly evaluate the beers in an objective fashion. And even if it did, that would take all the fun out of it. Stop being such a Nazi, dude! In any case, here's some impressions of each beer (in order of drinking, not necessarily the order of the picture above):

  • Sly Fox Helles Golden Lager - Lager lover Paul brought a growler of this stuff, which made a nice starting beer for me. It's pretty standard golden lager stuff, perhaps a step above the typical BMC macro stuff. Not particularly my thing, but again, a nice start to the evening. B-
  • Sixpoint Righteous Ale - An interesting take on the Rye beer, one that actually emphasizes the rye (as opposed to a lot of hopped up versions, which certainly have their own allure). There is a healthy hop presence, to be sure, but it leans towards the more European earthy, pungent, almost spicy character that actually complements the rye quite nicely. Really quite nice. I'd like to try this under better conditions, but for now, let's leave it at a very solid B+
  • Kaedrin Simcoe IPA - My homebrewed IPA went over well, as usual, though I'm getting a little worried, as I only have a couple of these left. It is starting to show it's age a bit - much more piney than it's initial incarnation - though it's still quite nice. Definitely something I'm going to attempt to replicate sometime this winter. Solid B+ material here (maybe higher at it's peak).
  • Kaedrin Trappist Tripel - This was my second batch of homebrew, well over a year and a half old. A tripel style beer, it definitely came in a little higher than expected at 9.5 to 10% ABV, and that booze certainly takes on a too-prominent position in the taste. Definitely too much of that fusel alcohol flavor in this one, though it's not completely overpowering. That being said, it was an interesting beer to try in the beer club setting, and I actually think the age is doing it some favors. Perhaps another year will mellow this thing out a little more? I've got about a dozen of these things left, so I think we've got plenty of time to find out. For now, I'll say B- or B
  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier - Full disclosure, this thing had been sitting in my fridge for well over a year, and whatever you may think, a 5.4% ABV wheat beer isn't exactly aging material. That being said, it was fine, though in the context of beer club, it was kinda overshadowed by other stuff we drank... When fresh, I gave it an A-, and I think it still remains one of my favorite Hefeweizens...
  • Firestone Walker Wookey Jack - A beer many of my fellow blogging travelers have been enjoying, and I have to say, I see what they're talking about! Of course, it's no Society and Solitude #2, but as Black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark American Black whatevers you want to call it) go, it's a solid, perhaps even top tier entry. Very nice pine tree nose, with a taste that is more hops than roast, but with both elements present and prominent. Apparently also made with Rye, which adds something different to the mix, but which I wasn't really looking too strongly for... It's a beer I'd love to try again sometime, but for now, B+ it is! Thanks for bringing this one Danur!
  • Duck Rabbit Porter - Um, well, yeah, it's a porter! As the style goes, it's a solid entry, though it's not something that wowed me like, say, Everett. Still, I'm sure it could fill in for my go-to cigar beer, Founders Porter. Duck Rabbit is most certainly a brewery I need to familiarize myself with further though. B
  • Russian River Supplication - So I really enjoyed this the last time I had it, and I've been trying to experiment with sours at Beer Club, so I brought this one, and hoo boy... I absolutely adored this beer this time around. Not sure if it was because my palate had already been exercised by the BBQ and preceding beers, or if I just got a particularly good bottle (Batch 7) this time around, but man, this thing was spectacular. Fellow beer club peeps were also blown away by this beer, and I could hardly blame them. It really was quite eye opening, and it stood right up to the strong flavors we'd already been imbibing for a bit. I have to say, this time around, the sourness was less pronounced and better integrated into the beer, which took on more of an oak aged character. It's something I'm going to have to revisit again sometime soon. I give it an upgrade to an A right now, but honestly, if I get another bottle that's this good, it could vault itself up into the hallowed A+ pantheon.
  • DuClaw Soul Jacker - A blend of DuClaw's Black Jack stout and their most excellent Devil's Milk barleywine. Indeed, that barleywine character, full of hop flavors (but not a lot of hop bitterness), dominated the taste. There was a very light roastiness, which added some interesting complexity. I really enjoyed this, but it also sorta made me crave the regular old Devil's Milk barleywine. I'll give it a B+ and leave it at that.
Phew! I think this may be one of the best rated beer clubs evar! Only one real B-, and that's not a particularly poor rating. Usually, despite all the fun we have, there's at least something in the C or D range, if not an outright F (apparently someone forgot to bring a 3 year old San Miguel lager, smuggled from the Phillipines, that they've been meaning to get rid of - this surely would have opened some eyes in a bad way, but I guess we'll have to wait for next beer club for that... experience). Not that I'm complaining (about this gathering or, for that matter, previous gatherings with not so great beer - it's not like I have to drink a ton of bad beer or anything!). As always, I'm already anxiously awaiting the next beer club meeting!

Oh yeah, I should mention, we actually didn't get to all the beers in the pic above because we're not all total alcoholics, you know? I did manage to take home the Duck Rabbit Milk Stout though, so I'm sure you'll get to hear about that at some point...

Victory Perfect 10 Lager

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Wherein I succumb to that annoying beer-blogger tendency to talk about limited-edition beers that most readers are unlikely to ever taste. Over at his new digs, Jay H. has had the opportunity to try out an ultra-rare, one-time-brewed, sour ale from The Bruery called The Wanderer. Not only is it a rare beer, but Jay has awarded it a 10/10 rating, which is pretty rare in itself. Alas, I will probably never cross paths with this beer unless The Bruery upgrades it to a staple brew...

Victory Brewing Co. has a different, less trendy reputation, but they also put out a lot of different beers, ranging from simple, session brews to whopping 12% face melters. I arrived at a local bar recently, scanned their beer menu and saw this Victory Perfect 10 Lager listed... I asked about it and found out that it was brewed specially for the bar, which had just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary (hence the beer's title). Sign me up! Perhaps unsurprisingly, the beer isn't even listed on Beer Advocate. It's a relatively straightforward lager, so it's not going to be a "White Whale" beer the likes of which I discussed earlier, but I actually did enjoy it quite a bit:

Victory Perfect 10 Lager

Pours a clear golden color with a minimal white head. Not much going on in the nose, but the taste is sticky sweet. Despite the stickiness, it's a really clean feeling brew. Well carbonated and medium bodied but still smooth and easy to drink. It reminds me of Victory's St. Boisterous Maibock, which I've also had recently. I actually seemed to enjoy this a bit more, which is a shame, as I'm pretty sure this will be the last I ever see of this brew. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV (on tap). Drank out of a... whatever the heck you call the glass in the picture... on 8/9/11.

Victory continues to be my local hero and I'm extremely excited to get my hands on some of their upcoming smoked dubbel style beer, dubbed (pun intended!) Otto. It's not due to be released until mid-October though, so I've got a bit of a wait...

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.

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.

Yuengling Traditional Lager

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In Pennsylvania, if you want a Yuengling, all you need to do is ask for a "lager". This seems to amuse outsiders quite a bit, but for us, it's just normal. Yuengling is pretty much my default beer. It's available everywhere, it's dirt cheap, and it actually tastes good (a thousand times better than macro beers like Bud, Miller, etc...). I've drank so many of these that I don't know that I can really write a review, as its taste is pretty much hardwired into me. I take a sip, the muscle memory kicks in, and I grin. Does it knock my socks off like something out of a Trappist brewery? Well, no. But I can drink 6 of these without having to take out another mortgage. And I can actually find them in a bar. (I'll give it a B.)

Yuengling Poster

Once you leave PA, it doesn't seem anywhere near as ubiquitous, though everyone seems to enjoy it. Friends at school would often load up their cars on the way home, not just so they had their own secret stash, but because their pops wanted some too. (Of course, when the default beer at college is Natural Light, Yuengling actually does seem like some sort of Trappist rarity, but I digress.) There's something about the Yuengling brand that's just endearing. Perhaps it's the storied history - it is America's oldest continuously running brewery, after all. Or maybe it's just local pride. Whatever the case, it seems to strike a chord with people around here. Would it continue to do so if the brewery expanded their distribution?

A few years ago, Yuengling expanded their operation to Florida, effectively covering the entire east coast. I remember seeing it on tap in Florida once and being shocked (alas, they didn't quite have the "lager" lingo down, earning me a confused look from the bartender). I assume west coasters have never even heard of it. Well that will probably be changing soon:

Now, the fifth-generation brewing scion and sole owner is poised to make his riskiest move yet to expand the nation's oldest beer maker. Yuengling (pronounced ying-ling) announced last week that it signed a letter of intent to buy a former Coors brewery in Memphis, Tenn. The facility would be the Pennsylvania brewer's largest and could more than double the company's overall capacity and allow it to expand distribution into multiple states beyond its 13-state footprint in the Eastern U.S.
Will it make it all the way to the west coast? I wouldn't be surprised either way. The company is apparently quite conservative when it comes to expanding (which makes sense, considering their longstanding history), so maybe this will just be a mid-west thing. I'd be curious to see how west coasters like this beer though. The storied reputation in this area and limited distribution elsewhere could end up being its downfall if expectations get too high. In any case, if you've never heard of it and you start seeing it popping up, give it a shot. It's not liquid crack or a transcendent experience or anything, but it is a great session beer. (thanks to Jay for the link)

Update: Funnily enough, the beer nerds at BeerAdvocate call this an "American Amber / Red Lager". I just labeled it as a "lager" without even thinking. Heh. I was also expecting the judgement of the beer nerds to be a bit harsher, but a "B-" is probably about as good as I could ever hope for here.

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

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