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Midnight Sun TREAT

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Welcome to autumn, fuckheads! I'm not going to say that I'm a huge pumpkin beer fan, but I don't really get the disdain for them either. Of course there's no accounting for taste, and some people genuinely don't like it, which is fine. My answer to that is the same as my answer to pumpkin beers showing up on shelves in August: if you don't like it, don't buy it. It's pretty simple, really, and I find it hard to get worked up about pumpkin beers either way. Every year, I attempt to go out and try something new. What has aided this in recent years has been a diversification of base styles. It used to be that the grand majority of pumpkin beers were a simple amber base with lots of spices and pumpkin added in. Nothing wrong with that, and there are some great examples out there. But nowadays, we've got stouts, weizenbocks, barrel-aged wonders, heck, Tired Hands even made a sorta pumpkin spiced Seasonal IPA (It was decent!)

What we have here is our Alaskan friends' entry into the fray, a chocolate pumpkin porter brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Seems like a pretty hearty take on the pumpkin beer, so let's dive in:

Midnight Sun TREAT

Midnight Sun TREAT - Pours a deep, dark brown color with half a finger of off white head. Smell sweet with lots of those pumpkin spices, cinnamon standing out more than anything else, but if you really look for it, you can get some chocolate too. Taste starts off sweet, but drops off a bit as the spices take over, notes of chocolate in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, thinner than expected actually, well attenuated but not quite dry. Overall, a solid pumpkin porter, if a bit one-note and I have to admit, I thought I'd enjoy this a little more than I did. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.8% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter glass on 9/26/15.

As always, I have to wonder if the oak aged version would tweak my fancy a little more. We may yet find the answer to that conundrum, though no current plans. Up next in this decorative gourd season jamboree will be a pumpkin sour beer? You betcha.

Jack's Abby Framinghammer(s)

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One of the unexpected treasures secured during Operation Cheddar III was a trio of Jack's Abby beers I never thought I'd see just sitting on a shelf. We're fans of Jack's Abby here at Kaedrin, if only because they force us to reconsider our prejudice against lagers (something I've been working on of late). Oh yeah, and their beer is actually quite good, and often not just in a It's good... for a lager way. They actually just started sending some beer down Philly way, gauging interest for a full blown distribution push once additional capacity comes on line at their brewery (fingers crossed that we met whatever swanky criteria they were expecting), but this line of Baltic Porters were scarce (if they shewed up here at all, I don't really remember) and I never got a taste.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the base beer and several barrel aged variants sitting on a shelf in VT. What makes these suckers special? Well, Baltic Porters are an interesting style, something of a hybrid between a Russian Imperial Stout and Porter, these were quite popular along the ports of the Baltic Sea. According to Jack's Abby, while the original British brews were ales, the Baltic breweries tended to make lagers. Yeast wasn't particularly well understood at the time, so they just used their familiar lager yeast to make a big, bold porter, and that's what Jack's Abby (primarily lager brewers) is doing here. Come to think of it, I don't know of any other commercial brewery doing such sorcery, so good on them. I've had a few Baltic Porters in my day, but they always seem to suffer in comparison to RIS in my mind.

That being said, my interest was piqued when I spied the barrel aged versions, one straight up, and the other including an addition of vanilla. There was also a coffee BA version, but I left that for those enterprising VT beer nerds with more of a taste for coffee than I. Rumor has it that the original batch of these suckers were aged in Weller Antique barrels (a fine bourbon on the endangered species list because everyone calls them Pappy substitutes - stop doing that guys!), though who knows if this most recent batch carries the same provenance? I decided to make a night of it and drink all three back to back, perhaps not my wisest decision ever, but given that I've practically been drowning in IPAs and saisons of late, I thought this would be a welcome respite from hops and farmhouse funk (Not that I don't appreciate those amazing beers, just that it's good to change things up from time to time). So how good are Baltic Porters brewed with lager yeast? Pretty damn good, if you ask me:

Jacks Abby Framinghammer

Jack's Abby Framinghammer - Pours a very deep, dark brown, almost black color with a finger of light brown head that sticks around a while. Smells of roasted malts, cocoa, molasses, vanilla, and a bit of caramel. Taste starts off very sweet, bits of caramel and vanilla up front, molasses and lots of cocoa in the middle, and hints of hoppy, bitter roast towards the finish. Mouthfeel is very well carbonated, but smooth and a little rich, a full bodied sipper, to be sure, but well attenuated, even if it remains heavy (as it should be). Overall, my kind of Baltic porter, sweet with hints of roast, complex but approachable, very well done. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/20/15. Bottled: 2.3.15

Jacks Abby Barrel Aged Framinghammer

Jack's Abby Barrel Aged Framinghammer - Looks pretty much the same as the others, very dark brown, almost black, much less head and retention. Smell is more focused on carmamel and boozy bourbon, some of the cocoa and roast in the background. Taste is all rich caramel and bourbon, with some cocoa and roast for good measure. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, less than the base but more than the vanilla. Full bodied sipper, slightly boozy. Overall, a rock solid barrel aged beer, nice improvement over the base, complex and delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 6/20/15. Bottled: 3.23.15 (I think, it got a wee bit smudged)

Jacks Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer

Jack's Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer - Looks just about the same as the base, very dark brown, almost black, slightly less head and less retention too. Smell is more focused on the caramel and vanilla than the regular or BA, and some bourbon makes an appearance as well, with the underlying cocoa and roast taking a back seat. The taste hits that rich caramel pretty hard and there's an explosion of vanilla soon after the start, very sweet, hints of roast and cocoa, but they're definitely overwhelmed by bourbon, oak, and heaping helpings of vanilla in the finish. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, still silky smooth, less carbonated (but still appropriate) and a little sticky, boozy feel as well. Overall, a nice improvement over the base, and my kinda BA porter. I'm actually finding it difficult to gauge this against the regular BA version though A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter glass on 6/20/15. Bottled: 3.26.15 (I think, it got a wee bit smudged)

Also worth noting that I did get a chance to try both the Cocoa-Nut Barrel Aged Framinghammer and Peanut Butter & Jelly Barrel Aged Framinghammer at ACBF during Operation Chowder. Tiny little samples, for sure, so it's hard to compare, but they were also excellent (and one of the highlights of the fest for me). I also snagged a bottle of Saxonator, their dopplebock and another style I'm not terribly up to speed on, so we'll probably get to that at some point this summer as well.

Beer Club February

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Beer club was last Thursday! I started to write this recap when I got home, but I didn't get very far. As has been established frequently, I am the worst. But I'm here now to make amends. For the uninitiated, beer club is a monthly gathering of like-minded coworkers at a local BYOB for good food, optional libations, and general merriment. This time we checked out the newly opened West Chester branch of The Couch Tomato, a rather fine pizza establishment (in a sea of pizza places, this has immediately established itself in the local upper tier with America's Pie). I had a rather fine stromboli (called the "Italian Stallion") whilst imbibing the usual beery wares:

Beer Club for February 2015
(Click to embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each are below. Since it's been a few days, these thoughts will be even more unreliable than normal, so take them with a giant, asteroid-sized lump of salt. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Evil Genius Stacy's Mom - Has moderate amounts of goin' on. Citra hops come through a little, but it's not particularly accomplished compared to its Citra-based brethren. B
  • Jailbreak Welcome To Scoville Jalepeno IPA - Definitely a peppery beer, but not a ton of heat, which is nice. On the other hand, I feel like whatever hops it has going on are sorta canceled out by the pepper character. B-
  • Flying Dog Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout - Now this one has some heat to it, but it's a very well matched heat that matches better with the roasty chocolate notes of the base stout than an IPA. That being said, it wasn't exactly blowing me away. B
  • Alaskan Smoked Porter - I get the impression that sometimes people bring beers they bought but realized they don't actually want to drink a whole bottle of. I'm as guilty as anyone, and this is one such example. I don't mind the occasional smoked beer, but really haven't been in much of the mood for this sort of thing lately. As Smoked Porters go, this is a pretty great example. Still not exactly my thing though, and I'm glad I shared. B
  • Stone Enjoy By 02.14.15 IPA - Tastes about 5 days too old. Oh snap, breaking the law! Just kidding, it was fine, despite not following the rules on the bottle. It's a decent beer, and it's definitely grown on me, but I've never gotten the absolute love some folks show for this (and yes, I've had it fresh before too). B
  • Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA - Ah now this is the stuff. One of my contributions and a rock solid citrus and pine bomb, well balanced and tasty. B+
  • Armstrong Ales Bold Thady Quill - A pretty nice take on an Irish Dry Stout, roasty and light bodied. Not going to melt your face, but it'd make for a nice session. Also, probably not the best setting for this kind of beer. Would still love to try more from this local upstart. B
  • Kaedrin Trystero Barleywine - I feel like my keg should be empty right now, but it appears to be bottomless. The keg feels nearly empty, but I just filled up this 1 liter growler with no problem. Need to finish off that keg so I have somewhere to put an IPA! The beer itself is doing well enough. I do feel like I perhaps dosed it with a bit too much in the way of bourbon, which cuts down on some of the fruitier malt characters in the beer. Still good though. B+
  • Prairie Bomb! - Another of my contributions, I have to admit that I didn't realize this was a coffee dosed beer. I was really excited to try it, then initially disappointed by the coffee character. Still, I ended up drinking more of this than usual, and it grew on me. Rock solid and I can see why it's so popular, but it doesn't really approach my top tier. B+
  • Victory Moving Parts 03 - Technically, we'd left beer club and moved the party over to a local bar, which was having a Victory event. This was our initial pour, a Belgian IPA. Nice enough on its own, but nothing particularly eventful here. B
  • Victory Deep Cocoa - On cask with vanilla and something else that I don't remember. It could have been that I was just drunk at the time, but I kinda loved this. Deep, rich chocolate, vanilla, full body, really delicious stuff. Have not tried the regular version but this cask was hitting the spot, so let's give it an A-
And there you have it. Attendance was a little low, so I probably drank more than normal this time. Also, we didn't get to the Nugget Nectar, mostly because we've all had it several times already this year (even out of the can, which is, yes, very nice) but also because there were less of us there that night than normal. Crazily enough, some people didn't come because it was just super cold out (not snowing or anything, just really cold, low-single digits). I don't know what their problem is. Maybe I'm not the worst after all.

Shawneecraft Bourbon Barrel Porter

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It was just a few weeks ago that I was jonesing for more local bourbon barrel aged beers, and as luck would have it, this hefty 10.5% ABV bourbon barrel porter from ShawneeCraft has been making the rounds in the Philly area. I thought ShawneeCraft's Frambozenbier was quite nice, so I was really excited to check this one out. Alas, I think I got a bad bottle (and I'm not the only one) that had veered a little too far into infection land. Not a super nasty metallic beast that hurts or anything that bad, but enough to mute the typical barrel aged elements:

ShawneeCraft Bourbon Barrel Porter

Shawneecraft Bourbon Barrel Porter - Pours a very dark brown color with a cap of quickly disappearing head. Smells of toasty malt, liquorice, a little vanilla and a hint of bourbon. The taste has and odd note too it, I think it's what I called liquorice in the nose but that's not quite right, it feels kinda fruity and maybe even harsh... Almost infected? It didn't seem so blantant at first, but it's getting worse as I go. This is not particularly pleasant, not as full bodied as it should be, with none of the richness from good barrel aging, and a too much acidity... Very disappointing. The base doesn't come through very much, so it's hard to get a good read on what an uninfected version would be like. I managed to get through a glass of the stuff, but couldn't really handle the rest of the 750. D

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 12/5/14.

A disappointing development from a beer I had high hopes for. In truth, infections happen to the best of them, so if this comes around again next year, I'll probably give it another shot. And what the hey, I'll probably be drinking more Frambozenbier too. Keep your chin up, ShawneeCraft!

Avery Pump[KY]n

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And the parade of high-ABV Avery "session" beers continues. What's that? 17.22% ABV isn't a session beer? Well, according to Adam Avery, it is: "I try to just limit myself to one per drinking session. So I'd call it a sessionable beer... your session just ends quicker." In fairness, it's only about 13-14% more than your typical session beer. Someone alert Ding.

I greatly enjoyed Rumpkin, Avery's rum barrel aged pumpkin beer, and what we have here is a bourbon barrel aged pumpkin porter. Oddly, I wound up having this both on tap and from the bottle on Friday night (a local drinkery had just tapped it before we arrived for happy hour), so I've got you covered. Or something like that.

Avery Pump[KY]n

Avery Pump[KY]n - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells full of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, a little in the way of bourbon, oak, and vanilla as well. Taste is very rich and sugary, but not super sweet, lots of pumpkin pie spice comes through in the middle, with that bourbon, oak, and vanilla coming through more towards the finish, which is fairly boozy when you start drinking, and gets more boozy as you go along. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, full bodied, rich, and chewy. The spice comes through a little as well, as does the warming booze character. Overall, it's pretty damn great, easily the equal of Rumpkin, maybe better. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 17.22% ABV bottled (12 ounce). Drank out of a snifter on 10/24/14. Batch No. 1. Bottled Sept 12 2014.

At this point, while I'm pretty much done with Pumpkin beers for the year, I'm on board with Avery's barrel aging program in general. It seems to be expanding, so I'm guessing we'll see more of their stuff around here too. Next up, if I can snag one: Uncle Jacob's Stout.

Belated BBQ Beer Club Recap


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...

Floyd D'Rue

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Conundrums all around. If you're a brewer, and you embark on a massive 14.7% barrel aged imperial porter aged in rum barrels only to find out that the resulting beer was infected with lactobacillus, what do you do? Well, this happened for The Bruery and Three Floyds collaboration beers Rue D'Floyd and Floyd D'Rue, and their solution was to release the bottles, but with a Caveat Emptor attached. They went all full disclosure on us, and informed the public that they should drink the bottles before 6/30. Those that did, seemed to get a pretty fantastic beer. Dipshits like myself only managed to accidentally acquire one of these deviants via a beer mule two months too late.

So you can obviously see my answer to the consumer's conundrum, which is whether or not to buy something you know has the potential to be infected. Given the transparency, it's a little hard to get too worked up over this, but on the other hand, damnit, this would have been a spectacular beer if I had managed to acquire it fresh. Not particularly surprising, given the fact that it's a collaboration between two of the best brewers around, but still. I get that this was an expensive batch of beer, so again, I can't really begrudge them from releasing it and trying to recoup their losses, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing. Especially because you can really see how spectacular this beer could have been. It was also pretty damn expensive. Let's just hope they get together to try this again, this time without the lacto infection. Even as it stands, I managed to take down a 750 of this infected beast with little real challenge...

The Bruery and Three Floyds Floyd D Rue

Three Floyds & The Bruery Floyd D'Rue - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of light brown head. The smell... is slightly troubling. This could end up being ok, because there are lots of spices and rum and oak and vanilla in there, but maybe a faint twang indicating infection... or is my foreknowledge playing tricks on me? Well, no, it does seem to have a light infection going on. It's not entirely unpleasant, but it does overtake most of the flavors in the taste. You get less of that spice and rum, and the oak aging contributes more of a general richness and full bodied mouthfeel than the oak or vanilla. It doesn't really come off as sour, but theres a sorta tart fruit thing going on that doesn't really match well with the rest of the beer. Overall, this could have been a great beer, and even as it is, I think I'd rather drink it than a generic fizzy lager, but it's ultimately a disappointment. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 14.7% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 9/5/14.

I guess they can't all be winners, though this one surely would be, were it not for that pesky infection. Moar Three Floyds reviews coming soon, so don't touch that dial...

Black Butte XXVI

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Bend, Oregon brewers at Deschutes started their brewery off with a pretty standard porter for a flagship beer. In the current craft beer bonanza, this wouldn't be that unusual. Boring, even. But considering that Deschutes opened 26 years ago, this was actually a bold choice. Fast forward twenty years, and they could see that it was the right choice. That's when Deschutes started brewing up a special anniversary beer to celebrate their success. They took their old flagship, amped it up a few notches, chucked in some adjuncts (different every year, but usually including chocolate), and aged a portion in old Bourbon barrels.

This year's iteration (their 7th) is a complex blend of ales incorporating adjuncts like pomegranate molasses, cocoa nibs, and cranberries. 50% was aged in Bourbon barrels, and the final product clocks in at a hefty 10.8% ABV. So grab yourself a plate of mashed potatoes and start sculpting yourself a butte*:

Deschutes Black Butte XXVI

Deschutes Black Butte XXVI - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of brown sugar, caramel, marshmallow, maybe a hint of roast and chocolate, with some of that bourbon, oak, and vanilla. The taste is very sweet, hints of roasted malt, chocolate, a light caramel, molasses, marshmallow character that intensifies as it warms up, maybe even some tart, fruity notes (presumably that cranberry peeking through, and that also gets more prominent as it warms). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, on the lighter end of full bodied, feels more attenuated than your typical BBA porter. It's certainly not thin, and not really dry, but it doesn't have that huge, chewy mouthfeel either. It is, however, very well balanced. Overall, this is an excellent, well crafted beer. It's not like a lot of BBA porters, but it's still really good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.8% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 8/8/14. Best After 06/16/14.

I still can't help but wonder what a full BBA version of this (or their famous Abyss) would be like, but I guess that's not to be. As it is, this winds up being rather unique, so you can't fault them for that sort of thing. Also, someday I'll remember that Deschutes uses a "Best After" date on their big beers like this.

* If I actually knew what a butte was, I would have totally cooked up some mashed potatoes and gone all Richard Dreyfuss on that stuff. In fairness, a nice plate of meat and potatoes would probably be a decent pairing for this, so it's not a totally unrelated reference. Well, probably not, but work with me here.


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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 Porter category.

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