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Ithaca Old Habit

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Ithaca is a brewery that, for some unknown reason, hasn't garnered much love on this blog. This is more of an oversight than anything else, so don't grab your torches and pitchforks just yet, as I'm trying to rectify that. Flower Power has steadily built up mindshare in Kaedrin's crowded go-to IPA category, and just this past summer, whilst on vacation in upstate New York, Ithaca provided me with a savior amongst macros; I sucked down a few Ground Break saisons which were quite nice.

So now I snap into their Excelsior! series of beers, their line of limited run experimental beers. This one is made with four different rye malts, some Centennial and Crystal hops, and is partially fermented/aged in old Rittenhouse Rye barrels. So lets develop some old habits, shall we?

Ithaca Old Habit

Ithaca Old Habit - Pours a murky brown color with half a finger of fizzy off white head that completely disappears after just a few seconds. Smells of dark crystal malts and a sharp rye twang, with hints of that whiskey barrel poking through. Taste has a similar feel to it, very sweet, lots of rich caramelized fruit, some spice coming from the rye, and not a lot in the way of barrel character, though it's there. The fruit character is interesting, especially in the finish, which isn't tart or sour or anything, but it has a bite to it that's hard to place. It very randomly called to mind a soda I used to drink growing up called Frank's Black Cherry Wishniak (if you grew up in the Philly area at a certain time, you almost certainly know and love this stuff). Of course, I haven't had that in at least a decade, so take this with a grain of salt, but hey, neurons fire for a reason, and this beer was firing Black Cherry Wishniak neurons. Go figure. Mouthfeel is reasonably well carbonated, on the lower end of full bodied, a little richness, and some stickiness that lingers in the aftertaste. It's great in small doses, but gets a bit cloying for a whole 750. Reminds me a little of The Bruery Rugbrod. Overall, it's an interesting beer, definitely got that rye character and it's a decent drink. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/18/13. Batch # E!045.

Still intrigued by the rest of Ithaca's Excelsior! series, in particular beers like LeBleu and Brute. Alas, the only other one that appears to be available to me at the moment is White Gold... which may make an appearance at the next beer club...

August Beer Clubbery

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Tonight was Beer Club, a gathering of beer minded folk from my work who get together every month at a local BYOB for drinkery and fun. A light turnout this week, so we didn't actually get through every beer pictured below, but we made a valiant effort and actually drank a few that aren't pictured. I know, I'm disappointed by my neglect to capture those additional beers in photographic form too, but we'll just have to live with this:

August Beers
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Standard tasting note disclaimers apply: these notes are not trustworthy in any way, shape, or form, because whatever, I had fun tonight. In approximate order of consumption, not necessarily how pictured.

  • Fantôme Saison - One of my contributions, it seems that Fantôme hasn't quite emerged from their smoky, rubbery funk phase just yet, though this one wasn't quite as janky as the one I reviewed recently. It actually had more of a Saison Dupont feel, with just a bit of smoky, barnyard funk to make things interesting. I'll keep it at a B+ and pine for the lemony, sour Fantômes of yore.
  • Dale's Pale Ale - Pretty standard fare, but excellent as such beers go. Always a good choice, and I'll hit it with a B+, just like before.
  • Kaedôme Saison (regular version) - So my regular homebrewed saison is actually drinking quite well at this point, big spicy yeast notes, plenty of Saaz hops, not as much Nelson Sauvin hops as I was going for, but quite a pleasant brew nonetheless. About half the batch is still in secondary, dosed with Brettanomyces (like Fantôme, hence the name of this beer). Probably still a few months away from that sucker, but even this non-funky version is doing pretty well. Another B+
  • Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale - Rock solid hoppy amber ale, not quite as mindblowing as some of those hoppy imperial reds, but a worthy, highly drinkable beer. Yet another B+. I swears, not everything in this post will be rated the same.
  • Ken's English White Beer - My buddy's homebrew, this one was made with wheat, rose hips, and an English ale yeast. A rather odd combination, but it works out reasonably well in the end. Nice wheat character, not much in the way of rose hips, but some English yeast character (thankfully without the diacetyl note that I often get from such yeasts)> Not a mind-blower, but a nice summer beer. B-
  • Ken's Roggenbier - Another of Ken's homebrews, and possibly my favorite of the homebrews tonight. Nice spicy rye character mixed with hefeweizen notes from the yeast. Really nice combination that works very well. B+
  • Port City Essential Pale Ale - Terrible. Ok, not quite that bad, but not particularly good either. A sorta muddy mess of hops and malt, never quite coalescing into good.C+
  • Dominion Oak Barrel Stout - Now this one is legitimately terrible. Ok, so some people like that British diacetyl note sometimes, but I cannot stand it, and it just overshadowed everything else about this beer for me. Not undrinkable, but definitely not good. D
  • Stone / Farking / Wheaton W00tstout - Ah, now we come to my favorite beer of the night, the Wil Wheaton collaboration with Stone and Fark.com, a huge imperial stout made with pecans, wheat, and rye, partially aged in bourbon barrels. Great rich sweetness, a hint of that bourbon and oak, with a nice overall malt character. A bit heavy, but quite a nice beer, really glad I got to try some. A-
  • Ken's Irish red Ale - Another homebrew, this time a pretty straightforward Irish Red that was made with potatoes, a pretty nice combo. Sweeter than your typical Irish Red, though it keeps that same flavor profile and works well enough. I'll go with a standard B for this one.
And that just about covers it. For those who saw the Eclipse beer in the picture and are upset that we didn't get to it, do not fear, I reviewed it a while back. You're welcome. See you next month...

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
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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...

Founders Red's Rye PA

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Founders, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, seems to be one of those bedrock breweries. They make a ton of styles, and they knock them all out of the park, including this rye beer. I'm pretty sure this is the first of that style I ever had. I don't know who "Red" was, but I presume he's the guy on the label and that he loves him some rye. And hops.

Founders Reds Rye

Founders Red's Rye PA - Pours a brownish amber color with a finger of light head that leaves lots of lacing as I drink. Smell is all hopped up (citrusy and floral), with some caramel malt and maybe some of that rye as well... Taste has some caramel malt along with a heaping helping of citrus and earthy, floral hops and a well matched bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is smooth and easy to drink for a beer with this much flavor. Overall, a damn fine beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 2/5/12.

I wouldn't say that my palate is particularly attuned to rye, though I seem to be able to pick it out in the aroma better than the taste. The same went for the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye I had earlier this week... But I'm interested to try more rye beer. And at this point, I'm always willing to sample something new from Founders.

Febrewary Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. An interesting turnout this month, as a few stalwarts were absent, but new attendees picked up the slack. This time around, we visited a Mexican BYOB with quite the ostentatious decor:

February Beer Club
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Phew, that place has some brightly colored furniture. But amazing salsa and good food too. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. As usual, conditions were not ideal, so you can and should be skeptical of my notes. In order of drinking (not in order of the picture above):

  • Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale - Wow, very rich malt flavors here, like a Scotch ale, but with something more. I got a distinct barrel aged character out of it, though this not one of those versions (apparently there are bourbon, port or brandy barrel aged versions, which I'd love to try). Fantastic beer, got the night going in style, though it may have set the bar unreasonably high for the following beers. I'd love to get me some more of this. A candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Appalachian Jolly Scot Scottish Ale - A somewhat local PA beer, this is another malt-forward ale that, unfortunately, didn't stand up too well to the Hairy Eyeball. It was fine, to be sure, and I'd probably really enjoy one of these by itself, but it came off as being a biton the thin side after the rich flavors of the Hairy Eyeball. B
  • Blue Moon Belgian White - I know, it's brewed by Coors, but hey, it actually worked really well at this point in the night. After two malt forward beers, it was a really refreshing change of pace, and I honestly have no problem with this beer anyway. Obviously not something I would ever go out of my way for, but a lot of places that only stock macros will have this on tap, and it's actually a nice beer. No, it won't melt your face, but it's a good gateway beer. Lots of wheat and citrus, it's refreshing and made for a nice palate cleanser tonight. B
  • Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale - Big brown ale brewed with Maple Syrup, you do get that character coming through pretty strongly here. A big, rich ale, no real hop presence, but lots of malts and that maple syrup adds a nice richness to the proceedings. Very well done, and another candidate for best of the night. A-
  • Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA - Well hopped (citrus and a little pine), plenty of balancing malts, and some of that distinctive rye character (though I never got the full-on rye bread character people seem to talk about). It didn't blow my mind, but a very solid beer that I could probably drink often. B+
  • St. Bernardus Prior 8 - Not pictured (late arrival), but it's a classic. Already reviewed here.
  • Southern Tier Creme Brulee (Imperial Milk Stout) - Another beer I reviewed a while back, this is one of the more interesting beers of the night. Massive aroma, intense flavors of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, maybe even some coffee. I could just sniff this stuff all night. Great stuff, maybe even a little better than I remember (though I think my chief complaint last time was that it's a bit too sweet to drink a whole bottle). A strange beer because I wouldn't call it one of my favorites, but it's so distinctive and interesting that I'd highly recommend it to just about anyone. A great dessert beer.
  • Dominion Ale - Any beer that follows the intense flavors and aroma of Creme Brulee was probably doomed to failure, and this turned out to be a rather standard English Pale Ale, a style I'm coming to dislike quite a bit these days. I always feel like there are buttery off flavors in these beers, and this one is no exception. I even threw in a small slice of orange, which helped mellow it out a bit, but blegh. Not a fan of this beer. D
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale - My homebrewed winter warmer style beer (a kinda spiced red ale), this thing has to be my best beer yet. Very nice spicy aroma, picking up lots of that cinnamon and clove, tastes quite nice, almost creamy mouthfeel. I really hope this wasn't some sort of fluke. I should really do a recap of all my homebrews at some point on the blog, so no rating for now, but I would seriously put this up against any of the winter warmer style beers I've had over the past couple years.
  • Boxcar Brewing A Long Winter's Night - This is probably as local as I can get. The (tiny) brewery was literally a few blocks away from where we were tonight (and this limited edition brew doesn't even warrant a page on BA, apparently). This winter ale was very interesting. I didn't get a lot of spice or anything out of it, but it was a very nice cloudy brown color with... it's hard to describe. Roasted chocolate? But not at all like a stout. More like a brown ale, but with no coffee and some chocolatey overtones (to be honest, it's very much like their regular brown ale, but perhaps less nutty). Very solid beer. B
All in all, a pretty great night! We didn't manage to get to all the beers in the picture, though I ended up taking a can of pale ale home with me, so perhaps a review of that in the coming weeks... That's all for now.

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
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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.

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

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