Recently in Saison Category

Forest & Main Lunaire

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I've been hitting the local brews pretty hard this past week or so, and I don't see any reason to stop now. Here we have another two year old local brewpub specializing in English and Belgian styles, with a particular focus on saisons. As I've mentioned before, they share a fair amount of DNA with what makes Tired Hands a Kaedrin favorite, so you know I'm interested when they do a bottle release. They're a bit further away from me, so I don't always get up there for bottle releases, but on the other hand, they tend to be low stress affairs, much like the laid back atmosphere they cultivate.

Here we have the second release of Lunaire, a saison aged in Chardonnay barrels for about six months. So strap in, it's time we take Le Lunaire Voyage*

Forest and Main Lunaire

Forest & Main Lunaire - Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a finger of tight white head that sticks around for a while as I drink. Beautiful nose, musty funk, bright citrus, wine, and lots of oak. The taste amps up that funk a bit, lots of earthiness, a little citrus tartness, vinous fruit, and tons of oak. I suspect there are some who'd say this is over oaked, but I'm not complaining at all. That being said, I'd be really curious to see what this does over time, perhaps that oak will mellow out some (fortunately, I have a few extra bottles to lay down). Mouthfeel is well carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, light bodied, tannic, with just a bit of acidity. Overall, this may be my favorite Forest & Main beer yet. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/2/14. Batch 2 (I think... definitely the second bottling), bottled May 21, 2014.

I seem to be drowning in excellent, funky, local saisons aged in wine barrels of late. I'm not really complaining about that, I love me some farmhouse and I've been trying to live off my cellar for the past few months instead of continually buying more than I could even drink, but I also try to write about more diverse stuff. I'll have to see what I can do in the near future about that. Incidentally, I've got a line on some midwest Gold, and even a potential trip to Vermont next week, so I'll most likely be stocking up again in the near future. Stay tuned!

* For the non film nerds amongst you, I was trying to evoke the early cinematic classic Le Voyage dans la Lune (aka A Trip to the Moon)with that quip, but the fact that I'm even writing this footnote is probably a bad sign, no? I'll just stop then.

I Am The Emptiness

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Another in an ongoing series of saisons aged in wine barrels with various local fruits sourced from rockstar farmer Tom Culton, this is what happens when you add strawberries and your cellar is full, so you just release it on tap because there's no space for any bottles. This sort of thing will be remedied shortly once their new facility is up and running, but for now, I'll just have to suffer through drinking this excellent beer on tap and in a growler:

Tired Hands I Am The Emptiness

I Am The Emptiness - Pours a deep, dark orange color with a finger of off white head. Smells fantastic, strawberries, fruity funk, musty, just a hint of earthiness, some yeasty spice, a little oak and vanilla, did I mention strawberries? Taste has a more prominent oak character, lots of fruitiness with those tart strawberries really coming through well, but not dominating. Sour, but not overpoweringly so, because there's that typical saison backbone, a little spice, and even a little citrus hops poking through, with perhaps more bitterness than expected from this Emptiness series. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, reasonably well carbonated (less than the last couple bottles, which were perfect), only a bit of acidity from that sourness. Overall, though I may prefer the persimmon variant, this is still another winning entry into the Emptiness series. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV from a growler (1L swingtop). Drank out of a flute glass on 7/26/14, growler filled earlier that day.

I had this on tap last week too (it kicked while I was sitting there finishing up a glass), and I found it slightly better than in the growler (but that's my general feeling with growlers). Up next in the Emptiness series are The Emptiness is Not Eternal bottles. Jean sez the bottle conditioned version is better than the one that was on tap during the Second Anniversary, which makes me wonder if I Am The Emptiness would similarly improve if bottled... Anyway, after that one comes You Are The Emptiness, which is made with peaches, and therefore represents some sort of beer nerd singularity that will draw quite a crowd when released.

Beer Clubbing

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer minded individuals at a local BYOB for libations and fun. Tonight we returned to a mainstay of our beer club experience, a local sushi place that we have all grown to love. Reasonable turnout, and some rather fantastic beers:

Beer Club for July 2014

For the sake of posterity, some basic thoughts on each below. Usual disclaimers apply, this is clearly not an isolation chamber environment, so please take this with the requisite grain (or boulder) of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily in the order pictured):

  • Forest & Main Palomino - One of my contributions and a favorite of the night, this is just as good as it was when it was fresh, if not even better. A-
  • Ken's Homebrewed Pilsner - Nice typical pilsner hop nose, incredibly light and quaffable, this is the sort of thing that would be a perfect hot day drinking beer. This was Ken's first all-grain brew, and it turned out really well, even if it's not my favorite style. B
  • Anthony's Homebrewed ESB - Another homebrew (we seem to attract those types at beer club, I don't know why), this one has all the hallmarks of a good ESB, nice muted hop character, some solid biscuity malt, but also an almost brown sugar component that works really well. Another beer that would make for a great session, even if it might be slightly too much ABV... B+
  • Crown Valley Big Bison Ale - A fairly malty, well carbonated take on the dubbel style, though it's a bit more raisiny than expected, with maybe even a hint of diacetyl, which we never really appreciate here at Kaedrin. Not at all terrible, but a bit of a disappointment. B-
  • Anderson Valley Boont Barl Bourbon Barrel Amber Ale - Not as much bourbon barrel character as expected, and as such beers go, this is decidedly low cctane, but it actually drinks reasonably well. Decent balance, the bourbon is there, but it's very light. Not something I'd seek out, but it's a reasonably decent beer. B
  • Terrapin Pineapple Express - The bottle sez this is a smoked pineapple Helles, not something that seems like it would work out. In reality, it's not as bad as I feared, but it was cromulent enough. Very sweet, with only a light smoky character (it's not one of those beers where you'll wonder who put their cigar out in your beer!) I'm glad I tried it in this setting, as I don't know that I'd want to take down a full bottle of this. B-
  • Kaedrin Barleywine - I'm pretty sure I screwed up the carbonation factor of this beer. The flavor and aroma are there in spades, it just hasn't quite carbed up to the point where I thin it works well. And actually, this regular version is probably the best carbonated of them, which is not encouraging. The Bourbon one tastes a lot better, but it's also flatter... B-
  • Oskar Blues Old Chub Nitro - Much better than the standard Old Chub (which I always felt was too dry and too well carbonated to be a great Scotch ale), really smooth and creamy (typical of the nitro), malty, tasty stuff. B+
  • Green Flash Road Warrior Imperial Rye India Pale Ale - Tons of Moscaic hop character out of this, tropical fruits with that spicy rye character, this is a really solid beer worth checking out. B+
  • Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break - I've actually had this a few times before, and it's really nice, especially if you like coffee. As I'm pretty much ambivalent to coffee, I thought this was fine, if not the best evar, though it seemed to go over really well. This was another favorite of the night amongst the beer club peeps, but I'll go B+, but only because my coffee feelings are well documented (could easily be higher for most other folks).
  • Blue Point (Sour) Cherry Imperial Stout - I have to admit that I'm not the biggest sour stout fan out there, but this worked well enough, with that rich malt and sour twang, maybe even a hint of that cherry. A few of us tried blending this beer with the Imperial Biscotti Stout, just to see what would happen, but it didn't turn out particularly great. This beer by itself is better, but still around a B level beer for me.

So there you have it. August may be a weird month in terms of beer club, but I'm sure we'll work something out. In any case, stay tuned for some moar local awesomeness this week on Kaedrin.

Independence Day

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Every year, a local drinkery puts together a killer taplist on the 4th of July, and for the past two, I've tried to make it over there. Of course, it helps that they're pouring stuff like Hill Farmstead (insert stupid image of Wolverine pining after beer here), and this year there were 2 that I had not managed to wrangle before. In addition, I snagged my first Funky Buddha beer, and a little midwest coffee stout. Let's just say that it was a good day.

Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison

Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison - Pretty excited to try this one, a collaboration with Kissmeyer and Cambridge brewing. Apparently we got some of this before it was even released at HF! Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a whispy layer of head on top that basically just disappears. Smells nice, Belgian yeast, light saison funk, almost fruity notes. Taste follows the nose, light funk, some yeasty character, fair amount of sweetness, a little balancing bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is lightly carbonated (generally a problem for me) and a little heavier than your typical saison. Overall, this is a fine saison, but coming from the likes of HF, I generally expect more (Arthur was on tap, and was far superior). B

Beer Nerd Details: ??% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

Hill Farmstead George

Hill Farmstead George - This looks to be a pretty standard American Brown Ale style beer. It's not a style that you would expect to wow you, and it doesn't, though of course, HF's take is amongst the best I've ever had (if not the best). Dark brown color, solid finger and a half of light tan head. Smells about what you'd expect from a brown ale, mild, toasted malt, hints of coffee, chocolate, and roast, maybe a teensy bit of hops, but nothing dramatic. Taste follows the nose, mild toast and roast, well balanced sweetness and bitterness, and so on. Mouthfeel is fantastic, well carbonated, medium bodied, everything blends together well. Overall, this is an exceedingly well balanced, tasty take on the style. It's not going to melt your face, but it's really well done. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

So I know what you're thinking, two Hill Farmstead beers and no A level ratings? Well fear not, Abner, Susan, and Arthur were also on tap and are all as fantastic as ever. But after the above two, I jumped ship for my first Funky Buddha beer. They're a Florida brewery that doesn't get much in the way of distribution, but Philly really is a wondertown in that respect, so a few kegs make their way up here from time to time. This offering was, by far, the weirdest thing I had all day.

Funky Buddha Last Snow

Funky Buddha Last Snow - This is a coffee Porter made with coconut, white chocolate and caramel, and it is weirder than it sounds. Looks like a typical stout or porter, half a finger of fluffy tan head. That coconut and coffee come through strong in the nose. I don't think I'd call it balanced, but it comes off as being toasted coconut or something, and it works. The taste perhaps features a little more of that roasted malt and coffee, but the coconut sweetness still pervades the taste and again, it works reasonably well. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light on its feet, well carbonated, pretty easy going. Overall, it's a really interesting, unique, complex beer. Not something that I'd expect to take the world by storm, but an interesting first impression. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

Perennial Sump

Perennial Sump Coffee Stout - A big ol' imperial stout brewed with coffee. I think we all know how I feel about coffee stouts (I like them, but am still mostly ambivalent about the coffee aspect), so I wasn't expecting much out of this sucker, and it was basically what I expected. My tasting notes are pretty sparse from this point on, so I'm just going from memory here, but this did have a nice coffee character to it, and a solid imperial stout base. It was not a super drinkable stout, and took my a while to work through. I liked it, but was not going as crazy over it as everyone else. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

So this was a very good day. Lots of new, interesting beer, and some real, genuine classics that I'd had before but will always jump to try again (looking at you, Abner!) Already looking forward to next year's 4th of July celebration!

Posting will probably be light this week, but never fear, we'll be talking great beer again in no time.

Boulevard Saison-Brett

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There are beers that I pine after (like any good beer nerd) that would rightly be called a White Wale. In the past, I've mentioned the sort of arbitrary, moving goalpost nature of White Whale beers, which leads neckbearded tickers to call stuff like Black Tuesday a Khaki Wale (unless you snag the 2009 vintage, in which case you're totally slayin walez, bro), but a beer like this wouldn't really even qualify for that dubious honor. It's mildly limited and PA is not in Boulevard's distribution, so there is that, but it's not a beer that lights fires, except in that certain corner of beer dorkery occupied by saison addicts. But this does happen to be my corner of dorkery, so why has it taken so long for me to procure a bottle of this stuff? I don't have a good answer, but I did finally manage to drink a bottle, so let's get to it, shall we. This is Boulevard's Tank 7 saison that's been conditioned on Brettanomyces for 3 months, and it's one of the better examples of Brett Saisons out there:

Boulevard Saison-Brett

Boulevard Saison-Brett - Pours a slightly hazy, light yellow color with massive amounts of whispy head. The smell is pure funk, musty, earthy, spicy, floral, and even a little fruity. The taste has a nice Belgian yeast character, fruity esters and spicy phenols, banana and clove, but then that funk shows up and starts trashing the place with it's earthy, musty, barnyardy, flowery goodness. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and efferevescent, dry, light body but still substantial enough that it carries its weight and can stand up to food. Sometimes dry beers with high carbonation tend to be dominated by the mouthfeel, but in this case, those characteristics seem to pull out the flavor rather than mask it. It's complex enough to keep the jaded beer dorks interested, but approachable enough that anyone who likes Belgian pales will probably get a kick out of it. Overall, this is indeed a very good funky beer and probably my favorite Boulevard offering to date. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute on 6/27/14. 2014 vintage. Batch Number: SB14058-1. Best By Date: 02-2016.

It's always nice to tick that long unticked box, and it's nice to see what all the fuss is about.

Like any good craft brewery, the fine folks at Tired Hands like to collaborate. These often show up at the brewpub (and presumably at the collaborator's brewery), but a couple of recent instances involved Jean traveling to Europe and working with various kindred spirits to produce some stuff that would be bottled and then imported. I've totally been slacking on these, so I figured it was time to catch up with them.

Crushable Saison

Brasserie de la Senne and Tired Hands Crushable Saison - This was basically a hoppy saison. Pours a cloudy but bright straw yellow color (very typical of Tired Hands) with huge amounts of fluffy, bubbly head that sticks around for a while and leaves lots of lacing (perhaps not as common for Tired Hands - they tend to be lighter in carbonation than this appears). Smells of grassy citrus hops (I get some standard Euro hop feel here, but also some straightforward American hops, like Cascade or Simcoe or something like that), some light peppery yeast, clove, and a little fruity kick too. The taste features a similar quality, lots of Belgian yeast character, very light spicy notes (pepper and clove), hints of fruity esters, and some grassy citrus hops (maybe a bit of hop bitterness in the finish). Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, very light body on this, and it is super dry. Given the name, I think they've achieved their goal though: it's super quaffable and yes, emminently crushable. Overall, this is a nice, delicate, quaffable saison. It's not going to light the world on fire, but I could drink a couple gallons of this stuff, which, seems to be what they were going for. It's not a glamorous face melter, but it's the sort of thing you could probably expect to be pouring at the brewpub on most visits. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a flute on 6/20/14. Bottled 10/10/13. Best By 10/10/14

Lost and Found

De Molen and Tired Hands Lost & Found - Check out these pics of Jean and Menno grooving at the De Molen brewery. This is a hoppy black ale fermented with 100% Brett. I can't tell if oak was involved, but I didn't really get much oak out of the taste. Pours a turbid brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of Brett funk, a little fruity, citrus and pine hops (maybe a little faded, yielding more piney notes), with some dark malt presence and a hint of tartness. The taste has more of that tart fruitiness, and that dark malt character comes on much stronger. Some earthy funk too. The hops seem a little lost in the taste, or at least not as harmonious as in the nose. Mouthfeel is really strange, grainy, a little astringency from that tartness, medium carbonation, medium body. Overall, there's some nice elements here, but the balance is a little off, and the disparate elements don't really come together as well as I'd hoped. It's not unpleasant or anything, but it was a little disappointing. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/20/14. Bottled 27 Nov 2013 (I think that's the bottling date).

Both are imported by Shelton Brothers, so they should be out and about. Of the two, I'd recommend Crushable Saison much more, as it's more representative of their style... and cheaper too! That being said, if you are ever in the Philly area, it's worth making the detour out to Ardmore to visit the brewpub (but given my general enthusiasm for Tired Hands on this here blog, I probably don't need to tell you that).

June Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club! For the uninitiated, beer club is a gathering of beer-minded individuals from my workplace who get together once a month for beer and revelry at a local BYOB. This time around, we returned to an Indian/Thai restaurant and despite a medium turnout, had much in the way of fun.

June Beer Club Lineup

For the sake of posterity, I'm documenting my nearly incoherent thoughts on each beer below, which is my way of saying that you should not trust any of these ratings because as we've established recently, I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Red Star Zingerbuch Kombucha - So the first beer of the night... was not beer! This is some sort of bizarre fermented tea concoction with ginger and hibiscus. It was very aromatic, flowery, and ginger aley. It was not exactly my bag, but this is the perfect setting for weird crap like this. No rating because I don't even really know what this is.
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale - Basically a palate cleanser, and a beer I've already covered before. B+
  • Founders All Day IPA - So the new trend is to call pale ales a "session IPA" or something like that? Ok, whatever, this is a pretty solid example, and I could probably drink a bunch of these with no complaints. Nice hop presence, but light and quaffable. B+
  • Surly Furious - Ah, now this is an IPA! Surly does not distribute to PA... except during Philly Beer Week. One of our attendees tonight was fortunate enough to attend a Surly event and snag a few cans, and generous enough to share with the rest of us. I've heard so many great things about Surly that I was afraid they wouldn't live up to the hype, but this is indeed a really fantastic IPA. Citrus and lots of pine and resinous hops, but exceedingly well balanced stuff, lots of hops and enough crystal malts that it didn't feel super bitter despite being 99 IBU. Probably the best beer of the night. I'll leave it at A- territory for now, but I definitely want to get some more of this (it could warrant an upgrade).
  • Kaedrôme Saison - Dammit, this still has not carbonated as much as I'd like, but it is still a tasty beer, light on the funk, but still a nice peppery saison flavor. I'm guessing that if it hasn't carbonated much by now, it's not going to get much better... which is fine, since I probably only have 6-12 bottles of the stuff left. B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Chile Beer - Made with chile peppers and smoked malt, this sucker was spicy but flavorful. Not really my thing, but it's an interesting beer, and certainly not the abomination that Cave Creek Chili Beer was...
  • Lost Abbey Carnevale - A Brett does saison? Sign me up, this was one of my favorites of the night. Nice fruity, earthy funk pervading the whole thing, a pleasure to drink. It's no Logsdon or anything, but it's really nice. A high B+
  • Southern Tier Compass - Perhaps it was just because we opened it towards the end of the night, but this felt exceedingly bland to me, with the only real dominant note being the flowery aromas and flavors. Not really my thing. C
  • Brooklyn Wild Streak - A belgian strong pale aged in Bourbon barrels with Brett? Well ok then. The Brett has a minimal, but still detectable presence. But the taste is more dominated by that pale ale aged in bourbon barrel character that never really works as well for me as it does for stouts or barleywines. It's fine for what it is, but it's not really my thing. B-
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Blend) - The imperial stout is doing quite well. This blend has faint hints of the bourbon and oak, but nothing like a BBA stout. That being said, it's delicious and only getting better over time. I'll still leave it at a B+
And that is all for now. We will probably return to regular blogging next week, so stay tuned.

Philly Beer Week Recap

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As per usual, I did not have my act together for this year's Philly Beer Week, and thus only went to a few events. For whatever reason, this week always seems to sneak up on me and I'm always caught unprepared. I'm the worst. That being said, I did manage to snag a few pretty interesting beers, so here's a quick recap. First stop was the venerable Philly institution Monk's Cafe:

Monks Cafe

The event was all about collaborations, most of which involved Monk's very own Tom Peters... First up was the next entry in the whole PNC collaboration series (last year's collaboration yielded Firestone Walker PNC, a most spectacular beer). This release comes to us from Maine's Allagash brewing, and this beer actually began its journey over four years ago ("Brewed in April 2010 & racked into oak barrels on May 25, 2010"). In a nice touch, the little beer menu actually included details of each barrel (including a couple that were marked as "DO NOT USE", heh). Click for a larger version:

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator Barrel Details

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator

Allagash PNC Broken Elevator - Dark pour, fluffy tan head... darker than I was expecting, but when you look at the barrel details, that makes sense. Smells oaky, almost chocolaty and very sour, I can almost feel the sourness in my jaw (and I haven't even tasted it yet). Taste is bracingly sour, tart puckering fruit with some dark, chocolaty notes, almost a chocolate covered cherry feel. Mouthfeel is surprisingly full, not like a chewy stout but very big for a sour, which is an interesting feel. Extremely acidic, biting, but still nice... Overall, this is a really interesting, complex, unique, and very sour beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

So after that, I sampled a few other brews, including another small glass of Firestone's PNC stout (still exceptional, no change from my initial review):

Dock Street Trappiste Style Pale Ale - Inspired by Orval, this is obviously not a clone or anything, but it's nice. It's got a very dry feel, lots of peppery yeast notes, and some earthy funk in the finish. It's a fine beer, but not quite lighting the world on fire. I heard that this beer was actually made for last year's PBW, so perhaps it was better fresh? Not that it's terrible now or anything... B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Dilewyns Philly Tripel - This is the official Philly Beer Week Collaboration orchestrated by Tom Peters, where one local brewer travels to Belgium to collaborate with a brewery there. This year it was Justin Low from Dock Street who went and collaborated with Anne Catherine Dilewyns from the relatively young Dilewyns brewery (they make Vicaris labeled beers) in Belgium. The result is a relatively straightforward tripel, with some small twists. Pale colored, sticky sweet, lots of honey flavor and fruity esters, less in the way of Belgian yeast spice. This is perhaps not my preferred take on the style, but it's nice. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

De Molen Rook and Leer

De Molen Rook & Leer - The weirdest, most unique beer of the night, I've never had anything like this before. So get this, we've got an Imperial Smoked Porter base that was aged in whiskey barrels with brettanomyces and Rodenbach yeast. Oh, and it clocks in at 11.5% ABV. Um, yeah, ok. The more amazing thing: It actually works. Neither the smoke nor the sourness dominates, leading to an extremely complex beer. Usually high ABV sours don't work so well for me, but this one is just very well balanced. It's certainly odd, and I think the fact that this was originally brewed in 2011 has helped the flavors mesh together (and perhaps even mellow out some). It's a weird beer to rate, but I'll give it a A-, but maybe I was a bit far gone at this point.

Beer Nerd Details: 11.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

By this time, I was doing pretty well, so I slowed down a bit, got a table with some friends and ate some dinner. I did have a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was great as always, though I'm starting to see where the contrarians are coming. Naturally, I had some mussels, and as usual, they were fantastic. We also got a plate of Frog's Legs, which were basically a lot like chicken wings (I've had Frog's Legs before, but never like this).

At this point, we took our leave of Monk's and headed over to the Good Dog Bar & Restaurant, which is a great little place about a block over from Monk's. Well worth a visit if you're ever in Philly, and they also have great food (I'm pretty sure they've been featured on one of them Food Network shows at some point). They were having a Firestone Walker event and included this rarity, which I assumed would never make its way out East:

Firestone Walker Helldorado

Firestone Walker Helldorado - So you know how Firestone does that Anniversary blend where they invite a bunch of local winemakers to their brewery and set them loose on a bunch of barrel aged beers? Many of the component brews are available in bottled form, but most seem to be relative rarities, and Helldorado is one of those. I was shocked to see it at this event and immediately got myself a glass of the stuff. Alas, this is perhaps not my favorite style. It's described as Blonde Barleywine brewed with Honey, and boy can you really tell. It's extremely sticky sweet, with that honey coming through strong. It's supposed to be brewed with El Dorado hops, but I get almost no hop character out of this, so I'm guessing it was a light touch (or just used to balance out that intense sweetness). It's definitely a big, boozy bomb of a beer, and it's got a full body. However, something about the way light colored beers react in bourbon barrels is just not as exciting to me as when you get a darker base beer (the picture above makes Helldorado look darker than it was, though it wasn't super pale either). I mean, it's good, I'm really happy I got to try it, and everyone else who had it seemed to love it, so maybe this is just me, but I'll leave it at a B+ and go from there.

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Lil' Opal - Now this, on the other hand, was way better than I was expecting. It's a toned down ("lil'") saison that's been aged in barrels with Brett and blended with various vintages, and it's fantastic. Granted, this is right up my alley, but I really loved this beer, a great funky saison, fruity, earthy, spicy, almost quaffable (even at this point in the night). It was a refreshing beer to have right after Helldorado, and it totally stood up to those intense flavors as well. Obviously, I was a little far gone at this point, so I'll conservatively rate it an A-, but I need to find me some more of this someday.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.9% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Firestone Walker Agrestic Ale - Firestone has always been known for barrel fermenting and barrel aging, but they always stuck to non-wild styles, and they apparently greatly feared infections and the like. But when they opened up a completely separate facility, that allowed them to play with all sorts of sour bugs, and we're starting to get the fruits of that labor now (Lil' Opal also came out of that program). This was a really nice, light bodied sour, it reminded me a little of brighter Crooked Stave Origins. Again, I was a little far gone at this point in the night, but I really enjoyed this. I'll give it a B+, but I'd really like to try it again sometime.

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass on 6/7/14.

Phew, it's a very good thing I was taking the train home, and while the above does seem like a lot of beer, it was spread out over quite a long time. Again, I need to better prepare for Philly Beer Week next year, so we'll see what happens. That's all for now. Stay tuned for Beer Club tomorrow! (No post on Thursday though, as I didn't really drink much else this past weekend, for obvious reasons!)

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

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

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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