Recently in Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy Category

February Beer Club

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Tonight was beer club, a gathering of beer minded individuals from my work who get together about once a month at a local BYOB for good company and libations. As per usual, a good turnout, with a good representation from the core team, but also some very welcome new faces. About half of us are, at this point, avid homebrewers, so discussion veered into a rather nerdy realm from time to time, but that's all good, and there was also a nice contingent of non-beer drinking peeps who were bemused by our nerdery, but steered the discussion other ways as well. Good times had by all.

February Beer Club

For the sake of posterity, initial thoughts on each beer are captured below. As you might guess, conditions here are not ideal, nor did I always drink a full portion, so take this with a gigantic grain of salt if you dare. Or not. I am pretty awesome, so I'm sure these inchoate notes are all you'll really need. In order of drinking (not necessarily in order pictured):

  • Heavy Seas Gold Ale - A pretty basic Blonde Ale, comparable to most macro slop, but a step above such extremes. B-
  • Kaedrôme Saison - This is drinking well, though it still has not carbonated as well as I'd have liked. I don't know if this is because the yeast is just so old and overstressed or if it's because it's been so cold lately and my cellar is just so cold that it's taking the beer a while to condition. Whatever the case, the flavors are at the right place, and there is enough carbonation to make it drinkable, it's just that I wish there were more. B
  • New Belgium Lips Of Faith - Coconut Curry Hefeweizen - Holy curry, Batman! At first, the curry seemed to overpower everything else, but as I drank and as it warmed (we had some of this later in the evening as well), the coconut and hefeweizen notes came out a bit more. Its a very interesting, weird beer, but I don't think it's quite the right combination of flavors for beer. C+
  • Stone Matt's Burning Rosids - I think you all know how much I love me some saisons, even weird, incoherent takes on the style, but this one seemed to be filled with a sorta burnt rubber band aid flavor that overpowered everything else. Perhaps not totally undrinkable, but I'm really, really happy I only tried a smallish sample of the stuff. D
  • Green Jack Rippa - I've seen this around and been curious about an "English Triple" beer, and it was an interesting beer, though it came off as being incredibly boozy, which is a bit odd for an 8.5% beer. To be sure, that's not a whimpy ABV, but it's also not something I'd expect to be quite so powerfully boozy. It had a nice malt backbone too, but not enough to stand up to the booze. C+
  • Ken's Homebrewed ESB - A light take on the style, though perhaps it just seemed that way because we had this after the boozy bomb previously mentioned. Still, very easy drinking stuff, malt forward but quaffable. B
  • Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale - Now, this beer club group occasionally visits an authentic (at least, to us Yanks, it seems so) British pub called The Whip Tavern. They have this rather spectacular dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding, so hopes were somewhat high for this beer. To be sure, I was tempering my expectations by the fact that a lot of English ales, even stuff like this that is flavored with adjuncts, come off with hints of diacetyl, but in this case, my fears were unfounded. It's nowhere near as good as the actual dessert, but it had a really nice toffee/caramel character that worked really well for the beer. B
  • Chimay Tripel (White) - A beer I've obviously had many times before, and it's just as good as ever, though I seem to have veered away from a lot of the Belgian styles that initially hooked me on good beer. Still, this is a nice one. I'd probably downgrade to a B+, but it's still very nice.
  • Starr Hill Psycho Kilter - A nice take on the Scotch Ale style, certainly not a top tier effort, but a nice, malt forward, relatively low carbed beer that doesn't quite bely its relatively high 9.3% strength. B
  • Kaedrin Bomb and Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked Version) - This is the version of my RIS homebrew that was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes. In this version, the charred oak really comes through strong. Not a ton of bourbon, though it is there. The charred oak is pretty strong at this point, which makes me think that perhaps I should have soaked the oak cubes in bourbon for longer than the 1-2 weeks I employed. Still, this turned out well, though the blended version seems to be the best version. B+
  • Lost Abbey The Angel's Share (Bourbon Barrel Aged) - A beer I've had and reviewed before. It is still pretty fantastic stuff. A-
  • Deschutes Jubelale - Another beer I've had a few times this year, and it's a nice winter warmer style beer, malt forward with lots of spice, quite enjoyable (and surprisingly did not suffer from a no doubt beleaguered palate at this point in the night). B
And that just about covers it. Already looking forward to the March beer club, where I'll be able to share some Fat Weekend IPA...

Thirsty Dog Wulver

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In Scottish folklore, the Wulver is a kind of werewolf, but not the kind you're familiar with. Wulvers are not tortured human souls, cursed to yield to the beast within on the full moon. Nor do they have, like, a bazillion abs and fall in love with a passive girl who's knocking boots with a vampire. Not that I'd know anything about that. In fact, Wulvers aren't even human; they're merely a human-like creature with a wolf's head, and they're not known to be particularly aggressive... unless provoked. Wikipedia sez: "He didn't molest folk if folk didn't molest him." Uh huh, interesting choice of words. Anywho, it also sez Wulvers are fond of fishing, and perhaps they'd drink a beer like this one whilst kicking back. That's a blind speculation on my part, but it's a wee heavy style beer aged in bourbon barrels for 11 months, and who wouldn't want to sip on one of those whilst fishing in Scottland? Ok, fine, perhaps the Wulver would molest the bottle. There, you happy? No? Fine, then just look at the pretty picture:

Thirsty Dog Wulver

Thirsty Dog Wulver - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of tan head that has pretty good retention. Smells deeply of bourbon and oak, some caramel, maybe even something smoky, and huge, sweeping vanilla aromas too. Taste starts with rich caramel, a hint of dark and/or smoky malts (very subtle smoke, if it's there) yielding to that bourbon barrel treatment and those big vanilla notes towards the finish. Maybe a bit of dark fruit as it warms up, and a bit of pleasant booze too. Mouthfeel is perfect, well carbonated but silky smooth, rich and almost creamy. Overall, yep, this is a winner for sure. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 1/11/13.

The label sez they made this beer specifically to be aged in Bourbon barrels, and I do believe they've succeeded in that task. Now I'm going to have to keep an eye out for that BA Siberian Night, though wonder of wonders, Wulver seems to be the more highly praised of the two (normally the Imperial Stout is the more popular offering).

Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly

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Oh boy, I've been down this road before. I can't stand even the slightest hint of diacetyl in my beer. That buttery/butterscotch flavor that seems to be a common component in a lot of English pale ales just kills a beer for me. I've been over this before, so I won't belabor the point, but this was a Scotch Ale made in Belgium, then aged in Port barrels, what could go wrong? Diacetyl, apparently.

Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly

Brasserie de Silly Port Barrel Aged Scotch De Silly - Pours a deep, dark amber brown color with a finger of whitish head. Smells sweet, lots of vinous fruit (presumably from the port), but uh oh, is that diacetyl I'm picking up here? Taste starts off well enough, nice rich malt backbone, some fruit, a vinous note from the port, maybe a hint of oak, but also that slight diacetyl note that I just can never stand in beer. And it lasts through the finish, too. It's not super prominent, but it's really dragging this beer down for me. Mouthfeel starts out great, full bodied and rich, but it thins out a bit towards the finish. Overall, dammit, this is an otherwise excellent beer, but I will brook no diacetyl. Would still prefer this to most crappy macro beers, but it's a big disappointment. C+

Beer Nerd Details: 9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/22/13. Vintage: 2013.

I really enjoy a glass of Porto from time to time, so it's depressing that every time I try a Port barrel aged beer, it turns out like this. One day, I'll get one that works. One day.

Quick Hits

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When I started this blog, I was generally looking to write about every new beer I tried. I learned a lot, which was the point, but I'm also sure it was boring. Being the 3583756th blog to review Sierra Nevada Pale Ale isn't particularly constructive or, frankly, all that interesting. I don't want to read that, let alone write it and inflict it upon you. So what I'm getting at here is that I might not review every beer I try anymore, and I might do more posts like this, with just a few quick hits on mildly interesting beers I've had lately. In fact, this has been happening for a while now, and it's part of the reason I feel like everything I review is really good - I'm not putting much energy into those bad beers. Anyways, I'm sure you're devastated by all this, but I'll try to make up for it by drinking and reviewing interesting beer and maybe even writing things that aren't just reviews. So for now, let's just look at a few beers I've had over the past couple months, but which haven't inspired posts of their own:

Marooned On Hog Island - 21st Amendment

21st Amendment Marooned On Hog Island - Jay loved this and I always fall in love with 21st Amendment's artwork, but then, I'm not a particularly big fan of oyster stouts either. Something about the salinity that most of them have just doesn't work that great for me, though it can make for an interesting change of pace. This one pours a black color with a finger of tan head. Smells of sweet roasted malts along with something I can't quite place (brininess? Presumably the oysters...) Taste is straight on stout, sweet with plenty of roasted malt and that briny oyster character coming through towards the finish, which retains a bitter roast too. Mouthfeel is very nice, well carbonated, lighter bodied than I'd expect, but still substantial. Overall, it's a solid beer, but it didn't hit me in the gut like I wanted. B

Beer Nerd Details: 7.9% ABV canned (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Duck-Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Style Ale - Man, Duck-Rabbit sounds like it'd be right up my alley - a brewery specializing in dark ales? Sign me up! And yet I'm almost invariably disappointed by their wares. Granted, I haven't had anything other than their regular lineup, but still. I like Scotch ales, but this one doesn't feel like the style at all. It pours a deep, dark brown, maybe copper color with a finger or two of fluffy light tan head. Smells rather odd, kinda like a soda. Caramel and fruit are there, but perhaps a uncommon yeast character is showing up as well. Taste is similar, plenty of caramel, some fruit, and that soda-like character from the nose. Mouthfeel is more carbonated than expected, and I'm guessing this has a higher attenuation than your typical scotch ale. I mean, it's not dry, but it's nowhere near what a Scotch ale is supposed to be either. Feels a little unbalanced, sloppy, though it's not at all unpleasant. Overall, I guess I'm just not feeling this one. Certainly not a bad beer, but a little disappointing and not really on-style. B-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Milwaukee Brewing Louies Resurrection

Milwaukee Brewing Louie's Resurrection - I got a pair of these beers in that trade that brought me a bunch of Three Floyds, and I had one right away that was pretty darn good. Not mind-blowing, but a really nice bourbon character mixed with a typical malty red ale. Solid stuff, but then I think I let the other one sit around for a bit too long. It pours a brownish amber color with a finger of off white head. Smells of toffee, caramel, light bourbon. Taste hits with that toffee and caramel right away, very sweet start, rich flavors, mild bourbon character, some euro hop flavor. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, very easy drinking. Overall, a very nice beer. Not going to expand consciousness or anything, but good. B+ (fresh) or B (not so fresh)

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter.

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Green Flash West Coast IPA - This one would probably qualify as a boring review of a regular beer, but it happens to be my first Green Flash beer ever, which is surprising given their wide availability in the area. Will have to seek out more from them. This one pours a deep orange color with a finger of white head, plenty of lacing. Smells like an IPA! Lots of citrus and pine hops. Taste follows the nose, a little more crystal malt character than I was expecting from a "West Coast" IPA, but as an east coaster, this does not bother me at all. Again with the citrus and pine, maybe some herbal spice too, nice bitter finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, crisp, easy drinking stuff. Overall, solid beer! B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.3% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

Deschutes Obsidian Stout - This one came to be via my first BIF trade (which is something I'll explain in a later post). Pours a very dark brown color with a couple fingers of fluffy, light brown head. Smells like a sweet stout, caramel malts and some roast apparent, but also maybe some floral, citrusy hops. Taste starts sweet, with a light roastiness emerging quickly and lasting through the finish. Some floral and citrus hops make themselves know, but they're not aggressive, just adding a nice complexity and balancing bitterness to the brew. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, with a slightly yet pleasant astringent character, medium bodied. Overall, it's an above average stout, more along the lines of what I look for in a stout. It didn't blow my mind, but it's a worthy brew. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

So there you have it. Tomorrow, we return to the realm of amazing barrel aged monsters, so grab your broad sword and strap on a shield, things are going to get elemental up in here.

January Beer Club

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I've more or less run out of beer puns for beer clubs, so you'll just have to deal with it. I know, you all love puns, so you're all broken up about it, but you'll just have to deal. 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. As per usual, this gathering is anchored by a core group of stalwarts, along with assorted return guest stars. So it was a solid turnout, lots of beer, good BBQ and just an all around good time.

January Beer Club 2013
(Click for bigger image)

In accordance with tradition, my thoughts on each beer we sampled are recorded below for posterity. Standard disclaimers regarding non-ideal tasting isolation conditions apply, so all you pedants better stay frosty, as nearly all of this will be untrustworthy/awesome. Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer - Things started off on a bizarre note. It's basically alcoholic ginger ale, which is fine for what it is, I guess, and definitely attracts the non-beer folk due to it's high sweetness and ginger spicing, but I found it kinda poopy. It's actually good that we had it in this sort of setting where I only had to try a tiny sample, but I'll give it a D, because fuck ginger beer. Seriously guiz.
  • Belhaven Scottish Ale - Belhaven is supposed to be one of the top Scottish ale styles out there, but man, we must have gotten a bad bottle. It has that gross diacetyl buttery flavor that I get out of a lot of British pale ales and have grown to hate. I'm not sure if that's just the beer, or if it's the clear bottle, or what, but it felt kinda skunky too. Not totally undrinkable, but I was again glad that I only took a very small sample of the stuff. D
  • Abita Jockamo IPA - While a big improvement over my first two tastes of the night, this strikes me as being a fairly unremarkable IPA. It reminds me of the sort of thing you'd get in a John Harvard's brewpub, circa 1998. Totally an improvement over BMC (or, since we're talking about my college years, Natty/Beast), but nothing special at all. A nice hop aroma, but a taste that fell a little flat and bland. B-
  • Old Forge Overbite IPA - Ahhh, now that's more like it. A really nice semi-local IPA, lots of that citrusy, floral hop goodness, maybe a little pine too, was a real breath of fresh air after the first three beers of the evening. It's not a world beater, to be sure, but these guys are totally making a name for themselves in the Philly area, and this makes for a pleasant enough IPA. B+
  • Birrificio Del Ducato Nuova Mattina - Guest star Steve contributed this very nice Italian beer to the proceedings, a Belgian style pale with lots of sharp carbonation, sweet and spicy (lots of spices used in making this, and they contribute, but not overwhelmingly so), bready, with a touch of light fruit. Overall, it's got a really nice rustic quality, an almost quaffable beer, really enjoyable. B+
  • Widmer Brrr - A totally solid winter warmer, pretty light on the spices actually, though it works well enough. It's not the sort of thing that stands out in a tasting like this, but it's totally serviceable and would probably get the job done if needed. B
  • Kaedrin Christmas Ale (2011) - A vintage bottle of my very own homebrew? It's still doing pretty well, actually, though I do believe it has peaked and is now on a bit of a downward swing. It's still retained that sorta creamy vanilla caramel base, and the spices are still there, particularly clove with a hint of cinnamon, though those are diminished from last year. It's held up about as well as I could have hoped, though it's not quite as fantastic as it once was. B+
  • Allagash Fluxus 2012 - Another of my contributions for the night, it's a totally solid Belgian pale ale, actually quite similar to that Nuova Mattina beer, though with less carbonation. Still, a very nice Belgian yeast character, spicy and biscuity. Not especially a standout, especially amongst Allagash's lineup, but a solid beer nonetheless. This could be tasting fatigue setting in, but I'll go with min instinctual rating of a B
  • Traquair House Jacobite - Ah, now this is a Scottish brewery I can get behind. Of course, this is a slightly stronger style, but I like me some Wee Heavy/Scotch Ales, and this is a pretty superb example of the style. Big rich malt character, brown sugar, some fruitiness, a light booziness, and all of this is very well balanced against each other. Truly a solid beer, and widely available too, well worth checking out for the Scotch Ale fan and a contender for best of the night. A-
  • Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale - Once again, this might be tasting fatigue setting in, but I was expecting more out of this. Don't get me wrong, it's a totally good beer. Not very red in appearance, but it certainly smells/tastes like an imperial red, big, well integrated citrus and pine hops mixed with those crystal and red malts. Very nice, would like to try again in better conditions. For now, we'll give it a provisional B+
  • DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus - Perhaps the strangest beer of the night, but it worked surprisingly well. You could say it's gimmicky, it being a "Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter", but this is quite possibly the perfect beer for a tasting like this. Exclamations of "Whoa" and "It smells like peanut butter" all around the table. It tasted like peanut butter brownies that were perhaps a bit overcookied so that you got that roastiness. Kinda like the edge/corner piece (which, you know, I love). It worked surprisingly well in this setting. I have no idea how I'd react if I were to drink an entire bottle, but I'm feeling generous enough to hand it a B+ (though it's probably more of a B)
  • Victory Oak Horizontal - Another of my contributions for the night, it's just as good as I remembered it. The bourbon, while prominent, was not overpowering at all, which endeared it to some folks who don't tend to like bourbon. Still an A- and a fitting end to the evening.
So there you have it. After a shaky start, things livened up quickly, and this sort of ratings distribution is actually quite nice. I mean, this isn't the most exclusive of beer clubs, after all, and only a few of us a really huge beer nerds, but it's a lot of fun and I always look forward to beer club. February's meeting will come soon enough!

Alesmith Wee Heavy

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According to the collective wisdom of a bunch of (probably inexperienced, disinterested, hype-driven, haters-gonna-hate hipster1) strangers, this is the second-best Scotch Ale2 in the world. Score one for the home team. I'm sure no one in Scotland knows how to make these things. Incidentally, the number one beer is... a barrel aged version of Alesmith Wee Heavy. Of course it is!3

So it seems that Alesmith's got the style all locked up... though it's not like this is one of them trendy styles that every brewer is pouncing on. Or drinkers for that matter. I mean, I get a nice vibe from the style, but I've only reviewed 3 of them in the past two years (and one of those was a barrel aged version of another), though I will say that Dieu Du Ciel's Équinoxe Du Printemps was a superb beer, even if I probably wouldn't have pegged it as a Wee Heavy in a blind tasting. So let's see how Alesmith fares:

Alesmith Wee Heavy

Alesmith Wee Heavy - Pours a deep, dark brown color with a finger of tan head. Smells of rich, sweet caramel along with some malty fruitiness. Taste is very sweet, less caramel and more toast than in the nose (but both are present here), maybe a hint of smoke (perhaps even peat?), and some booze in the finish. Less of that dark fruit than the nose as well, though it's still peeking through. It's not bitter, but it's got enough oomph to balance out the big malt character. Mouthfeel is tightly carbonated, creamy, full bodied, a bit boozy (nice warming sensation in my belly from that alcohol), very slight stickiness. Overall, this is a very nice, well balanced, traditional Scotch ale, on the upper end of a B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/3/12.

So Dieu Du Ciel remains my standard bearer, but this one comes in a close second. Alesmith continues to impress, and while this doesn't make me want to explore every Wee Heavy I can get my hands on, it does make me want to explore more Alesmith beer. Go me.

1 - I am, of course, just kidding, but sometimes it's hard to take reviewers on these sites seriously. On the other hand, who am I kidding? I have a blog with hundreds of reviews of varying quality and I'd still consider myself inexperienced. So fiddlesticks. Wait, what? Am I still typing? Dammit, stop.

2 - Also known as Wee Heavy, a phrase I pedantically dissected a while back. You're welcome.

3 - This might sound sarcastic or snarky, but I'm so in the bag for barrel aged stuff that I wrote this with the utmost sincerity and didn't realize that the tone might be interpreted in another way until I reread the post, hence this footnote. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you have one of these things, we should set up a trade or something.

Lost Weekend

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No, I didn't get blackout drunk this weekend, but I did lose a bunch of reviews due to a hardware failure on my host. All is well now, but I lost last Thursday's review, and any notes I took over the weekend. Also, some comments were lost, so sorry about that (for what it's worth, they were about the recent and awesome trend of non-sour beers aged in wine barrels and other fancy non-bourbon barrels).

But I've got a steel trap for a brain, so here are some thoughts on recent drinkery. I'll include ratings, but I'm sure the nerdiest among you will be wary of their reliability or something. I suppose there's something to such claims, but that's no fun and you should probably get over yourself, so here goes (in order of consumption):

  • Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale - Yeah, it's that season again. I know there are lots of folks that freakout about early availability of these brews, and in July, they might have a point, but it's mid-September at this point, so I think it's time to start easing into the seasonals. This is my favorite time of year, when it's socially acceptable to watch bad horror movies, mutilate pumpkins, and decorate your house with faux-corpses. Oh, and we start to get seasonal beers that are actually distinctive... like this beer. Unfortunately, I found it to be a lackluster example of the style. It's got the typical elements - pumpkin and assorted pumpkin pie spicing (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...) - but it came off flabby and limp. It's a relatively low-ABV beer, which I think lent to the more watery feeling (not that low-ABV automatically means bad or anything - there are beers that do that well). It's not the worst beer ever or anything and I'd totally favor this over any macro offerings, but I found it disappointing. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.84% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/14/12.)
  • Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps - Probably my favorite beer of the weekend, a Scotch Ale made by those wacky French Canadians at Dieu Du Ciel. I've previously enjoyed their pale ale, but this thing makes me want to stock up on everything of theirs I can find. It's a Spring seasonal and apparently not much makes its way down here, but I lucked into a bottle:

    Dieu Du Ciel Equinox Du Printemps

    Thick and chewy, with a burst of delicious fruity malts and rich, syrupy caramel. It's got a richness that I normally associate with barrel aged beers, though there's obviously no bourbon flavors or anything like that. Apparently this is made with Maple Syrup, which probably explains some things (maybe the syrup was oak aged?) A big, eye opening beer, but well balanced, complex flavors make it something to seek out, especially for malt lovers. Right up my alley, and a good way to follow up with that pumpkin beer. A- (Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (11.5 oz twist off) Drank out of a snifter on 9/14/12.)
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest - As near as I can tell, this is the best reviewed Oktoberfest beer on Beer Advocate (at least, of beers with more than 50 ratings), even beating out the Germans. It's not really my favorite style, but I always like to sample a few during the season, just to keep sharp. I actually really enjoyed this one. Not sure how close to authentic style it is, but whatever, it's really solid. Maybe a little sweeter than expected, but it's got that trademark toasty, nutty malt flavor, along with some atypical (to me, at least) caramel malts. It goes down quite smoothly, and I'd certainly put this towards the top of my rankings for the style (along with Live Oak and Ayinger). B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a big ass mug on 9/15/12.)
  • Boulevard Brewing The Sixth Glass - I found myself relatively unimpressed with my previous exposure to Boulevard's celebrated Smokestack series, a double IPA that just wasn't doing it for me. Fortunately this one, a Belgian-style quadrupel, fared better. Perhaps not a top tier example of the style, but it's a respectable and welcome redemption for Boulevard. Lots of Belgian yeast, musty and spicy, along with some fruity malt character. Perhaps a little too much sweetness, leading to a slight stickiness that's not really characteristic of the best of the style. Still, this was a really nice beer, a fitting nightcap to a late Saturday night. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a goblet on 9/15/12.)
  • Emelisse Barley Wine Ale - Bonus review! I had actually written up and published a full blown post for this one, and it was witty and brilliant stuff, but it got lost in the ether. Fortunately, my tasting notes were still available, so you get more detail here: Pours a deep, cloudy amber brown color with minimal head. Smells of ripe fruit, caramel, and maybe some booze. Taste is filled with rich, fruity malts, caramel flavors, a little booze, a hint of bitterness in the finish. Full bodied, rich mouthfeel, minimal carbonation, very smooth, a little boozy warming going on, some slickness in the finish before it dries out. Overall, this is a very well crafted, if pretty straightforward English barleywine. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 9/1/12.)
So there you have it. A solid weekend, and I'm excited to enter Halloween season. I've got a couple unusual pumpkin ales coming up, as well as an accidentally aged Autumn Maple that's just calling my name. Harvest beers are starting to show up too, though I get the impression that West Coasters benefit from such practices moreso than we do, though I'm sure I'll get my hands on some local harvest stuff from Victory and the like. Stay tuned...

Oak Aged Double Feature

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Continuing the Oak Aged posting this week, here I've got two big Oak Aged beers, matched with gorgeous but flawed films. First up, Tarsem Singh's Immortals, a horribly scripted Greek mythology story that is nonetheless worth watching for some wonderful, stylized action sequences and Tarsem's trademark visual style (a feast for the eyes!) Next, I watched Terrence Malick meditative The Tree of Life, a non-narrative fever dream, again gorgeously photographed and mesmerizing, but going on for way too long and, odd as it may be to say this, too much dialogue (and there's not really much dialogue in the movie, but what's there is kinda insipid). Very pretty movies, both, but also flawed. The beers I drank to match were big and flavorful.

Founders Backwoods Bastard

Founders Backwoods Bastard - Does the backwoods bastard pictured on the label look like Gandalf the Grey to anyone else? No? I'm the only nerd here? Great. Anyway, you don't see this style of beer, a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, aged in barrels very often (or, uh, ever - this is the only one I'm aware of*). This beer actually starts out as Founders' year-round brew, Dirty Bastard, which is then aged in old bourbon barrels, bringing up the ABV and imparting the usual complexity of bourbon barrel notes. Pours a dark, deep brown color with very little head. Aroma is full of bourbon and oak, with some of that underlying scotch ale character coming out. Taste starts with sweet malts, followed by a big wallop of boozy bourbon and oak. Ends with a surprisingly dry finish (well, not super dry, but more dry than I would have expected). The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied - not as heavy as I was expecting, which makes this very easy to drink. I wouldn't say the booze is hidden, but it's not as powerful as the ABV would suggest, which is interesting. Overall, a really good beer, something I'd like to try again, but also something that could probably use some additional aging to marry the flavors together a little more. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11.

Avery Samael Ale

Avery Samael's Oak Aged Ale - Back in the day, when I first started posting things on the internet, message boards were all the rage. Along with that came the use of handles, basically online nicknames people took for themselves. I've since grown out of that fad**, but there are still some folks I met back in the 1990s message boards that I think of by their handles, rather than their real names. One such person is my friend Roy, who I always knew as Samael (which is also apparently the name of the prince of demons, but whatever). As such, during my recent Texas excursion, I saw this beer and had to have it, despite not being a native Texas beer (it's not something I've seen around these parts though, so it's still something mildly ungettable for me). So I got one and greedily smuggled it back to PA***.

It pours a deep brown color with minimal head. Smell is full of dark fruitiness and caramel, with just a little of the vanilla oak flavor. Caramel flavors dominate the taste, along with a heaping helping of booze. The oak and vanilla is there too. As it warms, dark fruity notes emerge. Really complex stuff here, though not particularly well balanced. Mouthfeel is full bodied and rich, with a sticky finish. A really big alcohol presence here, a little on the harsh side. Overall, it's a very good beer, but like the Backwoods Bastard, I'm thinking this one would benefit from some aging in order to let all the intricate flavors to balance each other out. When it's this young, it's a little too hot to handle, maybe even a bit cloying towards the end, though still enjoyable. B

Beer Nerd Details: 15.31% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip on 11/12/11. Bottles released in April 2011 (batch no. 7)

A theme seems to be emerging from a lot of barrel aged beers I've had lately, which is that they could probably use some more time to mature. The complex marriage of flavors that makes a barrel aged beer great seem to be difficult to balance, though when it's done right, it's a big revelation. That being said, I generally enjoy even these young versions, so it's not like you won't be seeing any more barrel aged beer reviews (indeed, one more already in the pipeline, and several more in my basement that I might just let sit for a while). I'm also really interested to see how Dark Intrigue matures, given that it seemed pretty well balanced to me on its first day of release...

* Not that I'm an expert on the style, but still.

** My handle was tallman, a reference to a cheesy but cherished 70s horror film that I was in love with at the time (and still am, to a degree). And no, I'm not very tall.

*** Using the same giddy packing techniques I did for that Wytchmaker beer. I'm still amused at the prospect of becoming a bootlegger.

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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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