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Beer Club February

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

Beer Club for February 2015
(Click to embiggen)

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

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

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Woodford Reserve

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At this point, I shouldn't be so surprised when another Eclipse variant does something unexpected, but here we are. The different expressions of whiskey really bring out distinct flavors from the base beer. Some leave a lot of roast from the base beer, others contribute huge bourbon, oak, and vanilla notes of their own. A couple fall somewhere in the middle of those poles. Then you've got the bourbon forward take. This time, we've got Woodford Reserve barrels that really bring out a chocolatey character in the beer (it reminded me of Huge Arker, but with more bourbon and oak retained in the finished product.)

Woodford Reserve seems to be a sorta mid-level bourbon. A step up from the standard labels and readily available, but not a face melter. I've had it before, but it honestly didn't make much of an impression (I've never bought a bottle, so I only had a single taste once). This particular variant of Eclipse seems to be rather well received though, so let's take a closer look:

Imperial Eclipse Stout - Woodford Reserve

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Woodford Reserve - Pours a very dark brown, almost black with a finger of light brown head. Smells great, bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, maybe even faint hints of fruit. As it warms, an interesting (and uncommon for Eclipse beers) chocolate fudge aroma emerges. Taste is full of rich caramel up front, with the bourbon, oak, and vanilla emerging in the middle, finishing with hints of roast and char and a boozy bourbon bite. Again, as it warms, that chocolate fudge character comes out to play, really interesting. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, some pleasant booze. Overall, this is a great barrel aged stout and one of the more distinct variants of Eclipse A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce blue pearl waxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 2/13/15. Vintage: 2014. Bottle Run: BR 1.

At this point, I've amassed a large enough collection of other Eclipse variants that I'm going to try and put together a comparative tasting. If all goes well, it will probably be in a month or so, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, I'm planning on trying a Four Roses variant next to some Four Roses bourbon, which should be fun!

Pugachev's Cobra

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Hey guys, guess what? I only drank one beer on Saturday night. Of course, it was 750 ml of 18.9% ABV barrel aged stout, so maybe that's not as moderate as it sounds. Or something.

We've all got our hobbies, and while I obsess over beer, Hangar 24's founder and brewer, Ben Cook, likes to fly him some airplanes. The brewery is named after a particular hangar at a local airfield (guess which hanger?), a place where Cook and his buddies used to hang out, talk planes, and drink beer. He got bit by the homebrew bug and eventually opened him up a brewery, right across from the airfield. They put out your standard range of IPAs and wheat beers and whatnot, but they're most famous for their Barrel Roll series of barrel aged beers.

Each is named after a complex aerial maneuver (and indeed, the Barrel Roll is itself a maneuver), and their most popular offering is named after Pugachev's Cobra, a dramatic tactic in which the pilot suddenly moves the nose of the airplane into a vertical position (and even a bit further), then returns to normal, level flying. Check it out in action. I'm sure some aviation nerd will say I'm wrong about this because of this or that subtle difference, but I'm pretty sure this is what Maverick does in Top Gun. Hit the brakes and he'll fly right by...

The beer is a big Russian Imperial Stout brewed with maple syrup and aged in Bourbon barrels for 8 months. As noted above, the most recent batch seems particularly monstrous, clocking in at a hefty 18.9% ABV (significantly higher than any previous batch). This puts it in Black Tuesday territory, which is fine by me, since that's a fantastic beer. Talk to me, Goose:

Hangar 24 Pugachevs Cobra

Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev's Cobra - Pours a very dark brown color with minimal head, a little lighter and less substantial looking than your typical imperial stout, but still nearly black. Smells absolutely fantastic, big rich caramel, maple syrup, bourbon, oak, and vanilla, hints of marshmallow and coconut if you really want to look for them. And you will, because this is one superb nose. Taste follows similar lines, lots of rich caramel up front, marshmallow, that maple syrup, maybe even a little of that roast in the middle, and a hugely boozy crash of bourbon, oak, and vanilla towards the finish. As it warms, it feels like the booze mellows out some and a little roast and char emerges, tying it together and adding an element of complexity. That or I'm just getting shitfaced over here (probably both!) While not quite as monstrous as it may seem on paper, the mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, reasonably carbonated, and very, very hot. That's very much a matter of taste, but I have no problem with overly boozy beer, so I say bring that shit on. Also, it doesn't seem as hot once it warms up a bit. In fact, I found it going down surprisingly quick and had to deliberately pace myself. Overall, this is one crazy beer, and I kinda love it. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 18.9% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 2/7/15. Vintage: December 2014. Bottle # 112/11220.

So yes, I want more of this. Would be really curious to see how some of the milder batches taste. You know, the ones that only hit 15 or 16% ABV. Also, there are lots of Pugachev's variants out there, most of which sound rather awesome. And what they hey, I'd like to try other Barrel Roll beers while I'm at it. Alas, these are not particularly easy for me to get, so don't hold your breath.

Modern Times Monsters' Park

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In these days of bourbon barrel beer obsessed drinkers (like, uh, me), it's easy to forget that a regular, plain old imperial stout can be absolutely fantastic. Sand Diego's Modern Times recently put out this imperial stout (along with, yes, some barrel aged versions which, alas, I did not mange to procure) that instantly made me think of that Simpson's Monster Island joke. To paraphrase and match to this beer:

Lisa: "He said it was just a name!"
Man: "What he meant is that Monsters' park is actually a meadow."
Well there you have it. Just a meadow, but great nonetheless:

Modern Times Monster Park

Modern Times Monsters' Park - Pours deep and dark, almost black, with a finger of light brown head. Smells fantastic, rich dark malts, a bit of roast, chocolate, caramelized sugar, maybe even a hint of liquorice. Taste follows the nose, lots of rich caramel up front, some chocolate peeks through in the middle, maybe even some dark, caramelized fruit, finishing with a bit of charred roastiness and enough bitterness to keep any sweetness at bay. Mouthfeel is rich, full bodied, moderate carbonation, a hint of boozy heat. Certainly a sipper. Overall, this is definitely my kind of imperial stout, quite tasty. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (22 ounce bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 1/30/15.

As mentioned above, there are multiple barrel aged versions of this very beer, including a bourbon, rye, and other various expressions of whiskey. Alas, I have not managed to procure those beers...

Tired Hands bottle releases happen about once a month or two, but in the past month, Jean has seen fit to hold 3 bottle releases. In January. I suspect Jean is trying to breed a new cold-resistant strain of beer nerd. Or perhaps to kill off lesser beer nerds, thus keeping the line to a manageable size. Judging from the incredulous Main Liners driving by and asking what the hell everyone is waiting in line for ("Justin Bieber tickets"), sitting around on the curb for 2-3 hours out front for just a few bottles of beer is a dubious way to spend time, but I usually manage. Best case, the folks around me are cool and we partake in much discussion and merriment. Worst case, I put in my headphones and zone out to an audiobook (chances are, if I were at home, I'd be in bed reading anyway). Still, after 3 releases in the freezing cold, I'm ready for my Believer's Club membership to go into effect.

Most releases are announced well in advance, but there are the occasional stealth releases, and sometimes they're at weird times. One such occasion was Thanksgiving eve, 2013. Jean announces that bottles of the first Emptiness series beer, Out of the Emptiness, would be available when they open at 4. Now, typical bottle releases range from about 400-600 bottles, with a bottle limit of 2-4 (generally optimizing it so that 150-200 folks can snag a bottle). I don't remember the specific number of bottles available that day, but Jean must have been feeling capricious and whimsical, because that day was on the lower range of bottles available, but the bottle limit was 6. I managed to get off work early, but missed out on bottles by about 10 folks in line. Dejected, my new friend Andrew (met in line) and I retired to the bar upstairs where we drowned our sorrows in the always stellar taplist and discussed the merits of aging Samichlaus (it being the holiday season and all). Then Jean saunters up, pours three glasses from an unmarked bottle, and gives them to three of us at the bar (in fact, this generosity may have been the result of the third guy, who seemed to be friends with Jean).

So thanks to that, I actually did get to try Out of the Emptiness, a wine-barrel fermented saison conditioned atop local Italian plums. As fate would have it, a second batch was made, and released just a couple weeks ago. So I finally got to enjoy a bottle of this stuff in the comfort of my own home:

Out of the Emptiness

Tired Hands Out of the Emptiness - Pours a beautiful, almost radiant amber orange color with a finger of fluffy very light pink (almost white) head. Smells of vinous fruit, cherries, plums, fruit by the foot, with some barnyard funk. The taste hits with that fruit up front, cherries, plums, grapes, with a bunch of oak tannins kicking in rather quickly, a bit of sourness emerges later in the taste. Finishes oaky and dry. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and effervescent, mildly acidic, dry oak. From memory, batch one had a much less carbonated mouthfeel, which is something that does make a big difference for me. Not sure if the b1 bottles ever carbed up better, but I'm glad this new batch turned out well. Overall, really pleased I waited in line to snag some of these. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (500 ml waxed cap). Drank out of a flute glass on 1/31/15. Batch 2 (2015 vintage).

In case it's not abundantly clear, and if you've gotten this far, it really should be, I end up at Tired Hands often. They usually have 8 taps on, and at least 2-3 will change over from week to week (and sometimes even more). Two and a half years in, they've remade a handful of their favorite stuff, but for the most part, once it's done, it's done, and you won't see it again. To that end, I figure I need to lord it over all you plebians, and post whatever notes I've taken over the past, yikes, year or so. In fairness, I don't take notes upon every visit (especially if, for example, I'm with a friend or otherwise conversing with the friendly folks at the bar), but I've still got quite a few notes piled up. I'll start with a recent one, but after that one, we've got beers dating back a year or so.

StonerWitch

StonerWitch - 10.5% ABV Black Barleywine brewed with clementine juice and zest - I gather a lot of folks found this weird and off style. I found it strange and beautiful, which I believe was the intention, and really, really enjoyed it. Pours a deep dark brown, indeed almost black, with half a finger of short lived tan head. Looks almost like a stout, but the smell is decidedly more barleywinish, some juicy fruit aromas, wheat, toffee, caramel, very slight dark malt component too. Taste is rich and hearty, some caramel and toffee up front, a bready middle, with juicy citrus in the finish (presumably that clementine juice at work). Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, dense and full bodied, just enough carbonation to tie it all together. Overall, I actually love this beer. It's quite an unusual take on a barleywine, but it still hits the right notes, and is downright delicious. A-

Shep's Memory - 3.7% ABV Bitter - Good for the style, biscuity malts with a very light hop component, light bodied and crushable. B+

BrainHands - 5.5% ABV Pizza Inspired Gose - Whoa, this is unexpectedly fantastic. Nice lemony citrus sourness tempered by earthy spices (does not taste like pizza, but who cares, this is great!) tingly and spicy, even a little heat... A-

Al Baby - 6.8% ABV Hoppy Honey Brown Ale - Nice hoppy brown, solid, easy going stuff. B+

Uyawa Pog - 8% ABV Imperial IPA - Really bright citrus and a sorta honeyed malt backbone, really nice. The citrus is super peach-like too, which is not common (and I don't think they actually used peaches for this, perhaps they're getting this out of the Simcoe/Nelson Sauvin combo?) A-

Stout Budino - 6.3% Dessert Stout - Smore like ingredients, not quite as sweet or rich as that would imply, but a really nice stout, chocolate and roast, like. B+

I Love You, Friend - 7% ABV Rye IPA - Juicy citrus hops up front, rye finish, great... A

Broken Basement - 6.3% ABV IPA - Hopped with Ahtanum and Simcoe, a typically fantastic IPA, maybe some more malt character than usual, still great. A-

Shambolic - 6.5% ABV dry hopped spelt saison - Nice, I feel like it's been a while since TH did something like this, great peppery saison character with a citrus, vinous hop kick... (Update: I opened a bottle of this recently, after a few months in the cellar), and while the hop character is still there, the farmhouse saisony elements came to the fore as well. Great.) A-

Lord Ladybug - 6% ABV dark sour cherry Berliner Weisse - Very tart, puckering sour beer. Chocolate covered cherries. Me likey. B+

EXTOL - 7.6% ABV Imperial Porter - my kinda porter, sweet, low roast, dark chocolate (hint of coffee?), very nice B+

Wilbur - 5.9% ABV Rye IPA - nice rye character, floral hops, well matched, very good! B+

Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt - 6.6% ABV Black Coffee Saison - Interesting mixture of elements, earthy saison yeast, fruity hops, and just a bit of that roasty coffee. B+

PowerChord - 4.2% ABV Crushable IPA - Beautiful citrus hop nose (clearly Mosaic hops involved here), more floral and piney in the taste, quaffable. B+

Exact Negative Charge - 7.7% ABV emptiness saison - Typical funky TH saison, very nice, really fruity, light earth, not a ton of funk, but really nice! B+

Sunulate - 6.4% ABV blood orange & chamomile saison - Solid stuff, not as funky, but really nice floral and citrus notes... B+

Go Ride A Bike - 5.5% ABV crushable IPA - Motueka bomb, lots of citrus and a little dank pine, crushable! A-

Exploding Nuclear Cauldron - 5.1% hoppy honey Grissette - Lemon zest, light spice, grassy hops, soft feel, really nice and refreshing... A-

Experience Neutral Chamber - 5.7% ABV emptiness saison - Bright, fruity funk, light salinity, lemon zest, quaffable... B+

Modern Artisinal Tragedy - 6.8% honey saison - Straightforward saison stuff, typical TH quality, very nice peppery spice and light hop character... B+

BloodRoot - 6.6% hoppy red saison - Brewed with rye, and you can tell, big spicy note along with peppery yeast, and a good amount of hop character, including more bitterness than I'm used to from TH - nothing wrong with that, of course... B+

Only Void 2014 - 11% imperial stout - This year's version is slightly less alcohol and not as sweet as last year's version. As a result, more roast and chocolate come to the fore. Still very nice. A

Here Lies - 2.5% hoppy bitter - Whoa, very tasty for such an extremely low alcohol beer. Beautiful hoppy nose, perhaps not as intense, but really tasty. Totally quaffable, not as thin as you'd expect, but very light. Crushable! B+

Gose is My Copilot - 4.7% Gose - Wheated Gose with sea salt, lime juice and zest, and cilantro from Jeans garden. Well balanced, sour, a little sticky. I'm not really a huge Gose fan or anything, but this is very nice (I got a growler, made a Top Gun ("Talk to me, Gose") joke on twitter, but no one got it, or they did and didn't care). B+

Savage Gold - 5.2% ABV IPA - Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc... Typically great tired hands ipa, beautiful hop character, crushable. A-

Boogie Board - 5.2% ABV blended saison (some 4 month cab franc barrel aged saison in the blend) - Very nice saison, light barrel character, but a big juicy fruit kick, tart lemons and grapes, some typical saison spice, super smooth, a little acidic, highly drinkable. A-

Fool in the Full Moon - 6% ABV coffee wheat porter - So I entered the name for this beer, but took no notes. I'm the worst. I'm pretty seriously doubting that anyone will ever actually read this though. Why am I even doing this?

Carpet on your Heart - 6% ABV Rye IPA - Darker and more substantial than your typical TH IPA, perhaps even more bitterness than usual, but great hop presence, juicy citrus, very well composed. B+

Watching Trees Decompose - 7% ABV blueberry IPA - Very pretty, a striking amber purple with light purple head... Taste has an extra sweetness that battles with the citrus hops, still decent beer though. B+

Reincarnated as a Cloud - 6.1% ABV Wheat IPA - More of a bitter bite here than normal, but a very nice citrus and pine hop character and clean wheat makes this worthy. B+

Green Fuzz - 7% ABV Cucumber Galaxy IPA - holy cucumber, Batman! I don't think of cucumber as being a particularly powerful aroma or flavor, but it's here in spades... Though more standard ipa notes come through too. B+

Red Fuzz - 6.5% Raspberry & Sumac Saison - Another one where I wrote the name, but not any notes. I really am the worst.

Psychic Facelift - 6.5% ABV Citra IPA - Beautiful, juicy IPA, all sorts of citrus, super quaffable, absolutely superb! Drank, like, 3 liters of this stuff during the one week it was on tap (it's rare that I get something more than once, so that's saying something). A

Yeast & Cats - 6.4% ABV wheat saison - Typically great TH saison, distinctive farmhouse awesome. B+

Ambassador Aardvark - 4.5% ABV Berlinerweiss - I seem to be relying on the "typical TH style" description for these reviews, and this is no exception - this is a typical TH Berliner and it's quite nice. Tart, tasty, and refreshing. B+

I See A Darkness - 8.5% ABV imperial honey espresso porter - Relatively light on the coffee, which is a good thing in my book, but it's really tasty, nice roast character, a little espresso, really solid stuff. B+

Singel Hop Saison Cascade - 5% ABV - This is a really interesting melding of farmhouse and hops, with neither element dominating. This represents a more balanced take in the series, and it's really nice... A-

Purple Fuzz - 6% ABV blackberry and purple basil Saison - Nice farmhouse going on here, spicy and fruity, though the fruit is not super powerful, well balanced, a little weird in a good way... B+

Yellow Fuzz - 7.2% ABV peach ipa - Beautiful juicy citrus, quaffable, typically great TH IPA! A-

Many Mouths With Pointy Teeth- 6% ABV Rye IPA - Very nice ipa, citrus hops and spicy rye, well carbonated and quaffable. A-

Cyclical Paranoia - 6% ABV Mohogany Hued saison - Light farmhouse with typical saison yeast character, but also some almost vinous notes. B+

Aphillyation - 6.6% Cabernet Franc IPA- Interesting, floral hops, a little grape character and an almost creamy mouthfeel. B+

Paranormalized - 8.2% blended barrel fermented super saison - Very nice saison, spice and fruit, with a very light sourness and decent oaky character. Delicious! A-

Pope Lick Monster - 8.5% imperial Porter - nice and dark, creamy tan head, sweet and roasty, with a mallow finish. B+ or A-

Mind Meet Mind - 6% ABV Coffee IPA - My ambivalence towards coffee is world renowned, but I still enjoyed this well enough. Great hop character, juicy citrus, with some coffee peeking through... B

Funny Top Hat Serenade - 7% ABV Classical Progressive Saison - Very nice saison of the TH house style, with a nice fruity hop character (not bitter though) B+

The Still-Beating Heart of the Hummingbird - 7% ABV Barrel Fermented Saison - Whoa, slightly lactic sourness, but not really that sour. A little oak, and that TH funk, very good! A-

GrassMan - 8.7% ABV Honey Double IPA - Hugely dank DIPA, Nelson Sauvin coming through strong, tropical fruits all over. I'm sure the Citra is contributing to that, but it's got a distinctly grassy character too. A-

Deathtripper - 6.7% ABV IPA - Fabulous, dank, juicy ipa, lots of citrus and pine, delicious. A-

Ekstra - 6.6% ABV collaborative saison - Collab with pizzeria beddia, first TH use of Hallertau... B

Cannibal Okt - 6.2% Sweet Potato IPA - A sorta heftier IPA, more of a balance between hops and sweetness here, quite nice! B

Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp - 6.2% ABV IPA - Another great TH house style IPA, less juicy, but still citrus and pine all over, higher than normal carbonation, great! A-

Chupacabra - 6.6% mole Porter - Whoa coffee! A little thinner than your typical Porter, but that matches nicely with the roasty coffee, so it's still tasty! If only I liked coffee more. B

Dobhar-chú - 4.2% heirloom squash bitter - Very nice, clean, malt forward, tasty... Not on cask right now, but would be perfect from the hand pump! B+

Watcher in the Dark - 6% ABV India Black Ale - whoa, beautiful citrus hops is the nose, with that slight roast coming through a little more in the taste, utterly fantastic! A

Corpse Finder - 4.4% ABV Galaxy IPA - Nice citrus, substantial considering the ABV, maybe a little more bitter than typical, but still quite crushable B+

Foliage - 8% ABV Double IPA - awesome, darker than typical TH IPA, sweet, citrusy and floral hops, smooth, medium bodied, delicious! A-

Infinite Universe Mind - 6% ABV sour IPA - Nice! I don't normally go in for sour IPAs but this is very well balanced, light sourness, well integrated, tasty! B+

Fifth Level - 6.2% Single Hop Motueka IPA - Typical TH house style IPA, very nice, juicy hops, yum. B+

Alien Church

Alien Church - 7% ABV IPA - My only notes were: Must. Get. Growler. (And I did. This was a great IPA) A

Window Mirror Section - 6.8% Hearty Wheat Saison fermented in oak barrels with our Emptiness culture and conditioned on oranges - Holy hell, this is Emptiness level stuff. Nice balanced with the oak, funk, and juicy, tart fruitiness. A

ALTAR - 4.6% ABV Berliner Weisse with hibiscus, Madagascar vanilla beans, and cinnamon sticks - I usually enjoy TH's berliners, but this one is a step above the norm. Very well done. A-

Such Passion - 7.5% Simcoe IPA conditioned on passionfruit purée - Um, yes please. Very good. A-

Whatever, Nevermind - 8.1% ABV barrel saison - According to Untappd, this was my 200th checkin at Tired Hands. Holy Crap. A-

So I'll end it there. Despite waiting in line several times over the past month, it's actually been a few weeks since I've made my way over there. I love the Winter, but it's cold and so easy to just stay home. We shall rectify that soon enough, and in time, the new production facility will open and I'll be drinking as much as ever... Alas, I don't know that I'll keep doing these posts. I can't imagine anyone actually reading through all of this, and it's starting to get repetitive (not to mention that just about everything gets B+ or A-, TH breaks my grading scale. Can't even do a curve, really.)

BBQ Beer Club

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Due to the capricious whims of Mother Nature, we had to push beer club back a ways, very nearly missing the month of January. But thanks to a no-show on yesterday's storm, conditions were fine (if a little cold) tonight, where we hit up a new BYOB BBQ place, shared some beer, did some "Adult" Mad Libs ("I need a noun." "Assless Chaps."), and generally just had fun. For dinner, I ordered something called "Loose Meat", and drove everyone crazy attempting to make double entendres about it. In case you were wondering, this is what loose meat looks like:

Loose Meat
(Click to Embiggen)

It has a nice phallic arrangement, but the feng shui could be a little better if the brisket and pulled pork were a little far back, don't you think? Also of note, the parsley merkin. Anyways, it was good stuff, and we had some decent beer to go with it:

January Beer Club 2015
(Click to Embiggen)

For the sake of posterity, thoughts on each are below. Standard beer nerd disclaimers apply. I'm sorry, but the BBQ place did not have a hermetically sealed environment suitable for proper note taking. Also, I didn't really take notes. I'm the worst. In order of drinking (not necessarily the order in the pic):

  • Kaedrôme Saison - Hey, remember that saison I dosed with Brett, like, a year ago? It's doing reasonably well right now. It's carbed up to a drinkable state, though still not as effervescent as I'd like. But the flavor is there, and it's doing reasonably well. B
  • New Belgium/Three Floyds Lips Of Faith - Grätzer - My first Grätzer, and um, it's a weird style. Light smokiness, very thin, with a weird tartness in the finish. A perfect beer for this situation, as I'm happy to try something like this, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way for more. C+
  • Left Hand St. Vrain Tripel - A pretty standard American take on a tripel, a little too sticky, but a nice palate cleanser after the Grätzer. B
  • Wicked Weed Terra Locale Series - Appalachia - I've heard great things about Wicked Weed, so I was really looking forward to this, and a Brett saison made with sweet potatoes and grits sounds like it could work, but I found it a bit on the bland side. Nothing wrong with it, per say, but there's not a lot of funk, and it just felt a little on the dry side. It's certainly cromulent and I could probably drink plenty of it, and maybe it was just that this is not ideal for a tasting like this, but I was disappointed. B
  • Chimay Red - Yep, it's Chimay all right. I've never been a huge fan of this particular expression though. B
  • Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale - Rock solid take on a brown ale. Not going to knock your socks off, but it's a tasty alternative to macro slop. B+
  • Almanac Devil's Advocate - Another fantastic little sour from Almanac, very tasty, vinous, sour, oaky, delicious. I don't normally think of "hoppy" and "sour" going together very well, but these folks are doing it right. Probably my favorite beer of the night. A-
  • SoChesCo Valentine's Day Chocolate Milk Stout - A friend's homebrewed milk stout, asolid take on the style, very tasty. B
  • SoChesCo Pennsyltucky Chocolate Milk Stout - The same stout as above, conditioned on bourbon soaked oak, which wound up as a light character. You could definitely taste the difference drinking them side by side, but I don't think I'd have pegged this as a bourbon oaked beer if I drank it blind (my own Bourbon Oaked Bomb & Grapnel fared little better on that account). B
  • Bière De L'Amitié (Green Flash & Brasserie St. Feuillien) - A very interesting and different beer. Standard Belgian yeast spice and fruit, but also some citrus hoppiness, and something that really felt like they dosed it with white grape juice (I don't think they did, but that's what kept coming to mind). B
  • Ken's Homebrewed Creme Brulee Stout Clone - Holy vanilla, Batman! Like the Southern Tier inspiration, this is incredibly sweet and it's got a great nose that I could just sniff all night long. I think there might be more vanilla here, but I love me some vanilla. B
  • Stone Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale - Another beer that I was looking forward to, but which didn't quite live up to expectations. It was a fine beer, one of the better of the night actually, but I didn't get a tone of Bourbon barrel character out of this. It felt like the barrels muted the aromatic aspects of the hops while leaving the bitterness. Fortunately, the Bourbon sweetens it up a little, so it's still reasonably well balanced (er, for Arrogant Bastard), but it's not something you really need to drop everything and try (like, for example, Stone's Fyodor's Classic). B+
At this point, we decided to call it a night, and we didn't get to the last two beers. Oh well, there's always next month, which should come up soon!

One of the many things I love about Fifty Fifty's Eclipse series of beers is that it offers me the opportunity to wax philosophic on all manner of barrel aging minutiae. Of course, my ramblings are almost completely unsubstantiated and speculative, but hey, it's fun. By taking the same base beer and aging it in a variety of barrels, as Eclipse does, I feel like you can start to form some idea of what each type of barrel contributes.

One of the things I've always wondered about is the difference between a young barrel (like, say, Rittenhouse Rye), a medium aged barrel (like Elijah Craig 12), and a really, really old barrel... like the most recent Eclipse I tried, aged in 23 year old Evan Williams barrels. There are many other variables, but my experience so far seems to have confirmed my assumption that younger barrels contribute more oak than older barrels, and this 23 year old barrel seems to really cement that feeling. Of course, there's still plenty of bourbon character in the finished beer, but the rich, oaky character is less pronounced.

It makes me wonder about some other beers I've had as well. I remember being disappointed by Stillwater's The Tale Of Van Winkle, a Belgian Strong Dark aged in 20 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels, but I blamed that entirely on the base beer (high attenuation and moderate ABV don't usually match up well) when it could very well have been that the 20 year old barrel was spent and only contributed that precious, precious Van Winkle juice without incorporating any depth from the barrel itself. Probably a little of both contributed to the boozy, unbalanced result, but it's still interesting.

On the other hand, I suspect you could age the beer a lot longer in the barrel, which might end up yielding more complexity in the long run. I've never had Bourbon County Rare and surely its reputation is partially based on its rarity, but it also did spend a whole 2 years in 23 year old Pappy barrels. The other thought: perhaps these beers can age better in the bottle, as the higher bourbon content integrates and mellows out over time. Eclipse beers all spend a similar amount of time in the barrels, about 6 months, which is fantastic, because I can really dig in and nerd out on the difference between this Evan Williams 23 variant and the Evan Williams single barrel version (a 9-10 year old bourbon). I'd be really curious to see how this bottle ages (alas, I didn't manage to acquire a second bottle for that purpose)...

The other interesting thing about this year's crop of Eclipse beers is that they seem to be higher alcohol than some of the previous batches (11.9% vs 9.5%), which is certainly fine by me, but does add a little variability between vintages. Alright, I guess that's enough wanking, let's get to the beer:

Fifty Fifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Evan Williams (23 Year)

FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout - Evan Williams (23 Year) - Pours black as night with half a finger of light brown head that fades at a moderate pace. Smells lightly of roasted malt, char, and some rich caramel and lots of bourbon. Taste is sweet, with some complexity in the form of roast hitting in the middle, along with a heaping helping of boozy bourbon and some rich caramel hitting towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied with moderate carbonation and plenty of boozy bourbon heat. The balance isn't quite the same as other Eclipse variants, a little more bourbon, not much oak - perhaps a function of the rather old barrel (perhaps a lot of residual bourbon had soaked into the barrel, which was pretty well spent over 23 years). Overall, this is quite an interesting entry in the Eclipse series, very good, but very different than the other entries. Certainly worthy, and I absolutely love the opportunity to nerd out on the older barrel treatment, but it's not my favorite treatment. A low A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.9% ABV bottled (22 ounce dark blue waxed bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 1/17/15. Vintage: 2014. Bottle Run: BR 1.

I managed to put together enough sheckels to go in on a few other variants of this stuff, and have been considering doing a tasting with some friends, so we'll see how that plays out. In the meantime, I'm sure some won't survive the wait, so look for some additional variants (in particular, I'm looking forward to the Four Roses and Woodford Reserve variants)...

Another Forest & Main Visit

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Forest & Main is a tiny little brewpub in Ambler, PA, which is not really that far from Kaedrin HQ in the grand scheme of things, but is probably a hair too far across the border of what is actually convenient for me, so I don't get my butt up there as often as I probably should. Also, as I've noted before, they share a certain DNA with their chums over at Tired Hands, and I always feel like I'm cheating on my favorite brewpub when I hit up F&M. That being said, they're a solid little brewery and I'm always intrigued by their offerings. Also I don't actually feel like I've been cheating on Tired Hands. That's absurd. Anywho, I've been very neglectful of posting about my visits, so I actually took some basic notes this time. Not great notes, but notes nonetheless. Work with me here. I was drinking.

Double Dan PA

Double Dan PA - Made with two dudes named Dan and a generous helping of American and Australian hops (um, the Dans in question were not, like, ingredients or anything. This isn't a drink of my blood situation or anything). Fantastic citrus nose, with a little pine sneaking around too. More dank resin and pine in the taste, with that citrus brightening things up... Medium bodied, well carbonated, crisp, refreshing, well balanced stuff. Overall, this is probably the best IPA I've had from Forest & Main (though it's not like I've had a ton) and a worthy, distinct take on the style. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7.7% ABV on tap (16 ounce). Drank out of a nonic pint glass on 12/30/14.

Telemachus - Described as a golden Barleywine made with orange blossom honey. It has a very distinctive, flowery, sweet nose, probably that orange blossom honey coming through strong. Taste is similar, mostly that honey character coming through with very little in the way of malt backbone, though you do get a bit in the way of booze. Low carbonation (if I remember correctly, it was on cask) and medium bodied. This is a very interesting beer, but it doesn't really tickly my subjective fancy, if you know what I mean. B

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV on tap (10 ounce). Drank out of a wine glass on 12/30/14.

Rum Barrel-Aged Gmork - Black as night, not much head. Smells of caramel, brown sugar, molasses, rum, vanilla, and the faintest hint of roast. Taste follows the nose, very, very sweet, no roast at all, brown sugar and molasses, rum, almost fruity. Mouthfeel is full bodied, moderate carbonation, slight booziness. Overall, a unique take on the style, I wish I'd actually had the base beer to compare it to, but this is pretty darn good on its own. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV on tap (10 ounce). Drank out of a nonic half-imperial-pint glass on 12/30/14.

And there you have it. I had a saison that was on tap that night with my burger, but I neglected to take notes because my hands were full and as we've already established, I'm the worst. Hopefully I'll make this more of a regular thing in the future. In the meantime, I think I hear Tired Hands' siren song...

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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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