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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.

Dock Street Prince Myshkin

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Dock Street has been around for forever and has had its ups and downs, but this is a beer that I've had a few times in the past few years, and it's one of my favorite local beers to revisit. Dock Street is tiny, so naturally these bottles don't come around that often, but it flows on tap throughout the winter months and is possibly the best local imperial stout that is regularly available (notwithstanding various one offs from the likes of Tired Hands or Tröegs - though both of those beers did return, you never know if you'll see them again). Are those fighting words? Maybe a bunch of Shackamaximum fans will come out of the woodwork and drown me in hateful scorn, but I'm doubting it.

The Barrel Aged version of Prince Myshkin suffered from an intentional lack of carbonation (generally a deal breaker for me), but aside from that, it would have been truly great. As it is, I'll settle for this base beer, a hefty but not overpowering Russian imperial stout. This particular bottle is getting a bit old, but it's still doing quite well:

Dock Street Prince Myshkin Imperial Stout

Dock Street Prince Myshkin Russian Imperial Stout - Pours a dark brown, almost black color with a finger of beautiful light brown head. Smells very sweet, with the roasted malts taking a back seat to the sweet, almost fruity aromas. Taste also goes the sweet route, though nothing cloying here, and there's ample bitterness on the back end to balance it out. Roasted malts come out to play a little more in the taste than the nose, and you get some of that almost fruity character too, along with hints of caramel and chocolate. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, smooth and creamy, not a trace of booze. It's a beer that could serve as a sipper if you so desired, but it's easy going enough to be dangerous too. Overall, this may be my favorite thing I've had from Dock Street (I've had it a couple times before, and my opinion has not changed), a rock solid imperial stout. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/25/14. Bottled 1/30/13.

If you're ever in the Philly area in the winter, it's worth stopping in at Dock Street for a glass of this and some solid pizza (sorry, I've never had anything else there, but the pizza is good). Here's to hoping they age this in barrels again sometime soon (and that they let it carbonate this time).

Buffalo Trace Black Magick

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It's been over a year, but I'm still mining some black gold out of Voodoo's Barrel Room Collection. It's been a generally successful venture, and I'm happy I waited in line for the privilege of buying these beers.

Sidebar! According to wikipedia, there are many things that "black gold" could be referring to. The obvious one, for all you hillbillies out there, is crude oil (Texas tea!). Along similar and unsurprising lines would be coal. A little more unexpected: black pepper. It turns out that at one time, this was prized, rare, and compact enough to be universally accepted as payment (a commodity money). More unexpected would be Marmite, that salty yeast extract that's used as a food spread in the Anglosphere. This one seems to be a relatively new coinage, linked to a recent shortage (dubbed the Marmageddon). Finally, we have coffee, which is a little dubious, but you all know my feelings on coffee at this point.

Well, I think Bourbon barrel imperial stouts should probably be added to the list of substances that qualify as black gold. And this one is certainly worthy of the label, if not quite as spectacular as its Pappy aged sibling. So prep your cauldrons and consult your Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook, it's time to drink some Black Magick potions:

Voodoo Brewing Buffalo Trace Black Magick

Buffalo Trace Black Magick - Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black color with a cap of light brown head. Smells fantastic, huge bourbon character, some caramel, lots of vanilla, and plenty of oak. Taste is full of rich caramel, bourbon, vanilla, and oak, tons of sugary sweetness, and some char and roasted malt notes emerging towards the finish. Maybe a bit of booze as it warms up as well. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, smooth, and chewy. Not oppressively huge, but there's a decently hot booze character. Overall, it's a fantastic barrel aged stout, certainly a worthy take on a crowded style, though clearly not the pinnacle. This might be the beer's age speaking, and next time, I shall have to drink these suckers with more haste. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (12 oz. Blue Wax). Drank out of a snifter on 7/18/14. Bottle #777. Bottled 1-18-13.

Alas, my Barrel Room Collection stash is dwindling, only a pair Lairds Apple Brandy barrel aged stouts left. Look for those reviews soon enough. It looks like their next barrel room collection release is TBD, but they posted a new picture on their site. Alas, the barrels are not labeled. And if the last couple batches were any indication, these things sit for quite a while in the barrel before being released. Still, we are coming up on about a year since the last release, so there is that... Here's to hoping they have another Philly release. Otherwise, a 5 hour drive might be a bit much to undertake.

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.

Dead Eye Double Feature

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Today we feature two off-shelf imperial stouts from the dead-eye twins, Mikkel and Jeppe:

Dead Eye Twins

Those eyes, man. They look like sociopaths, but they can brew some good beer. To be sure, they both have a large catalog filled with a wide range of styles and experimental series, so they both have their fare share of hits and misses. Since both are highfalutin "gypsy" brewers, those misses tend to be expensive misses, but I've had pretty good luck with both, especially when it comes to their imperial stouts, the details of which are covered below, along with my amazing tasting notes. Up first, Vanilla Shake:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake - Yet another variation on the Beer Geek Breakfast (stout with coffee) theme that Mikkel has been riding for a few years now, this one made at a higher ABV with both coffee and vanilla. You should know by now that I'm not a big coffee guy, but I do really love me some vanilla, so I had big hopes for this. It pours a pitch black color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of coffee, dark malts, and lots of vanilla, in roughly equal measures. Taste has lots of that coffee character tempered by rich caramel and lots of vanilla, with that roasty coffee reasserting itself in the finish, along with a hint of bitterness. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium/low carbonation, not at all boozy. Overall, it's a rock solid coffee based stout. I enjoyed it, but you know, coffee. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/27/14.

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout - So this is basically another variant on Jeppe's famous Even More Jesus recipe. What's the difference? As the story goes, it was "brewed at a different brewery in bigger scale. Since we had to adjust the recipe to the new system, we gave the beer a new name as it is not the same, though it will be similar." Ironically, I had the coffee version of Even More Jesus, and actually quite enjoyed it (actually moreso than Vanilla Shake), but I really found myself wishing I got to try the non coffee version. Well, I basically got my wish with this beer. Pours a black color with a very pretty brown head. Smells of dark, roasty malt, rich caramel, maybe even some vanilla. The taste starts sweet, but that's tempered by some roasty dark malt, rich caramel in the middle, and a little bitter dark chocolate and hop bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium carbonation, no real booze here either. Overall, we have another rock solid stout here, and because I'm not a big coffee person, I like this better than the vanilla shake. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/28/14. Bottled 04/16/14.

So there you have it. Jeppe wins this round, but only really because coffee, and if other beer geeks are any indication, the coffee stuff would probably be treated more fairly. I know, I'm the worst. I actually think the Evil Twin one will age really well, so I may try to snag some more of 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.

Anderson Valley Huge Arker

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So what exactly is an "Arker" and what makes this one of the "Huge" variety? My first thought was to go Biblical, and assume it was a reference to one who bulds an ark, and a Huge Arker would be like a fat Noah. The real answer lies in an esoteric jargon invented in the late 19th century by the residents of Boonville, CA, right smack in the middle of Anderson Valley. It's called Boontling and there are differing stories of its origins, though they all seem to come down to a series of word games played by the residents of an isolated farming community. The one that struck a chord with me sez that the children of Boonville created the language as a means to speak freely in front of their parents without being understood. Speaking as someone who has partaken such endeavors when I was a little one (albeit, on a much more limited scale), I can see that sort of thing being more widespread.

In Boontling, "ark" means "wreck" and as a natural extension of that, "huge arker" basically means "bomb". Or something like that, it's not like I'm from Boonville or anything. At any rate, clocking in at 13.5% ABV and aged 6 months in Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrels (interestingly, it seems that Anderson Valley has exclusive rights to Wild Turkey barrels, which I guess is good for them, but a loss for the rest of us, as Wild Turkey does have a distinctive distilling/aging process where the juice in the barrels tends to be lower proof than other Bourbons and I'd love to compare that to other treatments, like FiftyFifty does with Eclipse series beers. But I digress.), Anderson Valley's Huge Arker seems able to live up to its name:

Anderson Valley Huge Arker

Anderson Valley Huge Arker - Pours a dark brown color with a finger and half of tan to light brown head. Smells nice, some bourbon and oak, but also some chocolate, almost milk chocolate, and a faint hint of roast. Taste is full of rich sugary flavors, not quite caramel, some well incorporated bourbon, oak, and vanilla, lots of chocolate malt, kinda like milk chocolate, and hints of other dark, roasty malts. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, lots of residual sugars (this feels like a high FG). While clearly barrel aged, the bourbon is not as prominent as it is in a lot of other BBA beers. Of course, I tend to prefer that bourbon barrel character, but this one strikes a decent enough balance that I'd think some who don't normally love barrel aged stouts might enjoy well enough. This is not a perfect beer, but it's a well executed bourbon barrel stout with a big chocolatey kick, and well worth checking out. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.5% ABV bottled (22 oz bomber). Drank out of a snifter on 5/30/14. Vintage: 2014.

Hard to believe that this is my first reviewed Anderson Valley beer, though I know I've had a few of their seasonals before. Interestingly, it looks like the other beers in their Wild Turkey Barl (presumably Boontling for "Barrel") Seris are lower ABV offerings (in the 6-7% range), which could be really interesting. I will be keeping an eye out for those... as I didn't realize what a Bahl Hornin' ("excellent pub") they were.

Stone Fyodor's Classic

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Given the size of Stone Brewing Company (a top 10 craft beer brewery in terms of volume), I've always been surprised at the relatively tiny size of their barrel program. If you troll their BA page, you'll see lots of examples, but from what I can tell, you've got a lot of DONG* beers and limited bottle runs in the low hundreds. In the past few years, though, they've really stepped up their efforts, implementing what they call their Quingenti Millilitre (they come in 500 ml bottles, hence that fancy name) series. Last year, they released 9 different varieties, but no imperial stouts. Their previous attempt to bottle a barrel aged IRS in 2010 wound up horribly infected, so everyone was wondering if they'd try it again. Well they did, and holy hell am I glad I got a hold on one of these bottles, because it is nothing short of spectacular. Bottle counts seem to be in the 3000 range, which is nothing to sneeze at, but given Stone's size, it still seems small. Hopefully their meteoric rise will extend to their barrel program in future years.

Take a batch of 2013 Stone Imperial Russian Stout, age it in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels for a whopping 12 months, and you've got Fyodor's Classic. Why they decided to name this after Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I do not know, but here are some tasting notes from the underground:

Stone Fyodors Classic

Stone Fyodor's Classic - Pours a very dark brown, almost black color with a minimum of head, just barely a cap of brown head that quickly resolves to a ring around the edge. Smells deeply of bourbon, with some caramel, oak, and vanilla joining in as well. Taste is full of that rich caramel, oak, vanilla, and bourbon, very faint hints of roast and chocolate, but this is clearly dominated by that bourbon barrel. It opens up even more as it warms, and it just keeps getting better. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and silky smooth, surprisingly little heat given the high ABV, though you get hints of that in the finish and a bit of a warming sensation if you drink quickly. When I saw the head (or lack thereof), I was a little worried about the carbonation, but while low, the carb fits very well with this beer. The 500 ml packaging is just about perfect for this sort of thing too. Overall, this is a phenomenal Bourbon barrel aged stout, absolutely world class. My face melted right off (that's, uh, a good thing). A

Beer Nerd Details: 13.9% ABV bottled (500 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 5/25/14. Bottled: February 2014. IBUs: 38.

There is a version of this beer that also included Ryan Bros. Coffee. That variant is more popular with the general beer nerd population, but while I'm sure I'd enjoy it, I can't say as though I'm that disappointed as I'm not a huge coffee guy (he says, as if he hasn't said it a gazillion times before). Fyodor's Classic is my sweet spot, and I will be hunting this sucker out again for sure.

* Draft Only, No Growler. Aren't acronyms fun?

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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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