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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.

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?

Boulevard Imperial Stout

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Another day, another barrel aged imperial stout, only this time the barrel aging only accounts for 40% of the finished beer (with the remaining 60% being freshly brewed). I've pondered the mysteries of barrel aging on many occasions in the past, and this represents a bit of a wrinkle in the typical formula. Obviously you can't just take any old beer, throw it in a barrel for a while, and expect great results. But on the other hand, is a 40% blend enough to really bring that barrel presence? Or are you just looking for a hint of complexity rather than a sledge hammer of booze and oak? Is it a way to incorporate barrel character, but still have a high yield in finished product (i.e. the lower the BA percentage, the less barrels you need)? Deschutes also seems partial to these partial barrel aged brews, with the recently covered Mirror Mirror and The Abyss both incorporating some barreled beer into their respective blends. I think I feel a pedantic email spree coming on. If only I had the foresight to do this earlier, I could be reporting actual information here rather than hearsay and speculation. Instead, I'll just let you in on this rather solid imperial stout:

Boulevard Imperial Stout

Boulevard Imperial Stout - Pours a deep, dark black color with a little less than a finger of brown head, very pretty stout here. Smell has some roast up front, but it quickly yields caramel, oak, vanilla, whiskey, and maybe even something approaching a fruity note. Taste has a well matched roasted malt character that doesn't get lost at all in all the caramel, oak, vanilla, and whiskey that joins the party in the middle. The barrel character adds complexity without dominating the taste, though this base beer could clearly stand up to such a full bore barrel treatment (and I would honestly love to try that). Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, well carbonated, smooth, a little bit of boozy heat. Overall, a very well crafted Imperial Stout with a little barrel complexity for extra crunchy goodness. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 11.8% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a snifter on 5/10/14. 2013 Vintage. Batch Number: S13310-2. Best by date: 11-2015.

Another solid effort from the Smokestack Series, I am still hoping to snag a bottle of Saison Brett one of these days, but it always seems to elude me... Someday, it will be mine.

Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy

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Every time I pull out one of these Voodoo barrel room selections, I wonder what the hell took me so long. The last one I tried, the Buffalo Trace Big Black Voodoo Daddy didn't quite blow my mind, but it was a worthy beer and certainly an improvement over the base. Of course, that was aged in lowly Buffalo Trace bottles; what I have here was aged in that most hallowed of Bourbon barrels, Pappy Van Winkle (ermegerd!) I've already gone over this sort of thing in the past, so I'll spare you the nerdy wrangling about why these barrels are so prized. Suffice it to say, the clouds parted and an angelic choir heralded the opening of this beer, and it was good.

PVW Big Black Voodoo Daddy

Voodoo Brewing Pappy Van Winkle Big Black Voodoo Daddy - Pours a deep black color with a cap of brown head that quickly resolves into a ring around the edge of the glass. Smells of rich caramel, a hint of roast, and a heaping helping of bourbon. Taste follows the nose, rich caramel, tons of bourbon, booze, and a hint of roast emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied, rich, and creamy. Low but appropriate carbonation, some hot booze, but it's actually pretty easy going for a monster beer. Definitely a big improvement over the Buffalo Trace variant, but still not as great as Pappy Black Magick. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12.5% ABV bottled (22 oz waxed cap). Drank out of a snifter on 4/19/14. Bottle #284. Bottled: 12.14.12.

I think I'll crack open one of the Lairds Apple Brandy variants next, and I'll try to make it snappy too. None of this waiting 5 months anymore. Anywho, after two relatively quick barrel room releases, things look quiet on the Voodoo barrel front. I assume they've filled it up again, but their website does not appear to have been updated and I haven't heard any news on upcoming releases. Here's to hoping they do another Philly release at some point!

April Beer Clubbing

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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 went to a local Pizza place, got our fill of deep fried pizza pockets and other such delights, and naturally partook in lots of beer:

April Beer Club Selections
(Click for larger version)

For the sake of posterity, completely unreliable notes on each beer are below. Standard disclaimers apply, and other such waffling. Great, now I have a sudden craving for waffles. Thanks a lot. Anywho, in order of drinking (not necessarily the order pictured above):

  • Green Flash Le Freak - Labeled a Belgian IPA, I didn't get much in the way of hops out of this, but it remained a pretty solid Belgian Strong Pale nonetheless. Nice spicy Belgian yeast character. B
  • Ovila Abbey Saison - Bog standard saison material, nothing special at all, though certainly not bad or anything like that. Still, there wasn't much to make it really stand out in a setting like this. Mild Belgian yeast character, maybe a hint of lemon peel if you are really looking for it. B-
  • Stone Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA - Rock solid IPA that feels like it's actually made with grapefruit (as opposed to only hops that lend a grapefruity character). I don't actually know if that's the case for sure, but that's what it feels like. Beautiful nose, what seems like Stone's trademark hop profile, and a heaping helping of citrusy but astringent grapefruit. An interesting beer. B
  • Evil Twin / Crooked Stave Ryan And The Gosling - One of my contributions for the night, this is dominated by funky Brett. This is quite welcome in the nose, and the front end of the taste is fantastic, but the finish is very odd. That funk turns super earthy, almost savory in the finish, which brings this down a bit. Still an interesting beer to try though. B
  • Allagash Midnight Brett - Hey, look at that, a beer I just reviewed yesterday. And it held up rather well in this setting as well.
  • Ken's Homebrewed Honey IPA - Brewed with a bunch of New Zealand hops, this was quite nice.
  • Sly Fox Nihilist - An interesting take on the imperial stout style, huge carbonation, dryer than I'd normally expect, but a nice roast character, with hints of booze (but not overpowering). It's definitely a decent brew. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel - Straight up imperial stout, this one compared very favorably to the Nihilist, definitely thicker and more creamy, less roast, but really quite nice. B+
  • Kaedrin Bomb & Grapnel (Bourbon Oaked) - Interestingly, I feel like the char that came through on early bottles has mellowed out, and the bourbon seems to be lessening the roast as well, making this an interesting blend of flavors. It's turned out quite well, though not at all like your typical bourbon barrel aged stout. Still, not bad for a first attempt, and quite nice on its own. B+
  • DuClaw Dirty Little Freak - Holy hell. Huge chocolate nose, like powdered cocoa. Less chocolate in the taste, as it takes a back seat to a big coconut character. Surprisingly not super sweet, and it works well enough I guess (certainly a unique beer), though I was a little disappointed. B-
  • DuClaw Cocoa Fuego - Brewed with dark chocolate and chipotle peppers, its the latter that seems to dominate this beer, even contributing a sorta smokey flavor that's pretty tough to overcome. There's some peppery heat that takes up residence in your jaw, but it's not punishing or anything like that. Not the worst hot pepper beer I've had, but not a beer that I connected with either. C+
  • DuClaw Hell on Wood - Ah, now this is more like it. This is DuClaw's excellent Devil's Milk barleywine aged on bourbon barrels, and it turned out reasonably well. Clearly not a top tier BBA barleywine, but it works really well on its own. B+
So all in all, quite a nice night. As per usual, already looking forward to next month... In the meantime, stay tuned for another .rar wale review tomorrow.

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

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