Monday, April 28, 2014

Beer Review: R&D Bourbon Barrel Kriek

Reviewing the R&D Bourbon Barrel Kriek from the New Glarus Brewing Company out of New Glarus, Wisconsin.

Score: 87

Brewed 01/18/10, bottled 08/06/10. Served in a Firestone Walker reserve series mini snifter and enjoyed on 01/24/14. Sampled side-by-side with New Glarus R&D Bourbon Barrel Kriek, R&D Sour Ale and R&D Very Sour Blackberry. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a reddish brown “oh hey, are you a Flanders red?” color with a thin layer of fizzy head that settles to a ring around the glass. Good lacing and retention. 4.25/5

Smell: Cherry juice, vanilla and oak. Brown sugar too. Minimal apparent sourness, comes across as being sweet in the nose. 4/5

Taste: This is basically bourbon barrel aged Belgian Red. Sweet cherry juice, bourbon, light vinegar and funk, vanilla and oak. The cherry flavor is a bit medicinal towards the finish. No real sourness here — just a little crisp tartness towards the finish as it warms, lacking any real bite. Finishes with sweet cherry/oaky vanilla. 3.75

Mouthfeel: Viscous, low carbonation. Sweet and oily mouthfeel, with a modestly dry finish. 3.75

Overall: This beer is basically just bourbon barrel aged Belgian Red and sweet Flanders red-like in taste. Take that as you will, and seek out accordingly.


Cost: $8 for a 500 ml bottle.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Beer Review: Geuze Cuvée J&J Blauw

Reviewing the infamous Geuze Cuvée J&J Blauw from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen out of Belgium.

Score: 99

2003 vintage bottle served in a Drie Fonteinen fountain logo gueuze glass and enjoyed on 02/11/14. Huge thank you and shout out to Paul for graciously sharing this whale! Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a murky, unfiltered honey color with a nice fade to yellow at the bottom of the glass with three fingers of head that slowly recedes to a thick half finger layer. Poor lacing and retention, but what else would you expect for an 11 year old gueuze? 5/5

Smell: What is striking about this beer is how complex and balanced it is. The big unique character here is a distinct cedar wood aroma, which I absolutely adore. Cedar wood, hay/straw, lemon rind, and a very light/subtle barnyard funk. There’s also a little bit of “raisin” that comes through around room temperature. At first, there’s a touch of pool water/chlorine in the nose, but that breathes out and disappears after 15 or so minutes. Very subtle barnyard character and a hint of resinousness. Has a nice residual citrus/fruity brightness, which grows as the beer warms up. 5/5

Taste: Straw-forward upfront, with a little more barnyard funk than nose but still pretty mellow and surprisingly subtle overall for an 11 year old gueuze. Growing bitter lemon rind flavor and tartness and a little orange too as it warms up. At first, at fridge temp, there is minimal sourness. However,t by the time this beer reaches room temperature it gains a nice tartness and bright citrus character that reminds me of the 2007 OGV we drank the other night. Mineral water, straw and faint cedar round out the taste. The cedar is not nearly as pronounced in the taste as it is in the nose, but it is still there. Everything is nicely mixed here. I am shocked by how relatively not unpleasantly funky this beer is. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, low carbonation. Nice light, but growing tartness with a very dry finish. Acidity level is perfect. 4.75/5

Overall: The cigar lover’s sour! This one largely lived up to the hype for me. The cedar-forward nose was absolutely incredible, and the taste, while different (in that it had less citrus and cedar and more straw/must/funk and mineral character) was just as good. My only knock on this brew is that I would have liked a little more carbonation or tartness to give the taste a bit more liveliness on the palate. Cheers!

Cost: $250 for a 750 ml bottle.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Beer Review: R&D Gueuze

Reviewing the R&D Gueuze from New Glarus Brewing Company out of New Glarus, Wisconsin.

Score: 90

Brewed 03/24/09, bottled 08/06/10. Served in a Firestone Walker reserve series mini snifter and enjoyed on 01/24/14. Sampled side-by-side with New Glarus R&D Bourbon Barrel Kriek, R&D Sour Ale and R&D Very Sour Blackberry. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a translucent, pale golden color with a thin fizzy layer of head that settle to a ring around the head. Poor lacing, average retention. 3/5

Smell: Straw grain, light barnyard funk, sweet malt, brown sugar, lemon rind, apple and faint peach. This might be the best smelling bottle of this I have had yet, with others being much funkier, grainier and less citrusy in the smell/taste. 4.25/5

Taste: A light kick of wet wood flavor upfront, followed by sour lemon, sweet apple juice, white wine and a hint of cherry. The lemon flavor lingers nicely. Not very complex or tart as hoped, but more so than the R&D Bourbon Barrel Kriek. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Quire juicy on palate. Very muted tartness. Dry finish 4/5

Overall: The previous two times I tried this beer, it lacked any tartness and was overly funky, but this was a surprisingly good bottle for whatever reason. 


Cost: $8 for a 500 ml bottle.

Beer Review: Black Gold

Reviewing Black Gold from Central Waters Brewing Company out of Amherst, Wisconsin. This is 1414 aged for 35 months in 25 year old Willet bourbon barrels. Less than 500 bottles were made and released as part of a charity run hosted by Central Waters.

Score: 98

2013 vintage bottle served in a Black Tuesday taster and enjoyed on 01/24/14 side by side with Central Waters Fifteen. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a dark soda color with a wisp of head that totally settles. No lacing or retention. Really nice oily legs. This beer looks exactly like you would expect of a big stout. 4.5/5

Smell: The glass exudes fudge and fig and high percentage cacao dark chocolate. Ample vanilla and molasses too. Big bourbon undertones and a kiss of oak. As it warms up, the chocolatiness grows and grows. The aroma is big, but perfectly integrated. I could smell this beer all night. 5/5

Taste: Lots of fudge and molasses upfront, along with a big, boozy bourbon flavor. Some fig and date flavor too. A nice vanilla/oak flavor comes through towards finish, but it is not overly oaky and dry like Fifteen. Has a nice underlying alcohol warmth. Big chocolatey linger. Like the nose, the flavor profile is bold and marvelously integrated, albeit boozy as hell. So delicious. This one burns a bit, like a good bourbon. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full-medium bodied, low carbonation. Nice mix of bitter and sweet flavors. Oily, modestly dry finish. Good alcohol warmth, lively on the tongue. 4.5/5

Overall: Easily Central Waters’ best beer. Unlike Fifteen, the extended aging did not render this brew overly dry, but instead imparted a lot more bourbon-molasses and dark fruit character, while still retaining a lot of the chocolatiness that defined 1414 and was lost in Fifteen. Seek this one out!

Cost: $15 for a 12 oz bottle.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Beer Review: Saison Du Fermier

Reviewing the Saison Du Fermier from Side Project Brewing out of St. Louis, Missouri. This bottle conditioned saison is aged and fermented in Chardonnay oak barrels.

Score: 94

September 2013 release bottle served in a Surly Darkness chalice and enjoyed on 11/28/13 (Thanksgiving dinner). Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a murky orange-ish golden color with a half finger layer of fizzy white head. Leaves a line of lacing with good retention. 3.75/5

Smell: Orange peels, white wine, oak and light/young Bretty funk. There is a dandelion-like grassy aroma too. Nice citrus undertones. Most of the aromatic complexities hit upfront, while the Brett notes and a subdued "strawiness" make up the back end of the whiff. 4.5/5

Taste: A nice citrus/tropical fruit flavor and mild tartness hit upfront, with the citrusy flavor lasting and acting as a nice backbone for the beer. Overlaid is a white wine spriztiness, oak and a lighter amount of earthy Brett than the nose led on. A little musty, with zesty lemon rind notes too -- reminisce of a fresher Cantillon Classic Gueuze in this regard. The Brett and citrusy flavor linger nicely, with the citrus outlasting the funk. The Brett/funk growls slightly as the beer warms up and breaths. The oak and white wine come across stronger when the bottle is colder, akin to how The Bruery Confessions tastes, but the taste opens up nicely from there. Everything integrates well, making it hard to really single out any flavors. Quite pleasant. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Has a good dryness, with a light tartness to it -- more so than most saisons. 4.25/5

Overall: Whatever yeast and bacteria Cory is using in his saisons is pure money. I love how citrusy/fruit his saisons come across, despite there being no fruit being added to them. It is no wonder why Fuzzy and Blueberry Flanders are so delicious. Saison Du Fermier is probably my favorite of Cory's bottle releases to date, but that is only because Fuzzy and Blueberry Flanders have not been released in bottles...yet...

Cost: $15 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Beer Review: The Origin

Reviewing The Origin from Side Project Brewing out of St. Louis, Missouri. The Origin, Side Project Brewing's very first beer and very first release, is a blend of an Imperial Stout, Black Oatwine and Baltic Porter that was aged for 20 months in a Rittenhouse Rye barrel with Madagascar Vanilla Beans.

Score: 90

2013 vintage bottle served in a stemmed Cantillon flute and enjoyed on 12/19/13.

Appearance: Shiny and inky black in color, with a wisp of khaki head off the pour that quickly and totally settles. Minimal head, but the nice oily legs that brown the glass. 4/5

Smell: The aroma is completely different than it was on tap at the release. The hugely desserty marshmallow-vanilla character and chocolate are still there, but now present is a really nice and contrasting jammy twang of sherried fruitiness like a slightly aged Belgian and oak. The caramel-whiskey notes that were there fresh do not come through, but neither does the booziness that was there fresh. Everything mixes nicely in the nose, like a rich vanilla cake with chocolate sauce and fruity frosting. 4.75/5

Taste: The taste is sadly not as well-integrated as the nose. The sour fruit character is a bit more sharp and harsh on the palate, and is especially present in the finish. The flavor starts off with a wave of rich vanilla and chocolate, followed by a tangy sour fruitiness and oak character that washes away the s'mores like beginning. As the beer warms, the vanilla flavor lingers longer in the flavor, which really helps strike a better balance between the sweet dark beer characters and the sherried/oxidized/tangy notes. There is some cherry flavor present here too. We vino-vacuumed a quarter of the bottle to drink a couple of days later at Kuhnhenn's Winter Solstice release, and I think the berry/fruit character came across substantially more pleasantly a few days later -- perhaps what little carbonation there was in this beer accentuated the tartly oxidized qualities too much? At Kuhnhenn's, the beer tasted more like a flat Bramble Jr. No butter or popcorn flavors in this bottle. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Rich, velvety mouthfeel. Just shy of full bodied, very low carbonation. Sweet, with sharp tanginess. The mouthfeel is so luscious, and so perfect ... but for that mildly tart fruitiness cutting through it. 4/5

Overall: On tap at the release and out of a test bottle graciously shared by Cory at Dexter's the night before the Great Taste, my memory recalls a much superior beer compared to how this aged -- mostly because it more appropriately fit the expectations of the styles blended and aged. While the fruity/oxidized and slightly tart characteristics did not totally ruin this beer (it was still quite drinkable), they did not marry well with the rich and malty flavors in my personal opinion -- at least not until the beer sat out for a few days in my fridge. Cory tested bottles, and the results were not indicative of an infection. Further, at the release, Cory mentioned that he intended the beer to develop a contrasting oxidation character over time as well. Regardless, I am not quite sure this is how he intended this beer to turn out -- infected or not, intentionally sherried or otherwise.

Cost: $25 for a 750 ml bottle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Beer Review: Brett Venture #2 With Lactobacillus

Reviewing Brett Venture #2 With Lactobacillus from Side Project Brewing out of St. Louis, Missouri. This is a bottle-conditioned, wine barrel fermented saison that uses an isolated Brett strain from Drie Fonteinen. What distinguishes this bottle from Brett Venture #2, as you might have guessed, is that Lactobacillus was added to the barrel that this was bottled from.

Score: 93

Front label bottle code is "021013," back label code is "L." This signals that this is Brett Venture #2 (the "02") with Lactobacillus (the "L"), and it was released in October 2013 (the "1013"). Served in a stemmed Crooked Stave Zwanze 2012 glass and enjoyed on 04/06/14.

Appearance: Pours a milky/cloudy yellow-orange cedar color with no head. Swirling the elixir fogs the inside of the glass. This beer looks like the smoothie from hell. Although the appearance does not count for much, this is a damn ugly beer. 1.5/5

Smell: Wine, peach and kiss of orange/citrus. A little bit of apple too. Smells a lot like a mimosa with a kiss of lacto and hay. 4.5/5

Taste: Tastes just like it smells - peach, wine, lacto and a little orange -- but with a lasting Bretty funk. As it warms, that Brett/hay funk flavors come through more and more towards the finish. Brett and wine flavor linger. Really nice. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Feels viscous for the style -- medium/medium-light bodied, low carbonation. Very mild acidity. Light/young, but lingering Bretty funk. Just a touch drying, but not "dry." 4.25/5

Overall: Although no fruit was added to this beer, it tastes like a slightly Bretted mimosa. Cory is doing some real special things with his sours.

Cost: $17 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Beer Review: Kiwi Lambic (2013 Vintage)

Reviewing the Kiwi Lambic from Upland Brewing Company out of Bloomington, Indiana.

Score: 93

Batch "02-09", bottled 06/12/13. Served in a Fantome tulip and enjoyed on 03/25/14.

Appearance: Pours a nice orange color that's relatively clean in appearance until you get to the later bottle pours. Minimal lacing or retention. 4/5

Smell: Huge kiwi, plus lacto and vinegar. The nose radiates sourness and kiwis. 4.25/5

Taste: Hugely tart kiwi flavor, plus lacto and vinegar. Not complex, but tasty in small doses. Big acidity and sourness here. Tasty, but the acidity/tartness layers heavily. The dregs of the bottle just might be the most sour thing I have ever drank. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light-medium bodied, nicely carbonation. Very tart, with a little sweetness. Very dry finish. 4.25/5

Overall: This is a really tasty beer, but it is so tart and acidic that it can only be reasonably handled in small doses unless you are inclined to consume an unreasonable amount of Tums with the beer. This is the Chocolate Rain of sours; share it with a group of friends and be forewarned about consuming solo.

Cost: $25 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Beer Review: California Brandy Barrel Aged Hunahpu's Imperial Stout

Reviewing the California Brandy Barrel Aged Hunahpu's Imperial Stout from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida.

Score: 93

2013 vintage bottle served in a Hunahpu's Day 2014 taster glass and enjoyed on 03/25/14.

Appearance: Pours that typical black bodied Hunahpu's color with a thin layer of espresso colored head that settles to a ring around the glass. Okay lacing, average retention -- less so than the Double Barrel Hunahpu's. Solid oily legs. 4/5

Smell: Brandy, chocolate and light peppers. Fresher (six-plus months ago), in some bottles of this beer we sampled, the pepper and spiced characters were more robust on the nose. Alas, at least in this bottle, with just under a year of age on it, the spiciness and spiced qualities are very muted on the nose. A little bit of cinnamon and some tobacco beyond the brandy/chocolate, oak too. 4/5

Taste: The spiciness factor is substantially greater on the palate than it was in the nose -- especially side-by-side with the Double Barrel Hunahpu's. Pepper spiciness, milk chocolate, vanilla and a hint of roast on the palate. A bit of dark fruit character towards the back half too. A kiss of cinnamon, which is not nearly as pronounced as it was in the 2013 vintage Hunahpu's or the Double Barrel Hunahpu's. The spiciness of the brew last throughout the taste and lingers a bit past the swallow (along with the milk chocolate flavor) with a nice tingle sensation from the pepper heat on the front-center of the tongue. There is a very mild underlying sweetness present. The brandy aging is quite muted relative to the nose. Everything here mixes nicely. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, spot on carbonation. Has a good balance with a slight sweetness. Slightly salivating mouthfeel, with a little bit of pepper liveliness. 4.75/5

Overall: A really nice barrel aged treatment of Hunahpu's that is put to shame by Double Barrel Hunahpu's side-by-side, though the comparison is not entirely fair since the California Brandy version is nearly a year aged at this point. I think this beer was better fresher, but it has held up well. There have been numerous reports of bottle variation with this beer, but the last three I have consumed had a nice degree of spiciness -- even with nearly a year of age. Although this brew is less complex and appetizingly flavorful than the Double Barrel Hunahpu's (in fairness, so many beers are), it is nonetheless pretty delicious in its own right. It is just not as tasty as what it takes to land one at this point.

Cost: $25 for a 750 ml bottle.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beer Review: Double Barrel Aged Hunahpu's Imperial Stout

Reviewing the Double Barrel Aged Hunahpu's Imperial Stout from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa, Florida. This beer is a blend of Hunahpu's Imperial Stout aged in rum and apple brandy barrels.

Score: 100

2014 vintage bottle served in a Hunahpu's Day snifter and enjoyed on 03/25/14.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with a half finger of espresso colored head that settles to a thick ring around the glass and island of head floating in the center. Okay head, but unreal retention. Nice oily legs, and serious browning of the glass from the swirl. 5/5

Smell: Big cinnamon and burnt sugar/molasses on the nose. Apple brandy, chocolate, mild licorice, dark fruit and vanilla too -- everything in a perfectly, syrupy balance. A kiss of leather too as it warms. 5/5

Taste: A little touch of spiciness upfront, followed by a huge cinnamon kick, chocolate, burnt sugar/molasses, dark fruit and vanilla. Such a great balance of flavor. Minimal licorice on the palate, if any. As it warms, the rum character comes through more. The apple brandy, which was somewhat prominent on the nose, is overshadowed and without much trace in the taste -- not that it matters much since this beer is delicious regardless. A kiss of tobacco comes through as it warms. Lingering milk chocolate with cinnamon. Damn delicious. The pepper liveliness picks up a touch as it warms up, but it never arises to the level of the California Brandy Aged Hunahpu's. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, good carbonation. Just a touch pepper liveliness. Good bittersweet balance, creamy mouthfeel. 5/5

Overall: Pretty much a perfect stout. Better than Apple Brandy Aged Hunahpu's -- and that's a bold statement. So much complexity going on here, all near-perfect alignment. This bottle was much better than the first one that I consumed about a month ago.

Cost: $25 for a 750 ml bottle

Monday, April 7, 2014

Beer Review: Sump Coffee Stout

Reviewing Sump Coffee Stout from Perennial Artisan Ales out of St. Louis, Missouri. Sump takes the base beer for Abraxas, and enhances it with local coffee from Sump Coffee.

Score: 68

2014 vintage bottle served in a Fantome tulip and enjoyed on 03/25/14. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Black bodied with a finger and a half of dark khaki head that settles to a splotchy coating. Solid lacing and retention. 4/5

Smell: Reeks of "green", unroasted coffee and peanut butter. A bit vegetal, like a chili pepper without the heat. A little bit of chocolate too, but most of what I smell is just peanut butter and peppers. 2.5/5

Taste: None of the vegetal character is present in the taste. Nice roast and chocolate, a hint of peanut butter. Touch of metallic flavor as it warms too. On the colder side, it drinks fine. 3/5

Mouthfeel: Good viscosity, low carbonation. Light, roasty bitterness. Dry finish. 4/5

Overall: Barrel Aged Sump was light years better than this, as was Vanilla Sump. This leads me to believe that there was either something "off" about this bottle or the specific batch it came from.

Cost: $16.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Beer Review: Churchill's Finest Hour (2014 Vintage)

Reviewing the 2014 vintage of Churchill's Finest Hour from from Port Brewing Company (Lost Abbey's alter ego). Each vintage of this beer is a unique blend of barrel aged stouts. The 2014 vintage is signaled by the blue wax and blue foil colored cigar smoke on the label.

Score: 95

2014 vintage bottle served in a Goose Island Black Friday 2013 Bourbon County Brand Stout snifter and enjoyed on 03/25/14. Thank you Ryan for sharing this treat!

Appearance: Deep brown color, with a half finger of dark khaki head that quickly settles to a ring around the glass. Poor lacing lacing and retention, but nice oily legs and solid browning. 4.5/5

Smell: Oak, bourbon, alcohol and fudge. Hard to balance the unpleasantness of the sharp boozy alcohol aroma with the big fudginess, but this strikes a nice balance. Reminisce of the 2012 vintage (albeit hotter), rather than the 2013. With some time, and with the alcohol mellowing out, this aroma should develop nicely. 4.25/5

Taste: Vanilla/oak upfront and then a little bitterness and char, followed by boozy bourbon and an insanely fudegy finish. So much chocolate and fudge in the finish, which lasts forever and ever and is nicely bittersweet. Really excellent balance. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation but apt for the profile. Bittersweet overall. Creamy mouthfeel. Mild stinging booziness, which is more akin to drinking a spirit neat rather than a beer. 4.25/5

Overall: Give this beer a little more viscocity or age, and it could be something special. Even by my standards, I found this beer to be a bit boozy. Enjoyed thoroughly nonetheless. Cannot wait to revisit this in a year.

Cost: $50 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beer Review: Double Citra

Reviewing Double Citra from the Hill Farmstead Brewery out of Greensboro Bend, Vermont.

Score: 98

One week old keg pour served in a clear plastic tasting cup at The Beer Temple's second anniversary celebration and enjoyed on 03/23/14. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours translucent, dull golden color with a half finger layer bubbly head. Good lacing and retention, even in a plastic cup. 4.5/5

Smell: A dank fresh assault of tropical fruit, with a little pine-like character. Apricot, mango, nectarines, grapefruit and pineapple. Everything in wonderful, fresh harmony. Wow. 5/5

Taste: Tastes just like it smells -- like a hoppy, tropical fruit syrup that you would find inside a can of pineapple or pears (but in a delectably fresh way). The mango/nectarine flavor is so bold, so delicious. Has a little bitter bite upfront, which quickly mellows out amidst the juicy, lightly sweet fruit flavors that linger nicely. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Quite viscous and syrupy mouthfeel for an IPA, good carbonation. Very juicy, with a little dryness to the finish. Has a nice light bitter bite, but no big bitterness here. 5/5

Overall: Simply one of Shaun's best hoppy beers, along with Society & Solitude #4 and Ephraim. Unlike many other pure citra hopped beers, this one has a little bite to it. Seeks this one out, and drink it fresh. Cheers!

Cost: $10 for a 750 ml growler.