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Sometimes Eli Fish is Better than Side Project: Start your EnGINes

Gintense

So BRAT sent me this Elifish Maple Wee Heavy and already I was like HERE WE GO: no water, no barrel aging, mixing wee heavy tones with IHOP OTPHJ. It was fine, the beer is a fair to good mélange of the pancake world with almost braggot execution at times that was sticky sweet but fun enough. Malty backbone with some continental breakfast French toast, yawn.

Then she buried the God damn lede. Surreptitiously tucked into the box was an absolute heater: gin barrel aged pillow talk. They took this lowly wit, pounded it with mixed ferm, just annihilated it with 10 brett cultures, then tossed it into a Vicks Vapor rub botanical prison. The result is fantastic.

You can miss me with the maple 10 times out of 10 unless Brad Clark is involved and then this Witbier is just sniping from the PNW weeds with a .300 Knockout. You get geranium, juniper, frothy creamy mint and dill, Hot Dog on a Stick limeade, and this subtle gristy swallow. It was legitimately better than the gin BA Side Project table bier that I had the same night.

I had never even heard of this plucky little NY upstart but now your boy Eli is Fishin. You know Book of Eli? In this one Denzel is foraging for herbs and Gary Oldman is sourcing herbaceous barrels. They couldn’t get Mila Kunis due to brand sponsorship conflict with Jim Beam. The point is NEW YORK CAN SOMETIMES BE OREGON BUT WITH SNOW. You even been to Batavia? Me fucking either but I bet there’s dudes with North Face pullovers ripping nicsticks complaining about big city people from Rochester sinking their $140k housing economy.

Gin barrel aged wheat is the same whereever you are. Right now someone from Attica or Avon is writing scathing gin soaked response explaining how they’re so much different than Portland or Buffalo. Doesn’t matter, when we are all ripped on herbal grist, you can have an owl tattoo, an arrow tattoo, an infinity sign, a zodiac sign, the stupid heartbear that turns into music notes, even basic ass koi fish bros are welcome.

Gin beers unite people, maple beers divide them.

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Zymarium Shadow of Desire Has Honeyfans Combs Dripping

Just flexing that cordial glass

Mead fans get their cages rattled harder than a great white on gas station boaner pills. They are the original honey NFTs where each bee crypto is just a guy who boils mead at home with the promise of being the next big thing. By the time most of these people have gone commercial, the hive has shifted, swarming some new stickybox. Mead fans lost their minds when they paid $125 to be in the Zymarium club and then had to pay $450 for the bottles. How quickly the drones abandon the queen.

Zymarium is the newest and spiciest home operation noting on bottles THIS IS NOT FOR SALE. Even on their FB posts NOT FOR SALE. Slick marketing, cologne bottles dipped in apothecary wax, it’s like Boneflower and Pips had a cousin who is heavy into pagan mysticism and Type O Negative. The NOT FOR SALE is the palm to the clavicle that spurns more desire. The Heisman creates the longing.

But sometimes, the hype is valid and your combs are left fully saturated. This mead won first place at the 2020 Mazers cup and usually if you ask one of the homebrew ballers to show credentials they mutter something in a Chris Klien dialect about their friends enjoying it.

This is one of the most intensely concentrated meads I have had but it never loses its precision. It has a lot of the dry tannic structure you’ll find in Schramms but this Floridian excess, waterless, jammy, bell jars full of preserves. It feels like if you took a flabby Napa Syrah like SQN and then reduced it further, heightening its virtues and shortening its welcome.

The produce is managed beautifully, waves of grape fruit leather, rose and jasmine, prune. The drag is both drying but excessive, with fruit but heightening akin to ambrosia salad. The meadowfoam is almost distracting but so decadent, vanilla/trifle/strawberry shortcake steeped in Cabernet close it out and it is quite a load to press.

A few years ago it was an aberrant ask to have someone spit in your mouth, sheesh now it’s a de rigeur kink that everyone is signing up for. The mead world went from these sticky sweet wine adjacent offerings to an increasing penchant for berry leg quivering. It is enjoyable, but perhaps too intense for some.

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2021 Smog City BA OE Continues the Legacy of Cask Opulence

The poodle salt shaker is non negotiable

Every year I look forward to Smog releasing this gem, Barrel Aged OE. They always vary slightly and the cask blend presents something to anticipate. We used to hunt this back before Smog when it was at Tustin Brewing Co. This year was particularly special for me because it was bottled on the same day my son was born, a lil baby OE.

This is an amazingly balanced beer this year. This vintage presents such a great spirit platform and tight body lines that are stingy with the residual sugar that results in a blast of oolong tea, that spicy high rye content bourbon like 4R smble, grenache, and kalmatta olive brine. It’s far more complex than English confectionary treats and feels like a $17 pretentious cocktail served by a dude named Hyacinth with ice with no occlusions.

I usually joke that this is the Straight Jacket of socal but it feels like the nexus between Mother of All Storms and like Sebago. It remains california gold and Huell Howser would crash a golf cart into the grain silo. The dry tea and leather aspects mingle with the double helix of oak and internally you feel like the type of dude who has purchased a ballistic gel torso without everyone looking down on you for being an insecure dipshit.

This isn’t a novice Barleywine and there’s depth and nuance to it. If wheated bourbons are what you give your baby palate friend because he read about them in Condé Nast, then brown sugar bombs are the English caramel of the beer world. This has more articulated points than an expensive action figure. Like a friend who is super into competitive whipping, it’s dangerous but awe inspiring. Like how did you even get to this point.

The intensity and spiritphillic nature of this is a boat wave of sorts. Other beer drinkers know where your palate sits at as your outboard motor gurgles pure octane. When someone posts an intense mature cask bomb like this, they’re either in somber reverence or in that “hey is ordering a gram at 3:15am a good idea?” Either way there is power and negligence to the display.

Godspeed and a healthy recovery to Bob Odenkirk, triple BA OE IS BEST
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Firestone Walker Just Dropped Their Best Beer Since 2011 Abacus: DREAMWOOD

Share if you saw the crumb

Firestone Walker is in this newly single midlife crisis of late. After being the craft beer darling in the mid-2000s, turning out genre defining strong ales in the early 2010’s, they got married to a Duvel of fine stock and set their sights on grocery story 805 purveyance and taking strokes off their Luponic Distortion game.

Now they are back in the club spilling 1942 wearing a viscose Celine button down swiping people on Raya at age 47. It’s not unwelcome, it’s just different.

The Brewmaster’s Collective [don’t you dare call it RESERVE otherwise you’ll draw a strongly worded Bruery letter] has been a fun society. It is FW entering a realm that they don’t need to. The results have been hits and strange misses, but it is a sticky $600 ride. Then they go and drop this absolute marvel: DREAMWOOD.

1pp, society exclusive, 15 year and 23 year pappy barrels, double barrel aged, no adjuncts, 120 cases, 16% abv. It’s the grizzled old stout detective pulled back in, THIS TIME THEY GOT YOUR CORN DAUGHTER. While those are all hype bromides, this beer surpasses hype and delivers to an intense degree on the cask pedigree.

I love when dudes 9 months into craft beer actively seek out a double barrel, extended casked stout and then complain about the heat on it, the very thing they are paying a premium for. The fusel is a Cowichan sweater fresh out of the dryer. It drags with a sweet peanut brittle heat that hits a warm tone like a fretless Warwick bass.

The body is Parabola, which sounds dicey as in the modern era that is now deemed svelte. The lack of sugar presents a nimble stripped down stout that bleeds oak presence, spice drops, butterscotch kisses, crackly lava cake, and peach hookah. A Porsche Taycan fueled by a cornwater generator. It is raw power.

It didn’t need to be this good and it will polarize tastes. The seltzer and haze segment have short attention spans, dangly cross earrings, Bass Pro Shop hats worn post-meta ironically. This isn’t for them. Firestone has presented a dignified, complex, salt and peppered air inviting you for a tour on their elegant bowrider. If cask heat is gatekeeping, genZ palates can seek solace elsewhere.

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Side Project Continuance 2: The Garden of Malty Delights

I enjoy this less than Anabasis but more than Langst. So it’s still really tasty.

Hieronymus Bosch painted the three panel triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, in 1510. Interpretations varied at the time. To high middle ages sensibility, this insane fever dream was a commentary on the fall of man due to lust and depravity. To the renaissance appreciator, this was a sign of altered perspective and things to come. How much you enjoy these carnal depictions depends on which era you’re in.

Continuance 2 is a composition fallacy in itself. Being single barrel MJK, you would think this is salacious and spicy. Pure deviant malts, the fall of mash. However, they added cinnamon and vanilla to it. If MJK was already so good, what was the deal with these expensive single barrels that warranted the divine corruption?

If you’re in Bosch’s left panel, your Eden would have been a lower abv, simpler, non adjuncted beer. The cinnamon and vanilla contributes a Drumstick ice cream cone with that ribbon of soft caramel in the center, the holy barrel is compromised. From a theological perspective, this is pure sin. It is complexity at the expensive of purity.

If you’re in Bosch’s right panel, the fall of barleywine is in itself progress. Casting off the pralines and cream shackles for a dulce de leche experience furthers the human experience. The cask purity is denatured. Knowledge of food parallels is corruption that beer welcomes. It is all a matter of perspective.

I am more of a center panel ticker. You can find me bathing in the VSOJ fountain, touching Gratitude crows, embracing the moderate hedonism of the current age. The vanilla is distracting, but it also modifies giving the barleywine a tootsie roll and waffle cone aspect. The carb is de minimis and sits murky and deep mahogany with sticky frogs on its bank. It veers so heavily into the stout realm that it feels like it is outright losing the virtues of MJK itself, a Miltonian fall from grace into the fleeting hellscape of pastry stout lovers.

We don’t have objective prescriptivity for how barleywines SHOULD taste. This is very good, nonstandard, linestepping, and heretical. Life is too short to conform to seltzer norms, sipping mediocre macro lagers at cookouts.

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Russell’s Reserve 13 Year: Wild Turkey isn’t Immune to Crotchshotting Flippers

Back on my 24mm bullshit

The quest to answer “What Happened to Double Digit Age Statements?” trudges on with a new offering from Wild Turkey: Russell’s Reserve 13 Year. This might as well have not even actually been released considering that almost none of these bottles even hit the shelf.

Double digit age statements aren’t extinct, they’re being conscripted. Wild Turkey could have taken a NCF cask strength bottle with 13 years and made it a special release. Instead they priced it at $70, barely higher than the much worse, RR10. The result is predictable, adults who still shop at Tilly’s flip them for $400. These are the same dudes who are like “Vegas aint ready for us” like Vegas hasn’t seen 5 dumpy guys sharing queen beds wearing camp collar shirts from Marshall’s. So the bourbon world ain’t ready for them.

Wild Turkey is the most red headed of the major corn children. Even still, it is crotchshotted and flipped before it leaves the parking lot. Even WT isn’t sacred. The resale HSV from Buffalo Trace has now infected the drinker tier bottles as well, pass the Carmex.

This has a gorgeous deep bronze like oversteeped tea and the nose presents all that amazing dance that keeps people who don’t drink bourbon away from Wild Turkey: actual bourbon hallmarks. It is dry, toasty, Hot Tamales, French toast, and burned brioche. Taste provides dried mango, Dr. Pepper, anise, Darjeeling tea, and nutmeg. It veers so far away from the betapalate “BUTTERSCOTCH BOMB BRO” that Paste Magazine bourbon drinkers require that I wonder who these are even being flipped to. There cant be as many people as stupid as me paying resale just to open them, can there? DDB is the HSV bourbon sore.

Like moving unfolded laundry daily from bed to floor, this is fulfilling in its delay. The finish is extremely dry, lemon heavy sun tea, Christmas wreath, semianiline couch leather. It’s better than Blue Run 14, which also costs the same, also ruined. It is far superior to Stagg Jr and ECBP contemporaries. The heat is on the swallow and burns like the “SO WHAT ARE WE” text left on read. Bro I swear this distillery is down bad bread crumbing you, leave WT on purple triangle homie.

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Selins Grove Same Old Ipa, A Past Preserved in Amber

Yes. Nucleation.

With 8000+ breweries and emergent smootheries and seltzeries in the marketplace today, there is a pressing need to innovate to survive. Some breweries thrive by staunchly sticking to their old methods. In the sleepy Pennsylvania hamlet of Selin’s Grove, home to the “world’s largest banana split” the future lies within the past.

Back in 2011 on Beer Advocate, he said while whittling, Selin’s Grove Brewing IPA was on the Top 100 Beers of Fame. It was extremely hard to trade for since no one really lives near this remote PA town. I guess ask your friends from Harrisburg, or Wilkes-Barre to make the drive. Also, the beer was only allowed offsite in growlers with French gaskets. These would act like paint packs in bank robbery films and immediately blow up once you shipped them.

After a few botched trades and PA friends confused as hell with what I wanted, I finally tried Selin’s Grove IPA and it crushed. This is that beer, renamed, with a different abv (?) Part of the vibe is the Kuhnhennesque complete lack of fucks to give.

So now in the present we have this amber, dank, c60 bomb of malt and evergreen, 3000’ conifer line, absolute duraflame meets resin in the best way possible. It is like the best and cleanest example of the excesses of the IBU war era. Taking a sip out of this you fall out of your rhizome time machine and see people typing on T Mobile Sidekicks, wearing multiple polo shirts with popped collars. The ambient stickiness of warrior hops and puka shells fills the room.

Is there a function for this past literally preserved in amber? Absolutely. First, this beer remains delicious and wholly immune to market influences. That in itself is crazy refreshing. Second, there’s a malty historical revisionism that consumes and disposes of fading styles. There’s power in focusing on the past for growth, like that dude who owns a heavily modded Ford Raptor but refuses to go to therapy.

This isn’t a whale, loaded with fruit, 1pp, invite only, raffle destroyer, eggdrop soup can collab with Visvim. It’s an extremely malty amber IPA. If you can’t handle that there are plenty of vapid Sunny D hazecan accounts on IG with Tavour associate links for you to use.

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Lakefront Brewing Bourbon BA Quad Is Pure Wisconsin Raisin Fig Overload

So espicey

There’s something magical about Wisconsin. The people are genial, frozen, recklessly drunk. The sports teams seem to be having the best of times. The serial killers are of the bumbling “oops left blood on the center console” variety. Not only do they consume more beer than anyone per capita, but they have a rich history of macro lagers and cheese consumption.

Lakefront brewery is equally insane, quintessentially Wisconsin. A relatively massive brewery with long running historical roots, it still manages to have fun. If you have a sports mascot who slides down a chute into a mug of beer, why not buy his Chalet and literally put it into your brewery? Why not allow couples to book it as a private romantic getaway? Why not let patrons get absolutely hammered drunk BEFORE DURING AND AFTER the tour, go for it, fall into the Milwaukee River. The guys at Mo’s steakhouse downriver will fish you out.

Oh I’m sorry, their flagship amber lager wasn’t sexy enough for you? Well how about a 15% bourbon BA quad. This thing just gushes dates and figs, grape tobacco, Syrah grape and a prickly phenolic Mediterranean dessert of spicy esters. The swallow is spicy and distinctively Belgian without allowing the substantial oak to become its entire personality like when dudes turn 30 and their identity is smoked meats. WOW HE BOUGHT A TRAEGER LET US ALL LAUGH AT HIM.

It is a fun riff on the strong ale world, an excessive Milwaukee quad that mirrors BLVD and North Coast efforts, but in a cheesehead amplified way. There’s no subtelty but if I ever go to Madison I want a dude beet faced in a Carhartt shirt screaming in my face about how space lasers started the Oregon forest fires. I want it over the top.

Most drinkers wont embrace raisins and Wild Turkey as an enjoyable beverage. There’s a way lonely people tell stories, tease the conclusion up top, and then fill in excessive details so you can’t walk away. Soft loneliness creates the nuance. This isn’t that, this is a guy spitting currant Moon Man in your face explaining Delta Variant 5G chips. And I love it.

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Knob Creek 12 Year Optimizes Taste to Cost Masterfully

Floral

I like where Beam sits in the bourbon world. It is always available, very solid, underhyped, straightforward offerings that are as consistent as the rickhouse aisles are long. In our ongoing analysis of “what happened to double digit age statements” we land on this 12 year old gem.

The days of white label Elijah Craig 12 year are gone, and Mckenna and Eagle Rare 10 year are becoming quickly extinct thanks to hoarders. As a result, it is refreshing to see a 12 year bottle for less than $100 that hasn’t been infected by flippers who love pithy backstories to prop up values. Knob Creek tried to go NAS on us, but the 9 and 12’s couldn’t stay away. Pure ether.

The cost to value ratio is off the charts. You get the depth, dryness, robust oak and lacquer of the age, but without dropping $400 on a bottle some celebrities or CEOs blended into a fancy bottle. This is just consistent, solid, relatively old juice at a fantastic price. There isn’t that disconnect like the person who buys produce but never eats it.

It isn’t pure fusel bucking bronco with a slipping transmission, you have Bookers for that, it isn’t proofed down into nothingness, you have Basil Haydens for that. KC12 is a bastion of accessibility, price, complexity, without having to dip into the trash tide pools and paying secondary to some stupid flipper who wears his Android phone on his belt buckle and purchases “tactical” items.

The nose is without surprises, defaults to zucchini bread, allspice, gingersnaps, and English Breakfast Tea. The taste showcases the age better with Brooks leather bicycle saddle, Samoa cookies, and butane churro. At 100pf it is entirely approachable without sacrificing runtime. Finish seems much older than 12 year and goes this Diageo wet deck, Skoal, and bananas fosters. Anyone can drink this, seasoned drinkers won’t feel like they made a concession, most things above this will be a marked loss on ROI.

Whenever a bourbon reviewer has something expensive they always do this awshucks salt of the earth final paragraph where they suggest the same 5 sub-$60 bottles so they can seem relatable. That isn’t needed here. This is already the optimized taste to cost form, just buy this. Everything else is a corncession.

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Is Revolution Brewing VSOJ b2 on par with Batch 1? We Shall See.

I deleted the tack sharp version I don’t wanna hear about it

There’s a heraclitean aspect to beer. You’re always trying to step back into the same malty stream that is ever changing. Both from a subjective palate level, and beer as a living product, subject to neckbeard entropy. So much of beer enjoyment hinges on freshness, setting, and contextual aspects. Unlike bourbon or wine, who enjoy the immutable fetishism of people who just love to possess, beer is actively dying every second. We are beer and we don’t get a b2.

So is VSOJ B2 better than B1? It’s like trying to change the staves on a barrel that is rolling out into Milwaukee avenue. Some dudes obsess over what order to show their kids the Star Wars movies, as though their appraisal of the past has any bearing on current quality. VSOJ B2 is extremely well done, but it is different than B1.

With terrible/paid editorial beer reviews, you’ll get evasive language, platitudes, and lengthy description of PLACE. I will outright say I enjoy B2 less than I enjoyed B1, but it is currently drinking better than batch 1. Let’s lean instead upon contrasts, like the guy who tosses his keys to the valet for his Grand Cherokee and says KEEP IT CLOSE.

Batch 2 is steeped in barrel to a staggering degree, it is pure heat and long intense cask that is masterfully done. If you pay a premium for ultra aging and then complain about the spirit profile, you’re the exact consumer who needs to switch to one of the “possession” based hobbies. Your wardrobe is from Kohl’s and like 6 pairs of shoes in plastic boxes you never wear. Yes, technically you care about clothes.

The initial sip is less sweet malt and a tighter, burnt marshmallow, almond brittle, the rye crackle of Four roses, sugar babies, melanoidins like brown sugar Cream of Wheat, and a finish longer than the film Magnolia. This will age better than b1 and is far more complex, albeit thinner.

If you take boomerangs of aperol spritzes, maybe skip this one. It is for a different breed of fire livered buyer. This extravagant malty gem is to be savored low and slowly like when your friend offhanded mumbles that their parents paid for the down but THEY PAY THE MORTGAGE. The complexities of generational blending.