Second City Meadery Symphony of the Night is a pair of Special Boots


In my review of “Sing,” I talked about the “Secret Boots” from Castlevania Symphony of the Night. These are an extremely obscure item most people never find. They don’t affect the game at all. When you equip the boots they stretch Alucard’s sprite to make him a single pixel taller.

There are short kings out there polishing a Red Wing mock toe waiting for the other Iron Ranger to drop. Sometimes a whimsical lack of utility, says more about the creator.

Second City Meadery certainly has a voice and a purpose. The fingerprints of accessibility undercut the Pips prestige but also present as more jocular than Schramms. They aren’t as bonkers as a Maniacal or a Sonorous but fit into this space of approachable, affordable, quality without being overly serious. I appreciate that.

This mead feels like an intentional Secret Boot into the realm of heft and jammy substance that will make the Superstition honeyboys get all Shia LaBeouf’ed. It is the heaviest meads I have had from SCM and clings harder than a Hinge date who finds out someone has generational wealth. He literally pays mooring fees, my honeypot is smackereled right now.

The berry salad of indicators are unhelpful to what most melomels will taste like. They all have raspberry or boysenberry. It’s as if the starting point of every mead is a bunch of those tiny hotel jars of Bonne Maman. Red and white crosshatched caps, mandatory. However this flips the old SCM castle on its head. There seems to be this intent to forsake the modest attenuation for a more concentrated tannic intensity.

I tend to like leaner vascularity in my berry bulges. This is bulking in a Lost Cause way without the intense pastry additives. I like the variety in the SCM catalog and welcome it. The rev limiter is still in place and it doesn’t GRENAD-ine the engine with some icarian attempt. The swallow is long and sticky while never falling in an ihop syrupy morass.

In embracing the Secret Boots, SCM shows the playful side of excess. Every mead claims to be 6’ tall on those honeycomb apps.

Please note I wrote this before being diagnosed with stage IV cancer.


New Image Madeira Maple Oxidized Barleywine is a Palate Skill Check

In a weird superlative @nibrewing has crafted the most challenging beer of 2023. It isn’t outright accessible or prima facie delicious. It is palate gatekeeping, port gaslighting and oxidation girlbossing.

It is dead flat and intentionally oxidized. The stewed dark fruits have a Faustian pop of smoke and pipe tobacco. You chew on this and it goes from peach hookah back into muddled prune.

If you are the type to play games the The Witness and appreciate the obtuse struggle with a huge payoff then here you go. As a result you can’t really share this. It won’t do well at a tasting. You can’t solo it. And you can’t bring it anywhere: you must complete this yourself. Get gud.

It feels weird to characterize a beer as a palate skill check. But this requires a time investment and you need to let it unfold, Anomalisa in beer form.

Colorado is full of strange REI transplants and this is the result of their craven high altitude, economically disparate ski economies. Everyone is kissing and smoking.


Blue Owl Brewing is a pretty solid brewery but if you specifically mean to be drinking that type of beer

You have to want this

When I went to Austin half the people swore I needed to visit @blueowlbrewing and the other half were equally vehement to skip this spot. That’s more intriguing than even a universally praised place. What could this sour-focused brewery be doing that is so divisive?

When I see a movie on rotten tomatoes that is 15% critics 85% audience score I’m immediately in. This brewery is basically that. It’s me I’m critics.

I understand why people enjoy this place. Bubbly, crisp, attenuated beers that don’t lean needlessly heavily on aseptic puree. If you have to go this route, it’s a super accessible lob pitch anyone can get a piece of. It shouldn’t not exist but I also don’t need to seek this out either.

Sometime around 2017 in taprooms you started seeing a lot of these casual adjacent tap handles to make all palates feel welcome. Ah good the fruited gose, you like soda right? Here you go. No? Ok how about this kettle sour I saw you drink orange wine at brunch once. It’s beer that is crushingly mediocre and fine and designed to service moving volume and pulling grenadine and bellini palates into the fold. It’s got the intense retention and produce waft, ripping the fishnets on the slutty mandarin oranges in the grocery store.

The craziest part is that the octoberfest is really well made so it’s not like these guys can’t brew. These beers are focused and this is just what they chose to invest all their ability points into. It’s a super specific build that isn’t for me and it’s impossible to paint with a wide brush for who will actually drink this without tumbling headfirst into dismissive beer gatekeeping. Beer is for everyone and this is beer that a lot of people enjoy, it’s just not for me.

I don’t wanna yuck someone else’s yum, if you mean to be drinking offerings like this, it’s a well done version of this realm. Some people love the sound of a theramin, palates gonna palate.


Another Trip to Austin, OLD DDB Visits Zilker and Lazarus

Pils is risen

I went to Austin last week for a wedding. I’ve been to Austin four times and every time it was for a wedding. That city’s gdp must be 30% farmhouse nuptials, 22% breakfast tacos, 13% bat watching, and the remainder Patagonia micro fleece vests for tech bros.

I’ve been to Jester King and Live Oak and Saint Elmo, so time to hit up some reader suggestions.

People overwhelmingly suggested @lazarusbrewing In a weird bonus Cosimo is a SD transplant so I felt right at home. The sour program was fine. Walks on Water was a moderately deece ipa. Prodigal Pils on the side pull faucet was next level. You hear terrible beer writers dwell on this “sense of place” usually as a Dodge for criticizing quality. This legitimately has an unbearable lagerness of being. The humid spring air and the bustle of people on the wood back porch crushing lagers, no septum was left unpierced.

Alexander Pope said even enjoying a cup of tea needs a stratagem. This needs no planning. The whip and sustain of the carb with the delicate lithe middle body pulls the herbaceous thread of that fescue and raked foliage through the biscuit closer.

@zilkerbeer was right up the street and came highly recommended. Even the staff as Lazarus was like you have to try them. Their west coast ipa game was so classic and tasty. Marco is an old school throwback and the unlabanced charm of Crispy Cryo was resinous and unhinged.

Can’t wait for my fifth wedding so I can try Blue Owl.


Taneum Creek Brewing Wild Goose Chase, a 3% abv Saison Time Machine

1000 haystack needles

I don’t even get excited anymore when an amazing new videogame or beer is announced. I just shake my head balefully knowing the damage it is about to do to my middle-aged life. Sometimes things catch me by surprise, things I didn’t even know I needed.

I had never heard of Taneum Creek Brewing and judging by the 4 whole check ins on Untappd, neither have most people. The bottles landed from Eastern Washington looking like a mix of Selin’s Grove and homebrewed Fair Isle. The shrugs were not insubstantial.

The marketing is clear, simple, laconic. Green glass and terse labels. Wait a second what’s this? A spelt saison, that is 3% abv. This is one of my favorite types of breweries: small runs of extremely non-profitable beers. When I poured this beer I understood immediately what Taneum Creek is all about. They are a beer time machine. The cans literally say “Cases: 14”

This beer speaks to me because it presents itself in such a direct, focused manner. The carbonation and retention is incredible and harkens from a time when we wanted 3+ volumes of co2 instead of convenient cans. They are from Cle Elum, WA and that town looks like a historical frontier village IRL. The beer reflects this. 2000 people, the most straightforward beers ever and in that stripped down model refreshment hits my back wall hard.

This has a watery body that lends itself to deep pulls, that wispy foamed milk cap for haptic lip feedback, the Anjou pear and literal hay structures a bucolic meets Opal apple swallow. If you enjoy the masterpiece that is Jester King Petit Prince or Blaugies, you will love this.

This feels like an arts and crafts gift, elegant homebrew in the least pejorative sense. Like when Thorpe used to send people tasty treats before Afterthought Brewing existed. The way BODE clothing feels hand-made and flawed, that degree of seams showing and upcycled rusticity is present here.

We live in a slick world of gas station boner pills and adaptive cruise control cars. Sipping something this intentionally backward makes me look forward to the future by embracing the farmhouse past.


Cellarmaker Unannounced Future is Too Hot to Handle Too Cold to Freeze

Gunz you never tasted malts like these

This beer has a crushing 4.76 Untappd score and has been lighting up the trade boards but maybe it’s all these malty antidepressants that keep me from being aroused.

Cellarmaker threw the entire dictionary of hype casking at this, triple barrel Willett -> Thomas H Handy -> 10 Year “Pappy” barrels ::ahem:: But sometimes more is less. The Cellarmaker barleywines have been crushingly good one after another but this one takes things a step too far for me.

It’s weird to ask for nuance from the absolute highest end of excess in the beer world. I need some soft poetic DMs not just full frontal out of the gates. There’s no pageantry here, it’s immediately six pics sent in vanish mode with a little bomb just letting you know the erotic undercurrent.

Yes, it is good, but it’s not as good as the heights that Cellarmaker is capable of. Most other breweries this would be a revelation, here it feels like Kobe shooting nonstop reckless FG. It presents the dead wispy crackle of baleful complexity, body laying there hauntingly staring up at you in mahogany darkness. The “it’s fine” text that ruins your night with its succinct power. But the rolos and graham crackers are stopped at the sheer crushing waves of alcohol and fusel wafts.

You look at this cologne bottle and it seems like hardly enough, but a spritz of this Tom Ford “Parfum Du Shared Custody” and the caramel is overpowering with a few pumps.

Gertrude Stein had a dialectic approach to identity, self and other, autobiography and photography. This CM beer is clearly art but is presenting itself through the lens in which a massive angry barleywine wants to be perceived. In a weird tell don’t show way the heat and burning rye meets eucalyptus literally distills the experience. You’re dating a Depop girl and she’s literally talking about thrifting. It’s so on the nose that it feels like Werther’s rhinoplasty.

Don’t get me wrong, I drank it. The entire time my chest had a Skor bar xenomorph pressing its way out. Exhaling the vapors of a New Orleans dive bar, a real sternum roaster.


2022 Thomas H Handy Sazerac, Schroedingers Perpetually Unopened Delicious Bottle

It’s potentially delicious who knows

Ah spring is upon us. The crisp sweet air redolent with bluebell that middle manager bourbon chasers love to inhale before asking “BUT SERIOUSLY WHATS IN THE BACK.”

The BTAC line is truly an evergreen product, unlike treasury bonds or Silicon Bank stocks, they remain unopened, unrealized and perpetually sough by dudes with thinning hairlines who tuck Underarmor polos into Merona shorts.

Thomas Handy is the youngest, the “cheapest”, the least approachable, and most importantly, looks the least important on some Living Spaces cabinet in a Man Cave. This is a cask rye for a guy whose friend “lets him use his cabin.” It is a blast of Sunmaid Raisin Bread for the entitled couple who gives you a house tour and mutters “they helped with the down” and then loudly “BUT WE PAY THE MORTGAGE.”

This is that Marvin Gardens of the BTAC lineup, not god tier, but quite the deal for what you receive. This is also the first year they implemented the anti-theft chip under the tiny Sazerac house, so 9 years from now when someone opens this, you didn’t sell them some stepped on rye. New Cask City, naked bourbon bros in aprons reapplying foil toppers, white powder on their pale alabaster butt cheeks.

This is presents a haymaker of nutmeg, the obligatory Hot Tamales, and a kiss of fennel on the collarbone. At $700 a bottle it’s not worth it, but it comes the closest that BTAC ever does.

Pomology is a disciplined obsessed with the reconstruction of fruits and nuts. That consistent Thomas Handy raisinette character is tucked in this type of compulsive behavior. Every year, at huge cost, Honeybee, Jazz, Opal, and THH always make their way to market, only to be overlooked.

The bottle this year is extremely good and provides more marble bread and spice than I remember, but it’s always the Yoshi of BTAC. Taking Ozempic, slimming down, vying for the WLW and GTS shred, casky vascularity, that ropey rye aesthetic.

YOU DON’T SEE THESE EVERY DAY, he quipped as he takes THH out of your hands, back on the sad landlocked shelf, HERE ENJOY THE GOOD STUFF, pours you some Willett Pot Still, IF JESSICA KNEW WHAT I SPEND ON SPORTS CARD BOX BREAKS WE WOULDN’T BE SITTING HERE NOW-


Maine Beer Co Dinner, Revisited 8 Years Later, The Collective Hoppy Unconscious

We are edified

I reviewed this beer back in 2015 and felt like traveling back to Maine to sip some Stephen King juices and see if this west coast gem holds up in the age of haze.

It more than holds up, it is absolutely stellar and an absolutely top tier example of the style. Some nay sayers feel this isn’t resinous enough, that it is too sweet, or it somehow is an embodiment of Midwest IPAs from a time past. This aint your daddies Oberon Ok.

You would be hard pressed to see this classified as English or even just plain old American IPA. For me it hits all those zones of pith, zest, foliage, and the peaceful petricor of early spring.

Carl Jung had this idea of the collective unconscious. These west coast IPAs are linked together and their ancestry through a shared set of experiences. This collective consciousness of hops gives meaning to the IPA world.

Sure we see the word grapefruit in label copy and roll our eyes so hard we become investment property owners. If that is the broad brush of alpha acid dynamics, the nuanced details keep my thighs aching. Lactic with the recognition of a past that was imperfect, but idealized. Delayed onset of muscle soreness gives you this blast from workouts ago that rattles your core in the present.

I still romanticize chasing bombers of hoppy crystal malt gems like the current offerings aren’t just repeated occurences of these archetypes. You just keep drinking IPAs and your discrimination goes up. On a long enough dating timeline you swipe until you reflect more about yourself in who you reject, than you who accept.

But somehow Maine Beer Co embraces our collective flaws. The risky 2am heart eyes reaction. The failure of purpose and sitting in your car in the driveway, not going in. The fantastic waves of cuties, meyer lemon, intense sweetness to the body like Bit O Honey, and this chick o stick meets Davidoff Coolwater. These scents and tastes linger within us, just hops in a boil waiting to be awakened.

Maine Beer Company has made Manchurian candidates of us all, hoppy sleeper cell agents horned up for that bitter eroticism that shakes the dust off the eros of our daily lives.


Fort George Triple Header: The Barleywine Redeems the Mediocre Banana Stout

Our redeemer

Fort George has just dropped a forgettable banana stout, a pretty solid black lager and a straight up exceptional barrel aged barleywine. These are the breweries that I love.

It is too tall an Order to expect one place to just crush it at everything. It’s like a game of Sid Meier’s Civilization and places that drop all their points into a saison tech tree fascinate me. That lack of “swiss army knife approach” is weirdly a symbol of quality to me. Kuhnhenn and Pelican brewing warm my heart because sometimes they will release the absolutely god tier example of a style, then youll try their scotch ale and be like what is even happening here.

I enjoy Fort George’s 3 Ways and their hoppy offerings, if that’s all they did, it would be a nice Joey Tribbiani flare that doesn’t hold up over time but you appreciate. Failing at a ba banana stout is almost a win for me. In crafting a boring, muted, pithy fleshy potassium stout it tells me you have other priorities.

Their priorities, like most, are shifting to lagers which seem to be improving notable. Their Dismal Nitch enters territory as treacherous as its namesake, drowning Lewis and Clark in riparian blackness. It leans a bit too hard into the specialty malts and ends up lightly burnt, and has a lingering bitterness on the finish that feels more robust porter in a way than Schwarzbier but I like where their submerged head is at. It’s like when your least interesting friend starts talking about “PASSIVE STREAMS OF INCOME” and you know their podcast playlist is an absolute hellscape.

Etymology is very good. It takes adept blending, amazing base beer, and cask management to merge the dark fruit aspects to temper the English sweetness in a boozywine. The black barleywine component leverages what I didn’t like about Dismal and uses it for good, adding crazy depth to the hoppy Ology. Both would be deficient alone but it’s like when Blow Friend meets Day Trader friend at a Bachelor party. The prune and port has a fusel grape tobacco aspect that is pulled in line by beta acids and brownie edge pieces.

The synthesis is substantial, fruit leather Clarissa is redeemed against caramel Lovelace. Such is Fort George’s catalo


Firestone Walker 2023 Parabola is a Black Licorice WMD

I cut the box opening the box

Oh man the new 2013 Parabola is a black licorice bomb and baby palates are about to be shook. In a world where glucophiles measure stout quality on the Robitussin scale, leaning hard into Good and Plenties is glorious.

To be clear, I really enjoyed this but I suspect A1C ballers will not. This is an icy page straight out of the Scandinavian playbook. Midwest and Floridian brewers hardly touch black patent malt and barely know what a sharpie smells like. Firestone pushes it so far English that is goes straight into Narke DUNDERSALT territory.

I like to imagine Matt Brynildson standing in front of the massive automated HAL brewsystem trying to input the parameters for what americans want out of a stout:

“Ok computer, the FG should be around 22 plato”

“ERROR: you have input the starting gravity”

“COMPUTER, remove pastry safety”

“ERROR: you will be creating batter not safe for human consumption”


Parabola since its inception has been on the lighter bodied side of things in the current climate. However, this is such an intense blast of roast, fennel, wormwood, and anise. Instead of the brownie and chocolate the label touts, we are whisked away into a land of tarragon and this minty chill of camphor. The cask is gentle and structures this all lovingly.

In the car industry there’s this idea of “homologation car” where you have to build 2,500 street legal examples for sale to make a race car version. Parabola increasingly feels like their homologation car. It isn’t chasing some hype, it is widespread, probably made in Missouri under some other Duvel brand, and can be blended to create any manner of profiles with the endless number of stocks they can pull from. But this, this is intentional.

For every Dreamwood and insane Firestone component blend, Parabola is the old standby ripe for crazy modification. The Corolla GR of the stout world. Not the craziest in the lineup but furtively waiting for enhancement.

Most baby palates will get rocked by this vintage but it is a true licorice canary in the coalmine for who truly has that UK palate.