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Smog City saison de miel is deceptively simple and entirely drillable

Some of @smogcitybeer wilds can be too acidic for me. This new foeder program has done awesome things for what may have previously been a bit too monoculture forward. The result is just perpetual brett on brett solera grinding, and we get bone dry honey saisons like this. The honey of course was metabolized down to nothing, that 1.000000000xx FG that drinks like a mineral forward Chablis. There is lemon verbena and a ritz cracker aspect on the swallow and the entire affair reminds me of a cross pollination between @caseybrewing east bank and @jesterkingbrewery Bier de miel. Extremely low acidity and almost old world body/mouthfeel. More and more breweries will start to eschew the enamel strippers and I welcome the shift back to the middle. In a move of great irony, getting back to center requires more work and oak and foeders and barrel fermenting. Such as with pilsners, getting to that simple elegance requires a recalibration of technique and attention to detail. I think people will really enjoy this as it’s wildly different from the likes of Kumquat Saison etc.

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Wren House Brewing Kingsnake is the second best beer they’ve ever made

@wrenhousebrewing crushed it with this bean splitter that seemingly came out of nowhere. The WHJ variants are usually good, but this is something entirely different altogether. First things first: this beer is extremely hot. If Pugachev levels of fusel backdraft are a deal breaker for you, then idk take your palate to the gym. It’s unquestionably wafty but a good section of that comes from spicy lively rye character. It’s this almost minty but evergreen Saz18 aspect from the barrels that plays extremely well with the vanilla character itself. The vanilla feels like a function of the malt and the oak itself and less a showy sidecar tacked onto this ice cream Vespa. The body is akin to the @cwbrewing anniversary stouts, substantial but not tooooo hefty with a drag that includes oily lipid Klondike bar swallow. It is a complete Vanilla Ryebuttal and reminds me of day before that beer was throttled to death by multiple cross country shipments and wasting away in linen closets. I have zero concept of how hard this is to land but this is exceptional and on par with the recent @morebrewing BA Vanilla caviar in scope and execution: exceedingly enjoyable.

[before I have to field questions, the tie for first is Who Hit John Grand Cru and Phoenix Down, obvi]

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Voodoo Brewing k13 with vanilla is awesome as long as you don’t expect vanilla

It is no secret that I appreciate voodoo brewing from soup to nuts. Their initial struggles, to redefining what PA is capable of in the strong ale game, to rocking employee owned structure and pulling a hoodwink to exploit a GS loophole in stupid ass PA liquor license laws, arguably the fucking dumbest in the nation. When k13 first came out in 2013, BABW were seen as this second class cuisine, unrefined albeit delicious street food compared to nilla steaks and delicate lambic Nyotaimori. But the OG k13 had PAPPY on its side, which is like catnip for dudes with no bourbon knowledge and popcorn ceilings. The OG k13 came in 19 out of 30 in the infamous blind BABW challenge in 2014. Two people on the panel nerfed its score I feel unfairly and I always loved that beer. Here we are five full years later and it is finally back, but like a father who never returned from getting smokes, sans Pappy. This is the same 18 month treatment but in regular ass four roses barrels, and vanilla added. Contextually I take issue with vanilla in barleywines from a theoretical perspective. It is usually unnecessary and we don’t want to degrade Life to the CAKE BOSS levels that court blunt palate assholes who love stouts. Thankfully the vanilla here is almost a lipid and light olfactory component that is pretty absent from the taste. The color is lighter, the body is less substantial, the whole thing feels more efficient to a fault. Thankfully the nose is so god damn good, skor bar, caramello, port sherry, peanut brittle and a dry canvas and grenache swallow. The american BW base is transmuted into something entirely different and it is entirely easy to take down this bottle with ease. The faded hops dovetail into the wood profile and provide a counterbalance to the light sweetness. It’s not as enjoyable as the OG k13, but it’s also far more manageable and recumbent. As long as your bean is not bisected, you can enjoy this as a tightly sewn exceptional example of life.

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Threes Brewing vliet and sfy are simple and exceedingly complicated, respectively

Everyone is rubbing their thighs raw on this pilsner bedpost. On one side you have jaded beer dudes who bolster their knowledge and self esteem by returning full circle to this style as a sort of odd resignation from a life of excess and waste. On the other hand you have legitimately entry level palates who can get a grip on this in the way that Led Zeppelin II is approachable to basically anyone. For either one of those, you have some khaki mouthed TOOL fan who is like “LOL I REMEMBER WHEN I DRANK 4/4 standard time signature beers” taking deep drags of 15 plato batter. This is clean, faintly herbal, dry lawn clippings, with a lightly challah swallow to it that is refreshing. In the vein that stand up comedy is wildly complex but the end product is simple and relatable, pilsners are exceedingly hard to do well, and people can immediately spot if your jokes are shitty.

SFY. This imperial pale makes no sense. It’s not a DIPA, but its almost like…a TIPA by extension. It’s hazy but it is too unwieldy and you have to dual hand this at the expense of defense to your palate. Just look at this: Mosaic, Simcoe, Columbus + Mosaic & Simcoe Lupulin Powder. They flip the coneswitch hard and there is no going back. The problems are mostly structural and body is akin to someone very beautiful shopping at Torrid. It’s massive with a melted push pop sort of body but then this raked leaves shit going on in the swallow that is not pleasant. This beer used to be called SUPERFUCKINGYAWN and it’s anything but that. It’s all over the place in intent and execution, candied orange peel and fernet. Who is this even for? No turn signals were employed.

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Modern Times Monster Tones is Perhaps DDB Top 10 Beer of 2018. Immaculate.

Modern Times doesn’t exactly embrace DDB. I would say they are probably tangentially aware of my janky wordpress site and blithely tolerant my attention seeking shit. They occupy a strange orbit in that they are moderately large, have a reserve society, and all of their employees have a cultish degree of contentment working there that you only see in a teenage IN n OUT worker. Further odd, they never try to push hype off the charts and just modestly turn out solid, very accessible beers without raffles or insane pricing pageantry. It’s a business model from a bygone era when breweries could respect their now-terrible customer bases. Then Monster Tones drops. This was a small 196 bottle release 92 included w/ membership, option to buy 2 more) for OG members of the first MT society wave. It’s a blend of Monsters Park and Modem Tones.

Ok this seems moderately hypey, what else? Ok and then both were aged for 7 months in bourbon barrels which had previously housed maple syrup. Following the blend, the beer was conditioned on freshly-roasted coffee beans, toasted coconut, and a shitload of vanilla. AND WE ARE OFF TO THE FUCKING RACES. Some Modem Toney boiz try to get all 56k for the stouts, but it never pans out because Point Loma dudes will just drink them and silently enjoy them. Unfortunately for them this beer is mindblowing in quality and top contender for DDB Top 10 beer of 2018. It is crushingly delicious. Word got out and then this surged to $500ish a bottle. It has a flawless body without the Monsters Park/Central Waters sort of wateriness, but not a hamfisted Floridian execution. The Aristotelean mean, flawless coating without residual batter. The nose is god-tier, new game+: waves of espresso/ethiopian roast that is not acidic or oversteeped, the vanilla and coconut are inextricably intertwined in this TCBY macaroon sort of merger. The taste improves upon the foregoing and adds Baby Ruth with a depth of extraction from the coffee to temper the sweet Whoppers with a blast of affogato. It is a straight up masterpiece and perhaps the best stout the west coast has seen in years. It isn’t even close. Maybe like, AO Dark Star, but again the quality is so impeccably done that you want to kill the entire bottle and there is zero palate fatigue because every sip is a poised secret Tootsie Roll tryst on the vast veranda, my sweet untouched Miranda. It is painful to ruminate on past chocolate fondue affairs, now resigned to monogamy of normal tastes. I want to lick my palms once more.

No homer here. This was just wince inducingly well done.

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New Belgium Unpasteurized Caged and Corked La Folie is Back: But Does it Slap?

If you bring up La Folie, you’ll usually get one of two responses: 1. old balls: “ah that and Duchess were what showed me my love of sour beers and ushered my palate into the realm of American wild ales” OR 2. tight coinpurse: “I got that at Costco last year in a bomber and shit wasn’t even that sour.” I can appreciate both takes on a beer that had a huge formative influence for the old guard, but perhaps the pasteurized version lost its luster with dudes who two years ago were drinking Rogue in undergrad. Back in 2011 when DDB was set on knocking out the OG white whale list and the BA top 100, there were three monumentally important beers, all sharing this La Folie DNA: twisted spoke, Bottleworks 10th anniversary, and the now unobtainable Falling Rock [fn1 – if you have access to one of these, please tell me, it’s a ghost from my past I need to destroy its grip on me.] The main point is each one of these were some of the most sought after beers in the world, in the Pre-Pastry Era (PPE). Yeah, people were legit drinking fucking Flanders Reds and boning raw dog. It was wild back then. Anyway, the heart of these beers was the old brewery only cage and corked La Folie. The deal was, the C&C La Folie had tiny runs but they were also NON-PASTEURIZED. I had a 2009 that was straight red wine Vinegar and a 2007 that was Alexander Rodenbach divinity juice. So they vary. Anyway, on the new tiny foeder system, Lauren Limbach’s doing tighter, smaller blends of La Folie in like 60 hL batches. Back to the OG labor intensive shit from the early 2000s. Alright enough rubbing those Colorado nips, how does this tiny format ratchet taste?

Really fucking good. It bears noting that this is probably the oldest sour culture in continuous propagation in America, not sure if that makes ur pellicle bubble. This beer is technically an Oud Bruin but it falls closer to a Flanders Red in my opinion. It doesn’t have the acetic character, or the Korean nail salon meets aquanet shit that occurs in its bigger brother and in extreme examples, some mid-canon Bruery beers. The nonpasteurized version is worlds better than the regular la folie and imparts a silkier mouthfeel with graceful crushed linen carb. There’s currant and black cherry with a wispy creamy sherbert aspect to the swallow. The malt backbone is present as well and never feels like some balsamic cucumber salad. The nose is a massive bouquet of ripe cherry, oak, merlot, and blackberry preserves with that dangerous but light touch of acetic aspects that are endemic to the style itself. The whole thing just bangs and I hope this will wrangle some people back to examine the smaller, more fun side of New Belgium that isn’t shelf corpses like CITRADELIC. If you see this, give it a spin, it’s gonna be way way better than you anticipate, and if you have a goopy old scrotum, it will segue perfect perfectly into your WANDERER BATCH ONE story.

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Three Floyds Dark Lord Deviant Megareview

First and foremost, the ddb podcast, Malt Couture drops on 6/21/18, so pepper your angus.

Like some Sisyphean task, every year I overtrade for Dark Lord variants, and every year I go through the same crushing disappointment attendant to putting myself through Dark Wort deviants. Like Mercury in retrograde I constantly subject myself to this annual flagellation. Usually it is on the insistence of an increase in quality of Dark Lord from some self-interested dude trying to move his Brozerker before impartial opinions roll in. Every May I consistently make the absolute worst trades of the entire year and it isnt even close.

Bitter taste from perpetual hoodwinking aside, the beers themselves warrant comment. So let’s dig into these deviants that vary so wildly that one can scarcely generalize about the Dark Lord canon at all.

Greatest Teachable Moments

Jesus Christ this beer was a lemon pledge disaster. Some beer reviewers will reach for some top shelf hyperbole to drum up attention or grasp at relevance. I dont even need to engage in that pageantry, this beer is pure nightmare liquid. I have to address each component in turn like some dysfunctional underattenuated Megazord. First, if you have had Brandy barrel Dark Lord alone that already is total chore to consume. It is like those Mexican dulces that somehow become sweeter with each passing taste. Sugar begetting more sucrose like those brooms in Fantasia dumping Stevia at your doorstep. Next, we have verbena. They added fucking flowers and I can only assume it is lemon verbena because it is a complete furniture polish trainwreck. This may have been designed to temper the sweetness but it seriously comes across like CLR or some bathroom antiseptic. To further compound the problems, they added ginger. Ginger darklord practically writes the Kikoman jokes for itself. If they added wasabi you would already have the uni meets gross Airwick profile that I can only assume they wanted. No one needs to drink this. There is no reason for this to exist and beer as a whole is damaged for this exercise in punitive palate penance. As a garnish, they added orange peel because I mean, at a certain point does it even matter. If you rolled dads GTO into the lake, might as well spraypaint an orange cock on the side of it. You can’t get any more grounded. The entire beer is torturous from the olfactory to the taste to the long floorwax and tobacco finish. The teachable moment was that this 3:1 resulted in a strong contender for DDB worst beer of 2018.

2017 French Vanilla Militia

For the love of God, the hits keep coming with this wince inducing Muscat batterboarding. This beer was a notorious nosedive in quality and it concerns me that Three Floyds would even release a beer this fundamentally flawed in almost every aspect. The firesale evacuation in which dudes offloaded these beers last year was straight up shameful. Once people learned that this beer was not infected, but just intentionally executed in a way that would burn a QC sensory panel to the ground, it became infamous. On paper it sounds great: coffee, vanilla, cocoa nibs, oh but those baleful Muscat barrels. People know this is terrible and they still demand $200 for this AXIS IV psychologically damaging beer. It’s intensely sweet in the worst way, like drinking Torani pumps of iced wine. I don’t know many Indiana Golden Corral palate fucks who also enjoy port and massive dessert wines, but apparently there’s a huge market for them around Munster. Orchard rot and oversteeped espresso dominate with some astringent digestif aspects. Some people have fetishes where they hire escorts to destroy their most prized possessions. FVM17 is that experience in beer form.

SPACEFORCE!

This was the one beer I was extremely excited to try. I gave up Ardea + Duck Duck Gooze + Roll for Initiative + Jam the Radar for this, 4:1. The degree to which I overpaid for this tremendous letdown could visually be represented by a gaping glass buttplug. At least with other Dark Lord bottles you cup your backsack and just take the abuse. This is so much more hurtful because you come in with high expectations that grab the yoke and dive headfirst into Pineau Des Charentes mountain. It’s the exact same beer as FMV but it has another different fortified wine. Was there seriously any demand for this? The barrel profile is sickeningly tannic and cloyingly sweet in equal measure. Any hopes of vanilla or coffee bailing this out are roundhoused to the face by Mexican sweet breads with this saccharine grape jelly and a dry odd drag that just completely conflicts with everything else going on. This is the beer equivalent of Xzibit putting a fish tank in your Civic. What am I even supposed to do with this? I know it seems like I am taking the piss just to pander and boast and demonize these beers but I swear, I wanted this to be amazing and it was patently depressing. It’s less bad than FVM17 and Greatest Teachable Moments, but that’s like being the best behaved inmate in Arkham, it’s still completely fucked up.

2017 CHEMTRAIL MIX

Alright, finally THIS BEER, this beer has to be the one to grab the reigns and drive this stagecoach to TastyTown. Oh, and it absolutely does. I drank this side by side with BA Abraxas for some detached palate calibration to grind my cinnamon stick. It’s better than BA Abraxas, but here’s the issue, I don’t like BA Abraxas that much either. Chemtrail is easily the best Dark Wort Deviant I have had outside of Handjee, but it’s still markedly overhyped, overpriced, overvalued, overpraised, and its merit doesn’t come within a country mile of its $500(?) asking price. But is it fair to push an epidermal into this beer’s perineum due to the shittiness of the surrounding fans? Not entirely. Three Floyds absolutely killed it and stuck the landing with the balance of cinnamon, sweet casks imparting the structure of caramel and mallow to subdue the tobacco and roast of the base beer. It all works exceedingly well and this is an example of what Dark Lord innovation could and should be.

The pink peppercorns are more of a garnish that imparts a light crackly dryness that could be overlooked without the intensity of most mexican style stouts. I almost never get to praise FFF for balance and nuance, especially not in the Dark Lord context, but this is masterfully done. My gripes are the relatively oppressive cinnamons aspects but they seem laconic compared to the Cinnabon cunnilingus that is BA Abraxas. God old DDB deepthroating that churro, mascara running and mixing with confectionary sugar. Five bills is just too steep to drop on theme park sweets.

2018 Marshmallow Handjee vs. 2013 Bourbon Vanilla Dark Lord

Both of these are so god damn good and represent the simple pinnacle of what the recalcitrant base Dark Lord can be manipulated into. This year’s Handjee is so unwieldy but it provides the massive scope and range that the hamfisted delightful vanilla beans impart. It’s almost one dimensional in the waffle cone Coldstone realm but never dips its wick into the Yankee Candle zone. The way it weaves between that turbinado sugar sweetness, deep roast, char and tobacco, with a ribbon of Dreyers seamlessly integrated is phenomenal. Here’s the rub: 2013 was even better.

2013 lacks the sweetness and offputting aspects in the fresh MHJ but somehow maintains such a vibrant vanilla character. I rag on 8th owner Vanilla Rye owners peddling their sad impressions of “HAS NOT FADED AT ALL” from dudes who got into beer three years after VR was released. This is not that. This is so substantial and sewn together lovingly that it’s almost like Whoppers or Kit Kat wafers. I can’t imagine Dark Lord being massaged into any finer form and the 2013 BVDL represents the pinnacle of not just Dark Wort, but pastry stouts in general. It is the standard bearer of split bean excellence. From insane experimentation to demonstrating the absolute ceiling of what stouts are capable of, three Floyds runs the entire spectrum.