Styrbjorn is Brutal and Perhaps the Worst Beer that Side Project Has Released to Date


With any beer trade there is a gamble attendant thereto.  Outside of the boxes not being destroyed, you have to weigh local hype, separation anxiety for whatever you are giving up, and scaled palates for whatever you are seeking.  When the Scribe was announced, I had Tomme Arthur PTSD and it sounded like some Cuvee De Trainwreck adjuncted quad that I couldn’t get behind.  Lo and behold, I crapped out and everyone raves about that $1,000 bottle to this day.

Fast forward a couple years, my pubes are fuller, I am wiser.  Locals touted this as the second coming of Scribe, a ba quad with plums and sugar added, AND EVIL TWIN WHAT COULD GO WRONG? A whole shitload, apparently.


The beer in totality comes across as this “yellowtail mint chip ice cream” type of affair where it is blending two elements that would be amazing discretely, but combined is this sweet, writing Umbrella corp. monster with one massive left arm. This tyrant stomps your palate with at the outset a waft of bizarre leather and tootsie rolls, not in the cool “oh wow this is a vintage old ale” I mean in a “how long have these grapes been in this backpack” sort of way.  The nose has this acrid waft of orchard rot, sick sweet plums rotting in the warm Fresno sun, drip systems in full engagement.

When you actually taste this beer it pulls a full on Chrono triple tech attack on your palate and there is no safe haven.  First it leads with a massive body not unlike a ramped up Langst, or a stepped down Anabasis but it has this Charles Shaw merlot sidecar tacked on that nerfs things at the outset.  If this was shitty tannic wine in a plastic cup at an art gallery, fine ill tolerate tannic Yellowtail chablis, OH BUT WAIT.  Someone smashed Ferrero Rocher into your vino, and a spray of Hugo Boss musky sandalwood cologne.  The body frustratingly will not let go, bitter and intense tartness cling like a fourth date Bumble relationship.  It’s offputting from start to finish and conceptually seems like a terrible idea and follows through on its ambitious threats/promises.


I usually get quick mileage out of Evil Twin and blame “FLAVOUR CONSULTANTS” or prattle out some yukyuks at the expense of a downtrodden gypsy palate technician, but this seems decidedly Side Project in execution. The worst is the Return-of-the-King looong finish that just keeps pounding you with skoal, camel crush, purple laffy taffy and black cherry bile burps. It just offers waves of punishment and does not relent. The resounding reviews must have been tiny tiny pours right at bottling or something, because I cannot honestly believe that people would rave about the Scribe if it was anything like this.

This beer feels like the time that I sat down to watch Rogue One after everyone raved about it and I felt like my entire social circle just clowned the shit out of old DDB just to soak me for two bits.  Jokes on them, I watched Rogue One on a fucking Delta flight, but sadly I dropped full trade dollar for this bad ratchet.  Fucking Dr. Pepper lip balm and HSV regret, balcony kisses from discordant aesthetics smoking KOOLS in a BEBE dress.


Narrative:  Dylan relished the idea of having his wishes granted.  The concept of power in the hands of a diminutive and oft-dismissed 17 year old made his palms wet with anticipation.  The ornate Byzantine vase gleamed at him across the shop of antiques, patterns interlocking, concrete representations of gods forbidden.  The shop reeked of incense and figs and he clumsily plopped down the wadden bills Dylan had hard earned dressed as a bar code in Footlocker.

Two months had passed and Dylan was more than content with his first two wishes.  The genie passing in cool indifference around his nicely appointed room.  A bottle of Opus One was knocked over on a gaudy taffeta rug.  His first impulses were for unearned grace and glory.  Smoldering hookah coals stinking up his parent’s home, still chained to their dominance.  “DYLAN you said you would fix this with that GOD DAMN genie!” his father boomed down the tobacco smeared walls.  Things had gone horribly wrong and Dylan wrung the same wet palms constantly thinking of a solution to compel his wayward phantasm to grant his final wish.  The genie noisily scribbled in his molekin journal, lost in his own thoughts, wholly disatisfied with servitude,  Unwillling to complete or defy.  Dylan had pleaded with the all-powerful genie for a solution, an increase in quality, a derement from this endless olfactory hell.  Like the Oracle at Delphi, the wishes were predictably loaded to defy his wishes and teach a trite lesson about materialism, but Dylan never thought it would be this rancid or plum steeped.  It was a Dubai hell without bounds.  If he could compel the final wish from the Genie who no longer wished to speak with him, he would plead for simplicity, a life predicated on four elements, a return to grace and splendor, uncorrupted by Evil, or Gemini astrology.  Dylan sucked down a lingering sicksweet cloud of raspberry incense and shooed a peacock off of his purple satin Duvet cover.



Revolution Straight Jacket and VSOJ retrospective, Life Begets Life


I have leveled this challenge before and I am usually met with either Belgian rejoinders, or obscure styles but I will posit it to you, gracious reader: what style of beer can you obtain arguably the absolute pinnacle, easily off the shelf? I am sure some will say Live Oak Hef, or maybe we get some staunch old guard who swears nonironically that nothing is better than OG Saison Dupont.  Sure, fine. But Straight Jacket is an entirely different being.  Every other segment is either underserved, hard to find, obscure, extremely local, triple digit bottle counts, or some other frustrating shit.

Even within barleywine itself there are dead spots and no service T-Mobile zones of dropped service year to year. You’ve got the Flatitude Grats, you’ve got the lamentable 2014 BB4d, some used to say that 2012 was the “hot” batch of Mother of All Storms, the cancellation of Sucaba entirely, completely flat 2014 Adam from the Wood, I mean, need I go on? Then there’s this god damn beer.  Since 2012 it has been absolutely chest kicking not only beers within its segment, but roundhousing beer across styles for five years consistently.  That is completely bananas.  Think about it.


A few months ago I did a head to head for fun, just to see how a 2012 (i.e. the bottle that won the DDB blind barleywine challenge in arguably the most insane lineup ever put together.) compared to the 2016.  Some soothsayers argue that English barleywine cant hold its oxy over time as well as American iterations (Great, Kuhnhenn BBBW being essentially indestructible).  The original vintage has aged more gracefully than Diane Keaton or Goldie Hawn and you welcome it’s slide into AARP geriatric bliss.  The light cardboard is a pleasing offset to the carmelized sugars and mallow foam attendant to this weird construction paper, flan crepe.  The 2016 was equally compelling with a bouquet of fresh red fruit, figs and toffee, rolo and Skor bar.  Why haven’t they fucked this up? I’ve heard stories of infected Mad Cow, problems with some of the hoppy offerings, but Revolution consistently puts out a god tier, end of game, post-loot beer every single year.

sj3Not content with just releasing a Turbo 911 of a beer, they aged VSOJ (Very Special Old Jacket) for over twice as long in Heaven Hill and Old Forester Barrels.  I had this beer in an unofficial capacity and then again at Firestone Invitational and both times needed to dust myself off from my encounter with the ground after I was summarily floored.  People squeeze their nips over rare, and good lord if a stout is aged over 6 months we never hear the end of it.  Here we have the magnificent base with layers and coats of shellac and complex depth added to it.  Imagine the sweet and oaky juice from the base, with this leathery, canvas, abandoned Sees candy warehouse, Sugar babies from last Halloween left in a Jansport type of vibe.  Barleywines rarely if ever get to this level of complexity that just purely outshine the stout world and make pastry boys look puerile by contrast.

Oh and they are fucking canning this beer and putting it in four packs. CANS OF THIS.  If you need an industry comp. let’s just wait until two months from now when Goose Island releases a comparably aged, arguably shittier version of this beer at six times the price per ounce. I pray to God the infantile palates obsessed with cream of wheat vape oil in the haze scene do not ascend to the barley life.


Oh, and if you needed further reassurance, the current vintage is still completely apeshit and sitting on shelves.  If anyone every complains about those UPON HIGH reviews from DDB of some ultra limited inaccessible shit, then book mark this.  I have served it up for you: do you want the absolute best a style has to offer, without parting with your precious HENNA or icecreamwhateverthefuck stout? Then here you go.

Ah for old times sake, NARRATIVE:

Kevin waited anxiously at the Bucca Du Beppo for his date that he met on HESYCHIA, the hottest new internet dating app.  A beautiful late 20’s brunette approached with a guarded smile of indifferent dentistry, sweet but refined.  Taryn wore that effortless high pony that commands attention and a poised respect for the natural grace exhibited.  “Our special tonight is the eggplant parmigiana, and of course we serve everything here family styl-” the waiter rattled off summarily, rotely, “ah, HESYCHIA date huh?”  The waiter glanced at the open iPhone, Taryn’s photo left open.  Kevin nervously sipped his Dr. Pepper and gripped Taryn’s warm comforting hand, lightly worn no doubt from canvas artistry or some high minded laboring in entertainment.  “Well if you’re both on HESYCHIA, I guess I will SAY NO MORE! Ha, sorry bad joke, I’ll leave you time to look over the menus.”  Kevin tried to get a read on the glint of self assured nervousness in the pools of caramel iris surveying him reflectively.  The silence amplified his own self-doubt, but magnified his ardor.  Taryn half coughed and raised a trapezius in a faint affirmation that Kevin looked within 15% of his profile photo, older, with depth, sweet smelling like scones and boots.  HESYCHIA promoted this union.  A dating app predicated on first-date silence.  Life merging based solely on conversation free interactions.  The two would need to decide on the interlocking minutia, merging lives for the first time in a tender whipped silence, no filler, no self-aggrandizing tales or rehearsed valor: just life exhibited in observation.  Kevin looked down at the chipped Wet N Wild burnt sienna nail polish and attempted to reconcile the low stance with brand new Tory Burch flats. Taryn was a self-aware and superficially aware of her aesthetic wiles, appearing oddly forgiving of his own shortcomings.  In surveying her life, she was reflecting his in thoracic-engaging insecurity.  The ease of technology had made beauty accessible, if only for a moment, the rest was a labor of connection and appreciation.  Flowerbomb was redolent across the checkered red and white table cloth.  Kevin tapped “creme brulee” and Taryn’s eyes lit up, the confectionary delight of a passion shared. HESYCHIA addresses life in wondrous ways.


You know you’ve arrived when Xingu hits you with a wacky donation box complete with sign and towel

Hahah this box is banana sandwich. I know it’s sober September for old ddb but god damn, from the merch to the beer made in “an ancient amazon tradition” this shit is completely bonkers. The worst part is that this will probably still be better than some of the garbage tier “innovative” craft bottles I am sometimes subjected to. Man can’t wait until October amirite


Funk Factory Framzwartje just made life much harder for trifling American wild ale purveyors

I already submitted my piece for the Craft Beer and Brewing top beers of 2017, but good lord if this doesn’t belong in those rankings. Aside from it’s absurd rarity pegged at 100 bottles, $50 each, 1 per top 100 FF member, I didn’t know shit about this. I just assumed it would be a more baller Framrood. This is an entirely different beast altogether. American-inspired pLambic can be dicey territory, Methoededes notwithstanding. Funk Factory butters its bread by reconciling the Belgian and American iterations and this takes things to incredible new foraged territory. The beer is made exclusively with wild grown, scavenged and gathered, blackcap raspberries. This wasn’t a produce order or some tired ass Sysco purée order, we are talking Vibrams on the ground, Paleolithic picking of tiny ass berries. Alright, but even Scratch Brewing and Fonta Flora leverage bizarre shit: what sets this apart? First and foremost the base wild ale is dripping in cross Atlantic charm, musky, cheesy, Brie rind and coiled rope, wet track, balsa wood and cork board. It’s a fruity tannic arts and crafts project that seems intensely old like some Doesjel coupled with a red Burgundy. Underscoring this effect, the body is tepid and almost still, the mouthfeel has this Napa cab heft to it that avoids acidic or basic ass jam and gives what alcoholics call “a moment of clarity.”

 It’s a quiet and focused berry juicer, nothing sticks out and the produce is this osteoporosis dry, grape leather affair. The body and depth make this bottle almost inherently ethereal and gone before you pop it. It is not meant to be shared and it unpacks sour rhone barrel-soaked ropes in an odd merger of high and low class. In a field that is often looked down upon, when the Funk Factory bottles hit their mark, it is a compelling argument for an inversion of this tired rag. God forbid someone suggests that an American could somehow make a raspberry beer better than trifling dead ass 2014 Framboos, I’ll allow you to gather your berries you just knocked off no doubt falling from your chair. In sum this beer stomps new paths and is a rare light in an increasing darkness of lactic, boring, overfruited, kettle-soured dog turds.


Ddb complains about legit Ohio beer, is punished by Wolfs Ridge. Typical.

If we are talking apeshit customer service, Wolfs Ridge falls somewhere between “negative reinforcement” and “staggeringly attentive.” I previously bitched about their coffee cream ale, basically saying that the flavors were incongruous for such a petit canvas. So they decide “guess what? fuck your palate we added cinnamon to that beer, here enjoy this, joweltits [the letter doesn’t say that but deconstruction is about subtext and linguistic intent.]” so being a baby palate complainer nets rewards and just being honest about their clean ass wild ales being a sloppy acornpenis while playing Nier Automata, compels equal attention. There is no ethical consumption in late capitalism. Imma just keep falling down in the entryway and bruising my love handles on solid Ohio entries. The heights located in Hawthorne have instructed me under good authority that Ohio is for lovers.


Shmaltz brewing has never made any damn sense to me, but now I’m slightly less confused by them

For the longest time I couldn’t get a read on @shmaltzbrewing. Everything hinged on self-awareness and I couldn’t reconcile the fact that this brewery was fairly ubiquitous, but still able to not have a relatively clinical Sam Adams meets Sierra Nevada approach. Then around the early 2010s more and more apeshit beers started coming out, and they seemed increasingly referential, but with ambition somewhere ensconced between New Glarus charm and Bruery linestepping. I’ve always enjoyed them but the letter they sent me that deconstructed their business philosophy and merging wry levity with a religious perspective was pretty damn funny. Most breweries are anything but and drop LOL APRIL FOOLS WE CANNED THIS STOUT as top tier yukyuks. Spirit and pretty damn good beers that flood the streets with styles that might otherwise be inaccessible to Nextel phone home brewer stepdads. I am totallly on board with this, now understanding their perspective. Inb4 “shill” or whateverthefuck. I buy my jeans at the grocery store.

Don’t let shmaltz brewing distract you from the fact that in 1998, The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell In A Cell, and plummeted 16 ft through an announcer’s table.