Urban Roots Barrel Aged Summer Life Converts Hops Into Wagyu

This is a vast improvement.

When you’re a little kid you learn that cows have four stomachs. The largest stomach is the rumen and it serves as a living fermentation vat. This evolutionary advantage converts fibrous, husky, plant material into fatty acids. Cows turn worthless fescue in coveted thick mass. It’s the conversion that matters.
Urban Roots produced a base barely, Summer Life, that wasn’t as worthless as yard trimmings, but it needed to roll around in an oaky rumen. Sometimes that rest and depth that is added to a barleywine’s rich malty structure provides the incredible aesthetic value that converts it from bermuda to wagyu. This beer has been tramsuted into A5 by virtue of a barrel rumen.

Sure, the base beer was fine. However, the barrel aged version has elevated itself into that realm of accessible, unassuming, low cost, incredibly high quality barleywine in the same realm as Royal Oil, Straight Jacket, and Sucaba. The beer has this toasted sunflower seed and banana bread that is a touch bitter at first. It’s not astringent but it underscores a hoppybackend like your stepdad’s New Balances streaked with chlorophyll. The body is incredible carved and lean, pandoro with agave nectar drizzle, and a swallow that is honey roasted walnuts with a kiss of Bit O’ Honey, those terrible candies that still exist that no one buys but there they are, right next to the Circus Peanuts and the SNO CAPS.

This beer is particularly dangerous because you can mow through the complexity quickly due to the low residual sugar and oiled leather finish. It’s the barleywine you give to the guy who says “wont get far without these” and grabs his keys. It’s approachable enough for guys who have kept their wide leg Tommy carpenter jeans long enough to accidentally be in style again. It is summer ale in the way that a server nods and splits a check between five maskless pet nat drinking women at brunch, cumbersome but obliging.

So many barleywines that hit market are balls of cud. Most people think of grassy Bigfoot wads of pine and regurgitated malt when barleywines are offered. Beers like this transmute those palates into meat loving, grass fed, ruminant worshiping hindus of malty sacrifice. The conversion is the journey, and it is worth passing through the cicerones’ four stomachs.


Phase Three Eunoia Two Cracks Your Drupe Wide Open

Coconuts are in the drupe family, from the Portugese word coco meaning “skull.” They are indigenous to Lake Zurich, Joliet, and the tropical neighborhood of Woodland in south Chicago. The coconut ripes and forms a surrounding husk to prevent wildlife from foraging its sweet interior juices.

Hype breweries have to endure a similar teleology. Ravenous shitlords can pound on the husk of the brewery, complain about Applepay not securing their cart, engaging in simple rituals to curse breweries for not paying fealty to the altar of the Locals. I feel for them. Shaun Berns was not stranger to these batter smeared savages. Helicopters were attendant at his first releases. He has single handedly provided much of the nutrition for growing west Chicago millennials in liquid sugar form. This time, it has coconut and cinnamon.

Phase Three and the prior lineage has always been solid, but like TOOL and climbing gyms, it’s the fanbase that sours the experience. Thankfully, this beer is so good that you merely tolerate the voracious locals hammering at the fleshy sweetwater inside.
The beer pours on the Derivationy/Wakefieldian viscosity with substantial sheeting. The legs wipe away the dark ecru tones from the glass with hateful clear legs. It’s a big boy in boy and literal fatness. There are residual lipids dancing on the surface like drunken Sea moneys, frothing up the chocolate. I imagine this beer was extremely expensive to make because there’s no slugs, no clumping, no artificiality, and more importantly, it doesn’t lean on lactose like some Coffeemate creamer extravaganza to achieve its goals.

I complained about prior wax issues so they made me a custom bottle with multiple tabs looking like Omega Red

The barrel is present and imparts a touch of dryness and complexity like a ribbon of caramel through the center of a dipper macaroon. Cinnamon can go chalky or metallic really quickly, or your end up with a dry Big Red performance. The cinnamon here pulls things into a Samoa cookie space and is more like an uncaring chaperone who lets the kids drink Goldschlager under the bleachers. They don’t pay him enough to care. His hair smells of Polo Sport and hawaiian tropic from water polo practice.

It is exceptionally well done and if anything they hit the mark so fully that it is like seeing a hypertechnical guitar performance where you want it to be a little messier in a way. It’s massive, but controlled, unapologetically pastry, but it pays for the duvet it threw up on. Take Goose Island prop14, let it wrestle an HGH regiment and it will give heartfelt hugs after the dripping lavacake pin is achieved. If you ever knew a kid who had rich parents who miraculously didnt end up reading Atlas Shrugged, you respect them more. This beer is really really good, climb way up there, and get inside that sweet fleshy interior.


2nd Shift Brewing Maple Coconut BliS LSD Subverts What 2nd Shift Does Best

2nd Shift enjoys interesting St. Louis benefits. Neither as coveted as Side Project, nor as intensely scrutinized as much as Perennial, failing to generating the hophype of Narrow Gauge, they have been afforded the freedom to silently turn out solid farmhouse ales and drillable gems. What happens when shitlord profiteers pull out their batter caked jewelers loupe and make them the subject of examination?

The result will pull your palate in two directions. Maple, coconut, bourbon BLIS, LSD is a strange, bipolar experience. The base LSD follows the stylistic gestalt that the rest of 2nd Shift exceeds at: tight lines, relatively dry, lithe beers you want to crush in volume. Adding maple and coconut to the mix tosses sticky cinderblocks in the trunk and makes this beer handle like a shopping cart dipped in agave nectar.

At its core you can detect the base beer which is classically executed and well made. The base beer is lightly roasty, relatively thin and limber, tollhouse chips and flatwhite finish. The secondary treatment is like some network executive added TikTok and Vine stars to the cast that add little and distract heavily. This just isn’t what 2nd Shift excels at.

The result is a beer that feels pumped with Torani syrup to capitulate to middle school palates. It is synthetic macaroon, instant maple oatmeal, both svelte and overweight. The beer feels skinnyfat. LSD doesn’t need this madeline/IHOP treatment. It feels like when Banana Republic, a brand of neutral basics, suddenly starts pandering to the kids with cropped pants and tyedyed shirts. Go back to Peacoats or whatever finance bros enjoy. The overriding caucophony is the maple, it just ramps up the Waffle House tones to 11. We are all scrubbing molasses out of our jeans.

The most frustrating part is seeing a well made beer that is conceptually flawed. Shaun Hill isn’t vying for the fruited puree berliner crown for a reason. 2nd Shift makes good beers, they are just bad at intentionally ruining their own beers.


Outcast Brewing Hazy Triple IPA: Excess in Balance

Gotta take the time to show some love for my Canadian chums up at @outcastbrewing : today we confront a 10.5% abv hazy TIPA. Quite the divisive endeavor. It was really well done the style limitations considered. Their traditional soft approach really melds well with a style I often find excessive so it’s a perfect match that keeps it from being Fusel and there’s no residual hop burn.

It’s more perfumey and floral with wispy carb that doesn’t provide a ton of sustain but makes it more drinkable. Grapefruit zest and agapanthus dominate. The heat is masked extremely well and doesn’t lean on a gristy oat profile to usher the alcohol Trojan horse in past the palate gates.

It’s Extremely well integrated albeit not as demonstrative as Biggie Biggie or some of the hallmark Other Half examples of style. It’s becoming fascinating to see a homogenous style see these little rivulets turn into alluvial fans of execution. There are now these microrifts in hazy iPas so they are tasting less like one big hollandaise affair and have the semblance of unique intent.

Two years from now we will have dudes in screen print tees having distanced arguments about the differences between quad and quint dry hopped, the subject of Conan London ale III hybrids, serious Orange Julius connoisseurs. I will be here suffering through it all.


Private Press Brewing, Beyond Forever and Life is Round: an Exercise in Patience

I would be hard pressed to recall a brewery that has more pre-release fanfare than Private Press Brewing. If you have your AARP card you might say Rare Barrel, or if you paid your Joliet mortgage reselling MoRE bottles, youll say PHASE THREE with cake batter on your goatee. This is something else entirety.

Private Press is the brainchild and product of former Jackie O’s maven Brad Clark. This brewery is not a company with a reserve society, it is ONLY a reserve society. It functions in the way that many Napa hype wineries have squeezed max profits out of divorcees in Free People sundresses and mid-50s GenXers who wear Titleist hats. But who are the easy marks for Private Press? In a strange turn of events, it appears to be people who want to actually drink the beer.
I have been repeatedly asked “Can we get more tasting notes about those PP bottles, your podcast is terrible?” “When is the Brad Clark interview, is there a version where you don’t talk?” etc.

So here goes. Out the gate, the bourbon barrel aged vanilla stout, Beyond Forever, aims for balance and complexity over a gauche wafflecone wheelie. “IS IT THIN THO” will be the chief refrain amongst the type of people who need “Fight Club” explained to them. If your palate is so demanding for glucose that you thought Appervation, or Parabola, or BCBS Vanilla was too thin, then yet, this 12 plato stout is “too thin” and hopefully they just bottle wort for you to enjoy. Instead the emphasis is on a tootsie roll, ganache, flourless cake that never feels excessive. The cask for a component blended beer isn’t intrusive and structures the sweeter aspects with some oaky underpinnings.

The barleywine, Life is Round, is even better. Like crushingly good. It has this disjointed first taste, intermission, swallow format that covers the spread with deft precision. The first taste is almost THE OBSCURE sweet with burnt brown sugar, chick O stick, See’s scotch kisses, the mid palate rests the game with a dry oaky presence that zambonis all the c6h12o6, to set the stage for the incredibly complex swallow of port sherry, ice wine, dried cranberry, prune and resonant dry Sazerac closer entreating the next air to ground combo of sip swallow.

Private Press is doing something ambitious and remarkable, time will tell if the current beer palates fetishsizing excess are ready to actually enjoy beer again.


Shared Brewing Sulla Terra is Good Enough to Make You Feel Bad That You Aren’t Better

It is possible to feel guilt about what you haven’t become. It’s a weird inversion of regret, because it’s based on passivity. Sulla Terra absolutely shouldn’t express regret for any shortcomings, it is fantastic, but comparison is the thief of joy.

There is a condition called highly superior autobiographical memory, HSAM. People with this condition will feel those pangs of sadness and shame about past actions, seemingly at random. The mind shuffles a deck of cards and at the grocery store will remind you how you were emotionally disrespectful to someone in 2008. This barleywine suffers the pangs of these unfair spectres.

Sulla Terra invariable has to live in a St Louis orbit with Anabasis, or worse, For Gabe, or Double Barrel Anabasis. The same space, and casks and opportunities can create a gilded life, or one that is just “really solid.” The cocoa krispies nose, chromexcel leather, wafty toasted kindling, and swallow long and redolent of squaw bread. It is super pleasant and then BAM, a memory of putting a cat in the bathtub when you were 6.
Part of the issue Sulla Terra struggles with is a style crowded with absolutely heavyweights at much lower price points, completely content with their existence. This isn’t even Sulla’s fault. The fact that Batch 4000 exists and is also good is not a sleight, but it feels inequitable by contrast. If you have ever gazed at the infinite scroll on your phone and been an unwilling participant in that game “How Do They Afford That” then you know Sulla’s plight. Being excellent but feeling inadequate, Luxury but not absolute luxury, flying to Dubai coach.

The molasses twists with the Sugar Daddies on the mid-palate and the closer has a woody swallow that imparts a dryness that is extremely well done. But others have made this inaccessible, inadequate by contrast. Sulla shouldn’t feel this way, but we all trudge forward seeking that saccharine fulfilment brewed by others. Sulla Terra is enough, more than enough, and the sooner we acknowledge that the less we can shell out to MFTs.

Psh this is just a regular M4, not even competition package; so embarrassing it’s not even rollcaged.


Outcast Brewing Apple Brandy Canema Verite

Outcast Brewing is here sending barrel-carbed waxed cans internationally, pastry love in the time of COVID. That old maple oil salesman, Patrick Schnarr, is the same guy who bought me that iconic DDB toaster, so it is only fitting to put it to use. Barrel carbed cans remind me of cinema verite. This was a French film movement in the 1960s that had an emphasis on mimesis and authenticity, imparting truth to conversations in cinema.

This weird can has a soft flex to it like it has gone through elevation changes and pours out languid without that frothy cocoa foam. It is documentary stout, the pauses and “uhms” of Kuhnhenn conversation. Given the soft CO units involved, the barrel is absolutely blasting waves of spicy fusel, Four Roses high rye execution, mocha mole, and dark chocolate with ancho to it.

The stripped down profile exposes the flaws more readily in a way that Hair of the Dog fans and old world naturalists will enjoy. So here is the obvious question: If so much care has been given to naturalistic execution, why even make this a Pastry Stout? The adjunctivitis seems to belie the framer’s intent. If what is sought is that verisimilitude of using a barrel thief and sipping from the cask, the interplay of the additives is as distracting as a Puddle of Mudd tattoo on an otherwise gorgeous woman. Like is she even old enough to have that.

In the can’s defense, the hazelnut and vanilla is not some Horus confectionary romp. The barrel is so prominent that they are the rhythm guitar in an Animal Collective cover band. They may as well be absent. The swallow is long and hot like damascus on a blacksmith’s anvil, but with this on-board canadian apology that renders the apple brandy more manageable.

Does it FEEL authentic? It feels like a choice, it is intentional, it feels casky, and in a world obsessed with single issue THICC voters, reducing the CO units, reducing the FEELING of viscosity. It’s a brazen move. Most stouts will be packaged at like 2.5 units. Private Press brewing, from the Jackie O’s pedigree openly carbs at 2.3 and will likely hear all about how it needs THICCCC from blunt palates. This will get the same complaints.

CANEMA VERITE: The stout feels real, and inauthentic palates will be up in arms.


Old Carter Straight American Whiskey Batch 3, a 138 proof MGP workhorse

Vegetative semiotics is a branch of linguistics that studies the idea of meaning at a cellular level. Cells reacting to population density, quorum sensing, really pithy stuff sure to get you laid at a dinner party. It’s the reduction of communication to a pre-verbal, pre-cognition level. Sometimes things can get so small that they can be entirety overlooked.
Old Carter Bourbon can easily be overlooked. The marketing isn’t jazzy, there’s no Diageo LOST BARREL story, no leveraged mythology of someone from the antebellum south. Just some stupid horse. Small releases, granular impact, communicating through the cellulose of oak prisons.
Bourbon people love a heritage tale more than the liquid itself. Watch how fast they get worked up when you mention Black Maple Hill and the specific color of the label, see them preen over a Kentucky Owl, then watch their adolescent tumescence fall limp with anger when STOLI or NAS is mentioned. It’s predictable on a granular level for dudes who feel empowered through possession. I DRIVE A TACOMA TRD ITS THE RACING DEVELOPMENT EDITION, THOSE BOTTLES ARE FOR SEEING NOT DRINKING ITS AN INVESTMENT, ITS NOTHING LIKE MY ACTION FIGURE OBSESSION AFTER KAYLA DUMPED ME.

Old Carter is expensive, but is very well done. It gives you the mash bill, the age, and lets you know it is Indiana MGP openly taunting you to trample its staves. The bare comfort of a Hinge date admitting he is already in therapy. It flagrantly demands $180 retail with a 2000 bottle release, courting dudes who never open anything to spit pithy ejaculations like “JuSt DriNK SAOS inSteaD” and we all nod at their middle management epistolary wisdom.
The problem arises when the bourbon itself swings on extremely good, reputable distillers within their own segment. Secondary market has propped up worse bourbon so in an ironic inversion, corn juice this good at an extremely high retail become a “deal” as a result. Mark and Sherri Carter are some Napa inn owners, so if youre prediabetic, you can sabre rattle all you want about how they arent hand sourcing corn. Kentucky Owl is now Costco trash, but THIS is fantastic.
$180 retail, 2487 bottles, 12 years old and a pre-hazmat 138.1 proof: batch 3 came out swinging. It is initially a bucking workhorse of ethanol, red hots, snickerdoodles and kerosene. Once it opens up you get the full nutty pecan, almond, zucchini bread, and waves of caramel fondue heat. Closer is peach and cardamom with this GTS dryness like lumber robitussin. This is extremely layered, domineering, but wholly enjoyable even when proofed back.
This tiny cell is communicating to other bourbon purveyors of a systemic infection, casks cellularly pressed against one another, increasing retail temps, improving the system as defense mechanism. We are the virus, bourbon is healing.


Calusa Brewing BA Uncrowned: For Whom Does the BA ESB Toll?

Who in this economy is making Extra Special Bitters. Ask any saison brewer how hard it is to get people to order a Grisette, let alone some obscure english style that isn’t even hazy. Calusa is a madman for diving headfirst into Ravenhold, and has a tolerant CFO who allows them to barrel age it.
This is session barleywine insanity. If you trace back the historical lineage of bitter/ESB/old ale/stock ale/barleywine phylum, the parentage is there. We don’t need Sucaba to take a 21 and me test. If you add two parts water to Straight Jacket, you will arrive in this “micro-old ale” segment if you wanted to reverse engineer this: BUT WHY.

There’s a phalanx of dudes who drank Fat Tire two years ago who now feign being “over” craft beer just as quickly as they capriciously entered and exited the hobby like the heel turn of someone accidentally wandering into a Hollister. Those people claim they all love pilsners now, they read Pitchfork, and talk about the importance of upcycling fashion.

The BA ESB exists in a customer realm of “no one asked for this, but I am glad it exists” like a jetski with a sidecar. Take all the caramel, sugar daddies, maillard goodness of a massive 35 BMI barleywine, and scale it back into a svelte lean frame, lithe butterscotch sinewy arms, pumping rolo vascularity. This is an aesthetic for runs, european Football matches, darts at O’Shabbyshires with a plate of chips. Those threadbare cliches.

It is certainly not life, not a barleywine, not even really in the life adjacent “imperial brown” and it exists as something else entirely: a pecan sandie JUUL pod to get people into harder casks. Sure the allure of clean, crisp, bright, low abv is fun when your stepmom first is sipping them, but when she’s a full on member of CAMRA with an OnlyFans account, she’s gone full barleywine.

I am here for this, it’s focused and intentional, robust while remaining approachable, depth with deceptive simplicity. I just hope everyone else is on board for barrel aged ESBs.


New Ferrari Cicerone Video Posted to the DDB Patreon!

The P train is peeling out this week 🚗 🚂 we rented a Ferrari and put Michael in the back and made him take his Cicerone certified beer server exam so he could experience the actual rigors of being a CERTIFIED CICERONE.

The stresses of someone asking “what’s the different between a biere du pays and a table beer” real extreme stuff, just like carving canyons. And yeah, I know I look like a sloppy sack of sourdough starters. I get it, I’m aware. This is a teaser, go hit the ddb P train for the full burnout 🔥 🚘