Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25 - Troegs Impending Descent (Bourbon Barrel Aged)

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Well, it's that time again.  The time where, if you're still reading, we wrap things up with a bang, hopefully.  Maybe that means with the writing, and maybe that means with the beer.  Rarely will it be both.  Also, if you're still reading, thanks, and I hope you got something (even if just entertainment) out of what you read.  I mean do this for you since my liver doesn't really appreciate it all that much.

Last weekend, I got a text message from my brother-in-law, while visiting Troegs in Hershey, asking if I wanted anything.  After sending me a tap list and pondering a growler or even crowler fill, I saw a bottle that caught my eye.  A 12% Imperial Stout, Impending Descent.  Normally this brew isn't that high and I've had that before as a sample at their taproom.  This one was slightly different in that it was aged in bourbon barrels.

The pour of this dark beauty was just that, along with no head to speak of.  I did use my Troegs splinter glass, so if there's supposed to be head, it's their fault.  The aroma was very complex with lots of underlying layers.  You can't help but notice the sweet bourbon aromas along with some layers of vanilla and dark fruits.  There is some chocolate aroma weaved in amongst the others also.

The taste at first was just as described.  There was a nice bourbon smoothness with some slightly bitter coffee and dark baker's chocolate.  There was the vanilla here too along with a lingering bitterness.  As the beer warmed the chocolate came forward more so.  The alcohol was pretty masked in my opinion.  I mean, sure, it was aged in bourbon barrels, but you don't get the alcohol bite here like you'd expect.  It's strong and potent, for sure, but in the body and flavor instead of alcohol.

Finishing the year on an awesome note like...

This beer sends the blog off with a bang.  I'm glad my brother-in-law decided to pick this up and just hand it to me one day after school.  I tried to give him some cash for the bottle since I know it wasn't cheap, but he wouldn't take it. 

An easy 4.5 out of 5 to wrap things up!  If you can spend the $12 on a bottle, you'll surely enjoy this!

So time to reflect.  What did I learn this year through my journey across many styles in 25 short days?  Honestly, I'm not really sure.  I guess I was reminded that IPAs are definitely my favorite style of beer, regardless of the season.  Also, I was reminded that I enjoy a heavy stout this time of year.  I'll be honest,  I did come to the conclusion that this isn't easy to do anymore.  The first year was easy because I didn't really put much effort into it.  Trust me...go read some of those posts.  A lot of the folks I follow on Instagram only post a photo of their beer advent adventures.  I guess I like to take things a step further for some fun.

Now, I add more pictures/memes now to make things more entertaining.  Also, I feel I'm better at adding some backstory and building some suspense when the theme is right and the mood strikes me.  Other nights, it's difficult tying something into a theme and I just feel it's easier to get to the point.  Spandex, Glitter, and Egos is still, by far, my favorite post I wrote this year.  It was just fun to write it up!  It was also the most viewed, probably because Richard Simmons blew up your Facebook feed and you clicked on the clickbait!

While I enjoy the beers and trying to identify different aromas/flavors from them, I'll be the first to tell you I'm no expert and sometimes I second guess myself before traveling to or to see if others agree with what I get.  Honestly, I read though some of the user reviews and get some ideas or that "a-ha!" moment where I finally figure out what I was smelling/tasting.  I don't always agree and give you my personal experience, however.

I also know that I could have used that Ralphie meme so many more times, but I figured that I shouldn't overdo it.  It was appropriate in so many instances when I was writing, but I used self-control and didn't use it as often as I could have. 

I'm sure I'll be back next year with 25 new blog entries to help your beer choosing in the days to come, but I won't miss having to write about it everyday.  I know I don't have to do it, but I made the commitment and since a few of you enjoy it, that's good enough for me to keep on keeping on!

Thanks for taking the time out of your day to take a look at what I had to say.  To wrap things up for 2016, I wish you a happy, hoppy, healthy, and prosperous 2017!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 24 - Evil Twin Christmas Eve at a NYC Hotel Room

Today's pick was an easy one.  It's a beer that came home with me about a year ago from Half Time Beverage in Mamaroneck, NY.  If you need a refresher on that trip, check it out.  If not, continue on!

The tricky part was to try and get it to the following year.  I had to hide it from myself down in the basement so I wouldn't be tempted to throw it in the fridge quick and chill it.

Well, it's been a year and I just threw it in the fridge last night.  Since we have a family Christmas party to attend tonight, it's time to do some day drinking and blogging at the same time!

From Evil Twin Brewing, we're trying their Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room, which is a 10% imperial stout.  This could go either way...

Pros on being in a NYC Hotel Room
You're in NYC
You probably have quick access to the subway system because this guy isn't driving the city
Hotel bar is possible so you can stumble upstairs when you're ready
...that's all I got

Cons on being in a NYC Hotel Room
It's expensive
NYC is expensive
You're going to run into people all day long when you leave the hotel room
If you're not a fan of crowds, you're screwed
Lingering cigarette smoke, maybe?
That hotel bar where the beer is also expensive

These guys have some strange names for their beers, but I'm going out on a limb here and predicting that it'll be worth the wait.

Not expecting pain here, however

The pour was obviously going to be a jet black while the head a creamy brown.  Aromas here were coffee and chocolate with some dark fruits (plum/raisin) in the background.  A heavy, alcoholic bitter flavor punched me in the taste buds at first.  There was a massive dose of roasted coffee there too. 

If you enjoy a bitter stout, this may be something you need to try.  For me, even though I enjoy bitter beers, this is a little too much for me and isn't very well balanced from sweet to bitter.  Maybe the time in the bottle in my beer cellar didn't do this any favors.  Lots of reviews put this thing up there in the 4+ out of 5 range.  Right now, I can't put it up there, even though I thought going into it I would.  This reminds me of the last blog post I did last year, thinking I'd go out with a bang on a quality beer, only to be disappointed.  When the Untappd community puts a beer near or above a 4/5, you know it should be spot on. 

Maybe I should let things warm up a bit.  We have learned from prior experience that these heavy beers change profiles as they warm up.  Let's let it sit for a bit...I'm in no hurry.

I was thinking Jeopardy theme song, but this is way better
With warming things up a bit, the bitterness wasn't as potent, and the balance between sweet and bitter was present.  Maybe it's the alcohol talking, or the fact that I haven't had lunch yet and it's nearly 2PM, but I'm back to impressed with this selection and glad I picked it up. 

I won't take all the credit here because my experience has taught me something in the last 4 years.  I'll definitely put this beer back up to a 4 out of 5, just make sure you let it warm up before you enjoy it.  Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23 - Stone Brewing Enjoy By 12.25.16

Blog Misconduct!  That's a penalty!!!

So, as we've stated before in the 25 Beers of Christmas rules/guidelines, I won't review a beer again from any past blog post.  I'm up to 105 after tonight's post goes live, by the way.

Tonight I'm tip-toeing my own rules by reviewing a beer I've technically had before.  The absolute first beer I did, back in 2013 was a Stone Enjoy By beer.  Dear Lord, my blog posts have come a long way.  Don't believe me, click the link and see how awful they used to be...

Anytime that I find one of these, I don't even think twice about picking it up.  I always enjoy an IPA or a double, and beer from this series is usually as solid as they come.  I know what I'm going to get here with this overly hopped West Coast DIPA.  Interestingly enough, this comes from Virginia as a prototype. 

...I'm confused too...but it's OK.

Again, from Stone Brewing Company, we have another installment from their Enjoy By series.  As always, it's a 9.4% ABV Double/Imperial IPA, I'm assuming that they play with the hops in this beer to see what combinations will do to a final product.  This one, just 2 days away from possibly exploding in my kegerator fridge, is the 12.25.16 version, that needs consumed IMMEDIATELY!

Glad I didn't wait to enjoy this, otherwise the result could have been different...

Tonight, to switch things up from the norm, I'm going to give you their tasting notes on the beer (you can click the link to double check me or just read the bold and italicized notes below) and tell you whether or not I agree with them.  Why?  Because that's so much easier than being unique, and we're at a point in the month where I need all the help I can get!

Appearance - "Golden and hazy with a creamy white head"


Aroma - "Intense peach, tropical fruit and citrus.  The hop dankness is a little muted in this version."

I don't get the peach specifically, but I do get a tropical/citrus hop aroma with a slight dankness.  Normally, these things are really dank in the aroma, but not this one.

Taste - "Hoppy, lots of stone fruit flavors and yeast-derived fruity esters, dissipating quickly into a finish loaded with hop flavors and bitterness."

Hops bite here throughout with the esters taking the forefront.  They dissipate for sure, but do come back to linger on the tongue along with a residual bitterness.  I do get more of the peach in the flavor than compared to the nose. 

Palate - "Dry, hints of alcohol warmth, and a nice bitterness on the back end.  A little more heft and mouthfeel because of the unfiltered aspect of this beer."

This beer always masks the hefty 9.4% ABV, so I don't really get much in the realm of alcohol warmth.  Also, compared to other Enjoy By beers, this one does have a heavier mouthfeel.  I'll take their word for why that's the case.  Bitter?  Definitely, but it's balanced well with the flavors, IMHO.

For being an unfiltered option, I expected there to be a cake of yeast on the bottom of the bottle, but that wasn't the case. 

Yet again, another solid option for an IPA/DIPA!  I'd tell you to pick it up, but in less than 2 days this thing will be a shelf turd since you need to enjoy it by Christmas day.  If you do find it on a shelf come 12.26, ask for a discount because it will be absolutely awful a day after it's expired.  Then, when you get home, and have purchased a quality beer at a discount because it's expired, you'll thank me. 

In case you don't....haggle for price reduction, get quality beer, WIN!

Easy 4.25 out of 5 tonight!  Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22 - Otter Creek Brewing Company Free Flow IPA

Just got home from a work Christmas party that had a very eclectic selection of beers.  I decided to make sure that my review got finished ASAP due to time constraints.

One of my co-workers decided that it would be a good idea to see if a few folks would want in on a case swap type of thing.  A few of us got together and threw a couple bucks at the idea, and low and behold, I have a few new beers to try, including this one tonight.  From Otter Creek Brewing Company, we're trying their IPA selection, Free Flow IPA, a 6% "mind melting IPA." 

Take a look at their impetus and what they were aiming for right there!

From a hazy, golden pour emerged a nice beige head.  For me there was a spicy/peppery, and earthy hop aroma.  I was reluctant at first, but the aroma grew on me for sure.  This brew left me with the same sort of flavor (peppery/spicy/earthy), with a sweet, fruity, malty aftertaste.  I decided to pair this with some deer bologna since I didn't really eat anything of substance at the get together tonight.  Just like the above video described, the lower IBU (55-60) didn't mess with my palate by numbing it with an overly hopped beer.   


A quick blog for those of you (like myself) on a time constraint.  This brew will receive a 3.5 out of 5 for solid work in the hop profile all around. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21 - Rusty Rail Brewing Company Snow Flyer

It's so hard, to say goodbye, to yesterday-heeeeeeeeeee!

Only 3 Wednesday nights this month means that this will be your final installment of WWW.  I have another few up my sleeve for personal reflection, so you won't have to listen to me babble and backstory to death a beer review.

However, since this review is still happening and I have your undivided attention...

This beer is pretty much as local as it gets for me, coming from Mifflinburg and the Rusty Rail Brewing Company.  If you've never visited them in person at their location, you are missing out on a gem of a building.  Personally, I'm a fan of the upstairs bar/game room/80's retro game console area. I believe that the games are free.  You can choose from things like Dig Dug and the such and can play them while you enjoy a few beers.

When this place first opened, I was excited.  Unfortunately, so was everyone else.  To be honest, these guys didn't know what they were in store for and I assume they felt overwhelmed on a regular occasion with seating capacity, kitchen capacity, etc.  Our first few visits there were met with some snags and we decided not to come back until things got sorted out.  As with any business, I assume, it just takes time. 

Thanks Axl!

After our latest impromptu date night, my wife and I got to re-visit this place with friends.  It is still a beautiful place, upstairs and down.  The details that went into what they put together are fantastic and should be seen firsthand.  The food we got was on point.  The wait time was minimal (even at the dinner hour on a Saturday).  The beer choices were expanded as well. 

There have been some interesting things on tap that I've seen from afar.  The strangest concoction was an Imperial Peanut Butter Hefeweizen

That beer, and a few others that I had there that night, are part of what they're calling their "Side Track" series.  I couldn't find any official information on what this is all about, but my hunch is that they're getting into experimenting with different ingredients to see what works and what doesn't.  I didn't have the PB Hefe, but I talked to a few people who really enjoyed it.  Sounded strange enough for me to want to try it too! 

While there that evening, I had this Winter Seasonal for the first time, Snow Flyer HC Porter.  I was definitely impressed with it that night and again tonight to review.  This beer is brewed with hazelnut extract and cacao nibs, according to the site.  The hazelnut is definitely apparent throughout aroma and taste.

The pour was to be expected with any stout, a dark black one with a nice creamy beige head on top.  My splinter glass is doing its job!  Some nice lacing stuck around for quite a while here too.  The aroma gave a strong, but not overpowering hazelnut along with some hints of coffee and chocolate which I'm sure you could guess.

There is a strong and full body to this beer, which I really enjoy in this porter, especially at only 5.5% ABV.  The taste was pretty straightforward as well.  The same three things are the aroma.  There is a nice bitter finish this this brew from the chocolate and coffee, but the hazelnut lingers and hangs on for quite a while. 

I'm glad these guys are succeeding, because no one wants a brewer/brewery to fail, especially a local one.  It seems to me that this beer will be around for quite a while as their Winter Seasonal staple for years to come.

A solid 4 out of 5 for this beer tonight!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20 - Boulevard Brewing Dark Truth Stout

Last Wednesday, I spoke of another Boulevard Brewing Company beer that I had sitting and waiting for me.  Well, the time has come to give that one a whirl.

Tonight, we're enjoying Dark Truth Stout from Boulevard.  After putting the finishing touches on my competition sweater for tomorrow, with a lot of assistance from my wife, it's finally time to sit down and polish this off, but not too quickly of course.  Clocking in at a big 9.7% ABV I better hit the brakes and take some time to enjoy it since, like I mentioned before, these things are hard to come by. 

Not too much of a back story or narration tonight, so let's just get right down to it, shall we?

A dark stout for sure, this poured an opaque black color with a creamy tan head at the top that stuck around throughout.  I've switched my go-to glass lately from my trusty tulip to my splinter glass.  I seem to get good results, especially with some head retention here too.

There was a slightly smoky alcohol aroma with this brew that peeled back layers of chocolate, plums and maybe even raisins.  As for the taste, it was definitely lighter than expected on my palate with some medium carbonation.  The beer starts off sweet, changes to bitter coffee, and finishes with a dry and smoky residual taste on the palate. 

There's a whole lot going on in this bottle for sure.  Lots of complex flavors layers upon themselves along with a complex aroma.  Give this one a whirl if you come across it and enjoy the dark, sipping stouts.  I think you'll enjoy it! 

A solid 3.75 out of 5 tonight! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19 - Siren Craft Brewing/Stillwater - Smoke Signals

You'll see...I apologize in advance

The ugly Christmas sweater is coming together nicely.  I had some help from a co-worker to fabricate some of it today.  It appears it will have a functional train after all!  I also just got home from purchasing more knick-knacks to add to the d├ęcor for Thursday's unveiling.  I'll be sure to post it numerous places so you can see it.  Only a video may do this thing justice.

Progress so far...this will be suspended from my sweater

In any event, I need some sleep tonight so I reached for the lightest thing in the fridge tonight (4.4%) that appears to be a collaboration by Siren Craft Brew from Berkshire, England and Stillwater Artisanal from Baltimore, MD called Smoke Signals.  If you click on the Stillwater link and flashing lights make you feel sick, you've been warned.  It made my eyes hurt seeing the page for a few seconds.  There is an interesting backstory there that you can read, but I don't have the time tonight.  Maybe I'll go back and read it another day.

I picked tonight's choice up about a year ago in New York at Halftime Beverage in Mamaroneck.  A buddy and I took a 4 hour ride up there only to get some beers that we couldn't find at home and pack back up and return.  We probably spent a legitimate 2 hours in this place.  It was pretty cool, and pretty big!  I was looking at the homebrew equipment and accidentally broke a graduated cylinder, but since we purchased so much beer, they let it slide.

(L to R) - My haul, a bottle of Utopias that stayed on the shelf at nearly $300, and the aisles of beer!

Right at the checkout counter, this particular beer caught my eye.  It was probably a little too pricey at the time, but a smoked sour wheat beer sounded too strange not to try.  I had just gotten my feet wet with some other sour beers, plus I always have been a sucker for a Rauchbier or other smoked choices.  I figured, "what the hell?  It can't possibly be awful at that price point, right?"

I read up on this beer while I was drinking it and it appears it's along the style of a Gose, more appropriately called a Lichtenhainer.  If you care, you can read about it here.  Also, these guys used Brett to ferment out this light ABV brew.  It definitely gets some funkiness from the bacteria here, for sure.

I could beef up on some beer style history here, but maybe another time.

As for the beer, it poured a hazy golden with a nice head of larger bubbles on the top.  Now for the kicker...

It smelled like a Band-Aid.  I mean it wasn't a Band-Aid or made with them, of course.  It was probably the combination of sour, smoke and citrusy hops, but my brain stuck with Band-Aid.  I couldn't get my mind off it the entire time I drank this 22oz. glass.  There is, again, some definite funkiness coming from the Brett along with a taste of sour lemon and lime with just a hint of smoke. 

For the record, I'm not a scholar on beers made with Brett yeast, but I'd definitely like to expand my palate.  As for this beer, in the future, I'd pass on it if I were you.  It's a combination worth trying if you're up for a sour, smoked wheat beer, but you still can't get past the Band-Aid, can you? 

Believe it or not, I'll still give this a 3 out of 5 since I think the brewers got exactly what they wanted to out of this beer.  With what I've seen here online tonight while drinking this beer and writing this blog post up, it seems they're spot on.  It's not something I'd seek out again, but at the same time, I'd try another sour smoked beer, just not this one.