Monday, December 25, 2017

December 25th - Founders Brewing Company Canadian Breakfast Stout

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  I hope this final blog post of 2017 finds you happy, healthy and ready for an amazing 2018 in just a few short days.

It's been a pretty good month of reviews if I do say so myself.  Usually by this time, there are a handful of beers that I wish I never chose.  I don't honestly think that was the case with any purchase that I reviewed this month.  There were some beers I subbed out at the last minute just because I didn't need to put my palate through that awfulness.  Sorry dad, but the Hamm's Light and Coors Light are still in the fridge.

Tonight we're pulling out all the stops and busting open a bottle of Founder's Canadian Breakfast Stout (2017).  The hype on this thing is ridiculous, which may not be a good thing.  I read this quickly the other day via the Tavour blog and after reflecting on what I read felt that I get caught up in some hype from time to time with respect to beer and its availability. 

I still need to try the Russian River Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger.  I don't care how much hype there is behind those.  Other than that, there isn't really anything else I just have to have.  

Last brewed in 2011, about the time craft beer and I were getting to know each other, tonight's choice is an 11.7% imperial coffee chocolate stout aged in bourbon barrels previously used to store maple syrup.  It is what some craft beer enthusiasts refer to as transcendental.  I know that sounded smart, but I borrowed it from this article here.  You wouldn't have known that I didn't know the meaning, but I figured honesty is the best policy.  

This was a gift that had to be shared, and since my brother- and sister-in-law and I didn't exchange gifts this year, I guess this was the next closest thing, right? 

I actually went to my local stop in Selinsgrove, Keller's Beer, to find this just before 9PM one night earlier this month because I got a hot tip that there were some bottles left to be purchased.  I swung by but to no avail, they just sold the last bottle 20 minutes prior to my arrival.

I know, I overuse Ralphie...but come on!  It's Christmas! 

About a week ago, my wife needed a DVD returned to the DVD Express box at the Weis Markets in town.  I volunteered to help out and while I was there, like I always do, I checked the beer selection just in case there was something that I wanted to snag quick.

There is was, with no price tag on it.  Actually 3 bottles to be exact.  I quickly copped a feel with one in each hand to be sure I didn't miss out on it again.  I asked the clerk working the register to do a price check on the bottle.  He replied, "$24.99 sir."  I told him, "I'll be right back."  I proceeded to place the bottle from my right hand back on the shelf.  One would be all I was going to be able to stomach purchasing that particular December night.  I knew then that this would be my December 25th blog post, without question.  

So, without any further adieu, I bring you Founder's Brewing Company and their 2017 version of Canadian Breakfast Stout:

Let's go!!

With an ever-present creamy brown head the beer poured jet black into a white wine glass. My brother-in-law and I were basking in fanciness this evening for sure sans proper glassware. 

Crazily enough, this may have been a pretty decent choice to pour into, allowing the head to be constant and a massive area for aromas to collect and diffuse towards.  The aroma was a caramel booziness with heavy doses of dark and chocolate malts with just a hint of sweet maple syrup.  Since this had to be enjoyed over quite a long time period (I poured what I didn't finish at my in-laws back into the bottle to finish at home, honestly), it should be noted that there was more of a bourbon strength in the aroma as the beer warmed up slightly.  As for the taste, again, there were lots of chocolate malt, dark chocolate and cocoa flavors with maybe even some brown sugary goodness and a maple syrup goodness that coated the throat.  The maple syrup makes the mouthfeel thick, but not too heavy, despite all of the dark malts I assume were used to brew this beer.  The flavors really pop on the palate and the overall impression is that syrupy thickness with virtually no bitterness until a slight amount hits you halfway through the sip.  I assume it's either the bitter chocolate malts or some coffee hitting there.  Even though the bottle mentions coffee, I don't get a ton of that here, but just enough to do the job and clear the palate.  Hints of vanilla pop up occasionally as well.

For being aged in bourbon barrels there is just the ever so slightest goodness and residual sweetness here.  Honestly, I expected more bourbon, but I'm glad it didn't come through any more as it may have been too overpowering.  

In closing tonight, if you're up to spending the $25 or so bucks for a bomber bottle, I would highly recommend it, but that's too much cash for you to fork over, a cheaper substitute would easily be Weyerbacher's Sunday Morning Stout.  A lot of the same flavors, minus the maple syrup are present in that selection as well and it's just as good!  I'm glad I grabbed one of these, and probably will do so again if given the chance.  A no-brainer, solid 5 out of 5 to wrap things up this year!

Reflections for 2017:

What started as a bad idea (and bad writing) 5 years ago has become a pretty fun thing to do.  This is something that is rather time consuming, especially in the month of December.  However, with the readership going up each year it makes it all worth it.  You get to enjoy some comedy in some capacity.  My poor jokes.  My borrowed and well-placed memes.  Or maybe you're here for the beer review and, what I think compared to what you think.  Either way, I appreciate you sticking with me during a very busy time period for everyone.

This month I've learned to prepare ahead of time because, again, this is rather time-consuming for me to put together.  There were many nights where I started either a backstory or a tasting profile ahead of time just to be sure I met my own deadline.  

I've also learned that the IPA is still, by far, my favorite style of beer.  I've said that before and I'll continue saying it even though I do enjoy a good, flavorful stout when the weather turns cold this time of year.

In addition, I'm glad that I signed up for the Tavour delivery service.  I'm able to enjoy some stuff that is nowhere close to my own market, for a really fair price point and flat rate shipping.  I apologize if you got sick of hearing about it, but for what I got it was worth bragging about and getting some good PR out there for them.  Did I mention we both get $10 free if you sign up?  :)

In closing, if you stuck with me all throughout the month, I appreciate the time.  I'd be enjoying the beers anyway, but the blog gives me another reason to do so and an outlet to share my own experiences.

Here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!

Cheers, Prost, Salud, or whatever works for you!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

December 24th - Stone Brewing Company Xocoveza Charred

Day drinking an 18% beer yesterday was pretty fun...however, it made for a quick night after enjoying a few more selections.  Let's take things down just a few notches today before the annual Christmas Eve festivities commence around 5PM this evening.  I can enjoy this since we're just going up the road.  

In 2015 I found a beer that was found all over my social media feeds in Stone Brewing Company's winner of the 2014 Stone Homebrew Competition winner, Xocoveza.  Thanks to Chris Banker for brewing a "flavorful milk stout brewed with cocoa, coffee and spices to mimic the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate."  I decided to give it a whirl because it sounded pretty awesome.  Turns out that it was!

I snagged a case last year at W & S in Northumberland and it lasted me until this year.  I believe that I still have a few bottles left from that case somehow.  

Now I'm curious and need to check...

Yes!  I still have 6 bottles leftover and ready to enjoy!  

The genius brewers at Stone decided to take some Xocoveza and throw it into some American Oak Kentucky Bourbon Barrels for 6 months and see what happens.  I think it's pretty safe to say that it definitely can't hurt anything.  This 9.6% Mocha Stout is something that once brewed, I don't think could be screwed up at all.  

A black as night beer emerged from the 500ml bottle that was corked and caged.  I actually had to bust out the wine bottle opener because that sucker was not going to make its way out easily.  Aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and spicy peppers emanate from my splinter glass with just a touch of bourbon sweetness.  Sweet chocolate malts touch my tongue first with a smooth, velvety chocolate cocoa next combined with some vanilla notes.  The spicy peppers can be found at the end, but they're much more mellow than I remember the "regular" version of this beer to be.  There is a slight hint again of the sweet bourbon in there that takes a backseat to the other flavors, which I'm perfectly alright with.  The lactose gives it some sweetness as well, and the flaked oats give it a near-oatmeal stout body.  

The flavors linger very nicely on the palate for a long-lasting and enjoyable drinking session with this companion today.  The cellar notes describe some charred oak and toffee flavors, which I can note now that someone else has pointed it out to me.  

All things considered, I'm glad I splurged a tad on this via my Tavour order.  I know, I know, you probably won't be able to actually find this, but if you do happen to run across ANY variant of Stone Xocoveza, and you enjoy a stout beer, you'll be glad you did.  I'll rate this one the same as the Xocoveza that is not aged in bourbon barrels at a 4.75 out of 5 because it's equally as good in my humble opinion.  Either one is a great choice if you've never had it!  Enjoy and Merry Christmas Eve!!!

Don't mention it!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23rd - Dogfish Head Fort (2015 vintage)

Let me start today by telling you a quick story, but first, Happy Festivus!

It all started back in January 2016 on a trip to Halftime Beverage in Mamaroneck, New York.  That day, a friend of mine and I travelled 4 hours in search of some new beers that we've not had before.  We arrived at Halftime only to be greeted by 10+ aisles of beers from all over the globe, including internationally.  Some cold.  Some warm.  Some that could be aged.  Some that needed to be drank fresh.  Beer in cans, bottles, bombers, and a growler fill station could all be found here at this little slice of heaven.

Just add some food and draft choices...I could have stayed for a week!

You can read up on that trip back in time here, but for today it's time to grab something from the beer cellar, where I keep stuff to age if it lasts that long. 

As you can see, stuff doesn't last too long around here.  Mostly higher ABV DFH and some older bottles of KBS.

The last thing I pulled from that stash was actually in that review link above and it wasn't too pleasant.  However, I'm excited to chill today's midday selection from Dogfish Head in Delaware.  I've blogged about their stuff before and how this company actually got me into the craft beer scene with their 60 and 90 minute IPAs along with some of their other selections.  If you care to, you can check out their 2018 release calendar from their own blog.  It appears they didn't brew what we're about to enjoy today in 2017, but in 2018 it appears there is a variant or at least an updated version of the beer.

Their ale, Fort (bottled on 10/23/2015) is a whallop of a beer at approximately 18% alcohol and is brewed with over a ton (literally) of pureed raspberries.  From the folks I follow via various social media outlets, when they enjoyed this back when it was released it was either hit or miss.  For those who said it was a miss, they did recommend letting this choice sit for a while to allow the alcohol bite and burn mellow significantly.  I was significantly disappointed with their Higher Math anniversary beer in my review in 2016, so I'm hoping that doesn't happen again.  That was also aged for a year to let things mellow out.  Unfortunately, that didn't help for my palate.  

We're using his and hers glasses today because my wife has been dying to try it for the last year or so now.  A hazy caramel brown with just a hint of a raspberry color poured from the bottle and an absolutely minimal ring of head clung to the sides of the glass.  The beer was very syrupy in the glass as well.  The aroma was exactly what you'd expect.  A very sweet and malty raspberry booziness.  That's all, and that's OK.  Now for the real test.  The flavor.  I'm expecting a sweet and very malty beer with a huge burst of raspberry and (hopefully) just a hint of alcohol bite and burn.

...and it's pretty close to expectations

The alcohol doesn't bite in the flavor, but it does give you that alcohol warmth down the entire throat to the stomach.  Not overly burning, but just on the cusp of too much.  As I enjoyed more of it, however, the warming wasn't as noticeable.  There is a sweet malt presence as expected along with sweet and slightly boozy raspberry flavors. 

My wife's take: She believes the alcohol taste is too strong.  The taste is OK, but too strong alcohol-wise for her liking.  

My take: I'm glad I waited 2 years to enjoy this.  I have a feeling that the alcohol would have been too overpowering when it was first bottled.  However, now that it's sat for a while and had a chance the raspberries work well in this style.  I'm also glad it wasn't a repeat of Higher Math.  

I guess it's time to go finish my wife's glass too!  4.25 out of 5 today!

Friday, December 22, 2017

December 22nd - New Holland Brewing Cabin Fever

Sorry for the lateness of this post tonight.  We just got home from a Christmas party for my wife's side of the family.  I was responsible tonight and played designated driver.  Water and food for this guy only tonight so far. 


So, on the eve of Festivus, we shall keep things semi-short, especially since I haven't gotten to start until now, which is close to 9:45PM. 

Going to dip into the fridge for a quick, cold option tonight for something easy to find locally for a review you can care about.  Well, maybe.

I pulled out the bottle of Cabin Fever from New Holland Brewing tonight that I planned on saving until there was a snow day or a day where I was stuck in the house for the entire day.  Then I'd have "cabin fever."  Since global warming has screwed up the snowfall forecast until what looks like at least until January here in central PA, I figured I could check this off my list of beers to save that I could write a fun back story about.

Not political, just funny...calm down
I've had a couple of the brews that this company makes before, according to my trusty Untappd app, and even this one back in January of 2014.  I gave it a 3.5 then, so let's see if that holds up.  For what it's worth, their DIPA, Hoptronix was a solid selection and you can't go wrong with Dragon's Milk.  I just recently upgraded my rating for the latter of the two since my tastes have adapted slightly towards the positive.  Tonight's choice is a 6.5% brown ale.

A dark brown, nearly opaque pour netted a pretty thick white/brown head at the top.  The aromas were that of nutty caramel with just a hint of chocolate malt in the background.  The flavor was a smooth, yet mild bitterness chock full of roasted chocolate malts and some toasted and nutty undertones.  The finish was on the dry side, still with a lingering mild hop bitterness that also left me with some chocolatey caramel on the backend of things.  An overall pleasant choice tonight.

I'm going to stand firm with my initial rating of 3.5 out of 5.  It is a good beer for the style and things are on point, but for a brown ale and me to really hit things off, there has to be a wow factor of some kind.  Give it a go if you find it!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

December 21st - Knee Deep Brewing Company Breaking Bud

Hitting the home stretch now and down to the last 5 days of the blog for 2017.  Tonight we'll continue by rounding 3rd base and head for home...'s a brown-eyed, handsome man - thanks John Fogarty for the inspiration!

Coming from Auburn, California (just NE of Sacramento if you were curious...) is Knee Deep Brewing Company and their Breaking Bud American IPA.  I know what you're thinking.

"Stop reviewing these west coast beers that we can never obtain unless we travel to the west coast."  The good news is that it didn't come from my latest Tavour order.  The other good news is that I've seen this many a time at my local grocery stores (Weis, for example).  If I dig it, and you think you might dig it, you too can enjoy this!

Pouring from the bomber into my DFH IPA glass was a hazy golden color with a decent khaki head that left some pretty good lacing on the sides as I enjoyed it.  Wow, this is a pretty strange hop aroma and combination right here.  I did some double-checking via Beer Advocate tonight to be honest, just to make sure my palate wasn't fractured.  We definitely have some fruity, spicy and earthy hop aroma with a slight pine background.  There is definitely some caramel maltiness in there too.  A very smooth citrusy sip was first with virtually zero hop bite at all.  Definitely not what I expected from an IPA.  Slight pineapple and mango are found in the flavor as well as, again, a slight earthy bitterness.  The finish is pretty dry with a slight malty residual taste on the palate.  This beer doesn't drink like an IPA at 6.5% at all.  It's almost session-like in that the alcohol presents itself very low.

Overall, this is pretty unique and not like anything I've had before!  Glad it's a bomber bottle so I can continue enjoying it!  A 4.25 out of 5 sounds about right here tonight!  I'm sure glad I can pick this up whenever I'd like to at my local stores.  I'll definitely be sure to do so!

Please tell me you were waiting patiently for the Breaking Bad reference, right?

The mosaic hops are definitely what I believe set this off and make it a pretty interesting complex, yet enticing, bouquet of aromas.  I can't really put into words how it smells, but there are so many different things in there that the aroma alone is something worth experiencing.  I typically enjoy a hoppy beer.  This choice is hoppy, but it's a different hoppy.  It's not a bitter, drink some flowers sort of hoppiness.  It's a flavorful experience coupled with an aromatic one at the same time.  A VERY solid choice for the hophead who is particular about their IPA, or for the "hop hater" who doesn't like an overly bitter beer.  Balance is pretty spot on tonight as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December 20th - 21st Amendment Brewery Fireside Chat

Welcome to your final installment of Winter Warmer Wednesday for the season.  It's hard to believe that it's December 20th already am I right?

21st Amendment Brewery out of San Francisco, California brews some pretty decent beers.  Their IPA varieties (Brew Free of Die IPA, Back in Black IPA just to name 2) are some pretty safe beers for me.  Middle of the road ratings wise, but always a solid choice.  Looking at their site, it seems that they're only brewing a select choice few at the present time, but if you check the Beer Advocate page, there are some gems that are (I assume) no longer in production.  Toaster Pastry may have been my all time favorite.  It may have been simply because it was served in a 24 ounce can too, however.

Borrowed from
For your last Wednesday blog of the month, we're taking a look at their winter warmer, or in this case they call it a winter spiced ale.  The ABV of Fireside Chat is like that of a winter warmer, clocking in at a 7.9%.  Perfect for relaxing and warming up by the fire, you ask?  Only time will tell.

The pour was a deep mahogany red with an off-white head at the top.  For me, the aroma was of mellow and dry spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.).  Coupled with that were some roasted caramel malt aromas and even a slight hint of raisins and plums/figs.  Add to that aroma a slight hint of smokiness as well.  The bitterness of this beer was what hit me first, giving me a taste of winter spruce along with some malty caramels, clove and cinnamon spice notes with even just a hint of the allspice and nutmeg in the background.  There is a tiny lingering bitterness here as well that was pleasant on the palate.  The malts compliment the hops here in this beer of many layers for certain.

There's a lot going on in this choice tonight.  Suffice it to say my palate may be getting overworked and not catching all the aromas and flavors, but I did my best.

Fireside Chat was good, but not my favorite WWW brew this year.  The prior two selections were better for my taste than this one, but if you're a fan of the spices this time of year, give it a whirl.  It's not overly hoppy or bitter, but the spiciness here is what may set this apart from the rest of this month's options.  For what it's worth, the 7.9% was very masked in here with surprisingly no alcohol warming like you normally see with the style.  

Another safe choice from this west coast brewer that stays in the middle of the road at a 3.5 out of 5.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19th - Magic Hat Wee Heavy Champ

After last night's ramblings, I almost feel like I should just use a caveman approach tonight to review a beer.  I won't, but I'll keep it shorter.

Straight out of my case club pack tonight is a bomber bottle from Magic Hat out of Vermont.  Solid beers like #9 and Circus Boy originate from this company.  At least according to their website, their current lineup isn't super-extensive, but maybe that's a good thing.  They get the chance to perfect what they do well and please the masses.  Tonight is from their Humdinger Series...I present Wee Heavy Champ, an 8% ABV Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy.

Not wee...but definitely a heavy dude, and a past WWF World Champion
From the bottle:
"Just to the west of Burlington lie the majestic waters of Lake Champlain.  A diverse population of creatures resides in and around her shores, including the mythical lake monster Champ.  The Scotch Ale, or Wee Heavy as the Scots say, is brewed in celebration of Lake Champlain, all of its inhabitants, and the legend of Champ himself.  Catch him of you can.

Not from the bottle, but your geography lesson for tonight...

Wee Heavy Champ is a Scotch Ale nearly as dark as the deepest depths of Lake Champlain.  A rich, robust, yet smooth, malt character rises to the surface where notes of caramel, chocolate and wheat can be discovered.  A light addition of hops is present for balance in this big, complex and soon-to-be legendary brew."

The beer poured an almost hazy, dark, caramel brown color with a pretty decent creamy and tan colored head at the top.  The aroma was of sweet, roasted malts with maybe a hint of either pine or spruce notes.  The beer was a solid medium body that was surprisingly thicker than expected with caramel malts that were with roasted and smoked tinges as well.  Not a ton of hop bitterness in this beer, rather the malts and the traditional scotch flavors balance things out rather nicely.  The finish for this was sweet and coated the palate with a malty goodness that I kept coming back for.

...a glass...same difference!

I didn't get much chocolate in either the aroma or the flavor, but the wheat came through for me as a spicy wheat flavor.  

A step up from the review earlier this month from ABC, which turned out to be a Scottish ale and not a scotch ale.  This was more of what I expected in the body in the former, however, I need to get my styles straight. 

Two glasses later and I'm still digging this beer.  I'm sure I won't be finding this again anytime soon, just like the sightings of Nessie.  However, if you find it, and enjoy a scotch ale/wee heavy, I suggest grabbing a bottle of this, before it's never seen Nessie!