Our First Tavour Haul

img_2204As dedicated online shoppers and craft beer geeks, we couldn’t resist trying out Tavour – a site that helps you gain access to rare craft beer that you may not otherwise see in your neck of the woods. Each day, Tavour sends two notifications with featured beers that day that you can choose to add to your shipping crate. These beers vary based on your location, and they favor parts of the country that you may not often visit. We are located in Pennsylvania, and we saw a wide range of mid-west and west coast beers featured, including a number from Washington and even Alaska. The range of beer styles was impressive; everything from red ales to Belgians to triple IPAs were available. We ended up with a great selection including beers from the mid-west, west coast, and Alaska.

These were our picks:

img_2206(L to R: Oakshire Brewing Drop Bear IPA (OR; $8.99); BuckleDown Brewing Citra Clencher (IL; $4.00); Bale Breaker Bottom Cutter Imperial IPA (WA; $4.00); Anchorage Brewing Company Within Us Double IPA (AK; $6.99); Anchorage Brewing Company Pie Assassin IPA (AK; $6.50); Bale Breaker Fresh off the Farm IPA 5th Anniversary (WA; $3.50); Boxing Bear Brewing Co The Red Glove Imperial Red Ale (NM; $12.99)).

img_2673As you can see, our selection skewed more towards hoppy varieties; however, there were plenty of other styles featured in Tavour. One of our favorites of the group was the Red Glove Imperial Red from Boxing Bear. It nicely married the piney hop flavor with a light malt sweetness. It’s a gold medal winner from the GABF 2016 and well-deserved. The two varieties from Bale Breaker showcased a wide range of different hop varieties, perfect for hopheads like us. The Citra Clencher from Buckledown is the quintessential crushable summer IPA with a refreshing fruit-forward profile. Anchorage Brewing clearly has their IPA game on point; Pie Assassin offered a nice creaminess to balance the bitter and citrus notes, while Within Us gave us a hefty smack of dank and juicy hops. We also enjoyed the Drop Bear IPA which highlighted Australia’s Galaxy hop varietal; the adorable bottle art definitely didn’t hurt either. If you aren’t familiar with the dangers of drop bears, be sure to protect yourself if you are ever traveling down under.

img_2617Overall, we found that the beers were excellent, the shipping was quick and straightforward, and the selection was unrivaled. We’d recommend you giving it a shot if you are interested in finding some rare beers from other parts of the country. This program is an ideal fit for people who are open to spending a bit more for rare craft beer; while buying a case at your local beer shop of course is cheaper than using Tavour, you will not see the rare options if you only shop close by. It is free to sign up and is NOT a subscription service – you simply start a crate whenever you want. You pay for the beers as you add them to the crate and then you will be charged the flat rate once it ships ($14.90). They also have a nice referral program that can give you $10 in credits per friend referred, which goes a long way! **If you click on our referral link, you will also get a $10 credit once your first box ships.** FYI, be sure to have it shipped to an address where someone over 21 can sign for it (we used a work address).

Planning on trying Tavour, or have you tried it before? Let us know in the comments!

Cheers!

Bethany and Mike

Ella, You Had Me at Barrel-Aged Quad!

Beer release alert! Free Will Brewing Co. in Perkasie, Pennsylvania released some heavy hitters this Thanksgiving weekend – the Ella, a Belgian-style quad ale aged in apple brandy barrels, and the Ralphius, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. Ella and Ralphius are named after two of the brewers adopted dogs (awww!), and both are high gravity, barrel-aged animals with a serious kick. We didn’t want to spend our Saturday night on the floor, so we went for Ella tonight and will spend some time with Ralphius tomorrow.

When I saw that Ella was a Belgian style quad I started to get excited. However, when I saw it was barrel aged for one year in apple brandy casks and weighed in at 14.9% ABV, time stood still. To be fair, I haven’t met a barrel-aged quad that I didn’t like, but I must say that this beer is truly impressive. I expected an overwhelmingly alcohol-forward character with that high of an ABV, but the Ella’s complex and rich flavors play out much smoother than expected.

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Upon opening, the beer releases a very distinct nose of sweet Marsala wine and toffee. The first sip is smooth, decadent, and crisply carbonated. There is a hint of apple in the finish but mostly big roasty caramel flavors paired with sweet and earthy fig and raisin. This is a complex, well crafted beer that will go straight to your head. We can’t be alone in our assessment — this beer won gold in 2015 and bronze in 2016 at the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer (say what?! A trip to Chicago might be in order!).

Free Will is selling Ella and Ralphius in big 750ml bottles so get yours while you can (and find a friend to share it with….or not). Keep an eye out for our post tomorrow on the Ralphius. To see our other beer reviews, visit In Our Fridge.

Cheers!

Mike and Bethany

Ommegang Barrel Aged Three Philosophers 

In the realm of Belgian-style beers, the quadrupel is king. I love the big roasty malt flavors, the dark stone fruit nose, and the port-like finish. They are not for everyone though, and for many, one goblet will probably make you wobble a little bit. But what exactly is a quadrupel? If you are already well versed in the lexicon surrounding Belgian beers then go ahead and skip on down a paragraph or two. If not, allow me to bore you with useless knowledge that I read about in pretentious, pseudo-academic books about my favorite beverage.

The taxonomy of Belgian beers, more specifically Trappist beers, is often obscure, sometimes perplexing, and frequently random, but the quadrupel name has a simple meaning as do the dubbel and the tripel. In short, they are so named based on the potential alcohol content which you may see measured in terms of “gravity.” A beer’s gravity is the measure of how much sugar is contained in the wort before fermentation. It is not an exact measure of final alcohol content by today’s standards and fairly rarely used for that purpose. Traditional monastic breweries used the Belgian degree system but a more contemporary measure of gravity is expressed using the unit “Plato” which is something you may see on beer cans or brewery chalk boards on occasion. The Belgian degree and the Plato are not equivalent, but you get the idea.

So when it comes to Trappist beers you may frequently see numbers prominently displayed on labels. For instance, one of my favorite beers, the St. Bernardus Abt 12, has a specific gravity of roughly 12 under the Belgian system. You may also be familiar with the Rochefort 10 which is another high gravity quad. La Trappe originally coined the term quadrupel to describe a strong, dark ale and other breweries have followed suit. In general, it is simple enough to think of dubbels, tripels, and quadrupels in terms of increasing gravity respectively. Curiously though, dubbels and quads tend to be dark beers while tripels are golden in color – which I often experience as more yeasty and spicy. There is no real reason for this other than simple stylistic tradition. There is no reason that there couldn’t be a dark tripel or a golden dubbel. Some American breweries have started brewing lighter colored quads such as the Victory V12 which is a gorgeous deep amber quad as smooth as it is potent.

With all of that said the original Ommegang Three Philosophers has a great deal in common with the Abt 12. It has an unmistakably luxurious, dark cherry character that melds beautifully with the sweet malts. It is vinous in an intoxicating and pleasing way. You will not need any silly numbers or plato units on the label to know that this is a high gravity beer.

The Barrel Aged version takes the Three Philosophers to a whole other level of smoothness that is uncharacteristic of traditional Belgian, or Belgian-style quads. It retains its deep color and the strength of a Belgian strong ale but it is mellowed and rounded out by the casks. The dark fruit abdicates to the warming subtle notes of bourbon and tobacco. The head is lacy, luxurious, and thick. It is a refined and complex enough to be loved by quad drinkers but smooth and drinkable enough to be enjoyed by less experienced palates

The Barrel Aged Three Philosophers is a very limited release that first hit the market in February of 2016.  We were fortunate enough to be in Cooperstown, NY, home of the Ommegang Brewery, around that time for a beer festival and just happened to find this poured in their taproom. I fell immediately in love. I bought a couple of bottles and determined that I would make another pilgrimage the next year. We watched for the release and spent a cold and snowy weekend in Cooperstown to stock up again. Except for some very limited distribution to select retailers in NYC, it is only available at their brewery in Cooperstown beginning in late winter/early spring (which is still pretty much just winter in Cooperstown). If you can find some, it is a great beer to age in your cellar. I am trying to retain a bottle from each year to age if I can resist drinking it all tonight.

If you want to try to find some this coming February you can check out Ommegang’s beerfinder on their web page. If you do, let us know what you think.

Stoneface Brewing Co. Full Clip IPA

We weren’t quite sure what to expect when we walked into Un-Dun; your friendly neighborhood bottle shop/cigar shop/vape lounge/sex shop in Lebanon, NH. But we wound up finding a huge selection of unique New England beers. One in particular that the owner was raving about was the Full Clip IPA; a limited release from Stoneface Brewing Company in Newington, NH that he claimed was one of the best beers he’s had. Apparently distribution of this local favorite is so limited that he is only able to get one case at a time a couple of times per year. But you’re in luck if you live near Newington –   you can buy 4-packs of the good stuff right at the brewery.

After the glowing recommendation, we picked up a cold one and headed to a sunny lakeside picnic area in Pillsbury State Park to try out the Full Clip with a cigar and it definitely did not disappoint!  It is light and crisp with a pleasing aroma of grapefruit and pine which you can smell as soon as you pop the can. Stoneface added an English ale yeast to their flagship IPA recipe that brings a little peppery spice to the table.  The malts are very nicely balanced, not too sweet, and allow the hops to truly be the star of the show.

Bottom line: This is a great beer that left me wanting even more of those juicy, citrusy hops. If you love IPAs, this one will definitely not let you down.

In Our Fridge: Einstök White Ale

Put on your viking horns and get ready for a killer beer hailing from Iceland, the Einstök White Ale. After spotting the White Ale only twice before at different bars, I was incredibly excited to find this recently stocked at a nearby Wegman’s to imbibe at home. Einstök, which is derived from the Icelandic word for “unique,” is an up-and-coming brewery located near the northern coast of Iceland in the fishing village of Akureyri. At just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle and surrounded by rugged Icelandic mountain wilderness, Einstök brews with what must be some of the purest water on the planet – and it shows.

The White Ale is a traditional Belgian-style wit beer brewed with Bavarian Noble hops, Wheat and Pilsner Malts, and Oats. It is light-bodied, crisp and well balanced, but truly shines with its refreshing citrus and coriander finish that really got me hooked.  The addition of oats seems to smooth out the flavor and add more depth than the typical wit beer. I generally prefer higher gravity beers and do not often get very excited about wits, but this beauty truly stands out from the competition due to its clarity and brightness in flavor. At a modest 5.2% ABV you can drink these all afternoon without overdoing it.

Harness your inner viking.

Other offerings from Einstök include the Arctic Pale Ale, Doppelbock, Toasted Porter, and Arctic Berry. I really look forward to trying more from them and hopefully one day getting to Iceland to check out their brewery. Their slogan is “Drekktu, Sigradu, Endurtaktu!” – Drink, conquer, repeat! Sounds good to me.

If you see this beer, pick some up and let us know what you think. Don’t forget to check out our other beer reviews here.

Cheers!

Mike and Bethany

In Our Fridge: Victory V12

IMG_0948I have been wanting to try the Victory V12 for years; probably ever since I first developed the love for quads working at Sette Luna and drinking hefty doses of the legendary St. Bernardus ABT 12. The St. Bernie is one of my favorite beers of all time and it leaves you hesitant to stray to other quads.

Despite my loyalty to the ABT 12, I am finally trying this beer thanks to the fine selection over at Cork & Cage and I am definitely not disappointed. This is easily one of the most drinkable 12% ABV beers you can find. It differs greatly from the ABT 12, however, which is dark, noticeably sweet with hints of stone fruits. The V12 is more effervescent, with a deep amber hue and a dense head. And this beer is smooooooth! On the bottle it reads, “Liquid Luxury in the form of a Belgian-Style Quad,” and that is definitely a promise that delivers. The V12 has a silky, luxurious body and perfectly rounded flavor that coats your mouth with complex, baroque flavors. This is one of those beers that demands your attention and I guarantee that no matter what you are doing, you are going to stop to really process this one.

If you are new to quads this is a great jumping off point. It is noticeably different from the traditional Belgian style and has a flavor profile a little closer to a barleywine. But who the hell cares what you call it, this is an awesome beer!

Thank you, Victory, for this beauty!

Cheers!

Mike

 

In Our Fridge: London Balling

IMG_0738 (1)Thanks to Cork & Cage I have yet another unique beer from a brewery that’s new to me, Against the Grain. They are located in Louisville, Kentucky and it looks like they have a pretty cool brewpub and smokehouse. They have a huge list of beers, all with awesome can art. Tonight I am trying London Balling , their English-style barleywine that’s aged for three months in Angel’s Envy bourbon barrels.

You may have guessed this from the design of the can, but if you are looking for a refined, sophisticated barleywine, this is definitely not the beer for you. The London Balling is a giant punch in the face of deep, roasty, malty, bourbon barrel-aged booze. It is a massive 12.5% ABV, so the pounder I drank is more than enough for the average mortal.  They recommend drinking this right out of a can but I poured it into a goblet because I don’t like to be told what to do. It poured a deep amber color with a glowing cherry halo. The bold malts have hints of vanilla and the Nugget and Kent Golding hops pack a bitter punch that will finish off the heartiest of drinkers.

Overall, this beer is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you have a masochistic streak or are the type of person that loves a painfully powerful beer like Dennis Rodman longs for the sting of a new tattoo, then this might be the beer for you.

If you have been to the Against the Grain brewery we would love to hear all about it.

Cheers!

Mike