Lando, Crowlers, and Sour IPAs.

Lacto CalrissianTrust Lando Calrissian himself Mr. Billy Dee Williams:
“Pizza Boy Crowlers work every time!”

Before we begin… This post is about three things: The shelf life of Crowlers, Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), and Sour IPAs. I swear by the end this will all make sense and the three actually belong together.

The Crowler is wildly popular. It should be, they are great. I love picking up a new Crowler from either Al’s of Hampden or from ZerØday Brewing. I have purchased a Crowler from East End Brewing co. in  Pittsburgh and from St. Boniface Brewing in Ephrata. I generally keep a 32oz growler in my car. But with Crowlers, the need to keep a glass bottle rolling around the floor in the back of the car is somewhat abated.

Al’s of Hampden was the first in Central PA to get a Crowler, instantly it was a hit. The popularity of Crowlers became very apparent to me when Al’s Pizza Boy Brewing released Bourbon Barrel Aged Sunny Side Up Stout. It was a phenomenal beer. BBA Sunny Side Up was only sold on draft, which meant that you could have a glass at the bar or get a Crowler of it to take home. That was until Al sold out of all his cans. This led to some really pathetic bitching on social media by entitled beer drinkers.

Part of why the Crowlers sold out was a number of people buying 6, 8, 10, or 12 Crowlers to horde in stock or to trade. In December, I got into a bit of snit with some guys on Twitter that were talking about still having cans of BBA Sunny Side Up in their fridge. What are you holding on to beer in a Crowler for?

If you look today over at Beer Advocate you can see two people are still offering this beer for trade. In February it was four. FOUR. This beer was tapped nine months ago. These Crowlers have been sitting for nine months.

A quick check of Untappd shows that people are still regularly enjoying this beer at a bottle share or just pulling it out of the back of the fridge. This is nuts. These cans are sold as means by which to enjoy take home beer within a reasonable period of time (i.e. a couple days at most). Anyone that tells you they can go longer than a week or maybe two is just flat out lying. They are not for cellaring, storing long term, or used as a storage device to sustain a limited run beer for long periods of time until you can “win the trade” by getting some Bro’s “whalez.”  (THIS is my favorite link ever on the site.)

Buy the beer, take it home and then drink it. Enjoy it.

Crowlers are not like the beer version of freezing Han in Carbonite.

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“Yes. He is alive and in perfect hibernation. 

He will stay very fresh.”

Speaking of Lando… I wonder what it would cost for Billy Dee Williams to cut a Colt 45 like promo for Lacto Calrissian. It is a sour double IPA, also by Pizza Boy, and one of the best damn beers I have had so far in 2016. This lactobacillus bacteria “infected” ale has a depth of flavor few beers can match. There is citrus peel in the front end then a subtle alpha acid hoppiness along with some unique lime in the middle. The finish is both creamy and slightly sour as the lactic acid is more than evident in the beautifully bodied brew. The finish is strong and long lastingly pleasant, which is good because this 8.2 ABV ale has no alcohol burn and could sneak up on you like Greedo.

If you have a chance to swing by Al’s and get a draft of Lacto Calrissian I doubt you will be disappointed. And if you choose to take a Crowler of it home… Don’t sit on it.

Post Script Thoughts: Sour IPAs, like Tropical or Citrus IPAs, are hot right now; like Tatooine and her two suns hot. These twists on the the craft beer lover’s old stand by are showing that we are a long way from brewers running out of innovative ways to give us new and exciting styles. It is also a way to introduce sour beer to the skeptic. Both are good things.

In regards to the above mentioned people buying 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 Crowlers of BBA Sunny Side Up: Do what ever you want with your money. I have no complaint with you purchasing all that beer. I just find it ridiculous to horde a Crowler. That stuff has a serious risk of going bad. It has to be at risk of going flat. Please… don’t horde Crowlers.

Han shot first. There is no debate.

MS Paint FTW! I mean, just take in the work at the top of this page. Just look at it!

I am bit of a Star War’s geek… so this post was more fun than you can possibly imagine.

What’s In a Name? What’s In The Bottle?

 Troegenator Doublebock Beer Aged in Oak Barrels

There is a lot to unpack here… both inside and outside of the bottle

First the outside: The name of the company on the label, and on the cage don’t exactly match; never mind the actual logo.  Back in November Tröegs unveiled their new branding along with a new name.  What had previously been Tröegs Independent Craft Brewery is now Tröegs  Independent Brewing. I am sure future cork and caged beers will have a unified logo but right now its interesting to consider the two names and logos side-by-side.

In light of the slightly new moniker, the old one was a bit messy and too long.  The new name, Tröegs Independent Brewing, on the other hand is only three words and feels cogent in comparison.

The interesting part to me is the deletion of the word “craft.”  I see this as forward thinking.  With the craft beer industry maturing, what constitutes “craft” is becoming increasingly difficult to define. So much so that “craft” might now be meaningless beyond a somewhat arbitrary line regarding the number of barrels a brewery produces each year.

Contrastingly, “independent” is of growing importance and is both easily understood and defined. Brewers all over are either selling off to the “macros,” buying each other, merging or entering into loose confederations to stave off buyouts. In my opinion, the Trogner bothers appear to be making a statement about their company in emphasizing “independence” over “craft.” I really like and support this message.

The name of this specific beer is worth thinking about as well.  While it is wholly accurate to state that the Troegenator in this bottle is aged in oak barrels, it fails tell the whole story.  These were bourbon oak barrels. This caused a little bit of confusion during the announcement of this beer but it was easily cleared up on social media.

This ale has an obvious yet subtle bourbon element right from the moment you open her up.  Unlike some recent bourbon barrel aged beers I have enjoyed, this one is mellow right from the start and does not overpower your senses with boozy, hot, astringency. Instead, the bourbon follows the beer’s lead.  Troegenator is leading this dance and the bourbon is swept along; allowing the ale to show off.

That being said, the flavor is undeniably bourbon barreled with vanilla, some light coconut, and a sweet toasted/roasted maltiness.  Mouth feel is rich and full with very tiny bubbles that are slightly prickly on the tongue.  Dark fruit, nutty wood, and molasses notes come forward as the beer warms up along with a slight earthy tone.  Nose is sweet with a wood and charred edge from the bourbon barrels. The clear, deep red toned ale provides a very long and lasting finish.  That makes this a sipper despite no alcohol burn from the 10.8% ABV; it is stunningly smooth for a double digit beer.

This beer tastes like it is at peak performance right now but hints that it is prepared to age with the best of them.  Some bourbon barrel aged beers come out of the gate with a hot edge that needs years of rest to mellow out, thereby reaching full enjoyment only after cellaring.  This one is ready now and yet will continue to mature for years.

Post Script: Liz Murphy over at Naptownpint.com back in November wondered about the name change and thought there was little in the way of discussion about it.  I think the reasons for the name change, specifically “Independent” winning over “Craft,” are obvious and stated above. But in the end, my thoughts are simply speculation.

I wonder if the decision to not use the term bourbon on the label points to future iteration of a Splinter Troegenator but coming from the still under construction Splinter Cellar; not necessarily bourbon barrels.

It should be noted that last February’s release of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Troegenator (750 ml bottles) did not have the word bourbon on the front of the label either. I still have two bottles of this tucked away and might open one soon.

I’m sure there is some crazy Federal regulation against it but it would be cool if it was named Bourbon-nator. (Credit to Tierney for that one.)

Let Us Ignore the Fact that I Just Trashed Coffee Beers and Enjoy a Sunday Morning Stout

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Discerning craft beer drinkers can be a dismissive and an impolite bunch. The term “craft beer snob” can be a badge of honor when I turn down a Bug Light Lime; even a free one. Yet, it’s not a label I am comfortable with when I am drinking a craft beer that I find less than stellar. Brewers put lots of man hours and risk, financial and otherwise, into their craft. It’s hard for me to not always want to be supportive of the little brewery that could.

Even when I find a beer not exactly perfect, I frequently just chalk it up to not being to my taste.  De gustibus non est disputandum!  Unless a beer is so bad its clearly a failure or I have to pour it out I will give the craft brewer the benefit of the doubt.

I say this because over the past couple weeks as members of my beer drinking social media circle began trying Weyerbacher’s Sunday Morning Stout, a bourbon barrel aged coffee stout, I started to see a very serious and repeated trend: “Good but no KBS.” “KBS is still the best.” “KBS kills this.” “Meh, it’s not KBS.”

Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) is a world class beer, worthy of all the superlatives that are regularly gushed upon it. It’s a beautiful beer wonderfully crafted and if you are a fan of bourbon and/or bourbon barrel aged beers it is high on the list of must haves each year. Year in and year out, KBS sets a high standard for what bourbon barrel aged (BBA) beer can be.

After having a bottle the other night I can too say “Sunday Morning Stout is not as great as KBS.”  You see Founder’s brew is just transcendent.  It and its brother Canadian Breakfast Stout are highly regarded by beer snobs with good reason.

But the twist here is I liked it precisely for the ways in which it was not like KBS. In my opinion, KBS is best after a few years of cellaring. Its astringency goes way down; the bourbon’s burn takes time to mellow out. Given sufficient time, the coffee notes quiet with vanilla and oak taking over. It’s just a better beer even after at least twelve months rest.

In contrast, Sunday Morning Stout is ready now.  This is a stark contrast. It’s a fully matured ready to drink BBA beer today. Sunday Morning pours thick like a quart of motor oil and sits in the glass heavily. Held up to the light shows off this opaque beer has a slightly reddish brown hue at the meniscus with a thick greasiness that clings to the glass. In the parlance of wine tasting, this beer “has legs.” Even from a slightly vigorous pour I only got a short tan head. The nose is not boozy but simply offers a whiff of the bourbon and oak with a backdrop of fresh roasted coffee grinds. As the beer clings to the glass, so it does for you after a pull. This one is greasy as hell with an enjoyable mouth feel; not as thick as KBS but more than sufficient to remain true to style.

Coffee flavors play second fiddle to chocolate and roasted malts taking center stage. All the flavors you find are subtlety played here. Where the KBS plays tremolo the Sunday Morning is practicing portato. The bourbon barrel used with Sunday Morning brings out vanilla and caramel flavors; these are prominent in the finish while not evident at first. This is a beer that requires patience as as it opens with fresh air and dissipation of the refrigerated cold. As the beer comes up to temperature a warming astringency appears that is acceptable for this 11.3% ABV big beer.

So yes, this beer is no Kentucky Breakfast Stout. In some ways its better as its more welcoming and fully ready for its time in the spot light right now. It gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval.

Weyerbacher does big beers well. If you can’t get your hands on Sunday Morning Stout I also recommend picking up a variety case of Weyerbacher’s Big Beer. You will not be disappointed.

Troegs Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Flying Mouflan

Flying Mouflan

 

Troegs Bourbon Barrel Aged Flying Mouflan is the latest in the Troegs Splinter Series and is another fantastic release.

The beer pours an opaque dark brown with hints of red tones as direct light shines through. A tan head appeared as the beer was pours into a stemmed tulip glass and the very tiny bubbles dissipated quickly.

The aroma was of dried fruit covered in sweet caramelized sugars, bourbon and vanilla. As the beer warmed the nose became more prominent but never revealed the high 13.40% ABV.

Mild bourbon up front with a woody sweetness. Subtle flavors of nuttiness and caramel are not over powering but easily picked up. Dried fruit as is true to style is evident. Smooth from start to finish and never drinks as big as its booziness would suggest; it’s dangerous in that way.

The finish is long and invites a slow sipping experience. The thick body of this barley wine coats the palate and rewards those that take their time to fully enjoy all the complexity of this fine libation. The bourbon while pronounced never overpowers the base and is simply there to make all the best things about Flying Mouflan more pronounced. This is barrel aged beer done right.

The Splinter Series continues to be my most sought after beers and this one did not disappoint in the least. I laid three of the cork & cage bottled down in the cellar and hope to see what five, ten and fifteen years does to what is without a doubt a fine beer for cellaring. I seriously wavered about buying a four pack of these but they really are exceptional.

It gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval.