I am a big fan of Victory Brewing. Their offerings are usually excellent, and the Yakima Twilight is no exception to that general rule. It was maltier than I expected, almost chocolatey, but that is not a complaint. The malts are more prominent than the hops, but the hops are definitely present in a resinous sticky aroma and flavor. It is a complex and interesting beer, with a touch of smokiness, and well worth a tipple. This is described by Victory as an American Strong Ale, and at 8.7% ABV, it is certainly strong. It reminded me of a porter, albeit a hoppy porter. No matter how it is described, it gets an 8/10.
After my recent dipshittery concerning canned beer, I have made an effort to seek out other examples of craft beer in cans as a sort of penance.* I have picked up a few over the past couple of weeks, and give them the once over here.
The Phoenix Pale Ale from Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox was a tasty concoction. The toffee malts are balanced by the mild hops, with the hops a bit stronger on the tongue than in the aroma. This poured a beautiful clear amber, with a frothy but quickly dissipating head. There is no ‘WOW’ factor with this beer, but it is smooth and flavorful, and at 5.1% ABV, you can knock back a few. It has earned a spot at the back of the rotation, 6.5/10.
San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewing Company is not well known on the East Coast, but that should change soon as I am seeing their beers pop up in stores here more frequently. The Brew Free or Die IPA is smooth and mild, not too hoppy for a West Coast IPA, and the smoothness masks the 7.0% ABV. The hoppiness has a fruity aftertaste. Again, there is no ‘WOW’ factor with this beer, but it is another good one, 6.5/10.
Sweet Jeebus, this one knocked me on my ass. This was my last beer of the recent session with Mr. JK, and knocking back a beer with an 8.7% ABV when you are already pickled is not a smart idea. Drinking this was like getting cold cocked by Mike Tyson in his prime. I had another one for review purposes a few days later, and can report that the Oskar Gordon Ale is a fine beer. Hoppy and malty at the same time, the aroma and the taste are resinous, with a chewy mouth feel. You cannot drink many of these in a sitting, but the ones you do drink are enjoyable, 7.5/10.
*-Bless me, Father, for I have sinned
–What are your sins, my son?
-I made a misleading statement on the internet about canned beer
–Say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys, and drink three canned beers
Mr. JK emailed me on Saturday night with some interesting news. His son had become buddies with an exchange student from France, and the French student had smuggled in some unique cheeses (a raw milk cheese for starters) when he came to study in Bernardsville. As Mr. JK had been given a selection of these cheeses, why didn’t I come in to NYC on Sunday and try some? Sure thing, I said, as long as it was copasetic with Mrs. JK. Late Sunday morning I got the green light, all systems were go, so I hopped on the PATH, grabbed a few beers when I got to NYC, and headed to their apartment.
Mr. JK set out the raw milk brie type cheese (which felt like velvet on my tongue), a goat cheese rolled in ash (which was brilliant), and an interesting roquefort, among some others. He also made some salsa and hummus. Mr. JK is a gourmand, like me, and an excellent cook. I have never had a bad meal made by Mr. JK, although whatever he can make, I can make better, and he knows it. Enough about him, let’s get to the beer.
Although we had not coordinated beforehand, Mr. JK and I both picked up a couple of saisons for our afternoon of beer and cheese. The first one that we cracked open was the Weyerbacher Muse Farmhouse Ale. Mr. JK took one sip and said that he hoped I was going to pan it. I didn’t think it was that bad, but of the three saisons we sampled, it was the lesser of the group. The Muse poured a cloudy orange, with some herbs and orange zest on the tongue. Not awful at all, in fact it was quite drinkable, but it lacked the complexity I associate with saisons, and Belgian style beers in general, and it fell well short of the next two beers we tried. 5.5/10.
Jolly Pumpkin has an excellent reputation, and I was looking forward to cracking open this bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere Farmhouse Ale. I was not disappointed. It poured cloudy and orange, with that funky yeast aroma that I love, along with some coriander and lemongrass on the nose. I noticed some fruity flavors, apple and pear, and a very subtle hops bitterness. Mr. JK was less impressed with the Jolly Pumpkin than he was with the Weyerbacher, giving it a “three at best.” I disagree with him, giving it a 7.5/10.
We finally agreed on the Bruery Saison de Lente. This is the Bruery’s spring seasonal, and it is light and refreshing and perfect for a warm spring afternoon. It has a pillowy head that lasts to the bottom of the glass. I picked up some lemony notes in the aroma and the taste, with the subtle funkiness from the yeast adding some fennel seed flavors, all tied together by the flowery hops. I am not sure what Mr. JK gave it, but I am giving it a 8.5/10. After we kicked the saisons and the cheese, I accompanied Mrs. JK to the Post Office across from the Garden to help her mail some packages. We replenished our beer supply (reviews to come later) and got Mrs. JK some wine, and retired to the roof deck for drinks and laughs. I have been advised that any photos taken that evening of the participants are not to be published.
KA-BOOM! That is a Hops Hand Grenade on the the label, and there is certainly an explosion of flowery, resiny hops as soon as you pop the cap on the bottle of Troegs (there should be an umlaut over the ‘o’) Nugget Nectar. The hop explosion is perfectly balanced by some peachy and pear sweetness from the toasted malts. It had a beautiful fluffy head on top of a crystal clear pour. Very smooth drinking, despite the 7.5 % ABV. I paired this with some of JC’s finest pizza, topped with black olives and anchovies, and it was an outstanding combination. The Nugget Nectar gets an 8/10. This is apparently a rare one, and is only available for a limited time, so grab a bottle if you see it.
Marah has a new record coming out in a few months. In the meantime, check out this interview and performance from around the time Kids in Philly was released. You don’t have Kids in Philly? YOU DON”T KNOW WHO MARAH IS?!?!? Shame on you!
The V-Man is a serious softball player, and this past weekend he wanted to get some swings in at the batting cage. He was meeting some of his teammates, and not having anything better to do, I joined them. I first took some swings in the slow pitch softball cage, and while I was not smacking the ball around, I at least made contact on all ten balls. Granted, they would have all been weak grounders to second or short, what are known as ‘Double-Play Balls’, but at least the ball was put in play. I then took some cuts in the fast pitch softball cage. My performance there was sad. When I was done, the high school girls who were waiting their turn were all giggling, and I do not think it was because they thought I was cute.
After the spring training session, we retired to Just Jakes in Montclair for some beer and appetizers. Being the beer dork in the group, I was asked for advice on ordering. I suggested to a guy who liked Hoegaarden that he try the Leffe Blonde. He loved it. The rest of the group was choosing between the Victory Hop Devil or Long Trail Double Bag. The lone female in our group (who outslugged me in the batting cage by a considerable margin) deemed the Hop Devil to be “too perfumey” for her, and opted for the Double Bag. While I slightly disagree with her beer choice, I think “perfumey” is a good description of the Hop Devil. It has a serious hops aroma, which you notice before you take a sip. Hop Devil is another of my ‘go-to’ beers. This beer is damned good and eminently drinkable. It has enough hops ‘perfume’ to keep the beer snobs happy, and enough balance and flavor to entice the macro-beer drinkers in to giving it a try. 8/10.
The Victory Helios is a rebranding and repackaging of Victory’s Saison. The Victory Saison was my summer beer last year. It was a classic Belgian Farmhouse Ale, light, crisp and refreshing, with some yeasty sourness to make it an interesting brew. It does not seem like much has changed with the Helios, other than the bottle is no longer corked (Boo!) and the price has come down considerably (Huzzah!). It is still dry, crisp, refreshing and wonderfully complex, with notes of lemon peel and black pepper spiciness on the nose and on the tongue. 8.5/10.