Cruisin for a Geuzin II: Up a Kriek

A little over one year ago, myself and some other tasters in Chicago gathered for a bit of a bottle share experiment, called Cruisin for a Geuzin. The bottle share was inspired by a few questions. Is Lambic better than great American Wild Ales? In a blind setting, could tasters tell the difference? And of the Lambic available, did hype and reputation really equal better taste?

In a field that included Lou Pepe Gueuze, multiple years of Cantillon classic gueuze, Drie Fonteinen bottles, vintage Cable Car, Duck Duck Geuze, Jester King, New Glarus, and even an Upland, the bottle with the highest average rating was an aged $12 shelf bottle of Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene.

With the first attempt successful, we circled back around one year later to revisit the same concept, this time with Kriek Lambic and Cherry American Wild Ales. To find some level of uniformity, we decided upon the following rules for bottle eligibility

  • Beer must include cherries. No specific variety required. No other adjuncts permitted, ie: Cherry+Raspberry, Cherry+Vanilla.
  • Style should originate as geuze/lambic or American Wild Ale. Saisons also welcome
  • Flanders style, oud bruins, goses, and berliners are not permitted.
  • Each submission should be at least 750ml. Submission may be 2x 375s

Each bottle was decanted into a pitcher outside the sight of anyone rating. Each rater logged their rating with a Google Form built for the event, where tasters rated the bottle between 0-5, and could guess from the known bottles in the field, what beer they were drinking.

Captain
The Captain distributing pours. Much appreciated for all the work she put in uncorking bottles and filling glasses for 5 hours

With that out of the way, here’s the final rankings. Ratings were normalized from the blind ratings from 9 tasters. Tasting took about 5 hours from the first bottle to the finish

Normalized Rankings

 

Another one for HORAL

Paralleling last years results, an inexpensive bottle of Timmerman’s Oude Kriek Lambicus won, rather decisively. The date on the back was listed as 2013, which I’m uncertain if that’s a brewed date or a bottled date.

The Top 5 was dominated by Lambic including Cantillon Kriek, two bottles of Drie Fonteinen, which scored oddly similar, despite being drank nearly 4 hours apart, the only Scharbeekse cherry variety from Hanssens, and a lone De Garde bottle.

Medal Stand
The Top 3 Up A Kriek bottles. Originally Intense Red was #2 before we normalized the data, which then flipped with #3 Cantillon Kriek

Facts and Observations

  • Pour size was about 2oz per person, which left a good amount of beer for resampling, and cuvees after the results we announced
  • Total corks that hit the ceiling: 0
  • The bottle with the highest secondary value in the field, Kriek du Fermier finished in the top half of the field, behind 5 beers that have been readily found on shelves, at least in Chicago.
  • De Garde’s Kriek Premiere faired quite a bit better than The Kriek
  • Of the tasters, the highest correctly guessed bottles were 5 total by one person
  • Upland Cherry didn’t do as bad as forum commenters would probably have predicted. In fact, one taster even guessed the Upland bottle was a Cantillon Kriek
  • One taster correctly identified Belgian or American origin on 22 of 23 bottles, the incorrect guess? Mistaking Upland for a Loon.
  • Bottle Count:  Belgian- 13, American- 10 (if you include New Belgium’s 50/50 collaboration with Oud Beersel as American)
  • Yes, we did create a kings cup of 23 kriek beers. It was absolutely great.
Kriek
Apparently our wordplay was already used for an average beer years ago. This one was not in the field

2018 Dark Lord Variant Predictions

Here we are, back again for another spring foray into Munster, Indiana. I personally took last year off from Dark Lord Day to attend Mikkeller Beer Celebration, so after the one year hiatus, I’m returning, just as the weather appears to again return to traditional terrible spring midwest weather. This years list is the largest quantity of variants topping 2016’s ten variants, with 11 this year.

Last year during my absence I decided to take a look at the variant list as it was released and made predictions about the variants I thought would likely work, which would not and which would be most popular from a secondary market stand point. I’m by no means an authority on great beers. I’m just a ticker that has drank some good Dark Lords, and lot more bad Barrel-Aged Dark Lords. You didn’t come for the opening diatribe. You’re here for the unsubstantiated beer opinions.

darklordday1
Port, a beat up de Muerte, fortified wine, and BVDL. It’s like we get to relive 2014 all over again!

 

2018 Barrel Aged Dark Lord Variant Ranking Predictions

  1. Marshmallow Handjee — Bourbon barrel aged Dark Lord with vanilla beans
  2. ChemTrailMix — Dark Lord aged in rye barrels with cinnamon + pink peppercorns
  3. Hung Drawn N Quartered — Rye barrel-aged Dark Lord
  4. Cavaliero of Varnov  Oloroso sherry aged Dark Lord
  5. Spaceforce! — Dark Lord aged in Pineau Des Charentes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
  6. French Vanilla Militia — Dark Lord aged in Sauternes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
  7. Greatest Teachable Moments — American brandy barrel with verbena, ginger + orange peel
  8. Brotilla  Carcavelos aged Dark Lord
  9. Lounge Against the Macromachine — Tequila barrel with Mekong cinnamon, cocoa nibs, guajillo peppers + tangerine peel
  10. Brozerker — Ruby port aged Dark Lord
  11. Turtledogg – Scotch barrel-aged Dark Lord

mods done
Just like the original winged skull of Three Floyds, and Barrel Aged variants, less is more. Clutter is whatever this is.

Variant Breakdown Analysis
Reminder, these are predictions, not tasting notes. Tick them yourself and let me know how wrong I was @Ferowcious

Marshmallow Handjee — Bourbon barrel aged Dark Lord with vanilla beans
This is the undisputed king of Dark Lord variants since 2011. It’s consistency is relatively unmatched for having so many iterations come out of the Three Floyds Barrel Warehouse which has it’s share of infected stouts. This is really the king until it is unseated. I know FVM 2016 made a good run but this is still the gold standard.

Hung Drawn N Quartered — Rye barrel-aged Dark Lord
This is the first time a Rye barrel has made an appearance in the Dark Lord variant history. There’s no regular Bourbon Dark Lord this year which is unfortunate, as it is a reliably great variant. Rye treatments have shined with a lot of great stouts and I expect that to continue here. No adjuncts present to blow this party up, which should make this a variant to stand out for its purity, even if it doesn’t have a lot of flash.

Spaceforce! — Dark Lord aged in Pineau Des Charentes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
Pineau des Charentes barrels made appearances in 2016 on 2 different variants, Legio Gemina, and Temeculan 3000 (often regarded as the worst Dark Lord variant of all time.) I’m staunchly against fortified wine barrel Dark Lord variants, just due to history. Dark Lord is such a brutal sickeningly sweet stout on it’s own, it doesn’t need an overly sweet barrel. This variant has quite a tempting roster of adjuncts that would rightfully raise some eyebrows. I think this variant will struggle to satisfy the way even French Vanilla Militia 2017 did with the great adjuncts and the challenging sweet moscatel barrel.

ChemTrailMix — Dark Lord aged in rye barrels with cinnamon + pink peppercorns
Last year I suggested “ChemTrailMix would seem to me to be the biggest risk/reward bottle.” The rewards were legitimate as ChemTrailMix still remains the 2nd most popular variant from 2017. It looks like this variant was met only with a tweak from Bourbon barrels to Rye. Probably positive moving from the sweeter Bourbon to the more spicy Rye. ChemTrailMix should continue to be a can’t miss as the legend of this variant grows.

French Vanilla Militia — Dark Lord aged in Sauternes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
French Vanilla Militia 2016 was a revelation that challenged the BVDL throne. FVM 2017 was the beer that reminded us why Moscatel Dark Lord only need to be made once. Three Floyds is going back to the sweet wine well on FVM again. Historically Trump and Pump, which was also a Sauternes barrel is only slightly below average. Look for a small improvement over FVM 2017, but the greatness of FVM 2016 just gets further in the rear-view.

Lounge Against the Macromachine — Tequila barrel with Mekong cinnamon, cocoa nibs, guajillo peppers + tangerine peel
No Dark Lord de Muerte this year? Really unfortunate as that variant has improved greatly in the last 2 years over early iterations. Instead this year they threw guajillos into a Tequila barrel, found some other pastry fan boy adjuncts and unleashed this upon the world. After suffering through Westbrook Tequila Mexican Cake, I don’t have high expectations here. Tequila is just a tough barrel variant to get done well. I think I’ve had probably 2-3x as many good tequila barrel aged wilds/sours as I have any other style. Occasionally there are great ones like Firestone Walker PNC, but those seem to be the exceptions, not the rule.

Greatest Teachable Moments — American brandy barrel with verbena, ginger + orange peel
On one hand, this sounds like a refreshing light attempt at brightening up the sticky sweetness of Dark Lord. On the other hand, this feels like the Earl of Biggleswade’s niece, with ginger and verbena flowers substituted for cocoa nibs and cardamom. Outstanding name, but what will we learn?

Cavaliero of Varnov  Oloroso sherry aged Dark Lord
This is the first sherry barrel Dark Lord variant. I think the dry qualities of the Oloroso could be very conducive to making a great variant. I’d like to think this will be better than Moscatel Dark Lord and probably Portugese Brandy Dark Lord as well.

Brozerker — Ruby port aged Dark Lord
2013 introduced the world to Port Dark Lord. The peeps have not been clamoring for more. To date, 2013 fresh Port Dark Lord is the sweetest variant I’ve had. Dark Lord just doesn’t lend itself to doing sweet wine barrels very well. We didn’t need this variant again. We also didn’t need Speed 2: Cruise Control, and yet, the universe gives.

Brotilla  Carcavelos aged Dark Lord
Another Portugal regional fortified wine barrel. I’d love to pretend I didn’t have to Wikipedia this style, but I have too many vices already to get locked up in the minutiae of learning minor Portuguese wine regions. Carcavelos wines are described as dry, topaz colored wines with nutty aromas and flavors. Rest assured this is still a sweet wine, just allegedly not as much so as Port.

Turtledogg – Scotch barrel-aged Dark Lord
Is Scotch whisky your thing? Maybe this will be for you. This beer went through an interesting resale path last year with the Ardbeg barrels. There didn’t seem to be a lot of bottles that moved, but the ones that moved early had a huge secondary price tag, then seemingly everyone that wanted one, had one and that was the last we heard from Dia Oscuro. We don’t know what source these Scotch barrels are from. Will they be brutally peaty Islay or will it be more subdued and approachable to beta whiskey palates? Great approachable Scotch barrel stouts are not common. I wouldn’t start betting on it to work here.

 

Enjoy Dark Lord Day. Remember, you can’t drink enough water, but if you have the choice, the BA Water is best.water

 

Goose Island Clybourn Brewhouse Wax Color Guide

Time after time I’ve seen people combing through their cellars struggling to figure out what Goose Island Brewpub bottle they have.

Goose Island’s original Brewpub previously started 750ml bottle releases in 2013. The bottle art has changed but one thing has not, the name of the beer is never on the bottle. The only way to differentiate beer from beer is the wax colors.

Below is a list of previous Goose Island Brewhouse (formerly known as Goose Island Clybourn) bottle releases sorted by name, description and wax color of the bottles. This list only does not include Proprietary or Vainglorious, but does include Night Fights

Last Updated: 4/5/18

Beer Name Description Wax Color Example
BA Big Lazy Joe Imperial brown ale with coffee aged in bourbon barrels Red  Big Lazy Joe
BA Impervious Imperial stout with coffee Olive Khaki  BA Impervious
Big Train Imperial Rye Porter aged for 10 months in Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve barrels Dark Cream Big Train
Brettanomite Sour wheat that was aged 13 months in oak barrels Yellow Brettanomite
Cherry Run Wheatwine aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrels and finished with Tart Cherries Pink Pearl Cherry Run
Cthulhu Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in an 18 year Elijah Craig Barrel Periwinkle Blue Cthulhu Blue
Cthulhu Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in an 18 year Elijah Craig Barrel Copper Cthulhu Copper
Dark Crusader Imperial stout aged in Woodford Reserve barrels Lavender Purple Dark Crusader
Double Date Belgian Quad aged for 10 months in 12 year Elijah Craig barrels. Black Double Date
Flanders Red Flemish red ale aged in wine barrels
Brick Red Flanders Red
Grimm Vicar Belgian Dark Abbey Ale aged 2/3 in red wine barrels and 1/3 in bourbon barrels. Black Sparkled Grimm Vicar
Ground Control Barrel aged strong ale Matte Silver/Gray Ground Control
Night Fights Raspberry Impervious Lilac, light purple Night Fights.jpg
Nutulhu Hazelnut Oatmeal Stout Bright White Nutulhu
Silver Jubilee Double Pale Ale Forest Green Silver Jubilee
Yellow Umbrella Description Yellow Yellow Umbrella

Photos courtesy of Untappd

Additional Notes

  • There was 2 releases of Cthulhu, but they are the same beer from the same aging period. Copper is the first release, and the Periwinkle Blue is the second.
  • Yellow Umbrella and Brettanomite are both Yellow wax. If the bottle has a 25th anniversary logo on it, it’s Brettanomite, if it doesn’t, then its Yellow Umbrella
  • BA Impervious, Big Train, and Ground Control all kind of a vague brown/gray/green going on. They can easily run together so check them closely if you’re unsure. A lot of photos make those wax colors look different depending on how well lit they are.

2018 March Madness Bottle Share Tournament Preview

The 2018 Tournament Bracket is live, with the event less than a day away.

Who are your picks? Who is the Cinderella to watch for? Does a stout or dark beer take the title for the 4th year in a row? This years field includes entrants from 4 countries. A selection of the pastry-est stouts going today, world class lambic, incredible coffee beers, and an event that’s always filled with surprises.

Details of the event including format and rules and previous winners can be found in the links

Download the PDF here: 2018-MMBST-Bracket-FINAL

The full bracket is below, but the PDF above is easier for zooming into regions

MMBST Bracket Final

Every year we change the theme for region names. In the past it has been favorite Facebook beer groups, friends who have participated but not been able to join, and beer cliches. This year our theme we’ve chosen is Beer Fests we personally have been to and like. Note, there is no specific connection to beers in each region with the Region Name. It’s merely done to throw in some color rather than calling them East/West/Midwest/South. With that out of the way, here’s a short breakdown of the regions.

Great Taste Region

Great Taste of the Midwest

The #1 overall seed Prop 14 looks to have a good potential run through to the Elite 8. The bottom of the region is clustered with impressive coconut beers and 2 great stouts out of St. Louis breweries. This region features only 2 wilds and is the most stout heavy. Two Fremont beers are represented in this region, including Coconut B-Bomb, descendant of 2015 winner Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb. Look for Prop to get toppled by the fresher coconut energy of Coconut B-Bomb to take the region.

Wakefest Region

Wakefest

The Wakefest region is lead by Shared Mexican Coffee Shop Vibes and Willet Bourbon Mexican Cake. This region includes 3 wilds.  There’s a pair of Rum barrel beers with Rum Black Tuesday and J Wakefield Darkbier. Though one of my own personal bottle submission is in this region, I strongly think Omnipollo BA Extra Maple Lorelei will be the star of this region.

FOBAB Region

FOBAB

This region is headed up by the highest ranked wild in the event, 2015 Fou Foune, and an old classic, Chocolate Rain ’14. This region has the biggest cluster of wilds with 6, and has the only IPA in the field with the freshly canned You’re Derek Jeter from The Veil. This region has the only 2 lambic bottles in the field. This is also probably the most diverse region as every beer is very much different in style or adjuncts. I’m a little biased, but I think Fou Foune takes the bracket. If Hommage can break out of its first round 3-way matchup, it might pose the biggest threat to take the FOBAB region from the #1 seed.

Mikkeller Beer Region

Mikkeller Beer Celebration

One of the hottest beers of February from Modern Times leads the way with #1 Modem Tones followed by Central Waters XX. This region includes 3 wilds including 3 of the best American Wild Ale producers in the country, Side Project, Holy Mountain, and De Garde. This region feels like the most wide open of any of the regions. This feels like region where a Hailstorm Maple BA Vlad could sneak through and go on a deep run. The relatively unknown Cycle Brinner with its maple and coffee might be able to over power the less adjunct laden Medianoche, and XX. With that being said, Vanilla has done exceptionally well in previous years including last years Champion, Grimm Sumi Ink, so I’ll take the chalk Modem Tones to come out of this region.

Biggest Potential Upsets

  • BA Cocoa Shake has a relatively small amount of reviews and is kind of an unknown. If I had to pick a #9 seed, BA Cocoa Shake beating Modem Tones Vanilla would be the one
  • In the 2-7 matchups, the biggest potential upset I see is You’re Derek Jeter beating Chocolate Rain. Through the years, we’ve found that new beers previously not had by the group have generally outperformed against beers that people have had previously. While a hoppy beer has never won a March Madness Bottle Share Tournament match, the combination of The Veil’s You’re Derek Jeter being released 4 days before the event and being ridiculously fresh, and a triple IPA at 10% could stand up to the enormous 18% and well known and traveled Chocolate Rain.
  • From the 3-6 matches I like the potential of the coconut lead Benthic surprising the Coffee rarity Perennial BA Sump. Though I’m picking Omnipollo BA Extra Maple Lorelei to win it all, I would not be shocked if the sneaky underrated J Wakefield/Bottle Logic Rum Matusalem Dark Bier pulled off the upset
  • Looking at the 4-5-8 three way matchups, these are always challenging and historically don’t have a lot of upsets from the low seed.  If I had to pick a #8 to move on past the challenging three ways, I’d go with Hill Farmstead Works of Love: Tired Hands, if its nuance and balance can stand the test of 3F and the DFPF/Miami Madness Cuvee de Wakefield, it might make it to another lambic match against Cantillon Fou Foune.

Want to follow along with the action? Posts on social media will have the hashtag #MMBST