August 27, 2016

Karben4 Fantasy Factory

Brewed By: Karben4 Brewing in Madison, Wisconsin  
Purchased: 12oz bottle from a 6-pack bought at Pueblo Food and Liquors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 2016 
Style/ABV: American India Pale Ale, 6.3%
Reported IBUs: ?

The best beers are the ones you stumble upon with little or no expectations. I was on a drunken pilgrimage in Milwaukee to celebrate my friend's upcoming foray into holy matrimony when our bachelor party discovered this hilariously labeled beer. Of course we bought it. 

Karben4 brewing is a brewery based out of Madison that was "founded by Appleton, WI natives." The brewery is run by brewmaster, Ryan Koga,and business entrepreneurs Alex Evans and Zak Koga. But more importantly, there is a cat riding a unicorn that is breathing fire on the label of Fantasy Factory. 

The beer pours into a hazy orange body, with lots of sediment just kicking around in the body of the beer. The head retention is on point, and there is plenty of carb. This is a murky beer with lots of crap floating around. Homebrew levels of's not even juicy. But I love that dank, raw execution. If they ever filter this beer I'll be sad.1

The aroma is on point with how the beer tastes, and hits deep resinous hops. This drifts into weed-land, with hints of bong smoke, and then drops a layer of Mosaic hops with tropical fruits and pineapple. I'm also thinking this is hopped with Nelson Sauvin, as it has a pretty grape-y aroma, with some white grapes and gooseberry. 
Karben4 Fantasy Factory

Malts are what you notice first, followed by the dank weed-like blast of hemp oil, bong smoke, grapes (instantly transporting me to my nostalgic first experience with Nelson Sauvin), and some tropical fruit. This has a pretty rich malt base that is reminiscent of a nice dry, yeasty/bready biscuit. It's kind of like drinking a biscuit blended with pineapple in your stoner brother's bedroom. If that sounds unappealing it ISN'T. This is delicious stuff...

If not for the resinous hop assault, this would be pretty juicy. It is juicy, but it also drifts into resin and bitterness. This is medium-bodied, and feels its weight at 6.3%. This is pretty much a new age West Coast American IPA through and through, with lots of resinous hop bite and biscuit malt up front, a shit load of tropical fruit and grape in the mids, and a bitter and drying finish that leaves l
ingering smashed pineapple and guava. There's some grapefruit and citrus in here as well.

Rating: Strong Above-Average (4.5/5.0 Untappd)

This is pretty good, as in if this was in my distribution area I would buy it regularly. This could rival Zombie Dust or War Bird or Gone Away as a daily drinker.

Random Thought: 
Master Musicians of Bukkake's album, Totem One, is a serious beast of an album.

August 22, 2016

Trappist Westvleteren 12 follow-up

I was gifted a bottle of the Trappist Westvleteren 12, and wanted to follow up with my previous Belgian Quad blind tasting. I figured I would do a more traditional review of the Westy 12, and compare it to one of the readily-available, American-import-Quad-stalwarts, the St. Bernardus Abt 12. 

The beers: 
Abt 12

St. Bernardus Abt 12
Brewed By: St. Bernard Brouwerij in Watou, Belgium  
Purchased: 750ml bottle bought at Costco in Chicago, IL; 2016 
Style/ABV: Belgian Dark Strong Ale, 10.5%
Westy 12
Reported IBUs: ?

Trappist Westvleteren 12
Brewed By: Westvleteren Abdij St. Sixtus in Westvleteren, Belgium
Purchased: 11.2oz/33cl bottle generously gifted to me (imported from Belgium); 2016 
Style/ABV: Belgian Dark Strong Ale, 10.2%
Reported IBUs: ?

The Westvleteren 12 definitely pours into more of a battered body. The beer is swampy, murky, reddish-brown, and could be confused for pond water. Admittedly, the aroma of the Westy 12 is a lot more appealing than the aroma of the Abt 12. The Westy 12 touches on dark raisins and prunes, plums and dark fruits, and hints of licorice. But the main aromatic character is the huge earthy aroma. I get a lot of tobacco, leather, chocolate, fruit bread, and molasses cookies. It's a complex, rich aroma. The beer tastes a lot more subtle than you would expect. It is a dry, complex, wine-like, boozy drink. You get the leathery notes, then the molasses and prunes/plums/dark fruits. The beer is vinous and earthy, with a medium-body and moderate carbonation. It finishes boozy and dry.

Rating: Strong Above-Average (4.5/5.0 Untappd)

The things I do on Saturday nights...
On the other hand, the St. Bernardus Abt 12 is like a nubile; filtered, ruby-red, and clean with good head retention (where the Westy 12 had virtually no head retention). The aroma is offensively sweet compared to the Westy 12. I jotted down "fruity, hefeweizen-like yeast." I was also picking up lots of bubblegum, banana, vanilla, clove, candy sugar, and perfume. The Abt 12 carries the aromas into the taste, with big cherries up front, followed by lots of stone fruits, banana, perfume/candy sugar, and some brown sugar. The beer is phenolic and sweet. The Abt 12 has a slightly fuller body, in my opinion, and does not finish as dry. It is a boozy beer.

Rating: Decent Above-Average (4.0/5.0 Untappd)

Realizing there is a lot of bottle/age variability, palate bias, etc., I'm happy to report that the Westy 12 fared better in a nuanced tasting than it did in my blind tasting. It is entirely possible that the Westy 12's subtle, dry character makes it a poor standout in a blind tasting. Compared to the Abt 12, the Westy 12 is considerably more complex and has a lot more nuance and depth. It's also more "mature," in terms of the overall flavor profile. 

Having said that, I'd still rather just buy a Rochefort 10 or a Ommegang Three Philosophers

Random Thought: I binged Netflix's Stranger Things this weekend, and I have no regrets. The show is a wonderful amalgamation of 80's tropes and nostalgia. It reminded me of recent films, The Guest, and It Follows (and to some extent, Super 8 and The Crazies). If you have an appreciation for 80's horror and sci-fi, you better get watching. 

December 21, 2015

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2015

Brewed By: Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago, Illinois
Purchased: 16.9oz bottle bought at Jewel-Osco in Chicago, IL; 2015 (bottled on 11/06/2015)
Style/ABV: Barrel-Aged Stout, 14.3% 
Reported IBUs: 60

Far be it from me to revive this blog to just make a post with my Bourbon Countries 2015 tasting notes. 

I have to say, I was ready to take the ideological position and jump ship after the 2014 release of Bourbon County. It was a little too fruity, had not nearly enough alcohol, and didn't stand out compared to the 2012 and 2013 vintages. I thought the coffee was the standout of the 2014 bunch, but it played into the beer's shortcomings. That was then, this is now. This year's release featured above-average Thanksgiving day temps, and people setting up tents (yes, tents) in front of Binny's two days in advance. This was followed by another wave of Bourbon County distro to the city (presumably Georgia's supply, suckers) with cases of this beer, including Rare, sitting on shelves at Jewel-Osco and the like. 

Anyway, who cares about politics and beer drama...
with filter...

Bourbon County pours opaque and black like every other fucking Imperial Stout, and especially those in the wheelhouse of barrel-aged. That dark brown head gives way to a mostly tepid and anti-carbed beer, all is well in the land of appearances. 

This has sick nose, bruh, with liquid brownie sweetness, macaroons, coconut, raisins and dark fruits, coffee, Muscovado sugar, biscotti, and chocolate-dipped churros. The barrel and bourbon and alcohol come through on the nose -- all in moderation. 

I really wanted to write this review to simply say that who needs variants when the regular is so good this year. This is insanely tasty and rich, and drops insta-liquid-brownie on the palate from the onset. The back end hits you with lingering chocolate thickness, chocolate-dipped churros, and growing bourbon heat and lovely spirit and barrel character. This is a wild ride of bourbon, brownie batter, dark fruits/raisins, macaroons, coconut, coffee, and Muscovado.

No Filter!
The 14.3% feels DIALED IN. This is a thick beer, but by comparison and in 2015 is also incredibly smooth and balanced and maybe even lighter compared to other comparable beers. What I like here is the presence of bourbon, and the presence of alcohol. For bourbon lovers, this is where beer is at. The 16.9oz bottle format is something I strongly oppose because I like 4-packs; but the format is growing on me. It means you get a little more beer to push this experience over-the-top if you are flying solo, and it means you'll have 8oz to yourself if you decide to share. 

Rating: Divine Brew (5.0/5.0 Untappd)

I'm feeling a Strong 
Divine Brew on this. This is the best Bourbon County vintage in a long time, and surpasses the 2014, 2013, and 2012 releases. Also, in terms of the diminishing price versus beer returns, I find the regular Bourbon County 2015 to be a better investment than Rare. Rare was different, and offered something that you can't find here, but at $60+ a pop the price per ounce is so hard to justify. 

Random Thought: Where to go from here?