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Welcome to my blog, thanks for stopping by. The focus of this is to document my adventures in the world of craft beer. You can find me on BeerAdvocate as well. The blog as a whole can be found by scrolling down below this sticky post

For 2011, I decided to try my hand at 52 Beers in 52 Weeks. I do a post on a special beer I try each week, take a picture and review it. It can be found here: 52 Beers in 52 Weeks

I am also randomly doing posts as I pull beers out of the cellar, or get to try certain beers that have been aged. Those posts are compiled here: Cellar

Anything else that pops into my head I will post here: Other

I am putting together ideas of posts to do in 2012, I might do something like a different style for every month, or just keep the 52 Beers in 52 Days thing going, and suggestions are appreciated. You can reach me on twitter (@russwbeck) or at russwbeck (at) Thanks again!

Week 52: Upland Raspberry Lambic

Here it is! Wow Week 52. It feels like I just started this madness. I’m going to do a 52 Beers in 52 Weeks in review post, so I won’t get all nostalgic here!

I had a real treat over Christmas to include as my final week: Upland Raspberry Lambic. The Upland Brewery began in 1998 in Bloomington, Indiana, their story can be found on their website:

The name “Upland” comes from the Norman and Crawford Uplands, the term geologists gave to our area of southern Indiana, which was never overrun by the glaciers that flattened much of Indiana’s landscape. The raised highlands or “uplands” remained untouched, resulting in a region of rugged, heavily wooded hills and hollows. The land was beautiful but poor, and life was not easy for early settlers. This adversity bred independent thinkers who had strong wills, a connection to the land, and a wry sense of humor about life. Our approach to brewing beer honors the spirit of these people and this place.

Their series that includes sours is a pretty difficult get in the beer world. I’ve been lucky enough to try the Peach Lambic, and decided to spring for the Raspberry when the opportunity presented itself.

Muddy red pour with a very fizzy pink head. No retention or lacing at all. The head gushed out of the bottle a bit upon popping the cork. Very oaky smell with a nice amount of raspberries and barnyard funk mustiness. The balance is quite nice, but seems to be a bit on the sour side 4. On the taste the oakiness seems to hide underneath the funk and raspberries. The fruit isn’t particularly strong, as this seems to be a bit more funky than anything else. I very much like how the taste develops: fruity, then a lot of funk that finishes off the taste dry with oak and booze throughout. The body is medium with an extremely dry finish. Perhaps a bit over carbonated, as shown with the gushing bottle (that I remember, in hindsight, occurred with the Peach Lambic I had before). The bite of sour-ness I didn’t find offensive at all. This was very good. I thought it would be a bit more fruity, but the overall taste is well above average. Easily enjoyable, very glad I tried it.

4.38 / 5

Week 51: The Bruery 4 Calling Birds

The beer for this week revisits a brewery I reviewed very recently: The Bruery. In Week 47, I got into some Black Tuesday and Chocolate Rain. This week I got to taste their yearly addition to a 12 Days of Christmas Vertical: 4 Calling Birds. This is, obviously, the 4th in a set of 12. The first of which is one of the most difficult beers to find on the planet.

Rustico Ballston, in Arlington, VA offered the beer on Cask and Tap for their 2011 Festivus Celebration (yes there was an aluminum pole, but no Feat of Strength or Airing of Grievances). I obliged and tried both!


Black pour with a small light brown head without much lacing. Retention isn’t that good. Really spicy smell with a pumpkin like malty aroma. It has an edge to it that isn’t quite alcohol, but it reminds me of it. Not all that pleasant an aroma overall. The taste is a lot more like a spicy pumpkin ale than I was expecting. Malt forward, the taste is a bit disjointed. Can’t say I see this lasting 8 years to complete the 12 Day of Christmas Vertical. Light body, carbonated well. Not great by any means and I don’t see how it’s going to last. Big miss for me.

3.45 / 5


Less head than the tap version, still no lacing. The aroma is a bit more balanced. Sweeter, less spicy. The taste follows the smell in being more balanced. The cask makes this a lot better, my guess is the barrel aged version would actually be pretty good as the barrel effects seem to curb the sub-par taste of the beer. The body is heavier, with less carbonation. Something I would expect from a cask offering. I enjoyed it a lot more this way, which surprised me. Still a bit disappointed overall.

3.98 / 5

Lagunitas Brewing Company got themselves into an interesting predicament this year, as they failed to have the capacity to brew their final seasonal. So, what did they do? Create one of the best beers released in 2011! Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale, now being repackaged as Holiday Leftovers Ale, sold out the second it hit the shelves across the country, and for good reason. Lagunitas was founded in 1993 in Lagunitas, California and has since moved and increased their capacity significantly as they’ve created some of the best selling beers not only in California, but in the entire US. The description on the bottom of the 6pack is hilarious, stories like this are what they’re known for.

This sad holiday season we didn’t have the brewing capacity to make our favorite seasonal brew, the widely feared BrownShugga’ Ale. You see we had a couple of really good years (thank you very much) and so heading into this season while we are awaiting the January delivery of a new brewhouse we are jammin’ along brewing 80 barrels of IPA and PILS and such every 3 hours. A couple of months back we realized that since we can only brew a mere 60 barrels of Shugga’ every 5 hours, that we were seriously screwed. For every case of Shugga’ brewed, we’d short 3 cases of our favorite daily beers. It’s a drag. This year, we brewed something that we think is also cool and brews more like our daily brews. The new brewhouse will help insure this kind of failure never happens again. It’s a mess that we can not brew our BrownShugga’ this year and we suck for not doing it. There is nothing cool about screwing this up this badly and we know it. Maybe we can sue our own sorry selves. There is no joy in our hearts this holiday and the best we can hope for is a quick and merciful end. F*@& us. This totally blows. Whatever. We freaking munch moldy donkey butt and we just want it to be all over…
Amazingly clear yellow pour with about a finger of white head. The retention could be better, but what does stick around laces nicely down the side of my Russian River -tion glass.
The aroma is of piney hops with mango type fruits underneath. Very tropical and floral smell. Only a slight malt backbone.
The piney hops start the taste off big and bitter, and give way to the mango, pineapple, perhaps grapefruit middle. The end is all hop bitterness and perhaps some malts for balance. The taste is certainly hop forward, but the amount of fruit curbs the bitterness wonderfully.
Light body, this one is extremely crisp and easy drinking. One of the most drinkable beers I've ever had.
I can see why this has the hype it does. This beer is phenomenal. It's so drinkable and crisp I can't put it down. The hops and fruits are perfect.

4.6 / 5

Week 49: Bell’s Black Note Stout

Way back in Week 5 I previewed Bell’s Brewery when I had their famous IPA, Hopslam. This week I’m going to profile another sought after offering of their’s, Black Note Stout. For the second consecutive week, the beer I focus one I will have had at Churchkey in DC. They got the only keg to hit the DC, Northern Virginia area, so I thought it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

Pitched as one of the most sought-after stouts in Bell’s history, Black Note is a blend of Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout aged since 2010 in Old Forester Bourbon Barrels. It was released in bottles at the brewery only, and scant kegs made it to exclusive accounts only across the US. Coming in at 11.5% ABV, the beer cost $7 for a 10oz pour.
Viscous black pour with a small brown head. What does stick around laces decently.
The aroma is extremely well balanced. Bourbon and some booze up front, but a lot of chocolate balance it out. Roastiness, I'm guessing coffee, hides in the shadows. Making it's presence known when you need it.
The taste follows the smell wonderfully. The bourbon is up front, but chocolate and booze quickly provide balance and body, before roasty coffee takes over the backend. The balance is there, the flavor profile develops nicely on the palate, and overall the taste is far above average.
The body could have been a bit fuller, at times I believed it was too watery, still medium to heavy overall. Booze is noted, dry finish.
Delicious, certainly lives up to the hype. Balance is enough to make it great. The bourbon is not too intrusive. I thought it was very drinkable. Happy to have had the chance to try this.

4.38 / 5 A

Most recent batch of 4 Seasons, an IPA that changes basically every time Matt brews it. Experiences can differ significantly.
Hazy orange pour with more than 2 fingers of white head. The lacing down the side of my Founders Brewing Company glass is beautiful and the retention is great.
The aroma is extremely fruity, and a bit metallic. Floral overall, the hops hint towards pine. The fruits are very citrusy, more so grapefruit than orange.
Like the smell, the taste is completely focused on the grapefruit. A piney hoppiness rests in the background, but is only an afterthought to the big citrus fruitiness. That slight metallic aroma is seemingly present on the backend of the taste. It isn't unpleasant, but I don't particularly like it.
Medium body, carbonated well, dry hop finish. This beer drinks really well.
I enjoyed it, but it could have been better. I like that it was less about the hop bitterness and more about hop fruitiness. It's an approach you seem to see less and less.

Review: Columbus IPA
Hazy deep orange pour with a bit more than a finger of white head. A lot of lacing runs down the side of my Founders Brewing Company goblet, but the retention isn't great.
The smell is not as hoppy as I was expecting, but the balance between that and some citrus is quite good. The fruits are more in focus on the smell. Grassy hops, with slight pine, take care of the bitterness. Perhaps a slight malt sweetness in there as well.
Again, the fruits take the forefront here. I think it's a nice change, but I do find it to be a bit watery. Certainly more grassy than floral, and a lot of citrus, over grapefruit, is coming through. Nice light hop bitterness on the end.
Light body and lower carbonation with a dry finish.
Pliny of the East? No. Troegs Perpetual is better. This is very good, but to say it's on the same level as Pliny is simply not true.


Avery has been producing craft beers in the beer mecca that is Boulder, Colorado since 1993 and has done nothing but increased production ever since. Churchkey in Washington, DC held a tap-takeover for the craft brewery, and I took advantage of the opportunity. Among a ton of great beers, three different takes on the brewery’s imperial stout were available, and became the focus of Week 48.

Mephistophele’s Imperial Stout is “the crafty shape shifter, the second fallen angel,” according to Avery’s website, “amazingly complex, coal black, velvety and liqueurish, this demon has a bouquet of vine-ripened grapes, anise and chocolate covered cherries with flavors of rum-soaked caramelized dark fruits and a double espresso finish. IBUs 107.” Let’s see what I think

First up was a side by side pairing of the 2010 (brewed 10/2/10, 16% ABV) and 2011 (brewed 11/12/11 15.1% ABV) vintages.

This had a way better head than 2011, brown pour with small lacing and good retention.
Balanced aroma. Booze, chocolate, coffee. The coffee is really the focal point, which surprises me considering the age.
The taste is a continuation of the smell. Just a ton of coffee on the backend. Chocolate beforehand and booze. So much coffee, how did they manage to keep it fresh?
Heavy body, creamy, dry finish, and a bit boozy.
I really enjoyed this a lot more than the fresh 2011 vintage. Very tasty.

4.43 / 5 A

Black pour with less head than the 2010. Head is brown and is with minimal lacing.
Boozy, nearly medicinal smell. Chocolate and not a lot of coffee. Very sweet, bordering on strange, smell. Amazed at the difference a year does to the aroma.
Ton of booze on the taste, way too much. The coffee on the finish tries to balance it out, but it falls short. The chocolate and balance needs some time to develop.
Medium body, medium carbonation, creamy and full of alcohol.
Not as good as 2010. To unbalanced and all over the place. I will say, however, that for 16% ABV it wasn't bad.

I’ll keep the overall review as the fresh vintage, as that is how the brewery released the beer. However, I highly recommend aging this monster.

3.45 / 5 B-

2011 is on the left, 2010 on the right. 2010 was poured a few minutes before the 2011.

The third version is a special, only brewed once in 2010, Mephistopheles with “a generous amount of coffee added,” called Meph-Addict (15.5% ABV).
Dark pour with a huge brown head. Lacing and retention are well above average.
Wow is this a beer of a cup of coffee? Chocolate, and a lack of booze, mixes with the coffee to make a phenomenal smell. Really amazed how little alcohol I get on this.
Returns to the Mephistopheles taste I've become used to. Boozy and chocolatey, but this has coffee on steroids. I love the boost of roastiness this gets. Being a year old probably helps the beer as the chocolate and booze have become more mellowed, allowing the coffee to come to the forefront.
Heavy body, creamy on the palate, dry finish, less boozy than I expected. Very drinkable.
Delicious, best of the night.

4.6 / 5 A+

Review: Full Pint TRI-PA
Hazy brown pour with hints of red and yellow along the edges. Only a very smell white head rises up from the beer, but doesn't last very long.
A ton of citrus and maltiness. Really not the level of hops I would expect from something called a triple IPA. More fruity and bready.
The taste pretty much follows the smell, but adds a bit of booze. Citrus, grapefruit, and other light fruits mix with a noticeable maltiness and caramel to create far more of a balanced beer than I thought. The only hints of dry hops come on the backend, but are sort of overtaken by booze.
Medium body, creamy, warming alcohol feeling and a slight hop bitterness on the end.
This was good, a bit strange, but good. Not the hop bomb I wanted, but the balance is pretty good. I would say this blurs the line between an IPA and a darker Belgian.

Review: Westmalle Trappist Tripel

A: Hazy yellow pour into my St. Bernardus goblet with about a finger of white head. Large bubbly lacing runs down the side of the glass for only a fleeting moment before plunging back into the beer. 3.5

S: The aroma is full of clove and bananas, some booze, Belgian yeast and candied sugar. Pretty typical of a Tripel, balanced, but not overly impressive. 3.5

T: The taste is really spicy and fruity. The booze is nowhere to be found, and the typical warming alcohol feeling seems to be missing, which is really surprising considering the ABV. Very sweet, the taste seems to be just not up to par with other Tripels I’ve had. 3.5

MF: A bit over carbonated with a light body. Dry finish. 3.5

O: This was good, and a pretty decent baseline for the style, but it just didn’t blow me away. It just seemed too plain. 3.5

3.53 / 5 B

A: Pours from the can a hazy copper with hints of brown towards the center and yellow along the edges into my Russian River -tion snifter. A wispy white head leaves sticky lacing down the side of the glass. 4

S: The citrus hops really balance out well with the caramel malts on this. The aroma is very bready, but bitter from a ton of hops, and sweet from caramel and citrus. 4.5

T: The taste is very hop focused. Far more citrus than I was expecting. The breadiness and caramel malts are noted, but they aren’t as prevalent as in the smell. The finish is very bitter. 4.5

MF: Light, carbonated well, crisp, and a dry finish. 4

O: This beer was phenomenally drinkable. The focus of hops with the maltiness still coming forward makes this one I wanted to drink far more than a single can of. 4.5

4.43 / 5 A