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I've been collecting records since high school, but I only bought my first turntable this year. Sure, I've had a turntable in the past: I inherited a suitcase style table from my late great-grandfather with an old, rusty stylus (along with all his records, which include some amazing original Johnny Cash releases). But, until February, I've never been able to play my vinyl without fear of ruining them.


Since this is my first Record Store Day with a usable turntable, I awoke with excitement this morning. I drove to the record store in my old Cincinnati neighborhood to pick up the RSD release of The Best of Townes Van Zandt (on tiger-eye vinyl). While I was there I also nabbed an Italian bootleg Nirvana record entitled Damage, Mon Amour. On my way home I hit up a grocery store in search of a record-related beer. I was not disappointed. So, today I present to you (as I listen to that Best of Townes Van Zandt album) Rhinegeist's Slow Jam.

Rhinegeist, as you may know, opened in 2013, laying claim to the old Christian Moerlein packing facility in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. This was the culmination of a dream that Bob Bonder and Bryant Goulding had held for nearly a decade: To open a brewery that would harken back to Cincinnati's roots as a brewing hub, built upon the aspirations of, largely, German immigrants. The brewery's "Our Story" page has grown substantially since the last time I wrote about a Rhinegeist beer, so I definitely recommend you check it out.

Slow Jam is an IPA released in collaboration with Shake It Records (a Cincy-based record store/very independent label) that was originally released in 2017. This 6.5% ABV brew, official page here, is citrusy, piney, and dank--these aromas/flavors are due its utilization of Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade hops.

The IPA's bouquet is all hop. I get big piney and light floral notes. I'm not finding much citrus, but that's fine. When I think of an IPA, the aroma that comes to mind is exactly what Slow Jam showcases. I can't get enough of it and, apparently, neither can Purrl. She gave my bottle thirteen whiffs--she even woke up to do so--which, I'm pretty sure, is the highest rating she's ever given an IPA.


From Slow Jam's flavor, I'm getting mainly citrus. It stands in stark contrast to the ale's nose: It's sweet and bright, with a malty backbone. I really like the effect of the beer as a whole. The two parts I've discussed so far are disjointed but are two sides of the same whole. An A-Side and a B-Side, if you will. Like a record. It's Record Store Day and I'm drinking a record-inspired beer. Please, give me this analogy.

The third part of the beer I have to discuss is the mouthfeel. And, boy, does Slow Jam have one! It's slightly creamy--definitely fuller than I'd expect an IPA to be. In a unexpected beer with unexpected-yet-great parts, and this is yet another unexpectedly great facet.

My first Record Store Day (well, my first spent actually in a record store, purchasing a special RSD release) was spent in Athens, OH during my undergrad. It was at the late, great Haffa's Records (pour one out if you're reading this and know/miss Haffa's). This was, obviously, during my record-collecting-but-not-listening phase. I went to pick up Medium Rare, the special Foo Fighters' release (shout out to the FF versions of "Darling Nikki" and "Baker Street").

The whole event was a ton of fun. I went with some friends (we got to Haffa's shortly after 10 am, which is insanely early for undergrad kids). The RSD releases were in a very prominent place, so all we had to do was head to those shelves and grab the releases we wanted. It wasn't until late-February this year that I was able to listen to Medium Rare for the first time, and, I have to say, I wasn't disappointed. Grohl & Co. always bring their "A" game. As bright and as sunny as today is, Slow Jam's bringing me back to my first, chilly, Record Store Day.

Slow Jam is, without a doubt, my second favorite Rhinegeist release (Cheetah will always be number one). It's everything I want an IPA to be and has each individual's (or, at least, my) warm, vinyly memories attached to it. I'm giving it a 10/10. It's phenomenal and you need to try it while listening to a great record. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have things to do and, as Townes would say, "Heaven ain't bad but you don't get nothing done."
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I just got home from a weekend cabinning with my in-laws. We were originally supposed spend a week in Florida but, through an incredibly unfortunate series of events, that didn't pan out. The long weekend at Kentucky's General Butler State Resort Park, however, was still a great diversion from Greater Cincinnati.


Now, though, Michelle and I are home. It's only 5:30 (at the time of this writing) but the sky outside is dark and the wind is picking up--we're about to see some heavy storms. Luckily, I know a fun trick to while away the time waiting for a killer storm: drink. With that, I present to you Decadent Ale's Vermont Maple DIPA, today's beer.

Decadent's website is cool but spare. The only information to be found here is that they're based out of New York. Turning to their Facebook page, I find just a few more details: Decadent focuses on bringing fresh, unfiltered, high-ABV ales to their community.

Today's beer definitely fits within their mission. According to my can, it clocks in at 9.1% ABV. It's Beeradvocate profile lists it as a New England Double IPA (so, a hop-heavy, unfiltered IPA) to which vermont maple syrup has been added. 

The nose of my can is headed by big, juicy, floral hops. It smells amazing. There's a definite citrus here; the beer has a blood oranginess to it. I'm also finding an underlying layer of sweetness that, I would guess, is the maple aroma. However, it doesn't exactly strike me immediately as maple. If it wasn't for the ale's name, I would've never guessed, from the bouquet, that there's maple here. It's a nose that I really enjoy, regardless of the perceived level of maple. It's unfortunate (for her!) that Purrl's not a fan. She'd only deign herself to give my can three whiffs.


After Vermont Maple's aroma, I wasn't expecting to find a ton of maple in the flavor. Much to my surprise, the maple comes through in spades. It's big and on the fore of the ale. It's exactly like the 100% Grade A syrup that you'd pour over an enormous stack of waffles. This is followed by a finish of generous, citrus-forward hops. The mix of flavors isn't one I'd peg as great without this beer but, thinking about it, the whole thing makes sense. It's like having a glass of orange juice to pair with your stack of syrup-covered waffles.

This DIPA's mouthfeel is great. Full, smooth and, fittingly, slightly syrupy.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I only just got back from a cabbinning trip with my inlaws. Michelle and I regularly go on camping/cabbining trips with them. In October 2017, the lot of us when on a camping trip to Lake Hope State Park, in Zaleski, OH. It was warm for the time of year, but the mornings and evening were still cool.

On the last morning of the trip, my father-in-law made pancakes over the campfire. These were fluffy and smoky, and tasted great when topped with the maple syrup he'd made himself from the trees Michelle's family had tapped on their property that spring. Sitting there, eating those pancakes, and looking out over the woods on that serene morning was a near-perfect experience. The maple syrup in Vermont Maple tastes almost as good as the maple syrup I enjoyed that sunny October morning.

Today's beer was a maple beer, meaning I went in with exceptionally high expectations. Here at the far end of this post, I can say that those expectations were met. Decadent Ale's Vermont Maple DIPA packs a ton of maple flavor within an excellent IPA. I'm giving it a 9.0/10 rating. This is an occasional release, but I still see four-packs of pounders here and there. If you have good enough luck to stumble across one, don't let it get away.
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This is the last in a series of four posts devoted to Local Blend, a collaboration series of coffee porters MadTree released in January. I'll be judging each beer individually, comparing it to the others in the series, and, finally, rating Local Blend as a whole.


Here we are, that the last entry in MadTree's Local Blend series. Spring is finally here (I spent yesterday doing some yard work and planting my vegetable garden) and the sun is shining brightly outside my window. It's a beautiful morning, and I can't think of a better reason to break into this fourth can. So, without wasting more time, let's get to it: Local Blend Cleveland.

But, as always, before diving into my beer I like to know a bit about the forces that made it. While I'm specifically focusing on Phoenix Coffee Co here, I'm sure you know that MadTree played an incredibly critical role in the creation of this porter (given how they, you know, brewed it). If you'd like to know more about one of my favorite Cincinnati breweries, be sure to hit up their "About MadTree" page. There, you'll find everything you'd ever need to know about their history.

Phoenix keeps their "About" page short and sweet. Founded by Carl Jones 28 years ago, the Cleveland roaster is now helmed by Sarah Belzile. Phoenix, in keeping with their namesake, focuses on continued renewal and growth--a mission they're currently working toward with both a rebranding project and an additional location.

Local Blend Cleveland (the info I'm pulling here comes from its Untappd profile) contains a 6% ABV porter brewed with lactose as a base. This is, I'm assuming, the exact same base upon which the other offerings in the series are built. Taking this base, MadTree added coffee roasted by Phoenix Coffee Co, and this is where we'll find the difference between Cleveland and its seriesmates.

This iteration of Local Blend has a sweet, almost malty nose. It boasts a caramel quality before giving way to the vegetable of the bean and, finally, the darkness of the coffee. Cleveland's bouquet is wholly unlike those offered by its counterparts, yes, but that contrast allows this porter to stand on its own. Purrl didn't like the aroma as much as I do; she only gave my open can seven whiffs.


That caramel quality from the bouquet carries through strongly into the porter's taste. The lactose really shines here; it's the first flavor on my tongue before the coffee bean flavor overwhelms it. The flavor of the Phoenix beans themselves are green (which, I know, is a terrible way to describe taste, but I can easily taste the meat of the legumes so that's how I'm choosing to describe that sensation). After this, some roastiness comes through for a moment--deep and dark, like a perfect cup of black drip coffee--before bowing out and allowing that caramel sweetness and the vegetable greeness mingle in the finish.

The finish, by the way, is complimented by the mouthfeel. This is creamy, thanks in no small part to the lactose, and is reminiscent of a cup of joe with a splash of creamer.

From what I understand, universities end graduate courses of study in one of three ways: a dissertation (or, more commonly for a master's, a thesis), an internship, or comprehensive examinations. When I got my master's at Ohio University, I was faced with that last one (henceforth known as "comps"). A comp (or, at least, the one I took) is a set of three questions that encapsulate your course of study. Each is an essay that takes two hours to write. For mine, I went to a computer lab and spent six hours draining my brain of everything I'd learned.

In preparation for my comps, I spent two weeks doing nothing but studying (gathering information, reading through old papers, reading the over the same articles so frequently that I could recite them verbatim, etc.). The morning of my comps, I woke at four. Michelle and I went to a diner for a super early breakfast where she quizzed me over my prompts (good professors will give you some hint of what you'll be asked so you can best prepare). From there, I walked to the computer lab.

On my walk, I strolled through a city waking up. Shop and restaurant owners were readying for the day. People were leaving their homes for work. It was July, but the morning was cool. Everyone had a warm cup of coffee clamped in their hands. These cups seemed necessary things: something warm against the morning chill, a reassurance that the day would turn out fine. I took solace in that thought on my way to my comps. I like to think that the coffee in at least one of those cups tasted somewhat like Local Blend Cleveland.

I'll forego the fluff here: Local Blend Cleveland is my favorite of the series. I'm giving it a 10/10 score. MadTree and Phoenix Coffee Co have brewed up something special here. It holds all the qualities that make it seriesmates so good, but the strong (but far from overpowering) sweetness from the lactose really push it into the top tier for me.

So, now that we're done, how is the Local Blend series as a whole? Fantastic. Each blend is wholly different from its counterparts, and each expertly showcases the coffee utilized. I still see some four-packs hanging around at local stores (and, as of last week, MadTree's taproom still had quite a few). It's an easy 9.5/10 as a whole. I recommend that you definitely pick some up whenever you have a the chance!
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This is the third in a series of four posts devoted to Local Blend, a collaboration series of coffee porters MadTree released in January. I'll be judging each beer individually, comparing it to the others in the series, and, finally, rating Local Blend as a whole.

Today is as good a day for coffee as any. In fact, I've already had a mug. I've also had some tea, for what it's worth. It's cold and cloudy outside my living room window, which stinks because it's been 70˚ the last two days (albeit with a strong chance of tornadoes yesterday). So, I guess you could say that the today's cloudy 40˚ is unpleasant and unwelcome. Couple that with crummy sleep last night and, yeah. Coffee's called for.


However, since I've already had a fair amount of caffeine today, and since I have work tomorrow and definitely need to sleep tonight, I'd rather reach for something that tastes like coffee instead of the actual stuff itself. As such, it's a good day to turn to the next in MadTree's Local Blend series: Columbus, featuring coffee from Stauf's.

Usually I'd talk about the brewery that made the beer I'm drinking here after the intro. But, I've talked about MadTree plenty (if you're interested in learning more about the Oakley-based brewery, hit up their "About MadTree" page). So, instead, let's focus on Stauf's today.

Stauf's Coffee Roasters, as detailed on their "Our Story" page, is Columbus' first micro roaster, having started in 1988. Every small batch of their coffee is roasted by hand on gas-fired drum roasters. In this way, Stauf's gives the level of attention necessary to provide the best flavor and roast possible.

Local Blend Columbus is the same base beer as its seriesmates: A 6% ABV porter brewed with lactose with coffee added. The difference in each beer, of course, comes from that coffee addition. Going into my can, I know it'll be roasty, creamy, and dark, with a hint of sweetness and a wallop of coffee.

I get a heavy roasty bouquet from my can. It's almost like MadTree managed to distill the all the aromas that fill a coffee shop into a singular beer. It's deep and dark, like strong drip coffee. But there're also earthy, vegetable notes from the beans in here, but they take a backseat to the more prominent black coffee punch. The nose doesn't seem to be up only my alley; Purrl gave my can a good six whiffs.


My first swig gives me sweetness (from the lactose) followed immediately by that green beany quality that Stauf's coffee give the porter. After that, a deep coffee flavor crops up--this is something akin to what you'd find a the first pour from a pot of coffee you'd brew for yourself on a Monday morning, hearty and like to wake you up from the taste of it alone. In the incredibly long finish, that earthy vegetable note from the nose lingers on my tongue.

The mouthfeel from Local Blend Columbus is creamy, which is entirely fitting for the style. I always like to splash some milk in my coffee, and that's what the porter's body seems to emulate.

One of the first times I ever had coffee was when Michelle and I were driving to New York for my internship (this was between my junior and senior years at Ohio University). We'd spent the night at her folks' before waking bright and early to load everything into my car. From there to New Paltz, NY--where our apartment for the summer was located--was a nine-hour drive. We weren't going to make it without coffee.

After less than an hour on the road, we pulled off to go through the drive-thru of a certain Canadian coffee/donut chain. I ordered my coffee black (which is how my dad always drinks his). It was something else. Bold, strong, bitter, and hot. It did the trick. I was able to make it the rest of the way without feeling too drowsy. Maybe that's way I appreciate the deep, roasty coffee flavor in the porter so much.

When I reach for a coffee porter, I want something that tastes like MadTree's collaboration with Stauf's Coffee--roasty, dark, bitter, and earthy. This is my favorite of the Local Blend series so far. While I really dug the vegetable quality of Cincinnati, and appreciated the chocolatiness of Dayton, Columbus has that core coffee taste that I crave. I'm giving my can a 9.5/10. Some local grocers still have packs of Local Blend kicking around and, although I can't speak for the Cleveland can yet, you better pick some up when you see it. The three cans I've had are definitely worth the price of admission.
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This is the second in a series of four posts devoted to Local Blend, a collaboration series of coffee porters MadTree recently released. I'll be judging each beer individually, comparing it to the others in the series, and, finally, rating Local Blend as a whole.

Boston Stoker isn't a coffee brand I've enjoyed before. Sure, I've seen bags of their blends around. And yeah, a few of my friends like their Facebook page--some of these are big coffee folks, leading me to believe that I'm in for a treat with Dayton Local Blend.


When MadTree dropped its Local Blend collaboration series last month, I was, to say the least, excited. I like MadTree, I like porters, and I like coffee beers. Why the hell wouldn't I be excited? Drinking the Cincinnati Local Blend the other day (see, each can in this collab four-pack represents a different Ohio city, and each features coffee from a company that calls that can's namesake home) only increased that excitement. So, let's go ahead and break into today's can.

I've talked about MadTree on the blog more times than I can count (see their "About MadTree" page if you want to know about the company responsible for today's brew), so, instead of going into the history of the brewery, I'd like to focus on Boston Stoker for a few moments.

Boston Stoker Coffee Company (according to their "Our Story" page, which, by the way, is where I'm getting all of my information) began in the mid-seventies as a tobacco and pipe shop. The owners decided to brew their own coffee to keep people in the store longer. The plan worked, and soon customers were asking for bags of coffee to brew at home. In the nineties, the clamor of Boston Stoker coffee reached new heights, and the company moved its headquarters and roasting operations to Vandalia, OH. Today, it remains family-owned and partners directly with coffee farmers world-wide in order to import the highest quality coffee beans while supporting the people who grow them.

The Untappd profile for Local Blend Dayton lists it as a 5.9% ABV porter with Boston Stoker coffee and lactose added. Which means that it's a sweet, creamy, roasty coffee porter. So, sign me up. My can, by the way, boasts a 6% ABV, for whatever that tenth of a percent difference is to you.

The coffee takes center stage in Local Blend Dayton's bouquet. It's rich and dark, earthy and mossy, with a slight hint of nuttiness. The roasted malt character of the porter is present, too. It's lending dark chocolate and charred wood notes to the aroma. I like it but I can't say the same for Purrl--she wouldn't deign to give my can a single whiff.

This picture has a bonus Henrietta, for your viewing pleasure.
This tastes exactly like how I'd expect a coffee porter to taste. It's bold and dark on the fore, like a strong cup of black drip coffee. It's roasty and earthy. The lactose in the brew is bolstering the chocolate flavor from the malt. But, the vegetative quality of the coffee beans are here, too, in the finish. This has that same quality you'd find in a vegetables from a farmer's market: green, earthen, whole. Those are odd words to describe what I'm getting at, I'm sure, but if you know what I'm saying, you'll get it. If you don't know what I'm saying, try this beer. Then you'll get it, as well.

Like any good lactose porter worth its, well, lactose, this is thick, full, and creamy. Sure, there's carbonation in my can but it doesn't interfere with the way the lactose so perfectly compliments Local Blend Dayton's coffee addition.

Once, while Michelle's family was visiting and we still lived in Athens, we went to the local farmer's market. This was in the parking lot of the strip mall at the end of East State Street, the street that houses all the bigbox department and grocery stores. While this might seem an odd spot for a farmer's market, it makes great sense in a weird Athens way.

Anyway, a local coffee shop had set up a truck at the market that particular day. It was a cold and cloudy morning, one of the last farmer's markets for the year. I chose an espresso over a drip coffee--I'd never had an espresso before (I don't think I'd ever actually had the chance to get one) so I seized the opportunity. Something about the flavor of my beverage mingling with the crisp, earthy aromas of the fresh produce set upon the market's stands made that day stick in my memory, and Local Blend Dayton is bringing it to mind now.

If you think, right now, about how your ideal coffee porter would taste, odds are your imaging MadTree's collaboration with Boston Stoker. It's big on rich, roasty coffee flavor and the lactose adds a deep chocolatey flavor and an undeniable creaminess. Comparing it to the only other Local Blend I've had, which is Cincinnati, I have to say that I still prefer Cincinnati more--that porter's flavor was unique and unexpected, the raw vegetable of its bean flavor through me for a loop and made me want more. But, I won't let that comparison detract from Local Blend Dayton's quality; it's still a top-tier coffee porter. I'm giving it a 9.0/10. It's another stellar beer in the Local Blend series.
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This is the first in a series of four posts devoted to Local Blend, a collaboration series of coffee porters MadTree recently released. 

I've had Deeper Roots coffee before. For my birthday last year, which was, coincidentally, celebrated at MadTree, my brother gave me a bag of Deeper Roots' Community Blend. It's really good stuff, and I can't wait to find out what Deeper Roots coffee adds to a beer such as a porter.


You see, last month MadTree dropped Local Blend, a group of four porters brewed in collaboration with four coffee roasters around Ohio. Each can represents a different city: Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland. I'm impressed with the sheer scope of this collaboration series, and, after sitting on my cans since I grabbed them on January 5th, I'm finally breaking into them one-by-one here on the blog. The goal is to review them individually, see how they stack up against each other, and give the overall Local Blend series a rating.

So, here we go. MadTree's Local Blend. First up: Cincinnati - Deeper Roots Coffee.

Since I've written about MadTree so many times, I'll forego telling you about what is, most likely, my favorite area brewery. I will, however, give you this link to their About MadTree page. Instead, I'd like to focus on the individual coffee companies for this section of my Local Blend posts.

Deeper Roots, as you may have guessed from the city represented by today's can, is from Cincinnati. Officially launched in 2012, their history goes back nine years before that, as a local cafe with an interest in working with Central American coffee farmers. Rohs Street Cafe led to Cincinnati non-profits the Espresso Guild and Deeper Roots Development, both of which aimed to support Guatemalan coffee farmers.

Local Blend Cincinnati (the information for which I'm pulling from its Untappd page), is a 5.9% ABV porter--I'll note here that my can boasts 6% ABV--brewed with Deeper Roots coffee and lactose. So, roasty, creamy, with strong coffee notes. I'm fine with all of that.

The nose is all coffee. The good stuff, mind you. Earthy and dark, with subtle hints of sticky rice and a wee bit of pine. Your typical roasty porter bouquet is here, but it isn't the star of the show; Deeper Roots' coffee is. It's a bolstering aroma and, wouldn't you know, Purrl enjoys it as much as I do. She gave my can a hearty twelve whiffs.


Local Brew Cincinnati's flavors match perfectly with its nose. Everything here is dark and earthy. There's a surge of coffee up front that's closely tailed by a beany flavor--literally talking legumes here--that's borderline pea in the finish. Beyond that, it's roasty with with a slight dark chocolate sweetness. Every flavor here compliments the others exceptionally well and, although this might not be what one imagines upon hearing the term "coffee porter" (looking at you, pea-tasting finish), MadTree's pulled it all together and made an brew that's great and distinctly MadTree.

This is a creamy beer. Like a coffee with creamer added, that's the level of creaminess here. And, you know what? It fits. It all fits.

Do you have those little daily pleasures that get you through? You know, something you take joy in that most people wouldn't find the time or patience to do? One of mine is summer morning coffee. On weekdays during the warmer months, I get up around the same time the sun does. I walk into the kitchen and get coffee brewing before hopping into the shower.

After washing myself down, I make breakfast (usually eggs and toast) and pour myself a mug of joe. I then take my plate and my mug onto our porch, where I sit at the cheap wrought-iron table we bought on clearance and enjoy my meal while the rest of the world wakes up around me. Birds sing, insects buzz, and it's warm and it's peaceful.

MadTree's Local Blend collaboration with Deeper Roots sets a high bar for the rest of the series. It's coffee, earthy, and vegetative. I'm giving it a 9.5/10. So far, I'd say it's worth picking up a Local Blend pack for this wonder alone. We'll see how the other three entries fare in my next three posts.
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It's February. It's meant to be cold and dark, with some snow, or sleet, or fog to make it drearier. Sure Valentine's Day is tomorrow, but I've always taken that to be a bright point in an otherwise dreadful month.


And, yeah. We've experienced cold, dark, foggy, snowy, and sleety days here in the last week. We've also hit unseasonably warm weather (60°) and cloudless, sunny days. In fact, today was one such of those cloudless, sunny days. But, I think I have a cure. I think I've found just the beer to knock this month back into its place: North Pier's Old Shuck. So, join me as I pull the curtains closed and put on some creepy music. Hopefully, all this is befitting this porter.

Hailing from Benton Harbor, MI, North Pier Brewing Co. is helmed by Jay Fettig and Steve Distasio. Their "Brewery" page states that North Pier wants to be a third place in your life--if home is one and work is two, the brewery wants to be that go-between place. They're also dedicated to crafting European beer styles--specifically Belgian-inspired ales.

Old Shuck (found on North Pier's "Beer" page), while not Belgian-inspired, is a variation of a beer from across the pond. It's a London porter--made with English hops--that holds a steady 5% ABV. It's been on my radar since last June, when my dad texted me a picture of a can and a brief description/review of its contents. I've only recently been able to track some down for myself. This ale has coffee and earthy notes and was named after Old Shuck, the ghostly black dog that prowled England in the 16th century (also known as Black Shuck, this spectral death-bringing hound was presumably the inspiration for a classic Sherlock Holmes story and the basis of my favorite Harry Potter animagus).

You know what? I get that coffee earthiness from my can. It smacks on the nose. It's deep and somewhat mossy, like what you'd find if you stumbled into an old-growth forest in the middle of the night. It's also, somehow, managed to capture that decaying leaves aroma that accompanies a brisk fall day. The bouquet definitely fits a porter bearing Shuck's name. I love it and, against all odds, so does Purrl. She gave my can thirteen whiffs and seemed almost reluctant to stop.


The roasted malt hits heavy in the porter's flavor. It's coffee upfront, yes, but not like what you'd find in some porters. It's a subdued flavor. There's a pull of savoriness here, as well, that settles in with the earthiness of the hops right after the coffee washes away. This London porter is a very strong tribute to the style. There's a slight maltiness kicking around in the can, lending some mild caramel to its overall flavor, but that really only serves to improve the beer.

To go along with that maltiness, Old Shuck has just a mild carbonation, akin to what you'd find in a good lager. It's an immensely drinkable beer and, with an ABV like what it boasts, I'm absolutely okay with that.

You might blame this on the creepy mood I've successfully set for myself. Or, you might blame it on the beer, its flavors, and its namesake. I'm currently reliving a time where I had to traverse a woods alone, far removed from civilization, in the dark. Have you ever done this? It's an experience that might just be worth doing once, if only to say you have.

There's something unnerving about it. Something spooky. It's like that primal feeling you get when you turn out the lights in a room before you leave it. Like something's watching you (and, in the woods at night, a lot of things are probably watching you). Any unfortunate thing can happen in a dark wood. Granted, the odds of being attacked by an animal are incredibly slim, but maybe you could take a bad fall after tripping over a tree root and twist your ankle. Maybe you choose to experience this sensation in a supposedly haunted woods, which may only add to the creep factor. Regardless, it's a feeling your not like to experience anywhere else.

I have to say, I'm blown away by Old Shuck. It's my first North Pier brew and I'm looking forward to trying more. I'm giving my can a 9.0/10. I don't know if it's a year-round release and I don't know what its distribution is like, so you really ought to try it if you get the opportunity. Buy a four-pack, go back home, put on some creepy music, turn out the lights, and let your mind wander.
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How's your January been? Cold? Yeah, ours too. We're just now starting to emerge from that polar vortex that's wrapped New England and the Midwest up tight the last few days.


All that cold's been making me sleepy. I get home from work, pull on my sweatpants, light a fire, and veg out while trying to stave off bedtime until a reasonable hour. Tonight, I'm thinking a little kick might help. That kick is coming in the form of Wiedemann's Wake Me Up (which, by the way, may make for an exceptional breakfast beer, if you're into that sort of thing. This is, and has been, a judgement-free zone--unless you happen to be a beer).

Wiedemann is a historic name in Greater Cincinnati beer. In 1870, George Wiedemann (who was the head brewer for a brewery in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine) moved across the river to co-found a brewery in Newport, KY. Eight years later, George bought out his partner and changed the brewery's name to mirror his own. Since then, the brewery's changed hands and recipes have been altered. Now, however, the Wiedemann brand is back where it belongs: Greater Cincinnati; St. Bernard, to be exact. Owners Austin Smith and Steve Shaw have even gone back to some of the original recipes, while forging ahead with their own ideas.

One such idea is Wake Me Up (that link'll take you to a list of Wiedemann's brews), a milk stout brewed with hazelnut and coffee. At 6.04% ABV, the brew has notes of--you guessed it--coffee and hazelnut, as well as vanilla.

The hazelnut sits at the very fore of the nose. It pairs well with the vanilla sweetness of the stout, and it's an incredibly friendly greeting to the beer. Behind it I find the coffee, which also has a perfect pair in the stout: the roasted malt. It's all hazelnut, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, toffee, candied sugar, and some slight caramel. It's a shining bouquet for a beer like this. Henrietta, who managed to sit still enough to be photographed, seemed to like it well enough, giving my can twelve whiffs.


Everything I picked up in the nose is present in stout's flavor, along with the slightest hint of peanut butter. It seems like it's somewhat rare to find a beer these days where the bouquet and taste are perfectly aligned, and I'm happy to count Wake Me Up amongst those rarities.

The mouthfeel on this isn't quite what I'd expect from a milk stout. Yes, it's full. Yes, there's a creaminess to it. But it's brighter than every other offering from the style. There's a tiny bite here that is a good match for the brew's coffee flavor.

For a month towards the end of my master's at Ohio University, Michelle and I lived in a blue house with slopey floors. It was April---spring was in full swing. The mornings were cool and the days were warm. The house, though, was always cool and, in the mornings, much colder than the world outside. I typically had morning classes and Michelle did not. I'd wake up before her, make coffee and breakfast, and leave before she was even fully awake.

I'd take my morning meals outside. The house's porch faced eastward, so I'd settle down on one of its chairs, eat my food, and nurse my coffee while I watched the rest of our neighborhood (which was mostly college kids) wake up.

Wake Me Up would've been a perfect fit for those mornings. Wiedemann's has worked some kind of magic on this milk stout; it's instantly familiar while being totally unlike other beer I've had. It's roughly $11/four-pack, but that's an easy price to pay. I'm giving it a 9.5/10. I recommend picking some of this stuff up whenever you can. As an aside: It's done a perfectly fine job keeping me awake for the last hour or so.
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This is a beer I'm happy to get to tonight. See, this is a stout that struck me as nothing less than a winter's night stout. Just yesterday, it was in the mid-fifties--far from what I'd consider "winter." Luckily, I still live in Ohio, so now, little more than twenty-four hours later, it's in the low- to mid-twenties. Snow's coming down outside and we have a fire in our buck stove. It's definitely a winter's night.


The beer I was saving? That'd be Clown Shoes' Snow on the Maple Tree, an imperial stout. Snow, maple, imperial stout--seems like this brew was tailor-made for me. On paper, at least. How will it hold up in practice?

Clown Shoes' website is, unfortunately for the design of this post, under construction. So, I'll pull my information on the brewery elsewhere. Their Facebook page states they've been around since 2009 and that they aim to "...make beer without pretension...." Other than that, my bottle tells me they're based in Boston, MA and Windsor, VT. That's the best I have for now.

The info I have about Snow on the Maple Tree also comes from my bottle: Clocking in at 11.25% ABV, this is an imperial stout that was aged in bourbon barrels that, at one point, held maple syrup. The bottle also states that the "...beer is a beautiful compliment for a winter night." I guess I did good by holding off on this bottle until winter returned to Southeast Ohio, huh?


I cannot get over this stout's nose: maple syrup stands heads above coffee and chocolate notes. There's something warm and oaky, solidly vanilla, that can only have come from the barrel aging process. Surprisingly, I'm not picking up any overt alcohol here. Maybe Purrl did, though--she gave my bottle three whiffs. That's not too much of a shame, though. More aroma for me.

The sweetness of Snow on the Maple Tree hits my palate first. It's sugary, and wholly derived from the maple that previously occupied the barrels that help it. Beyond that, however, there's coffee, dark chocolate, dark fruits, and some toffee kicking around in my bottle. The vanilla is still here, too. A bite of booze caps off my swig before the maple makes a triumphant return in the finish, only more subdued now, and much more akin to it's aroma.

This is a smooth beer. Not so smooth as to be velvety, but smoother than that boozy bite noted above would lead you to believe capable. This isn't to say that there's also not some sharpness here, but the carbonation is far from what I thought it would be from the taste. In fact, it's exactly what you might expect from a stout.

The last winter Michelle and I spent in Athens, we'd fall asleep with the blinds in our bedroom open. We mostly did this for me. In fact, I'm not sure that Michelle would remember (or if she even really noticed) that we did this.

I enjoyed the way the world looked through our bedroom window on those winter nights. Well, not the world so much as the sky. There was, as you might guess, some light pollution. This gave the dark sky an orange and (oddly) purpley hue. When it snowed on those nights, the flakes were similarly colored and illuminated, lending some surrealness to the vista I watched while I grew drowsy enough to sleep.

I knew I'd like Clown Shoes' Snow on the Maple Tree, but I didn't know I'd like it this much. This "drank in 2019 beer" is setting the standard against which I'll judge the rest of the beers I talk about on the blog. It gets an easy 10/10. My bottle was around $15, and I hope that my bottleshop has some more on its shelves the next time I'm in--I want to pick up another bottle or two.
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Good morning! And, I do mean that as good morning. It's currently ten o'clock as I sit here typing this. Me? Don't sweat a thing--I've been up and at it for hours. I went for a run (I am so damn out of shape). I took a shower. I'm getting ready to take a quick break from this post to drive Michelle to the post office and eat breakfast. Then, I'll be back at it with today's beer.


And, what is today's beer, you may ask? A barleywine. A breakfast barleywine. Crazy, right? I found a can (multiple cans, actually) at my local bottleshop priced at $4 a pop. I couldn't say no. So, without further ado (for you, not for me--I've a bit to do before this next bit), let's find out all about CAMERON'S Brewing's Early Bird Breakfast Barley Wine.

CAMERON'S is based out of Oakville, Ontario. The company began crafting their beers in 1997 and, for just over twenty years, has continued to do so using traditional brewing methods and all-natural ingredients. CAMERON'S owners have a combined wealth of experience in the beer world, so it's no surprise that their brewery has won over 200 awards with its products.

Early Bird is one of those award-winning products. This 11.4% ABV behemoth contains Canadian maple syrup and coffee, which, when combined with it's bourbon barrel-aging, impart notes of dark fruit, molasses, white chocolate, caramelized sugar, and toffee. Or, at least, that's what the beer's official writeup says.

A whiff of my can gives me coffee, toffee, and caramel. The dark fruits are also present--no molasses here, but, sure enough, I am finding just a bit of white chocolate. I don't get oakiness from the barrel-aging process, nor do I find any maple notes. I'm hopeful that they'll both turn up in the taste. A quick aside: The brew's 11.4% ABV, but there's no hint of that wallop in the nose. Purrl gave my can three whiffs--she's not much of a coffee cat.


There's coffee and alcohol in Early Bird's taste. The coffee is black and the booze is strong. The dark fruits and toffee come through here, as well, with the slightest bit of maple sweetness mingling with the booze in the finish. I'm not really finding much of the oak and it's qualities from the barrels, but the bourbon is here in force.

The ale's viscous like a barleywine should be, syrupy. It's fitting for a brew with such a high alcohol content.

I've been attempting, and failing, to conjure some a memory to associate with Early Bird. Sometimes a memory will pop up when I drink a beer, other times I need to dredge the depths for a while before something clicks. Neither of those are happening now.

But, I have to say, it is a perfect late-morning to enjoy such a beer. The sun's shining and streaming through my living room window. The world outside my house is cold and crisp but inside it's cozy and warm. I have Uncle Tupelo's March 16-20 1992 playing through my Mac's speakers. It's looking like today'll shape up to be a slow day, which is just the kind of day a barleywine like Early Bird needs.

CAMERON'S makes a good beer. Early Bird is a good barleywine. While I wish the maple would stand out more than it does, such a wish doesn't detract from an ale like this. I'm giving it an 8.5/10. If you can track it down and the price is right like it was for me, you really ought to go ahead and nab a can or two (I grabbed three).
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