Rare Beer Roundup: Pliny The Younger, Hill Farmstead, Almanac + More
Barrel-aged saisons, triple IPAs, maple syrup, peaches and brandy – last week had it ALL. While the Upland Lambic and Kern River Citra lotteries were winding down, breweries like Hill Farmstead, Almanac, Russian River and Lawson’s were dropping tasty treats for the beer geeks to fiend over for weeks to come.
While Hill Farmstead stopped holding announced bottle releases after the Double Barrel Damon fiasco, their website still leaves behind juicy clues if you know where to look. The “Retail Shop” page was updated last week to show Civil Disobedience #8, the latest in their series of fascinating barrel-aged, blended farmhouse ales. This installment was a single oak barrel of blended black saisons, a la Edith, aged for one year. Single bottle limits have the message boards jumpin, with the added benefit of keeping the beer on the shelf for a few days. Wondering what you missed? #7 was a blend of Art (Arthur saison aged for 2 years in wine barrels) and 2-year-old unblended lambic while #6 was a blend of 1-year-old wine barrels containing Juicy, Flora, Sankt Hans and Clara. Yowzer.
Troegs’ newly installed cork-and-cage bottling system has allowed them to step up their limited release game, beginning with new Splinter beers and continuing with last week’s release of Barrel-Aged Troegenator. This originated as a part of their experimental, small-batch Scratch Series and will move on to hopefully become a yearly release each Fall with limited distribution. You might be thinking – “A doublebock aged in Heaven Hill barrels for 6 months? Really?” Word is this one’s legit, so if you were able to snag the 2 bottle allocation from the brewery in Hershey, be sure to spread the love with friends.
The one, the only, the occasionally overhyped and ludicrously lauded Pliny the Younger returned to the Russian River brewpub on Friday, February 7, with lines beginning before midnight in downtown Santa Rosa. Since the banning of growler sales, the brewery has produced enough to keep it on tap until the 20th, allowing the Northern Californian faithful plenty of time to get down with this 10.5% ABV hop monster. Not in Cali? No worries – the Younger will hit distro in Oregon, Colorado and Philadelphia the week after the brewpub release ends. Prepare for the hurricane – the annual hop storm is coming.
San Francisco Beer Week exploded onto the Bay Area beginning on Friday, February 7, led by a trio of brand new sours from Almanac Beer Co. Distribution spread throughout the area quickly as West coast beer nerds cruised around ISO each bottle. Let’s start out soft, shall we? Sourdough Wild Ale combined a potent cocktail of brett and sourdough yeast from a local bakery, fermented in used wine barrels and dry-hopped with Mosaic. Behind door #2 we have Valley of the Heart’s Delight, a fruited wild ale jammed with hand-picked local apricots, loquats and cherries. For the finale, Brandy Barrel Peche, a blonde ale with local peaches aged in brandy barrels for 6 months. Almanac is killing it – end of story.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Limited batches, tough to track down, odd distribution – all the things that stoke our coals. Their latest Farmer’s Market appearance in Montpelier (which tends to happen monthly) offers fans a chance to stock up on multiple styles at once, delivering a fireball of hopped-up IPAs and maple syrup-infused strong ales. Last week saw a boatload of their renowned Double Sunshine IPA on the block (limit 4 per person), along with a 2014 debut, Ava IPA, which is hopped with Apollo, Vanguard and Amarillo. A maple bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout was also on the bill, as well as Sticky Ale; aka Maple Nipple aged in maple bourbon barrels for a year, then blended with fresh ale. Finish this list off with Maple Tripple (brewed with maple sap and maple syrup) and you’re probably thinking “Why in the world wasn’t I there?”
Southampton suspended their bottle releases at the Publick House on Long Island after the departure of Brewmaster Phil Markowski in 2012, but resurrected the Imperial Russian Stout event for 2014 last weekend. Joining their inky black 10.5% ABV stout was a traditional Scotch Ale, as well as the infamous Double Ice Bock. Brewed in insanely small amounts (140 bottles in ’14) and absurdly difficult to trade for, this begins as a German Bock and transforms into an 18% ABV behemoth after a double freezing process. It’s great to see one of the Tri-State’s top breweries back at it – keep ‘em coming boys.
Heard of The Rare Barrel yet? This 100% barrel-aged, all-sour project is headed up by the former Brewer and Head of Barrel-Aging for The Bruery, and began rustling the beer geeks with their Founder’s Club launch in October. An official bottle release popped off last weekend, featuring SKUs Me, a sour golden ale fermented in oak barrels with brett and lacto. These were limited to 200 bottles, limit 1 per person, so hopefully you have a friend in Berkeley who owes you one.