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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pullin' out a few rarities... NO BULL!!!

On the eve of Imminent Liquidation, the Annville, Lebanon and Harrisburg chapters of Team D(r)INK convened at our house to share some limited bottles from one of our favorite collective PA brewpubs - Billtown's own Bullfrog Brewery.  Brewslut had procured a bottle of the coveted Blue Cheer from brewing deity Terry Hawbaker just prior to him parting ways with Bullfrog, so we were saving it for a special occasions.  She was also successful in obtaining a rarity via raffle at the Bullfrog Christmas party - the first-ever bottled release of a Bullfrog elixir, named Diabolique.  Deuane and I rounded out the evening's selections with Houblonium P-38, French Kiss, Black Cherry Bomb, Magic Beans, Undead Ed and The Jaspers.  Even the most jaded of beer enthusiasts would agree that this was an impressive line-up indeed!

First up was French Kiss, a Biere de Garde, or a French farmhouse ale.  While this was a solid representation of the style, it was forgettable in the grand scheme of things and I honestly don't remember much about drinking it.  After all, it WAS the first beer of the evening.  And with everything else we had in store for us, it was a good way to kick off the tasting.

Up next was Houblonium P-38, a Belgian IPA named after a reference to a Bugs Bunny cartoon featuring Marvin the Martian (one of my favorites)!  This one was sitting in the DBF (Dedicated Beer Fridge) for quite some time, and unfortunately the hops had subsided quite substantially over the course of time.  Still, it drank like a very good pale ale despite the hops having dropped off quite a bit.

We followed this up with the bottle Brewslut had won in the Bullfrog Christmas Party raffle - Diabolique.  It is my understanding that this was the first-ever bottle release from Bullfrog, and according to Terry, this was from the first batch (evident from the dust that had accumulated on the bottle over time).  So we're talking circa 2007 or maybe 2008, judging by reviews on  This Belgian Strong Ale was still pleasant enough to drink, but it was definitely past its prime and quite under-carbonated.  Still, it possessed lots of dark fruit character and was quite tasty despite the flatness of its texture.

Undead Ed, a sour version of Bullfrog's fantastic Edgar IPA.  I had sampled this beer before (courtesy of Dan) and remember digging it.  But this particular bottle from Deuane's "Cellar of Doom" definitely benefited from a bit of age under its belt.  The heavy Brett character settled down a bit, giving the beer a more approachable drinkability.  However, the hops were still surprisingly quite bright.  This was definitely one of the highlights of the evening for most (sans Kristen, who is even more sour on sours than myself).

By this time, we hit the halfway point, and it was time to pull out Magic Beans, an interesting experiment concocted by Terry that can be described as a barrel-aged dark Saison infused with Belgian Callebaut chocolate and vanilla beans.  I remember having had a sample of this beer a while back, and I was definitely underwhelmed.  However, I'd heard that there were a few bottles that were infected.  On one occasion, Deuane equated its flavor to that of old cabbage... not exactly a note one would care to find present in a beer!  However, I was pleasantly surprised with this sample.  It definitely improved over time.  The chocolate and earthy tones were nicely displayed, while the sour tang took a backseat.  While I still find Magic Beans to be an odd beer, age has been rather kind to it.

We were now coming down the home stretch, and up next was the 2010 GABF Bronze medal-winning The Jaspers, a Flanders Red Ale.  Dan and Kristen were lucky enough to attend the 2010 GABF as representatives for Bullfrog Brewery, and Dan even got to accept the medal for Terry, who was not able to attend!  Honestly, I can't remember much about this beer, as I decided to give a more hearty pour to Brewslut, who loves her some sour beer!  But it was nice to finally try this beer for the first time.

For our final two beers, we really pulled out the rarities - Blue Cheer and Black Cherry Bomb.  As I stated earlier in this blog, Brewslut was able to secure a bottle of the former from Terry (and it only cost her a bottle of Short's Imperial Soft Parade).  Deuane and Carolyn provided the Black Cherry Bomb.  Now, most of my beer friends know that I am usually on the fence when it comes to sours.  Sometimes I love them, and sometimes not so much.  Well, Blue Cheer is definitely one of the finest American Wild Ales I've had to date.  I had the pleasure of sampling this once before at one of Deuane's tastings, and I am happy to report that it is holding up quite nicely.  However, the star of the show (at least to me), was the final beer of the evening - Black Cherry Bomb.  Wow!  This beer was amazing!  The texture was all stout but the cherry added a depth of tartness without becoming too obtrusive.  I definitely think this beer improved with age, as the sourness subsided a bit, leaving room for the stout to really shine.  I wish we had more of this beer, but alas it was Deuane's final bottle (or so he says... there's probably a case hidden somewhere in the Cellar of Doom)!

All in all, it was a fine tasting of rare beers from one of our favorite breweries in PA and provided some good pre-gaming for the next day: Imminent Liquidation.  But more on that later.   

The hand-labeled bottle is The Jaspers, given to Deuane from Terry for his birthday.

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