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While we’ve been looking at beer clubs for a while, we’ve long been intrigued by The Rare Beer Club, originally founded by the famed Michael Jackson (the beer writer, not the performer). We talked to the beer lovers who run this club and they’ve agreed to send us over a sample so that we can let you all know how it is. They don’t skimp on these beers and we’re happy to tell you all about them! Read on.

This month, The Rare Beer Club sends us two craft beers perfect for Christmas! Aside from the season, though, these two share almost nothing. One is the product of a crazy gypsy brewer who has been heavily influenced by the often hop-heavy American extreme craft beers, while the other is looking to revive a long-lived but dying tradition in his home country of France.

You can order this club here: Join the Rare Beer Club

Brasserie de Bourganels Bière au Nougat

While France is not known for it's beer, it has a long history of brewing dating back to the 1890s when it had almost 2,400 breweries. By 1945, though, this had fallen to a few dozen. The owner and brewer of this brewery, Christian Bourganel, started the company to provide beers that showcased the local ingredients of Southern France. Brewed with honey and almonds, this is a great first one to try.

Brasserie de Bourganels Biere au Nougat

With a name like Bière au Nougat, I’d expect to see a darker, maltier beer as the name conjures up sweet, caramel centers of candy bars...Conversely, though, this brew pours a crystal clear golden color with a quickly dissipating white head. Actually, now that I think about it, the beer does look a bit like honey, though, which could be sweet and nougat-like.

While it doesn’t look much like what you’d expect from the name, it smells just like what I expected! The aromas of candy, caramel, honey and sweet almond come spilling out as soon as you bring this anywhere near your nose. This is a beer that just smells like winter and the holidays! It seems like something you should drink while caroling or around a fire or something. It’s definitely different and I give them credit for executing something like this so interestingly!

It’s not nearly as sweet as I expected from the smell. The French nougat (made of chestnut honey and almonds) used in brewing gives the initial impression of nutty sweetness right at the beginning but as soon as it’s in your mouth, it’s actually dry and a little thin. It’s lightly carbonated, giving the beer a bit of slickness. In the middle of the tongue, you actually get a bit of clean, crisp malt but that turns right back into nougat as you swallow.

I’m impressed that they were able to incorporate the almond into this brew with it tasting so natural. Well done to Brasserie de Bourganels! This is an interesting, well executed beer. I don’t know that I’d drink a whole bottle myself, as it comes in a 750ml, but it would be a great beer to share with friends in the winter!

Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas IPA (brewed with ginger & pine needles)

Whereas our last brewer was looking to revive a long held tradition, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (the gypsy brewer and owner of Mikkeller) is looking to take American craft brewing and make it even crazier! He is a Danish brewer who run all around Europe, renting time at several different breweries to produce his innovate beers. By pushing the envelope and continuously making boundary pushing yet delicious beers, he's become a darling of the American and European beer geek culture. And now you get to try some of this rare beer!

Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin' Christmas IPA

So the beauty from Mikkeller pours quite differently from the last beer. Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas is a hazy straw color that I can barely see the Drink Craft Beer logo on my glass through. It has a huge white head that is dense and just stays forever. I was able to get it nearly two fingers above the top of the glass, so it’s got stiffness to is! Be careful pouring this, it foams up a bit and that foam doesn’t go away.

HOPS! Wow! I don’t know that I’ve ever sniffed a beer that smelled so strongly of hops. This is intense. It’s tough to find it, but on top of the hops is a spiciness from the ginger in the beer and a piney from the pine needles. Both of these aromas complement the hops perfectly, this is a spiced Christmas ale that does it right! The spices are well incorporated and they really add to the beer.

WHOA! Just as the smell, so goes the taste in this one. There is so much hops in this beer that it’s crazy. The pine is but an afterthought to the hops, but the ginger spiciness is definitely there. This is an intensely flavored beer with hops riding driving and the other flavors riding shotgun...or maybe in the back seat even. It’s tough to even describe much beyond the hops. That said, it’s not a dank hop flavor, but a bright and crisp hoppiness that makes it easy to keep drinking despite the intensity.

Once you get through the bitterness, though, you find that there’s a great hop flavor in this one as you find orange and pine among a melange of other tastes. Luckily there is just a tad of malt to keep this one from being sheer bitter hop juice, but that’s really the only mention that the malt deserves. For me, this one ends on a note similar to grapefruit: dry, almost tart from the hops and refreshing. It’s great! This is a crazy beer that is really indicative of what the Rare Beer Club delivers; in the U.S. only 20 cases came into country that didn’t go out to RBC members. So enjoy!

We've gotten emails from many of you asking about this club. We reached out to them and they sent over this month's shipment for us to check out. We're happy to say it stacks up very well against some of the other clubs we've tried.

You can join the Craft Beer Club, or check out other clubs on our comparison page.

 

 

Old Domnion Brewing

Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout
This was my favorite beer of the shipment by far. I was scared when I read there was vanilla beans,used in it as it’s very easy to overdo it. I’ve had a number of vanilla beers that were just plain gross. On the nose you get quite a bit of vanilla hints of oak and nice roasted malt notes. The stronger vanilla in the aroma is fortunately nice and subtle in the taste. The oak is also subtle but ads a nice complexity to the stout. While I didn’t have a chance to test this I’d be that this would go really well with oysters.

Old Dominiom Ale
Old Dominion describes this as an English style ale. Having just come back from London I can taste the influence but it’s definitely an Americanized version of the style. At 5.4% it’s about 1.4% more than a traditional British ale. The malt flavor on this beer is great though. There’s an excellent toasted malt finish to the beer and I finished my pint before I even knew it.

Lost Coast Brewing

Lost Coast Indica IPA
Wow, this beer is good! As soon as I started pouring this beer you could smell the hops. Lost Coast uses a blend of Willamette, Columbus and Centennial hops which results in a nicely piney and citrusy aroma. That aroma translates to the flavor as well, this beer is bitter but by no means a hop bomb, the hops are most definitely there but there’s a nice malt backbone to support them.

 

Loast Coast Alleycat
After trying the Indica I had high hopes for this. Sadly it just didn’t stand up at all. I’m not a huge amber ale fan so that may be part of it, but it just didn’t have enough malt complexity for what I wanted out of it. This is a very mild amber, slightly fruity, lightly hopped but very very light. The flavor was just too subtle for me. Fans of Amber ales might like it more than I did.

 

 

 

While we’ve been looking at beer clubs for a while, we’ve long been intrigued by The Rare Beer Club, originally founded by the famed Michael Jackson (the beer writer, not the performer). We talked to the beer lovers who run this club and they’ve agreed to send us over a sample so that we can let you all know how it is. They don’t skimp on these beers and we’re happy to tell you all about them! Read on.

This month, The Rare Beer Club sends us not one, but two Saisons (for a look at the Saison style, check out our style profile, “For the Love of Saison”)! This is one of our favorite styles of beer, and perfect for the summer weather like we face in August.

You can order this club here: Join the Rare Beer Club

Brasserie de Cazeau Saison Cazeau

Brasserie de Cazeau has been around since at least 1753. During this time, one family has owned the brewery (with a 16 year exception) and they’ve lasted and brewed through wars and changes in consumer taste until 1969 when the pilsners took over the public preference. In 2004, the great-great-grandson of original brewer Jean-Baptiste Agache decided to restart operations with his cousin, Quentin Mariage. This is the fourth beer they’ve released and one that we’re stoked about, so check it out!

Brasserie de Cazeau Saison Cazeau

Saisons are expected to come out of the bottle a light, straw colored beer with a decent haze and Saison Cazeau does not disappoint! This one pours much the color of a thousand other Belgian wheat based beers and, as you probably see coming, has a big fluffy white head on top that eventually falls to form a thick and lingering meringue.

The smell here isn’t dominating but, that said, you can certainly smell it as soon as you open the bottle. And, while there are bits of the traditional yeasty spiciness from the Saison yeast, Brasserie de Cazeau mixed it up on this one with a bit of elderflower which you can definitely note! The brewmaster/owner, Laurent Agache, uses only elderflowers grown on a tree on the brewery’s property, which means this beer is only brewed during the three weeks every year when the tree is in bloom. Glad we got some! On top of the flowers, though, there’s also some citrus and a decently strong bit of lemon in the nose. This smells like a warm weather beer to us!

High carbonation and a nice, light, slightly floral flavor make this a super refreshing beer! The wheat helps it to finish bone dry while the elderflower makes it taste almost honey-like. It’s great cold but you get more and more of the elderflowers as it warms up. Besides honey and floral notes, the elderflowers have one last trick up their sleeves on this one...tartness. The beer is just barely tart on the back of the tongue, which increases as the beer lingers, adding an extra layer of complexity to this already delicious brew.

If you can get this one, we’d say to stock up at the beginning of summer as your friends are going to love it! Definitely a backyard, hot weather beer that, at 5% abv, you can drink all day long. Also, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that this would be the base of a mean cocktail (beertail?) as well!

Stillwater Artisanal Ales Stateside Saison

Stillwater Brewing is an early adopter of the “gypsy brewing” trend that we’ve seen in craft beer lately. Hopping from brewery to brewery, gypsy brewers rent space and time on the host brewers equipment and do all the work themselves. In many ways, it’s a business model that’s got all the benefits of contract brewing and owning your own brewery. Stateside Saison is one of the first beers that brewer Brian Strumke put out under the Stillwater label, a brand focused on Farmhouse Ales.

As opposed to the Saison Cazeau, Stillwater’s Stateside Saison pours a fairly amber/orange color...but it’s still got that haze that we look for in a Saison! An aggressive pour yields us an equally aggressive near-white head.

Stillwater Artisan Ales Stateside Saison

The smell on the Stateside Saison isn’t nearly as strong as with the last brew. A minerally, wheaty aroma is the first thing we pick up, which is followed by a light, yeasty scent. As it warms, you’ll note a bit of alcohol in there as well, which makes sense given the nearly 7% abv.

With a beer that has such a light smell, you’d expect a light taste. But, in this case, you’d be wrong! It’s light, dry and highly carbonated, but the yeast gives it some major flavor. Spice, clove, a bit of black pepper and and bit of orange rind assault your palate from front to back as soon as you sip it. There’s also a strong (but IPA-like) bitterness from the hops. There’s a lot going on here and we can’t help but to keep smelling it then tasting it...it’s almost like there’s two beers here: the one you smell and the one you taste. So strange!

You can order this club here: Join the Rare Beer Club