Head to head: Cereal Killer vs. Cereal Killer Special Edition Cellar Aged

1) Cereal KillerIMG_20130930_162935

2) Cereal Killer SE

Maker: Arcadia, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA

Style: Barleywine

ABV: 10%

Purchased for

1) $12 for a 4 pack

2) $10 for a 22 oz bottle


1) Dark auburn with a moderately foamy head on first pour.

2) Similar but with a slightly lighter color.


1) Big and fruity. Cherry-walnut bread, raisin, plum.

2) Less aggressive but brighter and a little sour. Apricot, mandarin orange, sourdough bread.

On the palate

1) Grainy. Grape Nuts cereal, Kasha, hints of yeast, blueberries and roasted malt.

2) Creamy and citric. Lemon custard, fresh squeezed orange juice.


1) Long and bitter. Burnt toast, French roast coffee.

2) Easygoing and bright. Medium dark toast with lemon curd and a cup of Central American coffee.

Parting words: Barleywine is not a style of beer I drink much of, because I early in my craft beer journey I had some that I didn’t care for. It’s still not a style I’m probably going to drink a lot of, but Cereal Killer has changed my thinking on barleywines. It’s very tasty with big cereal flavors and very satisfying on its own.

The difference between the aged and standard versions was striking. Some of the aggressive fruity flavors that make the standard version so exciting are muted here and the citrus notes come on very strong. Not to say the aged version is dull, but it’s a different beer entirely. I don’t know if it’s better or worse but it is easier to drink. Not to say that the standard edition isn’t, but…oh hell. Both are recommended.

Cheerio Cherry Wine

Maker: Gill’s Pier, Traverse City/Northport, Michigan, USAIMG_20130920_145824

Place of origin: Michigan, USA.

ABV: 10%

Purchased for: $15

Appearance: Dark burgundy.

Nose: Black cherries, blackberry, hint of leather and clove.

On the palate: Medium bodied and slightly tart. Black cherry, black raspberry, allspice.

Finish: More tart and long-lasting. Tart cherries, touch of mace.

Parting words: I’ve reviewed cherry wines before but it’s been a while. I have never reviewed anything from Gill’s Pier though, so when I saw this in my local grocery store I bought it and gave it a spin.

I’ve never been to Gill’s Pier and don’t know much about it other than what is on their website. It was founded in 2002, is located on the Leelanau peninsula and is owned by Ryan and Kris Sterkenburg. Judging by the wines on their website, their emphasis is on white blends with a couple reds as well. The winery was named after a nearby former Czech settlement, which included St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, now a parish Sutton’s Bay, Michigan.

The wine drinks very nicely. It is well balanced and fairly complex for a cherry wine.  It’s not quite sweet enough for a a dessert wine, but it’s too sweet and dry to drink with a meal. It probably works best as an after dinner chitchat wine or with a cheese course. It’s not cheap, but it’s one of the better cherry wines I’ve had. Cheerio is recommended.

Frankenmuth Oktoberfest

Maker: Frankenmuth Brewing, Frankemuth, Michigan, USA (Some brewing contracted to Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin)IMG_20130916_195706

ABV: 5.27%

Purchased for: $8.99/6 pack (before tax)

Appearance: Dark copper with a big foamy head.

Nose: Malt, a bit of plum, dash of hops.

On the palate: Medium bodied, malty and a little sweet. Toasty malt, a bit of stone fruit and plenty of bitterness and effervescence to keep things interesting.

Finish: lingering and bitter, but pleasantly so. A little bit of stickiness lingers on the lips for a while.

Parting words: Frankenmuth Michigan is a quaint (OK, touristy) town in Mid-Michigan with a Bavarian theme. It is known for touristy shops, fried chicken dinners and indoor water park resort hotels. Frankenmuth brewery operates a fairly large brewpub that has taken from the independent brewery that operated in Frankenmuth from the mid nineteenth century through the end of the twentieth century. The current Frankenmuth specializes in American versions of German-style beers. They don’t have sufficient capacity to supply all their needs so they do contract out some of their brewing, as noted above.

Oktoberfest is not particularly nuanced or complex but it’s balanced and as good as any other American “Oktoberfest” beers I have had. It’s easy drinking and very food friendly. I had one with a meal of smoked corned beef and garlic mashed potatoes, and it went very well with the meal. Brats, polish sausage or a meaty pizza would go well with it too. The price is pretty much standard for a microbrew. Frankenmuth Oktoberfest is recommended.

Stagg Jr.

Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky, USAIMG_20130913_120455

Age: NAS (8-9 y/o?)

Style: High corn bourbon

Proof: 134.4 (67.2% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum (rounded to the nearest dollar): $50

Appearance: Dark copper, necklacing and thin quick legs.

Nose: Alcohol, hay, wood, pralines. Water turns down the alcohol but turns the grassiness up to 11. Some caramel still comes out but the grass dominates.

On the palate: Wood, amaretto, caramel, alcohol. With water, the nutty flavors come out and make themselves known, but the grass does to. It’s kept in check by the nuts and caramel and a creamy background. The oak is not really discernible with water added.

Finish: Quick and hot with lingering amaretto flavors. The finish has a bit more oak and candy when water is added but the two clash and leave an unpleasantness in the finish.

Parting words: Stagg Jr. is a brand, spankin’ new product from Buffalo Trace. It is a younger (about half the age) version of George T. Stagg, the barrel proof centerpiece of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). The plan is for it to be easier to find and cheaper than its father (the latter is certainly true already). It is about 10 proof points lower in alcohol than its papa too, but still very much in the “bruiser” range at over 134°.

When I was tasting Sagg Jr., I poured myself an ounce of a recent edition of Stagg Sr. (I guess we’ll have to call it that now) for the same of comparison. The contrasts were striking. Jr. lacked the complexity and powerful elegance of Sr. Frankly, Jr. drinks more like a barrel proof edition of Buffalo Trace than the bourbon with which it shares a name. I don’t mind Buffalo Trace. I’ve had some very tasty retailer selections of it and I think it does very well in cocktails, but sometimes the grassiness is just too much for me. Stagg Jr. is all the things I dislike about Buffalo Trace amplified: the grass, and way the other flavors clash with it. Stagg Jr.’s saving graces are the lack of a strong barrel char influence (one of the clashing elements in Buffalo Trace) and the mitigating role played by the nutty, liqueur-like flavors in the nose and on the palate.

If we’re comparing Stagg Jr. to Buffalo Trace ($25), it’s not much of a bargain even when one factors in the proof. When one compares it to other products of the same distillery in that price range (none of which are bottled at anywhere close to this proof or are unfiltered), it starts to look a lot better, at least on paper. This is another one I’m on the fence about, but I’m going to err on the side of generosity this time and give Stagg Jr. a recommendation.

Blue Gold Hard Cider

Maker: Vander Mill, Spring Lake, Michigan, USABlue Gold

Style: Apple cider flavored with blueberries

ABV: 6.9%

Appearance: Auburn and fizzy.

Nose: Delicate. Crisp apples and berries.

On the palate: Medium bodied and easy drinking. Crisp, fairly dry apple cider nicely balanced with the blueberries. They don’t overwhelm the cider or make it overly sweet, they just provide a mild but flavorful counterpoint.

Finish: Slightly sweet and a little fruity. Low key but lingers for a long time.

Parting words: Like most of Vander Mill’s products, Blue Gold is very tasty and well done all around. This is not a life-changing cider, but it was very refreshing on the 94° F day I tasted it. It comes in pint cans which is a big plus in my book and adds to its drinkability. I purchased my 4-pack for $10.99. That’s pricey but if one compares it to a table wine or a craft beer, that’s not too bad. At any rate, it’s definitely worth the price. Blue Gold is recommended.

Angel’s Envy Rye

Maker: Angel’s Envy, Louisville, Kentucky, USAAE Rye

Distiller: Likely MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Style: High rye rye, finished in Caribbean rum casks.

Age: NAS

Batch: 1C

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Thanks to Oscar for help in obtaining this bottle and Amy for splitting it with me.

Appearance: Pale copper

Nose: Butter rum, carrot cake, almond brittle.

On the palate: Medium bodied, sweet and spicy. Fruitcake (the good, homemade kind), crystallized ginger, allspice, nutmeg, clove, mace, molasses.

Finish: More spice cake with a good bit of alcoholic burn. Clears out the sinuses and the sweetness lingers on the tongue and lips.

Parting words: This is another special release from this year that I have delayed reviewing in typical Sipology style. When it was announced that Angel’s Envy was releasing a rye, I was skeptical. When I heard the price, I was even more skeptical. When I tasted it, I was no longer skeptical.

This is a whiskey unlike any I have ever had and in a very good way. The rum flavors are very up front and they meld in an effortless way with the spice of the high-rye recipe rye to create a whiskey that is like drinking a 100 proof spice cake. It’s just an amazing product, albeit a very expensive one. It sold for $70 or more when it was to be found but it’s worth every penny and then some. There may be a few on shelves still, so if you see one, buy it. This is an amazing whiskey. Highly recommended.