Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Destihl Dosvidanya Russian-style Extra Imperial Stout

Destihl Brewing Company Dosvidanya Russian-style Extra Imperial Stout, aged in oak bourbon barrels. Just like they make in Russia, I guess? (Thanks to Kevin for the bottle.)

 Appearance: solid blackness, reflecting nothing, and a rich chocolatey-brown head holding court atop.

Aroma: whiskey, vanilla, oak, deep and delectable, hanging tight on top of massive malt. Sweet and lovely.

Taste: starts out hot and heavy, rich and forceful. Full-bodied, abundantly malty, with all the requisite flavors from the beer and the barrel. Some cocoa, some coffee, a little bit of anise, all dripped over with whiskey. Not too thick, never overly rich, surprisingly smooth, and ultimately delicious. Yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the label have to say? "Like a Russian nesting doll, the secret of Dosvidanya Russian Imperial Stout lies locked deep within here dark, mysterious and elaborate wooden layers. The hidden soul of this oak bourbon barrel-aged beer we said Dosvidanya to several months before revealing, is it's rich, robust and roasty maltiness that finishes dry. Please consume slowly and enjoy. Cheers." alc. 12.5% by Vol. IBU: 84.

Someday, like hop-related puns, we will finally run out of Russian phrases, historical figures, or cultural artifacts to refer to when creating new Russian Imperial Stouts. That day is soon.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bent Paddle Harness the Winter IPA

Bent Paddle Harness the Winter IPA, Winter India Pale Ale, 7.2% Alc./Vol. Brewed and packaged by Bent Paddle Brewing Company, Duluth, MN. Contains: water, hops, malted barley, rye, oats, yeast.

Appearance: slightly hazed, gleaming crimson coloration, creamy, off-white, long-lasting head.

Aroma: Big hoppiness pops right out of the glass and into the nose, a blend of citric, piney, tropical fruit notes, with spicy rye malt aromatics close behind. A particularly beautiful blend of hop flavors.

Taste: Bam! Bitter hop bite kicks it off, with smooth and semi-sweet malt flavors rounding it out. Terrific balance here, outstanding taste, and great drinkability. Tasty, tasty, tasty. Medium bodied, long, bittersweet finish. I can't stop saying good things about this beer. It hits me right where I live.

The can has something to say: "Our Winter IPA was brewed in honor of the boundless energy and tenacious character of the sled-dog. Brewed for heatiness with oats, rye and malted barley. The comfort of malt sweetness harnesses the cold crisp citrus notes from the hops. This winter IPA is the perfect way to celebrate bounding through the deep snow."

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Buffalo Bock & Barrel-Aged Week 2015

A few weeks back, I went into Town Hall brewery on a Sunday afternoon, the same day that they sold the advance tickets for Barrel-aged Week growlers. Now, 10 a.m. on a Sunday is a time of slumber for me. I'm certainly not going to stand in line as early as 6 a.m., as some did. There were nine beers this year, and, oddly enough, when I inquired that afternoon there were some tickets left of only one beer, the Buffalo Bock. (I bought one, of course.) The more I thought of it, however, it made some sense that this was the one beer that some of the tailgaters skipped. The Buffalo Bock had been released in the past, and if one were spending $15 per pint- and -a -half growler, you're probably not going to want to get all nine. I'd never had a growler of this one before, but looking on BeerAdvocate, I did try it one tap, though didn't take notes.
During that Sunday session, I went online a saw many check-ins on Untapp'd for beers that weren't on tap that day, and asked about it. Those were the beers they were drinking in line, I was informed.

From left to right, 3 of the new barrel-aged beers, Project 3106, Brown Label, and Le Baltique. 

Barrel-aged Week started last week, Monday, February 16, and I paid the pub a visit shortly after  I got off work at Eastlake, finding a spot, but not yet a stool, at the bar, waiting for the tapping. The first beer was the ingenious Manhattan Reserve, a cocktail of beer, barrel and fruit that has been done for several years now. Their strong and fruity Belgian-style Grand Cru is aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, with cherries added to the mix, and the result tastes quite like a Manhattan. I couldn't resist, and didn't have to work in the morning (afternoon, actually), so I had three of them, with a infused Baltic Porter thrown into the mix.

A terrible snapshot of the delicious Manhattan Reserve.

My next night off was Wednesday, so I had some catching up to do. I got there a little later this time, and was able to enjoy the brand new Foolish Angel, a tasty Quadrupel aged in an  Angel's Envy rye barrel, in the company of Cal and Gloria. (I always meet friends at these events, which is half the fun, if not more.) That beer was released Tuesday; the day's new release was Buffalo Bock, which I'll get to soon enough. Knowing I had a growler waiting for me, I believe I had more Foolish Angel, and probably returned to some Manhattan Reserve, still on tap.

Foolish Angel, the Quad in Angel's Envy barrels.

Thursday was the release of the delicious Twisted Trace, which I wrote about here, but I was hard at work. Though about visiting Friday night, an evening when I was done working around 9 pm, but fell out of the mood for traveling across town via bus in this horrible February weather so late at night. The beer that day was Project 3106, a double American brown ale wit kumquats and chocolate in a Buffalo Trace barrel. I was assured that there would be enough beer to last until Sunday, my next full day off. Saturday was the day to be there, with Czar Jack, which was covered in this post,  kicking it off, and three new barrel-aged beauties being released at 3 p.m. I worked at 5, and didn't conceive of the possibility of being able to try a sampler before work, and get there in time, while remaining sober enough to do my job well. Might have worked, but I didn't want to risk it.

Czar Jack in all it's glory.

This past Sunday was my third visit to Town Hall for BAW, and as promised all the beers were still available. I took advantage of the new sampler offering, with six ounces each of Project 3106, which was as distinctive and intriguing as promised, Brown Label, a Belgian Bruin with maple syrup provided by brewer Mike Hoops himself, in a Woodford Reserve barrel, and Le Baltique, a Baltic Porter aged in a French oak red wine barrel. One beer was only consumed as a sample, and that was The Duke of Wallonia, an Imperial Wit aged in a French oak red wine barrel. As much as I dislike the concept of "imperializing" a wit, it was quite tasty, and a worthy experiment. I followed the sampler with a full glass of the trusty Czar Jack, thoroughly enjoyed, as ever.

Now, there's a question I hate: which one was the best? Hard to say, but, really, do I have to crown one the king, when they were all very successful? It's easy to just give the prize to Czar Jack, say that second place is Twisted Trace, but, wait, what about Manhattan Reserve? And does that mean the new ones weren't as good? No, no, no….I hate ranking and comparing, which is why I don't do it. And, hey, what about Buffalo Bock, the weizenbock aged it Buffalo Trace barrels? Now, that's a great question, and I propose that we open a mini-growler and find out all about it….

Buffalo Bock, weizenbock in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, enjoyed at home.

Appearance: beautiful burgundy coloring, clear, with no head at all.

Aroma: vanilla, toffee, cherries, oak…bourbon barrel flavors screaming out of this nose. The weizenbock's particular flavors are fairly smothered by the power of the barrel.

Taste: More vanilla and cherry, caramel and toffee, and the sharp twang of alcohol. Just below, the sweet wheat flavors of the weizenbock start to shine. It's a lovely marriage. You never forget for a second that bourbon is involved here, but the base beer is both full-bodied enough to hold it's own against the barrel effects, yet still show off it's own character. I know I said the opposite when speaking of the aroma, but that's just how it went. A delicious beer that sent me to bed peacefully.

Bauhau UberDuber Hoppy Bock

Bauhaus Brew Labs Uberduber Hoppy Bock. One of the "seasonal curiosities." "A toast, to all that's good in life." "Big & Funky". Limited Release. 7.0% ABV, 80 IBU, 22 fluid ounces. $7.99 for the bottle I bought.

Appearance: clear, dusky brown coloring, slim cocoa-toned head.

Aroma: malty, herbal, nutty, with hardly a trace of hops.

Taste: Wait, there they are bumping off the palate. Bright hoppiness holds court, with herbal, spicy, slightly citrus-y notes being the dominant voices. After that, it's fruit meets chocolate, with malt standing firm.

You know what? I like this. I went in thinking that I wouldn't, but it's not bad. I will enjoy the rest of this. Hey, what's the label tell us? Wait…need my glasses….oh, that's the government warning, we've all read that before. Oh, here we go…"The beer in this bottle is a true Bauhaus original. Loosely bases on German bockbier, we dose this festive and full-bodied malty ale {aren't bock lagers? oh, well} with loads of funky, citrusy hops and a bit of alchemy. The result? A beer worthy of Dr. Frankenstein's monster…but with more umlauts." Oh, yeah, there's umlauts over the u's, but I haven't figured out how to do them on this keyboard.

So, I'll probably still keep trying Bauhaus' beers, though I think their label copy is atrocious. And I still haven't forgiven them for "#jazzisstupid."

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA

I first had Ballast Point Sculpin IPA in 2009, from a trade, and it was then and is now a prime example of the San Diego IPA, hops a-blazing. I next tracked down a bomber in Chicago, and posted my original '09 notes about Sculpin here. It's been in our market for nearly two years now, so we can enjoy Sculpin whenever we want, though I find it's a bit too expensive to pick up with any frequency. But, look, the brewery is using it as template for adding extra ingredients, such as this one, which I did plunk down the coin for....

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin. India Pale Ale with natural grapefruit flavors. Handcrafted and bottled in San Diego, California. Alc 7.0% by Volume,

Appearance: clear, bright golden coloring, gorgeous snow-white head stands tall atop and stays awhile.

Aroma: Grapefruit screams out of the glass and tears into the nose. Quite potent grapefruit-y aromas. Anything else? If there are, I can't hear them under all the grapefruit.

Taste: Boom! Grapefruit, with beer below it. The Sculpin IPA is here, but it's subtleties and nuances are fairly drowned out by the grapefruit. Other citrus notes and piney flavors can be felt but barely, here and there. Bitterness is all over it, but it's not devastating, it can be smooth and mildly exit the palate.

Another sip and there it is, the big splash of grapefruit, the easy, biscuit-y malt, the aggressive hop attack that's so friendly to my tongue.

But, a question remains: is this really necessary? And I'll go even further, which may alienate me even more from the common class of beer geek. There are some variations on popular brews which should remain small batch and one-off, rare and hard-to-get. You really need to just be at the one bar on that one night, and get it out of that one randal the enamel animal. You should have to be one of 40 people, some times. They shouldn't be mass-produced, and shipped over several states. This beer should not be in 6-packs. It was, and I paid the price, and this was the last bottle, and the previous 5 went down well and enjoyably, but left me somewhat hollow.

But it leads me to more questions, such as, is adding grapefruit juice, or essence, or whatever it is, better or worse than barrel-aging? Or randall-izing? It's real grapefruit, sure, but it's more grapefruit than needed. The original Sculpin has the grapefruit flavor in spades, there's no need for such an addition. It's like adding lemons to a hefe weizen or orange slices to a witbier.

The question remains whether I will try the Habanero Sculpin. Something tells me that I have to.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fargo Stone's Throw Scottish Ale

Fargo Brewing Company Stone's Throw Scottish Ale, Made in Fargo, N.D. 4.5% ABV, 19 IBU. 12 fl. oz. Let's do it, let's drink a canned Scottish Ale from North Dakota.

Appearance: caramel-brown coloring, with a brief, cocoa-toned head.

Aroma: toffee and nuts, sweet, rich and malty.

Taste: Sweetness starts it off, and continues, with hardly a peep out of hops. Light  bodied. Here come carbonation. I'm having some trouble with this one. It's drinkable…maybe. Overly sweet, not particularly pleasant. I have to be perfectly honest and admit that I've never been fond of Scottish Ales. Too much cola flavor in this one, malty but thin-bodied. Not feeling it.

Maybe the label on the can will shed some light on it? "Patterned after the rich, smooth, malty ales of Scotland, Stone's Thrown is dominated by caramel toffee, toasty malt, hints of cocoa, residual honey sweetness and just enough hops to keep this rock on the button. The perfect brew for someone new to craft beer. Cheers, skip!"

Who's Skip? And no, not enough hops to the rock on the…what? Whatever….

Eastlake Gustav Mahler's 5th Double IPA

We have the Nicollet Mauler at Eastlake, named for Nicollet Mall, our "black IPA", and now it's time for a double IPA. It's beer #13, released in our 11th week, and it's another Mauler, this one inspired by Austrian composer Gustave Mahler (1860-1911) and his dramatic 5th Symphony. What "mauler" will  come next? Cast your votes now!

It's a beer that looks like this:

is described like this: 

and just for fun, here's Mahler! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tin Whiskers Flip Switch IPA

Another bomber from Tin Whiskers of St. Paul, another beer I've had on tap previously, but am giving closer inspection with this bottle.

Tin Whiskers Flip Switch I.P.A. 6.2% Alc./Vol. Brewed and bottled by Tin Whiskers Brewing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Appearance: clouded, crimson coloring, nice, if slim, white head.

Aroma: floral and citrus notes greet the nose, with a little bit of pine. Beautiful.

Taste: Full malt flavor in this IPA, outshining the hops so far. Earthy, rich, bittersweet. Hop bitterness grows and grows on the palate, but never outpaces the malt. Nice balance, good integration, an adequate India Pale Ale. Bright, green & citrus-y hop character stays on top.

I'm not really in love with this I.P.A., but neither am I out of like with it. Hey, what's the label say? "An American IPA with a citrus aroma and just the right amount of bitterness the balance the malty backbone." Here's the problem with that: a really good IPA has more hop bitterness than needed to balance the malty backbone. It should surpass that backbone, at the very least.

Eastlake Oak-aged Slop City Rye Stout

Things are getting a little bit away from me, these day, and I'm trying to catch up. Beer #12 from Eastlake Craft brewery has come and gone, and I never posted it before that single, solitary keg expired. It's not really a new beer, but a variation, one keg of Slop City aged with oak spirals. Or honeycombs? I should know, shouldn't I? Listen, I'll get back to you, okay?

I did though, snap some kind of photo....

and I grabbed the menu before it was too late....

but, for now, it's just one for the books. By the time you read this, Hickory-aged Slop City should be on tap. Come by, and drink that, and say Hi to me if you see me, while you're at it. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Belgium Lips of Faith Wild 2 Dubbel

New Belgium Lips of Faith Wild 2 (Squared) Dubbel, Ale brewed with Schisandra. 8% Alc. by Vol. This is one I've had before, on tap, earlier this year, and another bottle I picked up at Casanova's in Hudson, WI, weeks ago. I don't know what a schisandra is, but that won't deter me none.

Appearance: Dark brown color, with ruby highlights, cocoa-tinged head, starts big and drifts down.

Aroma: Complex and arousing aromatics, a blend of fruit, spice, berries and cola and clove. Fruit gets funkier, it turns a little wilder. Dark malt holds down the scene, hardly a peep out of hops.

Taste: Medium body, leaning on the lighter side. Mellow flavor. Fruit remains strong, funky, wild factor is still there, but …hm. It's a bit uneventful. Flavor slides off in the finish, disappears without a trace. Sweetness is high, but not cloying or overbearing. This isn't a bad drink, of course, but it's not a good example of a dubbel, I can't figure out where the "wild" comes from, and the "schisandra" doesn't really contribute much.

Maybe it's too old, and it's lost it's charms, but dubbers really should do better with age, and this isn't that old. It's a nice enough beer, but uninspiring and unremarkable. I went into really wanting to like it, but…didn't happen.

Hey, how about the gobbledygook? Of course, it's running sideways on the label, making it hard to read without hurting my neck. Oy. "This wild Colorado version of the Belgian dubbel ropes you in with cove and dark fruit aroma. Deeply rich and malty, every sip has a creamy texture true to Belgian tradition before it rides off with hints of black pepper and cinnamon from the addition of schisandra berries."

The terrible puns didn't explain why it's called Wild 2. Maybe someone knows?