Friday, April 29, 2016

Lakes & Legends Silky Stout

Lakes & Legends Silky Stout. 37 IBU. 7.1% ABV.

Deep black coloration, slim, cocoa-tinged head of foam.

Sweet chocolate flavor pours forth from the nose.  A little dark fruit lurks below.

In the mouth, richness and well-balanced sweetness. A major dose of smooth. Even just a little bit creamy. Goes down ridiculously easy, and tastes terrific. Medium to full-bodied, long malty finish. Delightful. I could drink this over and over again.

Here the scoop from the website: The color of rich coffee with a creamy head of foam, our Silky Stout hits your palate with a strong taste of roasted grains and a hint of chocolate – milk sugars added during brewing give the beer a smooth finish. A complex yet serene roadtrip through the “darker side” of the beer world.

Boulevard Snow and Tell Oak-aged Scotch Ale

Boulevard Snow and Tell Oak-aged Scotch Ale. I bought this in December, I think. Why have I been sitting on it so long? I know it hasn't gone bad, but it is a little outside it's season. We hope there's no more snow, but, as I've noted before, Prince had a song about that. ...sigh...too soon, too soon.

Dark, plum red coloration, slim head, toasted tan in color, stays a while.

Sweetness in the nose, plump with malt, getting the oaky flavors. Very nice.

Big malt hits the palate first, and hardest. Dark fruit, molasses, richness and deliciousness. Just the littlest bit of hop bitterness. Nice and  terrifically balanced. Medium body. Tasty stuff.

No snow left, but we're not entirely into sunshine and daffodils time. I'll take some consolation from my laziness yet.

Bell's Neptune The Mystic

At last, the final movement of Holst's The Planets as beer-sonified by Bell's. A little light and lilting in the opening passages. I'd better open the bottle before things really get going.

Bell's Neptune the Mystic.

Alc. 9% by Vol.

Solid blackness, with a slim, cocoa-tinged head.

Aroma starts out rich and fruity, dates, figs, plum and peppers, with sweetness replaced by an increasing heat. Interesting to say the least. What else is in here? Sweetness and spice and now turning dry, showing alcohol. Ever-evolving aromas.

Let's drink it down already, while the music seems more mysterious and magical. Just listening to it, I feel like I'm floating past the big blue planet.

In the mouth, it's rich and malty, chocolate and espresso notes on the palate. Heat starts to stir things up a bit, for I know there are peppers involved here, somewhere. Full-bodied, good and thick, but not undrinkable. Lots of flavors playing around in this, some molasses with the peppery heat trickling in.

From the front: "Ale brewed with black pepper, hickory bark, dandelion root, spices, molasses, and maple syrup with cayenne peppers, star anise, raisins and dates added. " Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Everything but eye of newt or wing of bat.

But it works. It's never too everything. There's good balance here. The hotter elements don't dominate, and the others have their time to shine, too. Tasty. Otherworldly. It's a mystic trip, man.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #27: Omni Brewing, Maple Grove, with Hopsessed Double IPA

This mural was only installed a few days prior to our
visit, on the occasion of Omni's 6-month anniversary.
It's Sunday, April 10, 2016. Time to visit breweries #s 27, 28, & 29. That's the plan, anyhow, and we're going northward this time, starting first in the suburb of Maple Grove. It's 20 miles northwest of Minneapolis, population 61, 567, only 84% of them white folks. According to Wikipedia, Maple Grove serves as the retail, cultural and medical center of the northwest region of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area. I guess it must be true, then.

And we're (Jason and I, again) going to an address in an industrial park, 9462 Deerwood
They'll get around to putting a sign on the building,
give 'em time.
Lane North, and Omni Brewing Company.The building was previously used for an ice cream company, and held many of the features a brewery would need, requiring no real transformation to the site. Just setting up the taproom, putting in the equipment, etc. They opened in early fall of 2015, and it was high time that I had some of their beers.

L to R: Omnipotent, Sweetness, Hopfull, and Lake Day.
We pulled up to bar and decided for a sampler flight that gave us the whole shebang. First up, Lake Day cream ale, a clean, lightly sweet, easy-going drinker. Got to be a hit with the locals. Not bad. 4.9% ABV. Moving down, it's Hopfull IPA, and it's everything you're looking for: bright, hoppy, juicy and citrus-y. 6%, 80 IUB, described thusly: "A straightforward, sweeter than most, IPA that lets Simcoe and Amarillo do all the talking." I was listening. Good stuff. #3 was Sweetness, a stout, replete with roast and chocolate notes. 5.5%, 29 IBU. A solid, sessionable stout. Rounding out board #1, or 2, if you're looking at it from Jason's perspective, was Omnipotent, a sweet and malty scotch ale. Right on the money. A bit big for it's britches, at 8% ABV, but you don't hear me complaining.

Moving on to board #2, from my vantage point, we start with Rua, a Ginger Red Ale. Nothing wrong with it, just not to my taste. I took no notes on this one. #6 was Parti w/Heather, an English Mild with heather, brewed partigyle style. Didn't love it, nothing wrong with it. The, #7, Ardmore Ale, a 4.5% German-style hefe weizen, some of the elements of the style,
banana and clove, but tasting just a little off, a
touch hot...not quite to my taste. Next, Muddy Runner, a toasted coconut porter that tasted exactly like Samoan cookies. Dead ringer for them. You need coconuts in your porter? They're doing it. Does that finish our flight? Sure, but it didn't end our
drinking.


There was one more that we couldn't include in the flight, and decided to share a goblet of the Barrel-aged Omnipotent Scotch ale. I may need help remembering what the barrel was, but we weren't fans of this one. High booze in it, strong barrel flavors, but it just didn't seem to work. Too hot, too boozy, not nearly mellow enough. There was nothing wrong with the beer they put in the barrels, perhaps the barrel or the whiskey just wasn't right for the beer.

Well, you know what? You can't win them all. With a few exceptions, I liked the beers. They're making good stuff, and I'm sure there's plenty of time and room for improvement. I'll give them a chance again and again, and I feel they will become a welcome addition to the brewing scene.

As for the taproom itself, it's fairly typical. There's where you get the games, there's the merch, over there's the growler cooler, and up top, TVs for the game watchers among us. Long tables, small ones, and one of my favorite art works at any taproom, a beautiful mural made of small and large painting put together to tell the story of Minnesota brewing. One of the staff members (an owner?) informed us that the only stipulation they gave the artist was that it had to include parts of Minnesota brewing history. I think it says something that they would display art on their walls that include the logos of other local breweries that might be considered "the competition."

We'd heard mixed reviews before the visit, Jason and I, but we left unswayed by the negative. There were a few misfires, but the hits outnumbered the misses, we thought. I like this place. They're doing things right. The next time we stop in, I'll treat myself to a full pint of Hopfull or Sweetness.

I took home a crowler, and wrote notes on it a few days after.

Hopsessed Double IPA, 8% ABV, canned on 4/9/16. Drinking it on 4/14/16. 93 IBU.

Highly hazed, dark reddish-hued, copious foam atop. Looking lovely.

Aromatics: floral and earthy at once. Deep, complex, and atypical. What's under this?

In the mouth: Starts off rich and malty, feels like an imperial red at first. More malty & hoppy than your typical double IPA. What kind of malts, I wonder? A little toffee, some caramel. It's malty and tasty, through and through.

This is an interesting one. Doesn't taste like the typical double IPA, much darker and maltier, but still delicious. It's not my favorite way to do a DIPA, but there ain't nothing wrong with it, either. the alcohol is rising, but it's altogether well-balanced and wonderful.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lift Bridge Batch 1300 Double IPA

Lift Bridge Batch 1300 Double IPA. 8.5% ABV. I mentioned this one previously in this post, and now I've finally tapped a keg of it, and have sat down to take notes on a glass before it's gone. Cheers to 1300 batches of beers!

Clear, bright golden, slim white head.

Aroma bursts with tropical and citric fruit notes: mango, papaya, tangerine. Little bit o' pine, too. Sweetness pushes bitter to the side.

In the mouth: Beautiful blast of bitterness greets the palate first, sweet malt rushes up to match it, then prickly pine and bitter astringency tackles the tongue. A thrilling assault on the senses. Just delicious. The high ABV is not slowing me down in the least. Mmmm, I like this one.

Good one, Lift Bridge. Keep making great beers like this, and I'll keep drinking them. And buying and tapping them. (I had a keg of Batch 500 2 years ago at the Blue Nile, a Batch 800 in 2015 for Acadia, and once again, Batch 1300 in 2016.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fargo Mighty Red Imperial Red Ale

Fargo Brewing Company Mighty Red Imperial Red Ale.

Bright cherry red coloration, short but lasting beige-ish head.

Nose is malt-forward, low on hops, just a little sweet and utterly pleasant.

In the mouth: rich and tasty right away, sweet malt is king in this. Big ol' tasty malt. Even and clean, and well-balanced. For being tagged "imperial", though, I expect more of a bite, something chewier, richer, bigger. This gets close, but doesn't go the distance. Only 6.6% ABV, and 55 IBUs, I don't really see how it's all that "imperial."

Nice enough beer, but false advertising, I'm afraid. That aside, good beer, you can drink it.

Enki Cacao Porter

ENKI Cacao Porter, Enki Brewing, Victoria, MN. 6.5% ABV. 24 IBU.


Dark brown, with crimson highlights, large, roasted tan head that drifts down quickly.

Nose of nuts and cola. Rich chocolate coming through.

In the mouth, the cocoa hits first, but lays mellow on the palate. Lightly sweet, but very well-balanced with just enough hop bitterness to keep it nice and even. Medium-bodied, light roast, well-done cocoa. Plain ol' nice, this one. Good 'n' smooth.

Alright, Enki, well done.

Here's how they describe it on their website, AKA, the gobbledygook:
"Like Grandma’s semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies hot from the oven, CACAO’s aroma is irresistibly tempting. The tightly-laced tan head and dark brown color invites your palate to experience CACAO’s richly smooth texture and creamy dark chocolate flavor, giving way to a clean, earthy hop ending.

One taste and you too will be saying CACAO is the best porter to ever touch your lips."

Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, Enki, it's alright, but it ain't that good.

Destihl Wild Sour Series Here Gose Nothing

Destihl Wild Sour Series Here Gose Nothing. German-style gose ale. 5.2% ABV. 12 IBU.

A murky, off-amber, with a slim, soon-gone head.

Aroma is all tart and fruity, cherry and apple, with a whiff of salt. Complex, intriguing, inviting.

In the mouth: Ah! Yes! Big tart grabs the tongue and twists the palate, fierce puckeration. Lots of fruit, smooth texture and mouthfeel, medium body. Tartness only increases with each new sip, never quitting in the least. Ends on dry, almost rough note, the salt bumps up against the sour.

I like this. If you're looking for a good gose in a can, look no further.

Minnesota Breweries One by One #26: Able Seedhouse & Brewery, NE Minneapolis

It was a Sunday, April 3, and we found ourselves (myself) with a day off, and no set plans. So, perhaps I should visit another brewery taproom and add to the numbers for this project? Of course. Because I was off-course. To be on course, I will have to have logged at least 2 breweries per each week that's transpired this year. Fifty-two weeks times two is 104. At my last count, we had at least 100 breweries in the state, including those who do not have a taproom to visit. That number has changed since by at least two, with the openings of Modist and Inbound the past two weekends. The plan remains to visit at least two breweries per week to stay on track. As of this writing, I have the situation well in hand, but am way behind in writing these reports. Thirty-five on week sixteen. (Nine more to write!) Week seventeen starts today, but I'm resting and it's raining. What will they be this week? Haven't decided.

But back to that Sunday, three weeks ago, it's week fourteen and I had only been to twenty-five breweries, behind by three. That all amounts to my roundabout way of saying I had to rack up another brewery and headed into NorthEast Minneapolis by bike on a Sunday afternoon. I was going to Able Seedhouse & Brewery, at 1121 Quincy Avenue, right in the Logan Park neighborhood. Now, I could have taken Broadway Avenue to Quincy, but I was coming from a different direction and chose to take the usual route I would take in finding Indeed Brewing, going down 7th St. until I hit 15th Avenue, then once past Indeed turning a right onto Quincy and traveling all the way down until reaching the corner. It was a strange notion, to turn away from Indeed, but I had to check out the new kid on the block. And log brewery #26.

Proper Pub Ale.
I locked my bike and walked through the patio area on my way into the taproom. I saw some friends outside and got their impressions on the beers. I had heard a lot of differing opinions, from divergent individuals, but there's only one way to find out for sure. I sidled up to the bar and scanned the marquee style tap list. (No chalkboard for them.) Went for a Proper Pub Ale for my first, on CO2 (a nitro version was also available), a half pint pour. 4.2%. 29 IBU. Highly carbonated, sweet and malty, with an inappropriately high level of hop bitterness. A lot of English ale ingredients in this: Maris Otter malts, Fuggle and Challenger hops, aromatic red wheat malt. I could see what they were going for, but I was not a fan of this one.

Next up: Two Sparrows Wheat Pale Ale. Clear, golden, nice and hoppy, clean and crisp. Nice hop bite, very smooth and drinkable. 4.3% ABV, 30 IBU. 50% wheat malt. Centennial, Chinook, Ahtanum, and Mandarina hops. Delicious. I'd return to this one again and again. Okay, we're one and one now. Let's keep turning this tide.

As seen in the photograph, there's a little booklet with information on the beers that was brought to me by the server when I requested a little more insight. Rather than a full page printed off with all the data, a darling little volume. How adorably precious and hipster.

Able is the kind of place, it seems, where people have
birthday parties for their dogs and leave the balloons
on the ceiling. 
Yup, we're in NorthEast, and it's flush with young hipsters, just being as ironic and twee as can be. Especially when they bring their dogs in. That's when the pups get greeted by sayings that would make a baby blush with embarrassment, spoken in registers several times higher than normal. Sometimes it's all a crusty old curmudgeon can do to stay in his seat and keep his eyes from rolling all the way to the back of his head.

Able's taproom feels like a converted factory, which it probably is, with an array of picnic tables and benches. Games over here, merchandise there. Me, I like the bar. And I was ready for beer number three, yet another half pint, to stretch out my samples.  Before I got to that, though, there was another sample, just a taste, of their infusion, the Two Sparrows blended with pomegranate and acai, which my friendly server raved about. It was nice, but I wouldn't necessarily seek it out.
Blk Wlf Stt.

Number three was the misspelled on purpose, apparently, Blk Wlf Stout. Nice'n' roast nose, silky smooth, rich and malty, dark and drinkable. Quite nice stout done right. 3.7% ABV, 32 IBU. Nice session stout for sure. Another win in this one.
First Light India Pale Ale.

Time for one more? Okay. Let's finish it off with First Light IPA. 6% ABV. 60 IBU. Crisp and clean, lightly hoppy, citric and floral notes in nose and in the mouth. Falconer's Flight, Azacca, and El Dorado hops, English pale ale, Caramel, and American 2-row malts. Good beer and you can drink it. Not a mind-blowing IPA, not outstanding, but it's tasty and refreshing. Does the job.


I was happy with the beers here, as well as the service, but I can't use the word impressed. They are new enough, that there is still time, lots of time for them to grow and stretch. There are no flaws in the beers, nothing wrong with them, just not especially spectacular. I will continue to visit from time to time, and see what else they have brewing.

As a P.S., the one aspect of the business that I wasn't completely understanding is the part that gets top-billing over the brewery, the Seedhouse part of it. Apparently there's malting going on, not just brewing. A better understanding of that might give me greater insight into the business in general, but that will take a little more research and another visit.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One By One #25: Lakes & Legends, Minneapolis, with Bitter Farmhand Belgian IPA

And, lo, there came a day, Wednesday, March 30, at around 5 o'clock p.m., to be exact, when our hero had grown weary of remaining indoors, taking comfort from the cold and the dark of the season, and strode forth into the wider world, in search of beer and adventures in the far-off land of Loring Park, or at least  LaSalle Avenue, a few blocks away. For the 25th installment of this series, we (me) went to Lakes & Legends.

Lakes and Legends Brewery opened last November, with a week or two of "soft openings", and a hard open in early December. I stopped in once on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, sampling a few, and taking home a growler of the cranberry saison to bring to the family dinner. I didn't take notes on any them, but did check in on Untappd. I was satisfied, but not sated, and intended to return to give them further review. Why, then, did it take me almost 4 months to re-visit this new brewery that's not very far away? Winter is why. And whenever I was going to be in that neighborhood, I tended to want to go to Sisyphus, where I know I already like the beers, and I know the people behind the bar. (Hey, maybe there's a song, or a sitcom in that?)

At long last, I stepped in for the second time when biking became more bearable. (Yeah, all that garbledy-goo up there? My attempt at a "legendary" storytelling style. I gave up on it pretty quick.) The brewery takes up part of the bottom of a very new condominium tower at 13th and LaSalle, 1368, to be precise. When I went in the first time, I had never seen this building before. Putting a craft brewery on the street level of a condo in a hip and trendy neighborhood has got to be a sure path to success, right? So, how's the beer, and will the quality matter?

What they're trying to do here is a fairly unusual and admirable goal, creating a space and a line of beers that pays homage to the rustic Belgian tradition, while remaining firmly inside an urban environment. There's no patio, nor, it seems, any chance for one, but they use the taproom to give the feeling of hanging out on the lake. Patio furniture, bean bag toss, hammerschlagen, etc. The walls are decorated with photos of farm scenes, and the back of the bar is similarly appointed with wooden frames and old style farm ephemera.

Wilde Rist wild rice brown ale.
There are different sizes available, 4 ounce pours or 12, with the price adjusted based on the beer. I'd tried many of the staple beers at the top of the menu the last time, and decided to start at the bottom, and the Farm to Glass series, a line of beers using unusual added ingredients. (Kind of happy for the lack of alliteration here. So tired of "plow to pint" and "garden to growler.") Went with the smaller option to maximize my drinking, and picked the Wilde Rijst, or "wild rice." 5.9%, 42 IBU. Brown ale with wild rice, malty and musty, slightly sweet, just a touch rustic and funk. I liked this, and would definitely
have another.

Agredoux sour brown with maple syrup.
Tripel with plums.
On to the next one, and again I chose a 4 ounce pour. My friendly server asked if I just wanted the one, or maybe two at once, this time. Just one I told her, and it only later dawned on me what a dope I was being. It's a long bar, and she's got other customers to attend to. Is it really cool to ask her to run down to my end of the bar every time I drink four ounces of beer? I could have asked for two at a time, but with the next order, I went with the 12 ounce pour to get to know it a little better.

But getting back to the beer, number two was called Agredoux, for reasons I've never figured out. A sour brown ale with maple syrup, 5.4%ABV, lightly sour, discernibly sweet, well-balanced, not too anything, with an increasing sourness in the flavor. Another good one. We're doing great so far.

Beer #3 was the final Farm to Glass, merely called Tripel, but referred to as Tripel with plums elsewhere. Had a soft, shy nose, with slowly unfolding fruit. Bolder flavors in the mouth, bright, smooth and delightful. Little bit of the old bubblegum, with subtle, delicate plum notes. Very nice. Another winner. 7.8% ABV.

I wasn't quite finished and chose as my fourth, their Belgian-style strong golden ale, Marigold. Belgian yeast notes abound, more "Bubble-gummy", fruity, spicy, and lightly bitter. This comes close to what I really want to taste in this style, but not quite there. Good balance, light body, crisp malt. Just need a little something....else. Something untouchable, unnameable....missing magic. 7.7% ABV, 25 IBU. I would drink it again, but I wouldn't rave about it. Here's the website gobbledygook: A beer to savor, this beer’s apple-like smell combined with its easy drinkability belie the higher alcohol content. Soothe your mind and warm your nights with this signature Belgian ale.

That was it for my drinks at the taproom. There were other options, such as some bottled offerings that I may return for, but I elected to have my empty growler refilled with one of the regular beers, and the notes follow:
Bitter Farmhand. Belgian IPA. 6.9% ABV. 71 IBU.

Lightly hazed, golden hued, slim, but lasting, white head.

Aroma: Pop goes the bubblegum. Oozing Belgian yeast. Fruity, spicy, hoppy, but ultimately sweet with a funky twist.

In the mouth: malty sweet. low bitterness. low hops, really A funky Belgian-esque pale ale, but I'm not getting much "I.P.A." out of this. Some minor bitterness, some little bit of funk, but not really registering what you looking for when you hear IPA. I'm going to keep drinking and see if this changes at all. Still, so far, it's lacking the spark and the buzz, the bitter kick I'd want from an IPA, Belgian-style or otherwise.
I recognized the fellow in blue, and he remembered me,
from years back, at the Blue Nile. Said I poured him a lot
of Delirium Tremens. That takes me back.
The official description: A peace-offering to the hop heads – a strong hop flavor upfront is rounded out with the characteristic Belgian yeast flavors and hefty malt bill.

Oddly enough, I don't recall being disappointed when I had it back in November. Don't know if it changed, or have I. Or was it just how my palate was feeling that night? I'm going to give this one another chance.

All in all, I think I'll be back to Lakes & Legends again and again, and give more of their beers more chances. I like what they're trying to do, and more often than not, I like how they do it. Look for more reviews from growlers, now and then.