Thursday, November 27, 2014

Summit Union Series 3X Mild Ale


It's time for another Summit Union Series beer, and this one is a mild ale, a 3X mild, to be exact.

Appearance: clear, deep amber, slim white head.

Aroma: earthy, herbal, malty. Low hops in this, minor fruit notes, definitely English hop character.

Taste: clean, smooth, and brimming with flavor. This is how you want your dark mild, a kind of brew practically unknown to the average craft consumer. If Surly Mild where ever canned, the local yokels would know a little more, but since it's so infrequently represented, it's a secret to most that you can have a dark, delicious, lighter bodied, and lower alcohol ale like this. Long, malty finish, medium body, very tasty.

Where's some info on this? The 6-pack carrier: 7.2% ABV. (What? That's not "mild"! Oh, yeah, it's "3X" mild, now I get it….but I didn't taste it.), OG: 17.5 Plato, 38 IBU. Expedition Base Malt, USA, Mild Ale Malt, UK, Amber Malt, UK, Experimental 06300 hops, USA.

Nice one. This is one to have around for Thanksgiving, sure to please the crowd.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch


Dogfish Head Midas Touch. Handcrafted Ancient Ale. with barley, honey, white muscat grapes, and saffron. 12 fl. oz., 9% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Delaware.

This is one I haven't had in a while, and first wrote notes on in December, 2002. I last mentioned a few days ago that there are times that I'm fine with my notes of over a decade ago, and there are times that I'm not. I've decided that this goes in column B.

What's the story on this? It was released initially in 2001, first in 750 ml bottles (which is how I first tried it), and is briefly described thusly: "This sweet yet dry beer is made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between wine and mead, Midas will please the chardonnay and beer drinker alike. 12 IBU."

I'm going to try this one as if fresh, then bring out the old notes. Okay? Ready? Here we go!

Appearance: hazy, golden hued, brief white head.

Aroma: grape must and honey notes greet the nose first. Lightly spicy and fruity, with alcohol creeping into the aromatics.

Taste: Minor hops (if any?), but significant bitterness at first. Funky fruit associations flood the palate next, sweet honey notes hanging on the sides. We've got a honey ale, a fruit ale, and some odd blend of a white wine and a mead, that has the alcohol strength of a Belgian triple or such. I don't drink either wine or mead, but I have no problem with this.

I wrote a bit about cider a few weeks back, without actually drinking one, and decided that they didn't do it for me. If I like this, I should like meads, right? And then, why not ciders, while we're at it. This isn't really beer, not like we know it today, and yet I'm finding it quite delicious. It doesn't replace beer for me, though. Honey and grapes may be an occasional diversion, but won't really replace hops and malt, no sir.

So, here are those notes from 12-04-02: "A recreated ancient ale, using such offbeat ingredients as white muscat grapes, and saffron. Pours a big, bone white head, gorgeous amber/orange color, soft, sweet aroma. Lovely texture! It just rolls off your lips and floods your mouth with pleasure. Warm, glowing, the grapes are evident, and, soon enough, the honey comes shining through. Perfect for summertime picnics, of around the fireplace. Fresh, sparkling, very mead-like...I've never had a honey beer quite like this. There is no beer like this, that's for sure.
Great stuff, and reminds me of the best Belgians I've enjoyed."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Founders Dark Penance Imperial Black India Pale Ale {sic}


I know that beer geeks as a community are supposed to love, crave, and trade your favorite limb for the beers of Founders, but I have to break from the pack, and admit that I found one that left me cold.

 Founders Dark Penance Imperial Black India Pale Ale. 100 IBUs. 8.9% ABV.

Appearance: very dark. nearly black, lots of reddish highlights, round the edges, with a slim dark head.

Aroma: citrus-y, piney, and plenty malty. Here's the perfect nose of a black ale ( I just hate calling them 'black IPAs'.) high hops, raisins, grapes, …etcetera.

Taste: In the mouth, thick, rich malt, bright hoppiness,  an interesting mix. Now, the booze rushes in, okay it's imperial now, is it? There's a blast of bitterness on the palate, a full body, a long, malty finish. …it is tasty, and it's good, but I'm not crazy about it.

Here's the thing: I've never had an Imperial Black IPA. Not sure how many of them there are, and I'm not sure if I'm in favor of them. I'm all for Imperial IPAs, stouts, porters, but why not this? The problem is that I'm tasting the booze in it more than anything else, more than the hops even. It seems as if the malt involved was merely an afterthought.

There's positively no gobbledygook on the label, so let's check the carrier for copy. "A heavy malt foundation includes crystal malt for sweetness and just enough midnight wheat malt to push the color to black. The bitterness is huge, but balanced by malt sweetness and alcohol burn. The hop flavors and aromas range from citrus to floral to pine, thanks to a delicious blend of hand-selected Chinook and Centennial hops."

Okay, I've never heard of "alcohol burn" being a source of balance. There's really no balance to speak of,  the hop bitterness doesn't match the malt at all.

I like hoppy-as-hell IPAs, I can take higher alcohol brews, and I do like 'em dark. But, this is kind of mixed up and I'm left less than delighted. I'm going to have a big, brassy Belgian or maybe a rich, hearty Imperial Stout to lift my spirits.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Piraat Triple Hop


Piraat Triple Hop Dry-hopped Ale, alc. 10.5% by Vol. Product of Belgium. Brewed & Bottled: Br. Van Steenberge. Ertvelde, Belgium.

I've been a fan of Piraat for quite some time and now, at last, there's a triple hop, dry-hopped version? Sign me up!

Appearance: lightly hazed, bright golden amber hue, snow-white, lacy head. Beautiful.

Aroma: dry, spicy, floral, bristling with noble hops. Gorgeous.

Taste: Bone-dry. Ultra-hoppy. Or, uber-, that works. Citrus notes abound, little traces of pine, all types of spicy delights. Pear, apple, pepper. Mmm. Long, spicy, hoppy finish. Lean-bodied, light malt character. Goddamn it, this is good. It hits me right where I live.

Any gobbledy-gook on the label? Nary a whiff of it. It is what it is, and it is wonderful. More, please!

Goose Island India Pale Ale


Goose Island India Pale Ale, Alc./Vol. 5.9%. 55 IBU rating. Serve in a thistle. Contains: Wheat (Is that a new thing? Have they always used wheat in this?)Brewed and bottled by Goose Island Brewing Company in Baldwinsville, NY and Fort Collins, CO. (Not Chicago, IL? Ah, that's why they sold out to Budweiser, eh?)

Every now and then, I re-visit a beer that I'd first taken notes on many years ago, back in the infancy of my beer reviewing life. I just bought a 6-pack of Goose Island's India Pale Ale, a brew I've always enjoyed, and looked back on the old notes. Know what? They hold up. So, here they are verbatim, from January of 2003:

"Pours a pure amber color, topped with a plump, lacey milk-white head.

Vibrantl aromatics, displaying a bold, bracing bouquet of hops. I'm no walking encyclopedia of beer ingredients, but I'd guess at Cascade as the chief hop in use. Evocative of some fruits, peach, pineapple,citrus, notes of herb and pine. The hop sensation buzzes and bristles, a sensation close to stuffing your face in a big bag of hops, and inhaling deep!

Sharp bitterness on the palate at first, ultimately, but not immediately, mellowing out. Excellent texture for the hopheads, as each individual sip requires one to stop, savor, swallow. The hop attack is huge, and clearly, not for everyone. I enjoyed the hell out of this tasty IPA. Puts others to shame."

This was almost 12 years ago, and I would no longer say that this one puts others to shame. It's still a terrific IPA, but the game has changed so much in the past decade plus, and much more has been accomplished in the field of IPAs.

Why did Anheuser-Busch purchase Goose Island? They've got plenty of money as it is, they hardly need more. Now that they own the GI brand, the beers are being brewed at A-B facilities nation-wide and reaching markets that GI never could before. But it's not really Goose Island anymore, is it? Is it still craft beer if it's owned and brewed by big bad Budweiser?

There are so many questions to face when you're trying to be a politically correct beer drinker. What it comes down to is, yeah, I do feel guilty that the $7.99 I paid for this 6-pack didn't go to a craft brewery that get where it is on it's own terms, without a leg-up from the Evil Empire.

You will still see GI beers here from time to time, but not much and not often. Other breweries will take priority, it's just the natural way I roll.

Hey, what's the label say? "English style IPA. Our IPA opens with a fruity aroma set off by a malty middle and long hop finish." Sure, why not?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bauhaus Brewlabs Jingle Fever Baltic Porter


It's that time of year, when store shelves are stocking to brimming with beer labels adorned with  all manner of holiday references. And we're doing it locally, too, evidenced by the latest release from Bauhaus, their first bottling.

Bauhaus Brewlabs Jingle Fever. 8% Alcohol by Volume. 35 IBU. 22 fluid ounces. Baltic Porter. Limited Release. Bomber for $7.50 at Lake Wine & Spirits. So glad to find a bomber for under $10.

Appearance: dark brown, with bright shining crimson highlights peeking through, slim brown head.

Aroma: Earthy, malty, lightly spicy.

Taste: Got to tell ya, parts one and two didn't thrill me. Part three, once it's in the mouth, it's a wonderful thing. Delicious. Sweet, sweet dark malt. Caramel and toffee. Gingerbread. Toasty and tasty. Medium-bodied, long, sweetish finish. Low bitterness, just enough for balance.

I wonder what the label can tell us? Got to get the glasses out…"Smooth & silky." "A toast to all that's good in life!" "Gemutlichkeit!" "When the fluffy white stuff starts falling, this Baltic Porter is all you need to get into the holiday spirit. Jingle Fever has a rich, complex blend of malt flavors expressing caramel and dried fruit with an oh-so-smooth roasty finish. One sip will have you coming back for more."

Great to see another Baltic Porter being locally brewed. I hate to disappoint them, but this brew won't achieve it's goal of giving me "jingle fever." That's never been my style. It is a hearty remedy for wintry maladies, though.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stone Coffee Milk Stout


Stone Coffee Milk Stout, Ale Brewed With Roasted Coffee Beans. ENJOY FRESH. 2014 release. 4.2% Alc./Vol. B & B b. SBC, E, SDC, C.

Solid blackness, rich tan head atop.

Low espresso notes in the aroma, cocoa, deep dark malts.

Taste: Smooth and creamy. We're getting some hop bitterness, just enough to tamp down the sweetness. Lush malt, great balance. Solid stuff.

I like coffee stouts. Not so hot on milk stouts. Nothing wrong with them, just don't thrill me, that's all. Put them together, and …I'm still not thrilled. It's fine enough stout, but I probably won't pay $11 for a 6-pack again.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Surly Eight (Rye Barrel-aged Oat-Wine)


Surly Eight. The eighth Surly of them all. Oat Wine style ale aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. (Or is it a secret? Maybe not.)Why were both the anniversary beer and Darkness barrel-aged this year? So they could get the beer out of the fermentation tanks and into those barrels that they store in a warehouse in St. Paul, and use those tanks to brew more Furious.
Soon, soon, there will be more tanks at the new facility. Soon, and getting sooner!

So, this is the first time that I haven't poured the Surly anniversary beer for the thirsty beer nerds of Minneapolis. I've accepted the fate that I've foisted on myself, but there's still that wistful twinge. Ah…yeah… I remember One, in 2007, and from 2008 through 2010, I was proud to host the release of Two (which will always have special personal importance, you know, because of this, Three, and Four at the Blue Nile. Those were exciting days, weren't they, friends? And, they usually happened in late January or early February, because that was when the anniversary occurred. I know for a fact that the first kegs of Surly Furious and Bender rolled out on the last week of Jan./first week of Feb. in 2006. For Surly Five, in 2011, it took a few months more, and then they started the mantra: "when it's ready." That was at Republic Seven Corners, and Six (or, Syx) was also released in the summertime at Aster Cafe along the river. For Seven, I'm sorry, SeViin, they rented out the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown and that was in late Autumn. Eight is the latest of them all. This was released at the Dakota Jazz Club a few weeks back, cool, I wish I'd been there. I really do! The only one I've missed! (There was no release party for One. They didn't do that then.)

I was at the Nomad last Wednesday  for their MidWeek Beer Geek release of Eight, and Michael Berglund, master of Surly imaging and branding,  mentioned that I hadn't written about it yet. Well, now, this was my first full serving of it, and bottles just went out to stores earlier that week, and I didn't go chasing the trucks for it. If you're not aware, here's a little lesson about the hardcore beer geek crowd. They follow brewery/distributor delivery trucks to chase the release of the new, hard to get beers. Yeah, they do. And I don't.

I did pick one up last week, but didn't open it right away. I wanted to make sure I could have another to sit on before I cracked open the first. And I bought that other one today. Maybe, someday soon, I'll be able to afford a few more, and I'll visit those liquor stores that the beer geeks pass by, and I'll find some more for my cellar.

Right now, I'm in between jobs. I don't have the cash to buy a bunch, and I wasn't haunting the store aisles when it was first released, but more significantly, I'm not managing a bar that gets a keg, and can't hook one up just to pour some out for sampling. (Ah, those were the days. Well, you made your bed, now, lie in it!)
No, I've got to pay $20 a pop like every other schmuck.

Enough of that jibber-jabber, now it's time to lock in and sit down a big ol' bomber of Eight. Sorry, it's late, everyone, but here we go…

Appearance: utter opacity, dark, rugged, rustic burgundy coloring, under a lush, off-white, creamy-toned head.

Aroma: comes screaming out of the glass…. whiskey all over the place. Vanilla, coconut, oak, …huge, vast, immense, …all the adjectives. The richness wraps over all other flavors, but that's alright, I don't mind.

Taste: yeah, let's…mmm, bright, bold, vibrant, and incredibly complex. Whiskey tones (more vanilla, more sweetness, still some coconut) are king of this jungle, standing tall above all, …and making me wish I could get a taste of the original, pre-High West barrel-aging to compare them. An oat barley-wine, rich, fruity, delicious, and strong. But, not too strong. Some have been reporting this as "hot", but having tasted it, I am here to declare them to be positively pussies. "Waah, wah, it's 'hot'!" Get over it, it's a barley-wine, it's supposed to be strong, be a man, and drink a beer! (Or be a woman, too, either way. How about this one: "person up!" Okay, I'll keep searching for the politically correct term.)

I'm barely halfway into this and it's tasting better and better, and feeling stronger and stronger. Pro-tip: share this one. Not wise to drink it alone. But, that's what I'm here for, taking it for the team.

An oat wine. How many of those are there? The wheat wine is a thing, sure, but Todd has always been pro-oat, and mostly anti-wheat. Smooth and supple and utterly delicious. Once the whiskey barrel-aging effects wear away, the brew below shows it's stuff, and it's goddamn gorgeous.

We're getting towards the end, and I'm close to surrender. This is the best way to enjoy this beer (screw sharing!)…late at night…got nothing to do tomorrow…let the time pass away, and accept every beautiful moment.

Here's where I read the label to you: First off, Omar: "When it's done is a phrase we've used to describe release dates for our beers for many years. When you're putting the beer first, it just makes sense. Our anniversary is technically in February, but this unique Oat Wine style ale needed to age in High West Distillery Rye Whiskey barrels until well…until it's done. Here's to eight great years, and we'll all be celebrating soon in our all-new Destination Brewery. …The idea behind our anniversary line-up of beers was to give Todd, Surly's Head Brewer, fee rein to use whatever ingredients and methods he wanted to brew the beer. This year's bottle artwork is a one-of-a-kind illustration collaboration between Todd and local artist Josh "Jawsh" Lemke." …and then, Todd: "This beer was designed for barrel-aging, so it's been a great opportunity to work with our friends at High West Distillery, in Park City, Utah. Brewed with Golden Promise and Aromatic malt, and milk sugar fermented in stainless steel, then aged in high West Distillery rye whiskey barrels, this golden-hued Oat-Wine style ale summons notes of spicy vanilla marshmallow and aromas of honey and whiskey."

Wait, there's information missing…why can't I find the ABV? Odd…well, I heard that it's 10.7% ABV. It's got to be on there somewhere….nope, nowhere…oh, well, worse things have happened.

Okay. This is incredible now. And it could be different later. I say get as much as you like, but drink it fresh, then stash some away and break it out on special occasions, but don't freak out about aging it. Probably the best advice anyone can ever give you about beer: don't freak out about it.

Postal Script: You many have noticed that I provided links to the blog posts about 5 of the previous anniversary beers from Surly. One and Three were reviewed before I began using this blog as the space for my beer reviews, and I'm not likely to come across them again. By the rules of this blog, they shouldn't appear here, but I'm going to break that rule this time. Here's what I wrote about One, a 9% ABV dark lager that we decided to call a doppelbock, on January 10, 2007:
""One", an anniversary lager. ("But don't call it a doppelbock.")
Brewed July 2006, with a blend of 7 different malts and candi sugar. 9% abv, 28 IBU.

(this was hard to categorize, as it's not a double pilsner, not a malt liquor,...I thought I'd err on the safe side and just enter it as an all-malt lager.)

Sample bottle poured into a wide-mouth Belgian chalice.

Deep mahogany hue. ("Tawny brown", says the brewer, but we're both right.) SLIM whitish head.

Aroma: nice and malty, lightly spicy, with prominent notes of raisin and PLUM. Molasses isn't far off, either. Delicate sweetness.
And, though I tried not to copy the brewer's notes, yes, there's vanillla and licorice in there, too, can't deny it.)

Taste away: Mmmmm. That's all I'll say: Mmmm

...

...

...okay, seriously, this is quite a slick, delicious treat, and they're right it's not a doppelbock, it's unlike anything I can think of at the moment, and I think it's brilliant.
Those dark fruit flavors ride on top, coated with a candyish sheen and it's jostles the realm of the syrupy, but not quite. It grabs hold of the palate with each new sip, drips this sweet concoction all over the tongue and it splashes the roof of the mouth, coats the senses, then softly fades back, though the beautiful flavor never quite quits.

Alcohol is not as forward as you'd think, going into a 9% lager, but I still would advise against tippling too many!
Finish is long, body is medium to full, and the taste is well-tempered, very sweet, but not too much so, at least not to me. Those who can't stand a touch of sweetness may not like it. Their loss.

Happy 1st Anniversary Surly!
Here's to many more!"

I wrote this about Bourbon Barrel-aged One on July 13, 2009:
"Surly Bourbon One

First had this at the Surly Beer Dinner at Cafe' 28 in early 2008. For my 40th birthday in June, 08, got a bottle from Todd, lucky me. SAved it 10 months, broke it open for sampling with friends, here are my notes:


Dusky brown, SLIM head...

rustic nose...fat malt mixed with whiskey...leather licks, bourbon takes command of flavor in this...holds down over the huge malt. One by itself was super-malty and sweet, this, ...this...is perfection...

Taste: sweet and scrumptious, PLUM, dates, raisins, carob and nuts...sweet googly moogly...huge, expansive flavor...spreads out and envelops the senses...

Good Lord...

holy fuck.."

I wrote this about Cranberry One in April of 2007:
"On tap at the Blue Nile.

Thoroughly darkened appearance, a solid brown, with a sturdy, if SLIM head of cocoa-tinged foam riding on top.

Tart fruit starts the nose, then molasses, sweet caramel malt...the cranberries merge well the other great flavors found in One, and hold ground above. But there is no single dominant factor, instead, a brilliant blending.

Taste: Yum. Just yum. Dark, sweet, and lightly tart, the better parts of a rich malty lager given an extra fruity zing. Or zang. Or zabbityzazz. Take your pick.
Sip again, and it's scrumptious once more. Full bodied in the mouth, long, sweet, fruity finish.
Terribly smooth, no rough spots here at all. Tastiness all around.
an excellent dessert beer, or an exquisite closer on a night's imbibing.
Any way you try it, please do. Another winner from Surly."

And on February 24, 2009, I wrote this about the braggot (half cider/half dark lager) they called Three:
""Black Braggot" they're calling it, and it's pretty damned black, under a creamy tanned head, about a 1/4 inch, long lasting in my Darkness goblet.

Sweetness hits the nose, you get the honey tone, then it opens up for vanilla, cream, cloves, and more delicate spices. Very pleasant.

Tasting it, and the honey hits again. It leaps up and slides all over the palate, coating the tongue, and dripping delight all over the mouth. I like honey, and I like honey beers. The taste starts off with loads of honey, then leans back, as caramel and cocoa malt flavors fill in and temper the sweet stuff some. Still sweet, but far from treacly. Very mellow.

Full bodied, to say the least, finish is solid, sweet and mellow, not too short, not too long...doesn't overstay it's welcome. I find this one irresistible, but it be wisest to control consumption and keep this as a lovely nightcap.

Cheers to Todd and Omar for another remarkable, utterly unique brew, and to three great years of Surly beers!"



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dave's BrewFarm Gravity Sux Lager


There are all kinds who visit Dave's BrewFarm, plenty of interesting characters, including some who love to sky-dive. On many occasions, they've chosen the BrewFarm as their landing site, and I've been there once for the drop. Imagine that, someone falls out of the sky and comes up to the bar for a beer.

Well, they talked Farmer Dave into taking the plunge with them, a surreal experience, he called it, and he brewed this beer in their honor.  Gravity Sux, it's called, and it's 6.9% ABV. I've seen it called an "American Pale Lager" on Untappd, and having had it at the BrewFarm last Saturday, I wouldn't agree, but like I said about the last one, you gotta stick it somewhere (for those websites, anyway). This one, too, I'd call an amber lager.

Appearance: crystal clear, bright golden/amber hue, slim white head.

Aroma: mild, fruity hops, light spice, then malt.

Taste: Sweet malt and minor hops greet the tongue at first, sweet biscuity, bready malt reveals itself behind that. Medium-bodied, light finish. Little bit of peppery spice in the flavor, little bit of stone fruit, apricot,  peach, a touch of citrus. Smooth stuff. And tasty as they get. Here's where I stop with my lager-bashing and just enjoy.

Here's what Farmer Dave has to say: "Gravity Sux: Brewed for our favorite group of jumpers who like to "drop in" for a beer at the BrewFarm! Smooth and easy drinking--Pils and Caramel malts, Cluster and PErle hops, and fermented with a lager yeast. For those who like to jump out of perfectly good airplanes!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout


Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout. B & B b. SNBC, C, CA. (You know what that means.)

It's still what you could call the middle of November and it is god-damned freezing out there. I am in deep need of something hearty, rich and warming. Well, at 6.2 % ABV, it's not that warming, but it is the first two, so here comes Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout.

I let this one warm up to almost room temperature.

Solid blackness, with ruby-tinged edges, A rich tanned head stands guard on top.

Aroma: Espresso and cocoa and nothing but, deep and dark and wonderful.

Taste: Pretty much everything you want in a coffee stout. Full-bodied, full coffee flavor, long, rich malty finish, while still fantastically drinkable. Mild carbonation, low hops, strong coffee…beautifully balanced.

Deee-licious. It's is very hard to find a Sierra Nevada beer that doesn't deliver. That's all I'm saying.

Hey, what are they saying, I wonder? "A cup of joe and a bold beer can thwart the winter cold, so we blended them for the ultimate warmer. Our Coffee Stout is a fusion of dark roasted malts and rich, cold-brewed coffee for layers of bittersweet, fruity, dark chocolate and caramel-like flavors."

I've got to tell you, though: I'm not getting the dark fruit or the caramel-like…wait, okay, now I get it.