Friday, December 19, 2014

Eastlake Blueliner American Pale Ale

Eastlake Craft Brewery was closed Monday-Wednesday this week, and it was a day off for me Sunday. So, I returned to work last night with our fifth beer on tap, an American Pale Ale called Blueliner. I thought that was what he was going to call the American India Pale Ale, whenever that comes around.  The IPA will get a different, more obscure title, which I'll explain when that time comes. This one I'm very sure is named for the light rail route Ryan Pitman used to steer across town.

As I said before, I'm listing these beers for posterity, and won't write reviews, critical or in praise. What I will do, is share the info and in-house notes....

...and tell you that it's a good beer and you can drink it. 

Boulevard Nutcracker Ale

So, here we have Boulevard Nutcracker Ale. I haven't had this one in a while, and once more I'm not sure if my decade + notes are up to snuff. Or, maybe they are? So, we'll see. Here come the fresh ones, circa 2014…

Nutcracker Ale, Dry-hopped Winter Warmer. Contains Pure water, barley malt, wheat malt, hops and yeast. 7.8% ABV.

Appearance: hazy, caramel-brown coloring, dark and tawny, beautiful long-lasting off-white head.

Aroma: sweet, toffee-ish, a little herbal, a bit nutty, earthy. Major malt. Sweet 'n' nutty.

Taste: More sweetness meets the lips, tasty, tasty. Butterscotch and toffee. Malty and sweet. Minor hops. Yum. Dark fruit flavors come through, fine and mellow. Smooth, and delicious. The alcohol is starting to creep in. Mm, mm. Nifty nightcap, this. And damned delicious.

Here's what I wrote about 11 years ago….

Boulevard nutcracker
SEASONAL: Winter   IBU: 38   EST. CALORIES: 234   ABV: 7.8%

The time of chestnut-roasting may have nestled to the back of our memories now, but the chill outside still beckons for a winter ale, so let's see how this one holds up…Intriguing appearance, not quite brown, more than red, with a firm, but fallible, toasted tan head of foam. Aroma is evident at first pour, and on initial sniff we encounter mild spices, mellow fruit, dark ones, grape, cherry, plum, etc., and a solid, sweet maltiness. Taste: Nice hoppy buzz at the top, pleasing the palate, spicy/fruity flavor climbs to the fore and washes over the mouthfeel. At once sweet and somewhat sharp. Medium body, but full with flavor, with a tasty, pungent finish, that glides softly off the palate. Best-by date of 2/01/04 is stamped on the bottle, but this sample actually tastes better than the ones I had six weeks ago! Has a Belgian feel to it, actually. And I can dig it.


Full Sail Wassail Ale

Full Sail Wassail Ale, Winter Ale, FS Pub Series. Alc 7.2% by Vol. Full Sail Brewing Company, Hood River, Oregon.

Appearance: dusky brown coloring, slim, cocoa/tan head.

Aroma: earthy, nutty , dark fruits. malty.

Taste: Little blast of hops up front, then it's the Malt Show, all day and night. Sweet and toffee-ish at first, tempered slightly by hop bitterness. Rich malt flavor. A little nutty, a lot sweet. Nice winter ale, but nothing special.

these are my notes on beer #6 of the 6-pack I bought because I knew it wasn't on the Bitter Nib yet, and it was only $8 a 6-pack. I wanted to take fresh notes, because I didn't feel like my old ones were good enough, but maybe they were? Here's what I wrote about this in January of 2003 (almost 12 years ago)"

Fine, sturdy, off-white head, dark brown color. Sweet aroma, but nothing too distinctive coming through. Faint hints of toffee, nuts, spices. Mild hoppiness, medium carbonation. Sweet maltiness. Very mild, very mellow, but to a fault. I like my winter ales with more of a kick, and this slides down too smooth for my tastes. Feels as if they were shooting for something like Anchor's Our Special Ale, but something held them back.  01/12/03.

Looking back, I think I said it well then.

Flat Earth Angry Planet Pale Ale

Back in 2007, the Flat Earth Brewing Company made it's debut with the Belgian Pale Ale, and followed it soon afterward with this beer, the Angry Planet Pale Ale, originally billed as Organic, (it seems that that's gone away) and the Cygnux X-1 Rye Porter, not particularly in that order. (Which means that I can't remember.) I was going through this blog recently and discovered that I still haven't added those here. I haven't seen any Cygnus in visits to the store lately, but I did pick up a bomber of Angry Planet. And I've got this nagging feeling that I wasn't impressed in my original notes, so I've decided to write new ones and give this beer fresh eyes.

Appearance: Clear, bright amber color, slim, but lasting off-white head.

Aroma: malty nose, with herbal and nutty notes. Earthy. English pale ale /ESB aromatics at work here.

Taste: Sweet and malty at first, with just enough hops for balance. Loads of malt in the flavor, here, medium bodied, with a long, malty finish. Definitely an English-style pale ale. Good drinking. Solid stuff.

What's the label tell us? "This is what happens when Mother gets angry. Angry Planet is a crisp, clean and satisfying American pale ale. Cascade hops are the star of this beer, giving it an orange citrus flavor and aroma. The malt's character is restrained to let the hops shine through. Angry Planet goes well on hot summer days with fajitas, pizza and pad thai."

Man, did I get that wrong! American pale ale? Cascade hops shine through? Am I basing my perceptions on what the beer used to be, versus what's in the glass? But, that is what I smelled and tasted. Sure, it's tasting hoppier now than it did at first, but I'd never have tagged this as an APA before they told me.

Huh. How about the ingredients? "American pale, Munich, Carafil and wheat malts, Simcoe and Cascade hops, American Ale yeast and St. Paul water. OG-1.086, 14 SRM, 48 IBU, 6% ABV.

I enjoy those moments when I write my notes and the brewer's information reveals that I am correct. Then there are the times that I am left embarrassed. Or should I be? The dark malt character definitely threw me off and led me away from seeing it as an APA. And, frankly, I didn't feel the Cascade hops were really shining all that much. Maybe it's the inured hophead in me? (Or is this an old bottle? No born on date anywhere.)

Although, halfway in, I'm now getting the Cascade, I'm getting the orange. But blended with caramel malt.

Here are the original notes from July, 2007:

On tap at Acadia.

Cloudy orange color...did they leave off the filter for this one?...little to no head on this pour.

Aroma:soft citrus from plenty of hops. Lightly tart. Almost right for style, but a bit muted...I want it to leap out at me. Not the case.

Orange rind and lemon peel in the taste. Very bright, but with a smack of bitterness.
(I don't have a lot of info on this one, it's not on the Flat Earth website yet, and word from the distributor is that it's Federally recognized as "organic" and that it's "just tremendous." And further word on hops, malts, alc.%, etc. is left to our imagination and/or guesswork. )

Nice hoppy kick continues on the palate, citric sweet with a slight sour ( a little too sour, mayebe) twist. Medium bodied, plenty of texture, easy-drinking, but not too smooth, just enough tumble and tickle to keep this tongue happy.

Well done, but not quite there yet. That little sour trickle at the end starts to really bug me, and doesn't really help ensure total satisfaction. Almost my favorite Flat Earth brew, except for that. Perhaps later batches may reduce this flaw?

feloniousmonk, Jul 19, 2007

Bell's Christmas Ale

Bell's Christmas Ale, Scottish Ale, Bell's Brewery, Comstock, MI. 5.5% ABV.

Notes from November, 2008:

Hazey, opaque color, bordering on a lighter brown, nice, creamy toned head, ...

Fruity malt sweetness hits the nose at first, matched by hops, high hops, higher than I'd expect out of a Scotch Ale, as this is purported to be...grapefruit and orange, a twist of lemon, matched with juicy malt. Interesting...

Whoa! Big, bitter bite right off the bat...not sure I'd call this a Scotch Ale or a Wee Heavy, after the pithy attack of hops with each new taste. I like it, mind you, I might even love it...

Described on the label as a "malt-driven Scotch Ale". the malt may drive it, but the hops take over the steering wheel and take command. Scotch Ales shouldn't taste like Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale or Surly Furious. But I like it, despite that...
It's great, ...bright hops smack up into lush, lovely malt. Great balance, ... like a big IPA, with full Scottish malt at hand. I can enjoy this. Stylistic sticklers should be warned, though.

Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale

Every now and then, I go through this site in search of what I need to search for, the holes in the collection, especially the most glaring omissions and the easiest catches. Scanning the list of beers under "Odell", I found no mention of 5 Barrel Pale Ale. A quick trip to Chicago Lake Liquors uncovered the winter Montage collection, this one featuring IPA (of course), that missing 5 Barrel, Isolation Ale, and a new one, exclusive to this set, Gramps Oatmeal Stout. So, two beers I need, and two that I always enjoy. No brainer.

But there was one question that remained: had I written about this one before? I checked BeerAdvocate and found my notes from...May of 2010? I had begun trading for beers in 2003. Many of my traders sent me Odell beers over the years. But not this one? Or maybe, I did review it, but when it was available locally, at last, I gave it a better review and deleted the old one from my beer-reviewing infancy? That make sense, I'll go with that. So, here we go...

Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Odell Brewing, Fort Collins, CO. 5.2% ABV. 32 IBU.

Clear, amber/bronze appearance, creamy, bone white layer of foam, good, lasting 1/2 ".

Floral aromatics in the nose, caramel and toffee malt tones, a minor splash of citrus. Bit buttery. Really classic British pale ale feeling.

Taste: hops up front, nice bitter buzz, not gonna be able to guess what hops are in play, but they have to be British. This bitterness continues on the palate and revisits with every new sip. Tasty, juicy malt, tropical fruit....mmm, I wonder what malts are in here. Scottish? Pineapple and banana, meets caramel and vanilla.

This a tasty, complex ale, one I'm going to have to give some consideration to again and again. Delicious hoppy pale ale, with tasty, tasty malt. Mmmmm.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blacklist Tripel, with Green Tea, Lemongrass, and Honey

Blacklist Artisan Ales Tripel with Green Tea & Lemongrass & Lake Superior Honey. Belgian-style ale brewed with green tea, lemongrass, & honey. Brewed and bottled by Blacklist Brewing, LLC, Duluth, MN. 8.0% Alc. by Vol.

Appearance: thoroughly clouded, dark golden/amber, with no head at all.

Aroma: Green tea and lemongrass is the first thing to pop out of the nose. Just below, spicy/fruity hops and Belgian yeast notes. Sweet and lovely.

Taste: Hops come first, spicy ones, zesty ones, met quickly with Belgian yeast, and that green tea and lemongrass blends in with ease. Don't forget the honey. Lots of sweetness in this, loads of yeastiness, with alcohol creeping up there.  Lean-body, with a dry finish. Tasty, too. The green tea really shows up toward the end, leaping on the palate. Nice.

This isn't an ideal, note-perfect triple, but it's an interesting interpretation. Worth $12.99 for the bomber? I'm leaning on yes. But I wouldn't make a habit out of it.

"In a bubbly collaboration with Lake Superior Honey, we put a twist on the classic Belgian triple, adding green tea, lemongrass, and local honey. Tripel is full-flavored, citrus-y and well-balanced: our tweaks are subtle. The lemongrass adds light herbal aromas and a little spice just before the finish. The honey keeps the body light and adds a touch of sweetness. It's not until the finish that the green tea comes through adding astringency and drying the palate for the next sip."

Mankato Mint Stout

Mankato Mint Stout. Brewed and bottled by Mankato Brewing, LLC, North Mankato, MN.

Appearance: solid, dark brown body, nearly black, with a rich tan head above, starts big and slims down to a tight ring.

Aroma: mint aplenty, with chocolate swift at it's side. Espresso edges.

Taste: Bright, fresh, and refreshing mint at the front, followed by chocolate and other dark malts. Full-body, Long, minty finish. Delicious. Tasty, tasty stuff. It's a good mint stout and I can drink it. Why did it take me so long to get to know this beer?

PS: goes incredibly with ice cream.

Beer Facts: Holiday mint stout (HOLIDAY). Alc. 5.6%. OG 1. 060. IBU:34. Color: black.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where I'm At (Another of those Autobiographical Posts--but aren't they all?)

A few months ago, way back in September, I last kept my readers up to date with my career. I spilled the beans about the end of my time at a certain brewpub not to be named, and the interim experience toiling away at the Harriet Brewing taproom. I had accepted a new job at a brewery taproom yet to open and said it was weeks away, but didn't name the name. Weeks was inaccurate to say the least. The original idea was to be open in late October. That was a month and a half wrong.

My hours at Harriet started to dwindle away. I kept telling them that the new job would start in a few weeks, over and over again, because that's what I was being told. Finally, they ran out of shifts to give me in early November, and I spent a solid month completely unemployed, waiting for my new job to start, subsisting on unemployment, selling things off, borrowing some. It was a rough time. I'd go out once in a while, to my favorite taprooms, brewpubs and bars, watching the bartenders hard at work, dreamily eyeing their actions, thinking: "I so want to do that again! Let me back there!"

I took the job of beer server at the brand new Eastlake Craft Brewery in the Midtown Global Market, at Lake Street and 10th Avenue, for several reasons. I wanted to be involved with a small start-up, just taking off. The project intrigued me with the possibilities inherent in the location, being part of a multicultural marketplace in a part of the city that's starved for local beer options, and utter lacking in beer bars. The location was convenient, also, as it's just four blocks away from where I live. Easy commute there. Even in the dreadful days of winter, a short walk home from work won't be too terrible.

Only one thing was unclear, and the question was asked to me, though I had no answer: "How good will the beer be?" I didn't know, for the owner / brewer had no experience brewing anywhere else, being yet another home-brewer going pro. I was not his friend before they hired me, so I never hung out at his home, drinking his hombrew. Once the brewery was up and running, I got some early tastes from the tanks, but it was too soon to judge their quality, being unfinished, not fully fermented. Mostly what I had to go on was his taste. I had a good feeling that this was going to be a terrific taproom and a quality brewhouse, and that feeling had to carry me from September 24, when I accepted the job, until December 11, my first real shift behind the bar at the finally open taproom. (I certainly got advice from friends and family, telling me: "just get another job." But it's not that easy to "just get a job", and I already had one, plus in the time it would take to apply, interview, be hired and train, the job I wanted and had would be starting.)

We have four beers from the mind of Ryan Pitman to start with: a saison, Belgian pale, black IPA and rye stout. I'm fondest of the last two. The response so far has been universally positive. We'll be up to eight beers on tap in a few weeks, and who knows where we go from there. I'll be filling your pint or tulip 5 days a week soon, and no, I keep telling my friends and acquaintances who visit the following: no, it's not my place, I'm not an owner, or a manager, I didn't design the place or pick the beers or write the descriptions. That's all Ryan and his wife. Me, I'm fine "just" bar-tending for now. Nothing wrong with it. And I might use this space to tell you about the beers, but I won't be reviewing them. I went over all that mulling about the beers at that other place where I was FOH manager, and here I have a specific monetary interest in having you visit the place and drink the beers and leaving a tip. That's how I'm paying the bills and keeping Sonny and Rollie the cats in Fancy Feast.

So, I'll post about the beers for informational purposes from time to time, but I won't give my opinion, bad or good. This will be the first and last time I say, come down to Eastlake and have a pint! Choose from any of the fifteen restaurants, bring your food in, settle into our cozy taproom and enjoy yourself.

Peace Tree Royale 41 Double IPA

Peace Tree Royale 41 Imperial India Pale Ale, Brewed and Bottled by Peace Tree Brewing Company, Knoxville, Iowa, Enjoy. Please Recycle. Visit us on the web.

Appearance: highly hazed, bright golden coloring, beautiful snow white head, leaving some lace. Lovely.

Aroma: Fierce showing from citric hops, bold piney notes, full flowering. Orange and lemon and everything nice.

Taste: Mmmm. This I like. Big, bold hop character on the palate. Everything you want is right here on your tongue. Well, mine, right now, maybe yours? Tast-ee. Or, perhaps, I should call it yum, because that's how I'm feeling. It's a double IPA that doesn't scream or tear or rip or devastate. It delivers the hops without destroying the palate. Highly hopped, utterly delicious, and, again, tasty. I'm so enjoying this….

Hey, look there's all this gobbledygook, let's look at it…"India pale ales are distinguished by an eminent hop flavor, bitterness, and aroma. Royale 41 is no exception to the rule. This Imperial IPA acquires it's stately title from the 41st parallel --the latitudinal mark that runs through our brewery in the Northern Hemisphere and the hop-growing region of New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere. Loaded with American and New Zealand hops, this is a union fit for nobility."

Well, whatever that mean, it doesn't matter, it's a damned tasty IPA.