Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bent Paddle Daypack Pale Ale

Bent Paddle Daypack Pale Ale Single Pale Ale , Bent Paddle Brewing Company, Duluth, MN, 4.7% Alc./Vol.

Appearance: lightly hazed, bright golden hue, under a snowy white, lace-leaving head.

Aroma: Juicy tropical fruit notes, lush pineapple and papaya, plus citrus, lemon and lime, with a trace of pine. Nicely hoppy.

Taste: Big ol' blast of hop bitterness starts us off, softly fading back some. Body is lean and clean, leaving more room on the stage for the hops to shine. Crisp and biscuity malt flavors lurk just below. Brilliant hop flavors continue to treat the tongue, sip after sip. It's an easy-drinking, satisfying pale ale, and I like it.

What does the brewery say? "This sessional pale ale is the ideal complement to the natural surroundings of the open trail. A rugged citrus hop character carries it's weight against the grain with an easy-going drinkability. Be sure to find room in your day-pack for a 6-pack!"

This is a pale ale that should find a home in any well-appointed refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Deschutes The Dissident

Deschutes The Dissident. 2012 Reserve. The Dissident: 20% Malt Beverage aged in French Oak Wine barrels and 80% malt beverage brewed with cherries. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon. 11.4 % Alc. by Vol.

Appearance: It's a murky, reddish hue, with a head that starts as something, but dies off with a quickness.

Aroma: cherries, red wine, oak, funk. Sharp, pungent, and pleasing.

Taste: Once on board the palate, it's brash, vibrant and arrestingly sour. Cherries, red wine, barrel-age magic all blend together beautifully. Medium-bodied, long, sweet/sour finish. Rich and complex and beautiful. Lays long on the palate, makes itself comfortable in the mouth. Where there might be discord, instead we taste harmony.

On the label: "Introducing our wildest beer yet, The Dissident, --a distinctive Belgian-style brown ale. Fermented with wild yeast, we have to isolate this brew so as not to influence the others. Otherwise, we just might have anarchy on our hands. Here's to solitary confinement! And shared exploration."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Engelszell Gregorius Trappist Ale

Well, what to you know, there's an new Trappist brewery, from an Abbey that's been around since the 13th century, and this one isn't Belgian, it's Austrian (making it a "kloisterbrau"). But that doesn't mean that they're making Germanic-style brews, no, they're doing it Belgian-style. And here's the one they call Gregorius.

Stift Engelszell Gregorius Trappistenbier. Product of Austria. 9.7% ALC./VOL. Ale brewed with honey.

Appearance: rich caramel brown, with ruby fringes, under a lush tan head, stays strong, drifts down slowly.

Aroma: sweet and malty, toffee and caramel, plums and raisins, figs, and a bit of cherry in there, too. Complex and wonderful. The label didn't give a style, but based on nose and appearance, it's somewhere between a dubbel and a quadruple.

Taste: Starts slightly bitter, tasty hops doff their caps to us, then a funky twist emerges. Mostly malty, with a surprisingly hoppiness. Trappist yeast continues to contribute to the intriguing character. It's a very complex creature, and tremendously enjoyable.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five Midwest Coast IPA

Bauhaus BrewLabs Sky-Five! Mid-West Coast Style-IPA. 6.7% ABV. 70 IBU. 12 fl. oz. Proudly brewed by Bauahus Brew Labs in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It's the year for beer in Minneapolis. I was looking back, and it occurred to me that three years ago, we had four breweries in the city, Town Hall, Herkimer, Rock Bottom, and Harriet. Two years ago, it was eight, adding Fulton, Boom Island, Northbound and Indeed. Just a few months ago, we had fourteen, with the addition of Dangerous Man, Northgate, Free House, Day Block, 612, and Sociable Cider Werks. At that point, I made my attempt to visit, and drink at, as many of them as I could by bike in one day, if you recall that post. I did it then because I knew such a feat would be impossible soon. Quickly came Sisyphus, then Bauhaus, then Fair State. LynLake opened this week, and in November we'll see the opening of EastLake Craft Brewery, and then the new location of the Surly Brewery. Twenty-one breweries in the City of Lakes. Amazing. How fast  and far we've come along!

So now we come to Bauhaus BrewLabs, whose cans have recently found their way into local stores. I stopped by the brewery and taproom for the first time last week, and wondered why I hadn't seen their cans anywhere yet. Lo and behold, today, boom, there they were and I chose from among them all their IPA, (who'd have thunk it, hey?) Let's go ahead and have a Bauhaus BrewLabs Sky-Five! already.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five! Midwest Coast IPA. 6.7% ABV. 70 IBU. 12 fl. oz. can.

Appearance: pours a hazy, dull orange coloration, under a lush, bone-white head, leaving lace, looking fine.

Aroma: Bold, bright citrus and pine notes, some tropical tones, too. None too bitter, but altogether pleasant.

Taste: Big bite from the hops at first sip. Hops pounce on the palate, then recede just a bit, letting lush malt take command and hold ground. Nice balance here, with a pungent punch from the hops. Bitter smack continues with each new approach to the lips. Every new drink begs another.

At the taproom, each of their four main beers are identified and described by two words in short and pithy fashion, and in this case they are: "Dank, Refreshing." Although I have issues with the over-use of the vague non-word "dank", it certainly is refreshing. I can have a few of these without getting the least bit bored.

I like this one, and I can see myself choosing a pint of it when I see it out and about. And now I shall steel myself for some over-the-top gobbledygook on the can label:
"A high-five just won't cut it when this ambrosial concoction of hop goodness hits your lips. Hell, even a cartwheel wouldn't be enough. Generous late hop additions provide loads of hop flavor, with just enough hop bitterness to ignite your senses. Earthy notes of citrus, passionfruit and spice are supported by a unique combination of German and English malts, building a full-flavored, yet balanced IPA. Sky-Five!"

There are mysteries yet unexplained by that hyperbole, such as what is meant by "Midwest coast" and what's up with the ---are they umlauts?--over the o. How will we ever find the answer?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Goose Island The Muddy Imperial Stout

Goose Island Beer Company The Muddy Imperial Stout, Featuring Amplified Sweetness with Licorice Notes, Brewed & Bottled by Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL. Imperial Stout Brewed With Licorice. 9% ALC./Vol., 32 IBU.

A salute to the Chicago blues style, named for Mr. McKinley Morganfield (AKA Muddy Waters) , I presume. This seems right up my alley. Let's check it out and see.

Appearance: Solidly stygian, utterly devoid of light, with a rich, creamy tan head on top, looking beautiful.

Aroma: Deep stuff, vast notes of cocoa and coffee, and the advertised aniseed trails a bit behind. so far. Starts creeping in eventually, with peppery notes, as well.

Taste: Slight hop bitterness at first, then fades back, covered by rich, dark malt. Medium-to-full bodied, but not as rich as I'd like. Wouldn't call it thin, but a touch disappointing. Thankfully, the sweetness is not actually amplified, but neither are the licorice notes very pronounced. Nice presence on the palate, but definitely lacking in thickness and fullness. Comes up short in the chewy department.

This is my assessment halfway through the bottle. Getting into the second half of the glass, I want to give it another chance, or delve further in and discover it's special virtues. The licorice does grow, deepen and widens, gets bigger on the palate, but it took it's sweet time, didn't it? Maybe if the beer was warmer to begin with? I warmed it up some, but didn't get it all the way to room temperature.

In the end, I find The Muddy fails as an Imperial Stout, lacking many of the rich extremes of flavor that are a part of any good RIS worthy of the name. If they boast of an amplified sweetness, they're off the mark. Any good RIS that is also sweet, needs to be full-bodied and rich, as well. This one is not.

Goose Island is not a bad brewery because it is now owned by Budweiser, but if they keep making mediocre beers like this…I'm not sayin'…just sayin'….

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ommegang Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale

Ommegang Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale. Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY. 8% ALC./VOL.

I've never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, nor read a single sentence of the novels. I did see the South Park spoof, though. So, it's a show about wieners? And dragons that are coming? And something that happens in Winter? Okay, maybe when I'm caught up with Ray Donovan I'll get to it, and I've got some Boardwalk Empire episodes to get to…then, I will, I promise to get to the wieners that everyone's talking about.

But, I don't need the wieners to enjoy the beer, so let's get to it…

Appearance: dark reddish-brown, mahogany, under a light tan head.

Aroma: bold fruitiness in the nose, dark fruits, cherries, raisins, dates & plums, with an oaky edge. Slight sourness & funkiness. Terrifically complex. Brandy-like.

Taste: Starts out sweet and fruity, with a funky twist. It's totally a plum bomb, I'd say, if I said things like that. Sweet maltiness and the Belgian yeast gives it a wine-y character. I could go for a drier dubbel than this, but that doesn't stop me from digging it. But, just a little, not a ton.

Let's read that label: "Ommegang ales are incomparable, yielding unique flavors and aromas. Inspired by deep insight in to Belgian brewing, and infused with Ommegang's creative upstate NY spirit, each ale offers perfect balance and pure drinking pleasure." There's more on the label that goes into the meaning of the name and the blah-blah-blah about the show, and I just don't care about that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Borealis Fermentery White-Throated Wit

Borealis White-throated Wit, Belgian Style Wit Ale Brewed with Spices. Brewed and bottled by Borealis Fermentery, Knife River, MN.

Wits are great. I love wits. But, why do some people insist on calling them "vits"? It's a German thing to pronounce a "W" as a "V", but not a Belgian thing. How can I stop people from saying "vitbier"? I can't! It's so frustrating! Who says "vit"? And vhy???
(this pet peeve of mine is right up there with calling hefe weizens "heffs.")

Appearance: hazy, bright golden, thin white head.

Aroma: wild, Funky Belgian yeast character hits the nose first, light spices, with delicate floral and citrus notes.

Taste:  On the tongue, it's light and delightful. Smooth, wheat mouthfeel and texture, lemon and orange in the flavor, with doses of spice. Zippy. Zesty. Snappy. Lean and clean. Medium-bodied, long-lasting flavor. Refreshing? Yeah. No ABV given here, but it's probably 6% or below. And I like it.

"The song of the White Throated Sparrow is one of the first things we here in the Northland hear that lets us know that Winter is finally on it's way out. White Throated is brewed with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, lending a mild, balanced tartness to a traditional witbier."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Town Hall Petunia's Pumpkin Ale

I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret: I don't really care for pumpkin beers. Any more. Kind of over it. Just like with fruit beers. Oh, I was all about them years ago, when it was a novelty, but now everyone has them, and it's kind of like, been there, done that. I used to be into, you know, apricot ales, and things like that, a million years ago. Now...yawn. I'll still drink the fruity/vegetably stuff, sure, but you're never going to see me dancing in the store aisles, paraphrasing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" to be about pumpkin beers. Nope. Not gonna happen.

And then I felt like revisiting Town Hall's version, which I usually skip, and looked back at the first time I had it, some nine years ago, in October of 2005. Here come those notes, but keep in mind, some things are probably still true, like the recipe, but I'll bet they're not collecting portions of the profits to give to charity anymore:
For the first time, I took home a growler with Town Hall's new logo, and here we have new next to old. I'm still partial to the old-fashioned look.

Made with a mild ale base, using English malts and 27 pounds of pumpkin. 10 more pounds were added later, along with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and other pumpkin pie spices, and the brew simmered in those spices after fermentation. (That's my best paraphrasing of the brewer's information, found on the latest menu...apologies if I got anything wrong.) 

Nearly clear, slightly hazed, pale orange/amber hue, thin, but lasting layer of off-white foam above. 

Aroma: cinnamon on top, but tempered well with other spices, and the pumpkin lies below. Well-controlled spices, just enough to please the nose, not so much to scare anyone away. 

Spices are on top of the taste, too, herbal/vegetal flavors riding it out below. Medium bodied, light, mild finish. Pumpkin spice flavors just up and tease the tongue with each new sip, then fade back, making for easy drinking. 

I could have used a heftier body to suit my tastes, but, then, I'm not everyone, and this was used, in it's debut, as a fund-raising beer to benefit a former employee battling Lymphoma. Something to fit the season, that's not too bold that the average pint pounder can't stand a couple, and in doing so, add to the aid. ( Although, my friend couldn't have more than one, and I yearned for something hoppier after my glass had emptied.) 

Actually, I like it quite a bit...the closer the beer gets to the bottom of the glass, the more I realize that...I'll have fun finishing the growler tonight!

One question is still unanswered after nine years: who the heck is Petunia?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Summit Union Series: Southern Cape Sparkling Ale

Summit Union Series Southern Cape Sparkling Ale.

I'm a bit late with this one. It came out earlier this summer, and I enjoyed many pints of it while it was on tap at Northbound. I thought I'd review it  from a pint there, but the opportunity never arose. Never found the time to properly sit down with a glass by myself, and the next thing you knew, the keg was done and that was it. Meanwhile, I never saw it on sale. Just wasn't looking at the right time. Lo and behold, there it was on sale the other day at Elevated. Good thing, I couldn't bear the notion of a Summit beer being undocumented here. Just doesn't make sense. Which reminds me that I've got to pick up the new Schell's Noble Star, and I'm way behind on Bent Paddle, and I've got to make it back
to Steel Toe soon, and there are cans of Bauhaus to check out, and there's more Blacklist out there, and I still haven't made a visit to Tin Whiskers in St. Paul, or Urban Growler, and on the subject of growlers,  why don't I pick up a growler from Dangerous Man?, and…and…and…(sigh)…it just never ends. But, I can't stop trying…

(And this is just the local scene I'm talking about!)

Anyway, on with the beer…

Appearance: highly hazed, bright golden hue, slim white head, short but lasting. Very inviting.

Aroma: soft and subtle, but enticing. Notes of tropical fruit, some citrus, light spices. Beautifully delicate, hoppy nose.

Taste: Hops hit harder once the meet the tongue. Nice bitter bite, with notes of pineapple, grapefruit, and pepper. Nice lemony squirt in the flavor. Hop notes last long through consumption. Malt body is on the light side, and it's an easy-drinking affair, all the way.

This one is name after an Australian style that's a bit deceiving and inevitably caused some consumer confusion. What does "Sparkling Ale" mean, does it really "sparkle", is it effervescent like champagne, etc., etc?? No, that's just the poetic appellation they applied in Adelaide in the 1800's due to it's brightness. "Southern Cape" refers to the origins of the ingredients: Gairdiner Pale Malt from Australia, Sebastian Caramel Malt from Chile, Waimea hops from New Zealand, Southern Passion hops from South Africa, all from the bottom of the world. 4,4% Alc. by Vol., 45 IBUs.

I like this one. It doesn't fit the current season, but that's my fault entirely, of course. Strike while it's hot, they say. My lesson learned.

Steel Toe Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale

I apologize in advance for the terrible picture enclosed in this entry. I had no idea that an Indeed coaster sitting nearby would be reflected so clearly in the pint glass. Ah, well, lesson learned. Here comes the beer:

Steel Toe Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale. Alc. 7.5% by Vol. Brewed and bottled by Steel Toe Brewing, St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Appearance: dark brown, practically black, under a creamy head, lace-leaving, looking luscious.

Aroma: grassy hops galore, floating over dark malt. Gorgeous.

Taste: Grasy, piney, citrus-y hops flood the palate, with chocolatey malt just below. Full-bodied. Lush malt. Delicious. Good Lord, it's delicious. Tasty as Hell. Bitterness persists, keeping time with sweet malt.

I have to excuse myself. I'm having a hard time being objective about this. It's hitting me just right, and I'm finding it to be absolutely perfect. And that's coming from this guy here who's always had a hard time with this Cascadian Dark Ale, Black IPA, whatever you call it style.

This is doing everything for me, shooting me from all angles. It's not just the hops, it's actually mainly the malt. Just flat-out delicious.

"Douglas", naturally, refers to the fir tree indigenous to the Cascadia region, also called Oregon Pine or Douglas spruce, and whose piney flavor resonates throughout the beer. I'm glad I finally got to get a bottle, and now, I've got to score some more, because it is ever so good. And I'm not kidding.