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.

Widmer Double M.A.C.

Here's beer #3 of the Craft Beer Explorer sampler pack.
Widmer Brothers Brewing Double M.A.C., Experimental Small Batch Series. ESt. 1984, Portland, OR. Alc./Vol. 4.8%. IBU 50.

Before I get into the beer, I have to recognize an irony. After all the favorite glasses I've broken and sobbed over through the years, I still have this pint glass that I bought on a tour of the Widmer Brothers brewery in Portland twelve years ago, in 2002. One of the breweries that I drink the least, the glass I almost never pour into…cruel, cruel irony.

So, appearance: it's a slightly hazed, bright golden color, with a slim, soon-gone head. Eh.

Aroma: Lemony, citrus-y, low on hop bitterness. Little else. Double Eh.

Taste: Some hop bite at first, citrus-y hop flavor floods the palate, malt adds little to the overall character. Light bodied, light finish, forgettable flavor. Not liking this at all. There's nothing really happening. This is the problem with the session IPA craze, that it leads to bad beers like this.

I want to read the label now. "Description: Double M.A.C. is an easy drinking, vibrant and refreshing session IPA double dry-hopped with Mosaic, Amarillo and Cascade hops. Prost, to the perfect session. Style: Session IPA. Malts: Pale, Caramel, & Munich."

Eh. It''s not that bad. It's just not much of anything. It lacks. Just lacks. I don't need higher alcohol, I don't demand fuller body, I just want coherence, and character, and a beer that ought to exist. This doesn't have any need to be.

I've got seven bottles left of this. If my opinion changes as I drink them, I'll come back and tell you.

RedHook Fat Chance Light IPA

In my last entry, I spent a good number of paragraphs describing how and why I came upon this beer (and the last and the next). Go there, to read that scintillating story. And now I proceed with beer #2 from that sampler pack, it's from RedHook of Seattle, Washington, and it's called Fat Chance Light IPA from their Secret Stash Series. Not a promising name for me, or maybe it's their clever way to avoid caving in to the "session IPA" trend. "A hoppy light IPA. Kind of like Slim Chance. If he had done more 12 oz. curls." I don't know who Slim Chance is…should I? 4% ABV. Est. 1981 Seattle.

Before I get to the beer, I'll spend a little time talking about my sentimental association with the RedHook brand. There was a comic book in the 1990's written and drawn by Peter Bagge, and published by Fantagraphics (of Seattle, WA.),  called, for lack of a better title, "Hate", that concerned the adventures of proto-'90's slacker-type Buddy Bradley and his friends in the Seattle sub-cultures of that era. I'm enclosing a portion of page two of issue one from 1990, which had a great impact on me when it was first released, right around when I decided to try and be a cartoonist myself. In fact, a story I wrote and almost finished drawing was based on this stylistic conceit, the point of view interview with the narrator, and it would've been the debut of  my roman a clef character, Lenny, (the title: "Lenny: an Introduction" also smelled of a J.D. Salinger reference. I know, I'm insufferable.) who would be my main character/doppelganger/etc., in my comic book which might have been called "Dateline: The Blues", or maybe it would've been "Argyle Fist." We shall never know.

By the way, Bagge took some shots at Minneapolis in that story, also. Read that here….

It was still a few years before I got into craft beer, and once I did jump into the beer world, I remembered  the beer Buddy B. drank in Hate #1 and simply had to check it out, since IPAs were my thing (and still are). It was all right back then, and is disappointing now. IPAs have certainly changed in the past 20-some years. Ballard Bitter isn't a beer I'm ever going to choose to throw in my shopping cart these days. (Actually, I'm pretty sure it no longer exists.) I'll always have that attachment, though, because memory means a lot. There are a lot of great coffee stouts these days, but Red Hook Double Black was my first. And you never forget your first.

On with the beer:

Appearance: Clear, light golden hue, snowy white head, long-lasting, lace-leaving.

Aroma: Big citrus, lemon, lime and orange, with some pine behind. Beautiful. Manna for the Hop-head.

Taste: Hop bitterness attack at the top, fading softly back. Very mellow malt, clean and crisp. Lean-bodied, light finish, hops cling on, though the bitterness slides off eventually.

Okay, it's 4%, I can drink a few before getting buzzed, but the hop flavor isn't furled back, so that's good. This isn't my normal style, but damn, if you can't drink it. Citrus-y hops hang in there for the long haul, and you never forget this is a nice ol' IPA. Nothin' wrong with it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kona Lemongrass Luau

Once more I found myself low on beer and short on time, so I visited my nearest store and stalked the aisles. This one does not have the widest variety, so it's becoming harder to stretch out my dollars and find new beers there to try and write about. On the other hand, they do stock more sampler packs than other nearby stores. And as I was scanning them, lo and behold, what do I see but the Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack. 24 bottles, for the low, low price of $14.99. What? There must be a catch. Tax included, that's only 69 cents a bottle. Incredible! What's the obvious downside?

Well, one of the minuses is that it's from the Craft Brewers Alliance, which is the three breweries who struck distribution deals with, and are partially owned by Anheuser-Busch. They are Kona, Widmer, and Redhook, and while they are not my favorites, they're not actually bad. It's beer and you can drink it.

Minus side? Perhaps I won't like them? Plus side: only sixty-nine cents each! Plus side: the beers included are only available in this variety pack. Minus: what if I HATE them? Plus: C'mon, how could they be that bad? Minus: it's eight bottles of one beer from each brewery. If I don't like them, that's a lot of mediocre beer to go through. Plus side: Oh, well, there's always cooking with beer.

So, I gave the clerk my $16.53 and took the case home. I'm going to start with the one that I might like the least, but, doggone it, I bet someone likes it. And it's called Lemongrass Luau from Kona Brewing Company, in their 808 Series. "Liquid Aloha." Ale brewed with Ginger with Lemongrass & Ginger Added. 5.8% Alc. by Vol.

Appearance: hazy, pale golden coloring, slim white head.

Aroma: Ginger is big here. It's a ginger bomb in the nose, I'd say, if I didn't hate that phrase. Lemongrass lingers just behind. those are the two main culprits, with hardly any contenders.

Taste: Once more, lemongrass and ginger are huge on the palate at first sip. It fades a bit, goes away softly. Mild malt backbone, minor hop bite, nothing gets in the way of the ginger and lemongrass.

It's light, crisp and refreshing, which is exactly what it's supposed to be. The lemon flavor is strongest, but the ginger doesn't stray far from the fore. I've got an inkling that this was intended as a summer special, and I wish I'd bought this earlier in the year and brought it to the beach. Might be something best saved for guests, or a party, or, like I said, cooking. Nothing wrong it, but not the sort of beer I reach for often.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Moylan's Hop Craic XXXX Quadruple Ale

Moylan's Hop Craic XXXX Quadruple Ale. Brewed and bottled by Moylan's Brewing Company, Novato, CA. Alcohol 10.4% by Volume. Contents: 1 pint, 6 fl. oz.

I've had this before, on tap, as part of one of beer events at the Blue Nile. I think it was last year's Hop Heads Only. I meant to take notes on it then, but the keg was gone too fast for that, forcing me to wait until I could find a bottle of it. A bit expensive, at about $14 a bottle. (If you've been following my continual kvetching about bomber pricing, yes, this one is worth it.)

Appearance: clear, bright copper-y coloring, off-white head, slim, but lasting.

Aroma: Piney, resin-y, and as hop-gooey as it gets. That's my way of avoiding the nonsense word "dank" which has seen much proliferation of late. Ablaze with citrus, grapefruit and lemon galore. Slight hint of caramel malt whispers below. Pungent aromatics, to say the least. It's a surfeit of hop aromas, a tsunami, an overblown explosion.

Taste: Bam! Pow! Boards the palate with bravado, landing on the tongue and commanding the terrain with the brashness and swagger of pirates taking on the ship of the senses. Nothing meek, meager, mild or mellow in this, it's an all-out assault. Intense stuff, massive mouthfeel, a straight hit of hollowed-out hoppitude patched directly to the main vein. Thick and luscious.

Another one you should plan to drink just before bedtime. It will ruin all other beers if you don't.

Here's where I feel like reading the label copy: "As if our Hopsickle wasn't IMPERIAL {their caps} enough….Some cravings need to be taken to the next level. LAced with resinous oils from the lupus cultivar, Hop Craic satiates and satisfies the appetite of the hard-core hop lover. New World hops will send you on a journey you will want to take again and again."