Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hammerheart Barrel-aged Peat-Smoked Dublin Raid Irish Red Ale

Hammerheart Barrel-aged Dublin Raid, Bourbon Barrel-aged Peat Smpoked Irish Red Ale, 7.5% ABV. Hammerheart Brewing, Lino Lakes, MN.

So, the other day I had my first Thursday night off since I started my new job, and was looking for something to do. I also hadn't been to Hammerheart in all that time, so I called Dave and we made plans. If you've read some of my previous posts, you might have come across my desire to diminish the number of growlers from different breweries that I'm hanging on to. Dave, though, has tried even harder, discovering exactly which breweries will take a growler back, give a refund for the return, trade them out for their own, or whatever their policy might be. I checked with Dave, and he told me that Hammerheart will take back their growlers, as well as fill anyone else's with their own beer.

I took my three Hammerheart growlers into the taproom with the intention of swapping them out for the credit on two of them, taking one of their beers home. This is always a hard decision. So many great beers. One determining factor would be the cost. They range from $15 to $30, and the more expensive ones are those I want to drink the most. It's hard to justify spending the money, but somehow I did it.
There's a signpost ahead...Hammerheart is here!

Then, Nathaniel Chapman, co-owner, reminded me that they had 750 ml growlers. And they're beautiful and perfect. These are most appropriate for Hammerheart, more than for any other local brewery. The prices are right, too.And I can finish those big beers in the small growlers in only one night. Right on.

My partially finished flight at Hammerheart. Clockwise from top left: Skol Och Hati smoked chocolate stout, Thor's Porter, BA Dublin Raid, and Surtur's Flame.

And Dave poked fun at me, because I was going to reduce my number of growlers, and I was trading in 3 for 2. Well, I am reducing the number by one, and those 2 will take up less space, and also, how can I only choose one beer, among all those great ones? If I were to do it his way, I'd return all the Hammerhearts and have them fill a different one that can't be exchanged. But I don't want to drastically reduce my collection that much. He's down to 4 growlers, by the way, and this reduction brings me down to 40. I don't think that he started at 52, though.
Just for fun, a peek at the menu this weekend.

Now, it's time to drink some Barrel-aged Dublin's Raid.

Appearance: dark, fully opaque, with a slender tan head above.

Aroma: Bourbon spills out. Vanilla, coconut, some leather, cherries, chocolate, with hints of smoke down below.

Taste: Sweetness first, the big bourbon factor, which I am highly susceptible to, chimes in the loudest. The sweet stuff first, the whiskey, vanilla, fruit, etc., and then the smoke rises up just enough. I can't really get a handle on the base beer, but I don't think one could expect an Irish Red to really stand apart from the bourbon in this barrel-aging.

Okay, wait a minute. Now, it's coming through, I can taste a sweetish and malty Irish Red somewhere down there, down underneath the peat smoked, and way below the bourbon barrel. Complexity, thy name is BA DR. Mmm. Yum. Just about right on the money. Full-bodied, rich, long finish, and highly enjoyable.

I am liking this, every lovable layer of it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Eastlake Half Empty Session IPA

Another new one at Eastlake Craft Brewery. And once more, since I gain financially, in the form of tips, whenever you visit, that as, if you tip, which you should...because of that I say things neither bad nor good about it. It's a beer, come drink it if you want.

It's not entirely true, sometimes I do say positive things about our beers, as a general service to my readers. Here's the scoop on this one:

Half Empty IPA, Session IPA, 28 IBU, 4.7% ABV. Half empty of what? Well, it's a session IPA, so carbs and booze for one thing, but certainly not devoid of hops. An almost-ironic amount of Amarillo and Galaxy hops lurk in the aroma, reminding us all that by now the glass is probably actually half-empty. After all, hop-heads need a dry, summer refresher."

Summer? Someday.

I especially like the use of the phrase "almost ironic", lifted from that review mentioned a few weeks ago. "Almost Ironic" Good band name, too.

Dogfish Head Aprihop

Another trip to Dave's BrewFarm means another visit to Hudson, WI for beers I can't get here in Minnesota, which means Dogfish Head. I forgot that I'd already entered Namaste here, and bought a $11 6-pack I "didn't need", oh, well, boo-hoo, worse things have happened in the world. But, hey, I also picked up some Aprihop, a 7% American IPA with apricot juice added,  for the first time in forever. It seems that I first found a bottle via a trade with an Illinoisian, back 11 years ago. Let's look at those notes, then, shall we? From April, 2004:

Color's a clear, amber tint, and the head is a blessed thing, rich, thick, lush, creamy.

Aroma,:deep, heady, hoppy, there's the pine-sap and the pineapple, the soft apricots.

Taste: ah, happily boards the palate, spilling some hops, but with nearly no bitterness to speak of,
very bright and fruity, with a great dose of malt to stand behind and hold it all up, toasty and crisp. There's a warmth here, too, and a caramely essence in the taste. Gonna be honest with you all, I like this one, it's a bit mild from the makers of over-the-top IPAs, but the apricot flavor matches really well with this English-style IPA that stands as the base, and makes for one tasty, easily drunk brew. Alcohol creeps in a bit, and only adds to the pleasure. Very nice!

So that's what I said eleven years ago. I'll stick with it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Summit Hopvale Organic Ale

Summit Hopvale Organic. Proudly brewed in St. Paul, Minnesota. Session Ale brewed with Lemon Peel. Brewed with organic hops, organic malt, and organic lemon peel. Alc. 4.7% by Volume.

Appearance: mostly clear, with some chill haze, golden hued, white head with lacing.

Aroma: big citrus zest nose screams out of the glass, some floral and spice notes, too. Lively, lovely stuff.

Taste: Nice, tidy hop bite at the fore, then all is smooth and mellow. Lean, crisp malt body. Sweet malt character is soon subsumed by bittersweet hop attack. Nice refreshing light ale, sure to be a hit this summer. (Though it's a year-round.) Long, pleasant bitter hop finish. It's not amazing or anything, but not everything has to be. Good beer. You can drink it.

Here's a little more about this beer.

Dave's BrewFarm Life Hands U Lemons

Dave's BrewFarm Life Hands U Lemons. (KISSEd by Orange was Dave's tribute to Kiss, so I can only guess that using the letter U instead of the word "You" is his special nod to Prince.)
6.9% ABV. Other info to come.

This is one that I never saw on tap, but was able to get a growler on my last visit. Let's just open it up and dig on in.

Appearance: clear-ish, with a slight chill haze, bright golden hued, nearly amber, generous white head settles to a modest height.

Aroma: Citrus-y from the start, with hints of spices on the side. Very likable.

Taste: Kiss of the hops from the start, with the lemon twist coming in soon after. Malt side is light, lean, and supportive. I forgot to mention delicious. Oh, so tasty. Brisk and refreshing, terrifically consumable. The lemon grows bigger and louder the more we drink, but it's nicely balanced by the malt. Delicious. I said that twice now. To mix things up, I'll next call it "super good."

"Of course, you brew beer! (the answer to the question posed, sort of, by the name) Pale malt, Bramling Cross, Brewer's Gold and Select hops, brown sugar, and a late addition of lemon peels. Fermented with a French Saison yeast."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Eastlake Kirby Pucker Sour Saison

Two things we know for sure about Ryan Pitman: he loves sports, and he loves puns. It's just about a no-brainer that our first sour beer would bear the name "Kirby Pucker." How is it that no one else thought of that?

So, here's some information that I will type out with my fingers, instead of scanning the menu, just because: "Sour Ale, 31 IBU, 4.5% ABV. Now in the box is Kirby Pucker, our very first in a series of lacto-soured brews. The tartness complements the lemon character from the French duo of saison yeast and Strisselspalt hops. Floral hop aroma brings us home for a big wet kiss in a beer even Charlie Liebrandt would love to drink on a hot day. Pucker up. After all, Lake Street is for Lovers."

I don't get the Charlie Liebrandt reference. Feel free to clue me in.

Oliphant Teenage Muten Ninja Roshi Double IPA

Somerset, Wisconsin is a small town situated by a big river, the Apple River, which has long been home to inner-tubing tourism. Oliphant Brewing sits inauspiciously behind a liquor store, with a few signposts pointing out it's existence. Their stark logo is signal enough. Any curious onlookers are sure to blink and zero in on it's oddness. "What the heck is that? There's a brewery there? Pull over, pull over!"

Based on my two visits to the brewery, it's abundantly clear that the brewers are serious about making great beer, and unserious about every thing else. It's a pop culture playground. VHS tapes and video games for the big screen TV, board games and such for people who don't care to stare at the giant box (on this visit, I read questions from the Simpsons trivia game, which Jason excelled at, and Steve howled at the both of us: "How do you know that?"), and various curios abound, some directly referencing the beers, which reference the pop culture that the objects reference. A trucker hat with the "Wayne's World" logo in honor of the beers called "Party on Wayne" and "Party on Garth". A toy of the dancing bud of the regenerating Groot from "Guardians of the Galaxy" for the beer called Groot, a gruit. (Who makes those?Nobody.) I'm sure I've missed some, and I'm also sure there's more to come.

It would seem like silliness, if the ales weren't so altogether excellent. I'm going to want to visit this place as often as I can, that's for sure.
The first half of my flight from last Sunday: Lenny Leonardson, Zaphod Branigan, and Commander Ryeker. 

And now, on to a double  india pale ale from Oliphant, who attempts to reference the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in it's name, but goes awry. "Muten" instead of "mutant", "roshi" in place of "turtles". I don't know why. Maybe someday I'll learn the reason. For now, I'm going to drink it. All that I know right now is that it's 8.8% alcohol by volume. The rest is yet to be discovered.

Appearance: I'd want to call it "golden" if it wasn't so murky. A dull, yellow amber, under a prodigious head of chalk-white foam, leaving gracious lacing. Wouldn't call it pretty, but I like it none-the-less.

Aroma: Muted pine and citrus. "Dank" is a good descriptor. Wild, wooly, weird, and funky, but not that kind of funky. Just a little unruly, shall we say. Vibrant fruit lies just below the muck.

Taste: Pow! The hop bitterness comes pouncing on the palate right out of the starting gate, but with it comes creamy, and fruity. Delicious. I don't know what yeast they use in this unfiltered ale, but it is, how you say, scrumptious. Sweet, at times, creamy, yes, it's true, but unmistakably and resiliently bitter. Medium-bodied, with a long, lovely hoppy finish. Beautiful.

A bit rough around the edges, a little unrefined, but still, beautiful.
This is a picture I did not take, it was stolen from...I forget where, the internet, I think. While I was there last week, someone was always sitting in front of it, and I didn't want to be the weird guy who pestered someone to move while he takes a picture of the chalkboard. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm KISSed by Orange

You may have noticed, if noticing is your thing, that when I began including the Eastlake beers here at the Nib, I started scanning the descriptions from the menu and posting them here, rather than transcribing them, as I must do when they are affixed to curved surfaces, such as bottles or cans. Why don't I do that with the BrewFarm beers? Why not, indeed? And you get an added dimension when you see the Farmer Dave description straight from the LaBrewaTory menu. You learn of his love of the comicsans font. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Enough of that, let's drink a beer.

 It's a murky brownish-red coloring, under a sturdy, 1/2" creamy. tanned head. Looking great.

Aroma: malty and rich, with orange fruit tones shining through. Malty, orange, sweet, mmm.

Taste: This is interesting stuff, and another amalgamated mix-em-up from the BrewFarm. Hops and malts that don't normally go together, mashed up for something different. Dark malts, brown sugar, light malts, hops from all over, and brown sugar, plus orange peels. Terrific balance, wonderful blend. No real reason that it was inspired by the rock band Kiss. I think it went like this: Let's call it Kissed by Orange, a la Sunkist. Wait, says Farmer Dave, I love KISS! So, therefore…

It's a tasty beer, for sure. Little bit of orange, lots of tasty malt, just a kiss of the hops. Somehow, it works. Mmm.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Uinta Hop Nosh India Pale Ale

Uinta Brewing Hop Nosh India Pale Ale, 7.3% ABV. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Appearance: lightly hazed, bright golden/amber coloring, with a beautiful, blooming white head.

Aroma: Bold and lively citric & floral notes. Gorgeous.

Taste: Bittersweet hop flavor grabs the palate at first, and never lets go. Medium-bodied, lean and easy. Long bitter finish, with just a pinch of malt sweetness.

The can is refreshingly free of gobbledygook. Just a straight up and down decent IPA. Good beer and you can drink it.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lucid Duce' The Imperial Red Ale

Lucid Duce', the Imperial Red Ale. Oak Aged! 8% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Lucid Brewing, Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Appearance: clear, crimson colored, slim white head.

Aroma: Malt is raging, hops are quiet. A little fruity, a bit mineral-y, earthy, a trifle flinty. Just stopping short of sweet. Or maybe just a little over the line.

Taste: Mild and mellow in the mouth. Largely malty, just enough hops for balance. Full-bodied, at first, starting bold, and rounding out, ultimately. I wish it were bolder, still, though. Tasty stuff, though, but I keep wanting it to be bigger. As it is, it's a drinker, though strong. The oak-aging is adding some complexity, and tamping down some sweetness.

No gobbledygook. It is what it is.