Monday, July 21, 2014

Day Block Belgian Pale Ale


Day Block Belgian Pale Ale.



Clear, bright amber colored appearance, slim, lace-leaving, white head.

Aroma: fruity esters, apricot and peach, slight spice, a whiff of trademark Belgian funk.

Taste: Crisp and lightly hoppy. Well, "light" for this confirmed hop-head. Others might find it "aggressive."But, it's not. It's an appreciable bittersweet hop presence, quickly backed up with sweet, graham-cracker-y malt. Marmalade on an English muffin. Medium/light-bodied. Especially easy-drinking, with the persistent playful presence of the odd and wonderful Belgian yeast. and that candy-ish fruity and sweet malt character.

I read the ingredients after drinking the beer. Never would have thought that they'd used Cascade hops in this one, but, thinking back, of course they were.

All in all, a delicious one, that I hope they return to again and again.

Here's the official info from the website:
BELGIAN PALE ALE,
Our Belgian Pale Ale is a vibrant golden beer, brewed with the last of our locally grown whole cone Cascade hops. Grown just 34 miles from the brewery in Forest Lake. The citrusy hop nose blends with the fruitiness of the Belgian yeast to offer a unique yet satisfying flavor.

STATS:
5.2% ABV, 48 IBUs, Batch 027, INGREDIENTS:
malts: Rahr Pale Ale, Briess Caramel 40, Briess Gold Pils, Cascade Hops, Belgian Ale yeast.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Northgate Parapet ESB


Northgate Parapet ESB, Extra Special Bitter, ABV 5.6%, 47 IBU, SRM 12, 22 oz. The ale was brewed and packed {not packaged, or bottled?} in Minneapolis, MN. Maris Otter Pale Ale malt, English Pale Crystal Malt, English Dark Crystal Malt, English Flaked Barley, UK Target, UK East Kent Golding Hops, English Yeast.

Well, welcome one and all, to my first review of a Northgate beer. Long overdue. Their brewery is open for growler sales, but they have no taproom yet. Their beers are at local bars, but not the ones I visit, apparently. At last, I have a bottle in my possession, prepared to pour it and enjoy…

Clear, amber-hued, under a slim white ring of foam.

Aroma: sweet malty notes first, caramel tones, with lightly floral, spicy hop notes. Right in line for a British ale.

Taste: hops are hitting first, with a citric splash. Toasty, biscuity malts roll in next. Hop bitterness stay on top. Body is light to medium, with a long finish. Bright and delicious. I'm not normally into the ESB style, but this is one that makes the grade.
Thirsty for an ESB? Can't go wrong here.

"Pairs well with pork, chicken, or oatmeal raisin cookies." Lots of information on here, and not a single word of gobbledygook. I like to see that.

Northbound Sandbar Saison


Northbound Sandbar Saison. 5.6% ABV. 20 IBU. Is this the first Belgian-style beer brewed here? It might be. (A quick glance at BeerAdvocate says that last year's anniversary ale was a Belgian strong dark.)

Appearance: straw yellow color, slim white head.  A little clouded.



Aroma: Saison yeast funk greets the nose immediately. Little bit tart, little sweet, little spicy.

Taste: Light/medium bodied. Citrus and spice flavors. Belgian yeast flavors grace the whole affair, and it exits the palate with a dryness. Clean and crisp and refreshing. All the hallmarks of a true saison are here. I like it a lot. It's good saison and you can drink it.

Here's what the brewer says: Sandbar Saison
5.6% ABV. 20 IBU.
"We're getting to the point where we need to bring in different yeast varieties to brew more varieties of beer. I brought in a Belgian Ale/Saison blend so we could brew a couple of Belgian style beers, a saison for July and a Belgian Dark Strong for August.
This yeast is very versatile. It's the same yeast we use for the Anniversary Ale. Fermenting at higher temperatures this yeast produces fruity and spicy esters characteristic of a traditional Farmhouse ale/saison. Fermenting at a lower temperature produces a cleaner yeast profile. This beer was fermented in the middle range.
There is some wheat in the recipe to complement the fruit and spice notes of the yeast and a little bit of biscuit malt to round out the malt, and a little bit of Belgian Candi sugar for a crisp dryness. It starts with a crisp fruitiness and finishes with a dry spiciness."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

August Schell Dampfbier (Weiss Beer 30th Anniversary Series)


August Schell Dampfbier. Third in the 30th Anniversary Series Weiss Beer Box that I'm taking notes on. A beer of this name was among the 8 historical draft-only brews that contended for the honor of being the 150th Anniversary Beer, from 2008 to 2010. I'll add my notes on that at the end.

Clear, golden color, large-lace-leaving, bone-white head.

Aroma: Bright, citrus-y hops leap out of the nose, nicely spicy, with a bit of the weizen yeast esters showing up behind.

Taste: Clean, crisp, dry. Hop burst up front, fading back, laying low. Great drinkability, but this is a Schell's hallmark. They make beers you can drink, no doubt about that. There's  just a bit of sweetness, a touch of fruit. This is a tasty one. It vaguely recalls the flavors of a hefe weizen, but that only comes to us through the yeast, not from any wheat.

What does the label tell us? "Schell's Dampfbier is an experimental Weiss beer made for this series. It is an all-barley ale, warm-fermented with Weiss beer yeast. It is mildly hopped with a subtle spicy aroma."

Now here are the notes from October, 2008, when this was the third of the eight beer in the 150th Anniversary Series. This was on tap, at the Blue Nile.


Clear, amber-colored, small white head on this pour.

Distinctive banana esters in the aroma, light spice.Sweet and inviting.

Banana/clove flavor pops up right away, and then it's smooth and clean thereafter.
"Dampf" is German for steam, and this is a lager/ale hybrid, much like Anchor Steam. Weissbier yeast in an all-barley lager, yet brewed like an ale. With light hopping.
Light bodied, soft finish, persistent weissbier flavor lingering on the palate. Great drinkability.

I think #1 is still my favorite in the series, but this is not bad at all. Quite approachable, and tasty. And if they hadn't made this, I don't know when I would have finally heard of "dampfbier."

---------------------------

Since writing that, I have encountered exactly one other dampfbier, brewed by Surly last fall. I only ever had it at the taproom, so never really got a chance to take notes on that one.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fulton Maitrise Imperial Farmhouse Ale


Fulton Garage Series 7: the maitrisse IFA.

clear, with a chill haze, golden colored, small white head.

aroma: slightly sweet, candy-ish. almost, soon revealing it's wild and funky side. citric zest, spice, and eccentric intensity. Most intriguing.

Taste: climbs aboard the palate with alacrity, fairly bright and sunny, with a wicked complexity oozing out. Did they toss in candy sugar or honey or some other agent to boost the booze? The sweetness of the malt stays on top of this one, with the saison yeast adding extra funkification.

This is an odd creature. I remain opposed to imperializing every style of beer under the sun, especially those that should remain low gravity. Saison is one of those styles, but I have to admit that I do enjoy bigger version, especially ones made in Belgium. Avec les Bon Veoux for one. There are others…is this as good as those?
No, it's not, it's clunky and clumsy, it's overly alcoholic, with little balance, it's choked with alcoholic phenols and under-attenuated malts. It's not elevated or sophisticated, it's just over-boozed and unbalanced.

the pint of Maitrise this review was based upon. Would I have liked it better in a tulip?
A reminder: The Bitter Nib is where I call them like I see them. I struggle to remain honest when reviewing local beers from people who I know personally and respect. And I respect them enough to be honest and tell the truth.
The Maitrise as it appears on the Fulton website, somewhere.

Hey, you can't win them all. I liked the Expat (yet to be reviewed here), I really enjoyed the Rondonneeur, this one, this IFA, well, it's so off the rails, it's almost an obscenity. I took a few ounces, and was happy, and started to recommend it. Then I had a good 12 ounces and wished that I hadn't. They need to try a little harder until they get it right, I think. Currently, it's mess. A booze bomb with none of the subtleties you really want from this style, Imperial or not.


From the brewery:
Maitrise (“May-treese”; translates from French as “expertise” or “mastery”) is a new world imperial farmhouse ale crafted as a tribute to the creativity, dedication, and ingenuity required by the profession of brewing. As a truly original blend of American & German wheat & barley malts, New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hops, and French saison yeast, Maitrise defies classification and convention. It’s an unexpected 9.5% ABV and 80 IBU, brilliant with tropical fruit, yet balanced with a tart palate that finishes soft and dry.

Northbound Ground Rule Double IPA


Northbound Ground Rule Double IPA. 8% ABV. 96 IBU.

Crimson-colored, hazed, with a sizable, though short-lived white cap.

Aroma: Bright, fresh, and vibrant citrus blast in the nose, orange and lemon and grapefruit. Beautifully bitter. All of our favorite hops are here: Cascade, columbus, centennial: the citrus-y C hops, and they're doing it up in grand style.

Taste: Big hop bitterness attacks the palate at first gulp, and slides down the throat, coating the tongue, and slicking the back. Total domination. There's just enough malt to keep it all in place, but the hops are in the spotlight here, and on every stage. Full-bodied, long bitter finish. Citrus hops aplenty. This delivers everything you want in your DIPA. I'm going to enjoy this while it lasts, because I have a feeling it won't be around for long.

I may be biased, but this DIPA belongs up there among the best of them.

Once more, the straight scoop from the brewer: The third in our baseball series, this year's Ground Rule Double IPA is packed full of the "Big C's": Columbus, Cascade, and Centennial hops…dank hops. There is a significant malt backbone to stand up to the huge amount of hops. The malt was kept simple to let the hop flavor be the star of the show. Again, Centennial hops are in high demand and difficult to find. That's because people like them a lot. We used a heavy amount of Centennials in this beer to accommodate.

August Schell 30th Anniversary Hefe Weizen Series: 2014 Weiss Beer




Schell's 30th Anniversary Hefe Weizen Series, Beer #2: Weiss Beer 2014.

You know what I could do with this one? I could just cut and paste my notes from 10 years ago or whenever, but they say this is 2014, so I'm reviewing 2014. I'll post my old notes at the bottom.

So, here we have the contemporary version of Schell's. And now, I'll voice my regret that I don't have a Schell's weizen-style glass. On the other hand, I have far too many glasses as it is. So many that when I lose a particular favorite due to dropping it in the washing process or some other tragedy, I give a silent cheer that I have one less glass to store. (But where will I find another Brasserie de la Rocs tulip?)So, since my only Schell's glass is a shaker pint,  I'm breaking out one of my other weizen-style glasses, this one from the great Bavarian brewer, Georg Schneider & Sohn.

It's a hazy, bright golden color, under a vast layer of snowy white foam and it looks fantastic. Perfect as can be.

Aroma: soft, airy, lightly spicy, slightly citric, utterly lovely. Dreamy. (I know that's not a technical term, but if you've read me before, you know there's really no guidelines and I carry around a wide swath of poetic license with each crown I crack open.)

Taste: On the palate, it's a smooth and delicious. Unfussy and uncomplicated, with plenty of yeast character delivering the citrus and spice, and a touch of the banana and clove notes we want with every true Bavarian style hefe weizen. Medium-bodied, fresh and tasty. Lays just long enough on the palate, Vastly refreshing.

Hey, what's on the label? "Today, Schell's hefeweizen is an unfiltered, South German-style wheat beer with high carbonation and low hops. It is smooth and effervescent with slightly sweet, fruity flavors."


Notes from June, 2003:
This is the first year this brew has gone out as "Hefe Weizen", in years before, it was merely "Weizen". Has the recipe or approach changed at all? Perhaps.
Appearance: hazy, bright straw yellow color, with a large, pure white head that's swift to settle.
Aroma: Great lemony, citric notes right off the bat, fresh, alert & alive, spicy, with a bunch of banana, too. Key note started as lemon, but banana dominates.
Nice, tasty, tangy texture, though the finish is brief. Body is light, leaning to medium. Taste is smooth and fruity, easy and refreshing. Not a mind-blowing weizen by any stretch, but it's a decent enough stand-in. I may return to it again throughout the summer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

August Schell 30th Anniversary Hefe Weizen Series: 1984 Weiss Beer


August Schell Brewing is using a new marketing strategy, positioning themselves as craft beer pioneers, into it before it was a thing. "German craft", to be specific. This year they are celebrating 30 years since they starting expanding their line-up beyond Deer Brand, Bock and Dark. First came the Pilsner series, since that was one of their first craft offerings, back in the 80's, but that sampler was a low priority for me, since I don't really get into the style. Now, it's time to celebrate 30 years since they release their first hefe weizen, with four different versions.
I'l start with….


Schell's Weiss Beer, 1984, 30th Anniversary Series, August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minn., USA.

"In 1984, August Schell brewed the first wheat beer in America since Prohibition, a filtered German-style wheat beer called Schell's Weiss Beer. It's light and dry with a citric tartness." So, says the label. Recently, Jace Marti of Schell's told the tale of how the Anchor Brewing Company claimed that they were the first, and went he went to check the records, he found they were both right, and had brewed their beers on the exact same date. Although, he pointed out, Schell's brewers would record their brewing notes the day after they started the batch. So, there.

Here we go, cracking open a re-creation of that first Weiss Beer, a Kristall Weisse.

Clear, bright golden colored, with a prodigious, bone-white head. Looking lovely.

Aroma: soft, floral, and slightly spicy. Faintly felt esters of weizen yeast, and banana notes.

Taste: Beautifully smooth entrance on the palate, lingering a little. Light-bodied, and exceptionally drinkable. Just enough wheaten flavoring, just a touch of the usual weizen touches. Echoes of banana and spice, though with most kristall weisse brews, I yearn for the flavors that could have been if the yeast were left in to do it's magic.

It makes me wonder if this approach was taken for an early introduction to the German wheat beer style, as most of the target audience were unaccustomed to unfiltered brews.

Finally, just for kicks, here is Michael Jackson's mention of this beer in his 1988 completely revised and updated edition of The New World Guide to Beer: "The brewery makes a revivalist Pilsener which is one of the best in the United States: aromatic, with a hoppy palate and a lightly dry finish. It also has a fruity, liqueurish Wheat Beer in the style of Southern Germany: August Schell Weiss."

"Liqueurish"? Huh. I guess...

Northbound Pride Red Ale


Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub Pride Red Ale. 6.3% ABV. 25 IBU.

Okay, here we have one, at last, that you can go out and drink right now,…that is, if you visit the brewpub when a week or so of this posting. Give or take. We'll see. People do like beers like this, just as much as they love the hops. We can't pigeonhole the tastes of the entire community, much as some may try.

So, let's crack a growler and pour a pint.

Clear and crimson-colored, under a small, but steady beige head.

Aroma:  sweet malty aromatics greet the nose, fairly fruity, (don't take that the wrong way). Some caramel tones, too, to blend with the cherries and berries.

Taste: just a dainty kiss of hop bitterness at first, then the malt takes over and dominates the palate. Light to medium bodied, and exceptionally smooth and easy-drinking. Exceptional balance, though the sweet malt remains firmly in control. It's one of my favorites malts at work, Special B, the type employed in Belgian abbey dubbels and strong dark ales, though it's not in the company of the yeast and hops used in those. Tasty one, though, tasty-tasty one.

It's a right-on-the-money, easy-pleasin' red ale. Doesn't matter that it's not for me, there's plenty of folks who don't desire the hops as much as I and my ilk.

Here's what the brewer says about it: Pride Red: 6.3% ABV., 25 IBU. This was the malty option we brewed last year that happened to be released around the Pride Festival. It was so popular we are making it an annual brew for Pride Weekend. Pride Red is an American Red Ale. The malt complexity and color comes from Special B malt. Special B gives a toffee, raisin/prune flavor profile. There are no finishing hops, only a small buttering addition to balance the sweetness of the malt. Although there are several specialty malts in this beer, Special B is the malt that is showcased.

Northbound Granola Girl Golden Ale


Northbound Granola Girl Golden Ale. Why Granola Girl? you'll find out. 5.5% ABV. 25 IBU.

This is the second time that Granola Girl has been on tap since I've started here. It seems to be one they'll keep bringing back, regardless of season. Also, it just went off tap once again, and one more time, if you read this and find yourself interested in the beer, well, you'll just have to wait around. Sorry.

Clear and golden-hued, under a milky white layer of froth.

Aroma: soft, smooth, malty, grainy.

Taste: Minimal hops, mostly malty, clean, and easy-drinking. Classic American light ale, with tangible taste. There's some fruit notes in there, bright and lightly bitter, and a perfect counterpart to the sweet malt character. This is a brew of balance, carefully constructed for refreshment and quaffability.

Also, it's clearly not for me. It's good beer, and you can drink it, but I need more of the hoppy stuff, thank you very much.

Here's what the brewer tells us: Granola Girl showcases a malt called Golden Naked Oats. Naked Oats are malted and dehisced for a clean oat flavor. The flavor profile of oats is nuts and berries. The IBUs have been dialed back to let the malt flavor come through. It is bitterer for balance and finished with earthy, flowery, Willamette hops to complement the malt.
Earthy, flowery, barley, oats, nuts and berries…Granola Girl.