Monday, September 26, 2016

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale, ale brewed with pumpkin and spices. 9.0% ABV. For optimal freshness, enjoy by 02/04/17. This one is entirely new to me, never heard of it, until the sample man brought me one.

Clear, medium-brown coloring, sizable fortress of foam up on top, beige-tinged, lace-leaver.

Aroma: Pumpkin, yeah, it's there. Plenty of pumpkin and spice packed in this one. Very nice.

In the mouth: Rich, malty, spicy from the start. Darker and, naturally, stronger than your average pumpkin beer, with louder spices and quieter pumpkin. Nicely spicy, this, not too hot, not too overpowering, with sufficient malt backbone. Dark malts are doing it here, and truly subsume the pumpkin flavor, which I can barely pick up. It's there, but it's only a part of the sum.

Altogether, pretty tasty stuff. I can enjoy this one. I would drink another. Ain't nothing wrong with it. Good imperial pumpkin, and you drink one once in a while.

Let's look at some gobbledygook, shall we? " Why is there only one time a year when you can embrace the FEAR? At all other times, the FEAR dominates us, controls us, and prevents us from greatness. Whatever THE FEAR is that consumes you, learn to embrace it. Only then, will the true artist in you rise up."

Okay. Cool. But do I need self-help platitudes with my beers? No.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale

I can't believe I've never had this beer before. But, then, I'm souring on pumpkin ales, lately. So, much thanks to The Sample Man for bringing this, and others. I always like to try anything new and different, especially when I don't want to spend my own money.

Brooklyn Brand Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Brewed and bottled by Brooklyn Brewery, Utica, NY, Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices. 5% Alc. by Vol.

Clear, bright amber coloring, slim but stable white head atop.

Soft, delicate aromatics, not getting a lot is what I'm saying. Slightly sweet, understated bitterness. Nice.

In the mouth: Sweet, malty, light pumpkin-ish flavoring, mild spicing. Medium bodied. Light finish, flavor's gone in a trice. Nicely balanced, refreshing and drinkable, but doesn't really stand out. You can barely taste it. Another way of saying that is "it's subtle." But, maybe too subtle.

Perhaps some gobbledygook will set me straight: "In the 18th Century, colonial Americans brewed wonderful and interesting ales using local ingredients. Barley was the principal ingredient, but pumpkins were favored by brewers for their rich, spicy flavors, which melded perfectly with malted barley. Post Road brings you a delicious rendition of this traditional American classic."

I think this hits the middle of the road just right, to reach the broadest audience possible. Nothing wrong with that, but I find it just a little bit lacking.

funkwerks saison

Funkwerks Saison. Fort Collins, CO. 6.8% ABV.

Hazy, bright golden hue, pure white head above.

Aroma: fresh, lively, lovely....beautiuful. wheat, spice, funk. low hops, lean malt.

In the mouth: lightly spicy, lightly hoppy, citrus notes aplenty. Light bodied, refreshing. Lemon and spices, mmm, mmm. Right on the money. Good ol' drinking' saison, that's what it is. Go and get yourself some.

Here's the gobbledygook, straight from the website: "Our flagship Saison was born from a series of test batches begun in Gordon Schuck’s backyard. The French Saison yeast strain used in test batch #6 was utilized to become the Great American Beer Festival gold medal-winning Saison that sits before you.

Notes of passion fruit, tangerine, lemon verbena, ginger and black pepper.

Pairs well with high fives."

Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown

Founders Sumatra Mountain Brow, Imperial Brown Ale brewed with Sumatra coffee. 9.0% Alc by Vol.  40 IBU. Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI. Bottled on 4/05/16. (So, I'm a little late to this party.)

Dark brown coloring, slim, cocoa-tinged head, some loose particles floating about.

Aroma: Dark malts meet deep, rich coffee tones. Caramel, toffee, molasses, allspice, clove...little hints of each.

In the mouth: Chocolate malts hit first, then caramel, then all the richness hits. Here comes the sweetness, matched with bittersweet and coffee flavors. Full bodied. Nice balance, just enough hops to keep sweetness at bay. Tasty stuff, indeed.

Let's read the label, shall we? "This bold brown ale gets it's body from a team of malts, including caramel malt for sweetness, flaked barley for dense foam, a bit of chocolate malt for color, and aromatic and Munich malts for added depth. German and Perle hops add a touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness. The addition of rich Sumatra coffee takes this perfectly balanced brown ale to a decadent level."

Well, not quite decadent, but close enough. I prefer coffee beers as stouts or porters for that extra, added depth and decadence, but this suits me just fine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

OLIPHANT Brown Sugar Brown Brown Rum Barrel-aged

Behold, one and all, the mighty mini-growler! Oh, I'm not talking about the half-growler you can get in Wisconsin, or the 750 ml size (25 ounces) we are allowed in Minnesota. No! Witness before you the 16-ounce glass growler. Only (so far as I know) at OLIPHant! And only for their 2nd Anniversary party.

(By the way, I call them OLIPHant because auto-correct keep changing it back to Elephant.)

I went out there really quick with Jason on a Saturday, several weeks ago (August 27, to be exact), and brought back 2 of each of their anniversary offerings. I gave J. one of the Bone Sword of Soomalakinakinas, or whatever it's called, in appreciation for driving me all over, and that means I get two of these all to myself. Let's open one up and drink it....

Brown Sugar Brown Brown Rum Barrel-aged. 6.7% ABV.

Solid brown coloring, rich and full lush head of off-white foam atop. Looks great.

Gorgeous aromatics. Malty, nutty, fruity, creamy, with effects of the barrel just ramping up. I love this.

In the mouth: Mmm, mmm. Big, fat, huge, rich, lush and wonderful. Candy bar in the mouth. Rum barrel flavors run over the richness on this. What was a fine beer before is much, much more. Toffee, caramel, molasses, brown sugar,'s all in here. Just delicious. A glorious nightcap.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Insight Rise of the Lambton Dragon (Chapter XXXIX) Session Ale

Insight Rise of the Lambton Dragon Session Ale, drafted by Insight Brewing, "We Craft Legends." All. 4.1% ABV. Minneapolis, MN.

So, you may be asking, wait, you may be asking me, "Hey, Al, is a balloon snifter the appropriate glass for a session ale?" Well, maybe not, and I could just as easily add an Insight pint glass to my collection, but I have too many of those as is. If I'm going to have any Insight branded glass, it'll be this one. So, into the balloon snifter it goes. And let's drink it.

Amber / crimson hue, slim white head.

Earthy/spicy hop notes pierce the olfactory first. Citrus-y notes join next. Big grapefruit.

In the mouth: Big hop flavors start it off, then they quick abandon the palate. Very lean bodied. Very light, easy, breezy, nicely balanced and super drinkable. Light 'n' easy. Did I say that already. Good beer and you easy drink it.

"...Then, before me, the great beast stirred groggily and uncoiled from his long slumber in the springs below the tavern. Had it been their secret ingredient all along? Could dragons taste like toffee and hops? Pressing questions, but meanwhile, the monster opened it's menacing maw...."

F-Town American Red Ale

F-Town American Red Ale. 28 IBU. 6.1% ABV.

Solid crimson coloring, Dark, slim head.

Sweet, caramel malt-accented nose.

In the mouth: rich and malty, with a slightly bittersweet hop note. Tasty stuff, drinkable. Long, malty finish. Just enough bitterness for balance. It's good beer and I can drink it. 'Nuff said

What's the gobbledygook say? "Complex notes of caramel, apple, floral and citrus with a mild earthy finish. This big flavored bold bodied red ale grabs your attention."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Thirsty Pagan Yukon: Mixed Fermentation Sour Ale

Thirsty Pagan Yukon: Mixed Fermentation Sour Red Ale. Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, WI. 7% ABV. 20 IBU. Bottle Date: 8/9/16, bottled by: AR.

A few weeks back, Dave Anderson and I went up to the North Shore to visit some of those breweries up there: The Boathouse in Ely and two in Grand Marais, as well as Canal Park in Duluth, on a Wednesday. Thursday was Castle Danger in Two Harbors, and then Bent Paddle (already written about here) and Fitger's. Friday morning, before heading back down to Minneapolis, we crossed over Lake Superior into Superior, Wisconsin, for my 3rd ever visit to Thirsty Pagan Brewing. I'd been informed that there was a sour ale event the previous weekend, and some might still be on tap. Wasn't I surprised to see that there were several left, as well as barrel-aged beers. Dave and I both did flights in order to try as much of their beers as we could before getting back on the road. And I brought home this bottle.

Dark reddish brown coloring, small, soon-gone head.

Aroma: the funk and the sour hits first, followed by dark malt, dark fruit, raisins, dates, with a little touch of vinegar below.

In the mouth: lip-smackingly sour, big pucker, finishing dry, sour, fruity. Not a touch of sweetness, lots of rich malt. Just delicious. Pretty damned near close to a Flanders Red-style. A crowning achievement. Mmm. Yes.

Minnesota Breweries One By One #43: Excelsior Brewing, Excelsior

Those of you who follow this blog with any regularity and retain in your memory some of the trivial details that I divulge herein may recall that there was a lull in activity earlier this summer. A solid six weeks of no posts at all, and a full month of no new breweries visited. I have made up for it on the latter side, having been to 16 breweries in just the past month, getting up to a grand total of 82 Minnesota breweries so far. My list shows that there are 26 (8 of those are in Minneapolis, 5 in St. Paul) more to get to in the next 14 weeks or so. Definitely doable. This does not count, of course, about ten breweries threatening to open before the year is up. Maybe more, that's just the ones I'm keeping an eye on. At some point, I'll have to call it quits. If that place in International Falls opens on the 30th of December, I may have to leave it till next year. But the goal will continue beyond 2016, for once I've made to as many as I can in this year, I'll still keep trying to visit the new ones as they pop up.

I've kept up the pace of the brewery visits, but not the writing of them. Since starting up after the stall, I've only written up 14 of the new visits, out of 33, and haven't touched on the ones from April, May and June. We'll made some headway into this by going back to May 22, when Jason and I took some trips around the breweries near Lake Minnetonka and it's environs, starting with Excelsior Brewing in Excelsior, at 4231 Excelsior Street, just a few blocks away from where Prince insisted to Appolonia that she purify herself, in that purple-tinged film of long ago.

Excelsior, population 2, 397, approximately 12 miles west of South Minneapolis. What else to say? They love their boats and docks, and that big ol' lake. And they got a brewery.

Yoga at the brewery? Sure, who doesn't do that, but a
release party for a bike jersey? Whatevs.
I've reviewed six of Excelsior's beers here in the Nib over the years, covering the core brands and a few others, and visited the brewery taproom once before, in 2014, also with Jason.There's a few out there that have slipped past me, including the cherry wheat ale, Sunburn, which I just finished a keg of at Acadia. For various reasons, I don't take notes at the bar that often.

 This time, I was impressed by the larger selection of beers and styles beyond the flagships. And what else did I see, hear and do? Well, I'll tell you, once I start a new paragraph.

Over-dressed in Excelsior.
It's a beautiful Sunday, one of the nicest days of the year so far, the sun shining and summer is beckoning. It's seems that all of Excelsior is out there enjoying the weather and in the taproom digging the wide range of ales and lagers. And I'm the only schmuck in the joint wearing long pants and a hoodie and no sunglasses. Everyone else is in shorts and t-shirts or biking gear. We stepped onto the patio area, where a folky combo was making music under a tent, but couldn't find anywhere to sit. Over on the stage, a trio of women are demonstrating their hula hooping prowess. It's all hustle bustle over here.

We checked out the choices and I made my first one a "hoppy wheat" made in collaboration with the Enki & Waconia breweries, called Triad #3. It had a cloudy amber appearance, a distinctive hop bite, with a slight tartness to the flavor. Ultimately, it was nice, smooth, drinkable. Jason, meanwhile, chose the Peach Sour, and after tasting his, I kind of wish I had, too.
Sipping on Jason's Peach Sour.
Just enough peach, just enough sour. Nice.

Did someone say "barrel-aged imperial
And then I had to go and be the only person in the place to order the 10.6% Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, because, you know, I had to. If anyone still suggests that this brewery makes tame or safe beers, well, let's let this post be a testament to the contrary. Roast-y, toasty, bittersweet, but just a bit more bitter than sweet. Notes of chocolate, cherry and espresso, getting bigger, richer and more intense as we get further in, picking up raisins, dates, vanilla and oak traces, too. This was one I really wanted to relax and luxuriate in. It's not the type of beer I'd have as my second beer of the day. Ideally, it's a nightcap, late-night chilly weather beer, but I had no choice. It was there and I had to drink it.

We couldn't luxuriate too long. There were two more stops to go in our drive along Lake Minnetonka and it's neighbors. Had to save rooms for more beers. And so we bid adieu to Excelsior Brewing, and it's boats and it's sports equipment and bikes hanging on the ceiling, and it's hulu hoopers and we're ready to visit another brewery obsessed with lakes and watercraft.
Hula hooping at the brewery on a Sunday afternoon. 
Every taproom has a growler collection, it seems, but
who else has waterskis on the ceiling?

This is the result of using the panorama feature on the iPhone camera
without knowing what you're doing. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

F-Town American Brown Ale

F-Town American Brown Ale. F-Town Brewing Company, Faribault, MN. 29 IBU, 4.7% ABV.

Medium-brown coloration, slim white head, active carbonation.

Aroma: sweetness first, rich malt, high caramel and toffee. Just a little hop presence to combat it.

In the mouth: Sweet again, more malt, more caramel. Perhaps a bit too much, very little hop presence on the palate to offset it. "Hints of delicate hops" it says on the side of the can. Maybe it could use more than some hints?

What else do they tell us? "Toasted malt, hints of delicate hops, and the creaminess of oatmeal. This brown ale satisfies malt lovers with it's full, rich flavor."

Okay, I'm getting some of the "delicate hops", but I feel they could be a little louder, more aggressive to off-set the massive malt. Just a bit too much of the sweet for me.

Other than that, not bad. Not terrible. Just me, but I'd like it a bit drier.