Friday, December 31, 2010

Anchor Our Special Ale 2010

Anchor Our Special Ale Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2010.

One beer I definitely have to return to, year after year.

"This is the thirty-sixth "Our Special Ale" from the brewers at Anchor. It is only sold from early November to mid-January. The Ale's recipe is different every year, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with it's seasons, appears born anew."

Deep black appearance, creamy-toned head, stays slim and tight, leaving lace.

Aroma: sweetness and spice, nutmeg, allspice, with caramel and black malt below. Beautiful.

Taste: there's the soft and succulent malt, mixed with spice, no hops at play here. A little peppery heat pops in from time to time. One of the most drinkable and better balanced OSAs of recent years.

Lighter bodied, leaning to medium, spicy, malty flavor lays low on the palate, hangs in there. Still toasty and tasty, my six pack was over with in no time. (Well, not NO time...a couple of days, sheesh, I'm not that bad!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lift Bridge Minnesota Tan

I try and I try, but sometimes it happens, like it or not. Grabbed the last two kegs of Minnesota Tan, the lingonberry-infused Belgian-style tripel ale from Stillwater's Lift Bridge Brewery (not quite an actual brewery yet, still being contract-brewed elsewhere), right at the end of summer. They sat in the cooler waiting for just the right line to open up until late October. Here we are at the end of the year, and I still have a summer seasonal on. Nothing wrong with it, still tasting fine, just seems out of place among our double chocolate stouts and wintry Belgian ales.

Here are my notes from an October 26 tasting:

"Rethink pink" is on the tap handle, due to the change-up in coloration from earlier batches. Lingonberries just weren't that easy to find, this time around.

But it definitely looks the part of a tripel, that's for sure. Clouded, golden-hued, full head of snow white foam above. Large and lace-leaving. Lovely.

Aroma: straw, spice, citrus. soft and sensuous.

Flavor: Here's where the flavor comes in, fruity, tart, plump with berries in the mouth. A little lemon, a little lime, mixed up with the berries. Whisper of banana. (Not that familiar with the Swedish fruit, so I'm a little lost on that.) Resembles a softer cranberry, to me.
Full-bodied, and full flavored. Medium finish, hangs lightly on the palate, softly fades away. Gets a little sweet in the end, finishes gracefully and encourages another drink.

I like this better than the pink batch. And it might be my favorite Lift Bridge, yet. Although I need to give Biscotti another try.

This is tasty stuff, indeed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stone/ BrewDog Booshwah, I mean, Bashah

Full disclosure: I love the blending of styles, and the breaking of rules, and admire the "punks" of the beer scene. But, if you propose to be doing that, and ending up sending us something rather tried and done, and cover it up with a verbose smokescreen of incomprehensible bullshit, I will call that out. And here is what I wrote when I had a bottle of BrewDog/Stone Bashah, the Scotland/San Diego collaboration, tonight:

Brew Dog Bashah, The Black Belgian Style Double India Pale Ale by BrewDog and Stone Brewing, Product of Scotland.

bashah, what does it mean…oh, god this is wordy, oh, for the love of….a lot of blah, blah, blah, talk of substance, but little of it…is this the work of Stone, or BrewDog? I know the Stone labels to be willfully wordy, flagrantly florid, exaggerated extraneousness….perhaps they influenced the Scots, in this?

Whatever, it's too much for me to copy, and we'll take the bare bones and see what this Black Belgian Double IPA is all about.

It is black, fully ebon in coloration, with a 1/4" slim, but lasting head. Looking good.

Aroma: booze hits first, not surprising, from one of the contenders in the strongest beer olympics, some hit of bourbon, maybe..grassy hops show up, right next to dark fruit. Char and molasses, and I'm wondering why this isn't an Imperial Stout. There's still some bright hoppy character, if you look for it, but more Black than Belgian, and barely IPA…so far…

Taste: anise, at first, then black malt, a bit of chocolate, some rich, roastiness, then the grassy hop flavor reveals itself, a bracing blast of bitterness. No. it's not that big, and it's butting heads against the chocolate malt factor.

Disclaimer: I'm against the Black IPA/ Cascadian Ale, blah, blah, blah, whatever, style, it's an interesting hybrid, a notable experiment, but as a full-blown style, I find it unworthy. Most attempts have been clumsy, with a clash of the primary flavors, hops vs. roasted dark malts. Only a few I've had have been enjoyable, and the rest have been suffered through.

This one, pretty balanced, but doesn't escape that clash, it's still happening, and I find little enjoyment in it. I don't feel this high level of grassy, piney hops matches at all well with dark, roasty malts, and it's …gobbledygook!

Okay, now I want to quote the damn label copy, Check this nonsense out:

"BASHAH: what does it mean? Yes, what indeed does it all mean. Meaning, of course, is elusive and illusive. It can't, or shouldn't be found on this bottle. Should it? Yet, what if it was? Would you look for pearls of wisdom or life direction on a beer label? Perhaps it's been there all along. Since meaning is a mere illusion, perhaps we shouldn't let it have any influence on our destiny. This particular beer has refused to succumb to the illusion of meaning or allow capricious parameters to have any influence on it's own fermented fate. Are we even asking the right questions? Are you feeling frustrated in the emptiness? If so, that could be because someone got to this beer before you, and thus there's a reason for this emptiness. It's empty. And if so, perhaps indeed there is not any meaning for you here after all.

Style over substance, or substance over the scriptures of style? The latter, thank you very much. Twice."

Good God, what hogwash! Not a single word about what the beer tastes like or how it was made, just a load of words, words, words! (And too many uses of "indeed". Use it once, or be a pansy.

I don't turn to a beer label for pearls of wisdom or the meaning of life, but for a something about the fucking beer, for God's sake, is that so much to ask for? I'm not searching for "meaning", just tell me about the f'ing beer, already!

No, my emptiness comes from the fact that the beer doesn't taste very good, and isn't impressive in the least, but covers it up with a lot posturing, pride, machismo, attitude, and words, words, words. Words with no meaning. And a lot of debating about what meaning means. I call bullshit.

Stone has made their name with their attitude and backed it up with their beer. BrewDog is much the same, and you'd expect their combination to be something spectacular. When I spend $5 on a 12 ounce bottle, it had better be special, it shouldn't be a lot of words covering up a very ordinary stab a a lame pseudo-style.

P.S. I didn't taste the "Belgian", either.

Ommegang, again (Triple Perfection)

Second of the Ommegang gifts from Jeremy, Ommegang Tripel Perfection, 750 ml, …"The triple is among the most popular of Belgian ales. Brewed with simple ingredients and fierce attention to detail, there is little room for error--but lots of opportunity. Perfection isn't easily acheived---but once achieved it is always memorable."

So let's open it up, and go!

Cloudy, light golden hue, big white head, long lasting, lace leaving. Fits the part.

Aroma: spice and citrus, very airy, white pepper meets lemon peel, matched with Belgian yeast.

Taste: incessant blitz of hops, spice, citrus zest, and fierce carbonation. Bam, zam, lovely, lovely, lovely. This has all a triple wants and need, and more. Nothing more to say, it has it all…pale malt, abundant yeast, zesty citrus and spice, the whole deal. Genius. Thoroughly amazing. Yum and yum. Every inch the very verisimilitude of a top-notch triple.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ommegang Adoration Belgian-style Winter Ale

I tried this on tap elsewhere last year, and couldn't get a keg for the Nile, nor where bottles anywhere to be seen. Both of these terrible tragedies have been corrected, so here we have, on tap....

Ommegang Adoration Traditional Belgian-style Winter Ale

Clear, crimson-colored, beneath a lush, creamy, off-white head, no lace, but stays a solid 1/2".

Aroma: rich malt, spicy, dark fruit, plum and fig. Lovely stuff.

Taste: blast of spice and fruit, earthy and gritty, slightly mineral. Some apple and cherry shining through, as the alcohol strength reveals itself. Getting more and more warming. Medium bodied, long, sweet/spicy finish.
Just the right amount of sweetness, with only a smidgen of hop bitterness.

Someone who had been an ardent admirer of this one last year told me she's not a fan this time, because it lacks the sweetness of the previous batch. As I taste this one, I wonder what she missed, and scratch my memory to think of how last year's tasted. There's enough sweets to turn many away, I'd think. Or some. Maybe a few, or a fraction of a faction. (Wait, where am I going with this?)

Anyhow, it's a lovely, spicy, fruity dubbel. Just a little bitter to match the sweet and the spice. Super delicious yum time. Mmmm. A real treat. Might have to get some bottles of this stuff, and hang on to it for awhile.

Flying Dog Wild Dog Coffee Stout

Here's one I included in our StoutFest, October 30 & 31. I was surprised to find it available in kegs, as it seems to be only available that way, no bottles, yet, or in cask, as these were the only serving styles for the 9 other reviews posted on, when I entered my own notes, a few weeks ago. (No, the keg hasn't been on that long, it was removed for the second round of Belg-a-Rama, and has just gone back on, to finish it off.)
(I just discovered that bottles are on their way, soon.)

I was surprised, too, to see the lackluster ratings, but not so much when I consider the fickle tastes of the beer geek-erati. If it's not overloaded with the flavor in question, it generally gets knocked down a bit. If it's not in your face and intense, what good is it? I beg to differ.
One reviewer says "coffee is there, but not smacking me in the face like I thought." Why do flavors need to punish us? Can't they just be there and be enjoyed? Another calls the body "deathly thin", and I wonder what he was drinking, because that's not how I'd describe it.
Perhaps the problem is that these were all done from reviews at bars, restaurants, and festivals, where there are so many distractions, and so many variables in quality of presentation. At least I'm not alone, and there are higher ratings than mine.

So here it is, Flying Dog Wild Dog Coffee Stout. (Notice how it doesn't even appear on the website.) 8% alcohol by volume.

Dark and sooty, black as coffee grounds, with a big roasty tan head, that softly settles.

Definite coffee nose, but soft, quiet, and none too bitter. Keeping even pace with chocolate and roasted malt.

Enters the palate sweetly and seductively, lush chocolate malt, caramel and toffee, overtaken eventually by bittersweet espresso tones. Excellent blend, great balance. Definitely not for anyone demanding an excessive amount of coffee flavor, very subtly integrated. Plenty of coffee flavor, with a trickle of coffee riding along, up and back over and out the palate.

Medium to full body, excellent coffee stout, mighty tasty. Alcohol well hidden.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 12-09-2010 02:07:26

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rodenbach Classic

Almost done with the Belg-a-Rama beers. Here's the original Rodenbach, now brewed by Palm, quoting from my June 2004 notes from a bottle:

"Dark, plummy red color, with a brief, perfunctory white head, soon gone.
Aroma is in a realm of it's own, bold sour cherries, slight suggestion of cocoa and nuts, a brown ale emboldened with brazen fruit, and atingle with spices.
floods the mouth with flavor, brisk, fruity, distinctive, tangy, just a touch sour, with a trickle of sweet. Very tasty, very lively on the tongue.
Medium to full in body, brimming with great taste, medium length, slightly sour/slightly sweet fruity finish.
Excellent. Utterly delectable."

I like it even better on tap, but not as well as the Grand Cru, or the Cuvee des Jacobins, both of which will appear relatively soon

Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager

This little brewery out of Lakewood, NY has made their name with their imperial series, whenever they make 'em big, they turn heads. So, here's my first review of Southern Tier Krampus Imperial helles lager.

Not a bad brew for Christmas Eve. Leave it to ST to name the holiday brew not after Santa Claus, but his partner who punishes bad kiddies, while St. Nick rewards them, Krampus. Beware his switch, children. I'd love to quote the label, but it is soooo long. In brief, it'll warm coldest hearts…Christmas Devil, sticks and chains….fanged, goat-horned bully…naughty or nice?….replace the cookies, lager yeast, aged cold, Merry Kramp-mas to all, and to all a good pint!
So there you have it!

9% abv, 2-row pale malt, munich, caramel malt, chinook & willamette hops, cool place, snifter, best at 48, blahbetty blah…

Let's drink it, look at it, smell it, you know…

Clear, pale reddish hue, eh, more like amber, slim head, lace leaving, …looking pretty nice. ( On further pours, it's bigger, taller, prouder.)

Aroma: malty, sharp, smooth, mild hops, somewhat sweet, …but a little shy, not giving much else up.

Taste: grainy, malty, fierce, and hot. And yet smooth-…ish, despite the high alcohol.
Clean, and smooth, and pretty tasty. Sweet malt, delicious booze. Yum, me like.
I'm still not crazy about imperial lagers, still like ales better, when they're bigger. Just not enough flavor coming through…mmm, imperial lager, wait, what's happening to me?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tyranena Doubly Down And Even Dirtier

The simple packaging of the Brewers Gone Wild! (don't forget the exclamation point) series suggests a brown paper bag covering contents that shouldn't see the light of day. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the string of innovative brews has brought us many delights over the years, and I look forward to sampling many more. I used to consider the stick figure representing brewer Rob Larsen to be a bit of a cheat, until I met the man and realized that the artist actually nailed him with that likeness. So, here's the latest, bought at Zipp's.

Tyranena Brewers Gone Wild! Doubly Down 'N' Even Dirtier, Barrel-aged Chocolate Vanilla Double Stout.

Full-on brackishness, slim head, burnished tan, thin and dotted, stays slim and tight.

Aroma: cocoa and coffee, with vanilla and bourbon below.

Taste: full body, rich dark malt, out comes the chocolate, here comes the 'nilla, lays long and hard on the palate. Whiskey walks in, and settles in for a spell. Flavor is firm and full. Malt backbone is lush, and lovely. Sweetness of vanilla and cocoa is well matched by the lush malty flavor and the bourbon behind it.

Overall, well done, Tyranena. Way to go, Rob, another winner. Wish I knew the strength, so I could be afraid of how drunk I'm getting. Tasty as heck, though, great integration of flavors, especially wonderful deliciousness.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Belgium 2 BELOW, or where's the button for the degree sign?

This is one I've had on tap at various locations, might have had a bottle, but what I tasted from this bottling did not remind me of what I had before. The winter ale from New Belgium Brewing, 2 (degrees) BELOW (hey, they're the ones who capitalize it.)

New Belgium 2 Below Ale…"We like to think we beat winter at it's own game a 2 BELOW Winter Ale, a bright warming blast of Sterling and Liberty hops along with tawny-roasted malts. By pushing our 2 BELOW into a final, nearly freezing state, it's ample structure develops a brilliant clarity, Dry-hopping during fermentation creates a bright, hoppy palate and a cheery warm afterglow. Serve at 3 C (37 F) Acl. 6.6% by Vol.)"

So that's what they say, here's what I say…

Crystal-clear, auburn appearance, pale crimson, with a dotted white head, leaving lace.

Aromatics, hops up front, lightly bitter and herbal, a mix of English and American hop characteristics, a little sweet fruit peeps in for a moment. Bitterness continues on the tongue, with, yes, a bright, cheery flavor below. Crisp and clean, but a little too lean in body for my liking. For a winter ale, I'd like to taste something darker and a bit heavier.

This pleases the pale ale/IPA lover in me, but my taste buds are yearning for darker malts when you say "winter ale." However, as I strive to judge beers on their own, versus what I wish they were, it's hard to really complain.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In Darkest Night...

There were a number of releases and events happening yesterday, Tuesday, the 21st. First Day of Winter, Solstice, Darkest Day of the Year, and there were several bars and pubs adding interest in the name of beer. I made it out to two of them on my day off, first of all, Tim Johnson's fine array of stouts and imperial stouts at his fine restaurant, Haute Dish, probably my favorite eatery around. Descutes The Abyss, Great Divide Yeti, Big Sky Ivan the Terrible, Surly Darkness, Bell's Expedition, Avery the Czar, & Odell Bourbon Barrel, all available as flights. I did the first three as a flight, then a Darkness (can't pass up Darkness, ever!) and finally an Ivan, a beer I've rarely had. Why? Twenty dollars a bottle. But, wait, Al, don't you yearly pay $20 per bottle for Surly Darkness? yeah, but that's Surly Darkness. And didn't you just spend $20 on a Duvel Triple Hop bottle? Also, true, but that's Duvel. It's not as if I don't like or trust Big Sky Brewing, it's just that my affection for them doesn't grant them that level of trust that's required in dropping a Jackson for a single bomber.

After soaking up the malty goodness last night, I may reconsider that. I took notes on this one, something I don't often do while sitting at the bar, or restaurant. But considering not only the price tag, but the rarity, I took pen to paper, and snapped a shot.

The details will be shown in the accompanying graphic, so here's my bare bones scribblings....

Appearance: blackest black, 1/2" creamy cocoa/tan head.

Aroma: Grassy/hoppy nose, bourbon & molasses below (hadn't realized it was barrel-aged when I had it), charcoal & chocolate.

Taste: big, fat malt attack, hops riding high above. Nice bitter blast, fading into a deep morass of caramel, char, toast & roast. Great balance in this, an even ride between bitterness & sweet malt (sweetness cut to nil), alcohol strength stays sly, but roars in, eventually. Not terribly full-bodied for an RIS, but over-flowing with flavor. Long, bittersweet finish.

All in all, this one deserves entry into the pantheon. Forgive me for underestimating you, Ivan. I hope to make your acquantaince again

Scaldis Noel

The Brasserie Dubuisson makes a variety of strong ales under the name of Bush. Unfortunately, a large American (formerly, now Belgian-owned) beer firm dislikes the similarity to their family name and kindly requests they call it something else on our shores. Scaldis, it is. Scaldis Noel was part of Belg-a-Rama #2. These are my notes from a bottle consumed in February, 2003:

"At $4.99 for a tidy 8.48 oz. bottle, this is the champ for the title of most expensive beer I've ever purchased. Was it worth it? It was worth the try, but I don't imagine breaking the bank to stock up on this tiny powerhouse.
Muddy, dark brown in color, creeping on violet, with small yeasty particles floating about, and a small, diminishing head. Aroma is heady and deep, dominated by fruit associations of the grape variety. Sweet, but not too hoppy. Malt is predominant to an incredible degree. Full and fierce on the tongue, with hops showing off to give a good charge upon the palate. And alcohol follows into the fray, and never lets go...
One sip in, and I'm feeling drunk already! Look at me, one leg in the air, arm wrapped around a lamppost, swinging to no discernable rhythm, finger crooked inside the handle of a little brown jug, marked XXX, singing, "How Dry I Am"...
Body is full, flavor is thick and fascinating, and boozy!, texture is marvelous, altogether, a formidable and unforgettable beer!
However, the large grape/wine flavor, and the 12% ABV make me wonder how a glass of 14% Shiraz doesn't smack me up like Scaldis does?"

The keg just killed today, but I didn't go without my personal fill. Awesome stuff, smoother and maltier on tap, but still sharp, strong, and very brandy-ish, barley-wine-like. A great cold-weather treat.

I think I've beat the price once or twice, and still wonder about the booze effect.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

De Blaugies Darbyste Bier

Another in the Belg-a-Rama series, #2, from Brasserie des Blaugies, darbysge bier. These are my notes from May, 2005, from a bottle:
This bottle of mine has a new, finely designed, violet-colored label complete with a scientific drawing of the fig fruit, leaves, plant and all. I'm intriqued. At the store, once I read "ALE brewed with fig juice", it went right into the cart.
Pours a solid orange/ peachy hue, with well-sustained off-white foam above.
Aroma is faint, dominated by yeast, pleasant but uninspiring...light fruit...
big zesty kick on first sip, huge carbonation, but flavor is still, alas, lackluster...considerable spark and zip on the palate, that it has going for it...great tang on the's quite nice, though the fig factor is lightly played.
a tasty ale, though, no doubt about that, with an underlying citric kick, and a blast of spice...another winner from Blaugies.

And here's what I wrote for the draft beer menu:Blaugies is a great family owned and operated saison producer, and this one is from an old recipe, and fermented with figs. Named for John Darby, a temperance preacher whose parishoners favore d a "soft drink" they insisted was merely fig juice. A blend between saison and wittier, light, lemony and dry, with the figs playing a minor role in the flavor.

This is another one of those beers whose ingredients cloud preceptions of what the beer actually is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Summit Unchained Batch 5: Imperial Pumpkin Porter

The announcement of the Unchained Series last year was met in the local beer community with equal cries of hoorays, hossanahs, and "it's about time"s. Time for our nearly 25-year old steadfast soldier to show it can do something different, and give the ravenous beer geeks something to chew on. I recall an event a few years ago when Summit founder and owner Mark Stutrud was inundated with questions about when Summit would brew, of all things, a Flemish Sour Red Ale. He seems perplexed, because, he explained, he was just trying to get Miller Lite drinkers to drop that swill and switch to Summit EPA. A Flanders Red? Why not shoot for the moon, while we're at it.

So the Unchained Series, where each brewer gets his chance to create his heart's desire has brought a kolsch, a scottish ale, a india rye, a Belgian-style Golden ale (and where I did like this one, it may indicate that the notion of tackling a Belgian red ought to remain a pipe dream, at least for now), and perhaps the most successful and popular in the series, the imperial pumpkin porter.
This one came out the last week in October, just in time to be included in our StoutFest 2010. I was amused by some comments by folks that they couldn't taste the "imperial" or the pumpkin. It may not be 10% or so, but 7.5% is stronger than the average porter, and I think the submerged pumpkin taste actually makes this one work.

I gave it a 3.9/5, but it probably deserves better.

Anyhow, we've been pouring it non-stop since, and I've lost count of how many kegs we've switched out. The photo is a pint from the penultimate sixtel, and the notes are from early November. In my opinion, it's actually getting better these days.

"Full-on ebony appearance, roasted brown head, slim and soon gone.

Aroma brims with spice. They put a ton in here, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, allspice, maybe more, I forget. It rides over anything else. A little coffee and caramel, maybe, with the black & chocolate malt.

tAste: All dark malts, and plenty of spice. Can't taste the pumpkin, doesn't reveal itself at all. Well, it's in there somewhere, but the porter elements are going strong, bittersweet, smooth, rich, and tasty. Cocoa flavor is major. Spice is coming on strong, and taking control, becoming bright and dominant.

I keep looking for the pumpkin, and have to realize it was meant to be drowned out by the malt and the spice. It's there, but undetectable and utterly submerged. But the beer becomes more than the sum of it's parts, and something very satisfying.

wait, halfway through the pint, now I'm getting the pumpkin, there it is. Neat little cameo, it pops up for a peep.

Yum, yum, yum. Warm, malt, chocolate, pumpkin, and then all that spice. It's there for flavor, but doesn't become hot or take over in any way. A well done brew all the way. Pumpkin haters needn't worry, as that flavor is subdued, and stout and porter lovers have much to enjoy."

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils

#4 in the Woody Sends, Sly Fox can series.

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils

"North German Style Pilsner, light in body and refreshingly dry on the palate, this multiple award-winning Pilsner is the ideal beer for any season or occasion. Brewed in classic fashion with German Pils malt and German and Czech hops. OG 11.7 Plato, 44 IBUs, 4.9% abv. "

I'm putting this into a Samuel Adams glass, because I can't find any real German pilsner glasses in my collection. Plenty of pints and strangely shaped Belgians, but none of those, alas and alack.

Cloudy, and pale dirty yellow appearance, nice white head, lace-leaving, starts big and drifts down.

Aroma: noble hops and yeast predominant. Light, airy, floral, perfumey. And a little off…

Taste: Crisp hop bite up front, grabs the palate, and wakes the sleeping senses. Malt is almost thick in this. Unfiltered. Judging by appearance, and now taste, yeah, there's plenty of yeast flavor in this. But, though I normally like yeast in my beer, this one feels like it shouldn't belong. I want to use the word dirty again. And I almost never want that. Too murky to be a classic German pils, if that's really what it wants to be…but, wait, Al, aren't you the one who likes lagers better with yeast in them? Yeah, that is me, undeniably…

In this one, though, the yeast isn't integrated enough with the rest of the flavors and competes and drowns out what should be clean, crisp and refreshing. I drank it, and I didn't dislike it, but it just didn't work out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale

More from the beneficence of Brother Woody.

Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale

"Like it's mythological namesake, this bold American pale ale will be a legend for our times, a great craft beer reincarnated into a can. Brewed with pale and crystal malts, and the finest U.S. grown hops from the Pacific NorthWest. OG 13 Plato, 40 IBUs, 5.1% by Vol."

12 oz. can, which doesn't look fantastic in a 20 oz. imperial pint glass, but there's one to grow on.

Semi-clear, pale bronze/copper hue, slim whitish head, stays as a slim ring.

Nice, hoppy aroma, grapefruit is here, plenty of citrus, a bit of pine, smack of bitterness, with a tickle of sweet. A little apple and cherry lay beneath the bitter citric spank. Very, very loverly.

Taste: Excellent mix of sweet malt, and fruity, bitter hops. Totally tasty. Herbal, grainy, bitter, sweet…etc. High hops, big bitterness, but buttressed by a firm malt backbone, everything good and tidy and in solid supply. Brisk, fruity, refreshing, bitter and sweet. Goes down exceedingly easy.

Top-notch pale ale, would be one I'd reach for with regularity if I were a Pennsylvanian.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sly Fox Dunkel Lager

Another one from the Woodman, fresh from the CANquest.

Sly Fox Dunkel Lager.

"A traditional Bavarian style Dark Lager, made with Munich, Pils, and German Roast malts, and a variety of Bavarian hops. OG 13 Plato, 21 IBUs, 5.3% by Vol."

In an Einbecker Dunkel glass, because why not, that's why.

And I love the dunkels, so I'm looking forward to this one.

Clear, caramel brown body, slim beige head, gets tight, but stays strong.

Aroma: clean and malty, caramel and toffee, light hops, sweet, rich and getting richer.

Taste: very tidy, minimal hops, good blend of cocoa, caramel and toffee in the malty flavor. Even-tempered, well-balanced, medium-bodied, expertly drinkable. A little mineral, metallic feel, flinty, maybe, but overall a nice, if unimpressive dunkel.
And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sly Fox 113 IPA

Sly Fox 113 IPA, Craft Brewed in Pennsylvania. Royersford, to be exact.

12 ounce can, sent to me by Mr. John S. "Woody" Chandler, of LNC, PA. This gentleman, a former sailor and current schoolteacher, is known to those in the beer community far and wide for his sense of adventure, his puckish grin and wily eyebrows, his wiry red beard, and that monk's robe he wears at beer festivals in the heat of summer. He's currently in the midst of an epic survey of canned beers (has recently surpassed 400) and sent me a sextet of Sly Fox to match the Surlys I sent his way.

"This complex beer is brewed wit a variety of British, German, and Pacific Northwest hops. Every sip will remind you just why you fell in love with craft beer in the first place. OG 16.4 Plato. 113 IBUs, Alc. 7% by Vol."

113, really? Okay, this is going to be fun!

Highly hazed, deep bronze color, slim beige head, settles as a tight ring.

Aroma, deep, dank, herbal, and raw. Big hop attack, some pine, some citrus, and the English hops are showing their side, definitely. An intriguing mix, one you don't encounter often. A little butterscotch and toffee, too. Soft, and surprisingly sweet. Much malt in the mix.

Taste: Bitter and herbal, with a hearty malt backbone. Apples and cherries, with citrus in the background, pine is there, too, but faded, in the distance. Slightly grassy.

Why did I fall in love with craft beer in the first place? Hops. Hops in English ales, and then hops in American pale ales and IPAs, west coast or English IPAs. I've loved them all, and here they are together as one.

Does that work? Well, this one doesn't really shine or sing like a 113 IBU IPA should, doesn't spank the tongue in a feverish fashion. Much malt below does it's work, and I'm not sure if the cocktail of hops really delivers. Perhaps I'm too used to English ales that are just so, or American IPAs that smack of citrus and pine. This is a bit muddied, some of those flavors I yearn for are missing, or in the back, just a ghost, competing with the English and German hops character.

Medium bodies, soft, light hoppy finish.

Despite those criticisms, it's a good 'un, and I'd drink it once in a while id I were in PA, but it just doesn't trip my trigger.

Schell's Stag Series #2: Wild Rice Saison

Another way August Schell Brewing Company is renewing interest in their increasingly diverse endeavors is the new Stag Series. The first was bottle only, a pinot noir barrel-aged batch of Shmaltz' Alt. For the second, a Belgian-style saison brewed with Minnesota wild rice, and 12 kegs were released. We're near the end of our one and only keg, as I write this (though my notes where from up at the top of the keg.).

Clear yellow tint, slim white head on this pour.

Aroma: funky and wild, right on, saison. light citrus notes, gentle spice.

Taste: great play on the palate at first, low bitterness, but plenty of sass. Tart and tongue spanking, just a little sweet, with spice coming in loud and clear. Apple and pear in the flavor, a bit of citrus. Tasting the wheat here, not sure if I can pick up on the wild rice, though, that's not really my bailiwick. The brewers says it gives an earthy, nutty flavor. They're probably right.

Tasty little guy, here, the second Belgian style ever attempted by August Schell Brewing. Really fits the feel of a true saison, with a Minnesota twist.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dogfish Head Namaste White Belgian-style Witbier

New image, 12/09/17, showing new packaging, new glass-
ware, better camera, etcetera....but it's the same beer, so
no need for a new review. 
Dogfish Head Namaste, Beer brewed with coriander, orange and lemongrass.
Purchased at Casanova's, Hudson, WI. 4.8% ABV, 20 IBU.

Had in the company of the most recent episode of Brew Masters. (Leather and Lemons?)
(Actually, it's "Grain to Glass", I just like it when Sam used that phrase.)

"Namaste, the word kinds sorta means the spirit in me recognizes and celebrates the spirit in you. Namaste the beer kinda sorta means white ale as in wheat and coriander but also means dried orange slices and lemongrass. A refreshing summer thing. Namaste."

Glug, glug, glug goes the beer out of the bottle and into the glass.

Light apricot, pale peach appearance, bountiful head on it, billowy snow drift holding fast atop, bubbly, lace leaving. Mostly clear, with small particles at the bottom, some twisting around throughout the glass. Is this typical of this one, or do I have an older bottle?

Aroma: ah! Zesty, airy, uplifting, sweet, and slightly tart, with the coriander very vivid, and the orange just a little behind. Lemongrass, I don't have a handle on, though I've had my share of Town Hall's various lemongrass brews. I lean into the glass further and plunge my nose straight in …lightly fruity and spicy, and very pretty.

Taste: soft on the palate, with a distinct grassiness. Light bodied, with a constant delivery of light fruit and spice. Slides down and back with minimal effort.

Soft, breezy, and beautiful. Mmmmm. Nice. Namaste.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

Another in the selection for Belg-a-Rama, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, from the Brouwerij Sint Bernardus, Watou, Belgium

Here's what I noted in December of 2007, from a bottle review:

Dark in color, in between violet and brown, with a nice head, if short, if a bit overblown with bubbles, and not sticking around...another pour gives higher head, but, it too, dies off with a quickness...

Aroma: sweet and spicy, dark fruits, plus dark rum, mollasses, some brown sugar, maybe, but green hoppy feels as well...ripe, fresh, lovely, good!

Tastin' it: ...cola, cocoa...fierce carbonation....big, fat, outlandish Belgian yeast, the kind that I associate with cookie dough...more carbonic effervescencem and cola feel, mixed with pepper, anise, and other spices ...needs more yeast, though...full mouthfeel, practically inhabits all the rooms of the senses...but doesn't do what the Abbot 12 does, which is my disappointment....I want that and then some, not less than that...
not bad, but too carbonated, very flavorful, and yet not flavorful enough..I expected the Abbot 12 and then some, and I got something less.
A good beverage, warming, alcoholic, spicy, a blast of pepper and malt, and somehow not quite what I expected from St. Bernardus...a bit less, a wee bit....there's burnished cherries, there's raisins, and dates, and more.

Looking critically at those opinions, I'm not sure what my problem was. Another great brew from one of my favorite breweries, and I expected something superior to their finest ale? Seriously, dude, WTF?
On tap it's lush and sweet, more chocolate and spice, less cola. Bigger head on tap, though less fiercely carbonated. Delicious stuff. For our beer menu, I get simpler: "The smiling monk puts on a Santa cap for this one. Dark brown, rich and malty, cookie dough meets dark fruit and spice, a boozy Gingerbread brew."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Colder Than A Witches Wit

Saturday, December 11 shall be known as the day the world now knows Minneapolis for caved-in Metrodomes, and not just collapsed bridges. The snow was so horrible, it took me an hour to go to the corner store 2 blocks away for emergency rations. Stomping through un-shoveled sidewalks, trying to cut through unplowed parking lots, navigating streets whose terrains have been halved by the massive snow dump, while it's still falling and blowing in my face. My shoelaces came undone and the snow found it's way into my shoes. I got home exhausted, distraught, my heart palpitating, and anxious about what the day would bring. In my long travel through a short distance, I saw at least 5 cars stuck in the snow drift. No one had any reason to go out, be out, travel for any reason. It took a small amount of convincing, but I got my bosses to close up work, or, actually, never open. And stayed home with my music and my movies, my cat and my frozen pizza from the corner store, and went through with the idea of re-starting this blog. The first beer, as you saw, if you were paying attention was the Ommegang BPA. Number Two of the night was one procured through trade from Californian Jason D. He got me a Pizza Port that I've been after for years, Cuvee de Tomme (or is it a Lost Abbey brew, now?), a Russian River, and this Lost Abbey brew that got so much attention/publicity for it's label illustration. I sent him a Darkness 2010, Smoke 2009, and Four. We both were happy with the exchange. Well, until I drank the Witches Wit. (Kidding..kind of...)

The Lost Abbey Witches Wit, Malt Beverage brewed with honey and spices.

The label art depicts a medieval village, wherein an act of fatal violence is perpetrated against a purported black arts dealer. Florid, over-wrought, heavy-handed label copy goes on and on describing the scene, and only bothers to describe the ale as "a light and refreshing wheat beer", and as "exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to find being passed around the center of town on witch burning day." Whatever the hell that means.

Lightly hazed, pale yellow aroma, very small head, slims to nil in a minute. Bit disappointing.

Aromatics, light spices, minor fruit. Not smelling much like a wit, not feeling the orange or coriander, or the wheat.

Taste: Light bodied and flavorless. Watery. Little mouthfeel or texture.
Extremely minor spice, and fleeting wheat character. A bit of celery, with a drizzle of lemon. No reason to call it a wit, if it ain't. Or is this a joke? Did I get a bad bottle, or was this their intention?

This is what they'd be drinking when they murder on witch suspicion? Does that imply that witch burners have terrible taste? I've got half a mind that the witch burning image was a desperate ditch at drumming up sales on this loser.

A little sad to encounter a lackluster Lost Abbey, especially since it seems to get good reviews from others. Too old? Mishandled? Not sure what happened.
I closed the night with better beers. Surly Smoke, Bell's Third Coast Old Ale, Victory Old Horizontal. Nice way to end a snowed-in day, I'd say.

Schell's Snowstorm 2010

The SnowStorm series from 150-year old August Schell Brewing Company, second oldest family-owned brewery in America, is a yearly showcase for the brewer's talents. There was a streak in the middle of the last decade when I was not impressed with their offerings of this wintry output. Sure, it's a one-off, but a brown ale or an ESB, even if it's not what a traditional German brewery normally makes, just doesn't stand out. Give us something big, deep, dark, spicy, complex, give us something to stand up to a snowstorm! (Years ago, I believe it was called Blizzard Ale. )
I may be wrong, but I think the cap has to go off to Dave Berg for steering the ship straight on this series recently. A stout several years ago, that's now a staple. A Belgian Dubbel (my favorite style) 2 years ago, and a Baltic Porter last (tapped that at the Nile, and it was gone quick!). It only got better this year, and so, ...

Schell's Snowstorm 2010, Weizen Doppelbock Beer

12 oz. bottle. Pouring into an Aventinus glass, because I don't have any branded Schell's glassware that suits the style. Perhaps I need to remedy that, but, on the other hand, this is the beer that sets the standard for this style.

Dark purplish-brown coloration, huge fluffy beige head, lace-leaving, very impressive.

Amazing aromatics, huge and in orbit, banana cream pie, with cloves on top. Drizzle of lemon, and a double hit of spice. Light and airy, yet deep and substantive. This is exactly what I'd want from a weizenbock. Love it.

Drinking it: High carbonation, spritzy, yet smooth, lush malt, tastes lovely. Sweet, yet mild, lightly spicy. Maybe a little lighter on the mouthfeel than I'd like, but I'm oh, so picky. And, actually, I have a hard time finding a flaw with this one. So, let me have that one thing, okay?

Tasty as all get out, hits the right notes for the style, delivers deliciousness. Another knockout in the Snowstorm series, and, damnit, the last one in my six-pack. Time to go out shopping!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Barbar Winter Bok

I've had this on tap before, at Acadia Cafe, and have finally put it on tap at the Nile for my second in a series I'm calling Belg-a-Rama, and, no, I'm no longer ashamed of the name, nay, I embrace it.

Barbar Winter Bok (aka Barbar Biere de Noel)

In the frosted Barbar handle mug, it appears dark brown, with a slim, tan head holding tight on top.

Aroma: Honey is evident, and doesn't contribute to too much sweetness, with orange there, too, and a nice drizzling of coriander. Interesting that the two main flavors of a wit are here in this dark winter offering, yet we don't really get the feel of a wit. The dark malts match those flavors to a t, although they don't add too many of their own. Some minor chocolate, a drip of molasses. (Or is that the honey tricking me?

Taste: sweet, smooth, and lightly spicy. Delcicious dark malt meets these sweet & spicy flavors, and I had to just call it a delight. It's not terrifically complex, but not everything has to be. It is medium to full body, and hangs in there on the palate, but doesn't overstay it's welcome. It's like sweet and lovely meets body and soul.

8% alcohol helps the heat and the warmth. Flavors are a total treat.

I'm still rather confused by the designation "bok", while they yet call it an "ale". ("Bock" beers are malty, dark lagers.) Maybe that word means something else in Belgium?

Something else weird, one the glass what looks like a sword and shield carrying amazon is a mono-toned outline, perhaps suggesting nudity? On the tap handle, the figure is clothed. Standards? Censorship? Whatever.It's a tasty brew, and I will return to it again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It Lives!...Again?

I never meant to give this up, honestly. There were many reasons I didn't keep it going, and despite them, The Bitter Nib kept gnawing away at the back of my brain. So, here's what's going to be different:

1. More emphasis on the beer, less on the art. That'll be a sometime thing. It's the beer that will drive the post, and I'll only toss up the art if I like it well enough.

2.More photos, less logos, and swiped pics from other websites. I've been meaning to get a nice digital camera, but for now the camera on my new 4G iPod Touch will do nicely. (The camera on my cell phone is crappy.)

3.This is where my beer reviews will originate. Some background for you. In the summer of 2002, I first began taking notes on beer and took to it like a kid to a candy cane. In November of that year, I registered on and started posting the reviews. Signed up on the next year, mostly transferring the reviews over, in order to keep in contact with that segment of the online beer community. But websites such as those have proven unreliable, and I need a safe spot to maintain what I've published elsewhere.

Recently I hit review #2900. In eight years. Did the math. 96 months into 2900 =30.2, so I've averaged out to a new beer a day. Thought I was slipping, but the numbers don't lie.

So, my intention is to have the words be about the beer itself, and accompany with a photo of the actual beer I had. I admit it, I'm jealous of the photography on other sites, and don't hope to come close to their artistry, but it should be fun to try.

4. Also, I would like to tackle a new post, and a different brew each day. Might be a challenge, but I think I can do it.

First review: Ommegang Belgian Pale Ale, a brew I'd first enjoyed on tap at the Muddy Pig's Belgian Fest in October, and through the generosity of Jeremy K., I have a bottle to enjoy at my leisure. And so...

Ommegang BPA …"part of the Duvel family of fine ales"

"This fine pale ale offers citrus and tropical fruit aromatics coming from a well balanced--yet ample--hop character. It uses our own Belgian yeast, five malts, two hops and plenty of patience. Finishing touches include dry-hopping with Cascade hops and warm-cellaring."

POP! goes the cork, and away we go…

Highly clouded, burnt orange coloration, half inch head, snowy white, rocky and bumpy, lace-leaving and long lasting.

Lovely aromatics, lemon and yeast, abundant spice, very peppery, with hops aplenty. Don't want to take my nose away from the glass.

Tasting it: Hops are dazzling on the palate, a torrential downpour, a blitzkrieg bop of hops, peppery, with a lemon twist. Zesty, spritzy, light bodied and easy drinking. Mouthfeelnever quits with the hops and the spice. Pilsner malts keep it bouncing below.

This would be a fantastic food beer, so more's the pity I haven't anything better than frozen pizza. Better than that, it's an excellent drinking beer. I'm a bigger fan of Ommegang's heartier ales, but this was a fine attempt at the style. Only drawback is the flavor thins out much too early, leaving me wanting. That could be exactly what they were shooting for, though.

Minnesota Breweries One by One #16: Forager Brewery, Rochester

For the second stop in Rochester we chose Forager Brewery , as our collective stomachs were rumbling, and this one is a brewpub with food ...