Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: The Year in ReBrew (in pictures)

Looking back at my iPhoto bank, there are many photos related to beer events, beer drinking, friends and fun. I did this photo essay thing with Darkness Day and Firkin Fest. Unfortunately, I forgot with WinterFest and Autumn Brew Review, and most of the major beer events I hosted at the Blue Nile, but I did snap picture randomly through the year, and here are some of the highlights. You are best off reading them from bottom to top, that's just the way they got sorted, and after spending hours on this, only to find they get stacked upside down, I don't want to spend any more time fixing it, so..behold, a glimpse at my year in beer, 2011!

the final stop of the crawl, Town Hall Tap, where Tom gives me the evil eye, and Scott gloms onto his wife's chest. Once home, I needed a nap. I don't normally start drinking at 1 pm. Heck, on days that I work, I don't drink until 2 am!
Cheers, from Jason and Kat!
December 26. Pat's Tap. Kim Bartmann (owner, as well as BLB, and other bars/restaurants) loves palindromes, hence the name. Also, the mens and womens rooms are labeled "Anna" and "Otto" (who will  figure that out, we wonder, as people walk out of the wrong room), and on the beer list, "Lager, sir, is Regal." This was my first visit to this new bar, inside an old bar, and the second visit on a pub roll, with Jason and Brandon. Kat and Scott drove.
Why do my pictures at Bryant-Lake Bowl turn out so terrible? Brandon is at right having a laugh, Jon is at left, and he was there to tap a special "randall" of spices to run through a Goose Island Christmas Ale. Jon was the reason Stub & Herb's became the type of bar to hold a Stone kickoff party, and now he represents Goose Island locally. My fingers hold a glass of aged Corsendonk Christmas Ale, and off my right is Laura Preston, who I urged to go in the basement and bring it up so we could drink it. December 20.
The aforementioned Rooster, looking good!
November 9. Rob really wanted to do a Tallgrass Velvet Rooster  release event at the Nile, and I really wanted to let him. He's at right, with Brandon Smith at left, and the rooster at left foreground. In the middle? I forgot her name!
November 8, hanging out at the Harriet Brewery, drinking beer with Jason (his back to us) and Paul, who joined them as a brewer halfway through the year. I've known Paul for a few years, and was glad to see his Siebel-trained brewing skills join the Harriet team.
Scott's giving love to one of the pups. My, how they've grown!
11/6, holding a BrewFarm beer (forget which) in my hand, over a roaring fire.
November 6, my final BrewFarm visit of 2011, Sharon is talking to Dave, and soon she's telling me, "you'd better not post these, Al." Too late.
November 1. Rob Shellman of Tallgrass Brewing, getting a trim from Moustache Jim at the Nomad. I only showed up so he could get me a sample of Velvet Rooster, and ended up joining in on the Movember festivities, having my lip and chin follicles shorn for the first time in 5 years. 
The Original gets fresh with her duplication.
10/30. Before getting to the Darkness bottles, a 3 1/2 year old bottle of Two, the anniversary beer that I painted the label for. Someone has a bottle on eBay for $500, and my family members who bought it (or given one by me) fresh should really cash in, because it's way too funky for their tastes.
October 30. Early in the Epic Darkness Vertical Tasting, Dennis, Peter, Eric, and Jeffrey's knees at my apartment. We have just enjoyed the DeMolen/Flying Dog collaboration beer Eric brought, and we've yet to taste Dennis' cranberry mead. I've been putting off doing a full report on this night for almost two months, but it's coming, patient readers, fear not.
October 29. I snapped a shot of one of the few Darknesses I managed to drink on tap at the Nile this year, and tried to write about it as well, but it trailed off into gibberish.
May 17. Blue Nile, me and Farmer Dave, without the SpongeBob cap. This was the middle of MN Craft Beer Week, and one of my four events was a tapping of Matacabras, which Dave came all the way from Wilson for, what a heck of a guy. 
May 4, Dean and Rita at Groveland Tap, the occasion being another cask offering of Lift Bridge beer, this one being the excellent Hop Prop IPA. Jason was also at the table, and we visited the bar to hang with the brewery crew.
May 1. BrewFarm. Farmer Dave is a dog man, but I think this photo shows the influence they have on him.
patio of Acadia, again. Steve Rinker is laughing about something, and Kat is checking her phone for some reason. A cask of Lift Bridge is the occasion.
April 12, patio at Acadia Cafe, Michael's giving me the evil eye for some reason. Must have been something I said.
same event, this time I finally found a seat at the bar and got a sampler set of something.
Alvey is at Stub's for the occasion, too, one of the many many people squeezed in there to drink Stone for the first time in Minnesota, and meet Greg Koch.
March 29, Jason is at Stub and Herb's for the Stone release party, raising a glass of Old Guardian (I think).
Ryan appears to be a Bell's supporter, but he's waiting for the right moment to give Larry the what-for.
March 27, Ben at BLB, protesting the abolition of spiritous beverages, and happily imbibing in them. The occasion was a Bell's Oberon tapping.
March 19, the scene at a little tasting at Dan and Beth's, ahhh, Cantillon!
March 4. Gera celebrates her 40th at the Blue Nile, a complete surprise to her, with Chip Walton at her side. There was surprisingly no homebrew kegs, so I opened bottle after bottle.
Farmer Dave looking dashing in his SpongeBob cap.
Dave's BrewFarm, 2/27. Chelsea playing with one of the pups, back when they were little.
Dean gives me a sideways glance, BLB, 2/23.
Feb. 16, vapor exiting a mash tun at Harriet Brewing.
February 8. Todd Haug at Acadia Cafe for their Surly 5th Anniversary Party. It was the day after they announced their expansion plans at the Muddy Pig's party, and there was a lot of excitement about it. I sat with Omar for a while, and he described his day as stressful, with tons of calls and emails. A foreshadowing moments was when he read a text from Todd (before he showed up for the event), "Frank Ball wants you to call him." Omar's typical response: "Why doesn't he call me?"
January 7. A full month before the official release party for Harriet Brewing's West Side IPA, Jason brought some beer in a growler, and a tap handle. I was fairly proud of what would happen and shot them together.
Feb 23. It's Bryant Lake Bowl's turn for an anniversary party. That's Laura Preston helping out behind the taps. I arrived a little late, but she hooked me up with some Pentagram. Omar thrust a raffle ticket in my hand, and what do you know, I won the first prize, a 2007 bottle of Darkness. Very cramped that night, cramped and crowded.
October 30. The Epic Darkness Vertical Tasting. Rollie the Cat sat with us, but, like some people, he just couldn't be converted to join us in craft beer geekery. That's Cal, urging a Surly Darkness into his reluctant snout.
At an event at the Blue Nile in October, with at least 6 Odell beers on tap, here I am toasting Doug Odell, found of Odell Brewing Company, 

Von Honsebrouck Gueuze Fond Tradition

Gueuze Fond Tradition Lambic Belgian Ale, Unfiltered, Castle Brewery, Van Honsebrouck, Belgium. Affiliated with the "St. Louis" branding, apart from the Kasteel line from this same brewery. Brewed and bottled by…well, we went over that already. Let's uncap it, uncork it, and get into it.

My mistake, no cork in this one. Green bottle. Ours a cloudy orange, with a lasting, off-white head.

Funky, sour barnyard aroma. (Horseblanket? Horse piddle? Horse dooky?)
Deeply tart, citrus and sour. Not overpowering and offensive, definitely pleasant.

Taste: Fiercely funky. Big carbonation, light in body, but considerable texture play on the palate. Almost thick, with the funk and wicked wildness. Very refreshing, and never to the extreme. Just sour enough to have fun with your tongue, without coating it and killing it. 

Central Waters Brewers Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout

Wisconsin makes some very nice beers, and this ranks high among them. Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout from Central Waters, 9.5% Alcohol by volume. I'm looking back at my first tasting for the notes, June, 2004:

Black, black, black, nothing but deep darkness from out of this bottle, with a nice espresso-tinged brown layer of foam, settling into a nice, tight rings, which never quits, just hangs in there. 

Aroma, in just one word? Wow! impressive! Thick, huge, pervasive alcoholic aroma, vast, expansive, heady, full of rich whiskey notes, dark flavors, coffee, brandy, licorice. 

big presence in the mouth, too, big in alcohol, as well, a flush with flavors of chocolate, dark rum, molasses, spices. Ful bodied, but thins out some in the middle, becoming not quite so much of the powerhouse that we like from our IS's, though the bourbon character is prevalent throughout and really is the key to the enjoyment of this terrific stout. Has a true luxurious feel from that flavor, a real beastly, though well-mannered, presence in the mouth, with a rich, boozy kick on the lips with every sip! 

Samuel Adams Third Voyage Double IPA

Samuel Adams Third Voyage. 8% ALC./VOL.
Hops: Cascade hops from the UK, New Zealand, and the US Simcoe brand hops. Malts: 2-row harrington, Metcalfe, and Copeland pale malts, caramalt, and honey malt. This unique double IPA takes the styles origins a step further. ...(I didn't bother to copy the verbiage on the label. Explains the name, goes on about something or another, blah, blah...blah.)

Clear, crimson coloring, big head, leaves lace. 

vibrant, hoppy aroma, with rich malt underneath. Grapefruit /caramel tango.

 In the mouth, more of the same. Sturdy and slightly sweet malt backbone gives ample resistance to the hop blast. But this one is never too anything, no true assault here, no imbalance, no overwhelming intensity. Nothing wrong with that. And that's certainly nothing I'd expect form Samuel Adams, but…I'd love a surprise now and then. 

Citrusy and earthy, for sure, a blend of English and American IPA style, with a sidetrip to the Southern Hemisphere. Nice, tasty, smooth, hoppy. Medium body, long, lingering bitter finish. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fantome de Noel

Ah, Fantome! Superlative saison producer of Soy, Belgium. Haven't had one of these in too, too long, so why not get back into it with the Christmas variety. Paid $16.49 for this at Zipp's, more than I normally like to spend, but it was worth it. Had this bottle last night, after a hard evening of bartending an African Christmas Eve party. Exhausting work. Frustrating. And even though I didn't get home until 4 AM, and needed to be ready by 11 AM for the family get-together, I just really wanted a beer, and this was the one I wanted. I turned in around 5:30 and got up at 10 AM. But memories of Fantome Noel made it all worthwhile.
I first had this in September of 2004. I can't imagine a store still having a beer like this that late these days.
Here are the notes I took then:

Stolid eggplant and plummy appearance, resting under a cakey, creamy topping of beigish froth. 

Nose is generously spicy, mixed with dark fruits, cherries, and berries, grapes and dates. 

Taste, mmm,magificent! Active carbonation, brief acidity, but a full flood of complex fruity/ spicy flavors delivers it's payload on the palate with the first sip. Marvelous mouthfeel, paints all corners of the senses with this deliciousness, with a citric twist interjecting now and then. Yeast looms large in the flavor, as well, leaving more of a feel of a spicy raisin cake, or something similar. I never, ever would guess that this is a 10 % brew, but we're only halfway in, so we've only just begun to plunder the full effects of this bottle. Gets better and better as I deplete it...medium body, medium-length, but sweet and spicy finish, softly drifts from the palate, lingers just long enough to keep the impression of eternal delight not far from the mind. 

This is really nice, if not incredibly impressive, but that's not always necessary, is it? A super saison, spicy in just right amount to remain highly pleasurable and not a chore.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Schell's Stag Series #4: Burton Ale

August Schell's Stag Series #4, a Burton Ale, reproducing a long lost style from the days before pale ales or IPAs. Once again, I happily enjoyed 5 bottles out of a 6-pack, and then sat down with #6 to examine it. Notes follow:

Clear, reddish-copper coloring, slim, off-white head.

Aroma, grainy, malty, small hops. Nice. Clean, but rather quiet. 

Taste: rich, malty, and slightly sweet. Very malt-driven, fruity, and scrumptious. 
I'm not getting much hop bitterness, not even a little. Maybe there's just enough to tamp down the malt sweetness. 
Soft, creamy, and satisfying. Not a chore, nor a challenge, nor terrible rewarding, either. Just satisfying. Good sessioner, though it's on the strong side. 
I do find myself wishing for more hops, but that's wanting this to be something it never was supposed to be.Ain't nothing wrong with what it is. 

(I also didn't detect the 8% alcohol, either.)

Wild Onion Hop Slayer Double IPA

One more from the last Wisconsin trip, another where I went through the first 5 of the 6 pack, and held on to one for reviewing. And here's what I said:

Wild Onion Hop Slayer Double IPA. "Sink your senses into this hop bomb and you'll…" Eh…I don't want to do it, this time. Blah, blah, blah…puns, bad jokes, ridiculous references. sad….."hop in and get slayed tonight." (sigh) 8% ABV. Blah.

Deep reddish coloration, nice off-whitish head, long lasting, attractive. 

Malty aromatics, big time hops, over-the-top, …roaring, loud and alive.

Taste: huge, again…gigantic, enormous, and….boring. This is one of those gargantuan hop/malt monsters that overdoes everything. 

Juicy malt, rich and deep, huge and hoppy. Then, the hoppiness roars over it. And the malt roars back. 

Unfortunately, there's nothing distinctive about this, nothing sophisticated or exquisite. Big, big, big, but…nothing special. It delivers hugosity, and alcohol, and there you have it. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Glazen Toren Ondineke Tripel

Glazen Toren Ondineke Tripel Ale.

Here's one I first tried on my birthday last year, courtesy of Brad the Beerguy. He just pulled out a 1.5 liter bottle of this (!), and I shared it with friends. Then, the Beerguy went back to his car and brought another one! This I saved in my fridge for months (on it's side, above the fruit tray...too big to stand up!) for a special tasting with a couple of friends. I tried to take notes (something I don't like to do among company), but never posted them, because they just didn't make the cut. (Wait, I just found them on my computer! You ready? Here they come..."Ondineke

Hazed amber. copper…slimmed ring of whitish head.

Aroma: spice, fruit, yeast. dry, even-tempered. all in check. 

Taste: dry and spice, wild and funky, crazy, messed up and earthy. Malt aplenty, chalky, aspirin, high hops…")
Yup. Didn't make the cut. 
Luckily, the distributor came through with some kegs for me, and this one is the final beer of this Belg-a-Rama #10 that I have yet to cover. (It's the fourth in the series so far, after Angelique dubbel, Jan de Lichte wit, and Erpe Mere saison.)

A unique beer, an atypical tripel, (full name: Ondineke Oilsjtersen Tripel (Tripel from Aalst) with an unusual name, and label art. After much searching, I learned it's named for a character in a book by a local author, and the drawing is a depiction of this "Ondineke" character. Still looks extremely odd. Did they ever translate it from the Flemish. I'd be interested to know why this beloved heroine is pigtailed, nude and possessed of strangely long fingers.

 Alas, this might not be the perfect glass for a tripel, but it is the only one I have with the Glazen Toren logo. So, I'm using it.

Gorgeous golden cast, with a constant stream of bubbling, and big snowy white head, starts large, drifts down, leaving lace.

Aroma: a perfect marriage of spice and citrus, soft and sensual. Some pepper, some coriander, geting close with orange and lemon, sliding into the nose and tickling it. Sharp, tangy, then a little sweet.

Many things in the mouth. Sparkling, spicy, sweet, juicy, then dry as she goes. Fruit goes hand in hand with spice, and it quits the palate with a quickness, drying off, yet enticing another sip. Gets more and more lemon-y as we go deeper in. Each new meet and greet on the tongue smack the lips and palate again with small amounts of spice, large amounts of fruit, that swiftly turns dry and begs it's pardon on the way. Lingers lightly. Spreads just enough of it's particular pleasure along the palate to urge on further consumption, and spread further delights.

I'm liking these Glazen Toren beers. Though expensive, they're definitely worth the drinking. There's a few more out there I haven't tried, but they won't escape my grasp, I can assure you.

Kirin Ichiban

It's not all about craft. Sometimes you have to go back to the well, and check out a macro.
And we go, with Kirin Ichiban,... Kirin's Prime Beer, 100% malt, Brewed for the Good Times. The Ichiban shibori process uses only the most flavorful portion of the finest ingredients. 24 fluid ounces, can. Freshest taste within 180 days, packaged on ...04-Mar-11...(ooops, ....I maybe stop shopping at that store. Or at least check the date before purchasing.)

Bright gold color, voluminous pearl white head.

Soft, slightly sweet aromatics, grainy, lightly malty and vegetal, but overall pleasant.

In the mouth, light, bready malt, crisp as a cracker, mellow mouthfeel. Soft and clean on the palate, utterly inoffensive.

Maybe that's why I don't go to the macro lagers, as much, because I can't find much to say about them. And, still I soldier on.
{I just discovered that I've already reviewed this one, and completely forgotten about that. What does that tell you. Just for kicks, here's what I wrote back in May, 2003:

"Brewed under the strict supervision of Kirin's brewmaster by Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Los Angeles, CA" 24 0z. can, with the mythological Japanese deer/dragon beast striding diagonally up the aluminum container.
Color, a transparent bright yellow, with a prodigous, fluffy, bone white head, that hastily, noisily crumbles.(Perhaps the head size was helped by the enormous Weihenstephaner glass I poured it into?)
Aroma: rather dull and dry, and perfectly in step with a typical cheap lager smell, and am I smelling the rice? Is there rice? Taste will tell...
Very smooth on the palate, to a fault, to the point that it's existence barely registers or makes any impact upon the senses at all. Body is so light light that it rings hollow at every turn. There's is a decent texture, I admit, a nice grit and play on the tongue and lips, that makes it a far more bearable beer than many ordinary lagers, but...I can't at all detect the "complex character of one of the world's premium beers." You've got to have a narrow definition of "beer", and "premium"...and "world"...
Drinkability? Yeah, you can drink them, if you've got nothing better to do, nothing better to drink, and a mean streak of masochism...

Atomium Premier Grand Cru

"Atomium Premier Grand Cru, Belgian Specialty Beer, Imported from Belgium, Atomium PGC is a distinctive six-grain top fermented golden ale that is fermented in the bottle. This robust and refreshing beer has a deliciously complex flavor and a crisp satisfying finish."

clear, amber coloration, with fierce carbonation, under a soled, lacy, snow-white head. 

Aroma: citrus and spice meets barnyard funk. ripe orange and lemon, coriander and love, with a whiff of that special something only Belgian yeast brings.

Taste: full, rich, and sweet. soft, lush, and lovely. Beautiful mix of Belgian yeast, bright hops, and sweet, tasty malt. Mmm. 

Crisp? Satisfying? Yeah…dang, I have to forget to read those things. Smooth. Mmm. Yes, And, yum, let's not forget that. Just downright enjoyable. 8% by Vol? Yeah, I can deal with that. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Schell's Snowstorm 2011: Wee Heavy Ale

Schell's Snowstorm 2011, Wee Heavy Ale.

Transparent, caramel-y brown appearance, not too dark, not too light, especially clear at the foot. Slim, but staying eggnog head.

Aroma: rich malt, cocoa, cream, some toffee… little hops, malt doing the job here.

Taste: In the mouth, mmm. Full, rich, malty, yes. Sweet, of course, but tempered by hop bitterness, just enough. Never gets too anything. But, the rich maltiness is rewarding, and tongue wants more, the palate screams for additional succor. 
Tasty, tasty stuff. Brown sugar, molasses, dollops of cream, added to a jolt of coffee. 

Not a thing wrong with this one. Very glad I picked up a 12-pack, and I'm not quite at the end of it. More 12 ounce blasts of deliciousness to go. Yum. As I keep drinking, that's what I keep thinking. Yu-um. Just enough sweet, just enough not so sweet. 

Another successful Snowstorm. They're on a winning streak, lately. Good job, guys!

Bourgogne des Flandres ale

Let's get into a "sour", shall we? Something brewed and bottled for Anthony Martin by Timmermans Brewery, Bourgogne de Flandres, Belgian Brown Ale, 1765, van Houtryve Brugge. Bruges' typical brown ale, matured 6 months in oak casks. ALC 5.2 %.

Dark, dusky, purplish coloration, small darkish head. 

Vinous aromatics, very grape-y, berries and cherries with a hit of sour. Some sweet fruit, with a good dose of the other stuff.

Taste: berry-licious. sour-tastic. nice and medium, for the sour-heads among us. Is this the Duchesse Junior, the light sour? Sweetness, then some sour, …very tasty, but never over the top.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Millstream John's Generations White Ale

Notes from June, 2005.

Hazed pale yellow appearance, bubbles emanating up from below in a constant flow, with a tidy white head above. 

Fresh aroma, citrus and spice, perfect witbier nose. Spot on. 

Taste: nice, brisk meeting of hops with lips and tongue, fresh orange and lemon, blended with coriander, flavorful, but light and refreshing, the hallmark of any good witbier. Light bodied, soft, hoppy, spicy finish. Finds favor with my tastebuds. 

Can't find a thing wrong with this guy. 

Deschutes/Boulevard Conflux No.2:

Deschutes Conflux Series No. 2, Boulevard Conflux: Ale Brewed with Orange peel and coriander with spices added. Brewed and bottled by Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon. Second in a series, this citrusy, smooth white india pale ale is a fortuitous meeting of Deschutes' hop skills and Boulevards deft wheat touch. What's 1800 miles when a great beer is at stake?
Isn't it how it always works? A few brewers sit around tippling and waxing poetic about what-ifs, wild ideas, and untapped dreams when one suddenly proclaims "why not?" So the conflux series was born, bravely leaping corporate and geographic barriers to jointly explore uncharted beeratory. Cheers, fellow beer explorers, cheers."

Hazy, cloudy bright orange, afloat with flecks, and a long-lasting, if slim, snowy- white head.

The nose is exactly what you'd imagine. An explosion of orange peel, coriander and hops. Heavy on the orange and spice, with hops providing excellent bitter balance.

In the mouth, boom boom boom, there it goes. Big and bitter, a wheat IPA, ...what? Huh? All the lightness and texture, the citric and spice flavor of a wittier, and the crisp, hoppy appeal of an IPA. Light bodied, brief finish. Hits the palate and quits it. Thirst quenching, distinctly downable.

But, in spite of that, I can't say I like it. I mean, love it. I like it. It's good, sweet, bitter, hoppy, tasty enough...and, you can drink it. But, this conflux does not flip any particular switch for me. Que cera cer

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 ...