Monday, January 31, 2011

Andescher Doppelbock Dunkel


It's a lazy, ol' Sunday, and my first beer of the day was one that I should have consumed almost 3 years ago. The bottle has been sitting on my bookshelf somewhere near Flann O'Brien and Rabelais, waiting for something. It never dawned on me to check the "best by" date, whatever that is in German. 5-18-08. The beer was fine, though, if a little plummy (rummy?) and lacking a little spark. It certainly didn't lose anything significant. In the passing years, they've changed the label, and yet, I sat on this one, for whatever reason.
Here are my original notes from my first tasting, back in May, 2004:

A bottle procured for me by Dave, a loyal customer at my restaurant/bar, who has recently been bringing German gems back from business trips for me. All hail Dave!
Appearance: partially clear, dark ruby hue, an enigmatic appearance, really, clear here, dark there, obtuse in places, with a lovely, lush layer of pale, tanned foam standing guard on top.
Aroma: caramel & spice, soft & creamy, lightly toasted, with subtle fruit.
Taste: luscious fruit proclaims itself at the onset, a beautiful blend of grape, cherry, berry, & more, supported by a warm, generous malt bill.
More flavors interject as we continue, raisins, figs, chocolate climbs aboard, too, for a spell, contributing a subtle, sensuous cocoa feel all over the palate.
Sublime, really.
This mere 7.1% ABV doppelbock only peeps up the tiniest bit in alcohol feel, so smooth it is, so rich with flavor, not harsh, nor brash, mellow, cool, yet bold with flavor, getting winey-er and winey-er in taste as we go.
Got to hand it to the monks at Andesch, for they are gentle, benevolent geniuses, and those who know their work are doubly blessed!

(One thing missed, evidenced by the accompanying photograph, is the head, which was great fresh, and gone when aged.)

Odell Red



Good name. Short, simple, straight to the point.

Enjoyed moments ago at Acadia Cafe, on tap. (Live blogging! No, several minutes later blogging. Have since posted the notes on BeerAdvocate, and started into a glass of Left Hand Wake Up Dead. Which I'm not taking notes on. Because I don't feel like it. Time to "just drink.")

Here's what the brewery says.

The notes:
Lightly hazed, deep crimson hue, fleeting beige-toned head.

Bright, malty aromatic. Fruity, hoppy

Taste: snappy, hoppy, full-bodied, malt-driven. Great texture, excellent mouthfeel, plentiful play on the palate. Wonderful dance of malt and hops.

Supreme drinkability, long hoppy finish. Quite satisfying, very easy to turn to another, and quickly empty it.

Overall, recommended! Go ahead and have one!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Russian River Consecration


Russian River Brewing Company Consecration, Ale Aged in Oak Barrels with Currants Added, Refermented in this Bottle, Barrel Aged 6 months, with 4 types of funky wild yeast, brett, lacto, podio-, sacchyro--..etc. 10 % abv. Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, CA. Age in a cool dark place! Batch 001X3.

I've been waiting on this one for a while. From the same BA trade that got me the Lost Abbey Witches Wit, as well as the Lost Abbey Cuvee De Tomme that I'm sitting on even longer. It's been sitting in the fridge for about six weeks, and I can't wait any longer. Away we go!

Dark plum-red coloration, with no head at all, starts slightly fizzy, then quits quickly.

Aroma: ah, that's the stuff, there's the brett, that funky wild wicked twisted sour and sassy wine-ish nose. Currants are doing plenty of work here, too, it's fresh with the fruit. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Tasting it: Whoa! Grabs the tongue and pins it down. Puckeration all the way, in this. Does not relent with the intense tartness. Fruit flavor gives some relief, squeezing in between the huge tart bite.

Another sip, another gulp, and in rushes cherries, blackberries, grapes, some sweet, and then sour. grips the tongue, spanks it a bit, slathers it up and down with funk and sour. Luxurious, relaxing, lush and wonderful.

Halfway in, it's getting deep, plummier, richer…moreover. I'm more impressed-er, for sure. Deeee-licious. Mmmm. Mmm. Mm. M.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lilja's Argosy IPA


Lilja's Argosy IPA, East India Pale Ale, A Fully Laden India Pale Ale.

Highly clouded, muddy amber, dark, slim white head, leaving some lace.

Aroma: strangely muted, very shy, light fruit, apple, cherry.

Taste: Big hop bitterness up front, but nothing beyond that. Middling malt. Nothing stands out. Seriously lackluster. And I want some damned luster!
Very much an English-style IPA, feel like some Fuggles or EK Goldings are at work here, some fruit flavor going on, apple, cherry, again, just like in aroma. Lightly bitter, definitely drinkable, but not especially special. Actually fairly tasty, certainly sessionable, but I wished for something with bit more spark.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lilja's Pulling Boat Pale Ale


Another from the Lilja's four. Not thrilled with this one. My notes:

Lilja's Pulling Boat Pale Ale, An American Pale Ale. SVEA. (What's that mean?)

Clouded, pale amber coloration, adequate, 1/2 " rocky, white head.

Aroma: Fairly faint. A little skunked, oddly enough. Lemony. Eh…

Taste: Fairly smooth and somewhat creamy, nice, lightly hoppy. Zesty, citric fruit, nicely hoppy, but, a bit blase. Yeah, drinkable, hoppy enough, but nothing to talk about. Huh. Hmmm. Hyeah.

Sorry, nothing to see, or say, here.

Lilja's Heifer Weizen


Let's get into the final three of the Lilja's quartet I sampled recently.

"Lilja's Heifer Weizen, A Wisconsin Farmhouse Wheat Beer, Belgian Style"

So, is it Hefe Weizen, saison, or witbier, as these words seem to suggest all three?
Let's open it up and find out.

Cloudy, amber appearance, beautiful, bumpy white head,.

Citrus (lemon and orange) and spice (coriander) in the nose, light and floral, very pretty.

Taste: big and bustling spice and lightly bitter hops bust onto the palate. A hoppier version of a wit, for sure. Soft wheat malt plays pleasantly in the back. Seems like a bit of a cross between saison and wit, heartier than a wit, fuller flavor and body, more like a saison, but with the flavoring of a wit. Got that celery thing going on, too.

The "heifer wizen" tag exists only to make some kind of pun on cows, but only confuses, as there's no similarity to German hefe weizens, except the use of wheat malt.

A zesty, spicy one, and an easy drinker. Nice texture, good spark on the tongue, excellent play on the palate, and it goes down well. I could drink a few more of these.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Schell's Bock...it's back!


Here comes the confusion. Years ago, this was "Bock" from Schell's. I wrote the following nearly eight years ago:

"Color is a clear, dark amber, and the head is sturdy and bubbly, an off-white hue. Aroma is clean, with small hints of caramel and nuts. Sweet and silky smooth on the palate, with some fruitiness coming in on the flavor, through the malt. The caramel/toffee/nuttiness also reappears and contributes to a very delicious taste. Nice, sweet finish. Overall, a very good bock.
This my first time tasting this one in 3 years, and the last experience was not good. Maybe I had a bad batch before, or if the beer didn't change, maybe I did!

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 04-14-2003 11:28:59"

That last experience eluded to was a keg we had on tap back in '99, or '00, and it was murder to sell and serve. No one was into it.
That bottle in '03 was an improvement, but instead of keeping that going they dropped it in favor of something called Caramel Bock. Yuck, a miserable mistake. The doppelbock was also discontinued for a period, another head-shaker. Well, things are changing at Schell's to be sure. I've heard raves about the new, re-continued brew, now referred to as "Schell's Bock". Wrote the following last night:

"Schell's Bock highlights a rich and storied history of brewing authentic beers for a century and a half by August Schell Brewing Company. A harmonious blend of 10 different types of malt and noble hops, create this rich, smooth-tasting beer. Medium in body and dark copper in color, Schell's bock is everything you'd expect from America's second-oldest family-owned brewery."

In Michael Jackson 2000 "Great Beer Guide", in the course of writing on the DoppelBock, he describes the regular bock, that previous one, as "Tawny and rummy". Tawny, yes in this this one, rummy, not very much.
Clear, dusky amber, nearly brown boy, small, but lasting white ring rests on top.

Earthy, nutty, malty aromatics. Nearing sweetness, but well-tempered, evenly tuned. Right on target.

Taste: Rich, warm malty flavor floods the mouth, swims about, exits clean and gracefully. Actually, this is surprisingly delicious. Just enough hops in here to keep it all in balance. Extraordinary drinkability. Can't find a damned thing wrong with this. Long, malt-tastic finish.

I can't recall ever liking Schell's Bock this much. Next up, let's see some magic done on the Doppelbock.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Town Hall 1800 IPA


Here are my notes from July, 2004, of this brew I just recently re-enjoyed from a growler:


"For this beer, brewmaster Mike Hoops found an IPA recipe from the year 1800, and tried his hand at re-creating it, with with one little fudge. The hop additions (Fuggles, for sure, and maybe EK Goldings?) 5 lbs per barrel, were spaced out more during the boil than the original recipe called for, to make it more palatable and allow us to enjoy it now, rather than the length of a boat ride to Bombay.
So, let's drink 'er!

Lovely bright orange color. opaque and appealing, with a huge, creamy white head, (helped some by the Duvel glass I employ in this tasting).
Big, citric aroma, a mix of grapefruit, orange, peach and more, floral, sweet and sout, very arousing.
BAM! ooof! Kapow! This one grabs the palate and pulls it in for some major puckering! "Bitter much?" Powerful play in the mouth, very tart and citric. Mellows some after a while, leads into some juiciness, then it dries.
Well-balanced, but the hops are king here, not quite enough of a showing from the malty side, but it holds ground well enough. Long, bitter citric finish, lasts long in the tastebuds.
More fruit shows up throughout the glass, more peach, apricot, and also I'm noting some tiny green particles floating at the bottom. hmmm. It was a clean glass...I knew it was unfiltered, but never expected to find hop pieces floating about. Huh!
Damn, this is nice! I find myself thinking it's not like any English IPAs I've had, but yet it is one, it's made from all English ingredients. Perhaps the problem arises from how far afield they are today from their origins...well, we'll leave those matters for elsewhere and when, and just state that this is damned tasty, and I know that I'll be going back for more, while it lasts!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza



Something never occurred to me when I enjoyed a Jolly Pumpkin in my own private domocile, before I ever tapped a keg for the fine folks who come to drink and dine at the Blue Nile, and that thing is, what a horrible name 'Jolly Pumpkin' is for a brewery.
Everyone, just about everyone, thinks it's a pumpkin beer! I have to talk them out of it. No, no, it's just a terribly misleading name, there's no pumpkin in the beer!
One person recently got it, and said to me, without prodding, "yeah, I guess Dark Horse doesn't taste like horses."
And Sierra Nevada beers don't taste like mountains, Anchor doesn't taste like wet metal, Boulevard doesn't taste like a dirty sidewalk, and Flying Dog doesn't mean the beer is made of airborne canines. Yet, here we are, and I've got the only kegs of Noel de Calabaza, which is fantastic, and wonderful, and tastes nothing like a pumpkin! I have to keep telling people this!
It's a fantastic thing. These guys are on the forefront of great Belgian-style beers in America, in the Mid-west, in Michigan, whatever. Truly, wonderful. For more, I refer to my first notes from a bottle, about three years ago...

(very similar weather at this moment, a grand, wonderful 13 above.)

it's 11 degrees out with a fierce windchill....i just got home from biking back from work...need something dark, warm, deep, rich and mystical...maybe this will do...only one way to know... (9% abv)

noel de calabaza, off goes your cap, and into my Big Ass tripel karmeliet glass you go...

dark brown color, mahogany mixed with prunes, or plums...somewhere around there, with a full creamy tan head...gorgeous!

bewitching aroma! dark fruits find the funk! raisins, plums, dates, as well, meet grapes, and berries, and port wine...a wicked mix! with fragrances of myriad spices, as well, an ethereal delight!

A tickle as it trickles into the mouth, and spills all over the palate. Malty, sour, slick, supple, slightly sweet, and terribly complex...a lot of stuff happening here. Dark fruits at play, a rich blend of grain and fruit, velvety smooth, with a sleek, sensual mouthfeel. full bodied, long finish, dark and delicious...this is one, despite being, as we say in minnesota, "spendy", that I may have to return to again and again...best jp beer i've yet had...damned good!"

It is damned good, and I'm drinking it on tap, aren't you jealous? Fantastic stuff! Despite being "spendy"...

Summit Winter Ale


Here's another "one that got away"...

From December, 2002, so very early...

"Once upon a time, this was my winter long staple brew, deviating only for other seasonal specialties, ie Anchor et al. Nowadays, variety is my everyday spice of life, but I have to pay homage to this brew, every year.
Dark as a Minnesota night, with a small brownish head that leaves too soon. Aroma is light, delicate, with no dominant flavors. Toffee, chocolate, roasted coffee and spice are all hinted at.Texture is smooth with a little hop bite. Balance is excellent; malt stands up, but doesn't stick out.

Spicy and warm, but still mellow and soothing. Seems to lack an "oomph " from years ago, or maybe my tongue has tempered.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 12-26-2002 17:35:01"
-----

Always wondered if I should revise that one. Was it better before, did anything change? Is it better now, was it better then?
Meant to sit down and re-review, but the last keg on hand (not the last possible, but that's another kettle of fish) finished tonight. I did, though, have a handful of pints over the past couple of months, and have to say, it's still a good brew, but nothing special. When I thought it was, back in the 90's, really, I hadn't had a great deal of experience in darker, richer, more flavorful ales, porters, and stouts. By the time I put down those notes in the early part of the last decade, I'd put on some more experience in the world of beer, and revisiting Winter Ale found it wanting. I don't think it's ever really changed at all, but perspective changes opinions. It's still a fine ale, and tastes just like I described it eight years ago. There's not a danged thing wrong with that. You just have to keep in mind what it is, what it's trying to be, and what it's not. I can't judge Winter Ale poorly against beers it has little in common with. I did love it way back then, but ...but, then this old feller tends to ramble, dudn't he...yeah, taking me back to the old days, when beer was beer, and ale was a fancy man's beer, and lager was for the ladies, and children, and everything else was for sissyboys and Chinamen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Great Lakes Nosferatu


American Strong Ale, BeerAdvocate calls it."A Handcrafted Stock Ale", the brewery calls it. 8% alcohol by volume. Available here in Minnesota for the first time this season, here are my notes from my first bottle, back in December of 2004.

"I've gotten so bored with the Satan-themed beers, that it's a warm welcome to find a good, old-fashioned vampire-inspired ale! Here's to more in the future...Bela Lugosi's Red, anyone? But, on with the brew...
A hue as hot as Hades, full and fierce crimson, shadily hazy, with numerous floatillas, under a respectable raft of creamy beige-toned foam.
Yeast starts the nose, malt is next, and we feel like we're basking in new-baked cookies, at first, then...then a soft, citrus scent comes in, light spice, banana cream pie whispers in, zesty, alert, and lively...just-so delicious!
Jet-fueled entry on the palate, a blazingly friendly touchdown on the tongue, hoppy, and happy, bursting with an urgent appeal of flavor, bold, bright, and potent. Dark fruits are first in the taste, bread, biscuits, light citric zest, and a blast of spice on the side...this is all perceived in the flavor, but I don't mean to imply it is contained in the recipe. Yum, I keep on thinking, as the mouthfeel gets thicker, the finish near impenetrable, and my admiration grows. This is an upstanding nightcap here, a cool, mellow, but undeniably big ol' beast in the mouth...the kind of ale that clubs as it caresses...a cool thing to do."

Lefebvre Hopus Ale


Found this one marked down to $1.99 a bottle at Zipp's, and it seems that I reviewed for the first time a little over a year ago, january of 2010. Here are those brief notes:

Lefebvre Hopus Ale, Brasserie Lefebvre, previously tasted in the Barbar Winter Bok.

"Brutus, Amarus, Flavusque. (?)"

Lightly hazed and yellow...enormous, bright white head, leaving much lace.

sharp and bitter aromatics, floral, lemony...

Bitter, hoppy slap to the palate up front, then softly faded back...gets milder, slightly sweetwhile retaining the hoppy flavor. Needs more body, and a bit more from the hops to compare to Poperings and the like.

I enjoyed it to an extent, found it quaffable and passable, but nothing special. At that price, though, I may go back for another.

Iron Hill HoneyDoWit


I didn't know anything about this beer, until a box showed up on my living room floor this Tuesday. A gift from Mr. John S. "Woody" Chandler, without a note or an explanation. I've heard of the brewery, but had no read on their reputation. Put it in the fridge for a few hours, and went at it. Here are the results.


Iron Hill HoneyDoWit Beer. Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Handcrafted Ales & Lagers, Wilmington, Delaware, 750 ml bottle. (I'm guessing Woody got it at the Lancaster location.)

Slimmed & soon-gone head, dar amber, heavily hazed hue.

Aroma: must be honey with a name like that, and there it is in the nose. Quite sweet. Honey and alcohol. Light spice, fruit.

Taste: sweet, fruit, honey, there it all is. Wheat flavor/texture/mouthfeel is here, good and smooth. Flavor is there, but nothing more than what I've already said. There's honey, there's…fruit, it's tasty, and easy-drinking, except that feels slightly strong. Wonder how strong? Good question, as the alcohol increasingly becomes a part of the taste. (Looking it up on BeerAdvocate, it's a whopping 9.5%!)

Tasty and refreshing….-ish. Good stuff, but not quite good enough. Doesn't quite cut it. Lacks a certain spark that would make it sing.

Many thanks, Woody.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Grain Belt Nordeast


I've had samples of this off the tap, but full-sizes servings had eluded me, until a Schell's (brewer of the Grain Belt brand) rep came to the rescue yesterday.
At last a bottle of Grain Belt Nordeast to call my very own! Rarer than unicorn droppings, harder to find than a leprechaun's taint. At long last, it is mine.

Now, to drink! But, first, to open…

Clear, rich amber color, very thin, tight head, just a lean ring of whitish foam round the edges.

Aroma: sweet and malty, caramel tone, thoroughly pleasant. Nuff said.

Taste: more of the same. No complexity, none expected, exactly as advertised, a clean, slightly sweet, malty lager. There's flavor, and it rolls around the mouth, and exits politely. Drinks like crazy. Only offended parties should be those who insist on their beers being yellow, glum, and harshly fizzy. This ain't none of that. It lacks body, but I don't think anyone expected it to be big-boned. Nordeast is what it is and does what it does.

I'll give it high praise from a Minnesotan: "Not bad!"

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale


Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. I first took bitter nib to paper, (or perhaps I did this strictly electronically, can't remember) in Febraury of 2003, nearly 8 years ago.

Here are those notes:

"Color is a dark amber,edging into red, with a huge, handsome, off-white head. Aroma explodes with hops, calling forth sensations of citrus, grapefruit, orange, peach, lemon, a beautiful, albeit bitter, fruit bouquet. Texture's tasty, body's light/medium, finish is quite delicious and lasting,. Overall, an exceptional overboard IPA!

My tiny complaint, though this is a brew that I sample and enjoy every year, like all beer lovers, is that it's character doesn't offer much than you'd imagine of a super-hoppy IPA. When I think of seasonal wintertime beers, I expect something darker, with extra flavors, suitable to the chilly days we have have to endure. (At least, those of us who have winter...). It's a pity they don't release this year 'round as an IPA, as that's the only staple missing from their portfolio." (I gave it 4.3/5 on BA, 3% above the norm.)

I was still new to finding flavors (peach, really?), but my taste for IPAs had grown so that I was not satisfied with one offered up as a seasonal treat. I've stopped tapping Celebration at the Nile (it's been at least 5 years), mainly because there are so many other beers we can get regularly that surpass in hop attack and flavor, Surly Furious for one. I noticed that this year they are classifying it as a Fresh Hop Ale, perhaps to generate a bit more excitement. It's still great beer, just doesn't get me all a-tingly when it arrives every winter.

De Dolle Dulle Teve, The Mad Bitch!


Another work of genius from De Dolle, The Mad Bitch, spicy tripel.
My first taste was in December of 2003, and I had it from a 750 ml bottle, as noted toward the end. Here are those notes:


"My first dance with this wicked woman, a dame so loco that she grits a rose between her teeth, thorns and all...a tango with the Mad Bitch...

Off comes the cork, and out wafts instant sweetness and spice, up into my nose, urging me to release her from this cage, and out she pours into the most appropriate Duvel glass. The incredible, fizzy, yet creamy as a cloud head fills up 3/4 of the vessel, the body is a hazy pale orange, riddled with floating yeasties. She puts on a pretty impressive show, though she contains mysteries within, which we are about to partake of ...

Aroma, fresh and spicy, while still driven by delicate fruit, pear, apricot, pineapple, banana...a lovely, inticing thing, directing my lips to drink, already...

Somehow, the brew slips out from under all that foam, and...Incredible! The shock of new, once again, sends a shudder through me, a paraxysm of delight...I'm left uttering epithets and interjections...what kind of incredible concoction is this, that leads with hot peppers on the tongue, followed by lush fruitiness, backed up by serious malt! A devilish delivery of hops, followed quick by that spicy kick, almost harsh, but not quite, for it's so adequately complimented by further flavors.

It may seem like a messy marriage, this union of hops, spice and fruit, with the more powerful flavors fully in charge of the palate, but it instead stands out as an immaculate integration, a wanton wedding that provides release as well as relief. Taboos are uncovered, old rituals discarded, and something completely un-thought-of starts to seem commonplace...this is a moment where what's in the glass wends it's way into your soul, by tasting the brew it becomes you, and now, you're that damnable dame! It seriously clings to you, never wants to leave the palate, doesn't take no for an answer, your brain says "no more", but your newly freed secret-self yens to stretch out some..."what's the harm?"


Of course, this beer has to available only in 750s,(I know now that it's not...) and at an incredible price (mine was maybe $9.50?), otherwise it wouldn't be so much the risk and the venture...if you're going to waltz with this wench, you're in it for the long haul, buckaroo!
{Shudder}
{Shudder}
"What did I do last night?"
"You messed with the Mad Bitch!"

De Dolle Oerbier


I love this brewery, "The Mad Brewers" of Esen, Belgium,and grab up bottles of their regular line-up whenever I can. Picked up the Special Reserva at Zipp's last week, and the clerk asked, "Is it really $10?" I told her that once she tasted one, she wouldn't care about the price. I'm saving that for later. For now, notes from February 2003, and my first taste of this one, sent from a trading buddy. So glad I can get it here now. (And still trying to get a keg one of these days!)

"Boggy brown color, full of yeasty travellers swimming about, below a fuzzy, rocky, lacey off-white head.
Aroma is somewhat dry, hints of nuts, caramel, soft and slightly sweet, with huge spiciness, and a touch of woodiness.
A welcome phalanx of hops jumps on board the buds, followed by an armada of sweet malt.
Warm and highly charged, with a softly diminishing finish.
Bracing, bold, and delicious!
My guess on the style would be either a high-alcohol brown ale, or maybe a souped-up Scotch,
either way, several notches above what I'd expect.
At 7.7%, I'm starting to feel it, too! Wonderful, chewy texture, full body, altogether excellent!"

Interesting that it was 7.7% then, but is listed on the bottle as 9, now. Either way, I still love this one.

Sierra Nevada Estate


Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Ale. Abv 6.7%
"Taste fresh-from-the-field flavors with this handmade, homegrown, and completely natural ale. Made with organic wet hops and barley grown at our brewery in Chico, this remarkable ale is the only one of it's kind."

You don't say? Well, let's pry off this wax-laden cap, and pour…

Clouded, crimson look, smallish off-white head, slim but sticks around.

Pop! There she is! Grapefruit aromatics all over the place, with dark fruits as well, some cherry, apple, plum… sweet and scrumptious. Very nice.

Taste: Bitterness grips the palate, far and wide, but lush, sweet malt is big and in charge, holding firm and keeping command. Bright, fresh, floral, brimming with bitterness. Caramel malt, a little toasty, biscuity. Earthy, and nutty. Solid malt backbone, brisk, bitter hoppiness above.

All in all, though…ah, I'm not crazy about this one. Is it the curse of the organic ale? Personally, I've never found an organic ale that ever really did anything for me. Something's always lacking. I can't tell you what, why, or how, they just seem lackluster.

As nice as this is, it lacks a certain spark. For a wet hop ale, I expect a little more. It fades off the palate a touch too quickly, doesn't have the force I'm looking more.

Maybe it's that "earthy, nutty toasted caramel malt" doesn't quite match the hop profile I'm wanting. For a wet hop ale, I want the hop featured, and it's canvas is cluttered with too much else.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Avery Olde Jubilation Ale



Enjoying this now on tap, but reaching back to notes from July, 2003, which still hold up well, I think,

Color, tawny brown and clear, showing reddish at the bottom. Impressive head, fluffy, sturdy, pillowy, meringue-like.

Aroma: sweet, malty, caramel-accented, with notes of toffee and nuts, slowly warming and revealing alcohol.

Thick, plummy flavor makes an immediate presence on passing the lips, with nutty notes joining in later.
Further on, the profile is overcome by a syrupy sweetness that goes so far, but never so far as to be cloying.
Very nice winter warmer, body is full, flavor ever-lasting, luscious, and lively!

Bell's HopSlam Ale



It's that hoppy time of year, HopSlam season. Hop addicts far and wide are abuzz with the bitterness. I tapped a keg Sunday night, but I need to get out there and pick up some bottles for home. I wrote about it first in november 2006, from a bottle, before I ever tapped a keg. Here are those initial notes:

"Hazy orange hue, fine slice of bone white froth atop.

In the aroma, it's all pungent, spikey, in-your-face hoppitude!
Tropical fruit on top, pineapple, lemon, grapefruit,mango, raw, pulpy and vibrant. Pine forest floor, and more. Slightly sweet citric feel, but bitter hop feel dominates.

Taste: once more, a charge of hops on the tongue, not delivered too lightly. Same citric flavor storms the palate, but a second after it boards, there's a nice, creamy relief. Rolls playfully on the tongue, like a cat on the rug preoccupied with string. Each new sip imparts this deliciousness, but despite the huge !BUs and way-up-there ABV, you 'd hardly know it.

Amazingly easy to drink, if you're a hop craver like me. Wow! Tangy, potent hoppy twang never quits the mouth. Incredibly full bodied, long-finished, and commendably created. Mmmm, delicious!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Holland Beerhive Tripel


New Holland Beerhive Tripel, Ale Brewed with Honey and ginger, from the High Gravity Series. Little John's local bees create a wildflower-honey which lends a sweet earthy complexity to this traditional style beer. A snap of ginger provides a refreshing finish. Pairings: fresh veggies, soft-ripened cheese, fruit of late summer, custards and biscuits."

Well, what do we do for "fruit of late summer" when it's dead of winter? No matter, I'm pairing this with Chinese chicken with snow peas and pork-fried rice. Let's see what that does.

Anyway, on with the beer…19 deg. Plato, 8.47% by vol.

Clear, reddish hue, definitely a different tone for a triple, small, dotted white head, slims down, stays tight.

Aroma: Definite sweetness, there's the honey, there's the ginger, for certain, again, too unusual attributes in a "traditional style beer." I'm searching for citrus fruit, other spices that make up for a "traditional" tripel and I'm coming up empty.

Taste: A bite at first, then comes sweetness. Another gulp and swallow, once more it's clean and honey-ish, spritz of ginger. Medium bodied, swift, sweetish, and spiced finish. Big carbonation, frequent spank of ginger on the palate, and….

I'm wishing this wasn't a bomber. I'm not feeling it, not getting, not loving it. The honey and ginger don't really gel with what we expect from a tripel, and if it doesn't taste like one, why call it such? A "sweet, earthy complexity"? Um,…not complex enough.
It's an okay beer, I'll finish this not too worse the wear, but it's consumption will not be a pleasant memory, and I won't be singing any of it's purported praises. For all the talk of complexities and flavors, I'm left finding it rather dull.

Delirium Noel (The One That Got Away )



What the heck does that title mean? Well, I'll tell you.

I've gone through five of the Belgian brews that were in the second iteration of Belg-a-Rama, in December. I've always wanted to re-write my original review of the Christmas offering from the Delirium Family, finding my initial entry to be the work of a novice. Juvenalia, you might say, though I was 34 at the time. Not quite adept at pinning down the flavors, more inclined to eagerly cheerlead my favorite ales that I'd been enjoying for years. Gave out a lot of straight 5/5's then, considering, basically, if they were my favorites, well, golly gee, they had to be perfect in every way. I've certainly tasted a larger variety of beers since then, and better ones, of course.

This was not the first time I've revisited this beer, and not the first time I've tapped it, but always put off that re-review. For years I thought of keeping the old ones online as-is, "see me warts and all" kind of thing. This time, with this re-focus and re-purpose of this blog, this time, for sure, in my best Bullwinkle voice...and just didn't do it the first week, took the second keg off to "normalize" the line-up, waiting for St. Bernardus Christmas to run out. When keg #2 went on, it went off again in a day, it was just that darned popular. I managed to snap a shot of it before it ran out earlier in the evening, before the keg expired, but the time and situation was not right for going into my patented beer review trance.
Ah, well. I could always buy a bottle, but I prefer putting my cash into buying new-to-me beers, or less expensive small bottles of what I've called on here "good ol' drinking beers." Perhaps I'm just not as into it, anymore, to be motivated into picking up a 750 ml bottle in order to find better words to put out in public.
So, here it is, eight year old notes on Delirium Noel:

"Like all the Deliriums, this is a bottle that, once cracked open, is impossible to resist. It's like rushing to the tree on Christmas morning! Monumental, creamy white head. How to aptly describe this aroma, though? Spicy...dark..."vinous", as Michael Jackson would say. Beautiful carbonation, effervescence everywhere. Color's a gorgeous dark red, and the flavors continue to unfold. A constant, buy very pleasant assault, of dark fruit and spice. The finest thing you could put to your lips when the chill is on!
A dizzying onslaught of divine taste!

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 11-29-2002 13:54:03"

Like it or leave it. Clearly, I'm doing the latter, yet living with it for now.

Once again, the Bitter Nib, the blog for information, opinion, insight, and apologies out the yin/yang.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

De Proef La Grande Blanche. The Big White.



Final brew of the Belg-a-Rama #3 sextet, a double witbier (7.5%) from the Professor, of Lochristi, Belgium.

De Proef La Grande Blanche, double white beer.

Cloudy, golden appearance, puffy, snowy-white head, lasts long, leaves lace.

Aroma: gorgeous stuff, floral, perfumey, peppery spice, citrus and orange. Light and lovely.

Taste: slides effortlessly on the palate with a sweet, honey-ish component, plenty of fruit, with light spices in the background. Lean wheat malt, tasty as heck and refreshing to boot. Not too terribly complex, but neither is it supposed to be. Spice character comes through more and more, and the flavor generally beefs up a bit, near the end.
Thoroughly delicious.

Stronger than a light wheat ale is supposed to be, and it creeps in towards the end of this 12 ounce pour from the tap. Don't know how I'd feel after a bomber of this.
It drinks down way too easy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gouden Carolus Christmas Ale


This was one I wished I could have included in Belg-a-Rama #2, but it was not available in kegs this year, for our little ol' market. Found a bottle of this favorite brew, and enjoyed it as a much needed relaxant after a hard night's work.
One thing I love about readin European labels, or websites, or anything, is that lost-in-translation-ness, the phrases that try to be one thing and become another. It's even seen in our home-grown comedic figures who miss one word's meaning and grab at another, like Michael Scott from The Office or Sarah Palin.
See this for example: ""Gouden Carolus Noel brewed exceptionally for Christmas by the Anker Brewery, established in Mechelen since 1369, and one of the classic Belgian breweries. This very special Belgian ale is brewed using traditional methods and a recipe with top fermentation. Its high gravity gives the ale its warmth and body. It improves with age and will charm you with its warm, coppery colour and its rich bouquet. Refermented in the bottle, Produce of Belgium Alc. 10% Vol."

Brewed "especially" for Christmas, not "exceptionally"? Except, really, isn't that more accurate?

I wrote these notes the first time I ever tapped it, 2 years ago, December, 2008, and it remains true today, except I don't think it's quite that cold. Close, though...

"Freshly tapped in a Gouden Carolus chalice.
Cast a dusky magenta, showing lighter crimson at the edges.
Slim beige head.

Gorgeous aroma. Sweetness. Cocoa. Dark fruit. Creamy. A raisin wrapped in chocolate, dipped in brandy, set on fire. Wine-like, at times.

Slick, sweet and delicious on the tongue. Slips through the mouth and tickles the senses. Warm, and wonderful. Molasses, brown sugar, figs, and carob. Then the booze speaks up. And I agree with everything it's saying.

Long, warming finish. Never too hot, never too sweet, just right.
Spice + fruit + magical Belgian malt and yeast = perfection.
Yum meets yum.
This is just right for tonight. It's what 3 below? Holy Cow!
I have half a mind to stay right here and finish the keg. Sounds like a plan..."

this is one beer that will make everything all right. And I mean it.

Rush River Nevermore Chocolate Oatmeal Stout


A new bottled offering from Rush River, and a beer I'd only had before on tap at other establishments, and hadn't really taken the time to make note of it. So, notes from a bottle...

"Rush River Nevermore Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, stout with natural cocoa flavors. Small batch series, unfiltered, unpasteurized." 12 ounce bottle

Fully ebon in appearance, roasted tan head.

Bittersweet nose, roasty-toasty, with cocoa notes below. Getting louder as we go. Very nice.

Taste: Mmmm, good and chocolatey. Starts cocoa and stays cocoa, fading ever gently in the finish. Oatmeal gives it sleek smoothness, very easy on the palate. Very even-tempered, initial sweetness is matched with some bitter, and glides right down.

Alcohol 8 % by vol. Bit of a surprise, there, and it's not easily detected, until…oh, here it comes.

A great beer from Rush River that may change some minds about this under-appreciated brewery.

Mikkeller Black Tie


Mikkeller Black Tie, Imperial Stout Brewed with Honey and Aged in Scotch Whiskey Barrels. Mikkeller Black Tie is an elegant and generous imperial stout. This beer has benefited (sic) from aging in barrels. Crafted with the finest craftsmanship for the pleasure of the connoisseur. 11.5% Alc/Vol." 500 ml bottle, brewed and bottled by Mikkeller at Nogne-O, Grimstad, Norway.

High anticipation. This had better be good. But, of course, Mikkeller has never really let me down, before.

Blackest black, with a thick, full, rich roasted brown head, bubbly, lacy, beautiful. killer diller. This shows great promise.

Aroma: huge. The Scotch barrel really comes through, in fact, it's practically jumping out. Scotch whiskey, with imperial stout flavors hiding below. Impressed, so far.

Taste: Dark chocolate, molasses, …and boom! Scotch! Honey, though advertised, isn't tasted, and perhaps was used for fermentation. That whiskey flavor is dominant, though, and takes over every aspect of the brew.

And…I don't think it works. Maybe an imperial stout is not the best match for the Scotch barrel. Maybe it could have been married with an old ale, or an IPA, but it's not meshing, only clashing. This is one of those "who put chocolate in my peanut butter?" beers. It tastes like someone poured a dram of Dewar's in what might have been a great imperial stout, but I can't tell, the flavors have been utterly smothered and swallowed.

I paid too much for this, but I just had to try it. It seems so promising! Bourbon barrel-aging an imperial stout is very good. Scotch barrel=aging? Misfire!

You know what, though? Halfway in, it's mellowing, and I'm digging it a little better. I almost want to take back what I wrote moments ago, but that would be false, for the forefront matters, and initial impressions are important. Now, currently, the bittersweet, malty flavors of an imperial stout are catching up with the Scotch, maybe even overtaking it. Is it perhaps sliding to the background? Maybe it is!

And it is becoming more mellowing, more relaxing, more elegant, more of what is advertised on that paper wrapped around the bottle. Perhaps aging could help make this better in the front and closer to what I'm tasting now?

Right now, this is delicious. Bitter, sweet, vanilla and honey, espresso and chocolate, with whiskey running under. Mmmm. My faith is restored, you Danes and Norwegians. Good work. Just remember: give it time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Avec les Bons Voeux



March 2005, I tapped my first keg of Avec les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont, a beer I'd never had before, and at the time the most expensive keg I'd ever ordered. Had great faith in it's excellence, of course. And after locking the doors at night on the day the keg came in, I poured myself a glass and wrote the following:

"I just tapped a keg of this rarity about two hours ago, and something struck me right off, a thing happened that is most uncommon: a beer took my breath away.

Looks majestic poured into a St. Bernardus goblet, lush creamy head, hazy pale orange appearance, ...angelic.

Aroma, captivating, airy, light citrus, minor sour tones, vibrant fruit, apricot, peach, lemon, gets bolder by the minute, unfolds tangy-er fruit notes, ...uplifting.
But it's in the taste where I was taken back, and I still don't know if I have language for it, but let us make a valiant effort, anyway.

Fruit floods the mouth, but the body is exceptionally light, almost ethereal...it paints a coating of delicious around the mouth that pulls away like a phantom, the echo of this gorgeous fruit flavor, plump with yeast, lingers, resonates, titillates, entices...another sip is in the offing, but it becomes a gulp, and the swallow is urgent, but the effect is the opposite, a magnificent restfulness overcomes me, a mellow rapture,... it stirs the mind and soul, and quenches thirst along the way.

Each new sip delivers a similar shock, a brand new spank to the senses, a reacquaintance with this magical feeling.

Body is light, but the flavor is powerful and pure, and the finish is long, fruity, perfectly smooth. I laugh at the 9.5% but feel it creeping in as I drain the glass.
Hey, maybe it's just the mood I'm in, but this glass of beer has an absolutely elevating effect. The strength eventually enters into the flavor like a wily snake through a grassy field....lightly spicy, too, to match the fruit...call me a sucker if you must, but I feel my soul has been cracked open, freed and sent aloft, metamorphosized, like hearing new beautiful music for the first time, have a soft spot touched and felt that shiver...

Amazing beer. Not good, not great, amazing! Utterly lovely.
A great gift from Dupont. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

It's the fifth in this round of Belg-a-Rama, here in January, 2011, and I'm still crazy about it. Sublime.

Boulevard Dark Truth Stout


Had this one for the first time last April, a 750 ml bottle. Would have to be on my Tops of '10 list somewhere. Silently wished it were offered in small bottles, as well, for I don't always want to take down 25 ounces at once, no matter how good the beer is. Glad to see 4-packs of 12 ounce bottles on my last visit to Zipp's. Here are the notes from April 2010:

"Dark Truth Stout.

Dense, fully opaque inky appearance, with a thick, clotted, creamy cocoa-toned head, leaving lots of lace. Luscious.

Aroma: nuts & toffee, cream & cocoa, nice and roasty, Good.

The label description intrigues. Wheat?Rye?Oats?German hops?Belgian yeast? A lot cooking here. A mighty mix.

Smooth.Rich, meaty, toasty/roasty... good hoppiness, nice tidy tingle, then the roasted malt... or is it oatmeal stout? Mmm. There's some dark fruit, a whisper of smoke, bit of charcoal, covered over by silky smooth deliciousness. There's the dark richness, and it's offset by the rich smooth, easy-drinking, utterly happiness.

Another winner from the Smokestack Series."

Ommegang Cup o' Kyndnes


cup o' kindness Traditional Belgian-style Scotch Ale (is that a thing?)

Murky brown appearance, under a creamy-toned, lace leaving, luscious head. Looking good.

Aroma: sweet, nutty, caramel and toffee notes, chocolate malt aplenty. Floral and heather-y, no hops to be found. Gorgeous.

Taste: why, yes, let's drink 'er up. Lightly bitter bracing entry on the palate, a little funky and sour, tingles the tongue, then lets loose the lush malty flavor. I'm a bit surprised, and thought I'd get nothing but sweet malt from this one. I like it. Great little trick on the tongue, then all is mellow and groovy.

Not too high in alcohol, but exceptionally warming

I'll take a cup of kindness yet, in days of auld lang…how's that song go?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Kasteel Tripel


Kasteel Tripel from the Brewery Van Hounsebrouck of Ingelmunster, Belgium is number four in the sextet of ales on tap at the Blue Nile for my third round of Belg-a-Rama, and provides a clear instance of why I'm putting my reviews here. I was writing the menu, looking at the notes I'd written on some of the beers already had, and found that Beer Website A had no review on this one from me. Also, some of the other top reviewers were missing entries on it. Made no sense, especially that I hadn't posted, since I'd had this one tap several times before and in the bottle many times. Poured myself a glass after work, and started a new review, but decided to also check Beer Website B, where I transfer the reviews that I initially post on A. And there it was a review from a 750 ml bottle in May of 2005. I looked at the start of my new review and saw that I was saying the same things, but was saying them better, lo, nearly 6 years ago. So, I copied from B over to A, and also pasted it here. And here it is, my thoughts from a giant bottle of Belgian tripel booziness, as I enjoy same from the tap...

"Clear, pale golden hued, with a twister of bubbles rising from the bottom, capped with a gorgeous, puffy, lacey layer of thick white froth.
Aroma is an angelic blend of citrus and spice, arousing and uplifting, floral, effervescent, with distinctive yeast aromatics, and a potent, but lovely blend of fruit (apricot, pear, lemon)...just what I love in a tripel!
Taste: Mmmmm! Tart, crisp, acidic, and brimming with flavor, in this case, as said before, a tasty mix of fruit and spice. Just a little sour, with a bracing grimace present at every sip, but releasing when the brew lays back, and the overall effect is utter relaxation and splendid refreshment.
11%? Who? What? The high abv isn’t so apparent, but it becomes clearer after the imbiber has admired the zing, the zap, the ping on the palate. Once that flavor profile impresses, you lay back and wallow in it, the thought finally occurs, "oh, yeah, it’s damned strong, too!" (becomes ever-clearer halfway into the 750ml bottle, too!)
Full bodied, with a wicked, spicy/citric finish. And hanging heavy on the boozy side, too...for those who like that sort of thing...
Me, I love this stuff! I admit it does feel a bit one-sided, maybe a touch unbalanced, and perhaps over-the-top, but I still don’t see the problem there. It’s bigness is not a detriment, it’s an attribute that makes this tasty brew a true champ among tripels.
If you want a real powerhouse, this here’s your dog! Kasteel Tripel definitely deserves wider recognition and madder props than it gets...try a bottle out on some friends and see what happens."

Tyranena Bitter Woman in the Rye


...and this one..

Notes from July, 2009.


Tyranena Bitter Woman In The Rye, bottle

Clear and crimson in appearance, solid layer of creamy froth atop.

Muted fruit in aromatics, cherries, apples...I almost think the rye malt interferes with the natural hoppy aroma of the base IPA in this instance. Caramel apple on top, with citrus scent below.

Taste: more of the same, I think. I've had a few rye IPAs before, Cain & Abel, Bittersweet Lenny's, and these succeeded because the hops were amped up and met the challenge of the interesting new ingredient in the malt bill. The rye twist was lurking below and mixed well at the base. Here, it overtakes....Further in, I am liking it more. Reminds me of another new tweak on an old IPA, the Victory Wild Devil, where the yeast did the yanking, not the malt.

More and more, I do like it, the hops speak up and swim in the mouth better and better...they took a while to rise to the surface and stay on top, but they did it.

Tasty stuff. Love the kick from the rye, after all. I'll be looking for more.

Tyranena Dirty Old Man Imperial Rye Porter


There's a wine store downtown that I swore off years ago, due to dusty bottle, and stocks of boxes in front of the beer coolers, as well as the specialty shelves. Don't want me to reach your beers? Fine, I won't shop there.
Well, I was informed that they've largely fixed these troubles, and have been back to find a great selection and good prices. Better yet, it's a block away from a bus line that takes me within a half block of my apartment. And because it's been ignored by the beer geekerati, like me, there are some gems left untouched. Like older entries in the Brewers Gone Wild Series. Like this one:

"Dark brown in color, beautiful,. toasty tan head keeps command above...lovely looking...

I get the rye, roasty and dry...nicely toasted. Dusted cocoa powder...

Taste: a chocolate bomb, with a muted explosion, dry rye reigns it in. Simply put: someone put peanut butter in my chocolate!
Cool, classical, and utterly satisfactory...not too sweet, not too rich, but with very prominent booziness.
Rye porters seem to be the way to go...put some in a whiskey barrel and you've got me on a leash!
Cool...lightly sweet, big time dry, full on flavor, expanse satisfaction.
Hotcha!"

Notes from March, 2008

Friday, January 14, 2011

Val-Dieu Grand Cru




Third in this current series of Belg-a-Rama, the scrumptious Grand Cru from Val-Dieu. Here's my notes from a bottle way back 4 years ago, February, 2007:

"Deep violet, opaque, nearly black, almosr, under a fine sheath of creamy froth...I like the look, so far...

Aroma: lovely, and uplifting, sweet and delightful...yeasty, brady, some delicate fruit...some dark malt notes, too, some black pepper, licorice, cola....

Taste: mmmm-MMM!!!Espresso whispers, cola hushes, dark fruits and anise, black pepper peeps in, black and chocolate malt, and delicious Belgian malt and yeast. Mmm, darkness and spice aplenty! Yu-um! That's what makes this special, this particular sparkling spiciness....a bit rough in the texture, burrs against the buds to much, methinks...but then this unique and wondrous flavor creeps in ...too much...

Wonderful beer...wish I had a caseful at hand...alas, and alack!"

On tap, it's malty, rich, and smoo-ooth. Alcohol doesn't stand out that much...immediately. Gets to you in the end, though. And the flavor is as beautiful as ever.
I snatched the photo tonight, because I suspect it will be the first to run out. Have two original reviews to write in this group, one that I couldn't believe I've never done, and suspect my posted review got deleted. More Belgian yummies to come...

Town Hall Coconut Mango Mama IPA


Had on tap at the pub Tuesday night. Like a riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a vest, it is the mango-infused version of Town Hall's famous Masala Mama IPA, aka Mango Mama, then stuffed,( or is smothered) with/in coconut.

Clouded orange appearance, little head on it.

Aroma: all coconut, fruit below, very little Masala in the Mama.

Taste: It all comes together, coconut, mango, then hops, but they are nowhere near as strong as in the earlier versions. Plenty of hoppitude lost after the coconut comes down. If you don't like coconut, you have no need to come near this one. If you love hops and are indifferent to coconut, still stay clear. The bitterness is gone in this one, masked by the other flavors.
Full-bodied, full-flavored, but not much more than a novelty beer. Can't see ever having more than one.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Festivus 2010


Every year, a new holiday beer from Town Hall Brewery called Festivus (for the rest of us!) but different every time. This year, I had some at the brewery (after the stouts at Haute Dish, actually), but missed the pole, the airing of greivances, the feats of strength, etc. And took home a growler, which sat in the fridge for about two weeks. When I finally opened it to enjoy and take notes, here's what I wrote:

"Festivus 2010, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, best by…1/5? Ohmygod, only 3 days until it dies!)(just kidding, I bought this on the day it was released almost 2 weeks ago, and haven't touched it, but I know Town Hall growlers can last and last.)

Clear, amber color, dotted, off-white head, slim, but staying.

Aroma: floral, fruity, hoppy aroma. very pleasant, mild, and lovely.

Taste: brisk bitterness, bright, fresh, and a little astringent. Some citrus hop character, some lime and grapefruit, and then it's sweetness. Great interplay and balance. Nice little dance between hops and malt. Sweet, bitter, and a bit creamy. Some caramel malt sweetness.

High and easy drinking, that's for sure. Light to medium body/mouthfeel. Feels something like a bitter in profile, like a pale ale in hoppitude, almost aggressively hoppy, giving the palate a run for it's money."

So, guess what happened? I couldn't remember what style it was, and, since previous Festivus brews had been some kind of stout or dark ale, I wasn't sure if what I had was Festivus. Did I get the wrong beer? That's never happened. So, I had another at the pub last night, and learned anew what kind of beer it was that I had. An English old ale, with apple cider, and orange peel.
Who'da thunk it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brasserie Geants Urchon



Every once in rare while, a keg appears on the market that I've never heard of, or have ever seen it in the bottle. That's the case with Urchon, the hedgehog beer from Brasserie Geants, a brewer I've sampled only once before, a tripel, I think, called Goliath.
Took a chance on Urchon, since there were only 13 reviews on BeerAdvocate, but it did get a B+, so there was some promise. Before I had a full glass, I struggled to describe it to customers. It's not a dubbel, nor a quad, not a brown or an amber, ....wait, I think I said that in my notes, so let's just show them to you...

"Reddish brown coloration, dotted beige head.

Aroma: citrus fruit, hops, spice, dark fruit. A touch sour, a trifle bitter, and then some sweet.

Taste: earthy, gritty entry on the palate, a bit of bitter, and then comes the malt. Great balance here, nothing is too anything, never too sweet, none too bitter. Some dark fruit, plum and fig, tempered with a continual bitter swath.

This is a really unique brew that I can't put into any box, doesn't fall into a category. Feels very rich and flavorful, but is exceptionally moderated. Everything rounds out. Great little bite of fruit and malt, with hops and spice holding it in check.

I like this little hedgehog. Tasty ale. Gotta hand it to them, very nice, this Urchon."

Rodenbach Grand Cru



Here's my first post on the beers for the third round of Belg-a-Rama at the Blue Nile. And I rather like the notes I took from a bottle back in October of 2003, so I'll quote them verbatim:

"Sourness from the start, as my nose merely glides over the open bottle neck. Once poured into a tall, slender glass, the aroma pervades the atmosphere, sour cherries, rich and pungent, with a nice side-saddle dose of fruity sweetness A deeper sniff offers melodious complexities that dance freely in the caverns of the senses, a resonant aura of unearthly delights.

Color is a light leather-brown, but cloaked with cherry-red tinges, at side, bottom, and trickling in from behind.

First sip...AMAZING! I stop, pause, seep in the immediate pleasure of this initial sampling. Tasty tart texture...low hops, just-perfect malt ballast...long, luxuriant finish, grips the tongue, lips, even teeth, senses and brew caught up in amorous embrace, locked up too tight to untwist....sip after sip, sweetness and sour, a recurring, relaxing joy!

A mellowing effect is applied to the body and the soul, for this is that plush armchair ale, to swish in a snifter in the dark of night, leafing through the works of Voltaire, Old Dog Blue at your feet, while all is well with the world, and the mind can slip from serious matters and perambulate the corridors of less than lofty philosophy, epicurean ambitions, and bacchanalian designs.
This is that beer.

Sadly, the drink left the glass too soon...can I get a magnum, please?"

That wasn't my first time ever having it, I'm fairly sure, but there was something about that first encounter while reviewing that make me bring out all the stops and let it flow. I get the same feeling from the keg, as well. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Now, I just need to get my hands on some that Vintage stuff, that's the real deal. Only got a taste of it at Where The Wild Beers Are, and it positively packed a punch.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dave's BrewFarm Matacabras, Tops of '10



The change of the calendar brings reflective thoughts, ruminations on the good and bad that transpired during the prior 12 -month span. I never gave it much thought, but someone asked, "what was my favorite new beer of 2010"? Well, I didn't have to give it much thought, I knew. If I were to compile a 2-10 of a Top Ten list, that would take some consideration and research. But #1? No contest. It wasn't actually new to me, since I'd had it at the brewery, and at a festival, but it was newly packaged in 2010, so there.

A little background. I've known Dave Anderson for about five years, maybe more, one of the nicer gents I'm proud to call friend. And from the start, I knew of his past as brewer at various operations, and his dreams of starting his own brewery, producing impossible to categorize, not-to-style, Belgian-influenced brews. Originally he hoped to do that in the Twin Cities, and it seemed that every time I saw him, I had to pester him about when, when, when...how's it coming along, when will it happen, what would he brew?

Well, it finally happened last year, in the form of the BrewFarm in Wilson, Wisconsin. A Euro-lager in a can, BrewFarm Select, brewed at Steven Point Brewery, came first in late 2009. I made it out to the initial open house, and have a picture to prove it.


Matacabras, A Curious Ale, came out in bottles brewed by Sand Creek Brewery in Wisconsin, arrived early last spring, and with it Dave fulfilled that promise. It is unique, it is uncategorizable, and it is delicious. Here's what I wrote last March:
"Named after Spain's famed "goat-killing" northerly wind, this tempestuous brew has a maelstrom of flavors swirling within it. robust American hops and rye make this dark ale an experience to savor."

Hazed, dark orange, creeping into brown. Slim, off-white head.

Aroma is many splendorous things, a bustle of complexity....citrus and spice starts us off, maybe the spark of lemon rind and orange peel from the American hops used, and who knows what spices. (Dave won't tell.) Enticing, and arousing.

Drinking....sweetness at first, the bread and spice of the rye, the richness of malt, we get some brown sugar, molasses, maple...a ginger cookie, with a lemon spritz. Refreshing, and undaunting, but with memorable and rewarding flavors. Long finish, medium body, ....flavor lays on the palate and sticks it out for the long haul.

Matacabras blitzes the tongue with hops and spice, then lets it fade back, as the malt takes charge and delivers the warm, and satisfying flavor. This is one that takes hold of you, doesn't let you forget it. Belgian malts and yeast make this a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, but the hopping and the rye make it a wholly American invention. A thoroughly Dave Anderson original.

This is good for food, good for drinking, and good for general happiness and well-being! I cannot wait to see this catch on, as there is no reason why it shouldn't raise a ruckus in the local beer world and become a singular sensation. At least, until the next unique BrewFarm rollout.

Here's to the Goat Killer! But, not to ...actually...goats being killed..."

Nowadays, I try to always make sure I have some Matacabras on hand, for it is so satisfactory, and fulfills my desires for something dark, something funky, something hoppy, and something rich and rewarding. Like a dubbel and quad and a doppelbock, and then some. So very good.

And something interesting happened after the release of Matacabras, and to my frustration, it largely happened without me. Dave & his wife Pam hosted open house sessions like that first one I went to almost every single weekend from the springtime until the middle of December when the weather went all crazy. And every time, there was something new from his tiny LaBrewtory that could only be sampled there (unless he took it to a festival, and you were lucky enough to attend). Every week, I'd see friends post on facebook about the beers Dave had that time, and wished I could have tagged along. It was as if he was running a pub at the tasting room of this tiny experimental brewery, attached to his home. If instead of being what he is, and doing what he's doing, his operation were instead a brewpub, it would be the best brewpub on Earth. Right now, it's the best little brewing playlab for good friends, fans, and admirers to gather around. I finally made it back in late November, and my friends nearly made it into a brewpub by bringing a pizza oven, and tons of food. And every week, there's something new and different, as well as plenty of the old favorites.
If some those go into bottles, more heads will turn. Hey, I'm anxiously waiting kegs of Matacabras. It's great to have bottles, but pouring it tap, that will be amazing.
Dave is doing what I love best about American craft beer, taking inspiration from European traditions, but using American innovation to break the rules and create something new and amazing.
Hail, hail Matacabras, long may you reign!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Surly Smoke


Busy weekend. Friday was full-on all day and night, and in a good, peaceable, manageable way. Saturday was another story. Yikes. People, yelling your order at the bartender when he's doing something and not looking anywhere near your direction, doesn't help your situation, it just drives him crazy. The voices! Why won't they stop?
And then finally they do. And when I get home, I need a really good beer. That one, that night, was a good ol' bottle of Smoke.

Smoke debuted in non-oak-aged form at the Autumn Brew Review in 2007 under the name Dahmer. Omar swore that that was the last time he'd allow Todd to name a beer. Not sure if he was kidding, or not. When I finally wrapped my hands around a glass of it with plenty of time to ruminate, in December of that year, here's what I wrote:

"Black as it gets, with a roasty tanned head. Looks absolutely perfect for the style.

Smoked malt from Bamberg in this, and it wafts out slyly, but confidently. There’s bacon down there, but I get salmon as well....mmm, smokey!

Taste: mmm, a beautiful mix of the roasted chocolate malts, the deep, dark fruits, like raisin and plum, but so smooth. The smoke aspect is just sliding along in the flavor, not a dominant aspect at all, but it hangs in there and never lets you forget it. The strength is sneaky, too, you don’t get hit on the head, but it creeps up on you, and invades your mind with stealth. Delicious stuff, and so easy to drink, though you have to pace it...too strong for sessioning! But you want to, you really really want to!

I have to wonder if other American brewed "Imperial Porters" are as faithful to the style and actually made as a lager, as Todd did here. How do you get this dark and this deep, with a lager? But it's a wise choice, as the flavor is there aplenty, and the mouthfeel is so smooth, so clean, so sumptuous, as well. This is one of my favorite styles, though the smoked porter variety isn't, exactly. So glad that the smoke is not intrusive, and merely in the end, a side characteristic, ...maybe the oak aging aided in the mellowing of the flavors? Whatever, it really came together in Smoke!

Really magnificent! This needs to go in bombers and blow some minds out there! Til that happens, I'm happy to drink it down on tap right here! Ahhh!!!"

That wish finally came true a couple of years later. Last November, 2009, Omar asked me to write the copy for the back of the bottles, and here's what I came up with:

"Ebony-hued, Smoke wafts out of the bottle and into your senses, borne on the wings of European traditions, wrapped in American innovation.
Lager -brewed, like any true Baltic Porter, with smoked malts from Bamberg, Germany, the home of Rauchbiers, then made mellow by aging on oak barrels. Chocolate and roasted malt flavors mesh with notes of raisins, plum, and fig,  with the subtle smoke on the side, for a complex and luxurious, yet silky smooth drinking experience.
It's a sipper at 9.5% abv, but everyone knows you can't have smoke without fire!"

After I submitted it to him, and he gave it the big thumbs up, something caught my attention. The first two sentences start the same, and they rhyme! If I'm not alliterating, I'm rhyming, even if unintentionally. Well, I doubt anyone noticed, but now that I've pointed it out, everyone will, and it's all over for me. Guess it's time to hang it up...

Nah. Anyway, the bottles didn't make it to market until spring 2010, largely because they were ordered from Germany. It was Omar who I heard first heard make the statement "American doesn't make anything anymore." The other week, Jason Sowards of Harriet Brewing lamented that he may have to order his Belgian-style glassware from China, because, well, no one makes that here.

Well, we make beer, good thing we've got that nailed down. So glad for that.