Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Bruery Mischief

This might be the last one from the Wisconsin haul. Time to go back! Since Dogfish Head has pulled out and Stone is here in Minnesota now, I'll probably turn to more Wisconsin brews I haven't had. And probably more Bruery, too, although it won't be long til they're on our local shelves.

But. The beer. Here are the notes...

The Bruery Mischief, Unfiltered, Bottle Conditioned, Belgian-style Ale Golden & Hoppy, Not quite evil, yet not to be trusted, this Golden Ale is effervescent, dry, hoppy and crisp., …you'll want to keep an eye out."

Yet another twist on the devilish tradition of naming Belgian ales after something less than angelic, shall we say. This one looks fantastic, tremendous head, huge, pillowy, lace-leaving, lovely, a glorious pudding on top.

Aroma: a masterpiece, again. Soft, beautiful, lightly spicy, coriander, pepper, …fantastic.

Tasting it: yum. Perfection. Yeast aplenty, lush golden malt, light hops, considerable alcohol….really absolutely, wonderful. Not a flaw, not a failing, a constant deliverance of deliciousness. I have no smoke to blow up their skirts, I just find their every effort utterly impeccable.

Don't know how much better it can get than this. You tell me. I don't know.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Summit Unchained No. 6: Gold Sovereign Ale

Beer name: Gold Sovereign Ale

Brewer: Damian McConn

Color: Straw Gold

Malts: Organic Westminster Floor Malt

Hops: Boadicea, Sovereign, Pilgrim, First Gold

Yeast: UK Ale Strain

OG: 1.060 SG

Gold Sovereign: Where the past meets the future. Combining a 19th century recipe with 21st century ingredients, Gold Sovereign seeks to emulate the pale ales of the Victorian era using ingredients that have only become available in the last few years. The ultra-modern barley variety Westminster gets the traditional malting approach through organic cultivation and malting by hand on the floor. Highly disease and insect-resistant hedgerow hops were developed from classical varieties using time-honoured breeding techniques. These ingredients are combined with a unique English yeast to produce a refreshingly drinkable beer with a solid malt base and assertive character. Expect this unfiltered ale to have an aroma of pear, apricot and spicy orange, leading to a pronounced hop bitterness and malt flavour reminiscent of freshly baked bread.

In Damian’s words:

I’ve always been extremely interested in beer, specifically ale, produced in the 19th Century. This was a transformative time for brewing in general, with the switch from the largely small scale brewing of the 18th Century to the large industrial operations of the 20th . In the UK by the middle of the 19th Century, brewing styles were becoming more defined, with paler, hoppier beers such as Pale Ale challenging the darker, more established styles of Porter and Brown Ale.

Since it is very difficult to replicate process conditions and ingredients from this period, but recipes do exist, I thought it might be fun to produce a beer based on an old recipe but incorporating some of the most modern varieties of malt and hops available. Our base malt, Westminster, for example, was only approved in the UK for brewing a few years ago. However, I decided to use the organic, floor malted version as a nod to the production methods used in malting during the 19th Century. We also often seem to think that very hoppy/bitter, and/or high alcohol beers were somehow only “invented” in the last twenty years by brewers on the US West Coast. An examination of some European recipes from the past indicate however, that this approach is not a recent fad but has existed for some time!

Hopefully this beer will showcase some of the best modern varieties of malt and hops available in the UK today, while providing some insight into the pale ales of the past.”

And my notes:
Clear, pale golden color, smallish, but staying white head.

Lightly spicy, lots of fruit, citrus-y, bready malt. Lemon and lime, apple pie.

Tasting it. Crisp and bitter. Nice, juicy hop bite up front, all the aromatic flavors return and spill about the palate. Pear, and apricot, yeah, for sure. After the bitter, smooth and easy drinking. Easily sessionable, classic English pale ale profile with plenty of hoppy punch to make it stand out.

This will really be welcome when the weather gets better.

Wish I had as much to say as Damian did, but it really speaks for itself, my meager words covers it, plenty.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

O'so Lupulin Maximus

O'so Brewing Lupulin Maximus. Imperial Pale Ale. Warning: May Contain Hop Cone.

Cute gimmick. Town Hall does it every year with the Fresh Hop growlers. One problem, though. There's an initial difficulty in pouring, as the cone stops up the bottleneck. It comes loose and dives into the glass, eventually. And there's the matter of it bobbing it up against your lips as you drink. So, just take it out already.

Lovely, hazed orange-ish amber-y coloration, small white head.

Pungent aroma of pine needles, and tropical fruit, some citrus. A little lemon and grapefruit. Bold, hoppy nose.

Tasting it: Vibrant, hoppy flavors jump on the palate, and run amok. Great big bitterness spills all over the mouth. Juicy fruitiness takes charge. Bitterness never ceases. Long, hoppy finish. Fades after a bit, but remains delightful all the way down.

The View From Behind the Casks, Part Four

I saw some people last night, and the question was, "you survived Firkin Fest, eh?" Well, naturally, I'm here, aren't I?
And the other question, which was asked throughout the fest, and every fest, everywhere, "what's your favorite?" Hard to say, I liked almost everything. And once again, I regretted the beers I never tried, although I tried as much as I could. Standouts, that I can remember: Flying Dog Raging Bitch, dry-hopped with Amarillo, New Belgium Fat Tire Super Cru (with pears!) and Abbey Grand Cru, Summit Winter Ale, with Brett, Dark Horse So In Oats, & Double Crooked Tree,
Surly Abrasive Ale Tea Bagged and Oak Aged, Tyranena Barrel Aged Down and Dirty Chocolate OAtmeal Stout, Rush River Uber Alt & Double Bubble Dry Hopped, and everything TallGrass brought along. Psych Oasis, Oasis Ale with Candy Cap mushrooms (?!?), The A Team, Oasis with Amarillo and Apricots, plus Buffalo Sex, Buffalo sweat stout, with chocolate and cherries. One of these should have won. But the real winner was a worthy choice, no pun intended. War and Peace, from Fulton. Cheers, gentlemen! It's a wonderful brew!

The View From Behind the Casks, Part Three

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Way back when I first took pen to paper on the subject of this massive brew, it was available here in Minnesota. The current bottle I consumed the other night was purchased in Wisconsin. Probably should have bought more or held on to this long, for the brewery is pulling out of several states, including Wisconsin, due to an inability to keep up with local demand. Sounds similar to Surly's circumstances. But, even though I won't be able to buy one any time soon, I felt like drinking it, so, I did. Thankfully, I did not have a situation described in my previous pennings, in the far-flung past of March, 2003:

"Here it is, my first "real-time" review. I will type my thoughts as I drink, and it's no ordinary brew at all. This is my second bottle of this mighty stout, the first one gave me one of my worst hangovers of all time. It was my 5th beer of the night, but it counted for 5 more! I'm more in my right mind tonight...
First off, someone didn't like the label! The words "vim and vigor" are markered out! My guess is that someone in government beurocracy thought that the phrase suggested healthy properties to the beer. Idiots! So now it reads "A very dark beer brewed with ridiculous amounts of barley,"
Color is completelely, fully Stygian black, head is a good 1/2", that slims down right quick, and a tannish hue. Aroma is strong and powerful from the start. Magnificent! Deep, dark, roasty and toasty, boozy, rummy, ...the deeper I drinker in the nose, the more the alcohol kicks into my senses! Like a rich, roasted cognac! A stick of molasses candy, wrapped in a licorice whip and doused with a cocktail of Meyer's, Amaretto, B&B, and Booker's bourbon! This aroma is utterly unheard of! Now to drink the damned thing!
Gargantuan mouthfeel, thick, rich...well, really those phrases are useless in this case, I need something stronger. You bite, you chew, and this dark, lush, and, yes, dangerous elixir washes over the mouth , the senses swim, reaching and grasping for adequate words to describe the experience, yet always wanting. Alcohol is sharp and stinging, always present, always snaking itself up and in and "Drunkening". Malt is massive in this mammoth stout, providing thick flavor and booze, glorious booze. I can't detect a stitch of hops anywhere. So who needs 'em, Mac?
"How dry I dry I am..nobody dry I--HIC!"
Tiny sips, brother, tiny sips, there's no guzzling allowed with this monster, unless you're some kind of maniacal masochist.
I had to take the drinkability factor way down because there's no way you can have more than one, unless you have a death wish.
I wish, I wish, I wish this came in tiny bottles and was a hell of a lot cheaper. That'd make a nice, lovely nightcap. I wish, I wish...yeah, all those wishes and a magic wand will grant me world peace and a date with Salma Hayek...
Oh!What!A!Beer!...Time for beddy bye, y'all!
Oh...this is lovely...yum..snzzzz..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 03-24-2003 00:07:27

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The View From Behind the Casks, Part Two

The View From Behind the Casks

First in a series of random photos taken at Firkin Fest 2011, at The Happy Gnome, in St. Paul, the 4th Annual, I believe, and the second one I've ever been to. Did some pouring for Chisago Lakes Distrubuting, mostly of Thornbridge Brewing's Jaipur IPA. I've got to track down a bottle of that one.
There are some friends in these snapshots, and plenty of anonymous strangers. 1600 persons were estimated to be in attendance. I spent as much time as possible behind the casks and away from the crowds.

Radeberger Pilsner

Although this German bier just entered the U.S, market, here I am with a bottle brought back from Deutschland. Because, why not?
Radeberger Pilsner "Seit 1872" lot of German on here. I understand about 3 % of it. 4,8% Alc. Vol., that I get. "Zutaten: Wasser, Gerstenmalz, Hopfenextrakt, Hopfen."

Let's drink 'er already.
Ultra-clear, pale yellow, if even that. Nice, fluffy, bone white head.

Aroma: clean, lean, light ceral/grain flavor, minor hops.

Taste: light, water-y, just a mere layer of malt. Hops are speaking up a little more, giving a trim, tidy blitz of hop bitterness. The more we empty the bottle, the more mighty the mouthfeel, the higher the hop flavor. Very friendly beer, this, a most impressive pilsner.

Although I haven't been turned into a pilsner lover, I can understand why this is considered tops in it's field.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot Barley-wine

March, 2011, and I'm tapping my first keg ever of Blithering Idiot, part of the Imperial March series. November, 2003 was my first time cracking open a bottle. Those notes follow:

"My favorite beer name ever! It's what you inevitably have to call me when you catch me at my drunkest...
Appearance: deep, dark, tawny violet color, short, rusty head.
Aroma: heady, bold, sharp, strong, fruity, with notes of leather, dates, grapes, cherries, and pure alcohol.
Taste: rather smooth on the palate at first, big fruit, highly hoppy, muge malt, but nothing too obtrusive, very mellow, actually, with a thick raisiny feel on the palate. Rich and rounded, deliciously fruity, not as harshly alcoholic as some barlwywines, but rather nice.
Of course, I took my notes with information taken from the bottle (which gives away nothing) and my own perceptions. Now that I enter this in and see that it's a whopping, WOW! Why did not have a greater impact upon me? Huh! Well, to conclude this transcription from my notes, "A very nice, hot, fruity, happy little barleywine."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout

March, 2011, and Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout joins the ranks of Imperial March at the Blue Nile, the first tapping of this, or anything from this brewery, for us. March, 2004, was the first time I got my hands on a bottle. Here are those notes:

"I thought it was springtime, here in early March, but, look outside at all the falling snow, andI think it's time to escape into a comforting bottle of Imperial Stout!
Appearance: solid black color, dark as the Devil's skidmark's, with a lush, bubbly roasted, dark tan head...beautiful, can't wait to lift it to my lips, ah, but first, to smell...
Aroma: bittersweet espresso, rich cocoa, creamy, delicious, toasty, tasty, with further sensations of anise, molasses, dark rum, just lingering in association.
Taste: Ah! That's what I like! Full-on flavor, thick mouthfeel, rich, tasty, coating the entire palate with this dark delight, a chocolatey paradise in the mouth.
Not too heavy, either, not too overwhelming, not too dominated by alcohol, though it does slowly make it's presence felt, this is an exceptionally drinkable IS, almost surprisingly so. Even at 9.9%, it's not knocking me over the head with booze, not even halfway into this bomber, the integration is so perfect, it seems. Flavor never ends, and stews on the palate for nearly an eternity, for as long as it takes to enjoy this beer, which might be forever.
Were I a Coloradan, I'd stock up severely on this brew, and as I'm not, I can only lay back and enjoy it just this once!
Like a blissfully bewitching Butterfingers in the mouth, this one, and not about to overtake any in my Pantheon of Imperial Stouts, it admirably takes up the rear."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Goose Island Pepe Nero

"Goose Island Pepe Nero 2011, Belgian-style farmhouse ale brewed with peppercorns. 6% a.b.v., 650 ml, develops in the bottle up to 5 years."…but I'm drinking it now.

Much darker than I'd expect from a farmhouse ale. But, yeah, they can be dark. Just about black. But who's counting? Smallish head, coffee-tinged, lacy.

Aroma has a nice roasty malt, coffee and bits of cocoa. Feels a little wheat, with a side of spice. Peppercorns? Hmm, yeah.

Tastin' it: Black malt jumps on board the palate, takes command, bitterness spreads. Big hops here, full-on malt, expressly easily drinking. Dark fruit runs around here, with the aforementioned cocoa/coffee combo. Black or chocolate malt mixing it up with Belgian yeast, I presume.

Quite unusual, I must admit. Drinking blindfold, would I guess it was supposed to be a "farmhouse ale"? Not likely. Would I have picked up on the Belgian aspect, whatever it is, without the prior knowledge? Not really, I might've pegged this as a porter, probably. Doesn't feel particularly "saison-y"…almost tastes like a black IPA, actually. Oh, well, keep blurring the lines, boys, keep on blurring.

It's tasty, roasty, toasty, chewy, gooey…and it's good beer, and you can drink it. That's a good one, two combo. let me assure you. All beers should have that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Boulder Mojo Risin' Double IPA

I first created notations for my tastings of this ale back in May of 2007. It's back on tap now, for Imperial March. Let's look at those old words, now, shall we, and also turn our eyes to the picture I took of beer next to tap handle, mere moments real time, baby!

"Lightly hazed, golden/peach-y hue...1/4" of creamy head holds guard on top...

Lovely aroma: pine, grapefruit, lemon, lime, a small bit prickly, but just right, as far as I'm concerned.

Taste: BAM! Big blast of bitterness, great splash of hops, then fading, leaving some bitterness in the back of the mouth, staying on the tongue. Long, bitter finish, but flavorful...terrific balance, this isn't all hops and nothing but, nice, juicy malt base...delicate, and delightful, but juicy, too..Medium-bodied, but long on the hop flavor.

I eschewed the bottles I saw on sale, knowing I'd be able to have this on tap in a convenient venue...(???)'s a nice Double IPA, not among the fiercest, but somewhere in the middle tier, I'd say. Still, a treat to drink, and easily downable, without too much of a threat from the 10 % abv.

I give higher marks to DIPAs with huger hops, bigger bitterness, and massive mouthfeel...this is very nice for being not one of those."

Surly Furious Beer

(Editor's Note: I'm leaving this 7-year old post as-is, but adding a newer photograph, while leaving at the bottom of the pic I used back then, of a pint poured off the tap at the Blue Nile, from my crappy camera on an iPod Touch. This new package goes with the sample packs, is 12 ounces rather than the tallboy they'd been doing since the beginning, now calls it an IPA, and no longer uses my description, which had been on the cans for a solid 10 years.)

I first tasted Surly Furious on February 2, 2006. A special open house at the brewery, invites only. I loved it, and Bender, too, but when it came time to ordering, I thought Bender was the one that would be easier to sell, and better beloved. Furious was just way too hoppy.

I'm so happy I was wrong.

Or, am I? Furious' success is incredible, and means that this beer drinking community's palate has fully embraced the bitter, in ways I never would have guessed. But, will that stop them from appreciating other, more subtle styles? One wonders. I do, anyway.
Well, whatever, I think we're in a Golden Age, when a beer like Furious is so wildly popular in Minnesota, something incredible has happened, we can't deny that!

This is what I wrote with my first full pint, about five days from my first taste, at the Acadia Cafe, original location, because they went with both Furious and Bender, and I went only with Bender, at first:

"There will be quibbles, arguments, teeth-gnashing, and bare-fisted brawling over the style choice, but I am going with what the brewers lean towards, although they admit it's not quite an "amber ale" like any other. There was talking of calling it an IRA, or "Imperial Red Ale", a humorous reference to violence in Ireland, but I'm glad they didn't.

(note: style now changed to "American IPA"...everyone okay with that now?)

On tap at Acadia Cafe' looked a dusky, dunnish hue when they server poured it, when I sat at my table, it glowed bright orange...held out of sunlight, a truer dark amber-ish tone. Quarter inch head, creamy, and long-lasting. Very fine appearance.

Up to the nose: fresh, vibrant hops, zesty citrus, glimmers of pine, a grapefruit and pineapple tango, but banana aches to cut in...lovely stuff, and ample for any hophead's appreciation. (4 hops, Amarillo for sure...)(other hops:Warrior, Simcoe, Ahtanum)

Enters the mouth with ferocity and freewheeling force, spill bitterness all over the mouth, every crack and crevice is filled and rejoices from the deliciousness...creeps everywhere into the palate, and each area of contact finds it's reward. A citric fruit explosion, but well met with an ample, biscuity malt base (Golden Promise is in there)'s a fertile malty field, and the hops are madly at play above! (100 IBUs will do that.)

Next comes the overload, the frequent pucker, the lip-smacking, the bitterness, and tasty hop flavor clinging tenaciously to the lips and tongue...zippy, zingy, mouth-grabbingly delicious at every sip and gulp.

A beer for hopheads to keep reaching for and for Minnesotans to be proud of!

P.S., I've had the cask dry-hopped version, now dubbed "Tea-Bagged" twice now, and never took out pen and paper to compose a full review, but, damn, it would definitely get all 5's out of me, an amazing beer! Check out if hear of a pouring, it is not to be missed!"

Seven months later, Omar asked my help with writing for some ....thing he didn't want to reveal. I insisted that I couldn't do it if I didn't know what it was for. He only said "packaging". I wrote something, thinking it was for bottle labels, or, I don't know, table tents, or something, and then he publicly stated that everyone should stop asking for Surly bottles, because it wasn't going to happen. Much sadness, crying out, rending of garments, etcetera, from this news.

And then, Omar showed up with a 6-pack of Bender cans, with my words on the back. Cans, we never guessed it, at all. And now, we love them. Also, a single Furious can, with my words, too, There were slight alterations, here and there, but it's mostly my work. So, here's my words on Furious, as it appears on the can:
"A tempest on the tongue, or a moment of pure hop bliss? Brewed with a dazzling blend of American hops and Scottish malt, this crimson-hued ale delivers waves of citrus, pine and caramel-toffee. For those who favor flavor, Furious has the hop-fire your taste buds have been screeching for."

I think Todd added the "hop fire", to complement the flames on the can design, but, as I said, it's 99% me. Alliteration, rhyme, it's all me.

STYLE: American India Pale Ale
MALT: Pale Ale, Golden Promise, Aromatic, Medium Crystal, Roasted Barley
HOPS: Warrior, Ahtanum, Simcoe, Amarillo
YEAST: English Ale

OG: 15º Plato
ABV: 6.5% v/v
IBU: 99
AVAILABILITY: Cans and Kegs Year Round

He'brew Rejewvenator

"Rejewvenator, Harvest to Harvest Ale, L'Chaim!, HE'Brew, the Chosen Beer. Year of the Grape, Half doppelbock, half Belgian style dubbel, Ale Brewed with all natural grape juice. Schmaltz Brewing, Limited Release, Sacred Species No. 3"

And then a ton of "Schtick" on the side, as per usual.

Hazed, purplish coloration, slim head, soon gone.

Aroma: grape and plum aplenty. Sweet malt. Not too much else.

Tasting it: brisk carbonation, minor hops, medium bodied, sweet, and then a little bit of sour. Grape's here, of course, plum, raisin. Mmmm.

But I'm not getting the doppelbock, really, or the dubbel. Not much from the malty flavor, too much from the grape. This needs a lot to make it any more of anything. Quite lifeless, missing any real …anything, really.
Did I get an old, bad bottle? Was this better before? It's rather unimpressive now.
Or is it just me?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lion Imperial Lager

Readers of this blog who have completed more than a few entries will note that I don't like every beer under the sun. No matter who else likes or how much they praise it. Not even if it's a gift. A 6-pack of cans of this one came my way, and I couldn't refuse. That wouldn't be polite, would it? Here's what I wrote when I first took notes, March, 2009:

Mostly clear, faint haze,yellow, with little head.

Simple aromatics, grainy, light malt, minor fruit...and the onset of alcohol.

Slilght fruitiness,mixed with cereal husk gives this some kind of flavor, but none that really does anything. It's far from clean and easy-drinking, and soon the alcoholrears in, enters the skull, knocks on the door before throwing it wide open. Here come that 8.8% boogeyman. We're in Sri Lankan malt liquor country now...
Gets fruitier ,tastier later in...hey, I could go for another...but,should I?
not really..."

I've finished 2 cans already, and while they are beers and are in my possession, I think I'll listen to what I said two years ago, and pass on the other four. Drain, here they come.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

O'so Night Train

Another from the Wisconsin haul

All aboard! For the Night Train! O'so Brewing's Night Train, …which is described by a succession of words separated by dots: "Roasty. Chewy. Robust. Judicious. Creamy. Bold. Complex. Immense." Wait, how can you be "judicious" as well as immense, bold, robust, and complex? And what the hell do they mean? Also, we are told to join the fight against boring beer at, brewed and bottled by O'so Brewing company, Plover, WI, and to Discover the art of freestyle brewing. So, "freestyle", yet "judicious", hmmm? On with the beer…

Solid black, full brown yet, drifts down slowly.

Beautiful aromatics, creamy, bittersweet, and roasty. Just the thing for an oatmeal stout, if this is what this is. A little spicy kick in there, too.

Tasting it: smooth, semi-sweet, lightly roasty, lightly bitter. Full-bodied. Robust, you bet. And ever so judicious. Not too much else to say about this one, just an all-right, right on, good-drinking stout. You can pick it up, and then put it down. Some chocolate, little bits of coffee, but mostly cocoa, all applied very…"judiciously"…why was I so critical of that anomalous word choice?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dave's BrewFarm Svengali

Growler #4, cracked at long last, 2 1/2 weeks after purchase. Why did I wait so long? It had to be the right time, when I could give it my full attention, and when I could afford to put away a liter of a 10% a.b.v. ale. Sure, I could have re-capped it for tonight, but, I couldn't resist drinking the whole thing. Here are my notes from last night.

"Svengali. 10% a.b.v. Like it's namesake, "Svengali" has the hypnotizing effect of a Belgian yeast. Pale malt, brown sugar, and Citra, Summit, and Warrior hops. Spiced with lemon grass, cinnamon, and turmeric. Caution is advised--this brew will put you in a trance."

Dense, thick, and hazy deep crimson hue, fine off-white head, dotted, lasting.

Aroma: gorgeous. Sweet, floral, and hoppy. It seems like an improbable combination of spices, cinnamon, lemongrass, and turmeric, but it makes an intriguing combo. Wow. Sublime.

Tasting it: Juicy malt, tidy, tasty bitter hop feel, and a bewitching panoply of spices.
It's a wonderful ride, there's a bit of bitter, plenty of tasty, light, juicy, fruity malt, and that tidy trickle of unique flavorings. Mmmm, mmm.

Alcohol strength stays meek and harmless at first, but roars in and becomes fierce, at last. Watch out!

Farmer Dave says people ask him all the time why doesn't do an IPA, and he replies, "why should I do what everyone else is doing?" Why should he chase trends, when he could be creating them? I enjoyed his single hop series of lagers (soon to appear in cans) more than many IPAs I've had lately.

This Svengali feels the closest he's yet done to an IPA, and if that's true, then he's doing fantastic. Another great beer that proves what Dave promised me years ago, that he'd make great beer that conforms to no category.

Although, if you pinned my arms behind my back, and made me cry "style", I'd probably have to call it a Belgian IPA, because the yeast flavor and the spicing, plus the hopping makes such a profound impact on the character. Belgian yeast seem to overtake everything.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

North Coast Old Stock Ale 2009

Just tapped, as part of my new event, Imperial March, 1/2 our taps lines turned over to imperial stouts, double IPAs, and barley-wines for two weeks. My first time tapping this, and it's as yummy as when I first wrote about it, in June, 2003, about a vintage 2002 bottle. Here it is:

"Appearance: a brilliantly ruby reddish hue, with a darkish head that dies down immediately.
Aroma: dazzling! full of dark fruits (cherries, berries, grapes), and wine, port, cognac... a very evident alcoholic component!
Big hops, big malt, big booze: that's the basic lineup, but when it all tastes so good, who could want anything else
A sweet, syrupy characteristic shines through the mouthfeel...the fruit and the booze (brandyish) totally dominates the overall texture.
One thoroughly decadent ale, and a truly stand-out examples of a barley-wine."

Barley-wine, stock ale, old ale, strong ale, whatever you want to call it, it's wonderful. Or, one-derful. At 12.5% a.b.v., one is all you need.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Surly Four

February 23, 2010. The day that 48 gallons of an iced espresso milk stout, 10 % alcohol by volume, was depleted in a mere 2 hours at the Blue Nile Restaurant & Lounge. Talk about a thirsty crowd! We knew it was going to be busy, but neglected to correctly assess how much larger Surly Nation had grown, year after year. (For some perspective, we also did the release for Surly Three, a black braggot. Their were two 16 gallon kegs for that one. The first blew out in 40 minutes. The second lasted another three days.)
I felt so bad for people who came at 9:30 to find we were out!
Luckily, we got another small keg a week later.
I wrote the following:

"Solid ebony, with a slim roasted tan head. Perfect. No light escapes this...

Aroma: coffee comes first, then the creamy milk, bittersweet and roasty below that. Love it.

Taste: deep and dark, full and rich, massive mouthfeel, fairly clinging to every surface available, hanging long in the finish...espresso remains foremost in the flavor, with creamy lactose still shining through, some chocolate, as well..little hops to be counted in this cavalcade, but they're masked by the mountainous mass of malt.

An immense beer, a conundrum, a certain circumspection of quizzical circumstances...when have I ever tasted the coffee and the milk and the ice? In this way? When have you? When has anyone?
Each next sip brings more of the bitterness, the roast, the rich malt, some cocoa, some bitter coffee, then the milky cream, then...boom, you realize how strong it is... too drinkable, and delicious for the reported 10% abv.

What a treat, this Surly Four. And the more I think and drink, the more I think, what a drink, what a match of the yum, and the mmm, and the hmm, and the ohhh.

Pity this didn't last long on tap."

I popped one of my few bottles last night, and found that it's lost nothing. Just as yummy as when it was fresh. In your face, everyone who said "it's losing the coffee flavor."

About the photos: below: most of the hard working Blue Nile crew, enjoying some Four that we stashed away before the final keg blew, Peter, Cory,Karl, and me. On top: the craziest looking wax dipping I've ever seen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Holland Pilgrim's Dole Wheat Wine

On tap now, first had in a bottle back in May of 2004. Wheat barley-wine, 11.4 % a.b.v.

"Gorgeous magenta hue, a deep violet, with a solid ring of beige foam reigning atop. Aroma is full of grapes, alcohol, spice, orange zest, cherries, brandy, leather, cognac, a heady crowd to run with, yeah, but a generous mix for those who favor abundance of flavor.
Taste is smooth, yet still a bit spikey, with a brash, bold fruity flavor clanging in, reminding me, really, of Aventinus, more than anything else, and that's a goood thing, let us not forget!
Has it's own character, fruity, spicy, yet stil maintains a connection to the weizen feel to in the taste, as well.
No quaffer here, this is a truly luxurious brew. Wish I had a magnum, and all the best people and the very best time, to chime in some happy celebration, with this most wondrous brew! "

Left Hand Wake Up Dead Barrel=aged Imperial Stout

A funny thing happened on the way to this review. Heard about it, hadn't had it. Saw it at Zipp's. Tyler gave it a solid "meh."
Checked BeerAdvocate, and it gets a disappointing C+, with many dissatisfied comments. And I bought a keg anyway. Tapped it last week, and it's been a hit. Nearly done with this one, already. Personally, I like it a lot, even if it isn't the biggest and thickest (although at 10.2 %, it's definitely big.). The fact that BeerAdvocate or RateBeer geeks don't feel the love for this stout, doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be enjoyed by casual drinkers as well as aficcionadoes.

Here are my notes from Friday night:
"Cast in full-on ebony, sizable tan head drifts down soon enough.
Rich aromatics, cocoa and coffee, with sweet bourbon notes just below, gets bigger and fuller as we go in. Vanilla and oak notes peeping up.
Tasting it: A full blast on the palate, all those flavors promised in the nose board together. There's licorice bumping up against molasses, vanilla hints and oakiness meet chocolate and caramel. There is a nice imperial stout under here, hiding under a cloak of bourbon. Sweet stuff, probably too sweet for some, and potent, for sure. Cloying? Just a little. But for bourbon barrel lovers, like me, there's a lot to like. And maybe love.
It's easy drinking for an imperial stout, never gets near chewy, stays clear of viscous. Goes down smooth and brimming with stout-y and barrel-y flavors.
Here's one that's been unjustly maligned, I think. Maybe it needed a bit more time, or perhaps it's better in the keg?"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Central Waters Peruvian Morning 2011

Central Waters Peruvian Morning 2011

"A bourbon barrel aged imperial stout made with freshly roasted Emy J's coffee. This beer is as complex as it gets. Flavors of vanilla, tannins, and coffee meld together to create a flavor as deep as the ravines of the Peruvian Andes."

Muddy brown appearance, rocky tan head, lovely to look out, delightful to know.

Nose is full of chocolate and coffee, a little peppery spice, some molasses, dark rum, deep, indeed. All the makings of a great imperial stout, plus all the goodness of a coffee stout, but wait, there's more! Vanilla and oak, definitely, and the sweet, vast, ever-so-tempting bourbon barrel feel. Oh, yeah, it's all in here.

Tasting it: Mmmmm! Bourbon hits first, whiskey's all over this one, then the other flavors roll out. They can't sit for long, because with every sip the bourbon whiskey comes roaring back. A bit harsh, a trifle thick, brandy and cherries chime in with vanilla and oak. Blackberry and raspberry, too. Mostly vanilla and oak, though, some coffee hangs in there, somehow, but this is all about the bourbon. You'd have a hard time thinking there was anything else going on.
And, …actually? It's getting a little long with me. Too much too much. Oversoaked in the bourbon. Maybe if I am in Peru my mornings would be spent stewed in bourbon, but if the name means to evoke coffee, it's buried in there.

Full bodied, long finish, but not the flavors I want to soak in. Not so much. I almost don't want to finish the contents of the bottle. I will, anyway, but …eh, maybe I won't. Only a few ounces left, but it's over, it's done, I've been there and done that. Bleh. My tongue is tired already. Meh. Sorry, can't get too riled up about this one.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New Belgium Lips of Faith: La Terroir

"La Terroir, Dry Hopped Sour Ale, alc. 7.5% by Vol. La Terroir is a French term meaning "of the earth". Used to reference the environmental conditions that affect the brew, we like to think about the terroir of our folders. These wooden barrels age our sour ale in varying temperatures, humidity and vibrations. The terroir of New Belgium, so to speak. Add in another variable by dry-hopping with peachy, mango-like Amarillo hops, and we created an ale that changes every time we brew it."

Hazy, dusky peach appearance, solid, off-white head. starts big, slims down.

Aromatics cry out from the start, pungent and tart. Wild, funky flavors are matched with under-tones and tropical and citrus fruit. Sour, with traces of cat urine. But, you like that sort of thing, don't you? I love sniffing letterboxes, personally.

Tasting it: Booom-shaka-lacka! A serious thwack on the palate. Twisted, sour, and weird, but also light and refreshing! How about that? Bracingly tart on the tongue, meshed with a further fruit flavor, a more varied hoppy roundness, that caresses and calms the ravaging sourness. A crazy roller coaster ride. Merest malt, just the kiss of the hops, a flavor sensation led by the wicked yeast and the oak of the barrel. The Amarillo dry-hopping is the key, though, with that tropic fruit flavor meshing so well against the sourness of the ale. Lemon, apricot, grapefruit, mango, pineapple.

This is tasty stuff. Light bodied, but with persistent, sour, yeasty flavor, ends on a light note. Starts strong, ends soft, stays pleasantly weird and wonderful.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial IPA

One of my favorite Double IPAs, one that pushes bitterness to the edge. Not for everyone, but I certainly recommend it to the hoppiest of hop-heads. Have it on tap now, always love having it on tap. Great to watch people's reactions to the piney-citric hop attack. Here were my notes on first tasting, from a bottle, December 2005:

"Lovely auburn hue, thoroughly hazed, with a sturdy, creamy head, ...nice looking IPA.

Nose is a blistering blitz of hops, big, fat pine resin, slick, dripping citrus, grapefruit and mango, with orange and lemon and lime...rollicking in a pine forest with a cornucopia of fruit rolling through the leaves and the likey...just the thing for me.

Fresh, and flush with flavor. Huge taste, floods the mouth, and stretches this hophead's lips into a mega-smile, yes, it does. Ample malt carries the thick delicious and bitter hop attack happily along the palate and delivers the drinker into bliss. Yum, again...

Big body, thick texture, long, hoppy, bitter, fruity finish. Non-stop hop attack.

Exactly what you want from a Double IPA. Tomahawk, Cascade and Centennial. 9.2% abv. Dang, this is a great brew from a class act outfit. I would suck this up aplenty if I had easy access to it. You lucky West Coasterers! Damn you to Hell!"

Well, now I can get it easily, so I un-damn them.

Reviewed on: 12-30-2005 10:14:00

Three Floyds Black Sun Stout

Another Three Floyds treat brought back from Hudson, Wisconsin. Label copy: "Black sun has a nose of coffee, roasted malts and piney hops. This medium bodied stout has a broad depth of maltiness and a clean dry finish."
Rather perfunctory, short and sweet and to the point. Way too normal for Three Floyds. By chance, I had been holding onto an old bottle, because I liked the label design so well, and here's how they described it then:

"An inky black stout with a lugubrious brown foam ring in the glass topped by an attractive oil slice. Enticing aromas of deep roast coffee plus touches of vanilla and snake. Flavor is very complex, with chocolate, cherry, and dried fruit dominating.
Creamy smooth mouthfeel, very thick and full-bodied for the style. All this malty sweetness is balanced by the hops up front and the roasted malt bitterness playing against the sweet caramel flavors at the end."

That doesn't sound like a brewery talking. "Lugubrious?" Well, maybe it sounds like Lagunitas or Stone. ..."for the style", though? That definitely sounds like an online critic talking. And it reminded me of the situation when 3F first bottled Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. The description on that label was lifted word for word, with some editing, from a review by a prolific BeerAdvocate user whose online handle was named either after a Spider-Man villain, or his acerbic nature. I remember asking him how he felt about that, and he said he was honored. I'd be, too, but also a bit miffed that I wasn't asked or even told about such appropriation. To each their own. This could have been from his review of this beer, but I have no way of knowing, since he had his 2000+ reviews deleted from the site, at his request, after a quarrel with the site's owners. I didn't see any other revews that speak of lugubrious brown foam rings. Not mine, no, sir.

Speaking of me, here's what I wrote about the Black Sun on first review, January, 2007:
"Solid black, with a nice, creamy tan, espress-tinged head.

Aroma: nice stuff in here! Licorice, spice, dark fruits, grape, raisins and plums,...quite a treat!

Taste: smooth, clean, and silky, lean-bodied, some darker fruit, slight syrup, mild molasses. Easy-drinking, classic for the style. Full flavor, though I'm a bit let down that the intriquing aroma didn't follow through in the flavor as much. It's not supposed to, and it's quite excellent for what it ought to fact, this would be a regular treat for me, if I could get it around here.

Another treat from the Floyds!"

So, that means I liked it. Still do.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dave's BrewFarm Bumbled

Dave's BrewFarm Bumbled

Don't remember exactly what Dave told me about this one, but it had something to do with honey, bees, flowers,…other than that, I've got nothing else. Gonna just open it up and dive right in.

(Edit: Dave has since revealed to me his description of Bumbled, from when it was on the menu, here it is: "This is a well-hopped American Ale that emanates subtle honey flavors. Also includes a healthy dose of Magnum, Chinook and Amarillo hops for balance. Brew-Wife says it is NUMMY. 9.1% ABV"
Like most of what I brew, it doesn't "fit" into a nice neat style.")

Clear, pale crimson, deep amber coloring, prodigious foaming, creamy-white, lacy and lovely.

Aroma: sweetness, minor hops, nice and malty, and, yeah, I can pick up on the honey.

Taste: a little fire, here, but just a taste. Very smooth, bright, fruity malt is forward, and hops are hidden, as is alcohol, unless these are famous last words. Don't I wish I had all kinds of info at my disposal, like what yeast or malts, or hops went in? Sure, but, whatever it was, the result is easy drinking and awesome-tasting.

A new sensation comes through, it's the rise of the alcohol, very warming. Getting sweeter and delicious-er, as well. Some chocolate chiming in. How about that?

The Bruery Trade Winds

Famille Rue The Bruery Unfiltered Bottle Conditioned Trade Winds Tripel, Belgian-style ale, brewed with rice and thai basil. This Belgian and Southeast Asian inspired Tripel brings spice from the East and yeast from the West. Choc-tee! (Cheers in Thai) Orange County, CA. Alc. 8.1% a.b.v.

Clouded, rusty gold, showing a bit clearer at the edges. Triumphant, exuberant head, snowy white, lacy.

Beautifully fragrant, lightly spicy, floral, airy, with lemony traces. Gorgeous.

Drinking, the loveliness lives on. Lean-bodied, snappy, plenty of spicy tricks playing on the palate. Very lively, with marvelous Belgian yeast flavor adding another dimension of deliciousness. Citrus fruit factor grows larger, and candy sugar sweetness climbs in to match it. Just stays vibrant and tasty all the way through the bottle.

Great match for thai food, I'm sure. Don't know, I had it with Chinese. Worked there, too. Excellent tripel. Is simply everything they make this good or better?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Harriet Dark Abbey Dubbel

Harriet Brewing opened their front doors to the public for the first time on Saturday, February 26, 2011, also the release of the Dark Abbey dubbel. I didn't have time to hang out and listen to Lonesome Dan Kase, but I did visit my records. Jason transferred my LPs from the bag I brought them in, to their own box, the Al Box, isn't that awesome. Chatted a bit, with J. and other folks, then off to work. Had the growler (the entire one, if I remember right) that evening after work, and these were the notes:

"Harriet Brewing Dark Abbey Dubbel, 64 ounce growler. And now, an orange growler. Now matter what color, I firmly believe that they have the brewing world's coolest, trippiest logo. It's like those hops are in 3-D, comin' at ya!

Starts with a head, but it goes down a bit quickly. Mahogany hued, reddish-brown around the edges.

Slightly sweet, caramel malt aroma, toffee, then the dark fruits turn up, some raisin and rum, a bit of fig.

Taste: Sweet malt is full in charge, toffee flavors mix with dark rum, molasses, dark fruit. Very balanced, clean, with a well-rounded, judiciously sweet finish. Well-rounded is what I want to come back to, again and again. The IBUs are low, but the bitterness makes a mark. Very nice little buzz on the palate. Yum. I take another sip, and the flavor roars back. There's fullness here, but it never spills over. Begins sweet, stays clean and lean, finishes very moderated. Is it strange that I'm applauding a beer for being restrained? It's just right.

I'm having a crisis of conscience. Have to recalibrate my recollections of what I like in dubbels. Do I really like them bigger and fatter and richer than this? Do I need them beefier and bolder? Is that truly my preference, or am I imagining it? Maybe it's time for a little sit-down with some great dubbels and toss this one in the mix. I know it will hold it's ground. All in all, I'm thinking …what was I thinking? All misgivings are over and through. I am utterly and thoroughly happy with this brew. It has everything I want, and lacks nothing. It has nothing superfluous, and contains no unwanted elements. There is no lack of satisfaction in consuming this beverage.

The growler is empty, the remains are in my glass. And it is excellent. It is exactly what is should be, and nothing of what it shouldn't. This should make any beer lover happy. It's doing it for me, that's for sure. "

I guess I did finish it, didn't I?
And a week later I did that blind tasting, matching Dark Abbey against Westmalle, North Coast's Brother Thelonious, and Ommegang. I idntified them all correctly, and the Harriet brew fell in last place. It's fine, just doesn't compare to those others, brewers that have been around for decades, mind you, when it comes to body, mouthfeel, and fullness of flavor.

Hey, this was my 200th post. Awesome.

Town Hall Masala Mama IPA

I'm still scratching my head over what took me so long to visit the Town Hall Brewery. It had been in business five full years before I...