Friday, April 29, 2011

Witkap Pater Tripel

Had this last night in a bottle, but my first taste was when I first tapped it, back in October of 2007. Those notes follow"

Hazed orange color, big white head that slims down to a thing ring.

Aroma is bright and uplifting, spicy, citric, an airy, yeasty wonder. Flowery hops meet heavenly yeast. Ah....

Taste: refreshing, with flavors of lemon, ginger, coriander, cookie dough...ends dryly and crisply. No lingering on the palate, it pleases while in the mouth and vanishes with the memory hanging in the head. Lightly chalky in the back, clean, dry, and spicy.

Nice traction on the mouthfeel, lots of play off of the tongue, medium bodied, full flavored.

This is a tripel to thake your time with, to draw you in and calm you down, cool you off, and set the mind at ease.
Love it.

Crow Peak 11th Hour IPA

"Crow Peak 11th Hour IPA, alcohol 6.5% by volume. Handcrafted in the Black Hills. Pure hoppiness."

Hazy deep crimson hue, creamy head, 1/2 ", lacy and long lasting.

Aroma: prickly pine, potent, plump and powerful fruity esters, citrus aplenty, tangerine, orange, pineapple, lemon and lime. Utterly lovely.

Taste: fresh and flush with flavor, huge bitterness, plays politely on the palate, bounces and trounces, speeds hoppy flavor all over. Next sip: Mmmm, more of the same, bitter hops, juicy fruit. Floods in the mouth, spills out delicious hoppy flavor, speeds it all over. Pure hoppiness, pure happiness.

Long on the palate, long finish, terrific tasting, lacking nothing, Absolutely delicious IPA. Mmmmm, wow. Utterly satisfactory.

How happy am I to taste an IPA this good, in a can, from South Dakota? Mighty happy. First, it further kills the lie that you have to be California, Oregon, or Washington to brew a great, hoppy IPA. I've heard it, and it's the quacking of a lunatic. Also, it shows the influence of Surly. I seriously doubt a beer like this could exist in a place like that if you'd plucked Omar Ansari and Todd Haug out of the frame of history, in the past five years. It would've been utterly unheard of to create, brew, sell, enjoy a fresh and vibrant IPA such as this in a market like South Dakota. Heck, I doubted Furious would've been popular five years ago.

Cheers, Crow Peak! Onward and upward!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Crow Peak Pile-o-Dirt Porter

Crow Peak Brewing Company, Spearfish, South Dakota, Handcrafted in the Black Hills. Alcohol 6% by volume. Gift from loyal customer Laura.
As mentioned in a previous post, I can't imagine what was in their heads when they okayed this name. "Pile-o-Dirt"? What? Doesn't even sing. Thuds. Clunks. Sits. Do they get a gleam in their eye when they imagine a thirsty customer bellying up to the bar, and telling the attendant, "I'll take a Pile o' dirt?" Ah, well. Let's crack and slurp.

Solid stygian appearance, no light escapes. Small brown, espresso-toned head, slims down, but stays.

Aroma, roasted malt and cocoa. Bittersweet espresso tinges, slightly sweeter chocolate edges. Very even, mellow, nice.

Taste: smooth on the palate, slight bitterness, good malt, with hardly a sweet note anywhere. Excellent balance, even tempered. Cola tints here and there, medium bodied, not too full, not too rich, just right, as porter ought to be, right? Hold together just so, and continues to deliver flavor.

I do like this, and would be very happy if I were a frustrated South Dakotan dark beer lover, encountering this for the first time. This is the first packaged SD brew I've ever had, apart from a brewpub growler, years ago. I hope Crow Peak does well. That would be a good omen for the craft beer community at large. Next up…North Dakota???

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot

Called an "American Strong Ale" on BeerAdvocate, 7.7% a.b.v. Typical Lagunitas nonsense on the label, the copy on the side of this one being a mash-up of various movie quotes. First tasted it in a bottle last June, and those notes

Clearish, deepish brown, with crimson highlights, big, booming, cocoa-tan head, lace-leaving.

Caramel and cream aroma, smooth, and slightly sweet. a little nutty.

Taste: sweet, malty, nutty, caramel and toffee over all, nicely hopped, just keeps on top of the malt....actually, quite delicious. Well-rounded, nicely balanced, ...I'd like a fuller body, but, you can't win 'em all.

For a strong, smooth, and tasty brown ale, this hits the spot.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bell's Expedition Stout

Mmm, Expedition. So. Very. Good. 10.5% a.b.v. Russian Imperial Stout, according to some, the first commercial version in the U.S., going back to 1985.
Enjoying this exemplary indulgence on tap right now. Wrote about it from a bottle in January, 2003. Here's what I said:

"Dark as sin, and pours out a nearly violent, volcanic rich cocoa-colored head.

Aroma is simply incredible: maple syrup, anise, dates, dark rum, dark chocolate, and it doesn't end either, it spins on and on!

THICK texture! It's a liquid candy bar, sweet, full, chewy, but no Butterfingers here, this is heavy, substantial stuff!
Full body, persistent finish: this ripple of flavor will not let go! It's tenacious, is what it is!
This is Kalamazoo's Imperial Stout and it's way over the top, outdoing most, if not all the ISs I've ever had.
One of the thickest and chewiest Imperials in memory!"

Eight years later, more imperial stouts have come along, and they've garnered attention, hype and appropriate accolades. I still love Expedition, probably more than the others. Nothing, not even Darkness, has upturned my appreciation. Deep and dependable, full and decadent, but not overblown and torturous. And it's another world entirely when it's aged a year or more. This is a fresh(-ish) keg. I've aged some kegs in the past, and featured them in my stout/porter events. That was fun, wasn't it? Oh, yeah.

Tallgrass Oasis

One more from the Little Apple, Manhattan, Kansas. I think that's actually the name of a brewpub there, come to think of it. Anyway, the little brewery that "can", Tallgrass. (I'm going to be WoodyChandler, if I don't watch out.)

"American Double/Imperial IPA", according to BeerAdvocate, 7.2 % a.b.v. And here are the notes from September, 2010:

Tallgrass Oasis Ale. Aggressively Hopped, Mightily Malted, Pour a Pint. (Hmm, the pint craft can, where'd that idea come from?)

Deep crimson coloring, a little soft on the sides, highly hazed, creamy beige-ish head.

Aroma: big twist of caramel malt, citrus notes, piney bitter know, it's weird, reminds me of something. Grapefruit and lemon? No, something else...

Taste: BAM! Huge hops right off the bat, flooding the palate, washing over the mouth and swishing through the senses. Beautiful bitterness butts up against sweet malt. Intense flavors, but well balanced. Big all over, fat flavors, long, generously hoppy finish. Alcohol isn't over-the-top, but a bit big for the...wait, what's the style?

Oh, wait, I's Surly Furious-style! Seriously, this is the first commercial brew I've had that tastes almost exactly like my hometown favorite. ( Although Brooklyn Center isn't my hometown, it's close enough.) I swear it's as if they were intentionally creating a Furious clone. (And that's fine with me. Some day Furious will be a style of it's own. At last it will win GABF medals.)

This is delicious stuff, and well done. If Surly can't go to Kansas, good for Tallgrass for bringing their own version to Manhattanites.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat Stout

There are many beers out there with unpalatable nomenclature, for reasons unknown to us all. Of course, Moose Drool Brown Ale from Big Sky of Montana. Turns out there's a porter from South Dakota called Pile-0-Dirt, who can say why. (Coming soon to this page.) The unfortunately named Armpit Ale from Kentucky, and Idaho's Monkey Gland Secretions Saison. (Okay, I made those two up.) Add to this list Buffalo Sweat. Why?
Anyway, let's open the can, ...and think back to September, 2010 when I wrote this about it:

"Dangerously Dark, Authentically Awesome, Pour A Pint..."

Yes, Dark. Not sure how dangerous it is...Lovely, cocoa-tan head, nice looking stout.

Aroma: Pitch perfect oatmeal stout, smooth and creamy, chocolate, silky smooth. Slightly sweet.

Taste: Mmm, more of the same, just lovely. Easy down the throat, roasty malt, toasty, oatmeal smooth, light cocoa taste. Super drinkability.

All in all, a nice, easy drinking stout. Could be fuller, could be richer, but this is what it is, and it's pretty nice. I'd have one again, but I don't think I'd seek it out. There's richer, fuller stouts that'll grab my dollars.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stone Ruination IPA

My first taste of this hoppy monster was months after it's first release, back in the fall of 2002. I was in Portland, Oregon for a wedding, and was amazed by the quantity and quality of the craft beer to found there. Every place I went, and every function I attended, there was always good beer, and sometimes nothin' but, no Bud Lights or Heinekens thrown in there, just Deschutes, and Rogue, New Belgium, and all the usual suspects. And some unusual. Dead Guy was at the wedding reception, and the after-party was BYOB. But there was a gas station down the street, with an excellent selection. Not only couldn't you find most of these beers in Minnesota then, but you certainly couldn't find anything good(and still can't) at a gas station, midnight on a Saturday. I picked up more beer than we needed, 2 6-packs, and 2 Stone bombers, Arrogant Bastard, and Ruination Ale. It ruined me.
I got several other Stones to bring home from the trip, the Imperial Russian Stout, and Old Guardian Barley-wine.
It wasn't until January of 2004 that I tried it again, having acquired it in trade with a Californian. Now we finally have it here, and I tapped my first keg tonight. Here are those 7 year old notes, from that second sampling:

Beautiful, bright orange color...fine, 1/2", bubbly head.
Aroma: Big, bad, gorgeous hoppiness, fruit aplenty, some grapefruit, yeah, but peach, orange, tangerine, non-stop, glorious sweet, so utterly pleasant, abundantly delightful. Bright, luscious, lively...all bow in honor of the almightiness of humulus lupus!
Shall we sip? Do we dare?
Full force of hops on the palate, a devastating wave of hops across the palate up, over, around, about, and above the senses! Dominant to say the least, absolutely overpowering and spreading nothing but delight to those of us hopheads who revel in the luxury of an immersion of such bitter, tasty delights!
Each time you put down the glass, and finish your gulp, the flavor subsides on the palate, resides fully in the senses, and you eye that glass and are eager for more. You don't need it, for the flavor has never left your senses, but it tempts, it the label says, it ruins you for anything of weaker flavor, and why would you ever want that, anyway?
Fantastically delicious, this super-hopped ale, one I'd return to as often as I could, when fortune provides. This is the IPA that should be the emblem, the acme, the standard any IPA should strive for!"

Tallgrass IPA

Notes from September, 2010:

Tallgrass IPA,

Hazed & golden appearance, slim, but staying white head.

Aroma: Ah!!! That's the stuff! Vibrant, lively, resiny hop attack, dripping with pine and citrus, with a touch of honey at the end. Raw, unrefined, unrestrained.

Drinking it: fresh, fierce, bristling bitterness. Lime and lemon, with a trickle of pine behind. Bold, abrasive, big and bright. Just enough malt below the blazing hoppy top. And the ...whoa, now it's getting creamier, smoother...maybe it's spicy food I've started eating.

Nice, hop-heavy big, fat IPA. Classic American over-the-top bitternes. Yeah, baby.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tallgrass Ale

More presents! Love the sample man, this time bringing me sample cans, from Tallgrass of Kansas. I've had it before, so here are the notes, from October of 2010:

"Tallgrass Ale, Defiantly Dark, Seductively Smooth, so they say...

Hazy, light brown coloring, with crimson edges, big beige head, thick and lasting, creamy and attractive.

Soft, creamy, cola-tinged nose, with plenty of hops. Sweet, malty, pleasant.

Taste: Mmm, very smooth, dark malts, light to medium bodied, and here come the hops, crisp and delicious. Ease of drinkability high in this. Not a ton of flavor, but that's not the idea, it's all about just enough, just right. just enough hops. certainly sessional.

thumbs up for this one, a sturdy dark drinkable ale for the thirsty throats of Kansasites."

Friday, April 22, 2011

New Holland Night Tripper Imperial Stout

Just tapped, notes from the first time I tapped it, two years ago, April, 2009. (Don't think I've ever had a bottle.):

"Solid stygian, with ruby-brown highlights and edges, lush and lovely cocoa-tan head, leaving lace.

Rich, cocoa, espresso nose, soft, sweet, and creamy. Chocolate layer cake, a with coffee swirl.

In the mouth, it's solid and sure. Full-bodied, flush with aforementioned flavors, starting sweet with the lush, chocolatey malt, turning dry as it exits the palate.

Yummy. Not too big, not too lean, not too crazy...juuust right.

He'Brew Messiah Bold Brown Ale

Had last night, notes from December, 2003:

"Dark, caramel-y brown in color, with reddish foot and side, with a good, 1/4 " faint-tan head of foam with sticks it out for a bit.

Aroma: led by notes of nuts and toffee, rich and malty, but still well-hopped and full of character.

Taste: powerful carbonation on this one, bubbly through the mouthfeel, texture is tasty, toasty, dark. This is a lively brown ale, smooth in the extreme, ultimately drinkable. Gets a bit too sweet and cola-ish for my own tastes.

but if you're merely searching for an easily drunk, enjoyable-enough beverage to drink the night away with, the Messiah will do."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bell's Oberon Ale

Hey, more Bell's, and more reaching back in time, going to Aril 1, 2003, the first time I tapped a keg since I started posting reviews. Here it is unexpurgated and uncensored.

"Brewed and kegged one week ago (3-25). keg tapped 5 minutes ago.
It's a hotly anticipated sign of spring in the Midwest, the arrival of the Bell's Oberon, and I'm ready for my first, fresh sip of the season.
Color: a thick, opaque yellow/orange body. Tap Oberon is thick and cloudy at the top and the bottom of the keg, but it pours clear after a few a few pints are pulled. Head is nice and white, thick and lasting.
Aroma is delicate, but brimming with zesty citrusy notes, spices, sea-foam. In a nutshell, the tingly orange flavor dominates Oberon's taste profile. Carbonation is low, yeasty component of this unfiltered brew is tasty, tasty, tasty and adds significantly to the supremely delicious and downable mouthfeel.
As with many other Bell's products, the style is not presented clearly in the name or on the label. This used to be called Solsun, until a Mexican Brewery took umbrage. I believe they steal the name from Shakespeare's Fairy King in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." It is described as "an American wheat ale with European ingedients", which still doesn't answer all the questions. Czech saaz hops are used, and imported (from where?)wheat malt, but no curacao zest or coriander are mentioned. That aside, it tastes more like a Belgian witbier than anything else, but, like many Kalamazoo offerings, it belongs in a class by itself.
This beer plays very lightly on the palate, delivering zingy, spicy, and very fruity hops, with an utterly delicate, and thirst-quenching texture. Wheat isn't tasted as strongly as in other wheat beers, goes down very smooth, but still adds considerably to the texture. This is a beer that makes itself at home in the mouth, and makes one quite comfortable during it's stay. Long, delicious finish. Light body. So easy to drink! Everlasting finish!
There are many tasty, thirst-quenching wheats out there, but only one Oberon. The fruitiness really pushes it forward! Supreme acheivement, and a beer I'll be enjoying all summer long!"

The one I'm drinking now was tapped Monday, a few weeks after the seasonal debut. I still like it, but don't get quite as excited about it as I used to, and I've learned that yes, indeed, Larry Bell took the name from Shakespeare's fairy king, in an effort to get into gay clubs. I think he was kidding me with that one. Or maybe not...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Odell IPA

This India Pale Ale deserves a spot in the upper echelon of America's best sessionable IPAs.
Notes from April, 2008, from a bottle. Drinking it freshly tapped, right now:

"Ride 'em, Pachederm!

Hazy orange appearance, fulsome, fresh white head.

Fresh, vibrant, floral, tangerine, mango....abso-lovely.

Tastin'...more of the same. Fresh, delicious, fruit aplenty. There's some mango in there, with the orange and grapefruit,
just gorgeous.

Very even-keeled, despite it's 7% abv, smooth, and tasty, and memorable.

An ideal IPA. I could grab this in a pinch with nary a quarrel."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Town Hall Euphoric IPA

Town Hall Euphoric, Red IPA, with Simcoe hops, approximately 7.2% a.b.v.

Utterly hazy, deep burgundy hue, multitudinous bubblation at the bottom. Creamy head rests at about 1/2 and sticks around, leaving lace.

Aromatics, abundantly hoppy. A great big, bittersweet, fruity explosion of Simcoe, a key component in many of favorite IPAs. Ruby red grapefruit nestled in pine needles, coated in orange and tangerine. Slightly sweet and sticky, never-stop hops.

Taste: a brisk blast of bitterness, washed in a lush, fruity wave of malt. A greet sweep of hoppy deliciousness, with a fierce, but fading bitterness. Flavor lingers long on the palate, body is full, even plump.

Town Hall has a history of experimenting with different pale ales, American and English-style, mostly APA. Nice, hoppy sessionable, terrifically tasty pale ales. Some beer geeks I know of made stinks on the internet when these new variations were released along the lines of "ho,hum, another pale ale." Are they only happy with sour ales, barley-wines, and bourbon barrel imperial stouts? Maybe they'll be slightly satisfied with an excellent IPA like this. Oh, wait, it's not a 12 % Imperial IPA aged on oak, with vanilla nibs? Forget it!

Am I becoming one of those grumpy old dudes complaining those young whipper-snappers? Maybe. Never mind, I've got a growler to finish.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bell's Two Hearted Ale

Another case of old notes, again from December, 2002, although I was newly a fan of this one, as told inside.
This beer has taken off around here, since then, so much so that it's more popular here than in Michigan (or so I'm told). So popular people just expect to find it in every bar they walk into. I took it off tap when Surly Furious came along, but these days the local palate has adjusted and it seems like everyone digs the hops and there's plenty of drinkers around here for both.
Without further ado, my notes from 12/05/02, unvarnished or retouched:

"If I could do one little thing to improve the world's happiness, it would be to slide this sunny brew down the lips of every unsmiling face and bask in the results.

Big, beautiful, bone-white head. Light amber color, surprisingly clear for an unfiltered beer.

Aroma defies conventional description, for it is nothing less than a hoppy fruit explosion! A cornucopia of flavors bounce inside your nose and all along the tongue...grapefruit, strawberries,peach,apricot, melons, citrus, bananas,even.

Delicate malt, providing ample balance. Extremely smooth and easy-going, with so much, but not too much, in the hop department to keep the senses satisfied. Never dull. Delightful finish, that creeps up, then kicks back in.

My only fault against Bell's brews is the inconsistent information. Their 6-pack text congratulates you for reading it, but there's stuff missing from the labels,like ABV, style, or what's the significance of those two fish. {I know now, that it's in reference to a river. What I don't understand to this day is why beer geeks on BeerAdvocate hate the label so much. Fish bigots, are they?}
It's in such a league of it's own, I wasn't sure of the style for some time. On draft, this is the perfect IPA, for those who prefer flavor."

Hmmm, it seems I borrowed the sentiment of that last line for the Furious can copy. Well, steal from the best, as they say.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Here's one I turn to again, and again, and have been a fan of for years. Such a fan that when I first wrote about it back in December, 2002, I fairly gushed. So much so, that I took this photo months ago, but haven't posted yet thinking the review needed work. It's on tap at the Nile now, the second time in a month, and there's another opportunity to re-work my words. Perhaps I'll re-write it at some point, but in keeping with the warts and all aspect of this project, here is the eight-year old scribblings I threw onto the internet. Old Rasputin, ladies and gentlemen:

"An old, old favorite that I've been loyal to since my very first sip.

Huge, cocoa-colored head, properly boisterous and fizzy.
Phenomenally aromatic: all the regulars for this style and more are here in attendance--cocoa, coffee, toffee, anise, molasses.
Very mellow, despite the flavor and strength.
Perfectly black in color, fantastic texture: thick and chewy, but not overly so.

This is a great accompaniament for any meal, particularly rich and spicy food. I'd compliment the finish, but it never stops! The flavor sticks in your mouth forever, it seems. One of the finest stouts in all the universe."

A little over-the-top at the end, right. Oh, well, someday we'll if Alpha Centauri can do better, won't we?

Bellegems Bruin

Despite illness and poor wi-fi capabilities, and not drinking as much, I'm still holding to my goal of a post, or, I should say a beer (bottlecaps don't count!) for every day of the month. Got some catching up to do. And if that means 3 posts on a Friday, so be it.

And here we have this tasty oud bruin that I just tapped last night. Tapped keg one in November, and it was part of the first Belg-a-Rama line-up. The other two kegs of the three I brought in have been waiting since then. They're doing fine, and it's Bellegems Bruin's time to shine. Now, it's on right next to it's brother, Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge Flanders Red.

So, here are my original notes from November 2010:
"On tap, from a fresh keg. Appearance, clear, dark garnet hue, deep eggplant with crimson edges, under slim, but lasting dotted beige head.

Aroma: grape, cherries, and blackberries hit the nose first, with caramel malt beneath. A rendezvous between sour and sweet, with sour taking over assuredly.

Taste: the sweet and sour tug of war begins immediately again on hitting the palate. Sour fruit commands the stage with malty brown ale flavors holding steady in the background, but plainly giving way to the dominant tart. Another sip, another wince and pucker, but the sweet factor and the comforting caramel malt backbone ease us away from any onslaught of tartitude.

Medium bodied, and long in the finish, with sweetness and sour aplenty, quenching and refreshing as the best of them.
I do love our bruins, and perhaps I prefer them to flanders reds, the jury's still out on that one. This one would make a fine every day drinking, with-food-drinking, all around enjoyable ale, with price being the only hindrance.

Glad to finally try it at last, after seeing it in my old, dusty Michael Jackson tomes of yore!"

Double your bubble, double your fun

Double the Bubble (RR's Bubblejack IPA, that is), at last in bottles. Here are my notes from when I first tapped a keg, back in June, 2009:

Mostly transparent, golden hue, big bone-white head.

Sweet meets bitter, in the nose...apricot, tangerine, pineapple, prickly pine.

On the tongue and in the mouth, it's a spank of hops, sliver of malt, and then the sweet honey trickles down and cuts the bitterness. Justa bit of linger bittersweet hops and honey riding the tongue, coating the throat, spreading tastiness.

Medium bodied, longish finish, not too daunting, no bruiser or tongue-ripper, definitely drinkable, but at 8.5%, not what you'd want for a few in a row.

Friday, April 15, 2011

21st Amendment Brew Free! Or Die IPA

If you know me at all, you know I have no problem with cartoony imagery on beer labels. On first seeing this cardboard six pack of cans with the new wraparound art, I had to have it. Although I wonder what is going on. Abraham Lincoln is great fighting mad with someone, but what adversary could be big enough to match his enormous size? Is it "attack of the 50 foot Osama Bin Laden"?
Anyway, I've had it before, and these are my notes from then, February, 2009:

"Hazed apricottish hue, rocky head of milk white foam...lovely.

Pungent citric aroma ,lemon spills out, pine, orange, mango, tangerine...a cornucopia of hoppy delight.

It comes in the flavor, grabs the palate, delivers the bitter blast, then leans back. Juicy stuff. Light bodied, easy drinker, smooth...tons of hops, longish bitter finish, but not too intense.

This is a session IPA for sure.
I'd drink it again and again. Mmm."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Surly Bender Beer

Time to put Bender up on the big board.
As mentioned in the Furious entry, I tried it first at an open house at the brewery in Feb 2006. Asked what the style was, Omar said "American Brown Ale", Todd said "oatmeal brown porter." Guy really likes his oatmeal. It's still called a brown ale, but I go by Todd's designation, although that style doesn't actually exist, per se. Probably why they go with the more well understood brown ale style.
I tapped it that Friday, and wrote the following for BeerAdvocate later that weekend.

"The Surly Brewing Company had intended from the start to create beers without definitions, that went beyond stylistic boundaries. With their initial releases, they have shown this ambition and realized it well. though we call this an American Brown Ale, it's much more than that, and seems like a porter at times, which is how the brewer described it as, an Oatmeal Brown Porter. And why not?

Burnt sienna body, a crisp mahogony hue, with ruby crimson feet. Warm cocoa-toned head, like a cappocino topping, lasts long into the life of the pint.

Aroma is lightly nutty, slightly sweet, some caramel/toffee notes, then reveals itself dry and roasty. Earthy, open, inviting. I like it.

The brew boards the palate with confidence and lets loose an array of flavors. Malt is the main ingredient here, and some compelling ones were put into play, several caramels, some chocolate, (to make it more of a brown porter than a robust one) some Belgian Special B (yum, I'm reminiscing on some favorite dubbels at times), and aromatic hops. Chocolate is here, nuts, and toffee, sweet for a second, then dry again, and toasty. The oats add an excellent amount of texture and grit to the mouthfeel that makes every sip something to savor.

Body is medium to full, but it's that texture that makes it memorable. It's smooth, but substantial, with a long, memorable finish, the flavors echo with every drop that rolls back over the tongue.

Here's a brown ale you can drink, and which makes you think. Rather than pass the time in between gulps of a light, uncomplicated sweetish brown brew, it grabs your attention and your palate and makes you wonder a bit about it, and ponder on what makes you like it so much. It's an excellent introductory brew for this upstart, as people can reach for it again and again over a night at the bar,("another Bender", you say to the barman, and pretty soon you're on one!) and still ponder on it's quality and taste, and come back for more the next night."

Months later, I was given the honor of writing the copy on the back of the cans (though I didn't know at the time that it was for cans.)Here's how that ended up:

Here's what happens when substance meets smooth. This oatmeal brown ale defies traditional categories. Bender begins crisp and lightly hoppy, complemented by the velvety sleekness oats deliver. Belgian and British malts usher in cascades of cocoa, coffee, caramel and hints of vanilla and cream. An easy-drinking ale with many layers of satisfaction.
And here's the rest of the basic info, from the website:
STYLE: American Brown Ale
MALT: Pale Ale, Aromatic, Medium Crystal, Dark Crystal, Oats and Chocolate
HOPS: Columbus,Willamette
YEAST: English Ale

OG: 14º Plato
ABV: 5.5% v/v
IBU: 45
AVAILABILITY: Cans and Kegs Year Round

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

De Proef / Allagash Les Deux Brasseurs Golden Ale

Last of the Belg-a-Rama #5 beers, the second from De Proef, this a collaboration between two brewers, hence the name, in French Les Deux Brasseurs, "the two brewers", and they are Dirk Naudts of De Proef Brouwerih and Jason Perkins from Allagash Brewing of Maine. "A Golden Ale fermented with multiple strains of Brettanomyces yeast." Well. Let's dive right in there.

Lightly hazed, glorious bright golden hue, gorgeous, lacy white head. Very promising.

Aroma: A little spice, a little fruit, with a twist of funk. Rather quiet, beyond that.

Tasting it: wild and funky at first crazy texture, dry and spicy, lean bodied, tasty fruit character, peach and citrus fruit, a little honey. Extra-ordinarily well-integrated, beautiful balance, soft, slightly sweet, terrifically drinkable. Brett plays a minor role in this one, gives just a little tickle.

Altogether, a delicious, complex, and very rewarding brew. Twist of this, twist of that, add that up to mmmm.

Odell Avant Peche

Avant Peche Imperial Porter, 45% Ale with peaches added, 19% ale aged in oak barrels, 36/% ale aged in oak barrels with peaches, alc. by vol. 9.5%, 750 ml bottle.

"Like many avant garde artists before us, we wanted to push the boundaries of mainstream style by challenging traditional brewing techniques and ingredients. We aged a classic imperial porter with Colorado peaches and wild yeasts. The blend marries a bold roasted chocolate malt flavor with a subtle peach essence, and the wild yeasts create slightly tart complexities. Nonconforming and intriguing, Avant Peche entertains the palate, and inspires creative drinking."

Deep, dark brown, slim crimson highlights, small creamy tan head.

Bewitching blend of chocolate and fruit in the nose. Why peach? Why not! I like how these guys think. Along with the sweet of the fruit, there's the sour of the yeast. A noseful, for sure.

Taste: a delicious mess in the mouth. Roasted malt and cocoa flavors meets the juicy stone fruit, and the wildness within. Tartness remains pleasing and matches well with the peach, something I'd tend to doubt before going in.

Peach porter? That's new, of course. Barrel-aged, wild yeast peach porters… well, off we go into the wild black & peach yonder with this one.

I think I'm going back for more of this, it's really tasty, and terrifically uncommon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Buffalo Bitter, Brasserie Van des Bossche

Here we have #5 in Belg-a-Rama #5, don't we? It's been fairly popular, much to my delight. Had to grab some before everyone else drinks it.

Hazy, bright golden hue, enormous head on it, lovely lace-ful flowering of foam.

Aroma: nothing but hops, super bitter, all kinds of citrus, pine, cat pee. outrageous astringency. Prickly, but perfect.

Taste: light bodied, smooth, but big on the hops here, a veritable hops delivery machine, though easy-drinking as a pilsner. Belgians can't screw that up. Big bitterness continues, nice texture, nice drinking. Definitely fits the standard style of Belgian IPA, as it's been presented so far.

Delicious stuff, certainly stands among the best Belgian IPAs, in the continental category. Not as much Belgian character that you'd get from an American version, oddly enough, but so much of the bitter. Way to go, Buffalo.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

De Ranke Noir de Dottignies

De Ranke Noir de Dottingies, Belgian strong dark ale, 9% a.b.v.

Plummy brown/red coloration, slim, dark head.

Sweet dark fruit flavors hit the nose first. Very raisiny. Nice.

Taste: caramel and raisins, again. Fat malt, funky yeast. Wonderfuly wheat-y feel on the palate, dominated by dark, delicious malt. Spicy spark hits the tongue, tease the senses, fades back a bit. I've been describing this as a dark saison, but it's much more than that, though it's a good indicator of the flavor.

Each new sip, another funky, wild, twisted attack of tasty dark malt, and spice. Chocloate and dark rum. Molasses and cracked black pepper and clove.

Alcohol doesn't stand out at first, but. whoops, there it is!

Very interesting ale from De Ranke. Complex and satisfying.

Ommegang Gnomegang

Gnomegang. Ommegang. With extra gnomes.
Belgian-style golden ale, 9.5% a.b.v., with yeast from Brasserie d'Achouffe.

Clouded golden hue, prodigious head on it, lovely, lovely, snow capped bubbly and lacy. Beautiful.

Aroma: Ah!!! Wow, really, nothing but, Ah!!! Nice and spicy, a little citric fruit, some lemon and orange, light and airy, a little funky and barnyard-y, just a bit.

Tasting it: on the palate, some of those flavors are there in the flavor, fruity, spicy, zesty, but also dry. Juicy, fruity, …dry. Spicy, fruity,…dry. Orange, banana, lemon, pepper, …dry. Bounces with flavor, then curbs right off, and jumps back in with each new sip.

Long, hoppy, spicy, dry finish. Very satisfying brew. The gnomes came through.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru (Abbaye des Rocs)

Belg-a-Rama #5 beer number two was also Belgian Beer on tap at the Blue Nile #3. I remember this very clearly. Numbers 1 and 2 were tapped simultaneously, back in Novemeber of 2002, Delirium Tremens, and Maredsous 8. D.T. had been available for some time, but only seemed to go on tap at Bryant-Lake Bowl whenever I wasn't there. I had no idea you could order it, and the distributor kept it secret for some reason. I found a printed inventory (which I wasn't supposed to see! but, funny that's the only way I know about the product...) which listed the kegs and talked my salesperson into getting me some. Meanwhile, another distributor had a product I'd never heard of that seemed interesting. My salesperson there didn't know much about it, except that it was Belgian, and that they hadn't sold any yet. Long story short, after being unsure whether I could actually move draft Belgian beer at an Ethiopian restaurant/bar, I rolled the dice, tapped them both at once and never looked back.
The D.T. distributor went out of business in 2003, and we were without access to it for some time. My salesperson there became my salesperson at the other one, and so we kept Maredsous on until distributor #3 came along (who eventually picked up D.T.), and one of the first kegs I ever got from him, in 2004, was this beer, one of my long-time favorites. The two men were long-time friends, but #1, (oh, it's Corey Shovein) had to tease #2 (Brad the Beerguy Magerkuth) about stealing tap lines from him. Well...get me beers this good and it's yours again!
Unfortunately, they don't keep Brasserie des Rocs in stock for long. This may be the third time I've tapped this in 7 years and I grab it every time it's around. I was hoping this wouldn't be so popular that it would be gone before I got some. Just in time. There's very little left in this one, after 4 days. 9.5 % a.b.v, this one.
So, commencing now, my notes from a bottle, December 2003:

The cork is off, there's no turning back, in we go...

A lovely, hazy tumult of deep auburn colored brew pours into my glass, joined by a Brobdignagian layer of fizzy, creamy, off-orange foam. Looks good so far, I'm tingling so far.

Aroma: sweet...cinnamon...a spiced lemon cookie, to wrap it succinctly. Nice. Lively, luscious, in an utterly other realm than any other beer I've ever sniffed.

Taste...Good Idea, let's!
Oh, it's happening again! A shockwave of pleasure engulfs and enwraps my body and all the senses. Certainly very winey in flavor, but uniquely beery, too! Softly peppery, deep in dark fruit (besides grape, we wander among fields of cherries, berries, melons), it's a grand melange, a masterful marriage of flavors. There's something uplifting here, something that sets my soul free, something that happens in few brews, and you know it when you feel it, and it's happening now! Something ancient exists in this, a collection of metaphysical passages through the centuries. It feels light at times, deep at others, citric for a stage, then a touch woody, even oaky, showing some malt, as if peeking through peepholes in a glimpse through time itself.

If my remarks seem grandiose, forgive this foolish ale imbiber, for there's simply no better way to transmit the feelings this glorious brew delivers than to let imagination soar, and transplant the sensations into corresponding comments that may seem at times beyond the ordinary. So be it, for this beer is...I'm still drinking, it's still changing, tasting sweeter now, with a sharp candyish feel, still an underlying layer of tart. The tongue dances and darts, utterly delighted by the play it encounters from this frisky brew.

Sweet, deep, dark, toffee-ish, completely original, a meal in a bottle, a dream trapped under a cork, ...

Oh, so very, very, very wonderful!
I wish it would never end."

Tripel Karmeliet, Brouwerij Bosteels

It's Belg-a-Rama #5! Starting it off with a terrific tripel I first wrote about it back in January, 2003, on tap at McKenzie's, downtown. (I've edited remarks particular to that visit.) Since then, I've tapped it at the Nile maybe half a dozen times, maybe more, and always keep it in bottles. Those aforementioned notes
"Hazy gold color, fine white head, and fortunately poured into it's own particularly shaped glass.

Aroma is uplifting, arousing, sensual, jumping with fruitiness, peaches, tangerines, apricots, citrus, lemon, alive with bright, sunny flavors, and a joyful honey/candy sweetness.

Absolute happiness results from a mere sip of this glorious brew, growing with each new drip down the lips!
Yeast, also, does some work towards delivering the drinker to Beer Nirvana, creating a warm, bready feeling. Body is somewhat light and buoyant, palate is delicate and delicious. Soft, sweet malt, long and lingering, rewarding finish, always accompanied by a tidy, tasteful dance of hops upon the tongue. Ahhh! "

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stone Levitation Ale

If you haven't been living in a hollowed out log, last week Stone Brewing Company at last entered our market. And the first six-pack I ever bought was Levitation Ale. Along with a bomber of Arrogant Bastard Ale. We'll get to that one, soon. For now, I'm so glad I can drink again, I'm starting slow, easy, and approachable. Like a 4.5% amber ale.

Here are my notes from, whoa, July, 2003?

"With a name like this, I'd expected a lighter-than-air quality, a wheat beer or a kolsch. But I must have forgotten that I was deaing with
stone, who will dash any expectation.
Pours a dark, rustic brown, more a light crimson around the foot and sides.
Head is thick, fluffy, creamy.
Aroma: sweet and malty at the fore,deep, spicy, rich, a little vinous, with a good batch of hops. Taste is the very peg of a red ale, or an Irish, done right.
Greets the tongue mildly, though loaded with flavor. Lacks thee extremeness of the big Stone brews, and is quite accessible, not so scary at all.
Medium body, nice, malty, toasty finish, very pleasant and tasty overall.
If this were available in this market, Levitation would have a regular spot reserved in my fridge."

That's what I said then. Guess it's true.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bottlecaps, bottlecaps, ...BOTTLECAPS!!!

Still ill. While the sun is shing, the snow receding, the birds not yet tweeting, but spring is coming in. And my bike has a flat, and I've got a cold. Third day of be good while being sick. With some exceptions. Opened a bottle of Stone Levitation Ale last night, (thinking, oh, it's low alcohol, it'll be okay) filled a pint glass, and finished 1/3 of it. Foolish, foolish act.
Worse yet, I brought Imperial March to a screeching halt, and started Belg-a-Rama #5, featuring 4, count 'em 4, Belgian beers I've never had, and one I haven't had in years. Hope they aren't so popular that they're gone before I get a glass! (Got a short sip of a few of them, just to know what I'm talking about to customers.)
And so, I retired early taking various medications, making various TV, and wasted my time in a perfectly useless and fun way: arranging and photographing bottlecaps!
I used to collect one from every different beer I had, for years and years, a vast and diverse collection. Gave them away to a friend for some reason. Nowadays, I occasionally toss them in a bag, and this motley assemblage is what we have now.
Latest in the Bitter Nib series of completely, utterly pointless nonsense. Enjoy!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery "The Don"

From the brewery: This Special Bitter was made in memory of Don Younger of the famed Horse Brass Pub in Portland, OR. Thanks Don for inventing beer bars!
Also, I heard report that it was a "revamped, beefed-up Single Malt". 8% a.b.v, much higher than a typical ESB.
Either way...

Clear, brilliantly bronze appearance, high carbonation, firm, solid, slightly beige-ish head of foam. Looks great.

Sweet, malty aromatics, caramel, toast, a little nutty, a little creamy, with a touch of hops.

Tasting it: Smooth, lush fruity malt flavor abounds, with snappy hops kicking in. Feels like some good ol' citrus-y Pac NW goodness coming through. Malt sweetness comes back with every sip, and hop bitterness steps in to keep it in check. We call that balance. It's tasty and it's balanced.

A very sessionable English-style bitter, with a bit of good ol' American hop character thrown in, to illustrate, perhaps, what a guy like Don Younger was all about.

Southern Tier Choklat

Busy week, hard on the ol' liver. Saturday was Firkin Fest, Sunday the Bell's event at Bryant-Lake Bowl. The Wild One was excellent. And then, Tuesday, the Stone event at Stub & Herb's. Samplers of infusions of the Smoked Porter, a flight of Old Guardian Barleywine, 2008 Bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout (which they for some reason call "Imperial Russian Stout".) and more. and more.
So, of course, I came down sick the next day, with a cold. Left myself vulnerable, I think. And everyone says, jokingly, I think, that beer is the cure. "Try a really hoppy beer, that'll unclog your sinus." Nah, that doesn't work. Alcohol only makes me sicker. And here we are in day two of no beer, day one of missing work. Think I'll be better tomorrow. Also, think I'll set aside some beer-less days more often, give the body a break.

So, let's look at something from a moment or two ago, a keg tapped Friday night, ran out earlier this week. Hugely popular, this 11% a.b.v. chocolate stout. People can't resist it. My first review of it was from a bottle, perhaps right around when Southern Tier first arrived in our market. August, 2008, was when it was.

"Notes are minimal, for I wrote while enjoying with a friend:


thoroughly black, roasty tan head...

aroma: full on chocolate at first sniff...huge, rich, and's no more or less than having real chocolate beneath your nose.

BAM! There it is all over the mouth. You're drinking chocolate. nice roast below the cocoa. good drinking, not too thick, not AS thick as I like from a RIS ...but it's all chocolate. I like a few other things ,sometimes...

that's enough, don't you think?"

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...