Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surly Schadenfruede Dunkel Lager

Surly's dunkel lager, dark German-style brew, first debuted last year in Chicago only, and I was told that it was given that name because that other market was getting it before the Twin Cities did. Joy in our suffering? How surly, Surly! It never got a proper release party (didn't this year, either) and we eventually got some here at the Nile. Proved to be very popular here, then.
Enjoying now from a freshly tapped keg, first took notes a year and a few weeks ago, May, 2010. Here's what I said then:

Dusky brown color, with crimson highlights shining through at the edges, slim head.

Caramel and cocoa hit the nose first, sweetness dominates, then mild coffee notes come in.

Taste: mild mouthfeel, but flavor-packed. Caramel and toffee, tops again, but rounded out, and the sweetness is tempered by the work of the barrel. Everything is even-keeled, and extremely, what's the technical term? Tasty.

Minor hop bitterness, medium mouthfeel, body, tingly texture. One of the more to-style (aside from the oak-aging) Surlys so far, and one of my favorites among those. I tend to favor darker lagers more than lighter ones, and the maltier the better.

This one where one pint begs for another, an excellent session choice. I actually find myself not yearning for a hoppier brew, or one stronger in alcohol...although I'll probably have one of those, anyway...knowing me, as I do.

I gave it a 4.1/5, an A-, 4% above the average, which gives it a B+. I don't think the average Surly-drinking beer advocate reviewer is really able or willing to judge and appreciate a good dunkel lager as a good dunkel lager.

Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter

Had this one for the first time in January, 2008. Dave brought me a bottle from North Carolina in April. I took a picture, but no new notes. Here's what I wrote then...

Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter, 9% abv, The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville, NC

Blackness incarnate....nice brown head, drifts down...

Intriquing aroma, slightly smoky, meaty, smoked sausage...intense, heady...many things in the mix...some licorice, some whiskey, lotsa stuff.

Drinkin' it....sweet, slick, delicious, big, beefy...thick, substantial...there's a metallic sheen in there as well.

Hangs well in the mouth, floods you ...medicinal...not what I was looking for, not quite what I expect for a Baltic Porter.
I wanted to like this, I looked forward to it, but in the end...eh....sorry...

This gets an A-/Excellent on BeerAdvocate. I gave it a 3.95/B+, not that far below the average, but I guess my expectations were higher than it delivered. This second bottle, enjoyed in Dave's company at the bar at the Blue Nile, was better, although I was not moved to change my notes. Perhaps I'll trade someone for another bottle, and re-review, but for now, these first impressions stand.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Moylan's Moylander Double IPA

Moylan's Moylander Double IPA, now enjoying on tap...first enjoyed in March, 2004...

rich, reddish-orange body, topped with a creamy, lacey bubbly, 1/2" cap of foam.
Aroma: bangThere's that pine-resiney hop essence to the core, right up in your nasal cavity, thrilling every spot of you, fresh, fruity, full, and spikey, hints of apricot, grapefruit, melon rind, cherries, choice grapes...yum, I says, and yum, it is. Just wait a bit, I want to keep smellin'...
So, to taste: Aaahhh, there's hops all over the place, jumping on board the palate, sticking their flag of humulus lupus on the tongue, driven straight through that taste-receptive organ, with not a chance of departure or eviction. Bristling, buzzing, shining, really, for this is the juicy, tasty stuff, bitter, yes a bit, but that's the part that fades. And every swallow repeats this process, it's like chomping through the very whole of a particularly ripe and luscious fruit, a warm and electric thrill, wholly natural, yet almost out of this world.
Body is plentiful, texture, a blast of hoppiness, a orgasm of gorgeous, bitter flavors, and the finish near undefeatable, lasting long on the palate, but not quite as long as we like.
Yet another greatly flavorful brew that earns the bomber respresentation more than handily, but truly get me a carafe, no, a growler, heck, a magnum of this stuff...no, a Jeroboam, a Hezekiah, a Methuselah...don't think I could ever tire of it, to be true.
Nearly at the end, at there's still potency and freshness here, a glorious expression of hop character that must rank with the best!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Bruery Orchard White

Finally getting around to The Bruery's flagship brew, the Orchard White witbier.

The Bruery Orchard whie, Belgian-style Ale, Brewed with spices, where & oats, " our unparalleled California White Ale offers flavors of fresh citrus, bready wheat, and a hint of lavender. Enjoy!" Orange county, CA.
Alc. 5.7 % by vol.

Clouded whitish color,golden, big white head, long-lasting, lace-leavng. Very lovely.

Aroma: gorgeous, utterly, superlative loveliness, sweet and flowery, soft and fruity, plentiful orange and coriander….sweet and purity. Ahhh….

Taste: pretty note perfect for the style. Big time orange and lemon, plenty of coriander, lots of citrus and spice. Tons of Belgian yeast yumminess. Vibrant and refreshing, consummately consumable. Little wonder this is such a hit.

This one, no surprise, was a non-stop joyful experience. The shock would be to find a Bruery beer that didn't deliver in every way, or hit my lips with some new delight. The quest continues.

Town Hall Hoppius Cascadium

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, Hoppius Cascadium.

What do we really need to know? It's hoppy and cascades are to blame.

Hazy-ish, amber-y color, slim, off-white head.

Aroma, big hoppitude, bitterness beats away the sweet…bright and citrus-y. Some piney-ness, too, without being too loud about it. Right on stuff.

Taste: Bam! Big hoppy bitterness beats down the door to the palate and jumps on board. Grips the palate with bitter hops, hangs on, holds it down…never lets it go.
And each sip deserves more.

A little caramel malt seems to lie below, just enough to let the hops bounce on it.
Mmmm, mm, mmm, this is one right on IPA, another great one from Hoops & Co.
Gotta love it. Damn good. Damn, damn, damn good!


Anyone know Italian?
Chiostro, bird bionda, amaricata con assenzio, ale chair prodatta artigionalimente non pastorizzatta…more Italian I can't understand…"con levito trappista"…that sounds like it's in a Belgian style. Now in English: "ale brewed with spices., 5% alc./vol" Piccolo Birrificio. Ingredients: barley malt, water, hops, wormwood leaves (huh??)and flowers, Trappist yeast. Are those the spices, you think?
Well, here we go, let's do it to it!

Hazed, golden color, beautiful pure white head of gentle froth, …big carbonation, intensive bubble traffic, rising up to the top.

Slightly sweet and delicately spicy. light and lovely.

Taste: bitterness and spice greet the tongue first, a highly hopped thing in the mouth. Brisk, crisp, flush with citric fruit feel, sweetness that was dries off, spice and hops remain foremost.

Light-bodied and easy-drinking, never-ending hops and spice. Quite a nice Belgian pale ale/tripel. Way to go, Piccolo!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Capital Eisphyre

Capital Square Series Eisphyre. "Consider the attributes of the legendary Autumnal Fire. Then modify, manipulate and concentrate them. The result is the consummate expression of malt intensity. A defining statement of the meaning of Doppelbock."

All due respect, but that's a ton of gobbledygook. That's smoke blown up the beer geek ass. And I like Autumnal Fire. And I'm looking forward to this. And it's 9.8% alc/vol.

So, let's drink 'er.

First off, the "eis" gives away one of the secrets of manipulation and concentration. Frozen water helped them in their task.

Deep auburn hue, opaque, with a 1/2 inch head that drifts down quick enough. Nice.

Aroma: extra pungent, rich, and vast. Okay, I get it. Yup, intense, consummate, …modified. Sweet, alcoholic, reminiscent of cognac, and definitely barley-wine.

Taste: Solid. That is to say, starts off thick, full and rich. But not entirely impenetrable. Mellows soon enough, slides smoothly down the throat, winds it's way through the senses. Cool malt essence rises up and spreads through the palate. Certainly tastes like eisbocks I've had before, but richer, and tastier.

Long, luxurious finish.

Maybe this is the closest a German-style brewery like Capital will come to Imperial-this-or-that, or a barley-wine, and that's fine.

Very full on the tongue and the palate. Lovely mouthfeel. Beautiful delivery of deliciousness. Mmm. Nice one, Capital. A great celebratory beer, a midnight toaster, an any-time warmer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nethergate Audit Ale

Dirty Dick's Audit Ale, Stour Valley, Nethergate Brewery, "Specially brewed for the feast held on the annual audit of accounts from the mid fourteenth century at the famous colleges of both Oxford and Cambridge. This style was brewed right up to the late 1960's although the style had morphed into a barley wine ale by then. We hope you enjoy our more original 0.5 lbs of hops to the bushel. This bottle conditioned ale contains some natural sediment." Produce of England, I pint, 0.9 Fl Oz. Alc. 8.0 % by col.

Another wonderful gift, ain't I the luckiest fella?
Given to me by Corey over at Hohenstein's, imported by Artisanal, Lanny Hoff's company. This is so new it's not in BeerAdvocate yet, so, hey, maybe I can add it, get a couple extra karma points? I've had two beers from this brewery before, Old Growler, and Augustinian, both many years ago. This style, though, is completely new to me.

Pours a murky orange color, with no head at all, just a mere ivory wisp around the rim, for a head.

Aroma, big, fat hop bitterness, rich malt, pungent fruit, very ripe. I'm reminding of certain overtly pithy American imperial IPAs.

Taste: Sour at first, then incredible hop attack, a two-prong puckering sensation. Grips the lips, then the tongue, then the palate. Each new sip delivers this tart and bitter deployment on the senses once again, and the liquid drips down long and slow down the throat. Moderate carbonation, trickly, tickle mouthfeel.

Pale malts play a background role, as citrus fruit flavor and hops are in charge of this operation. Orange and lemon, particularly pithy, mingled with hops bitterness.
Strong bitter? Pale barley-wine? New old ale? Trying to rap my noggin around this style, or whatever it is.
Not entirely sure I enjoy it. I can appreciate it, respect it, and drink it. I even like it, though I wouldn't grab another one.
I changed my mind, I do enjoy it. It's dawning on me exactly how close it is to certain American hop bombs. I'd be a hypocrite if I liked those, and not this.

Fitger's Lake Ontario

Fitger's Lake Ontario.

I got this, like those other growlers, from Don, but the little description/identifier slipped off the neck and into oblivion. I couldn't remember which it was, such a dilemma. Until I remembered that a FaceBook friend had posted a picture of his, with the 4-page pamphlet clearly open, …somewhat. So, here's what that says…

Ontario…No. 149/2…?? (which one was mine, wish I knew). 16.10.G., 31 IBU, 8% ABV, Brettanomyces Aged Belgian Pale, Brewer, Brain Schanzenbach. A tribute to the Trappist beer, Orval. Ontario has been dry-hopped….and conditioned with Brettanomyces. Brettanomyces is a wild ye…..commonly found on the skins of fruit, which gives this beer a uni…character. Ontario has a rich, orange hue and a dense cream…head. The flavor profile presents a balance between sweet m….honey and a citrus hop bite. X. B….S……."

So, let's drink it!

Deep crimson hue, opaque; large and lovely creamy white head. Looks good.

Aroma: Belgian funk and fruit at first sniff…rich and ripe…and very mellow. Citrus and spice, lemon and pepper. Mmm. Piquant, even. Yes, I use that word from time to time, when I want to seem learned.

Taste: Mmmm, yes. Very groovy, very mellow. For those who are not inside my mind, I am channelling Slim Gaillard, Mr. Mellow-roonie, a Cuban-American jazz singer/guitarist/pianist, whose work cannot be easily summarized, but which was utterly hip and suffused with humor and cool.
Which means that I merely want to express nonsense words and hope you get them. Does that mean that I am lazy and want to skip the work of making words connect to meaning? No, but I just wish that I could. You know what I mean. Admit it, we all wish we could. We just never get to.

So, without further ado…skabop-blee, scoo-bop, doo…shooby doo, shooby-daa…Mmmm, this is creeping into sour, but not quite there, it many kinds of fruit, without being one in partoo-blee-dop-blow…ticular…peach, melon, a little sweet, a little sharp, a little tanga-tee-bop-op-bleedoooo…

I need to put on a Charlie Parker record, and some horn-rim shades, maybe a porkpie hat, pull out a vintage copy of DownBeat. Where's my Ginsburg volume, baby? I've got a velvet bullfight painting on the wall, there's a candle in a bottle of chianti, and Mort Sahl is coming over, man. We're gonna rap, we're gonna get into it, …talk a about some Feiffer cartoons we read….we've got Lenny Bruce stopping by, and we're gonna just dig, man, just gonna groove. Light some incense, already, baby. What's the Playboy Advisor got to say? Bring Miss May over, man! Just get into getting into it.

It's beautiful, is what I want to say, it is terr- iffic. Peach fuzz and malt essence, mellowing it out on the palate. How many times need I say this, very cool, very mellow…if this were a video/audio presentation, I would take clips of Gaillard saying same, and pepper it throughout. I didn't know what "very groovy, very mellow" meant until I heard him say it, and got it. Probably would have helped it I was high, too, as I'm sure he was. Slim made it into literature, appearing in "On The Road" by Jack Kerouac. "To Slim Gaillard, life was one big "O'roonie"
Drinking down this mellow, groovy brew, I can think of no better life, indeed.

Just a hint of the funk, of the farmhouse horse blanket-ness, just a brief whiff of it, and the fruit carries the rest, and it's all mellow and groovy. All reety, all righty, all rooty-tooty.
(Of course, Slim has a "Rootie-tootie" tune. This was when jazz met blues and R&B before there was rock, but it wasn't quite jump blues.)

Just lovely. Not too thick, medium body, full fruity, flavorful feeling, long, lovely finish. Wonderfully warming, and relaxing, without ever being overly alcoholic.

I can't remember when I first became aware of Slim Gaillard. In the early 90's local singer Willie Wisely (now going as merely Wisely in La-La-land) did several of his numbers (Go, Man, Go, Potato Chips)in his act, but he couldn't have been the sole impetus to my discovery of Slim's world. Once he hit me, I got hit, and have almost all of his recordings, some on CD, some on vinyl. (My favorite is a jam with Charlie Parker, whose cover has a gymnast flipping over a fish tank.) (Now that I'm fully into buying vinyl on eBay, I'll eventually find the original, which can't have a crazier cover.)There's a few left to dig, but I'll get 'em eventually.

Just like Belgian beers, I can't remember my first, but once I got one, I was done, it was over, I was in it to win it, baby. Oh, groovy on rootie mcVootie.

Way to go, Fitger's, this is righteous and very groovy, very mellow, a groove juice special.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harriet Wodan Weizen Weissbier

Harriet Wodan Weizen, from a growler.
Hefe Weizen brewed specially for MN Craft Beer Week. Originally tapped at the Blue Nile, Friday, May 13. These notes are from a growler purchased the next day.

Cracking the cap, and banana wafts out, sure as shooting.

Pale apricot appearance, very clouded, with a slim, soon-gone head. A bit disappointed by that. I like a huge head on a hefe wizen. We get it a little bigger on tap.
Aroma: banana cream pie, some citrus esters and wheat-y feel. Not picking up clove, so much. Very pleasant, however.

Tasting it, …brisk carbonation, minor but present bitterness. Wheat flavor is here, very refreshing, extra-consumable (remember that, my new word?). This gets better as we go, the flavor gets fuller, the texture is larger and warmer, it feels more and more like a weizen ought to taste. Lush, smooth, and wonderful. Banana flavor hasn't left though, it hangs on to the palate, like an old dog. Getting sweeter, getting spicier. I'm liking this more and more.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Originally reviewed in 2009:

"Clear bronze/amber color, nice 1/2" creamy, rocky head.

Faint aroma,lightly hoppy, lemon peel, creamyorange and tangerine..and something I haven't put my finger on, quite yet....but none too bitter. More muted than I expected for an "extra IPA" though.

Taste: blast of hops, smack of bitterness, then fading back, ...sweet, caramel malt-y...a little chocolate meeting citrus hops...there's orange in my cocoa.
A bit maltier than I'd like, not sure if those particular malts were right with these particular hops.

Balance is great, but this is over-balanced. A bit too much sweet, and not enough bitter."

Looking at fellow reviewers, I seem to be in the minority on this one. But I just wasn't impressed. I can drink it fine nowadays, it's a thoroughly serviceable IPA, but nothing special.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Boulder Killer Penguin Barley-wine

First cracked open a bottle of this one in December of 2005. Drinking some now fresh on tap. Here are the original notes:

Wax-dipped 22 ounce bomber, baleful bird glares from the label.

Clear crimson color, with a thinnnish, cola toned head, that gently deteriorates.

Bright, bold, dark fruit beams in the nose. Cherries and berries melded with a mildly cognac-y feel.

Smooth and rich on the palate, sweet and luscious. Despite being a 10% biggie, it's not loud, nor brash. Velvety slick. Thick malt, mellow hops, hefty body, dreamy mouthfeel. Soft, solid finish, dries off gallantly.

A very convivial brew, a delight in the mouth.
This menacing bird turns out to be a pussycat, but a very tasty one. I like it, though it doesn't resemble my favorite barleywines, it's a refreshing change, and one still stocked with character. I'll enjoy this all night long.

Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout

Hinterland Luna Coffee Stout, malt beverage with coffee added. Green Bay Brewing Company, Green Bay, WI. 1 pint bottle.

Deep black color, lush cocoa head, starts plumb and drops down, leaving lace.

Aroma: cocoa meets coffee, rich, bittersweet, hints of vanilla. Mmm, nice.

Taste: Big coffee stout, juicy mouthfeel, medium body. Moderate carbonation. Sweetness overcomes bitterness. Not as rich, thick, or viscous as I'd prefer in a coffee stout, or any stout.
Especially smooth and dr…consumable. Very mellow in the mouth. Too much so, I'd say. Bit watery for a good coffee stout. Chocolate malt remains dominant, coffee is there, but not quite strong enough.

You can drink it, it's okay…not too impressive.

Furthermore Fallen Apple Ale

Notes from October, 2007:

Fallen Apple, Cream Ale brewed with Apple Juice, Further Brewing Company, Black River Falls, WI, 12 oz brown bottle.

"Brewed with our favorite season in mind, this blended delicacy is a celebration of falling leaves and falling in love." Aw, sweet.

Clear and tawny red appearance, small to nil for the head. Apple-y.

Nose is tart at first, then comes the apple. A little sweet, a little sour.

Taste: big sour snap at the front, then fading. Pucker, pucker, smack, smack. A little wine-y, cider-ish. The body's thin, though, and I can't find any hops. Maybe I'm not supposed to...it's a cream ale, after all.

I've got a problem. It's too much apple flavor, for me, personally...and not enough any other flavor to make it interesting. Can't finish this very easily. No joy slips through my lips. Bracingly tart, but too thin in the body, with nothing in the finish.
Got to admit that that works fine for some people. Not me. Bit one-dimensional.

Glad I was able to pick up a single of this. Only $1.49 down the drain.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA

First tackled a bottle back in June, 2005. Drinking now on tap:

Lightly hazed coppery crimson hue, under an adequate layer of beigish foam.
Nose reeks of hops. Piney and citric, yeah, ripe and luscious, a refreshingly lively aroma, very raw, like steeping ones senses in the freshest form of hops.
Taste: thick with hoppiness, again, rich and full of flavor, not the least bit timid....hops and bitterness hang on the palate, dig in deep, stay a spell...
this is a menacing monster of an IPA, and I want to make it my friend!
A challenging ale, but exactly the challenge we hopheads require...each sip releases a succor which enacts a sublime kind of pleasure... (that means I liked it! ;^)...
Full-bodied, intensely flavored, long, bitter, fruity finish...
The Maharaja is a mighty ruler and commands the palate in full, it's reign lasts long beyond the length of the 22 ounce bottle...if you love the homulus lupus, he has you in his sway, no questions asked...damned good stuff. Ranks among the best IIPAs I've had, somewhere in there, anyway...blessedly hoppy, leaving hop trails all along the palate...goodness, they're coming out of my burps, now, too...may I say? a very nice drink, for those of us on the hoppy side...oh, yeah!!!


Unibroue Raftman

Notes from May 2003, bottle tossed back couple days ago:

Wearing a color of golden orange, topped with a bold, bright white and bubbling champagne-like head of foam, Raftman shows promise from the start.

In the nose, a unique and mysterious character begins to show itself: heady, deep, musky, sweet, yet strong, touches of citrus, and the definitive stamp of whiskey. The more I drink it in, the more my imagination stirs...am I in an enchanted forst, a magical glen? Feels peaty, maybe a little smokey, lush with rich malt, and citric hops persisting.

Texture is rought and tumble at first, slowly giving way to a tasteful play on the tongue and palate. Lemon/orange flavor returns again. Mouthfeel is very warming. Full bodied.

I can't for the life of me figure this beer out, and maybe that's okay, in this case. I've had different reactions every time I've had it, liking it more each time. A most unusual ale. Unibroue is most adept at crafting unique beers, and this is definitely one of those.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fitger's Hair of the Monk

Fitger's Brewhouse Hair of the Monk. Belgian style Tripel.

This one is a bit of a minor holy grail for me. First tried it back in 2004, at my first attendance of the annual Winterfest in St. Paul. They took the snowshoe award with this one, that year, and I was determined to get a full sample some day. But, I've never been to Duluth, (I know, I know, I've never been, lived in Minnesota my entire...wait, don't look at me like that...)
never made it to the Brewhouse, and have only enjoyed their beers at festivals or when friends have brought growlers back to me.
And every time Hair of the Monk was on tap when one of those friends made a stop, it was not available in growlers. They just weren't doing it. Fair enough. But there was another beer I'd been wanting to add to the notches in my belt, denied to me.

Until the other week! I've got it, a growler of Hair of the Monk! Drinking it now!
What do I think? Good question…

Clouded, slightly burnished golden hue, big head that drifts down with assurance.

Aroma, sweetness and spice, with that Belgian yeast kick. Earthy, yet ethereal, and utterly lovely. A bit on the dark side, for the style, but that's fine by me, I'm up for loose interpretations.

Taste: a pleasure on the palate, a delight in the mouth. Some small amount of alcohol burn on the tongue and back of throat, but it remains citrus-y, peppery, yet smooth and tasty. Dark malts play against citrus-y hop character, nice and spicy, with a full-blown character that never quits. Damnably delicious, this. A highly sufficient tipple I could never turn down. Plenty, plenty flavor. Non-stop tastiness. A little wet, then a lot dry, some juicy fruit, then comes the spice.

So glad to finally have it, in 64-ounce growler form. I'm almost killing the whole thing in one fell swoop, but, no, that wouldn't be cool. I'm a little over halfway through it. I'll save the rest for tomorrow. Or will I?….

(I didn't.)

Surly Moe's Bender

One personal thing about reviewing beers: I never want to do them on the fly, scribbled on napkin, coaster, or notebook, while in the company of others, or in a noisy, dark, crowded environment. Festivals are out, due to those factors, as well as the small serving sizes. Any other beer events, as well, especially if I'm around friends or engaged in social interaction.
This is one reason I've never checked a cask version of Surly off the list. And Moe's Bender has been elusive for all those reasons as well.
Some history: Moe's Bender was invented about two years ago (if my fuzzy memory serves at all) when Surly-fan Moe Reignier had a birthday going away party at McKenzie's in downtown Minneapolis, and Todd Haug decided to make a new version of Coffee Bender, adding vanilla and cocoa nibs. I didn't make it down and only heard the tales and legends of how amazing it was. My next opportunity to taste was at a festival, and the stories were true, it was utterly delicious. But how could I get a full pint to drink down in my leisure, and have a proper experience for a satisfactory review? Not easy.
My next taste may have been at Darkness Day 2010, October of last year. Omar brought out a full 1/2 barrel keg of both Coffee Bender and Moe's Bender. The guys pouring were doing a slow job, so I stepped in and pumped away. Many people remember that, especially the guys with coke bottles or miller light cans they wanted me to fill for them. Nuh-uh, says the Surly Nazi, "no Moe's Bender for you!"

For Surly's anniversary month, there were many opportunities to get my mitts on one, but the same difficulties were present. Especially at our party, when we tapped it at opening (4 pm) and the 16-gallon keg was gone by about 8 o'clock. I think I covered this sad situation in the Bell's Batch 10, 000 entry. Casks at special events when I'm working pose the same problem.

So, here we are at the end of Craft Beer Week Minnesota, and Todd's making bigger batches of this brew, enough for many of the establishments hosting events. Enough for the Blue Nile, even. I didn't know I'd get one until Wednesday, so I started promoting an event around the tapping as soon as I could, and it worked, people showed up right off the bat,(not so many (as on the anniversary event, but that was different, of course)and as of this writing, 10:45 pm on Friday, they're still coming in to drink up the Moe's, while the African crowd here for the Marimba Africa, they stick to Heineken, Guinness, and fruity cocktails. There should be enough left to last another day or two.
I took notes on my first pint, about an hour ago. Enjoying my second now. Here are those notes:

At last in my grasp, Moe's Bender…

dark brown with transparent, crimson footing, slim cocoa-tinged head.

If I remember correctly, the cocoa is coming from Guatemala, and the vanilla from Zimbabwe…? Or, maybe another African nation? The coffee is the same

Aroma: soft and spicy, warm and inviting, a complex and beguiling mix of chocolate and coffee with vanilla underneath, but slowly rising.

Taste: espresso tones come first, just the smallest bit bitter, but not an iota harsh or astringent. Very mellowed by the cocoa, charmed by the vanilla. Medium-bodied, with a strong flavor, and a long finish. Becomes languid and creamy.
Settles sweetly on the palate. You'd think it would be a tug of war, a cacophony of flavors, but it's nothing but harmony, melody, and deliciousness.

Every sip begs another, the flavor finds a lovely place in the mouth and it beckons out, "don't let me leave."

Halfway into the pint, it only makes my mouth happier. This joy spreads out through the senses, and touches the soul. Deep down contentedness.

In other words: "ahhhh…"
Furthermore: "Mmmm…"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout

Notes from January, 2008.

Blackness, with a big, thick roasted tan head, sits long in the glass...nice, and lovely...

Aroma gives us everything we expect from a RIS, rich cocoa, loads of bittersweet espresso/coffee flavors, some anise, some black pepper, a cadre of dark fruit flying in...with the rich, decadent chocolate taking command...that's this.
Many things going on, here, many flavors, many wonders...good, good stuff...

Taste: more dark fruits spark up to greet the chocolate, blackberries, and suchwise...full in the mouth,full in the finish...thick and rich and utterly...decadent and, well, full!

The folks who make their daily bread with HoneyWeiss and Berry Weiss, well, yeah, it seems, they CAN brew a RIS. And here's the proof, right here in my mouth. Big Eddy's has to sit in with every top notch RIS, it has few flaws, it's only drawback is that it fills the bill, but has nothing to really bring it forward. A good example of an RIS, maybe even very good, but not quite great...although, ...almost....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Three Floyds Moloko Stout

More Wisconsin-gotten Three Floyds goodness. Enjoyed this last week, but took notes from my first bottle, last December, 2010:

Three Floyds Moloko Milk Stout, 22 oz. bomber.
I know what a milk stout is, but what's a moloko, and who's the one-eyed green guy, and how about the freaky hat he's sporting? Ah, I get it, malt shovel, mash fork, barrels, in the form of a crown. Is he a new form of the Alpha King, created by a love-child of Peter Max and Jack Kirby?

Brewed with a portion of golden naked oats and lactose milk sugar, to give it all those things that I'll pretend I didn't read, so I can come up with them on my own, and act like I made it up out of my golden brains.

Let's open it, already.
Basic blackness, under a gorgeous roasty brown head, the color of cocoa, small, but lasting.

Aroma, sweet chocolate and smooth and creamy. Simple, yet supple, and lush.

Taste: there's the sweetness again, the cream and the chocolate, with silky smooth oatmeal feel rolling easily along right underneath. Great balance, ...I'd say well-rounded but I peeked at that on the label...

Medium-to-full bodied, low to non-existent bitterness, and the sweet factor discerned so early on remains restrained. Roast is balanced, sweet and dry are hand in hand. Deee-licious.

Put this in 12 oz bottles and 6-packs, Floyd Boys, this is your session stout right here.

Three Floyds Alpha King

Visits to Wisconsin means more Alpha King! Used to be a staple back when it was available locally in the late 90's/early 00's, and I can't fathom why I didn't review it in the early days of note taking. The brewery's line disappeared here when the local distributor dropped the brand in 2002. A trade in 2004 got me another bottle, and I took these notes in May of that year:

"When I was first introduced to this beer, I was warned that it wasn't for everyone, and at the very least took some getting used to, after all "it's not normal." I'd already had an affection for the hops, and, well, it was love at first sniff and sip.
Years later, after the bloom of fresh infatuation has mellowed, how does the beer compare, especially after this tongue has met so many others, with abundant charms? That is what we seek to discover...
Perfect crimson-tinged nectarine hue, hazy, and blessed with a beautiful bed of froth up on top, leaving delicate lace, enticing the eye. Aroma makes matters worse for the thirst, big fruit, fresh hops, peachy, melon, orange, and, yes, mango, and more, a bountiful bouquet that keeps the nose happy and hoppy. Man, but I need a taste, though!
An explosion in the mouth, the hops are a bursting throughout, but so well buttressed by malt, that any bitterness is mellow and well smoothed out, after an initial bite, at least. Like chomping into a ripe tangerine, juice splashing on the corners of the mouth and dripping down the chin. Though hoppiness flows freely, and bitterness peeks through time and again, the mouthfeel is actually soft and luxuriant, body is medium, and the overall effect is a constant joyride for the palate. A lively and rewarding ale, and a real American classic, a jewel in the craft-brew crown. Count yourself lucky if you can grab these with ease.
Ah, I once had it on-tap around here...those were some fine days..."

I had it on tap in fall of 2001, one keg that went fairly quickly, but was replaced by the seasonal Summit Oktoberfest. Those were the days when I didn't rotate the taps as often as I do now. By the time I decided to make it a regular offering, it was too late. For reasons that have something to do with it being contract-brewed by August Schell, All Saints dropped it that summer.
The handle hangs above the bar as part of my collection, and it probably the most remarked upon piece. People often wonder if it's a joke, or if we got it as a gift, or bought it on eBay. No, folks, it was real, it really happened, and you missed it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fitger's Seaside Single

From a growler, brought back from Duluth by Don, what a guy, what a heck of a guy. Here's the notes:

Fitger's Brewhouse, Seaside Single

Clear, golden color, lovely, soft, snowy-white head.

Aroma, citrus notes and light spice, with traces of banana and bubble-gum. Hints of Belgian yeast-funk. Lively stuff.

Taste: crisp, clean, and quaffable. Light bodied, with a lemon-y finish, matched with lean bitterness and quiet spice.

Very sessionable, extremely refreshing, but lacking something significant in character. If I were really passing a satisfying Belgian pale ale, in the single style, down my happy throat, it would have to have a greater yeast factor, a bigger Belgian quality all through the mouthfeel and texture. If I can't taste the yeast, I'm not getting the real flavor I should be getting. Perhaps the filter needed to be turned off in this instance.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bell's Batch 10,000

Here's a story. And it's not of a lovely lady. It's of me, and a beer. What, that's not enough? Come on…

I've been drinking the Bell's 1000 batch series since 5000. Don't know if any of the others were ever in our market, but that was the first one I noticed, back in, back in, what? 2002? It was the first beer I tried to cellar for any length of time, as per brewery recommendations, and I managed to make the last bottle last about a year and a half.

Subsequent 1000-batch brews have been harder to cellar, especially as beer geekdom grows and the avarice heightens. The rare ones go quicker. I don't manage to make it out to the store as soon as the trucks hit the parking lot, and tend not to get many bottles to save. But I have gotten kegs of this series since 6K, and the final one in the series, (due the fact that this thousand-batch mark is easier and swifter to reach, and therefore less special), Batch 10,000, well, we got one 8-gallon keg at the Nile back in January and I manage to hold on to it until yesterday.

And here starts another part of our story. What profits the beer -geek bar-manager to tap a keg he cannot drink?

It is Minnesota Craft Beer week (as well as American Craft Beer Week, don't ask, I don't care to go into it)…and I chose the occasion of this Saturday, the 14th, yesterday, to finally tap the batch 10K keg I'd been sitting on all these months. But, meanwhile, I'd never even seen it on sale anywhere and had no opportunity to pick up case, 6-pack or bottle. What if I'd tapped it right at open, and the beer fans roared in, I worried whether I'd even get to drink one. Sure, I tasted some when I tapped it, but I didn't have enough to get intimate with it. Throughout the day people asked me to describe it, and I was tempted to point at someone else, and say, "ask him, he's drinking it." I rarely tap a beer I've never had, and this was a unique experience when I hadn't had time to formulate an opinion. I'd thought about tapping it the night before, but there just wasn't enough time then, either.

The event was advertised to take place from 4-9 pm, and as soon as 9 o'clock struck, I took the keg off tap. Disappointed a few people who came late, but, you know, snooze, lose, that equation.

Is this my 300th post? Well, let's let it be Bell's Batch 10, 000.

So, I rolled in tonight, hooked up the keg, and just under a pitcher was left. And I'm going to drink it now. What's left, I'll share with co-workers…so, here goes…

Deep, dark appearance, kind of a plummy brown, small, cocoa-tinged head, slim, but staying.

Aroma: chocolate at first, raisin and plum, dark malty goodness. Richness aplenty, but not too sweet. Wonderfully balanced. Delightful.

Taste: easy entry on the palate, with a charge of cocoa, dark, sweet, caramel and chocolate malt behind. Some vanilla and oak hints emerge, some bourbon tints, flaked chocolate, Sweetness is rising. At first it tastes like a stout, even an Imperial Stout, and now the flavors of a barley-wine, or old ale come rushing in. We're getting more prune, now, some date, some raisin, and more sourness, and higher alcohol feeling.

This is clearly a hybrid between a strong stout and an old ale, with no one side taking over. I kind of like that. No. wait…I really like it.

A little licorice, some char, deep woodiness, dark malt….the 5 months it's aged have mellowed it well. Mmmm, it's nice.

I'm finishing it up right now. Mmmm. Yes. Oh, wait, one more word: ahhhhh…..

Menabrea Ambrata (G. Mebrea e Figli

Let's go to Italy! Shall we? Another one I'd never heard of, picked up at ye olde Ale Jail.

G. Menabrea e Figli, Casa Fondata nel 1846, Amber beer/birra ambrata

Why did I buy this? Because I have never seen it before, never had it, and it looked interesting. I have no idea whether it will be. Only one way to find out.

Dusky amber red coloration, lasting creamy head. Looks nice.

Grassy/ herbal aroma, very lager-y. Just a little musky, a trifle off.

Taste: clean and smooth, nice malt component, little hops, a whiff and a huff of fruit. A tiny bit of bitterness emerges, but it remains a malty amber lager. Consumable, refreshenating, gulpable, and altogether nice.

But, need it be said, not for me, though I'm glad I tried it!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bayern Dragon's Breath "Dark Heff Ale"

A new brewery to me, Bayern, out of Missoula, Montana, picked up at the Ale Jail. I'll give them another shot, but this one was disappointing. Here are the notes, from a few nights ago.

Bayern Dragon's Breath, Dark Heff Ale, Bayern Brewing, Missoula, Montana

Dark brown color, thin creamy, cocoa-toned head.

Aroma, roughly suggestive of a weizen, there's a whiff of wheat, sure. Caramel, clove, latent banana. Some of that. But what does "heff ale" mean? Have they created their own colloquialism for "hefe" as in in "hefe wizen." Are they sure that the unwashed masses will have no truck with a "Dunkel weizen", and need to coin the ugly phrase, "dark heff ale." I'm a bit turned off by this.
And " Dragon's Breath?" Are they competing with Moose Drool for unappetizing beer name?

Smells okay, actually, but uninspiring.

Taste: dark malt, smooth, refreshing what, but comes across as very pedestrian. Eh, it's beer and you can drink it,..I guess. But doesn't do hardly a thing for me.

I left the notes off there. Frankly, I didn't feel like saying anything else, the brew was so uninspired. I finished it, slowly, and with regret.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bruery Saison de Lente

Here's something from the Wisconsin haul I know I'm going to have no issue with. Or maybe, there's yet a Bruery "brue" that doesn't blow me away?

The Bruery, Famille Rue, Unfiltered Bottle Conditioned, Saison De Lente, Belgian-style saison ale. A decorated egg rests behind the word "de", and green rabbits bound across a pink backdrop. A pastel, pastoral design, meant to evoke the sights and symbols of Easter. Well, there it is right on the front label description which I try to avoid reading before I drink, in order to escape having suggestions of descriptions entering my brain. "…this saison of Spring is perfect for warmer weather and Easter celebrations." Well, it's getting warmer now, so let's dig in.

Clear and golden appearance, majestic ivory head. Looks beautiful and inviting.

Aroma, lightly spiced, airy, minor citrus notes. None too boisterous, but perfectly pleasant.

Taste: fresh, vibrant, and zesty. Slightly sour, lactic component, followed by clean refreshment. Further sips in, the flavor gets bigger, louder, brasher, makes a bit more noise in the mouth. Mouthfeel widens, spice grows, lemon looms. More and more tactile on the tongue, more and more as we go.

Long and lovely finish, light/medium body, exquisite consumability (my new replacement for "drinkable"), consummate refreshment. Another delight from The Bruery. Mmmm, mmm.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Milwaukee Brewing Flaming Damsel Real Blonde Lager

Here's my second from Milwaukee Brewing Company.

Milwaukee Brewing Company, Flaming Damsel, Real Blonde. So, why is she a red-head? I have to admit I grabbed this based on the lovely label imagery. It's meant to be a high-flying acrobat, I think, but she reminds me not a little of Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, aka Phoenix from the X-Men. Enough of that, let's crack it open.

Clear and golden, adequate slim white head. Drifts down to nil in no time.

Aroma, grainy, corny…not getting much of what I like. Very lager-y, which I guessed , and is confirmed in the corner of the label. Inoffensive, but uninspiring.

Taste: Mild malt, small hops, low bitterness, but very balanced. Pleasing and quaffable, but not for me. It's a nice enough amber lager (blonde lager, is that a style?) and I wish them well with it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baird Angry Boy Brown Ale

Let's journey to Japan for a moment, bottle I consumed last night, notes are from May 2010:

Dusky brown color, pale beige head on top, long lasting.

Wide awake, out loud and proud sweet malty aromatics. Caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses. Maybe a little too sweet, though.

Taste: Fills the mouth, and floats about. Gets a bit sour, mellows again, harsh malt sweetness, then dry. Bitterness abounds, and remains. Unfiltered? Tastes it. Very full in every way, body, mouthfeel, texture.

Tartness tasted earlier, which scared me for a second, is now gone, and it's all sweet, brown malt, all cocoa and caramel.

Now I'm reading the label: "fleeting malty sweetness, a barely controlled bitterness, and, naturally an angry edge..." Why is it I so seldom agree with what they put on the bottles? Not really that angry, not so uncontrollable with the bitterness (or, not the word I'd use)...the malt sweetness was fleeting?

Oh, well, I like it fine, not bad stuff from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Milwaukee Brewing Baltic Porter

Another one brought back from dairyland, and my first from this brewery.

Milwaukee Brewing Company, Baltic Porter, Barrel-aged Lager

Murky brown body, considerable floating particles…how'd they get in there, what are they doing? slim head, starts big, gets down to nothing', a dull brown.

Aroma, smoky and oaky. Even-tempered, malty, hints of cocoa.

Taste: Chocolatey, smokey malt, little hints of fruit. Carbonation is brisk, and the flavor is turning slightly sour. I'm not sure what I think of this one. Flavor isn't winning me over, it's lacking…something. I want to like it, I wish I did, really, just not doing anything for me.

I conferred with opinions on BeerAdvocate, and I'm not alone in down-thumbing this one. Hopefully my next experiences with Milwaukee are better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Glarus Coffee Stout

Another visit to Dave's BrewFarm last Sunday, but, alas, no new growlers to take home because the St. Paul Homebrewer Club bought them all out the day before, damn their eyes.
But a trip to Wisconsin is wasted without bringing back new beer that we can't get here, so I stocked on some New Glarus.

New Glarus Brewing Company Coffee Stout, New Glarus, WI
"Hearty and satisfying, our Coffee Stout is the ultimate full-bodied brew. Wisconsin water, roasted malts and imported hops are the natural ingredients we use to brew this bier. Then cold pressed organic coffee from Just Coffee Co-op is infused into the brew.
…and more, blah, blah, blah…

Enough, let's drink it!

Full ebon appearance, showing some reddish clarity at the bottom, with a big, cream, cocoa-toned head.

Soft and subtle aromatics, cherry notes mingle with espresso and oak, rich chocolate malt dominates.

Taste: chocolate malt comes up first, with fruity notes after. Rich and full, but never thick or intense. Very mellow coffee stout. Just right. Cherry and vanilla flavors keep up with the coffee. Medium finish, tends to leave the palate lightly.

A very different coffee stout from those with more massive mouthfeel, such as Bell's Java Stout. "Ultimate full-bodied brew"? Not at all. But definitely tasty and enjoyable. An easy-drinking coffee stout, a pleasant tipple.

Edit: It turns out that I'd reviewed this one on BeerAdvocate before, eight years ago, April of 2003. I'm going to give you the old review in it's entirety. I was disappointed then, as I am now...

The label recommends consumption at room temperature, which I have done, and I wonder if it suffered from that. Other things on this label are less than true, but we'll get to that later.
I like this brewery, I've liked the other beers I've had, but I also love stouts, and live for coffee stouts. I'm pretty demanding that way. It had better be coffee, or someone's gonna be sorry!(Probably me)
Color is a dark brown/black, with a big tan head atop that soon crumbles into nothingness. Nose: sweet,..and dry...and bitter. But nothing else. Coffee's there, a little, but none too pronounced. Mild, if any, hops, big, full malt, full body, but as for texture and taste, I'm left searching. It drinks down fine, it stands in nicely as a run-of-the-mill stout, but as a coffee stout, it's a rather weak example. A decent drink, but there is no "spectrum of extravagant flavor" as the label boasts, nor are there any really "deep coffee flavors." Sorry, New Glarus!
I'm having a Lakefront coffee stout next (thanks, jeffboo!) and if that fails, there's still my cache of Bell's Java Stout!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Olvalde Farm The Auroch's Horn

Much activity in the Minnesota craft brew scene lately, but there's still situations of much talk, less rock. When is that one finally coming out? Whatever happened to Brewery X? When will we see this beer, that brewery? And then, boom, without hype and without warning, a beer appears from a tiny place in a town no one's ever heard of, such was the case with The Auroch's Horn, from Olvalde Farms.
Got a bottle from the Ale Jail, had it last night, wrote these words:

The Aurach's Horn, Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company, Rollingstone, MN, Ale brewed with honey, lightly hopped, unfiltered, re-fermented in the bottle. 1 pint, 9.4 fl. oz., 10% a.b.v.

Here's a brew that came out of the blue. There was no hype train whatsoever, no information machine chugging away, it just landed. Who? What? Where?It does have one of those freaky iPhone code things on the side, so, they've got that going for them. But, I still have no idea what an auroch is, or it's horn.

Well, I finally found a bottle at the Ale Jail, and I'm going to drink it down.

Very hazed, amber-y, copper-ish coloration, large, and lovely white, foamy head.

Aroma: clean, crisp, breezy citric and spicy. Lightly spicy and flowery. Fresh and lively, sweet and lovely. Mmmm.

Taste: Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm. Just right. Tight, And outta sight. Full bodied, long, fruity finish. Very full flavored, flush with fruit, moderate bitterness, some sour in the end. Funkiness in effect. Deliciousness is all over the place. Wow plus Mmmm. It's working.

I love the Aurach's horn. So, why don't I marry it?
Good question. No flaw found here, nothing wrong with this. They're doing good.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Epic Brewing Imperial IPA

Wednesday night, I attending a tasting at the Ale Jail (first visit, at long last, good work, Adam!) of a new brewery from Utah, about to enter our market, due to the tireless efforts of Brad the Beerguy. Never even heard of them, and when Brad sent the email out that day about Epic (Ale Jail certainly helped the hype with some internet teasing earlier.), I confused it with the Epic Brewing in New Zealand.
About 35 people there by my head count, sharing 22 22-ounce bombers. An impressive array of styles, much more than you'd expect any brewery to have on hand at once. Impressions all around were positive, but it's hard to really get a handle on a brew with less than an ounce to gauge. Someone noticed that one of the 22 bottles was missing. "Hey, we never did the Imperial IPA." It was nowhere to be seen. Where did it go? Oh, well, none of my concern...
Until Brad shows up with one of his employees, Tara, and the Epic owner, Dave, at the Blue Nile Thursday afternoon, with bottle in hand. I love unexpected gifts! So wonderful of him. Drank it up last night, here's what I thought:

Epic Brewing Imperial IPA, Exponential Series, Release #2, 10.1% a.b.v.
"You are holding something special--one of only 1800 bottles released and numbered. Intriqued? Visit www.epicbrewing,com to explore this limited brew's precise details. Brewed and bottled by EPIC Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, Utah."

Let's crack the crown and drink it down!

Beautiful peachy color, clouded, opaque…long-lasting ivory head. Looking lovely.

Aroma: ah, there it is, everything you want in an imperial IPA. Grapefruit, mango, orange and lemon confer with some piney permutations to give this wondrous hoppy bouquet. Potent and piquant, loud and looming, big and beautiful. Just is.

Taste: Bam! There is is, again! Everything enjoyed in the aroma comes back in the taste. Fat flavor, blistering bitterness, very lively, alert and alive. I just plain like it.

Bitter fruity flavor lasts and lasts. A constant barrage of juicy, bitter hoppy flavor. Slightly astringent, but sweet fruity flavor keeps it going . Wow, the hoppiness keeps on coming. Wow. Here's an excellent entry in the ranks of imperial IPAs. The flavor doesn't quit. Yum meets yum, and it keeps on coming.

Can't help loving this IPA. Mmmmm.

La Trappe Quadrupel

Original notes from a bottle, Febrauary, 2003:

Big, creamy head. Dark burgundy color. Aroma: unbelievable! A smorgasborg of flavor and fruit, heavy on grapes, but also including subtle sensations of berries, melons, and a touch of citrus. Great, playful bitterness, lively, just-right carbonation. Long finish, the flavor sticks out, and holds on! 10%, and you can definitely taste it, but the well-balanced malt and hops cover up the sting some. Slight sourness near the end. All in all, one of a kind, in my opinion, and one of my all-time sentimental favorites.
If my ranking seems excessive, compared to some, I offer no apology or excuse. I simply cannot find fault, or wish for any change in this glorious brew!

That was my gushing, fannish blurb-ery way back when I was a gushing fan-boy. Shortly after, it disappeared due to some distribution and importing shuffles. Came back a few years ago as Koningshoeven, through Artisanal Imports, and just last year re-gained the right to call itself La Trappe.

Eight years later, having it on tap, and the Trappe is back! I can taste the silence, actually.Mmmm, silent-y....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ichtegems Grand Cru

Ichtegems Grand Cru, Flemish Red Ale, matured in oak barrels, "oud bruin gerijpt in eiken vaten", 6.5% a.b.v., Brouwerij Strubbe, Ichtegem, Belgium.

I know next to nothing about this beer, except maybe that I've heard of it, and that now I'm going to drink one. So, here goes.

Perfectly plummy appearance, opaque, slightly clear at the bottom. Slim beige head rests atop.

Aroma: sour, fruity, & soft. Cherries abound, with a touch of raspberry, blackberry.
Sweetness is here, matched by tart. Caramel tones, vanilla notes, a pleasant complexity.

Taste: sweetness and sour, cherry and plum, caramel malt and oak edges all come together in the mouth, the promise of the nose fulfilled. Fresh and invigorating flavor, though mild and mellow in the whole. Beautifully textured, full bodied, many-layered marriage of sweet and sour.

One thing is for certain is that it's not a tongue slayer, nor a palate ripper, I's not going to punish with puckering. Perhaps "Flemish Red" on the front and "our bruin" on the back is a trifle misleading. If anyone's expecting Rodenbach or Jacobins, they'll be very disappointed. I've met some already who are…but not this guy.

Harriet's Pils European-style Pilsner

Harriet's Pils. Growler purchased Saturday afternoon. In a hastily prepared blank, transparent vessel. (They've run out of branded growlers. Must be doing good business!) I recall my disappointment when my first growler was replaced with a white-lettered one. Compare this to the man ahead of me in line who insisted on getting his green lettered growler back. Oh, but these are fleeting matters, people, ephemeral details that mean nothing compared to the beer.

And how about that beer?

Bright golden hue, slim white head. Beautifully clear and inviting.

Aroma, clean, slightly sweet, hoppy. Awfully nice.

Taste: mouth is gripped with hops first up, then it's nothing but sweet malt and crystal clear and clean refreshment. Hops, just slightly bitter, maintain a hold on the palate. I've never crazy on pilasters, never found enough to like in them. Perhaps I find them too one-dimensional, lacking certain elements I find in ales.

This, though, is damned good.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Surly CynicAle

Let's follow one saison with another, and check another Surly off the list. It's not Cynical, remember, it's CynicAle.
Notes are from the first minute I got to sit down with on on tap, June of 2006.

"Appearance: hazed amber in the glass, clearer near the foot, under a good, staying 1/2" cover of beige-toned foam. A duskier look than other saisons I've sampled, but what's wrong with that.

Aroma: nice spices, and sleek citrus. Very fine. Tickles the nose with ethereal pleasures. Lively hop play. Gorgeous.

Taste: a phenomenal blast on the palate, that sits and lingers deliciousness in the mouth. Hops, yeast, and spicy malt combine to deploy just the right amount of spicy notes and light fruit. (Lemon and lime with a side order of orange.) Dries near instantly, and demonstrates perfect balance, almost never showing sweet, not too hoppy, not too hot, nor too spicy, just spreading this ingenious, beautiful, utterly satisfying flavor.

Light bodied, like any saison should be, but so substantial in flavor, so sophisticated...tea-like, at times, broken up by hop happiness, and a malt character that takes turns at juicy and peppery. Exquisitely drinkable, massively enjoyable.
Also, I find myself admiring a certain sublimity I don't often encounter in other saisons, Belgian-brewed or otherwise.
Lordy, it's lovely!

One of the best beer names conceivable, and one of the least apt, in this case. I can't imagine any cause for skepticism, Surly has done it again!"

Cynic was a summer seasonal for it's first year or two, and appeared in cans the very next summer. This is one I had something to do with, but not everything. The first line belongs to Omar, and some parts of the ingredients/flavor section belongs to Todd, but most of it is still me. Here's what appears on the can:

"Oh great, a fizzy yellow beer in a can, that's just what the craft beer world needs! CynicAle melds Old World ingredients in a new school style. French malted barley, English oats and Belgian yeast create honey & black pepper flavors. Lively Slovenian hops provide the floral, apricot and peach notes. Toss your doubts away, toss one back and enjoy."

Saison Dupont

Another in the Belg-a-Rama #6 line-up is the classic saison from Brasserie Dupont. Imagine my surprise to discover my notes on BeerAdvocate from June of 2004 were "on tap". Did I really never find a bottle of it anywhere before I tapped my first keg, way back, seven years ago? I guess I didn't. What the hey.
Well, here's what I said then.

Hazy, straw yellow color, creamy, bone-white froth atop.

Aroma, a great heady blend of citrus and spice, probably coriander and clove in the lead. Feels quite a bit like a wit, too, with that wheaten element riding high.

Taste: warm, wonderful, spicy texture, smooths out after, but never flags in flavor. Citrus and spice carries through, with plenty of lemon zest and a drizzle of orange, plus loads of yeasty contributions and a never-ending spicy kick.

Thirst-quenching all the way, ending in a crisp, dry finish. Light bodied, but abundant with character.

Damned tasty! A great summery ale, tres sophisticated and quaffable, to boot!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Biere de L'amitie, St. Feuillien/Green Flash golden ale

Another in the Belg-a-Rama #6 line-up, Biere de L'amitie. We're all friends here, after all, aren't we? This is the one I'd never had before. The others remaining are long time favorites.

Biere de L'Amitie, collaboration between St. Feuillien and California's Green Flash. Belgian strong golden ale, using rye and wheat malt, and American Amarillo hops in the end. A blend of Belgian tradition and American innovation. Straw golden color, effervescent, yeasty, hoppy Belgian ale.

Brilliant golden color, lightly hazy, lovely, lace leaving ivory head.

Zesty, bright aromatics, citrus and spice, lemon and pepper. Clean, fruity, hoppy, and beautiful.

Taste: smooth and gentle, yet dominated by lean, bready malt and crisp, bitter hoppiness. Hangs long on the palate, leaves a tidy bitter trail along, with bright lemon and lime flavors. Up comes pineapple and pear. It leaves slowly and gracefully. Sweet fruit flavors keep step with grassy, bitter hoppy edge all the way.

I recommend this for golden ale devotees and hop heads alike. May both factions come together over this fine ale.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Glazen Toren Jan de Lichte witbier

Belg-a-Rama begins again. I've covered two of them already, St. Bernardus abt 12 and De Dolle Dulle Teve (our first De Dolle keg!). Four to go, including one beer I've never had before. So, let's kick it off with a beer I first had in a bottle back in August of 2006. And here it is, pictured in my hand, fresh off tap, now in 2011. What a world, what a world...

Slightly hazed, bold and gold, under a huge, though crumbling pillow of froth.

Honey and lemon hit the nose first. Zesty, citric, clean, lightly spiced, he says at first, but growing. Sweet, floral, large and lovely.

Lemon is big in the mouth, almost too much so, and the rest of the flavors fall behind it. Body is too wispy and light, easily described as thin. But each new sip and gulp is a treat, despite the overbearing lemon at the front. Spicy kick in there. Nice texture, too. Really plays well on the palate.

Hoppy, spicy finish, body doesn't feel as thin as before...this is a beer that gets better as you drink it. Larger alcohol than a typical wit, but, then , this is a "double."

Drinks down very easy, with sufficient flavor the keep the tongue happy.

Don't know if I can taste the spelt in here...I'm sure I wouldn't know how to, though. All in all, a recommended Belgian wit, one I will purchase again, to share with a friend on a special night.

Schneider/ Brooklyn Hopfen Weisse

Schneider & Brooklyn Hopfen Weisse, hefe-weizen ale, 8.2 % alc./vol. "…pale weissbock robustly dry-hopped with the Halltauer Saphir variet grown in the fields near the Schneider brewery." And more, blah, blah, blah, …I'm trying to avoid copying the verbiage employed in the selling and marketing of the brew. Don't want to repeat their words or ideas, so let's bend this bottlecap and check this baby out.

In a Georg Schneider's Wiesen Edel-Weisse glass, looking very good.

Highly hazed, pale orange, furious carbonation, gigantic head, slow to settle, and leaving lace.

Citrus notes, hops, and yeast lead up the aroma. Tangy and slightly sweet, orange, lemon, softly beautiful.

Taste: Exceptionally smooth entrance on the palate, plush and pleasing. Hops are happening, here, and they bop back, sip after sip. Damn, this is delicious, a Brooklyn/Bavarian combo that bridges Euro-tradition and American hoppitude. Soft and easy mouthfeel seals the deal, and makes this a rewarding ale on many levels.

I'm kind of embarrassed it took me so long to get this one down my gullet, but now I have a new favorite, to add to my many other favorites.

Furthermore Three Feet Deep smoked stout

Notes from April, 2007:

Utterly black under slim roasted tan head.

Espresso and blackstrap nose...anise and pepper...roasty and dry. And smokey!

All that returns on the tongue, the cracked pepper, the earthy coffee taste, subtle bitterness. smooth, refreshing, but deep and serious, decidedly dry.
Full bodied, dry, bitter finish.
And smokey!

Quite unique, actually, an interpretation unlike any I've encountered lately.
(And smokey!)
Bit of whisper of whiskey in there, too. Hmmm...was that intentional, he muses sarcastically...

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...