Sunday, July 31, 2011

Town Hall Thunderstorm Summer Ale

Brewed every summer for the past seven years, winner of several awards, here's the beer I intended to have only a couple pints of last night, and instead nearly finished the whole 64 ounces. Dang, sometimes beers can be too drinkable. And here's what I wrote about it, in August of 2004:

I may have picked the wrong style designation, I admit, but I can't figure out where this would go, it's such a unique creation.

German Bohemian Pilsner malt, orange blossom honey, bitter and sweet orange peel, lemongrass and Belgian candy sugar, plus a unique American yeast new to the brewery, and a smaller hop content than we're used to...and boozier than typical, too!

Pours a clear amber color, with a big, puffy white head that has a short stay atop the glass.

Aroma is sweetness itself, the honey and orange really mixing well and projecting boldly, with some herbal, grassy notes, as well.

Taste: bright, sweet, and smooth, with a decent texture, but a bit thin in the mouthfeel, until the alcohol creeps forward. So easy going and even delicious,slick, even, you could slip down quite a few, before the booze bonks your noggin!

Quite a nice, easy-drinking ale to salute the last few weeks of summer proper. Quite unclassifiable, too, and I offer anyone the chance to correct me. (I first thought "American Blonde Ale", then changed it to "Belgian Pale", but that still doesn't cover it!)
Way to go, Mr. Hoops, another interesting, great tasting creation!

If a picture paints a thousand words...

My beer obsession, as with many other beer fanatics, has gone through phases. In the first, I saved the empty bottle for each new beer I'd try. That doesn't last forever, as I kept running out of space. In the next phase, I began writing them down, but only by name, without any details about the contents of the containers. This is called "ticking", through true tickers go to great lengths to try each new brew they can, the smallest amount possible to claim they actually tasted it, and eschew beers they've had in the search for anything new. Phase the third began when I sat down with that first bottle of Lion Stout and wrote about it. Now the bottles were being saved, but when it came time to recycle, I saved the labels. In the first notebooks of reviews, I often pasted the labels next to the written review.

I gave up the label collecting after a few years, it got to be too much of a chore. So, the next phase was slightly different, posting reviews on line, saving bottles until it's time to toss them out, due to lack of space. I had hundreds of useless empty bottles at one time, just gathering dust, because I liked the look of them, having that souvinier. A friend asked me recently what he should do with all his, and I said, "throw them out." "But it took such effort to get them!" "Well," I said, "I record the experience in words. If you didn't do that, take their picture."

In this current phase, I have their pictures and the words right here on this blog. I'm currently going through a lot of dusty bottles in preparation for a move. But for two of them, I decided to snap a little portrait, a keepsake a momento.

On the left, one of the first cans of Furious ever, unfilled. When Omar first revealed to me that he was canning the Surly beers, he surprised me with a full 6-pack of Bender cans and an empty can of Furious, which I held onto for almost 5 years. I'd written the copy for what he would only tell me was "packaging", and since submitting it, he told the Surly Nation that there would be no bottles, forget about bottles. I was not the only one who never thought about cans. Hence the surprise.
On the right, a bottle even older, from the pre-can days. When Omar was going out to bars in search of new accounts, he'd bring bottled samples. This one has a sticker with the letter "b" on the back, so that was a Bender. He brought some to the Nile for me on occasion if he had too many left at the end of the night. What a heck of a guy. I hung onto a few of those, leaving one among the display bottles at the Nile, as a tease. "Yeah, they bottled, didn't you know? Didn't sell at all, so they switched to cans."
This was a very dusty bottle I held onto until it made no sense to pack up and take along on a move.
Empty growlers, though, that's another thing.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Flat Earth Northwest Passage IPA

Can this be the first Flat Earth I've done since re-starting this seven months ago? I've got some catching up to do!
It looks like I first tapped Flat Earth's highly hoppy IPA, Northwest Passage, about 2 years ago, August, 2009. Here's what I thought then:

Clear, golden-hued, edging on tangerine in tone. Nice 1/4 " cap of rocky, snowy white foam.

Aroma: sweetness, then bitter, loads of citrus, very pithy grapefruit, orange, lemon, and pickled prickly pine, in there, too.
Quite nice.

On the tongue, a blitz of bitterness, a blast of buoyant fruit, bouncing on the palate, swimming in the mouth, but overall well-behaved...if needing more malt sweetness to tie it together. Says the guy who loves a great big double IPA. But this isn't one. Or is it. We're told it's 115 IBUs. No argument, it's terrifically bitter, and yet, only 6.5%.
Here's a tasty IPA you can drink, if you have a great tolerance/taste for hoppiness, ...but may grow weary of, if you need more comfort that malt brings. Especially if you plan to have more than one. That's my worry, that this is a one and done kind of IPA.

I like this one, and I'm glad FE's first IPA is so solid, but it'd be great to have one a bit more balanced. Something with this hop profile, yet more malt backbone could be a viable alternative to Furious, or any other local IPAs. What local IPAs?
My point.

I will continue to enjoy this!
and I do, too!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Odell Woodcut No. 3

Odell Woodcut No. 3, Oak Aged Crimson Ale, ABV 11%, "American oak plays a predominant role in Woodcut No.3. Crystal and Cara malts marry with Munich malts to create a pleasing red hue and a satisfying sweetness. Notes of raisin , rich caramel and toasted almond complement the hop pairing as a prominent oak aroma completes it all. Each woodcut offering is a truly limited edition beer made with select hops, fine malted barley and our brewers careful aging process." Bottle 2220, Nov, 2009.

Crimson ale. Their cute way of not calling it a Flanders Red, or something similar? Okay with me. Let's take a look at it.
Clouded and crimson, surely, with a smallish, but staying beige cover of foam.

Aroma: potently port-like, with plenty raisins and dates, some vanilla, and notes of caramel and toffee, too. Rich and thrillingly complex. Like it.

Taste: a trifle tart at first, then comes small sweetness, with those dark fruit, vanilla and malt characteristics noted above returning in the flavor. Sweetness even matched with a touch of sour, and the additions from the oak aging. A lot of wonderful flavors, marvelously mixed and matched.
Very mellow stuff, incredibly charming and likable.
The high alcohol content hasn't raised a ruckus yet, but we're only halfway in…time will tell...

many thanks to DaveAnderson for providing this bottle as a birthday gift.

BrewDog Storm

BrewDog Storm, malt beverage aged in an Islay Scotch Whiskey barrel.
"At BrewDog we are selfish; we only make beers that we want to drink.
This is not an unerring, despondent, half-hearted compromise. This bottle contains our IPA which has been aged in Scottish islet whisky casks.
The combination of Islay whisky casks and New Zealand hops is one of polar opposites on so many levels.
Drinking this beer is like being caught in the eye of a force 12 North Atlantic storm. Heavily peated demonic smoked Islay whisky and the fruity hop flavors of our IPA should not go well together. Nor should mild pretentiousness and exponential cool. However at BrewDog we are pretty sure we can rock it out and make both admirable combinations work reasonably well.
Zeitgeist in a bottle.
Brewed and Bottled by BrewDog Ltd, Fraserburgh, Scotland."

So, I'm giving BrewDog yet another try, and I'm greeted by more gobbledygook. Look at that second sentence, and try to make sense out of it. When do those three things happen at once? "An unerring compromise?" Huh? Whatever.

Let's pop 'er and see.

Pale golden coloration, smallish cloud-white head. Unassuming, yet inviting.

Aroma: Boom! There's that heavy peated malt right off the bat, Flinty, malty, nothing but whisky, nothing found below.

Taste: whisky is still in charge, with no flavors of the IPA tasted yet. Frankly, I don't see the point in drowning out a beer of real character with so much of the islay malt. Perhaps a lighter ale would be best served in this cause. Nonetheless, the smoky peat of Islay dominates everything.

Medium bodied, but a bit of a challenge, if you aren't up for all the smoke and peat. I'm fine with it, but I wish more of the IPA would actually, as promised, rise up to match the whisky. If it's a Storm, it's one that carries away any other flavors than those in the barrel they mixed the IPA with. This is a beer for whisky fanatics only, and as that, it's not bad, maybe even good. I'm on the fence and on the verge of jumping off, based on that promise of a marriage that never came through. It's a beer awash in whisky. Some may like that. Not I.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dark Horse Perkulator Coffee Doppelbock

Dark Horse Perkulator Coffee Doppelbock. No further information on the label, aside from the typical legalities, and the name of the guest artist.

Dark brown body, head starts large, cocoa-tinged, and dwindles down to slimness.

Aromatics, sweet, dark malt, swiftly smothered by coffee. Bittersweet roast, quickly met with dark fruits, then raisin, plum, brown sugar become more prominent.

Taste: Spicy and hoppy at first, malty, for sure. And not much more, I'm afraid. The coffee flavor is nowhere near as strong as in the nose, and the doppelbock character that lies below is severely lacking. Incoherent and lackluster. Spicy malt, meager coffee taste does deliver somewhat on each returning sip, but I feel this is an unwise marriage, and the combination of coffee and doppelbock does not create a greater goodness.

Body is medium, finish is long, but flavor is severely disappointing. There's little joy in this one, and you won't see me drinking another, sorry.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau

Kasteel Cuvee' des Chateau
brewed to replicate the taste of an aged bottle of Donker (formerly Bruin)…how they do that, I don't know, but that what they accomplish, that's what we want to see.

Plum-brown appearance, firmly opaque, under a slim, cocoa-toned ring of foam.

Aroma: raisins, plum, port, chocolate and spice. Mild molasses, treacle, brown sugar. Big, rich, and ever-flavorful, powerful, yet mellowing.

Hitting the lips, the dark fruit, rich malt, and hugely complex flavors barge on board, with an early trace of the high alcohol content. Magnificent. Not too harsh, not too sweet. Utterly well-rounded, even-handed, with caramel and toffee rising in prominence in the flavor. Lays very softly and elegantly on the palate. One common criticism of Kasteel Donker is an over-sweetness, and this glass has that conquered. What more can I say beyond "very, very mellow."

The plum, the raisin, the toffee and cocoa is all in attendance, but plays it very cool, calm, and coalescent. No cloying sweetness, just extra groovy. Super beautiful. Extra yum. And here and then again, the alcohol sting rises up and coats the brain for a minute. Slicks the tongue, treats the senses.

When I heard of this, that it is brewed to resemble the flavor of an aged Kasteel Donker, I wondered first how you would do that, and then, if you could, why not make that the original beer? I don't have answers for any of those questions, all I can say is that they did it, and it's wonderful. A lovely, spiked plum pudding of a brew, a laced liquid licorice whip, and a toasty, tasty, caramel and toffee confection rolling happily in the mouth, all in one. And all very mellow, very groovy...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brasserie des Rocs Triple Imperiale

Here's #4 in Belg-a-Rama #8. As stated before, I was holding back until I could find that one Abbaye des Rocs (as it was once called) chalice I have left around here somewhere. No go. Found the Poperings hommel goblet, but this one remains elusive. Oh, well. Let's just taste it again in another glass and move on.
This one I first had when I first tapped it after it was first released back in July of 2005. Notes follow:
Thoroughly opaque appearance, chestnut hue, or is it magenta? Nonetheless, a dark brown, tempered with crimson...and blessed with a fine head, a creamy, tapioca cap, that lasts a bit, then flattens out.

Nose is sweetness and spice...dark fruit and toffee meets anise and clove? Immense character, vast appeal, with hints of the alcoholic content to come...almost brandy-like at times...

Richly fills the mouth, commands every section of the senses, washes the palate, then fades back, for you to take your breath. Sweet and caramel-y, but not for a moment does it cloy. The taste presents itself, lingers, leaves, but the impression is large and vivid. And here's where my powers fail, in that there is something utterly special about this and all the des Rocs brews that sets them apart, and puts them in a rarified class. Partly the yeast, definitely the malt...whichever, and however, it just slip in under my consciousness, pulls up and subverts my psyche..the real world falls away, and I relax, submit and luxuriate in this uncommon ale.

By that I mean, of course, "tastes great"!

I'm barely feeling the 10 % in this 12 ounce glass, until...whoa, there it is...puts the brake in imbibing, but it's for the best, as you want to take your time with it, and enjoy every second you're in it's company.
I still like it. No, love it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Poperings Hommel Bier

Poperings Hommel Bier, Brouwerij van Eecke, Watou Belgium. Number 3 in Belg-a-Rama #8. First written about back in July, 2003. From a bottle. Now on tap, displayed by our lovely model, Madeleine. Here's what I wrote then:
Appearance: a bright, but cloudy gold, crowded with a myriad of microscopic swimmers dancing hither and thither about...head is the big, bubbly type of any good Belgian ale, lacey, fizzy.

Aroma: Sweetness and spice, loads of sugar, hints of fruit( orange, foremost) and sidenotes of sour, as well.

Mmmmm, big, quick hop attack, that fades and allows Mr. Malt to come to attention.
I'm picking up that thing that I find myself yearning for in my senses' memories, when I've been too long away from a good Belgian ale: the glorious taste of yeast, sugar, spice, malt, hops...a warm, bready feel, though lovely, uplifting.

The meager 7.5% starts to reveal itself, and is most welcome right about now.
Light/medium body, medium, tasty finish, taste overall is very mellow but sparkling with flavor, and displaying an unforgettable character.
I still don't know what a "hommel ale" is, but it doesn't matter, I liked it too well to care. I could go through quite a few of these, and be very happy!
I know what a hommel is, now and where they come from. They grow them in Poperinge, those hops.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Avery Brabant Ale

AVERY BRABANT , Cheval de trait Belge, Barrel-aged Wild Ale , Feb. 10, 2009. Production 694 cases.

No. 1 in our barrel-aged series, ale aged in Zinfandel bottles. 8.65 % ALC/Vol.

Dark brown body, slim off-white head.

Aroma: zinfandel hits first, then sour, then …great complexity. This is a deep one, hard to wrap around the noggin. Dark, malty brown ale lies beneath, the sour and the wine holding ground above. Tiniest sweetness, plenty of tart.

Taste: here it is, again. The tasty tango between the malt below, and the sour above, with the wine effect casting a spell above all. Yum. Mmmmm. Sour cherries are the main flavor, with blackberry and grape working in there, too. Some chocolate malt shows itself, some richness grows and spreads. Mmmm, tangy and tasty, lush and comforting. Genius, this. Delish.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Town Hall Blueberry Macaroon

Here's one that I will provide no full review of. After all, what is there to say. Did you see my review of Town Hall Macaroon? Add blueberries. That's this beer, blueberries and cocoanut, actually working together in perfect harmony. Delicious. Somehow, it works. And here's a picture!

New Glarus IIPA (Double IPA)

New Glarus IIPA, label copy…blah, blah, blah,…A provocative 85 IBUs reverberates cleanly through this double IPA. True hops saturation from kettle boil to dry hop cellaring dominates this elegant and lustful sensory enchantment. You hold a deceptively seductive Original Gravity of 19.2 % Plato, now 9% ABV, following the always 100% natural bottle fermentation. Luscious English Maris Otter malt tis the essential heart of this voluptuous double IPA. Surrender is inevitable so enjoy now."

I'll take that advice. And, here we go…

Beautiful clouded peachy coloration, huge, milky white head. Lovely stuff.
Now, let's smell it…

Pithy, musty, pungent, deep down and slightly sour. Grapefruit and mango, fermenting pineapple juice, and ripe banana.

In the mouth, hops aplenty. All those bitter, hoppy citric fruit flavors pounce again on the palate. And the alcohol heat rises up a little. Crisp, delicious malt holds down the stage, hops dance and keep the tongue happy. Prickly, tingly, and utterly hoppy.

One excellent double IPA, great job, Dan & Deb!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Brasserie D'achouffe McChouffe

Here's Belg-A Rama #8, beer #2, a Scotch ale from Brasserie D'achouffe, those keepers of the gnomes (but everyone thinks they're Santa Claus on the tap handle!).
The review I did was another early gusher, from January, 2003, way back 8 1/2 years ago, when I was a scruffy lad of 35. Here's what I wrote:
Deep dark murky brown color, small, but simmering, tan head.
Aroma: mollasses, nuts, butter, cream, dates, raisins, dark rum, all the rich flavors one can imagine.
Thick, full, hot mouthfeel, full body, tingly hops.
Super-charged with hops, the flavor keeps on coming, simmers and stews, with a long lasting, rich, satisfying finish!
Takes the cake for all brown ales everywhere, past, present, future.
Round, delicious, sensuous, and utterly lip smackin'!

that was from a big, bad, brown bomber bottle. Drinking it now, on tap...yeah, it's still pretty damned good!

One not so hidden fact about this blog, is that I try to have the appropriate glassware whenever possible. This is why I haven't boxed any glasses up for my upcoming move. And this is why I didn't choose Brasserie des Rocs Tripel Imperiale, because I know for a fact that there is one BdR glass here somewhere. And same for Poperings Hommel Ale, I know there has to be at least one. The others? Kasteel Cuvee de Chateau, I have the glassware, but it will require a full review. Not feeling like it tonight. Delirium Tremens is also part of Belg-a-Rama #8, and if you recall my entries on the other Delirium brews, this one calls for a rewrite. Stay tuned as I search for those glasses, and buckle down for some serious scrutinizing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Duvel Single

It's time for another Belg-a-Rama, isn't it? Especially since it's also St. Arnoldus Day, the Belgian holiday that Artisanal Imports is promoting nationwide. I'm throwing a little party for it, today, and folding it into another Belg-a-Rama. Today only, I'm adding another 6 Belgians on tap, making a total Belgian tap takeover. Why not?

Of this line-up, there are two I've never had before. This is the first.

Duvel Single. Here's what the brewery says about it:

"Duvel Single is a 6.8% ABV draught variant of Belgium’s best selling specialty ale Duvel 8.5% ABV.  The Single Fermentation refers to the fact that it undergoes just one fermentation process.  This gives it a gentle hoppiness, a mild aroma, and a subtle, fruity bite.  Brewery Staff at Duvel Moortgat have enjoyed Duvel Single Fermentation 6.8% for decades."

Here's what I'm saying:

clear, golden, huge, majestic head, much puffery, lovely to look at, delightful to know.

Angelic aromatics, utterly gorgeous. Lightly spicy, lightly fruity…just beautiful.

Taste: the same hops, the same fruit, the same effervescence, the same spark on the tongue is here, without some of the alcohol, and without certain of the complexities. Would be great to try side by side with a bottle of regular Duvel. Well, why don't I?

Great idea, here goes…

Duvel bottle…mmm, ahhh…, Wow! A blast of citrus fruit, mild spice, and intense carbonation and effervescence. Champagne-like spritziness. A joy in the mouth, dazzling, and delicious, and begging the mouth for more. This reminds me of why I love Duvel and why everyone else should. Damn, this is great stuff!

The draft version? Softer, milder, easier down the ol' gullet…lacking in several flavor areas, as well. But, if that's the best they can do to replicate it in a keg, well, they're doing okay. Not great, just okay.

What can I say? wish them the best of luck with this, but it in no way replicates the true joys of Duvel in the bottle. It is no substitute at all, and if they fear that this will hurt sales of Duvel in bottles at on-premise accounts, they need not worry.
There's simply no comparison.
But, perhaps there's a niche market for those looking for lighter, simpler experience. I'm not going to be in that camp.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Squatters Outer Darkness Imperial Stout

Outer Darkness, Russian Style Imperial Stout ("Russian Style"? I don't think there's a single Imperial Stout from Russia. It's not in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. The style is named after the Russian Empire.)
Squatter Beers, Reserve Series, Salt Lake City, Utah, Utah Brewers Cooperative.
10.5 % alcohol by volume.

"Russian Style Imperial Stout is one of the most intensely flavored beers a brewer can create. Outer Darkness goes through multiple mashes to achieve it's high original gravity. Outer Darkness has 65 IBUs, is black as night and cold cellared like a Siberian winter. We hope you have as much fun drinking it as we did making it.

Please share with a friend and consume responsibly. (nope, drinking alone.)

Brewing a more Sudstainable future." Oh, terrible puns.

Let's drink it up!

Deep, stygian darkness (what?), creamy, cocoa/tan head, lush and lively. Looking great.

Vast aromatics…rich cocoa, and espresso notes, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting…lightly hoppy, massive malt. Very nice.

Taste: all that and more. Richness aplenty, deep malt flavor, nicely textured…but, all in all, this one doesn't go far enough.

Or is it me? I'm going to open a bottle of Expedition Stout, and drink them side by side. See if this Outer Darkness is really lacking. (Mmmm, I'm tempted to compare with a Surly Darkness, but that would be a long night!)

(I have to admit, and I didn't realize it at first, but there's an advantage the Expedition has…it's a 2008.)
We have to adjust for temperature, as the Expedition bottle came straight out of the fridge, but, to take a phrase from "Community", the Bell's beer is streets ahead. More flavors, more depth, more charcoal, tar, more sweet molasses, mixed with bitterness, hops, char, …the expedition has an edge on it that the utah beer wishes it had. It's a boozy stout, that lack s the extra character a great one requires.
The squatters beer barely tastes "imperial"…it may be strong, it may be full-bodied, but it's a minor league player. I'm getting the feeling these guys don't really understand imperial stouts. They can't just be high alcohol, it has to have more. This one just lacks, and lacks, and lacks.

They'll have to try harder to get a "Russian Style Imperial Stout" worth anyone's attention.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Boulder Hoopla Pale Ale

Boulder Hoopla Pale Ale. I'm not copying the story on the side, it's far too long. But I'll summarize it. Jam band keyboardist/homebrewer and Boulder brewer collaborated…it's designed for hula hoop-ing hippies, apparently…dry-hopped with Glacier…American and German malt…blah, blah, blah….I'm going to drink it while listening to Lou Donaldson's "Alligator Boogaloo" and imagine the girl on the cover doing a hula hoop, slowly…

Anyway! The beer! Let's open it!

Clear, coppery color…huge head, milky toned, leaving lace. Nice.

Soft, but lively, floral aromatics, loaded with citrus notes. I'm wondering if there's more than Glacier going on here, but I don't know as much about that one as I'd like.

Taste: Zesty, spicy malt mouthfeel. Is it crystal rye malt? This really reminds me of SurlyFest, and it's malt profile. Whatever, it's clean, fresh, bright, slightly sweet, and delicious. Mmmm, mmm, mmm. Lightly tingly hop profile, lays long on the palate. Utterly pleasant, perfectly pleasing. Hops bump happily against sweet malt. Great drinking, great tasting.

I'll drink this with a hippie any ol' day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Holland Hopivore

Fresh, Michigan wet-hop ale. I'm drinking this out of season, (came out last October, got a keg in March (?), sat on it until May, re-tapped)but it didn't get raves when it was fresh, either. 6% ABV American pale ale.

Clear, crimson coloring, slim, white head.

Soft aromatics, fruity and mild.

Taste: slight bitterness, nutty, earthy herbal malt flavor. Definitely in a more, English-style pale ale, more balanced, more malt.
Hopivore is a great name for a hoppy ale or a double IPA, but not this one. It's hoppy, all right, but we anticipate a beast, a behemoth, even. This is tasty, a little bitter, but mellow, and easy-drinking.
It's a fine beer, but expectations are very high on beers like this call it Hopivore, it had better be hoppy. Call it a wet hop harvest ale, it had be damned hoppy.
I'm looking at reviews. One guy gives it a D+, calls it a "malt bomb"…that's a bit much.
There's nothing wrong with it, it's just too unimpressive.

Cuvee des Trolls Cuvee Speciale 10th Anniversary

I had no idea Cuvee des Trolls was 10 years old. I had never heard of it, until kegs were offered a couple of years ago. Those Belgians and their love of little people. The gnomes of Brasserie d'achouffe, the "erthels" of Urthel, and one of the most famous cartoon character out of Belgium, Peyo's Smurfs.

To get myself in the proper mood, I put on a movie. Not "Troll 2", that's about goblins, no matter what the director will tell you. I'd never seen the original "Troll" from 1986, but what a delight. Swinging Sonny Bono, lovely June Lockhart, a surprisingly non-wooden Michael Moriarty, and an evil Troll trying to turn an apartment building into a fantasy forest /alternate dimension. He just about turns every tenant into a horrible rubbery creature, except Julia Louis Dreyfus, who becomes a scantily clad wood nymph, which is how it should be, of course.

Ah, but the beer. Here's what I had to say:

Cuvee' des Trolls Cuve'e Speciale, Belgian Ale Refermented in the bottle. I pint, 9.4 fl. oz. , 10th Anniversary Cuvee Speciale, Product of Belgium, 7% Alc., by Vol.
From Brasserie Dubuisson, makers of the Bush/Scaldis line. I like them.
Brewed in limited quantities, Troll's 10th Anniversary special edition accentuates the delicate qualities and fruity aroma of Cuvee des Trolls thanks to it's secondary fermentation in the bottle. Enjoy!
Brewed with: water, malt, sugar, hops, and yeast.

Clouded, golden-hue, large, snowy-white head, lacy and long-lasting.

Aromatics of yeast, light malt, light hops, citrus-y hops and considerable spice. Air-y, lemon-y, and delightful. Mmm, mmm.

Now, let's taste it: light, spritzy, carbonated, lemon and orange, yeasty. Mmm. Now, how is this different from regular Trolls? I can't think of it. I don't have a regular Trolls next to me to compare to it. But, what can I say, it's Mmmm, mmm.
So good. A little sharp, a little smooth, a bit creamy, and altogether mmmm.
Another gulp, another sip, and it's more mmm, yeah.

Again, I can't say there's anything better than the regular Trolls, and I tried it for the first time two years ago….more yeast, more smooth, more creamy, more Mmmm.

Light bodied, light textured, fluffy mouthfeel…mmm, and yum, I just keep saying'…cream and orange, lemon and yum, not too this, not too that, just altogether ahhh….

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brooklyn Lager

March, 2006 was the first time I had a bottle of Brooklyn Lager, or at least, the first occasion to write about it. (Pretty sure I'd never had one before.) Last night was the first time I'd had one since, a can given to me by The Illustrated Beer Man himself, Joe Falkowski, one my birthday, shortly after doing a Brooklyn tasting at the first Barley's Angels meeting at the Muddy Pig. I've had a few Brooklyn pints since they arrived in our market, but this was the first I'd had at home. So many new breweries in town, so little time, so much catching up to do!

Here come the notes:

Clear, amber appearance, under a slim, but sturdy speckled white head.

Creamy, malty nose, quite attractive...soft and flowery, pleasant esters from yeast (?)... I like it.

Taste: smooth, clean, crisp, malty. Light bodied, but nicely textured, good grit, tight balance, tidy hops meet copious malt. A streamlined beauty, full of flavor. Blend of fruit associations chimes in, some apple, melon, grape, mixed with grain.

Quite a classy lager, this one, damned good. Almost ale-like in it's display of flavors. Just goes to show what happens when a lager is done well!

Can be drunk without disappointment, and no end in sight for the taste. Very, very nice!


Bell's Third Coast Old Ale

Here's another gusher. Wrote about the big ol', 10.2% a.b.v barleywine, Bell's Third Coast Old Ale in Febrauary, 2003. Those notes follow now. The picture's is from a bottle consumed last night.


Perfect dark violet/burgundy color, with an impressive, thick cocoa/tan head.

Aroma is majestic, and rich with flavorful connotations: sweet, sharp, and fruity, suggesting cherries, grapes, port wine, brandy, with a hint of anise, and chocolate.

Mouthfeel is dazzling in complexity, full, rewarding , and greatly alcoholic, taste is magnificent, dark, sweet, profound, and strong, accompanied by a lively hop ride on the tongue, awash in sweet, liquory flavors.

Alcohol content is not given on the label, but it has to be formidable, for a burnt quality lingers in the finish, and hangs around the mouth.

Wonderfully warming, expertly crafted, another prodigious acheivement from Larry Bell & Co.

All larger praises must be rescinded, as we hail the king of American barleywines!.


So I still consider it the "king", eight years later? Well, looking at my review and rankings, the only one whose numbers come close is also from Bell's, Batch 6000. I gave that a 4.8 out of 5, gave Old Ale a 4.83. In descending order, the runners-up are: Stone Old Guardian, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Alesmith Old Numbskull, Three Floyds Behemoth Blonde, Great Divide Old Ruffian, and Moylan's Old Blarney.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Samichlaus Bier (Das Starkste Bier Der Welt)

I can't believe I have Samichlaus on tap. 14% ABV lager, from Austria.I can believe that I took the keg in January and didn't tap it until July. Christmas in July, I'm calling it. Also, I can't believe I have an actual Samichlaus tap handle for it. If only I also had Samichluas glassware, but you can't expect everything, all the time. Also, I can't believe that I'm introducing so many people to a classic bier that everyone should have heard of long ago. Crazy world.

I'm going to say a few words about this pour on tap...clear, crimson hue, creamy-toned head, starts big, slims down...aroma: molasses, dark rum, raisins, dates, plum, cherry, other dark fruits...big richness, big sweetness, but lovely...leather, brandy, cognac....
And even now, so soon, the booming begins, before I've barely tasted it...Let's do that now...
Thin bodied, despite the gargantuan flavor. Immense richness, and sweetness. Enormous malt, fruit, booze. Boom, boom, boom, but, damn, if it isn't delicious. Not a drinker, not a refresher, not quaffable or sessionable, this is only meant as a nightcap, an evening ender, something to settle one into slumber. The last thing in your mouth before the Sandman takes you to Dreamland.
So tasty, though, and it's good that it's rich sweetness and the alcoholic strength combine to warn you away from over-doing. It tastes so good, it's tough not to indulge again and again.

And now, here's what I first wrote about it, back in April, 2003:
2001 bottling, 2003 drinking. The last time I had this was the 2000 edition, with label proclaiming "Das Starkste Bier Der Welt", Guinness Book of World Records. This one says "The World's Most Extraordinary Beer". Utopia and World Wide Stout have robbed them of the former claim, and as for the latter boast...
Color is clear and dark red, with a small, dunnish, and vanishing head. Aroma is enormous: on first cracking the crown, it leaps out of the bottleneck and pervades the room. So let's get a closer sniff...
Deep, heady, woody, burnt, huge with alcohol, brimming with brandy, cognac, rum characteristics, along with cherries, licorice...but overpowering the flavor is the heat, searing and fierce. Powerful impact on the palate, the tongue feels burnt on first taste! Is this something I want in a beverage? This bier does travel smoothly down the throat, to say the least! Not nearly finished with the bottle, I can feel my senses dying off, utterly destroyed by this bier's impact!
I love a barleywine, and hold strong stouts dear to me, but in this one, there was too much sauce and no meat! I can't comment on the flavor, for all I could taste was the booze!
Perhaps it was too early to drink, and I'd have better luck with a properly vintage bottling.
I gave it a 3.3/5, a good 17% below the mean. Other "top reviewers" ranked it lower. Maybe it improved in the intervening years, but currently, keeping all in perspective, I find no flaw with this whatsoever. Yeah, it's huge, but there's still balance despite that massive flavor. Maybe it's better than eight years ago, (ten?)maybe my 6-month aging did it's trick...boom, boom, boom, boom,...okay, maybe I've had enough. But, it's a well done beer, over-the -top, but not insurmountable. Damned delicious. Don't hesitate to grab this up when you can, and save it for a special day.

Tyranena Scurvy IPA

Tyranena Scurvy, originally in the Brewers Gone Wild series, now a regular offering, will always have a spot in my beer-y heart. It was one of the first Tyranena beers I ever tapped at the Nile, and on the occasion of a special party for my 40th birthday. Six special beers/and/or casks tapped on the half hour between 4 pm and 7 pm, 3 from Surly and 3 from Tyranena. Scurvy was making it's debut in Minnesota with this tapping. The other beers I can't remember. Give me time, it'll come to me. The crew from Surly made it out, as well as Rob from Tyranena and some of his flock. He was especially glad to see his beers on tap at the Nile, since I'd written glowing reviews of his beers online.
Aside from the Surly releases and other associated events, this was the first beer event I put on, really, three years ago. Great turnout, lots of fine presents, even from people I never met, and lots of good beer love flowing around. Surly fans, Tyranena fans, family and friends showed up. It was a day I'll never forget, for sure.

So, where's what I wrote about Scurvy, three years ago, July, 2008:

Fresh keg, just tapped.

Cast in a bronze/amber hue, big, creamy white head.

Mellow aromatics, floral, citric hops, very even and cool.

On the tongue, here's the first spank of hops, the citric/pine tickle, lingering on the palate, then slowly fading off. Bright orange flavor peeks in just a bit. Hops and orange flavor keep trickling in, but it's never too much. Tastes a lot like Bitter Woman, but juicier, moister, ...lacks dryness, but that's what makes it unique.

Very tasty, very drinkable. Yum.
I'm still saying Yum.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stone IPA

Drinking on tap now, at Acadia Cafe. First review, from a bottle, back in May, 2003. Here come the notes...

The grim, growling gargoyle glares at you from the label, both offering protection from all things bland and dire, and also daring those not ready to indulge in a torrent of flavor to begone, and be untroubled by these blissful beers.
Appearance: a perfect, peachy hue, and a good, frothy white head.
Nose: somethin' else! A panoply of fruit, a citric cornucopia! Peaches and apricot, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, berries, and more, all in one little aroma!
Alert and lively, zesty, generous, and gorgeous!
Taste: superb! Fantastic flavor, yet none too bitter. A huge blast of hops jumps on the tongue, but not so severely. A firm body, also, excellent balance and malt backbone.
More of a piney feel comes through as we drink, but it's a minor note among so many others. Finish is medium, but tasty and satisfactory.
This is an IPA the way they are supposed to be!
If these excellent ales were available in my area, you can be sure that my fridge would be stocked well with these! Tasty, and drinkable, and rewarding!

Now that they are available in my area, for, oh, what's it been, 4 months now? Maybe? Curse my horrible memory...March, I think it they have a regular place in my fridge? I've bought one six-pack, that's it, because, my fridge isn't that big, there's so many other choices, and thirdly, it's so damned expensive. In truth it'll be a now-and-then treat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

13th Century Grut Bier

"13th Century Grut Bier, brewed according to recipes dating back to before the German Purity law in 1516, Historic Signature Series, Forgotten styles brewed according to their historic recipes by Dr. Fritz Briem, of the Doemens Institure, Brewed by Dr. Fritz Briem, Munich, Germany.

"Before the German Purity Law "Reinheitsgehot" of 1516 it was common practice to use any kind of different spices, herbs, fruits and other plants to provide balance to beer. Hops was not yet well known at this time.
Grut beer has roots in many cultures and each culture has it's own "special ingredients."Egyptians, NAtive Americans, Arabian Tribes, Gaulles, Germanic Tribes, and the Vikings.
This interpretation of a traditional grut bier is spiced with lobber (bay leaves), Ingwer (ginger), Kummel (caraway), Anis (anise), Rosemarin (rosemary), & Enzian (Gentian)." 4.6% ABV.

Enough of the long-winded explanations. Let's crack it open!

Cloude, pale yellow appearance. Head starts, then quits forever. Not particularly appetizing. Visually, that is.

Sniffing it: Beautiful, floral, spicy and arousing. Ginger is loudest in this, but the others play their part. Anise and rosemary…very pretty. Wonderful mix.

Now, let's drink it!
Wow! Very sharp on the palate, big spicy lemon citric bite! The promise of the nose is spoiled by the flavor. Harsh, sour, and bitter. Light medium body. Faint finish, the sour and trails off, leaving spice. Effervescent mouthfeel, nice carbonation, but the lack of body and absent malt profile leave me wanting.
In the end, it's all lemon, and I'm finishing it, but I'm not really liking it

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Great Lakes Holy Moses Witbier

Drinking fresh on tap now, had in the bottle, July, 2004. The notes:

Great Lakes Holy Moses White Ale, 7/2004

Very light yellowish color, under a big, snow-white head, the perfect picture of a witbier, really.
Aroma, ahhhh!, light, citric, but spicey as all-get-out, zesty,!
Taste: zing-a-zing-ahhhh!, as the Spice Girls would say...refreshing, slightly citrus, but so delicious, and easy to toss back...spicy and light citric flavor sendure on the palate, and remain on the tongue, very appreciated. Really remains, and that's a good thing, y'all.
Wow, very distinct, very delcious!
Matches admirably against all the best witbiers I've ever had...good job, Great Lakes! Yum!

Seven years later, the truest line in that review is the Spice Girls reference. Zing-a-zing-ah, is all you need to say.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wild Onion Jack Stout

Wild Onion Brewing Co., Jack Stout. "This full-bodied luscious stout is brewed with five different roasted malts, giving it a rich mouthfeel and nuances of chocolate and espresso. 6% ALC/Vol." Brewed and canned by the Wild Onion Brewing Co., 22221 Pepper Road, Lake Barrington, IL. , 12 FL Oz., 355 ml.

Why does "Jack Stout " have a feminine mascot on the can? Or is this a dude with barley malt dreadlocks?And big hoop, come-do-me earrings. I like it, but either the name changes or I have to adjust to this alternative life-style.

Deep, dark blackness, thick, rich, large cocoa-toned head, nice and brown. Looking good.

Aroma: little sweet, little bitter, here's the roast, and along comes some molasses, some chocolate, and a whiff of smoke. Coffee tones, too, of course. Right on aromatics for a stout.

Tasting: fuillish mouthfeel, full bodied, a bit coarse and well-done. Bitterness and roasty-ness runs high, and drinking-ness, or shall I say, Consumability is doing fine. Chocolate and coffee remain a big factor. An easy-drinking, sessionable stout.

Yeah, I'm drinking it, I tried it, I wrote about it, and once it's gone, I will probably forget it and never miss it. As a regular ol' stout, ain't nothing' wrong with it.

Sierra Nevada Summerfest

This is the last of the sampler pack from that certain salesperson. I never turn down a Sierra Nevada, and I'm pretty sure I've never reviewed this one. (Wrong, I did, in 2003. Screw that, here's the new notes.)

Sierra Nevada Summerfest 2011, Crisp Summer Lager. "Summerfest is a Pilsner-style lager brewed for enjoyment on warm summer days--featuring a slight malt sweetness, delicate spicy and floral hop flavor, and a crisp, refreshing finish."

Clear, pale yellow appearance, snowy white head, rests at 1/4".

Soft, crisp, lightly spicy/ hoppy aromatics. Perfect pils nose.

Taste: It all comes back to clean and crisp, then the small sweet malt flavor. Tidy hoppiness plays happily on the palate. Expert censurability. Little bit of fruit from the malt, a little apple, a touch of pear.

Tastes great, drinks great, …yeah, this'll do.

Rush River Uber Alt

Rush River Uber Alt Altbier. …I'm wondering why they translate "bier" into "beer", but leave the "alt" the same on that label? They don't want to say "old beer?"
8.5% ABV.
Dark amber hue, slim, soon gone head.

Aroma: caramel malt and light spice, sweet and slightly fruity. Chocolate covered raisins and carob. Mmm.

Taste: there's that tasty malt again, there's that mmm, mmm caramel and nougat. A little sweet, a little dry. Toasty. Medium bodied. Long, sweet, dry, toasty finish. Boom, boom, boom, it's hitting on all cylinders, just as the alcohol peeks in a tad.

Drinks down delightfully. Dry, and flavorful, and tasty, tasty, tasty. Another nice one from Rush River….pretty good "old beer."

Harriet Saison Nourrice

Harriet's newest is a Belgian-style saison/ farmhouse ale, named after the French word for "wet nurse." You should see the painting Jesse was doing for the label. A wise move not to make posters of that one. They have to be brown-bagged. Anyway, I'm liking it lots. Had a bunch at the brewery over the past few weeks, here's my notes from a growler just the other day.

Harriet Saison Nourrice

Clear, golden hued, enormous snowy-white head. Beautiful.

Aroma: delightful spice hits first, small sweetness, a little fruit, some apricot and orange. Enticing. Mmmm. Citrus and spice, brilliantly balanced.

Taste: Lightly hoppy, juicy, fruity malt. Excellent censurability. Fruitaciousness (new word! Enjoy it!) bounces up and down on the palate, swims around the mouth, doing what? Spreading deliciousness.

Gets dry, bitterness remains and keeps up with malt, astounding balance. Yes, astounding. This beats most, if not all, locally produced saisons. I mean that, without naming names.

Mmm, mmm, mmmmm.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Green's Gluten Free Tripel Blonde Ale

Gluten Free Greens' Tripel Blonde ale, "all Natural Quest", ale made from millet, buckwheat, rice & sorghum. Product of Belgium, 1 Pint, o.9 FL. Oz./500 Ml. Green's ales are brewed and bottled by De Proef Brouwerij, Lochristi, Gent, Belgium.
Green's ales DO NOT contain any of the following: Wheat and / or barley, Crustaceans, Eggs, Fish, Peanuts, Soya beans, milk, lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, sulphur dioxide, and Sulfites.
Best before: 05/08/15
Bottle re-fermented, 8.5% ALC/VOL.

I don't know if I've ever had a gluten free beer. Wait. Yes, One. Didn't feel the need to try any others since. But, here's an intriguing sample, with the added promise of NO crustaceans, celery, or peanuts!

Clear, golden color, gigantic crystalline head, leaving lace, a perfect snowy white.

Aroma: slightly acidic, sharp lemony flavors, hot, peppery spice. Very much like a triple.

Taste: Very light bodied, with a spicy, citric edge. A large spicy, citric edge, too big for it's featherweight frame. Not giving me much of what I'd like here, much too rough, could be softer, smoother, needs something to temper this raw alcoholic, hot and overly acidic flavor. It becomes nothing but lemon in the end, and that's not too pleasant, my friends.

I'm glad something like this exists for those who suffers from allergies and aversions, but I wish it would taste a lot better than this.

Man alive! Cover collage part 5!

Yup, I found more....this is almost all of them. I know of at least two more I haven't found yet. Ah, memories. Memories of beers gone by...

Surly Bitter Brewer

Notes from May, 2007, fresh off the tap. Had a can last night. Those original notes:

Lightly hazed apricot marmalade kiddin'...under a crisp, creamy white head...really, crisp and creamy...this is so far, one of the paler Surlys yet (maybe Cynic was lighter?), but the least alcoholic, for sure. (4.2%)

orange/ apricot marmalade dominates the aroma, also...fresh with citric zest...pithy, zippy...and a little sticky...

Taste: big bitter blast, tangy and tart, then nothing but refreshment. Easy drinking ale, this, crisp, snappy, light bodied, but full of testure, flavor and character. Bitter lemon rind feel keeps creeping into the palate.Then it fades back, with the hoppy kick still hanging on.

Interesting. Very much like a smooth, light ESB, but with that special something you get from the hops we grow on this continent. I am liking this, a great late spring sessioner.

Lion Stout

Lion Stout has been talked of before on this blog, a few years back, but I haven't shared my full review.
This dark Sri Lankan treat goes down in history as the first beer I ever took notes on, back in the summer of 2002, nine years ago. A friend brought a bottle back from Chicago and gave one to me, I sat down with a notebook and a glass, poured and got to writing. To my surprise, I was able to find the same flavors that published authors in the pages of All About Beer magazine, or the many books I'd collected over the years. That may not have been my first posted review, but years later I decided those early scribblings weren't good enough, and I sat down with a fresh bottle (newly distributed into Minnesota), and in July, 2004, submitted the following:

Fully ebon hue, rich, tan hand, thick and rocky...good looking stout, so far.

Nose, soft and creamy, with notes of nuts and cocoa. Taste is smooth at first, but fills the mouth well.

Huge malts, caramelly, thick and nearly chewy, very full bodied. Perfect integration, wonderful balance, sweet and tasty, but never too, with a delicate fruitiness, just underneath.
The ABV peeks in just a bit, but doesn't mar the enjoyment of what's nearly a perfect stout!
Beats the hell out of Guinness, but gets me yearning for an Expedition. Hearty and proud as it's namesake, Lion is a stout fit for a king. Lightly spicy in the end, nutty, and never-ending tastiness.

This is one I've tried to keep on tap as often as possible over the past five years or so, and it's back again after several months absence.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Surly Hell

Surly Hell Munich Helles Lager/Zwickel/Keller bier. 4.5% ABV. 20 IBU. Minneapolis & Brooklyn Center, MN.

I first wrote notes on this one in August of 2008, when I first tapped a keg of it. It was released in cans the next year. Many Surly fans had no idea what they were buying. Four Firkins owner Jason Alvey tells a story of how quickly people emptied his store of Hell, and how one IPA lover who grabbed his fill, returned to tell him that "it tasted like Grain Belt." That's the problem when consumers expect a brewery to only make one kind of beer, and when they are unfamiliar with a style, they come aways disappointed that it's not as hoppy or full-bodied as they'd like.
I had one tonight,'s what I wrote nearly three years ago:

Photo of the 2018 Vintage, much better than the 2011,
still preserved below, with notes from 2008.
"Surly Hell is brewed in the style of a German Light Lager or Munich Helles. Pale Yellow in color, this unfiltered lager or "kellerbier" is brewed with Pilsen and Carahell malt, Opal hops and a German yeast strain. Delicate malt flavor finishing with a tart crispness. 15 IBU.

Hazy straw yellow, big, lovely white head...
Beautiful aromatics, floral, herbal,...a trifle grainy...but altogether pleasing.

to drink: bing: there's the smooth. Bang: there's the malt, and Boom:...there's no Boom...just the smooth and the malt, and some light hops, plus the deliciousness of the yeast.

Disclosure: To those who don't know already, I'm not a lager lover. Just not enough flavor. I'm partial to unfiltered brews, as well. Like Belgian ales, some German ales, certain Surly...wait, Surly made a
German lager...and it's unfiltered? Sign me up...wait, I'm already drinking it...oh, okay...

I do like kellerbiers, when I find them. Can't think of one I haven't liked. Kep that yeast in, please! More flavor, por favor!

And here I am drinking Hell (a name I wish they'd saved for an abbey ale, or something, but I'm not in charge, am I?)...and I am enjoying it. If this had zero yeast in it, I probably would report the doldrums by now, but there's just enough going on in the mouth to keep my tastebuds happy.

Clean, yet fully flavored. You can hand this to a lager-lover and win them over, I think. Hey, it worked with me!

Stillwater Autumnal

Stillwater Autumnal. Purchased in late spring, drinking now in early summer. "This deep amber hued ale takes it's inspiration from Germany, while stiull nodding to the Belgian farmhouse tradition. The base is comprised of German two-row, wheat, Cara-Munich, and roasted barley. Generously hopped with a blend of Perle, Spalt, and Hallertau Mittlefruh, and fermented with a rustic Belgian farmhouse ale yeast. These elements together provide a melange of earth and fruit aromas backed with hints of caramel with a dry clean finish."

Dusky brown appearance, half-opaque, gorgeous head, big and billowy, lace leaving, luscious.

Aroma: there's the Belgian funk, here's the hops, and underneath the caramel malt. A twisted mix. Some chocolate here, some raisins, a little creamy, bits of nuts.

Taste: Mmm. Chocolate malt remains a minor player, mixes with dark fruit and nuts. Primarily a malt driven flavor, with mild and mellow hop character. Richness and sweetness aplenty. But never too much, great balance, great consumability.

Good spice in it, great malt, minor hops, terrific flavor.

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...