Friday, September 30, 2011

Ommegang Ommegeddon

Ommegang's Ommeegeddon, "funkhouse" ale, was a beer a tapped, and reviewed, a little over four years ago, July, 2007, and friends Dan and Beth were kind enough to bring over a 2008 bottle to my new apartment last night for a big ol' tasting. Here are those notes, from then:

Hazed, straw golden, with an enormous, rusty, off-white head, stays long at the top of the Ommegang tulip glass it sits in. Spices on top in this one, with some citric fruit feel underneath. A little pepper, a little apricot, and a pervasive mood of funk surrounds it all. On the tongue, again, cracked pepper, and light fruit. A little spark, a little bite, and then it's all smooth, and easy. But the flavor never quits. Starts out stealthy, then spreads to all areas of the tastebuds, the black pepper and lemon rind rounding it out. Stronger than your typical farmhouse, and not, however, quite as funky as I feared. Maybe the effect is felt more in the bottle. That's okay, I can only take so much of that stuff. This is nice, I can drink one or two or three without feeling the 8%...or can I? I'm not going to try to find out tonight...maybe next time.

The 3 year old bottle? Definitely more sour and funky, but not by much. Easier drinking, though.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tyranena Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale

Tyranena Brewing Company, Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale, Lake Mills, WI

"The Painted Ladies Annual Fling celebrates the renaissance of downtown Lake Mills. Although named for the restoration of the many Victorian storefronts, some of the more adventurous women-folk added a playful twist and dressed as, well, painted ladies. Inspired by these bold and spicy women, we brewed Painted Ladies, a pumpkin and spice-infused amber ale. This fall, make sure you enjoy a fling with a few Painted Ladies."

Well, I grabbed up 6-pack, so that fling is on. I've had this on tap before, at local ale establishments. This is my first time enjoying bottles. So, how is it?

Deep amber hued, slim head. S'okay.

Aroma: Warm, sweet and spicy. Cinnamon, allspice, clove. Some vegetable flesh beneath it. Beautiful blend.

Taste: Malt flavor is first and fullest, pumpkin taste is light, but there. Hops are minor, too, but give a little bite. Spices are prominent, and mix well with malt. Not too hot, not too big, just nice and balanced, imparting sweet and spicy flavor. I feel we get more from the "pumpkin spices", and less from the actual fruit (or vegetable, or legume, or whatever.) Good and mellow, but not quite full-flavored enough for my taste.

however…there ain't nothing wrong with it. Very malty, toasty amber brew, filled with fresh, tasty flavor. Spices never quit. Mmmm.

North Coast Grand Cru

North Coast Grand Cru, 500 ml, Alc./Vol. 12.9% Ale brewed with agave nectar and aged in bourbon barrels.

Hazed, golden/amber-hued, skinny ring of snowy white forage.

Nose: alcohol is smelled first, then tequila…mmm, hmmm. Some oak effects, but not much from bourbon. Beneath, I don't get a whole lot. Some fruity ale esters.

Taste: Hell of a lot going on. Apple. Cider-y. White wine. Citrus zest. Bright lemons and limes. Lean, crisp, and swimming with flavor. Flavors of cactus fruit, definitely.

What's the base beer on this? No word on the label. A new invention, or was another NC brew used? These questions need answers.

Tasty, tasty stuff. Feels like a lighter quadruple, with the extra agave kick. The bourbon barrel aging? Didn't pick much up on that. Maybe the oak helped balance the agave. Not quite as sharp as you'd expect, rather smooth and mellow.

I'm not even feeling the 13% ABV…yet…(famous last words).

This high alcohol brew may doom my night, but it's muy deliciouos, that much cannot be denied. Actually…almost done, and I'm doing fine. Wait, here it comes…

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Southern Tier Pumpking

Into a chalice, it's poured, lookig a light orange, softly hazed, with brown edges..nice, if slimmed down head. Aroma starts with cinnamon and nutmeg, not too loud, soft, but spicy, then the meat of the gourd calls out below. Sweet, spicy, and nice. In the mouth, it's all there. Nothing but pumpkin, not too big and bold, but not skimpy either, and not one of these where only the spices of a pumpkin pie are employed to deliver the desired effect. No, this is with real pumpkin added, and the abv is definitely higher than normal, doesn't show at first, but then we get nice and warm. Honestly, it really tastes like drinking a slightly diluted pumpkin pie, blended up and kicked up with some booze. Delicious stuff. Really good. Might not need the 9% abv, I mean, jeez, does everything have to go so high, these days? I remember when 9% used to mean something...argh, grumble, mumble, you kids get off my lawn! BUT..damn good beer, highly recommended...drink one and see... Serving type: on-tap Reviewed on: 10-13-2008 06:24:25

Monday, September 26, 2011

Liefmans Goudenband

Since 1679, Liefmans Goudenband…"one of the world's most complex beers. An aged Belgian brown ale. It is brewery cellared for many months until it matures. Only then is it blended and bottled. Historically known as 'Provision Beer', Goudenband is superb for further home cellaring, allowing the taste, aroma, and body of the beer to continue to evolve. A delectable treat for the beer connoisseur."

Regardless of that, I'm drinking it now, since I haven't had one in many years. I'll cellar another one later. 8% ABV.

Dark, clouded, deep burgundy brown, slim off-white head, gets tight, but hangs in there.

Aroma is where it's at: soft, yet sharp. Sour, and a little sweet. Raisins, dates, cherries, blackberries. Dark malts plunked down, mashed and maturated with deep, winey flavors.

Taste: beautiful. Enters the mouth a'blazing'…coats the palate with a great splash of sour, a supple coating of sweet, a flush of fruit flavor, the dark ones, the plump ones, the ones that grow on vines. A little bitter buzz butts up against the sour, then allis malty and mellow. Complex, but well-balanced. Luxurious, and satisfying. Sweet, succulent, wine flavors meld with full-bodied brown ale.

In other words, yummy, this is delish. Sourness never quits, and never dominates, either. You get a hit of it, it blends with the rest, and it's all easy on the way out. Long, fruity finish. Utterly delightful.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Belgum Super Cru (Lips of Faith)

New Belgium Lips of Faith Super Cru. For their 20th Anniversary, they did something different with their familiar flagship brew, and doubled the recipe on Fat Tire amber ale, adding Asian pear juice, then re-fermenting with a saison yeast. 10 % Alcohol by volume. The end result was not received with resounding hosannas by the beer geeks and snobs at large, but from my perch at the bar, people have been loving it. I got one keg that was included in a special event last week featuring 6 Lips of Faith beers. It went back on tap tonight, and was a big hit with many. This would be my last chance to really try it, without chasing down a bottle. It'll finish out tomorrow for sure, but I've got my pour here at bar close, and away we go…

Appearance: Clear and crimson-colored, under a creamy, off-white head, 1/2" thick and long-lasting.

Aroma: wild and funky, in a mellow style, at the outset, with fruity esters beneath. floral hoppitude. Toasty malt, then distinctive, delicate pear is noted. Curious about why that chose that pear juice addition, but it does appear in the nose. Interesting. And particularly pleasant. I like it.

Taste: And it's there in spades in the flavor, drowning out the malt flavor we know from Fat Tire, which should be louder in this double-up version. Some sweetness slips in, but is tempered by the dry, spicy yeast character. Great match between malty, fruity sweetness and the spice & the hops.

And then along comes the booze, fat, juicy, leaning in on the lobes. Roaring in, pounding at the door. Very friendly and warming. However. The medium body is too meager for this assault, I can feel my defenses weakening. The uniquely tasty fruit factor is a true delight for the sense, a thrill on the tongue, but it's not enough to hold the intense 10 % alcohol barrage.

Would a lower alcohol version work better, or even be possible, following the same procedure?

It's a bit of a mixed-up mess, but experiments are gambles sometimes, and not everything is for everyone. Not perfect, not amazing, but very interesting, and tasty, for sure.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel

Sierra Nevada/ New Clairvaux Ovila Dubbel. 7.5 % ABV. Long label description too involved to replicate here.

Ruddy, rustic auburn hue, a crimson edging on brown…big, cream-toned head, starts big, thins out to a tight ring.

Aroma: brown sugar and cola, rich malt, toffee, caramel. Borders on sweet, but never gets over the fence. Beautiful.

Taste: rich malt hits at first, caramel and toffee, but overall, very dry. Sweet is kept at bay, bitterness is here, but lays low. Some flavors I look for are missing. Lacks complexity. Somewhat simple. But, satisfactory. I like this, it's good, …nice, yum, mmmm.

Just not good enough. Not AS good, as it could be. I guess I like them bigger than this. Dry and balanced. Mmmm….hmmmm.

Brau Brothers Moo Joos Oatmeal Milk Stout

Brau Brothers Moo Joos…"…combines the full body of a milk stout, with the silky smoothness of an oatmeal stout. Lactose sugar in the boil contributes a full and creamy mouthfeel, while toasted and flaked oats in the mash round out the beer with an oily texture. A deep malt bill builds layers of roasty notes with hints of chocolate, coffee, and anise. A traditional British cask yeast is then pitched, which leaves us with a fruity, malty ale." Oh, really. You don't say.

Brewed in Lucan, MN, pop. 220.

deep ebony hue, with a creamy tan head, rocky, bubbly, lace-leaving, looking the perfect fit for a stout.

Smellin' it: Ah, there's the roast, the bittersweetness, the slight fruitiness…some cream comes through, but roast and toast are king here. Mmm. Pitch perfect.

Taste: creamy milk stout, full bodied, full flavored, meet smooth, roasty oatmeal stout. Great idea. Has anyone else done both at once, or was it up to the the Brothers Brau to create this sweet, satisfying amalgamation?

Bitterness, very mild, plays first on the palate, then folds back, sweet, milky, creamy malt flavor runs in and takes over. There's a brief pitstop, where the bottom falls out and the cream and the milk is standing tall. Bitterness never leaves, sweetness never takes over, a great feat of balance. Oats bring in the smooth, drop the silky, and the cream is all gravy. Here comes the anise, now, and there's some of the coffee…it's getting going…all the parts are in play. A thoroughly satisfying stout, perhaps my favorite BBBC beer so far.

New Belgium Belgo Belgian-style India Pale Ale

New Belgium Belgo Belgian-style India Pale Ale. Alc. 7% by Vol. "Friday night and the lights are low, Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, and Simcoe, looking for a place to BelGO. Get in on the estery beats, and hop aroma blasts, as India Pale Ale grooves with Belgian yeast."

Not sure why the disco connection. Something to do with Belgium? Is it the ancestral home of the music? Is it because the share the same letters, …Belgo, Disco…they both end in "o"? Is it because it's "funk-ay"?

Oh, not sure, but I give up, let's crack the crown.

Pale amber/ orange coloring, huge white head, hangs in and sticks around. Looks good, no denying.

Intriguing aromatics: sweet, then slightly sour, a little fruity, a lotta funky. Unusual, and very inviting.

Now to drink 'er up: Hop bitterness blasts the palate, coats the tongue, and lays in for the long haul. Belgian yeast character follows through and gets thoroughly in the mix. Thoroughly mixed, meshed, mashed-up and integrated. Strong and solid as an American IPA, with the wild weird Belgian ale flavor. Non-stop hop attack, tasty malt, earthy, spicy Belgian yeast. Great combination.

Oddly, I wasn't too enthusiastic with the first three bottles I tossed back. For beer #4, sitting down and really thinking about…I'm very happy with this one, and will come back for more.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Just tapped this one the other day, and looking back at my first notes ever, from a bottle, a preview given to me by Omar. I'm pretty sure nothing like that ever happened again. They can put out the beers with utter confidence, no need to put out samples and ask what bar managers think. The next year, I reviewed it again, from the can, but we won't worry about that. Here are the notes on Surly's non-marzen, not-traditional, doens't-satisfy-Omar's mom, kind of malty lager, dry-hopped, etc., etc....

Reviewed from a sample bottle provided by the brewers prior to release. SurlyFest is their take on an Oktoberfest, but, like most of their offerings, isn't likely to satisfy style sticklers. Single-hopped, with Summit, and dry-hopped, using German malt and Crystal Rye. 40 IBUs, between 5 and 6% abv. One single batch brewed, lagered for about 3 months.

Dark orange color, fairly hazed, with a fine slice of bubbly white froth above.

Malty aroma, light fruit, some pumpkin, vegetal, grassy, intriquing blend. Smells like an O-fest, for sure, but doesn't hit me with hops like I anticipated. But definitely hoppier than than the normal Marzen.

Taste: crisp, smooth, slightly sweet, well-balanced, streams through the senses with ease, without being the least bit light bodied or thin. Just delicious. Eternally tasty. Brilliant flavor. Just shines. My vocabulary and sense perception fails me. This is quite a new thing on the tongue and a real, true delight for the tastebuds. Hops really hang in there in the finish, staying on the palate for a spell like a good pale ale or IPA would. A refreshing switch-up for a malty lager!

In other words, I like it!

Flat Earth Bermuda Triangle Belgian-style Tripel

Had my first bomber of Flat Earth's Belgian-style tripel, recently, but  I'm referring to notes taken from my second taste of it, back in September, 2007, at Acadia Cafe.  In the intervening four years, I've tapped it myself several times, now and then. I feel the original thoughts hold true. Here come the notes:

Hazy golden color, smallish head (but more than the last pour I got, at another bar)...

Sweetness and spice in the nose, apricot and orange...lemon peel and ginger. On par for style.

A blast in the mouth, a bright blow-up of flavor, lovley and lively, same fruit and lightly spicy/sweet associations ring clear on the tongue. 
Lean and clean-bodied, but zesty and rewarding, getting brighter and juicier, maltier, with a dry, spicy finish, as we go further in...
what's the alcohol? 9%? Feelin' it, now...
Flavor really makes itself at home in the back of the throat before sliding slowly back, and softly going away...but never far from memory...

my serving at the other place last night left me feeling that it lacked carbonation, and was too lifeless for me...I'm not having that problem here, not now...could use more spark, I still believe, but this is doing good things in my mouth, nonetheless...


Hmmm, looking back, a few things are different from tap to bottle. Definitely looks better, can't you tell? Flavor is consistent, though, so I'll keep it as is. Get this one with confidence, it'll do you well.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Belgium La Folie

La Folie. The Folly. And what tremendous courage they had in Fort Collins to pull of a beer like that, so many years ago. For a long time, it was spoken of only in whispers and legends, a Flemish sour red/brown, sold only at the brewery. Eventually, distribution picked up, and bottles got out. These days, it's being made in mass quantities, and sold year-round, and we can get kegs whenever we want. It's also part of the Lips of Faith series, that has brought us some very interesting entries over the years. I have to admit, unfortunately, I haven't kept up with them very well, but I made up for it by putting six of them on tap today for a special event. All of them released so far this year, except for the best-received, La Terroir,...oh, well. And for good measure, a 2009 keg of La Folie. I take this opportunity to share my notes from my first ever bottle, had back in May, 2005. Here we go...

The cage and cork are off, the bottle poured into glass and immediately the nose is hit with a tart cherry/berry intensity. But let's look at this first: 
Lush, deep crimson color, cherry red, really, with active carbonation, and an impressively stable pinkish head. 
Aroma: sour, and a touch sweet. soft fruit. Perfect balance, though, and at times angelic. Something sublime there. A poetic, eniticing aroma. 
Taste: Acidic bite leads off, then the serious pucker, the mouth twisting sour, saved by a blast of sweet berryish flavor. Very nice. 
Solid mouthfeel, excellent texture, full body, with a long, fruity, ultimately dry finish. 
There is some serious refreshment happening in the mouth, here. 
Just gorgeous, really. Easily the match of any Flanders Red I've met, and the better of many more. A pity it's so rare, but easily this fine brewery's best work. 
So mellow, but jam-packed with flavor, oozing character. The wood did well with this one. 


I think I'm in love.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Holland Dragon's Milk

Having tapped my first-ever keg of New Holland's Dragon's Milk on Monday (what took me so long), I checked the volume last night to see how far along we've gone in 4 days. Yikes! Almost gone. So, had a glass after work last night, took some shots, and looked back at my first bottle, from January, 2004:

Appearance: frightfully dark, deep plum color, with a generous, frothy, creamy, light tan head above, lace-leaving, slowly subsiding.

Aroma: chocolate, cream, vanilla...interesting...buttery, with a whiskeyish tinge, as well.

Taste: unusual, the vanilla lingers, a woody, chocolatey character dominates. Small hops, rich malt, and the 10% Abv is sneaky, not kicking into the flavor in the least. Oh, here it comes...fruitiness comes in toward the end, raisiny, plummy, ...such a nice little brew, a great buttress against this ridiculous sub-zero January chill.

I've had this on-tap before, at the Autumn Brew Review last fall, and wasn't so charmed...this bottle changed my mind. Were I a Michiganite, Dragon's Milk would have a coveted spot in the icebox.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rodenbach 2007 Vintage

Rodenbach 2007 Vintage, Oak Aged Ale Barrel No. 230, Rodenbach, the exceptional red/brown sour ale of mixed fermentation, takes on it's unique character by maturing in handmade oak vats, some over 150 years old. This exclusive limited edition vintage by Rodenbach (7% ABV) is the result of a two-year aging process in Vat No. 230, resulting in our finest ale produced. Enjoy it's unparalleled sweet and sour palate with a complex aftertaste."

Gorgeous burgundy hue, a rich lavender, a rosy raspberry…with a slim, pinkish head atop. Very clouded. Looks utterly inviting, lovely as can be. 

Aroma: Ah! Wow. Mmmm. Ripe raspberries meet mature cherries, under the fog of funky Belgian yeast. Tart, and sweet, and so tempting. I honestly and truly don't want to take my nose away from it. A lambic like no other. Complex, indeed. And, now to drink it…

Taste: on the lips…sublime. Incredible depth of flavor, large oak effects, delicious fruit factor. Lacks the sharpness and acidity in fresher red ales/ sours, whatever we call them these days. So rounded, so mellow, so groovy. (You know, that's going to become a regular thing in my vocabulary.) There's still plenty of sour snap, lots of zest, very vibrant funky kick, lush fruit…so tasty. So robust, so complex, deep …pretty near impossible to really encapsulate with mere words alone. If I could paint it for you? Animate it for you? Do an interpretive dance? Spin some poetry…perchance?

I went and rhymed again. So sue me. (Worse, it's bad, and trite. And forced. Ah, forget it.)

Medium-bodied, fullest of flavor. Long lasting tartness on the tongue. Gets more complex, with tannin-type feeling  on the palate. Wow, I say again. Damn, this is deliciousness. A mellifluous mix of wine-like flavors, lambic sour and sweet, fruit flavors above and beyond, with an unheard-of depth and complexity. 

Great Divide Belgian Style Yeti Russian Imperial Stout

Great Divide Belgian Style yeti, Iconoclastic Imperial Stout Mysterious, brewed and bottled by GDBC, Denver, CO, blah, blah……."a delicious new blend of brewing traditions --all the malt driven roastiness of our yeti Imperial Stout with characteristic spice and fruit notes imparted by our special Belgian yeast strain. Belgian style Yeti is a one of a kind beer as mysterious as the mythical creaturehimself, Impossible? See for yourself, you'll be a believer, too." 9.5% ABV, 

Deep, dark coloration, black as night, full, rich, huge, generous, prodigious head flowers on top, creamy tan colored, rocky, lacy, gorgeous. Yeah…

Aroma: oats, roast. toffee, coffee…vanilla and cream…this gorgeous, but I can't say what's particularly Belgian about it. I'll keep on sniffing…rich and roasty-toasty, but not too unusual…

Taste: mmmm, chocolatey-riffic, …cocoa and cream, tasty and terrific, but how do I say this? Where is the Belgian in it? Maybe if they didn't say yeast strain, I'd guess it was a chocolate addition, but there's nothing Belgian ale about this. Hang on, I'm going to keep drinking…in a Belgian IPA, you can taste the "Belgian", in an imperial stout, can you? Hmmm? There's Belgian export stout, but imperial stouts, that I know of…man, I don't know what to say, I'm getting the cocoa, but nothing different. Can Belgian yeast really be heard above the dark smog of an imperial stout?? 

It's damned tasty, though, if that's all that matters…and it should. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Town Hall ESB

town hall esb. 
clear, bronze color, nice, big, creamy-toned head, lace-leaving, and lovely. 

Aroma: earthy, fruity, some apple, berry, melon. A bit of sweetness meets a mix of bitter hops. 

Taste: fruity, creamy, and mild. Little hop bitterness in the flavor. Soft, sweet, tasty. Easy drinking. I said tasty, right? Not too much happening, but that's the point, the aim, the journey, here. It's all about drinking, and deliciousness. This one scores on all counts. 

I've never been a big fan of ESBs. They just don't give me the flavor I'm looking for. This one's different. It's got the goods. It's bringing the magic, it's got the eye of the tiger, it's going the distance, it's on the move.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Surly Five

I decided to do my review of Five from the tap, while we still have it, so I can hang on to the bottles. Chances are good that when I crack them open, I won't be alone, and I won't be holding a pen, or clacking on a keyboard. Here are my notes from late last night. Or early this morning. (Yesterday morning?)

Surly Five. Five points in the pentagram, mystic talisman of satanic ministers, invoking demons and demigods to do evil bidding. I just knew the eventual imagery for this one, celebrating 5 years of Surliness, had to be Baphomet. "It Had to Be Baphomet." Sounds like a sitcom. or a broadway show. I want to see that.

So, this was made exactly like a Flanders Red. Brown ale and brettanomyces, aged in wine barrels, blended. But this comes out much darker than those. Called a "dark ale" on the label, perhaps in an effort to dodge associations with more famous "brown ales"?, …but looking at this final product, it is mighty dark.

Nearly black, this, with a slim head, currently a light, cola-tinted ring.

Aroma: black cherries, sourness, tart, slightly sweet, deep, and inviting. Beautiful. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Taste: bam, fruit, bam, sour, bam, pucker. Not incredibly intense, not horribly palate-wrecking, just nice and sour, amply backed up by rich malt. Tanin-y, tart, puckering, gritty, earthy, with the feel of grape peels, of getting into the insides of stone fruit, licking the pith, getting rightfully intimate with the danker sides of darker fruits. Berries and cherries, grape and more, a potent sour kick, then smooths, mellows, and winds down delightfully. 

once off the palate, it begs back in. Hey, that was good, let's have some more. Mmmm, yeah. Tangy, tasty, never-ending sour kick, starts in the front, moves to the back. Lays long in the palate, fades slowly.

This is a very mellow, approachable version of this style, ridiculously delicious. Sour flavor still kicks in, drops it's bombs on the palate, over and over, with rich malt holding down below. Hints of cocoa, chocolate, some bitter hops and funky acidity. Tangy kick never quits, cherry/currant flavor remains strong, sourness reigns supreme. 

Todd has called this the most polarizing Surly yet. Folks are going out and chasing $20 bottles, then complaining about the flavor, and sending nasty emails asking for refunds. What can you say about people like this?What can you do with them? Can't take them out back and shoot them...can't string them up...maybe you can stuff them in a crate and ship them to Nicaragua?
 Maybe someday they'll get it, and wonder who they were back then.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Town Hall Dunkel Weizen

Town Hall Dunkel Weizen. I thought for sure I'd written about this before, as I'm sure they'd made it before, but, hey, here we are. My notes from the other day follow...
Purplish-brown appearance, slim, tight dunnish head.

Aroma starts with spice and fruit. Banana and clove, with dark fruit, berries and cherries, just a little, below. A little earthy, a little elevated, a lot of lovely.

Taste: Wheat flavor kicks it off. Starts smooth and lush, tangy and rich. Full-bodied. Tactile. Terrific censurability. Medium finish. Never-flagging flavor. Delicious.


It's true, I reviewed this before. Feb. 2007. Here 'tis, for old times sake:

Murky brown mixed with crimson coloration, solid swath of creamy white caps the top. 

Sweetness in the nose, wheaty, whiffs of banana and spice. Soft and airy. 

Much fruit in the flavor, banana, some citrus and clove, some caramel from the malt, and it's all very smooth and flavorful. Lush and lovely. 

Smooth and easy-drinking, refreshing, just enough wheat texture. Medium-bodied, with plentiful flavor. 

Yum, yum, bubblegum.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Great Divide Hercules Double IPA

Drinking fresh on the tap, and looking back on my first notes from a bottle, June, 2004:

Lovely, bright amber color, full, fresh head of froth, creamy as all-get-out, utterly delightful. Aroma, smoooth, I meant to say, smooo-oo–ooth, and luscious, with touches of pine, and citrus, a forest floor at loose in the nose. Uplifting and well worth smelling! Taste: full blast of hoppiness, and brash fruity flavor. A rewarding overload of juicy taste delivers on the palate again and again. Nice, and nice. Not as punishing or as harsh as a Rogue or a Dreadnaught, but I imagine they weren't out to slay the uninitiated with this, but welcome some into the heavily hoppy fold. Despite that qualm, a big, brash IPA, well worth any ale-lover's tasting! Yum, I says, as the flavor still laps up and around the mouth and I keep thinking "yum, yum, and, again, yum." Tastiness beerily personified!

Deschutes The Stoic

The Stoic, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon, A Prized, Potent Belgian-styled Quad of Stirring Depth and Complexity. …well, there, I don't need to say anything more, right?) The Stoic, malt beverage brewed with pomegranate with 16.5% beoing aged in oak wine barrels and 16.5% aged in oak rye whiskey barrels.

Clear, deep amber hue, slim head. Looks nice, despite the meager foam.

Aroma: the barrels speak first, oak and rye come right out of the nose, fruit and alcohol (11%) come next. Deep, while delicate. Pomegranate is here, accompanied by pear and apple.

Taste: Bright, ripe fruit, as before, apple, pear, pomegranate, met with cherries and berries. A switch of spice comes shining through, and the oak rises up, as well. It all coalesces, in an intriguing bl


Was it red wine in the oak barrels? Not sure, but I can feel that flavor coming through. I am glad they judiciously aged a mere 1/3 of the brew, for too much would be overpowering, and I appreciate some subtlety more than ever these days.

Malt makes a good match for the high alcohol. No hops, low bitterness, but fine, funky fruit flavor, and beautiful oak additions. I'm loving this. Stirring Depth and Complexity, indeed. I've made fast friends with this Stoic.

Flying Dog Imperial IPA-Single Hop Simcoe

Finally got around to that exclusive bottle in the Alpha Dog pack. A pity I was disappointed. Here are the notes, from earlier this morning:

"While the damn Dionysus was taking all the glory, Simcoe, Greek God of Beer and Relaxation, was out, diligently developing tools for man to brew,---fresh grain and hops, active yeast, and bountiful water. With it's golden glow and sharp hop bite, our Imperial Single Hop IPA is a tribute to this lesser-known God (and as temple-worthy as it's namesake). Alc./vol: 10%, IBU: 70.

Okay, let's try it out.

Clear, golden/peachy hue, slim, soon-gone head.

Bright, crisp, vibrant aroma, bursts with potent pine and serious citrus. Lemon, lime, grapefruit aplenty.

All those flavors jump on the palate, explode in the mouth. Big, powerful melange of hoppitude. There is some imbalance, as the alcohol rides a bit too high in this. 10% rings in too loudly, too soon.

I love Simcoes, and enjoy the flavor, but I can't go with the temptation to have another. Not ready for that headache. Will have to save those last 2 bottles for another day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tusker Lager

I wrote this in late November, 2002:
Big, blossoming, sturdy ,crackling head. Transparent, yellow hue. Aroma is fresh, floral, honeyish, zesty and uplifting. Taste is clean, light bodied, everything one expects from a decent lager. A bit like SingHa, actually. This must go down well in African heat, just as perfectly intelligent North American beer fans will quaff a Crud Light or Swiller Genuine Crap in the summertime.
Slightly different than I remember this from 3 years ago, when last it was available in MN. A label change, not for the better, it appears, put it in limbo, and all the while my customers at the African restaurant and nightclub whose bar I manage demanded Tusker's whereabouts. I found a bottle in Portland, OR and got it's former distributor on the case. Our African customers normally go for Guinness, Extra Stout (NOT "Draught" )or Heineken, and little else. The Kenyans will switch to Tusker, but our main sales will be to the curious CaucasianAmericans, anxious to try something on the exotic side, only to find it's largely like all the decent lagers they've had before.
Not bad, though!

Monday, September 5, 2011

21st Amendment Hop Crisis Imperial IPA

My latest entry for the San Francisco brewpub, which contracts out it's packaged products in Cold Spring, MN, and my first having it on tap at the Nile. So, it's local, right?

Here are my notes on Hop Crisis, the Imperial IPA, aged on oak spirals:

21st Amendment Hop Crisis, Imperial IPA, aged in oak spirals. 9.7% ABV, 94 IBUs.

Clear, bright, reddish amber hue; huge head, lush and long-lasting, creamy-toned.

Aroma: oak notes hit the nose immediately, covering the harsher aspects of this Imperial IPA. Citrus and pine lurk beneath. Grapefruit meets mango, lighter lemon and lime. Slightly soaked in oak, not necessarily smothered, though. Still showcases a beautiful bouquet of hop notes.

Taste: Lush in the mouth, full and forward with flavor. Hops are high, here, big, bracing bitterness, but nicely coated by the touches of oak. It's an extra dimension, it's nothing intrusive or reductive, in the least. You're still smacked around with hops, and high alcohol levels, two things you want in your imperial IPA, but x-factor of oak brings a comforting element, something that subdues the harsh bitterness ever slightly, and ushers in a crisp, satisfying something else. 

It hangs in the air, and it hides in your head. This has an electric hop buzz that cradles the cranium, and sizzles, the senses, without killing anyone, or ruining anything. Boom, and, yum, and boom, and, ahhhh!!!

Really great beer, super great, ultra tasty, and, yeah. Crisis averted.

Fulton Sweet Child of Vine IPA

Fulton's Sweet Child of Vine IPA is on tap at the Nile, at last. The beer has been around for a year and a half, I think. The earliest reviews I can find are from February, 2010, but I know they first released it in October, 2009. Why would all of beergeekdom wait so many months to tag their feelings on this new local brewing concern? (They weren't a brewery then, getting their stuff contract-brewed in Wisconsin, and the new brewery downtown is still not quite ready to go.)

I took my first notes in August of last year, on tap at another bar, Acadia Cafe. Here they are:
Lightly hazed, amber/bronze appearance, lean beige head, leaves lace.

Aroma is soft,herbal,floral....pleasing drizzle of hop character, nothing too bitter, at all. Very likeable.

Taste: Easy delivery of hops up, down and over the palate. Sweet malt backbone, a touch of caramel, and toffee....bit of bitter, touch of fruit, but not the usual suspects. This is definitely not an American IPA, as listed here, for it lacks the character of American hops, no citrus or pine, but plenty of earthy, herbal, other-fruity-ness, ...apples, pear, maybe...more in line with an English IPA. Bitterness plays it light, folds into the malty flavor.

One thing this is, is tasty. There is flavor aplenty. It's not over the top, it's not a bombast of bitterness, it's an even-handed, mild, drinkable English-style IPA.
69 IBUs....that's about right. The hop smack is there, and best yet, you can drink it. Sometimes, that is very important.

I will continue to drink and enjoy this beer. Don't go into it, though, thinking it's something it isn't, as some do.

Steel Toe Size 7 IPA

Steel Toe Brewing, St. Louis Park, Size 7 IPA, 7.7%, 77 IBUs, something like that.
64 ounce growler.

Reddish/amber hue, slim white head. 

Bittersweet aromatics, ripe with fruity esters, pine, grapefruit, very vibrant and lively. Zest nose, I like it a lot.

Taste: Bitter hops up front, more of the citrus fruit and pine, but well matched with ample malt. Medium bodied, long, bitter hoppy finish. Toasty malt flavors coat the tongue, keeping up with the consistent delivery of hoppiness. Excellent consumability, never-ending taste. 

My first taste of Minnesota's newest brewery, and it hits a home run. This is one IPA that's right up my alley. Exceptionally likable, good for what ails you.

Can't think of more to say, but that just about does it. I'm impressed, and I'll be back for more. Or, someone else will, and bring a growler back to me.
(Thanks to Jason B. for retrieving this growler!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Deschutes Hop in the Dark C.D.A.

I've had an aversion to this style of beer lately, the Black IPA, the India Black Ale, the Cascadian Dark Ale, whatever it may be called (and it WILL be called many things). There were a few too many that were not integrated well at all, resulting in a dark, chocolatey, goopy, grassy mess. So much so, that I'd forgotten that this is one of the good ones. Of course it is, it's Deschutes.

And it's on tap now, for our mini-events, Hoppy Days are Here again. After all these IPAs and Imperial IPAs, it's back to Belgians, and stouts, and maybe a few German brews, for a change. This one won't last long, though, it's a big favorite so far.
Here come the notes....

Thoroughly stygian appearance, ultimately black, huge head, cocoa-toned, rocky and lacy.  Beautiful. 

Aroma: Grassy hops up front, cocoa and toffee below. dark, lush malt meets full bore hops. Very nice. Dark, malty, and hoppy all at once, what do you know?

Taste: more incredulity, as the tongue is greeted by sweetness, and grassiness together. I'm getting a minimum of bitterness, just enough to keep the sweet at bay. Great balance. Full bodied, long finish. Uniquely flavorful. Yum. Zesty hop sting on the palate, with tasty, sweet malt below. 
Intriquing integration, a wholly unique hybrid of dark malt, and pungent hops, well played. Delicious, honestly, seriously. 

HitD is one of those brews that corrects the style against all others. I've had a few CDAs that I've utterly and thoroughly fled from, in fright, terror, horror, and disdain. This is several points of delicious, many stripes of scrumptious. But the debate rages on. Is it a hoppy porter, or a dark, malty IPA? Not sure if I care. It's lovely, is what it is. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Founders Porter

Notes taken in August of 2004:

Dark, rich, coffee bean color, near opacity,, with a creamy tan head nestled above, a nice 1/4" that assuredly slims, but not too swiftly.

Aroma: bittersweet espresso from sniff #1...roasty, toasty, deep, and inviting.

Lush mouthfeel, big chocolatey malt character hits first in the flavor, nice and thick, then it rounds out and quits the mouth on a happy note. And urges further sips and swallows. Fills the mouth happily with the cocoa/coffee quality all good porters must have, but never too bitter, very, very smooth, and not at the sacrifice of flavor and body.

I really like this one. Actually, I really, really like this one, this is truly my kind of porter, and I know them when I find them.
Ful bodied, long, flavorful finish, lush texture...this is one porter I'd be happy to call me own, and would have caseloads on hand at at time, were I the Michigan type...cheers to you who are, for having this fine brew!

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA

Flying Dog Raging Bitch started as the 20th Anniversary beer, brewed first in 2009. I got some kegs, but didn't tap them until March of 2010. Here's what I wrote then:
Here's a second kind of "Belgian IPA", not a hoppy ale brewed n Belgium, but an American IPA, with an injection of Belgian yeast. Much like Victory Hop Devil. Sounds like my kind of beer, so bring it on!
Clear, amber appearance, and enormous, creamy white head, lace leaving and utterly lovely. Sitting gorgeous in the glass.

Aroma is vibrant hops, beautiful fruit, bitter citrus and a whiff of Belgian funk. Mmmm...

Fiercely floods the mouth, a generous blitz of hoppiness, matched with the unique, zesty lively flavors found in Belgian golden ales and tripels and the like. Big hops, like any IPA worth it's lupulin, then more of a tingle on the tongue, nice buzz on the palate...then that flavor both fresh and wild. i like the Snake Dog it...but I love this.

Long bitter flavor, long finish, great sustaining taste, non-stop fresh hop delivery. Each sip urges the next. Flavor never leaves the mouth.

Delicious. Love this stuff. I'm seeking out bottles, so I can enjoy it more. Here's to 20 great years, Flying Dog!
So, it was a hit, and now it's a year-round, and you can enjoy it whenever. Such a happy story.

Flying Dog Doggie-Style Classic Pale Ale

Another in the Alpha Sampler, An Homage to the Hop. I was rather harsh when I first assessed this, in March, 2003. Observe:

Bright, frothy head, amber color.
Aroma: full-on citrus, and precious little else.
Smooth, easy-drinking, and, dammmit, if I can ever think of anything else to recommend this one by.
It's fine, and forgetabble, and it's got that great Ralph Steadman art going for it...'s okay...I geuss...

I'm never that harsh these days. Look at that, I didn't even note the flavors. There's nothing wrong with it, it is what it is, it does what it sets out to do. Nice, tidy hop bite, but smooth, and tasty, easy-going, poundable, if that's how you do it.

Flying Dog Snake Dog India Pale Ale

So, it goes. August was my worst month yet, the one where I failed to keep my promise to myself of one beer/review for each day of the month. Too much time was being devoted to the project of moving into my new apartment, out of the old, just didn't feel like taking to the notes every night. My new project for September: to cover that distance. Maybe in the ninth month of the year I'll 40, 50 or more beers. It's not unprecedented, it's been done before.
To help out with that, I stopped at my new local beer store, Chicago Lake Liquors, about 5 blocks away. A surprisingly good craft beer selection, better than the last time I was there. And, no, there was no more Surly Five (I bought my fourth bottle there last Wednesday.) Many sample packs there, and that help cover some ground. Grabbed a Flying Dog Alpha Collection, which gives us their hoppy ales primarily, including an Imperial IPA I've never had before. Looking forward to that, but first, let's look at Snake Dog IPA, and here's what they currently print on the labels, next to Ralph Steadman's twisted art.
"Tired of those annoying 3AM hang-up s form your crazy, stalking ex? Turns out the same qualities that make your EX so damn annoying make our Snake Dog IPA so attractive. Chock full of bitterness, bite and attitude, it slaps you in the face with flavor. Just like your psycho ex did at the bar last weekend." 7.1% , IBU: 60.

And here's what I said about it, circa Feb, 2003:
"Beautiful orange color, and a nice, but swiftly receding head.
Aroma is terrifically fruity: apricot, peach, tangerine, citrus.
This is my first time drinking this in at least a year, and something tastes different, for I don't recall the aroma being quite so vivid.
The label used to read :"Snakes down your throat like a loyal friend", a quote attributed to Anna Steadman, the illustrator's wife?, but the slogan is missing now. It remains a true endorsement, however. Hoppy, but not wildly so . Wonderfully soft and delicious palate.
At times, I'm reminded of Anchor Liberty, but it's closer to Bass in smoothness and drinkability. Much less hoppy than many a MidWestern IPA. Ideal as a session beer."
Man, does that have the me of 2003 all over it!

Minnesota Breweries One by One #16: Forager Brewery, Rochester

For the second stop in Rochester we chose Forager Brewery , as our collective stomachs were rumbling, and this one is a brewpub with food ...