Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Town Hall Lava Porter

I had to double check the name on this one. Why "Lava" porter? Is it hot? Molten? Did they mean Java Porter, which they already make? There must be an explanation somewhere, but until they are discovered, here come the notes....


Town Hall Lava Porter.

totally black. toasty tan head, starts big, dwindles down.

Dark malt and cocoa in the nose, little hops, roasty and slightly sweet.

Flavor-wise, it's smooth and creamy, roasted malt and cocoa, with espresso hints, as well. Medium bodied and expertly drinkable. Almost milky, certainly silky. 



Monday, November 28, 2011

Summit Unchained Series Batch 8: Black Ale

I've been putting this one off for too long. Haven't yet bought any bottles, but I'm enjoying it on tap at the Nile, where I think we're on keg #7 in a row (5 gallons). I can't imagine it'll last too long, so I'd best do it now or never.

Blackness indeed, so much so that you can't make out the Summit logo on the Unchained Series pint glass. Sizeable muddy brown head, slips down to a tidy ring with quickness.

Aroma: grassy hops on top, with chocolate malt below. An odd combination at times, but this one makes it work.

Taste: Sweet dark malt dominates the flavor at first, with hops shining bright on top. Some piney-ness along with grassy hop character, holding ground in the forefront of the palate, with the rich, dark malty flavor hanging on right behind it.

Tasty stuff here. My complaints about the India Black Ale/ Black IPA/ CDA style are swiftly fading into history, as I find more and more of them that I like. Or maybe I'm just getting used to this new mix of grassy/piney/citric hops and dark malt? In any case, this latest Unchained entry works on every level. Great consumability, excellent balance, top-notch flavor delivery.

Good one, Summit. The Unchained Series keeps getting better and better.

Schell's Oktoberfest

Last one from the sampler pack, and one I made an effort to re-review, since my old one was unkind to this one, and I compared it unfavorably to Summit's marzen lager. I vehemently disagree with my younger self.


August Schell, Schell's Oktoberfest. 

Clear, clean, coppery coloring, slim layer of egg-white foam.

Slightly sweet, grainy/malty aroma. Herbal/vegetal notes, with a low, but discernible bitterness. 

In the mouth, fresh, clean, and lively. Medium-bodied, but fully flavored, with exquisite balance. Nothing's sticking out of the edges, and nothing's tucked in the corner. Juicy malt, but not too fat, and never too thin. Juuust right. No wonder they won a medal at GABF last year (Gold?), it's a paragon of balance and just about as note-perfect of a marzen that you'll find. 

Easy-drinking, palate-pleasing, …I like this one 

Schell's Pils

Getting close to the end of the Schell's sampler pack, and this one needed no re-review. Notes from April, 2003:

Color is a perfect gold, and clear, with a firm and compact white head. Aroma is fresh, and full of citrus, spice, and tingling with hops, the perfect picture of a pils. Clean, zesty, and a tiny bit sweet. 
Mouthfeel fairly bristles with hops, which persists throughout the long and tasty finish. There's loads of hops, though they eventually dry out on the finish, as any good pils should. Very dry and satisfying. Tingly and tasty, with a hint of fruitiness, but nothing to threaten the dominance of the dry hoppy flavor. 
For quite some time, this has been the Minnesota standard for local pilseners, and that reputation is warranted. A terrific lager, indeed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Harriet Spiced Dark Abbey

Here's another one that only stands as a number in the inventory, for I can't really make a fresh, new review out of something that is merely an infusion. But! What an infusion it is. Clove, cinnnamon, and ginger, mixed with Harriet's Belgian-style Abbey Dubbel. It just works. Mixes perfectly. The base beer still remains strong, but the addition of the spices brings it all home. Mmmm, mmm.

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Glarus Laughing Fox

A new one (to me, at least) and also from the Wisconsin haul, New Glarus' Laughing Fox Krystal Weizen. Notes, away!


New Glarus Laughing Fox. "In playful pursuit of butterflies, a Red Fox danced across the brewery hill. His joy so pure it bubbled through our hearts and into this beer. Laughing Fox is a sparkling Kristal Weizen brewed in the Bavarian tradition with 50% Wisconsin wheaten our open top fermenters. …blah, blah, blah, …This is easy drinking beer perfect for a friendly Wisconsin evening. Relax, this is God's country, here we have the strength to reach for the stars and change the world."

Well, that was one of the most over-wrought labels I've ever read, here in Satan's Backyard, Minneapolis. Some of the sentences I skipped prove this even further, but I'm censoring the descriptors so I can do it myself. And so…

Big, booming off-white head, clear, with caramel-toned coloring…a bit darker than I anticipated. 

Spicy, clove notes, …rye malt? Cinnamon, brown sugar. Enticing, and lively.

Brisk, sparkling mouthfeel, leads to sterling consumability. Clean, to the point where I miss the texture a non-filtered wizen would bring. Some fruit in here, some apple, cherry, maybe. This flavor grows and covers up that patch missing in the character. Becomes more likable further in…but it doesn't go far enough.

This is the final bottle in the 6-pack. The other five made no impression on me, really, and at this last one, I feel I won't be missing it. New Glarus continues to be a brewery that misses almost as much as hits with me. But the hits deserve their accolades, don't get me wrong. This one? Eh. 

New Glarus Raspberry Tart

I wrote this in May, 2003, about that indigenous product of Wisconsin, New Glarus' Raspberry Tart:

There's a precious, raspberry-red wax over the crown and down the neck of this beer, proper insurance of a finely crafted and properly presented product. How often do you see the like in a beer? 

Snap! Fssh...and out wafts the incredible raspberry aroma! Let's get that in a glass and up to my lips, pronto! 


Color pours out a devilishly dark, bloody red, with a head that starts fine, but swiftly dissipates. I search for associations with appearance and can only come up with candies, desserts, pies, liqueurs...all things sweet, delicious, and fruity! 


Up in the nose, BAM! Raspberry Sorbet! Gorgeous! I used to work in an ice cream factory, and relished the time spent with fruit purees, before blending and freezing. This is exactly like that. 


I don't even care if I never get to drink it, just to smell this all day long would be heaven! 
A highly charged pounce upon the palate at first sip, a bracket of hops, a rush of carbonation. 
So much lip-smacking going on throughout the drink...ooo,tart! oo, tart!, but still sweet and delicious. 


Texture: phenomenal, body:full, finish: eternal!This beer has a flavor that never lags, or sags, or forgets it's business. 


My only caveats are that the tart flavor can be too much at times, and though quite a delight, this is strictly a special occasion ale, best enjoyed after a perfect meal, among several friends, with plenty of time to loll back and marvel at the splendor! 
Other than that, perfection!

Smuttynose Humunculus

What a name on this one, huh? Going through the latest Wisconsin haul, with notes from last night:


Smuttynose Humunculous, A Belgian-style Golden Ale. From The Smuttynose BIG BEER Series. Brewed and bottled by Smuttynose Brewing Company, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "After years of gestation our highly regarded hoppy Belgian style ale, "The Gnome" has been reborn as Homunculus. Impregnated with loads of hop character, balanced with malt sweetness & fruit esters derived from the Belgian yeast, this Golden colored ale is ripe for the picking. Share some responsibly with your gnomes."

No, I'm a big boy, I'm taking this one down by itself. Weird label image, little sperms with human faces (brewery employees, I assume), all headed to one big nucleus. What is it supposed to say? Who can tell us? Does anyone really know?


Clear, bright golden hue, beautiful white head. 

Soft and spicy aromatics, citrus notes, fruit, lemon, orange, pear, even. A little hit of pepper 

Taste: Outsized fruit at the start, juicy malt, small hops. Bright, buoyant, and lively. And then along comes the booze. Rises high, Gets all up in there. Bright and boozy, but flush with flavor, to boot.

Nothing on the label spells out the alcohol quotient, but it  feels big. And it dwarfs the other flavors. Not as balanced as I'd like, not something I'd really reach for again and again. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Schell's Dark


 I trashed this when I first reviewed way back when, so many years ago. I don't think it's as bad as that, anymore. So, I'm giving it another chance, thanks to the sampler pack.

A clear bottle, odd enough, as most of their other beers, beside the Grain Belt brands, use brown bottles.

Clear, reddish-brown coloring, slim white head.

Caramel malt and cereal grain aromatics. Lightly sweet.

Sweet malt hits the flavor first, just enough, and then nothing. Fast finish, slips off the palate swiftly, light bodied. Some grainy mouthfeel and texture. I can't tell you if it's Deer Brand with food coloring, as some "dark" versions of light lagers purportedly use, but I'm willing to bet it's a very similar recipe, with just a bit more dark malts added, not enough to add extra body. 

Extremely consumable, and very likable. There's not a single thing lacking in this, and not a wrong note, nor any off flavors.  I actually used to be repulsed by this one, had complete and utter disdain for it, and now I find it very pleasing. 

Dave's BrewFarm FramBrewLay


Dave's BrewFarm FramBrewLay, 7.2%," Pils, biscuit and Caramel 80 malts, Santium and Vanguard hops and a late addition of raspberry puree. Fermented with lager yeast. It all comes together in a tart and refreshing beer---kinda like a raspberry creme brulee!"

Richly reddish, raspberrylicious coloration, active bubblation, pinkish-brown head, starts big, slims down.

Aroma: sweetness starts it off, warm, deep, dark malty flavors, and then along comes the tart. Not too much, not too little, just right.  

Tastin it: Tart hits the tongue right away this time, a sparkling sour sensation. Sweet malt holds down the fort, with raspberry flavors shining above. Just a little bit "framboise-y", plenty of smooth dark malt, savory and complex. Long, sweet and sour finish, medium bodied, quite unique.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fulton The Libertine Imperial Red Ale

Drinking my first Fulton growler, a Libertine, Imperial Red Ale, 8.5 % ABV,bought at the brewery this Saturday,  and looking back at notes from about a year ago, from having it on tap elsewhere. Notes follow thusly:


 In the brewery's words: "A libertine is someone living free of society's restraints. Similarly, The Libertine doesn't constrain itself with preconceived notions of what a beer style should be. Loaded with malts that include the UK's premium Maris Otter and Caramel 60, and topped off with Rye to impart a distinct reddish hue, the Libertine is a malt-dominated red ale like none you've ever had before. It boasts a rich, indulgent body without being overly sweet. Conventional classifications fail The Libertine, but who really wants to play by the rules anyway?"

8.5%
45 IBU 20.2 Plato 24 SRM

In my words...

Hazed, rich, reddish hue, ruddy auburn, under a tight, lasting creamy toned beige head of foam, leaving lace. 

Aroma: Sweetness, spice, and fusel alcohol. Rich and boozy, apples and cherries, brandy and leather.

Taste: medium bodied, and fully flavored. Lush and indulgent, waves of hops, spice, with rich malt holding tight below. 

(Disclaimer: I wrote the above without having read the copy I pasted up on top. I say this having realized I repeated some of their words, i.e." indulgent")

But that's what it is, tight and tasty, but deep, lush and delicious. Spreads it's splendor far and wide and urges further imbibings. Warming alcohol hits the spot as winter hits us harder. Expert balance.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf Imperial IPA


Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf Imperial India Pale Ale. "A dry and stupendously hopped medium bodied Imperial-India Pale Ale brewed with Canadian 2-row malt, dextrose sugar and lots of American hops. Arctic Panzer Wolf has superior aromas of marmalade, white wine, pine and apricot all mixed with an intense American hop bitterness. Cheers!"
Left off of the label is the ABV. 9%, I hear.

Little hazed golden/apricot hue, small white head. 

aroma: outsized pine and citrus, gargantuan orange, grapefruit, mango and lemon. (Marmalade? Sure, of course. White wine? Eh….)

Taste: Sweet and smooth at first, with hop bitterness rising up on the outset. Pithy, raw and righteous bitter fruit flavor. Minor malt, medium body, alcohol rises high. Melds well with the citrus and spice. Hops galore. Love it, love it, love it. Fits this hophead to a tee. 

Many thanks to Cal for bringing this back for me!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Surly Damien (Child of Darkness)


Surly Damien, the Child of Darkness. "From the blackest depths of the brewhouse comes Damien, Child of Darkness. Spawned from the usually discarded remnants of Darkness, Damien is a dry-hopped black ale. Flavors of roasted malt and dark brown sugar suffocated by aromas of tangerine and pine."

Sometimes a black ale is a black ale. And not a Black Ale, or American Black Ale.
And grassy hops in abundance smell so fine!
There's this thing called a small beer that no one's ever heard of, and gee whiz, it's been done to Darkness. 

A re-fermenting of the run-off malt and mash of Surly's Imperial Stout, Darkness, this one rings in at half the alcohol percentage, 5 %, but I don't know whether more hops and malt are added, or if more yeast is pitched and fermentation begins again with this old, spent mash. I suspect the latter. 

Solid black, slim brown head, settles to a small ring. 

Amazing aromatics, floor of a pine forest, mixed with citrus rinds. Beautiful, lively, and arousing. You want that in your IPA, you want that in your Double IPA, you'd like it in your potpourri by the bathroom sink, you want toothpaste made from it, you want to gargle with it, and sprinkle it on your oatmeal.

Taste: some gritty dark malt, some chocolate, black malt, giving the coffee flavors, the cocoa, with plenty of bitterness and hardly any sweet. Great texture, excellent play on the palate, plenty of room for calling it a hoppy porter, or black IPA, but yet it is not one. It is a reduced version of Surly Darkness, that still has plenty of potency and charm. Plenty of grassy hops still working on the tongue, pleasing the palate, and the aroma never quits, the grassy/piney hop combo mixing well with the cocoa and coffee malt character. 

It's not as rich and full bodied as you might expect if you don't fully understand what they're doing. So stop expecting what doesn't exist and enjoy what does. It's not full-on ale, it's a baby imperial stout, but it still has that glimmer of madness, that gleam of it's father's eyes. 


This is my kind of session ale, and one that I'd prefer above Surly Mild, or anything else with a leaner body, but wouldn't really reach for one instead of a porter, or a Bender. Good work, gentlemen, and a great idea, I'd love to see more of this tried now and then. Beer recycling, it's the way to go!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dave's BrewFarm SOB OMG!

Growler #2 (of 3) from my most recent BrewFarm visit.

"SOB OMG!" Sticking to our roots of using farm-fresh and unique ingredients in the LaBrewatory, this is an homage to the end of summer. You'll delight in our "Sour orange basil-oh my goodness!!" Pils and Ashburne Mild malts, Glacier and Ahtanum hops. Brown sugar, sour orange puree, and a late addition of fresh basil." 6.7% ABV.

Pale, cloudy, peachy appearance, beautiful snowy white head, long lasting. Looks lovely.

Aroma: Ah! Spice aplenty, Is it just fresh basil? I would have guessed some other spices or herbs, but there we are. Orange is predominant, of course. Zesty and sweet, lovely and lively. Sour? I'm not getting that, yet. Let's keep on sniffing…
Okay, it's there, but not in a major way, just a bit more sour than sweet. 

Taste: Bitter, sour, and sweet all at once. Orange and basil continues in the flavor, and the brown sugar comes out and mixes with the malt. Damn, this is delicious. More I drink, more I like. Sharp, citric, zesty, full-flavored. Warm, wheat-y feeling (although not a word was said about the malts, and I'm sure Farmer D would mention wheat if it were in there---wait, does he even do wheat?), soft, fresh, refreshing. 
Orange flavor becomes more sharp, brisk, and likable further in, with basil on the side for extra delights. 

Epic (New Zealand) Armageddon IPA


Epic Armageddon IPA, All the Way from New Zealand. 6.66% ABV. Product of New Zealand, brewed and bottled by Epic Brewing Company, Auckland, New Zealand.

Very clear, light amber coloring, nice off-white head, solid and staying.

Aroma: very vibrant and lively. Tons of pine and citrus flavors, orange and lemon and lime. Grapefruit, too. Floral, as well. Beautiful stuff.

Taste: boom! Hops all over the palate, zesty and delicious. Lighter body, fairly mild, leaving plenty of room for hops to do their thing. Long bitter hop finish, medium body, but full hoppy flavor. Mmm. Quite good. 

Finally, at long last, an American IPA out of New Zealand. Next, I want one from North Dakota.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Let's look back at something I wrote in January, 2005, Founders Breakfast Stout, from a bottle sample, which I'm enjoying on tap right about now:


I'm having this bottle with leftovers from dinner, but it is 4:30 am, so that's close enough to call it breakfast, right?(Funny how what began as a common joke, "Oatmeal stout? You should have it for breakfast!" is now coming into it's own as an individual style.) 
Enough with the whimsy, time for the beer! 

This one is just what I need now, as the sub-zero wind-chill and the weather in general puts that witches teat to shame, and summarily lays waste to the well-digger's bum. I need something warm, rich and fortifying...is this it? 

Pours out a thick, impenetrable blackness, solid ebon, with slight ruby highlights at the foot of the glass. Head is mighty, massive, twisting slowly down to a most 1/2 ",burnt-toast brown, like chocolate shavings mingled with coffee grounds. 

Aroma is right on for the style and then some! Espresso is featured first, then chocolate, roasty all the way, gritty and earthy, rich and thick...a coffee stout that nears an Imperial. Almost like what happened the last time I mixed Bell's Java Stout with Expedition ...almost. 

Velvety feel on the tongue, almost magical the way this warmed-up stout lightly lays over the senses, drifting it's wonder throughout the mouth. Hops up front, rich coffee texture, tangible in the mouthfeel, a little hot and spicy, backed up by prodigious malt. Full-bodied, with a long, cocoa-coffee finish, plays delicately on the tongue, but lingers long. 

This is a very satisfying stout, one that meets almost all of my expectations. I have had coffee stouts with bigger coffee flavor, though, and oatmeals that are smoother and more richly rewarding, as well as chocolate stouts that bring that flavor in full force...this is a very accomplished blend of the three sub-styles of stout, it succeeded in it's mission quite well, which is to make me consider having this in my coffee cup every morning, inside of the usual dark roast Columbian! 

Damned good! 
Another impressive offering from Founders, and another very attractive label, even if it does suggest that a child has been consuming the product...watch for for the Grand Rapids Board of Health and Human Services, guys!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Epic Brewing (Utah) Brainless on Cherries

Epic Brainless on Cherries, Salt Lake City, Utah, Belgian-style Golden Ale, blended with pureed cherries, aged in oak barrels.

Ripe crimson coloring, clear at the bottom, big pink end, slims down a modest ring.

Delicately sweet and sour cherry aroma, soft and fruity. Pleasant.

Soft and creamy in the mouth, as well. Nice, moderate bitterness, and the cherry flavor is mild, as well. It's there, but not as bold as in a Kasteel Rouge, or most Belgian kriek lambics.
 (I picked this one for Battle of the Belg #3, back in mid-October, to go up against Kasteel Rouge, and I knew it was going to lose. Real cherries in quantity, vs. puree? Sorry.)

Good malty flavor, Belgian yeast, and a touch of the oak. Tartness hangs in here, fruit stays quiet, but never leaves.

Tasty stuff, nice effort, but for the price they ask, it simply doesn't stack up against the best Belgian fruit ales out there.


And I still don't understand how they thought "Brainless" was a good name for a beer. Maybe there's a good story, that I haven't heard?

Grain Belt Premium


Ah, Grain Belt Beer. It comes from here. I wrote a little ditty when I was young (I'm fairly positive I created this, no one can confirm hearing it elsewhere), and it had a physical side to it, a series of points to the body as you would say each word, ending at the crotchular level. See, I was saying it comes from the pee-pee maker, get it? Give me a break, I was six years old.

Anyway, I've got no problem with Grain Belt now, other that it's a bit on the sweetish side. Not too much for me, though, but it's not really my cup of tea, either. It is helping keep the August Schell Brewing Company in business, and that's a very good thing, indeed. 

Here are my notes from a bottle, in 2005:


This my Dad's beer, ...always a few cases in the house, the fridge well stocked, no other beer would do. They even ordered it special for him at the local watering hole, though I still can't figure out how no-one else in the Anoka VFW Hall shared his taste. I remember sitting at the bar with him, as a kid, while he drank it. Those were the days, eh? 

I never liked it, and it's ominpresence in the household was part of the reason I never drank beer until I was about 22. When all that surrounded me was Miller, Leinenkugel's, and Grain Belt, and they all smelled bad, I just stayed away. Years later, I discovered imported ales and craft brew micros...now that I was drinking beer, I decided to try Dad's beer, and figure out why he liked it. 

I still didn't like it, and couldn't figure out why he found it so satisfying. But, that's the kind of man he was, he stuck with what he knew, and never went too far from his comfort zone. 
Time to revisit it again, especially since I hear it's a better beer, under Schell's hand... 

Transparent, pale yellow appearance, huge, fluffy white cap atop, active. bubbling carbonation. 

Smells sweeter than i remember, less sickly. Very grainy, rather spare and thin, but not at all unpleasant. The typical average American lager aroma. 
Taste: wet. and empty, ..but not bad. Really, I think it's been over a decade since I last poured one of these down my throat, and it was an unhappy experience. That was under the Minnesota Brewing Company, who weren't looking to make a quality product at the time. Schell seems to have re-created GB, "the friendly beer", as a smooth, untroubling, and, let us not forget, cheap lager that actually doesn't taste bad. 

Finishes rather sweetly, slides leisurely off the palate. Very light in body, a bit too watery for my tastes, and extremely lean on flavor. But, it does what it needs to, for the style and satisfies it's target market. 

Got to hand it to the guys at August Schell for keeping Minnesota brewing history going, and putting out a decent brew at the same time. 

This one's for you, Dad. If it's true that "in Heaven there is no beer", no offense, but I hope you're in a better place than that....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dave's BrewFarm Eye Pea Eh?


Farmer Dave's …I mean, Dave's BrewFarm Eye Pea Eh? 8% ABV, "Farmer D finally did it! He brewed his first "IPA." But, with the usual BrewFarm twists. Pils, Caramel 120, and Rye malts, German Tettnang, and French Strisselspalt hopswith pureed pineapple, brown sugar, and curry powder. Fermented with a Thames Valley yeast. Enjoy your journey to Indonesia."

What the--??? who? how? why? Okay, here we go, and away…

Dark crimson coloring, clear at the bottom, small white head, quickly receding to a tight ring, with floating islands of foaminess. Mmm, hmm.

Aroma: more malty and sweet than anything. Farmer Dave is a sadistically sarcastic man when it comes to styles and names. He'll never admit when he makes anything close to an IPA, and when he does proclaim such a thing, you get the rug pulled out from under your feet. There are jokes upon jokes up there, in that description, and the last thing that this Indonesia Pale Ale (that's not pale) should deliver is what we expect from an India Pale Ale.

Continuing…
yep, sweetness and malt, brown sugar and curry (pineapple???), minor hops at most. Very likable, this blend of curry and brown sugar, exotic and inviting.

Taste: Wow. Somthin' else, man. Medium bodied, medium finish, stays just long enough on the palate, to tempt you into having more. Caramel malt is foremost in the flavor, with the spice and the brown sugar making that magic mix in the mouth. I can't say I can taste the pineapple, but there's some sweet underneath. And, again, whatever the hops are up to is, it's very minor. Very light. If you expected an "IPA" from this "Eye Pea Eh?", you got punk'd by Farmer Dave.

This actually gets yummier and yummier as we go further in, and maybe we can credit/blame the alcohol with/on that. Or is just the feeling of well-being and comfort I'm enjoying? Probably. The deliciousness is an empirically decidedly real and true thing. This is one swingtop liter of Wisconsin farmhouse brew that is going down fast, easy, and fun. 

August Schell Firebrick lager

The Schell's sample pack keeps on giving. And I keep on looking back on old reviews for them. Some, like Oktoberfest, I had to hold off, and try to give it another try. My old review was not kind to it, and it deserves better now. But I think the Firebrick has retained it's character, over the years.  April, 2003, was when I made these notes:

Color is a clear orangey, head is a thick, fluffy white. Aroma is sweet and fresh, with touches of citrus,sea air, and a whiff of caramel, maybe. Palate is smooooth, with a trifly, tumbling texture for the tongue to play over. Very tasty, and sweet, and the malt's really pulling it's weight. 
Very rich and satisfying, and not as thin in body like others of a similar style. If I can name names, I'd be happy if this one was the default beer everywhere on earth, like Samuel Adams is. It has a firmer body, and is malty, hoppy, malty, hoppy, a beautiful tango, back and forth, the two keeping pace with one another and surprise and delight the palate. 
Again, a great lager. "All malt Vienna Style Lager" What, are they sneaking something else into their other beers? Do I have to keep an eye on those guys in New Ulm? 
Nonetheless, Firebrick's a winner.

New Belgium Abbey Ale (dubbel)

Here's another oldy and moldy. I could go further in depth today, but, you know what? It does the trick. Notes from February, 2003:

Slight head and a purely peachy color. 
Aroma is magical, delightful, a veritable fruit salad in the nose...tropical fruits, mango, banana. 
Great hop presence, and a delicious spark on the tongue. Light in texture and body, but full of flavor. 
Medium carbonation, and, again, a beautiful little ballet by hops on the palate. 
An excellent dubbel, one of the best stateside versions I've ever encountered, if not the best!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Town Hall Tumaltuous Wheat Wine


Tumaltuous, Wheat Wine, 9.9% 

Clear, golden/amber hue, large, attractive head, leaving lace.

Sweet aromatics, but very even, some honey and fruit, pale malt, lightly floral. 

Taste: forward flavor right off the bat, flush with intensive malt flavors. Light hop bitterness. High alcohol shows it's hand early. Coarse mouthfeel from rich textures. Thickness aplenty. Lacks something in the flavor, though, doesn't quite have enough interesting flavors. Doesn't reach close enough to deliciousness, here. Satisfying, yes. Truly tasty? Not so much. 

Overall, the high ABV rings too loudly, too quickly, and there's not enough payoff in the flavor.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tallgrass Velvet Rooster Tripel

I blame this beer for making my face bald.
 I stepped into the Nomad World Pub last Tuesday night to meet up with Rob Shellman, Minnesota's rep for Tallgrass, who was so kind as to drop off the samples of the first Tallgrass beers I reviewed, to taste some of this stuff, in anticipation of today's tapping. He's been keen on having us do the premier tapping of this beer (in Minneapolis), and who am I to refuse such an offer? Rob was there because he and the brewery are sponsoring the Movember movement for men's health issues, and the night's event was a free shaving for anyone who wanted to start fresh, and grow a mustache from scratch.
 I hosted an end of Movember party last December at the Nile, and was urged to participate then, but demurred, for I really liked my facial fuzz. Still do. Rob declined this time, too, for his takes him too long to grow. My facial follicles have been embedded on lip and chin for so long, over 5 years, that I'd forgotten what I looked like underneath. After enough sampling of the Rooster (and other beers) I decided to take the plunge and go under the razor. A week later, and it's finally coming in through the stubble.
The next day, Rob brought me a full can so I could do my review of it. I finally got around to sitting down and taking some notes last night. And now I'm about to get out of this coffee shop and go to work so I can make this party happen. Here come the notes, with a picture of the beer I drank (as always), as well as the sweet ass tap handle I'm about to attach to our tap tower.


Tallgrass Velvet Rooster, Belgian-style Tripel Ale. Festooned with colorful, artsy chicken, and no obnoxious gobbledygook. A full 16-ounce can filled with abbey-style triple. First of it's kind. Next up: the first canned dubbel, quadruple, Flanders Red, etcetera. Why, because. That's why. 

Bright golden hue, blooming dotted white head, starts big, drifts down to a tight white ring. 

Aromatics: pepper spice and lemon zest. Yeasty character comes through next, Neat, tidy array of hop bitterness hits, and then it's all malt, all the time. A little husky cereal graininess for a time, but mostly citrus and spice.

Taste: Clean, supple, and smooth on the palate and down the throat. Fine and fruity, with light spice, tickly and prickly. Some soft-shoe on the tongue, a little buck and wing, and it's all deliciousness down the hatch after that. Creamy, and smooth, and, as we so often say, dangerously drinkable. Proceed with caution. Too tasty to stop at one, too fierce to go beyond two.




Sun King Osiris Pale Ale

One of two cans brought back from Indiana by Cal, with a bit of an apology. I haven't tried the other one, a Scotch Ale, yet, but perhaps I'm more forgiving of...adequateness than he. I almost wrote mediocrity. No, not quite, but far from fantastic. Notes from sometime yesterday begin now:


Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis, IN.
Osiris Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV.
"Osiris Pale Ale is an assertive, West Coast-style American pale crafted by our brewers for our brewers, Osiris blends three choice varieties of American hops to create a spicy, citrus hop punch that is sure to satisfy any hop head. Every batch of Osiris is dry-hopped towards the end of fermentation for maximum hop flavor, aroma and character."

Another craft beer in a pint-size can. This thing is catching on!
Brought back from Indiana by Cal, what a guy.

Pours a clear, deep amber color, actively carbonated, high, lacy, snowy white head. Looks every part of an enticing pale ale.

Citrus-y aromatics, a whiff of pine, but mostly orange, grapefruit, and lime. Just enough bitterness to keep the nose on it's toes.

Taste:  Bitterness starts big and juicy. Turns sharp and astringent, slightly harsh. Hop bitterness roars over the palate, with minor support from malt below. Aggressive and assertive, certainly. Mellows out as we go in, smooths some, and what annoyed me at first has become a mild irritant, and now, a delight. 

Far from a superior pale ale, it's all in all, perfectly adequate, good drinking, nice sessioner. I wouldn't turn one down in a pinch. 

August Schell Hopfenmalz

This one came to us first as part of the Anniversary Series, eight beers that came out every three months in the two years leading up to the sesquicentennial. Since I reviewed this in March, 2009, that would make it  #6, by my best guess. It was the popular favorite, and won the right to represent Schell's as the 150th Anniversary beer. I have no idea whether they're going to continue it, since here we are going into year 152, but there it was in my sample pack. Notes from March, 2009 follow:

"...the elegant drinkability of a pilsner, the bready maltiness of a Vienna lager, and the hopping of a pale ale." Vienna, Caramunich, & Caravienne malts, Cascade and Tettnang hops, dry-hopped, fermented with lager yeast at ale temps, and aged 6 weeks for smooth lager crispness. 12.7 Plato, 36 IBU, 5.8% abv.

Clear, amber appearance, slim, whitish head. 

Lightly spicy, citric hoppy aromatics, with a classic lager aroma right behind it. Interesting.

Reappears in the flavor, the zest, the pepper, the tangy citric feel, then all is smooth, the hop attack riding softly on the palate, then fading back. Each sip returns the pleasant hoppy character, followed by soft, biscuity malt.

Good flavor, great drinkability. I like this unique lager/ale hybrid. Another tasty easy-drinker in the Anniversary series.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Glazen Toren Cuvee Angelique Dubbel

Kleinbrouwerij de Glazen Toren, Erpe-Mere, Belgium.

Lovely russet brown coloring, bright ruby red highlights, beautiful off-white foam, lace-leaving. 

Aromatics: soft and creamy, vanilla and spice. Some caramel, a little date. Nice. Very nice.

Taste: Mellow, rounded and groovy. Flavors of apple, molasses, brown sugar. Caramel. Spice, pepper. Raisin and plum.Keen malty flavor, with a great buzz of hoppiness, matched with yeast character. This is a great little tango, medium malt body, sweetness kept in check with hop bitterness, dark fruit and mild cocoa flavor dominates. 

It's hard to really make a clear call on this one, for it's unlike any other beer I've ever had, and doesn't fit any style there is. A conundrum, a challenge, and a call to clear the mind and seek out every aspect.
It seems close to an abbey dubbel, but lacks the depth or sweetness. Not that that should be a detriment, not everything has to be thick and rich. This is elegance, it's classic, it's sui generis. 


At first I thought I had the key to this, when I read of it's origins as a doubled version of an old style called "speciale belge", and how it wasn't truly an abbey dubbel. But now, I'm getting just enough like one, and a whole lot apart from that, that still spells a terrific Belgian dark ale, regardless of the label. 

This is elegant, sophisticated, clean, clear and purposeful. It just is. Damn good, that is. Wow. 

Every Glazen Toren beer I've had has been like this, utterly unique and colored outside the lines. This is what's great about Belgian beers, and Kleinbrouwerij Glazen Toren is an excellent example of the non-conformist spirit of Belgian brewing. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saxo

This one found it's way on tap, part of Belg-a-Rama #9. Caracole's Saxo Blonde. Here are my notes from March, 2005, to accompany my photo of right now:


Besides beautiful beer, Belgium can be proud of bringing into being another exceptional invention, the saxophone, courtesy of Adolphe Sax. So, I lift this glass and raise it to Bird, Lester, Coleman, Coltrane, Sonny, Ornette, "the Jug", and the other giants of the golden horn. 
Straw gold color, half opaque, immense head, incredible effervescence...gorgeous. 
Nose is mostly spice and a little sidecar of fruit, pleasurable enough for repeated sniffs...airy, angelic...lovely. 
Taste? I'd say "yum", but I've run that into the ground lately...big, juicy citric flavor matched with tingly spice (cardomom, coriander, ?) Ripe fruit, develops beyond citrus into peach,. apricot....delicious. 
Mouthfeel is warm, full, if finally fading, and always replete with flavor, a ciric kick, and zesty effervescence. Never tastes like 8% abv, until the end...you want another, and another, but it'll make you feel it tomorrow! 
All in all, a very satisfying golden ale...one to luxuriate in while drinking in the complex and glorious beauty in a Ben Webster solo.

Schell's Deer Brand

Picked up a Schell's sampler pack (have to do that, every now and then), and lo, and behold, three bottles of Deer Brand, in three differerent labels, through the years, which they've been doing since the sesquicentennial. Here are notes from October, 2004:

Crystal-clear, golden color, big, fluffy, pristine white head, perfect fit for a lager. 
Aroma, some hops, bright and floral, but a bit soapy, growing sweet, smellish cornish...wonder what adjuncts are at play here? Okay, I'll play nice...but it is "corny"... 
Taste: clean, brisk, almost crisp, then fading quick. Very refreshing, highly downable, tastes pretty decent, actually. Not too much flavor, but it doesn't taste bad, and almost squeaky clean. I thought this would be an empty, hollow, even unpleasant experience, and I'm a Schell's fan...silly me, it's a nice lager, nothing but. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Summit Oktoberfest

Been trying to catch up with seasonals lately. Way behind. To accompany the Summit Oktoberfest I had last night, here are notes from October, 2003:


Appearance: nice light bronze color, a deep amber, you could say, with a fluffy, creamy, though short and swiftly settling, head.
Aroma: spicy, super-sweet, noticably alcoholic, but still soft, and herbal and utterly delightful.
Taste: Mmmm!
How was that again?
Mmmm, mmm, Mmmmm!
Or perhaps I meant to say, sweet, rich, malty, with a thick, even treacly texture, though rather light-bodied, but full-flavored, and with a tidy, toffeeish, almost buttery finish that rings through the mouth and clings to the senses.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Victory Baltic Thunder (Baltic Porter)

Here's one I first had in January, 2010. Having a bottle now, looking back at those notes:

Victory Baltic Thunder. Baltic Porters are one of my favorite styles, and I was glad to see the very capable Victory Brewing Company bringing out an interpretation.

Utterly black, nicely roasted head.

Aroma, bittersweet, roasty-toasty, dark fruit, nicely burnished...gets more sweet and less bitter, but always keeps the balance. 

tons of flavor boards the palate...we get the figs and date, some raisin, a bit of chocolate, some licorice, too, a little maple syrup...dark rum...mmm, a perfect combination. 

Hearty, full-bodied, rich, and delicious. Mmmm. Bitter meets malty and smooth, roasty meets sweet, ...it does represent the Baltic Porter style admirably. "tempered with a touch of turmoil", eh...someone likes alliteration with their hyperbole. In this case, it works. Damned good.

Town Hall Three Hour Tour Coconut Stout


Lately, I've been breaking Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery traditions like it's going out of fashion. I missed out on Fresh Hop Ale for the first time since they produced it, six years ago. Didn't make it down for a single growler, let alone one of the first with the hop cone inside. This year, they only sold them on the first day, and no more. Ah well, I stopped in for a glass before it was gone.

And last week, Anniversary Week, I didn't make a single appearance, didn't try to get one of the special Mango Mama growlers, didn't have any Czar Jack, etcetera. Haven't had any Anniversary Ale yet, either. Had only one day off that week, and spent the night at the new(-ish) 2nd location, Town Hall Tap, which is closer to me now than the original brewery was to my old place. And, while there, didn't drink a single Town Hall brew. Wasn't in the mood for pumpkin ale, oktoberfest, or coffee porter.

So, I finally made it there on Tuesday night for some grub and some growlers, taking home the wheat wine, which we'll get to soon, and the phenomenal cocoanut stout, that's been turning beer geek heads since they first release it at a WinterFest several years ago.

I'm wondering if this is the first time it's been growlered, but I look at BeerAdvocate, and, Holy Moly, 44 reviews? 31 growlers, 13 on tap, ...well, shows what I knows!
I look at the reviews, and what do you know, a lot of folks around the USA, many sharing tastes from the same growler, sent from someone out here. Some recent, some last year. I've been asleep on this whole cocoanut stout-hyping business.

Well, I can't say anything, because I started that hype machine, not for THT, but for THB in general. 
Some very high marks, there, but you can't argue with quality. Here's what I jotted down as I took down a pint or so last night. 

Three hour tour. Coconut stout. 5.9% ABV. Stout aged with cocoanut. 

Dark brown body, enormous cocoa-toned head, sleek and lovely. Yes.

Aroma: yeah, that's cocoanut, sweet, and cocoa-nutty. Some dark stout-ish flavors lurk below, but it's really all about the cocoanut. 

Taste: Mmmm, the cocoanut reigns supreme here, as well, and the stout stands tall beneath. Smooth, creamy, full-bodied, thick, lush and mmm. Slight bitterness, rich cocoanut flavor, with requisite coffee and chocolate flavors. 

What's great about this? No holds barred. Doesn't hold back, but neither goes too far. Perfect balance. Not subtle in the cocoanut flavor, delivers it all in just the right amount. Just about perfect. Yu, um.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Holland Imperial Hatter IPA

Drinking this now, looking back on July, 2009 notes on it:

New Holland Imperial Hatter

Lightly hazed, amber to crimson appearance....dusky orange?nice white head, die too quickly in this pour. 

Caramel tones, and herbal notes in the aroma, citrus-y notes peek out, then the pine, then the prickly pear, the apple...all swirled up with caramel-y, chocolate-y malt. This is no naked, raw in-your-face hop attack in this nose, it's blended and complex.

In the mouth, more of the same. Juicy malt, with bombastic hop attack coming from behind. Not a big, bitter bruiser. Not a ripper of the palate, but it is bigger than the normal IPA. Bitter and sweet, hand in hand, nicely balanced. 
The extra ingredients, and the higher alcohol make this Imperial, and it becomes dominant quickly. Sweet, caramel malt remains large in the flavor, hop quotient just below. 

I like this okay, but wouldn't go back for more, just not my style. Like the graphic, with a hug of beer in the Hatter's hand. What if he had brew at that tea party, how much madder would that party have been? How many more sizes would Alice have grown? Curiouser and curiouser...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Alaskan White Ale

Alaskan White Ale, Alaskan Brewing, Juneau, Alaska.

Their take on the Belgian witbier, of wheat/wheat ale style.

Cloudy, white amber color, nearly white, large lather of foam floats atop, lovely and pillowy. Quite a sight.

Aroma: sweetness of spice and sugar, some fruit, definitely coriander, a very by-the-books, kind-of witbier. And that's what I like, now and then. Some orange, some lemon, but the spice and the wheat are on top.

Taste: Creamy stuff, while still zesty and sweet. Creme Brullee' action up in here. Vanilla and cream. With citrus below, and spice still going. Smooth, creamy, sweet, and drinkable. Perhaps smoother and creamier than I like from a wit, but if "drinkability" is what they're going for, it's what they got.

A little something wheaty, a little something fruity, a little something creamy. Not the best wit, but serviceable, will do the job, something for the girlfriends.


Just enough hops for me, just enough pretty fruit and spice, but can't ever imagine having more than one. But, here's to those that will!

Dave's BrewFarm Saison FarmFresh

As with that last one, I don't have much information on this one, although a call or message to Dave might clear things up. But, I'm posting my impressions first, ready to correct or edit if need-be later on.


Dark amber/ reddish hue, large helping of froth up top, little bit of lace leaving.

Aroma: fruity esters, light spice, rye malt? funky fresh? FarmFresh. Definitely saison-y, with a twist. Reminds me of the Avery 18 I had not too long ago. 

Taste: MMM, what is this? Sweetness, spice, smooth, and yum. Get some apple here, some cherry, a tasty mix. Hints of brandy, whispers of whiskey.  Medium bodied, …I like it. It is yum.

Dave's BrewFarm Saison Bois de Peche

A growler brought back from Wilson, WI by my friend Jason. He didn't bring back a menu, and I haven't talked to Dave in a while, so I'm guessing this means it's a wood aged peach saison?
{Edit: This information was obtained at a subsequent visit: 8% Pils and caramel malts, brown sugar, a healthy dose of Magnum and Sterling hops and a late kettle addition of peach wood all fermented with a classic Belgian saison yeast.}(Bois is French for wood.) Is that right? I didn't know he was doing any wood-aging, ...or, I could be wrong. In any case, here are the notes I took when  I took this growler down:
Dave's BrewFarm Saison bois de Peche (?)

Clear, light, amber/peachy coloration, slim head.

Aroma: light bitterness, some Belgian funk, then comes the fruit. Nice stuff. 

Taste: Sweet fruit mixed with Belgian -style funky flavor. Ends dry. rounds out nicely. Very even, very cool. Smooth, lightly spicy, Mmm, nice and hoppy, clean and bitter.