Monday, December 31, 2012

Badger Hill Three Tree American Rye

Badger Hill Three Tree American Rye, Proudly Brewed in Minnesota, Brewed and Bottled by Badger Hill Brewing LLC, Minnetonka, MN.

What's In This Brew? 7 Various Malts, including Munich, Pale, and Caramel. American Hops, Plato: 12, IBU: 48. 5.2 % ABV.
So, let's open up and find out what's in it.

Clouded dark amber coloring, short, slim off-white head.

Aroma: spicy rye malt and hops are on top. Some fruity esters are in here, too, but it's mainly a nice balance of hops and malt.

Taste: Oh, this is nice one! Good and wet, rye malt drives it all with hops showcased in the forefront. Medium, but memorable bitterness. Medium bodied. Fairly lean, with loaded with character. Good drinking, an excellent nominee for a session or three.

Tasty, tasty stuff, perfectly balanced. Yeah, I can sit down with a few of these, nice work, Badger Hill.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

He'brew Jewbelation Sweet 16

Jewbelation Sweet 16 16th Anniversary Ale Brewed with 16 malts, 16 hops, 16% Alc. by Vol. He'Brew The Chosen Brew, Est. 1996/5757. Brewed and bottled by Shmaltz Brewing Company, Saratoga Springs, NY. "Celebrating 16 years of Delicious Beer and Delicious Schtick. L'Chaim!"

the side label sports a litany of trivia regarding the number 16, I will not read it. Not now. Design features a shiny mirror-y surface, and lots of pink and blue. Cute.

Utterly black appearance, under a slim ring of brown foam.

Aroma: Wow. Deep stuff. Rich and ridiculously dense and indulgent. plum, raisin, fig, molasses, maple. a bit of vanilla, and then comes brandy. Alcohol burn isn't far away, but it's inticing, indeed. Big stuff.

Taste: All that from the nose jumps on board the palate. Fantastic malt flavors, more richness, more more more. Chocolate, licorice, …vanilla, whisky, lingering citrus tone, a spiced cookie covered in fudge ripples. And then comes the booze, bringing the taste closer to brandy or cognac. Mmmm. Alcohol is showing. But I don't give a darn, it's delicious, if terrifically hot. This is making for a very nice nightcap.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ommegang Duvel Rustica

Duvel Rustica. Belgian-style Golden Ale. Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY. 8.5% ABV.

Highly hazed orange-ish, tangerine-y appearance, beneath a magnificent flowering of pure white foam up above.

Aroma: ah! Angelic. (despite the devilish name). Citrus, spice, and straw, all played with delicacy, and a side order of funkitude. right here at first sniff, we get it, a golden ale, the classic Duvel, blended with a rough and ready farmhouse saison. Great idea, and so far, so good.

Taste: It's light, medium-ish bodied, but fully flavored. Plenty of fresh, lively fruit sensations, orange, lemon, lime, a twist of grapefruit, with a dash of pepper, cardamom, coriander, then mingled with characteristic Belgian yeast. There's always something alive in the mouth, a lovely mix of authentic Belgian flavors and a clean finish, a lively palate, and a zesty hop profile we expect from a Belgian strong golden ale.
 It's an interesting contrast especially when you imagine crossing an authentic saison, with it's earthy, yes, rustic nature, with the crisp, zesty and effervescent strong golden style which Duvel represents and exemplifies. They are two very different styles, with two distinctive appeals. Why muddy them up, why mix them and mash them and cross them like so. Well, why not? One side of the equation has to give a little in order for it to work, so you have to go in wishing for compromise as a success. And I think it works very well.

Excellent balance in this, what sweetness there is is undercut with hops, and yeast character plus malt flavor makes for a uniquely delicious taste. End slightly bitter and dry on the palate.

Let's see if the label will tell us anything. "Duvel Rustica is our American farmhouse interpretation of Duvel Golden Ale, renowned worldwide as the finest Belgian Golden Ale. Like Duvel, our ale begins with a perfect balance of fine malts and noble hops, then undergoes fermentation with Ommegang's proprietary yeast.
Duvel Rustica is a richly flavorful and aromatic brew, with the depth and complexity of the finest Belgian ales. Enjoy the alluring flavors and aroma, fine carbonation, full body, hazy rustic golden hue, fluffy white head, and dry, warming finish."

I like this quite a lot. It might be one of my favorite new beers of 2012. I'd love to have this around for every day drinking, but that's asking too much, I know. Maybe I can do a 50/50 mix of Duvel and hennepin, how about that?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fulton Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial Stout

Fulton Worthy Adversary. Russian Imperial Stout. ALC. 9.5 %.

"We're talking about unchecked aggression, here, Dude."
 "What the fuck are you talking about?"
"Forget it, Donny, you're out of your element!"
"Walter, the Chinaman who peed on my rug, I can't go give him a bill! So, what the fuck are you talking about?"
 "What the fuck are you talking about, the Chinaman is not the issue here, Dude, I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude! Across this line, you do not!---also, Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature, Asian-American, please." "Walter, this isn't a guy who built the railroads here, this is a guy…"
"What the Fuck are you talking---"
"Walter, he peed on my rug!"
"He peed on the dude's rug!"
"Donny, you're out of your element, Dude, the Chinaman is not the issue here!"

That's a great scene, but not the one I was looking for. Wait, how about this one.

"I could be sitting here with just pee stains on my rug---"
"But, no, man, I got, you know…"
"Fuckin' Germans. Nothing changes. Fucking Nazis."
"They were Nazis, Dude?"
"Oh, come on, Donny, they were threatening castration!"
"Are we gonna split hairs here?"
"Am I wrong?"
"Well, he…"
"Man, they were Nihilists, man. They kept saying they believed in nothing. "
"Nihilists. Fuck me. I mean say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it's an ethos. And also, let's not forget, let's NOT forget, that keeping wildlife, um, an amphibious rodent, for, um, domestic, within the city, that ain't legal, either."
"What, are you a fucking park ranger now?"
"No, I'm just trying to offer…"
"Who gives a shit about the fucking marmot?"
"We are sympathizing here, Dude."
"Fuck sympathy, I don't need your sympathy, man, I need my fucking Johnson!"

…wait, that's the wrong one, too.

I found it.
"…Sure, I used to do some tank battles. fighting in desert is ver-y different from fighting in canopy jungles. I mean, now, with foot soldiers,..(indecipherable), whereas this thing should, you know, be a piece of cake. I mean I had a M-16, not a tank. Me and Charlie, eyeball  to eyeball. That fucking combat. The man in the black pajamas, Dude, …worthy fucking adversary."
"Who's in pajamas, Walter?"
"Shut the fuck up, Donny."
"Whereas what we have here….buncha fig eaters wearing towels on their heads trying to find reverse on a Soviet tank…this is not a worthy fucking adversary."

It never occurred to me when this beer was initially released that the name came from a line in Joel and Ethan Coen's 1997 classic "The Big Lebowski". It was one of the owners of Fulton who informed me of that after I asked where the name for one of their recent draft-only releases, The Ringer,  came from. ("Walter, I'm sure there's a reason you brought along your dirty undies." "That's right, Dude, the weight. The ringer can not look empty.") They make it clearer on the bottle: "An unchecked aggression of dark flavors, this rich stout is about drawing a line in the sand."

This beer, too, when first loosed on the local beerscape, I found wanting. An unworthy adversary. I so wanted to like it, but couldn't find in it the things I deeply desire in an Imperial Stout. So, with this new bottling, from a new brewery, with new brewers, I'm taking new notes.

Utter blackness, complete opacity, with a tight cocoa-tinged head.

Aroma: plenty of dark malt works it's magic, and we're getting dark fruit, some raisin and fig, and such. Cocoa is coming on, coffee is here, and caramel. Plenty of sweet stuff, but not too much.

Taste: Bam! Big, thick, rich and vast. Chewy, viscous, and plump full of chocolate, coffee, and more of those dark fruits. Just enough bitterness to hold it all down. Stays on the palate, hangs hard in the mouth, dominates the senses. Full flavored, full bodied, intense and delicious. Some smoke pops in, some char, a little hit of tobacco.

While this isn't the biggest, the thickest, the richest RIS, it has what it takes, and it gets the job done. This bottle is a vast improvement over the initial keg offering. I'm going to have to pick up more of these to save before they go away.

One more thing:

Shomer fucking shabass!

Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale

The flow of out of state beers continues to pour into Minnesota, even as it ebbs. Avery will pull out, and Kona pulls in. Aloha, Hawaiian beers. I had my first taste of Kona's Fire Rock Pale Ale from a trade way back in March, 2005, and it would be my only taste of Hawaii until Dave A. got those Maui beers for me not too long ago.
I received four sample bottles from Brandon S. recently, and thought I'd crack the one I'd already tried first. Here are those nearly eight year old notes (which still ring true today):

Clear tangerine countenance, suitable creamy froth holds it down.
Citric aroma, with toasty, caramel-apple tones, but overall, bitter notes and orange/lemon flavors dominate.
Smooth and crisp, with a prevailing hoppy bite. Nicely fruity, quite quenching. Bright berrries join other fruity associations.
Medium bodied, but a bit too watery and thin, with a soft, fading finish, that pleases the palate plenty before it leaves, letting the tongue rest briefly on the warm, round, appealing taste.
Very easy drinker, but could stand to have a bit more depth.

St. Bernardus Tokyo Witbier

St. Bernardus Tokyo. 6 % ABV. Brouwerij Sint-Bernardus, Watou, Belgium. Ingredients: water, mout, gemoute tarwe, suiker, hop, gist. In other words, AKA, English: water, barley malt, malted wheat, sugar, hops, yeast.

Clouded, pale golden hue, under a large white head that slips down after time.

Aroma: sweet and sour at first hit, with plenty of citrus and spice. Orange and lemon, ginger and coriander.

Taste: smooth, light and wheat, like any good wit, with a nice dose of spice on the side. A bit more must, a touch of sour, and plenty of yeast. What makes this different from their regular wittier. The yeast, the sour, the must. Just a bit funkier, not as clean and light. I like this quite a bit.

Here's the notes on it's origins from the label: "This beer has been created for the St. Bernardus Tokyo pub in Kanda, Tokyo, Japan, that will be run in partnership with our good friend Ryohei Suguwara-san. Intensely cloudy, unspiced wheat ale brewed with the use of malted wheat. The specific yeast strain of St. Bernardus and the Golding and Magnus hops from our own hopfield next to the brewery give the StBernardus Tokyo a citrusy aroma, a solid, but soft mouthfeel, a touch of acidity, wit a very smooth and clean finish."

Town Hall Festivus 2012

Town Hall Festivus 2012. This year's version is a unique creation, as have been many before. A dark Wheat (not sure why they don't call it a dunkel weizen) ale, infused with bananas, aged with chocolate.

Pours a dark brown, with a prodigious tan head that drifts down swiftly.

Aroma: banana hits first, with chocolate below. They mix and mingle and dominate any other aromatics/

Taste: Smooth, wheat texture. banana and  chocolate. little bit of bitterness, plenty of sweet, but never too much. Medium bodied, light, but tasty finish.
 Good drinking, Nice one.
There's a cherry infusion that I had at the pub last week.
Also nice.

Stone Old Guardian Barley-wine

Stone Old Guardian 2012. Looking back on notes from my first taste, in December, 2004:

Gorgeous hazy peachy appearance, with a slimmish layer of foam on top.

 Exhilirating nose...yeasty and citric at first, toasty and potent, from the top of it...wide open citric fruit character, not what I’d expected...serious smell, leaking in the alcoholic content, slowly, tingling with further fruitiness, begging me to finally taste...

 mmmm...this is a new kind of yumminess, one I don’t remember from other versions...citric sweetness, a delicious oxymoron, is chief among the flavor contributions..peach and apricot, mix with honey and spice, while the booze stands tall above it all, as well.
Very happy, humming, brilliant brew, this is...lands gladly on the palate, too, though it makes no considerable impact. Sits there comfortably, imparting juicy, jubilant flavor ...very interesting, and not what I expected, less like a typical American barleywine, and more like some English old ales, or even like certain Belgian brews, certainly in an exclusive class...this is a tangy thing, a powerfully flavored ale, confident and kind,it delivers it’s goodness, assured in it’s mission, it drops this delicacy and moves on, like all good soldiers should...


bit of a ramble, that one, but I stick by it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Indeed Old Friend Holiday Ale

Indeed Old Friend Holiday Ale. ("What Grinchitude is this? "Holiday"? No Christmas? Bah, Humbug!") I kid, I kid.

Deep, dark  crimson coloring, especially when held to the light, clear, and beautiful. Creamy, off-white head.

Spices leap out of the glass. Cinnamon and ginger first, and maybe nutmeg. Very strong and lively. Sweet, dark malt beneath. Nicely spicy.

Taste: Mmm. Gingerbread cookie dunked in warm cocoa. Delightful blend of spices floods the mouth, slips down the palate and lays in for the long haul. The alcohol in the one is a very manageable 7%, there is little to no heat, apart from that which the spices deliver. No heat, but lots of warmth.
Medium-bodied, long, slightly sweet finish. It's lovely, put simply, a very tasty holiday treat.

I'm going to take a minute to read the back of this label, from the first bottle of this kind (silkscreened graphics, wax-dipped top) from Indeed.
Good tidings to you, Old Friend. We brew our limited release Holiday Ale with fresh ginger root and a hefty dollop of family harvested honey. This fireside companion has a deep ruby-colored body with layers of malt complexity and an intense ginger aroma. Reunite with friends, old and new, and celebrate the season with an Old Friend by your side. Cheers!

(Hmmm, now I wonder, is it a blend of spices? Is there more than ginger, if that's all that's mentioned. I could be feeling this additional flavors from the malt. Or maybe there are other spices, that just are worth mentioning, aside from the fresh ginger root? I should find out.)

Lift Bridge Chestnut Hill Brown Ale

Lift Bridge Chestnut Hill Brown Ale. Looking at notes from November, 2010:

Lift Bridge. Chestnut Hill. Ale brewed with Cinnamon and Allspice. (Is that barber really giving the photographer the finger, or is it merely an illusion?)

"A rich brown ale with scant amounts of spices for unique layers of flavor. A gentlemanly salute to the pioneering days of yesteryear." So they say.

Dark brown body, crimson at edges, nice toasted tan head. Lookin' good. (Said Freddie Prinze.)

Aroma: soft, nutty, lightly fruity, and yeah, there's that spice just below. Nice stuff.

On the tongue and in the mouth, the spices loom larger. good an malty, bits of cocoa and caramel. Medium bodied, light and good drinkability. Great sessional ale, for those seeking bigger satisfaction. Mmm, nice.

Mother Earth Silent Night Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout

Mother Earth Silent Night Russian Imperial Stout, 9 % ABV, Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston, North Carolina. Brewed in November, 2011.
Ale aged in oak bourbon barrels.

Black as night, with a slim, dark, roasty tan head.

Aroma: vanilla, bourbon, molasses, anise, caramel, char. No question what barrel this has been sitting in. Deep and wicked. Mmm.

Taste: Sweet caramel and toffee hits the tongue first, as well as the bourbon flavors. Maple, molasses, anise and cocoa all mixed up in the flavor. Rich, thick, slick and tasty. Not a trace of bitterness, plenty of sweet, alcohol held just in check. Some raisin, some fig, other dark fruit popping up. Heavy malt taste hangs in for the long haul, sits in assuredly.

I'm trying to figure out the illustration, though. A rocking chair in front of a fireplace in the forest…?
Let's look at the other side of the label. "Invite friends, stoke the fire, and uncork a bottle of indulgence. Silent night offers a coffee aroma and the taste of an exceptionally rich malty flavor. Robust yet smooth and black as coal, each sip is a delightful gift. Old man winter gave you just what you were hoping for."

Wait, did Old Man Winter take over from Santa Claus? Does OMW brew for Mother Earth? I'm just not getting this. Is it some mix of paganism and modern Christmas customs? A little confusing.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Minneapolis Town Hall Elves Elixir 2012

Elves Elixir 2012, Town Hall Brewery. I didn't realize this was a brew that was new every year. I thought that was up to the Festivus series. Well, I guess there are two.

Fully ebon appearance, with a thick, lush, stable head of cocoa-tan foam.

Aroma: Soft and creamy, some chocolate, some fruit, a little raisin and fig, maybe maple and molasses. Hugely malty, deep and delightful.

Taste: Full-bodied, rich, fully textured, fully flavored. Begins big, malty, slightly sweet, with a bitter edge, ends on the dry side. A bit roasty, while not too much so, with a mild, hoppy edge. And that's an edge that I'm enjoying.

(Here's the official description: Elves Elixir, 8.7% ABV, A strong Beltic Porter is this year's Elixir with rich melding of dark chocolate, caramel, and cherry fruit notes. Keep your cheeks rosy!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Boom Island Yule

Boom Island Yule. "Small Batch Special Ale Brewed with Spices, No. 1." Verbiage can be read on the jpeg that I will include. Save my typing fingers. 12 % ABV. On the label sleeve, the same stuff on the other labels, and then, "the skinny on this SPECIALTY BEER:"…and it's way too tiny for me to read. You know what? I think it's on the jpeg, too, so look there for those words. If it's any consolation, they seem to have toned down the self-congratulating hyperbole.

The incessant "yule" puns, though? You will ( you will) thank me for ignoring those.

Let's pour this guy into a glass and contemplate, shall we?

Dark brown color, reddish highlights, slim, cocoa-toned head, small, but lasting.

Aroma: Warm and malty, certain spice showing up, but nothing too distinct, a nice and spicy blend. Light cinnamon and clove, nothing too loud. Nutmeg? Nonetheless, evident, and very pleasant. Sweet, malty, spicy, and yum.

Taste: Spices jump on board right off, then alcohol, then malt. Then spice! That cinnamon and clove factor really reigns high on this one, with dark fruit, some chocolate, plenty of dark malt, and more providing ballast. Small hops in this affair, but a plentitude of, as they say, "holiday spice."

Medium-ish body, with a long, lingering fruity, spicy finish. Fairly nice in that regard.

Unfortunately, I'm not getting enough Belgian yeast in this, which would have really made me wonder if they switched this bottle with a Gouden Carolus Noel or a Corsendonk Christmas. One thing I'm not missing, but might be regretting is the high alcohol. Twelve percent puts it in the range of such great beers as Scaldis Noel, but is it necessary? One wonders. Before you can think on it too hard, BOOM!. BooM!, BooM!, as the corners of the braincase are threatened.

The bottom line is, this gets dangerously close to a real, true, authentic, hand to heart, eyes of God, etcetera, real Belgian Christmas Ale…and yet not quite. Much like the rest of their releases. Pretty close. A faint echo away. Tasty enough..but I'm keeping the damned cigar.

I'll ash it in a northwesterly direction, however.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Badger Hill Foundation Stout

And now, for something new and local.

It's about time I got around to some Badger Hill beers, isn't it? They've been out for some months now, and I've only sampled them at festivals, beginning with All Pints North, where their booth was next to Harriet's. This one is new, a "smooth American Stout." 6.3% ABV. What else do we know? Badger Hill Brewing Company, Proudly Brewed in Minnesota, Brewed and Bottled by Badger Hill Brewing LLC in Minnetonka, MN (Sharing space with Lucid.)"What's in this Brew: Pale, Chocolate, and Crystal Malt, Roasted Barley, American Hops, Plato: 15, IBU: 45. Paid $9.99 for a 6-pack at Chicago Lake Liquors.

Solid black, with a tight tanned head of foam.

Mild aroma of roasted coffee and cocoa. Lightly bitter, with a dot of sweetness in the middle. Very nice.

Taste: Bittersweet describes the first hit on the tongue and down the throat. A little bit of complexity in the malt, as it slides down, then softly fades back, leaving hoppy traces in the wake. A little creamy, slightly milky. Smooth, yes, but still interesting, memorable, rewarding, while being an exemplary drinkable stout. Clean, while complex and invigorating. Full-bodied, rich and tasty.

Hops really stick out in this, even though it's only 45 IBU. I'd love this much bitterness in a pale ale or IPA, but I'm liking it less and less in maltier beers. Is my palate changing? My taste?

In any case, it's a fine stout. I won't waste much more time going out to get more from these guys.

Magic Hat Hi.P.A.

As with the last entry, this beer is one I haven't had since the first time I had it, long before the brewery was available in this market. I received a big bomber of Magic Hat HiP.A. in a trade with a fellow BeerAdvocate member back in December, 2003, and did I ever enjoy it. So much more than the median, it seems, as my standard deviation measure on this one is + 16.9%, and it gets merely a "good", with most of the other reviews around 3.5/5-ish or so.

How to explain this? A) The beer is not as good as it once was. B) IPAs are a lot bigger and bolder than they were back then. C) BeerAdvocate reviewers are harder to please than they once were. D) I was easier to please nine years ago. E) Things change, people change, seasons change. F) Maybe folks just don't warm up to Magic Hat beers? This is a phenomenon, advance perception, based on feelings towards the brewery skews appreciation. I.E., if this was from Founders, they'd shit themselves. G) It's just not that awesome.

Drinking a 12 ounce bottle currently, on sale at Chicago Lake Liquors,'s okay. But, boy, did I love it back in December, 2003. Here's what I said then:

Bright peach/apricot color, under a nice, bubbling whitish head. 

Aroma: ooo,babba, booba! Fresh, super-fat hops, piney, citric, herbal, really nice, and though certainly not the hoppiest thing ever to reach my nose, it has it's own unique, highly appreciable personality. 

Taste: juicy, fruity, awash in all manner of the above-mentioned, tangerine, melon, mango, and more than I can think of right now, very sharp, tangy and tasty...candyish at times, jolly-ranger-esque, tasty-sweet and only a tiny touch bitter...I was gonna say, until it persisted for a bit on the finish (then, I actually said it anyway), but actually I like that in an IPA, so it's working. 

Medium bodied, terrifically textured, soft, warm, smooth, harsh, many several things all jumping and jiving around the tongue and through the mouth and echoing in the mind...juicy, sour, citric, ...yum, quite a nice little take on the IPA. 

I like likes me...we're a hap-py fam-i-ly... 

See what the HiPA does to me? I feel like I'm so stoned I'm watching "Barney & Friends" over cold delivery pizza for breakfast. 

New Belgium Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale

Here's one I'm having for the first time since the brewery has been distributed here in MN, and looking back at my first bottle, from way back in November, 2003. Here it is, the raspberry brown ale from New Belgium, Frambozen:

Appearance: lovely dark garnet hued, with a fine, dun-colored head atop, settling swiftly down.

Aroma: wonderful! Sweet, yet tart, like chocolate-covered berries, beautiful, complex, and brilliant.
Taste: bright and tangy, full of gorgeous fruity flavor and lush texture. Tasrtness first, then sweet, and very, very mellow.

Frombozen here has the distinct advantage over raspberry lambics of having this brown ale base to it, making it sturdier, tastier. The raspberries blend well with the ale, doesn't stick out so terribly much, aiding drinkability. A remarkable notion, excellently executed!

Here's the info from the label: New Belgium Frambozen, Raspberry Brown Ale, Ale brewed with real raspberries: "Flemish for "raspberry", is our big, luscious celebration of the ruby red fruit found in Belgium's Framoise ales, Our version is brewed with real northwestern raspberries. Gaze upon Frambozen's deep warming color and infuse your ensue with berry goodness. This Colorado holiday tradition should be served cool in a worthy glass for the best sensory experience." 6.5% ABV. Best BEfore: 17 Feb 13.

Unibroue Trois Pistoles

You know what one of my favorite breweries is? Quebec's Unibroue, that's one of them. But, I noticed that in the past two years since I kick-started this thing up again, I've only logged-in 4 of their beers. I'm so behind. So, I am finally taking care of one of my favorites, if not my most favorite, looking at notes on Trois Pistoles from way back in February, 2003: Notes, away!

Dark violet color, with a short tan head that recedes too soon.

Rich, heady aromas come wafting out the bottleneck, plump with associations: Raisins, plums, spices, brandy, dark rum, smoke, and so much more.

Bracing onslaught of hops on the palate, but excellent buttress of malt backs it up.
Fantastic spark on the tongue, and a wonderful sweetness that follows after the drizzling of hops. Transendant complexity, utterly other-worldly, and overjoyous.

A real treat of a beer, and a rare delight. Only the finest of human beings should put this to their lips, as a benedicton and reflection of the worthiness of their souls. So, all you slobs, go better yourselves before daring to crack the cage and cork. So go do community service, adopt a stray kitten, give a street urchin a quarter, let someone on the freeway before you, be kind to our fine feathered friends, turn a Bud man on to oatmeal stouts, just do something to realign your karma to make you worthy enough to pour this fine beer down your gullet.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------Yeah, looks like I like it, huh?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Here's an old favorite that I don't see very often. Bourbon County Brand Stout, from Goose Island. A new 2012 bottle was given to me by Brandon S., and here are notes taken back in April of 2005:

Looks: solid black, thick, unyielding, with a solid slab of cocoa-tan foam resting well above.

Smell: whiskey, charcoal, leather and molasses, rich and twisted with further flickers of carob and anise,...heady and delirious. Entices one to taste...

On the tongue: thick and full, all the way, slick, tasty, but...damn, this is a doozy! Wow, one taste, and it sticks and lingers...oooh, la, la, la...and, every taste lasts a long time, it stands so thick on the palate and in the memory, that one needn't return so soon. but, who can resist? I taste again, and it's thicker and richer than before...amazing! A bona-fide runner up to Dark Lord, for thickest and chewiest IS....and so slick with the whiskey effect, which I'm especially susceptible to.

I need a case of this, not one 12 ounce bottle. There's too much flavor here to sit in so small a vessell.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Straight To Ale Laika Russian Imperial Stout

Straight to Ale Laika Russian Imperial Stout. Huntsville, Alabama. "Southern Born, Southern Brewed." Named for the Russian dog in space. No ABV evident on the label. No other gobbledygook. That's a good thing. Just the beer, nothing but the beer.

I like the look on this guy. Black as sin, utterly dark, completely opaque, rich, thick, toasted tan. I like the look of this.

Aroma: aw, nice. It's cocoa, it's a little coffee, it's deep, dark, dank, earthy, warm, and lovely. Some anise, some maple, all the best of the usual suspects, in a good RIS are here. They're doing it.

Taste: Big, bad, bold, bountiful. All those aromatic flavors return on the tongue with more to spare. Full-bodied, rich, viscous, plump, and incredible. Deserves company with the best Imperial Stouts out there. Not up at the top, but a respectable middle top. The second tier good ol' good ones.

Good People Brown Ale

Good People Brown Ale, Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham, Alabama.

Clear, reddish brown appearance, solid, lasting cocoa-toned head.

Slightly sweet, nutty aromatics. Malty and pleasant.

Taste: A nice hop bite greets us up front and lingers on the palate. Dark malt flavors hover beneath. Nutty, chocolate-y, but the grassy hops never leave the flavor. A touch distracting that. Not what I'm looking for in a brown ale.

Other than that, a quality brew. If you like hops in your brown ale, Good People's got you covered.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beer Engineers Velocity IPA

Velocity IPA, Beer Engineers, Birmingham, Alabama. Brewed by Back Forty Brewing, Gadsden, Alabama, for Beer Engineers, Birmingham, Alabama. Alc. 10% by Volume.

Hazed all the way, opaque and crimson colored, with a slim, but lasting creamy white head.

Aroma: Fruit, fruit, and more fruit, with plenty of hoppy pith and funk. Caramel malt is at work, with a twisted mix of pine and citric fruit. Bitter with plenty of sweet.

Taste: Now we're into imperial IPA meets barleywine territory. Malt is still massive on this and contributes mightily to the flavor. Bitterness reigns high and sweet malt keeps in step. There's a burnished quality coming through in the booze and the malt.

And that is what we have with Velocity, a big amount of bigness, a fat arrival of sweet malt, bitter hops, and good ol' alcohol. I do like this. I'm liking this a lot.

What do they say? "Velocity IPA from the labs of Beer Engineers is brewed in the classic mode with hops in the foreground a a malty structure that will leave a lasting impression on your tastebuds. 60 IBUs. Original Gravity 23.5 Plato."

Yeah, this is nice. I'm good for the night, thanks.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bell's Kalamazoo Stout

Here's an old favorite that I haven't tapped in many a year, back on the line for a bit. Gives me a chance to revisit my initial notes from way back in March of 2003. I stand by every word. Here we go...

Color is deep, dark black, black as a licorice whip, and, we find, it tastes like one, too. Good, thick, boggy and bubbly brown head.

And an aroma that is roasted flavors to gills, as charred and heady a stout this side of an Imperial. Full of flavorful connotations, chocolate, coffee, more rich flavors, mollasses, syrup, anise.

Hugely flavorful hop bitterness jumps right on board the palate and swims through the mouth. Full, thick, rewarding, delicious. This one sticks in the mouth like peanut butter, constantly abiding finish. Perfect balance, with massive amounts of everything, it contains certain essences of Imperial stouts, without going overboard in alcohol.

I'm not sure if the style milk/cream/sweet stout is appropriate here, but then I'm not sure what to call it, myself.
Who cares? It's delicious!


Way back then, it was listed on as  such, now it's called "American Stout." That works even better.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Steel Toe Before the Dawn Barrel-aged Black Barley-wine

Steel Toe Brewing Before the Dawn Barrel Aged Black Barley-wine Ale. Malt Beverage Aged in Rye Whisky Barrels. Brewed and Bottled by Steel Toe Brewing, St. Louis Park, MN. Zero vowels, consonants, or syllables of gobbledygook accompanying the legal label information.

Utter darkness, completely opaque, with a slight, slim head of cocoa-tinged foam.

Aroma: Whiskey hits first, and nothing but. They spell it "whisky", though, which probably means it's Canadian. Rich, large, and lovely. Vanilla, molasses, black cherry. Pepper and anise. These are all but associations, and just the tip, just the start, only what's popping out at me. A little char and roast roars up, too, lush malt is keeping up with the work of the barrel.

I get the name now, all of a sudden. "It's always darkest…" Damn, why did I not get that till now?

Taste: Thick, viscous, rich, and ridiculous. Huge whisky flavor, intense malt domination, not a whistle from hops, but the viscosity is terribly felt and the tastiness is monumental. All those flavors from aroma come back in spades on the tongue. We've got the char, the roast, the anise, the molasses, a whisper of espresso, and a big bite of chocolate. It's utterly indulgent, and abundantly rewarding. It's goddamned good, is what it is!

What else it is, is a hell of a nightcap. I wish they packaged this in little "nip" bottles, 6 ounces or so, so I can pop on off, and slowly consume as I slip into slumber. Once a night, for nights on end. That's the dream, anyway.

It's a great big, beautiful blend of flavors. The vanilla, anise, cocoa, whisky and molasses all popping out at different intervals, but all part of this wonderful stew.

I just noticed what else is missing from the label. Alcohol content is missing. I'm guessing it's 10-12%.

So huge, so vast, so long. But no "so, long", I'm not even halfway into the bottle. More fun to come. I'm going to slowly sip the night away, and lean back, reeling with the feeling, while Coltrane plays something deep, long and ponderous. Ah, that's the stuff.

Have you ever heard anyone say, "What's my favorite beer? The one in my glass right now." I think that was Michael Jackson. Sounds like him. This is my favorite beer right now. And maybe it will be even after I'm done drinking it. It's amazing. It's perfect. It rocks. Long may it wave.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Odell Isolation Ale

Notes from my first bottle sample, way back in January, 2004, drinking off tap right now:

Appearance: a deep copper color, with slight haze, under a fine chunk of creamy foam that too-soon gives way and deteriorates, but leaves lace.

Aroma: intriquing...mysterious...that only begins to describe the olfactory investigation, dominated neither by malt or hop, suggesting no particular flavor, vegetable before bequeathing fruit, rich and squalid, languorous while luxuriant, a copious compendium of complexity and contradiction.

Taste: bitterness up front, a swift hoppy cameo, then supported by hearty malt, brimming with sweet, yet dark fruit, with some touches of tartness conquering the palate at times, like a lemon to match the peach.
A mad mix this is, really, a curious winter warmer that complies to no particular style, and conforms to no ale I've yet to sip. That, though, makes it hard to judge, for though I admire it very much, I never quite got chummy with it., wait, that's what I thought 15 minutes, I'm starting to come around...yeah, I could do with more of this! Not a lot more, but a bit, at least..

Monday, December 10, 2012

Yellowhammer Liberation Quadrupel

Liberation Quadrupel, Yellowhammer/Straight to Ale/Blue Pants. A special offering of our Dark Hammer Quad, usually released in winter, drink now or cellar 6+ months. A Series of 4 Limited Edition Beers. #3. 10.26% ABV, Belgian-style Quadrupel Ale, Yellowhammer Brewing. Huntsville, Alabama.

Dark Quad. That's a new one on me. Is that to differentiate it from the "blonde quad". Last time I heard that phrase was the first time, and did we have fun with that one.

Dark, it is. Intensely black, with a slim, but staying toasted tan head.

Aroma: Sweet malt, Belgian yeast character, creamy cocoa, some fig and other dark fruit. Nicely balanced, nothing too out there.

Taste: Succinctly: yum. Plump, sweet malt, but not too much so. Good balance. Very classic. Cool. And clean. Great play on the palate, excellent texture. A little roasty, with plenty of Belgian malt (Speical B?) and yeast to really make this work as a "dark quad". I'm most reminded of one of my favorites, Kasteel Brune. Hmm, now this whole "dark quad" thing makes sense. (But as opposed to what? Oh, yeah, the "blonde quads".)

Sweetness turns dry on the palate in the end, making for a very satisfying experience. Wonderful. A great collaborative brew, doing justice to difficult style, out of Alabama. Life is good in craft beer, U.S.A.

Straight to Ale Monkeynaut IPA

Straight to Ale Monkeynaut IPA. Straight to Ale Brewery, Huntsville, Alabama. 7.25% ABV.

Half-hazed, deep amber hue, under a creamy slab of off-white foam. Looks nice.

Aroma: Ooo, very nice. Caramel malt meets a massive dose of hops. Plentiful resine-y pine notes, grapefruit and lime. Rich malty nose, too, moreso than one would would expect from a typical, average, "single" IPA.

Tasting it: Considerable heft in the mouth. A good helping of hops at the front, with malt marching behind. Richness abounds. Bigger malt than we'd anticipate in a regular IPA. Tasty as heck, with a long-lasting bitter, hoppy finish. Delicious. Yum. Lost of fruit lingers in the back of the throat, and hangs on the palate.

I could drink a ton of this. Up to a point.

I'm worried about that monkey, though. How did he get out of that rocket? Was he pushed? Is he lost in space, now? Will he ever get home? Is he going straight to ale?

Harriet Chardonnay Barrel-aged Divine Oculust

Barrel Aged (Chardonnay) Divine Oculust Belgian-style Strong Golden Ale.

This release is probably the biggest barrel-aged brew from Harriet. No, I'm sure of it. First big one, with more to come. Cheers to an ongoing barrel program!

Hazy golden tone, short-lived white head.

Aroma: Wood, wine, fruit…and booze.

Taste: Oak gets on the palate first, then comes the wine, with fruit and spice below. A little sharp, a tiny bit sweet, and here comes the booze. Nicely complex, dry and delicious. And boozy. I have to save the rest of this growler for tomorrow. Or I will regret it.
I'm pretty sure the barrel added some percentage points. Don't know if anything else was added. I know there's some bugs in some of those barrels.

Good People IPA

Good People Brewing Company IPA, Legally Brewed Since 2008, Birmingham, Alabama.

 Lightly hazy, tangerine color, small, brief white head.

Aroma: citric hops aplenty. Oily, fruity, bitter and sweet.

Taste: Big bitter blast at the front that sticks out for the long haul. Hangs on the palate hard, slowly, softly fades back. Light bodied and lean, with citric hop flavors (grapefruit, orange, lemon, etc.), hogging the spotlight, malt remaining crisp and dry, meek and mild. Bitter hop character is in for the wine, while the brew is an easy-drinker for the hop-head. Just the way I like it.

Good IPA, good people.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon Russian Imperial Stout

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon. 12.5% aBV.

Deepest, darkest, blackest black. A handsome head of roasty toasty tanned foam on top.

Aroma: cocoa first, then molasses, espresso. All the usual suspects. Rich and intriguing.

taste: In the mouth, plump and filling. Slightly bitter, dry, roasty and rewarding. A little whiskey flavor trickles in, a hint of vanilla. In comes the toffee and caramel, mingling with the coffee and cocoa. Really liking the depths here.
Alcohol level is rising high, bubbling up, but we're nearly done, and it's making a lovely nightcap. More flavors rising up, some charcoal, some anise. Maybe, just a bit of raison. Rich, intense, but very wonderful.

Now, what do they say: "What should we call our Russian Imperial Stout? Black Unicorn? Soul Dragon? Nahhh. Let's combine them and create the ultimate mythical creature: Blaecorn Unidragon! Imbued with a monstrous amount fo dark malt and aggressive hops, Blaecorn Unidragon is a powerful and complex brew designed to improve with age."

Clown Shoes Brown Angel

Clown Shoes Brown Angel Double Brown Ale, bottled 08/12. Alc 7% by Vol.

Very dark brown, with ruby highlights, beautiful cocoa/tan head, lasts long, dribbles down some lacing.

Aroma: at first, malty and sweet, dark malt flavors, caramel and cocoa. Some hops coming through, grassy, citric.

Taste: In the mouth, dark malt first, followed by a blast of hops. Medium bodied, light finish, plays delicately on the palate. Tasty malt, with a dry end. Clean and easy. Nice stuff. Yet I find it wanting some.

What do they have to say about this? "Brown Angel comes at you on three levels. As the heart of the beer is layer upon layer of pure, delicious malt. Columbus and Amarillo hops add an intense hop presence while a final layer of East Kent Goldings delivers a delicate floral finish. This is NOT your old school brown, but rather a sexy American interpretation."

It's a sexy label, alright, but the beer not as much. It needs a bit more of ..just about everything. Perfectly fine, but not especially impressive.

Stone Lukcy Basatrd 15th Anniversary Arrogance Ale

Stone Lukcy Basartd. A Slef Trbitue to 15 years of Arorgnace. 8.5% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, San Diego County, CA.

Enjoy by Jan 31, 2013.

The back label has a lot of misspelled verbiage that I imagine would be very amusing if took the time to decode it. I will not do that now.

Lightly hazed, crimson hued appearance, under slim off-white head.

Aroma: tons of hops, plenty of grapefruit, lime, orange and pine. Mucho malt adds further richness, but hops are in charge here.

Taste: massive malt, big-time fruit, wide-open spaces full of bitter hoppiness, Plenty of caramel and toffee malt deliciousness, a certain sweetness, matched happily with tons of hop bitterness. A real mouthful. This is a big bottleful of complexity, intensity and yummy yum yum.

Okay, I'm going to try to decode it. Here we go…

Open you mind. Use a crowbar if you must. Since 1997, Arrogant Bastard Ale has demanded that tyrannical mediocrity relax it's grip of opprobrium on our collective consciousness. Few possess the required insight or depth of perspective to credit the liquid arrogance for instigating the revolution in taste that it has. However, that's perfectly fine as our Herculean effort in …eh, this is more work than it's worth. Just imagine a lot of self-congratulation, with some words mixed up. All of this to tell us that it's a blend of Arrogant Bastard, Oaked AB, and Double B.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Indeed Haywire Double Black Ale

Indeed Haywire Double Black Ale. 8.1% ABV. More details after my own notes, as per usual.

Ultimate blackness, under a long lasting cocoa-tan head that slips down and leaves light brown lace.

Aroma: hops, hops and more hops. Green grass, and pine forest floor. Some citrus, but all hoppitude.

Taste: Smooth malt at first, swiftly subsumed by big, grassy hops. Bitterness grabs the palate and won't shake loose. Grips it, holds it, spreads tingly, tasty hop flavor. Massive malt matches it all.

I've been cautious about every "black ale/ black IPA/ Cascadian dark ale" I come across, and am happy when my fears are extinguished. Here we have an Imperial/Double IPA meeting up with a black ale, and it's exceeding any expectations. Loaded with hops, backed up with black malt. Hearty, full-bodied and considerably satisfying. Toasty, roasty, and full.

Yum. I'd like to have one after another, but the 8% ABV is starting to kick in. Two in a row, and I'm getting in trouble.

Here are the specs, straight from the brewery"

8.1% ABV, IBUS: 100+
Style: Double American Black Ale
Prepare for your palette to be victimized by Haywire, a Double American Black Ale brewed with 10-pounds of hops per barrel and a special process using hopped wort as mash water. Centennial, Citra, Zythos, and Falconer's Flight hops fill this beer with notes of citrus, and sappy pine, while the malt brings hints of toffee, coffee, and cocoa.

Schell's Snowstorm 2012

Schell's Snowstorm 2012 Biere de Noel Beer, August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, MN.

Clear, auburn/crimson hue, small, soon-gone white head.

Aroma: Malty and distinctly lovely. Belgian sweetness and Belgian funk. Flowery, fruity, and utterly delightful.

Taste: On the lips and tongue, a repeat of the nose. Sweetness hits, with a small, almost indiscernible dose of hops, with lush malt carrying the character. Belgian yeast delivers plenty of flavor.

I've never heard of the style "biere de noel", but if they are referring to a Belgian Christmas Ale, which is a rather loose style, this one delivers, though it also feels like a biere de garde. A bit more flavorful, spicier version?

Medium body, long, malty/spicy finish, forever flavorful.

Let's see what the paper tells us: Well, it's the same thing they put on every Snowstorm label. Let's see if we can find anything online...

Back Forty Freckle Belly I.P.A.

Back Forty Beer Company Freckle Belly India Pale Ale, Proudly Brewed in Gadsen, Alabama. Craft Brewed. Liquid Folk Art. (That's a new one on me. I never would have made that up myself in a million, trillion years.) Alc by Vol. Unlisted. (7.5% ABV, I've learned.)

Pale, lightly cloud, amber/golden hued…small short white head.

Aroma: Pineapple and pine smack the nose first, followed by orange, mango, grapefruit. A beautiful blend of  citric hop flavors. Dee-lightful. A little sweet, to match the bitter.

Taste: Ahh. Lovely, lovely stuff, with a brisk delivery of hop bitterness at first, a shovelful  loaded onto the palate, then slowly, softly fading back. Incredible blend of hops, with a long finish, a lazy, luxurious presence in the mouth. Hop bitterness stays quite a long spell, and continues to spread happiness throughout the senses.

This is delicious. I'm very impressed. The first Alabama beer from a package from my friend UncleJedi of Huntsville, Alabama. I was not keeping track of how the beer scene has progressed in 'bama, and I'm very grateful to Jim for helping me acquaint myself with these beers. This is the only one from this brewery in the package…now, I'm hankering for more from them. Yum, yum, yum.

Let's see what they say on the paper: "This full-bodied India Pale Ale is loaded with fresh hops for a powerful blend of citrus, pine and fruit aromas. The firm malt backbone works well with the bold hop finish that everyone expects from an IPA. BELLY UP HOP HEADS!"

Alvinne Undressed Oud Bruin

Alvinne Undressed, Almost Unhopped Brown Ale, the base beer for Morpheus Wild and Kerasus, undressed for the fans of the true "oud bruin" style. Brewed and bottled by Brouwerij Alvinne, Moen, Belgium. 6.9% ABV. Ingredients: Water, 5 different malts, crystal sugar, Morpheus yeast, 1 gram of hops.

Dark , nearly black, no head at all.

Aroma: sour fruit, cherries and berries and more. sweet dark malt below, but totally smothered by sour and fruit. Raisins and port wine and more. Good stuff.

Taste: Yow! Huge puckeration! Instense sourness, unrelenting, unswerving, unabashed, unhinged, untenable…how many more un's can I do? Sour cherries, raisins, plum, etcetera, and an intense tartness that ends on a dry note. Very wine-like, rich and flavorful and rewarding.

An incredible experience. Here's one for the bona fide sour-head, certain to please the most persnickety pucker-lover. Right on the money, this. Not surprising from Alvinne. I've yet to be disappointed by these guys.

Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout

Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout. On tap, a 2011 keg that I acquired for our annual StoutFest event. Still on tap, but just barely, so I thought I'd better get some notes before it's too late. 10.5 % ABV. Brewed with Belgian yeast and aniseed.

Black as black can be, impenetrable, under a rich, brown cocoa-toned head, that starts big and comes down to a tight, but stable ring.

Aroma: At first sniff, we get all the hallmarks of a good Imperial Stout. There's the coffee and chocolate, the lush malt, molasses, and without much hesitation, along comes the anise. Nicely spicy, plenty of  licorice coming through. Not too much, just fine and mellow enough.

This is one that got many mixed reviews when first released, but that probably all came from anise haters. This one also has had a year on it, aged in the cooler of the distributor.

Taste: Everything comes rushing to the front on first sip, all bundled up. The dark malts, the chocolate flavors, the viscous nature, the tickle-y trickles of aniseed. An alcoholic heat also dip on the palate, and creeps into the back of the throat.
Full-bodied, without being insurmountable.

A definite sipper, one to relax and luxuriate with, consume with caution or risk immeasurable peril. This is a perfect brew for a day like today, with temperatures in the mid 20's and the streets clean enough for biking. It's warming me up before I head back into the chill.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat Ale

Drinking from a bottle now, notes from 4-ish years ago, November, 2008:

Golden hued and hazy, rush of carbonation, huge cloud-like white head, pockmarked and pillowy. Looks nice.

Aroma: there's the clove, there's the banana, light, fresh, and's all there.

Great texture grips the palate, then a rush a fruit, bright orange, tangy citrus, a spark of spice. Drink again, ah, refreshment, banana and orange, spritz of carbonation.
Loving it.

Dance on, dancing man, dance on!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Glarus Thumbprint Saison

New Glarus Thumbprint Saison.

Hazy, yellow look, enormous, gorgeous head, milky white and long lasting.

Aroma: super-fresh. citrus zest and plenty of spice. Love it.

Taste: soft and smooth, with flavors of banana and lemon. Banana in a saison? Well, it's there. Light spice, lush malt, some amount of wheat malt character. This isn't exactly what I look for in a saison, but I find myself liking it nonetheless. Tasty, good-drinking, nicety, nice, nice.

Let's look at what They say on the paper: "Saison, the original Farmhouse Ale, was the refreshing invention of thirsty Belgian farmers. Wisconsin pale barleys brewed with Grains of Paradise in this bright new copper hued ale. Deceptively approachable, it's complicated fermentation incorporates a blend of three Belgian yeast strains and is fully bottle conditioned. Fresh hops snap with lemon zest and peppery ginger notes, leaden to an enigmatic personality. Enjoy, as the sassy Wisconsin Saison is at it's best thirst quenching drinkability now."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cucapa Green Gard Barley-wine

Cerveza Cucapa Green Card Barley-wine. "The Best Rated Mexican Craft Beer." Product of Mexico. Brewed and bottled by Cerverceria de Baja California. 10% alcohol by volume.

Dark garnet hue, slim but staying cap of white foam.

Aroma: deep malt, rich, dark fruit.

Taste: plump with fruit and very tasty. Medium-bodied, short finish. Just enough hops in here to make an impression. But not enough of everything else to be a memorable brew. I keep up high hopes, try to be objective, …and it fell short. Had promise from the start, but it falls flat, and fails to deliver.

Let's take a moment and read the label. You can read it however you like, but I will read it like a loud, boisterous, resonating Mexican radio announcer, a booming voice that is personified by a manly Mexican moustache: "Many people fight over prized possessions. The green card has for many years been what many people aspire to get. This is why we thought it would be appropriate to re-name our most prized beer. Brewed to a heavy 10% ABV, a viscous malty character and a hint of hops this beer is complex and life changing."

Viscous? Not really. Life changing? A stretch. Long stretch. Maybe it'll improve with time? As it is, not a bad beer,very nice in fact, but not a very good barley-wine. Still, probably the best Mexican beer I've had in a long time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Surly Brettliquor I.P.A.

Here's a new one from Surly, draft only, recently released at Darkness Day, with extra kegs finding their way to bars. Like the one I run. So, I'm sitting down with this enticing brew, takin' notes. First off, the real quick skinny on "Brettliquor". "Belgian style Imperial IPA fermented with Brettanomyces and dry-hopped with Styrian Goldings. 8.3% ABV." That's how they put it, that's how it is.

Let's leap in and look at it. Clear, golden, apricottish appearance, large, looming, well-kept head, whitecaps sit prettily atop for quite some time, leaving abundant attractive lacing.

Aroma: sour, funk, and fruit. I recall that in a sales sheet, Surly calls this a "fruit bomb." I hate that term, any which way it's applied, but it's all up in the nose, that's for sure. Brimming with wild Belgian character, a little sweet, a little bitter, and a whole lot funked up. Love it. So unique, so unusual, so inviting.

Taste: Citrus and tropical fruits up front, followed by hop bitterness, ending dryly. Second sip in, it's very clear we've got a highly hopped-up Imperial IPA of some sort, but the Belgian quality never leaves your mind or your senses. It's a brilliant combination, with a flavor unheard of, reminding me at times of other Belgian IPAs, particularly American-brewed versions, like Flying Dog Raging Bitch or Harriet's West Side. But there's something quite extra at play here, and it's utterly delicious. Fruit continues in the taste, always matched with bitterness, and accompanied by that funkification.

Here's more information from Surly:

Style: Belgian Imperial Brett IPA. (You know, one of those!)
Malt: 2 Row, Aromatic, Crystal
Hops: Styrian Goldings, Chinook, Simcoe
Yeast: Brettanomyces
OG: 17.2% Plato
ABV: 8.3%
Color: 11 SRM.
IBU: 70

This has incredible balance, among such disparate components, and is ridiculously consumable, despite the high alcohol content. Taste-wise, it's genius, and it's definitely one of my favorite Surly beers ever, if not one of the best beers I've ever had. Really. When you get right down to it.

I remember liking this at Darkness Day, in a plastic cup, outside, among a noisy crowd on a cold day.

Right now, I'm practically in love with it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lucid Foto I.P.A.

Lucid Foto IPA, Lucid Brewing Company, Minnetonka, MN, U.S.A. 6.5% ALC by Vol.

Transparent amber appearance. Slim white head.

Pleasantly bitter nose, grapefruit and pine needle, spritz of lemon, peel of orange. A nicely hoppy aroma.

Taste: Massive attack on initial entry. Great big bitter load deployed on the palate, matched with earthy malt flavors. The aroma brought the promise of a possible West Coast -style IPA, and the taste is giving us more of an English-style. No problem there, just a bit of a shake-up. Most West Coast IPAs may look and smell like this, but they don't taste like this. Again, I don't find a fault, but the more English-style malt profile may throw others off expecting something "cleaner" or with more tropical fruit hop notes.

There's some grainy tones and some sweet ones coming from the malt, and just a bit of butter. A hint of diacetyl (maybe?), quickly smothered by hop bitterness. Hops add spice to this, and a good deal of coverage.

Not a bad beer, but not about to become a favorite. I'd drink it again, though, in the right place and time.

On the right side of the label, a strange character holds a weird camera, and we read this: "Picture supreme happiness and have a snapshot of this West Coast IPA. Post a picture of you tipping this FOTO on our Facebook and it might make you hotter looking than you already are."

Lagunitas Day Time I.P.A.

Lagunitas Day Time. A Fractional IPA. O.G. of 1.042, 54.2 IBU, and just 4.65% Alcohol by Volume, A Top-Fermented Ale. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California.

Clear, golden hue. Small, lasting white head.

Aromatics, lovely clean, piney, pineappley, resiny, bitter hop goodness. Floral, then bitter, and let's not forget the feline urinary business. That's lurking in there, too, though I don't often like to mention it.

Taste: Hops charge in and spill the goodness all over. Citrus and tropical fruit notes aplenty. Incessant hoppitude. Low alcohol plus light body equals excellent sessioning. (Which autocorrect doesn't recognize as a word. That almost said 'seasoning' back there.)

Is the Session I.P.A. a new trend? I hope so.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Steel Toe Wee Heavy

Steel Toe Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Dark burgundy brew, deep brown, small, soon-gone head.

Aroma: sweetness first, molasses and brown sugar, caramel and toffee, very nice.

Taste: Rich, dark malt flavor. All that sweetness from the nose comes rolling all over the tongue. And then the booze comes in and kicks it up another notch or three. Mmmm, solid. Just delicious. A hair shy of full-bodied. But next to yummy. A treat in every way.

Just enough hops in this thing, to keep from being a "malt bomb." Great balance, though, as is right for the style, and malt is truly king here. MMM, yum. All that sweetness, plus the balance, and a whole lot of big. Another success from Steel Toe.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Summit Unchained Batch 11: Old 152

Summit Unchained No. 11: Old 152

In order to do this review with a fresh perspective, I've forgotten everything I've ever known about this beer. Except that it has something to do with a pre-prohibition recipe and a sour mash technique. There's nothing else about the beer on the label except for the brewer's name, and his signature. Perhaps there's more on the six-pack holder…I'm going to look for it now…all of the technical information is there but no background stories…5.6% ABV, 55 IBUs…hops: Cluster, Northern Brewer…malt/grain: Victory/Crystal Medium, pale malt, rye malt, disteller's malt (ooo!), maize (that's corn to you and I), white wheat.

I'll skip the rest and open 'er up:

Lovely chestnut brown, full blooming off-white head, leaving loads of lace.

Complex grain bill evident in aromatics. Have to say it: I am getting some whiskey-ish notes, for certain. A little sweet, a bit sour and musty, but very likable. Intriguing to say the least.

Taste: Hop bitterness starts us off on the palate. Tasty stuff. Spicy rye malt hits next. Twice as nice. Plenty of character in this one. Continues long through the drink, with a lush, malty finish. Alcohol and hops are mellow enough to ease the drinking, leaving this a vastly pleasurable brew that tastes better with each new swallow.

Ladies and gentlemen, I might be turning into one of those fussy fuddy-duddies decrying the way things are today, and those kids, blah, blah, blah…But, really, does everything have to be 10% alcohol? There are a lot of beers out there that I could enjoy more often if there were just 8% instead of 10%, or 6 % instead of 8.

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 ...