Monday, January 30, 2012

New Glarus Moon Man Pale Ale

New Glarus Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale. 

Clear, pale golden color, thin white head. 

Fresh, vibrant, hoppy aromatics. Lemon and orange peel/pine needle medley. Lovely. lovely.

Taste: Blast of bitterness right up front, an explosion of typical Pacific NorthWest citrus-y hop flavors. Big lemon, luscious orange, prickly pine, and pear. Slice of apple. Lean body lets the hops light up the palate, eases censurability. Hops, hops, hops, you want 'em, you got 'em.

There's a slight sourness creeping in, too, not sure if it was intended, for it's not necessarily part of a pale ale profile. It's fairly minor, though, and quickly excused. Long lasting on the palate, bright citrus hop flavor shining  through the duration. 

I like this, but find myself far from loving it. It drinks down well enough, and delivers the hops, but the citrus is too large in the flavor, and the body too thin.

Here's the ever-expressive side details from the paper label. "Moon Man is a seriously cool cat. Always comfortable in his own skin, he never tries too hard. So cool we named our "no coast" pale ale after him. You hold a session beer with a bright bold blend of five hops that flirt obligingly with the smooth malty backside. Don't let this one lay around. It is brewed to be enjoyed today. Bold and engaging without pretense, because in Wisconsin, you do not have to be extreme to be real, just be."

Oh, get over yourself, "Wisconsin"!

Three Floyds BrooDoo Harvest Ale

Three Floyds BrooDoo Harvest Ale. "A seasonal ale that glorifies American hops. BrooDoo is brewed using fresh green "wet" hops picked right from the vine and put into our beer vats, from vine to brewhouse in one day! BrooDoo also uses the best American malt money can buy. Enjoy!"

What do troll dolls in sailor suits, princesses, unicorns and rainbows have to do with a Three Floyds Harvest Ale? Perhaps it's best not to ask.

Slightly hazy, golden hued, slim, off-white head.

Aroma, grassy hops, citric hops, tropical hops, hoppy hops. Bright, bitter, and lovely.

Taste: All that and more on board the palate. Fresh, bitter, fruity, and juicy. Medium bodied, long, bitter finish. Just enough malt to hold the balance, but plenty of room for the fresh hops to shine. A touch of sweetness creeps out, but pithy, citric, little bit o'piney bitter hops hold center stage.

I like this one, but I'm thinking I had this bottle too late in the game, for it seems the freshness should have been more forward, more pronounced. Still good, still delicious, however, it feels a touch faded, if only from 3 to 4 months time.

RedHook Nut Brown Ale

RedHook Nut Brown. Seasonal Series. "Takes Nuts as a Compliment." 5.8 % ABV.

Clear, and caramel brown in appearance, slim, dotted, grey-brown head.

Aroma: malty, brown…nuts, yeah, sure. A little caramel-y, not much happening.

Taste: Caramel malt notes, small amounts of bitterness. A little toast. Slight cherry flavor, a little fruit to match the tiny serving of hops. 
Light bodied. Faint finish. Lacking any real strength of character. 

You can drink it. You can sink it. But, eh….bleb,….I'm not liking it.

I keep wanting to give everything a second chance. And I will continue to give RedHook a try, but I won't go back to this one, no sirree. 

Laughing Dog Dogfather Imperial Stout

Did you know that Dogfather backwards is RehtafGod? That's what I'm saying, man.

The Dogfather Imperial Stout, Laughing Dog Brewery, Ponderay, Idaho. 10.5% ABV. No ponderous verbiage to be found on the label, only random gunshots.

Solid black coloration, rich, toasted tan head, beautiful appearance. Just what I want to see when I'm downing an Imperial Stout.

Licorice hits the nose first, then black strap molasses. Dark chocolate comes up next. Deep and decadent. This one goes all the way. Butterscotch and caramel, sweetness to go, but not too much. Nicely tempered, while utterly decadent. I love this. Gorgeous. 

On the tongue, it's a bittersweet mix that hits first. Sweet, bitter, sweet, bitter, on and on, and on. A little fruity, then the bitter chocolate, then the darkness. Quite a mix, and completely a pleasure. 

Full bodied, long, rich finish. Great balance, with just enough bitter to balance the sweet. And plenty of sweet to make it delicious. Mmmm…

This isn't going to unseat any of my top favorites in this style, but it will work it's way among the second echelon. 

Laughing Dog DogZilla Black IPA

Laughing Dog Brewing, Fetchingly Good Ales, Ponderay, Idaho. Dogzilla Black IPA. 6.9% ABV.  This one's label copy comes as a song, sung to the tune of, I assume, BOC's "Godzilla": With a purposeful growl, and terrible sound, he pulls the rack of kegs all down. He picks up a bottles and throws it back down, as he wades through the kegs toward the center of town. Oh, no, they say he got to go, Go go Dogzilla. Dogzilla is back and hoppy A true Northwest IPA with a dark malt twist." (I don't think that last one was supposed to be sung. Doesn't really rhyme.)"

Full black color, lighter ruby brown edges, nice 1/4 " head of creamy tan head.

Hoppy aromatics, mixed with dark malt. Not too anything, a hint of grass, a splash of citrus, but adequately matched with malt. Freshly mowed hop grass lilting over a chocolate base.

Taste: It's all there, again. Chewy, roasty, chocolate-y malt flavor holds it down amply, with lightly bitter, grassy hops playing above. Like many of these Black IPAs, it comes across as a hoppy porter, but there's no real imbalance in this one. It's a firestorm of flavors, full and rich, very satisfying. 

Did you know that Dogzilla is AllizGod backwards?
Think about that, huh? Hmmmm?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Harriet Anniversary Day at the Blue Nile

Man, oh, man, I'm still recoiling from this one. Haven't even gotten home, still relaxing at work (so much work!), before heading off to the lightrail train, and sweet slumber, after working for 15 hours straight, or more.
A Total Tap Takeover, with many rarities and one-offs, a line-up you will likely never see again. And I had to wait until 3:20 (we open at 4, and the event was scheduled for then) for the brewery to deliver them. Actually, 2 of the most hotly coveted items, the barrel-aged beers, would only come later.
And with 500 tickets sold the day before, exceeding our capacity, well, this guy was strung out. There was nothing we could do to make it better. We did our best for so very long, with the help we had, and at 7:30 I called a stop to all "flights"...the glassware was out there, and it's too time-consuming. Time to start having full glasses, people!
There were special beers that ran out quick, of course, like the barrel-aged brews, which I was lucky enough to taste several weeks ago. The tea-infused beers, Lapsong Souchong Dark abbey, and Jasmine Tea Divine Oculust, they were gone before I got a taste. Also, two dry-hopped  versions of Divine Oculust, one with Sorachi Ace, and one with Saaz, went quickly. Some large kegs took longer, like Divine Resolution, the orange peel infusion of Divine Oculust, as well as the first variation on the coffee-infused Doppelbock.
Damn, I forgot, we did the release party for the Doppelbock, Elevator! So, I didn't get much Ethiopian Tchembe, but am enjoying the Espresso currently. Ahhh, so nice. A review will come later.
But not, alas, of Sorachi Ace or Saaz Dry-hopped DO, or Cascade or Citra dry-hopped West-Side, or the 2 Tea infusions, or the barrel-aged versions. Oh, well, such is life. Many late-comers were hard to come to grips with what was gone, but, seriously, it's been 5 hours people, you snooze, you lose!
And also bewildering, is the people who come up and ask for a Grain Belt, or a Surly. It's Harriet Day, you moth@rF*ckers! Roll with it!
I illustrate this adventure, with a photo taken last night of the Harriet neon now proudly hung on our wall, as well a shot I snapped of the barrel-aged brews when I first had them at the brewery, several weeks ago.
The main thing I want to leave with is that I really truly appreciate when others appreciate our efforts. So often people can fire off an online review and vilify an establishment because they had to wait for their beers, or they got the wrong glassware, despite the fact that there are 500 other people in the place, and there's no way to make everyone perfectly happy all the time. Being told that we rocked, we were awesome, we worked our asses off, yeah, that means something, when they recognize the effort.

One thing that came up, from some beer geek friends, and always does, was "what's your favorite of the day?" And I have to laugh, and say, "I'm too busy working to drink!" And, it's true. Sad, and true.
Also, I discovered that while sweet jazz music does soothe my soul when I need it most (very impressed that this Super Combo knew Lee Morgan's "Yes, I Can, No, You Can't"), I still get annoyed by a mandolin, especially in conjuction with cutesy-pie, heart-on-a-sleeve lyrics delivered by a tatooed girl-woman. Add a violin, and I want to reach for a revolver.)

Alaskan Perseverance Russian Imperial Stout

Perseverance Ale, Alaskan Brewery, Russian Imperial Stout, Stout Brewed with Birch Syrup and Fireweed Honey, 9 % ABV, 1 pint, 6 luid ounces. Alaskan Brewing Company, Brewed and Bottled in Juneau, Alaska. 

Solid black, slim head, soon gone. 

Aromatics, dark malt, rich, bittersweet, cocoa, blackstrap molasses, some minor charcoal and smoke. Overall, very subtle.

Taste: more darkness, more sweetness, but lacks depth. 
That was too quick. I need to give it some tick, let the brew breath.
So, again…sweet, slick, …roasty. Toasty. Charred, but …not really. Starts…but doesn't get there. Tasty, …boozy…but, lacking extra oomph. Sometimes called "character." Also, "zazz." At other times, "zork." 

This could be a lot better. It should be a lot better. Thicker, maybe? More intense, perhaps? 

But, nice. If you want nice, go for this.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Smuttynose Gravitation Quadrupel Ale

The Smuttynose BIG BEER Series, Gravitation, a Belgian-style quadruple ale. Odd that they chose an illustration for the label that appears to depict the opposite of gravity. Is it Icarus falling to Earth, or some freshly plucked angel?

Dark, rich, burgundy hue. Slim, dark dotted head.

Aroma: Alcohol and ripe fruit. Banana and cherry. Pomegranate. Leather and cognac. Oh, and alcohol. 

Taste: More of the same, on board the palate. Burnished malt, hot and fiery. Gigantic and enormous. Starts fierce and floods the mouth, lightens a bit in body as it slides down the throat, ends with a long, balanced finish.

Rich, fat, and boozy. What's the ABV? I can't see it anywhere on the label. Has to be 10% or higher. the label does tell us "Gravitation is a huge, deep-red ale brewed with a traditional Belgian yeast to achieve flavor, complexity & character of audacious proportions." Sounds good, but I feel some complexity is hidden under all the heat. Sweetness is large in this, and only somewhat held in check by bitterness. All in all, it's the alcohol that rules.

I'm having this as a nightcap, getting ready to turn in for the evening. It's tasty, to an extent, but I feel, for me, that it trades too heavily in alcoholic heat and malty sweet at the expense of subtlety and sophistication.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Smuttynose Robust Porter

Smuttynose Robust Porter, second of the two singles brought back from Casanova's in hudson, WI. Not the last Smuttynose I have to drink, there's still one sitting in the fridge left over from November's visit to Dairyland. Just not always in the mood for a Quadrupel. A robust porter, on the other hand...

Like the brown ale, I first tried this one almost nine years ago, during the early days of trading, courtesy of an East Coast trading partner. These are the notes:

Fully black color, below a rich, tan, though woefully brief, head. 

Aroma is strong and powerful, rich with notes of cocoa, coffee, and butternut. 
Slightly oily texture, but with plenty of grit. Full body, sweet, strong, substantial, with a tasty acidity and tang. 
Small bitterness, and solid malt.
 Sweet and bitter at once. Roasty, toasty, and above all, tasty.
 A little syrupy toward the end, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of this fine porter.

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale, New Hampshire, brought back from Wisconsin, 6.5% ABV. I first had one in October, 2003, and here's what I said then.

Lovely brown color, with a slight, tannish head. 

Aroma; mild, with some nuttiness, though it develops as we go on, becomes more chocolately and sweet. 

Taste: rich, delicious, malty. Medium body, but large maltiness, minimum hops.

 Nicely balanced, easy-drinking, aflush with flavor, this is another in the Elite Corps of Brown Ales, Done Right!

 Yum, yum, I keep saying, and may I repeat....mmmm... 

I like it more now. Wish I brought a 6-pack home instead of one bottle.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bell's Hell Hath No Fury... Ale

Bell's Hell Hath No Fury Ale. 7.7% ABV.
Currently on tap, but I'm looking back on notes from November, 2006. I recall this being released the same time as HopSlam, and I made a fatal error, ordering more of this than the other. HopSlam was instantly popular, and sold out quick. That first version of Hell...emptied out dreadfully slow. These days it's not strictly known as a dubbel, as it was originally conceived, and streams closer to a Belgian-ish stout. Whatever, it's damned tasty, and I'll let the 5 year old notes stand.

Solid brown body, opaque, thin, but lasting layer of cocoa-tan foam above. Solid look for a dubbel. 

Nose is all cocoa powder, with suggestions of maple, nuts, & other sweet, dark and tasty things. 

Taste is more of the same, with an appreciated heft to the feel. Comes on and grows spicy on the tongue, coats the palate with a slick, chocolately, syrupy sweetness. Cloys a tad, but still delights. 
Thins out a touch and dries nicely in the finish.

What I would change here is that in this current iteration, there's very little sweetness, it's more of a dry chocolate, with hints of smoke. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Kotura

Dave's BrewFarm Kotura. No word on the name, most probably a Japanese wind. 8.5% ABV. What else? "Five different malts come together with classic Weizen yeast--chocolate, caramel, and toffee flavors with a healthy ABV makes for a nice dessert beer."

Utter blackness, under a slim, tanned head.

Sweet aromatics, with caramel, toffee, the like..
.creamy, sweet luscious, lovely. AH…

Taste…rich malt, full of chocolate and toffee, caramel, all that. Hops are minimal, sweetness is high, but not overpowering. Unless you need to steer clear of that sort of thing. This is strictly labeled as a dessert beer, so don't ask for a refund if you yearn for something drier. 

Very rich malty flavor, like a liquid candy bar, and ever-so tasty. There are some hops adding buttering balance, nicely dancing on the tongue at the start of the taste, with the tasty malt mix rising up and fandango-ing into the flavor of it all.

In the end it's a dry sweetness, and an excellent balance. Beautiful beer. So very nice. 

Widmer Brothers Rotator IPA Series, O'Ryely IPA

Widmer Brothers Rotator IPA Series, Profile: "O'Ryely IPA". "A wry take on IPA. Rye spiciness, distinctly hopped." 

Clear, dark amber coloring, off-white cloud of foam. Looks nice. 

Aroma: spicy, bready malt notes, herbal/mineral, tropical fruits. Fruit salad on rye bread, heavy on the rye. Hops are kind of hidden, but they're there.

Taste: Hop bitterness starts it off, warm, even hot, matched well with spicy malt. A friendly tug of war. Here's a little bitter, here's a bit of spicy/ sweet (small on the sweet). Toasty. Certainly unlike anything you'd expect from an IPA. In fact, I wouldn't call this an IPA, if they hadn't already established it as one. I'd be hard pressed to categorize it, and since I don't have to, I won't. But they did. 

However, to really call it an IPA, I've got to be able to feel the hops more than the malt. For an IPA, the hop presence is rather mild. 

Other than that, I like it. Drinks down nice and easy, provides plenty of pleasure. Decent sessioner. Good for that. And that is all. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Brewery Van Steenberge Cherish Kriek lambic

Cherish. Authentic Belgian Kriek Lambic, Brewed and bottled by Browerij van Steenberge, Ertvelde, Belgium.

Deep ruby coloring, nearly purple, pinkish head settles into a tight ring.

Mix of tart and sweet cherry notes in the nose, leaning on the sweet, heading into CandyLand, like a SweeTart, or, actually cherry kool-aid. Not much beyond that.

Taste: starts with a sour spank on the tongue, quickly matched with a cloying, almost sickening sweetness. Then, it vanishes. Poof! Gone, with only a little bit of lingering. Light bodied, with little character beyond this sweet/sour sensation. 

A passable dessert beer option, especially if you find it at a nice price, but steers clear from being breathtaking. Clearly a syrup is involved here, we're getting little real cherry flavor, and none of the complexity of the great lambics.  I'm being nice. It would be very easy to just say, "it sucks." You won't find that very often here at the bitter nib. 
Just call me disappointed.
Oh, well.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Lupulo Noir

"Lupulo Noir. 9.1 % Belgian lineage yeast. Pils, Caramel 120, and Chocolate malts, combined with Magnum, Chinook, Northern Brewer, and Amarillo hops."

Off goes the swingtop cap, and out sprays beer into my face! (Good sign or bad omen?)

Dark as night this one, with slightly opaque edges, turning a lighter caramel color, with a lovely cocoa brown head holding down the fort on top. Very inviting.

Aroma: the nose greets us first with a blast of this blend of hops, we're getting the bitterness, the resiny pine, the pithy citrus. It stands for a second, before being engulfed by chocolate. Bitterness is utterly subdued, and grassy hop character remains standing, holding ground with caramel and cocoa.

Taste: All that and more back on the tongue. Hops aren't loud or large, very subtle, but stand their ground with the deep, dark, lush malt. The hop contingency always maintains steadily at the forefront of this ale, and the chocolate part only gets richer and delicious-er. Seriously, delicious-er IS a word, albeit one I only made up now. (Edit: I realize I've said "delicious-er" before, of course, for an earlier BrewFarm beer, no less.)

I've done some grousing about the "black IPA", or "black ale", and I've done some cheering about certain entries in this field. Right now, I feel as if I'd have to put this in there, although the Belgian yeast may help me make a case for herding Lupulo Noir into a different category. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm AuBeXXX Belgian-style Golden Ale

Dave's BrewFarm, hurrah! Had the whole line-up on Sunday, and went back for seconds on a couple of them, but not on old favorites, or Heavy Hitters, no I re-visited the tastiest and most surprising offerings. Unfortunately, I didn't take notes while there (never do, as I take notes while talking with friends on the rarest of occasions, if ever.), so my impressions on those beers will have to wait until the day Mr. Anderson growlers them, or...bottles...cans?
I did bring home 3 growlers, and the first that I tackled last night is both an old favorite and a Heavy Hitter. Notes from January, 2012, commence!

AuBeXX. Au for Gold, Be for Belgium, XXX for strong. AwBex, One of the first beers Farmer Dave brought out to festivals, and one of the mainstays at the LaBrewaTory, but oddly enough, this marks the first time it's been in growlers that I've been there. Or maybe not, it's hard to say, but it's harder still to imagine that I ever passed it up before. 
Enough palaver, let's get into it.

In a Duvel glass, it's golden in name only this time, (was it paler before?), cast a deep amber hue, with a prodigious, staying off-white head. 

Enticing aromatics, a blend of fruit, peppery spice, and distinct Belgian yeast. Complex and arousing. Urges me into the tasting, which we will begin…now.

In the mouth, warm, malty, getting hot, with spice keeping pace with fruit. Clean malty flavor, with sufficient richness. Zesty is an appropriate phrase. Medium-bodied, lean enough, but perfectly balanced, with most of the flavor coming malt, yeast, and the spice additions, not much from hops beyond mild balancing bitterness. 

Ah! Everytime it slips the lips, satisfaction. Mmm! This would be quite a nice packaged product, and would please those intimidated by the curiosity of Matacabras. Not as thick as that one, with more bright fruit, leaner, and yummier. Halfway in, the 9.1 % ABV starts chiming in. 

Here the official description of the LaBrewaTory. "Golden strong ale with spicing. Belgian lineage yeast, Vanguard and Northern Brewer hops. Additions of orange peel, cardamom, and black pepper. "

This malty, spicy, yummy golden ale is one I'll happily finish off tonight, and wish I had more for tomorrow. Alas, and alack. Hint, hint, Mr. Anderson, let's get some more of this going. Stick this lovely blend of spice and malt into a vessel that can reach the masses, and wait for the applause. 

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout

Picked up another Oskar Blues in Wisconsin, possibly, and most probably, the first Russian Imperial Stout ever canned. I had this one for the first time in June, 2008. My notes, it seems, were terse and to-the-point. That is how it should be sometimes. I'll let them stand, without further embellishment. Except this. One the can, only these words for promotional puffery: "Cross-eyed. Cyclopean. Cancupescient." I have no idea what that means. Or maybe I do?
(I still, however, can't tell you
what "Ten Fidy" means.)
Notes, do your stuff:

Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues, can

Black as night, under a thick, luscious brown head, a slice of chocolate frosting.

Sweet cocoa aroma, next to bittersweet notes, roasty malt next to bitter hops, deeper divinations bring out molasses, dark rum, licorice. Beautiful.

Rich and full-bodied, starting sweet and chocolate-y, ending roasty and dry. 
Wonderful stuff.

Oskar Blues GUBNA Imperial IPA

Out of Lyons, Colorado, the Oskar Blues Brewery Company, one of the nation's first to make a name for itself with canned craft beer offerings. They began with Dale's Pale Ale, but this time we're looking at the double IPA, Gubna, which I reviewed for the first time in October, 2010. Here are some notes for you!

Gubna Imperial IPA, Oskar Blues Brewery LLC, Colorado, USA

Hazy, pale peach appearance, slim white head.

Prickly pine aromatics, with a serving of lemon and lime, grapefruit, bright, citrus-y hop madness. Juuust right!

Taste: All that and more. Thinnish body, tons of bitterness on top. Hop attack smears the top of the mouth, slides to the back, trickles down. Fierce hop flavor never fails, not for a minute, just ...narrows a bit, after the initial salvo. 
Lemon rind and grapefruit squirt step on the palate with every sip. Fine finish, medium length, stays juicy and hoppy, and keeps you grabbing for another.

Took me long enough to try out this acclaimed IPA, didn't it, and now I know for a fact that it belongs in the top rank of Imperials. Good on you, Gubna.

New Glarus Hop Hearty IPA

Another trip to Dave's BrewFarm, means another visit to Casanova's in Wisconsin, means more Wisconsin hauls. Which means re-visiting beers I reviewed long ago, but haven't checked into for this particular endeavor. And here he meet Hop Hearty IPA from New Glarus, which I first reviewed on BeerAdvocate, back in April, 2003. I've skimmed away unimportant details, but stuck with the meat of it. Notes, away!

Color is typical clear, reddish hue, with a firm, if smallish, white head. 

Nose is sharp, and hot, pine and spruce associations jumping forward. Some citric tones, too, but however you divvy it, it's all hops, baby!

 Fresh and bold on the palate, though the finish is a bit too brief, but not unmemorable. 

Body's medium, malt back-up is quite good, very substantive. 

Very tasty, and very rewarding! Deee-licious! Quite a treat for this card-carrying hophead. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Widmer Pitch Black IPA

Widmer Pitch Black IPA. "Always Bet On Black." 6.5% ABV. "Embrace the Dark Side." Smooth, dark, and hoppy. Series 924. And so on, and so forth. Let's crack this open. 

Indeed, it is pitch black in color, roasty tan head, mmm, enticing.

Aroma: there we go, grassy, piney, hovering over black malt, cocoa and coffee. Ah, hoptastic, it is, big time.

Tasting it, …there we go. Black malt, dark and tasty, low roast, minor toast, some chocolate happening. The hoppy buzz keeps on top of the palate. 
After all the black IPAs/black ales I try, I'm still not 100% crazy about them. A big so what, is how I feel. I don't want grassy hops over a dark ale. And if I yearn for something hoppy, I don't want the dark malts. Peanut butter in my chocolate, that sort of thing. 

Earthy, malty, and tasty. But, eh…not the sort of thing I'm going to turn to, again and again. Just doesn't thrill me. I hope this fad dies off soon, actually. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Harriet East-Side Belgian-style IPA

Harriet East -Side. What the Heck is that? It's this…"East Side honors the hoppy Belgian Goldens that inspired the pseudo-style, Belgian IPA. East Side was brewed with the same quantity and fraction of Pilsner, Munich, and crystal malts as West Side; except we used the lightest crystal available. Thus, the appearance of East Side is pale. Also, we targeted the same IBU's as West Side, but we did so with all European hops. Finally, East Side is fermented by the same yeast as West Side.
We anticipate a very floral, light fruity and earthy character with spicy undertones and a clean yet sturdy malt backbone, but you'll have to come and find out for yourself! Only one batch of this delicate offering was brewed; so, don't miss out!"
I didn't make it to the Groveland Tap for the premiere, and I admit I'm a little jealous that they got it first, but what can you do. On the other hand, Jason stopped by with a growler, and I enjoyed most of that last night. Didn't feel up to writing, so I saved some for now, when I'm going to do it. Starting now…Clear, straw gold color, big, white head, cloudy, lovely.
Unique aromatics, funky, wild, slightly sour, spicy, and somewhat citric. This is exactly like a Czech pilsner nose meshed with Belgian yeast. And it really resembles what the first Belgian IPAs really were, Urthel Hop-It, Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor, and the like. Nothing American here, at all.
…and very little IPA-like, at least in terms of what we think of for American IPAs,…let's drink,now.
On the palate, smooth, easy, clean, very light bodied, with hop bitterness king. Lays long on the palate, never quitting, feeling all the world like a classic IPA, but without the characteristics of the West Coast style that we are accustomed to, the citrus, the pine. Starts turning a little creamy, a little sweet, then pummeled by hops. A burst of bitter orange is in here, too, matched with pepper and some aspirin-like astringent.
I like this.
Medium- bodied, but easy-drinking, consummate consumability.

My notes cut off there, for it was time to hit the mattress, and call it a morning. I just can't drink as much as I used to, when I get home from work around 4 a.m. But it drank down just fine, with many pleasures attending the tasting, while I was able to drink. If I find more to say about this tasty, Belgian-style brew, I'll be sure to check back in.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Belgium Lips of Faith Fresh Hop IPA

New Belgium Lips of Faith Fresh Hop IPA. Freshly tapped, and doing very well, terribly popular. I was slightly late on this one, and when I finally got a hold of good ol' Joe about the final LoF brews of the year, and their availability, he admitted that it was a bit late for a fresh hop ale, and they'd be happy to see them out the door. Yes, it's not October anymore, but it's tasting great, and has held up well over the months, since it was "fresh". This won't last long, so I'm getting right to the notes, here we go...

Clear, bright red coloring, huge head, a snow drift of foam....looks fantastic.

Aromatics, full of lemon and orange zest, prickly pine, and all things hoppy. Floral, bitter, beautiful.

Taste: Hits the palate with bitter hops, glides all over the tongue, but never too harsh, never too hard. Fades a bit, but clings lightly along. Roars back with each new sip and swallow, never-ending bitter blast that hangs long on the palate. Yum.
Light to medium body. Tasty as heck, damned good stuff. This is a definite hit for the hop-heads in the house. I'm hoping they continue with this one. Clearly, they know how to do it, let's keep it up, NB!

New Belgium Snow Day Winter Ale

New Belgium Snow Day Winter Ale. 6.2% ABV. Pleasantly hoppy, Snow Day carries the subtle chocolate and caramel flavors of a new brewing malt known as Midnight Wheat. The Styrian Golding, Centennial and Cascade hops bring the backbone of hoppy bitterness to complement the roasty undertones. This beer is the deep garnet of a roasted walnut and presents a creamy tan head, floating artfully atop. Snow Day is bold and hoppy, drinkable and strong. 

Snow Day, huh? this is not the year for that. Our snowfall has been small and short-lived. Mildest winter on record, I believe. Or, I'm assuming. At least the winter beers are still strong. 

Deeply dark, nearly black, tall tanned head, long lasting…looks great. 

Fruit forward aromatics, bitter citrus, grapefruit and pine. Plenty of hops in here, with caramel malt tones below. 

Hoppy snap hits the palate first, spanks the tongue just a bit, then fades back, leaving lush malt. Bitter hops and toasty malt mix it up. Medium bodied. Nicely toasty, loads of caramel and toffee to keep up with the hops. 

This one's being called an American Black Ale, or Black IPA, because a winter ale shouldn't be so hoppy, apparently. 
Me, I just like it. This 6-pack went down with no problem. I'll probably do some more before it's gone. But, it won't make me miss the snow.

RedHook Pilsner

RedHook Pilsner. "May Not Look It, but Has A Dark Side." (What the hell does that mean?) 5.3% Alc./Vol. 

I haven't had any RedHook in ages. They stopped meaning anything to me a long, long time ago. Now, apparently, they have 3 breweries. Did not know that. 
Glad I got some samples from the sample man, this time one with RedHook and Widmer samples. Good thing, I don't think I would have purchased a 6'er of this on my own. 

So let's look at it. Clear and golden, effervescent, snow-white head.

Clean, malty aromatics, some hops, cereal notes. Note perfect pilsner nose.

Taste: crystal clear and clean. Light body. Small hop blitz, gone in no time, revealing a sweet malt profile, ending dry. Dry and ever-s0-slightly bitter. 
They pitched it perfectly. Not so bad.

But, where was that "dark side", again?

Vichtenaar Flemish Red Ale

Vichtenaar Flemish Ale, bottled and brewed by Brouwerij Verhaege-Vichte, Belgium. Vichtenaar is a West-Flemish red-brown ale matured in oak casks, has a fruity palate, pleasant sour flavor and refreshing finish. 5.1 % ABV, 11.2 oz. bottle.

Clear, reddish-brown color, off-white head, slim, but lasting.

Aroma: sour fruit, vinegar, cherries, oak. All well-integrated, nothing too forward. 

Drink it, now. Mild approach on the palate. The mild fruity flavor is there, the mild oak notes, the mild, light, lean body. 

(Read between the lines.)

Okay, I'll come right out and say it: if you're a big, "sour" fan, this will not be for you. If you are looking for a stepping stone, step right on this one. It's a gateway Flemish red/brown, but if you've already got the bug, you can skip this one.

Lagunitas Bavarian-style Doppel Weizen

Limited Release Lagunitas Our Own Bavarian-style Doppel Weizen. This special brew was designed by our Freistadt Bayern Brothers Who Also Built the Brewhouse Upon Which We Brewed It. .  Alc. 9% by Vol. 

Utterly clouded, deep orange coloring, big white head, slips down quickly. 

Aroma, banana cream pie & orange rind. Light spice. Creamy, fruity, perfectly pleasing.

Taste: Minor hop attack at the front, starts bitter, subsides in time. Then that banana cream pie factor floods in, and also fades. Orange, pepper and clove come in, surrounded by the texture of wheat malt. Full-bodied, with a rising sweetness, only slightly tempered by the mild hop content. Alcoholic content on the other hand shows it's stripes soon, and roars in the membrane. 9% is typical for this brewery, but not for this style. Wait, what style? Is this meant to be a wheat doppelbock, a weizenbock, albeit a blond one? It doesn't really act like one. An Imperial blond hefe weizen? 

This is tasty, but it's also clumsy and indelicate. I can't figure it out, and worse, the alcoholic sting is just a bit too awkward and out-of-place. I may be destined to never like "imperial weizen" beers, no matter how many I try, or who makes them. The mouthfeel is soft and lovely, I want to drink it like a regular weizen, and then the booze stands out, screaming for attention. Boom, boom, boom, bopping on the brain. Those aren't the right flavors for a 9% beer. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Olvalde Farm Ode to a Russian Shipwright

The second release ever from this very modest one-man operation out of Rollingstone, MN, a town I'd honestly never heard of, until they rolled out The Aurauch's Horn. That beer was universally praised, as it should have been. The second bottle they put out is being called an Imperial Stout Porter. Stouts began as "stout" versions of Porter. I like how they (he?) is playing freely with names and definitions. Comes in a swingtop bottle, ideal for those nights when you can't drink the whole thing. Here are my notes, from a week or two ago. (don't ask why I didn't post them right away. I don't remember.)

Ode to a Russian Shipwright, Imperial Stout Porter, Ale brewed with Spruce tips, (lightly hopped, unfiltered, refermented in the bottle). Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company, Rollingstone, MN.

Pitch black body, with an oddly-colored head, a little pink, a little brown. Bubbling, rocky, lasting. Active carbonation, rising up from the bottom into the foam.

Aroma: most oddness. Floral, vegetal, leafy (?)…there's something unusual here…is it the spruce tips? Or the yeast. A touch of sour here, and not displaying much of what we think of when we think of "imperial stout porter." Earthy, creamy…odd.

Drink it, now. Mmmm. Yeah. Fruit. Minor hops. And, yeah, I can get the spruce thing. Reminds me, predictably, of Anchor Our Special Ale. All the character of the porter and the stout, and while it ison the strong side, it doesn't have exactly the flavors of an "imperial stout" or an "imperial porter." There's some roast, some cocoa and coffee, but well-rounded and blended with the spruce. Tasty stuff, and very well done. 

This could benefit from aging, but doesn't necessarily need it. Drink now, drink later, either way, another excellent ale out of Rollingstone. Can't wait for what's next!

Rush River Batch 1000

Some breweries celebrate big milestones, like every 20 years, 25, 30 and so on. Others do a special beer every single year on their birthday. And then there's Rush River, who quietly kept putting out their beers, never marking their 5th when it came around, celebrating only now that they've hit the major mark of a thousandth batch. This one is yet another forward step for these guys, an unfiltered rye "red ale" that reminded me of Surly Furious at first taste. I'm going to take some notes right about now. Get ready, here they come...

Lightly hazed, deep amber appearance, nearly red, but not quite.

Spicy malt rises in the aroma, met with bitter hop nots, melding into bittersweet and bready. A mix of hop notes, with no one characteristic standing out. Some citrus, some tropical tones, but they're all well blended.

Taste: Bitter hops spank the tongue at first gulp, then they slide all over the palate. Lays long and lasts. Great texture, and beautiful balance. Heavy malt feel, full body, and excellent consumability. Very appealing flavor, a constant stream of happy hoppiness hits the lips and traverses the tongue. Crawls the roof of the mouth, spreads up, down, over and out. Rewarding mouthfeel.

With this one-shot offering, RR has created an ale for the hop-heads, as well as those who yearn for plenty of malt to keep up with the hops. Rye character is strong and spicy, bordering on intense. Comparable to Cane and Ebel from Two Brothers, and a bit better than Summit India Rye from the Unchained Series.

One thing I know for sure, that this is delicious. I've got two kegs of this, and I'll enjoy them for as long as it lasts. Yum.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

North Coast Brother Thelonious Abbey Dubbel Ale

A word, for a moment, about Thelonious Monk, the musician.

 In short, I dig him.

 In long, well,  I could write a book.

I've been digging him since I first got into jazz in my early twenties, borrowing albums from the library, then checking out cassettes, then CDs.

Now, I'm buying it all back in vinyl, just for kicks.

What is it about his music? What isn't it. There's a rhythmic drive, an intensity of emotion, an unparelelled uniqueness of vision, a singular style of composition that defied convention. And melodies that go beyond beauty, at times, and into poetry.

I honestly feel that Monk is one of those musicians whose absence in the flow of history would have disastrous repurcussions. (much like Louis Armstrong.)

Without the influence he had on Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, and so many others, there wouldn't have been the influence those artists had had on so many others. If Trane hadn't broken the ground he did, after Monk set him free, would we have had Jimi? Or Carlos? Or Led Zep? I'm serious.

So, I was very excited back in 2006 to learn that one of my favorite breweries, North Coast, was dedicating a beer to him. Makes perfect sense. American version of Belgian styles often have joking references to monks. Why not a reference to OUR Monk, who is revered the world over? And, it's my favorite style, which they'd yet to attempt. Bottles originally came only in 750s, and the distributor did a pre-sell, I ordered 2 cases, and only 10 showed up for the whole state of Minnesota.  My first taste of it, when it arrived, was not exemplary. But, the rest of the bottles lasted a long time, due to the facts that 1. my beer people at the Nile really don't go over the bottle list much, preferring the tap list, and 2., no one really knew what it was, if they did see it on the list. As time went on, I would revisit a bottle now and then, and, with age, it got better. 

Kegs came much later, and I got some on tap as soon as I could. Two years ago, I did 11 kegs of Brother Thelonious in a row, until the distributors supply ran dry. Around that same time, they provided me with a neon sign, rejected by the Dakota jazz club. Some it's luminary parts died off, and I returned it, but a new one just arrived, and I celebrated it with the return of Brother Thelonious on tap (although I always kept it in bottles, now the 12 ounce size, as per my agreement with Brad the Beerguy after he got me the neon originally.)

For the purpose of this entry, I'm looking back on my original BeerAdvocate review, which was done with a 750 ml bottle back in November, 2006, at home. I played some Monk music, and referred to both the music (as well as lyrics, when applicable) and the beer, while I wrote. It was one of the more fun reviews I ever wrote, and I'm surprised the Bros. (of BA) let me get away with such indulgence.
Let the notes go forth:

For this evenings liturgy, the sacred text we turn to is from Brother Ellington: It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing. Brother Monk swings it in his angular, avuncular way on the 88's, getting us in the groove in his inimitable fashion, we're deep in the pocket, the rhythm's rockin', we're reeling with the feeling... 

A clear, dusky crimson shade, this, with a slim, cola-toned head...not as impressive as I like a dubbel, but fair, s'okay, s'alright... 
("Sophisticated Lady" is next, and I'm set in a proper frame...) 

Nose starts with sweet things, dark fruits, mingling with spices, plums and cinnamon, apples and pepper, the dark keys get hit, while the sweet notes linger... 
my poor heart is sentimental, not made of wood, ...I got it bad and that ain't good...a sombre timbre is struck, then a thrilling trill is played, a chord set deep in the heart, let loose by a freewheeling arc of high-flung notes... 
cola meets coffee, ...Monday, Monday rolls around... 
and I end up where I start out, just crying my heart out...Oscar strums, and Kenny kicks it... 

We lift glass to lip, ale meets tongue, tastes thrills the buds, it's a sweet, spicy thing. A cola-tinged pepper is the first thought to mind, cocoa and coffee, black and tan finds a fantasy in the senses...deep and dark, pretty and twisted, fine and fancy, sweet and lovely...very evenly played, but you never know what's next...a cadence keeps up, a groove maintains, richness reigns, swing is always king,...big fat chocolate keeps time... ain't been blue, 
rolls and rolls around the mouth, a sweet thing, and full of character, plenty of hops to tingle the buds...finish on a beautiful run on the keys, and then start the next one swinging...I let a song go out of my heart, it was the sweetest melody... 

another touch of the ale on the lips and the coffee/cola thrill continues...'s not too late, to make amends/ we were meant to be, more than just friends/just friends... 

sweet, but expertly balanced by the darker tones, and the hops, well played on all parts of the keyboard, darkness and light get a little shine... 

is it Fats Waller, Art Tatum, or Albert Ammons at work here? Or Willie the Lion Smith?...naw, it's another cat purring the keys...and now, Kenny's hitting the trap hard, syncopating like a clockwork kitten... 

another drink and I'm liking more, as the spice and the rich, dark fruit rides over the cola-ish feel. 
We're on a caravan, searching and wandering, looking for further flavors than the norm, stretching out against the desert of what we're used to...prunes bump against cinnamon, nicely rounded off, an equally met challenge of malt and hop. 

Night, night, night, and the stars are shining bright...while the darkness drums away... 

Kenny switches kits with Art who swings like a pendulum, and rocks like to be, bringing me, memories of you, as all the clouds roll away... 

I like the quote from Monks' son, who goes by T.S., "finally, after all the years of getting a cut from the door, musicians will get a cut of the bar!" A refererence to the the proceeds that will swing their way to the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz, which will receive the profits from this particular ale...I wish it were more than $2 a case, though, but as long as folks keep hearing about the man and the music, I'm cool on it. 

It's a full-bodied, thing, with a long cola-tinged finish, plenty of sweetness, tempered with spice, rich and chocolate-y. But I forgive some technical flaws by how it swings on the palate and pleases the senses...and it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing... 

This review was done to the tune of the classic recording, "Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington", recorded in July, 1955, with Thelonious Monk, piano, Oscar Pettiford, bass, Kenny Clark, drums. Some parts to the almost equally brilliant recording "The Unique Thelonious Monk" which features those same players in March/ April of 1956, but with Art Blakey on drums. To your own peril you go, without hearing these classic recordings. (I even reviewed it on iTunes, check that out!)(Plays Ellington, not The Unique) 
and do I need to comment on that label;? Too cool! Brother Monk holding court!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Staple Mills Stout of Morning Destruction Coffee Bourbon Stout

Stout of Morning Destruction. (What the Hell does that mean?) Staple Mills Brewing Company, (formerly Stillwater Brewing Company). this is in the Destruction Series, apparently, with Holiday above it, Limited Release. Coffee Bourbon Stout. bottle 303 of 1000. Or is it 809, I can't tell, it's smudged. ABV 7%, brewed in Stillwater, MN. 

Let's look at the copy: "Craft Beer from the birthplace of Minnesota. We are a small-batch, craft  brewing company in Stillwater, Minnesota, brewing 10 barrels at a time. We strive to create Old World  beers using New World techniques, utilizing waste minimizing brewing equipment and state of the art, one-way kegs which are made of 100% recyclable material. Our brewery is in Historic Downtown Stillwater in one of the oldest billings in the area, the Isaac Staples Sawmill. We have worked to preserve the aesthetic of the Sawmill building within our brewery and proudly display the Sawmill in our logo."
All right, I'm in it, I'm drinking it, here we go, off with the cage and cork!

damn, this is one of the toughies, one of those tight ones! not much longer…here we go…

Dark appearance, no head…starts out, but it's gone in a sec. Eh, not too pretty.

Let's sniff 'er. Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee. Maybe something else, not so sure, let's go in again…well. There may be other darker delights lurking below, but it's all smothered by the coffee.

Drinking it: Some whiskey notes, a bit of vanilla, some roast and char. Bourbon? Swallowed up by the coffee, which reigns supreme over everything here. Very little joy, and hardly any dimension on this one. 

Who are these people? What are they doing? I know they have a brewpub out there, and this may or may not be their first bottled offering, but…what are they thinking? It seems a matter of, "shove enough over it, and no one can tell if it stinks."
I am trying to be polite, but …it's a mess. It a caffeine bomb over an unremarkable stout. Well, maybe it might be remarkable, but I can't tell on it's lonesome, when it's surrounded by all this nonsense. I can't even detect any bourbon. Eh. That's all I can say. Eh……….

Every time I pour, I hope the head is better, but, n'ah...

I regret dropping the $12 on this, but I also wish them the best on selling the rest of these. And more luck on doing better next time.

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale Brown Shugga Replacement (double IPA)

Lagunitas Sucks. I was behind the radar on this one. I had first heard of it as a question in a local BeerAdvocate forum thread. It was called "Lagunitas Sucks in MN". Was someone maligning the quality of the beer that arrives here from Petaluma? No, no, it's a beer called Lagunitas Sucks, ironically, because their increased popularity has made the brewing of the winter seasonal Brown Shugga a hindrance to the continual flow of IPA and Pils. As an apology for such sucking, they offered this double IPA, which is faster to brew than a rich, malty ale like brown shugga.
Damn, I haven't had that in a while. I could go for one about now. Too bad Lagunitas Sucks. 
Har, har, let's drink some beer. 7.85% ABV, IBU 63. I'm skipping the ritualistic copying of the garbledy-garble, which Lagunitas is legendary for, …let's just skip to, "We freaking munch moldy donkey butt…" It goes on like that. Also, once again, "beer speaks, people mumble", as well as my least favorite of all the Lagunitas slogans, "Life is Uncertain. Don't Sip." I won't go too far into a challenge about this idiotic opprobrium, just …why? Does sipping slow us down, and keep us from downing more of the daily beers they're chugging away to produce. I'm not encouraging to slowly savor and appreciate the delicate nuances that may be found? Maybe I'll sip, just a little, if they let me, then I'll chug-a-lug till my liver bursts! Or was I mumbling?

Clear, pale and peachy appearance, large, lacy white head.

 Vibrant, fresh, hoppy aromatics, …orange, grapefruit, a little bit of lime, Some resiny pine, too. Overall, an abundance of hoppitude in all the right places, but not overpowering in any direction.

Drinking, a happy, hoppy dance on the palate. Non-stop delivery of bitterness. Sticks around a bit, lingers long, but softly diminishes. Lift the glass to the lip, boppity bip, there it goes again. A drinkable, sinkable, hop-delivery system that can be tossed back without immediate destruction of sobriety. Might take a sixer or so. 

A likable, well-constructed IPA, from folks who know how to do it. Already. beer
 fans  who've gotten over the absence of Brown Shugga are calling for this to made regularly, or at least, again, and if I remember what I've glanced at, they're doing it. And so, perhaps there's need for a new designation, the 1 1/2 IPA, the ducal IPA, the 8% versus the 10%, for peeps for whom 6% and hoppy is not enough. I've met them. I can't say I respect them. Those who disdain anything sessionable, but don't want to get drunk after two.

 I'm not sure what they want. They certainly don't. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Bruery Four Calling Birds Winter Ale

The Bruery 4 Calling Birds, Dark Ale Brewed With Spices.  Alc 11% by Vol.
"The fourth verse of our "Twelve Beers of Christmas" saga incorporates gingerbread-like spice into a a rich and robust dark ale. Happy Holidays!"

wait, there's more!  "4 Calling Birds is suitable for aging up to eight years (soon after the release of Twelve Drummers Drumming") when cellared properly…and blah, blah, blah…I'm not waiting 8 years, I'm drinking it now. Eight years. Never done that. Maybe someday. But, not now.

Pours a dark brown, with a bustling tan head that zips down to nada in no time.

Nicely spiced aromatics, some cinnamon, clove, ginger a little. Okay, maybe a lot. With sweet malt, lightly roasted, below. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Tasting it, spice notes rank highest on the palate, ring loudest, and start out hot. Fairly bristling in the mouth, some pepper playing around, clove ginger, etc. Solid malt holds steady below. Mighty malt, thick in the mouth, turning cool and mellow. Mmmm, I'm liking this one better. Seeming one-dimensional and blase at first, it's growing in complexity now. Not quite as rich as an Imperial Stout, but lots of molasses, dark rum, cocoa. Malt and spice mix well, now. 

Alcohol is hidden for the time being, but it won't be long before it comes ring-ding-dinging on down. …yep, it's happening. We're down to the last couple ounces, and the clanging chimes of doom are ringing. 

Beautiful birds, these, dark and spicy. Very satisfying. Not sure if I could, or would…or anyone should, sit on this for eight years. Go for it, though, guys. Sit on it like hens. Wait, that was the last one, right?

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Double IPA

Drinking down a bomber now, looking at notes from August, 2008, still before we had it here:

Hazed amber/orange coloration, nice, full white head.

Aroma is a splash of citrus and pine, some tropical fruit, some pineapple, lemon...all AMerican hops, here? Or other varieties as well. It's a clean, but zesty, lively nose. Great stuff.

Taste: a blitz of bitterness, more of the same flavors return from the nose, then cool and mellow. Bigger hops, and bigger booze, but it doesn't dominate or bludgeon one. Sharp, sticky, big citric hop, PacNW feel, but not blistering of blinding or punishing in any way. Alcohol is barely felt as well. 

How stoopid is it, with the hops? I've had hoppier, from Lagunitas, as well, I think. And what's with this Sonoma Farmhouse Ale thing...sure, I get that means that it's a West Coast hop bomb, we all get there an inside joke here, that no one's telling me?

yep, it's 8% and it's hoppy, but I feel it's popularity is pushed over by Lagunitas boosterism.

Town Hall Masala Mama IPA

I'm still scratching my head over what took me so long to visit the Town Hall Brewery. It had been in business five full years before I...