Saturday, March 31, 2012

Abita Select Barley-wine-style Ale

Abita Select Barleywine. 

Beautiful looking beer. Bright crimson, shining beautifully. Gorgeous, lush head of foam, a large mound of creamy foam, leaving lace. Angelic. Lovely. Exemplary. 

Aroma: caramel, fruit, and rather quiet. Nice, but unimpressive.

Taste: Now, here we go. Bright, fresh fruit. mixed with deep, delicious malt. This is a grate cross between the malty English style barleywine and the hoppy American style. Plenty of hops here, much bitterness bracing against the palate, matched with oh, so tasty rich and delicious malty flavor. But, you know what? Really balanced, despite the huge alcohol. 

I'd call this one a heavy medium. It's not huge, not obtrusive, not overwhelming, but it is forthright and not shy or withering in any way. This is not timid, and does not characterize a brewery not going all the way with a big, fat, full style like a barley-wine. Putz out on a barley-wine, and we know who you are, dude. This is good one. Plenty of huge, full fruit flavor, incredible multitude, ginormigantic alcoholic stature. Damnittiy, damn, damn. Loads of luscious caramel malt, tons of delectable bitter hops, a perfect match for the high alcohol, and utterly lovely. 

I think I like this.

Great River Redband Stout with Coffee Added

Here we go, another beer that proves that Iowa doesn't suck. It's just a coincidence that the Mississippi river flows southernly in it's direction. RedBand Coffee Stout from Great River Brewing of Davenport, Iowa, and the notes go here:

Great River RedBand Stout Brewed with Coffee. 

Full-on blackness in this stout. Full head drifts down and departs, finishing as a tight cocoa-tinged ring.

Fresh coffee notes in the aroma, some hints of cocoa, dry and richly roasty.

Taste: Impeccable. Full-bodied, flush with coffee flavor. Long finish. Not a thing lacking in this. What more to say, what to say, what to say…there's a stout, it's full of coffee, the coffee is a little sweet, and a little bitter, and wonderfully balanced. Never too this, not a bit too that. Floats down the throat with ease, only thing to watch out for is the caffeine. Little bit of blackberry and other fruit in the flavor, small sweetness turns dry and roasty with a quickness.

Nothing shy, nothing held back, all good in the neighborhood.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Widmer Bros Barrel-aged Brrrbon '11

Widmer Barrel Aged Brrrbon '11. Widmer Brewing, Portland, Oregon, since 1984. Alchemy Project. Seasonal Ale aged in bourbon barrels. "This smooth, chilly winter warmer goes through a secondary fermentation as it ages in Kentucky Bourbon barrels. After months of maturation in the barrels the brew is allowed a tertiary fermentation for final conditioning before release." "Flavored Ale." "Combine inspiration and experience. Repeat often." "Prost! To improving with age!"

Okay, I'm going against all this and trying this out young. Maybe I'll buy more to save for later…if this one is good. We'll see.  For now, let's open it up.

Clear, bright crimson coloring, slim, but lasting off-white froth.

Aroma: bourbon. Oak and vanilla. Whatever particular aromas Brrr gives us, it's drowned out by the bourbon barrel-aging. Very nice, but I wish it was deeper, and more complex. Rather simple, overwhelmed by the barrel aging.

Taste: boom, here comes richness, raisins, grapes, cherries, oak and vanilla, and, of course, bourbon. Really rich, really thick, much malt, covered in bourbon and oak. Yet not as full bodied, as I'd like for this treatment, perhaps because the base beer just is not thick and full enough to hold up for this type of treatment. Those flavors return sip after sip, but they're just not enough. Bourbon barrel-aging is best done with imperial stout or barleywine, but not necessarily winter ales or winter warmers that may have a certain heft, but not enough to carry this extra weight. 

Will this one really improve with age? Maybe, a little?

I don't know for sure, but it's not good now. There's a flurry of flavor at first, mostly on the sweet side, but after that, the pleasures dwindle. A light bourbon-y flavor lays over this very average winter ale. Sweet, whiskey-ish, vanilla-y, and utterly boring. Completely forgettable. Far too sweet, too much bourbon barrel work, without enough dry, roasty malt below. Maybe bourbon barrel-aging a winter ale is not an awesome idea. Maybe you need a bigger beer, to make it worthwhile? Maybe after 28 years, they'd know that?

Eh, I keep giving them chances, and I keep trying them out, and, dammit, I keep spending my money on them, but I'm starting to wise up.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Abbaye des Saint Bon-Chien

I first had this one in December, 2007. Learned later that the beer gets it's name from the brewery's mascot cat, who they feel believes is a dog, and have since named him Bon-Chien, or Good Dog. He passed away, and was granted sainthood. It's not actually brewed by cats. But, anyway, I sat down with a bottle of this, brewed in 2008, blended in 2009, and will share those original notes with you, although these were not the exact same beers. Perhaps with my next bottle, I'll do some new notes.

Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, Brewed by BFM SA (Brasserie des Franches Montagnes), Product of Switzerland. Handcrafted in …, Swiss Ale de Garde, Limited Edition, Ale aged in Oak Barrels (No word on which) , 11% ALC./VOL. "Amazing nose of fruits & spices. Slightly sour with very long aftertaste. Low carbonation. Enjoy it in a tasting glas! Biere de garde. Ages well. 

Gorgeous burgundy color, small, soon gone head...

aroma: port wine, sherry, sour and funky, sour cherries, nearly lambic-like, ...deep and lovely, urging me to drink...

amazing! so many layers of flavor, there's the snap, there's the mellow fruit, lots of cherries, grape, ...there's the bitter twang, the sour smack,'s wine, it's whiskey, it's a liqueur,'s an ale. And when it hits, it's transformative, sends shudders throughout the senses....once it hits the lips, it's sooo goood!

Ever since I first tasted this, never having heard of it, when Brad the Beerguy brought a bottle to Town Hall and I happened to be at the bar, he shared a little with me, another client, and Mike Hoops, ...I loved this amazing mix of gorgeous flavors. Sop few bottles, so expensive, showed up at so few stores, so far away from me. What was that, two years ago....or does it seem that long ago? And then there's the expense....$20+? Well, if this damn good, isn't it worth the expense? If there's nothing quite like...yes.

Juicy, fruity, uplifting, ...lovely, lovely, lovely...break this out at dinner with wine loving friends, and see how they react when you tell them it's beer...from Switzerland...made by cats!

15.%...not that huge in wine circles, but for beer...not so scary, either...fairly even handed...relax, it's only beer...mmmm, beer...

how many barrels was this one in? Merlot, merlot cabernet, grappa, whiskey???....I don't know, but it's beautiful...absolutely...

The Swiss French Belgian beer like wine made by cats who are saints but are named after dogs! Gotta love it!

De Dolle Arabier

Here's one of my all-time favorites, Arabier from De Dolle. Notes from April, 2003:

Arabier's color is a cloudy orange, with a most impressive, towering, majestic flowering of foam on top. 

It noisily crackles as it crumbles down, leaving weavings of lace behind. 

Aroma impresses also: heady and vibrant, buzzing with spice, and spritzes of citrus. 

Loads of malt in the body, but jam-packed with hops above all. Excellent integration. The flavor is dominated by citrus, with a dedicated yeastiness riding throughout.

 The finish is sweet and brief, but the hoppy zing at the front provided for a very pleasurable experience

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lucky Bucket Barley-wine

As with the Left Hand Ambidextrous Ale, this is a beer that perplexes me with it's anonymity. At the time I ordered and received the keg, there was no information to be found anywhere. No reviews online, nothing on their website. Eventually, I found it on untappd, so people are out there drinking it, but no one is writing about it. Are there no BeerAdvocates of RateBeerians in Omaha? Or does no one care, at all? It sat in the cooler for months, until Imperial March, and now it's back on, so I'm sitting down with a glass of it, and yet, all this time later, still no reviews! It is actually listed on RateBeer, with no ratings, and this information: COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION
A whopping 10% ABV this darkly malted monster will be good for years to come, but you can enjoy now. A meeting of the malt minds Nebraska stopover : from the West coast where we hop it up, to the U.K where the style is born, Zac’s genius pins the beer, and whorls the styles, in a balanced display of layered malt, and robust rich grain sweetness balanced by hops and culminating in a very drinkable high octane beer.

Still, no rating, and they are not a stingy bunch. But then, they don't do a ton of ratings at a bars, and I believe this is a draft-only release. Nonetheless, I suppose I should be the first to write about it, shouldn't I? Away, we go!

Deep  crimson coloring, under a solid, off-white slab of froth. Looks great, so far. 

Aroma: sweetness and hops, rich malt, but nothing too huge or hot, and I'm getting glimpses of the flavors I find in the biggest and baddest barley-wines, but here they are fairly muffled. Red wine, cognac, dark fruit, wood, leather. 

Taste: thick malty flavor floods the a point. This should be a common refrain in any deep analysis of this brew. Has this a point. Delivers that a point. It's no monster, no kin to Bigfoot, only a little brother of baby cousin, or something. "How about if we made a dainty li'l barley-wine", they seem to be saying.  Hops are here, alcohol is, and malt is definitely working it, but the pursuit of balance and drinkability hobbles this effort some. 

A surprisingly smooth barley-wine, and drinkable despite the 10%. Unfortunately, it's meekness makes it rather forgettable. Very clean, flagged with the classic flavors, but unremarkable. Not likely to impress anyone. 

But, hey, it's beer, and you can drink it!

Harriet Espresso Elevator Doppelbock

I've done this before, posting a beer without a real review. Heck, I did it last week with those lost notes. But this is like that earlier one, the Town Hall mango coconut whatever. Here is one of many flavored and coffee-fied versions of Harriet's doppelbock, originally tapped at the anniversary party. We started with both the regular Elevator on tap, and the Ethiopian Tchembe, kept switching out the regular and only got around to the second, Espresso version later in the evening. It's still on tap now, and surpasses other coffee doppelbocks I've ever had. In fact, I thought it was a terrible idea until I tried these from Harriet.  Plenty of rich espresso flavor, wonderful texture, long lasting taste. But I just taste a little at a time, because I do need to get to sleep, eventually. I've had oaked and cherry wood versions of this, as well, only on tap at the brewery. Nice stuff. Just plain ol' yum.

Founders Imperial Stout

Another left-over from Imperial March, though I can't believe I haven't had this once in the past year and some months since I kicked this thing off. Mistakes have been made, I've finished beers without reviewing, or posting. Alas, life does go on. Having this on tap, and looking back on notes from my first bottle, back in May of 2005:

Terminal blackness describes the appearance, full-on ebony, covered by a toasted brown cap. 

Aroma is all things you want in an Imperial Stout, mollases, carob, anise, mostly chocolate, with undertones of coffee, rich, complex and deeply dark....a tickler for the nostrils, there's a fullness of flavor in the smell of this, that simply must be savored at length. I want to stave off the sipping, just to bask in this olfactory delight. 

On the lips and off the tongue, it's a thick, rich sensation...a fullness in the mouth, comes in grand force and takes over the cavernous reaches of the mouth...sits in command on the palate, as excess dark deliciousness drips over...a kingpin of the Imperial Stout variety, though certainly no Dark Lord...I don't taste any 12%, but it's making it's way assuredly onto my system, I can nice drinkability on it, too, despite the high octane doesn't feel too bad on me, at least, not until I try to stand up...whoop=wha---whoa!! 

Fantome Hiver

Looking at notes from March, 2004, back when we had winter in March, for the first time I had this tasty saison:

Label says "Winter", but I can only assume this is the "Hiver", and, while only days ago, I thought it was the beginning of "printemps", well, we got dumped on by 8 inches of snow, here in early March in my little frozen corner of the world, and it's Hiver all over again, why not enjoy it!

Un cap, un cork, POP!!!...ah!...gorgeous, hazy orange color, with a good, buzzing, slight layer of foam above.

Aroma is sour and must with a good portion of citrus, fresh and full, but dominated by this musty orange character.

Taste: puckering ...biting...totally sour flavor, softly fading, leaving a touch of sweet citric quality behind. Let's try again...briefly biting hops, then that sourish pucker, ooh!!!, then after a bit, sweet orange and lemon, tasty...not what I expected from a winter brew when the autumnal variety had such a variety of flavors at it's disposal.

A good saison, but surprising as a "winter beer". Terribly interesting, this, with that never-ending tango of sweet, then sour, then back, then forth, a complex brew, invigorating, delicious, spicy, yet sublime ...
 hurrah for Fantome, I say it loud and proud!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Odell Cutthroat Porter

Odell Cutthroat Porter. Going way back to the early days for my first notes, from back in February, 2003:

Completely black color, with a full and frothy cocoa-colored head. 

Aroma is sweet and chocolately, quite roasted, rich, deep, dark.

 Intense coffee flavoring! Full body, decent texture, a clinging finish.
 A dark character dominates the flavors, but it's never too better and entirely quaffable. 
Not a porter for the namby pambies, and a treat for this porter lover.

"Namby pambies"...I slay me sometimes.

Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale

Founders Dirty Bastard, notes from September, 2004:

Beautiful tawny brown color, nice, thick, lasting tan head lies on top. 

Malt dominates the nose, in abundance, thick, rich, with dark fruits, and spices holding sway...quite, quite nice. 
Very plush on the mouthfeel as well, wonderful texture, full and devilish, flowing with uncommon delights, soft, yet sensuous, and very flavorful.
 Full bodied, long, fruity finish. Huge malt, little hop, but unrelenting in the way of flavor. 
Gets a bit chocolatey in the middle...the wonders yet unfold...they did themselves proud with this one! Wow...a top-notch Scotch! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Southern Tier Gemini Blended Unfiltered Imperial IPA

Here's one I noted for the first time back in January of 2008, but have had on tap several times since then. Like, now. A blend of Hoppe Imperial EPA, and Unearthly Imperial IPA, I happen to be quite a fan of it. Those first notes were sparse, but true. Here they come:

hazy orange, fluffy white head...

Fat citric nose, pithy grapefruit rind, orange and lemon...fresh, vibrant, super-hoppy, lovely...

Uniquely flavored, very...shall we say, "grabby"...grips the palate and drops a payload of hoppitude. 
Lots of lush, flavorful malt, feelin' the wheat in this...

Beautiful stuff...clean, sweet, zesty, hoppy...

very nice.
It's good beer, and you can drink it. Just, not that much of it. The 9% ABV shows itself early and often.

Sprecher Brewmaster's Premium Reserve Russian Imperial Stout

Perhaps at some point this beer was only called Sprecher Russian Imperial Stout, but that's what it's listed as on BeerAdvocate currently. Let's check the label on the keg I'm drinking it from....just says "Imperial Stout". I had an RIS from Sprecher on tap before, and it was the bourbon barrel-aged edition a year or two ago. Alas, that is not this. This one I'd actually had for the first time back in August, 2003, and here are those notes preserved for posterity:

Big, black color. Huge, towering, cocoa-hued head. 
Aroma: soft, but showing hints of coffee and chocolate, sweet and yummy. 
Lush mouthfeel, but short finish. Rather abrupt, actually. Body is not as full or as deep as I'd like in an imperial stout, but these words were captured during my notations on this botttle: "Warm, rich, chocolatey, toasty, bits of licorice...yum...suh-weet.." 
I love Imperial Stouts, and I liked this one, a fairly middle-of-the-road effort, not bad. 

I hold the same opinion today. Nothing wrong with it, except everything that should be a whole lot righter. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Harriet Taproom Soft Open, Part Two

I said that last one was Part One, of Two, didn't I? Well, here it comes, especially since I made a small promise. Someone asked me if I was going to put my playlist online. Well, I didn't think of it, and don't know if they'll ever see it here, but what they, hey, here it goes, to the best of my recollection.

"Blowin' The Blues Away", Horace Silver, album of same name.

"It's Your Thing" (Isley Brothers), "It's Gotta Be Real", The Jazz Crusaders, "Lighthouse '69"

"Come Together" (The Beatles), Richard 'Groove' Holmes and Ernie Watts, album of same name

"Spear For Moondog, Part Two", Jimmy McGriff, "Electric Funk"

"Hang Up Your Hang-ups", Herbie Hancock, "Man-Child"

"Give Up The Booty", Jimmy Smith, "Sit on it!"

"Afro-Blue", Kenny Burrell, "Up the Street, and Round the Corner."

"Happy Medium", "The Show Has Begun", Horace Silver, "That Healin' Feelin'"

"The Way You Make Me Feel" (Michael Jackson), Charles Earland, "Third Degree Burn"

"Ben" (M.J.) Gene Ammons, "Got My Own."

"Never Can Say Goodbye" (M.J.), Junior Walker, "Moody Junior."

"(Sittin' On The) Dock of the Bay", Mongo Santamaria, "Soul Bag"

"Soul Time", Bobby Timmons, album of same name.

"The Sidewinder", Lee Morgan, album of same name.

"Moment's Notice" John Coltrane, "Blue Train."

"Aligator Boogaloo", Lou Donaldson, album of same name.

"The Witch Doctor" Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, album of same name.

"The Sixth Sense", Lee Morgan, album of same title.

"Night Dreamer", Wayne Shorter, ditto.

"Chicken and Dumplin's", Bobby Timmons, ditto.

"I Was Born To Love You", (Stevie Wonder) Charles Earland, "Soul Story"

"Light Blue",(Thelonious Monk) Arthur Blythe, album of same name, "plays the music of Thelonious Monk."

"Trinkle Tinkle" (Monk) Don Pullen, "...Plays Monk."

"Well You Needn't" (Monk) Jimmy Smith, "second Coming"

"More Today Than Yesterday" (Spiral Staircase), Charles Earland, "Black Talk!"

"Beer", The Jack Walrath Group, "Revenge of the Fat People"

"Killer Joe", "Milestones", Charles Earland, "Living Black"

"New Year's Day", "Lithium", "Comfortably Numb", "Barracuda", The Bad Plus, "For All I Know"

The taproom is closing, employees are loading tables and chairs back into the building, and Matt Yetter is now playing on the patio, and since the taps are turned off, we're drinking from growlers.
and then I played some Thelonious Monk, but I can't recall which. Good stuff, of course.
Everything's getting blurrier, but I must have had enough clarity to see her cuteness.

More of Zach Lozier, this time with Tanner Taylor in the frame, and lots of sunlight shining through.
Who's this? Who knows? He's amused by something, while Jason appears very happy at right.
And now, some more pictures!

More green-clad beer lovers getting their glasses filled by green-wigged Ginny.
something interesting happened when Matt Yetter took the stage later on, after the sun went down. Look at all that bright light inside, while we're cast in blue on the outside.
Things are getting fuzzier, with Paul Johnston, brewer, at right.
Pictures are coming down, perhaps due to heavy music vibrations, and Jason gets up on a ladder to correct this.
More of that light shining on the right side of the room, while a second shift keeps the glasses flowing.
Here's me, as captured by Jesse Brodd. All the great ales have caught up with me, and I'm basking in the bliss of my final musical selections.

Alaskan Black IPA

I got this one as a sample from my distributor rep, and I never ordered any kegs. So, I finally sat down with that bottle, while my cursor went berserk, and I made most minimal notes. I look at them now, and think, fine, it said what needed to be said. So, I'll just put them up. Maybe some day I'll go further in depth, but they did the job then.

Alaskan Black IPA. 6.4% ABV.

Very dark. Not quite black. With crimson/brown highlights. Cocoa-tinged froth, lush and lacy.

Aroma: bright, grassy hops, chocolate malt. 

Taste: deep, dark malt, bright hops, smooth and tasty. Medium-bodied, easy drinking. Grassy hops stay on top. 

I like this. It's beer and you can drink it.

Left Hand Ambidextrous Ale Imperial Milk Stout

So here's another one from the time frame when my laptop was acting up strangely. I've since arrested this activity, but haven't solved the problem completely. I can write, though, but looking at those aborted notes, I could not, then, no sir, and those half-notes sat on my desktop til now.

But some backstory, which makes my failure of writing all the sadder. This was not a beer I necessarily wanted, and was sent to me in a keg after I couldn't get something I did want. (Great Lakes Blackout Stout was the one I asked for.) I accepted this Imperial Milk Stout, and oddly enough I found no information online about it, this Ambidextrous Ale, aka Step One. The only thing I could find was a reference on Left Hand's website about it being on tap at their taproom, but this was a keg sitting in my cooler in Minnesota, but there were no reviews from anyone, anywhere, on any site. Eventually, I decided it wouldn't be part of our Imperial March, because I found 4 true Imperial Stouts, and tapped this Imperial Oak-aged Milk Stout early, it was very popular, and I finally took this photo, and started these notes before it ran out last Tuesday. Here are the notes:

Beautiful, l Left Hand Ambidextrous Ale

Full-on ebony appearance, under a rich, cocoa-tan head of froth. A beautiful glass of stout.

Cream and oak in the nose, hints of vanilla

Wow, that's it, that's as far as I got. Because of the crazy dancing cursor, sometimes spinning a blue screen that erased everything I wrote.

But here are my memories of my thoughts of what I remember, so to speak. It was tasty, it was smooth, and it was strong. And although it was good, I didn't like it. Milk stouts should not be 10.2% alcohol. It was every bit good except for the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, in the brain, without a fullness and richness of flavor and texture that prepares you for such an alcoholic barrage.

There were some reviews online, on both BeerAdvocate and, when I finally had it on tap, and I found a few common refrains from some reviewers. Most were in the line of "I wish it were more like an Imperial Stout", "I wish it had the flavors of an RIS", etcetera. Well, you're not getting them, Bucko. You're getting the flavors of a milk stout, a light, sessionable style, with all the alcohol it shouldn't have. 

Instances where I actually like and enjoy and rave on about "imperial" version of lighter styles are a very small set indeed. This one did not break through that mold. 

Maui Brewing Flyin'HI P. Hay. IPA

Maui Brewing Company.  Flyin' HI P. Hay. Okay, it took me awhile to get it, but now I get it. Or do I? The HI is for Hawaii, but P. Hay? I'll get it eventually. Maybe the label will help?is 
"This brew is dedicated to Glen Hay Falconer, my best friend and mentor, "…etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.
Brewed exclusively with Falconer's Flight hops, and…the finest malts, etc. Proceeds go to a scholarships for brewers in Mr. Falconer's name. 

Certified Made on Maui. Live to the fullest.  Brew to the fullest.

Well, let's get into it. My first Maui Brewing beer, one of three cans brought back from "the big island" by Dave Anderson. 

Right off, I love the smell of this. But, let's look at it, first.
Beautiful, l ... well, I lost complete track of this one. Complete goofing off on behalf of my computer, that I couldn't control. The cursor whizzes all over the screen, and randomly deleted what I tried to write. At least 3 reviews I tried to do met this fate. Some lasted longer than others, but frustration grew too great. 

So, I wasn't able to take decent notes on this excellent IPA. But put it into the win column for this brewery. And their regular IPA is still yet to be cracked open. 

Funny, I really thought I could remember my notes mentally and transcribe them later. Not 10 days later, that sure doesn't work. 

Now, to see if the other two I couldn't finish got far enough.

Maui Brewing Coconut Porter

Maui Brewing Company, Certified Made on Maui, CoCo Nut Porter. "…Like Hot Chicks on the Beach." What? Huh? Just gonna ignore that, not touch it, let it go. 
"Porter brewed with hand-toasted coconut."

Dark brown, nearly black, fully opaque, with a full, flush dotted head of creamy tanned foam, leaving lots of lace. Looks good. 

Aroma: there it is, freshly toasted coconut, straddled over a …I'm not sure. We get lots of coconut, though. Beautiful. 

Taste: nicely hopped, lightly roasty, full-bodied. Cocoa and coffee linger below, and show themselves briefly, outside flashes of more coconut. A very tasty porter, robust enough, with a coconut flavor that never quits, but mellows a bit. Like hot chicks on the beach. I have a feeling you can use this phrase to end a sentence, they way they end fortune cookies with "…in bed." Maybe they do, perhaps it's a quaint local Maui-ism. "Hand toasted coconut…like hot chicks on the beach!"

Anyway. Nothing too "wow" about this one, but it's nice and I thank DA for it. Just like hot chicks on the beach.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Harriet Brewing Taproom Soft Open, 3/17/12

Let's talk about beer. Let's talk about tap-rooms, and legislation, and also, let us talk about jazz.
Anyone paying attention to what's going on in beer in Minnesota knows that we now have tap-rooms at breweries legally allowed in Minnesota. This was on Jason Sowards' agenda for Harriet Brewing from the start, and he pursued it on the local level  before Omar Ansari kicked Surly Nation into action to make reality what has since been called "the Surly Bill." The first tap-room in the state actually belonged to Lift Bridge in Stillwater, and I have no idea whether they got any media attention when that happened, but the media did pay attention  last week when Fulton beat Harriet to it. I actually got a call from Jason that morning asking if I would join he and the Harriet crew at Fulton's inaugural night for their taproom. I could not do it, because I had a beer event to make happen (Imperial March 2012, 12 8% and above beers on tap, 4 Imperial Stouts,  barley-wines, and double IPAs), and a potentially big bar/club night after that. It (the Fulton taproom, not my event) made the local evening news, which added to their frenzy. Many people who came in that afternoon/night came after the Fulton thing, including my sister Lynn.
So, the next week, Harriet finally passed inspections and although not everything was perfect and finished according to their ideal notions of how their tap-room should look and feel, they had to get open and get a cash infusion. And Wednesday night, Jason asked me if I would DJ for the day, or at least part of it.

Jason is chatting my my good friend and Blue Nile regular Don Metzger, while Hank Williams, Jr. watches over the record collection in the background.
So, let's step back and revisit the Harriet brewing company of last year. At some point in the early day, I noticed Jason had a turntable and several boxes of albums in the brewery. I said I had a vinyl collection, but that most of my stuff was jazz. Great, he said, that's what I'm missing. I brought a few dozen LPs in, thinking of what I imagined Jason's musical sensibilities were, and the response was so enthusiastic that I couldn't believe it was true. This was not just from him, but from brewery employees, friends, volunteers, etcetera. I thought there was some insincere sarcasm or something, but that's my paranoid mind talking. They really all had jazz-sized holes in them waiting to be filled. At my last count, I had at least 100, maybe even 150 albums at the brewery, which I occasionally bring back home, but only after bringing more for them to hear. And it really has made an impact, at least with Jason. I brought him an Alice Coltrane record, and next thing you know, he found the album she made with Carlos Santana, before I did. I brought some Joe Farrel, an little-known 70's saxophonist, as well as George Benson's first record. What do you know, he gathered so many GB records I've never heard, as well as one with Joe Farrell. And Chico Hamilton! He found a CH record I've never heard. I'm catching up with the man. I've yet to find his love of Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane come anywhere near mine, but there's time, everyone needs time.

Here's Ted from Acadia Cafe talking with Todd from the Nomad. Todd had already had a long day, since his bar has a long-standing tradition of giving away free beer on St. Patrick's Day until someone pees, starting at noon.  This is something he loves to do, whether or not he makes money from it. That is a beer drinker's saint, that's what he is.
Well, like I said, he asked me to DJ and lo and behold they put it on their website and everything, my first time being identified as a DJ! After agreeing to it, I started looking at the LPs at home, putting them in order, making a playlist, think about it. Friday night I didn't leave work until after 3:30 AM (that would make it Saturday morning, of course.) and didn't fall asleep until after 6, maybe even 7 AM. Got up at 11 and made sure I'd be there on time. Jason called me at 12:45 to be sure, I threw the LPS on the back of my bike, and headed off, getting there a couple minutes after 1PM, ready to go. Looking later on, my wristband said I was number 5, but I don't recall any customers being in before me. Later on, Jason's wife said her wristband was number 350-something, although I've yet to hear if there was a larger head count. Harriet really wasn't ready to deal with something larger, so that's why it was a "soft open", and a Grand Opening, tied into the release of a Maibock, will be in another month, once they've gotten enough funds to finance a taproom that really approaches their ideal.
Here's someone who's name I should know, but I don't. He comes to the Nile sometimes, but I mainly know him from Town Hall. Great guy, I'll call him Jim. Or maybe it's Steve. He's sitting in my chair. I never told him it was my chair. While my records gently spin.

Here come the pictures. These may not be in chronological order. In fact, throw all logic out. And dig it.
An early view of a small line waiting for beer. There's Jake in the beard at left, and Ginny in here green wig, at right. Ginny likes to play dress-up.
I thought it would be funny to take a picture of these girls taking a picture of their beers. Ah, it's not that funny.

Here's Zach Lozier holding his trumpet high, with bass player whose name I've forgotten to the left, and Tanner Taylor on piano, completely obscured, with an admirer listening on. Zach plays my kind of music. If it isn't hard bop, it's songs associated with Louis Armstrong. For the latter, I head "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans" and "Stardust."
Here's good ol' Dan Stets with a Harriet East-Side IPA in his hand. Once I heard they'd tapped East-Side, I had to go in and get one. I don't normally see Dan in a green polo shirt, but you know what? There was a lot of green clothing going on, more than normal. What's up with that?
One of the many records I put the needle to, the classic "The Sidewinder" from Lee Morgan, Blue Note records, 1963. One of the best jazz albums of all time. I got nods of approval from trumpeter Zach Losier as he came in, at around 2:40 pm, and I figured I had time after that track for one more great one, and put on "Moment's Notice" from John Coltrane's Blue Note LP (his one and only on that label), the desert island disc, "Blue Train". If it inspired them at all, I'm honored to provide that inspiration. After the first set, I had to ask Zach about the songs, since so many were familiar, yet I couldn't name the titles. "Along Came Betty" (composer: Benny Golson) from Art Blakey's great "Moanin'" Album, also with Lee Morgan. Plus, "Hipsippy Blues", a Hank Mobley tune from an Art Blakey album in the early 60s', which also featured Lee, and which he personally identified as an album which included "Chicken and Dumplin's", by Bobby Timmons. My final cut during their break, was that tune, from the album of the same name, by Bobby Timmons. Zach gave me a big thumbs up, clearly appreciating the tune he'd mentioned earlier. Man, that really makes my day.
More from the Zach Lozier Trio, seen under the huge selection of Jesse Brodd paintings. Harriet never had time to paint the walls, but the colorful original artwork made up for that. 
Here's Justin, who doesn't have any interest in wearing green on March 17th, and has no problem wearing black in 70+ degree weather. I did the "wearin' o' the green" with a Harriet stocking cap with a green logo, and also wore a brown blazer with a Thelonious Monk pin over my Harriet t-shirt. That was my DJ attire. How could I wear such in this warm weather, I was asked? Well, look at Justin with his black shirt and mighty beard, plus a beer in each hand. Somehow we do it.
I like this view, behind the couches, because it shows the garage doors opened up for the patio on this incredibly unseasonally warm mid-March Saturday. It would have been hard to fit the 79 person capacity if that outdoor seating had been unavailable. Beautiful day all around. Again, notice all that green. What's going on?
Ted, Todd, and Jason clearly have something to talk about. I, eventually, when my beer consumption had exceeded my food consumption, or water intake, went with T and T and their wives to nearby Japanese restaraunt Midori's Floating World. Todd kept ordering bottles of sake and giant cans of Sapporo, although he's already met many of the sheets he'd be throwing to the wind. Me, I found that this round of sushi experimentation did not end well in my stomach. My apologies to their janitor. Or, whoever has to deal with that. Me and sushi = no good, sometimes.
Todd Smith loves Ireland. Many people around him love the color green. And people behind that fence would love to come in and have some Harriet beer!
What is Ginny saying here? "Don't drink the green beer! The green beer will give you bad trips, man!"
Jason has three beers in his hand. Three people are about to be very happy.

21st Amendment Monk's Blood

21st. Amendment Brewery, Monk's Blood. Belgian-style dark ale brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, oak chips, and dried figs. That's all I'll share from the label of this can. There's a long story in Gothic typeface that's difficult to read. It begins "Legend has it…" and I'll let your imagination run wild with the rest. Wait. I really should read it…. Couldn't. It's impossible. Can't male out 10% of the words. The rest are over-cooked and overly dramatic. Apparently, elder monks believe in capital punishment when dealing with young monks who tinker with old recipes. Sure, makes sense. Or maybe it was the cigars, "nice hands of Texas Hold 'Em" and "breaking  the vow of silence by spinning a remix of Gregorian chants" that drew the Abbot's ire. I wouldn't know.

Unfortunately, it tells me nothing about the beer.

8.3% ABV. 12 oz. can. brewed in Cold Springs, MN.

Dark, plum brown body, opaque, smallish cream-toned head, drifts down, but leaves lace.

Aroma: dark fruit aplenty. raisins, dates, figs. Plum. With plenty of spice, as well, and a hint of sweetness. Wait, more than a hint, with the vanilla and oak coming in loud and clear. 

Taste: First sip is rich and full, with a complex mix of flavors coming together in the mouth. A touch sour, lush with fruit and spice, dark, deep and delicious. Reminds me of favorite authentic Belgian dark ales, with without that rare quality from the Belgian yeast. Comes close enough. Very delicious. 

Full-bodied, long finish, deeply textured, with apparent alcohol. Rises higher with each additional drink. Rich, warming, and comfortable. But I couldn't more than two of this without causing trouble. In fact, I can feel the urge to raise a ruckus right about now. 

Founders Dry-Hopped Pale Ale

Founders Dry-hopped Pale Ale. Drinking this from a bottle, looking back at my initial notes from August, 2004:

whoops, another gusher! I think my Founders shipment got jostled a bit too much en route...ah, well, must excercise patience and understanding...
Appearance: peachy, golden color, slight haze, enormous, creamy white head, softly shifting down. Scads of floaties dart about, or are they errant hop pieces? 
Aroma: peach, apricot, apple and pine resin, pineapple, banana, vanilla bean, not too outspoken, more on the subtle side, but still, very appealing. 
Taste: high, brash hops jump on the palate at first, then slide back, having done their work. Citric bitterness continues sip after sip, with sweet fruit matching bitter hop bite. 
Light/mediumish in body, bitter, medium finish, non-stop flavor. 
Copuld stand to be a lot hoppier, then I'd be happier with it, but as it is, this is a very nice pale ale, one I would accept in any situation.


That was from a bottle received in trade, almost 5 years (or six) before it was available in Minnesota. This bottle had no floaties and was no gusher. Makes me wonder if may have suffered from transit, and perhaps it was a little old. Maybe. But, we can guess the answer.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lucid Air

Here's a little background about me and Lucid Brewing Company. It was one of those names that floated around as up-and-comings, and about-to-happens in 2009/2010. In October of 2010, some of the principals involved visited the Nile to tell me they were the yet-to-be Lucid folks, and one of them was Jon Messier, who has been a customer at the Nile for several years, as he lives in the Seward neighborhood. I didn't really know him well, since he always visited when I was busy, and in the company of friends, so I just remembered them as those guys drinking the good stuff.

Lucid got the keys to their Minnetonka facility last fall, and released Air, a wheat-based (30%) light ale first, and later got Camo going. It's a bit odd, I think, to do a crowd-pleaser and a geek-pleaser as your first two, especially since they haven't done a regular IPA or pale ale. Double IPAs are notoriously maligned because they can cover the flaws of a lighter beer, with all those hops. And all that alcohol. Where's the middle ground stuff, the brown ales, the ambers, etcetera. As it is, Camo is hitting off with the geeks, even me, and I had a hard start at it. My first taste was at the Nomad, when they tapped them both, where I also got some Air. Not sure exactly what I thought. Nothing bad, though. Second taste was from the Lucid salesman, and I was less impressed. Especially since I had Abrasive on tap at the same time, and just couldn't see it stacking up against a better double IPA. I was straddling the line, sitting on the fence, and wishy-washing all the way, until I decided to just put them on, and see what people thought. So, we had a tapping event, it was well-attended, and opinions were all over the place. Some loved Camo, didn't care for Air. Some found Air perfect and lovely. Some tried Camo and moved on. Some really like boring beers, and others feel the need for booze and hops. Big surprise. 
The idea that Lucid is flirting with both ends of the beer spectrum seems to be very clear and true, especially if they hit that segment of the suburban bars (they are in Minnetonka, after all) filled with light beer lovers, who still want to support the local. 

So, I sat down with a pint of Air, which may be the worst name for a beer, and may be the best, for this beer. Here are those notes.

Lucid Air. Sounds like an appliance. Maybe it is?

I won't quote their verbiage, but I'll give you a link to it. Read that before, or after, but please give it a look.

Very clear, very yellow. Nice white head, starts about medium, trims down quickly.

Aroma: Very mellow, very minor, clean, but not exactly crisp. Nothing wrong, but nothing stands out, either. Inoffensive.

Taste: Smoothness personified. Beer-ified. Wheaty texture is evident, and does much for the mouthfeel. There's a spank of lime in there, and a tickle of pineapple, maybe. The mango mentioned in the house copy is a bit of a stretch of the imagination. There's just enough hops to keep the tongue interested. Just enough wheat character, just enough citrus, and it slides away effortlessly.

Very light in body. Drinkable and likable. Not lovable, though.

It gets the job done. It's beer and you can drink it. It's just the thing for today, which was 77 degree weather in mid-March. But I can't see having more than one, unless you're into that kind of thing. And I'm hoping they find plenty of people who are.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lucid Camo Double Pale Ale

Lucid Camo. Imperial, or, Double Pale Ale, or India Pale Ale. Lucid Brewing, Minnetonka, MN.

Clear and coppery/amber colored, nice head of white, lace-leaving froth. Looks nice.

Aroma: Ah! Soft, floral, hoppy, fruity, citric…just right. Lovely, lovely stuff. Very, very nice. I could just keep drinking this in through the nose.

But enough drinking through the nose, let's try the mouth. 

Mmmm meets yum. Tasty, tasty stuff. Tropical fruit, citrus, some pine, but mostly mango and guava. Pineapple, and apricot. Tasty. Mmmm. I mean it, mmm.

Great mix of hop and malt. Some caramel, some fruit in the malt body, with a bright, beautiful, fierce, and bitter hop profile. This is easily consumed, although t. he alcohol is not that terribly hidden, no, it is there, it is around, and it will not be silenced.

Yum. I'll say it again. This is very nice. And it took me long enough. My first taste was undecided. My second, I was further on the fence, and felt perhaps that it was not as good as I'd liked. That was from a sample bottle. But I took a chance, put it on tap, and now I'm really digging this, and I feel that I will dig it again. 

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 ...