Monday, April 30, 2012

St. Sebastiaan Golden Ale

So, here's a curiousity. The Sterkens brewery put out some rare bottles a few years, but these were not new beers at all, just new packaging using the talents of American cartoonist. For their golden ale, St. Sebastiaan, they had Ron Rege, Jr., provide an illustration for the label, as well as a version of his mini-comic, Yeast Hoist, hung around the bottleneck by a string. This venture included another bottle with the ink talents of Mat Brinkman for a large bottle of another of their offerings. I never picked that one up, due to the expense, and that I'm less of a fan of Mr. Brinkman. Expensive, they are, and the beer inside is the same as it ever was. Here are the notes I took in January, 2003 of St. Sebastiaan golden ale:

Hazy gold to dull orange in color, with towering, rocky, buzzing and highly aromatic head.

 Aroma is citrus, spice, lemon, straw, sugar.

Solid body, strong palate presence, a lively hop profile, with sweet maltiness behind it. Very distinct and uplifting taste and a pleasant finish that takes it's time.

A real reward in every sip, and a decent Duvel clone, but certainly not the same.

Schneider & Sohn Schneider Weisse Hefe -Weizen

Odd thing, here. I find this posted on BeerAdvocate as "Schneider Weisse Tap 7 Unser Original", and I haven't a clue what that means. Whatever it's sorted as, Schneider Weisse remains of my favorites hefe weizens, and here are my notes from March, 2003:

The color here is not what the average beer drinker expects a hefe to have, but this is the Bavarian style. A muddy dark orangish, nearly brown near the crown, lighter at the foot. The head on it is full,lush,voluminous, white.

Aroma is light, sweet, soft, delicious, delightful, focusing on flavors of citrus (lemon), honey, flowers, and mild spices.

 Texture and mouthfeel is extraordinarily smooth, with a graininess up front that fades fast.

Clean, brisk, uncomplicated, easily drunk, and yet brimming with taste. Substantial body, perfect malt, and a swift, but recurring, bright and lively finish. Citrusy hops return again and again to delight the tastebuds.

A very flavorful weizen, and a perfect brew for mealtime, hot Julytime, feellikehavinganotherbeertime.

Piraat Golden Ale

Here's one I tried for the first time in several years, and when I look at my already posted notes online, it seems as if I re-did a review from 2002, and replaced it in October, 2007. That sort of thing will happen. So, here we have it, Piraat, from Van Steenberge:

Let's try this one again...

11.2 oz bottle, buccaneer on the label, poured into an authentic Piraat tulip glass.

Bright golden hue, highly hazed, under neath a large, booming, puffy white head.

Aroma: citrus and sour greets the nose first. Funky and fierce. Wowzers. Straw, lemon, honey, and pepper. Spicy.

A blast in the mouth, flush with fruit and dazzling spice. Big, juicy sweetness. Getting bigger, sweeter and hotter as we go in. Bodies a bit too thin to support all this, though...I could really go for some malt.

Looking at my 4 1/2 year old review, I have to wonder what was up with that bottle...or me...
This is nice stuff, but a bit out of wack. And it gets warmer and warmer, the flavor calming down, honey and lemon meets big, fat booze andbitter hops . Wish I could taste a few more things here, malt and yeast.

Drink up, ye mateys! Arrr! Shiver me timbers! Avast! hoist the mizzen mast!

Furthermore Proper

Looking at notes from April, 2007, for this pale ale from Furthermore, of Spring Green, Wisconsin:

Clear, coppery, carbonated, with prodigious head. 

Clean, floral/herbal aroma, minor hops, aromatic & bittering...largely empty, though... 

Smooth on the tongue, lightly malty, toasty caramel malts, slight cereal taste, lacking hops..."moistness" is the major component here, wet and vacant... 

"Light-bodied", yes...but "classic",...not so sure. They could have given this some character, but instead chose to go with weak and wanting. Pity. 

Not bad, but could have been a lot better.

(Update: still not a big fan, though it combines drinkability and inoffensiveness with efficient ease.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bell's 25th Anniversary Ale

I wrote notes on this one back in September, 2010. Managed to scoot some bottles away, and pop the cap on one once in a while. Tasting great almost 2 years on. Let's just peek at those old notes:

Bell's tulip glass, check. Bell's coaster, check. Bell's bottle opener, check. Now on to put them all to use in drinking up some Bell's 25th Anniversary Ale.

Appearance, : clear, dusky crimson coloring, small but staying beige head. Looks good!

Aroma: rich, sweet caramel notes. Malt-driven ale all the way, very little hops coming through. Hints of molasses. A little spicy.

Taste: Mmmm. Hard to pigeonhole, tough to describe. Dark and slightly smokey, rich malt, viscous mouthfeel, alcohol becoming apparent. This feels most like a barley-wine, maybe something like a scotch ale, and a little like a Belgian strong dark. Caramel and toffee ahoy! The official description mentions "generous dry-hopping", but it's lost on me, even the "fragrant hop character."
All I'm getting is rich, sweet dark malt.
But very even-tempered, and I am now getting the hops, and they are well-balanced with the malt. Which is why it doesn't totally resemble a barley-wine, the sweetness is kept in check with hops wonderfully.
A wonderful, relaxing ale. How I wish I could actually get this in quantity. I'd love to have 2 or 3 of these in a row for a really righteous session.

Laughing Dog Devil Dog Imperial IPA

Laughing Dog Devil Dog Imperial India Pale Ale. Diabolus Canis Imperiiosus IPA. Tell us more, won't you? "the Devil Dog will chew you up and leave you whimpering for more. At 98 IBUs and with 7 pounds of hops to the barrel it is an all out assault on the senses. Devil Dog started as a labor of love, but quickly took on a life of it's own--leaving us drooling like Pavlov's dog at the mere mention of it's name. Triple dry hopped for that over the top hop flavor, more than one of these bad boys will cause you to howl at passing strangers, chew up you r toys and anything else you can get your sharp little teeth on."  And that is all for dog jokes. Please?
Thing is, though, I'm looking at that dog, he ain't so bad, …pretty adorable, actually.
More: Hops: Columbus, Northern Brewer, Ahtanum, Cascade and simcoe.

Malt: Pale, Carmel (sic), and Munich.

Bottled and Brewed by Laughing Dog Brewing, Ponderay, Idaho.

Let's just drink it, okay? 

Clouded, opaque, dark amber coloring, large, full flowering, snowy white head, lace leaving, I'd guess, if it would ever quit.

Aroma: boom boom boom! Thick, rich, resiny, phony, and wonderful. Just my stuff. Deep dark fruitiness, cognac and leather, and a hell of a lot more going on.

Taste: along comes chocolate. Plentiful hop bitterness overwhelmed by dark malt deliciousness. Very chocolatey. Fairly swallows over any fear of being overly bitter. In fact, I've never had an "Imperial IPA" as malty or sweet or chocolatey as this. Plenty malty, utterly overtaking what you expect to get from a hoppy ale. Is that what I like in an Imperial IPA? Ehhh, not so much. 
After all those damned idiotic dog jokes, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it's not delivering. The devil dog did not chew me up and I am not whimpering at all. Sigh…there's little integration, not much balance, no harmony, just a mess, and unlikable, too.

It's kind of a murky mess, and it's not hitting the right buttons with me. Alas. Not loving this. not even liking it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oskar Blues G'Knight Imperial Red Ale

Oskar Blues G'NKnight, Imperial Red.8.7 % ABV.
"Still Big, Still Red, Still Sticky. G'Kinght. If you knew the man behind this tribute, this ale needs no explanation. If you didn't, we're sorry." Okey, dokey. Hockey player, right? Or coach, or something. Something like that? Let's just drink it.

Clear, copper-y, off-white head, lace leaving.

Aroma: soft, sweet, malty, hoppy, caramel and cocoa.

Taste: Rich malt, smooth, lush caramel and toffee, with a touch of cocoa. Nice hoppiness rides on top, lays in thick, rides on out. Long finish, sticks in the palate, dominates and delights. Lush and delicious.

I like this very much.

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA Northwest Pale Ale, Courageously crafted since 1988, Deschutes Brewery, For Fellow Explorers Everywhere. Witness the subtle aromatic seduction of the debut Northwest Pale Ale. Another Slap at Brewing Convention. Another Kick in the pants. ENJOY."

Wait, there's more: "Not up for a full-on hop assault? Red Chair NWPA is a smoother ride. Seven select European and domestic malts take a surprisingly plush satin turn on the way to a citrusy hop kick. Edges out, layers in."

Huh. Okay. Interesting. This is how they market a pale ale to hop freaks, who normally only stop for double IPAs. Let's look at it.

Clear, pale orange to copper appearance. Lean layer of creamy-toned lace-leaving froth atop.

Aroma: Explosion of soft citrus and pine in the nose, slightly sweet. Bitterness held in check by rich, toasty malt. Nice.

Taste: Caramel malt hits the tongue first, plush, indeed, smooth, for sure. Toasty, like I said, and utterly pleasant. Easy going in, and then, wouldn't you know, along come the hops, bouncing on the palate. A masterful marriage of hops and malt, evenly carbonated, medium-bodied, at 6.2 % ABV, not a terrific threat to my sobriety, if I maintain a modicum of moderation.

Serious yum going on, here. Plenty of tastiness, good censurability. They've got a hit on their hands.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New Belgium Dig Pale Ale

Dig Pale Ale, New Belgium, Spring Seasonal. "Unearth your bottle opener because this Pale ale is something you can Dig. Sorachi Ace hops provides a fresh Spring zing with incredible lemon aroma. Nelson Sauvin is next in line with bursts of passion fruit, mango and peach. American favorite, Cascade, provides notes of grapefruity citrus. Dry, crisp and clean, DIG pale ale plants the welcomed taste of Spring in you r hand." Alc. 5.6% by Vol.

Clear, reddish appearance, short head, slim, but staying, off-white.

Plenty of fruit in the nose, but most of all mild, clean, dry. Citrus notes, peach, pear, apple a little.

Taste: Crisp, clean, little hoppy, lean bodied, This is an intriguing blend of hops, create a refreshing and somehow still complex variety of flavors. All manner of fruit-y sensations, and hoppy delights, kept in a terse, tidy body. Good drinking pale ale, with plenty going on in the mouth. That's what it's all about, isn't it.
Nice choice for a spring seasonal. I'll probably get some more, before it's too late.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unibroue Maudite

Unibroue Brewery of Chambly, Quebec, is one of my favorite breweries, and I've certainly been neglecting them here. I've only done two of the bottles, and this is the first of their beers I've tapped since getting this blog thing in gear. As much as I love their brews, I pass them over in favor I've new beers I've  yet to try. Such is my lot.
Maudite, "the Damned", is one of my favorites from one of my favorites. I can't believe it's taken me this long to tap a keg. There's a reason somewhere, but it's so preposterous, I won't speak of it. I will only sip this savory ale and reflect on my earliest notes from a bottle, back in February, 2003. It's another gusher, but I still mean every word.

The color is the loveliest, most perfect red you can imagine, the color of Satan's pajamas, and the head is bubbly, prickly, fantastically white.

Aroma is largely spicy, utterly delightful, with additional notes of dark fruits, berries, currant, citrus, and a hint of flowers, plus a good helping of lemon.

Good carbonation, and a massive deployment of hops upon the palate. The alcoholic component does not seem obvious at all, nay, it sneaks up upon you, as you innocently enjoy this delicious ale. Very smoth and tasty as anything on earth, heaven, or hell. Medium body, sufficient malt, but the hops are fully in charge here, and deliver the drinker into fully refreshing enjoyment.

One of the best beers in the whole damned world!

Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA

Here's one from a keg I ordered late last year, and just got around to tapping. It's a November release, so I'm trying to downplay any "seasonal" aspect, and let folks enjoy for themselves. Here's what I think of Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA.

Thoroughly ebon appearance, with crimson highlights at the edges. Impressive cream-toned foam, leaving lace aplenty.

Subdued aromatics, mix of muted grassy hops and dark malt.

Taste: Gracious on the tongue, and down the throat. Delicate hop buzz grips the palate, washed over by roasty black and chocolate malts, altogether beautifully balanced. Nothing is out of whack, nothing doesn't gel. Roasty espresso and cocoa notes, while a persistently hoppy tingle hanging over.
Smooth, full-bodied, and drinkable. Rewarding, without being too complex. Has depth, though, and plenty of deliciousness. And while you sink too deeply into it's tempting flavors, the 9.5% ABV doesn't to rear it's head.

This one goes in to the category of Black Ales/ IBAs that I actually like. Although it's ease of drinking belies it's alcoholic strength. Have to put a stop after one.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout Rye Barrel-aged

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout Rye Barrel-Aged. Dark and complex with 11 malts and grains balanced by three different and distinct hops. Aged for a year in a Rye Whiskey Barrel from Heaven Hill Distilleries. Batch # 341, Brewed 8/26/10, bottled 8/26/11, OG: 26 Plato, Alc./Vol. 12 %, IBU 59.

complete blackness, under a head of nothing, starts out small and disappears.

Aroma: big vanilla coming through before I lift the glass to my nose. Huge, vast vanilla. Big, ol' sweetness. Not a tremendous amount more than that. But for what it is, deep, complex and beautiful.

Now, to taste: more of the same on the tongue. Rich, malty, delicious. Here come a little heat, here comes the rye spice. A little bready, a little spicy. Not quite getting the whiskey feel I want in this, and the Imperial Stout below is very well smothered by the rye barrel aging. 

I like this one, but not as much as the bourbon barrel aged version, which had so much more going on in it. This one hits a few notes and that's all she wrote.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. Limited release, majestic brew with layer upon layer of malt complexity. 9.5% Alc./Vol.

Clear, lightish brown, crimson highlights, ring of cocoa-tan foam hovers over.

Rich malty nose, high on the sweet side, some toffee and vanilla in there. Quite lovely.

Taste: rolls smoothly and seductively off the tongue, over the palate, down the throat. Tasty malt character, minor to no hops discerned, medium bodied, soft, but lingering finish. Some caramel and toffee malt flavors, Rising sweetness. A little bit of raisin, just a touch of rum. Clean, easy drinking.

Nice as it is, though, I'm not overly impressed. A solid offering, and another nice one from the Big Eddy series. Nothing wrong with it, I could use a little more in there. Also, the high alcohol is not having any effect, until…whoa, here it comes...

Furthermore Oscura

Furthermore Oscura, beer with 100% Fair Trade Coffee. 12 fluid ounces, brewed band bottled by Furthermore Brewing, LLC, Black River Falls, WI. "A Nicaraguan all-female growers co-op (STOP) A lusciously aromatic just coffee roast (STOP) our warm-fermented, cold-lagered cerveza oscura (HUH?)" Is this an inside joke, or am I supposed to know they wrote that as a telegraph?

Huh, indeed. A Coffee-infused Mexican lager from Wisconsin. What's up with that?

Caramel brown coloring, very transparent, slim, off-white head, small but actively dotted and lasting, for what it is.

Aroma: raw roasted coffee apparent at first sniff. The best part of waking up. Rich and earthy, and, yeah, luscious, but with little else below it.

Taste: There it is in the flavor, right up front, and all the way down. Coffee flavor pervades throughout the length of the drink, but I feel without there would be no other flavors at all. A little grainy in the mouthfeel, a modicum of texture, and earthy, indeed.

This is easy-drinking enough, for the those days when you'd love an alcoholic beverage with coffee flavor, but cold, and light bodied, and preferably beer-based. But, not a stout. I'm just guessing, but I think the base beer for this does not really have flavors to complement the coffee it's infused with (as with most Coffee Stouts). And the coffee overwhelms what flavors are there, masks and obscures them. So, I see the appeal of this, but I don't see myself returning to it very often.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Summit Unchained No.9: Dunkel Weizen

Summit Unchained No. 9: Dunkel Weizen. I love a good Dunkel Weizen. Will I love this one? Good question…

Clouded, burgundy hued, soft purple, I'll call it, under a vast, voluminous head of off-white, pillowy foam. Looks fantastic.

Aroma: clove and banana hit first, followed by some darker fruit, grape, berry, melon. Light spiciness, deep fruitiness, gorgeous wheat character. Ever so ever so.

Taste: Slides into the mouth assuredly, with the full wheat flavor, mixed with the classic Bavarian yeast, the fruit, the spice, the refreshment. So tasty, and so easy to drink, layers of complexity, and a heck of a lot of yum.

It takes a minute or two, but eventually it turns to dry, after a little bit of sweet. You have to get past that for a minute, but not I, I am partial to this flavor, and drink it up with all delight. Great wheat texture, smooth, silky, and, mmm. Mmm, mm, mmm.

Another good one in the Unchained Series. Haven't had much to complain about, yet. Doing good, Summit.

Mikkeller Hop Burn Double Imperial IPA

Mikkeller Hop Burn Double Imperial Pale Ale. 10% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Mikkeller at De Proef Brouwerij, Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium.

Clouded, dark amber, nearly crimson, creamy white head, lasts long as a tight ring, very attractive and inviting.

Aroma: big, pungent, pine and citrus, a bitter bombast. Fat, juicy, bitter, dry, and fabulous.

Taste: Bam! Vast, fierce, enormous, gigantic. Tasty malt, overblown by an attack of bitter hoppiness. Boom, boom, boom, Bamtastic! Astringency emerges. Alcoholic heat surges. Bitterness dominates. Tense, terse, tangy. A very ending of this, rolling brittle off the tongue. Bitter orange and lemon, with a side of aspirin.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout Bourbon Barrel-Aged

Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. Dark and complex with 11 malts and grains balanced by 3 different and distinct hops. Aged for a year in an 18-year old Bourbon barrel from Heaven Hill Distillery. Batch #342, Brewed 8/26/10, bottled 8/26/11, OG 26 deg Plato, Alc./Vol. 12 %, !BU 59. 7 fluid ounces. Not for resale.

This one was set aside, as well as the rye barrel-aged version I'll get to later, as a gift for managers and operators who have supported the Big Eddy beers. I received it a few weeks ago, and after Joe Falkowski left the bar, I showed it to a regular, loyal customer. He asked if it could be purchased anywhere. "No, I'm sorry, you can't", I told. He looked at me in all seriousness, as if I'd just shot his dog,  and said: "You really shouldn't have done that to me." Well, sorry, Joe (a different Joe), you shouldn't have asked what I had there. Or did I show it to him?

Solid blackness, rich, lasting cocoa/tan head.

Vast bourbon notes in the nose, gargantuan chocolate flavor, and immense alcohol phenols erupting. Wow. This is instantly one of the most impressive and amazing bourbon barrel aromas I've encountered. Vanilla is here, caramel, nougat, chocolate covered raisins. Figs. Dark rum, cognac. Sweet, complex, enormous, divine. Love it.

Taste: More of the same, more chocolate, more bourbon, more licorice, more depth, more feeling.
Increasingly rich, thick, impenetrable. A slight chore to push down the throat, but ever rewarding once that task is done. Coats the palate, clobbers the senses, and the alcohol content is loosed and invading the braincase. But so, so tasty. Mmm, I love it. And I love that it's a 7 ounce bottle.

Long, long finish. Domination of the palate. Thick, big, and delicious.

Dark Horse Plead the Fifth Imperial Stout

First tapped this one in May, 2010, took notes then. Had a bottle last night. Here come the notes:

Dark as sin, black as all the wrongs in the world, huge tanned brown, cocoa head standing firm above. Beautiful. Amazing. Gorgeous. Outstanding.

Aroma: Oatmeal? Hmmm? Well, it's creamy, ...there's chocolate. Not too sweet. Roasty, but not too much. Creamy chocolate. Let's stick with that.

Drinking it: Big, fat, fantastic, delcicious. Rounds around the mouth, and sticks with it. Very well rounded, all together. What we seem to have is an RIS that is not outrageous in any degree, not overly out-there with any particular element.
Big, thick mouthfeel, long cocoa and coffee finish. Mmm, just right.

Very tasty, and not really easy to read the 12% abv, until, what, wait a minute, ...there it is...whoa-oh...

Dave's BrewFarm Triple Dave

Dave's BrewFarm Triple Dave. 9.6% ABV. I'll give you the info later on, let's just get in here and drink it.

Lovely golden hued body, smallish head, soon gone.

Aroma, sharp, sweet and strong. Hints of honey and fruit. Citrus and banana. Big time malt.

Tasting it: once again, sweetness, a trifle sharp, and boom-shaka-boom, high alcohol. Not over the top, but readily apparent. Smooth, despite the strength, delectable and enticing. Getting more and more easy-drinking, even while the booze swims in and fills me up. Oats and wheat contribute to this, I'm sure. Yum, even creamy a little bit.

"An ode to Triple Karmeliet and inspired by one of our favorite Daves. Pils, Dark Munich, and Wheat malts coupled with flaked barley, oats and wheat. Golding and Saaz hops, grains of paradise and orange peel."

No coriander, though, Dave doesn't do coriander. This is in no way a TK clone, just a BrewFarm interpretation that's a bit stronger, richer, and bolder. Luscious, juicy malt character is an extra added plus. I said yum once, I'll say it twice, now I'm saying I'm saying it thrice. If I say it three times, it is true.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Belgium Cocoa Mole' Ale

New Belgium Lips of Faith Cocoa Mole' Ale.

Utter blackness, with a sweet looking light tannish head, resting above.

Aroma: soft, sweet, and cinnamon-y. Love it.

Taste: Smooth, rich, and spice, with cinnamon first, and then, blam, the pepper comes. A fierce first hit, then mellow, …next sip, again, sweet cinnamon, hot pepper. A swift 2-step, a spicy tango. Chocolate malt lurks below, provides sufficient support, and delivers deliciousness. Pepper heat coasts smoothly overhead. Everything is in the pocket, here, everything is right on and groovy.
The peppers never really burn, just scorch a little. Taste lingers on the palate enough to make you remember it was there, and urge you into another sip and gulp.
And now, they all come together, the chocolate, the cinnamon, the hot spicy peppers, all at once. I'm halfway through the glass and the symphony is striking louder and stronger inside the mouth.

Damn,  this is interesting. Better than any chili pepper beer I've ever had, and better than most chocolate beers I've known. An interesting drinking experience that doesn't over-do it in any way, just keeps everything together, balanced, and drinkable. Mmm, chocolate comes back, keeping pace with pepper heat. Yum. Another hit from the Lips of Faith.

Ommegang Art of Darkness

Ommegang Art of Darkness, Belgian-style Strong Dark Ale. Cooperstown, New York.

Darkness incarnate in color, with crimson highlights shining through the bottom, under a lush, creamy cocoa-toned head. Lookin' good.

Aroma: soft, with notes of cocoa and cream, balanced and understated.

Taste: on the tongue, rich, full, dark and smooth. Lightly spicy, just enough wicked deliciousness from the yeast. A little bit of peppery heat. Lots of lush dark malts, but nothing too big, too sweet, too anything. This is Goldilocks' favorite beer, just right.
Some dark fruits, some fig and date, but completely utterly even, balanced, and dry. The nearly 9% alcohol doesn't stand out in the least.
Tasty stuff, this, but I so wish the yeast would contribute a bit more to the character. I want to really taste it.
But this one really does come close to impersonating a great Belgian strong dark ale. Kudos, Ommegang!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Central Waters Illumination Double IPA

Central Waters Illumination Double I.P.A. India Pale Ale. "Can you say palate wrecker? This double IPA comes in at 108 IBUs as hoppy as it gets with a mouthful of citrus flavors. Grab one today and illuminate your senses." 9% ALC./VOL. Brewed in Amherst, WI.

Well, I've already grabbed, so let's start illuminating. Clouded, apricot-ish hue, smallish head. Looking okay, I'm ready to go.

Oooo! Deep and dank hop bitterness all up in the nose. A massive attack of citrus and pine, grapefruit, orange and lime. Small sweet notes, amid the big, bad bitterness.

Tasting it: Boom, boom, boom. Bitter hop attack spread all over the palate. Slamalamadingdong. Getting tropical now, some pineapple-ish elements emerge, still with a unrelenting hop smack-up.
I like this. Good, if not great. Enjoyable, if not "the best."

Russian River Framboise For A Cure

Framboise for a Cure, Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California, USA. Sour Barrel aged beer with raspberries. All hopped up for the Cure 2011. "!00% of the sale of this bottle will be donated directly to the Sutter Breast Care Center of Santa Rosa." 6.5% ABV.

I've had this before, courtesy of Jason Sowards, but it was had in company of others, and as I've said before, I don't take notes while enjoying with friends. Luckily, friends Jay and Annie brought a bottle for me after their last Southern California visit, and I'm just cracking it open today.

Bright red in the glass, clear, with a blooming pink head that dissipates rather quickly.

Sweet and sour fruit hits the nose first. Ah, raspberries. Tart, fresh, deep, and a little funky.

Taste: an attack of sour right from the start. Ooo, puckeration! Ah! Refreshing, tart, and light-bodied. Sour meets sweet again and again, slaps the tongue and slides on back. Leaves the palate easy-peasy-squeezy, drops off the memory of the senses until the next sip. But oh, that next sip! More of the fresh fruity flavor, more of that great charge of sour, more depth and wildness. Ah! More of that blast of funky fruity refreshment, each time it jumps over the lips.
Nice one, Russian River, keep fighting that fight, all in the name of boobies. Hooray for boobies!

Aventinus Vintage 2004

Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock Ale, (weizenstarkbier), Brauerei Georg Schneider & Sohn, brewed in 2004. Product of Bavaria, Germany. 8.2% ABV. Paper wrapped, with various events of that year lain diagonally across the sheet. Academy Award winners, Olympics, natural disasters, this odd fact: "Bill Haley invented rock'n'roll 50 years ago." Was that him? There must be a debate about that, somewhere. I'd bet Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard have something to say about that. Tied around the neck with string is a nice little card, and here's what it says: "Aventinus, the worlds oldest top=fermenting wheat doppelbock, has received accolades for the perfect balance of fruity spiciness (banana, clove, vanilla) and notes of chocolate (crystal and dark malts). In addition, the beer has demonstrated wonderful aging potential with aromas and flavors of chocolate (very soft), port and sherry when aged for three years or more.
Therefore, in 1999, the Schneider Brewery decided to age 240 cases of Aventinus each year in their historical ice cellar in Kelheim with each batch held for a minimum of three years.
Each fall for many years to come, B. United International is proud to release a small allotment of the latest vintage to all our customers across the USA. Please enjoy it now or hold on to it in your own cellar for further development…if you can handle the wait."

Well, I can't handle the wait. And I think that eight years is enough. So, let's crack this open and take in all this development.

One small detriment of age is noted immediately. Utterly still, no foam, no head, no nothing, very un-like the normally bilious Aventinus. There's a lot going on when you examine the surface, plenty of active bubbles spreading swiftly from the middle to the sides, but that's as far as it goes.

Aroma, here's where it's happening. Very much like the young Aventinus, but taken further in complexity. Banana and clove are there at first, followed by raisins, grape, figs, dark rum, port wine. Raspberry jam in a wine cask, chocolate looks below. Beautiful.

Taste: again, very still, no carbonation on the tongue. At least, very little. But the palate is washed over with the smooth wheat feel and the dark malt flavor I've come to love from Aventinus, pushed a little farther. Gets richer and fuller in the mouth, the more it takes command of the senses. A little pepper to match the clove, a touch of fire in this to stir up the fruit and chocolate notes. Mmmm, mmm.

One good thing about this venture in aging is that they charge no more for it than for a new bottle of Aventinus. One bad thing about it, if I may, is that while very good and some kind of an improvement, it's not quite a mind-blower and shies seriously short of transcendence. Although…although…I'm liking this more and more. Mellow and mostly magical.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Maui Big Swell IPA

Maui Brewing Big Swell IPA. "Big, hoppy, bold, smooth, and hoppy…did we mention hoppy?" ALC 6.8% by VOL.

Hazy, bright golden hue, Small tight ring of white foam, leaves some lace.

Aroma: pungent and hoppy, plenty of pine and citrus, lemon and orange ahoy! Plenty of bitter, with a hint of sour, and a touch, just a touch, of the sweet. Wonderful complexity.

Taste: Mmmm. Yeah. Boom, there it is. Citrus zest all over the palate, but never too much, not too bitter, not too strong. Hangs on the palate long, slight astringency, but, yeah, smooth, drinkable, and delicious. So nice. Medium-bodied. Tasty tango of bitter and sweet. Downable, indeed, full of hoppitude and hoppiness. Nice stuff.

Thanks to Dave A. for the can.

Epic (Utah) Hopulent Imperial IPA

Epic Hopulent IPA. India Pale Ale. Elevated Series. Release #37, 8.2 % ALC./Vol.

Opaque appearance, peach/apricot hue, smallish wheat head, leaves lace and lots of tiny bubbles. Nice.

Aroma: classic American IPA nose, Cascade and then some, citrus and pine, plus peach and so forth. Getting more prickly, and pleasant, the more I drink it in through the nostrils. Just right.

Taste: Mmm, mmm, mmm. Almost perfect. Tons of pine and citrus, with the merest malt, providing a plump pillow. Hitting all the marks, plucking all the strings, striking all the notes. Nothing too over the top in bitterness, not too heavy, not too lean. Not too high in alcohol, either, though it is on the strong side. Very palatable, very approachable, easy to please for the experienced hop-o-phile. Plenty of pure hop flavor, here, gets a touch astringent, but not too much of anything I can't handle. Gets increasingly bitter and pungent, but, again, that's right up my alley.

Let us now put to rest the notion that there is no good beer coming out of Utah. Eventually, that will be claimed for all 50 States, just you wait and see.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Iron Paw

Iron Paw, Dave's BrewFarm, growler, specs to be revealed later. Let's just drink this semi-blind and see what happens. 

Out of the growler and into the glass, it's a beautiful opaque dark amber-ish hue with a large head that drifts down, leaving lace and small dotted lagoons here and there.

Aroma shows sweetness and sour. Sugar and fruit. Belgian influence and ingredients, perhaps. This is probably one of the funky, pureed pineapple and Thai sugar mash-ups. Or did I just memorize the description? Either claim is valid. Plenty of wildness matching the sweet and the fruit. Delectable.

Taste: Great grit on the palate, very full-ish body, solid, hefty body, altogether excellent in the mouth, with lingering traces of fruit and sugar. Investigating further, big fruit zest, doses of citrus, shots of sugar, blasts of Belgian yeast. Definitely delicious. Lays long on the palate, makes a happy home there. Tasty as heck.

Okay, now is the time when I crack out the real Farmer Dave description of this beer named for his fiercely protective puppies. 
" 8.3% ABV. "If Border collies had thumbs…" Pils, Melanoidin and Ashburne Milkd malts. Merkur and Bramling Cross hops. A late addition of Thai palm sugar and pureed pineapple. Fermented with a Belgian yeast strain. "…they would rule the world."

Maybe I stored this in my memory, but it's also a safe bet that I really tasted it, too. It's there, and it's every so delicious. Another weird and wonderful ale from the LaBrewatory.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Town Hall Smoked Porter

So, Town Hall has a Smoked Porter on tap now, and I took home a growler of it last week. Looked for it on BeerAdvocate, and found none. There's more diligent reviewers than I out there these days, so I'm surprised that if it's a new beer that it's not on that site yet. But, I know they made one before, and lo and behold, there it is, under "Archived" for retired beers. When I enter a beer into their database, I always call a beer "rotating", so this sort of thing doesn't happen.

Nonetheless, let's just use my old notes from August of 2004:

Another unannounced surprise at the pub, another cult-favorite style as yet untried (to my experience) at this establishment. 

Appearance: complete darkness, black in totality, with a nice, creamy brown head, that lasts long, and leaves lace as the glass empties. 

Aroma is mild and subtle at first, showing light, subdued cocoa and coffee, with the smoke character slyly entering the frame, but never being a large factor. 

On the tastebuds, though, a different story, for the smoke comes in first and foremost, mingles well with the coffe and chocolate, making for a very complex and flavorful experience in the mouth. Very silky smooth, even irresistible, downable indeed, but with plenty going on. 
Body feels a bit thin, after a while, but mouthfeel is creamy and the taste is rewarding, so I don't hold that against it. Nice, longish finish. 

A little research shows that this beer has been around before, and has a name, "Sparnfarkel", which the current brewer blames on a former, and claims it has "something to do with Germans roasting pigs." More research shows nothing conclusive. I think it's a joke, and a silly one, the best kind.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Minneapolis Town Hall India Brown Ale

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery India Brown Ale. IBA. 7.3% ABV, looking at notes from June, 2006:

Ruddy brown the color, cream-toned the foam, of stable size, if thin, and adorned with copious bubbles. 

Miild, sweet cocoa in the aroma, little bit of nuts. And then the hops come shining through. Pleasant enough. 

Bright, bold, and delicious once in the mouth. Clean, smooth and indubitably drinkable. Chocolate tones remain in the flavor, hops persist on the tongue. A twist of citrus, lacing the chocolate. Zesty, medium bodied, long, hoppy finish. 

A tasty, tasty ale you drink all the live-long day and not likely tire of. Does some playful tricks on the tongue, and rewards the imbiber. I like that. Must stop in for more before it goes away. That's how they get ya, man!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Odell 90 Shilling Scotch Ale ( and thoughts on session styles and the Minnesota market)

What's with all the Founders and Odell beers lately? Sale at Zipp's, stocking up! Gives me a chance to revisit these beers I first tried from trades so many years ago, that have finally been made available locally in the past 2 or three years. And looking back on my notes on 90 Shilling got me thinking. And here's what I thought about.

In Colorado, 90 Shilling is the flagship beer for Odell, their main seller. Now, I don't have facts and figures to back it up, but that's not the case here, the IPA is definitely their best seller in Minnesota, and the beer geeks are clamoring for the special releases. But, clearly, 90 Shilling is not a beer geek's beer, it's a beer drinker's beer, a session ale for craft beer enthusiasts. Elsewhere in Colorado, ambers and browns are big sellers. New Belgium's flagship ale is an amber, Fat Tire, and they only started making an IPA recently, in the past couple of years. Consider also Bell's Brewery, where the flagship brew in Michigan is still the Amber Ale, yet here in Minnesota we outsell their home state when it comes to Two Hearted Ale, the IPA. I've met folks who don't know they even make an amber ale.
Looking at the Minnesota market, I can't imagine a scotch ale or an amber or anything like it, anything more on the malty side, making a real impact.

What it seems to me is that the evolution of the craft beer has skipped a step somewhere, and part of the cause of that belongs to Summit EPA. That hoppy version of an English pale ale was released in 1986, along with the Great Northern Porter, and that Extra Pale Ale became the breakout of the two, reigning as Minnesota's craft beer choice for two decades. Nothing else that came along since made as strong an impact, ...until Surly in 2006. Two beers released at once, again, one hoppy, one malty, and the leader of these two has clearly been Furious. It's not my sole observation, I can't take credit for this thought entirely, but it seems that Summit Extra Pale Ale trained the Minnesota tastebuds for hops and bitterness and paved the way on the palate for Furious. Could it be possible that another style, a brown ale, an amber, a scotch or a stout could have possibly held the place Summit EPA has been in for two decades? On the other hand, other markets, your Colorados, your Oregons and Washingtons and Californias, have had longer craft brewing traditions locally, the greater populace accepted small craft brewers sooner and stronger. Ten years ago I was at a wedding in Portland, Oregon, and the rehearsal dinner had two beers available: Deschutes Black Butte Porter, and Bridgeport Blue Heron Pale Ale. No Heineken, no Budweiser, no Corona. Those were the two options, and everyone was happy. Good, solid session ale, nothing too hoppy, nothing too strong.

And here's where I think we've lost something from that leap into all-out hoppiness. There's not much middle ground out there, at least in the activity I observe. Or, perhaps it's my problem in watching the wrong crowd. The beer geeks clamor for more hops, more alcohol, more, more, more. But, the regular beer drinkers are the ones lapping up Furious, too. What I fear is the lack of appreciation for anything milder and mellower. If so many are starting out with a hop attack like Furious, where do we go from here, and is there any turning back? There are people out there who will only choose an Imperial IPA over anything else, others who won't drink anything less than an Imperial Stout, and those who will walk away if not offered a sour ale. But, here I go lumping in the extreme cases, the ultra-geeks, in with everyone else. I think session ales are overdue for a comeback, it may just need the craft beer drinking populace to come to their senses.

Enough of that, let's get look at my notes and I will present them in their entirety, lifted off of, where I show myself to be just as much a culprit in this as anyone. My first notes were in February 2003, and eight months later, I edited the review, as you will see. Six years later, it entered the market and I forgot that I'd already reviewed. All those words follow these:

Color is on the amber/copper side, under a huge head of foam.

Aroma is on the dry side, soft, herbal, slightly floral, vegetal.

Hops are minimal, malt is huge and thick. Taste is a little mellow for me, and a bit too sweet.
Drinks well, slides easily down the tongue. Full, rich, malty mouthfeel, but a little too low on hops for my taste.
 A fine micro Scottish, but not for me.

10/19/03 tweaked the numbers some, after realizing that I let personal prefererence interfere with a judgement of a perfectly good expression of this style, yet not among my favorites at that time. I'm still growing, folks...

I totally forgot I reviewed this 6 1/2 years ago.
Here's my notes from last night just for fun:
Odell 90 Shilling

Clear, caramel-brown, nice, if small, beige head.

Sweetness in the nose, big malt, lush and lovely.

Tasting it:...sweet and smooth, fine and mellow...a light, easy-drinking scotch-style ale. Very drinkable. Toffee and caramel tones dominate, sweet and tasty reigns supreme. 

I can see this being very popular. On the other hand, it doesn't quite hold enough interest for me. Ah, well.

Founders Red's Rye Ale

Founders Red's Rye Ale. Notes from March, 2005:

Blooming red in color, hazy appearance, nice slab of creamy-toned foam sits above. 

Nice hops, rich maltiness, very bright and vibrant, lively and luscious. 

Taste: big buckets of yum. tingly, delcious hops on the palate, warm, full, jam-packed with flavor. Very nice, full of fruit and malt. Incredibly smooth. 

doesn't taste like any rye beer I've ever had, the hops are on the top, and the malt is so, everything. 
this is damned nice, and would be an a shoo-in as a regular in my fridge, were I able to purchase it locally...full-bodied, with a soft, lush fruity finish. silky. 

And I think I said "yum" already...I'll say it three times, then you know it's true. 

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...