Friday, June 29, 2012

Borealis Mon Cherries

Borealis Fermentery Mon Cherries, Belgian Style Dubbel Ale Brewed with Cherries. Knife River, MN.

Dark brown coloring, slim darkish head.

Aroma: fruit covered in dark malt and chocolate. Even balance, not sweet, not sour, not too much of anything, just very on. But, it's staring to grow in richness. Increases in character as time goes on. Dates, raisins, etcetera. Very interesting.

Let's drink it already: dark malt meets funky Belgian yeast. Lots of wild crazy yeasty flavor playing with the fruit blended with dark ale. Sourness rises higher, rises above sweet malt.

I'm going to take a break, and read what they say on the label. "Mon Cherries is a Belgian style dubbel ale brewed with cherries and aged on oak. A wonderful compliment to any red meat dish, this beer can also be enjoyed with or in place of our favorite chocolate desserts.

Chill before serving, pour into your favorite glass and enjoy the decadence."

This is tasty stuff, very fulfilling. I haven't had a lot of cherry dubbels. Hell, I don't think I've ever had any. So, I really have nothing to compare it to, no other experience to gauge it by.

To judge this by itself, it's an exercise in balance, restraint, and true complexity. Funky Belgian texture, just short of tart fruit, dark malt that stays clear of too sweet. Chocolate and cherry grows larger while in the mouth. Yum. Nice. Almost perfect.

Magic Hat Elder Betty Weiss

Magic Hat Elder Betty, Elderberry Weiss. 3/4 pint of ale with natural flavor. Magic Hat Brewing Company, South Burlington, Vermont. 5.5% ALC./Vol. A Golden Haze for Summer's Daze.

Highly hazed, golden/amber hue, slim white head.

Sweet fruit notes hit first, then slightly tart. With wheat wonders below. Trifle spicy.

Taste: there it is again, a sweet fruit hit, then a sour twang, and the smooth wheat texture. Remarkably drinkable, if you enjoy this particular fruit.
And I want to  call it complex, but it doesn't have much going on after the wheat and the fruit and the sour.
Mild carbonation, tasty malt and yeast, tidy hops. Nice, but…not something I'll reach for again and again.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Minnesota's Best Breweries and Brewpubs (a book review)

Book Review!
You come to this blog to read my thoughts on beers, but here's a twist. Today, you get my words on someone else's words and thoughts about beers and breweries. In other words, …Book Review! And this is the book: Minnesota's Best Breweries & Brewpubs, Searching for the Perfect Pint, by Robin Shepard. 2011, University of Wisconsin Press.

I first heard of this in the midst of gathering news of my friend Michael Agnew's progress on his soon to be published book on the breweries of the MidWest. Odd that the subtitle of Shepard's book contains the name of Michael's business/blog/website, etcetera. Not odd is that it's a very easy alliteration to formulate in the mind. It's probably occurred to thousands of writers, professional and amateurs for years and years. And it appears countless times within this volume.

So, I'm going to begin this review of the volume with a random series of notes, notings, jotting and tidbits of the mind. Here goes…..

Thing 1: The title is a misnomer, of sorts. This is not "Minnesota's best", it's all of them. {Edit: I am wrong. Borealis Fermentery didn't make the cut, but it was only released two months ago.) It is so comprehensive that it includes breweries that are still not up and running and haven't sold a single beer to a single customer. That is how you stay somewhat current. Also, it includes beers from southern  Wisconsin as well as Iowa, and a sentence or two about the Dakotas. The author, as well as the publisher, is from Wisconsin, and he has already published a book about the breweries of Wisconsin. Are these entries so necessary? Would they miss those 20 pages?
Does ever-loving Wisconsin really need to encroach on Minnesota's turf once again? Get over yourself, Wisconsin! You're not all that! Gaaah!

 I need to calm down. I'm reaching for a good….Minnesota brewed beer! (Schell's Stage Series #5, Czech Dark Lager.)

okay…okay…I'm good.

Thing 2: The first chapter is called The Best of Minnesota's Best. Why bother with the book, if you're going to start out with the Cliff's Notes?

Thing 3: Error on page xii: Dave's BrewFarm is not solar powered, it is wind-powered. Unless I've missed the solar panels at every visit, and ignored Dave and Pam every time they talked about the (non-existent) solar power.

Thing 4: page xiii: This advice is given: "Scan various websites to learn about events, festival, special keg tappings,…" I agree! Various websites are the best. I suggest you log on to and search keywords "Keg" "tapping" "Festival" "beer and food menus" and "etcetera".

(By the way, I know I am being mean and sarcastic, and will try to keep it to a minimum, but, come one, give one example, if not more specifics. I know he's done some research, but show it, okay. Tell us what website, what newspaper or magazine, so we know how to find them.)

Thing 5: This book is written for tourists, designed for vacations. Every entry has a history of the brewery, breakdown of the beers (with Shepard's notes, where possible, and other notes when not, including space for "your ranking"…in addition, every first page includes spots for the date of visit and a signature from the "Brewery owner, brewmaster, or waitperson".), menu (where applicable, "things to see and do in the area", brewery rating, and directions.

The brewery rating is where I find faults. Space is given for "your rating", as well a series of mugs to indicate Shepard's as well as his notes to explain the number of mugs. But his assignment of mugs and assessment of breweries seems capricious and perhaps conditional on the mood of the day, as he awards different mugs for the same standard. For example, for Surly, he gives 4 mugs for Brewery Atmosphere with these notes: "This is a working brewery that feels like one. There is a small tasting area and gift shop, but Surly's location and no-frills buildings are all part of it's character, if not charm."
For Harriet, two mugs, and this: "This is a working brewery in the garage of a former towing company." Ouch! Now, I can't blame anyone for waxing poetic about Surly, but come on, did Jason step on his shoes that day or what? Keep in mind that the taprooms hadn't started up yet, but he did write in the text earlier, this: "Sowards has an appreciation for music. Regulars often hang out back in the brewhouse area where a few old chairs, a sofa, and a table provide a near perfect place to enjoy a Harriet beer while listening to Soward's collection of vinyl jazz records." Well, Sowards collection of rock, country and bluegrass records, and my collection of jazz, but my point is that that is, even before the transformation of the taproom, reason why the atmosphere should be rated higher, and that is is more than "A working brewery in an old towing company." And what brewery isn't "a working brewery?"

(I finally get it. By working brewery, he means production brewery and uses this phrase to oppose it to a brewpub that has a restaurant and bar.)

Wait, while I find other examples for my argument….Boom Island gets  4 mugs for atmosphere, even though they didn't sell a keg or bottle until December, 2011, and have never opened to the public. Great if authors and reporters like it, but if no one else enters the atmosphere, how do you judge it so highly?

Also, he give 3 mugs for Location, with this: "Named after Boom Island, …blah, blah, blah…Brewery Itself is located in a rather plain industrial warehouse." Harriet gets 2 stars, with this: "Located southeast of Minneapolis, blah, …Building is rather plain looking." So, Boom Island gets an extra star for the name? Like I said, capricious.

Oh, here's another, in the Flat Earth chapter: 4 mugs for atmosphere. "This is a working brewery. This is especially fun on tasting days, enjoying beers  with the crowd of Flat Earth fans!" Not that they didn't deserve this, but two extra stars, one more than Surly. Those must have been some great fans! ! ! Did he get a parking ticket the day he visited Harriet, or what?

Thing 6: There's a chapter on Pour Decisions. That's not a real problem, but an author shouldn't write about future plans as if they'd already happened. "The debut of this ….brewery in Fall 2011 showcased two beers." Didn't happen. They get  a mug more than Harriet in Atmosphere for their handcrafted sample room bar which is exactly what Harriet had in 2011. Was the fact that he was in the city, not a quaint suburb or a majestic forest somehow influencing his judgement? Did the Pour Decisions guys just wink at him right, show him some leg, or what?No one has paid a dime for a Pour Decisions beer yet, it's still yet to be. Maybe a "scheduled to…" in there somewhere was needed.

Why do I rail against his less than stellar rating of Harriet's atmosphere, is it because I DJ there and am friends with them, or just because of the caprice? All that, but also because it is a really cool atmosphere, especially now.

Thing 7: One visit to a brewery is referred to as an "okay experience." No professional writer should speak like a bored teenager.

Thing 8: There's a chapter on bars at the airport. Come on! If you're traveling, get out of the airport, get on the light rail and take it to a bar in Minneapolis. Maybe later, take a cab to Saint Paul, but, come on! These bars get included just because they're in the airport? Also, it includes the Leinie's Lodge, now closed, and an appendix of other noteworthy bars in other airports. So, write a book about airports!

Thing 9: The appendix about websites does not include

Thing 10: page 83, Town Hall chapter, there was no "Hay City Stage" there until it moved downtown. It was "Hey City Stage." I think the owner's name was Hey. "Hay City" sound so hick. We may as well stick straw in our teeth.

Thing 11: In the Fulton chapter, I am now sad about the name of their newish pale ale, The Ringer, which I thought was a baseball reference, until Brian Hoffman told me it was from Walter, John Goodman's character in theBig Lebowski, and their second beer named from something Walter said. (You guess the first.) It was supposed to be named after Jim's dog. Aw. Sad.

Thing 12: page 104, Steel Toe chapter, Provider gets 4 mugs, and Size 7 gets 3. No sense here.

Thing 13: page 115, Summit chapter, under "Other Summit beer you may wish to try" (this is where he puts beers he hasn't taken notes on), he includes "Dusseldorf-style Altbier", which hasn't been brewed in over 10 years. This makes me think he did a ton of research on the internet, but not much follow-through. Also, Scandia is listed as having been added in 2007 (I'm sure it was a few years earlier), but it was also dropped several years ago.

Thing 14: page63: "Harriet Brewing's core beers include a Belgian Abbey and a Belgian Dubbel and are self-distributed by Sowards to select daft accounts." I would take personal offense at such a characterization, but I think he meant "draft."

I could go on forever about piddling stuff like this, and I'd miss some, as well. As much as I might notice those errors when it comes to breweries I am familiar with, there are bound to be with those that I don't know as well. But, no book is perfect, there are goofs in any endeavor.

It's a great effort for what it is, and as up to date as you can get at the time of publication.

Boom Island Silvius Pale Ale

Boom Island Silvius Pale Ale, Boom Island Brewing Company, minneapolis, Minnesota. Alc by Vol. 5.5%.

Once again, I'll look at the front of the label now, and the back later. What do they say frontwise? This: "Inspired by a mythical, giant-killing soldier, we're tempted to say this gold medal winning pale ale will slay you with it's palate-boggling depth of flavors and surprisingly dry finish. But we're not big on wordplay or swordplay. So we'll just let Silvius speak for itself."

Well, speak, boy, speak!

First, what does he look like? High carbonation, clouding the glass, darkish amber coloring, under a dotted off-white, lace-leaver of a head. Nice start.

Aroma: hops and malt, with a hit of spice. Funky Belgian yeast shows it's stripes. Just what I'm looking for in a Belgian pale ale. A brace of fruit, apple and peach, with raisins and a drizzle of caramel for dessert, and a dusting of spice.

Taste: soft, smooth, fruity and malty. Just enough hops to keep it interesting, but not enough to make it interesting enough. Lean-bodied, short finish, easy-drinking. Lacks the promise felt in the nose. If I were Clara Peller or Walter Mondale, I'd be either dead of maybe dead, nobody's really sure. And I'd ask where some beef is, a metaphor for discovering a void of body and character. I'm not a brewer, so I can't trot out technical terms about attenuation and mashing, but this one does not have much happening after the first swallow. Gets a little funky/wild/sour on the tongue further in, but there's not the promised depth. Malt is meager compared to spice.

Let's peek at "The Skinny on Silvius":
"Aroma: toasted malt backbone.

Appearance: light copper color. Full creamy white head.

Flavor: Light hop bitterness, melds nicely with malty biscuit and toastiness paired with light peppery spiciness. Finish is medium to dry with malt flavor returning slightly.

Overall impression: Toasted maltiness comes across just right. Wonderfully nice brew!"

Again, I'll say it. It's in their best interests to remove the "Overall impression" part. Why would a brewer offer their  "impression" that they made a "wonderfully nice brew"?

But, I'm not here to toss words at words. My skinny on it is that it just needs more, not a lot more, just enough. You can drink it, but it just doesn't deliver in the flavor department. "Nice", but not "wonderfully."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Southern Tier Mokah Coffee/Chocolate Stout

Next up on the dedicated stout line, here's Mokah, from Southern Tier, a blend of Jahva and Choklat, I think,  and as I drink it from the tap I look at notes from 3 years ago, June, 2009, from a bottle:

Mokah, A Stout Brewed with Chocolate and Coffee. "Imperial" Mokah.

Jamaican coffee, Belgian chocolate, caramel, chocolate & black malts...11%? We're in for some fun.

Aroma is all chocolate, coffee below, hops muted....appearance, utter darkness, rich, roasted brown head....that aroma is to kill for, rich, bittersweet, it my birthday already?

Taste:Insane! Everything I try from these guys goes further and further. Jahva, and Oat, and Choklat...these can be pushed further and made deeper, richer, fuller and more expressive in flavor? Damn right.
Bittersweet, coffee mingled with rich cocoa flavor...liquefied chocolate frosting.

Holy macaroni, this is great stuff. Full-bodied, long, luxurious finish. Damnably delicious. Pretty amazing, never quite tasted quite this much genuine chocolate flavor in a stout. Intense, decadent, almost indecent.
Yum, mmm!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss

It just dawned on me that I haven't done any of the Leinenkugel's beers outside of the Big Eddy series (and why would I, you might ask), when it dawned on me that I had a bottle nearby, and hey, why not share with you some notes from December, 2003? Sure, why not, and here we go!
If you reside on either coasts, far from the radius of Leinie's distribution, you probably have no idea how hugely popular this beer is, especially up around here. So obiquitous it is, I was once amused to discover a popular gay nightclub in downtown Mineapolis with a sign on the outside, on the main street, declaring "now serving Leinenkugel's Honey Wiess on tap!" Were there really people stopping before entering it's doors and saying," naw, let's skip this gay bar, no Honey Weiss!"
So let's revisit it, already, for the first time in years...

Color, a bright, shiny, utterly transparent bright yellow color, topped with a big, snow-white, fluffy head. Certainly not the "hefe" sort of "Weisen", for there's no haze at all. (It's called a Kristal Weizen on

Aroma: practically none, containing that usual Leinie's stink, sorry. Bit of a pilsner feel to it, but nothing like I'd expect from any wheat beer, certainly showing no traces of the "real Wisconsin honey" boasted of on the label. Appears a bit sweetish after all, though, but I still don't like it a bit.

Taste: flat, ...uneventful, lacking in malt and hops and anything pleasurable, yielding no texture and very little flavor. The honey does seem to peep up a tad, but any association you may conjure from a weizen of any kind does not abide here at all.

Now, tasting it bare naked, I know why so many prefer it with a lemon. And, now that I have one again, I understand how the customers at my bar felt when I offered them a real weizen instead, and they didn't like them at all. They don't like real weizens, and they probably don't really like beer at all.
This is so carbonated, yet flat in flavor, it's more like a soda pop, than an actual beer. Drinkability might be considered high, if the flavor and mouthfeel weren't so abysmal.
Rotten, really, but girls think it's tops. And girly guys.
Gets sour as it ends. Yuk.
Skip this, let my the sacrifice of my tastebuds not be in vain.

Stillwater Cellar Door Farmhouse Ale

"Cellar Door", …at least that's what I think it says…Stillwater Artisanal, American Farmhouse Ale. Wheat Ale brewed with white sage. 1 pint, 9.4 fluid ounces. 6.6% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Dog Brewing Company, Westminster, Maryland.

I've been looking at this one sitting in my DBF (dedicated beer fridge) for months now, and it's time to take it down.

Clear and golden, beautiful white head, looks inviting. Active carbonation, rising up from the bottom.

Gorgeous aromatics, lovely light spice, delicate and flowery, ooo, la la.

Tasting it: light bodied, smooth, zesty. Wheaty mouthfeel, flush with citric feel, and jazzed up with spice. Sweet and malty, with just a bit of bitter. In the saison style, with a spicy twist.

Let's just look at their words on this one. I'll have to cock my head sideways for this: "Starting with a base of GErman wheat and pale malts, this crisp slightly hazy foundation was then accented with a blend of Sterling & Citra hops that provide notes of herbal grass & tangerine citrus. To pull this all together and to complete the "cleansing" aspect of my vision, I gently finished the ale off with a touch of white sage, lending a mild earthy spice character to the blend."

What is the "cleansing aspect" of his vision? That's so many words. I guess I don't mind keeping my notes short and simple, once in a while. It's good and lovely and drinks like a dream.

Go, beer!

Central Waters Ouisconsing Red Ale

Central Waters Ouisconsing Red Ale, Microbrew for the Microfew, …there's some words on the sides for when I want to cock my head. Let's read it later, as we do. By which I mean me. The royal me.

Clear, amber, small whitish head.

Aroma: malt malt malt. red. sweet, just balanced enough. A kiss of the hops. Right on red ale aromatics.

Taste: There it is again, the malt malt malt, and the sweet, just curbed enough so things don't go awry. Tasty, tasty with the malty malty. Dries out nicely in the finish. Very enjoyable, excellent sessioner. For those searcher for a nice, uncomplicated amber/red that's geared for one-after-another drinkin'….take one of these, and another, please.

Now, let's see what they say: "This smooth amber ale with it's mellow nutty flavor and subtle flowery nose is a hit with even the newest of specialty beer drinkers. Named for the Algonquin word for the Wisconsin river, Ouisconsing Red makes even our neighbors to the west and south "want to be a badger."

So, Minnesota wants to be a badger because of this beer, as well as Illinois and Iowa, but not Michigan or Ontario? Whatever, Wisconsin...WHAT...ever.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Green Bullet Single Hop Lager

Dave's BrewFarm Green Bullet Single Hop Lager. Let's crack it and go…

Clear-ish, amber-y, small-type white-like head.

Aroma: sweet, floral, fruity, nice. Clean, zesty and beautiful. Tropical fruit: banana, pineapple, mango, yum.

Taste, already: An acerbic, gritty bitter thrust on the palate at first, and then more…and then the fruit comes along, Then, boom, the bitter, again. Boom, bitter, boom, bitter, boom, boom, boom!

Clean, light bodied, nicely balanced. And mmmm. Pale, light backbone, grassy hops, really smooth and so consumable. This is good beer. This is happily drunk, and easily yum. Yum a dum dum.

Let's look at what Farmer Dave says about it: "Latest in the series of single hop lagers. Showcasing a single hop variety in a pale lager. Three hop additions of NZ Green Bullet hops. Pils, Cara Red, and Caramel 20 malts." 7.7% ABV.

I said, yum already, as well as yum a dum, dum, but it really it yummy, as well as boom, boom, boom boom. (almost 8% ABV really has a kick.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Saison Poire

Dave's BrewFarm Saison Poire.

Once opening the growler, you know what you're in for, the shadings are not subtle, the fruit isn't shy. Once in the glass, it's a cloudy, deep amber, nearing a form of orange.Slim white head, starts big, soon settles down to a short ring.

Aroma: pear and sugar are the largest offenders, in the sweetest way. Big, beautiful, out-sized aromatics. I can detect the yeast, be it French or Belgian, but it's a wonderful mix. So lovely.

Taste: jumps on board the palate with aplomb, full of fruity flavor. Little bit of hop bite, little touch of juicy malt, little bit of grit. Delicate pear flavor works well with this saison.

What does Farmer Dave tell us? "A BrewWife request. Pils and caramel 20 malts with Glacier and Crystal hops, and a late addition of Bartlett pear puree. 7.5% ABV."

It's tasty as heck, it is. Hops are meeting the malt and the fruit at just the right angle. Love it.

Dave's BrewFarm Saison Dandy

Dave's BrewFarm Saison Dandy. It's a dandy of a saison. I'll let you guess what the "Secret ingredient " might be.

Golden hued, lightly hazed, slim white head, drifts down quick. Looks right for the part, though.

Aroma: Slightly sweet meets slightly tart, with plenty of citrus notes, some floral, and I could swear a touch of honey. Can I smell the dandelion? Just a bit.

Taste: hits the palate with a pleasant hoppy buzz, and grassy notes galore. ( "Weedy" notes? Before giving away the game, and maybe you've already guessed but this saison is brewed with hand-picked dandelions, which is not an unheard of device in Belgian-style brewing.) Juicy malt, moderate bitterness, and just enough yeast flavor. Crisp, refreshing, and deceptive, as we're creeping into high ABV (7.5%). Another thing it is: smooth. Smooth and crisp, citrusy and, though I've said this before, just sweet enough for the bitter. Alcohol is rising, as I finish the first glass, and I can dig it.

Here's what Farmer Dave says: "Fermented with French Saison yeast, pale and caramel malts, Demerara can sugar, Perle and Glacier hops. Spiced with more than a quarter pound of fresh picked "estate-grown" Dandelions."

Mmmm, dandelion-y...

Founders Curmudgeon's Better Half

Founders Curmudgeon's Better Half, or if you want to be the beer geek of all beer geeks, "CBH". Old Ale brewed with molasses and aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels. "Maple syrup bourbon barrels?" What is that? Maple syrup bourbon barrels? Which ones? What? 11.9% ALC./VOL. Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, MI. No gobbledygook whatsoever, only legal crap, so let's jump on in…

Dark crimson hue, small head, turns to a tight ring.

Aroma is utter decadence. Hedonism in a bottle. Maple and bourbon blended with old ale? How much richness can you take? Bam! Hit after hit of sweetness, least of which is the rich malt backbone. Whiskey, vanilla, cherries, maple and more.

Taste: All of that and so much more. Intensely delicious. Caramel, toffee and chocolate tones dance with the dark fruit and the effects of the barrel. Despite the incredible hugeness of this affair, it's even slightly a chore to drink. He says, perhaps too early. I'm not even halfway through this bottle, and damn, but I will finish it.

And damn, it is impressive. All the parts hang together in all the right ways, and the sweetness sticks out, bolstered by the booze, but it holds it's own appropriately. Mmmm, mmm, I have to say, mostly because I haven't said it yet, and sometimes it needs to be said. Mmm, says me, mmmm.

Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's India Pale Ale

Deviant Dale's Indi Pale Ale. Sippin' on a tallboy. Brewed and canned by Oskar Blues, Colorado, USA. "Let's sling a little mud, girl." (Come again?)

Light haze. Amber hue. Lacey off-white head.

Nice hoppy nose. Citrus meets tropical. Happy marriage of lemon and mango.

Taste: Hop-tastic. Medium bodied. Light touch of caramel malt. Just a little juicy, high ease of consumption. Expert balance.

Not a ton to say about this one. Does the trick, but doesn't go much further. A lot of mild hoppy buzz, riding over the malt. Just a good ol' easy drunkin' IPA. You've got to have those. Session IPAs are highly under-rated.

This one I'll pass on in the future, though. Just not distinctive enough, merely an average IPA.

New Holland White Hatter Belgian-style White IPA

I have to stop agreeing with people who say the "black IPA" is the latest hip trendy style. Keep forgetting that the new cliche everyone is dying to try is this one, the White IPA. Take an existing style, hop it up, and give it a new name. Is that how we do things? Hm.

Anyway, let's try this out, one of the Hatter series, the White Hatter Belgian-style White Pale Ale, which I presume is a witbier with extra hops. "Ale brewed with natural flavors, brewed and bottled by New Holland Brewing Company, LLC, Holland, MI. 1 pint, 6 fl.oz." No word on alcohol content.

Clear, pale golden appearance, slim, soon gone head.

Aroma: sweet, floral, & fruity. Every bit a wit. Love it, citrus notes, orange and coriander. Very airy, and lively, and pretty, with a hoppy undercurrent.

Taste: there it is, the marriage of wit and IPA, high hopping mixed with wheat, citrus zest and spice. Smooth, sweet and sessional, for sure. But I'm not sure those hops work well in this blend. Let's keep drinking and find out for sure….

While we drink, let'd read" "White Hatter flavorfully blends wheat, oats, & barley with hops & spices; artfully sewn together with delicious notes from fermentation. Pairings: seafood, fennel, mushrooms."  "delicious notes from fermentation"? That's odd, never heard that before. A new way to say "yeast"?

Everything is fine with this ale except that no matter how artfully sewn together they might seem,
I don't think they work well together at all. Are going to have more of this, hoppy wheat ales, will there be India Weizens and such? I hope not.  Some things are classics for a reason, and don't need tinkering.

Here comes the celery, here comes the pepper. Smooth wheat, and then just a smack of bitterness on the tongue. I still don't think the parts mesh well. A hoppy wittier is never on my wish list of beers, it's not a style that needs improvement by adding more hops.

Can I be pegged as a traditionalist? Perhaps. I'm still against imperializing everything under the sun. Wheat IPAs, India Wits, which ever way you paint it, it's just not working for me.

But not a bad experiment, in the least. And, actually, what do you know, but halfway in, the best of it's parts outshine the least. Liking it more.

New Belgium Tart Lychee

New Belgium Lips of Faith Tart Lychee. 56% ale aged in oak. 44% ale brewed with lychee and cinnamon. Alc 7.5% ABV.

Thoroughly clouded pale amber/ straw, under milk white foam.

Aromatics: heavy sour, crazy funk, with plenty of wild fruit. I have to admit that I'm not that familiar with lychee, in any of it's incarnations. Cinnamon is here, laying below the fruit and the funk.

Taste: Boomshakalakka! Big, fat blast of sour/wild/funk, with fruit below, among the wood, and sweetness slipping in. It continues like this in a fabulous fandango. Tart and sweet, sour and fruit, cha cha cha. Little bit of bitterness. lots of malt and yeast. Very refreshing and flavorful.

Full-bodied, long, bitter/sour/sweet finish, a unique and complex creation. On the other hand, I can't say how many of these I could enjoy without being exhausted from the effort or needing some diversion from the experience. Oak meets fruit and spice. I like it…to a point.

Let's see what they say about it: "To sweet and sour! In celebration of one of the greatest combinations ever, lychee fruit brings tropical sweetness to the party, hosted by felix, our golden wood-aged sour beer. . Cinnamon sticks were invited to spice things up and so are you! Get in on the tasty revelry that is tart lychee!"

They've got to get a new writer on these things.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

21st Amendment Lower de Boom Barley-wine Ale

21st Amendment Lower de Boom Barleywine. 10.5% ABV, 92 IBUs.

And here we have a brew they've only kegged, never canned, and I was lucky enough to snatch one up. Have to take notes before it's gone.

Looks fantastic. Beautiful dark brown/ruby coloring, under a thick, pudding-ish creamy white head, lasts long, and leaves lace. Lovely. Love it.

Aroma: bright ripe fruit, rich malty complexity. Leading into something good.

Taste: Mmm! Mix of chocolate and rich dark fruits, leather, cognac, port wine, and cigar smoke. Medium bodied, a bit woody. Cherries, grapes, figs, with a fierceness that grows. The alcohol can't hide very well, as it's on the large side. A trifle smokey, as well, with growing complexity. Terribly tasty, and utterly indulgent.

Just a touch on the bitter side, and never too sweet. This is a large and in charge barley-wine that doesn't ache at the sides. Plenty of what I look for in a barley-wine, not missing a thing. Good balance, but not too balanced, if you know what I mean and I hope you do.

Here's what they say about it: "Deep, mahogany color, rich malt candied, rock sugar flavors with sweet burnt currant and fig aromas. It’s strong alcohol content is tempered by a clean bitterness and complex flavors. This Barley Wine is named for Cornelius de Boom, the San Francisco Belgian Consulate General (1850 to 1851) and surprisingly the name of the alley along-side the 21st Amendment on 2nd Street.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Hibiscus Lager

BrewFarm, hurrah!
After two month's absence, I made it out to the LaBrewatory today, thanks to Jason, Angie and the whole Braunwarth clan, and the spacious van. Took home 4 growlers this time, and a case of delicious Matacabras, and a lovely new BrewFarm snifter. First one opened, the Hibiscus Lager, and here come the notes...

Hibiscus Lager.  From a growler just brought back from the BrewFarm mere hours ago. I'm cracking this one right now, and pouring into my new BrewFarm snifter, which was "christened" about six hours ago, nine times over. Let's drink some Hibiscus lager, okay?

Semi- clear, amber-to-crimson appearance, generous snowy-white from holds court on top. Looks fantastic.

Aromatics: very delicate, light and flowery. Extraordinarily subtle and beautiful. Not much beyond that, but not much else needed.

Taste: starts in on the mouth fruity and malty, medium bodied, and very smooth and refreshing. Quite a flavorful, consumable lager, with so much sweet subtleties going on, I both don't know where to begin, and wonder when to stop. Not a lot needs to be said, but these light, distinctive subtleties make all the difference. And when I float in an adjective like "beautiful", I'm not screwing around. I don't trot that out for nothing' jack. Ditto for "pretty". I hold that in reserve for special occasions, and I don't toss it out lightly, for fear of ridicule, am I right? Am I right? That guy over there knows what I'm talkin' about!

This is kind of exception for all the times I say I "don't like lagers." Although, I think the hops used aren't typically used in lagers, and while Pils is for sure, is Ashbourne Mild…and I don't know why I'm even treading this ground, because nothing at the BrewFarm is typical, ever.

The hibiscus is mainly found in the aroma, but the other delights of this lager are just the result of the marriage of the parts, which are, again, unique and unheard of. As much as one must respect tradition, I doff my headgear to Farmer Dave for his non-stop investigations into new realms and recipes. Here's a lovely lager with so much flavor you're never bored, you're never just drinking, you're never just tossing it back for thirst, or the sake of getting drunk.

Three more left in the growlers I brought back from this BrewFarm visit, the first in over two months, and there's one more lager among them. Think I'll crack that tomorrow.

Here's the technical info:

"Botanical Series. 6.1 % ABV. --A new twist in the series using lager yeast coupled with Pils and Ashbourne Mild malts. Mount Hood and Nugget hops, and a late addition of Hibiscus flowers."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Brasserie de la Senne Taras Boulba

Equinox is done, and so it's time to tap Taras Boulba. Ever since I ordered the keg, I vowed to re-read the Gogol story that inspires it's name, but that didn't get done yet. Just tapped it last night, sold several glasses today, but it's not an easy one to describe. A Belgian pale ale. A hoppy blonde. And only 4.5% ABV. Absolutely lovely, but as it is lacking a higher alcohol oomph, does it justify the higher price tag dictated by the price of the keg? I hope they think so, ...just tasting it will remove doubt. For the moment, I will share my notes from 4 1/2 years ago, December of 2007, when I first found a bottle of this ale. And here's what I said about that:
I'm not a big fan of paying over $10 for a bottle of beer I've never heard of, but I am prone to references to the works of Nikoalai Gogol. One of the strangest labels I've seen in a while. Looks computer drawn, and depicts a bald, moustachioed burly man hoisting a keg and shouting "Smeirlap" over the prone, and outcrying figure of a man with a face out of "Guernica", all before a carnival backdrop, with a slanted church to right of panel. Picasso man is crying out something in Flemish, and if you visit the Shelton Brothers website, they explain the word balloons and the connection to the Gogol story. Somewhat....


capped and corked, ...POP! and out comes the funk! and into a Westmalle chalice she goes...

Clean golden hue, lightly hazed,, huge, pillowy white, lace leaving head. Looks beautiful.

Flowery aroma, a touch of sour, and lots of spice...plenty of Saaz hops going on, I think...Green bottle, and initial aromatic impressions had me worried about skunking, but it just seems the unique character of this brew, and not a bottle of cat pee. (Close, though.) Some lemony, citrusy flavor meets the light spices. Nice.

Taste: hops are in charge on the tastebuds, laying claim of the palate. Light bodied, low alcohol, light in the malt department, this is all hops, and easy drinking. Smooth, with no flaws, but lacks pizzaz, or any real, particular character. A palatable ale with higher hops. No biggie. Would go great with food, but offers no excitement. Nice for sessioning. But at that price, I expect more.

Worth the $10.49? No. But they got me with the name and the label. That's how they get ya!

I had that one in the picture in a Leffe glass, yesterday, and right now I'm having one in a St. Bernardus chalice. Whichever chalice you want is fine. I should begin a search for a Brasserie de la Senne chalice. Drinking now, versus that bottle in 2007, it's fresh, lively, hoppy, and light. A lot of citrus zest, grassy hops, a just a little bit of funky yeast. It's tasty, and lean, and utterly easily consumable. A great concoction, but, still, "pricy", or as we say in Minnesota, "spendy." Worth the money, I ask again? Yes, if you've got it. 
I'm secretly hopping they do a beer inspired by Gogol's "The Nose."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Imperial I.P.A.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Imperial IPA, 2012. Five distinctive hops are added to every stage of the brewing process for our take on an Imperial IPA. 9% ALC./VOL.

Clear and luminescent, cast in glowing amber, edging on crimson, under a tight, but firm and lasting creamy, off-white head. Looks great.

Bright and bountiful aromatics, ripe fruit, assertive bitterness, but not raw or unbridled. Orange and lime, under apple and caramel.

Taste: bitter spank of hops begins right at first sip, slaps the palate up, and slinks down the throat. Juicy malt profile, plenty of ballast and balance, while the hops shine through. Would be very interested to know which hops are involved in this, but I'm they indeed are distinctive. And delicious. And just bitter enough.

Big Eddy Imperial IPA is a class act. Not too anything, not overblown in any direction, with the high alcohol revealing itself at last, but remaining a minor fact in the enjoyment of this ale. The fierce hop action at the top relents some, mellows out a little, but never truly fades. A hint of sweetness is revealed in the middle, quickly overturned by more bitterness.

A continual treat. I'll be stocking up on this one.

Magic Hat Blind Faith I.P.A.

Here's another one from those first trades, way back nine years ago, Blind Faith IPA, in the English style, from Magic Hat. I'm not very fond of it, but I'm surprised by what I found lacking back in 2/03. Malt was lacking? Nowadays, I just find it uninspiring. Notes, away...

Color is a peachy amber hue, with a nice 3/4" bubbly, off-white head.

 Aroma exudes esters from the start, a heady jolt of peach, apricot, grapefruit, citrus, pineapple, a singular brand of hoppiness. 

Fierce bitterness greets the tongue and stays along for the ride, and malt is hardly accountable. Medium body. 
Scintillating hop buzz creates an everlasting finish, but it's an ultimately top-heavy, hop-heavy brew.
 I'm a dyed-in-the-wool hophead, but there can be too much of that thing. Needs more malt! Had to remove some drinkability points for that. 

Magic Hat #9

Bought a Magic Hat sample case recently, 4 different beers, 3 each. Two I've never even heard of, and two staples in their stable. First, I'll look back on notes from February, 2003 of their flagship ale, #9. When I first started trading for beers, this was one of the breweries I most wanted to try. Why? They just seemed kind of cool. Maybe all the artsy stuff fooled me? Anyway, notes ahoy!

A confusing label here. "not quite pale ale" What does that mean? "natural flavor added" Which ones? If you "read" the psychedlic/op-art label, you'll find the image of an apricot. I still don't know why it's called #9..
Peachy color, with a short, white head. Aroma is the very essence of apricots! I read that it's "a pale ale with a spritz of apricot essence." Some spritz! That's the chief aromatic, and flavor, but, I don't mind, I love apricots.
Texture is full and welcome. Light body, good hop play on the palate, but very little bitterness. Malt is in adequate supply. A very tasty , bright, delicious ale, that I enjoyed.

However, my curiousity was originally piqued by an article in All About Beer, which quoted Magic Hat president Alan Newman saying, "I can look people in the eye and tell them 'you'll never have another beer like this!'" Well, I have, it was called Pyramid Apricot Ale.
Or maybe Pyramid doesn't get to Vermont?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Dubbels, Part Two: Boom Island Hoodoo

Here's #2 in the mini-marathon of Minnesota-brewed dubbels. 2 of 2. That's all I've got. Until Harriet makes Dark Abbey again. Anyway, here's the second Minneapolis dubbel, this one from Boom Island. It's called Hoodoo. For this occasion, I'm taking Bud Powell off of the turntable, and dropping on Dr. John. I won't quote the label yet, for it'll, once again, give away, my game. But let's share this much: "Handcrafted Belgian Style Ale. Boom Island Brewing Company. Minneapolis, Minnesota. 750 ml, Alcohol 8.5% by Vol." Boom Island Brewing Company, 2207 North Second Street, Minneapolis, MN, 55411."

Let's crack 'er open already…

Whoa, Ladies and gentlemen, we have a gusher! And I don't mean in the sense I usually employ on these pages. Merely loosening the cage from the cork sent it flying off and brew spilling out. I quickly poured into my favorite glass, and mopped up the table, and now we're ready to go.

Dark brown coloration, almost black, with a gorgeous head, creamy, tannish, large and lacy. Looks beautiful. (Beats Borealis in this category.)

Aroma: sweetish, creamy, nutty…not much else, not particularly special. (Borealis beats it here.) {After reading the notes on the label, yes, roasted malt, but that other stuff? A stretch, maybe, but it's hidden, and quiet.}

Taste: rich, dark, deep, scrumptious. Full-bodied, with dark malt flavors dominating, cocoa and hints of espresso. Overall dry. Floods the mouth with this richness, tasty, lightly hoppy, good bitterness. Good grit, excellent texture, lays long in the mouth. Edges on sweetness, and hops reel it right back in.

One thing missing is that extra special Belgian yeast quality, which is here in some quantity, but not quite where I want it.
(And here's where I compare again. Two completely different interpretations, two different takes on the style, but if I want something less sweet, and more deep and rich, Boom Island wins out. Borealis wins for those who want more "Belgian-ness", and Boom Island would be hit for those who want something closer to a stout or porter.)

Let's take a moment to hear about "The Skinny on Hoodoo." Aroma: Light roasted malt aroma. Slight banana and clove flavors present. { I didn't get that at all, maybe clove, banana? A stretch. If you look really hard, yeah, okay.} Flavor: Rich and complex malt flavors. Low hop bitterness. Banana and bubble gum type esters. {Again, I guess, but "bubble gum" I feel is over-used and often mis-applied. I'm certain not picking it up in the flavor. But then, I'm prone to merely say: that Special Belgian yeast something, without plucking out words like banana and bubblegum. Sometimes words fail. I'd rather not use them, than use the wrong ones.} Overall impression: Sit back and enjoy forming yours. {This I approve of, an "overall impression" of the beer by the brewer on the beer's label doesn't sit well. Say what it is, what went into it, how you made it, then get out.}

Now the front label: "Warning: the dark malt flavors, spicy aromas, and mysterious undercurrent of bitterness in this award-winning Belgian-style dubbel are powerful moo in the ancient HOODOO tradition. Prepare to fall under it's spell. Enjoy with a black cat bone {???} OR SERVING OF JOHN DE CONEROO."

That's why the Dr. John album, to put me in a hoodoo mood, I guess. I didn't need the assist from Mac Rebbenack, as this brew does a great job of getting me reeling with the feeling right away.

So how does the battle of the Minnesota dubbels shake out? Go for the Borealis (if you can find it, in the Duluth area) when in the mood for the fruitier, spicier, sweeter stuff, but bank on Boom Island for something meatier.

A Tale of Two Dubbels: Borealis Fermentery Speckled Ghost

Borealis Fermentery Speckled Ghost Belgian Style Abbey Ale, 750 ml, 1 pint, 9.5 fl oz. Brewed and bottled by Borealis Fermentery, P.O. Box 130, Knife River, MN, 55609.
ALC. by VOL. ???

My first taste of this was a day after hearing of the breweries existence (though they had been promoted a bit on, weeks early,apparently on a day I forgot to visit the site), on tap at a coffee shop in West Duluth. Smitten with this brew, my friend and I vowed to find bottles for sale before we left the North Shore, and were successful.

Dark crimson coloring under a slim, cream-toned head, soon to disappear.

Aromatics: lovely. Sweet and spicy. Special B malts, and caramel malts, too? Some raisin, figs, toffee, vanilla, cream. A treat for the nose, a sumptuous olfactory delight.

Now, to drink the danged thing: Bam! It hits from the start, not meek or shy in the least, blasting dark fruit flavor, laced with spice. Pepper and plum aplenty. Juicy malt is the forward flavor, with spicy Belgian yeast added extra character. I have a word for this, and it is Yum.

Mighty fine consumability, also, …not too heavy, not too slight, juuust right. Hits all the right notes.

Not quite as dark, rich, and deep as I'd prefer a dubbel to be, but there's no quarreling with the taste, or the quality. Excellent stuff. There's the cherry version awaiting in the fridge, and I'll have to wait a bit for the others, I guess, (a wit and another wheat, their website says) but if they're as nice as this…keep 'em coming.

Let's look at the label gobbledygook: "At the Borealis Fermentery, our beers are craft brewed in small individual batches on Minnesota's beautiful North Shore using pure artesian water and the freshest ingredients available. Our beers are unfiltered and bottle conditioned. Please pour carefully decanting the beer into your glass while keeping the yeast on the bottom of the bottle.

Speckled ghost is an ode to the elusive trout. A Belgian style abbey ale that melds hop balance, sweetness, and a hint of maltiness.

Chill before serving, pour into your favorite glass, and enjoy this beer while dreaming of the perfect day wading in the river.

We hope you enjoy our handcrafted beer.

Enjoy responsibly, The Borealis Fermentery,
Big Lake, Big Beer."

I did enjoy it, but, damn it once again, a beer label tried to tell me what I should do while drinking it! (Shades of The Lost Abbey.) I did not think once of wading in a river, or about fish. I was re-watching this season's Mad Men, and also listening to Clifford Jordan's "Night of the Mark VII." And I'd do it again!

Schell's Stag Series #5: Czech-style Dark Lager

August Schell Stag Series Limited Release Batch#5: Czech-style Dark Lager.

"Modelled after the famous dark lagers of Bohemia, our version features dark bread and caramel notes that are accentuated by a decoction mash and balanced by the spicy Saaz hops."

Largely opaque, dark brown coloration, nearly tan/light brown, dotted, lace-leaving head. Looks nice.

Aromatics: sweet caramel malt hits the nose first. Next up, notes of vanilla, cocoa, and dark fruit.

Taste:  all that comes together at the tip of the tongue, and floods to the back, before a generous brace of bitterness hits. Hops and malt in equal play in the mouth. Medium-bodied, yet fully-flavored. Sweet malt continues to met and matched by a fine layer of hop bitterness.

Very toasty and a little spicy, like a reuben on rye. I like this more and more as I drink it. Another successful stag entry.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Three Floyds Zombie Dust Pale Ale

There was a time when I paid closer attention to the internet ramblings of that microcosm known as the beer geek (beyond my own, of course) than I do now. Part of what keeps me away from that circle of fussbudgets is the super-nerdy particularity of their desires. For instance, I'll never forget that consistent complaining on one forum, or board, or what-have-you, on one site, that the Town Hall Brewery makes "too many" pale ales. A new beer would be announced, and the sarcastic call went out, loud and clear, "great, ...ANOTHER pale ale." It could feature a hop you'd never heard of, it could be a completely novel invention in brewing, but because it's "just another pale ale", and not, say, a bourbon barrel barley-wine, or a blueberry infused baltic porter at 14% alcohol, well, ho hum.

There are some simple facts the internet geeks forget: 1. Pale ales are popular. 2. Customers can drink a lot of them. 3, These facts combine to produce a new fact: the brewery will sell many pints very quickly. This will not happen with that pumpkin/coconut imperial stout. You and your five internet geek friends can have that one all to yourselves for weeks at a time, while everyone else drinks the pale ale up.

But some breweries are immune to this kind of criticism, and the hype surrounding their releases crumbles any resistence. Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, Indiana currently has a pale ale, brewing with only the new hot hop Citra, that is all the rage. It has received unanimous praise roundly, far and wide, more so than any pale ale (not including Alpha King) they have ever produced.  And locally, my friends post on facebook and untappd and elsewhere whenever they drink one, and how they just got some and how much they love it. It's a gushfest, and one I could not participate in, since I have not visited any store that carries it (didn't see it on my last few visits to Wisconsin), haven't traded for it, no one has shared one with me. Until now, and it was Dave A., again to the rescue, and finally, though I have nothing but admiration for the fine beers of Three Floyds, I had the opportunity to see if it hold up to the immense hype.

One thing I'll mention before going further, is that this is the least likely name I'd imagine for a beer of this kind. Nothing about bright, shiny, citric hop flavor in a lean bodied ale seems to correlate with any associate with these dreaded creatures of horror fiction. Until you buy into their scenario that this is your refreshment at hand while plugging away at the cannibalistic beasts during the coming zombie apocalypse. Okay. Whatever.

Here they come, my notes from last night's bottle (thanks again to Dave!):

Zombie Dust. Three Floyds pale ale with 100% Citra hops. 6.2% ABV.

Clear, amber/apricot/peach coloration. Generous heap of ample snowy white froth atop. with loads of lace-leaving. Looks great.

Aromatics: Big fresh and floral hoppitude, overflowing citrus notes. Some lemon, some lime, a hint of pineapple, a gesture towards mango. Loud, lively, and lovable.

Taste: boom, there it is, bouncing on the palate, swimming in the mouth, a flood of hoppy goodness. Medium malty mouthfeel, nothing too heavy, nothing too hard, just a ton of easy-drinking-ness. A flood of fruit hits the sense with each new sip, a blast of citrus greets the tongue and hits the roof, and slides down the throat. Very refreshing, and super-extra-consumable.

Yes, I will want another bottle of this (yet there is no other), and I will have 2, or 3, or 4, and be utterly happy, and uplifted and transported to the bliss of hoppitude unheard of, and then, night will come, and slumber will overtake me, and the morning, and work, and the regular routine, and the doldrums of daily life, and then the alarm rings, and the commute, and the return to freedom, and the promise of more of this Zombie Dust!

Okay, at the end there, I think I went a little sarcastic. But I still feel if this wasn't a Three Floyds beer, if it was from some under-appreciated, under-the-radar regional, it wouldn't get quite the love. If Summit Saga were a Three Floyds beer, people would lose their minds over it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Orkney Skullsplitter

It's still drizzling. I'm having one more before getting out of here. Going back to bottles, and heading to Scotland for one I know I haven't had in a long time. The Skullsplitter , from the Orkney Brewery, apparently "5000 years in the making.""The Authentic Orcadian Ale."

notes from a bottle, June, 2004:

Clear, bright garnet hue,nearing auburn, with huge carbonation, bubbles all over the place, with a flush head of beige foam that goes down in a flurry of vanishing bubbles.

Aroma, deeply, darkly malty, woody, some spices float about in the nose, caramel, some fruitiness, dark ones, grapes and cherries, a wealth of complexities...

nice taste, caramel leads the flavor, just nearly definable as "rich", but not quite..nay, not quite as full in the mouth as we'd hope, and then the booze kicks in, and it tastes something like a blend of dark rum and cherry brandy. I swear I wasn't drinking officer, well, one teensy little beer, maybe...

Body's a bit medium, finish is, too, doesn't quite maintain a presence on the palate. Overall, a tasty, boozy blend of malt and fruit.
For the sake of my skull, though, I plan to visit this brew at well-spaced intervals.

Founders Cerise

"Rain, rain go away, come again, some other day..." Damn it, you know that never works. So here I sit, with a fruity flavor in my mouth, keeping it going. Acadia has Founders Cerise on tap, and you know, I wrote about it from a bottle in August, 2009. I'll sip on one, sharing those notes with you, while I listen to a blues singer who plays prettily, but sounds like he stumbled drunkenly into a briar patch and stood up with a throat full of thistles.

Hazy ruby-red color, slimmed head, pinkish.

Tart-n-sweet aroma, definite cherries. Nice.

Mmm, sour, gripping the palate, grabbing and playing with the tongue. Sour and sweet, cherry-licious. Full malty mouthfeel, good solid backbone.

Great little cherry ale. Not too much complexity, just loads of cherriness. That has it's place, sure, but in the end I find it a bit blase'...can't do too much of it.

Van Honsebrouck St. Louis Framboise Premium Lambic

As you may have noticed, I wrote the last entry while at the Acadia Cafe, Cedar & Franklin Avenues, West Bank, Minneapolis, one of my favorite spots in town. (Formerly the home to the Riverside Cafe, whose slogan was "the electromagnetic center of the universe.) I was getting ready to take off, and then the rain started. So, the beers start again, and I chose something very different from anything they have on their 28 taps, a Belgian raspberry lambic from the makers of the Kasteel line, Brouwerij Van Hounsebrouck.

And for the purposes of this entry, we look back ...or, I do, you don't, and I don't have a mouse in my pocket...and see that I had it for the first time way back in May of 2005, on tap at the Blue Nile. Here come the notes:

My first taste of this stuff is the first pour from a freshly tapped keg.

Clear, deep rosy red appearance, perfectly pink head of full, fluffy foam.

Aroma: all raspberry, nothin' else, tart, but not too much beyond what comes with that fruit's flavor.

Taste: Puckeration right at the start, just a pinch of mouth-gripping tart, then it all rounds off. A fruity affair, but clean and neat on the tongue, after that initial bite. A tasty tango in the mouth, but mostly smoothness owns the day. Lip-pursing continues with consecutive sips, as the tartness hangs in there.
Very light in body, though, with a long, tangy, fruit finish.
"Like soda pop!" said someone (with zero familiarity with the lambic style)who sampled this with me. Yeah, is a commercial lambic, of that there is no doubt, but it makes for adequate dessert sipping, and isn't really bad at all.

Millstream German Pilsner

On tap at Acadia Cafe, the German Pilsner from Millstream Brewing, Amana, Iowa.

Mostly clear, slightly hazy, clean, golden hued, under a generous helping of bone white froth.

Aroma: ah, perfect nose for a German pilsner. Clean, crisp, airy, hoppy, and floral. Scant citric notes.

Taste: a nice malty, cereal flavor coats the palate. Grainy flavor, with a kiss of hops. Light bodied, easy drinking, flavorful enough. Nice one. First Millstream I reviewed from tap, and it hits all the right notes it ought to for the style, though a style I rarely turn to. This personal preference changes some in 90 degree weather, however.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brasserie de la Senne Equinox Belgian dark ale

Brasserie de la Senne Equinox. Belgian winter ale, but since I'm tapping this in June, I've been omitting that in every thing I say or write about this beer. Call it a Belgian strong dark ale, and that's good enough. It's not as if it's overloaded with cinnamon or ginger or anything that would give it away as a wintry-styled ale.

Wonderful dark appearance, utterly black, with a large creamy, long-lasting head. Just gorgeous. This head does not diminish, and the tan froth last slong and represents.

Aroma: Belgian yeast and malt, first and foremost, spicy, malty, creamy, mmmm. oats and porridge meets clove and cinnamon, maybe. Clean, fresh, and beautiful.

taste: Some cola on the palate first, some dark malty flavors, some nut brownish association, not quite enough roast and toast, but still a very rich, full bodies malty Belgian-style flavor.
 There's a never-ceasing attack of the yummy, over-all, and I can't imagine who wouldn't like this one, what so ever. Yum, funky, fresh, fruity, and deeply  delicious. Chocolate is here, aplenty,too, with plenty of  rich maltiness overall.

I've had 2 other beers from this brewery, X-Mas Zinnebir (which might be harder to disguise as a Christmas beer) and Taras Boulba. I liked the latter more than the former, and as luck would have it, that's the next Belgian beer to go on tap at the Nile. Soon, once we drink this keg up!

Tallgrass 8-bit Pale Ale

Tallgrass 8-Bit, Hop Rocketed, Galaxy Hops, 5.2% ABV, brewed and canned by Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kansas.

Lightly clouded, golden hued, nice 1/4" of snowy white foam on top.

Bright, lively citric aromatics. Lemon and orange, with a hint of pineapple. Banana? A bit. (No pun intended.)Very nice.

Taste: smooth, clean, drinking like a dream. Some extra creamy character in there, too. Is this unfiltered? Am I tasting the yeast? Something tells me I am. Oh, yeah, that's some suspended yeast in there, now that I pour the rest of the can into the glass.
Nicely hopped, and soft on the palate. Sometimes you want that in a pale ale. This is one of those times. Hoppiness continues, dropping off mildly on the tongue. Fresh, lightly bitter, and refreshing.
I like it.
So, who's got another quarter?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Boom Island Thoprock IPA

Boom Island Brewing Company Thoprock IPA. Handcrafted Belgian style ale. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I have to pause for a moment and consider that this is the first time a bottle of this size, full of a beer of this style, has appeared on local beer shelves, with Minneapolis, Minnesota appearing amongst the verbiage. Harriet was the first Minneapolis brewery in decades, but they haven't sent bottles to local stores, and Fulton started bottling locally last year, but not in packages quite like this. I don't know why, I just consider that significant.

This is my first Boom Island brew in a bottle, after having some in a sample months ago at the Muddy Pig. I was not carried away by the brew then, but there are so many factors at play, I decided it was best to wait to have a full serving before rendering judgement. And these bottles were only sold at a few stores, far away from me, until just now, when I found them at Chicago-Lake Liquors, mere blocks away from my home. Yay! So, away, we go, with the Thoprock, and here's what we find on the label:

"Why would anyone name a handcrafted IPA after THOPROCK, the notorious heavy metal festival in Belgium? Just how hard do the hops rock? Are they turned up to 11? Can you handle the shredding? Will it make you cast aside your clothing and DANCE NAKED IN A FIELD?"

All very good questions. Before we answer them, more: "Yes, we brew traditional Belgian-style craft beers. No, we're not monks. That's not a requirement anymore. Thankfully. While our inspiration may not be divine, we hope you'll agree the result very much is. Savor slowly and in moderation, and visit us, blah, blah, blah…"

More: "The skinny on THOPROCK
…wait, that part gives away my game, so, let's wait until the notes are done, okay. 8% Alc./Vol. that part I'll let go. And now, to uncage, and de-cork.

Opaque, deep crimson hue, under a slim, rocky, lacy white head, looking nice.

Aromatics: Belgian yeast funk hits the nose right off, fruity, lightly bitter, and wild and crazy. Trifle sour. Funky fruity. Tres intrigue.Some citrus.  Not quite like any other beer I've sniffed.

Now, to taste: Lands on the tongue with full, fierce Belgian yeast fervor, and hop bitterness roaring behind, if a bit meekly. Compare this not to an IPA, nor to any "Belgian IPA" (still a very ill-defined category), just yet. We need to keep drinking…There's some grapefruit and pine creeping up, some nice buzz on the palate, but played very mellow. Just a nice hoppy buzz. But is it enough to be an IPA, or just a hoppy APA? There are more questions than answers, though I will offer that this is certainly not a "traditional Belgian-style craft beer." Or, is it? More questions. Few answers. It feels a little like an American-style Belgian IPA, and it also feels a bit like an extra-hoppy Belgian pale ale.

What are the hops, I wonder? Now, is the time to check that information box.
"Aroma: citrusy nose from classic American dry hops. (Which ones?And what are "dry hops"? Do they mean "dry-hopping?")
Appearance: rich amber colored beer with a tight white head.
Flavor: Assetrive bitterness balanced by a clear (?) malty backbone. West coast type hops round out the experience with a nice punch of flowery grapefruit type citrus flavor.
Overall impression: Gives the impression of a classic American IPA. It's 8% ABV is elusively achieved through a special Belgian fermentation process. "

I don't know what to think about this. Not very well written, and not quite clear, as well. And why is the Belgian nature expressed through the ABV, not the flavor. What we have is not an American IPA at 8% ABV, via Belgian fermentation, it's the flavor that is affected, not merely the alcohol percentage. Odd that they describe it this way.

I like this, despite that. It is very tasty, quite enjoyable. This doesn't displace any of my favorite Belgian-style IPAs, but it's a nice addition to the growing sort-of style, and a very good addition to the local brewing scene. I have a bottle of the dubbel in the fridge, and I'm planning on doing a side-by-side with the Borealis dubbel I've been hanging onto for nearly a month. That store nearby also has the pale ale, and there's a triple I need to get my hands on.

But, this beer? Final thoughts? Tasty. Warming. Nicely hopped. Very nice. For a drinkable, sessionable Belgian-style IPA, I'm still reaching for Harriet West-Side. If I don't mind getting a touch inebriated, here's where I'll go.

Smuttynose Smuttonator Doppelbock

There's a goat on the label and it ends in "-ator", so it must be a doppelbock. This one's from Smuttynose, so it's got to be a Smuttonator. What do they say about this one? "…a tasty mixture of German ingredients & good ol' fashioned New England tenaciousness. Our brewers take 30 hours to brew a single batch of this traditional double bock. Take your time & enjoy it's rich, malty & deceptively smooth flavor."
No alcohol percentage given anywhere on the label.
Brewed & bottled by Smuttynose Brewing Company, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Tawny brown body, adequate cap of tannish froth atop. Looks the part, though I could do well with a bigger head.

Fruity, malty aromatics, dark, rich plums, grapes, etcetera. Plenty sweet, plenty rich.

Taste: Full malty flavor takes command of the senses, dominates the palate. Bountiful dark fruit flavor runs rampant on the tongue. Sweetness is almost too much, but it's also damned tasty, too.

As we get further in, the flavors only intensify, the fruity richness glows and grows. This is one of my favorite doppelbocks of recent consumption.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Left Hand Oak-aged Widdershins Barley-wine Ale

Left Hand Oak-aged Widdershins Barly-wine, Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont, Colorado. 8.8% ABV.

Looks fantastic. Clear, crimson coloring, underneath a gorgeous head of cream-toned, rocky, lace-leaving head. Large and long-lasting, and looking great.

Aroma: deep, vast, rustic, and complex. Whiffs of dark fruit, cherries, brandy, all wrapped in an oak-y blanket. Mmm.

Taste: all that and more reappear on the tongue, Exceptionally smooth and mellow, while thrillingly complex and overflowing with flavor. Not too big in the mouth, not too heavy, nor too hoppy, while is plenty of that going on. Caramel malt, and toasty tastiness abounds. Alcohol never stings too hard, just buzzes below, while threatening sobriety. Rich maltiness grows and grows, increasing deliciousness, along the way. Never too sweet, but borders on it. I'm very happy with this one. Mmm, mmm.

Wait…now, here comes the booze. Boom-shakalacka, and all the while yum.

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...