Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Schmaltz Brewing He'Brew Hop Manna IPA

There are still some left overs from my Hop Heads Only Event of one month ago, and this, the first regular/ single IPA from Schmaltz Brewing is one of them. Still a few left to go, though.For now, this is what we're looking at, the Hop Manna.

Hazy, amber/golden appearance, slim, but staying layer of white foam.

Aroma: moderate levels of pine and citrus fruit, nice array of bitterness, pleasing for any hop-head.

Taste: Juicy fruit hits first, followed by bitter hops, and it never stops. A full-on assault of hop bitterness, balanced with judicious tier of malt, but fruit and hops are king here. Stays long on the palate, never finishing, keeping camp on the tastebuds. Ends fairly dry.
Excellent consumability. A cornucopia of West Coast hops deliver the lemon and lime and orange peel, and grapefruit pith.

I like this one. An IPA every hop-head should enjoy, with a torrent of bitter hoppy flavor, never flagging. Well done, Schmaltz, another feather in your yarmulke.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Matacabras Blonde

Matacabras Blonde. Dave's BrewFarm. Growler purchased one week ago. Man, I am behind, (there are two more after this!), so let's get going!

Appearance: hazy plum red, slim, but lasting white head.

Aromatics: Soft fruit, spicy rye malt, minor hops, distinct Belgian yeast-iness. A trace of fruity funk.

Taste: Malt hits first, spicy and bready, followed by yeast. Alcohol swiftly follows. Rises higher and higher, overcomes the malt. Mouthfeel isn't as full and rich as the normal Matacabras, hops aren't felt at all. The paler malt must leave more room for the booze to shine. But it's not so big that it's a threat, just a little louder than normal.

Here's what the Farmer man says about this experiment: "8.5% ABV, A paler version of the original Matacabras. This equally tempestuous brew has robust American hops and rye to make this ale an experience to savor."

Actually, I can't recall if it was an experiment or a mistake. Though it tastes fine, I wouldn't choose it over regular Mata, if the two were side by side. Now, what if I had never had reg-Mat to compare it to, what about that? What would have happened then? I'd find it too "hot" as the kids say these days. And find it lacking the malty charms of reg-Mat…original-Mata…ur-Mat…Mata-prime…
It also shows the importance of a well-crafted recipe. When one ingredient is missing or replaced, it doesn't feel quite right, and you would need to make some more switches in order to find a better integration.

Nonetheless, even mistake beers from the BrewFarm end up being good beers…if not exactly perfect.

Castle Danger George Hunter Stout

Castle Danger George Hunter Stout. 8% ABV. If I read the promo materials correctly, Mr. Hunter was a brewer relation to the owners/brewers of Castle Danger. More into if I find it.

Bought nine days ago, at Castle Danger Brewery, in Castle Danger Resorts, Castle Danger, Minnesota. I hope this held up. Of course it did. But, man, I've been slow this week. On the other hand, it's hard to sit down with a brew after work when you get home at 4 am.

We rolled in sometime after, I don't know, 5-ish, and there was a steady stream of samplers and growlers buyers at this tiny, tiny brewery in a shack that you have to really hunt for to find. My second attempt at visiting, for the first, back in May, we were about 4 1/2 hours early. Right on time this time, and I picked a brew I didn't think I'd find on another visit.

It's a dark one, with a tight, slimmed cocoa-brown ring of foam. Just about fully black, mostly opaque.

Aroma: molasses, licorice, maple, some cocoa and cream. Very nice.

Taste: Full flavor, rich mouthfeel, deep and resonant. All that in the nose return to the mouth, with more cocoa and some coffee, just a hint. Richly textured, while still remarkably consumable. Even, I say, while the alcohol rises just a little. This rests within the category of American Stout, I'd say, without needing to go over into Imperial or Foreign Export, despite the higher alcohol.

Needless to say, I like this quite a bit, and will finish this growler with relish. And mayo.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lucid Dyno Pale Ale

Lucid Dyno Pale Ale. Lucid Brewing, Minnetonka, MN.

Clear and golden hued, with a tight, slim white head.

Aroma: lightly hoppy, some citrus fruit, minor bitterness, not much else.

Taste: some hop bitterness hits up front, and lingers on the palate, with a toasty, tidy citrus fruity flavor the key component. Only slightly sweet, ultimately ending dry and bitter. Soft malt presence, light but there. "Graham cracker crust." I've heard it said before, and now I'm finally saying it.

All in all, Dyno is a drinker, and it does what a pale ale should do, bringing taste without too much fuss. Pass on around, drink it down, on to the next one, while we solved all the world's problems over a chess game, or a cribbage board, or whatever's handy.

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Saison Rhu

Dave's BrewFarm Saison Rhu. Wilson, Wisconsin.

clouded amber/ to golden  hue, solid white head, hits the right marks.

Aroma: fruit and sweet malt. A bit vegetal, a small amount funky. Incredibly intriguing. I really don't know what to say.

Taste: Bam! Fruit hits first, and it is unique. If it wasn't called "saison rhu", I might be scratching my head about it, but, yeah, rhubarb, without the intense tartness. Fruit, sweetness, minor bitterness, …damned tasty, though.

Another absolutely unique BrewFarm creation. Light malt body, low hops, some kind of funkiness, and plenty of fruit and vegetable flavor, with requisite tartness. Utterly enjoyable. Not a tiny bit cloying, ends lightly, drying. Mmmm.

Let's look at what Farmer Dave says: " 6.0 % ABV. Pils, Caramel 20 and Dingemans Biscuit malts, Santium and Vanguard hops, fermented with a blend of Belgian saison and Biere de Garde yeasts and a late addition of rhubarb puree. Crisp with a hint o rhubarb in the nose and finish."

Surly Syx (6th Anniversary Strong Ale)

Surly Syx. I don't know how to do umlauts over the y. I don't know why I should. Except that it's metal!

Before I crack the crown, and drink it up, a word about the label. It's the latest from Michael Berglund, who did last year's Darkness as well as other artistic efforts throughout the past annum. I was moved by his recent revelation that this demon character was derived from a wooden work of a friend of his who had recently succumbed to suicide. A beautiful act, to immortalize his art in another work, and what better commemoration than a Surly bottle?

Appearance: clear tangerine. with a thick snowy white head, dotted, and leaving lace. Looks great.

Aroma: fruit aplenty, mango, tangerine, apricot, orange, lime…all kinds of citrus. And the looming presence of alcohol.

Taste: Mmmm, fruit and booze, that's the first impression. You can't have this much ABV (15% is what's reported) without it making it's mark. Flavor rises higher, as well as the alcohol feel. More of the same, the tropical fruit, the citrus, a tingle of pine. And there's some woodiness covering it all, but don't expect me to pick them all out of the honeycomb.

Flavor increases in complexity, there's more and more coming through. And, all the while comes the boom-biddy-boom-boom. Shammalamma ding-dong. Boom, shackalackalaca.

What's more, this is really what we should expect from Surly. It's a one-off anniversary brew that defies categories, but it is so remarkably delicious that it only underscores Surly's ability to craft brews such as these with the greatest of ease.

After six years, this is the beer Surly should be making. It follows no clear precedent. It adopts no formulas, falls in line with nothing. And it is so goddamn tasty.
Aging isn't a question for a brew this big and boozy. Definitely put some away for a little mellowing. It's a special brew, let's slowly savor to enjoy what six years has brought us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

All Pints North!

Here's John Moore of Barley John's Brewpub, with his tie-dyed crew. His cardamom porter was one of the most unique brews at the fest. And I had more than a few occasions to talk to the ever-entertaining Mr. Moore.
Before the throngs are unleashed, Jason from Steel Toe (too many Jasons!) chats up members of Team Finnegans at the Surly booth.
Off to the right of the bandstand, a flank of food trucks and various vendors to keep our stomachs full.
While I'm stationed at the Harriet booth, I turned around to see my friends  Jason, Kat, Scott, and Angie in front of the Castle Danger booth. I didn't visit that booth, because I'd tried everything at the brewery the day before. That's what I told Jason, who informed me that they did have London Calling IPA, which wasn't at the brewery. And now, I don't remember if I tried it or not. That's what happens at these things.
Here's a peek at the grounds with the band stage in the background, and Lake Superior behind it. There were three bands, Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, Farewell Milwaukee, and Black Eyed Snakes, which was a surprise, since from what I know of the music of Low, I never would have guessed that Alan Sparhawk can rock.
Mere minutes after the crowd was let into the festival, this is the line for Surly. It's always like this, every festival, people have got to get their Surly!
My bosses for the day, Tanya and Jason Sowards of Harriet Brewing. Their attendance was a late decision, and some of the brewery staff and equipment were busy at the Beer Dabbler fest happening in St. Paul at the same time. We were pouring West Side on tap, and Wodan Weizen and Pils from growlers. I was filling in when giving them breaks, so when I was alone I got to field questions like: "Is the brewery named after your grandmother?"
Back in May, I visited Duluth for the first time in my life, as you'd know if you read the most recent Fitger's reviews back then. I took pictures along the way for a photo essay, but never posted them. Something went wrong, no need to explain.

I was up there again this weekend, the first full weekend I've taken off of work in quite some time, for the latest Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild festival, All Pints North at Bayfront Festival Park right on the shores of Lake Superior, in Duluth. My transportation and lodging were provided by my friends Jason and Angie, and the entrance fee was taken care of when I agreed to help Jason and Tanya Sowards of Harriet Brewing. So, there was a little bit of work involved, but a whole lot of fun.

Here's new Surly brewer Derek Almendinger at left, and delivery man Chad at right, as they prepare for the throngs who are yet to be unleashed on the festival grounds. Surly brought a number of interesting items, including a preview of Syx, their strongest beer yet, at 14 + %, a cask of Hell with peppers called Fiery Hell, Bandwagon, the IPA brewed just for the Twins Stadium, and one I missed, Bourbon Barrel Aged Schadenfreude.
The first day found us visiting Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior, Wisconsin, then going further north to the extremely small Castle Danger Brewing at Castle Danger Resorts, in the hamlet called Castle Danger, MN. There were four beers to choose from, and I decided to take home a growler of their stout, review coming soon.

That evening was an epic tasting among friends, hosted by Dean and Rita, where we didn't even get to half the bottles on hand before we'd all had our fill. That's where I pulled out the Westvleteren 12 whose review was posted shortly after. I closed Friday night out with a stop at Fitger's to see the brewers party wind down, saw some old friends, met some new ones.

For the event on Saturday, I really wanted to do a photo essay, as I've done before with other events. But, even though I had kept it charged all night, the battery power on my iPod kept failing and it kept turning off, until the power died completely. Add to that, I kept forgetting to snap photos of people, booths, beers, that really would have been important parts to the story.

Behold, the artwork for the poster, although a slightly different version. It was not cold at all on July 21,  it was around 95 degrees and many wished there was more shade available in the park. I was under a tent for much of it, so I didn't complain.
Here's a glimpse of the Borealis booth. For such a small upstart brewery, they went all out with the stained glass logo. I talked to brewer Ken for some time, and went back for a t-shirt and glass. In addition to the Speckled Ghost and Mon Cherries, which I'd had in bottles before, they also brought La Lune Belgian Golden Ale, and Raisin Liason Saison. I believe one of these won for Best Beer in a time, and I believe the won the booth display award. I look forward to finding bottles of those beers soon.
Eager fest-goers entering the park, with downtown Duluth in the background. Unlike other guild events that have been going on for many years, this one did not sell out, but give it a chance, I'm sure Duluthians will change on and become just as crazed about beer fests as we Twin Citians.
Enough apologies, though, I'm going to put up the photos, write the captions and give a glimpse of what we hope will be many more of the same. This might be an annual Duluth excursion for me. Maybe I'll maintain a record as spotless as Autumn Brew Review, which I've attended every year since 2002.

Someone read this post and mentioned that there were no pictures of me in this gallery. Well, I don't often take pictures of me. I should fix that. But, this was taken by Tanya, and I swiped it from the Harriet facebook page where she posted it. So, there you go, enjoy me in all my glory.
After 7pm, and the end of the festival, then came the after-parties. Ah, what fun, at Tycoon's, the Ratskeller, and beyond...

Thirsty Pagan Brewing India Pagan Ale

As you may have noticed, I try to have the correct and proper branded glassware, whenever possible, to pose with the bottle, can, or growler, whatever the case may be. In this picture, for this beer, something is very wrong. I do have the Thirsty Pagan pint glass, but why a Surly growler? Because Wisconsin, that's why.

In WI, one need not provide a branded growler from the brewery for them to fill for you, any ol' thing will do. In Minnesota, you need to return a Town Hall growler to Town Hall (or Harriet, Fulton, Rock Bottom, Great Waters, etcetera), or buy a new one. Not in Wisconsin, I think they can fill anything, even a Coke bottle.

I could have bought a new TPB growler, but I don't really need to build my collection any larger, especially when I have at least two dozen empties from other breweries at home. Why spend the five dollars, why add more to my already large collection? It just seemed cool to re-use an old Surly growler, which hasn't had any beer in it in three and a half years.

So, let's crack it open and see what's inside. India Pagan Ale, that's what. From Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, Wisconsin, purchased at my second visit this past Friday, July, 20.

Deep amber/bronze coloration, slim, dotted white head.

Aroma: this is the good stuff, right from the get-go. Blasts from pine and citrus. Lovely fragrant floral-ity, intense bitter and bracing, just what I love.

Taste: Just as intense, and then some. Bitterness reigns, with caramel malt and more rising up in prominence after the first hoppy blasts. Great balance, well-porportioned, with hops always in charge and way ahead. Terrific tango of hops and malt, step, step, back, dip, and, hey go and spin this time.

This reminds me more than a little of one of my all-time favorites, Town Hall's Masala Mama IPA. High praise, from me. Tasty as can be, and a fine drinker, too.

O'so Dank Imperial Red Ale

O'so Dank Imperial Red Ale.  O'so Brewing Company, Plover, WI.

Dark, a rich burgundy hue, murky, and looking every bit "dank." Utterly opaque, with a tight, slim head.

Aroma: A little sweet, a little sour. Deep and fruity, raisins, plums, and dates. Dense malt flavors arise, as well. Interesting stuff, this is. Rich, intriguing malt, nice blast of hops. Alcohol unknown, but it should be 8 % or above. Feels like it.

A complex and tasty brew, although it's a bit of murky mess as well. Not that I actually mind. "Imperial Red Ale" isn't a category with any by-laws or restraints, so far as I know. All that matters is "did you like it?" And I did. Do. Do did. Like it, I mean.

Alaskan Summer Ale Kolsch

Alaskan Summer kolsch-style ale. Alaskan Brewing, Jeuneau, Alaska.

Clear, golden color, small, soon-gone head.

Delicate aromatics, speaks softly of apples, pear, and a whiff of hops.

Taste:  light on the palate, with a mild, fruity flavor. Low bitterness, mellow malt, supreme censurability, and cool, persistent light fruit flavor. A touch of honey in the middle. Easy-going all the way, good summertime drinker. Ain't nothing' wrong with that.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren Abbot 12

Here's a rarity that occasionally comes into my life, and has to be saved and shared with friends, when I finally decide to open it. This bottle has been in my possession for at least two years, and was a "freebie" in a package with a painting of the bottlecap, which I purchased from the artist who I discovered via BeerAdvocate.com.

There are theories out there that it only falls at the top of the Best Beers in the World lists due it's scarcity, and the trouble involved with procuring a bottle. It only comes from the source, after one has made an appointment and given the monks your license plate number, for only one example. But once you taste, all doubt slips away.

This one was opened up at a gigantic, stupendous, incredible tasting hosted by my friends Dean and Rita at their hotel room in Duluth the night before the All Pints North beer festival. (Last night, as of this writing.) No one at the gathering had had it before, and all were taken with it's loveliness. It did come after some huge, heavy hitters, but our palates weren't so wrecked just yet, that we couldn't discern it's beauty.

Here, now, I share with you the notes from when I first tracked down this elusive treasure, way back in May, 2003, when I saved it for my 500th beer review on BeerAdvocate.com.

Appearance: deep, dark burgundy brown, rich as a raisin, with a fine reddish hue 'round the edges. Head is towering, huge, off-whitish color, and slow to sizzle down to size.

Aroma:....requires a new vocabulary! Deep, and heady, rich, full of fruit, grapes, raisins, plums, and spices, a very complex blend, soft, but sensual, deliriously so, and delicious, and the more I breathe it in, the more the flavors become pronounced, more is revealed here, pepper, anise, rich mollasses, rum, sweetness compounded by rich dark flavors...

Now to drink...I...um...serious contemplation is required, for I am seriously, honestly, taken aback by the force of, not only the alcoholic content, but the strong, full, bewitching flavor of this incredible ale! It staggers the senses! Honestly, I reel from it's effects and must wait until my consciousness can comprehend what is going on...many layers, many flavors, many ways that this incredible concoction can impact upon the senses.

I feel thoroughly slayed, laid waste, but utterly uplifted in my oblivion! Let the sword fall upon me more often, if the taste is as sweet!
Have I said heavenly already? No matter if I did, it's a truly transmogrific feeling, it is, and I could be in another galaxy, for all I care...fly me not to the moon, nor Jupiter, or the outer stars, but, merely wherever this impossibly exhilirating nectar may blossom...

Now that I have finally downed a simple sample of this much renowned ale, I can only say..."more, please!"

Monday, July 16, 2012

Avery White Rascal Witbier

Drinking from a can, and looking at notes from a bottle. I think this was back in December, 2003:

Very pale yellow color, yearning toward white, with a beautiful head, pure head, fresh and frothy head.

The nose is everything I'd expect from a witbier, or any decent imitation, alert, spicy, citric, a touch dry, some lemon, a show of orange, and overall, inviting and appetizing.

Taste: decent hops at first, nice wheat texture, very light in body, and extraordinarily drinkable. I could kill a ton of these in the summertime. (I can only admire that attribute now as the snow falls!)
 It's lightness and smoothness is it's perfection, a bit more lemon than orange in the flavor, very thirst-quenching and full of zing!

Olvalde Farm Brynhildr's Gift Farmhouse Ale with Junipers

Olvalde Farm Brynhildr's Gift, Minnesota Farmhouse Juniper Ale, Ale brewed with juniper berries, lightly hopped, unfiltered, re-fermented in the bottle. 1pint, 9.4 fluid ounces. ALC by VOL: ?

Third release from this tiny micro- (nano-?) brewery in Rollingstone, Minnesota, a town I'd never heard of before this brewery, and still, all I know of it is this brewery.
Let's find out if their streak continues, so off comes the cage and the stopper…

Highly hazy, deep amber appearance, under a lush, creamy-toned head, leaves lace and lasts long. Beautiful.

Aroma: large and in charge. Funky Belgian yeast gives off many exotic phenols, very musty and fruity, with a whiff of horse blanket. Apricot, pear, banana, lemon, a cornucopia, indeed, with pepper and straw mingled in. Fresh and lovely.

Taste: Mmmm. Interesting. Full malty flavor, Belgian yeast, and, yeah, the juniper berries really do stand out. Just enough of everything. Minor hops, lush malt, with a spicy/fruity kick. Drinks down delightfully. Yum. Tast-y!

This is an excellent ale to pair with food, and would go well with just about anything. Way to go, Joe, you're 3 for 3!

Lakefront IPA

Lakefront IPA. Milwaukee, WI. Notes from October, 2008.

Clouded peach-toned hue, under a gorgeous milky white head.

Pine fresh aroma, with tropical and citrus fruit esters, pineapple meets orange and lemon peel. Vibrant, and inviting.

Sharp bitterness up front, goes soft and fades back on the palate. Same flavors as in aroma visit the tongue. Great brisk hop smack that continues to ride along. Nice, medium body, long bitter finish, but very easy-[drinking. Hoppy, but not too bitter.

This really reminds me of Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Not that that's a bad model, at all. It's quite capable of being a sessioner, for the true hop lover, that is. I can see drinking a few without getting tired.
Good job on this!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summit Unchained #10: Abbey Ale

Time for #10 in the Unchained Series from Summit, this time tackling my favorite style (if I had to choose), Belgian Abbey Dubbel, which apparently brewer Nate Siats is not intimately familiar with. Well, I've got a preview bottle, and it's cracked and poured and I'm ready to go!

Clear and dark crimson, not quite the dusky brown I'd be looking for, under a long-lasting, cream-toned head, leaving some lace.

Aroma: soft, and gently sweet, with a good huff of the Belgian yeast funk. Yeah, this is promising. Some dark fruit, raisin, plum, but just a touch, with a little banana, ..pear?...slightly nutty. I like it, but it's not what I expected. On to drink.

Taste: Very clean. Malty. Nutty. Low hops, minor bitterness, if any. Some sweetness, here comes the fruit and here comes the funk. And now, the candi sugar, as the 8% ABV roars in, overcoming the less-than-full body. I like dubbels to be heartier than this one, but I do like the flavor. I like this well enough to want more than one in a row, and I definitely want a keg to tap, soon. I like the complexity, the richness, the smooth malt and the bewitching yeast. This will not unseat any of my all-time favorite dubbels, not by a long shot, but it's going to take up some fridge space this summer, that I can guarantee you. Not bad, as well as pretty good. Good stab at the style, although I want to see improvements, Summit. I want to wonder where my socks went.

Malts: Weyermann Pilsner, Weyermann Abbey, & Weyermann Melanoidin
Hops: German Tettnang & Czech Saaz
Special Additions: Belgian Amber Candi Sugar
Target Alcohol: 8.00% vol
Target IBU’s: 33 packaged
Color: 25 Lovibond, deep amber – rich mahogany
OG: 18 degrees plato
Yeast: Belgian Trappist Ale strain
Notable flavors: Sweet malt characteristics, raisins, prunes, pears, slight spicy notes; overall slightly sweet and fruity estery characteristics

Unibroue La Terrible

Terrible. (Ter-e-blay.) Freshly tapped, my first time for this Belgian-style strong (10.5 % ABV) dark ale, from Chambly, Quebec's Unibroue.
And while I drink this glass, I look back at  notes from my first bottle, back in November, 2003. Here they are...

Appearance: pours out plummish, but when I look at the results, it's an unmitigated, solid black, fully opaque, with a finely fizzy, buzzingly carbonated, toasty-tan head.

Aroma: sadly, I mostly get a cola-ish impression, something I like to avoid in beer, but also with dark fruits, and a bittersweet coffee-ish impression.

Taste: heavy, dark, and quickly weighing in with the alcohol component. A well-inegrated collection of flavors, for none truly stands out over any other, all blending terribly well....spicy, sparkly, dark, fruity, roasty, toasty, ...well-rounded, but extra-abominable in it's overwhelming flavor and alcohol.

This is one rich, delicious, dark, and rewarding ale. I can't quite place it above Maudite or Trois Pistoles, who have their own unique charms, which could never be overshadowed or eclipsed by this ebony delight, but this particular Belgian-style black ale is in a class of it's own. Wow! "Terrible" in only the best way. Yum, yum, yum, yum!

Almost nine years later, I think I like it even better now. It's exquisite.

Weyerbacher Rapture

Weyerbacher Rapture. American Wild Ale. What else? Nothing here, on the label.

Dark red, clear, little head.

Aroma: malt, sour, cherries. Wild and funky.

Taste: Mmmm. Puckeration! Big hit of sour. Bam, tart, and flush with fruit, then mellow and mild on the way out. Each sip gets gripped again, the palate is tucked and tugged with this fierce sour blast. A little vinegar, a touch of tannin, just enough of the wine to make you wonder if it's beer.Well, we know it is, but somebody's always wondering.

Fresh fruit, flash of funk, but easy drinking down. Very nice wild ale, Weyerbacher, very nice.

(Swiped some information. Here, check it out: 6.7% American Wild Red Ale that has undergone 100% of its fermentation and 18 months of aging in pinot noir wine barrels on a collection of micro flora that has created wonderful flavors of berry fruits, oak and a pronounced, yet quite pleasant tartness. The acidity is rounded out with a muted vinous quality, satisfying maltiness and effervescent mouthfeel that is sure to bring you joyful ecstasy.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Steel Toe Lunker Bourbon Barrel Barleywine

Steel Toe Brewing Lunker Barleywine Ale Aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels. 14.4% ALC/VOL. Al Capone fishing off a pier, sitting on a Templeton Rye barrel. Verbiage on the side, which we'll read later. Now, to uncage, de-cork, and drink it up. I've been saving this for several months, anxious to give it a taste.

Look of it: Solid black, tight ring of negligible head.

Smell of it: Massive malt, rich as Romney, laden with bourbony aromatics. Deep and decadent. Everything's in here. Vast and awe-inspiring.

Taste of it: Super-rich. Thurston Howell the Fifth. Dark, dank, delirious. Chocolate malt, caramel, with some bitter hop presence on the palate, but minor at most. Then along comes the barrel effect, it's vanilla and toffee, sweet, liquor-y and lovely. Yum-tastic barley-wine lays just below the bourbon.

Intensely indulgent, a sold nightcap. This evening is done. Time to put the cap on this one. Mmmm. A little bit of everything. Oh. Yeah, and…mmm. Ah…

Ale Asylum Bedlam

Ale Asylum Bedlam. Madison, Wisconsin. There are words on the neck, but I'll read those later.

Is that a cartoon bear with antlers ("beer"?) and a crown on the label? If so, what does it mean? Won't someone tell me.

Aromatics lift right out of the glass and creep into my nose. I'm going in closer…

Wait, I do "appearance" first, so scratch that…it's just a very potent aromatics.

Clouded, deep amber/ crimson hue, slim white head.

Okay, how's it smell? (Wait, we say nose and aroma, right? No smell…but it's a nice smell.) Fruit and Belgian funk. Citrus and tropical fruits, bright and lively. Ripe, loud and beautiful. Just a little sweet and none too bitter. That's just in the smelling. Wild and outsized.

Taste it, already: Boom-bam-alam. First the juicy malt, the rich fruity flavor, then along comes the hop bitterness. Belgian flavor is all over this. Full bodied as any IPA ought to be, hop forward as you need it, all awash in the wicked, wild funk of it. Aromatics continue to bleed out and enchant.

An easy drinking ale for the hophead and the Belgian nut both. Bitterness lasts long on the palate, flavor consistently delivers. Yum. Tasty as heck. Belongs with the best of the Belgian IPAs.

Say, by the way, what do they say? "A chaotic blend of Citra hops and Trappist-style yeast give this IPA aromas of summer fruit and a bright hop presence with a plush finish. Bedlam is all-natural and unfiltered  for superior flavor and quality. It is brewed with passion and is best enjoyed that way."

Yeah, I was drinking it while staring at the noose I strung up and contemplating oblivion, but decided instead to accept all that life has to offer and embrace it with gusto and verve. I invited 15 friends over, we opened a case of Bedlam bottles and sprayed the brew over ourselves, bathing in it's glory, before embarking upon an orgy of such hedonistic pleasure that we will never forget in all our lives, and it shall never be matched in all of history.

Put that on your next ad, Ale Asylum!

Ithaca Flower Power IPA

Ithaca Beer Company Flower Power IPA. Th Spirit of the Finger Lakes. Brewed and bottled by the Ithaca Beer Co., Ithaca, NY.

Hazy, golden hue. Small, but lasting, white head. Nice looking IPA.

Aroma: highly hopped, bursting with citrus and pine, plus pineapple, with floral notes, as well.

Taste: A hoppy monster in the mouth, with bracing bitterness right out the gate, citrus fruit, oily resins, smacking up the joint. Never quite quits, lasts long and strong on the palate. Touch of astringency, bit of an aspirin flavor, but this doesn't spoil the overall pleasure found within. In fact, it's a damn nice India Pale Ale.

You've got a keeper on your hands, Ithaca
 Beer Company. My kind of IPA.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Abita Jockomo IPA

For this one, I again look at older notes, drinking now-ish, but not so old as to question what I was thinking lo, those years ago. March 2008 was when I wrote this about this, Jockomo IPA from Abita:

Gorgeous hazed crimson coloring, big, creamy off-white head.

Generous hop aromatics, with a candy-ish sweetness to match the citric bitter smack. Grapefruit meets candy apple and Jolly Rancher.

Drinkin'...juicy. fruity. You could name a gum after it, I guess. Hops hang high, then drop off. Not too bitter, but fairly ordinary for an IPA. A trifle watery and light. I keep looking for a bigger hop smack, but it's not happening here.

Hop bitterness stay on the palate through a long finish, lay long in the mouth, but it ultimately fails to thrill. I could make my way through a 6-pack, but it just doesn't do it for me.

Takin bout ... hey now, hey now

Iko! Iko! an de'

Jackomo fe no an e' , Jackomo fe nan e'

actually, further into the glass, I'm liking it more...points go up.

Magic Hat Pistil

Magic Hat Pistil. Remember when I covered the dandelion saison from Dave's BrewFarm? And wondered about how many times such a brew had been done, thinking only of at least one Belgian version? Well, what do you know, here's another, called Pistil, and with a label designed by a clone of Peter Max.

Hazy yellow, slim white head.

Mild aromatics, lightly floral, vegetal, minor hops. Nothing special.

Taste: soft, malty, smooth. Light bodied, mellow hop presence, sweet malt character. Can I taste the dandelion? Can't say that I can. Don't know if you ever could, and wonder what might be the point?
Is there wheat in this, I wonder, for it feels so. Not much info at all on the bottle, except these words: "stop and smell the petals." Also, "3/4 pint of beer brewed with dandelion." Also, 4.5% aBV.

This is not a bad beer, it's smooth, quenching, refreshing, and very consumable. Nice wheaty texture. Good drinkin'.  Nice summertime tosser-backer.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

It happened again! Watch this, notes from yesterday...

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye Specialty Ale. 8% ALC by VOL, brewed and bottled by Bear Republic Brewing Company, Healdsburg Cloverdale, California.

Appearance: dark crimson coloring, slim off-white head. S'okay.

Aroma: rich, fruity malt first, hops second. Not much else.

Taste: There's the spicy rye malt, there's the high hops, here's the juicy malt. High bitterness matched the malt well. Then the rye rises up, a turbid tango, spicy malt and bitter hops, back and forth.
Further in, some chocolate charges in, some rich cocoa malt. Tasty stuff, but muddled, unfocused and odd, though not in a good way. Interesting, but not very well put together. I want to like it, but I just can't. Decent enough, though…

I like rye ales, rye IPAs, etcetera…just not this.

Let's look at what they say: "Hop Rod Rye is a high performance, turbo charged, alcohol-burnin' monster ale with dual overhead hop injection, made with 18% rye. Brewmasters notes: Don't drink & drag. Sediment at bottom of bottle may be a ruselt of the truckload of hops in this non-filtered ale."

I have a feeling Bear Republic might be yet another brewer that so many like, and I just don't love as much. Alas, and alack.

and, looky here, notes from the first taste, May, 2003:

Appearance: brilliant red color, with an off-white, big and bubbly head. Aroma: sharp hops, fruit: grapefruit, pineapple, and pine.
Lush, delicious mouthfeel, and a lingering, long-lasting finish.
Hops are emergent throughout, with the deep, dark, fruity, delicious flavor ringing through and through.
At first, the hop attack is harsh and spiney, but ultimately this brew gets rounded out quite nicely.
The notes I construct this review from are not perfect, they were scribbles and scratches jotted down while sharing this bottle with a friend. Rest assured, though, that it made an indelible impression on us both!
Another great one from the Bear!


Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

A pic of a bottle from 2018 now replaces the
inferior one I posted in 2012, as you read my
notes from then, and 2003.
Bear Republic Racer 5 India Pale Ale, independent since 1995. 7.5% ABV, 75 IBU. Bear Republic Brewing Company, Healdsburg, CA.

Clear, golden / amber hue, under a lasting white head.

Aroma: soft citrus notes, mildly hoppy, fresh and zesty.

Taste: wet and fruity, light to medium bodied, soft hoppy finish. Nice caramel malt background, support the citric hop presence above. Feels like a maltier version of Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Very consumable IPA, this one, milder bitterness, smooth malt flavor.

I'm getting to the end of a 12 pack of this, taking my notes before I drink them all. (Although, I feel sure I've had it once before. Have to check next time I go online…tomorrow.) It's fine, better than average, but not spectacular.

Let's take a moment to read what they say about themselves. "Racer 5 is an aggressive styled India Pale Ale. Handmade from a brewery whose motto is " Bigger is Better." This golden, well hopped. bottle conditioned ale demands your attention. Try the next generation of I.P.A. Racer 5…Go…Go…
Brewmaster Notes: Keep cold, respect life, don't D + D, real ale is alive, yeast is good, serve at 45- 50 F.

This is nice, but not Big, nor Better. I hate to say it, because it's so popular and well-regarded, but I'm simply not impressed. Maybe it needs to be fresher. From California to Wisconsin, from Wisconsin to my place.


So, guess what, I have had this before, in May of 2003, and did I ever like it, then. In fact, I changed some exclamation points to periods, just to curb the enthusiasm. This was from a trade, but perhaps a fresher bottle than I ones I've been drinking?

Appearance: hazy orange, ripe peach, with a good, white, and actively bubbly head of foam atop. Aroma: instantly sharp and spicy, with spikey hits of citric fruit, grapefruit, peach, apricot, plus pine, and flowers, and more. Intense!
Hop attack begins in earnest on first sip and never wants to quit! A torrent, no, a blizzard, no an ever-loving bitter monsoon. A definite threat to the senses.
Tingly, spicy, and ever-so-tasty!
This would go great with food, I think, but I also think that it would go great with anything, anytime.
Body feels thin, though, compared to the massive hop-heaviness on the palate.
More malt, please, sir!
There are many layering effects, though, and many rewards for this souped-up ale.

New Belgium / Lost Abbey Lips of Faith: Brett Beer

New Belgium Lips of Faith Brett Beer. the Lost Abbey & New Belgium, Alc. 7.5%, brewed and bottled by New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado.

I'm gonna jump right into it.

Hazy golden coloring, huge white head.

Aroma: Belgian yeast, Belgian funk. Wildness and weirdness. Large citrus fruit, minor hops, meager malt. Love it. Sour, citric, …nice.

Taste: more citrus, more sour, more funk. But mellow. Very mellow. Everything is mellow, mellow citrus, mellow sour, mellow funk. Easy consumption. Each drink brings a slap of sour, but nothing overwhelming. Fruit. Sour. Mellow malt. What else?

Let's read what they say: "The best part of collaboration is discovering mutual passions. With Lost Abbey, it was the wild yeast strain brettanomyces. Using Belgian inspiration, we fermented the bier with brettanomyces to bring out tropical fruit notes, crisp haziness, and bright flavor. A touch of fruity Sorachi Ace hops pleases the palate and incites frequent sips."

For one thing, yeah, tropical, I get that, a little pineapple-y. Another thing: "Crisp haziness"? How can anything be "crisp" and "hazy" at the same time? Someone fire this label copywriter! I mean, come on! "Crisp haziness"? Are you just jerking with us? Trying to see if anyone is paying attention?

Good sour ale, but far short of an actual brett bomb. You'll know them when you drink them. You're not sure if you actually enjoy it at first, unless you're a dyed in the wool sourhead. They're the ones disappointed in this.

Soft, pale, tasty, mellow..and funky. But, not too much. No bomb, this, buster, you don't know the meaning of bomb if you think this is bomb. Bomb me, baby.
This, this is just nice.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Firestone Walker Parabola Russian Imperial Stout

Firestone Walker Parabola Barrel aged Imperial Stout 2011.
Russian Imperial Stout. Reserve Series No. 002. OG 29.5 P, IBU 82, Cases 3000, 12 months aged in barrel,  British ale yeast, 167 srm. Alc. 12.5% ABV.

Solid black, under a rich brown, cocoa head. Looks fantastic, that is to say, magnificent, or, so to speak, amazing.

Aroma: dense as can be. Molasses, chocolate, espresso, dark rum, …and let us not forget alcohol. Thick, rich, huge, …massive, really.

Taste: vast, voluminous, enormous, …thick, rich, malty, dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruit. high alcohol, but just shy of what we call "hot". Dense and dangerous. Viscous and vicious. We could keep this up all day, I suppose. I can crack open the thesaurus and round up the usual suspects. In short, it's as big and overblown as the best of them.

So huge, I couldn't finish it. Chose to drink it after a night of drinking other beers, and didn't have the capacity for taking the whole bomber down, after those initial notes. I capped the remains and finished it off last night, no worse the wear. Well, a little worse. Didn't hurt it that much though.

A magnificent achievement in the style, worthy of speaking of in the same breath as the previous champions.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fulton Lonely Blonde

Fulton Lonely Blonde ale. Got a growler full of it, let's drink it up.

Clear, pale gold coloring, slim white head.

Aroma: soft hops, light maltiness, a little grainy.

Taste: light bodied, bright citric hop flavor, clean and easily drinkable. A session beer, and a chick beer, without being a lite beer or a wheat beer, which is a nice accomplishment. The Dude goes for an IPA, and his Chick can have a Lonely Blonde, even if she's a brunette. (Redheads will want something more.)
Easily sipped, tidily hopped, just enough flavor to satisfy, yet…not quite enough for me. But this isn't meant for me. I don't go for blondes. Send me to a red, a black, or a brown, please.

However, once again, there ain't nothing wrong with it, and it is just as good as a blonde ale should be. In fact, it's nearly perfect for a blonde ale. But, again, I'm not going to grab at one anytime soon.

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...