Thursday, August 30, 2012

Boom Island Brimstone Tripel

Boom Island Brewing Company Brimstone Tripel, "Brimstone? You mean fire and brimstone? What could this award-winning, Belgian-style Tripel have to do with divine punishment? Taste it. See how three times the malt brings three times the pleasure? That's divine. Now, did you detect each of the unique spices and esters working their magic? No? Your punishment is to have another sip." Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Lightly hazy, pale golden coloring, thinnish chalk white head.

Aroma: sweetness and spice, lemon and banana, especially ester-y. Alcohol begins to show through after a bit.

Taste: Once in the mouth, alcohol comes first, followed by light malt character, then citrus fruit, and spare amounts of spice. Light-bodied, fairly smooth, but something feels off in the flavor. It comes close, …but misses the mark. Too thin in the mouthfeel, I could do with some more of malt and yeast. The alcohol overcomes it, and overtakes the parts of the flavor I'd really rather be enjoying. "A bit 'hot", we like to say these days.

All in all, I'm not wild about this one, but I'll give them time to improve. And one area I really want to see them improve on is their label descriptions:

"The skinny on Brimstone: Aroma: Light fruit & interesting yeast character. As it warms, light alcohol and subtle spiciness increases. Appearance: clear and golden, long-lasting white head. Flavor: Nice balance of yeast character and spice, layered  upon light fruit notes. Moderately dry with slight hop bitterness on the finish. Overall impression: A classic of a Belgian Strong! Flawless technical merit, good alcohol control, and nice fruit & spice layered on base (malt and hops) flavors. Wonderful!"

Enough with congratulating yourself on your beer, and calling it Wonderful! and saying how nice and interesting it is...or "flawless" for the love of Pete, my God, who refers to themselves on their product label as "flawless", or even "classic"? You don't get to be classic yet, and you shouldn't call yourself flawless. That's a big mistake. Who are you kidding?

It's neither classic nor flawless, and superlatives should be removed from all in-house copy. Effective now.

A quick lesson on in-house beer descriptions: say what it is, what is does, and how it does what you say it does, be positive and uplifting, but stay away from showering your own beer with your own praise. This is simple, people. And it just makes you look better.

Also, learn my lesson: stay away from exclamation points. Far away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell, literally the original pilsner from Plzn, Czech Republic. Notes from June, 2005:

Clear, pale golden hue. Thick, lush head.

Lively nose, pretty, floral, lightly spicy...dandy, with a dash of honey.

Neat hops on the tongue, with a long, welcome stay on the palate.

Light bodied, dry, hoppy finish.

I'm not a lager man, but a classic pilsner like this will always be a friend, in a pinch.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blanche des Bruxelles

Another witbier, this one more authentic, known as Mannenken Pis in it's homeland, called Blanche des Bruxelles (the white of Brussels) here in the United States. We may produce and drink beer that looks and tastes like piss, but we will not allow the word on a label here in our country. Not missing, however, is that peeing boy who is so celebrated in Brussels. Now, the notes, from May, 2008, the first time I got my hands on a bottle.

There's the pissing boy of Manneken Pis on the label.

Hazy straw yellow, smallish white head.

Airy, spicy, lovely nose...fresh and perfumey. Coriander in there, and notes of lemon, herbs, dandelions, fresh mown grass.

Nice texture, citric flavor, zesty, spicy, and very refreshing. Great play on the palate, tingles and tantalizes, shuffles, bucks and wings, boogies and breakdances up and down.

Plentiful flavor, much delight on the tongue. Good witbier!

Blue Moon (Belgian-style) White Ale

Notes from October, 2003, back when I had this on tap at the Blue Nile, but drinking from a bottle. I finally brought this back, but only in bottles, because it's the easiest way to satisfy some people. Talking them into another wit or wheat is not always easy.
Here are those notes...

Hazy, pale orangish color...decent white head.

Nose is most impressive, buzzing with citrus, and spice, almost perfumey, a delightful aroma, just right for a witbier.

Served with lemon, in this case, which I had to manually extrude from the pint glass's brim. Would have gone better with the fish dinner this accompanied.

At the fore, really tasty, full with fruit, big blast of hops, but somehow a touch sour, left me puzzled and dissatisfied. Produced a pucker on the palate, a tightness on the tongue.

Flavor sags some in the middle, too. It acts just like a witbier at the beginning, then quits halfway through, and I'm saddened by the paucity of body and texture...doesn't fail all the way, though, there's still some remnants of that spicey, fruity flavor, but they're too, too faint. Little finish, and once done, I'd forgotten what had happpened.

Followed this with a pint of Bell's Oberon, which bore none of those failings.
I can only be glad of the popularity of this particular beer, for at least these folks are trying something different. It's a pity, though, that so many think that they're actually drinking a product of Belgium, and I hope they move on to better beers.

It's true, I know of many for whom this was their gateway beer. Has to be good for something, then.

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale Ale Brewed with Natural Flavors.  "Dedicated to Tres & Cat Daddy, The Rogues of Voodoo Doughnuts, Brewed and Bottled by Rogue Ales, Newport, OR, 97365. 13 Ingredients: Briess Cherrywood Smoked malt, Weyermann Beechwood Smoked Malt, house-smoked hickory malt, Great Western 2 Row, Munich, C15, C75 malts, Applewood-smoked bacon, Pure maple flavoring, Rouge micro hopyard revolution & independent hops, free range coastal water, & pacman yeast, no chemicals, preservatives, or additives."
More about the plato, IBU, Lovibond, and AA, whatever that is, but I can't find the ABV. Where is it? I can't find it.

This came out months ago, and people freaked, my friends gobbled it up, posted pictures on, etcetera…and I just couldn't bring myself to buy one. Why? 1. the cost, especially versus my doubts about the beer. (I paid $11.99 for this one.) 2. I like smoked beers, but maple and bacon? Do I really want to drink a doughnut? Is that what I'm looking for in a beer? 3. The bottle looks like Pepto Bismol. Not comforting. Also, I'm worried about ingesting sprinkles. (It's a doughnut beer, it should have sprinkles, right?)

But I regretted not trying this unique concoction, after all, it is necessary and important for me to try everything…everything, no matter how much the color of the bottle makes me think of upset stomach. And I found a bottle, and now I'm drinking one. Or, about to, anyway...

And now I'm wishing I had a Homer Simpson pint glass, it seems a natural choice. I'll just reach into the cabinet and find what I can find. …Nope, nothing with a pig on it, oh, well…

Hazy, crimson appearance, under a lush, looming, booming, slightly off-white head, sparkling and lace-leaving.

Aroma: screams out from first pour, the maple and the bacon, together as one. Let's go in further…Smoke hits first, and you can feel the fire below, plenty of char above the maple and bacon, like walking into a freshly burned building. I think I liked it better before I went in for a closer sniff.

Taste: Big, fresh smoked malt right away, matched with mild hoppiness, and then in roars the maple, then the bacon. Malt is lighter than I imagined. Did I expect a porter? Perhaps I anticipated a breadier mouthfeel, for a more "doughnutty" taste?
Maybe because I've never had a Voodoo Maple Bacon Doughnut, I can't compare this against it's true inspiration?

Somewhat thinnish mouthfeel, uninspiring flavor, beyond the gimmicky additions. Doesn't make me think of a doughnut in the least.

This should only be sampled among a large group of friends so that everyone gets a smallish taste, and can all agree on how sad this brew is…don't make my mistake and try to tackle it on your own.

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

I penned these notes in December of 2006....

Clear crimson coloring, edging on darker maroonish, but a full, lush, creamy-toned head, leaving lace. I like it.

Aroma: cherries, whiskey, vanilla, berries, cognac, luscious and lovely. Wide open, deep, complex, mature, and heavenly.

Taste: vanilla jumps up first, smothers the palate with the flavor of that sweet bean, fruit flavors join in as well, but vanilla maintains it's dominance. Yums.

Medium mouthfeel, body, smooth, tasty, ...almost too smooth. But so delicious. If, maybe, too much vanilla. I like other things that arise from the flavors of various oak barrels.
Wait. Oak chips? Oak...chips? No barrells? Hmmm...

Tasty, delicious, ...I like it, but not as much as the Original A.B. So, sue me.

From this bottle, I'm liking it more than I did 5 1/2 years ago, probably more than the original. And I've learned a lot more about barrel aging, and chips and such. Also, I didn't get that much vanilla this time, much more vinous and mellow.

Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA

These notes are from November, 2007:

Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA. 12 ounce brown bottle. Odd looking label art, slightly askew and off-kilter, like many of their others. (Edit: the new bottle design is much better.)

Hazed orange appearance, small white head, soon gone.

Intense aromatics, out loud and proud! Huge grapefruit citric notes, big pithyorange and lemon peel, slice of pineapple, fresh, vibrant, even pungent, and lively. Lovely stuff.

Fat mouthfeel, plump and abundant with flavor, but it fades back after such a shining promise. Tasty hops. Persistent bright orange flavor never flags, big, bristling bitter buzz playing on the palate.

Little malt in action here.
Nice hop action, but, yet not quite enough, there's a certain spark missing that could push it to another place.

However, I do like this. I could possibly learn to really like it.

Avery Ellie's Brown Ale

Looking at notes from January, 2004, for this one, though I drink from a can this time (there's no difference between the two):

Avery Ellie's Brown

Clear, pale brown color, good head, rocky, fizzy, with nice lacing.

Aroma: Malty, cola and nuts.

Taste: mildness supreme, very little actual action on the palate, almost no hoppiness, but a good malt quotient. Finish barely exists, body is very thin, ...and if I seem to stand on the verge of condemning the brew, at the same time, I can understand that it actually acheives it's aims.
A light, unimpressive quaffer, a la Newcastle...nothing wrong with that, the stuff sells, folks like it, but it leaves me cold.
I was harsh on the finish, though, for it does carry on for a time, with a caramelly nut flavor.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale

Notes from August, 2004...

An obligatory comment about the label: what the hell?
 The people of Tilburg are obviously very proud, and justly so, of the artistic tradition of Holland, but I've got to say it takes guts to shush aside Rembrandt or Vermeer, and instead celebrate the painter of "the Garden of Earthly Delights" (Hieronymous Bosch) and isolate a particularly horrific "bird-headed, kettle-hatted monster in the midst of devouring a human, with birds flying out of his/her ass" picture to use as the central label image on, of all things, a beer label. Most bold, Koeningshoeven, most bold!

But, about the beer...

Clear, bright crimson color, dark and nearly brown, not quite, though, with a thick, rich, cocoa-colored, creamy head, very nice.

Aroma is sweet and nutty from the start, with big caramel notes, alert, lively, wide open and awake, far, so good!

Taste: smooth, and slightly sweet, mild hops, lush malt, more caramel in the flavor, bright, fruity, with a significant character.
I was prepared to be disappointed, but I'm not. As a brown ale, this is above par, quite top of the notch. Tasty, medium bodied, with a long, lingering nutty, sweet finish.
 As far as brown ales go, this one far surpasses many more famous versions.

Still scratching my head about that label image choice. Even "Christ Mocked" would be better!

Stone Pale Ale

Notes from November, 2003...

Dense, murky, dark orange color...a thick, creamy head...

Nose is fruity, and floral, vibrant and sweet, hops are nice, mellow, and very attractive, without standing out too much. Perfectly mild pale ale aroma. Zesty and citric, nice and fresh.

Taste...very nice. All those flavors found in the nose return on the palate. A certain spiciness sticks it out right next to the easy-going fruitiness, and, if you'll allow me, I'm reminded of a barleywine flavor, but without the alcohol.
Mellow and tasty, light to medium in body, pleasant finish. Extraordinarily drinkable and smooth, but never skimping on taste.

What an appealing pale ale, I'm glad that Stone has such a friendly offering to appeal to those who aren't always aching for an abundance of hops and challenging flavors, something to keep the taps flowing and the coffers filled, allowing them to make those bad bastards we all love!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Miller Lite

You know how it is here at the Bitter Nib: we take it for the team, going for the gold as well as the dross, in an effort to get to bottom of everything beer. Toward that, I revisit, the time I checked out the Lite beer from Miller Brewing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I wrote these notes in December, 2005. Here we go...

Continuing my survey of light beer, onward, and....upward?

Tremendously transparent, pale golden hue, slim slab of froth that disappers assuredly, while bubble float up from below. "Looks like a beer."

Aroma: wispy corny sweetness, and little else.

Taste: soft, then crisp, then gone. Lightness is indeed represented in full here, and any flavor that is present is absent before you notice. Doesn"t taste "bad" mind you, and there's a brief bit of malt and grain, enough that I'd say it lives up to it's advertising.

Dry, lightly citric finish, intensely carbonated, faint body. It does what it's supposed to....

Could it actually be happening that i"m saying good things about miller lite? What's next, I'll join the Garth Brooks fan club? Eat all my meals at Hardee's? Throw out my book collection and spend all my time in front of the Tee Vee?

Well, if that's all you want from a beer, lightness, wetness, a modicum of flavor, and the usual amount of booze, here it is, enjoy.

I'll still opt for more hops, more malt, more actual taste, and count us all lucky that such things are indeed in plentiful supply.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Founders Centennial IPA

Here's an old favorite I haven't sat down with in a while. I first jotted down notes on this one in April, 2004, from a bottle procured in a trade, about 5 years before the brand arrived in our market. Here come the jottings...

Hazy, deep amber to bronze color, fine, fuzzy, tapioca-ish head.

Aroma: grapefruit, a whiff of pine, pineapple, softly fruity,never harsh or bitter, but definitely hoppy, on a juicified level, a sweet pleasure to sniff!

Taste: rather mild on the mouth at first, though not unsparing in taste, fruit flavors do a delciious fandango in the tongue, mangoes and melons, grapefruit, and nectarine, with a slice of lime, the bitterness just hangs on the side, never poisons the experiencek merely barks up and nips a little. Again, bitterness is not unpleasant, but full fruity flavor is nothing but.

Medium bodied, zesty, medium-length finish, hangs well and firmly in the mouth. Nice rendition of the style.

Sierra Nevada / Russian River Brux Domesticated Wild Ale

Brux Domesticated Wild Ale, A Russian River & Sierra Nevada Collaboration. A dry and complex Belgian-style ale refermented in the bottle with Brettanomyces bruxellensis. Brewed and bottled by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA, in collaboration with with Russian River Brewing Company.

Caged and cork, 750 ml bottle. Clear, bright amber color, under a slim white head that dissipates quickly.

Aroma: this one will take some time, as it's not throwing out any ordinary flavors or associations. There's some fruit, but no sweetness, no hops, very dry, and none of the typical descriptors for a sour brew come out of this nose. There's some of that horse blanket rearing it's head, now, some of the cat pee shows up, some of the funk.

Taste: lean bodied, short finish, light on flavor. Mild malt character, negligible hop contribution, but the yeast is felt, and tasted. The cat pee returns to the flavor, hints of lemon, dry, yes, again, but , alas, there's very little of anything else going on.

I'll take a minute to read the label. "What began as a mutual admiration between Sierra Nevada's Grossman family and Russian River's Cilurzos has grown and progressed into genuine friendship. Brux began as an idea and has grown into something altogether different. …The liquid manifestation of change over time….Refermented in the bottle with Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Brux will change and develop over time. Copper-colored, dry and complex, with slightly tart notes of green grass, pear, spice and lemon---this ale will progress in the bottle for many years."

Well. damnit, why didn't I read this first? Why did I make the dunder-headed move of actually drinking this bottle fresh and expecting something good, when I should have sat on it for years, to see what happens when it develops? Will it gain flavor, where now it has virtually none?

I'm sorry, but beers should be judged based on how they taste when they're placed on the shelves. This one as it is should be filed under: "meh." No, wait, make that "Blah."

Unfortunately, there's about 18 ounces left in this thing, and I don't believe in "drain pours." It might be time for some blending. Luckily, I have a growler of Harriet's Saison Nourrice nearby, and I think I'll spike this with that, and maybe it'll go down better.

Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout

Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout. 8.1 % ABV. Brewed and bottled by Bear Republic Co., Inc., Healdsburg Cloverdale, CA. 

I put this down last night, but, lo and behold, I had one nine years ago, June of 2003. I like what I wrote then, so here come the notes:

Appearance: black as the darkest night, with a tall, fantastic, booming, cocoay/brown head, leaving chocolatey lace. 

Aroma: creamy, dry, with faraway hints of coffee, becoming more prominent by the second. Another case of an unfolding flavors. 

Smooth first sip, "ah," I'm thinking, "that goes down easy." But, oh, no, don't be fooled, the finish is thick and long, and the effect is powerful! 

Rich, coffeeish, with a full, warm rum/cognac feel. 

Excellent texture, lush, long-lasting, dark and rewarding flavors, full and roasty and delicious. 
More earthy, espresso-like dominate the palate, and more, fruitier flavors show up and intermingle, giving off more and more to appreciate. 
Alcoholic content is also a kicker, and see

ms to get stronger, darker, more wicked as we go. I save a small sample as a pick-me-up in the morning, throughout the day, when the man's getting me down, anytime's the right time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weyerbacher Blasphemy

Weyerbacher Blasphemy Ale. Weyerbacher Brewing, Easton, PA.

This has been in my fridge so long, I've forgotten what style this beer is, and there's no information on the label whatsoever. None. Except 11.8% ABV. The rest I'll guess on as I drink it. I think it's a bourbon barrel imperial stout. Maybe.

( has it listed as a Quadrupel.)
(But how does it differ from their Quad simply called Quad? Is this the barrel-aged version of that.)

Looking at it, and getting a whiff of it, though, it's clear that it's a barley-wine, barrel-aged. Fiercely carbonated, rich plummy crimson coloring, small, but lasting off-white head.

Aroma: Deep and vinous. Myriad wine-like flavors play out, intense berries, grapes etc. like a port or a wine, mixed with brandy or cognac.

Taste: Even more intense, and deep, and rich. Now I'm getting it…bourbon-barrel barley-wine. Blithering Idiot mixed with whiskey barrels. The fierceness is now mellowing, it's getting rather cool on the tongue, but the alcohol is taking it's place and rising up, ringing in the brain, quietly now, but getting louder. Rich, complex fruitiness melds with the brash bourbon qualities, making a grand, majestic mix.

This may be more than I can take in one session, but I'm strapped in for the long haul. Or am I? Let's see, and find out how sober I am in the other end.

Flavor continues strong, but doesn't completely overwhelm. It's rich, and complex, and very manageable. The only burden is the ever-increasing alcohol presence.

But, beyond that, this blasphemer is damnably delicious. I'd be best off with a smaller sample maybe, or share with friends, but I had to take this one down by myself. I've got probably eight ounces to go, and it's getting louder in here, boom-boompbbom-boom.

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Witbier

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Belgian-style witbier.

Very hazy, light golden hue, big white head that disappears in a quickness.

Gorgeous aromatics are absolutely typical of a to-style wittier, light, spicy, airy, floral, fruity. Coriander and orange, lemon on the side, with a whiff of wheat.

Taste: smooth wheat, sweet fruity/spicy flavor, extraordinary censurability. Mild hop bitterness. Creamy. Soft, All very mellow, very light, perfect easy-drinking. And terrifically tasty.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Select

Been putting off re-posting this review for some time. Perhaps because the last attempt at photographing the can didn't turn out well. Damn shiny aluminum! Well, as a famous moose once said with alacrity to his friend the squirrel: "This time for sure!"

These are notes from December, 2009:

BrewFarm Select

Golden Lager, All-Malt, 12 oz. can

Disembarks the can and boards the glass with hefty head holding firm on top, lacey and white, clear and golden-hued below.

Light, malty nose, cereal husk, with a little honey-ish sweetness. Lean and clean.

Taste: malt and water. Very clean, light, and just enough flavor from the malt, with a tidy little blast of hops, to keep it interesting. Incredibly easy to drink, with appreciable flavor.

Quality lager, all the way. I'm not typically a lager guy, but this is top-notch. Almost perfect.
Must admit, though, I'm eager to try to real BrewFarm products. The ones where Dave will really let loose. Til then, this'll bring home the bacon.

Two and a half years later, it's not clear how much bacon Select brought home, but it did have many fans. Maybe not enough, because it's future is in doubt, at least as a contracted brew. As much as I want to see more LaBrewatory products leave the BrewFarm and enter the market, I also hope to see this fine lager survive.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout

So, here I am, looking at old reviews, and shaking my head. This one that I will next share with you will be edited, and you will have no idea how many exclamation points were in the original. In hindsight, even though the letters are not capitalized, it seems like shouting. Somehow, I had no idea while I was writing it, but it does show enthusiasm, which I had in spades for Young's Double Chocolate Stout, and still do, of course.

Young's was one of my favorite English ale breweries way back when, and it's sad to see them absorbed by Wells, with only the brands and beers remaining, though not all of them. It doesn't hold a candle to the current crop of barley-wines, but, boy, did I use to love Young's Old Nick and it's devilish   label, as well as the naughty sounding Dirty Dick's. Their Oatmeal Stout went down my gullet quite often, as well. All three of those are gone, but thank heavens Double Chocolate Stout is still around.

And so, here is my April, 2003 notes with an untold amount of exclamation marks excised:

Color is a solid black, with a large, lush, lovely brown head.

Aroma: soft and creamy, with a subdued cocoa content, sweet and mild.
 On the palate, however, things take a change for the decidedly better.

Niiiiiice, oh, so, nice, with substantial chocolate feeling, although it doesn't actually come in strong at first. At the end of the swallow, there it is, that real chocolate essence. WOW! Ever so tasty, and I'm not even such a chocolate nut, but you've got to give it up, there it is, and it tastes great.

Hops are minimal, here, and malt is king. Texture is smooth, and taste is sublime.

Fully integrated, perfectly balanced, this is one excellent stout, with an inpsired addition of flavor.

The delicious flavor never ever ends after the bottle empties, but the flavor lingers long after.

(By the way, these old notes were written from a bottle, which I preferred over the nitro-can, which was recently released, and I noted that (taken out from this version, with the exclamations) in my original review. The can is what I have now, though, and I am no longer opposed to it, but do still prefer this one without the nitrogen. Also, I thought it would look cool to photograph in mid-cascade.)

Wells Banana Bread Beer

Wells Banana Bread Beer. Alc. by Vol. 5.2%. Malt beverage brewed with bananas and banana flavor added. Looking at notes from my first taste of this, back in March, 2008:

Pour it into a standard pint glass and the aroma of bananas leaps out at you. Clear amber-y color, creamy, off-white, merengue type of head.

Sweet aromatics, all banana & malt. Smells a bit like circus peanuts, a little plastic. But they swear they use real bananas, so I'll believe them.

Taste: Bready malt meets faint banana flavor, light bodied, easy-drinking. Flavor remains with every sip, right up at the front of the tongue, kind of a banana cream pie feel to it.

But all in all, a solid ale. Light in hops, clean, smooth, and slightly sweet. I'm liking this. You drink a few of 'em. And it's oh, so, banana-y...a nice novelty that could turn out to be a regular treat!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery MPLS

MPLS. Minnesota Pale Lager Style. Not "Minneapolis", nor "Mipples", say it with us, "Em Pe El Es." A hoppy lager. 6.1% ABV. "...amply hopped with Nelson Sauvin..."
And now we're going to drink it.
But first we pour it.

Clear, deep amber/caramel coloring, with a big beautiful, blooming white head, with a rocky terrain, leaving lace.

Aroma: Large and out loud, spicy and floral, a little citric…no, a lot. But, it's a wonderful, lively blend.

Taste: Hops climb on board, and spread around, clamber over the crisp, biscuity, tasty, toasty malt. Spicy stuff, and fruity, too. Little sweet, too, but not too-too. Quaffably delicious. Here's a beer you can drink, doggone it, and give you plenty of body and spicy hops. Mmmm, hmmm.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stone Ruination Ale 10th Anniversary

Stone Ruination 10th Anniversary Ale, 10.8% ALC./VOL., Ruining palates for ten years, brewed and bottled by the Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, CA.

Lightly hazed, golden apricot hue, with a slim, white, dotted head. Looks good.

Aroma: Everything you want in a double IPA and more. Blasts the senses with pine, citrus, and tropical fruits. Bright, bitter, fierce, and furious. Juicy, fresh, deep, and rereshing. Alcohol is felt, but quickly forgiven. We know this will be a challenge, but the beautiful smack of hops makes us forget what's to come. Ah, scrumptious!

Gonna read the vast, voluminous copy on the side of the bottle. blah, blah, blah…pat yourselves on the back, puff yourself up…blah, blah, blah…mmm, hmmm, hmmm….lots of informative history of the origins of the double IPA style…but, without a mention of what makes this different from regular Ruination. Why not? No one knows. (Well, I do, now that I've checked the website. Alcohol raised up 3%, hop additions doubled. 110 IBUs? Damn, but it did feel like it!)

I keep drinking, and I keep thinking, damn, this is delicious. Also, incredibly bitter, but so consumable for the hop head with a tolerance for higher alcohol.  It's the ne plus ultra of Ruination, while still being able to slip past the lips and go all the way down the gullet. All the usual suspect flavors at play, all the resiney, piney, grapefruit, lemon, and pineapple.

My first Ruination was 10 years ago, mere months after it was released. I didn't know this until Greg Koch told me when I met him for the first time. In my entry for Ruination Ale, I told the story of how it "ruined" me. It was one of the first double IPAs I had ever had, but definitely not the first. In the intervening 10 years, there has been so much done with palate rippers and booze bombs in the name of hop delivery, it's easy to forget how far we've come, and what a leader this beer really was.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Millstream Hop2 Double IPA

Millstream Hop(2) Double IPA, Amana, Iowa. No information given, but this on the side of the bottle carrier….um, no, it's too long. Maybe I'll scan it. Oh, and we learn that it is 7.5% ABV. So, let's open it up and find out what's inside.

Deep burgundy coloration, rich, creamy off[white head above.

Aromatics: complexity abounds, rich, malty, pungent. Hops are present, but muddied and indistinct. There are no typical hop aromatics associations at play. Instead there is chocolate, dark fruit, plum and fig and cherry, and oak.

Taste: Hip hops hit at first, a blast of bitterness, then up rises sweet malt to smother it and coat it in chocolate and caramel. I can taste it some on the tongue, but it goes nowhere. Sweet subsumes all.

This really doesn't feel like a double IPA at all. Alcohol is high, yes, but, hops aren't as pronounced as they ought to be, and malt mucks it up. I'm happy to entertain varying and contrasting interpretations of this still very new style, but this one doesn't thrill me at all. I'll finish my 4-pack and forget about it. About $11 down the drain, and here's hoping they improve it some if they try this again.

Third Street BrewHouse Bitter Neighbor Black IPA

Someone asked me recently about Third Street BrewHouse, before I ever tried their wares, before they released anything, this question: "Do you think they have anything to do with Cold Spring Brewery?", in that they are in the city of Cold Spring, Minnesota. I said something along the lines of, "they'd have to be, no one would ever take on that poisonous association." Cold Spring Brewing has been long known as one of the nation's worst breweries, at least when it comes to the online internet beer geek reviewers, (a subspecies I belong to, naturally). They were once the makers of the Gluek line of crummy brews, and finally lost all vestiges of that brand a few years ago.

Well, I was right. Cold Spring created this new brand, built an entirely new brewery, and hired very competent hands (Horace Cunningham, formerly of Summit). Perhaps the hand-drawn lettering and rough pencil artwork is meant to suggest honesty, raw integrity, deep-down craftsmanship? Maybe so.

Well, let's find out what they're all about, with some Bitter Neighbor Black IPA India Pale Ale. Careful perusers of this blog will know of my constant struggle with the still very new sort-of-style. We're teeter-tottering between the well-mashed and the utterly imbalanced. I need to research my own notes to find out just how this pseudo style has fared, good (in my opinion) versus not so good.

Let's crack this and find out…

6.5% ABV.
Appearance: Fully black, no light escapes, unless you really, really try, nice cocoa/tan head, tight 1/4" , lasting long.

Aroma: cocoa and cream, and a faint whiff of grassy hops. Smooth and balanced.

Taste: No real threat from hops at the start, fairly mild, but there. Pleasant on the palate, then the malt comes in, again, very well-mannered, not brash or brusque and rude in any fashion, just knocking on the door and taking it's shoes off. Well comported body, medium, with a lightly hoppy, chocolatey finish. Toasty, just-a-little-bit-bitter malty flavor.

Taking a break now to read the label. "The Story. You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. You can pick where you live, but you can't pick your neighbors. That is, until now. When you pick up a glass filled with frothy, dark-colored bitter neighbor black IPA, it won't leave a bad taste in your mouth. In fact, it's quite good. (Sorry, we can't help you with the family part.)
Malts: Pale, caramel, Munich, Roasted Black. Hops: German & US (Magnum, Hersbrucker, Amarillo, Cascade.)

(Quick note about that copy. Breweries should never describe their beers as "nice" or "good." Just tell us how you made it and what flavors we might find, let us make the judgement about how nice and good it is.)

I've downed a few of these already, without taking notes, just drinking. And it drinks well. But considering what they expect that we get from this, and comparing this against others in this loosely collected category, I find Bitter Neighbor lacking. For one, not bitter enough. Hardly enough hops or bitterness to warrant calling it any kind of an IPA. Black it is, though, and actually quite tasty, and consumable, indeed.

If we just want to rave about beers that aren't bad coming out of a brewery known for awful crap, then we can do that. If we want to talk about something memorable, we can't do it here.

By the way, if this was just called a porter, I might not have said a lot of these words.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Holland Rye Hatter

New Holland Rye Hatter Rye P.A. New Holland Brewing, Holland, MI.

Dark amber to crimson, under a solid, lasting half inch head, brilliant white, slow to leave.

Aroma: bready malt hits first, with the spice of rye, minor fruit notes coming in next. Pumpernickel in a glass.

Taste: malt comes across smooth yet spicy, complex textures and meaty mouthfeel. It's a mouthful, rich, mucho malty, and fully flavorful. Hops aren't felt as highly, however; you know deep down it's an IPA, and the hops are tasted, but it's subsumed by the rye. Nonetheless, what it is, is delicious. Yum, diddly um-dum-yum. Very tasty.

And the hops are rising, the bitterness is growing, and matches well with the spicy rye malt. I'm liking this more and more. Mmm, mmm.

What does the bottle tell us? " Rye leads spiciness to the caramel-malt base, while creating a creamy texture. Dry-hopping  contributes a fresh citrus finish. Pairings: Blue cheese, blackened seafood, herb-roasted poultry."

I'm having it with Hunan Chicken and chicken-fried rice. It works just fine. But, mmm, I could sure go for some herb-roasted seafood, too. Or blackened poultry?

Brau Brothers Hop Session Super Pale Ale

Here's another new one from li'l ol' Lucan, MN, Brau Brothers Hop Session Super Pale Ale. Alc. 4.2% by vol.

Label is the most expressive and creative from BB yet. Nice design.

Crystal clear, pale golden color, quarter inch milky white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: pineapple and mango with grapefruit on the side, lemon spritz and orange peel. Fresh, vibrant, and alive. Lordy, that's lovely.

Taste: lean, clean, and fresh as the morning dew. Exquisitely consumable, with a light body, and very minor, crisp malt presence. Gigantic bitterness that camps out, then lives on the palate. Thin mouthfeel, but the unrelenting hoppiness overcompensates for that, and the ease of consumption makes this truly remarkable.

At only 4.2%, it's easily sessional, and does not skimp on the hops. The only problem with that is that the increased hop bill brought the price way up. I may feel like tossing back one after another without a care, but at $11 a 6-pack, that is a bit hard to justify.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Schwarzenheimer

Schwarzenheimer. Dave's BrewFarm. Growler purchased about 12 days ago, held up terrifically.

Appearance: solid black, under a hefty cap of cocoa-tan head. Looks great.

Aromatics: big roasted malt, minor hops, a little bit of cocoa and coffee. Nice.

Taste: full bodied, full flavored, rich, warm, malty, chocolatey, and, let us not forget, yum. Delicious.

I didn't have a lot to say about this one, kept the notes really simple. But, despite that, it is an impressive brew, a Schwarzbier, or black lager, that feels more like a Baltic Porter. Deep, rich, but smooth and supple. Like it lots!

From the Farmer man: "7.9% ABV, 'The Black Pils'. Pilsm Carafa III and Dark Munich malts with Perle and Sterling hops create a dark , crisp, refreshing taste sensation. Don't let the color fool you!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Holland Black Hatter

New Holland Black Hatter Black I.P.A. IPA brewed with black malts which add dark, roasted flavors. Dry-hopped Centennial finish. Pairings: aged cheddars, arugula in vinaigrette, portabello stir-fry.

Damn, I had that for dinner last night!

This hatter is cool customer, a Dapper Dan, with a dark fedora, looking the bad guy.  He's Dangerous Dan McFoo, orneriest dude west of the Pecos. Or, at least, it looks like him…
 Okay, let's open it up.

solid black, huge head, light cocoa-tan head, loads of lace. Looking good.

fragrant, floral, and piney hop aromatics, …not much beyond.

Taste: Grassy hops dominate the palate from the start. It's big up front and then takes a back seat. Dark malts are there, not as roasty as promised/hinted at on the label, but they definitely provide a dry finish to the affair. Some chocolate going on, some coffee. Medium-bodied, fully-flavored, not as rich or full as I'd like, but…but, I don't know what to expect from a beer like this, like these hybrids. The hops don't continue after the initial sip, and the malt component makes me think it's a new and different beer than it started out as.

I'm not loving this one. It doesn't stand out, the hops and malt don't blend, they stand apart, and it makes no sense. In the end it feels more like a hoppy porter than a black IPA. Maybe I don't really know what's wrong; more than anything else it comes off lifeless and unremarkable.

Is it old, is that it? There's no way to tell.
Or is it just me? Well, as always, mileage may vary.

21st Amendment Back in Black Black IPA

21st Amendment Back in Black Black IPA. American IPA brewed with rich dark malts. 6.85 ABV. 65 IBU.

Fully black, big, booming cocoa-tan head, leaving lace.

Aroma: hops are up front in this one, leading the charge, plenty of pine, with fruity fringes. Very nice. Perfect for a pale ale or an IPA, but the color's wrong, isn't it?

Taste: Mmm. Medium-bodied, short finish, easy drinking…and a mash-up of hops and malt. I've stated my disdain for many examples of this style, but I've got to keep trying them to see how they shake out. Hops are on top, shine brightly, but don't overpower the malts. Just a touch of roast, not enough to mistake it for a porter. More would make it much more of a clash. As it is, a nice blend.
Terrific balance, good consumability.

This one goes into the win column for the black IPA sweepstakes. It's a good beer, and you can drink it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Indeed Day Tripper Pale Ale

Indeed Brewng Company , Minneapolis, MN. Day Tripper Pale Ale, 5.4 % ALC./VOL., 45 IBU. 750 ml bottle, bottled on Aug 02, 2012, drunk early in the morning, Aug 04, 2012.

Today, I had an appointment to sample beers from Indeed Brewing, one of our newest breweries in the city, with Tom, one of the owners. He was running a little behind and came in at 8, four hours late, with the excuse of a 36-hour brew day. I forgot to mention that's too many hours in a day, but I let it slide. Tom looked familiar and he finally revealed that he worked as a server at Town Hall Brewery, where he knew me as a bar stool warmer. My reputation gets around. Tom gets extra points for saying he'd be "honored" to have Indeed on tap at the Blue Nile. Well, that's all well and good, but how are the beers?

Tom brought two with him, two cans of the summer seasonal, Shenanigans Summer Ale, brewed with honey and wheat, which I poured for all in attendance (he arrived in the middle of a Summit Abbey Ale cask tapping.) Everyone was pleased with this happy, hoppy drinker. The other one, in a 750 ml bottle, I kept for myself in order to do this review. But I don't think I'll every go very long without finding more of this one, once it hits the shelves in cans. It will be a hit.

I will share the graphics for the can, and the logo, which very different from this drab, brown paper label. But free-sample-getters can't always be choosers.
Beautiful glittering golden hue, slightly hazed, under a full flush of white foam. 

Aroma: fresh, zesty, brimming with hops, bubbling over with citrus and pine, a vibrant, pithy nose, plumb with lemon and grapefruit. 

Taste: Here's where it's getting good. We start with a slap of hops and a tickle of malt, and it never, ever quits. A fierce blast that tempers some in time, with malt succulent, soft, and supple, keeping the ground level, delivering a modicum of sweetness, providing a minimum of balance. Good and hoppy this one (though not out of bounds), and a remarkable drinker. Certainly a sessioner, with the continuing reward of hoppy goodness on the tongue.

Medium bodied, with a long, hoppy finish. The bitterness is high, and ever-present, and coupled with the malt flavor, it provide deliciousness. This is such an excellent pale ale, I'm finding it almost perfect. There's not a thing lacking, not a bit wrong, nothing to dishonor this ale. Like I said, these guys will have a hit on their hands.

I didn't take notes on the Shenanigans, and I have yet to try the third beer, an American Black Ale, called Midnight Ryder, but it seems very promising. The head brewer spent many years under Mike Hoops at Town Hall and won GABF awards for his brews there. The location (the center of NorthEast Minneapolis, 711 15th Avenue Northeast), the look, the style, the attitude, and most importantly, the beer itself will make this one a success. 

Next up: an open house next Wednesday, followed by the grand opening of their taproom (making them the first Minnesota brewery to open with kegs, cans, bottles, and a taproom all at once) next Friday (which I won't be able to attend, especially if I end up going to the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, WI next weekend), and their first tapping at Icehouse the following Wednesday, and general tappings at other bars the week after. Let's just say I'm going to try figure where they will work into our schedule, because I'm expecting great things from Indeed!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dave's BrewFarm Simcoe Single Hop Saison

Simcoe Single Hop Saison, Dave's BrewFarm, 6.9% ABV.

Brilliant golden appearance, lightly hazed, with a tight ring of white foam atop.

Earthy, malty nose, fruity and sweet. Apricot, apple and pear. Belgian yeast is funking things up in this. Bright and beautiful.

Taste: Zing! An instant blast of hops, well-matched with malt, covered up in yeast. A three-pronged attack. Hops jump, then fade, malt takes over, and it's an intriguing mix. Becomes sour in the middle, then returns to sweet. More citrus fruit qualities emerge, more than the other fruits mentioned above.

The malt component is pale and lean, allowing the hops and yeast to shine, and it's it's combination I've never encountered. The hops are shining brighter now, and the body remains light, pale, smooth. An ever-evolving ale, this.

One thing about Simcoe hops. I have a friend who hates them, because they remind her of the byproduct of feline urinary elimination. Or, in other words, cat pee. She won't drink Surly Furious, for instance, because of the Simcoe among the four hops involved. Hyper-sensitive, you could say. In this showcased of a saison, the yeast must tame that part of the beast. Just a guess, though.

So what's the Farmer say? "Pale, Rye and Ashburne Mild malts, and hopped with three additions of Simcoe hops. Fermented with French Saison yeast."

Minnesota Breweries One by One #16: Forager Brewery, Rochester

For the second stop in Rochester we chose Forager Brewery , as our collective stomachs were rumbling, and this one is a brewpub with food ...