Saturday, March 30, 2013

Indeed Hot Box Imperial Smoked Pepper Porter

Indeed Hot Box Imperial Porter/Smoked Porter, with Peppers, or Imperial Smoked Pepper Porter? One of those things. In collaboration with Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub in South Minneapolis. Brewer/owner Jamie Robinson, of Northbound, worked at Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery with Indeed brewmaster Josh Bischoff, and, I believe, co-owner Tom Wisenand. Jamie smoked some malt (and the peppers) at Northbound, then went over to Indeed in North Minneapolis to brew the thing.
 9.5 % ABV.

And now it's at last on tap at a bar near me, and in my glass, and I'm about to drink one.

Solid ebony appearance, lush, lace-leaving, light tannish head atop. A beautiful thing.

Aroma: Pepper heat and smoke lead the charge, with smoke a bit ahead. Very rauchbier-isch. Lightly sweet smoke-y malt, with peppers creeping slightly behind.

Taste: Boards the palate with full aplomb, again with smoked malt dominant, and pepper taste just after. Jalapeno and Fresno peppers were employed in this, and I'm glad they aren't a major part of it. They're there, but they're not stoking your tongue over hot coals, piercing your senses with hot pokers, drilling the palate with intense chili heat.

I've not been shy about sharing the fact that jalapenos and I are not exactly friends. I love spiciness, but am incapable of handling intense heat from those and other, hotter chilis. Cheers to those of you who are happy with them, and call me a wimp if you want. I pick them out of my meals, and do not care for them in my beers. Especially lagers. But ales, especially porters, imperial porters? Smoked porters? Imperial smoked porters? Those I can handle.

One flaw, if any, would be that traditional porter-y flavors do not emerge, for they are all but swamped by all these extra, added tastes. There's some chocolate malt lurking below, some slight roast, a light cherry or other dark fruit. But swamped over by the smoke and the pepper.

One thing that doesn't dominate, however, is the alcohol. That's staying on the mellow side, despite it's …whoa. Spoke to soon. There it is.

All in all, another excellent effort from Indeed.

New Belgium/Dieu du Ciel Heavenly Feijoa Tripel

New Belgium/ Brasserie Dieu du Ciel Lips of Faith Heavenly Feijoa Tripel, Ale Brewed with Feijoa and Hibiscus. 9% Alc. by Vol. (Is that a mouthful or what?)

I have no idea what feijoa is. At all. I barely know what hibiscus is. So, let's drink the beer and find out, okay?

It's a clear, dark amber/copper color, slim ring of foam atop.

Aroma is fresh, fruity and flowery. Who'da thunk it? Peach, apple, pear, herbal and malty. Light and lovely.

On the tongue, more fruit, more flowers, meeting the high alcohol. A harsh sweetness hits hard, masking the malt. Maybe there's a tripel lurking below, but these other flavors clash too much, making something completely new, and not altogether nice. I'm still wrestling with it, while looking at the label artwork, and how it imagines that all bicyclists go to heaven when the rapture comes, their vehicles borne away on angelic wings, while the motorists are stalled and suffer a hellish fate.

Now, here comes the gobbledygook" "Oh, my God, it's not only a reaction for drinking one of die de ciel's beers, but a figurative transaction of the Montreal brewer's name. Just ask our brewmaster, he's in heaven when drinking this collaborative tripel, inspired by Dieu de Ciel's love of hibiscus and Belgians love of the obscure, hence our addition of tart feijoa fruit, Cheers!"

Okay, I'm getting that tart jolt, that cherry-, or rapsberry-like twang on the palate. It's an interesting mix, and potentially an enjoyable one, but it's working on me…yet. I'll give it some time….It's well-balanced, for sure. It mixes well in the mouth, the fruit and the flower sit well together, but they overshadow whatever tripel is below, and I've just never found tripel to be a style that should be trifled with and trussed up and fructified.

Okay, it's finally working, and find that it's actually pretty fun and enjoyable. It's getting sourer and sourer, nice bitterness rising up. I'm liking this more and more. I'm crossing over. It's good, refreshingly sour and fruity, and utterly delicious.

New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA

So, finally, New Belgium has embraced hops, at long last. First an IPA, now a double IPA. Who knows what's next ? Boubon-barrel barley-wines? Let's not go crazy, now…

New Belgium Rampant Double IPA, New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Alc./Vol 8.5%.

 Clear, amber/bronze appearance, slim, but staying dotted white head.

Aroma: a refreshing blast of pine and citrus, lemon rind and orange zest, a pithy blend of hoppitude. Clean, tropical, fresh and lively. Love it.

Taste: In the mouth, it's a punchy blast of wonderful bitter hoppiness. Just a bit of sweet, honey-ish taste in the middle there. Great bitter buzz on the tongue, grips the palate, lasts long in the back of the throat. A very active double IPA, delivering waves upon waves of tastiness. Not too over-the-top, this one, and not found wanting, either. A bounce from piney flavors to pineapple, back to lemon and lime, all without losing a grip on the palate. Really well done.

Medium to light body, bursting with fruit notes, and very easy-drinking, despite the higher alcohol.

Hey, let's read the gobbledygook on the label: "It starts to take over. That craving for hops. The hoppier the happier. The happier the higher the IBU. The higher the IBU the larger the ABV. The higher the ABV the more we're going to have to keep an eye on this Rampant Imperial IPA proliferating with heavy peach tones, herbal sweetness, and aromatic complexity."

Peach tones? I missed those. (Now that I hear it, I'm starting to noice it.)
Otherwise, groovy, but they could go in for some grammar, that wouldn't hurt.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gouden Carolus Classic

Here's a favorite Belgian dark ale of mine, that tapped at the Blue Nile for the first time, can you believe it, nearly nine years ago. It was the first time I took notes on it, too, though I'm sure I was already a fan. Maybe I had some from before I started taking notes, pre-2002? Could be.

So here's to Gouden Carolus Classic, from the Brouwerij Het Anker of Mechelen, Belgium, 8.5% ABV, with notes from May, 2004, also on tap:

Pours a hazy mahongoany hue, cool woody brown, with a with a nice bit of froth, if short-lived.

Aroma, sour, citric, and spicy, from the start, lemon peel, clove, and pepper.

Taste: big, brisk, fruity blast on the palate, softly fading into a firm malt base. Cherries, berrries, bananas, melon, all accompanied by a tidy peppery kick on the side, and the flavor never fades, nestles well in the mouth, offering a resilient, bright tingle on the tongue.

Great texture, wonderful play on the palate, a genial joust of tastes in the mouth. Fruity, to the point of being wine-like, but with plenty of it's own individual charms to make it a supple, special little thing in the mouth.

 Very special ale, hunt it down, if you must!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Flat Earth Black Helicopter Coffee Stout

Drinking from a bottle currently, looking on my initial notes from on -tap, back in May of 2008:

"Black Helicopter is a coffee oatmeal stout made with locally roasted Columbia coffee beans from Paradise roasters in Ramsey, MN. What makes this coffee beer different you ask? This is the first beer of its kind made with coffee brewed on a Clover machine, which uses a unique mechanism for extracting the subtle and complex flavors of a coffee bean. Don't miss this chance to taste this one of a kind brew." 

Is it an oatmeal stout, or a coffee stout...or a "breakfast stout"? Maybe it's all three? 

Murky black, roasty brown, slim head. 
rich, earthy coffeeish aromatics. 
Coffee right off the bat, rich and flavorful, but not overpowering. Silky smooth on the palate, oatmeal doing the trick. Very easy-drinking, and energized. Gets better, and mellower as we get further in. Smooth and snappy! 
This is the coffee stout to beat. It's the Goldilocks of the style, not too big, not too small, ...ju-ust right!

I still like it, quite a bit. Highly recommended. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Summit Unchained No. 12: 100% Organic Ale

Summit Organic Ale, Unchained Batch No. 12.

Why is this called 100% Organic Ale. Prior to now, Organic Ales did not include organic hops, because they were just not available, and those beers were still called organic and given a pass. No more, now there are plenty of organic hops around, and Summit brewer Gabe Smolley went to town with them. I cracked open a bottle, and here's what I had to say:

Clear, dusky bronze coloration, solid, lasting, creamy head.

Aroma: nice and hoppy. Piney, spicy, lively as heck.

Taste: Even more vibrant hoppy presence on the tongue than in the nose. Excellent bitterness, with people of malt, to boot. A touch of carmel in the malt, a sliver of sweetness, a bit of rye malt spice flavor comes through, though I'm not sure that it's there. Tasty and downable. Hey, let's look at some stats, viewable on the 6-pack box:

Style: Session IPA.

Color: Light copper

100% Organic Malt: Pale. Munich, C-120, Carafa II

100% Organic Hops: Palisade, Cascade, centennial

IBU: 60

ABV: 4.5%

Hey, I like these organic session IPAs. Thanks, Gabe Smolley!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Flat Earth Winter Warlock English-style barley-wine ale

I'm doing a big of focused work on this blog, trying to cover the local beers as best as I can, though it's not easy with all the new breweries that keep popping up, left and right. Just today, another new one debuted. How long has it been since the last, a month or so? Crazy.

So, while I'm tracking down the new, I'm also catching up with the not so new, and utilizing my old notes posted on other beer sites. Here are notes on Flat Earth Brewing's Winter Warlock English-style barley-wine ale, (9% ABV), written from a bottle 5 years ago in April of 2008, way, back when I still had a Flat Earth snifter (broken long ago)....

Into my Flat Earth snifter you go, Winter Warlock....the name and occasion is apt, as I thought last week, when we spent time in summery sun and basked in 60-degree weather, and the melting snow slipped out the sins of winter, that spring was finally here, at last. I was the fool, and the magician who rules the weather made a mockery of my delight...we're back at winter again, for awhile, and it's warlock now rules us. Aw, well... on to investigate this ale.

You are golden, sorcerer, with a quickly gone head... 

your aroma is mostly rich, sweet, boozy malt...I'm not feeling much more from it. 

Taste: more slick, more sweet, more malt, more booze...not exactly what I expect from the barleywines I enjoy most, and have historically found to my favor, but it is quite nice in it's own regard. Lacks the hops of many of those, and leans heavily on the malt...something about that dynamic takes it somewhere else, indeed. Golden, bright, crisp, and, yes, boozy...the 9 % isn't shy at all. Not that I'm complaining.I think Jeff Williamson has a thing for Fantasy/Sci-Fi/sword & sorcery,Tolkien, mythology, etc...not that I've played Dungeons & Dragons with him, but I bet if you played craps at his house, the dice would be twelve-sided. Sweetness is just right for a dessert or a nightcap, and the alcoholic warmth is well-needed in chilly evening (okay, mornings) as this... 'tis a fine nice, tonight ...another winner from Flat Earth.

I've had my ups and downs with this beer. Had it on tap and didn't like it much at all. And former owner/head brewer/beer creator Jeff Williamson is gone from the company. And this bottle I had last night? Tasted just fine, though the booze didn't stick out as much. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

De Proef Lozen Boer Abt

De Proef Brewmaster's Collection Special Reserve  Lozen Boer Abt, Abbey Style Ale, .."Legend of the Cow Smuggler"…whatever that is. 10% Alcohol. 750 ml, 1 pint, 9.4 fl oz.

The last bottle I opened from my visit to the middle of nowhere bottle shop to pick up hidden gems was a witbier by De STruise that I didn't even drink. The color was off, the aroma was horrendous, and there was a horrific mass of floating dark particles. How old was this beer? I didn't bother taste, just poured it down the drain. Let's hope a similar fate doesn't befall this bottle. It's much more expensive and I'm really anticipating a good one, here. Fingers are crossed. Unlike the Surly Bird and the Saison Imperiale, I haven't had this one before. Fingers crossed and clicking my heels.

Dark, murky, raisin-y/burgundy brown appearance, no head at all. Not the best, by a long shot.

Aroma: This I like. Funky, wild, slightly sour, replete with dank dark fruits, raisins and plums. Small amounts of sweetness, masked by sharp vinous character. This, I like.  A lot.

Taste: Loads onto the palate without a fuss, gently lands with malt sweetness, funky yeast, wine-like flavors. No hops to be found in the flavor, alcohol is not detected yet, either. Mouthfeel and texture is far thinner than I would expect, or would like. Something has suffered with age here, while other things have probably advanced. More than anything, I have to wonder, once more, about the exact age of this bottle that I bought way out there, and I wish I'd tried it young, to compare against what it's developed into.

And here again we ponder the nasty trick of drinking aged beers. What did we lose, versus what might be gained? It's mellow, but lacks a certain spark. And, again, I never tried this fresh, so I have no idea and can only imagine what kind of spark it might have had.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Olvalde Farm The Auroch's Horn Aged on Rhubarb

Olvalde Farm The Auroch's Horn, aged on rhubarb, What? Come On! No way! Tell us more…Ale brewed with honey, with rhubarb added, lightly hopped, unfiltered, refermented in the bottle, Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company, Rollingstone, Minnesota. Not a word of gobbledygook, but what about….nope, no ABV given. Probably 10%, as is the regular AH.

Hazed, golden hue, slim head, soon gone.

Aroma: pleasantly sour and fruity right out the gate. A little sweet, then funky as all heck. And it's rhubarb, all right. So let's drink it.

Taste: Starts lean-bodied, and bright like any good golden, then the rhubarb flavor kicks in, and it is unique. Damn, it's unique. Who's ever heard of a rhubarb beer? It's incredibly tasty, and refreshingly tart. Beautiful fruit flavor.

I hate a lot of rhubarb growing up, since it was always growing in our family garden. This brings back happy memories.

Long, fruity aftertaste. Little hops, clean malt, we're mainly tasting the rhubarb, for it fairly dominates the golden ale below. The rhubarb flavor keeps rolling back, drink after drink, a flash of sour. Utterly delicious.

Only thing is: I don't know when this was released or how old it is. I sure hope they make it again, though. Wonderful beer.

Carton Brewing O77XX Double IPA

What's this, a growler of New Jersey beer, sent all that way from an old BA trading pal, merely because I helped him upload an avatar of the HopSlam logo? Now, that's BeerAdvocating! And it's from Carton Brewing, whose name confused me at first. What, is it located in a former box factory? No, the brewer/owner's name is actually Carton. All that box imagery and punning came later.

So, this is 077XXDIPA, from Carton Brewing, of Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. 7.8% ABV.

Clear, bright golden coloring, tidy and trim white head, leaving a little lace.

Aroma: fresh citrus fruit, mango, pineapple, pine needles, juicy and vibrant. Zesty. Lively. Love it.

Taste: Bam, bam, bam! Loads of bountiful hops, loading the palate smoothly, with a final drop as astringency, aspirin-like. Another sip and the juicy-ness continues, tons of fruit and bittersweet hoppy flavors. Medium mouthfeel and maltiness. Note-perfect, practically flawless, right on the money double IPA.

So there. Something good about New Jersey.

Here's a little gobbledygook from the website: Like all things truly Jersey, 077XX makes the most in balancing through its accentuation of extremes. Inspired by the west coast IPAs we love, we added a thump of hops to a dynamic malt profile and chose a yeast to drive these two further than they wanted to go. Throw our water into this mix and you will find dank green resinous hops popping over orange, mango and papaya aromas, with just enough sweetness of body to make the long finish a pleasure to have around. A double IPA perfect for adding fuel to the fire of a dinner, a game, or an idea, drink it when your night matters. (Available only in NJ)

Friday, March 15, 2013

De Proef Saison Imperiale

Here, following K-O Blonde, we have another example of a Belgian bottle that didn't age particularly well on the store shelf. In this case, the Saison Imperiale from De Proef, it appears that I didn't like it very much this first time, over two years ago, in November of 2010. This bottle was barely tolerated, and almost a "drain pour." But you'll never catch me doing that, no, I soldier through.

Here are those old notes:

Brewmaster's Collection Special Reserve 'De Proef' Breweries

Saison Imperiale Belgian Farmhouse Ale, De Proef Brouwerij, Lochristi, Belgium

Nice, amber-ruby hue, 1/4 inch beige-ish head. Definitely doesn't look like a saison, but that's not the idea, is it?

Aroma: rustic, earthy, gritty, spicy, malt...a touch of cocoa and coffee, just a hint. Not a typical saison aroma, and we're not doing a saison, are we? So far it seems that way. Raisins, toffee, coffee,...nope, not at all, saison-like.

Taste: Mmmmm, very nice, warm, malty, rich dark fruits...and very un-sasion-y, once again. Mmm, chocolate...mmm, coffee....mmm, raisins...but no matter how Imperiale, I never get the saison. I feel we've gone too far in pushing this envelope, in that we can't call it that anymore. And yet they do, so, who are we/am I to say?

Tasty stuff. Too malty for a saison, too spicy, not sure, but it is bigger in more ways than booze, as is the style in Imperializ-ing these days. It's a nice brew, but not terribly special, and still so confusing, that I can't really recommend it. Doesn't transcend the boundaries in such a way that it's exceptionalism should be celebrated.

Overall: eh....

St. Stefanus Grand Cru

St. Stephanus Grand Cru. Anno 1295, Belgisch Abdijbier, Cellar Release: 10.12, 9% ABV. Brouwerij Van Steenberge, Ertvelde, Belgium.

Looks fantastic. Enormous, blooming head of foam, clean, clear golden appearance, generous carbonation.

Aroma is nothing but lovely. Bright, citrus-y, peppery, lively, and simply gorgeous.

Taste: Light-bodied, tangy, and utterly delicious. Drinkability is off the charts. A magnificent melange of light, fruity malts and citric hops, low on bitterness. Belgian yeast adds just the right notes, the correct character.

I don't know what is "Grand Cru" about this, but it definitely has the feel of a Belgian strong golden ale. And a really, really nice one at that.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Twisted Trace Barrel-aged Barleywine

I held onto this growler in the fridge for several weeks, and opened up when I had a  guest over the other night. Saved enough for a review, put it back in the fridge until last night. It held up, but wasn't as perfect as when the crown was first cracked, or when it was first on tap. Nonetheless, here we go…

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Twisted Trace, Twisted Reality barley-wine ale aged in Buffalo Trace barrels. 9.9% ABV. Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis, MN.

Dark ruby-brown appearance, slim head (that was bigger on last night's pours),

Aroma: vanilla, cocoa, massive malt, liquor. Vast complexity.

Taste: More malt, more bourbon, more, more, more. Beautiful balance, unexpected ease of drinking, tremendous flavors. Just genius, that's all. The whiskey and the barleywine meet each other with equal potency.

Our Barrel Aged Barley Wine has never tasted so splendid. We changed to barrels from a different distillery because we were unhappy with the performance from the barrels we used before. Wow, that was the correct decision.

Schell's Stag Series #7: Barley-wine

Schell's Stag Series Limited Release No. 7: Barleywine Style Ale. Brewed and bottled by the August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, MN.

Clear and lovely, magenta hue, slim ring of creamy foam.

Aroma: malt forward, with fruit notes of cherry, grape, apple.

Taste: Plump in the mouth, bursting with hops, packed to the gills with malt. Nice, wood-y texture in the mouthfeel. Full-bodied, unrelenting flavor. Rich, strong (though ABV is nowhere on the label), and satisfying.

This falls a little short of what I like from a barley-wine, it isn't big, beefy or bold enough. But it's close, and it's a great first stab at the style for Schell's. Tasty stuff.

Here's what the label tells us: "For Stag Series #7, two separate mashes of over 6,000 pounds of malt and 150 pounds of hops to brew this intensely malty and assertively hopped American Barleywine Style Ale."

Monday, March 11, 2013

De Proef Flemish Primitive Surly Bird

Year ago, Dirk Naudts of Brouwerij DeProef had a uncanny idea, to make a wild ale, Flemish style, and name it after characters from the historic and legendary painting by Hieronymous Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Specifically, the third part of the triptych, the one dealing with Hell and featuring all many of morbid monsters. These were called Demon Fish, Rat Rider, Pin Head, Spoon Whacker, and Surly Bird, all based on particular details from Bosch's hellish depictions. I was only able to find one of these, Spoon Whacker, way back in July, 2005. I really haven't seen them so much on the retail shelves, and was surprised to find one recently, but I did buy it, and I did drink it. Here are notes on a bottle of Surly Bird:

De Proef Flemish Primitive Surly Bird, DeProefbrouwerij, Lochristi, Belgium. 9% Alc./Vol.

Picked up at Dennis Brothers Liquors, Cottage Grove, MN, last week. No idea of the age on this bottle.

Hazed-up, dull golden color, tiny, near-non-existent head.

Aroma: sour, wild and funky. Very mellow, was probably intense once upon a time.

Taste: Wild and crazy, sour and malty. Vastly complex. Fruit notes lurk below, covered by wine-y overtones and smothered by brett. I'm enjoying this.

And now I will pause to read the label. "The name Flemish Primitive refers both to the famous wild yeast that lends a unique flavor accent to this extra-ordinary ale, and to the school of "primitive" painters of medieval Flanders whose startling work kick-started the Renaissance.
Working in his ultra-scientific brewery in Western Flanders, Dirk Naudts, the Prof, is one of Belgium's leading brewmasters. …"

I give up. The type is too tiny. But I'll bet it goes on about how awesome Dirk is.

All in all, this was a great ale, but I can't help but think it was better fresh. In fact….

So, I'm thinking, if there's not a great deal of difference between the various Flemish Primitive labels, why not share that Spoon Whacker review from 7+ years ago. I thought that, and now I'll do that:

"My last Flemish Primitive (the Pig Nun) tasted wildly different six months apart. Since this bottle is at least a year old, I feel fairly confident that it's hit some level of maturity, and if it hasn't it, I'm up for the weirdness.

Hazy, peachy golden hue, big, fluffy white head. Beautiful.

Aroma: without a close inspection, it's a wild, whirly-burly thing. Closer now, it's a funky, sour, citric, yeasty mess. Orange and lemon, wild yeastiness, straw and strangeness.Pungent and invigorating.

To taste,now: smooth, but delivering a dazzling array of sweet citrus, some sour, a hit of hops, and the wild yeasties. Big flavor, very refreshing, absolutely delicious. A wonderful drink.

Zesty, tangy, terrifically alive. More spices speak up, some clove and cinnamon, even, underneath the fruit. A wicked mix of flavor, but terrifically delicious.
 I really wish I had more than the one bottle.

Huge mouthfeel, medium bodied, but so stacked in the flavor department, there's no disappointment, no dissatisfaction. A tremendous ale. I'm glad I got it at it's prime. ...or...DID I?

Amazing. That could be my one-word review. Too late for that, though..."

Wait...Pig Nun? That one is sorted on BeerAdvocate under "archived" because it is no longer being brewed. Are the others? So many mysteries. Why not, just for fun, and because we'll never get another chance, share that Pig Nun review, too?

"Clear, golden color, fuzzy white head above...lovely, really...

Sourness greets the nose at first, citric fruits, and well-worn socks...yeah, this is funky! Alcohol peeks in a bit too early...I haven't even tasted it, feels terribly strong....(yet it's "only" 9%)

Taste: big, fat sour...almost hard to take, unless you're into that stuff...and some of you freaks...ahem. (who am I to talk?)
yeah, this is a sour mo'fo...but not too bad, some tasty fruits, peach and apricot, mmm...very tangy, loads of citrus, huge sour on the palate, balanced by a judicious addition of sweet...

...I couldn't finish this bottle in one sitting, and capped it until the next day, where it's lost no carbonation and no flavor, at least not in the appearance or aroma.

One weird ale, unique, but brimming with flavor and rather refreshing, if sour is your thing. As for me, the more I drink, the more I admire it. Glad I got an extra bottle, for saving.
If I were a gueueze geek, I'd give this sky-high ratings. I'm not, so there you go, but damn, this is a fine creation. I have to look out for more from these guys...anyone seen any Rat Riders around?

(paid $10.49 at Cellar's, Roseville...i had to go out of my way for this one, being a fan of Belgian ales, and Bosch. Love the PigNun, but her inkwell holder is really creepy!)

11-1-05, over 6 months later, and I cracked the second bottle, sourness is nearly gone, and it's a very mellow affair...sitting in the closet did this one some good. Now to track down Surly Bird and Spoon Whacker!"

That was April, 2005. I'm very sure now that this bottle of Surly Bird was a bit too old. Still need a Rat Rider, though!

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Green Flash West Coast IPA. Extravagantly Hopped. 7.3% aBV.

Green Flash West Coast IPA, San Diego, CA. 7.3% ABV.

Very hazed, deep crimson coloration, under a copious cap of of creamy foamation. Lookin' good.

Aroma: dank, rank, damp, and obtuse. Rich fruitification, citrus all over, cherry and berry, apple and grape, with whispers of cognac around. Piney a bit, as well.

Taste: Boom, boom, boom, there it is, vast and fat, luscious and loose. A cacophony of bitter hop sensations exploding on the tongue. It jumps off the tongue and spills all over the mouth, the back, the front, the attic, the front porch, the backyard and the rain gutters. Prickly potent pungent trickily tickling bristling bitter bounty…or something. Right on the money. Massive bitterness. Astringency aplenty.

This is exactly an exemplar of the very synonym of what is known as the West Coast IPA. I wonder why a San Diego brewery bothers with a label like that. Are they doing a MidWest IPA next? I'm going to read the label to find out.

"A menagerie of hops is layered throughout the brewing process: Simcoe for unique fruitiness and grapefruit zest, Columbus for strong hop pungency, Centennial for pine and citrus notes and cascade for floral aroma. A multi-dimensional hop experience."

There are many layers here, and many dimensions, tons of flavor, magnificent zest and it's just an incredible ale. I like it a lot.

Just as with the last entry, their trip(p)el, I found that I'd had this one before, after taking new notes. And because I hate waste, I'll share those notes from April, 2006 with you now. See how generous I am? It's two reviews in one!

"Cloudy amber hue, big, pudding-y, lace-leaver of a head, 1/2" and long-lasting.

Aroma: wide-open hoppitude, big, bold and brassy, loads of citric tones, piney resins, lemon rinds, pineapple, bristling

Big, bad, full mouthfeel. Large occupation of palate. Dominant bitterness, but utterly delicious. Extremeness to the extreme. A blast of flavor, sizzling the tongue, and delivering unremittently, absolutely, astonishingly fantastically...wait, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, ...tastes great!
More please!

(I could go for a few of these, yessirree...)"

Green Flash Trippel (sic)

Green Flash Trippel Ale, Green Flash Brewing Company, Fine Handcrafted Ales, San Diego, California. "New World Trippel", Alc. by Vol. 9.7%.

Green Flash Trippel, Green Flash Brewery, San Diego, California. 9.7% ABV.

I know two things about this brewery. They can do hops. They can do Belgian. And, both, very well. Is that three things? If so, never mind. But, let's open 'er up and go…

Appearance: Lightly hazed, bright golden hue, under a slim white head. Looks alright.

Aroma: sweet, citric, spicy. Candied orange slices. with a drop of ginger.

Taste: Smooth and supple. Easy-drinking, with alcohol hidden at first, until…no, not for long. It's peeking out already. Lean-bodied, light malt flavor, plenty of citrus fruit and minor spice in the taste. And then the booze rises up and stings the senses just  a trifle.

All in all this is missing more from malt, maybe more yeast? And maybe, just maybe, a notch or so less alcohol. 8.5 is great for a tripel, but nearly 10% is pushing it. Despite that, I'm liking it. Not a classic tripel  (or triple) by any means, but pretty tasty and enjoyable. The lighter body and the higher alcohol makes for a boozy affair.

Let's take a look at the gobbledygook: "Rich, pale malt flavors provide a solid base for zesty Styrian Golding and Czech Saaz hopping. Trappist ale yeast contributes the fruity, spicy profile of classic. monk-brewed, Belgian ales. Our triple is a luscious, fiery, golden brew and a contemporary rendition of traditional Belgian Trippel."

Not sure if I agree with that 100%. But, guess what? I just found out/realized that I've had and reviewed this one already, 5 years ago. Yup. Funny how time flies, and the mind goes, etc. Here are the notes I took then:

"Golden appearance, smallish white head.

Nice nose, fruit and spice...pleasing soft citrus...

Taste: bright and happy on the tongue, sweet, and well-balanced, creamy, mucho yeast, plump and yummy,...very satisfying...

Medium bodied,...soft and supple, but a bit too much so to really be up their with the best of the style.

Nice, though...I like it."

Pretty close.

Ale Asylum Ambergeddon

"With a fury of hop flavor and a strong malt backbone, this west-coast style amber is part ale, part sensory eruption, and all-American. Ambergeddon is brewed with passion and is best enjoyed that way."

4.33/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Also brought back from Hudson, WI, a 6-pack of Ale Asylum Ambergeddon, a beer I first reviewed in August, 2007, on the occasion of my first visit to Madison, WI, and the Great Taste of the Midwest. Here are those notes from 5 years ago:

Ambergeddon, from a bottle, after having a pint at the brewery earlier today...(and 2 ounces at the GTot MW yesterday)

Cloudy crimson coloring, bit, solid, creamy head on top...

Aroma is nice, sweet, and malty...some peach and apricot in there, with grass and grain...a hoppy paradise, but plump with malt. Fresh and lovely.

Taste: Big once on board the palate, then smoothing and thinning. Huge hoppitude right up front, bold, bitter blast, dominating the tastebuds, coating all with resiny hop feel....very nice. Dark fruits, but not the usual players.
Quite a hoppy number this, and very downable, too.

Lot of tanginess in here, too, sweet malt mixed with bitter hops....really tasty!

Ambergeddon does it...all the way!

Three Floyds Pride and Joy Mild Ale

Went into Wisconsin last week, visited Casanova's in Hudson, and bought some Three Floyds. Picked up some Pride & Joy Mild Ale for the first time in forever. Why have I never picked any up in any of my other trips> Well, it's a fine beer, but not my favorite, and if they have Alpha King, well, forget about it. This was the first time I looked around and though, "okay, it's time for Pride and Joy." Which I  first reviewed in December, 2002. There were still some bottles around back then. And here's what I said about it, 10 years ago:

Big, creamy head; copper color.

Aroma: fresh, slightly spicy, soft, faintly herbal, some lemon zest.

Taste:tangy, but smooth, quite mild, but more character and flavor than other session ale types I've tried recently. I could drink a lot of this, if I didn't care too much about variety, etc.

 Unfortunately, I like to drink quality, exciting brews, and a diversity of them. So I ask: why can't the discriminating session beer drinker, the party giver, the softball player, turn to this instead of Bud Light?

Good question. Answer: I don't know, because they hate flavor?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

La Trappe Quadrupel Oak-aged Trappist Ale

La Trappe Quadrupel Oak-Aged Trappist Ale. Product of Holland.

K22I 10 12:11 Batch 3. "Oak aged Quadrupel is matured in small barrels and is bottled by hand, resulting in pleasant variation from batch to batch and reflecting the living nature of an unfiltered, unpasteurized ale. We invite you to visit our website at to learn more about Oak Aged Quadrupel, the brewery, Koningshoeven Abbey and our other Trappist Ales."  Oh, and…"Taste the silence"

Murky beige burgundy…plenty of carbonation, under a comfortable creamy solid head froth.

Aroma: Oak, vanilla, chocolate, toffee, warm, soft, wonderful.

Taste: soft, mellow, sweet, scrumptious. Caresses the mouth. Dark fruit, chocolate, incredibly mature, sophisticated, alcohol factor is fairly muted…beautifully blended.

Those are the notes I scribbled down while drinking half a bottle with a friend who graciously shared one with me after I told him that I had a hard time spending $15 on a single 12 ounce bottle of beer, no matter how good. I said that I would turn these into complete sentences or something later, but looking at them now, it says it all. Not much more to tell. It really is a wonderfully beer. One that I'd happily pay $15 for if it weren't a mere 12 ounces. What else need be said. It's all that and a little more.

Ommegang Hougomont Biere de Garde

Ommegang Biere de Garde Hougomount. Biere de Garde. 7.3% ABV. Served on tap at the Blue Nile, a keg I'd been saving since late last summer. After, all this is a "beer for keeping."

Clear amber coloring, under a beautiful, blooming white head, shortly drifting down to a tight, lace-leaving ring.

Aroma: fruity esters, spice notes, Belgian yeast, and sweet malt. Lovely stuff.

Taste: Sits assuredly on the palate, soft, slightly sweet, mostly malty. Just enough Belgian funky yeast to keep it fun, very minor hops, and terrifically tasty. Mellow mouthfeel, smoothness itself, easy-drinking and just flat-out delightful. Ends wonderfully dry. Plenty of fruit appears on the palate, apple, apricot, etcetera, but it quickly rounds out and turns dry and clean.

Wonderful beer.

Toppling Goliath PsuedoSue Pale Ale

I you've followed this blog at all, you'll see that I like to match the serving vessel with the drinking vessel, or even a matching coaster, if at all possible. This was not possible this time, as I've never been to TG to get a growler, don't have a pint glass, or a coaster. But I was able to get their beer without going to Iowa, by having a growler fill in Wisconsin, a state that, contrary to Minnesota, does not require you to get a growler fill in a glass vessel from the brewery, They'll take anything. So, I rinsed out and dusted an old Surly growler, but did not pose it with the Samuel Smith pint glass I poured it into....and enough of that blabbedy-blah, here come the notes:

Toppling Goliath PseudoSue American Pale Ale, Toppling Goliath Brewery, Decorah, Iowa. 5.8% ABV.

Growler filled at the The Nook at the Nova, Casanova Liquors, Hudson, Wisconsin, earlier this afternoon. Hope it held it for the past 7 hours.

Clouded golden hue, beautiful creamy head of snow-drift white head. Looks fantastic.

Aroma: bright, clean, and vibrant hoppiness. Ebullient citrus notes, lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit, passionate and pithy. A little floral, a touch piney. Traces of tropical fruits, as well. Nice, nice, nice.

Taste: This one jumps on board the mouth and spills joy all over the palate. It floods deliciousness everywhere. The look of it shows an unfiltered ale, and in the mouthfeel, we're getting yeast, as well. Wonderful texture, great drinkability.

A joyful pale ale, a tasty thing with plenty of citrus-y zest to keep the tongue happy.

(I now remember that this beer was referenced in comments earlier, as Dave A.'s alternative to Zombie Dust.  I had forgotten that this is also an all-Citra brew. Well, there you go.)
April, 2014: Finally, bottles of PsuedoSue made their way into my happy hands, giving me the opportunity to show this beer in a better light.

De Proefbrouwerij K-O Blond Beer

My efforts to scour up the remnants of the Shelton Brothers Imports beers that are likely not to be re-shelved any time soon has led me to spend more money than I should have. And to find a bottle of K-O, the Blond from De Proef. I first tried this in April, 2005. Here are those notes:

K-O Blonde Beer, 10% ABV.
750ml bottle, corked and caged. Anticipation is high, as I was very impressed with my first De Proef brew, the Flemish Primitive. Here's to #2!

Clouded golden appearance, blessed with impressive, milk-white head. Very attractive.

Aroma is pineapple and peach, orange and lemon, liberally dusted with spice, slightly sour at the back. quite nice.

Tartness leads in the taste, then fruit takes over, same as detected in the nose. Plump, and pulpy, with a peppery side affect. Washes over the palate with abrasive charm, a bold, yet friendly delight, getting kickier and kickier with every subsequent swallow.
fullish body, long, spicy finish.

No diminishment in flavor found here, halfway through the bottle, and I can be correctly colored "impressed". Expected a typical Belgian blonde ale, got something quite unique. Don't think I've ever had a brew just like this one before.

Hooray for the Prof!
This bottle re-confirms those old comments. There was some age on this one, but it was as dank, murky and funky as most Belgian blondes are not.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Olde Hickory Irish Walker Barley-wine Ale

It seems to be bourbon-barrel barley-wine season around here. Allow me to explain.
Let's see. It was barrel-aged week at Town Hall two weeks ago, and I have a growler of Twisted Trace, the Twisted Reality barley-wine aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, waiting in the fridge. I bought a 4-pack of 12 ounce bottles of the Central Waters Bourbon-barrel BW, which I tackled in the last entry. And guess what? A fine friend who I don't believe that I've ever met, who goes by "LiquorBarrel" on BeerAdvocate, responded to a thread last fall where I was looking for a trade for North Carolina beers, well, he had one for me. It was one that my traders already provided for me, but his was a year older. Score! And, better, and more generously, he also added Pelican's Mother of all Storms. Whoa! Watch for that one, soon. And these gifts finally arrived at my doorstep. Boy, do I owe him.

So, it occurs to me, man, would that make a great tasting vertical or something. Except that I can't write about beers and host a tasting. I have to have them in my lonesome, hogging them by myself for the whole sensory experience. Tastings are great, but anathema to reviews. At least for me.

So, the other OH IW BW will be saved for some future tasting. And the 2011 given to me by Mr. Liquor Barrel, that was cracked open today. And here. Come. The. Notes.

Olde Hickory Irish Walker Barley-wine Style Ale. Brewed and bottled by Olde Hickory Brewery, Hickory, North Carolina. 10.14% ABV. Vintage 2011.

There's a story about my particular procurement of this bottle of beer…and I already told it. If there's more to the story, I'll get to it later. But, about that beer:

Burgundy-coloring, plummy, a beautiful crimson-brown. Thin, cocoa-tinged head, with a lonely island of froth in the middle. Although, on further pours, I get a rich, full tapioca-like topping. Pour right, men and ladies.

Aroma screams out of the glass from the start, blowing out bourbon-y beauty. Caramel, chocolate, vanilla. Deep oaky attributes. Cherry, plum, and raisin. Bright and bountiful. There's a rich, vast barley-wine under this blanket of bourbon barrel.

Taste: The palate is dominated from the start by a dazzling affront, a charge of fantastic flavors. Incredible malt flavors, a mix of dark fruit, and generous bourbon trappings. The vanilla and cherry, the wood and the whiskey. It's a beneficial blend, an unmoored mixing of absolute deliciousness. Major mouthfeel, fullness of body, immensity of taste. Continually sweet, but never too, always on, excellent integration.

I'll read the label now: "Irish Walker is brewed with six different malts and a blend of four classic hops. A long slow fermentation {???} and cold aging makes Irish Walker a well rounded, complex Barley Wine Ale. Irish Walker exhibits malty sweetness, fruity esters, and hoppy balance. This ale will age well for years to come, or just enjoy now in good company. Cheers!"

So, this one was aged one year plus, no thanks to me, and not enjoyed in company, thanks to me, just so I  could write these words.

What more can I say?They are correct, it is a model of balance. Not too sweet, nor too hoppy, not too anything at all. Chocolate is rising into the flavor profile, to match the dark fruits, the wood, the barrel-agement, all of that. Was it the time on the bottle that tempered it? Maybe so, and if so, the 2012 bottle in my possession is going to get stashed away.

Much thanks. Mucho Gracias. More of this, and plenty more, thanks.

Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barley-wine Ale

Here's one that I had for the first time in June of 2007. This bottle I enjoyed today is the first one that I have been able to purchase locally. Let's look at those old notes now...

bright crimson coloring, highly clouded, stable off-whitish head above...

Aroma is ripe with fruit...plump and luscious, orange, lemon, grapefruit, mango...ripe and pungent, very lively, very hoppy...nice, nice...

Fresh blast of deliciousness onto the palate at first...fruity and full of flavor...all types of them, a zesty cornucopia, replete with refreshing bitterness...Lordy, I like it! Well done!

Long lasting in the mouth, never quitting...very satisfying an orange wedge doused in cognac! So good! An excellent nightcap, which this is tonight...lovely, lovely...

and, it still is! Glad to finally get it locally.

Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout

Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout, Ale Brewed with Oysters. 5.5% ALC/VOL. Brewed with Rappahannock River Oysters. Proceeds benefit Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration. (Question: Can you restore oysters by placing them in a tank of boiling water?)

Here's a beer that sort of got away. I included it in last year's StoutFest, the first oyster stout I'd tapped at the Blue Nile. When I re-tapped it after the event, it emptied too quickly for me to take notes on a pint. Now, I have a handful of bottles through the "Shock and Awe" sample pack, which also included the lager previously reviewed, as well as Doggie-style pale ale, and Snake Dog IPA,  which are beers, and I can drink them. But enough of my yakkety-yak, let's have an oyster stout.

It's a black one, but I can't use my usual repertoire of adjectives. Not inky, nor stygian, not solid, nor impenetrable. Crimson highlights peek at random curves. Head is a thin, soon-slim, brownish thing.

Aroma: not much going on here. Small amounts of detectable roast. Minor traces of bitterness. Some caramel tones, mingling with minuscule espresso tinges. Something is happening, but it's quiet.

Taste: Loads the mouth humbly, takes it's seat and waits it's turn. Falls shyly upon the palate, and rests there. Medium mouthfeel, very medium, Some chocolate, some…some…I don't know. Perhaps I need to class or a seminar, an intensive workshop with oysters to determine where the flavor shows up when brewed in a stout. I will stop with the self-flagellation now.

As a vehicle for oyster delivery, I'm not sure how I feel about this one. So far, I'm really on the fence about the style. Maybe I need to try a few more, perhaps there's another one that tastes more "oyster-y". And what would that taste like?
As it is, it doesn't bring out what I want in a stout. Too light, too lean, not meaty enough.

Forgetting that, it's a fine enough drink, easy-drinkable, with just enough flavor to be likable. A little bit o' chocolate, drips of toffee. It's a good beer and you can drink it. (I won't return to it voluntarily, though.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Two Brothers Outlaw India Pale Ale

Two Brothers Outlaw India Pale Ale. 60 IBU. 6.3 % ABV. A whole family of Great Beers (even if one is an outlaw.) Two Brothers Brewing, Warrenville, IL.

Clear and amber colored, under a good 1/4 inch of creamy off-white foam. Looks good, looks nice.

Aroma: Ah, beautiful bitterness, plenty of hops, but a good smack of sweetness, too. Grapefruit and pine, and a squirt of lemon. Very good.

Taste: In the mouth, it's …hoppy, and …bland, …and lifeless. Plenty of juicy malt lays below, but the hop profile, which should be the cornerstone of any IPA, is rather blase. I want to like this. I want to like every beer, of course. This is low on the bitter hop bite, utterly quiet, lacking character. Man, oh, man, I keep wishing I could get behind this.

Let's see what they say on their own label: "As bold as the name suggests, but as friendly as the masked man, come our first adventure in to the world of cans. This IPA is full of cirrus and pine hop character and aroma. The hop flavors play off the pleasant malt complexity like a good sidekick. Giddy-up."

I'm gonna drink the rest of this 6-pack, and I'l do it with a lack of enthusiasm. It's not terrible, but lacks inspiration. Maybe I'll change my mind by can #5, but as it is, this one is just kind of…eh.

Flying Dog Underdog Atlantic Lager

Flying Dog Under Dog Atlantic Lager. 4.7% ALC./VOL.

It's clear, it's yellow and it sure it fizzy. There's a profusely dotted white head holding court on top.

Aroma: sweet, flowery, grainy. Perfume-y…honey-ish. Very pleasing.

Taste: Lands on the tongue and floods the mouth with wetness. Wetness and water. Very thin, very smooth, ultra drinkable. Here comes some grainy texture on the palate, a little bit of grit. Little bit of body, plenty of refreshment. Quite a bit of hop bitterness. Good stuff.

Hey, what do they say on the label? " Don't be an underdog in this crazy game called life. Now is no time to be a pawn. The kings and queens rule the board, so that's who you've gotta be. Keep your head up, stand tall, and carry on. We're pulling for you."

Well, thanks for telling me nothing about the beer. Much appreciated. I'll carry those lessons throughout my life.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Minneapolis Town Hall Czar Jack Imperial Stout

Last week was Town Hall brewery's annual barrel-aged week, in which each day brings a new barrel-aged twist on a THB classic, usually ending with the favorite, Czar Jack. This award-winner is an imperial stout, Old Jack Frost, aged in Jack Daniels barrels.

This year is the second time they've sold tickets for growlers, ending the drama, frustration, and confusion that ensues when there are more customers at the bar than beer to sell them. You had to wait in line on the Sunday morning  before the event to buy a ticket to allow you to take home a 64-ounce jug. I don't really observe Sunday mornings, except at the early end of them, so I'm never there at 10 am. I made it to the pub for only two days of this event, last Tuesday and Wednesday, and was glad to find they still had tickets left, but only for Twisted Trace, (which I'll get to soon), and Czar Jack.

You're not going to see notes for Buffalo Bock, Manhattan Barrel or any of the others that I didn't get a growler of, because I no longer take notes at the bar, at least I rarely do. But did I ever? Sure, and here's evidence. Before I ever was able to get a growler of CJ, I took notes way back in November, 2004, over eight years ago. Here they are:

My first encounter with this beer, which took a Gold at the GABF back in 2001, finished in a Jack Daniel's barrel and served at the 7th Anniversary party.

Pours out black as my morning coffee, with a shallow brown ring of foam atop. Judicious 10 ounce serving.

Aroma is rich and strong, sending off a panoply of associations, carob, maple, a hint of charcoal and a wisp of leather, but cocoa is taking the lead...big with the bourbon, though still, somehow velvety smooth. Whiskey tones ride a sidecar next to the chocolate. Some glimmers of juicy fruit interject and jumpabout in the flavor, too. Staggeringly complex! Slick, thick texture on the tongue, full bodied, long, deep finish, huge mouthfeel. Yet, still, unbelievably smooth

This was deliriously good! Had two samples, that I can remember, and so wish I could take it home and enjoy as a nightcap. If it were more accessible, perhaps that could prove to be a detriment to my participation in good society?

I opened the growler last night and regret that action, for my guest and I had already had plenty that evening, and he was heading to dreamland. I didn't have much longer to last, either. We barely made a dent in it. So, it's looks like I have a nightcap for the next night or two!

And, by the way, it's still as good as ever!

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...