Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Great Divide Espresso Oak-aged Yeti Russian Imperial Stout

Great Divide Espresso Oak-aged Yeti Russian Imperial Stout, Great Divide Brewing, Denver, Colorado.

Fully black, utterly deep, with dark brown head. Looks fantastic, very promising.

Aroma: Espresso is detected first, with chocolate not far behind, rich, decadent cocoa. Very nice.

Taste: On the tongue, it's thick, rich and hoppy. Not getting the oak just yet, but the flavor is dominated by cocoa and coffee. Great and surprising balance in this big, big beer. The espresso flavor is here, but doesn't dominate like in some coffee stouts. Full-bodied, with a long, sweet and hoppy finish. There's a certain cherry-like sweet character that stands on top and melds well with the bitter notes. Cocoa and coffee lurk in the back of the throat, hang in there, never letting go.

This is not the behemoth I worried it would be, it's a complex, and wonderful ale. Many flavors unfold during it's duration. Massive malt, incredibly full-bodied, flush with flavor.
Knockout stout, this. Maybe my favorite Yeti? No, it has to stand just behind regular oak-aged Yeti, though I haven't had it in  a while. Maybe I should…

Monday, April 29, 2013

Harriet Suga' Mama

Harriet Suga Mama, a wonderful failed experiment, and my favorite beer from them so far. Did I just spoil the ending? You'll forgive me, won't you?

So, this was supposed to be a batch of Divine Oculust, the Belgian-style strong golden ale, with candy sugar produced in-house. This new product had unforeseen results, adding greater depth, and shooting up the alcohol another 2 percent. And then it went into a wine barrel (not sure what kind), adding greater complexity and flavor. Now, let's look at it…

Hazy amber appearance, solid, staying, lush, off-white head. Looking great.

Aroma: I 'm picking up the malt first, then the yeast. Hops won't come into play in this. Some fruit at first, some sweetness, then the oak, and then the wine. A blend of sweet and sour, for a while, cherries are foremost, but there's greater depth, a wonderful mix brought on both by the yeast interaction and the barrel aging.

Taste: Loads onto the palate simply plump and full with flavor. Richness of malt, blended with the barrel's work. What was already a delicious Belgian-style ale, goosed up a bit by this new sugar injection, is taken to new places with the wine barrel's contributions. Sweet, then dry, with just a slight addition of sour. Long-lasting flavors, very satisfying, complex, and delicious. Never gets boring, never dulls, stays fresh and unexpected on the tongue. Love it. Absolutely wonderful. But, no, it's not "a sour", what it is, is more than that.

Capital T Terrific stuff. Drinking from tap at the Blue Nile, where we were lucking to get a keg. Otherwise it's been an exclusive at the taproom for the past month. Why is this limited brew still around for so long. This is so amazing, it's fame should have rightfully spread, and bonafide beer geeks should have been storming their gates and drinking these kegs dry.

Every brewery needs more accidents like this.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Great Lakes Alchemy Hour Double IPA

Great Lakes Alchemy Hour Double IPA, named for the brave, unconventional surfers of Lake Erie, and something that has to do with surfing called "alchemy hour." It will no longer be named that after this batch, as Widmer Brothers is holding tight to the word "alchemy" and won't let anyone else play with it.

9.4% ABV.

Brilliant, clear, crimson coloring, Large and lasting head, leaving lace, looking good.

Aroma: ah, right on the money. Citrus zest meets pine forest. Wide awake and fully flowering fruit notes matches the bitter hop blast. Particularly pleasant.

Taste: Sweet and smooth, with never ending hoppitude. Malt meets the hops well, stand up and rides it out with it. Keeps perfect time, while never letting the hop character go astray. Fruity, but ending dryly. Plenty of fruit association joust with the mind and memory, ...apricot, mango, pineapple, guava...backed up with a candy sugar sweetness, again, ending on a dry note.

Alcohol presence stays sly at first, but inevitably roars and gains dominance on the palate, among the senses, in the cavern of the brain case.

All in all, it's smooth, hoppy, and drinkable, despite the high ABV. A real hophead's treat, one that doesn't tear anything loose from your critical components, merely releases pleasurable flavors. And isn't that what we're looking for? I could drink one, and drink one, and drink one, and never tire of it, until that decision is made for me. Tonight, though, one is plenty, and off to sleep....

Saturday, April 27, 2013

La Trappe Isid'or

La Trappe Isid'or, named for Isidorus, the first brewing monk in the history of the Konigshoeven brewery, was released several years ago (2009, I believe) for the brewery's 125th Anniversary. When it first came out, I went through about three kegs on tap at the Blue Nile, and took notes one night, but somehow lost them. Gone somewhere in the missing spaces in the internet.
I put it on again not too long ago, last year or the year before, and I kept meaning to re-review it, and never got around to it. Well, it's back, and the third time is the charm...I think...we'll see...doing it now, before I go home to take on the oak-aged version.

7.5 % ABV. Belgian-style pale ale, or strong pale ale?

The look: gorgeous burgundy, reddish-brown coloring, opaque, showing clearer at the foot of the glass, underneath a creamy off-white head of foam, a good 1/2 inch, long-lasting, looking great.

The aroma: I'm getting hops first, a particularly floral, herbal, fruity hop, grown at the monastery, called Perle. Apple and apricot with a caramel twist. Malt flavors linger here, too. Utterly pleasant and arrestingly simple in it's complexity.

The taste: Smooth plus rich. Totally even, completely cool, balance incarnate, but a wonderful blend of tingly, tangy hop sensations on the palate, with the herbal, fruity malt flavors. terrific mix. A maltier, bigger Belgian pale, close to a Belgian amber, but really a thing unto itself. This feels, to my memory, a bit different from when it was first released, but I could be completely wrong. Maybe I was expecting something bigger, thicker, boozier, perhaps, and was disappointed.

What this is, is excellent. If you're not chasing after trappist rainbows or Belgian unicorns, just relax and be happy, get lost and ....taste the silence. Yeah....

I like this beer a lot. you should have one.
This review is a good place to include this photo taken by Bob Kreutzer of Hohensteins Distributing, of myself, Linda Haug, and Todd Haug, meeting Father Isaac of the Koningshoeven brewery, while he was on a bit of a tour for the 125th anniversay. The reception was at the Bulldog NE, and I was doing a very rare thing, which was getting up early(-ish) in the morning on a Saturday. I've yet to make it to Belgium or the Netherlands, so this was a rare chance to meet a brewing monk from a trappist monastery, who was able to shake off his vow of silence for this tour.

Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro Bottle

Left Hand Brewing Company Milk Stout Nitro. America's Stout. (How did they get that designation? Just gave it to themselves? Was there a vote? A panel of experts? A committee?) Brewed on the bank of the mighty St. Vrain. Enjoy at 40-45 in a pub glass. 1. Pour hard. 2. Admire & Enjoy. Ingredients: Rocky Mountain water, malted barley, hops , yeast, flaked oats and lactose.

Appearance: I kept cold. I poured hard. Got the cascading effect, briefly, we saw the 3-layer effect, the striations, and before you know it, it's a solid black, with a lovely, lush, light tan head holding firm atop.

Aroma: cocoa hits first, cream, a little coffee, too. Some sweetness, little bitterness, lovely stuff, indeed.

Taste: deep dark malt, rich and smooth, nice bitter edge matches well with tasty chocolate and caramel flavors. Creamy and smooth, yeah that's it in a nutshell.

Capital Mutiny IPA

Capital Mutiny IPA, Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI. Their first IPA? I think so.

Clear, golden / light amber hue, beautiful head of ivory foam. Nice looking.

Aroma: good'n'hoppy, plenty of citrus, lemon zest, lime spritz, some piney notes. Perfectly pleasant.

Taste: great hop bite up front, with plenty of juicy malt behind it. Some bitterness pounces the palate, but malt never stays far behind. Tasty stuff. Bright citrus fruit flavors, medium bitterness, light, lingering finish.

Very nice India Pale Ale. I could drink this one again and again.
Did not like their Double IPA at all, but this one is A-okay.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stone Old Guardian 2013 Oak-Smoked Barley Wine Style Ale

Stone Oak-Smoked Old Guardian Barley-wine. Stone Brewing company, Escondido, SA. 11.4 % ABV. Once again, drinking on tap (one of the final left-overs from last month's Imperial March big beer event.) I'm sure the bottle features a lot of clever verbiage, and I'm sure you can read it here. (Actually, I doubt that that's what's on the bottle. Too succinct.)

Clear, rich, ruby-red coloration, short-lived, film-leaving, off-white head.

Aroma: Deep, rich, immense malt aromatics, swiftly subsumed by oaky overtones. Inevitably, smoke seeps up from below and covers it all. Rearing into the region of "hot."

Taste: First sip, hotness hits hard, blistering the palate just a bit. Fullness of malt flavor makes a magnificent mark. It stays big and bold, with the smoke creeping onto the tongue, and the oak taking over. The flavors are remarkable, almost irresistible, and can feel my brain cells about to lose a bout with insobriety. Satisfying, if not for the high alcohol; delicious, in any event. Alcohol heat never quite becomes a problem, bitterness matches the mighty malt.

A really unique brew, with the intense maltiness of the Old Guardian barley-wine remaining intact and integral, with the oak and the smoke making significant additions from time to time. This is just fantastic on tap, and I'll get some bottles for cellaring, to see how this improves with age.

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Belgium Lips of Faith Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout

Any new one in the lips of faith line, one we should be careful not to refer to as an imperial stout. Rather this is a chocolate stout, with coffee, and since it's 9% ABV, we can call it "imperial"...but it shouldn't be compared to Russian Imperial Stouts. I'm drinking from tap, so I can't read the gobbledygook for you, but I'll throw a link up for you to read it for yourself.

Solid stygian blackness, beneath a gorgeous deep tan head, long lasting, creamy  and luscious.

Aroma: chocolate first on the nose, sweetness aplenty, rich and lovely. Mocha delight. The glaze on a scrumptious chocolate donut. Coffee hasn't revealed itself yet. Very pleasing, nonetheless.

Taste: In the mouth, cocoa sensations resonate, with coffee notes rising up to greet them. This is delectable. Now we're dunking that chocolate-dripped cruller into our morning cup joe. Getting the best of all worlds. It's the most intense, the richest, the fullest, or the deepest, but it's tasty and drinkable, beside the high ABV. Fullish body, long, but not overly intense finish.

Alcohol isn't showing just yet, and, as noted before, there's not trace of "imperial stout" flavors, like dark fruits, char, dark rum, molasses, etc. Just chocolate, with coffee beans peeking in at the sides.

Someone asked me if this was a "Belgian-style" stout, and I replied, no, just regular, plus coffee, plus chocolate, plus imperial. But through their name and their past brews, people expect everything NBB makes to have a Belgian bent of some sort. Personally, I'd like to see more of this, especially now that they've embraced their hoppy nature, or formed one, or something.

No, this is not barrel-aged, or vanilla bean infused or whatever other gimmick we need to use these days. It's just a darned good beer. Really nice, and very flavorful.
What's wrong with that, I'd like to know, so here I go…again…

it's a good beer, and you can drink it.

Three Floyds Behemoth Barley-wine Ale

Astute observers of this beer blog will have taken notice of my admiration for the Three Floyds Brewing Company. Oddly, though, my post with the greatest number of pageviews, at last looking, has been the skeptical eye I cast on the overwhelming hype for Zombie Dust. Let no one think that this should diminish my love of Three Floyds and it's beers. I had the opportunity to revisit one of their ales that I've had a bit of history with, recently, and here I shall spin my tale.

Going way, way back, I was skeptical of all 3F beers originally, due to the higher than average price-point. It wasn't until I finally got a taste of Alpha King that my opinion changed, and I was confident in their quality to pay a little more. I kept AK in bottles at the Blue Nile back in 2000, and in late 2001 put a keg of it on tap. Back then, I began my experiments in beer lists with the bottled stuff first, and didn't alter the tap line-up as much, which is the opposite of what I, and the craft beer bar world in general, do today. I went through one 1/2 barrel of Alpha King fairly quickly on the one line I was changing around, and when it was done, it was time for Summit Oktoberfest.

The next summer, 2002, some time in June, it occurred to me to remove another beer from our line and perhaps beef up the craft selection, make Alpha King a regular offering. Too late, it turned out. The beers we were getting had been contract brewed by August Schell, and they had ceased that operation. As a result of this, the distributor stopped carrying Three Floyds products. In that same phone conversation with my All Saints Distributing rep (hi, Corey!), I was informed that there was one last 3F keg remaining that I could claim as my own. But there were problems with it, and they were as follows: 1. It was a beer that had never been sold here before in bottles, so the chances that anyone had heard of it were slim. 2. It was a barley-wine, which isn't an easy sell, especially in June. 3. At this point, our menu listed all beers on one page, with the top 1/3 devoted to tap, and only one singled out for a lengthy description. On this menu, we chose Bell's Oberon for this feature, and the Three Floyds beer was merely listed as "Behemoth Barleywine"...$4.

Let's unpack that for a minute. This keg was a mere $100 for a half-barrel, which is utterly unheard of. It's what you should pay for a craft pale ale back then, not a barley-wine. That's about 1/2 what you'd pay today. Also, I did not start serving Belgian beers on tap until later that year, and had no experience at that time with higher ABV beers on tap. I had very limited specialty glassware. So, we were doing pints of this 10% ABV barleywine for a mere $4. Eleven years ago, I enjoyed a pint of this a night after work until the keg finally kicked. Ah, those were the days...

About four years later, I finally found a bottle of the stuff, and wrote these notes, from April, 2006, 7 years ago:

Bomber poured into squat Belgian snifter, ...dark mahogany/ burgundy blend fills the glass, out wafts the aroma, and I know I'll be spanked but good!

Little head here, though, it appears for a moment and disappears quickly.

Aroma screams brandy, cherries, hints of bourbon, port wine, licks of leather, spicy and slick...molasses, dark rum, brown sugar..liking it...

Now to taste: the Behemoth floods the mouth with fierce flavor and coats every inch with deliciousness, spreading tendrils of delight through every crack in the palate. And a thunder thuds above, as alcohol creeps along as well...boom, boom...hear his steps as he clods along the corridors of the brain...flavors detected in the nose reassert themselves on the tongue...l the slick sugary darkness, the caramel-y sweetness, the thick, resonant malt, the powerful potency. An aptly named brew, and it appears to be quite stronger than the last time I had it, on tap, nearly 4 years ago. It was 10% then, and a killer diller at that. Guess that envelope had to be pushed, eh, Floyd, Floyd, and Floyd?

Huge body, immense mouthfeel, long, slightly bitter, thick and resiny finish. A hell of a barleywine. But I want it in little bottles, not these monster servings. And I want it available in my home state, again. And I want a million dollars, and a pony, and a Rock'em, Sock'em robots, and Mommy and Daddy to get back together, and world peace, and no hunger, and, and, and...

Boom, boom, boom, I've barely gotten into it, and it's knocking at my frontal lobes...we're coming i-in...hide the ki-ids...here I am, wishing I'd saved this for a get-together with friends, and continue drinking it solo, and hoping I don't wake up wanting to kill myself tomorrow morning...afternoon...?

I really, really like this, but it's a serious sipper of a brew, one that should accompany a long evening with the works of Wordsworth at hand, Old Dog Tray at one's feet, a roaring fire beside, attired in a comfortable robe...you know the scene...

I'm drooling over the intense flavors as much as the goons on the label, but not drooling over Miss Behemoth as they are...I just don't find three chins very sexy.

(Also, confused by the name...nothing "blonde" about this beauty!)

Tallgrass Pub Ale

Tallgrass Original 2007 Recipe Pub Ale, 1.046 Original Gravity, 12 IBU, Alc. 4.4% by Vol., Contains 1 pint. Brewed and canned by Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kansas, Established 2007.

Clear, copper/bronze coloring, beautiful, fresh off-white head, long-lasting, lace-leaving.

Aroma: clean, crisp malt, a little earthy, a little grainy.

taste: More clean and more crisp. Light bodied, soft, and easy-drinking. It's all about balance and malty smoothness. Tidy hop profile, matches and tempers the star of the show, the malts. Just right for a pub ale. Tasty stuff, downable, with no threat to one's attention. The very mark of a session ale. 

I always catch myself when reviewing beers like this. I extol their virtues, and try my best to avoid speaking about why I am not interested in drinking them. This is what I am doing now. It's excellent for what it is, but I won't be buying it. Yup, I need a bit more …I was going to stop, and I will.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stone Cali-Belgie IPA

Crazy day yesterday. Ol' Mother Nature dumped about 10 inches (or was it a foot?) of snow on us, just after all the stuff on the ground has melted and we thought spring was really here at last. It didn't give up all night long, and we cancelled our entertainment for the night at the Blue Nile. Then, the power went out, and we called it a night. I was able to lock up and get home by 10:30, a good 5 hours earlier than normal for a Thursday night. I used the opportunity to take down three big, beautiful bombers, this one being middle of the trio. (First: Stone Enjoy by, Third, Three Floyds Behemoth Barley-wine.) If I try that on any other Thursday, that means I'm up until seven in the morning and my Friday starts at 3 pm. Which is why I don't do that.

I'll tell you this much, though. Just after drinking Stone's Cali-Belgique (called Cali-Beglie on this label), I had to seriously interrogate myself about why it has taken me this long to try it out, since it's been on the market here for a couple of years. Here come the notes:

Stone Cali-Belgie IPA India Pale Ale, North Country, San Diego, Brewed and bottled by the Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, CA. 6.9% Alc./Vol. Ingredients: Nothing but Barley, Hops, Water, and (Belgian) Yeast. With a back label loaded with gobbledygook that I will not even read. Not now. Maybe later.

Appearance: very hazy, orange colored, smallish white head.

aroma: spices, citrus, and funky-ass Belgian yeast. Beautiful. Like a trappist tripel with a hoppy kick. Nice, nice, nice.

Taste: Belgian yeast flavor leads it off, commands the palate, with the bitter hoppy edge riding side saddle. Funky, weird, wild, and hoppy as heck. If I were drinking this blind, I'd assume it was Belgian and never guess it was hailing from San Diego or thereabouts. Rounds out rather dryly, eases easily off the palate, but leaves one with the memory of fruity hops and esters, a blistering barrage of hops, and unmistakable Belgian yeast.

It's a wonderful marriage of Stone IPA and Belgian-style IPA. It's sweet, hoppy, wild, and dry, and I'm falling madly for it. Quite drinkably, passes the gullet with the greatest of ease. Each new sip leaves me loving this, and marveling at the mastery of it's creation. Mmm, mmm.

Surly Over-rated! West Coast India Pale Ale

Something strange happened recently. A new beer was released by Surly and it took me about 11 days to get a taste of it. The big party was at a 4 on the Floor concert at First Avenue, which I could not attend, on April 6. Furthermore, there are, oddly enough, no kegs being released to bars, only cans to liquor stores. And I did not get out to the store at all last week. Finally, picked up some Wednesday night, took down a couple pint cans, and penned this novella:

Surly Over-Rated! West Coast IPA. 7.3% ABV.

Clear, golden colored, beautiful white, lasting head. Looks the very picture of a class West Coast IPA. All systems go, ready or not.

Aroma: ahhhhhhh….yep, it's hitting all the right notes. Sticky, prickly pine, plenty of citric notes, blasts of tropical fruit, lemon and pineapple hit the forest floor. Put the grapefruit in mango and mix it all up. Perfectly pleasing.

Taste of it: Boom, boom. It's got it all, bangs the right spots, strikes the right notes. Not too much malt body to interfere with the hop delivery. Body is lean and light, dropping hop delights with each new sip. In each way possible, this meets the mark of the West Coast IPA. Which makes me wonder…but, first, let's read that can…

What's with the HYPE? It's been said; "It's easier to brew an extremely hoppy beer than an extremely balanced beer." And you know us, we are always looking for the easy way out, so we jumped on the West Coast IPA Bandwagon and brewed this dry and hoppy ale. "Surly's a little bit of a one-trick pony, they just brew gimmick beers," and maybe we are OVER-RATED, but at the end of the day, it's just a beer, if you like it, great, so do we. If you only liked us when we were small, then leave this one of the shelf. Let one of the fanboys grab it."

I'm going to pick this apart for a bit. From day one, Surly had always been trying to jump on the "West Coast IPA bandwagon", but they flubbed it with that failure, Furious. Next thing: Is the part in quotes directly from some review online, and does that person feel silly, or superior? Next: I hate the phrase "at the end of the day". Political talking heads on the 24-hour news networks use it constantly, over and over, and it pisses me off to see it on a Surly label. Finally, …oh, the fanboys. How much anti-Surly resentment did they turn around and stuff into that small bit of copy? Why is there still anti-Surly resentment? Haven't those people dried up and blown away already?

So what am I wondering…ah, this is damnably delicious. And what if Surly had debuted with Under-blown, or…Extra-plated..what was it? Yeah, over-rated. It's nearly a note-perfect rendition of the much beloved West Coast IPA, San Diego style. Surly originally was meant to be a provider for our region, our marketplace, of this type of brew, the type not found in our homeland. But their "over-hopped", "over-hyped" Furious seemed to really fit an unscratched itch, a never-known niche. Detractors of Furious and it's over-done hopping forget the major amount of malts involved. Maybe that's what helped it over the hump, and let this community of beer drinkers take that overly hoppy wonder to our collective bosom? If they'd led with something like this, a clear clone of the West Coast style of IPA, so plump with the citrus and piney qualities, instead of something with a bigger malt component like Furious, would it have been the same? Would it have eventually met with popularity, or relative indifference, except for the rabid, hop-hungry species beers geekicus?

It is dry. It is hoppy. It's very bitter, and what's weird? It's about a dollar a 4-pack less than Furious. Because they could save money on the malt. Man, that must be how those over-hopped, over-hyped beers work. That's how they getcha man, that's how they do it.

Already some wags on the net are saying "it's, dare I say it, better than Furious." "Better than"? More to the taste of your hop-greedy palate, perhaps. Also, perhaps, these people are the ones I spoke of earlier, the ones Surly wasn't ready to cater to seven years ago, and have merely been biding their time pretending to enjoy Furious until Surly would produce something leaner, hoppier, drier, …here's what I'll say: while I appreciate this, respect it, like it, nay, love it…it only proves to underscore what a successful creation Furious truly is. I'll also say this: …no forget it, I've said it all already. Good one, but will not replace Furious for me. I'm glad they finally did it, though, and wish it would stick around. Top notch effort, lads. I enjoy over-rating your beers, but, you knew that, fanboy that I am.


Now, where are those kegs, Surly?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Alchemist Heady Topper Double IPA

Guess what?

 I'm a terrible beer ticker.

Looking at the current BeerAdvocate Top 250, I haven't had the 10 best beers in the world.
Number Ten, Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord from Three Floyds, has not been reviewed by yours truly, although I'm sure I've had a taste of it once, at least. Let's look at the rest of the list: Parabola Imperial Stout from California's Firestone Walker at 9, Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout  (or BCBS if you want to cut to the chase) at 8, 3F's Zombie Dust sits at 7 ( a pale ale in the top ten? Shocking!), Trappist Westveleteren 12 has fallen all the way to 6 from it's eternal perch at 1, at 4 and 5 the brothers from Founders, CBS and KBS (if you have to ask, you're no beer geek), with 2 and 3 occupied by the father and son team of the Plinys from Russian River, leaving number one to the pride of Waterbury, Vermont, a canned double IPA from the Alchemist Brewery, their only beer, Heady Topper.

Dave Anderson was kind enough to spot me a can, and now, at long last I can scratch that itch, and tick away that top beer and see if it's really the finest ale in all the land, better than the works of the most pious and hermetic of monks. I'll just paste those notes (beer was consumed a few nights ago) right here:

Heady Topper-The Alchemist-Vermont. Ale. Alc. 8% by Vol.,1 pint.

"Heady Topper is an American Double India Pale Ale. This beer is not intended to be the biggest of most bitter. It is meant to give you wave after wave of hoppy goodness on your palate. Tremendous amounts of American hops will creep up on you, and leave you with a dense hoppy finish in your mouth. So drinkable, it scary.
Sometime I wish I could crawl right into the can. Freshness and control have always been my main concern when it comes to our beer. We are committed to providing you with an unfiltered and unpasteurized  hop experience. Why do I recommend that you drink it from the can? Quite simply, to ensure a delightful, hop experience. The act of pouring it into a glass smells nice, but it releases the essential hop aromas that we have worked so hard to retain. If you MUST pour it into a glass, you may find that some of the hop resins have settled to the bottom --leave them in the can when pouring. This beer is perishable, and at it's best when young, fresh, and hazy. Keep it cold but not ice cold. Drink this beer immediately we are always making more. --John Kimmich, The Alchemist, Waterbury, Vermont."

Bullcrap, it's going into a glass, because I MUST.

I'm scratching my head to make sense out of this sentence: "The act of pouring it into a glass smells nice, but it releases the essential hop aromas that we have worked so hard to retain." So... what should be done with these hops aromas if not release them to, I don't know, smell nice? Are they supposed to remain in the can, pleasing no one? Can someone figure that one out for me, it makes my brain hurt...

Also note that the illustration on the can clearly shows a man drinking his from a glass. If he were drinking from a can, one with the same illustration featuring himself, we could have the beer version of a comic book with an "Infinity cover."

But on to the beer, enough of the gobbledygook:

It's a hazy one, a deep orange/apricot color, not bright, not golden, but clearly it's own thing. It is what it is. The head is a gigantic, prodigious, brogdignagian thing, mushroom capped, blooming with chalk white froth, lace-leaving and slow to leave. Gorgeous look on it.

Aroma: funky, musty, wicked, and weird. I'm at a loss. Thinking about Belgian yeast, thinking about putting a mare to bed. And then the typical hop aromatics creep out, some orange, some mango, grapefruit. None too bitter, either, not too brash, bold or out of control. Juuust right. A delight for the nose.

Taste: Jumps on the tongue and spills out brilliant hoppy flavor. Tingles the tongue in all right ways. Trickles over the palate, leaving happy hop deliciousness everywhere. …"from the can!"…not as complex, not as …gosh, is there a difference? or are we fooling ourselves? From the can, you get the hop blast, you get the flavor, you get the buzz, it's creamy and palatable…but you don't get everything. It's like having sex with a wool sock over your manhood, it's just not bringing it all home, if you know what I mean. I wonder why The Alchemist wants to cover this beer up, hide it in a can? Are they trying to elude the look of the brew, do they think people will dislike the chaos and disarray, the multitude of floating particles, as if it's unnatural and ugly?

Full-bodied, long bitter finish. Really tasty, very satisfying and delicious. Best IPA of all? Naaah… but close...

more bitterness, in the dregs...

End of notes. Best beer of all? Better than Gouden Carolus Cuvee van de Kaiser Blau (No. 147.)? Better than Rodenbach Grand Cru (No. 155.)? Better than Orval (No. 237.)? Westmalle Tripel (112)? Trappistes Rochefort 10 (16)?  Not according to me. But this ranking clearly shows that many beer reviewers online do not have a predilection towards the complex flavors in a Belgian ale, and more often than not are skewed towards the hop bomb, especially if it's a "Whale", i.e., elusive and difficult to obtain.
There's no point in complaining that this list will be dominated by bourbon barrel imperial stouts and hen's teeth rare double IPA, punishing and abrasive, it's simply the nature of today's beer geek crowd.
All in all, a tasty brew, surrounded by baffling hype.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Alaskan Hopothermia Double IPA

Alaskan Hopthermia Double IPA. Semi-freshly tapped. From the Rough Draft Export series.

Clear, bright amber coloring, lustrous snowy white head, looking great.

Aroma: brilliant blast of citrus and pine, with fresh tropical fruit flavors, as well. Just lovely. Right on.

Taste: In the mouth, starts slightly sweet, then the bitter takes over, though it plays it mellow throughout. Continues fruity, but leans more on the sweet side than the bitter. Medium body, smooth mouthfeel, persistent mango flavors, with bitter hop buzz playing it light on the palate.

Alaskan Hopothermia is no monster double IPA, not the king in terms of bitterness or booze, but I don't think it intends to be, either. It is plenty delicious, though. If you're not involved in a fight, or a contest, if you don't insist on finding the most damaging IPA to your palate or sobriety, this may please you very much.

Minneapolis Town Hall Super Sonic IPA

Minneapolis Town Hall Super Sonic IPA.

Clear and bright crimson colored, under a slimmed-down, off-white head.

Aroma: fruits and berries, low bitterness. minor sweetness. tropical fruits. pleasant.

Taste: Little blast of bitterness hits first, then engulfed by malt, a mix of bitter alpha acids and sweet malt washes over the palate, rounded out neatly and dryly. All manner of fruit associations climb into the sensory playground, berries and gourds galore, succulents and seeders, (????) and all of them. A bountiful harvest in this. Medium bodied, mellow, with a persistent, underlying hoppy attack along the palate that keeps it all interesting.

Not quite like any other IPA you're likely to bump into.

From the menu: "Single-hopped IPA with the New Zealand Super Alpha hop variety. Fruity hop characteristic reminiscent of melon, kiwi, mango, and juicy fruit. 6.8% ABV."
Soundtrack for this session provided by the great 1956 Sun Ra album on Saturn Records, Super-Sonic Jazz.

Lucid Craig's Ale

Lucid Craig's Ale, Dark Rye Ale, 7.5% ABV.

Dark reddish-brown, mahogany hue, below a creamy froth. Looks nice.

Aroma: creamy, nutty, replete with rich, spicy malt, bready. Pumpernickel and rye bread, minor hops. nice and toasty.

Taste: all rye, all the time. Nothing but. Sweet stuff, and strongish. Big malt, bready, sweet, spicy, warm, wonderful. Not too many dimensions, not terribly complex, but plenty tasty and lots of goodness here.

Is there somewhere on the label that gives us information about the beer? There is this: "We started Lucid with a Kickstarter drive. Craig was our largest donor. Thanks, Craig, this one's for you!"

It's that kind of beer. But a fine beer it is. Yummy. I wish I had a reuben right now. Okay, next time.

Indeed Burr Grinder Coffee Ale

Indeed Burr Grinder Coffee Ale.

Murky mahogany hue, slim whitish head.

Aroma: earthy, fruity coffee notes, with cocoa hints right behind.

Taste: there it is, again, full forward coffee flavors without dark malts to muddy it up and blend in, or any other flavors to compete with or complement  them. It's not often we find a coffee "ale", rather than a stout or porter; in fact, I've seen coffee lagers before I've heard of any "ales." Bit of a bold move to try it out this time, but I like it. A little juicy, only a small bit bitter, and ending on a dry notes. Medium bodied, lingering finish, ends easily in the mouth and off the palate.

Let's take a peek at the label copy: "This collaboration has been ‘brewing’ for quite some time. Indeed Brewing Company partnered with their neighbors at Dogwood Coffee to create Burr Grinder “Beer Coffee”. After searching for the perfect coffee, 90-pounds of Guatemalan Finca Rosma was steeped in the brew kettle before we topped-off the finished beer with 54-gallons of cold press.

Delivering an intense coffee punch while preserving the delicate aromas of the complex beans, Burr Grinder will have you wondering whether you’re a beer geek or a coffee geek. (5.1% ABV, 13 IBU)."

So, there. I'm a coffee drinker, not a coffee "geek", but maybe Burr Grinder will have me re-think that after all. This is tasty stuff here and it really serves to deliver the complexities and rich flavors that get hidden when coffee is added to a darker ale. I've got to say it again, Indeed is finding some fresh expressions where other breweries go the same ol' path. Cheers to them.

This one is reviewed from a bottle that I bought at the taproom when I was in the area a few weeks ago to bring my Surly Two painting to the Altered Esthetics gallery for the "Brewers Craft" exhibit running through April. (The piece is actually hanging not at the gallery, but on the walls of the hallway leading to Indeed's taproom, a few blocks away. If you visit Indeed in April and ever need to pee, you'll see it.) I have a keg of it for the Nile, but won't tap it for several weeks, and couldn't wait to take notes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Belgium Lips of Faith Cascara Quad

New Belgium Lips of Faith Cascara Quad, Ale Brewed with date with coffee cherries added. 1 pint, 6 fluid ounces. Alc. 10% by Vol. "Best enjoyed by August 2014." Don't you worry about that.

Utterly hazed and opaque, plummy, magenta hue, 1/4 inch, dotted, lace-leaving, creamy toned. Nice looking beer here.

Aroma: sweet malt, rich fruit, plums, raisins, dates. plump berries, lovely stuff, utterly wonderful. Very nice.

Taste: BAM! Big Belgian malt flavor kicks it first, with alcohol kicking it next. Great balance, malt is king, with hops laying low, and booze not staying shy. Damn. This I  love. I don't know what cascara is, but I love it when dates and coffee cherries meet a great big quad. Deee-licious. I'm liking this in all the right ways.

Let's take a moment and read the gobbledygook: " Local roasters Novo Coffee turned us onto Central America's cascara, the fruit or husk that surrounds coffee beans. When dried, it can be made into a tea with hints of cherry and tobacco. Blend that into a quad fermented with gorgeous malts and date sugar for a crazy complex beer to warm your winter nights."

It's April 11, and I still need my winter nights warmed. (Still snowing.) I find fault with the phrase "gorgeous malts", but can't quarrel with the truth. Minor quibble with "quad" as a style. People, you can say quadruple, it won't hurt you. And it is crazy complex, and like I said, terribly delish. Tobacco? Yeah. And brandy, and leather, and cherries, and yum.

One of the biggest, brashest, boldest, richest beers to come out of the Lips of Faith series in recent memory. Mmmm. Right up my alley, this one. Love it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Town Hall Surreal Chemisty

Something strange happened the other week, when I sat down to review a new beer from Town Hall out of a growler. Poured out the brew, after misreading the cap on top. What I thought was "Super" actually read "Surr"...so, instead of reviewing an IPA with the new Super Alpha hop, I was actually reviewing a hybrid ale/lager, a la Anchor Steam, or California Common, fashioned after a Czech pilsner.

So, here's what I did: I purged those words of anything relating to an IPA or my struggle to reconcile the description of the IPA with what I actually was tasting, while finishing off the rest of the growler. And let me let you, it was a much better ale/lager hybrid than it was an IPA. And, here come the notes...

Minneapolis Town Hall Surreal Chemistry .

Clear, apricot/amber coloration, slim white head.

Aroma: soft and citrus-y, with fruits aplenty.

Let's taste away! Tiny bursts of hoppy bitterness (or bitter hoppiness) pounce the palate, and buzz away, with all those fruity associations taking over and leading the charge. Medium-bodied, robust and emboldened with juicy fruit. Orange and mango. Bitterness never fades completely. Tasty, tasty stuff, downable and refreshing. I like this quite a bit. It would be better in the summer, though. April 5, and we're still not into spring, yet, for real.

I tried this new thing, that all the kids are doing of taking a photo of the menu instead of copying it down. (Once upon a time, there would be slips of paper with descriptions of the newest beer at MTHB floating about, and I would try to take one home for use in my reviews.) I won't, however, Instagram it, Vine it, or post it on Facebook. Just copy it here: "This unique beer has the malt and hops of a Czech-style Pilsner, but was fermented cool with an ale strain. Crisp, clean, bready, hoppy, and lager-like. 5.8% ABV."

Founders All Day IPA

Founders All Day IPA Session Ale, Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI.

Clear and golden, slim white head.

Aroma: Nothing but citrus and pine, lemon, lime, a splash of grapefruit. Lively stuff.

Taste: Handy hop bitterness bless the tongue…now, wait, blazes the tongue. Body is lightish to medium-y,..naw, screw it, let's stick to light… malt is crisp and toasty, biscuity. Super-easy drinking. And fairly tasty.

42 IBU. 4.7% ABV.

So, what makes this a "Session IPA", and not an over-hopped
American Pale Ale?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA

circa 2018.
Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA, 10.6% ABV, 95 IBUs. Drinking fresh off the tap, looking back at my first notes, from April, 2008, from a bomber, sent in a trade.

Clear, dark crimson coloring, big, creamy slab of froth atop, lace leaving.

Intense hop aroma, big pine & grapefruit, & more fruit. Twist of orange, slice of lime, ...bitter, but lovely.

Drinkin'...plump flavor, but surprisingly easy drinking and smooth, though the hop bitterness rises up again. Big blast of hops with each sip, mellow malt below, nice and toasty.
Hop bitterness shines above it all, and delights even the most hardened hophead.

Nice one. Maintains a bitter hop edge, but cool, calm, & collected. Delicious.

Five years later, I can only add: Damn, I love this one! Mmmm-mmm!

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Stone Sublimely Self-righteous Ale, American Black Ale (black IPA), 8.7% ABV. I picked up a bottle of this one, at last, after settling some confusion about it. According to BeerAdvocate, I have reviewed a bottle, but don't remember doing so. Until I find out that I did that review when it was the Stone 11th Anniversary Ale. Perhaps the first of this style I'd ever had.
So, here are my notes on that bottle from December, 2007, received in a trade, with a photo of the bottle I took down last night:

Stone 11th Anniversary, in the dark with this IPA, pitch dark, so they say...what's that mean? Let's open and find out...

Hey, that is dark...and hoppy...big aromas, leaping out at ya...just about black, this one, with a smallish dark brown head.

Aroma: bright hops, mixed with rich, dark malt...ripe fruit melds with cocoa and coffee tones...interesting, to say the least...and I like it!

In the taste, big hop smack, taking a dark turn, feeling hot, roasted, and full. Tangy, twangy, tingly hops, meet roasted malt...overloaded with character and confidence. Some trickles of molasses and a hint of spice linger in as well...hops are everywhere, this is in IPA territory, definitely, but those dark malts take somewhere else entirely...and I like that!
first bitter fruit feel, then dark roast burning the palate...again, I like!

8.7%? I'm hardly feeling it...or, am...I?

A bit of bright orange and grapefruit pith, then a round of chocolate and coffee grounds..I'm enjoying that!

De Dolle Bos Keun Paasbier

De Dolle Bos Keun Paasbier, 10% ABV, special Belgian Easter brew. Drinking now, looking at notes from my first encounter, back in May of 2004:

"Speciaal Paasbier". Hey, I remember Paas, used to dye Easter eggs with it when I was a kid! And they're making bier out of it now, you say? Really? Okay, whatever!

De Dolle definitely has the most colorful, cartoony beer labels in the world, and this one is a kicker, an instant favorite. A grooved-out, wide-eyed, buck-toothed jackrabbit leans against a tree, hoisting a chalice of ale, all smiles. My, my, rabbits must lead such IN-ter-esting lives! Well, I want to be like that blissful bunny, so let's get some bier in me!

The color is a cloudy, dull orange, with a head as serious as all the other De Dolle samples I've tried: a majestic flowering of snow-white foam, leaving weavings of generous lace.

Aroma is beautiful, soft and spicy, with copious citrus. I almost don't want to drink it, just luxuriate in this mysterious heady aura.

On the palate, a huge charge of hops and yeast, deployed simultaneously, mellowing quickly. Loads of sugar, too. Tons of sweetness that really complements the bitter, citric aspect.

Finish is generous, sweet and very lovely. Body, texture, balance, all were well accounted for, and contributed to a remarkably delicious and satisfying ale.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hamm's (The Beer Refreshing)

Six years ago, March of 2007, was the first time I sat down with a can of Hamm's to share my experience with the world. I'm drinking another one right this very minute. Here are those old notes:

Refreshing as the land of sky-blue waters (wa-a-ters)
Land of Lake and Pine
cool enchantment
comes the beer refreshing,
Hamm's, the beer refreshing,

if you know anything about Minnesota beer history, you know that jingle.
And I can't believe it's taken me this long to get to a can of Hamm's!

"Since 1865", says the can. Also, "America's Classic Premium Beer, Born in the land of sky blue waters." (Hey, that's here!) "Brewed in true family tradition from purest water and choicest barley malt, grain, and hops." Goody!

Ultra-clear, straw yellow color, some bone-white head at first, then it's gone.

Grainy nose, with some sweet malt evident, faint hops, but that's par for the style...wait, now I get it, it's injecting some bare bitterness into the sweet malt factor, arriving at a funky feel. Definitely not bad, not unpleasant, with some character.

Taste: not much here, mostly moisture. Slim flavors, if any...grainyness, at best. Malt is shy in this respect, the water rises above anything else. It's like lemonade without the lemon, and Kool-Aid without the Kool.

I can't really recommend Hamm's at all to anyone, unless your chief factors in deciding on a beer are cheapness of price and wateryness of flavor. There are many out there that fall into this category, Lord Love 'Em. I have a hard time knocking it...it's not bad, it is what it is...but, it's not much.

And they had a cool macot once, dress up in his costume, visit a strip club, and see what happens...


That last part is a reference to my former salesrep pal, Corey Shovein, formerly of Hohensteins, local seller of Hamm's. He's given up the bear suit. Maybe Surly will have a mascot that he can parade around as?

I stand behind my old review, but it's not as terrible as all that, not offensive, anyway. Just not what I would choose to drink. Except now, of course. Taking one for the team, once more, that's me.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Capital Capsized Imperial IPA

Capital Capsized Imperial IPA. That's a new one for this German-based brewer nestled near the capital of Wisconsin. They've made a single IPA, too, and I'll get to that one later. This one, though, is 22 fluid ounces, and a 9.2% ABV ale.

Clear, deep crimson coloring, Slim, but lasting white head, leaving a little lace.

Aroma: hoppy, but no particular character is coming through, no real, visceral sensation. Nothing from American hops, anyway, nothing particularly West Coast or citrusy, more of an English feel. Bready, malty, a touch herbal. A bit more mellow than we're used to in a double IPA, which is, after all, an American invention, which is why I anticipated Amercan hop flavors.

Taste: Herbal, nutty, butter-y, even, but not in a bad way, just in an English IPA way. I have the feeling that what was done here is an English IPA bumped up to Imperial IPA alcohol levels. This is nothing I've ever encountered before, and actually, nothing I particularly enjoy. There's hops, but they don't stick out terribly much, much more malt, and there's high alcohol, of course, but it's just wrong, in my humble opinion.

I will take a moment to read the label and it's gobbledygook: "Join us on our maiden IPA voyage. SIX UNIQUE HOPS give this beer an assertive bitterness and upfront hop aroma that are balanced by a subtle but noticeable malt sweetness. Put on a life vest…you're about to get CAPSIZED!" IBU 90"

The funny thing is, it's not terribly assertive, and the hop levels are masked by the malt. The sweetness is not subtle at all, in fact, I feel it's rich and chewy. This is brewery known for their bocks and doppelbocks, where maltiness is the order of the day, and it seems like they weren't comfortable straying far from that. Yes, there's hops here (which ones? they won't say.), but the malt is dominant. I feel like I'm drinking a hoppy doppelbock. I'm getting way too much malt for a double IPA. They hops should really stick out, and they are not. It's too sweet, too sugary, nearly buttery, assertively misplaced.

I love the name, I love the the label art, I love the idea that they tried, but feel like it's a failure. The malts are too rich and sweet in this beer and they capsize whatever attempt the hops are trying to make at being "Imperial". Just this guy's opinion.

Stone Enjoy By 04-20-13 IPA

Stone Enjoy By 04-20-12 IPA, 9.4% ALC./Vol. We're supposed to Tweet, Instagram and talk on Facebook to help bring Stone Enjoy By IPA to our city. They're listening!, they say. This is the second time I've enjoyed this IPA, both times brought from elsewhere by Joe. This time he brought me eight bottles, ain't I lucky? So, I have 13 days to drink them up! (or trade for something else, which I might try.)

The look: clear, crisp, golden-hued, active carbonation, enormous head, pillowy white, lace-leaving and lovely. Very nice looking brew.

The aroma: oily hop resins, prickly pine, lemon zest, orange peel, plenty of bitterness, but not too much so.

The taste of it: Intense bitterness grips the palate, buzzes the tongue, leaves little bombs of sweetness at variable intervals. With each new sip and swallow, a repeat of the pass, gripping bitterness, attacking the tongue, swabbed by sweet, ending dryly, reading for the next round. Medium bodied, long hoppiness…and the high alcohol doesn't get you until you're, wait, where are we  now? About 3/4 into the bottle. Yep, it's creeping up…

This lands somewhere between the regular Stone IPA, which I love, and Ruination. Not quite as ruining. I would appreciate it more dialed down a notch or two, though. Maybe 7.5% would make it more enjoyable by.

Here's some gobbledygook from the label: "You have in your hands a devastatingly fresh double IPA. Freshness is a key component in many beers, especially big, hoppy IPAs--but we've taken it further, a lot further, with this one. We brewed this IPA specifically not to last. We've gone to extensive lengths to to ensure you get your hands on this beer within an extraordinarily short window, and we've sent a very clear message in the name of the beer itself that there is no better time than NOW to enjoy this IPA."

Terrific stuff. Here I come, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

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...