Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dave's BrewFarm Heirloom Single Hop Lager

Dave's BrewFarm Heirloom Single Hop Lager.

Clear, crisp and golden hue, milky white froth atop, leaving lace and looking lovely.

Aroma: bright lemon zest, floral notes and touch of tart. Some pineapple and mango jumps on board.

Taste: Just a brief blast of hop bitterness at the fore…and then some more, never fading, never quitting. This Heirloom hop is not one I'm familiar with, so I'm feeling out these flavors. More of the citrus and the fruit, a small flash of sour, with bitterness slowly fading back. Malt component is light, clean, bready, and slightly caramel-sweet. A fine drinking, ever-so tasty lager.

From Farmer Dave: 6.4% ABV. A favorite locally grown variety in the single hop lager series. Three separate additions of Heirloom hops. Pils, Cara Red, and Caramel 20 malts."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Miller Genuine Draft

Ten years ago, I still had a little bit of crap on tap. Thought I needed it, had to have it, etc. This was then, now it's now. So, one day, just to do the review, I sat down with a glass of MGD poured from the tap and wrote the following notes. Today, I have one from a bottle, and don't give me any guff about the Saison Dupont glass used to hold this excrement, it was handy, and I don't have any Miller glassware around, o woe is me.

So, without further ado, while I struggle through this bottle, here are notes from April of 2003, on Miller Genuine Draft:

I've spent more time in the company of this beer than I'm comfortable with, but not by drinking it, no, through serving to the customers at my bar. Happily, it's the only macro-crap I've got on tap, but it's exceedingly popular among those masses that I haven't the time or power to change their minds. In the name of research, curiosity, or maybe sadomasochism I venture forth to review a small sampling of this wretched brew.

Color: very pale yellow,nearly invisible, the very match of urine. Head: tall, fluffy, pure snow white.

Aroma: zilch, zero, zip. I flared my nosrtils deep to try to detect something or anything but came up bone-dry, with maybe a touch of soap and flowers.

Mouthfeel is a rough and harsh terrain, with a grainy sweetness to be traversed in every sip. A horrid brashness exists in every attempt to gulp and it leaves a non-existent finish, as if the offending liquid wished no memory to remain of it's brief stay in the mouth. It passes through quickly, leaving not a trace, but only bad memories. The perfect beer for those who don't give a damn what goes down their gullet. No hops are felt, no malt, no body, no texture.

That's when I got it. I'd gone about it all wrong! Every time I tried to taste this sad excuse for a beer, I winced and pulled away, embittered and beated aback, every time this swill passed through my lips. When I merely gulped back and stopped thinking, however, there was no problem, no sirree, bob!
I wonder how people drink this stuff, then I realize that they've been hoodwinked!
Somehow, they've been convinced that this foul concoction is actual beer and the Miller Brewing Co. is happy to provide.
Lord save us all...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

New Belgium Lips of Faith Brewery Vivant Collaboration Biere de Garde

New Belgium Lips of Faith Collaboration with Brewery Vivant Biere de Garde. That's a mouthful. Fort Collins, Colorado, by way of Grand Rapids, Michigan, by way of France by way of Belgium. 9% ABV. (See link for more information.)

Clear, golden hued, full froth atop, gloriously snowy white, pillowy and lacey. An especially invited glass of ale.

Aromatics: Belgian yeast treats the nose first, with some fruit, some funk, and a flash of tart, a certain amount of wildness going down. Almost zero hops perceived, but plenty of citrus zest from yeast and malt, not mention grassiness, horse blanket-esque, and a touch of j'en c'est quoi.

Taste: Slides into the mouth citrus first, sweet malt in front, with funky flashes on the side. Rising in sourness as the drink continues, but never quit getting too anything. Very palatable, medium to light bodied, especially refreshing and delicious. Strength hasn't hit me yet, and I must admit to being annoyed again at a 9% brew that just doesn't need to be. Sure, this is an interpretation of a Biere de Garde that doesn't really resemble traditional versions, but this has the kind of flavor that would make me want to indulge in one after the next, but the alcoholic strength to prohibit it.

This is a slick and tasty ale that ends on the dry side, with a spicy kick floating on the flavor. It's fruity and fresh, and just wild and weird enough to entertain even the most discriminating Belgo-phile. Lemony, tart, with a clovey kick near the end to make it interesting. Another ingenious entry in the Lips of Faith series. If anything, these guys continue to take chances, and it pays off here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Toppling Goliath Assassin Whiskey Barrel Russian Imperial Stout

I first got a taste of this last fall, when TG was doing an event at Dexter's Pub in Madison, WI. The brewery crew had a small number of bottles that they were sharing with those in attendance.
Not too long ago, these bottles were finally released at the brewery, and I meant a man, John,  at the Nomad pub who was going to get some (or had already got some, I forgot), and was willing to sell one to me. I told him where he might be able to find me and was still surprised when he showed up at the Harriet Taproom one Wednesday and saw me sitting around, asked "are you Al? Here's your Assassin." I told him that I didn't have $20 on me at the time. "It's okay, I'll get it from you later," he said. The very next afternoon, he arrived at the Blue Nile for his 20. Just like a ninja, …

Toppling Goliath Assassin Vintage 2013 Killer Imperial Stout aged in whiskey barrels. 12.8% ABV. Brewed and bottled by: Toppling Goliath Brewery, Decorah, Iowa.

Dark as the sin as well as the sinners, ninja-black, thin brown head.

Aroma screams out from the glass, spilling out deep, dark aromas, rich whiskey tones…and it's only sitting on the table, I have yet to bring it up to the nose, here we go…man, this has got it all! Thick, sick, overblown amounts of dark rum, maple, molasses, anise, notes of vanilla and cherry, and overpowering, thundering whiskey (forgot what kind, and I haven't peeked at the label yet.). Every kind of amazing whiskey barrel imperial stout is seeping out of this.

Taste: Damn, this is delicious! Starts with big floods of dark fruit and vanilla, coated in thick, slick whiskey tones. Sweet-ish-like, but never too much so. Huge, vast, voluminous flavors, full-body, persistent finish. Stays sweet-like, basking in deep, dark fruit flavors, you raisins, your dates, your plums and prunes, coated in the whiskey,…it's fantastic! Mmmm…love it.

Now, I want to read the label: "After endless hours of scorching in heat,  brewing in  turmoil, fermenting in  angst, the Assassin's  journey has just begun. In the shadow of the temple, he lies in wait, maturing his plot to perfection. He emerges merciless, dominated by darkness, his bite laced with the charred remnants of his victims. No man dares to cross his path. They will forever sleep  with one eye open, in fear of the Assassin's hot kiss of death."

I make a lot of hay with the gobbledygook, but this is one of the good ones. I enjoyed that. It tells the story of the beer, cloaked in this mystic fiction, without going overboard.

I definitely wish I had more bottles, to age them and see what happens in maturation, but I also want to feel what this is like young. You can't appreciate one without the other. Maybe someday I'll taste an aged bottle of this, but for now I know it's damned awesome.
Postal Script: I could not finish the bottle, it was too late/early, and the remains in the glass sat on the night stand, it's wonderful scent giving me pleasant dreams while I slumbered, and the memory of it's wonder was my reward all day long.

Flat Earth Livid Planet Pale Ale

Flat Earth Brewing Company Livid Planet Pale Ale, A Hoppy American Pale Ale, Brewed and Bottled by Flat Earth Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota.
A somewhat bigger, hoppier  version of the Angry Planet Pale Ale? Obviously.

A bit ago, I picked up a bottle of Angry Planet, thinking I'd do what I do, and use my original review from way back when. I poured the beer, took a pic, drank away, and when I looked at that old review I was disappointed with what I said in 2007 or whenever. Angry Planet was one of the first FE beers, not sure if it was #2, 3, or 4, but it was up there. I reviewed it from tap at another bar (still haven't tapped it at mine, for reasons unknown). Those notes and opinions did not resemble the bottle I had recently. So that's on the docket. Meanwhile, let's take a lot at this guy.

Appearance: clear, bright bronze, head is slim but solid and staying, a creamy-toned off-white hue.

Aroma: herbal and earthy hops, plenty of fruit esters, apple, grape, with much malt.

Taste: MMmm…ahhh. I like this! Plenty of fruit, plenty of bitter, but terrifically malty and smooth. Medium bodied, lightly bitter, juicy, fruity, and just plain delicious. Fantastically downable, a top-notch APA.

Let's read the label, on the other side of the cool illustration by DWITT: "Take our american pale ale The Angry Planet, bombard it with a meteor shower of hops and what do you get? THE LIVID PLANET!
Although Cascade hops remain the star of the brew, this unique blend nicely raises the hop level without being a true IPA. THE LIVID PLANET pairs well with any spicy dish or all by itself on a clear evening while star gazing for the next meteor shower."

American pale, Munich, Crystal and Wheat malts; Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe and Cascade hops, American ale yeast and St. Paul water. O.G 1.06, SRM, 13, IBU 81, Alcohol 6% ABV.

I like this. Tasty ale that drinks like a dream.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Atwater Bock Conniption Fit Double IPA

Atwater Conniption Fit Double IPA India Pale Ale (sic), Atwater Block Brewery, Detroit, MI. 8% ABV, 92 IBU. Free of all gobbledy gook on the label.

Utterly murky, deep orange coloration, chalk white head, a slim ring leaving lace.

Aromatics: hops and high alcohol, a piney citric mix.

Taste: big hops, bigger booze, almost scalds the palate. Crazy stuff. Tons of fruity esters, loads of malt, but it's way too busy, too mucky, too unrefined. Lots of malt, too, but little finesse.

This is one of those imperial IPAs that just doesn't get it. It's a big, fat mess of booze and hops. Feels like a hoppy barley-wine, but, again, it's just not …together. Does not work. Not terrible, just not …not the best. A bit of a mess.

A more rustic style of Imperial IPA than I'd prefer. I can see this being better, but it's several steps away at present.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dangerous Man Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Dangerous Man Belgian Golden Strong Ale. 10% ABV, Dangerous Man Brewing Company, Minneapolis, MN.

I wanted to get a growler of this at my first visit, back in late January, but they were not offering it in that form. I picked this up recently, and it was the last growler available for the day, although dozens were seen in coolers, assigned for the next four days. An odd, logic-defying policy that I will hold my tongue about for the moment. (Although keen observers may have read a deleted post that went further.)

Clear, golden/amber appearance. Pure white, slim collar of foam.

AromaL malt sweetness, slight citrus notes. Rather cool and mellow, though I'm looking for some bolder aromatics, and not finding enough.

Taste: hop bitterness and malt sweetness greet the palate in tandem, with a welcome dash of Belgian yeast flavor. Lean bodied, light, fine consumability. (Hey, if "drinkability" is a word, I can make up one of my own.) Alcohol emerges in the flavor rather soon, and persists. There's a pleasant tingle on the tongue, and a passionate kiss of hops. Fruity, slightly grainy, and a touch sharply alcoholic.

Any attempt at a Belgian Golden ale comes with many comparisons, and has to be seen against the greats. There's a lot Delirium Tremens in here, and a little bit of Duvel here. This fits the bill fairly well with few complaints.

Big Wood Bad Axe Imperial IPA

So, here's a newish brewery that was collecting awards for their coffee beer, Morning Wood (get it? HA! HA!), before they were even producing a drop of beer on a commercial scale.
I saw the coffee stout on sale briefly, but never picked it up. Now, a new one is out with another sexual innuendo (Bad Axe = Bad Ass. Big Wood = giant phallus? Get it? GET IT?)

Well, I finally bought a 4-pack of "pounders", as they call them. Look, we can let PBR have "pounder", it's a beer meant for pounding. "Tallboy" is a fairly neutral phrase, and there's nothing wrong with saying pint can or 16 ounce. When you're canning a nearly 10% ABV Imperial IPA, why suggest that it's meant to be pounded?

Off my soapbox. Here are the notes:

Big Wood Brewery Craft Brewed Bad Axe Imperial IPA, Big Wood Breweery, White Bear Lake, MN. ""Pounder"(rather than tallboy? 'pounder' is a term-used by PBR, and it disgusts me to see it used for a "Craft brewed imperial IPA.") 1 pint, 9.8% Alc./Vol.
Also: "Aggressively hoppy, smooth finish." And, in addition: "Best enjoyed

There's more verbiage on the back of the can, but I've decided to scan the 4-pack label and let you read it for yourself. Let's just get into this:

Clear, amber look, large and lacy head, plenty puffy, snowy white. Very promising

Aroma: Potent pine and bristling citrus. Bold flavor, big, bright hoppiness, non-stop delivery of bright, juicy hops. Medium bodied. Easy consummation. Lively stuff. The more I drink this, the more I like it. Tasty, despite the high alcohol creeping up.

This isn't among the loftiest and more rarified of imperial IPAs, it's missing something there, …but it reminds me of them, certainly. It's a few dollars less than a 4-pack of Abrasive, but it's not quite Abrasive, either. They can't all be.

Odell Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout

Odell Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout. Stout brewed with milk chocolate. Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorada. 8.5% alc by vol.

Solid darkness, below a slim ring of cocoa-tinted head.

Aroma: malty, somewhat sweet, light chocolate notes. Nice.

Taste: Sweet cocoa and cream hit first, mighty dark malt floods the mouth. Medium bitterness, creamy mouthfeel. Oh, here come's the flavor. Tasty mix, real nice on the tongue.

Hey, let's read the label and find out why it's called Lugene: "If you've ever been to our brewery, you've likely seen the old, beat-up truck that hauls away our spent grain. That truck belongs to Lugene, who's been feeding his air cows the hearty malt for over a decade. Named in his honor, Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout is brewed with milk sugar and milk chocolate. The rich and creamy brew reminds us of a cold glass of chocolate milk and our hometown "Aggie" roots."

Flavor gets bigger and develops more while in the mouth. Very nice chocolate taste, smooth and delicious. Yum, actually.

One flaw, though, is the high alcohol. For me, if I want to strong stout, I want an imperial stout. If I'm drinking a chocolate stout, I don't necessarily want to be beaten with booze.

Aside from that, I do like this.

Tallgrass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat

Tallgrass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat, Buffalo Sweat Stout brewed with vanilla beans, Brewed and Canned by Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kansas. 1.057 OG, 20 IBU, Alc. 5.0% by Vol.

Dark brown, nearly black, with intense carbonation, under a light tan head, slowly reduced to a tight ring.

Aroma is sweet vanilla, met quickly with cocoa and cream. That's about it, but that's all you need. Beautiful blend.

Tasting it: smooth and creamy. Buffalo Sweat is a milk oatmeal stout to begin with, with plenty of chocolate malt flavor inherent. Add the vanilla, and it's just another tasty treat, soft, and supple and utterly easy to drink. Medium-bodied, mellow mouthfeel. Little bitterness, moderate sweetness. Lays down nice and easy on the palate. Delicious.

Clown Shoes Miracle IPA

Clown Shoes Miracle India Pale Ale, Mercury Brewing Company, Ipswich, MA. Alc 5.5% by Volume.

Lightly hazed, golden/tangerine appearance. Lacey, off-whitish foam above. Looks good.

Aroma: dank and pithy, loaded with pine and fruit, citrus and tropical. Nice and hoppy.

Taste: Big bitter blitz up front, soft and easy thereafter. Grapefruit and mango dance on the palate decked out in leafy costumery. Persistently pleasurable, with unrelenting bitterness, plenty of mmmmm.

Here's what the label tells us: "Our boy Miracle Mike represents what we hope to do with our Minor Miracle Fund. A percentage of the profits from this juicy sessional IPA will be used to help real people (and maybe a puppy or two)."

Okay, sounds cool, but I'll drink it because it tastes good.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Southern Tier Creme Brulee

Way back in July of 2008, I had the pleasure of hosting the initial release of Southern Tier Brewing's beers at the Blue Nile, with maybe 4 beers on tap (more? can't remember.), and others available for sample in bottles. It was all the big stuff, the Imperials, and such. My review of Creme Brulee vanilla imperial stout was from October, 2008. Could have been one of those sample bottles, or maybe I went out and bought one afterwards? Who knows. Anyway, it's back on tap, along with Mokah, Iniquity, and Back Burner barley-wine, for an American Craft Beer Week, in association with Hohenstein's Distribution. So, I snapped a pic of the Creme Brulee I had after work, and will share with you now the notes from nearly 5 years ago:

Deep brown color, with reddish edges...thinnish, roasted tan head. It's undulating now, actually, not sure why, it's pretty stable sitting on my desk.

And I can smell the vanilla from here at my chair. Let's bring it in...Yup, all vanilla, with cocoa close behind. Sweet and lovely.

Mmm. Smooth, sweet, creamy, fluffy, but yet still solid. Delicious. Yum. Dark and light. Sweet and substance. Rich and airy. Candy, and caramel malt, and ...yumminess.
The ten percent alcohol level boasted on the label is not felt in the slightest.

Why the cows on the label, though? They make cream, maybe, but not vanilla. Whatever.
Good stuff, here. Great dessert brew.

Indeed Let It Ride India Pale Ale

Indeed Let It Ride India Pale Ale. The first IPA from Indeed, which will come as a shock to those who call Day Tripper American Pale Ale an IPA. 6.8% ABV.

Clear and crimson colored, slim, off-white slightly caramelized head.

Aroma: Mild bitterness, bold fruitiness. Yes, melon, yes, strawberry, why, yes, even to blueberry. (Which a note in their own description that I could not get out of my head.)

Taste: smooth stuff, with fairly light to moderate bitterness, which…ooops, I've spoken too soon, build up on the palate over time. Bolder now than on first sip. Substantial malt holds down the fort. Solid body on this one, with long lasting flavor.
Hop attack continues to widen it's assault, getting more and more bitter, laying harder on the tongue, and way back inside the mouth.

I like this one. It's a good beer, and I can drink it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Albion Pale Ale (Samuel Adams/New Albion)

New Albion Brewing Company New Albion Ale, In Collaboration with Samuel Adams. Brewed and bottled by New Albion Brewing Company, Boston, MA.

Lightly hazy, bright golden appearance, slim white head.

Aroma: Lightly hoppy, slightly sour and musty, citrus notes abound. Sort of a mineral smell all over this.

Taste: Hoppy at first, staying soft on the palate, lasting a while, then fading lightly into the background. Light bodied, faint malt. Boy, that about says it, really. There's nothing really here.

I bought this 6-pack for the historical curiosity of the beer. Let's see what Jim  Koch says on the carrier copy: "While I come from a long line of brewers, one of the people who inspired me to start my own brewery is Jack McAuliffe. In 1976, Jack was quietly starting the American craft beer revolution when he opened the New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma, CA. JAck's first brew, New Albion Ale, is the beer that started it all. Brewed solely with American Cascade hops, the Golden American pale ale has a distinct citrus hop note and and subtle piney character. A delicious brew, it's no wonder New Albion Ale inspired many of the pale ales we drink today. In honor of Jack's pioneering spirit and contributions to the craft beer movement, I'm happy to release New Albion Ale, brewed together with Jack, using his original recipe. When you enjoy this beer, you're tasting a piece of craft beer history."

Even with the perspective of history before us, I can't really call this "a delicious brew." All of the pale ales it inspired make it pale in comparison. It's good to know what kicked things off, but I won't be returning to this beer.

Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, it's not undrinkable, and I bet this was wonderful in 1976, when there was nothing around but pale, dull lagers.

Northbound Smokehouse Big Jim IPA

NB SM Big Jim IPA. Named for brewer/owner Jamie Robinson's father, who was not a tall man at all. This one was a big seller from the start, and used to run out so quickly that it took a few visits before I could find it. When it was erased from the chalkboard, boos ensued, and it's readmission to the ranks on tap caused great cheering and exultation. Neighborhood beer lovers threatened to burn the building down when they were alerted to it's absence, and gangs of disgruntled beer geeks roamed the streets looking for Jamie, noose in hand.
(okay, that last sentence is entirely invented.)

Lightly hazed. Color edges between orange and red, with a nice, white, lacy head that unfortunately, with this pour at least, drifts down too quickly.

Aroma: moderate hop presence, with notes of grapefruit and orange, with sweet malt presence beneath.

Taste: Big, fat hop attack at the fore, pleasantly bitter and juicy and once. Bitterness hangs on the tongue, gets cozy, relaxes, and hangs out in the back. Citrus fruits are largest in the flavor, with portions of pine joining in. There's another factor in the flavor: deliciousness. Malt presence has something to do with this, I'm sure.

Here's how Jamie describes it on the website: "With Town Hall’s Masala Mama and Surly’s Furious, it seems as though there is a new Minnesota style of IPA emerging.  Because these are two of my favorite interpretations of the IPA style, I decided to make my own intense IPA.  Cascade, Mt. Hood, and an enormous amount of Columbus hops late in the brew and in the fermenter give this beer the hop punch IPA lovers crave.  There is also a significant malt backbone and complexity to this beer to stand up to the hop intensity.  At 7.2% ABV and roughly 90IBUs, this is my tribute to the style I call the Minnesota IPA."

I tell you what: this gets tastier the more I drink it, and, yeah, it does remind me quite a bit of Masala Mama, and a little bit of Furious. The juicy and the fruity starts to lead the bitter, and they make a terrific tango. No wonder this is a hit at the brewpub, for we are for damned sure a city full of hopheads. Makes me wonder what might have happened if Surly came out with a scotch and an amber ale, instead of Furious. We're dyed-in-the-wool hop freaks here, make no mistake.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Surly Diminished Seviin

Surly Diminished Seviin. A small beer from the yet-to-be released Seviin ale 7th Anniversary brew, available before the true beer, which we've been promised for some time in June. An irresistible musical  pun on the diminished seventh chord, which is often heard in jazz, blues, gospel, and metal music. Atonal, disconcordant, but can resolve in wondrous voicings, and jubilant exhultations. Let's drink some....

Lightly hazed, golden coloring, large and lovely head, beautiful off-white foam, leaving lace. Looks great.

Aroma: Yeast first, ushering in all kinds of Belgian associations, anticipating all manner of goodness. A little bit of the wheat aromatics, perhaps, but subsumed by spicy, bready rye malt. Complex blend, intriguing mix. Light and pleasing.

Taste: A bit of the wheat texture on the tongue, a bit of that blitz, the smooth oat-y feel, and the rye factor, all at once. Like I said in the aroma, right back here in the flavor. Bright and lightly citrus-y, with  very little from hops, just a touch, if any. Little hop tingle, but mostly a lush malt flavor, and a really terrific integration of these malts.

If this is the lesser version of this Seviin, the minor scale notation, then we're in for a real treat when the full orchestration fires up. It should be huge, like a ...well, not really like anything else, I'm fairly certain.

I've been waiting for Surly to turn out more Belgian-style beers, and in true Surly fashion, this one will not conform to any style standards that we know of. I'm happy for that, and very excited to taste the real version someday soon.

This small beer resembles a beer I would love for them to brew, either year-round, or as a seasonal. Someone suggested to me that it should replace Cynic, in his humble opinion, but I am not so cruel as to wish Cynic's demise. But a Belgian pale ale like this year-round, in cans, on tap? I'm on board for that, most definitely!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gouden Carolus Easter

Gouden Carolus Easter, The Het Anker Brewery, Mechelen, Belgium, Alc. 10.5% by Vol.

Let's look at the illustration: A pastoral scene, the Golden Charles icon with Easter lilies at his feet, easter eggs in the foreground, and a laughing rabbit, looking a lot like Bambi's Thumper at front left. Actually he looks like he's humping the easter eggs. Humping Thumper.  And flying bells at the top.

Hazy brown  color, showing clear and crimson and the foot and sides, long, lush and lovely light tan head.

Aroma: that wonderfully sweet and funky smell of all the Het Anker brews, deeply malty. darkly fruity. A little nutty and nougaty. Love it.

Taste: A lot like the Classic. Dark, delicious, rich and malty. Vanilla, licorice, dried dark fruits, tasty stuff. Mmmm, very nice. Warming and alcoholic.

I feel like reading the label… "We brew this dark n by red ale {???} every year for the Easter period. It contains several types of malt and three different kind: of herbs which result in a full-bodied yet refined and delicately balanced taste. This delightful ale is chose by those who love a rich, slightly spicy tasting ale. Excellent food pairing with game, meat stews, hard cheeses. Pour out gently in one movement."

Fantastic beer.

Allagash Black

Allagash Black Belgian-style stout, Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine. 7.5% Alc. by Vol.

Total blackness throughout, with a slim, roasted tan head.

Aroma is dark fruit and cocoa, dates, figs, raisins. Little bit o' spice, little bit o' sweet.

Taste: there it is on the tongue, the dark fruits, blended with cocoa. Roasty malt below. Vanilla and plums, with chocolate on the side. Tasty, tasty. Just enough of a Belgian twist in the flavor, just a touch of the funky flash. I can drink this.

Here's what the label tells us: "Dark and roasted with chocolate expressed throughout Belgian style -bottle conditioned." There was no punctuation. Is there more? No. Well, maybe that's enough.

This is notoriously one of the worst designed labels I've ever seen. Or is it the best? It is "black" after all.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lucette Double Dawn Belgian Style Imperial Golden Ale

Double Dawn Belgian Style Imperial Golden Ale (do you have to call it "Imperial" when the style is already a strong one?). 8.5% Alc. by Vol. Lucette Brewing, Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Appearance: hazy golden hue, large, fluffy white head. Looks the part, indeed.

Aroma: ah! Hits all the right notes: airy, spicy, lightly citrus-y, delicate, devilish, delightful. I just want to keep bringing it up to my nose. Wonderful stuff.

Taste: Spicy, zesty, earthy. Plenty of hop buzz, and herbal notes, as well. Graham cracker crust malt base. More malty than a Duvel, but this is their right of interpretation. It doesn't interfere with their attempt to imitate the style, and adds intrigue. Sweetness lingers through the flavor, laced with spice, citrus-y hop zest keeping pace. More body in this, too, than in the average golden ale. I appreciate that, though. Very tasty stuff.

Let's pause and look at the label: "Lucette Belgian Style Series", with the i in Belgian and the Y in style created by an inclined female silhouette, a la the Playboy bunny figure, the femlin, designed by Leroy Neiman. Or the trashy silhouette on the truck mudflaps. Classy. (But, I will admit that I chose the Perro Duvel glass to match it for objectivication of the female form.)
"From a desire for Belgian-inspired  creations. At 8.5% alc/vol., this special Belgian yeast strain will lend complex fruit, spice, and earthy aromas, Enjoy the robust citrus character supported by a wonderful high carbonation typical of the style."

Petrus Speciale Ale

Petrus Speciale Ale, Alc. by Vol. 5.5%. Product of Belgium, Brewed and bottled by Brewery Bavik.

Clear amber color, small white head.

Aroma: clean, crisp, and grainy. a very lager-like aroma, not many fruity esters in this. Spicy hops, but still giving me more a pilsner feel than an ale of any kind.

Taste: More crisp, more clean. Light bodied, lean, easy-breezy and worry-free. Light, little hop tingle, cracker-y malt flavor, ending is dry. It is a tasty thing, but doesn't deliver quite what I'm looking for. If you're just looking for a classy, light drinker, this is your "key to heaven." Not so much mine.

Let's look at the label band: "Petrus Special is an amber-coloured top fermented ale This ale's characteristic aroma is a result of the specially selected malt and hop varieties. Petrus Special is brewed according to an age-old recipe. Serve cool."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ovila Belgian Abbey Quad (Sierra Nevada)

Sierra Nevada Ovila Belgian-style Abbey Quad, "Ale Brewed with Plums, Brewed in Collaboration with the monks of the Abbey of New CIairvaux." Monastic Inspiration, American Innovation."

Appearance: looking very dark, deep brown, under  a slim, cocoa-tinged head.

Aroma: Lovely stuff. Dark fruits, plums, dates, raisins, sweet and lovely, but not TOO sweet. Spicy. And some banana.

Taste: Complexity starts us off, a myriad of rich flavors at work. Plenty of the dark fruits, the raisins and plums, and the rich, sweet notes, with malt working wonders below it all. Damned tasty. Hits all the right notes, but misses some magic.

Anderson Valley Heelch O'Hops Double IPA

Anderson Valley Heelch O'Hops Double IPA, 12 fluid ounces, 8.7% ABV. Boonville, CA.

Totally hazed, deep amber/crimson coloring. Long-lasting creamy head.

Aroma: sharp pine, blistering citrus. Orange rind, lemon peel. Slightly fruity, ending dry.

Taste: More of that and then some. Big bitterness meets juicy malt. Good balance, with alcohol staying fairly docile, not intruding too much. Consistent hoppitude. Fairly good stuff. Not quite what I'm looking for in a DIPA, but close enough. I'd rather have an Abrasive or a Myrcenary.

Let's look at what the label tells us: "A color of polished brass with copper tints and a wavy, dense tan head. Aromas of California citrus and aromatic biscuits, with hints of fresh redwood needles greet your nose. An assertive hop bitterness is delivered to your palate, and balanced beautifully with a malty richness and long, warm and hoppy finish."

Tasty, hoppy, bitter, nice and dry. Like it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

La Trappe Isid'or Oak-aged Trappist Ale

La Trappe Isid'or Oak-aged Trappist Ale. 12.7 % fluid ounces. 7.5% ABV.

The first barrel-aged La Trappe brew was so expensive I steered clear of it. One I tasted it, I regretted that mistake and bought this bottle the very same day, similarly expensive. Sorry, but I forgot how much. Somewhere between $12 and $15. So, here's a regular Belgian-style pale ale from the Netherlands from an oak barrel. Let;s get to it. It's been sitting in my DBF (dedicated beer fridge) for about 3 months, and tonight's the night to tackle it.

Appearance: Deep, dark burgundy coloration, very slim, soon gone head.

Aroma: leaps right out at you, screaming …what? wine? bourbon? cognac? what barrel is involved here. It does not say. And I haven't even brought it up to my nose, I've only sat erect in my chair, with the aroma leaping out from the glass. Let's go in…whiskey? brandy? I just can't nail it. There was definitely something in those barrels, because I'm not just getting oak, plenty of richness, fruit, and booze oozing out of the nose. Grapes, berries, leather, plum, dates…tobacco, brandy, …yes.

Taste: the barrel's work greets the tongue faster than the base ale does. Lots of oak-y, barrel-y, I'm still not sure, but feeling very brandy/cognac-y like goodness. Very deep stuff, and deliriously delicious. The base beer is mild and lovely enough to buoy any barrel-ation. Plenty of dark fruit flavors mash up against plenty of booze . A brilliant blend.

Let's read the label a minute: "La Trappe Isid'or was specially brewed to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Beerbrewery de Koningshoeven and was named after Brother Isidorus the first brewer of the O.L.V. Koningshoeven Abbey. The first brew of this ceremonial brew was aged in oak barrels. This aging ensures the balanced and rich taste of this unique, exclusive Isid'or Oak Aged."

La Trappe Dubbel

As you may know, part of this blog is covering my history. I've had a long history with La Trappe. Picked up a bottle of the dubbel yesterday, drank it down tonight, looking at my notes from March, 2003:

An old favorite, and, dagnabbit, I always stick by my first loves...
Deep cherry red color, creeping into a purple, and a great, creamy, long-lasting head. The aroma is thick, full and rich with fruit, fresh and uplifting, citrusy, soft, and vinous (meaning:grapey, grapey, grapey). Lively alcoholic notes, but,still thoroughly mellow. Texture is also delicious, and smooth, and, well, this is not too complex, actually juuuust right. Extraordinarily drinkable. This is deep, rich, full, utterly delicious, with a long and lovely finish. Small bitterness, huge, sweet, malt component. Spicy, and smooth, and, well, not dazzling, but dependably delightful.

here's my take on the Koningshoven bottling, from some time in '02:
Appearance: deep, dark brown, with a smallish head. Looks good for a dubbel, but I've seen better.
Aroma: just right for style, a lovely, sweet, rich, chocolatey, fruity melange of deliciousness. Toasty, tasty, hoppy, and loaded with mouth-filling maltiness.
Very smooth and drinkable. A fairly nice dubbel, probably a notch or so below the LaTrappe bottlings. But having recently sampled the higher tier of dubbels (westveletern & such), the bar has been raised for my palate. A more affordable version of a very satisfying style of ale.
Their new slogan is a tickle, too: "Taste the Silence." Sure, I'll be doing that just after I dance to the architecture!

there we have it, two reviews in one,

Dave's BrewFarm Le Cran

Dave's BrewFarm Le Cran. 6.1% ABV. From the Dave's BrewFarm LaBrewTory, Wilson, WI.

Appearance: Clear, deep amber color, small, dotted white head.

Aroma: rather quiet, with some fruity notes, some herbal, some floral. Growing tart notes start emerging. Still, fairly delicate.

Taste: A very light bitter hop quality starts out first, with a smooth, malty base below. Cranberry flavor floods the forefront, with tartness subsuming the initial notes of bitterness. With each new sip, the fruit factor builds and builds, the sourness increases, but stays mellow on the tongue. Medium body, lightly fruity finish.
A dandy drink.

Hey, what does Farmer Dave tell us about it? "Pale, Ashurne and Briess Special malts, Opal and Brewer's Gold hops, and a late addition of pureed cranberries and Lemon Peell. Fermented with a Belgian Wit yeast."

Mr. Anderson has a way of using the yeast meant for one beer, but none of the other ingredients. In fact, very few of his creations bear any semblance to other recipes. Hoppy Hefe confuses people into thinking it's a wheat beer, but it merely uses a hefe weizen yeast strain. "It says 'hefe', not weizen", Farmer Dave will explain. Wheatless Wonder contains every element of a wheat brew, except the wheat malt.
There are so many oddments tossed in, among stranger companions. A bit of a Frankenstein approach to building a beer, that ends up carving out a beauty almost every time.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dave's BrewFarm Bramling Cross Single Hop Saison

I made it to Dave's BrewFarm this Sunday, for the first time in 3 months. Four beers on tap that I haven't had before, out of eight, but, as you know, I don't take notes while socializing at the BrewFarm, that would be so uber-BeerGeek, and so uncool. I do that with the growlers I take home, and there were only two that I hadn't had before available in that format. So here are notes on...

Dave's BrewFarm Bramling Cross Single Hop Saison. 6.4 % ABV.

Clear, bright golden color, slim white head.

Aroma: sweet, floral, fruity. Apricot, peach, a touch of honey.

Taste: Light-bodied, super smooth, easy drinker. Mellow mouthfeel. Delicate fruit and hop flavors. Here we have a DBF version of a lawnmower beer, perfect now that spring has finally arrived.
Unfussy, uncomplicated, downable and delightful.
I've not had much experience with Bramling Cross hops, and they effects remain mysterious. They add a gentle, fruitiness and not much bitterness. A mild brew, but with significant character. This growler will not last long at all.

Here's the official description: "Pils, Cara Red and Caramel 20 malts and hopped with three additions of Bramling Cross hops. Fermented with lager yeast."

Nogne-O Two Captains Double IPA

Another Norwegian beer? Why not? And this one, I've never had before...fresh notes!

Nogne-O Two Captains Double IPA. Ale 8.5% Alc/vol.
"Jan Halvorfjeld, winner of Norwegian homebrewing championship 2010 brewed his champion double IPAat Nogne-O. We at Nogne O are of course proud to be with him making this happen. Ingredients: Grimstad water, malted barley, hops and yeast. 100 IBU, brewed and bottle by Nogne O, Grimstad, Norway."

Completely opaque, thoroughly hazy peach and apricot appearance, creamy white heady froth atop.

Aroma: pungent and powerful, a massive mix of the usual piney/citrus notes, but a bit of a muddle, rather indistinct. Not quite what I'm looking for in an IPA. I'd likely some clearly struck tones. This nose is more cacophonous.

Taste: In the mouth, it's a brash splash of hops, with malt firmly included in the mix. Booze rises up quickly, invades the braincase with alarming ease. It's a murky mess that's high on hops and alcohol, but has very little in the way of delicacy or finesse. It's what I'd expect from a homebrew double IPA, but not from a professional brewing concern. Oh, well, there's room for all kinds of beer. This is fine, it's just not refined. I do like yeasty, cloudy, unfiltered beers, and rustic ones, as well, but this one just seems, in light of what really succeeds as a double IPA, unsophisticated.

Although I do have a sneaking suspicion that if this came from Belgium rather than Norway, I'd be more pleased. It's contradictory, I know. If I could fix that I would. Or, …would I?

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force
Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout, 9% abv, 16.9 oxz bottle, silhouette of a hand holds a glaxy on this label, a lot of "Star Wars" reference on the back label copy. Some "Star Trek", too...but isn't "Double Extreme Imperial" just pushing it a bit?

(these notes are from September, 2007)

Dark brown color, big, fizzy brown head, bubblin' and bubblin', drizzles down assuredly...

Blackstrap a bit, in the nose, light cola, cocoa, a hint of anise...nice and stout-y.

Fizzy in the mouth, dark and lively, but dies away a bit too soon. Big carbonation. Spicy. But the mouthfeel and texture really doesn't match what the label boasts. Richer and richer as we go, roastier, darker, getting better...

The wheat aspect makes it easier to down, but that's not what I'd expect from a "Double extreme Imperial." Actually, I've never sat down and thought about what I desire in a "double extreme Imperial." Somehow, it just never came up!

Roasty and toasty, and smooth, despite it all, with that 9% abv hardly acting up at all...although I'm only halfway through the bottle. Maybe it'll creep up on me.

I'm happy for those 4 guys in Finland, but the question remains...worth the $8 I spent? Well, obviously I bought the hype and spent the coin, but, the verdict is...good, but not that good.

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...