Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bent Paddle Brewing Bent Hop Golden IPA

If there were ever two guys I know who were meant to break free and form their own brewery, it's Colin Mullen and Bryon Tonnis. Bryon was Todd Haug's replacement as head brewer at the downtown Minneapolis location of the corporate brewpub chain, Rock Bottom. Colin had been working under the less restrictive, decidedly uncorporate yoke of Barley John's Brewpub in New Brighton. The took their wives, (Karen and Laura, repectively)who both have ties to the area, to Duluth and got to work on Bent Paddle Brewing Company.

They opened up in mid May of this year, with a tap room and a canning line. Cans of their first two beers actually just showed up yesterday at one specially selected Minneapolis liquor store, and they were gone in hours. Happily, good ol' Dave Anderson was kind enough to share a can each of their beers that he'd brought back with him last week. Black Ale still sits and waits in the fridge, but I cracked up their IPA, and here come the notes:

Bent Paddle Brewing Company, Bent Hop Golden IPA India Pale Ale, Craft Brewed in Duluth, MN. 6.2% Alc./Vol.

Clear and golden, good looking head of pure white foam above, stays around, lazily leaving lace.

Aroma: ah! nicely spicy, pine and citrus notes, lemon and orange peel. Fresh and zesty. Likeable…maybe lovable.

Taste: Enters the palate mildly, but drops a lot of hop bitterness . Peppery spice character at first, leading to slightly vegetal/celery-like character. Hops never stop, malt holds it's own, keeping it light, but tight. Citrus and pine flavors keep on coming, hanging high on the palate, a nice layer of tasty, bitter hoppitude.

Here's an IPA just the way we hop-heads like it. You know what they say these days" "who needs another IPA?" Well, I think Duluth needs this IPA, and the Twin Cities could use it, too. Don't think we have one quite like it, though Summit Saga comes close. What else would this replace? Maybe Bell's Two Hearted Ale.

What's on the can? "An unexpected visual bend to an American India Pale Ale, this style is one that stands out in a crowd. Or if you're more like us--enjoyed at a camp site, with no crowd."

Badger Hill Everyday Ale

Badger Hill High Road Everyday Ale. Proudly brewed in Minnesota, brewed and bottled by Badger Hill Brewing LLC in Minnetonka, MN. What's in this brew: Pilsner malt, British yeast, New Zealand and Australian hops. IBU: 24. Best served in a pint glass. Alc by Vol 5 %.

"Everyday Ale", eh? Not a pale ale? Not a session IPA? What do we have here?

Clouded amber hue, nicely sized, puffy white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: soft and slightly sweet hop delivery, floral and lightly fruity. Highly likable.

Taste: smoothness and softness abound. Light yet luscious malt holds down the fort, delicate fruity down-under hops dance above. Light finish, light body, but plenty of flavor, charm and character. Getting a slight diacetyl feel from the yeast, but it's so minor it's a benefit, not a flaw.

Perhaps it's an unfiltered ESB? With lower hemisphere hops? Let's say it's no style at all, or just call it an Everyday Ale.
I also call it "yum."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Town Hall Rustic Rye Saison

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Rustic Rye Saison.

Saison isn't a style rich in tradition at Town Hall. Their numbers over the brewery's history doesn't compare in the smallest to the pale ales, IPAs, double IPAs, smoked porters, fruity wheats, or myriad bourbon-barrel batches that they are famous for.
 A quick look on shows only this one among the 121 "active" beers listed, and in the "archive" section, there are only 2 among the 250 in that category, one simply called Saison, first released in June 0f 2006, and a Barrel-aged Belgian Saison from 2009. They were long overdue in releasing another one.

So, I brought a growler of this one home recently, and here are the notes:

Clear, straw gold coloring, nice white head that drips down to nil in no time.

Aroma: light spice, citric notes, lemon mainly, minor hops, crisp malt.

Taste: Hey, there's rye in there! Just enough to bring on the spice. Plenty of it, actually. Malt's on the mild side, just enough rye, though, to bring on the pumpernickel. Good drinking, this one. With a never-quite-quitting fruity flavor, ending nice and dry. Nice. And. Dry. Ah….

Notes from the Brewery:
"Rustic Rye Saison, 6.7%. Brewed in the Farmhouse Saison tradition, we brought in authentic Saison yeast for this pale French/Belgian-style beer, a rare appearance at Town Hall. Saison, meaning season in French is a broadly defined pale ale that in modern versions is generally around 7% above, highly carbonated, fruity, spicy--sometimes from the addition of spices,. As a beer style it originated from beers brewed during the cooler and less active months in farmhouse in Wallonia, the french-speaking region of Belgium, and the stored for drinking by the farm workers during the summer months.
Styrian Goldings hops grace the hop flavor/aroma stage, as well as a healthy dose of Grain of Paradise, an exotic African pepper which adds spiciness as well as citrus and bubblegum aroma. The malt is composed of German floor-malted Pilsner malt, Vienna malt, Malted Rye, wheat malt and a dash of Acidulated malt to add crispness and dryness. Rye tends to add a crisp, dry breadiness to beers, and is well-suited to refreshing Saisons. It is not uncommon to find rye or oats in Saison recipes. You may notice a slight haze from this unfiltered beer.

You will find this beer to be fruity, spicy, with a dry finish. Another find beer for the patio!"

I considered merely providing a link to this page, but they tend to drop these pages when the beer is no longer on tap, and if you read this later, I don't want to send you off to nowhere. Also, I couldn't cut and paste, because it's in flash, so my fingertips are tired, man!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pipeworks Murderous Barley-wine Style Ale

Pipeworks Murderous Barleywine Style Ale, Alc. 9.5% by Vol. Pipeworks Brewing Company, 1675 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL.

Murky and dark, looking very purplish, maroon-y, magenta-esque, with hardly a sliver of head on top.

Wait, there's something on the label that screams out: STOP: Read Before Opening, although I already have. Let's read it anyway: "This beer is unfiltered. Sedimentation may occur. For best flavor, allow bottle to chill for two hours before serving, allowing for the natural yeast to settle out. Pour slowly into your favorite glass, being careful to leave sediment behind." I'll keep that in mind. It has been chilling for weeks, so that's covered.

There's more: "Cellar worthy! Store Cool!"
Why the exclamation points? Why is the bottle yelling at me? And why do I read that as stating that a cellar is worthy and that a store is cool?As read by a caveman, of course.

Enough of that.
We did appearance, now aroma: sweet and malty and deep. Dark fruits aplenty here, raisins, plums, dates. Brandy, cognac. Vastly flavorful, growing more so as we go. I'm going to take it real slow, then.

Taste: Heat from the first, big, fat, full to bursting. Massive malt, full fruit, plenty of hops holding in just in check. Bitterness only holds it's own against the vast wall of multitude.

There's a poem on the label, but they decided to do red letters on black backgrounds, and I can't read it. Something to with crows, murders, crimes. Looks like it rhymes. Quoth the raven, terrible design choice.

Tasty, tasty stuff. Batch 3, according to a Sharpied notation, black ink on white, quite sensibly. And © 2013, so it's fresh.
Big time barley-wine, but not particularly remarkable. Adequate, but far from awesome. I'm drinking it, I'm liking it, but I feel it could be better. Should be better.
Sigh…maybe just not to my taste. They're nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't really have to force and power that a big, booming fresh barley-wine often does. More mellow, and subdued, how a bw ought to be after some aging.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

I'm getting fonder and fonder of canned craft beer, just as more and more are being released/converted. I saw my first 12-pack of Sierra Nevada pale ale cans, and could not pass it up for the price. I was in need of two things, some good ol' drinkin' beers in the fridge, and I needed to add this beer to the bitter nib. Voila, here we are, and now I share with you notes from February, 2003:

A pure bright amber color, with a thick and sturdy off-white head, that crackles as it crumbles.

Aroma is bursting over with fruit, peaches, foremost, plus apricots, some citrus, melons, more?

 Great citrusy hop bite greets you on the palate,with a brief and sweetish finish soon after. Smooth texture, light body, but fully flavorful. Uncomplicated and refreshing. Bitterness is low, malt is firm. Perfectly balanced, and infinitely enjoyable!

In past years, I'd given this staple micro less credit than it deserves. I thought all pale ales were alike, and this one wasn't extraordinary to warrant the attention it receives. Just buy the local brew, and keep them in business, I thought. I still believe in that, of course, but I must accept that the flavor and quality in SN PA are really special and unique.

That was from a bottle, 10 years ago. I stand by it all, but I find the can even better, as it's canned conditioned. Watch out for sediment.

But the second point, the addendum, I still stick with. Some back story to that is that when I took over as bar manager of the Blue Nile, one of my first decision was to remove SNPA from our taps and find something different, especially since we already had Summit EPA on tap. I don't believe they are similar, actually, but back then I felt that they were similar enough and wanted to increase the diversity of style we had to offer.
SNBC makes some terrific beers, but I feel that many of their mainstays are just excellent examples of their particular styles, but each individual market in the U.S. should have their own version to support.

Green Flash Saison Diego Farmhouse Ale

Green Flash Saison Diego. I think that's French for "season of the whale's vagina."Green Flash Brewing, San Diego, CA. Ale Brewed with Spices, Farmhouse Ale, Unfiltered, Alc. by Vol. ungiven.

For an unfiltered beer, it's awfully clear. Bright yellow, big head that slips down to nil with a quickness.

Aroma: Spice is on top of things, initially, backed up with citric notes, and Belgian funkification.

Taste: Crisp, refreshing bite, clean, smooth. Light bodied, with a mild hop bitterness. Light bodied, easy drinking. Bright citrus character reveals itself, distinguished from the spice.
Good hot weather quencher here. Very toss-back-able, although I feel it may be slightly strong, perhaps higher than 7%, but not much higher, could even be 8+? (No, it's 4.2%!)

I like this. Good beer, and I can drink it.

Peach Tree Blonde Fatale Belgian-style Blonde Ale

Peace Tree Blonde Fatale Ale. I must admit that until moments ago I thought this beer was called "Blonde Fat Ale…Ale." 8.5% ABV.

Cloudy, dusky golden hue, 1/2 inch white head that slips away swiftly.

Aroma: Nice! Belgian yeast leads the charge. A bit of barnyard funk melds with citric notes. A bit o' sweetness, plus bread-y malts, judicious hopping.

Taste: Here's that hit of tidy hops, delicate bitterness, toasty, tasty cracker-y malt base, and Belgian yeast leading the way. Medium bodied, very even-keeled and especially delicious. Right on the money. I like this one.

Hey, what do they tell us on the label? "Our Belgian-style Blonde Ale will steal your heart as the unfiltered golden hue seduces your taste buds with surprising smoothness. It's delicately hopped with Styrian Golding and Celeia or medium aroma with a crisp and refreshing bite. The Belgian yeast adds hints of fruity complements but be warned, it's mysterious charm will draw you in again and again." I'll buy that.

 "Leave sediment in bottle." I always skip that step. Sediment doesn't worry me.

Minneapolis Town Hall Calypso Pale Ale

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Calypso Pale Ale.

This one's clear, amber-hued, a little close to copper, with a sizable head, creamy tones, leaving lace. Nice.

Aroma: Good'n'hoppy, some fruity esters, for sure, mixed with herbal, earthy malt tones, as well.

Taste: Tasty tingle on the tongue starts it off, leaving a trail of bitterness on the tongue. Zesty stuff, robust, and effortlessly likable. Indistinct fruity notes, with bitter hop edge never quite quitting the palate. Medium-bodied. Long finish. Excellent consumability. Yum. Good one, this.

Here's the official yakketty-yak from the Town Hall website: Calypso, 5.6%. "Hopped exclusively with the fairly new American hop variety, Calyoso. This beer is the latest in THB's Single Hopped pale ale Showcase. The US pale ale malt backbone is augmented by Englsih Pale malt & English Premium Crystal malt. A touch of wheat malt rounds out the body. Calypsos flavor/aroma can be described as fruits with notes of pear, apple, meter lemon, lime, grapefruit, tea, melon, cherry blossoms, black pepper, orange. Yikes!
In other words, it's piney with tropical fruit notes peeking through."

Yeah, I didn't get all particular notes, either. But good for them for trying!

Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA

Ballast Point Brewing Company Dorado Double India Pale Ale. 10% Alcohol by Colume. Handcrafted and bottled in San Diego, California, USA.

Clear with an orange tint, small chalk-white head on top.

Aroma: Pine aplenty, pungent and dank, with lemon and lime on the side. Big, bitter aromatics.

Taste: There it is, bouncing on the palate, outrageous bitterness going to town in the mouth…vibrant, resinous, sticky on the tongue. Floods every crevice in the canyons of the mouth.
Medium bodied, long, brilliantly bitter finish. Alcohol content remains quiet in these first few sips, but shows glimmers of it's power. A few more sips and it fairly rumbles and starts to roar. Bracinlgly bitter hop flavor increases in intensity. Nothing to report malt-wise, as it's staying on the sidelines, letting hops take focus.
This is one of the big, ballsy ones, meant for the most masochistic of hopheads, eager for a delivery of punishing hop bitterness and flavor.

What's the story? "One a quest to make delicious beers, our brewers have continually sought out new creative ways to accentuate the delightfully aromatic & flavorful qualities of hops. Hopheads rejoice! Dorado double IPA takes hops to a new level. Mash hopping, kettle hopping & dry hopping create an award winning beer that embodies San Diego's reputation for making world class IPAs. Our bottled robust series gives all beer lovers an opportunity to try our most rare beers, previously available only on draft at select tap houses. Enjoy!"

Wasatch White Label Belgian-style Wheat Ale

Wasatch White Label Belgian-style White Ale, White Ale brewed with spices. Alc. 6% by Vol., Utah Brewers Cooperative, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Light, clear golden coloring, large head that disappears quickly.

Aroma: pleasant citrus and honey-ish notes, light spice.

Taste: Spice is felt stronger at first, with orange a bit more minor. Minor hop bitterness. Smooth, wheat-y flavor, easy going, lasting flavor. Brisk spritz of carbonation, a little lemony. a little orangey.

Not loving this one, not disliking it, either, fairly run-o-the-mill wit in this instance. It's beer and you can drink it.

Chicago Brewing Chi Town Windy City Wheat

We're still plugging through the Chicago beers, over a month later. We're maybe halfway through them? I don't know for sure, I never counted. Well, here comes another, and it's the second of three wits I had last night...

Chicago Beer Company Chi Town Windy City Wheat Belgian White Ale, Belgian Style Wheat ale Brewed with honey and spices. Brewed and Bottled by Chicago Beer Company, Stevens Point, Wisconsin. 5% Alc./Vol. 12 Fl. Oz.

Lightly hazed, straw gold color, big head, wilting down in time,

Aroma: Sweet and wheat. Here comes the honey. Citrus notes present. Little to no hop bitterness.

Taste: Light bodied, easy drinking. Some modicum of flavor, very low display of fruit notes and small amounts of spice, if any. Kind of …blah. Not doing much at all. A little too sweet, methinks. Nothing terribly wrong with this, but nothing terribly right about it, either.

I have to reserve judgement on the total works of the Chicago Beer Company, for I've only had this one, obviously contract-brewed bottling. Maybe they make better ones and maybe I'll find those one day.

For now, I almost want to pour it out. But I never do that. On to one more witbier today…see if we'll go up or down with that one.

Martens Witte

Martens Witte, 4.8% ALC. by VOL., Martens Beer Anno 1758, Traditionally Brewed, Belgian Wheat Beer, Malt Beverage Brewed with Coriander and Orange Peels. Brewed and canned by Brewery Martrns (?), Bocholt, Belgium.

Hazy yellow appearance, huge white head, slims down appropriately.

Aroma: floral notes first, then spice, followed by fruit. Slightly citric and sour. Delightfully fragrant.

Taste: Enters the palate smooth and light. Beautiful citrus notes (orange and lemon), dance on the tongue, blended with peppery coriander notes. Light bodied, with long-lasting flavor. Terrific witbier.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

St. Feuillien Speciale

St. Feuillien Speciale. Brasserie St. Feuilien, Le Roeulx, Belgium. Belgian Strong Dark Ale. 9% aBV. "St-FEUILLIEN SPECIALE is brewed at the end of the year. It is a festive ale full of flavor with a warm, amber glow. Refermented in the bottle, ST-FEUILLIEN SPECIALE is matured for several months in our cellars, lending it a delicate aroma, remarkable body, and naturally rich head. It is full of sumptuous, exciting contrasts."

Apparently, this is the same beer as "Cuvee de Noel." (According to
I haven't had that in a while, and here it is again. Good thing. I haven't checked off enough St. Feuillien beers here. No tripel yet, nor saison, and here we just had another St. Arnoldus Day celebration, with 3 St. F. beers: this one, the wittier, La Blance, and Biere de L'amitie, which I covered here when it first came out, a couple of years ago.

So, let's talk a look at it….reddish-brown body, large, softly drifting , creamy, off-white head, leaving lace. Looking good.

Aroma: dark fruits all over the place. Fig, date, raisin, a little sour cherry, plus undertone of leather and tobacco. Slightly sweet, slightly sour, with vast complexities, aided by yeast and malt. Nice.

Taste: soft, smooth, and utterly delectable. Dark fruit hangs long on the palate, mingled with dark malts, a bit of cocoa with a hit of anise. Nicely spicy. Alcohol stays quiet so far, with a marvelous texture, magnificent mouthfeel. Now the booze is rising up, just when I'm ending the glass. Some nice notes to end it on. Beautiful beer.

Hey, here's what I wrote about Cuvee de Noel on, when I had it for the first time back 10 years ago, May of 2003:
"Someone on this site put up the idea of Belgian Abbey Dubbel being ever-more appreciated after something like a PBR. Well, I'm coming off of a Corona, so this should rock my world!
Appearance: beautiful bright burgundy/ ruby red color, with a huge, flowering, earthy tan head, large with lace.
Aroma: deep and heady, rich with spice and fruit, some citrus, bread, loads of sour notes, too.
On the palate: big, tasty hops, rich, fruity taste. Medium-length finish, but sweet, tasty, rewarding in every way! Tangy, zippy, bright, full-bodied, with a generous texture, and memorably fruity flavor. Delicious and delicate balance.
Hops and malt are felt, but they merge for the most part and create a blessed union. Yeast in this brew, too, contributes considerably to the flavor and enjoyment.
A delicious Belgian ale that's hard to beat. Just as tasty as they get!
Perfect to warm the cockles in the winter (though I drink it in May!)."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare

Goose Island Brewing Company Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout, stout aged in bourbon barrels (aged for 2 years in 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels)
, bottle number 3116. I forgot when I bought this, but very few arrived locally, and I never saw one for sale. Luckily, I saw Tyler from Zipp's when he had one left. I hadn't planned on spending $40 or more on a single bottle, but he offered, and I couldn't decline. I'm a sucker that way…sigh…

So, I've been sitting on it, for a landmark beer. Maybe review #1000 on this blog would work? So, I calculated how many of my post weren't beer reviews and came up with the number 31, which may or may not be accurate. And I waited for post #1031, until I got on a tear with those birthday beers, and quickly surpassed that number. At my birthday celebration, Matthew J. suggested that it's prime is coming, since the base beer was brewed in 2008. So, we're at or past 5 years for this.
But it says on the label: "Develops for up to 5 years in the bottle." Well, when was it bottled?  I bought it 3 years ago, when it was new. It doesn't say: "develops for 5 years from the brewing date." Bottled on 11/19/2010. We're at just over 2 1/2 years. Let's drink it.

Thick black coloring, slim toasted brown head, starts big, settles quickly. Vast expanse of empty void, a null set.

Aroma: sweet, rich bourbon, with vanilla overtones. cherry and whiskey notes over-ride, dominate, stand tall above. It's all bourbon, baby. Don't need any ice.

Taste: Mmmm. Thick, rich, delicious, plenty of bourbon flavors still on top of the tongue. Ridiculously delicious. So many layers of caramel and dark rum, a little anise, whoa…boom, pow! yeah….huge, slick, sick, and yummy.

Let's see watt the label tells us: "This stout was aged for over two years in the finest barrels Goose Island has used in it's 18 years of bourbon-barrel aging beers. A true rarity, savor and share with only those you hold dear, as it will never be made again. Cheers!"

So, I held on to this to drink on my own, so I can write these notes, but I've got Rollie the Cat, and his pal (and mine) Sonny Boy the Cat. They don't drink beer, though, which is best for me.

I'm barely halfway done with the bottle, and it's richness and deliciousness hasn't even faded or gotten close to dying down. Dense, this, and delectable. Deep and amazing.

Got this one in under the radar, apparently. So good, so incredible.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Peace Tree Hop Wrangler IPA (Belgian-style)

Peacetree Hop Wrangler India Pale Ale 3. Brewed and bottled by Peace Tree Brewing Company, Knoxville, Iowa. (So now we know. The canned kolsch is made at Cold Spring, the bottles are done in Iowa.) Leave sediment in bottle (too late). Serve a 8 C (48 F). Can't find ABV.

Very attractive, bright crimson coloring, lush, creamy head, long lasting and lace-leaving.

Aroma: an intriguing blend of funk and fruit. Apple, cherry, and berry on top, with a Belgian yeast twist. Some bready malt aromatics, too. Very nice.

Taste: hop forward, yeast-forward, and not malt shy. Belgian yeast flavor takes over, standing above the hop bitterness, which is rather low. Getting the feeling of a Belgian amber ale, more than an IPA. Although the bitterness is low, it does remind me of other Belgian IPAs, and I feel I could do a session with this. Toss back one after another, and never get too tired.

Hey, what's the label say? "Hop Wrangler 3 is a multi-national take on the classic india pale ale, which is known for it's intense hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. We use American, English and Belgian malts for flavor, body and color. This brew includes six hop additions of American and English hops, one each in the mash and first wort, three in the boil and finally a dry hop addition in the fermenter. It is finished with Belgian yeast which develops esters that complement the bouquet of hops aromas."

Well put.

Metropolitan Krank Shaft Kolsch (-style Ale)

Hey, I just had a kolsch by Peacetree Brewing, of Iowa. Why not do a head-to-head with another kolsch, one from Metropolitan Brewing of Chicago,( the only bottle from Metropolitan that I took home with me)? The truth is, the styles they do aren't the ones that grab me. Yep, I like the hoppy ones, the dark ones, and the Belgians. I actually like everything, but the lighter styles rank lower in my favor. Oh, they've got their place and they are wonderful, but don't grab me. Maybe next time…on with the beer….

Metropolitan Krank Shaft Kolsch-style beer. Metropolitan Brewing, Chicago, IL.
We have to say "kolsch-style", because Chicago is not Cologne, is it? Just as we can't make a Champagne in Sheboygan or a cognac in Kentucky.

Lightly hazed, highly carbonated, yet with a dead head. Straw gold hue.

Aroma: lightly fruity notes, minor hops. Slightly sweet and honey-ish.

Taste: Pear comes out first, then apple. Dry, and slightly bitter, with a still minor hop presence. There's flavor, but it's fairly slight as well and finishes swiftly and dryly. Light bodied and easily consumed, no fuss, no muss. But there's little pleasure in it.

Let's read the tiny type copy on the side of the bottle: "Brewed in homage to the beer of Cologne, Krank Shaft is a pale straw hued smile in a glass. We throw in a little wheat to round out an easy  Santiam (?) hop bitterness."

Huh. Well, okay. I'm not especially thrilled by this. All in all, rather blah. No delights to be found.

In this head-to-head, Peacetree wins out.

Peace Tree Sidekick Kolsch-style Ale

Peacetree SideKick Kolsch, Peacetree Brewing, Knoxville, Iowa. Ooops, I'm sorry, "brewed and packaged by Peacetree Brewing Company, Cold Spring, MN."

Appearance: big, pillowy, snow-white head, lightly hazed, and well-carbonated straw-golden hue. Lovely stuff.

Aroma: floral and honey notes, lightly hopped, some citrus and hints of tropical fruits. Tres jolly. Wait, that's French. Well, I can't think of any words for "pretty" in German.

Taste: Lands lightly and slightly sweetly on the palate. Very lean bodied, but not lacking in flavor and personality. Minor hops, clean, expertly consumable. Delicate and delicious.

The can art reminds us of the Hanna Barberra Saturday Morning cartoon character Hong Kong Phooey. The copy of the side tells us: "Some beers fight for attention and then there are some unsung heroes, Wearing the mask of a lager, this cold-fermented ale is crisp and refreshing yet packs a wallop of flavor. Brewed in the tradition of Cologne, Germany, this Kolsch-style ale is the perfect companion for your backpack, tackle box, or picnic basket. Ka-pow!"

Well, I don't know about a "wallop", but definitely more than you expect from a beer so yellow and light. Kolsches are beers that rarely come out in the U.S. tasting as they would in Deustschland. This one makes a very fine effort. I can see it being a success, if only they can escape from being sued by another craft brewery with a similar name. (Two Brothers now has a pale ale called Sidekick, also in cans."

So, this is my first packaged Peacetree product, after sampling some of their stuff at Great Taste of the Midwest last year. I can look forward to two more samples, thanks to Brad the Beerguy. Also, I'll always associate this brewery with Brad's chance meeting with President Obama in Knoxville, which in turn led the world to know of the White House's homebrewing efforts.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chicago -Part One

At Three Floyds Brewpub, we sat under the watchful eye, of Apocalypse Cow.
Evidence, if you need it, of the organizational skills of my travelling companion, Mr. Van de hoef. You've got to have that to be a school teacher, and he had it all, programmed and formulated. This folder had print-outs of reviews of our potential destinations, as well as the proposed itinerary, which we loosely followed.
June 10-13. The Chicago trip with Cal. I owe a  lot to him for this one, coordinating it, timing it, getting the lodging, driving, planning. It was my first visit to the Windy City in over 20 years, long overdue. I'd been dying to do this for so many years, and Cal came to the rescue. Follow the pictures below for insight on our visits, but for Cal's look here.

At Three Floyds Brewpub. Any astute observer of this blog knows that I love taking photos of people taking photos. Also, I take photos of my beer, but not my food. Here, we see Cal and Heather both taking photos of their food, smoked octopus, which I wish that I had ordered. We can't all order octopus, can we? I normally don't pass it up, but they beat me to it, so I had a delicious hamburger. Wishing I'd had the octopus.
The bar at Headquarters Beercade. Pac-Man piggy banks were everywhere, as was the phrase "Don't grow up--it's a trap!". The TVs all played old videos/DVDs of Chicago Bulls basketball or pro-wrestling. 

Three Floyds Brewpub is one of the most colorfully decorated beer places I've ever encountered anywhere. Old bottles here, tap handles there, framed FFF themed art all over, Godzilla movie posters, kung fu movies showing non-stop, rugby scarves, action figures, gee-gaws, tchotckes, gimcracks, folderol, and ephemera, all over, with more of them dedicated to Star Wars and The Simpsons. At right, Cal is wondering what I'm staring at.
While at Three Floyds, I checked into Facebook and found that my old pal from Minneapolis, now a Chicago representative for Artisanal Imports, Adam Schulte, had made me aware of a Meantime promo he was doing at Headquarters Beercade, 950 W. Wolfham, a bar that was not on our radar, our itinerary, or anywhere in our minds. But, what the heck, let's go! It was the bar & video game side of a very large bar, whose other side, which reached to sold only cans and had pinball machines. I was fond of this side, especially because the video games, almost all of which I played in my teenage years (Asteroids, Defender, Dig Dug, Pac-Man), were free. And the beer was top-notch. I think Adam is holding a Two Brothers St. Feuillien Saison in his mitts, which we drank while we waited for the Meantime kegs to be tapped. 
Another view of Headquarters Beercade, showing the video games and the painting on the wall to the pinball bar, which had a Kirby-esque feel which I enjoyed. Also, the menus were stuffed inside old comic books. Clearly, this was an establishment that wanted to cater to the adult beverage consumer still yearning to hold on to the trappings of childhood. I could have stayed there all night playing Digging Dugs and chugging a-lug, but the group decided to depart. We took the advice of Bob, a Breckenridge rep, and stopped at Sheffields, mere blocks away. I took no pictures there, and here's where I urge you to visit Cal's blog for more recollections of our night. I was crashing. Operating on less than two hours of sleep was taking it's toll. I was nodding off on the L. 
This picture has been swiped from Heather Lyke's facebook page. Hey, if that works better than a chalkboard for them,  more power. The Meantime Scotch was scrumptious, but I was partial to the barley-wine.
From right to left: Scott, Cal, Heather, and Dominic, who hasn't been the same since they cancelled "The Jersey Shore." When we arrived at the bar, it was fairly empty, but by this time it was over-run with hipsters and guidos.
More proof that I was actually at Three Floyds.
This first stop of the day was one I'd dreaming of for so many years, the brewpub of Three Floyds  Brewing Company, in Munster, Indian, just a stone's throw from Chicago. I'd grown so frustrated with hearing tales of friends who'd visited, over and over, that it became a crucial visit. Seen here, a happy beer fan leaves with beer-to-go. I found plenty of great bottles to take home, some of which you've seen reviewed here, and some are yet to appear.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mad River Jamaica Sunset India Pale Ale

Tasting a delicious IPA from Mad River of Blue Lake, CA, the Jamaica Sunset IPA, for the first time since these notes in January of 2005:

"Brewed on the Northwest Coast", "From the Heart of the RedWoods", 7% Alcohol by Volume.

Hazy, pale golden color, nice, flush white head, stalwart, slowly, but surely diminishing.

Aroma: spicy, citric, hoppy nose, pungent garpefrit, and peach pits, orange zest, and pineapple pulp, a little sour, and very tangy. very lively.

Those flavors return in the taste, but are accompanied by a slight sourness, an outsized citric twist on the palate, a little too unlean for me. Medium-bodied, with a big blast on first entry, a rounded fruity flavor, then thinning some, but not losing any of the bitterness. It rides long and zestily in the mouth, before eventually fading away. Long, fruity, bitter finish.

Very likable, this one, milder in the hop delivery than I like in my IPAs, but you can't please everyone. This ought to please plenty of folks just fine, and, heck, I like it a bit, too!

Eight plus years later, I have to say I was harsh on this one. It probably came from a trade, and was perhaps lacking luster through the travel. This fresh, new to market bottle tastes terrific, none of that sourness reported in that older bottle are found, and I feel only beer snobs of the highest order would turn this away. Just a nice, flavorful, refreshingly bitter, but easily drinkable IPA. World needs them more than ever these days.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hoppin' Frog Cafe' Silk Porter

Hoppin' Frog Cafe' Silk Porter, Porter with Coffee Added, 6.2% ABV., 70 OG, 26 IBU.

What more appropriate use for the Spider-Man/Frog-Man coasters my brother Wayne made for me for my 45th birthday than a beer from Ohio's Hoppin' Frog Brewery. Nothing better to relieve those middle-age (sigh….) blues than a reminder of childhood.

Enough of that, time for an adult beverage. Porter with coffee, my two favorite adult beverages. It was a minor milestone when I switched from cold root beer for a morning pick-me-up to hot French roast coffee. Every now and then, I return to soda pop, and I reminisce of the immature years.

Anyway, on to the beer. Solid black coloring, roasty tan head, starts thick, slims down to a tight ring.

Aroma: rich dark espresso notes roar right out of the glass. Cherry and vanilla lurk just below the flavor of the bean. Cocoa tones rise up from under and it turns into a beautiful symphony of flavors. Cocoa and coffee combine and stand on top.

Taste: Straightforward boarding the palate, very even-keeled, while full-bodied, and soon dropping a payload of rich, robust and delicious coffee porter flavors. Personally, I'm glad this is not an "imperial" porter or stout, and a mere 6.2%, also happy that I'm tackling it in the afternoon, rather than after work in wee a.m., causing me to lose sleep. That's why it's been resting in the fridge for months. When I get home so early in the morning, the last thing I need is coffee, in any form. I learned that lesson long ago.

Very smooth and silky, well-balanced, bordering on the sweet side with a never-ending flavor. Very easy down the throat, utterly likable.

What do they say on the label? "Our chocolatey Silk Porter cold-infused with dark-roasted coffee beans to create the smoothest coffee character possible. (not a real sentence, there. missing a preposition, I think. But that's alright.) Fresh-roasted coffee flavors and aromas add the perfect compliment to this old-world beer style, forming a truely (sic) savory and memorable flavor experience."

Lost Coast Indica India Pale Ale

Another bottle brought back from Chicago, this one a beer I last had in June of 2004, nine long years ago. Apparently I'd had it before, locally, and this trade with a Florida friend brought it back for me. I took notes again tonight when I tried it anew, again, and they seem pretty spot on with what I wrote back in '04. So, here go those notes...

Lost Coast Indica India Pale Ale, 6.5$ ALC/VOL., Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe, Eureka, CA.

Lovely, deep orange hue, blessed with a flush and creamy off-white head, big & lumpy, slow to settle, never-dying.

Nose is fruity, with orange, mango, apricot, a hint of grapefruit and traces of pine predominant.  vibrant, pungent, pine and citrus nose. Stanky and danky. Distinctly delightful.

Big bitterness on first taste, but lip-smackingly, palate-drenchingly delightful, totally tasty, it urges another sip, which turns into a gulp. Fresh, tingly hop flavor pervades the mouth & every meeting with lips and cup sets this method in motion again: brash bitterness, juicy fruit flavor, repeat.

Bold flavor, bold hop attack, repeat. My kind of IPA.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Great Dane Unleashed Double Dubbel Belgian Style Ale

Great Dane Unleashed Double Dubbel Belgian Style Ale. 10.6% ALC/VOL. 22 ounce. My first bottle from Great Dane. I didn't even know they had bottles. And a dubbel, my favorite style. But, how is it?

Appearance: No head on it, to start with….dark reddish brown. S'aright, I guess, but I could use a moment of foam.

Aroma: hot, peppery, fruity, raisins and plums, Belgian-yeast, plenty of malt.

Taste: Boom! More of that found in the aroma, back on the tongue. Although, to pick at nits, it lacks in carbonation (as evidenced by the lack of head), and it lacks depth. It has heat, it has massive malt, it has flavors galore…more of the peppery notes, much more raisins and cherries, a touch of chocolate, mondo heat, mucho richness…but ….maybe I didn't mean depth, I meant…lacks character. There's nothing really …. it's just missing personality. More of a "hot mess" than a bouquet.  Delivers bountiful flavors and alcohol presence, but skimps on the soul. Yeah, needs a bit more soul.

Dave's BrewFarm Smoked Knot Saison

Dave's BrewFarm Smoked Knot. A smoked variation on the Rye Knot saison. 6.1% ABV. Actually, no, I just remembered, it's a mistake, Dave was intending to make Rye Knot and reached for the Smoked malt instead. Oooops. It's an ooops bier.

Appearance: clear, amber to crimson coloring, full, flowering chalk white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: lightly sweet and bready, delicate hop profile, smoked malt presence faintly felt, if at all, but that's BrewFarm balance at work.

Taste: Caramel malt felt first, then a smattering of hops, played low-key, suffused with a subtle sweetness, and an even subtler smoke. Don't let names fool you at the LaBrewatory, ingredients and names aren't high indicators of some bludgeoning your palate will soon endure. This will be here, they say, and so will this, and they will connect and intermingle. Most of the times, it will be harmonious and pleasant, but not overbearing. Sometimes it will still be harmonious, with moments of cacophony, but also measures of pure pleasure and sections of sweet seduction. A bitter, a sweet, sometimes a sour, and once in a while, a hint of a smokey symphony.

Tasty as heck this, and a complicated concoction, but delicious all the way.

The official word from Farmer Dave: "French saison yeast, couple with both pale, German smoked and Cara red malts. Well hopped with Palisade, Aurora, and Vanguard hop varieties."

I'm liking this.

Dave's BrewFarm Topaz Single Hop Saison

Another visit to the BrewFarm, this past Sunday, just Jason and I. Hangin' with the regular bunch at the beer oasis. Received some good news, that I've waited to hear from him for some time: the brewery in the next room has been fired up and LaBrewatory beers are now finding their way into bars and restaurants. But then, there's the bad new: only in Wisconsin. He can't distribute into Minnesota until a lawsuit filed against him by the giant distributor that bought out the little distributor that he used to do business with has been settled. Sucks. Arrrggghh!

So, anyway, I took 2 growlers home, and here's the first, with notes taken last night:

Dave's BrewFarm Topaz Single Hop Saison. 6.4% ABV.

Hazed golden appearance, slim head, starts small but drifts down quickly.

Aroma: funky, fresh, floral, tart, wild, lightly citric, overpowered by yeast. Interesting complexity.

Drink it up:  a mess of yeast. sunny, citrus-y hop character. Light malt. Some banana notes emerge. They mix with some citric notes and a wicked kind of Beligan yeast funk. Ends definitively on the dry side. Grows increasingly tasty. Sweetness matches with some spice, overcome by yeast.

A terrific saison, although I couldn't pinpoint what the characteristics of the Topaz are that might set it apart. I enjoyed the drinking, though.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Harriet Luv Jus Witbier

Harriet Brewing Luv Jus Witbier. Information,  I don't have. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jus is French for "juice". "Luv" is short for "love", and they just like the symmetry of two three-letter words.

It's a witbier.  Hazy golden coloring, large, flush, fresh snowy white head. Looking delightful as can be. Picture perfect.

Aroma: wide open, vast, and airy. Light, lovely, and loaded with spice, coriander, orange peel, wheaty-type notes….every inch of a wittier.

Taste: light bodied, yeasty, spiced with coriander and orange peel, full of flavor and easily drinkable. Not a lot more to say, except that it is exactly right, totally on point, perfectly satisfying. Meets every mark of a witbier, and they should be proud of that. I like wits. They're tasty, refreshing, and pretty. The nicest spice, the juiciest fruit, and so likeable all the way down the throat.

Needless to say, I will revisit this throughout the summer.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA

Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA India Pale Ale, Deschutes Brewing, Bend, OR. 6% ABV.

Clear, bright coppery crimson coloring, large, lasting head, looking several kinds of great.

Aroma: every kind of citrus note imaginable, we've got lemon and orange and lime, and grapefruit, and need you name more ? Mango and tangerine, and a slice of pineapple on the side. Ooooh, yeah. Ahhhh….

Taste: just plain ol' yum. The major breweries of America have hit open the sacred secret: just bring us the citrus. That's what we scream for in an IPA, don't you know? That's what we're dying for, silly.
Creamy mouthfeel, low bitterness, high hoppitude, and ever-lasting flavor. Brisk and refreshing. MMM, mmm. Not too high in alcohol, which is just what this needs.

Time to read the label: "This mouthwatering delicious IPA gets it's flavor from a heavy helping of citra and mosaic hops. Don't worry, no fruit was harmed in the making of this beer."

Citra is the hit hot hop these days. Do a pale ale or IPA with Citra and bing, boom, bang, you've got a hit on your hands. A wonderful blend, this, with a malty blend at the bottom, with an amber edge, and the citrus notes doing nothing but shining, shining, shining.
bright and summery.
Mmm, hmmm. Man, you drink this and drink it…it might even leave some zombies in it's dust….

Friday, July 5, 2013

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow Double IPA

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow, no ABV given, brewed and bottled by Three Floyds Brewing company, Munster, Indiana.

Hazy golden/amber hue, fresh froth atop, white as whipped cream, and looking's lovely.

Aroma: Invigorating. An blending of citrus and tropical fruit esters, with a side order of pine needles.

Taste: Good dose of bitterness hits us at the start, plenty of hoppy flavors riding the palate. And then I'm picking up the milk. An imperial milk IPA? What the??? It's truly creamy, truly hoppy, and totally tasty! Yum. Never too anything, not feeling too strong, just enough everything, and not too much of nothing. A creamy IPA, if there ever was one, and I'm not sure if there was. We get orange, tangerine, mango maybe, and then this layer of light, sweet, creamy goodness.

I wonder what the label tells us? "This complex double India Pale Ale has an inns citrus and floral hop aroma balanced by a velvety malt body which has been augmented with lactose milk sugar. With this different take on an IPA we have brewed an ale  that is both pleasing to drink and, once again, "not normal." Cheers!

That just about says it. Mmm. Good stuff.

Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale

Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown. Big, Complex and Malty-big, complex, and malty. High malt, low hops, Colorado, 9% ALC/VOL. IBU 57, Ale brewed with pure maple syrup. Colorado Mountain Town Craft Beer.

Too many words, not enough drinking. Let's start.

Dark brown coloring, slim, dotted head.

Aroma: deep, rich and malty. Big caramel, vast maple, brown sugar aplenty. low hops (but not that low, it is 57 IBU…got to be big to keep this malt in check.).

Taste: rich malt, all that vast complexity and sweetness, caramel and toffee, with maple, too, in tow. I get some nuts, too, in this brown. And the hops are just enough to keep the big sweetness from this preponderance of malt in check.

I wonder what else is on the label? The Tommy knocker legend, which I will skip, and these words: "Flavored beer." Imperial nut brown ale, flavored with maple syrup, I suppose.

I bit too big for me, I think. Nut browns shouldn't be imperial, I've always said.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Clown Shoes Galactica IPA

Clown Shoes Galactica India Pale Ale. Alc: 8% by volume, Mercury Brewing Company, Ipswich, MA. Cool label art. Let's see if the beer matches it.

Bright, beautiful crimson coloring, long-lasting, lace-leaving, creamy white head.

Aroma: big burst of luscious hop aromatics, all the fruity esters, the grapefruit, the lime and mango, plus the pine. Maybe some apple and cherry. Little herbal, some malty aromatics.

Taste: Mmmm, yummy, hoppy, yeah. Herbal, earthy malty bottom, hops on top. Not exactly a West Coast IPA, not nearly an English-style, this is just an all-around great, good-drinking IPA. Little high on alcohol for a session IPA.

More fruity flavors bump up, some melon here, orange, then creamy and just plain ol' utterly delightful.

I feel like reading the label copy: "Galactica, a hop staff wielding heroine, patrols in karate kick mode through the heavens. Her mission: cosmic combat to promote good beer. Dry hopped with Galaxy hops, a clean malt backbone enchences the dank and luscious IPA flavors."

Good one, Clown Shoes. Gets the BitterNib stamp of approval.

Spiteful Brewing Bitter Biker Double IPA

Spiteful Brewing Bitter Biker double IPA. 9.5 % ABV.
I had this for the first time at a bar/restaurant called The Bad Apple in Chicago, IL. I was intrigued by the similarity to something like, say, Surly Brewing Bitter Brewer Ale. Found a bunch of bottles at that Binny's in Schaumburg, IL, and went with this one, among a half dozen choices, despite the horrible illustration. Blech! None of the others I saw were very much better. Nonetheless, I'm going to take down this bomber, starting …now.

Highly hazed…deep amber/nearly orange. Good 1/2 inch head of chalk white foamage. Not bad. Quite nice, actually.

Aroma: ah! There's the pine, there's the citrus, the mango and grapefruit and orange of it all, a bit bitter, and a bit refreshingly lovely. Double nice.

Taste: First the malt comes over, a bit o' sweetness, followed by the hop hit on the palate. Some cocoa and caramel arrives on the palate, bumping up against the citrus and pine contributed by the hops. An interesting mix.

Let's stop and read the label, shall we? ""Don't fight it. Spite it! Cyclists beware! This city is a minefield: potholes, ruthless cabbies, pedestrians texting---and a headwind from hell. (sic) Arm yourself! This double India Pale Ale was brewed for you. Loaded with Zythos, Columbus, and Falconer's Flight 7c's hops. Bitter Biker is our homage to the trials of the year round biker. Ride safe, stay bitter, and watch out for oblivious fools!" Batch #9, it also informs us, in hand-inked numeration.

I'm curious about this. I should ask my friend Adam Shulte, now a Chicagoan, and formerly a year-round-biking Twin Citian who commuted from Mpls to St.P daily. Does that happen as often in Chicago? I didn't see much biking going on in downtown Chicago while I was there. Maybe I just missed it. In Minneapolis, we're thick with them. I mean, us. But, do we have to be bitter about it? Spiteful, even? We do have the lanes, and are blessed with the Greenway, among so many other paths, but not every motorist is on board with our demarcated stripes.

About the beer: This will not challenge any lists of favorite or best double IPAs out there. Simply said, politely put. But it's what these guys are doing. Not everyone can be the best, some just do what they do. And what it is is pretty darned tasty.
I have the feeling that these guys will always be Chicago's scrappy upstarts, and they may not be the next Half Acre or Revolution, certainly not the next Goose Island. They've got a punk rock attitude, and a DIY aesthetic, but the beer comes out well, so they've got that going for them, right?

If I can get back to Chicago, maybe if I trade with a local, I'd like to try more of their wares. I just want to like their stuff.

Why is this not amazing? Probably because those three hops do not make a perfectly mellifluous blend. But high alcohol and high alpha acids do make for an enjoyable experience. I'm not bitter about this bottle.

New Belgium French Aramis IPA

I've been picking and choosing from the current New Belgium releases lately, for various reasons. Like, the fact that I don't know what a Pluot is, or that a "hoppy bock" doesn't sound appealing to me. But, some thing leap out and grab me, even though I've still got plenty of beer waiting for me, especially more and more bottles from that Chicago trip.

So, let's jump into New Belgium French Aramis India Pale Ale, from something called the Hop Kitchen that I've never heard of. Alc 6.7% by Vol, New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO.

Lightly hazed, copper/amber hue, lush lace-leaving head holds tight on top.

Aroma: odd, unique, funky, but particularly pleasing. Straw, hay, barnyard, with a citric twist, a side of pepper. Zesty and floral, at once. Delightful.

Taste: Big hop attack up front, forceful blast of bitterness, coats the palate, traverses the length of the tongue, and to the back. And there's that flavor from the hops. Malt is pale and dry, with a copper-y tinge, lightly bready. This has me thinking a bit of a biere de garde, although it feels like a throughly unique creation.

I'll take a moment to peek at the label copy: "A drier IPA for the summer, brewed with French Aramis hops to create an aroma of fresh cut flowers and garden herbs."

Well, what do you know about that?

It does end rather dryly on the tongue, it's crisp and refreshing and undeniably hoppy, with a distinct hop profile that I find uniquely invigorating.

Revolution Bottom Up Witbier

Revolution Bottom Up Wit, made with organic malt, wheat & hops. Alc. by Vol. 5%. Chicago, IL.

Hazy, golden appearance, full, flush, flowering white head.

Aroma: soft and lovely, pronounced coriander spice, delightful lemon and orange notes. Nice.

Taste: light bodied, fruity, lemon notes getting louder, flavor getting spicier, becoming extremely lively and refreshingly tasty. Not a limp or lethargic wit in the least. Quite downable.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, San Francisco, CA. Big Daddy IPA. 6.5% ABV.
I wrote these notes in December of 2004:

Slightly hazy, banana-gold color, slim, diminshing white head above.

Aromasoft, citrus and pine, somewhat soapy, pineapple and peach, rather quiet, but still possesses a certain character.

fruity flavor is tops on the palate, and hop bitterness plays for a bit, but it's a softshoe affair here, very mild, very minor. Body is medium, and the finish is unimpressive, slips away assuredly, leaves nothing memorable behind.

Citric zest continues to briefly bite with every new sip, but it's not enough to make a real impression. Very drinkable, to be sure, but lacking in any extra anything that would make this a stand-out IPA.
Not bad, of course, but nothing much.

Again, was I being too hard on this 8 1/2 years ago? Was I expecting too much? The bottle I had the other day was a perfectly serviceable IPA, nothing wrong with it, unless you go in with greater demands.
Though, as I've said before, the graphics have improved from the bottle I had back then, and perhaps the beer has improved, also?

Ska Decadent Imperial IPA

Decadent Imperial IPA, from Ska Brewing, Durango, CO. 10 % ABV. Number eight in the birthday beer series. For this one, I look back on notes from July, 2006:

Hazed orangish hue, slim , soon-gone head.

Aroma of pithy citrus, big time resiny pine, sappy, orange and lemon...sweet and bitter, two step, side step, cha cha cha...

Tastin' it: big, flabby citrus, huge hops, loud flavor, and creeping alcohol. But, lacks a cohesive character, somehow. Just doesn't stand out enough. An outsized IPA, alright, just not imperial enough to merit the name.

Full bodied, fruity, bittersweet finish, but a bit flat in the flavor department, fails to deliver anything big and beefy. Good try, though.
Wish I could get excited about it, but, eh...there we go...

And here's where I'm wishing I'd taken notes on it. Not as bad as these notes suggest, but not quite good enough for what I was expecting, perhaps. Maybe I went into with a different criteria, seven years ago? Maybe the beer got better? This bottle I had on my birthday was just fine, though not at all mind-blowing. C'est la vie.

Three Floyds Blackheart English-style IPA

Another birthday beer, another Chicago beer, another first time since the first time, looking at notes from June, 2006. Including a photo of the bottle I drank, and a pic of the label of the one I first had, seven years ago. Notes, do your thing:

Blackheart English IPA

Hazed, bronze/amber hue, nice white foam cap, leaving lace.
Lovely hoppy nose: apples and peach, cherries and herbs, grassy.

Crisp and spicy on the palate, nice blast of hops up front, fading, but never quitting. Plentiful fruit and spice, zesty, zippy, but never too much so.
Medium bodied. Warm, wet, and tasty as heck.

American IPAs long ago surpassed English IPAs in my list of favorite styles. A beer like Blackheart reminds me of why I liked them in the first place.

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Another birthday beer, another Chicago beer, drinking again for the first time since the first time, the Incredible Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point, of San Diego. 7% ABV.

Notes from February, 2009:

Hazy paleapricot appearance. Slim white head.

Fresh vivacious, citric aroma, plump with tropical fruit as well.Apricot, pineapple, mango, orange, a little lemon and grapefruit as well. Just gorgeous.

Hops jump on the palate, and spank it good. Grapefruit peeland orange pith spitting in your eye and dripping down the tongue. Smooth, yet zesty and delicious, while still blasting the senses.
Just enough tasty malt holding it down,and the hops are a barrage of bitterness, yes, but never too this hophead, anyway.
Light bodied, and terribly drinkable.
I like this, I would drink it all day, every day. Delish-uss.

Cantillon St. Lamnivus lambic

An incredible Belgian lambic consumed on my birthday with 5 friends, including Matthew Janda, who brought it to the party. My notes from March, 2006 commence:

black as sin, smallish roasted tan head...

gorgeous, deep, dark nose, rich and resplendent, redolent of molasses, anise, whiskey, a twisted stygian blend...classic!

taste: profound impact on the palate, heavy, full, and packed with prodigious flavors. All that in the nose and a little more, hangs long on the tongue. some plum, dark cherries, cocoa,...but well-blended, no particular one flavor rides over any other.

Is this a stout, a porter, an old ale...? The whiskey is king in it, and anything else fades away...very mellow, relaxing, satisfying...

10%? It's there, but it's not intrusive, it's ...mmm, motor oil!
Very rubust, and so delicate...well put-together...

oh, man!

Port Brewing Old Viscosity Imperial Stout

Notes from November, 2007 for this Port bottle that I originally received through a trade. This bottle was purchased on the Chicago trip, and shared on my birthday, with friends. The Imperial Stout from Port Brewing, Old Viscosity.

black as sin, smallish roasted tan head...

gorgeous, deep, dark nose, rich and resplendent, redolent of molasses, anise, whiskey, a twisted stygian blend...classic!

taste: profound impact on the palate, heavy, full, and packed with prodigious flavors. All that in the nose and a little more, hangs long on the tongue. some plum, dark cherries, cocoa,...but well-blended, no particular one flavor rides over any other.

Is this a stout, a porter, an old ale...? The whiskey is king in it, and anything else fades away...very mellow, relaxing, satisfying...

10%? It's there, but it's not intrusive, it's ...mmm, motor oil!
Very rubust, and so delicate...well put-together...

oh, man!

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

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