Friday, August 30, 2013

Brouwerij West Mor Mor Quad

Brouwerij West Mor Mor Ale 12, 1O.5 % ALC./VOL. Quad. Brewed and bottled by Brouwerij West, San Jose, CA.

Appearance: Dark brown coloring, small beige head.

Aroma: Cocoa and dark fruit, raisin and plum, sweet and lovely stuff.

Taste: Here it is, again, delivered to the palate in a very mellow way. Cool, calm, and short of stinging. Dark fruit remains highest ranking flavor. Coalesces into a well-rounded. balanced, big, big beer. All in all, though, it stops short of truly delicious. Am I saying I'm looking for more from Mor Mor? Maybe.

I can be highly critical of American versions of quadruple, so much so that I get annoyed by the word "quad." Why are so many afraid of two syllables? What's next? Dub? Trip? Sai…IP…st?

So, while this one fails just a bit short of dropping off all of the goods, I appreciate what is an honest effort.

Pipeworks Close Encounter Hoppy Double Stout

Pipeworks Brewing company Presents….Close Encounter Hoppy Double Stout. Alc. 8.5% by Vol. Batch #93. Pipeworks Brewing, Chicago, IL.

I like blue-skined, pointy-eared ladies from space riding a beer bottle rockets in a sexy red one-piece. It's the four eyes that are throwing me off. Enough about that, let's open the brew up.

Black as night, under a solid, lasting dark tan head with random dotting.

Aroma: Hops aplenty in the nose, grassy notes meshing with chocolate malt. Sometime I like this, sometimes I don't. So far, I like it.

Taste: From the start, the palate is greeted with alert and lively hops, blended with dark malts. Deep and full-bodied. And remarkably smooth. Flavors of coffee, cocoa, and charcoal mix well in the mouth, under a blanker of bittersweet hoppitude.
Long finish, hangs hard on the palate, warm, bittersweet, delicious, and satisfying.

"Close Encounter is a bold venture into depths unknown. The best of both worlds co-exist between rich roasted malt character and an aggressive hop presence that will probe your taste buds like nothing you have experienced before. Don't fear the unknown, embrace it! you never know who or what you many encounter…"

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Big Wood Jack Pine Savage American Pale Ale

Big Wood Brewery Craft Brewed Jack Pine Savage American Pale Ale, Pounder, 1 Pint, 5.3% Alc./Vol. Question: Why is there an umlaut over the "n" in Pine?

Clear, bright golden appearance, big, puffy, snowy white head on it. Looks nice.

Aroma: soft and lightly spicy, lightly fruity, lightly delightful, nice and bittersweet.

Taste: Tidy bite of bitterness up front, pleasant play on the palate, bits of fruit, pale ale action going on. Lightish bodied, clean and hoppy, lean malty body. Fairly innocuous stuff, does the job, drinks down easy, doesn't quite delight. Nothing wrong with it, just…nothing exceptional, either.

I wonder what they tell us on the can? Under a cartoonish depiction of a bearded lumberjack type, we read this: "Chances are good you know someone just like Jackpine Savage. He's the kind of guy that always has a plow on his truck with a cooler in the back. If you want to hear a good fish story, or need someone to run the barbecue, you bet he's your man. Brewed with all American hops, Jackpine Savage is a good time-gone great. Big Wood Tastes Great!"
I've got to share something with you all I've never been comfortable with the personification of beer. How does telling me what a dude and bro your beer is help me figure out how it tastes? Or is it all just a metaphor, and left up to my imagination? Whatever. 

Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Special

Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Especial Special Brown Ale, Ale Brewed with Cacao and Spices, Brewed and Bottled by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Dexter, MI.

Appearance: Deep, dark brown, with a plummy tint. Large, light cocoa-tan head, looking good.

Aroma: Gorgeous! Cocoa and spice leap out in the nose, accompanied by special Belgian yeast character. Alcohol lurks below. A beautiful panoply of flavors brimming up, molasses, dark rum, dates, raisin, plum, …mmmm.

Taste: It's bigger, spicier, and boozier hitting the palate (though it's not terribly strong, at 7.5%), …I'm getting the feeling of a Belgian strong dark ale or a dubbel, with a lighter body than I'd expect from such an ale. Medium bodied, when I'm wanting fuller bodied, and richer. But you know what I've got to do? Turn around my expectations, and enjoy what I've got for what it is. And once that is done, I'm really liking this one. All those flavors in the nose arrive on the palate, and the dark fruit, cocoa, and spice…tasty, tasty stuff. Sweetness gets kicked out of bed when sour knocks on the door. Plenty of Belgian-style funk in here. Lots of deliciousness, lasts long in the mouth, spreading nothing but happiness.

Let's see what Maracaibo's label tells us… "A rich brown ale inspired by the enigmatic monastic brews of Belgium and the mysterious mist shrouded jungles of the tropics. Brewed with the real cacao and spiced with cinnamon and sweet orange peel for a sensual delight. A brew to be sipped, savored, and enjoyed!"
Well, I'm doing that. I still think it was a little short of "rich".

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tallgrass Ethos IPA

Tallgrass Ethos IPA, Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kansas. 110 IBU, 6.8% ABV.

Highly hazed and unfiltered, a glorious bright golden hue, with a heavily dotted, creamy, off-white head. Looks great. Leaves lace.

Aroma: Bittersweet blast in the nose, loaded with citric notes, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, some mango and pineapple, too. Beautiful balance of sweet and bitter continuing to tango in the aroma.

Taste: At the start, smooth and creamy, goes down the throat exceptionally effortlessly. Not long after, the bitter, aspirin-like attack occurs on the palate, and it hits right at the back, makes itself at home, and rises in power and flavor. Feels bigger and plumper in the mouth as time goes on, expands and fills the senses. This is an utterly unfettered, untamed IPA, pulling no punches. Here's one I can drink and drink and drink. Not shy in the least, an amazing ale. Plenty, plenty of hopping makes me plenty, plenty happy.

I have a feeling through their imagery and marketing that this was originally intended to be called Mythos (which is taken), or something similar, because "Ethos" doesn't quite fit with this "legendary", "mythical" story they seem to be telling. A video tells a tale of a race of creatures called the Ethos. Okay, whatever.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Firestone Walker Double Jack Double India Pale Ale

Firestone Walker Proprietor's Reserve Series Double Jack Double India Pale Ale, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, California. Alc. by Vol. 9.5%.

  Appearance: Clear and golden-hued, slim, off-white head, long-lasting.

Aroma: Dank and pungent. Wide open and fuming with fruity and floral aromatics, crackling with hop bitterness. Citric fruits aplenty, with tropical, as well. Stone fruit, too. Orange and lemon meet mango and apricot. Lovely stuff.

Let's drink! That cornucopia of the aroma is plump on the palate, with hop bitterness hanging in close on the side. Just about perfect. Several ounces in, and the booze rises up. It sits happily in the mouth, and causes no fuss, just the general happy feelings we associate it with. Ah, yes. And, yum, yum.

Beautiful fruit, beautiful booze, beautiful bitterness. Mmm, yes. Soft mouthfeel, brilliant hoppy texture, long finish. How many ways do I love this wonderful beer? How many ways are there?

The Bruery White Oak

The Bruery White Oak, 50% ale, 505 ale aged in bourbon barrels. Some descriptions on the front that I'll read later. Orange County, CA.

Appearance: clear and brilliantly golden, pure white head, lace-leaving and lasting.

Aroma: Bourbon hits the nose first, raw whiskey notes roaring out, with oak and vanilla flavors dominant. Slight sweetness, with a sour edge.

Taste: Again, whiskey hits first on the palate, major sweetness, big-time vanilla, over-arching oak, with caramel-y sweet tones below that. Minor hop presence, with a creeping alcohol content. Let's peek at that label. 11.5% ABV. Uff-da.
Sharp, slightly acidic, and intensely alcohol, brimming with bourbon. I'm not sure what the base beer is supposed to be, so I will cheat and read the label now, both sides.

"Vivid caramel-esque, coconut-like, and vanilla-ish flavors blanketed in a crisp yet robust wheat ale." Hmmm, I didn't quite get the wheat, but now that you mention it. And I think the blanketing is the other way around, all those flavors blanket the base, not vice versa. There's more gobbledy on the back, isn't there?
"White Oak is suitable for aging up to two years when cellared properly. Best stored and cellared…blah, blah, blah…pour carefully, enjoy in a chalice…blah, blah…"

I've got to take these down solo, so I can take these notes and notch it off my list, add it to the repertory of the blog. But it's the sort of thing I wish I had multiples of, waiting in the fridge to share with friends. Next time I see this I'll grab an extra one, just for that purpose. I've enjoyed every Bruey brew I've tried, and this was no exception. Another distinctive triumph.

Green Flash Double Stout

Green Flash Double Stout, Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, California. Fine, Hand-crafted Ales, Big, Bold, Complex. Alc by Vol. 8.8% ABV. 12 fl. oz. Otherwise refreshingly free of gobbledygook.  So, we need to break it open and try it out.

Appearance: solid blackness, creamy tan head, about a quarter inch, long lasting. Quite attractive.

Aroma: Ah! Wonderful roasted dark malt, with all the requisite flavors spilling out. Chocolate and coffee, licorice, molasses, cola. Below that, vanilla and cream. Very nice.

Taste: Nice bite of roasty bitterness jumps on board the palate, sticks it out, stays a while. Full-bodied, with all those rich, dark flavors joining the mix. Rich and toasted, with a blend of cocoa, espresso, and more. They're calling this a Double Stout, instead of a Russian Imperial Stout, for reasons of their own, but it carries many of that style's hallmarks. It's at nearly 9% ABV, and I'm not feeling it yet, but I'm sure it won't take long.

This is my last bottle out of a 4-pack, picked up in Wisconsin. The first three were fully enjoyed, and this last one was left for proper full inspection. It passed with all the appropriate colors, flying and otherwise. Tasty, tasty stout from Green Flash.

Summit Unchained #13: Another IPA

Summit Unchained Batch 13: Another IPA, British-style India Pale Ale. Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, MN.

Appearance: Yesterday, I had a bottle that had been purchased at room temperature and chilled for only about an hour. The beer poured into the glass was clear. Today, I pour a bottle that had been in the fridge for 21 hours, and here is the haze. Dark amber coloring, nearly bronze. Creamy white head starts big, slims to a tight ring.

Aroma: Mild bitterness, softly emerging citrus notes, followed by slightly sweet caramel tones. An intriguing mix, just enough complexity to entice. Very likable.

Taste: Right away, a burst of hoppy flavors, and that mix of bright fruit flavors and darker malt complexities. Medium-bodied, with a long finish. Bitterness remains moderate but appreciable and stays long on the palate. This is what we want in an IPA. Flavor delivers throughout the length of the drink, and the lingering on the palate keeps it on the tastebuds and in the mind long enough to keep you wanting more.

When I had that bottle last night, I wasn't sure whether I like it or not. Edging towards "not". Ready to call this Unchained a wash-out, a disappointment, a failure, even. And really, it's name was not helping. This is brewer Mike Lundell's 3rd entrant in the series and his third IPA, and keeping in mind that Summit already makes both an English-style IPA and an American style IPA, it makes you really wonder why, "another IPA?"

Getting through this bottle, and enjoying it's contents more and more, I think it actually is unique enough to justify it's existence. The malt used seems considerably different from the original British IPA, and significantly lighter, lacking it's  earthy, herbal quality, and the hops shine a light of their own.

I've always had a soft spot in my beer heart for Summit, since they were the first American craft brewery I ever liked, since the first EPA I ever had. Their IPA, introduced in 1992, was the first of that variety I'd ever had, and I fell swiftly in love with it. In the intervening years, however, my taste, along with so many others, has turned to the newer American style of IPA. I'm thinking this has fallen into favor with me because it bridges the two so well.

Third Street Brewhouse Three Way Pale Ale

  Third Street Brewhouse Three Way Pale Ale. 5.2% ABV. 12 fl. oz. It's a pale ale, and I'm gonna drink it up.

Appearance: Lightly hazed, amber colored, small head that quits quickly. 'sokay.

Aroma: Nice and hoppy, featuring notes of citrus and pine, with some caramel /butterscotch notes. Just shy of diacetyl, but not unpleasant. Feels like a mix of English and American hops at work.

Taste: Slight bitterness up front, with lemon and pine notes, and an underlying sweetness. Lean bodied, light finish. I like it for a minute, then I don't care for it, then I tolerate it, then I'm indifferent. This will do in a pinch. I tossed the first 4 bottles in the six-pack rather easily, but sitting down and studying this bottle's contents…eh, it's fine. But not much more.

Well, it's beer and I can drink it.

Hey, there's a story: "The Story: Our obsession with the number three is getting so out of control that we've named our beer three way. Too much? Didn't think so.This sessional pale ale is unlike many others. Not only because of it's three distinct hops and three select malts but this brew is a conversation starter, a proposition and a punch line all rolled into one.
And hey if it works, you're welcome."

I feel dumber for having read that. And I can see how this name would backfire. "What are you drinking?" she asks coyly. He answers in a cocksure manner: "I'm having me a three way!" Her" "All by yourself? Good luck with that."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Perennial Aria, Belgian-style Ale with Brett

We're winding down on the Chicago beers, two months later. Here's yet another one purchased at the Schaumburg Binny's Perennial Aria Belgian-style Ale fermented with Brettanomyces. 7.2% vol. Brewed and bottled by Perennial Ale, St. Louis, MO.

Appearance: hazy, golden/amber color, slight, but lasting  white head.

Aroma: Ah! The brett hits at first sniff. Wild, funky, wicked yeast-y aromatics. Semi-sweet, fruity malt lurks beneath. Hops lay low

Taste: First comes the fruit, we got some apple and apricot, peach and minor cherry notes behind them. Next comes the fuzz and the funk, that twisted sour attack on the palate that brett brings. Medium bodied, long finish, hangs lightly and delightfully in the mouth. Not too sour, not too sweet, and not too fruity, not really too anything, at all. The only characteristic that looms over all the others is that tasty semi-sour flavor of the brett. And I do like it.

Soft, malty, a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and just enough fruity. Tasty, tasty stuff.

Harriet Woluptuweizen Dunkel Weiss

Harriet Brewing Woluptuweiss Dunkel Weizen. 5.4% ABV. I love a good dunkel weizen. (Dunkel is German for dark, weizen means wheat, of course.) All the smooth drinkability of a great German wheat beer, with more dark complexity of character. Best of both worlds. And here's one from Harriet!

Unfiltered. Utterly hazed. Dark reddish brown. Smal, creamy white head.

Aroma: wheatness and sweetness. Little bit of fruit, little bit of caramel and toffee tones, dark malts meet citrus-y notes. Banana and clove are here, too. Medium bodied, super-smooth, and completely consumable.

I love a good dunkel weizen. I'm glad this is one of them.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lucid Silo Saison

Lucid Silo Saison, Lucid Brewing, Minnetonka, MN. Brewed and bottled by Lucid Brewing Company, Minnetonka, MN. Saison-styled Ale. 5.5% ABV.

Thoroughly hazed, dark amber hue, smallish white head. (Starts big, but collapses quickly.)

Aroma: Earthy. Malty. Belgian yeast-y. Just enough sweetness. Rye malt? Very rustic, right on point. I like this.

Taste: Ah! Yum! Tasty Belgian malt, minor hops, spicy & earthy malts. Medium to low body, easy consumability. Much complexity. A different take on a saison than we typically get from our local breweries.

I admit this: When I downed my first bottle from this six-pack I wasn't sure if I like it, so much so that I regretted having 5 more to pass down my gullet. With my second bottle, I like it more and more, wondering what I objected to with the first one. Now that I've finished my final one with these notes, I wish I had another.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dave's BrewFarm Midnight Saison

Dave's BrewFarm Midnight Saison. 5.8% ABV.

Dark brown body,with a smallish, but lasting, cola-tinged, yet slightly white head.

Aroma: Sweet dark malt character, cocoa and coffee, with a hint of caramel, held in check with hops, ending on a dry, lightly spicy note.

Taste: An interesting mix: dark malts, citric hops, slightly spicy notes from French saison yeast character. It's a party in my mouth and everyone's invited. It's this and it's that and it's the other thing. Just the littlest bit bitter, a smidgen abrasive, butting up against smooth dark malts and the quirky yeast. Drinks down lovely like.
Although, personally, it doesn't quite mesh together in my favorite way, shall we say.
But, yet another bold experiment from Le LaBrewatoy.

What's the word? "Up all night? Here's the beer for that! 2-row, Victory, Cara Arma, and Carafa III malts, Columbus, Chinook, and Mandarina hops, fermented with a French Saison yeast."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dave's BrewFarm Roggen Lager

Dave's BrewFarm Roggen Lager. Not to be confused with Rauch'n Lager. 5.2 % ABV.

Appearance: clear, plummy red coloring, slim, soon-gone head.

Aroma: Spicy rye malt leaps out of the glass and into the nose. Sweet caramel malt notes complement. Hops lay low. Enticing.

Taste: Now, hops are rising to the challenge, imparting enough bitterness to meet the malt. Full malt flavor continues to deliver, with excellent balance the key to consummate consumability. Light to medium bodied. Long lasting sweet maltiness with a spicy rye kick. I can say a lot of nice things about this one. I already have. That about covers it.

Wait, one more thing. What, does Farmer Dave say about it? "Pils, Melanoidin, Rye and Caramel 80 malts, and Perle, Magnum and Tettnanger hops fermented with a lager yeast result in a crisp, spicy lager."

Central Waters Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe Barleywine

Central Waters Brewing Company, Inc. Brewers Reserve Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe Ale Barley-wine Style Ale. Amherst, WI.

Y2K? Wasn't that 13 years ago? What's going on here? I thought I'd had this before, but there's no evidence of it. I must've had it when I wasn't taking notes. Or maybe I'm out of my damned mind. A resurrection of an old ale beyond it's enjoy by date? Okay.
Let's get to this bottle already…

Look of it: Deep crimson coloring, large, lush creamy-toned head, lovely stuff.

Smell of it: ridiculously rich, deep, dark and crazily delicious. Dark fruit, cherry, berry, brandy, leather, luscious and massively malty,

Tasting it: Luxurious. Expansive.  Full to bursting. Malt to the max, hops a plenty. It's all going on. It's giving me all the things I want in a barley-wine. Should I age this? Isn't it already 13 years old? The bottled on says: nothing? There seems to be some marks somewhere around November, but it's not clear. (There are similar random markings around June, July, and August.) It's like there are some random scratchings in the direction of that particular square. And I don't remember when I bought it, it's been sitting around waiting for me to take these notes for months.

Let's see what the label tell us: "Originally designed for the Y2K survival kit, this beer has proven to be a staple for anyone's emergency plan. Kosmyk Charlie's is a delightful treat, aged for a year in our cellars to create brew smooth enough to overcome any disaster. So when homeland security raises the alert level, open a Kosmyk Charlie's and raise your glass."

Interesting. The Y2K threat is long gone, but one thing has appeared since then that we didn't have in 2000, or 1999, and that's Homeland Security and alert levels. That's it, let's celebrate the latest tragedy.

All in all, a toasty, malty, high alcohol (none given on the label, I'm only guessing). treat, to be sure. Fits all the marks of a true barleywine. Nice stuff. Right on.

Anderson Valley Brother David's Tripel

Brought a 4- pack of this one from Wisconsin last Sunday. Turns out I first tried it in January of 2006. Here are the notes, on Anderson Valley's Brother David's Belgian-style Tripel Ale:

Clear , orange-hued, under a sizeable, creamy head.

Sweet, fruity nose. Smooth, lightly hoppy, bits o' spice.

Nice and easy, going down. big spicy fruit, medium bodied, light, yet lingering finish. Doesn't have enough presence, or character, though, to be memorable. Alcoholic content is first. Then comes the brandy feel, and the burn.

Nice enough, though. Not quite a typical, or a trancendent tripel, but nice.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dave's BrewFarm Mandarina Single Hop Lager

Dave's BrewFarm Mandarina Single Hop Lager 6.4% ABV.

Lightly hazed, with bright crimson coloring, very small head, grows to nil.

Aroma: sweet caramel malt notes, with delicate citrus notes. Nice.

Taste: Lean and clean. Crisp and malty. Just enough caramel malt flavors below, just enough tasty, citrus-y (mandarin orange, you think?) hop profile on top. Delicious. Hop character never quits, and stays just south of bitterness. Excellent balance, medium bodied, and ever so tasty. Terrifically consumable.

Mandarina is a hop I'd never heard of, and doing it in a lager all by it's lonesome shows off it's particular character. Now, I have to wonder what a beer like this would be like with, maybe, a different malt base? Is this how the mind of Farmer Dave works? Hmmmm….I wonder….

Dave's BrewFarm Schwarzy Black Lager

Dave's BrewFarm Schwarzy. 5.4% ABV.

Dark brown coloration, large at first, but ultimately short-lived toasty brown head.

Aroma: dark malts, cocoa. Some anise, molasses. …as it opens, a panoply of flavors unfolds.

Taste: Dark malts, some cocoa, some coffee, ultimately smooth and just slightly sweet. Low bitterness, low carbonation. Kind of a lighter version, diminutive, junior version of Schwarzenheimer, maybe? A black lager with flavor, but holding on to the easier groove, not getting too loud, too crazy, too boisterous. Just an alright, easy-drinking dark lager.

What are the deets from Farmer D? "Rich roasted malt and coffee flavors. Pale, Carafa III, Caramel 80, and Victory malts. Columbus, Northern Brewer and Cascade hops. Fermented with a lager yeast."

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

Months ago, I lamented the passing of Shelton Brothers and it's beers from our area of distribution, and vowed to keep an eye out for some of those brews before they disappeared. I made an error in buying some at a store where they'd been sitting for who knows how long. So now, I'm trying to get fresher versions in my visits to Wisconsin, where SB's beers are still coming in. So, last Sunday at Casanova's in Hudson, WI, after visiting Dave's BrewFarm, I found 12 ounce for "only" $6.50. The last time I bought one it was 22 ounces for $10. And here are those notes from then, back in June of 2008:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast, Copenhagen, Denmark. Imperial Stout with Coffee, 7.5% ABV. 

Brewed at Nøgne Ø. 

Ingredients : Water, malt (pils, oat, smoked, caramunich, brown, pale chocolate and chocolate), roasted barley, flaked oats, hops (centennial and cascade), ale yeast and gourmet coffee.

Darkness aplenty, with rich dark brown foam. 

Rich, bittersweet, coffee aroma, silky smooth oat feel. 

Big texture, thick and roasty. A bit intense. Complicated. Abundantly rich and flavorful. Gets smoother and easier as we go. Rough edges fall off. 

Don't know if I'd put this at the top of my list of favorite coffee stouts, but it's an excellent entry in the category. Satisfying. Think I'll have another, even at $10 a bottle.

Minneapolis Town Hall White IPA

Town Hall White IPA. What? Not red, nor copper, crimson, or gold? Not even Black? Now we've gotta have the white IPA? How'd that IPA get so white?

I kid. I know the story. Take a white ale / Belgian wit, and add hops…voila! White IPA! Everybody's doing it!

Clear, straw yellow (why not cloudy and milky white?), smallish white head above.

Aroma: Sweetness, fruit, Belgian yeast character, a little vegetal, a touch of the banana & bubblegum thing…not especially hoppy.

Taste: On the tongue, it's nothing but smooth, with just a bump in the hops. Nice low, lingering bitterness. I'm not getting the essential characteristics of a wit, not too much coriander or orange, but I can feel the wheat, that's happening. Smoothness and super-drinking of the wheat, but a refreshing resurgence of hop bitterness, but never too much. Not enough to make it an IPA, and yet not enough wit to make it White…I don't really know what's going on here, actually.

Despite all these misgivings, it's a fine, delicious, refreshing ale, that I wish wouldn't choose a style, since it doesn't stick to one, or has hooked itself to this new psuedo-style, very loosely defined. This whole loosening of styles thing has me weary, and wary. Now, there's talk of "white stouts"…bullcrap. "Who's to say a stout has to be black", queries the millennial dreamers. "Everyone does," should be the answer. "Why can't an IPA be white?" they opine, and the correct answer is: "because, you idiot."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

St. Feuillien La Blanche witbier

St. Feuillien La Blanche. The White. Witbier. 6.3% ABV.

Appearance: Cloudy, bright golden hue; large, pure white head, drifting down, yet looking good.

Aroma: soft, yet spicy. Fruity (lemon and orange). Sweet and lovely.

Taste: The smoothness of wheat, sweet fruit notes, low bitterness. Nothing but easy. Drinks down a dream. Light and frothy, refreshing as you get.

About all I need to say about it. Let's find out what the brewery says: "A summer seasonal Wit beer from the St. Feuillien brewery. La Blanche from St-Feuillien reflects a unique combination of white beer and triple characteristics, thirst-quenching, aroma, high density and bitterness.
The colour is slightly blonde with an opaque, cloudy appearance. Its head is creamy, white and compact. It has a distinctive aroma of wheat beer with a delicate note of orange peel. The body shows a contrasted blend of light bitterness which become more and more intense and the wheat beer thirst-quenching characteristic. This beer has an impressive lingering taste."

Well, there's always another way to put it.

Lucifer Belgian Blonde Ale

Just tapped a keg of Lucifer. Mmm, mmm. Has it really been over two years...nearly three? My goodness. Took some notes back then, but it was just before I started doing this. So, here are notes from November, 2010, of the Lucifer Blonde Ale brewed by The Brewery Het Anker.

 From a freshly tapped keg, into an awesome brandy snifter-like Lucifer glass.

Hazy golden coloration, outsized eggwhite head, slowly simmers, leaving lace. Lovely.

Aroma: Sweet, sharp, spicy. Candi sugar and golden grains. Citrus fruit.

Drinking it: Light bodied, smooth, and supple. Some harshness up front, some shapness, sweet grains, some slight sugar, slips easily down the tongue. Alcohol becomes noticeable after a bit. Water, just a little, but deeee-licious.

Seven and a half years ago, a beer under this name got a thumbs down from me, as produced by Riva. Since Het Anker has been brewing it, I can't find a flaw. Though I don't normally prefer blondes, this is one I'll reach for now and then.

Just for fun, here's that old Riva Lucifer review from January, 2003:

All great things breed imitations, but not any old sparkling golden Belgian ale can match Duvel, no matter what Hellish moniker it adopts. Such is the case with Lucifer. 
Pours out a hazy gold color, underneath a snowy white, brilliantly lacey and effervescent head. Aroma is quite shy, giving off bits of spiciness, but largely dry and soft, lacking any distinguishing phenols. A sparkling taste hops about the buds, but, again, not a lot of character. Dazzling hop presence, firm and fiery texture, good, solid malt body contributing to a underlying sweetness on the palate. A simple, but enjoyable finish. Overall, a pleasant, decent brew, but a far, far cry from the true Devil. More like Beelezebub Jr. the 3rd cousin removed on his mother's sister's side.

Brouwerij West Saison Extra

Yet another beer from the Chicago trip in June, this one from a brewery in California that I'd never heard of before, but loved the label illustration. Here's Saison Extra from the Brouwerij West of San Jose.

Brouwerij West Saison Extra Ale. 16.9 fl. oz. 6.5% ALC/VOL. Brewed and bottled by Brouwerij West, San Jose, CA.

Hazy, bright golden shade, solid, 1/2 inch lush, creamy head, leaving lacy film.

Aroma: sour at first, funky and fragrant. Lemon peel and spices. Just a little wild and wooly. I lke it.

Taste: Now comes the sweetness, the citrus and spice. A yeasty affair, smooth malt, very tasty. Terrific stuff, just right in the pocket for a saison. Nice pepper-y notes grace the palate, smooth, fruity and spicy all the way.

I like this.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ale Asylum Hopalicious Pale Ale

A bottle brought back from Wisconsin, looking at notes from August of 2007. Probably from my first visit to the brewery, coinciding with my first visit to Madison, WI itself, and my first Great Taste of the Midwest.

Pale peachy coloring, fairly hazing...a good 1/2" layer of snowy foam atop.

Aroma: Cascade all the way, fresh grapefruit, peach, & pine...lime twist and orange peel. I like it!

Tastin' it: Lightly hoppy, good bitter blitz on the tongue, then all is mellow...smooth, and tasty. Sweet malt ballast, solid backbone, good balance...hops take center stage.

"Hopalicious" seems very much like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or a less hoppy Alpha King or something...great stuff here, sol-ID!
Sweet, toasty, hoppy, and excellently drinkable...I could be fond of this. Glad I grabbed a 6-pack...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Three Floyds Deesko! Berliner Style Weisse Beer

Three Floyds Deesko! Berliner Style Weisse Beer. Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Indiana. Can't find alc. by vol. anywhere. Can't be much. I'd hope. Love the label. Germans love tanks, and conquering the world, and 80's new wave haircuts. And fire, apparently. Let's drink it!

Very clear, amber-y appearance, small head, soon gone, zips down to nothing.

Aroma: sour, wild, funky, fruity, wine-like.

Taste: Ooooh, big puckeration, huge sour, massive tart. Nothing but funk. OOooo! Weird, wild, crazy. There's wheat under here, there's citrus and spice, but covered up by this overwhelming sourness. Wow! Now, I know why they use the syrups for this in it's native Deutschland. Crazy funk. I've said that twice now, that makes it twice as true.

Whoa! Amazing! how often do we find a beer like this in the U.S.? I think Bell's The Oarsman is supposed to be a Berliner Weisse, but it ain't as bracingly sour as this one. Are you sure this isn't a wild Belgian ale? Have I ever really had a Berliner Weisse? I can't be sure. Never had one quite like this.

(Checking, we see that under the Berliner Weisse category, I've reviewed exactly two, the aforementioned Bell's The Oarsman, and one from Dogfish Head called Festina Peche. Amazing that I haven't come across more. August Schell just released one, but I haven't seen it on any shelves yet. I will go looking.)

Wonder what the gobbledygook is? "This "not normal" Berliner Weisse is a tart and refreshing liquid homage to Euro culture." Sure. Why not. I doubt that this is being consumed in any desko. Or nazi tanks. Unless it's Euro-culture fashion to drink feline urinary, sauvignon-blanc-y, vegetal, grassy, wild and yeasty, and ever-so crazy wheat ales.

Vild und cra-a-a-zy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Left Coast Hop Juice Double IPA

Left Coast Hop Juice Double India Pale Ale. Alc. 9.7% by Vol. Left Coast Brewing Company, San Clemente, CA. Sample from Brad the Beerguy.

Hazed, copper/amber color, slim cream-toned head.

Aroma: Sweet caramel malt notes hit first, chocolate and toffee, too. Hops creep in afterwards, dank, piney, resinous. Sweet malt and bitter hops do battle.

Taste: Blast of sweet heat at first. Massive malt, huge hops. Tasting more like a barley-wine than a double IPA. It's big, and boozy, and has a load of hops, but I, like so many others, like them pale, lean, and piney. I'm wavering between calling this either complex or messy. Not among my favorite double IPAs.

Let's see what they say on the label: "At Left Coast Brewing Co. we pride ourselves in being one of the pioneers of double IPA style craft brew. This hop monster uses premium American 2-row and a touch of light crystal malt to create a solid malt foundation. Five different hop varieties are used in the Hop Juice. It spends two week dry hopping in the fermenter contributing to it's great hop aroma. Starts out sweet and finishes with the crisp bitterness of a double IPA. This drinkable blend will have you hopping till night's end. It is approximately Alc. 9.7% by Vol. & has massive IBUs."

I don't wish to be mean, but that reads like it was written by an imbecile. What kind of a number is "massive".

I won't return to this one, with so many better ones out there.

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Black H2O Oatmeal Stout

Black H20 (aka Black Water) Stout, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. Man, it's been a while since I've taken home a growler of this, but here I am trying to be a completist. So, I'm dredging up a review from  back in July of 2003, whoa, 10 years ago! I'm drinking a growler of it, now, looking at notes from on-tap. I think we were about a month away from having growlers legalized here, back then.

Oatmeal stout ranks high among my favorite styles, and I'm up to try any example, but this one went far beyond any expectations!

Appearance: a very perfect darkness, but perhaps soft around the sides, and not fully black, though entirely opaque, with a solid, standing 1/2" head of cocoa-colored foam.

Aroma: light and creamy on the very first sniff, but thereafter, bitter, but softly so, and rich and redolent with espresso character. This has to be the coffee-est of non-explicity-coffee-stouts I've encountered, and it's no wonder that Town Hall's Coffee Stout, made with this beer, drenched in grounds and such, has to be ranked as my favorite coffee stout of all, beating out Bell's Java, Z St. Mocha, and any/all comers.

On the tastebuds, every flavor found in the aroma has it's way with the senses.
Fully flavorful, all the way, not too bitter, not too sweet, just perfect!
Rich, roasty, rewarding. Malt is huge, hops small. Body isn't exactly full, finish is smooth and coffeeish to the last. A very easy-drinking stout, and extraordinarily packed with flavor for a style that doesn't often live up to it's potential, in many examples. This is definitely my kind of stout.

And this new assessment makes it harder to decide on my favorite beer from Town Hall. Too many good ones!
I took notes on a cask version at the end of last year...infinitely smoother, and the coffee character still stands tall.
P.S. I still don't know if the Doobie Brothers inspired the name of this beer, investigation is still pending...

Bent Paddle Black Ale

Bent PAddle Black, Black Ale, Craft Brewed in Duluth, MN, 6% ABV. Some information at the bottom of the label: "Lake Superior is about 1.300 feet deep. At that depth, it is about as dark as our stout, er, porter."

Utter darkness, totally black, roasty/toasty tan head, looking good.

Aroma: roasty malts, cocoa, coffee, a hint of anise. some hops. little bit creamy.

Taste: creamy, smooth, malty. Mmmm. hops rise up and bite in the end. An interesting trip, this one, and hard to pin down. By calling this a black ale, you might think it should be hoppier, as many "black IPAs" are being called "black ales," now.
But that's not what it is, because that's not what it is, and it seems to be not quite a porter, not quite a stout. Certainly no brown ale. Black ale, but avoiding whatever style constraints would be called into issue by giving it a style.

Good and malty, great balance between bitter and sweet, swivering between both, landing on neither. But, damn, it's definitely drinkable, luscious and lovable. Easy consumption. Not too heavy, yet very substantial. Fairly constant delivery of deliciousness.

I wonder what they want to tell us on the label? "Brewed to be smooth, chocolatey, semi-roasted ale that bridges the islands of porter and stout. And if you aren't a fan of bridges, there's always the canoe."

More of that outdoorsy, North woods stuff. Guess I'd better get used to it. But, seriously, love this one. So far, too excellent initial offering from BP. Can't wait for more.

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...