Thursday, October 31, 2013

Duvel Belgian Golden Ale

I was quite confused recently when I checked this blog for something and found no entry for Duvel, the classic Belgian golden ale. There were 3 beers listed under the tag "Duvel", meaning the brewery, Duvel-Moortgat (maybe I should change that to be more clear?), there was the Ommegang collaboration Duvel Rustica, one of the Maredsous brews, the 8, I think (and why only the one? I am so behind!), and the Singel, or draft version. How, after nearly 3 years, haven't I included one of my all-time favorites I know I've had it at home, the bottlecaps in my collection tell me so.

On closer inspection, the Duvel Single entry includes notes on the bottle, for comparison. But I feel like making a single entry for the bottle version, as well, and here is where I will post what was probably my first posted review on, over 11 years ago, in November of 2002. I gave it all 5 stars, which I never do anymore, but I stick with it. The picture is the bottle I had last night, in the latest glass I've acquired in their artist series.

Huge, billowing lacey, white-as-the -driven-snow head that must be properly poured into it's own glass, or the closest equivalent. You know, I've seen people gulp Duvel out of the bottle, and I didn't have my gun on me? Their loss!

This is a golden beauty whose aroma has to savored and worshipped. Spicey, fragrant, floral, angelic. Pours clear and golden like a lager or a pils, but, buddy, it ain't!

Letting the yeast in with the pour gives an extra amber/ orange haze: go ahead, drink the yeast, it's good for you! Flavor floods the tongue, Saaz hops jitterbug along the taste buds, and the finish will not quit the mouth. Overwhelmingly pleasant! Head settles some, but remains as a 1/2" ring.
 Excellent with the Thai ginger & curry noodles I'm having. The flavor, the spark, the spice, it all lingers on and on.

 Is there any greater delight? Do five stars mean anything at all if they are not applied to a brew so fine and lovely?

Grand Teton Bitch Creek ESB (Extra Special Brown)

Got samples from the local distributors of this Idaho brewery, and glad I did. They arrived without warning when I was too busy to sample and drink with them, then didn't show up at the rescheduled appointed time. I'm sure somehow I'll remember their names, track down their numbers, etc., etc., if I really like the beers. Three of the four are brews I haven't taken notes on before, and this here's the one I have, from January of 2009, my take on Bitch Creek ESB:


Highly hazed and bronze/dark amber color...cream-toned head, long lasting...

Grassy hops and caramel malt shine through the nose. Spicy, sweet, yet dry.

Taste: Crsip,bright, lightly sweet, then dry. Nutty, caramel and toffee, with a bit of tart apple.

Medium bodied, lightly lingering finish, ...tasty stuff. I'd drink one again,for sure.

Alesmith Speedway Stout (Coffee Imperial Stout)

the last of the Alesmiths brought back from Wisconsin, a wonderful 12 % Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, a terrific  treat I was happy to reunite with for the first time since I took these notes almost 10 years ago, November, 2003:

An Imperial stout that's also brewed with coffee? This must be the beer designed just for me!

Dark as the blackest night, with a head that, on this pour, stays small, but lasts for the duration as a fine, brown-tinged ring.

Aroma is thick and viscous, a twisted, motor-oily smell, wrapped up in licorice, molasses, dark rum. Deeep, dark, delectably intoxicating. Potent stuff, wicked, but delicious: I love it!

Taste: an intensive barrage boards the senses, thick, chewy, immense, the flavor quickly dominates the senses, slays any opposition, rearranges the furniture, makes itself completely at home in the mouth. There's a new King in the Castle. Devastating, amazing!

Coffee flavor is there, for certain, but isn't dominant, rather it seems to be the skeleton that holds this incredible flavor together. And a never-flagging flavor it is, too, every element continue to roll luxuriantly in the mouth. I was in a state of beery blissdom, brought on by this bottle.

Alcohol is so well-concealed by the flavor, it's largely unfelt until halfway through the bottle. And I made a mistake, not realizing that it's a whopping 12%, until I was well into it. My sobriety took a definite hit in this sampling.
A most impressive stout. If I were a very good boy indeed, I'd love to sink into one of these every night, as my reward.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Alesmith Old Numbskull barley-wine

Notes from January, 2004, and a bottle just brought back from Wisconsin:

Cloudy appearance, a dep amber, a light burgundy, a soft orange playground for the delight I know wait within, and the foam is a sturdy well-retained creamy cap.

Aroma, sharp, ripe fruit, brandy, like boozed-up cherries, sharp, strong, utterly fruity, ...fantastically glorious, so inticing that I need a drink, and wait, here is one, under my nose!

Taste: a hell of a mouthfeel, oh, it fills you, with a full, lush malt, pow, pow, powerful, no baby-steps in the sipping here, no kid-gloves, the ripe fruit, plus intense flavor and full alcohol starts right off, with no relenting. And it continues, ever hotter, like warmed-up cognac, and it nearly stings, it's spicy, kicky, wow, wow, wow...much more than I expect, going into any barleywine. Rich, ripe, tasty fruit continues...I almost run out of things to say, this pleases so generally and so well,'ve got to be serious about it, with a 750ml of this bomb-a-long-a-ding-dong! Taste gets richer, riper, fruitier...ever-more delicious, if not terrifically strong, last tipple of the night, if that was a question.
Tasty, lip-smackingly delicious...I've got to end it there.
..I'm still drnking it, the jury's still out, except that I'm sure that is among my favorites. Serves as an above-average nightcap....good night, everyone!

Minneapolis Town Hall Apricot Hefe Weizen

So, I was a bit confused by this beer. Nothing exactly like it listed on BeerAdvocate, ...well, there was an Apricot Wheat, labeled 2012...and when you check the archives, there's another one and I wrote ...wait, maybe I didn't? Crazy....anyway, here come the notes!

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Apricot Hefe Weizen, …is it the same beer as one called Apricot Wheat, many years ago? Perhaps. Why not? But let's take new notes, nonetheless. (Stop with alliteration, would you, Al?)

Looking at it: Clouded, golden, slim, white head.

Smelling it: Apricots all over. Stone fruit paradise. Sweet and malty, with plenty of wheat-y esters, the heft wizen aromatics coming up from under and avalanche of fruit.

Taste: Little to no bitterness, just enough hops to keep balance. Sweetness is held at bay. Loads of fruit in the flavor, but not too much. A little hop bitterness starts to pop up, adding additional pleasure. Lush fruit flavor adds more, and consumability is maximized for even more, extra additional delight. Ends sweet and lightly bitter, smooth as can be.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

AleSmith Grand Cru

The wave of Southern California/San Diego-area breweries continues to crash into our Northland shores. In the case of Alesmith, however, it doesn't come close enough. I had to travel to Wisconsin to get some, but was I ever glad I brought them back. My first taste of their 10% ABV Belgian-style strong dark ale, Grand Cru, was nine years ago, back in October of 2004. I took one down last night and it was still as tasty as it was then:

The looks of it: rich ruby hue, opaque, slim, beigish sliver of foam.
The smell of it: port wine meets cognac, dark fruits meets a mature, well-mannered alcohol burn, sophisticated and almost sublime, a jammy medley of berries and booze.
The taste of it: surprisingly mellow and light on entering the tongue, satisfactorily full on the palate, merrily leaving it's tracks all over the mouth, tingling the senses from the start. Very snappy, this, brimming over with tasty, cherry brandy flavor, figgy, bready, grapey. Sits prettily on the palate, spilling over with juicy, boozy goodness.
The sum of it:This is a late-night relaxer kind of beer, a swirl-it-in-the snifter during quiet ruminations, and complex contemplation kind of beer...the kind I need right now.

Ballast Point Pale Ale (kolsch)

Did I ever tell you how much I love samples? Love 'em to pieces. They help me expand this blog without costing me a cent. I got my first samples of Ballast Point from my distributor, and it was 2 bottles of one of their beers I've had six years ago, a kolsch-style ale that they're calling a "pale ale" for marketing purposes, and that they used to call Yellowtail, but no longer do, although there's still a yellowtail fish on the label. (Fish is their thing at BP.)

The commercial description stars this off, followed by my notes from July, 2007, from a bomber received in a trade.

"There's no wonder why our Pale Ale is so popular--it is skillfully crafted in the style of the Kolsch beers of Cologne, Germany. We've chosen German hops for aroma, and rounded out the recipe with a blend of American and German malts.

While it is very much like a pilsner, our Pale Ale is fermented at ale temperatures, giving it a subdued fruitiness--a perfect compliment to the crispness of the wheat and maltiness of the Munich malt. If you like a lighter brew but also like the complexity of craft beers, then our Pale Ale is for you. "

23 IBU


Golden-hued and clear, below a small white head.

Citrus-y aroma, fresh orange and lemon zest...light spices....fragrant and lively.

Fresh on the tongue, with plenty of hop zing blasting the palate. Then all is smooth and lovely. Light bodied, light hops, tasty malt below...a kolsch, but called a "pale ale" on the label..."I guess"...but, it works, it's a lighter easier-drinking ale, no chore to toss back,but full of flavor.

Should be offered in 6-packs, though, not 22 oz bombers. Just not spectacular enough to warrant the size or the price. A good beer, don't get me wrong, just doesn't push my buttons...

My misgivings continue in 2013. It's kind of an "eh...sure, I need something to drink" kind of beer, but nothing more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb

New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb, New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI.
No alc. by vol. given, nor style. I suppose it's a "strawberry/rhubarb ale".

Pours a murky reddish hue, just like you'd have when you mix a rhubarb and a strawberry, with  a short, but staying pinkish head..

Aroma: sweet and creamy strawberry scent pops up first, with just a hint of tart behind it. Not quite brash, not quite delicate, just enough pleasant fruit in the nose.

Taste: Rhubarb brings the tart first this time, with strawberry providing the sweet. A tasty tango commences. Medium bodied, with a long, fruity finish. Doesn't quite come through with sour, but gets awfully close. It's all about the fruit in this one, and it's lip-smackingly good. Great dessert beer, a must for holidays.

Time to see what Dan and Deb tell us on the side label, and hope it's not too overblown and self-congratulatory.
" Teased from the loam by the kiss of the Sun Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb delights are the happy memories of childhood. Diploma Master Brewer Dan employed juicy sweet Strawberries to tame the barbaric wild tart fermentation of rhubarb. Escaped from the far corners of neighboring yards, local rhubarb was incorporated into the wild sour fermentation to create this drinkable dream. Bright sour and effervescent. Toast chilled cold to Bright skies, fireflies, bare feet, and rhubarb pies!"

Some information, some abominable stabs at poetry, some indecipherable parts, and no over-aggrandizing of the state of Wisconsin. I'll take it.

This would be awesome with ice cream, maybe better with sorbet.

Three Floyds Tiberian Inquisitor Barrel-aged Pale Ale

Three Floyds Tiberian Inquisitor, Pale Ale, Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Indiana. MMXIII. Alc. by Vol: ???

The last bottle brought back from my Chicago trip over four months ago. (I really will finish the story, I swear.)

It's a hazy, dark crimson thing, with a slim head. Blood red, making me want to go off in Three Floyds menu/ pulp magazine style riff about …oh, you know, witches and satan, ominous gobbledygook, over-done sword and sorcery stuff…not feeling it right now. I'll quote the menu, from the 3F brewpub: "Want to have your most hidden secrets torn from the dark recesses of your soul? Tiberian Inquisitor will do just that." Etc., etc. Blah, blah.

Wild and weird aromatics. Sour, sweet and unearthly, with the red wine barrel character swings wide and hard. Beautiful, and wicked at once.

Taste: And it lands on the tongue hard and heavy. Some bitterness, some tannins. Fairly light bodied, if not for the barrel action. Delicious and refreshing. No alcohol given, and it doesn't feel high. What it does feel is tasty. Despite the sour-ing, it's surprisingly smooth. Mmmm. …yeah…I like it, it's good. Oh, wait, no, I meant to say, "though the evil minions of the warlock king may have conspire to vanquish me with their torture and poisons, my pure heart has triumphed over their insidious ploys, and I shall return with my armor and my steed to cast them into the Foul Pit of Varkon and they shall pay for their treachery as they are devoured by the radioactive weasels of Waorkenstein."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Natural Ice

If you know me, you know that try them all when it comes to beers, sometimes "taking one for the team." This is one of those cases, where I'm going to tackle a beer outside my preferred styles, for the sake of treading that ground. Because it's there. To say, yup, I had that…and lived through it.

So, without further ado, from the Anheuser Busch Brewing Company, that quaint little concern based in St. Louis, Missouri, owned by the largest beer conglomerate in the world, InBev, headquartered in Belgium….Natural Ice, "Ice Brewed for a Naturally Smooth Taste", 5.9 % Alc./Vol. 16 fl. oz. Brewed and Canned by Anheuser Busch Brewing Company, St. Louis, Missouri. Ale. ("Ale"? I guess, …"ale.") Government gobbledygook, and nothing else.

And, yes, you can tell by the photo I poured it into a Surly imperial pint glass, blasphemer that I am.

Clear yellow, no head, but active bubbles rising to the top.

Aroma: distinctly absent, but a whiff of corn and grain. Not terrible, but not much.

Taste: cold is the first flavor that comes to mind. Real, honest to Auggie cold. Boy, they put that ice to work! The cold covers the palate and keep all other tastes at bay. After the liquid leaves the mouth, you hardly remember it happened. Another sip, and I have to take issue with the notion of "smooth" mentioned on the can. Or maybe my palate is in shock over the absence of flavor?

I'm going to take this whole pint down, I promise, but I'm not going to like it. But I see the appeal, to people with low budgets and lower tastes. There are beerish elements to this beverage, there's some semblance of body, and then comes a wince, a shudder, and moment of terrible revulsion. Even though this isn't a high octane brew, I'm feeling some bad business going down in my noggin. It's not a malt liquor, but it almost tastes like one, feels like one.

More sips, more winces, more deadening of spirit and soul, more mush in the mindset. I feel myself turning into one of Those Who Just Stopped Caring. Half of an imperial pint glass remains, and I'm anxious to rinse this out once I've finished it, and pour in a real beer. But finish I must, for I said I would, and it will be done. As Glob is my witness, I swear …here we go, into the fray once more.

Ah! I can't take it! The winces worsen. There is some flavor going on, a splash of candy-ish sweetness, a squeeze of lemon, …nothing good, though, and the effects of the wincing has fashioned a frown on my face, the opposite result from my usual beer-y countenance. About six ounces to go, I can do it, I can do it, I can….I …can…

I rose to change a record, and put on a happy, bubbly Brazilian compilation, something fun to lift my spirits as I slog through this terrible task. Every time I pull up the glass, I put it down feeling defeated. But this will not be the how the game is finished, for I will be the victor, not the Natural Ice! It will not defeat me!(
Although, in a sense, the beer has already defeated Jorge Ben, for no matter how bright and uplifting the music, the beer still holds me down. A samba needs a happy beer to keep time with it, not a soul-crusher like this.

Boom, boom, boom, the bouncing on the braincase commences, and it shouldn't, for this is only 6% or so, but it's a beast that knows no constraint. Four ounces to go. I can do it, I know I can!

I rise again to raise to volume, giving the music defense another try. Gilberto Gil's lilting melodies may keep my spirit up for the final three ounces. Ah, accordions! So charming, so unlike this swill I keep tossing down my throat.

One ounce to go1 I can do it, the end is in sight! One gulp and I'm done, my promise met, my heights scaled, the mountain conquered!

Like I said, I need a quick rescue from this damage to my senses and my soul, I'll rinse the glass, and make up for it's despoiling by pouring a nice can of Surly Over-rated, and hum along to Caetano Veloso, and all will be right with the world. The evil is done, the world is calm. Birds are chirping (wait, no, they're flying south for the winter)…okay, the crows are cawing, …that's not quite right, you get the point, and I'm late for a date with an IPA,…

Dave's BrewFarm BF Funk #1

BrewFarm Funk 1. 5.8% ABV.
I had this one a few months ago, but growlers were not available then. Now, here we are! At the time of purchasing this (two days ago), we were already up to BFF III. BFF II was gone in a quickness, back in June, I was told.

Appearance: active carbonation, deep reddish coloring, clear, with a smallish off-white head, accompanied by a multitude of bubbling bubbles.

Aromatics: cherry, currants, and a healthy dose of tart.

Taste: Big, bracing sour attack at the front, with brisk carbonation. Medium-bodied, easy to drink. Ripe fruit. Tart attack grows mellow in time. Fresh and refreshing. Beautiful. If memory serves, I had about three of these in a row when it was available at the LaBrewaTory. Just delicious.

I feel like revisiting the notes provided by Farmer Dave. "A happy "accident." --Pils, Smoked, Cara Aroma, Victory and Caramel 20 malts, Columbus, Nugget, Northern Brewer, and Cascade hops, fermented with a kolsch yeast that acquired some "friends" along the way, which resulted in a nice, light souring of the beer. Flemish Red in character." Nice. And light. And lovely.

It is a nice souring. What was this supposed to be, I wonder? Well, no matter, I like the way this happy accident turned out.

Ale Asylum Contorter Porter

Notes from September, 2008:

Dark brown body, roasty tan headstarts big, begins to crumble. Looks good for the part.

Wonderful aroma, roasty, warm, earthy, with trimmings of cocoa, vanilla, cream, & a whiff of nuttiness.

In the mouth, it's a drinkable delight. Cocoa and cream. Medium bodied, with minor underlying bitterness. (Probably less than I generally like.) Very smooth, very tasty. Also, mellow. And clean.

I'm missing some grit, though, I'm wanting a bittersweet, espresso-like edge. If you're looking for an easy-drinking taste treat, though, don't pass it by.

"Our porter is dark in color yet soft on the palate. English chocolate malts give it a complex flavor wrapped in a silky smooth finish. Contorter is brewed with passion and is best enjoyed that way."

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Bruery Bois

I sort of yawned through the last couple bourbon barrel beers I tried. Can one from The Bruery continue with this trend? I sure hope not. Let's find out.

The Bruery Bois, (pronounced: "Bwah")Anno 2013 Anniversary, 100% Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels. CONTAINS ALCOHOL. (Good to know.) The Bruery, Placentia, CA. Orange County, CA. Alc. 15% by Vol. (Eeep!) And a lot of teeny, teeny type. I'll try to read it later.

We have a murky magenta look here, muddy, dusky brown that nears purplish. Slim tan head that slips down swiftly.

Let's smell it, already. Whiskey wakes you right up with this one. But there's lots of complexity below. Much richness. Vanilla and cherry, with cocoa tints and some molasses. Sweetness, a whiff of smoke, plenty of wood character, and a ton of balance. Starts intense and forceful, but begins to mellow in the mouth.

Let's taste this sucker: Big-time bourbon flavoring in this massive ale. Here'a a beer that needs a water back. Large showing of fig, date, raisin, other dark fruits. Fullest body, low bitterness, moderate sweetness, woody character. Some charcoal,

"This sturdy beer marks our fifth anniversary and we are grateful for the outpouring of community. Together may our supporters, our brewery, and this beer grow in complexity and refinement over the years."

Lovely sentiment, but that didn't tell me all that much. The back label copy doesn't deliver on the details, either, except that it calls it an "old ale." Well, there's something. One big-ass, bourbon-y old ale. Yum-alicious, I says.

This one does buck that trend, as there is great flavor and complexity beyond the effects of the barrel.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Olde Hickory Daniel Boone

Olde Hickory Brewery Daniel Boone, Ale Aged in Oak Bourbon Barrels. 8.5% Alc./Vol. Brewed and bottled by Olde Hickory Brewing, Hickory, North Carolina.

Extra black, extra dark. With a slim whitish ring of foam above.

Aroma: straight-up bourbon, with flickers of cocoa, molasses and more. Vanilla. tobacco. black cherry.

Taste: It's all there again, the flavors from the nose jumping on board the palate, the full body, the richness, the bourbon flavors, cocoa, the toasty oak, the sweet, sweet liquor. Tasty stuff, but the question returns from the last bourbon barrel beer I'd had, where the original beer was not a known entity. Maybe the label will tell me?

"New Frontier Beer. Boone, traveling through Kentucky on his way to the frontier, need a place to store his beer. He placed an imperial brown in discarded bourbon barrels. Months later he had an amazing beer that would cellar well. And so a legend was born. (* Events presented here are not factual, but are based on actual events. In our dreams. After sampling the beer a few times.) Cheers!"

So, there you go. Imperial brown ale, eh? Not my favorite venue for bourbon barrel-aging. The flavors in the beer are utterly swamped and smothered by the barrel effects. Another case where you are drinking whiskey in the form of beer. Imperial brown ale will bring some flavor, some depth, and the booze, but not enough to really provide character, beyond what's brought by the barrels.

Much thanks to Matthew for bringing it over on my birthday.

Franziskaner Kristtalklar Weissbier

Franziskaner Weissbier Kristallkalr, Premium Weissbier. Nach Alter Brau Tradition. Alc. 5.0% by Vol.

Big, allowing chalk white head, tremendous lacing, with clear, golden coloring.

Aroma: ah, beautiful, fresh, lively, sweet, wheat-y aromatics. Lemon and lime zest, floral notes, lightly spicy. Just gorgeous.

Taste: more citrus notes, wheat-y texture. It's crisp, clean, and refreshing. Slides down seriously smoothly. But I know what I'm missing. Kristallweisses are fine and dandy, but I want the yeast. I want to see the cloudy look, and I want it to be in the flavor, as well.

I can't share the gobbledygook with you because I don't know any Deutsch. This bottle was brought over from Germany by a friend. I don't know if it's actually imported to the U.S., but intensive research show that I've never had it.

Minneapolis Town Hall Hope & King Scotch Ale

Back in January, 2003, I wrote a very brief review of the scotch ale at Town Hall, one of their popular perennials. Why so brief? It was many months before they started doing growlers (that began in August or September of that year), and I did not take notes while at pubs. Or maybe I did, it could have happened...But these would have been scribbled down notes that I would post later when I went home or to some computer off-site. What I'm trying to say is that it was mostly based on memory. And here they are, and I think they still stand up:

Dark brown to violet in color, with a firm, creamy, lacey head.

Aroma is fresh and fragrant with hints of cocoa, oats, lavender, and honey.

 Soft palate, great texture, generous and lingering finish. Hop presence is minimal, initially, hidden behind a buttress of malt, exuding a pleasant sweetness.
Medium body. In the middle, some hops start to show and do a delicate dance upon the tastebuds, that carries through the finish.
This fine Scotch ale is 3-tiered, I find: malt, hops, happiness.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Goose Island The Illinois Imperial IPA

Goose Island The Illinois Imperial IPA. 8.4% ABV. Here's what they say: Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandiose vision for a mile-high skyscraper dubbed "The Illinois," we set out to brew an imperial IPA that would be similar in name and ambition. "The Illinois" Imperial IPA is dry-hopped with three of our favorite hops: Cascade, Meridian, and Citra. the result is a harmoniously hoppy ale with a flavor and aroma that is uniquely Goose Island.

Clear, amber-ish appearance, vast, tall and proud head of cream white foam that drifts down slowly.

sticky-icky, resiny nose, plenty of citrus and pine… slightly sweet, while overwhelmingly bitter. Lemon rind, orange zest, pine needles, and booze.

Taste: surprisingly smooth, yet pleasantly bitter and lush. Bittersweet texture. Grips the tongue, grabs, pulls and tickles. Smothers, spills, and sputters. Along comes caramel and toffee and creamy bits of cocoa (just a hint, a whisper). Wet and wild. Growing alcohol. Increasing hop buzz.

All in all, it's an imperial IPA, no better and no worse than any of the rest of them. Doesn't stick out in any way, just delivers the hops, just the way you want it to. No fuss, no muss, no tricks, no unpleasant bending. Not a dream, not an imaginary story. Despite those caveats, it's a pleasant affair for any hophead girl or boy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Central Waters La Petite Mort

I have some questions about barrel-aging beers, which continues to be all the rage. Is it a style? A tradition? A fad, or a trend? When is it good, when is it great, when is it just so-so?
For me, particularly, if I don't know what the beer was before it was barrel-aged, I have to wonder what I'm drinking. This happened with this beer. It's merely labeled as "malt beverage aged in bourbon barrels", but is it a stout, a brown ale, an ale, or what? Is it a beer they've brewed before, of somehthing new? This one, while demonstrably strong, did not even have a clear ABV labeled. So, I'm left not knowing what was aged in those barrels, and only able to appreciate that something ended up tasting like whiskey. Great. The resultant beer is fine, but only because I like bourbon.

Here come the notes...

Central Waters Brewing Company, Inc. La Petite Mort, Malt Beverage Aged in Bourbon Barrels, Brewing in Amherst, WI. Brewed in collaboration with Local Option, Chicago IL.

Dark mahogany coloring, thin dirty tan head.

Aroma: bourbon, vanilla, cherry, black pepper. Sweetness and strength.

Taste:  rich, thick and redolent with whiskey notes. All that from aroma lands on the tongue, all the sweet, syrup-y flavors of the barrel come rushing out, lasting long on the palate. Not quite full bodied, and I truly detect any flavors past the ones brought on by the bourbon. It's malty enough to hold up the richness, with hardly any hops, and a good degree of balance.

The label is free of gobbledygook, to the extent that not even the ABV is given up.
But I have to say that this is another example of a barrel-aged brew that may deliver on the barrel aspects, but neglects to delight in any other area.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

August Schell Star of the North Berliner Weisse

Star of the North,  Berlin Style Wheat Beer, August Schell Brewing Company, part of the Noble Star Collection, August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota.

Hazy pale yellow, almost "white", with a gargantuan head, leaving copious lacing.

Aroma: weird and funky sour. Lemon peel. Cat pee. Sauvignon blanc.
Interesting stuff, to say the least.

Taste: Bracingly sour, and refreshingly so, too. More citric zest not he palate, more wild, sour funkification. Intense sour that never quits. Good consumability, nonstop refreshment. And never once did I cry out for a sweetening syrup.

I'm liking this lots. Good choice on Schell's part to put it in a large bottle at a high price. Not everyone's going to want to down this by the 12-pack. Hardly anyone, actually. And also cheers to them for actually brewing such a thing.

Green Flash Le Freak

Green Flash Le Freak Ale. Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, CA. "Zesty Brew", it says on the label. Alc. by Vol. 9.2%. I'll read the rest of the label after drinking.

Highly hazy. Dull golden coloring, apricot-ish. Nice, dotted head of foam, creamy white, lacy.

Aroma: lightly spicy notes, lightly hoppy one, and Belgian yeast. Just a little bit funky.

Taste: A lot livelier in the mouth than it was in the nose. Very vibrant on the tongue, a zesty brew, indeed. Big and bouncy. Is it a triple? A Belgian IPA, and Imperial one? Some combination thereof? Plenty of citrus fruit notes in the flavor, plenty of pepper. Good drinking, despite the high A.B.V.

In all, I like this one just fine, but it didn't thrill me. They can't all.

So, yeah, that's all I've got to say. What do they say? "An 'out of the box' modern ale crafted by converging two beer styles, Belgian Trippel {sic} and American Imperial IPA. Dry-hopped and bottle-conditioned--it's a zesty brew with enticing American hops and fruity Belgian yeast aromatics." --signed, ----(I can't read his signature), Brewmaster.

Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale (Point Brewing)

Whole Hog Limited Edition Pumpkin Ale, Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices, Stevens Point Brewery, Stevens Point, WI. 7.5% alc./vol.

Hazy, dark amber, going towards bronze, under a tan head that disappears quickly.

Aroma: sweet pumpkin notes hit first, then swallowed up by cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etcetera. Beautiful.

Taste: In the mouth, this one is not shy with the spices at all. Full-flavored, with a warming heat, and a solid, malt body below. In between blasts of spice, some hops are present on the palate. Classic caramel malt body. Easy drinker, despite the high-ish a.b.v. Tasty stuff, and highly likable.

Much thanks to Dave for providing the bottle. He wanted to share a pumpkin ale he thought I would like, after I wrote that perhaps I didn't like them anymore. I like them, when they're as good as this, but can't see having more than one in a sitting.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Samuel Adams Octoberfest, proudly brewed and bottled by the Boston Beer Company. 5.3% Alc. by Vol.

Clear, bright amber coloring, under a large head, off-white .

Aroma: sweet, malty nose, earthy & herbal.

Taste: Mmm. Tasty malts, bright and pleasant. Noble hops play a minor roles, giving just enough bite to stave off sweetness. Oh, it's a sweet one, but not overly so. Medium-light body, with the malty flavor lasting long on the palate.

A right on the money marzen. What does the label tell us? "In 1810, Munich celebrated the wedding of their crown prince with a special beer. After 16 days the party ended, but the tradition continues. Our version of the classic Oktoberfest style lager blends 5 roasted malts for a rich, hearty flavor that's perfect for the season, or whatever you're celebrating."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Robinson's Old Tom Strong Ale

Do I love cats? If you know me at all, you know that it's true; but if you knew me before 2000, and knew me never again until now, you might be shocked at contemporary circumstances. I had been told, cajoled, and strongly insinuated that cat "ownership" would be beneficial to me in some way, shape or form, for many years, It took a crazy Cameroonian (seriously certifiable, no joke) to force one of her kittens upon me, and the bond we (little Hepzibah the cat and I) shared was so sweet and special, that, though Hepzibah only lived 5 years with me, I had been burned from then on as a cat man. She crawled up the length of my body to nestle on my shoulders! Who can survive that and not come out a cat lover?
My second cat after Hepzi wasn't quite as sociable, but that didn't make her any less lovable. I named her Naima, after John Coltrane's classic, gorgeous song. Maybe she caught the same disease that killed hepzi, I'm not sure, cat autopsie's are expensive.)
Now, my home is filled with two male cats, Rollie, who was quite a swinging male member when I took him in five years ago, (and only neutered earlier this year) and another orange striped stray, (with me one year now) who is known as Sonny Boy. Fourteen years ago, I would have called you crazy for calling me a cat person, but now,'re the crazy one!

Robinson's Old Tom Strong Ale, Frederic Robinson Brewery, Cheshire, England.

I've heard of this beer for so long, wanted to try it for seemingly forever, and finally it's here, and I just tapped a keg of it. An English Strong ale, a recipe from 1899, named for the brewery's cat (someone's got to kill the mice), a brewery that F. Robinson began after purchasing the Unicorn Pub in Cheshire, so long ago.

We're at a period of American Exceptionalism in brewing, locally and nation-wide, and it's both justified and baffling. Yeah, there's a ton of invention and evolution and boldly-going with the current American brewing scene, but this often is celebrated at the expense of what happened before Fritz Maytag ever ordered an Anchor beer or Ken Grossman ever thought of Cascade hops. Those old school originators knew from whence they came, but the current crop? And especially the fans and scenesters? I see the appreciation for English beers dwindling. German, even Belgian. Man, it came from somewhere, people. We didn't think it all up by ourselves, we just tweak it some.

And so, I enter into my first tasting of Robinson's Old Tom Ale. A strong ale (8.5% abv.) from the Robinson Brewery, Cheshire, England.

Very dark coloring, nearly black, with a beautiful off-white, creamy head above. Wonderful.

Aroma: deceptively soft, smooth and creamy. Malty-sweet, but even-tempered and expertly balanced.

Taste: Enters the palate full, rich and in complete domination. Rowdy, ruddy, and taking no prisoners. This brew tastes like an old tom behaves, it throws itself around without regard for societal norms and common regard. Dark fruit on the flavor, some spice, massive malt, some toffee and a touch of caramel. All very well-played and perfectly put. No over-weening hops, no over-bearing malt, but this is still a large beer, just like any Tom Cat strutting it's stuff.

I will now play some Lee Morgan. Great record with McCoy Tyner, Bob Cranshaw, Art Blakey, Jackie McLean, and Curtis Fuller. 1964, Blue Note records. And when that's done, we turn to "Stray Cat Strut" by The Stray Cats. We see it's composer Brian Setzer rather regularly, now that he's located in Minneapolis. He's got cat class, and he's got cat style.

Philosophical question: is the American barley-wine style better because it's bigger, and hoppier? I say, not necessarily. If you can't handle some subtlety, if you  need to be pounded on by every beer you try, …well, you're missing a lot. There is so much to be said with just plain old good taste. This is a barley-wine, but don't expect a ton of American-style over-hopping. Don't expect to be burned by over-…alcoholing…?
What's wrong with the classics, I ask, and I don't expect an answer, because I know what it should be. If you want something delicious, and beautiful, cool, calm and slightly cacophonous, Old Tom's your man. Deee-lightful. Tasty, tasty, tas-teee……

this is so good, so malty, cool, calm, and utterly lovely. My goodness. I like this more and more, as I drink it down. I'm practically in love with it, ...mmmm.

New Belgium Lips of Faith Pluot

New Belgium Lips of Faith Pluot. Ale Brewed with Pluot juice. (Hey, just between you and me? What's a pluot? I honestly don't know…shhh…)

10% alc. by vol. Best enjoyed by May 2014. (Whew!) There's more writing on the side, but it's in pink lettering, and I'm not going to attack that now.

Psychedelic graphics. Pastels, neons, loop-de-loops. I still don't know what a pluot is, but I'm going to open it and drink it.

Hazed, peachy coloring, slim white head. Alright, looking good.

Aroma: funky fresh and wild. Fruity. Tropical. What? (is a pluot, I continue to ask)….nothing but fruity, no hop bitterness, nothing really coming through from malt.

Taste: Starts tart, sour, nearly bracingly so, and swiftly covered up with fruit, and little else. Pear, apricot, peach, …in that order…sweet and sour are involved in a great debate, wrestling for dominance on the palate. Incredibly unique taste, there's sourness, and there's fruit, but the result is beyond what we normally know. Whoa.

This is a crazy beer, and I love it. Lots of fruit, lots of sour, plenty of sweet, massive tons of Belgian-style yeast craziness. I still don't know what a pluot is...

Russian River Blind Pig IPA

Had this one last night, at Joe and Liz's place. First had the Blind Pig from a growler, back in October of 2005. The notes are here:

Clear and golden hued,...lush, enormous white head, ...beautiful...a lace-leaver...

Aroma is flat-out piney hops, prickly, sparkly, tingly, tangy, yum...ferociously fresh flavor, pineapple and apricot, lemon, and pine cones...damned fresh...I love it! God, I love it!

Taste it, already...slides on board the palate assuredly and provides the same fresh, vibrant hoppy flavor that blessed the nose. Zips merrily along the tongue, blazing bitterness, but balanced beautifully with zesty flavor. Never, never easy to drink, and so ample in it's hoppy bounty...

Not too anything, this, and just right with all the appropriate ingredients, especially for the hopheads in the house....medium-bodied, with a lightly bitter, fruity finish...holy crud, I could spin every superlative off the top of my head and still feel like I've missed a few...every IPA I've tasted from Russian River has been amazing, and this continues that trend...if Vinnie is capable of making a bad one, I don't want to know...

Russian River Temptation

Another one shared by the gracious Joe and the benificent Liz, the american wild ale from Russian River called Temptation, aged in chardonnay barrels. Wonderful brew. I first took notes on it in December of 2005. Here they are:

"French oak chardonnay barrels", eh? I smell it once the cork comes out.

Lovely pale amber color, nearing orange, completely cloudy, witha thick, sturdy snowy cushion of foam above.

Potent aromatics, screaming sour from afar....on closer inspection, yup, that's tart, with citrus and spice squeaking in...deep, heady stuff....beautiful.

Sourness is the main game in the mouth, blasting the tongue, then fading gently. Bracingly tart. Then smooth, but never releasing the hold of the tart, accompanied by some fruit and a bit of spice. Nice.

Full-bodied and fresh. Zesty, snappy, tangy...quite an accomplishment, matching the quality of Belgian ales so well that if you didn't know, you'd swear this bottle crossed an ocean.

Fine and mellow, this tempting ale. Delightful. Delicious. D'lovely.

Russian River Damnation Belgian-style Golden Ale

My latest taste of Russian River's Damnation golden ale was last night, courtesy of Joe and Liz. My first taste problem came via a trade from California. Here are those notes from August, 2005:

Another strong golden Belgian-style ale, whose name is spun from the best known and original, Duvel. Beyond that, hopes are high, as I've not yet had a Russian River that failed to impress. Uncage, uncork, into the St. Bernardus goblet and away we go...

Hazed, bright yellow coloring, shortish white head, though it lingers long enough...good, good...

Lovely aroma. Yeast, light spices, lemon and other citrus fruits, orange, pear, ...very nice.

Taste/texture: a blast of sour at the front, then smooth and slides down with ease. Peppery spice slide in and ride sidecar all the way through. Fruit and hot spice maintain dominance in the flavor, body is a light/ medium, finish is soft, but leaves a fuzzy, and bold texture on the palate. Abv is light for the style, but peeks through and squeaks a bit, but is no bludgeon.

Very tasty, and I'm more impressed as I get further in, for it's a subtle, sophisticated ale, not a head-banger, no wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am. But zesty, and rewarding, with a unique character.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tuned American Brown Ale, Lift Bridge

I don't fully understand what this Tuned thing is..."pairing breweries with bands" drink the beer, you check out the band, sure, whatever. I drank the beer, maybe later I'll use that code to find that song, meanwhile, here are the notes...

Lift Bridge Tuned American Brown, "Tapping Local Music", pairing local musicians & breweries with limited release brews. Get your digital dowload code under the wax seal for a free song. Redeem it at:" Okay.

Featured band: Reckless Ones. These 3 are rock & roll, plain and simple. Just trying to make an honest statement in a phony world. Their sound is from the heart and doesn't apologize for anything. This Minneapolis band has paid it's dues and now it's paying it off.

Alc. 6.5% by Vol. Brewed and bottled by Lift Bridge Brewing Company, Stillwater, MN. "The Lift Bridge crew did a hopped-up ale for this limited, one time release."

The look: dark brown coloring, smallish tan head.

The smell: grassy hops meet dark malt. Caramel, coffee, and cocoa under a layer of fresh-mown grass.

The taste: the promise from aroma lands on the palate. Hops make a splash on the tongue, grassy, spicy, citric a bit, and the flavor stays long while the rich malt rushes up to take it's place. I'm reminded of a brown ale, but the predominance of hops in the flavor subsumes and sublimates that.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, he says. It's taken me a while to get my head around the black IPA/Cascadian dark/black ale style. I still despise some versions. Getting to think that the big trend continues to be "hop it up and they'll buy it." I've got nothing against a brown ale that's a brown ale, a stout that's a stout.
But, hey, wait a minute, things are changing now, there's more roast coming up, more of the molasses and the treacle rising up, more of a blend of the sweetness and the bitter. I'm enjoying this one. Well done, Lift Bridge.

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Seasonal Collection, Blue Moon Brewing Company. "A pumpkin ale crafted with the fall flavors of cloves, allspice and nutmeg and brewed with a touch of wheat for a smooth, lightly spiced finish. 5.7% Alc. by vol.

The look: Clear, copper-y, deep amber colored, a good match for pumpkin flesh.

The smell: Fresh, spicy, wheat-y and pumpkin-inny. They're all here.

The taste: Rather light on the tongue. There's the spice, and below it pumpkin meat. It sits on the palate pleasantly enough, the flavor's delivered, but…not quite enough. It just falls a bit flat. Maybe I don't care enough for pumpkin ales anymore, or maybe this one just doesn't do it. You have to keep it light enough to please anyone who looks for the Blue Moon logo.

For a hard-lined critic like myself, this one gets an "eh…"

Tallgrass Wild Plum Farmhouse Ale

Tallgrass Wild Plum Farmhouse Ale, brewed and bottled by Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan, Kansas, established 2007.
Ale brewed with plums. Alcohol 5.6% by vol. 1.047 O.G. 20 IBU.

Hazy, golden appearance, voluminous snow-white, lace-leaving head of foam.

Aroma: soft, slightly spicy, and citrus-y. Unique Belgian yeast aromatics come on the scene and you know you've got a saison, friend. Glimmers of stone fruit in the background. Delightful.

Taste: Sweetness at first, swiftly followed by light spices, with fruit rushing in afterward. Medium bodied, with a mild hop bite, and a flush of Belgian yeast character. The wild plum flavoring is not prominent in the slightest, and it mingles with the citrus and stone fruit flavors already evident in any upright farmhouse ale of good standing. I'm gonna pull out the d-word on this one: damn, it's delicious.

Excellent drinking, outstanding refreshment, fantastic flavor. Damn, this is satisfying. This is the 4th can from my 4-pack, which cost a mere $6. Well worth it.

Traveler Jack-o-Traveler Pumpkin Shandy or something

I'll drink a shandy if it's blazing hot outside, and I don't want to be become too inebriated too soon. I've been known to make my own on those occasions, usually with a can of soda and an inexpensive wheat beer, or lager, or something light. Those are my conditions for drinking a shandy. I'm only having this one because it's free, and I've got to try 'em all. Just like Pokemon.

Jack-O-Traveler Shandy, Ale brewed with lemon peel with natural flavors and pumpkin added. The Traveler Beer Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, in collaboration with the Boston Beer Company. 4.4% Alc. by Vol.

Murky orange coloring, little head to speak of, but major carbonation. No especially attractive.

Aroma: Major hits of cinnamon and nutmeg. Pumpkin flavoring follows. Hardly anything else.

Taste: Spicy and sweet, with a mild hop bite. Light bodied, with a vanishing finish. Leaves the palate quick as it came. Pumpkin pie spices are back wit every new sip, but actual beer flavor is absent. Would I know I was drinking a "shandy" if it wasn't on the label, or would I just think it was a shitty pumpkin beer? Sweetness follows spice assuredly, followed by nothing, pretty much. It drinks easily, can be called refreshing, but I find no delight in this.

Not for me. Probably not for you, either. Or maybe it is, be your own boss. Be the pumpkin shandy-loving boss of your own life, see if I care.
Some breweries, or shanderies, spend too much effort on their marketing, compared to the amount put into their beer. This is one example.
(Sorry, I don't know what came over me.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Brooklyn Blast! IPA

Brooklyn Blast! IPA…This one's draft only, never bottled. An American/English double IPA. 9% ABV.

clear golden hue, white head, leaving lace

aroma: some citrus, some pine, but played rather lightly. sweet and bitter, in that order. A little prickly, and a lot of pleasant.

Taste: Bittersweet again, much fruit, with minor bitterness, which only returns on the palate again and again. There's mango and pomegranate and tangerine and such. Medium bitterness, medium body, maximum deliciousness. It's a big beer, and you can drink it. It's a quirky blend of fruity and earthy, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Here's how they describe it at the brewery:
"We brew our beer in New York, about halfway between the hop fields of the Pacific Northwest and the hop fields of Kent, England. So we use earthy English hops to build the foundation and bright citrusy American hops to bring the noise in the rambunctious IPA we call BLAST! British Maris Otter and German Pilsner malts lends solidity, balance and bready flavors to brace up a beer that’s beautifully hoppy, strangely quaffable and oddly compelling. Minerally hop bitterness is followed by a shock wave of flavor and aroma. You won’t even know what hit you."

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...