Monday, December 30, 2013

Hammerheart Jormangandrsblod Ale

HammerHeart JB (so reads the growler cap)…somebody's blood. J somebody. (Jormangandrsblod, I learned (because I forgot) via, and not their very out-of-date website. It means Jormang Anders Blood. Maybe. Whoever that was....Okay, I googled it, it's the Midgard Serpent in Norse mythology. I thought it had a different name. Should have read those "Thor" comic books more carefully.) A red ale of some kind. Or rye ale? We'll figure it out. If I remember right, it's about 7.5% ABV.

On the back, the following quote from The Poetic Edda"
"Tis the best of drinking if back one brings his wisdom with him home." I didn't know Yoda was Norwegian. (I'm sure it rhymes in the original.)

Appearance: highly hazed, rich burgundy coloring, reddish-brown,
big, beautiful head, drifts down, leaves lace, slightly off-white.

Aroma: Sweet malt spills out, matched ably by a handful of hops. Rich and malty. Complex and invigorating. Lively and lovable.

Taste: In the mouth, alcohol hangs hardest, malt is strong and full. Full-bodied, with rising alcohol feeling invading the all avenues of the senses. It nearly stings, and it's not even that strong. Minor hop play perceived, just enough to keep the malt in check.

Hammerheart is quite an interesting brewery. I paid them my first visit yesterday, and was impressed with their operation. Wanted to take one, maybe two growlers home, and found they were priced from $15-$30. And I had just left a new, small brewery whose growlers were all priced at $16, and thought that too high for the quality. The first tier pricing was for the lower gravity beers, but I like every other beer geek in the U.S. of A., I want the big stuff. (Luckily I got a bit of a price break.)So, they have a blonde ale, an IPA, a brown ale and others for those who just want a beer, and aren't into an intense experience.

What if a place like this wasn't so far away, what if they were right in the heart of the city? I might be there every day. They are in Lino Lakes because that's where the owners live, naturally, but they're making big and interesting enough beers that fans of the stuff are driving up there from all over. The tap room is only open two days a week, and days when I normally work, which is why it took me six months to get up there.

At yesterday's visit, there were 12 beers on tap, 4 of which were barrel-aged, bourbon and brandy. Shields and swords on the wall, as well as all manner of nordic paraphernalia. A real mix of people, too, beer geeks plus local yokels, and curious onlookers.

So, what do I think about this beer? It's bigger and bolder than any "red ale" ought to be, and this designation of a "red ale" should be merely viewed as a suggestion, only.  7.5% ABV, also, should not feel so "hot", but it does. And I am liking this, but I don't think there's any possibility I can finish this in one night. To be continued….

Green Flash Palate Wrecker Double IPA

Green Flash Palate Wrecker aka Hamilton's Ale. San Diego, CA. 9.5% Alc. by Vol. "Think About Me!" SB (Whatever that means.)

I haven't bought a lot of Green Flash since they entered our market. Most of the beers had been purchased in Wisconsin first, and it seemed like there was nothing brand new to me since they landed here. Until now, until Palate Wrecker, which I was urged to pick up pronto before it sells out. And I did. And now I'll drink it.

Clear, bright red coloring, milky white head on top, stays small, but stays it does.

Aroma: big, flowery hops presence, plenty of pine, gobs of fruit (gobs, I said, gobs!). Not too bitter, not sweet, either. Nicely balanced, I'd say.

Taste: Now it starts to slay. Intense bitterness boards the palate, with swords brandished, pistols blazing, all it's weapons cocked and ready, in for a conquering. Massive bitterness that lays waste to the tastebuds. Prickly pine and a slathering of citrus, lemon, lime, grapefruit. Intense.

Lean body, nothing to back up the hop attack, but I don't expect such from an self-proclaimed bruiser as this. Malt body takes a back seat to bitter hop punishment. High alcohol lays low at first, then roars on in.

Let's take a break and read the gobbledygook, shall we? Hmmm, it's not on the label. Swear I saw some. Found it, on the 4-pack carrier: "Palate Wrecker was originally brewed for the Hamilton's Tavern 2nd Anniversary Celebration. It's the most complicated West Coast-inspired IPA we have ever brewed--mashing and sparging with hopped wort, in addition to our hop layering regimen for IPA. By popular demand, it is now released for the world to enjoy."--Chuck S-something, Brewmaster (like I'm supposed to be able to read his signature!)

I like this. It's right on the money for what it's trying to do. Oddly, I wasn't impressed when I had the first two bottles. Maybe I just wasn't paying close attention. That can happen sometimes. If you don't really take the time to slow down and appreciate every aspect in the moment, you find yourself thinking, "yeah, yeah, hops, booze, bitterness, la, la, la…"

Colorado Guanabara Imperial Stout (Brazil)

Colorado Guanabara, Imperial Stout brewed with Black Rapadura Cane Sugar. Craft brewed in Brazil, 10% alc./vol., Cerveja Colorado, Brazil's Craftiest Brewery.

Deep, dark blackness, beautiful roasted tan head, starts big, slims down, but stays.

Aroma: richness and roast, toast, caramel doused in molasses, espresso tinges, and a touch of tobacco. All those things you want in an imperial stout.

Taste: A full-bodied affair, with a long, malty, rich finish. Hangs long on the palate, coats the tongue, slathers the back of the throat. Again, just what you want from a beer like this. Alcohol hangs out in the back at first, then comes rushing to the front. Hey, it's me, time to get groovy. And the flavor remains, again, exactly what you want from this style. Not more, not less, exactly.

I'll admit this: I am drinking this too cold, and did not set it out to warm. So, I feel that I'll enjoy it more warmer, and I'm going to set the glass and bottle aside, to move on to another beer, then return to it when it's at a higher temp. I owe it to the makers of this fine beer.

I wonder if there's gobbledygook? There is, on the back of the label, so let's read it: "Named for the breathtaking bay in front of SUGARLOAF mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara is Brazil's first Imperial Stout. Brewed with quality malt and hops, it also uses a special dark version of the native rapadura sugar, made by boiling down sugar cane juice. The result is an explosion of flavors, layered and complex, with a lightened body for added drinkability. "

So, apparently they feel the can sugar is there to lighten the body for added drinkability. What you don't want in an imperial stout is a light body, though you do appreciate easy drinkability. This is not a thick one, it is not hard to pass down the gullet, but neither would I call it's body light. It's plenty full. Certainly not a chore to choke down like a Three Floyds Dark Lord, nor would I call it especially chewy, but it's got what it takes, and that's what I like about it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lake Superior Old Man Winter Warmer Barley-wine

Lake Superior Brewing Company Old Man Winter Warmer Barley-wine. My first entry here for this brewery, that's been around nearly 20 years.

Here's a Minnesota favorite that I've been enjoying for many years, but my records show that I took notes on it for the first time in 2007, when I tapped a keg of it at the Blue Nile.

Oddly enough, it appears that it was in March of that year that I wrote these notes. I received a keg a year for a few, then never heard any more about it. I haven't had it in years, because it seems to disappear just when I'm not our shopping in the stores. I grabbed a 6-pack the other day to re-acquaint myself with it. First, here are those old notes:

Poured from one of only two kegs in the Twin Cities this year, and this is the first year I've even heard of it being available here...I may be wrong, though, ...

Utterly opaque chestnut brown, a toasty warm hue, with a slim cap of foam holding tight on top. 

Aroma hits all the notes I dig in a barleywine (which this is. Despite the punning name, it's not a "winter warmer"...even says "barleywine" on the label.) Burnished cherry, cognac, leather, deep plums and ripe raisins. Sweet to be sure, but complex, even cavernous. 

Taste: a gritty, grippy malty affair, lots of play on the tongue, lots of treats for the palate to toss about. Here comes the fruit, some cherry, berry, grape, and then the dark side trickles over, it gets wicked and more deeply delicious. Very wine-like in parts, somewhat close to a port, and then like a beefy burgundy. 

Full-bodied, with a long, sweet, rich fruity finish. Alcohol isn't as huge as you'd think, but it creeps in and does the trick. This is an excellent "winter warming" barleywine...I can certainly appreciate it in the depth of winter, and welcome the comfort it brings.


Kasteel Winter Ale

Kasteel Winter, Belgian Ale, Ingelmunster, Castle Brewery, Van Honsebrouck, Belgium. 11 % ABV. bottled on 07/10/13. No further information, no gobbledygook. Guess we have to open it up and drink it. Sigh. Tough work. (I've since checked the brewery's website, and it's not listed there yet.)

Appearance: Jet black, fully opaque, slimmed tannish head.

Aroma: Espresso, cocoa, dates and figs. A little vanilla below. Many layers of complexity.

Taste: Hmm. Major coffee flavor. Rich, roasted malt. This doesn't give me what I love about the other Kasteel beers, namely the exquisite Belgian yeast strains. I'm sure it's in there somewhere, but this coffee flavor blankets over all in this. I like coffee beers, to be sure, but don't expect them or desire them in winter seasonals or Belgian brews. Sometimes you have to shed your expectations, drop your desires, and merely enjoy what is, for what it is. And this appears to be a Belgian coffee stout, which is a unique creature, and quite a good one at that.

Full bodied, long, malty, coffee-ful finish. (Yes, I invented a new word.) There's got to be other spices here, as well, for I'm feeling that, too, a bit more in the flavor than merely coffee. But that remains the main flavor component, and it really shines. Alcohol is not felt strongly, but give it time, it'll come.

I continue in, and the coffee flavor only gets stronger and bolder, and I find myself more and more enamored of it. Mmm, I say. Ah, I reply to myself. Oooh, I conclude.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Indeed Mosaic Fresh Hop Ale

Indeed Mosaic Fresh Hop Ale 2013.

Last year, Indeed came out with a fresh hop ale brewed with Centennials. This year, they did two, the second with Mosaic, that new hop that's making the scene.
This  came out in October, and the keg waited in our cooler until now. Better tap it while it's still fresh(-ish).

Clear, bright golden hue, big, beautiful, dotted white frothy head.

Aroma: sweet and bitter together. melon and pineapple plus apricot and peach. Delightful. Lovely. Ah….

Taste: Starts out mild, then the hop flavor starts to build. Fresh, vibrant, and full of tropical fruit flavors. Mellow mouthfeel, not too bitter, but very lively in the mouth. Lingering bitterness on the back of palate is juuust right.

There's another note in the flavor from this hop that is hard to pin down, but the description from the brewery keeps calling it "blueberry." And that's the closest thing I can think of, but it's not quite really that, though it does faintly remind you of that fruit. That's what beer tasting is all about, really, finding the closest thing you can to describe a particular flavor element, even if it is echoes away.

Lean bodied, clean, and ever-so easy to drink. (only 5.2% ABV.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Festivus 2013: Imperial Wit Bier

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Festivus 2013, as per their website: "Festivus!!! 8.9% ABV, A "holiday favorite for the Rest of Us." (Despite that it changes from year to year.) This beer changes every year. (Again, how does that make it a favorite?) 2014 version (?????) is an Imperial Wit Beer. Big on Everything! Orange, alcohol, wheat."

8.9% ABV. Kind of big for a wibier.

I bought a growler last Wednesday, and I took it down tonight. Here are the notes:

Festivus 2013. Imperial Wit. Double the everything, the orange, the spice, the wheat, I guess, and definitely the booze.

Let's drink pour it out and drink it up.
Clouded, deep orange, slight and soon-gone white head.

Aroma: Citrus, spice, and alcohol. Floral and fruit notes emerge, mix with coriander, and blend with booze.

Taste: Wheat flavor is large in this, spice is high, and orange peel takes command. More than anything, booze is king. If been on record, here and elsewhere, about my dislike for this "style", or the very idea of "imperializing" this style. Smooth malt texture, supple body, expertly drinkable, if you don't count the high alcohol. Orange is the dominant flavor, but it can barely keep up with the hootch.

You know what: it tastes great, but I'm stuck with the fact I like these flavors better when the brew is lower alcohol and a breeze to toss back. Not a big boomer bruiser on the brain. I'm drinking this wishing the flavors were more delicate, and I wasn't as worried about my sobriety.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Colorado Vixnu Imperial IPA

Vixnu Imperial IPA, pronounced like Vishnu, the Hindu deity, but this is in Portugese, for we are having a beer from the Cervejaria (Portugese for Brewery, I presume) Colorado, of Ribeirao-Preto, Brazil. What, a craft brewery from Brazil? Why, I've never heard the like! In fact, I don't believe it! I won't even try it, it defies all logic! (That's how people are sometimes.)

So there's a Brazilian brewery called Colorado that has an Imperial IPA called Vixnu, and I'm drinking it straight off the tap.

Lightly clouded golden hue, vast, plump, creamy white head. Looks fantastic.

Pungent pineapple, mango, tropical fruit aromatics, lemon and lime zest, fairly moderate bitterness. Beautiful.

Taste: On the palate, not shy in the hop department. Light, biscuit-y malt body. Little bit of sweetness. Golden Promise? Soft, supple, smooth. Easy-going, despite the high ABV. And tons of American hop flavors and dazzling bitterness.
Delivers in full exactly what you want from this style. Loads of tropical delights and tons of bracing, bristling bitterness, what every hop head desires. Even coming from Brazil. It's delicious and delightful. Personally, I think this does as good of a job at ripping up the palate with bitterness and dropping fruity flavors as any of the great double IPAs. Even if it is from Brazil.

Come one, you people, soon there won't be anywhere where good beer doesn't come from. (That makes sense, right?)

Hammerheart British Invasion English-style Pale Ale

Hammerheart British Invasion, Hammerheart Brewing Company, Lino Lakes, MN. 6% ABV.
My first growler from them, courtesy of Dave A. I'm about to tap our first keg of theirs at the Blue Nile, also, in a week or so. Same beer. But, Dave didn't know that. Actually, I told him, but he probably forgot. So, anyway, I don't have to wait until then, I can drink it up now, hurray! (Thanks, of course, for the gift, Dave. )

I think this is supposed to be an English-style Pale Ale? But there's nothing pale about it, cloudy, impenetrably so, dark, chocolate-y brown,  with a slim, milky-white head. I hear that filtering is
something that just isn't done at Hammerheart. Fine by me.

Aroma: sweet, rich malt-y flavors hit the nose first. Even-keeled as can be, with light hops. Delightful stuff.

Tasting it: Now the hops appear, pouncing on the palate. Fresh, lively, green and screamingly bitter attack on the tongue. Stays long. Grassy, and slightly citric. And it butts right up against this intriguing malt body. Getting creamy now, smooth and tasty, with hops keeping pace.

Good ale, this. Much malt, and highly hopped, with plenty of yeast character, at turns, hoppy, sweet, and dry. And utterly unlike any other beer. Fits the ancient, rustic theme this brewery thrives on.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Alesmith Yulesmith Winter Holiday Ale

Alesmith Yulesmith. All of the Alesmith beers I've recently purchased have been beers I've already tried, via trades, over the years. I thought this would be the same until I noticed that the Yulesmith that I sampled so many years ago was listed under Alesmith Yulesmith Summer, not Winter. This appears to be winter. And why shouldn't it? I bought it in winter. The brand wasn't available in Wisconsin in summer. And the label has Winter Holiday Ale on the label. And away we go.

Clear, bright crimson hue, , large and long head, puffy, creamy foam, leaving lace.

Aroma: malt-tastic, fruit-ariffic, a touch of vanilla, a whiff of cherry. Cocoa lurks below, caramel, too. A mystical mix. Ever-so hoppy.

Taste: Big fat mix of malt and a generous spattering of hops. Lots of caramel malt and toffee tastes below, with cirtus-y notes up above. yum. Big, chocolately malt, prodigious hoppiness. It's a So-Cal Christmas. Tast-ee. Yum-ee. So terribly complex and delicious. Love it.

there's a lot of red ink on a brown bottle. I can't read it. On the bottom, above the web address it says: "Serve in a pint at 50-55 degrees." I think the temperature is okay, but is a "pint" really what you want to recommend? Whatever, I did it in a "tulip." So sorry.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

August Schell Framboise du Nord: Noble Star #2, Berliner Weisse with Raspberries

August Schell Noble Star Collection: Framboise du Nord Berlin-style wheat ale with raspberries added. August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, MN. Bottled October '13. Ale aged in wood.

Bright, ruby red, opaque, short pink head.

aroma: tart and fruity, wheat, with lots of raspberry aromatics. Intriquing, arresting.

Taste: Big, dry sourness on the palate at first. The nose did a switcher, as you'd think you'd be met with sweetness. Fruit is adding some sweetness, just enough to keep the tart at, let's say, half-bay. Well-attentuated, with sweetness held back, only contributing flavor, and creating balance. The first Noble Star, the Berliner Weisse, sans fruit, was a full-on explosion of sourness. A crazy attack of the dry and tart wheat ale that is so rare to find. Hey, they explain the whole process on that little card around the neck. Here it is:

This would make a great after-dinner toast for a gathering of friends. Me, I'm drinking it solo, so I can take these notes, but at around $13 a bottle, it is best reserved for celebrations and sharing with your best pals. It's an intensive ale, exceedingly sour, and exceptionally dry. I like it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ter Dolen Kriek

Ter Dolen Kriek. Discover the Red "Ter Dolen Kriek", with it's mellow, sweet taste, and it's rich fruity flavor. Made with 100% real kriek juice. Product of Belgium. Ale brewed with spices and with natural flavor added. Kasteel brouwerij, Tilburg's Belgian Ale. Alc. 4.5% by Vol."

Bright ruby red, thoroughly opaque, slim white head.

Aroma: just a touch of tart, then juicy, pulp-y sweetness of the cherry. Fruit flavor is rich, but it ends on a dry note.

Taste: Puckeration at first, tart, lightly sour, then sliding off. Light bodied, but fully flavored. Ever so fruit-y. Refreshing, but just a little one-dimensional. Made with juice, not real cherries, unsure of the fermentation. As I continue throughout the drink, I'm less than impressed. It never says "limbic" anywhere on the label, which makes it a cherry ale, without the wildness.

Eh. That's how I'll leave it. Not bad, just nothing more than …eh.

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout

Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout, Malt Beverage aged in Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrels, Boonville, CA. Bahl Hornin' since 1987. Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville, CA. 22 Fl. oz., 6.9% alc. by Vol.

Denseness, darkness, utter blackness, Under a large toasted tan head, that drifts down just a little bit, settles into a tight, brown ring.

Aroma: Rich, roasted malts turn out before being quickly subsumed by bourbon-ness. Mollasses, char, raisins, carob, a little vanilla, and a bit of black cherry. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Taste: Boom, boom, there it is: thickness and richness of the bourbon barrels all over the palate. Plump and full and ending a bit on the dry side. And there's the cherry, there's the vanilla, there's the roast and the toast. Mmmm. Not quite so full bodied, pretty much medium-ish….lots of tastiness. Easy-drinking. Not too strong, this one. Lot of bourbon barrel beers are imperial stouts, this one is regular stout. And it's awfully nice.

Is there any gobbledygook? None. Who needs it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Toppling Goliath Dorothy's New World Lager

Toppling Goliath Brewing Company Dorothy's New World Lager. "Live Beer, Please Keep Refrigerated." Hand Crafted in Decorah, Iowa. 5.5% alc. by Vol.

Clouded, golden hued, with a bit of snow white head, that starts as something, but ends small and slight.

Aroma: Clean and malty, slightly sweet, certain cereal notes.

Taste: More clean, and plenty crisp. Snappy. Light bodied, lightly malty. A neat little blessing of hops. Just enough. And plenty of yeast to keep my tongue tantalized. I may have said it before, but I'll say it again: I'll always like an unfiltered lager more than a filtered one. Kellerbier, zwickel, whatever you want to call them, they give the flavor filtered lagers don't. Tasty stuff. Good beer, and you can drink it. Nice one, Dorothy.

Hey, wait's the label say? "Named after our founder's grandmother, Dorothy's is our "classic beauty." She is easy going, mild in body and clean in taste. Each sip charms the senses with distinct flavor and refreshing simplicity. Just like Grandma Dorothy, our unfiltered flagship lager is forever dear to our hearts."

Aw…so sweet. Grandma Dorothy would surely be proud.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Smuttynose Rhye IPA

Smuttynose Rhye IPA , The Smuttynose BIG BEER Series, Brewed & Bottled by Smuttynose Brewing Company, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
1 pint, 6 fluid ounces of ale. No ABV given. Smuttynose belongs to that special club that like to keep it a secret.

Clouded, orange cast, big, beautiful, fluffy white head. Looking great.

Citrus-y, hop forward nose, fresh and zesty. We're getting a little bit of the rye malt aromatics, but not a lot. Lightly bitter, altogether pleasant.

Taste: Mmmm. Big blast of hoppiness right off the top. Clean, light to medium bodied, with a little bit of pepper-y rye malt flavor coming through. Mmm, I said it again. Tasty, tasty IPA. Never too much, easy-drinking, very satisfying.

How about that gobbledygook? "Our Rhye IPA bulls it's way into our lineup because we love really hoppy beers and were looking for an opportunity to play with rye malt and add a big boatload of hops. Would a rhino enjoy the big flavor? We don't know, but let us know if you found out."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Great Lakes / Deschutes Class of '88 Collaboration: Imperial Smoked Porter

Great Lakes/Deschutes Class of '88: Imperial Smoked Porter, 9% ABV.

Nearly solid black, peeking out crimson edges, under a lush, creamy coco-toned head.

Smoked malt pops out into the nose first. Someone's frying up the bacon. Hearty malt aromatics hold on to the bottom. Cocoa, caramel, toffee delights at the tip of this cornucopia.

Taste: rich and roasty malt flavor holds court, a big blend of dark malt flavors, with the smoked malt as cream on top. Full bodied. Low hop bitterness. Long, luxurious finish. Creamy and smooth, despite would could be perceived as an extreme flavor. Alcohol isn't felt until…whoop, there it is.

This was one of the porters among the line-up for the StoutFest 2013 event we held back in early November, and once again, I'm grabbing a glass before it's gone. This is one style that divides people. A lot of folks loved, others found it way too smokey for them. If that's the case, probably any smoke is too much. I think it's just right. I like this one big time.

Go ahead and get yourself a bomber. You deserve it.

wait, maybe I chose the wrong glass?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ale Asylum Satisfaction Jacksin Double India Pale Ale

Ale Asylum Satisfaction Jacksin {sic} Double IPA. Ale Asylum, Madiosn, WI.
Like every Ale Asylum bottle, no information about ABV is included, or even hinted at. It's the Wisconsin way. There is a spot for a "Best Enjoyed By" date, but it is blank. (8.5%, we eventually learned.)

Dark ruby coloration, clear, solid, lasting creamy white head on top.

Aroma: grapefruit rind, lemon and lime. Prickly pine on the side. Pretty nice, so far.

Taste: Hop bomb from the get-go. Medium-bodied. Boldly bitter hoppitude commands the palate. Bright and juicy with plenty of malt to hold it all down. Am I satisfied? Fairly, though not overly. Not as much as the dude on the label illustration, that's for sure.

Hey, what do they tell us on the label, what's the gobbledygook? "Three pounds of centennial hops per barrel give our double IPA a slightly punishing yet entirely pleasing bitterness that dances on the tongue. Satisfaction is brewed with passion and is best enjoyed that way."

It's actually fairly easy-drinking, says this hop-head. Not really punishing. Or am I just jaded?
 A good-drinking double IPA, nothing earth-shaking, world-toppling, or regime-changing happening here. Sometimes things work out that way, to our satisfaction, or not.

New Belgium/Cigar City Collaboration Ale: Lips of Faith

New Belgium/Cigar City Lips of Faith Series, Ale Brewed with Anaheim and Marash Chilies. Odd that there's no name…am I not looking in the right spot? 8.5% Alc. by Vol. Brewed and bottled by New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Clear, golden hue, prodigious snowy white head. Looks good.

Aroma: Light and airy with little traces of chili peeking out. Give it time…ripening some. Unfolding a bit.

Taste: Hot at the first taste, growing wider in the mouth. Peppers keep heating up. Body is light. Malt is meager. Hops are fairly quiet. What's the deal with this one?

I'm skipping ahead to the gobbledygook, hoping it doesn't enrage me with whack-ass wordplay. "We're about to light up Florida with this Cigar City collaborative brew. Our Belgian yeast tangoes with Anaheim and Marash peppers along with loads of citrusy hops to create an ale full of spice. Aged on Spanish cedar to salute our mutual love for wood!"

Well, that wasn't totally offensive, just a little bit here and there. The light it does shine on the base beer doesn't really help. The Belgian yeast doesn't come through, nor do the hops. The pepper heat is increasing still, enough that it seems to cover the base ale to the point that I'm not tasting anything else.

If you just want to taste peppers in your ale, this might punch your buttons. As for me, I'm not thrilled with this one. C'est la vie.

Excelsior Bitteschlappe Brown Ale

What's a Bitteschlappe? I went to on the internets and found that nine out of the first 10 links provided in a search related to this beer, and the tenth was in German. I had no time to search further, so I'll leave that quest for another time. The main thing we know for sure is that it is a brown ale from Excelsior Brewing, and here are my notes:

Excelsior Brewing Company Bitteschlappe Brown Ale, 6.5% ABV., 22 fluid ounces.

Is this my first Excelsior beer on here? I think so. Don't recall ever picking up one. If so, cheers to that, then!

Clear, caramel brown, slim, slightly tanned head.

Aroma: soft, nutty, creamy. Pleasant.

Taste: light bitter hop bite right off the bat, then malt takes command and all is smoothness. With a smack of sweetness, a lick of caramel, ending just this side of dry. Continues with sweetness in each continuing sip, that never quite quits, nor does it cloy.

I'm thinking this Excelsior Brewing Company is a bit boat obsessed. There appears to be one in their logo, the label illustration is a pier, and their motto seems to be "Choose Your Craft!" Underneath it we read this: "Bitteschlappe Brown Ale. A medium-bodied, smooth, dark ale. robustly malted with lots of Vienna malt, flavors of caramel, toffee, coco in the finish. this Munich inspired ale will slap you silly with malt flavor and aroma. You may call it what you will, but call on it you will. Brewed and bottled in Excelsior, Minnesota by Excelsior Brewing Company, LLC."

And I thought it was called Excelsior Brewing because they were members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. Face front, true believers, as Stan Lee would say. Well, you can't win them all.

But you can't lose with this ale, though (how about that segue, huh?) …good beer and you can drink it! Excelsior!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

De Proef/Cigar City Collaboration: Tropical Tripel

Tropical Tripel. De Proef and Cigar City (Tampa, FL) met up in Belgium and collaborated on this one, using trappist yeast, brettanomyces, dried peaches, and toasted coconut, aging it on oak. I've had a keg of this on tap for a couple of weeks now, and had better take notes now before it runs out. (And I'm forced to spend money on a bomber.)

Appearance: Clear, bright golden hued, lush, creamy white head, leaving lace behind. Looks great.

Aroma: Sour hits first, with sweet swiftly on it's heels. An intriguingly wicked funky twist from the yeast, Brux III, they tell us, with the fruit closing in from behind. Oak effects rounds it out, holds it in, keeps it nailed down. Liking this.

Taste: Here, the sour twist and the sweet peach notes come together and land on the palate just so. Floods the mouth with complexities and delights. So many interesting tricks on the tongue. A little wild, a bit fruity, graced with the barrel's work. So many things happening that I don't notice when the 9.5% ABV comes barreling down on the brain. Boom, boom. Okay, take it slow….but, it tastes so good…come on, slow it down…you can do it.

Apart from that alcoholic spike, I really dig this one. The coconut does not stick out in the least, lays in the background, meshed with the peach profile. Hops are doing their own thing, too, but the yeast, fruit and oak are the true stars here. So tasty, so delicious, I am loving this. One of my favorite new beers. Favorite new beer of 2013? Maybe I should think about that? I totally forgot to in the past two years. Maybe, maybe.

Get a bomber, put on your swimsuit, hit the plastic pool, and put some zinc on your nose. Me, I'm enjoying this on tap before I head out into…hold on, now…nine degrees below zero. Yes, December in Minnesota. The Tropical Tripel will fortify me before I head off into the frozen wasteland. Wish me luck…

Here's more info from the label: "Tropical Tripel was brewed with a classic Trappist yeast and the lesser known Brux III strain of Brettanomyces. During the boil Magnum and Simcoe hops were added along with Belgian candy sugar and lactose for added mouthfeel, then it's finished with additions of toasted cocoanut, dried peaces, and medium toasted oak. We hope you enjoy this collaboration of brewing styles, cultures, and climates!" 9.5% ABV.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dave's BrewFarm BFF II (BrewFarm Funk #2)

Dave's BrewFarm Funk II (BFF-II), 5.5% ABV. Last time I was the ye olde  BrewFarm, BFF II was on tap, and BFF I was in growlers. Look what happened this time, I got to enjoy some BFF III on tap, and took this guy home with me. This creates a pattern. Where will we go from here? Where will we go.

I don't know, I just want to drink it.

Lightly hazed, ruby-tinged slim head.

Aroma: Tart 'n' funky. Fruity, but dry, not sweet. Vegetal notes. Remarkably singular.

Taste: Clean hop presence, a tight and tidy buzz, with fruity malt that end dry, and stays crazy. A little bit of creaminess interjects among the fruit.
Who brought the funk? Where did it come from? I'm going to jump ahead, and find out what Farmer Dave says…."Another tart -n- tasty BFF! Pils, abbey, Ashburne Mild and Aromatic malts, hopped with Warrior, Nugget and Simcoe hops and fermented with a Belgian strain. Pairs well with cured meats and creamy cheese!"

I'll have to take their word for that. I've already eaten, and now I'm just drunken'.
So, no certain word about what caused the funkification, but I'd place a wager on that "Belgian yeast strain." Lacto-? ( I say, because I can't spell baccylyccus.)
Body on this one is lean, funk fades just a bit off the palate, fruit and hoppiness stay around for a welcome while.

 If I were a true beer geek, I'd be complaining right now. "Where is the SOUR?!?! How dare you call this a SOUR?" "This is not "IN MY FACE"! It's not even in YOUR face!" "This is not funky enough! This isn't Bootsy Collins, it's PHIL COLLINS!"

That is the sort of things they'd say, if they were clever. In case you didn't know, this type of character that I've drawn is my mortal enemy. One of this type visited my bar one day, several years ago, when I had Two Brothers/Urthel's Moaten Flanders Red Ale on tap. It was described by the brewers as a lighter take on the style. That wasn't good enough for him. "They never should have released it, it's TERRIBLE!" (He didn't even drink any at this visit, had made up his mind earlier from a small sample at a liquor store tasting.)I later saw him at the "Where The Wild Beers Are" event that fall and he said to me: "I didn't know You like sours, Al. After all, You had Moaten on tap."

Those are the times when I wish life was a cartoon, and you could slide a chair under someone's ass, then, with a press of your own private EJECT button, send them flying into the stratosphere.

But, back to the beer:
In short, I like it. It is super groovy. Totally cool, especially supple, fine and lovely.
Yum, yum, yum. I do wish I had those meats and cheese, though. Maybe next time.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Schell's Snowstorm 2013: Belgian Style Golden

Good time to for a Snowstorm, after our first major one of the year. And what do you know, they made another Belgian style, those fine folks at August Schell Brewing Company, this one a Golden Ale.

Maybe you read that stuff in my Summit Unchained # 14 about the need for a tulip glass, and the lack of a properly branded one. I actually used to have a Schell's tulip, long, long ago, and I cherished it, but, like so many pieces of glassware I used to love, they were called home. Oddly enough, it was branded for that Schell's ale that still confounds those who remember, the German-style Pale Ale. I only have two pint glasses from Schell's, nothing else. So, I'll dip into my vast Belgian glassware collection.

(Man, aren't you glad I don't dwell on this crap, every time? I wish that I had the right glass for every occasion, but where do I keep them all? Someday, I dream, the data cloud from the internet will enter the real world, and we''l be able to tap into our own private pocket universes, you know, to keep our stuff. Come on, scientists, work on it)

Blah, blah, blah, let's drink some beer, and let's make it a Schell's Snowstorm 2013. Hopefully it's a Belgian Style Golden Ale, Ale Brewed with Spices. And don't tell me about it's alcoholic strength, it's probably best that I have to search that information out on my own. Don't have any details on the 6-pack carrier, either, make sure that that packaging is so generic you can buy 10 years worth at once, and store them. Save money that way.

Man, does it look good in a Duvel glass Long-lasting, normlarge, bone-white head, clear, golden cast appearance, lace-leaving, though it takes some time to drift down. Fantastic.

Aroma: Ah! Bright and spicy, light and lovely. Just enough hops to tantalize the nose. Spices are just a little different from what I'm used to in a BGA (coriander, yes, chamomile, huh? Sure, why not.)

Taste: More ah. More mmmm. Light bodied, smooth malty body, (pilsner malts, I'm guessing)with just enough hops, just enough spice to make this a rewarding, tasty delight.

What do they say on the label neck, short and succinct, as always: "Coriander and chamomile add soothing herbal notes to this year's Snowstorm recipe. It is smooth and light in color, with a floral maltiness and warm rich spiciness."

You know what, it sure as heck does have all that.

Summit Unchained #14: Biere de Garde

Summit Unchained No. 14: Biere de Garde. Brewed by Jeff Williamson, who produced a fine version of a BdG when he was brewing at the brewery he founded, Flat Earth, also of St. Paul, MN.

I'm stuck on the subject of what glass to use. I have about 4 different Summit pint glasses, a dimpled mug made for Winter Ale, and a weizen-style glass for Hefe Weizen. They made a special glass for the Unchained Series when the Golden Ale came out, but it was not a tulip or a chalice or a snifter, more like a Willi Becher glass, the kind saisons sometimes use, similar to a pilsner glass. I no longer have mine, broke it one day. I'll blame myself, not Rollie the Cat.

So, the beautifully designed label suggests that we should use a tulip glass, or something similar. Which they've never made. Make one, Summit, and send one to me…pronto! Please. ("Best served in a tulip glass", the 6-pack carrier tells us, and I have many of those, but I want a Summit-branded one.)

I decided to go with the Winter Ale mug because I've never photographed a beer with it. Haven't even used it in years. Bought it on the occasion of my first visit to the original brewery back in the mid-90's. Used it as my tip jar when I was a bartender at the Guthrie Theater Dram Shop. Nostalgia has a strong pull.

Dark, mahogany brown coloring, big, lasting, creamy tan head. Looks great.

Malty nose, lightly spicy, bready. Absolutely inviting. Ooo, la, la.

Taste: Spices hit the palate first, followed by malty flavors, bread-y, biscuit-y. Lean bodied, with a slightly alcoholic bent. Spice and malt flavors meet with hops in the mouth, for a pleasurable menage-a-trois. Tres chic. Voulez-vous avez avec moi, c'est soiree?

Long, spicy finish, from hops and malt. Ever so tasty. Magnifique.
Would you like to hear more French words? Watch this: Summit Unchained Youtube video.

Toppling Goliath Smoove Opferator

TG Smoove Opferator brown ale. Named for a brewer by the name of Chad Opfer.

Appearance: So brown I'd think it was black. Under a toasty tan creamy head. Utterly opaque. Looking great.

Aroma: Ah! Toast and roast. Much malt, little hops. A little nutty, traces of anise, a deep and wonderful nose. Chocolate and espresso…this does not have the marks of a typical brown ale in the least.

Taste: Big, bountiful malt, with a bracing spray of hops on the palate. Bright and hoppy on the tongue, with loads of luscious, caramel-y  malt hanging tight on the bottom. It's a brown ale with all the trimmings, reaching into stout-dom. Medium-bodied, bold flavored, brisk carbonation. Many dimensions of taste, far more than you'd expect from any average brown ale. You're never going to say to yourself, "eh, it's a brown." Not gonna happen.

So satisfying, so rich and delicious. I am four for four with Toppling Goliath, not a single unsatisfactory or even only mildly enjoyed beer among them. Call me a fan.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Toppling Goliath Golden Nugget IPA

Toppling Goliath Gold Nugget India Pale Ale, Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, Decorah, Iowa.  6% ABV. 56 IBU.

Another trip to Wisconsin on a Sunday, another visit to Casanova's in Hudson, another chance to get a growler fill of Toppling Goliath beer. And this time, I remembered the growlers. I've had a sample of this from a bottle brought to me by Dave Anderson (not David Anderson, of Dave's BrewFarm, the other one, the one who comments on here from time to time, yeah, I mentioned you Dave, what are you going to do about it?) And now I have 64 ounces all to my self for a mere $9.99. What a steal! They're crazy over there! (I might have to pay as much as $20 for a growler fill of Cuvee des Jacobins, though.)

Time to tell about the beer, isn't it? I've been typing away this whole time, with glass beneath my nose tantalizing me…let's get to it!

Crystal clear and bright golden, under a a pearl white cap of foam, looking luscious.

Aromatics are bursting out all over. I could guess the hop(s), but I don't know if I'd get it right, so let's just throw it out there, in order of possible likelihood: 1. Amarillo, 2. Citra, 3. Cascade. {I'm an idiot. It's Nugget hops, along with 4 unmentioned others,  and Golden Promise malt. Of course it is.}All kinds of juicy citric goodness, lemon and lemon are outshone by pineapple and mango and other tropical delights. Resiny, piney bitter traces are also present, but stay off to the sidelines. Gorgeous nose that continues to unfold it's flavors.

Taste: Hoppy at the fore, a terrific buzz on the palate, and a flavor that hangs in for the long haul. Bright, shiny, a treat on the tongue. Malt body is lean and clean, leaving the hops to do their thing. How damnably delicious is this? A lot, that's how much.

Here's a little ol' official blurb about it: "This spectacularly golden, medium bodied IPA was crafted from a winning combination of Golden Promise malt and Nugget hops.

Fall in love with the big hop aroma of our Golden Nugget as it mingles with fragrances of citrus and evergreen, followed by a floral sweetness. Tropical fruit flavors entice your taste buds before immediately captivating you with a bold, hop forward taste and a pleasant bitterness that lingers in the finish."

Damn, it's good.

Alesmith IPA

More delicious West Coast IPA magnificence brought over from Wisconsin, the India Pale Ale from Alesmith of San Diego, CA. Notes were originally written in December of 2003:

Lovely bright reddish hue, a full, opaque orangish color, with a good, whitish head.

Aroma: lively hop component, fresh, alert and awake, buzzing with grapefruity notes, full with fruit.

Taste: mmm, buzzing with nicely fruity hops, a constant hoppy delivery on the palate, yum, yum, yum, sharp, bright, delicious, juicy...did I say "yum"??

Nicely lingering finish, fully flavored, unstoppably delcious...seriously, this is one IPA you can sit down and get familiar with.

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 ...