Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley Wine-style Ale

You know what
beer I love that I haven't had in a while? Great Divide's Old Ruffian Barley Wine-style Ale, that's what. Brewed and bottled by Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado. Bottled on: Dec. 13, 2013. 10.2% by Vol. In true Great Divide fashion, two words accompany the beer name: Hefty. Hoppy.

Here are my original notes from back in February, 2005:

Aroma: Pours out a deep crimson, though clear, coloration, and has an enormous head, huge, cocoa-colored, long-standing, lovely...and, would you believe, the bottleneck bubbled over, with bubbles after the pour!  Leaves considerable, and attractive, lacing, as it diminishes, as well.

Aroma: huge, rich, full of flavor, a jar full of toffee with butterscotch dipped in for fun, with chocolate cherries on the side, and a snit of brandy waiting in the rafters.

Taste: big, bold, and boozy. Huge, rich, and full, utterly dripping in dark fruits, caramel, toffee, and so much character that pretenders tremble in it's wake ...seriously, this is a true contender amongst the ranks of fine American barley-wines.  Large fruity/hoppy characteristic. Damnably tasty...I must take another sip...dastardly delicious...yet nearly thick with flavor, ...yum, the intensity of flavor does not detract from the overall deliciousness...big, rich, and mighty...a damned good barley-wine.
I've got to stick some away for a rainy day.

Let's look at the label: "Old Ruffian is a hefty, hop-forward Barley Win-style Ale. Seemingly mellow at the start with subtle fruit aromas and complex caramel sweetness, it quickly becomes aggressive with it's bold hop flavors and huge hop bitterness. Ultimately, the big body, succulent sweetness and massive hop character came together to work wonders on your palate. 90 IBU."

 Then, some medals. Then some food pairings. And that's about it. And, 10 years after, I agree. It's a classically monstrous barley-wine in the American fashion. Love it.

Dave's BrewFarm 007

Dave's BrewFarm 007. 5.6% ABV.

Appearance: clear, bright amber color, large and lasting, creamy white head, leaving lace, looking lovely.

Aroma: Hops hit first, crystal clear and clean, fruity esters shining through, along with citrus hop notes, touches of the tropical. Nice.

Taste: Hops dance again on the palate, though their presence is downplayed. Malt sweetness takes the stage and they meet halfway. Excellent balance, consummate drinkability. Medium body, long hoppy finish. Tasty stuff. In a class of it's own.

What's Farmer Dave say? "Not as much mystery and intrigue as Mr. Bond, this German ale is well-hopped with Columbus, Nugget, and Brewer's Gold hops, Pale and Caramel-20 malts and fermented with "#1007" yeast (but I shortened it to make it "intriguing…").

More I drink it, the more I dig it. Beautiful.

Lagunitas the Hairy Eyeball

Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball. Perihelial Release. (Whatever that means.) IBU 56.66. OG 1.090. Alc. 9.1% by Vol. The Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California.

I'm looking at notes from March, 2005, while I drink, checking to see if it stands up:

Appearance: Clear, crimson coloring, with a healthy tan head on top.

Aroma: rich and sweet, port-like, dark fruits, yeast, and spice. Heady.

Tastes: Huge flavor, dark fruits aplenty, cherries and grapes, berries and melons, lush and and tasty....zing, zing, zing, zoom, zoom, zoom...very tasty...9%? 'zat'all? Full bodied, long, rich, fruity finish.

A really nice barley-wine. Creamy, richly rewarding, just like a barley-wine ought to be...big thumbs up from me. (3/21/05)

On on 12/12/14, I say, yeah, that about says it, and it's still delicious.

Bell's Porter

Bell's Porter. Alc. 5.6% by Vol. We're looking at nearly 12 year old notes, from January, 2003:

Nearly black in color, with a full, dark tan head.

Aroma is rich and roasty, toasty, even slightly burnt.

Taste: Dark chocolate comes out on top, with hints of nuts and spices. Full-bodied, good texture, with loads of tingly hops. A fine rendition of the style.
1/14/03. What we have there is a more restrained, less hyperbolic review than those that I did around about then.

Label gobbledygook: "A robust porter brewed from a tasty blend of dark malts with a rich, roasted flavor. Enjoy it anytime, like now, for instance."

Bell's Amber Ale

Before I share with you some notes from April, 2003, there's something I need to explain. At that time, the purple-hued labels of the Amber Ale from Bell's featured a drawing of a heron. Now, they use a watercolor of trees, clouds, a lake. Also, I can no longer see myself tossing back a million of them, although it's a fine amber ale, I've lost the appetite for more than a few. Must. Have. Hops!

So, here are those dusty, but trusty, nearly 12 year old notes on what was once considered the flagship beer from Bell's, with some hyperbole tones down a bit…

I always seem to have unresolved questions for the Kalamazoo Brewing Company, and right now it's: what's the significance of the heron? Maybe it's the Michigan state bird, and I'm just an idiot...This was introduced to me as not only the "flagship" brew of Kalamazoo, but "the beer Larry drinks." Then I found out that when the K'zoo crew really get to partying, it's hard liquor...

Color is hazy orange, bordering on brown, and the head is a good inch thick, properly white.

Aroma is sprucey, piney, full of hops, fruity, but mainly pineapple and citrus. There's a touch of tart, but it's mostly sweet.

On the palate, nothing but smooth, smooth, smooth. Malt looms large in this ale, but it's perfectly matched. Hops are tingly, tasty, and not quickly forgotten. I can see tossing back a million of these.


Here's the tale the gobbledygook tells: "First brewed in 1985, Bell's Amber Ale embodies the heritage of our brewery and celebrates the nature of the Great Lakes region." Alc. 5.8% by Vol.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Lagunitas Brown Shugga'

Lagunitas Brown Shugga' Ale,  Sweet Release, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California.

Appearance: bright amber coloring, with a big, lasting off-white head.

Aroma: Sweetness first, with hops laying low here, nice and malty.

Taste: Now we're getting started. Begins plump and powerful, a rich, caramel-toned malt explosion. There's a sharp edge to it, revealing a higher alcohol level. Is it merely 9.9%, is that all it is? I'm getting the brown sugar, but it's more toffee and rich, dark fruit notes, a little bit of hop bite shining through. Tasty, tasty ale, this one.

This is, as they say on the label, a unique ale, not really fitting any style or category, a thing unto itself. And I like it.

I first wrote about this beer in January of 2006. Looking back on those old notes, they seem like they were written by an idiot man-child. I will soon destroy them and erase them from the memories of all mankind. For now, I will fade back and luxuriate in the deliciousness.

"We believe this special ale is Something Unique. Feeding brown cane sugar to otherwise cultured brewery yeast is a kin to feeding raw shark to your gerbil. It is unlikely to ever occur in nature without human intervention. And it looks weird besides. But it has happened and now it''s too late."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Millstream Raspberry Latte Stout

Millstream Raspberry Latte Stout. Brewed and bottled by Millstream Brewing Company, Amana, Iowa. Raspberry Ale.

Appearance: Solid darkness, slim tanned head. Looking alright.

Aroma: Raspberry notes hit right away. Chocolate rises up and fairly swallows it, swiftly. Raspberry, chocolate and cream. Awfully nice.

Taste: Well, raspberry's there, and it's a stout. Smooth and creamy. Sweet and bitter. Fullish bodied, light, malty finish. The charms wear off soon, though. This one doesn't do much for me. It's okay, it's got flavor, but lacks the necessary thing that puts it beyond the mundane. Not that I'm saying it's mundane.

One more thing: I get the goofy latte-clutching raspberry, but, why, oh, why, does it have only one eyelash?

Boulevard Last Splash Wet-hopped Ale

Boulevard Last Splash Wet-hopped Ale. Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Missouri.

Appearance: dark amber color, clouded, slim but sure white head.

Aroma: Fresh hops ahoy! Plenty of citrus and a side order of pine. Grapefruit and melon. Pleasingly bold bitterness. Love it.

Taste: ah, there it is. All that goodness hinted at from the nose is here on the palate. Pithy, piquant, and something else that starts with P. Mmm, hops like we like them. It's medium/light bodied, with a long, hoppy finish. Splashes of sweetness here and there. Caramel malt lurks below the hops. Nice balance in this one. Tasty, tasty stuff.

Couldn't find the ABV on the label. If I had to guess, I'd say between 5.5% and 6%?
The label is also free and clear of any and all gobbledygook. Fine by me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tin Whiskers Short Circuit Stout

Tin Whiskers, the brewery formed by former electricians, with beers named for electrical terminology,  opened earlier this summer in the Mears Park neighborhood of St. Paul. I probably first tried them at Autumn Brew Review, and saw them and tasted them at various taverns about town. I finally made it to their taproom in late November, but that's not an appropriate occasion for note-taking. Well, looky here, now they've got bottles. And here's the first one…

Tin Whiskers Short Circuit Stout, Tin Whiskers Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. 5.8% Alc./Vol. This beer was brewed in 2014 on the month indicated below: Dec. There's a lot of helpful information on the back, which I will avoid perusing until I've reached my own conclusions.

Appearance: impenetrable darkness, under a full head of tanned foam. Dotted and lacy.

Aroma: Sweetness comes in first, there cola and nuts. Undertones of cocoa. Some roast.

Taste: It says Sweet Stout on the label, and that's what's coming out of the bottle. On the palate, minor roast, small hops, but full malt, and some amount of sweetness. Good balance, good drinking. A little milky, just a dose of sweet. An fine session stout. Nothin' wrong with that.

Let's look at that label now: "A full-bodied and roasty stout with a lingering sweet aftertaste and notes of chocolate." Appearance…well, you know, why just copy what I've already said?

Odell Gramps Oatmeal Stout

Odell Roots Release Gramps Oatmeal Stout. Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO. 6.4% alc. by Vol.

Appearance: solid black, with ruby edges, under a short, cocoa-toned head.

Aroma: Bittersweet at first, with chocolate, oats and cream coming through next. Cocoa and oats grown stronger with each sip. Rich cocoa flavor continues to fill the mouth. Roasted malts have hop bitterness to match. This is one satisfying stout. Yum.

Hey, what's it say on the label? "Inspired by our small-batch pilot system, the Roots Release series honors our experimental brewing roots and invites you to sample some of our favorites. Flaked oats and roasted malts give Gramps a full body and creamy smooth mouthfeel. Hints of chocolate, coffee and cream combine for a complex yet familiar taste of breakfast back home"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Boom Island Thoprock Wet

Boom Island bottle-conditioned thoprock wet. Boom Island Brewing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Handcrafted Belgian Styled. Alcohol 8.0% by Volume.

Appearance: hazed amber, huge, off-white head. Looks brilliant and inviting.

Aroma: fresh and floral. Citric hop notes and some slightly tropical. There's a Belgian twist in here, too, slightly sweet and a little funky.

Taste: Hmmm. Mmm. Hops are on top, nicely bitter, with plenty of malt behind. It's tasting fresh and delightful. Expertly consumable. Lean, but not necessarily so clean. Funky fresh, and ever so lovely.

I like this Belgian IPA, and I like it's wetness. here's what the label tells us: "How fast can you open this bottle? This Belgian-style, fresh hop IPA was made with hops that were grown on a small Minnesota family farm and rushed at breakneck speed to the brew kettle. Why the hurry? Because fresh hop flavor fades fast. Enjoy it now!"

Hm. I don't know how old this bottle is. I just heard of it, and bought it as soon as I saw, and opened it a week later. Maybe that's the problem, that I didn't open it as soon as I took it home? Oh, wait, there's more, as always: "The skinny on Thoprock Wet: The assertive hop bitterness of this wet-hopped Belgian-style IPA is balanced by a clear malty backbone. It finishes with the flowery, citrus flavor of fresh Centennial hops. It's deceptive 8% ABV is achieved through a special Belgian fermentation process."

Finch's Threadless India Pale Ale

Finch's Beer Company Threadless India Pale Ale, Chicago, Illinois. Alc. 6.0% by Vol.

Appearance: hazy, bright golden color, big, blooming white head.

Aroma: Citrus-y and sweet, lemon and orange. Wait…now comes the bitterness. Nice.

Taste: Bittersweet, once more, leaning on the sweet before the bitter. Smooth and light-bodied, drinks like a dream. It's unfiltered, too, and I love that. Bitterness hangs low on the palate, and lingers lightly.

I could use a bit more of a hop punch from this, but as it is, hey, it's a good beer and you can drink it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lagunitas Imperial Stout

Lagunitas Imperial Stout. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California. Unlimited Release. Alc. by Vol. 9.9%. IBU 72. OG. 1.082. Doggone Good!

Here's a little tale. A few years ago, I bought a bottle of Lagunitas Imperial Stout, and I posed a picture for this blog, (the only picture I've ever taken on my desk in my bedroom), but did not take notes on it. I assumed that, after all these years, I had already reviewed the beer. Later, I checked and couldn't find any notes. How was this possible? I looked for the beer again, and it was sold out. I held onto the picture, to use when I would find a bottle again. I can't explain how, but I just never remembered to get another, never saw it, never thought of it. Held on to that picture, though. Looking back, it's not that great a picture. Anyway, I finally thought to get one, and here comes the review…at last, at long, long last…

Appearance: dark as darkness gets, under a rich, roasted tan head, looking every inch the perfect part of an imperial stout.

Aroma: this has got it all. Vast, deep, dark and mysterious. Maple, molasses, cocoa, carob, and espresso. Great balance. Not too sweet, not too bitter, just right.

Taste: Thick, rich, lush, and heavy, in all the right ways. Motor oily. Black strap molassy. Mmm, mmm. Again, excellent balance, not too big, not too small, juuust right. Body is full as full can be. Rewarding richness, nonstop flavor delivery. As we get deeper in, more flavors unfold. Licorice, now. Treacle. A little sweet, but never bitter, and never too sweet. Just right. Here comes smoke, now, here comes char. Check them out, spooling off, reeling away.

the label has a typical Lagunitan verse on the side, full of fantasy and whimsy and psychedelic-surreal gobbledygook, that I have to put my glasses on to read. But I'm not going to type it. I will read it, though. Excuse me for a bit. Okay, I'm back. Having read it, I recommend it, it's amusing. (Okay, here's your easy pathway: this link.)The beer is worth it, and the small, silly tale is worth it, too, and the price is not dear, so it's easier to clear. ($5 a bomber? Da, comrade.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Harriet Sooner or Later Belgian Blonde Ale

Sooner Or Later Belgian Blonde. Harriet Brewing Company. Further information unknown. (???)

Here we have the first Harriet beer review at the bitter nib from a growler, without the growler in the picture. Why? Because Harriet is one of the few breweries to take advantage of the change in Minnesota's laws that allow a brewery to fill a growler of beer from any other brewery, not just their own. (Eastlake is another doing so.) Before I returned all my Harriet growlers, I had…get this: 52. Now I'm down to 48. I think I still have a world record. Prove me wrong.

Appearance: lightly hazed, bright golden hue, slim white head.

Aroma: Sweet, fruity nose, followed by Belgian yeast. Floral notes, candy sugar.

Taste: Enters the palate clean and easy, neat as a pin. Lots of citrus and a little spice. I'll say "clean" again, 'cause that's what it is. Dry finish. Light body. Tastes like nothing else but a note perfect rendition of the style, which is what Harriet really does well. Spicy, fruity, lean and clean. Not bad at all.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Boulevard Nutcracker Ale

So, here we have Boulevard Nutcracker Ale. I haven't had this one in a while, and once more I'm not sure if my decade + notes are up to snuff. Or, maybe they are? So, we'll see. Here come the fresh ones, circa 2014…

Nutcracker Ale, Dry-hopped Winter Warmer. Contains Pure water, barley malt, wheat malt, hops and yeast. 7.8% ABV.

Appearance: hazy, caramel-brown coloring, dark and tawny, beautiful long-lasting off-white head.

Aroma: sweet, toffee-ish, a little herbal, a bit nutty, earthy. Major malt. Sweet 'n' nutty.

Taste: More sweetness meets the lips, tasty, tasty. Butterscotch and toffee. Malty and sweet. Minor hops. Yum. Dark fruit flavors come through, fine and mellow. Smooth, and delicious. The alcohol is starting to creep in. Mm, mm. Nifty nightcap, this. And damned delicious.

Here's what I wrote about 11 years ago….

Boulevard nutcracker
SEASONAL: Winter   IBU: 38   EST. CALORIES: 234   ABV: 7.8%

The time of chestnut-roasting may have nestled to the back of our memories now, but the chill outside still beckons for a winter ale, so let's see how this one holds up…Intriguing appearance, not quite brown, more than red, with a firm, but fallible, toasted tan head of foam. Aroma is evident at first pour, and on initial sniff we encounter mild spices, mellow fruit, dark ones, grape, cherry, plum, etc., and a solid, sweet maltiness. Taste: Nice hoppy buzz at the top, pleasing the palate, spicy/fruity flavor climbs to the fore and washes over the mouthfeel. At once sweet and somewhat sharp. Medium body, but full with flavor, with a tasty, pungent finish, that glides softly off the palate. Best-by date of 2/01/04 is stamped on the bottle, but this sample actually tastes better than the ones I had six weeks ago! Has a Belgian feel to it, actually. And I can dig it.


Full Sail Wassail Ale

Full Sail Wassail Ale, Winter Ale, FS Pub Series. Alc 7.2% by Vol. Full Sail Brewing Company, Hood River, Oregon.

Appearance: dusky brown coloring, slim, cocoa/tan head.

Aroma: earthy, nutty , dark fruits. malty.

Taste: Little blast of hops up front, then it's the Malt Show, all day and night. Sweet and toffee-ish at first, tempered slightly by hop bitterness. Rich malt flavor. A little nutty, a lot sweet. Nice winter ale, but nothing special.

these are my notes on beer #6 of the 6-pack I bought because I knew it wasn't on the Bitter Nib yet, and it was only $8 a 6-pack. I wanted to take fresh notes, because I didn't feel like my old ones were good enough, but maybe they were? Here's what I wrote about this in January of 2003 (almost 12 years ago)"

Fine, sturdy, off-white head, dark brown color. Sweet aroma, but nothing too distinctive coming through. Faint hints of toffee, nuts, spices. Mild hoppiness, medium carbonation. Sweet maltiness. Very mild, very mellow, but to a fault. I like my winter ales with more of a kick, and this slides down too smooth for my tastes. Feels as if they were shooting for something like Anchor's Our Special Ale, but something held them back.  01/12/03.

Looking back, I think I said it well then.

Flat Earth Angry Planet Pale Ale

Back in 2007, the Flat Earth Brewing Company made it's debut with the Belgian Pale Ale, and followed it soon afterward with this beer, the Angry Planet Pale Ale, originally billed as Organic, (it seems that that's gone away) and the Cygnux X-1 Rye Porter, not particularly in that order. (Which means that I can't remember.) I was going through this blog recently and discovered that I still haven't added those here. I haven't seen any Cygnus in visits to the store lately, but I did pick up a bomber of Angry Planet. And I've got this nagging feeling that I wasn't impressed in my original notes, so I've decided to write new ones and give this beer fresh eyes.

Appearance: Clear, bright amber color, slim, but lasting off-white head.

Aroma: malty nose, with herbal and nutty notes. Earthy. English pale ale /ESB aromatics at work here.

Taste: Sweet and malty at first, with just enough hops for balance. Loads of malt in the flavor, here, medium bodied, with a long, malty finish. Definitely an English-style pale ale. Good drinking. Solid stuff.

What's the label tell us? "This is what happens when Mother gets angry. Angry Planet is a crisp, clean and satisfying American pale ale. Cascade hops are the star of this beer, giving it an orange citrus flavor and aroma. The malt's character is restrained to let the hops shine through. Angry Planet goes well on hot summer days with fajitas, pizza and pad thai."

Man, did I get that wrong! American pale ale? Cascade hops shine through? Am I basing my perceptions on what the beer used to be, versus what's in the glass? But, that is what I smelled and tasted. Sure, it's tasting hoppier now than it did at first, but I'd never have tagged this as an APA before they told me.

Huh. How about the ingredients? "American pale, Munich, Carafil and wheat malts, Simcoe and Cascade hops, American Ale yeast and St. Paul water. OG-1.086, 14 SRM, 48 IBU, 6% ABV.

I enjoy those moments when I write my notes and the brewer's information reveals that I am correct. Then there are the times that I am left embarrassed. Or should I be? The dark malt character definitely threw me off and led me away from seeing it as an APA. And, frankly, I didn't feel the Cascade hops were really shining all that much. Maybe it's the inured hophead in me? (Or is this an old bottle? No born on date anywhere.)

Although, halfway in, I'm now getting the Cascade, I'm getting the orange. But blended with caramel malt.

Here are the original notes from July, 2007:

On tap at Acadia.

Cloudy orange color...did they leave off the filter for this one?...little to no head on this pour.

Aroma:soft citrus from plenty of hops. Lightly tart. Almost right for style, but a bit muted...I want it to leap out at me. Not the case.

Orange rind and lemon peel in the taste. Very bright, but with a smack of bitterness.
(I don't have a lot of info on this one, it's not on the Flat Earth website yet, and word from the distributor is that it's Federally recognized as "organic" and that it's "just tremendous." And further word on hops, malts, alc.%, etc. is left to our imagination and/or guesswork. )

Nice hoppy kick continues on the palate, citric sweet with a slight sour ( a little too sour, mayebe) twist. Medium bodied, plenty of texture, easy-drinking, but not too smooth, just enough tumble and tickle to keep this tongue happy.

Well done, but not quite there yet. That little sour trickle at the end starts to really bug me, and doesn't really help ensure total satisfaction. Almost my favorite Flat Earth brew, except for that. Perhaps later batches may reduce this flaw?

feloniousmonk, Jul 19, 2007

Bell's Christmas Ale

Bell's Christmas Ale, Scottish Ale, Bell's Brewery, Comstock, MI. 5.5% ABV.

Notes from November, 2008:

Hazey, opaque color, bordering on a lighter brown, nice, creamy toned head, ...

Fruity malt sweetness hits the nose at first, matched by hops, high hops, higher than I'd expect out of a Scotch Ale, as this is purported to be...grapefruit and orange, a twist of lemon, matched with juicy malt. Interesting...

Whoa! Big, bitter bite right off the bat...not sure I'd call this a Scotch Ale or a Wee Heavy, after the pithy attack of hops with each new taste. I like it, mind you, I might even love it...

Described on the label as a "malt-driven Scotch Ale". the malt may drive it, but the hops take over the steering wheel and take command. Scotch Ales shouldn't taste like Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale or Surly Furious. But I like it, despite that...
It's great, ...bright hops smack up into lush, lovely malt. Great balance, ... like a big IPA, with full Scottish malt at hand. I can enjoy this. Stylistic sticklers should be warned, though.

Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale

Every now and then, I go through this site in search of what I need to search for, the holes in the collection, especially the most glaring omissions and the easiest catches. Scanning the list of beers under "Odell", I found no mention of 5 Barrel Pale Ale. A quick trip to Chicago Lake Liquors uncovered the winter Montage collection, this one featuring IPA (of course), that missing 5 Barrel, Isolation Ale, and a new one, exclusive to this set, Gramps Oatmeal Stout. So, two beers I need, and two that I always enjoy. No brainer.

But there was one question that remained: had I written about this one before? I checked BeerAdvocate and found my notes from...May of 2010? I had begun trading for beers in 2003. Many of my traders sent me Odell beers over the years. But not this one? Or maybe, I did review it, but when it was available locally, at last, I gave it a better review and deleted the old one from my beer-reviewing infancy? That make sense, I'll go with that. So, here we go...

Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Odell Brewing, Fort Collins, CO. 5.2% ABV. 32 IBU.

Clear, amber/bronze appearance, creamy, bone white layer of foam, good, lasting 1/2 ".

Floral aromatics in the nose, caramel and toffee malt tones, a minor splash of citrus. Bit buttery. Really classic British pale ale feeling.

Taste: hops up front, nice bitter buzz, not gonna be able to guess what hops are in play, but they have to be British. This bitterness continues on the palate and revisits with every new sip. Tasty, juicy malt, tropical fruit....mmm, I wonder what malts are in here. Scottish? Pineapple and banana, meets caramel and vanilla.

This a tasty, complex ale, one I'm going to have to give some consideration to again and again. Delicious hoppy pale ale, with tasty, tasty malt. Mmmmm.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Blacklist Tripel, with Green Tea, Lemongrass, and Honey

Blacklist Artisan Ales Tripel with Green Tea & Lemongrass & Lake Superior Honey. Belgian-style ale brewed with green tea, lemongrass, & honey. Brewed and bottled by Blacklist Brewing, LLC, Duluth, MN. 8.0% Alc. by Vol.

Appearance: thoroughly clouded, dark golden/amber, with no head at all.

Aroma: Green tea and lemongrass is the first thing to pop out of the nose. Just below, spicy/fruity hops and Belgian yeast notes. Sweet and lovely.

Taste: Hops come first, spicy ones, zesty ones, met quickly with Belgian yeast, and that green tea and lemongrass blends in with ease. Don't forget the honey. Lots of sweetness in this, loads of yeastiness, with alcohol creeping up there.  Lean-body, with a dry finish. Tasty, too. The green tea really shows up toward the end, leaping on the palate. Nice.

This isn't an ideal, note-perfect triple, but it's an interesting interpretation. Worth $12.99 for the bomber? I'm leaning on yes. But I wouldn't make a habit out of it.

"In a bubbly collaboration with Lake Superior Honey, we put a twist on the classic Belgian triple, adding green tea, lemongrass, and local honey. Tripel is full-flavored, citrus-y and well-balanced: our tweaks are subtle. The lemongrass adds light herbal aromas and a little spice just before the finish. The honey keeps the body light and adds a touch of sweetness. It's not until the finish that the green tea comes through adding astringency and drying the palate for the next sip."

Mankato Mint Stout

Mankato Mint Stout. Brewed and bottled by Mankato Brewing, LLC, North Mankato, MN.

Appearance: solid, dark brown body, nearly black, with a rich tan head above, starts big and slims down to a tight ring.

Aroma: mint aplenty, with chocolate swift at it's side. Espresso edges.

Taste: Bright, fresh, and refreshing mint at the front, followed by chocolate and other dark malts. Full-body, Long, minty finish. Delicious. Tasty, tasty stuff. It's a good mint stout and I can drink it. Why did it take me so long to get to know this beer?

PS: goes incredibly with ice cream.

Beer Facts: Holiday mint stout (HOLIDAY). Alc. 5.6%. OG 1. 060. IBU:34. Color: black.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where I'm At (Another of those Autobiographical Posts--but aren't they all?)

A few months ago, way back in September, I last kept my readers up to date with my career. I spilled the beans about the end of my time at a certain brewpub not to be named, and the interim experience toiling away at the Harriet Brewing taproom. I had accepted a new job at a brewery taproom yet to open and said it was weeks away, but didn't name the name. Weeks was inaccurate to say the least. The original idea was to be open in late October. That was a month and a half wrong.

My hours at Harriet started to dwindle away. I kept telling them that the new job would start in a few weeks, over and over again, because that's what I was being told. Finally, they ran out of shifts to give me in early November, and I spent a solid month completely unemployed, waiting for my new job to start, subsisting on unemployment, selling things off, borrowing some. It was a rough time. I'd go out once in a while, to my favorite taprooms, brewpubs and bars, watching the bartenders hard at work, dreamily eyeing their actions, thinking: "I so want to do that again! Let me back there!"

I took the job of beer server at the brand new Eastlake Craft Brewery in the Midtown Global Market, at Lake Street and 10th Avenue, for several reasons. I wanted to be involved with a small start-up, just taking off. The project intrigued me with the possibilities inherent in the location, being part of a multicultural marketplace in a part of the city that's starved for local beer options, and utter lacking in beer bars. The location was convenient, also, as it's just four blocks away from where I live. Easy commute there. Even in the dreadful days of winter, a short walk home from work won't be too terrible.

Only one thing was unclear, and the question was asked to me, though I had no answer: "How good will the beer be?" I didn't know, for the owner / brewer had no experience brewing anywhere else, being yet another home-brewer going pro. I was not his friend before they hired me, so I never hung out at his home, drinking his hombrew. Once the brewery was up and running, I got some early tastes from the tanks, but it was too soon to judge their quality, being unfinished, not fully fermented. Mostly what I had to go on was his taste. I had a good feeling that this was going to be a terrific taproom and a quality brewhouse, and that feeling had to carry me from September 24, when I accepted the job, until December 11, my first real shift behind the bar at the finally open taproom. (I certainly got advice from friends and family, telling me: "just get another job." But it's not that easy to "just get a job", and I already had one, plus in the time it would take to apply, interview, be hired and train, the job I wanted and had would be starting.)

We have four beers from the mind of Ryan Pitman to start with: a saison, Belgian pale, black IPA and rye stout. I'm fondest of the last two. The response so far has been universally positive. We'll be up to eight beers on tap in a few weeks, and who knows where we go from there. I'll be filling your pint or tulip 5 days a week soon, and no, I keep telling my friends and acquaintances who visit the following: no, it's not my place, I'm not an owner, or a manager, I didn't design the place or pick the beers or write the descriptions. That's all Ryan and his wife. Me, I'm fine "just" bar-tending for now. Nothing wrong with it. And I might use this space to tell you about the beers, but I won't be reviewing them. I went over all that mulling about the beers at that other place where I was FOH manager, and here I have a specific monetary interest in having you visit the place and drink the beers and leaving a tip. That's how I'm paying the bills and keeping Sonny and Rollie the cats in Fancy Feast.

So, I'll post about the beers for informational purposes from time to time, but I won't give my opinion, bad or good. This will be the first and last time I say, come down to Eastlake and have a pint! Choose from any of the fifteen restaurants, bring your food in, settle into our cozy taproom and enjoy yourself.

Peace Tree Royale 41 Double IPA

Peace Tree Royale 41 Imperial India Pale Ale, Brewed and Bottled by Peace Tree Brewing Company, Knoxville, Iowa, Enjoy. Please Recycle. Visit us on the web.

Appearance: highly hazed, bright golden coloring, beautiful snow white head, leaving some lace. Lovely.

Aroma: Fierce showing from citric hops, bold piney notes, full flowering. Orange and lemon and everything nice.

Taste: Mmmm. This I like. Big, bold hop character on the palate. Everything you want is right here on your tongue. Well, mine, right now, maybe yours? Tast-ee. Or, perhaps, I should call it yum, because that's how I'm feeling. It's a double IPA that doesn't scream or tear or rip or devastate. It delivers the hops without destroying the palate. Highly hopped, utterly delicious, and, again, tasty. I'm so enjoying this….

Hey, look there's all this gobbledygook, let's look at it…"India pale ales are distinguished by an eminent hop flavor, bitterness, and aroma. Royale 41 is no exception to the rule. This Imperial IPA acquires it's stately title from the 41st parallel --the latitudinal mark that runs through our brewery in the Northern Hemisphere and the hop-growing region of New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere. Loaded with American and New Zealand hops, this is a union fit for nobility."

Well, whatever that mean, it doesn't matter, it's a damned tasty IPA.

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar Ale

Part of this project called the Bitter Nib is re-visiting old beers, as much as trying out new ones. Very often I find myself looking at the old notes, taken before I started posting my reviews here, and find them satisfactory. Other times, such as today, I pass my eyes over them and find those notes lacking. Outdated. Not quite appropriate.

Today, I look at Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Ale with Natural Hazelnut Nectar, with fresh eyes. Let's do it:

Appearance: thoroughly hazed, caramel brown coloring, large and lasting cocoa/tan head.

Aroma: sweet malt notes first off, with nutty overtones. Quite nice.

Taste: Once on board the palate, it's sweet as she gets. Notes of molasses and brown sugar, dark malts of all stripe, drowned out by hazelnut nectar. Hop bitterness steps in to tamp down sweetness just a step, but it's large and in charge to be sure. Medium bodied, long, malty finish. A rich, tasty treat, but not one I'd reach for very often. A once in a while shot of decadence.

Here, for kicks, is the effusiveness I dropped on the internet back in April of 2004:

"Deeply, darkly, tawny brown color, with a smallish head, cocoa-tan hued...aroma: sweet, roasty, very malty, lush and chocolatey, nuts aplenty.
Taste: goodness! Ever-so sweet! Yum! No hops, huge, caramely malt, but full-on sweetness, thickly, the high-concept is thrown in high-relief here, as I can think of no other expression so sure of this particular style, their aim is true, and they hit the mark perfectly. Hazelnut, yes, so rich, and thick, and an excellent dessert brew, something to adequately fill in for Frangelico, if the need arises.
They bring it on full-bore on this one, wow, it's a choice brew, indeed!
Hey, do a specially-flavored brew, do it all the way, that's what I say, and that's what Rogue does here!"

Did I ever love the exclamation points back then. I'm pretty much cured these days.
("choice brew", man, what was I thinking?)

Southern Tier Live Pale Ale

Southern Tier Live Bottle Conditioned Ale. Brewed and bottled by Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY. Brewed with 4 types of malts and 4 varieties of hops. Alc 5.5% ABV.

Appearance: Highly clouded, pale golden coloring, vast chalk white head, lace-leaving.

Aroma: bold citrus hop notes ring in at the front. Lemon and orange and a spritz of pine. Beautiful.

Taste: Once more, hops up front, followed by yeast. Light bodied, lean and clean. Long, hoppy finish. Lively and easy-drinking. Citric hop flavor never quits. Yum. Good sessioner, with a rewarding cask-like quality. Love it.

"Contains yeast. We recommend decanting into a glass."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale

Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale. Brewed with 3 varieties of hops and 2 types of malts. Brewed and bottled by Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY. USA. Alc 7% by Vol.

Appearance: rich burgundy hue, slim white head.

Aroma: fruity, malty aromatics. Increasingly rich and complex flavors emerge. Enticing, inviting.

Taste: A rush of malt in the mouth, full, flush, and fruity. A little toasty, some caramel and toffee malt flavors. Nice notes of bitter hops, some apple and cherry coming through. Definitely a feel of an English winter warmer, nearly a barley-wine…on the fringes of one.

Medium body. Great balance. Good flavor. Fine drinking. That'll make a nice session for a cold night.
(and, yes, I said "session" referring to a 7% beer, that's my kind of session.)

Mankato Duly Noted Dry-hopped Pale Ale

Mankato Duly Noted American Pale Ale. Brewed and bottled by Mankato Brewing Company, North Mankato, MN. Alc. 5.4% by Vol. IBU: 40. OG: 1.046.

Appearance: clear, pale golden hue, slim white head.

Aroma: Bold citrus hop aromatics, seems like the C hops at work. Fresh, vibrant, leafy and green.

Taste: In the mouth, it's aborts with pungent, pithy citric hop character. Clean, lean, and easy-drinking. Bright, bold, sunny and just plain lovely. Now, here's an American Pale Ale. This is everything it ought to be and then some. unbelievably likable. All APAs should be this good.

There is no gobbledygook.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Belgium/Perennial Lips of Fatith: Salted Belgian Chocolate Stout

New Belgium Lips of Faith , NB + Perennial Artisanal Ales Salted Belgian Chocolate (Brewed in the USA) Stout. Alc. 9% by Vol. 

Oooh, lookout that! It's solid black, with a huge, toasted tan head, looking utterly fantastic. Utterly.

Aroma: Gadzooks, if I had to say it, I'd say, yeah, salt comes first. Loads of salt, and then comes the cocoa…along comes sweet chocolate and it's all coming together.

Taste: there it is, the chocolate, and yeah, the salt, and the sweet, the dark, the deep, the delicious. Yeah, it's starting to get really good. Yummy chocolate stout. Mmm, Belgian chocolate…but, …salted?

I have something to confess to the entire world, and I have to admit that I just don't care what happens to me after I announce this to one and all. Here it is…are you ready? Okay….I don't get salt. When a recipe reads "add salt to taste", I have no idea what they're talking about. I never taste food and decide that it needs salt. I don't know what that means. How did I miss that, why don't I have it? In converse, I do feel the need for pepper, at times, but, still, never salt. I don't even know what salt does, or why! This thought never enters my mind: "ooo, I need to salt this!"

So, judge me, now, go ahead, I don't care. And I don't know why you'd want to salt your chocolate stout, but I can taste it. So, the sweetness is down some, there we go…the sweetness is staved off, and you get your salt, …if you want that. (Actually, reading their notes, they say the salt is there to "express sweetness." Not sure if I agree there.)

Time to read that label…."Best enjoyed by March 27, 2016." Whew, got that covered. "Dessert is best poured and the brewers at Perennial agree, so we dreamt up a beer that would bring together chocolate sweetness, Belgian yeast, deeply roasted malts and just the right shake of salt to pour a creamy stout worthy  of a cherry on top."

This is typical of so many of the NB labels. It starts making sense, then falls apart. How the hell does a "shake of salt" "pour a creamy stout"? And what the hell does a "cherry on top" have to do with the thing? (Oh, it's dessert, I get it, duh….sometimes, I am so slow…)

No matter. Despite that nonsense, it's a good beer and I can drink it.

Stone Stochasticity Hibiscusity Ale

Stone Stochasticity Project Hibiscusicity, Belgian-style ale brewed with hibiscus flower and orange peel. 7.4 % Alc./Vol.

Appearance: hazy, blood red coloring, bright white head, slim, but staying.

Aroma:  plump fruit and bold floral notes. Loud citrus notes; huge, even. Big, big, big.

Taste: Bitter hops notes up front, swallowed up by citrus and floral notes. Grapefruit shines high in this, too. This is what makes Stone Stone. Not small or timid or subtle in the slightest. Bring it on! Full-bodied, full-flavored, long, fruity finish. Good balance, for a bomb! (Hibiscus bomb! Orange peel bomb! )

So, the back of the bottle is verbose, as always. One full paragraph to go in depth with all manner of pomposity involving the nature and origin of the Stochasticity line. Another paragraph about this particular beer: blah, blah, blah…."this robust Belgian-style ale is brewed with wheat, hibiscus, and orange peel, bringing forthfloral and citrus notes against a brilliant pink hue." Hop varieties: Magnum & Sterling, Malt varieties: Pale malt and wheat malt, Special ingredients: Orange peel and hibiscus flower.

This is an interesting novelty, and a unique experience. An occasional treat is all it would be for me, though. Can't really see myself craving one. The novelty does wear away, but it's fun while it lasts.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Town Hall Yakima Journey IPA

Town Hall Yakima Journey IPA. Didn't check the full details on this one, I'll get them later. I can remember it's inspired by a trip to the Yakima Valley, and the hops found there. It's not quite a double IPA, but at 7.7% ABV, it's above a regular IPA.
(Checking the website…it's not on there yet. Huh. I'll post details later.)

Enough talk, let's drink.

Appearance: clear, bright golden-hued, long-lasting 1/2" white head.

Aroma: beautifully hoppy nose, loads of citrus, grapefruit and lime, hints of pine, hints of tropical tones, too. Gorgeous.

Taste: Lively burst of hop bitterness on the palate, then smoothness. Smooth, and slightly sweet. Lean-bodied, with a long, bitter finish. The cure for what ails the common hophead. Ah, delicious.

This one is the best of both worlds…the big hop attack of a double IPA, and an ABV that keeps it easy drinking. Yakima, you're a hell of a journey.

Goose Island The Ogden Belgian-style Tripel

Goose Island the Ogden Belgian-style Tripel. Goose Island Brewing Company. Chicago, IL. 35 IBU. Brewed with Citra, Brewers Gold, Saaz. Dry-hopped with Brewers Gold, Citra, Serve in a nonce pint. {Why not a tulip?} 9% alc./vol. We dropped our Belgian style triple to balance spicy, tropical flavors with a unique Belgian yeast, giving it a bold, more complex palate."

Appearance: bright golden hue, clear, vast snowy white head. Looks fantastic.

Aroma: Ah1 Fresh and lively, straw, citrus, spice, and Belgian yeast character. Everything you want, and then some. A little sweet, a little heat, a bit of spice, alright.

Taste: Mmm! Hits you right away, an authentic, true taste of a Belgian triple. The lightly peppery spice, a touch of coriander, perhaps, a good dose of citrus, light fruitiness, with a light body, and excellent, despite the high ABV, drinkability. Delicious. Tasty. Right on the money. Damn, if I don't like this one. They're doing it, man, they're doing it right.

More information:
"William Ogden opened Chicago's first brewery. He was the city's first mayor. And he added the North Branch channel to the Chicago River that created the island from which we take our name. Three good reasons it seemed fitting that we gave our first ever Belgian-style triple his name."

Goose Island Festivity Ale

Goose Island Festivity Ale. This one is so brand new to me, I've never heard of it before. I knew they made a Christmas Ale, which I haven't had in years. And now there's this…what is this?

Appearance: dark, dusky brown coloring, rich, creamy off-white head, leaving a little lace. Likable.

Aroma: soft, nutty, a little herbal, smooth, and sweet. Malt-forward and utterly likable.

Taste: Hmm….Mmmm. Caramel malt notes dominate. (It's a caramel bomb!) Toasty and sweet, toffee-ish. Medium body, long, sweet finish. Very mellow, though the 7.7% ABV is slowly starting to creep up on me. This really falls in with what I'd want from a holiday ale. Malt-tastic. (It's a malt bomb!)

Let's read the label together, shall we? IBU 50 Rating. (?) Brown Ale, Caramel and Dark fruit malt flavors swirl inside a creamy toasty brown ale. 7.7% ABV. "Serve in a nonic pint." Well, I used a shaker, sorry. No more gobbledygook.

All in all, I like it just fine. Couldn't drink more than a couple, though. Steers a little too sweet.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Newcastle Werewolf

Newcastle Werewolf. What is this? What on earth is a Werewolf beer? Is it a halloween season brew, and does that mean, that purchasing it in the second week of December, that it's out of season? I've never seen this for sale, oddly enough, until I found it among the single bottles at Lake Wine and Spirits. I've never had any Newcastle beer that wasn't Newcastle Brown Ale, so we've got to start somewhere, don't we?

"Escaped From Britain" (not imported, you see.) Alc 4.5% Vol. The One and Only Newcastle Werewolf Blood Red Ale.  And that it is. Clear, crimson, with an off-pink head that lingers some.

Aroma: major sweetness. Odd. Weird, even. Malty. Mineral-y. Flint-y. Not unpleasant, but not very pleasant, either. I don't know what to think.

Taste: Smooth, malty, still sweet, only bitter enough to beat back the sweet. Swift finish. Lightly fruity. Inoffensive…-ish. Light-medium body. Blah.
What makes it so weird? The mineral-y-ness, the flint-y-ness? The just not that nice-ness? Blah.

I want to read the label now. "Formidable Beast. What better way to toast the fall than to have a bottle of this formidable, dual character brew. At first smooth, with mellow overtones of sweet berry fruit, a bite of bitterness slowly cuts through, long, deep, and lingering. Brewed with rye malt, it is naturally 'blood red' in color. Unlike the mythical wolf-like creature said to roam the bleak moorland surrounding Newcastle, this is real, so consider yourself warned!"

Yikes. I thought Newcastle was mainly known for coal and bland brown ales. And also bad blood red ones. The things you learn through beer.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Samuel Adams Rebel IPA

Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, West Coast Style, Brewed for the Revolution, 6.5% ABV.

There is a well-known, far-distributed, long-lived and prolific brewery that hasn't found it's way in The Bitter Nib very often, and that is Samuel Adams. I've reviewed 24 of their beers on, and only 5 of them here, so far.

I found a 12-pack of this new-ish IPA because it was fairly inexpensive ($11.99 for a 6-pack) and I needed some good ol' drinking beers. I'm down to my last one. Time to take the notes.

Appearance: clear, bright golden hue, long-lasting, bone white head, looking good.

Aroma: Fresh and lively hop aromatics, screaming with citrus and tropical fruits, bristling with pine and grass. Green as it gets.

Taste: Brisk hop bite at the front, soft and mellow from there on out. Light bodied, but with a long, bitter hop finish. Exquisite drinkability, but for hop-heads only. Bitter hop resins lay long on the palate, providing more than sufficient refreshment for those of us who crave the alpha acids.

A very nice rendition of this popular style, but it's not just not landing on the top tier, I'm afraid. A few steps short.

Wait. I just noticed something. The box reads: "Enjoy before Dec. 2014." No specific date given. This was purchased in early December 2014. I always see a lot of these cases at the store I bought it at, I'm guessing it's not that popular, for whatever reason. Maybe if I'd bought it earlier, it would taste fresher, and I'd see higher up on that tier…maybe...

What's the paper on the bottle say? "Rebel IPA is brewed with 5 varieties of West Coast hops: Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook & Amarillo, It's everything we love about West Coast-style IPAs, Big citrus & grapefruit flavors with subtle pine notes for a flavorful, refreshing brew."

Dave's BrewFarm McAnderson Scotch Ale

Whenever I visit the BrewFarm, I pick up growlers of whatever brews I've never had, plus some old favorites. Sometimes, the old favorite is one I've actually not included on this blog, but have taken notes on. I was about to simply open this growler of McAnderson and drink it until I noticed, while exploring  a list of beers here, that it wasn't among them. How could I have passed up on McAnderson for the past four years? The most logical answer is that  I reviewed it before I began using this blog for beer reviews, in mid-December 2010, and those notes were entered on

Or, were they? I found the fact of the missing McAnderson while at home, internet-less. The only way to be sure that I'd posted notes on McA. would be to leave home and find some wi-fi, but it was too late and too cold outside. Solution: take new notes, just in case and check the old notes later.

And so, it seems that I wrote this on December 7 of 2010, while entering the beer on BA for the first time:

 Dave's BrewFarm McAnderson, 9.5% ABV. 1 Liter Swing-top Growler

Dark brown coloration...opaque, bright crimson when held to light. Tight beige ring of foam.

Sweet, malty aroma, a little nutty, with a whiff of smoke. Lovely stuff.

Drink up! There's the sweet malt again, little to no hop bitterness. Dark, deliciousness, mostly caramel flavor, toffee, succulent and, again, a touch smokey. Medium bodied. Long, languorous finish, malt flavor lays lazily on the palate. Soft, lush mouthfeel.

I'm not feeling the high ABV yet, but those are famous last words around these parts.

This is a brew I can see myself drinking a lot of...of course, it helps that I'm facing the mirror...

I wrote these notes last night, December 9, 2014:

Dave's BrewFarm McAnderson "Imperial" (my words, not his) Scotch Ale. 9.5% ABV.
This beer had a fine head at first, but drifted to this once I was ready to snap the pic.

Dark crimson coloring, rich, ruby tinges, slim, white head.

Aroma: sweet and malty, molasses and brown sugar. Minor hops, if at all, with massive malt.

Taste: Sweetness and richness take command of the palate from the start. Vast malt flavors, with tremendous balance. Yeah, it's sweet, but it's never cloying or sickly. Rich and delicious is what it is, and the high ABV starts sly, but creeps on up. The flavor of molasses and brown sugar is growing and growing and keeping pace with the rising alcohol.

Mmm, big 'n' beefy, and rich and luxurious. I wonder what Farmer Dave has to say about it? Just this: "A hefty blend of malts, Palisade hops and a kiss of molasses coupled with a Scottish ale yeast. Be sure to mind your kilt…"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fargo Brewing Wood Chipper IPA

Here's the second beer that I know of that's titled after a quote or concept from a Joel and Ethan Coen film. The first was Fulton's Worthy Adversary, based on a line from Walter Sobchek in "The Big Lebowski."  This one refers to the unforgiving machinery that ended the life of Carl Showalter, played by Steve Buscemi, in the oscar-nominated "Fargo." "Fargo" only takes places in Fargo, North Dakota for the first scene, where Jerry Lundegard first meets Showalter, a stickler for punctuality, and his associate Graer Grimsrud, who'd peed three times already. The rest of the story occurs in Brainerd and Minneapolis, or in a car en route from Brainerd, where they got laid and watched Johnny Carson,  to the City of Lakes, where Carl just wants a little more to talk about than where is pancakes house.

"Hey, look at that, Twin Cities. The IDS building, the big glass one? Tallest skyscraper in the MidWest after the, uh, Sears in Chicago….John Hancock building or whatever….you ever been to Minneapolis?"


"Would it kill you to say something?"

"I did", the tall Swede informs him.

"No." re-states the little fella, kind of funny-looking. "First thing you've said in the last four hours. That's a …that's a fountain of conversation, man. That's a geyser. I mean, whoa, daddy, stand back, man! Shit. Now, I'm sitting here, drivin'….doin' all the drivin', man, whole fuckin' way from Brainerd, just trying' to…chat…you know, keep our spirits up, fight the boredom of the road, you can't say one fuckin' thing just in the way of conversation? Oh, fuck it, I don't have to talk to you, man. See how you like it. …Just total fuckin' silence. ….Two can play at that game, smart guy. We'll just see how you like it. ….Total silence. "

Maybe if Carl had been a little easier-going, he wouldn't have met an unkind fate with Graer's hatchet and found himself in the wood chipper.

Which brings us to the beer...

Fargo Wood Chipper India Pale Ale. Brewed by Fargo Brewing Company, in Fargo, ND. 6.7% ABV. 70 IBU.

Appearance: Clear, amber-hued, slim, short-lived white head.

Aroma: All the fresh, leafy green goodies are here: an explosion (though not a bomb) of citrus and pine in the nose. Lively and satisfying.

Taste: In the mouth, it's a juicy burst of hops up and down the palate, dripping delicious, refreshing bitter hoppitude. Great little trickle on the tongue. A pleasant, incessant tingle. Medium bodied, long, hoppy finish.

Good to see a nice IPA coming out of North Dakota. I am digging this one. Excellent addition to the ranks of MidWestern IPAs.

Hey, there's loads of info on the can, let's read it: "This classic American IPA showcases an aromatic, bold hop flavor. Oats and Horizon hops provide a sleek, velvety body and balanced bitterness while two pounds per barrel of dry-hopping offer initial waves of citrus and pine. We'd give our left foot for another pint!"

Malts: NW Pale Ale, Munich, Carastan, Oats. Hops: Horizon, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe.

"Why don't we take care of this right here? In Brainerd?"

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dave's BrewFarm BFF V

Dave's BrewFarm BrewFarm Funk V. (For Vendetta? Visitors? I'm sure it means something…not Valerie, she already got her beer.) 6.9% ABV.

This is a dark brown one, with ruby tinges and a toasty tan head.

Aroma: FUNK! a little vinegar-y this one, with fruit below.

Taste: Ah! Fresh and refreshing! Dark fruits, with a twist of oak. here come the tannins! Medium-bodied, long, tart finish. Mmmm, this is a complex, terrific, juicy thing. A little plummy, touch of raisins, …figgy. (Just love to say "figgy.")

So, I'm collecting all the BFF beers. This is the fourth one, this one called V. I've had one, two, three, and Vee. Which one am I missing?

The Farmer in the Dave says: "Deep, dark mahogany with notes of pit fruits, and nice tart finish. Pale, pils, Caramel 20 & 120 and rye malts, brown sugar and hopped with Warrior, Brewer's Gold, Centennial, and Bramling Crosss hops. Fermented with a Belgian yeast strain."

And it went well with grilled chicken and rice. (Eating lots of rice lately.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dave's BrewFarm BrewFarm Funk III

Let the BrewFarm brews roll on! Next up, one I've only had on tap before tonight: #3 in the BrewFarm Funk series, curiously titled "BrewFarm Funk III." 6.6% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant ruby red, under a brief head of off-white foam.

Aroma: fruit is up on top, while wildness lurks below. A light pleasant souring meshes well with sweet malt notes.

Taste: Past the lips, the sour factor is more prominent. A refreshing blast of sour blazes past the lips and splashes down the throat. Sweet and sour do a bracing, bold tango, with small bolts of bitterness to break up the monotony. Delicious. Medium bodied, fresh, and multi-faceted. Just the way I like it!

What's FD say? ""The funk continues! An assortment of malts, including Ashburne Mild, Rye, Carapils, Extra Special, and Caramel 20, hopped with Warrior, Nugget, and Simcoe hops and fermented with a Belgian strain. Pairs well with cured meats and creamy cheeses."

Well, it's going down fine with pork chops and rice tonight, that's all I can tell you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dave's BrewFarm CinnaPepper

The news of the sale (pending) of Dave's BrewFarm has led to some assumptions and misinformation. "I heard it's under new ownership," someone said to me. No, not for some time now, so we've got months left of enjoying the fruits of Dave's madcap labors. Here's the first growler I cracked open when I got home, a new one called CinnaPepper:

Dave's BrewFarm CinnaPepper. 6.9% aBV.
Let's make a wild guess and assume there's cinnamon and pepper in here. A brand new one from the LaBrewatory. Even though things will wind down soon at the BrewFarm, that doesn't stop Farmer Dave from continuing to invent and innovate.
Growler bottled on 11/27, purchased 11/29, opened 11/30.

Appearance: deep crimson coloring, slim white head. (Starts big, but dwindles soon.)

Aroma: spicy, malty nose with growing pepper presence. Nice and subtle.

Taste: Palate is greeted first with lightly hot spiciness, dark malts, bready and peppery. Smooth stuff, lean and clean and on the scene. Let us never forget the way of the BrewFarm is not extreme, nor in one's face, but subtlety and balance. Hardly a bomb among them. So opening this growler, I knew what to expect (and, I had one on-site yesterday).

Cinnamon and pepper are here in judicious amounts, just enough for taste. CP steers clear of extremes and is instead an easy-drinking spiced ale. Spicy and sweet and all-reet.

What's Farmer Dave say? "Pale and Victory malts, light brown sugar, hopped with Columbus, Palisade and Select hops, plus a late addition of black pepper and cinnamon. Fermented with a farmhouse yeast. Simmer down, CinnaPepper, simmer down…"

When I first looked at the photos I took, I didn't see any good ones? What happened? So, I decided to use the photo form Saturday's BrewFarm visit, which had no head at all, being taken quite some time after being poured. Then, I found better pictures. Where were they? Who knows, I don't understand all this modern techno gibber-jabber! Why, in my day....

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Warmer Ale

Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Warmer Ale. Dark Horse Brewing Company, Marshall, Michigan. Alc. 8.75% by Vol.

Ever since I've been aware of this brewery, their labels have been hallmarks of amateurish-ness. Whenever the topic of "bad label art" comes up, their name is bandied about. Hasn't stopped them, obviously. "Slick and professional" are two tags they want to steer clear of, it seems. Ah, well, must be part of the charm, so why fight it?

I've also been aware of DH for many years, but never tried this until today. Never heard of it until I saw their reality TV-show (which I had to stop watching after a few episodes). Maybe they expanded enough to finally release it to Minnesota?

Appearance: Dark as soot, this one, with a slim, soon-gone head.

Aroma: sweetness and spice. Molasses and cinnamon. Dark malts. Slight caramel and roast.

Taste: Once more, it's a Christmas cookie in the mouth once it hits the palate. Liquid Gingerbread. Sweetness is kept from cloying by an ample amount of hops, but sweet malt and spices remain on top. Caramel and toffee with spicy, bready malt flavors. All the sweetness ends on a dry note. Rich and full-bodied. Long, malty finish. Awfully tasty.

I'm looking for more information and find nothing on the label or the 6-pack holder, and finding nothing. I'm willing to bet a little something extra went in here, some spice or molasses. It's a delicious holiday treat.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Town Hall Luthius Single Hop Scottish Pale Ale

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Luthius Single-hop Scottish Ale. Warrior is the single hop. I have no clue what a Luthius is.
(Town Hall no longer gives out lengthy descriptions of beers, and the menus don't say much, nor is this listed on their website anywhere, yet.)
Appearance:  clear, amber hue, frothy chalk white head.

Aroma: soft, slightly sweet and malty, just enough hoppy…floral and fruity and lovely.

Taste: Mmm, hops are really coming through on the fore-front of this one. Fresh, zesty, and lively. Little citrus here, and there, in the flavor, a touch of pine. I've had plenty of beers with Warrior in them, but can't say for sure what their defining character is, but in here it's nothing but lovably fruity and just enough bitter.

Nice, soft malt backbone on this one, sweet and, I'll say it again, lovely, like the song says. normally, I don't like Scottish ales, but, normally, they don't use Warrior hops. This is one of the good ones.

Schell's Snowstorm 2014: Grand Cru

Schell's Snowstorm 2014: Grand Cru, Ale Brewed With Spices. August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, MN.

Appearance: clear, deep amber, nearly crimson, under a dotted, white head, leaving some lace.

Aroma: sweetness and spice, fruity esters and Belgian yeast character aplenty. Just my style.

Taste: First sip: bright malty flavors, apple, cherry, maybe grape in the flavor. nice sweetness, just delightful spices on the side. Warm malt, mild hops, hits the right notes as an interpretation of many of the Belgian brews calling themselves Grand Cru.

I love a good Grand Cru, if brewed to style, …and here are my top 5, in ascending order by closeness to style:

Not exactly. There are no specific guidelines you need to follow when you make a Grand Cru, because the style name basically means "our best", (it's French for "Best Growth") and different versions can vary quite a bit. But, Schell's has made a valid attempt to replicate the flavor profiles of the best from Belgium. And it is delicious.

This is bottle 5 of 6. I'm going to have to go back for more.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Summit Union Series 3X Mild Ale

It's time for another Summit Union Series beer, and this one is a mild ale, a 3X mild, to be exact.

Appearance: clear, deep amber, slim white head.

Aroma: earthy, herbal, malty. Low hops in this, minor fruit notes, definitely English hop character.

Taste: clean, smooth, and brimming with flavor. This is how you want your dark mild, a kind of brew practically unknown to the average craft consumer. If Surly Mild where ever canned, the local yokels would know a little more, but since it's so infrequently represented, it's a secret to most that you can have a dark, delicious, lighter bodied, and lower alcohol ale like this. Long, malty finish, medium body, very tasty.

Where's some info on this? The 6-pack carrier: 7.2% ABV. (What? That's not "mild"! Oh, yeah, it's "3X" mild, now I get it….but I didn't taste it.), OG: 17.5 Plato, 38 IBU. Expedition Base Malt, USA, Mild Ale Malt, UK, Amber Malt, UK, Experimental 06300 hops, USA.

Nice one. This is one to have around for Thanksgiving, sure to please the crowd.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch

Dogfish Head Midas Touch. Handcrafted Ancient Ale. with barley, honey, white muscat grapes, and saffron. 12 fl. oz., 9% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Delaware.

This is one I haven't had in a while, and first wrote notes on in December, 2002. I last mentioned a few days ago that there are times that I'm fine with my notes of over a decade ago, and there are times that I'm not. I've decided that this goes in column B.

What's the story on this? It was released initially in 2001, first in 750 ml bottles (which is how I first tried it), and is briefly described thusly: "This sweet yet dry beer is made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between wine and mead, Midas will please the chardonnay and beer drinker alike. 12 IBU."

I'm going to try this one as if fresh, then bring out the old notes. Okay? Ready? Here we go!

Appearance: hazy, golden hued, brief white head.

Aroma: grape must and honey notes greet the nose first. Lightly spicy and fruity, with alcohol creeping into the aromatics.

Taste: Minor hops (if any?), but significant bitterness at first. Funky fruit associations flood the palate next, sweet honey notes hanging on the sides. We've got a honey ale, a fruit ale, and some odd blend of a white wine and a mead, that has the alcohol strength of a Belgian triple or such. I don't drink either wine or mead, but I have no problem with this.

I wrote a bit about cider a few weeks back, without actually drinking one, and decided that they didn't do it for me. If I like this, I should like meads, right? And then, why not ciders, while we're at it. This isn't really beer, not like we know it today, and yet I'm finding it quite delicious. It doesn't replace beer for me, though. Honey and grapes may be an occasional diversion, but won't really replace hops and malt, no sir.

So, here are those notes from 12-04-02: "A recreated ancient ale, using such offbeat ingredients as white muscat grapes, and saffron. Pours a big, bone white head, gorgeous amber/orange color, soft, sweet aroma. Lovely texture! It just rolls off your lips and floods your mouth with pleasure. Warm, glowing, the grapes are evident, and, soon enough, the honey comes shining through. Perfect for summertime picnics, of around the fireplace. Fresh, sparkling, very mead-like...I've never had a honey beer quite like this. There is no beer like this, that's for sure.
Great stuff, and reminds me of the best Belgians I've enjoyed."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Founders Dark Penance Imperial Black India Pale Ale {sic}

I know that beer geeks as a community are supposed to love, crave, and trade your favorite limb for the beers of Founders, but I have to break from the pack, and admit that I found one that left me cold.

 Founders Dark Penance Imperial Black India Pale Ale. 100 IBUs. 8.9% ABV.

Appearance: very dark. nearly black, lots of reddish highlights, round the edges, with a slim dark head.

Aroma: citrus-y, piney, and plenty malty. Here's the perfect nose of a black ale ( I just hate calling them 'black IPAs'.) high hops, raisins, grapes, …etcetera.

Taste: In the mouth, thick, rich malt, bright hoppiness,  an interesting mix. Now, the booze rushes in, okay it's imperial now, is it? There's a blast of bitterness on the palate, a full body, a long, malty finish. …it is tasty, and it's good, but I'm not crazy about it.

Here's the thing: I've never had an Imperial Black IPA. Not sure how many of them there are, and I'm not sure if I'm in favor of them. I'm all for Imperial IPAs, stouts, porters, but why not this? The problem is that I'm tasting the booze in it more than anything else, more than the hops even. It seems as if the malt involved was merely an afterthought.

There's positively no gobbledygook on the label, so let's check the carrier for copy. "A heavy malt foundation includes crystal malt for sweetness and just enough midnight wheat malt to push the color to black. The bitterness is huge, but balanced by malt sweetness and alcohol burn. The hop flavors and aromas range from citrus to floral to pine, thanks to a delicious blend of hand-selected Chinook and Centennial hops."

Okay, I've never heard of "alcohol burn" being a source of balance. There's really no balance to speak of,  the hop bitterness doesn't match the malt at all.

I like hoppy-as-hell IPAs, I can take higher alcohol brews, and I do like 'em dark. But, this is kind of mixed up and I'm left less than delighted. I'm going to have a big, brassy Belgian or maybe a rich, hearty Imperial Stout to lift my spirits.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Piraat Triple Hop

Piraat Triple Hop Dry-hopped Ale, alc. 10.5% by Vol. Product of Belgium. Brewed & Bottled: Br. Van Steenberge. Ertvelde, Belgium.

I've been a fan of Piraat for quite some time and now, at last, there's a triple hop, dry-hopped version? Sign me up!

Appearance: lightly hazed, bright golden amber hue, snow-white, lacy head. Beautiful.

Aroma: dry, spicy, floral, bristling with noble hops. Gorgeous.

Taste: Bone-dry. Ultra-hoppy. Or, uber-, that works. Citrus notes abound, little traces of pine, all types of spicy delights. Pear, apple, pepper. Mmm. Long, spicy, hoppy finish. Lean-bodied, light malt character. Goddamn it, this is good. It hits me right where I live.

Any gobbledy-gook on the label? Nary a whiff of it. It is what it is, and it is wonderful. More, please!

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 ...