Friday, May 30, 2014

Biking the Beers of Minneapolis: Part One, A History told, A Plan Hatched, A Stab Made



When the Harriet Brewing Company opened it's doors in January of 2011, it was the only (but not the first, of course) production brewery in the city of Minneapolis. There hadn't been a production brewery since the end of the James Page company in 2005. "Production" is the key word here, meaning a facility that produces beer for sale and consumption elsewhere, different from a brewpub. Many of the newspaper articles about Harriet got it wrong, claiming "brewing is back" in Minneapolis. That presumes the non-existence of brewpubs, where a brewery is combined with a restaurant, and is only sold on the premises. (Of course, this is not true everywhere, and efforts have been made to change the laws in this state that prevent brewpubs from selling their beer to other bars in keg form or to stores in bottles or cans. No luck on that, yet.) There were three brewpubs at that time, the downtown Rock Bottom, (open since 1994, and part of a chain based in Denver, Colorado),  Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery int the Seven Corners neighborhood along the West Bank of the Mississippi river, near the University of Minnesota (1997), and Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street's The Herkimer (1999). (According to Doug Hoverson's "Land of Amber Waters", a definite history of Minnesota brewing, published in 2007, Minneapolis was home to The District brewpub in the warehouse district from 1996-1999, and Taps Waterfront Brewery along the river from 1989-1991. There may have been spots here and there when brewing was absent in the city, but it's been going on non-stop since Rock Bottom's arrival.)

So, that makes four breweries inside the city limits as of three years ago. Later in 2011, the so-called by the media "Surly Bill" allowed production breweries to sell pints of their own beer (Surly named their success in this "the power of the pint") and brought on the age of the taproom, where production breweries, not just brewpubs could have a space where their beer would flow into customers glasses and tills would overflow with cash. In 2012, Harriet actually became the second brewery in the city with a taproom (Lift Bridge was the first in the state), beaten to the punch by a week by Fulton at their new downtown brewery, after 3 years of having their beers produced by contract in Wisconsin. That year also brought us the breweries Boom Island, Indeed (the first brewery to open with a taproom), and Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub (who I now work for). The next year, 2013, saw the founding of Dangerous Man, 612 Brew, Sociable CiderWerks, and The Freehouse, a creation of the Blue Plate Group chain of restaurants. Day Block Brewing opened in January of this year, bringing us up to six brewpubs and seven breweries with taprooms, a total of thirteen breweries in the city one can visit if one wishes.

This number will change soon. NorthGate Brewing of NorthEast Minneapolis is planning a taproom, and we're looking forward to the new Surly facility in Prospect Park. Lake Monster Brewing is looking for a facility, and who else is coming to the City of Lakes? Bauhaus (NE), Lyn-Lake (Uptown), Sisyphus (Loring Park)…others? Will we be at 20 by this time next year?

So, that's been on my mind. Also weighing on my occipital lobes is that I haven't visited The Freehouse or Boom Island yet. Further, I haven't been to any of the NorthEast breweries in about a year, mostly due to my schedule. At my previous job, I worked almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the only days some of those places are open. And one last thing: I've been meaning to give The Herkimer another chance, since hearing better things about their brews. It had been nearly 10 years since I stepped through their doors. (Looking at Beeradvocate.com, the last beer I reviewed there was in December, 2006. So, 7 1/2 years, still a long time.)

All of that led me to an idea last Wednesday, while I pondered what to do with myself now that I have Thursdays off from Northbound. What if I took care of all those problems of mine at once? Could I possibly visit them all in one day, on bicycle? I plotted it out on Google Maps, left Rock Bottom off the list because it's part of a corporate chain, and Sociable, too, because their primary concern is cider, not beer. The breweries that open the earliest are conveniently located roughly together. Herkimer, Northbound, Town Hall, Day Block, Rock Bottom, and Freehouse all open before noon, while Fulton, Boom Island, Harriet and the NE locations all open at 3 or 4 pm. A logical plan was in place. One beer at each stop over the course of 11 hours? That's doable, right? Eleven beers, stretched out over that much time, with breakfast, lunch and dinner? I'll get home in one piece, for sure.

And if it is doable now, it's only now, for soon there will be too many to have a beer at each. By next year, it would have to be a 2-day project.

So, I woke up with a good eight hours sleep last Thursday around 11:30 am, got some coffee, eggs and sausage in me and headed out on bike into Uptown and the Herkimer. Saw assistant brewer Rachel Grey (I promised her I'd come by the place last fall, and have been beating myself up, internally, about the delay) outside as she left for lunch, and she recommended that I try their Baltic Porter. Normally, I'd gobble one of those up, as it's a favorite style, and it's certainly a surprise to find one at the Herkimer. But I told Rachel it wouldn't be wise to pick an 8% alcohol beer as my first of eleven, and she recommended the Golden IPA, called IP-say, after the brewer's name. I enjoyed the crisp, clean and thoroughly hoppy ale quite well. The Herkimer's trade in the past has been German-style lagers and ales only, and past experience with their products left me disappointed. IPAs and Baltic Porters? Now, we're talking!

Coming up Lyndale Avenue, towards Lake Street is The Herkimer, which advertises it's German-style lagers and ales on the colorful mural on the side of the building. You can't read it very well in this photo, but to the left of the picture is the marquee for the business formerly known as Theater Antiques, and reads: "coming soon: Lyn-Lake Brewing."


My visit was quick, the ale enjoyed, and I was back on the bike around 12:45. Eight blocks to the south to 38th Street,  then taking a left and heading east towards 28th Avenue. I chose Northbound as my second stop, where I could get my lunch and beer on the house, one of the perks of my employment. Arrived about 25 minutes later. Greenway IPA was scheduled to be tapped at 3pm, but I got one a few hours early. (You'll get my thoughts on that one soon, when I open the growler in my fridge.) A glance through Facebook showed me that Town Hall had a new Apricot IPA on, and I wondered if this could be not just the day of a beer at every brewery, but maybe an IPA at each? One never knows.

An IPA at the Herkimer? Actually, there were two on for this visit, I just chose the newest, the Golden IP-say.


And then it all fell apart. I neglected one crucial part of planning any journey that requires expenditure of funds. A bunch of things happened recently. I no longer tend bar, and don't leave work with cash tips in my pocket every night. Rollie the Cat got diabetes and the cost of his diagnoses and treatment cost me half of my first paycheck. I didn't keep solid track of money spent, and went to the ATM where I was crushed to learn that I didn't have enough cash on hand to get another nine beers over the next nine hours at nine more brewpubs and brewery taprooms. If only I had nine friends to buy me one at each. And I no longer use credit cards, so that was out. I was so dejected by the destruction of my grand plan that I was too depressed to finish my Northbound Burger. Payday was a day away, but that didn't matter at all, for I worked from 10 -6 Friday and didn't have another day off until the next Wednesday. I dedicated to do it again when I could afford to, and spent the rest of my night off visiting my old familiar haunts, Town Hall (where pints were only $3 at the time, though my Raspberry Ol' Jack Frost was not discounted) and Harriet (where the bartenders bought me a few for helping bus table, and an astounding eight varieties of their ales were available.)

Northbound bartender AJ serving up my all-Centennial Greenway IPA. A week later, this batch is almost gone.


Why, you may be asking yourself, did I spend all this time telling a tale that didn't end as anticipated? Because I will do it, with cash in pocket, and when I tell the story that time, you'll have heard the first part.

I did another trial run, a test jaunt, last Friday  when I biked from my home near Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis to meet friends and visit Boom Island at North Washington Avenue for the first time. I had  two beers there, including a new one for me, their smooth and spicy saison. My friends went on their way, so I met another friend at Indeed, my first time there in almost a year. I was easy to get from Boom Island to Indeed, across the river, and should be a cinch to tie Dangerous Man and 612, not to mention Sociable, if I choose to include it, into the circuit. (Is 12 or 13 beers in a day a good idea? Perhaps it might be okay to not necessarily make it a pint at each, do some smaller pours at some spots, and keep higher alcohol brews off the menu.)
Also at Town Hall, the Raspberry Ol' Jack Frost Imperial Stout. I don't normally like nitro stout, and am especially against it in imperials, but I had no quarrel with this one.

At Town Hall Brewery, the Apricot IPA. 


Last Friday ended with a visit to Day Block before heading home. So, hey, a visit to seven breweries in two days. Not bad. Perhaps I could do another trip of half of these before finally attempting the "Golden Mile"? I've got a feeling this would be more like 20 miles, in total. Stayed tuned. This will happen. (My next full day off is next Friday, which is also my next payday. That's when it will go down.)
I've only had this bottles before. Boom Island's Hoodoo dubbel.

Bereft of a funky appellation, Boom Island's saison is simply called saison. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub Smokehouse Porter (with appropriate musings and mulling-overs)


If you've followed this web logging site with any regularity, you're aware that I made a change of employment in the past month. Gone from my 15 and 1/2 year tenure manning the bar at the Blue Nile Restaurant & Lounge, and donning the hat of a front of house manager at Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub. And how does that affect these writings? Why should you care? That's a question I've mulling over for some time.

There were only five entries for Northbound here before I started working there, two of their (I should be saying "our", right?) regular offerings, and 3 of the many seasonals. How could I only manage five of their beers in the course of a year? (they started selling growlers last May.) I had three days off at the Nile, and one of them was a Sunday, when, for no good reason at all, you are not allowed by law to purchase a growler. The other days off, when I would go out, it was to Town Hall or Harriet, but I  rarely thought about heading South. Just no good reason at all, actually. They were brewing it, and I was missing out.

Now, I have regular access to their beers, but should I continue to write about them here? Is there a conflict of interest? In the time since I started there, mulling and mulling on these issues, house beers came and went. Agave Brown Ale (though I did toss back growlers at home, taking no notes, mulling as I was), Five High Double Pale Ale, Small Ball Pale Ale, Granola Girl Golden Ale…all of these will return eventually, though. During Minnesota Craft Beer Week, 3 new beers went on, the Buckwheat Honey Porter, and 2 infusions, Cara Cara Big Jim, and Vanilla Bean Smokehouse Porter. These last 2 were small kegs, gone in under a day. I still have a growler of Buckwheat Honey porter in the fridge, waiting until the mulling is done.



I don't believe my employers would have an issue if I continued writing about their beers here, even if I didn't write overly positive things about them. But, would you, the reader, think that my views were compromised by my association with the brewery? Not if I'm honest. This is a brewery that's not going to make a bad one, so I'm not going to have to lie to protect them from criticism. It would merely be a matter of personal preference. And if I publicly stated that I didn't particularly care for one of our offerings, would that make a difference? Would it keep people out? No. Would drawing folks in be problematic? Would it seem like I'm praising our beers to drum up business? I hope not. There's plenty of business already, and I'm no longer making tips, I'm salaried now. Drawing new business wouldn't put money in my pocket. It would continue to keep the place open in a small way, an infinitesimal way, because this place is doing solid business, supported by the community, both the neighborhood, and the beer geeks.

So, if I write about a Northbound beer, and it cause you to come in, it's a win-win, for us and for you. But wait, another question arises. Would my association with this brewery mean that my views on other local breweries' products would be tainted? If I pan someone else's beer, how would that look? I think it would look like it always has, that I'm being as honest with my opinion as I ever have been. I believe I have a reputation for that, and it will continue.

One change that I will make is that these notes on Northbound beers will only be here on the Bitter Nib, and I will not also post them on BeerAdvocate or RateBeer.com, and will not rank, rate or review them anywhere else. When I post one on Untapp'd, I'll avoid use numerical rankings.

Okay, mulling over. Notes ahoy!

People ask what our signature beer is, what's our flagship? I tell them two: Big Jim is the big seller, since we love the IPAs here so much. But Smokehouse Porter is very distinctive, it's the regular dark beer, and it reflects the smoking process of the restaurant. How many brewpubs out there feature a smoked porter as a regular house beer? Can't be too much.

So, let''s open a growler up and see what we can see…

Solid blackness, beneath a slim tan head.

Aroma: caramel, toffee, cocoa, and just a whiff of smoke. More smoke emerges over time, to combine with the caramel and cocoa. Lightly roasty.

Taste: On the tongue and past the lips, roasted malt, rich and tasty, with sweetness kept in check with an appropriate level of hop bitterness. As in the nose, the smoked malt character starts on the mild side, but continues to flower with subsequent quaffing. Full-bodied, medium finish, long-lasting flavors. A solid robust porter, substantial and satisfying.

Here's the official word from the Northbound website: "Heavier on the caramel malt and lighter on the roast malt.  5% of the base malt is smoke in-house for a smoky complexity.  This beer will pair well with most of our menu items.  And weighing in at 6.2% ABV it can also be your winter warmer."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hammerheart Surtr's Flame Smoked India Pale Ale

Surtr's Flame, in beer form.

Hammerheart Surtr's Flame Smoked IPA. 7.5% ABV. India Pale Ale with smoked malt. Smoked peppers? Not 100% sure. So, do a little research…

Here's how the master Jack Kirby depicted Surtur, as he and Stan Lee called him, from Journey into Mystery #99,  December, 1963
"Surtr is the J├Âtun Giant who purges the world in flames after the final battle, Ragnarok. This beer has a Maris Otter base with a healthy amount of Beechwood and Cherrywood Smoked Malts, a strong, bitter hop presence and the taste and aroma of cascade and centennial hops."
Here's how the awesome Walt Simonson drew the fire giant during his epic run, Thor #351, January, 1985

Sure, I know Surtur, from Thor comics by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Love a good fire demon. And he's the king of the fire demons. So, he's got that going for him.


Clear, bright crimson coloring, thin, off-white head.
Aroma: hops on fire. A rich mix, this, with full malt flavor, bold hoppiness, vibrant fruit, but not too bitter. Although it isn't a barley-wine or double IPA, the aromatics put me in the mood of one.

Taste: Bitterness is bold at first, fangs are bared, bite is taken. Fierce citric hop flavor leads the charge, with the fiery flavor fast behind. Sturdy malt base, long finish, medium bodied. It's a new thing, and I don't know how many of these there are, the smoked India Pale Ale, but damned if I don't love it. Damned if it doesn't deliver.

Tasty, tasty stuff. Deeelicious.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

ThirdStreet BrewHouse Spotlight IPA


Third Street BrewHouse Spotlight India Pale Ale. 7.3% ABV. Maris Otter & Cara Pils malts. Cascade, Bravo, Lemon Drop, Sorachi Ace, and an experimental hop.

Clear, golden colored, milky white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: soft, citric, and slightly spicy. Lemon and pineapple. Pleasant.

Taste: The first IPA from ThirdStreet Brewhouse of Cold Spring, MN, which I enjoy now on tap (all of my other samplings were from bottles), is easy on the tongue and mild on the palate. For this hophead, at least. Entry-level imbibers may find their mileage varied. Clean and light-bodied, slightly sweet, easily swilled.

It's a fairly basic IPA, non-threatening, non-challenging, drinkable to be sure, but lacking any special delights. I want to be wowed, I want to be pow-ed, and I'm still leaving the light on for the Cold Spring crew…but this one falls under the file of the merely routine. You can drink it, though, and it is beer.

Here's what they want to tell you about it: "Each spring, we will turn the spotlight on our talented brewers as they team up to create a truly special India Pale Ale. This Spring Seasonal has a balanced malt foundation with a full, strong hop character. It’s loaded with bright citrus hops and a unique experimental hop brewed using a special technique called mash hopping for a clean bitterness and optimum hop flavor that brings out hints of lemon and grapefruit. Collaboration, unique ingredients and a whole lot of creativity and ingenuity will illuminate what we already know – our brewers are the heart of our brewery. Help us shine a light on these extraordinary team members by raising your glass (or bottle)… and share a Spotlight with us!"


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Badger Hill Traitor IPA


Badger Hill Traitor IPA. They've made a lot of hay with that strange choice of a name. I'll clue you in on it later. (Once again, I write at home, with no internet. Later, I log on and look in, and share it with you. That's how we do it.) For now, let's read the label: "A Dastardly ale." Alc. 7% by Vol. "What's in this brew? Pale ale malt, lots and lots of American and Aussie hops. IBU: 70"

Now we open, and pour:

Clear, amber-hued, milky-white head of foam atop.

Aroma: A fruity melange, with a side dose of bitterness. Pineapple and mango butts up against grapefruit and lemon. Likeable.

Taste: It's doing it. A bittersweet affair all the way, juicy, piney, pleasingly hoppy right out of the gate. Fruit is prominent, and malt is helping out all the way. Really nice blend and balance. Flavor hangs in hard, last long on the palate. Medium body, long, bittersweet finish.

I like this one. Will it make me betray other IPAs I'd favored in the past? Maybe. Or, maybe it's just one of many, many, many IPAs in the USA.

Hammerheart Peter's Portar


Hammerheart Peter's Portar Peat Smoked Porter. 5.5% ABV. Hammerheart Brewing Company, Lino Lakes, MN.

I visited the Hammerheart brewery for the second time last Friday, enjoyed flights, small pours, big pours, dug into the whole line-up, and decided to take home 2 growlers, one on the lower end, one on the higher (but not the highest). Peter's Portar was in the $15  a fill range. I just cracked it open and poured myself a glass. What's up with it?

Appearance: complete and utter darkness, below a tight ring of dark brown foam.

Aroma: yeah, it's smokey, and yeah, it's peaty. with dark malt, cocoa, caramel, and coffee lingering just below. A little charcoal, a hint of anise.

Taste: all of that and more. Full-bodied. Rich, and just a little roasty. Dry mouthfeel, arid texture. Smoke and peat coat the character. A most interesting ale, this one. I could ask this beer to be more of this or less of that, but then it wouldn't be what it is.
I can say for certainty that I've never had a peat smoked porter before, that's for sure. (Also, many times I've heard the remark about this brewery, "aren't they the ones who smoke every beer?" Not true, I tell them all. In fact, on this visit only half of the beers were smoked.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mankato Organ Grinder Amber Ale


Mankato Organ Grinder Amber Ale, Brewed and bottled by Mankato Brewing company, North Mankato, MN.

Clear and coppery-colored. Nice 1/4" off-white head.

Aroma: minor, mild, inoffensive, given off no particular properties, however.

Taste: A malty affair, all the way. Just a touch of hop bitterness on the palate, to combat unwanted sweetness. Mild fruitiness, some herbal notes here and there, a bit of mineral-y-ness. It's a fine amber, and you can drink it. Adequate. Not bad. Okay, for the style.

Mankato Haymaker IPA


Mankato Haymaker IPA.

Clear, crimson-colored, sturdy, 1/2" white head on top.

Aroma: Faint. Light citrus notes coming through. Lemon and grapefruit surely unfolding. Bitterness rises. I'm liking it more and more.

Taste: On the tongue, ah! That's the stuff, delivering a brace of hop bitterness. Citrus flavor grows and grows, matches the medium malt body. Crisp, refreshing, and ever-lastingly bitter.

Here's another label that does overkill with the references to the beer name: "With the hops and malt fighting for convention, Haymaker IPA won't back down. The rich, malty base provides the windup for the hops' crisp, bright citrus flavors. Fo toe-to-toe with this well balanced and devilishly drinkable IPA, and this double dry-hopped phenom will knock you out."

I could do without half of that. But I take all of the beer. I'll reach for it again some day.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Bruery Six Geese A-Laying


The Bruery Six Geese A-Laying, Belgian-style Dark Ale with Cape Gooseberries. Alc. 11.5% by Vol. "The sixth verse of our Twelve Beers of Christmas saga incorporates tangy cape gooseberries into a subtle, Belgian-style dark ale. Happy Holidays!"

So, I'm off season with this one. My last visit to Wisconsin was in early December, and lo, and behold, there were still bottles of this when I returned two weeks ago. Well, as for me, it's always a good time for a Belgian strong dark, so let's dig in…

Appearance: dark, burgundy-hued, utterly opaque, with a slim head that dies down quickly.

Aroma: Tart fruit starts it off. I'm not that smart about gooseberries…what are they, berries that geese lay…is that why it's six geese a-laying? Well, I'm getting a bit of the cran
- and a whiff of the rasp- in that berry fashion.

Taste: Here it comes again, with dark, rich malt behind it. A little chocolate-y, caramel, toffee…stays just on one side of sweet, but firmly encamped in indulgence. Sweetness is staved off by the sour, the refreshing tartness those berries bring. The high alcohol has been staying shy..until now. Boom-lang-a-lang! Full-bodied, long finish.
And the flavor is what's doing it for me, for this one really does have the great, rich, deep and dark flavor of a Belgian strong dark ale, with the twist of the berries. I'm liking this more and more as I drink it in. It tastes oh, so, goose-y.

Tasty stuff. Mmmm, mmm, The Bruery, I like what you do-ery.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Left Coast Trestle India Pale Ale


Left Coast Trestles India Pale Ale, Left Coast Brewing, San Clemente, CA. Alc. 6.8% ABV.

Hazed, amber-hued, bright white head.

Aroma: citrus and pine, orange and grapefruit, doin' the thing. Pithy, and pleasing.

Taste: Intense bitterness greets the tongue, hop flavors blaze the palate. Medium-bodied, plenty of malt, lots of ballast for the bitterness. I got this bomber for $3, seemed like a good deal for a big bottle of a beer I've never tried. So far, so good, it's a perfectly adequate IPA. Just right on, nothing special, though

Hey, what's it say on the back" "Trestles IPA is light bodied, clean, and pleasantly hoppy, with every sip this tasty india pale ale will take you back to your escape s, such as local surf spot Trestles. It's strong copper color and clean finish on the palate are created by brewing the IPA with 2-row malt and light imported crystal malt. We use CTZ and Chinook hops and follow it up with the addition of dry hops of Chinook and Centennial in the fermenter, bringing out a citrus aroma. Find your escape!"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day Block Batch 19 IPA

I haven't been bringing back Day Block growlers much, have I? They've been open for over 4 months and this is only the second beer I'm adding here. Is it because their growler prices are a bit on the high end ($16 for a fill)? Well, since I'm getting a big break in my beer budget, perhaps I should splurge a little. Though I do need to rotate and make the rounds some.

Here come notes on Batch 19 IPA from Day Block Brewing Company:


Day Block Brewing Batch 019 IPA.

I asked Paul if that was his standard IPA, for it bears no other name, unlike Northern Discovery, the first beer I took home form this brewery in growler form. No, said the brewer, he said he wasn't going to make a standard IPA, so this is just being called by it's batch number. Right on.

Clear, light golden coloring, big, white head on the first two pours, not so much with this one for the photograph.

Aroma: citrus delights, bright and lively.

Taste: fruity and bitter, lean and easy-drinking. Grassy and citric hop notes are in charge here (I remember hearing Cascade and Amarillo were the chief culprits), plays long and hard on the palate. Harsh bitterness is kept tame…who am I kidding, I'm interpreting that from a hop-head point of view. Anyone would else would go screaming from this. Big time bitterness, hangs hard and leans long onto the palate. Very rewarding. Wonderful IPA. Love it.

Dogfish Head Hellhound on My Ale

Like a lot of folk and blues musicians, I do tend to ramble some. And some times, those ramblings even make sense, sometimes they have music and poetry, too. This is not one of those. This is a blind tasting, without any information before typing and drinking. I went back in and corrected some mistaken information. Here come the notes:


Dogfish Head Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Ale.  10 % ABV, ale brewed with lemons.

Dogfish Head began their music series with the Bitches Brew ale, to commemorate the anniversary of Miles Davis' album of the same name. I've got to say that I don't know if there's an anniversary of Robert Johnson's to celebrate, or any particular connection to his music that this beer creates. (Duh. 2011 was his centennial year. )Maybe there is, but "ale brewed with lemons" doesn't speak immediately to the life of Robert Johnson, unless I'm completely wrong about that. (and I've since learned that it is a tribute to Blind Lemon Jefferson.)

Appearance: hazy, amber. lasting white head on top.

Aroma: mild hop approach, but plenty of fruit and citrus, lots of malt-delivered fruit-y character. Terrifically pleasant. I'm happy.

Taste: So, I'm spinning the classic Columbia album, "King of the Delta Blues Singers", from the "Thesaurus of Classic Jazz". "Rambling on My Mind" is on right now. All the lemon in this makes me stay a second, no matter how hard she treats me. We've gone through Preaching Blues and When You Got a Good Friend, and are 5 tracks away from the title that lends it's name to this ale, in a fashion, "Hellhound on my Trail". Bitter and sour, with a lean malt body, the hops and the citrus addition become primary.

As I often report from the lines of label copy on beer bottles, I know quote from the album: "Robert Johnson sang primitive blues about women, His references were earthy and only thinly disguised. He lived the life he sang about and which ultimately killed him. He was not unique in that respect. /..."

I'm still not 100% sure that this is the best beer with which to give him tribute.So the blues equal bitter, therefore a lemon-infused ale? Maybe something earthier? Richer, darker? "Hellhound" has no direct relation to lemons. Maybe I missed something?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dave's BrewFarm Funfen Hoppen Lager


Dave's BrewFarm Funfen Hoppen Lager. 6.1% ABV. There should be umlauts over the u. I still haven't figured out umlauts on this keyboard.

Clear and amber-colored. Full, lasting white head.

Aroma: sweet malt leads it off, with mild hop presence chasing it. It grows and widens, but slowly.

Taste: Here's the hops take charge, bitter at first, a nice, crisp bite, with malt to match. Sweetness keeps time with bitter, and the hops are having a party in the mouth. This is so tasty, you'd hardly know it was a lager. So hoppy and lively, you'd think it was an ale. Just an everyday experience at the LaBrewaTory.

Hey, what's the word from FD? "Five different hops: Columbus, Brewer's Gold, Nugget, Mandarina, and Bramling Cross make for a hoppy, crisp lager. Pils and Caramel 20 malts. Clocking in at 6.4% ABV, this tasty lager will satisfy hopheads everywhere!"

That is true.

Dogfish Head Sixty-One


Dogfish Head Sixty-One, the Continually-hopped India Pale Ale brewed with Syrah grape must. 6.5% ABV.
Hm. Never had this one. DFH is back in Wisconsin now, so a visit to our easterly neighbors means more chances to try Delaware's finest.

Hazy, bright crimson coloring, dotted white head.

Aroma: the difference is immediately detectable. Slightly tart, very fruity aromatics from the get-go. Not getting much from the hops front, though. Bitterness is kept at bay. It is lovely though. Irresistibly intriguing.

Taste: Wine-like texture greets the palate at first, traces of tannins. Deep fruit factor, with hop character peeking out occasionally. Bits of sour butts up against sweet, with bitter trying to take over. Medium-bodied, with a long and complex finish.

You can say what you like about Dogfish Head, but they take risks and they don't do boring. I'm liking this one quite a bit. Best of both worlds happening here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Destihl Hoperation Overload


Destihl Brewery Hoperation Overload Double IPA. Brewed and canned by Destihl Brewery, Bloomington, IL.
"Support Flavor, Boycott Bland." "Imperial India Pale Ale Overloaded with hops." 12 fluid ounces. IBU 85. Alc. 9.6% by Vol.

Clear, amber-toned, creamy, eggshell-white head of foam.

Aroma: floral notes first, then come the citrus and tropical fruit. Pineapple, mango meets lemon and grapefruit.

Drinking it down: Starts off bitter, pounces on the palate, then slides down and simmers. Caramel-y malt body stays this side of sweet. Much more malt character in this double IPA than most. Interesting dynamics here. Halfway through, the hoppy side has faded in potency, and the alcohol is taking over.

I wonder what the can tells us? "Our mission for this Imperial or Double India Pale Ale is to overload the beer with hops for an intense hop bitterness, flavor and aroma, while still being balanced by a big malt profile, resulting in a hoppy beer, with more dimension. This beer is light copper in color with some hop hazed from overloading with dry hops as well. Cheers."

They did what they set out to do, it seems. If you want to be blasted, even obliterated, by hops, and nothing else in your double IPA, this ain't the one for you. Me, I'm enjoying it. My first full taste of a Destihl beer, and I'm ready for more.

Dave's BrewFarm Odd Job


I made it to Dave's BrewFarm Sunday afternoon, my first visit since early December. Why, why, why did it take me nearly 5 months for me to return? I don't know! I just don't. There seems to be no obvious explanation, so we won't dwell on it. But I really wanted it to happen this Sunday, for it was the day after my last day at my job of 15 years. And my ol' pal Jason B. was ready and able to drive us both out there. Nothing says celebrate like returning to my pals at the BrewFarm, where they even had a band this time, a group called Holy Sheboygan that was actually from Appleton (a less funny name than Sheboygan. You never saw W.C. Fields referring to Spokane, no, it was always Walla Walla, Washington. Keokuk? Hilarious Iowa city. Des Moines? Not as much.)

But, I'm on a slight budget, so I didn't fill all 4 of my DBF growlers, only 2, and the first that I'm opening is the one that they didn't have on tap Sunday, so it is new to me. It is called Odd Job, and I don't know why it has that sobriquet, nor do I find any style it might resemble. No matter. Let us drink it and find out.

It's clear, and it's light crimson, with a slim white head.

Aromatics: light caramel malt tones, fairly muted. Light citric fruit notes. Interesting mix, widening, gaining esters as it unfolds. What seemed simple at first is growing in complexity.

Taste: bright, citrus-y hops spark first, bouncing on the palate, then stepping back. Body is light, and malt character is clean and spare. There's a crispness and cleanless, at first, that gives way, once more, to fruitiness. Smoke is coming through now, at last, in these new sips. Another one of the Frankenstein beers from the BrewFarm, with no precedent, no style that it aims to fit, pieced together in a way no one's ever tried before.

Here's what Farmer Dave says about it: "6.1% ABV. With a nod to one of James Bond's greatest villains, this lightly smoky ale has Pils, Cara Red, Smoked and Victory malts, Magnum, Perle, Brewer's Gold and Mandarina hops and fermented with a German ale yeast. (WY1007).