Monday, June 30, 2014

Canal Park Dawn Treader Tripel

I've not yet been to Canal Park brewing in Duluth, it was still under construction when I visited that town last, two years ago. I got this growler as a gift from a co-worker last week. I've been sitting on it for too long, time to open up this triple and try it out.

Pouring out a clear, bright golden hue, with a very small head. Was it because I kept it in the fridge for a week? Maybe, maybe not.

Aroma: restrained esters in this arena. Some sweetness, some fruit. Little bit of spice. Passable. Charming, if not transcendent. (He says, tongue-in-cheekly.)

Taste: all that and more comes roaring onto the palate. Plenty of fruit, citrus and stone, lots of spice, add some yeasty goodness, and keep it on the smooth side. Light bodied, clean and crisp. Long, lingering finish, good hopping, a trace of bitterness. I like this. I like it a lot. Very nice triple. The alcohol is finally revealing itself, and it's making me very mellow. Oh, yeah...

Here's their info, swiped from the website. (Usually, I link to webpage, but this time it's going in the text. Why not.)

Brewed as an homage to those who rise up and set out into the darkness.  Whether it’s to watch the lake steam from the bow of your boat on an early morning paddle or to heed the call of the woods in the gray limbo before dawn: Wake up, people! This complex beer, with its spicy and fruity flavors, will provoke. The medium bodied yet light Belgian brew is the perfect reward as you look back on the journey that made up your day. To the dawn treaders, cheers!

9.2% 19.8 3.3 35FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE
Long hikes, late nights, conversations with yourself
Fermentables:Pilsner, Caramel 10L, Carapils, Candi SugarHops Varieties:Golding, Hallertau, Sterling

Northbound Hefe Weizen

Northbound Hefe Weizen. Hefe. hef-uh. (or, sometimes, "hey-fuh.") Not "hef", lord, I hate that.

Let's drink one, already.

Lightly hazy, golden-hued, enormous head, bright white, crystalline. Looking lovely.

Aroma: some spice, some fruit, light, yet lively. Love it, right on the money.

Taste: sweetness, spice, wheat, smoothness….creamy and delicious. Orange and lemon and minor spice notes and it's right on the money. It's doing the thing. Classic heft weizen flavor and extreme drinkability, perfect for summertime quaffing.

The official word from the brewer: Hefe Weizen, 5.4%, 11 IBU. Hefe is German for yeast. Weizen is German for wheat. Hefe weizens are traditionally cloudy from the suspended yeast and proteins. This is a traditional hefe weizen, all the yeast, hops and malt are from GErmany.
Hefe Weizens are all about the yeast, this particular yeast stays suspended in the beer and produces esters that smell and taste like banana and cloves. If we had used our house yeast, it would be a clear AMerican wheat beer similar to Goose Island's 312, a completely different beer. Fermenting the beer at slightly higher temperature  (71 rather than 68) produces more of the banana esters common to this style."

Northbound Line Drive India Pale Ale

Northbound Brewpub Line Drive IPA. Second in the baseball series, after Small Ball Pale Ale, and before Ground Rule Double IPA. And I did it again. This one came out several weeks ago, maybe a month, actually, and I put off the note-taking, while enjoying growlers at home. This is my last growler, and it just went off tap today. So, no matter what ideas you get after reading these notes on this beer, it would do you no good whatsoever to visit the pub and look for this one. We still have Four Stitches, we always have Big Jim, and look out for that Ground Rule, but Line Drive is done. Now, let me tell you about it….

Clear, copper-y coloring, off-white head, frothy, lace-leaving.

Aroma: pine and citrus aplenty, all the requisite American hop sensations at play. Some spice, some lemon and lime….grapefruit…ah…

Taste: In the mouth, it's IPA all the way. But plenty of malt at hand, lots of good buttress here, significant backbone, without too much sweetness. Just enough to bring on the flavor. Great balance in this one, excellent play between the bitter and the sweet. As an IPA, this has it going on. Long flavor, long finish, medium body, terrific deliciousness.

Here's the official word from the brewer: line drive: The 2nd in our three-part baseball series. This year's Line Drive is a balanced American IPA. The bitterness is scaled back to showcase two hop varieties, Polaris and Chinook. Polaris is a relatively new variety with floral and minty notes. Chinook is one of the original American hops with pine and citrus notes and a slightly harsh bitterness. A few pounds of Centennial hops round out the hops with bright fruity notes. The malt is a combination of Briess Ashburne and Rahr Pale for a solid malt backbone. 6.9% ABV, 70 IBUs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Duvel Tripel Hop--Mosaic

Duvel Tripel Hop, Special Edition Golden Ale, dry-hopped with Mosaic, 9.5% ABV. (this one was $18 for a 4-pack, versus $20 for a 750ml bottle previously.)

Hazy, golden hued. Beautiful. gorgeous. lace-leaving, ivory head of foam. Lovely looking.

Aroma: ah! Ahh! Ahh, ahhh, ahhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhhhh!!! Nothing but …wait, did I use up my adjectives? It's luminescent, is what it is. Zap-tastic, pretty much. Tropical fruit, some citrus, a glimmer of pine, lemon and pineapple, it's zestful, to be sure.

Taste: On the palate, it's pretty much Duvel Plus, if that helps you. Everything you expect from a well-conditioned bottle of Duvel with this extra addition of Mosaic, which is a most complex and rewarding hop.

Man, if you're in need of relief from a bad day, drink this, buddy. If you want extra succor, something to soothe you after some hardship, this is the key to the salve of your salvation. If you're a dyed-in-the-wool hop-head of course. You're not? Why are you reading this?

Most delicious, this. Tons of hop bitterness, but never too harsh.

From Hedwig Neven, Brewmaster: "For this edition, I have selected Mosaic. This new U.S. hop variety enhances the beer with a tangerine sweetness, hints of tropical fruit and an interesting blueberry flavor."

Here's the thing. Mosaic does have that "blueberry" thing, but I never pick it up until I read something else. Oh, yeah, blueberry, I get it, now.


Here are notes from December, 2010, of an earlier version, dry-hopped with Amarillo:

Duvel Triple Hop. Special Edition Ale. 750 ml bottle. Complete with lushly illustrated booklet. Saaz, Styrian Goldings, plus Amarillo, the newish tropical-fruity American hop. $20 bottle. I don't usually drop that much on a single beer. But, this is Duvel. And, well, I've heard good things. Brewed on May 18, 2010.

In a Duvel goblet, of course. Bright golden coloration, fierce, incessant carbonation, bubbles rising valiantly to the top, with a typically enormous, bone white, lacy, and lovely head.

Aroma spills out at first pour, and distracted me while describing the appearance. This addition of Amarillo to the usual combo of Saaz and Styrian Golding hops was ingenious. Floral, fragrant, aplomb with many associations found in these hops, the citrus, the spice, the distinctive pungent "cat pee" , well, that one peeks out, but is smothered by the pleasanter feelings. And underneath the pretty floral and fruity emanations, comes the bitterness. Beautiful bitterness.

Taste: Light is the body, and high is the bitter hop flavor. A great cornucopia of hoppy goodness. Fruit, spice, and bitter-tangy. Some pineapple pops up, with a twist of lime, trickle of pepper. Smooth down the throat, and over the palate, with the pleasing hop flavor riding along. Each sip is quenching and bracing, with bitterness. You get the sizzle of the Saaz, the classic feel of the Belgian-y Styrian Golding, the funky twisted nature of the thing, with the tropical fruity American Amarillo bringing that pineapple, mango, banana. Wonderfully hoppy. And, as it ages, it gets better an

This = yum.  Unfortunately, it won't be returned to, due to the price. Amazing, for what it is. And I love it. Mmmm, mmm, mmm...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Enki Auburn Kolsch

Here is my first full serving of a beer from Enki Brewing of Victoria, MN, and it's a head scratcher.

Clouded, hazy, truly auburn colored brew, under a slim beige head.

Aroma: sweet, caramel malt, little else. Some notes of cocoa and coffee, but minor. Nonetheless, nothing you'd expect from something calling itself a kolsch.

Taste: greets the palate with a sweetness that soon dries out in the mouth. Moderate hop presence, very clean mouthfeel, quite smooth on the palate. Flavorful, and drinkable, but not a kolsch. I had the opportunity to hear the brewer speak about this and address the charge of how a beer of this color can be called a kolsch. His answer: "It's not." He went on to say that everything about the recipe follows a kolsch with the exception of the addition of caramel malt. Well, if that change alters the flavor as well as the color, which it inevitably will in a style that is based specifically on delicacy and lightness, then how can you call it that? Make up a new name or something.

What it is, though, is tasty. There's no denying that. These are good flavors that taste great together. It's good beer and you can drink it. But this business of changing the flavors yet calling it what it no longer is, that'll confuse people while feathers get ruffled.

There are some styles that should just be left alone, and don't need tinkering with or improving. Kolsch is one, I think, and there are a few others. Would you make a Chocolate Pilsner? A bourbon-barrel tripel? There are a few limits, and it should be fairly easy to recognize them.

Northbound Greenway IPA

If you read my notes on Northbound's Buckwheat Honey Porter, I hinted that there would be another obsolete review coming up and this is the one. Greenway IPA was released on May 22, and lasted just over a week. There were only 40 growlers filled, and I took one of them home that first weekend. I didn't feel like taking notes at first, just cracked it open and enjoyed a pint. I did take notes the next day, and here they are...

There are very few logos made for the beers at Northbound, and in fact, this might be the only one, designed in-house by bartender Krissy S.

Greenway IPA, 6.9% ABV, 70 IBUs, all Centennial hops.

Appearance: slightly hazed, copper-colored, full, bright white head.

Aroma: vibrant, fruity hoppiness, bursting with tropical fruit, citrus, pine, all the traditional suspects here in abundance.

Taste: even more of that pounces on the palate. One for the hop-heads only, but for us, it's a definite delight. Slightly astringent, and beautifully bitter. Drinks like a dream, too. If only this could be a regular beer. I've already declared it my favorite yet, from this brewery (although it's hard to argue with Big Jim...). It's still early yet. Does it compete with Snownami, Snowpocalypse, etc? The barley-wine, the doppelbock, all those others I never took notes on? Maybe so. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Centennials?

Here are notes from the brewer: "Greenway is a single hop Centennial IPA. This was one of our most popular beers last year, so we brought it back. The malt is slightly different than last year since we don't have Cargill malt. We replaced the Cargill with Briess Ashburne malt. Ashburne is kilned a little darker for malt richness and a little bit of a toasty note in the background (if you can taste beyond the enormous amount of Centennials.) If you haven't noticed, people really love Centennial hops. The citrus, pine and dank aroma and flavor is the same profile that drives the popularity of Bell's Two Hearted Ale and Founders Centennial IPA. Staying true to the Northbound brewing focus, we took what people like and intensified it. At a hop rate of 5.6 pounds per barrel, this beer is no joke.  

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale

We're going back in time again, re-visiting an old favorite, and, in this case, perusing 11 year old notes. From February of 2003, here are my notes on the Nut Brown Ale of Yorkshire, England' Samuel Smith Brewery, a 5% ABV English Brown Ale.

Dark brown color, with light getting through around the edges of the clear bottle, and a thick, sizzling tan head.

Aroma is nutty, herbal, with a notes of caramel, butterscotch, and almonds, and the lush feel of the deep woods.

On the palate: sweet and buttery, with a mellow and medium body. Small hop presence here, more a malt emphasis, and a great balance between. Sweet enough to please the folks, but with a solid enough body not to disappoint the serious ale lover.
Quite unlike the ever-present, flimsy and bland Newcastle.
Very pleasing, and rewarding.

As for now, I like it as much as ever, though I'm rarely in the mood for a brown ale. I'd ordinarily choose a porter or stout.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Biking the Beers of Minneapolis, Part Two.2: Stabbing Northward

Biking the Brewpubs and Taprooms of Minneapolis, the Adventure Continues!

A break and we're back. When we last left this tale, I was at Dangerous Man Brewing Company, having a Scottish Ale, when along came Tim Olson, of Tallgrass Brewing, with his co-worker Jake. Saturday was the St. Paul Summer Beer Fest, and there were many brewery representatives in town. Tim was kind enough to buy me the pint, and I almost had another, but stuck to the plan, and had one and was done. While briefly on facebook (I was going online periodically and updating my adventure, to the virtual cheers of my fb friends), my sister Lynn sent a message asking where I was headed next. I suspect she was concerned of my safety after eight or nine beers, while on bike. She was going to Indeed with her husband (who is, co-incidentally, actually my brother-in-law! small world), and guess what? So were Tim and Jake. Okay, next up, go from 13th to 15th, then a right turn and all the way to Monroe Street, and there we are...

Brewery #9: Indeed Brewing Company, 711 15th Avenue NE.

Around this time, my note-taking had ceased completely. I can't recall when I left Dangerous Man or when I arrived at Indeed, but I'm going to guess 7:30? I also have to confess that while the directions given above are correct and true, I did not actually follow them. I went into this without taking a map, or printing out Google Maps, or doing anything beyond writing down addresses in my notebook. I've biked to Indeed many times, and I've travelled from Indeed to Dangerous Man on foot, and always found my way there. But I did get lost, as I often do, and once again the Bitter Nib continues it's tradition of being the blog that tells you how I live, rather than demonstrating how one should wisely live. It's just how it is around here.

Eventually I found my way, much more than a mile away, and longer than the six minutes it should have taken. Remember, people: don't be like me! (Except when you should, of course.) And I pulled into the bike rack, and there were my pals Dave and Mikayla on the patio, and so were Tim and Jake, and inside, at a booth, there was sister Lynn, and brother in law Pete. I chose for my beer #9 at brewery #9 the LSD Ale, and you can read my thoughts on that here.

It seemed a little quiet for a Friday night at Indeed when I first rolled in, but after 8 o'clock, boom, along came the crowd. Just in time for me to make my next move. Could I do both 612 Brew, and Sociable Cider Werks (despite it's name, actually a brewery), before going to Harriet to complete 12 breweries in one day (skipping the 13th Minneapolis brewery as of this minute, which is but one among a national chain, the downtown Rock Bottom)? Should I? Would I?

At Indeed's taproom, clockwise from left: Tim, Jake, and, in the foreground, my glass of LSD.

The decision was made when it started to look like rain, at last. I made two snap decisions: 1. skip 612 Brew, and 2. accept sister Lynn's offer to toss my bike in her car and take it to ...

Brewery #10: Sociable Cider Werks, 1500 Filmore St. NE.

This was my second visit to Sociable and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. They're making beers, and with the wort from that beer, they're crating an ale/cider hybrid called "graff", so rare and unknown that it doesn't have a Wikipedia entry? How is this possible when this is actually a fictional invention of Stephen King? Don't these wiki's and pedias talk to each other?

I ordered a beer, something called Crystal Smash, a "Single malt/single hop" beer, while sis and bro-in-law had one of the tart ciders. I remain a non-cider lover, a lover of non-ciders, i.e, not a lover of ciders. Will it ever happen? Pigs have flown, yet they still cannot fly.
At Sociable Cider Werks, clockwise from left, my glass of Crystal Smash, brother-in-law Pete, big sister Lynn.

I said hello to friends in attendance, kept up the routine of frequently remembering the rule of IBU, and with my ale and their ciders tossed down our respective gullets, we travelled eastward, through Dinkytown and the University of Minnesota, across the big river, back into SouthEast Minneapolis, and to our final brewery taproom, a place regular readers should be well familiar with, ...

Brewery #11: Harriet Brewing Company, 3036 Minnehaha Avenue.

Walking into Harriet's taproom, I was informed that a cover charge in effect. They've been so kind to me there on so many occasions, I didn't mind paying it, for myself and my kin. Why the cover? Willie Murphy, local blues/rock legend was in the house.

Front and center, my pint of West-Side Belgian-style IPA, beer #11 at brewery #11, with Willie Murphy, vocals and guitar, directly behind.

 He was actually doing a cover of Lou Donaldson's "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky From Now On." I tried to find it on vinyl to play during the break, but I only have that one on CD. Did have some other funky jazz, and the musicians came over to the turntable to thank me for spinning some Shirley Scott.

the only picture not taken by me, this was shot by sister Lynn, laying down some grooves at Harriet Taproom.
Beer #11 was a pint of West Side Belgian-style India Pale Ale. Beer #12 was a pint of Divine Oculust Belgian-style Strong Golden Ale, and Beer #13 was Juhla Bru, the Finnish-style Sahti, which I was amazed that they still had on.

Did I do it, did I make it to every Minneapolis brewery (brewpub/taproom) in one day? No, I skipped two, for time, and, well, I just didn't feel like it. Did I make it all the way by bike? No, when rain was on the way, I took the easy way out and made the longest leg of the journey ( 4.7 miles from NE to Harriet) by car.

Could you do it? Keep in mind that I only felt a buzz by my 13th glass. In fact, I was okay enough to actually go grocery shopping after leaving Harriet ...which I totally don't remember! Just kidding, I do have vague recollections of that midnight shopping spree, but I don't know why I felt the need for so many bags of Cheetos...Also, keep in mind, that this is me, and everyone's mileage varies. And so, I posit that if I had started this journey earlier (the first stop on the voyage, Herkimer, actually opens at 10 am), I could have spanned 13 pints at 13 stops. Further, I could have chosen smaller pours at some of those visits, but, since I never remembered to ask for them, I got a pint each time. Additionally, a little more food might have helped a bit (I only ate at Northbound, Freehouse, and a food truck at Indeed). Also, for the other stops skipped, they would be easy to include in the same itinerary from this trip. Rock Bottom is only about six blocks away from Fulton, and 612 is only a couple off from Indeed.

Theoretically doable, I hereby establish. But I won't try again. I awoke the next...afternoon...without a hangover, bereft of sickness, but very, very tired. Good thing that I didn't have to work until 5 in the afternoon. Did I ever sleep in. It was a fun day, to be sure. If I try anything similar, and I will, it will be more compartmentalized. On my next day off, Monday, all the brewpubs are open. Hey, why not hit the six of them, but the other way, from Freehouse to Herkimer? My next next day off is a Friday, when all the taprooms are open, I could do Fulton to NE, then that nearly 5 mile stretch (I've done it before, many times) to Harriet. Watch this space. More fun awaits!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Biking the Beers of Minneapolis: Part Two. 1: Another Stab At It

I'd like to pretend that this is a collection of coasters saved in the course of my journey, but it's not entirely true. Herkimer and Harriet aren't using coasters currently, so I dug into my vast collection in order to represent them. All the others were picked off of the bar and plunked into my pocket.
A few  weeks ago, I told you about my ill-fated attempt to visit all of the breweries in the city of Minneapolis on one day, by bicycle. This past Friday, June 6, I had plenty of money in the bank, and set out to attempt this journey once more. Did I succeed? Not exactly. But now I know that it can be done. And here is how it happened.

I closed the bar the night before, and didn't get home until around 2:30 am, when I had a few more beers before turning in. This led me to awake at around noon, shower, breakfast, and ready to go, if a bit later than I would have liked. 12:46pm:leave home. 12:54: visit local bank to check on my statement and procure appropriate funds. Then, return home for my forgotten water bottle, but forget to change into shorts. It's a hot one today. Leave home and get on the greenway at approximately 1:04, an hour later than last time.

The Greenway is Minneapolis' pastoral bike path which took the place of an abandoned railroad line under neath 28th St. I followed it from 13th Avenue all the way to Bryant, in order to get to The Herkimer, but I had not need for it afterward.

Brewery #1,  The Herkimer Pub & Brewery, 2922 Lyndale Avenue,
A view of the Herkimer Pub from the street on Lyndale Avenue, wherein I am attempting to get a view of the brewing equipment, and instead get a reflection of the opposite side of the street, and my own self.
arriving around 1:18. I remember reading an early review from around 2000 or so, when owner Blake Richardson announced that this brewpub would not be brewing beers to suit the tastes of the beer geek set, instead designing them for the tastes of regular folks. Or some thing like that. That effectively dropped them from my must-check-out list. After actually trying the beers, I remained unenthusiastic. But things are changing. They had 2 IPAs, a Biere de Garde, and a Baltic Porter on this visit, in addition to the German-style stuff. I chose the Gose, called Speziell Weizen, my first time with this one. Cloudy, golden-toned, yeasty, with spicy notes and banana flavors. Slightly sour, salty and citric at once. Smoothness and complexity together.
Gose Speziell Weizen at the Herkimer.
The Official description: "Gose is a cross between a Belgian Wit and a Berliner Weisse. It's brewed with half wheat malt and spiced with coriander. Gose Special Weizen has a definite tartness and is balanced with a nice roundness. ABV-4%, IBU 40, OG-18.7, decoctions-2." This is one of their longtime offerings, and I chose it for two reasons, to try as many different styles of beer as I can today (the opposite of what I considered last time, when I pondered having all IPAs), and the lower ABV is a plus whe considering this journey. I'd thought about trying the Biere de Garde, being brand new, and a style they wouldn't have done years ago, but the 7.7% ABV made me pause. This is only the second beer I've had here since giving up on this place over 7 years ago, and I quite like this one. It's certainly going to be the only Gose I'm likely to find on today's trip.

The  view from the bar of the brewing equipment at The Herkimer .

Brewery #2: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub, 2716 38th Avenue South. 
This time, I got it right. A view of the brewery at Northbound from the street.
1:46, leave, head up Lyndale to 38th St., then all the way to 28th Avenue. Almost 4.3 miles, a good 25 minutes.  If you use Google maps to plot your course, it has you taking the Greenway, but I opted again that, in order to enjoy scenic 38th Street. Arrive around 2:18. Having lunch at Northbound, a turkey club sandwich with cole slaw. Drinking a Hefe Weizen. Will this be the day of wheat beers, instead of IPAs? Possibly…but probably not. This one, too, was chosen for it's low ABV, somewhere between 4 and 5 percent alcohol. A half hour of travel, a half hour of eating and drinking and chatting with my co-workers while they work, and I don't.
A "selfie" on the patio, enjoying the smooth, and lightly fruity Hefe Weizen. 

Brewery #3: Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, 1430 Washington Avenue South

A view of the brewery at Town Hall, with the original sign from  17 years ago serving as decoration.

Now, the next trek will be quicker, a straight shot down Hiawatha Avenue to Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery...but not quite. I traveled behind one of those brave ones, who darts in and around traffic, zipping hither and yon, without a care. I have a care. I wait at traffic lights, and never jay-bike. It's just me. It's what happens when an accident with a car leaves you with twenty-five stitches on your face. You get cautious. (This happened sixteen years ago. I still have a small scar which glows bright red when I've had a few.) Another 3.7 miles, almost 25 minutes. arrive 3:17, a quick SS Cascade Pale Ale, only $3 during happy hour, and out the door at 3:33.

An all-Cascade pale ale, SS Cascade, is as hoppy, citrus-y and refreshing as you'd expect. Records show that this is a new one, un-reviewed by me. I'll return for a growler soon. That gallery on the wall displaying past beers is a new addition from their recent renovation, and it just makes me nostalgic for the old chalkboards and paintings that used to be there. Sigh...

Brewery #4: Day Block Brewing Company, 1105 Washington Avenue.

Tasty pale ale from Day Block, the Lot 56, 100% locally grown Cascades,  45 IBUs, 5% ABV. Was this to be a Cascade kind of day? No, just a minor trend, soon to be bucked. I did continue to keep it lower alcohol. For a while. 
I mentioned to brewer Paul Johnston that I intended to take photos of the brewing equipment when I could and he lead me downstairs to the cellar. In my fingers is a preview of an upcoming Belgian Pale Ale which won my seal of approval.
The shortest distance between breweries, over a bridge and down the road, approximately three blocks away. Arriving approximately 3:43 pm. A sign on the Eastern side of the street leads us towards the beer...
...on the opposite side of this chalkboard, however, we are guided towards "bacon." Although they are a pizzeria, Day Block has become renowned for their bacon flights.

By 4:15, I'm out the door, and heading West-ward on Washington, until I took a turn on 6th St., left toward Target Field, where I was slightly disoriented. A quick little swivel and lo, and behold, at 4:39, (2 miles from the last stop) there we are at....

Brewery #5: Fulton Brewery, 414 6th Avenue North. Where I did not take a single good picture of the outside of the building. And my beer of choice was MPLS Mild, another instance of keeping it simple and small. Firmly in the tradition of an English dark mild ale, only 4% ABV, described as "silky, yet surprisingly substantial." Sounds about right. I was looking forward to seeing my friend Laura Preston, who runs the taproom, but she was not on the floor at the time, and I had a schedule to keep. (Sort of).
Once more, here are my fingers holding a pint of MPLS Mild, posing before the brewing tanks at Fulton. Mmmm...mild-y.

Were I not in the market for mild ales, there were many choices at my disposal at Fulton.  Worthy Adversary? Not today, I'm afraid.
The visit to Fulton was quick, indeed. Twenty minutes after arrival, just about 5 pm, I'm back on my Schwinn Traveller and down 6th Street to .Washington Avenue, again, then one block down the road to...

Brewery #6, The Freehouse, 701 Washinton Avenue, the last brewery to open in 2013, a creation of the Blue Plate group of restaurants and bars, and the final brewpub of this journey (I decided to skip Rock Bottom this time). They're all brewery taprooms from here on out.
I feel that they have decided on a "Prohibition" theme for this conception and it results in an unfortunate uniform for the servers and bartenders. Bowties, blue denim shirts, suspenders and grey khakis. It's the 1930's newsboy look. I felt so sad for them. Also, a bottlecap portrait of Andrew Volstead adorns one wall, and it mystifies me why you would celebrate the author of the Anti-Saloon Act. Shouldn't we be ashamed of the Minnesota legislator who sponsored the bill that created Prohibition?
I kept with the low-alcohol beers in choosing #1 on their list, the kolsch, which was exactly as a kolsch should be: light, crisp, with delicate notes of green apple and pear. I'll return to the Freehouse to see if their other beers are as on the money as this one.

Coming back from the rest-room, a quick snap of some fermenters at The Freehouse. As the day went on, I sometimes forgot to take the brewery photo and sometimes found it impossible to do so.
Freehouse was the site for my largest meal of the day, the Korea-town riblets, which I enjoyed. I wasn't feeling quite adventurous enough to try out the Oxtail Croquettes, Bone Marrow or Grilled Chix Waangs. Also, I stopped at the rest-room twice. This is no frivolous mention of going No.1, rather a handy spot to reinforce an important point, one which beer scribe Michael Agnew wonderfully introduces in the beginning chapter of his landmark tome, A Perfect Pint's Beer Guide to the Heartland.
I will quote this cogent section now: "Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that beer travel is really all about managing urination. Beer is a diuretic. Copious sampling tests the limits of your bladder. Take the opportunity to relieve the situation whenever it presents itself. Even if you feel it isn't necessary, make one more stop before moving on to your next destination. You'll be glad you did."
As for me, I've come up with a helpful pneumonic device. When entering a brewpub or taproom, think about IBU. Not "international bittering unit", I'm talking about IMMEDIATELY BEGIN URINATION.

I should also note that this was the last time I took, wait, I just jumped ahead a few pages. Ah. Found them....But I didn't note when I left 7th and Washington, but I'm going to guess sometime around 5:55.
 From the Freehouse to our next destination, it's another straight shot, just about a miles and only ten minutes in between stops, 13 blocks north on Washington Avenue, Brewery #7: Boom Island Brewing Company, 2104 Washington Avenue N., #300. 
The only signal that we are near a brewery is this sign in a window on Washington Avenue, just south of 21st Street. We must turn the corner, pass a bar called Cliff n' Norm's, and enter through the back to get to the Boom Island taproom.

We are technically in North Minneapolis now, and will be in NorthEast, or Nordeast to some, once we cross the river. But we're definitely out of downtown.
 Noire Black IPA, the highest ABV yet of this trip, a whopping 6.8%. Fermented with Belgian Candy sugar. dry-hopped with citra and columbus hops. While I do like the products of the Boom Island Brewing Company, they are incorrect in claiming that they produce Belgian beers. The brewery is not in Belgium, the brewer is not a Belgian, the beers, therefore are, in truth, Belgian-style.

My final attempt to capture images of the brewing equipment. From here on out, it either slipped my mind, or was inaccessible to the eye. 
The taproom at Boom Island, called the Boom Room, is a charming little place, with about eight seats around the bar area, a few tables, and more space in the parking lot patio, where the food trucks sit. Signs are in English, French, and Dutch. There is a scrim hanging over the bar stools which displayed a slideshow of the owners' visits to Belgium on my last stop (2 weeks prior), and an old black & white Bette Davis movie this time. I enjoyed my Noire, bade farewell to the barman, and made off to the next destination. It was an easy one. One block south (or is it east?) back to Broadway Avenue, then across the Mighty Mississippi river.
Here's the view from the bridge, looking back at the Minneapolis skyline. Note the overcast sky. Rain is coming!

My first pint at Dangerous Man in over a year was the mega-malty, 6.8% Scottish Ale, the boldest version of this style I've ever had. I can't recall ever being disappointed by a beer from here, and I'm going to make more of an effort to visit them.
Once over the river, we continue on Broadway until 2nd Avenue and take a left on that until we hit 13th St. Another mile and about 10 minutes after Boom Island, we're at Brewery #8: Dangerous Man Brewing Company, 1300 2nd St. NE.

Who's afraid of the Dangerous Man? Clearly no one is, based on this brewery's popularity. DMBC operates on a very unique model. It is a brewery which does not sell it's products to other bars, restaurants or liquor stores, and it's taproom does not have food trucks on the street, but instead allows guests to bring in or order in their own food.

to be

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Looking back at old notes again, this one apparently is a re-review, too. I had a 750 ml bottle of this when it was first released, and re-visited it when I got a smaller bottle a few years later. Here are notes from May of 2004, for Dogfish Head's continually hopped 9% ABV Imperial IPA. For this one, I show my warts and my youth (yeah, I was all of 35, so very young...) by not editing out the exclamation marks:

My second review, this time from a 12 oz. bottle, the previous from a 750ml, ah, but I was so much older, then, I'm younger than that now...

Gorgeous peachy color, big, fresh, full head of bone-white foam.

Aroma: BAM! Whoppity-snappityBAM!BOOM!BAM!, that's the full force of the pine up in there, the intense grapefruit, all the citric flavor that embarks on the senses and nevers flags for a second, grassy, herbal, potent, totally hoppy, sprucey, piney, pineappley, so much going on in this nose!

But, to taste...Ah! A wonderful mess here, a big, mix of hops and citric fruity flavor, the punchy pine on the palate, yum, yum, yum. If you're not sufficiently infatuated with humulous lupus, sit this one out, by all means. A big, sticky, fruity, citric mouthfeel, and, yeah, there's grapefruit, but so much more.
Like licking a forest floor, at times, this one, if I may be so bold. Yeah, but if it's hops you want, lean back and enjoy this onslaught, it's astonishingly tasty!
Love it, love it, love it!

Fulton's Randonneur Summer Saison

Fulton Randonneur.

Hazy, apricottish hue, under slim film of milky white froth.

Aroma: soft, floral, a little bit hoppy, lightly funky and fruity, with a genuine whiff of Belgian yeast.

Taste: Light bodied, clean and easy-drinking, but full of citrus zest and genuine Belgian saison characteristics. Delicate hop bitterness on the top, leading right into citrus and spice on the palate. Slides down easy as a dream, but there's enough playful Belgian yeast presence that the tongue never tires.

I like this one. Yeah, I could make it my summer beer. Light-bodied and low alcohol, but never lacking in flavor. Won't replace Surly Cynic for me, but not bad at all.

Here's what the brewery says: "Evocative of the day-long bicycle touring rides for which it is named, The Randonneur is a summery saison brewed with German malt, Australian hops, French yeast and AMerican flair. Melon and tropical fruit notes breeze through a crisp, dry palate, and at just 4.1% ABV, it's a perfectly refreshing companion to your summer's adventures--whether by bike, boat or barbecue."

Years ago, I talked to one of the Fulton crew who said that some fans suggested they try out some Belgian styles, though, he said, "it's just not our thing." This is the third saison they've done, that I know of, and I'm glad they've found a Belgian style to make their thing.

Dave's BrewFarm Harbinger

My last beer posted here left me sad and dissatisfied. I spent over ten bucks on a bomber that was a bust, a horrible "hybrid" that left me wondering if that brewery even gets it. I feel hollow inside. Tricked. Snookered. And then I find a bottle waiting for me in the fridge, and I hear the joyful sound of June Foray as Rocket J. Squirrel, cheerfully calling out, "Now here's something we hope you really like!"

And like I do. Commencing now, notes on Harbinger from Dave's BrewFarm:

There I was in the cooler of Dave's BrewFarm, choosing my growlers and I saw a beer for sale that I'd never seen before. "The Harbinger." What's that, I wondered. "Oh, you have to get that," said Dave. And Farmer Dave knows how much I love the Belgian dark ales, and the stronger the better. So, let's crack it opened and see what is store for us….

Bottled 6-7-14. 7.7% ABV.

Utter blackness in the glass, deep and unpenetrable, with a slim, cocoa-toned ring of head above.

Aroma: soft and sweetish, at first, a little bit creamy, now. Hop flavors are mixing beautifully with lush dark malt in this nose. "You put your chocolate in my grapefruit juice!" Not exactly like that, but it paints the picture.

Taste: In the mouth, more of the same. Great big burst of citrus-y hops on the palate is joined in strength by powerful dark malts. "It's a Black IPA!" "Don't you mean a rye dubbel?" "No!!! It's a hoppy…um, Imperial Porter?" "No! It's a Rye-PA Belgian strong dark!"

Full-bodied, and while fully flavored, a smooth delight. Toasty, tasty, delicious. This one's got it all.

Rye malt is growing dominant in the flavor components, rising up and matching the mighty hop presence. Spicy, tingly, terrifically complex. Juicy, bitter cluster {no pun intended, see below} of hops stays right on top, but the mix of Belgian and rye malts, and the Belgian yeast makes the magic in this Harbinger.

What's Farmer Dave's word on this one? "Dark, mysterious, and tasty! A blend of Belgian strain yeasts, Pale, Abbey, Rye and Carafa 1 malts, brown sugar and well-hopped with Columbus, Horizon, Cluster & Azacca hops. Your beer future bodes well."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bent Brewstillery Dark Fatha American Emperical Stout

Bent Brewstillery Dark Fatha American Empirical Stout. (whatever that means). Brewed in Minnesota, brewed and bottled by Bent Brewstillery, Roseville, MN. Est. 2012. Alc. 9.3% by Vol, 57 IBU. SRM 60.

The label depicts Darth Vader in a pimp suit. Cute gag, but not sure of the point. Dark beer. Dark Lord of the Sith. Purple robes and chain, feathered hats…something got skipped.

It's solid blackness, that's for sure. Richly roasted tan head, lush and plush.

Aroma: many flavors unfolding. Molasses. Espresso. Cocoa nibs. Some anise. Dark rum. Nice.

Taste: Arrives rather cool on the palate, delivering dark fruit flavors, rich malt character, dry chocolate and coffee notes. Sweetness always held in check, kept at bay, nicely dry. I'd have to say medium-bodied, for it just isn't as full as we'd want from an Imperial Stout. But, no, this is an "Emperical Stout", which has to mean something. It's flavorful, and the alcohol has started to ring in for real and for true. It's like an Imperial Stout that doesn't want to go all the way. It's pussied out. Maybe there's a reason for not doing an Imperial Stout right?

Maybe it's on the label? "This distinctive hybrid beer style combines the crisp, clean feel of a light ale with the dark cocoa roasted smoothness of a stout."

With all due respect, that's one of the dumbest things I've read on a bottle of booze in a long time. Compared to a true Russian Imperial Stout, it's a dismal failure. Compared to this hybrid style nobody asked for, this American Emperical Stout, well, it's crashing success. I guess.

Me, I'm left feeling dull and deadening. All of the alcohol and none of the fun. I need the richness and fullness for a beer this boozy. Seriously, who asked for a hybrid of light and strong? Makes no sense. A poor decision.

Like having Darth Vader carry balloons in his hand and speak like Daffy Duck.
Or making Greedo shoot first. This one is weak with the force.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lake Monster Calhoun Claw Pilsener

Lake Monster Calhoun Claw Pilsner. Are they saying there's a giant lobster in Lake Calhoun? Why is this beer label the first time I've heard of it? What do they know that we other Minneapolitans don't? Never mind, on with the beer.

Clear, and golden-toned, like an good pils, with a slim white head.

Aroma: clean, mild, with light floral notes. Delicate hopping. Pleasing.

Taste: crisp, with a pleasantly vibrant blast of hops, slowly mellowing, leaving the palate lightly. Light bodied, moderate malt flavors, lingering, bread-y finish. Flavorful, but easy-drinking. This is the kind of lager I like. Nice one, guys. Though, personally, I'd reach for the IPA first. If you do like lagers, I say go for it, people.

What does the label say? "With a crisp body balanced by a quick snap of bitterness, our Czech-style Pilsener is full of flavor, but still easy drinking." What do you know, that's almost what I wrote.
Brewed and bottled by Sand Creek Brewing Company, Black River Falls, WI for Lake Monster Brewing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dave's BrewFarm K +

Dave's BrewFarm K +. 8.8% ABV. bottled on 5-24-14. We'll get to the particulars later.

I've had this one before at the LaBrewatory, and overheard someone say: "that doesn't look like a kolsch!" Farmer Dave's reply was something in the manner of: "I don't call it a kolsch." Well, Farmer Dave never really calls anything anything.
This one uses a kolsch yeast, but none of the other ingredients required for the style. It's an experiment, BrewFarm style.

It's a lightly hazy, bright crimson coloring, with a sizable and lasting beige head.

Clean aromatics, slight fruitiness, some dark malt flavors, a bit of nuts and cocoa, just a whiff. Interesting, pleasing, fairly delightful.

Taste: On the tongue, it's a lush flood of flavors, lots of rich malt, fairly little hops. We're getting the cream and cocoa, some nuttiness, …yum. Pretty much yum. Fullish body. Full-on sweet-ness, but never too much-so. The malt is raging, and the alcohol is showing. Here's about when I want to find out what Farmer Dave wants us to know about this one:

"'Pushing' the Kolsch yeast with Pale, Victory, and Cara Aroma malts, brown sugar and Warrior, Topaz, Brewer's Gold and Motueka hops. Smooth and hoppy, with a nice finish."

Yeah, kolsch yeast isn't normally asked to go as high as 8.8% ABV, and isn't often mixed with these malts or hops. An intriguing melange, to be sure. Tasty as all heck.

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

Bought this one yesterday in Hudson, WI., sharing notes from April, 2005, from a bottle received in trade:

Lookin' at it... a hazed deep orange, with a fullish, creamy head capping it.

Aroma: ahhh!!! that's my favorite aroma right there, in the first sniff...tropical fruits, banana and mango, peach and citrus, a truly beautiful mix, a gorgeous far, this is just what I'd desire in an uber-IPA, and I haven't even tasted it...

Oh, delicious...fullness of body, richness of flavor, dominant fruit, minor, relatively, bitterness, yumm...I can taste the whiskey flavor, from the oak-aging, I can get that character...and it's amazingly flavorful, with vanilla and oak twisting into the mix, what a wicked concoction...

If I had a 10-gallon hat, it would be off in honor of this immaculate creation.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Northbound Buckwheat Honey Porter

Here's a case where I took too long to post a review, and now it's all historical for the record. I refrained from posting these notes because I don't want to have too many Northbound reviews in a row, and there weren't any other new notes to post. Now it's a moot point because this one just ran out about an hour ago. So, if it sounds good, don't come in looking for it, 'cause there ain't no more. (There's another one of those coming soon. Fair warning.) Notes on the Northbound Buckwheat Honey Porter follow now...

Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub Buckwheat Honey Porter. Emphasis on the Honey. Not the Buckwheat.

Solid blackness, under a large, lasting, rich tan head.

Aroma: cocoa, toffee, caramel, and a touch of honey-ish sweetness. Yeah, it's there, and it's nice.

Taste: Full malt flavors, moderate hops, lush sweetness, amply balanced. Some caramel and toffee, mingled with coffee tones. And then there's this underlying sweetness, this unique contribution from the buckwheat honey.

I like my porters a bit drier and a little roasty-er. That's just me. This has got it's own special charms. It's a good beer, and you can drink it. It hasn't become a huge hit at the pub, partially because so many are into the regular smokehouse porter, and those that aren't are the certified hopheads who just don't give a darn about any ol' buckwheat honey porter.

More info: 6.3% ABV. 30 IBUs. There is actually no buckwheat in this beer. We started with a base American porter and finished the brew with 60 pounds of buckwheat honey. Buckwheat honey is a single source honey, which means the beer were kept near a buckwheat field and produced the honey almost exclusively from buckwheat. This honey is very different from other single source honeys. It is very dark with a strong, earthy, molasses flavor and hints of cinnamon and allspice. We thought the flavor of the buckwheat honey would mix nicely with a porter. The base porter has caramel, chocolate and coffee notes. The honey adds complexity with molasses and spice notes.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mankato Ceres Summer Ale

Mankato Ceres Summer Ale. american wheat ale. 4.5% ABV. 24 IBU.

Clear, bright golden coloring, under a sizable, milky white head of lacing foam.

Aroma: cereal grains, minor hops, some malt sweetness. Grape Nuts meets Granola.

Taste: Wetness, lightness, and not much else. Cereal-y, for sure, very minimal malt, and exceedingly minimal flavor. It's a light one, an easy-drinker, a patio-pleaser, and definitely one for the in-laws and the poker buddies. Good for the dock or the boat or for cooking with what ever you want to do with it, but it's not for me. Clearly, they didn't think of me when they invented Ceres Summer Ale.

Well, that's okay, more for the rest of them.

"You will find this beer in your local bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in April and gone sometime in July.

Named for the Roman goddess of agriculture and grain, Mankato Brewery’s Ceres Summer Ale is a crisp take on an American Wheat Ale. The barley and wheat malts are complimented with lively hops and sweet orange peel, for a refreshing finish."

Honestly, I didn't encounter the wheat anywhere in this pint. Huh. What do you know about that?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Northbound 4- Stitches Pale Ale

Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub Four Stitches Pale Ale. Apparently, somebody had to get four stitches. Boo hoo. It's an all-Centennial hop pale ale, 5.7% ABV, 40 IBU. (Further information: the name alludes to an injury sustained due to a broken carboy during a homebrew test-batch. This beer was intended to be the year-round pale ale, until a shortage of Centennials forced Jamie to look for other hops, and Light Rail Pale Ale was born.)

Clear, and copper-colored, with a thinnish white head.

Aroma: bright and lively, piney, citrusy, all the good things you get from Centennials.

Tasting it: More of the same flavors from the aroma, now at home in the mouth. Bittersweet flavors dominate, moderate malt body balances it out. Hop bitterness hits
 hard at first, then lays low, leaving the malt to take over. It comes back, but briefly, with each new sip and swallow. Very easy drinking, very delightful. It's good beer and you can drink it. This is just plain ol' delicious.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Blacklist Brewing Wit Noir

Blacklist Wit Noir Belgian Style Dark Wheat Ale, 9% alc. by vol. Brewed and Bottled by Dubrue Brewing LLC., Duluth, MN, for Blacklist Beer LLC, Duluth, MN.

Solid black appearance, richly roasted light brown head, slimmed, but lasting.

Aroma: creamy and sweet and first, with flavors rapidly unfolding. Raisins, figs, cherries, grape. Malt-driven, with some wicked yeast-y twists, and not much from hops. Soft and sumptuous.

Taste: Glides onto the palate, slips in and slinks away. I'm not getting any of the flavors associated with a "Witbier", so I'm getting the feeling that this is more of a Belgian strong dark with wheat used, rather than a wit with dark malt. Or are the citrus and space flavors there, but smothered by the dominant darkness? I'm getting some spicy notes now, mixed with chocolate tones, and it works very well.

I'm very curious about the process with this, and I'll have to look it up tomorrow. There's something written on the label, but it's tiny type, and white on black…unreadable! Oh, wait, I can read this from the front: Ale Brewed with Orange Peel and Spices. So, I have an answer, it's a witbier, with dark malts versus lighter ones, and beefed up to 9%. And you know what, now it's coming through, I'm starting to taste the orange…hmmm, …yeah….This is the sort of thing I would be against, but you know what? I just ain't.

Okay, I'm taking back whatever reservations I may have had. This is nice. My first Blacklist beer. Definitely not my last.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

August Schell Noble Star Collection No. 3: North Country Brunette

August Schell Noble Star Collection No. #3: North Country 
Brunette, Ale Aged in Wood. Berlin-style Marzen Wheat Ale. August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, MN. bottled March 14.

Hazy, copper-y coloring, slim white head, soon gone.

Aroma: tartness at the top, cherry-ish, wild and funky.

Taste: Crisp and tart right at the fore, snappy, alert and lively. refreshingly sour. Medium bodied. Clean, smooth, and fruity. Dries right out in the mouth, quits with efficiency. Fierce sour flavor blasts the palate with each new entry. Terrifically intense, complex and satisfying. Love it.

hey, what's it say on the little label around the neck? "The Noble Star Collection is an ongoing exploration into the many different variations of traditional Berliner Weisse beers by the August Schell Brewing Company. North Country Brunette is the third release in the Noble Star Collection and is our interpretation of a Berliner Marzen Weisse. This beer was brewed in the traditional manner, with the addition of wheat, Munich and Vienna malts to provide a rich malt backbone to the beer. It was fermented with an authentic mixed culture of yeast, lactobacillus and brettanomyces, and then aged for nearly a year in our original 1936 cypress wood layering tank. The result is a very tart, dry and complex beer that offers a taste of what a Marzen Weisse would have been like in the past. This beer is unfiltered, hand-filled and bottle-conditioned to allow the flavors to continue to develop and evolve in the bottle. Enjoy this unique interpretation of a Berliner Marzen Weisse chilled in a pokal glass."

Ooops, I used a shaker pint. Oh, well, life goes on.

Town Hall Masala Mama IPA

I'm still scratching my head over what took me so long to visit the Town Hall Brewery. It had been in business five full years before I...