Monday, September 29, 2014

The Post Where I Tell You What's Up With My Life...and Talk About Harriet Sour Divine Oculust.

Hey, everyone. I wrote this many weeks ago, and saved it, didn't publish it, wondered about it. One thing I found out was that I'd actually written about the sour D.O. before, but since this is a new blend, I'm not going to worry about that. Another thing I want to say is: I had a very interesting time at this year's annual Autumn Brew Review, meeting friend after friend, with some unaware that I'd left the Blue Nile, others still thinking I was at Northbound, and so many who knew through facebook that I'd found new employment, and gave congratulations. (Although, this will not happen for several more weeks.) Rollercoaster ride. And yet others who wished I was doing what I was doing at the Nile, once more, and I could only say, yes, me too, some time soon, eventually, I hope. I won't go in depth about what it was that made me leave after 15 years, but part of it is wanting to focus more intently on craft beer service, which means getting out of a hip-hop and reggae nightclub business, and another thing is that my bar regulars were not largely composed of the great soup of our local craft beer loving aggregate, but instead the close community of alcoholic African immigrants. I had many hair pulling shifts wondering "why me, oh, Lord, why me?" And it doesn't matter what Lord I was talking to, I'd take refuge in any of them. Close to 100% of the people who admired me for what I was doing were not aware of the bulk of what I put up with, day-in/day-out. I'm still hoping to find that bar that I can run, just me choosing from all of the greatest beers available. One day we'll get there, again. for now, read this (remembering that it was written about 5 weeks ago):

Harriet Sour (Barrel-aged) Divine Oculust, Belgian-style Golden Ale, 8.5% ABV., Harriet Brewing, Minneapolis, MN.

Before I get to the beer, if the reader would allow some indulgence to the author of this beer blog, I'd like to give you an update on my personal and professional life. (If you don't care, skip down five paragraphs.) Perhaps you read the posts in April when I announced a major change, as I left the bar where I made my name and left my mark, the Blue Nile, and went on to take a management position at a well-regarded south Minneapolis brewpub. There were many perks and benefits to this new role, despite all the things I would miss when I changed jobs. I was no longer in charge of the bar, nor making any real decisions about it. That was a little frustrating, but I knew what my station was, and what I was asked to do. I chose that position because I needed a transition away from the Blue Nile, because, as I believe I previously stated, there were just too many things I had to deal with there that left me utterly exhausted, and had nothing to do with craft beer.

I really enjoyed myself at this new place, and I especially appreciated the excellent staff, without whom it not be the success that it is. But I did I miss my old role, and so did my former customers and my friends. Some wondered why I wasn't pouring their beers, some wanted me to talk beer with them, while I found the bartenders would rather take that on themselves. I saw myself sticking around for quite some time, at least a year, perhaps, in order to enjoy the perks and benefits, perhaps taking on new responsibilities that I was better suited for, and then I was shocked when I was dismissed without warning on returning to work after a 3-day vacation to Madison, Wisconsin for the Great Taste of the Midwest (only one day of which was part of the 5-day paid vacation I had earned after 3 months on the job.)

I'm putting a firm leash on my personal feelings about this, or my ideas about why they acted in this way. I can say in all honesty that our management styles were not in synch. If I were to elaborate further, I'd be making a very unwise move that I may regret. I was left unemployed for the first time in 25 years, and spent my immediate time after walking out their doors visiting my favorite places, and received some sympathy, a few beers on the house, but no job offers. Three weeks later, I'm still waiting for unemployment benefits to arrive, and I'm still looking for that next full-time job that really lets my talents shine. I've sent out resumes and taken some interviews, but nothing yet. The question persists: do I take the first, best, closest bartending gig I can find just to fill my wallet as fast as I can, or do I hold out for another bar management job? Without money in my pocket, it's hard to argue for the latter, opposed to the former. Without money in the checking account, it's hard to pay the rent. Clearly, I can't just look, I have to find. The time has come to really get out there and find something, somehow, somewhere.

I had another question on my mind, as there was a beer that was released 5 days before I lost my job, and a growler of it sat in my fridge. I spent so much time mulling over whether I should write about their beers while I worked there, and now I had to consider whether I should include their beers here in the future. In April, in between the transition, I started writing a history of my time at the Nile and how I turned, to the best of my abilities, an Ethiopian restaurant and nightclub into some kind of a beer bar. I had another idea for a post consisting of a pictorial essay leading up to the end of my Blue Nile tenure. And I thought perhaps part three would be that review of the Bridge Hanger Belgian strong dark ale, with a note about this news. I nixed that notion and chose not to write about it, and not to write about them again. I drank down the growler, and took no notes. Am I bitter? A little. Who wouldn't be? (Those two posts mentioned above will be here, some time soon.)

Meanwhile, I have found some part-time work with my friends at Harriet Brewing Company, which long-time observers may have noted is a brewery I have a long and close association with, since their inception. I hosted their initial tapping at the Blue Nile on February 9, 2011, as well as their 1st anniversary in 2012. March of 2012 brought the opening of their taproom, and I played DJ all day for that, and continued to play records there, sometimes for pay, always for fun. I've been pleased with all of their beers, although there have been rough patches along the way. I still believe that they are making some of the best, and most interesting beers in the state of Minnesota, and their identity remains intact. They have continued to make authentic interpretations of European style ales and lagers, with an occasional twist. I do sort of wish they'd break that mold just a bit, or maybe even try some English-style beers, but Jason's doing what he wants to do, and that's fine. Nothing wrong with having a solid identity.

Now, finally, on to the beer, one of the rare ones I haven't written about here. The barrel-aging program at Harriet is over two years old, and has produced sour versions of the saison, dubbel, and this, the Belgian-style golden ale. All in the series have been aged in used wine barrels, and have been inoculated with wild yeast strains for further souring. In the past, I've asked for growlers and been told no. Since I've started at the taproom, I have seen them filled, and so I filled one for myself, enjoying it at home for the first time. So, here we go….

Appearance: clouded, bright golden hue, large, looming snowy white and staying head, looking good.

Aroma: light spice and citrus fruit, overcome by the funk and the barrel. A celebration of the sour and the wild. I'm digging it.

Now, to taste it: a flash of the sour blazes the palate, grazes the tongue, and lingers long. The work of the barrel (used Chardonnay) and the wild yeast dominates over the mellow flavors of the Divine Oculust, and there may be a case made that it improves on it. Not by me, though, I like D.O. just fine as it is. Now and then, the flavor of the wine left behind shows up and adds to the deliciousness. My, but this is tasty, tasty stuff, currently only on tap at the taproom, though it may occasionally show up at selected bars and restaurants. I'm thrilled to have it in my home and my ready disposal.

Okay, so I am admittedly biased, but it's solid stuff. Fresh, zesty, lively and amazing. Maybe the best thing they've produced, with the sour saison close behind.
No, Harriet doesn't have custom growlers. I took a sticker for the 750 ml bottles of D.O. and stuck it on a generic Harriet growler.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Odell Fifty Niner Brett Golden Ale

Odell Fifty Niner Brett Golden Ale, Odell Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado. 10% Alc. by Vol. 100% Bottle conditioned.

Appearance: Hazy, orange-ish hue, no head at all.

Aroma: Fruit, sour, ….not too wild, not too funky, not really much….hmmmm….

Before I get into the taste, I want to say that I was looking forward to trying this for many reasons, one is that I respect and admire Odell a great deal, and try to enjoy every new beer they make. Two is that I've been drinking and serving Harriet's Sour Barrel-aged Divine Oculust quite a bit lately, and am intrigued by something similar from another brewery. A soured, brett-ed up version of a Belgian golden isn't the normal thing. So far, in looks and aromatics, it's lacking in comparison to Harriet's. But, perhaps in taste, it'll come forward…

Taste: big fruit jumps out, swiftly overtaken by complex souring and brett effects. Medium-bodied. Low bitterness. Mild sourness. Peach and apricot, with a twist of the sour. Little bit of spice,

"Brett or Bust! 1859 was the peak of the Colorado Gold Rush. Prospectors and dreamers, later dubbed 59'ers, journeyed across the land with the hopes of striking it rich. In that spirit of adventure, Fifty Niner, a Golden Ale aged on oak staves and bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces, a yeast as wild as the new frontier. The lustrous golden brew shines with hints of lemon zest and pear accentuated by a rich vanilla and almond oak character and a subtle earthy spiced pineapple Brett finish."

Boy, I don't know what to tell you. That's a mouthful and it tries, but it oversells what actually comes out of the bottle. There's some of that in here, but not much, and it lays too low. I wish it was bigger, bolder, more outspoken. This is tasty, and it has character, but it could be a whole lot more than it is. I like what's here, but I keep wanting more, knowing that it's possible.

One thing I know for sure is that I wouldn't spend $14 on this bottle if I knew how unremarkable it was.

New Glarus Oud Bruin

New Glarus Oud Bruin, New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI. "Drink Indigenous."

Clear and bright ruby red, with a full, off-white head, leaving lace, looking good.

Aroma: the sour hits first, and then the sweet, with cherry the biggest part of them both. Mostly malt below. Beautiful.

Taste: first sip and the sour takes over, rushes over the palate, dominates the senses. Brown ale beneath holds it down firmly, with the sourness never quitting, delivering the pucker with each new sip. Bracingly sour, deliciously sour, refreshingly sour. Moderate bitterness, slides just along the palate. Sour, bitter, sweet, all good things at once.

Wonder what the label says? "Our brewmaster Dan launched his Wild Fruit Cave this winter brewing Oud Bruin, a Flander's {sic} style ale that is immensely complex, both tart and sweet. Soft toffee notes lead with a blend of Wisconsin, British and German malts that first rested in the Coolship before spontaneously fermenting on oak in the cave. Hallertau hops, matured in the horse barn, elegant support sparkling fruit notes that frolic before a punctuated oak finish. 100% naturally fermented in oak vessels, this is an elegant beer that can be enjoyed now or the patient few can lay in their personal cellar to age."

So, it's "elegant."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Excelsior Bridge Jumper IPA

Excelsior Bridge Jumper India Pale Ale, Excelsior Brewing Company, Excelsior, MN. IBU 98. 7.5 % ABV.

Appearance: hazy, orange tinted, slim, but staying layer of milky white head.

Aroma: Popping with citrus fruit, orange, grapefruit, lemon, plus tropical tones, some pineapple, mango. touches of pine behind. Bursting with hoppiness. Loving it.

Taste: Hop attack on the tongue, coating the mouth and throat, as it goes down. Blitz of bitterness. Juicy malt bottom backs it up. Oily, resiny hop bitterness grabs the palate on every sip. Delicious and refreshing, but for the dedicated hop head only.

I'll let you in on a little secret: This is exactly how I like my IPAs. Good work, Excelsior, I'll be returning to this one again.

Hey, don't we want to find out more? Yeah, let's read the label. " "According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during…" No, not that, other side…"A malty IPA brewed with a ship load of raw, whole hops. It's always been easier to stay in the boat, stand on the shore or wonder 'what if?' For all those who have allowed their toes to bend over the edge and made the leap, we celebrate you with our inaugural brew. Face life head on and jump in with both feet."

I have mixed feelings about that copy. It's always great to be celebrated, but I still hate it when people tell me what to do.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Brau Brothers ALTernative Imperial Alt

You know what? It's time to drink some Brau Brothers beer. They no longer list their home as Lucan, MN, for they have a new facility in the nearby town of Marshall, MN. This bottle came to me in a sampler pack that held 3 beers I haven't covered for this blog, plus Moo Joos, which I always enjoy. So, let's go ahead and crack open this ALTernative Imperial Alt.

It's a muddy bronze, with ruby edges, and a slim beige head. Looking the part.

Aroma: rich malt hits first, with fruity associations, and a good amount of sweetness. Mild, floral hops. Detectable alcohol presence lurking behind, as well. It's big and complex and it's leading me to drink.

Taste: Imperial Alt is right. Big and beefy, mostly sweetly. Moderate hops, mostly malt, bulging over, mores than the average alt. Lingering sweetness in the finish. It's a meaty one, and I'm digging it.

Here's what they say: "authentic German malt & hops build this ale fermented very cold and allowed to cellar." Alc 8.5% by Vol. 23 IBU.
"Brewed in the Parti-Gyle Tradition." I don't know what that means. But I'm liking the beer.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Brasserie Dupont Monk's Stout

Monk's Stout Dupont. I saw this at Elevated the other day and thought to myself, damn, why haven't I tried this beer? I've had almost everything from this brewery, I like to sample every Belgian beer that exists…why? Why not now? So, I bought it, then I brought it home and I chilled it. Now, I'm going to drink it.

Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes, Belgium. Some stuff in French that I don't understand. 5.25% alc. by vol. time to release the cage and the cork and let the dark stuff flow out of the green bottle.

Appearance: dark brown, very nearly black, in color, with a majestic head of soft, lithe brown/tan foam, leaving lace, staying strong. Beautiful.

Aroma: Cola. Cocoa. Coffee.Raisins and plums. Spice. Sweetness. So, unique and ingenious. Every note delivers the essence of the Belgian stout.

Taste: Jumps on the palate with spice and dark malt, plus the terrific treats that Belgian yeast brings on. Spice leads to minor heat. Body is medium at best, malts are nice and roastyl. Not as full bodied as the English or American stouts, but tasty as heck. Pepper and chocolate, and coffee, with an echo of the barnyard funk. Sweetness turns to dry off the palate.

Gonna read the label. "From the recipe archives of Brasserie Bupont comes this remarkably refreshing, bracingly dry Belgian stout. Originally brewed in the late 1950's by Sylvia Rosier, today's Monk's Stout captures the intense Dupont style in a dark beer--deep aromas of black coffee, roasted bitterness and sharp, clean finish."

Sierra Nevada Vienna Lager

Sierra Nevada Vienna Vienna-style Lager, SNBC, Chico, CA. Alc. 5.2% by Vol. Final beer from the fall seasonal sampler pack. I kind of wish, though, they hadn't included SNPA, and tossed in something else, like their Stout. Hasn't everyone had SNPA by now?

clear, bright amber coloring, fierce carbonation, brief white head.

aroma: sweet, grainy malts, mild hop bitterness. slight fruitiness.

taste: crisp, clean, lean and sweet. Just like you'd expect from any Vienna. Noble hops appear on the palate to contribute to balance and do a little waltz on the tongue. Nice and crisp tingle keeps the sweetness to a manageable minimum. Lean-bodied and extra-drinkable. No doubt about, it's another classic rendition.

Let's gander at that label copy: "This amber lager is one of the world's most balanced beer styles. Nuanced flavors drift from semi-sweet,  bready malt notes to a floral and spicy kick from whole cone European hops." And more: "Vienna style lairs were on the brink of extinction until American craft brewers helped revive the style. It's a good thing they did. These delicate beers lean on light and bready malt flavors. =, but walk a fine, balanced line with whole-cone European hops contributing a dry finish."

Nebraska Cardinal Pale Ale

Nebraska Cardinal Pale Ale, Nebraska Brewing Company, La Vista, NE. 6% ABV, 48 IBU.

Here's my first entry from this brewery. I've seen their bottles on sale in Wisconsin liquor stores, but the prices that exceed the 25 dollar mark have scared me away. At last, they're here, and they're in cans. And I owe this one to my neighbors at the Beer Dabbler St. Paul event at Midway Stadium, a few weeks ago. I was representing Harriet with Joe and Jody, and at closing time for the festival, some of the other breweries didn't feel like bringing home their leftover wares. Lucky for us, they were giving them away. I never say no to free beer. Especially when cash is short and thirst is long.

Appearance: Clear, bright golden coloring, slim white head.

Aroma: floral, citrus-y hops and nothing but. touch of pine, too. Grapefruit and forest floor, my, oh, my.

Taste: Brisk hop attack up front, with slightly sweet malt flavor just below. Clean, smooth, and delicious. Tasty, tasty hop-kissed goodness, and supreme ease of drinking. Right on the money pale ale, right here. Clean finish. Good beer.

Hey, what's the gobbledygook? Around the neck of the can, the slogan: "World class in every glass." More: "Our pale ale is deep golden in color and characterized by a huge citrus-like aroma, with medium maltiness, and elevated bitterness. Cardinal Pale Ale, the heart of Nebraska Brewing Company, is where it all began so many years ago."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Summit Unchained #16: Herkulean Woods

Summit Unchained #16: Herkulean Woods. Lager brewed with Maple Syrup and Spruce Tips. Proudly brewed in St. Paul, Minnesota. Christian Dixon, Brewer. 8.2% Alc./Vol. 77 IBU.

Clear and copper-colored, with slim, off-white head, leaving lace, looking nice.

Aroma: hops make a bright, bittersweet appearance, but are swiftly subsumed by the maple syrup and the caramel malt. Spruce tips are hinted at, just behind. A delightful blend in the nose.

Taste: In the mouth and on the tongue, it's a tempting treat that starts highly hoppy and find itself a mixed bag of malt and woodsy trimmings. Higher than normal alcohol content starts to make it's presence known, but is kept at bay by the delicious blend of malts and hops. I'm going to take a short break to read about the recipe…."Profile: Malty, caramel backbone with a pine, resin, and citrus hop flavor and aroma….malts: Harrington, Lacey, Caramel….hops: Herkules (hence the Herkulean, then woods for the maple syrup and spruce), Northern Brewer, Experimental 05256" Anything else? "Inspired by the natural beauty and ingredients of the upper Midwest" You don't say. Well, that's different. Don'tcha know.

This is a terrific brew for the kind of season we're stumbling into, and a great choice for those who are tired of pumpkin as the compulsory choice of fall flavors. Nice dessert beer, good for 'round the fire. It's also a great representative of what makes for a good entry in the Unchained Series and why this program continues to be successful. Keep making the offbeat beers, Summit, keep stretching and inventing, and you'll always a place in my beer-y heart.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blacklist Or de Belgique

Blacklist Brewing Or de Belgique. Brewed and bottled by Dubrue Brewing, LLC, Duluth, MN for Blacklist Brewing, Duluth, MN. 9.5% alc./vol.

Based on the name, I think we have a Belgian Golden Strong on our hands. Looking at it, smelling it, we may have a bit of a funky, rustic version to contend with. But, let's go in for a closer look…

Very clouded, bright golden appearance, slim white head on top.

Aroma: Belgian yeast is all over this one, with other elements of spices, citrus fruit, and a whiff of the ol' horse blanket. Intriguing.

Taste: Once more, the Belgian yeast is foremost on the palate, with the spark of the Belgian golden ale swift on it's heels. More citrus zest and peppery spice spank the tongue. Just enough sweet to match the spice. Crisp, lush maltiness. Medium bodied, fully flavored. This is an unfiltered ale, perhaps bottle conditioned. I'm enjoying it, that's for sure.

Now's the time I want to read the label and find out more. The type is so tiny, and I'm only getting older, but I'm giving it a go. "Honoring traditional Belgian processes, Or de Belgique is the "Gold of Belgium" made here in Minnesota. Bursting with tropical fruit flavors and rich aromas, this sophisticated and balanced beer is the perfect beverage to accompany a special night out. Lending a touch of sweetness to acidic or bitter dishes and cleansing the palate between bites of rich meats and desserts, Or de Belgique sparkles with food."

The spice and acidity is growing and growing as the alcohol rise, too, as it grows larger and larger in the mouth. It's ending dry on the palate, but this rich blend of flavors continues to delight.

This is my second Blacklist beer, and if they're all this good, I'm just going to keep on drinking them. You should, too.

We're bursting with breweries around here, and I've got no problems with a few more of them devoting themselves to Belgian styles. We've got Olvalde Farms, Borealis Fermentery, Boom Island, Harriet, and now Blacklist. Keep 'em coming, guys, and I'll keep drinking 'em.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA.

Chestnut brown coloring, with ruby edges, under a slim, white head.

Aroma: soft, slightly sweet, malty and nutty. Bit o' cocoa, too.

Taste: There it is, all those sweetish and warm malty flavors have come together on the tongue. Medium bodied, low bitterness, semi-sweet finish. A tasty brown ale that hits all the right notes, and delivers everything it ought to.

I don't reach for a brown ale often, but I don't mind reaching for this one.

hey, is there gobbledygook on the label? Something to tell me why it's called "Tumbler", of all things? "Tumbler features freshly roasted malt straight from the kiln to give it a gracefully smooth malt character perfect for an autumn afternoon." What about the back of the label? "Tumbler is our take on the classic brown ale--full of roasted malt flavor but delicate on the palate and perfect for crisp fall days. Layered with notes of chocolate and toasted bread and a hint of smoke. Tumbler is the ultimate autumn brew."

Ah! I get it! Tumble=fall=autumn! Ha, good one. Kinda.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Town Hall Alpha Nimbus White IPA

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Alpha Nimbus White IPA.

Lightly hazy, bright golden coloring, big white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: Beautiful hoppiness, distinctly citrus, floral, and piney. Lovely stuff.

Taste: Bold and dazzling hop attack hits first. Lean bodied, light and smooth. I assume there's some wheat in here, but it's not terribly prominent. If this is a White IPA, it's not like others I've tried. Lighter on the wheat, or the wit, lacking the spice and orange found in a wittier, more hoppy than anything else. Not as hazy, hardly white.

Okay, I'm feeling it now. It's nothing but supple, it's everything smooth. All about the hops, and then some. Love this one. Good drinker, and while it's nothing like various beers that have called themselves "white IPA" whatever the hell that is, it's terrific.

how do they describe it on the website? "Melding of a Belgian White Ale and American IPA for your drinking pleasure." 6.8% ABV. Sure, that helps…not much.

Delirium Red

Delirium Red. Deliirum RED? Whoa, that's new, I've never heard of this, and there it is, on the shelf. There hasn't been a new Delirium beer in many a year, so let's try this one out, shall we?

First, let's see what the label tells us. Okay, the elephant has red earrings. Do they signify an ingredient, cherries, perhaps? Am I in for a fruit beer, maybe?
 "Family Brewery, Huyghe, Since 1654. Belgian Ale, 1 pint, 9.4 fluid ounces." 8% Alc./Vol. 750 ml. No further gobbledygook. I'm on my own.

Dark ruby coloring, pretty pink head, full and lacy.

Aroma: oh, yeah, cherries. Sweet and tart at once. Not too much of either, though, fairly well balanced. Can't really pick anything out beyond the fruit, though.

Taste: Flush with fruit, well-tempered sweetness, with a does of sour on the side. Feels like a brown ale, or some kind of dark ale beneath it. Full-biodied, long, fruity finish. Malt is solid, hops are minimal, but the fruit is the thing, to be sure. Is it a lambic, a kriek? No. Is it a Flanders Red? Not at all. More like a Belgian fruit ale in the line of Kasteel Rouge, where fruit is added to a Belgian ale, but it isn't soured, aged or inoculated by wild, funky yeast.

Is it good? Yeah, it is. Just tart enough, just sweet enough, great balance. Tasty. I would recommend it for fruit beer lovers. Great for dessert, perfect for a gathering, right on the money for a holiday treat. Get one for Thanksgiving, for Halloween, Columbus Day, for Back-to-school, whenever.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Destihl Abbey's Single Abbey Single Pale Ale

Destihl Brewery Abbey's Single Ale, Belgian-style abbey single ale. "Support Flavor, Boycott Bland." Brewed and canned by Destihl Brewery, Bloomington, IL. Alc 4.9%. IBU:22.

Clouded, bright yellow appearance, slim, fizzy, soon-gone head.

Aroma: slightly sour and citric, a little floral. Lemony.

Taste: Malty flavor fills the mouth, with a slight hoppy buzz accompanying, and an unique Belgian yeast character for added effect. Citrus and spice play on the palate, but the flavor overall lays low. Tangy stuff, light and refreshing.

I had this on tap months ago, and wasn't impressed. From this can, I like it a little more, but only a little. Maybe it's too light bodied for me? Perhaps it needs more of more, or something?

I'm going to read the can label for more information…"A Belgian-style abbey single ale crafted like those that Trappist  monks brew for their own session beer. It's light bodied, light in color with spicy phenolics and complex fruity esters of cherries, nectarines, peaches and bubblegum with a characteristic slightly tart and dry finish from the Belgian yeast. Cheers."

Well, I couldn't find all those fruit flavors, and the bubblegum, one of the most overused flavor descriptors I can think of, is a stretch. I don't have enough time to keep searching until I find them.

Excelsior XLCR American Pale Ale

Excelsior XLCR American Pale Ale, Excelsior Brewing Company, Excelsior, Minnesota. 5.8% ALC/VOL. IBU 50.

Dusky amber coloring, lightly hazed, with a slim, off-white layer of foam.

Aroma: grapefruit and pine, with a trace of caramel.

Taste: Nice hop bite up front, just a bit, then fading back, and letting the malt come through. Some tasty malt holding down the fort, toasty, caramel-y stuff. Maltier than I'd expect from a contemporary APA, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's a good drinker for sure, with citrus-y hops bouncing playfully on the palate, mixing with slightly sweet malt.

This is a really tasty one. Cheers to good beers, despite all the inevitable boat puns. Okay, I'm in for it, let's read the label: "An amber-colored ale, combining a pleasant floral hop aroma with a satisfying malt sweetness. Excelsior Amusement Park operated on the shores Lake Minnetonka from 1925 until 1973. With a rollercoaster, funhouse and carousel, the park offered a nice respite for Twin City residents who often arrived pale and slightly bitter but always left refreshed." Okay, some puns, but not that terrible. Guess they ran out of nautical themed nonsense.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, SNBC, Chico, CA. In all my years of drinking their beers, I am certain that I've never had this, and in fact, didn't think it existed. Thanks to a fall sampler pack, i get to try it at last. Let's stop mourning summer, and embrace the gifts of fall.

12 fl. oz. lager. Alc 6.2 % by vol.

Lightly hazes, copper-y brown color, slight beige head, leaving some lace.

Aroma: cereal, grains, rich, dark maltiness, a touch of brown sugar and caramel.

Taste: mild hop presence, classic marzen malt flavors. A modicum of malt sweetness, but expertly balanced. Just rich enough, with that brown sugar and molasses touch coming back with every new sip, staying clean and lean. Wonderfully crafted for the season.

I've said before that I am at a loss at times when describing Oktoberfests. They are what they are, and they don't have a lot of variations in the style. A good one has what it has to have, a bad one simply doesn't. This one, like all good ones, goes all the way, gives you just enough flavor to please you all the way through the pint, and not too much to keep you from getting another.

Here's what the label tells us: "Our take on the classic festival beer has a silky malt flavor with an initial sweetness that sets up the interplay of mild toffee-like notes and floral hops." Also, this: "Everyone loves a great party, and there are few quite as famous as Germany's Oktoberfest. Inspired by that rollicking celebration, we bring you our variation on that classic festival beer. Oktoberfest is medium-bodied and rich with malt flavor, but maintains a crisp finish marked by floral hops."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

De Proef Long of Tooth Ale (Surly Collaboration)

De Proef/Surly Brewmaster's  Collaboration  (Brewed and Bottled by DeProef Brouwerij, Lochristi, Belgium, Product of Belgium) Long of Tooth, 10% Alc by Vol.
What is it? A Belgian interpretation of an English Old Ale with cacao nibs added, for extra Belgian-ness.

Interesting color on this one: somewhere between cherry red and brown, not quite burgundy, but getting there. A slim ring of toasted tan foam rests above.

Aroma: stirringly complex. Dark fruit tones ring in first, some cherry, date, raisin notes, with cocoa right behind. Mellow, cool and promising.

Taste: Bright, brash and impressive entry on the palate. Low hop bitterness, this is a malty thing with an impressive array of flavors at play in the mouth. Caramel and toffee malt flavors swim with cocoa, raisins and more. All flavors are beautifully integrated, and it all hangs in a beautiful balance. Medium-bodied. Long, malty finish.

This one is never too sweet, never too full, not too much of anything, but packed full of plenty. Traces of a Dubbel at times, reminiscent of a strong dark ale, but completely it's own thing.

Let's read the label, shall we? "On March 31, 2014, the collaborative minds of Surly's Head Brewer Todd Haug and DeProef's BrewMaster Dirk Noudts brewed this one of a kind ale. Inspired by English Old Ales and Belgian chocolate they sat down and, over different tasting sessions, hammered out the "best" way to handle their vision.
The result is Long of Tooth Ale, dark gold in color with a complex grain bill, rife with notes of toffee, caramel, dried-fruit, cocoa, oaky-vanilla and finishing with classic Belgian character that only Brett can produce.
Suggested pairings include aged cheeses, grilled or roasted game, chocolate-caramel desserts or enjoy it all by itself!
Cheers from Minneapolis and Lochristi!
Todd & Dirk"

I paired it with ice cream, chocolate-caramel ice cream, mmm, mmm, good.

One caveat: it's a bit expensive, with the 750 ml bottle retailing for $17 -18, more than I usually pay. Is it worth it, though? Yes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day Block Wet Hop IPA

Times are tough, and money is in short supply, but I still try to get a growler from my favorite brewpubs once in a while. Knowing that there's a wet hop IPA at Day Block, I had to go down there and check it out, then bring home a growler for review. here come the notes:

Day Block Centennial Wet Hop IPA. Official info follows: "
Wet Hopped IPA, brewed with fresh Centennial hops picked by our staff at a farm in Pepin County WI. We hopped this beer with 131.3 pounds of locally grown hops in the mash, kettle and hop back! Drink it while its fresh!

6.6% ABV78 IBUsBatch 042INGREDIENTS:
Pale MaltMunich MaltVictory MaltCarapilsCentennial HopsAle Yeast"

Growler purchases on 9/3, after the beer was released on 9/1, opened and notes taken 9/4.

Appearance: clear, ruby red hue, smallish white head on top.

Aroma: bold, bright grapefruit aromatics pop out of the glass. Citrus hop wonderland. Fresh fruitiness abound. Sweetness steps in for a minute, then overtaken by bitter.

Taste: All of that promised in the nose takes command of the palate. Medium-bodied, with a long, bittersweet finish. High drinkability meets with a vibrant hop blast, sip after sip and gulp after gulp. Plenty of sweet malt flavor intermingles with hops. No one-dimensional hop bomb here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Victory Wild Devil IPA

Records show that I first took notes on this one back in July of 2009. It was probably on tap at the Blue Nile, for I remember getting a keg of it when it first appeared, and it was one of the earliest examples of the "Belgian-style IPA" that I was aware of. Here are those notes:

Hazed crimson hue...big, creamy beige head. Lovely looking.

Fruity aroma, sweet and sour, funky stuff, whiffs of spice and straw, hayloft and orange, lemon and sod, a little apple...ah!!!

Slides into the palate assuredly...a nice blast of hops, blanketed by the Belgian yeast, coating the mouthfeel, hops spiking up a little from below. Little bitterness remains, but plays consistently on the palate. Delicate, and tasty buzz. Very smooth, easy drinking, ...but full of character, chock-full of juicy, jazzy hoppy flavor.

zesty stuff, flush with Belgian funk. Great drinker, highly recommended.

From the label: "It's arguable that our menacingly delicious HopDevil has always been wild. With bold German malts and whole flower AMerican hops, this India Pale Ale is anything but prim. But add a touch of Brettanomyces, the unruly beast responsible for the sharp tang and deep funk found in many Belgian ales, and our WildDevil emerges completely untamed. Floral, aromatic hops still leap format his amber ale, as a host of new fermentation flavor kicks up notes of citrus and pine. Enjoy yourself a glass today--if you dare."

This was my first bottle of the stuff, and it's as great as ever.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Deschutes Foray Belgian IPA

Deschutes Foray I.P.A. Belgian Style I.P.A. Alc. by Vol 6.4%. 22 oz. bomber. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR.

They've done the Cascadian Dark (aka Black IPA), made a white IPA one of their mainstays, now, finally, at last, a Belgian IPA from one of the best, and one of my favorites, in the whole USA. Everything these guys do is good. What about this one?

Appearance: clouded, straw golden hue, huge, vast ivory head. Looks fantastic.

Aroma: floral, citrus, and spice. Gorgeous. Nicely hopped. Already, I'm getting the idea that this is not the American style of a Belgian IPA, but maybe an American version of the Belgian Belgian IPA.

What the hell am I talking about? This. There are two kinds of Belgian IPAs. There's the one started, I think, by Victory, with their Wild Devil IPA, wherein an American IPA, sometimes a West Coast-style, is inoculated with Belgian yeast, sometimes wild ones. It was highly popularized by Flying Dog's Raging Bitch, which is now their most top beer. It is represented locally by Harriet's West Side.

The second kind is the type originating from Belgium. One of the first was Urthel Hop-It, which was inspired by American Double IPAs, but which used European ingredients. Other entries include Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor and Brasserie D'achouffe's Houblon Chouffe IPA, which include some American hops, but don't resemble American IPAs at all. Some hoppy Belgian ales have been retroactively added to the category, like Poperings Hommel Bier.

So, let's look at this again and see where it lies. Citrus-y, floral hops hang on the palate at first, then softly fade back at bit. Body and mouthfeel is light, finish is soft. Not at hotbed of bitterness, this, it's cool, calm, keen and nicely hopped. Light maltiness, just enough hops…we're going for Belgian IPA #2. Not too this, not too that, firmly Euro-style, not overly hoppy, not too strong. Ah, yeah…

Hey, let's read the label: "Foray is all about the journey. Belgian yeast delivers hints of apple and pear which blend with the citrus hop aroma for a clean, even finish. So no matter where you're heading, this is a trip worth taking."

All in all, though, it didn't make a very strong impression with me. Seems to be strongly in the second camp of Belgian IPAs, the Euro-style, and that's not a problem, but this one didn't go the distance. Not bad, just ....not spectacular. But, it's beer and you can drink it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Empyrean Dark Side Vanilla Porter

Empyrean Dark Side Vanilla Porter, Empyrean Brewing Company, Brewers if Fube Ales and Lagers since 1990, Lincoln, Nebraska.

"Hello Darkness, my old friend. Smooth, dark and roasted with highlights of coffee, chocolate, and vanilla." 14.5 OG. 23 IBU, 5.7% ABV.

Finally available here in Minnesota, though I'm looking back at notes from May or 2003:

Dark, earthy brown color, lighter 'round the sides, with a grand, lasting, creamy head. Aroma: smack-full of vanilla, with some roasty elements, and additional flavors of nuts, cocoa, and more.

It stuff my nose in the glass to further get a feel for it, and then I'm left with a touch of, rum &, rum & vanilla coke?

Vanilla feel is dominant on the palate, and while there is some of the bitterness I look for in any good porter, it's lying very low. All other parts of the picture do their job very well, but it's the particular vanilla flavor that this beer is all about, and it never quits. So, if you like vanilla, here you go.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sierra Nevada Porter (with a bit of a ramble about how I manage my obsession sometimes)

I do this blog for two reasons: for me, and for you. Writing about the beers I drink became a past-time when I started it twelve years ago, and instantly turned into an obsession. I still try to chase down the best new beers that I can, but I know I can't get to them all, because there are so many, and they've become so expensive. But, I can't help trying. I do this for you, because I hope you get something out of reading it, and I'd be disconsolate if it turned out that no one cared.

Now, I know people do read this, I hear it from time to time. Some read my reviews here, and some still search them out on (and some wonder if I'm still on There are those who tell me they look up my reviews there by sorting by top reviewer, then scrolling down until they find mine, if it's there. Well, as it happens, I'm slipping further and further down, because I just can't keep up that pace, try as I might. Once, very briefly,  I was the top reviewer, and for many years I was firmly in the top ten. Searching for these old notes, I found myself at #37. Oh, well. Quality or quantity, which should I be concerned with? The former, of course, and I'm going to keep a natural pace that works in accordance with my time, budget, health, and other important matters.

So, why post old reviews of common beers, like this one? Because I'm still a completist. I want to have all the beers I've ever written about on this site, although I stick to the rule of only posting old notes if I'm drinking the beer now. I visited a local store searching for sampler packs that were affordable and that would help me gain some new-to-me brews, and was not satisfied with the selection. On the other hand, they have a fairly affordable single bottle program. Some stores will ask $2 each for samples, and this one does a 6-pack for $9.99, which turns into $1.66 each. Not awesome, but not bad. That gets me 6 new beers to enter into this blog, and one which I've written about before, this one.

Now, this would have been a good one to get in a 6-pack, for I know I like it, it's very affordable, and I need it for here. Sometimes you need a good ol' drinking beer. One you can just drink, and not worry about. Right now, I need those to be as affordable as can be. That's where the tail is wagging the dog, so to speak. I'm not going to pick up a cheap case of Summit Saga, say, because I don't need it for here. I've got no one to blame but myself for creating these problems...

So, I thought I was being wise by choosing that variety 6-pack, but it left me with no real "drinking beers." This one and another were brews I didn't need to write new notes on, but the greater problem was looking around at everything else. It's so hard to avoid temptation, to defeat desire, especially when it's something I know I will love by a favorite brewery. Long story short, I picked up some bombers, too, one of which was more expensive than I thought. But, I know I've got a great beer in store. Just need to try harder to find a better job to afford more, better beer. What was that I said about tail wagging?

Here are my notes from July 2003 on Sierra Nevada's Porter:

Appearance: deep. dark color, with a tall, frothy, cream-colored head, slowly trickling down, and leaving lace.

Aroma: sharply punctuated with nuts and fruit right off, with further investigations giving off coffeeish, slightly roasty connotations. Bitter, but soft.

Taste is smooth, even velvety, but replete with espresso, cocoa, and the like. Just enough, but not nearly too much. Problem for me is, I like too much.
Medium-bodied, a bit lacking in texture, nice little sweet, toasty finish, and very easy to drink.

SN has crafted an extraordinarily easy-to-drink porter, and if I ever found myself in a situation where this was the best option for a dark ale, I'd be satisfied.
Fruit factor comes in more in the middle, toward the end. A solid porter. No frills, but no bones about it, they made a nice one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Belgium/Odell FOCOllaboration American Pale Ale

New Belgium/Odell FOCOllaboration. Hop Kitchen #6. American Pale Ale, Alc. 6.7% ABV.

For a minute I found myself scratching my head wondering what "FOCOllaboration" means. And then after that minute it dawned on me that perhaps this is the first time that these neighboring breweries from Fort Collins have collaborated. And then I thought, …duh. I don't know what the gophers have to do with anything. It doesn't matter, only the beer matters.

Appearance: Clear, bright amber coloring, under a lacy white head.

Aroma: bold, brash, loud and proud citrus-y and piney nose. Lime and pine. Lemon and flowers. Beautiful.

Taste: hop bite grabs the palate first, nice little bittersweet smack. The tingle of hops continues on down the throat. Light bodied, mild malt, nothing but smooth and delicious. I love a pale ale. They're good for drinking, I can tell you that. And I enjoy drinking this one.

Now, it's time to read the label and try to not get frustrated by the nonsensical turns of phrase. "we teamed up with our hometown hop heroes at Odell to brew a FOrt COllins collaboration. Our proximity allowed sharing of ingredients to create this unique pale ale. If only we could employ the prairie dogs that inhabit the space between us to courier the Fawcett malt, an Odell standard, we used to complement our favored Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops. Best enjoyed with a neighbor!"

It is a good combination. Maybe even the best. Think about it, those are the three best hops in the universe. Everyone loves them, alone or together. And they are together, in this. Mmmm, mmm. If someone stopped me on the street and demanded to know what my favorite new beer is, this is my answer. for today, anyway.

Clown Shoes Space Cake Double IPA

Clown Shoes Space Cake Double IPA. Brewed and bottled by Mercury Brewing, Ipswich, MA. 9% ABV.

Hazed, dark amber coloring, highly active carbonation, beneath a sizable layer of long-lasting, lace-leaving milky white foam.

Aroma's a treat and a half. Tropical fruit notes dominate pineapple and mango, with traces of citrus, too. Delightful. More sweet than bitter, but plenty hoppy.

Taste: Now, comes the bitter part. Just the smallest part harsh, with doses of alcohol, lush malt looming below. More tropical/citrus fruit flavors bursting on the palate. I'm having a yo-yo of a time with this one: I like, I don't like it, I like, I don't…just not sure…let's scan the label for information…

"Why are Miracle Mike and his dog Bionic being chased by many evil laser beam shooting cupcakes and two giant layer cake mother ships? Because we're straight up lunatic fools? Well, maybe, but with a few brain cells remaining we managed to craft Space Cake double IPA, utilizing citrusy mosaic hops and an immaculate West Coast single malt backbone. Dude. Chill Out. Enjoy some Space Cake."

Okay, sure, that's explains it all. So, anyway, there are a lot of double IPAs out there. It seems like everyone needs to have a double IPA, or several of them, in some cases. And here's another one. It's tasty and boozy, but just doesn't really do that much for me. But, wait, I shouldn't criticize them for using the word "immaculate" in describing their brewing process or wonder whether it's better than this or better than that. I should merely chill, dude. If all you want to do is chill out, everything's groovy. There's just not enough going on here to really satisfy me. On the other hand, it is beer and you can drink it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lakefront East Side Dark

Another one from May of 2003, this the dunkel lager from Lakefront:

Appearance: dark brownish hue, nearly opaque, with a fine, if short, creamy head.

Aroma: soft, with flavors of cocoa and nuts, very malty.

On the palate, so smooth, and terrifically tasty. Body feels light, on the tongue, but the texture is quite good, and the flavor is unstoppable. Some minerally notes pop up in the middle, carrying through the finish, though they did not detract from any enjoyment of this delicious dunkel.

Lakefront River West Stein Beer

Notes from May 2003:

Lakefront Riverwest Stein Beer amber lager. 5.7% ABV.

Appearance: muddy bronze body, below a small, dunnish head.

Aroma: a bit complex! Bitter, dark fruits mingle with caramel overtones, although the dominant aspect is dry, with a whiff of carbonation. Malt is felt prominently, and seriously kicks in once you get it up to the lips.

Great texture right up front, and a very mellow mouthfeel. Little hops, but substantially malty. That's what this beauty is all about, and it delivers a fantastic, rewarding taste all the way through.
Rich, tasty, lush, warm and friendly, full in body, this is a malty masterpiece. Just a perfect lager in every respect, never, ever lacking in flavor.

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 ...