Friday, October 31, 2014

Flat Earth Mummy Train Pumpkin Ale

I'm going to re-visit a beer I didn't like the first time. My old notes for Flat Earth's Mummy Train Pumpkin Ale were from on tap at the Blue Nile in October of 2009, 5 years ago. I ordered the keg before trying the beer and was disappointed. My notes were brief, succinct, judicious, diplomatic. Recently, I felt that I should give it another chance, and bought a bomber. Here we go…

Appearance: semi-clear, auburn-hued, the perfect look for a pumpkin brew, with a stable, if slim, slab of creamy, off-white head.

Aroma: Pumpkin pie spices scream out of the glass: Hot cinnamon notes are biggest and boldest, with nutmeg and allspice mixed in for measure.

Taste: Again, spice notes are first felt, and dominate the flavor. Not getting any real pumpkin meat flavors, it seems to be all spices. We've got a malt-forward ale, some carmel and toffee flavors showing, with little hops, hanging out underneath the spices. The pumpkin's in there, somewhere, just drowned beneath all the spice. Medium-bodied, long spicy, malty finish. Better than I remembered it.

This is much improved from that initial taste, 5 years ago. Let's gander at the label: "Ale with spices and pumpkin added. Enlgish ale, caramel & wheat malts; pumpkin, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, mace, Fuggle hops, American ale yeast, and St. Paul water. OG-1.052, SRM-13, IBU-30, alcohol, 5.2% by volume."

The gobbledygook on the other side gives us the meaning and the history of the phrase "mummy train", which I'll let you go to their website to read for yourself, and ends with: "A secret blend of pumpkin and spices mixes with English malts and hops, creating a sensation that brings back memories of bon fires, hay rides, and the changing of the seasons--the perfect beer for any fall holiday event."

You know, I think this beer must have changed, and improved, because I'm liking it, and I think I would've been a bigger booster if that keg tasted like this bottle.

Here, for old times sake, are those notes from 10/09:

Hazy orange coloration, slim head.

Aroma: all pumpkin spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little of clove. Mmmm.

More spice once in the mouth. Medium bodied, high carbonation, spritzy and spicy. Long, lingering finish in the mouth.

Easy drinkability, refreshing, not too big, not too boisterous. A sessionable pumpkin ale.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bent Paddle Daypack Pale Ale

Bent Paddle Daypack Pale Ale Single Pale Ale , Bent Paddle Brewing Company, Duluth, MN, 4.7% Alc./Vol.

Appearance: lightly hazed, bright golden hue, under a snowy white, lace-leaving head.

Aroma: Juicy tropical fruit notes, lush pineapple and papaya, plus citrus, lemon and lime, with a trace of pine. Nicely hoppy.

Taste: Big ol' blast of hop bitterness starts us off, softly fading back some. Body is lean and clean, leaving more room on the stage for the hops to shine. Crisp and biscuity malt flavors lurk just below. Brilliant hop flavors continue to treat the tongue, sip after sip. It's an easy-drinking, satisfying pale ale, and I like it.

What does the brewery say? "This sessional pale ale is the ideal complement to the natural surroundings of the open trail. A rugged citrus hop character carries it's weight against the grain with an easy-going drinkability. Be sure to find room in your day-pack for a 6-pack!"

This is a pale ale that should find a home in any well-appointed refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Deschutes The Dissident

Deschutes The Dissident. 2012 Reserve. The Dissident: 20% Malt Beverage aged in French Oak Wine barrels and 80% malt beverage brewed with cherries. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon. 11.4 % Alc. by Vol.

Appearance: It's a murky, reddish hue, with a head that starts as something, but dies off with a quickness.

Aroma: cherries, red wine, oak, funk. Sharp, pungent, and pleasing.

Taste: Once on board the palate, it's brash, vibrant and arrestingly sour. Cherries, red wine, barrel-age magic all blend together beautifully. Medium-bodied, long, sweet/sour finish. Rich and complex and beautiful. Lays long on the palate, makes itself comfortable in the mouth. Where there might be discord, instead we taste harmony.

On the label: "Introducing our wildest beer yet, The Dissident, --a distinctive Belgian-style brown ale. Fermented with wild yeast, we have to isolate this brew so as not to influence the others. Otherwise, we just might have anarchy on our hands. Here's to solitary confinement! And shared exploration."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Engelszell Gregorius Trappist Ale

Well, what to you know, there's an new Trappist brewery, from an Abbey that's been around since the 13th century, and this one isn't Belgian, it's Austrian (making it a "kloisterbrau"). But that doesn't mean that they're making Germanic-style brews, no, they're doing it Belgian-style. And here's the one they call Gregorius.

Stift Engelszell Gregorius Trappistenbier. Product of Austria. 9.7% ALC./VOL. Ale brewed with honey.

Appearance: rich caramel brown, with ruby fringes, under a lush tan head, stays strong, drifts down slowly.

Aroma: sweet and malty, toffee and caramel, plums and raisins, figs, and a bit of cherry in there, too. Complex and wonderful. The label didn't give a style, but based on nose and appearance, it's somewhere between a dubbel and a quadruple.

Taste: Starts slightly bitter, tasty hops doff their caps to us, then a funky twist emerges. Mostly malty, with a surprisingly hoppiness. Trappist yeast continues to contribute to the intriguing character. It's a very complex creature, and tremendously enjoyable.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five Midwest Coast IPA

Bauhaus BrewLabs Sky-Five! Mid-West Coast Style-IPA. 6.7% ABV. 70 IBU. 12 fl. oz. Proudly brewed by Bauahus Brew Labs in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It's the year for beer in Minneapolis. I was looking back, and it occurred to me that three years ago, we had four breweries in the city, Town Hall, Herkimer, Rock Bottom, and Harriet. Two years ago, it was eight, adding Fulton, Boom Island, Northbound and Indeed. Just a few months ago, we had fourteen, with the addition of Dangerous Man, Northgate, Free House, Day Block, 612, and Sociable Cider Werks. At that point, I made my attempt to visit, and drink at, as many of them as I could by bike in one day, if you recall that post. I did it then because I knew such a feat would be impossible soon. Quickly came Sisyphus, then Bauhaus, then Fair State. LynLake opened this week, and in November we'll see the opening of EastLake Craft Brewery, and then the new location of the Surly Brewery. Twenty-one breweries in the City of Lakes. Amazing. How fast  and far we've come along!

So now we come to Bauhaus BrewLabs, whose cans have recently found their way into local stores. I stopped by the brewery and taproom for the first time last week, and wondered why I hadn't seen their cans anywhere yet. Lo and behold, today, boom, there they were and I chose from among them all their IPA, (who'd have thunk it, hey?) Let's go ahead and have a Bauhaus BrewLabs Sky-Five! already.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five! Midwest Coast IPA. 6.7% ABV. 70 IBU. 12 fl. oz. can.

Appearance: pours a hazy, dull orange coloration, under a lush, bone-white head, leaving lace, looking fine.

Aroma: Bold, bright citrus and pine notes, some tropical tones, too. None too bitter, but altogether pleasant.

Taste: Big bite from the hops at first sip. Hops pounce on the palate, then recede just a bit, letting lush malt take command and hold ground. Nice balance here, with a pungent punch from the hops. Bitter smack continues with each new approach to the lips. Every new drink begs another.

At the taproom, each of their four main beers are identified and described by two words in short and pithy fashion, and in this case they are: "Dank, Refreshing." Although I have issues with the over-use of the vague non-word "dank", it certainly is refreshing. I can have a few of these without getting the least bit bored.

I like this one, and I can see myself choosing a pint of it when I see it out and about. And now I shall steel myself for some over-the-top gobbledygook on the can label:
"A high-five just won't cut it when this ambrosial concoction of hop goodness hits your lips. Hell, even a cartwheel wouldn't be enough. Generous late hop additions provide loads of hop flavor, with just enough hop bitterness to ignite your senses. Earthy notes of citrus, passionfruit and spice are supported by a unique combination of German and English malts, building a full-flavored, yet balanced IPA. Sky-Five!"

There are mysteries yet unexplained by that hyperbole, such as what is meant by "Midwest coast" and what's up with the ---are they umlauts?--over the o. How will we ever find the answer?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Goose Island The Muddy Imperial Stout

Goose Island Beer Company The Muddy Imperial Stout, Featuring Amplified Sweetness with Licorice Notes, Brewed & Bottled by Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL. Imperial Stout Brewed With Licorice. 9% ALC./Vol., 32 IBU.

A salute to the Chicago blues style, named for Mr. McKinley Morganfield (AKA Muddy Waters) , I presume. This seems right up my alley. Let's check it out and see.

Appearance: Solidly stygian, utterly devoid of light, with a rich, creamy tan head on top, looking beautiful.

Aroma: Deep stuff, vast notes of cocoa and coffee, and the advertised aniseed trails a bit behind. so far. Starts creeping in eventually, with peppery notes, as well.

Taste: Slight hop bitterness at first, then fades back, covered by rich, dark malt. Medium-to-full bodied, but not as rich as I'd like. Wouldn't call it thin, but a touch disappointing. Thankfully, the sweetness is not actually amplified, but neither are the licorice notes very pronounced. Nice presence on the palate, but definitely lacking in thickness and fullness. Comes up short in the chewy department.

This is my assessment halfway through the bottle. Getting into the second half of the glass, I want to give it another chance, or delve further in and discover it's special virtues. The licorice does grow, deepen and widens, gets bigger on the palate, but it took it's sweet time, didn't it? Maybe if the beer was warmer to begin with? I warmed it up some, but didn't get it all the way to room temperature.

In the end, I find The Muddy fails as an Imperial Stout, lacking many of the rich extremes of flavor that are a part of any good RIS worthy of the name. If they boast of an amplified sweetness, they're off the mark. Any good RIS that is also sweet, needs to be full-bodied and rich, as well. This one is not.

Goose Island is not a bad brewery because it is now owned by Budweiser, but if they keep making mediocre beers like this…I'm not sayin'…just sayin'….

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ommegang Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale

Ommegang Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale. Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY. 8% ALC./VOL.

I've never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, nor read a single sentence of the novels. I did see the South Park spoof, though. So, it's a show about wieners? And dragons that are coming? And something that happens in Winter? Okay, maybe when I'm caught up with Ray Donovan I'll get to it, and I've got some Boardwalk Empire episodes to get to…then, I will, I promise to get to the wieners that everyone's talking about.

But, I don't need the wieners to enjoy the beer, so let's get to it…

Appearance: dark reddish-brown, mahogany, under a light tan head.

Aroma: bold fruitiness in the nose, dark fruits, cherries, raisins, dates & plums, with an oaky edge. Slight sourness & funkiness. Terrifically complex. Brandy-like.

Taste: Starts out sweet and fruity, with a funky twist. It's totally a plum bomb, I'd say, if I said things like that. Sweet maltiness and the Belgian yeast gives it a wine-y character. I could go for a drier dubbel than this, but that doesn't stop me from digging it. But, just a little, not a ton.

Let's read that label: "Ommegang ales are incomparable, yielding unique flavors and aromas. Inspired by deep insight in to Belgian brewing, and infused with Ommegang's creative upstate NY spirit, each ale offers perfect balance and pure drinking pleasure." There's more on the label that goes into the meaning of the name and the blah-blah-blah about the show, and I just don't care about that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Borealis Fermentery White-Throated Wit

Borealis White-throated Wit, Belgian Style Wit Ale Brewed with Spices. Brewed and bottled by Borealis Fermentery, Knife River, MN.

Wits are great. I love wits. But, why do some people insist on calling them "vits"? It's a German thing to pronounce a "W" as a "V", but not a Belgian thing. How can I stop people from saying "vitbier"? I can't! It's so frustrating! Who says "vit"? And vhy???
(this pet peeve of mine is right up there with calling hefe weizens "heffs.")

Appearance: hazy, bright golden, thin white head.

Aroma: wild, Funky Belgian yeast character hits the nose first, light spices, with delicate floral and citrus notes.

Taste:  On the tongue, it's light and delightful. Smooth, wheat mouthfeel and texture, lemon and orange in the flavor, with doses of spice. Zippy. Zesty. Snappy. Lean and clean. Medium-bodied, long-lasting flavor. Refreshing? Yeah. No ABV given here, but it's probably 6% or below. And I like it.

"The song of the White Throated Sparrow is one of the first things we here in the Northland hear that lets us know that Winter is finally on it's way out. White Throated is brewed with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, lending a mild, balanced tartness to a traditional witbier."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Town Hall Petunia's Pumpkin Ale

I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret: I don't really care for pumpkin beers. Any more. Kind of over it. Just like with fruit beers. Oh, I was all about them years ago, when it was a novelty, but now everyone has them, and it's kind of like, been there, done that. I used to be into, you know, apricot ales, and things like that, a million years ago. Now...yawn. I'll still drink the fruity/vegetably stuff, sure, but you're never going to see me dancing in the store aisles, paraphrasing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" to be about pumpkin beers. Nope. Not gonna happen.

And then I felt like revisiting Town Hall's version, which I usually skip, and looked back at the first time I had it, some nine years ago, in October of 2005. Here come those notes, but keep in mind, some things are probably still true, like the recipe, but I'll bet they're not collecting portions of the profits to give to charity anymore:
For the first time, I took home a growler with Town Hall's new logo, and here we have new next to old. I'm still partial to the old-fashioned look.

Made with a mild ale base, using English malts and 27 pounds of pumpkin. 10 more pounds were added later, along with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and other pumpkin pie spices, and the brew simmered in those spices after fermentation. (That's my best paraphrasing of the brewer's information, found on the latest menu...apologies if I got anything wrong.) 

Nearly clear, slightly hazed, pale orange/amber hue, thin, but lasting layer of off-white foam above. 

Aroma: cinnamon on top, but tempered well with other spices, and the pumpkin lies below. Well-controlled spices, just enough to please the nose, not so much to scare anyone away. 

Spices are on top of the taste, too, herbal/vegetal flavors riding it out below. Medium bodied, light, mild finish. Pumpkin spice flavors just up and tease the tongue with each new sip, then fade back, making for easy drinking. 

I could have used a heftier body to suit my tastes, but, then, I'm not everyone, and this was used, in it's debut, as a fund-raising beer to benefit a former employee battling Lymphoma. Something to fit the season, that's not too bold that the average pint pounder can't stand a couple, and in doing so, add to the aid. ( Although, my friend couldn't have more than one, and I yearned for something hoppier after my glass had emptied.) 

Actually, I like it quite a bit...the closer the beer gets to the bottom of the glass, the more I realize that...I'll have fun finishing the growler tonight!

One question is still unanswered after nine years: who the heck is Petunia?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Summit Union Series: Southern Cape Sparkling Ale

Summit Union Series Southern Cape Sparkling Ale.

I'm a bit late with this one. It came out earlier this summer, and I enjoyed many pints of it while it was on tap at Northbound. I thought I'd review it  from a pint there, but the opportunity never arose. Never found the time to properly sit down with a glass by myself, and the next thing you knew, the keg was done and that was it. Meanwhile, I never saw it on sale. Just wasn't looking at the right time. Lo and behold, there it was on sale the other day at Elevated. Good thing, I couldn't bear the notion of a Summit beer being undocumented here. Just doesn't make sense. Which reminds me that I've got to pick up the new Schell's Noble Star, and I'm way behind on Bent Paddle, and I've got to make it back
to Steel Toe soon, and there are cans of Bauhaus to check out, and there's more Blacklist out there, and I still haven't made a visit to Tin Whiskers in St. Paul, or Urban Growler, and on the subject of growlers,  why don't I pick up a growler from Dangerous Man?, and…and…and…(sigh)…it just never ends. But, I can't stop trying…

(And this is just the local scene I'm talking about!)

Anyway, on with the beer…

Appearance: highly hazed, bright golden hue, slim white head, short but lasting. Very inviting.

Aroma: soft and subtle, but enticing. Notes of tropical fruit, some citrus, light spices. Beautifully delicate, hoppy nose.

Taste: Hops hit harder once the meet the tongue. Nice bitter bite, with notes of pineapple, grapefruit, and pepper. Nice lemony squirt in the flavor. Hop notes last long through consumption. Malt body is on the light side, and it's an easy-drinking affair, all the way.

This one is name after an Australian style that's a bit deceiving and inevitably caused some consumer confusion. What does "Sparkling Ale" mean, does it really "sparkle", is it effervescent like champagne, etc., etc?? No, that's just the poetic appellation they applied in Adelaide in the 1800's due to it's brightness. "Southern Cape" refers to the origins of the ingredients: Gairdiner Pale Malt from Australia, Sebastian Caramel Malt from Chile, Waimea hops from New Zealand, Southern Passion hops from South Africa, all from the bottom of the world. 4,4% Alc. by Vol., 45 IBUs.

I like this one. It doesn't fit the current season, but that's my fault entirely, of course. Strike while it's hot, they say. My lesson learned.

Steel Toe Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale

I apologize in advance for the terrible picture enclosed in this entry. I had no idea that an Indeed coaster sitting nearby would be reflected so clearly in the pint glass. Ah, well, lesson learned. Here comes the beer:

Steel Toe Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale. Alc. 7.5% by Vol. Brewed and bottled by Steel Toe Brewing, St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Appearance: dark brown, practically black, under a creamy head, lace-leaving, looking luscious.

Aroma: grassy hops galore, floating over dark malt. Gorgeous.

Taste: Grasy, piney, citrus-y hops flood the palate, with chocolatey malt just below. Full-bodied. Lush malt. Delicious. Good Lord, it's delicious. Tasty as Hell. Bitterness persists, keeping time with sweet malt.

I have to excuse myself. I'm having a hard time being objective about this. It's hitting me just right, and I'm finding it to be absolutely perfect. And that's coming from this guy here who's always had a hard time with this Cascadian Dark Ale, Black IPA, whatever you call it style.

This is doing everything for me, shooting me from all angles. It's not just the hops, it's actually mainly the malt. Just flat-out delicious.

"Douglas", naturally, refers to the fir tree indigenous to the Cascadia region, also called Oregon Pine or Douglas spruce, and whose piney flavor resonates throughout the beer. I'm glad I finally got to get a bottle, and now, I've got to score some more, because it is ever so good. And I'm not kidding.

Widmer Double M.A.C.

Here's beer #3 of the Craft Beer Explorer sampler pack.
Widmer Brothers Brewing Double M.A.C., Experimental Small Batch Series. ESt. 1984, Portland, OR. Alc./Vol. 4.8%. IBU 50.

Before I get into the beer, I have to recognize an irony. After all the favorite glasses I've broken and sobbed over through the years, I still have this pint glass that I bought on a tour of the Widmer Brothers brewery in Portland twelve years ago, in 2002. One of the breweries that I drink the least, the glass I almost never pour into…cruel, cruel irony.

So, appearance: it's a slightly hazed, bright golden color, with a slim, soon-gone head. Eh.

Aroma: Lemony, citrus-y, low on hop bitterness. Little else. Double Eh.

Taste: Some hop bite at first, citrus-y hop flavor floods the palate, malt adds little to the overall character. Light bodied, light finish, forgettable flavor. Not liking this at all. There's nothing really happening. This is the problem with the session IPA craze, that it leads to bad beers like this.

I want to read the label now. "Description: Double M.A.C. is an easy drinking, vibrant and refreshing session IPA double dry-hopped with Mosaic, Amarillo and Cascade hops. Prost, to the perfect session. Style: Session IPA. Malts: Pale, Caramel, & Munich."

Eh. It''s not that bad. It's just not much of anything. It lacks. Just lacks. I don't need higher alcohol, I don't demand fuller body, I just want coherence, and character, and a beer that ought to exist. This doesn't have any need to be.

I've got seven bottles left of this. If my opinion changes as I drink them, I'll come back and tell you.

RedHook Fat Chance Light IPA

In my last entry, I spent a good number of paragraphs describing how and why I came upon this beer (and the last and the next). Go there, to read that scintillating story. And now I proceed with beer #2 from that sampler pack, it's from RedHook of Seattle, Washington, and it's called Fat Chance Light IPA from their Secret Stash Series. Not a promising name for me, or maybe it's their clever way to avoid caving in to the "session IPA" trend. "A hoppy light IPA. Kind of like Slim Chance. If he had done more 12 oz. curls." I don't know who Slim Chance is…should I? 4% ABV. Est. 1981 Seattle.

Before I get to the beer, I'll spend a little time talking about my sentimental association with the RedHook brand. There was a comic book in the 1990's written and drawn by Peter Bagge, and published by Fantagraphics (of Seattle, WA.),  called, for lack of a better title, "Hate", that concerned the adventures of proto-'90's slacker-type Buddy Bradley and his friends in the Seattle sub-cultures of that era. I'm enclosing a portion of page two of issue one from 1990, which had a great impact on me when it was first released, right around when I decided to try and be a cartoonist myself. In fact, a story I wrote and almost finished drawing was based on this stylistic conceit, the point of view interview with the narrator, and it would've been the debut of  my roman a clef character, Lenny, (the title: "Lenny: an Introduction" also smelled of a J.D. Salinger reference. I know, I'm insufferable.) who would be my main character/doppelganger/etc., in my comic book which might have been called "Dateline: The Blues", or maybe it would've been "Argyle Fist." We shall never know.

By the way, Bagge took some shots at Minneapolis in that story, also. Read that here….

It was still a few years before I got into craft beer, and once I did jump into the beer world, I remembered  the beer Buddy B. drank in Hate #1 and simply had to check it out, since IPAs were my thing (and still are). It was all right back then, and is disappointing now. IPAs have certainly changed in the past 20-some years. Ballard Bitter isn't a beer I'm ever going to choose to throw in my shopping cart these days. (Actually, I'm pretty sure it no longer exists.) I'll always have that attachment, though, because memory means a lot. There are a lot of great coffee stouts these days, but Red Hook Double Black was my first. And you never forget your first.

On with the beer:

Appearance: Clear, light golden hue, snowy white head, long-lasting, lace-leaving.

Aroma: Big citrus, lemon, lime and orange, with some pine behind. Beautiful. Manna for the Hop-head.

Taste: Hop bitterness attack at the top, fading softly back. Very mellow malt, clean and crisp. Lean-bodied, light finish, hops cling on, though the bitterness slides off eventually.

Okay, it's 4%, I can drink a few before getting buzzed, but the hop flavor isn't furled back, so that's good. This isn't my normal style, but damn, if you can't drink it. Citrus-y hops hang in there for the long haul, and you never forget this is a nice ol' IPA. Nothin' wrong with it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kona Lemongrass Luau

Once more I found myself low on beer and short on time, so I visited my nearest store and stalked the aisles. This one does not have the widest variety, so it's becoming harder to stretch out my dollars and find new beers there to try and write about. On the other hand, they do stock more sampler packs than other nearby stores. And as I was scanning them, lo and behold, what do I see but the Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack. 24 bottles, for the low, low price of $14.99. What? There must be a catch. Tax included, that's only 69 cents a bottle. Incredible! What's the obvious downside?

Well, one of the minuses is that it's from the Craft Brewers Alliance, which is the three breweries who struck distribution deals with, and are partially owned by Anheuser-Busch. They are Kona, Widmer, and Redhook, and while they are not my favorites, they're not actually bad. It's beer and you can drink it.

Minus side? Perhaps I won't like them? Plus side: only sixty-nine cents each! Plus side: the beers included are only available in this variety pack. Minus: what if I HATE them? Plus: C'mon, how could they be that bad? Minus: it's eight bottles of one beer from each brewery. If I don't like them, that's a lot of mediocre beer to go through. Plus side: Oh, well, there's always cooking with beer.

So, I gave the clerk my $16.53 and took the case home. I'm going to start with the one that I might like the least, but, doggone it, I bet someone likes it. And it's called Lemongrass Luau from Kona Brewing Company, in their 808 Series. "Liquid Aloha." Ale brewed with Ginger with Lemongrass & Ginger Added. 5.8% Alc. by Vol.

Appearance: hazy, pale golden coloring, slim white head.

Aroma: Ginger is big here. It's a ginger bomb in the nose, I'd say, if I didn't hate that phrase. Lemongrass lingers just behind. those are the two main culprits, with hardly any contenders.

Taste: Once more, lemongrass and ginger are huge on the palate at first sip. It fades a bit, goes away softly. Mild malt backbone, minor hop bite, nothing gets in the way of the ginger and lemongrass.

It's light, crisp and refreshing, which is exactly what it's supposed to be. The lemon flavor is strongest, but the ginger doesn't stray far from the fore. I've got an inkling that this was intended as a summer special, and I wish I'd bought this earlier in the year and brought it to the beach. Might be something best saved for guests, or a party, or, like I said, cooking. Nothing wrong it, but not the sort of beer I reach for often.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Moylan's Hop Craic XXXX Quadruple Ale

Moylan's Hop Craic XXXX Quadruple Ale. Brewed and bottled by Moylan's Brewing Company, Novato, CA. Alcohol 10.4% by Volume. Contents: 1 pint, 6 fl. oz.

I've had this before, on tap, as part of one of beer events at the Blue Nile. I think it was last year's Hop Heads Only. I meant to take notes on it then, but the keg was gone too fast for that, forcing me to wait until I could find a bottle of it. A bit expensive, at about $14 a bottle. (If you've been following my continual kvetching about bomber pricing, yes, this one is worth it.)

Appearance: clear, bright copper-y coloring, off-white head, slim, but lasting.

Aroma: Piney, resin-y, and as hop-gooey as it gets. That's my way of avoiding the nonsense word "dank" which has seen much proliferation of late. Ablaze with citrus, grapefruit and lemon galore. Slight hint of caramel malt whispers below. Pungent aromatics, to say the least. It's a surfeit of hop aromas, a tsunami, an overblown explosion.

Taste: Bam! Pow! Boards the palate with bravado, landing on the tongue and commanding the terrain with the brashness and swagger of pirates taking on the ship of the senses. Nothing meek, meager, mild or mellow in this, it's an all-out assault. Intense stuff, massive mouthfeel, a straight hit of hollowed-out hoppitude patched directly to the main vein. Thick and luscious.

Another one you should plan to drink just before bedtime. It will ruin all other beers if you don't.

Here's where I feel like reading the label copy: "As if our Hopsickle wasn't IMPERIAL {their caps} enough….Some cravings need to be taken to the next level. LAced with resinous oils from the lupus cultivar, Hop Craic satiates and satisfies the appetite of the hard-core hop lover. New World hops will send you on a journey you will want to take again and again."

Friday, October 10, 2014

New Belgium Saison

It's hard to resist the New Belgium fall seasonal sampler. 5 different beers for $11.99, 2 each each of Ranger, Rampant, Fat Tire and 1554, and 4 of Saison. I enjoy the first two, can tolerate (but don't love) the next two, and haven't had Saison in many years. yay, a new beer for here! And it's they're only $1 each. Woo Hoo! So, have I had this saison before? Yes, way back in November of 2006, almost eight years ago, from a trade with a fellow BeerAdvocate, and here come the notes....

Lightly hazed, pale straw yellow appearance, short-lived, slim white head.

Tart nose at first sniff, spicy and spunky. Has the whiff of the hayhouse in it. Delightful, if restrained, but, then, this isn't an all-out funky saison, so I can see how they'd what to tame it some.

On the tongue, light fruit, definite citrus, lemon and orange, with apricot and peach, and plentiful spice, a bit of ginger, some coriander and cardamom, maybe...tangy yeast leads to festivities, and tasty hops, as well. Dry, toasty malt base.

Medium bodied, nice spice and fruit in the finish, a delightful fandango on the tongue, and a very accessible saison. Coluld be drier, could be spicier, could be this and that, but it's not bad at all. In fact, I like it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Northgate Pumpion Spiced Ale

Bombers. Sometimes they're just what you want, one big bottle to share, or to last through the night. That's fine when they're inexpensive, say, $5 or less, or when they're special, or rare, or imported from small Belgian artisanal breweries. When they're $8 or more from a local brewery, I find myself thinking, "that ought to be $9 for a six pack of 12-ouncers that will last me a few days, even a week."

I've been seeing a lot of local, or semi-local (Duluth is local, right?) bombers for $12, $14 and higher. Often, they are special, they are rare(-ish), and they are sometimes worth it. I just wish I could afford more than one of them. Maybe I just need to start making more money and stop worrying about this stuff. Wish I could justify those "spendy" beers (question: has anyone heard someone not born and bred here use this odd phrase?), but very often I look at a $20 bottle of Pentagram, then see a $9 4-pack of Sierra Nevada Narwhal, and my decision is made. (Notice I haven't said anything about what justifies $20 for a bottle of Darkness, or how anyone who paid so much is implicit in that price point being justified by the seller. Noticed that I haven't and let's leave it at that.)

So, I am doing my best to keep on top of local beers, and even though this bomber of Northgate Pumpion (the Champion of Pumpkins?) is $8 for a one-and-done-er, I snatched it up. Had some a few weeks ago at Autumn Brew Review, but I can't do actual reviews of beers sampled there. It's called a "Spiced Ale", it's 6% ABV, 38 IBU. Lots of ingredients listed in tiny print that is hard to read. Maybe I'll try to do that later, for now I'll open the beer.

Appearance: hazy, darkish amber-y hue, looking very pumpkinny, with a beige head, clinging on top.

Aroma: Cinnamon and nutmeg greet the nose, allspice, too. Pumpkin spices are in the lead, with lush malt behind.

Taste: Starting out hot and spicy, pumpkin pie spices staying on top and tingling the palate. Below is mostly malt. Stays wam, sweet and spicy. Minor hops, if at all. Very mellow on the tongue. Feels like an English brown ale underneath all the spice. We're getting the feeling of the pumpkin pie in a glass, without the meat of the gourd inside.

Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt. CaraMunich malt. White Wheat. UK First Gold Hops.
American Ale yeast. Spices.

It's a tasty one, and I'm digging it. One of the better pumpkin ales I've had recently. Drinkable, not too strong…which is why it be better suited in a six-pack of 12 ouncers. Just my opinion.

New Belgium Hop Kitchen #7: Hop the Pond Double IPA

New Belgium Hop Kitchen #7: Hop The Pond Double India Pale Ale, Brewed and Bottled by New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado. Alc. 8% by Vol.

Appearance: Clear, light amber hue, creamy white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: Ah! Beautiful. Floral notes, tropical fruit, citrus, apricot, tangerine, lemon and pineapple, light and lovely.

Taste: Delicate hop bite at the front, then fading back softly. Light malty body. High alcohol content doesn't really show itself, seems fairly well hidden…so far. Juicy, fruity, and not too, terribly bitter. This double IPA is a grower, not a shower, not pounding on you from the start, but building up, luring you in with a light-handed display of hop bitterness.

I like this one. And now I want to read the bottle label gobbledygook…."Hop the Pond IPA is a trip around the world in 80 IBUs. Experience Admiral hops from England, Galaxy form Australia, and Citra from the U.S. of A. The malt bill hails from Chile, Germany, England, and Canada. Set sail with one sip."

Well, those are some hot hops, and some mellow malt. Making for a cool, smooth, delicious double IPA. Go drink one now.

Blacklist Or de Belgique Verte

Blacklist Verte Or de Belgique, Belgian-style dry-hopped ale. Brewed & bottled by Dubrue for Blacklist Brewing, Duluth, MN. 9.5% ABV. 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: clouded, golden-hued, under a beautiful head of snowy white foam.

Aroma: Hop bitterness hits the nose first, floral, fruity, piney and resinous. More spice and fruit just below. Belgian yeast funk emerges after a minute.

Taste: Hop forward once more, blast of bitterness right out the gate. Sweet malt rushes up to match, with a twist of Belgian yeast character. High carbonation, plenty of zest on the the palate. Nice dry ending, fruitiness and hop bitterness continue until the finish.

Delicious. The Blacklist streak continues. I'm going to have to go back for more.

Label gobbledygook: "Elegant and assertive, Or de Belgique Verte mixes Belgian beauty with hoppy beastliness. Saphir dry-hopped, the aromas of light citrus mingle with the pear and tropical fruit of it's mother beer, Or de Belgique. A balancing act of sweet and bitter, Verte dances between styles to create a uniquely beautiful beer."

Okay, I'll go along with that.

Monday, October 6, 2014

21st Amendment Bitter American Session Ale (American Pale Ale/Bitter/what-have-you)

21st Amendment Bitter American Session Ale, Extra Pale Ale with Bold Malt and Hop Flavors. 4.4% Alc./Vol. 42 IBU, 12 fluid ounces. Brewed and canned by 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA.

Appearance: Hazy, pale golden cast, snowy white, lace-leaving head.

Aroma: ah! Fresh and vibrant, citrus-y, grassy, pine forest floor-y. Everything you're looking for.

Taste: Brisk, hoppy bite at the fore, lasting long on the palate, then fading softly back. Lush pillow of malt rest comfortably below. Lean-bodied, easy drinking, a damned tasty pale ale. I guess that's not as fashionable as "session ale" these days, or "IPA", but whatever. Good beer, and you can drink it.

I get the name now. Cross between English Bitter and American Pale Ale. Play on "ugly American"?

Indeed Double Day Tripper

Once again, I face the collector's conundrum. I am about to drink an Indeed bomber (damn, but I wish they weren't always 13, 14 dollars!) that ought to be in a snifter, a tulip, a chalice, like all strong, double pale ales/IPAs. And yet all that I have with the Indeed logo is a shaker pint. Do they make such glasses with the Indeed branding? I should surely want one if they did, but wait, how many do I have, how many do I need? Ah, this quandary perplexes me so!

I know, I know, I've gone down this road before here, but it is a vexation that visits me often. So, I'll let it pass, and pour this into an Indeed pint glass, silently wishing for something else. Let it go, Al, let it go…

This is a trippy illustration on the silkscreened label. Twice as trippy as the regular Day Tripper. Shows to go ya.

Appearance: clouded, bright golden/amber look, off-white head, lacy.

Aroma: deep, rich and fruity, a complex bouquet. sweetness and bitter mingle together. Aromatics started small and roll out big.

Taste: Over the lips and on the tongue, big, beefy, bombastic. Fat and chewy. I have a feeling that this is a double pale ale in the same way that Flying Dog's Double Dog is, in that everything is doubled up, malts and hops. Extra malt, extra hops, thick and boozy. Hangs hard on the palate and lays long in the throat. There's still some of the brightness of a hoppy and drinkable pale ale, but it's stuffed and clogged with much, too much malt. Compared to a pale ale, that is….when set against an end result that is halfway between imperial IPA and barley-wine, it fits right in.

I feel like reading the label gobbledygook. "there are only 24 hours in a day. We do our best to make the most of them, but find ourselves wanting more. While we can't change the Earth's rotation, we can brew a bigger beer. We present Double Day Tripper, a dank, dry-hopped 90 IBU Double Pale Ale with intense tropical citrus and floral notes. This is our flagship Day Tripper's feistier big brother. The day isn't over friends--get out there and double it!" Interesting that they chose the "double the day" aspect, rather than double the trip. Could've worked that way, too.
Alc. 8% by Vol. 90 IBU. Brewed and bottled by Indeed Brewing Company, Minneapolis, MN.

This is going to be used appropriately tonight, as a night cap. Anything after this would be wasted.

Rush River Minion IPA

Rush River Minion India Pale Ale. Unfiltered. Unpasteurized. 7% Alc. by Vol. Ingredients: water.barley. wheat. hops. yeast. (Hmm, we don't see wheat in IPAs too often, do we?) 22 ounce bomber. Brewed and bottled by Rush River Brewing Company, River Falls, Wisconsin.

Rush River turns 10 this year. Boy, does that take me back. I happened to be randomly biking north on Lyndale Avenue, passing the Bulldog Restaurant and Bar, which had just taken up shop, replacing the former tenant, long-running vegetarian restaurant The Mud Pie. A large banner was strung up, proclaiming that they were the proud pourers of the new Rush River Brewery. Imagine how exciting and novel that was in 2004, to find that there was a new beer! Made in next-state-over, Wisconsin! Wow! These days, we have new breweries opening in Minnesota every other week, it seems.

I made some calls and asked some questions, and before long found out who was distributing them. Next thing I knew, owners and brewers Dan Chang and Nick Anderson paid me a visit at the Blue Nile and brought along samples. They told me that they had been frequenters of the club in the past, on reggae nights, before starting the brewery. (Makes sense, as Small Axe Golden Ale is named for a Marley tune, and Bubblejack is named for a cannabis strain.) Before too long, I found room for the porter on tap at the Nile, and continued to try out their beers over the next few years, but less and less so as our local market grew.

I still like what they make, and try to keep up with them. (Although I wish they'd throw us some curve balls once in a while, and make some bigger beers, some experimental ones, even. Come on, you can do it. You're not just selling to dairy farmers, guys.)

So, here we have Minion in a bomber. Let's see what that's all about.

Appearance: highly hazed, bright golden, slim, off-white head. good looking unfiltered American IPA.

Aroma: Bright citrus-y notes at play here, bountiful tropical notes, lemon and pineapple aplenty. Very lively.

These coasters from my collection give a glimpse at the changes in branding for Rush River Brewing over the past ten years. 
Taste: Brisk, bristling hop bitterness commands the palate from the start. It's got that powerful bite and snap that we desire in our IPAs. Rowr! It's a fierce one. Sweet malt body hangs just below, and the wheat is coming through, it's firm, fresh, and tasty. I'm not 100% sure what sets this apart from Bubblejack, perhaps Citra hops, versus Centennial? The malts? Doesn't matter, it's delicious, and definitely drinkable. I like this one.

The third IPA they've made (if you lump in double IPAs) in ten years, but there are so many other styles they haven't tackled. Where's a Baltic Porter, fellas, or a Chocolate Stout? Oh, right, you did do one of those. Old Ale? Dubbel? Be bold, gentlemen!

Brau Brothers Bancreagie Scotch Ale

Brau Brothers Bancreagie Peated Scotch Ale. Brewed in Lucan, MN, Pop. 220. (guess they haven't printed up new labels for this one.)

Appearance: highly hazed, beautiful reddish-brown color, slim beige head.

Aroma: toffee and caramel first, earthy and murky, with a persistent sweetness. Along comes the peat, and it's pleasant. Nice.

Taste: First sip and the peat is gargantuan in the mouth, followed by lush malt sweetness. Minor hops, practically non-existent. Toffee and caramel malt flavors continue, smoke comes to the party, body is medium, peat lingers in the finish. Just a little too sweet for me. It's fine, I can drink it, but a little goes a long way with this one.

There's gobbledygook on the label, but I'm not in the mood to decipher it, so hold on tight for one of those links.

Over seven years ago, (May, 2007) I took notes on this beer for the first time, when I tapped it at the Blue Nile, before they added Bancreagie to the name. Here are those old notes:

Murky crimson shade, under thin creamy head. Should look darker, though...

Sweet, malty nose, rich and fruity...cherries and berries and red licorice whips...strawberry jam...

Taste: it's all malt, in here, with just enough hop to keep the sweetness down a notch or two. Rosey and bright, but a bit thin. I keep wanting more to chew on...fairly medium bodied, sweet finish, lingers a bit.
Each time the lip meets the cup, though, the result is satisfaction. I look for a bit more in a scotch ale, but this is good, no doubt about it.

Tasty. I'd drink one again.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Brau Brothers Paradox Black IPA

Brau Brothers Paradox Black IPA. So named  because a "black" India PALE ale is such a thing?

Dark brown coloring, just about black, with a rich tan head, staying long and leaving lace.

Aroma: citrus-y and grassy at once,  bittersweet delight, lively and alluring.

Taste: Hop bitterness grabs the palate at first gulp, matched swiftly by sweet, roasty malt body. Hops hang out on top and stick around until the chocolatey finish. Medium bodied, exceptionally drinkable. Ends on a dry note, with hops lingering lightly. Here's a "CDA", or whatever we want to call it these days, that I can get down with.

Label gobbled gook? "Simcoe and Amarillo highlight this dark beer, brewed exclusively with second runnings."

Fargo Brewing Sod Buster Porter

I'm fairly certain that in my quest to try beers from every state, that I've had something from North Dakota at some time. But, I certainly haven't had any lately. Well, now we have some available here, and let's try one out, won't we?

Fargo Brewing Company, Established 2010,  Sod-buster Porter, brewed and canned by Fargo Brewing Company, Fargo, north Dakota. 6.1% Alcohol by Volume.

Appearance: thoroughly opaque, dark brown brown color, slim head, disappears with a quickness, turning still.

Aroma: roasted malt greets the nose first, cola and nuts, with cocoa coming through. Doing alright so far.

Taste: Hop bitterness jumps on the palate, sticks around for a spell. English hops, I'm guessing . Sweet malt joins the party, kept just short of cloying by hops. Medium body. Chocolatey notes ring out high here, with traces of anise and molasses. Tasty stuff, I'll give it a recommendation.

I'd like to know more, so I'll turn to the can's label. But, I'll guess first: Sod-Buster, because busting sod is what one does in ND, and because porter = brown =earth. That's my guess. Here's what they say: "Sodbuster Porter is a beautifully balanced, robust porter that pours black with a thick tan head. It's dominated by deep, roast flavors and faint hints of smoke while being rich and full on the palate. This porter is the perfect companion to cold, North Dakota winters! Malts: 2 Row Chocolate, Bonlander Munich, Medium Crystal, Midnight Wheat, NW Pale Ale, Pale Chocolate. Hops: Golding. 29 IBU. 6.1% ABV."

Sierra Nevada Stout

October. Getting darker earlier every day, getting colder...definitely stout weather, and hey look, Sierra Nevada's Stout is only $7 a 6-pack at Zipp's. What a deal! Here are notes from May, 2003:

Appearance: dark brown, nearly black color, with a thick, full tan head that bubbles a good deal, before crumbling down, leaving a touch of lace.

Aroma: fruit, and bitterness, right off, grapes and berries, and such, with more flavors unfolding, pepper, anise, espresso, a big helping of roast and bitterness.
Also, enough carbonation to remind me of cola, but not too much.

Warm and smooth on the palate, and continuing the flood of flavors found in the nose, with an undulating ripple of bitter hops. Great, chewy mouthfeel.
Solid malt, dark, tasty body.

A delightful dance takes hold in every sip: the bitter hops do a fancy tap, until lush, dark malt sweeps in and hogs the spotlight, before long the two begin to tango.
A rousing and roasty stout, all around.

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...