Friday, February 27, 2015

Bent Paddle Harness the Winter IPA

Bent Paddle Harness the Winter IPA, Winter India Pale Ale, 7.2% Alc./Vol. Brewed and packaged by Bent Paddle Brewing Company, Duluth, MN. Contains: water, hops, malted barley, rye, oats, yeast.

Appearance: slightly hazed, gleaming crimson coloration, creamy, off-white, long-lasting head.

Aroma: Big hoppiness pops right out of the glass and into the nose, a blend of citric, piney, tropical fruit notes, with spicy rye malt aromatics close behind. A particularly beautiful blend of hop flavors.

Taste: Bam! Bitter hop bite kicks it off, with smooth and semi-sweet malt flavors rounding it out. Terrific balance here, outstanding taste, and great drinkability. Tasty, tasty, tasty. Medium bodied, long, bittersweet finish. I can't stop saying good things about this beer. It hits me right where I live.

The can has something to say: "Our Winter IPA was brewed in honor of the boundless energy and tenacious character of the sled-dog. Brewed for heatiness with oats, rye and malted barley. The comfort of malt sweetness harnesses the cold crisp citrus notes from the hops. This winter IPA is the perfect way to celebrate bounding through the deep snow."

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Buffalo Bock & Barrel-Aged Week 2015

From left to right, 3 of the new barrel-aged beers, Project 3106, Brown Label, and Le Baltique. 
A few weeks back, I went into Town Hall brewery on a Sunday afternoon, the same day that they sold the advance tickets for Barrel-aged Week growlers. Now, 10 a.m. on a Sunday is a time of slumber for me. I'm certainly not going to stand in line as early as 6 a.m., as some did. There were nine beers this year, and, oddly enough, when I inquired that afternoon there were some tickets left of only one beer, the Buffalo Bock. (I bought one, of course.) The more I thought of it, however, it made some sense that this was the one beer that some of the tailgaters skipped. The Buffalo Bock had been released in the past, and if one were spending $15 per pint- and -a -half growler, you're probably not going to want to get all nine. I'd never had a growler of this one before, but looking on BeerAdvocate, I did try it on tap, though didn't take notes.
During that Sunday session, I went online a saw many check-ins on Untapp'd for beers that weren't on tap that day, and asked about it. Those were the beers they were drinking in line, I was informed.

Barrel-aged Week started last week, Monday, February 16, and I paid the pub a visit shortly after  I got off work at Eastlake, finding a spot, but not yet a stool, at the bar, waiting for the tapping. The first beer was the ingenious Manhattan Reserve, a cocktail of beer, barrel and fruit that has been done for several years now. Their strong and fruity Belgian-style Grand Cru is aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, with cherries added to the mix, and the result tastes quite like a Manhattan. I couldn't resist, and didn't have to work in the morning (afternoon, actually), so I had three of them, with a infused Baltic Porter thrown into the mix.

A terrible snapshot of the delicious Manhattan Reserve.

My next night off was Wednesday, so I had some catching up to do. I got there a little later this time, and was able to enjoy the brand new Foolish Angel, a tasty Quadrupel aged in an  Angel's Envy rye barrel, in the company of Cal and Gloria. (I always meet friends at these events, which is half the fun, if not more.) That beer was released Tuesday; the day's new release was Buffalo Bock, which I'll get to soon enough. Knowing I had a growler waiting for me, I believe I had more Foolish Angel, and probably returned to some Manhattan Reserve, still on tap.

Foolish Angel, the Quad in Angel's Envy barrels.

Thursday was the release of the delicious Twisted Trace, which I wrote about here, but I was hard at work. Though about visiting Friday night, an evening when I was done working around 9 pm, but fell out of the mood for traveling across town via bus in this horrible February weather so late at night. The beer that day was Project 3106, a double American brown ale wit kumquats and chocolate in a Buffalo Trace barrel. I was assured that there would be enough beer to last until Sunday, my next full day off. Saturday was the day to be there, with Czar Jack, which was covered in this post,  kicking it off, and three new barrel-aged beauties being released at 3 p.m. I worked at 5, and didn't conceive of the possibility of being able to try a sampler before work, and get there in time, while remaining sober enough to do my job well. Might have worked, but I didn't want to risk it.

Czar Jack in all it's glory.

This past Sunday was my third visit to Town Hall for BAW, and as promised all the beers were still available. I took advantage of the new sampler offering, with six ounces each of Project 3106, which was as distinctive and intriguing as promised, Brown Label, a Belgian Bruin with maple syrup provided by brewer Mike Hoops himself, in a Woodford Reserve barrel, and Le Baltique, a Baltic Porter aged in a French oak red wine barrel. One beer was only consumed as a sample, and that was The Duke of Wallonia, an Imperial Wit aged in a French oak red wine barrel. As much as I dislike the concept of "imperializing" a wit, it was quite tasty, and a worthy experiment. I followed the sampler with a full glass of the trusty Czar Jack, thoroughly enjoyed, as ever.

Now, there's a question I hate: which one was the best? Hard to say, but, really, do I have to crown one the king, when they were all very successful? It's easy to just give the prize to Czar Jack, say that second place is Twisted Trace, but, wait, what about Manhattan Reserve? And does that mean the new ones weren't as good? No, no, no….I hate ranking and comparing, which is why I don't do it. And, hey, what about Buffalo Bock, the weizenbock aged it Buffalo Trace barrels? Now, that's a great question, and I propose that we open a mini-growler and find out all about it….

Buffalo Bock, weizenbock in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, enjoyed at home.

Appearance: beautiful burgundy coloring, clear, with no head at all.

Aroma: vanilla, toffee, cherries, oak…bourbon barrel flavors screaming out of this nose. The weizenbock's particular flavors are fairly smothered by the power of the barrel.

Taste: More vanilla and cherry, caramel and toffee, and the sharp twang of alcohol. Just below, the sweet wheat flavors of the weizenbock start to shine. It's a lovely marriage. You never forget for a second that bourbon is involved here, but the base beer is both full-bodied enough to hold it's own against the barrel effects, yet still show off it's own character. I know I said the opposite when speaking of the aroma, but that's just how it went. A delicious beer that sent me to bed peacefully.

Bauhau UberDuber Hoppy Bock

Bauhaus Brew Labs Uberduber Hoppy Bock. One of the "seasonal curiosities." "A toast, to all that's good in life." "Big & Funky". Limited Release. 7.0% ABV, 80 IBU, 22 fluid ounces. $7.99 for the bottle I bought.

Appearance: clear, dusky brown coloring, slim cocoa-toned head.

Aroma: malty, herbal, nutty, with hardly a trace of hops.

Taste: Wait, there they are bumping off the palate. Bright hoppiness holds court, with herbal, spicy, slightly citrus-y notes being the dominant voices. After that, it's fruit meets chocolate, with malt standing firm.

You know what? I like this. I went in thinking that I wouldn't, but it's not bad. I will enjoy the rest of this. Hey, what's the label tell us? Wait…need my glasses….oh, that's the government warning, we've all read that before. Oh, here we go…"The beer in this bottle is a true Bauhaus original. Loosely bases on German bockbier, we dose this festive and full-bodied malty ale {aren't bock lagers? oh, well} with loads of funky, citrusy hops and a bit of alchemy. The result? A beer worthy of Dr. Frankenstein's monster…but with more umlauts." Oh, yeah, there's umlauts over the u's, but I haven't figured out how to do them on this keyboard.

So, I'll probably still keep trying Bauhaus' beers, though I think their label copy is atrocious. And I still haven't forgiven them for "#jazzisstupid."

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA

I first had Ballast Point Sculpin IPA in 2009, from a trade, and it was then and is now a prime example of the San Diego IPA, hops a-blazing. I next tracked down a bomber in Chicago, and posted my original '09 notes about Sculpin here. It's been in our market for nearly two years now, so we can enjoy Sculpin whenever we want, though I find it's a bit too expensive to pick up with any frequency. But, look, the brewery is using it as template for adding extra ingredients, such as this one, which I did plunk down the coin for....

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin. India Pale Ale with natural grapefruit flavors. Handcrafted and bottled in San Diego, California. Alc 7.0% by Volume,

Appearance: clear, bright golden coloring, gorgeous snow-white head stands tall atop and stays awhile.

Aroma: Grapefruit screams out of the glass and tears into the nose. Quite potent grapefruit-y aromas. Anything else? If there are, I can't hear them under all the grapefruit.

Taste: Boom! Grapefruit, with beer below it. The Sculpin IPA is here, but it's subtleties and nuances are fairly drowned out by the grapefruit. Other citrus notes and piney flavors can be felt but barely, here and there. Bitterness is all over it, but it's not devastating, it can be smooth and mildly exit the palate.

Another sip and there it is, the big splash of grapefruit, the easy, biscuit-y malt, the aggressive hop attack that's so friendly to my tongue.

But, a question remains: is this really necessary? And I'll go even further, which may alienate me even more from the common class of beer geek. There are some variations on popular brews which should remain small batch and one-off, rare and hard-to-get. You really need to just be at the one bar on that one night, and get it out of that one randal the enamel animal. You should have to be one of 40 people, some times. They shouldn't be mass-produced, and shipped over several states. This beer should not be in 6-packs. It was, and I paid the price, and this was the last bottle, and the previous 5 went down well and enjoyably, but left me somewhat hollow.

But it leads me to more questions, such as, is adding grapefruit juice, or essence, or whatever it is, better or worse than barrel-aging? Or randall-izing? It's real grapefruit, sure, but it's more grapefruit than needed. The original Sculpin has the grapefruit flavor in spades, there's no need for such an addition. It's like adding lemons to a hefe weizen or orange slices to a witbier.

The question remains whether I will try the Habanero Sculpin. Something tells me that I have to.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fargo Stone's Throw Scottish Ale

Fargo Brewing Company Stone's Throw Scottish Ale, Made in Fargo, N.D. 4.5% ABV, 19 IBU. 12 fl. oz. Let's do it, let's drink a canned Scottish Ale from North Dakota.

Appearance: caramel-brown coloring, with a brief, cocoa-toned head.

Aroma: toffee and nuts, sweet, rich and malty.

Taste: Sweetness starts it off, and continues, with hardly a peep out of hops. Light  bodied. Here come carbonation. I'm having some trouble with this one. It's drinkable…maybe. Overly sweet, not particularly pleasant. I have to be perfectly honest and admit that I've never been fond of Scottish Ales. Too much cola flavor in this one, malty but thin-bodied. Not feeling it.

Maybe the label on the can will shed some light on it? "Patterned after the rich, smooth, malty ales of Scotland, Stone's Thrown is dominated by caramel toffee, toasty malt, hints of cocoa, residual honey sweetness and just enough hops to keep this rock on the button. The perfect brew for someone new to craft beer. Cheers, skip!"

Who's Skip? And no, not enough hops to the rock on the…what? Whatever….

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tin Whiskers Flip Switch IPA

Another bomber from Tin Whiskers of St. Paul, another beer I've had on tap previously, but am giving closer inspection with this bottle.

Tin Whiskers Flip Switch I.P.A. 6.2% Alc./Vol. Brewed and bottled by Tin Whiskers Brewing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Appearance: clouded, crimson coloring, nice, if slim, white head.

Aroma: floral and citrus notes greet the nose, with a little bit of pine. Beautiful.

Taste: Full malt flavor in this IPA, outshining the hops so far. Earthy, rich, bittersweet. Hop bitterness grows and grows on the palate, but never outpaces the malt. Nice balance, good integration, an adequate India Pale Ale. Bright, green & citrus-y hop character stays on top.

I'm not really in love with this I.P.A., but neither am I out of like with it. Hey, what's the label say? "An American IPA with a citrus aroma and just the right amount of bitterness the balance the malty backbone." Here's the problem with that: a really good IPA has more hop bitterness than needed to balance the malty backbone. It should surpass that backbone, at the very least.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Belgium Lips of Faith Wild 2 Dubbel

New Belgium Lips of Faith Wild 2 (Squared) Dubbel, Ale brewed with Schisandra. 8% Alc. by Vol. This is one I've had before, on tap, earlier this year, and another bottle I picked up at Casanova's in Hudson, WI, weeks ago. I don't know what a schisandra is, but that won't deter me none.

Appearance: Dark brown color, with ruby highlights, cocoa-tinged head, starts big and drifts down.

Aroma: Complex and arousing aromatics, a blend of fruit, spice, berries and cola and clove. Fruit gets funkier, it turns a little wilder. Dark malt holds down the scene, hardly a peep out of hops.

Taste: Medium body, leaning on the lighter side. Mellow flavor. Fruit remains strong, funky, wild factor is still there, but …hm. It's a bit uneventful. Flavor slides off in the finish, disappears without a trace. Sweetness is high, but not cloying or overbearing. This isn't a bad drink, of course, but it's not a good example of a dubbel, I can't figure out where the "wild" comes from, and the "schisandra" doesn't really contribute much.

Maybe it's too old, and it's lost it's charms, but dubbers really should do better with age, and this isn't that old. It's a nice enough beer, but uninspiring and unremarkable. I went into really wanting to like it, but…didn't happen.

Hey, how about the gobbledygook? Of course, it's running sideways on the label, making it hard to read without hurting my neck. Oy. "This wild Colorado version of the Belgian dubbel ropes you in with cove and dark fruit aroma. Deeply rich and malty, every sip has a creamy texture true to Belgian tradition before it rides off with hints of black pepper and cinnamon from the addition of schisandra berries."

The terrible puns didn't explain why it's called Wild 2. Maybe someone knows?

Southern Tier Tier de Garde Belgian-style India Pale Ale

Southern Tier Tier de Garde Bottle Conditioned Belgian-style India Pale Ale, Ale Brewed with Grapefruit Peel. 8.1% Alc./Vol. Brewed and bottled by Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, New York. USA. 750 ml bottle, 1 pint, 9 fl. oz.

It just occurred to me that the Southern Tier brewing company hasn't done many Belgian-style brews. If they've done any, I can't think of any that I've had. I had thought, based on the name, that this was their take on a Biere de Garde, but it's not, instead it's something much more up my alley. Now, let's proceed with the drinking.

Appearance: Clear-ish, bright amber coloring, glorious white head, long-lasting and lovely.

Aroma: Grapefruit greets us first, with Belgian yeast character right behind. Fruity and funky and wild and hoppy, and just exactly what I expect from a Belgian IPA. Very nice.

Taste: Again, the grapefruit leads the charge, with fresh, fruity hops dropping flavor and some bitterness behind. Smooth stuff, exceptionally drinkable, delightful and delicious. I said "fresh"? I said "Fruity"? Yeah, it's tasty stuff.

This is a beautiful beer, and I can't imagine it's really, truly 8% ABV. Wait, whoa, …there it is. Yum, yum. Wonder what that label tells us?

""Moving on the street at bicycle pace is an experiential way of being in the world. Pedaling with friends is a social event and an exercise in teamwork. All senses are tuned and each revolution moves the riders closer to the destination. Similarly, the ingredients in the bottle work together to reach an end. This is an invitation to raise a glass in celebration of a finish." Well, that tells us nothing about the beer, but, whatever...

Tasting notes: Hop bitterness & grapefruit zest w/ floral & apricot notes.
Pair with: Spicy seafood, aged cheese.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Indeed Rum King Imperial Stout

Rum King, circa 2018. A much better pic than
the one I posted in 2015.
Indeed Rum King Imperial Stout brewed with Cane Sugar. Brewed and bottled by Indeed Brewing Company, Mpls., MN.

Here's a beer I've sampled  tap once in a while, once or twice, and finally landed a bottle of through my sister who made it to the anniversary hullaballoo last fall, while I was busy working. She held on to that bottle until a few weeks ago, and I've been holding on to it for as long as I can hold out. Time to break it out!

Appearance: incredibly dark coloring, richly roasted brown head, lasting long, leaving lace, looking beautiful.

Aroma: screams out of the glass, all manner of dark, delicious aromatics, and that's from looming over it, not getting in close for a sniff. Very tempting…here I go…maple, charcoal, anise, and, hey, how about some rum, too? Deep stuff, dark and rich and definitely decadent. We're still just smelling, here.

Taste: Ah! Oh, yeah, I meant to say it, …AH! It's got it all, and so much more. Really rich, dense and deep, just so sweet. Fullness of body, longness of length, finish with no finality. Intense is a word, and it's apt and then some. Bee-yoo-tiful.

Whiskey and bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stouts are well known and legendary, but rum barrel-aged? Not quite so much. This is kind of amazing. It's ridiculously intense, incredible, rich and rewarding. Love. It.

I'm keeping the old pic, though
for posterity.
It's a much bigger bottle than I need, just now. Got to have a good couple hours to kill with this one (which I do, actually), or have some pals and a party, to put it away.

One thing we know for sure, Indeed Rum King is in a class of it's own.

Hey, what's the label say? "Complex notes of toffee and vanilla lure you in, with a roasty-toasty, malt-forward body burly enough to un-shiver those timbers. Make way for RUM KING, a pitch black Imperial Stout aged in freshly emptied rum barrels. Smooth, assertive, and nearly 'Navy Strength', this seaworthy and spirited brew is a bold character to be reckoned with. Brewed and bottled by Indeed Brewing Company, Minneapolis, MN. Alc. 10.5% by Vol. 70 IBU."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Atwater VJ Black Imperial Stout

Atwater Brewery VJ Black Imperial Stout, Brewed in Detroit, Since 1997. Brewed & bottled by Atwater Brewery, Detroit, MI. Single Batch Series. Alc. 11% by Vol.

Appearance: solid blackness, rich, thick, cocoa-tinged head.

Aroma: On the sweet side. Vanilla is here, hints of coconut. Creamy, nutty, smooth, nice.

Taste: Rich, full-bodied, chocolate-y. Fudge. Chocolate frosting. Just as chocolate as you get. Sweet. Just a little hoppy, just enough for balance. More creamy, more vanilla, more chocolate, with plenty of hops. I like this just fine, but it doesn't quite give me what I look for in an Imperial Stout. Needs more roast, more depth, more everything.

Here's the thing. I can plop this in the category of dark, chocolatey stouts of higher than average ABVs, but I can't drop in the "best imperial stouts I've ever had" slot. No, not happening. Not even middle of the "all imperial stouts I've ever had, best or not" slot.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bell's Mercury, The Winged Messenger

Bell's Mercury. The Winged Messenger. Alc. 4.8% by Vol.

Appearance: Clouded, bright golden coloring, solid white head atop.

Aroma: spicy (coriander?), floral, a touch of citrus, a little whiff of sour.

Taste: Brisk hoppiness right off the top, then smooth, slightly sweet. Wheaty. Medium-bodied, mellow, not sure what exactly this is supposed to be. Belgian blonde, wit? Hm. Nice beer, but unremarkable.

Once more, I'm a touch nonplussed. I really should have found a copy of "The Planets" to play while drinking, perhaps that would help me understand what this beer's raison d'ĂȘtre might be. What'll the label say? "This is one of a seven part series inspired by Gustav Holst's musical composition, "The Planets." Strap in and embark on a flavor tour of our solar system---in the order of Holst's piece. Mars to Neptune."

Well, that didn't tell me anything I didn't learn last time. What about Holst or Mercury inspired this particular beer? ….

Postal Script, some time later: I don't have a copy of The Planets, still. I keep forgetting to check the library, and then it dawned on me...everything's on YouTube. I still don't have internet access at home, so that wouldn't help while I drink the beer. But looking back at these notes, remembering the beer, listening to the's light, breezy, jaunty, a little zesty, with splashes of spice....just like that hot planet and the fleet-footed messenger. I see it. I'm going to have to make I sure I get the music before I take one the next beer in the series.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Boon Geuze Mariage Parfait

Hey, I haven't had a geuze in a while, have I? I do enjoy them, from time to time. And why not go back to one of the classics. It's been years and years since I've had this, so long ago that I can't find notes anywhere. And I know I've had it. So, here we go, notes ahoy!

Frank Boon (pronounced: Bone) Geuze (Pronounced: Grrr-za. I think.) Mariage Parfait  ("perfect marriage")2010. Oude Geuze. Gueuze a l'Ancienne. Old Style Gueuze. Lambic ale aged in oak casks. Boon Brewery, Lambeek, Belgium. 8% alc., vol. Bottle conditioned. Best before end 2033. Batch #: see cork.

Appearance: highly hazed, straw yellow coloring, slim white head.

Aroma: That's the stuff right there. Earth. Lemons. Must. Funk. Vinegar. Feet. Freshly soiled kitty litter box. All those good things and more. Cow comforter. (Yeah, I'm tired of "horse blanket", too.)

Taste: Intense sour and puckering at first sip. Grips the palate with a scouring dryness that rounds out the palate. This  funky flavor turned out by crazy Belgian yeasts, cranked up to wilder levels by time in the casks. Don't stop 'til it's really weird. Turns fairly mellow, but never stops being strange. Lightish, medium-y body, long, funky finish. Wild, man, wild.

At times, I look at the notes and wonder if I missed anything. Did I cover it all, was there a stone unturned? Complex as it is, that stuff above does it all.

"Traditional Belgian Oude Gueuze. 100% spontaneously fermented lambic aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. Refermented in the bottle. Tart, dry, exceedingly complex aroma."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Day Block Leonard Day IPA

Day Block Leonard Day IPA.

Day Block Brewing just celebrated their 1st. Anniversary, and I missed it. too busy working, or, some days, staying home to avoid the cold. I made it down there a few days ago to sample some of the left-overs, like the Imperial Stout and Imperial Rye, both nice and tasty, deep and decadent. I took home a growler of another new one, the IPA named for the man who named the building after his own damned self, Leonard Day. I'll drop the info after the notes, for now I just drink.

Appearance: mostly clear, slightly hazy, bright crimson hue, under a slim white head.

Aroma: bittersweet, fruity esters dominate, piney notes add the prickly stuff. Stone fruit, some citrus, urging me to taste.

Taste: For an IPA boasting such high IBU counts, this one is very malt-forward. Lots of caramel malt  and spicy rye malt coming through here, mitigating the hop bitterness. Bittersweet, bright, medium-bodies, with a long, hoppy finish. Never-ending flavor. Tasty stuff, and quite drinkable.

Here's what I learned from the website:
Brewed with local ingredients and a big dose of rye malt, this beer showcases what Upper Midwest hops have to offer. Hops were added at every stage, from the mash to the fermenter, and at 101 IBUs this beer is exactly what IPA drinkers are looking for. This is a repeat of Batch 35!

5.8% ABV, 101 IBUs, Batch 065, INGREDIENTS:
Pale Malt, Rye Malt, Caramel Malt, Crystal (malt).  Hops: Chinook, Columbus, Amarillo. Ale Yeast

Monday, February 9, 2015

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Rift Red Rye Ale

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Rift Red Rye Ale. Not much information at hand, for I didn't take down what's on the menu (which is brief and non-descriptive these days) and didn't find anything on their website about it. Or on Untapp'd. I'll check BeerAdvocate or RateBeer next. For now, I'll just dig on in.

Appearance: clear, bright crimson colored, large and lush creamy head. Looking great.

Aroma: Bright, bold and brash hop attack hits the nose first, loads of fruity esters enter the scene, with much malt holding fast behind. Spicy, fruity hop notes ride high through all.

Taste: Big in the nose, bigger on the palate, massive download of hoppiness spreads joy throughout the mouth. Spicy rye malt flavors start to rise up and color the character. Rye flavor bumps up against a slice of sweetness, leading to an overall smoothness. Smooth with character and complexity. Medium body, long hoppy finish. This one's a winner.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

New Belgium Lips of Faith Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weisse

New Belgium Lips of Faith Series Yuzu, Imperial Berliner Weisse Style Ale Brewed With yuzu Juice. 8% alc. by vol.

(Yup, they "Imperialized" a Berliner Weisse. Sure, whatever, go ahead. Sigh.)

Appearance: hazed, bright yellow, slim white head.

Aroma: Fresh, citrus-y, fruity esters, then comes the whiff of sour, and the scent of wheat.

Taste: Spritz. Funk. Fruit. Wheat. I have to admit that I'm not especially familiar with the yuzu fruit, and can't tell what unique difference it brings. It's a bright, citrus-y fruit, if taste tells. Nicely sour, and easily drunk. Higher alcohol doesn't register at first, but starts slowly creeping in. And the sour keeps coming. This is delightful.

What's our label have to say? Oy vey, I'm remembering how much I hate these. Well, here we go: "Who zu yuzu? It's a friendly fruit with grapefruit-meets-orange flavor that got involved with the souring side of New Belgium in this bottle conditioned wheat beer. They got on well enough to make this Imperial Berliner Weisse Style Ale, a smooth, delightfully tart sipper with a dry finish."

"Packaged June 2013, Delicious Now, and differently delicious later."

Well that answers some questions. I remember when this came out locally, and I considered picking up kegs for the Blue Nile and never got around to it. It disappeared from shelves and never got around to picking up a bottle. Thought it would be lost to me, until I saw them at Casanova's. Did they just have too many on hand and it lasted this long? Never mind, it holds up, and I got to try it. It's good beer, and I could drink it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How Lime Was My -Rita (And How Straw-Ber- It Was, Too)

Dear gentle readers: A fair warning to those of you who read my blog posts to children: I used some naughty language in this one. But don't worry, I think they can handle it.

I apologize to the good folks at Lagunitas for accidentally
leaving that bottle cap in the picture with this abomination,
and especially to the fine folks at Brasserie Dupont for using their glass.
I'm so sorry!
Budweiser. The King of Beers. Lord over us all. Or so it might seem. They began their life duplicitously, usurping the name of a famous Bohemian brew, then inverting their slogan (Budweis de Budvar, the Beer of Kings.) Most of us in the craft beer world have outgrown the shadow of Budweiser (personally, I've never liked anything they ever made) and try to maintain our own unique world away from their influence. It's hard to do, though, when they encroach on our territory. When they bought out Goose Island a few years back, there were some lines drawn by many. I still try their beers once in a while, but I'm a bit ambivalent. I talked about this a bit in one of my recent GI reviews.

Well, though we try to ignore the giant brewer from St. Louis, MO, it's hard to do so when they include us, that minor craft brewing segment,  in their incessant gobbling up of the market. Months ago, they purchased 10 Barrel Brewing of Oregon, a small brewery that is no threat to anyone, and earlier this week, we learned that they purchased another small Oregon brewery, the much respected Elysian Brewing. This is a company so concerned with money that they didn't blink for a minute before deciding to let themselves be purchased by the biggest brewing giant in the world, InBev, because more money is better than just a ton of money.

And, though I care not for football, or that bowl most super, the big boys from Missouri need to put out ads on the Superior Sunday, and some of these cannot escape my attention, no matter how hard I try. This year, not just a boast about their horses, or their lizards, their whazzup bros, or their super party animal whose name is Spuds McKenzie, but a rail against beers that aren't Budweiser. And those awful Pumpkin Peach ales. Wait, who actually made a Pumpkin Peach ale? Why, Elysian Brewing, the brewery they just purchased. Threatened enough by the craft beer revolution to buy them out, and then mock their efforts at the next turn.

Well, here's the thing. Craft beer is not going away, and Budweiser is not going to be a nail in it's coffin. too many of us have said no to them. Not gonna happen.

Any why not use this occasion to dip into Bud Light Lime Lime-a Rita. And Bud Light Lime Straw-ber-Rita. I can think of no reason why not.

Why do I have these? Because, well, I have a large family. Larger than you might imagine. If you imagine more than the truth, well, I think you're just showing off. Anyway, there are certain segments of my family that won't become a part of the craft beer revolution, and it's not up to me to change them. They'll always like the Budweiser, and sometimes they really dig on the Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita. So, I grabbed a couple cans at Christmas, so I could figure this crap out. Maybe. Or, maybe not. In any case, I'm strapping in and checking them out. Wish me luck.

So, Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita, Margarita with a Twist, Malt Beverage with natural flavors and caramel colors added. Contains alcohol. 8% alc. by vol. Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, MO. Also: "flavored ale". Since when was Bud Light an "ale"?

Also, it says: TRY IT OVER ICE! Well, I'm going to try it both ways. First without, then with…clouded, lime yellow, no head, abundant carbonation…aroma: margarita, lime and ..not tequila…lime and lime, and maybe lemon….let's drink: ehhhh. uh. yeough. not good. Well, somebody likes it. Let's try it with ice, now…Ah, yeah!!! It's like a margarita, in a can! And yet it's a flavored ale, that's 8% ABV? Yeah, I feel it now…wooo! Partay!!!! Yum! It'sa Margaritainacan!!! YEAH!!!!!! (……..I am so drunk………)

Wait, there's one more, right? Yes. Straw-ber-Rita, Margarita with a Twist, malt beverage with natural flavors, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colors. Sounds great! Same details as the LIME-a-RITA.

I'm also sorry for using the Northgate coaster to
place this atrocity upon. Forgive me, Northgate
Brewing Company!
It's red and it's pink and…eh. Aroma: Ah. Artificial sweeteners, artificial everything. Kool-Aid? You like Kool-Aid? It's like drinking Kool-Aid, with booze. Straw-berry Kool-Aid. You like that? Man, you go for it, dude. Or dude-ette. I can't apply any of the criteria of typical beer judging or tasting with this awfulness. Oh, wait, they make beer not to be fussed over, right? No, they make beer to be ashamed of. There's a hole in my soul, now. Thanks, Anheuser-Busch, thanks a whole fucking lot, you bunch of assholes. Now I have a hole in my soul to match the emptiness in yours.

What can I say? Im left empty, souless, and bereft. Just the way they want me.
Finally, I'd like to apologize to the Surly Brewing Company
for accidentally leaving my Surly cap on the floor and in the same
 picture of this misbegotten monstrosity.
Also, I don't know why I crushed the can before taking the photo.
Oh, who am I kidding, of course I do. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Schell's Fresh Hop Pilsner

Schell's Fresh Hop Pilsner. Man, oh man, I'm late again with another Schell's beer. Had to grab it before it's gone.

Appearance: crystal clear and bright golden-hued, under a slim white head.

Aroma: Lively noble hop aroma, floral and citrus notes, lemon and sunflowers. Lively nose.

Taste: Clean and smooth, sparkling hop presence on the tongue. Easy-drinking, light body, tasting terrific. Lingering hops in the finish. Bit of a tropical twist to the hop flavor, pineapple and passionfruit, guava, perhaps. Tasty, tasty, tasty. This is great stuff.

Is there gobbledygook? There is, here on the carrier: "Schell's Fresh Hop Pilsner is a small batch, limited release beer series made annually during prime hop harvesting season. Fresh hops don't survive long after being cut, so they are picked, shipped and quickly added to the kettle, preserving their aromatic oils and resins that add so much flavor to the beer. This beer is best consumed fresh and must be refrigerated."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail Imperial India Pale Ale

EvilTwin Brewing Molotov Cocktail, 12 fl. oz., 13% alc by vol., Imperial India Pale Ale. Ale brewed with natural flavors.

Appearance: clear and bright golden, under an impressive white, lace-leaving head.

Aroma: Juicy fruit, citrus, tropical, piney, resin-y…all that hoppy goodness. Sweet, yeah, and plenty of bitter. Well done.

Taste: Bittersweet on the palate, more bitter this time than sweet. Dank bitterness reigns supreme, dripping citrus-y hop bombs. Astringent, acerbic, rich and drenched in uber-hoppiness. Just the way I like it.

And now the booze rises up in the taste department. high alcohol blazes the palate and skewers the flavor, but dang if I don't dig it. There are more flavors and feelings here, that you only get in brews like this, a combination of dried and candied fruits, apricots and peaches, something straddling the ridiculous and the sublime.

Let's read the label, shall we? "Did you like Before During and After Christmas, maybe you thought it poured brilliantly, the alcohol was admirable well hidden and you loved how the arrogant amount of hops numbed your mouth. This beer will knock your tongue off--it's a tour de force in hoppiness and by far one of the craziest beer ever made by Evil Twin Brewing." Brewed by Evil Twin Brewing, Standford, CT.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout

Let's look at another Lagunitas brew, this one without any trademarked "kerning" in it's initials. And it's one that I've had before, back in June, 2008. If I can think of finer phrases to speak it's praises,  I'll let them loose, but otherwise, I think I'll let the old notes stand.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, Ale brewed with coffee. Limited Release. The Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA. Alc. 9.2% by Vol. IBU: 29.5. OG: 1.076.

Appearance: Thick, impenetrable, inky black, slim cocoa-toned head.

Aroma: bittersweet nose, tons of coffee tones, little sweetness, earthy, roasty.

Tasting it...mmm, there it all is, in the nutshell, rich, roasty, coffee and chocolate. Smooth, and full of flavor. Great texture, lots of play on the palate.

My notes on this were minimal, but my pleasure in the drinking was not. Very nice coffee stout. I'll return to this one again

Ballast Point Even Keel Session IPA

The session IPA trend continues, and while that happens I wonder how long until we exhaust the clever names to accompany them. All Day IPA from Founders suggest you can keep on drinking them all through the day with little consequence.  Lagunitas' DayTime suggests it isn't one meant for midnight snacking. Stone has Go-To, utilizing one of my least favorite cliches of recent days. (I'm sorry, I may be the only one who feels this way, but every time I read it or hear it, I feel like I've lost an IQ point.)Firestone Walker calls theirs "Easy Jack", emphasizing the easy drinkability. New Belgium has released Slow Ride, for a bike pun, and now Ballast Point brings us Even Keel to continue with their nautical themes. I guess we've tired of hop puns, and it's time to turn to session drinking jokes, and such.

Appearance: Lightly cloudy, bright golden color, short-lived, slim white head.

Aroma: Fresh and arresting, bursting with lively hoppiness, plenty of citrus notes and piney tones. Utterly lovely.

Taste: Bitter bite hits the palate first. Smacks the tongue around and slithers down the throat. Climbs back in with each new sip, spreads bitter tones all around, then eases back and slides on down.  Medium malt, holding it down, letting the hops do their thing. Grapefruit and lemon up in here. Terribly tasty, and definitely downable.

The label for this can lets us know that it's not merely a "session IPA", but also "San Diego Session Ale."

Alc. 3.8% ABV. Some say to be a session ale you have to be under 4% ABV. That is one perspective. This one gives us that and doesn't hold back on the hops.

I'll bet there's something they want to tell us on the other side of the can. "Our Even Keel is a hoppy ale designed for smooth sailing. A Full-flavored beer with a silky malt backbone and bright hop profile of herbs and citrus, it packs all the taste of an IPA in a sessional alcohol content. This ale is perfect for leisurely days on the water, when all you want are a few beers and a level ride."

I have to apologize for the photo. I poured the beer , then found that the camera wasn't working. Lesson for next time.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lagunitas IPA

Lagunitas IPA. The one with the trademarked kerning. The Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA. Alc. by Vol. 6.2% ABV. "Thanks for choosing to spend the next few minutes with this special homicidally hoppy ale. Savor the moment as the raging hop character engages the Imperial Qualities of the Malt Foundation in mortal combat on the battlefield of your palate!"

And then there's this: "Life is Uncertain. Don't Sip!" What's that mean, that I have to always be afraid, and worry what may happen from one moment to the next, and gulp my beer down for fear of dying before I finish the bottle? Better not sip, or someone will spill it, or steal it, or the cat will knock it over? That doesn't sound very groovy, man. Not cool, bro. And, wait, did they really say "the next few minutes?" How long do think we spend drinking 12 ounces of India Pale Ale? Is this a race?

So, anyway, I realized that this beer was missing from this blog, and got me a bottle and looked back on my notes. I wrote about this for the first time in July, 2003, receiving a bottle in a trade with a Coloradoan (Colorado-ite? Coloradinian?). I'll leave the notes just as they are:

Appearance: Clear, bright coppery/amber color, with a large, frothy whiteness above. Good lace-leaving,  too.

Aroma is spot on for a good IPA, fresh and full of pine, fruit, citrus, sharp and lively, hoppy as all-get-out. I keep wanting to return to the smell of it, and each time it refreshes with this particular aromatic profile.

Taste: juuust right, with blasts of hops, under a solid malt foundation, flooding the tongue and dominating the senses in every way, without going overboard.
Just delicious, and exactly the way an IPA should act, if it's worth it's mustard, I say. Long, hoppy finish, sticks in the mouth and like it there. Mmmmm, I keep thinking, while this flavor never quits.

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...