Monday, March 30, 2015

Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Blood Orange Gose Orange Ale. Boonville highway 128 Session Series. Bahl Hornin' since 1987.

Here's a head up. Or a shout out. This was given to me by good ol' Julie well over a month ago, no, probably six weeks, if not two months. And it lay in wait for the right occasion, the proper day and time for me to tackle it in a review, while Julie wondered what I thought of her gift. I'm pretty sure it was a month ago that she wondered once again when I would share my thoughts on this. Soon, I promised, soon. And then two weeks ago, I found myself in Wisconsin, and at last they had this beer at Casanova's in Hudson. I could have bought a 6-pack if I wanted to….but Julie already gave me one, back when I couldn't find one if I tried, without a trade, or a trip to California.

Enough. Time to drink it. This is the traditional Leipzig, Deustchland style of top-fermented wheat beer, brewed with salt. (Well, it was popular in Leipzig, but originated in Goslar, hence the name. Here, read this.)That, the salt and coriander,  used to be the singular nature that set this style apart, but the lactic sourness is what's turned it into the latest, greatest sensation that's sweeping the craft beer nation. So much so that you can't tell a gose-ah from a geeze-ah, we're so sour-happy. People are flipping their dang lids over freaking' gose-uhs, when I can't find mention of them in my old Michael Jackson volumes, and you can hardly find an imported version from the fatherland stateside. (A visit to BeerAdvocate says that I've reviewed one gose, Leipziger, from Gasthaus & Gosebrauwerei Bayerischer Bahnhof, back in December of 2003. I'll keep an eye out for another bottle, if it can be found. According to this blog (I haven't completely posted my reviews here onto BA, which is why some people out of the loop think that I've stopped reviewing), I've had two, both locally brewed.)

Enou--wait, I said that already. Let's just go….

Appearance: slightly haze, bright golden coloring, large and lasting white head.

Aroma: Tart, citric sourness, brazen orange flavor…little bits of cherry and berry. Definitely blood orange going on. And I think I can sniff out the salt.

Taste: On the tongue, bam! blam!, more and more sour, a blast and a half of fierce fruit. The tart attack never quits, it's a solid salvo that blasts anew, with each fresh sip. The lacto is hard at work here, spreading the sour. Lambics are so old-school, yesterday's news. It's fruity, it's dry, it's creamy and it's sour. What a truly magnificent beer this is. Bracing, refreshing, sweet and sour and everything nice.

Let's look at the label: "Alc. 4.2% by Vol. Copious additions of blood orange during fermentation impart tangy citric notes and a slight sweetness to compliment {I'm sure they mean complement} the salinity and tartness typically found in a Gose style ale."

Good work, Anderson Valley, and thanks, again, Julie!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Biking to Beer: Bigger, Longer, Stronger, Part Two---And So We Find Our Plans Thwarted

Even when it seems that spring is  here and we're in the clear, we know here in Minnesota, deep down, that there's always a chance that winter can return, if only briefly. This threat may last until May, even. Prince had a song along those lines, "Sometimes It Snows In April." I't's kind of a bad song, but I still like that one.

Add to this the definitive fact that I am terrible about navigating the change of the seasons, and the changing back again. I rarely check the weather reports, basing my comings and goings on a peek out the window. This Sunday, I had the notion of continuing my project of visiting and re-visiting the breweries of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul by bicycle, and once out the door, I felt the chill and the wind and began to amend my plan. I would not go to the most northerly brewery in the city (Insight), not when it's this cold.
Here is the rare example of when I use a photo swiped from someone else. But, hey, I figure, if they risked stealing my soul, by taking my picture without permission, then I can yank it off of Untapp'd for use here.

So, I decided that my plan would include a first stop at Eastlake Craft Brewery, where I draw a paycheck, and have a few while using the Wi-Fi to publish the first in this series of posts. My third beer there while at work on that was a Stick Style IPA, my second was a Nicollet Mauler Black IPA on nitrogen, and the first was our latest beer, one I haven't posted about here, yet, the American Brown Ale called Mud In Your Eye. I like it quite a bit. Here's the official description.
and here's what it looks like:

I spent a good two hours there, writing, editing, doing internet things, eating, drinking, hearing soccer fans cheering behind me. Thought about what other breweries I'd try to visit.

A word about where I work: I'm digging it. I'm completely behind the beers, utterly thrilled that they're a product I can really endorse. I've been trying to remain neutral here, so I don't display a conflict of interest. I'm trying not to hype the place too much, so as not to seem biased. Plain truth is: I feel that we're putting out some of the best beers in town, and those interested in such things seriously need to get over here and drink them. Take some bottles home, fill a growler. Take a chance, it couldn't hurt. (See how I'm downplaying it, to keep up that appearance of neutrality?)
My old friend Steve Legas chatting up owner Ryan Pitman while watching futbol on a Sunday afternoon. Our bear mascot growls in the background.

It was finally time to get going to stop #2, further down Lake Street, about a mile and a half to the west, and a swift right turn on Lyndale Avenue to LynLake Brewery, a taproom I've visited a handful of times since they opened late last fall. Why haven't they appeared here yet, why haven't I taken a growler home for review? Because I thought they were too expensive. It turns out that I was wrong. When I thought that it read $19 for a fill, it really meant including deposit. And they've lowered those prices, and also offered the 750 ml option, the mini-growler. Which I love. (And truthfully, the prices have dropped a few bucks, because a lot of people thought like me, and no one was buying them.)

The bar, at LynLake, bicycle wheels hang above, in between lightbulbs, the brewery's way in back, tap handles in the foreground. 

LynLake occupies a space formerly home to an antique store (I still have some items around the home that I bought there), and before that a theater. The marquee remains (the antique store went as Theater Antiques), and they're using it to promote the brewery, naturally. I made it out to their opening night, though I wasn't on the invite list. Just bluffed my way in, although I did know people inside. Their head brewer, Joel Carlson, used to brew at Town Hall, and plenty of people I know from there were in attendance. My subsequent visits were late at night on Fridays, it turned out, and the place was jammed with Uptown types. And plenty who don't reside in the neighborhood, but like to play there on the weekends. (I believe that in New York City they call them "the bridge and tunnel crowd.")

I snapped a pic of this beer, Raka-Waka, a New Zealand Pale Ale, back in November, I remembering it being fresh, citrus-y, and flat-out delicious.
Some beers were good, some were okay, but there wasn't anything yet that really stood out. They remained due for further examination, but I've been taking my time. I believe I mentioned the hibernation earlier.

The view of the Lynlake Brewery marquee from the side, walking up Lyndale Avenue.

So, I return on a Sunday, when it's quiet and mellow. First beer I chose was a recommendation from the bartender, on sale for only five dollars, the Sideburns Oatmeal Raisin Stout on nitrogen, and it was everything you'd want. Just the right amount of roast and toast, creamy and semi-sweet. I've always been fond of oatmeal stouts and this one fit the bill entirely.

Sideburns Milk Stout (with oatmeal and raisins) on nitro, 6.2% ABV, 30 IBU. 

I moved on to the Take 6 IPA (named for Joel's favorite gospel vocal group? not sure…) dry-hopped with Dr. Rudi (a new hop from New Zealand  I'd never heard of), on cask. It went down just fine, but was not especially remarkable. I'm not especially taken with the cask conditioning presentation (I know, a shock and a sacrilege to some), but I'll try one out from time to time. Perhaps I should test another one on plain ol' CO2 to be sure what I really think of it.

Take 6 IPA on cask, 5.7% ABV, 77 IBU. 

Finally, I ordered a pint of the Tradesman Robust  Porter, which was as straight-up as you're going to get, dark, full-bodied and smooth.
Tradesman Robust Porter, 5.5% ABV, 40 IBU. 
And as I drank it down, I glanced out the window and watched the snow falling on Lyndale Avenue. And a part of my proud heart, formerly emboldened by the onset of spring, had shrunk a little, and fell back, still, but still not cowering. Contemplated my next move, while assessing the beers I'd drunk.
One of two chalkboards at LynLake Brewery.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the staff at LynLake, brewers, bartenders, and all of them, would like see the beers bust out of the comfort zone that they're in currently. Were the beers always so stuck in regular styles? Did they ever make anything off the beaten path? A little research shows that there has been a double IPA, a coconut milk stout, some smoked stuff, among others. Maybe I need to pay a little more attention, break out of my comfort zone, step in there more often. I say it myself quite a bit, that you can't judge a place on a single visit.

And I turned again to the window, and the snow that wouldn't stop, and decided that it was time to go home, and not stretch this adventure out, not in this weather. I biked home via the Greenway with one  hand in my coat pocket and the other on  the handlebars and brakes, alternating them to keep the warmth flowing. It never stopped, not at all, all night long. Sob. Sigh.

Maybe on my next day off, things will improve and I can begin this again. We hope. We can only hope. And dream of spring.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm Little Wolf Lager

Dave's BrewFarm Little Wolf Lager. 4.5% aBV.

Appearance: clear, bright golden color, slim, but lasting white head. Looking good.

Aroma: Little bit of lemon, touch of spice, nice hop presence.

Taste: smooth and  clean and easy as can be-zee. Bright hoppiness leaps upon the palate, and plays about for a spell. Lean bodied, light malt character, but with just enough biscuity malt flavor. Ends on a dry note, clearing the palate. It's an unbridled lager, unchained and unfettered.

When I have a beer like this, I think about how bad and boring many mainstream lagers are, and far removed a brew like this is from them. What if you took the flavor away? What if you took the charm out? Plenty of fruit emerges. Low bitterness. Major flavor. Yum. This is nice. Creamy. Citrus-y. Clean and smooth.

Hey, what's Farmer Dave say? "The second in the Little Wolf series. Pale and rye malts, Azacca, Bramling Cross and Simcoe hops, fermented with a lager yeast. Smooth, crisp and hoppy!"

612 Brew Unrated Rye IPA

612 Unrated Rye India Pale Ale. Brewed at 612Brew in Minneapolis, Minnestoa. Alcohol 6.8% by Vol. 80 IBU.

I've had this beer on tap occasionally over the past couple of years, and liked it. Tried some of their others, too, but none made a big enough impact that I wanted to take home a growler from their taproom. Now we have cans, and I gambled about a buck and a half on a single can from Elevated. Let's crack it open and get into it.

One detail first: this was known as Rated R in the past, the R standing for Rye. But apparently the Motion Picture Association of America, the folks who create the ratings system for movies, objected to the use of their trademark. They didn't object to "Unrated", though, so away they went.

Appearance: thoroughly hazed, murky crimson/brown coloring. Long lasting, lace-leaving, creamy white head.

Aroma: spicy, bread-y notes from the rye malt, some hop character peeking through, citrus-y, spicy, but mostly hidden by the malt notes.

Taste: Smooth entry on the tongue, loaded up with rye. Malt character loads the palate first and foremost, hops bringing up the rear, getting bolder. On second sip, they're tearing up the tongue and spreading bitterness about the mouth. On first swallow, I felt this brew was just shy of the boldness it ought to exhibit, but I was wrong. It's busting out.

I'm going to examine the can for a minute. Artwork by Adam Turman shows a crowd watching a 3-D movie and spilling popcorn. There's the smallest glimpse of cleavage, so we know it's a Turman. Minneapolis skyline and landmark images circle the top of the can, rising out of the red the bleeds through the artwork. The 612 Brew logo is repeated twice, and the slogan "I'm thirsty already!" appears. I don't get it. "West Coast IPA meets Midwest Rye. This Rye IPA greets you with a burst of citrus hop aroma and tempts you with the spice from the rye. Unrated Rye is 612Brew's most hoppy beer, yet easy enough that your mom would like it. If your mom is awesome."

That's just a touch idiotic. Yuck.

I'm going to spill my guts now. I just haven't been thrilled by this brand and brewery.  I've been to the taproom once, almost 2 years ago. They draw in a nice crowd of thirsty locals, but the experience left me cold. The beers did nothing for me, and this is the only one that I've ever liked. But we all know that it's easy to please when you're hopping heavy. Hard to mess up an IPA, especially one with the extra, added element of rye malt.

Still, I've withheld judgement, even as I continue to avoid their beers. I skipped them on my attempt to visit all the breweries in town, but now that I'm renewing that focus once more, I will try them out again. I'll give them a few more chances, and pick up the other canned beers, singles, again. I'll give 612 a fair shake before giving any kind of final judgement.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Solemn Oath Kidnapped by Vikings IPA

Solemn Oath Kidnapped by Vikings IPA. Solemn Oath Brewing, Naperville, Illinois. 6% ABV. More information: …to be filled in later….

Growler filled at the Nova's, Hudson, WI, 3/15/15. The Ides of March!…Oooo….Consumed the evening of Thursday, the 19th of March. I don't usually wait this long to open a growler, but, somehow, it happened.

Appearance: slightly hazy, bright golden hued, nearing crimson, with a large, glorious, cloud-white, lace-leaving head.

Aroma: Ripe and rife with citrus fruit associations: orange and lemon and tangerine. Piney and pithy. Bold hop bitterness. Utterly lovely.

Taste: On the palate, it's bitterness blazing. Hop bitterness commands the palate, leaving traces of prickly pine and pungent grapefruit. Full bodied, full flavored, long, bitter finish. Just about everything you want in an IPA. Finished this growler with tremendous ease.

Sisyphus West Coast India Pale Ale

Sisyphus West Coast IPA. 8% ABV. 100 IBUs.

Appearance: mostly clear, with a slight chill haze. Bright amber/gold coloring, fine white lead, lasting a while.

Aroma: hops are bursting out all over. Powerful pine in here, and plenty of citrus notes, too. Orange, grapefruit, tangerine. Just the way I like it.

Taste: Now here's where it delivers. All the hoppiness dropped on the tongue, and roaming about the palate, delivering deliciousness. Succor for sure to a hophead like me.

Medium bodied, long, bitter finish. High drinkability, for the hop freaks among us. You're not one? Move along.

Raise the glass again, admire the lace left, point the liquid to the nose, and let it drift in. Invigorating. Bring it back to the lips, let the ambrosia slide back into the mouth and allow the humbles lupulus to treat the senses.

This may be my favorite Sisyphus brew, because it hits me right where I live. In a phrase that others use, it is in my wheelhouse. Or if were in the 1960's, I might say that it's my bag, man. We all got our bags. This is right in mine.

There may be other beers that are more complex, more difficult to make, a greater achievement of brewing prowess. A beer like this gets me every time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Boom Island Witness Witbier

My quest to try all of the beers has been called off, due to it's impossibility. My quest to try all the local beers, too, has been designated an implausibility. Can't do them all, not physically possible. What if I had a nine-to-five job, then I could make the rounds of all the brewpubs and taprooms, Monday through Saturday, every night, take notes on them all, bring back the growlers, check them off. But I don't and I can't.

No, I can't check off everything ever offered, but I do recognize once in a while when one slipped through the cracks, and here's one. The witbier from Boom Island, called Witness. First one I'm drinking from a 12 ounce bottle out of a 4-pack, rather than a big ol' bomber. Pouring it into a Galzen Toren D'erpe Mere saison glass. Just because.Why not?

Alc. 5.0% by Vol. Bottle conditioned. Born in Belgium. Crafted in Minneapolis.
Appearance: hazy and golden, under a bone white head.

Aroma: there's a little bit of spice, here's that wheat-y feel. Light and airy and lovely.

Taste: Light and smooth and sweet. Along comes coriander, ain't she sweet? A touch of orange, a spritz of lemon. The wheat and the sweet and the fruit and the spice, ever so nice. There's that slice of celery, there's the orange wedge on top of the wheat note. Light in body, lean in texture, ever so drinkable. Just like a good wit. Done right.

What's the gobbledygook? (they have such fine gobbledygook!) "Alert the media, You've just found a classic Belgian Witbier with real soul. Dig the way it's slight tartness opens into a refreshing smoothness with faint floral notes on the back. Can I get a WITNESS?"

Oh, she is some kind of wonderful. I am talking about my baby.

Borealis Fermentery Vinegoblin Belgian-style Pale Ale

Borealis Fermentery Vinegoblin Belgian-style Pale Ale.

Appearance: lightly hazy, bright golden/amber hue, large and lasting ivory head. Looks beautiful.

Aroma: All bright citric, spicy  and floral hops, surrounded by Belgian yeast funk. In every way, the very mark of a Belgian pale ale. Enticing.

Taste: Fruity at first, plump with luscious Belgian malts, hop bitterness arriving on the Belgian right after. This delightful dance continues, sip after sip, gulp after gulp. Terrifically tasty. Yum. Ken, you did it again. This beats the pants off of most other Belgian pale ales out there by a long shot. Love this beer. Mmm, mmm.

Let's see what the brewery says about it. The label begins the same as all the others, then the copy specific to Vinegoblin: "Vinegoblin was a runner up name for my kitten that used to play amidst the hop vines here at the Borealis Fermentery. This beer is a subtly malty concoction that incorporates copious additions of both kettle and dry hops for the true hop lover among us. Chill before serving, pour into your favorite glass, and enjoy this ode to Humulus Lupulus."

Unfortunately, I can't pour it into my favorite Borealis Fermentery snifter, because I broke it, like a damned fool. Luckily, I have plenty more. But if I see another one, I'm buying it.

Brewed "710212" ….not sure what that means…are they missing a zero, and it was 7/10/2012?

No word on ABV, but I'd guess it to be 7 percent, maybe?

In case you missed it the first time, I like this beer. Go get some right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm Saison du Nord

I have done something completely unprecedented in my life. I have waited one week before opening a growler from Dave's BrewFarm. I had too many beers as it was, and I never got around to them. Now, it's time to roll back the sleeves, crack the knuckles and pop the top. Saison du Nord, away!

This one is later than I thought it was: bottled on 2/22/15. Purchased 3/15/15. Now, I want to drink it.

Appearance: lightly hazy, bright crimson coloring, large and lovely, lace-leaving cloudy-white head. Looks beautiful.

Aroma: soft and fruity. Malt-forward. Slightly spicy, mostly clean.

Taste: Fresh and lively on the tongue, with a bit of a funky twist. A sweetness that veers towards sour, without ever getting there. Citrus notes blaze the palate, with a complex malt character taking over from there. Flat out deliciousness. Ends on a dry note, cleans out the palate entirely, until it's time for another go. Thirst-quenching, satisfying, a fine food brew, in-a-good-mood brew, just right for any occasion.

What's Farmer Dave have to tell us? "Born of the North with a foot in France. Pale, Ashburne Mild and Abbey malts. Magnum, Centennial, and Palisade hops with a kiss of lemon peel and fermented with a French saison yeast." 6.9% ABV.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Biking to Beer: Bigger, Longer, Stronger, Part One

Biking to Beer: Bigger, Longer, Stronger: Part One. Spring is here. Time to get back on the metal horse and re-acquaint myself with the local breweries, new and old.

If you were paying attention to this webular blogging activity of mine last summer, you may remember my effort to visit all of the brewpubs and taprooms in the city of Minneapolis on one day. This was timed so that I could make the attempt before it was impossible, for Sisyphus was soon to open, and after that Bauhaus and Fair State and Insight and Northgate and more were on their way. I could imagine having thirteen beers all over town in the course of a day, but not 18 or 20. In truth, I only did 11 of the 13 breweries, but it's close enough for jazz.

A new idea recently dawned upon me, to make the rounds again, but 3 or 4 in a day, on my days off. This will continue until I get to all of the breweries of the Twin Cities (yes, I'll get to St. Paul, or even some of the suburbs) by bike, and I'll write about my experiences with them, as well as the beers, and strive to include a new beer at each stop.

This anonymous lizard (surely he must have a name, but I don't know it) is the smallest taxidermied animal in the Harriet Brewing Taproom, after the armadillo and the fierce puma. 

First stop, at 5 pm, Wednesday, March 18, Harriet Brewing, 3036 Minnehaha Avenue. I can say with confidence that every one of the beers they've produced has been covered here in the Nib. I met owner and brewer Jason Sowards for the first time in the summer of 2010 as he was trying to meet the beer buyers and bar managers of the cities to find the people who would purchase his product, with his homebrew samples as the promise of beers to come. A call to him once I heard he'd found his space and was setting up his brewery led to the invitation to host the release party in early February of 2011. And what a day that was. For the next month, the Blue Nile was the only place you could get the first beer from the first production brewery in the city in over a decade, the first new one since the '90's. Before Harriet, there were three breweries in Minneapolis, all brewpubs. Since then, in less than four years, seventeen more have opened.

Over three years, I continued to tap every new beer Harriet released at the Blue Nile. In March of 2012, I was invited to play my jazz records at the soft opening of their tap room, which just missed being the first brewery taproom in Minneapolis, beat out by Fulton. After a bit, I was offered a regular gig DJ-ing there on my day off from the Nile, which continued for over a year, until they sought out more live entertainment. You may remember that I worked at their taproom after being unemployed last fall, and while waiting for my new job at Eastlake to start up. I still make it in a few times a month, checking in on the my records stored on their shelves, keeping up with their beers, soaking up the arty atmosphere.

Perhaps my quest to find a new beer I haven't logged here yet would fail early on, as I've tried ever Belgian and German-styled brew this outfit has offered. Luck was with me, as they had a brand new brew that wasn't on the chalkboard, and still had no name. An American IPA, their first American anything so far. (That is, unless you agree with me that the Belgian IPA, especially the style that West Side represents,  is a thoroughly American invention.) This anonymous IPA is everything you'd want, pithy and citrus-y and hoppy as any IPA you like. As an IPA critic, I can vouch that any hop-heads in the house would be easily pleased. (I'll get a growler soon, and do a full review then.) During my long association with the brewery, I've often wished they'd break away a little from the Euro-style schtick, just a bit. An English-style once in a while, an American-style now and then. Hey, they did a Finnish-style, why not go a little further? Or closer, even?

If I hadn't seen a friend there during my visit, I might have had one and be done, but Don was there, so we got to talking and I put back another, this one a Divine Oculust. Once that Belgian Golden Ale was finished, I got back on the bike and took Hiawatha Avenue, a few blocks from Minnehaha, northerly to Franklin and 27th, turning on Franklin and following it over the Mississippi River, from the West Bank to the East. It's only a matter of blocks from there to University Avenue, and once there, it's a small shot until we get to Malcolm Avenue, where at 520, we meet Surly Brewing Company.

In 2004, there was a mention in a Brooklyn Center newspaper about a man who wanted to start a brewery in that city. This report was repeated in a post on and it of course caused a minor flutter, as it should have. There had been no new breweries in the Twin Cities that had succeeded since Summit and James Page (which, ultimately, failed). In the intervening years, anyone with ambitions to begin brewing locally was discouraged or sent to Wisconsin. All I did was make a comment on that thread that a new local brewery would be welcome, indeed, and I received a private "beermail" on the BeerAdvocate site from a user by the name of "micro" identifying himself as Omar. He reached out to me to keep me aware of his activities creating this new brewery, visiting me at the Blue Nile when he had things to report.  Sometimes it was bottles of Michigan beer he brought me, sometimes his new business card, revealing the name for the first time, and sometimes a cap or a pint glass, picking my brain for insight or opinion.

If I were to detail the events that led up to the rise of the Surly Brewing Company, and my long association with them, it would turn into a mid-sized novella. Actually, it already did, but I edited it out of this post. Too long. Another time, perhaps. I confess, though I may have mentioned it before, that I'm still amazed at the evolution of it all. It's so incredible that  I find it hard to put into words. It took not only the building of a brewery and the invention of a brand, plus the growth of a cult following, but also the changing of laws, as well as minds and tastes. (Omar actually had to change the law in Brooklyn Center to allow him to found a brewery there.)

And here we are now, with the Surly Mega-Brewery at 520 Malcom Avenue, which I wrote about here….and the question was asked: when will it calm down? My second visit was on a Sunday night around 6 pm. The Beer Hall tables were full, but I found a seat at the bar easily. I had a couple beers, and a Surly Burger. A smart-alecky bar-back gestured to the open seats and said to anyone listening: "Is it 7 pm, or 7 am? Half the bar stools are empty!" Yeah, and it's a Sunday night, and you don't have any TVs showing the Big Game, and no happy hour, and no nothing that bars use to draw people in, and yet it's still busy enough that there's no need to complain because you have a momentary lull.

I'm not accustomed to downing my Cynic from fancy glassware, but I don't mind it either. Shaker pints are forbidden, it seems, at the Surly Beer Hall.

I still hear from people who say they haven't made it in, because the parking lot is full, or they walk in and there's a line. Don told me he walks out more often than he doesn't. So, what happens on a Wednesday in mid-March, around 7pm? A line, but short. My long bike ride made me thirst something simple and drinkable, and I went for a CynicAle, which I used to enjoy on a regular basis when I always had it on tap at the Nile, and I haven't tasted it much in the past year. One CynicAle while I stood near the bar and waited for a bar seat to open up. Took about 20 minutes, and I tried the lamb meatballs and ordered a Witches Tower. This was the first new beer released at the Beer Hall , a "session brown ale" with an extra dose of cardamom to make it truly unique. Warm, spicy, and terrifically drinkable. The name comes from a nearby Minneapolis landmark near the new location, the Witch's Hat Water Tower. I slowly savored my pint, while enjoying an appetizer of lamb meatballs, and engaging in conversion with my bar-stool neighbor, Dave, a bassist with the Minnesota Orchestra, and talked of music and beer.
Getting up close and personal with a Witch's Tower Brown Ale. Did I mention the house roasted cardamom, or the aging on toasted ash? 

It's a piece o' cake to get from Surly to Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. Surly is located blocks from University Avenue which runs parallel to Washington Avenue, and I took the latter street through the University of Minnesota campus to the Washington Avenue bridge over the Mississippi river, taking me right to one of my favorite beer spots in town. It's still a great mystery why I put off going there for the first five years of their existence. My best guess is that I simply did not trust brewpubs back then. How could their beer be as good as a "real brewery"? I was suspicious, and dared not enter. When my quest for beer kicked into high gear, I ventured inside and after Masala Mama went down my throat for the first time, I never looked back.

On this visit, there was Czar Jack Imperial Stout to be had, so I had to have one. Always have to have one, if ever I see one. But that's not new, so I tossed back a tasty Mocha Java Double Brown Ale. Not sure why it's "double", at only 6.1 % ABV, it's maybe one and a half times the strength of a normal brown ale, but it surely packs on the extra flavor, with serious doses of chocolate and coffee. It's another one that I'll probably pick up in a growler and do notes on then.

MJDB, or Mocha Java Double Brown at Town Hall. Not very double, but plenty Mocha Java. 

As I was getting ready to pack up and head to my next stop, all the way through downtown, across the Loring Park neighborhood, and into the Dunwoody campus, across from the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden, I was called over to some friends in a booth. I hated to cut the chit chat short, but there was a plan in play, and I couldn't lose a moment, especially because closing time was nigh. I made to Sisyphus Brewing at about 9:50, just in time to get last call and have a couple pints. Trivia was over and the place was emptying out. Albert the dog was being friendly as always, and there was time to play a couple games of pinball with Sam, but I couldn't compete with him because he's become a master of the game. Enjoyed hearing talk of his expansion plans while enjoying a West Coast IPA, another beer that will be described in full detail later. (I had arrived in time to secure a growler of it before the law forbade me from doing so.

Last beer of the night? Not quite, I had one more at home. And once I opened the growler, you can read my notes on the West Coast IPA. 

So, on a Wednesday in mid-March I paid a visit to four of my favorite local breweries, just the first leg of this longer, occasional journey. Next time, maybe they won't all be my favorites, but there will be beer involved, so that's a good thing.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bent Brewstillery Moar Historical India Pale Ale

Well, what do you know. more cans! Or, should I say, Moar cans. This is a beer that was, I believe, previously only in bombers, at a price I didn't want to spend for a beer I didn't know if I'd like. I can justify dropping $2.09 for a single can. That I can do.

This one is called a Historical India Pale Ale, a designation I didn't see on that bomber label. I thought it was a Scotch Ale, explaining the fellow in the illustration. Brewed and bottled by Bent Brewstillery, Roseville, MN. Alc: 4.7% ABV, IBU: 47.

appearance: clear and golden hued, long lasting, lace-leaving white head. Nice.

Aroma: Hoppy nose, floral and spicy. Some mild fruity esters, too.

Taste: Lots of citrus zest exploding on the palate from first sip. Nicely spicy, warming the palate, the citrus notes rising and expanding, bitterness flowing and growing. Lean, crisp and clean, light bodied, with never-ending and much-appreciated hop presence.

Hey, there's gobbledygook, let's read some! "Edinburgh, 1866. Bleak Sooty. Dreary. Hoppy? This bright wee Scottish IPA was crafted to be drunk in quantity. Traditional malts meet citrus and spice with a ripping hop heavy finish."

So, it's a Scottish Ale recipe with an inordinate amount of American hops. Better than another "session IPA", I guess. But, I still don't see how that qualifies as a "Historical IPA." Maybe someone knows. Maybe I'll find out. But, as for the beer, it's a good one, and guess what? You can drink it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bauhaus BrewLabs Wagon Party West Coast Style Lager

Bauhaus BrewLabs Wagon Party West Coast Style Lager. {Is that a thing?} Proudly brewed by Bauhaus BrewLabs in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 5.4% Alcohol by Volume. 55 IBU.

Another Minnesota-brewed can. All this canning is ruining my collection of bottle caps. You'd think, by the look of it, that  the only local beers I drink were Summit, Schell's, Brau Brothers, and a little bit of Fulton, and have no idea whether I ever had a Surly, Indeed, or Bent Paddle. But, since that's hardly anything worth worrying about, I will abruptly end this discussion..

Appearance: slightly hazy, bright orange coloring, long-lasting creamy head.

Aroma: Lively, floral hop presence. Slightly citric & piney. Nice.

Taste: Coming through a lot fruitier once it enters the mouth, plenty of citrus, tropical, stone fruits. Apricot and orange. Welcome bitterness blazes the palate. Body is on the lean side, and let's the hops show their stuff, without having any malt muck it up. I think that "West Coast Style Lager" is their way of saying "IPL" (or India Pale Lager), without having to say "IPL." And nobody really wants to do that.

A couple ounces in, and I know that I like it, but the rest of the drink will offer no further surprises. You got what you came for. Smooth and hoppy, best of both worlds. Me, I still like ales more, but there ain't nothing wrong with it. Good beer, you can drink it. Given my choice of Bauhaus beers, this would be number 2, after the IPA. Still have one more of their core four offerings to go until I've closed the circle on these guys. It's unlikely that a pilsner will take over an IPA in my favor, but one never knows.

Let's read the label and see if it's as goofy as all the others: "We bet the brave folks who made the wagon trip into the Wild West would have enjoyed a tasty beer at the end of the trail. Fermented with lager yeast at higher ale temperatures, this beer is an homage to an American style that emerged during the California gold Rush. It's firm, grainy maltiness and hoppy aromas of tangerine, apricot and citrus will make you party like it's 1849."

So, it's an "homage" to California Common, aka Steam Beer? Totally didn't get that. Oh, wait….hmmm, yeah, I get it now. Sure….

Central Waters Slainte Scottish Style Ale

Central Waters Slainte Scottish Style Ale, brewed in Amherst, WI.

Appearance: dark brown, crimson highlights, under a tan head, lasts a while, then zips away.

Aroma: All malt emanating from the nose, semi-sweet, flavors of cocoa and cream.

Taste: More of the same at play on the tongue. Malty sweet, with cocoa and molasses flavors, and just enough bitterness for balance. Easy-drinking, and tasty. It's more of a Scotch Ale, than a Scottish Ale, though.

Hey, what's the label say? "We're just short of the 45th Parallel marking the halfway point between the North Pole and Equator. We experience the full on splendor of all four seasons. To each we raise a bottle of our seasonal series and give thanks we didn't build our brewery anywhere else."

Doesn't tell me much about the beer. Just more evidence that Wisconsinites are full of themselves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sisyphus Black Ale

I don't know if you've heard, but winter is terrible here in Minnesota. The sub-zero temperatures turn me into something of a hibernating hermit. Even on my days off, I contemplate the time involved in waiting outside for a bus, the connecting bus, the walk to and fro, and the same process involving the route home. Standing, freezing, shivering, the bitter wind whipping. It's more than I want to endure. The days go by and I spend my time with books and DVDs and bottles locally procured, and by local I mean a 5 block radius.

And so, it seems that I went about 2 months without visiting my friends at Sisyphus Brewing, regretting it every time. They're open Wednesday through Saturday, and I work all but one of those nights. Wednesdays, I usually ran errands and suffered the indignity of the bus, the horrible cold, and I'd get home with my groceries and swear not to return to that awful environment.

Last week, right up through Sunday, we were deep in the throes of winter, the chill and the wind and low temps. Monday, we were on the mend. Each day gets better and warmer, and spirits rise. The sun is shining, the snow goes away, the temps are higher and happiness reigns throughout the land. There were no more excuses. I'm back on the bike, and went to visit Sisyphus to pick up my second growler from them,. this time the Black Ale, one of their more common offerings.

Appearance: solid blackness, under a rich, cocoa-toned head, about a 1/4", lasting long, looking beautiful.

Aroma: grassy hop notes first, with citrus notes shining, too.
Bright and glorious, but soon swallowed up by dark malt flavors.

Taste: Hop bitterness never leaves, never flags, stays strong on the palate. Some espresso, some anise, a little molasses. Too delicious. Full-bodies, long, malty/hoppy finish, intensely flavorful. Just delicious. Well, not just. There's more. Wait, more? What more do you want? Rich, intense, satisfying, deep, and, yeah, delicious. Again, what more do you want?

So, that's my question, and I think to myself, "that covers it." There's chocolate and hints of coffee in the flavor, richness in the malt, an unending hop bitterness attack, just about everything you want in a "black ale."

"Just about"? What else do you want? ….here we go again...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Minneapolis Town Hall Resuscitator Doppelbock

Doppelbock is a storied style, steeped in legend (most it about goats) that has lost some connection with the younger craft brew crowd, wowed by barrel-aged this and sour-that. Doppelbocks, or double bocks, are strong dark lagers originally brewed by monks for their Lenten drinking, liquid bread to maintain them through the fast. I like doppelbocks, but I find that once I tag a few of the pertinent flavors, that I don't have much more to say about them. Well, so what, I still enjoy them, even if I stop short with the flowery phrases. And so, we turn to...

Town Hall Resuscitator Doppelbock. All the doppelbocks gotta be -ators, going back from the original, Paulaner Salvator, as well as Ayinger's Celebrator. Not sure if anyone's done one with this name yet. You're making a doppelbock, you're going go through the dictionary, look up all the -ators, check to see if anyone's made a beer with that -ator, this -ator. Or do it the digital way. And I'm wondering if they've done this before. After almost 18 years, they must have done a doppelbock, but this same one, with this name? Let's do some research…Research over: there was a Liberator doppelbock, years ago, which I reviewed in February, 2004. The beer with this name is brand-new, and seems to be unique. (now I'm left wondering: How many years has it been since they've brewed a doppelbock? Barrel-aged week and fun & funky infusions are awesome, but I feel you need to have room for an annual doppelbock. Just me, I guess.)

Enough of that, let's get to the nitty gritty on this one.

Appearance: clear, bright reddish brown coloring, with a a large, lasting, off-whitish head.

Aroma: deep and malty from the onset, rich and full of caramel and toffee notes, molasses, too. Sweet, for sure. Hops lay low, malt is triumphant there.

Taste: There it is, again, bouncing off the palate, the rich caramel malt hard at play. Dark fruits, plum, raisin, too. And chocolate takes a bow, as well.Chocolatey, nougat-y, all the good stuff.  Mmmm. yeah, mmm. Nicely balanced, calm and cool. Tasty. Love it.

Here's the full information from the website: "Resuscitator Doppelbock, 7.6%, Resuscitatot was brewed traditionally from six different German malts including Munich, Vienna, Pilsner and Melaniodin to impart a more bready sweetness as well as a subtle acidity. We varied from tradition slightly with a late kettle addition of German Hersbrucker hops which lends a mellow green herbal flavor. True to tradition, it was fermented with a German lager yeast strain, producing low esters and fruitiness."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

August Schell Noble Star Series Dawn of the Aurora Starkbier Berliner Weiss

August Schell Brewing Company Dawn of Aurora, New Ulm, Minnesota. Noble Star Collection #5. Starkbier Berliner Style Wheat Ale. Bottled October 2014. Ale aged in wood.

There's a tag around the neck of this bottle, that I will help you read. I'll scan it and post it, or find a link or something, and then you'll know what's up with this starkbier. As for me, I'm just going to open it up and drink it, and give it the once-over that way. Let's do it!

Appearance: Beautiful golden color, cloudy, smallish head.

Aroma: sour'n'fruity. Peaches, apricots, apples. Bold fruitiness coming from either the yeast or the aging. Funky, sour twist persists. This is something else.

Taste: Wheaty texture and sour twang kick the palate first, with fruit washing in afterward. Fruity sweet followed by sour twist. Full-bodied, full-flavored, long, sour finish. Brisk, crisp, lip-smackingly delicious. Fruit notes don't quit, and the sour keeps a-comin'. Add to that that it's delicious.

Destihl Saint Dekkera Reserve Sour Fruit Ale-Pomme

Destihl Reserve Saint Dekkera Sour Fruit Ale. Brewed and bottled by Destihl Brewery, Bloomington, IL, USA. Batch Year 2013. And there's some barrel numbers written down, 5 different ones. This one is the Pomme, Sour Ale aged in oak barrels with apples added. Alc. 5.6% by Vol.

Appearance: clear, light amber/gold coloring, some kind of head appears at the start, then it's done and all is still.

Aroma: wild/sour/funky nose right at the start, oak barrel offerings blossom, and light fruitiness comes forth.

Taste: Intensely sour at first sip, engrossing puckeration at play in the mouth. Apple flavors follow, with no sweetness, nor bitter, nothing but sour. Lean bodied, to say the least. Dry, clean, fresh and refreshing. Tasty, too. Good beer and you can drink it.

Let's read that label. "Saint Dekkera Reserve Sour Ales are naturally soured by spontaneous/wild secondary fermentation and aging in oak barrels with a microflora wonderfully unique to our downstate Illinois terroir, where we embrace the individual, wild character of each barrel to produce beers with a wide array of acidity, sourness and unadulterated funkiness. When stored properly (55ยบ F), this beer can be cellared, but please enjoy before you perish. Cheers!"

Well, that got a little morbid at the end, didn't it?

And, dear readers, I must announce that this, too, like the last two Destihl beers, was a gift and I have no idea of the price. Pay what you feel it's worth.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Surly Doomtree Beer

Surly Doomtree. I've had this before, at festivals and at the taproom, I mean, beer hall, bar, brewery, whatever. When I first asked about it, I was given some vague uncertain flimflammery and this from a guy who knows his beer. Then, I heard it called a Biere de Garde. Hey, my first guy knows what a bier de garde is, why didn't he tell me that? Then, more flimflammery, then once more with the de Garde. Who's right, who's wrong? I've got myself a can at last, and I'm about to investigate it.

First of all, I'll admit before we begin that I'm not a hip-hop fan and can't tell you the name of any Doomtree songs. I have seen them perform, but not because I wanted to, it was back in the early days of their career when they were on the bill for various hip-hop events at the Blue Nile, back when those things happened. I believe there was some rhyming involved, and some mic-passing, too. Words were spoken, beats were dropped, and all that scratching was making me itch.

Now, they have a beer, and I'm going to drink it. (To further confuse the matter, though, I find it called an English Bitter on, and an ESB on RateBeer. What's odd is that some of the people saying "Biere de Garde" were Surly employees. I don't know nothing no more.)

Appearance: clear, dark coppery coloring, slim off-white head. Looks okay to me.

Aroma: Lightly spicy and floral hop notes, then the funky twist that Belgian yeast brings on--is it there? I don't have any technical info on hand, I'm just guessing. Rich malt character shows it's stripes--rye malt in this? Nicely spicy. Slightly sweet and bready. Good so far.

Taste: there it is all over again, on the tongue. And now I'm getting the Biere de Garde, which is an unknown item in the wider beer world. None of the French or Belgian versions are particularly famous, so interpretations state-side can be varied and slightly off-model. (I just checked, and the five Biere de Gardes I've listed on this blog are American versions. It's been that long since I've had an authentic version. Must fix that.) (P.S. I have had 23 Biere de Gardes on, including St. Amand, Castelain, 3 Monts Flanders Golden Ale, La Bavaisienne, La Chouleete Blonde, Les Biere des Sans Coulettes, Jenlain, and Abbey des Saint Bon-Chien, among others.) This one has it. Malt is king here, rich, slightly sweet and delicious, nicely hopped, and very comforting. Easy drinkability, medium body, long malty finish.

Alcohol 5.7% by vol. If you designing a beer that's meant to be had at a music venue, destined for the hands of sweaty, excited fans, it had better be a beer they can drink. I can't think of anyone who could be disappointed by this, unless they have terrible taste in beer, and a lot of people do.

Let's read the can copy, written by Doomtree member Dessa: "All Hands, No Kings: Surly started with some homebrewing in a garage. Doomtree started with some noisemaking in a basement. Careful what you do with your spare time in your spare rooms. Man, that stuff just might take over your whole life. A decade later, Doomtree meets Surly. Instant Crush. We're both indie and strong-willed. We love Minnesota and we're allergic to focus groups. We don't have a formal professional outfit between us. We convene at the brewery to scheme. Working in extreme secrecy, we decide to make a beer. Team Surly suggests a "bastardized style" that will build on a classic, but buck convention. Doomtree cannot nod vigorously enough. We know this style. Guided by instinct, we came up with this dark gold, toasty, aromatic, subtly spicy, bitter enough, dry-hopped brew. Best enjoyed cold, in a spare room, with new friends."

Not bad, not bad. Not as good as some other Surly cans I can think of, but not bad."Dark gold", though? I'd drop that part.

Oh, yeah, the beer's alright, too. I'll have another, why not?

Afterthought: When I looked at the photo on their website (see link above), I wondered if I did something wrong when I framed my photograph, as the beers were two entirely different colors. I just had another, and looked at someone else's photograph, and I've come to the conclusion that ...well, I'm not sure what, but the beer I bought didn't come in that color.)

Castle Danger 17-7 American Pale Ale

More and more Minnesota beers are popping onto the store shelves, more often than not in canned form. It's a can craze, dear readers, and I've procured a few of late for examination. Here's one from the North Shore's Castle Danger Brewery, situated in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I visited their original location in Castle Danger, MN back in 2012, and returned with a growler and a glass (alas, since busted). Recently, I picked up a 6-pack of cans at a local liquor dealer, and here we go, ready to taste some 17-7 American Pale Ale, 5.8% Alc. by Vol. "7 Hop Blend."

Appearance: First off, the can design is a bit busy, ill-focused, with an unfortunate color scheme. Just doesn't work. That aside, let's look at the beer.

Clear, amber-hued, large and lasting, lace-leaving ivory head.

Aroma: Some funky esters lead thing off, with floral/citric hop notes behind. A whiff of sulfur. Not entirely right.

Taste: That prior assessment starts us off, unfortunately. Just a little bit not all there. After that mysterious quality, caramel malt, a minor hop buzz. Taste again, there's more of the hops, a long, lingering bitter finish. Sip again, and the malt profile leads the charge, caramel, small amounts of chocolate, little hints of fruit, but not exceptionally organized, shall we say. I'd prefer something cleaner, more cohesive, with a bolder hop character. There's something just off-putting here. Medium-bodied, drinkable, but not especially special.

I'm going to go through the 6-pack, and consume them without quibble, but I won't return to this beer. I'll give their other varieties a go, though, but perhaps as single investigations, rather than a whole six-er, if I can find them sold as such.

It's time to read the label. Let's go! "17-7 Pale Ale is named after our address in downtown Two Harbors (17 7th Street) which is also home to our taproom that overlooks Lake Superior. 17-7 was born out of necessity while brewing on our original 93-gallon system in Castle Danger. We love hops and IPAs, but brewing an India Pale Ale takes several extra days for adding more hops so we created our pale ale recipe to keep up with demand. 17-7 is a hop-forward pale ale brewed with our own 7 hop variety and has enough of a biscuit-malt backbone to keep it honest. It has become one of our go-to beers and is great for any occasion! Enjoy!"

Wait, there's more: "Castle Danger beer is unfiltered, unpasteurized and shold be kept cold. For a filtered beer, we suggest teeth for a course filter or facial hair for a finer polish."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Summit Unchained Batch No. 18 Hop Silo Double IPA

I've told of this dilemma before here, and I try not to bring it up too often, but here it is, folks. Once more I'm faced with the desire to utilize correct branded glassware and the lack thereof. When it comes to the Summit Brewing Company, I have several shaker pints, and some others, like the Winter Ale dimpled pint glass I bought about 20 years ago at the original brewery on University Avenue, and the Great Northern nonic, and a Hefe Weizen (what happened to that beer?) weissbier glass.  I used to have one for India Pale Ale, and that one was merely a modified pub style pint. And I broke it long ago. And it's certainly not the perfect I.P.A. glass that we have now, this marvel of drinking design.

I keep forgetting what they're called…pooku? Pocko? Tiki? Not Teku, that's the other special one. That's easy to remember. Te. Ku. Rolls right off the tongue. What's this one, though? Gooble? Gobble? Gabba Gabba?

(Edit: It's called "spiegelau." Gabba Gabba...what was I thinking?)

I was without one until the Surly Company Store offered one with their logo, which I picked up on my second visit to the new brewery. Surely that's the most appropriate vessel for this new Double IPA, the first, I believe, from Summit. It's right there on the can. Now, if Summit comes out with one with their logo on it, should I get one? How many of these do I need? I've got too many beer glasses as it is. (Did I actually say that?) So, sorry Summit, while I pour the latest Unchained Series (Batch 18) beer, the Hop Silo Double IPA into a Surly-branded Spiegelau. Eric Harper, brewer. Brewed and Canned by Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. 1 pint ale, 8% Alc./vol.

Appearance: clear, bright golden hue, with an impressive, flowering, creamy white head. Very inviting.

Aroma: lively hop presence hits the nose first. Citrus notes foremost, with pine behind. Tropical tints, too. Slight sweetness, here and there. Also inviting. So far, a likable brew.

Taste: Here come the hops in spades, with a truck load of bitterness to drop onto the tongue. Orange and lemon lead the attack, with tropical fruits also landing on the palate. This one isn't too anything, and it's ably assembled, like just about every brew out of Summit. Just the right amount of delicious hops at play in the mouth, the proper dose of booze, as well. Medium-bodied, long bitter finish, having themselves a non-stop party in the mouth. And you're invited.

Brewer Eric Harper honorably avoided the route of naming the beer after some atrocious hop pun. It was a clever twist to put it in a pint can, another first for Summit, and name it for the notion of a tall cylindrical container for hops. Here's hoping they have a hit on their hands with this one.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery West Bank Pub Ale

So, the other day I was at Town Hall in search of something in a growler. Pickings were slim, though, due to some business in the brewery. They only had the regular offerings, minus Masala Mama, and none of the seasonals. If you've read this blog enough and know me at all, you're aware that I'm always on the lookout for beers to add to this online collection. Have I listed West Bank Pub Ale here? No, I haven't. And that was that. Now, I know that I've had it before, most certainly reviewed it and posted it in other places, but I've forgotten to look it up. My decision is to drink the growler, take new notes, and maybe take a peek at the old ones later. What's it going to hurt me?

Appearance: clear, amber coloring, with a full, blooming ivory head of foam. Perfectly plays the part.

Aroma: Gorgeous. Light, airy, floral, and spilling over citrus. Alarmingly pleasant.

Taste: Bright, fresh, light and lovely. Absolutely everything you want in a pale ale. Lean bodied, lightly hoppy, just enough malt, expertly drinkable. Even tempered in all regards. Hoppy enough to keep it interesting, but not too much to make it distracting. Lean and clean malt profile. An excellent session ale, a damn near perfect pub ale. Set it down and throw your dart, pick it up again and take up where you let off in your story.

So, the mystery of why I don't drink this more often is simply explained away: I just like IPAs more.

Here are my original notes extracted from BeerAdvocate. com, posted in July of 2003:

I must offer up a confession before proceeding, a disclaimer of sorts. I'm not very fond of "pub ales" or bitters, for they all too often lack in flavor and body for my tastes. Perhaps that's why I never touched this perennial offering until now, just to get it out of the way. I was pleasantly surprised.
Appearance: amber, edging toward bronze, with a perfunctory head.
Aroma: largely fruity, with additional hints of toasted caramel and nuts.
Light hop bitterness at first, quickly departing, with very tasty malt character clearly in charge from here on out.
Well-rounded, with a moderate sweetness, and a long, malt-infused finish. Each time the glass is lifted, satisfaction is ensured. Nutty malt flavor stays on top.
This visit, the WB Pub was also available on cask, and in that form, I'd have to add an extra star: the head was thick and creamy, the flavor was mellow, but made a powerful presence on the palate, and it went down like a dream. Ah, bliss!

I'm not entirely sure if the recipe ever changed, but I vaguely recall this beer going from a English pale ale model to an American PA, with no change in the name. The change in these notes seem to bear that out, for the malt character described in both is decidedly different.

To clear this up, I go straight to the website for this: "American style pale ale offering a smooth body from American malts while offering the zesty character of the American Simcoe variety. 4.8% ABV."
Well, there you go.

Destihl 1920 Stout Imperiale

Destihl Brewery 1920 Stout Imperiale, Oak Foudre Series. Brewed and bottled by Destihl Brewery, Bloomington, IL.

Appearance: The color as black as darkest night, under a creamy, pudding-like dollop of roasted brown foam up above.

Aroma has it all. Starts with pepper and spice, mixed with chocolate and espresso tones, with deep dark fruits chiming in, the plum and the berries, with splashes of anise and molasses. Dry triumphs over sweet.

Taste: This one starts rich, but dry, an interesting twist. All those flavors noted in the nose bounce upon the palate. The fruit notes shine brighter now, but it's never sweet, always tempered the dry and the bitter. Full-bodied, for sure. Rich mouthfeel and texture. Thoroughly satisfying. Fairly smooth, chocolatey, and tasty as it wants to be. Berry sweetness rises up again and again, bumping into the cocoa and coffee, with the high alcohol starting to ring in…bing…bing…bing…

Two stouts in a row from Destihl that hit a homer. Good ones, guys.

distill stout imperial 1920. "In the spirit of the 1920 Franco-Belgian Military accord, this beer unites a Belgian-style Imperial Stout with one year aging in a French cognac oak foudre, coalescing into aromas and flavors similar to dark roast coffee and dark chocolate, black cherries, plums, hints of molasses, and slight smoke, all pairing beautifully with the French oak tannins, medium body, gentle warming and dry finish." alc. 11.64 %, IBU: 82.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Destihl Dosvidanya Russian-style Extra Imperial Stout

Destihl Brewing Company Dosvidanya Russian-style Extra Imperial Stout, aged in oak bourbon barrels. Just like they make in Russia, I guess? (Thanks to Kevin for the bottle.)

 Appearance: solid blackness, reflecting nothing, and a rich chocolatey-brown head holding court atop.

Aroma: whiskey, vanilla, oak, deep and delectable, hanging tight on top of massive malt. Sweet and lovely.

Taste: starts out hot and heavy, rich and forceful. Full-bodied, abundantly malty, with all the requisite flavors from the beer and the barrel. Some cocoa, some coffee, a little bit of anise, all dripped over with whiskey. Not too thick, never overly rich, surprisingly smooth, and ultimately delicious. Yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the label have to say? "Like a Russian nesting doll, the secret of Dosvidanya Russian Imperial Stout lies locked deep within here dark, mysterious and elaborate wooden layers. The hidden soul of this oak bourbon barrel-aged beer we said Dosvidanya to several months before revealing, is it's rich, robust and roasty maltiness that finishes dry. Please consume slowly and enjoy. Cheers." alc. 12.5% by Vol. IBU: 84.

Someday, like hop-related puns, we will finally run out of Russian phrases, historical figures, or cultural artifacts to refer to when creating new Russian Imperial Stouts. That day is soon.

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 ...