Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale (with a whiff of the auto-bio thrown in)

So, it's time to reveal the great public at large where one could find me if one tried. After retiring from the bar I ran for 15 1/2 years, spending time as a glorified crossing guard at a neighborhood brewpub, then serving up pints at two different brewery taprooms, once again I am tending bar on the West Bank of south Minneapolis, for my old friends at Acadia Cafe. Once more, live music, making cocktails, but at least my dream of never opening another Heineken continues. And there is some room for advancement, just a little. We'll see.

There are 28 taps at Acadia, and they boast that there are none of them that one could call "crap." There is one devoted to a root beer, and usually one for cider. Within those other 26, they keep consistent with that promise. The chances are good that I'll have some influence in what might go on those taps while I'm there. They certainly respect my opinion and taste in that regard.

And here's a thing: there's usually something I haven't had yet on tap, and I've trying to take notes when I can on those. Not always easy to find the time. They've always had beers on tap here that I haven't reviewed yet, but we've been over this before. Don't like taking notes while at a bar. Not so much.

But, we've got Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale, and I've already taken notes on that one, way back in ....wait, only August of 2010? Well, it was before I started this blog, but...something tells me I should have sampled it earlier than that...nonetheless, here are those nearly half-decade old notes...

Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale.

"Back then the beer tasted like broccoli and kersene and the carbonation ate right through and drained your gut..." ...and so on, and so forth. Really? Good thing that's over!

Very clear, very golden. Lovely to look at, delightful to know. Slim head.

Aroma: Beautiful, floral, lightly citric, ...a touch of honey. Just right.

Taste: Nice, elegant bristling buzzing blast of hops right off the top, keeps zooming along the palate.
Full bodied, continual hop attack, easy drinking hoppy pale ale. Slightly sweet malt base, keeps up with the bitter hop profile that never quite quits. Bready malt meets apple and citrus fruit in the hops, excellent mix, classic pale ale style.

It's a good beer and you can drink it.

Lagunitas Maximus IPA

Lagunitas Maximus IPA. OG 1.080. Alc. 8.2% by Vol. IBU 72.41

So, the other day I'm staring at the store shelves trying to come up with something I haven't had before, or at least, a beer that hasn't appeared here yet. And I chose this one. I knew for certain I'd reviewed it once before, at least, and guess what? I had. January of 2003. And this is what I wrote:

Big white head, dark orange color. Aroma: fresh, floral, fruity, hoppy. This is self-hyped as highly hopped, hence the boastful name, but on first sip, I'm not overwhelmed. First impression: a more alcoholic extra pale ale, but not the hoppiest of IPAs by a long shot. Smooth palate, medium body, easy-drinking.But overall, a disappointment.

A disappointment, really? Well, yeah, when compared to how they hype it. It's high alcohol, but that 74 IBU isn't all that impressive. It's hoppy, yeah, but they've gotten hoppier, as has everyone, through the years. Here's what I copied off of the bottle. or, rather, the 6-pack carrier, or, more accurately, a combination of the two:

Lagunitas Maximus. IPA. "Some is good. More is better. X-treme everything. Instant gratification is not fast enough.! {sic} We only got an inch of topsoil left. The end is near, don't sip. 42 IBU? Why not more? ….Imelda's Shoes. One war? Why not two! Tats, Nipple Piercing, Cutters, Burning, T1-lines, and Hummers. In our Sensate World…MAXIMUS just makes perfect sense."

What a strange assemblage of words. "Imelda's Shoes"? Talk about a dated reference! Maximus feels like a hold-over from a previous era. Things have gotten much more extreme in the past decade plus, and this beer ought to be retired, or at least renamed.

Dave's BrewFarm Wheatless Wonder

Dave's BrewFarm Wheatless Wonder. Here's one that appears quite a bit at the LaBrewatory, but I'd never taken a growler home. Why the heck not? Always something seemingly more special around, I guess. I finally resolved that particular problem and made it a priority to make Wheatless Wonder a notch on the old BrewFarm belt. Away we go…

Appearance: clear, bright golden coloration, slim white head.

Aroma: Banana-y! This nose is flush with fruit. Small spice, traces of citrus. Mild hops.

Taste: Small hop presence, then the lush malt takes over, but it's all barley. The Bavarian hefe weizen yeast is at work, but not against wheat malt. That's what makes it the wheatless wonder.

Smooth, fruity, creamy and quenching. Slightly sweet stuff, and well-balanced. Ah! Re-freshing. Mmm, mm.

"We started with a classic German weizen yeast and brewed it without the wheat. This recipe has 100% malted barley. Pallisade and sterling hops."6.9% ABV.

What if I used that weizen yeast, but left out the wheat? Such a quintessential Farmer Dave thing to do. Like whatever cosmic force you care to name thinking to itself that sticking a duck bill on an egg-laying mammal might be a fun joke to play on the universe. Not that I'm calling FD a God or anything like that. Heaven forbid.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm Jarrylo Single Hop Lager

Dave's Brewfarm Jarrylo Single Hop Lager, Dave's BrewFarm, Wilson, WI. 6.4% ABV. It's a single hop lager with that new hot hop Jarrylo. I don't know if it's hot or not, actually, I just heard of it for the first time today, twice. It's new, it must be hot.

Appearance: clearish, bright amber/golden coloring, slimmish white head, lace-leaving. I like it.

Aroma: Soft. Sweet. Citrus-y. Lemon and orange, little bit of lime.

Taste: Ah! Whoa, what was that? Ah! Nothing but ah. Perfect blast of citrus and bittersweet Malt is lean and clean here, the hops are shining, like they do. Hop presence is huge, bitterness is big, and citrus is chiefest among the flavors.

It's big and bitter, but not overly so, and ending dry. Very satisfying, and again, not the sort of thing you'd think of when you think of a lager.

What Farmer Dave want to tell us about it? "Pils, Cara Red, and Caramel 20 malts, and hopped with three additions of Jarrylo hops. Fermented with lager yeast."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Leipziger Gose

You may have noticed that the Gose style has been discovered by the American craft beer world, especially interpretations that make the most of the inherent
sour character. Before today, there were three examples here in
Nib, all of them American-made, two of those local.

At last, I grabbed on to a bottle of the original, and found
my old notes from way back in December of 2003:

My first "gose" ever...didn't even know what one was until I bought this bottle.
Okay, so "gose" it is!
Appearance: cloudy pale orange color, with a thick, creamy white head. Nice, attractive.

Aroma: spicy, yet soft, with whiffs of fresh sea-foam like I'm detected in weizens, big with spice, and citrus, and so far I'm geared up for something like a hefe or a wit.

Taste: unusual! Dry, and mellow, with an initial sourness. Not at all like I was expecting after that nose, way too flat on the palate. Rather light-bodied, cool and mild, with a very soft finish. I think I can actually taste the salt, too, I get the merest taste of salt, without it being too salty.
Very drinkable, this, very, very, although I liked it, but it couldn't love it. I needed more of a kick in the flavor for that.
An intriguing style, rarely encountered, and quite easy to appreciate. If I'm ever in the mood for a mellow, dry brew that won't go and blow my mind, gose it is!

Castle Danger Double Crossing IPA

Castle Danger Double Crossing Double India Pale Ale. Castle Danger Brewery, Two Harbors, MN. 9.1% ABV.

Appearance: clear, bright golden/amber coloring, large and long-lasting creamy white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: Bountiful tropical fruit bouquet, beautiful hop bitterness. Apricot, tangerine, pineapple, with a little bit of lemon. I like it.

Taste: Tasty hop attack from the forefront, gliding hop bitterness over the palate. Big and fruity, and increasingly strong. Juicy, big and fruity, with alcohol strength growing. Full-bodied, long, bittersweet finish, and increasingly enjoyable. Yum. Hoppy as heck, with enough of a jolt to lift it out of the ordinary. And tasty.

You know what? This is exactly how I like my double IPAs.

What's the gobbledygook on this? "Double Crossing IPA was originally brewed as our Second Anniversary beer in 2013. It was so good, we keep it coming back each spring. We put an amazing amount of hops into this beer, over 4 lbs per barrel! These hops add flavors & aromas of tropical fruit, citrus & apricot. Despite the crazy amount of hops, it is a very well balanced double India pale ale."

It is, actually. I quite like it, and found that it was $8.99 well spent.


They seem to be using the same artist as on the cans, though the damage is not as deep, since this design is based on inanimate objects. I was in possession of a couple cans of the stout, which I actually reviewed from a growler several years ago, and I disposed of them, once empty, as quickly as I could. Not a graceful depiction of a human being on that George Hunter Stout label. I'll end on a more gentle note and suggest they employ someone who can interpret human features in a more aesthetically pleasing manner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Boom Island Tequila Barrel Gravity No. 9 Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Well, here's an interesting little beer. Boom Island Gravity No. 9 Belgian Strong Dark Ale, aged in tequila barrels with plums. This special version of Gravity No.9 was released as a benefit for The Hero Initiative, a charity to help comic book artists who have fallen on hard times. Bill Willingham, of the Vertigo series "Fables" and back in the 80's "The Elementals" and more, produced the label art, and good ol' Dave Anderson got one for me autographed by the artist. Only 300 bottled, and according to Dave, only about 10 autographed, I presume, because most in attendance brought their comic books to be signed.

Enough jibba-jabba, let's drink it already….

Appearance: dark brown, with ruby highlights. semi-clear, slim, creamy head.

Aroma: Right away: the plums. A little tart, a little sweet, plenty fruity. The tequila notes seem to be peeking through.

Taste: Fruit hits you from the start, very wine-like, a touch of tannins. Fresh and berry-ish. I'm not really getting tequila out of any of this….but I wouldn't call that a problem. Nothing from hops here, nice and malty, ….perhaps the plums have overtaken the tequila?

Let's look at the notes on the bottle, shall we? "Our first collaboration with the HEro Initiative, Gravity No.9 begins with soft aromatics of vanilla and malt, which are followed by a full-bodied mouthfeel that rounds through dark fruit flavors and followed by a surprisingly dry finish."  9.2% alc. by vol.

I like this one. It doesn't have what I typically want in a Belgian Strong Dark, but it's tasty and fine. This could have gone wrong in so many ways, but it works. I feel that I need to visit the taproom and find out what it tastes like without plums and tequila.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tyranena Carnal Knowledge Double Oatmeal Stout (Brewers Gone Wild)

Tyranena Brewers Gone Wild Carnal Knowledge Double Oatmeal Stout. Tyranena Brewing Company, Lake Mills, WI.

Appearance: dark as soot, this one, with a thin toasted tan head, that slims down to nil in no time.

Aroma: dark malts, some chocolate, little hop bitterness, a hint of roast.

Taste: Now it's getting good. Malt feels richer, while retaining an utmost smoothness. Creamy, slightly sweet, and beyond being "big, bold, ballsy", it's rather easy on the palate. I have a feeling that it's got some strength, but, as ever, that information is left off the label.

Yeah, it's feeling strong, but it's ever-so satisfying. Hey, let's read the label, and see what it says: "darker than midnight on a moonless night, smooth and silky with plenty of lace. Full-bodied with the rich and lucious (sic) flavors from dark roasted malts like caramel, chocolate and coffee. A truly satisfying experience."

Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter

Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter.
This is one I've heard of for a while and was glad to find it on tap when I paid the taproom a visit last week. I'd been sitting on 3 64-ounce growlers that I hadn't used in two years. (there's a reason why I never went back to fill my growlers, but I won't go into it now.)I took two of them with me and turned them in for credit, $5 each, then purchased a 750 ml growler of the PB P. Next chance I get, I'll take the other 64  ounce and this one when it's empty, turn that into a 750 ml of another beer, then I'm down to eighteen! Only eighteen! That's almost a quarter of what I had a few months ago. Such marvelous progress. I can clean out my cupboards.

So, anyway. Once more, I'm opening this without any real knowledge of it. Real peanut butter? How much? How'd they get it in there? How'd they get it off the back of the spoon?  Creamy-style or chunky? So many questions. I'll look for answers in a bit. For now, let's crack it open and drink it up.

Appearance: deep black, under a rich, toasty brown head, looking good.

Aroma: sweetness and nuts starts it off. Earthy, and malty, and doggone it, peanut-buttery. Scarcely a note of hop bitterness to be found anywhere. Dark malts and peanut butter.

Taste: All of that and more, on the palate. Medium-bodied, with a semi-sweet finish. The full flowering of the peanut-buttery-ness seems to wane a bit after the start. Let's give it another chance,….well, it's sweet, nutty, pleasant, drinkable, and I don't think I would ever have two in a row. Or finish off a growler by myself again. It is what it is, and what it is, is okay. Beer, and I can drink it.

Oh, I can answer one question. Creamy-style. I haven't encountered any peanut chunks yet.

P.S. I've looked it up on their website. Here's all the information I can get out of them. IBUS
ABV (%)
Peanut butter, chocolate, hints of coffee and toast.
Desserts fo sho. Get creative with other peanut dishes. Pair with caramelized meats, curry dishes, and Thai food.

Friday, May 15, 2015

St. Feuillien Saison

I'm working away at filling those holes, and found a few missing from the brewery St. Feuillien. What, I haven't had a St. Feuillien Saison in all these years? Well, I had it for the first time when I tapped it back about six years ago at the Blue Nile. It was hard to find kegs after that, but look, lo, and behold, they've canned it! (A few years ago, actually. I guess the lo, and behold, is that I finally picked some up.)

So, without further ado, my notes from September, 2009, of the saison from Brasserie St. Feuillien of Le Roeulx, Belgium. Cheers, Slainte, Prost, and Pache!

Thoroughly hazed, amber-hued, light yellow at base of glass, with a large, proud, and creamy white head holding court on top.

Aromatics: a little sour, then a little sweet, some fruit, citrus, apricot, peach, then creamy and smooth. Again...beautiful fruit, mild, mellow, lovely.

Taste: zesty blast on the tongue, fresh flash of fruit, funk, and sour, ...then, again, all is well and cool. Juuust right. Firm, not meek or watery, and solid. Solid, spritz-y, some peppery spice, mixed always with citus-y feeling. Damn good, this is. You can drink it, and it rewards you for the effort. Pleases the tastebuds, as it trickles down the throat.
Nice stuff, if I can say it prosaically once more.

Town Hall Hop Blossom

Town Hall Hop Blossom. I did it again. I forgot to bring home any information on this one. It's a beer, and I drank it, and it's called Hop Blossom, and now I have a growler to drink.

Appearance: clear, crimson/amber hue, under a perfect, creamy toned head.

Aroma: bright and fruity nose, citrus and pine aplenty. Grassy as all get-out. Vibrant, vivacious, and utterly lovely.

Taste: Hop blast continues on the palate, sliding over the tongues, and spreading to the back and down the hatch. Lush malt, smooth and tasty. Medium body, long, bittersweet finish.

What is in this? How did they make it? Is it a pale ale, or …well, what else would it be? There's some caramel malt here, traces of cocoa and toffee. Great balance in this one, too. Another good beer, and you, my friend, can drink it.

Here's what the website says: 6.1% "Our California Brown Ale. Strong West Coast hop flavor and bitterness. Light brown color and a touch of sweetness. Crisp spring beverage to welcome in the hot summer months."

Trappistes Rochefort 8

New notes on Trappistes Rochefort 8 (alc. 9.2 % vol):

Appearance: opaque burgundy-hued, slim head.

Aroma: A mad mix of dark fruits, spices, and Belgian yeast. Plums, raisins, brandy, red wine. A potent puree.

Taste: Intense carbonation, generous malt, plentiful fruit flavors, bountiful hops. Just about everything is upped a notch in this delicious Belgian strong dark ale. Immaculate expression of trappist ingenuity. Or goodness, or grace, or genus, whatever fits the bill. Beautiful. Smooth, strong, and sharp all at the same time. Just the way I like it.

And here's what I originally wrote in December of 2002:
Muddy, dark purple; big, fuzzy, funky head.

Wondrous nose: cherries, berries, bananas, sugar and spice, some citrus.

On the tonque, something of a challenge. Pounds and pounds of flavor! Is it supposed to be a Tripel? The strength and the rather firm, full texture are a drawback to drinkability.

Other drawback is that the only place I've been able to buy this was in a wine shop that overprices and undersells it's quality beer. It was in a clearance bin, marked down. Maybe a better cared for bottle would have tasted differently?

Let's look at those notes as a snapshot in time, and a testament to a space in history, as well as picture of my changing palate.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Trappistes Rochefort 6

As I try to continue to survey the local brewing scene and make notes on each bottle and can available, I also think on what else may be missing from this blog. Maybe the Belgians? As I search the shelves, for what I haven't included here and seek new beers I haven't tried, I sometimes forget about the greats, the favorites, that I've forgotten for so long.

And so I will now write fresh notes about Trappistes Rochefort beers of the Abbey St. Remy. First one will be the 6, alc. 7.5% Vol. 11.2 fl. oz. 330 ml. Authentic Trappist Product.

Appearance: clouded dark amber coloring, vast creamy head, looking great.

Aroma: sweet, citrus-y, with the requisite Belgian yeast funk. redolent with a plentitude of fruity flavors. Grape must meets Belgian funk. Cherries and berries.

Taste: Ah! Just, mmm, and ah. Utterly exemplifies all of the elusive qualities of the Belgian pale ale, with plenty of yeast action, just enough fruit and funk, minor hops, more malt, and great consumability.

Yum. That's what I want to say. Hey, did I ever say anything else about his beer?

I wrote this about it back in 2005:
Beautiful dark, plummy brown color, with lush foam above, active carbonation, attractive appearance.

Aroma: sweet, full ,complex, loaded with dark fruits, grapes, cherries, dates, plum, ...eggplant,...a bit of sour and must, an intriguing flavor in this nose, somewhere between sweetness and utter oddity. But I like it.

Taste: huge impact on the palate, big, fat, and delicious, ...more dark fruits swim the mouth, aided and abetted by a mix of spice, very rich, powerful, and juicy. Not as huge in alcohol, while still stronger than most beers, as it's brethren, this is a uniquely tasty, very drinkable effort from the makers of two of the most stunning beers on the planet. (The 8 and 10, of course.)

Very mellow, but far from mild. I admire the unique flavor more as it finds a home in my mouth. Medium bodied, long, fruity finish, very much deliciousness. I'm very happy with this one, and am amazed that this is the first time I've tried it...where have you been all my life? Yum, yum...try this one, please...your happiness is ensured!


(Wait…"eggplant"? what was I thinking?)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fair State India Pale Ale

Fair State Co-op India Pale Ale, Brewed by the Fair State Brewing Cooperative, NE Minneapolis, MN. IBU 64, ABV % 6.4. "Drink Fresh."

Appearance: hazy, bright golden-hued, sizable and lasting ivory head.

Aroma: fresh citrus fruit notes beam out of the glass, tropical notes jump into the stream, orange meets pineapple, tangerine tangoes with papaya. Beautiful.

Taste: Aggressive bitter bite from the start, light to medium body, crisp malt body. Impressive, immense hop blast never quits. Slight astringency. Ends dryly. Overall pleasant West Coast-style IPA. Yum. I like it.

Fair State is community-owned brewery at Central and Lowry in NorthEast Minneapolis. It opened last fall (August? September? I can't remember) and I got my first taste of their beers at the Autumn Brew Review, and soon tap handles appeared throughout the city. I made a visit by bike in October and took notes by hand, but never posted them. There's just something about transcribing from handwritten scribbles that exacerbates my procrastination.

My second visit occurred a few Sundays ago, and I found myself even more impressed with their output. Next time I go, I'm bringing a growler home, for sure. This is the first bottle they've put out to market. And I think I'll read the label now.

"A collective perspective. At Fair State Brewing, our cooperative model puts the mutual love between craft brewer patron to work to create something that truly belongs to us all. It's our belief that quality beer can build infinite community. Cheers!" "Pale, dry and aromatic. Brewed with Horizon, Chinook, Crystal, Amarillo and Columbus hops."

Schell's Stag Series No. 9: Cave-aged Barrel-aged Lager

Schell's Stag Series Limited Release Batch #9 Cave-aged Barrel-aged Lager. Brewed and bottled by The August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, MN. 7.7% Alcohol by Volume.

Appearance: dark reddish-brown, clear, ruby-ish highlights, slim, cocoa-tinted head.

Aroma: deep and malty, cocoa and coffee, dark fruits, a touch sweet, but terrifically balanced.

Taste: Medium to full body. Rich, malty, hints of toffee, caramel, cocoa. Along comes the barrel flavors, here comes the whiskey, the vanilla and the caramel, and all that goodness. Getting fruitier, getting fuller, maltier, chocolatey-er, and richer as we get further in, and damn, do I like it.

What kind of lager is this, barrel and cave-aged, and still so rich and full. A bock of some kind, or….? I'm not sure. Let's look at the label: "This dark lager was aged in American whiskey barrels stored in our original, naturally cooled 19th Century layering caves located deep below the brewery."

Bent Paddle Paddle Break Blonde

Bent Paddle Belgian-Style Blonde Ale Paddle Break Blonde. Paddle Responsibly. Brewed and packaged by Bent Paddle Brewing Company, Duluth, MN. Contains: Water, hops, malt, yeast. 6.0% Alc./Vol.

Appearance: golden and clear, with a slim, but staying ivory head.

Aroma: lightly spicy, mostly malt, low hop bitterness. Nice. Sure.

Taste: Again the spice, the light malt, the crisp crackers and the slight citrus. That special Belgian character is here, too, with just enough of a spicy/fruity bite to keep things interesting, with just a little bit of a funky twist in it. You know what? Belgian blondes are pretty dang tasty, while being refreshingly easy-drinking.

I like the Belgian blonde as a summer seasonal, as it's certainly a break from the wit bier or the hefe weizen or the pale ale. This one is delicious and delightful. yet another success from Bent Paddle.

"A Belgian-style blonde ale perfect for an adventure amidst the lakes and scenery of the backcountry. This blonde balances hints of citrus and Belgian yeast much like you balance a canoe on your shoulders. Effortlessly."

Okay. Sure. Good beer, though, go out and drink some.

Town Hall Hamlet's Curse Old Ale

A new brew on at Town Hall! Have I had it before? Yes, almost eight years ago, according to a review I posted on BeerAdvocate in July, 2007. Here it is:

Deep magenta hue, slimmish head....

Sweetness in the nose, sweet, firm, distictly malty...dark fruits and minor caramel and toffee...a maltier affair, with plenty of British hops.

Slick, good texture on the palate, toasty, caramel-y, then the mellow fruit, very sweet, but not too much so, well-balanced, indeed.

Full-bodied, with plenty of trick and tickle on the tongue...a sweet and sassy affair...reminds me of Theakston's Old Peculiar...not too strong, thick and malty, but terribly significant and dripping with flavor. Nearly candyish in the malty sweetness, I nearly think. King Caramel.

So many good things going for it, it's tough not to love. Doesn't fit the season, but I've always got a hankering for a brew this good.
I need to start a party, just to have an excuse to spread a beer this good around. Yum, yum, and once again, yum!

Further Tranformations (Yet Another Autobiographical Post)

If you saw my last posting of a beer from Eastlake, you may have noted a lack of enthusiasm about the American adjunct lager called Tall Bike. I couldn't muster up any appropriate energy for that one, and held back on any criticism. I was looking forward to being a big booster of the next new one coming out, especially because the current line-up was weak and I was eager to express some excitement over Belgian strong dark ales and such.

Steel Toe Collision Course Double IPA, at the brewery, April 4. I'm on the hunt for bottles. Hope it's not sold out!
Unfortunately, the brewery whose taproom I have served in from the start, which I waited 2 1/2 months to open, enduring unemployment and staying just above the poverty line, has decided to carry on without me. Not going to go into the details, wouldn't be prudent, na--- ga--- da--- (read that, of course, as Dana Carvey as George Bush.) Fine. Whatever. Moving on. Now the question is will I continue to visit them and drink and review their beers, this time not holding back with my opinions? Maybe. Just maybe. But not until I'm re-employed. Which actually took about 3 days.

So, I'm posting this to inform my readers of this change in my life (I'll tell you where I land later). And just for kicks, here's some beers I've had recently that weren't beer reviews (some were, previously), but I did take their pictures. Cause. Just 'cause. Enjoy. (And these are just the beers I took pictures of, there are plenty that got away. )
Dave's BrewFarm's The Bruiser, at the source, April 12. I enjoyed this so much, I have to finally at last admit that this one should be listed among my all-time favorite beers. Such deliciousness.

Simpson's Scottish Ale, at the Surly taproom, April 26, also enjoyed this past Sunday, May 9. A tasty, bold Scottish style made with a new malt from Simpsons, available only at the brewery. And yet another inadvertent nod to creations of Matt Groening (see also: Bender, Surly (one of the Duff mascots at Duff Gardens), Moe's Bender.)

Also 4/26, the newest edition of Pentagram, which is amazing. I've not enjoyed a beer so fine since  The Bruiser.

April 17, Sisyphus. Imperial Rye.

Fair State Brewing Lactobac: Two Sour Saison,  4/26. Part of the LactoBac series. I need to get back there and have more of this stuff, and talk about these guys more in general. 

May 9. Sisyphus Imperial Stout.

The Winkelman Double  IPA, Fair State, also 4/26.

Town Hall Mango Mama, April 23.

Stay tuned for more, bitter ones.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Harriet USA IPA

Harriet American I.P.A. I'm missing a lot of information on this one. It's on tap at the brewery, with the words "USA IPA" on the chalkboard. That's not it's name, though. It's unusual for a Harriet beer to be without a fanciful, even inscrutable, sometimes unpronounceable name. This was supposed to be part of a series, whose name I've forgotten, of beers that go outside the usual Belgian-/German-style parameters they've been doing for over four years.

Without any technical info at all (I should really check the website and see if it's there…...and it's not.), I'm just going to crack open the growler and see what we will see.

Appearance: clear, golden/amber coloring, large white head, leaving lace, looking great.

Aroma: Bright gleaming citrus notes lead off, a little floral, a touch of spice. A little bit sweet, too, to match the bitter. Reminds me of West Side, just a smidgeon.

Taste: Big, bold bitterness blasts the palate, nothing but citrusy hops and sweet malt. Beautifully balanced. I'd guess the ABV at 6.5 or so, maybe 7. And I can't shake this similarity with West Side, there's a distinctive Belgian-esque feeling in the flavor.

Well, it's darned fine American IPA, and it's almost gone, sold entirely at the taproom, as far as I know. Bring it back, Harriet, let's have some more!

Tin Whiskers Wheatstone Bridge

Tin Whiskers Wheat Stone Bridge. Well, that's how it reads. Is it Stone Bridge Wheat, actually? {No, it's Wheatstone Bridge. Read more here.)It's 1 pint, 6 fluid ounces. 5.4% alc./vol. This beer was bottled in 2015 on the month below: March. American Wheat Ale brewed with natural flavors. Brewed and bottled by Tin Whiskers Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Appearance: clouded, pale yellowish hue, slim ivory head.

Aroma:  soft, slightly sweet, and wheat. Orange and lemon, mmm, mmm.

Taste: starts out spicy, just a little, then comes the smooth malt, the sweetness and the wheat malt. Tasty stuff, and easy on the tongue. Spice jumps back in (cinnamon? really?), fruit rolls on up, and the smooth carries you out. Good. Not the greatest, but it is beer, and you can drink it.

What's the label want us to know? "A refreshing and relaxing brew that combines wheat, honey and chamomile in perfect harmony." Is that what it is? "Appearance: white head with a golden color. Mouthfeel: light body with a silky mouthfeel. Taste: earthy with hints of apple and floral sweetness. Aroma/Nose: strong smell of chamomile with some fruit and malt."

Odd. I didn't pick up on the chamomile, never would have guessed about it.  Or honey. Now that I bring it back up the lips and send it down the throat, oh, yeah, that's there., alright. That's what I was tasting as the "spice." Well, it's there, but who the hell would have expected it? Who puts tea and honey in a beer? Well, they did. And it's a beer and yeah, you can drink it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Nebraska Eos Hefe Weizen

Nebraska Eos Hefe Weizen, 5.2% Alc./Vol, 13 IBU. Brewed and packaged by Nebraska Brewing, La Vista, NE, USA.

I poured it into a traditional hefe weizen glass, but the contents of this 12 ounce can don't quite fill it, nor does the head take over half the glass, as it ought.

Appearance: hazy, straw yellow to gold coloring, with a large white head that drifts down to nil.

Aroma: banana and clove are right on time, with orange and lemon just behind. Sweet, fruity, wheat-y, and delightful. Lovely.

Taste: Sweet wheat malt, tantalizing wizen yeast, low to moderate hops, fruit and spice, excellently consumable. Medium bodied. Hits all the marks for an on-the-money hefe weizen. Kind of beer I can drink in plentitude come summer time.

Time to decipher the verbiage on the side of the can, what we call here at the Nib, the gobbledygook: "Eos, the Goddess of the Dawn, is fitting for the golden aspects of the color and sticking aromatics this unfiltered Bavarian-style hefeweizen beer delivers. Medium body and a huge banana-like aroma creates a wonderful drinkability unlike many others. Immensely pleasurable."

Beer's good. Can copy's atrocious.

New Belgium Slow Ride Session IPA

New Belgium Slow Ride Session IPA, brewed and canned by New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado. Alc. 4.5% by Vol. India Pale Ale. All aluminum please recycle.

Appearance: bright golden coloration, largely clear, lovely white head.

Aroma: everything you want in an IPA. Lemon and lime meet fresh pine flavors. Bold, even aggressive, slightly sweet, and plentifully fruity.

Taste: Bittersweet hop attack up front, followed by little. Bitterness reigns supreme, but there's no bottom here. I can't really rally behind this utter lack of malt. If all you want is hops, and little else, and feel that'll suit you pint after pint, glass after glass, can after can, go for it. I don't get a lot of joy from this one.

It is beer, I can drink it, but it leaves me a little hollow. This session IPA fad, I feel is a bit of a con. Who really likes them? I don't know anyone who does, but someone's drinking them. Do they? Like them, I mean. Do they like only the hop flavor, and nothing else. An excellent ploy, to feed the hop beast, and save on malt costs. Well done, clever breweries, well played.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dieu du Ciel Derniere Volant Belgian-style IPA

Here's something odd. I don't remember having this beer before. But, apparently I did. Unaware of that, I picked this up and wrote some notes on it last night.

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel ! (sic) Derniere Volonte Belgian-style India Pale Ale, 7% Alc./Vol. Brewed and bottled by Microbrasserie Dieu du Ciel, St.-Jerome, Quebec. Product of Canada.
It's been a bit since I had something from these guys. Looking forward to this one.

Appearance: hazed, pale golden coloring, lots of suspended yeast floating about, under a voluminous ivory head, leaving lace.

Aroma: Beautiful Belgian yeast notes, all the grace and light spicy/fruity notes of a Belgian pale ale or a triple, very nice. Slight citrus hints shining through, too.

Taste: Juicy fruit grabs the palate first, floods the tongue, with citric and piney hop notes popping out. Belgian ethereality (some call it bubblegum) emanates throughout. Light, bright and shiny. Lean-bodied, with a long, bittersweet finish.

Time to read the tiny print on the label. Getting glasses on…okay…"Derniere Volonte (French for "last will") is a mix of English and Belgian brewing traditions. Complex flavours of hop flowers and spicy, fruity esters from our Belgian yeast are perfectly balanced with the robust flavors and aromas of malt. The finish is commandeered by an assertive aroma from dry-hopping."

It's a distinctively Belgian-style take on the Belgian IPA, versus those America styled ones you get in America. And I like it. Good beer, you can drink it. (Though it isn't exactly cheap. Nothing good ever is.)

So, I went to BeerAdvocate and found that it's been around since 2004, and I wrote this in 2009:

Clouded amber color, with multiple floating fellers...smallish white head.

Clean,hoppy aroma...bright citrus notes jumping out, vibrant lemon and orange, with a hint of spice.Lovely.

Brisk carbonation...Spicy, hoppy blitz on the palate, buzzes along... medium bodied,long,hoppy finish...definite Belgian yeast character at work.

Good stuff here. I could drink it and drink it.

Town Hall Andy's Ale

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Andy's Ale. I'm missing information about this one, but it's been around for years. I just keep missing it. It was originally released when long-time bartender Andy…whatsyername, Andy? S-something…I'll think of it soon…well, when he left for California. And they keep making the thing. Like I said, I don't have the facts and ingredients in front of me, but why don't we just start drinking it, eh?

Appearance: clear, clean, amber, slight white head.

Aroma: lightly hoppy aromatics. Matched well with malt, minor bitterness, major fruity esters.

Taste: Interesting and complex in flavor. Hop forward, with an intriguing mix of fruity association, apples, apricots, white grapes, with an astringent hop texture that never quits. Body is medium, with a long, bittersweet finish. Again, I'm missing information, but it seems like it's about 5 to 6 percent ABV. A delicious pale ale, for sure.

I've looked on the Town Hall website, and it's no longer there. Wish they'd have an archive section, with all the old, retired beers. calls it an American Pale Ale, lists it as 6.6% ABV, and says that it's retired/no longer brewed. Added by BigHuge on 12-10-11. Man, I haven't seen Hugey in a while. Good thing he's holding things down on the Town Hall front. Better than I am, I guess.

Une Annee Tripel

Une Annee Tripel Abbey Ale, alc. 8.7% by vol. Une Annee Brewery LLC, Chicago, IL. Much thanks to Mike for passing this bottle on to me. Now, to drink.

Appearance: hazed, amber/golden hued, under a slight, ivory head.

Aroma:  large spice, big fruit, citrus and coriander aplenty. Plump and getting plumper. Pepper looms large over lemon.

Taste: On the tongue, it's a tussle. This is a full-bodied tripel, with loads of flavor. Hops, spice, yeast, malt, all getting it done. This could be more delicate, more refined, more la-de-da, but, brother, it ain't. Kind of big and boisterous. It's not the smoothest, but it's got it where it counts.

Time to read the label. "The triple is often considered the most approachable of Belgian ales. An exuberant flaxen hue, ours has a medium body with big fruit flavors, moderate spice, and hint of American hops poking through."

That's some odd gobbledygook. But I get the point. This is no traditional triple. But it's an alright interpretation. Just alright, though. Just alright.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Biking to Beer, Part 3: Up And Down The Avenue

Hey, everybody. It's been a while since the last installment of this project of mine to visit and re-visit all the local breweries by bike, (see part one here, and part two here)people have started to notice and wonder if I gave up. No, what I did was suspend it for the month of April, that tease of a month. Can't decide whether the weather should be nice or not. That's it, I'm blaming it on the weather. And I'm paring down the ambition. The previously published intention to take on "3 or 4" at once in a particular day, while having a couple of beers at each, will have to be scaled back. I can't have eight beers in a day and still write up a good post.

I have still done plenty of biking to beer in the interim, like the Friday night I went to Steel Toe in St. Louis Park (the second time ever for me, for reasons still not explained), following it with a trip to Sisyphus. And last Sunday, when Jason, Brandon, and I did Surly, Republic Seven Corners (because Town Hall was closed for cleaning), Boom Island, and Fair State (my second visit there). Did not take notes, nor take many pictures, so it doesn't qualify. The project will resume soon.

But, I have two entries to publish from the past, and here's one of them...

Along comes Wednesday, March 25, third day of my project, and I found myself in the same situation as the Wednesday before, doing internet stuff at the East Lake Library, which closes at 5 pm. Last Wednesday, I took off from there and put in my visit to brewery #1, Harriet, two blocks away. This time, the first stop was Day Block Brewing on Washington Avenue, and this was the plot: from Lake Street and 28th Avenue to 27th, all the way past Franklin straight through to Riverside, Riverside to Cedar, Cedar to Washington, down to 10th Avenue.

A Wednesday at 5:20, it was a little slow, but that was soon to change. I glanced at the chalkboard and found something new, which is part of this process, after all. Belgian-style Triple IPA. Right up my alley. All the spice and sweetness and the Belgian yeast goodness of a triple, plus all the extra hops you want. Best of both worlds. Loved it. My favorite Day Block beer yet? Possibly.
Hey, here's some info on the Belgian Triple IPA (still on tap: 
Brewed in the style of a Belgian Triple with the finest Pilsner malt in the world, and hopped like an IPA with Czech Republic’s Saaz. This beer is brewed as traditionally as can be here in MN. It has lots of grassy green notes from the hops and a solid semi-sweet malty backbone to carry the 44 pounds of hops.
From there, I moved on to the ExtraOrdinary Bitter, and I liked that one, too. It certainly was no ordinary ESB. ….Lastly, I took a smaller pour of Frank's Red Ale. It was a red ale, a good beer and you can drink it. Nothing wrong with that. I've tried to reconcile what people don't like about it. I've concluded that they don't like red ales. Well, they're not for everyone, especially if you're expecting too much. The offerings at Day Block change quite a bit, but they don't settle with keeping a cream ale or a light lager on all the time, Franks' is kind of their "go-to" boring beer.

I've been happy with the beers from Day Block, happier than other friends of mine. I'm not certain I understand what their problem is, so I smile and nod and let the conversation turn. I do want to like them more, but I could say that about a lot of stuff.

My visit to Day Block Brewing took a little under two hours, but there was a slight interruption in the plans when I decided to stop in at Big Brain Comics, across the street,  and pick up some graphic novels. Some money spent and four color fantasies acquired, I adjusted my plans just a little. Two of the brewpubs I intended to visit were open late, but the Boom Island Brewing Company Boom Room, what they call their taproom, closes at 9. So, I went north on Washington, which counts down along the avenues, then counts back up again after hitting Hennepin, our major artery. That puts the distance from Day Block to Boom Island at at least 30 city blocks, give or take.

The bartender on duty was the same who's served me each time I've been there (Jim, I believe he is called), if memory serves. I inquired whether it was always so mellow on a Wednesday, and he said yeah, but there was also competition from basketball. No TVs broadcasting sporting events in this drinking establishment, instead a screen over the bar showing slides on a constant loop, sometimes the owners' photos from Belgian trips, sometimes just random pictures of Belgium, and once in a while an old black and white movie.
Artificial light illuminates bombers at the Boom Room.

I find the devotion of the owners, Kevin and ----Welch, to Belgium and it's culture utterly endearing. Their love for it shows everywhere, and that may be why I haven't fully embraced them, oddly enough. With all that affection that they show for Belgian styles, I want the beers to match that  quality. I've been hyper-critical of Boom Island because I want them to equal their own hype, and find that it doesn't always get there. Is good enough good enough?

I looked at the chalkboard and ordered from him the one beer that I knew I'd never had, one called Zarathirstra. I asked him why that name, instead of Zarathustra? "It's a play on words" he told me. Well, duh, I didn't say to him, but my question was really "why that terrible pun?" No matter, the beer was fine despite the name. A cool, clean, hoppy Belgian bitter, which isn't an especially well known style.

I wanted to choose the Saison for my second, for I couldn't recall whether I'd had it before, but it was sold out. So, I chose a Noire, their Belgian Black IPA, a style that doesn't really exist. If it did, though, this would be a fine example.

I enjoyed the cool vibe at the Boom Room, so calm and serene, cool music playing, an oasis of sorts. No noisome televisions blasting sports, no damaging decibels of an over-crowded room bursting with beer-soaked blowhards. I enjoy a convivial atmosphere as much as the next man, but too much shouting and hooting from drunkards and d-bags does my brian in. All these things considered, I'm going to start liking Boom Island a lot more from now on. They definitely deserve my respect and attention.

Back on the bike, it was time to turn tail in the night and venture from North Minneapolis to what we call the North Loop neighborhood and The Free House Brewpub. I've been there twice before, as part of my project to visit all the breweries in the city by bike back in mid-June of last year, and my other project to stop at all of the brewpubs on my birthday, which was a Monday in late June. On the first occasion, I tried the kolsch (keeping the consumption small) and found it satisfactory. The second time, I tried an IPA, enjoyed it, contemplated ordering another and watched as the bartender passed my empty glass without any interest. When that happens, I sometimes think that the server clearly doesn't have any interest in serving me, and I go elsewhere.

So, here it is around 9:15 on a Wednesday, and the bar is active while the restaurant is kind of dead. Many libations are being enjoyed, wine, cocktails, and the occasional beer. Once again, the hapless staff were outfitted in those deplorable uniforms, denim shirts, bow ties and suspenders. I glanced through the beer list and found that they had four beers labeled 1 through 4 and four more in various random numerations going as high as 21. I don't remember what number went with which, but I chose the Double IPA, and I liked it. The West Coast IPA, however, was not impressive, and lacked the necessary luster.

I have a friend who said that he felt that he was the least attractive person there when he paid the Free House a visit. They're not that pretty, those patrons of the Free House, but they do dress a little nicer.

I left Free State unsatisfied. So there's a local brewing company that I have no interest in, so what. Hey, maybe there's another we can scratch of the list and not return to? So he thinks as he gets back on the bike and go from Washington Avenue to Hennepin and then westward to 9th Avenue and the Rock Bottom Brewing Company, part of a national chain, and part of Minneapolis' brewing scene since 1993.

I worked a block away from this place for many years, and never stopped in, though the reason is no mystery if you read part one of this series. I didn't see the appeal in such a place. How could I trust that their beer was any good? Why would I take the chance? Just get a six-pack of Summit to take home, catch a movie on cable, and enjoy. That was me in the 1990's.

It wasn't until the early 2000's that I finally went in, either before or after a show at the next door Orpheum Theater. I think it was "Mr. Show Live." This was back when Todd Haug was head brewer. The beer I had then was a saison, and I was impressed. When Todd left in 2005 to start Surly, it went to the able hands of Brion Tonnis, who departed the place to found Bent Paddle in Duluth. There have been several changes of hands since, and I've heard rumors that things have gotten more corporate lately. My last visit was on that birthday tour last summer, and I stopped into RB for the first time in a while, to find a tasty Belgian IPA on tap. Maybe things weren't so bad?

I walked in, and found that the signage that once advertised and announced locally themed brews particular to this location were gone, replaced by strictly Rock Bottom related branding, with no tie-in to this particular geography or iconographic elements. I scanned the chalkboard for something interesting.  I completely forgot what it was, but it was dark, that's all that I remember. I feel very embarrassed that I've forgotten,  but the beer itself, whatever it was, was okay, nothing special. (I'm going to guess that it was a "black IPA", but that's all I can do. I made a later visit to check and the beer name was wiped from the chalkboard.) After a bit, my co-worker Chad came in, and joined me. He's a regular here, it seems, and knew the bartender well. I joined him in another beer, and this time the Baltic Porter came in a Mug Club glass. I think I actually am a Mug Club member, but I lost my card long ago, and I don't know anyone who works there anymore. The beer was rote, by the numbers, along the dotted lines. If I lived a few blocks away, like Chad, I'd stop in for a beer and make friends with the staff, but I don't really think there's any point in having any allegiance with this brewery. When you look around and think about the breweries that we have, how original their outlook is, how singular their visions can be, and compare it to a chain, there's no question.

The brewpubs are the breweries open more often, more days and with longer hours. Why did I visit them on a Wednesday, instead of a Sunday, when many of the taprooms aren't open? The weather factors, mostly. It's still too chilly to spend much time and effort getting around. In a few weeks, we'll be over that. I've done 10 Minneapolis breweries in 3 days over a week, several beers at each. That's only a dozen left to go for the city of Minneapolis, but I also intend to stitch out to the suburbs, and St. Paul, too.


A few days later, I ventured to visit a brewery in St. Paul for the first time, then biked to NorthEast to re-visit a brewery there, my second time. That coming soon, and then we begin again.

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...