Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wasatch Black O'Lantern Pumpkin Stout

Wasatch Black O'Lantern Pumpkin Stout Brewed with Pumpkin and Spices. 6.5% Alcohol by volume. "Proudly brewed in Utah."

Full-on blackness, toasted tan head on top.

A little roasty in the nose, then some vegetal whiffs....not picking up much from spices just yet. Not getting much of anything, really.

In the mouth, there's some espresso and cocoa, I guess some pumpkin, ...maybe...possibly spices? Clove? Pepper? Pumpkin? Huh. Hmmm.


I'm going to skip ahead and read the label: "Alone in his laboratory one stormy night, a madman crossed an imperial stout with pumpkin to create this frankenbrew. How good is it? Well, scary good. Food pairings: Eye of newt. Devils' Food cake."

The thing is, though, it's not. Maybe some eye of newt would help it, who knows. Promised flavors did nothing, and the ones that were there were off, off, off. I'd steer clear of this if I were you.

Root Sellers Row Hard Root Beer

Root Sellers Formidable Fermentaries Row Hard Root Beer. 6.7% Alcohol by Volume.



So, these days, the thing is hard root beer. Not Your Fathers. Or Your Grandfathers. And here's another one. It was "gifted" to me by a Sample Man. I don't even know who, it just showed up. I suppose if I love it and need to sell it, I'll find out. That's the question, though. Will I love it? Will it be wonderful? Let's find out...

Dark brown coloring, no head, dull brown highlights...

Root beer aromatics. What are those exactly? How often do we think of the flavors of a root beers? We just drink it, we don't dissect it. What, then, are these? Cola, clove, ...tree bark? Gosh, I'm stumped. What do we talk about when we talk about root beer? I'm rooting around the forest and digging up the dirt. What is it?

Taste: In the mouth, yeah, it tastes like root beer. Bubbly, fresh, zingy, spicy, ...but not resembling beer, at all. Missing the malt, and hops are absent. Sweet, spicy, rustic...but not beery.
Is this thing supposed to be a beer that tastes like a root beer, as Not Your Father's claims? Let's read the label.......Government warnings...nutrition facts...ah, ingredients: "water, sugar, molasses, natural flavors, sodium bicarbonate, Gum Arabic, and spices."

So, it's not a beer that tastes like a root beer, it's a root beer, with booze, somehow. And I'm getting it, that pleasant feeling in my brain is coming along nicely.

Wait, there's more! "Root Beer is a quintessentially American beverage first brewed by colonist using domestic roots, herbs and spices. These historic small beers did not contain much alcohol. Root Sellers has created a BIG root beer with an alcoholic content that pays homage to it's roots...and, yes, it's great with ice cream. No wheat, no barley, no gluten...You're Welcome." Root Sellers, Memphis, Tenn. "It's a Jolly Good Day for a Boat Flight!"

I don't care for this. It remains beyond my understanding why anyone would want to get high off of a soft drink. Adult drinks have adult flavors. Come on, it's just silly. I'll drink root beer when I'm not trying to get lifted. Plain and simple. The notion of getting drunk off of a root beer....actually, I did a comic strip about it when I was eight years old. I was a freaking visionary. Wish I'd kept the collected comic works of the young Al. Signs of things to come....

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Oliphant Eleventacles Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

Oliphant Eleventacle Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, 8% ABV, somerset, WI.

I had been in the habit of snapping photos of Oliphant's chalkboard on my visits and sharing the illustrations here. But the last time, when I got this crowler, we didn't have a seat at the bar, and I didn't feel like being that geek who gets in people's way to take a picture. Just trust me that there were tentacles involved. Or, more accurately, eleventacles.

Dark brown appearance, with ruby-ish highlights, under a thin, soon-gone, brownish head.

Deep, malty nose, chocolate notes, caramel and toffee, too. Just enough sweetness. And not too much.

In the mouth. it's full, rich and impressive. Dark and delicious. Nearly thick. Moderate bitterness keeps up with the sweet. Perfect balance here. Pretty near excellent, if not exactly that.

Yum. this one hits the mark. Although, my favorite Oliphant beer remains Gaer Bear Baltic Porter, which I oddly haven't returned home with to review. They did have the barrel-aged anniversary version on that last visit, and that's the growler we'll visit next.

Great Lakes Oktoberfest

The sample man came around again, and this time he brought me a seasonal from Ohio's Great Lakes Brewing Company. I never thought to check whether I'd had it before, and wrote these notes:

Great Lakes Oktoberfest,a Marzen -style lager. 6.5% Alc. by vol. 20 IBU. Cleveland, Ohio.

Clear, amber/copper-y colored, lush, long-lasting snow-white head above.

Herbal aromatics, clean and slightly sweet, grassy.

In the mouth, it's a crisp, malty affair, lean and easy-drinking. Definitely downable, with a slight finish. Light caramel malt flavor, classic noble hop character. Fresh and, frankly, delicious.

Telling the truth, I like marzens that are a little beefier than this. just a bit heartier. . Nothing wrong with this, though, nothing at all.

Is there copy on the label to shed some light upon it? "Prost! Our take on the classic German style is a celebration of malitiness packed with rustic, autumnal flavors to put a little more oomph into your oom-pah-pah."

And then I discovered that I wrote this….


Clear and bright bronze/copper in appearance, creamy, off-white brief head.

Aroma: perfect marzen nose, rich malty, shiny cereal, sweet, yet slightly sharp. Pleasantly herbal.

Taste: Tasty amber lager. Smooth on the tongue. Pleasingly malty, rich. Great drinkability. Lays just long enough on the palate, then keeps it on the sly for a while. Swims lightly, keeping the malty marzen flavor going.

…..back in September, 2010, just before I started this blog. Well, they're both true. Go ahead, enjoy one. 

Fargo O-fest

Fargo Oktoberfest. Fargo Brewing, Fargo, North Dakota.

Clear and coppery, brief off-white head.

Herbal aromatics, maltiness in the nose, grainy and grassy, light hops, moderate sweetness.

In the mouth, it's a moderate body, low hops, minor bitterness, just enough to keep time with the sweet. Smooth and malty, caramel and a little toffee, too. Nice and herbal and earthy.

Just what a marten/o-fest ought to be. Nice one, North Dakota.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Indeed Wooden Soul #3

Indeed Wooden Soul #3. Indeed Brewing, Minneapolis, MN. 750 ml growler purchased at the taproom.

Clouded, dull amber coloring, slim white head.

Funky stuff starts it off right away in the nose, wild and fruity. There's some fruit addition in this, but it doesn't identify itself right away. I'm loving the sour aroma.

In the mouth, more sour, more fruit. Some kind of berries in here, some kind of barrels, some kind of wild yeast. I'm going to cheat and read the description for you. And me.

"Barrel & Cherry aged tart, crisp sour blonde ale. 5.2% ABV. 14 IBU."

Cherries, yeah, that's what it was. Doesn't say what barrels, but I'd guess white wine. Nice and tart and fruity. I'm particularly fond of tart cherry beers...to a point. I will enjoy all 750 milliliters of this one. And urge you to go try it for yourself. It's delicious.

Oliphant Dr. Richard Punch Milk Stout

Oliphant Dr. Richard Punch milk stout, 4.7% alc./vol. 1 quart/ 32 fluid ounces, somerset, wi.

Dark, dark, dark, with a rich, roasted tan head on top.

Aromatics: Creamy, lightly roasted/toasted, sweet and malty.

Taste: what can you say about milk stout? Smooth, creamy, rich, but drinkable. Cocoa and cream. Hop buzz is high, making for great balance. I said smooth, right? I said rich and creamy? I said milk stout? It's all those things and more.

I like it. Good beer. You can drink it. Cheers to that.

I was curious about why Dr. Steve Brule, John C. Reilly's character on "Awesome Show! Good Job!" was next to Dr. Richard Punch. Was he the illustration for this beer on the chalkboard? No, he was there for the beer before it, and they left him on, keeping the Dr. theme. 

Rush River Small Axe Golden Ale

More journeys through time. Looking back at my original notes on one of Rush River's earliest releases, the Small Axe Golden ale, from August of 2004:



Rush River's "own version of the classic hefe weizen with a Midwestern twist", brewed with white wheat from Wisconsin, but only 40% of the grain bill, "engineered to appeal to those favoring a lighter beer." I think they did the trick with this one.
Pours out a pure, golden hue, hazy, with a slim white head, at least in this sampling. Aroma is zesty, and promises some of the typical weizen aromatic delights, but falls a bit short. There's a lively, citric feel in the nose, but it doesn't flower as full as a Bavarian weizen would, nor does it intend to, I hasten to remind myself.
Taste is smooth and lemony, mixed with orange, lacking the twang and the bite one might look for in a hefe, but, again, that's not what this is, it's built for smoothness, and that's what it delivers. There's just enough taste here to make a beer fan happy, and enough lightness to make a non-beer fan satisfied. It's a niche that needs to be entertained, and this will do it. Not if your idea of a "light beer" is yellowy water, though, for the flavor fills the mouth, feels flush with fruit, though never too much, and then mellows, and ultimately finishes dryly. Bright orange and lemon charcter continue throughout the drink.
A very interesting alternative, I'd like to see this as a next step up from "lite beer" drinkers, those who really aren't into hefes, perhaps, but would like a little more in their glass of beer than what BMC are putting out.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Alesmith X Extra Pale Ale

The sample man continues to rain Alesmith bottles on me. I should consider buying some, shouldn't I? That's how they get you, the sample men, give you all the samples and make you feel obligated. There are a lot of considerations, but I will keep them on top of my lists. Considering that I wrote this back in July, 2003 about Alesmith X Extra Pale Ale, from Alesmith Brewing, San Diego, California, American Pale Ale, 5 % ABV.

Appearance: very pale, lightly orangey color, with a nice, blooming white head.

Aroma: big with the fruit, sweet rich with peach, aprricot, grapefruit, citrus, in that order, and a touch of spikey pine sensation.

Taste: mellow, sweet, yummy, bowling over with fruitiness, and never too hoppy.
Decent texture, light/medium bodies, moderate bitterness.

A very acceptable American-style Pale Ale, easy coming, easy-going, tasty, and a pleasure to throw back.

Surly Devil's Work Porter

Surly Devil's Work Robust Porter, brewed with blackstrap molasses and star anise. 6.6% ABV (Okay, 6.66, because, you know, the Devil and all that.) Created last year as an homage to an album by some band called Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and their local debut. Now, Surly is making it periodically, and guess what, I got a keg for Acadia. Finally sat down to write notes, before it's too late.


Solid brown body, cocoa-toned head, stays slim, lasts long.

Chocolate in the nose, molasses lurks beneath, dark malts rule the realm.

In the mouth, it lives up to the pre-fix. Robust is the word. Full-bodied, for sure, and brimming with flavor. The star anise starts to kick in, and the spice is an excellent companion to the sweetness of the dark malts and the molasses. The palate turns dry with each new exit from the mouth. Spices tingle, hops do a turn on the tongue. Nicely hopped. (Oh, I forgot, I shouldn't say "nice" concerning anything Surly. "Wickedly"? Will that do?)

 This is my kind of beer, and a lower ABV than some other rich, malty porters or stouts, it's not doing too much damage after a pint or two. I like that. It's a good beer, and dammit, I can drink it.

Dave's BrewFarm En Garde Biere de Garde

The changing of the guard is happening now at Dave's BrewFarm, still DBA as DBF until year's end, says Farmer D. A young, fresh face is training under Dave to take over the brewing when the changeover takes place. This is his first beer, a 5.6% Biere de Garde called En Garde. Let's drink it.

A deep reddish hue, off-white head, slim, but staying.

Malt-forward nose, rich and slightly fruity. Nice balance, minor hops.

In the mouth, it's a sweet one, but not overly so. Clean and even, fine drinkability. Little bit of earthiness and herbalaceousness. Smooth. Tasty stuff. Caramel-ly, toffee-ish, brown suar-like.

Not a bad first effort. Good beer, and you can drink it. A little too on the sweet side, though, but there's time and room for improvement.

Here's what Farmer Dave says: "Ben's first creation! He combined Pale, Caramel 120 and Rye malts, Columbus and Crystal hops and fermented with a Biere de Garde yeast. You don't need to be "on your guard" with this tasty beer!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Indeed Derailed Imperial Double Danger Chocolate Nitro Whiskey Queen Milk Stout (or D.I.D.D. C.N.W.Q.M.S.)

Indeed D.I.D.D.C.N.W.QM.S. (Derailed Imperial Double Danger Chocolate Nitro Whiskey Queen Milk Stout), Indeed Brewing, Minneapolis, MN. 10% ABV.

I stopped into Indeed's taproom to get a growler, but, seeing this, ended up with two. I can't resist a beer like this, however…

This is a beer that my friend Liz would hate, based on name alone. Tell her you've got a great Imperial Coconut Kumquat Berliner Weisse, aged on lychee and lichens, and she'll politely pass. Too many words in that name, thank you. Can't you just call it George?

Thick, solid blackness, rich voluminous headiness, vast cocoa-toned foam.

Profound cocoa notes, deep darkness, cavernous reservoirs of chocolate, dark rum, mollasses, and more. Whoa.

In the mouth, ever-so-much more. Dripping with chocolate, flooded with other dark flavors. Thick, rich and dense. Full-bodied, malty as they get, with a long, rich, interminal finish. Hops are high, but barely keep up with malt. Delicious. Exactly what I want from a …what is this, again?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A name like this begs more questions that it offers answers.   Is there whiskey? Doesn't taste like it, seems like they're just riffing on their other imperial stout, Rum King. Is it really "Imperial Double"? Of course. "Danger Chocolate Nitro..."? They're goofing on their NorthEast neighbor, Dangerous Man, and their popular Chocolate Milk Stout. Is there  milk? Not sure. Is it Nitro? Of course not. I think. I'm presuming a lot of the descriptions in here are just a joke, much like Dave's  BrewFarm's Imperial Double series.

Whatever it is, I love it. But it will undoubtedly undergo a name change if it is offered outside the brewery. May I suggest "Melvin"?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

56 Brewing Polonaise American Pale Ale


56 Brewing American Pale Ale.

Dusky bronze. Creamy, lasting head. Looks nice.

Citric, grassy nose. Malty undertones, caramel and vanilla. Interesting.

In the mouth, bitterness grabs the palate first, then juicy malt rushes up and keeps time with the hops. Creamy, caramel-toned malt flavors start to dominate, and it ends out dryly on the palate. Turning soft, smooth, and creamy, nicely balanced.

This does not say "American Pale Ale" to me, for it's too malty and herbally sweet. APAs should be hoppy and lean. Feels more like an English-style pale ale, with an American hop twist. It's not bad, but it's not what I really want. I'm sure someone likes it, but as for me...eh...

Here's what the brewery tells us:

Polonaise APA
POLONAISE APA:  American Pale Ale
Color: Red

Description: The polonaise is a dance of Polish
origin in 3/4 time. Its name is French for “Polish.”!
The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of
the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska,
and the two dances have a common origin. Polonaise
is a widespread dance in carnival parties. Polonaise
is always a first dance at a studniówka (“hundreddays”),
Polonaise is a Polish dance and is one of
the five historic national dances of Poland NE MPLS
is HOME to many polish decedents and historic
“Nye’s Polonaise Room”

DESCRIPTION:

This is an easy drinking American pale ale. It has a
dark golden color and pleasant citrus aroma. The
flavor starts off with a caramel sweetness and
finishes with tones of grapefruit which lingers after
each sip. It is a favorite among the staff.

It is brewed with 3 different malts and 3 different
hops.

Pairs well with: BURGERS or Fish, Gorgonzola

ABV: 5.4%
IBU: 38
SRM: 11

The Bruery Jardinier


The Bruery Jardinier Belgian-style Pale Ale, Brewed and bottled by the Bruery, Placentia, California/

Bright golden color, slim ivory head, highly hazed.

Belgian yeast at play in the nose, musty and fusty, a little wild and funky. Hay, straw, and lemon. A little spice and ever so nice.

In the mouth it's fresh and flavorful, bright and lively. Citrus fruit flavors some spice, a little tart. Light hops, light malt, lean-bodied. It's exactly what it's supposed to be: a low alcohol, exquisitely drinkable, "table beer", for accompanying a meal or passing the day away.

On the label: "Jardinier, which is French for "gardener", is inspired by the fresh, sessionable beers on the Belgian dinner table. A perfect beer for any occasion, casual or ornate. Jardinier is best enjoyed fresh."

On the front: "A bright and flavorful table beer, with an assertive hop character."

Well, that says something. I think it "light hops", they call it "assertive." My threshold is high.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fair State LactoBac 7 (fill in your own damn umlauts)


Fair State Lactobac 7. Once more, I open the growler after forgetting what's in it, by which i mean, what's this LactoBac all about. Is it the sour saison? Are there blueberries involved? No, blackberries? Some kind of fruit. All I remember is that I tried it the first day they released it at the taproom, nearly two weeks ago. And I liked it. So, what is it?

Thoroughly clouded, deep crimson coloring, pinkish head, long-lasting. Looking like a raspberry smoothie.

In the nose, the fruit and the funk. Not so much "sour" yet, but definitely tart. And a little strange, too.

In the mouth, sourness reigns, a drying, puckering tartness takes over the palate, occasionally refreshed by fruit. For the life of me, I can't determine which fruit puree is in here exactly, but odds are it's blackberry. And, damn it, it works. The weird funk of the lactobacillus at work is beautifully offset by the berries. Medium-bodied, not a bit bitter, with just enough malt heft to hold it aloft.

This is a rough and rustic brew, not a refined product destined to please the masses. There's still particles of puree floating about and sometimes they get caught in my throat.

Here's what they say on the website: LÄCTOBÄC: SEVEN
4.3% ABV | 10 IBU | 10.6 GRAVITY
The seventh installment of the LÄCTOBÄC series is, well, purple. Very purple. A sour wheat with over 200lbs of blackberries added. 4.3% ABV, 10 IBU, pH 3.35.

It's good beer, and I could drink it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Alesmith Anvil Ale ESB

The first bottle of this beer I ever had was from a trade twelve years ago. The last bottle I put past my lips was last night (this morning), from a sample from the local distributor. At last, I don't have to trade or go to Wisconsin for Alesmith. Here are those notes from July, 2003:


ESBs have never been among my favorite styles of brew, often too bland and unmemorable, but I give everything it's chance and soldier on, investigating my first Alesmith bomber.

Appearance: dull red color, fairly tight white head.

Aroma: slightly citric, fruity, but otherwise arid.

Taste: niiiiiice, and tangy, zippy, fruity, very much enjoyed.
Light to medium body, decent finish, good, tangy texture.

Sweet, fruity taste rings through and through the length of the large bottle's contents. A surprising treat, though I've heard so many good things about Alesmith, I shouldn''t have been shocked. One of the best ESBs to have met my lips.

Ballast Point Pumpkin Down


Ballast Point Pumpkin Down Scottish Ale, with Pumpkin, our Piper Down Ale with Pumpkin and Spices. Alc. 5.8% by Vol. Crafted and bottled by Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA.

More skeletons! This one weighted down to the ground by his bagpipes, apparently.

Clear, light brown coloring, slim, beige head that settles soon to nil.

There's the spice right off the bat, cinnamon, allspice, etc., clove, a bit. Maybe there's pumpkin here, too, but I haven't hit it yet.

In the mouth: spices lead the way again, with a hint of the orange gourd just beneath. Malty stuff, slightly sweet, with spices always leading the show. It's mostly spices stealing the spotlight. Not my favorite kind of "pumpkin ale", I like to taste the vegetable flesh, too.

You know what? I like this, but I don't love it. But it is good beer, and I can drink it, so there's something to be said for that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ballast Point Dead Ringer Oktoberfest


Ballast Point Dead Ringer Oktoberfest Traditional Marzen Lager. San Diego, CA. Alc. 6.0% by Vol.

BP has always used aquatic  life on it's labels. Now, they seem to be the skeleton brewery. I suppose we are to imagine a jolly German who perished at sea, still clutching stein and pretzel. Okay, that's cool. Not sure if I get the name, though. If you figure it out, shoot me a line.

Clear, and copper-y colored, with a small head that disappears quickly.

Sweet and malty nose, just a little earthy and herbal.

In the mouth, sweet and malty again. Caramel and toffee, clean and free of bitterness. Drinkable? Of course. It's hearty to a point, too, and tasty, sure, but I'm not in love with this one.
Maybe I'm just not into marzens anymore. It's certainly not a style I look for from an outfit like Ballast Point. "Where's the hops?" I scream in the general direction of San Diego.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Insight Brewing Doe Eyes Saison with Door County Cherries


Insight Brewing Doe Eyes Saison with Door County Cherries.

Only about eight months after their launch, Insight Brewing has undergone a re-branding. There was almost unanimous consent that their logo was terrible. That's been corrected, and the names of the beers have been changed, with back-stories and legends to suit them, with new iconography as well. Some of it is clever, some of it bewildering. For instance, the last entry from Insight on this blog was "Yuzu Pale Ale." Find it now under it's new name, Hell Chicken.

A few weeks ago, I stepped in to see all of this for the first time, and get this beer. Now, at last, I will drink it.

Clear, bright crimson coloring, sizable off-white head, looking good.

Mild cherry notes in the nose. A whiff of farmhouse funk underneath.

Tart and fruity in the mouth, low bitterness, fairly clean malt flavor. Bright, tart, fresh and zesty Door County cherries reign over this saison. Light bodied, easy drinking. Tasty stuff. The saison component of it all is thoroughly drowned out by the cherries, though, as often is the case wit these sorts of beers.

But, as I drink down the growler, I think that it ultimately is not for me. Fun for a little while, but not really what satisfies me. Have I moved beyond fruit beers? I probably did a long time ago. This should be popular, and it ought to be loved by many.

A little more about this re-branding. There's all-new gobbledygook on the back of the growler, and I find it funny, so I'll repeat it here: "For every journey, a story. For every story, a beer. For every beer, a toast to the journeys to come. You hold in your hands the expertly fermented essence of epicness. Every beer we brew is inspired by a chapter in my globe-spanning quest to uncover the secrets of the world's finest beers. And while I have no way of knowing exactly what beer you are on the precipice of quaffing, I know you are drinking it from that most sacred, spumescent of steins: The growler. Please treat this foamy vessel with the reverence it is owed. Feel free to rinse and re-use it, of course. Maybe bring it back in to be re-filled. But do so with a bit of awe. OKAY. You Look Thirsty. Drink On!"
The Brewmaster.

It's an incredibly badly written load of hooey. Note for a moment though that "the Brewmaster" is un-named. I think he is merely a character based on the original brewmaster/co-owner, and they have co-opted his story for use in this new re-branding.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Toppling Goliath Zeelander India Pale Ale


Toppling Goliath Zeelander India Pale Ale.

Hooray, TGB is finally in Minnesota, hooray! But, this one was bought in Wisconsin. Only four of TGB's beers wound up on local shelves, all beers I'd reviewed here before. I checked into getting kegs, but it's off-premise only for another month or so. Oh, yeah, I tried to get kegs of Psuedo-Sue, but I must exercise patience.

Couldn't wait for this one, though, and grabbed it in Hudson, WI.

Zeelander. I don't know what the name means or why there's a plane in the picture. Let's just get into the beer. ( A quick Googling only reveals a yacht manufacturer. Deeper Googling could find more. How deep should I go?)

It's a highly clouded affair, beautiful, golden/amber coloring, milky froth on top.

Subtle aromatics. Grapes are here, maybe apricots, other stone fruits. a little bit of lemon. Very cool, very clean.

In the mouth, it's a bold, fresh blast of bitterness that ends dry and clean. Medium-bodied, fresh and fruity. I like this. Not your average india pale ale. It's tasty, tasty stuff. Just delicious. Juicy malt. Bitter, dry, clean, yum.

What's the gobbledygook? "Zeelander showcases bothe the explosive upfront taste and the gentle nuances in the finish of the Nelson Sauvin hop. It's lingering bitter body brings forward both dankness and grapefruit flavors, delivering a subtle earthy finish that perfectly compliments this hop heavy IPAs explosive beginning."

I'm not entirely down with that. For one, "dankness"...ugh, one of my least favorite beer words.

Whatever, it's a nice one. Go ahead and drink it.  

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Castle Danger Ode IPA

Notes from August 7.

Castle Danger Ode IPA, brewed and packaged by Castle Danger Brewing, Two Harbors, MN. 7% alc. by vol.

Appearance: hazy, bold & golden color, slim white head.

Aroma: orange peel, lemon zest, citrus aplenty. The usual suspects. Nice enough.

Taste: Good and bitter from the start, leading to a juicy malt back. Each new sip brings on new hoppy goodness, and there is an ease in the drinking. Medium bodied, long, hoppy finish. Astringency grows on the palate, but never disturbs. It's just fine. Ain't nothing wrong with it. Adequate beer that can be consumed.

I'd take one in a pinch, but this IPA isn't unseating any of the powerhouses. What do they say about it? This. 


Dave's BrewFarm Les Trois Grains


Dave's BrewFarm Les Trois Grains.

I wasn't there when this one was on tap. There was a growler left over, and I snatched it up, but I couldn't get the official description. It's wrapped around the neck and taped to the bottle. I can only read half of it. All I can tell is...barley, rye and wheat...."A tour de force of grains!" "Nugget and Crystal" 6.4% aBV. "cinnamon" "Fermented"...hm....I'm getting some idea....

Dark, burgundy-hued, smallish, off-white head.

Brown sugar, dark malts, light spice...there's that "cinnamon"...richness and sweetness, with just enough hop for balance. Beautiful.

In the mouth, we're getting the rye, first and foremost, Spicy and bready, and deep and delicious. Other spices mix and mingle. Spicy, malty, richness and goodness. The rye blends with barley and covers the wheat. It's smooth and rough at once and very likable.

Just one of the many fun experiments still to be enjoyed at the LaBrewatory, while we can.

Rush River Scenic Pale Ale


Rush River Scenic Pale Ale. the first pale ale from these guys in, what, 11 years? Can it be true? Sure, they've had ambers, IPAs, double IPAs, etcetera, but not pale ale. Let' s drink one, now that they've corrected that.

Clouded, like all the unfiltered Rush River beers, bright golden colored, lush white head.

Bold, fruity aromatics. Brimming with tropical and citric notes, bursting with hoppiness. plenty of pine. Grapefruit meets pineapple, gloriously.

On the tongue and down the throat, it's fresh, zesty, and delicious. Clean, lean, and terrifically drinkable. One good swallow begs for another. It's a picnic beer, a boat beer, if only it came in cans. It's sitting by the pool beer, and passing time at the pub with pals beer. And if it's good beer and you can drink it, there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Drink this one. Don't expect to be blown away by strangeness and complexity, but drink it, and you'll be happy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Steel Toe Sticker Fight Double India Pale Ale


Steel Toe Sticker Fight Double IPA. 8.5% a.b.v.

Before I drink it, a discussion about the name of this beer. I have no idea what it means. So, don't ask me. But, someone did and I had to guess. Gee, I don't know, someone got into a fight with stickers? There's always a stack of stickers at the point of sale at Steel Toe's taproom. Maybe, one night, the staff was restless and started slapping them on each other? Makes sense, right? Silly, sure, but there are lot worse names out there, a lot of dumber ones, more vulgar ones, incomprehensible ones, and just plain crazy ones. The less said about that, the better. Let's drink a beer.

Clouded, yet bright, golden-hued, with a vast and lasting cloud-white head. Looking incredible, if it's okay to roll out superlatives so early. Well, I'm in charge here, so I say it is okay.

Bright, bold, fierce, fresh, and pithy aromatics. Screams of grapefruit. Freshly ripped rind, dripping with pine. Certain to revive any deprived hophead. This is the juice, the crank, the high grade shit. Ah... just about perfect.

In the mouth and on the palate, it's more of the same, much much more. Totally lupulin pleasure. Bursting with vibrant American hop flavors, lean-bodied, crisp malt, but completely hop-forward. A text-book definition of an amazing double IPA.

The label is typically fresh of gobbledygook, in Steel Toe Style, not even a mention of the ABV. I'd guess 9%, maybe more. Hops? Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy...I'd just be guessing. They could be the usual suspects of Cascade, Centennial, Columbus...I'll look it up. Maybe it's out there somewhere.

The alcohol is slowly creeping into the flavor, and we're getting more of that intensity, the texture grows deeper, the flavors widen. The citrus fruit flavors turn candied, become sharper, more magnified. And this is when it really gets good, as far as I'm concerned. This is going to destroy me, but it is sending me somewhere special, while it tastes so very good.

I will have to consider this one of the best double IPAs I've ever had. Goes right up there with the best of them.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Summit Unchained Batch 19: Make It So, Extra Special Bitter with Earl Grey Tea


Summit Unchained Batch 19: Make It So, Extra Special Bitter, with Earl Grey Tea. Alc. 5.3% ABV.

I've been sitting on this can for far too long. Finished the other 5 weeks ago. Already went through a half barrel keg at Acadia, about to tap a cask. I currently have a surplus of beers. So many beers, so little time. Enough, let's take some notes on the Summit Unchained beer inspired by Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi franchise, as well as Patrick Stewart's homeland.

Beautiful amber/bronze hue, clear, with a long-lastin, creamy-toned, lace-leaving head.

Herbal aromatics and sweet tea notes hit the nose from the start. Hops are fairly minor here. Promising floral loveliness.

In the mouth and on the palate, hop bitterness begins, but remains cool, mild and mellow. Light bodied, smooth and delicious. You can definitely taste the tea in it, and it lends a lot of flavor that blends wonderfully with the beer. There's a lot of skepticism involved in the public perception of a brew like this, but the guys at Summit, Nick Hempfer, Damian McConn, and all their helpers, they really pulled it off.

This is one that wouldn't work in the winter, and is plum perfect for summertime, when a light and tasty one goes down so easy.

This can is completely free of gobbledygook, and I wondered for a moment if it appears on the 6-pack carrier until i realized that cans aren't packaged that way. Why not, I wonder? Who's got an answer for me.

Well, I found some more information, here it is: ....

Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale

Got some more samples, including this guy that I first tried from a 22 ounce bomber received in a trade from a Californian. Let's take a lot at those notes from December, 2003:


Clear and perfectly amber appearance, with a nice 1/4" head of creamy foam above.

Aroma: sweet, rich, & malty, copper-toned, with minor hops.

Taste: warm, rich in flavor, yet smooth, with high drinkability.

Very mellow, but, again, never quits on the fine taste. An excellent session ale, this 22 oz. bomber went down very happily indeed.

Guess what? I still like it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

56 Brewing NE Nectar Honey Kolsch


The sample man from 56 brought more samples. One of them was a 750 ml mini-growleretterino (a name of my invention, feel free to use it as you will) of a beer that they'd already sampled us with, the NE Nectar, a honey kolsch. I didn't like it then, but I tasted it at work, with others. Maybe having it all by myself in the privacy of my home will warm me up to it.


Lightly hazy, amber-hued, slim white head.

Slightly sweet aromatics, but mostly devoid. Not getting much of anything from this nose. Light malt, little hops.

Tasting it, more sweetness, more light malt, and the honey's really coming through.
A little graininess to the malt, a little texture ...not as light and smooth as a kolsch ought to be. I suspect they hold to the same ideas as the brewers at Enki, that all you need to call something a kolsch is the yeast, and you can switch out the malt and hops as you please, altering flavors as you will.

It lacks the delicate but discernible flavors of apple and pear that you'll get when you do a kolsch right. Every good attempt has some of that light fruitiness that pays off in the end. Not happening here.

If their primary aim was a quenchable honey ale fit for summertime refreshment, they came close to their goal. But the flavors are very off, there's  no real coalescing of components, it's just not good. Someone may be drinking it out there, and they're welcome to it, but...well, I said it already. "Good enough" isn't "good enough" for me.

Dave's BrewFarm Waimea Single Hop Lager

It's about time to crack open a growler that I brought home from the BrewFarm a week and a few days ago.

Here come the notes on Waimea Single Hop Lager:


Dave's BrewFarm Waimea Single Hop Lager. 6.4% ABV.

Hazy. bright amber coloring, beautiful ivory head above, leaving lace.

Delicately fruity aroma, a little floral, a touch citrusy, fairly clean.

A little hop attack starts it off, a gentle buzz on the palate. All is smoothness, thereafter. Bright, fresh, and zesty, with a lingering hop presence. Medium/light bodied. Sweet malty body, kept in check by incessant hoppiness. Easy drinking. Straight up deliciousness. I'll have no trouble finishing this growler off.

What's Farmer Dave say about it? "Single hop lager series. Shwocasing a single hop variety in a pale lager. Three separate additions of Waimea hops, Pils, Cara Red and caramel 20 malts."

Another one that makes me say "pale lager"? Pale? Nah....

Northgate Wall's End Brown Ale

Notes from Monday, July 20 (slowly, but surely, I'm getting caught up):


Northgate Brewing Wall's End English style Brown Ale. 4.8% ABV. 19 IBU. SRM 22. 16 oz.

Appearance: light brown coloring, clear, off-white head above, leaving somelace.

Aroma: caramel, nuts, some toffee, some cocoa, a likeable malty nose.

Taste: Sweetness first, with hop bitterness cleaning up swiftly thereafter. Just bitter enough to balance. Tasty malt profile continues to deliver on the palate. Actually a little more than balance, spilling over just a touch. Medium bodied. Drinkable. Likeable. Just like a brown ale oughta be.

You know what people say these days? That brown ales are boring. Well, those are the same people who love a good pilsner, so what do they know? I detest boring browns, but love a good one. Like this one.

The label features the same gobbledy gook as all the other Northgate cans and bottles, but is there more? He wonders? Ingredients: Maris Otter Pale Ale malt, crystal 90 malt, vienna malt, chocolate malt, UK first fold and UK fuggles hops, UK east kent golding hops, English yeast.

"This beer was aptly named for a shipbuilding and dock-working district in Northern England, where Hadrian's Wall comes to an end. This blue collar part of town on the River Tyne reminds of another part of town on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Both light enough for summer and flavorful enough for Minnesota winters, this English-style brown ale is the perfect brew to share with friends or enjoy after the work day is finished."

Goose Island Sofie Saison

Goose Island Sofie saison. I can call this the first beer I ordered for Acadia Cafe. We were set to do an event with Goose Island for their Migration Tour back in July, on a Wednesday, and I was filling in for Jeff, who was on vacation. Our distributor rep told me that we were doing 312 Urban Wheat and Bourbon County Stout, and just for kick I tossed on a 1/6 barrel of this one, too. Imagine my surprise when I sold faster than the Bourbon County. It is July, after all, and as I said when I wrote these notes from a bottle originally, back in January of 2010, it is a good saison.


Goose Island Sofie saison, 6.5% ABV.

Clouded, "white", prodigious head, lively and lovely.

Beautiful, spicy aromatics, coriander, ginger, clove....bright and sprightly.

Spice hits the palate right up front, very spritzy, with delightful spice...Mmmm, smooth,wheaty, easy-drinking, delicious....nice, grainy/grassy texture. Some malty, spicy flavor, then all is smooth...

Spice never quits, never never flags...really great saison!

By the way, I waited a bit too long to snap this pic. The keg ended halfway into the glass. Close enough, I decided.

Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale

Notes from July, 2009:


Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale. American Pale Wheat Ale. 7.5% aBV. Lagunitas Brewing, Petaluma, California.

Hazy, golden hue, slim ivory head.

Citrus and spicy aromatics, pithy lemon with bits of pepper, and a side of melon, potent and risible.

Tastin'...Juicy right from the start. Followed by a palpable burn down the back of the throat. Again....pungent, palpable, and pretty easy to pass down the gullet. Delicious. Zesty!

At 7%, not too strong, but still big enough to make it much more interesting than the average wheat ale. I'll keep reaching for this until it disappears.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Oliphant Groot Gruit Ale

What the heck is an Oliphant? It's a lot of things, but here we're just concerned with the brewery in Somerset, Wisconsin, and that still remains a mystery.

What, now, we wonder is a Groot? The world at large met him in the 13th issue of Tales to Astonish published by Atlas Comics in 1960, written by Stan Lee and illustrated by the King, Jack Kirby, years before the duo thought up The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Iron Man, The Avengers, et al.  He was a wooden alien who threatened the Earth, as the aliens often did in those pre-E.T. days. I'm going to let someone else describe the story to you in this blog here. 

The world at large quickly forgot about Groot, the Monster from
Planet X, if they ever knew of him at all. I discovered him
when I first got into Marvel monster comics in my late teens, through the 1970's reprints. Found them stickered for 25 cents each at Shinder's in Minneapolis (years before I worked there).  How I did love them. I've even managed to find some original editions, but not many. They're hard to find, and a number like TTA 13 has surely sky-rocketed in price
since Marvel Studios released the block-buster hit "Guardians of the Galaxy", based on the comic created by Brian Michael Bendis, which resurrected Groot, in a way, and paired him with another Marvel character I loved since I was in my teens, Rocket Raccoon.

This new version of Groot would no longer bellow at humans to BEHOLD! him and FEAR! him and DARE! them to defy him, and prattle on about his invincibility. He merely said his name, and stated his identity. That was enough to make him the sweetheart of the silver screen in 2014. He sacrificed himself for his friends and some damned planet, then regenerated himself to the Jackson Five in a scene too cutie-pie for me. But, Lord, the people loved it.

And some of those people were the folks at Oliphant. It's only natural to name a "GRUIT" after Groot. Now, what's a Gruit? A beer not spiced with hops, that's what. And why should I ever want to drink that? Well, Oliphant brewed one, so I did. Here's what it looked like:

I...am...gruit.
and here's what I wrote about it:

Oliphant Groot Gruit-style Ale. Oliphant Brewing, Somerset, Wisconsin. 6% ABV.

As a card-carrying hophead, this is a style of beer that I really shouldn't like. 

It's clear and caramel-colored, with a lasting, cream-toned head. 

Herbal aromatics, a little floral, mostly sweet, but restrained. Caramel malt lends some notes here, too. 

On the palate, it's more sweet malty goodness. No hops to be had, some kind of herbs are keeping it balanced. Not entirely sure which ones(s). One thing I know for sure is that's smooth and tasty. 

I still really miss the hops, though. Just part of who I am. 

So, it's good, but I don't love it. Also, here's this:
and now you know the truth, I bought the last two because they were on sale. So what, you'd do the same.


and then there's also this: 

Oliphant Zone Plane 8 Belgian Pale Ale

Last Sunday, the 23rd was another day for crossing the state border and visiting our favorite Wisconsin brewery spots, starting with Oliphant. It was my first time seeing their abso-frickin'-awesome mural. Does that psychedelic sight scream beer or what?

There's more art inside, for the beer chalkboards are profusely illustrated. Here's how the Zone Plane 8 is depicted:


Here's what it looked like when I poured the crowler at home, and here's what I wrote when I drank it: Oliphant Zone Plane 8 Belgian-style pale ale w/ Calypso and Waimea hops, 7.3% ABV. Oliphant Brewing, Somerset Wisconsin. 

Clouded, amber coloration, solid, lasting white head. Looking good.

Fruity and funky aromatics. Right away, I know I'm dealing with Belgian yeast. Uniquely sweet, tart, slightly bitter, and altogether funky stuff. 

Crazy, funky flavors on the tongue, on down the throat, past the gullet...Hop bitterness stays on top, with a fruity flavor, and a full hoppitude. This hits the peg just right when it comes to everything we want with a Belgian pale ale/IPA. Just enough bitter, just enough weird and funk, just enough fruit....and it's fresh and refreshing, and delicious. 

The name refers to something from a book by Tim Heidecker and Eric Warheim. Whatever. More nonsense, but hooked up to a solidly delicious pale ale. 

Green Flash Soul Style IPA

Notes from August 5 of this year:


Green Flash Soul Style IPA. India Pale Ale. Bright & Tropical. Taste Enlightenment. Waves of hops. Simcoe, Citra, Cascade. 6.5 % alc. by vol. 75 IBU. 12 fluid oz.

Appearance: clear, clean, bright golden hued, billowy white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: beautiful citrus aromatics. all the chief suspects are at work here, all the lemon, lime, orange and apricot aromas are bouncing in the nose. Just gorgeous.

Taste: Bracing bitterness slaps the palate, then smoothness ensues. Bright, delicious citrus flavors splash the senses, offer refreshment, slipping into utter delight. Medium-bodied. Long, hoppy finish. Extra consumable. Classic West Coast hoppiness.