Saturday, December 31, 2016

Day Block Coffee Kolsch

It's been the year of unconventional coffee beers. Birch's on the Lake had a coffee golden ale that blew my mind, and then Insight made their own, Banshee Cutter. Modist had a bit hit on their hands with their coffee lager, First Call, and now, wow, here's a coffee kolsch from Day Block. I bought a crowler, and now I'm going to drink it.

5.7% ABV. 18 IBU. Day Block Brewing Company, Minneapolis, MN.

Clear, bright golden coloring, slim white head.

In the nose: light malts, light hops, and here comes the coffee. Very nice.

In the mouth: light body, lean malts, little hops, but very perceptible coffee flavor. That's an understatement, actually. Quite tasty coffee flavors, laying on top of a smooth, easy-drinking ale, that loses a lot of the delicate characteristics of a kolsch. The coffee covers it all up. It's one way to do things, but not my favorite. I prefer a kolsch on it's own, and not some base beer to prop up other flavors.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #46: Bauhaus BrewLabs, Minneapolis, with Sky-Ten! Double IPA

(Editor's note: I wrote this in late December, and for some reason didn't finish it until now, when the gloom of winter weather isn't quite so dire, as it was.)

 It's the depth of winter, now. We're just seeing the light at the end of  the tunnel, a possible way out of this. Temperatures are so low. Perhaps it's best that I put off this report a good seven months and then some so that I can think back and recall the wonderful warmth of that fair day in May when I stopped into Bauhaus BrewLabs. It's Wednesday, May 25, and I biked there, to 1315 Tyler St. NE, right in the center of the NorthEast brewing district, bellied up to the bar and waited for Mark Schwandt to arrive and join me. Full disclosure time: yeah, I was being treated and comped this time, but I had a relationship with them already. I was already a fan, and had been buying their beer for Acadia for nearly a year. They'd already been a mainstay on the taps since before I took over the ordering, and I soon found that their well-made, easy-drinking lagers and ales were a shoe-in to sell at the bar.

Bauhaus BrewLabs of North East Minneapolis opened it's doors in the summer of 2014. Cans came out right off the bat, and I tried everything I could. Sky-Five, Stargazer, Wagon Party, and Wonderstuff. Four flagships that cover a lot of ground, all done well. (As of this writing, Bauhaus has appeared 13 times in the Nib, and I'm fairly sure I haven't missed one.) I only made it to the taproom once, initially, after they'd been open for months, and got a taste of Schwandtoberfest then. I didn't get back to the taproom much because it seemed like there wasn't much that they offered beyond the flagship brands. I'll get back to that point later.

Homeguys Helles lager.
The taproom at it's quietest, before the rush.
So, returning to last May. I enjoyed the beers at the bar, until sales director Mark Schwandt took me behind the scenes and we toured the brewery. I got a good peek at the whole facility, and a glimpse at it's future, including plans for new beers, such as the one which I will tell you about at the end of this post. Watched it all in action, and got the answer for why Wayne Wilderson endorsed their Activity Book. (How many breweries have Activity Books?)
And I had all the mainstays, as well as the one other beer available, a Helles Lager brewed in collaboration with Fair State. I don't have much to say about Helles lagers. There really isn't much to say about them. They're light lagers that are easy-drinking. After my time at Bauhaus, I went to Fair State to try their version. Fairly identical, and just exactly as they should be. But, what to say about it? I think I already said what there is to say.

Hot fun in the summertime.
Matt, some interloper, me, Mark.
And here's the rub: I like the seasonals from Bauhaus quite a bit. Chances are, if you go to the taproom, you'll find a seasonal and the four flagships. Nothing wrong with that. If you're a super-geek like me, always on the hunt for new beers, you might be disappointed that there aren't more beers than that. (And we super-geeks are a demanding bunch.) But if you're just looking for a place to hang out with friends and drink great beers, we'll you're good, then. There are other attractions, like trivia and music, video games (they actually have the original Simpsons arcade game with Smithers as a villain) and parties and so forth. Inside the building is nice enough, but the patio is a thing of beauty.

What Bauhaus is doing, they're doing very well. Clean, well-executed, damned drinkable.
Add to that an unrelenting creativity in the marketing department. Each new release comes with a video, and often, too, a song. A new Imperial Alt, called Beechballer (almost all of Bauhaus' names invert expectations) was promoted with the men of Bauhaus playing shirtless volleyball in this weather, while Mark sings an impassioned ode to the brew, in a voice he described as Bolton meets Hagar. That's just the latest. They've been doing it and doing it over the past 2 1/2 years, and I've been enjoying it.

About the time our tour of the site was over, Mark's brother Matt came over and joined us, his brewing duties done. There are other Schwandts involved in the business, many more with names that start with M. And I like them and their brewery and it's beers. Keep at it, Bauhaus, and I'll keep digging it.

As I said, the beers I had on this visit were the flagships that I've already written about, and the helles lager, of which I had little to say, except....it's good. So, I recently snagged a bottle of the Over the Charts series Double IPA, called Sky-Ten! (So, it's Sky-Five times two.) And I opened up that bottle, and here's what I said about that.....

Sky-Ten! Double IPA. 8.8% Alc. by Vol.

Lightly hazed, amber-ish hue, solid, lasting cap of ivory head.

In the aroma: Big bitterness, pine and citrus notes, grapefruit-y and lightly floral. Just the way I like it.

In the mouth: Juicy, piney, hop bitterness grabs the palate, and the malt below is doing it's thing. Great complexity of flavors here, with the hop bitterness staying in there for the long haul. Malts complement the affair, and aid in the drinkability. Tasty stuff. Spicy, hoppy, juicy, delicious.



For a brewery that mainly does German styles and lagers, not really known for their use of hops, this is a damned fine version.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Surly Barrel-aged Darkness 2015, with reflections on Darkness Day and other things

Editor's note: I wrote this about six weeks ago, on the evening of May 10, about events two months ago.What have I been waiting for? I don't know. Wait, I remember. I wanted to dredge up pictures from all the years of Darkness Days past. Too time consuming.Time to post. (Also, I wanted to make sure I was saying everything correctly, which is the constant struggle, and keep putting off the revisions.)

There have been ten years of Darkness Day, folks.
2007, 08, 09, 10. 2011, 12, 13, 14, 15, and this year, 2016. That makes 10 years of beer geeks coming together in the name of an incredible Imperial Stout.
I've been to them all. Was one of the first 10 in line early in the morning that December Saturday in 2007 when they first sold the bottles, and I've made my way there one way or another every year since.

My biggest regret is that I'm not a 9-5'er who can take a weekend off of work to hang out in an industrial park in Brooklyn Center to camp out and spend way too much on beer that I'm probably going to trade away for Whalez, Bro. (Clarification: that's not me, that's them. I am not that 9-5'er, with so much money to spare, and bottles to trade. For Whalez,Bro.)

Also, that I didn't figure out many years ago how to bike there, which isn't really that hard, it's only ten miles, if you know what you're doing. I slightly did this year. But, I still got a little lost and was late for first year volunteering for the event, assuring my right to purchase 6 bottles of the dark, delicious Russian Imperial Stout.
Self-Portrait photograph from my pouring station
on Darkness Day, October 15. My first time volunteering,
after attending every year since the start. 

And, oddly enough, this was the first year that no one needed to camp out. There were wristbands left when the line was done, for the first time ever. (Was it the date change, or something else, that kept the fanatics away?) I could have rolled in a few hours later and not spent 3 hours pouring beers, and still gotten my bottles. No matter, I enjoyed it, although it was, as they say, a busman's holiday, doing what I do for a living, for free.

I had my camera device on hand, and took some pics, but when I was freed from my servitude, the battery went dead. No pics of all my friends enjoying this annual event we all love. And that's what I enjoy most about the day, after getting my bottles, of course. The only pics I had were from my stand at the first serving trailer. That's where I had my view of Surly BrewMaster Todd Haug playing two guitars in a wizard's robe (or a monk's?), playing solo, at 11 am, at the start of the event. I wasn't aware of exactly what was going on.  I've seen him playing with various other bands, Powermad, Vulgaari, etc, but never solo. And this was a symphony I stretched my ears to hear, struggled to understand. It was a few days later, on Wednesday, as Jason and I were traveling up to Duluth, that we heard the news of his stepping down from the position he's held for 11 years and I knew at last what Todd was playing that morning. It was his his swan song to Surly.

That news was a shock to some, but not to me. I knew it was a matter of time, especially since his wife Linda's unexpected departure from the company, and it seemed that Todd waited to make it public until he could put that 10th Darkness Day beneath his belt. I only saw him briefly, and not Linda at all, unfortunately, (but I knew that would be the case), before I left the event. I hope it's not the last I see of the two of them. (The pictures attached prove that I'd get my chance.)
He means it with love, this I know.

Man. We take so much for granted. But the exit of Todd and Linda Haug speaks to changes within the corporate culture of Surly Brewing that led them both to go. In only a few weeks after that, the news came that the two are leaving the state to go to Chicago and work for their friends at Indiana's Three Floyds Brewing Company. It's heartbreaking and saddening and how we all wish they would have stayed here forever. Damn it. What happened?

Well, that's not for me to speculate, even as others go nutso over a picture of Omar holding Dick Leinenenkugel in his arms. We know that the brewery will do well with Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith keeping their capable hands on the steering wheel, nothing's going south, nothing's going bad. For now. Will they be asked to brew recipes that will dilute the brand? Will there be less-Surly beers coming out of the Surly brewery? All in the name of pushing out product? These are the questions raised. I hesitate to speculate or come up with any conclusions out of my own imagination, but if I were to do so, I'd say a little of both. These guys will make some fun beers, that I can assure you.

Squeezing in a "selfie" with the two of them at their
going away party in late November. 
I will suggest that when Linda Haug was in charge of the restaurant / beer hall side of things, that she should have stayed in charge. She did put it together, and steered it towards success, She knew what the Hell she was doing. Everything would have worked out fine if it was just a Linda in the front, Todd in the back kind of production. Maybe someone else didn't like that kind of autonomy going on inside their house.

I recall the early days. It was only 10, going on 11 years ago, after all, and the word back then was "we'll stay this small." Those were wonderful times, before the rest of the drinking public caught on, and it was such a fun and inclusive club that was digging on Furious, and Bender, and Coffee Bender, and Cynic and Smoke, Darkness, SurlyFest  and such. It was as if we had this secret, this special thing that we supported, that we hoped would change the world. Until that changed, and the general public caught on and the pressure to brew more became too much. We want to have our Surly and drink it, too. We want everyone to be like us, and like the beers we like, but we want to be the only ones drinking. When a $30 million dollar brewery isn't enough, and expansion into other states means you can't make some beers like Wet because of lack of capacity, and you still can't make enough Furious, because it's all going to North Dakota and Nebraska, and Chicago. In the beginning, they were supposed to be making beer for us, that wasn't available here. Can't Nebraska come up with their own damned Surly?  South Dakota, what's your damned problem, step up, already, make your own beer, don't make us make it for you!
(I realize I sound like the hipster who establishes his cred by stating he liked that band before they were cool and popular.)

The question is posed in the minds of many: to boycott this Todd-less Surly, or not to boycott. That seems absurd. A few months ago, I had eight different Surlys on tap at Acadia, and thought that I would leave them all on until they run out and we have one left. My boss wondered if I did that because of Todd's leaving. No, not at all, just wanted to bring other local breweries back in, but that last one was Ten, and that meant if I kept my word I had to find replacements for Hell and Furious, which has never been off the taps at Acadia. And were the customers ever confused and perturbed! And, I've had one friend tell me she won't wear any of her Surly shirts anymore, but for Todd the Axe-man. (Oddly enough, that's one I don't own.) Also, my own sister nearly refused a pint of Simpsons Malt Scottish Ale I poured for her and said she was boycotting Surly because they didn't treat their head brewer right. But would folks have considered this boycott if they knew it all along,  that Todd didn't have a share in the brewery?  I doubt it. After all, it is the way things work at most breweries, though we don't expect that at places of Surly's stature and people of Todd's importance.

No, I will support them, and drink them and serve them as long the beer is good. It seems non-sensical to me. I won't jump on the bandwagon that says "it'll never be the same." No, no, it won't. But it will still be good. That's alright.

So, I feel this is a good time to open up a bottle of Barrel-aged Darkness. I only took notes on Darkness one time, when it was first released in 2006, from the tap at the Blue Nile. I never thought to take further notes on other vintages. I rarely drank them solo, usually with friends, when I'm not taking out the notebook, or clacking away on the the ol' keyboard. I have one and only one bottle of this and saved it for a year. And this year, at the Great American Beer Festival, it won a Gold Medal for barrel-aged beers. Surly beers have been so off-style for so long, it's great to see them win an award like this. And I've never tried it. Didn't get a keg of it at Acadia (a point of some contention. What, carrying the beer since the first week, ten years ago,  doesn't get us a keg? Boo.), never found it at any events, bars, festivals. Time to crack open and finally taste it.

Solid blackness, strictly Stygian, with a slim roasted, toasted ring of foam on top.

Nose is all types of richness, the thick of the bourbon, the massive malt, the charcoal and vanilla and marshmallow, the depths of the oak and caramel, the toffee and espresso and cocoa. Gigantic this one. A gargantua, an impressive mixture of all the blessings from the beer and the barrel. anise and molasses and whiskey and more.

In the mouth: Thickness. Richness. Depth. Deepitude. Coats the palate, pours over the senses, takes on every inch and spreads it's complexity for the tongue and the tastebuds to experience. Smooth, mellow, while deep, complex, rich and utterly satisfying. And something swells, something grows and builds within you while you imbibe this. This is absolute perfection. Everything comes together perfectly. Nothing is bigger than the other, nothing is greater than anything else.

Am I just reading things into this, because of other things on my mind, two days after the distress of the election? Am I looking at the drooling vampire bat on the label of this bottle and seeing the looming  disaster of our impending apocalypse? Is the bottle scaring me because the threat of four years of President Trump looms in the forefront of my mind?

Back to the beer, though: It is so good. Well-balanced, well-attenuated, great bourbon-y treated goodness. So good that it keeps every bad thing from the door. It strengthens and fortifies. It builds you up, and builds you up, and now you're solid. Solid as a rock. That's what this love is, that's what we've got, got, got, got got.

And it's damned delicious. Whoa. Got me quoting Ashford & Simpson instead of some Satanic death/gloom metal. Something's wrong with me, clearly.

I didn't want to drink this whole bottle by myself. But, I'm glad I did.

It's so good, so perfect, and so well, you know, put-together. This is my simple solace, in face of tougher times ahead. Wish I had another dozen bottles put away, but alas. I could only wait so long on this one, and the wait was worth it.

What do I predict for the future of Surly? Oh, I don't know. Maybe goodness, maybe greatness, and maybe the end-all, worse-all, of all times. There is so much going on in the local brewing community that a drop-off in innovation at Surly doesn't worry me that greatly. I'm glad they were there to get the whole local craft beer movement going, lit that spark, and set it on it's way. It's fairly true that without Surly, there would be no current brewing scene. And without Todd Haug, there would have been no Surly.

Fair State Frontenac

Fair State Frontenac, barrel-fermented pale sour ale, in collaboration with Fulton and Oakhold. 5.6% ABV, 22 IBU.

Clouded, hazed, apricot-ish appearance, slim white head.

In the nose: it's all full of the funk. Barnyard aplenty here, old socks, litter box, and wine barrels. Nice.

In the mouth: Big pucker time. Bracingly and beautifully sour, coating the palate. Pucker never stops. Beyond that, smooth and refreshing. Lip-smacking delicious, light bitterness, altogether tasty as heck.

From the label: "A barrel-fermented pale sour ale produced in collaboration with Fulton Beer & Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery, aged in MN Frontenac & Marquette barrels from Parley Lake Winery, and brewed with malts from Malterie Frontenac, Quebec.

Another in a string of great sour ales from Fair State. I've have not been giving them enough attention, although I intend to, for they are one of the better breweries in Minneapolis, and are really one of the front-runners in innovation and experimentation.

Why haven't I been keeping up with Fair State? That whole across the river thing. I've only been there twice in 2016, and have not been keeping them on tap at Acadia as much as I want. Also, when I see them at the stores, the prices are a bit much than I can do. This one was $18 at a local store, but it's worth it. I need to drink better, drink less.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Toppling Goliath King Sue

Toppling Goliath King Sue  Double India Pale Ale. Toppling Goliath Brewing Compay, Decorah, Iowa. 8.5% ABV. 100 IBU.

Lightly clouded, bright golden, huge head. Gorgeous.

In the nose: a burst of citrus and tropical fruits, some stones, too, peach and nectarine. It's plump and aplomb with all the goodies.

In the mouth: oh, my. oh, me. oh, whoa. Big time hoppitude here. Huge hops. Sue is the master of the fields, stomping over the pineapples and peaches, the lemons and limes. Squashing them all and spraying the juices about. Damnably delicious.

Gobbledygook from the label: "Long live the king. King Sue that is. Her Ferocious bite will make sure all newcomers learn to toe the line and what better way to exude her influence than with this Citra hopped double IPA. Followers will cheer, enemies will crumble, but don;t take her lightly, when this double IPA is on a rampage nothing will stand in her way."


Able Seedhouse + Brewery House Red Ale

If you recall, Able was the 26th Minnesota brewery I wrote about here for the project Minnesota Breweries One by One. You may not know that I have featured them on tap at Acadia Cafe several times since then, including some beers I didn't try on that afternoon. I've done Supergiant Golden Ale,  First Light IPA, Blk Wlf Stout, and the Propers Pub Ale. Recently, the sales rep asked if I would try out the House Red next and I responded that I wasn't sure if I'd had it. He was sure I had, but I think he was thinking of samples he tried me on many months ago, and when I asked for another taste, I got this big ol' growler. And now I will try it and tell you all about it.

Clear, pale crimson coloring, slim white head.

In the nose: fruity malts hit first, low hop bitterness. Nice and even. Good.

In the mouth: Jumps on board the palate with big ol' malts, earthy, deep, fruity. Tasty stuff. Low bitterness, nicely balanced, good for the style. Lean in the body, long, lingering fruity finish. Bright, full of malty deliciousness, and not a bad beverage in the least. This would ably (ah!) suit that drinker just looking for a red ale

. To use my favorite five word phrase: Ain't Nothin' Wrong With It.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dangerous Man Sour Delores Strawberry

Dangerous Man Sour Delores Strawberry. Dangerous Man Brewing Company, Minneapolis, MN.  5% aBV.

Clear, pinkish hue, slim head, soon gone.

In the nose: there's some funk, some wild, some sour. Then comes the sweet, the berry of the straw. Nice.

In the mouth: Pow! Sour hits the palate first, tart and puckering. Never-ending pucker, sour stays on top of sweet. Nicely balanced. Tasty sour, for sure. This is alright. 25 ounces on this evening is plenty, though, and I have surely had my fill. Might've been a better choice for a dinner party or a tasting situation. Note to self: sour strawberry beers, don't drink 'em alone.

Here's what the website tells us: IBUS
6
ABV (%)
5
SRM
3
FLAVOR NOTES
Sweet strawberry and a moderate tartness. Light and refreshing!
FOOD PAIRINGS
Light salads. Nothing heavy.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Prairie Christmas Bomb!

Christmas. Mistletoe, Santa Claus, Jingle Bells and all that jazz. How I loathe it.

But, we must get through it, and Christmas beers help us through the suffering. If they are good. Is this one good? Let's find out....

Prairie Christmas Bomb. 12 % ABV. Imperial Stout brewed with spices.

Appearance: Deepest darkness, slim cocoa-tinged head. Right on for the style.

In the nose: Cinnamon. Chili peppers? Gingerbread spices. Warm and wonderful. Spicy Christmas cookie in the nose.

In the mouth: Mmm. all that is back on the palate. Liquid Christmas ginger cookie. Full bodied. Rich and rewarding.

Notes ended there. It was a long day. Let's read what the brewery had to say about it:
 Fall is bleeding out into chilly nights, and we’re at that time when the seasons start to shift and the spice hits the fan. Cuddle up into that ugly seasonal sweater, grab your best glass, and get ready to welcome Prairie Christmas Bomb! back into your life. Christmas Bomb! is our signature stout spiced with cinnamon. It has become a tradition here at Prairie Artisan Ales to produce this seasonal treat. This is our third brew, and as always we’re bringing you a brand new label.

Christmas Bomb! will bring you great comfort and joy in this dark and roasty brew. You’ll find the coffee, ancho chilies, vanilla, and cacao nibs you know and love, but they brought a friend this time. The addition of cinnamon warms this brew evoking the seasonal spirit of spice and cheer.

And just for kicks, let's get a better look at the label. Man, they've got some weird art....

Indeed Session Sour #3 and reflections

Derailed Cranberry Milk Stout
So, you guys. You know how I've been trying to visit all of Minnesota's tap-rooms all year long, right? Well, I'm almost done. And I've been using my free time when I'm not going to the new, untried ones far, far into the hinterlands by actually going back to the locals and checking out what's new there. I didn't do that a lot in the winter months in the past few years and I don't know why. It's really not hard to get there by bus. And a few weeks ago, I did that, hitting up Indeed and Dangerous Man on the same day (hint: no buses take you to DMBC. You've got to do a little walking.)

And an idea popped into my head, that I should do a post with one review of one new beer from that familiar local brewery, and all kinds of stuff about what else is new, and all about the beers, and whats happening and....it's a bit much. It's ambitious. I wish I could pull it off. Maybe I could? Of course I can. Don't forget that The Bitter Nib is the Blog that will always share with you it's insecurities and shortcomings.

Wooden Soul#9: Belgian Blonde
with raspberries
Sigh.....so, actually, I want to share something. Someone recently pointed out a discussion on Reddit about the beer magazine The Growler. One poster quickly commented about this blog, and, in an effort of full disclosure, that poster is my eldest nephew, such a sweet man is he. His name is Trevor Nolte and he helped me with the graphic design for the Surly Two label. Later on, another poster piped up and that was my beloved niece. Her name is Anna Wagner, and she's awesome. They are the apples of my very eyes. And then, other people who aren't the offsprings of my siblings said nice things and it ended with this comment: "Bitter Nib is way better and Al is a good guy who has had his finger on the pulse of Minnesota beer since before the Growler even started. He doesn't pull punches and reviews beer and breweries fairly and honestly and has kind of dedicated his life to it."

Now, I know nothing about this man who calls himself "oggblogblog", and I give him thanks for his kind words, but it made me pause. Something about strangers saying things about you does that to you. Have I dedicated my life to it? I have no wife and children. I have my other hobbies, music and books and comic books, art, cartooning, and such, but they all take a back seat to finding, and drinking and writing about beer. Am I more obsessed with this topic, the local beers and breweries than anyone else who isn't paid for it? Have I dedicated my life to it? (There are others out there who are similarly obsessed, but I don't mind getting my own due.) It sent me spiraling into a deep spell of reflection. More than anything, I do this because I like to write. I like to write about beer. And I like to drink beer. I love beer culture, beer history, beer community. I started loving it over 20 years ago, and I haven't looked back.
Rum King.

So, I'll keep doing this and finding new ways to do this. It's amazing, it's incredible, and I am deeply grateful to be a part of what's happening locally. Yeah, I think that I will keep trying to report on the beers of Minneapolis and Minnesota, and do it honestly and artfully. That's my early New Year's Resolution. Oh, wait, I do that every year.

So, it was on the Wednesday of December 7 that I stopped into the taproom at Indeed Brewing and had myself a Derailed Series Cranberry Milk Stout, tart and fruity, full-bodied and refreshing, while I admired their new menus which use simple one word descriptors in a series of three to give you an idea of the beer. Cool. Who needs friggin' sentences, anyway?
I'm kidding, I like it, it's good. I also had cask Midnight Ryder with Coconut, Rum King, because I have to when it is there, and Wooden Soul #9, which I could not take home in a growler but have on tap at Acadia, and might be able to write notes on it before it goes away, but can't promise anything. So, much goodness at Indeed I'd never had before or can't help but enjoy again and again, and only one of them did I bring home and takes notes on...



Here come notes on Session Sour #3:
session sour #3 (did I miss 1 and 2?)

I don't know a lot about this beer. I had it on tap at the Indeed taproom on Wednesday, and like it, so I took a growler home. that's all I know, so I'm going to open that growler up and see what I can see. Away we go....

It's a lightly hazed, golden/amber-ish coloring, with a huge head of ivory foam above it. Lasting, lace-leaving, lovely.

Gorgeous aromatics, soft and slightly spicy, floral, herbal, delightful. Piney. Spruce-y. Spicy-sweet. I'm loving it.

In the mouth: more of that dancing on the palate. What, specifically" Some ginger, I think. Coriander? Other spices. Lightish bodied, lean malt, low bitterness, but high spice, ...and fruit? Citrus, not sure which. Tangerine, grapefruit, ....what else? I like it, though, I like it a lot.

I peeked on the internets and found this on their website: "Kettle sour with lemongrass. 4.2% ABV. 27 IBU." Yeah, that makes sense. Lemongrass, sure I see it. And it's still tasting terrific.

Town Hall Festivus 2016-Sweet Chestnut Brown Ale

Town Hall Festivus 2016. This is the one that has changed the most over the years, and apparently, it won't change much for a while now, or so I hear. This one is a "sweet chestnut brown ale", and there's nothing wrong with that.

6% ABV. I can't find more information because...I guess that's ....come on, guys, put it on the internet, it's not that hard. Just do it.

Clear, medium-brown color, slim, beige head.

In the nose: the sweetness, the nuts, the malt. In comes the cocoa, soft and creamy.

In the mouth: more sweet, but balanced, with a moderate dosage of hops. Smooth, malty, nutty. And the cocoa comes back, and it's tasty.

Okay, that's Festivus 2016, a sweet chestnut brown ale. Good beer, you can drink it.

Toppling Goliath Sol Hunter Pale Ale

Toppling Goliath Sol Hunter Pale Ale, Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, Deborah, Iowa.

Stats: ? unsure.

Hazy, bright golden hued, voluminous white head, looking great.

In the nose: bold, fresh, zesty, citrus-y, nice.

In the mouth: more fresh, more zest, more delicious. Here comes the bite, here comes the bitter, and it's utterly delicious. Big hops, big bitterness, lush malt, absolutely tasty. Good beer. I can drink it.

Gobbledygook: "Gone are the days of experimentation and test-flights as we voyage into the unknown. We rely on our skill and determination. Guiding us safely to the promised land. Our goal is clear: pursue the sun and harvest the power extracted from an equinox. The task is large, but hopes are high as we travel once more among the stars."

So, I guess that means you used Equinox hops? Just spitballin'......

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #38: Modist Brewing, Minneapolis, with Deviation 02/Dreamyard

They opened in April of 2016. Does the point of establish-
meant mean when they first got the idea to do it, or when
the partners signed the paperwork? I'm a little confused.
This little project of mine has never had a very neat and tidy path. Modist was not actually the 38th brewery I visited. I saw them well before I called them #38 (on April 14, where, according to Untappd, I had Toats and Calibration), but I did not give that visit a number. I had their beers and enjoyed the space, but never said this is brewery #whatever. And on May 1, Jason and I did a bike ride from my place to Steel Toe (#36), to LTD in Hopkins (#37), and finally to Modist, and I called it #38, but guess what? I took no notes. I took some photos, and some of them were crap, and I've lost them all. It was a fun stop, though, because Nate and Margarita were there with us, and Rick Spalding showed up, and that's always fun. Maybe that's why I took no notes. But no notes, and lost pics. (Again, according to my posts on Untappd, I had Smoove and pHresh.)
Here's head brewer/co-owner Keagan Knee
serving me a sample at Autumn Brew Review.
Cheers, Keagan!

So, in July, the 10th to be exact, I went back, and took pics, which I have, and notes, which I don't. On previous visits, I took notes, because nothing could be taken home. Now, they had the crowlers. I've reviewed four of their beers from the crowlers so far: First Call, pHresh, Wasteland, and Toats. Some of these were actually gifts in sample form. On that 7/10 visit, I wrote notes on another one which was not canned, Smoove, but I can re-write those, as I now have a crowler in my possession. I also took notes on a marvelous beer called 100% Wheat, ...alas, missing are those notes. (Again, Untappd says I had 100% Wheat, Toats, Smoove and Wasteland.) Also, it tells me that I had Deviation 2 on October 27, but I'm going to have it again.

What's the deal with Modist? It is the brainchild of co-owner/head brewer Keagan Knee, who I've known since he was brewing at Harriet years ago, before he joined the Dangerous Man team. Other owners and partners (Kale Anderson, John Donnelly, Eric Pareides) were also involved with Harriet in the past. The found their space in downtown Minneapolis, close to the Twins Stadium, just around the corner form Fulton, and opened with a state-of-the-art facility with un-heard-of capacity for high yields and low residuals and very little waste. High efficiency is the name of the game here, as well as turning out uncategorizable product. Nothing that Modist has put out so far really sticks into neat little folders, but that doesn't bother me none. Whether it has an impact on their ability to reach out to the marketplace, that's another story. And a story for another day, because for right now I just want to talk about what they're doing right.


And here's my old pal Steve Legas who I randomly
bumped into at Modist. If you drink good beer in
Minneapolis, you will meet Steve eventually.

And I'm going to pause to write a review of a beer that is currently being called Deviation 02, but will soon be known as Dreamyard, and it might be called an IPA, but it is certainly 80% wheat and 20% oats. I also completely forgot the hop bill for now, but never mind. I'm going to open that can and tell you about what I'm drinking.

Deviation 2, soon to be known as Dreamyard.
Deviation 02, 7% ABV., 88 IBU. Modist Brewing Co., North Loop, Mpls., MN.

Hazy (but promising in future batches to be hazier), bright golden hued, large and lasting ivory head. Looking fantastic.

In the nose: bursting with citrus sensations, lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, not too terribly bitter, but bursting with hoppy delights.

A view of the taproom on a quiet Sunday night.
In the mouth: Pow! More citrus, more hoppitude, more delicious bitterness. Big, beautiful bitterness, with the lushness and smoothness of wheat and oats below it. Marvelous malt bill beneath, solid, sturdy, dependable, and, yeah, delicious. It's a complex and simply tasty beer, and it's one of the best I've had in quite awhile. I hope it becomes a success for Modist, and I'll do my duty banging the drum for it. Pretty danged tasty stuff.

Here's some gobbledygook I tore off of the internet: "A New England IPA meets a 100% wheat malt bill. Fantastically hazy with aromas of apricot, peach, and citrus. Over 3.5 lbs of Citra, Bravo, and Ella hops per barrel make this beer an incredibly juicy and citrusy treat with an approachable level of bitterness."

Co-owner/head of sales John Donnelly serves up a
Deviation 3 for me. 
And what can I tell you about the taproom? It's pretty much like all the others, but it's all it's own. Rows of communal tables, but a little lounge area off to the side, with an incredible amount of local artists on display. There's the merch, there's the games, a long bar, the awesome lights above. Pretty cool room. I've mainly been on Sundays when it's "tres relaxant", but on a recent Thursday night, it was all a-popping with trivia and stuff. And there's good beer around, always, some infusions, some more cool things.

I think that Modist is one of the best additions to the local brewing scene in the past year, but they somehow have not gotten their due. Maybe they need to have a bigger impact on the market. Once their canning line takes off, and the 12 ounce cans replace the crowlers, and they get into stores, then they'll be better known. They don't make beers that fit neatly into boxes, so once they get an "IPA" in the market, perhaps that will change things. It isn't easy to put out uncategorizable beers, not in the least. They're trying, though, and I applaud them for it. Keep making great beers, guys, and I'll be there to drink them, and I'll be telling all of you to join me!
100% Wheat
side view, with patio
tanks, tanks, tanks!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Town Hall Grinch's Grog 2016

You know what, bitter ones? I searched though all one hundred of my posts about Town Hall Brewery here on the ol' Nib, and I could not find Grinch's Grog. Nowhere. I did Elves Elixir once, (and then a second tine) and Festivus over the years (it seems like every other year. why did I skip the odd-numbered years?), but never Grinch's? So, this will be a two-fer. First, I'll share the one I wrote back in 2008, (when I added it to the BeerAdvocate.com database), then after that, I'll share the notes taken a few nights ago.

First, notes from 12-16-08:

Grinch's Grog, American Pale Ale, 5.4% ABV.

Why is the Grinch green? Because he loves hops! That's what Hoops is telling us, and I believe him. Not because his beers make me drunk and susceptible, but because Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, creator of the Grinch, was the grandson of a German brewer. In fact, Geisel's grandfather took over a Boston brewery in 1876 with his friend Christian Kalmbach, and their new brewery, Kalmbach and Geisel, was given the nickname by Bostonians of "Come back and guzzle." Honest to Horton, I Sneetch you not. (from "Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel: A Biography" by Judith & Neil Morgan, De Capo Press, New
More evidence of the Dr. Seuss and beer connection from
my breweriana collection, a Narragansett beer tray from
the 1940's, which I got on eBay for $110--a steal!
York, 1996) Seriously. It's true.

So, the beer...an American pale ale full of Simcoe hops. They've got my number.

Clouded golden hue, huge pillowy white head. Gorgeous, lace leaving, lovely.

Pine and citric nose, apricot, tangerine...maybe pineapple, a little. Fruity and spicy, and fine.

"What a great grinchy trick!" So many Christmas themed beers go for the sweet, here's one that delivers on the deliciously bitter. "Garlic in the soul"? A little. Spanks the palate with bitter hops, but it's a delicious thrill, this one.

Medium bodied, and wonderfully drinkable. Plenty of zesty hops. Well balanced, never too much. Beautiful stuff, really.

I like this Grinchy Grog. Could've made it bitterer, perhaps. But then what would happen if my heart had grown three sizes today, then what, huh?

P.S. I liked this so much I downed the whole grinchy growler in one sitting. Yikes! That's what I'm talking about...

And, then, just a few nights ago, I downed another growler, this one of the smaller variety, and had this to say (pretty much the same thing): 

Crystal clear, bright golden coloration, slim whitish head.

In the nose: vibrant, citrus-y hop notes. Doses of tropical fruit, too, and not too bitter, either. Rather smooth and creamy.

In the mouth: Light hop attack, a pleasant blitz on the palate, and underneath is nothing but easy-going. Like I said, smooth and creamy. Oat malt in the bill for this one. Slightly sweet, lush and likable malt. Smoo-, oo-ooth.
Well, this is a tasty treat, but it's not meant for the likes of me. I need more from hops.

You go ahead and drink it up, though. I'll stick to Masala Mama and it's brood.

Addendum: Looking at reviews online, others find it hoppier than I. I think my palate has been abused by over-consumption of hoppy beers.

Destihl Plum Sour Stout

Destihl Plum Sour Stout.Unfiltered Indigenous Wild Sour Ale. All. 5.6% by Vol. IBU:37. Destihl Brewing, Bloomington, IL.

Dark brown,...or is it deep violet? under a cocoa-tinged ring of head. Looking alright.

In the nose: dark fruit, some sour, some rich, cocoa-tinted malt. Yeah, they got the name right.

In the mouth: big pucker from the start, lots of grapes, fig....plum? Sure, that works, too. Puckeration returns sip after sip, sour begets sour, riding over a tide of lush dark malts. Chocolate and coffee laying down the foundation. Do you like the sour? do you dig the stouts? Drink of this, my friend, it'll give what you crave.

Hey, what's the can tell us? "Plum Sour Stout rebels against style boundaries as it opens with a bold fusion of fruitiness and chocolatey roast. Dark fruit flavors then take hold, evoking memories of plum jam and chocolate-covered cherries to bring everything into balance. The result is a light bodied and refreshingly tart stout that's just plum sour! Cheers!"

Ugh. "Plum sour"? yuck. Avoid those bad puns, people, steer clear.

Anyone, it's good sour stout and you can drink it. Not bad at all.

Short's Brew Soft Parade

This is a bottle I'e been waiting on far too long, given to me by Andrew many weeks ago. He wanted to know what I thought of it, but I've let it sit in the old fridge, passing it by. Andrew gave me malt liquors many years ago, to see what I'd write about them. He must be trying to get a reaction out of me with this one. Well, here we go.

Brewed and bottled by Short's Brewing Company, Elk Rapids, Michigan. (The first Short's beer on the Nib.)

What is this "soft parade" from Short's? A "High Gravity Ale fermented with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries." Okay, sounds like fun.

Lightly hazed, pale crimson hue, slim white head. Looks fine.

In the nose: fruity. sweet. none of those four in particular stands out, really. Maybe straw, maybe rasp. A painless enough blend. Promising? Perhaps.

In the mouth: Rather thick, malty, with pleasant enough fruit. Flavor is quite blasé', actually. How to describe? It's not sour, and it's not sweet. How high is the gravity? They don't say on the label. On the website, though, they tell us this. Seems that it's 7.5%. That's somewhat high. I click on BeerAdvocate.com and find no new information, except that it was added to this site by my ol' pale "fantom", a former Michigander, over 12 years ago. One of their flagship beers, it seems.

Hm. It's drinkable, enjoyable, but not all that impressive. It's not bad, it just doesn't grab me. I don't have a great deal of experience with Short's, mostly trying them at the Great Taste of the Midwest when I go there, and I find that they make good stuff.
This one? It's fine. Maybe Andrew meant the other one he gave me was the weird one he wanted my opinion on. I'll crack that open next.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sisyphus Semi-Barrel-aged Semi-Imperial Stout

Sisyphus Semi-Barrel Aged Semi-Imperial Stout. 9% ABV. Sisyphus Brewing, Minneapolis, MN.

It's December 15, and we've finally hit negative temperatures. Three below right now. Times like this call for a beefy, big-boned, rich and warming Imperial Stout. Or, even a Semi-Imperial Stout. Let's give this one a go and see if it warms my bones on this frigid night.

Deepest black coloring, slim, cocoa-tinged head.

In the nose: sweet and malty at the fore, very chocolatey, with hints of espresso, anise, molasses and more. A little vanilla and whispers of whiskey. Hits the right notes.

In the mouth: creamy, chocolatey at first, a big, bold battlefield of dark malt characteristics. Rich and indulgent, without going overboard. Big coffee flavors, full-bodied, bittersweet. The Semis in the name are a good indication of what we've got going on here.
It's not quite an Imperial Stout, but it comes close. The strength is up there, but the body is not as rich, thick, and decadent as some of the highest ranking among the style. A barrel was aged, but not the beer went in, but some coffee. It's an interesting concept, for sure.

I pulled this off of the inter webs: We took one of our old whiskey barrels and aged coffee in it. Then we made cold press and added it to the beer.

Good beer, and I can drink it. And there ain't nothing wrong with it.

Oliphant Capitan Peligro IPA with Galaxy & Warrior hops

Am I on some sort of a theme here? The last beer I reviewed used Warrior and Galaxy and tied that into some kind of Intergalactic Warrior hero. Oliphant is using Warrior and Galaxy hops, but seems to have another hero in mind. One that totally slips off of my radar. (The origin is the comic book title Space Riders, which I am utterly unfamiliar with, but should probably check out. I see it being compared to the "psychedelic" side of Jack Kirby's 1960's work, and that's an easy way in for me. )

Captain Peligro, India Pale Ale with Galaxy and Warrior hops. 6.7% ABV.


Clouded, pale golden hue, big ivory head that lasts long, and leaves lace.

In the nose: bright and citrus-y, lively and lovely, and utterly beautiful.

In the mouth: More fruit, more bitter, and just as juicy as we like. Tasty stuff. Just about right IPA. So much hops, so much malt, so full of fruit, and yeast, and deliciousness. I'm loving it, and would love to love more.

I do wish I had been more specific in those notes, but at the time they did the trick. This one hit all the right buttons.

Oliphant dg2c2mf (don't get too close to my fantasy) Rye Saison

Last month, Oliphant Brewing of Somerset, Wisconsin started self-distributing in Minnesota, beginning with Stillwater, and later that week five of their beers appeared on tap at little ol' Acadia Cafe, the first place in Minneapolis to pour their beers. Why us? Because I love them so, that's why.

Those beers were: Eleventacles, Gobias, Steve Durkel, Awesome Juice-Great Job!, and dg2c2mf (don't get too close to my fantasy), which were all the beers they offered at first. The first three have already appeared here, and Awesome Juice left our taps before I could take notes. I've never reviewed dg2c2mf (though it was perhaps the first Oliphant beer I ever tried), so I want to get that done before it disappears, too. And the notes follow:

Clear, pale amber coloring, with active carbonation, and a slim white, soon gone, head.

In the nose: lightly spicy, fruity.

In the mouth: more fruit (stone & citrus), even more spice, and that little extra kick from rye malt. Light bodied, easy drinking, refreshing, and ever so tasty. The rye malt really grows on me, in this one. Spicy, smooth, delicious. A nice and tasty saison.

Not entirely sure why they felt like naming it after a Ween song, but I should know better than to question the absurdity that Oliphant bandies about. After all, their motto, Let Unreason Reign,  comes from The Brotherhood of Dada from the 90's Grant Morrison-penned Doom Patrol comic book.

But, I can't help but think of these lyrics whenever I see the tap handle and pull a pint:
Don't get 2 close to my fantasy
Don't be afraid to clutch the hand of your creator
Stare into the lion's eyes
And if u taste the candy
You'll get 2 the surprise.

In the 90's I listed to Ween and read absurd-ist superhero comic books. I saw Ween in 1992, at Seventh Street Entry, and it was one of the strangest nights of my young life. I'd recently found out that K., a co-worker at Shinder's Readmore Bookstore, who was many levels of cute, had a crush on me. But at the same time, something seemed to be starting up with J., a friend I'd admired from afar for years before we met, and was umpteen different kinds of gorgeous. And they were both there. At one point, I asked K. if she wanted anything, and I meant from the bar. "I want you, Al, " she said. But I couldn't act on this, in her drunken state, and with J. around, if I want to keep that going. I hit the bar a few more times, and my stomach couldn't handle the mix of whiskey and beer, and I had to find somewhere to spill out it's contents. The bathroom was occupied, so I stumbled backstage to empty my guts. (could I have made it outside? probably not.)

Many years later, my nephew got a bootleg copy of that show, and heard the voice of one of the Weens remarking, startled, that someone had thrown up backstage. I always think of that when I think of Ween, and now whenever I think of this beer.

And think of what might have been, and what never went down.

Don't get 2 close to my fantasy
Don't be afraid to clutch the hand of your creator
Stare into the lion's eyes
And if u taste the candy
You'll get 2 the surprise.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wild Mind Artisan Ales Imperial Dark Farmhouse Ale

Wild Mind Artisan Ales Imperial, Dark Farmhouse Ale, 10% ABV.
Wild Mind Artisan Ales, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Deepest darkness, slim cocoa-tinged head atop, looking fine.

Aroma: a little creamy, a little sweet, hints of coconut and coffee. More sweet than bitter. Nice.

In the mouth: creamy and dreamy. Rich and chocolatey. Strength doesn't ring in right away, but it will, it will. 'Til then, all those flavors keep rolling in. Lightly spicy, full bodied, dark and delicious. Stays on the side of dry, against the sweet, though there is some of that there, as well.

A big-boned version of a dark farmhouse ale. Go ahead and call it Imperial. It's nice and toasty, deep and chocolatey, and fairly indulgent. I like it, and I would like more of it. There was also a vanilla and a maple version on tap at my latest visit, but I decided to go with this one for my growler. yum, yum.