Friday, January 29, 2016

Fair State Saison Drei

Saison Drei, sour saison. Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Minneapolis, MN. 5.7% ABV. 30 IBU.

Thoroughly hazed, deep golden coloring, long-lasting white head.

Big time funk in the nose. All many of lax-bugs in this one, maybe brett...wait, I know for sure Brett, no maybe about it. Perfect aroma for the sour-heads.

Delicious sourness in the flavor, crisp and refreshing. Hops pop up from below, nice bitter twist on the tongue. Moderate mouthfeel, plenty of yeast action in this one. Absolutely incredible. One of the best sour saisons I've had. Ends soft and dry, always urging into just one more sip. Tasty, tasty stuff.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #5: Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Minneapolis, with Pomp le Moose Farmhouse IPA

This is not how it looked on Monday's visit, for
that was a dark and stormy night. My attempts
at capturing this same scene were unsuccessful.
Instead, enjoy this view from a sunny
summer day, last year.
Fair State Brewing Cooperative has appeared in this blog 10 times before: 5 bottles and a can bought at local stores, 1 serving at Acadia, (a keg I didn't order, but would have), 2 growlers and a few glasses as part of a post featuring no reviews, just photos of beers. I was going to include a visit to the brewery in my Biking to Beer series last summer, but I had a case of writer's block and stalled, the post sat and was never published, the series abandoned. Not this time, bitter ones! I'm not quitting this time! We're in for the long haul.

Looking back at that last growler review, it appears that I haven't been there since September. That's just plain wrong. I've been meaning to return, believe me, but something always messes up my plans. The increasing number of entrants in the Lactobac series and talk of an Imperial Stout tempted, and I kept plotting to get out to Central and Lowry Avenues in NorthEast Minneapolis to get my lips around those brews. Meanwhile, I decided to get them back into the rotation of taps at Acadia, contacted the salesrep, and ordered 3 different kegs. That same day, I stopped at a local store and found bottles of the FSB Imperial Stout and the Saison Drei sour farmhouse ale. Passed on those, because they were two of the kegs I'd ordered. I can try 'em when I tap 'em, right? But, something's telling me I should have a bottle or two for cellaring. There were other beers noted on the website that piqued my
interest, and I planned the bus trip Monday night. Why don't I do this more often? One bus took me downtown, I hopped on a #10 and got off it across the street from the brewery, easy as pie.

I pulled up a stool and found my friend Davin manning the taps. He broke the news that LactoBac 10, the one I was most looking forward to had run out a few days ago. Alas. Snooze= lose. I've learned long ago not to whine and wallow, so I strode forward with my drinking and chose a beer that I will
They call this one Tuque. I liked it
so much, I purchased a FSBC toque in
it's honor.
take notes on later, for it was keg #3 that I ordered for Acadia, their winter seasonal, Tuque, a dark saison brewed with juniper berries, a spicy, herbal thing was a joy to drink down. Once I get that keg hooked up, I'll sit down with a pint and say a little more.
Here's Davin, serving up my FSB.

They call this one Stout. 
Next up, I moved on to the FSB Imperial Stout, which gets it's name from the agency that preceded the KGB, as well being the initials for Fair State Brewing. Not your ordinary Barrel-aged Imperial, this one was fermented with a French saison yeast, and aged in 45th Parallel Rye and Wheat whiskey barrels. It was a complex sipper, at 11% ABV, and like the Tuque, I'll do an lengthier review when that keg meets a coupler.

I finished my visit with a pint of the regular stout, called Stout, which I don't recall having at any of my previous visits. It seems there's always the IPA, the Pils, the Vienna Lager, etc., but this one was new for me. 5.5% ABV, 35 IBUs, brewed with oats as well as brown malts, as well as the roasted black malts that you'd expect in a stout, this was a solid, easy-drinking stout that left my palate satisfied. Yet another Fair State beer that I liked from top to bottom. I've yet to be disappointed by these guys.

I had one more order of business, and that was to pick a growler to take home. Pomp le Moose, the saison IPA,  got the nod this time. I'm going to open it up now....

Highly clouded, straw gold coloring, nice white head that slowly drifts down.

Funky aromatics, nice blend of sour and wheat notes, fresh and lively, and here come the hops. Beautiful citric notes that strike a nice balance, and are never bitter.

On the palate, that's where the bitterness comes in, and it pounces pleasantly, lingering long, staying strong through the finish. All the elements of a classic, slightly sour saison are in place, as well as the cornerstones of a great, bitter IPA. I haven't had a lot of farmhouse IPAs, perhaps I've never had one, but I'm pretty damn happy with this. Good beer, and you can drink it. There's some hop astringency on the palate that some may not like, but I'm not them, and I do dig this easy-drinking hoppy saison. The growler will be gone in no time flat.

Here are the official notes from the brewery: POMP LE MOOSE
This is a farmhouse IPA. Hopped with Meridian and Centennial, it should have strong grapefruit aroma and taste in addition to the classic French Saison yeast profile.

Another hit from these guys, proving that I need to get
out there more often. And this introduces the conundrum: we have too much good beer around here! I went to Fair State on  Monday in order to try the tenth LactoBac, having missed out on the previous 4, and now they're starting a new sour series which debuts tomorrow night. Should I go there, again, or to Sisyphus for the open mic comedy night and the re-release of Isaac the Fax Man, which I bought a growler of, but accidentally drank without taking notes on it? If I visit them, I won't be making another notch in the progress of this project. The quest for great beers from my favorites means I don't get out to others, or is it that the quest to try them all means I don't check in to those favorites? There are more Wooden Souls at Indeed, there's a new IPA at Harriet, an Imperial Red at Northgate and their Anniversary, I still need to return to Lakes and Legends, and what about all those St. Paul (haven't made it to the new Bad Weather once, or Wabasha, or to several of them for the second time) and suburban breweries? I've got to make it out there, while still stepping into the comfort zones, too, to keep my smiling face in front of my favorite beer-tenders.

This is #5 and we're still on Minneapolis brewery taprooms here on the 27th day of January. I may publish #6 later tonight. Could I find #s 7 & 8 in the next 4 days, fulfilling my goal of 2 per week, or 8 a month? Wait, did I say one a week earlier? Nope, it's 8 a month. Yeah, that's it. And on we go.....

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bell's Special Double Cream Stout

And now I once again find myself with a sample bottle of a beer that I somehow have not had in the past five years or more. And I'm looking back on a review from nearly 13 years ago, if you can believe it. Nonetheless, here we have it, notes on Special Double Cream Stout from Bell's, from February of 2003:
 Bell's Special Double Cream Stout. 6.1 % alf/vol.

Fully dark in color, a deep, deep black, and a sturdy cocoa-y brown head.

Aroma is rich and roasty, toasty, but still rather light. Perhaps that's where the cream comes in, I'd guess, though it's on the subtle side.

Mouthfeel gets a great initial hop blitz , that mellows soon after., but not before giving off blasts of cherryish sweetness. Slight bitterness continues with every swallow, but is ultimately subsided. All in all, a very tasty, unique stout, soothing and delicious.

From the label: Brewed with a blend of 10 different malts, Double Cream is an incredibly rich stout composed of dark, sweet, and smooth tones intermingled with a soft, roast finish. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One By One #4: Surly Brewing Company, Minneapolis, with Stout, One, and Hopshifter 3.

(Note: I began writing this on Wednesday, and finished it Saturday.)

How my heart filled with joy and soared up among the clouds when I saw the weather forecast, with the news that today, Wednesday, the 20th of January would have temperatures in the 20's. Twenty-plus degrees above zero! Oh, frabjous day, calloo, callay! I could spend this day off going to visit another brewery and not freeze to death while waiting for the bus. It's a freakin' miracle, y'all.

You know they put this sign up for a reason.
I picked Surly for #4 today for various reasons, beginning with the appearance, reported in beer-related Facebook pages, of the first straight-up stout from Surly, not coffee, not cranberry, and not Russian Imperial. Also, One, the initial anniversary beer,  was re-brewed and was currently on. Got to have 'em. Secondly, doing a new beer based on a visit to Surly would mean taking notes at the bar, something I don't normally do. Surly can't fill growlers by law, because they're too big and Minnesota law don't allow that. No reason, just 'cause. But on the other hand, I don't think they would want to, though, even if they could. The brewery, bar and restaurant is busy enough as it is, without the added work of filling and selling growlers. I remember way back, nine years ago when they released the first cans at the same time they got the growlers going. Omar didn't actually want to do both, and they were glad to quit the game at the end of 2008. I would love to take home growlers from Surly MSP, with all the great stuff on tap there, but that the way it goes.

I posed for a self-portrait photograph with a mural
last summer. And yes, I always look this serious.
So, on this visit I would take notes and not buy a growler to bring home, and that is fine, because you know what? I have 27 different cans, bottles and growlers in the fridge at home waiting for me to review for this blog, and I don't need to add to that collection. No new growlers until some of those other beers go away.

I arrived around 6 pm, with the place bustling as always, and managed to find a single seat at the bar. On close inspection, of the 20 beers on tap (You have to ignore the presence of Bender int the lineup, they only served cans of it.), a full half were beers that have never been packaged in any form, only appearing at the taproom or in select bars or at festivals. There's a great reason to keep going back to Surly. They know how to bring us in.

The first beer I chose was the third in the Hopshifter series, where the yeast and malt of an India Pale Ale remains the same, but different hops are used in each iteration. For #3, the hop employed was Chinook, with brings the citrus to the party. Vibrant, bold, assertive citrus hop aromatics. Enticing, long-lasting bitterness on the palate. Light to medium bodied, with a lush, nearly delicious, sweet malty base, providing beautiful balance to hopheads like me. Long, bitter, grapefruit-y finish. I was fairly in love with this one.

Next up, time for One, a beer I haven't had in nearly nine years, and never thought I'd ever drink again. I had it on tap at the Blue Nile in 2007, of course, where it tasted all the world like a doppelbock, but Todd insisted it wasn't one. This new version is 11.5% ABV, versus the 9% beer they released in '07. And just for kicks, here's the review of the old one that I added to on January 10, 2007 (Can it be that the anniversary beers used to come out before the actual anniversary?)

"One", an anniversary lager. ("But don't call it a doppelbock.")
Brewed July 2006, with a blend of 7 different malts and candi sugar. 9% abv, 28 IBU.

(this was hard to categorize, as it's not a double pilsner, not a malt liquor,...I thought I'd err on the safe side and just enter it as an all-malt lager.)

Sample bottle poured into a wide-mouth Belgian chalice.

Deep mahogany hue. ("Tawny brown", says the brewer, but we're both right.) Slim whitish head.

Aroma: nice and malty, lightly spicy, with prominent notes of raisin and plum. Molasses isn't far off, either. Delicate sweetness.
And, though I tried not to copy the brewer's notes, yes, there's vanillla and licorice in there, too, can't deny it.)

Taste away: Mmmmm. That's all I'll say: Mmmm



...okay, seriously, this is quite a slick, delicious treat, and they're right it's not a doppelbock, it's unlike anything I can think of at the moment, and I think it's brilliant.
Those dark fruit flavors ride on top, coated with a candyish sheen and it's jostles the realm of the syrupy, but not quite. It grabs hold of the palate with each new sip, drips this sweet concoction all over the tongue and it splashes the roof of the mouth, coats the senses, then softly fades back, though the beautiful flavor never quite quits.

Alcohol is not as forward as you'd think, going into a 9% lager, but I still would advise against tippling too many!
Finish is long, body is medium to full, and the taste is well-tempered, very sweet, but not too much so, at least not to me. Those who can't stand a touch of sweetness may not like it. Their loss.

Surly One. It's back!
Happy 1st Anniversary Surly!
Here's to many more!

This new One is a clear, reddish brown, with a hefty head. A rich, lush malty nose, prevailing sweetness. Tastes of vanilla, oak, molasses, other undefinable goodnesses. Plenty of caramel and toffee coming through. I'd end up repeating the earlier notes from nine years past, it's remarkably
close to it. More bock than quad, but I suppose this term is suggest that it's bigness is much more than "doppel", though it's not like a Belgian quadrupel, except in comparison to strength. Full bodied, with a clean finish, alcohol really coming through in the end. One is a delicious treat that should be re-brewed again, and packaged so that we can savor it at home, and cellar for years to come.

By the way, here's what the the brewery says: "A re-brew of our 1st Anniversary beer. Intense malt flavors of toffee, bready malt, and a warming smooth, yet dry finish. Loosely based on a German doppelbock, ours is bigger, so we call it a Quad-Bock." They serve it in 4 ounces for $3, or 10 ounces for $6.
I did not have a One Time Sour Cranberry
Gose on that visit,
 but here's a picture of Jason having one with me
 back in October. Just because. 
I did not have a Darkness on this visit, but
here's a self-portrait photograph of me doing
 so in late summer, with Joe in the background. 

Surly Stout. It's new!
I closed out my session with the new one called, simply, Stout, and once again I emptied the glass with satisfaction. My notes went like this: "Utter blackness. Deep, smoky, malty aromatics. Beautiful roasted malt character coming through in the nose. I wondered if there was oats in it, as Todd is fond of that, but no, crystal malt is used to balance the roasted malt. Classic dry stout mouthfeel, finishing clean and dry. Class, straight-up stout."

After 10 years of coloring outside the lines, they do a stout by the numbers, and it is damned good. There ain't nothing wrong with that. Although. I don't want to see them throwing out Bender or messing with Cynic or tossing out their boundary-breaking history now that they've hit the big time. I recently noticed that Bitter Brewer has been retired after 8 years or so, but if sales are what sales are, what can you do? Personally, I think the name "bitter" needs to be retired in general in the beer world, unless you're really speaking to the hop freaks.

It's been almost 10 years since my first taste of Surly's first two beers, a special invitation to the brewery on Monday, January 31, 2006. I ordered my first keg of Bender for the Blue Nile the next day, and hooked it up that Friday. It was a different beer world, then, no doubt about it. Surly was the first new local brewery in years, and the first one to succeed since Summit. In the next 5 years, they started to slowly collect company, but the last few have been just about insane with the explosion of breweries around Minnesota. It's hard to conceive of this sort of expansion happening ten years ago. Someone had to get the ball rolling, and it was Surly. Say what you will of your opinions on their beers, or their fans, or the "hype", or whatever, but you cannot deny the effect they've had, how they turned palates around here, and made this a beer-friendly culture. Yeah, I'm a Surly fanboy. They are the #2 most tagged local brewery on this blog, 55 once I post this, and I've had a storied past with them over the years. But there's a reason for it. Just go through these past five years of posts, chronicling ten years of this brewery, and you'll get a sense of why I have such an attachment to them. As for the new brewery, skip ahead to this post, where I wrote at length about my first visit.

Town Hall Manhattan Reserve, Barrel-aged Grand Cru with cherries

Excuse the crappiness of the picture.
That's what happens when it's the third beer of the morning.
So, here we have Manhattan Reserve from Town Hall, at last in my possession in a growler, which I am at last going to drink. It's the Belgian-style Grand Cru, aged in whiskey barrels, with tart cherries added, giving the overall impression of a Manhattan cocktail.

Clear, bright crimson coloring, no head at all. (I tried again to pour, and a small head appears briefly, but to quick to get it in the photo I took.)

Bourbon screams out of the nose. Vanilla, cherry, oak. It's brilliant, they did it, they made a beer that smells like a manhattan cocktail. Does it taste like one? That's next...

Large sweetness blasts the tongue at first, getting cooler and calmer soon thereafter. Hugely rich and lush. More cherry, more whiskey, more vanilla and oak. Sweet and malty and over-powering with the cherry and the booze and the richness and deliciousness. Oh, my. Sweetness turns dry and rolls all over the palate. Yum, yum, yum.

Insight Dank IPA

It's time for another sample bottle, this one the IPA from Insight called Dank. I received this on Monday, and I hope it's still good.

Clear, bright and golden, nice white head.

Aroma is big citrus and pine, lemon and lime, bits of orange here and there. Nice and floral, too. I like this.

Taste: Vibrant hop action on the tongue, on the palate, in the roof of the mouth and flooding to the back of the throat. Big, boisterous bitterness, followed by a calm and a cool. Hop bitterness clings and last, and it's quite likable to this ol' hophead. Lean-bodied, with the hops on top. Good drinking. Loads of hop flavor. I kind of like it.

Here's what the website says: We've taken this IPA up a notch with a ton of bitterness and hoppy goodness.  With a medium to light malt body, the focus of this beer is hops - to truly let them be the hero. A layer of earthy and dank hops on top of bold citrus characters make this beer our hoppiest to date.I

Postal Script: I held back how much I hate the word "dank" as a descriptor. Because there are things that I cannot change, and there's no use whining all the time. 

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tropical IPA

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tropical IPA.  6.7% Alc./Vol.

Appearance: clear, bright golden hue, lasting white head, leaving lace. Looks just gorgeous.

Aroma: Lemon and pineapple trick the nose first, some piney, resinous stuff, too. Mango, maybe, and some orange and lime, with hints of banana.

Taste: Mmm. Yeah. Big hoppiness, brash bitterness, citrus and tropical fruit flavors abound. Lean bodied, light malt flavor, plenty of room for the hops to shine and shine. Bitterness lays back a bit, and all is smooth and luscious on out. This is just right for a hop-head like me. I can dig this one.

On the label: This new equatorial IPA features intense hop varietals bursting with aromas reminiscent of island fruit, including notes of mango, papaya, and bitter orange, for a tropical take on an IPA."

On the back, as well as the website (see link above), slightly more information, worded differently.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Insight Devil's Companion Porter (aka Chapter LXXIV: Taming the Devil's Companion)

Here we have another label-less sample of a beer that's actually available in cans. Why didn't they bring me a can? How was it filled? I hope not directly from the taproom faucet. As I said before, that doesn't work so well. It's from Insight Brewing, it's their English Porter and it's 5.3% ABV. Let's drink it up!

Clear, dark brown coloring, short-lived head.

Aroma is roasty, lightly bitter, nice and dry.

Taste: toasty, roasty malt flavors dominate. Medium bodied. Kind of boring. Kind of one-dimensional. It's okay, nothing wrong with it....chocolate malt flavors, dry roasted notes. But pretty lifeless on the palate. I don't recall being especially impressed with it on tap, but I'm just not getting anything of substance from this bottle. I will hunt down a can, or visit the taproom once more to give it another go, while leaving this impression published. I want to like it, I do, but for

UPDATE: Drinking from can...I'm liking this more. More dry, more roast, more cocoa and coffee. This is not a bad porter in the least, in fact I would say that it is very good. I'd recommend it to porter drinkers. Maybe even to everyone. No, no, it's not for everyone. There are still those who just can't hang.

Barley John's Brewing Company Pilsner

Here we have an unlabeled sample bottle of a beer only available on tap, or in a growler filled at the New Richmond brewery. I did not ask what method was used to fill it, and can only hope it wasn't filled from the tap and capped. I have not had good luck with those sort of samples. It was given to me two weeks ago and I feel bad that I haven't cracked it since. Time to right that wrong. Away we go...

Clear, and bright golden in color, with a fresh, white head that dissipates quickly.

Floral aromatics, lightly grainy/malty. Slight hoppiness. Classic pilsner profile.

Taste: crisp, clean, light bodied, easy drinker. Drinks down like a dream. Slight sweetness, excellent balance. Want a good lager, go get this one.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Surly Witch's Tower Session Brown Ale

Witch's Hat Water Tower Solstice Session Brown Ale was the first new beer brewed for the Surly MSP brewery in the Prospect Park neighborhood, named in honor of the local landmark nearby. I don't know how often it appears outside of their taproom, but when I saw kegs available, I snagged one fast as I could for Acadia, and tapped it last week. Finally sat down to write notes tonight.

Solid brown coloration, clear-ish, cocoa-tinged head, starts large, slims down and clings to the glass.

Cardamom is unmistakable in the nose, green and sweet, slightly spicy, notes of celery and new-mown grass. Delightfully fresh change of pace.

In the mouth, the cardamom is strong again, holding court over all the proceedings. Sweet, tasty malt holds on just below. In the end, dryness mixed with herbal/vegetal notes. Lower alcohol and lighter body makes this one an easy-breezy drinker. Flavor persists through the glass, with the clean finish urging on further swallows. Clean and dry and slightly spicy-sweet. I can dig it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Surly / Mikkeller Brett Mikkel's IPA, India Pale Ale fermented with brettanomyces

Here's a beer that Surly debuted at the taproom, I mean Beer Hall, and it's finally found it's way in bottles. I'm extra excited that it's the first time that I've seen the Surly logo on a bottle cap, after nearly 10 years. Let's open it up and drink it.

Alc./Vol. 7.5%.

Clear, bright golden coloring, vast ivory head.

Funk fuels the aroma with immediacy, a wildness sets it off, an incredibly beautiful weird aromatic. Fruity, sweet, malty, out of the world.

In the mouth: Easy-drinking, light to medium bodied, crisp and clean malty flavor, with hops on top, and brett steering the flavor. Not tart, nor sour, but with plenty of wild, weird Belgian-style funk on the tongue. Tastes just like the very picture, the perfect flavor of the Belgian pale ale/ IPA. Just right. Fresh. Zesty. Delicious. Urges me to finish gulp after gulp.

And each new sip, I like it more and more. I'm a sucker for Belgian-styles, Belgian IPAs, funky wild beers, and, of course, Surly. Here they are, all together in one nice package. I said it before, I'll say it again: delicious. Just flat out yum.

Hey, there's gobbledygook on the back of the label, let's read it...."this beer takes the concept of an IPA, blends in a variety of German aroma hop varietals, and ferments with brettanomyces, rather than a traditional British ale yeast strain. Light bodied and dry, the combination of Brett and hop varieties offers complex earthy notes and candied fruit aromas, while the Honey Malt provides an intense malt sweetness. It ain't nothing but a good time!" Oh, really? Is that what it aint nothing but? Okay...

This is my kind of beer. Funky, fruity, and dry in the end. Love, It. This is my binge drinking beer. Good thing it's too expensive to guzzle.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One By One: #3: Lynlake Brewery, Minneapolis, with Rye Guy Saison

When we started this series of visiting the breweries of Minnesota, we (by that I mean I ), wondered whether I would start getting to the out-of-the-way places, or stay close to home. In episode two, we found that the weather kept me timid and only investigating the well-known spots not far from my own neighborhood. I had made plans on my next day off to venture outward, but the frigid temps cancelled that. A full day off on a Friday night, the whole day mine, and it's well below zero. I got out of the house, but only made it out to Town Hall, my second visit this year, drinking some damn fine beers, taking home one of last year's barrel-aged beers in a growler, and only stepping out further to get needed provisions. What a fun-filled Friday night. Oh, I am getting old...

I made more plans for my next day off, though canceling the visits that are not open on Sundays, and you know what? It's still 5 below for Christs sake. And I'd suffered through waiting on a bus this morning in 11 below. Damn it, it's cold. There is a distinct correlation between the temperature and a witch's tit. I am not spending my free time out of doors if I don't have to. I will stick to the places that I know that are close to the bus stops, and I will minimize my chances of freezing to death.

And that's where I decided to drop in on LynLake Brewery, which I haven't been to since October, ending the post with "I should come here more often." Well, three months later, it's time to pop my head back in and see what's what.  I've only taken home a handful of growlers before, and also wrote more in addition here.

I started with a little pale ale called Citra Queen. You can't go wrong with Citra.
Citra Queen
5.2% ABV. 45 IBU. Big citric happens, smooth, slightly bitter, and ever-so drinkable. Exactly what you want in a citra pale ale. Love it.

Nitro Sword Smith Baltic Porter
From there I dipped right into a beer I knew I wanted to like, and I did. One of the best I've had from them. A Baltic Porter on nitro called Sword Smith, 9.2% ABV and 42 IBU, smooth, supple, silky, full-bodied, rich and malty, and a true delight. Plenty of raisin and cocoa coming in the flavor, dark fruits, a little coffee and licorice, everything I want in a Baltic Porter. I wished I could take it home, but you know how it is with nitro. This is the second year they've made this beer, I was told.
Cask Tradesman Porter with coconut.

sideburns oat raisin stout on nitro.
For my 3rd beer there, I went with a cask offering, their Tradesman Porter, with coconut added. It had the coconut alright, really big with the coconut, and I could dig it. I'd had the Tradesman before, and this was a nice twist.

I finished off with a nitro offering of the Sideburns oat raisin stout, also highly satisfactory. Creamy and slightly sweet, notes of chocolate and coffee, smooth and satisfying. Nice stout. So. Four beers down, that's enough for a night, now time to pack up and head into the frozen tundra.

I took home a 750 ml growler, what they call "roadies", for reasons that escape me, of the Rye Guy Saison, 7.4% ABV., 14 IBU, "a wheat and rye heavy saison for the winter. Yeast derived notes of pepper, and spice along with an herbal and earthy hop presence. Sweet citrus aromas lead into a bubblegum fruity sweetness with a dry finish." I quote this and post it, after having already written my notes, and they are.

Clear, chestnut coloring, dusky brown, slim dark head.

Slight sweetness in the nose, that Belgian bubblegum they talk about...rye malt spice just below. I like this nice, complex mix. Now, to taste....

In the mouth: again, it starts sweet and malty, turns Belgian funky, ends up dry. Lots of flavor coming through in this. Medium-bodied, with great flavors. Extraordinarily pleasant, expertly enriching.

Warm, malty, pleasing and satisfying....damn, I like this.

So, I'm left thinking what I thought before. This brewery is so close to me, there's no reason to only stop in every few months. They occupy an excellent piece of real estate that's bound to bring in a loyal following from the neighborhood, and are making some interesting choices in their offerings. A year and some months in, they have not produced anything for sale outside of the brewery, but it's still early for that. There's still time for them to find themselves and grow. And, hey, maybe they don't need that just yet. Maybe just serving up beers in the taproom is enough for now.

Fulton / Nola Messipi Amber Saison with Brett & Oak

Fulton/Nola Messipi, a collaboration brew with a brewery down the other side of that river we both share. 6.8% alc. by Vol. 29 IBU. 750 ml beer. I hadn't even heard of this one, when I saw it for sale. Now, I'm going to drink it.

Clear, bright copper-y amber coloring, slim, but staying head.

Nose is wild, funky and fruity right from the start. Oak and brett have had their way with it, and it's pretty amazing. Just gorgeous, in that weird, wild Belgian way.

Taste: Sharp, fruity, and slightly sour right off, nice and fruity and malty and yum. Nice, low bitterness, slight spiciness, subtle oak character. Big time funk. Excellent balance in this complex brew, full of flavor and long-lasting deliciousness.

I am enjoying this. You go on and enjoy one, too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Founders Project Pam Black India Pale Ale aged in Maple Syrup Bourbon Barrels

Founder Project Pam. Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Mi. 10% Alc. by Vol.
Black IPA aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels.

Utter darkness, with a rich, cocoa-tinged head, full and lace-leaving.

Aromatics come spilling out of the glass, maple and bourbon overload, smelled from afar. Come in closer: deep and dark, molasses, treacle, vanilla and chocolate. Some oak? Interesting, to say the least.

In the mouth: Surprisingly silky smooth. Rich malt, slick cocoa tones, vanilla and cherry notes, turning dry in the finish. Grassy hop notes pop up here and there, but bitterness is always kept at bay. I never would have said "black IPA" if it wasn't on the label. I'm still startled by the smooth. A nice little mix of the bitter and the sweet, always kept in balance, despite the bigness of it all.

There was no superfluous gobbledygook on the label, which left me wondering who is this Pam of which they speak? Is that her on the label? What's her project, looking like a dude? I have questions that demand answers.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One: #2: Harriet Brewing, Minneapolis, with Karma Suture Belgian Brown Ale

If you recall the ending to my last post, I was pondering what my next move to check off local breweries would be, and how I would do it. I checked bus schedules to see how I can visit some St. Paul breweries on a Sunday, but something intervened to change plans. A couple of things, actually, starting with #1, I had pressing matters to attend to, "errands" some call them. But attend to them I had to do, before any recreational activities. And the other thing? The temperature is below zero today, almost 10 degrees below. No fun. Not sure I wanted to do a lot of standing around waiting for buses, or walking to catch the next connection.

I've known Madeleine for seven years, and never knew she had such
 flair with chalk.
My business at the library, the bank, and the grocery store kept me in the neighborhood where both Hiawatha and Minnehaha Avenues meet with Lake Street. What else is there? Harriet Brewing. Wasn't there a new beer just released? I walked up to the back entrance to the taproom and saw owner Jason Sowards. No, he informed me, that release wasn't until Tuesday afternoon. But on entering the room and reading the beautiful new chalkboard (the things you miss you don't visit for a month or three), there was a beer on tap that I hadn't even heard of, so a growler full of it was soon in my possession. After a couple of beers, chatting with friends, taking in some live music, it was time to go home, and with dinner and chores done, it's time to crack open this Belgian-style brown ale called Karma Suture for reasons that weren't made clear to me. It's 4.8% ABV, with 25 IBUs.

Clear, reddish brown coloring, large creamy-tan head, lasting long and leaving some lace.

Some sweetness in the nose, minor fruity esters, low bitterness. Mostly malty. Probably Belgian Special B in this one, and I'd guess that Belgian yeast is being used. I really should have asked Jason while I was there, but I also enjoy the guessing game.

In the mouth: starts slightly sweet, thoroughly malty, ending dry and crisp. Just enough bitter for balance. Just enough sweet for flavor. Nicely rounded, and quite tasty. Some chocolate malt notes, and a bit caramel malt flavor, too. I like this one. When you're desires something dark, but you don't want to go with the high alcohol offerings like Dark Abbey dubbel, or Grande Zombi stout, this makes an excellent session ale, while hanging out in the taproom, relaxing with the music.
Cheers, Joe, and thanks for the beer!

I found this one to be quite satisfactory, and will enjoy drinking at least half of the growler tonight.

Steve West and friends provide some sweet music on a frigid Sunday afternoon. 
I've done a fairly thorough job of documenting the output of this brewery over the past five years. They are fifth most tagged Minnesota brewery on the blog, after Town Hall, Surly, Schell's and Summit. When they opened, there were no other production breweries in the city of Minneapolis, only brewpubs. We've got nearly 30 now, and Harriet still hasn't seen any real expansion in that time, nor packaged any of their beers in cans or bottles to sell outside the taproom. Tap handle real estate has gotten more competitive, and Harriet has to do a lot more marketing to stay fresh in the eyes of the craft beer crowd. Just putting on music events and food truck rallies may not be enough to keep the drinkers coming back to this old, former garage. I'd like to see them survive and grow. Quirky breweries like this help keep the beer scene just a little bit weird, and I'd hate to see that go away.
The bobbing head of Hank Williams Jr. continues to watch over
 the record section,
where some of my LPs remain in the collection. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One: #1: Sisyphus Brewing, Minneapolis, with Winter Warmer

It's 2016, everyone! hooray! And it has been for a good, solid week, now. And what did I do? Well, I was under the weather for a bit and down in the dumps for a while, too. But, we shouldn't wallow, should we? We should correct this and soldier on as only we, I mean I, know how. And what am I going to do? Make an effort to hit up all the Minnesota breweries through the year, visiting so many I've never seen before, and revisiting old favorites.

This idea occurred to me last week, and I thought about making at least one post a week from a Minnesota brewery, based on a visit, reviewing a new beer. It could be more than one post a week, and if it wasn't, how could I get to our more than 100 breweries in a year? Is it possible? Of course. Can I do it? I'll try.

So I look back on week one, January 1-7, and where did I go? On Saturday, 1/2, I stepped foot into Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery and had a handful of great ones, then Sisyphus, later that night. I will probably save MTHB, which is one of my most common haunts, until Barrel-aged week in about a month. Last night, Thursday the 7th, I went to Sisyphus again, this time to see owner and brewer Sam Harriman headline a comedy night. I had no idea what I was in for. And I took home a crowler of Winter Warmer, which I missed out on a few weeks ago.

Sisyphus Winter Warmer. 6.7% ABV. 30 IBU. Filled: 1/7.

Mostly hazy, nearly burgundy in color, a reddish-brown to be plain, with a full, cocoa-tinged head. Looking good.

Aroma: nutty, cocoa-y, creamy, smooth malt notes. Very nice.

In the mouth: starts out slightly fierce and hoppy, then all is smooth and malty. Terrific balance, fiery at first, full of flavor, heat, and some spice, then more. Vanilla is here, cherries, too. Rich malt. Slight hops. Terrifically tasty. Medium-bodied, fairly easy-drinking, full of rich malty flavor. Lots of complexity in this one, and it's a true winter warmer in all regards. I am very happy with this one. I'll drink one whenever I see it. Yum, I say. Yum, indeed.

I talked about Sisyphus several times in the past. (Hey, if you don't want to wade though all those posts, just check this one out._I find myself increasingly happy with their output these days. There's rarely a beer I don't like. With this visit, I took in stand-up in the performance room for the first time, and got to see what Sam's comedy is all about. I had no clue what it would be? Impressions? Props? Scatological humor? I was not disappointed, and maybe a little bit shocked. In truth, I hadn't laughed so hard in quite a long time. I recall some of Sam's jokes at his wife's expense, while she switched duties between both sides of the bar, then, later, while he gotten into even sicker stuff, pulling out the smartphone to record the set. I sort of wished I'd done the same. I never got out the camera device, and just relaxed and enjoyed the show. How do you know I was there, then? How can I illustrate this evening?
 I will borrow a picture that my brother-in-law took that same evening, and posted on Facebook. I'm sure he won't mind. I do wish I'd thought to snap a shot of Sam onstage, but sometimes I just want to live life, and not document or record it. Don't you just want to turn off that modern urge once in a while?


So, the year-long project begins. To clarify it one more time: At least once a week, one blog post based on a visit to a local brewery, with a new beer review from that visit, with no brewery to be repeated, (more clarification: of course I will return to breweries and their beers after they're tagged in "minnesota breweries one by one", but they won't return to the series.), urging me to keep getting out there and documenting my visits to the Minnesota brewing scene. Do I stay safe and hit up a local, South Minneapolis brewery next, or get out to St. Paul, or plot a course to get to one of the suburban breweries, or even further out-state? That is the quest. Watch this space.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sixpoint The Crisp

Sixpoint The Crisp. 5.4% ABV. 12 fl. oz. can. 44 IBU. Lager. Brooklyn, New York.

Clear, bright golden coloring, large head that drifts down quickly.

Notes of flowers and honey in the nose, nicely hopped. A little grainy with some late blooming

In the mouth: nothing but smooth. Light bodied, easy drinking, clean and lean malt flavors. Happier than most, this is a lager I can get behind. Don't have much else to say, so let's see what they say.....When the Mad Scientists emerged from underground, the quest for a new formulation went from obsession to reality.
What do you get when you fuse old world craftsmanship with new, clean, & bold flavors from right raw materials? The Crisp. It's Mad Science.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sisyphus "Richard Kind" of a Big Deal

I was at the brewery the other day and brought this home to try. Don't remember if I tasted it there, or not. Maybe that's why I brought it home, because I didn't try it. And I couldn't recall the style, nor is it listed on the can. A little diligent research shows that once again users of untapped are much more active than BeerAdvocate. They're calling it a "Lager-Black." Didn't know that was a category.

"Richard Kind" of a Big Deal. (totally forgot why they named it for the actor, though I remember a discussion about it.) 5.1% ABV. 25 IBU.
Full black coloring, short cocoa-tinged head, soon drifts down to nil.

Sweet malty nose, notes of caramel, cocoa, cream.

In the mouth: some bitterness, but mostly smooth malt flavors. Lots of dark, slightly roasted tastes, a hint of cocoa and espresso. Medium bodied. Especially easy-drinking. Finishes clean, with remaining flavorful. In other words: good beer, you can drink it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Fair State Old Richmond Rye

Here's a beer I knew nothing of, until I saw the bottle. Okay, I'm-a gonna drink it. Batch 01. Bottle #139. Rye whiskey barrel old ale, 7.3% aBV, 40 IBU. Okay, let's drink it. Brewed by Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Minneapolis, Minnesota, in Partnership with 45th Parallel Distillery in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

Very murky appearance, highly haze, rich mahogany coloring, slim head that settles quick.

Aroma is big-time whiskey notes: cherries, vanilla, and oak. Just fine by me.

In the mouth: whiskey notes are huge right from the start. Big bourbon, vanilla, dark cherry and other fruits. Big malt, low hops, huge whiskey-fied flavoring. Doesn't translate through the alcohol, but it positively boils over in the flavor. Rich richness from New Richmond, via Minneapolis. Wow, this is delicious. Dee-lish-us.

I'm digging it big time, and wondering what some time would do for it. Maybe I ought to buy another for the cellaring, before they're all gone?

Dave's BrewFarm The Perle Pundit

Reports of the demise of Dave's BrewFarm, my own included, have not necessarily been exaggerated, but projected too far in advance. The property has been up for sale, but a year and some months later, there has been no successful transaction and change of hands. The last one fell though, and David Anderson is still at it, though he had made that metaphorical move within his soul, and wishes to make that life-change  a reality. Surely someone else wants to buy a brewery in the middle of nowhere, Western Wisconsin?

On my last visit, my first in months, there was exactly one beer I'd never tried available in the growler format. I am about to drink it. The Perle Pundit. 6.4 % ABV. We'll get to FarmerDave's description later.

Lightly haze, bright golden color, large white head, looking good.

Fresh, floral aromatics. Lightly hoppy, just flat out beautiful, if truth be told. Belgian yeast aromatics, as well. Intriguing.

Tasting it: crisp, dry, hoppy, zesty, yes. That's the quick review. Let's go lengthy, now. Lean bodied, nicely hopped (I'm gonna guess Perle), easy going down, lightly bitter, crisply malty. Extra smooth, man. Like the saxophone solo in a Kool & the Gang hit from the 80's. That Belgian yeast strain is doing it's thing, too, delivering that funky fresh flavor to the palate. Reminds me in a way of a Belgian single, and nothing else. A little pilsner-y, a little pale ale-ish. Great beer, and I'm drinking it.

From the mouth of FarmerDave: "Pils, Cara Red and a splash of oats. Two additions of Perle and finished with Select hops. Fermented with a Trappist-lineage yeast. Crisp and refreshing." Yes, it is that. I wish I were at a picnic. Oh, well.

Town Hall Masala Mama IPA

I'm still scratching my head over what took me so long to visit the Town Hall Brewery. It had been in business five full years before I...