Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Destihl Cerise Stout Imperiale

Destihl Cerise Stout Imperiale. 11% ABV. 81 IBU.

Solid black, lush tan head, leaving lace.

Chocolate malt notes hit the nose first, following by dark fruits, cherries, while remaining on the side of dry, never sweet.

In the mouth: rich, full-bodied, long malty finish. A touch of oak. Chocolate meets cherries, ending dry. Nicely hopped, beautifully balanced. Uniquely flavored.

Yum. I like this.

There was a lot of gobbledygook on the label, maybe that will explain the 80's-style graphics of the label art design. Check here, but you'll have to look down a bit. Okay, I'll cheat and copy it for you....
CERISE STOUT IMPERIALE
ABV: 11%     IBU: 81     Color SRM: 79     First Brewed: 04-22-10

Totally radical chocolate-like aroma masks subtle notes of cherries and oak as a prelude to amped up flavors of rich, bitter, dark-chocolate malt combined with tart cherries and oak tannins that most definitely electrify this Belgian-style imperial stout's smooth, silky body and bone-dry finish.

Well, I still don't know why the nod to the '80's, but at least I know it's not just my imagination. Thanks to my brother Kevin for getting me this bottle.

Prairie Artisanal Ales Phantasmagoria Double India Pale Ale

Prairie Artisan Ales Phantasmagoria Double India Pale Ale . 8% ABV. 70 IBU. Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Clouded, pale golden, lush ivory head atop.

Bold tropical fruit aromatics: mango, papaya, passionfruit. Citric traces, too, and maybe a touch of pine, but it’s mostly sweet and juicy.

In the mouth: lively hop attack on the tongue. Bitterness is big, fresh, vibrant, refreshing. Citrus-y notes in the hop profile pop up and compete with the sweet tropical tones. Juicy bumps up against sweet, taking turns with bitter. Medium-bodied, long, juicy/bitter finish.

This is one is just a little different. And I like that.

A little info stolen from somewhere: Phantasmagoria is an IPA that is low in malt flavors, but high in hops. We brew this beer as a nod to the big hoppy beers of the west coast. We use loads of citrusy and piney hops at the end of the boil and in the fermenter to make this beer a hop experience.

Bemidji Brewing Flanders Red Ale 2014

It's another one from last week's Minnesota Wild & Funky event, and I can't claim credit for bringing it in. Thanks go to Ryan from Indeed for talking to these guys and getting them to contribute. I, frankly, did not know they were doing anything like this. It makes me more excited to bring them into the plans for Minnesota Breweries One by One, and visit it good ol' Bemidji town.

Bemidji Brewing Flanders Sour Red 2014. 5.5% AVV.

Gorgeous crimson coloring, slim beige head, sticks around and leaves lace.

Aroma starts wine-like and vinegary, tart and cherry-ish, oak-y, fruity, lovely.

In the mouth: Intensely puckering at first, delivering dry, fruity flavors. Medium-bodied. Long, tart, cherry/berry-ish finish. Sourness grows and grows, continues deliciously.

This is a nice version of the style. It's not great, but it's good enough to encourage them to keep on at it. Could be better, could be fuller bodied, more of everything. But, then again, they don't have the hundreds of years of experience that the master brewers in Belgium do. Good start, though.

From the brewery: "Blend of barrel-aged beers that results in a bright, tart ale with notes of fruit, caramel and oak. This dry and malty ale was the first release from our Sour Beer program and has been cellared for nearly two years."

Friday, May 13, 2016

Indeed Wooden Soul #7

Indeed Wooden Soul #7. 5.4% ABV.  Wood-aged red ale in red wine barrels, with cherries and raspberries added. Indeed Brewing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

One of the eight Minnesota made sours on tap at Acadia, for the Minnesota Wild & Funky beer event that I helped coordinate. This one was ours before it was Indeed's. A debut! Will be tapped in the Taproom next week. For now, come to us to get it.

Utterly opaque, deep burgundy coloring, slim, tight ring of foam above.

Aroma is the epitome of oak and sour, with a touch of berries. Lacto acid, ever-so slight vinegar, major fruit.

In the mouth: big-time pucker, intense sour, dry and oak-y. Beautifully balanced, ridiculously drinkable. Here come the raspberries, overtaking the cherries, sourness increasing. Medium-bodied, long sour finish, especially delicious. So very good.

Is this my favorite Wooden Soul? It just might be.

(Although, I never did try #s 4 or 5. Some day, maybe.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Destihl Wild Sour Series Flanders Red

Destihl Wild Sour Flanders Red. 6.1% ABV. 15 IBU.

Bright scarlet coloring, slim ring of foam above.

Aroma: deep sour, powerful funk. Candy-ish cherry notes, wine-like, high acidity, lactic sourness. Bears all the earmarks of the Flanders Red style, without actually being a true Flanders Red. Is this one a "kettle sour" like the others in the series?

In the mouth: ooo! Ow! Yeah! That's sour! Tart and refreshing and ever so ever-so. Ooo, wee, and yeah. Little bit of bitterness, lush caramel-y malt, tart cherry flavors all day long. Mmm, this is nice. A Flanders Red style in a can? Never thought I'd see it. Mmmm.

This is can #4 of the 4-pack I bought months ago. Drank the first 3 up lickety split, saving this last one for the right day to sit down and write these notes. This one may not be aged in giants foudres with copious cobwebs about, but it gets the job done. Gets all the flavors right, in a handy li'l can. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

B.O.M. Triporteur Wild & Funky

I'm doing an event tomorrow at Acadia called Minnesota Wild & Funky. Appropriate then, perhaps, to have "a true Belgian sour", the night before. I've had this before, and liked it, but these are my first notes.

B. O. M. Brewery Triporteur Wild & Funky, Belgian Pale Ale, Bree, Belgium. 5.4 % ABV.

Clouded, pale amber coloring, slim, soon-gone head.

Aroma is all manner of funky stuff, musty old caves & basement, wild yeast, rotting fruit, light spice.

In the mouth: tart sour from the start, bracingly so. Fading fast through, mellowing on the palate. Delivers a tart smack once again with each new sip, then the typical Belgian pale ale comes through, the standard yeast profile, the tasty, fruity malt body. Great balance in this, nice and tasty, but not too much of anything. Not too sour, not too fruity, not bitter at all. Just right.

Barley John's Brewing Company The Gnomenator Blonde Bock (Maibock)

I recently received some sample cans from Barley John's Brewing Company. This one had an MB written on it by John, but I can't find that beer anywhere. Instead, I found something on Untapped called The Gnomenator Blonde Doppelbock. Maybe that's what this is?

Barley John's Maibock. 8.5% ABV.

Clear, highly carbonated, deep amber coloring, slight, white head that disappears quickly on this pour. (I did just clean the glass, but maybe it still wasn't clean enough?)

Slightly sweet, grainy, malt-forward aromatics.

In the mouth: even more so. Goes sweet, ends dry. Good and grainy, mostly malty. Little bit o' fruit on the palate. Moderate hop bitterness, increasing strength. Growing fruit/hop flavor. Grapes, apple, etc.

This is all right. Good beer and I can drink it.

Barley John's Brewing Company Armagedgnome Wheat Wine

I had a sample can given to me by the Head Gnome Himself, Mr. John Moore of Barley John's. It said WW on it, for Wheat Wine. I looked all over for "Barley John's Brewing Company Wheat Wine" and found nothing. Oh, that's because it's actually called..

Armagedgnome. Wheat Wine. 8.3% ABV.

Deep crimson coloring, slim, short-lived head on it.

Aroma is bold and fruity, big and malty.

In the mouth: more sweet, but well-balanced, malty, fruity, and pretty damned yum. Bright, strong, very barley-wine-like, but smooth and tasty. Not bad, not bad at all. Tasty, tasty stuff.with a little bit of an alcoholic burn, but nice and pleasant. Well done, all around.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Deschutes Hop Slice Session IPA

Deschutes Hop Slice Session IPA, India Pale Ale brewed with Meyer lemons. 4.5% ABV. 45 IBU.

Clear, bright golden coloring, slim, but staying creamy white head.

Aroma: fresh, zesty, lemony. Not a trace of bitterness.

In the mouth: here it comes, a nice blast of bitter hoppiness that fades after a moment. Lightish body. Refreshing and tasty. Lemon-y? Yeah. Easy-drinking? Sure, you bet. A good one for summer.

I'm not thrilled with this one, but I don't think it's meant to thrill. Just to be emptied down your throat, then guzzled
again and again. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it tastes good.

Dangerous Man Brown Rye

Dangerous Man Brown Rye Ale. 5.4% ABV.

Dark brown coloring, lush, creamy head, looking good.

Sweet aromatics, toffee, brown sugar, with a little rye malt spice coming through. Nice.

In the mouth: starts off dry and a little bitter, leading to lush malt. Rich dark flavors go deep in this one. Spicy rye malt character adds to complexity. Nicely balanced. Sweetness never goes near cloying, rye malt keeps things interesting. I like it.

From the website:
FLAVOR NOTES
An American ale with plenty of toasted and brown malts. Fruity esters play on the nose and blend with the spiciness of the rye. The American Ale yeasts provides for a just over medium body for this apt fall delight.
MALTS USED
Pale, Rye, Chocolate Rye, Crystal, Special Roast, Black Prinz
HOPS USED
Herkules, Columbus, Glacier
YEAST USED
American

Sixpoint Jammer

Sixpoint Jammer, ale brewed with sea salt and coriander. 4.0% alc. by vol. 16 IBU.

So, I'm going to guess what this is before drinking. Some kind of gose/witbier hybrid? Let's find out.

Clear, straw yellow, slim, soon-done head.

Coriander greets the nose first, sweet and spicy. I get a little bit of salt, too, and some wheat malt notes.

In the mouth: sourness kicks in right off. Bracing and refreshing both. Smooth and sour. Salt is coming through on the palate, too. Interesting, to say the least. I like putting interesting things in my mouth. I'm becoming increasingly attracted to this beer. I find it delicious. Yum.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #30: Sidhe Brewing, St. Paul

Walking into Sidhe.
It's Sunday, April 17, another day off, and time for another trip to new breweries. Today, my companion is different, and we're treading on some of his old home turf. Dave Anderson grew up in St. Paul, and I hardly ever venture out there. When I do, it's usually downtown, or other areas I'm familiar with. We chose three St. Paul breweries to visit, which would increase the number of breweries from that city included in this project so far to 4, leaving at least seven more to see. As for Minneapolis, there are 12 more to include out of of 25. (I am counting breweries I've been to for this project, but haven't yet published or written yet.) When it comes to outside the Twin Towns, there are about 48 more Minnesota breweries on the agenda. I've got my work cut out for me.

Was I expecting too much of third graders?
After a little brunch at Tongue in Cheek on Payne Avenue, we went down the street to Sidhe Brewing, at 652 Jenks Avenue, in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood. When I first read about this place, I heard that is a bit of trouble to search it out, for if you go by the Payne Avenue entrance, you first have to go through the Plaza del Sol Mexican market, pass through the shops and restaurants and lo and behold, there is a big banner over the entrance with their colorful logo, proclaiming it to be "brewed by women, loved by all!" It puts me in mind of Llewellyn Sinclair, Springfield's community theater director, and the pride he took in the universal acclaim enjoyed by his third grade play.

You can reach it more easily from the entrance on Jenks, though, which leads downstairs to Sidhe Brewing and it's taproom. To find a restroom, though, you need to exit the spaceand go out and mingle with the Mexicans.

From the start of Sidhe Brewing, which opened almost a year ago, there was great emphasis on the feminine nature of the brewing team, led by owner Kathleen Culhane, a transgendered female in a same-sex marriage. There was also talk of her Wiccan-ness, and how this works in their brewing processes. We don't hear much about that anymore. Perhaps that's where it goes too far into coo-coo land for an average consumer. Ladies, trans, queer, yeah, we're cool. Hocus-pocus and such? Eh, not so much.

Foreground: my sample, behind it: Dave.
The name for the brewery requires a little explanation. It's pronounced "she", not "Sid-he", because it comes from the Gaelic for "fairy folk" which, owner Culhane told Dave on a previous visit, makes for a nice double-entendre. She  followed that with, "and of course, because we're Wiccans", as if he knew what that meant. Further research finds that, well, that Wiccans like their fairy folk, which is common knowledge for all, I guess.

But, we're just here for the beer, so we wend our way down, find a seat, scan the menu and consider our options. Dave decided on a flight, and I picked a full pint of a stout called Dark Moon Rising, described as a dry Irish Stout, 4.9% ABV, 39 IBU. Sometimes, I like to post links to web pages if there is further information on the beer and that I'd like you to read at your own leisure, rather than have me post it all here. I would like to do that in this case, but the Sidhe website only lists the current beers, and only shows their logos, without any more verbiage regarding the brew. I found a long description on the Untappd page for this one, much longer than the printed menu at the bar. Excised from that edition are these sentences: "Black as an overcast moonless night, deep in the northern woods, this beer is nonetheless quite approachable. A common misconception among those new to craft beer appreciation is that darkness somehow equates to having one's taste buds mugged in a dark alley." So they like to write, nothing wrong with that. So do I. Now, what did I write?

Dark Moon Rising Stout
I found this one slightly sweet at first, until turning dry and roast-y, with a lightly chocolatey nose. Smooth and medium-bodied at first, with a forgettable finish. A lot of promise up front, but quits the palate far too soon. There was nothing wrong with it, it was beer, and I could drink it, but I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone.

I took sips from Dave's flight: Bast Kissed Cream Ale, light, honey-ish, creamy and malty, nice, probably a popular choice; Atypical Wyrm Wood, a Vienna Lager described as "a trip to Mexico", a clean, if grainy, easy-drinking lager; Wild Hare IPA, which my notes only refer to as "not great"; and Barking Cat, a Belgian-style Strong Pale Ale. On hearing my curiosity about this one, the bartender got me my own sample, which wasn't pleasant in the least. 9.9% ABV, 26 IBUs and tasting of band-aid and other chemical products. Lacking in the things that make the style memorable, suffering from some kind of infection.
In the tradition of old Bobby Zimmerman.

We were there in a mellow moment, on a Sunday afternoon, with a handful of folks coming and going, getting growlers, passing their time over pints and periodicals, while a folk guitar duo played to an audience of three. The bartender (also manager, I think) told tales of busier nights, when it's packed to the rafters. At this point, I was thinking of the opinions I'd absorbed previously about this brewery, and was unpacking my current thoughts on the beers, ready to try out another.

Hopped Up McGonigal. A bit of
a misnomer.
As an IPA fan, I was ready to give Hopped Up McGonigal a go. 8.3 % ABV, 85 IBUs. Almost into double IPA territory. Fragrant aromatics, with cereal & vegetal notes in the flavor first. Odd mouthfeel, a bit of a fruity note, followed by a not-unpleasant astringency, then quickly going wrong.
After a few sips, I find this one to be sufferable, but barely, and altogether too sweet, increasingly and overwhelmingly, over-achingly sweet, requiring much more bitterness to be a decent IPA. Can that 85 IBUs be right? Is that not enough withstand the malt involved?

Here's the description I cribbed off of Untappd (which is much like the printed menu, leaving off the stuff about their friend, the name, & Harry Potter): "A very light IPA, and we mean it (note the IBU's). Technically it is an India Pale Ale, but the hop bitterness is so well balanced by the malt sweetness you won't be beaten up by the hops. It has a pronounced citrus aroma, good amber color, and a finish that doesn't leave your palate hop-bruised."

all the words.
Why note the IBUs? Does 85 mean a "light IPA"? It's actually on the higher end, unless we're talking about double IPAs. And this one ....well, it certainly didn't "beat me up" with hops, but some of that flavor would be appreciated. If you don't like IPAs, why make a bad one and pawn it off on the people? I'm reading the Untappd reviews and a sinking feeling is coming over me, when I find comments like:  "this an IPA that gets it! more malty than hoppy!" " best IPA ever!!" "Very good for an IPA! not hoppy." These comments are often countered with opposite opinions that are closer to mine, but I worry about the casual beer drinker who seems to think that IPAs would be a whole lot better if they weren't so hoppy. All in all, it made me wonder if the brewers know what it actually meant by the word "balance".

And then are comments like this: "Not great. Too high ABV. But feminist, trans-friendly, brewed-by-women beer is really cool." Sigh. Are we supposed to suffer the former part in order to support the latter? "It's great that you're chicks or used to be dudes, so I'll drink your bad beer anyway!"

I didn't spit out the awful IPA, I drank it down without comment. Meanwhile, Dave blew my cover and the bartender asked about the blog and noted the name. I can't sugar-coat. I'm not in this to tell tall tales, spin poetry about what could be and what almost might be, and gloss over the mistakes. There's a need for a place like this, to serve this community, and all it's friends. But it shouldn't include mediocre, misguided, or outright misbegotten beers. That's one thing I can't throw my support behind.

I would hope the brewers can recognize their errors, or ferret out the flaws in some of the batches. It does seem like there are hits among the misses, and maybe I just got the bad ones this time. Maybe. I keep thinking back to visits to places like Maple Island or Kinney Creek, and the thought of crowds of imbibers swallowing swill and thinking that's "craft beer" at it's best going past their lips. I hope that isn't happening here.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #29: Boom Island Brewing, Minneapolis, with Terragon Witness Witbier

It's another Wednesday, another day off, and time to check another brewery off the list. On the 13th of April, I chose Boom Island. I've been trying their beers as they've been released since their debut in 2012, and they have appeared 13 times before in the Nib. To avoid repeating myself, I suggest you read this one in particular, though you have to go down past the part about Day Block to get to it. This was from when I had the notion to to write a series where I tackle all of the breweries I could get to by bike in the Twin Cities, hitting several of them on one day, writing about those all in one post. I could have called it Twin Cities Breweries A Bunch At A Time, but instead it went by the name of Biking to Beer. I only did 3 of them, before the project was abandoned, partially due to the fact that I took no notes and procrastinated on the writing too much. I've sworn that it will not happen to this project, says the man writing about a brewery visit from 24 days ago, with nine more articles left to write. I'm going to do it, I kept telling myself, just watch me.

flight.
Belgian Chocolate Stout, nitro.
Are you done reading that post? You really should give it a glance, it was where I first reviewed the space itself. This time, though, was not a first-time visit, and the occasion was not chosen at random. A sales-rep from their new distributor (after years of self-distribution) wanted to know what it would take for Acadia to have a dedicated line for Boom Island among the 26 beers on tap (discounting the root beer and cider). I informed him that I'd always strive to consider them among the rotation, but it wouldn't hurt for them to show me around the brewery and introduce me to the owners, whom I had never met. And so I biked from my home in south Minneapolis, through downtown, to Washington Avenue and all the way north, just past Broadway Avenue, turning right on 21st, St. and a bar called Cliff 'n' Norm's. The entrance is from the back. I walked in to see Jim is behind the bar, as always, co-owner Kevin Welch is busy bottling Hoodoo with his crew, and I found a seat, soon met Tim Hufford, my host for the afternoon, and got a pint of the new nitro Belgian Chocolate Stout. Smooth, soft, dark and creamy, just enough chocolate to hold it in your tastebuds. An easy-drinking stout, for sure, certain to find favor at the bar. Sure, I'll try it out.

chalkboard.
Next, we got a flight going, but there were no surprises here. Witbier, Saison, Hopbier, Hoodoo Dubbel, Brimstone Tripel, and Thoprock Belgian IPA. I like 'em all, to varying degrees. All good beers, no question about it. And all of them previously reviewed here.

Zarathirstra.
When the bottling was done, Kevin came over to chat and talk a little about the past, present and future of the company. A search for a new brewery location is in the works, one that would allow them to stretch out and breathe, I would hope. It's a very tight spot they're in, but somehow it works for them. An expansion would be good, and it will be nice to see them grown and get into other markets.

I had a pint of Zarathirstra next, the Belgian-style bitter, fresh, zesty and refreshing. Kevin was able to clarify a mystery that puzzled me since that post of last year, where I wondered where the name came from. Answer: the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra came up with it, as it was brewed originally for a festival of the music of Richard Strauss, he of "Thus Spake Zarathustra", aka "The Love Theme From 2001: A Space Odyssey, ...and Kevin hates it. But it's a big seller there, and he can't change it, poor guy, or people will get confused, upset, and angry. No one wants that.

Cheers, Kevin!
I finished out my afternoon hanging out with Jim, Tim, and Kevin by getting a glass of the 11.5% Holiday Ale Yule, astonishingly left over from last winter. (Or did they stash kegs away? I forget.) Dangerously delicious. I liked it when I first reviewed it from a bottle, but I love it now, and went through 2 kegs of it at Acadia last winter. Wonderful beer.

I got a growler of the Witness Witbier with Terragon, and was soon on my way. I'll be back, though, you know I will.




Terragon Witness Witbier
Clouded, light straw yellow, slim white head.

Light spice in the nose, wheat notes, some citrus. Nice.

In the mouth: delicate spiciness, tarragon and coriander together, at last. Small orange and lemon notes, refreshing wheat malt texture. Spice notes grown in prickliness and heat. An interesting mix going on here. I like it. Little bit of celery-ish flavor here and there. And a bit of ginger-bread, too. I mean it. Seriously, celery and ginger-bread, with citrus and wheat. Mmmm.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Ommegang Game of Thrones Seven Kingdoms Hoppy Wheat Ale

Ommegang Game of Thrones Seven Kingdoms Hoppy Wheat Ale, 6.9% ABV.

On tap at Acadia Cafe.

Clouded, golden coloring, full ivory head.

Lightly spicy, Belgian yeast-y, beautiful citrus-y notes.

In the mouth: bright citrusy flavors, slightly sweet, soft and supple. Moderate bitterness, lush wheat. Great beer, and you can drink it.

I've never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, though, so all the gobbledygook about Westvelesteros and Johnny Snow and Tyrandextorse and what not, it just shoots over my head.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Forager Moon Hops Double IPA

If you read my "MN Breweries One by One" piece on Forager Brewing back in March, you might have gotten the impression that I had become a fan of this brewery and their beers. You would be correct in that assumption. Because they are so far off in Rochester, it's not likely I am to return to them any time soon, especially since my free time is devoted to collecting experiences from every other brewery out there. So, I have to get by with help from my friends. Thanks so much to Julie and Jay for bringing this crowler to me.

Forager Moon Hops. 8.4 % ABV. Date: 3/28.

Highly clouded, bright golden hue, large and long-lasting snowy white head, leaving lace.

Aromatics are bold, vibrant, citrus-y, piney, fresh and beautiful. Just gorgeous.

In the mouth: all that and more. Burst of citrusy fruit flavors dazzle the palate, a full brace of bitterness, kept in check with substantial malt. Lemon and orange and lime and a twist of tangerine. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Medium body, long, hop-drenched finish. So nice. This is a brilliant masterpiece of a beer, hitting all the right notes, full of power, grace, and deliciousness.

I couldn't find information on this on their website, and on Untappd, I could only catch the hops: Equinox, galaxy and Citra hops. 80 IBUs. 8.4% ABV.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One # 28: Hammerheart Brewing, Lino Lakes, with Nordlys Aquavit Barrel-aged Juniper Pale Ale

If you read the previous installment in this journey, you may recall that I said that we were planning to visit 3 breweries in the northern suburbs. That didn't quite happen. It seems that some things you read on the internet may not always be true. Or, if you are unsure, you should probably call and find out the truth. We didn't do that. We were on our way to Anoka, the Halloween Capitol of the World, and attempting to visit 10K Brewing. Since Anoka is my hometown, it wouldn't be right if I didn't visit my mother. So, we picked her up and drove into downtown Anoka to find that the place had closed at 4pm, though the things we read online said it was open until 10. We had no choice but to go on up to Lino Lakes and bring Mom to Hammerheart Brewing.

Hammerheart has appeared here on the Nib 12 times so far. For the first one, Dave Anderson brought me a growler of British Invasion, his favorite, even though I'd already ordered a keg for the Blue Nile, back in December of 2013. (They opened in summer of that year.) We made it up there together later that month, and I brought a few growlers back myself. I bought a keg of Olaf the Stout for the Nile before distribution stopped for a bit. Since I took over buying for Acadia last fall, I've tried to keep their beers on tap there more often than not. (Although I only recently took notes on a Hammerheart beer there for the first time. There were a few I could've notated upon, just didn't get around to it.) Between all those and reviews from growlers, there was one from when I worked at Northbound, and we tapped Flannery's Brew (manager Ryan Flanagan picked it because it's name was similar to his.)
L: me, R: Mom, with our Hammerheart beers.

If you read those old blog posts, you will get the sense that I really like this place, this brewery, and I enjoy just about everything they do. All despite the fact that I don't really care even slightly about heavy metal music. What I like best about them is that they are so uniquely themselves, and don't alter their brewing to suit anyone else's tastes. Hammerheart has earned a reputation for making mostly smoked, dark, and strong brews, so much so that there are many who think that's all they brew. I like to choose the beers that defy that categorization, and that have names that are easier to pronounce, when I pick them for Acadia. Just to dispel that myth, only to reinforce it once more with the next one.

awesome flight trays.
Mom sneaking a sip of my Jormungandersblod.
Walking into the Lino Lakes taproom is like walking into another world. It's not a large room, although you can see the barrels and the brewery behind it,  beyond the glass. The decor combines elements from Norse and Celtic culture to form a determined atmosphere, swords and shields share space with trolls and vikings, while the music in the background begins with the folk music of those regions, then turns in time to the dark metal favored by the owners and employees. It was kept to a quiet roar while we were there, and I was grateful for that. I'm guessing Mom did, too.

For the beers, I took a flight and hoped that Mom would like some of them. Usually when Mom has a beer, she asks for, oh, something light. It's not easy to find that at Hammerheart. What did I get? Looking at the photo, it seems like Attenbeint Heist, the Northern India Pale Ale, Hokan's Brown Ale, Fimbulveter, the Oak Smoked Wheat Ale, and ...something that starts with a G...? I didn't take notes during this visit. I took home growlers to review, just relaxed and enjoyed, and, come on, I was hanging out with my Mom. I'm not going to scribble notes when I'm drinking beers with Mom. Okay, looking over their beers, I think it was Gorm the Old, the Mesquite Smoked Old Ale. Pretty Sure that was it. And I enjoyed them all.

I don't remember what beer Jason is drinking,
but it seems like he likes it.
And Mom? She didn't mind them at all! She told me that she liked them, and she'd never had a dark beer before, ever, not once in her 83 years! For all the time she tried to get me to eat my vegetables, I'm now turning her on to craft beers.

I finished off with a small pour of Jormungandersblod, the Rye Pale Ale named for the "world serpent" who bedevils Thor in Norse mythology. It was the second beer I ever reviewed from them, one of the first growlers I ever took home.

This was my first visit on a Sunday, my first time there in almost a year, as well, and the only time I haven't seen the people I know, like the owners, Nathaniel and Austin, or brand rep Tanner. No matter, the staff was excellent as always. The beers big, rich and utterly, indelibly Hammerheart. When I go there, I wish I could drink the night away and have someone toss me in the back seat of their car, and carry me three flights back to my apartment, and throw me in my bed. Or, to drink myself silly, take the swords off the wall and challenge someone, then crawl into a ditch for the night, and hitchhike back home. There's a plan. Now, we're talking....

For now, though, I'm going to tackle the second growler I brought home that day, and it is a 7% ABV Juniper Pale Ale aged in Aquavit barrels called Nordlys. What's a Nordlys? A Norwegian newspaper? The Aurora Borealis? An album by the German Gothic/folk metal band Midnattsol? (Thanks, Wikipedia!) All those, and this beer. Let's drink it.

Lightly clouded, rich and dark amber coloring, slim, soon-gone head.

Aromatics: brimming with distinct juniper flavor, lightly spicy and fruity.

In the mouth: starts off a little bitter, bracingly spicy, refreshing and surprisingly drinkable. Medium bodied. Long, bitter-fruity finish. Hangs on long on the palate. Rather hard to describe, and a perfect example of what makes them so different. I can't think of another beer like this, anywhere, ever. Tastes a little like gin, little like vodka, but it remains at heart a nice, malty pale ale, with hops just keeping up with the barrel-aging and the juniper. "Different" is something we say in Minnesota when we don't know how to describe something new and interesting. Oh, yeah, you betcha this one is different. I'm digging it.


Hammerheart Laurentian Mesquite Smoked Porter with Spruce Tips

Hammerheart Laurentian Mesquite Smoked Porter with Spruce Tips, 6.5% ABV,

Full-on brown color, with a rich roasted brown head atop. Looking good.

In the nose, it's malt first, then the smoke uncurls, with spruce coming in from behind. Blended beautifully. Just right, nothing too loud, nothing too heavy.

In the mouth: chocolate flavors check in first, then the roasty, smoked malt comes forth. Spruce tips remain a minor factor, waiting in the wings. It's all growing wider on the palate, hop bitterness keeping malt in check, and the smoked malt remains mellow and smooth. Everything in this is refined  and cool, calm and collected. Rich, full, absolutely satisfying...it's just about perfect. If it were any bigger or stronger, I'd be headed for ruin.