Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Castle Danger Red Hop Rising Red Ale

Castle Danger Brewery Red Hop Rising Red Ale, 6.9% Alc./Vol. Brewed and packaged by Castle Danger Brewing, Two Harbors, MN.

Clear, dark crimson coloring, big, creamy head, vast and lacey.

Aroma: thick, slick, and resiny. Bittersweet, fruity, yet dry. Very nice. Piney, fruity, plump.

In the mouth: Boom! It's a big ol' mess of sweet malt and resiny, piny hops. Long malty finish. Lays heavy on the palate. Medium-bodied. Full-flavored. Big malt, big hops, big, big, big.

I'm not crazy about this one. It's a nice treat once in a while, but I can't imagine having two in a row.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #57: The Freehouse, Minneapolis

It's Sunday, July 24, and I'm checking off another local brewery to complete this list. Which one? TheFreehouse brew-pub in the North Loop neighborhood of Downtown Minneapolis, part of the Blue Plate group of restaurants. This brewery appeared here in the Nib twice before, two years ago, as part of this little project,  and last year, for this one. This visit may have been my fourth or fifth, and my opinion hasn't changed about it much. It has a great location, and brews decent beer, but the clientele seems more interested in cocktails and wine. It's a restaurant first, that just happens to brew beer. Nothing wrong with that, and the beer is fine, but it's not really an atmosphere that says "pub" and doesn't really attract a craft beer crowd.

But they are a brewery, and I said that I would see all the breweries in the state of Minnesota during the year 2016, so I've got to check them off my list. I sat down at the bar, perused the offerings and chose No. 11, the Witbier. All the beers are numbered, and numbers 1-4 (Kolsch, IPA, Brown Ale  & Stout) are always available. The highest number I've seen is 50. (Last year, I noted that the highest number was 21. If that's true, then I'm impressed that they've done 29 new beers in the past year. If it's true.) I feel that I've had the Witbier before, and I believe that I was as satisfied with it then. This time I found an appropriately fruity, spicy, fresh aroma, a nice
wheat-y texture, smooth and refreshing, note perfect for a witbier. 5.4% ABV.10 IBU.

Next up, I tackled the Blueberry Blonde, because, why not? A distinctively fruity nose, more of the same in the flavor, light-bodied, easy drinking, not bad at all. Low hops, pleasant fruit, nice. 4.9%

At this point, I might note that while I applauded the number of beers produced here as a sign of creativity, productivity and turn-over of beers on-site, I also see from their website that the list of beers has not changed much at all since this visit one month and some ago. The Blueberry Blonde is still on, the Witbier, as well as the Tripel, which I skipped that time. There's an El Dorado single hop IPA on, but not the Simcoe IPA I tried. There really may be nothing to say, because they may have made a large batch, or a second one. Perhaps they're very popular? No way to say.

Moving on, my third beer was the 5% ABV Simcoe IPA, with a big citrus nose, booming grapefruit esters, medium-bodied, with juicy hop flavors. Smooth, crisp, and just about perfect for the style. I was very happy with this one, and was curious about the Tripel, but felt like it was time to move on, rather than have a fourth beer in one sitting. No, I would find that fourth beer elsewhere.

Here's a brewing concern in downtown Minneapolis that makes fine beer, but nothing terribly exciting. And the atmosphere seems more like a yuppie hangout than I'm comfortable with. Will I return to Freehouse again? If I'm in the neighborhood, and I absolutely have to stop for a beer and don't have time to make it to Fulton, or Modist and can't make it all the way down Washington Avenue for Town Hall.

Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb

Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb, Paulaner Brauerei, München, Deutschland. 5.5% ABV.

As I said in my recent post about the Paulaner Oktoberfest, I was shocked--shocked!--that their beers haven't appeared here yet. I just so happened to have the Hefe Weizen on tap at Acadia, poured a glass, took a pic, and will now share my old notes on a bottle, from June of 2003:

Appearance: perfectly cloudy straw yellow, with a majestic white head atop.

Aroma: everything you want in a hefe weizen, fresh, citric, fruity, but still somehow dry, straw-like, so very lemony, and that element of yeast fills the nostrils as well.

Excellent texture, great play on the tongue, spicy, but smooth. Fresh, fruity, delicious. Medium bodied, tasty, longish finish, very memorable flavor. The yeast and citrusy taste dominate and create a most adequate beverage for any occasion.

Drinkability? I could toss down a million of them!
I still rank Schneider and Weihenstephaner up above, just slightly, but there's not a thing wrong with Paulaner's offering, not a thing at all.

Goose Island Goose Oktoberfest

Goose Oktoberfest. Goose Island Beer Co. Chicago, IL, Baldwinsville, NY, and Fort Collins, CO. 6.4% ABV. 17 IBU.

Clear, deep amber coloring, slim whitish head.

Aroma: malt-forward nose, of course, coppery, slightly sweet, but clean and well-balanced.

In the mouth: Lean, clean, malt-y and slightly fruity. Classic construction. Low hop bitterness, right on the money malt. Fits the profile, but goes no further. Good oktoberfest, and you can drink it. Nothing much else to say.

Oh, except the label tells us: "pleasant hints of DRIED APRICOT AND TOFFEE AROMA." (No need to yell, dude!)

The label also says: "Serve in a stein." Oops.

Central Waters HHG APA

Central Waters HHG APA, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Americana Pale Ale. Amherst, WI.

Highly hazed, deep amber coloration, slim white head.

Lively, vibrant & loud hop aromatics, big pine and citrus, major league grapefruit. Bold and unrepentant.

Same goes in the mouth, fresh and zesty, lots of hop flavor all over the palate. Nice balance, just enough bitter, just enough sweet. Medium-bodied, crisp and clean. Not bad, not bad at all. I'd have another one, no problem.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Wild Mind Artisan Ales Wild Pale Ale

Wild Mind Artisan Ales Wild Pale Ale. 6.5% ABV. 40 IBU. Hazy, golden-hued, big, fluffy white head, leaving lace.

Aromatics: bright lemon, orange, tangerine, with light spice, a whiff of funk.

In the mouth: Light hop bitterness up front, with smooth fruity malt coming in quick. Bitterness stays on top, citrus stays strong. Bit of a Belgian twist from the yeast, quite nice.
Lush and tropical. Refreshing and delicious. Smooth and easy drinking, with non-stop hops. I like this one a lot.

Hey, what's the official word on it? "An estery ale strain and our local microflora, this dry pale ale is dry hopped with 1 pound per barrel of Azacca and Citra. Notes of peach, mango, pineapple, and citrus."

That sounds about right.

Caveat emptor department: You'll notice that I am reviewing this from a growler, filled at the brewery. I turned the logo away, to avoid confusion. They will fill any 64 ouncer that you bring in, but you have to bring in a cap. They don't provide those. (They should, though. I understand if they don't, but they should.)I've been trying to discard them, actually, but found one for the occasion, as I imagined this very circumstance. See, sometimes I'm not so dumb.

Jack Pine Fenceline Pale Ale

Jack Pine Brewery Fenceline Pale Ale, 5.4 % ABV. Baxter, MN. Crowler brought back home from a visit to the brewery last Sunday (watch for the Breweries One by One report coming soon!).
Contains unfiltered, unpasteurized, fresh beer, Keep it cold.

(I do wish they could crowler up some of the other beers they had on tap that day, rather than just those three listed on the can, but each brewery has it's reasons for these policies, and I respect them.)

Clear, light amber coloring, big frothy off-white head, leaving lace.

Aroma: soft and pleasing, low hop bitterness, moderate fruity esters. Beautiful balance of bitter and sweet notes.

In the mouth: Nice hop attack starts it off, but kept in check with sweet malt. Clean and understated. Very mellow pale ale, but not shy with hop bitterness, either. Smooth stuff, terribly drinkable. Citrus-y hop flavor stays on top. Classic pale ale here, no confusing it with an IPA, just nice and hoppy, and good to go.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen

Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen, München, since 1634. 5.8% ABV.

Last week, I was paid a visit from a representative of the importer of this beer, and was given this sample. I thanked him, and assured him that I would try to get at least one keg on the lines at Acadia during Oktoberfest season (which I don't believe should begin until September). Last year, I think we only did one German Oktoberfest, and it wasn't from this brewery. I pointed out to him that we had the hefe weizen on tap currently, and it's been popular. Then, later, I was surprised by a fact revealed to me on the internet. The internet of this blog, which told me that no beers from Paulaner have ever appeared here.

What? Can it be true? Yes, in fact, I haven't covered a lot of German beers, because I spend so much time on the American and the local scene, like everyone else. Surely, I've had plenty of them before I began this blog, right? Looking on, I see reviews of: Helles Lager, Premium Pils, Hefe Weissbier, Salvator Doppelbock, and this one. But, no, I did not return to any of them in the past almost six years. Or at least, if I did, I never thought to use the opportunity to reproduce those old notes here (as is my custom). Well, I'm going to take care of this one right now, drink this sample bottle, and look back at notes from March, 2003:

Distinctly amber color, clear, with creamy, frothy head.
Rich aromas abound, with spicy, herbal, vegetal notes, some floral hints, too.
Great, even perfect balance here, malt and hops are evenly matched. Sweet toffee notes on the palate, terrific tasting, and smooth drinking.
I recall a print ad where a cartoon duck embraces a bottle to declare "we go great together". This probably matches any meal well. Quite nice.

Bull Falls Five Star Ale

Bull Falls Five Star Ale, Bull Falls Brewery, Wausau, Wisconsin.

Clouded, highly hazed and amber-hued, under a good serving of whitish froth atop.

Earthy, yeasty aromatics. Is this an unfiltered British pub-style ale? An ESB? Really unsure of the style, but I'll check it out later after blindly guessing for a bit. Low bitterness, minor fruity notes.

In the mouth and on the tongue: smooth and mild. Low hops. Earthy and fruity at once, while remained well-balanced and utterly drinkable. Yep, good beer and you can drink it. I'm tasting the hops a little more now, bitterness grows on the palate a bit.

It's a smooth one, and I like it. Not a bad beer in the slightest.

Left Hand Good Juju Ale

Left Hand Good Juju Ale Brewed with Ginger, Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, Colorado. Alc. 4.5% by Vol. A refreshing frivolity. Brewed on the banks of the mighty St. Vrain. A light ale brewed with ginger to create a spicy aroma and unique flavor.

Clear, amber/copper-y coloring, slim white head atop.

Aroma: big ol' ginger, with a side of lemon and orange.

In the mouth: Intense ginger flavor boards the palate at first gulp. Keeps it up with each new sip. Clean, with a light malt character, crisp and cracker-y. What this is more than anything else is a ginger delivery service. A nice, spicy twist, an occasional treat, but nothing I would really want to drink more than one of at a time. Just a taste, once in a while.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #71: Lake Monster Brewing, St. Paul

You know, it's been awhile since I've been to a St. Paul brewery for this project. It's been months, it seems. And it's a nice day, why not bike to Lake Monster, for my second visit ever. I went there once with Dave A. in late December of last year, but I really couldn't tell what part of town we were in. Would it be easy to get to by bike? It was incredibly easy. I took Lake Street (and I had business there anyway) all the way across the Mississippi river into St. Paul, where they change the name to Marshall Street, then take that to Cretin Avenue, and take a left. From there it's a short trip over another bridge which spans 94, and you're almost there, inside an industrial complex called Vandalia Towers at 550 Vandalia Street.

Lake Monster has appeared in the Bitter Nib twice before, you can read the reviews of their contract-brewed bottled products here. The IPA and Pilsner are still the only products that are in the market, though some of their other beers make it into bars in keg form. I had the sour brown at Acadia for our Minnesota Wild & Funky event in May, but never got around to taking notes. Well, this time I took out the old trusty notebook and sat down to examine my beers at the taproom.

Berliner Weiss. 
First up, Berliner Weiss, their take on the tart German wheat ale style. At 4 % aBV, it's a hazy gold, and refreshingly tart and quenching, and ultimately dry. It was just what I needed after a bike ride of nearly 5 miles from my home, simple, easy drinking, nice. 

Irish Red.
Next up, and Irish Red Ale, at 5.3% ABV,  called Kelly's Red, which they referred to as a "hop-forward amber ale" and I couldn't argue with that. There was rye malt employed as well, contributing to the spicy notes in aroma and flavor. Sweet and malty and hoppy, with a long, bitter finish. Continuous snappy, hoppy twang on the palate. I liked it quite a lot, and would gladly have another. 

For the third pint, I went with the IPA on cask, with Centennial hops added. Fresh, lively, beautifully bitter and green. Just right. 

Cask IPA with Centennial hops.
Murmur Milk Stout.
About the taproom itself, it's spacious, warm, and comfortable. Typical elements about: here's your chalkboard with the choices, next to that the merch, and there's the TV (thankfully off), over here's your board game shelf, over there's your water station. Off to that side, a group is gathering for some women's history trivia, for some reason. And outside, the well-used patio. Almost all of the elements in place (what, no free popcorn?), and to go with, some damned fine beers. 

I decided to have one more, and made it the Murmur Milk Stout, on nitrogen, a dark and dreamy pint. Cocoa and coffee in the nose, a smooth but substantial ale. Just about note perfect for a nitro milk stout. Not the sort of thing I normally choose, but they nailed it. 

I while away a nice little evening at Lake Monster.
Great space, good service, and excellent beers. My only complaint is hardly one at all. Just make more great beers, and don't stop doing it.

Oh, no, sorry, one real complaint: coasters, people! You've been open long enough to afford to order and use some coasters. And not just to add to my collection, you need something in between the glass and the wood. Even napkins would be nice, if you can't be bothered to do coasters. It's just civilized.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dave's BrewFarm Jimmy Thinks You're Hot

Forgive the background, if you will, please. Sonny Boy the Cat
just wants to photobomb them all. 
Dave's BrewFarm Jimmy Thinks You're Hot. 6.9% ABV.

Deep amber/crimson coloring, lush and long-lasting creamy, off-white-ish head. Looking great.

Aroma: little bit from fruity malt, some hop bitterness, excellent balance, and a hint of a Belgian-twist from the yeast (I'm thinking, just a guess). All in all, gives off a feel of a Belgian amber ale.

In the mouth: Mmmm. Big 'n' sweet, lush, malty, turning dry in the end. Big caramel and toffee. Nothing but delicious, truth be told. The Belgian yeast thing is bringing it big time, malt is lush and lovely, hop bitterness remains minor.

I had this at the taproom, I read the description, and I forgot it all, as I forget just about everything these days, and opened my growler with a clean slate of mind. Now, I've unearthed the menu and can divulge the official word of Farmer Dave: "A nod to all the third person people! Pale, Caramel 120 malts, and Flaked Oats, Select and Azacca hops, fermented with a Belgian-lineage yeast. Dave hopes you enjoy it..."

It's a beer whose name has nothing to do with the beer (inspired by a Seinfeld character), and a beer that fits no mold you've ever known before, like so many other LaBrewATory beers before it. This is so nice, also like so many BrewFarm beers before it.

Great Dane Saison

If you read this thing with any regularity, you know that I love the wonderful, recyclable crowler. In Minnesota, though, they can only come in one size: 750 milliliters, or 25 ounces. Why? Because that's what the damned law says. There's really no reason, the legislature just wants to tell brewers what to do. Over in Wisconsin, their crawlers go up to 32 glorious ounces. When I was in Madison a week and a half back, I wanted to bring a beer home from the Great Dane with me, but didn't want to pay a deposit on a glass vessel I might not use again for a few years. (Of course, most WI brewers will fill anything, but I didn't think to take one with me.) My heart leapt with joy when I saw they did crawlers, and I decided to bring their saison back, and reviewed it last night.

Great Dane Saison. 6.5% ABV.

Clear, light golden coloring, slim white head, active carbonation.

Aroma: Bubblegum and candy floss. Bananas and spice. Coconut macaroons with cream filling. I kind of like it. Not a classic saison nose, kind of all over, but I like it.

Taste: sweetness and spice and big flavor from the start, then quits the palate quickly. Starts out sweet, turns out dry. Clean, lean, light-ish bodied, easy-drinking. Carries some of the hallmarks of other Belgian style, not necessarily in line with the classic saison profile. But, what ever is? The more I drink it, the more I like it, the more it makes sense. Not bad, not bad at all. And it's all coming together. Starting to collect. This ain't that bad. Actually pretty good, then. You betcha.

(Wait, why did I start doing a bad Minnesota accent. Sorry, I was watching "Fargo: The Series" in the background.)

F-Town India Pale Ale

F-Town India Pale Ale. F-Town Brewing, Faribault, MN.

Lightly hazed, bright golden hue. large, lovely ivory head, lasting long and leaving lace.

Aroma: bold and hoppy, tangerine, grapefruit, orange and pine aplenty. Little bit of lemon. Quite nice, and not too bitter.

In the mouth: Bitterness smacks the palate first, matched by some sweet, fruity malt. Medium-bodied, lean, clean malt flavor. Bittersweet fruitiness continues in the drinking.

 Not a bad IPA. Which is good. Not bad is better than bad, every time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Millstream Fuzz Peach Kolsch

Millstream Fuzz Peach Kolsch. Amana, Iowa. Kolsch-style Peach Ale.

Lightly hazy appearance, golden hued, slim white, lace-leaving head.

Peach to the extreme in the aromatics, big, fruity and sweet.

In the mouth: Peach hits the lips from the start, light to no bitterness, nicely balance, light malt character. Clean, and easy-drinking, light bodied. Peach flavor never quite quits. Kolsch flavors, though, seem utterly subsumed. Just a touch of tart to match the sweet.

I kind of like this. It's a good beer, and I can drink it.

Friday, August 19, 2016

F-Town Faribo Lager

F-Town Brewing Company Faribo Lager. 4.7% ABV. 40 IBU. Faribault, Minnesota.

Around the top of the can, these words: "Formed. Founded. Fermented. F-Town Brewing Company." Not sure if I get it. They just wanted to throw some f-words together?

Clear, light golden coloring, slim white head, active carbonation.

Aroma: soft, floral, hoppy. Nice enough.

In the mouth: wet, clean, lightly malty, slightly sweet. A little fruity. More citrus-y flavors than I'd expect in a lager. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Light, easy-drinking, but not particularly remarkable. Nothing wrong with that either. I guess.

What's the gobbledygook? "Bright and crisp, with a refreshing citrus profile. This simply satisfying pale lager is perfect for every day." I wouldn't call it "crisp" though, it's lacking in that. More soft than crisp. Drinkable, though. Not bad.

And I'm curious why they misspell the city in the name. Hometown pride, for the people who hate their French name, and don't like spelling it? Oh, whatever.

Minnesota Breweries One by One # 63: Nutmeg Brewhouse, Burnsville

Some breweries start off with seasoned professional brewers, level-headed owners and managers, and a well-hewn plan. There's a wisdom and a system and a course from the start. And others, not so much. A few establishments open up and there's a whiff on them of the coat-tail rider and the johnny-come-lately. Rather than fulfilling a pent-up passion, they seemed to be in it for the money, and jumping on the bandwagon.

This was the perception of the Nutmeg Brewhouse restaurant and brewpub in Burnsville, which opened earlier this year. Many reported that their beers weren't very good, and the complaints fell on the management's deaf ears. "You need to have the beers with our food," they said. But, good food doesn't make up for terrible beer. (Were they saying "terrible"? I think they were.) We judge every new brewing concern on their beers, not on their food. And as we planned our trips in this project, Jason suggested that if we put off Nutmeg indefinitely, the market forces would perhaps eliminate them from the running and we'd be off the hook. But we didn't shy away from Kinney Creek, or Maple Island, or that other one I haven't written up yet, or Sidhe. We soldiered our way in, and we drank the beers, damn it.

Something better than that happened, though. The brewer of the bad beers went away, the restaurant poured only guest taps while they figured out their next steps, and found a new brewing team, led by JT Dalton, formerly of Barley John's Brewpub, and Brewing Company. New reports came out from friends and other trusted palates that everything was fine. And so, a plan was formed for the first Sunday in August, and we went out to the southern suburbs, starting with Nutmeg Brewhouse, 1905 County Road 42 W, eleven miles south of Minneapolis, population 60, 000-some (10th largest city in Minnesota!), a mere 77.5% of them of the caucasoid race of peoples. (I feel that I have to get all this information out there, after I've established it as one of my rituals, of sorts.)

At the brewpub, which prides itself as much for it's food, if not more, we met with our old friend Ryan Gregory, a current Burnsvillian. (Okay, that sounds weird. Burnsville-ite? Burnsygander? That's a particular nod to former Michigander Ryan.) We contemplated the current list: Banyan Summer Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale, the same on cask & dry-hopped, an Imperial White IPA, a California Common, and an IPA. Oh, and Founders Mosaic Promise IPA, if those weren't good enough for you.
Carouser Belgian Pale Ale. 
I went with the Carouser, 6.5% ABV, 31 IBU, and found it malt forward with an appropriate abundance of Belgian yeast, malt and spice. Smooth & slightly sweet, this hit all the right notes for an amber-y Belgian pale. Couldn't find a fault, but wasn't the type I'd return to twice.

Flintlock Imperial White IPA.
Flights are offered at Nutmeg, as well as smaller pours. I kept turning to the 10 ounce pours whenever possible, because we had two more breweries to hit up after this one. I picked the Flintlock Imperial White IPA for the second beer (10.3% ABV., 91 IBU), and that was a doozy. Hazy, amber-hued, nicely hopped, bright and loaded with citrus notes. Big and bountiful. Audacious, even. I kind of liked it.

Plank Walker IPA. 
At this time, our food arrived. We'd all arrived, independently, at the Chicken Tikka Skewers, and they were delicious. The culinary program at Nutmeg is squared strictly at the cuisines of former British colonies, for reasons unexplained, so that means Indian, Canadian (they have their version of poutine!), New Zealand, Australian (?), Taiwanese? , Maylasia, Scotland, etc. The menu has always been focused, it's the beer that needed real professional help, and so far, it's working.

I had one more, and that was the Plank Walker IPA (76 IBU, 7.5% ABV). Big hoppy nose, nice and fruity, big malt meets big hops, while remaining balanced. Definitely in the English-style of IPA. Tasty stuff. My kind of IPA, through and through, a beer I truly enjoyed. This is one I would choose again and again.

We had our beers, we had our bites, and it was
time to close this little chapter in our adventures and move further south to more new breweries in the not too distant suburbs. As for Nutmeg, hey, if you're in Burnsville, go for it, they've got good beer brewing!

Town Hall Galaxy Session IPA

Galaxy Session IPA. 4.6% ABV.

Clear, bright golden color, slim white head.

Aroma pops with grapefruit and lime. Tropical tints come on board after, pineapple and mango. Nicely balanced and bitter.

In the mouth: Big citric bitterness starts it out, then it's smoothness and cool. Light bodied, low alcohol, lean and clean. Goes down like a dream. But, a bit one-note and unfortunately unmemorable. But, it's a session beer.  That's where they succeed. Nice and hoppy and forgettable. Good beer, and you can drink a lot of them.

Gutenberg American Pale Ale

I'm still trying to wrap my head around gluten-free beers. In the service of that endeavor, I decided to drink a can of Gutenberg American Pale Ale. 5.5% ABV.

Clear, amber-toned, slim white head.

Lightly hoppy, mildly fruity....nice.

In the mouth: Huh. I still don't know how to judge these. It lacks so much in what I'd want from a pale ale, but how does it succeed as a gluten-reduced pale ale? I'm really missing a lot in what I expect out of beer, in terms of flavor. Whatever replaced the malt, it's not doing it for me.

But what if I had to drink this beer? Would I be somewhat satisfied, because I had no choice? It's a little off, a bit weird, but does it have to be?

There's some malty-ish sweetness, but I'm not sure where it comes from.

I'm not mad at it. I can drink it just fine, but it's not really an American Pale Ale, sure as heck doesn't taste like one. Well, if I had to drink this in order to drink a beer, I wouldn't hate it.

Sisyphus Black IPA

Sisyphus Black IPA. 6.4% ABV. 70 IBU.

Full ebon hued coloration, cocoa-tinged head, leaving lace, lasting long.

Rich, malty aromatics, plus grassy hops. Hop bitterness at play with malt sweetness.

In the mouth: big, rich malt, with cocoa and coffee tinges starts off at first, with grassy, citrus-y hops. Bitter and sweet keep on their tango, back and forth, and up and down. Bitter, sweet, malt, dark, hoppy, yum. I can dig it.

Wait. Did I say Yum? Did I also say that I can dig it? Yeah, I thought so. It's true. This is delicious.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Great Dane Texas Speedbump IPA

This past Saturday, August 13, I was able to attend Madison, Wisconsin's Great Taste of the Midwest Beer Festival for the fifth time, and on their 30th Anniversary year. This time I did things a little differently. Instead of getting into town on Friday for all the pre-fest festivities at the Mad-town bars, my companion and I arrived just in time for the fest Saturday afternoon, and jumped right into the whirlwind of beer. Five hours later, after standing in the sun, having one great MidWestern beer after another (don't ask me "what was the best?" or even "what stood out?": there was too much great beer!), we couldn't do any after-partying either.

But I simply had to have a slice of Madison before leaving for home, so we set up camp on the bar stools at the Great Dane Brewpub, and I had an IPA I have every time I come here, the Texas Speedbump. I wrote notes on it when I brought a growler home eight years ago. Here they are:

August, 2008:

texas speedbump ipa, great dane, madison, wi

Hazy apricot/peach, small white head...(at the pub, it was larger, but growlers can't always be perfect, I guess.)

Spicy citric hop aroma greets the nose, grapefruit, lime and mango...zesty, gorgeous, uplifting. Does the name refer to the armadillo, and is there some amarillo hop in here. Probably Cascade & Centennial?
Either way, I love it!

Big time bitterness swims the palate, bless the tongue and lips with delicious, citric goodness. Spunky, tasty, with a long, fruity finish.

It's an India Pale Ale I know I'll enjoy anytime I come to the Great Dane.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Victory Golden Monkey

Here's another one from the sample man, bringing me way back in time. I first wrote about Victory's 9.5% ABV Belgian-style triple back in March of 2003. Or was that the last time I wrote about it? In any case, it's the one on BeerAdvocate. The notes are rather interesting. Here they are:

Nov o6 02 bottle. Important. The Sept 06 bottles I'd purchased were undrinkable.

Color is clear and a honeyish golden, the white head is sadly short.
Aroma, is out of this world! Gorgeous! Citrus is on top, mingled with more fruit (peach, apricot), honey, spice, straw, a touch of sugar. Ticklish nose, deliriously arousing.
Texture is excellent, balance is perfect. Hops pounce upon the palate, then swiftly fade back. Delicious maltiness! Mouthfeel is utterly unreproachable, warm, yeasty, and giving. Finish is sweet, heavenly, nearly interminable.

Alcohol content is quite sneaky, the fantastic flavor beguiles you so long that you don't notice until the kick comes in. Still, this is one monkey I would love to have on my back! (Label design is also among my all-time favorites!)

Footnote: I was so taken by this brew on our first introduction that I put it on the list at my restaurant/bar. One of the musicians in our Tuesday night band last summer had a serious monkey fetish (tied into the "Hundredth Monkey" concept...on one tune he made monkey sounds...). This was the beer for him! And, when one woman asked a bartender for our "sweetest beer", he chose GM, and she was an instant fan. The furor spread, and for a short time in the summer of '02, Tuesday night was Golden Monkey night at the Blue Nile in Minneapolis. Ah, memories.

And here's the official description, just for kicks: A magical, mystical Monkey whose golden sole glows with the wisdom of the ages. This radiant ale is rich in the spirited tradition of Belgian-inspired brewing. Our Golden Monkey is both playfully delightful and profoundly satisfying. Exotic spice from the East rounds out this global journey to joy. Get on board. This Monkey's bound for glory!

Bauhaus / August Schell Hot Tropic Pilsner

Bauhaus & August Schell's Hot Tropic Pilsner. A little bit about it:  The beer is a classic German pilsner beer that we fermented with Schell's lager yeast. The hops in this beer, however, are anything but traditional. We used some really amazing hops from New Zealand to provide a very tropical hop profile. We're describing this beer as a New Zealand-style Pilsner that we're calling Hot Tropic. Here's a little bit more: 4.7%, 40 IBU. Created for the In Cahoots event at Red Stag, which I was not able to attend. Glad I'm getting a keg of it, and a Crowler to taste before I tap it.

Clear, bright golden coloring, slim white head atop.

Aromatics: floral and floral, tropical indeed, and utterly delightful. Pineapple and papaya popping out from the hops. Love it.

In the mouthL Mild, but lasting bitterness starts it off, with perennial pineapple and papaya. Delicious, with smooth malt, lean body, easy drinking. This is all kinds of goodness, an ingenious creation. Wow. Just about nothing but wow.

I forgot. Also, yum.

LynLake Brewery Whittier Witbier

LynLake Whittier Witbier. 5.5% ABV, 18 IBU.

Lightly hazy, bright golden hue, pure white head that leaves quickly.

Aroma: spice and citrus fruit. Coriander and orange. Belgian yeast and wheat. Boom, boom, boom. It's got it where it counts.

In the mouth: Bright citrus fruit, light spice, smooth wheat malt. Delightfully spicy and full of Belgian white character. right on the nose. Pretty much nailed, this one. Good witbier, and I can drink it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #66: The Herkimer, Minneapolis

The Herkimer, at 2922 Lyndale Avenue, has appeared once before in the Bitter Nib. You can read that here; it was part of my attempt to visit and have a beer at all the breweries in Minneapolis on one day before the task became impossible. This was two years ago. Go ahead, click the link, read it, then come back.

Okay, are you done? Great. Now, I don't know if much has changed for the better or worse there, though I do know that some brewers have come and gone. Still, they continue to brew, and I must visit the brewery and drink their beers, because this is the nature of this project. I had that one beer at that visit two summers ago, and went there again a few weeks later, having two Baltic Porters, because it was 2-4-1 Happy Hour. I skipped them since then, over two years have gone by, and this project or not, it's time for a return visit. I popped in last Thursday evening, August 11. I've decided that I can't let my days off go to waste, and had to see another brewery on the list on each of them. It was getting late, and I wanted to check a brewery off my list that wasn't too far from home. There are fewer and fewer of them left.

Black Perle. 
I sat at the bar, observed the options available and greeted my bartender, who was a capable profession, full of courtesy, attentiveness, and good cheer. I chose for my first pint Black Perle, a beer that does not appear among the others on their website. Must be new. I would have pegged it for a schwarzbier, though the list calls it a "dark ale", though not a porter or a stout. My brief notes went as follows: "soft, slightly sweet, major cocoa in the nose and on the palate, rich and malty, but very smooth." I liked it.

Helles Bock. 
Next up, the 7% ABV Helles Bock, Sweet, malty, creamy....buttery? Under-attenuated? I drank it down, but didn't love it. I've had buttery hells bocks before, but liked them better than this. It's not bad, and I did finish it, but I didn't love it. This one is also not on their website, but it the Maibock sounds remarkably like it.

I'll admit this freely: probably the worst picture
I could take of this beer. There's something that
happens when I feel self-conscious doing some-
thing conspicuous in the lair of Uptown's
bros and bro-eenas. 
I decided to bypass Toolers Weiss (which I didn't care for when I reviewed it on BeerAdvocate in 2004, but I'm sure it's gotten better in 12 years!), Jeffrey Kream Ale, Slushbox Session IPA, Dr. Nat's Brew, and American Red, and chose as my third and final pint of the session the IPA know as The Lutz, which I'm pretty sure I've never tried. It's been well-documented that I love IPAs. How's theirs?
 First of all, I will consult the listing on their website. What do they say, before I tell you what I say? "The Lutz West Coast IPA has a prominent to intense hop aroma with a citrusy, floral, perfume-like, resinous, piney, and/or fruity character derived from American hops. It pours with a medium reddish copper color."
Hops: Bravo | Cascade | Calypso | Fuggles
Malt: Marris Otter -UK | Castle – Belgium
ABV: 7% | IBU: 66 | SRM: 12 | OG:17.9 | Decoctions: 0 (aw, come on, why not even one?)

My notes: Big citrus aroma, intense hop taste, long bitterness, juicy malt ballast, overall a tasty, well-done West Coast IPA. I'd drink it again.

I sat at the bar, soaking in the atmosphere, half-listening to the conversations of the dudes and dudettes of Lyn-Lake. I enjoyed some wings, took in the decor, paid a little attention to the shuffleboard players, inside and out, and tried to pay less attention to the multiple TVs around the bar, all showing the Olympics. And I closed out with a bourbon, because I love bourbon and they're a bar, and why not.

Of all the decor in the place, why take this shot (/selfie)?
Because why a dude on an ostrich, that's why. 
After this, I went next door to LynLake Brewery for another IPA, brewed with apricot, and they have no food or liquor, but there were probably five times as many people, also watching the Olympics. The Herkimer will always do well at that location, because any bar will, and the beer is decent enough. Sometimes interesting, sometimes not, but always somewhat drinkable, though never enough to make it a necessary spot for the dedicated ale imbiber in Minneapolis. (They certainly shouldn't call themselves "Minneapolis' choice craft brewery", as they most certainly are not, definitely not now in the age of the taproom.) And they will certainly thrive, when there must be safe places for people to cheer on the Green Bay Packers, here in Vikings land.

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...