Friday, September 30, 2016

funkwerks raspberry provincial

Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial sour ale brewed with raspberries. 4.2 % ABV. Fort Collins, CO.

Perfectly pinkish appearance, slim white head, looking ever-so like a raspberry ale should.

Tartness and fruit in the nose. Fresh raspberry essence. Delightful. Time to taste, though...

In the mouth: sour hits the palate first, grips the lips and hangs on the tongue. It's a sharp and lively sour note that jolts the senses, then fades surely away until the next sip. Raspberry flavor never falls off. Refreshingly delicious. Not too sweet, not too sour, ending on a dry note. Very nice.

Some gobbledygook from the label: "This delicious creation was truly a product of creativity, ingenuity, and luck. In the summer of 2013 we took a first batch of our sessional sour summer ale, Provencial, that didn't quite hit gravity, and decided to have some fun with it by adding a heavy dose of raspberries. The end result was so delicious, we decided to recreate it. This delightfully tart fruit beer is refreshing, with a citrusy raspberry aroma which transitions to a subtlety sweet and tart finish."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Insight Giant's Axe Pale Ale

Insight Path of the Giant's Axe Pale Ale. 5.8 % ABV. 37 IBU. Drafted by Insight Brewing, in collaboration with Beerd Brewery.

Chapter CXI, Giant's Axe, Bristol, England.

Clear, bright golden color, slim white head.

big citrus notes in the aroma, grapefruit, orange, and lemon aplenty, pretty nice.

In the mouth: Big bitterness at the start, turning mild. Bright citrus hop flavor. Utterly smooth and delicious. Lean malt, light body, easy drinker. Hits all the right notes for a pale ale. Nice and hoppy, easy and smooth. Right on.

some gobbledygook on the Beerd version: "Beerd Brewery were lucky enough to have been visited by Ilan Klages-Mundt, top brewer at Insight Brewing all the way from Minnesota, USA! As part of his worldwide brewery collaboration tour, he worked with Joe from Beerd to produce a punchy 5.5% IPA called Path of the Giant’s Axe."

And from Insight's version: PATH OF THE
GIANT’S AXE

Giant's Axe marks our first collaboration beer and was brewed with Beerd Brewing in Bristol, UK. With a noticeable malt and light biscuit backbone, this brew has a strong kick of citrus from the Citra and Summit hops, finishing a little earthy and dank from the Columbus hops.

AMERICAN PALE ALE
notes:
BISCUIT
GRAPEFRUIT
DANK, availability:
LIMITED
abv:
5.8%, ibu:
37

"dank"....I hate "dank"....

Tallgrass Flyin' Hawaiian Pineapple Double IPA

Tallgrass Flyin' Hawaiian Double IPA. Explorer Series. 8.4% ABV. Fresh Beer=Best Refrigerated. Double India Pale Ale brewed with Pineapple. Brewed and canned by Tallgrass Brewing, Manhattan, Kansas.

Clear, bright golden color, sizable ivory head, sitting still, leaving lace.

Vibrant, intensely hoppy nose, brimming with pine and pineapple. Prickly and tropical. Pretty nice.

Int the mouth: hoppy, zesty, fresh, and bursting with pineapple. Smooth stuff, medium bodied, low bitterness. Tasty and hoppy, with a a moderately bitter finish.

I like this beer. I wonder if the Tallgrass website will fill us in with any gobbledygook? They do. Here it is: The Flyin’ Hawaiian is brewed with Columbus, Mandarina Bavaria, Pacific Gem and Falconer’s Flight hops, creating a tasty interplay between earthy and pine notes with citrus, dark berries and tropical fruit. A burst of fresh pineapple post-fermentation enhances the hops with an extra layer of tropical flavors, while the simple malt bill allows the hops to shine.
Style: Double IPA Brewed with Pineapple
Hops: Columbus, Mandarina Bavaria, Pacific Gem, Falconers Flight
Malts: 2Row Pale, Carapils, C20
Adjuncts: Pineapple Purée
ABV: 8.4%
IBU: 78

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #83: Fulton, Minneapolis

I've had a little secret for a few months now. Whenever I mentioned how many breweries I've been to so far, I've always given the wrong number. I'd been to Fulton, but hadn't taken photos or notes or anything, just hung out for a while as I was in the neighborhood, so it wasn't an official visit intended for one of these reports. But, I still had been there, so there was always that little lie. Last Thursday was a day off and I decided it was high time to head up to Fulton and make them #83.

Fulton has appeared here in the Nib fifteen times so far (you can read them right here), and I've tried to review every beer that they put out (excepting taproom only beers, and missing out completely on that Wheaties beer...never even saw it in a store.). They emerged in 2009, very early on in the Minnesota craft beer explosion, with the beers initially being contract brewed elsewhere. The brewery in downtown Minneapolis came about in 2012 or '13, with the taproom opening soon after. Early on in their existence, I had a problem with their motto: "Ordinary guys brewing extraordinary beer." Not that guys weren't ordinary, but I couldn't really say that the beers were extraordinary. Good, yes. Extraordinary? Maybe not so much. But it wasn't easy to be hard on them, for the beers were so well liked and those guys are really nice, too.

All the Fulton goodness. 
However, these days the beers are becoming a little closer to  extraordinary. There are some very capable hands at work. And more and more, there are interesting beers at the taproom you can't find anywhere else. So I did the 5 mile bike ride from my home to downtown Minneapolis and pulled up to 414 6th Avenue N., under the shadow of the Twins Stadium, locked my bike, headed in and bellied up to the bar. There were a minimum of seats, so I pulled my belly back and took it to a table. The first beer I chose was called Parallel Paradise, which was a collaboration with Modist
Parallel Paradise. 
for the recent In Cahoots event. The menu board told me that it was 5.5% ABV and 13 IBU, but nothing else. I did a small amount of research and came up with nothing. I took my notes on it at my table, scratching my head all the while. They went like this: "Amber, light body, light hops, delicate, nuanced, clean, dry, lemon-y, refreshing." And I like it, but I just couldn't figure it out. Only later did I learn that it is "cocktail-inspired", but which one? If you know, fill me in.
Tanager.

Next I went with the new Tanager Brett IPA, and I'm guaranteed to be interested in any beer with that appellation. I wasn't even slightly disappointed. Funky, wild, and wonderfully weird. Fiercely hoppy, and utterly satisfying. This is a Fulton beer? So outside of what they've been know for before, so very not "safe", and definitely delicious.



I sat at my little table taking my little notes, when suddenly Fulton sales manager, and general cool guy Ben Flattum got up from his, and asked if I would join he and his friends on a little tour of the barrel-aging program. Naturally, I replied,
Barrels and tanks.
and off we went into the brewery space. Most of the beer production is being done in their larger facility in NorthEast Minneapolis, and these racks of barrels of different sources and former uses are taking more and more space. Let me impress upon you with great urgency how I can't wait to try them. If you can keep a secret, we didn't have to wait, as Ben opened up a bottle of the yet un-released bourbon barrel-aged Libertine Imperial Red ale, and started filling our glasses. I will merely tell you it was one of the best beers I've had in a very long time at leave it at that, and tell you more very soon when I open my own bottle.

Watch out for this when it hits the shelves and
do not hesitate to buy it. 







I got one more pint while at the taproom, nearly closing out the beers I'd never had. (I did not try the new Standard Lager. I'm sure it's good for what it is, but what it is isn't what I want. I'll try it soon.) That final pint was a special beer made in connection with a group called Friends of the Mississippi and it's name, 72 Stretch, refers to the length of the great river that passes through the Twin Cities Metro Area. The water that goes into Fulton's beer (and every beer brewed in Minneapolis), comes from that source, so they have a keen interest in it's preservation. 72 Stretch is a Gose, a sour
72 Stretch Gose
German-style wheat ale, flavored with lemon and lime zest, and was as tart, smooth and refreshing as that sounds. No notes taken, as I was no longer sitting studiously with pen and book, but instead hanging out and hearing Ben's stories, chatting with new acquaintances.

As it gets later, the taproom gets more and more raucous, as many of them do. When the Twins are playing, the place fills up before, after and during the game, and the TVs are on, the fans are shouting, and the players are called many things, and the umpires even more. I took my final growler (MN law states that brewing companies that produce more 20, 000 may not sell growlers, for reasons that remain baffling, and Fulton has surpassed that recently), and my gifts from Ben and shuffled off into the night. But I will be back, Fulton, if you keep putting out so many terrific taproom only beers.
 Truthfully, there were others that tempted me, too. Not just Worthy Adversary, but War & Peace, the coffee version of their Imperial Stout, and Patience, the barleywine? These were beers I desperately wanted to drink! However, I had other places to go, and more beers to drink (the other place I was going also had an Imperial Stout and a barley-wine as well), and it was getting dark, and I couldn't risk any accidents, with all the beers in my pack.
As Ben showed me such a good time during this random visit, it wouldn't be fair to only show his back. So, here's a pic I took at the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin, back in August, with Fulton co-owner Bryan Hoffman (center), and some other guy. Cheers, Ben, Bryan, and other guy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bull Falls Oktoberfest

Bull Falls Oktoberfest. Wausau, Wisconsin. 5.7% ABV. 15 IBU.

Clear, amber-hue, slim, solid whitish head.

Grainy nose, with rich, bread-y malt flavors. Sweet-ish, but balanced.

In the mouth: noble hops present first, crystal, too? Bright, lively, well matched to the malt. Clean, lean, bright and easy drinking. Delicious malty flavor keeps on giving.

Well, this ain't bad. It's even good. Good beer, and I can drink it.

Here comes the gobbledygook:

"The brewery takes the two basic flavor ingredients of beer - malt and hops- and highlights them to their best advantage in a harmonious balance. The malt flavor in Bull Falls' offering out performs larger, more established U.S. breweries and centuries old German breweries"

The Beer Man - Todd Haefer

The most anticipated beer Bull Falls Brewery brews through out the year!

Bull Falls Midnight Star Schwarzbier

Bull Falls Midnight Star. 6% ABV. 19 IBU. Bull Falls Brewery, Wausau, Wisconsin.

Clear, dark brown coloring, beige-isa, slim, lasting head.

Aroma: highly hoppy, big ol' grassy and citric, lively and lovely and very nice.

In the mouth: Chocolate and caramel malt flavors flood the palate, with grassy/citric hop notes butting in. Medium bodied. Long malty finish. Hops persist throughout. Good beer, this one. Not bad at all. I don't mind it none.

Here's their gobbledygook: Midnight Star Lager
STORY OF THE BEER

In a glass, Midnight Star looks much like a dark ale, but looks can be deceiving. This German style Schwarzbier has a clean lager taste that leaves next to no perception of fruitiness on the palate. Instead, we get very mild almost bittersweet, notes of chocolate, coffee and vanilla. It comes across as a soft and elegant brew that is rich, mild and well balanced.

Seattle Cider Co. Three Pepper Hard Cider.

Seattle Cider Co. Three Pepper Hard Cider. Not Your Standard Cider.

Clear, bright gold, no head.

Aroma: pepper heat, some fruit beneath?

In the mouth: Hot! Hot! Hot! And cider. Okay, I know me, and knowing me, maybe you know me. I don't do pepper heat very well. Don't like it, don't want it, don't need it. Why would you introduce it to a cider? And there is cider below that pepper heat, and it can't do what cider does best with that bothersome flavor above it.

I like to try every beverage put before me (sorta), but now I'm going, "who thought this was a good idea?"

It's okay, I guess, and the heat mellows some, but I have to wonder if this was designed with masochists in mind.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale, ale brewed with pumpkin and spices. 9.0% ABV. For optimal freshness, enjoy by 02/04/17. This one is entirely new to me, never heard of it, until the sample man brought me one.

Clear, medium-brown coloring, sizable fortress of foam up on top, beige-tinged, lace-leaver.

Aroma: Pumpkin, yeah, it's there. Plenty of pumpkin and spice packed in this one. Very nice.

In the mouth: Rich, malty, spicy from the start. Darker and, naturally, stronger than your average pumpkin beer, with louder spices and quieter pumpkin. Nicely spicy, this, not too hot, not too overpowering, with sufficient malt backbone. Dark malts are doing it here, and truly subsume the pumpkin flavor, which I can barely pick up. It's there, but it's only a part of the sum.

Altogether, pretty tasty stuff. I can enjoy this one. I would drink another. Ain't nothing wrong with it. Good imperial pumpkin, and you drink one once in a while.

Let's look at some gobbledygook, shall we? " Why is there only one time a year when you can embrace the FEAR? At all other times, the FEAR dominates us, controls us, and prevents us from greatness. Whatever THE FEAR is that consumes you, learn to embrace it. Only then, will the true artist in you rise up."

Okay. Cool. But do I need self-help platitudes with my beers? No.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale

I can't believe I've never had this beer before. But, then, I'm souring on pumpkin ales, lately. So, much thanks to The Sample Man for bringing this, and others. I always like to try anything new and different, especially when I don't want to spend my own money.

Brooklyn Brand Post Road Pumpkin Ale, Brewed and bottled by Brooklyn Brewery, Utica, NY, Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices. 5% Alc. by Vol.

Clear, bright amber coloring, slim but stable white head atop.

Soft, delicate aromatics, not getting a lot is what I'm saying. Slightly sweet, understated bitterness. Nice.

In the mouth: Sweet, malty, light pumpkin-ish flavoring, mild spicing. Medium bodied. Light finish, flavor's gone in a trice. Nicely balanced, refreshing and drinkable, but doesn't really stand out. You can barely taste it. Another way of saying that is "it's subtle." But, maybe too subtle.

Perhaps some gobbledygook will set me straight: "In the 18th Century, colonial Americans brewed wonderful and interesting ales using local ingredients. Barley was the principal ingredient, but pumpkins were favored by brewers for their rich, spicy flavors, which melded perfectly with malted barley. Post Road brings you a delicious rendition of this traditional American classic."

I think this hits the middle of the road just right, to reach the broadest audience possible. Nothing wrong with that, but I find it just a little bit lacking.

funkwerks saison

Funkwerks Saison. Fort Collins, CO. 6.8% ABV.

Hazy, bright golden hue, pure white head above.

Aroma: fresh, lively, lovely....beautiuful. wheat, spice, funk. low hops, lean malt.

In the mouth: lightly spicy, lightly hoppy, citrus notes aplenty. Light bodied, refreshing. Lemon and spices, mmm, mmm. Right on the money. Good ol' drinking' saison, that's what it is. Go and get yourself some.

Here's the gobbledygook, straight from the website: "Our flagship Saison was born from a series of test batches begun in Gordon Schuck’s backyard. The French Saison yeast strain used in test batch #6 was utilized to become the Great American Beer Festival gold medal-winning Saison that sits before you.

Notes of passion fruit, tangerine, lemon verbena, ginger and black pepper.

Pairs well with high fives."

Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown

Founders Sumatra Mountain Brow, Imperial Brown Ale brewed with Sumatra coffee. 9.0% Alc by Vol.  40 IBU. Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI. Bottled on 4/05/16. (So, I'm a little late to this party.)

Dark brown coloring, slim, cocoa-tinged head, some loose particles floating about.

Aroma: Dark malts meet deep, rich coffee tones. Caramel, toffee, molasses, allspice, clove...little hints of each.

In the mouth: Chocolate malts hit first, then caramel, then all the richness hits. Here comes the sweetness, matched with bittersweet and coffee flavors. Full bodied. Nice balance, just enough hops to keep sweetness at bay. Tasty stuff, indeed.

Let's read the label, shall we? "This bold brown ale gets it's body from a team of malts, including caramel malt for sweetness, flaked barley for dense foam, a bit of chocolate malt for color, and aromatic and Munich malts for added depth. German and Perle hops add a touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness. The addition of rich Sumatra coffee takes this perfectly balanced brown ale to a decadent level."

Well, not quite decadent, but close enough. I prefer coffee beers as stouts or porters for that extra, added depth and decadence, but this suits me just fine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

OLIPHANT Brown Sugar Brown Brown Rum Barrel-aged

Behold, one and all, the mighty mini-growler! Oh, I'm not talking about the half-growler you can get in Wisconsin, or the 750 ml size (25 ounces) we are allowed in Minnesota. No! Witness before you the 16-ounce glass growler. Only (so far as I know) at OLIPHant! And only for their 2nd Anniversary party.

(By the way, I call them OLIPHant because auto-correct keep changing it back to Elephant.)

I went out there really quick with Jason on a Saturday, several weeks ago (August 27, to be exact), and brought back 2 of each of their anniversary offerings. I gave J. one of the Bone Sword of Soomalakinakinas, or whatever it's called, in appreciation for driving me all over, and that means I get two of these all to myself. Let's open one up and drink it....

Brown Sugar Brown Brown Rum Barrel-aged. 6.7% ABV.

Solid brown coloring, rich and full lush head of off-white foam atop. Looks great.

Gorgeous aromatics. Malty, nutty, fruity, creamy, with effects of the barrel just ramping up. I love this.

In the mouth: Mmm, mmm. Big, fat, huge, rich, lush and wonderful. Candy bar in the mouth. Rum barrel flavors run over the richness on this. What was a fine beer before is much, much more. Toffee, caramel, molasses, brown sugar,...it's all in here. Just delicious. A glorious nightcap.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Insight Rise of the Lambton Dragon (Chapter XXXIX) Session Ale

Insight Rise of the Lambton Dragon Session Ale, drafted by Insight Brewing, "We Craft Legends." All. 4.1% ABV. Minneapolis, MN.

So, you may be asking yourself...no, wait, you may be asking me, "Hey, Al, is a balloon snifter the appropriate glass for a session ale?" Well, maybe not, and I could just as easily add an Insight pint glass to my collection, but I have too many of those as is. If I'm going to have any Insight branded glass, it'll be this one. So, into the balloon snifter it goes. And let's drink it.

Amber / crimson hue, slim white head.

Earthy/spicy hop notes pierce the olfactory first. Citrus-y notes join next. Big grapefruit.

In the mouth: Big hop flavors start it off, then they quick abandon the palate. Very lean bodied. Very light, easy, breezy, nicely balanced and super drinkable. Light 'n' easy. Did I say that already. Good beer and you easy drink it.

"...Then, before me, the great beast stirred groggily and uncoiled from his long slumber in the springs below the tavern. Had it been their secret ingredient all along? Could dragons taste like toffee and hops? Pressing questions, but meanwhile, the monster opened it's menacing maw...."

F-Town American Red Ale

F-Town American Red Ale. 28 IBU. 6.1% ABV.

Solid crimson coloring, Dark, slim head.

Sweet, caramel malt-accented nose.

In the mouth: rich and malty, with a slightly bittersweet hop note. Tasty stuff, drinkable. Long, malty finish. Just enough bitterness for balance. It's good beer and I can drink it. 'Nuff said

What's the gobbledygook say? "Complex notes of caramel, apple, floral and citrus with a mild earthy finish. This big flavored bold bodied red ale grabs your attention."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Thirsty Pagan Yukon: Mixed Fermentation Sour Ale

Thirsty Pagan Yukon: Mixed Fermentation Sour Red Ale. Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior, WI. 7% ABV. 20 IBU. Bottle Date: 8/9/16, bottled by: AR.

A few weeks back, Dave Anderson and I went up to the North Shore to visit some of those breweries up there: The Boathouse in Ely and two in Grand Marais, as well as Canal Park in Duluth, on a Wednesday. Thursday was Castle Danger in Two Harbors, and then Bent Paddle (already written about here) and Fitger's. Friday morning, before heading back down to Minneapolis, we crossed over Lake Superior into Superior, Wisconsin, for my 3rd ever visit to Thirsty Pagan Brewing. I'd been informed that there was a sour ale event the previous weekend, and some might still be on tap. Wasn't I surprised to see that there were several left, as well as barrel-aged beers. Dave and I both did flights in order to try as much of their beers as we could before getting back on the road. And I brought home this bottle.

Dark reddish brown coloring, small, soon-gone head.

Aroma: the funk and the sour hits first, followed by dark malt, dark fruit, raisins, dates, with a little touch of vinegar below.

In the mouth: lip-smackingly sour, big pucker, finishing dry, sour, fruity. Not a touch of sweetness, lots of rich malt. Just delicious. Pretty damned near close to a Flanders Red-style. A crowning achievement. Mmm. Yes.

Minnesota Breweries One By One #43: Excelsior Brewing, Excelsior

Those of you who follow this blog with any regularity and retain in your memory some of the trivial details that I divulge herein may recall that there was a lull in activity earlier this summer. A solid six weeks of no posts at all, and a full month of no new breweries visited. I have made up for it on the latter side, having been to 16 breweries in just the past month, getting up to a grand total of 82 Minnesota breweries so far. My list shows that there are 26 (8 of those are in Minneapolis, 5 in St. Paul) more to get to in the next 14 weeks or so. Definitely doable. This does not count, of course, about ten breweries threatening to open before the year is up. Maybe more, that's just the ones I'm keeping an eye on. At some point, I'll have to call it quits. If that place in International Falls opens on the 30th of December, I may have to leave it till next year. But the goal will continue beyond 2016, for once I've made to as many as I can in this year, I'll still keep trying to visit the new ones as they pop up.

I've kept up the pace of the brewery visits, but not the writing of them. Since starting up after the stall, I've only written up 14 of the new visits, out of 33, and haven't touched on the ones from April, May and June. We'll make some headway into this by going back to May 22, when Jason and I took some trips around the breweries near Lake Minnetonka and it's environs, starting with Excelsior Brewing in Excelsior, at 4231 Excelsior Street, just a few blocks away from where Prince insisted to Appolonia that she purify herself, in that purple-tinged film of long ago.

Excelsior, population 2, 397, approximately 12 miles west of South Minneapolis. What else to say? They love their boats and docks, and that big ol' lake. And they got a brewery.

Yoga at the brewery? Sure, who doesn't do that, but a
release party for a bike jersey? Whatevs.
I've reviewed six of Excelsior's beers here in the Nib over the years, covering the core brands and a few others, and visited the brewery taproom once before, in 2014, also with Jason.There's a few out there that have slipped past me, including the cherry wheat ale, Sunburn, which I just finished a keg of at Acadia. For various reasons, I don't take notes at the bar that often.

 This time, I was impressed by the larger selection of beers and styles beyond the flagships. And what else did I see, hear and do? Well, I'll tell you, once I start a new paragraph.



Over-dressed in Excelsior.
It's a beautiful Sunday, one of the nicest days of the year so far, the sun shining and summer is beckoning. It's seems that all of Excelsior is out there enjoying the weather and in the taproom digging the wide range of ales and lagers. And I'm the only schmuck in the joint wearing long pants and a hoodie and no sunglasses. Everyone else is in shorts and t-shirts or biking gear. We stepped onto the patio area, where a folky combo was making music under a tent, but couldn't find anywhere to sit. Over on the stage, a trio of women are demonstrating their hula hooping prowess. It's all hustle bustle over here.

(Editor's note: Many months later, on Halloween, those same women came into Acadia Cafe, hula hoops and all, and I told them I remembered them from this Excelsior gig. Crazy, man.)

We checked out the choices and I made my first one a "hoppy wheat" made in collaboration with the Enki & Waconia breweries, called Triad #3. It had a cloudy amber appearance, a distinctive hop bite, with a slight tartness to the flavor. Ultimately, it was nice, smooth, drinkable. Jason, meanwhile, chose the Peach Sour, and after tasting his, I kind of wish I had, too.
Sipping on Jason's Peach Sour.
Just enough peach, just enough sour. Nice.

Did someone say "barrel-aged imperial
stout"?
And then I had to go and be the only person in the place to order the 10.6% Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, because, you know, I had to. If anyone still suggests that this brewery makes tame or safe beers, well, let's let this post be a testament to the contrary. Roast-y, toasty, bittersweet, but just a bit more bitter than sweet. Notes of chocolate, cherry and espresso, getting bigger, richer and more intense as we get further in, picking up raisins, dates, vanilla and oak traces, too. This was one I really wanted to relax and luxuriate in. It's not the type of beer I'd have as my second beer of the day. Ideally, it's a nightcap, late-night chilly weather beer, but I had no choice. It was there and I had to drink it.

We couldn't luxuriate too long. There were two more stops to go in our drive along Lake Minnetonka and it's neighbors. Had to save rooms for more beers. And so we bid adieu to Excelsior Brewing, and it's boats and it's sports equipment and bikes hanging on the ceiling, and it's hulu hoopers and we're ready to visit another brewery obsessed with lakes and watercraft.
Hula hooping at the brewery on a Sunday afternoon. 
Every taproom has a growler collection, it seems, but
who else has waterskis on the ceiling?

This is the result of using the panorama feature on the iPhone camera
without knowing what you're doing. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

F-Town American Brown Ale

F-Town American Brown Ale. F-Town Brewing Company, Faribault, MN. 29 IBU, 4.7% ABV.

Medium-brown coloration, slim white head, active carbonation.

Aroma: sweetness first, rich malt, high caramel and toffee. Just a little hop presence to combat it.

In the mouth: Sweet again, more malt, more caramel. Perhaps a bit too much, very little hop presence on the palate to offset it. "Hints of delicate hops" it says on the side of the can. Maybe it could use more than some hints?

What else do they tell us? "Toasted malt, hints of delicate hops, and the creaminess of oatmeal. This brown ale satisfies malt lovers with it's full, rich flavor."

Okay, I'm getting some of the "delicate hops", but I feel they could be a little louder, more aggressive to off-set the massive malt. Just a bit too much of the sweet for me.

Other than that, not bad. Not terrible. Just me, but I'd like it a bit drier.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dark Horse Smells Like A Citra Safety Meeting India Pale Ale

Dark Horse Smells Like A Citra Safety Meeting India Pale Ale. Dark Horse Brewing, Marshall, MI.
Double IPA. 8 % ABV.

Hazy, deep amber coloring, average white head, lasting long.

Nice, hoppy, citrus-forward nose on it. Very lively.

In the mouth: Boom! Big, hoppy, spicy, citrus-y, with plenty of malt body to back it up, which goes against the grain of the modern IPA, especially ones with Citra. Plenty of pep on the palate here. Lush, sweet malt meets high hops. This one tastes good, and I like it. Good beer, and you can, etcetera.

This one was in an IPA sampler pack that Dave A. purchased and gave some to me, what a heck of a guy.

Clown Shoes Mango American Kolsch

It happened again. I bought a 6-pack during the dog days os summer, drank the first five up like it's nothing, and saved the sixth to take notes on, and now it's looking at me, asking: "When? When will you drink me? Take those notes, already, damn you!" So, for the sake of this bottle, I'm doing it at last.

Clown Shoes Mango American Kolsch. Brewed by Clown Shoes Beer, Clifton Park, NY. All. 5.5% by Vol.

Hazy, bright golden, slim, pure white head. Beautiful.

Sweet, fruity nose. Mango's there, as well as other lighter fruit notes, and malt.

In the mouth: Smooth on the palate, light and malty, delicately delicious. Mango is judiciously used, also, giving just the right amount of flavor.This one does it, got to give it to them.

Gobbledygook: "We took a light, refreshing German beer style and bastardized it. This atypical kolsch is dry-hopped and has all natural mango flavor added. Warning: this beer is NOT Reinheitsgrebot!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #67: Roundhouse Brewery, Brainerd, with Golden Spike IPA

It's Sunday, August 21, and it's time to go up north, 131 miles up north, a 2 1/2 hour drive, to Brainerd (county seat of Crow Wing county, population 13, 592, one of the largest cities in Central Minnesota, straddles the Mississippi river, founded as a site for railroad crossings, serves as a major tourist destination, and if you'd like to learn more, check out Wikipedia, like I did) and it's neighbors to four breweries I've never been to, some I know very little about. First up is the sole Brainerd brewery, only open since April of this year, located in an old, defunct Northern Pacific railroad station, Roundhouse Brewery. 1551 Northern Pacific Boulevard. Keep on Chugging'...responsibly. (By the way, if you like to laugh, check out the blog on their website. It sure made me chuckle.)

It's a wide open space, full of railroad and train artifacts and memorabilia. The seating area greets us first when we enter, with the bar in the middle of the room, and the brewery behind it. We get our seats and look over the choices, while one of the owners comes over to serve us. Laminated cards with all the information on the beers are held together with a metal ring and are on the bar for perusal. Even better, when one orders the flights, as we did, the cards are also in place next to each glass. These guys have it figured out. There's no skimping on knowledge here. You're not going to guess about the style,
ingredients, ABV, origin of the name, etcetera.

Ten beers were available, with six beers in the flight. Jason and I each got a flight, with two beers overlapping between them. First for me was the No. 10 Hefe Weizen (5.4%, 15 IBU), which was right on the mark, with the inherent banana and clove notes that the traditional weizen yeast delivers, smooth and refreshing. One flaw, however, was just a little bit of that plastic/chemical off-flavor that we often relate to band-aid. It was very minor, and didn't make the serving undrinkable. I passed it along to the owner, who appreciated the feedback. This flaw didn't appear in any of the other beers.

Next up: Straw Hat Saison (6.4% ABV, 24 IBU), malty and slightly sweet, clean, but with an intriguing addition of rye malt for spice and flavor, to match the citrus notes. A real anomaly and really refreshingly delicious.

I chose for the third the Golden Spike IPA, and took notes on it, but I also chose to take home a growler, and those notes will appear below. I must have liked it.

Next up in the flight was Angel Seat Amber and the Old Betsy Brown. My notes were very minimal on these as I found that they satisfied on every level. I couldn't find any flaws and decided that they well represented the styles. Just plain old good and right on the money.

Number five for me was Cinder Dick IPA, which was not a dirty reference in the least, but instead a nod to railroad detectives. Oddly enough, I didn't take notes on it, nor snap a photo, but I liked it.

From Jason's flight, I took sips of Boom Lake Lager, Crow Wing Cream Ale, Cowcatcher Ale (a California Common/Steam beer style), and the Coal Train Porter, neither a nod to saxophonist John, nor the famed lyricist, but instead to actual trains that carried coal, and the porters who moved it about. And the beer, too. I took small notes on these beers, too, and they seemed to say that these renditions of the styles fell right in line, and delivered exactly what you want in them.

I believe it was when we tasted the brown ale, not a style of which I am usually fond, that I was especially impressed. There simply wasn't a dud in the bunch. These guys found a brewer that knows what he's doing!

This is when this project is the most fun, when we enter a brewery taproom, sometimes far out and away from everywhere, and find that it's all working. It could easily be a bunch of profiteers financing a misbegotten business plan, hiring a brewer with no know-how and little understanding, offering lifeless brews, often infected, pawing them off on unsuspecting consumers, and just barely getting away with it, since no one knows any better. But quite the opposite is happening in Brainerd.

An interesting side note was that we were informed that the Cream Ale is quite popular among the light beer drinkers, but the Golden Spike IPA is the big hit at Roundhouse. There's just enough craft beer fans out here, as well as recently turned hop fanatics, that they've got to keep brewing the stuff. I did my part and got a growler to take home. Notes below:

Golden Spike IPA. 8.9% ABV.

Clear, copper-y/ amber hue, lush off-white head, leaving lace. A fine looking glass of beer.

Bold citrus and pine leads the hop attack in the nose, with earthy tones, and sweet  malt notes for balance. Bitter, fruity, beautiful.

In the mouth: Sweet malt greets the palate, with hop bitterness coming in quick. Bittersweet, earthy notes, vibrant happiness, some citrus, some prickly pine, with an unending undercurrent of smooth malty deliciousness. I like this. It's well-constructed, clean, and like the golden spike, combines the best of east and west coast (IPAs). Tasty stuff that I can just keep drinking.

It was a pleasant way to while away part of an afternoon, our little stay at Roundhouse. If I were a Brainerd-ite, you know I'd haunt the place with regularity. It's a comfortable space with all they typical taproom trappings, and live music on the weekends, and great beer to go with it.
If these guys nail these styles as well as they did, I can only imagine what else they can brew if they set their minds to it.

Destihl The Duke of Norrington Saison de Imperiale

Destihl The Duke of Norrington Saison de Imperiale. 10.7% ABV. 25 IBU. Destihl Brewery, Normal, IL.

Heavily clouded, off-amber, slim white head.

Aroma: plump with Belgian yeast and malt. Vibrant fruit notes, stone and citrus. A little sharp, a trifle hot.

In the mouth: Richer, fuller, and more flavorful than a meager non-"imperial" saison. Big 'n' beefy, and just a little hot. Sweetness abounds, fruit, bubblegum, typical Belgian-style flavors at play on the palate. Still smooth, none too troubling, and quite tasty. Flavor lingers long. Finishes dry, though sweetness always comes back.

I must admit though, that this is a style I don't like to see "imperialized." It feels like it's big and boozy just for the sake of being big and boozy. Comes across more like a Belgian strong golden, and loses any "saison-ness."

Here's what they say about it: "The Duke of Norrington is the powerful elder statesman to our family of saisons. The nose of this imperial saison is reminiscent of black pepper & hibiscus, which is then met with flavors of added coriander and hints of cherry bubblegum esters. The beer's medium body is swept away by a bone-dry finish and subtle notes of traditional spicy Belgian yeast character, Cheers!"

Towards the end of the bottle, it mellows out some, and the thornier edges have calmed. Good, strong beer and you can drink it. Go right ahead and do so.