Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #94: Lake Superior Brewing Company with Deep Water Black IPA

Well, it's nearing the end of October, and I've made it to 97 Minnesota breweries. 97!Whew! In a few days, I will attempt to get up to 100. Then, we have 2 months to get to the remaining dozen. I've only written up 50 of these visits, though, so it's catch-up time. Now, here's #94, Lake Superior Brewing Company in Duluth, visited last Wednesday. First, let me set it up for you....

On the last day of August, Dave A. and I set out on a North Shore adventure that would take us to as many "up north" breweries as we could take in. (Unfortunately, I have only gotten around to writing up one of those visits, (Bent Paddle) although I keep promising "soon, soon", and I always mean it.) On the first day we hit up Canal Park in Duluth, Boathouse Brewery in Ely, and Voyageur and GunFlint Tavern in Grand Marais. Thursday, September 1 found us at Castle Danger in Two Harbors, Bent Paddle and Fitger's in Duluth, with a sneak peek at the upcoming Blacklist location thrown in the middle. We made it Superior,Wisconsin and Thirsty Pagan for lunch the next morning, then headed homeward.

Despite all that, there were still three Duluth breweries we did not see. There was a call made to Lake Superior Thursday morning. Their stated taproom hours are Fridays and Saturdays, which was making it hard to include them in our travels. So far this year, we've been able to get to most of the breweries on Sundays and weekdays. The only times I've had to take a Saturday off of work were for Surly Darkness Day and the Summit Anniversary party. But when Dave called and asked if they were open, the answer went: If you bring some money, we'll let you in and pour you a beer. Huh. Okay. However, our day was too full, and we never made it over.

So, another trip was planned with Jason B. seven weeks later, to try to catch those missing three breweries, even if it meant bothering the brewers during non-taproom hours at Lake Superior. We left my home in  Minneapolis just before 10 am, and arrived in Duluth around 1pm. Our motel check-in time wasn't until three, so we got the bikes off the back of his car, and went two blocks for a quick beer at Fitger's Brewhouse, then pedaled about 3 miles to 2711 West Superior Street, approximately 31 city blocks south of where we were staying. We stood in front of the building and read the taproom hours, wondering if we should just walk in, when an employee on a smoke break called out to us from the loading dock, "hey! you looking for the taproom?" We followed him over to the back, waiting for him to let us in, until he told us, no, just go in the front. And walk right in we did, into a brewery crew working away, with a small section set aside for stools, and couple enjoying some pints.

Lake Superior Brewing has appeared only twice in the Bitter Nib, with reviews of Special Ale, the English pale ale, and Old Man Winter Warmer, their English-style barley-wine, long a favorite of mine. During the past 6 years, then, those are the only LSBC bottles I've picked up. Over on BeerAdvocate, I've reviewed 8 of the 20 beers listed there. Only 20 different brews in 22 years in existence? Perhaps that may be why they're nowhere near the forefront of Minnesota breweries, why hardly anyone thinks of them anymore. There are other reasons, too. I'll get to those later. Back to our visit.

So, it was true. If you go into the brewery while it's open, one of the employees will stop what he's doing and pour you a pint, fill a growler, sell you some merch. A chalkboard on the wall behind a merchandise shelf informs you of the offerings. My first pint was the St. Louis Bay IPA, a brew I wasn't sure I'd had before. Clear, bright golden/ nearly amber colored, with a sharp hoppy twang, citrus and tropical fruit notes, and quite drinkable. Good IPA, nothing wrong with it. Had I heard of it before, had I had it? The walls of the hallway as we entered showed off a label for the beer, but it's not listed on the website. Checking BeerAdvocate, I found it listed under "retired/no longer brewed", with the latest review from 2007, and the earliest from 2003. I reviewed it in November of 2003, and I didn't not like the bottle I had at all. Gave it a 2.9 out of 5.

Clearly, what we had was a resurrection of this abandoned beer, but somehow corrected. I would happily have another of this one. Did they fix the recipe from 13 years past? I wonder. Meanwhile, Jason was having a Deep Water Black IPA, which I later chose to take home in a growler, and he followed that with the Oktoberfest, the only other LSBC beer available then that I'd never tried. For my second pint, I chose the Sir Duluth Oatmeal Stout, which I'd had many times, and had on tap several times at the Blue Nile (I recall tapping Kayak Kolsch, Special Ale, Mesabi Red, and Old Man Winter Warmer, as well). I wrote the following on BeerAdvocate.com when I first tapped it in January of 2003: "Never had an oatmeal stout, one of my favorite styles, on draft before, and now that I have, fellows and ladies, let me say it can't be beat! Totally black in color, with a fine, tan head. Aroma is soft and sweet, with notes of cocoa, vanilla, and cream. Some bitterness on the palate, but nothing harsh. Not quite as roasty as the benchmark for this style, Samuel Smith's, but what is? Goes down extremely well, with plenty of body, texture, and bite. Gritty, substantial, but quite quaffable. An outstanding stout!"

That's it verbatim, friends. I loved to effuse and issue out exclamation points back then, didn't I? It's a habit I've effectively corrected. On nitro for this visit, it was as satisfying as ever. Just right, nothing wrong with it, a good ol' drinkable pint of stout.

Did this end our visit? No. While our friendly attendant Noah rang us up, I inquired about coasters, for their were none to be seen. He went into the office to look and returned empty handed, though he would toss in a patch for free, and with the offer to chat with one of the owners. Of course, and into his office we went for a nice little conversation, though I can't remember his name. Was it John? Or Don? Not Vaughan....Oh, well, it will come to me. Like I said, a nice little chat about the history of the brewery, and then we had to take off, for we were late meeting my nephew Aaron at Bent Paddle.

Speaking of Bent Paddle, how does one brewery in Duluth start up three years ago and immediately excites the beer community all across the state, while "Duluth's original craft brewery" is largely forgotten after 22 years in business? For one, they have very little presence outside the Duluth/North Shore community, and their Twin Cities distributor doesn't really promote them much. Their beers are here, yes, but you hardly ever see them on tap, and no one talks about their beers. Also, the packaging and branding feels like it's still stuck in the 90's, with nothing really modern looking about them. The beer styles, too, while admirably traditional and to-style, don't reflect current tastes or new trends. They really don't put out much that's new or interesting, beyond the same stable of styles they've been doing for years. Also, LSBC  is one of the few breweries who has never been a member of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, hasn't appeared at their events, and has at times lobbied against some of the Guilds' goals, which doesn't help their image among craft beer fans.

That said, their output is solid and enjoyable, and look, they brewed a black IPA, and I took home a growler and drank it, notes below. I can't really criticize their taproom, because they're doing the best they can with the space they've got. You can really compare it against breweries that opened after taprooms were a reality.

Lake Superior Deep Water Black IPA.

Dark brown coloring, slim brownish head.

Citrus and pine in the nose, smothered by dark malts. "You put chocolate on my pine cones!"

In the mouth: Bright hops start it off, and quickly matched with cocoa and coffee. Medium-bodied, long malty finish, with hops hanging on. This, like most of the LSBC output, is a well-balanced beer, nothing special, but tasty and drinkable, for sure. I finished off a growler with nary a care in the world.

Sapporo Premium Black Beer

Sapporo Premium Black Beer. Imported by Sapporo Brewing Company, La Crosse, Wisconsin. Brewed and canned by Sapporo Brewing Company, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. (But originally, this was made in Japan, right? Right.) 22 fl oz.

So, I got a sample from The Sample Man of what he called "the new Sapporo Black". What new? Didn't they have this already? No, that was "stout draft", but it wasn't a stout. So, is this a new beer or a new name? Either way, it's new to me, so let's crack it open.

Dark brown coloration, not quite black, with a nice cocoa-tinted head, lasting long, though thinnish.

Aroma: sweet and malty, creamy, nutty, lovely.

In the mouth: smooth and creamy, lovely dark malts. Low to non-existent hop bitterness. Lightish bodied, but not necessarily thin. A little nutty, and ultimately dry, despite initial sweet notes. Nice, drinkable, tasty schwarbier, here.

Go ahead and drink one.

NorthLoop BrewCo Foto #Fresh

Lucid, I mean, NorthLoop BrewCo Foto Fresh, I mean, Foto #Fresh (?) IPA, brewed and bottled by NorthLoop BrewCo, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.  (I mean, Inbound?)

Clear, amber-hued, lush, long-lived white head. Looking good.

Vibrant aromatics, flush with the freshness of citrus and pine. Flagrantly fresh and lively. Nice.

In the mouth: There it is, caramel malts lurk beneath the barrage of fresh hop bitterness. Fresh and tasty. More malty than most fresh hop ales and IPAs. But plenty tasty, and definitely delicious. Good beer, and I can drink it. In fact, I recommend it. Go ahead and drink one.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wild Mind Lese-Majeste Wild IPA

Wild Mind Lese-Majeste, the beer formerly known as Wild IPA. 8.2% ABV. 75 IBU. Wild Mind Artisan Ales, Minneapolis, MN.

Clear, bright golden hued, slim white head.

Aromatics are bursting with all manner of hoppiness. Citrus notes, pine, tropical tones, pungent, juicy.

In the mouth: Sweetness and sumptuous at first, but swift and soon, the bitterness rises to ravage the palate. Intense bitterness tears across the tongue, thrilling hopheads like myself. Light bodied, leaving the stage to hops and hops alone. The palate ripping continues. Underneath, the malts remain juicy and delicious.

A pause while I read from the menu: "Brewed with pilsner malt and over 3 pounds per barrel of Cascade, Citra, and Azacca hops, this beer is then fermented with locally harvested Minnesotan yeast making it insanely attenuated for an IPA. Notes of citrus, peach, pineapple, clean grass, and rich earth."

This is just right. I am in awe of this one. Dry to the point of brittle, over-flowing with fresh and juicy hoppitude. Right up the ol' alley and down my driveway, this one. Keep making great beers like this, guys, and I just might like you even more.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #87: Insight Brewing, Minneapolis, with Siren Song for a Lost Satyr

October. My favorite month of them all. After April, actually. And all the warm months, I think I like them better. But, yes, October, still my favorite U2 album, and song.

"October, and the trees are stripped bare, of all they wear....do I care?"

Ah, Bono, the Bob Dylan of the 80's. And today!

Insight Brewing, 2821 Hennepin Avenue N.
So, it's October, and I've vowed to close the gap on the local breweries I haven't visited yet for this project before it becomes too difficult to bike to them. And on Sunday, October 2, I got on my Raleigh and rode to Insight Brewing in NorthEast Minneapolis. I took a different route this time, choosing wisely to avoid my previous method of going through downtown to Hennepin Avenue and all the way to 2821 Hennepin. This time I took the river trails all the way to the Dinkytown Greenway bridge into Dinkytown, 15th to Como, then a few blocks to...poof, there it is, Hennepin, and look over there, it's Insight.

Under the steel renditions of the logos,
colorful paintings of adventure join the scenery.
This was probably my 4th visit to Insight, my first being on opening night in the fall of 2014. It was an impressive space, and clearly well-funded, with brand-spanking new tanks and a spacious taproom. I liked the beers then, but didn't return again until the next June, where I took home a growler of one of their beers, and you can read about that here. But the next time I stopped in that September, they'd changed their logo (and I can't think of anyone who didn't hate it) and the beer names had changed and the look of the branding had gotten a full makeover. It was then that I reviewed the cherry saison, Doe Eyes, readable here. Around this point, the canning began, and I've been trying to keep up with them, but have missed a few along the way. (Next time, Phantom Taxi.) And if you sort through the list of beers I've reviewed, you'll see that some have come from samples I've received. I like the beers of Insight, and I try to include them among the rotation on tap at Acadia.  They're about overdue to return, it's just hard to juggle all the locals that I like.

The Bedeviled Gourd
And, naturally, there are beers that the taproom that you just can't get elsewhere. With that in mind, I settled into my stool at the wide, curving bar and choose a little something called The Bedeviled Gourd, a smoked pumpkin beer. I took the following minimalist notes: "Smoked veg, big smoke, rich malt, dark fruit fighting with smoke. Hm." I drank it, but I didn't really enjoy it. I tried to find a trace of it on their website, but it's missing. Have they decided to wipe it from existence? I found this on rate beer.com: "Apart from many pumpkin beers produced today, we brewed up this smokey brew and added fresh pumpkin and just a small dash of pumpkin spice to let you know that Fall is on the way. Crisp, clean, and unique." I don't know about crisp and clean, but it was bit too unique for me. Ah, well, they can't all be winners.

Next on to a raspberry infused saison called Fungivorous. This one had much more appeal. Blessed with a pinkish tint, it tasted fresh, lightly tart, fruity and flat out delicious. Here's their official gobbledygook on it: "Pouring with a deep ruby hue and an off-white head, the raspberry is dominant in this brew. Aromas of sweet berries and fruity Belgian esters dance in unison as they lead toward a sweet, fresh raspberry flavor, finally finishing slightly tart and crisp. The overall body is dry, leaving you wanting your second sip faster than you could reach for your first."

Also available was the blackberry saison, which I brought home and took notes on below. Maybe the fruity saison will prove to be Insight's forte'? After all, the white wine grape infused saison In The Halls of the Sunken City is one of their flagship brews.

Banshee Cutter Coffee Golden Ale. 
Phil rings up orders under the vast collection
of Minnesota's growlers. 
Next up, I went with a new beer that they've released in cans, but I've not yet picked up (nor received a sample, ...ahem...), the Return Voyage of the Banshee Cutter, a coffee golden ale. The light colored coffee beer style (if it is such a thing) was something I first encountered at Birch's on the Lake back in May (I promise, report coming very soon!...I know, I always say that, but this time I really mean it), and was amazed by, then shocked and awed by Modist's First Call soon after. As for this one, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but took no notes of any significance. I was distracted by conversations with the people I knew behind the bar at the time. Time to get a can and give it my full attention, I think.

I finished off my visit to Insight with a glass of the raspberry saison, Lost Satyr, or "Siren Song for a Lost Satyr" (they've got to give them all those exciting chapter names). I'm going to skip the notes taken then and defer to those written when I opened up a bottle a week later. Despite this, I'll share the picture taken of the beer, because it looks better than the one I took at home.

Lost Satyr blackberry saison.

It's a cool place, this Insight taproom, and it draws in a lot of people, with a wide range of activities, from music to trivia and such. And the requisite board games stacked on a shelf over by the restrooms. Ever wonder why the board game thing got so popular at taprooms, but not so much at bars? What's the thinking there, that taproom-goers need an activity to engage with one another, but bar patrons are content to wallow with their booze or stare at the ol' boob tube? These are the questions that puzzle my mind, you know.

On such a sunny October Sunday, why am I inside?
Perhaps I just didn't want to walk in and back out to
get my beers? That's gotta be it. 
I know a lot of folks at Insight, and I think they're doing good work and having fun doing it. I'm anticipating more, though.  I believe they've only scratched the surface of what they're capable of producing. And I'll keep checking them out to see how they get there.

Notes on 750 ml bottle of Siren Song for a Lost Satyr, Saison & Blackberries, 2016 Vintage. 7.5% ABV, 35 IBU.

Perfectly plummy, raspberry-ish hue, pleasantly pink foam above.

Nose: not too sweet, not too tart, just right, nice and fruity. Altogether lovely.

In the mouth: big blackberry, slightly sour, just a touch. Medium bodied, long bitter/sour finish, and never-ending fruit. Pretty nice. Good work, Insight. Tasty stuff. I'll be back for more.

Here's their gobbledygook: The sweet fruitiness and hint of spice from the saison mingle with the tartness of the blackberry to create a unique and wonderful blend of flavors. No expense was spared with this celebration of blackberries.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

Thanks, Sample Man! Once again, a bottle reaches my hands that I haven't touched in many years. For the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, we go back to notes from February, 2006, nearly 11 years ago. I think I knew what I was talking about then, so let's hear what I had to say:

An interesting label on this one, with some obtuse, too-clever-by-half phrasing. Beneath the words "Vanilla Porter", they proclaim: "Seldom Seen. Never Duplicated." Huh? Does that even make sense?
And, bookending the larger body of the design, at top and bottom, two words that try to belong together and prove the writer's great wit, yet fall flat. "Remarkable" ..."Partakable"...oh, kay...is partakable a word, even? And, do they know these words don't rhyme, exactly, for that seems their only purpose in pairing them.

Basically, they want to say, "It's different, and you can drink it."
So, let's see about that...

Big vanilla aromatics waft out from first crack of the crown.

Pours out a deep, dark brown, with a sliver of crimson at the sides, a meager, but loyal cocoa / tan head. Good.

Roasty nose, swiftly dominated by sweet vanilla. Light hints of coffee below, glimmers of chocolate. Pleasing, yes, but not overpowering, nor especially outstanding.

Chalky, flaky cocoa feel from the start, like a dusting of chocolate powder...rinses the mouth with a smattering of sweetness, then dashes away. Medium, at best, in body, a bit too light for me...vanilla bean flavor clings to the palate and pushes away the other flavors that may reside in the taste. Gets sweeter as we go in, a bit too much for me, actually.

Probably the best vanilla porter I've tried, but I'm still not crazy about the style.
I like more porter, less vanilla.

Editor's note: I wrote this way before the vanilla/coconut craze. These days, any infusion drives the geeks crazy, lord love 'em.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sixpoint Tesla IPL

Sixpont Tesla. 7% ABV. 40 IBU. Lager. Six point Brewery, Brooklyn, New York.

Crystal clear, bright golden hued, large white head, leaving luscious lace.

Aroma: big, loud, and hoppy. Vibrant citric fruit notes, some pine, orange zest, grapefruit peel, tangerine. Nice.

In the mouth: Bitter bite at first, crisp bounce on the palate, little bit of honey, then smooth thereafter. Lean, clean, and lively. Tasty stuff, indeed. Quite delicious.

Yes, I'll have another.

Some gobbledygook? Sure, let's: 
...It was said Tesla would visualize
fully-functioning inventions in his mind before even setting pen to paper. To start with a realized formulation in the mind's eye— see it, smell it, and taste it, then harness the right materials to create it? Now that's Mad Science.

Think the juicyness of big doses of American Hops, with that clean snappiness of a cold-fermented, meticulously-lagered beer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sisyphus Mrs. Sisyphus

Sisyphus Mrs. Sisyphus. Part of the employee designed beer series. We can assume this came from the mind of Catherine, then. No idea what the style might be, so I'll just go ahead and try and find out.

4.5% ABV. 40 IBU.

It's clear and yellow, with a slim, soon-gone head.

Aroma: Sweetness, fruit. Apple and peach. A touch of honey. Tea-like. Lovely stuff.

In the mouth: A cider-y snap at the front, crisp, lively, with little hop bitterness. Lean, and clean, and very smooth. Beautiful, bright, sweet fruit flavors persist on the palate. Now, the ginger kicks in, nicely spicy. Light bodied, easy finish. Quite likable.

This is a very nice beer, but it's not the type I'd pick again and again. That's just me.

Here's a little gobbledygook:
Part of the employee designed beer series. This light ale has notes of apple, peach and a hint of ginger. Honey malt beings or some added sweetness just like the real Mrs Sisyphus.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest brewed in collaboration with Mahrs Brau. 2016 Oktoberfest Lager.
6 % ABV. 30 IBU.

Clear, golden-hued, slim white head.

Clean aromatics, floral, herbal, a touch grainy. Malt-forward. Low hop bitterness.

In the mouth: clean, crisp, smooth, malty. Well balanced, easy-drinking, downright chuggable. Lighter bodied and less rich than my favorite oktoberfests. But this is firmly in the Festbier style. Good beer and you can drink it.

from the website: We’re exploring the roots of Germany’s famous Oktoberfest beers. Each year, we partner with a different German brewer to explore a different approach to the style. This year we’re working with Bamberg, Germany’s Mahrs Bräu on a new version of the classic style. This authentic version of the festival beer is deep golden in color with a rich malt complexity, but with a noticeable spicy hop character from the use of the nearly forgotten Record hop varietal.

Deschutes Sagefight Imerial IPA

Deschutes Sagefight Imperial IPA. 8% ABV. 75 IBU. Bend, Oregon.

Clouded amber coloring, long lasting white head. Looking great.

Aromatics: very distinct, more lemon and lime than anything else, plus plenty of spice. That's where the sage is coming through. It's an unusual element in a beer, and really stands out. Nice.

In the mouth: Before I imbibe, I want to quote this from the website gobbledygook: Citrusy hops go head to head with resinous sage and juniper in a flavor battle royale.

Why not more? Malt Pale, Crystal, Munich
Hops Millennium, Bravo, Amarillo, Centennial
Other Sage, Juniper Berries Cert.
Alc. 8% IBU. 75
Available September – February.

The main event for hopheads has arrived! In the right corner we have lively botanicals hailing from the high desert; in the left, heavyweight citrus hops are looking for a knockout. Get ready to take a punch and keep on swinging with this bold Imperial IPA brewed with sage and juniper berries that’s best shared with those in your corner.

Huh? What? Okay, I guess. 

Anyway, back to In the Mouth: Sage and spice hits first, with hops following after. Malt lays low, leaving this to be all about the hops and those interesting adjuncts. Piney, resinous notes and super citrusy stuff does battle with the extra, unexpected ingredients. In addition to sage, also juniper berries, so there. It's a weird one, but I like it. Tasty, refreshing, bitter and odd, all at once. I said "tasty", right? Well, it is. 

Abita Peach Lager

Abita Peach Lager. Harvest Series. 4.5 % ABV. 15 IBU. Brewed and packaged by Abita Brewing, Abita Springs, Louisiana.

Hazy/cloudy, with bright yellow, nearly peachy coloring, and a slim white head.

Peach aroma roars out of the glass. Sweet and lovely.

Now, to drink. Sweet and juicy from the start. The flavor is right there, and there's little else beyond the peach. Easily down able. Does it's duty. It's a lager, it's peach. Good beer, you can drink it. Tastes great, actually.
Nothing else to tell you.

wait, here's more: gobbledygook from the website: Fresh Louisiana peaches are handpicked for this smooth lager. Pale malt gives the beer a sweet, crisp taste, with abundant amounts of ripe, juicy peaches added in the brewhouse to capture the flavors and aromas of real, fresh fruit. All our Harvest Series brews are made with the finest Louisiana-grown ingredients.

New Belgium / De Koninck Lips of Faith Flowering Citrus Ale

New Belgium / De Koninck Lips of Faith Flowering Citrus Ale . Brewed and bottled by New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado. all. 7.4% by Vol.

Clear, bright gold, soft white, lingering head.

Aroma: spice, Belgian yeast, citrus aplenty. Soft spices, very intriguing.

In the mouth: light spices and delicate fruit. Minor hops, lean malt body, ease of drinking apparent. Getting lime-ier as we go. Floral notes in the flavor, too. High citrus through the taste of this, some sourness, but all in all, pretty danged delicious.

Here's some gobbledygook! "A beautiful summer day in Antwerp; the sun pours past the belfry and rooftops and floods into the market center. A ballet of brightly colored shoppers twists and twirls through the commotion, pinwheels of color against the cobblestone square. You find two seats on the café’s patio, ordering beers to pair with the bustling view: De Koninck Flowering Citrus Ale. This Lips of Faith collaboration with Antwerp’s historic De Koninck Brewery is a delightful burst of citrus and flowers, keeping pace with the color and commotion of summer. Sit back and enjoy the pop of key lime and whole lemons; breath in the fragrance of hibiscus, rose petals and strawberry-tinged 'Mistral hops; toast to life’s pleasant surprises. Soak in the summer scene with a Flowering Citrus Ale."

Man, that's some gobbledygook!

Oskar Blues Bayside Black IPA

Oskar Blues Bayside Black IPA. All. 7% by Vol. Brewed and Canned by Oskar Blues Brewery, LLC, Longmont, CO.

Full ebony hue, large, lush cocoa-tinged head, looking great.

Aromatics: piney hops meet dark malts.

In the mouth: coffee, cocoa, anise and other dark malts flavor at play on the palate, bouncing up against hop bitterness, citrus and pine notes. Smooth and tasty. Good beer, and you can drink it.

Read some gobbledygook here.  Something about a band, and a beer, and, you know, gobbledygook.

Indeed Heliotropic

Full confessional: This is a re-review, for I've had this one before when it was called Wooden Soul #1. No matter, it's a new name, a new bottle, and I'm going to re-review it, just for kicks. And away we go....

Bottle conditioned. 7.3% ABV. Belgian-style Brett Saison Ale aged in white wine barrels. Bottled by Indeed Brewing Company, Minneapolis, MN. Bottle 539/750. Bottled 06/2016.

Lightly hazy appearance, bright golden hue, slim, but lasting ivory head.

Aroma: Sauvignon Blanc drops in first, followed by slight hints of vinegar, cat pee, all that. Wicked, twisted, sour and beautiful. Beautiful, weird, and wonderful.

In the mouth: slight sweetness at first, lush malt, then comes the bracing tart from the yeast and the wild bugs at play. It's a brettanomyces fermented saison aged in white wine barrels, and it's complex, delicious, and ultimately refreshing. (Wish I had a few more. Wish I could save some for a year or so, but I'm terrible at that.) (Note to self: new project: buy more of these, save them, stash them, keep them for years.)

If you're you're looking for a palate-gripping, tongue-torturing "sour", this might not be sour enough for you. But it's plenty delicious.

By the way, what's "heliotropic"? The movement of an organism, specifically plants, towards the light of the sun. Not sure what that has to do with this beer. Maybe nothing. Just a cool word.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Funkwerks Nelson Sauvin Single Hopped Saison Ale

Funkwerks Nelson Sauvin. 7.9% Alc. byVol. Funkwerks, Inc.,Fort Collins, CO.

Lightly hazed, beautiful, bright yellow coloring, slimmest, ivory head, lasting long.

Aroma pops out pear and apple, bright citrus, lemon and lime. Succulent fruits, forest floor.

In the mouth: big hops up at the top, a blast of bitterness. Then dry. Totally dries out the mouth. Another sip, more hoppiness, then smooth and easy. Continuing bright and citrusy. Rounding out dry. Good stuff here. Good beer and I'm drinking it.

Gobbledygook: "This single hopped Saison is named after the unique New Zealand hope that has a distinct white wine characteristic. The addition of Muscat grape juice plays into the fruity aromas from the hops and contribute to the crisp, dry finish. Notes of gooseberries, honeydew melon, and a hint of spiciness."

Dangerous Man Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Dangerous Man Imperial Pumpkin Ale. 8.2% ABV. 20 IBU.

Dark brown color, slim brownish head.

Aroma: spices come first, all the suspects, the allspice and cinnamon and nutmeg, but not much beyond that.

In the mouth: big, rich malt. Some traces of the pumpkin flavor, and the trickles of the spice. Tasty, with looming alcohol. Pumpkin pie spices are mainly in the aromatics (I peeked at the full description, which I will leave below, no cinnamon, but clove and ginger are in here.)

I like this one, but I'm not in love with it. I'm getting the warmth of the spice and the alcohol now, and it's doing it's job as a nightcap. This'll turn me in, but good. I'm still not getting enough "pumpkin flavor", but it's not that big of a deal. It's an alright beer. Not great, ...alright.

Here's some gobbledygook from the website: Brewed with the mighty gourd, pumpkin, with additions of allspice, ginger, clove, and nutmeg, this Pumpkin ale a seasonal treat. Pumpkin pie is on the nose and the palate with a hint of alcohol on the finish. Notes of vanilla find its way in this beer, which drinks especially smooth with the lactose addition.
Pale Malt, Pumpkin, Victory, Crystal, Lactose, Brown Candi Sugar
Chinook, Motueka

Wait, that's not it, there's more: Well that’s a mighty fine pumpkin there Charlie Brown, a mighty find pumpkin indeed! How about we borrow that for a quick second and throw it in this here mash? No?! Well, I’ll be, Charlie Brown, you are the rudest boy this side of Minneapolis. Look! The Red Baron (quickly swipes pumpkin from the blundering CB and dumps in mash tun with a mischievous smile…)
Dangerous Man is happy to present it’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale.
The pumpkin ales we drink today are mostly a modern invention, though they do have some historical roots. Colonists in America were hard pressed to find enough barley, wheat, or rye to create a mash with enough sugars. Many vegetable and fruit adjuncts were used to bump up sugar content in their beer, this included pumpkin and apples. Due to pumpkins and apples seasonality, and their ease of growth on the coasts, they were added to the mash to create stronger, more robust beers that become embodiment of fall. The spiced pumpkin beers we consume — with vigor — are mostly a product of the 1980′s craft beer boom as barley and hops were plentiful.
Rob and Keigan cooked us up a mean treat. The Imperial Pumpkin Ale contains 2-Row, Victory, Crystal 75L malts, along with Brown Candi, Lactose, and Dextrose sugars, and includes over 100 lbs of pumpkin! This beer is beast! Perfect for the chill that’s been striking the air and the creepiness ambient at the end of October. Additions of Allspice, ginger, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg were added to the kettle to bring a very aromatic and pleasant spice note that blends in with rich malt and alcohol backbone. The New Zealand Motueka hop was added several times to bring about a very “noble” aroma that blends well with the spices.
Get your spook on with our ghoulish gourd!
Drink local, drink Dangerous!

Sisyphus Flunker Barrel-aged Imperial Brown Ale

Sisyphus Flunker. Barrel-aged Imperial Brown Ale. 8% ABV. Sisyphus Brewing, Mpls., MN.

Deeply dark, impenetrable, with a slim black head of foam.

Aroma: all whiskey, vanilla, dark rum, rich and boozy. Big, beefy, rich and boozy. Slick and delicious.

In the mouth: big time whiskey, big vanilla, cocoa and smoke. Rich, but not too much. Full-ish bodied. Bigness and deliciousness, and very nice. Not the best barrel-aged ale out there, but not a bad parody, either.

"Some of friends at another brewery sold us this templeton rye barrel. It was originally destined to create a different beer, but it failed on that journey, and become the flunker, a barrel aged imperial brown ale."

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Alesmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout

Alesmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout. Alesmith Brewery, San Diego, CA. 12 % ABV. On tap at Acadia Cafe.

Impenetrable blackness. Rich, cocoa brown head, leaving lace and lovely.

Utterly complex aromatics. Vanilla and cream, cocoa and toffee, coffee galore. Hazelnuts and bittersweet hoppiness.
Just divine.

In the mouth: Cream and cocoa and coffee hit first, with vanilla notes aplenty. Smooth, sweet, strong, delicious. Massive malt, slowly creeping alcohol. Delicious. Not much more to say. Flat out yummy.

Gobbledygook: This Vietnamese coffee version of Speedway Stout is and continues to be AleSmith's most popular variation of the ever-growing Speedway Stout collection. Since 2012 we have been adding this blend of four Vietnamese coffees, known in Vietnam as cà phê sa đá, to our popular imperial stout. The coffee beans were slowly roasted at low temperatures and then brewed by AleSmith with a traditional phin-style filter that gently percolates water through the ground coffee. The result is an intensely aromatic and bold tasting coffee that complements the notes of chocolate and roast in this massive stout.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Founders PC Pils American Hopped Pilsner

Founders PC Pils American Hopped Pilsner. 5.5% Alc. by Vol. 45 IBUs. 12 fluid ounces can. "Crack it. Pour it. Love it. " Brewed and packaged by Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Clear, bright golden hue, beautiful ivory head which lasts for a while, then slips down.

The P is for Pilsner, and the C is for the hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook...all the typical American/West Coast varieties that pop with pine and citrus, and that's what's happening here. Lemon, lime, grapefruit, with a slight tropical twist. Nice.

In the mouth: light bitterness boards the palate, but all else is smooth and easy. Light bodied, sleek and simple finish. Good ol' drinking beer. Lightly sweet, light bitterness, nice balance. It's alright. Good beer, and you can drink it. Nothing wrong with that.

What's the gobbledygook? Here it is: Pleasantly crisp, perfectly clean and profoundly crushable, PC Pils is our take on the classic Pilsner style. While Noble hops have been the preferred choice of Pilsner brewers around the world, we went with some of our favorite American varieties. Piney Chinook, pleasantly citrus Cascade and punchy Centennial make this an easy-drinker with floral hop characteristics. Pretty cool, if you ask us.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fulton Standard Lager

Fulton Standard Lager. Genuine All-Malt Beer. Extraordinarily uncomplicated. "MINN MADE" (What, not MPLS MADE? Or maybe they don't want to alienate the greater MINN market?) Brewed by Fulton.

Clear, bright amber coloring, high carbonation, big, white, lasting head. Looking good.

Lightly grainy nose, with slight sweetness and floral notes. Good ol' lager-y smells here.

In the mouth: Clean, crisp and ever so light on the palate. Goes down smooth and leaves in a flash. There's flavor here, too, crisp hop presence, lingering bread-y malt, but swift finish, lean as can be. Not quite as dry as I'd like, but it's not "too sweet" either.

Quite a nice lager, and I hope this gets Fulton even further success. I won't be drinking it too much of it myself, since I'm almost always an ale man.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #44: Wayzata Brew Works, Wayzata

Wayzata, Wayzata, Wayzata. Just like to say it. Means "north shore" in the language of the Lakota Sioux, and sure enough it sits along the north shore of mighty Lake Minnetonka. Population, 3, 688 according to the 2010 census (only 92.5% of them white folks). Founded in 1854. And man, do they love their boats!

Wayzata Brew Works (or, WBW, the Brewery on the Bay) was stop #2 of the lake brewery visit of May 22, after Excelsior Brewing, traveling about 20 minutes around the lake to Wayzata Bay.  The brewery had only been open for a few weeks, and we'd heard very little about it, so we were set up for either a sad surprise or pure delights. Or, somewhere in the middle. That's about how it goes.

We pulled into the business complex (and darned if I can't remember what it's called) at 294 Grove Lane East, and found the place. A currently unused distillery sits behind glass as we entered, found some seats at the bar, flagged down a server. There were six beers on tap at the time, with flights of 4 going for $12, or 5 for $15. We went with four: I had the Wayzata Bay IPA, Chocolate Stout, Hoppeweisen, and English Ale, and Jason chose IPA, Kolsch, Stout, and something called Moore Moore Moore Lager, giving us both a taste of everything they had going at the time. (Checking Untappd, I see they've upped their total in the past 5 months to ten beers total, including a wit, a strawberry shandy, a brown ale, and an oktoberfest. Also, the chocolate stout is now being called Starboard.)
L to R: IPA, Stout, Kolsch, English Ale. 

Wayzata Bay IPA was crisp, clean, and hoppy, with a pleasant bitterness, very satisfying. The Kolsch, my notes tell me, was right on. The English Ale was a slightly buttery, earthy, crisp, and malty, with bright hoppiness. I liked it. The Hoppeweisen went down well, and the lager (named after an early Wayzata settler and, surprise, boat builder) was rather simple, but just what you want from the style. Oddly, I took no notes on the Chocolate Stout, but I remember it being passable.

Things were quiet during our stay. Most of the other customers were on the tiny patio, staring out at the boats and the water, taking in Lake Minnetonka. There's a stage around here somewhere, where they also provide live music on the


The decor inside is all oars and outboard motors and such maritime stuff, with the beer list chalkboard and TV attached to the bottom of a boat. Anchors are in the logo and all over the place. Boats, boats, boats....they love 'em out there. Hey, I like a boat now and then, too. These folks are all about the boats. And why not, it is a pretty sweet lake they got out there.

The beer's not bad. That's about all I can say. Adequate. Competent. And a little bit pretty good.

Just right for partying by the lake, but not going to blow your mind. It was beer and a brewery, and we could drink them, and we had to go, because we're going to all of them. And the next one we went to: another lake, and another brewpub on that lake!

Minnesota Breweries One by One #88: Urban Growler, St. Paul, with Rhubarb Wit

Entrance to Urban Growler. 
It's Sunday, October 9, and my niece Anna had a coupon for the place, so I guess it's time to visit Urban Growler Brewing Company in St. Paul.

UGBC opened up as "the first woman-owned and -brewed microbrewery in the state of Minnesota" in the summer of 2014, at 2325 Endicott Avenue, a business park area in St. Paul. I didn't get a taste of them until the next spring, when I biked there on a Sunday afternoon, and you can read about that visit here. Did you go back and read it? I'll wait here while you do...

....dum, de dum....
la, de doo...
....doo, de dum...

okay, you back? Good.
Sarah Johnson, left, is the eldest daughter of my sister
Lynn Johnson. Anna Wagner Schliep is the eldest daughter
of my sister Jean Wagner. They grew up thinking Uncle Al
was kind of weird. They must have changed their minds,
because they now hang out and drink beers with me.
As you no doubt read, I only selected the three IPAs they had on tap, and skipped the remaining 7 more of their offerings. Looking back, I should have chosen a flight. I did get to try more of their beers when I started working at Acadia, and we had some on tap. MidWest IPA, Cowbell Cream Ale, City Day Ale, (kentucky common),  and De-Lovely Porter all found their way to our tap tower, but I never took notes on any pints I had. I found them all to be fine examples of their styles, but nothing really knocked me out. Good beer and you can drink it.

So, I decided to make this past Sunday my return visit for this project. Also, joining us is my craft beer-loving niece Sarah, the same age as Anna. I took a different path this time, approaching the place from a different direction, going down the University of Minnesota Transitway bike/bus road, going past Surly Destination Brewery another mile or so, taking Robbins Street and continuing until hitting the big brick building at Endicott St. Anna and Sarah were already there on the patio, Sarah with a flight and Anna with a Big Boot Rye IPA. I had been biking hard for well over an hour, and needed something down my throat fast, and I chose a Mocktoberfest, not quite realizing that I was going to get a 20 ounce stein. No matter, it was good beer, and...you know the rest.

My notes were short. It's hard to take beer geek notes in social situations without coming off a little weird and, you know, anti-social. I guess it's different when I do this with other beer traveling companions, because they know that's what we're there for. But, then so did A & S....or, maybe I just really wanted to catch up with my nieces, and we didn't have hours in the car to take care of that? In any case, I didn't do much beer note scribbling while sitting on the patio on this nice fall Sunday. So, let's take a look at how the brewery's website describes it?

"Our take on a traditional Oktoberfest – Brewed with the finest German Malts and Noble hops, but fermented with our house Ale yeast.  This flavorful seasonal is rich and malty, yet crisp and refreshing – making it the perfect fall fest beer. "  My notes went: "softly spicy nose, yeasty, lightly toasty malt, slightly sweet, low hops, quenchable." I like it. Good enough.
Candy Corn Imperial Cream Ale. What? Yes.

Scanning the list, there were many other interesting options, such as Blueberry Wheat and Honey Double IPA, both in the Plow to Pint series. (The are other This to That Alliteratively Titled series out there, at other places: Garden to Growler, Grain to Glass, .Pumpkin Patch to Pint Glass. (I made that up)..I that that's enough. Just quit it, folks.). I'm still interested in tasting those, but I decided to go out on a limb and do the third P to P brew on the list, the frightening sounding Candy Corn Imperial Cream Ale, and I'll just go ahead and throw their description out there right now: "Some might say that there’s no such thing as an imperial cream ale, but some might say there’s no such thing as monsters but that doesn’t keep you from checking under your bed does it scaredy-cat?  Celebrate Halloween and the rest of the fall with this specialty beer brewed with plenty of candy corn.  This beer is smooth and strong with notes of caramel and a touch of sweetness. 9 oz pour.  Make it a Mad Cow – 1/2 CowBell, 1/2 Candy Corn Imperial Cream Ale (13oz) – Delicious!"
Snapping selfies and sipping in St. Paul

This sounds so unwise and so unappetizing. Candy Corn in a beer? No, no, no. I have enough of a problem with "Imperial Cream Ale", so much so that I tend to scoff at and avoid such things on principle alone. But, candy, not just candy but that horrible candy corn? No, NO, NO!!

So, of course, I had to try it. That's what this project dictates. Do it. And you know what? For what it is, it's not bad. The candy corn didn't destroy what would already be a questionable creation. (Shades of Maple Island Brewing, not a good thing.) Notes were minimal, they went: "Big, sweet, malty, a little odd, but...." and then, back to conversation with my nieces. I didn't mind it one little bit, but I didn't wow me in any way.

There was another Plow to Pint brew I wanted to taste, but I had snoozed and lost. This was the Rhubarb Wit, which had a further iteration, the Bubble Brew, an infusion with Japanese green tea, another head scratcher and chin stroker. Both of them were off the tap, but some growlers remained
Where's Uncle Al? Taking pictures of everyone surrepticiously.
and I decided to drop twenty bucks and take one home. Notes on that at the bottom.

Right about then, our time on Urban Growler's patio had come to a close. We had decided, us three, to give Indeed a visit for the close of their annual Hullabaloo event and that was rapidly approaching. Inside, the taproom was abuzz at 6:30 on a Sunday night. Urban Growler is one of those rare brewery taprooms with a kitchen, and the place was full for families dining. We stepped inside to take care of various business, and as we left I still wondered: why is it called Urban Growler? Are they trying to set themselves apart from all the Suburban Growlers or Rural Growlers? Someday, I'll find out.

Notes on Urban Growler Rhubarb Wit. 5% ABV.

Highly hazed, light orange hue, slim white head.

Rhubarb Witbier.
Aroma: sweet and wheat. Some banana and bubblegum. Nothing particularly rhubarb-y, though.

In the mouth: smooth, effortless drivability, lush malt. Low hops. Minor bitterness. All kinds of smooth. But very low on the rhubarb, and not exhibiting too much of the wit character, either. No orange or coriander really detected. There's some tartness coming through that can be attributed to the rhubarb, but there's not much of the true taste in the end.

Minor flaw, I guess. Certainly doesn't have the intensity of the Blacklist Rhubarb Wit.

Here's their gobbledygook: Wake Up Taste Buds – A Belgian Style wit ale that’s very pale and cloudy in appearance.  The crispness and twang comes from wheat.  The slight tartness in the background comes from Minnesota Rhubarb.  Highly carbonated and lightly spiced with orange peel and coriander, this is a refreshing early summer favorite.

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...