Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Good As Gold IPA

Had a pint of this at the pub last Wednesday, and liked it so much that I took a growler of it home, this time a 64 ounce. Time to get a little more familiar with Good As Gold IPA, 6.6% ABV.

Lightly hazed, bright golden coloring, nearing on amber, slimmish ivory head. Looking good.

In the nose: tangerines and grapefruit, lemon and orange. Bold citrus. Mild bitterness. Big fruit.

In the mouth: Juicy, fruity, crisp, refreshing. Delicious malt at the base, bright and beautiful hops at the top. Fresh, zesty, hitting all the right flavor notes. Traces of pine to match the cities, ending on a dry note. Not too bitter, but bursting with citrus hop notes. Definitely downable, decidedly delicious.

Here's a little descriptor I pulled from a 3rd party source (it's not even on the THB website yet): West Coast style IPA using Golden Promise as a base malt, plus a few others for added character. Hopped in the kettle and fermenter with Mosaic and El Dorado. Some honey in the kettle as well.

Yet another tasty one from Town Hall. These guys just do not fail.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Oliphant Rolo Tony Brown Town

Oliphant Brewing Rolo Tony Brown Town Brown Ale with Maple Syrup and Cinnamon. 8.1% ABV. Oliphant Brewing, Somerset, WI.

Dark brown, nearly black, slim cocoa/tan head.

In the nose: spice, cinnamon, brown sugar, rich and lush. Sweet, but never more so, and very well balanced.

In the mouth: Full body, full flavor, rich malt, and full-on spices.Medium bodied, long, malty finish, non-stop cinnamon and spice. Pretty danged tasty. Delicious.
Tony Danza keeps on Truckin'.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Minner Pale Ale

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Minner Pale Ale, 4.9% ABV. 
Clear-ish, bright golden hued, slim ivory head, looking the very part of a pale ale. 

In the nose: all the fresh citrus-y goodness you should expect from Cascade and Centennial hops. Lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Just gorgeous.

In the mouth: more of the same, fresh, vibrant, hoppy as all heck. Lean bodied, light astringency, clean malt flavors. The hops and the citrus notes are on top, as expected. Hop flavors lay long on the palate. Big hopping on this one, bold and flavorful. They added Amarillo to the dry hopping, as well as Cascade and Centennial. 

Good beer, and you can drink it. I mean that. Hoppy session pale ales / IPAs are my beat, man, that's where I live, and I'm loving it. 

Waconia Birthday Series Double IPA

Waconia Birthday Series WBC DIPA. 88 IBUs. 9% alc./vol. Waconia Brewing, Waconia, MN.

Clear, bright golden coloring, large and lasting, sturdy head of creamy, ivory-toned foam.

In the nose: Beautiful citrus and pine. Fruity, yet dry. Nice. 

In the mouth: Bright, juicy, hoppy as they come. Big bitterness. Big citrus. Bold and beautiful. Exactly what I want in a double IPA, bitter, dry, arresting and thrilling. Grabs the senses and gives them a shake. Exciting stuff. 

Good job, Waconia, this is one that can go toe to toe with other more famous DIPAs. I'm going to keep my eye on you guys. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #99: Rock Bottom Brewery, Minneapolis

My view of the Rock Bottom signage from the bike rack.
There were some people who questioned my decision to include the Rock Bottom location on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis on my list of breweries to visit for this quest. It is part of a national chain, so it can't be considered a Minnesota brewery, they argued. And I answered that it is a brewery and it is in Minnesota. It wasn't the first brewpub in the state, or the Twin Cities, but it does pre-date both Great Waters and Town Hall. It was an incubator for brewing talent over the years, and still has a role to play.

My first time at Rock Bottom was in 2000, before a show at the State Theater. Or, maybe it was the Orpheum. I'm going to say State. And it was "Mr. Show Live", and I was there with Katie and Garrett, I'm pretty sure. The other thing I remember was the saison, though I don't recall it's name. Looking on BeerAdvocate, I can't see any that resembles that name so vaguely recalled through the fog of time. I remember liking it quite a bit, and being impressed that a saison, not then a well-known style, was being brewed at a chain brewpub with dozens of locations throughout the states.

It was a few years before I met the man behind the beer, Todd Haug. I stopped in more and more to try his wares, often taking them home in growler form to review. During that quick peek at BeerAdvocate, I was surprised to see that I'd reviewed 54 Rock Bottom beers on that website from 2004 to 2009, only 15 of them listed among the 450 "current" beers, the other 39 hanging out with the 707 "archived" beers. But, back then in the early 2000's, there wasn't that much going on. We had Town Hall, BarleyJohn's, Great Waters in St. Paul, which I occasionally biked or bussed to, and everything else was out in the 'burbs and beyond. It was 10 years before taprooms and this incredible proliferation of brewing that we enjoy now.

Check out fresh-faced young Todd Haug
in this 19-year old newspaper piece, long
before his look went all Heavy Metal
In 2005, Todd was stolen away to get Surly up and going, but I didn't stop going to RB, for it had been put in the very capable hands of Bryon Tonnis. Bryon kept the beers brewing there until he and Colin Mullen and their wives hatched their plan to start Bent Paddle in Duluth. After a while, there seemed to be less and less reason to pop into Rock Bottom, especially with the new breweries opening and all the taproom action.

But on Sunday, October 30, I decided it was time to check them off the list, and I biked downtown and parked my steed at the rack in front of the brewery, on Hennepin Avenue between 8th and 9th street.  (800 Lasalle Plaza, to be exact.)Walked in, looked around the packed place and re-thought my agenda. There was some kind of big game going on, which required all the staff to wear football jerseys, and most inside were affixing their attention to the dozens of televisions. Numerous groups of middle aged women were waiting to be seated, which was explained by the Rick Springfield/Bryan Adams concert next door at the State Theater. There wasn't a single seat to be found at the bar.

So I did the natural thing and got back on the bike, heading to Modist Brewing, not too many blocks away, and enjoyed a few of their original offerings. A few hours later, I returned to Rock Bottom and found that the place had pretty much cleared out, and I could easily find a stool. The bartender, clad in Packers attire, was friendly and attentive, the food was just as edible as it's ever been, and the beer's alright. Larry Skellenger is the brewer these days, and I saw the man and his mighty mustache attending to the tanks while I sat and drank his beers. I didn't take notes on this visit, but
if memory serves me well, the first was Fuzzy Butt Imperial Peach IPA, described thusly on the website: "American-style Imperial IPA is golden with fruit and peach notes.  Refreshing IPA is enhance with honey, that’s crisp and explodes with spiciness, peach and hop flavor. ABV 9% IBU 105."

It had the peach, it had the hops, it was a good beer, and I could drink it. Next up I went with the Grand Slam Sour, and this is was the website tells us: "Grand Slam Sour Ale, Crisp and tart – hints of grapefruit, berries and other fruits. ABV 6.0% IBU 50." I found it satisfactory, if not particularly inspiring. I avoided the mainstream beers there, the flagships, since I've had them before or many beers like them. I know they're making perfectly competent beers here, and now and then some interesting stuff, as well. I also know that no one is going to flip out over the sour ale they had at Rock Bottom, and that Indeed and Fair State and others will get noticed for their output in that category.

The beer geeks will continue to neglect this spot and it won't matter at all. As long as there are football games to play on all those TVs and performances next door and across the street, as long as there are people working in offices nearby and skyways to take them here, someone's going to be
drinking these beers. Someone will, probably not me so much. Too many other great breweries to keep up with these days, run by independent minds, without a corporate yoke around them.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Bent Paddle Barrel Aged Double Shot Double Black

Bent Paddle Brewing Company Barrel Aged Double Shot Double Black Black Ale Aged in Oak Barrels, with Vanilla Beans and Coffee Added. Bent Paddle Brewing Company, Duluth, Minnesota. 11.2 % ABV.

This is one I despaired of ever finding a bottle , for it is so high on the wish list of every truck follower out there. I don't haunt the stores that often, and miss out on special releases that disappear soon after they are shelved. I got a taste of it when we had it on tap back in March for a Bent Paddle event. Bryon said he had a gift for me, and I was so excited, only to find, alas, it was "only" a bottle of Hop Forest Double IPA. Sigh.

A new batch was just released, and again I didn't find myself at the right store at the right time, and worried about being shut out again.  Then chance put me at a little ol' liquor store that is not often frequented by the beer geek crowd, and lo and behold, there they were. Got two at $23 a piece. Drank one last night. Gonna save the other for a snowy night in the far off future. Here are the notes on that bottle.

Deep, dark blackness, full ebony hue, with a thick and lasting dark brown cocoa-tinged head above. Looks fantastic, very inviting.

In the nose: all the cocoa, all the richness, all the roast, and all the coffee. All that, all there in the nose. Big, deep, dark, rich, and boozy. Blackstrap molasses, anise, and here comes the vanilla. Out of nowhere and plop! into the senses, here's the vanilla! Big time vanilla, big time cocoa.

In the mouth: Whoa. Thickness, richness, utter vanilla-ishness. Is this beer's popularity part and parcel of the current vogue for vanilla beers? Or, is it....boom! the bourbon, that's there, too, but, also, fully flanked by the vociferousness of the vanilla. Damn, that's all over the place! It's well-matched by the bourbon and the coffee. This one has it all. Decadent, indulgent, delicious. Save this one for special occasions, or whenever you want to give yourself a treat. It's the real deal.

Here's the official gobbledygook off of the label: "This robust version of our black ale features a smooth, chocolatey, semi-roasted malt profile that sweetly balances out the doubled strength. Notes of oak and whiskey from an extended aging period in Bourbon barrels creates a welcoming warmth. This iteration of our Double Black Ale features a "Double Shot" of both Cold-Press coffee and whole bean Madagascar Vanilla for an extra level of flavor complexity and is the perfect companion for a late night viewing of the Northern Lights ...or can accompany any natural wonder you may come across."

Dave's BrewFarm Kyr #2 IPA

Dave's BrewFarm Kyr #2 IPA, an experiment brewed for a Kyrgyzstani company that wanted to market beer to China. Yeah, that China. And their great thirst for India Pale Ales.

8.0% ABV. Bottled on November 9, 2016. (Purchased 11/13/16.)

Lightly hazed, bright crimson coloring, good sized cream-toned head.

In the nose: soft, round aromatics. Sweetly fruity, sweetly malt, with enough bitterness to hold it all in check, but not much more. Citric and stone fruit notes, albeit mild and muted.

In the mouth: Bitter up front, followed by fruity. Lush malt. Hop bitterness remains large and hangs on until the end. Turns dry at the end of each swallow. Right on the money IPA, just the way I like 'em. Damn, you, Farmer Dave, why can't you just churn stuff like this out, over and over again and just give them what they want! Something called IPA that tastes like all the IPAs they've ever had! Why must you be your own man and do things differently and deliciously?

You could be fabulously wealthy, Farmer Dave, if you just give the masses what they crave, like the salivating dogs that they are. Damn, you. This is a right-on, pitch perfect India Pale Ale, like breweries all over the USA can make, and it took the Kyrgyztanis to make you make one?
Thank you, sir. Thank you.

I forgot the Official Gobbledygook: "Brewed as an experiment for a client form Kyrgyzstan. #2 focuses on the bitterness spectrum. Two-row, Melanoidin and Victory malts. Copious amounts of Magnum, Simcoe, Galaxy, and Amarillo hops, added primarily on the front end. Fermented with dry yeast and is bitter but balanced."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oliphant Xenomorphin' Power Strangers Black IPA

Oliphant Xenomorphin' Power Strangers India Black Ale, 6.3% ABV., Oliphant Brewing, Somerset, WI.

Solid blackness, rich cocoa-tinged head above., Looking nice.

Aroma: Creamy cocoa, with earthy espresso hints, as well. Grassy hop notes arise. Citrus tones interject into the chocolate. Beautiful blend.

In the mouth: Big malt, rich chocolate, cocoa, espresso. Deep and dark and delicious. Bittersweet. Full bodied, full malt, big hops. Bitterness keep continual combat with malt sweetness. And I can dig it. Mmmm. This is the Black Ale/India Black Ale/ Black IPA that I can get down with.

Yoerg's Beer

Here we have a resurrection of the first brewery in Minnesota history, established in St. Paul in 1848, lasting until 1952.
Learn more about it here, on their website.  Or, over here, in The Growler. The old recipes have been dusted off, and the brand has been renewed, and though it's currently contract brewed by Octopi Brewing in Waunakee, Wisconsin, they are working on building a brewery in St. Paul. One more to add to Minnesota Breweries One by One: 2017 Edition.

So, I got a sample bottle of the initial offering, and finally got around to cracking it open. Yoerg's, here we go!

Highly hazed, amber coloring, slim, off-white head.

Aroma: Low bitterness, lightly fruity esters, moderately floral and sweet.

In the mouth: pleasant. Smooth. Lightish bodied. Delicate fruitiness, light malt, mild bitterness. There's hops about, there's an ale yeast....must be a California Common. This one is quite tasty, and doggone it, I can drink it.

There's little on the label, but I'll yank this off of the website for you. """We haven't changed a thing.   Yoerg's 'Flagship' beer is still 'steam brewed' and is just as robust as the original, with a delightful roasty/toasty flavor that just sings Saint Paul.  The dark bock will be a year round item, rich, full-flavored with a hearty chocolate/coffee bean note.  The Strong is a doppelbock of the highest order, only brewed while the weather is shitty and the super crisp Picnic Beer is only available when you don't have to wear a jacket.  These beers are the epitome of the city where they were originally born, and have been painstakingly reborn."

I have only one complaint about this new Yoerg's brewing company, and that is because I am a language prude. They claim that their doppelbock will only be brewed "when the weather is shitty." I think that "shitty" is a perfectly shitty word, and should never be used in a professional way, ever. Use your brain. Think of something better. And I won't do it for you, that's your job. Be smart. Stop saying "shitty". Lazy, lazy writing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Evil Twin Even More Jesus Imperial Stout

Evil Twin Even More Jesus. 12% ABV Imperial Stout. On tap at Acadia.

Solid black coloring, rich cocoa nose, slim, but long lasting.

In the nose: more depth, more richness, all the cocoa and coffee, a little bit of pepper and anise. It's got it all going on.

Int the mouth: Massive malt, deep flavors, mild bitterness, great balance. I wouldn't immediately guess that it's 12% ABV. That'll come in later, I presume. Bittersweet, chocolatey, with all the mmmm's. Yeah, I like this one. It'll do nicely.

Oh, but if I were the Evil Twin website, I guess I'd have to put it more like this:
A few times in the history of craft beer it has happened that a highly praised beer rises beyond mortal stardom into a higher godly league. Usually the recipe to make such heavenly drops is thick fudge-like body, pitch black color, amazingly overwhelming aromas of chocolate, coffee, dark fruits and muscovado sugar, obviously only made in limited amounts and most crucial of all - it must taste rare!

Style: Imperial Stout
Brewed: Westbrook Brewing Co, SC
ABV: 12

Destihl Going The Distance

Destihl Going the Distance. Flanders-style Sour Ale, aged in oak barrels with pumpkin and spices.

Last year, my brother Kevin married his sweetheart Laurie, who is the CFO of Destihl Brewing of Normal/Bloomington, Illinois. I went out there for the wedding, and it was no surprise that they made a one-off brew for the couple. Bottles of this brew were given out to the families and friends,after the ceremony,  and I took as many as I could carry. I wondered if they'd have some at the brewpub, but I don't think so. If you look up this beer on Untappd, there are only two people who have had it, me and Dave A., who I gave a bottle to, and no one else in the group of friends and family are users of that application, clearly.

Going the Distance, they called it, because for five years, the two of them carried off a long-distance romance, Illinois to Minnesota and back again.   And this label is quite a remarkable depiction of that, with the mansion where the wedding took place in front, the states of Minnesota and Illinois on the side, and on the other, a tribute to their biking adventures.

I gave a few away, drank a handful, and saved one for a review. Thought to save it for a year before reviewing, until their first anniversary, at least, and managed to push that past an extra five weeks.

Deep, dark nearly black coloration, with a thick, rich off-white, creamy head, looking fantastic.

Aroma: Sourness and fruit roars in loudest and proudest. Big tart keeping pace with the sweet. There's dates here, and figs, grapes abounding, and maybe, maybe something else.

In the mouth: Pow, pow, powerful puckeration. Intense souring. Huge fruit. Big flavors. Sharp cherries, raspberries, grapes, even. Not getting as much from the pumpkin, as promised, but who really cares? It does it's job. Pumpkin and spices may be there, but they are so minor that they don't show up. So what. The Flanders Red side of things gets it going on. Sweet, sour, sweet, sour, a lip-smacking' tango.

Sisyphus Citranox IPA

Sisyphus Citranox IPA. 6.9% ABV. 60 IPA. Citra and Equinox hops, naturally. "NorthEast style IPA", not sure what that is.

Lightly clouded, bright golden hue, slim, but lasting, ivory head.

Aroma: delightfully citrus-y, nicely hopped, perfectly pleasant. Lemon, grapefruit, orange, with a bit of pine, as well.

In the mouth: Light bitterness, but with big hop flavor. Huge citrus sensations. Lemon-y, lime-y, clean and lovely. Lean bodied, light malt, hops are shining. Crisp and refreshing. Smooth and delicious. So good.

This is the one that I voted for in the IPA Election at Sisyphus. I didn't choose it as my favorite, but I felt that it would be the best Flagship IPA for them. It feels like the IPA for people who don't like IPAs.

Dave's BrewFarm Kyr #1 IPA

What? An IPA? From Dave? No! Well, maybe...when the Kyrgyzstanis ask for it.....

Clear, deep amber, slim white head.

Aromatics: bold and fruity, citrus and tropical hop notes. Fruity, never bitter. Delightful.

In the mouth: mild bitterness, juicy fruit, tasty malt. Not too sweet, not too hoppy. Just about right.
Is this the IPA for Kyrgyzstan? Maybe it is, maybe it is. Not bitter enough for local tastes, that's for sure. Smooth and delicious. Not a bad IPA, Farmer Dave, not bad at all.

What's the BrewFarm Gobbledygook? "Kyr #1 IPA. 6.4% ABV. Brewed as an experiment for a client from Kyrgyzstan. #1 focuses on the aromatic spectrum. Two-row, Caramel 20 and Aromatic malts, hopped with hop extract and late additions of Mosaic and HBC-438. Two firsts: Ferments dry yeast and dry hopping."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Oliphant 'Xurrp farmhouse ale brewed with frontenac grapes

Oliphant 'Xurrp Farmhouse Ale brewed with Frontenac grapes. 6.8% alc./vol. Oliphant Brewing, Somerset, Wisconsin.

I was curious about the name on this one, and was told that it is a play on the old hip-hop chestnut "Sipping on some sizzurp."(Sorry if I misspelled it, I am not nor ever will be of the hip-hop stripe.)

If you gander at the chalkboard illustration I snapped a pic of, it's Dean and Gene Ween used to illustrate dg2c2mf (after their song which means "don't get too close to my fantasy") repurposed to depict an alien sucking some "'Xurrp" out of Dean Ween's head. Naturally.)

Pours a beautiful crimson, with a faintly pinkish head. Gorgeous and inviting.

Aroma: starting out a little like a blush or a rose', the grapes emerge and floral becoming more tart and fruity, sweetness held strictly in check.

In the mouth: Bracing tart flavors first, low bitterness, medium malt. Lightish bodied. Long, fruity/tart finish. The grapes are all over this one. Grape tannins seem to take the place of hop bitterness. Base beer characteristics feel submerged under the effects of the fruit. I find it utter delightful and rank it among my favorite Oliphant beers.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Indeed B-Side Pilsner

This one here is an early sample of a new pilsner beer from Indeed. Dandy Lager has bit the dust. So, when you look at the photo at the side, forget that it came from a Dandy can. The trues cans hadn't arrived yet, and they filled samples into left-over Dandys. When those cans come out, though, I hope that Chuck U's monkey DJ art is on it.

Indeed B-Side Pilsner, Indeed Brewing, Minneapolis, MN.

Crystal-clear, bright golden coloring, big ivory head that trims down in a quickness.

Aroma: delicate hops, lightly floral, with honey notes. Nice.

In the mouth: Brisk hoppiness at the front that last long. Light bodied. Swift finish. Clean. Easy. Hop presence continues on the palate. Damned tasty pilsner, this. I can drink it. And I, as has been said before, am not a lager guy.

Dark Horse Coffpa India Pale Ale brewed with Coffee

Dark Horse COFFPA, India Pale Ale brewed with Coffee, from Dark Street Roasting Company, & Dark Horse Brewing Company. Marshall, MI.
6.5% ABV.

Lightly hazed, amber coloring, healthy helping of cream white froth atop.

Aroma: Coffee aromatics hit first, with hops buzzing in next. It's a bit of a clash, and not one that I particularly care for.  Do hops and coffee belong together? Still on the fence.

In the mouth: Coffee bean bittersweet flavor, nutty, earthy, takes command of the palate, and butts heads with the hops. I like the coffee notes in the nose, but not so much on the tongue. Medium-bodied, long coffee-tinged finish. I like coffee in beers whose flavors complement that of the beans, not clash with it. Gonna have to pass on this failed experiment.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #98: Bang Brewing, St. Paul, with Bang Hoppy Strong Ale

December, 2013, not October 2016, because of
thirst and dark. You'll find out. 
In December of 2013, I took a Saturday off and Dave A. and I took in 6 breweries in one day: Bang, Hammerheart, Surly (original location), Sociable Ciderwerks, Northgate, and Harriet. (Dave, the driver, stopped tipping back pints after the first four, of course.) One heck of a day. It was my first time at Bang Brewing in St. Paul. Bang, the little organic ale brewery inside a grain bin in an industrial area right next to Urban Growler, had only been open a few months at the time, and had only a couple of beers on tap (they started with just one, Neat). The tradition had begun, and shall continue, that all of their beers would be named with four-letter words (but not the bad kind, of course).

I thought Minn and Neat and Nice were fine (they haven't done that one yet), but I wasn't exactly impressed. There was nothing wrong with them, it was good beer, but I didn't find myself overly excited about them.

My friends on the other hand, that's a different story. Not only Dave, but also Joe and Liz, not to mention Renee and Jeff, and others went on about their love of Bang Brewing, but I never really found much of a chance to return and see what the fuss was about over the years. This is mostly due to the fact that their taproom hours were only on Fridays and Saturdays, and partially due to their location. I couldn't justify taking a Friday or Saturday night off of work just to check on a little brewery.

That changed when they added Thursday hours, and I finally took a bike trip out there on October 27. The plan for the day had me checking out two St. Paul breweries, and Bang would be the second of the day, making it #99 for the project. Unfortunately, I followed some bad directions that put me in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and, long story short, I skipped that other brewery and arrived at 2320 Capp Road and Bang Brewing much later than I had hoped. It was 7:25, and they were closing at 8:00. But there was no crush at the bar, and I could get my beer rather quickly, and quick was what I wanted. I was quite thirsty after such a long bike trip. (Note: I was so thirsty and it was so dark, that I didn't get that picture of the outside of the building that I normally, but not always, include. This is why I dredged up that old picture from nearly 3 years ago. Dave wasn't with me on this visit, and it hasn't snowed yet this year.)

A few words first about the unique taproom space that is Bang Brewing, aka The Bin. It may lack many things that seem de rigueur at every other taproom, the TV for the Big Game, the vast sea of tables, chairs, benches, comfy couches, the shelves full of Sorry, Connect Four, and Jenga. It's quite simple. The are a few seats at the bar, a small amount of industrial chairs about for those who like to sit, and standing room for those who don't mind that. Brewery and owner Jay Boss Febbo plays some off-kilter tunes and you've got a good beer in your hands, while hanging in a grain bin, what could be better than that?

So, I asked him if he'd ever expand, create more space for his patrons. He said, no, there's enough room for them as is, he had no need for more customers. Their 10 barrel system provides enough beer for local restaurants and bars, some bottles at local shops, and not too much left over to worry about how to sell it all. Jay told me you can keep your scale small, and subsist minimally, provided you are debt-free. And you know what? That's pretty cool. I like small and simple, just as much as I like complex and grand, in it's way, as well. He did suggest a plan to add more tanks, on the outside of the building.

I had a friend in attendance (DJ Brian Engel, who you saw if you took a peek at the Summit entry in this series), and chatted with him for a while, as the place closed down. There were eight beers on tap, and I decided to go with a fresh hop ale called This. (Not to be confused with at
the dark mild ale called That.)What I got, through some error, was not that, or actually, maybe it was That, but not This. The bartender admitted to always being confused by these names. Just picture it. Patron hears or reads about beers, makes a choice, says "I'll take that." "Wait, do you want "that" or do you want "That"?" Who's on first, What's on second. A That then appeared and I had the This, if that's what that was, on the side. I enjoyed them both, but took no notes. Good beers, and I could drink them.

I rounded it out, just as last call came around, with a Mosh, an aptly named Maris Otter Single Hop beer. (Further investigations show that it is a name for a series, though, of rotating single hop brews.) Another delight. This was, again, one of those situations where I was enjoying my conversations with Brian, then Jay, and also the barman, and not going deep into my beer trance and jotting words down in the notebook. I'd decided to take a few bottles home, and review those. One of them, Time, has already been posted here on the ol' Nib, and one will appear at the bottom of this post.

More and more, I really started to admire this place and these people. Think about it. They didn't move into a grain bin, they built it on that spot. It's a matter of eccentric intention: we're going to do this very unusual thing, because. Good beers, good people, good place. I'd clearly been missing out all these years, and I vowed to try to keep some Thursday appointments at Bang in the future.

(I'd contemplated saving this report until future visits were made, but I changed my mind. Despite the crappy pics and lack of notes on the pints consumed, the impression was made. I can always take better ones in the future and edit them in, but for now I want to get this one done and move on to the next. We have two reviews based on the bottles brought home, and I've decided that I will definitely be back and that I do like this brewery. )

Bang. Hoppy Strong Ale.

Clear, bright golden/amber coloring, large white head, lasting long, looking lovely.

Aroma: pungent. potent. I struggle to not use a certain word I hate, but, yeah, "dank." Dripping with dank. Earthy, fruity, all together everything, and it's, damn.

In the mouth: rich and full and malty and hoppy and, yeah, damn, and all that. Boom. yes. Oh, yes. Full of all of it. Juicy malt, never-ending hop flavors, and definitely delicious. Yum. Yu-um. Oh, um, yes, to the -um. Delicious hoppy beer that I can drink.

(I know these notes are not especially articulate and technical, but they bring forth my feelings pretty well. I think I like Time even more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stone Enjoy After 10.31.16

This is one I bought many months ago, not noticing the name. I did my duty and sat on it for the appropriate amount of time, and at last, a week or so later, opened 'er up. Here we have...

Stone Enjoy After 10.31.16.Brett IPA. Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA. It's the 5th Edition, apparently, but the first time I saw a bottle.

Clear, golden colored, enormous white head.

Big, funky aroma. Citrus, spice. Funkalicious.

In the mouth: dry, fruity, tart and tantalizing. High acidity, clean, refreshing and delicious. Bone dry. Sparkling. Big, bright, wonderful.  Well done.

Only problem is that I don't get what I like from IPAs when I'm drinking this one. Too much funk covering up the hops.

There's a ton of information on the label. You can read it by clicking here.

Indeed Wooden Soul 8

So, this one is a Belgian-style blonde ale with various microbials, and aged in tequila barrels. I haven't been to the taproom since before this was released, and I got a keg of it at Acadia. Now, apparently, #9 is out already. I'd better get my notes going before the keg empties and I can't get anymore. Here we go.

Indeed Wooden Soul 8.  5.2% ABV. Indeed Brewing, Minneapolis, MN.

Mostly clear, golden coloring, slim white head.

Aroma: the funk comes first, followed by traces of the tequila. Fresh and wild and funky. Nice and tart.

In the mouth: Intense funkification, bold tart and sour. The tequila traces are rather minor and over shadowed by the intensity of the brett and the lacto-, and the "unknown". It's a bracing sour attack on the palate, that leads to smoothness and utter delights. Fruity, funky, fresh, and wild. All those good things and more going on. The tequila plays a small part, but it is there, with the lime and the sour. Very refreshing, and quite unique. Another good one out of Indeed. Cheers, fellows!

Here's more from the website if you didn't feel like clicking on the link: Freshly emptied tequila barrels which had just been used to cellar Mexican Cousin were refilled with our blonde base and populated with multiple Brett strains, an unknown wild yeast, and lactobacillus. After 18 months of aging, the result is a marriage of mixed fruit and citrus qualities from resident organisms, and a distinct thumbprint left behind by the tequila barrels. Although it is not readily tequila-like, the tequila barrels added an earthy, woody, herbal depth to this experience.

Malts: Blonde Ale base malts, including Pilsner, Malted and Unmalted Wheat, light cara malts Hops: Variable Yeast: Several Brett strains, wild yeast Bacteria: Lactobacillus strains Fruit: Hint of lime juice.

F-Town Mocha Stout

F-Town Mocha Stout. 12 fl oz. 4.7% ABV. Brewed and canned by F-Town Brewing, Faribault, Minnesota.

Deep, rich blackness, slim brown ring of foam. Looking good.

Aroma: ah! Coffee and cocoa, soft and spicy, earthy, rich and beautiful. Dark, deep coffee grounds. Love it.

Time to drink: aka: In the Mouth: Big mix of cocoa and coffee on the palate. Full-bodied. Rich and rewarding. Not a bad offering from F-Town. I could have a few more of these.

From the label: F-Town Brewing Co. and Faribault Woolen Mill Co. have teamed p to bring their quality an craftsmanship to you in a truly unique small batch Mocha Stout. This full-flavored brew blend hints of chocolate with rich coffee notes to create a delicious mocha flavor. It's a cozy companion for cooler seasons.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Oliphant Ancient Bone Saber of Zumakalis Port Barrel Aged Foreign Export Stout

Oliphant Ancient Bone Saber of Zumakalis Port Barrel Aged Foreign Export Stout, 8% ABV. 1/2 quart bottle. Oliphant Brewing, Somerset, WI.

Dark brown color, nearly black, with a full, robust, creamy tan head of lasting foam floating above.

Aroma: creamy-sweet, deep and lovely. Toffee malt with oak-y delights. Extra-sweet port characteristics start to seep in. Getting richer and redder. Wider and winier.

In the mouth: Slides into the senses sweetly, assuredly, and with with full aplomb. Charges in with all the confidence of a rich robust export stout and all the savoire faire of a spy that snuck in through a port barrel. It's got the sweet, and the slightly tart & fruity wine character, and it's just about nice as can be. Then comes the chocolate and a little bit of coffee, too, to go with the toffee. Sweet, sour, dry and fruity, all at once, and going round in circles. The stout comes rolling back, too, full of richness and dark, deep malts. Mmmm. Also, mmm-hmmm.

Part of my wishes I'd aged this mini-growler longer. The rest of me is happy I had it tonight.

Sisyphus Cherry Belgian Blonde

Sisyphus Cherry Belgian Blonde. 5.1% ABV. 34 IBU canned on 11/10. Sisyphus Brewing, Minneapolis, MN.

Clear, bright amber color, slim white head.

Aroma: sweet and fruity, but not too much.  Nice and malty.

In the mouth: Boom, there's the cherry! Smooth and lightly sweet, just enough fruit. Delicate cherry. Delightful. Light bodied, easy drinker. Low bitterness. Tasty stuff. Yum. Good beer and you can drink it.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

August Schell Noble Star Collection Orbital Drift

August Schell Noble Star Berlin Style Wheat Ale. New Ulm, MN. 3.9% ABV.

I can't tell you a single thing about this beer that sets it apart from anything else in the Noble Star Collction, I'm just going to open it up and find out, as per usual.

It's a hazy amber appearance, with a slim white head. Nothing wrong with that.

Aroma: full-on Belgian-style funk. Rich malts, twisted fruits, and unmistakable Belgian quality. It's what I like and I'm loving it.

In the mouth: Fruity. Sour. Funky. Love it. Sharp and tart at first, then comes the fruit, some peach and nectarine, constant tart. Rich and rewarding. All that stuff and more. Fruit and sour and funk and delicious. Refreshing. Tasty. Another hit in the Noble Star line.

Let's see what the website says:
BEER STYLE: Berliner Weisse
CHARACTERISTICS: Orbital Drift is a unique brew with earthy aromatic notes and a deep amber hue.

Orbital Drift shakes up the long established tradition of brewing a Berliner Weisse, (“Berlin White”), beer to be light in color. By substituting the style’s characteristic pale barley and wheat malts with darker, more full-bodied and longer kilned malts, we created a unique brew that has a deep amber hue and earthy aromatic notes. Allowed to age for sixteen months in Cypress wood tanks, Orbital Drift has a complex character, deep acidity and dry malt spiciness.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wild Mind Artisan Ales Winter's Edge Farmhouse Amber Ale

Wild Mind Artisan Ales Winter's Edge. Farmhouse Amber Ale. 8% ABV. 25 IBUs.

Dark brown coloration, slimmish head. Looking alright.

Aroma: sweet, spicy, glimmers of cocoa and dark fruits, plums and dates. Belgian funk floats up. Very nice.

In the mouth: a little bit of grit on the palate, flashes of funk, sweet malt that turns quick to dry. Dry and drinkable. Medium-bodied, long, malty finish. High spiciness through the flavor. Alcoholic heat burning up.

I like this one. Good drinking'. Tast-y!

What does the brewery have to say? "Notes of cocoa nibs, honey, toffee, light citrus and dates."
Okay. Sounds good.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Summit Unchained No. 23: Dark Infusion Coffee Stout

Summit Unchained Series No. 23: Dark Infusion, A Coffee Milk Stout.

Dark black coloring, rich roasted tan head, setting us up for excitement.

Aroma: bold, rich coffee flavors boarding the nose and setting up camp in the senses. Intense. Wondrous. Gorgeous.

In the mouth: Starts out sweet, smooth, scrumptious. Creamy, delightful, delicious. Just right. Mmm. I mean, MMM! Whoa! An infusion of a blend of Brazilian and Columbian bean cold press coffee from St. Paul's Blackeye Roasting Company.

I'm going to learn a little more about this one. What's the label tell us? Created by brewer Pete Stacy. 8.5% Alc. by Vol. Brewed and canned by Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, MN. That's it on the can, and the can is all I got. Have to go to the website, I guess....there's this, and that is surely informational. Go read it. Then there's the official gobbledygook, so read that, too.

I'm kind of floored by this one. It's just so much better than any other coffee stout or milk stout, because it combines the best of both. Milk stouts are alright, but they just don't do it for me, and some coffee stouts are too much. This puts them together and gives the best of them both.

I think this is the best coffee beer I've ever had. And this is after a lot of them, some big ones, some rich and thick ones, and this smooth, delicious dark brew takes the cake. Oh, yes.

Bang Time

Bang Time. Malty Strong Ale. 750 ml. All. 6.7% by Vol. 70 IBU. Bang Brewing, St. Paul, MN.

Full-on darkness. rich, cocoa-toned head above, looking good.

Aroma: sweetness, and malty. Yup. Creamy. Hoppy, and malty, rough and ready raw citrus and plenty of dark malt deliciousness.

In the mouth: More tastiness. More rich, more malt, more grassy, piney hops. Damnably delicious. Sweetness is just right on for this one. Not too much, just right on. Some coffee, some cocoa in the flavors, but well attenuated, not too this, too that. Just right. Enough hop bitterness, enough malt buttress. Just right on the money. Tasty, tasty stuff.

What can I say? This is doing it for me, without being attached to a particular style.

Dark Horse Crooked Theratree Black India Pale Ale

Dark Horse Crooked Theratree. Dark Horse Brewing, Marshall, MI. 8.5% ABV. 44 IBU.

Solid blackness, slim ring of cocoa-toned foam on top.

Aroma: big grassiness right up front, some citrus and pine. "You dropped your chocolate on my pine cone!" Oh, yeah, the cocoa is spilling all over the hop notes. Big ol' grassy meets the big ol' malty.

In the mouth: Just delicious. Rich and tasty. Big and full. Toasty. tons of chocolate, plenty of hops. I like this. It is good.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bent Brewstillery Maroon & Bolder Double IPA

This is a bit complicated.

A few months ago, Jason and I biked to Roseville and stopped at the Bent Brewstillery taproom, where I bought a growler of this beer. I cracked it open, took notes, and saved them in a draft of what will one day be my report on this place, which I will soon get to writing, I promise you.

And the next day, a sample can of the same beer appeared for me at Acadia, and I was told that it was imperative that I tell the Bent representative what I felt about the beer ASAP. But, I didn't. My notes still sit in that "draft", unread by anyone, and that can sat in my fridge. It's a good beer, I thought, but I wasn't going to go out of my way to order it. (Too many other DIPAs at the time.) (And now, again, I have just enough.)

So, I'm going to open the can and review it. And later, when I write up the review on the taproom, you'll see the review from the growler. And that's how it's going to be. So, here we go:

Maroon & Bolder. Double Infuriatingly Passive Aggressive MN Double IPA. 9.5% Alc. by Vol. IBU: 100+

Dark, reddish-brown coloring, vast cream-toned head, looking great.

Aroma: Big malt sweetness, large and full of richness. High hops, too. But malt keeps time with it, that's for sure. Big and bold and not too bitter.

In the mouth: rich malt and plenty fruity. Sweet, then bitter, then bitter, then sweet. Malt meets bold hops on palate. Tasty stuff. It's big and bold. Wait, I said all that, already, right?

From the can: "Maroon & Bold is back and bolder than ever. This 5th anniversary of M&B is loaded with MN hops and malt lending hints of citrus, hay and sweet toasted marshmallows. Dank, spicy, smooth & malty, yet packs enough hoppy brightness to get you through even the darkest Minnesota winter."

Well. I like it. Let's leave it at that. (How's that for Passive Aggressive?)

Toppling Goliath Sosus Double India Pale Ale

Toppling Goliath Sosus Double India Pale Ale.

There's a stained glass mosaic on the label. Of birds. What does that mean, I wonder?

Lightly hazed, bright golden hue, enormous ivory head. Just gorgeous.

More loveliness in the nose. Huge fresh citrus flavors abounding in the aroma. All the lemon, all the lime, some of the grapefruit, and a touch of the tangerine. Fresh, zesty, and beautiful.

In the mouth: All that citrus-y flavor is bounding about in the mouth, pouncing on the palate. This tastes like 100% Mosaic, if the label art didn't already alert me to it. And it's straight up delicious. Lean bodied, light and easy drinking, despite the looming specter of the alcoholic content. I can't find that on the label, but it feels high. If it's a double IPA, it had better be. (A quick peek at the website tells me: 8% ABV, 100+ IBUs.)

Now here's the gobbledygook from the website: In his most notable mosaic work, Sosus of Pergamon depicts doves sunning atop a golden chalice. The image was said to be so enticing that real birds flew into it while trying to reach their stone companions. This single-hop showcase is inspired by the beauty and divinity of the Sosus mosaics. Just as the doves discovered their golden nectar, discover the irresistible nature of the Mosaic hop.

I like that. And I like this beer. No, I love this beer. So good. You can't miss with Mosaics, apparently. And this one hits, on all levels. Full-on hops, major strength, great drinkability. All across the board good stuff. And you can drink it. So, go, and do that.

Thanks for another winner, TGBC!

Minnesota Breweries One by One #78: Fitger's Brewhouse, Duluth, with Franklin's Tower Double IPA

Minnesota Breweries One by One #78: Fitger's

Brewhouse, Duluth.

As I was plotting to visit the breweries of Minnesota, I was having a hard time getting a trip to Duluth together. At first, my trusty companion Jason B. did not want to do it. He goes there with his family, he told me. Other friends and acquaintances would offer to go with me to a brewery for this project, and when I would suggest the city of Duluth, I heard more excuses. "I go there with my wife." "I go there with my buddies." Were the wives and buddies of these friends going to be jealous of this trip, if it happened, because it's such a magical, mystical fantastical place that they can't bear their hubby/pal being there without them? Nobody would allow them to make this one exception, and take me along for the 3 hour trip up there (as well as the overnight stay)? I'm a pleasant companion, I'm a fun guy. Someone take me to Duluth with them!, I cried out.

And so, Dave Anderson did, and we not only went there but further to the far corner of the state. That was on August 30, September 1 and the morning of September 2. I've only written about the visit to Bent Paddle, so far. Six more to go, and this is one of them. But, alas, we couldn't see all of the breweries in Duluth, and so Jason decided to do the trip with me and leave his family behind, take our bikes and tour the town. We got to check off those 3 hanging chads and also see Fitger's Brewhouse once again. This is a tale of those two visits, and a little more.

view from the barstool. 
Giant antique Fitger's beer can in the
morning sun, with Jason for scale.

For you see, that far-off wonderful city on the shore of Lake Superior was just a glimmering legend in my mind until a few years ago. My first visit was in May of 2012 and I said something about this here. Go ahead and read it. (I so hate repeating myself.) Done? Cool. Visiting Fitger's Brewhouse in Duluth was long overdue, especially since I'd reviewed 25 of their beers from growlers brought back to Minneapolis for me by friends between 2004 and 2011. What wonderful friends they were, to deliver that rare goodness from the north.

When I finally made it up there for a 2-day weekday vacation with pal Ed Jackson, those reviews from BeerAdvocate made their way here on the ol' Bitter Nib.  (Note, you'll see this post first when you click that link. Go down a little, and check those posts out.)

On the evening of September 1, Dave and I entered the Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery & Grille and bellied up to the bar for beers and dinner. None of the beers that I had were new to me, this time. Superior Trail IPA was my first pint, consumed with a waffle and chicken sandwich, this time from the cask. Smooth and creamy and satisfying. I'm not a cask beer nut by any means, but I will never stray from sampling one.
Superior Trail IPA, cask.

Old Fitger's signs from the history of the brand pop
up periodically throughout the building.

I had two glasses at once set next to me after the IPA, and one was to fulfill a mission set to me by my friend Melissa Rainville earlier that day. Melissa had been lead brewer at the Brewhouse for several years, and left when the business had been purchased by new owners and brewmaster Dave Hoops stepped down. She was currently working at the Castle Danger taproom in Two Harbors, and when we visited her there that afternoon, she wanted me to know how Big Boat Oatmeal Stout was doing. Was it okay? Is it holding up, are they treating it well? (It was the beer, she told me, that made her want to be a brewer.) Well, I'm no expert on Fitger's, having only been there twice before, and having had a few dozen growlers, sampled at festivals, but it was a spot on oatmeal stout, and just as good as I remembered it. Head brewer Frank Kaszuba, with fifteen years on the job, is
currently in command of a crew of neophytes, Melissa told me, and it seems like he's been training them well. (I've never met Frank personally, but I passed him in the halls of the Fitger's complex on our late night visit that day, and saw him doing some quality control samples on my next visit with Jason. He appears in all respects to be a fully committed consummate professional brewer. Makes sense, as he's been winning awards all these years. As long as Frank's still on board, there should be no troubles with the beers, here.)

Beer #3 was Ol' Red Beard Barleywine, an aged version from 2014. I'd previously had it in 2012, according to Untappd, but I took no notes on it then, or this time. Just a damn fine barley-wine, very close to style, big and malty and boozy. 11% ABV. Good ol' stick to your ribs, puttin' hair on your chest and fire in your belly barley-wine. The kind I like.

One thing I noticed from this visit, versus my others was the missing stage and the lack of live music. One of the changes brought on by the new owners? I wonder if Dave Hoops will fill in that void when he opens Hoops Brewing taproom in Canal Park next spring, with Melissa in charge of the brewhouse? (That was the big news of last week. This week, Todd & Linda Haug going to Chicago, and Harriet planning to close. What will next week bring?)

Jason with his Big Boat Oatmeal Stout, I with my
Franklin's Tower Double IPA. 
So, that was our evening stay at Fitger's (forgot what Dave had. think it was a beer, or two.) and we shuffled back to our motel, all beer-filled from our very beer-y day. Passed by one of the missing breweries (Carmody, only blocks away), but we couldn't stuff another beer in us to save our lives.

Let's jump ahead about seven weeks. Jason has booked us a room at the luxurious Voyageur Lakewalk Inn, only two blocks from Fitger's. I insisted that we get our first beers of the day in ASAP before setting off on our 3 mile bike ride to Lake Superior Brewing Company, way down on the other end of Superior Street. And for my first beer of the day, I picked a double IPA called Franklin's Tower. I won't give you notes here, for I bought a growler to take home, and will share the notes below. One tasty beer down, and off on our bikes we went. That was the morning of October 19.

Coffee Big Boat.
The next day, October 20, found us returning to Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery and Grille for breakfast. I had a coffee infused Big Boat and a tequila barrel-aged 1100 Wheatwine. What a way to start the day.

I loved the Coffee Big Boat Oatmeal Stout, and found it rich and toasty, full of earthy, coffee notes in the aroma, medium bodied, bold and bountiful. Loved it. (Did I say that already? Well, it's true.)

 The second beer was a bit more of a challenge, but worth it. The tequila barrel-aged version of the 1100 Wheat-wine was vast, full, rich and sharp, with the sweet twang of tequila, big with booze
(10.5% ABV), and ever-so tasty. Hey, I didn't need to be anywhere else all day, what did I have to worry about? Good beer to have with breakfast on a mid-week vacation.

Franklin's Tower IPA.

Clear, bright golden hued, vast and lasting ivory head. Perfect. Beautiful.

Aromatics: Big, bold, lively, bursting with citrus notes, some pine, a touch of the tropical. Lemon and lime, grapefruit just a bit, and a little bit of the ol' pine. Pineapple? Yeah, some of that.

In the mouth: There it is, once more, there's the fierce citrus attack, the gentle pluck of the tropical hop notes, and that wonderful bitterness. Lovely balance between it all. High hop bitterness, plush malt lushness, altogether wonderful. It jumps between the harshness of the high bitterness, and the sweet of the malt, and I love it. As far as double IPAs go, it's right on the money. I find this delicious.

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...