Big Thanks To Insurance Companies

Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp

January 31st, 2013 beckel

Today I have a beer I have enjoyed on tap but haven’t gotten around to sampling from a bottle yet. Clown Shoes is a newer brewery out of Massachusetts that appears to have been founded at the end of 2010 inspired by the Dogfish Head / Beer Advocate collaboration for the 2010 Extreme Beer Fest which resulted in wrath of the pecant. While a relatively young brewery they appear to have large catalog of brews that I have been enjoying sampling on tap over the past few months they have been in our market. Their beers are contract brewed by Mercury Brewing Company (formerly Ipswich Brewing) out of Ipswich, MA and if their beer names are any inclination they appear to have a lot of fun. This colorfully named Belgian-style IPA is brewed with Columbus, Amarillo and Centennial hops and was bottled 8/2012.

Pours a deep reddish orange hue that is very opaque and slightly hazy looking. Over three fingers of tight off white bubbles are easily created and stay suspended for many minutes eventually subsiding leaving a good deal of lacing along the glass. Smells of apricots, orange peel and grapefruit rounded off with a pleasant bitterness and some delicately spicy Belgian yeast phenols. The flavor is full of light pitted fruit notes. Apricot, orange, grapefruit & mango are most prevalent followed by contrasting malt characters and assertive bitterness in the finish. The combination of Belgian yeast and assertive American hops create an enjoyable earthy (slightly phenolic) yet citrusy flavor throughout. Alcohol is present in the flavor but is quite complimentary, and at 7% ABV it’s not going to hurt anyone. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is slightly chewy and slick yet still very quaffable. The label says this beer is not subtle and that is definitely a fact, particularly when you allow it to warm up a bit. If you’ve been digging the Belgian IPA trend as of the past few years this is definitely one that is worth your time. Overall this brew provides plenty of citrus to keep us hop heads happy, yet contrasts with just the right amount of malt and phenolic belgian notes to give you the best of both worlds. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp

Colt 45 Strawberry Lemonade Blast

October 10th, 2012 beckel

So it’s been a while. Far too long in fact. So I bring you something closer to my heart than you may realize: Blast by Colt 45.

Pours a florescent pink hue with two fingers of light pink head. The majority of the head settles quickly leaving a small amount of lacing and residual bubbles. Smells of cotton candy, fruity bubble gum, artificial strawberries, lemons, gentle acidity and lots of sugar. The 12% ABV is well hidden in the aroma with a bit of a sweet and sour warheads thing going on. Tastes of somewhat chemically artificial flavors, strawberry, lemon, lime, cherry, tons of sugar and an almost bitter alcohol character. Body is light and the mouthfeel is sticky, a bit syrupy and tingles your tongue with carbonation. Considering the ABV of this alcopop it is remarkably drinkable, if you don’t mind the eventual alcohol burn that creeps up your throat. With 23.5 oz (695 ml) of that kind of goodness what could go wrong. In summary Blast is part sweet, part tang, part awful and part awesome, probably two parts sweet. Definitely not a drink for the heartburn prone. Always a good drink if you have enough radishes to chase it with. Give it a shot and ride your bike. Blast off!

Strawberry Lemonade Blast

Mikkeller & BrewDog I Hardcore You

April 12th, 2011 beckel

Today I have what is sure to be a fun brew from the always creative Mikkeller and BrewDog. Once again working together to craft beer in BrewDog’s Scotland brewery. This time around things are a bit different, as this is no regular collaborative brew. I Hardcore You is a blend of Mikkellers I Beat yoU, a highly hopped Imperial IPA, and BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA another nicely hopped Imperial IPA. But that wasn’t enough, after blending this brew it was further dry hopped another two times. Making the aroma I got when pouring this brew no surprise.

Pours an opaque maroon hue with about two fingers of off white head and modest lacing. Smells of fruity, earthy and spicy hops that meld nicely with sweet malt and smooth but discernible alcohol. Robust citrus hits my tongue first, ladling on orange, apricot & peach followed by rich toffee malt esters, plenty of bitterness and a wide array of hop esters, from gentle herbal and spice notes to more intense floral and fruity flavors. A truly beautiful play between sweet malt characters and massive hop additions. Though you will quickly notice the alcohol in this 9.5% ABV brew the intense hop flavors and bright malty sweetness do a very good job of making you forget. So much so that I have finished more than half of this 11.2oz bottle in the past 10 minutes or so. Body is very light for the style and the mouthfeel is right in line, coming off very clean and surprisingly delicate. If you enjoy hops, lots and lots of hops, this brew will certainly take you for an enjoyable ride. Yet it is not over the top bitter, creating a very pleasant experience as far as I’m concerned. Over all an incredibly hoppy beer with a lot of light pitted fruit esters and some intriguing herbal and earthy esters. Those looking for serious hops and plenty of sweet malt and alcohol to back it up, look no further. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mikkeller BrewDog I Hardcore You

Matilda Bay Fat Yak Pale Ale

March 22nd, 2011 beckel

Today I have another brew that was brought to me from Australia. Fat Yak Pale Ale is brewed by the folks of Matilda Bay Brewing in what they like to call their “Garage Brewery”. Founded in 1984 Matilda Bay’s brewers seem to have a passion for the art of beer and enjoy experimentation including the production of the first Australian beer to use wine grapes in addition to barley. Though this bottle is labeled 19Aug11 I fear it will have lost a good deal of the hop aroma that this 345ml bottle boasts about as I know it has sit in my fridge for at least two months and likely further on shelves prior. Regardless lets see how it is.

Pours a completely translucent copper hue that starts with about two fingers of bright white head which quickly fades leaving about a millimeter of residual head providing for a very nice appearance. Soft citrus and floral characters are evident on the nose and likely more robust when fresher. Accompanied by enjoyable malt esters and modest sweetness. Tastes of malted barley, apricot, melon and notable upfront bitterness that finishes smoothly. The base flavors of this brew are all rather nice, but I do fear I got to this beer at least a few months too late. I would love to see how much brighter the hop character of this brew is when very fresh as I feel it would have more character. Body is light and the mouthfeel is heavily carbonated and relatively crisp. At 4.7% ABV this easy drinking brew is very sessionable. If you live in Australia or anywhere else this brew might be available let me know how much I’m missing out. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Matilda Bay Fat Yak Pale Ale

Ithaca alpHalpHa

February 21st, 2011 beckel

Today I have a brew that I had almost forgotten about. Luckily it hasn’t been sitting in my cellar for too long and at 8.5% ABV I have faith this brew could store well, albeit at a loss of hop esters as is typical. While I have yet to write about Ithaca Brewing I have had the pleasure of sampling both their Brute a delicious golden sour ale and Flower Power a bright West Coast inspired IPA. Called a “Double Honey Bitter” the interestingly named alpHalpHa is rather unique beer made with organic Pilsner malt, New York grown Cascade hops, local alfalfa honey and an American yeast strain. Part of their Excelsior series of limited edition brews alpHalpHa is released annually in early fall and is sure to be a fun take on the Imperial IPA style. This bottle is batch# E!013.

Pours a lovely orange hue, notable haze is present but the color remains bright and appetizing while completely opaque. A massive layer of white head is created and fades over many minutes leaving lacing on every surface of the glass. Sweet and slightly spicy herbal esters hit the nose initially, smoothed out by further honey and alfalfa esters throughout. Beautifully earthy, reasonably sweet and modestly alcoholic on the nose. Some of the rich herbal esters remind me a bit of menthol or mint, but not nearly as intense. Tastes strongly of alfalfa honey, with smooth orange hop esters coming in mid-palate, finishing with clean, sweet malt and gentle mint. The mouthfeel is almost silky and the body is medium. This brew would likely have a clean golden color as the bottle suggests if it weren’t for the yeast that is obviously still in suspension. Upon opening the bottle I noticed the cap was covered in thick, solidified yeast as is the crown and some of the neck of the bottle. While I find this a bit odd, because the bottle was stored upright it doesn’t detract from the wonderful flavors present. The intense herbal esters brought to this brew from the locally sourced honey is a brilliant example of how different a product can be based on its terroir. Further it shows how additional ingredients can impart enjoyable flavors into beer and not to be afraid of experimentation. Modest bitterness is present in both the nose and flavor but over all this is more of a herbal, fruity brew than any conventional Imperial IPA. The lighter body brought by use of honey is very nice, making this brew very palatable and easy to drink while contributing to it’s solid 8.5% ABV. At about $13 for a 750ml bottle this may not be a cheap beer, but is worth every penny in my book. A good choice for fans of both Saisons and IPAs, obscuring styles wonderfully. While I would be interested to see how much brighter the hop character of this beer would be fresh, I found it very delightful with a few months of age. If you are lucky enough to live where Ithaca distributes, give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ithaca alpHalpHa

Ska Modus Hoperandi

February 18th, 2011 beckel

I typically try to write about beers before ever trying them as I enjoy the process of tasting, learning and watching opinions evolve. So I must note that I first had a glass of this brew last night and can’t wait to consume it again. I have had the joy of sampling a few other brews from Ska Brewing in the past and was ever so happy when a good friend brought me a mixed 12-pack of their brews and a few other Colorado beers.  Ska has only recently gotten into canning some of their brews, but I’ll still give them credit for packaging in my favorite manner. I don’t know a ton about Ska, aside from the fact that they unfortunately don’t distribute to Minnesota, but it seems like they have fun with brewing and that is key in my book.

Pours a barely translucent rich amber hue with a notable amount of yeast sediment in suspension. Just under two fingers of bright white head is produced, leaving a moderate amount of lacing behind. The aroma of this brew is simply fantastic. A multitude of citrus and other fruits; orange, grapefruit, apricot, mango & soft pine are complimented by a sweet malt backbone and plenty of clean bitterness on the nose. The flavor brings you almost as much delight with bright passion fruit, orange and grapefruit playing with earthy hop esters, malty sweetness and modest bitterness from mid-palate to the finish. I hate to note that I enjoy the aroma of this beer more than the flavor, but that should simply speak to how remarkable the aroma truly is. A delicious beer with enough bitterness and diverse fruit esters to keep any hop head happy, yet not brutally bitter and fantastically drinkable. Some of the citrus esters are reminiscent of a West Coast IPA, but the slightly caramely, rich malt character reminds you it is a Midwest brew. At 6.8% ABV I could drink this brew all night long, and would if only it were available in our market. Witty names aside, this brew is definitely worth your time and money if you enjoy quality IPAs. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ska Modus Hoperandi IPA

Little Creatures Bright Ale

January 26th, 2011 beckel

Today I have a beer that was brought back from Australia for me by a friend. I have been excited to try the brews of Little Creatures since I first hear of them about a year ago while talking beer with the significant other of a family friend that was in town from Australia. I don’t know a ton about the brewery, but they are one of the few breweries out of Australia producing progressive craft beer and I can’t wait to get a taste.

Pours a bright golden hue that is completely translucent. Just over a finger of white head is produced and stays for a minute or so. Smells of pale malts, soft grain sweetness and light bitterness. Tastes of clean Pilsner malt, enjoyable grain sweetness, soft bitterness, mild lemon, grapefruit and other fruit esters. Overall this is a very drinkable, light ale that is incredibly tasty and brilliantly quaff able. If this were in my market I would drink it on the regular and at 4.5% ABV it would be no problem. Nice grain flavors and enough hops to make this beer far from bland. A perfect session beer. As I continue to drink  gentle notes of caramel, soft herbal esters and a slightly creaminess is present giving this smooth beer plenty of character. Body is light and the mouthfeel is very clean. A truly delicious brew that I can’t say enough good things about. If only it weren’t so easy to drink I may have been able to savor it for longer. Perhaps one of these days I can brew such a delicious, moderate ABV brew. If you ever make it to an area where Little Creatures is available I would highly recommended this brew and ask that you ship me a few cases while you’re at it. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Little Creatures Bright Ale

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

January 13th, 2011 beckel

Today I have a brew from Deschutes Brewing that I have been wanting to try since last year. Deschutes, being new to our market at the time, didn’t send any of  their Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale into our market last season so I had no choice but to buy it today from Lake Wine & Spirits and rejoice. Named after the oldest operating lift at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, this hop centric Pale Ale garnered the title of “Worlds Best Pale Ale” from the “World Beer Awards” in 2010. While I find the aforementioned organization’s lack of judging details and award selections somewhat dubious it is always nice to get recognition. This batch states best by 4/19/11.

Pours a distinctive reddish copper hue that is mostly translucent, with a modest amount of bright white lacing creating a very nice appearance. Sweet malts hit the nose first, followed by notable bitterness, gentle citrus and fruity hop esters, finishing with a bit of alcohol. There is a somewhat odd grain ester in the aroma that I can’t quite place but is slightly off putting. Bitter notes hit your tongue quickly and are followed up with grassy and lemon hop esters. Cereal grains hit you mid palate with a variety of flavors including oat and wheat. Unfortunately these grain notes include a variety of muddled and somewhat flat grain notes, that I don’t find particularly enjoyable. The sip finished with plenty of bitterness, which does a pretty good job of saving this brew, but so far this one leaves a bit to be desired. As my palate gets used to the flavors the less refined esters seem to be further hidden by malt sweetness, brighter fruity hops and bitterness. For further examination I grabbed another bottle which I found to be quite a bit more palatable, but again that is probably just because I am getting used to the flavors. Overall this  brew has some nice grain notes, modest fruity & citrus hop esters and a good deal of bitterness. After drinking a few more bottles I’d say this is a decent brew but it just isn’t as clean and bright in both hop and grain profile as I expected from the products description. This brew will likely be enjoyed by most, but I would like to see it refined a bit, or who knows maybe I had a batch that wasn’t treated optimally. If you enjoy hoppy ales this 6.2% ABV brew is a decent choice. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

January 7th, 2011 beckel

Karl Strauss. A name that will likely ring a bell for many beer lovers, young and old. OK, mostly old. Regardless, if you are unaware of the Karl Strauss Brewery and the man it was named after fear no more. Founded in 1989 as the first brewpub in San Diego Karl Strauss Brewing was started by Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner and was built with the wisdom and vast brewing knowledge of Karl, Chris’ uncle and a legendary brewer who has received the three highest honors in the brewing industry including the “Distinguished Life Service Award” from the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. You can read more about Karl and the breweries 21 year history on their respective wiki pages. Big Barrel Double IPA is the first in their new line of Karl’s Coastal Reserve series of big hoppy beers. The label notes that they wanted to start of the series “big” by using imported Nelson Sauvin Hops from New Zealand,  as well as Warrior & Ahtanum Hops. The bottle I have here is actually the 3rd release of this beer which was available late 2010 in select markets. With 90 IBU and 9% ABV this brew is sure to be a great introduction to a historic brewery.

Pours a brilliantly translucent copper hue with three fingers of bright white head quickly forming and hanging around for many minutes leaving a modest amount of lacing behind and a few millimeters of residual carbonation. Smells magnificently fruity with bright citrus balanced by wonderfully smooth malt esters and enjoyable bitterness. Flavor starts with smooth fruity hops, a variety of citrus esters, clean sweet malts complimented by assertive, but not over the top bitterness. The 9% ABV of this beer is completely hidden by the smooth hops and vibrant bitterness in this brew. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is almost silky. The myriad of citrus and fruit esters in this brew are delicious and amazingly smooth. Everything from peach to pineapple is present. Though it is full of plenty of flavors this brew is not overly complex but fantastically clean and palatable. A really delicious Imperial IPA that has obviously benefited from its barrel aging. Definitely the smoothest Double IPA I have ever tasted. Truly a delicious brew that I wish I had more of and would definitely pick up if it were available in the Minnesota market. Proper words allude me, but there is something amazing about the way the clean flavors in this brew are truly complex but yet remain simple and soft. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

Short’s Key Lime Pie

January 6th, 2011 beckel

No, this is not a food review. Though I could go for a slice right about now. Short’s brewing produces a large variety of year round and seasonal brews out of their Elk Rapids, MI pub including this unique brew made with marshmallow, lactose, lime & graham crackers. Some may call this a crazy concept, I even find it impressively nuts, but it garnered a gold medal at this years GABF in the experimental category so it can’t be too bad. Founded in 2004 and struggling to stay afloat in 2005, shorts has done magnificently in the following years growing 200% in the year 2009 and projecting 33% growth for 2010. Currently Shorts only distributes in their state of Michigan, so if your in the area send me some more of their brews.

Pours an interesting red hue with hints of brown. Barely half a finger of white head is produced and almost completely fades with in two minutes leaving just a hint of residual head. Aroma has lime esters that are somewhat vegetal and not particularly bright, notes of graham cracker contrast with modestly sweet malt and earthy bitterness. Flavors roll around your palate in a very unique way with lime lingering throughout and graham crackers hitting you mid palate and flowing throughout the finish. Marshmallow and lactose esters work with the lime creating a truly bizarre flavor profile. As you continue to drink lime esters play a central role in this brew creating a variety of citrus esters as you sip. Some flat and others more bright, finishing with a nice sweetness and a somewhat strange earthiness that is a bit rind like. While I don’t taste much alcohol in this 5.75% brew the level of acid almost seems a bit alcoholic. Some malt esters are present, but it is very difficult to isolate them from the graham crackers and other intense flavors. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is surprisingly clean. Overall this lime filled, marshmallow influenced brew is unlike any beer you have ever tasted. Frankly not a beer I would bother buying often, but intriguing none the less and a complex bouquet for your palate to play with. If you have the opportunity to sample it I would go for it as it is not a bad beer and is definitely fun but not something you will drink many of. I really enjoy the contrast of limes and graham crackers, but feel like this brew might be less muddled with out the use of marshmallows and lactose, though I understand the intent to emulate a key lime pie, even though it is not quite accomplished. If you dig limes this might just be the brew for you. As usual I enjoy the experimental ambitions of Shorts and would love to try some of their year round offerings as well as their other experimental brews such as Strawberry Short’s Cake & Turtle Stout. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Short's Key Lime Pie.jpg