Crooked Stave Key Lime Tau

October 16th, 2015 beckel

I saw this on the shelves and couldn’t pass up this strange seeming concoction. While it may seem strange, this beer actually makes a lot of sense when you note that it is part of the UK Rainbow Project which is in it’s 3rd year now. The idea behind the project this year (brainchild of Siren Brewing) is to get US and UK breweries to collaborate on a beer that is influenced by one of 7 colors they are assigned. Some of you Minnesotans may have noticed that our own Surly Brewing also participated in this project this year. In this case Crooked Stave and Hawkshead Brewery were assigned Green. Crooked Stave from Denver, Colorado has been in our market for about a year and I’ve enjoyed the few funky beers from them I have had the chance to try over the years. I know even less about their collaborators Hawkshead Brewery out of Kendal, UK but from reading their website it sounds like they have their priorities straight and as a Minnesotan I have to respect their tagline of “Beer from the lakes”. This beer aged in oak with lactose, fresh lime and fresh lemongrass is sure to be unique. Bottled July 2015 in a 375ml bottle.

Pours a lovely bright, slightly brownish, orange hue with a solid two fingers of off white head. After fading a centimeter or so of lacing persists giving this beer a very nice appearance. Initial aroma is quite tart with significant lime. After a few moments the intensity subsides and the herbal aromas of lemongrass shine through, complimented by black pepper and mild plant matter. Taste is notably tart with lime character dominating the palate initially but being moderately smoothed out with the herbal lemongrass. The more I drink it the more the herbal character shines in the finish making this beer quite refreshing and surprisingly drinkable. Mouthfeel is a touch syrupy, but the body is rather light though not too thin. While not woody the oak aging of this beer produces a smoothing quality as expected, but also creates interesting flavors when contrasted with the lime that remind me of light pitted fruits, particularly apricot. In addition to the oak, the lactose does a very good job complimenting  and contrasting the intense lime character of this beer, particularly as it warms. At 7% ABV this beer is higher on the scale for the style, but isn’t going to hurt anyone, though I do wish it was served in a bigger bottle. I was initially a bit concerned I might not want to drink too much of such a lime forward beverage, but the more it warms and the contrasting characters of lime, oak, lactose and lemongrass shine the more I truly enjoy this beer.  Give it a shot and ride your bike.

crooked stave key lime tau

East Lake Devil’s Kettle

December 31st, 2014 beckel

Straight from Minneapolis’ newest Brewery; East Lake Brewing. Devil’s Kettle; a Belgian IPA. Poured from a bad ass stainless steel growler, a solid finger of bright white tight bubbles are produced. Color is a very bright orange brown. The nose is lovely with bright citrus from both the hops and Belgian yeast, leaving the nose with a clean refreshing yeast character. Tastes of orange, peach and apricots. Malt character is robust enough to stand on its own, yet plays well with the hops. Stopping the beer from being overly bitter. Belgian yeast persists in the flavor and is very complimentary. Mouthfeel is clean and the beer appears well attenuated. Body is medium. I’ve had the 6 beers currently available from East Lake at their taproom and this one is definitely the stand out so far. Reminiscent of Harriet’s West Side IPA in the very early days when it was more alcoholic and bright. At 92 IBU, this is a well rounded fruity Belgian IPA that I could drink all day (and sort of did yesterday). ABV is pretty standard at 7% and well hidden. I’m excited to see what this small brewery keeps putting out and will definitely be back. They are currently filling growlers if you bring one in, and are also selling bombers of a few beers for your off premise needs. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

east lake devil's kettle

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