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Full Sail Old Boardhead Barleywine

September 29th, 2008 beckel

Here we have another ale from Full Sail, one that I’m even more excited about. Today I will be enjoying a 07 reserve of their Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale another brew from their Brewmaster’s Reserve this one being released last October, so I suppose I’m jumping the gun a bit and could let it mature for a full year, but then I couldn’t tell you about it now, and who knows maybe I’ll just have to pick up some more if I can depending on how this session goes. Producing a solid couple inches of just off white head, most of which fades rapidly but a few millimeters persist for some time. Color is a wonderful somewhat dark raspberry like hue that brightens very nicely in light but is not transparent at all. The aroma of this beer is rather interesting, very nice sweet malt was the first thing I noticed but then strong alcohol took over my senses, many wine like scents some almost fruity are also present, this is turning out to be a nicely complex brew. Unfortunately the flavor isn’t nearly as complex as its aroma. Tastes of sweet smooth barley prevail which is very nice but bitter alcohol flavors aren’t far behind making you remember you are drinking a 9% ABV Barleywine. This is an interesting Barleywine and part of the reason I have a lot of respect for the style. Though this beer is less balanced than most Barleywines I tend to prefer it still has some lovely flavors and I am very curious to see if further aging may help soften its harsher flavors. If you like a strong Barleywine and don’t expect it to cover up what it is this is a good choice, particularly if you like wine or at least don’t mind bitter flavors. This beer would soften any spicy meal quite well. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Full Sail Boardhead Barleywine

Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca

September 25th, 2008 beckel

Jolly Pumpkin’s beers have stared down at me from the shelves for some time tempting me to pick them up, it hasn’t helped that anyone I talk to about the company says that they make lovely brews. Brewed in Dexter, Michigan Jolly Pumpkin appears to put a great deal of care into their beer which we all can appreciate. Calabaza Blanca is a barrel aged, bottle conditioned Belgian inspired White Ale coming in at 4.7% ABV. This beer produces a couple inches of very white fluffy head that settles slowly, depending on how heavily handed you pour. Color is a wonderful light yellow with peach hints and very cloudy yet light and bright in color. Aroma is intense and complex, I detect an interesting orange scent as well as numerous spices and a sour alcohol smell. This is a sour beer. Not exactly what I was expecting, but interesting. After the initial shock of the sour flavors I notice some nice light malty flavors that one would expect in a White Belgian Ale and this surprisingly does a rather good job balancing out the flavors. As I continue to drink this beer I like it more and more. In addition to the malt, the tart flavor of this beer is complimented nicely by some light spices that help the finish of this beer stay smooth and almost crisp. The mouthfeel of this beer is rather light though the sweet and sour flavors make this beer a bit less drinkable. This beer would go wonderfully with a sweet desert or even a tart cherry pie. I doubt many will pick up this beer regularly but if you want to try a sour beer this is a tasty and not particularly intense example to start with this is a grand choice. Anyone who enjoys unique beers, particularly Belgians will likely appreciate this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca

Left Hand Sawtooth Ale

September 22nd, 2008 beckel

I regularly hear and read good things about Left Hand Brewing out of Longmont, Colorado. Many of their beers have been recommended to me and from reading a bit about them they seem like a pretty cool company that supports the local community and understand the importance of one of my core beliefs, balance. Today I have Sawtooth Ale an Extra Special Bitter. Head is slightly off white with about an inch being produced in a nice simple cascading effect, fading at a reasonable rate. A nice orange color that lightens and darkens into a number of nice hues depending on lighting. Smell is nice and malty with a gentle roasted aroma as well as some nice balanced floral scents. The flavor of this beer is interesting, sweet and malty with some roasted hints as well as a kicking hop bitterness seconds later. Floral flavors are present and compliment the sweet malted barley well but are not dominant. Mouthfeel is relatively light making this an easy beer to drink as long as you don’t mind bitterness. With a 4.48% ABV this beer doesn’t taste alcoholic at all but you certainly know your drinking beer as it is so full flavored. Over all this is certainly a special and bitter beer as its style suggests, if you like hoppy bitterness but still want some nice malt flavors to compliment this is the drink for you. Would certainly be delicious with most any meal particularly one with strong flavors. If your not into bitter this beer probably won’t be your thing but you may just appreciate some of its nice malt flavors. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Left Hand Sawtooth Ale

Tyranena Chief BlackHawk Porter

September 18th, 2008 beckel

This beer has been sitting in my fridge with no other Tyranena beers to keep it company so I decided it deserved to be consumed. Chief BlackHawk is an American Porter inspired by a Sauk Indian leader of the same name who’s bravery and independent thinking were highly respected by his people. The BlackHawk war allowed settlers to conquer and rapidly develop what is now Wisconsin and was the last armed conflict between Native Americans and Europeans east of the Mississippi River in the Old Northwest Territory. This beer pours a wonderfully dark black color that is absolutely impenetrable. The two Inches of head produced is a nice solid creamy brown color that is  quite frothy and lasts for a couple minutes.  The style of this beer is very apparent in its aroma, sweet toffee and coffee scents are predominate. The flavor of this beer is also expected, smooth coffee and roasted malt flavors are most notable but a few bitter flavors pop up here and there. This is a very smooth flavored beer with little flavor lingering throughout the palate. The mouthfeel is definitely medium but it is still very drinkable. The roasted flavors of this beer almost make me forget I’m drinking alcohol even with its 5.6% ABV. A basic and simple porter but no doubt another tasty beer from Tyranena Brewing. If you can’t typically handle dark beers but would like to this would be a great one to start on. Otherwise any fan of porters who is looking for something simple and less heavy to drink all night long will likely find this beer appropriate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Tyranena Chief BlackHawk Porter

Full Sail Prodigal Sun IPA

September 15th, 2008 beckel

I don’t know much about Full Sail brewing other than that they are located in Hood River, Oregon but a friend of mine has had only good things to say so I thought I should give them a chance. Upon reading the bottle it appears they are employee owned which always deserves some extra credit in my book. While almost picking up their normal IPA I came across a bottle of the Prodigal Sun on the shelf and couldn’t bring myself to put it down. Part of their Brewmaster’s Reserve series of unique beers I am sure to be satisfied. Upon opening this beer I am already happy, immense hop aroma is notable even before I bring my nose to the glass. After the few inches of off white frothy head evaporate you can really smell this beer. Wonderful sweet and bitter hop aromas overwhelm the nose with a few citrus hints sneaking in. The color of this beer is delightful, a bright orange with hints of red and a good amount transparency. The flavor of this beer is pretty nice, quite bitter and hoppy with only a little malt sweetness and a bit tangy of an aftertaste. The mouthfeel of this beer is medium but its body isn’t too thick. At 6.2% ABV this beer certainly isn’t overpowering but the bitterness doesn’t hide the alcohol content either. Some of the citrus and floral notes of this beer do a nice job of trying to balance the bitter hop content but they aren’t able to overpower it. This would be a lovely beer to drink with a meal, be it simple steak and potatoes or something rather spicy and full flavored, the hop flavor of this beer would do a nice job rounding off most meals, not to mention compliment any spices present. This bottle was a somewhat pricey in comparison to their 6-packs but it is certainly full flavored and not bad. I would suggest this beer to those who are  into an IPA that doesn’t hide where it is coming from and don’t mind bitterness. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Full Sail Prodigal Sun IPA

Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout

September 9th, 2008 beckel

Bells Brewery tends to make good ale but I had avoided their Special Double Cream Stout until now, hesitant but curious about the double cream part. This beer pours a dark impenetrable black color that ends up producing a good inch of lovely dark brown creamy head. The aroma of this beer is intense, sweet and malty one moment and then roasted and a bit bitter but still very smooth and appealing. This is one smooth beer, mouthfeel is medium but it doesn’t have a ton of body for a stout and it goes down very easily with its creamy consistency. Though this beer tastes a bit creamy it is undoubtedly still a stout, coffee flavor is immense and penetrating. Roasted malts swarm the palate and provide some nice bitter flavors that overpower most of the sweet flavors present in this beer. The 6.1% ABV of this beer seems to work well as it is not particularly strong but you can still tell you are drinking alcohol. If you are looking for a stout that is a bit creamy and not particularly thick but still incorporates roasted coffee flavors you may very well appreciate this beer. This is also a good choice for people who want to start appreciating stouts but are not as accustomed to their flavor. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Bell's Special Double Cream Stout


September 9th, 2008 beckel

What better way to release a grand beer than a festival by our very own Surly Brewing from Brooklyn Center Minnesota. I will do a proper review of Surly’s great take on an Octoberfest lager when I have a can of Surlyfest in hand but let me say now this is one grand flavorful and drinkable beer. We arrived to the event a good 20 minutes early after a lovely bike ride from Minneapolis along the Midtown Greenway over to the Kenilworth trail around Cedar lake and over to North France Avenue finally ending up at the wonderful Surly Brewing Company. There was only a small line when we got there which was nice, but bike locking options were limited, luckily there were many fences lining the perimeter that made due. After a number of minutes of salivating for some Surly and enjoying a bit of water (yea I actually remembered my water bottle thank you very much) a SurlyFest staffer with her awesome green volunteer t-shirt came to the head of the line and ushered the herd of Surly lovers in. We exchanged our kick ass tickets (surly can tops with a little sticker) for a bright green bracelet with 4 tabs and what I was most excited to see (aside from the beer) our SurlyFest German made .5 liter steins.SurlyFest After getting in we of course made a b-line straight to the beer truck where they were serving everything wonderful that is Surly. The standard affair of Furrious, CynicAle and Bender were available as of course was SurlyFest, additionally they were offering to fill your glass with Hell which was nice to have the option but as I had already tried it I declined to do. So after filling my glass with the wonder that is SurlyFest we proceeded to a table to enjoy our brews. As we waited for the music to start we observed our food choices, Chicago dogs and brats to the right and falafels and gyros to the left. Simple but solid and reasonably priced. The brewery was open so we stopped inside to grab some swag and take a quick look around. As this was my first opportunity to look around it was quite fun, particularly to see the stacks of thousands of unfilled cans ready to be filled with beer for you and me including many lovely blue and white ones, not to meantion Surlys new tanks to keep us properly supplied. The weather was rather nice but just under 2 hours after ariving I snapped shots of the sky that shows heavy dark clouds to the northwest but a bright clear sky to the southeast. After it started raining most people retreated to the tent they had setup or went inside short of I believe 4 people who sat under their makeshift umbrellas and the wonderful SurlyFest staff that was pouring beers for the brave who would leave the tent for a few minutes to get more beer. After sitting under the tent for a few minutes my friend informed me he had purchased a Surly disc golf driver. Like the crazy idiots we are we ran into the rain and played catch. The disc didn’t throw the best but it was still a blast. I shouted at people encouraging them to join us, but I guess that just adds the the crazy factor, so I suppose I’m not surprised no one took me up on the offer. As we played we got a few people passing by to throw the frizbee but that was about it. After retreating to the tent for a minute someone offered to let us use their normal frizbee, Surly branded again that was much easier to throw and catch. After our fun in the rain we decided it was time for more beer and as Omar had already informed us the next band would be playing inside we decided that was the place to be. The music was entertaining and I had some good conversations and meet some friendly people, overall a really great time. Time wore on and as it was time to go and my 4 liters of Surly were settling in my belly I grabbed my bike to headed home. I’m not sure exactly how but I managed to loose track of my group and decided to just bike home alone (not the best decision but I guess I forgot about the fact I have a phone, oh well), a couple of falls later I am still rather sore and scraped up all over but I made it home so it’s all good. A grand day with a sore ending and no regrets. I can’t wait to get my hands on pack of SurlyFest but it should be in stores soon. Hopfully you can enjoy some and don’t fall off your bike like me.

Waiting to get into SurlyFestBeerWhat it's all aboutSurlyFest crowdSurlyFest cloudsGood peopleCansSurly tanksMore tanksSo many tanksSurlyFest cansDon't do this

Southern Tier Pumking

September 7th, 2008 beckel

I’ve been wanting to savor Pumking for sometime since I purchased it as I have yet to be let down by a Southern Tier Ale. I always question flavored ales but if their creme brulee is any example of what they can do to a beer I highly doubt I will not approve of the quality of this beer. Pours a nice roasted orange color that is transparent but deep. Head is a solid inch and 1/2 and cascades very nicely producing creme colored bubbles that are quite fluffy. Aroma is wonderful, sugar and spice hit the nose immediately and lead me to believe I am about to bite into a lovely fresh pumpkin pie. Though I am a bit sad I don’t have any actual pie to accompany this beer the flavor almost makes up for it. Sugary and Spicy flavors are immense and wonderfully compliment the great pumpkin flavor of this beer, a little bit of alcohol is noticeable but almost nothing considering its 9% ABV.  Though full flavored this beer is very drinkable and has a rather light mouthfeel. This would be a great desert beer or a lovely beer to drink with a good hearty meal. It is a bit odd for me to think of enjoying a pumpkin pie flavored beer but this was a delightful experience. If you like a sweet somewhat creamy beer or happen to have a fondness to pumpkin pie this is absolutely worth consuming. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Southern Tier Pumking

The Session #19 Surly Hell

September 6th, 2008 beckel

The SessionSo this month The Session is hosted by Jim over at lootcorp and he has come up with the wonderful topic of Deutsches Bier. Now German beer is not something I am particularly familiar with so this was a hard topic for me. Germans have done a lot to influence the way beer has been made in various parts of the world, by encouraging others to follow their “reinheitsgebot” or German purity laws which state beer can be made of only water, hops and barley (they didn’t know about yeast at the time), but have also discriminated against most beer that is made outside of Germany in the same breath. Regardless any country that allows its citizens to freely enjoy good beer as long as they can get on the bar stool is OK with me. Not to meantion they are only surpassed in breweries by the United States. Any how I rattled my brain for a while deciding what I should drink yesterday and it was so close to my nose I almost missed it: Surly Hell. Surly Brewing from lovely Brooklyn Center Minnesota recently brewed a single batch of a Munich Helles lager that they are serving at a few bars in the city. So I made my way to Mackenzie to see how Surly might interpret light German lager, Helles literally meaning “light colored” or “pale” in German. Unintentionally I managed to pick a style that fit what Jim had encouraged when fielding the topic. Helles is a Bavarian lager that they appear to be very proud of, they even claim to know the exact date the first batch of the lager was shipped by the Spaten Brewery of Munich: March 21, 1894 all the way to the port city of Hamburg where it was received well and so brewing continued. Surly doesn’t make light beers so when I sat down waiting for my beer I knew this was going to be a different experience. The appearance of this beer is a golden straw color that is very transparent. Head was a bit over a quarter inch off the tap and very white in color that remained for a few minutes. The aroma is full of immense sweet malted barley with some bitterness and alcohol present, reminding me a bit of a more grain filled pilsner. Grain is the first thing I taste when I sip this beer. Flavors of wheat, barley and even a bit of corn, I am curious what they actually brew it with. Sweet malt is detectable occasionally but the aftertaste can be a bit bitter and taste somewhat like a pilsner. The mouthfeel of this beer is medium even though it is quite drinkable you can tell your eating a lot of grain. This beer was OK and I’m glad I tried it but few lagers seem to hit the right spot for me. If you like lagers and light grain flavored beers you may very well enjoy this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Surly Hell

Two Brothers Oh Brother Tripel Ale

September 4th, 2008 beckel

Its been a busy week with all the fun caused by the RNC and all the cops on steroids amped to give an ass kicking to anyone who asks the wrong questions in good ole’ Minneapolis and St. Paul but this isn’t about me so lets forget about it all with a nice brew. Today we have a beer from Two Brothers Brewing Company out of Warrenville, Illinois. According to their website they do not distribute beer in Minnesota but I was lucky enough to find a bottle of their Oh Brother, a Belgian Tripel Ale at The Four Firkins. As part of their Artisan Beer Series of unique beers I am excited to try this beer as I have faith it will be a well crafted experience. This beer pours a nice bright apricot orange color that is not very transparent. Head is a bit over a half an inch of white foam and dissipates quite rapidly. You can certainly detect yeast in the nose of this beer with plenty of malt and a slight orange aroma. This beer is certainly not what I was expecting. It is a very smooth and drinkable beer with a rather light mouthfeel and a surprising amount of carbonation on the tongue considering its lack of head. The flavor of this beer is sweet and malty with a slightly harsher flavor in the end that is almost bitter. Also notable is some sort of fruit flavor that is not particularly dominate but resembles banana, apricot or orange. With the sweet flavor of this beer the 8.5% ABV is masked wonderfully. If you are looking for a simpler tripel this is not a bad choice. Though I prefer a more complex beer this is not a bad drink and I look forward to the the chance to try more of their brews if I can find them. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Two Brothers Oh Brother