Big Thanks To Insurance Companies

Flat Earth & Lift Bridge at Stub & Herb’s

January 30th, 2009 beckel

Wednesday was Stub & Herb’s monthly tasting extravaganza and more exciting than most because it was a chance for them to showcase ales from not only one, but two Minnesota breweries. Both Flat Earth and Lift Bridge had some solid offers with their Rode Haring, Black Helicopter, Winter Warlock (bottle), Cygnus X-1 Porter; and Farm Girl Saison, Pale Ale, Biscotti, Double Hopped Pale Ale on draft respectively. The turn out was wonderful, I didn’t make it until a bit after 8 but found Sterbs to be full of us beer geeks bringing out our support of the local guys. Good times, lovely beer and wonderful conversation. With so many options I didn’t kn ow what to start with but the cask of Double Hopped Pale Ale from Lift Bridge seemed to be the most logical decision. Color is very amber and relatively opaque. For such a hopped up ale the aroma was very dull, or I am more congested that I realize because all I get off this ale is a slight hop & malt aroma none of which are strong. I will also note the ale came to me with more or less no head so that probably didn’t help the aroma come out. Luckily the taste was quite different, wonderfully hoppy. Tastes like a forest, quite piney and just a bit sour, really showing off its Cannabaceae family traits with an array of hop flavors you don’t often experience. Due to all of the wonderful hops present this ale has a bit of a sticky mouthfeel that may make you want to pucker your tongue. Mouthfeel is medium, definitely a unique brew. Then I went for some Flat Earth Winter Warlock as I have been wanting to sample this very different, golden Barleywine. Color is a nice light copper with some light amber hues and relatively opaque. Aroma has some nice hops but is also sweet and malty as any good Barleywine should be. Flavor is very interesting, particularly for the style. Sweet and malty with hints of citrus from the hops and a relatively smooth mouthfeel. Body was medium. Solid stuff will need to get my hands on more. Next came time for some Flat Earth Cygnus-X Porter. Color is very dark black. Aroma is very malty, largely of rich coffee. Tastes of coffee with some sweeter malts to tone it down a bit. Body is light for a Porter and the mouthfeel is quite smooth. Not bad but more coffee than I personally need. Afterward I couldn’t help but sample some Southern Tier Choklat that was on tap. Such a wonderful creamy sweet chocolate flavored ale. Though I did not grab a pint of it, Michael from A Perfect Pint shared a sip of his Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison and boy is that stuff good, no wonder it helped them grow as a brewery. Wonderfully flavorful, definitely in need of a proper review sometime when my palate hasn’t already been dominated by heavy ales. The ride there was a bit chilly but the hopslam in my belly did me well and the commute home was dandily drunk thanks to some tasty Southern Tier Choklate. Support local and get your stupor on!

Lift Bridge Double Hopped Pale Ale
Lift Bridge Double Hopped Pale Ale

Flat Earth Winter Warlock Barleywine
Flat Earth Winter Warlock Barleywine

Flat Earth Cygnus-X Porter
Flat Earth Cygnus-X Porter

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

January 26th, 2009 beckel

Today I have a brew that I have heard referenced a number of times but never had the opportunity to enjoy, in fact it is only the second beer from North Coast Brewing I have ventured to try. But while surfing the shelves of Henn Lake looking for something I hadn’t tried before it called out to me and I couldn’t help but give it a chance. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their Acme Pale Ale [review] because it had more pale malt and citrus flavors than I prefer but I’ve heard good things about many of their other ales and I must say Old Rasputin meets the grade. Pours a completely opaque dark black color producing a solid four fingers of creamy dark brown head that takes many minutes to evaporate leaving a nice ring of lacing around the glass. Aroma is intense, sweet and malty with some caramelized notes and a hint of alcohol similar to that of red wine or perhaps a fine scotch. This is one serious stout. Nice dark malty flavors are what this beer is all about but it has so much more. Beneath the roasted flavors are many nice pitted fruit flavors, cherry and plum stick out most to me. Body is a bit heavy as is the mouthfeel but it is still smooth and drinkable. Though this ale is a solid 9% ABV you will be hard pressed to notice aside from the aroma because of how well the sweet malt disguises it. Those who enjoy a good strong stout will certainly enjoy this brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Moylan’s Hopsickle

January 26th, 2009 beckel

The legal system may be full of fail but at least I have good beer. Today we have a very well reputed ale from Moylan’s Brewery hailing proudly from Novato, California. I was a bit concerned I had missed my opportunity to sample this ale when I walked into The Four Firkins and saw none in the fridge but Alvey was wise to limit the purchases to one per person so he had been storing the bottles in the back and I was lucky enough to get his very last one. The bottle says this ale is a tribute to hops worthy of a king, and from the aroma I get just from opening this bottle leads me to believe they’re telling the truth. As a winner of many awards in the past few years and recommendations from others I am sure this will be a delightful treat and a wonderful way to make a bummer day more festive and enjoyable. Aside from their California pride the bottle also encourages us to recycle and drink safely,  probably a good warning for a bottle that also states it is triple hoppy and 9.2% ABV. This ale pours a vibrant orangish red color that is largely transparent and produces about three fingers of fluffy white head that remains for many minutes. Aroma is lovely, the hops produce an immense array of fruity and floral scents, from strawberry to melon to orange with only a little bit of bitterness coming through. Wowza. I am rarely surprised by the multitude of hop flavors in an ale and I am happy to say this ale has surprised me pleasantly. This is one heck of a hoppy ale and does it’s name proper, if one were to freeze this ale on a stick I’m not sure how many licks most people could get through. Initially I get many different hoppy bitter flavors, as those calm down you start to notice the citrus and floral flavors reminding me largely of orange and apricot as well as a bit of malty sweetness. The flavor is then wrapped up with some more bitter hop flavors just in case you forgot you were drinking a hop bomb.  The body of this beer is  medium and the mouthfeel is quite smooth. The 9.2% ABV of this beer is well hidden behind the multitude of hop layers though a bit more noticeable as this ale warms. If you are a fan of serious hops it would be in your best interest to at least sample this beer if you have the opportunity. Certainly not for the faint of heart nor for those who do not enjoy bitter flavors. This ale is probably best in moderation but would be wonderful with a nice spicy Asian dish or something similar as it complimented the slightly spicy andouille sausage I got from Kramarczuk’s very nicely. The more you drink this ale and allow it to warm up the more the sweeter fruity and floral flavors stick out it is certainly an intriguing ale that I plan to drink more of when the opportunity arises. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Moylan's Hopsickle

Dark Horse Too Cream Stout

January 25th, 2009 beckel

Today I am enjoying my last two bottles of Dark Horse Brewing’s Too, a Milk Stout and 2nd in their five beer Holiday Stout Series. Their One an Oatmeal Stout [review] was simple yet enjoyable and the Too is quite similar. This brew pours a very dark black color that allows no light through. Very little head is formed but it is a nice dark tan color. Aroma is full of dark nicely roasted malts, coffee and chocolate aromas are lovely. This ale encompasses many dark roasted malt flavors that impart a slight smokiness all of which are toned down a bit by the creamy flavors present. Though this stuff looks a bit like oil its body is reasonably light for a stout and the mouthfeel is a bit creamy and very smooth. With a very well hidden 8% ABV this ale shows you can create a lighter stout that still packs a punch. Those who enjoy a less intense stout will likely appreciate this brew as it is nice and creamy but still has plenty of nice roasted malt flavor. So far I am still most partial to Dark Horse’s Scotty Karate [review] as I feel I find more flavors every time I enjoy a bottle. Can’t wait for the rest of the series to pop up at my local liquor stores, I am particularly curious about the Tres a Blueberry Stout as well as the last in the series Plead the 5th an Imperial Stout. Thanks to Dark Horse for crafting flavorful ales and distributing them to our lovely land of Minnesota, keep it up. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Dark Horse Too Cream Stout

Surly 16Grit

January 23rd, 2009 beckel

There may not be justice in this world, but at least there is beer. Today I have decided it would be appropriate to tap into my fifth and last growler of Surly’s commemorative 16Grit and share my thoughts with you. Surly brewed this beer to commemorate its dedicated fans’ last opportunity to purchase growlers from their brewery in 2008 because our wonderful state of Minnesota has some silly liquor laws. One being an arbitrary limit of less than 3500 barrels of production to be allowed a permit to off-sell growlers and alcoholic products in other forms. Cheers to Surly for supporting their fans and coming up with something creative to share with them in a troubling time. Hopefully we can work on getting the laws changed before we miss out on too many Surlyfests and Darkness Days. This ale pours a lovely bright reddish amber color that is completely transparent [Edit: though the last glass out of the growler had lots of sediment and was completely opaque and more muddy in color. I didn’t think to give the growler a gentle mixing though I should have. Regardless after helping my friend finish his last growler of 16Grit off last night I can say the color is traditionally darker and more opaque, but the flavors are pretty much the same, just a bit more on the bitter characters I remember from my earlier samplings] Head was about two fingers and cream in color dissipating after about five minutes. Aroma is marvelous and noticeable as soon as you pop the cap. The intense hops produce an array of scents from sweet cherry to wonderfully floral bitterness, alcohol isn’t completely hidden but is not overpowering. Caramel sweetness from the malt is also noticed in the nose, very nicely balanced. I simply want to eat it up. Perhaps its because this brew has been in my fridge for almost a month but the floral and fruity notes seem to be a bit more pungent in this growler. Flavor is intense but well balanced. Citrus and floral hops are noticed first with some grapefruit flavors similar to Surly Furious presumably from Cascade hops. Then sweeps in the bitter wave across your palate which is quite dominate but none the less subdued reasonably by the sweet malt flavors that finish this ale. The body is medium and the mouthfeel is a bit on the sticky side with some  bitter residue but still very drinkable and reasonably smooth. Previous times sampling this ale I feel like the bitter characters were more intense and the malt less sugary but this time around it really reminds me of candy, very hoppy flavorful candy. Though this ale rocks in at 9% ABV the combination of hop bitterness, malty sugars and even the floral hints completely hide this. This is certainly one heck of a Imperial India Pale Ale and not for the faint of heart, though I must add my mother enjoyed it. You will not be able to acquire any of this ale currently but I hope Surly decides to brew it  again or at least continue to experiment with Imperial Ales and share them with me. If you have the opportunity, give it a shot and ride your bike.

Surly 16Grit

Southern Tier Gemini

January 22nd, 2009 beckel

Today I hope to enlighten you to what is sure to be a wonderful experience. This Tuesday I did my obligatory duty and headed over to The Four Firkins with a good friend of mine to get our allotments of Bells Hopslam [review] and Surly Coffee Bender. While there I of course found a pile of other beer I had to get my hands on, but that’s for another post. What is important today is the first thing I set my eyes on in the IPA section, Southern Tier Gemini. Now I will start with the disclaimer that I am one of these said crazy Gemini, but regardless I have been anticipating this ale since the day they first posted it on their web page and can not explain with words my excitement in finding it on the shelves. This beer I have been hoping would make it our way is a combination of 50% unfiltered Hoppe their Imperial Pale Ale and 50% unfiltered Unearthly their Imperial India Pale Ale [review]. Both wonderful ales that are worth your time and money and I am terribly excited to see how the mix fares. This ale pours a rather light golden hue that is quite appealing though transparent having no noticeable sediment. In my slightly heavy pour I easily produced over three fingers of a very crisp white colored head that settled after a couple minutes leaving a good amount of lacing all around the glass. The aroma is great, it smells just like these two ales together should. Many different layers of hop, some nice bitterness rounded off by some paler malts and then complimented with some citrus and other floral aromas. A bit paler that expected and definately some alcohol in the nose, but I’m sure as always Southern Tier will work that out when it gets to the flavor. Wow, this is an interesting beer that is perfectly named because it absolutely seems to have a split personality when it comes to flavor. Flavor is mostly on the paler side with nice sweet malt undertones. Then come in the hoppy flavors, kicking you some bitterness and almost tangy citrus as well as some fresh wood flavors. I almost want to say this ale has a personality disorder as the balance is not typical but particularly when served at a proper temperature it is really quite tasty and balanced int its own unique way. The body is medium but quite light for an imperial ale and the mouthfeel is a tiny bit caramely but not too sticky. The 10.5% AVB of this beer is noticeable because some of the paler flavors just cant quite cover it, but not dominate at all or excessive because the bitter hop presence does a very good job of distracting your taste buds. Though this ale isn’t exactly what I expected, my expectations were never very solidified. It is less hoppy then I was expecting but that is simply because of how intense in the hop department Unearthly is but understandable considering Hoppe isn’t so much, though very good. This creative concoction is probably most appropriate for people who enjoy diversely flavored ales and will enjoy the many contrasts present but could definitely appeal to a broader audience complimenting a good hearty meal. Always happy to see breweries trying new things. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Southern Tier Gemini

Two Brothers Northwind Imperial Stout

January 19th, 2009 beckel

Today we have another ale from the fine midwest folk of Two Brothers Brewing bringing us a solid Imperial Stout appropriately named Northwind. Though they hail from Warrenville, Illinois and are nearby neighbors of us Minnesotans I rarely see their brew at the store so I have been pleased to see it a number of places in the past few months as I have yet to consume anything from them I have not enjoyed. This ale pours a nice deep black color that is not penetrated by light, producing just a finger of lovely chocolate colored head that is very well retained for many minutes. Gentle swirling immediately produces more of this silky head giving the glass a slight lacing that slowly trickles down. Aroma is quite nice, creamy sweet aromas mesh wonderfully with dark but gentle roasted malt scents with only a little alcohol on the nose. When first sipping this beer the roasted malt flavors are most noticeable and transition into a smooth slightly more creamy taste. The body is medium but reasonably light for a stout, the mouthfeel is smooth and somewhat creamy making this a very drinkable brew if you like dark malts. Though this ale is absolutely an Imperial Stout with its solid 8.5% ABV, you may easily be tricked because of how well the malt profile covers the alcohol flavors. The more your drink of this ale the more you notice the subtler flavors such as a slight citrus flavor that tones down the malt flavors as well as some pitted fruit hints. That my friends is what I enjoy the most about this ale, it is incredibly simple on the surface and therefore very approachable and easy to enjoy for anyone who is interested in a stout, but then subtly complex in many ways you wouldn’t expect, or perhaps even notice if you aren’t looking for it. The rest of you from these Northerly lands will appreciate the namesake of this ale as it is perfect for our current weather, though the ride today was quite reasonable it would certainly have kept me warmer. Fans of Stouts or Imperial Ales in general will enjoy this simple yet flavorful ale. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Two Brothers Northwind Imperial Stout

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

January 15th, 2009 beckel

Today we have another ale from Brewery Ommegang, the fine New York based, Belgian owned and inspired brewing company. To celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2007 they decided to brew a chocolate ale and because of its success they have continued to brew it for the lucky folk of the world such as myself. I have yet to be disappointed by an ale they have produced and even with a simple 7% ABV I cant wait to give this brew a try. Pours a lovely dark black color that is not translucent at all with a solid 3 fingers plus of beautiful frothy cocoa colored head that takes many minutes to dissipate. Giving this ale a little swirl stirs up more carbonation giving this ale a nice crown of brown to add to the lacing that is already around the glass from the initial pour. All of Ommegang’s ales tend to be plenty carbonated but this one has marvelous head retention. This brew initially smells mostly of coffee and then some other nice dark malts that eventually create a malty chocolate aroma with a nice roasted hint. Well this is certainly a stout, tastes of dark lightly roasted malts creating many coffee like flavors. For a stout the body is reasonably light and the mouthfeel is smooth and only a little carbonated. There is definitely some noticeable sweetness produced by all the malt in this ale but it doesn’t particularly strike me as chocolate flavored. Definitely a flavorful stout that incorporates both sweet and roasted flavors nicely and shouldn’t be too intimidating, particularly because of how well the ABV is covered up. If you like milk stouts but want some more roasted flavor this would be a wonderful brew for you. Not as much chocolate flavor as I was hoping for but still pretty good overall . Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence

Breckenridge Summer Bright Ale

January 11th, 2009 beckel

Thus far I have enjoyed everything I have had the opportunity to try from Breckenridge Brewery. So upon seeing a bottle of their summer ale in a bargain bin at hennipen lake I couldn’t help but pick it up. Though completely out of season I’m sure this will be a tasty and refreshing wheat beer and a much more proper drink for this time of day compared to the rest of the beer in my fridge with a 4.5% ABV. This ale pours a golden straw color with some light copper hues and is completely translucent. Head is about two fingers but fades very rapidly and is white in color. Aroma is of crisp light malts and a nice tiny bit of wheat. Tastes of pale malts with a nice bit of lemon like citrus. Body is light and mouthfeel is smooth but a bit more full that most light beers. Though this ale has some wheat flavors it doesn’t really strike me as a wheat ale, closer to a pilsner but a bit more hearty than most. Definitely a summer ale that would be refreshing and easy to drink on a hot day. If you are a fan of pale malts and citrus this is a good choice for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Breckenridge Summer Bright Ale

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

January 9th, 2009 beckel

Though I appreciate many of Sierra Nevada’s Ale’s their Celebration Ale is one that I had not sampled and is often commented upon as being delightfully hoppy. So when I started seeing it in 12 packs I knew my days of not sampling it were dwindling and ended up picking on up a few weeks ago. Today we will be consuming my last bottle of this holiday inspired India Pale Ale from Chico, CA. I poured this brew a little heavy and it filled the glass largely with white frothy head, though a mistake it showed me how much head retention this ale actually has and it’s a ton. After topping off the glass head still remains for many more minutes and leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass, quite solid. Aroma is full of grapefruit and other citrus hop scents and just a little malt, very nice. Color is bright red with a some copper tones and very translucent. Flavor is certainly hoppy as one would expect. Initially I get some rather bitter hop flavors that lead into a grapefruit citrus flavor. Mouthfeel is rather smooth and the body is rather light. With the bitter flavors in this ale I doubt you will really notice its 6.8% ABV. As you continue to drink this beer and start getting used to its hop profile you will increasingly notice the somewhat sweet finish that the malt creates. This is absolutely a decent beer and fans of hops such as myself will likely find this a refreshing ale if it ends up in their hands but I must say honestly I was a bit disappointed. Currently I think this is a solid very drinkable ale that would be very nice on a summer day when looking for something hoppy I just feel Sierra Nevada has the skills to make this ale a bit more balanced and complex. With that said if you are not a fan of hops this ale is not for you, but would be wonderful for cleansing your palate when eating some nice spicy Asian food. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale