February 28th, 2009 beckel
So the time has come for our fourth installment of the Dark Horse Brewing Holiday Stout Series. This time around we have Fore a Smoked Stout that is sure to entice our taste buds. After pouring this bottle there was a good layer of sediment stuck to the bottom of the bottle which is somewhat odd, we’ll have to see what the other bottles are like. This ale pours a solid jet black that couldn’t be penetrated with light if you wanted it to. Producing less than a finger of beautiful chocolate brown head most of which dissipates within a minute or two with only a thin ring remaining around the glass. Aroma is quite smokey but not too overwhelming and is complimented by other nice roasted malt scents and a bit of grain that reminds me of oats. Wow this is a rich roasted Ale. Tastes mostly of roasted malts that create a number of coffee and smoked flavors as well as a few sweeter toffee like flavors once your palate gets used to the intense roast flavors in this ale. The body is a solid medium and the mouthfeel is quite silky and rich but it still goes down pretty easily provided you can get used to the roasted flavors. RB suggests that this beer is 8% ABV and I would be inclined to concur though you certainly can’t pick up any alcoholic flavor with the intense malt profile of this brew. More roasted than I would typically prefer but this is a darn tasty brew that I am happy to have 3 more of in my fridge. Would compliment any grilled meal, particularly red meat wonderfully. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 25th, 2009 beckel
Today I have a beer in my hand I have been anticipating for some time. As the third installment of Dark Horse Brewing’s Holiday Stout Series Tres offers us some blueberry to add to our stout. On Monday I made my way out to The Four Firkins to grab some goodies they had just gotten in, namely Winter Warlock, Hop Stoopid and Fore (Tres had been in stock for a bit but luckily there was still a few four packs hanging around) but as always I found a few more goodies that I couldn’t help but get; Southern Tier’s Back Burner Barleywine and a four pack of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout because I still haven’t given it a try. I happily loaded my bag full of brew and merrily biked my way home with little concern even though I felt a can depressing slightly as it bumped against my back. Taking Minnetonka Blvd home brought me to a Chipotle and I figured it would be a decent dinner as I didn’t feel like preparing anything and haven’t consumed their food in some time. After waiting in line for a few minutes and watching my bike carefully I exited with fajita in hand and set my bag near my bike to secure my grub. Sadly upon opening my bag I noticed a large amount of liquid on the cardboard of the four packs and the faint smell of chocolate. Luckily upon investigation the only victim was one can of Young’s which I duly opened and finished the last few sips of before throwing away. I don’t think I’ve ever had a can explode in my bag before, perhaps the nitrogen widget contributed to its demise. Oh well at least all of the bottles survived and I didn’t have to pull my hands out of my bag covered in blood like I did the time a growler broke. Short of the can of Young’s the only other victims were the labels of the Tres and Fore who’s carrying packs soaked up the good stuff like a sponge, they’re still intact you just might notice some stout abuse in the pictures. But I digress because I have a lovely blueberry aroma calling to me. This ale pours with about two fingers of rather dark milk chocolate head giving this pitch black beer a lovely appearance. Aroma is just what I expected, a wonderful slightly sweet blueberry scent that transitions into rich dark malt creating a nice roasted smell with a bit of coffee as well. Flavor is very interesting. Blueberry comes out immediately but is rather subtle and a nice compliment to the dark roasted malt flavors of this brew, particularly the chocolate flavors. There is a good amount of roasted malt flavor but it is likely not roasted for too long as it has a much smoother mouthfeel and taste than most Stouts reminding me of a Milk Stout. The body is light for a stout and with a 4.5% ABV this is an incredibly drinkable beer. I would even give it theÂ session beer distinction if only it were a bit lighter in body and mouthfeel, but I’m not quite sure how one would do that with a Stout and not make it seem like drinking dirty water. The more I drink this beer the more I enjoy the additional flavors the blueberry creates (and the more I wonder if it really is only 4.5%). Probably not a beer I would buy too much of in the future (largely because I am too much in love with their Scotty Karate [review]) but a damn tasty beer I would gladly consume if it were offered and am very pleased to have had the opportunity to sample and a wonderful example of how additional components can enhance a brew. Anyone who likes stouts and does not mind the addition of some real fruit will likely enjoy this brew as will those who may be hesitant to approach dark beers but enjoy chocolate and blueberries. Would work wonderfully as a lighter desert beer or a compliment to a nice creamy dish or fresh fruits and veggies wonderfully. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 22nd, 2009 beckel
Another treat I was able to pick up in Wisconsin was Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute Imperial IPA. I was very pleased to see this on the shelves and was even more delighted to see a sign telling me to ask about the 120 Minute. Sadly upon asking the gentleman at the counter I was told that they had been cleared out of the 120 Minute a few days earlier. Oh well, next time. I was pleased with their 60 Minute but wanted a bit more and I’m happy to say they did a pretty damn good job delivering. Pours a very nice amber color that is relatively translucent but quite deep in color with a few fingers of frothy white head. Aroma is wonderful, incredibly hoppy with intense orange and floral notes complimentedÂ by robust bitterness and some slightly caramelized malty sweetness. This is a very full flavored ale. Malty sweetness is noticed immediately on the tongue with many floral flavors accompanying it followed by some solid bitterness finishing rather cleanly with some caramelized malt and floral flavors. It is no doubt this ale is truly brewed for an hour and a halfÂ with plenty of hops. Mouthfeel is smooth and the body isn’t particularly heavy. Definitely a solid sipping ale with a 9% ABV and a brew that any fan of hops will most likely enjoy. Though not a beer for those who don’t like hops this beers malt profile also has a lot to offer and reminds me of many of the traits I appreciate in a Barleywine. Would compliment a spicy Asian dish wonderfully. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 20th, 2009 beckel
Today I have the newest year round ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing, Torpedo an India Pale Ale that due to distribution issues just hit Minneapolis shelves the other day. I am very curious to sample this ale as Sierra Nevada produces a number of hoppy beers but only now has a proper year round IPA and apparently it’s “Extra” so we will have to see how that plays in. I have high hopes and am also excited to sample this years BigFoot Barleywine that is in my fridge, but that will be a post for another day. Pouring this beer it is easy to get a three finger plus off white head so it may be wise to not initially pour directly down the glass. Head remains for many minutes and seems to hide the aroma a bit. This brew appears very amber in color with some copper hues as well and is very translucent. Smells of the two-row Pale Malt that Sierra Nevada tends to use as well as some nice but not particularly dominate citrus and floral hints. Flavor is decent, tastes similar to their Pale Ale with the Pale Malt but then adds an extra dimension with some nice bitterness presumably from the Magnum hops. Initial sips provide sweet maltyness that transitions into some grapefruit citrus and other floral hoppy flavors wrapping in some more malt contrast and then finishing nice and bitter. Medium body though light for an IPA and rather drinkable with a smooth mouthfeel. The label suggests this brew is a celebration of the character of whole-cone American hops and the wonderful complexities and balancing opportunities they provide and I must say I agree with their sentiment and they have done a rather good job. Though this ale contains many nice hop flavors it has more pale malt flavors than I prefer in an IPA and probably won’t be something I pick up regularly. A good choice for someone who is a fan of Sierra Nevada but would like something with more hop complexity and bitterness. Though not an Imperial India Pale Ale, the 7.2% will do well enough to keep you on your toes. I will certainly enjoy the rest of my six pack and could see an ale like this being particularly refreshing on a hot summer day because of its lighter malt profile. If you like hops but don’t want something too intense this might just hit the spot, though it isn’t necessarily the beer for the hop wary. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 18th, 2009 beckel
I spentÂ this weekend in small town Wisconsin with some friends to attend the best ever Valentines Day bicycle race. The race took place on the well frozen and slippery Lake Menomonie and required us to make it to 8 stops around the lake, how we chose to get there was up to us but I can assure you almost everyone fell at least; a lot. The warm temps (40 degrees) that we were blessed with the few days before the weekend were of no help as the rain that ensued melted the nice layer of snow covering the lake and exposed us to nothing but slick ice. People with wide tires and studs were in decent shape, however the bike I was riding lacked studs on the back tire and it was almost impossible to get traction. Though I had a grand time I’ve never walked my bicycle so much in a bike race nor fallen so many times. Sadly the worst time I fell I was just walking the bike and I wasn’t even drunk, maybe it just wanted to cuddle. Oh well, no visible bruises or blood so I think it went well. Many thanks to the organizers and for the hospitalityÂ and great community we were welcomed into.Â Though it was strange for me to ride in a city that has more or less a one street business district it was wonderfully refreshing to enjoy the freedom small towns offer. Though reminiscing is dandy this blog is about beer so I will cut to the chase. Today I will be enjoying another of the many brews I brought back from my trip and this time it is truly a Wisconsin beer. From the humble folk of New Glarus Brewing I have a somewhat less humble wax sealed 750ml bottle of their Wisconsin Belgian Red. Apparently each bottle of this ale contains an entire pound of local Door County cherries. Pretty impressive, guess I know what this beer is going to taste like. They seem to be very proud of this ale and I hope to be as well. Pours a very deep cherry color that is very bright when brought to light and only semi translucent but much darker when not in direct light. I managed to produce almost three fingers of playful light pink head with a slightly heavy pour that lasts for a few minutes. Smells largely of cherries, so much so it almost seems artificial but I have more faith in New Glarus than that. Aroma is rather wine like, slightly tart and carbonated,Â with a barely alcoholic sweet cherry wrapping up the smell. Reminds me a bit of a Italian soda. Holy fucking cherry! Upon my first sip you could convince me I am drinking pure cherry juice. Body is rather light though I feel a bit like im drinking carbonated yogurt, the mouthfeel just isn’t that thick or creamy. This beer tastes of almost nothing other than carbonated cherry, some sweet, some sour giving it a nice balance. You get a nice maltiness in the mouthfeel but you can’t really taste it, or at least not separate it from the massive cherry profile. This is certainly a fruity beer in the Lambic style but with a less heavy more Americanized body and mouthfeel. Not quite my style but I am enjoying sipping on it as I type this. With a 5.1% ABV and almost no alcoholic taste this should beÂ a very approachable ale for those not used to beer. If you are a fan of Lambics, fruit ales or even just cherries in general you should enjoy this flavorful brew. Would be a great accompaniment for desert, particularly one with vanilla ice cream. New Glarus float anyone? Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 17th, 2009 beckel
First Dan of The Full Pint has posted a poll asking you to choose the “Best East Coast Craft Brewery“. For me it was a bit of a pickle to decide as I adore many on their little list but I made my contribution and you should too, poll closes February 26th.
Bryce over at beer.about.com brought up a very funny topic, apparently the genious executives over at Coors UK do not understand why their beer doesn’t appeal to women. Apparently they have concluded women find their beer too bitter but any craft beer fan can immediately reconize they are off their rocker. He links to a lovely and insightful response to Coors written by Carolyn Smagalski. Perhaps Coors should consider listening to those who they are trying to market to, its amazing how helpful people can be when you give them an audience, though the first step to better success in my oppinion would simply be to stop producing piss beer, but what do I know. A lovely example of executives showing they know almost nothing about the buisnesses they are charged with running, cheers.
Chris of Beer Activist points us to a lovely website called Wallstats where a guy named Jess creates some very neat posters and recently one that is beer related. I had previously seen his most famous work titled Death and Taxes but today we are here to talk about his post entitled 50 Billion bottles of beer on the wall. He does a wonderful job of illustrating in a simple manner facts that are very relevant that we often ignore and others that are just fun. Here are some of my favorites:
We drink beer good.
Stimulating the economy.
Or that health care thing…
Beer is my biofuel.
I can’t believe I’m even linking this disgusting display but I can’t help it particularly because of the lovely photographic evidence of this event. Georgia Hardstark writes about a strange craving that herself and friend Alie had been having, a post last call desire for McNuggets. What must have been going through their minds when they created this concoction I will never know but at least it appears they had fun with it which I fully respect. McDonald’s + Vodka gut rot can not be pleasant.
On a local note our buddy Ryan from MNBeer points out an article from WCCO talking about a resolution that the city council is considering to end happy hours. The proponents of the change suggest that cheap drinks encourage binge drinking and irrisponsible acts related to consuming so much alcohol. This is ofcourse as stupid as stupid gets. Though it is the argument many people riase it has no merit what so ever. Sure something costing more means people may be more hesitant to purchase it but not allowing discounts on something is not going to stop people from consuming it. Not only does limiting happy hours not allow responsible drinkers to enjoy a cheaper night out it will do more damage to those people this amendment is claiming to protect. As a college student or person of any age, if you want to drink alcohol and can not aford it at the bar it will certainly not stop you from binge drinking. If anything It will encourage people to go to the liquor store and buy the nastiest bottles of $10 vodka they can find and bring a bunch back home. Now we have people consuming poor quality liquor and doing so in a unsupervised situation, which will not only encourage binge drinking (because it tastes like shit and you gotta get it down quick) but also underage drinking. Good job. Talk to your city council (wo)man and make sure they are not fools.
And now to stray for a bit of beerless news:
GlaxoSmithKline the worlds 2nd largest pharmasudical company is pledging to provide drugs to the worlds poor for 25% of the price we pay here in the U.S. or UK. While this is wonderful how about we start decreasing the prices of pharmasudicals for everyone! I know crazy concept, what am I thinking. Stop wasteing money on advertising and pattents and lets instead spend our money on things that will actually help our world. Thanks.
I.O.U.S.A. a sundance movie that looks to be a real charmer. OK maybe its not positive content, but it is stuff you need to open your mind to if you haven’t yet. I only hope that films like this open peoples eyes and make them realize that we can not live our lives in the excess we do. Please teach your children to save money, or there will be no one to save you.
Now on a lighter note April Winchell shares with us some lovely recordings of Obama for the audio tape of his book Dreams From My Father, a good book by the way. The last recording never fails to make me laugh.
February 16th, 2009 beckel
Holy crap am I excited. Here before me I have a glass of Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, California. Stone is not available in my state of Minnesota and though I have had the opportunity to sample their India Pale Ale this most coveted ale has avoided my grasp. Luckily for me I was inÂ the land of Wisconsin this weekend where they do distribute Stone, for an awesome bike race on an ice covered lake. Though I’ve never walked and fallen so much in a bike race in my life it was a jolly time complete with a bonfire on the lake afterwords and much beer was brought home. This ale pours a very dark ruby hue that almost looks black if you don’t put it near light. When put to a light some gets through but very little. Head is as massive as this brew is arrogant, producing a solid three fingers plus of nice slightly tan off white head that remains for many minutes. Aroma is marvelous, simply bursting with different scents that make me want to sip this ale all the quicker. Strong floral hop tones complimented by wonderful sweet but heavy and robust malts and some nice bitterness. There is a tiny bit of alcohol on the nose but it mostly smells like a complex well crafted amber ale that is heavy on both hop and malt. Boy am I hungry for this beer. Flavor is no real surprise, more malt heavy than the aroma but it’s all there. Deep hoppy bitterness that is well balanced though not hidden by strong malt flavors ending with a bit of sweetness to cleanse the palate but then bitter again in the after taste. People always comment upon the intensity of this ale and surely they are correct but I almost expected it to be more unruley. This ale does a marvelous job of showcasing what one can really do with a bunch of quality hop and malt if you are not afraid to experiment. There are so many flavors in this ale I won’t even try to list the notes I detect. Unquestionably one of the best beers I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy even with its simple 7.2% ABV. If you are a fan of big adventurous beers, particularly hoppy ones (not to diminish the massive malt profile of this brew) you have no excuse not to try this beer. If you do not like seriously flavorful ales then please, as the label suggests (less politely) stay away. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 16th, 2009 beckel
Though I was forgetful and spaced the release on Wednesday a few friends and myself stopped by the Blue Nile on Thursday to enjoy some Surly Three, this years annual brew from our beloved Surly Brewing Company straight from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Three is brewed with 50% German Dark Munich malt, 50% honey, fermented with a Belgian yeast, aged on toasted white ash and is being called a Black Braggot by Surly which is somewhat like a mix of mead and beer, being made with both malt and honey, so it was sure to be an interesting experience. Poured for me in a lovely Darkness glass this beer is incredibly dark black but is uniquely hazy with a purplish red shine when held at an angle, completely opaque. There was no head but that isn’t uncommon in bars so it is hard to pass judgment, though I doubt this is a highly carbonated beverage based on its style and mouthfeel. Aroma is slightly of plum and sweet but very flat at the same time. It was very hard for me to get much aroma out of the glass, that is until I drank more than half of it and was able to get my nose well down into the glass. At that point many more aromas came to my nose, largely wine like aromas and a bit of watered down brandy. Flavor is very ineresting. Sweet with dominate fermented fruit flavors largely plum and grape with a tootsie roll like chocolate hint here and there. Very sweet and fruity. One of my friends first impressions was that it “Tastes like flat grape soda left in the car on a hot day but it’s cold”. Though this was just a first impression and perhaps a bit critical it is relatively on point, and doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy the brew. There is lots of malt in this brew but there is so much sweetness and fermented fruit flavors it is hard to pick up much else. Mouthfeel is uncarbonated and a bit sticky but not too much considering it is made from plenty of honey. Body is medium but oddly light at the same time being quite drinkable though very full flavored. Not exactly what I was expecting, but I also didn’t really know what to expect with this release and it definitely keeps to surly’s tradition of making sweet big brews. Beer Advocate suggests this ale is 10% though Surly has not posted any official numbers and if this is true they did a wonderful job masking the content. Not really a beer I could get into regularly though I wouldn’t be opposed to having another glass sometime. Somewhat reminds me of a barleywine but less complex. If you are into sweet malty beers that have some pitted fruit flavors you may very well enjoy this brew.Â This is a limited release brew on tap only so get it while it lasts. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 10th, 2009 beckel
About a mile from work on my ride home today my bicycle decided the logical thing to do was to break its chain. Lovely. Luckily as I approached the four way stop there wasn’t a ton of traffic and I was able to Fred Flinstone to a stop with little fear.Â I had just stopped at the liquor store and a bus had recently overtaken me prior to breaking my chain so I was very tempted to crack open a brew and wait for the next bus, unfortunately Minnesota laws don’t cater to that. Oh well at least we have a new amendment to a bill in the house HF546,Â to allow for off-sale licensing of brewers between 3,500 and 7,000 BBL, give it your support! Fortunately my story continues positively, after fiddling with my bike for a while and waiting for the bus a friendly gentleman approached me and asked if I needed help. I told him the situation and he offered to give me a ride. After some nice conversation and a short drive to The Alt all was well thanks to some help and a shiny new chain that didn’t deserve the abuse of going on my dirty ass drivetrain. So time for some beer. Today I am enjoying a bottle of Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale from the lovely Rogue brewers who hail from the land of Oregon. I first sampled this ale at the Rogue tasting hosted by The Four Firkins last month and was wonderfully satisfied so it only seemed logical to consume some more and give it a proper review.Â This brew pours a hazy brown with red hints that is completely opaque brightening slightly when brought to light. This pour created over three fingers of frothy off white head that lingers for a number of minutes. I would suggest pouring this ale a bit carefully, this particular bottle foamed up as soon as I popped the cap (though previously none of the other bottles did). Aroma is sweet and malty but intensely hoppy with robust citrus and bitter notes. Flavor is very nice, obviously a seriously dry hopped ale. First comes the malt, largely sweet but hearty and nicely balanced by the bitter hopsÂ that round off this brew. There are a number of citrus and floral hintsÂ as wellÂ but it is a bit hard to pick out individual flavors as this is such a full flavored ale, guess I need to drink more. The body is light for such a hoppy beer and the moutfeel is reasonably smooth. With a humble 5.1% ABV this is a wonderful choice when you want something immensely flavorful but not so strong it will knock you on your ass after a few. Though this is a rather hoppy ale and isn’t the best beer for those who do not enjoy bitter flavors the malt characters make this one delicious and nicely balanced Amber Ale. Anyone who enjoys a nicely hopped ale and doesn’t mind a decent amount of malt to compliment should absolutely try this beer. A perfect compliment to any spicy meal. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 6th, 2009 beckel
Today The Session has a lovely simple topic brought to us by David of Musings Over A Pint “A Tripel for two”. This topic fits perfectly with the goal of The Session and is an easy one for me because I am a lover of strong ales. Though I am known to drink a Tripel or three by myselfÂ I have decided to share my ale today with a good friend in homage to the topic. On the way home from work I stopped at the store to pick up a bottle of Westmalle’s Tripel because I have intended to review this brew for some time and had a bottle sitting in my fridge for many months waiting for the right day until one Sunday about a month ago when I wanted a nice ale but had forgotten to stock up on Saturday and instead had a lovely Trappist binge ofÂ the bottles of Westmalle Tripel and Chimay Grande Reserve that had been patiently waiting in my fridge. Westmalle is a Trappist Ale brewed by Trappist monks in Malle, Belgium. There are only seven Trappist monasteries in the world that brew beer and are allowed to use the prestigious name of the order, six of which are in Belgium, one in The Netherlands . The recipes used for most of these ales have been around for centuries and incorporate some of the most amazing flavors due to their unique ingredients and strains of yeast used. This ale pours a hazy golden apricot color that allows some light through but only on the edges. Head is insane or as my friend says “This beer gives more head than a Minneapolis airport bathroom”. Aroma is very Belgian, crisp sweet malt tones are accompanied by wonderful citrus hints and a unique bread like aroma from the yeast. Flavor starts with simple citrus and slides into sweet light malt flavors that then transition into more complex heavier malt flavors that are actually decently bitter and finishes with even more tart citrus. This beer incorporates a number of fruit flavors from apricot to pear but none are too dominate.Â Body is medium, mouthfeel is a bit tangy and carbonated but smooth. Though this ale rocks a solid 9.5% ABV you will be hard pressed to notice if you are used to Belgian beers. Definately a solid Tripel and something any fan of Belgain ales will appreciate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.