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Southern Tier Iniquity

March 30th, 2009 beckel

Today I have a beer I am incredibly excited about so I will keep this part brief. The good people of Southern Tier have recently created an Imperial Black Ale  sometimes referred to as an India Brown Ale. The only similar beer I have had of this rare style is Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale which was delightful and you will eventually see reviewed here as I still have two bottles in the fridge. I have been anticipating this beer as much as their Gemini [review] so lets see how she tastes. As the label states this beer pours a pitch black color with some red hues barely seeping through the top of the glass when brought to light. Head is off white and a bit over two fingers that quickly becomes loose large bubbles fading within a few minutes. As with most of their beers the aroma came to my nose as soon as I opened the bottle, though it is a bit less pungent than their Creme Brulee and Choklat for example. The aroma is full of dark malts and has hints of something like anise as well as some hop bitterness and a bit of alcohol. Wow this is an interesting tasting brew. Dark malts create a myriad of flavors from bitter coffee hints to sweet chocolate in the middle, finishing with a distinctive hoppy bitterness. The roasted flavors of this beer attempt to balance its 9% ABV though you still get a moderate amount of alcohol on the tounge, but what do you expect? Frankly this beer has more dark malt flavors than I typically prefer but it’s certainly not a bad beer. As I continue to let this beer warm and start to get accustomed to the flavors floral hops come through much more strongly. Overall this is a pretty darn tasty brew that like most Southern Tier brews really pushes the boundary of what you can do with the simple ingredients that are beer. There were plenty of bottles on the shelves of The Four Firkins when I picked up this brew last weekend but unique beers like this tend to go fast! So get it while you can, particularly if you are a fan of dark malts. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Southern Tier Iniquity Imperial Black Ale

Hitachino Nest XH

March 29th, 2009 beckel

Today I will be enjoying my first bottle of Hitachino Nest beer. These beers grace the shelves of many stores and apparently have since 2000 and this particular bottle was found at our beloved Four Firkins. Hitachino Nest is brewed by the Kiuchi Brewery of Naka-shi, Japan which has been producing sake since 1823 and started brewing beer in 1996 as well as most recently distilling Shouchu in 2003. The Hitachino Nest line contains a good number of styles but the XH I have here is extra special. This strong ale has been aged in oak casks that had been used for distillation of Shocyu sake and is sure to present some interesting flavors. Upon opening this bottle the neck filled up with foam though the bottle had not been agitated. When poured a four finger off white head was quickly created even though I tried to pour slowly noting the carbonation when the bottle was opened. Color is a dark hazy raisin though I do not see any sediment present, light only brightens the hue not allowing any light through. Aroma consists of hints of nutmeg and other spices you might expect in a holiday ale followed by dark pitted fruit. Flavor is very interesting, first come the dark pitted fruit flavors but they are toned down by the obvious oak flavor present. In addition to oak i definitely get some tobacco and other smokey and herbal flavors as well as an interesting alcohol hint that is likely imparted from the sake as this Strong Ale is only 7% ABV. There is a sweet malt character throughout this brew that works to balance all of the interesting flavors in this beer though this beer isn’t exactly balanced in the traditional sense. Mouthfeel is a bit sticky and the body is medium but it isn’t too hard to drink. If you are into interestingly flavored malty beers this isn’t a bad choice, it will likely show you some flavors American breweries don’t often work with. Certainly a tasty unique beer I’m glad I had the opportunity to sample, I may have to try some of their other offerings in the future.

Hitachino Nest XH

Two Brothers Domaine DuPage

March 29th, 2009 beckel

So many delicious beers in the fridge calling my name. As it is still rather early in the afternoon I figured I should start with something a bit more mellow than the bottle of Iniquity that sits in my fridge chilling ever so patiently. Here I have an interesting brew from the Two Brothers Brewing Company, the front of the label calls it a French Style Country Ale. I was tempted to pick up this beer a number of times but always found myself gravitating towards their Heavy Handed IPA or Northwind Stout, both of which are delicious by the way. Luckily my good friend and roommate recently gifted me a mixed six pack and managed to grab largely beers I haven’t had which isn’t the easiest task including this beer I have in front of me now. It pours a very appealing red amber hue that is barely translucent. Head is a crisp white and only about a finger that fades with in a couple minutes. The malty aroma is quite refreshing with some lightly roasted scents of toasted bread as well as a good deal of sweetness with a slight floral hop note on top.  This is one interesting beer style. Tastes strongly of the toasted malts found in the aroma and is consistently sweet, though somehow not too overpowering. The floral notes i detected come out even more in the flavor creating an interesting mix of something a bit sweeter than apricots but then some characteristics of a dark pitted fruit but toned down. The beer finishes with a bit of bittering hop flavors but very little in comparison to the beers I tend to seek out. The body isn’t particularly heavy and the mouthfeel is quite smooth. This is a rather nice crisp but much more flavorful alternative to a lager and it is doubtful you will notice its solid 5.9% ABV too much. A good beer to try for someone interested in the Bière de Garde style and over all a good choice for someone looking for something flavorful but still sessionable. The flavors in this beer would be a perfect compliment to a hearty brunch. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Two Brothers Domaine DuPage

Avery Brabant

March 26th, 2009 beckel

I have here a very exciting brew that I found last weekend at The Four Firkins, beer number one in Avery’s new Barrel-Aged Series of experimental beers. Brabant is an dark unfiltered strong ale that was fermented with two strains of Brettanomyces yeast and aged in Zinfandel barrels for 8 months. This particular brew was bottled Feburary 10th 2009 and though the bottle isn’t numbered only 694 cases were produced so if this sounds like your kind of beer I would try to find some quickly. Pours pitch black with a slight red peaking out when brought to light though it is not translucent at all. Light brown head was about a finger and faded with in a couple of minutes. As soon as I opened this beer I noticed a somewhat sour fruit aroma and upon actually smelling this beer it is obvious that it was brewed with brettanomyces. The tart aromas are hard to get past but it is not as intense as many traditionally “sour beers”. Sweet malt and an almost smokey aroma are detectable beneath but hard to distinguish as is the small amount of alcohol present in the nose. This is an intensely flavored beer and probably not the best introduction into sour beers, but it is quite interesting. Initially I get tart flavors obviously imparted by the yeast but they are slowly mellowed by the large amount of sweet malted barley in this brew, imparting some cranberry hints as well as nice creamy flavors making the mouthfeel of this beer quite smooth and desirable. For a dark beer with a 8.65% ABVthe body is rather light. The tart flavors in this beer really make me feel like I’m drinking a berry infused beer but it simply isn’t that fruity. The solid malt profile of this beer was obviously up to the task of aging and has created some wonderful flavors while working with both the yeast and aging in zinfandel barrels. There are definitely some dark pitted fruit flavors present as well but they are easy to ignore due to the dominate sweet and sour contrast in this brew. This really is a good beer. Upon my first sip I was a bit startled and turned off in a way, but as soon as I swallowed I knew I needed to try more. A bit sharp initially but as soon as you take a few sips you will realize how amazingly well balanced this beer is particularly considering how nontraditional it is. Definitely not the beer for those afraid of adventurous and strange beers but a wonderful beer for someone who doesn’t mind some tart flavors and enjoys a malty well aged beer. I can only imagine what further aging might do to this tasty brew. I am sad I don’t have another bottle to enjoy, Avery definitely needs to keep on producing this beer and continue to experiment. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Avery Brabant

Amager Bryghus Batch One

March 24th, 2009 beckel

When I saw the beer I hold in my hand on the shelves of The Four Firkins I knew not one thing about the brewery that it hailed from; Amager Bryghus other than what the bottle states which is little more than the fact that it was brewed in Kastrup, Denmark and that the brewers obviously have an inventive spirit from reading the brief paragraph on the bottle. After searching the web briefly it appears that this again is a two man inspired operation founded in 2006 and is located ever so securely in an air-raid shelter (lest anyone tamper with the beer). It appears their brews only reached the American market late last year and I am ever so excited to sample this American inspired Barleywine who’s hoppy aroma keeps calling to me. Color is a nice hazy date like brown hue with some red tones that brighten greatly in light. Head is off white and about 3 fingers that fade with in a few minutes leaving a thin layer around the surface and just a small bit of lacing. Though from a distance I kept getting hop aromas as soon as I put my nose in the glass the first thing I notice is dark pitted fruit, raisins, dates and a bit of alcohol. There are also a few floral hop aromas but there are hard to seperate from the malt backbone of this beer though it adds a nice moderate contrast. Floral hop flavors come first to me but are almost immediately ushered away by the somewhat sweet dark fruit flavors produced by the malt and finished with a bitterness in the end that attempts to balance the brew though it isn’t quite enough to hide the alcoholic flavor of this 9.2% ABV beer. This beer as well only uses Simcoe hops and as it warms in my glass more citrus flavor comes through though frankly I’m surprised they don’t shine through a little more. As this beer continues to warm flavors from the caramel malt become much more apparent and work to balance this beer much better than when it was colder. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is pretty smooth making this a rather drinkable beer if you don’t mind a bit of alcohol coming through. You can tell this beer has plenty of sugars present though it is not incredibly sweet and I would be very interested to see how it ages. Definitely a good beer for those who are into big beers regardless if you prefer more malt or hops. I probably allowed this beer to warm for at least fifteen minutes before drinking it but I would encourage everyone to allow this beer to warm even further as all flavors are more identifiable when warm. The dark date flavors are nicely balanced by the caramel malt and the simcoe hops are much more noticeable throughout when served a bit warmer and the alcohol flavors are toned down quite marvelously making this a much more rounded brew. Provided it isn’t still raining tomorrow I will definitely have to grab another bottle of this fine brew to age. If you’re not into high ABV beers this is probably not for you but if you are you should absolutely try it out. Give it a shot and ride your bike!
Amager Bryghus Batch One
(Picture awfully dark need to work on my new camera’s settings)

Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

March 23rd, 2009 beckel

Today I have a beer that I am delighted to try for many reasons. First off it will be the first brew from Mikkeller Brewing who hail from Københaven, Denmark that I will have the opportunity to sample. If that weren’t tempting enough I have heard many good things about the majority of their ales but a bit further reading tells me even more. They were founded in 2006 by two friends and since 2007 has been run solely by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and in 2008 they were named the second best brewery in Denmark loosing out to 1st place by less than 0.2% as well as sixth best brewery in the world. Mikkel refers to himself as a gypsy brewer because he rents brewery space from others in Denmark and around the world but  that has not hindered his spirit nor discouraged his international fame (Edit: this beer was brewed at De Proef Brouwerij of Lochristi-hijfte, Belgium). One of the biggest things that has stopped me from trying their beers in the past is the price tag that tends to be associated with them, this 11.2oz bottle was close to $10. However I am always for trying innovative beers and single hop beers always tempt me, so when I saw this bottle on the shelves of The Four Firkins I couldn’t help but pick it up. Though I know it is in many beers I enjoy Simcoe isn’t necessarily a hop that I  am easily able to pick out of a beer, but after this experience hopefully I will. It is a very new strain of hops that was created by Yakima Chief Ranches and first released in 2000. It was designed to pack more of a punch than the current hops on the market and it appears they succeeded. Though not quite comparable it is said to be similar to the Cascade hop we all know so well but primarily used for bittering though it also produces some citrus flavors and further tends to exibit some pine characteristics. As this hop was designed for brewing big IPAs I am sure it will be enjoyable. When pouring this beer down the center of my glass it rather quickly erupted into a mass of carbonation producing over four fingers of overflowing white head that lasted for many minutes and left some solid lacing around the glass and a little lump of head still remains in the center of the glass over 10 minutes later. Color is an attractive obviously unfiltered (after drinking most of the beer there is a good amount of sediment at the bottom of the glass, some is dark and some is more of an off white color which is a bit interesting) dark hazy apricot that brightens in light but is not translucent at all. Aroma is delicious, a similar grapefruit citrus to Cascade hops but with a more full meaty body to the fruit. I get a few hints that remind me of tropical fruits like starfruit or passion fruit but they are interestingly subtle. As well there is a nice bitter base to the aroma of the hops and I get a tiny bit of the pine but not very much. In addition to the hops there is a nice sweet malt base to this beer that distracts a bit from the obvious bitterness likely produced by the cara-crystal malts. This is a pretty darn tasty beer. Initially you can notice the caramely malt base of this beer but it fades quickly due to the hop profile. First I get sweater somewhat floral citrus flavors  similar to those described in the aroma largely passion fruit and a bit of apricot but as soon as this beer sits in my mouth for a moment and I start to swallow the bitterness is massively intensified. The bitterness is wonderfully hoppy and robust and as I drink a bit more some of the citrus flavors put up a solid fight against the bitterness and manage to sneak back in once you get used to how strong of a bittering hop Simcoe really is. All of the bitterness and citrus combined start to make some almost tart flavors but considering what it is this ale is quite well balanced, for a hop head. The body of this beer is relatively light and the mouthfeel is quite smooth. With all of the bitterness present in this beer its 6.9%ABV isn’t noticeable at all. Certainly not the beer for those who do not enjoy bitterness, but a great choice for those who do. In my opinion this is the perfect session beer for a lover of strong hoppy beers if only it were more available in my area and much less expensive I would drink it constantly. If you don’t mind spending a bit of dough I would recommend trying it out, I know I can’t wait to try his other single hop brews or any of his beer for that matter. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mikkeller Simcoe Single Hop IPA

He’Brew Genesis 10:10

March 20th, 2009 beckel

Another busy week and hopefully another delightful beer from the fine people of Shmaltz Brewing Company. This beer was brewed for their 10th anniversary and as it is over two years old now I must say it is a miracle I found a bottle at Zipps Liquor.  Though not quite as insane of an ingredient list as Jewbelation 12 [review] Genesis 10:10 was brewed with 2-row, Caramel 40, Munich, Black Malt, Wheat, and Dark Crystal 80 Malts as well as Warrior, Centennial, Cascade, Willamette, Simcoe, Crystal and Mt. Hood hops oh and did I mention, 10,000 pomegranates. According to Jewish tradition pomegranates symbolize righteousness so lets get into this righteous ale! Pours an attractive dark apricot color that is a bit hazy and not penetrated by light. Two finger head is off white and leaves a good amount of lacing around the glass, though most of the bubbles dissipate with in a few minutes. The aroma of this beer makes me hungry, but I think that is because I haven’t eaten a proper meal all day. Smelling strongly of fruit juices, slightly fermented pomegranates are easy to identify and are accompanied by some other orange like citrus and an unexpected ginger like spice scent on top of a nice malt base. Very interesting, I really wish I had sampled this beer when it came out so I could compare how the flavors have changed but I have no real excuse to complain. The flavors I get from this beer initially are a variety of sweet malts with an interesting bitter hop taste hidden towards the middle of the flavor which is quickly subdued by the tart pomegranate finish. The many sweet malts in this beer are balanced quite well by the sour pomegranate present giving it a surprisingly smooth mouthfeel. The body is medium and this is certainly a drinkable  ale even at a hefty 10% ABV you won’t notice too much alcohol.  The malts in this beer have certainly matured over their 2+ years and the addition of fruit certainly creates some interesting extra flavors that are hard to single out. As it warms the pomegranate flavors start to take on more characteristics of dark pitted fruits such as dates which adds a very nice balancing component. Overall this is a tasty brew that further encourages me to try their Origin Pomegranate Ale which is brewed year round beer and an offspring of Genesis 10:10. Not that you can find it anymore but people who enjoy a malty beer and fermented fruit flavors as well will most likely enjoy this beer. In unrelated news I finally purchased a new camera after using an almost decade old digital camera it will be a nice change to be able to take a picture and not wait close to 30 seconds before I can take another one, not to mention the increase in mega pixels by over 12x, hopefully my beer pictures look better now. So go ride your bike, even if it’s raining out and a titty bit nippley.

He'Brew Genisis 10:10

Tyranena Tasting @ The Four Firkins

March 19th, 2009 beckel

So Tuesday was amateur night, or sorry St. Patrick’s Day but more importantly it was an evening of free beer at The Four Firkins. Twas a wonderfully warm day in the mid 60′s and my t-shirt clad bike ride over to St. Louis Park couldn’t have been more lovely, I even ran into a few friendly hooligans on the Greenway who decided to join me on my quest for free beer. The good folks of Tyranena Brewing made their way from Lake Mills, Wisconsin to share some of their beer with us thirsty Minnesotans. The nice gal they sent over had a few interesting treats for us to try including their Scotch Ale which has yet to be bottled though it sounds like it may very well happen in the future, it was quite tasty, sweet and malty and not overly complex. Next I sampled the other growler they had which was apparently brewed by one of their assistant brewers who was moving over to another brewery and wanted to brew a beer before leaving, and a unique beer did he brew. Imperial Chipotle Porter is was called and it was pretty damn good. The pepper was noticeable but not intense at all, unlike Rogues Chipotle Ale and it featured some nice rich maltyness that made it a very enjoyable beer to drink. Next it was time to try the only other beer there I hadn’t sampled before their newest release from the Brewers Gone Wild Series, Paradise by the Dashboard Lights and Imperial Cherry Porter. The cherry flavor was very nice and subtle and the malts in this brew do a good job creating some enjoyable flavors though I initially found myself wanting a little something more. Throughout the evening I tryed many samples of the Paradise and I must say it continued to grow on me tempting me to buy some of it before it runs out. In addition to the specialties they also had all of their year round beers available to sample I particularly enjoyed the rich maltyness of Rocky’s Revenge and the simple crisp flavors of the Stone Tepee Pale Ale. You can see all of my Tyranena reviews here. After 8 Alvey decided to share some brews, opening up a bottle of Southern Tier’s Back Burner Barleywine.  A very tasty brew that I will get around to writing about one of these days. Thus far I’ve ended up buying three bottles because I keep drinking it when I don’t have time to write a review, though a bottle currently resides in my fridge for this very purpose. Next I was very pleased to see him popping open a bottle of Deus a Brut from Belgium that I had never had the opportunity to try.  Obviously it is a rather carbonated beer somewhat reminiscent of Champagne and is quite light in color. The flavor was quite nice and I was thankful to have the opportunity to try such a fine brew and only further encouraged me to buy a bottle of Malheur Dark Brut which you should see a review of sometime in the near future. Lastly but definitely not least a bottle of Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale a hypocritical “Imperial Mild” was opened. This is one beer that I knew I wouldn’t be leaving without and I was happy to see that it comes in 6-packs. It’s certainly one unique tasty brew that I can’t wait to properly review. Overall it was a great way to start out an evening of drinking, big thanks to Tyranena and The Four Firkins for hosting.

Full Sail Slipknot

March 15th, 2009 beckel

Today I have an ale from Full Sail Brewing that is part of their 2009 Brewmaster Reserve which are apparently switched up about every 10 weeks for our consuming pleasure. As an Imperial IPA, Slipknot is right down my alley and an ale I felt obligated to write about. I first came upon this beer at The Four Firkins and passed it up a few times until one day as the stock was dwindling and I figured I should give it an opportunity not to mention Alvey informing me that he enjoyed the brew certainly didn’t hurt it’s odds. One day two weeks ago I had the delema of wanting a hoppy ale to enjoy and only single bottle brews that I had never tried before that fit that description in my fridge (I know, hard life I live). I thought about it for a while and my bottle of Slipknot became the victim. I was pretty confident that if I deemed it neccisary I would be able to find another bottle to properly review, so here we are. This ale pours an interesting translucent amber color that is a bit of a dull orange. After cascading marvelously it  produces a solid three fingers of off white head that lingers for many minutes leaving quite a bit of lacing around the glass. Aroma is full of bitter hops that are very distinct as well as a little bit of orange like citrus  tough there is an underlying malt sweetness that makes the aroma less intimidating. The flavor of this ale is very unique and it tastes almost the same as the aroma except the malt sweetness is less noticeable. Many nice bitter hop tones blend with some orange and grapefruit citrus and a slightly floral note, all of which are balanced nicely with a slightly sweet pale malt flavor near the end though the ale finishes with some further bitter and almost sour notes. Their website states that this brew used 80 IBU but I would be curious to know what they actually used as some of the hop flavors present aren’t the most common. The body is very light for an Imperial IPA and the mouthfeel is pretty smooth. If you can handle plenty of hops this will be a quite drinkable ale, though you may not want to take it to fast as it is 7.8% ABV. This probably isn’t an every day beer for most people, but if you are into hops you will probably be glad you tried it. I’m not sure how much of this ale is still around but last I heard The Four Firkins still had a few and I just bought this bottle at Zipps Liquor so get it while you can. The perfect beer for a spicy meal, hopefully my Thai chicken pizza will get here soon. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Full Sail Slipknot Imperial IPA

He’Brew Jewbelation 12

March 13th, 2009 beckel

Today I have an ale that I was lucky to find because I didn’t search for it until months after its release. Shmaltz the brewers of He’Brew “The Chosen Beer” out of Saratoga Springs, New York decided there was no better occasion than their 12th year of production to make one simply insane brew. Crafted with 12 varieties of hop, 12 varieties of malt and and an impressive 12% ABV. Boy golly I can’t wait to see what this ale has in store for me but if you want to see more iterations of the number 12 feel free to check out their website. I had the opportunity to sample a few “Freak Beers” from Shmaltz at the Autumn Brew Review but thanks to many samples prior I don’t recall much about them other than they tasted fine so lets get onto the important part. This ale pours a dark color that looks black until you bring it to light where you can see some ruby hues but just around the edges of the glass. The brew is incredibly opaque and produces about two fingers of creamy light brown head that lasts for a few minutes and leaves a bit of lacing around the glass and on the surface of the beer.  Aroma includes some dark pitted fruits, mostly date, raisin and a bit of cherry with some alcohol on the nose, but not very much considering the 12% ABV. Sweet malt comes across most in the aroma though there is certainly more going on it is difficult to separate the scents with the amount of pitted fruits I am getting. Well done. Upon my first sip of this brew it is amazingly more balanced than I feared particularly after watching the guys over at Beer Tap TV review it, though they certainly do it justice. Flavor is of strong sweet dates, slightly sour cherries and a decent amount of hoppy bitterness near the finish though you are left with a sweet flavor in your mouth. There are so many flavors in this brew it is wonderful, yet it doesn’t seem confused because of the amazing malt backbone. Mouthfeel is smooth and a bit creamy and the body is medium but relatively light for a beer with so much in it. The 12% ABV is undoubtedly there but only slightly noticeable in the taste. This is simply a marvelous ale though it is more malty than my staple brews I plan to return to a secret location and grab whatever stock they may have left (cross your fingers). Though of course if anyone here would like to sample some let me know, I’m always happy to share good brew. Those who enjoy big beers and dark pitted fruit flavors will most likely appreciate sampling this ale just be aware your not getting into something average. A great beer for connoisseurs who can handle their alcohol and enjoy expanding their palate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

He'Brew Jewbelation Twelve