Big Thanks To Insurance Companies

Avery Sixteen

August 31st, 2009 beckel

This brew has been sitting in my fridge for many months and I figured it was high time I got around to consuming it. Every year the crafty brewers at Avery brew a single batch beer to commemorate their anniversary, this year it is a Saison that is brewed with jasmine flowers, peaches, honey and some pale malted wheat. Pours an incredibly pale golden straw hue that is about as translucent as possible. About two fingers of crisp white head are produced and fade very quickly leaving only a small ring around the surface of the brew. Smells strongly of sweet malt with a crisp tart hint that emphasizes the distinct Belgian yeast used in this brew. Many herbal and spice notes, light fruits, particularly peach and a bit of wheat is present as well. A rich and very appropriate aroma for the style. Flavor is very interesting; peach is very forward and nicely balances the malt sweetness with gentle tartness. Flavor is quite a bit less herbal than the aroma but plenty of yeasty flavors are still pleasant and very enjoyable. The 7.69% ABV is a bit heavier than some brews of the style but works perfectly with the flavors present and is not dominate at all. Mouthfeel is plenty carbonated but enjoyably dry yet smooth and slightly creamy, particularly with the light body. A solid take on a Saison that shows what sixteen years of experience can produce. If you enjoy quality Belgian styled ales you will likely dig this brew. If you can still find a bottle. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Avery Sixteen Saison

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

August 27th, 2009 beckel

Upon seeing this beer in my fridge moments ago I couldn’t help but review it immediately. I am a huge fan of the creative and energetic Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head who is ever  so inspirational and dedicated to the spirit of home brewing and inventive craft beers. I have managed in the past to get my hands on their delicious 60 [review] and 90 Minute IPAs [review] but until now the 120 Minute IPA has eluded my grasps. Conveniently a good friend of mine made his way to Wisconsin a few weeks ago and brought be back a bottle as well as a bottle of their Punkin Ale. This ale is Dogfish Head’s rendition of an Imperial brew based off their well received IPA recipe and hopped continuously for 120 minutes just for hop heads like me. Bottled on 11/08/08.  Pours an attractive bright reddish orange hue that is not at all opaque with just over a finger of off white head that lasts for a little over a minute. Smells strongly of alcohol and some heavily bitter hops and just a bit of citrus but mostly alcohol. Tastes incredibly interesting. Intense sweetness from the malt that reminds me a bit of a sweet sherry and orange marmalade which is complimented by bitter, citrus and floral hops as well as a good deal of alcohol and gentle herbal notes. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is quite clean for how sweet this brew is. Dogfish Head has change how they brew this beer a bit from a previous ~20% ABV to currently ~18% ABV which they find  to be the ideal alcohol level. I can’t say I am certain when they started these changes so I can’t attest for my bottle but I can still safely say that producing a beer this strong is no easy task and Dogfish Head has put forth on amazing effort. The massive malt profile required to get the sugars to produce this alcoholic of a brew unquestionably detracts from the potential massive hoppyness of this brew but that is not necessarily a bad thing. This ale definitely has hard alcohol qualities but even with its massive alcohol the complex sweet notes make it incredibly drinkable for such a strong ale. An incredibly interesting Imperial India Pale Ale that can be appreciated by fans of IPAs and Belgian Strong Ales alike. So long as you are not afraid of the massive alcohol present in this brew I would encourage anyone to sample this beer if only to see the complexity of flavors that are possible in a simple concept yet innovative brew such as this.  Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Surly Hell

August 26th, 2009 beckel

Hazaa! A good excuse to whip out the SurlyFest mug. I was in the neighborhood so I figured I would wander over to the MGM off of Lake Street to explore their new building and see what they had to offer. First off I must say I really dig it. With their move and expansion they now have tons of cooler space along over half of their walls which is about a third full of Craft Beer. Further they have done a much better job organizing all of their Craft Beer offerings onto one large shelf instead of scattered about as it was before. The prices seem to be about the same, most average, a few things a bit over priced but their selection of Craft Brew has unquestionably grown and I am all for that. But on to the important part. Half of the reason I went was hoping, just hoping I might just find some of the newly canned product from our beloved local Surly Brewing out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. All I can say is Hell yea. It seems Surly did a very limited canning run for their first batch and I am very pleased to have been able to secure some.

The simply named Hell is a Munich Style Helles Lager and keeps to the roots of the style but as always has a little extra Surly goodness. As the owner Omar Ansari writes on the back it’s a Surly beer his German mother actually enjoys. The beer pours a light golden straw hue that is very translucent and produces a few fingers of crisp tight white head that loosen and dissipate relatively quickly after you pour. Smells of sweet Pilsner malt and a gentle lemon citrus note. Tastes of clean Pilsner malt sweetness and has a light bread quality which adds to a nice fuller mouthfeel as well as gentle caramel notes. Subtle citrus hop notes are present to compliment the malt but are not dominate at all, particularly for a Surly brew. Body is light. As many of you know I am not the biggest fan of Lagers, particularly light ones but I would happily drink this beer all night long (as I did during their release at Moto-i) particularly with it’s ~5% ABV. An interesting twist on the style that still stays relatively traditional but like SurlyFest contains a bit more hop and rich malty flavors than one may typically expect from the style. On a side note this years brew seems a bit more full flavored and balanced than it did last year when it was first released on tap. You can see my previous review here. I don’t know how much the recipe changed but as always good work Todd. If you are into lagers but are looking for something that shows what American brewers are doing with classic styles this might just be the beer for you. 16 ounce cans for the win. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Surly Hell

Great Divide Ghocolate Oak Aged Yeti

August 25th, 2009 beckel

Today I have the most recent iteration of Great Divide’s Wonderful Yeti Imperial Stout. If oak aging this brew and adding espresso wasn’t enough to knock your socks off, this time around a good dose of cocoa nibs were added as well as a gentle dose of cayenne. The hops have been reduced a bit to emphasize the chocolate notes and I must say the way it allows the vanilla notes from the oak aging to flourish is fantastic. I was able to try a small sample of this brew about a month ago when it first hit the shelves of The Four Firkins and can’t wait to consume some more. This beer pours a very dark black hue that is almost completely opaque only allowing the smallest amount of light through the rim. Plenty of wonderfully tight creamy light milk chocolate colored head is produced  and lasts for many minutes slowly creating a good deal of lacing around the glass. Aroma is of sweet dark malt, gentle hints of cocoa, a bit of alcohol, a nice creamy vanilla note and very little bitterness. Flavor is absolutely delicious. Tastes of sweet chocolate, smooth clean dark malts, sweet vanilla notes and a nice level of bitterness to balance. Cayenne is easily identified in the end and creates a wonderful contrast to the rich flavors present in this brew leaving you with a clean gentle spice taste. The body of this beer is moderately heavy and the mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Provided you note this 9.5% ABV Imperial Stout is a bit of a sipper it is the most drinkable Yeti I have yet to consume. If you are into strong stouts and enjoy chocolate you should absolutely purchase this beer, just don’t get scared of the little pepper. A wonderful example of the inventive spirit and quality of brews produced by the good folks of Great Divide Brewing. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

August 21st, 2009 beckel

Though this is the first time I have sampled a beer from the brewers of HaandBryggeriet I am ever so excited for a number of reasons. HaandBryggeriet consists of four Norwegian brewers who operate out of a small 200 year old wooden building in Drammen, Norway. I have seen their brews on the shelves many times but never justified purchasing them as they are limited production and imported making them cost a pretty penny. On this beer however I took exception and couldn’t help but grab the last bottle off of the shelves of The Four Firkins. Dark Force has one crazy style description on the bottle “Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout”. So if being the first brewers to make an Imperial Wheat Stout wasn’t enough this one is also double extreme! Jokes asside I cant wait to hop into this brew. This bottle of awesomely named beer happens to be Batch NR 144 which was brewed in March of 08. This beer pours a very dark black color that is completely opaque not even allowing a small amount light to penetrate through the surface. Head consists just over two fingers of tight creamy bubbles that are the color of rich chocolate and slowly dissipate creating larger bubbles as the minutes pass but leaving almost no lacing. Smells strongly of rich roasted dark malt with some gentle coffee and chocolate notes and a decent alcohol hint. Tastes heavily of dark roasted  malt with a slightly sweeter finish of gentle wheat notes and a soft citrus like character in the end. Mouthfeel is slightly creamy reminding me a bit of a milk stout but with less lactose, body is medium making it quite drinkable for an Imperial Stout though its 9% ABV makes it more of a sipper. This is certainly one of the more  interestingly flavored Imperial Stouts I have had the opportunity to sample and if it were more available I would happily consume it more regularly.  If you are into big dark beers and want to try something quite unique this beer is definitely worth your time. If this beer is any example of the quality of brews produced by HaandBryggeriet I might just have to open my wallet a little wider in the future and grab some more of their tasty beverages. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

Crispin Honey Crisp

August 20th, 2009 beckel

So after a little delay Crispin’s Honey Crisp is on shelves now. I found my bottle at The Four Firkins when I was there on Tuesday to enjoy some tasty beer from our local Brau Brothers and got the chance to chat a bit with one of their brewers Dustin Brau. I had never consumed their Strawberry Wheat and was very impressed with the delicious real strawberry flavors and simple grain bill to compliment and balance the brew. But onto the topic of today. Honey Crisp is the newest beverage in the Crispin lineup and is fermented with organic honey produced nearby the cidery in California. Pours a hazy opaque white hue that is similar to grapefruit juice. Smelling strongly of rich sweet apples and some gentle honey. Tastes of fresh fermented apples, moderately sweet slightly dry finishing with some nice additional honey sweetness and gentle tartness. Mouhfeel is made slightly creamy by the honey but the body is very light making this hazy beverage very easy to drink any time and with a 6.5% ABV you can. Unquestionably a tasty beverage and one I have enjoyed every time I have had the opportunity to sample it. A welcome addition to the Crispin family and an innovative yet simply delicious take on cider that any fan will likely appreciate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Crispin Honey Crisp

St Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale

August 13th, 2009 beckel

Prior to purchasing this brew I knew nothing of the makers of St Ambroise, McAuslan Brewery other than the fact that they are from Montreal, Canada which is stated on the bottle. After some quick reading it appears they started brewing in 1989 and have had continued success branching out to their current nine varieties of bottled beer. I decided to pick up a four pack of this intriguing beverage at the recommendation of Alvey of The Four Firkins and after a quick taste it was an easy sell. This interestingly styled Apricot Wheat Ale pours a completely translucent light apricot hue and produces a solid two plus fingers of white head that last for a few minutes. Aroma is of gentle alcohol and rich sweet apricots with just a hint of wheat. Apricot flavors are forward but balanced by plenty of wheat and other grains that add a dash of sweetness but is still grainy enough to provide a somewhat hearty mouthfeel and avoid turning this brew into a sweet mess. Body is relatively light and with a 5% ABV it is certainly an easy to drink beer. Though I detect almost no hops the grains present in this brew seem to add a gentle bitter note to wrap up the flavor of this beer. Not a style of beer I would typically drink a ton of but a good example of how to make a tasty fruit beer that is very palatable. A dandy stepping stone for someone who really likes apricots but may be a bit weary of beer, or better yet the perfect beer for someone who enjoys fruits and beer but doesn’t want to be subjected to a syrupy mess. I am pleased with the way the brewer has managed to accentuate an enjoyable wheat base with some serious fruitiness yet balance it well enough that I would happily drink many of their brews, particularly on a nice warm day such as today. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

St Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale

Great Divide 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA

August 6th, 2009 beckel

Here I have what is sure to be a brilliant beverage from the skilled brewers of Great Divide to celebrate their 15th anniversary. Based on their most popular beer, Denver Pale Ale but hopped up to 90 IBU, aged in French and American oak and brought up to a serious 10% ABV with a solid malt profile. I can’t wait to indulge. Upon opening this 22oz bottle at close to room temperature plenty of carbonation built up in the neck and slowly continued to overflow until I simply decided to pour the beer filling the glass over a third with creamy tight off white head which slowly dissipated. Color is a deep red hue and incredibly translucent. Aroma is wonderfully full of floral and fruity hop notes as well as a good deal of sweet malt and just a dash of alcohol. Wow. Upon my first sip I can see how intensely the oak aging effected the brew as a nice smooth vanilla flavor is one of the first characteristics I notice. Further the malt profile of this beer is no joke providing a wonderful array of sweetness and gentle dark pitted fruit notes. In case you forgot this is an IPA and not a Pale Ale present is a bouquet of fruity and floral hop notes from hearty passion fruit to gentle pine. The more I drink of this brew the more I notice how well the various attributes of this beer play together. The malty sweetness is plenty to balance the hops and contrasts with the fruity notes very well. The finish of this brew is plenty bitter but is softened by notes from vanilla to caramel and a hint of brandy. Body is a bit heavy but the mouthfeel is very smooth and clean. Though there is no questioning that you can taste alcohol in this beer there are plenty of other enjoyable flavors to distract ones palate provided you are accustomed to drinking stronger brews. This is a limited brew so if you enjoy strong Pale Ales or oak aging and aren’t opposed to fruity and floral hops I would find a bottle of this brew quickly. Unquestionably a well balanced ale and a wonderful adaption of Denver Pale Ale that I would happily enjoy any day. I found my bottle at The Four Firkins but I would call ahead wherever you intend to purchase it to make sure it is available as most retailers received limited quantities. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Great Divide 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA

De Block Satan Gold

August 6th, 2009 beckel

When I saw this little bottle on the shelves of The Four Firkins a few months ago I couldn’t help but pick it up. One look at the picture of Satan smirking back at you holding a cup of this brew was more than enough to justify the few dollars spent. Knowing nothing about this beer or its brewery De Block other than the fact that they operate out of Merchtem-Peizegem, Belgium I decided to look them up. Apparently this family run breweries history dates back to the 14th century and they produce a number of interesting looking beers including a Satan Red Ale. But you can read all that on their website, onto the beer. Poured straight into a tulip at just under room temperature this beer produced about three fingers of loose highly carbonated white head that faded very quickly leaving little lacing around the glass though more carbonation easily builds up when swirled. Color is an attractive hazy golden hue that is moderately translucent when brought to light. Aroma is quite alcoholic and reminds me a bit of a white wine in some ways and is accompanied by light fruit notes. Flavor is remarkably less alcoholic than the aroma but still present up front but is nicely contrasted by fruity flavors such as apricot and a gentle flavor that reminds me of caramel and even more so toffee as well as some light bready yeast notes. From the aroma of this brew I really didn’t expect a particularly pleasant experience but after taking a number of sips this really is one interesting and nicely flavorful Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The body of this brew is medium and the mouthfeel is very clean, provided the 8% ABV doesn’t get to you first this should be an easy beer to consume. I had no idea what to expect when I opened this bottle but I am pleased to say I have really enjoyed it and would definitely purchase it again. Alcohol is a bit more noticeable than in some beers of the style such as Duvel [review] but I didn’t find it overly offensive, just a bit startling in the aroma. If you enjoy Golden Belgian Ales and are not opposed to alcohol I think you too will enjoy this brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

De Block Satan Gold Belgian Ale

Two Brothers Cane and Ebel

August 4th, 2009 beckel

I purchased a four pack of this brew over a month ago at The Four Firkins and am finally getting around to consume my last bottle of this tasty brew. I have enjoyed many brews from Two Brothers who brew out of Warrenville, Illinois and this nicely hopped red rye ale is no exception. This beer pours a deep mahogany reddish hue that is completely translucent when brought to light. When poured straight down the glass three fingers of off white head is easily produced leaving some nice lacing around the glass after a few minutes. Aroma is full of malty sweetness with some gentle dark pitted fruit notes and some clean fruity hop notes with just a dash of rye. Rye is quite forward in the flavor as well as a touch of alcohol. A good does of malty sweetness is present to help balance the rye as well as the tasty bitter finishing notes. Unquestionably a tasty and well balanced brew. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is very clean and smooth. The 7% ABV is noticeable but not overwhelming due to the malty sweetness present. If you aren’t opposed to rye are into brews with creative malt profiles yet enough hops to balance and add a nice punch you will enjoy this brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Two Brothers Cane and Ebel