September 18th, 2009 beckel
Today I have with me the newest summer beer in Full Sail’s Brewmasters Reserve Series for 2009 which I found on the shelves of The Four Firkins. Full Sail is an employee run brewery out of Hood River, Oregon and produces some solid ales including their new Session Black Lager. Every summer Full Sail brews a summer IPA starting in 2001 with a beer called Sunspot. Each year the recipe is modified slightly based on what is available for harvest that year. This year Grandsun of Spot is brewed with Columbus and Zeus Hops as well as Munich and Honey Malts and is said to be an “aggressive IPA” with “a full malt flavor”. Lets see how it stacks up. Color is a lovely bright red hue that is slightly translucent when brought to light. Head was a solid 2-3 fingers of off white foam that remain for many minutes leaving a decent amount of lacing around the glass. Nice gentle aromas of citrus and hop bitterness are complimented by a good amount of honey malt. Flavor is full of hop bitterness with modest flavors coming out from the Munich and Honey Malts but only enough to be an undertone. The mouthfeel of the beer is definitely lightened by the use of Honey Malt and I really enjoy the subtle honey notes present in the flavor occasionally but they definitely play runner up to the massively bitter hops present. Some citrus and floral hop notes are present and add some complexity, but again are overpowered by bitterness. Body is medium for the style. The 6% ABV of this beer will probably go unnoticed unless you confuse yourself with the bitterness.Â As this brew warms, and perhaps as by tongue gets more accustomed to the hops present the malt flavors expose their sweet caramely flavors a bit more but are still not the dominate ingredient in this beer, additionally the floral and citrus hop notes are easier to identify adding some additional complexity to this brew. As someone who is a big fan of hops and bitterness I definitely enjoyed drinking this beer. Many people don’t find bitter flavors hydrating so I am honestly a bit surprised they market this brew as a summer beer, but for me a nice bitter IPA after a long bike ride can be heaven. Not the most complex or balanced IPA out there but if you dig bittering hops you will be all over this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 16th, 2009 beckel
Today I have another brew in front of me that is sure to be lovely. Punkin Ale from the creative minds of Dogfish Head is you guessed it, their take on a pumpkin beer. Unfortunately Dogfish Head is not distributed in my state of Minnesota but luckily we can get it just across the border in Wisconsin which is where this bottle came from via my good friend Ben. Sam Calagione and his crew at Dogfish Head brew some of the most unique beers in the industry including a myriad of brews adapted from ancient recipes, the most recent being Chicha which is brewed in a Peruvian tradition of chewing on grains to release starches. Their slogan may be off centered beers for off centered people, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also delicious. From the description this is “A full-bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg. Let’s see how it goes. This ale pours a bright orange ruby hue that is a bit hazy but still moderately opaque. Head is about two fingers and very white in color lasting only a few minutes but leaving a nice ring around the surface after fading. Smells strongly of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and some nice malty sweetness. Flavor is really quite nice. A solid malt backbone that you would expect in a quality brown ale does a wonderful job supporting the mild pumpkin flavor and accompanying spices and herbal notes, particularly gentle cinnamon. Malt flavors are moderately sweet but also nicely bitter creating a wonderful balance of flavors. Mouthfeel is rather carbonated but not uncomfortably so. Body is a light medium. Obviously Dogfish Head has a lot of experience in brewing with unconventional ingredients and this beer is a perfect example of practice making perfect. Not only is this beer an example of what one can do with a pumpkin ale but also spiced ales in general (“holiday ales” as some refer to those released around Christmas). It is clear that the brewers took a solid brown ale base and thought mostly about balance when crafting this beer. Though I love the sweet, highly spiced and pumpkin flavored Pumpking by Southern Tier [review] this ale shows that sometimes simpler is better. With a 7% ABV you can easily have a few of these while handing out candy to the local children…or a bunch while cycling around the city like a hooligan. Unquestionably another wonderful brew from the fine folk of Dogfish Head and my new favorite Pumpkin Ale (I still love you Southern Tier). Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 10th, 2009 beckel
Avery Brewing out of Boulder, Colorado is known for making some pretty serious ales such as their Maharaja Imperial IPA and Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest with 10.24% and 9.3% ABVs respectively. With a name like The Beast this brew is sure to be no exception. If that weren’t enough it also boasts a 16.31% ABV which I am both very excited, and slightly concerned about. Though Dogfish Head has shown us that seriously high ABV beers can be very drinkable with their 120 Minute IPA [review]. The Beast is one of three brews in Avery’s Demons of Ale series, accompanied by two other big hitters Samael’s Oak Aged Ale and Mephistopheles’ Stout. Brewed with a myriad of ingredients including two-row malted barley, honey malt, a number of Belgian specialty grains (aromatic, pale wheat, roasted wheat & Special B), Magnum, Galena, Saaz, Hallertau, Terrnang and Hersbrucker Hops, too many brewing sugars to name, two yeast strains (at least) one of which is Belgian and of course water. On to the good part. Batch 6, Bottled in 2008 served at just above room temperature. This beer pours a dark burgundy hue that brightens up a lot and is moderately translucent when brought to light. Head is a light tan hue and consists of about two fingers of relatively loose bubbles that last for under two minutes leaving just a small ring of carbonation around the liquids surface. Aroma is wonderfully complex. Cherries, dates, raisins, plum and probably just about any other dark pitted fruit aroma can be found. This brew is quite sweet on the nose giving off a good deal of molasses and honey notes as well as other sugars, particularly something that reminds me of malted milk powder. Alcohol is definitely present but is easily hidden by the sweetness present. Very interesting and strangely appealing. Upon the first sip the alcohol is a lot more noticeable than in the aroma but as quickly as I noticed the ethanol notes I was also presented with rich sweet cherries,Â chocolate, molasses, creme, dates and plum flavors with the alcohol lingering in the background simply playing a supporting role throughout the sip reminding me that what I am drinking is no joke by reminding me a bit of brandy. In addition to the dominate dark fruit flavors, chocolate and dark malt sweetness present there are also lighter citrus notes but this is such a complex ale they are difficult to isolate. The mouthfeel of this beer is a bit sticky, but with all the sugars that is really no surprise and not offensive to me in any way. The body is about medium as far as I am concerned but some people will probably say it is a bit heavy, though I find it quite light for the amount of ingredients and alcohol present. Considering what it is, I find it rather clean and drinkable. While no one will suggest that this beer isn’t alcoholic I will say I am amazed how well it is used to compliment the flavors present in this brew, particularly with a staggering number like 16.31%. Even if you feel a little ethanol in your throat in the after taste, what do you really expect? Though there are too many flavors to even list the notes that stand out the most to me are molasses, cherry, date and chocolate and of course alcohol warmth. This is one amazing beer that I really want to rant about, but I know that does no one any good. If you are a fan of complex Belgian Style Strong Ales you should absolutely try this brew, you really have no excuse. If you enjoy dark pitted fruit and sweet malts accompanied by plenty of alcohol you will simply be in heaven. Unquestionably one of the most unique and wonderful Belgian inspired strong ales I have had the opportunity to sample. A worthy beer for any connoisseur of unique brews, though you may want to split it with a friend, or drink it very slowly. I found this bottle and a bottle of Avery’s Samael’s at Zipps about a week ago but I also saw some on the shelves of The Four Firkins when I was there on Tuesday for the New Belgium’s Hoptober tasting, which by the way is a nice little hoppy addition to the New Belgium lineup. It seems like they have stepped up their production a bit lately so hopefully you can find some too. If Samael’s is any where near as tasty as this brew I will have no excuse not to sample their Mephistopheles’ as well. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 9th, 2009 beckel
Today I have a beer that I have wanted to try for some time. Founders Brewing Company out of Grand Rapids, Michigan makes some solid brews that I have thoroughly enjoyed but until now their famed Breakfast Stout has eluded me. A barrel aged version was briefly available at our local Stub & Herbs during their Founders tasting but unfortunately the tap ran out before I arrived. The label of this Imperial Stout states “Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout” and though it may not have the word extreme in there anywhere it is sure to be an impressive brew. This hearty brew pours an incredibly dark brown hue that appears black and is completely opaque not allowing any light through. Head consists of creamy tight bubbles of over a finger that are a rich milk chocolate color. Very nice head retention and a good deal of creamy lacing. Smells of rich roasty coffee, soft chocolate notes and a gentle oat character. Tastes of sweet chocolate, rich dark roasted malts, a bit of oat and rich earthy coffee. This is one amazingly smooth brew with a wonderfully clean yet well carbonated mouthfeel. Body is on the heavy side but not overwhelming for the style. I am not a big drinker of coffee but this is one tasty stout that does a wonderful job using coffee to accent the roasted malts and chocolate in this brew yet not over power the flavors and alienate those who aren’t as accustomed to rich coffee. A solid coffee infused Imperial Stout that will be enjoyed by any fan of coffee and roasted barley and even those who are just looking for a quality strong dark beer. Though I thoroughly agree this is a wonderful breakfast beer I will have to warn you it is 8.3% ABV, so you may just want to have one or two…unless you plan to take an early nap. Another tasty brew in the Founders line up that I’m glad to have consumed. Too bad I missed that barrel aged version. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 3rd, 2009 beckel
Today I have what is sure to be an interesting Belgian brew produced by Lefebvre Brewery. I found this 11.2 oz beer on the shelves of The Four Firkins and had no clue what it was aside from the neat ancient looking symbols on the bottle and the very reasonable price tag of just a couple dollars. After reading a bit it appears Lefebvre has a very long family history dating back to 1876 but this particular brew wasn’t distributed until more recently in 1996. Barbar is said to be based on ancestral knowledge of the brewer and was crafted with some very interesting ingredients including honey, bitter orange, coriander, wheat and of course water, barley, hops (Hallertau & Styrian) and their unique yeast strain. This ale pours a unique hazy brownish copper hue that is very opaque but doesn’t appear tio have any sediment present. Head is a solid four fingers of tight pure white bubbles that slowly dissipates leaving a solid millimeter of head on the surface even after over ten minutes and a small amount of lacing around the glass. Aroma is also quite unique, smells strongly of rich spicy honey, oranges and caramel. This is unquestionably a sweet beer but the gentle coriander and alcohol notes do a decent job making the aroma a bit more dry. Flavor is much lighter than the aroma but still contains plenty of herbal notes, a moderate does of honey, soft caramel, a good deal of pale malty sweetness which is contrasted by a nice light wheat character and gentle citrus hop notes. Body is quite light for such a strong ale and the mouthfeel is nicely carbonated and not overly sticky particularly considering the honey used in this brew. With an ABV of 8% this isn’t something you can drink all day but the sweet flavor of the brew may make you think otherwise. If you enjoy Belgian Strong Ales and are looking for something with additional sweetness and spices this might just be the beer for you. The aroma of this beer really blew me away though the flavor in contrast seemed a bit lackluster, regardless this is a neat ale that shows you can make a successful brew with unique ingredients. Something I would happily consume again, particularly at a reasonable price. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 1st, 2009 beckel
Today I have what I hope to be a fun beer from my local Summit Brewing Company out of St. Paul, Minnesota. For a long time I have wanted Summit to continue to step up their game by experimenting further with their brews and they have come close with their Unchained Series. Though the goal of Unchained is not to brew unconventional beers it has a none the less valorous goal of allowing the brewers of Summit the opportunity to brew historic styles that they are interested in and may have not had the opportunity to distribute or brew before. The first beer in the series was crafted by Mike â€œthe Mizâ€ Miziorko who seems to be very passionate about his authentically brewed German Style Kolsch which was made with all imported German ingredients including Pilsner and Kolsch Malts, Hallertau MittelfrÃ¼h Hops and Kolsch Yeast. Surely fitting with Summit’s typical German brewing heritage. This beer pours a light golden hue that is incredibly translucent. A solid three fingers of crisp white head are produced and fade with in a couple of minutes. Smells moderately of Pilsner Malt and a gentle lemon citrus. Flavor is of crisp Pilsner and Kolsch Malts. As one who is not particularly fond of Pilsners I really enjoy how the Kolsch Malts richer flavor balances and contrasts the Pilsner notes almost creating caramel flavors. Malts are moderately sweet and further complimented by the hops which add a nice gentle bit of extra citrus, soft floral notes and a small amount of bitterness in the finish. Though the hops are not particularly dominate I really enjoy the flavors they produces and more importantly the way they contrast the malt profile of this tasty beer. I have enjoyed a number of Kolsch’s I have consumed over the years as I find it to be a very interesting style with a deep history and I must say this is the cleanest I have ever had the opportunity to sample. Mouthfeel is clean and crisp which works dandy with the light body. Though I tend to go with darker, stronger beers this is one solid beverage and with an ABV of 4.7% you can be sure I’ll be drinking this beer all evening.Â I am proud to see Summit continue to brew more beers in distinct styles and can’t wait to see what else they come out with. If you are into light lagers you definitely deserve to try some of this brew, do it for yourself. Further if you are a fan of Summit’s other products and curious about new styles you have no excuse. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 1st, 2009 beckel
I have not managed to sample many brews from the Canadian Dieu Du Ciel Brewery but those that I have were complex and enjoyable. To add to their creative brews they tend to have mythical and magical themed labels that depict nature and fantasy and this bottle surely emphasizes this with one intense portrait. Rigor Mortis ABT is a Quadrupel that is inspired by the strong brown ales brewed by Trappist monks. This ale pours a very dark brownish amber hue that appears black from a distance but a rich dark amber when brought to light. The head of this opaque brew is a fluffy off white hue and consists of tight bubbles that open up quickly but last for many minutes and retains a small puddle on the surface almost indefinitely along with some nice lacing. Aroma is quite nice. Malt aromas are dominate but not overly sweet and actually quite dry. Alcohol comes in and out but is not particularly strong considering its 10.5% ABV. Decent bitterness is present but seems to be coming more from dark malts than hops. Everything from dark fruit to coffee to tobacco are present in the aroma of this beer but all are amazingly subtle and balance off one another quite well. Additionally yeast notes are very dull but still add an additional herbal component. Tastes largely of gentle dark pitted fruit, clean malty sweetness, a hint of caramel and a gentle dose of alcohol. I find the flavor of this brew incredibly interesting. On one hand I am a bit surprised there are not more distinct flavors playing off one another as one will often find in many Belgian Strong Ales, particularly Trappist Ales. However at the same time there is something quite enjoyable and comforting about the basic flavors present and the power of simplicity. The mouthfeel of this brew is well carbonated and somewhat creamy yet quite clean. Body is a bit heavy but appropriate for the style. Less yeasty than I would expect for a Trappist inspired brew but likely more similar to traditional Abbey Ales of the past, if only I could go back in time. If you enjoy Strong Belgian Style Ales you will most definitely enjoy this simple yet delicious brew. As far as food pairings are concerned I think this beer might actually be an amazing candidate as it will not overpower the flavors of your food yet cleanse the palate wonderfully. Give it a shot and ride your bike.