Big Thanks To Insurance Companies

Estrella Damm

October 25th, 2010 beckel

Today I have a Spanish beer that proudly states its origin of Barcelona and the year 1876 that I probably wouldn’t be reviewing if it hadn’t been given to me. Of the beers we were provided as part of Lake Wine & Spirits‘ Citizen Six pack this was certainly the one I was the least optimistic about. Though at the same time I am happy to have the opportunity to sample it as I have never had a beer from the brewery S.A. Damm and I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten around to purchasing this beer even though I see it on the shelves of plenty of retailers.

While poured into a tulip as I always prefer, I have poured this beer straight from my 37 degree fridge and will be consuming it much colder than I would other brews as is intended for the style. When poured down the center of the glass one finger of bright white head was produced and started fading rather quickly though left a somewhat surprising ring of residual carbonation. Color is as pale as they come looking quite like sparkling cider. Carbonation slowly bubbles up to the surface at a constant rate creating a surprisingly attractive presentation. Aroma is of sweet light grains, honey, lemon and some sweet earthy yeast esters. Flavor is of alcohol, pale cereal grains, soft citrus and a modest caramel character. Body is light and mouthfeel is well carbonated though I also find it a bit sticky. Estrella Damm reminds me a lot of the many Light Lagers available throughout Europe that I sampled many years ago when I was first gaining proper respect for beer. While not a beer I would seek out I do appreciate the variety of cereal grain esters present in Estrella Damm. I also particularly enjoy the nice citrus hop character that reminds me a bit of a quality Pilsner, though not quite as bright. At 5.2% ABV this brew is a bit stronger than most American examples of the style but it still very sessionable. Definitely not a bad beer, and something that I would happily drink over mass produced American (and many European) Light Lagers. If you enjoy Light Lagers and are looking for something that resembles a classic European example this brew is something that you should enjoy. Definitely a good beer for a hot day in the sun. Also something that you could easily serve most anywhere with out worry of offending peoples palate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Estrella Damm

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

October 22nd, 2010 beckel

Today I have another solid ale from the fine folks at Deschutes Brewery, and another brew provided by Lake Wine & Spirits as part of their Citizen Six Pack. Deschutes started distributing to our fine state of Minnesota just over half a year ago and boy have I been pleased about that. Hailing from Bend, Oregon Deschutes makes some very enjoyable year round beers and some simply fantastic specialty brews such as their Imperial version of this brew, last years (which was distributed this year) being entitled Black Butte XXI [review]. Unfortunately this years Black Butte XXII will not be distributed but some lucky Oraganites were able to sample it at their brewpub. To keep it brief XXII was brewed with a chocolate that creates a film after sitting for a while and Deschutes did not want to ship a product that they believed did not meet their quality standards. While very respectable I was quite disappointed because this year they also added chillies and orange peel. After sampling Great Divides Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti [review] which is also brewed with a tiny bit of cayenne pepper I am now a sucker for any Imperial Stout brewed with peppers. While not as overwhelmingly fantastic as the Imperial version of the brew Deschutes Black Butte Porter is surely a tasty and drinkable brew. Lets get to it.

Pours a pitch black hue that is completely opaque. About two fingers of tight tan bubbles are produced and fade after a few minutes leaving a very small amount of lacing and some residual head. Aroma is of strong coffee, rich semi-sweet malts and a hint of caramely sweetness. Flavor starts with coffee, followed by a variety of grain esters and malty bitterness. Some hop esters are present and add a nice gentle citrus quality but are easily dominated by roasted malts and the coffee and bitter malt flavors they present. Body is a bit heavy but close to medium making it very reasonable for the style. Mouthfeel is smooth and gently creamy making this flavorful beer far too easy to drink. Luckily it comes in at a rather sessionable 5.2% ABV because any fan of dark beers and coffee could drink this brew all night. As it warms the more the creamy malt esters shine through creating a very palatable beer. If you enjoy dark beers and are into coffee esters you may have just found your new every day beer. While nothing mind blowing this brew from Deschutes is still a simply delicious porter that most people will enjoy. A solid beer regardless of season. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Surly Wet

October 21st, 2010 beckel

So we have the infamous Wet from my local Surly Brewing. Though only the 2nd year they have brewed this Fresh Hopped IPA and the first year they have canned it the hype surrounding it is as intense as everything else Surly and limited. Surly Brewing is unquestionably one of my favorite breweries though I rarely get around to writing about their beers. Coming in at close to $17 a 4-pack this is no cheap brew but you get what you pay for with craft beer and a brew like this is not cheap to produce. Brewed with hops that were harvested 3 days prior to boiling this is one brew that any fan of serious hops can appreciate. I have had this brew a number of times since its release, even being lucky enough to sample Wet – All The Way, their very limited unblended version of the brew that was available at the Autumn Brew Review. While I find the distributed version of Wet fantastically more balanced and much more palatable it was fun to try the insanely hoppy unblended brew that contained an intense 20 lbs of hops per barrel. Canned 10/11/10.

Pours an attractive completely translucent copper hue. Producing about two fingers of bright white head that lingers for a few minutes leaving a nice amount of lacing and a few millimeters of residual head. Smells of massive tangerine, Mandarin orange, grapefruit, passion fruit, lemon, intense bitterness and a myriad of other citrus and fruit esters. Flavor starts with rich caramel malt, solid bitterness, vibrant and diverse fruit esters obviously from the serious amount of Citra Hops used in this brew. Mild herbal hop esters compliment the fruit notes and an oat like grain character adds to the relatively full but clean mouthfeel. Body is meduim and at 7.5% you better be careful because your mind will tell you to drink this brew all night long. After taste is a bit grassy as you will often see from the use of fresh hops but the lingering flavors are still quite nice encouraging you to take sip after sip. If only harvest time could be more than once a year I would be a happy man. Any fan of IPAs will be all over this one but unfortunately your time is running out to get some. If you are luck enough to already have some in your possession drink it quick as this is not a beer to be aged. If not I’m sure there are still a few places to grab some. If this beer could be produced year round and at a slightly more economical price I would drink it on a regular basis. Though last years was only available on draft I’m pretty sure I like this balance of this years better. If you enjoy fruity hops and aren’t afraid of a nice dose of bitterness you will be in heaven. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sury Wet

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

October 20th, 2010 beckel

Today I have what is sure to be an exciting brew from the fantastic brewers of Stone. Though unfortunately unavailable in my market it is easily attainable a short trek away in Wisconsin. For their 14th anniversary Stone decided to do what they do best and go with an IPA but this time around they decided to take a more English approach hence the Emperial moniker. Largely inspired by their trip to England to learn more about historic IPAs this Imperial IPA is likely anything but. Brewed with all English ingredients and even Burtonizing (hardening) their water. This ale is sure to be a treat.

Pours a lovely bright, yet pale tangerine hue that is completely opaque. Over three fingers of tight white head are quickly produced and fades after a few minutes leaving a small amount of lacing and a decent amount of residual carbonation on the surface of the brew. Smells of bright citrus hops with notes of lemon, orange and peach. Robust herbal and earthy hops play nicely with the fruit esters and malty sweetness rounds off the aroma nicely. Solid bitterness and dry alcohol are notable but not overwhelming. Flavor starts with tongue biting bitterness followed by massive herbal and earthy hop esters that are complimented by orange and other citrus esters. As you continue to drink the sweet malt slowly reduces the bitter bite but simply can not stand up to the massive hop profile leaving you with an intense bitter aftertaste. As it warms the malt starts to shine creating a greater deal of balance which is much more enjoyable. Leaving you with a nice blend of earthy, citrus and bitter hops left to play with sweet malt and surprisingly little alcohol esters. Mouthfeel is quite carbonated but dry and the body is medium. If you ignore the intense bitterness this ale is almost reminiscent of an well hopped Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Saison due to the serious earthy and herbal hop esters that one will often get from the yeast strains used in these styles. Even though this ale comes in at a serious 8.9% ABV it is barely evident in the flavor making this one surprisingly drinkable brew. An enjoyable ale with a diverse hop profile that you don’t often see. If you enjoy herbal hops and sincere bitterness this might just be the beer for you. Not what you would expect from the across the pond, but a lovely display of some classic English hops and a nice tribute to a brewery that makes so many wonderfully hopped brews. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

Mad River Steelhead Double IPA

October 18th, 2010 beckel

Today I have a brew given to me by the folks at Lake Wine & Spirits as part of their Citizen Six Pack program. A fun little concept where they gave a number of people a six pack and ask of them to review each of them on their forum on a particular day. Mad River makes a number of very solid ales that I have greatly enjoyed but this is my first time sampling their Steelhead Double India Pale Ale.

Pours a deep orange hue that is completely opaque and quite attractive. About half a finger of tight white head is produced and fades within a minute leaving a tiny ring of carbonation around the surface of the brew. Smells of bright citrus, particularly orange, malty sweetness, enjoyable bitterness and a gentle hint of alcohol. Tastes strongly of orange hop esters, peach, gentle grass notes, soft floral esters, robust malt sweetness, solid bitterness and some gentle earthy esters. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is reasonably clean. At 8.6% ABV this brew should probably be sipped but the bitterness disguises it almost completely. A reasonably balanced Imperial IPA with plenty of sweet malt to contrast with the fruity & floral hops but also enough bitterness to make sure you haven’t forgotten what you are drinking. If you enjoy IPAs and are looking for something a bit stronger this one should be right up your alley. Those who enjoy fruity hops and plenty of bitterness will be all over this one. Over all a really nice, drinkable Imperial IPA provided you aren’t afraid of bitterness and something I would happily consume any day. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mad River Steelhead Double India Pale Ale

Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale

October 14th, 2010 beckel

Today I have the 1st beer from Rogue Brewing’s Chatoe Series of BYO Certified beers. It is also the 4th and final ale from the series that I picked up last week from the newly opened Lake Wine & Spirits. Perhaps I’ll have to look around to see if I can still find a bottle of their Dirtoir Black Lager to complete the series. As the name implies this ale has a very simple grain bill consisting of only one malt and one hop. Beers like this are a great way to learn about the ingredients used in brewing  and are lovingly referred to as SMaSH beers in the homebrewing community. Consisting of First Growth Dare Malts, Revolution Hops and the usual Pacman Yeast. I am quite excited to sample these ingredients in their purest form.

Pours a very attractive bright orange hue that is very clean and rather translucent. Just over 2 fingers of bright white head is produced and slowly opens into larger and larger bubbles leaving a small amount of lacing and a little bit of residual head after about two minutes. Both malt and hops hit your nose immediately with hardy malt sweetness, cereal grain esters that remind me of Cheerios, oranges, modest bitterness and a bit of alcohol. Strong cereal grain esters are immediately noticed on the tongue, followed by orange fruit esters and a bit of additional citrus that I can’t quite place. Gentle alcohol and a hint of bitterness, most notably lingering on the tongue after swallowing. While it is a difficult task to make a balanced beer with a whole bunch of ingredients it can be equally difficult to make a simple but beautiful brew and unfortunately in this case I don’t feel Rogue quite delivered. Overall this is certainly a clean ale with some enjoyable flavors including very gentle hoppy tartness. Body is light and the mouthfeel is relatively clean. The ABV on this brew isn’t listed but Rogues website states the Original Gravity at 12º Plato so it probably comes in around 5%. Making this a very sessionable. I am very curious and excited to see how the grains and hops that Rogue is so passionately growing will evolve over the years and wonder a lot about how much their age has to do with the flavors present in the ales (and lager) of this series. Seeing brewers take risks like this is one of my favorite things about craft brewing but unfortunately this brew doesn’t have anything particular that shines for me. Definitely not a bad beer and something that I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale

October 13th, 2010 beckel

Today we have the Wet Hop Ale from Rogue’s Chatoe Series of BYO Certified ales. I enjoyed a small pour of this brew on Monday at Town Hall while sampling their Fresh Hop Ale (which was fantastic) as well as Surly’s Wet and Deschutes Hop Trip. While I enjoyed it it wasn’t a big enough sample to do it justice, particularly with so many similar beers side by side. Crafted with Carawheat, Carafoam, First Growth Dare & Risk Malts. First Growth Freedom, Revolution, Independent, Rebel & Liberty Hops. Fermented with their usual Pacman Yeast. For those not familiar with the concept of wet (fresh) hop ales, most ales are brewed with dried hops as hops will mold if stored wet for very long. In the case of wet hop ales freshly picked hops are rushed from the hop yard straight to the brewery as quickly as possible and then boiled with the wort (unfermented beer) like any other brew. The lucky folks at Rogue have their hop yards only 77 miles away. Talk about fresh.

Pours deep red hue that is rather opaque and looks like cranberries when away from light and bright orange when brought to light. About two fingers of tight off white bubbles are formed and fade within a minute. Smells strongly of bright, resinous citrus, peach, orange, gentle herbal notes, a variety of fruity esters and very soft bitterness. Tastes of bright fruity hops, notably orange, tangerine, lemon and peach, mild bitterness and a very nice slightly sweet malt balance. As it warms alcohol becomes a bit more notable on the nose and caramel esters start to shine. Though this brew comes in at a decent 6.4% ABV it certainly doesn’t show. An enjoyable brew with a nice array of fresh hop esters and plenty of malty sweetness to not be overwhelmed. If you enjoy fruity hop esters but aren’t into intense bitterness this is the brew for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale

Chatoe Rogue Creek Ale

October 8th, 2010 beckel

Today I have the 5th and most recent ale from Rogue Brewing’s Chatoe Series of BYO certified beers. Creek Ale as you may guess is their interpretation of a Belgian Kriek, which are brewed or blended with Cherries. This bottle has been brewed with Wheat, First Growth Dare & Risk Malts, First Growth Revolution Hops, Montmorency Cherries, Pacman & Belgian Yeasts.

Pours a very dark reddish brown hue. One finger of off white head is produced and fades within a minute. Smells strongly of dark pitted fruit esters from the malt, mostly plum and a bit of cherry, earthy yeast esters and some malty sweetness. In the flavor you finally get more of the cherry esters as well as some notable plum and gentle grape, clean wheat and barley esters, some malty sweetness and gentle tartness from the cherries. As the brew warms the caramel character of the malt starts to shine through and compliments the variety of fruity esters very nicely. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is very clean for the style leaving your palate quite refreshed. Coming in at 6% ABV this ale is an easy drinker. An enjoyable brew with a variety of pitted fruit esters  but not a lot else. If you enjoy simple, fruity, dark Belgian Style Ales this might just be the beer for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue Creek Ale

Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale

October 7th, 2010 beckel

Today I had the pleasure of checking out the newest liquor store in the 612, Lake Wine & Spirits. Conveniently located on Grand & Lake Street which happens to be within a mile of my humble abode. Overall the store was clean and well stocked for being only a week old. A solid selection of wine, liquor and most importantly beer was present and reasonably organized. I’m sure I will rant more about them in the future but right now I have a beer to drink.

While there I picked up four out of the five beers in the Chatoe Rogue series of Rogue beers. All of which are GYO certified and brewed with 100% Oregon ingredients, many of which are grown by Rogue Brewing and being labeled as First Growth. Currently I am enjoying the third beer in the series entitled OREgasmic Ale. Brewed with First Growth Dare & Risk malts, Williamette, Sterling & First Growth Revolution hops and Rogue’s favorite yeast; Pacman. (Note: Rogue is one of the best breweries about listing their ingredients but I must note in this case the bottle I have and their website do not list the hops identically, oh well.)

Pours a lovely hazy, completely opaque orangish brown hue. About two fingers of very tight, creamy, tan bubbles are created and remain for almost five minutes. Leaving a good deal of residual head quite a bit of lacing for Pale Ale. Sincerely surprising me that there is no wheat in this ale as the head retention is simply amazing. Aroma is fantastically hoppy with notes of orange and lemon citrus, gentle herbal hops, fruity esters and wonderful caramel malt esters and soft bitterness. Flavor is full of rich sweet malt, mellow orange & other citrus esters, finishing with modest hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy and body is medium. As I continue to drink I notice more and more grassy hop flavors, particularly lingering on the palate after consumption. Some of which might have to do with the freshness of the hops. As the beer warms the creamy malty sweetness becomes more and more apparent and the citrus hop esters continue to compliment the sweetness even more wonderfully. If Rogue were to make caramel candies with citrus and bitter esters similar to this brew they may be on to something amazing. Over all a very delicious brew that I would happily consume often. A bit too sweet for me to drink all night, though certainly doable with a reasonable 6% ABV. If you enjoy Pale Ales and are looking for more than just hops this ale will be right up your alley. I think even those who are less in love with hops will enjoy the creamy caramel character that this ale brings to surface in a truly fantastic way. If you want more classic Pale Ale characteristics consume this ale colder, if looking for more malt give it a bit more time to warm up. Better yet consume it slowly and enjoy it in all of its glory. After this brew I am very excited to try the rest of the series. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale