November 24th, 2010 beckel
Today I have what is sure to be an intriguing beer, for better or worse. Bashah is a collaborative brew made by two fantastic breweries; Brewdog ofÂ Fraserburgh, Scotland & Stone ofÂ Escondido, CA. Both breweries are big fans ofÂ collaboration and have made at least a couple beers together. This time around Stone went to Scotland to manifest this intense Imperial Black IPA (or Cascadian Dark Ale). First brewed in early 2009 I was very happy to see this beer on the shelves of South Lyndale Liquors a few months ago and couldn’t help but pick it up. According to the bottle this is batch 378 and it was bottled on 25/11/10…unfortunately that doesn’t make any sense as that would mean it was bottled tomorrow. Regardless I always appreciate well labeled bottles, perhaps they intended to suggestÂ consumingÂ it before or after that date. When purchasing this brew a friend at the store noted that he had sampled Bashah cold and couldn’t stand it, but had allowed it to warm and found it very enjoyable. While IPAs are one of the few ales I suggest consuming colder this is a good example of how important it is to allow complex brews to warm before serving. I have let this beer sit out for about 15-20 min and I think that will be just about right for serving.
Upon pouring a pitch black hue spews from the bottle that is completely opaque and slowly creates a solid two fingers of tight, light brown bubbles. After settling for a few minutes very little lacing is left but a millimeter or two of residual bubbles persist creating a very nice presentation. Massive aromas of dark malt provide esters of coffee, tobacco and notable bitterness. Fruity hops are obvious but play a supporting role to the intense malt profile while adding some additional bitter esters. Esters of wood, tootsie rolls (minus the sweetness) & a slightly sour note on the nose areÂ reminiscentÂ of barrel aging, but this version of the ale is not (earlier this year two Reserve editions were released, each aged in different whiskey barrels with different fruits added). Dark malt flavors are so diverse it is hard to pin them all down. Intense coffee, roasted esters & fruity hops are most notable.Â The contrast between malt and hop bitterness isÂ trulyÂ lovely and surprisingly not overpowering. Body is medium, but surprisingly light as is characteristic of the base style.Â Mouthfeel is smooth, but has a slightly chalky dryness that lingers a bit. Though Bashah boasts a solid 8.6% ABV it is almost completely hidden by the intense malt profile and notable bitterness present in this ale. Gentle sweetness and soft chocolate esters add nice contrast to the strong roasted and bitter esters present creating a surprisingly well rounded ale. Unquestionably the most complex India Dark Ale I have ever sampled and one of the strongest brews of its style. Overall an impressive ale that while not hop forward, does an amazing job playing with dark malt and solid hop profiles. If you enjoy the new(ish) style of Cascadian Dark Ales and are looking for a delicious, complex example of the style this brew is definately worth picking up, even with its ~$10 price tag. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 23rd, 2010 beckel
Today I have what is sure to be a solid beer from a very exciting brewery out of Portland, Oregon. Hair of the Dog was founded in November of 1993 and is one of the most under hyped breweries out there. Though the founder and brewerÂ Alan Sprints recently expanded his operation a bit with a new tasting room and a few actual employees, Hair of the Dog has always been a one man show. One man with a serious passion for old, forgotten & unique styles of beer as well as barrel aging, qualityÂ ingredientsÂ and brewing history. All of his beers have simple names, often as a tribute to someone respected in the industry, or in this case his grandmother. While not all are available to the public Alan barrel ages almost all of his beers, for experimentation sake, which I highly respect. If that weren’t enough effort, Alan still brews very small batches with his 4 barrel system, producing about 120 Gallons at a time. Though not available in my market I have been lucky enough to sample a number of his brews and am very excited to sample this Pale Ale.
Pours a pale, light orange hue that is rather opaque. Head is minimal with about a half a finger of clean white, tight bubbles that fade with about 30 seconds, surprisingly leaving a hint of residual head around the rim of the glass. Smells nicely of citrus, reminding me of mandarin oranges, clean Pale Malt esters, gentle sweetness and soft bitterness. Flavor is malt forward with simple grain esters and nice sweetness, gentle orange, lemon and other citrus esters come from the Crystal Hops, as well as mild bitterness in the finish that lingers but isn’t overly intense. Body is rather light and the mouthfeel is gently carbonated and slightly creamy. Alcohol is barely noticed and at 5.6% ABV this isÂ definitelyÂ aÂ sessionableÂ brew. Certainly the simplest brew from Hair of the Dog but none the less a beautifully clean, incredibly approachable Pale Ale. If you enjoy a well crafted ales and are looking for an easy drinker Ruth is a good choice. Those who enjoy subtle hops and quality malt will enjoy this very balanced Pale Ale. While not a good example of Alan’s creativity, this brew shows the importance of balance and traditional styles. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on anything from Hair of the Dog you will not beÂ disappointed. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 17th, 2010 beckel
Today I have another fun beer we can not get in Minnesota. From the well regarded Port Brewing Company out of San Marcos, CA. Wipeout is Port’s year round IPA and as the West Coast is said to be the mecca of hops I expect this ale to deliver. Port Brewing Company formed in 2006 afterÂ Vince and Gina Marsaglia decided to expand the brewing capabilities of their previous brewpubs, called Pizza Port where they first started brewing in 1992, by purchasing a production facility previously owned by Stone Brewing Company. To make things more complicated Port Brewing is only half of the beer that comes out of their brewery with the other half brewed byÂ renownedÂ Tomme Arthur under the name Lost Abby.Â Producing Belgian inspired ales that are often barrel aged. But more on that another time. According to their website Wipeout is brewed with Two Row, Wheat, Carapils & English Crystal Malt. Amarillo, Centennial & Simcoe Hops (though the bottle adds Summit hops to the list and while only listing four varietals suggests that it is brewed with no less than five hop varieties). Then fermented with White Labs’ California Ale Yeast.
Pours a hazy pale yellowish orange hue that is quite opaque. When poured down the center of the glass over four fingers of white head are quickly produced, so quickly it overflowed a bit. A few millimeters of residual head persists and a small amount of lacing is left behind. Aroma is quite fantastic with robust citrus hops up front, lemon, grapefruit & orange, complimented by modest malty sweetness, gentle wheat esters, alcohol and hop bitterness. Massive citrus hits the palate immediately with intense lemon and grapefruit, followed by delightful sweetness and esters of Crystal Malt. Midpalate you are greeted by serious bitterness and some orange esters. Finishes with a blend of all of the above with citrus esters playing with malty sweetness and plenty of bitterness. While this ale comes in at a reasonable 7% ABV the bitter hops completely distract me from the slight alcohol in the flavor. Body is medium-light and the mouthfeel is very clean and well carbonated. A nice West Coast IPA with beautiful, intense citrus, enjoyable caramel (Crystal) malt esters and unquestionable bitterness. If you enjoy bright citrus hops with enough malts to back them up and unfaltering bitterness in your IPAs you will not beÂ disappointed. As far as I’m concerned aÂ quintessential West Coast IPA. While I am still partial to my fantastic local IPAs it would be nice to have a deliciously fresh brew like this available in my market. Most fans of American IPAs will enjoy this brew, I know I do. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 15th, 2010 beckel
Today I have the last beer from this round of Lake Wine & Spirits Citizen Six Pack and believe it or not the beer I was most excited to sample. Dave’s BrewFarm is a very new and almost local brewery located in Wilson, WI that is nothing short of awesome. While it will take some time toÂ achieve, one of Dave’s goals with the brewery it to be able to grow all of his own grains and hops on premise for use in his brews. In Febuary of 2009 Dave purchased a windmill to aid his brewery and push forward his desire to create a sustainable craft brewery. While Dave (with help from Point Brewing) is currently only packaging two of his offerings: Matacabras & BrewFarm Select,Â I have had the opportunity to sample a wide array of the inventive ale’s & lagers he creates at both the Great Taste of the Midwest and our local Where The Wild Beers Are and you can rest assured he not only knows how to push the envelope, but also how to make solid classic brews. In mostÂ circumstancesÂ the last beer I would be excited to try would be a “Golden” Light lager, but in this case not only does thisÂ unassuming Lager come in cans but Â it is brewed by someone I know firsthand has a sincere passion for creating great beer. I have yet to make the trip down to Dave’s BrewFarm but they have a greater variety of their beers available in their tap room and while they do not have a kitchen they allow you to bring in your own snacks. Their website is currently under construction but you can find their tap hours on their blog.
The first thing one will notice when pouring this Lager down the center of your glass is theÂ bountifulÂ white head that starts to form, eventually creating over three fingers of tight white bubbles that hang around for about two minutes and even leave a small amount of lacing around the glass. With out even smelling this beer I’m already guessing there is some wheat in the grain bill. Appearance is much more attractive that your standard Light Lager, presenting us with a lovely bright orange hue that is quite translucent. Aroma is grainy and enjoyable, notes of wheat, Pilsner Malt, soft oats and even softer citrus, finished off by mild alcohol, biscuit, and perhaps a hint of caramel malt. Flavors of light citrus, orange & lemon are quicklyÂ sweptÂ to the side by sweet malts that provide clean grain esters and add an additional dimension to the prior citrus esters encouraging one to take another sip. Body is light but the mouthfeel is a more full than most of the style yet crisp, well carbonated andÂ enjoyable. Rocking a veryÂ session ableÂ 5.5% ABV I would beÂ hard pressedÂ not to drink half a 12-pack of these suckers in one sitting. When I first saw this brew on the shelves I was very tempted to grab a case but now I simply wish I already had one in the fridge. If you enjoy light beers and are looking for some real flavor this is the beer for you. It is brews like this that show Light Lagers do not need to be made with corn and other adjuncts as most large American brewers have been so keen to do, and more importantly can in fact be quite delicious if made with qualityÂ ingredients. While on most days I would prefer to sit down with a more complex beer, this brew is fantastic for what it is. A perfect beer for any hot day or a situation when you want something approachable to all and sessionable. When the weather improves again this will likely become a go to back pack brew on a good ride. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 14th, 2010 beckel
Boundary Bay Brewing Company is a Brewpub out of Bellingham, Washington that was recognized as the nations largest brewpub in 2008 by the Brewers Association. They strive to brew classic styles but say they also like the “push the envelope” with some beers such as the IPA I have before me. They only bottle a few of their beers so I am happy to have the opportunity to sample this brew.
Pours a dark amber hue that becomes a hazy orange hue when brought to light. Two fingers of bright white head are produced and stay for many minutes leaving a few millimeters of residual head and a decent amount of lacing. Smells of bright hops, a good deal of orange esters likely from Amarillo Hops, passion fruit follows further encouraging my belief. Gentle earthiness and a hint of alcohol. Malt flavors are very forward and robust, followed by solid fruity hops, with orange and passion fruit shining through once again. Bitterness hits you mid palate and continues through the finish. As it warms additional esters of lemon and grapefruit come into play creating a nicely balanced yet American influenced India Pale Ale. A nice ale with roots in the English approach to the style but stepped up with American hops and fruity gusto. With a medium body and a reasonably clean mouthfeel this 6.4% ABV brew will be quite approachable to most. I encourage consumption of most beers at just a bit colder than room temperature with one of the few exceptions being IPAs due to the astringency that is sometimes exposed in hop esters. With this malt forward IPA, like many Imperial IPAs I highly suggest letting it warm for 10 minutes or more to experience how nicely the malty esters continue to evolve and allow the caramel notes to shine providing nice diversity and even more enjoyable contrast with the fruity hops. Or just drink it slowly like I have, it comes in 22oz bottles after all. If you enjoy malty IPAs but are looking for something more Americanized this is the brew for you. With enough bitterness to fit the style and even appease most of us state side, but enough malt presence to bring solid balance this is unquestionably a very well rounded beer. If they brew the rest of their beer as well as this IPA I would love to see more from Boundary Bay. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 13th, 2010 beckel
Tonight I will be enjoying another beer from Ninkasi, this time around we have their Double IPA. I don’t know much about this brew, but it does have a fun name, and if it is nearly as tasty as their Total Domination IPA I will be a happy man.
Pours an attractive amber & orange hue that is very bright orange when brought to light. While rather opaque you can see contrast when in the light. Two fingers of bright white head are easily created and linger for many minutes, leaving a good deal of lacing and a few millimeters of of residual carbonation. Smells of fruity hops with esters of pineapple & orange, followed by sweet malt, modest bitterness and gentle alcohol. While the aroma is nice the hops are not particularly bright. Flavor is quite fruity with lots of orange up front followed by slightly astringent bitterness and an enjoyable malt base. Sweet malts help contrast with the solid bitterness but are only able to do so much. Which is just fine in my book. Definitely more balanced than their IPA but not as intriguing. Still a solid brew that I would happily drink if it was available in the Minnesota market. Mouthfeel is rather full and the body is medium for the style and adds nicely to the fullness of the mouthfeel. For an 8.8% ABV beer it is fantastically quaffable. The combination of sweet malts and bitter hops will do a good job of making most not realize until the alcohol sneaks up on them. I find this beer to be a bit of a paradox, because on some sips sweetness seems very prevalent and other times it is sheer bitterness. If you enjoy Imperial IPA’s you will probably enjoy this beer as it is full of all of the nice contrasting flavors one would expect. Perhaps not as harmonious as some but definitely a tasty example of the style that I would happily grab a pint of any day. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 13th, 2010 beckel
Today I have a beer I am very excited to sample. Ninkasi Brewing out of Eugene, Oregon is a rather new brewery with their first batch of beer, in fact this beer, brewed on June of 2006 in a leased restaurant space. I have been wanting to sample their brews for some time as they get good reviews but unfortunately their beers are unavailable in the Minnesota market.
Upon pouring carbonation quickly cascades from the middle of the glass creating a lovely two fingers of tight white bubbles. After fading a millimeter or so of carbonation persists with clouds of carbonation sitting on the surface of the brew. The very cloudy apricot hue along with the almost creamy looking head creates a very nice presentation. Aroma is fantastically hoppy with strong esters of orange, mango, followed by other citrus’ particularly grapefruit, rounded off with enjoyable malt sweetness and some nice bitterness. Flavor is ripe with fruity hops, bright mango and orange upfront followed by intense, but fantastic bitterness. Lemon and grapefruit are apparent mid palate and malty sweetness is noticed just after helping balance the sincere bitterness as you continue to drink. As it continues to warm esters of passion fruit start to appear and the fruity esters continue to to shine with the bitterness lessening a bit. Though not particularly balanced this is one beautifully hoppy, bitter brew that I would happily drink all day long. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is surprisingly clean for such a resinous brew. With a reasonable 6.7% ABV this would definitely be a go to beer if I could get it in my market. With the delicious bright fruits and intense bitterness this beer would pair perfectly with a spicy meal. If you enjoy a solid IPA and aren’t afraid of bitterness this brew is definitely worth your time. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 11th, 2010 beckel
Today I have another beer provided by Lake Wine & Spirits’ Citizen Six Pack and one of the few brews I have yet to sample from the good people at Odell Brewing. If you couldn’t guess Isolation Ale is Odell’s Winter Seasonal and is sure to be a welcome treat on this rainy Minnesota evening.
Pours a deep almost ruby red hue that is very translucent. One finger of tight off white bubbles are produced and provide a lovely presentation, hanging around for a minute or two. Smells of sweet malt as is expected for the style, followed by notes of caramel, soft grapes, cherries, gentle roasted malts and very little alcohol. Notable specialty grains are present in the flavor, likely Caramel and Biscuit Malt. Followed by enjoyable malty sweetness that is contrasted by a gentle tartness that reminds me of cherries. Soft hoppy bitterness adds a nice citrus character and helps distract from the sweet malt base present in this ale and provides a nice finish. Caramel and cereal grain esters dominate making this 6% ABV Winter Warmer very approachable and sessionable. Body is relatively light and the mouthfeel is very clean and well carbonated for the style. If you are into malty brews and prefer them to be on the sweet side, but not cloying, this beer is a good choice. Like most of Odell’s Year Round and Seasonal brews this is a very approachable yet quality beer that most people will enjoy. As it warms more diverse fruit esters appear creating a more intriguing beer, but the alcohol also becomes more notable as the sweetness lessens. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 8th, 2010 beckel
Today I have what is sure to be a fine brew from Russian River brewing out of Santa Rosa, CA. Russian River is widelyÂ recognizedÂ for their many sour beers as well as their hoppy beers, particularly the highly sought afterÂ PlinyÂ the Elder. Supplication is brewed with a total of 6 yeast varietals. Initially fermented with an Abby Ale yeast. Conditioned with Rockpile wine yeast, Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, Pediococcus & Lactobacillus. If that weren’t enough this Brown Ale is aged in OakÂ Pinot Noir barrels with cherries. I am always pleased to see breweries who properly label & date their brews and Russian River goes a step beyond with a rather well updated bottle log with detailed notes about date brewed, date bottled, yeasts used and even additional comments on process or flavor profiles. This bottleÂ labeled 04×5 is part of the 4th batch brewedÂ 12/23/2008, bottled 12/14/2009 and was the first batch to use their new smaller profile 375ml bottles. As you can see this bottle was barrel aged for almost one year and has been bottle conditioning for almost eleven months. I have been lucky enough to have a number of brews from this fine establishment but do not recall ever sampling this one, so let’s get to it.
Upon opening a lovely pop erupts and carbonate starts to build in the neck of the bottle. I quickly poured it into my glass and watched as a lovelyÂ bouquetÂ of off white head was easily produced, spanning about two fingers. After fading serious lacing is still present and creates an attractive presentation contrasting with the modestly translucent deep ruby hue of the beer. Upon first whiff you are immediately presented with sour cherries, tart Brettanomyces esters and a nice blend of herbal and earthy esters of oak,Â Pinot Noir and more. Flavor is of rich cherries, both tart and semi-sweet. Wonderful acidity and sour yeast esters blendÂ phenomenallyÂ with the malt base. Truly a fantastic beer with gentle malty sweetness playing alongside tangy, sour esters, caramel, cherries and soft bitterness. Mouthfeel is mildly puckering, rather dry and the body is medium. Coming in at a reasonable 7% ABV this is a beer I could drink all night long if only it were less expensive and distributed in Minnesota. If you enjoy sour beers you are likely to enjoy most of what Russian River has to offer and this one is no exception. A beautiful brew that shows how multidimensional beer can be. A wonderfully inspired mix between a Flemish Brown Ale and a Kriek. If you enjoy sour brown ales and cherries you will be inÂ heavenÂ with this beer. If you’re lucky enough to live where Russian River is distributed; give it a shot and ride your bike. Then send me some more. 🙂
November 1st, 2010 beckel
Today I have another brew from Lake Wine & Spirits’ Citizen Six Pack. This time around it is a Belgian Inspired Tripel from the fine folks at NewÂ Belgium. I recall sampling this brew once at South Lyndale Liquors and remember not being blown away, but perhaps served properly it will be a better experience.
Pours a pale, golden straw hue that is completely translucent. About a finger and a half of bright white tight bubbles are created and fade within a minute or two. Smells of Pale Malt, citrus hops, largely lemon, bready esters and gentleÂ coriander.Â CorianderÂ comes through brighter in the flavor and sweet Munich & Pale Malt play a central role followed by gentle alcohol. Some additional earthy and herbal esters come from the yeast but are very simple. Body is light and the mouthfeel is carbonated and relatively clean. Over all a very simple approach to the style that will be very drinkable for most. While I find the lack of diverse yeast esters a bit boring it also makes this ale an easy stepping stone to the world of fantastic Belgian Ales. Not a brew for those against sweet malts but an easy sipper at 7.8% ABV. If you’re a fan of pale Belgian Style Ales and are looking for somethingÂ readilyÂ available and very drinkable this might just be the beer for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.