Little Creatures Bright Ale

January 26th, 2011 beckel

Today I have a beer that was brought back from Australia for me by a friend. I have been excited to try the brews of Little Creatures since I first hear of them about a year ago while talking beer with the significant other of a family friend that was in town from Australia. I don’t know a ton about the brewery, but they are one of the few breweries out of Australia producing progressive craft beer and I can’t wait to get a taste.

Pours a bright golden hue that is completely translucent. Just over a finger of white head is produced and stays for a minute or so. Smells of pale malts, soft grain sweetness and light bitterness. Tastes of clean Pilsner malt, enjoyable grain sweetness, soft bitterness, mild lemon, grapefruit and other fruit esters. Overall this is a very drinkable, light ale that is incredibly tasty and brilliantly quaff able. If this were in my market I would drink it on the regular and at 4.5% ABV it would be no problem. Nice grain flavors and enough hops to make this beer far from bland. A perfect session beer. As I continue to drink  gentle notes of caramel, soft herbal esters and a slightly creaminess is present giving this smooth beer plenty of character. Body is light and the mouthfeel is very clean. A truly delicious brew that I can’t say enough good things about. If only it weren’t so easy to drink I may have been able to savor it for longer. Perhaps one of these days I can brew such a delicious, moderate ABV brew. If you ever make it to an area where Little Creatures is available I would highly recommended this brew and ask that you ship me a few cases while you’re at it. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Little Creatures Bright Ale

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

January 13th, 2011 beckel

Today I have a brew from Deschutes Brewing that I have been wanting to try since last year. Deschutes, being new to our market at the time, didn’t send any of  their Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale into our market last season so I had no choice but to buy it today from Lake Wine & Spirits and rejoice. Named after the oldest operating lift at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, this hop centric Pale Ale garnered the title of “Worlds Best Pale Ale” from the “World Beer Awards” in 2010. While I find the aforementioned organization’s lack of judging details and award selections somewhat dubious it is always nice to get recognition. This batch states best by 4/19/11.

Pours a distinctive reddish copper hue that is mostly translucent, with a modest amount of bright white lacing creating a very nice appearance. Sweet malts hit the nose first, followed by notable bitterness, gentle citrus and fruity hop esters, finishing with a bit of alcohol. There is a somewhat odd grain ester in the aroma that I can’t quite place but is slightly off putting. Bitter notes hit your tongue quickly and are followed up with grassy and lemon hop esters. Cereal grains hit you mid palate with a variety of flavors including oat and wheat. Unfortunately these grain notes include a variety of muddled and somewhat flat grain notes, that I don’t find particularly enjoyable. The sip finished with plenty of bitterness, which does a pretty good job of saving this brew, but so far this one leaves a bit to be desired. As my palate gets used to the flavors the less refined esters seem to be further hidden by malt sweetness, brighter fruity hops and bitterness. For further examination I grabbed another bottle which I found to be quite a bit more palatable, but again that is probably just because I am getting used to the flavors. Overall this  brew has some nice grain notes, modest fruity & citrus hop esters and a good deal of bitterness. After drinking a few more bottles I’d say this is a decent brew but it just isn’t as clean and bright in both hop and grain profile as I expected from the products description. This brew will likely be enjoyed by most, but I would like to see it refined a bit, or who knows maybe I had a batch that wasn’t treated optimally. If you enjoy hoppy ales this 6.2% ABV brew is a decent choice. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

January 7th, 2011 beckel

Karl Strauss. A name that will likely ring a bell for many beer lovers, young and old. OK, mostly old. Regardless, if you are unaware of the Karl Strauss Brewery and the man it was named after fear no more. Founded in 1989 as the first brewpub in San Diego Karl Strauss Brewing was started by Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner and was built with the wisdom and vast brewing knowledge of Karl, Chris’ uncle and a legendary brewer who has received the three highest honors in the brewing industry including the “Distinguished Life Service Award” from the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. You can read more about Karl and the breweries 21 year history on their respective wiki pages. Big Barrel Double IPA is the first in their new line of Karl’s Coastal Reserve series of big hoppy beers. The label notes that they wanted to start of the series “big” by using imported Nelson Sauvin Hops from New Zealand,  as well as Warrior & Ahtanum Hops. The bottle I have here is actually the 3rd release of this beer which was available late 2010 in select markets. With 90 IBU and 9% ABV this brew is sure to be a great introduction to a historic brewery.

Pours a brilliantly translucent copper hue with three fingers of bright white head quickly forming and hanging around for many minutes leaving a modest amount of lacing behind and a few millimeters of residual carbonation. Smells magnificently fruity with bright citrus balanced by wonderfully smooth malt esters and enjoyable bitterness. Flavor starts with smooth fruity hops, a variety of citrus esters, clean sweet malts complimented by assertive, but not over the top bitterness. The 9% ABV of this beer is completely hidden by the smooth hops and vibrant bitterness in this brew. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is almost silky. The myriad of citrus and fruit esters in this brew are delicious and amazingly smooth. Everything from peach to pineapple is present. Though it is full of plenty of flavors this brew is not overly complex but fantastically clean and palatable. A really delicious Imperial IPA that has obviously benefited from its barrel aging. Definitely the smoothest Double IPA I have ever tasted. Truly a delicious brew that I wish I had more of and would definitely pick up if it were available in the Minnesota market. Proper words allude me, but there is something amazing about the way the clean flavors in this brew are truly complex but yet remain simple and soft. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

Short’s Key Lime Pie

January 6th, 2011 beckel

No, this is not a food review. Though I could go for a slice right about now. Short’s brewing produces a large variety of year round and seasonal brews out of their Elk Rapids, MI pub including this unique brew made with marshmallow, lactose, lime & graham crackers. Some may call this a crazy concept, I even find it impressively nuts, but it garnered a gold medal at this years GABF in the experimental category so it can’t be too bad. Founded in 2004 and struggling to stay afloat in 2005, shorts has done magnificently in the following years growing 200% in the year 2009 and projecting 33% growth for 2010. Currently Shorts only distributes in their state of Michigan, so if your in the area send me some more of their brews.

Pours an interesting red hue with hints of brown. Barely half a finger of white head is produced and almost completely fades with in two minutes leaving just a hint of residual head. Aroma has lime esters that are somewhat vegetal and not particularly bright, notes of graham cracker contrast with modestly sweet malt and earthy bitterness. Flavors roll around your palate in a very unique way with lime lingering throughout and graham crackers hitting you mid palate and flowing throughout the finish. Marshmallow and lactose esters work with the lime creating a truly bizarre flavor profile. As you continue to drink lime esters play a central role in this brew creating a variety of citrus esters as you sip. Some flat and others more bright, finishing with a nice sweetness and a somewhat strange earthiness that is a bit rind like. While I don’t taste much alcohol in this 5.75% brew the level of acid almost seems a bit alcoholic. Some malt esters are present, but it is very difficult to isolate them from the graham crackers and other intense flavors. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is surprisingly clean. Overall this lime filled, marshmallow influenced brew is unlike any beer you have ever tasted. Frankly not a beer I would bother buying often, but intriguing none the less and a complex bouquet for your palate to play with. If you have the opportunity to sample it I would go for it as it is not a bad beer and is definitely fun but not something you will drink many of. I really enjoy the contrast of limes and graham crackers, but feel like this brew might be less muddled with out the use of marshmallows and lactose, though I understand the intent to emulate a key lime pie, even though it is not quite accomplished. If you dig limes this might just be the brew for you. As usual I enjoy the experimental ambitions of Shorts and would love to try some of their year round offerings as well as their other experimental brews such as Strawberry Short’s Cake & Turtle Stout. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Short's Key Lime Pie.jpg

Laurelwood Workhorse IPA

January 5th, 2011 beckel

Today I have another west coast IPA, this time from the folks at Laurelwood Brewing out of Portland, OR. Founded in 2001 with a 7bbl brewery, Laurelwood has grown extensively in the past 10 years currently operating 6 pub locations (if you count the soon to be re-opened pizza co.) including two locations in PDX airport. Their website stresses their support for the community, locavore and families. Aside from appreciating their moral stance I always respect breweries that list their ingredients giving Laurelwood more points before even sampling their brews. Workhouse IPA is brewed with 2-row, Crystal 40 & Carapils Malts. Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade & Columbus Hops. Dry hopped twice and rocking a solid 80 IBU; I’m getting thirsty already.

Pours a relatively dark, slightly brownish red hue with very little head created initially. As you continue to pour carbonation erupts from the bottom of the glass and cascades up creating about a finger and a half of tight white bubbles. After a minute or two the carbonation fades leaving a small amount of residual head and nice lacing. Aroma is full of fruity hops, lots of orange and passion fruit esters that scream Simcoe & Amarillo with out being overly orangy as both hops can be depending on utilization. Brilliant malty sweetness on the nose adds a nice richness and contrasts the fruity and bitter esters wonderfully. Tastes of sweet dates, passion fruit, orange, grapefruit, earthy hop esters, notable malt sweetness and mild bitterness. This brew is full of citrus as well as a diverse variety of other fruit esters and an impressive malt backbone that makes this beer border on many of the flavor profiles often found in Imperial IPAs. While it just misses the imperial bill at 7.5% ABV the alcohol is almost completely hidden by the robust hops and sweet malts, making this palatable brew far to easy to drink. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is well carbonated and relatively clean. As I continue to drink this brew the pitted fruit esters continue progress towards the middle of the palate and are a very unique and enjoyable character that is very unexpected for the style and make me very curious about the yeast used and more so where the heck it is coming from. My assumption is it is a mix of fruity hop esters playing with my senses and producing independent flavors, but it distinctly reminds me of esters many Belgian yest strains create. This is definitely a creative brew that challenges style parameters and will be enjoyed by many. There are so many diverse hop esters in this brew I am almost tempted to call it a bit confused but it is simply delicious and IPAs as a style are not intended to be overly balanced. If you are into fruity hoppy brews you will be in heaven with this one. If you are looking for sincere bitterness you will not find it, but I think most hop heads will still enjoy the diverse blend of hops and malt. Definitely something to check out if you make it to Oregon. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Laurelwood Workhorse India Pale Ale

Green Flash West Coast IPA

January 4th, 2011 beckel

Today I have what is said to be a shining example of a West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Company out of Vista, California. Founded in 2002 by former pub owners Green Flash has earned a reputation for utilizing the abundant hops conveniently found in their region to make delicious hoppy brews as well as a variety of Belgian inspired Ales that I was previously unaware of. I was lucky enough to get a few bottles of this brew as well as a bottle of their Hop Head Red Ale from an acquaintance in Oregon. While not available in any states immediately around Minnesota, you can find plenty on the coasts as well as a few states in the Midwest (Ohio, Illinois & Colorado).

Pours a lovely orange red hue that brightens greatly when brought to light. A clean two fingers of off white head is produced and clings steadily creating a very attractive pour. After many minutes you are left with a few millimeters of residual head and a good amount of lacing. Aroma is full of bright, rich citrus with notable grapefruit, orange and lemon dancing about your nose backed up by rich malts, nice bitterness and a hint of alcohol. Flavor is very hop forward with massive orange and grapefruit citrus hitting the tongue followed by intense bitterness finishing with enough malt sweetness to cleanse the palate a bit with out making you forget you are drinking a sincerely bitter brew. Citrus esters are beautifully fruity and complex, even with serious grapefruit esters this brew avoids the almost tart acidic esters that sometimes come from over use of Centennial and Cascade hops that I feel plague some “West Coast” India Pale Ales. While malts play a supporting role in this Ale it is a very important one with soft caramel and grain esters complimenting the fruity, bitter bouquet of hops in a way any hop head is sure to appreciate. Body is medium-light and the mouthfeel is smooth and clean, making this 7% ABV brew exceptionally quaff able, provided you like bitterness. While this may not be appreciated by people who prefer classic English examples of the style the brilliant bitterness and overall hop profile is exactly what I am looking for in a seriously hoppy IPA. If you’re lucky enough to get some of this brew fresh you will be a happy person. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Green Flash West Coast IPA