December 31st, 2014 beckel
Straight from Minneapolis’ newest Brewery; East Lake Brewing. Devil’s Kettle; a Belgian IPA. Poured from a bad ass stainless steel growler, a solid finger of bright white tight bubbles are produced. Color is a very bright orange brown. The nose is lovely with bright citrus from both the hops and Belgian yeast, leaving the nose with a clean refreshing yeast character. Tastes of orange, peach and apricots. Malt character is robust enough to stand on its own, yet plays well with the hops. Stopping the beer from being overly bitter. Belgian yeast persists in the flavor and is very complimentary. Mouthfeel is clean and the beer appears well attenuated. Body is medium. I’ve had the 6 beers currently available from East Lake at their taproom and this one is definitely the stand out so far. Reminiscent of Harriet’s West Side IPA in the very early days when it was more alcoholic and bright. At 92 IBU, this is a well rounded fruity Belgian IPA that I could drink all day (and sort of did yesterday). ABV is pretty standard at 7% and well hidden. I’m excited to see what this small brewery keeps putting out and will definitely be back. They are currently filling growlers if you bring one in, and are also selling bombers of a few beers for your off premise needs. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
July 13th, 2009 beckel
A few weeks ago I enjoyed some 1800 English India Pale Ale from our fine local brewpub Town Hall. This beer is only brewed once a year and is always a big hit so I knew I had to get my hands on some. Color is light amber and appears quite translucent. Was served with an appropriate finger of white head. Aroma is nicely hoppy with a good deal of orange and other citrus with just a bit of bitterness. Flavor is full of floral and citrus hops that contrast nicely with the somewhat sweet malt base. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is quite clean. Tough not a hop bomb in any way this is a nicely hopped yet well balanced IPA brewed with respect to English style. Most fans of India Pale Ales will enjoy this beer though you’ll want to count how many you have as it’s 8.2% ABV is very well hidden. Apparently it is even better on cask so hopefully I will be able to find some of that soon. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
July 13th, 2009 beckel
So if it’s not obvious yet I kind of suck at blogging about things after the fact which is part of the reason I write about brews as I consume them when possible; though I further find it a good way to immerse readers in the tasting experience as it happens. So as I look here at my tasting notes from Town Hall’s Simcoe Double India Brown Ale which was released today I realized the previous two brews I have consumed and jotted notes down about I didn’t get around to posting about, guess I have some work to do. But on to the present topic. Town Hall has brewed a similar beer for many years but this is the first year they have used a single hop in the brew, a solid up and coming hop at that; Simcoe. This beer was served to me with an appropriate finger and change of white head. Color is relatively dark brown and quite attractive and somewhat opaque when brought to light. Aroma is quite amazing. Full of fruity Simcoe hops which usually reminds me of passion fruit though in the aroma of this brew it reminds me strangely of strawberry yogurt as well as some additional malty sweetness. Flavor is unique, sweet and malty with strong passion fruit notes from the Simcoe which is nicely contrasted by some caramely malt sweetness and some gentle bitterness that intensifies appropriately in the finish giving this beer a well rounded flavor. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is almost creamy though I think it’s mostly the flavor tricking me. Though this beer is on the sweeter side the caramel malt notes in combination with the serious addition of Simcoe is really quite drinkable and enjoyable. If you enjoy uniquely hoppy brown ales that pack a punch this will be right up your alley as it is 7.8% ABV. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
March 13th, 2009 beckel
First I’d like to give some love to a new Minnesota web site that has been entertaining me for the past few weeks that I first learned about thanks to The Four Firkins newsletter last month. The Heavy Table is based in the Twin Cities and is dedicated to informing us about happenings in the food and drink world of the Upper Midwest with an emphasis on quality and locavore. Keep up the good work.
Though I don’t drink their beer too often I’ve always assumed that the folks from Boulder Beer Company had good hearts with their creatively named brews such as Hazed and Infused and now The Full Pint further reaffirms this with news that they have become the first group in Boulder to adopt a city bike path and take responsibility of its maintenance. Props to Boulder Beer for understanding the importance of cycling infrastructure and its proper care, I hope to see others follow in their foot steps, or tire treads.
For those of you who haven’t already read a dozen posts on the subject, Beer Wars is coming! April 16th will be the live showing which is quite a unique approach. Not only will we get to see what is sure to be a solid movie about the craft we love so much but for the reasonable ticket price of only $15 you will also be treated to a live HD discussion with Ben Stein and many members of the craft beer industry who were interviewed for this film and hear their take on the video they have just watched for the first time (just like you).Â Check out their website to purchase a ticket.
Though I usually leave it to others to post new beer news I can’t pass this one up The Beer Spot writes to tell us about Oak Aged Unearthly from Southern Tier (which ever so conveniently is currently in my fridge – and quite delicious I must add) but even more so an ale called Iniquity a Imperial Black IPA (also referred to as an India Brown Ale) a very rarely brewed style that I have only had the opportunity to sample one of. Which happens to be the lovely Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale which you will eventually see a review of as I still have two bottles waiting to be consumed. So who’s stocking Iniquity first? Because I want some!
Then we have a very interesting graph that Chris over at Beer Activist links us to showing us how much water is used to produce various beverages we consume. I’m glad to see I’m doing my part by continuing to drink beer instead of coffee 😉
Back to some more Minnesota news MNBeer posts to let us know our own Summit Brewing will be releasing a new year round brew shortly called Horizon Red Ale that is supposed to be a nicely hopped Red Ale. I am excited to give this brew a chance and hope that they exceed my expectations with a nice hoppy but well balanced brew.
Last but definitely not least is this awesome picture provided by Stuff About Minneapolis. I can almost taste it’s Premium quality.
February 16th, 2009 beckel
Though I was forgetful and spaced the release on Wednesday a few friends and myself stopped by the Blue Nile on Thursday to enjoy some Surly Three, this years annual brew from our beloved Surly Brewing Company straight from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Three is brewed with 50% German Dark Munich malt, 50% honey, fermented with a Belgian yeast, aged on toasted white ash and is being called a Black Braggot by Surly which is somewhat like a mix of mead and beer, being made with both malt and honey, so it was sure to be an interesting experience. Poured for me in a lovely Darkness glass this beer is incredibly dark black but is uniquely hazy with a purplish red shine when held at an angle, completely opaque. There was no head but that isn’t uncommon in bars so it is hard to pass judgment, though I doubt this is a highly carbonated beverage based on its style and mouthfeel. Aroma is slightly of plum and sweet but very flat at the same time. It was very hard for me to get much aroma out of the glass, that is until I drank more than half of it and was able to get my nose well down into the glass. At that point many more aromas came to my nose, largely wine like aromas and a bit of watered down brandy. Flavor is very ineresting. Sweet with dominate fermented fruit flavors largely plum and grape with a tootsie roll like chocolate hint here and there. Very sweet and fruity. One of my friends first impressions was that it “Tastes like flat grape soda left in the car on a hot day but it’s cold”. Though this was just a first impression and perhaps a bit critical it is relatively on point, and doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy the brew. There is lots of malt in this brew but there is so much sweetness and fermented fruit flavors it is hard to pick up much else. Mouthfeel is uncarbonated and a bit sticky but not too much considering it is made from plenty of honey. Body is medium but oddly light at the same time being quite drinkable though very full flavored. Not exactly what I was expecting, but I also didn’t really know what to expect with this release and it definitely keeps to surly’s tradition of making sweet big brews. Beer Advocate suggests this ale is 10% though Surly has not posted any official numbers and if this is true they did a wonderful job masking the content. Not really a beer I could get into regularly though I wouldn’t be opposed to having another glass sometime. Somewhat reminds me of a barleywine but less complex. If you are into sweet malty beers that have some pitted fruit flavors you may very well enjoy this brew.Â This is a limited release brew on tap only so get it while it lasts. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 5th, 2009 beckel
Here we have an ale that I have been slacking on reviewing for far too long, bottle 32 of 580. From our very own Flat Earth Brewing out of St. Paul, Minnesota. Black Helicopter Coffee Stout is brewed with “the finest roasted coffee on the planet” which just happens to come from a local Minneapolis Dunn Brothers. My first exposure to Flat Earth was at their first tasting event at The Four Firkins where they were serving a keg (or was it a firkin) of their new Element 115 Lager. Hearing the title I expected myself to be disappointed as I don’t really care for light beers but I couldn’t pass up a local guy, not to mention free beer so I gave it a shot. As soon as I saw the ale poured I became more pleased, the lovely amber color was not expected at all, and then the taste, absolutely wonderful, from what I remember a bit hoppy with some nice malty sweetness reminding me more of a good amber ale than a lager. Simply put it was a great first impression, but onto the beer at hand. I couldn’t help but to pour this brew into my Surly coffee mug and even in a small glass this wonderfully dark black ale produces a solid three fingers of chocolate brown frothy head that dissipates after a few minutes. Aroma is of rich dark malts and then the coffee takes over, completely. I really can’t smell anything except fermented coffee and the taste confirms it too, this is a coffee beer. Holy shit. There are definitely some decent malt flavors present in this ale but they are quite hard to identify because of the intense roasted coffee flavor present. Body is medium and I feel the mouthfeel is a bit thick, though I largely think that is because I don’t drink coffee. With a 5.2% ABV this would be a perfect beer to wake up with and not get too ahead of yourself. Personally the coffee is too much for me, but if you like a stout that tastes like coffee, this is the perfect beer for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
January 30th, 2009 beckel
Wednesday was Stub & Herb’s monthly tasting extravaganza and more exciting than most because it was a chance for them to showcase ales from not only one, but two Minnesota breweries. Both Flat Earth and Lift Bridge had some solid offers with their Rode Haring, Black Helicopter, Winter Warlock (bottle), Cygnus X-1 Porter; and Farm Girl Saison, Pale Ale, Biscotti, Double Hopped Pale Ale on draft respectively. The turn out was wonderful, I didn’t make it until a bit after 8 but found Sterbs to be full of us beer geeks bringing out our support of the local guys. Good times, lovely beer and wonderful conversation. With so many options I didn’t kn ow what to start with but the cask of Double Hopped Pale Ale from Lift Bridge seemed to be the most logical decision. Color is very amber and relatively opaque. For such a hopped up ale the aroma was very dull, or I am more congested that I realize because all I get off this ale is a slight hop & malt aroma none of which are strong. I will also note the ale came to me with more or less no head so that probably didn’t help the aroma come out. Luckily the taste was quite different, wonderfully hoppy. Tastes like a forest, quite piney and just a bit sour, really showing off its Cannabaceae family traits with an array of hop flavors you don’t often experience. Due to all of the wonderful hops present this ale has a bit of a sticky mouthfeel that may make you want to pucker your tongue. Mouthfeel is medium, definitely a unique brew. Then I went for some Flat Earth Winter Warlock as I have been wanting to sample this very different, golden Barleywine. Color is a nice light copper with some light amber hues and relatively opaque. Aroma has some nice hops but is also sweet and malty as any good Barleywine should be. Flavor is very interesting, particularly for the style. Sweet and malty with hints of citrus from the hops and a relatively smooth mouthfeel. Body was medium. Solid stuff will need to get my hands on more. Next came time for some Flat Earth Cygnus-X Porter. Color is very dark black. Aroma is very malty, largely of rich coffee. Tastes of coffee with some sweeter malts to tone it down a bit. Body is light for a Porter and the mouthfeel is quite smooth. Not bad but more coffee than I personally need. Afterward I couldn’t help but sample some Southern Tier Choklat that was on tap. Such a wonderful creamy sweet chocolate flavored ale. Though I did not grab a pint of it, Michael from A Perfect Pint shared a sip of his Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison and boy is that stuff good, no wonder it helped them grow as a brewery. Wonderfully flavorful, definitely in need of a proper review sometime when my palate hasn’t already been dominated by heavy ales. The ride there was a bit chilly but the hopslam in my belly did me well and the commute home was dandily drunk thanks to some tasty Southern Tier Choklate. Support local and get your stupor on!
Lift Bridge Double Hopped Pale Ale
Flat Earth Winter Warlock Barleywine
Flat Earth Cygnus-X Porter
January 2nd, 2009 beckel
Today The Session is brought to us by Beer and Firkins, posing the question: What will I miss from 2008 and what will I excitedly await in 2009? Though this is a quite broad question that I’m sure everyone will respond to differently I know what I will miss the most from 2008 is growlers from Surly Brewing in good ole’ Minnesota. Though I love my state and its breweries we have the unfortunate problem of being stuck in a state that seems to have forgotten that “blue laws” are a thing of the past, that is for those who don’t know laws that were traditionally created to appease the church and the thought that beer should not be consumed on Sunday because you should be in church! Though these laws aren’t restricted to Sundays it is a common term used to describe limitations in liquor laws. Though I have nothing against spirituality I’m sure you can realize how many of these laws are outdated and simply not helpful. Though it is unfortunate that we can not buy beer on Sundays in our fine state I can handle it, what I can’t is the other hoops and complications the force breweries to deal with, limiting their business potential, costing them more of their hard labor and money and more humorously reducing the amount of tax revenue our state is able to generate. Though all of the laws limiting what breweries/brewpubs can and can not do bother me, such as the fact that you can legally only operate one of the two and not both the current law I am here to complain about and fight against is breweries (and brewpubs for that matter) ability to off sell their products. We all (should) know that our liquor distribution systems are unnecessarily complex, but that as well is a rant for another time…so to get to the nitty gritty. In many states breweries and brewpubs alike are allowed to off sell to customers bottles of any size to patrons that wish to purchase their product and are of legal age. Sure they need a license but there’s just more incentive for the state. Our fine Surly Brewing how ever has dealt with many hurdles in their journey to off sell growlers to the community. After going through all of the work of getting the city of Brooklyn Center to approve the sale of growlers and having great success for just over the past 2 years the joyous Saturday mornings of cycling up to their brewery and carting home their beer are over. Minnesota State law 340A.301 allows for licenses to be granted to brewers who produce less than 3500 barrels a year. As it should be everyone loves Surly Brewing and has made them a great success continually forcing them to brew more beer and causing them this year to surpass the limit for licensing. To me this is a very silly and completely useless law, and according to Omar on the last Saturday of this year while waiting in line for their wonderful 16 Grit Imperial IPA will loose the state $20,000 in tax revenue (I assume he meant annually).Â Luckily the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild currently has a petition to help change these things and I will do everything I can to support them in their venture. On to the happier things. What I look forward to in 2009 aside from simply more beer is the trend of collaborative ales that has sprouted in 2008 and where others may take it. I am a fan of all things communal and beer is always better when shared so I say the more the merrier. There was Flying Dog’s Open Source Beer Project that created a Dopplebock, there will soon be a joint effort by Dogfish Head and Beer Advocate which is sure to be interesting though I doubt I will have the opportunity to make it down to Boston to sample it, and what we are here to try today the effort by Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing: Collaboration Not Litigation Ale. Though there are a few more I neglected to mention this ale in particular has a wonderful story. Brewers at both breweries happened to meat a number of years ago and learned they both were brewing ales called Salvation. With all the silly legal battles people are fitting in this day and age the two friends considered what to do and came up with the perfect solution, make a whole new beer additionally that comprised of both ales. So at the bar of Russian River the two sat down and found the perfect mix of the two very different but uniquely Belgian inspired ales, Avery’s being a Golden Ale and Russian Rivers being a Strong Dark Ale both packing a solid 9% ABV. The first batch was bottled in December of 2006 and the second batch which sits on my table was bottled February 2008 and uses a slightly different mix. The proceeds of these ales will go towards sending brewers from not only Avery and Russian River but Port Brewing, Dogfish Head, and Allagash Brewing on a trip to Belgium to see how they have been doing it for centuries in attempt to improve their own craft skills, talk about a good cause. Now on to the better stuff. This beer pours a dark pumpkin color that is a bit hazy though no sediment is apparent, allowing a bit of light to shine through the bottom of the glass in orange and red hues even if it is not particularly translucent. Head is a solid three fingers or more and crisp white in color lasting for a couple minutes. Aroma is quite nice, gentle fruit aromas are dominate with some slightly floral hints as well giving a bit of a kick to the otherwise sweet malty scent. They must have had a blast sampling different mixes of this ale as the flavors are very unique. Prunes, and other sweet pitted fruits are noticeable as well as more somewhat hoppy citrus flavors. This ale is packed with malty sweetness and is obviously influenced by Belgian brewing with an interesting yeast no doubt contributing some flavor as well as other nice caramel flavors from the malt.. This ale has a rather light body and a slightly sticky but incredibly smooth mouthfeel. Though there are many flavors in this beer the sweet malt flavors do a impeccable job hiding the 8.72% ABV. I had no idea what to expect the mixing of a golden ale and a dark ale would create but this is certainly a tasty brew and a nice American take on a Belgian concept as well as a wonderful approach to an interesting situation. Probably not an everyday beer but a great after meal desert ale. If you are a fan of Belgian inspired ales that are sweet and malty but are still not afraid to pack a punch this is a good choice. To note, the last third of this ale had a hazier and darker color no doubt from sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Very smooth and delicious stuff. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
September 9th, 2008 beckel
What better way to release a grand beer than a festival by our very own Surly Brewing from Brooklyn Center Minnesota. I will do a proper review of Surly’s great take on an Octoberfest lager when I have a can of Surlyfest in hand but let me say now this is one grand flavorful and drinkable beer. We arrived to the event a good 20 minutes early after a lovely bike ride from Minneapolis along the Midtown Greenway over to the Kenilworth trail around Cedar lake and over to North France Avenue finally ending up at the wonderful Surly Brewing Company. There was only a small line when we got there which was nice, but bike locking options were limited, luckily there were many fences lining the perimeter that made due. After a number of minutes of salivating for some Surly and enjoying a bit of water (yea I actually remembered my water bottle thank you very much) a SurlyFest staffer with her awesome green volunteer t-shirt came to the head of the line and ushered the herd of Surly lovers in. We exchanged our kick ass tickets (surly can tops with a little sticker) for a bright green bracelet with 4 tabs and what I was most excited to see (aside from the beer) our SurlyFest German made .5 liter steins. After getting in we of course made a b-line straight to the beer truck where they were serving everything wonderful that is Surly. The standard affair of Furrious, CynicAle and Bender were available as of course was SurlyFest, additionally they were offering to fill your glass with Hell which was nice to have the option but as I had already tried it I declined to do. So after filling my glass with the wonder that is SurlyFest we proceeded to a table to enjoy our brews. As we waited for the music to start we observed our food choices, Chicago dogs and brats to the right and falafels and gyros to the left. Simple but solid and reasonably priced. The brewery was open so we stopped inside to grab some swag and take a quick look around. As this was my first opportunity to look around it was quite fun, particularly to see the stacks of thousands of unfilled cans ready to be filled with beer for you and me including many lovely blue and white ones, not to meantion Surlys new tanks to keep us properly supplied. The weather was rather nice but just under 2 hours after ariving I snapped shots of the sky that shows heavy dark clouds to the northwest but a bright clear sky to the southeast. After it started raining most people retreated to the tent they had setup or went inside short of I believe 4 people who sat under their makeshift umbrellas and the wonderful SurlyFest staff that was pouring beers for the brave who would leave the tent for a few minutes to get more beer. After sitting under the tent for a few minutes my friend informed me he had purchased a Surly disc golf driver. Like the crazy idiots we are we ran into the rain and played catch. The disc didn’t throw the best but it was still a blast. I shouted at people encouraging them to join us, but I guess that just adds the the crazy factor, so I suppose I’m not surprised no one took me up on the offer. As we played we got a few people passing by to throw the frizbee but that was about it. After retreating to the tent for a minute someone offered to let us use their normal frizbee, Surly branded again that was much easier to throw and catch. After our fun in the rain we decided it was time for more beer and as Omar had already informed us the next band would be playing inside we decided that was the place to be. The music was entertaining and I had some good conversations and meet some friendly people, overall a really great time. Time wore on and as it was time to go and my 4 liters of Surly were settling in my belly I grabbed my bike to headed home. I’m not sure exactly how but I managed to loose track of my group and decided to just bike home alone (not the best decision but I guess I forgot about the fact I have a phone, oh well), a couple of falls later I am still rather sore and scraped up all over but I made it home so it’s all good. A grand day with a sore ending and no regrets. I can’t wait to get my hands on pack of SurlyFest but it should be in stores soon. Hopfully you can enjoy some and don’t fall off your bike like me.
July 30th, 2008 beckel
I was informed that the Town Hall Brewery of Minneapolis was releasing a beer made with only warrior hops so I thought it was damn time I made my way over there. Drinking a single hopped beer is a great way to learn about a particular hop and what it can do to the aroma, flavor and even body of a beer. The Warrior Double dry pours a nice light copper color that is somewhat transparent. Smell is heavy on the hops, somewhat sweet but largely bitter aroma. Body is medium light. This beer has an insane hop profile, quite bitter but with a twisted tangy flavor that is almost like a citrus. This is a very interesting flavored beer and hop variety. Over all a darn good beer coming in at 5.5% ABV and definitely worth trying particularly if you adore hops. Drink it while its still around.
While I was at it I figured I should sample some of their Masala Mama IPA that was cask aged. This beer cascades immensely from a lovely hazy orange color to a nice amber red that is barely transparent. Aroma is slightly hoppy but smooth sweet malt is more predominate. Mouthfeel is light. The flavor of this beer is surprisingly sweet. Slight bitterness is present initially but overpowered by immense flavorful malt sweetness with a slight hint of caramel. Head is thick, persistent and off white. Not what I was expecting, but still a good beer. It will be interesting to try their normal IPA sometime to compare. If you like a sweet smooth IPA this is for you.
Lastly I ordered some of their Cow Tipper a seasonal coming in at 5.7% ABV. Light copper in color quite transparent. Smells strongly like a pilsner, heavy malt scent. Head is relatively large but fades quickly. Light mouthfeel and very drinkable. Tastes of full flavored pilsner malts, very nice flavor balance particularly seeing as I tend to not prefer pilsners. Quite carbonated. If you like a pilsner with a bit more flavor this is a grand choice, likely perfect on a hot summer day like we’ve been having as of late. Give Town Hall some love and ride your bike.