The Session #39 Sierra Nevada Fritz and Ken’s Ale

May 7th, 2010 beckel

The SessionToday I have what is sure to be a fun brew, and seemingly the last new beer to involve Fritz Maytag before the sale of his landmark brewery Anchor Brewing (more about that here). I haven’t participated in The Session for quite some time but after looking at this weeks I realized I have the perfect brew for this months topic: Collaborations. I love collaborative brews for many reasons. In fact I think they are an example of the life blood of the Craft Beer industry. With out cooperation, sharing and support of one another many Craft Breweries would not be where they are today. Not only is it more fun to work with others when brewing but there is also a ton to learn from one another. From techniques to preferences not to mention local traditions and ideas. In honor of collaboration I will be consuming Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary brew which is a collaboration between their brewer Ken Grossman and Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag. I bought this bottle of  Fritz & Ken at The Four Firkins, another at Chicago Lake Liquors and even saw a few still on the shelves of Princeton’s Liquors when I was there earlier today. According to the bottle they decided to brew this Imperial Stout in honor of the Dark Ales and Stouts that seduced them in their early years. Lets see how it goes. Gently poured from a cleanly labeled, caged and corked 750ml bottle over four fingers of creamy tight chocolate colored head are quickly produced. Bubbles slowly open up and even more slowly dissipate. I poured my glass more than five minutes ago and there is still half a finger of reasonably tight head that has yet to settle. A good deal of lacing is present and likely won’t be going anywhere soon. Color is a very opaque dark black that lightens slightly when brought to light. Smells of roasted malts, smoke, chocolate, coffee, gentle malt bitterness and some notable alcohol. Flavor is massively smoky with enjoyable coffee and roasted esters and some residual sweetness to help create some sort of a balance. As it warms the smoky flavors loosen up quite a bit allowing the variety of dark malt esters to shine. Chocolate esters are highlighted exceptionally along with gentle coffee, smooth bitterness and an enjoyable amount of residual sweetness. Pitted fruit esters exist but are incredibly subtle. Body is on the heavy side, but not overly considering the style. Mouthfeel is very smooth and silky despite its massively rich malt profile. At 9.5% ABV this is definitely a sipper but not overly offensive with more than enough dark malt esters to hide the alcohol easily. Over all quite good but not anything particularly unique. If you enjoy Imperial Stouts that are nicely roasted and to style you should certainly enjoy this brew. I will definitely be aging my 2nd bottle to see what it has to offer in a year or two. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken's Ale

The Session #24 Westmalle Tripel

February 6th, 2009 beckel

The Session Today The Session has a lovely simple topic brought to us by David of Musings Over A Pint “A Tripel for two”. This topic fits perfectly with the goal of The Session and is an easy one for me because I am a lover of strong ales. Though I am known to drink a Tripel or three by myself  I have decided to share my ale today with a good friend in homage to the topic. On the way home from work I stopped at the store to pick up a bottle of Westmalle’s Tripel because I have intended to review this brew for some time and had a bottle sitting in my fridge for many months waiting for the right day until one Sunday about a month ago when I wanted a nice ale but had forgotten to stock up on Saturday and instead had a lovely Trappist binge of  the bottles of Westmalle Tripel and Chimay Grande Reserve that had been patiently waiting in my fridge. Westmalle is a Trappist Ale brewed by Trappist monks in Malle, Belgium. There are only seven Trappist monasteries in the world that brew beer and are allowed to use the prestigious name of the order, six of which are in Belgium, one in The Netherlands . The recipes used for most of these ales have been around for centuries and incorporate some of the most amazing flavors due to their unique ingredients and strains of yeast used. This ale pours a hazy golden apricot color that allows some light through but only on the edges. Head is insane or as my friend says “This beer gives more head than a Minneapolis airport bathroom”. Aroma is very Belgian, crisp sweet malt tones are accompanied by wonderful citrus hints and a unique bread like aroma from the yeast. Flavor starts with simple citrus and slides into sweet light malt flavors that then transition into more complex heavier malt flavors that are actually decently bitter and finishes with even more tart citrus. This beer incorporates a number of fruit flavors from apricot to pear but none are too dominate.  Body is medium, mouthfeel is a bit tangy and carbonated but smooth. Though this ale rocks a solid 9.5% ABV you will be hard pressed to notice if you are used to Belgian beers. Definately a solid Tripel and something any fan of Belgain ales will appreciate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Westmalle Tripel

The Session #23 Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

January 2nd, 2009 beckel

The Session 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).  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.
Avery Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

The Session #21 Lagunitas IPA Maximus

November 8th, 2008 beckel

The Session So today we have the lovely session topic sent in by Matt C. of A World of Brews: What is your favorite beer and why? When initially reading this topic I as I’m sure many others did simply said; Fuck. With all of the great beers out there in this world, I have to choose one that is my favorite? As I rattled through my favorite beers I also had the conundrum that I have wrote about many of my favorite beers already, what was I to talk about. Then it came to me. My favorite beer is a beer that I haven’t had yet. I enjoy nothing more than walking through a liquor store and finding a craft beer or even a brewery I have never had the opportunity to sample. Furthermore any day I can find a brew that was obviously brewed with heart and an adventurous spirit all the better. Isn’t this why we love good craft beer? Conveniently I have just the brew sitting in my fridge. Lagunitas is a brewery from Petaluma, California that has recently returned to distributing to Minnesota. I have read about this brewery a number of times and they seem to be fun spirited, creative and straight forward and I have been awaiting the day I would find some of their brew on the shelves. So when I saw a bottle of their IPA Maximus I knew the time had come as Imperial IPA’s tend to be my favorite style. As you pour this beer it appears hazy as the carbonation cascades but once it settles this beer ends up completely transparent and a reddish copper in color. Off white head is relatively minor producing just under an inch, with most of it settling rather quickly. The aroma of this beer is wonderful, hoppy goodness is all over this beer, robust and bitter but still smooth with a few sweet scents. I’m glad I chose to open this beer today, it is immensely flavorful. Bitter flavors hit the tongue first and fill the mouth with a well rounded hop taste but malt flavors slip in adding a nice sweet balance to this brew. This is a full flavored beer but its mouthfeel is reasonably light as is the body. With a 7.5% ABV a few of these would be a delight any time of the year if you enjoy a good hop filled Imperial IPA, I will certainly have to purchase a some more. Now if I really have to answer the question of my favorite beer I currently can’t help but say Surly Furious. Of course as a Minnesota brew I can’t help but have a bias for it but Surly Brewing is a wonderful company and their Furious needs no bias to be enjoyed. My review of this wonderful IPA can be found here. Any hop love who doesn’t mind some nice bitterness will enjoy both of these beers. Give them a shot and ride your bike.

Lagunitas IPA Maximus

The Session #20 Duvel

October 3rd, 2008 beckel

The SessionThis month The Session is being hosted by Bathtub Brewery and Melissa and Ray have come up with a rather interesting topic: Beers and Memories. I knew a day would come when I felt it was the perfect opportunity to talk about a beer that I admire dearly yet have avoided blogging about. Duvel is a Belgian Strong Ale and is likely the staple for this style. Brewed by Duvel Moortgot in Puurs, Belgium since over a century ago this beer has far too much history to summarize. I chose this beer for The Session this month because though I’ve never been to Belgium (unfortunately) this beer always reminds me of my second trip to Europe. Though perhaps it would seem more appropriate to make this post about Heineken or any number of other mass produced and popular beers of Europe it is not so. While riding trains from The Netherlands to France and particularly the Chunnel from France to the United Kingdom I experienced the convenience of having alcoholic beverages available on a long trip. Though the food was decent the beer was spectacular. When riding through the Chunnel there are a number of hours where you can’t even look out the windows because all you see is the black of the tunnel walls, not to mention the fact that you are under water. This didn’t particularly frighten me, but it was very strange so I decided the most logical thing to do was to have a few beers and have a rest. Reconizing the name and bottle from the very few occasions I had tried it prior Duvel seemed like the logical choice for a drink, the 8.5% ABV also helped me make up my mind as it was only a Dollar or I suppose more accurately a Euro and change more expensive than a boring and light Heineken. Not only was it lovely to have a deliciously flavorful Belgian Ale to enjoy during the ride but after two beers it made it very easy to rest my eyes. Ever since that day I have become a sucker for Duvel and for a long while drank it quite regularly. Sadly it has been quite some time since I have purchased this ale, so tonight will be well deserved particularly as the price of this beer seems to continue to rise, oh well it will always be worth it to me. Though Surly Furious was the beer that got me into American Ales my second trip to Europe and Duvel were what got me to really appreciate beer and its flavors, particularly Belgians so it will always have a special place in my heart.

This wonderful beer pours a nice golden color that doesn’t have any sediment but seems slightly hazy depending on the light. Head is pure white and will overwhelm you if you do not pour carefully. Head is tight, thick and sticky and will not dissipate quickly likely leaving residue on the side of your glass that will eventually harden quite intensely. This beer simply smells like what I think of when I hear the term Belgian Golden Ale, sweet, malty and alcoholic with hints of nice spices rounding it off wonderfully. People claim to find many flavors in this beer, and I don’t doubt them. Though I mostly notice smooth caramelized malt sweetness, hints of bananna and other spices come out regularly. Though this beer is smooth there is no doubt you will notice it’s slightly bitter alcohol content, but at 8.5% ABV what do you expect. With a medium body and surprisingly light mouthfeel I find this beer very drinkable even though it is carbonated a bit heavily. If you like Belgian Ales particularly blondes but don’t mind the increased alcohol content you will certainly enjoy this beer. Perfect with fish or chicken this beer will compliment a meal very nicely, not to meantion help balance the alcohol out. Give it a shot and ride your bike.


The Session #19 Surly Hell

September 6th, 2008 beckel

The SessionSo this month The Session is hosted by Jim over at lootcorp and he has come up with the wonderful topic of Deutsches Bier. Now German beer is not something I am particularly familiar with so this was a hard topic for me. Germans have done a lot to influence the way beer has been made in various parts of the world, by encouraging others to follow their “reinheitsgebot” or German purity laws which state beer can be made of only water, hops and barley (they didn’t know about yeast at the time), but have also discriminated against most beer that is made outside of Germany in the same breath. Regardless any country that allows its citizens to freely enjoy good beer as long as they can get on the bar stool is OK with me. Not to meantion they are only surpassed in breweries by the United States. Any how I rattled my brain for a while deciding what I should drink yesterday and it was so close to my nose I almost missed it: Surly Hell. Surly Brewing from lovely Brooklyn Center Minnesota recently brewed a single batch of a Munich Helles lager that they are serving at a few bars in the city. So I made my way to Mackenzie to see how Surly might interpret light German lager, Helles literally meaning “light colored” or “pale” in German. Unintentionally I managed to pick a style that fit what Jim had encouraged when fielding the topic. Helles is a Bavarian lager that they appear to be very proud of, they even claim to know the exact date the first batch of the lager was shipped by the Spaten Brewery of Munich: March 21, 1894 all the way to the port city of Hamburg where it was received well and so brewing continued. Surly doesn’t make light beers so when I sat down waiting for my beer I knew this was going to be a different experience. The appearance of this beer is a golden straw color that is very transparent. Head was a bit over a quarter inch off the tap and very white in color that remained for a few minutes. The aroma is full of immense sweet malted barley with some bitterness and alcohol present, reminding me a bit of a more grain filled pilsner. Grain is the first thing I taste when I sip this beer. Flavors of wheat, barley and even a bit of corn, I am curious what they actually brew it with. Sweet malt is detectable occasionally but the aftertaste can be a bit bitter and taste somewhat like a pilsner. The mouthfeel of this beer is medium even though it is quite drinkable you can tell your eating a lot of grain. This beer was OK and I’m glad I tried it but few lagers seem to hit the right spot for me. If you like lagers and light grain flavored beers you may very well enjoy this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Surly Hell

The Session #18 Rogue Imperial IPA

August 1st, 2008 beckel

The SessionI have been following The Session since it started in March 2007 thanks to Stan at Appellation Beer and Jay at Brookston Beer Bulletin. The Session consists of a monthly topic chosen by a different beer blogger each month and written about by all who would like to participate. This months topic comes from Ray at The Barley Blog and is “Happy Anniversary”, the thought is to talk about a limited release beer or a beer you would drink only on a special occasion. I have previously wanted to participate in the session but have always let the date pass with out noticing, but this months topic was perfect for me so I was sure to remember. For this session I have not chosen a limited edition beer, but a beer that has eluded my purchase for some time now because of its price. I have been tempted on an untold number of occasions to purchase Rogue’s Imperial IPA but have always been discouraged by its price tag, so even though there are more extravagant and more limited beers to choose I decided this was the perfect beer to choose for this occasion. So onto the beer. This beer comes in a black ceramic resealable flip top 750ml bottle and is quite attractive. Rogue Brewery from Newport, Oregon makes some fine ales, hopefully this one is no exception. Part of the XS, or Xsperience series of big beers by rogue this is sure to excite. The initial pour from this bottle is difficult to do smoothly but the head created was still not too massive. Head went up a good inch and change and was fluffy but solid with lots of little bubbles of carbonation that faded rather rapidly. The aroma of this beer is very nice, you can immediately tell it is a quality IPA. Bitter hop aromas are present but dulled by a lovely sweet malt scent with orange, apricot and other citrus hints. Color is a delightful hazy orange hue that is barely penetrated by light. This beer has an interesting flavor, some hop flavor at first but smoothed out by a heavy slightly caramelized malt flavor dominated by further bitter hop flavors in the end with a bit of the 9.5% ABV notable but not overpowering, though you will start feeling it after a glass or so. Much citrus is present in this beer, I notice predominately orange, but the bitter after taste quells many flavors in this beer. Considering the medium body of this beer it is surprisingly refreshing and drinkable. I am glad I finally spent the money on this beer because it is very well balanced and manages some very interesting flavors, but it is a bit more bitter in the after taste than I tend to prefer, even in an Imperial IPA. I am excited to someday try more of Rogue’s XS series as I have faith they will all be quite flavorful and impressive and would be curious to see how they age. If you are a fan of hoppy beers with a bit more bitter of a back palates and don’t mind breaking the bank this beer is for you, or sample it if you can while in Oregon. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Rogue Imperial IPA