May 12th, 2010 beckel
As the wonderful Stone Brewing does not distribute to my fine state of Minnesota yet I was lucky enough to get this brew from a lovely acquaintance my friends from The Beer Genome Project introduced me to on our Dark Lord Day trip named Sarah. While not an unobtainable brew by any means I am always happy to consume anything from Stone and as a massive fan of their Arrogant Bastard Ale I have wanted to try this brew for some time. As usual this cleanly illustrated, gargoyle laden, 22oz bottle (2009 Release) has a delightful paragraph on the back that proceeds to thoroughly insult those unworthy who dare attempt consuming this fine beverage. Onto the important things. Pours a deep dark mahogany hue that is relatively translucent, though you will only notice if you hold it up to the light as it is quite dark. Two fingers of full off white head blossoms from the brew and lasts for a few minutes reducing to about a millimeter around the surface of the beer and leaving a small amount of lacing. Aromas of dark sweet malts, caramel, and soft plum are present reminding me of a rich Barleywine. Surprisingly gentle hop notes, likely due to age as this beer is roughly 6 months old. Strong flavors of molasses, plum, alcohol, toasted malt and a solid hop bitterness as well as gentle notes of citrus, pine contrast with sweet malts giving this bitter ale a surprising level of synchronicity. Body is on the heavy side and the mouthfeel is full but enjoyably clean. With a 10.5% ABV this arrogant ale is certainly no joke, particularly if you are consuming the bottle on your own. Definitely a solid ale that reminds me of a bitter barleywine with a bit of extra hop flavor. I am now very curious to see how different the hop presence is in this brew when it is first bottled. If you enjoy Strong Ales or Barleywines and aren’t opposed to bitterness this should be right up your alley, provided your worthy. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Arrogant Note: When looking up information related to this brew I discovered that a company called Carlsbad Gourmet makes a line of Stone endorsed seasonings based off a number of their brews including hot sauces that reflect the entire Arrogant Bastard line. I know I’m late to the game but all i can say is fuck yea! I need to get these. All of them. Soon.
February 8th, 2010 beckel
Today I have an ale that has been sitting in my fridge for many months begging to be consumed, so I figure now is as good a time as any. As if their last iterations weren’t enough the fine folks at Shmaltz who produce the He’Brew line of brews have done it again with their 13th Anniversary Ale: Jewbelation 13 – Bar Mitzvah. For a moment lets pretend the 12 hops and 12 malts used in last years Jewbelation weren’t enough so this year they have continued the tradition with 13 hop varieties, 13 malt varieties and allowing this ale to clock in at 13% ABV. I have thoroughly enjoyed He’Brew’s past Anniversary Ales and I hope to feel the same way about this here lucky 13 ale I hold in my hands. Onto the good part. This ale pours with a lovely light creme brown colored head that easily creates over three fingers of tight bubbles that very slowly open fading after four or five minutes leaving a small ring of bubbles around the surface of the liquid. The brew is an incredibly dark amber hue that looks black even when brought to light, allowing no light through except at the very surface of the brew. Aroma consists of a solid dose of alcohol, enjoyable caramel & creme esters, additional gentle sweetness, soft dark pitted fruit notes and moderate bitterness. Flavor is massive and complex. A variety of contrasting flavors are present from sweet creme and chocolate to a myriad of bitter notes including coffee, bitter-sweet chocolate, many roasted malts and a good dose of alcohol. While malty notes are predominate for me in this ale as well as those in the series I have consumed thus far, this one allows the hops to shine through a bit more. A variety of gentle citrus, floral and other fruity hop esters are present throughout, but most notable towards the end of your sip and add a very enjoyable and needed contrast to the massive malt profile of this ale, though not quite as much as I would like. Alcohol is certainly present and notable but provides a nice bourbon accent to the ale and is no surprise considering its 13% ABV. Body is medium-heavy and the mouthfeel is full and quite carbonated. Over all this is one full flavored and incredibly malty bitter ale. I tend to drink my ales (including this one) at just below room temperature and would encourage you to do the same. The closer this ale gets to room temperature the more caramel and pitted fruit esters come out which is quite nice. While I enjoy and sincerely respect the task that He’Brew has set out to do with the last few ales in their Anniversary series this ale really makes me wonder how much longer they can continue with the current trend and manage to create a well balanced ale. Any homebrewer or knowledgeable beer connoisseur knows how difficult it is to manage such a variety of hops and malts and I am always an advocate of experimentation especially on such an intense level but with so many grains and herbs it is difficult to create distinct flavor profiles and I somewhat miss that in this ale. Definitely an incredibly flavorful ale, and one I have enjoyed drinking but unquestionably not an ale for everyone, or even most people. If you enjoy complex, inventive, malty and intensely bitter ales you should certainly allow this ale to tempt you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 2nd, 2010 beckel
Here I have a lovely ale from a solid brewery that hasn’t been available for very long in our fine state of Minnesota. Mad River Brewing Company out of Blue Lake, CA appears to be a quaint little brewery from one look at their website (which is in the process of a much needed update), but apparently they have been operating since 1989. So far I have sampled three of their ales, Jamaica Brand Red Ale which was decent [review], John Barleycorn Barley Ale which is very tasty, and my favorite so far Serious Madness. This ale pours a very dark black hue that is completely opaque, even when brought to light. Head is a solid three plus fingers of creamy milk chocolate bubbles that slowly open and dissipate after many minutes leaving a few solid millimeters around edge of the glass and a modest amount of lacing. Smells of rich dark roasted malts, modest notes of coffee, a very gentle creamy toffee like sweetness and very subtle fruity hop esters. Tastes ofÂ toasty roasted malts, semi-sweet chocolate, gentle coffee esters and a variety subtle fruit & citrus hop notes that are contrasted by strong malty bitterness in the finish. Alcohol is present in the flavor, but considering this brews solid 8.2% ABV it is very subtle, being nicely contrasted by a combination of malty sweetness, malt bitterness, and hoppy citrus & fruit characters. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is smooth, clean and surprisingly light. With the variety of flavors present in this dark ale it manages a very nice balance. A lovely example of the creativity in ales that we are creating in our fine country. If you enjoy strong ales, dark malts and modest amounts of contrasting hops you should dig this ale. A lovely take on a strong dark ale I would highly suggest, particularly once it has warmed up a bit. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
October 8th, 2009 beckel
Here I have the second edition of He’Brew’s Rejewvenator which celebrates the year of the date. The folks at He’Brew seem to enjoy experimenting with fruit and beer and I for one always enjoy experimentation, particularly when it works out well as it seems to for Shmaltz. As if over 400 gallons of date juice wasn’t enough to impress this ale is also brewed with three yeast varieties, Lager, Trappist and Abby as well as Warrior, US Goldings, Cascade, Amarillo and Mt. Hood Hops, 2-Row specialty malt, Munich, 2 varieties of dark crystal, and CaraVienna Malt. So if that wasn’t confusing enough they also refer to this ale as half Doppelbock and half Belgian Style Dubbel, sounds complicated. Lets see how it tastes. Color is quite dark appearing almost black from a distance though when brought to light you can clearly see that the color is just a very dark date like hue. Creamy head is off white and about two fingers which remain for many minutes leaving a clean ring around the surface of the of the liquid almost indefinitely. Smells strongly of the Abby and Trappist Yeasts used in this brew and just a touch of the Lager Yeast. Dark pitted fruits come out nicely but are not over whelming, obviously date is quite identifiable. Some nice malt sweetness is present and nicely contrasts the moderate alcohol present in the nose. Flavor is quite interesting and believe it or not makes their style statement completely make sense. Solid malty sweetness, caramel notes and some additional grain flavors remind me of a quality Dopplebock while dark pitted fruits and gently spicy, herbal and earthy notes from the yeast strains remind me of a solid dark Belgian Style Ale. Date notes are relatively sweet and play well with the malt sweetness present making the solid 7.8% ABV of this brew barely noticeable. A small amount of bitterness is present giving this brew a nice finish but not over powering at all. Body is medium, not particularly heavy for the style. Mouthfeel is clean smooth and caramely. Over all this ale tastes largely of sweet dates, caramel and a delicious malt base with a notable Belgian Yeast influence. A quite nice and very smooth ale. If you enjoy Belgian ales with dominate dark pitted fruit notes and wonderfully malty Dopplebocks you will probably be all over this ale. One thing I would sincerely suggest though is to serve this ale closer to room temperature as the caramel notes are not nearly as noticeable when cold and add a wonderful character to this ale when present. Another fine offering from the fine people of Shmatlz and He’Brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
March 29th, 2009 beckel
Today I will be enjoying my first bottle of Hitachino Nest beer. These beers grace the shelves of many stores and apparently have since 2000 and this particular bottle was found at our beloved Four Firkins. Hitachino Nest is brewed by the Kiuchi Brewery of Naka-shi, Japan which has been producing sake since 1823 and started brewing beer in 1996 as well as most recently distilling Shouchu in 2003. The Hitachino Nest line contains a good number of styles but the XH I have here is extra special. This strong ale has been aged in oak casks that had been used for distillation of Shocyu sake and is sure to present some interesting flavors. Upon opening this bottle the neck filled up with foam though the bottle had not been agitated. When poured a four finger off white head was quickly created even though I tried to pour slowly noting the carbonation when the bottle was opened. Color is a dark hazy raisin though I do not see any sediment present, light only brightens the hue not allowing any light through. Aroma consists of hints of nutmeg and other spices you might expect in a holiday ale followed by dark pitted fruit. Flavor is very interesting, first come the dark pitted fruit flavors but they are toned down by the obvious oak flavor present. In addition to oak i definitely get some tobacco and other smokey and herbal flavors as well as an interesting alcohol hint that is likely imparted from the sake as this Strong Ale is only 7% ABV. There is a sweet malt character throughout this brew that works to balance all of the interesting flavors in this beer though this beer isn’t exactly balanced in the traditional sense. Mouthfeel is a bit sticky and the body is medium but it isn’t too hard to drink. If you are into interestingly flavored malty beers this isn’t a bad choice, it will likely show you some flavors American breweries don’t often work with. Certainly a tasty unique beer I’m glad I had the opportunity to sample, I may have to try some of their other offerings in the future.
March 26th, 2009 beckel
I have here a very exciting brew that I found last weekend at The Four Firkins, beer number one in Avery’s new Barrel-Aged Series of experimental beers. Brabant is an dark unfiltered strong ale that was fermented with two strains of Brettanomyces yeast and aged in Zinfandel barrels for 8 months. This particular brew was bottled Feburary 10th 2009 and though the bottle isn’t numbered only 694 cases were produced so if this sounds like your kind of beer I would try to find some quickly. Pours pitch black with a slight red peaking out when brought to light though it is not translucent at all. Light brown head was about a finger and faded with in a couple of minutes. As soon as I opened this beer I noticed a somewhat sour fruit aroma and upon actually smelling this beer it is obvious that it was brewed with brettanomyces. The tart aromas are hard to get past but it is not as intense as many traditionally “sour beers”. Sweet malt and an almost smokey aroma are detectable beneath but hard to distinguish as is the small amount of alcohol present in the nose. This is an intensely flavored beer and probably not the best introduction into sour beers, but it is quite interesting. Initially I get tart flavors obviously imparted by the yeast but they are slowly mellowed by the large amount of sweet malted barley in this brew, imparting some cranberry hints as well as nice creamy flavors making the mouthfeel of this beer quite smooth and desirable. For a dark beer with a 8.65% ABVthe body is rather light. The tart flavors in this beer really make me feel like I’m drinking a berry infused beer but it simply isn’t that fruity. The solid malt profile of this beer was obviously up to the task of aging and has created some wonderful flavors while working with both the yeast and aging in zinfandel barrels. There are definitely some dark pitted fruit flavors present as well but they are easy to ignore due to the dominate sweet and sour contrast in this brew. This really is a good beer. Upon my first sip I was a bit startled and turned off in a way, but as soon as I swallowed I knew I needed to try more. A bit sharp initially but as soon as you take a few sips you will realize how amazingly well balanced this beer is particularly considering how nontraditional it is. Definitely not the beer for those afraid of adventurous and strange beers but a wonderful beer for someone who doesn’t mind some tart flavors and enjoys a malty well aged beer. I can only imagine what further aging might do to this tasty brew. I am sad I don’t have another bottle to enjoy, Avery definitely needs to keep on producing this beer and continue to experiment. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
March 13th, 2009 beckel
Today I have an ale that I was lucky to find because I didn’t search for it until months after its release. Shmaltz the brewers of He’Brew “The Chosen Beer” out of Saratoga Springs, New York decided there was no better occasion than their 12th year of production to make one simply insane brew. Crafted with 12 varieties of hop, 12 varieties of malt and and an impressive 12% ABV. Boy golly I can’t wait to see what this ale has in store for me but if you want to see more iterations of the number 12 feel free to check out their website. I had the opportunity to sample a few “Freak Beers” from Shmaltz at the Autumn Brew Review but thanks to many samples prior I don’t recall much about them other than they tasted fine so lets get onto the important part. This ale pours a dark color that looks black until you bring it to light where you can see some ruby hues but just around the edges of the glass. The brew is incredibly opaque and produces about two fingers of creamy light brown head that lasts for a few minutes and leaves a bit of lacing around the glass and on the surface of the beer.Â Aroma includes some dark pitted fruits, mostly date, raisin and a bit of cherry with some alcohol on the nose, but not very much considering the 12% ABV. Sweet malt comes across most in the aroma though there is certainly more going on it is difficult to separate the scents with the amount of pitted fruits I am getting. Well done. Upon my first sip of this brew it is amazingly more balanced than I feared particularly after watching the guys over at Beer Tap TV review it, though they certainly do it justice. Flavor is of strong sweet dates, slightly sour cherries and a decent amount of hoppy bitterness near the finish though you are left with a sweet flavor in your mouth. There are so many flavors in this brew it is wonderful, yet it doesn’t seem confused because of the amazing malt backbone. Mouthfeel is smooth and a bit creamy and the body is medium but relatively light for a beer with so much in it. The 12% ABV is undoubtedly there but only slightly noticeable in the taste. This is simply a marvelous ale though it is more malty than my staple brews I plan to return to a secret location and grab whatever stock they may have left (cross your fingers). Though of course if anyone here would like to sample some let me know, I’m always happy to share good brew. Those who enjoy big beers and dark pitted fruit flavors will most likely appreciate sampling this ale just be aware your not getting into something average. A great beer for connoisseurs who can handle their alcohol and enjoy expanding their palate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
February 16th, 2009 beckel
Holy crap am I excited. Here before me I have a glass of Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, California. Stone is not available in my state of Minnesota and though I have had the opportunity to sample their India Pale Ale this most coveted ale has avoided my grasp. Luckily for me I was inÂ the land of Wisconsin this weekend where they do distribute Stone, for an awesome bike race on an ice covered lake. Though I’ve never walked and fallen so much in a bike race in my life it was a jolly time complete with a bonfire on the lake afterwords and much beer was brought home. This ale pours a very dark ruby hue that almost looks black if you don’t put it near light. When put to a light some gets through but very little. Head is as massive as this brew is arrogant, producing a solid three fingers plus of nice slightly tan off white head that remains for many minutes. Aroma is marvelous, simply bursting with different scents that make me want to sip this ale all the quicker. Strong floral hop tones complimented by wonderful sweet but heavy and robust malts and some nice bitterness. There is a tiny bit of alcohol on the nose but it mostly smells like a complex well crafted amber ale that is heavy on both hop and malt. Boy am I hungry for this beer. Flavor is no real surprise, more malt heavy than the aroma but it’s all there. Deep hoppy bitterness that is well balanced though not hidden by strong malt flavors ending with a bit of sweetness to cleanse the palate but then bitter again in the after taste. People always comment upon the intensity of this ale and surely they are correct but I almost expected it to be more unruley. This ale does a marvelous job of showcasing what one can really do with a bunch of quality hop and malt if you are not afraid to experiment. There are so many flavors in this ale I won’t even try to list the notes I detect. Unquestionably one of the best beers I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy even with its simple 7.2% ABV. If you are a fan of big adventurous beers, particularly hoppy ones (not to diminish the massive malt profile of this brew) you have no excuse not to try this beer. If you do not like seriously flavorful ales then please, as the label suggests (less politely) stay away. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
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.
August 28th, 2008 beckel
While at The Four Firkins the other day this beer continued to fly off the shelf but was luckily restocked so I decided I had to check it out. Dragon’s Milk is an American Strong Ale from New Holland Brewing out of Holland, Michigan and is sure to be a pleasant experience. The name Dragon’s Milk comes from a term of the same name that is traditionally used to describe the strong ales in the 17th century that only royalty would be treated to. This beer pours a pitch black color that could not get much darker, with a inch and change of nice thick brown head that settles slowly and cascades marvelously as you pour. The aroma of this beer is strong and malty, sweet roasted chocolate is most notable with a slight hint of bitterness. The flavor of this beer is quite nice, roasted malt rushes all over your palate with a coffee flavor in the back of the mouth. Bitter flavors can be picked up that taste a bit like bourbon and are likely from the cask aging which occurs for at least 120 days. The 8.5% ABV of this beer is definitely noticeable but is not offensive because it blends nicely with the bitter bourbon flavors present. This is certainly a strong dark malty beer but its mouthfeel is medium and lighter than one might expect considering. If you like a well crafted dark beer with an intense malt profile and a little something extra this is a good choice. Give it a shot and ride your bike.