Crooked Stave Key Lime Tau

October 16th, 2015 beckel

I saw this on the shelves and couldn’t pass up this strange seeming concoction. While it may seem strange, this beer actually makes a lot of sense when you note that it is part of the UK Rainbow Project which is in it’s 3rd year now. The idea behind the project this year (brainchild of Siren Brewing) is to get US and UK breweries to collaborate on a beer that is influenced by one of 7 colors they are assigned. Some of you Minnesotans may have noticed that our own Surly Brewing also participated in this project this year. In this case Crooked Stave and Hawkshead Brewery were assigned Green. Crooked Stave from Denver, Colorado has been in our market for about a year and I’ve enjoyed the few funky beers from them I have had the chance to try over the years. I know even less about their collaborators Hawkshead Brewery out of Kendal, UK but from reading their website it sounds like they have their priorities straight and as a Minnesotan I have to respect their tagline of “Beer from the lakes”. This beer aged in oak with lactose, fresh lime and fresh lemongrass is sure to be unique. Bottled July 2015 in a 375ml bottle.

Pours a lovely bright, slightly brownish, orange hue with a solid two fingers of off white head. After fading a centimeter or so of lacing persists giving this beer a very nice appearance. Initial aroma is quite tart with significant lime. After a few moments the intensity subsides and the herbal aromas of lemongrass shine through, complimented by black pepper and mild plant matter. Taste is notably tart with lime character dominating the palate initially but being moderately smoothed out with the herbal lemongrass. The more I drink it the more the herbal character shines in the finish making this beer quite refreshing and surprisingly drinkable. Mouthfeel is a touch syrupy, but the body is rather light though not too thin. While not woody the oak aging of this beer produces a smoothing quality as expected, but also creates interesting flavors when contrasted with the lime that remind me of light pitted fruits, particularly apricot. In addition to the oak, the lactose does a very good job complimenting  and contrasting the intense lime character of this beer, particularly as it warms. At 7% ABV this beer is higher on the scale for the style, but isn’t going to hurt anyone, though I do wish it was served in a bigger bottle. I was initially a bit concerned I might not want to drink too much of such a lime forward beverage, but the more it warms and the contrasting characters of lime, oak, lactose and lemongrass shine the more I truly enjoy this beer.  Give it a shot and ride your bike.

crooked stave key lime tau

East Lake Devil’s Kettle

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.

east lake devil's kettle

Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp

January 31st, 2013 beckel

Today I have a beer I have enjoyed on tap but haven’t gotten around to sampling from a bottle yet. Clown Shoes is a newer brewery out of Massachusetts that appears to have been founded at the end of 2010 inspired by the Dogfish Head / Beer Advocate collaboration for the 2010 Extreme Beer Fest which resulted in wrath of the pecant. While a relatively young brewery they appear to have large catalog of brews that I have been enjoying sampling on tap over the past few months they have been in our market. Their beers are contract brewed by Mercury Brewing Company (formerly Ipswich Brewing) out of Ipswich, MA and if their beer names are any inclination they appear to have a lot of fun. This colorfully named Belgian-style IPA is brewed with Columbus, Amarillo and Centennial hops and was bottled 8/2012.

Pours a deep reddish orange hue that is very opaque and slightly hazy looking. Over three fingers of tight off white bubbles are easily created and stay suspended for many minutes eventually subsiding leaving a good deal of lacing along the glass. Smells of apricots, orange peel and grapefruit rounded off with a pleasant bitterness and some delicately spicy Belgian yeast phenols. The flavor is full of light pitted fruit notes. Apricot, orange, grapefruit & mango are most prevalent followed by contrasting malt characters and assertive bitterness in the finish. The combination of Belgian yeast and assertive American hops create an enjoyable earthy (slightly phenolic) yet citrusy flavor throughout. Alcohol is present in the flavor but is quite complimentary, and at 7% ABV it’s not going to hurt anyone. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is slightly chewy and slick yet still very quaffable. The label says this beer is not subtle and that is definitely a fact, particularly when you allow it to warm up a bit. If you’ve been digging the Belgian IPA trend as of the past few years this is definitely one that is worth your time. Overall this brew provides plenty of citrus to keep us hop heads happy, yet contrasts with just the right amount of malt and phenolic belgian notes to give you the best of both worlds. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp

Colt 45 Strawberry Lemonade Blast

October 10th, 2012 beckel

So it’s been a while. Far too long in fact. So I bring you something closer to my heart than you may realize: Blast by Colt 45.

Pours a florescent pink hue with two fingers of light pink head. The majority of the head settles quickly leaving a small amount of lacing and residual bubbles. Smells of cotton candy, fruity bubble gum, artificial strawberries, lemons, gentle acidity and lots of sugar. The 12% ABV is well hidden in the aroma with a bit of a sweet and sour warheads thing going on. Tastes of somewhat chemically artificial flavors, strawberry, lemon, lime, cherry, tons of sugar and an almost bitter alcohol character. Body is light and the mouthfeel is sticky, a bit syrupy and tingles your tongue with carbonation. Considering the ABV of this alcopop it is remarkably drinkable, if you don’t mind the eventual alcohol burn that creeps up your throat. With 23.5 oz (695 ml) of that kind of goodness what could go wrong. In summary Blast is part sweet, part tang, part awful and part awesome, probably two parts sweet. Definitely not a drink for the heartburn prone. Always a good drink if you have enough radishes to chase it with. Give it a shot and ride your bike. Blast off!

Strawberry Lemonade Blast

Ithaca alpHalpHa

February 21st, 2011 beckel

Today I have a brew that I had almost forgotten about. Luckily it hasn’t been sitting in my cellar for too long and at 8.5% ABV I have faith this brew could store well, albeit at a loss of hop esters as is typical. While I have yet to write about Ithaca Brewing I have had the pleasure of sampling both their Brute a delicious golden sour ale and Flower Power a bright West Coast inspired IPA. Called a “Double Honey Bitter” the interestingly named alpHalpHa is rather unique beer made with organic Pilsner malt, New York grown Cascade hops, local alfalfa honey and an American yeast strain. Part of their Excelsior series of limited edition brews alpHalpHa is released annually in early fall and is sure to be a fun take on the Imperial IPA style. This bottle is batch# E!013.

Pours a lovely orange hue, notable haze is present but the color remains bright and appetizing while completely opaque. A massive layer of white head is created and fades over many minutes leaving lacing on every surface of the glass. Sweet and slightly spicy herbal esters hit the nose initially, smoothed out by further honey and alfalfa esters throughout. Beautifully earthy, reasonably sweet and modestly alcoholic on the nose. Some of the rich herbal esters remind me a bit of menthol or mint, but not nearly as intense. Tastes strongly of alfalfa honey, with smooth orange hop esters coming in mid-palate, finishing with clean, sweet malt and gentle mint. The mouthfeel is almost silky and the body is medium. This brew would likely have a clean golden color as the bottle suggests if it weren’t for the yeast that is obviously still in suspension. Upon opening the bottle I noticed the cap was covered in thick, solidified yeast as is the crown and some of the neck of the bottle. While I find this a bit odd, because the bottle was stored upright it doesn’t detract from the wonderful flavors present. The intense herbal esters brought to this brew from the locally sourced honey is a brilliant example of how different a product can be based on its terroir. Further it shows how additional ingredients can impart enjoyable flavors into beer and not to be afraid of experimentation. Modest bitterness is present in both the nose and flavor but over all this is more of a herbal, fruity brew than any conventional Imperial IPA. The lighter body brought by use of honey is very nice, making this brew very palatable and easy to drink while contributing to it’s solid 8.5% ABV. At about $13 for a 750ml bottle this may not be a cheap beer, but is worth every penny in my book. A good choice for fans of both Saisons and IPAs, obscuring styles wonderfully. While I would be interested to see how much brighter the hop character of this beer would be fresh, I found it very delightful with a few months of age. If you are lucky enough to live where Ithaca distributes, give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ithaca alpHalpHa

Ska Modus Hoperandi

February 18th, 2011 beckel

I typically try to write about beers before ever trying them as I enjoy the process of tasting, learning and watching opinions evolve. So I must note that I first had a glass of this brew last night and can’t wait to consume it again. I have had the joy of sampling a few other brews from Ska Brewing in the past and was ever so happy when a good friend brought me a mixed 12-pack of their brews and a few other Colorado beers.  Ska has only recently gotten into canning some of their brews, but I’ll still give them credit for packaging in my favorite manner. I don’t know a ton about Ska, aside from the fact that they unfortunately don’t distribute to Minnesota, but it seems like they have fun with brewing and that is key in my book.

Pours a barely translucent rich amber hue with a notable amount of yeast sediment in suspension. Just under two fingers of bright white head is produced, leaving a moderate amount of lacing behind. The aroma of this brew is simply fantastic. A multitude of citrus and other fruits; orange, grapefruit, apricot, mango & soft pine are complimented by a sweet malt backbone and plenty of clean bitterness on the nose. The flavor brings you almost as much delight with bright passion fruit, orange and grapefruit playing with earthy hop esters, malty sweetness and modest bitterness from mid-palate to the finish. I hate to note that I enjoy the aroma of this beer more than the flavor, but that should simply speak to how remarkable the aroma truly is. A delicious beer with enough bitterness and diverse fruit esters to keep any hop head happy, yet not brutally bitter and fantastically drinkable. Some of the citrus esters are reminiscent of a West Coast IPA, but the slightly caramely, rich malt character reminds you it is a Midwest brew. At 6.8% ABV I could drink this brew all night long, and would if only it were available in our market. Witty names aside, this brew is definitely worth your time and money if you enjoy quality IPAs. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Ska Modus Hoperandi IPA

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