January 4th, 2011 beckel
Today I have what is said to be a shining example of a West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Company out of Vista, California. Founded in 2002 by former pub owners Green Flash has earned a reputation for utilizing theÂ abundantÂ hopsÂ convenientlyÂ found in their region to make delicious hoppy brews as well as a variety of Belgian inspired Ales that I was previously unaware of. I was lucky enough to get a few bottles of this brew as well as a bottle of their Hop Head Red Ale from anÂ acquaintanceÂ in Oregon. While not available in any states immediately around Minnesota, you can find plenty on the coasts as well as a few states in the Midwest (Ohio, Illinois & Colorado).
Pours a lovely orange red hue that brightens greatly when brought to light. A clean two fingers of off white head is produced and clings steadily creating a very attractive pour. After many minutes you are left with a few millimeters of residual head and a good amount of lacing. Aroma is full of bright, rich citrus with notable grapefruit, orange and lemon dancing about your nose backed up by rich malts, nice bitterness and a hint of alcohol. Flavor is very hop forward with massive orange and grapefruit citrus hitting the tongue followed by intense bitterness finishing with enough malt sweetness to cleanse the palate a bit with out making you forget you are drinking aÂ sincerelyÂ bitter brew. Citrus esters are beautifully fruity and complex, even with serious grapefruit esters this brew avoids the almost tart acidic esters that sometimes come from over use of Centennial and Cascade hops that I feel plague some “West Coast” India Pale Ales. While malts play a supporting role in this Ale it is a very important one with soft caramel and grain esters complimenting the fruity, bitterÂ bouquetÂ of hops in a way any hop head is sure to appreciate. Body is medium-light and the mouthfeel is smooth and clean, making this 7% ABV brewÂ exceptionallyÂ quaff able, provided you like bitterness. While this may not be appreciated by people who prefer classic English examples of the style the brilliantÂ bitternessÂ and overall hop profile is exactly what I am looking for in a seriously hoppy IPA. If you’re lucky enough to get some of this brew fresh you will be a happy person. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
December 28th, 2010 beckel
Today I have a brew from Pelican Pub & Brewery out of Pacific City, OR. I know almost nothing of Pelican other than the massiveÂ notorietyÂ receivedÂ for their Mother of all Storms, a barrel aged Barleywine. Their website doesn’t say much about their history but it appears they have been winning countless awards since 1996. I was lucky enough to get this brew sent to me by anÂ acquaintanceÂ from the area, but it appears you can also order their brews directly from their website, though the shipping is rather steep and they don’t ship to Minnesota…
Pours an attractive copper hue that is very translucent. Over three fingers of tight off white head blossomed as I poured, slowly but steadily building and creating an enjoyable presentation. A vast amount of lacing and residual head are left behind, but what is more impressive is the aroma. Fantastic notes of grapefruit, orange & lemon support an assertive bitterness and enough malt to create just the aroma I am looking for in an IPA. Hops are not as forward in the flavor with malty sweetness hitting my palate first, evolving into solid bitter esters and then the citrus hop notes found in the aroma finally shine. Intense grapefruit is the primary player in the hop profile making the use of Cascade abundantly obvious. The malt backbone is spot on to support the serious hops used in this brew but currently I am getting a notable astringency that could possibly come from the quantity of hops and overall bitterness of the brew, but more likely has to do with the hops deteriorating over time. This bottle has been sitting in my fridge for about two months and while the bottle isn’t dated I fear I have left this brew to stew for too long. Even with theÂ imperfection that I fear I am at fault for this is one damn good beer with pretty much everything I am looking for in a quality India Pale Ale.Â Â Body is medium and the mouthfeel is reasonably light for the style. At 7.5% ABV this ale is far too drinkable for those who love hops. The intense bitterness is more than enough to completely distract your palate from the alcohol content and encourage you to drink this 22oz bottle with out Â a second thought. As the beer warms, or perhaps as I get used to it, the astringency lessens but I would still love to try this brew fresh from the tap for comparison. If you enjoy bitter, citrusÂ laden, hop forward IPAs you will certainly enjoy this brew. A very solid ale that I wish I could get in my market. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
December 15th, 2010 beckel
Today I have one of my favorite seasonals from New Belgium Brewing Company. As a Minnesotan the name alone has a special place in my heart. When New Belgium made their way back into our market this was one of a few seasonals that I was very excited to sample, and though we didn’t get it until the next year I was quite satisfied. Their website calls 2Â° Below a Winter Warmer, but it’s more like an Extra Special Bitter, though the 6.6% ABV it will certainly keep you warm after a few. Lets see how it tastes on this lovely 16Â° winter day.
Two fingers of bright white head adorn this translucent copper colored Ale. The residual head and notable lacing are a bit surprising for the style, but create a lovely appearance. Smells of light grains, gentle nuttiness from the Victory Malt, Caramel Malt sweetness, a touch of alcohol and esters that remind me a bit of lager yeast (which is of course not present). Flavor is even more nutty than the aroma making this holiday ale a solid candidate for a variety of food parings throughout the season. Malt esters play the central role in the brew, as they should, but enjoyable citrus esters and mild bitterness compliment the malty sweetness and nutty esters creating a veryÂ palatableÂ and well rounded brew. Body is medium-light and the moutfeel is relatively clean. While the 6.6% ABV of this brew is a nice bonus, it is not overlyÂ noticeable. This clean malty ale isÂ unassumingÂ but still has enough flavor to make most happy. While it’s past Thanksgiving this brew would pair perfectly with turkey and stuffing and probably similarly well with your Christmas dinner. A solid brew that I will happily drink, particularly in cooler weather. While not as hoppy as the beers I tend to gravitate towards this ESB is to style and has enough contrast to please most people. As with many brews from New Belgium’s catalog this approachable brew is a great gateway beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
December 13th, 2010 beckel
Today we have one of the three brews in the Morimoto line of Rogue beers. The beers were made with input from Chef Morimoto of Iron Chef fame and are designed with food in mind, yet tasty on their own. You can read a bit more about Soba in my review of their Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale from two years ago. This bottle was provided by Lake Wine & Spirits as part of their “Citizen 4-pack” concept. I first had this brew in June of this year at the National HomebrewersÂ ConferenceÂ here in Minneapolis while enjoying aÂ fascisticÂ meal prepared byÂ Sean Paxton AKA “The Homebrew Chef”. In that meal Soba Ale was paired with a simple salad with a variety of fresh fruits.
Pours a cloudy yet slightly translucentÂ apricot tinted copperÂ hue. Two fingers of bright white head are produced and fade slowly leaving attractive lacing and a fewÂ millimetersÂ of residual head. Tinny bubbles flow to the top of the glassÂ repeatedly, asking to quench your thirst. Grain aromas are forward and remind me quite a bit of wheat but with more earthy,Â husk likeÂ esters & nice lemon citrus to contrast. Lemon and other citrus esters hit my tongue immediately, followed by rich, sweet, complex, yet bright grains. Earthy esters are equally diverse, remind me of lemon grass, oats and almost a hint of dirt. Mouthfeel is relatively full and enjoyably dry. The light body makes this beer reasonably smooth and refreshing and very sessionable at 4.8% ABV. A good beer that is somewhere between an American Lager and a Wheat Ale. Complex yet refreshing this brew will be enjoyed by most and will pare well with anything from seafood and gently fried vegetables to caramelized pork chops with rich root vegetables. Not a beer I would buy a lot but a great beer for hot days and most meals. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
December 11th, 2010 beckel
Today I have a beer, that like many others I can’t believe I’ve never gotten around to writing about. Dead Guy Ale is with out a doubt Rogue Brewing’s staple beer. I can’t even start to give Rogue enough praise for what they do for the homebrewing community and their reputation speaks for itself so I won’t bother. As I’ve said before I always appreciate how informative Rogue’s website is in regards to ingredients and additional information on the brews they produce. With Dead Guy Ale we are working with a grain bill ofÂ Northwest Harrington, Klages, Maier Munich and Carastan Malts.Â Perle and Saaz Hops, and as (almost) always Rogue’s signature Pacman Yeast. This is another beer that has been provided by Lake Wine & Spirits, this time as part of their Citizen 4-pack concept.
Onto the point. Dead Guy Ale pours an attractive amber tinted copper hue, with red and brown hues adding depth to the appearance. Almost 3 fingers of off white head was produced when poured into the middle of the glass, though less is typically created. The head retention of this ale is usually somewhat minimum, but this time around a surprising amount of lacing was created. Smells of sweet malts, cereal grains & soft bitterness. Rich sweet malt plays front runner followed by gentle citrus and very soft bitterness in the flavor. The reasonably light body and smooth mouthfeel makes this Maibock much moreÂ quaffableÂ than many of the style. Sweetness is evident and the prime character in this brew, as is expected for the style, but Dead Guy’s hop characters, while subtle in both citrus esters and bitterness, does a fantastic job of creating contrast and showing the unique approach that Rogue tends to take to brewing. At 6.5% ABV this very drinkable Maibock is almostÂ sessionable and will be very approachable for most people. While Dead Guy is one of the more simple brews from Rogue it is a good example of the beauty that can be created from simplicity. Both an easy gateway brew for those not accustomed to craft beer and a great beer for easy drinking on both hot and cold days, making it just right for this snow storm. If you enjoy Bocks and are looking for a bit more flavor contrast you will be all over this brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 23rd, 2010 beckel
Today I have what is sure to be a solid beer from a very exciting brewery out of Portland, Oregon. Hair of the Dog was founded in November of 1993 and is one of the most under hyped breweries out there. Though the founder and brewerÂ Alan Sprints recently expanded his operation a bit with a new tasting room and a few actual employees, Hair of the Dog has always been a one man show. One man with a serious passion for old, forgotten & unique styles of beer as well as barrel aging, qualityÂ ingredientsÂ and brewing history. All of his beers have simple names, often as a tribute to someone respected in the industry, or in this case his grandmother. While not all are available to the public Alan barrel ages almost all of his beers, for experimentation sake, which I highly respect. If that weren’t enough effort, Alan still brews very small batches with his 4 barrel system, producing about 120 Gallons at a time. Though not available in my market I have been lucky enough to sample a number of his brews and am very excited to sample this Pale Ale.
Pours a pale, light orange hue that is rather opaque. Head is minimal with about a half a finger of clean white, tight bubbles that fade with about 30 seconds, surprisingly leaving a hint of residual head around the rim of the glass. Smells nicely of citrus, reminding me of mandarin oranges, clean Pale Malt esters, gentle sweetness and soft bitterness. Flavor is malt forward with simple grain esters and nice sweetness, gentle orange, lemon and other citrus esters come from the Crystal Hops, as well as mild bitterness in the finish that lingers but isn’t overly intense. Body is rather light and the mouthfeel is gently carbonated and slightly creamy. Alcohol is barely noticed and at 5.6% ABV this isÂ definitelyÂ aÂ sessionableÂ brew. Certainly the simplest brew from Hair of the Dog but none the less a beautifully clean, incredibly approachable Pale Ale. If you enjoy a well crafted ales and are looking for an easy drinker Ruth is a good choice. Those who enjoy subtle hops and quality malt will enjoy this very balanced Pale Ale. While not a good example of Alan’s creativity, this brew shows the importance of balance and traditional styles. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on anything from Hair of the Dog you will not beÂ disappointed. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 17th, 2010 beckel
Today I have another fun beer we can not get in Minnesota. From the well regarded Port Brewing Company out of San Marcos, CA. Wipeout is Port’s year round IPA and as the West Coast is said to be the mecca of hops I expect this ale to deliver. Port Brewing Company formed in 2006 afterÂ Vince and Gina Marsaglia decided to expand the brewing capabilities of their previous brewpubs, called Pizza Port where they first started brewing in 1992, by purchasing a production facility previously owned by Stone Brewing Company. To make things more complicated Port Brewing is only half of the beer that comes out of their brewery with the other half brewed byÂ renownedÂ Tomme Arthur under the name Lost Abby.Â Producing Belgian inspired ales that are often barrel aged. But more on that another time. According to their website Wipeout is brewed with Two Row, Wheat, Carapils & English Crystal Malt. Amarillo, Centennial & Simcoe Hops (though the bottle adds Summit hops to the list and while only listing four varietals suggests that it is brewed with no less than five hop varieties). Then fermented with White Labs’ California Ale Yeast.
Pours a hazy pale yellowish orange hue that is quite opaque. When poured down the center of the glass over four fingers of white head are quickly produced, so quickly it overflowed a bit. A few millimeters of residual head persists and a small amount of lacing is left behind. Aroma is quite fantastic with robust citrus hops up front, lemon, grapefruit & orange, complimented by modest malty sweetness, gentle wheat esters, alcohol and hop bitterness. Massive citrus hits the palate immediately with intense lemon and grapefruit, followed by delightful sweetness and esters of Crystal Malt. Midpalate you are greeted by serious bitterness and some orange esters. Finishes with a blend of all of the above with citrus esters playing with malty sweetness and plenty of bitterness. While this ale comes in at a reasonable 7% ABV the bitter hops completely distract me from the slight alcohol in the flavor. Body is medium-light and the mouthfeel is very clean and well carbonated. A nice West Coast IPA with beautiful, intense citrus, enjoyable caramel (Crystal) malt esters and unquestionable bitterness. If you enjoy bright citrus hops with enough malts to back them up and unfaltering bitterness in your IPAs you will not beÂ disappointed. As far as I’m concerned aÂ quintessential West Coast IPA. While I am still partial to my fantastic local IPAs it would be nice to have a deliciously fresh brew like this available in my market. Most fans of American IPAs will enjoy this brew, I know I do. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 15th, 2010 beckel
Today I have the last beer from this round of Lake Wine & Spirits Citizen Six Pack and believe it or not the beer I was most excited to sample. Dave’s BrewFarm is a very new and almost local brewery located in Wilson, WI that is nothing short of awesome. While it will take some time toÂ achieve, one of Dave’s goals with the brewery it to be able to grow all of his own grains and hops on premise for use in his brews. In Febuary of 2009 Dave purchased a windmill to aid his brewery and push forward his desire to create a sustainable craft brewery. While Dave (with help from Point Brewing) is currently only packaging two of his offerings: Matacabras & BrewFarm Select,Â I have had the opportunity to sample a wide array of the inventive ale’s & lagers he creates at both the Great Taste of the Midwest and our local Where The Wild Beers Are and you can rest assured he not only knows how to push the envelope, but also how to make solid classic brews. In mostÂ circumstancesÂ the last beer I would be excited to try would be a “Golden” Light lager, but in this case not only does thisÂ unassuming Lager come in cans but Â it is brewed by someone I know firsthand has a sincere passion for creating great beer. I have yet to make the trip down to Dave’s BrewFarm but they have a greater variety of their beers available in their tap room and while they do not have a kitchen they allow you to bring in your own snacks. Their website is currently under construction but you can find their tap hours on their blog.
The first thing one will notice when pouring this Lager down the center of your glass is theÂ bountifulÂ white head that starts to form, eventually creating over three fingers of tight white bubbles that hang around for about two minutes and even leave a small amount of lacing around the glass. With out even smelling this beer I’m already guessing there is some wheat in the grain bill. Appearance is much more attractive that your standard Light Lager, presenting us with a lovely bright orange hue that is quite translucent. Aroma is grainy and enjoyable, notes of wheat, Pilsner Malt, soft oats and even softer citrus, finished off by mild alcohol, biscuit, and perhaps a hint of caramel malt. Flavors of light citrus, orange & lemon are quicklyÂ sweptÂ to the side by sweet malts that provide clean grain esters and add an additional dimension to the prior citrus esters encouraging one to take another sip. Body is light but the mouthfeel is a more full than most of the style yet crisp, well carbonated andÂ enjoyable. Rocking a veryÂ session ableÂ 5.5% ABV I would beÂ hard pressedÂ not to drink half a 12-pack of these suckers in one sitting. When I first saw this brew on the shelves I was very tempted to grab a case but now I simply wish I already had one in the fridge. If you enjoy light beers and are looking for some real flavor this is the beer for you. It is brews like this that show Light Lagers do not need to be made with corn and other adjuncts as most large American brewers have been so keen to do, and more importantly can in fact be quite delicious if made with qualityÂ ingredients. While on most days I would prefer to sit down with a more complex beer, this brew is fantastic for what it is. A perfect beer for any hot day or a situation when you want something approachable to all and sessionable. When the weather improves again this will likely become a go to back pack brew on a good ride. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 14th, 2010 beckel
Boundary Bay Brewing Company is a Brewpub out of Bellingham, Washington that was recognized as the nations largest brewpub in 2008 by the Brewers Association. They strive to brew classic styles but say they also like the “push the envelope” with some beers such as the IPA I have before me. They only bottle a few of their beers so I am happy to have the opportunity to sample this brew.
Pours a dark amber hue that becomes a hazy orange hue when brought to light. Two fingers of bright white head are produced and stay for many minutes leaving a few millimeters of residual head and a decent amount of lacing. Smells of bright hops, a good deal of orange esters likely from Amarillo Hops, passion fruit follows further encouraging my belief. Gentle earthiness and a hint of alcohol. Malt flavors are very forward and robust, followed by solid fruity hops, with orange and passion fruit shining through once again. Bitterness hits you mid palate and continues through the finish. As it warms additional esters of lemon and grapefruit come into play creating a nicely balanced yet American influenced India Pale Ale. A nice ale with roots in the English approach to the style but stepped up with American hops and fruity gusto. With a medium body and a reasonably clean mouthfeel this 6.4% ABV brew will be quite approachable to most. I encourage consumption of most beers at just a bit colder than room temperature with one of the few exceptions being IPAs due to the astringency that is sometimes exposed in hop esters. With this malt forward IPA, like many Imperial IPAs I highly suggest letting it warm for 10 minutes or more to experience how nicely the malty esters continue to evolve and allow the caramel notes to shine providing nice diversity and even more enjoyable contrast with the fruity hops. Or just drink it slowly like I have, it comes in 22oz bottles after all. If you enjoy malty IPAs but are looking for something more Americanized this is the brew for you. With enough bitterness to fit the style and even appease most of us state side, but enough malt presence to bring solid balance this is unquestionably a very well rounded beer. If they brew the rest of their beer as well as this IPA I would love to see more from Boundary Bay. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
November 13th, 2010 beckel
Tonight I will be enjoying another beer from Ninkasi, this time around we have their Double IPA. I don’t know much about this brew, but it does have a fun name, and if it is nearly as tasty as their Total Domination IPA I will be a happy man.
Pours an attractive amber & orange hue that is very bright orange when brought to light. While rather opaque you can see contrast when in the light. Two fingers of bright white head are easily created and linger for many minutes, leaving a good deal of lacing and a few millimeters of of residual carbonation. Smells of fruity hops with esters of pineapple & orange, followed by sweet malt, modest bitterness and gentle alcohol. While the aroma is nice the hops are not particularly bright. Flavor is quite fruity with lots of orange up front followed by slightly astringent bitterness and an enjoyable malt base. Sweet malts help contrast with the solid bitterness but are only able to do so much. Which is just fine in my book. Definitely more balanced than their IPA but not as intriguing. Still a solid brew that I would happily drink if it was available in the Minnesota market. Mouthfeel is rather full and the body is medium for the style and adds nicely to the fullness of the mouthfeel. For an 8.8% ABV beer it is fantastically quaffable. The combination of sweet malts and bitter hops will do a good job of making most not realize until the alcohol sneaks up on them. I find this beer to be a bit of a paradox, because on some sips sweetness seems very prevalent and other times it is sheer bitterness. If you enjoy Imperial IPA’s you will probably enjoy this beer as it is full of all of the nice contrasting flavors one would expect. Perhaps not as harmonious as some but definitely a tasty example of the style that I would happily grab a pint of any day. Give it a shot and ride your bike.