March 11th, 2010 beckel
I do my damnedest to not waste my time writing about poor quality brews but this time around I just couldn’t help myself, even if I only spent just under $7. I had never entered a Trader Joe’s until last month but I was in the neighborhood and figured I may as well check them out. After perusing the shelves for a few minutes I decided I really didn’t need anything in particular and made my way over to their liquor portion of the store. Where nothing particularly grabbed my attention aside from the fact that they sold all of their contracted beverages in either 6-packs or individually for the exact same price per bottle ( less one cent). Inspired by a recent post by my friend Stu of Friday Night Beer I decided I may as well spend a few dollars, set my prejudices aside and grab a mixed six-pack. In full disclosure, typically when I do a review I make sure I have a clean palate and never review more than one beer in a day without at least waiting many hours in between. In this case I consumed the 6 beverages over 3 days, more or less back to back. However I am more than confident in saying it did little to change my opinions on these brews and further I’m not sure if I could have brought myself to the last brew had I waited any longer. Of the beverages I purchased two of them were Ciders, both made by Newtons Folly so we’ll start there.
Newtons Folly Authentic Draft Cider & Granny Smith Draft Cider: These two ciders are only getting one description as they barely differ. The Granny Smith tasted a bit more tart, crisp and perhaps a bit more natural…so I guess I preferred it a bit more, but it’s really hard to even care. Over all the flavor of both of these ciders is just about what you would expect from a contract cider produced by Woodchuck, because that’s exactly who makes it for Trader Joe’s. Tastes largely of apples and alcohol and is obviously mass a produced apple wine with very little character that is diluted and bottled. Body was light and mouthfeel was very carbonated. If you want your alcohol to taste like apples I guess you might dig it. But I would suggest some Crispin or Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider. $1 per bottle. 5% ABV.
The first Beer that I consumed was JB (Josephs Brau) Dunkelweizen and unfortunately it was probably the best of the bunch. Though it has a fancy name and location scribed on the label it appears to be a simple contract brewing front for Trader Joe’s (or beer marketing company as I believe they like to be called). Color was a reasonably nice, very cloudy molasses hue. Sugary aroma with a small amount of malt richness. Has an interesting after taste of wheat that is quite noticeable but mostly tastes of slightly burnt adjuncts (sugar). Over all flavor is indistinct and modestly sweet with some gentle citrus esters that seem a bit out of place. Body is medium. Relatively to style but I would like to see the wheat come through better. Would be decent for a home brew but not overly impressive for a commercial beverage particular with the obvious amount of adjuncts used. If you like sweet beer you might enjoy it, though I can’t see myself paying for it again. $1 per bottle. 5.2% ABV.
Mission St. Pale Ale: Produced by Steinhaus Brewing Company, another beer marketing company out of California. Completely translucent light copper hue. Surprisingly pungent hop aroma, very lemony and really no other dimensions; though over time I almost notice some orange esters. Almost no maltyness which is obviously out of style. Flavor is very lemon influenced with some uneventful pale malt notes that fail to add much. Lemon notes aren’t chemically but are overpowering and a bit artificial, seeming more like bottled lemon juice or perhaps lemon zest than hops. Very strange, very lemony. Not bad per seÂ but it was a bit difficult for me to drink as it was simply so lemony. If you really dig lemons I guess this is the beer for your. $1.17 per bottle. 4.6% ABV.
Mission St. India Pale Ale: I had consumed this ale once before at my uncles over last Thanksgiving and remembered not hating it, but also not really remembering much about it so I figured I’d give it another chance. Pours an attractive medium amber hue that is very translucent. Smells of hop notes similar to their Pale Ale with serious lemon notes though additional citrus hop esters are present and provide a much more well rounded aroma that is far more enjoyable, but still rather boring and a bit acidic with modest bitterness to somewhat round it off. Flavor is quite bitter which I rather enjoy but the citrus and floral esters are a bit muddled and not overly enjoyable. An OK ale provided you don’t mind bitterness. $1.17 per bottle. 6.1% ABV.
Kennebunkport IPA: This ale is apparently part of the Federal Jack’s “family” of beers and I will simply say I really hope it doesn’t reflect upon the quality of the other beers in their family because this brew was simply awful. Color is a slightly reddish copper hue that is completely translucent. Initially smelling almost only of malt with some odd esters that remind me of burnt caramel, though if you can get over that unpleasantness there are some flat citrus and floral notes that are also unenjoyable in my opinion. Flavor is mostly of unpleasant malt notes similar to the aroma and a modest amount of unpleasant citrus notes that are predominately lemony but at least more varied than the Mission St. Pale Ale. Some hop bitterness, a variety of off flavors and more alcohol than one would expect. Frankly I found this beer completely undesirable and very hard to drink, I almost poured it out. Unless you like torture don’t do it. $1 per bottle. 6% ABV.
I will admit that Trader Joe’s has some interesting and unique food products for sale, but I can not rightly encourage anyone to bother with their beer selection. Though I suppose I would take most of them over a bud, but only a couple over a Grain Belt Premium. They say they offer refunds on products you do not like so perhaps if they honor this I may try some more for the hell of it. Drink some better beer and ride your bike.
February 22nd, 2010 beckel
I had the opportunity to sample this inventive cider at The Four Firkins last week and couldn’t help but grab a bottle for myself to further indulge and share. As I’m sure many of you know Crispin is a local cider company that has been around for just over a year and has strived to reinvent the cider industry in The United States. For some time they have been in the process of locating a permanent cidery and last month accomplished that task with the acquisition of the Fox Barrel Cider Company which is located in Colfax, California. Due to this acquisition those of us in Minnesota will have the opportunity to try a number of Fox Barrel’s products which I have been told will include their apple, pear and black currant ciders. Crispin’s focus on quality and inventiveness has always had an attractive allure in my opinion and their newest venture The Saint is no exception. Crafted with apples from the west coast, organic maple syrup and Trappist ale yeast this is one unique cider. Like all of their ciders Crispin suggests you serve The Saint over ice, but after sampling it both ways I disagree. While ice may be a quick and refreshing way to cool down your beverage I don’t find it adds anything to this cider and simply causes it to become watered down more quickly. Pours a cloudy very pale golden yellow hue that is incredibly opaque. Head is almost nonexistent. Smells strongly of slightly tart, crisp apples and a variety of earthy and herbal yeast esters. Initial taste is wonderfully sweet due to the maple syrup used in this ale followed by notes of gently tart fresh apples and soft herbal accents from the Trappist yeast. Overall flavor profile is a wonderful contrast between semi tart apples and sweet maple syrup, though the influence of the Trappist yeast is less than I had initially expected. While gentle alcohol adds some additional character to this ale it is much less than one would expect for a cider coming in at a very solid 6.9% ABV. Mouthfeel is quite carbonated but at the same time quite full due to the use of maple syrup giving it a slightly sticky quality but managing to go down very smoothly none the less. Unquestionably a delicious hard cider that is one of the more intriguing I have had the opportunity to sample. If you enjoy quality artisanal cider you will likely enjoy this one, particularly if you enjoy sweet and sour flavor profiles. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
August 20th, 2009 beckel
So after a little delay Crispin’s Honey Crisp is on shelves now. I found my bottle at The Four Firkins when I was there on Tuesday to enjoy some tasty beer from our local Brau Brothers and got the chance to chat a bit with one of their brewers Dustin Brau. I had never consumed their Strawberry Wheat and was very impressed with the delicious real strawberry flavors and simple grain bill to compliment and balance the brew. But onto the topic of today. Honey Crisp is the newest beverage in the Crispin lineup and is fermented with organic honey produced nearby the cidery in California. Pours a hazy opaque white hue that is similar to grapefruit juice. Smelling strongly of rich sweet apples and some gentle honey. Tastes of fresh fermented apples, moderately sweet slightly dry finishing with some nice additional honey sweetness and gentle tartness. Mouhfeel is made slightly creamy by the honey but the body is very light making this hazy beverage very easy to drink any time and with a 6.5% ABV you can. Unquestionably a tasty beverage and one I have enjoyed every time I have had the opportunity to sample it. A welcome addition to the Crispin family and an innovative yet simply delicious take on cider that any fan will likely appreciate. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
August 3rd, 2009 beckel
I have sampled and enjoyed Crispin Cider many times from their first tasting many months ago at The Four Firkins to festivals such as Indulge and the Saint Paul Beer Fest and their most recent tasting event at the Firkins this previous Friday but have never gotten around to writing about it so I figured it was high time. Crispin is a local company headquartered in North East Minneapolis that is currently producing their cider with the help of a cidery located in Norther California. Unlike many ciders on the market Crispin is made from pure apple juice and is fermented with a white wine yeast. The currently produce three varieties of cider Original, Light and Brut my favorite and the one I will be primarily focusing on here. They have also produced a beer called Honey Crisp which is a cloudy cider with honey added but have yet to produce enough to distribute. It was intended to be available shortly after the St. Paul beer fest but due to some production problems at a facility closer to home they were left with a bad batch that contained some lingering unfiltered yeast that made the brew unacceptable for distribution. We were able to sample some of a fresh batch at the Firkins and I’m pleased to say it was as tasty and unique as the last two opportunities I had to sample it and hopefully we should be seeing it sometime soon for our purchasing pleasure. Crispin whole heartedly advocates serving of their beverages over ice and I would concur so long as you don’t plan on sitting on your drink for too long. Serving over ice ensures that your cider is cold as can be and I will happily admit that gulping down some of this cold light bodied brew after hopping off your bike is a wonderful refreshment as that is exactly what I did on Friday. Crispin Brut pours an incredibly translucent slightly golden white wine hue. Aroma is of sweet apples with a gentle dry alcohol note. Tastes of fresh moderately sweet apples with a nice dry bite in the finish. The body is light as can be and the mouthfeel is incredibly clean and smooth. It is unquestionably one easy beverage to drink and with a 5.5% ABV you can enjoy many with no worries. I’ve never been one to drink a ton of cider but I often find it refreshing and this beverage is unquestionably the most refreshing, easy to drink, and overall tasty cider I have had the opportunity to consume. Not to demean the Eric Bordelet 2004 I just consumed because that stuff was great, but in a different category as far as I am concerned. If you have never enjoyed a cider I would encourage you to disregard that prejudice as to me this cider has no real comparable competitors; at least available in our market. If you prefer a sweeter cider go with their Original and if you want something lower ABV their Light is basically just their Brut watered down to 3.2% ABV. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
August 1st, 2009 beckel
Though this blogs focus is beer I certainly enjoy a variety of fermented beverages from a delicious single malt Scotch to a well crafted cider such as we have here. Yesterday The Four Firkins hosted a Crispin Cider tasting and while there I couldn’t help but go home with a good deal of cider including this bottle I have here in front of me that was suggested by Sean. From Googling a bit I have had a hard time finding much information on this brew other than it is brewed by a well known French wine maker, is certified organic and is brewed with a wild wine yeast so lets get straight to the tasting. Color is a typical translucent golden hue that you would expect from a cider. About a millimeter of white head was formed on my first pour but faded very quickly. On the second pour I was able to produce a solid finger and change that lasted for much longer but still only a few minutes before settling to the surface of the cider and leaving a nice white circle around the glass. Aroma smells mostly of wine alcohol which makes sense and a little bit of apples. From first impression the flavors in this brew are simply amazing. I get flavors of what I figure is wine yeast first followed by a gentle fermented note that reminds me of olives but is not offensive (particularly as I don’t care for olives) and is likely present due to aging. Then comes in a wonderfully sweet and smooth apple flavor that finishes dryer with some nice carbonation in the finish. The mouthfeel of this brew is smooth and creamy it is really quite amazing. Body is very light to compliment the 4% ABV and make this an incredibly drinkable beverage, I wish I had more. This is simply an amazing beverage that I am glad to have had to opportunity to sample. If it were more available I would happily consume it again to see what the other varieties and years yield. If you have ever enjoyed a cider or are partial to white wine and want to try something new try to find one of these brews. Bottle # 153/05. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
July 7th, 2008 beckel
This beverage isn’t exactly beer, and you probably won’t see too many reviews of its kind, but it is alcohol none the less. Also this blog isn’t about me, but about beer, anyhow last week I was taking my new BOB Yak bicycle trailer out on its maiden voyage (which kicks ass by the way) and after a sweaty ride to Surdyks and much indecisiveness I ended up in front of some Strongbow cider. This made me think of the joys I had while in England drinking a couple of these on the street before a Jack the Ripper tour. This is even further irrelevant because I then saw some Hardcore cider and decided to add that to my cart instead, as I remembered it being more dry and less sweet than the Strongbow. This cider pours a light apple juice color with only a bit of head even if you pour quite sloppily. Smells somewhat of fermented apples, but more of dry alcohol. Mouthfeel is light. As I hoped this is a refreshing drink. Tastes like apple juice with a carbonated alcohol in the end. With 5.5% ABV this seems like a great drink to choose if you don’t want beer, but still want something refreshing and alcoholic. According to the label this beer is brewed by The Hardcore Cider Company in Cincinnati, Ohio and distributed by Boston Beer Company obviously from Boston, Massachusetts but through some internet research it would seem it is simply a creation of Boston Beer Company. I have mixed feelings about the aforementioned company, but it is a decent drink and they do some interesting things for the craft beer community no matter how large they may be. They particularly get credit for their hop sharing program this year. If you looking for a cider, this one packs a nice light punch, give it a shot and ride your bike.