Mikkeller & BrewDog I Hardcore You

April 12th, 2011 beckel

Today I have what is sure to be a fun brew from the always creative Mikkeller and BrewDog. Once again working together to craft beer in BrewDog’s Scotland brewery. This time around things are a bit different, as this is no regular collaborative brew. I Hardcore You is a blend of Mikkellers I Beat yoU, a highly hopped Imperial IPA, and BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA another nicely hopped Imperial IPA. But that wasn’t enough, after blending this brew it was further dry hopped another two times. Making the aroma I got when pouring this brew no surprise.

Pours an opaque maroon hue with about two fingers of off white head and modest lacing. Smells of fruity, earthy and spicy hops that meld nicely with sweet malt and smooth but discernible alcohol. Robust citrus hits my tongue first, ladling on orange, apricot & peach followed by rich toffee malt esters, plenty of bitterness and a wide array of hop esters, from gentle herbal and spice notes to more intense floral and fruity flavors. A truly beautiful play between sweet malt characters and massive hop additions. Though you will quickly notice the alcohol in this 9.5% ABV brew the intense hop flavors and bright malty sweetness do a very good job of making you forget. So much so that I have finished more than half of this 11.2oz bottle in the past 10 minutes or so. Body is very light for the style and the mouthfeel is right in line, coming off very clean and surprisingly delicate. If you enjoy hops, lots and lots of hops, this brew will certainly take you for an enjoyable ride. Yet it is not over the top bitter, creating a very pleasant experience as far as I’m concerned. Over all an incredibly hoppy beer with a lot of light pitted fruit esters and some intriguing herbal and earthy esters. Those looking for serious hops and plenty of sweet malt and alcohol to back it up, look no further. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mikkeller BrewDog I Hardcore You

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

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

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA

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.

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

October 20th, 2010 beckel

Today I have what is sure to be an exciting brew from the fantastic brewers of Stone. Though unfortunately unavailable in my market it is easily attainable a short trek away in Wisconsin. For their 14th anniversary Stone decided to do what they do best and go with an IPA but this time around they decided to take a more English approach hence the Emperial moniker. Largely inspired by their trip to England to learn more about historic IPAs this Imperial IPA is likely anything but. Brewed with all English ingredients and even Burtonizing (hardening) their water. This ale is sure to be a treat.

Pours a lovely bright, yet pale tangerine hue that is completely opaque. Over three fingers of tight white head are quickly produced and fades after a few minutes leaving a small amount of lacing and a decent amount of residual carbonation on the surface of the brew. Smells of bright citrus hops with notes of lemon, orange and peach. Robust herbal and earthy hops play nicely with the fruit esters and malty sweetness rounds off the aroma nicely. Solid bitterness and dry alcohol are notable but not overwhelming. Flavor starts with tongue biting bitterness followed by massive herbal and earthy hop esters that are complimented by orange and other citrus esters. As you continue to drink the sweet malt slowly reduces the bitter bite but simply can not stand up to the massive hop profile leaving you with an intense bitter aftertaste. As it warms the malt starts to shine creating a greater deal of balance which is much more enjoyable. Leaving you with a nice blend of earthy, citrus and bitter hops left to play with sweet malt and surprisingly little alcohol esters. Mouthfeel is quite carbonated but dry and the body is medium. If you ignore the intense bitterness this ale is almost reminiscent of an well hopped Belgian Strong Golden Ale or Saison due to the serious earthy and herbal hop esters that one will often get from the yeast strains used in these styles. Even though this ale comes in at a serious 8.9% ABV it is barely evident in the flavor making this one surprisingly drinkable brew. An enjoyable ale with a diverse hop profile that you don’t often see. If you enjoy herbal hops and sincere bitterness this might just be the beer for you. Not what you would expect from the across the pond, but a lovely display of some classic English hops and a nice tribute to a brewery that makes so many wonderfully hopped brews. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA

Mad River Steelhead Double IPA

October 18th, 2010 beckel

Today I have a brew given to me by the folks at Lake Wine & Spirits as part of their Citizen Six Pack program. A fun little concept where they gave a number of people a six pack and ask of them to review each of them on their forum on a particular day. Mad River makes a number of very solid ales that I have greatly enjoyed but this is my first time sampling their Steelhead Double India Pale Ale.

Pours a deep orange hue that is completely opaque and quite attractive. About half a finger of tight white head is produced and fades within a minute leaving a tiny ring of carbonation around the surface of the brew. Smells of bright citrus, particularly orange, malty sweetness, enjoyable bitterness and a gentle hint of alcohol. Tastes strongly of orange hop esters, peach, gentle grass notes, soft floral esters, robust malt sweetness, solid bitterness and some gentle earthy esters. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is reasonably clean. At 8.6% ABV this brew should probably be sipped but the bitterness disguises it almost completely. A reasonably balanced Imperial IPA with plenty of sweet malt to contrast with the fruity & floral hops but also enough bitterness to make sure you haven’t forgotten what you are drinking. If you enjoy IPAs and are looking for something a bit stronger this one should be right up your alley. Those who enjoy fruity hops and plenty of bitterness will be all over this one. Over all a really nice, drinkable Imperial IPA provided you aren’t afraid of bitterness and something I would happily consume any day. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mad River Steelhead Double India Pale Ale

Three Floyds Dreadnaught

September 7th, 2010 beckel

Here I have another fantastic brew from Three Floyds Brewing, Dreadnaught an Imperial IPA. As you may realize by now the brewers of Three Floyds love their hops; if you didn’t you will now. I first sampled Dreadnaught at their brewpub in Munster, Indiana during this years Dark Lord Day. Even with my severe palate fatigue from all of the other amazingly full flavored beers I had consumed that day Dreadnaught stood out as a fantastically hop forward example of the style.

Pours a modestly hazzy hue that is between orange and amber, closer to the prior. Two plus fingers of tight clean white bubbles are produced, most of which fade within a few minutes. Leaving a few millimeters of bubbles on the surface and a small amount of lacing. Aroma is simply brilliant. Massive orange, grapefruit & other citruses, peach, gentle pine, solid bitterness, and lovely malty sweetness all play in a lovely symphony of scents. Robust bitterness hits your tongue first, followed by grapefruit and orange hop esters that are further emphasized by smooth malt sweetness finishing with an even greater bitter bite and a variety of pine and earthy hop notes. As your palate gets accustomed to the serious bitterness present in this ale gentle flavors such as peach and mango become more apparent creating a wonderfully versatile beast. Similarly caramel notes in the malt are allowed to shine and initial bitterness is reduced as the beer warms and your palate realizes what it is in for. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is a bit syrupy but reasonably light as to not be cloying. The 9.5% ABV is well hidden by the bitterness but is definitely present particularly as it warms. I would encourage giving this one a little bit of time to warm up before serving but also note that the hop notes will become a bit more astringent (emphasizing the bitterness) and the alcohol more notable as it approaches room temperature. Over all any fan of the American style IPA’s will most likely have a field day with this brew. I really can not say enough about my love for this beer; if only they distributed to Minnesota. If you are lucky enough to get Three Floyds or live close enough to the border of a state that does like my self, give it a shot and ride your bike; and send me some while your at it.

Three Floyds Dreadnaugh Imperial IPA

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

August 25th, 2010 beckel

Today I have another ale from Three Floyds that is sure to be impressive. Both their IPA Alpha King and their Imperial IPA Dreadnaught are fantastic examples of the style and now we have Apocalypse Cow a Double IPA with lactose which is brilliantly atypical.

Pours a completely opaque bright orange hue producing about two fingers of off white head that fades within a few minutes leaving a small amount of lacing around the glass. Smells of rich orange marmalade, soft floral notes, moderate bitterness and a gentle lactose sweetness that complements the malt quite nicely. Tastes strongly of smooth oranges, fantastically sweet milk sugar (lactose) and a lovely bitter finish. The body of this beer is medium and the mouthfeel has a wonderful creamy component but is still amazingly smooth. Consisting of soft creamy notes initially and then a tongue tingling bitter finish. Modest alcohol is noticeable but you would be hard pressed to notice that it is a solid 11% ABV. Definitely an unique approach to a very popular style and an enjoyable brew. If you dig hops and particularly oranges you will be all over this brew. It almost reminds me of a dreamsicle though not atrociously sweet and fantastically more bitter and complex. With most beers I suggest consumption on the warm side, particularly unique brews but in this case I prefer Apocalypse Cow on the colder side of the equation as it seems to balance better when you get more assertive hop notes.  If you are lucky enough to be near somewhere Three Floyds distributes I would certainly suggest giving this one a run for your money. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow

Mikkeller 1000 IBU

April 28th, 2010 beckel

I stopped by The Four Firkins last night for a lovely Breckenridge tasting and was ecstatic to hear that they had gotten in a brew that I have been waiting to show up in our market for close to a year. I have always loved the adventurous spirit of Mikkel Bjergsø, Mikkeller’s brewer and 1000 IBU is a prefect example of it. While some will be quick to argue that 1000 IBU is simply a theoretical measurement and nothing but a marketing gimmick, I say enough with the fretting. You can also read Mikkel’s response if you’re interested.  It is true that most humans have a hard time detecting bitterness over 100 IBU and various research suggests that the maximum theoretical IBU is far below 200 simply due to solubility issues. Regardless I think one of the best things about brewing is experimentation and having fun with it so the more the merrier, it is after all just a name. As you may know Mikkeller does not have their own brewery (Mikkel calls himself a gypsy-brewer) and this treat was brewed at the De Proef Brewery in Belgium. I believe that this batch is about two months old and it is definitely the kind of beer you want to drink as soon as possible to ensure as little deterioration of hops as possible. This bottle cost about $15 and consists of a 12.7 oz bottle wrapped with  labeled paper that when opened reveals a green corked bottle with the same label affixed which depicts a burglar with a bag of hops. Pours a dark hazy almost muddy medium brown hue, containing a small amount of sediment that floats to the bottom of the glass. Upon pouring down the middle of my glass I was immediately greeted by over 5 fingers of tight off white bubbles that slowly open up eventually dissipating but leaving a good deal of lacing and about 2 millimeters of bubbles around the glass and a little island of carbonation on the surface of the beer. I believe this Imperial IPA was bottled one to two months ago and I can’t wait to experience it’s hop aroma. Smells strongly of a myriad of hoppy esters; blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, orange, mango and other citrus esters, massive earthy notes and a bit of pine. Serious bitterness in the nose and a solid dose of alcohol. In addition to hops there is also a very notable malt base to this brew with a number of bready esters and just a hint of caramel. This beer tastes of every thing it smells like and is far more like eating actual hops than any brew I have ever consumed before. A nice, mildly sweet bready malt base that contains a gentle creaminess helps contrast the absurd hop content as to not simply kill you with bitterness. Earthy hop esters are very strong with pine, orange and even pineapple like notes playing a central role. This beer is very bitter but not as overwhelming as I had expected making it surprisingly drinkable.  Alcohol is noticeable but not overly offensive considering its 9.6% ABV. Body is medium and mothfeel is quite carbonated but still smooth due to a gentle malty creaminess present. While I am very curious how much exactly of what varieties of hops were used in this brew I still find it very impressive how much hop flavor is present in this brew without making it simply consist of pure bitterness. One solid massively hoppy brew that is no joke and probably the most insanely hoppy of the style so far. Not a beer to drink every day (even if you could find that much of it) but certainly worth trying if you enjoy insanely hoppy Imperial IPAs. I’m uncertain if anyone in the city still has this brew in stock but I would certainly recommend calling around if this sounds like something you would enjoy. If you don’t like hops obviously you shouldn’t bother with this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mikkeller 1000 IBU

Founders Double Trouble

January 24th, 2010 beckel

Today I have another delicious Imperial IPA from the fine brewers of Founders out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founders makes a variety of tasty ales, some strong, some subtle, but there is no question they love to play with hops. While not quite as big as their Devil Dance [review] which they call a “Tripple IPA” Double Trouble is still one impressive hop centric ale that any hop head should enjoy. Double Trouble is part of founders Seasonal line up and has been available for many years though I never got around to sampling it until the other week at Stub & Herbs. So after enjoying a number of pints there and seeing it on the shelves of The Four Firkins a few days ago when I was there for their insanely busy Unibroue tasting I saw no excuse not to grab a 4-pack and enjoy it some more. Pours a bright slightly translucent apricot hue. Three fingers of clean white head are produced that slowly open into larger bubbles settling after about 5 minutes or so leaving a small amount of lacing around the glass. Aroma is delicious. Nicely bitter, a variety of floral and fruity hop esters, orange, grapefruit and a very smooth and well rounded malty sweetness to contrast as well as a gentle does of alcohol. Tastes intensely of hops, gentle orange and more intense grapefruit are easily identified as well as other citrus esters followed by smooth clean malty sweetness and serious bitterness and additional hop esters in the finish. While unquestionably not a beer for those who aren’t a fan of hoppy ales the contrasting malt profile does a very nice job of creating a variety of flavors in this intense 86 IBU ale. The body is medium and the mouthfeel is very smooth with some nice sweetness on the tongue. Coming in at 9.4% ABV this is certainly a proper Imperial IPA though the bitterness and other hop esters do a very good job at hiding the solid ABV. If you are a fan of massive hops, particularly the citrus and bitter aspects you should dig this ale. As a lover of intensely hoppy brews this ale unquestionably gets a big thumbs up, keep up the good work Founders.  Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Founders Double Trouble Imperial IPA