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The Session #39 Sierra Nevada Fritz and Ken’s Ale

May 7th, 2010 beckel

The SessionToday I have what is sure to be a fun brew, and seemingly the last new beer to involve Fritz Maytag before the sale of his landmark brewery Anchor Brewing (more about that here). I haven’t participated in The Session for quite some time but after looking at this weeks I realized I have the perfect brew for this months topic: Collaborations. I love collaborative brews for many reasons. In fact I think they are an example of the life blood of the Craft Beer industry. With out cooperation, sharing and support of one another many Craft Breweries would not be where they are today. Not only is it more fun to work with others when brewing but there is also a ton to learn from one another. From techniques to preferences not to mention local traditions and ideas. In honor of collaboration I will be consuming Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary brew which is a collaboration between their brewer Ken Grossman and Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag. I bought this bottle of  Fritz & Ken at The Four Firkins, another at Chicago Lake Liquors and even saw a few still on the shelves of Princeton’s Liquors when I was there earlier today. According to the bottle they decided to brew this Imperial Stout in honor of the Dark Ales and Stouts that seduced them in their early years. Lets see how it goes. Gently poured from a cleanly labeled, caged and corked 750ml bottle over four fingers of creamy tight chocolate colored head are quickly produced. Bubbles slowly open up and even more slowly dissipate. I poured my glass more than five minutes ago and there is still half a finger of reasonably tight head that has yet to settle. A good deal of lacing is present and likely won’t be going anywhere soon. Color is a very opaque dark black that lightens slightly when brought to light. Smells of roasted malts, smoke, chocolate, coffee, gentle malt bitterness and some notable alcohol. Flavor is massively smoky with enjoyable coffee and roasted esters and some residual sweetness to help create some sort of a balance. As it warms the smoky flavors loosen up quite a bit allowing the variety of dark malt esters to shine. Chocolate esters are highlighted exceptionally along with gentle coffee, smooth bitterness and an enjoyable amount of residual sweetness. Pitted fruit esters exist but are incredibly subtle. Body is on the heavy side, but not overly considering the style. Mouthfeel is very smooth and silky despite its massively rich malt profile. At 9.5% ABV this is definitely a sipper but not overly offensive with more than enough dark malt esters to hide the alcohol easily. Over all quite good but not anything particularly unique. If you enjoy Imperial Stouts that are nicely roasted and to style you should certainly enjoy this brew. I will definitely be aging my 2nd bottle to see what it has to offer in a year or two. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken's Ale

Brau Brothers Rainwater Stout

January 23rd, 2010 beckel

Today I have the newest special release from our very own Brau Brothers Brewing out of the very small town of Lucan, Minnesota. The brothers Brau make a number of delicious brews so if you are unfamiliar I would highly suggest one of their mixed 12-packs which can be purchased at many local retailers for a reasonable sum and are a wonderful introduction to their products. Rainwater Stout was brewed late this summer with some local hops and aged in Madeira Oak for a number of months. Additionally it is the first time they have bottled in 750ml bottles. Brau Brothers are calling this a Very Special Old Dark, or VSOD but who cares about titles, lets see how it tastes! Pours a very dark black hue that is almost completely opaque with only a little bit of light shining through the very rim of the surface. Head is a tight two fingers and of a light creme chocolate color that lasts for a few minutes leaving only a very small ring around the glass indefinitely. Smells strongly of roasted malts, coffee, chocolate,pitted fruit and even gentle nutty esters are present as well as a modest dose of alcohol. Quite nice. Flavor is of a variety of fruits, gentle coffee, roasted malt, caramel, and slightly tangy, almost sour esters. Body is very light and the mouthfeel is quite thin but nicely smooth. While oak aging most likely has contributed to reducing the obviousness of the alcohol in this almost 10% ABV brew I am still trying to determine what else it has influenced other than a very gentle oak character. A nicely roasted Imperial Stout with a very unique flavor profile. A bit less complex and lighter bodied than I expected but unquestionably unique and tasty. If you enjoy unique easy drinking strong stouts and roasted malts this might just be the brew for you. With all of the delicious ales that Brau Brothers have produced I can’t wait to see more experimentation. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Brau Brothers Rainwater Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout

September 9th, 2009 beckel

Today I have a beer that I have wanted to try for some time. Founders Brewing Company out of Grand Rapids, Michigan makes some solid brews that I have thoroughly enjoyed but until now their famed Breakfast Stout has eluded me. A barrel aged version was briefly available at our local Stub & Herbs during their Founders tasting but unfortunately the tap ran out before I arrived. The label of this Imperial Stout states “Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout” and though it may not have the word extreme in there anywhere it is sure to be an impressive brew. This hearty brew pours an incredibly dark brown hue that appears black and is completely opaque not allowing any light through. Head consists of creamy tight bubbles of over a finger that are a rich milk chocolate color. Very nice head retention and a good deal of creamy lacing. Smells of rich roasty coffee, soft chocolate notes and a gentle oat character. Tastes of sweet chocolate, rich dark roasted malts, a bit of oat and rich earthy coffee. This is one amazingly smooth brew with a wonderfully clean yet well carbonated mouthfeel. Body is on the heavy side but not overwhelming for the style. I am not a big drinker of coffee but this is one tasty stout that does a wonderful job using coffee to accent the roasted malts and chocolate in this brew yet not over power the flavors and alienate those who aren’t as accustomed to rich coffee. A solid coffee infused Imperial Stout that will be enjoyed by any fan of coffee and roasted barley and even those who are just looking for a quality strong dark beer. Though I thoroughly agree this is a wonderful breakfast beer I will have to warn you it is 8.3% ABV, so you may just want to have one or two…unless you plan to take an early nap. Another tasty brew in the Founders line up that I’m glad to have consumed. Too bad I missed that barrel aged version. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Founders Breakfast Stout

Great Divide Ghocolate Oak Aged Yeti

August 25th, 2009 beckel

Today I have the most recent iteration of Great Divide’s Wonderful Yeti Imperial Stout. If oak aging this brew and adding espresso wasn’t enough to knock your socks off, this time around a good dose of cocoa nibs were added as well as a gentle dose of cayenne. The hops have been reduced a bit to emphasize the chocolate notes and I must say the way it allows the vanilla notes from the oak aging to flourish is fantastic. I was able to try a small sample of this brew about a month ago when it first hit the shelves of The Four Firkins and can’t wait to consume some more. This beer pours a very dark black hue that is almost completely opaque only allowing the smallest amount of light through the rim. Plenty of wonderfully tight creamy light milk chocolate colored head is produced  and lasts for many minutes slowly creating a good deal of lacing around the glass. Aroma is of sweet dark malt, gentle hints of cocoa, a bit of alcohol, a nice creamy vanilla note and very little bitterness. Flavor is absolutely delicious. Tastes of sweet chocolate, smooth clean dark malts, sweet vanilla notes and a nice level of bitterness to balance. Cayenne is easily identified in the end and creates a wonderful contrast to the rich flavors present in this brew leaving you with a clean gentle spice taste. The body of this beer is moderately heavy and the mouthfeel is smooth and creamy. Provided you note this 9.5% ABV Imperial Stout is a bit of a sipper it is the most drinkable Yeti I have yet to consume. If you are into strong stouts and enjoy chocolate you should absolutely purchase this beer, just don’t get scared of the little pepper. A wonderful example of the inventive spirit and quality of brews produced by the good folks of Great Divide Brewing. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

August 21st, 2009 beckel

Though this is the first time I have sampled a beer from the brewers of HaandBryggeriet I am ever so excited for a number of reasons. HaandBryggeriet consists of four Norwegian brewers who operate out of a small 200 year old wooden building in Drammen, Norway. I have seen their brews on the shelves many times but never justified purchasing them as they are limited production and imported making them cost a pretty penny. On this beer however I took exception and couldn’t help but grab the last bottle off of the shelves of The Four Firkins. Dark Force has one crazy style description on the bottle “Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout”. So if being the first brewers to make an Imperial Wheat Stout wasn’t enough this one is also double extreme! Jokes asside I cant wait to hop into this brew. This bottle of awesomely named beer happens to be Batch NR 144 which was brewed in March of 08. This beer pours a very dark black color that is completely opaque not even allowing a small amount light to penetrate through the surface. Head consists just over two fingers of tight creamy bubbles that are the color of rich chocolate and slowly dissipate creating larger bubbles as the minutes pass but leaving almost no lacing. Smells strongly of rich roasted dark malt with some gentle coffee and chocolate notes and a decent alcohol hint. Tastes heavily of dark roasted  malt with a slightly sweeter finish of gentle wheat notes and a soft citrus like character in the end. Mouthfeel is slightly creamy reminding me a bit of a milk stout but with less lactose, body is medium making it quite drinkable for an Imperial Stout though its 9% ABV makes it more of a sipper. This is certainly one of the more  interestingly flavored Imperial Stouts I have had the opportunity to sample and if it were more available I would happily consume it more regularly.  If you are into big dark beers and want to try something quite unique this beer is definitely worth your time. If this beer is any example of the quality of brews produced by HaandBryggeriet I might just have to open my wallet a little wider in the future and grab some more of their tasty beverages. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

HaandBryggeriet Dark Force

Brew Dog Paradox Macallan

June 16th, 2009 beckel

Today is a bit of a special post with a very special brew. I found this brew on the shelves of The Four Firkins months ago and though it was quite expensive I couldn’t pass it up. Paradox is a limited series of  Imperial Stouts aged in various whiskey casks by the fine Scottish folk of Brew Dog. This particular bottle is part of batch 11 that was aged in a 1987 Macallan sherry cask and is the perfect brew to commemorate this  website’s 1st anniversary which occurred on Saturday as the cask is of the year of my birth. I was unable to enjoy this brew on the proper anniversary as I had planned because I was out of town completing the MS150 charity ride for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Minnesota which was a blast. This beer pours a completely opaque mat black and produces just over a finger of attractive toffee colored head that remains for a few minutes. As usual this beer has been sitting out for quite some time, about an hour now and is just the right temperature to enjoy its complexities as the bottle encourages as I do not live in an igloo. Aroma is of subtle creme and toffee hints as well as more obvious coffee notes, a bit of roasted malt, a nice hint of sherry and a dose of strong but not overpowering alcohol. Flavor is complex. Flowing from sweeter malt flavors that create toffee and creamy hints to a robust sherry flavor with moderately alcoholic scotch notes finishing smoothly with roasted malts that linger in your mouth until the sherry comes back just in case you forgot about it. When swirling it in my glass the body of this beer appears quite heavy though it is not too hard to drink having a very clean and smooth mouthfeel. The more I drink this beer the more the sherry wood notes come through and the more the roasted malt becomes subdued, quite interesting. Because of the sherry and scotch notes of this brew you will probably be aware that what you are consuming is rather alcoholic and at 10% ABV this brew fits the bill though it is not over the top. I always enjoy seeing people experiment with brewing and this is definitely an interesting and tasty brew but for the price tag of over $10 for a 11.2 oz bottle it is doubtful that I will be experimenting with much more Paradox in the near future, that would be if I could find it (thank you distribution laws, limited production and shipping expenses). If you are looking for something fancy and are a fan of Imperial Stouts and oak aging I would encourage you to check out the Paradox series, if you can. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Brew Dog Paradox Macallan 1987 Batch 11

Three Floyds Dark Lord

May 8th, 2009 beckel

Yesterday my buddie Stu of Friday Night Beer was so kind as to share a bottle of Three Floyds’ elusive Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout with me as well as a bottle of Minneasota’s very own Bearded Brewer’s El Muerto Ale which was very tasty and unique with malt, hop, fruit and herbal flavors creating a delicious balance that I have never quite experienced before. Though I only had about 6 ounces to work with it was truly a beautiful beer appearance wise, well carbonated, very drinkable and was enjoyed thoroughly, I will have to get in contact with the man himself to see about properly reviewing some more of his brews. After sharing a bottle of He’Brew’s Genesi 10:10 [review] (I was lucky enough to find some more at Zipps Liquors and grabbed all 8 bottles on the shelf so we can see how it continues to age) we went for the Dark Lord and boy is it one interesting beer. We consumed this beer at room temperature and as one should expect it pours completely pitch black, looking just like motor oil, though a bit less thick. When brought to direct light you can see the tiniest amount of an amber or brown hue at the very surface of the beer but it is very difficult to notice. Head was a an attractive brown shade but was only visible for a very short period of time as it dissipated almost immediately leaving the surface area almost completely clean. Aroma is surprisingly mellow but is of dark roasted malts, a bit of malty bitterness contrasted and balanced by malty sweetness with alcohol wafting in and out. With a 13% ABV there is no question that alcohol is noticeable in the flavor but remarkably balanced by the immense number of flavors in this brew. The body is on the heavy side but the mouthfeel is incredibly smooth making this a reasonably easy beer to drink considering what you are consuming. As we drank the beer me and Stu chatted about the vast flavor profile of this beer and even as I jotted down random flavor notes I still simply don’t know quite what to say about this beer other than it tastes like Dark Lord. So many flavors are represented Santa’s list couldn’t do this beer justice. From dark roasted malt to coffee and chocolate notes, creamy sweetness and a strange almost tangy mouthfeel created somewhere between the malt and alcohol near the end of the palate as well as many more I can’t quite place my finger on. This beer may be dark, dark and then darker but its flavors are nothing but diverse. Though there are a ton of favors in this beer it is reasonably mellow on some of the roasted flavors which I think allows the many other flavors to expose themselves further. I would be curious to see the differences in flavor if this beer was consumed cold, though I am very glad we drank it warm as I feel I was able to get a glimpse of the vast variety of flavors present in this brew. This beer will be enjoyed by fans of diverse and dark beer alike and I will definitely be making the trek to Indiana next year if I have the means as it sounds like a wonderful community gathering (read Stu’s account here). Thanks again for sharing Stu. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout

Bearded Brewing El Muerto Ale

Amager Bryghus Hr. Frederiksen

April 24th, 2009 beckel

Today I have another beer from the Danish duo over at Amager Bryghus that I am ever so excited to try. After enjoying their Batch One Barleywine so much I thought the only logical thing to do would be to buy more of their beer. So a month or so ago I picked up a bottle of their Hr. Frederiksen an Imperial Stout named after a gentleman who was apparently a major influence and helping hand in the creation of their brewery. They suggest that this is a boisterous but charming ale and I’m inclined to agree simply based on the aroma that greeted me when I opened the bottle. The beer pours a dark mat black color that allows some red hues through when brought to light but is still completely opaque. Head is massive, chocolate brown in color and an easy three plus fingers tall that very slowly bubbles away one small bubble at a time. Leaving a solid millimeter of head on the surface of the beer even 10 minutes later and a bit of lacing around the glass. It is absolutely gorgeous how the head cascades when tilting my glass. The aroma of this beer is delightful. Strong scents of coffee, chocolate and roasted malt are most dominate. Then there is an interesting somewhat sweet fermented fruit like flavor from the grain that I suppose is a bit like blueberry. Initially I noticed a bit of alcohol on the nose, but the more I smell it the less it comes out. Holy crap. Upon drinking this beer is is immensely less sweet than it was on the nose. First I get heavy coffee flavors and dark roasted malt with a good deal of roasty bitterness. As I continue to sip this brew the sweet malt flavors are noticeable near the middle and continue through to the finish though they have a lot of bitterness to combat in the end. The fruit like note I detected in the nose is present with the sweet malt flavors but it is hard to label. The body of this beer is quite thick but not too heavy and the mouthfeel is quite smooth and clean. Though you will eventually notice that this beer is 10.5% ABV it won’t be due to the flavor. Coffee is definitely one of the major flavor profiles in this beer and I can honestly say as someone who doesn’t drink coffee this beer is fucking delicious. Often when a beer has a lot of coffee flavor it is a bit of a turn off for me but this brew is so well balanced I don’t have a thing to complain about. When I initially asked Sean of The Four Firkins about this beer the coffee aspect was my biggest hesitation, I’m ever so glad he persisted. This is one solid Imperial Stout that will likely be enjoyed by anyone who is into quality stouts and can handle the initial shock of coffee and bitterness that may come with the first few sips. The balance of dark bitterness and sweet flavors is simply delicious and I can’t wait to sample more of their beers. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Amager Bryghus Hr. Frederiksen Imperial Stout

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

January 26th, 2009 beckel

Today I have a brew that I have heard referenced a number of times but never had the opportunity to enjoy, in fact it is only the second beer from North Coast Brewing I have ventured to try. But while surfing the shelves of Henn Lake looking for something I hadn’t tried before it called out to me and I couldn’t help but give it a chance. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their Acme Pale Ale [review] because it had more pale malt and citrus flavors than I prefer but I’ve heard good things about many of their other ales and I must say Old Rasputin meets the grade. Pours a completely opaque dark black color producing a solid four fingers of creamy dark brown head that takes many minutes to evaporate leaving a nice ring of lacing around the glass. Aroma is intense, sweet and malty with some caramelized notes and a hint of alcohol similar to that of red wine or perhaps a fine scotch. This is one serious stout. Nice dark malty flavors are what this beer is all about but it has so much more. Beneath the roasted flavors are many nice pitted fruit flavors, cherry and plum stick out most to me. Body is a bit heavy as is the mouthfeel but it is still smooth and drinkable. Though this ale is a solid 9% ABV you will be hard pressed to notice aside from the aroma because of how well the sweet malt disguises it. Those who enjoy a good strong stout will certainly enjoy this brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Two Brothers Northwind Imperial Stout

January 19th, 2009 beckel

Today we have another ale from the fine midwest folk of Two Brothers Brewing bringing us a solid Imperial Stout appropriately named Northwind. Though they hail from Warrenville, Illinois and are nearby neighbors of us Minnesotans I rarely see their brew at the store so I have been pleased to see it a number of places in the past few months as I have yet to consume anything from them I have not enjoyed. This ale pours a nice deep black color that is not penetrated by light, producing just a finger of lovely chocolate colored head that is very well retained for many minutes. Gentle swirling immediately produces more of this silky head giving the glass a slight lacing that slowly trickles down. Aroma is quite nice, creamy sweet aromas mesh wonderfully with dark but gentle roasted malt scents with only a little alcohol on the nose. When first sipping this beer the roasted malt flavors are most noticeable and transition into a smooth slightly more creamy taste. The body is medium but reasonably light for a stout, the mouthfeel is smooth and somewhat creamy making this a very drinkable brew if you like dark malts. Though this ale is absolutely an Imperial Stout with its solid 8.5% ABV, you may easily be tricked because of how well the malt profile covers the alcohol flavors. The more your drink of this ale the more you notice the subtler flavors such as a slight citrus flavor that tones down the malt flavors as well as some pitted fruit hints. That my friends is what I enjoy the most about this ale, it is incredibly simple on the surface and therefore very approachable and easy to enjoy for anyone who is interested in a stout, but then subtly complex in many ways you wouldn’t expect, or perhaps even notice if you aren’t looking for it. The rest of you from these Northerly lands will appreciate the namesake of this ale as it is perfect for our current weather, though the ride today was quite reasonable it would certainly have kept me warmer. Fans of Stouts or Imperial Ales in general will enjoy this simple yet flavorful ale. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Two Brothers Northwind Imperial Stout