Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

September 8th, 2010 beckel

I know very little of Bear Republic Brewery other than the fact that they are from Cloverdale, CA and get some good reviews. Particularly on for the beer I have here their Racer 5 and India Pale Ale. Unfortunately Bear Republic does not distribute to Minnesota but I am excited to try this ale for the first time.

Pours a light very translucent copper hue with hints of orange. Head is about two fingers of tight white bubbles that open up slowly and eventually fade after about five minutes. Gentle lacing is left behind as well as a few millimeters of carbonation on the surface. Aroma is quite nice with a variety of citrus notes, particularly grapefruit and orange. With decent bitterness and modest sweetness playing along nicely and distracting from the modest alcohol on the nose. Flavor is quite a bit more bitter than the aroma with solid bitterness upfront followed by enjoyable notes of grapefruit, orange, gentle peach like fruit notes, followed by solid malty sweetness leaving a clean but bitter finish that will linger with you until you wash out your mouth. Alcohol is there but the 7% ABV is pretty well hidden by the solid contrast of sweet and bitter in the finish. Mouthfeel starts rather carbonated but smooths out around the mid-palate which is no surprise based on the serious release of carbonation upon opening this bottle. Body is impressively light making this brew very drinkable. Overall this is a solid IPA that I could easily and happily drink multiple six-packs of on a regular basis if it were available in my market. If you enjoy solid well rounded seriously drinkable IPA’s you will be all over this one. With its clean light body and its sold hop characters it is no surprise this is a well regarded brew. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Bear Republic Racer 5 India Pale Ale

Mikkeller East Kent Goldings Single Hop IPA

June 7th, 2010 beckel

Mikkeller is one fine brewery from Denmark and their Single Hop Series is one of my favorite. So I was very pleased to find this brew on the shelves of South Lyndale Liquors a few weeks ago. East Kent Goldings are a classic English hop traditionally used in English Bitters and Pale Ales and I am excited to experience them in their pure glory with this IPA. This cleanly labled 11.2 oz bottle has 22/12/11 printed on its cap, which I assume is a best by date. When poured this carbonated ale quickly creates four plus fingers of bright white head that slowly opens up settling after a few minutes and leaving a good deal of lacing and about a half an inch of perpetual bubbles around the rim. Color is a modestly hazy apricot hue that is completely opaque. Smells as one would expect with a variety of herbal almost spicy esters and a earthy note that reminds me of orange rind. Tastes of hoppy herbs and spices and solid bitterness contrast with sweet malt esters creating one interesting brew. Again the herbal orange attribute comes through for me in the flavor quite notably. While this brew is obviously hop centric it is rather enjoyable if you are into herbal hops. With a 6.9% ABV it is plenty strong but not over the top for regular consumption. Body is medium and mouthfeel is quite carbonated but not overly sharp. Probably not a beer I would drink regularly because of its scarcity and serious herbal characters make it not as easy to consume by the 6-pack. Probably not the best hop to use on its lonesome but an enjoyable experiment. For those who enjoy variety, learning and sampling unique things this brew is absolutely worth your time. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mikkeller East Kent Goldings Single Hop IPA

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

May 31st, 2010 beckel

For a long time I have been an avid supporter of Flying Dog, their beers and their marketing. So upon hearing about their 20th Anniversary brew I knew I would eventually have to get some. The politely named Raging Bitch is a Belgian-Style India Pale Ale that I am sure will be a treat as  their first batch of this brew didn’t even make it to Minnesota. I grabbed my 6-pack at Chicago Lake for a reasonable price so this ale should be widely available. Pours an attractive rich copper hue that is very translucent, producing close to four fingers of bright white head.  With a small amount of lacing and a few millimeters of bubbles remain after settling. Smells of bright citrus hops, orange and grapefruit in particular, with wonderful earthy hop esters melding with earthy and spicy  yeast notes. Flavor is delightfully hoppy with lemon, grapefruit & gentle orange esters that play with clean earthy hop flavors which are smoothed brilliantly by the Belgian yeast used in this brew. Gentle earthy, spice & fruit esters come from the yeast and produce a lovely play with the serious hop content and notable bitterness. The yeast contributes a lot to a delightfully clean, smooth and slightly creamy mouthfeel accentuating its solid medium body. At 8.3% ABV and 60 IBU this beer is far too delicious and easy to drink. It should obviously be treated as more of a sipper but I could easily drink pints of this all day in the sun. I am very pleased Flying Dog decided to release this anniversary brew in 6-packs at a reasonable cost and I hope they continue to produce it for years to come. Truly a fantastic brew and an amazingly impressive melding of two styles that can be enjoyed by most people. If you enjoy IPAs and Belgian Style brews this happens to be close to the best of both worlds. Perfect for paring with spicy or acidic food. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian Style IPA

Sierra Nevada Estate Ale 2009

May 19th, 2010 beckel

As this beer has sat in my fridge for far too long I suppose it’s damn time I consume it. A large variety of beers are fine to age but for many lower alcohol beers and particularly hoppy beers it is not the best approach. Sierra Nevada is already releasing their Estate 2010 as I write this post so I am sure this bottle will not have nearly as brilliant hop characters as it likely had initially. Oh well, it’s my fault for procrastinating. This exciting brew is the first release of Sierra Nevada’s Estate Ale, part of their Harvest Series. Consisting of only hops and barley grown on Sierra Nevada’s own estate in Chico, CA. Pours a very translucent bright amber hue that quickly creates over three fingers of off white head that leave a decent amount of lacing after settling a few minutes later. Smells nicely of grassy hops which play nicely with sweet malt and modest citrus esters. Tastes of rich, smooth, sweet malts, a decent amount of citrus, lemon, orange, grapefruit, modest bitterness and some gentle grassy & earthy esters. Body is medium and mouthfeel is wonderfully smooth and tight. The beautiful mouthfeel likely has something to do with the age of this brew. I am quite impressed by the delightful melding of hops and  malts present in this brew and equally impressed by the robustness of the hop esters still present after roughly a year of aging. Overall enjoyable bitterness is complimented with rich malts and delightful hop notes creating a very well rounded ale.  When I first saw this 24 oz bottle on the shelves of The Four Firkins I was amazed by its price tag of around $13 if memory serves me correctly and almost didn’t end up purchasing it. After consuming it I’m glad I did because I believe it will be appreciated by any fan of IPAs or Pale Ales. At 6.7% ABV this is one drinkable but very flavorful Ale. If this years edition of Estate Ale is anywhere near as well balanced I would highly recommend picking up a bottle, I probably will. While it is always fun to be surprised by an aging experiment I wouldn’t highly recommend aging (m)any India Pale Ales. If you can find an old bottle give it a shot and ride your bike.

Sierra Nevada Estate Ale 2009

Piece Dysfunctionale

April 27th, 2010 beckel

Here I have one of the many delicious brews I took home from my trip to Dark Lord Day which I will elaborate on in the near future. Piece Brewery & Pizzeria is a lovely brewpub in downtown Chicago that serves a variety of tasty brews (many of which have won awards) and some pizza that smelt fantastic (thought I never managed to make it there with an empty stomach). After enjoying a number of pints of Dysfunctionale which they call an American-Style Strong Pale Ale on their web site (though I swore their chalk board said IPA) both nights we were in Chicago I couldn’t help but bring a growler home to share with my friends and write about. While there I also tasted some of a smoked Stout, a Strong Ale and bought a pint of their Marketing Ploy a hilariously named IPA collaboration with 3 Floyds; all of which were very nice. Pours a bright apricot hue that is very opaque but not overly hazy. Two fingers of bright white head are easily formed even with the growler being filled from the tap two days ago and the cap simply taped sealed. Smells strongly of fruity and floral hops, I’m betting Cascade and Centennial and perhaps some others, as well nice earthy tones. I find the aroma absolutely fantastic with orange esters playing with grapefruit and other citrus and a decent but subtle dose of bitterness in the nose. Flavor is smooth and malty upfront which is a wonderful base to balance the serious dose of citrus hops which largely contribute grapefruit and orange for me with some clean earthy notes that give additional character. Decent sweetness from the malt contrasts the solid bitterness very well giving this ale wonderfully clean bitter hop esters. Body is medium and the mothfeel is very smooth and clean. A few sources on the web suggest this brew is 6.5% ABV and that seems about right. I would confidently say any fan of hoppy Pale Ales or IPAs will enjoy this brew. If your in or near Chicago I highly suggest you check it out, and bring your bike; so long as your not scared of the crazy traffic.

Piece Brewing Dysfunctionale

French Broad Rye Hopper Ale

March 13th, 2010 beckel

I know nothing of the French Broad Brewing Company other than the fact that they are located in Asheville, North Carolina and were founded in 2001. But I always enjoy trying new things and upon seeing their Rye Hopper on the shelves of The Four Firkins I saw no reason not to bring it home with me particularly as I am a big fan of hoppy brews and always love seeing rye used in brewing. Apparently this ale begun as a fall seasonal and is now part of their year round lineup. Sounds groovy to me, time to enjoy. Pours an attractive relatively dark amber hue that is translucent enough to see my fingers behind the glass. A fluffy two fingers of clean, tight, white head were produced and leave behind a modest amount of lacing and a solid few millimeters of residual foam after largely fading. Aroma is quite malty with a good deal of sweetness coming through, heavy on rye and assertively hoppy with a variety of earthy, floral and fruit esters as well as modest bitterness. Flavor is exactly what I was expecting. Heavy rye esters followed by serious hop bitterness. Modest malt sweetness does a decent job of complimenting the hop bitterness but certainly does not hide it. Hop notes are largely herbal and earthy and quite enjoyable with very gentle passion fruit like esters and some floral notes. Alcohol is noticeable but the bitterness does a good job of obscuring it. At 5.9% ABV it is not overly alcoholic but plenty strong and very full of flavor. I sincerely enjoy the assertiveness of the rye in this ale, similarly to the RIPA recently produced by our own local Summit Brewing. Which I should get around to reviewing one of these days…anyhow. If you enjoy hop filled bitter brews as well as rye there is no reason you shouldn’t give this ale a chance. I consumed this ale quite a bit warmer than I would typically consume an IPA and after taking a few sips of it colder I will note that this ale becomes more smooth and the flavors meld together better at below room temperature, as I find is often the case with IPAs. If your not into bitter ales, obviously leave this one alone, but I have enjoyed it and would like to see the other brews available from French Broad. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

French Broad Rye Hopper Ale

Trader Crap

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.

Trader Crap Cider

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 se  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.

Trader Crap Beer

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.

Left Hand Warrior IPA 2009

October 5th, 2009 beckel

My fridge is awfully full (hard life I know) so I figured it’s about time I start playing some catch up. I found this beauty on the shelves of The Four Firkins earlier today and couldn’t help but pick it up. Left Hand is a delightful brewer out of Longmont, Colorado that makes some delicious brews, I particularly enjoy their Milk Stout and Jackman’s Pale Ale. Many breweries have been experimenting with Warrior Hops as of late but this years brew is a bit extra special. I quite enjoyed Left Hand’s 2008 version of their Warrior IPA and I’m sure this year will be no different because aside from a nice new label they have also brewed this batch with 100% fresh hops from local farms in Colorado. This ale pours a very translucent light red hue and produces about three fingers of tight off white head that lasts for many minutes, slowly dissipating and leaving a good deal of lacing around the glass. The aroma of this brew is absolutely marvelous. Smells of sweet citrus, floral and fruity hop notes that are incredibly robust, lots of passion fruit. Moderate bitterness is present but quite minimal for something brewed largely with Warrior Hops. Flavor is even more robust and complex than the aroma. Full of passion fruit flavors as well as other citrus and fruit hop notes. Malt imparts some additional sweetness but allows the fresh hop flavors to shine. Warrior, Cascade and Goldings appear to be the major hop varieties used in this brew and boy can you tell. A nice gentle bitterness is present mid sip and grows stronger as you finish adding a nice character to the flavor of this brew and showing you what Warrior Hops are all about. Though this is one hoppy brew it is more floral and fruity than bitter, which somewhat surprises me, but is wonderful and makes this 6.6% ABV beer approachable for even those who aren’t accustomed to serious IPAs. Body is medium and the mouthfeel is quite crisp. Frankly I expected this beer to be more bitter and less approachable but who cares about expectations. This is one tasty brew that has unquestionably been kicked up a notch by the use of fresh hops and will be a refreshing delight to all of us hop heads out there particular those who are getting a bit tired of being slapped in the face with brutal bitter hoppyness, not that I would ever complain. Definitely one of the most wonderfully balanced brews I have consumed with Warrior Hops playing a major role. Hop head or not. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Left Hand Warrior IPA

Full Sail Grandsun of Spot IPA

September 18th, 2009 beckel

Today I have with me the newest summer beer in Full Sail’s Brewmasters Reserve Series for 2009 which I found on the shelves of The Four Firkins. Full Sail is an employee run brewery out of Hood River, Oregon and produces some solid ales including their new Session Black Lager. Every summer Full Sail brews a summer IPA starting in 2001 with a beer called Sunspot. Each year the recipe is modified slightly based on what is available for harvest that year. This year Grandsun of Spot is brewed with Columbus and Zeus Hops as well as Munich and Honey Malts and is said to be an “aggressive IPA” with “a full malt flavor”. Lets see how it stacks up. Color is a lovely bright red hue that is slightly translucent when brought to light. Head was a solid 2-3 fingers of off white foam that remain for many minutes leaving a decent amount of lacing around the glass. Nice gentle aromas of citrus and hop bitterness are complimented by a good amount of honey malt. Flavor is full of hop bitterness with modest flavors coming out from the Munich and Honey Malts but only enough to be an undertone. The mouthfeel of the beer is definitely lightened by the use of Honey Malt and I really enjoy the subtle honey notes present in the flavor occasionally but they definitely play runner up to the massively bitter hops present. Some citrus and floral hop notes are present and add some complexity, but again are overpowered by bitterness. Body is medium for the style. The 6% ABV of this beer will probably go unnoticed unless you confuse yourself with the bitterness.  As this brew warms, and perhaps as by tongue gets more accustomed to the hops present the malt flavors expose their sweet caramely flavors a bit more but are still not the dominate ingredient in this beer, additionally the floral and citrus hop notes are easier to identify adding some additional complexity to this brew. As someone who is a big fan of hops and bitterness I definitely enjoyed drinking this beer. Many people don’t find bitter flavors hydrating so I am honestly a bit surprised they market this brew as a summer beer, but for me a nice bitter IPA after a long bike ride can be heaven. Not the most complex or balanced IPA out there but if you dig bittering hops you will be all over this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Full Sail Grandsun of Spot IPA

Mikkeller Nugget Single Hop IPA

July 25th, 2009 beckel

Today I have the last brew in Mikkeller’s Single Hop IPA series and I am quite curious to sample it. Like the Cascade this brew was quite carbonated sneaking up the neck a bit after opening but not overflowing. Once poured four fingers of loose pure white head are easily produced slowly fading within a few minutes leaving a very small amount of lacing around the glass and on the surface of the beer. Color is a very attractive bright but hazy orange hue that is completely opaque.Aroma is quite a bit gentler than the others of the series. Some orange citrus and grapefruit and a somewhat flat malt tone. Flavor is interesting but a bit strange. Initially I get orange citrus and some other fruity hop notes which is followed up by an odd flat almost musky and slightly tart flavor that is hard to isolate because it is followed by a good deal of hop bitterness. There are definitely some nice flavors present in this brew but the off flavor present mid palate does make this one of the less awesome brews of the series. Like the rest this brew comes in at an appropriate 6.9% ABV. The body is medium and the mouthfeel is pretty smooth. This bottle was dated 09/04/11 and perhaps other batches of it will taste different. If you feel inspired to try something a little funky this might be the beer for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Mikkeller Nugget Single Hop IPA