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Matilda Bay Fat Yak Pale Ale

March 22nd, 2011 beckel

Today I have another brew that was brought to me from Australia. Fat Yak Pale Ale is brewed by the folks of Matilda Bay Brewing in what they like to call their “Garage Brewery”. Founded in 1984 Matilda Bay’s brewers seem to have a passion for the art of beer and enjoy experimentation including the production of the first Australian beer to use wine grapes in addition to barley. Though this bottle is labeled 19Aug11 I fear it will have lost a good deal of the hop aroma that this 345ml bottle boasts about as I know it has sit in my fridge for at least two months and likely further on shelves prior. Regardless lets see how it is.

Pours a completely translucent copper hue that starts with about two fingers of bright white head which quickly fades leaving about a millimeter of residual head providing for a very nice appearance. Soft citrus and floral characters are evident on the nose and likely more robust when fresher. Accompanied by enjoyable malt esters and modest sweetness. Tastes of malted barley, apricot, melon and notable upfront bitterness that finishes smoothly. The base flavors of this brew are all rather nice, but I do fear I got to this beer at least a few months too late. I would love to see how much brighter the hop character of this brew is when very fresh as I feel it would have more character. Body is light and the mouthfeel is heavily carbonated and relatively crisp. At 4.7% ABV this easy drinking brew is very sessionable. If you live in Australia or anywhere else this brew might be available let me know how much I’m missing out. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Matilda Bay Fat Yak Pale Ale

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

January 13th, 2011 beckel

Today I have a brew from Deschutes Brewing that I have been wanting to try since last year. Deschutes, being new to our market at the time, didn’t send any of  their Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale into our market last season so I had no choice but to buy it today from Lake Wine & Spirits and rejoice. Named after the oldest operating lift at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, this hop centric Pale Ale garnered the title of “Worlds Best Pale Ale” from the “World Beer Awards” in 2010. While I find the aforementioned organization’s lack of judging details and award selections somewhat dubious it is always nice to get recognition. This batch states best by 4/19/11.

Pours a distinctive reddish copper hue that is mostly translucent, with a modest amount of bright white lacing creating a very nice appearance. Sweet malts hit the nose first, followed by notable bitterness, gentle citrus and fruity hop esters, finishing with a bit of alcohol. There is a somewhat odd grain ester in the aroma that I can’t quite place but is slightly off putting. Bitter notes hit your tongue quickly and are followed up with grassy and lemon hop esters. Cereal grains hit you mid palate with a variety of flavors including oat and wheat. Unfortunately these grain notes include a variety of muddled and somewhat flat grain notes, that I don’t find particularly enjoyable. The sip finished with plenty of bitterness, which does a pretty good job of saving this brew, but so far this one leaves a bit to be desired. As my palate gets used to the flavors the less refined esters seem to be further hidden by malt sweetness, brighter fruity hops and bitterness. For further examination I grabbed another bottle which I found to be quite a bit more palatable, but again that is probably just because I am getting used to the flavors. Overall this  brew has some nice grain notes, modest fruity & citrus hop esters and a good deal of bitterness. After drinking a few more bottles I’d say this is a decent brew but it just isn’t as clean and bright in both hop and grain profile as I expected from the products description. This brew will likely be enjoyed by most, but I would like to see it refined a bit, or who knows maybe I had a batch that wasn’t treated optimally. If you enjoy hoppy ales this 6.2% ABV brew is a decent choice. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

Hair of the Dog Ruth

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 brewer 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, quality ingredients 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 is definitely a sessionable 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 be disappointed. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Hair of the Dog Ruth

Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale

October 14th, 2010 beckel

Today I have the 1st beer from Rogue Brewing’s Chatoe Series of BYO Certified beers. It is also the 4th and final ale from the series that I picked up last week from the newly opened Lake Wine & Spirits. Perhaps I’ll have to look around to see if I can still find a bottle of their Dirtoir Black Lager to complete the series. As the name implies this ale has a very simple grain bill consisting of only one malt and one hop. Beers like this are a great way to learn about the ingredients used in brewing  and are lovingly referred to as SMaSH beers in the homebrewing community. Consisting of First Growth Dare Malts, Revolution Hops and the usual Pacman Yeast. I am quite excited to sample these ingredients in their purest form.

Pours a very attractive bright orange hue that is very clean and rather translucent. Just over 2 fingers of bright white head is produced and slowly opens into larger and larger bubbles leaving a small amount of lacing and a little bit of residual head after about two minutes. Both malt and hops hit your nose immediately with hardy malt sweetness, cereal grain esters that remind me of Cheerios, oranges, modest bitterness and a bit of alcohol. Strong cereal grain esters are immediately noticed on the tongue, followed by orange fruit esters and a bit of additional citrus that I can’t quite place. Gentle alcohol and a hint of bitterness, most notably lingering on the tongue after swallowing. While it is a difficult task to make a balanced beer with a whole bunch of ingredients it can be equally difficult to make a simple but beautiful brew and unfortunately in this case I don’t feel Rogue quite delivered. Overall this is certainly a clean ale with some enjoyable flavors including very gentle hoppy tartness. Body is light and the mouthfeel is relatively clean. The ABV on this brew isn’t listed but Rogues website states the Original Gravity at 12º Plato so it probably comes in around 5%. Making this a very sessionable. I am very curious and excited to see how the grains and hops that Rogue is so passionately growing will evolve over the years and wonder a lot about how much their age has to do with the flavors present in the ales (and lager) of this series. Seeing brewers take risks like this is one of my favorite things about craft brewing but unfortunately this brew doesn’t have anything particular that shines for me. Definitely not a bad beer and something that I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale

October 13th, 2010 beckel

Today we have the Wet Hop Ale from Rogue’s Chatoe Series of BYO Certified ales. I enjoyed a small pour of this brew on Monday at Town Hall while sampling their Fresh Hop Ale (which was fantastic) as well as Surly’s Wet and Deschutes Hop Trip. While I enjoyed it it wasn’t a big enough sample to do it justice, particularly with so many similar beers side by side. Crafted with Carawheat, Carafoam, First Growth Dare & Risk Malts. First Growth Freedom, Revolution, Independent, Rebel & Liberty Hops. Fermented with their usual Pacman Yeast. For those not familiar with the concept of wet (fresh) hop ales, most ales are brewed with dried hops as hops will mold if stored wet for very long. In the case of wet hop ales freshly picked hops are rushed from the hop yard straight to the brewery as quickly as possible and then boiled with the wort (unfermented beer) like any other brew. The lucky folks at Rogue have their hop yards only 77 miles away. Talk about fresh.

Pours deep red hue that is rather opaque and looks like cranberries when away from light and bright orange when brought to light. About two fingers of tight off white bubbles are formed and fade within a minute. Smells strongly of bright, resinous citrus, peach, orange, gentle herbal notes, a variety of fruity esters and very soft bitterness. Tastes of bright fruity hops, notably orange, tangerine, lemon and peach, mild bitterness and a very nice slightly sweet malt balance. As it warms alcohol becomes a bit more notable on the nose and caramel esters start to shine. Though this brew comes in at a decent 6.4% ABV it certainly doesn’t show. An enjoyable brew with a nice array of fresh hop esters and plenty of malty sweetness to not be overwhelmed. If you enjoy fruity hop esters but aren’t into intense bitterness this is the brew for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale

Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale

October 7th, 2010 beckel

Today I had the pleasure of checking out the newest liquor store in the 612, Lake Wine & Spirits. Conveniently located on Grand & Lake Street which happens to be within a mile of my humble abode. Overall the store was clean and well stocked for being only a week old. A solid selection of wine, liquor and most importantly beer was present and reasonably organized. I’m sure I will rant more about them in the future but right now I have a beer to drink.

While there I picked up four out of the five beers in the Chatoe Rogue series of Rogue beers. All of which are GYO certified and brewed with 100% Oregon ingredients, many of which are grown by Rogue Brewing and being labeled as First Growth. Currently I am enjoying the third beer in the series entitled OREgasmic Ale. Brewed with First Growth Dare & Risk malts, Williamette, Sterling & First Growth Revolution hops and Rogue’s favorite yeast; Pacman. (Note: Rogue is one of the best breweries about listing their ingredients but I must note in this case the bottle I have and their website do not list the hops identically, oh well.)

Pours a lovely hazy, completely opaque orangish brown hue. About two fingers of very tight, creamy, tan bubbles are created and remain for almost five minutes. Leaving a good deal of residual head quite a bit of lacing for Pale Ale. Sincerely surprising me that there is no wheat in this ale as the head retention is simply amazing. Aroma is fantastically hoppy with notes of orange and lemon citrus, gentle herbal hops, fruity esters and wonderful caramel malt esters and soft bitterness. Flavor is full of rich sweet malt, mellow orange & other citrus esters, finishing with modest hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy and body is medium. As I continue to drink I notice more and more grassy hop flavors, particularly lingering on the palate after consumption. Some of which might have to do with the freshness of the hops. As the beer warms the creamy malty sweetness becomes more and more apparent and the citrus hop esters continue to compliment the sweetness even more wonderfully. If Rogue were to make caramel candies with citrus and bitter esters similar to this brew they may be on to something amazing. Over all a very delicious brew that I would happily consume often. A bit too sweet for me to drink all night, though certainly doable with a reasonable 6% ABV. If you enjoy Pale Ales and are looking for more than just hops this ale will be right up your alley. I think even those who are less in love with hops will enjoy the creamy caramel character that this ale brings to surface in a truly fantastic way. If you want more classic Pale Ale characteristics consume this ale colder, if looking for more malt give it a bit more time to warm up. Better yet consume it slowly and enjoy it in all of its glory. After this brew I am very excited to try the rest of the series. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale

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

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.

Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale

December 3rd, 2009 beckel

Here I have a bottle of this years Fresh Hop Pale Ale from the fine brewers over at Great Divide complete with their new lovely label design that makes me want to hop right into this bottle, no pun intended. Great Divide out of Denver, Colorado creates some lovely big brews such as their Hercules Double IPA and many varieties of their massive Yeti Imperial Stout, this ale however isn’t so big coming in at an average 6.1% ABV. Regardless I am sure it will be big in fresh hop flavors and aroma and I can’t wait to give it a try. This ale pours an attractive light amber hue that is very translucent. Over three fingers of tight white head was easily produced and lasts for a number of minutes leaving only a small amount of lacing around the glass. The bottle states the words “Grassy” and “Citrusy”  which is a spot on description of the hop aroma reminding me a lot of lemon grass with a nice sweet gentle malt character to contrast. Quite unique. Flavor is quite refreshing. Initially I get nice pale moderately sweet malt notes, followed by grassy and slightly floral hop esters and a good dose of lemon, lime, and other citrus near the finish. While I expected a more robust nose on this ale due to the fresh Pacific Northwest hops it really is a deliciously hopped pale. Body is medium and mouthfeel is quite clean and smooth. Though I am of course a fan of massive hop additions I really appreciate that Great Divide decided to make this Pale Ale as approachable as it is. Hop notes are plentiful and delicious but contrast wonderfully with the mellow malt present creating a melody of flavors that are very palatable and not overly bitter. While no India Pale Ale I believe this ale will satisfy both hop lovers and those who are more weary of hops with a variety of delicate flavors I rarely get to experience living in the Midwest. While not realistic in any way, I would happily add this ale to my list of staple beers if only it were available in larger quantity at a more consumable price on a regular basis. If you despise hops don’t try this beer, but if your open minded you have no excuse. Cheers to Great Divide on another quality ale. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale

New Glarus Organic Revolution

May 14th, 2009 beckel

I was going to continue my streak of Tommyknocker reviews but upon glancing over at New Glarus’ Organic Revolution sitting in my fridge and remembering a comment I had read earlier that day on The Captain’s Chair post about Hop Hearty IPA I decided it was time to see what a organic beer from New Glarus would be like. As I’m sure many of you know New Glarus is a regional brewery that only distributes within its own state of Wisconsin and pays a lot of tribute to things local and sustainable and apparently wanted to give the “purity” of organic a shot. This beer is bottle fermented and naturally carbonated…and carbonated it is, I had to stop during the pour as to not overfill my pint glass. Leaving me with a solid three fingers of pure white head that lasted for a few minutes atop this hazy, though translucent yellowish orange brew. Aroma is quite nice with slightly sweet pale malt and some moderately  pungent bittering hops here and there to give this beer a well rounded smell. The flavor is really quite interesting, you will have to try it yourself to really understand. The malt has a clean but somewhat flat flavor that I have noticed in all of the organic beers that I have tried and have a hard time putting proper words to, it is not a bad thing, simply different. In addition to somewhat sweet malt flavors you get some solid bitterness from the hops as well as a very nice gentle grapefruit citrus flavor that works to balance the malt used in this beer. This is a flavorful Pale Ale that sticks to New Glarus’ tradition of making tasty easy to drink beers. This beer should be approachable for pretty much anyone though I find it to be one of their more intricate flavored brews. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

New Glarus Organic Revolution