Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apple Ale, New Glarus

Apple Ale, New Glarus Brewing Company (New Glarus, WI)

12oz red-foiled bottle poured into a New Glarus goblet. $9.99 a 4 pack from Cassanova in Hudson (hard as it was to turn down the $50 for 3 x 24 flats of Coors Light they had on deal)! Yes, all the cars in the parking lot had MN plates - Sunday opening activists....
ABV : 4%
Part of the very limited "Thumbprint" Series, the inspiration behind it described below:

It is always flattering when less imaginative competitors copy our beers, packaging, and/or marketing. I usually accept this as a personal challenge to do something more. When our trademarked Solstice name was infringed on, I regrouped with Dancing Man. When lots of deconstructed 4 and 6 packs showed up I knew I was doing a good job. When another Midwestern brewer released a "Un*******" series. I thought I can do better.

Thumbprint beers are still brewed with the beer enthusiast in mind. Thumbprint beers are brewed in small batches that are intended to be available for one time only. However, popular demand has caused some styles to return. This is my own thumbprint, to let everyone know this is a real New Glarus handcrafted beer! Cheers.

—Deborah Carey (President, New Glarus Brewing Company)

Style : Fruit/Vegetable Beer. Description from Beer Advocate :

A generic form of flavored beer, some breweries actually use real fruit or veggies, though most use an extract, syrup or processed flavor to give the effect of a particular fruit or vegetable. Usually ales, but with not much ale character to them and commonly unbalanced. Malt flavor is typically hidden with a low hop bitterness to allow the fruit or vegetable to dominate.

While PONDER-ing my latest beer pick in the midst of a dismal Vikings loss to the P**kers, it occured to me the perfect penance would be to review a beer from a perennial Wisconsin favourite, New Glarus Brewing. I'm asked on a daily basis at the store if we carry New Glarus and of course the answer is no - it's proudly exclusive to Wisconsin. In 2011 it sold all 108,000 barrels it produces within Wisconsin borders. On a side note, I found it interesting while at the GABF in Denver in October the longest lines were not for Dogfish Head, Three Floyd's or even Surly but for New Glarus.

"Apple Ale sings with the fresh crisp taste of apples. Our brewmaster begins with a brown ale base employing Wisonsin farmed wheat and a blend of fresh picked apples. Our apple growing friends squeeze them especially for this brew. Expect this ale to pour a beautiful copper colour. The fresh bouquet of apple will rise to meet you even before the glass touches your lips. So be sure to sip slowly and enjoy the fruits of a Wisconsin harvest".

My take:

Pours a clear, dark yellow. Aroma of tart apples, taste is sharp and refreshing, Granny Smith. Crisp, quenching, light bodied - nothing artificial tasting about this beer. Apple juice, with a little more carbonization and a pleasant, if ever so slight, vanilla aftertaste.

Rating: A

I'm a fan of Furthermore's "Fallen Apple" New Glarus' Apple Ale is less creamy than that and reminds me more of a British cider than a beer, but perhaps not as dry. Whether it is really a cider or a beer is another matter but who cares, it is delicious!

Rate Beer Score : 98/100 Overall
Beer Advocate : 92 (Exceptional)

New Glarus Brewery

More info:

*Brewery founded in 1993 by Deborah and Dan Carey, making Deborah the first woman to operate a brewery in the US.
*Today is the 21st largest craft brewery and 32nd largest overall brewing company in the US.
* New Glarus Brewing is a big supporter of Universal Health Care (are you reading this Papa F***g John)?!
*The town of New Glarus has a population of 2,304 according to 2010 Census. It was named after the Canton of Glarus in Eastern Switzerland and was founded in 1845 by immigrants from Glarus, Switzerland.
*New Glarus is the best known Swiss settlement in the country.

New Glarus Brewing Company      Hours : Mon-Sun 10am-4pm
2400 State Highway 69
New Glarus, WI 53574
'PH: 608-527-5850
www.newglarusbrewing.com Twitter: newglarusbeer

Driving time from Minneapolis is approx. 4 Hours 40 Minutes (281 miles). Madison is nearby, (27 miles, about a 45 minute drive).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vampire Slayer, Clown Shoes

Imperial American Stout, 22oz bomber poured into Ommegang goblet. I paid $8.49 for my bottle.

What they said :

"In a world full of uncertainty, hardship, and people trying to hold us back, do we need Vampires, too? Clown Shoes says, "No! Die, monsters, die!"

Our second anniversary ale incorporates signature dark malts, holy water, and malt smoked locally with hickory, ash, and vampire killing stakes".

Interesting that the above label reads "Smoked Imperial Stout" while the label on my bottle has "Imperial American Stout". No bottled on date (disappointing but not that essential for a big beer like this - if it was an IPA I'd be concerned).
Pours as expected - pitch black with a thin tan collar, very appetizing!
Roasted malt, toasty, licorice, chocolate - stale cigarettes (and for what it matters I'm a non-smoker)! ABV may be 10% but alcohol is well disguised, not overly boozy. Another surprise is the fairly thin mouthfeel for such a big beer, not as chewy or as much of a sipper as I typically like but no matter this is another impressive effort from Clown Shoes.

Rating : B maybe B+

This is the third Clown Shoes beer I've tried in earnest since they have been unleashed on the MN market and I've been impressed with all of them, so far (Chocolate Sombrero, Eagle Claw Fist). This is another solid offering from this 3 year old upstart. I'll be interested to compare Vampire Slayer with Blaecorn Unidragon, a bottle of which is  (not so) patiently awaiting in my beer fridge. According to the blog it seems they are expanding at a rapid pace and are now distributing to Wisconsin.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chocolate Sombrero, Clown Shoes Brewing

"Chocolate Sombrero" Mexican Style Chocolate Stout by Clown Shoes Brewing (Ipswich, MA)

22oz bomber poured into Ommegang goblet.
Bottled on 5/2012 (nice touch - easy to read as well).
Tasting notes from 9/23/12.

It seems every week there is a new entrant in the ever burgeoning world of craft beer. This week it's Clown Shoes that is responsible for setting beer geeks hearts a-flutter. I'm here to tell you that not all clowns need to be creepy (yes, it took years of therapy to be able to write that sentence). Clown Shoes is a brash contract brewer based in Ipswich, MA that has a mission statement that reads "clowns are questionable but the shoes make me laugh. They remind me about humility and to find humour in life". Chocolate Sombrero is evidence of this humour with the label depicting a somberero-wearing Mexican wrestler on the label. The beer is no laughing matter - this is a Mexican-style stout with ancho chile and vanilla extract and lots of chocolate malt. The beer pours a beautiful midnight black with a thin tan collar and the smell is of roasty chocolate. With a laundry list of ingredients the taste does not dissapoint - thick, rich and decadent with discernible notes of chocolate, coffee and a hint of spiciness. Even with the substantial ABV that weighs in at 9% I didn't find this particularly boozy. Would make an excellent dessert beer. As a first introduction to the brewery I'm very impressed. It may not inspire me to run away and join the circus but it will make me want to devour more of their beers. Chocolate Sombrero is available in 22oz bomber for around $8.49 and is part of their limited release series.
Rating: A
As a first introduction to this brewery I can honestly say I got more than I expected. Also tried Tramp Stamp Belgian IPa (initial impression - sweet and fruity but not bad) and also Brash Bollocks Imperial IPA (12% wow! my sort of beer - not Maharaja standard but decent, well brewed). Impressed.
Beer Advocate rating : 87 (Good)
RateBeer Score : 97
In their own words:
"Roasted dark malts plus extra chocolate malts plus ancho chile plus a chocolate loving beer drinking, clown shoes wearing, multi limbed gorgeous and glorious Mexican wrestler on the label. That's the recipe for a chocolate sombreror".
Distributed in Minnesota by Clear River (Rush City, MN) Millstream, McNeill's etc
More about the brewery:
Clown Shoes Brewing Company*
23 Hayward Street
Ipswich, MA 01938
*Contract brewed by Mercury Brewing Company (Ipswich, MA) which confusingly is also known as Ipswich Ale Brewery
Clown Shoes produces a ridiculous amount of beers, some with very cringe-worthy names (Tramp Stamp, Muffin Top, Lubrication, Pimp)! which fits in well with their attitude "produce beer without pretension while being free and a little crazy".
Year Round:
Hoppy Feet, Brown Angel, Clementine, Tramp Stamp,Eagle Claw Fist, Lubrication, Supa Hero, Miracle, Let my people go
Pecan Pie Porter, Hoppy Feet 1.5, Clementine 1.5, Muffin Top, BlaeCorn Unidragon, Vampire Slayer,Chocolate Sombrero, Pimp
Super Limited (made once):
Angry Beast, Fight of the Pimp, Third Party Candidate.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sneaky Pete, Laughing Dog Brewing

Imperial IPA by Laughing Dog Brewing (Ponderay, Idaho)

OK, Time to put down "Fifty Shades of Grey" for a moment and get on with a new post. Although it is a riveting read....next up is "Sneaky Pete" an Imperial IPA from Laughing Dog Brewing Company (Ponderay, Idaho).

Another new entrant into an already crowded Minnesota craft beer market. Imported  by www.kysela.com (primarily a wine company) and is distributed in the local market by Paustis Wine Company. It's been on the shelves for a couple of months now and is available in 22oz bombers (expect to pay around $8.99) or 4 pack 12oz bottles (rather pricey at around $12.99). I had the 22oz bomber poured into a Granville Island (Vancouver) glass. My bottle was clearly dated 3/5/12. Tasting notes are from 5/8 (usual procrastination on my part). Bottle numbered 6045/2192.

This is a prime example of that old adage - never judge a book by it's cover.

What I thunk:

Well carbonated. Really good looking beer, impressive crisp one finger head. Appealing dark amber colour. Nice hop aroma -piney, floral. Malty back bone, robust - tangey, orangey. Nice lacing on glass. Perhaps a little bit "thin" on the finish but that's a minor complaint.

Impressive. Exceeded my expectations, a very solid double IPA that I would buy again. At the time Avery's "Maharaja" was also available on the shelf at a buck cheaper which makes "Sneaky Pete" a bit of a hard sell. Surprisingly the 4 packs seem to sell well at the rather exorbitant price but I think it's mostly due to the adorable Boston Terrier on the cover (modelled on one of Kysela's owners dogs I was reliably informed). Too bad the beer is not available in "growlers"!

Useless information alert - I was told that the brewer of Laughing Dog was sent a bottle of Bell's Hopslam and asked to replicate it. Sneaky Pete is his response. Would it be dogmatic of me to sugggest he at least achieved the same price-point as Hopslam!!!

"Sneaky Pete" Imperial IPA uses a tremendous amount of simcoe hops and a splash of honey. First released in Spring of 2011. Gets a 99 on ratebeer.com and a B+ on Beer Advocate."

Laughing Dog, Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA 24/12ozSneaky Pete is a blend of five hop types: Simcoe, Glacier, Centennial, Vanguard and Hallertauer, with Simcoe playing the dominate role at 30%. In addition, three separate malts were used: Honey Malt, Rye Malt, and Munich Malt. The brew has a copious aroma of white grapefruit, citrus overtones, a complex rich middle and long flavors in the finish; a real beauty. Finished with wild clover honey. 89 IBU’s, 10% ABV.

About the brewery:

  •  Founded August 2005 in Ponderay, "Little City with the big future", Idaho (population 1,137 according to the 2010 Census). Ponderay is located in the heart of the Selkirk mountains just outside of Sandpoint.
  •  A yellow lab (Ben) appears on all the brewery's logos - he's the family dog and is almost 7 years old
  •  Other owners are Michelle Douglass ad Fred Colby (co-founder and brewmaster)
  •  Has brewed over 15 distinct beers including 7 that are ranked in the 90th percantile in either overall or style category on beer rating sites Beer Advocate and RateBeer.com
  •  Current capacity is 4,500 barrels per year
  •  Motto is "Fetchingly Good Beer"
  •  Year round beers are : Cream Ale/Alpha Dog IPA/CSB ESB/Dogzilla Black IPA/IPA/Pale Ae
  •  Seasonals - Cold nose winter Ale/Huckleberry Cream Ale
  •  Reserve Series - Devil Dog Imperial IPA/Dogfather Imperial Stout

1109 Fontaine Drive
Ponderay, ID 83852
'PH: 208-263-9222

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Frangelic Mountain Brown, Founders Brewing Company

750ml bottle (retails for about $16) poured into a Dogfish Head Goblet.
This is a brown ale brewed with hazelnut coffee according to the bottle.
9% ABV.
Part of the acclaimed "Backstage Series" from Founders, released on July 2nd. Tasting notes from July 23rd, 2012.

Pours a dark brown, almost black with a thin tan head.
Smell - roasted light coffee, sweet.
Taste - disgustingly sweet - hazelnut, vanilla, toffee totally overwhelms the beer, which apparently is a brown ale. Tastes like a coffee drink you would order at Starbucks - I was told that this was artificially flavored and sure enough the bottle does say (along the side) "brewed with artificially flavored hazelnut coffee", which is rather disappointing considering the quality you associate with Founders. I know the saying goes "Beer, it's not just for breakfast"! but this reminded me of coffee with Nestle Coffee Mate artificial flavouring added, which I happen to enjoy but apparently doesn't work so well in beer. At least not this one! A tad thin for a 9% ABV beer, compared to Southern Tier Choklat or Creme Brulee, for example.

Rating : D
This would be a drain pour if it wasn't so expensive. Maybe my expectations were too high from probably my all time favourite brewery but it's hard to believe this is in the same series of Backwoods Bastard or the fantastic Curmudgeons better Half. I suppose they were due a dud! Don't worry - I'll be back for more - just not this one.

More info:
Established 1997
Founded by Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers
Ranked #2 Best Brewery in the World by Rate Beer 2011

235 Grandville Avenue Southwest
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
'PH: (616) 776-2182

Friday, June 8, 2012

"Le Merle", Saison (North Coast)

"Le Merle" ("Blackbird")
Saison Belgian Syle Farmhouse Ale (North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, CA)
Part of their American Artisan Series (which also includes "Brother Thelonius"), comes in a cork-and-caged 750ml bomber that retails for around $7.99

Bottle reads :

"Le Merle is an elegant ale, pale in color, inspired by the rich brewing traditions of the Flanders region. Abundant hops and a Belgian yeast strain contribute the exotic aromas of tropical fruit".

Beer Stats:
Style : Saison
Colour: Straw
ABV : 7.9%
Bitterness : 26 IBU's

Seemed an appropriate choice of beer on a Sunday afternoon were the weather was as dazzling as Donny Osmond's teeth and I needed a respite from an exhausting morning reading the paper and drinking coffee. One of my favourite styles of beer, regardless of the season.

Poured into a Brewery Ommegang goblet.
Nice champagnesque "pop" upon opening.
Beautiful golden yellow. A very nice looking beer, it was hard not to devour this immediately but I managed to resist the instant gratification to let it warm up from it's initial chill.
Smell is of fragrant fruit, faint yeast?
Taste - immediate burst of citrus, melon, lemon, grassy with a subtle pleasant spiciness to round off the tartness.
Medium to light mouthfeel with a bit of a dry finish but not bone dry by any means.
This is a delightful and refreshing beer, immensely drinkable - I would never have guessed this as a 7.9% ABV, drinks like a 6% beer.
Rating : A-
A triumphant interpretation of a classic Belgian beer style by this iconic award-winning brewery, executed with aplomb!

Le Merle Saison

More about the style:

Saison/Farmhouse Ale : Sturdy farmhouse Ale traditionally brewed in the winter to be consumed throughout the summer months when brewing was not possible due to the heat. Originated in French speaking region of southern Belgium (Wallonia), "saison" is French for season. Very complex style - fruity, spicy, earthy, mild to moderate tartness, medium bitterness, semi-dry. Normal ABV range from 5-8%.
Examples of the style include Saison Du Pont (the most acclaimed), Hennepin (Ommegang), Sofie (Goose Island), Cynic (Surly).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Door County Cherry Wheat, Hinterland

Door County Cherry Wheat, Hinterland (Green Bay Brewing Company)
Malt Beverage with Cherry Added
One Pint bottle

"Hinterland is a small artisanal brewery devoted to brewing world class beer. Founded in 1995, Hinterland makes it's home in a turn of the century meat packing warehouse in downtown Green Bay. It's beers are now available throughout the Midwest and New England".
Distributed in Minnesota by J.J. Taylor, it's beers have been on the shelves for a several months now.

One pint bottle poured into a Leinie's pint glass. No ABV or bottling date listed on bottle or label which is pretty disappointing/lame. I do like the look of the bottle though - reminds me of the returnable brewery bottles you see in Germany.
This is a seasonal - available May - August, so I will assume my bottle is pretty fresh. Comes in 4 pack 16oz bottles and retails for about $9.99. I've already sampled three other of their beers (IPA, Luna Stout, Saison) and have been unimpressed so far. How will this one fair?

Nice pour. Burnt orange colour with a frothy, billowy ice-cream cone head of a few inches. Very appealing looking.

Smell? Faint fruity smell, surprisingly muted, I was expecting more cherry aroma.

Taste? Slight tartness of cherry is noticeable, but no trace of wheat at all. A little sweet, a bit thin. I could see this being fairly refreshing on a blazing summer day but overall not a style I care for and I thought this was another very mediocre beer from this brewery. Bland. I'd leave the brewing of fruit beers in WI to the experts, New Glarus!

Rating? C-

Honestly, the low rating has nothing to do with my dislike for the Packers.  But I did ask Randy Moss what he thinks of this beer. He agreed with Joe Buck that it was a "disgusting act". J/K!


Green Bay Brewing Company
313 Dousman Street
Green Bay WI 54303
'Ph: 920-438-8050

Our Door County Cherry Wheat pours a golden, orange hue. The frothy two finger off-white, slightly pink-tinted head fades to leave a spotty lace. The slight aroma of cherries doesn't over power the soft wheat smell. These flavors play wonderfully together, neither overpowering the other in taste. With a medium-light body, Cherry Wheat leaves you with a mildly tart Montmorency cherry finish.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Double Jack, Firestone Walker

After a bit of a hiatus from the blogosphere I've got a bit of a backlog of beer reviews that I'm going to start sifting through. I've been enjoying a lot of Imperial/Double IPA's in the last couple of months, Hoptimum (Sierra Nevada), Hopslam (Bell's), Oak-Aged Unearthly (Southern Tier), Maharaja (Avery) and Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA (Laughing Dog) - are a few that spring to mind. I'll  attempt to do a more diligent job of keeping this site updated going forward. As you may know, IPA's are not my preferred genre when it comes to beer selection but I do love me an Imperial IPA, anything around the 10% ABV (session beer as I like to refer to them as)! First up...

Double Jack Double IPA, Firetone Walker

This is part of a beer stash that a friend brought back from a trip to the West Coast. It's part of the "Proprietors Reserve Series" from acclaimed brewery Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, CA). From the label - this is described as a Double India Pale Ale, 9.5% ABV. 650ml bottle (1 pint, 6 fluid ounces). Retails for about $9. Bottling date is located on the neck of the bottle - this one is stamped 6/24/11 - yikes, this is pretty old for an Imperial IPA!

Pours a hazy orange with a crisp, white head.
Smells delicious - sweet, candi sugar? Taste is overwhelmingly boozy - mango, tropical fruit, caramel, toffee- but the booziness just overwhelms and overpowers this beer. This is a serious beer! I know it's listed as 9.5% ABV which is manageable but I have a feeling this one has refermented in the bottle. It tastes more like 12-14% ABV, it's so thick you could cut it with a chainsaw. Nice lacing though.

Honestly, I'd like to try a fresh bottle of this, I'm sure it would offer more complex flavours. To be fair, the site does recommend consuming the beer within 120 days of bottling date - this bottle being almost a year old is well beyond it's prime which is a shame. Like I said the alcohol is just dominating. Oh well. I do have a bottle of their much acclaimed Parabola RIS that I'm looking forward to trying, I'm guessing that will age a little better than this Double Jack!

More bollocks that may just interest me :
*Founded in 1996 by Adam Firestone (yes, he is related to the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company) and David Walker.
*Located in Paso Robles ("The pass of the oaks") in Central California, population is around 30,000. City is known for it's hot springs and wineries.
* World beer champion mid-sized breweries 2004,2006 and 2010. Awarded "Mid-Size Brewery of the year" 2007 by the Brewer's Association.

More about the beer from the brewery. "Double Jack" Double IPA.

Double Jack IPA is our first ever Imperial IPA. It features a big malty middle to cloak the high alcohol and mouth puckering hop bitterness. Huge tangerine, grapefruit and juicy fruit aroma blossom over the herbal blue basil and malt earthiness of this aggressive beer. Best enjoyed in moderation.

Brew Notes :
style American Imperial IPA

  • abv
  • fermentation
    100% Stainless Steel Fermentation
  • malts
    Premium Two-Row (Metcalf & Kendall varieties), Munich, Simpson's Light Crystal
  • hops
    4+lbs/BBL: Bittering—Warrior, Columbus; Late Kettle—Cascade, Centennial; Dry Hops—Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe
  • availability
    CA, NV, OR, WA, AZ, CO, MO, Chicago, MA, NJ, NY, VA, PA, DC, MD
    22 oz bottle/draft

  • I so want this bike jersey! How cool is this?

    FW Bike Jersey

    More info about the brewery:
    Firestone Walker Brewing Compnay
    1400 Ramada Drive
    Paso Robles
    San Luis Obispo County, CA
    (805) 225-5911

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    IPA, Cold Spring Brewery

    This is an IPA from Cold Spring Brewery (MN)
    This is a Big Ass Can (TM). Super-size, the Big Gulp, Gravedigger (obligatory Monster Truck reference). Minnesota's answer to the Foster's "Oil Can"? This gargantuan monster holds a whopping 1 quart of beer or 32 fluid ounces. Incredulously retails for around $3! You know it's gonna be good at that price!

    Label features a rather garish scene of the great outdoors and reads thusly :
    Cold Fusion Filled (I have no idea what that means)?
    Brewed with Glacial Mineral Water (true dat - Cold Spring water source requires no additional filtration)
    Double Pints 4 x 8oz servings (who drinks an 8oz serving anyway)?
    IPA, dry hopped, double hopped (sounds impressive)
    6.5% ABV 70 IBU's
    1 Quart, 32 FL oz (946ml)

    "Look at the heid on it....

    This seemed a perfect time to break out the "Big Whopper" Schmidt Glass. Big Ass beer has met it's match! Picked this beauty up at an antique store about ten years ago. Note to self - when Googling "Schmidt Whopper" do not be surprised if the search engine returns some rather questionable results...ahem...for the record let me state that  have never heard of a "Wendy Whoppers". Although I am intrigued.....

    Let's get to to the pour. Wow! Dark yellow/amber with a massive cruddy foamy head. Meringue.

    "Look at the size of that boy's head. It's like an orange on a toothpick"! (with apologies to "So I Married an Axe Murderer").

    Honestly, their are more suds on this beer than the local laundromat (guffaw). I know from my home brewing days I'd have been thrilled to see this level of fermentation of the wort in the carboy (krausen is the brewing term) but in the finished product not so appealing.


    Initial impression is this tastes better than it looks. Tastes a little sweet. I wasn't able to detect the presence of any hops and despite claims of 70 IBU's no bitterness whatsoever. I'd liken this to a pale ale/lager rather than an IPA.

    As a beer a C- . For an IPA a D.

    This is a perfect beer to crack open after a trip for some camo supplies to Mills Fleet Farm. A perfect transition from Busch Light? Perfect to snuggle up to while watching the 100th lap of a Nascar race or catching an episode of "Hillbilly Handfishin'".
    This is a "Man's Man's Man's Man's Man's Beer" (I'm pretty sure this is what James Brown was singing about - poetic license from the author to add the extra "man" for emphasis by the way).

    Another look at the "Whopper". I believe that is a Northern Pike.

    More about the brewery:

    Cold Spring Brewery
    219 Red River Avenue North
    P.O. Box 476
    Cold Spring, MN 56320
    'PH: (320) 685-8686
    FAX: (320) 685-8318

    Extra Credit:
    • Founded in 1874
    • Fastest growing brewery in Minnesota
    • #1 Energy drink and Speciality drink producer in the world.
    • Contract brews for several different breweries including 21st Amendment (San Francisco,CA and until recently Lift Bridge (Stillwater, MN) was brewed here).
    • They are currently in the process of a $15M expansion of a tap house/brewery that will concentrate solely on craft beer, called Third Street Brew house (this IPA was brewed at the original brewery). No hops were harmed in the brewing of this beer, but what did you expect for $3!
    • www.thirdstreetbrewhouse.com

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Brother Thelonius, North Coast Brewing Company

    Brother Thelonius is a Belgian Style Abbey Ale, part of the "American Artisan Series" from North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg, CA) better known for their flagship gem "Old Rasputin" Russian Imperial Stout.
    Elegant cork-and-caged 750ml bottle that bears the image of it's namesake, jazz great Thelelonius Monk.
    Bottle reads:
    "We at the North Coast Brewing Co. are serious Jazz fans and we're proud to make a donation to the Jazz education programs of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz
    for every bottle of Thelonius sold".
    "Carpe Diem Vita Brevis" which translates to "Life is short, seize the day".
    ABV is 9.4%.

    Here's a better look at the label artwork, designed by Mendocino artist Eduardo Smissen.

    Brother Thelonious

    Paying homage to Thelonius Monk, it depicts him as a Belgian Monk holding a skull in one hand and a glass of beer in the other. The skull is a poignant reminder of our mortality - "remember you will die".
    Jazz afficienados will know that Thelonius Monk (October 10, 1917 - February 17, 1982) was an America Jazz Pianist and Composer considered one of the legends of American music. One of only five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of "Time" magazine.

    Time Magazine cover Feb. 28th 1964
    Enough about the label, let's see what it tastes like shall we?

    750ml bottle poured into a "Bavik" glass.
    Vigirous pour reveals a beautiful mahogany body topped with a couple fingers worth of appetizing mocha head. Smells of dark fruit.
    Luxurious thick mouthfeel. Prunes, raisons in abundance. Molasses? Oaky with a slight spiciness. Did I mention fruity?! Sweet, wheaty and refreshing. Rich and robust.

    Rating : A

    I'd forgotten how great this beer was until I had one recently on tap ("Hanger Room, Willernie"). A tremendous beer from a great brewery. Retails for around $8.99 for a 750ml bottle, also available in 12oz four-packs.

     North Coast Brewing Co.

    More about the brewery:
    North Coast Brewing Company
    455 North Main Street
    Fort Bragg, CA 95437
    'PH: 707-964-2739

    Established in 1988 as a brewpub, voted "One of the best Breweries in the World".


    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Favourite Places, Twin Cities : The Blue Door Pub (St. Paul)

    First, the basics :

    Blue Door Pub
    1811 Selby Avenue
    St. Paul
    MN 55104
    Ph: 651-493-1865
    Hours : 11AM - 1AM 7 Days a week

    Happy Hour : Daily (yes, that means everyday)! 2-5pm and Late Night 10PM - Close
    HH features $2 pints, $5 glasses of wine and $2 baskets of fries or tots.
    Late Night HH : $3 pints, $5 wine, $3.50 Deep Fried Green Beans or Pickles, Wings $5.50.

    Located in the Selby/Dale neighbourhood in St. Paul, this place is rightly famous for it's stuffed burgers (their take on that Minneapolis invention/obsession, the "Juicy Lucy"). This place is always busy, probably due to all the college's located in close proximity. They don't take reservations, so expect a wait. They have a small patio but due to quirky city codes no alcohol can be served outside. It's tiny, loud and can be very claustrophobic - the bar only seats six - but the friendly service, value and quality make any wait well worth it. They have a small postage sized parking lot but we have always had good luck finding street parking. Inevitably if you do find yourself waiting there's an antique store next door that's worth perusing. If you are short on time their entire menu is available for take-out from 11AM to Midnight.

    Business has been so good that they are opening another, bigger location in South Minneapolis (3448 42nd Avenue) scheduled for summer 2012. I was originally informed they had been looking at Eat Street in Minneapolis but that deal fell through - sad, because that would have been much closer for me. C'est La Vie!

    Appetizers include Buffalo Wings, 1 1/2 LB's for $8.50 is a great deal. Very tasty!

    Fries are done how I like them - almost burnt, with a light sprinkling of salt.

    Available on draft on my most recent visit:
    Alaskan Amber, Bell's Hopslam, Founders Dirty Bastard, Surly - Bender and Furious, Lift Bridge Farm Girl, Hamm's, Blue Moon, Odells 90 Shilling and Summit - EPA, Winter and Oatmeal.
     Not extensive but I can't think of any place that offers $2 pints of Surly or anything else for that matter. Sadly Hopslam was not included in HH but it was $6 pint (I'm guessing this was a lucky mistake)! I've been fortunate to partake of $2 pints of Surly 5 on a previous visit. Unbeatable!

    Yes, it's a heart-attack on a plate but (only in moderation) one of my favourites, "The Breakfast Blucy".
    Like they said.....
    We augment our Classic with more cheese, thick-cut bacon, and a fried egg on top. Bye-bye hangover! … $8.50
    The Blucy I get most often when I visit has to be the "Frenchy"......
    Ooh La La! Think French Dip – Swiss cheese and caramelized onions on the inside, even more cheese on top, and served with a side of au jus. … $7.00

    Frugal Tip : Save a few bucks at HH by ordering the basket of fries instead of paying for an individual side. Only $2 and more than enough for sharing! Another outsatnding example of value was during the holidays they were selling $125 worth of gift cards for $100. I wish this was a permanent offer!

    As featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives" before host Guy Fieri was exposed (allegedly) as a homophobe. Here's his signature above the tap list at BDP.

    BDP punch card. 11th visit free!

    Make sure to get a free punch card. Every Blucy you try earns a stamp and 11th visit gets a free one. Plus a special "winner" T-Shirt. Unbeatable! Best of all - they will stamp your card even if you don't try every variety of Blucy so even if you stick to your favourites it's all the same. They even give you a free T-Shirt!

    I am the Wiener! 2011 "Space Invaders" style.

    Winning! 2012 version.

    View of the bar from a booth. Easily the slowest I've ever seen at BDP!

    A view of the patio in summer.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Ode to a Russian Shipwright, Olvalde Farm and Brewing Compay

    This is an Imperial Stout Porter from Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company (Rollingstone, MN)
    "Ale brewed with spruce tips. Lightly hopped, unfiltered, refermented in the bottle".

    This is the second release from Olvalde's hard-working brewer/owner Joe Pond. Many beer geeks will know him from various beer events around town and the much acclaimed "Auroch's Horn" that debuted early 2011. Really nice guy,very impressed with his historical research and use of ancient beer recipes, maybe he should do a collaboration beer with Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head (incidentally I found out that Dogfish Head released a spruce beer that they named "Spruce Willis" - funny stuff)!! Heard Joe got his training with Goose Island in Chicago (but I won't hold that against him)!

    Before Olvalde I had never heard of Rollingstone, MN. I have the feeling I'm not alone. For the record it's a town in Winona County that had a population of 664 people in the 2010 census (Lucan, home of Brau Brothers, has 220 residents in comparison, assuming anyone cares).
    750ml swing-top bottle poured into a Lion Stout snifter. Midnight black with a creamy mocha head.
    Visually, an impressive looking beer. Here's a better look :

    Curious, slighty trepidated to see what the addition of spruce tips would add to a beer. I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised - I found the stout to be fruity and refreshing. Creamy medium mouthfeel with a slight spiciness. Reminded me of a Dubbel or even a cherry stout. No noticeable tartness.  A hint of over-carbonization but not a major gripe. Enjoyable. Light. Thirst quenching. Retails for around $10 and is extremely limited - an estimated 130 cases. Spruce tips used for brewing all sourced from trees on the farm. Very cool.


    Imperial? Nah. No noticeable buzz from alcohol. I would have guessed an ABV of 7-8% (it's not listed on the bottle but further research turned up a figure of 7.5% which seems just about right).

    Giles Approves!

    I'd like to commend Olvalde on great presentation and professionalism with the bottle - I could easily see this being used for olive oil and selling for at least five bucks at a "Crate and Barrell" or "Kitchen Window". Plus how cool is it that such a small craft brewery has a "QR" code on the label?! I've only seen these on  the big boy brewers (New Belgium springs to mind and just recently Schell's) and on some major wine labels. For those that don't know "QR" stands for Quick Response Code. Originally developed for inventory purposes in the auto-parts industry back in 1994. The matrix barcode allows for fast readibility and has a large storage capacity. If you scan the QR code on the bottle it brings up a link to the Olvalde website (I used a free Iphone app. called QR Reader - try it, all sorts of geeky fun)!

    QR Code

    From the brewer :

    Ode to a Russian Shipwright

    Ode to a Russian Shipwright is my tribute to the brewing legacy of Peter the Great. I use rye and spruce, ingredients that were important to the Baltic region and sailors, to create a porter honoring the time and tastes of Peter. And true to legend, I've brewed it strong enough to survive a cold winter voyage (from the brewery to the house).
    Tasting Notes:
    Rye, spruce, and roast highlight the nose and flavor, with complementary fruit and spice emerging as you drink. The flavor is malty and balanced, with a slightly sticky mouthfeel.
    Serving Suggestions:
    Ode to a Russian Shipwright is designed to be served at cellar temperatures, 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Pour with or without the lees; a good way to distribute the lees is by pouring the first half of the bottle, gently swirling the bottle, and then finishing the pour.

    About the brewery:

    Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company
    16557 County Road 25
    Rollingstone MN 55969
    'PH: (507) 205-4969

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Velvet Rooster, Tallgrass Brewing Company

    This is a Belgian-Style Tripel from Tallgrass Brewing Compay (Manhattan, KS).

    Intriguing. Apparently the first Tripel ever to be canned. As part of the "can craze"" (everyone seems to be doing it) this stands apart in terms of colourfulness and artwork. Spectacularly appealing, I don't think the photo does it justice. A+ for visual attraction.

    Let's check it out. 16oz can poured into a New Glarus tulip.

    Pours a hazy yellow. First impression was this looks a lot like a hefeweizen, with a nice, fluffy white head. Smell is a little musty, lemony?

    Taste? Bready, fairly thick mouthfeel. A little citrus, a little tartness and a sweet finish, a bit of a bite noticeable from the 8.5% ABV. Nice lacing clinging to the glass. Not as "clean" or sharp tasting as some of my favourite Tripels but overall I thought this was an admirable effort. Solid enough - I'd buy again.

    Easily the best offering from Tallgrass that this author has ever tasted.

    More about the brewery:

    Founded in 2007 by Jeff Gill and his wife Patricia. Hats off to them for following the dream - abandoning their jobs to pursue something they love. I wish them much success!

    Tallgrass Brewing Company
    8845 Quail Lane
    Manhattan, KS 66502
    'PH: (785) 537-1131
    Website : http://www.tallgrassbeer.com/

    More about the beer (from the brewery) :

    Velvet Rooster
    Belgian-Style Tripel

    (ABV 8.5%)
    This beer is a Belgian Tripel that lives up to its name. Smooth and carefully crafted like a fine velvet painting, but with an 8.5% ABV this bird has some spurs! The beer pours a golden straw color with brilliant clarity. Topped with a lofty pure white head the beer has a wonderful floral nose, with subtle fruit notes.
    The taste is clean and crisp, with subtle fruit notes and a touch of candy like sweetness. The beer has a Champagne-like effervescent that provides a crisp offset to its sweet finish.  While a pint glass is always nice, Velvet Rooster would also be at home in a tulip glass or Champagne flute.

    What's in the name?


    The inspiration for the name Velvet Rooster.
    This original work in acrylic and velvet is on display at Auntie Mae's Parlor, Manhattan, KS

    "Autie Mae's" was apparently a legendary speakeasy that operated in the basement of a former plumbing building in 1930. For more reading go to :

    Beer Education.
    What is a "Tripel"?*

    The name "Tripel" actually stems from part of the brewing process, in which brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist "Simple." Traditionally, Tripels are bright yellow to gold in color, which is a shade or two darker than the average Pilsener. Head should be big, dense and creamy. Aroma and flavor runs along complex, spicy phenolic, powdery yeast, fruity/estery with a sweet finish. Sweetness comes from both the pale malts and the higher alcohol. Bitterness is up there for a beer with such a light body for its strength, but at times is barely perceived amongst the even balance of malts and hops. The lighter body comes from the use of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose), which not only lightens the body, but also adds complex alcoholic aromas and flavors. Small amounts of spices are sometimes added as well.

    Tripels are actually notoriously alcoholic, yet the best crafted ones hide this character quite evil-like and deceivingly, making them sipping beers.

    Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 8.0-12.0%  

    * From http://www.beeradvocate.com/

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Hop Henge Experimental IPA, Deschutes

    "Hop Henge" Experimental IPA, Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR). 22oz bomber poured into a Deschutes snifter. Best by : 4/25/12 0344,  8.5% ABV, 95 IBU's (why can't all beer labels be this precise?).
    "Stonehenge is a mystery. Hop Henge is a discovery. Our monument to hops - Hop Henge is brought to life by the uncompromising creativity of our brewers. With an immense hop flavor and bitter finish, this experimental IPA will stand the test of time".

    Part of the "Bond Street" Series of limited releases, available January - April.

    It could be argued, with some justification, that I have as much validity reviewing an IPA as Fox News or this buffoon

    Family Radio Network Preacher, Harold Camping. Not exactly Nostradamus.

    True, my beer of choice is normally something dark and substantial but occasionally I enjoy a hop bomb. Some of my favourite beers are hopped-up over-the-top IPA's - "Maharaja" (Avery), "Abrasive" (Surly), "Oak-aged Unearthly" (Southern Tier) and of course "Hopslam" (Bell's).

    In the interests of brevity (not one of my strong points), let's cut to the chase:

    Pours a dark yellow/amber with a crisp white frothy head. Appetizing. Pleasant balance of hops and maltiness, nice hop bite, slighty sweet with a bitter finish. Well crafted. Nice blend of centennial and cascade hops with a heavy dry hop, biscuity. Very tasty. I've seen this labelled as a double/Imperial IPA but at only 8.5% ABV I'd beg to differ, but no matter. Delicious, whatever the style.



    I remember trying this last year and being floored by the initial hoppiness and put off by the distinct bitter finish. I'm not sure if my taste buds have changed or if it's the result of having a cold ("the cold" as they call it back home) but I like this beer. I think Deschutes should consider making this a year round offering. Well done and a steal at about $4.99 for 22oz bottle. 

    More info:

    Deschutes Brewery
    901 SW Simpson Avenue
    Bend, OR 97702
    'Ph: (541) 385-8606