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


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back Road Stout, Millstream Brewing Company

"Back Road Stout", Millstream Brewery (Amana,IA). "A rich, thick, smooth Oatmeal stout". "A taste of the Amana Colonies". So says the label.

I'll admit I'd never heard either of this brewery or Amana Colonies for that matter. A little reasearch was in order...(thanks Wikipedia)....

The Amana Colonies are a group of settlements of radical German Pietists in Iowa, USA, comprising seven villages. Calling themselves the Ebenezer Society or the Community of True Inspiration (German: die Gemeinde der wahren Inspiration), they first settled in New York state near Buffalo in what is now the Town of West Seneca. However, in order to live out their beliefs in more isolated surroundings they moved west, to east-central Iowa (near present-day Iowa City) in 1855. They lived a communal life until the mid 1930s. Due to this, the Amanas are sometimes mistaken for Amish.

I find this fascinating, especially given today's vitriolic political climate, that this was a society that existed on socialistic principles and survived for almost 80 years. Here's a link if you would like to read more :


The name "Amana" of course is also synonymous with the appliance giant of the same name...again, I was not aware of it's origins....

The Amana Corporation is an American brand of household appliances. It was founded in 1934 by George Foerstner as The Electrical Equipment Co. in Middle Amana, Iowa to manufacture commercial walk-in coolers. The business was later owned by the Amana Society and became known as Amana Refrigeration, Inc..[1] It is now owned by Whirlpool Corporation.

Millstream Brewing Company is Iowa's oldest micro-brewery, having opened it's doors way back in 1982. Impressive. First noticed it on the shelves a few months ago, it having just recently been distributed in Minnesota by Clear River Beverage Company (Rush City, MN). Despite my reservations - brought on by the rather amateurish, cartoonish and kitschy label that didn't exactly say "pick me up" - my thriftiness got the better of me and I picked up a sixer at Zipp's for a paltry $5.99. Would it be money well spent? Read on.....

Initial impression upon pouring - promising. Looked the part - jet black with a nice mocha head and decent carbonization. Now the real test - tasting.

Surprised by the light mouthfeel. Definite taste of bitter chocolate with a licquorish (or aniseed?) finish. I was expecting it to be creamier and certainly a little sweet from the oatmeal (apparently they add 5% oatmeal to the grist) but if it was there I didn't notice it. Fairly dry. Smooth and easy to drink. Light bodied. Decent. Apparently 6.7% ABV but it's barely noticeable, drinks like a 4% beer. I was told by the sales rep that this stout was unique because they used a lager yeast, rather than an ale yeast, for this stout and that is what gives it such drinkability. Makes sense, however my inner beer geek got the better of me and I emailed the brewer and was informed that they now use an American Ale II strain of yeast. So much for that theory!

Better than expected but not remarkable. I was expecting a heavy, creamy somewhat chewy beer but this is a bit too thin for my liking. I would recommend this beer as a good intro to the "darkside" - a starting point for someone looking to try something more substantial than Summit EPA for instance.

Apparently this beer won a Gold Medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, obviously the judges rated it a little higher than I did!

About the beer :

Label proclaims it to be "A rich, thick, smooth Oatmeal Stout". "A taste of the Amana Colonies".
O.G 15.5 degrees Plato
F.G. 6.3 Degrees Plato
22 IBU's
48 SRM
6.7% ABV
The fine print :
2 row brewers malt, black, Munich 20L, Carame 80L, Chocolate, flaked oats, roasted barley, white wheat.
Hops - US Magnum, Mt. Hood, Saaz.

About the brewery (the recipient of 18 National and One International Awards). It's about a 5 hour drive from the Twin Cities.

Millstream Brewing Company
835 48th Avenue
PO Box 284
Amana, IA 52203
'PH : (319) 622-3672 FAX : (319) 622-6516

PS I was once at a party, shortly after coming to Minnesota and a guy asked me where I was from. I replied "Northern Ireland" (Norn Iron). He thought I said "Northern Iowa" (WTF?)! After that if anyone asked I just said "Ireland".