Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing (Grand Rapids, MI)

Breakfast Stout, Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout
ABV : 8.3%
IBU's : 60

    The original label for Breakfast Stout for all states excluding MI.

With the change in the weather and the turning of the calendar comes the start of another season in the beer world - stout season. Founders double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout , a mouthfeel to say and a meal in itself, with the iconic much loved label that features a fat little brat I mean rosy faced cherub greedily spooning up his nourishment. Interestingly enough that label has fallen foul of the state alcohol regulators in Founders home state of Michigan who objected to the message it implied, as a result the baby is absent on the label in that state but the other 34 states Founders is distributed, including MN is spared.

The new PC label for MI - "left the crib for a bit, call me if you need me 616-522-2720".
The # reaches a tongue-in-cheek recording.

Breakfast stout, brewed with two types of coffee (Sumatra and Kona) is indeed the coffee lover's consummate beer. Pours an impenetrable black with a frothy mocha head that leads with notes of intense fresh roasted Java. Rich and decadent chocolate follows, more roasty than sweet (they use both bitter and imported varieties) and an abundance of flaked oats used in the brew lend a velvety luxurious mouthfeel. A warming 8.3% ABV, luscious notes of vanilla and espresso add a complexity that combines to create a world class stout. Experts seem to agree - Beer Advocate rates it a 99 (world class) while Rate Beer gives it a perfect 100 and even this old curmudgeon gave it a 4.5/5 on my Untappd account.
Beer it's not just for breakfast. Pairs well with crisp fall weather. A bargain at the price of a couple of cappuccino's $10.99/4pk.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Herkulean Woods" Summit Brewing Company


"Herkulean Woods" Summit Brewing St Paul , MN

 Lager brewed with maple syrup and spruce tips

Hard to believe that this is already batch 16 in the unchained series that started back in 2009. In this innovative series Summit gives the brewer artistic license  to brew whatever style and with whatever ingredients they want (within reason I assume)! For his turn in the spotlight North Carolina native and Summit journeyman turned brewer Christian Dixon has created one of the more fascinating brews with his interpretation of an Imperial Californian Common * (scroll to the bottom for some serious beer geek-ology)! He adds a unique Midwestern twist with the addition of maple syrup (440 gallons total to be exact) sourced from Wild Country in Lutsen, MN and spruce tips farmed in Northern Iowa.

 Spruce tips may seem an unusual addition to the boil but they have been used in brewing for centuries long before the discovery of hops. Rich in vitamin C they were used by indigenous tribes in North America as a cure for scurvy during winter months when fresh fruit was not available - later European explorers discovered it and used it on sea voyages. Alaskan Brewing's popular Winter Ale and,closer to home, Olvalde's "Ode to a Russian Shipwright" are some examples of beer brewed with spruce tips.

 Herculean Woods derives it's name from the use of the Herkules hops from the Bavarian hop fields of Hallertau, a spicy floral hop that is more typically found in German style ales, along with the more traditional bittering hop Northern brewer that is standard in many steam beers. A California Common yeast strain that works well at higher temperatures complete this Herculean effort(!).
The beer pours a deep amber with a vigorous frothy head and a nose that suggests roasted caramel or sweet toffee and that follows though in the taste. Robust and hearty, the maple lends a burnt sugary complexity to the beer while the young spruce wields a piney citrusy spicy element - the lager finishes clean and tangy that invites having another, expertly concealing the substantial 8.2% ABV.
*California Common/Steam Beer is a uniquely American style lager born in California in the late 1800's before refrigeration was common. Shallow fermenters (cool ships) were used to cool down the beer. The result is a hybrid beer that is a lager that exhibits some ale characteristics - it's essentially a well hopped lager that is fermented at high temperatures. San Francisco's Anchor Brewing began making steam beer in 1894 and was the sole producer of the beer after prohibition closed it's competitors. The brewery trademarked the term "steam beer" resulting in other brewers adopting the name "California Common" to refer to this unique beer style.

"Herkulean Woods" is available in six packs for $8.99, get it while it's still available!

"Abrasive" Surly Brewing Company

Surly Abrasive Double IPA, Surly Brewing Company, Minneapolis MN

A sad week for Surly nation with the passing of Omar's Dad, Naseem "Nick" Ansari. His beaming smile and infectious pride always made for a memorable visit to the old brewery in Brooklyn Center. His obituary reads like a screenplay for the American Dream, RIP Nick!
Abrasive gets its name from the Abrasive Manufacturing business Omar's parents owned for 35 years before housing the building that became Surly brewing. First brewed in 2008 to commemorate the end of growler sales it was the first double IPA brewed for sale in Minnesota (something I did not know). Originally called 16 Grit, a type of abrasive grit.
Fast forward to 2015 and Surly's temple of imbibement sits resplendent in the Prospect Park area of SE Minneapolis, in the shadow of the Witch's Hat water tower and a stones throw from TCF Stadium and the U of M. I'm not easily impressed but $34 million has bought a magnificent destination brewery that should be envied nationwide. I've been to the beer hall several times since its opening in late December and my advice would be to go off peak, lunchtime weekdays and Sunday afternoon (Super Bowl Sunday would be an ideal time to visit since the beer hall does not have TV's) avoid the weekend if at all possible and take public transportation- the Green Line light rail stop at Prospect Park is a mere block away. An easy bike ride too, with ample bike racks available outside the brewery. If you do visit try a "Todd the Axeman" (an awesome West Cost IPA) and "Misanthrope" a tasty Wild ale. Looking forward to spring when the outdoor beer garden and upstairs restaurant are scheduled to open.

 You may have heard about the hysteria on beer forums regarding carbonation levels on some Abrasive cans - a welcome diversion to the Patriots from Deflategate I have heard (!) i.e. regarding the beer pouring flat and under carbonated.
My can date stamped 1/13/15 on the bottom exhibited no such shortcomings.
The beer pours an orangey Amber color with a moderate carbonization and a head that dissipates swiftly. Taste is tropical fruit, tangy grapefruit, tangerine, with a marmalade sweetness that hides any trace of bitterness. Resinous hops coat the tongue. Not as pungent or exhibiting the tongue splitting hop biting potency (cat pee)! as in previous years but considering this is the first canning run in the new brewery I would say this year's version is an unqualified success!
"Abrasive" Double IPA by Surly Brewing is available in 4 pack 16oz cans for $15.99. 9% ABV or as I like to call it a session beer. Cheers!

Sorachi Ace, Brooklyn Brewery

 Paul's Pick: Sorachi Ace, Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY)

Really happy to see this released for the first time in 4 pack 12oz bottles and year round too! Genius move. Named after a quirky hop first developed by Sapporo in Japan in the late 70's (Sorachi Ace) and forgotten about until its revival in 2008 by a family farm in Washington State. It's a hop known for its clean taste and aroma dominated by lemongrass and lemon peel. Brooklyn's interpretation of the classic farmhouse style is unfiltered, with a clean Pilsner malt and a special Belgian yeast strain, dry hopped Sorachi ace hops take centre stage and lend a bright, snappy burst of lemon. Sunshine in a glass indeed!

Pours a straw yellow with a voluminous, healthy fluffy head with an immediate burst of lemon that assails the nose. Light,refreshing and spritzy, reminiscent of champagne with a dry finish and dominated by lemongrass, lemon peel with a touch of coriander and a hint of mint for good measure. It's a beer brewed the hard way and definitely worth fussing over!
"Sorachi Ace" Saison, Brooklyn Brewery (New York) 7.2% ABV. Available in 4 pack 12oz bottles for a ridiculously low price of $8.99.

Side note : I heartily recommend Steve Hindy's (co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery) book "The Craft Beer Revolution" it's fascinating and highly entertaining, documenting the history of the American craft beer movement from the very beginning and the pioneers who shaped it. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fulton Batch 300


Fulton Batch 300 IPA
Fulton Brewery, Minneapolis MN

Even a glass half empty pessimist such as myself would find it hard to argue that this upcoming week flirts with perfection. Weather the tourist board could not have better scripted (at time of writing), NFL pre-season debuts this weekend and my crappy soccer team (Marching on Together) embarks on what surely will be another underwhelming season. But as they say hope springs eternal or is it live in hope and die in despair? Always time for optimism before a ball has been kicked.
It's been a great week for hop heads with local breweries releasing some spectacular hop centric beers. Surly with the deservedly acclaimed Todd The Axeman (really I'd put this up there with some of the best rated IPA's nationally), I've had it a dozen times and will never get tired of drinking it. Then we have the deliciously dank 90 IBU monster Double Day Tripper (Day Tripper's big brother) from Indeed - technically a double pale ale but let's not split hairs. Stellar competition for sure but my nod goes to Fulton and their Batch 300 IPA.
Originally brewed to commemorate the 300th batch at the downtown location batch 300 is "pure hop candy and brewed in a small quantity each year". It starts with a foundation of Pilsner malt and then is heavily hopped with a single hop variety, mosaic. No ordinary hop, mosaic has been described as citra on steroids - the nose gives a hint of what to expect with an aroma of tropical fruit and berries. It's an IPA that's light and crisp like a lager but the taste is all juicy fruit - mango, lemon, herbal and citrusy, earthy pine. I defy you to not devour the whole six pack!
For completists : 7% ABV, 74 IBU's, SRM : 7 PLATO : 15.5
Fulton Batch 300 IPA is available in six packs for $9.99 (very limited)!

Only in Norn Iron!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Maitrise" Imperial Farmhouse Ale, Fulton (Mpls, MN)

 Paul's Pick: "Maitrise" Imperial Farmhouse Ale, Fulton Brewery (Mpls, MN)

I have to say that Fulton have been knocking it out of the park, I mean garage, lately with one impressive offering after another. Such is the case with the latest offering in their "garage" series, "Maitrise" which they have labelled an Imperial Farmhouse Ale (IFA) -don't bother looking up the style in the BJCP handbook though - is masterful, even if it is a made up style! Maitrise translates from the French for expertise/mastery and its Fulton's interpretation of a new world farmhouse ale dedicated as a tribute to the creativity, ingenuity required for the brewing profession.

It's a quirky blend of American and German wheat and barley malts with a traditional French saison yeast strain and not so typical dose of New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops, renowned for imparting white wine characteristics similar to Sauvignon Blanc. The results are fascinating - divine tropical fruitiness with hints of gooseberry, mango, and honey and a dry, tart, soft and slightly boozy finish. Fulton weren't joking by labelling this as an Imperial farmhouse ale with a majestic 9.5% ABV and a regal 80 IBU's this is not your typical saison consumed by the gallons by seasonal farmhands for lack of potable water in days of yore (though the idea appeals to me)! Kudos to Fulton also for taking advantage of the economies of scale of the brand new brewery and putting more limited releases in affordable 4 pack bottles rather than bombers (perceived perception of value is what I like to call it, LOL).

"Maitrise" Imperial Farmhouse Ale by Fulton Brewery available for $10.99/4pk bottles.
I gave it a 4/5 on my UNTAPPD account app, what did you rate it?

Brut Cidre de Bretagne (LeBrun)

Paul's Pick: Brut Cidre de Bretagne (LeBrun) Brittany, France.

Do not adjust your sets, I have not been abducted by aliens (though I'm open to the experience) but you are correct in noting that this is the first time in print I've recommended a cider. Cider reminds me of my lager lout youth when my palate was a little less sophisticated than today and I'd break up the monotony of tasteless euro lagers by drinking the odd cider - nothing good mind you, mass produced sugar bombs with ridiculous sounding macho names that threatened to send you into a diabetic coma. Incidentally the UK consumes the most cider per capita in the world today, thankfully they have also ceased the 18th century practice of adding lead salt (cheaper than sugar) as a sweetener in the cider. No idea how many thousands died before they realized that sometimes saving money is not such a killer idea!

Le Brun ciders have been produced by Ciders Bigoud (20 employees)! in Brittany, NW France (Plovan - about 500km from Paris) since 1955. Using *gasp* only hand picked hardy apples with wonderfully exotic names such as Kermerrien, Marie Menard, Peau de Chien. Sometimes everything sounds so much better in French! The apples are then collected and aged for 3 weeks in special wooden cases, a process that allows the fruit to slightly dehydrate and concentrate its aromas. Once mashed the resulting pulp and juice rest in a tank, helping balance the taste profile and eradicating any harshness. Pressed again the pure Apple juice then is stored in regulated fermentation tanks where the carbonic gas naturally dissolves in the cider. After a slight filtration the cider is bottled non-pasteurized in order to fully preserve the taste profile in 750ml champagne-like bottles, cork and caged as tradition dictates. The cider pours golden yellow with a moderate carbonization amid aromas of sweet ripe apples. Tart and funky with moderate acidity and a snappy dry finish this is a wonderful example of a farmhouse cider made the right way. A modest 5.5% ABV makes this a perfect picnic accompaniment and its a steal at just $8.99! I rated it a 4/5 on Untappd.

We also carry Le Brun Organic Cidre Demi-Sec at $10.99/750ml - I found it "cleaner" and more acidic than the Brut.


Kirsch Gose, Victory Brewing Company (Downington,PA)

It's been a fascinating trend of late as American craft brewers have taken an interest in somewhat obscure German beer styles, dusted them off and reinvented and reinvigorated them. I'm talking Cottbuser, Berliner Weisse, Radlers, Doppelsticke and of course Gose. Who said Reinheitsgebot was restrictive and boring? I think not!

 Interesting to see that American breweries have taken notice of the vast potential of the European beer market - craft beer exports rose by 43% last year to almost $75M. Stone Brewery is planning on opening a $25M facility in Berlin, Brooklyn has partnered with Carlsberg to open New Carnegie in Stockholm and famed gypsy brewer Mikkeler has collaborated with cult favorites Three Floyds to open a brewpub in Copenhagen. Strange times indeed!

 It's no surprise that a brewery (Victory) with a mission statement of "innovative beers melding European ingredients and technology with American creativity" should jump into the fray. Gose is an old world German brewing process originating in Leipzig and is similar to a Berliner Weisse - both styles feature a heavy wheat malt body and a tartness caused by the addition of lactic acid and lactobacillus. Gose differs from Berliner Weisse because it includes the addition of coriander as a spice and salt for good measure. It's a whimsical beer, Victory adds a playful touch by adding cherries post fermentation. The resulting beer pours a beautiful ruby rose, almost pink with a whiff of coriander. My tasting notes simply noted "salty tart" - what a great name for a brewery or bakery! Tart and acidic and salty with a refreshing clean finish and a low 4.7% ABV this is a sessionable beer that is perfect for the patio - but be warned it's addictive! It's not cheap but it's a treat you deserve. Trust me.

Kirsch Gose , Victory Brewing Company available in 4pk bottles for $9.99

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Radler me this?

Radler me this?

 Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Naturtrub, Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg

 With a heat index approaching 102 this Saturday I thought some refreshing day drinking beer recommendations would be in order. Although I hate the sweltering heat it has contributed to quite an impressive farmers tan even if I do say so myself (bringing sexy back)!
"Radler" (German for cyclist) is a drink that was invented in the roaring 20s when cycling became all the rage. Enterprising Franz Xaver Kugler constructed a bike trail thru the forest that led to his hostelry 12 miles from Munich. On a  Saturday in June 1922 13,000 thirsty cyclists descended upon Kugleralm (meaning Kugler's Alpine Meadow) demanding beer. Kugler didn't have enough beer but in a light bulb moment realized he had several thousand bottles of clear lemon soda in his cellar gathering dust - he mixed the soda with the remaining beer to a 50/50 ratio and called his concoction "radlermass" (mass = liter of beer). Essentially the Bavarian equivalent of the British shandy.
Visitors to the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria know that it is not only known for Mozart balls, the Sound of Music and hoardes of Japanese tourists it is also home of the Stiegl Brauerei  who make the preiminent Radler in the world. Stiegl is Austria's largest and most successful private brewery, having been privately owned since 1492 (mind boggling). Stiegl's Radler is a mix of 40% Goldbrau (Helles Lager) and 60% grapefruit juice. Cloudy and straw colored it tastes more like fruit juice than beer, reminds me of San Pellegrino soda. Light, smooth, tangy and crisp low in calories and with an ABV of just 2% you can drink pitchers of this. Refreshing. What are you waiting for?
Side note - my favorite memory of Salzburg was a visit to the Augustiner brewery. Sitting in a huge communal beer hall at a picnic table supping on my man sized liter of beer in a ceramic mug I noticed that my mug had disintegrated leaving a bunch of debris in my half finished beer. It must have been quite a comical scene as I tried to explain to the German speaking monk what had transpired. He grabbed my drink and disappeared and returned with a replacement stein. Filled exactly to the same level as my original. Another example of ruthless German efficiency!
Stiegl grapefruit Radler is available in 4 pack 500ml cans for $8.99.

 Schofferhofer Grapefruit Binding-Brauerei (Frankfurt, Germany)

 Schofferhofer claims to be the first brewery in the world to combine a Hefeweizen beer with grapefruit juice. That gorgeous ruby hue it displays on pouring is the result of a natural food coloring called "cochineal extract" - if you are squeamish turn away - it's a red dye made from bugs that are primarily found on prickly pear cactus. Aztecs have been using it to dye fabrics for centuries. It takes about 70,000 insects to produce a pound of dye (thank you Wikipedia) and is harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands. I'm guessing Schofferhofer is not vegan friendly? The drink is an equal mix of 50% unfiltered Hefeweizen and 50% carbonated grapefruit juice. Hazy, zesty and not as sweet as Stiegl with a bit more body and a slightly higher ABV of 3.2%. An invigorating thirst quencher it would be great to use in a cocktail.
Schofferhofer Grapefruit is available in 4 pack 500 ml cans for $7.49. Give it a try. Prost!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Evil Twin Brewing, "Molotov Lite" Double IPA

Danish native Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso is the zany gypsy brewer/founder of the cult that is Evil Twin Brewing. Relocated to Brooklyn with his family since 2006 perhaps to escape the notoriety of his famous twin brother Mikkel (of Mikkeler fame) - sibling rivals with competing rock star egos, Molotov Lite is brewed at Two Roads Brewing in CT. Don't be fooled by the whimsical prose on the can, there's nothing Lite or remotely macro about this beer! This is a 8.5% ABV double IPA that packs a punch - pours a dull yellow with a tight white collar, the smell of citrus assails the nose as the taste reveals a biting burst of pungent, bracing, heartburn inducing grapefruity hops. Finally a Evil Twin brew with an affordable price tag at around $10.99 for a 4pk tall boy cans.