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!