Archive | April, 2011

Quote of the Week

27 Apr

“We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old.”
-Martin Luther

Brew Review: Northwest Passage IPA

27 Apr

Brew: Northwest Passage

Brewed By: Flat Earth Brewing Co. (St. Paul, MN)

Style: American IPA (6.5% ABV)

When I first picked Northwest Passage off the shelf I thought I was getting myself into another glorious hoppy brew that would fire up my taste buds with hoppy oils and IBU’s pushing the limits.  I was also hoping that my beloved hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota would produce a beer that would put itself on the map of craft brewing (other than Summit of course) and become a staple of many a beer lover’s regular brew routines.  Well, my friends, I didn’t find either.

I have had a couple Flat Earth brews and almost all have fallen short of something great, with the exception of Angry Planet which was decent.  Northwest Passage pours out a very light, transparent amber, something that you would expect from a pilsner or maybe a lighter lager.  Kimbo Slice would not be afraid of this feeble hop punch.

The aroma is equally as bland as the taste with grassy hop smells, but not a whole ‘knock-you-off-your seat’ aroma that would be expected from “the Midwest’s hoppiest beer.”

The flavor was a little better than the aroma, it was definitely more bitter, but there was no blending of malts to go with or back up the hops.  At a supposed 115 IBU’s, this brew is certainly not the “hoppiest beer” from our great state, or any other nearby.  The bitterness of the hops lasts the whole trip, yet it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.  I was waiting the whole time for the hops to come and show up for their main stage performance, but they must have gotten a little drunk and never made it.

Being that it’s pretty cheap for a bomber I would say give it a go – why not – but don’t expect greatness or even a good beer.  Northwest Passage falls between mediocre and fairly disappointing.

Final Grade:  C

Brew Review: Victory Yakima Glory

27 Apr

Brew: Yakima Glory

Brewed by: Victory Brewing Co. (Downingtown, PA)

Style: American Black Ale (8.7% ABV)

The name on this badboy, Yakima Glory, suggested I was in for a hop bomb that would focus on the grandeurs of the Yakima hop.  Well, I should have read the label or done my homework before I poured it out.  Turns out this is not a lighter-colored IPA or hoppy ale, in fact it’s a black ale that likes to focus on the Yakima hops and the dark rich malts that the brewers decided to pit against each other in this battle between bitter and sweet.

After the initial shock of pouring this out and getting something that was about 5 times darker than I was expecting, I took a quasi liking to this brew.  It has a deep red hue that blends with a dark swampy brown.

A very malty, syrupy aroma met my nostrils as I soaked in the Glory.  There were a few hop smells buried deep in the nose, but it took a lot of big hefty snorts to find those.

The flavor of the brew was very intriguing, I was looking for something that highlighted the Yakima’s (hence the name) but it was more a battle that the malts seemed to win more often than not.  There was definitely a hoppy presence, but I was hoping for more.  And when the hops did shine through it was a bitter affair.  Maybe I have been spoiled by Surly and their sweet floral hop creations because this one didn’t meet what I was wanting.  I should have let the beer decide what it wanted to give me but I wanted more hops.

Overall a great looking beer that was a sweet pleasure, but with a name that features a hop variety it leaves the drinker wanting more of a prominent role for the supposed main character.

Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: Red’s Rye P.A.

24 Apr

Brew: Red’s Rye P.A.

Brewed by: Founder’s Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)

Style: Rye Beer (6.6% ABV)

The name of this brew confused me from the get go. I get that it’s supposed to be an IPA, or a Rye-PA (good joke) but it doesnt seem like an IPA to me at all.  It says its “hopped-up” and “brewed with rye,” making it something like a red ale that has extra hops and rye.  I might be making too big a deal about something I hadn’t even tried yet so I think I will just stick to drinking it and enjoying the goodness that has made Founders one of the premier breweries in the U.S. these days.

It comes out a nice crimson so I will go with this brew being a hoppy reddish rye ale, forget the IPA.  There isn’t much of an aroma that I can come up with for this brew.  There is a little maltiness, but not much in terms of hoppy smells emanating from this supposed “hopped-up” beer.  This is what I would consider to be the only part of the beer holding it back from being an A student.

I don’t know why I’ve only talked about what was confusing and not good about this one so don’t think that its sub-par.  The taste is where this brew jumps back into podium contention.  This is a maltier version of Cane and Ebel which was a definite hoppy red ale.  Red’s Rye has a hoppy presence, but the rye is really what shines in the flavor of the beer.  It has a hoppy note but the sweetness of the rye and malts are the highlights.

I really enjoyed the brew since it seems that the trend is that people are going for hop-bombs in any style that will assault the taste buds with hoppy-bitterness. Founders has reversed that and I think tried to explore the other, somewhat forgotten in this past couple years, side of brewing, the malts and grains that make up the body of a beer.

This brew is a little heavier than an IPA, but its has the right blend of hops and malts to create a good balance on the maltier side.  This brew is more complex than a hop-bomb, which only drowns your mouth with hops, and draws you into the sweet nectars of the other side of beer.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Brau Brothers Moo Joos

22 Apr

Brew Review: Moo Joos

Brewed by: Brau Brothers Brewing Co. (Lucan, MN)

Style: Oatmeal Milk Stout (5.2% ABV)

Moo Joos Oatmeal Milk Stout, the name alone draws me to this beer.  The newest of the Brau Brothers staple brews, this pitch black beast reminds me that I am for sure drinking a stout.  You can barely see light on the other side of the glass on this, sort of a black hole. Maybe if you drink enough time and space will warp itself around you and the empty 6-pack.

This brew holds a sweet smell, not a bitter one that is typical of a regular stout.  That would be the lactose sugar that they add to the boil and the oatmeal from the mash that calms down that bitter, typical stout aroma and taste.

Moo Joos is very smooth, almost like a warm glass of milk right before bedtime. It would definitely put you to sleep after two or three.  The chocolate and coffee tangs that are normal for a stout from the roasted malts are present but they are perfectly blended into this silky, soft brew.  I think a little more chocolate would have been perfect, something like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, that would have put this into a dessert beverage must.

A solid take on an emerging style of stout, Brau Brothers consistently makes me wish Lucan was as close as St. Paul to Minneapolis.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Surly Coffee Bender

22 Apr

Brew Review: Coffee Bender

Brewed By: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style: American Brown Ale w/ coffee (5.5% ABV)

Surly wakes up their normal brown ale, Bender, with a boatload of coffee beans in this morning favorite.  I was a little hesitant to give this one a go as I am not really a coffee drinker, but being a beer lover I couldn’t say no.  I enjoy their normal Bender so I went for it and I was not disappointed.

It has a very strong coffee aroma, something I do enjoy about coffee. There’s nothing better than waking up on a Sunday morning to the smell of coffee a-brewin’ and bacon sizzling.  It was a deep brown with a little tint of red in there if you looked hard enough.  A solid looking brew that would probably remind the black coffee drinkers of their morning cup.

The first sip yielded a strong coffee presence, which never really wore off through the whole pint.  This big taste was not really overpowering and for someone like me, one who doesn’t drink the teeth-yellowing addiction of many people, it didn’t really turn me away from the brew.  It was very smooth, which is a quality of the original Bender and most brown ales, which I really enjoy.

For all you coffee drinking beer lovers, Coffee Bender would be a great brew for you.  Probably a great way to start off the work day if you were bold enough to show up to the office a little more bleary-eyed than usual.  A solid brown ale with a new twist that won’t disappoint, Surly excels at their craft time and time again.

Final Grade:  B

Brew Review: New Belgium Ranger IPA

11 Apr

Brew:  Ranger IPA

Brewed by: New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, CO)

Style: India Pale Ale (6.5% ABV)

New Belgium’s “Explore” series peaked many people’s interest. This is probably due in large part to the widespread success of their Fat Tire flagship.  The Ranger almost gets it right.  It looks like a solid India Pale Ale in the glass with a bright and clear appearance.  It has the pleasant, hoppy nose that has become par for the IPA course.

The taste – dare I say the most important part of a beer? – is this brew’s downfall.  It has solid bitterness, but is hollow, leaving the tasty tang searching for something substantial to grab a hold of.   There is no sweetness from the hops that you can find in something like Surly Furious.  Good news: solid hop content. Bad news: that’s about all it has.

Ranger is a refreshing brew – something you could definitely take pleasure in on the patio while grilling – but I think you might be able to enjoy any beer outside while you’re grilling. It’s pretty hard not to.
It reminds me of the equally subpar Rush River Double Bubble. Where that one had a flavor that was uncomfortable this one didn’t really have the substance to take it to the next level.  Best case scenario, Ranger is something that bros just starting to appreciate the nectar of the gods might want to test their training wheels on.

Final Grade: C+

Brew Review: Sheephead Ale

10 Apr

Brew: Sheephead Ale

Brewed by: Brau Brothers Brewing Co. (Lucan, MN)

Style: American IPA or “Estate-Hopped Lucan Ale” (7.7% ABV)

Brau Brothers, a small brewery located in Lucan, Minnesota (pop. 220), has consistently put out solid beers and the Sheephead is yet another that you shouldn’t miss out on.  It has a smooth amber color with a rosy-red tint.  This isn’t a brew that looks like a serious IPA, which is usually pretty light in color and looks like it could be anything from a Bud Light to a High Life.  The Sheephead is a darker color which increased my interest the second I poured it out.  The Brau’s let us know that this is a bitter beer, named after a card game that tends to get bitter as most family game nights usually do.

She’s a hoppy brew that is wonderfully balanced with malts, as well.  The brewers really found a perfect combination of the hops and the malts in this recipe.  It’s a bitter brew, but that aspect is not overpowering at all.  For hopheads this can satisfy your cravings, though there are much hoppier brews available. It certainly won’t disappoint a bro who enjoys a maltier refresher when they need it, either.  I think the Sheephead has captured the best of both worlds.

This Brau Brothers concoction is solid brew that can be readily enjoyed by almost everyone who fancies a pint.  It seems like a brew that can be enjoyed in most settings as it incorporates a lot of different things.  Brau Brothers has once again come up with a brew that will keep me wishing Lucan was a little closer.

Final Grade:  B+


7 Apr

The proposed Surly Destination Brewery

With a lot of support via social media a Senate panel unanimously passed the ‘Surly Bill’ last night. The bill will allow Minnesota breweries to sell their beer on-site, a practice that was previously prohibited. This is not the final step, but it was a huge one. Man, if this happens it’s gonna be SAWEEET!

Quote of the Week

6 Apr

Mmm, beer!  -Homer Simpson