Archive | May, 2011

Brew Review: Bitter Brewer

31 May

Brew: Bitter Brewer

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

Style: English Bitter (4.0% ABV)


Ahh a Surly Seasonal, haven’t had one of these since Abrasive.  I didn’t know much about Bitter Brewer as I haven’t had it before and didn’t really know what to expect.  But knowing Surly beers I knew I was in for a treat.

The can produced a nice dark amber color with a nice thick head.  There was a definite orange hue to the brew as well, I can see why they chose an orange profile for the can.  It was a little opaque, not very cloudy though.  It had a nice spicy hop aroma, grassy smells wafted up to my nose.  I always love the way Surly’s beers smell.

The taste followed the aroma to a T.  There was a spicy hop blend with a nice malt presence.  There was a bitter presence, but the bitterness was calmed down by the malts that were looming in the background.  I think this is my first experience to an “English bitter” so I don’t really have anything to compare or contrast it with.

I really enjoyed it, Surly always puts a their own twist on all the beers they produce.  A great beer to enjoy on a warm summer evening as its 4% won’t keep you away from work in the morning and you can enjoy a couple, maybe 3.  On a side note, the “Surly Bill” was signed into law recently which means more Surly for everyone, I don’t think anybody is going to complain or have a problem with that.


Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Stone Pale Ale

31 May

Brew: Stone Pale Ale

Brewed by: Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido CA)

Style: Pale Ale (5.4% ABV)


Its finally here!  Stone Brewing has finally opened up its lines of trade into MN.  I have heard rumblings about how their Arrogant Bastard is one of the best ever and their yearly special beers are unbelievable.  So I have finally taken advantage of the fact that these west coast delights are now at my local liquor stores.  I picked up the pale ale as that is usually a decent beer to start off with when trying new breweries wares.

The pale ale poured out a clear brown darker amber color, little tint of red in there as well.  From all the hype about Stone’s extra hoppy brews this ones aroma did not really jump out at me.  It was definitely malty, more than I expected.  Maybe they left all the hops for their more daring and experimental beers.

The hops showed up a little more in the taste, a little hoppy bite that was satisfying and basically in the ballpark for what a pale ale should have.  It wasn’t as crisp and I had hoped as well.  It wasn’t a hoppy mess as some Stone brews have a tendency to be.  Stone sort of held back on this one I think.  I was a little disappointed as I was hoping for more of a distinctive overall beer.

Not a bad pale ale, the brewers at Stone obviously know what they are doing, I might have chosen the wrong beer from this brewery to start off with and I think I should have set my expectations aside and just appreciated the brew for what it was worth.


Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Vine Park Bavarian Hefewiezen

27 May

Brew: Bavarian Hefewiezen

Brewed by: Vine Park Brewing (St. Paul MN)

Style: German Wheat/Hefewiezen (?? ABV)

Vine Park brewing in the heart of St. Paul has a nice little operation going for themselves, the only way you can get their beer is if you either go pick up a growler or go with a friend or two or three and brew the beer yourself (with a little help from their onsite brewers).  I have done both, but this Hefe I picked up in growler form on a nice unusually summery day in May in MN.  I cracked the growler outside in the backyard with the grill going and honestly you couldn’t have a better scenario.

The beer poured out a rich yellow (yes a little like what you might find in a toilet bowl) with a nice cloudy presence in my glass.  It wasn’t like staring into a yellow swamp, it was clear enough to see right through.  It was not as yellow/golden as I had expected.

There were definite funky yeasty smells right off the bat.  This was a great representation of a Hefe.  There was also a little spicy tinge from the hops.

It tasted great, it might have been the fact that it was sunny and warm and I was outside grilling but this was the perfect beer for that exact situation.  It was a crisp wheat beer that I would pick up anytime a bright sunny day comes my way.  It was bubbly and had a great light feel that wouldn’t fill you up too much when the weather is hot.  It went down smooth and left me wanting more and more until the growler was gone.

Vine Park has done an excellent job on this beer.  It was as solid a summer hefe as you could imagine.  There wasn’t any specifically unique tastes but it hit all the right notes and was exactly what the brewers were probably aiming for.  A must have for a day out on the lake with some friends.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Hop Devil

27 May

Brew: Hop Devil

Brewed by: Victory Brewing Company (Downingtown PA)

Style: American IPA (6.7% ABV)

The Hop Devil, I don’t think Victory could have come up with a better name for a solid American IPA.  It makes you think of the hoppy brews that have dominated the scene in the past couple years with Stone and Surly being the breweries that seem to push the limits with their brews on the daily.

The Devil poured out of the bottle a deep orange/amber color.  A very pleasing color that reminded me of a fall day.  The aroma is a little malty, it takes somewhat of a backseat to the hops who played a bigger part.  There was a sweetness to the hops, a grassy smell that was a little bitter.  The malts were definitely present but they let the hops take the show as the first act in the aroma.

The taste was more of a malt dominated affair, especially as the beer warmed up.  There was a definite hop bite to the brew that jumped out right away.  They were more bitter when I was hoping for more of a fruity or floral hop arrangement.  The malts did sort of steal the show like I mentioned as the beer warmed, but this was not a bad thing.  The taste was overall very well balanced, nothing really jumped out as a unique flavor.  The finish or aftertaste was a little bitter and that continued on even when the glass was finished.

On a final though this was a solid IPA, nothing really exciting or overpowering but what you would expect from a very well made IPA.  With a name like Hop Devil I was expecting a little more from the hops maybe more of a bite or more of a headliner performance.

Final Grade:  B+

Brew Review: Hop Stoopid

19 May

Brew: Hop Stoopid

Brewed by: Lagunitas Brewing Co. (Petaluma CA)

Style: American Double/ Imperial IPA (8.0% ABV)

I have had this a few times before and have been glad I bought it every time I brought it home.  Lagunitas is a great brewery that has put out some really good brews.  This one is special in that they used some hop-extraction method to make the beer clearer and more hoppy.  Believe me, it worked.

This beer poured out of the 22oz bomber a golden, orange, amber color.  Easily see-through, no hazy components of any kind, it was as clear as a Bud.  The smell could knock you off your feet halfway across the room, it was full of fruity and piney flavors that told you that this was for sure a Double or Imperial ale.  As a normal, non beer drinker (Zach) would say, this smells like soap, I think it smells like a dream.

The flavor was super hoppy.  There were tons of fresh hops flavors, the pine continued and the fresh fruity aromas translated into an excellent taste.  There was a decent bitter bite to it but that could be expected from such a huge hop-bomb.  As one who enjoys a good hoppy beer, I found myself right at home.  The little malt backing that showed up in the flavor provided a nice sweet balance to the tremendous hop influence.  It was a little syrupy feeling as the hoppy oils glided over my tongue and down into the belly.

The booze was hard to detect, though after the whole bottle you could tell there was some punch behind this barrage.

Lagunitas definitely used this extraction method to achieve exactly what they were looking for: a huge hop bomb that dominates the taste buds with hop-awesomeness.  There isn’t much else to say other than hops, hops and more hops.  A great beer that pushes the IBU’s, it does say right on the label “102 I.B.U.4 U.”  For all you hop lovers, this is a beer for you, Lagunitas has made a beer that I will come back to again and again when I have a craving for a huge hoppy beer.

Final Grade: A

Brew Review: Big Red

19 May

Brew: Big Red

Brewed by: Ram Restaurant and Brewery (United States, various locations)

Style: IPA (6.0% ABV)

I made a trip to Chicago for another brew lovers nuptials, decided I wanted to try and gets some beer not available to me in the beautiful northern Midwest.  The closest brewery/brewpub was the Ram.  So I went over and picked up a couple growlers, apparently it was happy hour because they only cost 6 bucks each (minus the deposit).

The Big Red poured out a nice amber hazy yellowish concoction.  This is pretty much on point for most IPA’s so I figured I was in for a decent IPA with some hoppy tastes and aromas.

In the smell of the brew there weren’t many hops, it was a little disappointing.  The aroma was mostly dominated by the malts and sweetness that come with them.  It wasn’t big or red, I guess they named it after a fat guy whose nickname must have been Red who preferred ordinary craft brews to quench his thirst after a big burger.

There wasn’t much to talk about for this brew, it was a pretty standard IPA, although lacking in the hops department.  The malts were the dominant character in the show and the hops only played a bitter role and a slightly unappealing aftertaste.

Overall, it was worth it to get a growler for 6 bucks, I can’t complain about that, I enjoyed it on a rainy day with a good movie with some good people but the beer itself wasn’t something that I would actively seek out for a second go around.

Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: Don De Dieu

14 May

Brew: Don De Dieu

Brewed by: Unibroue (Quebec, Canada)

Style: Triple Wheat Ale or a Belgian strong pale ale (9.0% ABV)

The first beer I have reviewed from our neighbors to the north (or for all you real patriots, America’s hat) and it did not disappoint.  I found a couple singles of Unibroue at my local liquor store and couldn’t pass them up as I found a cheaper way to try these than buying an $8 or $9 bomber.  I didn’t do much research on this one before I tried it, I just dove right in.

It poured out a hazy yellow, I guess that makes sense as it is a wheat ale, although I have never even heard of a triple wheat ale, but I guess I’ve never heard of a wheat ale showing up at 9% either.  Lots of carbonation as it came out of the bottle which provided a prodigious head which is definitely pleasing in an aesthetic way.  The orange-yellow look of the beer was darker than a regular American wheat, I guess the Canadians prefer a little more substance to their beers regardless of the style.

It smelled yeasty, spicy and a little fruity.  It was a complex smell that I really had to stick my nose in there (watch just the first 20 seconds and you’ll know what I mean).

On the first sip it tasted a little like champagne, you could tell there was some booze backing this one up.  The flavor was full of Belgian yeast spices and a sweet tangy gusto (sorry for a the big words but a big beer needs bigger words) the bubbled down my throat in a smooth, very pleasant way.  Overall, for being such a high-powered beer this went down remarkably smooth.

The smell reminded me a little of Surly Cynic with the yeasts coming through, but this was unlike any beer I have had before (that I can remember- Stubs let’s remember Delerium).  After most of the glass, however it didn’t really change much.  The carbonation settled down and it became a little easier to taste and smell what I had experienced before but nothing new came out to greet me.

An excelled beer, it turned me on to a new style of Belgian that I had never had before.  I don’t think I have found a pale or wheat ale with so much power or sweet flavor as this.  There wasn’t much of a hop bite like an American pale and there wasn’t the typical smooth easy going wheat presence that dominates the wheat genre here in the US of A.  I really like what the French-Canadians have done there in the land of Molson and Labatt.

Final Grade: A-

Brew Review: Never Summer Ale

9 May

Brew: Never Summer Ale

Brewed by: Boulder Beer Company (Boulder CO)

Style: Winter Seasonal/ Strong Ale (5.9% ABV)

A little late for a winter seasonal, I know, but this one has been sitting in the back of the fridge for a while and I finally unearthed it after a weekend full of beers I wouldn’t want to write anything about.

It poured out a nice ruby color, not especially dark but still dark enough for a winter ale that has the chance of warming me up when a fire just won’t do the trick.  The smell is a real treat.  Not many hops to speak of here, only mass amounts of malty sweetness.  I could detect a touch of caramel in there with a brew overloaded with the backbone of any good winter beer.

The taste followed suit with the aroma, big malt presence though the hops showed up a bit more for this part of the experience.  That little hop bite that shows up balances the sweetness of the malts wonderfully, I could have used a little more hops, but I am partial to a nicely hopped brew.  It might have lost some of its hop nature after sitting for a few months so who knows what a fresh one would taste like but I’m not complaining.

This is definitely a beer that will keep you warm, it’ll fill your belly up with sweet sticky malts to keep you in a nice hibernation state through a long and harsh winter.  With a few most roasted malts this brew could easily have been a solid bock beer that would keep monks alive during lent.

A brew that is sweet enough to satisfy an after dinner craving but also well rounded enough to stand alone.I would have preferred a few more hoppy notes but in no way am I bashing this beer.  A solid winter beer that cold Coloradoans can enjoy amidst their 9 ft high snow drifts any winter.

Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Barrel Aged Brrrbon (Limited Release #3, fall 2010)

4 May

Brew: Barrel Aged Brrrbon

Brewed by: Widmer Brothers (Portland OR)

Style: ‘Winter Warmer’ Widmer limited release #3 in Fall of 2010 (9.4%ABV)

I’ve had this one in the basement for quite a while, it took a fair amount of self control to keep it around for so long.  Finally decided to bring it out to share it with a special Texan back in the frozen tundra for a week.

Pretty excited about this as most of the brews I have tried that have been aged in bourbon barrels have been stouts or porters, this one was different as it was a winter seasonal ale, so not as heavy or weighty as say a Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

It came out of the bomber a clear amber/red color.  Much lighter than I was expecting, having never tried the original winter seasonal from Widmer.  The aroma was great, a definite oaky, bourbon presence with a hint of fruity hops.  Smelled like something that would slide down the gullet with ease.

The taste was everything I wanted and more; it had a warming bourbon presence throughout with more hints of darker fruits.  In no way was the bourbon overpowering or the only act in the performance.  It was a very complex brew that could be appreciated by both beer lovers and a bourbon enthusiast.  The Widmer’s got the blend between the two just right, the period of 4 months that the brew aged in the barrels seems to have been just the perfect amount.

There was a slightly bitter finish but it was balanced from beginning to end.  This brew is a bitter sweet affair as it makes you want to sip it for a long while to enjoy it all but then when its gone you feel a tinge of sadness that you’ve had your last drop.  The fact that this was a limited release and is never going to be brewed again is really where the drinker feels that bitter sweet feeling wash over themselves as they will probably never get to experience it again.

Overall, a great brew, the brewers really took the time to get this one right and they hit it out of the park.

Final Grade: A-

Brew Review: Brooklyn Brown Ale

4 May

Brew: Brooklyn Brown Ale

Brewed by: Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, New York)

Style: Brown Ale (5.6% ABV)

Ahh the brown ale, the style that got me started on tasty beers back with the tried and true Newcastle Brown Ale.  This brew claimed to be “richer and hoppier” than its English forebears for the style, so I was hoping for a bolder taste that would leave a mark on my taste buds.

The look of the beer was a good one, I love the way a solid brown ale looks, dark rich amber (or mahogany as the label tells me) reddish brown ambrosia.  It was a darker richer color than a Newcastle but not something like a porter which is hard to see through, this one was a little transparent.

It smelled the way a brown ale should: nutty, roasted malts took over my senses with a little chocolate mixed in there.  Reminded me of the first time I smelled a Moose Drool back in the later teen years, wonderful.

The aroma was a perfect gateway into the flavor of the brew.  This is a solid brown ale, a big chewy brew with lots of roasted malts, and a little chocolate in the blend.  It was a big bodied ale, one that would put some meat on your bones and maybe a little hair on your chest.  A perfect beer for a colder tailgating session or some liquid courage during a football game at college park.

This is overall a traditional American brown ale.  Its got big flavors that will keep your insides warm and your stomach full.  Not a whole lot of surprises, but good nonetheless.

Final Grade: B