Archive | June, 2011

Brew Review: Skull Splitter

23 Jun

Brew: Skull Splitter

Brewed By: Orkney Brewery (Scotland, UK)

Style: Scotch Ale (8.5% ABV)


Another installment in my search for good scotch ales. I have seen the Skull Splitter on tap at a few local gastropubs so when I spotted it on the shelf at the store I figured I might as well give it a go. This is a brew that hails from across the pond, actually brewed in Scotland and it seems to have been around for a few years so I got the impression that this one could be a keeper. At a solid 8.5% this wasn’t one the mess around with so I saved it for a Friday afternoon after work.

It poured out a great color. It was dark murky and looked like something you would find in some mythical Scot’s hand after a day full of battling hill giants or something. It was murky but the edges showed hints of dark red and purple. A great looking beer. It had a pretty decent head, a little tan, not as dark as the beer would suggest but it was present for the whole beer.

The aroma on the beer was what you would expect from a classic scotch ale. It was heavy, you could smell the smoked scotch flavors as the drifted up. There were tons of sweet malts that kept the booze of the scotch in check.

The taste of brew was great. A classic to say the least. It was very smooth, it just glided down. It was a very filling beer with all those malts leading to a big taste. The scotch was present in the taste, the smoked grains had just the right amount of kick to give it a little bite, that also might have been the hint of scotchy-booze. Either way, it was blended just right to give you a bit of everything. There really weren’t any hops to speak of, but I don’t think there was supposed to be so I’d say that it got that right as well.

To sum it up, I think I found a winner. This was not a scotch ale that really knocked the socks off of me but it hit all the right notes and stayed true to the style perfectly. I think Orkney brewers have had enough trial and error over there with the tradition of beers from Europe and the fact that Scotland has a similar name to Scotch as a booze. I’s say for those searching a classic of this style this is one you should definitely seek out as it will satisfy again and again.


Final Grade: A-


Brew Review: Boddington’s Pub Ale

22 Jun

Brew: Boddington’s Pub Ale

Brewed by: Boddington’s (Manchester, England)

Style: English Pale Ale (4.7% ABV)


Found this beast on a memorial day sale so I decided I couldn’t pass it up. I have had it on tap one time, although that memory is a little hazy at this point. This brew is a little unique in that it came in one of those pint cans with the nitro thing or whatever it is in there to make it extra creamy and smooth. They called it the ‘draughtflow system.’

So I cracked it open with a pretty sweet baseball game on TV and poured it into a waiting pint glass. The draughtflow thing made it super creamy and produced a nice solid head that was at least half an inch and lasted the whole session. The color was a pale golden color, a faint amber with a little red. The aroma of the brew is a little hard to detect, I think this is meant to be more of a session ale that you enjoy with friends at the local watering hole. So the beer itself doesn’t need to be the focus, it may create the atmosphere but it isn’t what keeps people drinking, the company is. There was a little maltiness to the smell with a tinge of grassy hops, not a whole lot else.

The taste was pretty much a continuation of the smell. The sweet malts are present but not pronounced in any way. There are a couple of hop notes in there but they are basically there to counteract the malts. The great part about the beer is the overall creamy feeling you get from that draughtflow. It pours out smooth and its drinks just as smooth.

For the most part this is a fairly unimpressive beer. Like I said before its more about the company your with than the beer itself and when looking at it that way it is a great pub/session beer. It knows its limits and it maximizes itself within them. The ‘feel’ of the beer is by far the best part.

Smoothness is the best part


Final grade: B-

Brew Review: Cowboy Coffee Porter

21 Jun

Brew: Cowboy Coffee Porter

Brewed by: Big Sky Brewing Co. (Missoula, MT)

Style: Porter (6.2% ABV)


This brew has been sitting in my fridge for a long time. Not on purpose, no cellaring of this one was on my mind when I stuck it in there. I got it during the colder months and now that summer has rolled around I’ve been sticking with the lighter brews that keep me refreshed when the mercury is boiling. Well I finally decided I needed a little more room in my fridge so I broke this one out on a night that probably could have been a little cooler for this particular type.

It is a great looking beer, it poured out a deep dark rich black with some reddish brown around the edges. There was a nice big tan head that stuck around for the entire brew and left some good lacing down the side of the glass. Coffee was the main payer in the aroma, it dominated the scene. It was a little sweet as there was a lot of malts there to counteract the coffee.

The actual beer was pretty much in step with the aroma. There was a lot of coffee presence and that pretty much dominated the beer from start to finish. The coffee wasn’t a deep rich coffee though and I think that’s where Big Sky got their particular name for this one from. It was sort of a bare bones coffee, kind of like something you could expect to drink after waking up from a cold night in the high desert. Something that will wake you up, with you not really caring how it tastes. A ‘roughing it’ sort of feel.

Overall, it was a solid beer, a big coffee presence, for those who like coffee here is a good one to try. For those who dont, its a robust beer that will stick to your ribs like a good porter should. A little hollow in the taste and dominated by the coffee this beer is somewhat 1 dimensional.


Final Grade: B-


Brew Review: Domaine DuPage

17 Jun

Brew: Domaine DuPage

Brewed by: Two Brother Brewing Co (Warrenvile, IL)

Style: French Style Country Ale (5.9% ABV)


Another offering from Two Brothers Brewing outside of Chicago.  I have had some good experiences with this brewery in the past, see Cane and Ebel, and I was looking forward to this brew.  A French country ale, which means I am in for an easy drinking smooth brew that won’t knock me off my feet.

The DuPage poured out a somewhat hazy amber color.  There was a red hue to the brew which was a very pleasant look.  There was a small head that persisted throughout the glass.  There wasn’t much to speak of in terms of an aroma.  There were some sweet malts that dominated the aroma with a little bit of hops showing up in there.  Not overpowering, but I guess that is probably what the brewers were going for.

The taste was very nice, nothing really complicated or extreme.  The malts continued, they held their presence throughout.  There were some bitter hops that came in through the taste but they were really only there to relieve the sweetness of the malts.  A very caramel-like taste.  The bitter hops worked very well with the sweetness, they cleaned out those sweet malts and enabled the beer to be very easy drinking.

This wasn’t a stellar brew.  It was fairly average.  The bitter hops were a nice touch but they weren’t anything special.  The country style was apparent as this wasn’t a tough beer to drink at all, it was very smooth and went down without a problem.  With that being said, it wasn’t one that I would like to enjoy one right after the other.  It’s a decent beer but not one that deserves much of a second chance in the same sitting.


Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: Duvel

17 Jun

Brew: Duvel

Brewed by: Duvel

Style: Belgian Golden Ale (8.5% ABV)


This treat of a beer brings me back to my short time in Europe with some great friends, decided to bring it out for a reunion of sorts with a “malaka” whom I hadn’t seen in a long while.  This is a classic Belgian beer, one of the most famous of Belgians and found all over the world.

The label tells me to pour out “unhurriedly” so I try my best at that, this brew still ends up with a terrific head that settles quickly but a small cap to the beer stays with it for the whole glass.  It was a light yellow, straw color.  It was a little cloudy with lots of carbonation rising to the top.  It is a Belgian ‘gold’ ale after all and the brew had a golden hue.

This is a classic beer.  A true Belgian beauty.  There are sweet aromas coming off this from the moment it came out of the bottle.  There was a definite Belgian yeast smell and taste throughout the whole process.

Upon hitting my lips this beer felt like a glass of champagne, it was bubbly, light, crisp and very refreshing.  Apples was a big flavor in the beer, there was also the light pilsner feel from the malts but that was complemented by the hops and yeast.  This is truly a tradition unlike any other, the Moortgat family has worked since 1871 to perfect this beer and their craftsmanship and brewing prowess shines through in this beer.

For those haven’t had it, you have to.  For those who have, like me, it’s a great beer to come back to and remind yourself what a beer tastes like that has stood the test of time.  This is truly a classic brew that any beer drinker should experience at least once.


Final Grade: A

Brew Review: Scotch Ale

15 Jun

Brew: Scotch Ale

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

Style: Scotch Ale (7.3% ABV)


Another one of the Brau Brothers staples, actually the one that turned me on to the brewery back in my poor college days (although lets get real, I’m still poor, though not ‘college poor’).  I picked up a 6-pack a couple years ago and liked this beer enough to keep trying their selections and as you can see by the previous posts on this blog I have tried a lot of their wares.

This brew pours out a dark amber color, though quite clear and had a decent off-white head.  The aroma isn’t overpowering, its subtle and there is a lot going on.  Its got some smoky scotch smells wafting up to my nostrils and there is some sweet maltyness going on in there.  It’s a classic smell for a solid scotch ale.

The taste is great.  Same as the aroma, its not overpowering.  Its got the scotch taste as well as the malt presence that holds the beer together.  There is a little hint of smoke in there which comes from the smoked peat that the malts are roasted on.  It’s a great scotch ale taste.  This one neither knocks you off your feet or makes you ask for more.  It hits all the right notes that a scotch ale should hit.  Apparently its award winning and I can see why.  The sweet malts balance the boozy scotch notes just right, which leads to a solid all around beer.

This beer is a perfect representation of a scotch ale, in my eyes anyway.  A thick filling brew for almost all occasions.  Its got the scotch presence but for those who can’t or won’t appreciate a big scotch taste it subtle enough hat its very enjoyable.  For someone who is looking for a scotch ale to begin with that won’t turn you away from the style completely and isn’t too over the top this is perfect.  I can keep coming back to this brew time and time again if I want an easy drinking scotchy taste.  A very solid brew that I would recommend for almost everyone.


Final Grade: B

Brew Review: La Femme Amere

14 Jun

Brew: La Femme Amere

Brewed by: Tyranena Brewing Company (Lake Mills, WI)

Style: Wisconsin Belgique-Style IPA (??ABV)

I got hand delivered this brew by a great friend, Jacob the Gasoline, a pleasant surprise before a great night.  Tyranena has this series out, brewers gone wild, I have seen the bottles all over the liquor stores.  The label is basically the thing that has turned me off every time.  I know that’s a lame excuse but that’s really the only thing that I can think of as to why I don’t pick some up.  The labels are all the same for each of the series and they are not very appealing in my mind.  So I’m glad Jake brought this one over as I probably wouldn’t have picked it out for myself.

The Femme Amere poured out a solid amber color, rich and deep.  There was a small off white head that disappeared quickly leaving just the light golden/brown nectar.  There wasn’t much to this aroma, it being a Belgian IPA I would have expected more from the yeasts and hops, but it was very small.  The only things I could find was a little yeast and some bready smelling malts.

The taste was definitely better.  I enjoy what American brewers have done with Belgian style IPA’s and pale ales in the last couple years and this one was a solid representation.  The hops were present, the American style showing through, but then the Belgian yeasts took their turn at the podium as well.  The hops were bitter and a little grassy, but a solid combination and balance to the bready malt backbone that was always there.

I would say overall, this wasn’t a stunner.  The brewer probably could have gone a little more wild and creative but it was a solid representation for the style.  The aroma could have been a little more present and that’s why it didn’t get up to a solid B. For a great beer similar to this one, try Harriet Brewing’s West Side Belgian IPA.

Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: Curbside Saison

10 Jun

Brew: Curbside Saison

Brewed by: Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)

Style: Belgian Saison/ Farmhouse Ale (6.6% ABV)


On my first real experience with the heart of Chicago I decided to find a brewery that has been a staple of micro brewing in the Midwest for a couple decades.  Goose Island Claybourn was the brewpub I decided on as it was close to a couple other places I was exploring.  Went on a solid tour with some good company and had a sample of only a few of their many offerings at the establishment.  I only had 1 piece of paper so I only decided to write down my thoughts on one of the brews I enjoyed the most.

The Curbside came to me from the bar a yellow color with a little white head.  The light golden brew had a great funky Belgian yeasty smell with some fruity hops mixed in there as well.  It also had some hefe notes with some, as the brewer told, banana and clove smells.

The taste was great.  I was thinking it was sort of a Belgian IPA mixed in with a hefewiezen.  There was a definite saison feel to the beer as it was light and something that would be great for a summer/spring day.  The hops were perfectly balanced and took a side role to the Belgian saison farmhouse flavors.  There was a slight bitter finish but it was a crisp one that left you wanting more.

A great brew, very well balanced but also unique in that it was a more powerful saison with deeper richer flavors mixed in there.  I would have tried all the beers there but my wallet was not that of a prominent Chicago lawyer so I had to stop after 4 or so.  On a side note, the tour was great, the person who led it actually tried to get you to pick out particular flavors and coach you on what you should look for but also was open to anything that individuals came up with themselves.  Pretty good food to top it all off.  Had to walk away with a growler to share with my gracious hosts for the weekend, needless to say it’s a place I would love to frequent.


Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Equinoxe du Printemps

2 Jun

Brew: Equinoxe du Printemps (French for ‘spring equinox’)

Brewed by: Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Style: Scotch Ale (9.5% ABV)


Another beer from our neighbors to the north.  I was very excited about this one, I was in my local liquor store and wanted to find a scotch ale that I hadn’t had before and one that would jump out at me.  Well this one jumped out in two ways, first it’s a scotch ale brewed with maple syrup and second the price at about $5 for a single 12oz I was hoping it was worth it.

It poured out a thick amber, brown color, very murky not really clear at all.  Looked a little like syrup, maybe that’s a hint of the maple coming in right away.  There was a little small off white head, I think I was expecting a little more in that department.

It was a large aroma, you could smell this the second the top came off the bottle.  There were tons of sticky caramel and syrupy malts, a little hop breeze if you got in there far enough, but in typical scotch ale fashion, this one predominantly malt based.  There was a little smokiness to the aroma as well that I noticed after the beer had warmed up a little bit.

The taste was big, there was a lot going on.  There was the definite scotch presence in there, the alcohol was very noticeable at 9.5% it would be hard to hide that anywhere.  The alcohol wasn’t a turn off though, it was more of a warming feeling as glided down your gullet.  There was a little bitterness in there, just a tinge, so there were some hops but they were played a very minor role.  This brew was syrupy, sweet, sticky, malty whatever type of word that goes with those you can think of.  The aftertaste definitely has some maple syrup present, which leaves a pleasant feeling in your mouth.

This beer was good, not stellar.  I think maybe if I had a much more refined palate I might be able to get more in depth, but I think this brew has a rich character but there was a lot going on behind the scenes that maybe the average guy wouldn’t get.  If you like big strong beers without much hop presence this is a great choice.  I think for the price, however, this one might not be the first choice there are probably some quite similar beers out there at half the price which I think brings down the grade in the end.


Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Sublimely Self-Righteous

1 Jun

Brew: Sublimely Self-Righteous

Brewed by: Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, CA)

Style: American Black Ale (8.7% ABV)

So the first Stone brew I reviewed, the Pale Ale,  I expected a bit much from, it was a solid beer no doubts about it.  Going into the Sublimely Self-Righteous I tried to keep my mind in the moment and not think about what I wanted from the beer.  I think it worked because I have found a beer that will drink again and again.

It pours out a dark black, very porter like.  There was a little red around the edges, which gave it a little twist in the appearance.  For the most part, this one was black and not much else.  It poured a bigger tan head, which was very pleasing to my eyes.

Wow, the aroma.  For how dark this beer was, I was not expecting the hops to come lashing out at me in the nose.  This one had an extra-spicy hop scent.  It was glorious, there was just enough of a sweet presence behind the scenes to take the very bitter edge off of the hops that dominated the smell but this one had enough power to sit you down for a minute to take another deep breath with your nose deep in the glass.

The taste was amazing.  It had a creamy thicker feel to it, which was even more unique.  Most hoppy beers are sharp and crisp but this one had enough roasted grains to create a little pillow for the hop mountain to rest on.  With that being said, there were still plenty of hops to go around in the taste.  A nice hop blast right away led into a bitter finish.  The spicy hops really dominated with their bitter aromas and tastes.

This beer blew my socks off, I finished the bomber and immediately wanted another to be waiting for me in my fridge.  The 8.7% is hidden better than any black/IPA I can remember.  Granted if I had more than 1 I might have to take a small nap to dream about the greatness I had just experienced.  This is a brew that is going to be a regular in my fridge for a long, long time.  This was what I was wanting and more from Stone and they delivered in a way that I couldn’t have imagined.

Final Grade: A+