Archive | August, 2011

Brew Review: Grolsch Premium Lager

30 Aug

Brew: Grolsch Premium Lager

Brewed by: Grolsche Bierbrouwerij (Enschede, Holland)

Style: European Pale Lager (5.0% ABV)


From a request I dug into my fridge and found a beer that is much easier to find yourself and therefore more of a common man’s brew. Needless to say I haven’t been to the liquor store for too long otherwise I probably would have had a better selection of common brews. Grolsch is a pale lager that has been produced in some fashion since 1615. So its got some staying power, which means lots of people like this beer.

It poured out a very clear, pale yellow. Very clear, made me think of yellow water actually. Maybe not the best idea that comes to mind when your about to drink something but hey, I know I’ve had worse. There was a decent sized light white head, it settled within a minute but the bubbles never stopped rising on this one, it was well carbonated. Let’s face it though, the carbonation is one of the reasons we drink beer, because its just one more thing that water doesn’t have.

The aroma that came off this beer was what you would expect, the skunky, funky lager smell that we here in America can associate with Bud and Miller staples. There were some pale malt smells in there as well, but overall that typical lager smell and mostly water.

The first sip had some sweet malts, a little hop presence that balanced this brew nicely. There are apparently some bittering and aroma hops used in the brewing process of this one, of which I guess I picked up a little of each but I think they were just there to balance out the pale malts. There was some bread tastes as well from the malts.

This is a very easy drinking beer. It has a little sweetness to it, some light grassy hops. A very crisp refreshing brew, nothing really offensive about it. It has been around for literally centuries and it has been popular that whole time, I would say that they got a winner here. This beer does exactly what its supposed to: appeals to the masses, with crisp subtly flavors that make it enjoyable for everyone. For the most part though its a bland beer that will be consumed in mass quantities on Friday and Saturday nights by people who think they are too good for a Keystone or Natural light and got too much money to spend on a beer that’s maybe a step up from those two.


Overall Grade: C+

Brew Review: 120 Minute IPA

30 Aug

Brew: 120 Minute IPA

Brewed by: Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales (Milton, DE)

Style: Imperial IPA (15.0 – 20.0% ABV depending on the batch)

My first Dogfish Head review, actually the first one I have sat with long enough to write up some notes on and now I get to share. There were a few more on a select night this summer but too many to keep track of and therefor no blogs about them, a shame really because there were some really special brews that were a once in a lifetime sort of a deal. Oh well, whats lost is lost and I can only look forward to being a part of something like that again, on to the one I took home with me.

The 120 minute IPA needs some introducing. Straight from the Dogfish website: “Brewed to a colossal 45-degree plato, boiled for a full 2 hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month & aged for another month on whole-leaf hops!!!” To say the very least this has lots of hops in it. Like a ridiculous amount of hops. Its hard to describe in words how many hops go into this beer. They only brew this thing every so often so I am very fortunate enough to have gotten my hands on one. Many thanks to Jim for that.

The 120 poured out a deep rich amber/red color. For having so much stuff crammed into it, it was still quite clear. An excellent looking brew, it had a little white head that didn’t stick around very long. It was hard to ignore the huge blast of hops coming off of this brew the second I poured it out. There were spicy and grassy hops that dominated. You could also detect the alcohol coming off of this beast right away in the aroma. There were still lots of malts to back up the tremendous amount of hops it held. There were some sweet notes in there because of all the malts.

On the first sip it was a flavor detonation in my mouth. The hops were very bitter, tart, oily, spicy. Basically any word that you can think of when you taste hops showed up in that first sip. The nice part about this blast was that there was some residual sweetness that sort of balanced out the hops. Its hard to balance that much completely but there was some that this didn’t make you think you were eating some pine needles or a bar of soap. This was a thick brew. Not for the faint of heart or tongue. It drinks much heavier than it looks. The alcohol is very present, it would be tough to mask anything from 15 – 20%. All those oily hops make this feel a little syrupy on the tongue. Needless to say, this is a beer that would be impossible to drink fast. Any person that thinks they can beer bong anything has met their match. I think Frank the Tank would probably blow chunks if he tried to chug this monster.

You have to come into this beer prepared, have a game plan. If you are up for the challenge, this can be an amazing experience. In the words of Scar, be prepared. A huge hop bomb. The west coast has some catching up to do if it wants to keep its reputation as the hop bomb capital of America.

Final Grade: A-

Brew Review: Devil Dancer

26 Aug

Brew: Devil Dancer

Brewed by: Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)

Style: Triple IPA (12.0% ABV)


“When you dance with the Devil, the Devil don’t change. You do.” I guess that could be considered a warning for this beer. The first ‘triple IPA’ that I have found, it tempted me (maybe that has to do with the Devil part) as I enjoy big hoppy beers. This brew came from Founder’s Brewing which has produced some great beers and I was hoping this one would follow suit.

It poured out an amazing rich red amber color with some orange mixed in there. A great looking beer. Just by the look of it you can tell that there are a ton of malts in here to make up for the loads of hops that they continually dry-hopped this beer for 28 straight days with.

The smell is full of hops, grassy, earthy, dank. It’s kind of like when you tour a brewery and they give you a little jar of hops to smell to see what they are like. Obviously not the same thing but its like your smelling a liquid version of the plant. The bitterness of the hops even shows up when smelling this beer. There is also a definite presence of the sweet hops with some caramel mixed in there. Basically you can tell this is going to be a BIG beer by just taking one whiff of it.

The second this beer hits your lips a bitter blast of hops comes with it. Its like a punch in the mouth. That bitterness lasts throughout which is a little off-putting. The hops make this a syrupy oily affair. The 112 IBU’s that the label advertises are obviously present. Its hard to even detect anything else in this beer other than the bitter hops. Not much balance, its a pretty one sided mess. As the beer warms up, there are some more sweet malts that show up. You have to let this one sit because taking this one down fast is pretty much impossible. Its a slow drinking beer all the way through.

For the most part the hop domination is unpleasant. Its a one dimensional beer. Probably exactly what Founders was going for, but they might have pushed the envelope too far on this one. The 12% is present, its a ‘hot’ drinking beer as you can taste the booze the whole time. Might be that this one could turn into something decent if you let it sit for a year or two and let it age into a barley wine or something but as it stands fresh from the brewery this is too much for me. Too many bitter hops assaulting your mouth in this one.


Overall grade: C+

Brew Review: Pepe Nero

19 Aug

Brew: Pepe Nero

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

Style: Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale (6.0% ABV)

One of the pieces of the ‘vintage’ series in Goose Islands line up. This is the a very intriguing beer, its listed as a farmhouse ale, which usually means that its going to be light in color and body and great in the summertime. But the Goose Island website tells me that this is brewed with black peppercorns and is enjoyed with grilled meats and vegetables. These pairings usually show up with a heavier brew, one that might pack more backbone to stand up to these very flavorful foods. Needless to say I was excited to try this one out as I really had no idea what to expect from it.

Pepe Nero poured out a dark thick rich black. Looked more like a porter or lighter stout. There was some reddish hues but for the most part this was a satin black beer. There was a decent finger or two of tan head accompanying the first pour which settled down into a thin layer on top.

The smell was very different than the color would suggest, it smelled like a Belgian farmhouse ale with funky Belgian yeasts, also cloves and bananas. But it also came with some peppery smells mixed in there as well. Obviously this came from the peppercorns that they brewed the beer with but it added a unique layer. There was also a hint of roasted grains, this color didn’t just come out of nowhere.

The first thing I thought when I had my first drink was that this was a much lighter beer than the color would suggest, like I said before this looked like it could be a porter or a stout but it drank like a farmhouse/saison style beer. It was well carbonated but for the most part no flavors really jumped out at me. In all the moments leading up to the first taste I thought there was going to be some bigger flavors than those that showed up. It had a great feel for how dark the brew was but on top of that there was nothing really interesting enough to mention. The only thing that I did really come across that I hadn’t already in the experience was that deep down there if you really looked for them you could taste some dark fruity flavors.

For the most part this was a unique beer, that is until you got around to actually drinking it. It built itself up tremendously but then really failed to live up to its own hype. The black peppercorns add a cool twist and the beer is an excellent smelling affair, I love the way Belgian beers smell. But Goose Island really didn’t come through on the taste. I did accidentally let this one sit in the basement for a couple months, forgetting it was there so that might have had something to do with it. Maybe its better when its fresh, I might get another bottle just to test that theory.

Either way, worth it if it’s on sale but there might be better brews to spend your hard earned $$$ on.

Overall Grade: B-

Brew Review: Totally Naked

19 Aug

Brew: Totally Naked

Brewed by: New Glarus Brewing Co. (New Glarus, WI)

Style: American Pale Lager (4.25% ABV)

My 2nd sampling from across the St. Croix. Totally Naked is actually the first lager style beer that I have reviewed on here, good thing this is a lager that tries to keep it as basic as possible. This beer has been stripped of all frills and oddities and keeps it as naked as possible. Technically an ‘American pale lager’ though I couldn’t tell the difference between any lager bier at this point since I am so unversed in the style. I’d say this is a good one to test my training wheels on.

It pours out like any mass produced lager in the world today, light clear golden color. Somewhat straw-like, yellow. The aroma is not mass produced, however it is very subtle. There isn’t a ton jumping out at me on the first sniff. There is the basic bready lager smell and deep down in it there are some grassy floral hops just barely there.

The flavor follow suit. The classic lager beer taste, bread, pale malts, and quite easy drinking. Those faint hops show up a little more, however in the taste. They come through with some sweetness and keep the body of the beer lighter and bouncy.

Overall, this is a very light drinking beer, great for a BBQ or a hot day outside. New Glarus has actually stripped down beer to its basics and created a very solid, albeit, naked beer. As I have said, I don’t know much about lager,s but this one doesn’t get that skunky smell or taste after it gets a little warmer like most mass produced beers, I think the fact that there are some hops (which have preservative qualities) present keeps the beer from souring so fast. It’s a smooth with a touch of sweet beer from start to finish, a very pleasant beer to drink.

Overall grade: B+

Brew Review: Double Crooked IPA

17 Aug

Brew: Double Crooked IPA

Brewed By: Dark Horse Brewing (Marshall, MI)

Style: Double/Imperial IPA (12.0% ABV)

A gift from a fellow beer lover in Chicago, this came to me a few weeks ago. Somewhat excited for this one as I hadn’t seen it on my local liquor store shelves before so I was glad to have something I couldn’t get on my own. I haven’t even had the Crooked IPA, so the not double one, before so I don’t really know what to expect for this.

It poured out a dark malty color with some red mixed in there. A deep amber if you wanted to go further. There was a fair amount of head on my glass because it got a little bumpy in the car when I was bringing this one home, my guess is that the abundant head is not normal. This is a fair amount darker than I was anticipating for something that claims to be 98 IBU’s and a double IPA, looked a little more like an amber or red ale.

The smell is a mix of hops and malts. There are obviously a ton of hops in this brew that is apparent right off the bat but the malts seem to steal the show overall, there is more sweetness to begin with and residually than I think I would have guessed or expected. There is some definite caramel and toffee smells coming off this beer.

The taste is a bit different, right off the bat there is a ton of bittering hops that take over your mouth. The pine and grassy hops are right there to greet you at the door, but after that initial hop bombing of your taste buds the malt sweetness comes in. I would have expected the hops to stand out on their own especially the way the sip started but the malts really begin to dominate after that first split second. There are lots of hops, they are very bitter that still left me yearning for more hops that would sort of clean up this hop mess that Dark Horse has created. It seems to be one big syrupy soupy hop mess that doesn’t or cant find its own character of being either a true hop bomb, like Hop Stoopid, or a malt forward IPA. The bitterness isn’t balanced and the malts seem to show up and stick out like a sore thumb with no particular place to be.

Final Grade: B

Dogfish Head

17 Aug

Found a pretty sweet article from a couple years ago in the New Yorker about the founder of dogfish head brewing.  a little long but still a good one, if you have time definitely worth something to check out.

Brew Review: Avalanche Amber

3 Aug

Brew: Avalanche Ale

Brewed by: Breckenridge Brewery (Denver, CO)

Style: Amber Ale (4.4% ABV)


A classic in the craft beer world, this brew has been around for almost 30 years, dating back to the 1980’s. I originally had this as a part of a mix ‘n match back in college and enjoyed it immensely then, lets just say my tastes have grown up with the rest of me.

This brew poured out a hazy red/amber color. It was a little lighter than I was hoping/expecting, I wanted more of a dark amber that had lots of roasted grains in there. I have to remember though that this is a beer that has been around for a long time and when it came out was probably quite dark compared to almost anything on the shelves.

The aroma was mainly malts, there was a definite caramel presence in there. Not much by way of hops that I could pick out. Maybe a little bittering in there to provide a slight balance but not much.

The taste followed the aroma however the hops were a little more noticeable in this part. The caramel of the malts was still the main player with some grassy/lemony hops showing up for a second. It also left a slight bitter taste in the mouth so we know there are some hops in this recipe.

This is a classic on the Amber style. It is mass produced at this time so if Breckenridge wanted they could probably create a smaller batch version and really mix it up with this base. The mass quantities make it an unimpressive ale. I kept getting the same flavors as that of my recent homebrew experiment with a red ale. Either I did something much better than I thought or Breckenridge really didn’t come through on this one. For the most part this is a refreshing brew, though not dark enough, that goes down smooth and I wouldn’t pass it up if I were at a bar.


Overall grade: C+

Brew Review: Brew Free or Die

1 Aug

Brew: Brew Free or Die

Brewed by: 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA)

Style: IPA (7.0 % ABV)


Beer from a can, usually means it is to consumed in mass quantities and not enjoyed for any of the taste. There are more and more craft breweries that taking the can and putting their tasty brews in them. Some prefer bottles, I don’t care for discrimination so I picked up this brew really because I know it is brewed in Cold Spring MN and I support all things ‘Sota.

It poured out of its nicely designed can a light straw color, very crisp and typical for an IPA. There was a surprising thick rich head off the first pour. To preface the rest of this review, it says right on the can that this is an IPA with ‘a solid malt backbone.’ So that comes into play both with the aroma and the taste.

The malts showed up for sure in the aroma of the beer. There were bitter, citrus and grassy hops in there as well. It says it has a malt backbone, which is very evident but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any hops in there, this brew pushes 70 IBU’s and true to IPA style, the hops are a big part of the brew.

The taste follows suit with the aroma nicely. There are hops present, those bitter one show up right away and the citrus/grassy ones seem to take a backseat to the bitterness on the hop side. There were definitely a lot of malts to counteract the bitterness which created an evenly balanced brew. I was expecting more of a hop bomb seeing as how this brew came from the West Coast and the expectation is big hoppy beers from over there.

This was a hoppy brew, just not as hop packed as some might expect. The malts were a definite part of the beer, the backbone really shows for this one. There really isn’t anything that jumps out at me from this one, nothing really sets it apart. A solid IPA, but nothing extra special.


Final Grade: B-