Archive | September, 2011

Brew Review: Dark Knight

23 Sep

Brew: Dark Knight

Brewed by: Barley John’s Brewpub (New Brighton, MN)

Style: Porter (TBD ABV%)

 

I think this is the brew that Barley John’s is most proud of. I think they are trying to tout it like Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout or Surly’s Darkness. That signature beer that is only available every once in a while during the year which makes it highly sought after. Needless to say I was pretty excited when the nice girl I was with decided that she would have another beer so I could have another as well.

Oh boy lets just say that moment I saw this one I knew it was going to be one of those ones that you have to sit for at least 20-30 minutes to really enjoy and appreciate (also the fact that this probably has somewhere between 10-17% ABV which also keeps you in your seat for a while too). It came to me in a 10 oz glass that you couldn’t see through, this pitch black brew looked like something you would take out of a witches cauldron. There was a little dark tan head on this as well. The smells coming off of this beer could be detected a mile away. There was a ton of bourbon in this beer, you could pick that up the second the tap was opened on it. For the most part the beer was dominated by alcohol and roasted grains.

The bourbon taste is huge on the first sip. It flows all over the place. The roasted grains continue and there is some chocolate in there as well. There is some warming effects because of the booze. In the end you could really taste the chocolate once the booze had evaporated. The taste was big and huge, there was a lot going on. It was a bit undercabonated though, which sort of let the booze sit on the tongue for a bit longer than needed.

This brew wasn’t as thick and chewy as I would have hoped. It said it was a double fermented porter, I don’t know what that did in the brewing process, I think I will have to read up on double fermentation. I would have probably used a stout for this beer. The porter didn’t hold its ground to the bourbon. The fact that they aged it 12 months might have been a bit much. If this porter would have spent like 4-6 months in the barrels that might have been better. If this was a heavier stout it might have stood up to the 12 months in the barrel. Overall there was too much booze and not enough body in this Knight.

 

Final Grade: B

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Brew Review: McChouffe Brown Ale

23 Sep

Brew: Belgian Brown Ale

Brewed by: Brasserie d’achouffe (Achouffe, Belgium)

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale (8.0% ABV)

 

Oh boy, I splurged on this one here. Went into the store and saw a Belgian brown that looked like a big bad beer with a little gnome/elf guy on the label and thought I had to have it. It sat around awhile in the basement while I tried to decide what the best day was to break this special one out. Finally decided to break this out on a bright Saturday, it felt good to bring it out on a Saturday, it meant it was a special beer for a special day.

This brew poured out a dark murky red/brown. It looked a little like swamp water, but the swamp water that doesn’t have stuff floating in it like twigs or leaves. There was a very small rich light brown head, kind of like a light chocolate mousse.

The smell was less than stellar. There were some watery malts and a faint light hop aroma. Lets just say that with the way this beer looked I was expecting a lot more from the aroma here. Something that you could really get your nose into and find something new and exciting every time you did.

The taste I was hoping could make up for poor showing by the aroma. There were some sweet malts, it started off ok. Little booze, I kind of expected this from how dank the beer looked. The rest however was so light and airy that it never made up for the weak aroma. Thats not to say that it wasn’t all good. It was light on the tongue, I tasted some pears and apples, which I seem to keep finding in Belgian brews. But overall I was expecting a big dark thick chewy brown ale. One that 8% would be worthy of.

Ill be honest I was not happy that I spent the 8 or 9 bucks on the bottle that I did. I could have gotten something much better most likely. I wanted something big a juicy to stick to my ribs. I think once again I should try to leave expectations behind and enjoy the beer I have in front of me because regardless there is something I am going to find in any beer that I enjoy, takes pears and apples for example.

 

Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: Old 8 Porter

19 Sep

Brew: Old 8 Porter

Brewed by: Barley John’s Brewpub (New Brighton, MN)

Style: Porter (8.0% ABV)

 

Like I mentioned in the Wild Brunette entry there were more to come from Barley John’s brewpub. No point in beating around the bush, might as well just jump right in.

This porter came to me a deep dark rich black. There was a thick rich looking tan head. Probably some of the darkest foam I have seen in a long time. The look alone was enough to make me want to drink this beer. If a porter was supposed to look a certain way, I think Barley John’s got it right. Thick rich and with a nick rich dark foam top.

The aroma was also what you would expect from a big and rich porter. There were tons of big roasty smells. Chocolate, coffee, roasted grains, and even some some fruits deep down in there. The smells alone from this brew could fill you up with how rich it is.

Tasting this beer was like putting together the smell and the look of it and taking it up a notch. It was full of rich roasty flavors. All these malts and roasted grains turned into coffee and chocolate hints that were thickly swirled in the chewy big bodied brew. There was a little warming finish because of the alcohol but in no way was it unpleasant.

This was a creamy big bodied brew that took a while to finish, not one you would want to drink fast as it stands at 8% but as it sits and warms more of the chocolate and fruit flavors arise. This was a great porter, it had the big body you would expect, it was creamy and a great looking beer with a great head that left some awesome lacing on the side of the glass all the way down.

 

Final Grade: A-

Annual Stock House Beerfest 2011

13 Sep

What: Stock House Beerfest

When: Annually in the middle or end of July

The Stock House Beerfest, this event happens every summer about ¾ of the way through. Back in the old days we had a neighbor that brewed his own beer who lived across the alley from us and we would stroll over to the beerfest every July/August and my dad would have a great time drinking awesome beer while I would drink the (actually really damn good) root beer that Curt would make for the kids. Well these last couple years I have had the privilege to be old enough to drink beverages otherwise restricted to me in the past. So this year, 2011, there were 17 drinks on tap for the event. For a homebrewer that is unreal. He makes all his own beer in his basement and he was able to come up with, store, brew, present and everything else that goes into having a party with 17 different kinds of beer! Amazing. I want to give you an idea of what his basement looks like because its also amazing.  Ribbons, medals, trophies and anything else you can imagine that you would win for entering a beer making competition. Now imagine that covering all the walls and available space in an entire basement. This guy has more awards than I have even tried different beers in my life. To put it simply, he is the real deal. And this isn’t even his job, he has a full time job and this is just a hobby. I can only imagine what this guy could do if he was given the opportunity to have access to a real brewery and spend his whole day coming up with new brews and perfecting the ones he’s already made.

On to the beer. So out of the 17 beverages on tap, 1 was rootbeer, one was a mead, one was a ‘pinot gris pyment’ (whatever that is) and one was a wine cooler (most likely for the ladies). So I stayed away from those. So out of the 17 I was willing to try 13 and would have had them all if I hadn’t been stranded there by the people I came with and had to drive myself home afterwords. I ended up sampling 9 different types of beers. I will give you the list (in the order in which I drank them) and a short description and a grade I would give it.

  1. Saison IPA, a hopped up saison style, this was a hazy Belgian looking beer, with Belgian yeasts on the nose, bananas/cloves. Yellow, not much head. Fruity, hoppy saison style beer, reminded me of curbside from Goose Island. There was a little booze on the end, 7.0% ABV—-B+
  2. BIPA, Black IPA, hopped up roasted IPA. A murky dark brown brew, with a nice tan head. Lots of roasted malts and a little bit of bitter hops in the aroma. The flavor followed suit, lots of malts and roasted notes not a ton of hops, reminded me of Summits Great Norther Porter. There needed to be more hoppy oils in this supposed black IPA (maybe i’ve been spoiled by Stone Brewing). 6.5% ABV— B-
  3. Scottish 60, a session scotch ale. This had a dark amber color small off-white head. Taste was sweet malts, some peated scotch in there. The aroma was mostly the sweet malts. I was hoping for more of the scotch presence but in a session ale that would be tough. 3.5% ABV – B-
  4. Robust Porter, his traditional offering of a porter style ale (these are the ones he really excels at). Dark brew, almost black, little tan head out of the tap. Tons of chocolate and roasted flavors. This was a great porter, it was thick and chewy everything a traditional porter should have. Reminded me of a better version of the Summer GNP. Hit all the right notes and there was nothing negative about it. 6.5% ABV – A-
  5. Strong Bitter, an English bitter beer. Light creamy amber color, light white head. The aroma was dominated by some sweet malts but the fruity hops took over. The taste followed suit, this was an extremely well balanced brew. The malts played a great Robin to the hops Batman. It was a great dark character beer with a very easy light drinkable feel to it. 6.0% ABV – A (best in show in my opinion)
  6. Altbier, a malty German affair. Reddish muddy brown. Dominated by malts, sweet on the nose and in the taste. He compared it to Alaskan Amber but I thought it was sweet (and much better) than that. 5.8% ABV – B
  7. Imperial Stout, huge roasty strong stout. Another one of his dark beers where he really puts forward a good product. Was oily black, pitch-like, had a nice dark tan head that stuck around. There were dark fruits, sweet and roasted malts, chocolate on the nose. The dark fruits realy stuck around or the taste, that was the best part in my opinion. There were tons of chocolate and roasted notes in there as well. This wasn’t the bitter stout that is typical for the style, he really got a sweet beer in the end here which I really enjoyed. This didn’t drink very heavy either but left a slick coating in the mouth. There was a little booze in the taste as well. 10.0% ABV – A-
  8. Spruce Ale, caramel malts and spruce tips. Murky golden color. Malts and some earthy hops in the aroma. There were mostly sweet malts in the taste. Didnt know where I was supposed to find these spruce tips, dont think I ever did. 4.2% ABV – B-
  9. Double IPA, he compared it to Avery Maharaja. A yellow amber color, definitely some roasted grains in the color, somewhat caramel-like. Fruity hops in the nose, floral, citrus. Some malts as well, but it is a DIPA. Taste was hoppy, there were high IBU’s in this one. A bitter hop punch came through but not overpowering. I wouldnt say this is the Maharaja but more like Masala Mama at the Town Hall Brewery in MPLS. Which in my opinion is better, this was much more balanced than the Maharaja and I think the Masala is one of the best IPA’s out there. 8.0% ABV – A

So that was it. I spent a solid 2 hours trying these beers. Had some great conversations with new people, even scored an invite with the brewer himself to go brew a batch together at some point this fall. I wish I still lived right across the street because I would have stayed all night, tried the rest of the beers and probably tried to finish some of them off for him. I missed out on his self-proclaimed WIPA or ‘white IPA’ which was the opposite of the BIPA he said. I heard that was actually quite good. And there were a couple others that I wasn’t too bummed about missing out on but still would have loved to try. I will give you my top 3 here in sort-of order:

  1. Strong bitter
  2. Double IPA
  3. Imperial Stout

The bitter sneaked into the top spot just because it was so well balanced and really it came to be the best all around beer. It was really the only one I had nothing I wanted to improve on. I really liked how balanced the DIPA was and how it reminded me of the Masala Mama and the imperial stout being as fruity as it was made it a real treat.

I honestly cannot wait for next year and wish that he would do this like 2 or 23 more times in a year. But I’m glad I get a chance to go brew with him at some point, maybe I will come up with a beer half as good as these and I will be very pleased and proud of myself.

Overall grade for Stock House Beerfest 2011: A+

Brew Review: Staghorn Oktoberfest

13 Sep

Brew: Staghorn Oktoberfest

Brewed by: New Glarus BrewingCo. (New Glarus, WI)

Style: Marzen/Oktoberfest (6.25% ABV)

 

It’s September now and the oktoberfest and marzen style beers come out to play. It’s a great time in a traditional beer sense. The festivals that marked the harvest were times to bring out the last batch of beer brewed before the weather got to hot to brew during the summer months. The weather turns a little cooler and these beers will warm you up with their malt profiles and stick to your ribs as you gear up for another cold winter.

Another offering from New Glarus, this one is highly rated and I was excited to try it. The only error I might have made was when I decided to pull it out of the fridge it had turned into a pretty nice summer day which meant I didn’t need a heavier beer of this type but I still enjoyed it anyway.

The Stag poured out a darker orange/brown color with a little hazy bit of yellow shining through. Sort of a see-through caramel color. There was a fair amount of head to it, I believe their website tells you to pour so a big head comes up so the smell really wafts out at you.

The smells coming off of this beer were very traditional oktoberfest ones. Lots of bready malts and that sweet lager/malt smell as well. There was a touch of spicy hops that rounded it out.

The sweet malts again showed up in the taste, this is as solid an oktoberfest as you can come by. The sweet malts give this one a heavier drinking feel. Something that will keep you warm while football is on and the grill is ready with some nice German food. The thing that I really enjoyed was how creamy this beer was, that was an added bonus.

The malts end up dominating this beer in typical oktoberfest fashion, however I was expecting more a sweeter finish. This one just sort of ended with the lager taste lingering which wasn’t the best. The alcohol is hidden well and this beer is probably a Wisconsinites favorite during the autumn weekends.

 

Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Wild Brunette

12 Sep

Brew: Wild Brunette

Brewed by: Barley John’s Brewpub (New Brighton, MN)

Style: Wild Rice Brown Ale (7.2% ABV)

Thank you Google maps for helping me out on finding this one. Typed in ‘brew’ in there and this place popped up. I had no idea it was 15 minutes away from me until about a month ago and I finally took a trip up there with a special lady. Tried a few of their brews so you’ll see a couple more from there on here in the near future.

On to the Wild Rice Brown Ale, don’t think I have ever seen a beer made with Wild Rice. When I looked at their website this was the one I wanted to try the most since it had that rice in there. It came out to me in an imperial pint glass (one of a few really good parts about this place: big beers) and it was much darker than I was expecting. It was a rich brown/black color, something you would probably see with a porter and not a brown ale. There was a little red in there as well. There was a solid half inch cream colored head that lingered around for most of the beer.

Needless to say I was excited to try this one after I saw it. There were lots of roasted malts when I smelled it. It smelled like a porter would, lots of heavy roasted aromas and sweet stick malts in there. I also picked up a dark fruity smell as well.

Now on to the tasting, it was a creamy drinking beer. I don’t think it was from a cask but it sort of felt that way. The taste was complex but worth the drive. There were the expected roasted flavors, some coffee chocolate in there. But the thing that was most unique was that there were tangy tart fruit flavors as well. It really changed the game with those flavors. There was also a little wisp of hops in there as well, just enough to complement and stay in the background.

This is not a normal brown ale, its darker, roastier, fruitier, tangy, lots of words that you would describe a porter with. However it didn’t drink like a porter, it wasn’t super thick, and it had that creamy refreshing brown ale presence as well. I guess this would probably be the most like a ‘light’ porter if you could label a beer like that. Either way, it was great. Totally new spin on one of the classic styles of beer. Not difficult to drink in any way and overall a complex and rewarding beer. I would defnitely go back just for this one.

Final Grade: A

Brew Review: Daisy Cutter Pale Ale

9 Sep

Brew: Daisy Cutter Pale Ale

Brewed by: Half Acre Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)

Style: Pale Ale (5.2% ABV)

 

The Daisy Cutter, I got a nice four pack from Jim, down there in the Chi, I didn’t really know what to expect from this beer. Jim usually gravitates towards the unique and interesting brews so a regular pale ale was a bit unexpected from him. However, knowing that he liked it and that he gave it to me knowing I might like it there had to be something different about it that separated it from the pack.

The cutter poured out a hazy golden yellow orange mix. It was definitely hazy which gave it sort of a hefe or Belgian look, not something you would expect out of an American Pale.

Right away on the first sniff, this beer stands out from other pale ales. There is a nice addition of hops to this brew that put it at an almost IPA level. However, the hops scents are not overpowering and blend nicely with the rest of the beer. The hops show up in aromas like pine, and spice and a little floral/fruit. This is definitely hoppier than a normal pale ale.

On tasting this there is a difference from the aroma, the malts show up first and are bold. There is some definite sweetness to the brew right off the bat. However, the bitterness of the hops do show up after the initial sweetness. It is nicely blended with the bitterness showing up a little more and creating a quasi IPA or a hoppy pale.

I would say that a fresh can of this is ideal. Since I had 4 I have been able to track the way it ages, though its only been about a month, and the fresh can had the best hop aromas and flavors and the beer looses some punch if you let it sit around. This beer is an all-around solid beer and the addition of more hops makes it a little unique in its Pale Ale category. However you need to have it fresh, I would love to see what this one tastes like on tap.

 

Final Grade: A-

 

Brew Review: Leffe Blonde

8 Sep

Brew: Leffe Blonde

Brewed by: Abbaye De Leffe S.A. (Dinant, Belgium)

Style: Belgian Blonde Ale (6.6% ABV)

 

A classic, the flagship of the Abbaye De Leffe brewery. This Belgian blonde is available throughout the world and anybody who is going to start tasting Belgian brews should have this at least once. I tried this one for the first time when I was actually in Belgium, don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have when I was there. But lucky for me I get a second chance (and many more if I wanted to go spend the cash).

It poured out a clear golden yellow. A lot clearer than I remembered/expected, I was looking for something a little more hazy and full of yeasty sediment, but there was none to be found. Even without the haze and yeast this beer still rocked the aroma. This is a classic Belgian smell if I ever smelled one. It brought me right back to the center of Brussels and tasting some of the best beers in the world. There were yeasty funky Belgian smells, the classic bananas and cloves, some peppery spices as well. There was a ton going on in the nose. I even picked up a little bit of apple, which reminded me of Duvel, another Belgian classic.

The taste was light, and bubbly. There was a decent head on the brew which shows this beer has good carbonation in it. It felt like the quintessential Belgian blonde/pale ale. However it was a little heavier than the color would suggest, it tasted like there should have been more by the way of haze and opaqueness. The typical Belgian tastes jumped out at me right away as well. There were bananas, yeasts, some spices and sweet floral malts that all came together. There was no bitterness to the beer at all, nothing off-putting either.

This was a solid all-around beer. A classic of the Belgian blonde/pale genre. It has been perfected over a long time and the brewers have blended the yeasts and sweet grains to perfection. A classic benchmark that any other brewer has to achieve when brewing Belgians.

 

Final Grade: B+

 

Brew Review: American Amber Ale

1 Sep

Brew: American Amber Ale

Brewed by: Rogue Ales (Newport, OR)

Style: Amber Ale (5.6% ABV)

 

Anytime I am in the liquor store I seem to never want to pass up an opportunity to pick up these Rogue beers. It must be that they always have like 4 or 5 bombers there of different sorts that always sound really interesting that makes me want to pick anything that comes along (that’s relatively inexpensive) without even caring if it’s good or not. Well that happened again with this Amber ale. The last amber I tried was the Avalanche amber and that one wasn’t really the best. So maybe subconsciously I am searching for an amber that really hits the spot.

The American Amber sat in my pint glass a deep amber color, with a touch of reddish brown in there. It was a great looking beer, this one was off to a good start. There was a small off-white head on there that didn’t last very long.

The smell was also amazing, there were some sweet fruits in there with a little bit of a hop presence, some citrus aromas. There was also a faint bit of roasted grains in there, which is par for the amber course and something I really liked about this beer. They took some unique things, the hops on the nose and added in the classics of the style, the faint roasted grains and the sweetness of the malts.

For the taste there were some fruity flavors that I could detect along with a little bitterness from those hops. Rogue blended them perfectly and none really stole the show, they worked in harmony together. A wonderfully balanced beer. It was a medium bodied beer with a little bit of a lighter feel to it, probably due to the hops balancing out the heavy effect that malts can sometimes have.

This was a perfectly balanced beer with a little unique flavor/style in there with the hops and fruits that showed up. It was an easy beer to take down, one that I would recommend for a cooler summer evening or a nice autumn day. Probably the best Amber ale I have had, but who knows there might be better ones out there.

 

Overall Grade: A-