Archive | September, 2012

Brew Review: Detour

28 Sep

Brew:  Detour

Brewed by: Unita Brewing Co. (Salt Lake City, UT)

Style: Double IPA (9.5% ABV)

 

A brew from the Mormon heartland that is Salt Lake City.  I had heard rumblings that this somewhat backwards state had finally started to let its people brew beer above a certain ABV percentage, bout time I say.  I also heard however, that actually finding those stronger beers in Utah was harder than it was in other states.  Needless to say this beer had traveled a lot by the time I opened it.  I’ll start at the beginning.  It was brewed in Salt Lake City, was shipped to Chicago, I bought it in Chicago.  I returned home to Minneapolis with it in my possession and then went on a road trip out to Colorado to go skiing with some friends with this brew in tow.  Needless to say it might have been easier to find it in Denver and then just drink it at a much fresher date, but I brought it out on this trip to share with some ski buddies after a long day on the slopes.  This beer has been to more states than probably most Americans. 

Well on to the beer.  The Detour poured out a clear amber or copper color, a really solid looking double IPA.  You could tell that there was plenty of malt sweetness to back up what was an expected generous portion of hops.  Very clear which was noted.  There was also an inch of slightly off-white head that rose up from the brew making this a really good looking beverage.

The smell was full of hops.  The most resonant aroma was pine with some lighter grassy hops in there but mostly pine.  As some others of the group said, “I used to think that this kind of beer smelled and tasted like soap and gin.”  Gotta love the new drinker’s first takes on IPA’s.  There were some sweet sugars that poked their head up through the foam but I gotta give the W to the hops in the aroma here.

The first taste was filled with bittering hops.  Not in an overpowering or sticky way but in a great double IPA left-hop to the chin.  The bitterness was not extreme and you could notice the balance that the brewers found with the grains and sweet malts.  It was deceptively light and smooth while tasting and it never once felt as if I still had half a sip sticking to the roof of my mouth like some other heavy IPA’s are wont to do (looking at you Stone brewery). 

This is a double IPA all the way through.  Great hop character but with the cranked up hops comes the increased sweet malts as well which were well balanced.  Not as floral or fruity as maybe I have been spoiled on (Abrasive) but still everything had its place and it all fit together well.  Solid brew, maybe not worth the whole cork and cage and probably 7-9 bucks you’ll pay for it when there are plenty of other really good double IPA’s out there.

 

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Blasphemy

27 Sep

Brew: Blasphemy

Brewed by: Weyerbacher Brewing Co. (Easton, PA)

Style: Quadruple (11.8% ABV)  

 

Weyerbacher out of PA distributes to MN which is great although I for some reason haven’t really jumped on any of their releases.  I have tried one or two here and there like the Double Simcoe IPA but nothing else has really stood out to me.  I am hoping that this 750 mL along with another one I picked up will bring me on the bandwagon of trying some more of Weyerbachers brews.   Quads are usually a style that, while not impossible, a little harder to approach than other since they are so rich and complex, but here goes.

Blasphemy poured out a dark copper color.  Burnt orange, red and brown all thrown together, looks like a brooding storm of flavor.  There is a lot of visible carbonation that rises to the top and forms a nice half inch head of off-white or very light tan head with some flecks of sediment in it. like a faintly speckled egg.

The aroma is big and bold.  Tons of fruits like apples and pears and some raisins and other darker varieties.  The malts show up as well showcasing some caramel and a very small note of chocolate.  The Belgian-style yeast strain they used produced some very nice aromas with plenty of depth.

The taste was big right off the bat.  Plenty of the flavors you would expect from a big quad.  Starting with booze, a mild warming effect in my mouth and down into the gut.  Along with booze was more caramel, dark fruit and some earthy hop taste as well.  The booze was present more than anything but it wasn’t off-putting by any means, like I mentioned it was more of a warming effect but it was still present, possibly shutting out other flavors trying to get through in this beer.  It was not as thick or heavy drinking as I would have thought by looking at it.  It was more of a medium body which was a nice change that allowed me to drink more of the 750 than I was expecting (although I was sharing it with a couple friends). 

Overall, a very smooth and enjoyable beer.  The booze was present and could have been less so but it wasn’t negative to the brew all together.  The body of the brew was also a plus, not heavy and lighter than expected.  I could have used more of a roasted taste in the brew along with some more bitterness either from hops or more of a chocolate bitterness.  Not a ton but just enough to cut through some of the sweetness that this beer showcased.

 

Final Grade: B+

Brew review: Eurotrash Pilz

27 Sep

Brew: Eurotrash Pilz

Brewed by: Southern Tier Brewing Co. (Lakewood, NY)

Style: Pilsner (5.2% ABV)

 

The Southern Tier Brewing Co. based in NY has become a decent player in the craft beer world over the last few years.  Their Pumking is a celebrated seasonal release among other great brews.  The Eurotrash Pilz is another seasonal release that I figured I would try since I haven’t been very receptive to lagers and pilsners since they tend to taste like Bud or Natural light to my unrefined self.  So I was hoping that Eurotrash would lead me by the hand out of the shadows of macro produced light beers.

The Eurotrash poured out a very clear yellow color.  If this beer was to distinguish itself from a macro lager it was going to have to do it in another way other than the look.  Looked exactly like the piss-beer that comes out of a natty or keystone light can.  Not really much of a head which was also fairly disappointing.  Hoping this brew smells and tastes better than it looks.

The aroma is faint.  Although I do pick up on some noble hops, my guess would be saaz hops but since it is so faint I couldn’t be sure.  A bready toast smell also wafts up giving me more of an impression of mass production and beer bongs.  A tint of skunk shows up like a lager but not much, thankfully.

The taste is very much like a true lager or pilsner up front with some bread and very small hints of hops.  The hops are evident which is nice and leads this brew towards dry end of things.  Once again not a ton of flavor showing up here, similar to the aroma.

A very smooth and crisp pils.  Stylistically it was right on but nothing really shown itself as being unique or really good.  Sorry to say but big beer has tainted my brain into thinking that this is just a step up from their macro produced crap and therefore leads me to think that this beer tastes too much like them so that I am unable to enjoy it all on its own.

Final Grade: B-

 

Brew Review: Hopslam

26 Sep

Brew: Hopslam

Brewed by:  Bells Brewery, Inc. (Kalamazoo, MI)

Style: Double IPA (10.0% ABV)

 

One of everybody’s favorite releases in the late winter from Bell’s.  Hopslam causes a rush at the liquor store and an absence of cash from your pocket as a 6-pack of this runs you about 16 bucks.  This is a double IPA that is brewed with honey that has captured America’s hop-loving hearts anywhere Bells is distributed.

Hopslam pours out a yellow or light orange color.  It looks more like a pilsner or lager than a double IPA which can sometimes tend to more of a dark orange or copper color.  A decent half inch head rises up from the beer.  Not super impressive. Either way, the look of this beer isn’t really what concerns me, it’s what’s next that really counts. 

Oh boy, the aroma that comes off of this beer is inspiring.  Hops that literally slam your nose with fruit and floral notes.  Grapefruit, mango, peaches everything.  There is also some earthy hop notes as well that I think might be both from the hops as well as the honey.  The hops don’t let anything else shine through but in my opinion that really doesn’t matter as the hops smell marvelous.  There is a hint of sweet honey but very faint.  A great smelling beer.

After smelling this brew I was really excited to taste this liquid slice of hop. There is bitterness up front mixed with sweet honey for a decent first taste.  The amazing tropical fruit onslaught that hit me in the nose didn’t immediately follow in the taste.  It was dominantly bitter to begin with.  After a minute the fruit and floral notes did come back but not as aggressively as I was hoping for.  With the massive additions of hops to this brew it would have been hard to subdue the bitterness and with 10.0% Bells definitely tried but they didn’t really come super close.  The honey didn’t really set anything off for me but it did add a hint of sweetness that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.

With a touch booze on the back this was a decently balanced brew of which I preferred smelling a bit more than actually drinking the beer.  It was a huge, it really slammed me, with the massive hop additions and the high ABV this isn’t a beer to take lightly but for all you hop-heads out there this is something you will need to find once it comes out next year.  Drink it fast since the hops will only fade over time and this is a tremendous brew fresh.

 

Final Grade: A-

Brew Review: Hop^2

26 Sep

Brew: Hop2

Brewed by: Millstream Brewing Co. (Amana, IA)

Style: Double IPA (7.8% ABV)

 

I believe this might be my first beer from Iowa, our pretty bland and uninspiring neighbors to the south.  Needless to say I haven’t heard a ton of hype from the beer scene in Iowa so I wasn’t expecting much from this brew, although it would be cool to find some sort of diamond in the rough from down there.  I do like the name of the beer being hop squared or Hop2

The Hop2 poured out a deep orange color.  Lots of reds and copper colors flowed into my glass.  A solid looking brew with orange, red and yellow all mixing like leaves during football season.  A nice inch of head appeared on the brew which was also very pleasant.

The aroma of this beer was fairly dull, doesn’t surprise me coming from IA, with some faint floral hops mixed with some malt backing them.  The malts seem to dominate but the nose isn’t really giving any clues one way or the other.  Maybe a touch of honey in there as well.

The taste was very bitter up front.  The hop aspect is obviously present but the bitterness runs wild.  The malts show up in a fashion and try to combat this bitterness but don’t really balance it out in the end.  It is hard to put a finger on this brew if it is a hop-forward double IPA like Abrasive or malt forward like Double Bubble.  It did have a solid sense in the mouth with a medium body and a creamy feel. 

I think if the brewers decided which way they wanted to go with the beer, either highlighting the malts or the hops in this double IPA.  With one aspect to focus on they would have been able to push forward the good aspects of either of the ingredients which would overall simplify and create a better brew.

 

Final Grade: C+

Brew Review: Big Eddy

25 Sep

Brew: Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout (2011 Vintage)

Brewed by:  Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company (Chippewa Falls, WI)

Style:  Russian Imperial Stout (9.5% ABV)

I did a review back in March of 2011 for this brew and found it later on in the year in the bottle at my local shop so I figured would do a review of the more current year’s vintage.  So the one I had on tap at the pub was 2010 and the one I had in the bottle was 2011. My guess is that the recipe didn’t change much, if at all, since this is a macro-brewery run operation in WI and therefore probably streamlining in whatever way possible.  The best part of this brew was the price-tag.  I don’t remember the exact price but it something like $2.99, so not too bad for an RIS which tend to fetch higher prices.

The Big Eddy poured out big and black.  Perfect looking for an imperial stout.  Thick, viscous, black, tar and syrup-like are all words I would use to describe the brew.  Rising up from the depths of this dark pool was a solid half inch of tan foam that looked delicious.

The aroma brought some roasted smells along with deep dark fruits and some faint hops.  The depths brought up more fruits and hidden sweetness.  The faint hops were complimented by some dark chocolate as well.   I was surprised that I didn’t pick up more hops as this brew was still pretty young and therefore fresh.

The brew was sweet on the tongue right away with a touch of bitterness from the hops on the back end.  This is where the brew fell from being good to being alright.  There was not as much roast as I would have preferred and actually look for in this style.  It was also not as rich as I would have enjoyed.  Granted this brew was fresh and the hop presence in the taste was definitely more than wanted. 

Thankfully I did pick up 2 bottles at the same time and I am sitting on one until this next winter when I can crack that open after it ages for a year.  Hopefully the hops will have died down and more layers of complexity will reveal themselves and this brew will rise up in the ranks of Russian imperial stouts.  As compared to the 2010, it did come from a keg and it was probably 3-5 months aged in there so it had improved a bit from this fresh beer.

Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Monk’s Cafe

25 Sep

Brew: Monk’s Cafe

Brewed by: Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.  (Steenberge, Belgium)

Style: Flemish Sour Ale (5.5% ABV)

My first sour review.  I will admit that I am an amateur when it comes to this type of beer.  I have not had  much experience with the style and in the past have tended to avoid it because I enjoy different styles so much that I just neglected to dive into this arena.  A Flemish sour ale, don’t ask me if that represents a specific style of sour.  I know there a few categorizations for sours but I don’t know the differences between them.  I do know that this is brewed for a specific bar in, I believe, PA but don’t quote me on that.

Anyway, on to the actual beer.  Even if I couldn’t give you an in depth history of the style I can at least tell you if I liked the beer, right?  Either way, it poured out with a big huge head, almost too much foam for my glass.  Big loose bubbles rose up out of a deep ruby red brew when held up against the light.  Darker and more brown and mellow when just in normal lighting but it was a good looking beer.  I liked the red. Needless to say there was plenty of carbonation along with a bit of yeast floating around my glass.

The aroma was tart, to say the least.  Cherries also came out of this one along with a faint hint of vinegar.  More tart than anything.  There was a trace of fruit in there as well, maybe some Belgian yeast led to some light fruit like apples or pears.

The taste was surprising, from the aroma I was expecting something that would be so tart my mouth might fold in on itself but that wasn’t the case.  It was tart but not breath-taking by any means.  The tart was present right from the start but there was plenty of sweet that also met my senses. After the initial sour burst the sharp taste faded  and the brew was very mellow.  There was a slight bitterness to the beer and a tangy metallic ping on the end.  Overall, not very sour, but unexpectedly sweet. 

I think this was a great brew to introduce my virgin taste buds to the world of sours to.  It was sour but not extreme in any way.  In my opinion, and that is one that shouldn’t be taken very seriously this was a great brew to test my training wheels on.  If there is somebody out there that wants to approach the world of the sour beer this might be one to consider to start off with.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Rochefort 6

25 Sep

Brew: Rochefort 6

Brewed by: Brasserie de Rochefort (Rochefort, Belgium)

Style: Belgian Strong Ale (7.5% ABV)

 

Some advice was given to me to expand some of the beers that I drink/review into the European sphere with more focus on Belgians since their innovation has really shaped the way the American brewers are brewing these days.  That sounds delightful and if I had a bank account that looked like Warren Buffet’s that wouldn’t be a problem but as it stands now I have to pick and choose my battles with these imports that can be pretty pricey.  I went for the classic Rochfort 6, 8 and 10 to start with, which was enough since each of these bottles are priced between 5-6 bucks depending on where you shop.  Started with the 6 and will work my way up to the 10. 

The 6 poured out a deep rich amber.  It was a dark amber with plenty of brown and deep red mixed in there.   More brown than anything.  Slightly hazy with some yeast sediment floating around.  A light bubbly head, off-white in color, rose up.  Not a huge head but it was kind of cold when I poured this beer.  Not a great looking brew, sort of muddy but par for the Belgian strong course.

The aroma is great; bread, yeast and sweet malts.  Those are mixed in with fruity dark tones like plumbs and raisins.  It is deep and there is a lot swirling about in my nose.  Almost too much to qualify.

The taste brought more bread and more sticky sweet malts.  The dark fruity overtones continue as well with those dark fruits driving the sweet tang even more.  As the brew warms there is a faint roast and hint of chocolate that rise up from the depths. There is a lot of carbonation, almost a bit too much.  The bubbles cleansed some of the deep tastes from my mouth before I could grab onto them.  There is a semi-dry finish to the brew which was surprising for how dark and deep this brew could be but I think the carbonation helped with that.  There was also a slight booze indication in the finish, more like a warming effect.

This brew was really good, not great but I think that complexity and range will only increase as I go up to the 8 and finally the 10.  The chocolate was a pleasant surprise but the carbonation sort of turned me off a little bit.  I’ll keep a few of these on hand in the future, it would be fun to see how it ages as well.

 

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Rainmaker

24 Sep

Brew: Rainmaker

Brewed by: Steel Toe Brewing (St. Louis Park, MN)

Style: Double Red Ale (6.5% ABV)

 

Steel Toe is a newer brewery that opened up in St. Louis Park, MN about a year ago.  I have been out there a couple times for growlers and they have bottles in a few liquor stores in the Twin Cities area.  Overall, I have only heard positive things about this brewery and their head brewer, Jason.  I have gotten a chance to have a few conversations with him and really enjoy talking with him, very down to earth and friendly.   Rainmaker was the first one I filled my growler with from the brewery.  Skipped out on the IPA, dark ale and light offering, those were for a later date.  I really enjoy hopped up red ales so I was hoping another local brewery could give me a local favorite.

Rainmaker poured out a deep amber.  Tons of deep red notes.  Also very clear, no real haze or sediment floating about.  A nice light tan head rises up about an inch from the top of the brew as well. 

Smells exactly like what I was hoping for.  Hops and hops backed by a solid grain bill that lent plenty depth and sugar to the brew.  Not much by the way of roast but solid ‘red’ ale malts that gave the brew more complexity than an all pale malt bill.

The taste was like the aroma.  Great bitterness up front but well balanced by the malts.  The hops were bright and clean.  Not syrupy at all and not cloying in the mouth.  Hop flavors included some pine along with citrus and the obvious bitterness. 

Nothing really amazing or mind blowing about this beer but I love the balance between the northwest hops and the malts in this double red.  The mix of sweet malt and bitter hop are perfect which leaves this brew refreshing as well as tasty. 

 

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Burton Baton

24 Sep

Brew: Burton Baton

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

Style: Imperial IPA (10.0% ABV)

 

Dogfish Head, again.  This is one of their year round releases although it didn’t start that way.  it has been enjoyed by so many that they moved it to year round status so we could all get a chance to experience this one.  With the experiences of the 60, 90 and 120 minute IPA’s under my belt I figured I was up for the 10.0% that was the Burton Baton IPA.  I believe that this brew combines an old ale and an imperial IPA and then ages them on oak for a mellow yet robust IPA.  A very intriguing beer to say the least.

Burton Baton poured out a light amber color with oranges and reds dancing around which made for a deliciously good looking beer.  A nice frothy off-white head rose up from this pleasant brew and stuck around on the glass for the entire session.  A really good looking beer.

The aroma jumped out at me with hops and oak right away.  The hops were the most dominant as this has plenty with the IPA and old ale both contributing plenty. Strong and syrupy smelling I could tell that there was a lot lurking within this beer. The oak did mellow things out a bit and gave a further depth to the beer but the hops were dominant.  A slight backbone of malt did shine through at times but balanced is not a word I would use to describe.

The taste was bitter to begin with.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too intense on the bitterness.  I was expecting there to be not much balance but the sweet malts definitely held up in the face of all those bitter oils from the hops.  The age in the oak definitely mellowed this brew out to a more manageable beer that was remarkably smooth. 

With an old ale and imperial IPA threaded together I was figuring that this brew was going to be a not-so-easy-drinker, but I was definitely proven wrong.  For the style and the ABV this was astonishingly smooth and the alcohol was barely noticeable.  Dogfish really got this brew right in my book. I would take this any day over the 120 or 90 minute IPA since those are just assaults on the senses and balance isn’t really a factor in those.  This is the opposite and in a very good way.

 

Final Grade B+