Archive | October, 2012

Quote of the Week

31 Oct

“From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”
–Saint Arnold of Metz, The patron Saint of Brewers

Beer Event: Darkness Day 2012

29 Oct

Brew Event: Darkness Day 2012

When: October 27th 2012

Where: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Surly’s annual release party of their Russian Imperial Stout Darkness at the brewery.  There was a lot that happened in the span from Friday morning to about 2pm on Saturday afternoon, I will try to recap in as few words as possible.

9am Friday the 26th, I woke up not feeling my best after trying to drown out the sorry excuse the Vikings called a football game they had attempted on Thursday night.  Got a text message from a buddy in Chicago that he wasn’t going to make it today since he has a kid on the way now (congrats) and is buying a house (congrats again) and is therefore a little busy at this time.  Didn’t blame him but I still put out the obligatory, ‘dude, you’re missing out’ message back to him and a picture of all the beer I was planning on bringing to the event laid out like an offering to an ancient God at Delphi.  Needless to say that text might have made him change his mind and about an hour later he was on his way.  Now this was a great turning point because he was planning on bringing some beers that we can’t get a hold of here in MN and I was excited to try some stuff that you can only find down there.  More on why this was a huge pick up later on…

So with the knowledge that he was coming up I rallied the other 2 guys who were going to go with me and we got everything ready to go for the night of trying awesome beers and camping out.  So we rolled up with the trailblazer packed with 4 guys and all our stuff at about 7 o’clock on Friday evening expecting to be fairly close to the beginning of the line, needless to say after some weird guys telling us where we were in the line we figured we were about 500-600 people from the front.  Not as close as we expected but we felt pretty safe on getting at wristband, of which there was only 1,500 so we settled in, cracked our first beers and fired up the grill for some delicious sausages and chips.  Classic camping foods.

So we cracked out first beer, and I will try to give a rundown of what I remember drinking at the end of the story, and ate and probably 2 hours later our buddy from Chicago gets a call.  Turns out that he is a manager at a liquor store in Chicago, pretty sweet, and his distributer buddy is also coming up for the event and he was going to show up in like 45 minutes.  this was the 2nd blessing of having this certain buddy from Chicago make that trip up on a text messaged picture whim.  Not only does he has access to tons of beer as a manager but this buddy of his had a whole distribution network at his finger tips along with all the people he knows from the business.  Our collection of cool beers was now looking pale in comparison to what he and his crew were rolling up with.  So about 30 minutes after that phone call, 5 guys roll up with like 3 or 4 coolers full of beers I have never even seen let alone think about drinking because of how rare they are.  I will try to get to those at the end like I mentioned.

So we now were rolling in a crew of about 8 or 9 guys and trying and sipping what amounted to some of the most ridiculous beer I have ever tried.  Needless to say I was very pleased with this development, it was an added bonus that everybody in our little circle now were pretty cool dudes and everybody was feeling good.

That night we tried plenty of beer, made some cool friends from not only these new Chicagoans but also just the people standing around us in line who were totally into sharing beer and swapping stories, it was a good time.  We hit the hay in the tent around 1 or 1:30 I would guess, I really didn’t check the time when we went to bed.  All I know was that it was freezing and I had a hard time really falling asleep.  Then out of the blue at 6:50 am we get the worst wakeup call of our lives.  We had to have our tent down by 7am so basically we had to get up and get all our crap down and ready to go in 10 minutes.  not fun.  It was still freezing and I had just started to get comfortable in that sleeping bag.  So we packed up, almost started breakfast and then we realized that everybody was compressing the line and walking towards the front.  Thankfully a few of us had the right state of mind to remember to bring a cooler of beers for the eventual wait in the line.  So finally when we stopped compressing we got to stop, play with an awesome golden retriever that was next to us in line and try some more insane beer.

Eventually they passed out the wristbands, which we got with no problem of course, and headed back to camp to try more beers and make some much needed food.  We had bacon, eggs, one leftover sausage and hash browns.  It was pretty jumbled together but that might have been one of the best breakfasts of my life.  The sun had come up and we were finally starting to thaw out as well.  Once about 12:30pm rolled around we packed up the remainder of our stuff and headed into the actual event to sample a couple beers and purchase our 6 bottles of 2012 Darkness.  After trying a couple beers, buying some t-shirts and grabbing our 6 bottles we headed home to take a nap that was long overdue.

To sum it up I got to try some of the most unreal beers ever, stood in line from 7pm to 12:30pm the next day, froze my feet and my nose and my fingers, ate some amazing food, met some really cool people, tried even more crazy beers, woke up far too early and went to bed far too late and had an amazing time doing it all.

Alright now I am going to try and remember all the beers I tried I am going to headline them by where I was or what was happening at the time.  Note – I had more than just these, however these are the only ones I can remember from a continuous string of beers being tried.

When we got there setting up camp and eating dinner:

Founders – Harvest Ale

Indeed Brewing – Day Tripper Pale Ale

Brux- Sierra Nevada and Russian River collaboration

Les Trois Mousquetaires Grande Cuvee Series 2010 Porter Baltique – cant get it in the US and it was one of the highlights of all the beers I had

Stone Russian Imperial Stout – 2012

Bells – This One Goes to 11 Ale

3 Floyds – Rye of the Tiger

Founders – Frangelic Mountain Brown

Founders – Furniture City Stock Ale

3 Floyds/Mikkeller Collaboration – Risgoop

Port Brewing Co. – High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

Walked up the line to the front and some tables where people were sharing whatever they had:

Steel Toe – Before the Dawn

New Glarus – Cranbic

Weyerbacher – Twelve anniversary ale

Fulton – The Worthy Adversary

New Glarus – Black Top

New Glarus – Old English Porter

Back at our campsite with the new guys from Chicago:

Left Hand – Smoke Jumper – Smoked Imperial Porter

Jackie O’s – Funky South Paw

Alaskan Brewing – Perseverance Ale (25 Years)

 Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Armand’4 Zomer (Summer)

3 Floyds – Baller Stout

O’Fallon Brewery –  B.D.S. Belgian Style Dark Ale 

Sierra Nevada – Estate Homegrown Ale

Founders – Nemesis (2010)

3 Floyds – Broo Doo

**note –  these guys loved sour beers so there were plenty I had never heard of as I am not a sour beer aficionado which makes them tough to remember**

In line waiting for a wristband:

Russian river Supplication batch #8

Darkness 2010 vintage, 2011 vintage

Founders Bolt cutter – this isn’t even released yet, like I said these guys were awesome

Why Winter – Two Brothers Brewing (this was in a huge 3L bottle that was passed around like the town bicycle, it was awesome)

Half Acre – Thunder and Son

Homebrew sour from the man with the nice dog we got to meet. Dogs name was Dude.

Back at camp for breakfast and wait to go into the actual event:

Dark lord – 2012 vintage, 2008 vintage

Darkness – more 2010 and 2011

Russian River – Pliney The Elder – bottled in the first week of October so still pretty fresh

Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout – 2005 vintage (maybe the best beer of the whole event)

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout – this bottle had gone bad which was very disappointing

Arcadia Brewing Company (Arcadia Ales) – 15

Mikkeller – Black

AleSmith Brewing Co.  – Speedway Stout

Shorts Brewing Co. – Anniversary Ale

3 Floyds/Mikkeller – Ruggoop

Rogue Ales – Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale (really gross)

Goose Island – Vanilla Bourbon County Stout 2010 vintage

3 Floyds – Zombie Dust

Once we got into the event:

Surly Darkness 2012 – straight from the keg, can’t wait to see how it develops in the bottle

Surly Brett Liquor IPA – IPA fermented with Brett yeast

So that is all I can remember at this time.  I will consult some sources and see if I can get any more on here and update accordingly.  Pretty much I can sum this year’s Darkness Day as awesome.

Brew Review: Hop Henge

25 Oct

Brew: Hop Henge (Bond Street Series)

Brewed by: Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)

Style: American IPA/Double IPA (8.96% ABV)

 

Deschutes Brewery is easily one of my favorite smaller breweries in the world.  One of the first breweries I was introduced to besides Summit here in St. Paul.  I worked out in Idaho for a summer and one of the guys I worked with had a connection with the brewery and would also pick up a 6-er of Mirror Pond or Black Butte and I was hooked.  Actually his dad was one of the engineers at the brewery and I should be bothering him probably every day to see if his dad can get me a job or something.   Anyway, since that summer (age unknown) I was stuck on this brewery and since then every time I go back and have a Mirror Pond or Black Butte I realize how solid even their year round beers are.  Thankfully they also take huge amounts of pride and care in crafting their seasonal and limited release beers which is where Hop Henge falls.  This brew is available between January to April.

Hop Henge pours out clear amber.  The amber is mixed with some nice orange tones creating a nice sunset looking ale.  A light fluffy head that is more off-white than white appears rising up a solid ½ inch.  A really solid looking IPA or Double IPA if you want to get technical. 

The aroma that flows off of this beer is dominated by the hops.  Pine resin and floral hops constitute a lighter hop profile with light meaning not syrupy or heavy but airy.  They still dominate but they are like a basketball player quietly getting 25 points a night compared to Carmelo Anthony who will loudly get his 28 points a night (and take about 24 shots to get those 28 points in the process). Along with the hops there is definitely a strong malt backbone that you can detect lurking back there.  I have a feeling that this is going to be a well balanced brew.

The taste is somewhat uninspiring upon the first sip.  The bitterness from the hops is there and in full effect, the malt is present to back up and balance (nicely I might add) the bitterness from the hops.  But past that there isn’t much to write home about.  There aren’t any nice flavors jumping out at me and I don’t get an especially creamy or sharp feel in the mouth. 

I would say that this beer is OK.  It has plenty of potential and delivers somewhat but I don’t think it really took it to the next level like it should have.  The hops have their place but the characteristics of the hops that I like to see come out, juicy fruit aromas and taste weren’t there.  Maybe I had an off day when I cracked this brew, I don’t know.  I know for sure that next year I want to give it another shot to see if it was me or the beer but at this point I wasn’t sold.  I’d rather go back to Black Butte porter and sink into its creamy dark delights.

 

Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: Old Heathen

24 Oct

Brew: Old Heathen

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

Style: Imperial Stout (8.0% ABV)

 

Weyerbacher has two similar imperial stouts that are pretty much available whenever you want them in the Twin Cities.  Both the Old Heathen and Heresy are imperial stouts with the only difference that I can tell is that the Heresy is aged in oak barrels.  So I picked up both recently and the old Heathen is the one I popped open first.  Still haven’t gotten to the Heresy but that will be coming up soon I think.  Weyerbacher, out of Pennsylvania, has impressed me with what I have experienced from them so far.  Their Blasphemy and Tiny are both really good brews and I was excited to try one of their more regular offerings in the Old Heathen.

The Heathen poured out a solid black.  No light escapes and looks like most other imperial stouts.  A tight head with small compact bubbles rose up from the beer, it was the color of a mocha or dark khaki.  It rose up about a half inch, a bit smaller than I would ideally want but still a really good looking imperial stout.

The aroma of this brew was excellent.  I picked up toffee, vanilla and roasted grains right away.  I could smell this beast from far away, I didn’t even have to get close to it to really smell the goodness.  The right amount of sweet balanced with the char and bitterness of roast of the grains.  There is a faint detection of dark fruits and a hint of hop presence but those are minor players at this point.

The first sip is great.  This imperial stout is thick and chewy.  You can tell there are pounds and pounds of ingredients in this recipe.  Nothing light drinking about it at all.  Just what I wanted.  There is a ton of dark chocolate on the first sip. The chocolate lends in bitterness to the sip and combined with the roasted aspects of the grains that bitterness shines through as well.  Not a ‘bitter’ beer as you might think but there is that presence with every sip that there is a sharper tang hiding in the background waiting for you.  There are also flavors of coffee that come through as well.  Those fruity aromas that I picked up earlier didn’t really go anywhere.  This beer was mainly roast and chocolate bitterness.

The amount of chocolate in the taste was awesome and really took me by surprise and I didn’t expect that at any point until it hit me in the face.  The sweetness of the massive amount of malts was definitely balanced by the bitterness from the chocolate, coffee and roasted grains.  I didn’t pick up much by way of hops.  I don’t know the bottling date or anything about this brew so I couldn’t tell you anything about how old it was in that regard but I would wager it had maybe 3-6 months on it at this point.  Not a ton but enough for the hops to start their decline in power in the beer if there were many to begin with.  Since this is widely available, I can easily see this becoming a beer I always have in my fridge.  If you haven’t had it and not that its getting colder I would try to snag some next time your off to the store.

 

Final Grade: B+

Quote of the Week

24 Oct

Whoever makes a poor beer is transferred to the dung-hill.

Edict, City of Danzig, 11th Century

Brew Review: Otto

22 Oct

Brew: Otto

Brewed by: Victory Brewing Co. (Downingtown, PA)

Style: Rauch/Smoked Ale (8.1% ABV)

 

Victory has had plenty of success over the years with their exceptional brews like Prima Pils and Hop Devil. I haven’t had any limited release beer from Victory before, only their year rounder’s and seasonal offerings, so I didn’t really know what to think about a limited beer from them.  I was hoping for the best because of the really good beers that I have had from them in the past.  The style, a smoked beer, or a Rauch beer, has not been my favorite in the past.  I tend to dislike the charred taste and the smoke that ends to dominate.  The label on this beer was the name of the beer in the middle of a campfire looking detail so the smoke I was afraid was going to be a major player. 

Otto pours out a dark amber color.  A deep amber would be another way to describe it.  A big puffy light tan head filled up my glass.  I wasn’t totally sure on the style of the beer before I opened it but it was lighter than I expected since I think I was expecting a porter or brown ale that had smoked malts added.  I think it was more of a specialty ale, but definitely something lighter.

The big up-front smell was smoke.  It was an ember in a glass, well not that bad but close.  There were also some leather smells and maybe a hint of fruit way in there.  Mostly smoke, however.   Not much more by way of smell but it was intriguing. 

The first sip yielded a beer that was smooth and not bitter in any way.  I was surprised that there wasn’t as much smoke and char as I was expecting.  I was thinking that this was going to be a smoldering campfire sitting in my mouth but most of the smoke showed up on the back end.  The same hint of fruit or sweet malt shows up again, making me think that this is probably a Belgian style smoked ale.  It had a feeling like I was drinking an abbey ale of some sort mixed with smoke. 

The beer was light in body and it wasn’t cloying or sticky at all.  A very pleasant mouth feel to it, much lighter than I was anticipating.  Once again though I am not a huge fan of the smoke.  I guess I prefer to have fire cook my food not eat the fire itself.   With that being said it was an interesting brew on its own.  If you like smoked beers give this one a shot as it’s complex and I think if you can get past the smoke there is a ton of stuff waiting for you.

 

Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Zywiec Porter

18 Oct

Brew: Zywiec Porter

Brewed by: Zywiec Breweries PLC (Heineken) (Zywiec, Poland)

Style: Baltic Porter (9.5% ABV)

Came across this brew in my local store and said hey, this one was pretty darn good, why not give this Eastern European porter a try?  The nice this about the Zywiec was that the price tag was considerably less than the Sinebrychoff, I don’t remember exactly how much but I would guess maybe 2-3 dollars for a 500mL bottle.  I don’t know much about Zywiec Breweries other than they are owned by Heineken and that they make only 2 beers total that their website shows.  Not super impressive but hey, its shipped to MN for some reason so there has to be a following or a decent beer in the bottle for that to happen.

Zywiec poured out a dark rich-looking black.  It definitely looked like a Baltic porter or a stout, in my opinion they pretty much look the same anyway.  The beer produced a big light tan head that was comprised of tight bubbles that made it look pretty thick.  A solid looking Baltic porter, I was ready to try this one.

The aroma of this brew is somewhat subdued.  It held the traditional roasted malt aspects nicely and some sticky sweet malt features were there as well.  Not much by way of hops, although I don’t think the style is known for having many hops.  From what I know the Baltic porter was meant to ship across the Baltic sea and therefore had a high ABV content to make the trip which usually ended up just masking any bad flavors or imperfect brewing practices.  So I think the alcohol was the preservative in this beer instead of hops in an IPA, for example.  Either way, I also picked up some vanilla in the brew as well.  For the most part this was a rich smelling beer but nothing really jumped out at me.

By no means was I less excited to try this beer though after smelling it.  Upon the first sip it was smooth and creamy with a slight bitterness from the roasted and burnt grains.  I really liked how this beer tasted right up front.  Once I got into it after a few drinks I found myself wishing for more of a roast character and presence.  The taste was a tad restrained I thought on that front.  I really enjoyed how smooth and creamy it was and there were hints of coffee and chocolate throughout. 

For how much and how big this beer is I liked it a lot.  I actually went out and bought a few more bottles for those nights when I come home and just want something nice to warm me up.  It was a great example of the Baltic porter and it really didn’t push any boundaries with anything.  The roast character was nice and the mouth feel was excellent.   I would go find yourselves one of these if you like dark roasty beers.

Final Grade: A-

Quote of the Week

16 Oct

A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.

-Czech Proverb

Brew Review: Double Trouble

15 Oct

Brew: Double Trouble

Brewed by: Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)

Style: Imperial IPA (9.4% ABV)

 

Founders Brewing Co., out of MI, is one of the most consistent and top quality craft brewers out there.  They have great year-round releases, excellent seasonals and a rabid following for their one-off releases.  The double trouble is their seasonal double IPA that comes out in late spring or early summer.  Described as an IPA that focuses on the aromatics of the hop and tries to get the most of that aspect of the flower.   

Double Trouble pours out a light golden straw color.  Much lighter than I was expecting since this is a double IPA and clocks in at 9.4%.  Looks more like a pale ale or even a tad darker version of pilsener or lager.  The lighter colored beer is covered by a 1/8th inch white head.  Not the clearest beer but it just might be a chill haze that has shown up on the glass.

The aroma is awesome.   Ton of juicy hops burst out at you.  Pine, fruit, grapefruits and other tropical smells come out at me.  There is a faint hint of malt backbone in there but the hops and all their wonderful smells steal the show in the smell.   An amazing smell if you like hops.

The taste somewhat follows suit to the aroma.  There is a big hop presence right off the bat with bitterness on the sides of your mouth with juicy notes from the hops flowing over your tongue.  Immediately I notice that this brew has no detectable booze whatsoever.   The immense hop presence is balanced by malts but in a way that it just complements and doesn’t try to take over any of the glory that the hops have put forth. 

The immense amount of hops makes this brew maybe a bit hard to approach but if you handle an amazing hop aroma and big juicy hop flavors then this beer has everything you could ever want.  I would compare it to Abrasive except for one thing.  All the hop oils end up making the brew a little sticky or syrupy which made each sip consecutive sip a bit harder to swallow.  Nevertheless this brew is awesome and deserves nothing less than stellar reviews and lots of bottles sucked dry. 

 

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Satin Solstice

15 Oct

Brew: Satin Solstice

Brewed by: Central Waters Brewing Company (Amherst, WI)

Style: Imperial Stout (7.5% ABV)

The only other review I have done for Central Waters from Wisconsin has been the bourbon barrel aged stout which makes me wonder if they just took the Satin Solstice and aged it in barrels to come up with that beer.  Legit question that I really have no way to answer.  Could write them a postcard or something I suppose but I’d rather just have another beer.   With the excellent result of the bourbon barrel stout I was hoping that this brew would be top notch as well.  Central Waters has only impressed so far.

Satin Solstice poured out black as night with a hint of ruby red coming through the sides.  A little thin looking for an imperial stout but nonetheless it was a good looking brew.  There was a cap of off-white head that rested lightly on the top of the beer, nothing really impressive about the foam.  Nothing really impressive about the look so far in general, doesn’t look thick or syrupy in any way.

The aroma of the brew was sort of basic.  It had a lot of roast and burnt grains in there followed by a hint of alcohol.  For not being a very high ABV beer I was surprised that I could pick out any booze in the smell.  The malts mixed with some chocolate as well as I got further in there with my nose.  No mention of hops in my notes which makes me think that this bottle might have been a bit older and I have no way of knowing since I don’t know when it was bottled and I opened it in April sometime.  Could have a few months of age could have a few weeks.  Either way no fresh smelling aromas coming off it.

The taste lent a different perspective on the age of the brew. It started off with a lot of roast and coffee but I also picked up some hops at this point.  Not much to say about the hops other than they lent their bittering oils to this brew and gave it a slightly dry and bitter taste.  This wasn’t a very thick imperial stout which I was sort of hoping for, I like full bodied stouts but the medium body was decent.  It also left me wanting more which is never a bad thing.

Overall I would say that this is a benchmark that other companies could judge their imperial stouts.  There was nothing wrong with this beer however it didn’t really excite me in any way.  All the aspects of the style were there with lots of roast and an aspect of hops.  If you can pick it up, definitely worth it especially since its available in 6-packs and the price isn’t terrible but for those of you looking for more of an adventurous stout this might have to be a fall back.

Final Grade: B