Archive | November, 2012

Brew Review: Narwhal (2012 Vintage)

20 Nov

Brew: Narwhal (2012 Vintage)

Brewed by: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, CA)

Style: Imperial Stout (10.2% ABV)


It is officially stout season 2012.  Recently a plethora of breweries have put out their seasonal stouts in preparation for the colder months where it’s acceptable to sit around all day, watch TV and drink nice heavy beers to keep you warm.  Sierra Nevada throws out its Narwhal imperial stout as a limited release, not as abundant as its seasonal lineup. Either way this brewery is so big that there is plenty of Narwhal to go around for all the stout seekers out there.  I picked up a 4-pack of this big beer, drank one right away and plan on having the 3 throughout the winter and into next year to see how well they develop and change. 

The Narwhal poured out black.  Not much else to describe there as with most imperial stouts.  No light shone through and it looked like night.  There was a thin cap of head that was slightly tan.  Not an impressive head for a big beer like this, I have probably been spoiled by the head that shows up on Founders Breakfast Stout, that one is amazing.

The aroma of this beer is full of malts up front.  The roast is subdued which leads to more of the dark fruit, molasses, some coffee and chocolate taking up the smell and running with it.  A slight roast is a good balance but it’s nowhere near the center of attention.  A really complex and deep aroma wafts off this whale. 

The taste is slightly bitter due to the roast. That bitterness lingers but gives way to more chocolate and coffee roast.  Surprisingly it isn’t a super thick brew as the look would suggest.  The hops are still present as this brew is still fresh.  It is nicely creamy as it warms up. 

The Narwhal is somewhat boring in its fresh state.  There really isn’t anything that makes me want it again and again.  I still enjoyed it because I love imperial stouts but it could use some work. I am hoping that age will work wonders for this brew.


Final Grade: B

Quote of the Week

13 Nov

“I’ll have another beer.  I’m not driving.”

–Father Theodore, Trappist Monk



Brew Review: Black Helicopter Stout

12 Nov

Brew: Black Helicopter

Brewed by: Flat Earth Brewing Co. (St. Paul, MN)

Style: Oatmeal Coffee Stout (5.2% ABV)


Flat Earth brewing again.  This beer seems to be their most popular after their fall seasonal release of Mummy Train pumpkin porter.  So I saw it for a marked down price, I think it had been sitting on the shelf for about a year at my local bottle shop and they finally marked it down.  I don’t know for sure because Flat Earth doesn’t do bottle dates on their single bottles but I have a pretty good idea.  Haven’t had much luck with any Flat Earth brews but here goes.

The Black Helicopter poured out pitch black, pretty much what you would expect. Half inch tan or khaki head reduces down to nothing, not even a cap of foam on this brew after a minute or so. Average looking stout, the head dissipation was a bit disappointing. 

Upon first whiff, this beer emanates rich roast and coffee smells.  Smells kind of like stepping into a Caribou or Starbucks, pretty much dominated by coffee.  I can pick up that this is going to have some bitterness lying underneath from the roast and coffee.  There is a bit of breadiness that shows up as well.

The taste is lots of coffee.  Dominated by coffee with a thin mouthfeel to it. Slight bitterness from the brunt and roasted grains and the additional Dunn Brothers added coffee.  There is not much else from this brew other than coffee and bitterness.  Nothing sweet to round it out, maybe should have added a creamer and some sugar to this black cup o’ Joe.  No chocolate, nothing.  just a hollow tang that leaves my mouth with an unpleasant aftertaste.

This beer needed more, lots more.  It needed maybe some more oats to smooth the body out and maybe some lactose to increase the mouthfeel.  It desperately needed some sweetness to combat the bitter tang from the coffee and burnt grains.  This has the start of a good brew but the recipe needs to be tweaked to really make it pop.  I will give it the benefit of the doubt but it has a long way to go.


Final Grade: C+


Brew Review: Beer Hop Breakfast

12 Nov

Brew: Beer Hop Breakfast

Brewed by: Mikkeller (København, Denmark)

Style: Oatmeal Stout brewed with coffee (7.5% ABV)


Mikkeller has put out some amazing beers over the years and his story is a pretty cool one.  He is what people call a gypsy brewer because he does not have a brewery of his own.  He travels around Europe and brews at other peoples facilities and collaborates with other brewers and ends up making amazing stuff.  Apparently there have been a couple other brewers who have taken up this ‘gypsy’ technique and done a decent job at it but MIkkeller stands alone as the pioneer as far as I know and am concerned.  The beer hop breakfast is an oatmeal stout brewed with coffee which sounds pretty tempting coming from a brewer who knows how to make a good stout. 

Beer hop breakfast poured out thick black and rich looking.  Pretty much what you expect from a stout, inky black with a 3 finger mocha head.  A great looking beer with a perfect head that leaves excellent lacing along the glass.

The brew smells like a fresh cup of coffee mixed with chocolate.  I don’t know what type of drink that is but I am sure there is a name for it.  Choco-coffee?   ChoCoffee?  I don’t know.  but there is plenty of both in the aroma.  There is also some hints of hops, both piney and more earthy notes.  A good smelling beer, one that I would definitely drink for breakfast if I was able to take a nap at work every afternoon.

The taste follows the aroma nicely.  There is coffee and dark bitter chocolate notes right to start with that chocolate providing a bitter finish.  The bitter finish is also helped along nicely by the roasted grains that add their own burnt and bitter notes.  The roasted flavors blend with the hops that are still present.  The hops also add some bitterness but not a ton.  I would say that this is a medium-thick bodied hoppy stout at this point.  Slides over your tongue but presents nice sharp flavors.  I wouldn’t go as far as to call it as hoppy as an American black ale but with a bit more it could come close.

This brew is hoppy and bitter but not overpoweringly so.  it has good roasted aspects and the coffee and chocolate notes are all present as well.  There was a lot going on and at times the beer wanted to be an American black ale or Cascadian ale and at other it wanted to stick with the oatmeal stout theme.  Interesting for sure and very tasty but I wouldn’t give it an A since it hasn’t figured out what it wants to do yet.


Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Dark Truth

8 Nov

Brew:  Dark Truth

Brewed by:  Boulevard Brewing Co. (Kansas City, MO)

Style: Imperial Stout (9.7% ABV)


Boulevard is a very consistent brewery in my mind.  I have had a few of their offerings previously and been very happy with them.  The Dark Truth is their stout that is actually a year rounder.  Something you don’t necessarily find at most breweries.  Usually the stouts are left for seasonal releases or limited stuff.  My guess is that’s because people don’t really want to drink a super heavy dark beer in the hot summer months.  I also think that boulevard has the capacity to brew a lot so they are able to put this big boy out year round.  This is a somewhat fresh bottle so we will see how this goes, I opened this beer on 8-7-12 and I don’t know exact bottle date but I have a feeling its about 1-3 months old at this point.

Dark Truth pours out dark.  Enough said on that.  Its dark deep and lightless.  Exactly like an imperial stout should be.  There rises a huge mocha head from the top of the beer, the head is super thick with tiny tight bubbles.   The foam recedes slowly leaving great lacing and a really fantastic looking brew.  This is a perfect example of what a stout should look like. 

The aroma is interesting, I can tell right away that this is a fresh imperial stout.  There are hops right off the bat, earthy not much else but you can tell they are trying to push their way out from the huge mound of grain that was dumped on top.  There is lots of chocolate followed by sweet malts.  Not a ton of roast at this point.  There is also a hint of booze that floats around there.   a pretty solid aroma for the beer, nothing really fancy but I got everything I needed in chocolate, hops and some roast.

The taste was full and filling.  There are dark fruits, the hops are still present and provide a bitterness on the end of the sip that lingers.  There is a dark roast that wasn’t evident in the aroma that mixed with the hops to create that bitterness.  Along with the roast was dark chocolate notes.  There is that slight alcohol presence again that warms or numbs, depending on how you want to think about, the mouth and belly as you drink. 

This was still a really fresh bottle of the Dark Truth, I am happy I got a 4-pack of this as it will develop over the years and be a really nice treat in a year or two for a cool night.  The hops were still very present and I like roast with coffee and chocolate in my stouts.  Not bad in any way but kind of like LeBron it’ll take a few years for this beer to achieve greatness.


Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Ruination 10th Anniversary

7 Nov

Brew: Ruination 10th Anniversary

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

Style: Double IPA (10.8% ABV)


Stone’s Ruination Ale was the first double IPA bottled year round in the United States, they started that glorious tradition 10 years ago.   The original Ruination is awesome and a must have for hop heads anywhere.  “A liquid poem to the glory of the hop” might be one of my favorite pieces of bottle art from any brewery ever.  A perfect wording to a beer’s profile.   I picked up the 10th anniversary of that great brew ready for another amazing double IPA from Stone.  Let’s get after it.

The 10th Anniversary poured out a deep amber and very coppery color.  It obviously had tons of malt in there, clocking in at 10.8% that’s a given, with the colors that swirled in my glass.  There was a decent head to it, off-white in color and maybe a half inch at its peak.  Looked like an imposing double IPA, I could tell just from the look that this was going to be a big beer with tons of flavor.

The aroma is magnificent.  Mangos, tropical fruits, grapefruit citrus and pine all rush out at me and linger for the whole glass.  This brew is bursting at the seams with hops.   There is a definite malt backbone, there has to be with the ABV this high and with the ridiculous amount of hops forced into this one.  If you want a journey through what hops can smell like take a whiff of this beer.

The first sip is brutal.  The bitterness from the hops is huge.  The beer is resinous, a viscous brew that coats everything from your tongue, mouth throat and stomach.  It gets a hold of you and doesn’t let go.  The hops are totally the main show in the beer, the malt is just there to make sure our teeth don’t fall out from drinking liquid hops.  It is surprisingly drinkable, however, with this much flavor packed in.  It does cloy the mouth with all the hop oils but each sip is great and I have no problem finishing my glass.  There is a slight burn to it with the big alcohol percentage. 

This beer does exactly what it’s supposed to.  It takes the hop level and ups it once again and does it in a well crafted way.  The oily texture to the beer was a little off-putting but the aroma that bursts out of this beer is phenomenal.  I would probably drink the original Ruination over this in the future just because I don’t need all the booze and so much packed into one bottle.  The ruination was really so good that there was no reason to try to make it better. 


Final Grade: B+/A-

Quote of the Week

6 Nov

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”
-Abraham Lincoln

Brew Review: Karma

6 Nov

Brew: Karma

Brewed by: Avery Brewing Co. (Boulder, CO)

Style: Belgian Pale Ale (5.4% ABV)


A seasonal or limited release during April, I could figure out which one to pick, but I will go with seasonal, from Avery.  Avery has been a pretty solid brewery in all my experiences with them so I figured Karma would once again come out on top.  Belgian pale ale is a growing trend amongst craft brewers.  I think they want something that is approachable like a pale ale but with a little twist to keep the die-hards coming back for more.  Either way I still think my favorite for the style is Harriet Brewing’s West Side IPA, which I obviously still need to do a post on.  Sounds like a good excuse to go find a growler here soon.

Karma poured out a light copper with hints of darker reds mixed in.  Looked like a light caramel color. There is decent carbonation that leads to a solid ½ inch head.  The head lasts a while making this a nice beer to sip and wipe foam from your Movember-stache, if you are growing one. 

The aroma is basic pale ale, some biscuit from the malt with some faint hops.  Not really much to write home about here.  I was wanting/hoping/expecting some more Belgian style funk from the yeast in the aroma.  The aroma reminded me more of an amber ale with more grit and grain than a pale ale let alone a Belgian pale.

The taste brings more malt and biscuit up front.  There is some very light bitterness that rears its head on the very end of the sip but that’s about all I get from the hops.  It also shows a bit of that Belgian funk that I was hoping for.  Not much, just a little, but enough for me to notice.  Not enough however for me to really get excited about it. 

Wow, really didn’t get much from this brew.  Nothing stood out, there wasn’t much by way of Belgian inspiration and the hops didn’t make a dent and the malts were just biscuit through and through.  That tends to a get a bit boring.  The brew was unimpressive in all aspects, not hard to drink it was light on the tongue, but nothing was really great or even good about it.  I would pass on this brew if you’re thinking about it since there are so many other better options out there for pale ales and some Belgian style pale ales as well.


Final Grade: C

Brew Review: Baltas (White)

2 Nov

Brew: Baltas (White)

Brewed by: UAB Švyturys (Lithuania)

Style: Unfiltered Wheat Ale (5.0% ABV)


Don’t ask me how to say this breweries name I will just call them Svyturys from now on.  Hadn’t ever heard of them until I saw this brew in the liquor store.  It was summer and I thought a good wheat beer would quench my thirst in the heat.  The Europeans seem to have the whole wheat beer and summer beer thing down pretty well so I gave it a chance.  Also, I don’t think I’ve had a beer from Lithuania before either so that’s another notch on my belt.  Don’t really know what to expect, let’s jump in!

The Baltas poured out a hazy golden straw color.  Very hazy, almost murky, with plenty of carbonation rising to the top where a big puffy head of white foam builds up.   Plenty of loose bubbles complete the look of a really solid hefe-beer. 

The aroma is a bit light or watery.  The classic bananas and cloves contribute to the hefe-style.  There are some faint noble hops present just adding a tint to the overall experience.  There is a bit of nutty wheat in there as well adding to a faint bready-ness.   Smells like a good hefe although it will be a definite summer beer with the lightness of all the aromas.

The first sip is very bubbly, reminds me of your first sip of champagne on New Year’s.  It fills your mouth and makes it hard to really taste everything.  It is a bit tart right away, I don’t really know what from, but it is a faint taste that fades away after a minute. The beer is very thin in the mouth, its not thick and all the carbonation keeps it light and lively on the tongue.  There are still some hefe traits but this is fairly watery.  The bananas and cloves are present and the bread aspects and some light malts turn up at the end. 

Overall, this is a very light drinking beer.  It would be great to come home to after working hard in the summer sun all day long.  It’s refreshing and light and has some decent aromas and flavors that keeps it from becoming some macro-adjunct lager beer.   I would have liked a bit more on the taste side of things and maybe a tad less carbonation to really make this beer ‘pop’ but I think it did pretty well for itself.


Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Russian Imperial Stout (2012 Vintage)

2 Nov

Brew: Russian Imperial Stout (2012 Vintage)

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

Style: Russian Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV)


This brew comes out, for some reason, at the end of #stoutseason at the end of winter, or I guess in MN sort of in the middle.  Usually I see stouts showing up in stores at the end of fall or beginning of the winter so people can enjoy the big warming flavors of these brews as the weather gets cold.  Either way, I am not complaining about it this beer is widely viewed as one of the best in the style, beeradvocate agrees.  This wasn’t the first time I have tried this beer, if you go back to the Autumn Brew Review 2011 you can see that I was able to try a sample of this brew, however seeing as how I was at beer festival it was one of 80 or so beers I tried so trying to remember that specific one is pretty much impossible.  But I liked it enough or had heard enough about it to grab a couple bottles for myself when it came home.  This brew was bottled in the middle of April, I think the 16th.  I opened the bottle on May 17th so it only had about a month’s worth of time to develop and age in the bottle so I knew I was getting into a pretty fresh beer from the start. 

Stone’s RIS poured out black.  Not much else to describe here but black.  No light seeps through, no rose or red around the edges, it’s black.  Plain and simple.  The head was excellent, big rich mocha head settles after a minute or so into a cap on the top of the lightless brew.  It also leaves a nice ring on the glass from where it once was and the lacing that descends as I drink this down.

The aroma on this brew is big.  It has rich chocolate and coffee right on the start.  Those smells blend their roast smells together to create a large roast presence.  The hops are still present in the aroma, since this brew is still pretty fresh, which is telling on how much of a hop addition is in this brew since there are obviously pounds and pounds of grains in this recipe.  I don’t really pick up on any alcohol in this which is a good sign.  The aroma ends with even more dark chocolate.

On the first sip I realize how creamy and smooth this beer is.  It slides over my tongue and down my gullet without a hitch.  The hops are present, their bittering oils haven’t faded yet into the dark murky black that surrounds them.  The huge amounts of sweet sugars balance those hops out.  There is some coffee and chocolate but not as much as I smelled at first.  The hops and the bitterness from the hops and roast seem to dominate. 

I would say that this beer was a tad too fresh in the bottle to really enjoy it.  The hops were still fresh and the roasted notes hadn’t taken their hold yet.  After only a month it was too soon, maybe after 6 months or a year this will really come into its own.  Time to forget about the other couple bottles I have for a while and focus on some other beers.


Final Grade: B

Edit: I was able to try another bottle of 2012 RIS from Stone at 2012 Darkness Day, which means this bottle had a little over 6 months of age on it.  This brew was much better.  It had mellowed out, the hops had lost their edge and the smooth roast, chocolate, coffee and deeper flavors had begun to creep out.  I didn’t take any specific notes on this brew in particular but as I was drinking it I was remembering the first time I had it 5 months earlier and was looking at my notes from that tasting.  It has improved markedly since then and I think with a bit more age this will become a fantastic stout.