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.

 

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-