Tag Archives: Final Grade = B

Brew Review: Victory Yakima Glory

27 Apr

Brew: Yakima Glory

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

Style: American Black Ale (8.7% ABV)

The name on this badboy, Yakima Glory, suggested I was in for a hop bomb that would focus on the grandeurs of the Yakima hop.  Well, I should have read the label or done my homework before I poured it out.  Turns out this is not a lighter-colored IPA or hoppy ale, in fact it’s a black ale that likes to focus on the Yakima hops and the dark rich malts that the brewers decided to pit against each other in this battle between bitter and sweet.

After the initial shock of pouring this out and getting something that was about 5 times darker than I was expecting, I took a quasi liking to this brew.  It has a deep red hue that blends with a dark swampy brown.

A very malty, syrupy aroma met my nostrils as I soaked in the Glory.  There were a few hop smells buried deep in the nose, but it took a lot of big hefty snorts to find those.

The flavor of the brew was very intriguing, I was looking for something that highlighted the Yakima’s (hence the name) but it was more a battle that the malts seemed to win more often than not.  There was definitely a hoppy presence, but I was hoping for more.  And when the hops did shine through it was a bitter affair.  Maybe I have been spoiled by Surly and their sweet floral hop creations because this one didn’t meet what I was wanting.  I should have let the beer decide what it wanted to give me but I wanted more hops.

Overall a great looking beer that was a sweet pleasure, but with a name that features a hop variety it leaves the drinker wanting more of a prominent role for the supposed main character.

Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: Red’s Rye P.A.

24 Apr

Brew: Red’s Rye P.A.

Brewed by: Founder’s Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI)

Style: Rye Beer (6.6% ABV)

The name of this brew confused me from the get go. I get that it’s supposed to be an IPA, or a Rye-PA (good joke) but it doesnt seem like an IPA to me at all.  It says its “hopped-up” and “brewed with rye,” making it something like a red ale that has extra hops and rye.  I might be making too big a deal about something I hadn’t even tried yet so I think I will just stick to drinking it and enjoying the goodness that has made Founders one of the premier breweries in the U.S. these days.

It comes out a nice crimson so I will go with this brew being a hoppy reddish rye ale, forget the IPA.  There isn’t much of an aroma that I can come up with for this brew.  There is a little maltiness, but not much in terms of hoppy smells emanating from this supposed “hopped-up” beer.  This is what I would consider to be the only part of the beer holding it back from being an A student.

I don’t know why I’ve only talked about what was confusing and not good about this one so don’t think that its sub-par.  The taste is where this brew jumps back into podium contention.  This is a maltier version of Cane and Ebel which was a definite hoppy red ale.  Red’s Rye has a hoppy presence, but the rye is really what shines in the flavor of the beer.  It has a hoppy note but the sweetness of the rye and malts are the highlights.

I really enjoyed the brew since it seems that the trend is that people are going for hop-bombs in any style that will assault the taste buds with hoppy-bitterness. Founders has reversed that and I think tried to explore the other, somewhat forgotten in this past couple years, side of brewing, the malts and grains that make up the body of a beer.

This brew is a little heavier than an IPA, but its has the right blend of hops and malts to create a good balance on the maltier side.  This brew is more complex than a hop-bomb, which only drowns your mouth with hops, and draws you into the sweet nectars of the other side of beer.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Brau Brothers Moo Joos

22 Apr

Brew Review: Moo Joos

Brewed by: Brau Brothers Brewing Co. (Lucan, MN)

Style: Oatmeal Milk Stout (5.2% ABV)

Moo Joos Oatmeal Milk Stout, the name alone draws me to this beer.  The newest of the Brau Brothers staple brews, this pitch black beast reminds me that I am for sure drinking a stout.  You can barely see light on the other side of the glass on this, sort of a black hole. Maybe if you drink enough time and space will warp itself around you and the empty 6-pack.

This brew holds a sweet smell, not a bitter one that is typical of a regular stout.  That would be the lactose sugar that they add to the boil and the oatmeal from the mash that calms down that bitter, typical stout aroma and taste.

Moo Joos is very smooth, almost like a warm glass of milk right before bedtime. It would definitely put you to sleep after two or three.  The chocolate and coffee tangs that are normal for a stout from the roasted malts are present but they are perfectly blended into this silky, soft brew.  I think a little more chocolate would have been perfect, something like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, that would have put this into a dessert beverage must.

A solid take on an emerging style of stout, Brau Brothers consistently makes me wish Lucan was as close as St. Paul to Minneapolis.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Surly Coffee Bender

22 Apr

Brew Review: Coffee Bender

Brewed By: Surly Brewing Co. (Brooklyn Center, MN)

Style: American Brown Ale w/ coffee (5.5% ABV)

Surly wakes up their normal brown ale, Bender, with a boatload of coffee beans in this morning favorite.  I was a little hesitant to give this one a go as I am not really a coffee drinker, but being a beer lover I couldn’t say no.  I enjoy their normal Bender so I went for it and I was not disappointed.

It has a very strong coffee aroma, something I do enjoy about coffee. There’s nothing better than waking up on a Sunday morning to the smell of coffee a-brewin’ and bacon sizzling.  It was a deep brown with a little tint of red in there if you looked hard enough.  A solid looking brew that would probably remind the black coffee drinkers of their morning cup.

The first sip yielded a strong coffee presence, which never really wore off through the whole pint.  This big taste was not really overpowering and for someone like me, one who doesn’t drink the teeth-yellowing addiction of many people, it didn’t really turn me away from the brew.  It was very smooth, which is a quality of the original Bender and most brown ales, which I really enjoy.

For all you coffee drinking beer lovers, Coffee Bender would be a great brew for you.  Probably a great way to start off the work day if you were bold enough to show up to the office a little more bleary-eyed than usual.  A solid brown ale with a new twist that won’t disappoint, Surly excels at their craft time and time again.

Final Grade:  B

Brew Review: Sheephead Ale

10 Apr

Brew: Sheephead Ale

Brewed by: Brau Brothers Brewing Co. (Lucan, MN)

Style: American IPA or “Estate-Hopped Lucan Ale” (7.7% ABV)

Brau Brothers, a small brewery located in Lucan, Minnesota (pop. 220), has consistently put out solid beers and the Sheephead is yet another that you shouldn’t miss out on.  It has a smooth amber color with a rosy-red tint.  This isn’t a brew that looks like a serious IPA, which is usually pretty light in color and looks like it could be anything from a Bud Light to a High Life.  The Sheephead is a darker color which increased my interest the second I poured it out.  The Brau’s let us know that this is a bitter beer, named after a card game that tends to get bitter as most family game nights usually do.

She’s a hoppy brew that is wonderfully balanced with malts, as well.  The brewers really found a perfect combination of the hops and the malts in this recipe.  It’s a bitter brew, but that aspect is not overpowering at all.  For hopheads this can satisfy your cravings, though there are much hoppier brews available. It certainly won’t disappoint a bro who enjoys a maltier refresher when they need it, either.  I think the Sheephead has captured the best of both worlds.

This Brau Brothers concoction is solid brew that can be readily enjoyed by almost everyone who fancies a pint.  It seems like a brew that can be enjoyed in most settings as it incorporates a lot of different things.  Brau Brothers has once again come up with a brew that will keep me wishing Lucan was a little closer.

Final Grade:  B+

Brew Review: Odell Red Ale

25 Mar

Brew: Red Ale

Brewery: Odell Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, CO)

Style: American-Syle Red Ale (6.5% ABV)

Another red ale for the books, but this one seems unique before even opening it up.  This is a seasonal for Odell, says it right on the cap.  The label compares this beer to the Rocky Mountain goat. The Rocky Mountain goat is different from all other goats and as this red ale is different from all other American red ales out there, which is a metaphor I go along with.

I poured it out and it looked pretty normal for a red ale: a darker, reddish nectar of the gods that I couldn’t wait to try.  The first thing I noticed about the Red Ale was how fruity it was.  You could say that the mountain goat was a bit fruitier than its pastoral ancestor, but that might be taking the metaphor a little far.  This ale is definitely unique for the style since it really brings forward the fruity flavors and aromas of the hops where usually in American reds you get a malty presence long before the hops kick in.

In no way is this fruitiness a turn off.  It is a refreshing take on a style that some might shy away from on a warmer day.  This is a beer I can see myself taking down to the dock in the summer and enjoying in the sun.  Its got the backbone of the classic red ale to keep you warm long after the sun goes down, but its lighter, more refreshing, side is something that you can enjoy during the time when the shadows are the smallest.  Overall, Odell’s Red Ale is a fresh new look at a classic American brew.

Final Grade: B

Brew Review: Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy

24 Mar

Brew: Big Eddy

Brewed By: Jacob Leinenkugel Brewery Co. (Chippewa Falls, WI)

Style:  Russian Imperial Stout (9.5% ABV)

When I first ordered a Big Eddy at my local gastropub I was a little wary. Most of the Leinie’s brews I have tried in the past have been merely a better version of a Bud or a mediocre attempt at some other more interesting style.  They really have just all fallen short of what I would have hoped for.  Needless to say, when they brought out this heavy, tar-lookin’ brew I was expecting a hollow beer that slid down my throat like a bock or a lighter ale with a deceptively dark profile.

Big Eddy turned out to be something totally different. It is not only unique in that Leinenkugel’s finally made a pretty good beer for once, the style itself was an exception to the rule.  It is unlike anything I had had before from this Chippewa Falls-based brewery.  Out there in the backwoods of Wisconsin they have created something that was unprecedented to my taste buds.  This black beast packs a fruity, bitter, tart punch that puckers my lips when I took a sip.  It is a big beer with a big taste.  This unique quality caught me off guard in a good way.  I like the fact that this pitch-black pint threw me a curve and made me really think about what I was trying.  It is enjoyably complex with a lot going on and the bitterness starts to mellow out as the beer warms up, which it inevitably did, as I took my time; this was not a brew that was to be thrown back like a Silver Bullet.  After letting the brew mellow, the fruity, sweet flavors jumped out and took me for a ride.

On the whole, I am pleasantly surprised and happy with the brew that Leinie’s came up with.  The name fits nicely as this is a BIG beer with a lot to offer. Good for a cold winter night by the fire when you need something to warm up your insides.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: Big Sky Moose Drool

2 Mar

Brew: Moose Drool

Brewed By: Big Sky (Missoula, MT)

Style: American Brown Ale (5.3% ABV)

At the risk of setting myself up for more than one “that’s what she said,” the big, brown, nuttiness of Big Sky’s Moose Drool satisfies and keeps you coming back for more. The Montana brewery’s staple brown ale leaves nothing to chance and puts all its cards on the table with robust result.

My buddy, Colin, who used to go to school out at Montana State in Missoula (GO GRIZZ!) turned me on to Moose Drool and I’m sure happy he did. It doesn’t beg for attention or try too hard. There’s no fancy catchphrase or lengthy explanation of the beer on the bottle. The brew speaks for itself.

It’s a boldly malted concoction, evened out with a pinch each of Kent Goldings, Liberty, and Willamette hops, giving it some subtle, yet necessary, spice. Imagine a thicker, stronger, more well-rounded Newcastle with the added grit and elbow grease that the Wild West entails.

Moose Drool is not a “WOW!” beer. It’s not the first thing that pops to mind when my friends ask what my favorite brew is, yet, that lack of show and pizzazz – a expertly executed simplicity – is precisely what makes it tasty. It doesn’t creep into A- or A territory – due to a slight alcohol aftertaste that this style of beer shouldn’t really have (see: imperial stouts, bocks, etc.) – but hey, few do.

Good with a burger(s) or by itself, Moose Drool is as solid as they come.

Final Grade: B+

Brew Review: New Glarus Back 40 Bock

23 Feb

Brew: Back 40 Bock

Brewed By: New Glarus (New Glarus, WI)

Style: Bock (5.5% ABV)

Back 40 Bock from New Glarus is a cute beer. Reggie Bush dancing-around-in-the-backfield-and –covering-thirty-yards-to-gain-two cute. It’s the guy who always seems to immediately fall into the ‘friend’ category with the pretty girls and never gets another shot at the big time. Granted, it’s better than being Brandon Jackson or the creepy guy who girls avoid at all costs, but it’s not really where you want to be.

Bocks were originally brewed by Belgian and Bavarian monks as sustenance to get them through the fasting of the Lenten season. They are supposed to be big, strong, calorie-filled, malty brews that stick to your ribs and warm your soul. In Germany it is sometimes referred to as ‘liquid bread’.  Not so much with Back 40. Although it’s a nice, drinkable cerveza, it doesn’t really hit you like an excellent bock can and should.

Usually stellar New Glarus brewmaster, Dan Carey, takes a long-lived traditional lager and puts training wheels on it, making it more broadly acceptable beverage, but one that will neither wow you nor get you through 46 days of piety and hunger. This is a solid beer that I would gladly drink, but probably won’t buy anymore sixers of it myself.

Enjoy it while it lasts, make it breakfast in the morning, give it a kiss on the cheek, and move on to bigger and better bocks.

Final Grade: B-

Brew Review: St. Rogue Red Ale

22 Feb

Brew: Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale

Brewed by: Rogue Ales (Ashland, OR)

Style: Red Ale (5.1% ABV)

Let me start off by saying that I am a fan of red ales and a fan of Rogue brews.  After selecting this bottle off the shelf at the Ale Jail, I was pretty excited to see what it had to offer.  It had a nice rich deep ruby/red color when I poured it into the glass, I was happy about this.  It smelled sweet, which in my mind is how a red ale should smell, and I was pretty excited about that.  On a second whiff, I noticed those hops that they are talking about in the name where it mentions, “dry hopped.”  This was pretty neat.  Not only is it a red ale that is nice and malty, but its got a nice hop section that sings out from the background and if you really think about it, will step up to the plate show you what it can do.

It went down really smooth and was a sweet the whole way through.  It’s a cool 5.1% so not something that will sit you down and m ake you stay there, but it’s a solid session beer that keeps its flavor after it warms.

For all those who enjoy a solid red this is a good choice.  Rogue has put out some excellent beers and this is another you can add to the list.  The only side I didn’t really get that I expected out of it was it told me it was dry hopped, which usually leads me to believe there will be a bigger hop presence.  The hops showed up in the aroma but they sort of lost their presence in the flavor and finish of the brew, not to say they weren’t there but i was expecting more.  Oh well, this one is pretty damn good otherwise so I won’t make too big a fuss over it.  I only wish I had like 10 more instead of just this one.

Final Grade:  B+