Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This was the cheap beer that we favored my senior year of college.  The can is now red, it was more brown back then.

Keystone, Keystone Light, and Keystone Ice are all made by Coors.  I find Keystone Light is very similar to Coors Light but a lot cheaper.  "Always Smooth" is their motto.  These beers are very drinkable and very forgettable.  They are smooth and light and refreshing on a hot day.  But if you want much beer flavor, you will have to go somewhere else.  Keystone Light is ubiquitous.  I think the Ice is fairly easy to find too.  You don't see Keystone regular as much.  I used to get it in Massachusetts.  I have also seen it in Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Where else have you seen Keystone?

Otro Mundo Red Ale

This 7.5% ABV red ale pours a reddish copper in color.  Aroma of sherry.  There is more carbonation visible than the mouth feel indicates.  The mouthfeel is slightly watery.  It is slightly sweet and tastes of caramel and malt.  The sweetness inreases as the beer warms.  The hops are not forward in any way although it is slightly dry and bitter on the finish, so there is some balance in there.  If you like a sweet, caramel malt ale, this one is for you.

This beer is brewed in Argentina.  I picked this up at John's Grocery in Iowa City, Iowa.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Broughton Ales - Merlin's Ale - Black Douglas Ale

Scotland, a beautiful land with nice people and great beer.  These two beers are brewed in Scotland in the Border's Region.

Merlin's Ale - Pours honey golden with a half inch head that laces the glass as it goes down.  There is an aroma of flowers and fruit juice.  The beer is well carbonated, just a hint of malt sweetness and a crisp hoppy finish that is both floral and fruity.  Very light and subtle, it finishes with a dry bitterness that is refreshing.  This beer is very light in all aspects and I mean that in the best way.  It is subtle and very pleasing.  It is an excellent bitter ale.  4.2% ABV.

Black Douglas Ale - Dark ruby red, almost black in color.  Smell of raisins and port.  Taste is a bit of coffee, raisin, sweetness.  This is a good dark ruby ale, but it is a touch too sweet for my taste.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Boulevard Brewing Co. Lunar Ale

This is bottle-conditioned.  I've never seen a bottle-conditioned ale that is also a twist-off, but let's give it a try.  It pours a reddish light brown with surprisingly no head for a bottle-conditioned beer.  I must be sensitive to the taste of yeast.  If you have read previous posts of mine, you also know that I don't care for the taste of yeast.  This beer tastes of only one thing to me, yeast.  Therefore, I don't care for it at all.  Someone who likes hefeweizens would probably really like this.

If like me, you don't like yeast, don't worry, Boulevard makes a wide range of other beers that are consistenly tasty and high quality.  Boulevard is out of Kansas City, Missouri.


RCH Brewery Ale Mary

A British ale of 6.0% ABV.  I got this at John's Grocery in Iowa City, Iowa.

This pours a reddish-copper color and slightly cloudy.  The aroma and taste are unlike any beer I have ever had.  This beer is truly unique.  It tastes like a liquer with the mouthfeel of a beer.  It tastes a bit like sloe gin.  It has a lot of spice and fruit, a bit like pomegranate with a hint of allspice and cloves.  The bottle gives a good description as well:  "Ale Mary is bottle-conditioned by Wessex Craft Brewers.  The ale, therefore, contains live yeast and matures naturally in the bottle, producing the sparkle and complexity of a cask conditioned ale.  A dark, rich spicy bottle-conditioned ale, resonant with Christmas seasonal flavours and designed to take the chill off the coolest winter night.  Ale Mary has a warm and sweet aroma of cloves, coriander and ginger.  The palate provides touches of rum, raisins and sultanas with a dry fruity finish."

Winner of a CAMRA gold medal in 2001 (google it).

I pride myself on my vocabulary, but could not tell you off the top of my head what "sultana" means.  According to Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition (1962) (I lazily and by chance, and not actively, collect dictionaries)  it is a small, white, seedless grape used for raisins and in wine-making.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Burton Bridge Brewery Olde Expensive Ale - another English ale with a knight on the bottle

Pouring with a massive thick, foamy head this beer is cloudy and copper colored.  The aroma is sweet and tart all at once.  Taste is a bit of sweet, a bit of tart, a bit of malt and a very bitter astringent finish.  The malt and bitter come into more balance as the beer warms.  This is a very good English bitter.  No wonder the king is smiling on the label, his goblet must be full of this stuff.  6.5% ABV.  I give these guys a lot of credit for making a bottle conditioned ale that is not overwhelmed by the taste of the yeast.

Ridgeway Brewing - Bad King John; Warm Welcome Nut Browned Ale; Santa's Butt Winter Porter

The Ridgeway Brewing Company is in Oxfordshire, England. They are imported by Shelton Brothers.

Bad King John, A Very English Black Ale - This beer pours dark black in color.  The aroma is of dark toasted malt, with a dried fruit/raisin sweetness, and biscuit.  The taste is like the aroma with a nice dry coffee on the finish.  Not at all heavy, it drinks with a nice light mouthfeel.  6%ABV.  This is a really nice dark beer.  I would definitely drink it again.  As an added bonus, you have to love the jousting knights on the bottle.

Warm Welcome Nut Browned Ale - This 6.0% ABV beer pours a very orange brown and slightly hazy.  There is a small head of light brown foam.  The aroma is malty, wet grain, slightly sweet.  The taste is roasted malt, light caramel, very malty.  If you like drinkable malty beers, this is one.

Santa's Butt Winter Porter - In England, a "butt" is an old word referring to a large 108 Imperial Gallon barrel customarily used for beer.  This 6.0% ABV beer pours black, dark brown around the edges if held to the light.  There is very little light brown head.  The aroma is mild for a porter, a bit of dark roasted malt with a mild tang.  The taste follows the aroma, it is quite light tasting for a porter.  There is some dark roasted malt, a bit of nuttiness and a tangy finish.  This is not a porter I would seek a for a porter's sake.  So there you have it, Santa's Butt is surprisingly mild tasting.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lake Placid Brewing Company India Pale Ale

Dark copper in color, it has an aroma of burnt caramel and malt with a sharp note of hops that is not at all fruity or citrusy.  The taste is very dry and astringent hops with a malt taste at the finish.  It tastes much like it smells.  This is not a IPA of the very floral, citrus, grassy, etc. variety.

Lake Placid Brewing Company is in Utica, NY.  This started as a winter seasonal for them but is now one of their regular beers and is their most award-winning beer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

J.W. Lees Manchester Star Ale

Pours with immense carbonation, one inch head, dark as black coffee.  Appealing aroma like a sweet dessert with liquer.  Taste is sweet but not cloyingly so, balanced by coffee.  This tastes like a rich dessert of dense bittersweet chocolate torte infused with liquer.  As it warms up a taste of raisins appears, almost a fruitcake effect.  7.3%ABV.  From the bottle:  "Manchester Star is brewed to an original recipe dating back to 1884, when J.W. Lees Brewery in Middleton Junction just outside Manchester was already 56 years old.  In 2001, our current head brewer, Giles Dennis visited Garrett Oliver at the Brooklyn Brewery and resurrected this long forgotten ale for the first time in over 120 years."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Widmer Brothers Drop Top Amber Ale

Very light amber in color.  I expected something malt forward, perhaps with a touch of sweetness.  Instead it had a light (read weak) flavor and a touch of sour.  I would not try this again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Harpoon IPA

Harpoon is out of Boston, MA, a great city.  I was in college there in the early nineties when the craft brewing movement was first gaining steam.  Things like Sam Adams and Harpoon were unbelievably flavorful because nothing like them had been brewed in America for a long time.  They did not have a lot of modern era equivalents.

I do have a slight cold, so I may be misinterpreting the taste of this.  That being said, it seems like a very mainstream, accessible IPA.  It would be a good introductory IPA, one with training wheels so to speak.  It pours a honey golden color, lighter in color than a lot of IPA's.  Its aroma and flavor of hops is less than some American pale ales.  It is very drinkable, but not what a real hop-head would want out of an IPA.

According to the bottle:  "In the tradition of IPAs, our highly-hopped, copper-colored ale features a floral aroma and a crisp, refreshing finish."


Peace Tree Brewing Double IPA Seasonal - Hop Sutra

This is from the Peace Tree Brewing Company in Knoxville, Iowa.  The description on the bottle pretty much sums up this beer:  This brew is for hop huggers.  We've added over 2-1/2 times the hops of our Hop Wrangler IPA with four varieties of hops in six massive hop additions.  With over 1-1/2 times the barley of our normal beers, our grist hopper was nearly overflowing.  Fermentation with the same Belgian yeast as our Hop Wrangler IPA rounds out this bold beer.

It is very hoppy and very bold flavored.  The bottle contains the sediment of yeast.  Even leaving this in the bottle after pouring there is a strong yeasty taste.  I don't enjoy a strong yeast taste, so this beer would taste better to me if the yeast had been filtered out.

Hop Sutra - The seasonal DIPA from Peace Tree has now become "Hop Sutra" and is supposed to be available year round as I understand it.  Let's see if it seems any different.  The beer pours a glowing burnt orange, dark amber and copper in color.  There is a negligible head that is light brown.  The aroma is hoppy, lots of tropical fruit and melon, wrapped in yeast esters.  The taste is a tropical fruit salad, with sliced banana added (from the yeast).  The finish is bitter.  There is plenty of malt and it keeps the hops from going into orbit.  This is a very good beer, but as before, for my personal taste, I would prefer less yeast.  As the beer goes on, the yeast taste does fade and the tropical fruits predominate more.  All in all, a pretty damn good DIPA.

When in season...let's try this again here on July 25, 2015. The beer pours orange and amber and a bit cloudy. There is an inch of thick, off-white head. The aroma is over ripe melons, citrus, and yeast esters. The taste follows the aromas, big ripe fruit, tangy citrus, along with yeast esters. The beer drinks round, medium bodied, with a tingle of carbonation and with a bit of warming alcohol. Still nice.

Old Milwaukee

Old Milwaukee was first released in 1955 by the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company.  It ended up sold to Stroh's and is now owned by Pabst Brewing.

The beer pours a light golden color, with a tall white head of foam. The aroma has a light smell of grain with a hint of straw.  The taste follows the path of the aromas directly. It drinks crisp and refreshing.  Is it a German lager?  No.  But it has more flavor than the bigger boy macros like Bud, Coors or Miller.  It is a classic American macro lager, in the best sense of that.  Look down on them if you want, but Old Milwaukee is good cheap beer.  Oh the amount of Old Milwaukee returnables we used to drink in Minneapolis back in the day!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nebraska too?

I recently had a post pointing out that a lot of good beers are being brewed in Iowa.  A couple of my recent tasting notes reminded me that there are a lot of good beers to be found coming out of Nebraska these days too.  Not two states that are normally associated with craft beer.  It seems like there is a really surging craft beer movement out there, and so many local and regional beers are popping up, it must also be fed by the same urge that is feeding the local food movement.

If you get the chance sample some of the beers coming out of these brewers below.  Did I miss any?  Are there any other good brews happening in Nebraska?

Lucky Bucket Brewing Company - La Vista, NE

Upstream Brewing Company - Omaha, NE

Thunderhead Brewing Company - Kearney, NE

Empyrean Brewing Company - Lincoln, NE

Spiker Ales - Cortland, NE

Schilling Bridge Brewing Company - Pawnee City, NE

Nebraska Brewing Company - Papillion, NE

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ska Brewing Company ESB Special Ale

The Ska Brewing Company is in Durango, Colorado.  Lip Up Fatty!

esb special ale - reddish and light copper in color.  I'm having trouble putting my finger on this beer.  It is definitely correctly described as an extra special bitter in the English style.  It is not overwhelmingly malty, but malt predominates.  Its flavors are subtle.  It finishes bitter but outwardly hoppy flavor-wise.  There is a bit of a sour tinge there, but I mean that in a good way.  When I was in the United Kingdom, I always tasted just a hint of vinegar in my favorite ales. 

Ska does a good job overall, I would never avoid any of their beers.  Gotta love the hipster skeletons on the labels and beers with names like Steel Toe Stout.  I have not tried it yet but they also have Buster Nut Brown Ale.  Classic.


Thunderhead Brewing Company - Cornstalker Dark Wheat; Golden Frau Honey Wheat

The Thunderhead Brewing Company is in Kearney, Nebraska.

Cornstalker Dark Wheat - Wasn't sure what to expect from this.  It pours coffee black, like Guinness.  It has a half inch creamy foam head.  It has a really nice dark roasted malt flavor, coffee and dark chocolate.  Not at all sweet, not yeasty at all.  This tastes like a respectable porter or stout.  5.2% ABV.  I really like this beer, it is not at all what I expected, but I would drink it any time I wanted a full flavored but very drinkable dark beer.  From the can:  "Never Filtered - Never Pasteurized"

Golden Frau Honey Wheat - it has been awhile since I have had this but I remember it as refreshing and very drinkable, more lager than yeasty wheat.  People who love wheat beers would probably find it plain, but it lacked what I don't  like in wheat beers, so I liked it.


Empyrean Brewing Company Better World Wheat

The Empyrean Brewing Company is in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Better World Wheat Belgian Style Wheat Ale - What can I say?  I am not a very big fan of wheat beers, whether they be American wheats, American Belgian Style, Belgian wheats, German Hefeweizens, etc.  The yeast to me always imparts an aroma and taste of fake banana flavoring that is off-putting to me.  This particular beer has that same thing going on, but then right behind is a nice lager beer taste, a dry finish, and a strange floral-herb flavor that is enjoyable but is hard to describe.  Must be because they use chamomile flowers in this brew.  As the beer warms up in the glass, the chamomile comes forward and it is like drinking a chamomile tea flavored lager.  Unique and strange but pleasant.  4.3% ABV.  From the bottle: "Save the Earth - There's Nowhere Else With Beer!"


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I love the Twin Cities and I found this interesting, what sells the most...

Who doesn't love tidbits of, what upon further analysis, is totally useless information?


My first beer advice

If you have a question about beer, I'll do my best to answer it.  Here is our first reader question and my reply:

I come to you, fine sir, looking for something new. I'm bored with beer (gasp!). Your blog suggests that you may hold the knowledge to lead me to the promised land of new beer experiences.   My usual purchases are Belgians, IPAs, ESBs, pales ... . I'm particularly frustrated this time of year because it's friggin hot here in Texas and I can't stomach drinking anything too heavy.  Anyway ... any suggestions are welcome.

Thirsty and Miserable in Texas

Oh most favored acolyte, you are wise to seek me out.  Well, what is available beer-wise varies wildly from state to state, so I will probably try to talk more in generalities than specific beers as I do not know what is or is not available in Texas.

Taking your list of usual purchases (with which you profess boredom) and adding in the current heat, here are a few ideas: You obviously like highly flavored beers (excellent) but need something lighter. Give some German or Czech pilsners or lagers a try. They have great flavor but are much lighter and refreshing than the big boys you listed, especially on a hot summer day.
Another possibility along those lines would be to try some black lagers, either American or German. They are black as coffee, flavorful, but surprisingly light. Actually a really good one is the Shiner Black Lager which must be widely available in Texas. Perhaps you have had it. I think their Shiner Bock is good too.
A total out of left field approach would be to try some Belgian Krieks or other fruit lambics. They are a total change, but many are very good and they would be lighter more refreshing on the whole. I don't know if Founders (from Michigan?) is available down there, but they have a cherry beer called Cerise which is really great.
It is not available in every state, but if TX has the new Newcastle Summer Ale, give that a try.
Many German and American seasonal Oktoberfests are starting to appear already, giving some of those a try might be a good idea.
Finally, you could go totally crazy, your list does not include stouts or porters, grab a random sample and see what hits you. Many of the American ones are too sweet for my taste, but if its been awhile since you have had Guinness, the draught is lighter than most people think.
Sierra Nevada is probably available there. Almost everything they do is good. If Summit gets down that far south, everything they do is good too.
Oops, almost forgot, wheat beers are not to my liking, but if you like them, they make great light refreshing summer beers and can have interesting flavors, particularly since you do like Belgian beers, some of which have similar flavors in them.
Hopefully you have access to a beer store that sells singles, makes it easier to try things. Let me know what you find!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Trying Iowa beer in Iowa City, Iowa

If you love beer, you of course have to go to John's Grocery in Iowa City.  Located not far from the Old Capital, it is a small cramped grocery store that has an extensive beer selection.  It is also locally known as Dirty Johns.  Anyone who likes any kind of beer will find something they like here, however, they seem to really make an effort to have an extensive Belgian selection, so if that is your thing, don't miss this place.  They also have their own beer, a Belgian white, brewed for them by nearby Millstream Brewing in Amana, Iowa.

Also check out a place just across from the Old Capital called Short's Burgers and Shine.  This is a small bar and restaurant in a place that apparently was a shoe shine place for many years.  It still has the old wood work and tile on the floor.  There are several old silver dollars installed in the floor.  The old shoe shine chair sits near the entrance.  The place is longer than it is wide.  They concentrate on burgers, all the ground beef comes from nearby.  They have an extensive collection of unique specialty topping burgers, all named after towns in Iowa.  The burgers were good.  The hand cut fries were tasty but very greasy.  They would make great cheese fries which is a menu item.  So why am I mentioning this on my blog?  Every of the dozen or so beers on tap is brewed in Iowa.  It is a great place to try some fresh brewed Iowa beers.


They are actually brewing some really good beer in...Iowa.

There are currently more and more beers being brewed in Iowa, and many of them are very good, tasty, and highly drinkable.

Probably the oldest is Millstream Brewing Company out of the Amana Colonies.  They have been around for 25 years now.  I remember trying their beer at their brewery in the early 1990's.  The whole craft beer thing was new back then.  The beers were good and still are, although I have heard that they went a little downhill for a period.  Now they are winning awards for their beer.

Madhouse Brewing Company out of Newton has an awesome American pale ale and a very drinkable wheat.  Wheat beers are not I style I generally like, but I can drink the Madhouse.  This is run by the Jasper Winery folks.  They put their brewery in the old Maytag factory.  The pale ale is called Pastime which is also the name of the first washing machine by Maytag that came out in 1907.

Peace Tree Brewing Company out of Knoxville is doing some original and full-flavored beers.  They also have great labels and I love the old school squat bottles.

Olde Main Brewery in Ames has a really nice India Pale Ale and a line of other beers as well.

Great River Brewery in Davenport has a very nice pale ale and a good red ale.  I have not been able to try any others from them yet.

Old Man River Brewing out of McGregor, Iowa has a nice dunkel.  I have not been able to try enough of their beers to say much more.

This does not even touch on the many brewpubs who are brewing some good beer on site.

There is also Hub City out of Stanley.  I heard someone call this Hub Shitty.  I have tried several and they were uniformly bad.  However, that was quite a number of months ago, maybe they have increased their quality.

Am I missing any?  Which is your favorite?








Great Divide Brewing Company Fresh Hop Pale Ale

The Great Divide Brewing Company is from Denver, Colorado. This is a 6.1% ABV Fresh Hop Pale Ale. From the bottle:  “Great Minds Drink Alike”  “Grassy, Citrusy”  "Brewed with fresh, whole cone hops from the Pacific Northwest. We ship these “wet” hops to Denver overnight and brew shortly after harvest, imparting an intensely grassy hop aroma and citrus hop flavor in a medium-bodied ale". Well, the bottle calls it correctly.  This is intensely hoppy, with citrus, grassy and hint of pine notes, almost a bit of cilantro in there.  It finishes dry, but light for its intense flavor.