Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fat Cat Lager Beer

This is brewed and canned by MDII in Monroe, Wisconsin.  Therefore an apparent contract brew by Minhas Craft Brewery.  "We gottit made!"

This beer pours light brown and orange, slightly cloudy, with a small off-white head that dissipates fairly rapidly.  The aroma is malty, biscuity, yeasty and fruity.  The taste is slightly sweet, a bit of slightly burnt caramel, malty and fruity with a slightly bitter and dry finish.  This is a nice amber lager, and nothing like its packaging and price range (less than $9 for a twelve pack) would suggest.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Brew Dog - Punk IPA; Hardcore IPA

Brew Dog is made in Fraserburgh, Scotland.

Punk IPA - "post modern classic pale ale"  This 6.0% ABV beer pours a light orangish-copper and cloudy.  It has a half inch of thick foamy head that is just a touch off-white.  The aroma is spicy, leathery, stone fruits, and richly malty.  The taste has a spicy, rye-like maltiness, a strange touch of vomit, and a very dry and bitter finish.  There is some light fruitiness in the aftertaste.  The beer actually gets better as it goes along.  Alas, this beer is past its "best before" date, which can definitely make a difference with an IPA.  I would love to try this fresh sometime and see how it compares.

Hardcore IPA - "explicit imperial ale"  This 9.2% ABV beer pours a murky and cloudy orangish-brown in color.  It has a small off-white head that dissipates fairly rapidly but leaves light to medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is fruity yet bitter, orange marmalade, somewhat zesty and spicy, over a strong, thick malt biscuit.  The taste is a thick, chewy, yeasty biscuit infused with orange marmalade and plum jam.  An interesting IPA.

Narragansett Brewing Company - Light; Summer Ale

"Hi Neighbor!"  The Narrangansett Brewing Company originates in Providence, Rhode Island and has been around since 1890.  "Made On Honor, Sold On Merit."  In the 1950's 'Gansett was New England's number one beer and also a sponsor of Boston Red Sox games.  They were purchased in 1965 by Falstaff, who was later purchased by Pabst.  In 2003, they were sold to Miller and are now back in local hands, owned by Mark Hellendrung.

Light - This can says it is brewed in Rochester, New York.  Narrangansett has really been pushing to expand lately it seems, perhaps they have exceeded their capacity and are contract brewed by Genesee?  This beer pours medium to light golden with a good inch of fizzy and foamy pure white head.  It is well carbonated.  The aroma is slightly sweet, wet grain, a bit of zesty grassiness, and a touch of green apple.  The taste is light grain, a touch of classic lager flavor, but overall a tad watery.  The carbonation refreshingly stings the tongue.  This is a decent and drinkable light beer, not great, but with no major negatives.  Like many beers of this style, it is even better straight from the can.

Summer Ale - This 4.2% ABV beer pours a bright honey golden in color with an inch of thick, foamy white head that leaves medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is fresh, bright, fruity, citrus zest and tropical fruit, but in a smooth, aromatic and honey-sweet way, not in a knock-you-over IPA way.  The taste is lightly honeyed fruit and citrus zest over a solid malt grain bed.  The finish is round and smooth yet very dry and somewhat bitter.  After the wave of bitterness, the sweet fruit lingers around again as well.  This beer far exceeded my expectations.  This is a damn fine summer ale and a damn fine beer all around.  The distribution of Narragansett is limited, but, if you can get your hands on this, try it now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michelob Golden Draft Light

This beer is from Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, Missouri, now owned by In-Bev of Belgium.

The Michelob Golden Draft and Draft Light line is only available in the upper Midwest, limited to Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.

This beer pours a light golden, pale straw in color with a half inch of white fizzy head that is slightly creamy and dissipates fairly rapidly, and leaves light to medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is slightly sweet, honey, wet grain, and some light straw.  The taste is watery, light grain and straw.  There is a tiny bit of bitterness on the finish, almost more implied than real.  The mouthfeel is intensely carbonated, giving a burning sensation to the mouth and throat.  This beer is slightly better poured from a can than from a bottle. At least it's a lot better than Bud Light.

2011, slight variations in the design:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

St. Paul Summer Beer Fest - 2011

I was finally able to attend my first beer fest this weekend.  Having never been to one before, I don't have anything to compare it to, so I will just give a few thoughts on it.  This was the third annual St. Paul Summer Beer Fest.  It was held at the International Bazaar at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  There were over 75 breweries represented.  The event lasted from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. (2 to 6 if you did not have a "VIP" ticket, ten dollars extra)  It was well attended, I would estimate several thousand people (3-4,000). 

The selection of brewers was big, there was no way to get even close to trying every beer you wanted, but I and many others sure gave it a try.  I have not seen such a large collection of extremely inebriated people in a long time.  However, I noticed only a handful of the brewers brought a firkin or other taste of a "rare" or "special" brew.  Also, for the size of the event, there were only two food vendors.  They could have done with a few more.  The weather did not really cooperate, it spit down light rain most of the event, but it was a great afternoon nonetheless.  I would certainly go again.  Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio won the People's Choice Award for the second year in a row, this year for their Engine 20 beer, a dark and smokey beer that is usually only available at their brewpub.

I forgot to cast my People's Choice Award vote, but had I remembered, I would have voted for the Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery's Honey Storm beer, a version of their  Thunderstorm summer ale, brewed with orange blossom honey, lemon grass and orange peel, and then aged in oak honey wine barrels.  It tasted like a malty, honey tinged whiskey sour.  It was unique and delicious.

The Twin Cities are really becoming a beer mecca of sorts.  There are several breweries, from the old (Summit, Schell's), to the bold (Surly), to the new (Fulton, Harriet, Flat Earth, Vine Park, St. Croix, Theodore Fyten, Lift Bridge) to the brew, pub that is (Town Hall, Barley John's, Herkimer, Rock Bottom).  There are several really good beer stores (Ale Jail, Four Firkins, Zipp's - to name but a few).  There are also several really good beer bars with either large, varied or good local selections (Muddy Pig, Blue Nile, Longfellow Grill, Stub and Herbs, Buster's on 28th - to name but a few). 

I was able to visit the Muddy Pig at Selby and Dale in St. Paul, and try the Fulton Brewing Company Sweet Child O' Vine and Epic Brewing Company Hopulent.  At the Longfellow Grill overlooking the Mississippi River gorge in Minneapolis, I tried the Fulton Blonde, Lift Bridge Hop Prop IPA, and Flat Earth Belgian Pale.  I also tried the Handy's Lager and the Kolsch at Herkimer's.  I was terribly unimpressed with their beer and have heard the same thing from several others.

Store wise I was able to make it to Zipp's in Minneapolis and the Ale Jail in St. Paul.  The Ale Jail is my new favorite beer store.  It is large and roomy.  While it has that clean, bright "boutique" store look, it's prices are reasonable.  The selection was insanely large and basically everything is available as a single.  I will always be stopping here every time I get to the Twin Cities.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wachusett Brewing Co. - IPA

The Wachusett Brewing Company has been operating since 1994 in Westminster, Massachusetts.

This 5.6% ABV India Pale Ale pours copper colored with nearly an inch of just off-white foamy and creamy head that leaves light lacing down the glass.  The aroma is fruity, zesty, a touch of citrus, tea with lemon, slightly creamy.  The taste is fruity and floral, aromatic, almost jasmine, like a slightly sweet tea with lemon.  The finish is smooth and only slightly bitter.  This is  a really interesting IPA, well balanced and very flavorful.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pabst Blue Ribbon

The famous PBR, Pabst Blue Ribbon.  This beer pours light golden, pale straw in color with a half inch of pure white light foam that dissipates rapidly.  The aroma is golden grain, a surprising amount of lagery funk, a bit of grassy hops.  The taste follows the aromas quite directly, a touch of grain, funky for a big American adjunct lager, only very slightly bitter, the finish being more grassy than bitter.  This is one of those beers that I think tastes a bit better out of the bottle.

The Pabst Brewing Company now just owns the name to its namesake beer and about 25 other beers.  They have not brewed themselves for years and contract brew all of their beers.  The Pabst Brewing Company was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1844.  Interestingly enough, the brewery was started by Jacob Best, whose brother Charles soon went on to start the Plank Road Brewery, which became Miller Brewing Company.  The beer gets its name from a later investor in the brewery Captain Fred Pabst.  In the late 1800's the beer won several medals and they decided to emphasize that fact by calling it Pabst - Blue Ribbon.

Busch Light

This beer pours a very pale gold, pale straw in color with a half inch of pure white and thin head that leaves light lacing down the glass.   The aroma is somewhat sharp and sour green apple, metallic, and some grain in a galvanized metal bucket.  The taste is better than the aroma, but the apple and metal are apparent to some degree, a light grain taste, just a touch of hop flavor.  This drinks quite watery but still well-carbonated.  The burp of this beer would taste better than the beer itself.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Trader Joe's 2010 Vintage Ale

This is a dark ale brewed with spices and natural flavors added.  It is brewed by the Unibroue brewery of Quebec, Canada, as a Trader Joe's store brand.  It is their Christmas holiday season ale.  It is bottle conditioned and can be cellared for up to almost three years.

The 9.0% ABV beer pours dark black in color with a billowing head of light brown foam.  The aroma is very spiced, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, allspice, light vanilla.  It gives an almost root beer effect.  The taste is very yeasty and spicy.  There is a banana element from the yeast but it is softened by all of the spice flavors.  Underlying the spice is very strong roasted, dark, caramel malt.  I generally do not like a yeasty beer that gives off banana notes, but here it is saved by the massive spice.  This is truly a Christmas spice beer.  The aftertaste gives the old-fashioned root beer note. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hamm's; Special Light; Golden Draft

Hamm's originated in 1865 when Theodore Hamm started a brewery in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Hamm's eventual became Minnesota's leading brewery.  Hamm's reached its heyday in the mid-1960's when it was actually the seventh largest producer in America.  It began to decline in the 1970's and in 1975 it was acquired by Olympia.  Hamm's is now owned and produced by the Miller Brewing Company.

"From the land of sky blue waters (waters)/Hamm's the beer refreshing/Hamm's the beer refreshing/Hamm's."

The cartoon bear was their mascot from 1953 until 2003.  Good luck having a cartoon animal spokesman for your beer nowadays.

Hamm's - This 4.7% ABV beer pours a pale golden, sun-bleached straw in color with a half-inch of pure white foam.  The aroma is slightly sweet and metallic, a bit grainy, think apple juice poured over cracked corn in a galvanized steel bucket.  The taste is mild, better than the aroma, some light golden grain, a bit of cracked corn, lightly sweet, but not much.  Almost no hops are apparent, just enough to lead to a lightly grassy finish, but almost no bitterness.  It is extremely carbonated with a biting and crisp finish.  Not much going on here, but inoffensive, and probably better than say, Budweiser. It is much better straight from the can.

Special Light - This beer pours a very pale, sun bleached straw, light golden in color.  There is a small white head that rapidly dissipates.  The aroma is a very light grain, some apple, a touch of citrus and a touch of lagerish hops.  The taste is light, crisp, clean, a little grain, a tiny touch of lager funk and hop bitterness.  I think this might actually be a bit more flavorful than the regular.  It is well carbonated and gives a refreshing sting on the back of the throat.

Golden Draft - This beer pours light golden with a half-inch of white foamy head.  The aroma is grain, dry corn, light straw and just a touch of hop bitterness.  There are no apple or metallic notes.  The taste is grain, corn, an ever so slight sweetness and a mild hop bitterness.  This is one of the best American adjunct lagers.

The distribution of Hamm's is limited, but the distribution of the Special Light and Golden Draft are extremely limited.  I have only ever seen them in southern Minnesota.  Where else have people seen them?

(Commenter below found the Special Light in Michigan and it is now also in Iowa City, Iowa. I was very surprised in January 2014 to find Hamm's on tap at the Deadwood bar in Iowa City.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Samuel Adams - Boston Ale; East-West Kolsch; Rustic Saison; Wee Heavy

The Samuel Adams line of beers are from the Boston Brewing Company of Boston, Massachusetts.  They are one of the grand daddies of the craft brewing movement and now also brew out of Cincinnati, Ohio and Breinigsville, Pennsylvania.

Boston Ale - This beer pours orange-brown and copper in color with a quarter-inch of slightly off-white foam.  The aroma is fruit and sweet, a bit like orange marmalade.  The taste follows the aroma, adds caramel malt and has a bitter and slightly spicy finish. 

East-West Kolsch - The name derives from mixing West, kolsch-style beer, and East, with Asian jasmine sambac flowers.  This beer pours a bright, glowing yellow honey golden in color with a small white head that leaves medium lacing down the glass.  The smell is aromatic, slightly floral,the jasmine is apparent over honey grain.  The taste is honey sweet grain, a touch of jasmine, and a medium bitter and dry hop finish.  the jasmine revives in the aftertaste.  Not amazing, but a decent summer refresher.

Rustic Saison - This Belgian-style farmhouse beer is brewed with honey.  This beer pours a light, pale golden in color with a small white head that leaves light lacing down the glass.  The aroma is flowers, honey, yeast, and a touch of banana.  The taste follows the aroma.  If you like a crisp, yeasty saison, that is flavorful but drinks light, you will really like this.  It is too yeasty for my taste, that is not a taste I enjoy much.

Wee Heavy -  From their Imperial series, this Scotch Ale weighs in at a whopping 10% ABV.  The beer pours a dark, opaque black with a small light brown head.  There is a touch of ruby if held up to light.  The aroma is dark malted barley, peat smoke, Scotch whiskey.  The taste is smokey, peaty, dark roasted malt, it is reminiscent of an island single malt Scotch.  The alcohol is apparent, but not obtrusive.  A very interesting beer that single malt Scotch fans will enjoy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Midnight Sun Brewing Co. Hop Dog Double Wheat India Pale Ale

Midnight Sun Brewing Company is located in Anchorage, Alaska.

This 8.0% ABV beer pours a bright orange/copper/amber in color with a large, thick, billowing head of creamy foam that is just off-white and leaves sticky lacing of medium thickness.  The aroma is fruity, citrusy and creamy, a bit like an orange dreamsicle.  The taste is like an initial bite of dark pumpernikel bread followed by a fruity and creamy orange dreamsicle that finishes sweet, bitter and dry all at the same time.  This is a very interesting and unique beer.  By its date marking, my bottle is not exactly fresh, I can only imagine how great this would be really fresh.

Thornbridge Kipling South Pacific Style Pale Ale

The Thronbridge Brewery - Riverside Brewery is at Buxton Road, Bakewell, UK.

This 5.2% ABV beer pours a glowing yellow golden, slightly cloudy, with a small white head that leaves a nearly clear glass.  The aroma is much like a lager, grain and some straw/grain/barn/ "funk."  There is a bit of light fruit in the aroma as well and some light leather.  The taste is a wave of lager with the funk, followed immediately by a refreshing fruitiness with zesty citrus and tropical notes, with another quick wave of dry bitterness that finishes the flavor.  While not visibly highly carbonated the beer has a biting, carbonated mouthfeel that finishes dry.  This is a very flavorful and refreshing beer.

Schlitz Beer Classic 1960's Formula

"The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous."  "Just the Kiss of Hops."

It might be hard to fathom for most today, but from post-World War II until the early 1970's, it was Schlitz that was the king of beers, and was often the top selling brand in America, beating all other beers, including Budweiser.  I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1992-1993 and every pub had two American beers, Budweiser and, to my amazement, Schlitz.

Schlitz is from the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, which is now actually owned by Pabst, who has all of their portfolio contract brewed. The Schlitz brewery started in 1858 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after Joseph Schlitz married the widow of the previous owner of the brewery.  Schlitz took off in 1871 after the Great Chicago Fire put its Chicago competition out of business, at least temporarily.

This beer pours golden in color with an inch of white smooth head that disappears quickly, but leaves light lacing down the glass.  The aroma is fresh dry corn, a touch of straw, tangy, with a little hop zestiness in the back.  The taste is fairly light and follows the aroma with a little bit of crisp, dry, bitterness on the finish.  There is a little bit of sweetness, but for its category, it finishes nicely dry.  It is well carbonated with a crisp burn in the mouthfeel. A pale adjunct lager? Yes, but an American classic.

2016, about the only change is the bottle no longer says "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous." The beer pours a very clear golden in color. There is an inch of white head. The aroma is lightly toasted golden grain, a touch of grassy hops, with a bit of breadiness. The taste follows the aromas, mild, grain and bread dough, with just a touch of hops, adding a hint of bitterness to the finish. The beer drinks very easy and refreshing. This is an oldie and a goodie.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bear Republic Brewing Company Tribute Ale

This 6.3% ABV brown ale is made as a tribute to Peter Brown (1949-2002), a former sales manager for the brewery.  Bear Republic is in the beautiful city of Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California.

The beer pours dark brown and opaque, with just a hint of ruby translucency around the edges if held up to the light.  There is a quarter inch of off white head.  The aroma is dark roasted malt, both sweet and with a coffee-like bitterness.  The taste is slightly sweet, slightly tart, very dark roasted malt, bits of coffee and dark chocolate.  This is a nicely balanced brown ale, so dark roasted that it approaches a porter.

Ozeno Yukidoke IPA

Brewed and bottled by Ryujin Shuzo in Gunma, Japan.

This 5.5% ABV beer pours a glowing orange-copper-amber with a slight and rapidly dissipating head.  The aroma is somewhat subdued, but consists of pine and citrus with some zesty spiciness .  It drinks fairly light, tea with lemon juice and a very bitter and dry finish.  I suspect that a glass of this fresh out of the brewery in Japan would be awesome.  This one has fizzled a bit but is still quite drinkable.

Yoho Brewing Company - Yona Yona Ale; Ao Oni IPA

The Yoho Brewing Company is in Nagano, Japan.

Yona Yona Ale - This 5.5% ABV beer pours a bright and glowing copper color with a quarter inch of just off-white creamy head that leaves light lacing down the glass.  The aroma is lightly fruity, mostly stone fruits, some caramel malt, a little grain, a touch of grass and the aroma is somehow smooth and round.  The taste is roasted, caramel malt, a bit of rye toast, slightly sweet, but with a bitter and mostly dry finish.

Ao Oni IPA - The name apparently refers to a legendary Japanese blue gnome.  This 7.0% ABV beer pours a radiant and glowing orangish-copper-amber in color.  There is a half inch of just off-white thick and foamy head.  The aroma is zesty, spicy, a very light fruit and citrus and a caramel malt background.  The taste is caramel malt, light dark cherry, light bitter grapefruit and a very dry and bitter finish.  Certainly more of an English style IPA than American style.

Tokyo Black Porter - This 5.0% ABV beer pours a super dark brown, appearing totally black unless held to the light.  There is a slight head of brown foam that rapidly dissipates.  The aroma is smokey, peaty, roasted malt.  The taste is a very deep, dark, roasted malt, slightly smokey, very dark cocoa, a bit of bitter black coffee.  Very dry with just a hint of tartness after the wave of roasted malts. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rubicon Brewing Company Hopsauce Double IPA

The Rubicon Brewing Company is in Sacramento, California.

This 8.2% ABV beer pours copper/amber in color with a quarter-inch of off-white head that dissipates fairly rapidly.  The aroma is fruity and aromatic, cherries and jasmine tea.  The taste is malty for a DIPA, perhaps this bottle is not as fresh as it could be.  The taste is spicy, rye bread and slightly burnt sugar with a finish that is both somewhat sweet and dry and bitter at the same time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kern River Brewing Company Just Outstanding IPA

The Kern River Brewing Company is in Kernville, California.

This 6.8% ABV beer pours a glowing orange-copper in color and has a quarter inch of thick foamy white head that leaves a medium density of ragged and sticky lacing.  The aroma is wildly hop forward, with succulent tropical fruits, melon and a bit of pineapple juice.  There is some spiciness and zestiness in the background, flittering around just enough caramel malt to keep this thing from blasting off into outer space.  The taste is the same massive array of hops as the aroma, the flavors are fresh, fruity, lush and spine-tingling.  The finish is slightly sweet, slightly dry and with a satisfying amount of bitterness reminiscent of drinking fresh grapefruit juice.  The aftertaste is lingering notes of tropical fruits and grapefruit.  The bottle does not lie when it states, "The name says it all," because this beer is a just outstanding West Coast American IPA.