Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sanctuary Pub - Iowa City, Iowa

The Sanctuary Pub is at 405 S. Gilbert Street in Iowa City, Iowa.

http://www.sanctuarypub.com/

I went to the Sanctuary Pub this Friday for the first time.  The bar is in an old building with a lot of history.  It is dark, with lots of wood, the kind of pub I like.  There are 27 taps with a good selection of Iowa brewed, Belgian and Belgian-style, and general craft beers.  There is also a large (100+) selection of bottles.  I did not get to try the food, but the menu looked very interesting and I would love to eat there some time (I later got the opportunity and the food was good too).

I was able to try the Golden Nugget IPA on tap.  This comes from the Toppling Goliath brewery in Decorah, Iowa.  It is a light-drinking, but a big and boldly flavored, refreshing, very hop forward, IPA.  It has massive fruit flavors, citrus and tropical fruits, with a smooth finish.  I was blown away by it and instantly rated it as one of the five best IPA's I have ever had.  I was also able to try Toppling Goliath's Dorothy's New World Lager, and it was one of the tastiest and most solid American lagers I have had in a long time.  If you ever get a chance to try a Toppling Goliath beer, don't miss out.

I tasted the Aphrodite from Ommegang, which is a limited release newly on tap at Sanctuary.  It was tart, dry and fruity.  Its only drawback for me was that its fruit flavor is mainly raspberry, which is not a fruit flavor I particularly like.  Despite that, it was apparent how well crafted this beer is.  I also tried the Double Dog Double Pale Ale by Flying Dog.  It was massive in every way, tons of hops, tons of malt, and a high alcohol at about 11.5%.  Flying Dog has withdrawn from distribution in Iowa, so it was the last time to experience any of their beers in this area.

Finally, I had not been able to try a Bear Republic Racer 5 in a long time so I gave that a try.  A very solid hop forward IPA, but after the fresh, draft Golden Nugget, it just couldn't stand up.

Our server, David, was very knowledgeable about beer and very friendly.  If he's working while you are there, give him a big tip, he deserves it!

If you like beer and are in Iowa City, don't miss out on going to the Sanctuary.







Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. Centennial Martyr Double IPA

The Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company is in Indianapolis, Indiana.

http://www.thr3ewisemen.com/

This 8.0% DIPA pours a medium-dark brown with orange-amber in color.  It is cloudy and slightly translucent, but not transparent.  There is a small light brown head that leaves very light lacing down the glass.  It is only lightly carbonated.  The aroma is fruity, spicy, with a rye-like maltiness.  The taste is plum jam and a bit of dark cherry jam on a rich, toasted, biscuity scone.  The malt is deep and rich, toasted and nutty as the beer goes along.  There is a slight sweetness, then the spiciness from the aroma is apparent, just before a suddenly dry and bitter finish. The flavors are all apparent in the aftertaste and as it progresses, some tobacco and strong iced tea with lemon are noted.  This is a beer chock full of flavors.




Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cucapa Obscura

This 4.5% beer is brewed and bottled by the Cerveceria Baja California in Mexicali, Mexico. 

http://www.cucapa.com/

The beer pours dark brown with a ruby tint, it is only translucent at the edges.  There is a small and short lasting head of light brown foam.  The aroma is slightly sweet, nutty, toffee with a slightly sour fruit note that is consistent, not clashing, with the sweeter aromas.  The taste follows the aromas, but unlike those two, it does clash.  The taste is like a sour fruit encased in sweet dark chocolate.  Some people like the mix, to me, it is like a very tart raspberry covered in dark chocolate, and it just does not appeal to my palate.

Gulden Draak Ale

This is from the Brouwerij Van Steenberge in Ertvelde, Belgium.

This beer is a whopping 10.5% ABV.  It pours a dark brown, like very dark tea, with hints of ruby.  It is barely translucent.  It has a massive tower of bubbling, cauldron boiling, foamy head that is light brown in color.  It bubbles down to the consistency of sea foam and leaves thick and sticky lacing of a medium density. The aroma is fruity, dark plums and cherries, spices, and a touch of yeast.  The taste is very fruity, lots of dark cherry, on a base of dark caramel maltiness.  There is an astringent oakiness in the finish.  It drinks intensely flavorful without being heavy in the mouth.  The alcohol provides a subtle warming effect without being overbearing.  This is a really excellent Belgian ale.

2011 Summer Beers: A Delicious Season

The crop of summer seasonals this year has been a remarkably good one.  I wish every one of these was available year round.  The availability of these beers varies by region, but if any of them are available around you, make sure to not miss them.  You can see my review of each of them on the blog.  Any summer seasonals you have tried this year?

Narragansett Summer Ale

Surly Hell

Tallgrass Brewing Company Halcyon Wheat

Victory Brewing Company Summer Love Ale

Shipyard Brewing Company Summer Ale

Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale


Tailgate Beer Blacktop Blonde

This is brewed and bottled for the Tailgate Beer company by the Cold Springs Brewery in Cold Springs, Minnesota.

http://www.tailgatebeer.com/

This 5.0% ABV golden ale pours an intensely yellow-golden in color.  It is well carbonated with a half inch of pure white head that dissipates fairly rapidly.  The aroma is fresh and clean, honey sweet grain with a light fruitiness.  The taste is mild, it follows the aroma but is more subdued, and the finish is slightly bitter.  The mouthfeel is crisply carbonated, yet smooth.  This beer is not a stand out on its own, but it would do well for its named purpose, tailgating with grilled burgers and brats.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Upstream Brewing Company - Horse Feathers Rye; Gianduja Imperial Brown Rye Ale; Grand Cru

The Upstream Brewing Company is in Omaha, Nebraska.  They are a brew pub with a solid line up of standard beers and also ever shifting special brews.  Their food is pretty good too.

http://www.upstreambrewing.com/

Their beer is generally available only on tap or in growlers, but these are some of their special edition beers that they bottle from time to time. 

Horse Feathers Rye - This 7.1% ABV beer was brewed in February 2011 and bottled in June after aging in Templeton Rye barrels.  This is bottle 443 of 480.

This beer is based on the Horse Feathers cocktail that was popular in the Prohibition era.  It was made with ginger ale, rye whiskey, bitters and lemon zest.  This is beer brewed with malted rye, lots of ginger and lemon zest, and then aged for several months in Templeton Rye barrels.  Templeton Rye is a prohibition era recipe of rye distilled by the Templeton Rye company of Templeton, in Carroll County, Iowa.  There is a tradition of bootleg rye being distilled in Templeton for a long time.  It gained notoriety for its quality in the Prohibition era, and continued to be illicitly produced afterwards as well.  It is available illegally to the present day, but several years ago a company was started to produce it legally using an old area recipe.

http://www.templetonrye.com/

The beer pours light to medium brown with ruby and orange tint.  There is a tall half-inch of light brown head that dissipates fairly rapidly.  The aroma is very gingery, with strong aromas of smooth rye whiskey.  The lemon is also apparent, but is under the ginger and shows up as the sour note in the overall aroma of a delicious whiskey sour.  The taste is spicy, malty, rye, ginger, rye whiskey, lemon zest, and a note of astringent oaky wood from the barrel.  It is like a malty and flavorful ginger whiskey sour.  There is ample carbonation on the end and it then finishes very dry, but with all its flavors in the aftertaste.  This is a very interesting brew.  I would definitely get it again, but due to its rarity, I probably won't see it.




Gianduja Imperial Brown Rye Ale - This 8.3% ABV beer was brewed in April of 2011 and bottled in September of 2011 after aging in Templeton Rye Whiskey barrels.  This is bottle 422 of 500.  It has the tightest cork I've ever encountered in a beer bottle, which finally comes out with a champagne-like pop.  The beer pours dark black, absolutely opaque, even when held up to a light.  There is a tall half-inch of very thick and creamy head that is light brown in color, like cappuccino foam, and long lasting.  There is sticky lacing of medium to thick density down the glass.  The aroma is rye whiskey, dark roasted malt, oaky.  The taste is very dark roasted malt, some coffee and a bit of dark chocolate, some sweetness, but still dry.  There is a lot of pleasing rye whiskey.  It is redolent of whiskey, but does not drink with an overpowering alcohol sensation.  There is a tart note at the end.  The finish is slightly sweet, yet dry, just as in the flavor.  The aftertaste is long and pleasant, reminiscent of the flavors.  This beer is consistent from the first smell to the last aftertaste, full of flavor and complex.  A great winter warmer of holiday cheer if you can find it.

Grand Cru- This 9.0% ABV American sour ale was brewed in July of 2007 and bottled in August of 2008.  It is bottle number 960 out of 1126.  The beer pours the color of orange honey.  It is almost not carbonated and leaves a thin layer of relatively large round bubbles on top.  The bubbles are soapy in appearance.  The aroma is extremely tart, sour fruit.  Akin to a kriek.  There is a somewhat earthy mustiness, dry, oaky.  The taste is sharply and tartly sour with a fruity, citrusy aftertaste.  This is an intensely sour beer, but it has enough complexity to still be interesting.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lucky Bucket Brewing Co. IPA

The Lucky Bucket Brewing Company is in La Vista, Nebraska. This is their 7.0% ABV India Pale Ale.

The beer pours an orangish-copper in color with a large head that is just off-white in color.  The aroma is piney, citrus, and a bit of tropical fruit over a solid malt base.  The taste follows the aroma but is rapidly hit by a wave of massive bitterness.  It still finishes clean and smooth after the bitterness wave passes.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Victory Brewing Company - Summer Love Ale; Storm King Imperial Stout

The Victory Brewing Company is in Downingtown, Pennsylvannia which is just outside of Philadelphia.

http://www.victorybeer.com/

Summer Love Ale - This beer pours a medium golden in color with a short half-inch of pure white foam that leaves light to medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is clean and fresh, apricot-peach on top of newly harvested dry grain, and a touch of clean, tall grass.  The taste follows the aroma, there is sweet fruit jam on top of a light, fresh white flour biscuit, and some grassy bitterness on the finish.  This drinks light and flavorful and refreshing, the carbonation burns the back of the throat pleasingly, and there is a pleasant fruity aftertaste.  There has been a great crop of excellent summer seasonals this year, and this one fits that bill.


Storm King Imperial Stout - This 9.1% ABV beer pours pitch black and opaque.  There is a large billowing head of light brown foam that is creamy on top and leaves medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is dark roasted malt, rich, coffee, and a slight sour tang.  The taste is deep, dark roasted malt, coffee, very bitter, with a slight fruity note.  Not as sweet as one would expect with its ABV, and the alcohol is not at all overwhelming or even up front.  There is a coconut hint as the beer progresses. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Porterhouse Brewing Company - Red Ale; XXXX Wrasslers Stout; Oyster Stout

The Porterhouse Brewing Company is in Dublin, Ireland.  They say they are off kilter six degrees, whatever that means.

http://www.theporterhouse.ie/

Red Ale - This 4.4% ABV beer pours reddish-brown with a half inch of thick, creamy off-white foam.  The aroma is smokey grain, slightly burnt caramel sweetness, and a touch of lager funk.  The taste is malty, peat smoke, with a very dry and somewhat bitter finish.  I really want to drink this on tap in Dublin; it must be a marvel fresh out of the tap.  This beer uses pale malt, crystal malt, wheat malt, chocolate malt, Galena hops, Nugget hops, and East Kent Goldings hops.

XXXX Wrasslers Stout - This beer pours coal black with a rapidly dissipating head that is coffee with cream in color.  The aroma is roasted malt, chocolate, with a sweet/sour tang and an initial touch of peat smoke.  The taste is dark, strong bitter coffee, dark chocolate, and a bitter and dry finish.  A fine and full-flavored dry Irish stout.  Made with pale malt, roast barley, black malt, flaked barley, and Galena, Nugget, and East Kent Goldings hops.

Oyster Stout - This 5.2% ABV stout is brewed with actual oysters.  It pours black with a bit of brown at the bottom where the light shines through.  There is a small head of very light brown foam.  The aroma is strangely fruity, almost like currants, with the dark roasted malt more in the background.  The taste is reversed, the dark roasted malt is primary and the currant-like fruitiness is in the back.  A light drinking and unique stout.



Flensburger Gold Premium Lager Beer

The Flensburger Brauerei is in Flensburg, Germany and has brewed since 1888.

This beer pours dark honey golden with a half inch of thick, white, foamy head that leaves medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is honey, straw, apricot, and grain.  The taste is like a sweet, rich, honey bread in liquid form. It finishes dry but not really bitter. The aftertaste is fresh, dried fall grain, a hint of sweet chewing tobacco and dried apricot, and just a touch of lager "funk."  This is a little sweeter than many German lagers, but it is rich and delicious nonetheless.

Tommyknocker Brewery - Hop Strike Black IPA; Imperial Nut Brown Ale

The Tommyknocker Brewery has been brewing in Idaho Springs, Colorado since 1994.  Tommyknockers are legendary elves who lived in the cracks and crevices of the area's gold mines in the 1800's.  They could be heard singing and working, but were rarely seen.  They were known to steer miners out of harm's way and to finds of gold.

Hop Strike Black IPA - This 6.5% ABV beer pours an absolute black, with a small head of light brown foam that leaves sticky lacing of light to medium density down the glass.  The aroma is fresh, piney, citrus hops dancing over dark roasted malt, with coffee and dark chocolate.  The two combine to create an almost smokey effect, like walking by a burnt building on a dewy morning after a fire the day before.  The taste is dark roasted malt forward, with all the flavors of the aroma.  It drinks like a dark, rich stout that finishes with a fresh, bracing hop bitterness.  I like how this beer finishes.


Imperial Nut Brown Ale - This 9.0% ABV beer is brewed with maple syrup.  It pours a somewhat hazy, very dark brown and ruby in color.  It is very dark.  There is a slight head of light brown.  The aroma is very sweet, malty, caramel, somewhat burnt, a bit nutty.  The taste is malty, very sweet, caramel, roasted, nutty, with just enough hops to balance the sweetness and prevent it being cloying.  The mouthfeel is a bit flat, but otherwise a pretty tasty beer.  I expected it to be too sweet, but it is not.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

21st Amendment Brewery - Back in Black; Hop Crisis Imperial IPA

The 21st Amendment Brewery is in San Francisco, California and is a brew pub.  However, their canned beer is now contract brewed by the Cold Spring Brewery in Cold Spring, Minnesota.

Back in Black - This is a 6.8% ABV black IPA.  The beer pours pitch black with a half inch of light brown foam that is thick, creamy and long lasting, leaving medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is equal parts stout and IPA; there is dark roasted coffee and mocha malt, and aromatic, fruity and slightly piney hops.  In the taste, the stout aromas predominate, but it has a nicely dry and bitter finish.  The handful of black IPA's I have had to date were dominant in the IPA style, this one is more of a stout, but it is very tasty nonetheless.

Hop Crisis Imperial IPA - Part of the Insurrection series of 21st Amendment, this ale is aged on oak spirals.  A few years ago there was a severe hop shortage, and that situation inspired this hoppy beer.  This beer pours a bright and glowing orange-golden in color with a small head of white foam drifting towards off-white.  The aroma is some pine, apricot and plum, and a touch of tropical fruit.  The taste is sweet, apricot jam, tropical fruits and a dry, bitter finish with hints of pine and grapefruit peel.  There is a slight oakiness in the aftertaste, but it is not intense.  This drinks fairly easy for its 9.7% ABV. 

http://21st-amendment.com/

Millstream Brewing Co. John's Generations White Ale

The Millstream Brewing Co. is in Amana, Iowa and this is the beer that they originally brewed in honor of fifty years and three generations of family running John's Grocery in Iowa City, Iowa (since 1948).  John's is a beer mecca.

This beer pours a cloudy and glowing bright yellow with a small white head.  The aroma is very spicy, coriander, cloves, allspice and yeast over a wheat malt base.  The taste is smooth and round, incorporating all of the aromas, with none predominating or overpowering, very well balanced.  I am not always a big fan of white ales, they are just not my style and too yeasty, but this one is a really well done example of the style.

http://www.johnsgrocery.com/

http://www.millstreambrewing.com/

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Utica Club XX Pure Pilsener Lager Beer

Brewed by the West End Brewing Company of Utica, New York.  Utica Club has been brewed since 1888.  It has the distinction of being named as the beer that was first legally sold again after Prohibtion ended.  Utica Club hit its peak in the late 1950's-early 1960's due to the popularity of their talking beer tankards, Schultz and Dooley (voiced by Jonathan Winters).

This beer pours golden in color with a quarter inch of pure white head.  The aroma is metallic and corn.  The taste is slightly sweet, corn-grain-malt, and a touch of something aromatic that is probably supposed to be hops.  It drinks a bit watery, the finish is both slightly dry, yet crisp.  A solid American adjunct lager.  It is not great, but it is drinkable, and there are many in its genre that are much worse.  Like many beers of this style, it is better straight out of the can.

http://www.schultzanddooleyonline.com/

Coors Brewing Co. - Extra Gold Lager; Banquet; Light

The Coors Brewing Co. is in Golden, Colorado.  Coors started brewing in 1873.  The brewery facility in Golden is now the largest single-site brewery in the world.  Coors was the first brewer to use the aluminum can, in 1959.  They apparently established and still own a can company, which produces over 4 billion cans per year.  Coors has merged with Miller and Molson and they are now the MillerCoors conglomerate (or MolsonCoors or some combining of their massive company names).

Extra Gold - This beer pours a dark honey golden with glowing orange and yellow.  There is a quarter inch of pure white foam that dissipates rapidly.  The aroma is sweet, wet corn, and the aroma of apples on the ground that have begun to naturally ferment, both sour and sweet at the same time.  The taste is smooth grainy malt and just the slightest hint of lager "funk", more implied than apparent.  The taste is better than the aroma.  The beer drinks smooth, but also a little flat for its style.  I used to drink a decent amount of this beer in the mid-1990's and then it was Coors Extra Gold on the can, now they just call it Extra Gold and Coors is only  listed on the side.  When I have seen this beer recently, it is in the cooler with bargain beers.  I guess Coors has made this their discount beer and don't so prominently put their name on it anymore.


Coors Banquet - This 5.0% ABV beer pours light yellow golden in color, very highly carbonated, with nearly an inch of pure white foamy head.  The aroma is light grain, a bit of apple and a touch of metallic.  The taste is light grain and a bit of apple.  The aftertaste would indicate they at least thought of putting hops in this.  Bland, but drinkable.


Coors Light - The Silver Bullet. This beer pours clear and a very, very pale yellow-golden, completely sun-bleached straw. There is a small head of white foam. The aroma is tart apples, slightly sweet apples, a touch of sweet malted grain, and a bit metallic. The taste (such as it is) is somewhat better than the aroma, light malt grain, with a smooth finish, just the slightest hint of grass.  It is light bodied to watery, with stinging carbonation. Not very flavorful, a half-way decent light (very light) beer. But hey, the mountains turn blue when it is cold enough, okay!




Friday, July 1, 2011

Alaskan Brewing Co. - IPA; Summer Kolsch-Style Ale

The Alaskan Brewing Company is in Juneau, Alaska.

IPA - This 6.2% ABV beer pours a dark honey golden with an orange tint.  There is a small white head.  The aroma is hoppy, tropical fruit and melon, with spicy notes on a malty base.  The taste is cantalopue, tea with lemon, just a hint of pine, on a solid malt base and with a dry and medium bitter finish.  This is a solid, but not exceptional IPA.

Summer Kolsch-Style Ale - This 5.3% ABV beer pours yellow golden in color with a tall billowy head of white foam that dissipates fairly rapidly.  The aroma is fruity, slightly yeasty, a hint of banana, and then grain.  The taste follows the aroma.  The mouthfeel is a disappointment, thin and watery. 

This says "Kolsch-style" because only beers brewed in Cologne, Germany can be called Kolsch (kind of like the Champagne, sparkling wine deal).  This is a beer that is lagered (a process of cold maturation), but it is made with top fermenting ale yeast rather than bottom fermenting lager yeast. It is hard to find a Kolsch-style that holds up to the German Kolsch.  Apparently if you order a Kolsch in Cologne, they will just keep bringing them to your table rather quickly until you tell them to stop.  I need to experience that some day.

Magic Hat Blind Faith IPA On Tour Limited Engagement

The Magic Hat Brewing Company is in South Burlington, Vermont and this is part of their year long "Tour of IPA's" that will feature four different special IPA's.

This 6.2% ABV beer pours a glowing orange-brown, nearing ruby-brown.  It has a half-inch of thick, foamy off-white head.  The aroma is dark stone fruits, burnt caramel malt, and ice tea with light lemon.  The taste is predominantly dark caramel malt, with some fruitiness and a dry and bitter finish.  This was just at its "best before" date, so it may have been a somewhat different IPA a few months ago.

Olympia Ice

Olympia is now owned by the Pabst Brewing Company who contract brews all the beers they own.

This 6.0% beer pours golden in color with almost an inch of foamy white head that dissipates fairly rapidly, but leave medium lacing down the glass.  The aroma is sweet, green corn and malt o' meal, with a touch of green apple.  The taste is a somewhat metallic and tangy bitterness over a bit of grain mush.  The aftertaste is metallic, and bitter yet sweet.  I set my expectations for this pretty low so it exceeded them.  But if I wanted what this beer offered, I would just get some Olde English 800 or something similar instead that is better tasting and provides the same cheap alcohol kick, which is really what this product is about.

Blue Diamond Lager

From the Blue Diamond Brewing Company, brewed by Cold Spring Brewing in Cold Spring, Minnesota.

This beer pours golden in color with a small white head.  The aroma is slightly sweet grain, a touch of aromatic bitterness, just a whiff of lager "funk" and a very light hint of green apple.  The taste follows the aroma and finishes with just a touch of metallic bitterness.  The aroma is a bit more assertive than the taste, which is slightly watery.  This is by no means a great beer, but it is inoffensive and drinkable in about every way, which for its style and price range is actually saying something quite positive.