Sunday, June 30, 2013

Boulevard Double Wide

The Boulevard Brewing Company is in Kansas City, Missouri. They have a solid and tasty line of beers. This is part of their Smokestack Series of beers, some of which are regular releases and some of which are seasonal or special. The name, of course, is a play on a double IPA and a double-wide trailer.  Boulevard's regular IPA is Single-Wide (trailer) and their double IPA is a double-wide trailer. 

This beer is 8.5% ABV and pours a deep orange-brown-ruby in color.  There is a tall half-inch of thick and foamy head that is off-white to light brown in color.  The aroma is hoppy, tropical fruit, stone fruits, grapefruit, slightly spicy and a bit of yeast.  The taste is fruity, spicy, full, deep, rich, caramel, with a very bitter and dry finish.  There are a lot of DIPA's that attempt to be this beer and fail.  A very good beer.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Brash Skankin Dirty

Brash Beers are brewed and bottled by Mercury Brewing of Ipswich, Massachusetts. This Imperial IPA is 9.0% ABV and has a whopping 124 IBU's. It was brewed in collaboration with Ska Brewing of Durango, Colorado. How awesome is the label art?

The beer pours a glowing orange, copper and amber in color. There is over an inch of thick, creamy, foamy, off-white to light brown head. The aroma is hop forward, mango and passion fruit, floral, with a bit of pine and loads of malt adding sweetness underneath the sting of the hops. The taste follows the aromas quite directly. The finish is a blistering, mouth puckering bitterness, and a spicy burn. Massive, this thing approaches a triple IPA. You have to be pretty damn brash to drink this thing!

Pyramid Discord

This seasonal release is a 6.5% ABV black IPA from the Pyramid Brewing Company of Seattle, Washington; Berkeley, California and Portland, Oregon. It uses five varieties of hops.

The beer pours black in appearance, dark ruby if held to the light. There is a short, thick and creamy head that is light brown in color. The aroma is floral hops, with light passion fruit and citrus. The taste has all the hop notes of the aroma, floating thinly on dark roasted malt. There is some coffee in there somewhere, but it is overpowered by the hops. The beer is watery. The hops are too predominate here and not enough of the dark malt is getting through. The finish is quite bitter. Unbalance, a poor example of a black IPA.

Furthermore Full Thicket DIPA

This Double India Pale Ale is from Furthermore Beer, brewed and bottled by Milwaukee Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It has local hops added for extra Wisconsin-ness.

The beer pours a deep amber and copper in color. There is an inch of thick and creamy off-white head. The aroma is grassy and floral over nutty roasted malt. This has a semi-sweet nutty malt flavor, that is tempered by a grassy bitter finish. I am going to call this an OPA, or Oktoberfest Pale Ale, as that is what its maltiness reminds me of. A different take on a DIPA, but delicious.

Capital Mutiny IPA

The Capital Brewery is in Middleton, Wisconsin (part of the greater Madison area). This 6.2% ABV India Pale Ale has 70 IBU's.

The beer pours a light and bright gleaming copper in color. There is an inch of thick and creamy off-white head. The aroma is grassy, citrusy, tartness, and light passion fruit. The taste is a nice meld of creamy maltiness and grassy and fruity hoppiness. The mouthfeel is as round, smooth and creamy as you are going to get short of an oatmeal stout. It matches nice carbonation with that softness for great drinkability. The finish is potently bitter. This is a classic style IPA, well balanced, with a wonderful drinkability from its distinctive mouthfeel. There will be no mutiny onboard if you are serving this. 

Point Beyond the Pale IPA

This India Pale Ale is made with Galaxy hops and is from the Stevens Point Brewery of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. It is 5.5% ABV and has 64 IBU's. The beer pours copper in color with a short head of off-white foam. The aroma is passion fruit and flowers with some of that hop funk that is a combination of flowers, passion fruit peel, leather and earthy funkiness. The taste is a hodge podge of malt, passion fruit and hop funkiness. The aftertaste is actually better than the initial flavor. It is quite bitter on the finish. This just isn't really doing it for me, although it gets somewhat better as you move through the beer.

Hinterland White Cap

Hinterland beers are from the Green Bay Brewing Company of Green Bay, Wisconsin. This limited release is a 4.2% ABV white India Pale Ale. The beer pours a hazy golden yellow in color. There is a large head of thick, egg white foam. The aroma is fruity, floral and yeasty, with geraniums and marigolds, tropical fruit and some citrus. The taste is toasted malt, with all of the hop and yeast notes from the aroma. It is quite bitter, but easy drinking, and well and refreshingly carbonated. This is like a hop forward saison.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Steel Toe Size 11 Triple IPA

The Steel Toe Brewing Company is in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. This triple IPA is 11% ABV and has 111 IBU's. I think this big boot is gonna stomp on me.

The beer pours a glowing copper and amber in color. There is about an inch of thick off-white head. The aroma is both sweet and tart, almost vinous, with a tangy fruitiness, like passion fruit. The taste is a flash of tart fruit and sweet malt, immediately vaporized by the massive bitterness, with a spicy finish. There is so much going on, it all cancels itself out. The hops and boozieness add a bit of a hot sting. Easier drinking than Founders Devil Dancer triple, but not quite as much going on in the flavor department. 

Tallgrass Ethos IPA

This is a 6.8% ABV dry-hopped India Pale Ale from the Tallgrass Brewing Company of Manhattan, Kansas. It clocks in at 110 IBU's and uses six varieties of hops. Everything that Tallgrass brewing makes is tasty and top notch, and I am salivating already to try this.

The beer pours an orange amber with just a touch of haze. There is a thick and tall head of off-white foam. The aroma is hop forward, citrus, passion fruit, light tropical fruit, and sun tea, with a bit of pine. The taste follows all the aromas. They are so well blended together into a unified whole that is hard to pick them out piece by piece. Its taste becomes only "what an IPA should taste like." It has a soft, medium mouthfeel, and the IBU"s kick in on the end, with waves of blistering bitterness. The bitterness is softened by the malt and fruit of the hops, subsides, then kicks in again. There is some spice and heat, and lots of grapefruit rind, in the bitterness as well. Not surprisingly, another winner from Tallgrass.

Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager

This is a 5.0% ABV amber lager from the Hop City Brewing Company of Canada. It uses Hallertau, Saaz, and Mittelfrueh hops along with Canadian Pale 2 Row, Crystal and Munich malts. Is the squirrel perplexed by the hop cone? Angry at it? Both?

The beer pours a nice amber and copper in color. There is a tall head of thick and somewhat creamy off-white head. The aroma has roasted and sweet malts, adding caramel notes, over the herbal and stone-fruits of the hops, particularly plum. There is also a grassy, woody note. The taste is nutty and slightly sweet malt, well balanced by dry and grassy hops with a light bitterness. There is a light fruitiness on the finish. This makes a very drinkable amber lager.

Lucid Air

 Lucid Brewing is from Minnetonka, Minnesota. Their motto is "Clarity in Thinking, Excellence in Drinking," and this 4.5% ABV sounds like a hop lager by its description. Let's try it and see.

The beer pours a pale honey golden in color. There is a tall, somewhat thick, yet ragged and bubbly, head of white foam. The aroma is toasted barley and wheat, with a floral tang. The taste has the same toasted barley and wheat, a very light touch of Grape Nuts flavor, with a light, aromatic floral and citrus tang on top. The finish is moderately bitter and dry. Perhaps the most chuggable craft beer ever made?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Big Wood Jack Pine Savage

This 5.3% ABV American pale ale is from the Big Wood Brewery of White Bear Lake, Minnesota. It professes to be "the friendliest of ales." It uses Cascade, Cluster, Chinook and Columbus hops.  Old Mr. Jack Pine Savage on the can would make even the characters from Fargo blush.

The beer pours a dark honey golden, light amber in color. There is a tall head of thick, creamy, sea foam whipped head that is off-white in color. Some lacing is left down the glass. The aroma is piney, over lush and well-ripened tropical fruit, sliding into citrus, over malt reminiscent of sweet and strong tea. The taste is pine over fruit sweetness, toasted and caramel malt, a bit spicy, with a moderately bitter finish that is deceptively angling to the strong side. It leaves a tangy and piney aftertaste. This holds together very well in the way that the hops and the malt play off of each other. It has some sweet spots, but finishes mostly dry, with medium body and carbonation. Dangerously drinkable, this is an excellent take on the American pale ale.

Old Mr. Jack Pine Savage himself:

Badger Hill High Road Everyday Ale

The Badger Hill Brewing Company is in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This 5.0% session ale is brewed with Galaxy and Wakatu hops from Australia and New Zealand. The bottle recommends an American pint glass, so that is what I will use.

The beer pours a pale amber in color. There is a tall, thick and ragged head of off-white foam. The aroma is fruity hops, passion fruit and citrus, with enough toasted malt to keep the hops honest. There is a bit of tea with lemon and also some floral funkiness. The taste is a nice melded blend of toasted malt, caramel, just a tad nutty, and fruity and floral hops. The finish is smooth and mild with just a touch of bitterness, there is some sweetness in the flavor, but it ends dry. Everyday ale is a good name for this, drinkable everyday.

Steel Toe Brewing Sommer Vice Hefe-weizen

The Steel Toe Brewing Company is in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

The beer pours a hazy pale yellow. There is a tall head of egg white foam. The aroma is banana, cloves, flowers, toasted wheat and light honey sweetness. The taste follows all the aromas directly, and adds a bit of yeasty tartness and funkiness. It is crisply and amply carbonated, with a light and easy drinking mouthfeel. The flavors are full and in harmony. This is the best American hefe-weizen I have ever had!

Third Street Brewhouse Three Way Pale Ale

Third Street Brewhouse is the fairly recent craft beer offshoot of the Cold Spring Brewery of Cold Spring, Minnesota. This 5.2% ABV pale ale uses three different hops and three different malts. The beer pours a dark golden orange with nearly an inch of thick and somewhat creamy off-white head that leaves light lacing down the glass. The aroma is lush, ripe fruit, orange, and ample malt, moving towards the sweetness of caramel. The taste follows the aromas, plenty of fruit and malt, in particular orange and caramel. There is also lightly sweetened tea with a bit of lemon. The finish is moderately dry and bitter. It is medium bodied with a "not too much, not too little" amount of carbonation that adds refreshment. This is a solid pale ale, drinkable, sessionable and flavorful.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Surly Overrated! West Coast Style IPA

Surly Brewing Company is in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. They will be building a big new destination brewery and taproom in Minneapolis.

This 7.3% ABV beer pours a light copper and amber in color. There is a tall, thick, foamy head that is off-white in color. The aroma is citrusy and piney, tea with lemon. The taste has citrus, pine, tea with lemon, orange, on a bed of malt big enough to support all those hops. The finish is quite bitter. It is medium bodied with medium carbonation, and a touch smooth, feeling just right in the mouth. Another winning IPA from Surly!  I wonder if this is related to the Bandwagon IPA they sold exclusively at Target Field one summer for Twins games? The Bandwagon was even better.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Iowa Craft Brew Festival 2013

The 3rd annual Iowa Craft Beer Festival was held on Saturday, June 22, 2013 on the Locust Avenue Bridge in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. It is put on by the Iowa Brewer's Guild.  I have wanted to go to this since it began, but the last two years, my calendar just wouldn't allow it. After a cloudy morning, the sun came out, and it was a hot day, in the 90's. What better way to get in the mood for the fest then with a visit to El Bait Shop for a pint of Golden Nugget by Toppling Goliath and some good eats for the belly?

The fest kicked off at 1:00 p.m. for VIP ticket holders.  The extra ten bucks was well worth it, as the VIP crowd was much smaller and several beers at the fest ran out quickly. Standing on a bridge over the very full and flowing Des Moines River made for a very pleasant looking and self contained area to have the fest, with the iconic golden dome of the State Capital in the background. Standing with a good beer on the side of the bridge that was getting a strong breeze was very nice. However, there was nowhere to hide from the unremitting sun, and no shade to be found. I applied sunscreen every hour on the hour, but still left with a few burnt spots.  Some umbrellas or shade tents should be considered if the bridge remains the fest spot (it was about bursting at the seams, they may  need a bigger venue if the fest grows at all).  All in all, it was a great day.  I drank plenty of water in between beers because of the heat, but did not get to try any of the food being served.

The fest featured mainly Iowa brewers, but also beers from several national craft brewers provided by local distributors, Doll in particular (who brought a great lineup of new more national releases). Toppling Goliath was, not surprisingly, very popular.  If you don't know of them, find out, get your hands on some of their beers, they are a must try. The fest ran until 5:00, but by 3:20 all of their beer was gone and they were packed up and leaving.

I would give best new brewer award to 515 Brewing of Clive, Iowa. They had a very interesting lineup and I particularly enjoyed their Belgian Paradise and OJ IPA. Confluence Brewing seems very popular, and I can see why, they have a very drinkable lineup. Unfortunately I missed out on their ChewBocka aged in Scotch barrels.  It was released at 3:00, I was in line, but I don't think it lasted a minute and ran out just a few people before me.

Some of my beers of merit from the fest (I wish it was possible to try them all, but it just isn't, although this fest is of quite manageable size, which is nice): the Boone Valley Brewing Company had a nice Rye IPA; the Great River Brewery had a nice wheat beer, their Widespread Wit (they also had a very interesting chocolate blonde ale, the Dirty Blonde, that I think will be very popular and brought to mind a lot of ideas for beer cocktails using it and various sweet liqueurs); Keg Creek had a good cream ale in their Wayesa; although out of season, Olde Main Brewing had a good, malty winter warmer in their Reindeer Fuel chocolate porter, and not only the best shandy of the fest, but the best shandy I have ever had by a country mile in their Lemontyme (technically a lemon ale); Third Base from Cedar Rapids had a great Red IPA and an awesome beer name with their Jedi Braid. It also strikes me that one of Iowa's most underrated brewers has to be Van Houzen Brewing from Newtown, Iowa, expect their fame to grow. At some point during the fest, I reached my 3,000th beer tried.

One strange moment at the fest, I went to use a porta potty and floating in there was a can of Natural Light. Now seriously folks, who smuggles a can of Natural Light into a craft beer festival where with your admission you can drink all the wonderful craft beer you can hold? Absolutely one of the most incongruous things I have ever run into. There was also a lot of really great t-shirts at the fest, with my favorites including the Beer Whisperer, one that said "Des Moines is French for Des Moines", and this awesome shirt below.

The best serving station ever was that of Peace Tree Brewing with their faux stack of amps (also note that all of their beers had been kicked, they are deservedly popular, but I am bummed I missed out on the Falconer's IPA).

As the fest ended, we made our way to the nearby Hessen Haus for some post-fest sustenance, and of course couldn't resist trying a couple of their German Beers, Aktien Zwick'l Kellerbier and Veltins Pilsener.

Peasant plate with Veltins:

Aktien Zwick'l, mmmm doesn't that look nice?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA

This is a triple India Pale Ale from Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It weighs in at a massive 12.0% ABV and 112 IBU's. The beer pours a dark, but glowing amber, copper, with a tint of burnt orange and garnet. There is an inch of thick and somewhat creamy head, off-white in color. The aroma is a tangle of sweet, yet tangy, with tart, but lush stone fruit with strong sun tea in the back. The alcohol is way up front. The taste is a roasted and woody maltiness, earth, tea and tobacco, spicy, tangy fruits, sweet is there, but it is beaten down by the massive hops. It is quite bitter, but not as much as you might expect as the hops fight the sweetness to a draw. It is full-bodied without being thick, carbonation present, but subdued. The bitterness amps up in the aftertaste. Massive in every way.

Widmer Alchemy Ale

Widmer Brothers is from Portland, Oregon. This 5.8% ABV beer is named after the Alchemy hops that it uses. Unfortunately, a trademark dispute also means that Great Lakes Brewing can't name their delicious double IPA Alchemy Hour again.

The beer pours amber in color with a tall thick and creamy off-white head. The aroma is fruity hops, citrus, passion fruit and orange. The taste is toasted barley, caramel with the fruit of the hops on that malty base. This is a pleasant easy drinker, a good session ale.

Widmer Brothers Rotator IPA Series - Hopside Down

Widmer Brothers is from Portland, Oregon. This 6.7% ABV beer is from part of their rotating IPA series. It is part of an increasingly common style, the India Pale Style Lager. It uses Alchemy and Cascade hops and it comes in at 50 IBU's. 

The beer pours honey golden with an orange tint. There is a tall head of thick white foam that breaks down relatively quickly. The aroma is fruity and grassy, hoppy citrus, tang, passion fruit, earthy, grassy, with that lager funkiness. The taste follows the aromas quite directly. It drinks light, with crisp carbonation, and a very bitter finish, like biting a grapefruit rind. A pleasant drinker, but not the best of the style, finishes more like an IPA and less like a lager. I wish the taste were as balanced as the aroma.

2016 bottle: