Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Crooked Stave Hop Savant

This is a 100% brettanomyces pale ale from the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project of Denver, Colorado. The beer is dry hopped with Centennial and Simcoe hops and fermented in oak foeders (wooden brewing vats). It is 6.2% ABV.

The beer pours a hazy honey golden and apricot in color. There is a tall head of thick, bubbling, foaming white. The aroma is very floral, geraniums, earthy, citrus and orange, some wood, and of course with the brett, a bit funky. The taste follows the aromas, giving off lots of different floral, citrus, earth, wood and funk notes. It has the fine, tingling carbonation of bottle-conditioned beers. The finish is fairly dry, and more funky than tart. It is nicely balanced in its flavors and well-crafted.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Deschutes The Abyss 2013 Reserve

The Deschutes Brewery is in Bend, Oregon and they have been brewing since 1988. This is an 11.0% ABV Imperial Stout brewed with black strap molasses, licorice, cherry bark and vanilla. Six percent of it is aged in oak bourbon barrels, eleven percent in plain oak barrels, and another eleven percent in oak wine barrels. The bottle says it is best AFTER (not before) August 16, 2014. Well, I couldn't wait to try it, and I have another that I am going to cellar, so I will try this one now, and then report back sometime after August 16, 2014.

The beer pours the color and consistency of used motor oil. There is a tall head of thick foam, very dark brown in color. The aroma is dark roasted malt, coffee notes, lots of dark chocolate, some vanilla, light oak, light bourbon, a light vinous note, cherry, woody. The taste is a perfectly balanced conglomeration of all the aromas, with the dark roasted malts predominating, coffee, dark chocolate, but with notes of all the other aromas imparting flavors that round out, fill out and add subtleties to the whole. It is full bodied, thick, but not syrupy, moderately carbonated, with a very bitter finish. The aftertaste adds notes of dark, moist tobacco. This tobacco note, plus the bitterness and the alcohol provide a bit of a sting. However, it is absolutely smooth, creamy, round and full in the mouth. This is quite amazing, it will be great to try it again with a little age on it!

Tried again on January 17, 2015: The beer pours black in color. There is a short head of dark brown foam. The aroma is like the ingredient list; chocolate, vanilla, molasses, cherry, very light booze and wine, dark roasted malts, very rich. The taste follows the aromas, but adding in much more dark roasted malts, char, and the black licorice comes in too. The oaky wood can be felt in the back of the mouth. There is a moderate to strong bitterness with a woody astringency. I think I might have liked it just a bit better before the best after date.

This beer pours so dark, it made the glass reflective.

August Schell Framboise du Nord

This 3.7% ABV Berliner weisse style beer made with raspberries is from the August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm, Minnesota (see the News and Events section of their website for more information on these Nobel Star releases). They were established in 1860 and I believe they are the second oldest family owned brewery in the United States, behind Yuengeling. 

This beer is the second release in their Noble Star Collection of Berlinner weisse style beers that they are making. The first release was Star of the North (unfortunately I missed that one), and this one added five thousand pounds of raspberries to that recipe. Why of the "North?" When Napoleon's troops took over Berlin in the early 19th century, they found this style of beer to be the "The Champagne of the North." In addition, Minnesota's state motto is "The Star of the North." These releases are made in the brewery's original 1936 cypress wood lagering tanks. The bottles were hand filled and bottle-conditioned. A second cypress tank has been refurbished, so future releases in the series will have greater volume available.

The beer pours a dark salmon pink, almost a bloody flesh color. There is a short and short-lived head of very light pink foam. The aroma is vibrant, fresh raspberries, raspberry sweetness, raspberry tartness, and bright tartness from the beer itself. The taste is the mirror image of the aromas, a perfect meld of raspberry fruit and tartness. The finish is relatively dry and mouth puckeringly sour. The aftertaste is pure fresh picked raspberries along with the lingering tartness. If you like sour beers, if you like raspberries, and particularly if you like both, this beer is a must.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

3 Fonteinen Intense Red Oude Kriek

This is a 5.0% ABV kriek, or cherry, beer from the Brouwerij Drie (3) Fonteinen of Beersel, Belgium. The owner, Armand Debelder worked for many years as a blender mixing the young and old lambics and geuzes (spontaneously fermented beers using wild yeasts) from other brewers before starting his own brewery. This was bottled on November 13, 2012 and is good for at least ten years after the bottling date.

The beer pours a dark ruby red, so dark it is almost like grape juice. There is a short and short lived head of pink foam. The aroma is funky, earthy/dusty, woody, old wool, leather, all over dark cherry. The taste is full dark cherry, fruity, sweet, and quite tart, all at once. The cherry oozes over all the different funky, earthy notes of the aroma. INTENSE is the right word for this, but so is excellent.

Mankato Mint Stout

The Mankato Brewery is in North Mankato, Minnesota.  It is the first production brewery to be in that city since 1967. This is a holiday seasonal release and comes in at 5.5% ABV.

The beer pours a pure, opaque black, even when held to the light. There is a short head of light brown foam. The aroma is minty, coffee, mocha, chocolate, crème de menthe. The taste follows the aromas, with coffee, chocolate, mocha, mint, along with that crème de menthe-type mint. The flavors work, but they demand a much fuller mouthfeel than this provides. It is watery in the mouth, I wish it was creamy and full-bodied, like the flavors. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mankato Leaf Raker Nut Brown Ale

The Mankato Brewery is in North Mankato, Minnesota.  It is the first production brewery to be in that city since 1967. This is part of their Center Series of limited release beers. It is 6.9% ABV.

The beer pours a dark chestnut brown and ruby with visible bubbles of carbonation on the glass. There is a relatively short head of off-white to very light tan head. The aroma is malty, roasted, nutty, hazelnut, a bit of vanilla, mocha. The taste follows the aromas, hitting all of the same roasted malt and nutty notes. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, yet carbonated. It comes to an abruptly bitter finish that cancels any cloying sweetness, but leaves all the flavor of the malts. Excellent, Mankato continues to hit them out of the park.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Rogue Integrity Ale

This is brewed in honor of the 25th Anniversary of Rogue Ales of Newport, Oregon. This beer uses Rogue Farms Dare, Risk and Maier malts, along with Willamette and Rogue Farms Rebel Hops.

The beer pours orange honey golden to light copper in color. There is over an inch of thick, creamy, foamy off-white head. It does leave rings of sticky lacing down the glass.The aroma is malty, malted barley, touch of honey sweet, orange, a touch spicy/herbal. The taste is fairly true to the aromas, hitting all the same notes, and then barreling to a surprisingly bitter finish, fairly dry. It drinks smooth, medium-bodied, with refreshing, but not overdone, carbonation. Not sure what the style is supposed to be, tastes like a nicely done British-style pale ale to me.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Page 24 Biere de Noel

Page 24's Biere de Noel (Christmas Beer) is from the Brasserie St. Germain of Aix Noulette, France. It is 6.9% ABV and bottle conditioned.

The beer pours a dark chestnut brown, throwing off hues of burnt orange, ruby, deep copper and amber. There is about an inch of semi-thick and lightly creamy foam, light tan in color. The foam does not last long. The aroma is malty and tangy at the same time, giving fruit and yeast, cherry and plums, particularly plum skins, there is burnt caramel, along with some light earthy woodiness. The taste is bright maltiness, caramel, along with lots of fruit, cherries and berries. It has fine bottle-conditioned carbonation, with medium-bodied and smooth mouthfeel. The finish is dry, and the fruit flavors linger on the aftertaste.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

The Brouwerij St. Bernardus is in the Watou province of the West Flanders region of Belgium.  Surprisingly for Belgian breweries, it was founded only in 1946. This is their 10.0% ABV special Christmas release. the bottle says it is best before July 18 of 2018. This was a four pack, I could have one each Christmas for the next few years and see how it develops.

The beer pours a very dark chestnut brown, with tints of ruby. There is a tall, thick, fizzy, foamy head that is light tan in color. The aroma is tangy, dark fruits and dried fruits, a bit of toffee, cherry, a note of red wine. The taste is cherry, raisins, a touch of red wine, light wood, adding dryness, with a warming alcohol. The carbonation is fine and intense. The fruit flavors linger on the aftertaste.

2014: Well, tried this again on Christmas Day 2014. It is quite consistent. It has mellowed a little bit. The alcohol still warms, but is more in the background.  The aromas and tastes are still similar, but more cherry and caramel now, and much less tang or red wine type notes.  It is drinking well, let's try it again next year!

2017: I gave one away, so this third one is my last bottle of the 2013 four pack. The first note in the aroma is red wine, then wood, leather, cherry, and caramel. The taste is cherry, caramel and wood. The taste is well balanced, and while it is full-flavored, it manages to be mellow at the same time. The finish is just on the dry side, low bitterness, with just a bit of vinous tang. It is still well carbonated, but not overly so. It makes a nice holiday sipper.

These were my thoughts when I tried it back in 2010:  The beer pours a medium-dark to dark brown, with ruby-orange tints when held to the light.  It has a massive, foamy, creamy, roiling head that is light brown in color.  The aroma is fruity, plums, almost raisins, caramel, banana bread.  The taste is rich, dark caramel, sweet bread, plum, raspberry and cherry, yet the finish is dry.  It is intensely and finely carbonated and wants to explode in the mouth.  It does not drink like it is 10% alcohol.  This is nice, very flavorful, but well balanced, no one part predominating, a very enjoyable Christmas ale.

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale 2013

I reviewed this beer back in 2012, but I had gotten to it late and was pleased to try it fresh this year. Christmas Eve waiting for the kids to be sound asleep seemed like the perfect time. This bottle was part of a gift box, complete with glass. The hops were much more pronounced when fresh, not surprisingly.

The beer pours a clear, but dark, copper and bronze in color. There is about an inch of thick, slightly creamy head, off-white to very light tan in color. The aroma is heavy on the oranges, fruity, tangy, yet sweet, over light caramel and maltiness, very light pine and grapefruit rind. The taste follows the aromas, an interplay of roasted and toasted caramel malt, dancing in and out of orange, with a bitter and piney finish. It is nicely carbonated, medium bodied, drinking refreshing. Ho, ho, ho, this makes for a jolly elf.

Trader Joe's 2013 Vintage Ale

Each year around the Holidays, Trader Joe's releases their Vintage Ale.  It is amazing how low they keep the price on this. I forget the exact price this year, but below $6. The 2013 bottle says it is best before 8-1-2016, so this is one that is designed to be aged if one desires.  It is such a bargain, I should get two each year and age one, but I just have never done that yet. Maybe next year, the problem is the beer is always solid (especially for the price), but not my favorite style. The Vintage Ales are contract brewed by Unibroue of Chambly, Quebec, Canada. The beer is 9.0% ABV, as usual.

The beer pours black in color, even when held to the light. There is a tall, fizzy, yet thick, foamy, bubbly, yet somewhat creamy head that is light tan in color.  The aroma is holiday spices, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mulled wine, prunes, light raisins, with just a touch of caramel and toffee. The taste follows the aromas with the spice and mulled wine on top and the malty and fruit notes below. It is finely and intensely carbonated, true to its bottle-conditioned style. There is a very light bitterness on the finish and the end is quite dry. Nicely put together, but more spiced than I personally seek out. (Links to previous years below.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Belgium - Cigar City Collaboration Ale

This 8.5% ABV ale is a collaboration between New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado (and part of their Lips of Faith series) and Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, Florida. It is brewed with Anaheim and Marash chilies, citrusy hops, Belgian yeast and aged on Spanish cedar.

The beer pours an orange inflected dark honey golden. There is over an inch of off-white, thick, foamy head, that leaves some sticky lacing down the glass. The aroma has a mild note of hot peppers, citrus, particularly orange, and light cedar. The taste is dry, astringent, woody, piney cedar at the fore. There is also a low heat spiciness, with light pepper flavor, and some orange and citrus. It has a nice moderate heat, but not enough flavor of actual chilies. The cedar overpowers everything else. While an interesting beer, I would not call this a success as a chili beer.

Mankato Haymaker IPA

The Mankato Brewery is in North Mankato, Minnesota. It is the first production brewery to be in that city since 1967. This malty heavy IPA is double dry hopped and comes in at 6.5% ABV and 92 IBU's. 

The beer pours a very dark copper to medium brown in color. It has a tall head of thick light tan foam. The aroma is citrus, orange, lemon and lime. The malt is french bread, light caramel and strong iced tea. The taste follows the aromas quite directly. It is very malty, lots of strong tea with citrus and a quite bitter finish. The name comes from the fighting between the hops and malt in this beer.

Goose Island Ten Hills Pale Ale

This 6.2% ABV pale ale is a limited release from Goose Island Beer Company, of Chicago, Illinois (although they are now owned by Budweiser and so this was brewed in Baldwinsville, New York). The hops are from Elk Mountain Farms in Idaho, whose "first ten hills" are devoted to hops for Goose Island. It uses Perle, Cascade and US Saaz hops.

The beer pours a brilliant dark copper with hints of blood orange and ruby. There is over an inch of thick and foamy very light tan head. The aroma is citrusy, tangy, over caramel malt. The taste has lots of citrus, with caramel and crackery malt, some strong iced tea with lemon. The finish is dry, somewhat astringent and moderately bitter, leaning towards intense. It is refreshingly carbonated. This is a solid pale ale.

Great River Widespread Wit

This is a 5.5% ABV unfiltered white wheat ale brewed with spices. It is from the Great River Brewery of Davenport, Iowa (originated as the Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House in Iowa City, Iowa). The spices include bitter and sweet orange, wild chamomile, and coriander.

The beer pours a lightly hazed orange honey golden and apricot in color. There is a short head of white foam. The aroma is very spiced, the chamomile making a stronger impression than you might expect. The taste is toasted wheat and spices. The mouth is a bit watery and there is a sour note on the end that is not commensurate in general with this style. There is a light floral bitterness on the end. Underwhelming.

Zhiguly Barrel 95

This is a 9.5% ABV strong lager from Lithuania. The bottle says things like "finest ingredients", "highest quality", "delectably rich", and for "demanding palates."  Have you ever had an Eastern European strong lager? I have, and they make me skeptical of these claims, but let's try it and see.

The beer pours a hazed golden yellow in color. There is a tall head of thick, bubbling, fizzing white foam. The aroma is honey sweetened grains, herbal, grassy, damp straw. The taste follows the aromas, but is stinging with booze, very grassy, very bitter, with a medicinal/metallic finish. It is fairly well carbonated, with a very heavy body. It at least has enough hops to cut the sweetness, but I think they used "hop flavored chemical extract" that had been stored in old Soviet-era metal barrels. It burns! It burns!

Southampton Double White

This is a 6.6% ABV Belgian-style white ale brewed with orange peel, coriander, and lemon peel. It is from Southampton Publick House, whose original location is in Long Island, New York, but whose bottled beers are brewed by Pabst (who has all their portfolio contract brewed, they don't own any breweries themselves anymore).  This one was brewed and bottled in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The beer pours a light honey golden in color. There is a short and short-lived head of white foam. The aroma is full of toasted wheat and lots of orange and coriander. The lemon peel is not distinctive to me in the aroma. The taste follows right in the tracks of the aromas. There is so much orange it becomes sweet. There is a better balance in the aromas than in the taste. It is medium bodied with a tingling carbonation. They seemed to think the best way to make this white ale was to get heavy with their spices, but it lost all the subtlety and balance that make Belgian whites pleasurable.

Queen of the Night Pale Ale

This 4.8% ABV pale ale is part of the Day of the Dead Beers from Cerveceria Mexicana of Tecate, Mexico.

The beer pours copper and amber in color. There is an inch of thick, foamy, off-white to light tan head. The aroma is malty, toasted, caramel, herbal, and dark stone fruits. The taste hits the same notes as the aroma, and adds a bit of yeastiness. It mellows down at the end to tangy caramel. It has a fine and intense carbonation, medium-bodied, with just a touch of bitterness to end the malt sweetness. This is a malt heavy pale ale.

From their website:  Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1 and 2, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

Keg Creek Brick Red Ale

The Keg Creek Brewing Company is in Glenwood, Iowa. The brewery is named after a nearby creek which was originally named Five Barrel Creek for the illicit whiskey found there in the mid-1800's.

The beer pours a dark copper and amber in color, medium dark brown, tinge of red. There is a short and thin head of light tan foam. The aroma is malty, caramel, plums and strawberries. The taste follows the aromas, the malt is toasted, lightly roasted, still the caramel and fruits, enough hops to cut off any malt sweetness and bring it to a lightly bitter finish. Moderately carbonated, slightly dry.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Stillwater Sensory Series v.1 Lower Dens

This is a 6.0% ABV ale brewed with hibiscus from the Sensory Series from Stillwater Artisanal Ales. This beer was brewed and bottled by Twelve Percent of Westminster, Maryland. The sensory series is a "collaboration to create an experience to stimulate the 5 senses..."  Each beer appears to be paired with a band.

The beer pours a dark golden in color with just the slightest bit of haze. There is over an inch of thick and foamy white head. The aroma is yeasty, tangy, floral, vinous, reminiscent of white wine. The taste is light and delicate, following the aromas, but in an airy way, lots of hibiscus and white wine. The mouth is smooth, creamy and round, butting up against strong and fine bottle conditioned type carbonation. There is a light floral/herbal bitterness on the end. An interesting beer.

Left Coast Una Mas Amber Lager

This is a 5.8% ABV amber lager from the Left Coast Brewing Company of San Clemente, California. According to the bottle it is style after the amber lagers from south of the border.

The beer pours a very dark amber and brown in color. There is a short and thin head of dark off-white to very light tan foam. The aroma is malty, toasted, lightly roasted, caramel, with a light strawberry/plum fruit and tang. The taste follows the aromas quite directly. It has a light medium body and is refreshingly carbonated without being too strongly carbonated. It would appear to be meant as their "accessible" beer.

Baltika Vena Lager

This 4.6% ABV lager is from the Baltika Breweries of Saint Petersburg, Russia (home of the great Russian writer Dostoyevsky).

The beer pours a clear amber and copper in color. There is about an inch of raggedly foamy off-white head that leaves sedimentary layers of sticky lacing on the glass. The aroma is malty, toasted, some earthy, damp wood. The taste is malty, toasted, caramel, lightly sweet, with the vaguest note of light bitterness on the finish, enough to keep the malty sweetness honest. It has a medium light body, with a crisp, but not obtrusive carbonation. It has a nice malty aftertaste. This is an amber lager that appears designed for slamming at your favorite Russian watering hole. Not complex,but damn drinkable.

Baltika Razlivnoe Premium Draft

This 5.3% draft beer in a bottle is from the Baltika Breweries of Saint Petersburg, Russia (home of the great Russian writer Dostoyevsky).

The beer pours a crystal clear yellow golden, the color of straw. It has a white head of foam that quickly fizzes away. The aroma is lightly malty, a touch sweet, with light herbal notes. The taste follows those aromas directly. There is a light medicinal/wet cardboard/apple note that disappoints. The aftertaste does hit a nice malt and straw note. It is medium light bodied, with not as much carbonation as you might expect from the initial fizz, although it is certainly evident. Almost no hope bite whatsoever on the end. Overall, extremely average adjunct type lager. There is an unfiltered version of this beer, and I would love to try that and see if it is better.