Thursday, January 31, 2013

Surly Abrasive

The Surly Brewing Company is in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (now with a destination brewery in Minneapolis too) and currently only distributes itself in the greater Twin Cities area (as of the original writing). It is fair to say that Surly is one of the most talked about and coveted brewers at the current time. Their beers are consistently delicious and flavorful. This beer was originally called 16 Grit, after the size of abrasivee grit used at the old Abrasive factory that once stood where their brewery is now.  

This 9.0% ABV Double IPA pours a deep, but still shiny and clear, copper-amber-orange in color. There is about an inch of off-white, thick, choppy, creamy foamy head. The aroma is of massive hops with tangerine, cantaloupe, tropical fruit and pine. It has a sticky sweetness to it. Despite its intensity, there is a smoothness to the aroma, full and round. The taste is massive, a fruit and pine hop blast, sweet, then bitter, fruity and smooth.  All of the hop notes from the aroma appear in the taste. All that hoppiness sits on a firm bed of dark toasted malt. The finish is strongly bitter, countered somewhat by the sweetness, all in good balance. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and smooth, with a tingle of carbonation. According to the website this is brewed with oats, which would account for its smoothness. This is a massive and very good DIPA!

Tasting great in 2016 too: The beer pours a hazy burnt orange amber. There is an inch of foaming, thick, white head. The aroma is tropical, citrus, mango skin. The taste follows the aromas, intense citrus, tropical, lots of mango skin and passion fruit, with just a bit of earthy dank. The finish is astringently, grapefruit peel dry, with a moderate bitterness, that would be even more intense without the ample underlying malt (that lets the hops shine). The beer drinks smooth and round, with pleasant carbonation.

Heady Topper

This 8.0% ABV Double India Pale Ale is from The Alchemist of Waterbury, Vermont. It is currently the number one ranked beer on The Beer Advocate. The can describes it as not trying to be the biggest or most bitter, but rather to give wave after wave of hoppy goodness. The can warns: Drink From the Can! This is the opposite advice generally given for a quality beer, where pouring into a glass allows one to see the color and release the aromas.  The can explains that they don't want to release the hoppiness into the air, but rather save it all for your mouth. I am going to pour out a little, both to see the beer, and to compare from the glass and the can.

The beer pours a slightly hazy dark golden and orange in color with a finger of thick, foamy white head. The aroma is fruity, quite funky in a thick and hoppy way, pine, spicy, oranges, and melons. The taste is thick, resinous pine and funky dank weed to start, flipping quickly into a sweet fruitiness, with lots of orange, melon, and overripe tropical fruit, but without being super fruit forward either. The finish is quite bitter and dry. It tastes good out of the can, but it seems a shame to drink a beer like this when you are not smelling it at the same time (one of the main drawbacks of drinking from a can and not a glass).

Well, this is certainly a nice DIPA, but I think I would put Pliny the Elder ahead of it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Evil Twin Brewing Hipster Ale

Evil Twin Brewing has its origins in Denmark, but its beers are actually brewed at ten different breweries around the world. This 5.5% ABV was produced and canned by Westbrook Brewing Co., Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

The beer pours a slightly hazy, light orange copper in color. There is a short, thin, off-white head that leaves thin, but sticky lacing on the glass. The aroma is hop forward, orange, melons and pine. There is some malt and the astringency of tea. The taste is tea with lemon, light and soft pine, and orange. It is bitingly bitter. It drinks smooth, with a light and tingling carbonation. The aftertaste is a potent and astringent bitterness. This pale ale is “stronger” than many IPA’s. It is very tasty, but it is not for the faint of heart, hop heads only need apply.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Brrr Fest 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013 was the 4th Annual Coralville Brrr Fest with a beer festival at the Marriot Hotel.  The event was held in the spacious conference center. It was well run, with plenty of volunteers keeping the line moving into the event, premium tasting glasses for the VIP hour, easily available rinse stations, and bottles of water on ice to keep hydrated.  The pours were also very generous.

It was my first time attending.  The event ran from 1-4 p.m., with an extra hour starting at noon with the premium ticket.  The premium was well worth it, as the crowd surged considerably at 1 and lines started forming, especially for popular breweries and various special releases throughout the day. There were over forty breweries from the Midwest represented, with the majority from Iowa. There is a lot of really good beer being brewed in Iowa these days.

Toppling Goliath from Decorah brought a firkin of their tasty pseudoSue pale ale that had been dry hopped with the Mosaic hops used in their newest IPA, Pompeii.  Both were delicious (I was able to try the Pompeii the night before at the Sanctuary Pub in Iowa City) with lots of every tropical fruit you can name, especially passion fruit.  The beer in the firkin was dubbed Pompesaurus. There were several chili beers, with Chefs in Black's Orange Scorpion and Bent River's Jalapeno Pepper Ale worthy of extra mention.  Backpocket Brewing is across the street from the Marriot and is one of the event sponsors. Their new Machete DIPA deserves a shout out.  It was a great fest!

At the Tallgrass booth with the man from the Oasis can:

The relatively uncrowded first hour:

The crowd grows, the line for the 2:28 special pour of 2012 Assassin Stout by Toppling Goliath:


Not sure what was going on here, but it was amusing looking:

Backpocket Brewing:

So many bottles waiting to be filled:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Butte Creek Organic Porter

The Butte Creek Brewing Company is in Ukiah, California and makes all organic beers. This 6.0% ABV porter pours a very dark brown, dark mahogany, looking almost black. Held to the light it has much dark ruby. There is a short and thin head of light brown foam. The aroma is dark roasted malt, mocha, and coffee with a tangy finish. The taste is very dark roasted malt, iced coffee, mocha, both creamy and tangy. There is a nice, soft tingle from the carbonation. It is full and flavorful, but not thick. This is very good.

Maltopia Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

This 9.0% ABV Scotch ale is from the Hermitage Brewing Company of San Jose, California. The beer pours a dark reddish amber in color. There is a short head of off-white foam. The aroma is malty, caramel, toasted, with a bit of a tang. The taste is also malty, caramel and sweet potato with enough bitterness to not be cloying. There is a light tang on the finish, as is common in Scotch ales. The alcohol is not noticeable. It is surprisingly light in the mouth for the alcohol level and maltiness. This is pretty good.

St. Cloud Belgian White

St. Cloud is a 5.4% ABV Belgian-style Wheat ale brewed with coriander. It is from World Brews  of Rochester, New York (contract brewed by Genesee?). This is from Whole Foods and I believe it is a store brand.

The beer pours a dark orange golden in color. There is a short, semi-creamy head of white foam. The aroma is toasted wheat, orange, citrus, and light spice. The taste follows the aromas directly, toasted wheat, orange and very light coriander. It has a light bitterness. It is crisply carbonated and drinks refreshing. A nice and solid, although not exceptional, white ale. If you like the style, it is worth getting.

Beck's Sapphire

This 6.0% ABV beer is from Beck's (their website seems to be trying oh so hard to be hip, and appears to have exactly zero information about their beer). Beck's used to be brewed in Germany, but now, as part of In-Bev, it is brewed in the U.S. I seem to see a trend of Big Boy beers boosting their alcohol up to 6.0% and adding a hop or two in an effort to stop the cut into their products from craft beers. It says it is made with German Sapphire hops. Do they mean Saphir hops?

The beer pours a dark golden yellow in color. There is a tall head of pure white foam that disappears rapidly. The aroma is corn and cooked vegetables. It does not smell like old school Beck's, it smells like a Budweiser product. The taste is corn, cooked vegetables, and just a touch of floral, grassiness. There is a tiny hint of lemon, and no real bitterness to speak of. This is slightly jacked up Budweiser trying to play off an old German name. Sad. (It is better than the new Black Crown, however.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Newcastle Werewolf

This 4.5% ABV "Blood Red Ale" that has "Escaped from Britain" is a limited edition release from Newcastle. Originally from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, they are now owned by Caledonian Brewery of Edinburgh, Scotland. It is brewed with rye malt.

The beer pours a dark chestnut or light mahogany in color. There is over an inch of thick off-white foam. The aroma is light caramel malt, a touch of spicy rye, with that tangy, mineral note that seems classic to all Newcastle beers. The taste is toasted and roasted malt that immediately merges into a tart fruitiness, like dark cherries. It has good flavor but drinks light and refreshing. This is one of the better of the limited releases from Newcastle. Hail Geordies!

Brau Brothers Hundred Yard Dash Fresh Hop Ale

This "ridiculously fresh hopped ale" is from the Brau Brothers Brewing Company of Lucan, Minnesota. The beer pours amber and light copper in color. There is a short head of off-white foam that leaves light lacing down the glass. The aroma is hop forward, resinous, pine, citrus, orange, very ripe cantaloupe with a light spiciness and a pleasant musk. The taste follows the aromas directly, many  nice hop flavors on a malt base substantial enough to hold them up, but the hops remain always at the forefront. There is a medium strong bitterness and dryness on the finish, but it remains smooth.

Kentucky Ale

Kentucky Ale is a 5.34% ABV beer from Alltech's Lexington Brewing Company of Lexington, Kentucky. It is described as a combination of an English Pale Ale and an Irish Red Ale.

The beer pours a red tinted deep amber in color. There is a short off-white head. The aroma is tart fruit, almost cranberry, with a light spiciness. The taste is a roasted and toasted malt that gives off notes of fruit and tart, also with a light spiciness.  This is a strange beer.  It makes me wonder if my bottle is a bit off, or if it is meant to taste this way.

Budweiser Black Crown

Sales of Budweiser and many other big name beers have plummeted, and this is another attempt by Anheuser-Busch/In-Bev to find a larger share of the market with a slightly higher alcohol beer (6.0% ABV). The bottle says: We challenged our 12 Budweiser Brewmasters to create a new masterpiece. Six unique beers were crafted and sampled across America. One was chosen. This amber lager's toasted caramel malt notes and smooth finish earned it the Black Crown (this will actually take you to their Facebook page). It makes its national debut on February 3, 2012 (I smell a Super Bowl ad).

The beer pours a light amber to dark golden in color. There is a large white head that disappears quickly. The aroma is toasted malt, lightly burnt bread crumbs, slightly sweet with a light grassiness on the end. The taste follows the aromas, quite toasted, lightly sweet, with a grassy and lightly bitter finish. There is an unpleasant overcooked brussel spout note that permeates the entire thing.

Query: Is this just one of the Project Twelve beers? (like this or this) with new name and packaging?  Or is it a previously unreleased beer that stemmed from Project Twelve?  Or did they tweak a couple of the Project Twelve beers into this?  I think it is mostly gross, but if Bud Light Platinum has been popular (I don't know, has it?) then this should be too.

Kentucky Light

Kentucky Light is a 4.32% ABV beer from Alltech's Lexington Brewing Company of Lexington, Kentucky. It is described as a kolsch-style ale. The beer pours a quite pale yellow and golden in color. There is an inch of pure white head that is quick to disappear. The aroma is lightly fruity, lightly grassy and crisp, light golden grain. Smells all around like an American light beer. The taste follows the aromas, light grain, very light fruit, light grassy bitterness. It does drink crisp with nice carbonation. Calling this a kolsch-style ale seems a bit ambitious, but it does drink as a decent American light beer, more flavorful than most of the big name boys.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer

Clown Shoes Beer comes from the Mercury Brewing Company of Ipswich, Massachusetts. This imperial American stout was brewed in honor of their second anniversary. It is a whopping 10% ABV and if the label were to be believe it is brewed with holy water and smoked with vampire killing stakes.

The beer pours jet black in color. There is an inch of dark brown latte colored foam. The aroma is dark roasted malt, lots of chocolate, sweet in a mocha chocolate milkshake kind of way. The taste is rich dark roasted malt, a hint of smoke, mocha, dark chocolate and  milk chocolate. It finishes mildly bitter and more dry than I would have expected from the aroma. This is a very good stout.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria 5 Vulture

This 6.4% ABV Oaxacan-style dark ale is brewed with ancho chili and is from the 5 Rabbit Cerveceria of Chicago, Illinois. They had been contract brewed, but their own brewery is now up and running. This bottle was brewed for them by Minhas. From their website: In Aztec mythology, 5 Vulture (Macuilcozcacuauhtli) is one of the 5 Gods of Excess (Ahuiateteo) and symbolizes the excess of lust and envy. The scavenging nature of the vulture represents the stripping off of deeply rooted lustful and envious impulses from our being. 5 Vulture is also associated with wisdom and longevity.

The beer pours a deep mahogany brown in color. There is a tall half-inch of thick, almost creamy, light brown head. The aroma is malty, cooked sweet potato and barley, just a hint of chili. The taste is rich, roasted malt mingling nicely with slightly spicy and earthy ancho chili. This one works, a nice beer. 

5 Rabbit Cerveceria Golden Ale

This 5.3% ABV golden ale is from the 5 Rabbit Cerveceria is from Chicago, Illinois. They had been contract brewed, but their own brewery is now up and running. This bottle was brewed for them by Minhas. From their website: In Aztec mythology, 5 Rabbit (Macuiltochtli) is one of the 5 Gods of Excess (Ahuiateteo) and symbolizes the excess of pride. The long ears of the rabbit invite us to learn and listen, not only to others, but also to our community and inner voices. 5 Rabbit also represents vitality, happiness and fertility.

The beer pours a deep yellow and golden, a touch hazy. There is an inch of thick, foamy white head. The aroma is a touch sweet and a touch tart, grain, honey and tart apples. The taste is malt with a touch of rancidness and soap, and bitter hops. This is a quite bad beer.

Metropolitan Iron Works Alt

Metropolitan Brewing is in Chicago, Illinois. All of the bottle art is reminiscent of the 1927 German film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. The beer pours a deep amber in color with a tall head of just off-white foam. The aroma is malty, a touch of nuttiness, tangy yeast. The taste is tangy caramel and sweet potato malt with a moderately bitter finish.  The Metropolitan beers all have nice qualities, you can taste the potential, but they all fall just a touch short, and so does this one.

Metropolitan Dynamo Copper Lager

Metropolitan Brewing is in Chicago, Illinois. All of the bottle art is reminiscent of the 1927 German film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. The beer pours light copper and amber in color, a bit like the color of a dark cream soda. There is a touch of haze. There is a half inch of white foam, with a bit of creaminess.  The aroma is a bright caramel malt, with a light touch of nuttiness. The taste is light caramel malt with a bitter hop finish.  A nice start, but not all the way there, kind of boring overall.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Metropolitan Flywheel Bright Lager

Metropolitan Brewing is in Chicago, Illinois. All of the bottle art is reminiscent of the 1927 German film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. The beer pours yellow golden with a short white head.  The aroma is slightly sweet grain, with some apple. The taste is golden grain with grassy, floral and bitter hops. It is crisply carbonated. The taste is far better than the aroma and creates a beer that is overall better than average. This is the best of their four main beers.


Metropolitan Brewing Krankshaft Kolsch

Metropolitan Brewing is in Chicago, Illinois. All of the bottle art is reminiscent of the 1927 German film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. This kolsch-style beer is based on the beer style from Cologne, Germany. 

The beer pours a pale yellow golden and a bit hazy. There is a tall foamy white head. The aroma is grassy, floral, with bright, citric fruitiness, straw, golden grain. It is bright and brassy.  The taste is a touch of clover honey sweetness over grain, lots of bright citrus, grassy. It is somewhat thin in the mouth, but well carbonated. It has some nice attributes, but is lacking in the end.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sprecher Redhead

The Sprecher Brewing Company is in Glendale, Wisconsin. This beer is 6.0% ABV and is part of their Session Series of limited release beers. The beer pours a somewhat hazy burnt orange and dark amber in color. There is a short, nearly creamy head, off-white in color. The aroma is both malty caramel and tangy fruit. The taste follows the aromas and ends bitter. I like the description of this beer on their website, but mine doesn't taste that way. Perhaps it is not fresh enough. 

Madhouse Oak Aged Imperial Red

The Madhouse Brewing Company is in Newton, Iowa.  This 8.5% ABV beer is part of their Venture Series.  From the bottle:  "Venture Series - A series of one-time release, seasonally brewed beers that allow craft beer enthusiasts to explore the diverse flavors and styles of their favorite beverage. Our Oak-Aged Imperial Red has intriguing aromas of oak and mocha. Creamy malt flavors of caramel and chocolate create a complex flavor balanced with hop bitterness."

The beer pours a dark amber in color, shading towards garnet. There is an inch of thick and creamy off-white to light brown head. The aroma is deep, rich malt, sweet and fruity, but bittersweet, like a dark chocolate covered candy with raspberry filling. The taste follows the aromas, but adds dry oak and enough hops to have a moderately bitter finish. It is nicely carbonated and spicy on the finish. This is very good with rich, dark malts and as much upfront oak as I have ever encountered in a beer.