Friday, October 31, 2014

Mankato Ceres Summer Ale

The Mankato Brewery is in North Mankato, Minnesota.  It is the first production brewery to be in that city since 1967. I'm getting to it late, but this is their 4.5% ABV American style wheat ale. Their bottles make glassware suggestions, and this suggests a weizen glass, so let's get to it.

The beer pours a hazy yellow golden in color. There is an inch of pure white foam, with a touch of whipped egg whites to it. The aroma is toasted wheat, lemon, light impression of spices. The taste follows the aromas, toasted wheat, tart lemon, with a surprisingly bitter finish, all combining for an overall effect of total refreshment. A tasty easy drinker perfect for the summer season.

New bottle and drinking good on July 25, 2015:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bell's Mars: The Bringer of War

This 10.1% ABV Double India Pale Ale is Mars, The Bringer of War. It is the first of a seven part series of beers inspired by Gustav Holst's musical composition "The Planets." It is from Bell's Brewery of Comstock, Michigan.

The beer pours a deep amber with reddish tint. Mars is the red planet right? There is a tall, fairly thick head of off-white foam. The aroma is round, full of orange and tangerine, some subdued tropical fruit, guava and passion fruit, but also a bit spicy. The taste follows the aromas, alcohol upfront and very present, spicy, some tea with lemon, and some peach. The finish is very bitter and gives a strange mouthfeel like artificial sweeteners do. It drinks round and smooth, with a mild carbonation. This drinks pretty hot. I got to it a bit late, bottled 7-31-14, anyone know what it was like fresh? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bent Brewstillery Lakeside Blonde

This 5.7% ABV beer is described as a fruited amber blonde ale. It is from the Bent Brewstillery of Roseville, Minnesota. It takes the Nordic Blonde amber blonde ale and adds honey, passionfruit and guava. 

The beer pours light amber in color, the color of dark honey. There is a thin, short, fizzy, white head. The aroma is fairly mild, mostly passion fruit and guava. The taste is also mostly passion fruit and guava, a shot of sweet, but then a kick of fruity tartness. There is a mild bitterness, more passion fruit bitterness than hop bitterness. The intense fruit flavors make the beer seem thin and watery. There is some tingling of bubbly carbonation. This is an experiment that, for the most part, did not work for me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hacker-Pschorr Festbier

This is the limited edition 6.0% ABV golden Oktoberfest lager beer from Hacker-Pschorr brewery of Munich, Germany. They are one of the handful of Munich brewers who serve at the original Oktoberfest celebration. Check out their website and read the descriptions of their various "beer tents" and if it doesn't make your mouth water, I don't know what will.

The beer pours a deep golden in color. There is a tall, thick, foamy white head. The aroma is honey, grain, straw, grass and flowers. The taste follows the aromas, rich golden grain, honey, sweetness, but then the dryness of straw and grass, with a moderately bitter finish. The beer drinks refreshing, smooth, but crisp. This is an absolute top notch lager, it would be a joy to drink by the liter at Oktoberfest, or anytime.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Darkness Day 2014

I had never been to Darkness Day, the day each year when Surly Brewing releases their coveted Darkness Russian Imperial Stout. In fact, I had never been to any big release type event. So, this past weekend I headed out to Brooklyn Center, Minnesota to take in the experience. (On a side note, their taproom closed on October 23, and won't reopen at that location, it will reopen in the new Minneapolis destination brewery.) This year Darkness is barrel-aged.  I will post a review on here shortly.

I arrived on Friday October 24 right at 3:30 p.m. as they were letting the line of vehicles that had already positioned themselves drive into the official parking areas for the weekend. I found my friend who had gotten an RV and we set up our "camp."  There was a line of tables and chairs where people set out their beer and food and got ready for the night.  This became the line for wristbands the next morning.

The night before is impressive.  People literally bring their beer cellars. I have never seen so many whales. But, they don't just bring these rare beers and keep them to themselves, they are generously and willingly shared.  We walked up and down the line, poured from growlers we had brought, and people readily gave us tastes of anything and everything they had: Darkness from previous years, Dark Lord, Hunaphu's, Goose Island Bourbon County vintages, Westvleteren XII, you name it.  People who had been to Dark Lord day and the Hunaphu release said there was no comparison to the friendliness and generosity of Darkness Day attendees. In addition, there were homebrewers and new breweries who brought kegs to share.  I tasted a couple of the offerings from Oude Oak that will be opening in the Duluth area. They were great, and I particularly liked their pale ale made with brett and dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. My friend, who had been twice before, met people from previous years in the line, and we made a great group of new friends.

The website said the line for wristbands would start at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday. However, I don't think they started giving any out until about 9:00 a.m.  We spent the time chatting and opening even more beers with our new friends and drinking coffee supplied by Caribou, which has a store just down the street. The wristbands gave time frames when you could go to a warehouse down the street and buy your allotment of Darkness Day, up to six bottles. We were in the first group at 11:00 a.m.

After getting our allotment, we went into the festival on the brewery grounds where they were pouring Surly beer. The Todd the Axe Man IPA was awesome.  I also got to try a cask of mole Bender that was really good. There were several great food trucks and several death metal bands played.  The festival lasted about six hours.  Once it was over, the crowd cleared out surprisingly rapidly.  

Overall, the event ran quite well, and kudos to those many folks who served as volunteers and made it run. It was quite the event and quite the experience.

Headlining band was Goat Whore:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Widmer Brothers Brrrbon '13

This is a 9.4% ABV ale aged in bourbon barrels from Widmer Brothers of Portland, Oregon. It is 90% barrel aged mixed with 10% regular ale. It is an imperial version of their Brrr seasonal ale.

The beer pours a medium brown and burnt orange in color. There is about a half inch of light beige head. The aroma is vanilla, very oaky, light bourbon, over a sweet and tart ale, candied oranges and orange peels. The taste follows the aromas, lots of orange peel and oak, lesser amounts of vanilla and bourbon, both sweet and tart. The finish is astringent with a woody dryness. The beer is medium bodied, mostly smooth, with a light, tingling carbonation. This is quite good.


This is a 5.2% ABV Flemish Red Brown ale from the Brewery Rodenbach of Steenhuffel, Belgium. It consists of 75% "young" ale blended with 25% ale that was aged in oak vats.

The beer pours mahogany brown with tints of ruby. There is about an inch of light tan head. The aroma is tart, sour, combination of vinous and balsamic vinegar, woody, cherries. The taste follows the aromas, tart, fruity, mostly cherries, woody, but with an underlying sweetness despite all the sourness. The mouthfeel is smooth, soft, easy to drink, and perfectly holds up all the flavor. There is a soft and subtle carbonation. The finish is moderately dry. There is a pleasant aftertaste true to the original flavors, just more mild. This is wonderfully well done.

Wasatch Black O'Lantern Pumpkin Stout

This 6.5% ABV seasonal pumpkin stout is from Wasatch Beers, from the Utah Brewers Cooperative of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is brewed with pumpkin and spices.

The beer pours pitch black, no light comes through even when held up. There is about a half-inch of creamy beige head. The aroma is primarily pumpkin and spices, but a bit richer than non-stout pumpkin ales due to the dark roasted malt. The taste is rich pumpkin pie, sweet, but not too sweet, tempered by the spices, and the dark roasted malts cause a moderately bitter and dry finish. This is like eating a rich pumpkin pie after having taken a sip of good dark coffee. This is really good.

2017, now in a can:  The beer pours black, very dark brown around the edges. There is a short-lived head of tan foam. The aroma is sweet, pumpkiny, spices, with some dark roast malt notes. The taste follows the aromas directly, hitting the same notes. This is like a liquid pumpkin, spice, and dark chocolate cake. There is sweetness, but the finish is dry and moderately bitter. The beer drinks fairly smooth and soft, with a substantial, but not too full body. 

Guinness Blonde American Lager

This 5.0% ABV beer is beer number one in the new Guinness Discovery Series. It uses Mosaic and Willamette hops. While Guinness is from Dublin, Ireland, this beer is brewed in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The beer pours amber in color. There is over an inch of thick and raggedly foamy head, white to off-white. The aroma is toasted and malty, touch of sweetness, with a strong note of straw and grass. The taste follows the aromas, and a fist fight breaks out between toasted and roasted malt, caramel malt, grass, straw and a touch and tang of fruitiness, with a pleasant mineral quality in the tail end. The finish is very dry and moderately bitter. The beer drinks crisp and refreshing. This is one hell of a good tasting lager and very drinkable.

Central Waters Kosmyk Charllie's Y2K Catastrophe Ale

This 2013 vintage barleywine is from the Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wisconsin.

The beer pours a medium dark brown, burnt orange, with tints of garnet. There is a short and not long lasting head of light tan. The aroma is tangy fruit, citrus, orange and tangerine, with an underlying sweetness. The taste follows the aromas, tangy citrus fruits, particularly orange, with notes of darkened sugar underneath, along with roasted malts. Some dark stone fruits come through. The tangy and the sweet meet in near perfect harmony. The beer drinks smooth and round, dry, almost woody note, with a light bitterness. This is not the type of barley wine that comes out and hits you over the head, but it is subtle, solid, and very good. I’d drink this any day.

Pipeworks Over the Line

This is a 13.0% ABV bourbon barrel aged White Russian Imperial Milk Stout brewed with cacao nibs, coffee, and vanilla beans. It is batch 299/300 from the Pipeworks Brewing Company of Chicago, Illinois. They make a huge variety of beers, and it seems like there is pretty much no ingredient they won't put in their beer (Cinnamon Toast Crunch anyone? Grilled pineapple?). The bottle says, "Hey, careful man, there's a beverage here."  It took me a minute to get the reference.  The line, the bowling, the White Russians. It is the Dude from the Big Lebowski. The bottle also says "Tales from the Oak" on the label, perhaps the series name for their barrel aged beers? 

The beer pours a dark mahogany brown. There is a thin, short and short-lived head of light tan foam. The aroma is vanilla, bourbon, cream, light coffee, lightly boozy, really smelling like a cocktail, yes a white Russian. The taste follows the aromas directly, the taste hitting the vanilla hard, chocolate, coffee and bourbon all melding together, vapors of alcohol, warming.  This is one of those beers that is exactly its ingredients, melded together into a wonderful whole. The beer drinks medium bodied with a tingling carbonation, almost like a soda. It might benefit from a creamier, more stout-like mouthfeel, but it is pretty damn good as is.

Founders Bolt Cutter

This barleywine with a whopping 15% ABV was brewed for the 2012 fifteenth anniversary of Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a blend of barleywines, unaged, aged in bourbon barrels, and aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels.

The beer pours a hazy amber and burnt orange in color. There is a relatively host off-white head, bubbly. The aroma is full of orange, candied orange, over-ripe orange, lightly burnt sugar, light molasses, and booze. Fruity tart meets sweet along with vaporous alcohol sting. The taste follows the aromas, but is more mellow, more blended, more in balance, and less harsh than the aromas, a tangle of fruity tart and sweet, with some darkened to burnt sugar tones. The beer drinks with a warming effect, but not boozy. The beer drinks surprisingly easy for its high ABV, it is not syrupy at all, but has enough body to hold up all the flavors. The finish is dry and mildly bitter, with an aftertaste that lingers, but stays true to the original flavors. As it warms, some oak becomes apparent.

This is a really  nice big barleywine, but I would never have guessed from the aroma or taste that it had been aged in bourbon barrels.  Anyone try this when it was new, was the bourbon ever more pronounced? 

Pipeworks Square Grouper

This 9.5% ABV Imperial IPA brewed with honey is batch 527/528 from the Pipeworks Brewing Company of Chicago, Illinois. They make a huge variety of beers, and it seems like there is pretty much no ingredient they won't put in their beer (Cinnamon Toast Crunch anyone? Grilled pineapple?). This beer was made in collaboration with 4 Hands Brewing of St. Louis, Missouri. The label reads the tale of an apparently stoned fish.

The beer pours orange and amber in color. There is a tall head of thick and creamy white to off-white foam that leaves sedimentary layers of lacing down the glass. The aroma is dank, very musky, over tones of tropical fruit, guava, passion fruit, and a bit of mango. The taste follows the aromas, adding in some tartness from the fruit. The finish is fairly dry and moderately bitter, with the honey showing in the aftertaste. The honey is present, but more implied than explicit. The mouthfeel is full, smooth and rich. The aftertaste is pleasant, the mouth, palate, and sinuses fill with the vapors of the original flavor. The higher ABV provides a pleasant warming effect. This is massive and awesome. 

Pipeworks Guavanatrix

This 8.0% ABV Imperial Pale Ale made with guava is batch 505/506 from the Pipeworks Brewing Company of Chicago, Illinois. They make a huge variety of beers, and it seems like there is pretty much no ingredient they won't put in their beer (Cinnamon Toast Crunch anyone?). Check out the lable, according to the bottle, this kinky hopped beer is BDSMmmmmmm good and you should put it in your glass, slave.

The beer pours a deep golden, with tints of apricot. There is a tall, thick, foamy head of white. The aroma is of tropical fruit, and, apparently guava (so guava is that common tropical fruit note, eh). There are lesser amounts of passion fruit and mango skin, and a light earthy muskiness. The tastes follow the aromas, loads of ripe and lush tropical fruits, with a lighter earthy note, followed by a dry and fairly bitter finish. The beer drinks smooth and full, but not heavy, with a light, tingling carbonation. This can dominate me anytime. Yes master, I will put it in and out of my glass over and over again.

Carson's Brewery Brown Cow

This is a 5.0% ABV brown ale from Carson's Brewery of Evansville, Indiana.

The beer pours a deep brown in color, with tints of ruby. There is a short and relatively thin head of off-white to very light beige foam. It does not last long. The aroma is toasted and roasted malt, very nutty, with dark caramel. The taste follows the aromas directly, wonderfully roasted, and nutty, touch of sweet, but then immediately bitter and somewhat dry. The beer drinks easy, but with just enough body to hold up all the flavor, with a stinging carbonation.  This is one really nice American brown ale!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Three Floyds Yum Yum

This American session ale is the most recent regular release from Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, Indiana.

The beer pours amber, copper, and the color of dried apricots. There is a tall head of thick, raggedly bubbly, off-white foam that leaves some lines of lacing on the glass. The aroma is fruity, mango, passion fruit, citrus, tangerine over biscuity malt with just a hint of caramel under all the hops. The taste follows the aromas, but while the aroma is mild, commensurate with a session ale, the taste is a bright, lively, and tangy attack of fruity hop flavors. The ending is dry and fairly bitter, bringing in grapefruit. The beer drinks easy, touch of smooth, with a soft, tingling, refreshing carbonation. This is a winner of an American session ale. (sorry the picture is so blurry, I'll take it again with my next one and replace)

Pretty Things 1955 Double Brown

The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is based out of Somerville, Massachusetts.  They are a tenant brewer, not owning their own brewery, but renting others' brewing equipment.  This 5.1% ABV double brown ale is part of their Once Upon a Time Beers From History series based on old recipes that have been rediscovered and recreated. This is a recreation of a beer first brewed in London in 1955. 

The beer pours a very dark brown with tints of ruby and garnet. There is nearly an inch of foamy, semi-creamy head that is light tan in color. The aroma is fairly light, malty, caramel, roasted and toasted, a bit nutty. The taste follows the aromas, malty, roasted, toasted, nutty, but in a way more mild and subtle than overpowering, with the malt hit immediately by a wave of dry and bittering hops. The hops cut down all sweetness abruptly. The finish is of increasing bitterness. The beer is easy to drink, quite crisply carbonated while still having some smoothness. This is like an English brown ale meets an English IPA, much more bitter and hoppy than I expected from a beer called a double brown. This beer is easily imagined being consumed in a pub in 1955 England.

New Glarus Totally Naked

The New Glarus Brewing Company is in New Glarus, Wisconsin. They are only distributed in Wisconsin. Their beers are tasty, yet very accessible. 

The beer pours yellow golden, nearing champagne. There is over an inch of white, raggedly foamy head that leaves a sheen of sticky lacing down the glass. The aroma is tall grass, fresh cut hay, floral, over lightly sweet golden grain, zesty, with a light touch of stone fruit. The taste follows the aromas directly, there is very little bitterness, but the beer finishes dry. It is crisply, refreshingly, and sparklingly carbonated, but also finishes smooth. This is an absolutely solid American lager that shows why Bud Light need not exist, when there are highly drinkable, but so much tastier, local options (well, this one is local if you live in Wisconsin, which I don’t, but people travel you know, and some are nice enough to bring me back beer!).

Pretty Things Grampus

The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project originated in Somerville, Massachusetts.  They don't have their own brewery, and currently brew their beers at Buzzard's Bay Brewing in Westport, Massachusetts. This is a 10.5% ABV hoppy double mash golden ale. 

The beer pours a deep amber and copper in color. There is an inch of thick, creamy, tan head that is long lasting and leaves rings of lacing down the glass. The aroma is sweet, fruity and malty, dried apricots and yellow raisins, nearing sweet potato. It is tangy, yet sweet, an oak-like note in there too. The taste follows the aromas, sweet, yet tangy, very fruity, even more so than in the aromas, but with a dry, moderately bitter finish with a woody astringency. It drinks full-bodied, smooth, with a subtle, tingling carbonation. Over time the effect turns to that of a lightly candied grapefruit slice.