Friday, February 28, 2014

Boulevard Imperial Stout

This 11.8% ABV stout is from the Boulevard Brewing Company of Kansas City, Missouri. They have been brewing since 1989. It is part of their Smokestack Series, and a seasonal limited release. It is 60% stout and 40% stout that was aged in whiskey barrels. It uses barley, wheat, rye and oats. This is the 2013 release of this beer. 

The beer pours a dense black, no light penetrates this. There is over an inch of thick, foamy, semi-creamy brown head. The aroma is peaty, smokey, dark roasted malt, creamy, vanilla, bourbon, a bit woody, touch of dark cherries, touch of mocha. The taste is dark, dark roasted malt, char, very dark cacao, with a touch of bourbon, dry oak, and a lightly smokey note. The finish is quite dry and fairly bitter. Very full bodied, nearing viscous.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

North Coast Class of '88 Barleywine Style Ale

This 10.0% ABV barleywine is brewed by North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg, California. It is part of the Class of '88 series of beers released in 2013 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of some of brewing's craft leaders (Rogue, Deschutes, Goose Island, Great Lakes).

The beer pours amber in color with glints of copper. There is over an inch of very thick off-white to very light tan foamy head. The aroma is full of tart, yet full orange and tangerine, tingling pine, some toffee-caramel sweetness. The taste follows the aromas quite directly, with lots of orange fruit and orange rind, whose tartness, along with the tingling  pine, duels with the round sweet flavors. There is a touch of grapefruit, and a bit of oakiness on the finish. It is a bit spicy and hot, definitely warming, without being boozy. Not terribly bitter due to the sweetness, but enough hops to not let this get anywhere near cloying. Full bodied without being heavy, there is a tingling of carbonation. This is a very nice American barleywine.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Crooked Stave Vielle

This is a artisanal saison aged in oak barrels  from the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project of Denver, Colorado. It is 4.2% ABV. The name means "old."

The beer pours a gleaming golden in color. There is about an inch of pure white foam. The aroma is floral, citrus, mostly lemon and lime, tart, with a bit of funk, and very light wood. The taste is clean and fresh, albeit tart and sour, again citrus, floral much lighter in the flavor, but present, with a very light oak wood in the finish. It is crisply carbonated. This is a nicely done refresher of a beer.

O'Fallon Cherry Chocolate Beer

This 5.7% ABV beer is from the O'Fallon Brewery of O'Fallon, Missouri. When I first saw the Cherry Chocolate part, I assumed this would be a stout. I got nervous when I saw it said Cherry Chocolate “Beer” and “malt beverage with natural flavors.” 

The beer pours dark copper, medium brown, burnt orange in color. There is about an inch of short-lived very light brown head. The aroma is cherry and chocolate, both reminiscent of a cheap liqueur of their respective flavors. The taste is just like the aromas, chocolate and cherry yes, a bit fakey, a bit like a cheap chocolate covered cherry candy. The mouth is thin and can’t hold up the flavors. Fairly gross unless you like this kind of thing, definitely not for everyone. It is like eating a Tootsie Roll and Cherry a Tootise Toll together while drinking a golden ale.

Iron Maiden Trooper

This is a 4.7% ABV beer inspired by Iron Maiden, developed by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, and brewed by Robinsons Brewery of Stockport, Cheshire, England. The song from which it takes its name, The Trooper, was inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava, in 1854, during the Crimean War.

The beer pours a gleaming and clear copper in color. There is over an inch of thick, semi-creamy foam that is off-white to very light tan in color. The beer pours with a perfect head. The aroma is grass, straw, lager-like funkiness, lightly fruity, jasmine tea, biscuits. The taste hits all the notes in the aroma, it is like the perfect meld of a lightly fruity and malty bitter with the funk, grass and bitterness of a really nice pilsner. The finish is fairly bitter, the mouthfeel medium, nicely carbonated. Everything about this beer is perfectly balanced from top to bottom, great look, great smell, great taste, great mouthfeel. I could drink a whole lot of this!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Duchesse de Bourgogne

This 6.0% Flemish sour ale is a blend of 8 and 18 month old top-fermented ales matured in oak casks. It is from the Brouwerij Verhaeghe Vichte of Belgium. 

The beer pours a medium-dark brown with hints of orange. There is a quickly disappearing head of very light brown foam. The aroma is tart, sour, apple vinegar, lightly woody and fruity. The taste is sweet and sour, caramel, brown sugar, along with apple vinegar tart and sour, throwing off fruit notes of sour cherries and tart apples. There is a bit of oaky woodiness adding dryness in the background. There is a bit of a vinous quality. This is exquisite, perhaps the best sour beer in the world?

Courage Imperial Russian Stout

This is the 2013 vintage of this 10.0% ABV stout. It is from Wells & Young's Brewing Company of Bedford, England. It is based on a recipe originally brewed in 1795 for Catherine the Great of Russia. Its best by date is in 2026.

The beer pours absolutely black. There is a thick head of light brown foam that leaves extremely thick lacing down the glass. The aroma is dark roasted malt with a tangy mineral-like quality and a smokey, peaty note. The taste follows the aromas, and adds in a fruity element, like dark berries or cherries covered in very dark chocolate. It is full bodied, rich and elegant. The finish is moderately bitter with a long, lingering aftertaste of dark chocolate and fruit. I wish I had 13 bottles of this to drink one each year for 13 years.

Friday, February 21, 2014

New Belgium Snapshot

This 5.0% ABV wheat beer is a new release from New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado. It features a camera with the old flash cube on it.

The beer pours a cloudy yellow, the color of lemon curd, with a whipped egg white head that leaves some sticky lacing down the glass. The aroma is toasted wheat, and lightly lemony. The taste follows the aromas directly. Just like their new Spring Blonde, this is simple, yet delicious. I don’t have a lot to say about it, except that I would highly recommend it.

New Belgium Spring Blonde

This 6.0% ABV brew is a Belgian-style golden ale from New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado. It is a new seasonal release of theirs.

The beer pours a pure and clear golden in color. There is a relatively short head of snow white foam. The aroma is toasted grain and lemon. The taste is true to the aromas, toasted grain, a bit of the inside of French bread, lemony, lightly fruity, with a grassy and bitter finish. It drinks easy with a tingling carbonation. Simple, tasty and refreshing.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Crooked Stave St. Bretta

This is a 100% brettanomyces whitebier from the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project of Denver, Colorado. This "summer" version of the beer is brewed with blood orange and fermented in oak foeders (wooden brewing vats). It is 5.5% ABV.

The beer pours a gleaming golden in color with a pure white head. The aroma is floral, leathery and funky, with lemon and citrus. The taste is mouth puckeringly sour on top, with the strong floral, leather and funk below. The citrus is mostly overwhelmed by the sour, but there is some blood orange in the aftertaste. The oak comes through in the finish which is dry, astringent and a bit woody.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Busch Signature Copper Lager

What is the response of Anheuser-Busch/In-Bev to the growing market share of craft beer, while many of their brands suffer loss after loss in consumption?  To invent the "sub-premium" craft beer genre! This is a 5.7% ABV beer from Busch. (I've said this before, and I'll say it again, doesn't AB-Inbev have enough money to give this new beer its own website? The can says to go to which has no mention on it of this beer.)

The beer pours a very dark copper to medium brown. There is about an inch of off-white to very light tan head that dissipates fairly quickly. The aroma is roasted and toasted malt, a bit of caramel, strangely over roasted to where it approaches BO. The taste has the roasted and toasted caramel malt without the strange note in the aroma, thankfully. It is intensely carbonated, giving a burn to the throat, albeit a refreshing one. It is sweet without being too sweet, but I would prefer a bit of bitterness on the end.  It comes to a fairly abrupt and empty finish. This isn’t great, but it is actually better than I expected. It is drinkable, and it is way better than Budweiser, Black Crown, Bud Light Platinum or regular Busch. I still find making beers like this an odd way to try to get back market share from the still growing craft segment, but I guess some focus group (made up of whom?) keeps telling them to brew things like this.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tallgrass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat

This is Tallgrass Brewing's Buffalo Sweat Stout brewed with vanilla beans. It is 5.0% ABV. Tallgrass Brewing is in Manhattan, Kansas. 

The beer pours a dense black, even when held to the light. There is about an inch of light brown head, like café au lait. The aroma is dark roasted malt, bittersweet, coffee, char, dark chocolate, mocha, and light vanilla. The taste follows the aromas, the vanilla more pronounced in the flavor. The dark roasted malt flavors hit first, then a wave of vanilla, then a moderately bitter finish, that melds into an aftertaste that is a pleasant amalgam of all the aroma and flavor notes. This is like a delicious beer dessert.

Churchill Honourable Pale Ale

This 4.2% ABV pale "ale for your finest hour" is from Oxfordshire Ales of Marsh Gibbon, Bicester, Oxfordshire, England. It is made with natural mineral water from Blenheim Palace, Sir Winston's place of birth. It uses malt from England's oldest floor maltings (the traditional, manual way of preparing malt for brewing used before the Industrial Revolution, now an artisinal practice), and Kent Goldings hops which are traditionally grown on the Weald of Kent which can be overlooked from Chartwell, the Churchill's family home. Sales of this beer support charities associated with preserving the heritage and legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

The beer pours a deep but clear copper and amber. It is well-carbonated. There is about a half-inch of off-white to very light tan head. The aroma is malty, toasted, a bit of caramel, a touch of nuttiness, along with orange and stone fruits. The taste follows the aromas quite directly, a nice blend of stone fruits and malt notes. It is dry and moderately bitter on the finish. It is easy drinking. This is a very enjoyable English pale ale.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Goose Island Sixth Day 2013

This is a 8.3% ABV "Festive Brown Ale" that is a limited release from Goose Island Beer Company, of Chicago, Illinois. 

The beer pours a dark chestnut brown with burnt orange and garnet. There is a relatively short head of very light brown foam, with a touch of creaminess to it. The aroma is lightly malty, a bit roasted and toasted, fruity, strawberries and cherries, with a light herbal note. The taste is fruity and a bit roasted, with a hint of pine and herbs. It is medium bodied, easy drinking (hard to believe it is 8.3% ABV), moderately carbonated, with a light bitterness on the finish, fairly dry. This is a fairly unique beer, hard to categorize, but certainly tasty.

Indeed Old Friend Holiday Ale 2013

This 7.0% ABV beer brewed with fresh ginger root and family harvested honey is from the Indeed Brewing Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is a holiday special release. They, like several other new brewers, are located in Northeast Minneapolis. They are a member of 1% for the planet, a global alliance of businesses that donate one percent of their gross revenue to organizations that help preserve and restore the natural environment. The cap is covered in white colored wax.

The beer pours a dark brown, burnt orange and garnet in color. There is nearly an inch of thick, almost creamy, light tan foam. The aroma is ginger, brown sugar,  caramel malt, a bit of dark stone fruit, and oh yeah, did I mention more ginger? The taste is ginger over brown sugar and near burnt sugars, however the sweetness is not overwhelming as it is tempered by the ginger. The overall effect is almost like a ginger cola. It is medium bodied with a refreshing carbonation. So many spiced beers overdo their spice, get unbalanced, and ruin themselves. The ginger in this is very present, but still fits into a balanced whole.

Peace Tree Templeton Barrel-Aged Red

The Peace Tree Brewing Company is in Knoxville, Iowa. I am assuming the base for this is their deliciously malty Red Rambler Ale. The beer is then aged for 12 months in Templeton Rye whiskey barrels from Templeton, Iowa. I've been on a mini-kick of Iowa beers aged in Iowa  whiskey barrels the past week, and I am here to tell you that the state of Iowa beer and Iowa whiskey is excellent! 

The beer pours a dark brown, ruby, garnet, burnt orange and dark amber in color. There is a short lived head of very light tan foam. The aroma is rye whiskey, vanilla, oak, dark caramel, and brown sugar. The taste follows the aromas with the malt and whiskey sweetness heading into dark dried fruits, almost spiced. The finish has a dry, astringent oaky woodiness that vies the sweetness to a tie. It is medium bodied, approaching full, but not reaching it, with a very subtle carbonation. It is a bit smooth and round in the mouth, with a boozy and warming ending (but not burning). The aftertaste is dark fruits like cherries and rye whiskey. This is a tasty charmer of a beer.

2017: Still tasting great, and now in the stubby bottles - The beer pours a hazy dark amber to medium brown, with tints of burnt orange. The aroma is oak, vanilla, cherry, malt, caramel, with some whiskey. The taste follows the aromas, lots of caramel, cherry, vanilla, and some whiskey, with enough oak to add some dryness to the finish and make it semi-sweet. The beer drinks very smooth and soft, with light carbonation. This is nice take on a barrel-aged, good flavors, but still easy drinking. 

Madhouse Barleywine 2013 (Cedar Ridge Bourbon Barrel Aged)

The Madhouse Brewing Company is in Newton, Iowa, although they are building a new location in Des Moines. This beer is their 9.5% ABV barleywine that is then aged in Cedar Ridge bourbon barrels from Swisher, Iowa. 

The beer pours very dark brown, ruby and garnet. There is about an inch of very light brown foam. The aroma is sweet, dark and dried fruits, tangy, lots of vanilla, caramel, molasses, oak, spices, and bourbon. The taste hits the notes from the aromas, and hits in three waves. The first is dark fruits and dried fruits, a bit of tobacco. Next is a wave of sweet tastes (without being overly sweet) like brown sugar, caramel and molasses. Finally, there is the bourbon wave, with vanilla, oak and bourbon. It is very warming without being boozy. It is fairly full-bodied, definitely a sipper. The finish has a woody dry astringency. The aftertaste is a mellow blending of all the original flavors, with the bourbon building as it warms. This is nice.

Friday, February 14, 2014

La Crosse Amber Lager

This is a relatively new "Session Series" offering from the City Brewery of La Crosse, Wisconsin. They do a large amount of contract brewing, and brew some really nasty beers. 

The beer pours a dark amber to copper in color with over an inch of thick off-white foam. The aroma is malty, light caramel, a bit tangy. The taste is also malty, caramel, roasted and toasted, with a light fruitiness on the end, and a grassy, lightly bitter finish. It is light to medium bodied with a crisp and refreshing carbonation. This isn’t going to win any major flavor awards, but it is very drinkable, and a pretty good product for City. I would drink it again.

Christoffel Nobel

This is a 8.7% ABV dry hopped Imperial lager from Sint Christoffel Bier, Roermond, the Netherlands. The beer pours a light orange/amber in color. There is a short and thin off-white head. The aroma is sweet and malty, orange, tangy, some caramel. The taste follows the aromas, there is an almost date-like element, and then an abrupt grassy and bitter finish. It is medium-bodied, nearing heavy, with some light carbonation. Some nice moving parts here, but they fall just shy of gelling together as a great whole.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Boulder Killer Penguin

This is a 10.0% ABV barleywine ale from the Boulder Beer Company of Boulder, Colorado. This is the 2013 Vintage.

The beer pours garnet and a deep, dark amber to chestnut brown in color. There is over an inch of thick and creamy head of very light brown foam. The aroma is tangy and sweet, like dried and candied fruits, with some oakiness and a bit of burnt sugar maltiness. The taste is sweet and fruity, lots of dark stone fruits, sweet, but not too sweet, with both tangy and bitter keeping down the sweetness.  It is very warming, but not boozy. The fruit flavors, especially cherry, keep alive in the mouth. There is a woody astringency. It is full-bodied, but not heavy. This is a very nice and tasty sipper!

Prairie 'Merica

This beer uses one malt, floor-malted pilsner, and one hop, Nelson Sauvin, along with Prairie's farmhouse yeast.  It is from Prairie Artisan Ales of Oklahoma. Prairie are tenant brewers, they do not have their own brewery, but go and brew themselves at other's facilities, which from every bottle I have seen is the Krebs Brewing Company in Krebs, Oklahoma. 

The beer pours a cloudy lemon curd yellow, with a tall, white, meringue-like head of foam. The aroma is yeasty, floral, lots of geraniums and marigolds, along with round and fruity Chardonnay notes. The taste follows the aromas, with passion fruit, melon and buttery, oaky Chardonnay notes really dancing. This is like mixing a very yeasty farmhouse ale with a good Chardonnay. The result is very nice. It is intensely and finely carbonated, finishing dry and fairly bitter, very refreshing.

Local Option Dampf Loc

This 5.3% ABV beer is a new take on a very old, German peasant style called dampfbier. The bottles are brewed and bottled by Pub Dog Brewing in Westminster, Maryland, but Local Option is a pub from Chicago, Illinois, with their own brewing division called Bierwerker.

The beer pours a hazy amber in color.  There is a tall, thick, head of off-white foam. The aroma is malty, somewhat sweet, bit of sweet potato and caramel over toasted malt. The taste is richly malty, toasted, semi-sweet, bit of sweet potato and dark fruits, with a somewhat bitter, grassy finish. It is dry on the end with a pleasant aftertaste true to the original flavors. It has a fine, tingling and refreshing carbonation. This is a nice unfiltered, malty lager.

Mahr's Brau Mastodon "The Hunter"

This is a 5.2% ABV unfiltered lager from Mahr's Brau of Bamberg, Germany, a zwickl or keller bier.

The beer pours a cloudy orange/amber/dark honey in color. There is a tall head of very thick off-white foam. The aroma is malty, somewhat sweet, toasted, with a touch of honey and caramel. The taste follows the aromas directly, adding in enough hops to finish grassy, dry and lightly bitter. The beer is medium-bodied with a tingling and refreshing fine carbonation.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Backpocket Barrel Aged First Anniversary Stout

This 9.0% ABV stout is aged in bourbon barrels. It comes from the Backpocket Brewing Company of Coralville, Iowa. They took their First Anniversary Stout, an oatmeal stout, aged it in Cedar Ridge bourbon barrels, and then blended that 50/50 with a Russian Imperial Stout. The result was released the morning of the 2014 BrrrFest, and I was the second person to get a bottle.  This "Corridor Collaboration" is the also the first release in their Lab Series, where they get a little more adventurous and try out some new styles.  If you are ever in the Coralville/Iowa City area, or just driving by on I-80, this place is definitely worth a stop.

The beer pours densely black, the slightest hint of dark brown to black, with ruby, cola on the edges if held to the light. There is a tall half inch of light brown head. The aroma is dark roasted malt, char, light coffee and dark chocolate, and smooth, semi-sweet, aromatic Cedar Ridge bourbon, with that mineral/metallic tang common to stouts. The taste follows the aromas directly, a heavenly meld of all the dark roasted malt (coffee, char, dark bittersweet chocolate) with the oaky, semi-sweet, aromatically boozy bourbon. The beer is medium-bodied, moderately bitter, and subtly carbonated, with smoothness from the oats. This is very solid, very enjoyable and very tasty. If you have ever tried Cedar Ridge bourbon, imagine melding it with a solid stout, and you have an idea of how good this is.