Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout

This 10.2% ABV stout is from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico, California.

The beer pours a dense black in color. There is a relatively short head of brown foam. The aroma is creamy, dark roasted malts, coffee, chocolate and cocoa, some dark fruits, and light char. The taste is more dark roasted malts, hitting the same notes, but much more intense in the flavors than in the aromas. Loads of chocolate and cocoa, some coffee, light char and light fruit tones. The beer drinks full, but not heavy, with a tingle of carbonation. There is loads of sweet malt in there, but the finish is quite dry and bitter. This is one really nice imperial stout, I sure would love to get my hands on a bottle of the barrel aged version.


Odell Fifty Niner Brett Golden Ale

This 10.0% ABV beer is from the Odell Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado. It takes its name from the wave of miners who came to Colorado in 1859 in a gold rush. It is aged on oak, and bottle conditioned with Brett yeast.

The beer pours a deep and dark honey golden in color, dark enough to turn to amber. There is about an inch of pure, white, foamy head. The aroma is flowers; old, cracked and dusty leather; old wool blanket; with a fruity tartness at the end. The taste follows the aromas, but is even more powerful, a veritable farmer’s market of geraniums and marigolds followed by a huge, dusty, old wooden trunk that hasn’t been opened for years and is full of leather and wool clothing, blankets and pillows. There is both honey sweet and fruit tart in there too. The beer drinks smooth and full, but with the fine tingling carbonation of bottle-conditioning as well. Not for the faint of heart in any respect.



Kalona Sheer Madness

This is a 5.6% American Dark Wheat Ale. I'll admit, I don't know what that style is supposed to be. It is from the Kalona Brewing Company of Kalona, Iowa. On the can: "Heavenly Beers Brewed by Mere Mortals."

The beer pours black in appearance, the deepest, darkest, richest ruby when held to the light. There is nearly an inch of tan to light brown foam. The aroma is dark roasted malt, char, light coffee, a mineral tang, and a strange note somewhere between overly toasted rye and mild vomit. Hmmmm. Let’s proceed. Well, the taste follows the aromas, there is some nice dark roasted malt under there, but for me it is predominantly that strange note. The mouthfeel is nicely smooth and creamy. Who’s tried this? Did it work for you? It just does not work for me.


Old Legion Big Gun Lager

This beer honoring veterans comes from the Old Legion Brewing Company of Ladora, Iowa. Part of the profits are donated to local veteran's organizations. Their beer is contract brewed by Minhas Brewing of Monroe, Wisconsin. The honored veteran featured on the can is Second Lieutenant Robert Ahrens of Jewell, Iowa who was a B-24 co-pilot and POW in World War Two.

The beer pours golden in color. There is about an inch of pure, white foamy head. The aroma is sweet malt and golden grain, lightly toasted, a bit sweet, with an apple fruit note. The taste follows the aromas directly. The finish is a bit sweet, a bit dry, with an aftertaste of ground up apples and cardboard with beer poured over them. Nice concept, but this is a typical Minhas product. Great Minhas products are just drinkable, so this is a great Minhas product. Bad Minhas products give swill a bad name.



New American Guardian Double Stout

This is a 9.0% ABV stout from New American Brewing of Ankeny, Iowa. 

The beer pours as black as midnight in the bowels of a closed down anthracite coal mine. There is a half inch of brown foam. The aroma is rich, creamy, coffee, char and some tangy dark fruits. The taste follows the aromas, dark roasted malt, char, coffee, and some anise. The beer drinks smooth and lightly creamy, not much carbonation. The finish is dry, not sweet, and fairly bitter. This is a really nice stout!


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Rodenbach Grand Cru

This is a 6.0% ABV Flemish Red Brown ale from the Brewery Rodenbach of Steenhuffel, Belgium. It consists of 33% "young" ale and 67% ale aged for two years in oak vats.

The beer pours a hazy dark brown with red tints. There is a short head of light beige, bubbling foam. The aroma is tart, woody, earthy, with balsamic vinegar notes. The taste follows the aromas, refreshing tart sourness, a touch of fruit to it; lots of earthy wood, like turning over a soft, dampened log in a forest; along with the astringent dryness and flavor of oak.  Beneath the sour there are some sweet notes, particularly caramel. The beer has a light, tingling carbonation and drinks with a tart, palate cleansing refreshment. It made a nice contrast to my savory Christmas ham.



Millstream Barrel Aged Back Road Stout

This is a barrel-aged version of the Back Road Stout from the Millstream Brewing Company of Amana, Iowa. They have been brewing since 1985. The regular version of this beer is 6.7% ABV, and I don't know if the barrel-aged version has a different ABV. It is my understanding they used whiskey barrels from Eastern Iowa's Cedar Ridge distillery.

The beer pours black in color. There is almost no carbonation and no head at all. The aroma is dark roasted malts, toasted oak and oats, dark fruits, vanilla, bourbon. The taste follows the aromas directly, dark roasted malts, a light touch of coffee notes and char notes; dark fruits, especially cherries; toasted oak with vanilla; and the taste and vapors of bourbon whiskey. The beer drinks smooth, and close to still. There is a moderate bitterness on the finish, which is also dry and not sweet. This has a lot of nice parts, but as a whole, it feels a bit incomplete. It might just need some more body and carbonation. The Barrel Aged Schild Brau Amber was more successful at what it was trying to do than this one, for me anyway.


Millstream Barrel Aged Schild Brau Amber

This is a barrel-aged version of the Schild Brau Vienna lager from the Millstream Brewing Company of Amana, Iowa. Barrel aging beer is all the rage now, but you don't often see the Vienna Lager style barrel aged. They have been brewing since 1985. The regular version is 5.4% ABV, and I don't know if the barrel-aged version has a different ABV. It is my understanding they used whiskey barrels from Eastern Iowa's Cedar Ridge distillery.


The beer pours a deep amber and copper in color. There is a half-inch of fizzy head, off-white to very light tan. The head foams down quickly. The aroma is barrel forward, whiskey, vanilla, and oak, over a caramel malt base. The taste follows the aromas, whiskey, vanilla, oak, caramel, toasted malt, a touch of peat smoke. I am assuming this is bourbon barrel aged and not Scotch barrel aged, yet it has a tinge of peat smoke taste.  Checking online shows this is aged in Cedar Ridge Bourbon barrels, which do appear to be charred. My guess is that this relatively lighter beer (amber lager versus usual barrel aged stout or barleywine) allows the char on the barrel to actually show through the beer. I actually thought this one was a bit more successful at what it was trying to do than their Barrel Aged Back Road Stout.


Batemans Rosey Nosey Holiday Ale

This 4.7% ABV holiday ale is from Batemans in Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. The bottle says it complements any turkey. It is brewed using Maris Otter pale malt, crystal malt, wheat malt and English Golding hops.

The beer pours a dark copper and amber, with a tint of red. There is a short, thin, bubbly head of off-white to light tan foam. The aroma is dark fruits, sweet plums, dark cherries, caramel, and some toffee. The taste follows the aromas, but flips them. The aroma had more fruit, while the taste has more of the toffee and caramel, along with a touch of nuttiness. The beer has a grassy, dry, and moderately bitter finish. It is easy to drink and moderately carbonated.




Lagunitas Sucks

This is an 8.0% ABV beer from the Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California. Their motto on the bottle? Life is uncertain, don't sip! This beer was originally brewed in 2011 when they did not have enough capacity for their seasonal Brown Shugga' ale. It is one of the few, if not only (only one I know of) craft beer that comes in a quart bottle. I got the last bottle at the store where I bought it, so I had to accept the crappy torn label (fine for drinking, bad for beer blog pictures).

The beer pours orange golden in color, the color of dried apricots. There is a tall, thick, foamy white head. The aroma is very musky, very ripe, guava, passion fruit, tropical. The taste follows the aromas, sweet, tangy, musky, ripe, earthy, citrusy, tropical. The beer drinks smooth, round, full, easy to drink, but able to take on all those flavors too. The finish is moderately bitter. This beer is delicious!
 

2016 and now a regular instead of a seasonal:


And a throwback to 2012 when even the artwork was "seasonal" in style, but I got to the beer after its season: According to the bottle, Lagunitas Sucks is a holiday ale brewed as an apology that they did not have the capacity this year to brew their Brown Shugga' beer.  This 7.85% ABV beer pours orange golden in color with a short white head.  I got to this beer late and the aroma is of old hops, more geraniums and stale rye bread than citrus and tropical.  The taste is a balance of malt and melon, tropical fruit hops that are past their prime.  The finish is somewhat bitter but also thick and smooth in a pleasant way.  I bet this was really nice when fresh.  Did anyone have a chance to try it when fresh?  What did you think?

 

Boulevard Oatmeal Stout

The 12 pack samplers from Boulevard Brewing Company of Kansas City, Missouri now routinely includes two varieties of their "Tasting Room" beers;beers that have been available in their tasting room in the past, but not bottled. This is a 5.5% ABV. 

The beer pours an opaque black in color. There is an inch of thick, foamy dark khaki head. The aroma is dark roasted malt, coffee, pleasant char, dark and bittersweet chocolate. The tastes match the aromas note for note, with just a hint of black licorice. The beer drinks easy, but has enough body to match its hefty flavors. The finish is dry and moderately bitter. This is one of those beers that doesn’t generate a whole lot to say about it, but that should not be confused for it not being one powerfully good beer. Simply delicious.


Great Divide Titan IPA

This is a 7.1% India Pale Ale from the Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado. "Great Minds Drink Alike" is their motto.


The beer pours a deep and gleaming copper in color. There is a tall, thick, foamy head of white to off-white. The aroma is passion fruit, guava, a bit musky. The taste is sweet and ripe tropical fruits; drippingly soft and ripe peaches; the tang of passion fruit skin; along with some earthy muskiness and light pine. The finish is moderately bitter and quite dry. The beer drinks smooth and round, full, but not heavy. 


Bottled in late 2016, subtle changes to the bottle art:


Great Divide Hibernation Ale

This is a 8.7% ABV English-style old ale from the Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado. It is a winter seasonal.


The beer pours a very dark brown and dark ruby in color. There is about a half-inch of tan foam. The aroma is malty, toasted, dark roasted, caramel, coffee, and dark fruits, especially cherry. There is also a roasted nuttiness. The taste follows the aromas directly, loads of malt, very roasted, but also very fruity. In the end, the roastiness prevails, ending with a dry finish, moderately bitter. The beer drinks medium bodied and smooth, not too full, but just enough body to hold up all those flavors. This is a great roasty, malty winter beer.


Still tasting great in 2015! The beer pours a dark brown and ruby in color. There is a half-inch of light tan head. The aroma is very roasted, nutty, with an underlying sweetness that shows some dark fruits. The taste follows the aromas, very roasted malt, nearing char, very nutty, finishing very dry, but there is an subtle sweetness underneath with all the malt. There is a strongly tingling carbonation. The bottle calls it an English-Style old ale, but I would go more with imperial nut brown.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bell's Mercury: The Winged Messenger

This is a 4.8% ABV Belgian-style ale. It is the third of a seven part series of beers inspired by Gustav Holst's musical composition "The Planets." It is fromBell's Brewery of Comstock, Michigan. I had Mars, but missed out on Venus. 


The beer pours golden in color, dark champagne, a touch of haze. There is a short head of white foam that does not last long. The aroma is toasted malted grain and a bit lemony tart. The taste follows the aromas, deep toasted malt, lightly tart, some Belgian yeast estery notes, a kiss of pepper, with a moderately bitter finish that is also mostly dry. The beer drinks very easy. This won’t blow anyone away, but it is absolutely solid in every regard and could be consumed by the liter. I like it very much.


Fargo Stone's Throw Scottish Ale

This 4.5% ABV Scottish Ale is from the Fargo Brewing Company of Fargo, North Dakota.

The beer pours dark brown and amber in color. There is a short head of beige foam. The aroma is malty, caramel and nutty. The taste also has toasted, roasted, nutty, caramelly malt, along with some dark fruit notes, but an incongruous tart, metallic, band-aid note steps in and ruins the beer. Not much to say after the flavor wrecker steps in. This must be infected, too bad, because the underlying beer had great malty potential.


Goose Island Festivity Ale

This is a new seasonal release from Goose Island Beer Company of Chicago, Illinois (now owned by AB-InBev). It is a 7.7% ABV brown ale brewed with caramel and dark fruit malts. 

The beer pours dark nutty brown, extremely well carbonated, but with a relatively short, and short-lived head of light tan foam. The aroma is surprising, like a fruit cake, lots of sweet, dark sugars, and dark, sweet fruits. There is even a bit of spices and banana. The taste is malt forward, some toasted and roasted, but mostly sweet sugars and fruits, but they hand fight viciously at the end with an emergent bitterness. The aftertaste is lingering fruit, cherries and berries. The beer drinks easy, with a moderate carbonation, not nearly as bubbly as the appearance would indicate. 


Summit Winter Ale

This 6.2% ABV winter ale is from the Summit Brewing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota. 

The beer pours a very dark brown and ruby, appearing black. There is a relatively short head of light tan foam. The aroma is malty, dark sugars and some dark fruits. The taste follows the aromas, brown sugar, caramelized sugar, dark berries, dark roasted nearing almost coffee. The beer drinks medium bodied with a tingling carbonation. Although there is much sweet malts, the beer ends dry with a moderate bitterness. Overall, this is very good, it could in fact use just a bit heavier body to hold up all of its nice flavors.


Madhouse Barleywine 2014

The Madhouse Brewing Company originated in Newton, Iowa, and now have a new location in Des Moines. This is the 2014 vintage of their barleywine, coming in this year at 10.5% ABV. This year it was aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels.

The beer pours a deep and dark brown and ruby in color. There is a short head of beige foam. The aroma is oak, vanilla, sweet malt, brown sugar, and toffee. The taste follows the aromas, lots of oak, lots of sweet malts and sugars, dark caramel, toffee, a hint of nuttiness, very rich sweet flavors, but never getting overly sweet, vanilla. The whiskey lies in the background, as implied as explicit, but nicely there, adding nuances to all the flavors. The beer drinks smooth and round. The sweetness is always contained and the heavy oak actually brings it to a woody and astringent finish. The whiskey shows up more on the aftertaste than in the original flavors. The ABV is well hidden and provides only a subtle warming effect. Man, this is good. In 2013, this was aged in Cedar Ridge bourbon barrels. Now, Cedar Ridge bourbon is awesome, but those Tennessee whiskey barrels sure treated this beer right.


Prairie Cherry Funk

This is a 7.5% ABV sour ale aged on cherries. 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. I'm a sucker for cherries in beer, put some in and I'm probably buying.

The beer pours salmon colored and very clear on the first pour, hazed on the second pour (the second pour was funkier too). There is nearly an inch of fizzing, bubbling white head that quickly dissipates down to a low level. The aroma is funky, tart, woody, cherries, a bit floral and old leather. The taste hits the same notes as the aromas, tart and full cherry, woody, funky, earthy, leathery. All the notes are in good balance and no single note predominates. The aftertaste is vinous, like tart rose wine. The finish is dry and it drinks like a sparkling wine.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Odell 180 Shilling Ale

This is a 9.6% ABV oak-aged and bottle conditioned beer from Odell Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado. In celebration of their 25th anniversary, it doubles up on the recipe of their 90 Shilling Scottish ale.

The beer pours a dark brown and glistening dark ruby. There is a relatively short head of very light tan foam, somewhat creamy. The aroma is caramel and cherries, with subtle effects from the oak. The taste follows the aromas, rich and deep caramel, dark fruit, mostly cherries, with an astringent oakiness. The finish is dry, more woody than bitter, and a bit spicy and/or alcohol heat. It has the fine, but intense carbonation of bottle-conditioning. 


West O CocO Stout

This is a 6.0% ABV stout made with cocoa nibs and bourbon vanilla beans. It is from the West O Beer Company of West Okoboji, Iowa. They invest part of their sales in the preservation and improvement of the Iowa Great Lakes Region. This is a gold medal winner from the 2014 Great American Beer Fest in the Sweet or Cream Stout category.

The beer pours black in appearance, with deep ruby when held to the light. There is a short head of tan foam. The aroma is dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, mocha coffee, sweet, creamy, with that tang peculiar to stouts. The taste is dark roasted malts, rich, nutty, chocolate, coffee, light char. There is sweetness, but it never gets out of hand, and finishes roasted and dry with a light bitterness. The beer drinks smooth, with a tingle of carbonation. This is really, really good. It could use just a tiny bit more heft or fullness in the mouthfeel to match those wonderful flavors. I see why this got a gold medal.  Now, it’s done all the time, but I still can’t wait for, and really hope they do, a barrel-aged version of this.





Sunday, December 14, 2014

Two Brothers Cane and Ebel

This is a 7.0% ABV red rye ale from Two Brothers Brewing of Warrenville, Illinois. It is a year round release. It uses Thai palm sugar and rye.


The beer pours a deep copper in color. There is a relatively short head of light tan foam. The aroma is tangy, rye, fruit, a touch of sweetness in there, with a bubble gum note, like fruit gum, and some pine. The taste follows the aromas, hitting the same notes, adding in some tea and lemon, toasted rye. The beer finishes quite dry with a moderate bitterness. It is medium-bodied with a fine, tingling carbonation. Interesting beer, pretty good red IPA type of beer.