Posted 1 week ago

Dog Beer Days of Summer

Well I have been somewhat successful in limiting my intake over the first ten days of August. A couple of little slips but certainly no benders yet this month. I must pat myself on the back. 

It is challenging to only have one beer per day because I have found that there are times when a friend drops by and wants to have a session or other times when I am offered a beer and not wanting to offend I end up drinking it (and it wasn’t what I wanted).

Thus are the trevails of an overly self-controlling personality. I guess the opposite is not being able to shut off the flood gate once opened and I know lots of those folks and don’t want that in my life.

So here are the first ten days of my project. I won’t mention the little snit of tequila that has slipped in….

1. Sapporo 650 ml can (and a great can at that) split with the wife at Hanabi. Refreshing but not a good start to the month with so many other options.

2. Victory Prima Pils - one of the best pils in the States and I’ve mentioned several times before. I savored this baby.

3. Schneider Weiss Tap 7 - another very smart choice by the Snob. Nice big bottle of classic Bavarian hefe (that’s “hay-fuh”, not “heffee”). Great stuff and available at Keyport. 

4. Bent Paddle Pale Ale 

5. Troegs Perpetual IPA - 85 IBUs, 7.5%, more hops than I care for but a large flavored pop for my only one of the day.

6. Troegs Hop Back Amber Ale - 6%, nice sweet malt with hops to balance. Certainly a step up from Fat Tire and on par with Full Sail in my book. 

7. Widmer Citra Blonde - 4.3%  I haven’t had a Widmer beer for some time now. A crisp and zesty summer ale with only 20 BUs but well used late addition hops that delivers that citrusy aroma and taste. I’m really digging Citra hops since falling for the Schell’s Citra Pils. 

8. Dos Equis Azul - OK, hands down the worst beer of the summer for me (that’s because I haven’t had any Leinie’s beers). Truly nasty sweet and spicy mix. It’s an odd with “caramel color” added right on the front of the can! Here’s a pic so that you can run away when your neighbor walks up with some (now I know)I had to do the secret dump when folks were looking the other way and went home to pound an emergency Pilsner Urquell to get right with the world.

9. It was Saturday and I was warm so I went for low octane and was very happy with Dogfish Head Festina Peche. Actually the perfect choice. Wonderfully effervescent, light on the tongue, moderate fruit, just the right amount of lactic tartness. A really nice nod to the old Berliner Weiss style that is thankfully becoming more popular. 

10. Yesterday I found myself on the couch after working most of the day and poured a big tall Schneider Weisse- Brooklyner Tap 5 Hopfen-Weiss. This was the Schneider version which poured opaque with a fruity and hoppy nose. Lots of body, lots of sweet, lots of fruit, lots of yeast character, and a very interesting punch from Saphir hops. I liked all of the elements of this beer but it just seemed like too much at over 8%. Kind of felt like it could have fermented out several points more and would have been so great. I love Schneider Weiss and have been almost always impressed by Garrett’s beers but this one just felt a bit overcooked.

On to a new week. We’ll see what happens…

Posted 2 weeks ago

Wrap that Rascal!

I was given this the other day which was handed out by the Rogue rep. It seems like Big Wood Brewing should lift this idea and use it to promote their collegiate varieties and slogans (“this chick digs big wood” “have you had morning wood”). Can’t go wrong with promoting beer and safe sex.

In a very Oscar and Felix move last night I cracked two of the most dissimilar beers that I can think of. 

Oakshire Brewing Overcast Espresso Stout:

Out of Eugene, OR comes this canned 5.8% stout. Nice roasty toasty malt, hops to balance, and the right amount of coffee. I’d still drink Bent Paddle’s coffee beer on nitro before this but it was tasty. Not as big a beer as I thought it might be at first glance and the alcohol level suggests that too. I’d like to pound a few of these on a crisp autumn morning while raking leaves. Can’t get it here in MN but there are decent locally made alternatives. The king of coffee laced beers remains Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout with Founder’s KBS a distant second IMHO.

OK, as a random follow-up beer, I drank a goblet of 2012 Timmermans’ Pumpkin Lambicus poured from a 750 ml C & C bottle. I have had some Timmermans’ beers before with mixed feelings. I like their Gueze and Blanche Lambicus but am not crazy about their sticky sweet fruit beers. The Pumpkin Lambicus is kind of odd to say the least. It is 4% ABV, well carbed, nice copper color, and has a very mild souring from the base beer. The pumpkin flavor comes through a bit yet it whacks me out with so much spicing. Kind of odd for a Belgian beer to go heavy on such. It is pretty cool however that these beers are made via spontaneous fermentation. I have to try that some time to see what is floating around in our clean Duluth air (if anything). 

I noticed the first Octoberfest beers have arrived on the local shelves. WTF? It’s only July! We’ve barely had any warmth up here to bask in. Please let us enjoy some more Pils and Wheats before pushing us into the next season.

Word is that Castle Danger is coming out fairly soon in cans. It will be interesting to see how they decide to set prices. 

Posted 3 weeks ago

Preparing for the draught

I have all the best intentions as August looms and Friday I am going to try to go to one beer a day. Seems simple but it is summer and there is a lot of socializing going on next month. In the winter it is a lot easier: I just pour a Bourbon County/Bigfoot/Black Note and nurse it. Take note that I haven’t limited myself to bottle size nor strength so I have that going for me. 

Without going into much detail here are some things that I can recall having over the past couple of weeks:

Bent Paddle Day Pack Single Pale Ale > nice lower alcohol offering from West Duluth. I’m still not a fan of the Trail Series cans but at this point I think there are consumers who are buying based upon the visual appeal of packaging (like my parents who buy wine with “fun labels”). Another fine offering from the local leaders. Keep ‘em simple and true to style.

Anti-Hero IPA: From Revolution Brewing out of the Windy City. With a busy can design with a theme that kind of reminds me of the BU, this is yet another hop forward beer with loads of dank green hops. 

FOCOllaboration APA: NBB and Odell’s getting together to brew a tasty APA with now classic west coast hops. Nice and fruity. Had it on tap at Rathskeller.

I had a little session outdoors on the back patio of the Happy Gnome recently. Caught up with a relative, ate some pretty tasty marlin, and focused on summer beers. Very disappointed with the chemical aroma from most of the pours. I would expect such a celebrated pub to take better care of their process.

Steel Toe Sommer Vice: meh.

Furthermore Fatty Boombalatty> see last post. Good stuff.

Paulaner Hefeweizen: still wonderful

Clown Shoes Clementine: Nice wit with moderate spicing.

I had a sixer of Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss recently and I must say that it is perhaps the finest US example of a Bavarian wheat beer on the market. I cut my teeth on Widmer but this stuff takes the cake. Still drinking heaps of Summerfest from the can too. SN still has it going on full force. 

Let’s see, what else?

Crooked Stave Surette: Lovely beer! A great American interpretation of Saison.

Crooked Stave St. Bretta (winter): dark colored, oranges, brett, wine barrel sour. Yum.

Crooked Stave St. Bretta (summer): again oranges, golden color, very funky brett. Yum.

I skipped All Pints North as it was hot and I didn’t want to deal with the crowds. I heard that it was well attended and some tasties were poured. Not my cup o’ tea. Glad it’s happening though.

I swung by Mount Royal Bottle Shoppe last Friday for the little Deschutes tasting. I only grabbed tasters of a couple of things which were both good yet very green behind the ears. 

Deschutes Black Butte XXVI. An annual offering of imperial porter with this year’s version featuring pomegranate, cocoa, and cranberries. Surprisingly not too heavy considering the just under 11% ABV. Kinda tart with just a hint of bourbon from barrel aging. I bought one and will put it down to rest for a dark winter day in a year to come.

Deschutes Mirror Mirror > Ah, a barley wine in July! Take Mirror Pond and double the ingredients with the same amount of liquid and you get Mirror Mirror. How can you go wrong? Partially wine barrel aged this nectar clocks in at 11+% and is a mouth full! Only the third release in the last decade. The smart money is buying this while still on the shelves. 

I was lucky enough to get a sip of the Deschutes/Hair of the Dog Conflux #1 “Collage” that a customer brought in. The employees were clamoring over it so I mooched about a 1 oz. taste. After two years in the bottle it is pretty seamless with wonderful liquor barrel wood oozing into the mix. Wish that I had a chance to try more! Here is what Deschutes suggest pairing it with for food:

Turkey Paisano Sandwiches with Fig-and-Black Olive Vinaigrette
Figs and Dried Cherries Poached in Vanilla-Honey Syrup with Pistachios
Apple Raisin Bread Pudding

Who’s in??

Posted 3 weeks ago

Tasting the way it should be

I have been on a solid bender here for the past couple of weeks. Crazy how much beer and sipping tequila I have run through my liver. I’m thinking of taking drastic measures next month (only a few precious days away) and trying the one beer a day challenge. I am certainly not going to go bone dry and try cold turkey for the first time in my life but instead scale it back to one tasty bottle per day and actually try to write about them all. I don’t usually stick to anything so we’ll see how it goes.

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of gathering with the Tower of London, B, and Cain for a Monday night tasting. I had the idea of putting up some Belgian-style beers of similar ilk against each other while Cain was dying to try a special can of DIPA so we created two flights of four beers each. 

Caveat: None of us (obviously) are BJCP judges, cicerones, or any other fancy beer taster label. I could print out style guidelines to follow but instead we are just four guys who like beer, good company, and to talk shit. We held off commenting until after the rankings so as not to influence each other. I’m impressed by some of the consistency that shines through despite our lack of formal tasting education. 

Prior to the start of the Belgian-y round I popped a bottle of Pour Decisions Acerbity which is a Berliner Weiss style brewed down in Roseville, MN. This was my first beer from these guys and we were all pretty impressed with the nice lactic zing, wonderful wheat character, and refreshing quality of this 2.7% beer. Not sure why one would ever put syrup into the Berliner Weiss as when done well it is really good on its own. Screw lawnmower beer and shandys, this is where it is at when the mercury rises! Thanks to Bryan for giving me this bottle several months back.

OK so for round one of our tasting I poured four beers blind to the distinguished panel. I sourced most of these based upon the idea of putting Bent Paddle Blonde up against Surly Cynic Ale. I wanted to see how the ugly can would fare against the cool can (you interpret that). To add a couple more to the mix I threw in Furthermore’s Fatty Boombalatty (from Milwaukee) and then a 750 ml of Duvel that I had around. Two cans and two bottles, all tasted blind. 

For some reason when I first tasted the Bent Blonde I thought that it was somehow similar to the Surly. When lined up blind there weren’t two beers that were even close to each other in taste! 

I had a little side bet and asked the three other tasters which of the four beers they thought was actually Belgian. Two chose the Fatty and Cain (perhaps the son of the devil) chose Duvel. 

To keep this drivel someone succinct, here is the way it all shook out. 

Winner: Duvel (two first place votes)

Second: Fatty Boombalatty (one first, two second). 

Third: Surly Cynic Ale

Fourth: Bent Paddle Blonde (two thirds, two fourths)

As a group we were most impressed by the Furthermore offering. You can get six packs of this locally. It has nice Belgian bubblegum yeast flavor, fine finishing hops, very mild and old world like spicing, great carbonation (though not as much as Duvel!). Obviously we were least impressed by the Bent Paddle beer which was very dry bordering on thin and really lacked the Belgian character that the others offered. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After some pretzels and lively discourse the second flight was served up. I kind of dreaded having a double IPA tasting given my current leaning away from hop-centric beers. I was pretty surprised though about my tasting experience.

None of the four beers blew away my taste buds with IBUs. Certainly some were more bitter than others yet some were actually pretty approachable. This round was gathered by Cain and B. I had a can of Rodeo Clown DIPA in the fridge waiting for this tasting but the wife accidentally drank it (and really hated it BTW).

Like the first round, the DIPA series was had an outright winner and also a unanimous dog. 

Winner: Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Extra

Second: Alchemist Heady Topper

Third: Founder’s Double Trouble

Last: Great Lakes Erie Monster

The Lagunitas had an amazing aroma paired with fine malt presence and lower perceived BUs. Erie Monster’s aroma was more subdued with some fruitiness, dusty hop taste, and the most alcoholic heat. Heady Topper had more moderate bittering and what I thought were Simcoe-like cat piss hop flavor. Founders was loaded with back-end hops and a finish that lasted for ages. 

Although the gang needed to head home to family obligations, I ran down to the cellar and ended up pouring a fare-thee-well beer to give them something to remember (other than plain old hops). 

Avery Brewing Dihos Dactylion Barrel Aged Sour. WOW! Adam Avery came out with another truly amazing sour that left us awestruck. Bottled in February 2011 this baby was aged for a year and a half prior in cabernet barrel. Brett, Lacto, Pedio. Crazy sour, wood, wine and for me nary a hint of the underlying Saison base beer. Awesome! Thanks Smoker for getting me this.

Posted 1 month ago

Summertime and the living’s easy

My calendar has some smoke coming out of it from the pages moving so fast. I can’t believe that it is mid-July already. After a big steaming pile of horse shit for April, May, and June, this is when I want to slow down and enjoy the passing days. I’m doing my best but the moments seem rare when time slips by slowly. 

Brings me back to the Floyd:

"And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death”

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of putting a canoe onto a local lake with my pal the Tower of London. He has his hands full with work and kids and also was feeling the need for a chill session without watch or phone to just chew scenery, fish a bit, and sip on some cold ones.

Tis the season for the Velvet Rooster!

Still my favorite fishing beer with the rad can, 8.5% booze factor, nice Belgian yeast love, and a four-pack for under ten bucks. Hell if I took down all four I would be feeling fully loaded and for less than the price of two pints at any of our fine local drinking establishments.

The Tower and I talked literature, music, and anatomy while watching the water move and dropping out for a precious few hours. We ended up with a fresh can of Summit Summer Ale which was a nice follow up to the Tallgrass.

Last night I had my first and perhaps only pint of Bells’ Oberon.

I find it to be a nice summer quaffer and was struck by the hop presence that I didn’t recall from my last one perhaps two summers ago. 

The other day I was handed a shrink wrapped four-pack of 16 oz. Stiegl Lager in the purdy red can.

I was psyched to have been given such a gift and hurried to the lawn out back for a tall pilsner glassful. What greeted me was a metallic affront to my taste buds. Perhaps they don’t have the modern can lining technology that we have here but the beer reminded me of the old days drinking oil cans of Fosters. The beer was  nice and bright with perfect carbonation and some nice sweet bready malt but it was hard to work around the metal. I think that it dissipated a little after time in the glass (or my buds getting used to it). I may check to see if this is available in the bottle to compare. 

Last night I capped off my evening by sharing a fun one with my old pal Kev who I have known since about 1980. He said that he has been drinking a bunch of ciders on the east coast this summer and likes them but finds them too sickly sweet. Problem solved! I went down to the collection and pulled out a bottle of Spanish sidre which is a completely different beast from the insipid stuff that is offered to the masses (Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, Crispin, etc.).

I popped the cork on a bottle of Isastegi and promptly blew Kev’s road weary mind with the dry, dank, and sour. This is such an interesting cider and not for the faint of taste. It is quite sour and has some barnyard notes that suggest wild yeast or some sort of introduced funk (brett L?). It never ceases to amaze me what is out there if you dig a little bit and listen to the folks who work in the store. Turned on to me by the Ale Jail in St. Paul. 

Posted 1 month ago

21st Amendment Monk’s Blood

I would imagine that the 21st Amendment kind of ended a lot of back door fun. I probably would have had a speakeasy with a secret knock, lots of guns, a snooker table, dancing gals, and a jukebox loaded with oldies.

I think that the 21st Amendment Brewery out of San Fran is a fairly new player in our local market. They have an interesting canned line up and everything that I have tasted to date has been solid. If we’d ever get some warm weather their Hell or High Watermelon Wheat is great lawnmower beer that is eminently chug-gable. Back in Black is not a whole lot different from most black IPAs - decent if unremarkable. Bitter American is a really nice session beer that kicks ass over most other “low alcohol” craft beers.

Monk’s Blood is a wee bit more beastly than the aforementioned beers from this brewery. It is a big and bold Belgian style dark that has well meshed spicing added from cinnamon, vanilla, oak, and figs. If my math works, you could drink two Bitter Americans for every one Monk’s Blood and catch the same buzz (but have to piss more).

Monk’s Blood comes across as really quite sweet to my palate. Not a July 1 drinker but will be a most excellent addition to the high test canned quiver for cooler weather. It is thankfully low in bittering but high in flavor. I couldn’t drink multiples right now but I’d think in the autumn while raking leaves, riding bikes in the woods, paddling around Clough Island, etc it would be a dandy.

For now I’m sticking with Velvet Rooster and suggest that you do the same when all you want is a four pack of pounders to catch a stiff buzz and waste away a summer day.

BTW, Endion Station is rumored to be close to opening. It will be interesting to see what the Swedish Mafia serves up. Hopefully they will bring some new beers and an all together new food concept to the table.

Trying not to pass judgment on Glen Avon Church for spelling “judgement” on their sign today. I am truly a dick. 

Posted 1 month ago

Brain Dump

Of all places, I just got back from the skate park in Souptown and while over there found myself sipping on a Colt 45 tallboy which wasn’t half bad. Like the winner of our schwag beer tasting several months back (Schlitz), this malt liquor has some body to it and at a buck a can from the Hammond offers pretty good QPR. I can’t believe that I’m saying this but after staring down a sixer of Bent Paddle for over $10 I had to go all throwback today and was somehow satisfied. 

Admittedly, prior to going across the bridge to the land of hand slaps for DUIs, I pulled down a Pilsner Urquell (deelish as always) and also another Deschutes in the form of Hop in the Dark. Essentially another twist in the IPA world, this one pours really dark and has some lovely malt to better balance the 70 IBUs. Not one for everyday summer sipping but pretty decent. I’m still enamored by their XPA and Pine Mountain Pils so will stick with those while still in the store. 

So I have been working with Cain on trying to figure out a date to gather a few nerds and have of all things a Double IPA tasting (BTW, I actually saw a triple IPA at the Beer Cave today). I guess that it could be worse and we could be tasting a bunch of Scotch Ales but somehow I have to prep my tongue for the onslaught that is soon to come. 

I received a can of Rodeo Clown DIPA a couple of weeks ago and was going to toss it into the ring for the tasting but upon returning from a Pac-NW trip the other day I found that SWMBO drank it while I was gone. I get this “where did you get that clown beer” line and “it took me an hour to drink it and I poured half the can down the drain”. Funny how so many of my friends, casual acquaintances, and now family are all moving away from the hop bombs. TDL thinks that he is allergic as his sinus gets all pluggered every time he touches an IPA. Not sure what is going on but again I think that it has to do with some of us maturing on the craft beer curve. Hell if I know. Tastes change. I used to like Starbucks…

Not that long ago I found myself in Oregon for business and despite pissing rain out there I was able to get a couple of pops in and visit a fairly small beer store. What a mind blower that place is for beer geeks. When you think about MN having a booming beer scene, take a look at the numbers:

MN -  52 craft breweries (as of year-end 2013) which is 17th in the country and 21st per capita.

OR - 181 breweries which is 3rd and 1st per capita. 

Can you imagine having more than three times the companies making beer here? We have over a million more people than they have too. (Lucky bastards don’t have sales tax either)

I went into this fairly small neighborhood market and the shelf beers were off the hook! It has gotten to the point where there are so many that I have to imagine that like wine, some folks are buying based upon the artwork on the label. 

I really wanted to get over to Cascade in Portland to get in on their souring program but had to settle for Sasquatch Brew Pub which offered decent beers coupled with foodie food. What was impressive to me was that they had perhaps six Oregon sourced ciders to go along with the beers. Pretty cool ciders, some with single variety hops, others with interesting fruit blends. No funky yeasts listed but certainly a direction that some of the MN pubs could go in to satisfy both the gluten intolerant and those who oddly don’t like beer. 

I need to get out and try some more local beers this week. Getting stuck in a rut of XPA, Summit EPA, Pilsner Urquell, and Sierra Nevada Summerfest. Sometimes it is hard to get out and drink $5+ pints of local experiments when six packs are available at nearly the same price. It’s not like the economy is booming here in D-town. Brewhouse and CPB are packed with tourists and a lot of the local holes have reduced their choices by serving 2-4 Bent Paddles. Tough to find something new and different. I think that a bike ride down to 7 West and Grizzlies is in order. 

Posted 2 months ago

Deschutes tastiness

Lots of hubbub about our fair city competing to be the top outdoor town in America. Kind of surprising to have it come down to a hotbed of LDS conservatism versus the town with almost no summer. I can think of many better outdoor towns than these two but let the people decide. One such town in Bend, OR. Sure, we can dump on the Californication of Bend, the cost of living, blah blah but they sure do have nice outdoor things there. 

One great thing about Bend (besides great fishing, rafting, skiing, MTB riding) is Deschutes Brewery which solidly kicks butt on both Provo and Duluth brewers combined. I’ve had several posts mentioning their beers and despite having a slightly over-the-top PDX pub, they really know how to put out consistently great beer. 

I popped a couple of new bombers yesterday from a dwindling stack at the Beer Cave (they still have Mirror Mirror by the way if you want a fantastic cellar worthy buy).

First up was Cinder Cone Red which although never a style that I reach for was pretty smooth drinking with a little bit-o-honey flavor and very mild hopping. Easy to put down at just over 5% this is a decent beer but not one that I would get again given what I had next.

What is an XPA? I figured eXtra Pale Ale but in reading the label from Deschutes it translates to Experimental Pale Ale as it is the first beer made at the aforementioned public house in Portland. They state “consider this your next hop obsession” and I counter that with “consider this a beautifully balanced, perfectly hopped, pale ale”. In the same way that Summit EPA and Firestone Walker DBA have made their mark on me with excellent pale ales, I am adding XPA to the my short list. Do yourself a favor and go grab a couple of these bombers and see if your taste buds agree. I cannot imagine how good this would be on nitro at the pub. If I were Nick, I’d give it 10/10.

Posted 2 months ago

Black Listed

Briefly, I finally got around to trying Blacklist Brewing’s “Verte” which had been staring at me in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Three of us shared it in tulip glasses and our impressions were oddly quite similar.

Verte is a dry hopped version of Or de Belgique. I went back to my review of that from May of last year and was amused to find some similar themes: super tough corking and high carbonation. 

I wrestled with the cork on this bottle of Verte until it broke and had to resort to a corkscrew to extract such. I guess that this is a good sign for anyone planning on long-term storage. 

The beer poured perhaps a light orange brown with a slightly off-white head. Nice head retention and lively carbonation. Watch out if you try one of these as there was an unusual amount of sediment at the bottom. 

On the taste front there you could get some of the underlying Or de Belgique’s Belgian yeast character yet without some of the sweetness that I recall from a year ago. This dry hopped version is much higher IBU and has a dominating hop finish which I find distracting. 

Well-crafted, certainly this will be appreciated for it’s Duluth roots, higher alcohol content, and BUs but I like the original version better and still think that it is Brian’s best effort to date.

I hope that we see some of the beers that he has listed on his schedule!

Posted 2 months ago

The Goat of Lust

I was lured over to the dark side today when B and Cain approached me before noon with a glass of fresh Surly Pentagram. How could I resist? 

In typical Surly fashion, the bottle is a beauty with all sorts of symbols that I don’t understand other than the two points of the pentagram pointing up which is a nod to the big man downstairs and the “goat of lust attacking heaven with its horns”.

Oddly, this was my first taste of Pentagram even though I have a couple of older bottles stashed in the cellar awaiting bug development. 

Despite being too cold and subduing the flavor and aroma, I really liked this young beer and am inspired to buy a couple of this release and am also psyched about the two that I have sleeping in the cellar. 

Pentagram is a funky dark beer that has been fermented with Brett. and aged in red wine barrels. Though cold, I could taste wine, the Brett funk, some wood, and sweet malt. It isn’t a full bodied beer and I have read that it is 6.66% abv (doubtful but a fun idea in keeping with the theme). I’m pretty intrigued by this one for sure. 

The other dark sour that comes to mind is the New Belgium Lips of Faith Clutch which came out in maybe 2011. Clutch, IIRC, is more of a sour and less of a funk. I have a couple left and should pull one out to do battle with the aged Surly. Would be very interesting. Report to come.

I don’t know how long Pentagram will be around but if you like to squirrel away suds and like ‘em funky this would be a good candidate. 

Rock on