Thursday, March 26, 2020

Blacklist CraHAZY Review


Name: Blacklist CraHAZY
Style: Imperial IPA (Hazy/NE Style)
ABV: 8%
IBUs: 27

Well, it’s been a fairly interesting past couple of weeks for myself given the current events and everything happening at work because of it. However, the dust is settled and we’re not here to talk about that. Instead, I’m going to get back to doing what I love: writing about beer.

Today I’ve got a beer from Blacklist Brewing in the form of their CraHAZY, a hazy IPA infused with cranberries. I actually recall having this last summer during a visit to Duluth and was quite pleased with it. However, since I wouldn’t start writing about craft beer for about three weeks at that time, I was never able to give this one a proper review. With that said, let’s take a look at this one.

Appearance – Pours a hazy dark orange color with a semi soapy head that is about a two finger width. The lacing left behind, however, is quite plentiful.

Aroma – Strong caramel & toffee malts with some nice citrus hoppiness and fairly light cranberry fruitness.

Taste – Strong toffee and caramel malts dominate most of the flavor with some moderate citrus hoppiness in the middle. The back end of the palate is where the cranberry sweetness really shines and, paired with the strong caramel and toffee malt backbone, gives it a very nice finish.

I’d honestly classify this as an English-style IPA based on how malty this beer is but it doesn’t change how much I enjoyed this. As far as I’m concerned, Blacklist knocked it out of the park yet again with this. This is definitely worth having should the opportunity present itself.

Blacklist CraHAZY – 9/10

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Craft Brewing & COVID-19

Hello everyone,

We all know by this point that COVID-19 has impacted our daily lives in some way, shape or form; Regardless of our background. As a writer of craft beer, I feel it is appropriate to address recent current events and how I think this’ll impact the industry going forward.

Never in a million years did I imagine that something like the situation we're in would arise. Yet here I am sitting in my living room at in my jammies writing this all whilst practicing the art of "social distancing."

Earlier this week, by order of the State of Minnesota, all bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries & restaurants are to be shutdown and only implement carryout and curbside delivery for things such as food, growlers & crowlers. From a safety point-of-view, I strongly feel these steps are necessary in order to halt & prevent the spread of COVID-19.

However, not every brewery has the luxury of giving growlers & crowlers to go since current Minnesota State Laws don’t allow production breweries with an output of more than 20,000 barrels per year to sell. I know of a couple breweries that have lost revenue due to the loss of selling growlers & crowlers and now the closure of taprooms will not only impact them but also any other brewery whose main source of revenue is a taproom.

Now at the time or writing this, there are bills in place to remove the cap so larger breweries can go back to selling growlers. However, with the current events happening, there’s talk that the legislative session might be put off in order to mitigate the potential effects of COVID-19.

The point I’m trying to convey is that every brewery, regardless of size, will be impacted and the fallout of what has happened still remains to be seen. My biggest fear is that many smaller breweries that don’t have the luxury of widespread distribution will suffer greatly from this and those working for them will be out of a job. I’m hoping that it doesn’t come to this but the sad reality is that this might indeed happen. As someone who has been writing about craft beer for close to seven years, seeing the events that have unfolded have me at a loss for words.

So, what can you do to help?

As I mentioned earlier, many small breweries are offering curbside pickup for growlers and crowlers, so my advice would be to take advantage of this. Of course, there are some local breweries who are unable to provide this service so you can help by buying some of their offerings at a liquor store.

Obviously this caveat is to be taken with a grain of salt since I do not advise anyone who is feeling ill or at risk of contracting COVID-19 to go out. To repeat what countless health officials have stated: If you feel sick, stay at home!

Now if have decided to stay home for whatever reason, you can still help. Many craft breweries give you the option to purchase a gift card online, so if you do this, you're not only providing some revenue that they so desperately need, but you're also giving yourself a chance to visit a taproom. Think of it as a reward for yourself for flattening the curve, so to speak.

Mark my words, we will make it through this and once we do, we can go back to doing what we love the most. But for right now, hunker down at home, have a pint, and wait for this whole thing to blow over.

As always, thanks for reading. Also, be wash your hands y'all!

- Nick

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Junkyard Bennie's Wearin' Sweats Review



Name: Junkyard Bennies’ Wearin’ Sweats
Style: India Pale Ale (Hazy/NE Style)
ABV: 7%
IBUs: N/A

Junkyard Brewing just keeps pulling me back in. Their first two beers I had from them were some of the best sours I’ve had in a while, so naturally I’m inclined to check out even more offerings from them since they’re batting 2-for-2 in my book.

The beer we’re looking at is called Bennies’ Wearin’ Sweats, a New England-style IPA that comes complete with Pat Benatar look-a-like on the label artwork. This does beg a couple questions: Who’s Bennie? Why does it sound like Benny and the Jets? Will Junkyard release their own branded sweatpants? In any case, let’s check this beer out!

Appearance – Pours a hazy yellow color with a light amount of carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass. The head itself is nice and foamy and there’s a good amount of lacing left behind.

Aroma – Citrus & Kiwi notes mixed in with some pale and caramel maltiness. The kiwi notes in particular are nice and potent.

Taste – Much like the nose, the palate is made up of vibrant citrus hop and kiwi notes, all of which are supported by a pale & caramel malt backbone. The aftertaste consists on a light bitter hoppiness and light kiwi sweetness.

Much like the first two beer I’ve had from Junkyard: Wow! This beer is not only a easy drinking beer but it’s a vibrant, tropical tasting one at that. Like the previous beers I’ve had from Junkyard, this one is very easy to recommend.

Junkyard Bennies’ Wearin’ Sweats – 9/10

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Surly Blond Ambition Review


Name: Surly Blond Ambition
Style: Doppelbock/Doppel Hellerbock
ABV: 9%
IBUs: N/A

One of the things that Surly Brewing  Company has done in my absence is the establishment of their Small Batch Series. They're a series of beers that they are somewhat niche in terms of style and they fetch a higher price tag than their mainline offerings. Also, these beers are brewed at their original brewing facility in Brooklyn Center, MN.

Today we're looking at their Blond Ambition, which is described as a Doppel Hellerbock, although other places classify this as a Doppelbock. According to Surly, this beer was also aged on hickory honeycombs, which is an interesting choice if I do say so myself.

Appearance – Clear golden color with a moderate amount of visible carbonation. The head is thin but on the foamier side and there’s a good amount of lacing left behind along the sides of the glass.

Aroma - Pale and caramel malts with some light floral hoppiness. I’m also picking up on some light woodsy notes in here as well.

Taste – Up front, the aforementioned maltiness is front and center, with that light floral hoppiness keeping things in check. The aftertaste has a light boozy heat to it, but it’s kept in check by that caramel maltiness and light woodsy flavor, which shows up in the end.

This is the first Small Batch Series I’ve had and I’m honestly kicking myself for not getting into the series sooner because this is the Surly that I know and love! Blond Ambition serves as a reminder to myself as to why people love Surly in the first place; Plus it’s been a while since I’ve had a good Doppelbock and this was more than adequate. If you see this, definitely pick this one up!

Surly Blond Ambition – 9/10

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Brewing Projekt Stolen Mile Review



Name: The Brewing Projekt Stolen Mile
Style: Blonde Ale/Fruit Beer
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: N/A

Well, I’m diving back into the whimsical world of The Brewing Project (TBP). Today I’ve got their Stolen Mile, which is a blonde ale (though some sources also classify this a fruit beer) made with citrus and…….mint? That’s a very interesting combination to say the least and not the first choice as ingredient pairing is concerned, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s see how this is!

Appearance – Hazy bright yellow color with a light amount of visible carbonation. The head is fairly thin and fades pretty quickly and the lacing along the sides of the glass is quite sparse

Aroma – Citrus notes and pale malts dominate most of the nose. I am also picking up on some light minty notes in here as well and it’s not as powerful as I thought it might be.

Taste – Lemon grass and light citrus on the front of the palate, which is backed up by a solid pale malt backbone. That minty flavor is also quite light and, interestingly enough, adds to the overall citrus profile. The aftertaste is quite dry, save for a light minty and lemon zest.

I’m not 100% sure how TBP managed to pull this off, let alone come up with this idea in the first place, but they did & it works! I was a bit concerned that the addition of mint would negatively affect what is otherwise a bright flavor profile but somehow it had the complete opposite effect. If you’re looking for a twist on what is otherwise a middle-of-the-road style, then I would whole heartedly recommend this!

The Brewing Project Stolen Mile – 8.5/10

Friday, March 6, 2020

Hacker Pschorr Weissebier Review



Name: Hacker Pschorr Weissebier
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 16

Twenty years ago, imported beers were a go-to when one wanted to have a beer that wasn’t an adjunct lager. Then a magical thing happened: The Craft Beer scene in the United States exploded. Suddenly the demand for international beer fell to the wayside since freshness, and quality of beer became an important factor in buying beer; In addition to the style. Which is unfortunate because there are some fantastic imports out there.

One of the big things in particular that has also occurred is a paradigm shift, in which many breweries have switched from bottled to canned beer, which has been a game changer of sorts in terms of preserving the quality of beer. Many international brewers, however, still utilize bottles, which many are green in color. I bring this up because green bottles aren’t exactly the best at stopping UV light from hitting the beer, which would give it a skunky quality. That’s why many breweries that still bottle their utilize brown glass bottles because they are the best at stopping UV light.

Enter Hacker Pschorr, who came along, assessed the situation, and decided to put their beers into a sleek looking can, that feels even better to the touch, in order to keep all those UV contaminants out of their beers and give drinkers the quality of beer that they deserve.

Why am I brining this up? Well, the awesome folks at Paulaner USA were nice enough to send me some samples of their Weissebier for me to look at and see how it is. I’ve honestly never had this beer from them before, though I am a big fan of their Salvator Doppelbock since I think it is a textbook example of a Doppelbock.

So it goes without saying that I’m curious to see how this is. And what better way to enjoy this beer than with an actual Hacker Pschorr glass that I managed to snag on Craigslist!

With that said, all opinions are my own.

Appearance – Mildly cloudy dark orange color with a lot of visible carbonation. The head is nice & foamy there’s a ton of lacing left behind along the sides of the glass.

Aroma – I’m picking up on some potent malted wheat and light clove notes. I’m also picking up on some light orange peel sweetness and floral hoppiness.

Taste – Right away, I’m getting some potent malted wheat, clove and orange peel notes. On the back end of the palate, I’m also getting some light floral hops, along with a nice bready yeastiness. The aftertaste is mainly a light floral hoppiness along with just a touch of that orange peel

A lot of imported beers I’ve had in the past have fallen victim to the clutches of either stale taste or skunkiness. That is not the case with this Weisse! It’s crisp, clean and it’s got a very nice flavor profile to boot!

All and all, this is very easy for me to recommend and, after having this, maybe it’s worth my time to check out more imported beers going forward!

Hacker Pschorr Weissebier – 9/10

Thursday, March 5, 2020

What The Heck Was I Up To For 2 Years?

Last year, I decided to start this blog up again after a two year absence. Since then, I’ve been enjoying exploring the world of craft beer and it’s a choice that I’m glad that I made. However, I feel that I owe you readers an explanation as to what I was up to during my absence as well as what exactly inspired me to come back.

Let’s start back in February of 2017. I was in the last months of my MBA and was prepping for what was to happen afterwards. I was also suffering from burnout thanks in part to my job, school & the need to consistently post on my website. Looking back, a lot of the pressure was things that I more-or-less brought upon myself but, at that moment in time, I didn’t take the time to really step back and think about it. So one weekend, I made the choice to start a website dedicated to travel since I really wanted to shift my focus elsewhere as well as pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Hence, The Sheltered Gallivant was born.

Hiking at Zion National Park

At first, the passion I had for writing about travel was burning brightly. The first article I ever did was on Taconite Harbor, a ghost town along Minnesota’s North Shore and doing the research, as well as visiting site itself, was an incredible & rewarding experience. The following month, I made the journey to Zion National Park and drove across the State of Utah by myself and it was an amazing experience and I only branched out from there further. I would make several trips during the time of running The Sheltered Gallivant and I’m thankful and humbled by the experiences.

Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse


To top it all off, I got to meet and connect with some truly amazing people as well as get the opportunity to do collaboration work with several businesses during my tenure.

However, there was a few things that happened while I ran the website that ultimately led me back to Nick’s Beer Blog. It wasn’t just one big thing that occurred but it was a series of events that made me realize that travel blogging, while fun, wasn’t really my cup of tea.

For starters, about a year after I started The Sheltered Gallivant, I was diagnosed with depression after it hit me particularly hard. In truth, I had been dealing with it on-and-off for the past 12 years but I had never actively sought out treatment for it until after having a literal breakdown, with absolutely no rhyme or reason, while I was going into work one morning. When I got the diagnosis, it confirmed what I had long suspected but to actually hear it being said to me was tough. However, it provided me with an answer to what I was feeling and I was able to get treatment for it as a result. Almost two years later, I’m glad I went in when I did.

My writing, as a result, took a hit. I found myself with no motivation to do any kind of writing. So I decided to start networking with other travel bloggers to find an inspiration of sorts, since I deduced that this was the path I needed to take. So that fall, I attended a travel bloggers conference to find that motivation. It was here that I encountered another glaring problem: I couldn’t relate to them.

Well......mostly.

My idea of travel blogging versus their idea of travel blogging were wildly different. I tended to focus on more of the off-beaten path of locales I visited while the other bloggers tended to focus on luxury travel. Now I have no qualms about luxury travel blogging since I find it kind of fun to read about, amusing even. However, that just wasn’t me. That’s not to say that they were bad people, far from it; But in the end, I felt I was an outlier of sorts and I left feeling like I had accomplished nothing. Nevertheless, I pushed forward with my writing.

Working press at the Summer Beer Dabbler (2018)

Which brings me to the next thing: I never left beer blogging. Looking back on my posts that I made on my The Sheltered Gallivant, over half of them involved alcohol, wine or craft beer in some capacity. From a cost perspective in terms of website maintenance, it just didn’t make sense. However, it didn’t hit me until later on (which I’ll get to in a moment.)

When 2019 rolled around, I started hot right out of the gate with articles and posts but by the time April rolled around, I had lost virtually all motivation to do any travel blogging what-so-ever. Any motivation I had to start planning for any type of trip was gone. That, paired with the death of my best friend after his four-year battle with cancer, was the proverbial nail in the coffin for my travel blogging career. I had contemplated giving up writing altogether and I was about to pull the trigger on that decision.

What changed that was a visit to my old stomping grounds in Duluth during a weekend in June 2019.

2019's hottest FPS game at Blacklist Brewing

I spent most of my time taking photos of the North Shore as well as doing some drone photography (Weather Permitting) but spent my evenings at the various taprooms in the Duluth Area and one of them was a regular haunt of mine: Blacklist Brewing. During an axe-throwing session, my buddy, who works at Blacklist  was telling everyone that I was a blogger and used to write about craft beer. As luck would have it, one of the people at the brewery actually knew of Nick’s Beer Blog and even said that they missed my articles.

Also, even though I had not posted on the website for over two years by that point, people were still reading it on a regular basis for their own reference. Plus I did check on the dashboard every once in a great while. Sure, traffic had diminished since I had quit, but people were still reading it.

Ursa Minor's Drunk Gandalf: The beer I was having when I decided to bring back Nick's Beer Blog

The following day, as I was driving out of town, I decided to swing by Ursa Minor Brewing to sample some of their libations before heading back to the Twin Cities. As I sat there drinking their Drunk Gandalf Tripel, I put all the pieces together in my head of what had transpired that year and realized that Nick’s Beer Blog needed to return. I quickly made some notes on my phone as to how go about doing that.

I contemplated building a new website from the ground-up, much like how I did with The Sheltered Gallivant but then I remembered that my website was still there, sitting dormant. A couple weeks later, I made my first post in over two years announcing my return. Eight months later, I know in my heart it was the right choice and I’m just as happy to be back as the day I returned.

With that said, I have no regrets about my two year venture as The Sheltered Gallivant. Through it, I got to meet & work with some truly amazing people and experience places that I never would’ve gone to had I never started the website. So yes, even though it didn’t work out the way I would’ve liked, I wouldn’t take back those two years for anything.

So there you have it. I’m looking forward to all the adventures that await me here and I’m excited to share that journey with you.

As always, thank you for reading!