Sunday, April 28, 2013

Widmer Brothers Columbia Common Review

I apologize for my finger at the bottom right corner, it will not happen again

Tonight I'm looking at a spring seasonal offering from Widmer Brothers Brewing called "Columbia Common", which is a Steam Beer/California Common style beer. 

To give a Spark Notes explanation of what a California Common is, it is basically a beer fermented  with yeast which ferments at warmer temperatures. This was developed in the 19th Century by brewers in California who had to develop a yeast strain which allowed to it to ferment in California's warm climate.The name "Steam Beer" is trademarked by Anchor Brewing Company so other breweries wishing to make this style must call it a "California Common." 

It pours a dark orange color with a pretty clear appearance. You can see a mild amount of carbonation climbing up the sides of the glass and the lacing retention is quite good. 

The nose has some fairly strong yeast and barley notes which are backed up by a pretty mild Pilsener-like grassiness. It does smell like, in a way, liquid bread.

Flavor wise, it has the yeast and barley flavors I've come to expect but it also has a strange hefeweizen-like spicy zing to the flavor. I'm guessing it's the Columbia Hops they've used in making this beer as it does advertise "spicy hop notes" on the company website's description of the beer.

The beer itself is pretty moderate in terms of weight and the carbonation only has a slight kick to it, so it does feel pretty refreshing especially right now after this long day.

It's a decent beer and gets the job done, but I felt the spicy aspect of the flavor was unnecessary. I understand it's what makes this beer a "Columbia Common" but I'm pretty sure if I like my California Common without spice in it.  It is not a bad beer, however if I wanted a spicy beer I would have a Rogue Chipotle Ale instead.

Widmer Brothers Columbia Common - 7/10

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale Review

Back in 2002, Stone Brewing started releasing their "Vertical Epic" series, which is/was their annual line of Belgian Strong Ales with each respective year (i.e. 03.03.03 for the year 2003.) Since I was only 15 years old when it first started, I never got the chance to try it out and Stone was not yet widely available. From what I understand, 12.12.12 will be their last of the Vertical Epic series unless they decide to pull a 13.13.13 on us.

Since today is the first day here in Minnesota that we can go outside without having to wear a sweatshirt or jacket, I will be heading out soon with my fiance to a Bar-B-Que & Bonfire. So I figured I would get this out of the way before I head out and enjoy some steak along with some tasty Sierra Nevada.

Vertical pours a dark brown color with a brown head. The lacing left behind is also abundant and sticky.

The nose has some fairly strong caramel, pumpkin pie, spice, plums and malty notes. It's like a pumpkin ale mixed in with a strong ale.

The flavor has some rich spice, caramel, and piney hop notes which is backed up by plum/fruity and spruce notes. It reminds me of Olvalde Brewing's "Ode to a Russian Shipwright" which uses spruce tips during the brewing process but nowhere near as prevalent.

The body is also fairly light and the body feels rather smooth. It's pretty easy to drink and allows one to enjoy the flavor.

I really enjoyed 12.12.12 but it saddens me that this won't be a continuous release because I think would be a great regular seasonal release. I'm sure the availability of 12.12.12 is dwindling with each passing day so be sure to grab one if you so happen to see it.

Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale - 9.25/10

Friday, April 26, 2013

Steel Toe Provider Ale Review

I remember when Steel Toe Brewing opened up back in 2011 because it's opening was delayed due to the MN State Government shutdown during that summer. When it finally did open, the residents of St. Louis Park proudly had a brewery they could call their own. Their availability in liquor is slowly expanding and is currently available at only a select few liquor stores and bars in Minneapolis & St. Paul.

I had their Rainmaker Double Amber Ale last year and found it to be quite good so keep an eye out for that review in the near future. I'll be taking a look at Steel Toe's Provider Ale, which is their blonde ale. It's also the first Steel Toe beer I had ever had after it was recommended to me at the Four Firkins early last year.

It pours a wet yellow color with a fairly strong haze and carbonation. The head itself is decently sized but is rather soapy in terms of lacing and retention.

The nose gives off a strong yeasty and floral hop scent along with some malty notes. Along with that is a very slight earthy scent that reminds me of a Pilsener.

Flavor-wise it's not too different from the aroma. You have your yeasts, floral hops, cloves and malts, which all come off as surprisingly vibrant considering it's style. The earthy scent I mentioned before is not present here.

It's a heavier ale but with a light carbonation which helps add to the flavor, so you'll have no difficulty drinking this beer.

Provider is the beer I keep finding myself coming back to in case I'm unsure what I want to get. It's not complex or perfect but I know it's a beer that I can't really go wrong with and I know that it will go good with dinner regardless of what I'm eating. What I'm trying to say is that when it comes to Blonde Ales, Provider pulls it off quite well.

Steel Toe Provider Ale - 8/10

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Castle Danger George Hunter Stout Review

I mentioned in my previous post that I was in Duluth last weekend visiting my Dad. While I was up there, I picked up a growler from Castle Danger Brewing which is about a 45 minute drive up the North Shore from Duluth proper. Below is their current facility....

It is literally the size of my living room basement

....And yes, it is that small. They will be moving into a bigger facility in Two Harbors to expand production (Which is supposed to happen later this year) and hopefully bring it down to the Twin Cities in the near future.

I've actually had their Nestor Grade Amber Ale as I got it as a Christmas gift and thought it was really good. So I figured I would review the George Hunter Stout, which is named after the owner's Great-Great Grandfather.

To start, it pours a pitch black color with a very dark brown head. It's a beer so dark, I can see my reflection on the glass. The lacing also sticky and abundant.

The nose consists mainly cocoa, roasted malts, chocolate, and hops. Pretty sweet cocoa notes upfront with just a hint of hop bitterness in the back, all of which are over-encompassed by a malt sweetness.

In terms of taste, the sweet milk chocolate and coca hit the palate almost immediately, with the middle possessing an almost caramel-like quality, while the finish is a chocolate-hop bitterness.

The beer itself is both creamy and smooth, thanks to it's light yet thick texture and mild carbonation. This goes down incredibly easy and feels heavenly on the palate.

This is a solid stout. I sincerely hope that Castle Danger is available in the near future in the Twin Cities area because I've been very impressed with the quality of the beers that I've had from them so far. If you are ever going up to the Minnesota North Shore for any reason, please try to stop by and pick up a growler or have it on tap because Castle Danger makes absolutely great beer! And if you get the chance, try this beer out as well!

Castle Danger George Hunter Stout -  9/10

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Glarus Spotted Cow Review

This past weekend, I was in Duluth visiting my dad for the weekend. For those of you who aren't familiar with the craft beer scene in Minnesota, Duluth has been exploding with business when it comes to breweries and craft beer. I even managed to pick up a growler this weekend from a local brewery which I will be reviewing later this week.

Duluth also happens to be right across the bridge from Superior, Wisconsin. I mentioned in a previous review that I love New Glarus Brewing, so this past weekend my dad saved me the hassle of going over to Superior and picked up some New Glarus Spotted Cow for me. When it comes to Wisconsin Craft Beer, this is probably the first thing that pops into the head of many beer lovers. You can pretty much find it in every nook-and-cranny in the State of Wisconsin. This shouldn't come as a surprise seeing as how it was ranked the 17th Largest Craft Brewery in America but they only distribute in Wisconsin which is even reflected in the company's motto: "Drink Indigenous."

Where to begin? Well for starters, It's more popular on-tap in Wisconsin than Miller Lite is. On the label is an image of a cow doing a bunny hop over the state of Wisconsin with a giant star marking the location of New Glarus. If Wisconsin were a country, it would have two national animals: The Badger and The Cow.

Spotted Cow is the beer that proudy screams "Wisconsin, Hell Yeah!" It's a Cream Ale with a 4.8% ABV; Though I've also seen it at 5.1% ABV. For this review I also poured into my Tyranena Brewing glass, another awesome Wisconsin brewing company.

It pours a mildly hazy moderately bright yellow color. The head starts out fluffy but becomes fizzy about a couple minutes after the pour and the carbonation activity is fairly mild.

The nose has some yeast and sweet malt notes. There's also a hint of corn in here, but unlike adjunct lagers which use it in place of other ingredients, this one is added in to the existing brew. The result is a pleasantly sweetened ale with a nice natural scent.

The flavor isn't too much different from the smell. It's got the yeasts, barley, malts, and corn present in the nose. Again the corn fits very well into the overall flavor, giving it a good sweet flavor because, again, it's added in to the flavor and not switched out.

It goes without saying that this is a pretty easy drinker. The body and carbonation are very light and it goes down very smooth. It's classified as a cream ale and it's very easy to see why.

In terms of Cream Ales, this one takes the cake. As a beer itself, the flavor isn't revolutionary by any means, but you really cannot go wrong with Spotted Cow at all; In fact the only expectations you should have before drinking this beer is that you'll enjoy it. It's a great way to get your friends into craft beer and it's a beer perfect for any occasion. Now if only they'd distribute to Minnesota.....

New Glarus Spotted Cow - 8/10

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bell's Best Brown Review

Yes, my second to last winter seasonal review for the year (you'll see the other one later this week) because despite the winter storm we had last week, Old Man Winter doesn't know when to call it quits. If you're a resident of the Midwest or Rockies, then you understand my pain. If you so happen to be reading this while in a warm climate, consider yourselves lucky that you aren't living in this proverbial Siberia.

Yesterday I did a review of Bell's Two Hearted, and today I've decided to keep it up with Bell's Best Brown Ale. I actually picked this up as part of a Mix-A-Six and was only $1.17; Hey I like my beer but I also like cheap beer! The expiration date on this was the end of next month so I wasn't gonna let it go to waste!

It pours a Dark Red Color with a off-white colored head and some sparse lacing along the side of the glass. The smell has some mild caramel, floral hops, roasted malt and chocolate scents. The flavor is also fairly mild with caramel, rum raisin, chocolate and roasted malt notes. The body is fairly thick and yet lighter at the same time whereas the carbonation is fairly mild and subdued.

The Rum Raisin flavor is the only thing that really jumped out at me with this beer but that really isn't saying too much as the flavor in general is mild and not living up to it's full potential. It's by no means a bad beer, but it's mild flavor leaves something more to be desired

Bell's Best Brown - 7/10

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bell's Two Hearted Ale Review

Name: Bell's Two Hearted Ale
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7%

There are two breweries that are associated with Michigan when it comes to beer: Bell's and Founders. Even though they are not distributed everywhere in the US at this time, they are well known to craft beer lovers around the country as being one of the top producers of craft beer.

Today I will be focusing on Bell's Brewery. They are known to have a wide variety of beers, both year round and season. I will be focusing on what many consider to be the flagship beer of Bell's: The Two Hearted Ale, which is an IPA. From what I have gathered, the beer is named after the Two Hearted River located on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.

It pours a bright hazy orange color with a decent sized head and a good amount of lacing along the sides of the glass.

The aroma has some yeast, malt, citrus hop and grapefruit notes. Rich but not overpoweringly so.

The flavor on the other hand has rich Citrus/Piney Hop, Yeasty, Caramel, and Malty flavor with a bitter resin aftertaste. The malt backbone in particular helps balance out the flavor quite well. Even though it is 7% ABV, you wouldn't tell by simply drinking this.

The body is light in weight and the carbonation feels mild and just right; Leaving you with a crisp feeling beer that's easy to drink.

It's easy to see why many consider this to be Bell's flagship beer: It's tasty, well rounded and easy to drink. The best part is that this beer can be good for almost any occasion, which gives it a much wider appeal.

Bell's Two Hearted Ale - 9/10

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale Review

Sierra Nevada is one of the first craft breweries I had ever heard of, along with Summit Brewing. I even recall running with my dad to the liquor store to pick up some of the aforementioned beer when I was only 8 years old. Now here I am drinking the same stuff my old man and his co-workers drank 18 years later.

I wanted to make my first Sierra Nevada review special, so I've decided to review their seasonal Barleywine: Bigfoot Ale. They classify it as a Winter Seasonal, but I usually don't start seeing these until the Spring time.

Speaking of Bigfoot when my cousin was around 12-13 years old, he claims that he saw Bigfoot while out snowmobiling near his farm in Northern Minnesota. According to him, he saw a Bigfoot about 8-9 feet tall with jet black hair and a human-like strut running across a snowfield into the woods near an abandoned farmhouse; and this all happened around 5 PM. Since digital cameras and cell phones were quite rare in the early 1990's, he had no proof to back up his claim and therefore no evidence to convince us otherwise. Today he's married with 3 kids, lives in the same area, and still swears that he saw Sasquatch that cold December evening.

Whether or not he's telling the truth remains to be seen, but it does add a dimension of intrigue and mystery to our world. There is one Bigfoot that we all know does exist, and that's this Barleywine.

To start, it pours a deep ruby red color with a mildly hazy appearance. The head is not large by any means but it does have some great lacing retention.

The aroma gives off a very rich scent of Citrus Hops. Caramel Malts, Spices, and Toffee. In terms of smell, this one has a nice balance between being hoppy and sweet.

When it comes to the flavor, you have the Citrus Hops, Malts, Toffee, and Figs. All of which are all good albeit a bit subdued compared to the aroma. However it also has a slight booziness to the overall flavor. It's minor but noticeable nonetheless.

It's light bodied and the carbonation is fairly mild so it feels quite creamy and smooth when it hits the palate. As usual with most barleywine styles, you'll want to take your time with this.

In terms of Barleywine styles, It's got a great aroma, a good flavor with some minor booziness, and a creamy body that makes it very easy to drink but I still enjoyed this quite a bit. If you see it on the shelf, pick it up and see what you think because you really can't go wrong with it. As for the existance of Bigfoot itself, the jury is still out on that one.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale - 8.5/10

Friday, April 19, 2013

Stone Enjoy By IPA Review

Name: Stone Enjoy By IPA
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.4%

NOTE: This is the 05.17.13 Batch

After a heavy social media push here in Minnesota to Stone Brewing (In other words: we annoyed them enough to the point where they gave in), we finally have what is considered to be a one of the most high-profile IPAs in America: Stone Enjoy By. Yesterday I mentioned that I would be grabbing some on my way to work, but when I got there they had no yet received their shipment, which was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon. As I went into work, little did I know that Mother Nature had other plans for me, as she was determined to stop me at all costs.

You see, we here in Minnesota have long, crappy winters that sometimes persist into April. Well, as you might have guessed yesterday was one of those days. As I got off work, I was greeted by a scene of pure white that would've given Tony Montana a cocaine-gasm. The streets were covered in snow, people were sliding across the road like an Irish rendition of The Hokey Pokey and there were even people singing "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby. It became apparent to me that she had sent forth her minion, Old Man Winter, to put a stop to my plans.

Undaunted, I made the decision to press forward and make the long, treacherous journey to my liquor store in South Minneapolis where I had been told it would be in earlier in the day. Since many other places had run out of it, I was more than determined than ever to get my hands on it. Through persistence, skill, and luck, I had finally made it. I walked in, bought a bottle from the cooler, and was on my way home. By that time, the snow had tapered off and driving became much easier. Old Man Winter had given up and realized how foolish it was to go up against a warrior's unsinkable spirit; I was victorious!

I went home, put the bottle in my fridge for a couple hours while I got dinner ready and played some Bioshock: Infinite. After sitting for a couple hours, I decided it was time to taste the spoils of victory by finally trying it out.

The first thing I noticed was the bottling date, 04/12/13, so it was bottled a mere six days prior. I'm used to having beers about a month after canning/bottling, not less than a week, with the exception of Surly Wet which I had about 3 days after canning. Nothing like fresh beer!

Upon pouring it has a surprisingly clear orange color. It doesn't really have much in terms of head retention although I do want to point out it leaves behind a good amount of lacing.

The nose is.....well.........very, very hoppy. You have floral, piney and citrus hops all lined up, each as strong as the other. It also some sweet malt and apple cider notes, which also come off as feeling "fresh." Oh yes, you can also smell this if you are sitting 2-3 feet from it like I was.

Flavorwise, the first thing that pops into my head is 'This is like Surly Wet", it's a giant hop bomb. The Citrus and Piney Hops notes immediately hit you and never really let up. It also has some malt and honey flavors to it, like a slight mead-y taste if you will. This honey taste becomes more prevalent the more the beer warms up. To me, it tasted like..........Victory

The body is similar to Arrogant Bastard, whose carbonation is just as heavy as the body weight itself. So it's a beer you have to sit down and enjoy, this definitely isn't a session beer.

Fans of Surly Wet and IPA fans in general will no doubt fall in love with this beer and for good reason: It's extremely hoppy and sweet yet well balanced.  I'm glad we are finally able to try it out in Minnesota. Here's hoping that sales are strong enough to bring the next batch of Enjoy By to Minnesota because I really enjoyed this. Oh and if you want to keep bringing this to Minnesota just say the magic words on Twitter: #EnjoyBy #MN

Stone Enjoy By IPA - 9.5/10

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stone Arrogant Bastard Review

When it comes to craft breweries in America, Stone Brewing Company ranks up there as one of the biggest and best, thanks in part to their loyalty to their fan base and solid line-up. Stone also owes it's success to CEO and founder Greg Koch, who is very active in the craft beer community and is often regarded as an advocate for craft beer in general.

I'm going to start out by reviewing what many consider to be their flagship beer: Arrogant Bastard which is an American Strong Ale. Many people I've talked to said that Arrogant Bastard is the first Stone Beer they ever had. In my case, it was Stone Levitation that introduced me to Stone Brewing.

In case you are wondering "Why are you reviewing Arrogant Bastard when Enjoy By was just released at in your location?" Well I'll be picking up a bottle tomorrow so just be patient!

It pours a dark mahogany color with a brown foamy head and cloudy appearance. It leaves behind a good amount of lacing along the sides too.

The nose is a mixture of licorice, caramel, toffee, and pungent piney hops. The malts in here are pretty strong as well, giving it a nice balance between hoppiness and sweetness. It's an interesting combination to say the least.

Upon tasting, the piney hops hit hard but this is followed up by a licorice and caramelized malty sweetness. The aftertaste is a bittersweet resin finish with an slight licorice kick.

The body is also like it's style, strong and heavy. The body itself is quite hefty and the carbonation packs a punch, so it's not a beer you can just knock back and chug; You really need to take your time with this.

I can see why this beer put Stone on the map, because of it's unique and balanced flavor. I know Stone has been in Minnesota for a while now, but it's worth supporting because they truly do make outstanding beer. If you're into stronger ales, this one is for you.

Stone Arrogant Bastard - 9/10

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New Holland Dragon's Milk Review

Name: New Holland Dragon's Milk
Style: Imperial Stout 
ABV: 10%

I've seen it on the shelves numerous times; With it's wrapped tin-foil top and dragon emblem on the front but I never really bothered to check it out for reasons which I really cannot explain, even though I'm a diehard Imperial Stout fan. I decided that needed to changed and picked up a bottle of New Holland Dragon's Milk last week to check it out, plus anything barrel aged is enough for me to check it out.

I've never really had the opportunity to try New Holland's full lineup; The only other beer I've tried out from them is their Golden Cap Saison Ale, which is fantastic if you have not tried it out yet! So I'll see what all this is about.

Dragon's Milk pours a pitch black color with a faint crimson tinge on the very bottom. Not really much in terms of head, but it does leave behind a ton of lacing.

Even before taking a closer whiff, I could already smell it from 2-3 feet away. The nose has some very rich milk chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, oak and roasted malts. By smelling this, you can tell that this was clearly barrel aged and it smells fantastic!

I thought the aroma was nice, but it's nothing compared to how it actually tastes. Every milk chocolate, vanilla/bourbon, and oak note that was in the nose is in the flavor with a vengeance! Every aspect of the flavor is rich & complex with only a slight boozy taste that becomes noticeable more it warms up.

On top of everything else, it's got a very creamy and smooth body. It's heavy but thanks to the subdued carbonation, it feels like I'm drinking liquid silk; It's that smooth!

I've had many Imperial Stouts before, both good and bad. With that in mind, I feel this is now among my favorites of the Imperial Stout Style. New Holland did a great job making this beer and you can tell they put a great deal of care into making this. My only complaint is that I didn't try this out sooner!

New Holland Dragon's Milk - 9.75/10

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Brooklyn Monster Ale Review

**Update they have since decided to discontinue making Monster**

I've gotten into the habit of aging certain beers which I have acquired. Call it an experiment if you want, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try it out.

Tonight I've decided to finally crack open a Barleywine that I've been saving for the past 3 months by letting it age. This of course is none other than the Brooklyn Monster Ale, a Seasonal Barleywine named after the cat which resided at the brewery until he died of kidney failure last year. Thankfully they've decided to keep making this beer in honor of Monster

Before I start, I will admit that I had a bottle of this last year and found it to be quite good, so I've decided to review this again; And it gives me an excuse to buy it all over again, not that I really needed one to begin with.

To start, it's got a nice hazy ruby color with just a couple of bubbles climbing up the sides. The head is fairly thin and disappears into a film immediately after the pour. It finishes clean so there's no real lacing along the sides.

Nose has a strong caramelized malt sweetness and potent citrus hop profile. It's also got a pretty strong yeasty scent too.

The flavor consists of sweet caramelized malts, strong citrus hops, and yeasts with just a hint of toffee. Each flavor is surprisingly robust and the alcohol is very well hidden.

The overall palate is creamy and light, making it very easy to drink.......almost too easy. But hey, I'd rather have it be easy to drink as opposed to impossible.

Monster Ale is a very accessible Barley-wine style ale, thanks to it's easy drinkability and awesome flavor. If you're not a fan of the style then this isn't going to change your mind. If you're a Barleywine fanatic, like myself, you'll love it!

Brooklyn Monster Ale - 9/10

Monday, April 15, 2013

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Review

Name: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
Style: Saison
ABV: 7.6%

I mentioned before that I'm a fairly big fan of Brooklyn Brewery and it's offerings. This summer I'll be going to New York for a wedding and a tour of the brewery is on my list of things to do. That of course will depend on how long we'll be in Upstate New York for, which where the wedding is being held and whether or not we'll have enough time to do so.

About a week ago, I stopped by one of my local liquor stores and was recommended Sorachi Ace, which is a Saison/Farmhouse style ale. My experience with this style has either been it was really good or too skunky for my liking. Usually it's pretty good, so I can't complain, so I figured I'd give this one a try.

Upon pouring, it has a dark yellow & gold color with a mild haze and quite a bit of carbonation activity. It does, however, get cloudier the further through the bottle you go which I believe comes from the yeasts used in making Sorachi Ace. It also finishes pretty clean too so there's no lacing to be seen.

The nose has consists mainly of lemon zest, pilsner malts, yeast, and a slight floral hop aroma. This saison has more of an earthly aroma to it, as opposed to a sweeter aroma that can be found in other saison ales.

Pilsner Malts & Yeasts are fairly heavy upfront on the flavor; Which is in turn backed by cracked peppers, floral hops and lemon zest. The yeast notes in particular get stronger the further through the bottle you go, correlating with the cloudy appearance you see when drinking this. Again, fairly earthy in taste but not overwhelmingly so. It finishes with a rather dry  but bittersweet Pilsner Malt aftertaste.

The body is fairly lightweight and the carbonation level sits perfectly between light & moderate. This makes it quite crisp and refreshing to drink.

I was surprised by Sorachi Ace because my experience with earthy Saison/Farmhouse Ales have usually been bad ones, but this one changed my mind! Its flavor is nicely balanced, refreshing and it makes for a tasty beer.

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace - 8.5/10

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Northbound Smokehouse Light Rail Pale Ale

Recently there has been a huge growth of taprooms & brewpubs in the past couple of years here in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Due to my limited budget as of right now, I can only eat out every once in a while and it's cheaper for me to buy beer at the store than get it on tap at a bar. I expect this to change a month from now when I'm at my new job and making some real money. I decided to treat myself for my new job so yesterday I decided to make a visit to the Northbound Smokehouse.
Northbound Smokehouse opened up last year and is located at the corner of 38th St. E and 28th Ave S.

If the fermentation tanks were not visible, you would think this is just another neighborhood watering hole. So I went in, had a seat at the bar and asked the waitress what beer was worth trying out and decided on the Light Rail Pale Ale and ordered a Bacon Cheeseburger to go along with it.

To start out, it pours a mildy hazy orange color with a little bit of carbonation making their way to the top. Not really any lacing to be had so in finishes rather clean.

The nose has a moderately pungent aroma of citrus, piney hops, malts, and barley. The citrus and malt notes in particular give this beer a rather sweet aroma but not overtly so.

The flavor has more of a piney hop flavor to it, with the citrus and malt sweetness taking more of a backseat and giving it more of a balance than the nose. Aftertaste is a dry resin flavor which has a bit of dryness to it.

The body is moderate in weight and the carbonation is also fairly light. It's not crisp but it's very easy to drink and it helps with the food pairing.

In terms of Pale Ales, there's nothing extraordinary about it and that's just fine! What it is good at is that it's just a solid Pale Ale and it pairs very well with food. You can tell by talking with the staff at Northbound that they're very passionate about beer and that's always refreshing! If you're ever in the Longfellow neighborhood you should stop by, and grab a pint; You will not be disappointed.

Northbound Smokehouse Light Rail Pale Ale - 8/10

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Review

Name: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier
Style: Smoked Beer
ABV: 5.4%

I'm a fan of Smoked Beers (or Rauchbier in German), and not just because it tastes like ham. I've always enjoyed the uniqueness of the flavor and the cycle as to how it's made. It's also considered to be an authentic German-Style beer and one of the reasons why I want my upcoming honeymoon to be in Germany though my fiance insists we go to France.

When I first wanted to get into Smoked Beers, I was unsure where to start so one of the clerks recommended I try out the (Aecht) Schlenkerla Rauchbier  for starters mainly because of it's price and popularity.

According to what I have found out, Schlenkerla is a brewpub based out of Bamberg, Germany, which itself is a UNESCO World Hertiage Site. According to the brewery's website, Schlenkerla has been around since the 15th Century.

So I took this home and a couple days later I tried it out. Needless to say I fell in love with it and the Rauchbier style, so this is more or less a re-review.

To start out, it pours a dark brown color with a foamy, but fizzy head. Really doesn't leave behind anything in terms of lacing and it's dark appearance makes it hard to see any sorts of carbonation save for a few bubbles climbing up the sides

The smell is a outdoorsman's dream. You got an aroma of Smoked Ham/Bacon, Oak and Roasted Malts. There is also an aroma of Bonfire that reminds me of going up to our family's cabin in the middle of the summer. We'd cook smoked ham, pancakes and eggs over an open bonfire pit before heading out fishing for the day.

The flavor is just like the smell....but better! It has some very strong ham notes and some equally strong smoke notes on the back of the palate, which gives way to the oak/wood flavor. The roasted malts also give the flavor a dimension of sweetness that keeps the beer from tasting too woodsy/smokey. I've forgotten how awesome this flavor is until now!

The body is light and the carbonation is rather mild as well, which feels very smooth when drinking. Despite the fact this is an easy drinker, you'll want to savor this beer as much as you possibly can.

Since I've first had Schlenkerla Rauchbier, I've had many different variations of the Smoked Beer Style from different breweries. While all of them were good in their own respects, Schlenkerla always leaves the biggest impression on me.With that said, this beer (and style) is not for everyone, mainly the causal drinker and those who don't like "unusual" flavors in their beer. However, if you're feeling slightly adventurous, like the smell of bacon, and looking for a truly authentic German Beer, then this one if for you!

Schlenkerla Rauchbier : 9.5/10

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Budweiser (Original) Review

Name: Budweiser 
Style: American Adjunct Lager
ABV: 5%

What can be said about Budweiser? Well, for starters it's become as American as Apple Pie, Baseball, McDonald's, Ted Nugent, and the Liberty Bell all rolled into one, despite being first brewed by German Immigrants.

Brewed by Anheuser-Busch, it's a staple of American culture and is one of the most widely recognized brands in the world. It's been referenced in movies & TV shows, produced some of the most memorable commercials in recent memory and can be found at the majority of professional sporting events, grocery stores, and households in the US.

Now I must confess, I never have had a Budweiser before. When I first started drinking beer, I was drinking primarily Miller Lite and Natty Ice. I never really took notice to Budweiser mainly because when I was first starting out in college, it was more expensive and no one was really drinking it. It wasn't until I was a junior in college that I discovered craft beer and have since never really gone back to Macrobeers, doesn't mean I'm a snob but it's more out of personal taste. Every beer serves some sort of purpose. If someone offers me a beer, I'm gonna take it no matter what it is; only a mad man/woman would refuse free beer.

I was rummaging through my fridge when I noticed a few bottles of Budweiser sitting on the side shelf, more than likely left over from the Wild game house party we had a couple weeks back. Being the opportunist I am, I've decided to review The King of Beers itself.

Budweiser pours a clear straw yellow color with tons of carbonation flying up from the bottom. Fizzy head stays around for a couple of minutes before dissipating into a filmy top.

The nose consists mainly of cereal grains, grass, cardboard and some malt sweetness. For what it is, it isn't particularly good. The aroma brings back memories from my childhood while trying to grab some food for myself at one of my parents' get-togethers, I would always catch a whiff of Budweiser coming from one of the many open bottles that I would just so happen to walk by.

The flavor is also pretty consistant with the smell with cereal grains, cardboard, sweet corn and malts. Again, it's taste is not what I would call "great". The taste brings back memories of sitting in my dorm drinking Miller Lite while playing Call of Duty 4 with my roommates, and both are very similar in taste.

The body is light and the carbonation is extremely heavy It tries to come off as crisp, but it just comes off as more aggravating on the palate than anything else.

I wasn't expecting much when I decided to review this and my expectations were rightfully set. The smell and flavor are rather bland and it feels like club soda when drinking. To Budweiser's credit however, the flavor is not what I would consider offensive or skunky like other adjunct lagers out there. Doesn't mean it's good, far from it, but they could've done worse in the flavor department. Would I ever buy this for myself? No. Would I turn it down if it's offered to me for free? No. My philosophy is just because a beer is not well-liked by beer enthusiasts doesn't necessary mean you have to be a prick about it.

Bottom line: Budweiser may be well known in our culture, but it's rather bland and forgettable when it
comes to flavor.

Budweiser (Original) - 4/10

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Flat Earth Angry Planet Review

Name: Flat Earth Angry Planet
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6%

Flat Earth Brewing is a brewery based out of St. Paul, Minnesota and have recently opened up their new location at the old Hamm's Building. Their beers are, for the time being, only available in Bombers or Growlers. They have a pretty solid year round line-up and some pretty awesome seasonal offerings.

Since they have moved to their new location, I have not yet been on a tour of their new facility. I did, however, take a tour of their old facility which was located right down the road from Summit Brewing about 3 years back. It wasn't what I would call large by any means. Still, the fact they were able to produce that much beer in such a small building is an accomplishment!

I'm going to start off with the beer that got me into Flat Earth, their Angry Planet Pale Ale, which is an American Pale Ale made with organic ingredients. 

Angry Planet pours a dark amber color with a fluffy 2 finger head. I can make out some carbonation along the sides of the glass. It also has some lacing along the sides.

The smell is a sweet aroma floral hops, caramel, yeasts, and malts. The flavor, on the other hand, give a much needed boost to what is in the aroma; with it's rich floral hops, oranges, caramel and yeasts.

The body is moderate in terms of body weight and the carbonation is quite moderate as well. It's easy to drink yet can be sipped and enjoyed at the same time.

Not only is Angry Planet local, but it's also organic and very tasty! I'll be adding this to my list of "Good for any occasion" beers.

Flat Earth Angry Planet - 9/10

Surly Overrated West Coast IPA Review

Name: Surly Overrated West Coast IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.3%

Today is the first day that Surly Overrated, A West-Coast Style IPA, is available for everyone to buy. I've decided to review this beer because....C'mon, it's Surly. Now for those who do not live in Minnesota, Surly Brewing is a very big deal in terms of craft beer, particularly here in Minnesota. To put it into perspective for you: California has Russian River, Indiana has 3 Floyd's, Colorado has Great Divide, Michigan has Bell's, & Minnesota has Surly. So my weapon of choice today will be Surly Overrated West Coast IPA.

To start off, Overrated pours a dark but clear orange color. There's a moderate amount of carbonation activity and on top of that, it leaves behind a very abundant amount of lacing.

The smell has some strong citrus, grapefruit and piney hop notes. Interesting to note that I'm not getting much of a malty backbone to this one.

Flavor has some fairly sweet citrus & piney hop notes, along with a slight maltiness to the flavor. It also has sort of a "wet hop" characteristic to it, but that could be because it was canned literally 5 days before this review.

The body itself comes off as a bit hefty and the carbonation is fairly moderate. This isn't a beer that is meant to be chugged down all in 1-2 settings.

All and all, it's a great IPA. It's a bit like their Furious but with a more sweeter citrus characteristic to their flavor . Not sure how long it'll be on the shelves for, but here's hoping this becomes a regular line up in terms of seasonal offerings from Surly.

Surly Overrated West Coast IPA -  9/10

Monday, April 8, 2013

Brooklyn Irish Stout Review

Name: Brooklyn Irish Stout
Style: Dry Stout
ABV: 4.7%

Even though St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, I do enjoy my Irish Dry Stouts! I'll go on the record and say that I love Guinness Extra Stout, I think that despite being mass-produced that it still holds up in terms of quality. I am a bit biased when I say that I use it as a benchmark for any Dry Irish Stout. Since I am a huge fan of Brooklyn Brewery, I decided to snag a bottle of their Dry Irish Stout.

The beer pours a pitch black color with a pretty filmy brown head. I see a tiny bit of red on the bottom of the glass if I hold it up to the light.

The nose has a nice mixture of roasted malts, coffee and chocolate. It doesn't assault or overwhelm the senses but it is pleasant. Likewise, the flavor is pretty much the same as the smell with the exception of some grassy notes on the back of the palate.

The body is pretty lightweight and the carbonation has a slight kick to it; So it comes off as somewhat crisp.

While it isn't as vibrant as Guinness Stout, to it's credit, it comes off as a simpler version of a Dry Irish
Stout. For what it is, it's still pretty good

Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout - 7.5/10

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sam Adams Double Agent IPL Review

Name: Sam Adams Double Agent IPL
Style: American Pale Lager
ABV: 5.0%

Since I'm over half way through my Sam Adams Spring Seasonal Pack, I figured I would move on to the more interesting beers of the bunch. This time around, it's Sam Adams Double Agent IPL (India Pale Lager). I do have to give Sam Adams credit, they do have some pretty interesting ideas for some of their beers; In their seasonals, regular offerings and limited releases.

Looking over the description of the beer, which is claimed to be, in my own words, a very hop forward lager. The first thing that pops into my head which reminds me of when I had Hop Cream from Capitol Brewing on tap (which I will be reviewing in the not-so-distant future).

IPL pours a golden yellow color with a moderate amount of carbonation. From the start, it looks like your average golden lager.

However once you move onto the smell, it's an entirely different story. The smell is very piney & citrus hop heavy and forward. If one were to close their eyes and take a whiff, they would probably believe they are smelling a rich IPA.

And like the nose, the flavor has strong piney hops notes, along with a strong citrus rind and yeast flavor. Aftertaste is has a strong resin flavor, which sticks around for a while.

The body is fairly light and the carbonation is rather mild as well. This helps in conjunction with the flavor since it already "unique" enough as is.

There's more than meets the eye with this beer, which will be off-putting to those who are used to their golden lagers. However if you're feeling a little adventurous then this beer would be a good choice for you.

Sam Adams Double Agent IPL - 8/10

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Boulder Beer Never Summer Ale Review

Name: Boulder Beer Never Summer Ale 
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.5%

I was going to continue my Sam Adams Spring Sampler reviews tonight, until I stumbled across a beer in my fridge from one of the mix-a-six packs I got over this winter. I'll admit I almost forgot about the Bell's Third Coast Old Ale sitting in my fridge earlier this winter until I saw it starting at me on the shelf, like it was telling me "Did you forget about me, Nick? How could you?!!"

Forgetfulness aside, it'll be nice to finally get this out of the way. The last thing I really want is a beer to goto waste. For this review, I have Boulder Beer's Never Summer Ale which is their Winter Wamer style ale.

The beer is dark brown and has a fairly light density head. The lacing it leaves behind is very bountiful and sticky.

The nose has your typical Caramel, Yeasts and Malty notes you'd expect from a Winter Warmer style beer; However this one has a rather strong floral hop profile, interesting for a Winter Warmer style but not unheard of.

Like the smell, it has a caramel sweetness along with some piney hops and malts. I really am not digging the resin-like aftertaste I am getting from the flavor though. It isn't enough to ruin the flavor but it definitely hurts it.

The only thing this beer does perfectly is it's body: It's VERY creamy and smooth, almost like I'm having this on-draught or on-tap. This is an incredibly smooth and easy beer to drink when it comes to the body.

If only the flavor were as good as the body. If the flavor weren't so off balance and on par with the body, this would be an incredible beer! Oh well, at least we have summer to look forward to!

Boulder Beer Never Summer Ale - 6/10

Sam Adams Irish Red Ale Review

Name: Sam Adams Irish Red Ale
Style: Irish Red Ale
ABV: 5.8%

Continuing on with my Sam Adams Spring Sampler review, my next item on the list is the Sam Adams Irish Red Ale. Before starting, I wanted to say that I really enjoy seeing the award information under each bottle Sam Adams bottle cap. I find it strangely fascinating.

Sam Adams Irish Red Ale pours a Ruby Red Color with a head that has a slight red tinge to it. At least they weren't lying when they called it a Red Ale. Head retention is decent, which lasts around 3 minutes or so before it starts to wear off, leaving behind a fair amount of lacing.

Smell is quite malty, with some yeast and light floral hop notes. There's also a sweet toffee scent in here as well, probably thanks to the malts.

The flavor has some toffee, yeast, and malty notes. Floral hops are also absent in the flavor, and instead what I am left with is a fairly malty Red Ale, which is rather unusual considering my past experience with this style.

The palate itself is of moderate weight and the carbonation is light, so there it's a pretty easy to drink beer.

Overall, it's a decent beer. Nothing too special or spectacular about it, it gets the job done and has a solid flavor.

Sam Adams Irish Red Ale - 7.5/10

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sam Adams Alpine Springs Review

Name: Sam Adams Alpine Spring
Style: Zwickelbier
ABV: 5.5%

I love Sampler Packs; It helps me, being the indecisive individual I am, make a choice as far as what to get whenever I make a visit to my local liquor store. This past weekend, I was grabbing a bomber when I noticed the Sam Adams Spring Sampler Pack was on-sale. Since Spring is trying to claw it's way into our great state, I took it upon myself to buy it. Most sampler packs have 4 different types of beer, but oh no, this one has six!

Yes, despite the size of Samuel Adams Brewery, I still believe they produce quality beers and I find their limited releases to be very good as well. So I will be reviewing each beer in the sampler pack this week. For my first choice, I'm going with Alpine Spring.

Alpine Spring is a Keller/Zwickel Bier style, which from my research is a fairly rare beer style. Believe it or not, one of the local beers around here used to be a Keller style, which was Surly Hell. Now the description of Surly Hell says it's a Zwickel Style Beer but it's listed as a Munich Helles Lager on the websites.

Alpine Spring pours a cloudy dark orange color. The head retention is decent and leaves behind some lacing. Looking in, you really don't see any activity in terms of carbonation

The smell is a fairly strong aroma of yeast and bread with a slight hop bitterness and a faint malty backbone. Smells like fresh bread; It's simple but pleasant.

The flavor, much like the smell, is primarily yeast, flour and bread. There's a hop bitterness on the back of the palate and the after taste is very yeasty in character. Tastes like....liquid bread.

The palate is light bodied and has a very mild level of carbonation. It's the type of body style that is meant for casual drinking on almost any occasion.

This is a beer that can be justifiable in almost any situation, from watching football to grilling out, from tailgating to picnicking. It's a simple yet tasty beer backed up by some easy drinkability; Definitely worth checking out if you get the chance to buy it.

Sam Adams Alpine Spring - 8/10

New Glarus Serendipity Review

Name: New Glarus Serendipity
Style: Fruit Beer 
ABV: 5.1%

Ah New Glarus Brewing Company, I love your beers & everything you have done for craft beer in America in general. I'm just not a big fan of their distribution strategy; Only being sold in Wisconsin despite being the 17th largest craft brewery in the country.

How I long for the day where I can walk into a Minnesota Liquor Store and grab a 6 pack of Spotted Cow, or any of their Thumbprint Series. Until that day comes, I'll have to settle on getting my New Glarus fix whenever I visit my old man in Duluth every couple months by going over to Superior.

A couple weeks ago, I was visiting my Dad in Duluth for a couple of days. Friday Morning rolls around and there is news of a blizzard heading in the direction of Duluth and the Twin Cities area. So at 9AM, I pack my stuff into my trunk, say my good-byes and head out on my way. Not to be deterred by the oncoming blizzard, I make my usual stop over in Superior just as I am leaving the Twin Ports area to a place called Keyport Liquors over in Superior.

I head inside with the intention of picking up some Spotted Cow to take back with me, but then as I approach the New Glarus Mix-a-Six Section, I see it staring me in the face.

It beckons to me "Buy me now, you've heard about how tasty I am and now is your chance!" Without a second thought, I quickly grab it thinking that some transcendent being would teleport out of nowhere and take it from me.

That's right, I had the legendary New Glarus Serendipity in my possession: One of the most highly sought after beers of 2012.

Serendipity pours a dark ruby red color with a equally red foamy head. It has a moderate carbonation profile and some mild fizziness. It almost looks like wine; Even the bottle itself is dark green, reminiscent of some of the wine bottles I have.

Now the smell is unlike anything I have seen before, at least from a fruit beer. There's no malts, yeast or hop notes here what-so-ever, like I've seen in previous beers like 21st Amendment's Hell or High Watermelon or Sam Adams' Cherry Wheat just to name a couple. Instead I'm getting nothing but a sweet mixture of cherries, apples, and cranberries, I would go as far to say that this doesn't smell like a beer at all. However, I find the smell to be very pleasant to the senses; If I could, I would probably smell this all day!

The flavor, well, is absolutely fantastic! It is like anything I've had before, but it has a couple familiar characteristics. The flavor pretty much mirrors the smell with it's sweet and tart cherry, apple, and cranberry flavors and it is an absolute treat! The sour aspect reminds me of a Flemish Red/Wild Ale but in a moderate sort of way. It also doesn't taste at all like wine, with the exception of an Apple Wine I tried a couple years back.

The body is on the heavier side, and the carbonation is rather mild. It felt like sparking grape juice but with heavier body. Somehow, it seemed to compliment the flavor quite well, but I was too distracted with the flavor to be picky about anything else at that point.

Beers like Serendipity make me wish we had New Glarus here in Minnesota, because this is an excellent beer. I will say, however, that if you don't like Fruit Beers that you really should give this one a chance, it's that good!

New Glarus Serendipity - 9.5/10

Monday, April 1, 2013

Brewery Ommegang Iron Throne Blonde Ale Review

For my first review, I thought I would do something special. So I've decided to start out with Iron Throne Blonde Ale from Brewery Ommegang; Though I suspect people are more likely to call this "The Game of Thrones Beer".

Now I must confess I have never seen Game of Thrones, but I would very much like to! The most I really know about the series is from the "Winter is Coming" meme, and that's pretty much it. So far it hasn't made it's way to Netflix so I may be forced to buy the DVD or wait it out until it magically appears in my Netflix Instant Queue. Knowing how protective HBO is of their properties, I may have to settle for the former.

Anyways, on to the beer. To start out it has the typically insanely fluffy & retentive head that is typical in every Brewery Ommegang beer I've had so far. As for the beer itself, it's a cloudy orange color with some mild carbonation. The lacing, as expected, is plentiful here.

On the nose, I'm getting some Biscuit/Yeast notes, along with some mild cloves, spices with a ginger like characteristic and floral hop notes. Smells like a Hefeweizen mixed with a Blonde Ale.

Interesting flavor as there is a Strong Yeast flavor on the front while a piney hop flavor rests more on the back of the palate. Along with that are some mild ginger and clove notes. The Aftertaste is a bit resiny but surprisingly dry at the same time.

As far as the palate goes, it's a bit too strong for my liking as far as carbonation goes. It feels crisp but the carbonation feels a bit too strong considering the flavor and I personally would've like to have seen a more subdued carbonation profile.

Overall, there are some issues with the palate but that shouldn't be a deterrent from what is otherwise a good beer! I'm sure loyal fans of the show will drink this up (no pun intended) and with good reason, it is a good beer that is worth checking out!

Brewery Ommegang Iron Throne Blonde Ale - 8/10

Welcome to my Blog

I've been keeping track of the various beers I've had throughout the past year and decided I might as well write about it. I will primarily be doing beer reviews as well as taproom reviews. I will occasionally attempt to bring my two cents to any beer related topic but for the most part expect reviews.

Thank you for reading this and stick around!