Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pabst Blue Ribbon Review

Name: Pabst Blue Ribbon
Brewed By: Miller Brewing Company
Style: Adjunct Lager
ABV: 4.74%

Where do I even begin with this?

Pabst Blue Ribbon or PBR, has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to a previously untapped market, Hipsters. Say what you want about Hipsters, but you have to give them credit for bringing back a brand to the forefront of our culture.
But we're here to talk about PBR itself. It was originally brewed in Milwaukee, WI in the 1800's and reached it's peak in sales in the late 1970's. Even though the Pabst Brewing Company technically no longer exists, it is contact brewed out of Los Angeles, CA under a different company. As you may already know, they usually come in their trademark "tallboy" cans; I have yet to see an actual bottle of PBR. You can also find it in pretty much any liquor store and bar in America sitting next to the Schlitz and Old Style.

PBR pours a clear pale yellow color with a high amount of carbonation activity. The head starts out fluffy and soapy but quickly vanishes in just a couple of minutes.

The nose has a pale malts, cooked corn, cereal grains and barley scent. So far it smell pretty much like any typical Adjunct Lager but nowhere near as offensive. Flavor-wise you have your cooked corn, pale malts, lemon zest and some mild grassy notes. The aftertaste is also pretty dry as well.

The body is light and the carbonation is moderate and nowhere near as intense as Budweiser's carbonation, so it does have a crispness to it.

I'll put it to you straight: It is by no means a good beer at all, but if you're short on cash and want something that isn't cheap malt liquor, PBR does the job as long as you don't have high expectations. This beer also tastes better straight from the can and there is a reason for this; Because by pouring it into a glass, you're also getting a whiff of the odors which some would consider to be unpleasant and it ends up distorting your sense of taste. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon -  5/10

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flat Earth Winter Warlock Review

Finally, my last review of a winter seasonal until next winter, which will be in about 5 months if the weather here in Minnesota holds up the way it is. I decided after letting this age for 6 months, it was finally time to crack it open. I give you Winter Warlock from Flat Earth Brewing, which is an English Barleywine.

This is my first time aging a Barleywine and an English one at that. From what I gathered, English Barleywines tend to be maltier in character and sweeter, whereas American Barleywines tend to be more focused on the hops.

Winter Warlock pours a dark and mildly hazy orange color with a filmy head that has a surprisingly long lived retention rate. The carbonation activity inside the glass is also pretty high as well and I have never seen this in a Barleywine quite like this, whether it's due to the aging or not I do not know.

It has a rich & strong citrus hop, caramelized malt and grapefruit/fruity aroma, which reminds me of having a glass of Rosé wine.

The flavor is pretty consistant with the nose, with strong citrus hops, caramel, toffee, malts, barley and grapefruits. The aftertaste is fairly resiny and somewhat hoppy. Best of all, no booziness!

Despite the rather strong looking carbonation, in reality it's actually quite mild and smooth. The body is also moderate in weight and you're left with a surprisingly easy-to-drink Barleywine.

Winter Warlock is an excellent example as to how to do Barleywine correct and I can tell by the flavor it ages very well! The flavor is great and it's pretty smooth and easy on the palate. It also goes well with a good cheeseburger, not the McDonalds kind but a really good homemade one! Pick this up and age it for a few months, you won't be disappointed!

Flat Earth Winter Warlock - 9.25/10

Monday, May 27, 2013

Flat Earth Livid Planet Review

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

About a month and a half ago, I reviewed Flat Earth Brewing's Angry Planet Pale Ale, which is considered by some to be the brewery's own flagship beer though this is subject to debate amongst people I know. In the time since my review, Flat Earth just released a slightly hoppier, dry hopped version of Angry Planet called Livid Planet. From what I understand, it will be a year-round offering.

The label is fairly identical to Angry Planet, except it has an even more pissed off Earth getting messed up by hop-meteors and is retaliating by throwing hops back at the unfortunate soul who happens to be nearby. Planetary justice at it's absolute finest!

To start out, it pours a dark clear Amber color with a fairly frothy head and high amount of carbonation activity in the glass. It also leaves behind a good amount of lacing inside of the glass.

The nose had a pretty strong Citrus and Floral Hop notes upfront, with yeasts and toffee in the background. The flavor has some fairly strong floral and citrus hop notes upfront, supplemented by a malty-caramel sweetness. The finish is mainly a resin bitterness and barley-like. Aside from the higher hop levels, it tastes pretty much as the same as Angry Planet. In both the nose and the flavor, you can feel the dry hops at work.

Body wise, it's moderate in weight just like Angry Planet. The main difference here is that the carbonation is stronger here whereas it was more moderate in Angry Planet.

Although it's a good beer, Livid Planet suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Angry Planet reminded me of an English IPA because of it's sweetness and balanced flavor, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it. Livid Planet doesn't quite reach what some would consider to be an American IPA but I can't help but feel that the flavor is off-balance; It's like they took Angry Planet, threw more hops on top of it and didn't change anything else which I feels affects the overall quality of the flavor. It's a decent offering from Flat Earth Brewing, but if you want a better and more balanced beer, go with Angry Planet instead.

Flat Earth Livid Planet - 7.5/10

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lakefront 25th Anniversary Imperial Stout

Lakefront Brewing just recently celebrated their 25th year of operations and to celebrate, they will be releasing 4 Limited Edition beers in commemoration. The first one, which I will be reviewing today, is an Imperial Stout. The other beers planned are a Bourbon Doppelbock, Saison, and Brandy Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Ale, according to BeerPulse.

It pours a pitch black color with a brown-red colored head. It doesn't really leave behind any lacing and it finishes rather clean.

The nose has a nice aroma of Vanilla, Rum Raisin, Chocolate and Cocoa. Reminds me a bit of Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, but with more Vanilla. Flavor wise, it's very vanilla and chocolate heavy upfront, followed by a rum raisin and cherry notes and has a boozy aftertaste.

The body and carbonation are both fairly light and doesn't really feel like something you'd expect from an Imperial Stout. How one interprets this is a matter of opinion.

So how do I feel about this beer? It's got good, unique and somewhat robust flavor, thanks to the vanilla and cherry flavors but the booziness does hurt the flavor. The body also is a bit watery for this style of beer and feels out of place but that does make it easy to drink. I have had much worse Imperial Stouts than this, but for this particular style of beer it's very in the middle of the road

Lakefront 25th Anniversary Imperial Stout - 7.5/10

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Founders Curmudgeon Review

Founders Brewing is a pretty well known brewery based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan (which was also named Beer City USA by Travel & Leisure.) They are also known for their KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout), Regular Breakfast Stout and a variety of other beers.

Curmudgeon (Kur-mud-gee-un) is an interesting beer. Aside from the old man leering back at you on the label, it is also classified as an Old Ale; Which is, as the name suggests, an old style of brewing from hundreds of years ago.

It pours a dark hazy orange color with a minute filmy head and leaves some lacing along the sides.

My first impression of the nose is a strong oak scent followed by some chocolate, caramel and citrus hops. It reminds me of an Oaked Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewing. The flavor has some strong oak, caramel chocolate, raisin and citrus hop notes with a fairly strong malty backbone.

Thanks to the molasses used in the brewing process, the body is very very thick but it goes down incredibly easy because of it's light carbonation and smooth palate. There were a couple of lines of molasses floating around in the glass, which is probably left over from the brewing process; Not a deal breaker, but worth mentioning. The alcohol is very well masked here, impressive considering it's 9.8% ABV.

It may be hard to say, but Curmudgeon is a very good beer. The molasses could be a turn-off to some as this beer has it in spades and it's pretty evident in the palate. Aside from that you have an excellent beer!

Founders Curmudgeon - 9.25/10

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Grand Teton Pursuit of Hoppiness Review

Grand Teton Brewing is a brewery based out of Idaho. Typically when I think of Idaho, the first thing that pops into my head is Napoleon Dynamite, not craft brewing. Nonetheless, I have had their Bitch Creek ESB and found it to be very good so we'll see how this is. This beer is called the "Pursuit of Hoppiness" and calls itself an Imperial Red Ale.

Pursuit of Hoppiness pours a dark hazy crimson color with some sticky lacing. The nose has some sweet malty, toffee & caramel notes backed up by some piney hops and yeasts. Flavor-wise, it has a pretty strong caramel flavor with a balanced mixture of piney hops, grapefruit, and yeast; The aftertaste is surprisingly dry considering how active the flavor itself is. The body is pretty heavy and the carbonation is pretty strong so you have to take your time with this one.

While I think that "Hoppiness" in it's name is a bit misleading, I still enjoyed this quite a bit! It strikes a good balance between it's malt and hop profile and the end result is a solid beer.

Grand Teton Pursuit of Hoppiness - 8/10

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Schell's Goosetown Gose Review

Name: Schell's Goosetown Gose
Style: Gose
ABV: 5.2%

Schell's Goosetown is named after the Goosetown area of New Ulm, the city in which Schell Brewing is located. To honor this neighborhood, they have brewed a Gose style beer in their honor.

One thing I wanted to say before starting this review is that I am very unfamiliar with the Gose Style, so please forgive me if my opinion is somewhat off. From what I gathered it's a unfiltered wheat beer which is has coriander and salt added in. It's also a fairly old German style beer, but if this is inaccurate, please let me know

Goosetown pours a clear yellow color with a filmy head and a moderate amount of carbonation. Pretty clean and filtered look.

Nose has some cereal grains, yeasts, light honey & coriander notes. Pretty subdued scent, but it smells suspiciously like a Budweiser. The flavor is pretty consistant with that flavor with grains, light honey, and cooked corn. Again, it tastes like an adjunct lager and is pretty bland. The body is pretty lightweight but the carbonation is rather sharp.

As a Gose, I really can't make a determination if it's good or bad as I'm not familiar with a style. As a beer, I found the flavor to be quite plain; In other words, I wouldn't really recommend this beer. It could've been worse, but the shear blandness of the flavor makes it hard to really recommend

Schell's Goosetown Gose - 5/10

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Flat Earth Belgian-Style Pale Ale Review

Name: Flat Earth Belgian-Style Pale Ale
Style: Belgian Pale Ale
ABV: 5.2%

Flat Earth Brewing has been growing steadily production-wise over the past couple of years and offer up a pretty solid rotating selection. They are based out of a small-ish office looking building located a mile down the road from Summit Brewing.

An interesting note is that based on the people I have talked to, I have differences in what people would consider to be their "Flagship" beer. The first one is their Angry Planet Pale Ale, which I reviewed last month. The next one is their Northwest Passage IPA, which is currently the hoppiest beer in the Midwest, measuring in at 115 IBUs (International Bitterness Units.) The last one, which I will be looking at, is their Belgian-Style Pale Ale; It is, of course, a Belgian Pale Ale.

It pours a slightly hazy copper color with a rather soapy head. You can see a small bit of carbonation going on throughout.

The nose has some very sweet bubblegum/cotton candy notes along with a hefeweissen-like clove & banana aroma. Supporting all this is a solid yeasty scent. Very sweet smelling for a pale ale. In terms of flavor, it has some strong caramel, clove and banana notes. Backing that up are light cracked peppers and yeasty flavors. Carbonation is pretty light along with the body, so this one is pretty easy and accessible to drink.

Flat Earth's Belgian Pale Ale is a unique creature in it's own right. It has the qualities of a Belgian Pale Ale, but there's also a Hefeweissen side to it as well. I also find myself strangely drawn to the sweetness of this beer, it's what many would consider to be out of place but I find to work in it's favor well. My opinion is that I think this a great beer, but try it out for yourself to see what you think of it.

Flat Earth Belgian-Style Pale Ale - 8.5/10

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summit 100% Organic Ale Review

I liken Summit Brewing here in Minnesota to New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin. No matter where you go in Minnesota, you can find it in pretty much every nook-and-cranny here. The only difference is that Summit distributes out of state..... Oh and that whole "Unchained-Unplugged" controversy.  They have a pretty good year round selection and their "Unchained" Series usually comes up with something pretty cool and unique, like their Old 152, a Kentucky Common beer which uses Sour Mash in the fermentation process.

Today I will be turning my attention their latest Unchained beer, 100% Organic Ale, so organic that the USDA has slapped their sticker of approval on the label, which you can see on the bottom left corner. I can honestly say that I've never seen that before.

Organic pours a dark hazy copper color with a small but foamy head and excellent lacing. There's also a good amount of carbonation visible when held up to the light.

The smell offers up a sweet citrus scent with hints of caramel, yeasts and malts. The flavor however is more balanced & milder with orange, citrus hops, caramel, malts and yeasts. Aftertaste is a bitter citrus finish. The body is moderate in weight and the carbonation is a couple notches above mild.

I would label this beer as a "Light IPA." It has all the components necessary for an IPA but it comes off as somewhat muted, which accomplishes the goal of making a Session IPA as described in the beer's dossier. It's a good beer that's easy to drink and a great way to introduce someone to the IPA style but if you're used to your IPAs with tons of flavor, you'll be disappointed. On that note, if you want an organic IPA with a robust flavor, try out Flat Earth Angry Planet.

Summit 100% Organic Ale - 7.5/10

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Brooklyn Black Choclate Stout Review

Well as it turns out, I apparently have one more Winter Seasonals in my possession than I originally thought. One of which I am saving for an upcoming review, and the other one I have is Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout. I had this on-tap earlier this year and thought it tasted pretty good, so I'll be sitting down and giving this a closer look.

To start out, it pours an opaque black color with a brown head. This is one those beers where I can see my own reflection on the glass as I hold it up to look at it; It's that dark!

The nose has very sweet chocolate, licorice, rum raisin, and roasted malt notes. The licorice note in particular sort of jumps out at me, giving this an almost burnt sweet-spice smell to least that's the way I can best describe it, or I can just say it's hard to put my finger on.

In the flavor you get rich chocolate, mocha-chino, licorice, rum raisin and roasted malts. Pretty unique flavor in terms of Imperial Stouts, with a nod in particular to the rum raisin & licorice flavors. There is a very very slight booziness to the flavor, but for a beer clocking in at 10% ABV I'll let it fly.

The body feels "wide" but not heavy, it's mildly carbonated, and feels quite creamy when consumed. I say that they have the body nailed down almost perfectly for this style.

I was impressed by the uniqueness of the flavor and how smooth it was, maybe next time I'll take the advice on the bottle and allow it to age. Even without the aging, this is a great Imperial Stout that I would recommend checking out

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout - 9/10

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mankato Stickum Alt Review

Last year Mankato Brewery opened it's doors and Mankato, MN had a brewery to call it's own after a 45 year absence. Sadly for me, I was never really able to try out their offerings at first because I was living in a different state at the time they started distributing here. Once I moved back here to Minnesota, I never really got around to trying it out, mainly due to financial reasons and a whole bunch of stuff happening in my life at that point. Last weekend, I picked up their Stickum as part of a mix-a-six because I figured I had been putting it off long enough.

Stickum is an Altbier Style Ale, which from my understanding is fermented at warmer temperatures like a California Common style beer but is then aged at colder temperatures, unlike California Commons which are pretty much aged in the same temperature in which they were fermented. I've only had one Altbier before which was Alaskan Amber and I found it to be quite good.

Stickum pours a dark but fairly clear amber color with a good amount of visible carbonation. The head retention is quite good and leaves behind some nice lacing along the sides. The aroma has some sweet caramel, mild spiciness, orange citrus and roasted malts

In the flavor, you find pretty much the same thing as the nose: Caramelized Malts, Spices and Fruity Orange notes with a bitter citrusy hop finish. The body is fairly heavy and the carbonation starts out strong but settles down as time goes on.

I think this is a good beer! It's good to see this style of beer becoming more of a commonplace, especially one that is done rather well. I'll be keeping my eyes on Mankato Brewery as well as any of their future offerings.

Mankato Stickum Alt - 8/10

Monday, May 6, 2013

Capital Hop Cream Review

Name: Capital Hop Cream
Style: Cream Ale
ABV: 5.3%

I love hoppy beers, especially when it's done in ways that I least expect it. Last month in my review of Sam Adams Double Agent IPL, I mentioned that IPL reminded me of Capital Hop Cream from Capitol Brewing and mentioned that I would be doing a review of it. Well, here it is.

The last time I had this was back in December at the 7 West Taphouse in Duluth, MN (Which is my personal favorite non-brewpub watering hole in Duluth, check it out if you are ever in the area!). I don't remember 100% what it tasted like aside from having a higher-than-normal hop volume. That's because me and my friends were doing our own holiday pub tour and I was too focused on what I was planning for New Years. The only thing I remember what it was a hoppy Blonde Ale. Well it's 5 months later, and I'm ready to give this an honest appraisal.

Hop Cream pours a hazy orange color with a soapy head with a good amount of carbonation activity present. The nose has some mild piney hop notes, yeasts and barley. The hoppiness is there and is more noticeable considering this is a Blonde/Cream Ale. The flavor is also fairly consistant with the nose with stronger-than-normal but still fairly mild piney hop notes, yeasts and barley; Leaving it with a bitter hop aftertaste. The body is pretty heavy and the carbonation is moderate so it's kind of hard to say this is refreshing.

For some reason, I remember this being a lot more hoppier and having a more robust flavor overall. The flavor is balanced but very mild; hop-wise it doesn't really cut it and the body could also use a bit of work as well. At the same there is also nothing really bad about Hop Cream, but those expecting a decent hop profile will be let down by this.

Capital Hop Cream - 7/10

Sam Adams Maple Pecan Porter

Name: Sam Adams Maple Pecan Porter
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.6%

This is the last beer in the Sam Adams Spring Sampler Pack. It's been a long time coming really and I know I have been neglecting to review this beer for quite a while. Since this is technically my "weekend" thanks to my new job, I figured I would finally get around to reviewing this. I want to point out before this review that I have never had Pecan before in my life, I'm not a fan of nuts of any kind except for Cashews which I have no problem with.

To start, it pours a fairly dark brown color with a brown head. Its fairly clear appearance allows for a reddish tinge on the bottom half of the glass.

The nose has an aroma of maple syrup, nuts (which I would assume are Pecan), roasted malts and a bit of chocolate. Very nutty smell, I would say this smells more like a Brown Ale than a Porter.

The flavor has a strong sweet maple syrup and roasted malt taste upfront which is supplemented by chocolate and nutty notes. Definitely tastes more like a Porter but more like a fairly light one.

The body feels light but it also has a dimension of thickness to it and the carbonation is very mild, probably thanks in part to the maple syrup.

It may be a little too rich for some but I enjoyed it! I would've liked to have seen actual maple syrup used instead of artificial syrup to make the flavor more subtle but for what it is, but it's worth checking out either way.

Sam Adams Maple Pecan Porter - 8.5/10

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Schell's Maifest Review

We have a couple of prolific breweries here in Minnesota, namely Surly, Schell's & Summit. I feel that these three will have more company in terms of brewery size and production in the next few years. The August Schell Brewing Company AKA Schell's, has been around since 1860 and is almost as old as the State of Minnesota itself. They are more widely known around the country as the brewery that makes Grain Belt.  To us Minnesotans, they are known to release many craft beer regulars and seasonal releases.

Since spring is finally here in Minnesota, I feel it is appropriate to review a spring release from Schell's, namely their Maifest, which is a Helles Bock/Maibock style beer or "Light" Bock if you want to be really technical. Summit also has a Maibock style Spring Seasonal beer so I will try to review that in the near future.

Maifest pours a fairly hazy orange color and moderately carbonated. The head is somewhat soapy but leaves  behind a thin film on the surface and the lacing is somewhat sparse along the sides.

The aroma has some caramel, yeast, barley and mild floral hop notes that give it a slightly earthy scent. The flavor is surprisingly hoppy on the front of the palate, but it finishes with a mild yeasty and caramel taste with a Earthy-Barley aftertaste.

It's a pretty light beer with only some moderate carbonation, so it feels crisp on the palate and makes it somewhat refreshing.

The flavor was a bit too hoppy for my liking and the earthy finish didn't exactly help out either. It's still a decent beer and goes down easy but if I wanted a Maibock badly, Summit would be my first choice hands down

Schell Maifest - 7/10

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Surly Smoke Review

Tonight I've decided to review Smoke, a Baltic Porter/Smoked Beer from Surly Brewing, whom I mentioned in a previous review is like our equivalent of Three Floyds in Indiana. I figured I would review this since this is one of the more spotty releases from Surly (Behind Darkness, Syx and Pentagram of course.)

Smoke pours a pitch black color with a brown head and some mild lacing. It does have a mild brown tinge towards the bottom when held up to a light.

The aroma is a smooth mixture of oak, smoked ham, chocolate, cocoa and roasted malts. Not as powerful as say....Schlenkerla.

The same can also be said about the flavor with it's smooth combination of smoked ham, oak, chocolate and roasted malts. The aftertaste is a bitter combination of hoppy & smoke.

The palate is pretty heavy for a smoked beer. The carbonation starts out moderate but tappers off into a mild feel. Overall texture of the beer is somewhat smooth and allows for easier drinking.

This isn't as smokey or rich as other smoked beers I have tried, but the flavor is very balanced which helps create a easy drinking experience. Check this one out if you get the chance!

Surly Smoke - 8.5/10