Saturday, August 31, 2013

Oskar Blues Old Chub Review

Name: Oskar Blues Old Chub
Style: Scotch Ale
ABV: 8%

Oskar Blues Brewing started out as a brewpub in Colorado but has since expanded distribution out-of-state since it's inception. Back when I was living in Chicago, Oskar Blues was a staple of my beer fridge. That all changed when I moved back to Minneapolis. I still had a good selection, but there were still some beers which were noticeably absent from my fridge. Upon me moving to Duluth and my very close proximity to the Wisconsin border, I'm discovering new beers as well as rediscovering favorites from my time in Chicago; One of which includes Oskar Blues.

Except I had been drinking their Dale's Pale Ale and had never bothered to check out their other stuff, a choice which I regret because my hunt for Ten Fidy lingers on. In the meantime, I bring you Old Chub, Osker Blues' very own Scotch Ale.

It pours a hazy dark red color with a brown fluffy head. Head retention is pretty good and there is some visible carbonation along the sides of the glass.

The nose starts out with a caramel and peated scotch with cola, toffee and chocolate malt. The flavor has more of a distinct oak and smokey flavor to go along with it's caramel, peated scotch and cola notes.

The body is pretty light in weight and the carbonation mild, making this a pretty easy to drink beer. Impressive considering the higher-than-normal ABV for this style.

Old Chub is an excellent Scotch Ale and the light oak/smoke notes help add some much needed dimension to the flavor. Try this out, you won't be disappointed!

Oskar Blues Old Chub - 9/10

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Belgium Ranger IPA Review

Name: New Belgium Ranger
Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
ABV: 6.5%

My last beer from my New Belgium collection is their Ranger IPA. As stated earlier, while this isn't their "flagship" beer, this is considered to be their flagship IPA; Though from what I heard, that title may belong to Rampant but that's another review.

As for the beer itself, I've always seen it on the shelves wherever I have gone but never have bothered to check it out...that is until I decided to burn through the staples of New Belgium's lineup.

Ranger pours a clear orange color with a foamy white head and some good lacing along the sides of the glass. Carbonation is fairly subdued with only a few bubbles climbing up.

The nose starts out with a fairly strong citrus hop/caramel aroma which is followed by yeasts and pale malts. The flavor is fairly identical to the aroma but with more of a grapefruit-esque scent and less on on the yeast/malt aspect.

Body is moderate in weight but the carbonation is quite mild; It's a pretty easy to drink IPA.

If you want to get one of your friends into IPAs, this foots the bill. It's flavorful enough for any IPA fan to enjoy yet approachable to newcomers alike and it strikes that perfect balance to make this easy to recommend.

New Belgium Ranger IPA - 8/10

New Belgium Loft Review

Name: New Belgium Loft
Style: Belgian Ale
ABV: 4.2%

The next New Belgium offering I have is called Loft, a belgian ale which is actually a throwback to 2003 when it was introduced as a summer release. Then in 2006, it was renamed Skinny Dip, I assume for marketing purposes. Then this year, they decided to bring back Loft as part of their Summer Foley set, though I got this as part of a mix-a-six.

As for the reason WHY it was brought back, I'm going to venture a guess that it has something to do with the recent spike in the number of "session" beers that breweries have been offering lately. It's claiming a full flavor with a low ABV, sounds like a session beer to me.

Loft pours a fairly clear golden/yellow color with a foamy head and a mild amount of carbonation. It leaves behind a fairly high amout of lacing.

The nose starts out with some yeasts, spices and pale malts, which are followed up by barley and some mild citrus hops. The flavor is much more hop forward with citrus hops, yeasts, spices and some pale malts. Aftertaste is on the dry side but does leave a slight bittersweet hoppy finish in your mouth.

The body itself is pretty light and the carbonation is rather crisp, falling in between mild and moderate.

In terms of "session" ales, this is one of the better ones though it lacks the robust flavor that I'm used to in Belgian Style Ales, though I suspect that was sort of the goal: Make it taste good, but don't make it too overwhelming. I paid about $1.75 for this so I can at least say it was priced correctly.

New Belgium Loft - 7.75/10

Sunday, August 25, 2013

New Belgium Blue Paddle Review

Name: New Belgium Blue Paddle
Style: Pilsener
ABV: 4.8%

The next New Belgium Beer I have is their Blue Paddle Pilsener. Though the label shows a boat and paddle resting on the shore on a quint lake, the name actually comes from the brewery's warehouse manager. According to New Belgium, it refers to the "blue paddle" which was used to paddle the rear end of the warehouse manager by his grandmother when she caught him taking sips of her beer. I can just feel the love right now!

Blue Paddle pours a pale yellow color with a foamy/soapy head with the carbonation activity at a fairly mild level.

The nose has a prominent pale malt scent followed up by barley, yeasts, dough and grassiness. The flavor is more yeast focused followed by grassiness, pale malts, and barley. Aftertaste is a bit dry but earthy at the same time. The body is light and the carbonation falls in-between mild and moderate, providing it with a nice crisp feel.

This is a decent Pilsener but it's middle of the road when it comes to the style. With that said you aren't going wrong with this either way.

New Belgiam Blue Paddle - 7.5/10

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine Review

Name: Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 11.2%

Originally I was planning on doing a review of Rugbrød from The Bruery to commemorate my 100th Post.....that is until I came across one of the beers I had on my bucket list from earlier this summer. That's right, it's Central Waters very own Bourbon Barrel Barleywine Ale!

Part of their Brewers Reserve Series, this is a is a Barleywine which is aged in a bourbon barrel for a year before being bottled and released for purchase. One of my favorite styles of beer combined with bourbon barrel aged goodness makes me all the more grateful that I got my hands on this beer and I'm quite excited to finally try this out. I'm not sure if it varies from year to year, but the ABV in this year's edition is 11.5%.

It pours a dark hazy brown color with an off-white head that is thin but with good retention. There isn't too much going on in terms of carbonation.

Before even checking out the nose, I'm already getting a whiff of Vanilla and Oak as the glass sits a couple feet away from me. Upon closer inspection, I'm treated to an aroma of vanilla, oak, caramel, bourbon, caramel, hops and whiskey. It smells alot like Bourbon!

As for the flavor, I'm getting very strong & vibrant vanilla, oak, caramel, bourbon, hops, malts and whiskey. Pardon the redundancy but this....tastes like bourbon. It still tastes very much like a barleywine but if you handed this to me and didn't tell me what it was, I'd mistake it for bourbon at first! A very slight boozy flavor is present but it blends in so well that you can hardly notice it's there. The body is quite heavy but the carbonation is rather mild; Still take your time drinking this because it's a doozy!

I'm not declaring this to be the Magnum Opus of the barleywine style, but this may be one of the best Barleywines that I have ever had. It's rich and robust with flavors that are both common & rare in barleywine style ales and it blends together very nicely.

Slight booziness aside (which I feel will subside once allowed to age), I really can't find anything wrong with this beer.  If you love barleywines and you so happen to see this on the shelf, grab it before someone else does because it's that delicious!

Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barrel Barleywine - 9.75/10

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale Review

Name: Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 9.75%

Most people will name a beer after the place they live in, an inside joke, or a name suggested by a marketing firm. Lagunitas Brewing named a beer after an event which shut down their operations for 20 days by the California Alcohol Beverage Control in January 2006. This of course was a raid on the Lagunitas Premises during St. Patrick's Day in 2005, in which citations were issued to employees and guests for possession of marijuana. Even though the charges were later dropped, Lagunitas was forced to shutdown for 20 days by the Alcohol Board, though the brewery claims that they were going to shutdown anyways to upgrade their equipment.

So to celebrate their brush with the law, they released Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, which sounds like the poorly translated title of a bootlegged copy of "Lethal Weapon" that you would expect to find in some marketplace in Hong Kong, minus the "Ale" part. Undercover is classified as an American Strong Ale with an ABV of 9.75%.

It pours a clear orange color with an off-white head and no carbonation, giving it a pretty nice unfiltered look.

The nose is primarily citrus & piney hops, caramel, toffee and yeasts. For a strong ale, this looks and smells alot like an Imperial IPA.

Upon tasting, my feelings about this being more like an Imperial IPA grew stronger. The flavor starts out with a strong hoppy taste with some spruce notes, and on the back of the palate there are grapefruit, toffee, caramel and an considerable malt backbone. There is some slight but noticeable booziness present in the flavor as well.

The body is considerably light and the carbonation is rather mild, which makes this strong ale a bit easy to drink.

Lets not fool ourselves here, this is an Imperial IPA. It's got the look, smell and taste of what you would expect from an Imperial IPA. Even with this revelation, it's still a good beer. Sure there are some imbalance issues with the boozy aspect of the flavor but this is still a pretty good beer!

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale - 8/10

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Borealis Fermentary Mon Cherries Dubbel Review

Name: Borealis Fermentary Mon Cherries Dubbel
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 8%

Tonight I'll be redirecting your attention to Duluth's craft beer scene once again. Actually this beer isn't even from Duluth, but from a small community called Knife River, MN which is located about 15 minutes up the shore from Duluth. In Knife River is a microbrewery called Borealis Fermentary, they specialize in Belgian Style beers and the availability is very limited; By that I mean you can only get it at 9 Locations, both on-tap and off-sale in the Duluth Area.

Last week I managed to grab their Mons Cherries. As you may have already guessed from the title, this is a Dubbel Style Beer with that is brewed with Cherries that comes with an ABV of 8%. I have had their Speckled Ghost before but I will hold off on reviewing that until I can find an actual bottle of it readily available (As I said, limited availability!)

To start out, it pours a pitch black color with a creamy off-white head with some carbonation visible along the sides of the glass.

The nose starts out with some rich cherry, oak, chocolate and plum notes which leads into licorice, figs, spices and hops. I'm getting that barrel aged aroma here, particularly with the oak scent. Makes sense since this is aged on oak.

The flavor has strong oak, licorice and cherry notes upfront followed by chocolate, tobacco, spices and malts. There's that oakiness that gives off the impression of being barrel aged. Also while the initial sip gives the flavor an underwhelming sort of feel, once you let it warm up, that's when the flavor starts to shine through.

The body is fairly light in weight and is moderately carbonated, which starts to taper off after being opened. A bit of a watery feel considering the style of this beer.

This has a different sort of feel to it compared to other Dubbels I've had and it's an interesting take on the style as a whole. Plus you get the impression that the brewery put a lot of work and love into making this beer. This is worth seeking out if you know where to look.

Borealis Fermentary Mons Cherries Dubbel - 9/10

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat Review

Name: New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 7.2%

The hefeweizen-style beer was one of the first styles I tried out when I first got into craft beer. Since the beer which got me into the style, Summit Hefeweizen, has (sadly) been out of production for almost 2 years, I decided to opt for the next best "local" option: New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat, the brewery's very own Hefeweizen style ale with an ABV of 7.2%.

Back in 1995, while I was in my 2nd Grade class watching The Lion King and learning about Kenya, New Glarus Brewing released their first wheat beer. Then starting in 2007, they unleashed Dancing Man Wheat, which has been a staple of New Glarus' Summer Seasonals for the past few years.

Dancing Man pours a fairly hazy yellow with a fairly high amount of carbonation and a filmy head with bits of lacing along the sides of the glass.

The aroma starts out with strong wheat, banana and clove notes, with a pale malt backbone to round it out. The flavor is a bit sweeter with wheat, pale-pilsner malts, bubblegum, bananas and cloves. The body is fairly lightweight and some crisp, moderate carbonation.

Dancing Man reminded me alot of Summit Hefeweizen, which I still consider to be the best example of the hefeweizen style overall....that's a good thing! Now is it as good as Summit's? No, but it comes pretty damn close! The flavor is pretty robust, well balanced and not to mention tasty! Summer is about to enter the home stretch so pick this up while you still can!

New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat - 9/10

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summit Horizon Red Ale Review

Summit Brewing Company already has a couple IPAs on the market, their aptly named "India Pale Ale" and their "Sága IPA". So it should come as a surprise to no one that their next "Unchained" series beer called is called "Another IPA."

However, I'm not here to focus on those beers but rather their Horizon Red Ale, which is classified as an Amber Ale with an ABV of 5.7%. Though I would be pressed to call it an Amber Ale because while it is a Red Ale in appearance, the rest of the beer tells a completely different story.

The beer pours a dark hazy red color with a very foamy head with a bit of carbonation along the sides of the glass.. The lacing is spotty and it finishes rather clean.

The nose has an unusually strong piney hop and caramel malt scent upfront. Along with that are some grapefruit and citrus hop notes. The flavor is a bit more hop-forward with Piney and Citrusy Hops on the front of the palette with some caramel, malts and yeast notes in the back. It has a bittersweet caramel-hop aftertaste. The body is a bit of the hefty side with some mild carbonation so it's reasonably easy to drink.

I would characterize this more as an IPA then Amber Ale. This doesn't mean it's a bad beer, in fact, it's a very good beer! My expectations were set to more of a maltier beer but instead I got a nice hoppy surprise that comes off as smooth and well balanced. Try it out if you get the chance!

Summit Horizon Red Ale - 8.5/10


After I posted this review on Twitter, Summit posted their new redesigned labels on Twitter to coincide with their updated logo. Amongst them was their redesigned for Horizon Red Ale and....well see for yourselves!

Well played Summit, well played....

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bent Paddle Bent Hop Golden IPA Review

Bent Paddle Brewing is the one of the newest additions to Duluth's & Minnesota's growing craft beer scene. They currently have 2 beers that are available through retailers and, at the time of writing this, around 6 available in their taproom.

I've already reviewed their Black Ale and found it to be quite enjoyable. This is Bent Paddle's other canned beer, their Bent Hop Golden IPA, which has an ABV of 6.2%.

Bent Hop pours a clear golden color with a fairly foamy head and a small amount of visible carbonation. There's also quite a bit of lacing along the sides of the glass.

The aroma opens up to a moderate piney hop scent, followed up by pale malts, grapefruits and some yeast notes. The flavor is pretty consistent with the nose, with piney hops, grapefruit, pale malts, yeast, and light caramel. The aftertaste is a bitter resin/piney flavor. The body itself is pretty light and the carbonation is very mild, so it's a pretty easy to drink IPA.

This is another solid offering from Bent Paddle. It's a flavorful & robust IPA yet I can see this being enjoyed by both seasoned IPA fans or those just getting into the style. If you so happen to be in the Duluth/Superior/North Shore area, this is one IPA that should be on your list to try out.

Bent Paddle Bent Hop Golden IPA - 8.5/10

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Epic Imperial Stout Review

Note: This is based the Release #10 batch

When I think of Utah, I think we can all agree that craft beer is not amongst the things that pops into our heads. I mean, Utah has some of the strictest alcohol laws in America, so it's hard to imagine that it could be anything craft beer related could come out of Utah.

Well, I have been seeing more and more of Epic Brewing, a Utah based Craft Brewery, in stores recently and haven't really bothered to check them out until now. In fact, when I did happen to finally start checking them out, I was surprised to see that they were based out of Utah. For right now, they come in 22oz. Bombers and from what I've seen, it's only the Exponential Series which is available in around here.

The other thing the Exponential Series I've noticed is that their beers have a different ABV based on which "Release" it is. For example the Epic Imperial Stout, which I'll be reviewing, is Release #10 and has an ABV of 11.4%. Now compared to Release #9 of the same beer, that has a 9.4% ABV; Whether it's intentional or not remains to be seen.

Epic Imperial Stout pours a pitch black color with a foamy dark brown head with some carbonation visible on the sides of the glass and no lacing, giving it a clean finish.

The aroma has notes of Chocolate, Vanilla, Licorice, Roasted Barley & Malts, and just a hint of coffee. In terms of flavor, the Chocolate and Roasted Barley & Malts are more pronounced, giving it a slight Oak taste. The Vanilla and Licorice take a backseat in terms of flavor but are still noticeable. There is a slight booziness in the flavor, but it doesn't really hurt the overall quality of the flavor.

The body is fairly light for an Imperial Stout, and the carbonation starts out quite strong but it tapers off after a few minutes. Once that happens, it becomes a very smooth and drinkable Imperial Stout.

While nothing jumped out at me in particular, aside from the slight oak flavor, this is a solid Imperial Stout. I think if allowed to age, and in a barrel (hint hint!), this would taste amazing. For now, I'll settle for good!

Epic Imperial Stout - 8/10

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Ryewine Ale Review

Up until I believe a couple years ago, the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company or Leinenkugel's (or Leinie's as it's known around here) was only really known for their Summer Shandy, Sunset Wheat and Original Lager. Last year I started noticing a special line of beers from Leinenkugel's called the "Big Eddy" series. It's a line-up of stronger ales meant to target the craft beer crowd; It's sort of ironic considering Leinenkugel's isn't even a craft brewer since they are owned by Miller Brewing and therefore don't qualify as a craft brewer.

I've had both the Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale & Imperial IPA and while the Wee Heavy wasn't really anything to write home about and a bit boozy, the Imperial IPA was surprisingly good, very hoppy and pairs very well with a Spicy Jalapeno Pepperjack Cheeseburger.

This is the Big Eddy Ryewine Ale, it's a barleywine style ale with an ABV of 9.5%. As the name suggests, it's brewed with rye. Something which I wasn't a big fan of after my bad experience with Sierra Nevada's Ruthless Rye but it has since started to grow on me once again.

It pours a clear crimson color with a khaki-colored head and carbonation along the sides of the glass, The lacing along the sides of the glass are spotty here and there but there is some here.

The nose has a strong rye & citrus hop scent upfront and some caramel malts and yeasts. It's starting to remind me of Ruthless Rye IPA, I'm having flashbacks already from last year about one of the few drain pours I had to do because I couldn't handle it. I remember that cold February evening, trying it out for the first time in my kitchen. But alas, the rye was too much for me to handle and the hop balance was all wrong for me. I did a drain pour; I had to do it, it was the only way I could get rid of it. Why Sierra Nevada, why?! What did I do to you......?

Never again...................*sigh*..............

Anyway.....The flavor has a spicy rye and caramelized malts upfront followed by citrus hops, yeasts, ginger spices, and barley. The rye is a bit stronger here but flavor is very well balanced as a whole. The body is rather heavy in weight but with only some mild carbonation, so it allows you to enjoy the flavor.

Rye is still growing on me as a whole, but I found this to be quite tasty and well balanced. It doesn't blow me away by any means, but the other flavors help keep the rye in check which creates just the right amount of flavor variety, much like Surly SeVIIn. I'd say definitely give this a chance; It's not going to be for everyone but anyone looking for a different take on the Barleywine style that is done right should try this one out.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Ryewine Ale - 8.5/10

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Glarus Anniversary Strong Ale Review

New Glarus Brewing just recently celebrated their 20th year in business and are in the midst of an expansion that will bring their capacity up to around 250,000 barrels, moving them up the ladder as one of the largest craft brewers in America. They're already 17th largest in the nation, so naturally the only direction to go is up.

In celebration of their 20th year in business, they have released their Anniversary Strong Ale, which has been classified as either a Belgian Dark Strong Ale or an Abbey Dubbel depending on who you ask. It's ABV is also unknown, so you have you have to give them points for being mysterious. While we're on the topic, while seeking this out I was under the impression that this would be a similar size to that of New Glarus' Serendipity. Nope this comes in a 16 oz. bottle, I'll admit you really don't see those too much anymore. It's also a limited release beer, so I'm really glad that I'm getting the opportunity to try this out; The joys of being close to Wisconsin!

It pours a dark red color with an off-white foamy head, abundant lacing and a mild amount of carbonation along the sides of the glass.

The aroma has some definitive Abbey qualities to it, consisting mainly of dark fruity notes, caramel, spices, figs, licorice, cloves and malts. The flavor is also pretty heavily Abbey influenced with caramel and plums upfront, followed by cloves, licorice, spices, figs, cloves and malts. The body is moderate in terms of weight and it's pretty light in carbonation.

I would classify this as a Abbey Dubbel just based on the flavor alone, but whatever it New Glarus calls it, one thing is certain: This is a great beer! It's got a smooth yet robust flavor, it smells wonderful and it's something you can sit down and cherish. If you so happen to stumble across this, you might want to grab it for yourself before someone else does.

New Glarus Anniversary Strong Ale - 9.5/10