Monday, December 30, 2013

Surly CynicAle Review

Name: Surly CynicAle
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%

I'm finally making amends with myself by reviewing some of Surly Brewing's lineup which I have been putting off for a while. Tonight we're having a beer from Surly and it's their CynicAle, which is their Saison-Style beer.

This beer is one of the first Belgian/Farmhouse-Style beers that I ever had when a couple years back a friend of mine recommended it to me while I was still reluctant to give Furious a second go. Like Surly Furious, I had never gotten the chance to really sit down and review it as I've had it on tap almost every time that I have it; That is until today!

CynicAle pours a reasonably clear golden color with some visible moderate carbonaion. The head is somewhat fluffy in appearance and the lacing left behind is fairly abundant.

The aroma has a strong yeasty scent to it and some cracked peppers to go along with it. There are also some cloves, floral hops and barley notes in here as well.

The flavor is also pretty yeasty with notes of pepper, mild floral/resin hops, cloves and barley. Pretty much the same as the nose but with more of a hoppy taste. The body is fairly light in weight with some moderate carbonation to boot, which gives it an overall crisp palate.

Being that this is the first Saison that I ever had, it's stood up pretty well since I first had it. It's got a great taste yet it's approachable enough for any newcomers to the style. Overall, you really can't go wrong with this beer.

Surly CynicAle - 8.5/10

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Summit Biere de Garde Review

Name: Summit Biere de Garde
Style: Biére De Garde
ABV: 7.3%

In my previous Unchained Review for Another IPA, I mentioned that Summit Brewing would be releasing their next Unchained with a fancy new label as part of their redesign campaign which kicked off earlier this year. Well true to their word, they have indeed changed the design of their label to reflect

The latest release in Summit's Unchained Series is a Biere de Garde, a Farmhouse-Style Ale that originates from France; In case the name wasn't already a big enough giveaway as it is. I've only had a couple of Biere de Garde style ales, namely from Flying Dog & Schell's so it'll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Summit Biere de Garde pours an almost black color which becomes a dark crimson red when held up to a light. The head is rather fizzy and fades away fast and the carbonation, while harder to see, is moderate in appearance.

The aroma has some cloves & toffee notes with some Belgian yeasts, caramel and a mild but noticable sweet cherry tartness. Overall a very interesting mixture in the nose.

The flavor is starts out with a toffee and caramel sweetness. This is followed by some floral hops, cherries, Belgian yeasts and cloves. The aftertaste consists of roasted barley & mild cherry tartness. The body is thick and heavy. The mild carbonation is a welcome compliment to the overall flavor so extra points for that.

There's a chance I may be alone in saying this but I think this is the best Unchained offering yet. I really admire the taste, particularly with the cherries and how well it blends in with the Farmhouse-style flavor. There's still a couple of months left until the next Unchained beer comes out so grab this while you still can!

Summit Biere de Garde - 9/10

Friday, December 27, 2013

Samuel Smiths Organic Chocolate Stout Review

Name: Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout
Style: Sweet/Milk Stout
ABV: 5%

Well now that the holiday are over, I'm back to my normal grind. Since the past few days have been rather hectic, it's time to have a beer. Like many brands, Samuel Smith Brewery is one of those brands I've seen all over the place but never really bothered to check out. That was until a co-worker of mine, who knows I'm into craft beer, showed me an article in our local paper about Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout. Needless to say, I was enticed by what I read after it was given a glowing review. Since I enjoy the occasional Milk/Sweet Stout, I decided to procure a bottle for myself to see if the man in the paper was telling the truth.

Organic Chocolate Stout pours a pitch black color with a brown-khaki colored head. In terms of carbonation it's pretty mild and the lacing left behind is decent.

Sweet milk chocolate permeates the nose with hints of roasted barley, chocolate malts, and mild hops. I've had many sweet stouts before but this is by far the sweetest smelling one I've had so far.

At this point, I expected the flavor to be good but not as good as the aroma; However that couldn't be any further from the truth. The flavor has a rich sweet chocolate flavor mixed in with roasted barley, chocolate malts, light floral hops and just a tiny hint of toffee. The aftertaste is a sweet flavor of milk chocolate, which compliments an already excellent flavor.

The body is quite heavy and somewhat thick but the light carbonation gives it a very creamy texture. In other words, it fits the flavor perfectly so that you're allowed to enjoy the flavors this beer has to offer.

The man in the paper wasn't lying, this is an absolutely fantastic beer and a fantastic Sweet Stout! It's absolutely worth your time to pick this up if you ever see this on the shelf! On top of that, it's also decently priced so you're paying just the right amount for this beer.

Samuel Smiths Organic Chocolate Stout - 9.5/10

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Green Flash Le Freak Review

Name: Green Flash Le Freak
Style: Tripel
ABV: 9.2%

San Diego seems to have a thing for Minnesota this year. First we are given Ballast Point and now Green Flash Brewing which is another high profile brewery to come out of San Diego that recently has graced it's presence on our shelves.

What I have here is an interesting creation from them, their Le Freak Ale. According to the brewery, Le Freak is a combination of an Abbey Tripel & an Imperial IPA, hence the name.The only "mixture" I've had of two beers is Mississippi Mud Black & Tan, which is a Porter & Pilsner combination.

Le Freak pours a mildly hazy orange color with some visible moderate carbonation. The head is quite foamy in appearance and the lacing left behind is quite good.

A strong aroma of lemon zest and citrus hops starts things off in the nose. I'm also getting some fairly strong clove, banana, toffee and pale malt notes as well.

The taste is a pretty wide assortment of flavors. Right off the bat are cloves, spices, lemony zest, piney hops, grapefruits, caramel, pale malts, and yeasts. A bittersweet resiny flavor makes up the aftertaste.

The body is pretty heavy and the carbonation is surprisingly strong for what it is. Given the complexity of the beer, it's pretty easy to overlook and it adds some dimension to the flavor.

True to it's description, it really is like someone mixed together an Abbey Tripel and Imperial IPA. Thankfully it pulls it off quite well thanks to it's complex and robust flavor. It's a different take on the Tripel style and an excellent one at that!

Green Flash Le Freak - 9.25/10

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red Review

Name: New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
Style: Fruit Beer
ABV: 4%

Earlier this year when this blog was in it's infancy, I reviewed a bottle of New Glarus Serendipity and found it to be absolutely fantastic. It's now 8 months later and New Glarus has brought back the beer that was originally in Serendipity's place, Wisconsin Belgian Red.

While Serendipity is/was brewed with cherries, apples, and cranberries; Wisconsin Belgian Red is brewed with just cherries. You see last year (2012), the cherry harvst in Wisconsin was severely affected by one of the worst droughts the Midwest had experienced since the 1930's. This drought caused New Glarus to use apples and cranberries in the recipe, in addition to whatever cherries from Door County they could get. The end result was an award winning fruit beer that became highly sought after across the country, and all of it happened pretty much by accident.

Now after being in cryogenic suspension for over a year, Wisconsin Belgian Red has made its triumphant return, hopefully to co-exist with Serendipity side-by-side. It calls itself the marriage between wine and beer, and uses a pound of Door County cherries used per bottle. Let's see if any of that holds up.

Belgian Red pours a clear ruby red with a red fizzy head and no lacing left behind. The carbonation appears quite high at first before going to a more subdued level. It looks like someone poured a bottle of Big Red soda into my glass.

The aroma gives off a sweet fruity cherry notes with an almost Pink Moscato-like scent and some light malts. That's all I'm getting because the cherries and moscato are quite strong.

Just like the nose, the flavor consists mainly of sweet cherries, light moscato grape along with some mild malt, oak and barley notes. Here is where you can tell that this is still very much a beer. With that said, it's still sweet tasting thanks to the cherries.

The body is pretty lightweight with a bit of a syrupy texture to it but it doesn’t hurt the quality. As for the carbonation, it's fairly tame so it doesn't get in the way of enjoying the flavor.

I'll get this out of the way now, this is an excellent fruit beer that is definitely worth your time, money and attention. With that said, I still think that Serendipity is a superior fruit beer because of it's more balanced and possesses a more complex flavor. Belgian Red didn't ”Wow” me as much as Serendipity did, but it still makes for a very robust & delicious fruit beer!

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red - 9/10

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Redhook Long Hammer IPA Review

Name: Redhook Long Hammer IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.5%

Redhook Brewing is fairly well known in the craft beer world; From their oddly shaped bottles as you can see in the picture above, to their exclusive "Game Changer" beer available only at Buffalo Wild Wings. In case you were wondering, it's mediocre at best and you're better off ordering something else instead.

I grabbed their Long Hammer IPA as part of a mix-a-six because I wanted to check out some of their offerings. After all, they did make one of the first ESBs that I ever had an thought it was quite good at the time, though I haven't had it for a good while.

Long Hammer pours a pretty hazy yellow color with a fairly mild amount of carbonation. The head is quite filmy in appearance and the lacing is abundant and rather sticky.

The nose has a fairly mild floral/citrus hop & resiny aroma along with some pale malt notes. No I'm not forgetting anything else, that's all I'm really getting out of this.

Flavor-wise it's got mild floral hops with caramel & pale malt notes. There's an encompassing bitter resin taste throughout but it's quite mild just like the rest of the flavor. The carbonation and overall body weight are quite moderate as well.

For an IPA, it's very bland. Any flavors in here are too mild for their own good, which makes this very hard to recommend. You're better off picking up a Two Hearted instead.

Redhook Long Hammer IPA - 5/10

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Goose Island The Illinois Review

Name: Goose Island The Illinois
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.4%

You're all probably scratching your heads right now as to why I have a picture of a growler instead of a bottle above. A couple of weeks ago over in neighboring Superior, WI at a little place called Keyport Liquor introduced their very own growler fill station like the one located at Casanova in Hudson, WI.
Since Minnesota law prohibits you from filling a brewery's growler with another brewery's beer, this is considered to be quite a novelty amongst Minnesota craft beer drinkers.

Now keep in mind that Keyport doesn't quite have the selection of Casanova, missing breweries like Toppling Goliath, Ale Asylum, Three Floyds, and so forth. Right now, they have some pretty good stuff Milwaukee Brewing, Southern Tier, Sierra Nevada, Bell's, and Goose Island.

Named after Frank Lloyd Weber's vision of a mile high skyscraper called "The Illinois", we have a growler of Goose Island's The Illinois. To my understanding, it was supposedly only brewed once and it's only available on draft. Since I now have a growler, it's time to give this a proper review.

The Illinois pours a clear orange color with a fairly filmy head. The lacing left behind is pretty good and the carbonation has a very mild appearance.

The nose opens up to a fairly sweet apricot aroma with hints of piney hops, grapefruits and mild caramel maltiness. Not too overwhelming and rather mellow smelling for an Imperial IPA.

A bitter citrus hoppiness greets the palate upon drinking mixed in with some peaches, apricots and mild caramel malts. The aftertaste leaves behind a bitter resin/piney hop flavor. Flavor isn't mild but it isn't vibrant either. The body is quite heavy in terms of weight and the carbonation is has more of a moderate intensity.

The Illinois is a pretty good Imperial IPA. It may not be as robust as other beers of the same style but it's quite smooth and you definitely aren't making a bad choice by trying this out!

Goose Island The Illinois - 8.5/10

Friday, December 13, 2013

Moylan's Hopsickle Review

Name: Moylan's Hopsickle 
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.2%

Recently, I've been seeing more of Moylan's Brewing on the store shelves here but have never really bothered to check it out. That was until one day when one of the store employees at my regular haunt recommended this to me since they know I'm a big fan of Imperial IPAs.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm getting over a rather nasty cold so no beer for me until I regain my sense of smell. Fortunately I'm off the cocktail of cold medications which I have been taking for the past few days so Oooh Yay for that. Since I can't have any new beers for the time being, I shall finish writing about the ones I've already had!

Hopsickle pours a hazy orange color with a thin filmy head with some good lacing retention. The visible carbonation is also pretty high in appearance.

Strong grapefruits, oak, citrus and mild caramel in the nose. There is a strong encompassing musky smell, no doubt showcasing the Simcoe Hops used in the brewing process.

The flavor is fairly piney hop forward with caramel, oak,grapefruits and a bittersweet resiny aftertaste. Like the aroma, the Simcoe Hops are on full display with it's oak and muskiness.

The body is surprisingly lightweight and fairly mild carbonation, so you're able to enjoy the flavors.

All and all, it's a pretty good Imperial IPA. It may be a little too woodsy or musky for some but for any seasoned Imperial IPA fan, it's worth checking out.

Moylan's Hopsickle - 8.5/10

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Glarus Apple Ale Review

Name: New Glarus Apple Ale
Style: Fruit Beer
ABV: 3.8%

You may have noticed that I am posting an astonishly high number of reviews today, but that's because I had to call in sick today on account of a cold. Since I can't have beer due to my lack of smell and have a few reviews in the pipeline, I figured I would divvy up my time between playing Diablo 3 and finishing those said reviews.

Earlier this year in May & June, New Glarus Brewing released their Apple Ale as part of their Thumbprint Series. Sadly, while I was over in Wisconsin earlier this year procuring some Three Floyds, Apple Ale was nowhere to be seen and I had to settle for another bomber of Dreadnaught (Talk about first world problems, am I right?)

Then a couple of weeks ago, New Glarus announced via Facebook that it was bringing back Apple Ale. My excitement grew even more when the owner of Keyport Liquors over in Superior, WI was on the radio talking about Apple Ale and how they had just gotten it in. Needless to say, I knew where I need to go to get my own!

Apple Ale pours a clear dark golden color with a rather filmy head, high carbonation and no lacing along the sides.

The nose has a sweet aroma of apples, cider, spices and some pale malts. It's almost like someone poured a bottle of Angry Orchard into my glass.

The flavor is pretty similar to the aroma with sweet apple tartness, cinnamon, barley and pale malts. It's much more obvious that this is a beer than an actual cider due to the barley and pale malt presence. The body is pretty light and the carbonation is quite mild as well. It's a pretty easy to drink beer overall.

All and all, it's a great yet mellow tasting fruit beer and I feel that even those who aren't generally fans of craft beer will find something to like in this. It isn't quite as complex or robust as New Glarus' other fruit beers but this is still very easy to recommend.

New Glarus Apple Ale - 8.5/10

Ballast Point Pale Ale Review

Name: Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale
Style: Kölsch
ABV: 4.6%

A couple months ago, Ballast Point Brewing Company started distributing to our neck of the woods much to the delight of craft beer lovers everywhere. I've even been hearing about this brewery outside of liquor stores and bars which is pretty significant in my eyes.

When I picked up Yellowtail Pale Ale as part of a mix-a-six, I assumed that this was Ballast Point's own rendition of their pale ale; I mean the label says in bold lettering "Pale Ale." However when I got home and inspected the label, I made a startling discovery...

Y u do dis, Ballast Point?

Okay so we're NOT having an American Pale Ale but a Kölsch instead. I'm not terribly familiar with Kölsch style but the only one I've had has been from Lake Superior Brewing right here in Duluth and I thought it was pretty good. Let's take a look at this, shall we?

Yellowtail pours a bright yellow color with a rather fizzy and filmy head. The carbonation visible is quite mild and there is no lacing left behind.

The nose starts things off with a sweet & grassy pale malt backbone and fruitiness; Along with some wheat, bready and barley notes.

Likewise, the flavor is also pretty representative of what's in the nose. You have sweet pale malts, fruitiness, sweet wheat notes, yeasts and barley. The overall flavor is a tad earthy and the aftertaste is also pretty dry with just a hint of fruitiness lingering on the palate. The body as a whole is pretty light with some moderate carbonation to compliment it, giving it a crisp feel.

It doesn't hold a candle to Sculpin in terms of flavor but I found this to be quite enjoyable. It's like they took an American Adjunct Lager and made it not only drinkable but quite good! In fact, I'd say this is a great beer for your non-craft beer drinking friends. It's not everyday you see a Kölsch-style beer on the shelves but I'd say this one is definitely worth trying out if you see it!

Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale - 8/10

Surly Darkness Review

Name: Surly Darkness
Style: Imperial Stout 
ABV: 10.3%

Every fall, one of the most highly anticipated craft beers in Minnesota is released by Surly Brewing which is their Darkness. How highly anticipated you ask? Some stores have to release it in waves to ensure everyone gets a fair shot at getting it and some stores sell out of their entire supply in less than half an hour. This isn't some $5 bomber either, it ranges in price anywhere from $17-25.

Since we didn't get this here in Duluth until about 3 days or so after they sold out of it in the Twin Cities, procuring a bottle of this was much less of a hassle than it was when I first got it. And by "less of a hassle" I mean not having to call ahead or be put on a list.

The bottle artwork also changes yearly as well and it always looks pretty badass. A couple years ago, when I first had it, it depicted a zombie holding a snifter glass. This year it's a Hell Demon holding a chalice as it's face is melting off. If anyone from Surly happens to stumble upon this blog, next year have Cthulhu as your artwork. Just saying!

It goes without saying that there's a good chance that by the time you are reading this, every bottle of this year's Surly Darkness will either be consumed or cellared for aging purposes. In my case, it was consumed!

Darkness pours a pitch black color with a foamy khaki-colored head. There isn't any visible carbonation and the lacing it leaves behind is great.

The nose has a strong chocolate, vanilla and cherry scent about it. Complimenting this are roasted malts & barley with some light smokey notes. For some reason, I'm expecting this to be barrel aged given my initial impressions and they apparently do have a barrel aged Darkness.

In the flavor I'm getting chocolate nibs, vanilla, cherries, and dark fruity notes. This is supported by a stronger smokiness, chocolate malts and roasted barley and some mild but noticeable hoppiness. The flavor as a whole is very rich and robust.

It's got a very smooth and creamy body that is light weight and almost free from carbonation. You should have no trouble drinking this at all.

Simply put, Darkness is a beer that you must experience for yourself. It has everything you'd want out of an Imperial Stout and more which makes it one of the best Imperial Stouts I have ever had. Since it is more than likely sold out for 2013, try and seek this out if you can next year around the end of October. Trust me, it'll be worth it!

Surly Darkness - 9.75/10

Monday, December 9, 2013

Southern Tier Live Review

Name: Southern Tier Live
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.5%

Southern Tier is best known for their stronger interpretations of traditional beers (pumpkin, helles, etc.) but it seems that this offering is more traditional in terms of style. Named "Live" for it's.......liveliness or something, is an American Pale Ale, which according to the brewery, has strong citrus hops balanced with malt breadiness.

Live pours a darker hazy yellow color with a foamy head. The lacing retention is good and the carbonation is mild in appearance.

Bready yeasts permeate the nose along with lemon zest, citrus & piney hops, and pale malts. There's a bit of a Pilsner influence in the aroma that's pretty easy to distinguish.

Flavor-wise, it's got a surprisingly potent floral hoppiness and lemon-zest. This is all followed up by yeasts, barley and pale malts. It's a bit earthy overall and the citrus hops are mysteriously absent.

The carbonation is somewhat moderate in intensity but the overall weight is rather light, giving it a nice crisp feeling.

Though it lacks the citrus hoppiness touted in the commercial description, Southern Tier Live is still a good American Pale Ale. Check it out if you see it!

Southern Tier Live - 8/10

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale Review

Name: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.8%

Every winter, Sierra Nevada Brewing likes to get in the holiday spirit by releasing Celebration Ale, their winter seasonal IPA. As you can see in the picture above, it depicts a cottage covered by snow, which is ironic considering that the brewery's location does not get any snow at all.

As I mentioned in my previous review, not every winter release is necessarily a darker/heavier beer and this certainly isn't a darker beer by any means. In fact, it's one of the most highly anticipated widespread winter releases I have ever seen around here.

Celebration Ale pours a hazy orange-brown color with a fairly thin foamy head. The lacing left behind is quite good and the carbonation takes on more of a mild appearance.

The nose starts out as fairly caramel malt forward followed up with some hefe-clove notes, citrus & piney hops and a slight yeastiness.

Likewise, the flavor is also fairly malty with stronger hefe-cloves, spiciness, citrus hops, and yeasts with a bittersweet piney-resin aftertaste. Highly unusual to see cloves in an IPA, but it works pretty well.

The body is pretty light and the carbonation comes off as more moderate than what it's mild appearance lets you believe.

Some beer drinkers may not like the cloviness in this beer, but I feel it helps give a wintery feel to the IPA style without making it too different. Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable IPA and worth checking out if you're in need of a good seasonal IPA.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale - 8.5/10

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Grand Teton Sweetgrass Review

Name: Grand Teton Sweetgrass
Style: American Pale Ale (APA)
ABV: 6.0%

Idaho's own Grand Teton Brewing has been popping up all over the midwest as of recently. For a state mostly associated with Potatoes and Napoleon Dynamite, they've made quite a name for themselves in the past few years. Earlier this year I reviewed their Pursuit of Hoppiness and found it to be rather good so I figured I should check out their Sweetgrass APA to see how it is.

Sweetgrass pours a bright hazy orange color with foamy head, some decent lacing and mild visible carbonation.

Floral hops and yeasty notes starts things off in the nose, followed by some grassiness, caramel, and pale malts. A bit earthy smelling for an APA if I do say so myself.

Flavor consists mainly of floral hops, caramel, grassiness, pale malts, and bitter resiny aftertaste. Overall, the flavor is rather bitter even by APA standards.

It's got a fairly light body and the carbonation is pretty moderate, giving it crisp feeling on the palate.

For a beer with the word "Sweet" in it's name, this is a pretty bitter tasting beer. All and all, it's not a terrible beer but there are much better APAs out there than this.

Grand Teton Sweetgrass - 6/10

Saturday, December 7, 2013

New Belgium Accumulation Review

Name: New Belgium Accumulation
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%

For those fortunate enough to be living in a warmer climate, we had roughly around 3 feet of snow over the course of 48 hours in our area. Thankfully the worst is over for the time being and now it's just very cold out, like -10 Degrees Fahrenheit cold.

So in continuing on with our theme of being snowed in, I bring you a beer that hits a little too close to home with me considering the events of the past week. I'm talking about New Belgium Accumulation, the brewery's newest winter seasonal. What's interesting about Accumulation is that it's a White IPA, a style usually seen in the late summer/fall months. This is a stark contrast to most Winter Seasonals which tend to be darker and heavier in terms of style.

Accumulation pours a mildly hazy yellow color with a foamy head that leaves behind some good lacing. The visible carbonation is also pretty mild in appearance.

The aroma starts off with yeasty and citrus hop notes. Wheat, floral hops, pale malts, apricots and mild earthiness make up the rest of nose.

The flavor consists of citrus/floral hops, yeasts, wheat, pale malts and mild toffee notes. The grassiness in the nose isn't present here.

The body is very lightweight and the carbonation is also very mild, giving it a smooth texture that allows you to enjoy the flavors.

After having this, I can safely say that this is the best IPA offering by New Belgium. It's got more of a complex & robust flavor yet at the same time is very approachable. If New Belgium made this a year-round offering, I would definitely be buying this on a regular basis. For now it's only a winter seasonal, so grab this while you can.

New Belgium Accumulation - 9/10

Friday, December 6, 2013

Summit Winter Ale Review

Name: Summit Winter Ale
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 5.9%

Winter has come to Minnesota and that could mean only one thing: Winter Seasonals! And since we had a terrible blizzard annihilate us this week, what better way to commemorate the arrival of winter than with a Summit Brewing's Winter Ale!

Summit Winter Ale pours a dark clear brown color with a semi-fluffy head, sparse lacing and some light visible carbonation.

The nose starts things off with some spice and caramel malts and in the back are toffee, vanilla and some mild hoppiness. Reminds me a bit of vanilla porter....almost!

The flavor has more of a chocolate taste along with roasted barley, toffee, yeasts and mild hoppiness. For a winter warmer, it's somewhat complex and quite vibrant for what it is.

The body is pretty lightweight and it's mildly carbonation so it's quite easy on the palate.

In terms of Winter Seasonals (that aren't of limited release), this is one is pretty good. Mind you I'm more inclined to their regular year-round line-up but this one is quite solid.

Summit Winter Ale - 8/10

Blacklist Spruce Tipped Imperial IPA Review

Name: Blacklist Spruce Tipped Imperial India Pale Ale
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.5%

Today I have another beer from Duluth's very own Blacklist Brewing, and this time it's their Spruce Tipped Imperial IPA. I'll admit that that I was sold solely on the fact it's an Imperial IPA with Spruce in it, though they aren't the first Minnesota Brewery to do a strong spruced beer as that honor goes to Olvalde Brewing with their Ode to a Russian Shipwright.

This time around, I didn't make the same mistake of using my hands in an attempt to open this up. Instead I used a corkscrew and after about 20 seconds, it popped off. So when you have this have a corkscrew handy, I mean it...

Spruce Tipped pours a very hazy dark orange color. The head is pretty creamy & filmy in appearance which leaves behind no lacing and there also isn't any visible carbonation here.

The nose is pretty citrusy and sprucey upfront, with caramel malts, oak, and raisin/dark fruity notes. Both citrus and spruce notes in particular are both equally strong and almost overshadow everything else.

The flavor is a bit more caramel malt forward with citrus/piney hops, spruce, oak and rum raisins. Not too different from the flavor except with more of a malty backbone. If I could sum up the flavor in one way, it would be that it tastes like Christmas.

The body is fairly moderate in weight but feels pretty thick at the same time. The carbonation is also very mild and creamy, so it's pretty easy to drink for an Imperial IPA.

It's a different take on the Imperial IPA style and I think Blacklist has pulled it off rather well. It's more of an "off-the-beaten-path" style of beer so it isn't for everyone. However those looking for something a little different yet tasty will find this to be an enjoyable beer.

Blacklist Spruce Tipped Imperial IPA - 9/10

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Review

Name: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 14.9%

Right now we are in the midst of what I consider to be the worst snowstorm that I have ever experienced in my life. Everything from high winds to accumulating snow; From reckless drivers to poor snow plowing jobs, this storm has it all! Since I was let out of work early today due to our wonderful weather, I decided to spend the afternoon playing some Diablo 3 and having a couple of beers.

Since I have no plans tonight other than to just hang out and ponder my existence among the swirling winds of Lake Superior, I figured now would be a good time to review another beer from my bucket list. I'm talking about Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout! You'd think that it would be almost impossible to get but there seems to be a steady supply this year! The first thing that caught my eye was the ABV, which comes in at 14.9%. For comparison sake, Rum-Chata, my favorite liqueur, clocks in at 13.8%.

Now a disclaimer before I begin this review: I have had this beer once before at the Goose Island Wrigleyville taproom in Chicago but I never gave it a proper review. By the way, if you ever find yourself there, they have great food but it's pricey; Hey it's Chicago after all!

Bourbon County Stout pours a pitch black color with a filmy brown head that fades rather quickly. There also isn't really much in terms of lacing and the carbonation visible is quite high.

While it isn't anything special in the looks department, the nose is quite different. Here there are potent vanilla, oak, chocolate nibs, cherries and roasted malts. It's worth pointing out that while the aroma is quite robust, it's also very strong smelling in an almost boozy sort of way and it's no surprise when you consider the ABV.

The flavor is very vanilla and chocolate forward with oak, cherries, and roasted malts. The bourbon characteristic here is also very strong and makes itself known in the flavor, which has a boozy kick to it. The aftertaste is a mix of sweet vanilla and roasted malts.

The body is pretty heavy and thick and the carbonation ranges from mild to moderate. In terms of palate feel, you shouldn't have too much difficulty drinking this.

If you have been paying attention to my review, I shouldn't have to tell you that this is best enjoyed in moderation because this is an Imperial Stout that will grab you by the neck collar, throw you onto a table, run you across the length of the table and toss you into a wall, which then it'll proceed to laugh at you and flick a cigarette in your direction. With that said, it is quite robust and will please anyone who's looking for a stronger Imperial Stout.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout - 9.5/10

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Alaskan Winter Ale Review

Name: Alaskan Winter Ale
Style: Old Ale
ABV: 6.4%

Alaskan Brewing Company is one of those breweries that I saw frequently in the form of LED signs outside of bars and restaurants before I got into craft beer. Since getting into it, I have had quite a few of their offerings, my favorite being their draft-only Hopothermia Imperial IPA. However today is the first time I'm doing an actual in depth review.

Tonight we're having their Winter Ale which is classified as an Old Ale. The last time I had an Old Ale was Founders Curmudgeon way back in May, so it'll be interesting to see how this compares. It they also use spruce tips to make this beer, making this the second time I've had a spruced beer; The first being Olvalde's Ode to a Russian Shipwright.

Winter Ale pours a pretty clear orange color with a soapy head and no lacing. The carbonation visible is also somewhat moderate.

The nose has some molasses notes, along with caramel, grains, mild hops and mild spruce. It's all there but it all feels somewhat muted.

The flavor is a bit more malt forward with a distinct buttery caramel taste along with cereal grains, mild spruce and what I can only describe as a bubblegum-like sweetness. Despite all the interesting flavors, it still feels underwhelming in terms of taste.

The carbonation here is very mild and the body is pretty light, so you shouldn't have any problems drinking this.

It's got some pretty interesting flavors, particularly with the spruce but none of these flavors are fully realized or used to their full potential. The end result is a mild tasting beer that, while still good, leaves something more to be desired.

Alaskan Winter Ale - 7/10