Monday, March 31, 2014

KCCO Black Lager Review

Name: KCCO Black Lager
Brewed By: Red Hook Brewing for Resignation Brewing
Style: Schwarzbier
ABV: 5.1%

When I first saw the letters KCCO in big, bold white letters on the bottle, I literally had to do a double take. Sure enough, The Chive has it's very own beer courtesy of Resignation Brewing and Red Hook Brewing: KCCO Black Lager, which is a Schwarzbier-style beer.

According to the Resignation Brewery website, it is one of four beers planned and each one is based on a homebrew recipe from one of the staffers at The Chive. In fact, it seems like Resignation Brewery at this time is the brainchild of the people working at The Chive as they appear to lack a physical location, which explains why it's being brewed at Red Hook.

For those of you not familiar with The Chive, it's a humor/eye-candy/random subject matter website that is quite popular on the internet. It's kind of like Buzzfeed except funny. Even if you never heard of The Chive, you probably have seen their merchandise. Those green t-shirts with the words ”Keep Calm and Chive On” (Which is where the name of the beer comes from) on the front? The black t-shirt with Bill Murray on the front staring at you? Yup, it's from there!

KCCO Black Lager pours a dark brown color with a crimson red tinge. A foamy head tops off the beer and there is some pretty good lacing here as well.

The nose is fairly roasted malt forward, providing a solid base for some chocolate notes, mild smokiness, coffee ground and a light yeasty touch.

The flavor is more cocoa/coffee forward with roasted malts and some mild smokiness. The aftertaste has a fairly dry, but has a mild roasty flavor. The palate is pretty light and is pretty mild in carbonation.

I'll be honest, I didn't exactly have high expectations for this beer, but I found this to be surprisingly good! Novelty (and brand name) value aside, this is a solid and fairly well put-together beer. Check it out if you're able to get it in your area.

KCCO Black Lager - 8/10

Saturday, March 29, 2014

HammerHeart Flanary's Brew Review

Name: HammerHeart Flanary's Brew
Style: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 6.3%

Last year, a new brewery (amongst many others) called HammerHeart Brewing Company opened for business here in Minnesota. What makes it fairly unique is that the brewmaster of HammerHeart did an apprenticeship at Haandbyggeriet, a Norwegian based brewery. The brewery also uses strong influences of both Nordic and Celtic culture as evidenced by the beer names and brewhouse design. 

However they are best known for making styles with a bit of a twist as you will see in this review. Last week while I was attending The Duluth Experience North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable at the Zeitgeist here in Duluth, I arrived a bit early so I decided to head over to the bar for a pint. As my eyes scanned the tap menu, HammerHeart Flanary's Brew caught my eye. 

Flanary's Brew is classified as an Oatmeal Stout, but it was described as a Smoked Oatmeal Stout, something which I was very curious to try out. Having heard pretty good things about HammerHeart, I decided to have a pint for myself and see what it was like. With my notebook handy for the event, I was ready to go.

Flanary's Brew pours a pitch black color with a thin filmy brown head. There isn't any lacing to be seen here and there I'm not picking up on any visible carbonation here.

The nose is unike anything I've seen in an Oatmeal Stout before. I'm getting notes of chocolate malts, smokiness, oatmeal, roasted barley and bubblegum. The bubblegum sweetness isn't subtle or sitting in the back; It's staring you right in the face along with every other scent I'm picking up.

The flavor is also very reminiscent of the nose. Upfront are notes of oatmeal, bubblegum, smoked malts, chocolate and roasted barley. The aftertaste consists mainly of bubblegum sweetness and a distinct smokey characteristic. The overall palate is moderately weighted but mild carbonated so it's pretty easy to drink.

Flanary's Brew is unlike any oatmeal stout that I've had before, but I found this to be a very robust and enjoyable beer! After having this, I can totally see why beer lovers here in Minnesota have been going crazy over HammerHeart. Hopefully we will be seeing more of HammerHeart here in Duluth because based on what I've seen so far, they make some very good beer!

HammerHeart Flanary's Brew - 9/10

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tommyknocker Legend Review

Name: Tommyknocker Legend
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 10%

Tommyknocker Brewing is a brewery that I have not had since I was in college, but about 2 years back I had a couple of their beers and I thought they were pretty good. Thanks to the growler station over in Superior, I'm able to do my first actual Tommyknocker review and it's a fairly special beer. Tommyknocker Legend was brewed to commemorate the brewery's 15 years in business. According to the brewer, it's a Nut Brown Ale brewed with maple syrup and aged with toasted Hungarian Oak.

Interestingly enough, when I go to look this up on Beer Advocate & Ratebeer, quite a few of the reviewers got their fix of this beer from a 2009 22oz. bottle. At the place I got it at, it was available at the growler fill station and in 4 pack bottles.

Legend pours a clear crimson color with a thin filmy head. The lacing left behind is somewhat sparse but sticky and the visible carbonation is quite mute.

The nose has a very pungent aroma of oak, maple syrup, chocolate malts, yeasts and roasted barley. It smells quite powerful, but thankfully not in a boozy sort of way.

The flavor profile is made up of mainly maple syrup, oak, roasted barley, molasses, nuttiness, chocolate malts and a lightly roasted aftertaste and malty aftertaste. Each flavor is fairly well balanced and it's worth noting that this is the first beer I've had that utilizes the maple syrup to it's fullest potential.

The palate is quite heavy in weight, but the carbonation is rather mild so it allows you to really get to know the flavors in this beer.

Even though it's classified as an American Strong Ale, I'd be more inclined to call this an Imperial Brown Ale (If such a category even exists) because that's what this pretty much is. As such, it's got a very robust flavor profile that may not be for anyone but I enjoyed this alot and, as I mentioned before, it utilizes the maple syrup flavor to it's fullest more than I've seen in any other beer.

Tommyknocker Legend - 9/10

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Goose Island Ten Hills Pale Ale Review

Name: Goose Island Ten Hills Pale Ale
Style: America Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%

Goose Island Brewing recently added new beer to their lineup called Ten Hill Pale Ale. The story behind the name is the hops, which come from the "first ten hills" at the Elk Mountain Farms in Idaho, a hop farm which supposedly is quite reputable when it comes to making hops. Although upon closer inspection, I found out that Elk Mountain Farms is actually owned by Anhuaser-Busch, which is the parent company of Goose Island.

Also, I don't remember luscious hop farms being THAT close to downtown Chicago. In fact, I'm fairly certain that given the positioning of the skyline in the background, the hop farm would be located right smack-dab between Melrose Park & Lombard and there are definitely no hop farms in that area. Alright, enough nit-picking, let's get to the beer

Ten Hills Pale Ale pours a mildly hazy orange color with a high amount of visible carbonation.The head is quite soapy but the lacing is pretty good.

The nose has some nice orange peel and floral hop notes with some nice caramel sweetness and even a decent pale malt backbone thrown in for good measure.

The flavor is mainly floral hops, pale malts, mild citrus, lemon zest and a mildly bitter/resiny aftertaste but is otherwise fairly dry. The overall palate is pretty lightweight and comes along with some moderate carbonation, giving it a nice crisp feel.

All and all, I think Ten Hills Pale Ale is a solid addition to the Goose Island lineup and it's got a good enough flavor profile that I would have no problem buying this again if given the choice. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Goose Island Ten Hills - 8.5/10

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Duluth Experience Craft Beer Roundtable: The Drink of Opportunity

A couple days ago was the first of 4 events in the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable hosted by The Duluth Experience. The idea behind the event is to give people a behind-the-scenes look at the craft brewing scene in the area. I have been given the privilege to help promote this event as well as meet some pretty awesome people and getting a great perspective into the craft beer scene here on the North Shore. Cheers to Lake Superior Brewing for providing free complimentary beer during Sunday's event!

The first session, The Drink of Opportunity, focused on the business of running brewery or brewpub. Moderated by The Duluth Experience's Paul Helstrom, the panel consisted of 5 brewery owners:

At the start of the panel discussion, a great question that was brought up about the challenges faced by the owners in terms of running a brewery. The big one for me was trying to educate the consumer about different beer styles and generating interest in craft beer in general. The last points touched upon in this topic included procuring resources for making beer as well as getting together the funding needed for starting a brewery.

The next topic covered was about laws and regulations. The big talking points were regarding a brewpub's right to distribute commercially (or lack thereof) and the need for Sunday Growler Sales, which is looking very likely this year. Another good big discussion topic were the laws, regulations and politics surrounding the brewing industry as a whole, both on a local and statewide scale, and how that has been evolving as the brewing scene grows stronger.

A couple other good points which were made during the panel included talking about the huge potential that the Twin Ports beer scene has to generate interest on a national scale in regards to tourism and the social aspect for the community; For example, artists and musicians.

The last topic touched upon was how homebrewing is driving education in the craft beer industry and how it's not only used as a measurement, but it also helps make people better brewers. Finally a issue brought up was recognizing how women are driving homebrewing now more than ever before. This was probably one of my favorite talking points because I feel that women in general are painfully underrepresented and/or misrepresented as a whole in the craft beer industry.

Overall I thought it was a very informative event which covered a wide array of great topics. If you missed this event, don't worry! There are still 3 more events which you can attend:

April 13th: “Crafting the North Shore Beer Scene” – The Brewers Roundtable
Moderated by: Tim Wilson – The Duluth Experience

Dave Hoops – Fitger’s Brewhouse
Dale Kleinschmidt – Lake Superior Brewing Co.
Jason Baumgarth – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery
Jeremy King – Canal Park Brewing Co.
Brian Schanzenbach – Blacklist Brewing

May 18th: “Riding the Wave of Beer” – Craft Beer Related Business
Moderated by: James Sanders – The Duluth Experience

Marissa Sauer –
Paul Riordan – Brule River Hill Top Hops
Brad Nelson – Star Creative
Carolyn Jones – CMT Farm
Paul Helstrom – The Duluth Experience

June 22nd: “Women of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene” – A Candid Discussion on the State of Women in Brewing
Moderated by: Elissa Hansen – Barley’s Angels Duluth/Superior Chapter

Allyson Rolph – Thirsty Pagan Brewing
Jamie MacFarlane – Castle Danger Brewing
Liz Gleason – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery
Laura Mullen – Bent Paddle Brewing Co.
Melissa Rainville – Fitger’s Brewhouse

All the events will be held at Teatro Zuccone in the Zeitgeist Arts Building at 222 East Superior Street in Duluth, Minnesota. Tickets for each event are only $5 and all proceeds from the event will be donated to a local charity. For more information about the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable call (218) 464-6337 or visit The Duluth Experience website at:

If you weren't able to make it the first time around, here is your chance to attend one of these great and fun events! I hope to see you all there.


- Nick

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sierra Nevada Harvest Single Hop IPA Review

Name: Sierra Nevada Harvest Single Hop IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.5%

Sierra Nevada Brewing has been releasing quite a few beers lately which focus on specific types of hops; Usually in the form of a 22oz. bomber bottle. Their latest creation utilizes a brand new experimental hop called ” Yakima” and is the sole hop style used in this single hop IPA. On the label, it calls itself a "100-Day IPA" and advises the drinker not to store it but drink it now, which leads me to believe that this is a fresh-hop IPA; 'Tis the season I suppose!

Harvest Single Hop pours a clear golden color with a thin foamy head. The visible carbonation is pretty mild and the lacing is abundant and sticky.

The aroma starts off with some strong cracked peppers & an earthy pale maltiness. On the back end are some fairly fruity notes which consist of blueberries, orange peel and citrus. The interesting to say the least.

The flavor is very pepper forward with notes of bitter notes, blueberry fruitiness, orange peel and pale/earthy malts. The aftertaste is also quite bitter but not overwhelmingly so. The palate is more on the heavier side and the carbonation is more or less at a moderate level.

It's always fun and interesting to see what kind of hops can be developed and how they can be profiled to the general public. With that said, though, Yakima would not be my first choice for a single hop IPA. It's got an interesting flavor profile that would go great if paired with Cascade and/or Centennial Hops but I feel that it really needs other hops to help balance out the overall taste.

Still, it tastes decent and it's well-priced. I say try a bottle out (I only paid $4 for this) and decide for yourself.

Sierra Nevada Harvest Single Hop IPA - 7/10

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rush River Minion IPA Review

Name: Rush River Minion IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6%

Thanks to our neighbors over in Superior, Wisconsin, I have gotten the opportunity to review and try out many beers that I otherwise would not have been able to try out via growler. Tonight I have a growler full of a Rush River Minion IPA. They have a couple other IPAs in their lineup, but Minion is only available on draft and not in a bottle.

Minion pours a clear dark golden color with a thin foamy head and moderate carbonation. There is no lacing left behind so it has a clean finish.

The aroma of starts out with a citrus hop and grapefruit scent. To go along that is a mild caramel maltiness and some slight yeasty notes.

The flavor is mainly citrus hops but there are also mild piney hops in here too. The caramel malts are a bit more prevalent here but the yeasts are just as mild as it was in the nose. It finishes off with a bitter resiny aftertaste. The palate as a whole feels pretty heavy body with some mild to moderate carbonation.

It's a pretty solid IPA, but it doesn't do anything different that we haven't already seen and plays it safe for the most part. Still, if you're out at a bar or get it in a growler like your's truly, I think you'll enjoy it!

Rush River Minion IPA - 8/10

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ballast Point Big Eye Review

Name: Ballast Point Big Eye
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.8%

While Ballast Point Brewing is most well known around here as the brewery behind Sculpin, they actually have other IPAs in their lineup that I feel others seem to miss. Tonight I have their Big Eye IPA, which upon adding to part of my mix-a-six, I noticed that were still a few bottles behind it. One could only why this is the case.

Big Eye IPA pours a mildly hazy orange color with a foamy head that leaves behind some soapy lacing. The amount of visible carbonation is also fairly high.

The aroma starts out with a mild citrus hop & grapefruit smell. Backing that up are notes of toffee, caramel malts and yeasts. 

Upon drinking this, I noticed that there is a very strong strong piney hop flavor which I did not pick up on earlier; Almost like a cloak-and-dagger. Once you get passed that, you find yourself with notes of caramel malts, grapefruits, yeasts and an extremely bitter resiny aftertaste. I don't mind some bitterness in my IPAs, but I feel this is pushing it. 

The overall palate is pretty light but it packs quite a punch when it comes to the carbonation. I don't really feel it helps the overall flavor either.

Big Eye is an okay IPA but the bitterness, particularly in the aftertaste, is way too much for my liking. If the overall bitterness were taken down a few notches, I would be more likely to recommend this.

Ballast Point Big Eye - 7/10

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Big Wood Bad Axe Review

Name: Big Wood Bad Axe
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10%

If I had to give a brewery an award for the most "Snicker-Inducing" name, I would award it to Big Wood Brewery. If you really have to think about why that is, then you're probably not old enough to read this blog.

Then again, it should come as no surprise that one of their beers is named "Morning Wood" but that's a totally different review. Tonight I have their Bad Axe Imperial IPA, which is a stronger interpretation of their Jack Savage IPA. Also taking a cue from another Minnesota brewery, Surly Brewing, their beer comes in four packs of 16oz cans.

Bad Axe pours a hazy orange color with a foamy-looking 2 finger head and solid lacing retention.

The aroma has a nice citrusy and caramel scent to it. To back that up are notes of grapefruits, toffee and malts.

Citrus and floral hops sit at the forefront of the flavor with grapefruit & caramel malt undertones and a resiny aftertaste. For an Imperial IPA sitting at 10% ABV, the flavor is more subtle than expected but thankfully has no booziness.

The palate has a light body and some mild carbonation. Overall it's pretty smooth.

Bad Axe has a very subtle flavor for an Imperial IPA, which can sneak up on you if you're not careful. Still it's not a bad beer and I'd still say it's worth checking out.

Big Wood Bad Axe - 8.25/10

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Avery Salvation Review

Name: Avery Salvation
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 9%

I remember it like it was yesterday, having Hog Heaven, my first ever barleywine courtesy of Avery Brewing Company. Hog Heaven introduced to the barleywine style of beer to me and has since become one of my favorite styles of beer. So it hit me like a fist to the gut when I found out that they would be pulling out of Minnesota last winter to focus on growing their brewery. Like a broken heart whose lover left in the middle of the night without uttering a single word.

Then a couple of weeks ago while listening to the radio on the way home, the owner of Keyport Liquor over in Superior, WI, announced that Avery had made it's return to Wisconsin and they had it in stock at the store. After 2 long years, my patience had been rewarded and I now had access to it once more. When I went to pick some up, they didn't have Hog Heaven much to my disappointment but I decided on a bottle of Salvation to try out. Plus I think the Eastern Orthodox-style artwork on the label is awesome.

Salvation pours a clear golden color with a fizzy head, with some moderate carbonation and no lacing left behind.

The nose has some strong Belgian yeast, cloves, and pale malts upfront. The floral hops and mild citrus smells provide a nice balance to what is an otherwise spicy-like aroma.

Likewise the taste is very Belgian yeast forward which provides a foundation for the other flavors, which consist of cloves, spices, pale malt notes before being topped off with a moderately strong citrus hoppiness . Interestingly enough it's got a very piney/resiny aftertaste which I had not detected earlier on.  The palate is fairly moderate in weight and it gives off some pretty mild carbonation, making this pretty easy to drink.

It's nice to see that the quality which I know and love from Avery is still consistent, even after a couple years of absence. Anyone looking for a good & vibrant tasting Belgian-style ale will be pleased with what Salvation has to offer.

Avery Salvation - 9/10

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Alaskan ESB Review

Name: Alaskan ESB
Style: English Special Bitter
ABV: 5%

Today I've got a seasonal release from Alaskan Brewing but I'm not quite sure if it's a winter or spring seasonal release as I picked this up a couple of weeks ago. It's an ESB-style ale and I only started seeing this on the shelves fairly recently. Judging on the reviews I've seen on Beer Advocate, it's released once every 2-3 years for a limited time; Talk about cutting it close!

Alaskan ESB pours a fairly clear amber color with some moderate looking carbonation and a thin filmy head that leaves behind no lacing.

The aroma starts out with some nice floral hops, toffee, Munich & Pale Malts, biscuits and yeasts. For an ESB it's rather hoppy smelling.

The flavor profile is fairly similar to the nose with a couple of differences. Upfront are floral hops, biscuits, Munich Malts, light toffee sweetness and a mild encompassing bitter hop flavor. The aftertaste consists mainly of floral hops and some light pale maltiness. It tastes fairly similar in some ways to an English Pale Ale!

The overall palate is fairly light and the carbonation comes off as just a couple of notches above mild, giving it a fairly crisp quality.

I don't like throwing the term "Sessionable" around too often, but I would classify this beer as such. It's fairly low in terms of alcohol volume yet it's flavorful enough for one to enjoy. It also possesses something that many Sessionable Ales lack: an aftertaste, and a good one at that. I don't know how long Alaskan Brewing will keep this around so pick this up while you still can!

Alaskan ESB - 8.5/10

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Glarus Dubbel Review

Name: New Glarus Dubbel
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 7.6%

New Glarus Brewing has released yet another beer in their Thumbprint Series: a Dubbel Ale, complete with a brand spanking new label redesign. It's a style which we have never seen before in their Thumbprint Series lineup, however they DID release a Belgian Strong Ale last year to celebrate their 20th year in business. In my review of that beer, I mentioned that it tasted alot like a Dubbel even though it was classified by the brewer as a Strong Ale.

New Glarus Dubbel pours a hazy crimson red color with a thin khaki-colored head. The carbonation is moderate in appearance and there is no lacing left behind, giving it a clean finish.

The aroma of has some notes of brown sugar, dark fruit, caramel malts and belgian yeast. The Belgian yeast does give it a light clove scent and the overall aroma does have some of the influences found in the 20th Anniversary Ale.

Flavor-wise, it's quite Belgian yeast and caramel malt forward, providing some flavors of cloves, spices, brown sugar and licorice. The dark fruitiness is very mild here, primarily in the aftertaste which also contains some caramel malt notes. The palate is quite light and moderately carbonated which allows for some of the flavors to shine a bit more.

There is definitely some influences from the brewery's 20th Anniversary Ale here, but they're different enough to be distinguished from one another. With that said, this is an excellent addition to the Thumbprint Series. Also for a Dubbel style ale, this is very reasonably priced so pick this up if you get the chance!

New Glarus Dubbel - 9/10

Friday, March 14, 2014

Surly Blakkr Review

Name: Surly Blakkr
Style: Black IPA/Imperial Black Ale
ABV: 9.99%

For this review, I bring to you a collaboration beer courtesy of Surly Brewing, 3 Floyds, and Real Ale Brewing: Surly Blakkr. Surly & 3 Floyds have done a collaboration beer before with Urine Trouble but I think this may be the first time they have worked with with Real Ale.

All 3 brewmasters with the aforementioned breweries are big metal music fans, which is the inspiration behind this beer. Even the name and beer label artwork look like they belong on a Norwegian black metal album cover. Even the name, Blakkr, comes from the Old Norse word which means "black."

Blakkr pours a black color that turns into a barely noticeable crimson red when held to a light along with a khaki-colored head. The lacing in this beer is also pretty good

The aroma is quite unique to say the least. I'm picking up on notes of mangoes, citrus hops, dark fruits, and mild chocolate malts. For a black ale or IPA, depending on who you ask, this is rather fruity smelling with only a minor but noticeable chocolate/roasty characteristic.

The flavor starts out with some strong citrus hop, piney hop notes, and mango notes; Followed by some roasted barley, chocolate malts and a citrusy aftertaste with just a hint of a resiny bitterness.

The palate possess a fairly heavy body but with some very light carbonation. It's got a pretty smooth texture and it's very easy to drink. Perhaps a little too easy for it's own good when you consider the strength of this beer.

It goes without saying that this is very tasty, well-balanced and a must have for any craft beer fan or anybody looking for something a little different. Since this is the closest thing we'll get to 3 Floyds here in Minnesota for the time being, I don't expect to see this sitting on shelves for too long so pick this up while you still can!

Surly Blakkr - 9/10

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rogue Farms Dirtoir Black Lager Review

Name: Rogue Farms Dirtoir Black Lager
Style: Schwarzbier
ABV: 5%

After passing this by on the shelves for the past year or so, I decided last week to try out a beer from the Rogue Farms lineup from Rogue Brewing. What makes this lineup unique is that every ingredient used in this beer is grown by the brewery themselves on the farm which they own. Tonight I have Dirtoir Black Lager, which is a Schwarzbier style beer. For those of you who enjoy random tidbits of trivia, the word Schwarz in German means "Black." I've always regarded the Schwarzbier-style as a cousin of the Rauchbier-style, mainly because of it's smokey characteristics.

Dirtoir pours a black color with a very foamy dark brown head. Interestingly enough, I'm not picking up any signs of lacing.

The nose starts out with a distinct smoked malt scent, followed by chocolate, roasted barley, yeasts and mild floral hops.

Flavor-wise, it's pretty identical to nose. You have smoked malts, roasted barley, chocolate, yeasts and that mild hoppiness at the very end. The only big difference here is that it's way more roasty than the aroma leaves you to believe.

The carbonation is quite mild and the overall body is pretty light. With that said, it's very easy to drink.

After having I think I'll be looking at this lineup a little closer because I found this to be pretty good. While it doesn't do anything extraordinary, it's a solid beer with a very reasonable price tag and worth checking out since I feel it's an under-recognized beer style.

Rogue Farms Dirtoir Black Lager - 8/10

Monday, March 10, 2014

AleSmith Wee Heavy Review

Name: AleSmith Wee Heavy
Style: Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
ABV: 10%

So my insomnia has started to kick in again after a 3 year absence. Since Nyquil, warm milk, and ambient music aren't doing the trick, I figured that I would spend my extra awake time finishing off a couple reviews that I've been meaning to finish. Because productivity!

As some of my loyal readers may remember, I did a review of Speedway Stout, which was great, but it didn't quite live up the hype that I had seen on the internet forums. Nonetheless, it was a solid beer and I have decided to take a look at AleSmith's Wee Heavy. Like Speedway Stout before it, their Wee Heavy is very highly regarded and considered to be one of the best representation of the style out there. That's a pretty bold statement so let's check it out!

The beer pours an initially pitch black color that turns to a bright-dark crimson color when held up to a light. The head is about a finger thick and khaki colored and it leaves behind some good lacing.

The aroma is quite vibrant as I'm getting notes caramel, vanilla, scotch, oak, smoked malts and rum raisin. Each smell mentioned above is distinguishable in it's own way and it's a pleasure to the senses.

Much like the nose, the flavors starts out with a strong caramel, scotch, and vanilla sweetness. On the back end are some rum raisin, dark fruit, and smoked malt notes. There is also a sweet vanilla/scotch and dry hopped aftertaste.

The body is on the heavier side but the very mild carbonation makes for a very smooth and creamy texture. It adds a lot to the overall drinkability and allows one to savor the overall flavor.

After having this, I can safely say that AleSmith Wee Heavy is probably one of the best Scotch Ale styles that I have ever had and well worthy of the reputation it has received. The flavor is vibrant & delicious, it smells absolutely wonderful, and it's incredibly easy to drink! In fact, I would even go as far to say that I cannot find a single thing wrong with this beer and I'm okay with that! You owe to yourself to try this, you will not regret it!

AleSmith Wee Heavy - 10/10

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Third Street Sugar Shack Maple Stout Review

Name: Third Street Sugar Shack Maple Stout
Style: Stout
ABV: 6.5%

It's time to make our way back to snowy Minnesota and look at a winter seasonal from Third Street Brewhouse, which I have mentioned in a previous post, was formed by the owners of Cold Spring Brewery to better position themselves in the craft beer market.

The beer in question is Sugar Shack, a stout brewed with maple syrup, which comes from Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum, located at the St. John's University campus in Collegeville, MN. The brewery, located in Cold Spring, is about 10 miles from the St. John's campus.

Sugar Shack pours a dark brown color with a filmy brown head. I'm picking up some slight carbonation along the sides of the glass and there isn't any lacing to be seen here.

The nose starts out with a pungent maple syrup and chocolate malt smell. I'm picking up some light hoppiness as well, but it's a rather malt-forward and I'm not getting any roastiness interestingly enough.

Contrary to the nose, Flavor-wise it's quite roasty with notes of roasted barley, maple syrup, chocolate, and roasted malts. The aftertaste has a sweet maple flavor to it along with some bitter hoppiness.

The body and overall palate is light & creamy. To add to the drinkability, it's lightly carbonated so you shouldn't have any trouble drinking this.

All and all, Sugar Shack is a pretty good stout overall. The maple syrup could've a stronger role in the flavor and some people will be turned off by the idea of maple syrup-flavored beer but it works out fine just the way it is.

Thirs Street Sugar Shack Maple Stout - 8/10

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bell's Third Coast Old Ale Review

Name: Bell's Third Coast Old Ale
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 10.2%

Well after months of record breaking cold temperatures, Siberian-calibur blizzards, and a diminished sense of optimism, winter is finally starting to release it's icy grip on the region. We are now experiencing temperatures in the 30's & 40's for what might as well be the first time since the Clinton Administration.

Which brings me to the next and probably last winter seasonal from Bell's Brewery. I give to you their Third Coast Old Ale. I've been sitting on this beer for about 3 months now so I figured it was time to go ahead and give this a proper review. On a side note, I do find the name a bit perplexing mainly because it contains "Old Ale" in it's name yet is a Barleywine-Style Ale.

Third Coast Old Ale pours dark brown color that turns to a dark crimson when held up to a light. The head is khaki-colred in appearance and fairly thin. It doesn't leave behind any lacing so it finishes rather clean.

Sweet caramelized malts and mild citrus notes are prevalent upfront in the nose. This is accompanied by some booziness, dark fruit and licorice notes.

The flavor is a mixture of caramel malts, toffee, mild citra-hops, licorice and a pine-resiny aftertaste. The flavor has a noticeable booziness to it as well. The palate is fairly heavy in terms of weight and thickness, but it's mildly carbonated

For the most, it's a good English-style Barleywine but the boozy aspect of the flavor does hurt it's appeal a bit. Perhaps this could be remedied with a bit more cellaring and be more suitable later on.

Bell's Third Coast Old Ale - 8/10

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lagunitas Imperial Stout Review

Name: Lagunitas Imperial Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.9%

When I first moved up to Duluth, I knew that my accessibility to certain brands of beers (i.e. Stone, Great Divide, Flat Earth, Boulevard etc. to name a few) would be somewhat hindered due to my geographical location. However the trade-off has come in form of Superior, Wisconsin; whose stores contain most of the brands from the Twin Cities that are absent on the Duluth side as well as some awesome brands that are available only in the western US and some Wisconsin-exclusive beers.

Lagunitas Brewing isn't available in Duluth like it is in Minneapolis, but it IS available over in Superior, Wisconsin. Which brings us to tonight's review of Lagunitas Imperial Stout. Like it's Twin Cities counterpart, it was very reasonably priced. In fact, it was cheaper then what I would normally pay for in Minneapolis and it's been bottled recently.

Lagunitas Imperial Stout pours a pitch black color with a thin khaki colored head. There is a minor crimson tinge at the bottom of the glass and the lacing is sparse, but there.

The aroma starts off with some heavy chocolate malts, cherries, dark fruit notes, caramel and a some coffee notes.

The flavor of has more of a roasty focus with coffee notes, chocolate malts, mocha, caramel, some mild hops. That goes without saying that the aftertaste is quite roasty, almost venturing into porter territory. The palate has a pretty heavy body to it and some moderate carbonation. Doesn't quite fit what I'd

It's a bit roasty by Imperial Stout standards but it's still a pretty good beer. Bombers from Lagunitas tend to be very reasonably priced (at least where I live) and this one is no exception. It's not going to knock your socks off, but you'll be getting your money's worth either way.

Lagunitas Imperial Stout - 8/10

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Duluth Experience Presents: The North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable

In recent years, Duluth has become somewhat of a powerhouse in the craft beer scene that has attracted tourists and business owners alike. The growth seen here has been astronomical and it's quickly becoming one of the top craft beer destinations in the Midwest.

That is why it's my pleasure to announce that on March 23rd, The Duluth Experience will begin its 4-part series of live panel discussions covering the business and art of craft brewing and the rise of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene. The events will provide a behind-the-scenes perspective of the regional craft beer industry and the great people involved in pushing the North Shore Craft Beer Scene to the forefront of the expanding craft beer industry.

The March event will bring together five brewery owners – Eddie Gleason of Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery, Tim Nelson of Fitger’s Brewhouse, Steve Knauss of Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Badger Colish of Canal Park Brewing Company, and Bryon Tonnis of Bent Paddle Brewing Company.

Moderated by The Duluth Experience’s Paul Helstrom, the discussion will cover the key elements of creating a successful brand and the challenges of the operating brewpubs and production breweries under the Minnesota’s current legal framework. Finally, the conversation will focus on the uniqueness of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene and its past, present, and future.

Subsequent installments of the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable will focus on the brewers that have crafted the distinct flavor of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene (April 13th) and the emergence of beer-related businesses (May 18th). The final event on June 22nd will bring together a panel of women that are pushing the region’s craft beer industry in deliciously creative directions.

All 4 events will be held from 1-2pm at Duluth’s Teatro Zuccone in the Zeitgeist Arts Building at 222 East Superior Street. Tickets for each event are only $5 and all proceeds from the event will be donated to a local charity. For more information about the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable call (218) 464-6337 or visit The Duluth Experience website at:

The events are as follows:

March 23rd: “The Drink of Opportunity” – A Discussion with Brewery & Brewpub Owners
Moderated by: Paul Helstrom – The Duluth Experience

Eddie Gleason – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery
Tim Nelson – Fitger’s Brewhouse
Steve Knauss – Thirsty Pagan Brewing
Rockie Kavajecz – Canal Park Brewing Co.
Bryon Tonnis – Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

April 13th: “Crafting the North Shore Beer Scene” – The Brewers Roundtable
Moderated by: Tim Wilson – The Duluth Experience

Dave Hoops – Fitger’s Brewhouse
Dale Kleinschmidt – Lake Superior Brewing Co.
Jason Baumgarth – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery
Jeremy King – Canal Park Brewing Co.
Brian Schanzenbach – Blacklist Brewing

May 18th: “Riding the Wave of Beer” – Craft Beer Related Business
Moderated by: James Sanders – The Duluth Experience

Marissa Sauer –
Paul Riordan – Brule River Hill Top Hops
Brad Nelson – Star Creative
Carolyn Jones – CMT Farm
Paul Helstrom – The Duluth Experience

June 22nd: “Women of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene” – A Candid Discussion on the State of Women in Brewing
Moderated by: Elissa Hansen – Barley’s Angels Duluth/Superior Chapter

Allyson Rolph – Thirsty Pagan Brewing
Jamie MacFarlane – Castle Danger Brewing
Liz Gleason – Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery
Laura Mullen – Bent Paddle Brewing Co.
Melissa Rainville – Fitger’s Brewhouse

It will be an enlightening panel discussion that will no doubt draw craft beer fans, aspiring & existing business owners alike. Whether you live here, or are in town on vacation, I would highly recommend checking this out.

I hope to see you all there!

- Nick

Monday, March 3, 2014

Badger Hill High Road Everyday Ale Review

Name: Badger Hill High Road Everyday Ale
Style: International Style Pale Ale
ABV: 5%

**Update: I was informed that this is, in fact, an International Style Pale Ale and uses a variety of hops, malts, found in different beer styles. I have made the changes needed to reflect this information**

It's time to look at another beer from Badger Hill Brewing. This time we have their High Road Everyday Ale, which is classified as an International Style Pale Ale. It is described as a sessionable ale, which utilizes ESB yeasts, Pilsner Malts and a Pale Hop Profile Variety.

High Road pours a very hazy wet straw yellow color with a soapy head. The visible carbonation is quite high and leaves behind no trace of lacing.

The aroma comes off initially as surprisingly fruity. I'm picking up notes of orange peel, mangoes, and citrus hops. The back end leans toward notes toffee and pale malts.

Interestingly enough, the flavor is rather grassy and pils-like up front with notes of barley, pale malts, and light citrus hops. The aftertaste is dry yet fruity at the same time. The overall palate is very lightweight but heavily carbonated. With that said, it's quite crisp.

In my previous draft of this review, I said that I thought that High Road suffered a bit from an identity crisis, and was a bit perplexed by the overall flavor while assuming it was a blonde ale. Knowing that it is, in fact, not a blonde ale, I can give this beer a more deserving score. While I'm still not exactly a huge fan of the "Fruity-Pils" flavor, it's still a decent beer. I'd still say try it out and decide for yourself.

Thanks to Brent from Badger Hill for clearing this up!

Badger Hill High Road Everyday Ale - 7.5/10

Saturday, March 1, 2014

New Glarus Spiced Ale Review

Name: New Glarus Spiced Ale
Style: Herb/Spiced Beer

My regular readers know that I am a pretty big fan of New Glarus Brewing and also know of my desire to see them expand their operations to other states. For the time being, I'll just have to settle for driving over the bridge to Superior to acquire their offerings.

Today I have a new addition to their Thumbprint Series and it's a style which I have never seen before from New Glarus and that is their Spiced Ale. A style which I could readily use thanks to Duluth having the second coldest winter on record since they began recording temperatures. On that note, Canada can stop taking dumps of cold air on us anytime now.

New Glarus Spiced Ale pours a mildly hazy orange color with moderate visible carbonation. The head is rather soapy and the lacing is fairly abundant.

Contrary to what I was expecting, the nose has some nice notes of cinnamon, pumpkin pie, ginger, cloves, toffee malts and yeasts. It almost smells like my favorite fall seasonal beer: Tyranena's Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale. If I didn't know better, I would say that this screams "Fall Seasonal!"

The flavor pretty similar to the aroma but with less of a focus on the malts & yeasts and a greater emphasis on the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. I will say this, it does warm you up fairly quickly, almost like a shot of whiskey while ice fishing on the lake.

The palate is quite heavy in terms of weight and it has some moderate carbonation. With that said, the overall spiciness combined with the carbonation does give the overall mouthfeel a strong stingy quality and makes it harder to savor and enjoy the flavors. I think this is a beer that is meant to be enjoyed in sips.

Not everyone is going to go crazy over this simply because spiced ales are somewhat of a niche beer. With that said, I found this to be quite enjoyable and despite some issues with the palate, I would say that this is worth checking out if you're in the mood for something a little different.

New Glarus Spiced Ale - 8/10