Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2014 Review - Part 3

Well, it's finally time to end the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Series for 2014. I have to say this was a very fun 12 pack filled with different types of beers from all across the country. However like they always say: all good things must come to an end.

Yvan The Great Belgian-Style Blonde (6.3% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Russian River Brewing Company. The flavor starts out with a solid Belgian yeast flavor before ending with a pale malt sweetness and some floral hoppiness. I've had some Belgian-style blonde ales before and this is one of the better ones I've had.

Verdict 8.5/10

Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout (7.6% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Ninkasi Brewing Company. This beer has a very strong coffee and milk chocolate start with a solid roasted barley profile and a strong lactose and bitter hop finish. Coffee beers have always been a hit-or-miss for me but I found this one to be pretty good and lactose finish really helps smooth things out.

Verdict - 8/10

*Sorry no picture here!*

Myron's Walk Belgian Style Pale Ale (5.3% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Allagash Brewing Company. The flavor has a very sweet citrus and floral hop start with some coriander notes that come from the coriander used in the brewing process. The finish is more Belgian yeast forward than anything else but is accented with a very nice floral hoppiness thrown in for good measure. It's a solid Belgian Pale Ale and the coriander used here really livens things up.

Verdict - 8.5/10

CANFusion Rye Bock (7.2% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Oskar Blues Brewery. A bock beer brewed with rye; I'll admit I was a bit skeptical but I found out it works very well! It starts out very malty with some caramel malt sweetness but then you're treated to a very robust citrus hop and rye spiciness. The best part is that the rye profile isn't too overwhelming and is balanced out quite nicely. If Oskar Blues or Sierra Nevada were to make this on a regular basis, I would definitely make this a regular purchase.

Verdict - 9.25/10

I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts about these beers as I have enjoyed drinking. I'm hoping Sierra Nevada does something like this next year because some of these were definitely interesting collaborations. 

Thank you all for reading, I will be posting again here hopefully by next week sometime, if not, the following week. Now I'm off to get married!


- Nick

Monday, July 28, 2014

Smuttynose Wheat Wine Review

Name: Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale
Style: Wheatwine
ABV: 10.8%

A couple of weeks ago, I had my first ever Wheatwine courtesy of Fitger's Brewhouse and found myself drawn to its prowess. Sadly, wheatwines are one of the more uncommon styles of beer and I've only seen this style available in bottles a handful of times. Now imagine my surprise when I found out that I was able to procure a commercially available Wheatwine courtesy of Smuttynose Brewing Company.

Based out of Hampton, New Hampshire, Smuttynose was also a fairly regular visitor in my fridge during my time in Chicago and I'm thankful enough to keep up that tradition where I'm at right now. Part of their Big Beer Series, Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale was a Gold Medal Winner at the Great American Beer Festival back in 2005. What also makes this beer unique is that this is aged on oak chips. Enticing enough for me, let's try this out!

The beer pours a very dark red color that takes on an almost crimson appearance. Interestingly enough, there is quite a bit of bubbly carbonation going on which I'm actually kind of surprised by. Not really much in terms of a head, which has a very thin appearance that has some pretty good retention.

The nose is initially quite malty with some strong wheat notes, caramel and toffee sweetness, a bit of citrus hoppiness and a very distinct oak scent to it, no doubt thanks to the oak chips used in aging the beer. As it warms up, I'm picking up on a bit of tropical fruitiness in the overall scent.

Much like the aroma, the flavor is very malt forward with some caramel sweetness, some malted wheat and a very distinct tropical fruitness which I would probably pinpoint as being from the citrus hops; We're talking mangos, tangerines, oranges and even a slight hint of pineapple.

Not surprisingly, the body is very thick and heavy in weight. The carbonation intensity is actually quite low with only a slight bite to it but it's subtle enough to where you can enjoy the flavors this beer has to offer.

I have to say that I found Smuttynose Wheat Wine to be an extremely robust & flavorful beer. I'm glad I got to try this out because it's not too often you see this style of beer. Anyone looking for a more uncommon style of beer should definitely check this out.

Smuttynose Wheat Wine - 9.5/10

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Weekly Duluth Beer Roundup for 7/27/2014

This will be my last roundup post for the next couple of weeks as I will be at my wedding next weekend. Before I head off to tie the knot, I figured I would sample some beers from around the Twin Ports area. This week was a special one because the new Fitger's Tide House called Endion Station opened in Canal Park this weekend.

Of course, the big event that was held in Duluth this weekend was the All Pints North festival, which is a beer festival held at in Duluth every year at the end of July. Now I was not able to go due to other obligations but I did meet up with a few friends from down in the Twin Cities whom were up for the festival itself at Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior before making the rounds around Duluth.

Thirsty Pagan Cracked Pepper Pils (5.5% ABV) - A very interesting specimen of a Pilsner. It's got a nice lemon zest, grassiness and Pilsner malts but it also has an encompassing pepperness (as implied by the name.) A nice and crisp beer to say the least.

Thirsty Pagan Voyageurs Black Ale (5.5% ABV) - This starts out with a typical roasted barley and a smoke chocolate maltiness but it has a very prominent sweet spruce finish. That's because this beer is brewed with spruce tips, a theme that I hope catches on up here. It's not often I see Black Ales do anything different so this is a nice change of pace.

After we finished at the Pagan and visited Funkytown, we stopped by the Fitger's Brewhouse for a beer before making our way to the Rathskeller at Tycoon's Alehouse, which serves as a tide-house for Fitger's. Usually they'll have something different (and tasty) on tap and that night they had two very high profile IPAs from the Brewhouse that I decided to try out.

Fitger's Hoppelujah IPA (6.5% ABV) - This IPA is pretty much a mixed bag of an assortment of hops, but definitely not in a bad way. You've got citrus hops with notes of oranges, grapefruit and mango and some bitter hops that linger throughout the taste and it ends with a dry bitter hop finish with some caramel malts. With it's robust flavor, it's easy to see why Dave Hoops, the brewmaster of Fitger's, brought this with to a beer festival in Oregon.

Fitger's The Mayor (8% ABV) - A beer brewed in honor of Duluth's mayor Don Ness, who declared Duluth to be Minnesota's Craft Beer Capital and has been extremely supportive of the craft beer scene here in Duluth. It starts off with a very robust citrus hop and grapefruit notes with a solid caramel malt backbone. Interestingly enough, it finishes with a rather piney/resin hop bitterness that lingers on the palate for quite a while. I would definitely take this home with me in a growler if only I could find one but I'll settle for just walking to the brewpub to have this for the time being.

The following day, I decided to make my way down to Canal Park to visit the Endion Station Public House, the newest Fitger's Tide House that just opened this past Friday. The building itself is actually over 100 years old and was actually an old passenger train station that was used during the first half of the 20th Century. I really love what they've done with the place and I like that it's one of those bars that you can just walk in and sit down or opt to sit on the patio overlooking Lake Superior.

Now I'm going to break my rule of reviewing just beer because Endion Station has been touted as Duluth's first cider house in addition to serving craft beer. We're not talking mass produced ciders from the likes of BMC but craft ciders.  Since I had arrived just before the end of All Pints North (i.e. The calm before the storm), I decided to try out one of their offerings.

Julian Cherry Bomb (7% ABV) - This is the first cider I've had that isn't made solely with apples. Maybe it's just me not being used to ciders, but WOW, this tastes great! While the apple flavor is still there, it takes a backseat to the rich cherry flavor. If this were to be available in bottles in my area, I would most certainly buy this on a regular basis.

Fitger's Back End Wee Heavy (9% ABV) - A beer that I actually had back in February when it was featured as part of Fitger's Sochi Series to commemorate the Sochi Olympics; Frankly I was shocked to even see it there! It possess a very strong roasted barley flavor upfront with some lightly smoked malts and a nice peated scotch finish. I remember this being a little more maltier and having a strong peated scotch taste but I'm guessing that having it age has evened things out a bit more. Either way, it still tastes very good.

It's kind of weird knowing that the next time I do a write-up post that I will be a married man. I guess it's moments like these that you truly savor......or some meaningful saying like that. In any case, here's to my last days as living as a bachelor.


- Nick

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2014 Review - Part 2

Tonight, I'm continuing my journey through Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp for 2014. So far I'm fairly intrigued with some of the entries I've seen this far and it'll be interesting to see where we go from here.

Torpedo Pilsner Hoppy Pilsner (5.2% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Firestone Walker Brewing. The flavor is very bitter hop forward with some lemon zest, pilsner-pale & biscuit malts, and some yeastiness. The bitter resin hop taste lingers on the back of the palate. Pretty light bodied and easy to drink. Pilsners have never been known to me as being of the hoppy variety but this one works quite well and it's rather flavorful. I would definitely have this again if given the chance!

Verdict - 8.5/10

Yonder Bock Tropical Maibock (7.7% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Cigar City Brewing. The flavor has the typical caramel maltiness and honey sweetness that I'm used to. However what sets this apart is the strong tropical mango and agave fruitness at the front of the palate as well as some floral hoppiness. This is unlike any other Maibock I've had before and I love just how robust and vibrant the flavor is. It's too bad that this is a one time beer because I would definitely be keeping this in my fridge on a regular basis.

Verdict - 9.25/10

Chico King Pale Ale (6.5% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing. Pours a surpringly dark orange color. The flavor opens up with some caramel malt sweetness followed by some floral hops, mild grapefruits and resin hop bitterness. The aftertaste is pretty dry as well but it's very easy to drink. It's a slightly different take on Sierra Nevada's original American Pale Ale and it works out quite well. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say I prefer this over Sierra Nevada's normal Pale Ale.

Verdict - 8.5/10

Maillard's Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale (8.5% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Bell's Brewery. A pitch black colored beer with a very foamy khaki colored head. Very roasty flavor with roasted barley at the front of the palate with some chocolate malts, bitter hops and a roasty dark chocolate and slightly earthy aftertaste. Nothing too spectacular, it's just a good tasting Black Ale that anyone whom enjoys the style will certainly find something to like about this.

Verdict 8.25/10

I like the variety that I'm getting from this, more so than when I first started looking at this 12 pack. I still have 4 more beers left to go before concluding this series. If my schedule permits I should have the rest of the series done by Sunday. I hope you are enjoying reading my thoughts and comments on these beers. 


- Nick

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2014 Reviews - Part 1

Last week, I came into possession of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 12-pack, with each beer being a collaboration from different breweries all over the country. This 3-part series will cover each beer included in the said 12-pack with my score underneath each beer.

Now the reason why I'm not giving each beer it's own separate review is because each beer is a one-off collaboration, meaning that it won't be brewed again; With the exception of Hoptimum which was originally a "Beer Camp" beer. Since these are twelve beers that will never be brewed again, I figured it would be more efficient this way.

Electric Ray India Pale Lager (8.5 % ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with Ballast Point Brewing. The flavor is very citrus hop forward but with a solid pale malt sweetness as opposed to a caramel/toffee maltiness. The aftertaste is quite bitter with some grapefruit and citrus hop notes. IPLs tend to be around the 5-6% ABV range so this is definitely strong for it's category. However the alcohol content is masked quite well and the flavor, while not complex, is quite robust and tasty. I could see this being a regular visitor in my fridge if it weren't a one-time only offering.

Verdict - 8.5/10

Alt Route Altbier (6.6% ABV) - Brewed in Collaboration with Victory Brewing Company. Pours a solid ruby red color. This is a very malt forward beer in terms of flavor with caramel malts, roasted barley, a bit of dark fruitiness and a surprisingly bitter hoppy finish. Nothing terribly special in terms of flavor when it comes to the style, but it's quite good nonetheless.

Verdict - 8/10

Tater Ridge Scottish Ale (7.0% ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with the Asheville Brewers Alliance. This ruby red colored beer has a distinct bitter hoppiness on the front of the palate with a roasted barley & chocolate taste. There is also some light grassiness and another type of bitterness that isn't of the hoppy variety which I'm assuming is the potatoes used in the brewing process. My only exposure to potato based beers is from Indeed Brewing with their Sweet Mama Jamma, which I found to be very good. As for this beer, it's balanced in terms of flavor but I'm not really a fan of it at the same time. I'd rather just have a regular Scottish Ale instead.

Verdict - 6/10

There and Back English Style Bitter (5.6 % ABV) - Brewed in collaboration with New Glarus Brewing. Pouring a hazy orange color. The front of the taste has a maramalade-like sweetness to it, some pale malts and a bitter finish. Like the Altbier, it's a pretty standard English Bitter that tastes good and is drinkable. The only thing that makes this beer stand out is the higher-than-normal ABV level (most English Bitters fall into the <5% range.)

Verdict - 8/10

I hope you all enjoyed the first part of this series. Stay tuned for the next part which'll be posted tomorrow night. If you are still able to get "Beer Camp" in your area, I would highly recommend checking this out!


- Nick

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA Review

Name: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 18% According to BeerAdvocate, 15-20% per Dogfish Head

Tonight I have a special treat for you guys. Just a couple of weeks ago, Dogfish Head became available in our area much to the delight of craft beer drinkers here. One of the most highly anticipated beers to arrive on the store shelf was their 120 Minute IPA, which is considered to be one of the most highly sought after Imperial IPAs in the country, ranking up it there with the likes of Heady Topper and Pliny the Elder.

Back when I lived in Chicago, Dogfish Head was fairly easy to find; Even the little convenience store which was right around the corner from me, a place that you would never guess even had craft beer, had it in stock. However the "Yeti" of the Dogfish Head beers was always the 120 Minute IPA, with rumored sightings of it at the various liquor stores around Chicago but it was nowhere to be seen when I went to look for myself. Somehow my co-worker always seemed to find it and loved to boast about it whenever he found it.

That is why I consider myself very fortunate and lucky to have finally found a bottle of this after 2 years of waiting. In fact, this beer was even listed on my beer bucket list that I made last year. Now the ABV of this beer is subject to speculation because BeerAdvocate lists it at 18% while Dogfish Head throws out a guesstimate of 15-20%. Either way that makes this the highest ABV beer that I have tried to date.

120 Minute IPA pours a very hazy dark orange color. The head is very thin in appearance and I'm not picking up on too much in terms of lacing. It's also too cloudy to see if there is any carbonation at all in here.

The aroma extremely strong, like you have a knee-jerk reaction to reel your head back from the sheer power of the nose. I'm picking up on some freshly peeled oranges, and candied caramel malts which borderlines on smelling like actual candy. Interestingly enough, I'm also not picking up on any booziness and if there is any in here, it's very well hidden. No matter how you look at it, the nose is very overwhelming and strong.

Upon taking my first sips, the flavor actually is very malt forward at first but then the hops and booziness rush in and proceed to just punch you right in the face. It starts out with some strong candied caramel malts and brown sugar but the hop profile opens up in a big way to some piney hops, grapefruits and robust citrus hops along with the said booziness. As for the aftertaste, it's got an extremely bitter hop flavor that lingers around. It's also worth noting, however, that as it warms up, the boozy kick that's present in the front of the flavor actually goes away. I'm not sure if it's the warmth or my palate getting used to the power of it but it becomes a lot more bearable the further in you go.

The palate is very heavy and quite thick but thankfully the carbonation is very light, which is a good thing because the flavor profile is already strong enough as is.

Despite the sheer power of this beer, it has a lot more balance to it than Evil Twin's Molotov Cocktail (the strongest Imperial IPA I've had up until now). The big difference here is that while it does taste boozy, it's masked by the other flavors which are equally as strong, if not, stronger. I think it goes without saying that this beer is definitely not for everyone and may be too intense for some; After all, the first time sipping this I was coughing! So would I say it's worth checking out? If you are a hop head that is looking for an absolute monster of a beer that will leave a lasting impression, then this beer is for you!

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA - 9.25/10

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summit Southern Cape Sparkling Ale Review

Name: Summit Southern Cape Sparkling Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 4.4%

Since it's launch last year, Summit Brewing's Union Series has been utilizing new hop, malt, and yeast types to create new and interesting takes on what are otherwise traditional beer styles.

For their newest entry, Southern Cape Sparkling Ale, they have taken it upon themselves to use ingredients that all originate from the Southern Hemisphere, which seems to be the big trend in craft brewing as of late. Most "Southern Hemisphere" beers I have seen use Australian and New Zealand-based ingredients. What sets this apart is that it also uses ingredients from Chile and South Africa, which don't strike me as big craft beer players.....at least not yet.

Like the Meridian Session Ale, the first entry in the Union Series, this ventures back into "Sessionable" territory with an ABV of 4.4%, which makes it the lowest ABV content beer release to date from Summit.

Southern Cape pours a fairly clear yellow straw color with just a slight bit of haze to it. The amount of visible carbonation is pretty high and there isn't anything in terms of lacing.

The nose starts out with some lemon zest, pale maltiness, some moderate hoppiness, and what I can only describe as a pseudo grassy/adjunct/pilsner malt scent.

The flavor starts off with some pale and grassy pilsner malts and a very strong bitter hop aftertaste. There is also a lingering resin bitterness that hangs around long after you've taken a sip.

The palate, interestingly enough, is surprisingly heavy for what it is. As for the carbonation, despite it's bubbly appearance, is actually very mild and tame. It does have a nice crisp feel to it though and it's fairly easy to drink.

Southern Cape is an interesting specimen. It starts out with some almost Pilsner/Lager-like qualities but on the inside, it's actually very hoppy. It is quite flavorful but in-your-face bitter hoppy finish is a bit too much for my liking, it's like they took all the hoppiness and compressed it at the very end of the palate, instead of spreading it out evenly. Nonetheless, it's still a solid effort by Summit and I would say that it's worth a look at the very least.

Summit Southern Cape Sparkling Ale - 7.5/10

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weekly Duluth Beer Roundup for July 20, 2014

The countdown is officially on. In exactly 13 days, I will be a married man so I'm trying to enjoy my last days of bachelorhood by having some good beer........but that's not going to change either even after I am married. Since I have been busy working, writing and planning the wedding amongst other things, I have not been doing my Weekly Beer Roundups as much as I would like so imagine my surprise when I found out I had time this weekend.

Thursday Evening, I met up with my old man at Fitger's Brewhouse for some dinner and discussion about my upcoming wedding. Since it was a fairly hot day outside I opted for something a bit lighter when it came time to order....

Fitger's Yellow Jersey Ale (5% ABV) - Brewed every year (with a different style each year) to commemorate the Tour de France. This year it's a Cream Ale style of beer. The flavor is fairly reminiscent of New Glarus' Spotted Cow; You've got some pale malts, flaked corn, barley and even a bit of sweetness thrown in for good measure. The Brewhouse also is offering to pour this beer with 25% lemonade (thus making it into a pseudo-Radler) so I had it with that for my second pint and it certainly hits the spot. Whether or not you choose to get it with lemonade, it tastes refreshing either way.

Yesterday evening, I paid a visit to Canal Park Brewing for a pint after a long day. Despite the hockey tourney that was in town this weekend, I was able to find a parking spot right next to the brewery. Amidst all the breweries in town, I was in the mood for something a bit darker so I settled on the Nut Hatchet Brown, which had been out of rotation for a few months and it was the darkest thing they had.

Canal Park Nut Hatchet Brown (5.7% ABV) - A bit of roastiness and a good serving of chocolate malts on the front of the flavor, the maltiness stays throughout while the roasty flavor opens up to more of a nutty taste. The aftertaste is surprisingly dry for what it is with only a very slight roastiness and chocolate sweetness. Maybe it was the weather, but this also had a suspiciously crisp and refreshing taste to it. Overall, it's a very solid Brown Ale.

Earlier this afternoon, I decided to pay a visit to Burrito Union, which serves as a tied-house for Fitger's Brewhouse. Sometimes they will have a limited release beer that the Brewhouse doesn't have and that makes it worth visiting. Plus it's just a few blocks from my new humble abode.

Fitger's White Knight Wit Noir (6.2% ABV) - A dark witbier that hasn't been made by the brewhouse for a while now. It's got a nice malted wheat flavor with some chocolate and roastiness. There's also a bit of fruitiness to it as well as a touch of spice. In my search for a good darker beer, I think I found my outlet for the time being.

Hopefully these next 2 weeks go smoothly and I will try to go another Round up post if my schedule permits. Even though we are still very much in the midst of summer, I'm looking forward to the fall seasonals as those tend to have some real gems. Until next week....

- Nick

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale Review

Name: Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale
Style: Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
ABV: 7.7%

A couple weeks ago, I was at my local liquor store when I noticed that they started carrying Great Divide Brewing on their shelves. Previously I was only able to acquire this on my excursions down to the Twin Cities but now it seems that will no longer be the case.

I decided to take a piece of the Twin Cities home with me in the form of Great Divide's Claymore Scotch Ale. It's a beer that I haven't had for a couple of years and I thought now would be a good time to revisit this.

Claymore pours a very dark brown color that almost looks black in appearance. There is a slight red tinge on the bottom of the glass but it's a pretty dark beer nonetheless. The head starts out fairly foamy but it settles down into more of a flat thin appearance; Nothing in terms of lacing though.

The aroma is very smoky with some peated scotch and and caramel sweetness. There's also some noticeable roastiness in here too.

Like the nose, the taste is also quite smoky with a more prominent roasted barley profile. The caramel sweetness in the aroma is also present here along with the peated scotch flavor. Aftertaste is also quite roasty and a bit of hoppy bitterness.

The body is pretty heavy and some thickness to it as well, bordering on what some may consider to be "chewy." The carbonation is thankfully rather light and the texture has a nice creamy feel.

Claymore Scotch Ale may be a little more smokier and roasty than other Wee Heavy-style beers out there but it's pretty tasty for what it is. Though I prefer my Scotch Ales to be a bit maltier, I would still recommend this regardless.

Great Divide Claymore Scotch Ale - 8.5/10

Friday, July 18, 2014

Announcement regarding blog activity from July 31 - August 13, 2014

Dear fellow readers,

As some of you may or may not already know, in a couple of weeks, I will be getting married to the most wonderful women in the world. That's right, I'm getting hitched!

Since I will be busy with the wedding and our honeymoon, there will be no posts or blog activity starting July 31 for about a week or so afterwards. I will, however, still be using Twitter during that time but don't expect any reviews or articles. Once I return, I will resume normal blogging duties like before. I'm fortunate enough to have someone who supports my writing and what I do here.

Thank you all so much for your readership and support, I'm glad to share this with each and every one of you.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Duluth Experience Saturday Evening Brewery Tour Review

For this post, I'm not looking at any sort of beer (sort of.) Instead I'm doing a review of my Saturday Evening Brewery I did with The Duluth Experience a couple of weeks ago. You'd think that will all the contact I've had with these guys that I would've been on a tour of theirs. In reality, I had been meaning to go on a tour for some time but obligations kept getting in the way. Finally a couple of weeks ago, I found myself free for a Saturday night and signed up for a brewery tour.

Our tour group met at Fitger's Brewhouse where Tim, our tour guide and all-around awesome guy, discussed our itinerary for the evening:
  • Vikre Distillery - A distillery that recently opened in Duluth
  • Bent Paddle Brewing - Duluth's newest production brewery that has experienced exceptional growth since opening last year
  • Fitger's Brewhouse - Synonymous with the term "Duluth Beer", it is considered to be the benchmark of brewpubs in the State of Minnesota 
  • Lake Ave Cafe - Restaurant located in Canal Park for dinner

Our first stop for the evening was Vikre Distillery, which opened it's doors in Canal Park earlier this year. I did find it a bit funny that we started a brewery tour by touring a distillery, but what better place to see yet another emerging growth in the Minnesota distilling industry than here?

During the tour, we were shown the equipment used to make their gin & aquavit and I have to say, I was surprised as to how much work had to go into making it. We also got a whiff of the heads, heart and tails of distilling and man, that was strong! We were even told that drinking the "heads" could cause us to go blind if consumed. They also showed off the barrels they were using to age their single malt whiskey and I cannot wait to try it out when they bottle it 10 years from now.

Afterwards, we got to sample some of the gin and aquavit in the tasting room and by far, my favorite was the Cedar Gin; It was nice, smooth and the best way to describe the flavor is that it tasted like Christmas!

I know I run a blog about beer, but the tour of Vikre really gave me a great appreciation of Minnesota's growing distilling industry. I will definitely be paying more attention to our state's distilling industry in future, I think it's the next big thing honestly.

After leaving Vikre, we drove up to the Enger Park Skyline where we learned more about the history of Duluth and we were able to catch a gorgeous view of the Twin Ports. Nothing like a little education in-between drinks!

After taking in the sights, we made our way down to Bent Paddle Brewing (which you can actually see from the skyline) to take a tour of the brewery.  Before walking in, we each received a nice souvenir glass that we would using for the remainder of the tour. Now I've been to the Bent Paddle taproom many times before but I have never  been beyond the giant door on the north side of the taproom so I was very eager to see what the actual set up looked like.

While the Bent Paddle tour guide was giving us a tour and telling us a detailed story about Bent Paddle's history, I was absolutely floored with how big the set-up looked. From the kettles to the fermentation tanks; From the canning line to the wall of cans and stacks of Jack Daniels barrels, I felt really small compared to everything else. The best part was when I ran out of beer to drink, one of the Duluth Experience guys was quick and prompt to refill our glasses.

After we concluded our tour, we made our way to what I consider to be ground zero of the Duluth Craft Beer Scene: Fitger's Brewhouse. Now considering the fact that I live literally a few blocks from the Brewhouse and consider myself a frequent patron, I wasn't expecting too much; I was wrong. From the get-go, we learned about history of the August Fitger Brewing Company, it's closure in 1971, and it's revival in 1994.

Just by looking at the set-up, you could see all of the organic growth the Brewhouse had experienced over the past 20 years and it was really awesome to see where my favorite brewhouse beers were made. It really made me proud to have such a great brewery just a short walk from my place of residence. And of course, the tour guides were prompt with refills as well.

Finishing up at Fitger's, we made out way to the Lake Avenue Cafe for a wonderful dinner paired with Blacklist Brewing's Or De Belgique Verte where we talked amongst ourselves amidst the evening storm raging outside. After dinner, we went back to Fitger's to conclude our evening tour.

I knew Duluth was a great city for beer before, but this tour was an absolutely wonderful insight into just how passionate this city is about their beer. In fact, tours like these are one of the reasons why I am proud to call Duluth my home!

If you are a beer geek or have a passing interest in craft beer in general, then you absolutely owe it to yourself to go on a Duluth Experience tour. You will learn so much and gain a much greater appreciation of all the hard work that goes into a wonderful beer that you drink. As such, I would highly recommend The Duluth Experience Brewery Tour to anyone who either lives in Duluth or anyone who is just visiting. 
If you'd like to book a tour, simply visit www.theduluthexperience.com to set up a brewery tour. If brewery tours aren't your thing, they also offer history and kayaking tours just to name a few. The guys at The Duluth Experience are proud of what this great city has to offer and it really showed throughout the entire tour.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale Review

Name: Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.4%

It's time to look at another fairly recent addition to Goose Island Brewing's lineup. I give to you 312 Urban Pale Ale, an American Pale Ale that takes it's naming cue from 312 Urban Wheat. I do have to admit that the updated label art for both new and existing Goose Island beers is quite nice and easy on the eyes, and this beer is certainly no exception. Like some Goose Island beers I've looked at before, it once again likes to remind us it's a Windy City-based brewery.

312 Urban Pale Ale pours a clear orange color. I am picking up on a small amount of carbonation bubbles making their way from the bottom of the glass and the head is fairly thin but with decent retention. A bit of lacing here and there along the sides as well.

The aroma starts out with some floral hops, a bit of piney bitterness and toffee sweetness. There is also some encompassing dry hoppiness that lingers throughout the nose.

The taste starts out with some floral hops and dry hops which are a bit more present than they were in the nose. There's also some citrus hoppiness in there and a bit of toffee maltiness too. It does have a bit of a grassy earthiness and a bitter resiny finish.

The body is pretty moderate in terms of weight and the carbonation is pretty light; A slight bite to it but not enough to make it moderate. It does feel pretty crisp though.

312 Urban Pale Ale is a fairly run-of-the-mill APA that doesn't do anything different. At the same time, if you're debating amongst yourself what to get next time you're at the store, then I suppose this would be worth checking out

Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale - 8/10

Monday, July 14, 2014

Interview with Dave Okar: Director of Crafted to Last - Minnesota Beer Blossoms

For those of you who regularly follow my blog, from time to time, I like to sit down and meet with people who play a role in the craft beer industry. Last week, I got in touch with Dave Okar through a mutual acquaintance. Dave is the director of the upcoming film Crafted to Last - Minnesota Beer Blossoms. 

Crafted to Last chronicles the growth in the Minnesota Craft Brewing industry from January 2012 through August 2013 thanks the changes in legislation which took effect when production first began. The film is scheduled to premiere this Saturday, July 19th at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis, MN. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dave for an interview to discuss the film and all the work that was put into it. Dave was also featured on WCCO Radio in Minneapolis and more KUMD right here in Duluth to help promote his film.

Dave, thanks for joining me today. First tell me a bit about yourself, what is your background?

Well I have a Ph.D in Chemistry and I ran a medical research lab at the University of Minnesota at the VA Medical Center here in Minneapolis for about 15-20 years. Then the bottom fell out of that boat so we decided that we'd pick up on my hobby of video making that I did back when I made videos for Public Access and after doing some searching around, we decided that I would pick up on that for the second half of my career.

Before starting this documentary, what was your background as far as film-making goes? Like, what subjects did you cover prior?

I hadn't really made a film in the past. I was on Public Access TV down in Minneapolis and I covered a lot of absurdist, political satire at the time I guess you could call it and we did some vacation footage and things like that and we'd go on a trip that I would make up and pretend that I was a vacation host and do a video about where we were.

When you first decided to make a documentary about Minnesota Craft Beer, where did you get that spark that you think to yourself "This is something I really want to do a production on?"

Well it was Thanksgiving of 2011 and I had been hearing a lot about the upcoming Surly Bill coming into effect on January 2012 and my wife and I spent a lot of time talking because we were driving to Michigan to visit my family so we had a lot of time together in the car. I was talking about how someone should be out documenting what will be happening on the beer scene in Minnesota and she said "Well...why don't you go document it?"

So I got my camera together and went out and started doing it. Mostly just to document what was happening, to make sure someone captured this moment in craft beer and then I decided that "Yeah, this is something worthy of a film."

When you started doing production on this film, what was the biggest hurdle that you faced?

The biggest hurdle was in the beginning when getting people to go along, to let me come in and sit down and talk to them on camera. I guess everyone was very busy and they just really didn't have the time to do it so it took me a little while to convince people to get it. But once that started going, then it switched to have a hurdle of too breweries to talk to.

So what was the first brewery that was willing to say "Yeah, I'll sit down and talk with you?"

The first two to sign on were Joe Pond at Olvalde Farm and Brewery and Jason Sowards and Jesse Brodd from Harriet Brewing. Then there was (Dustin) Brau from Brau Brothers and Greg Smith from Leech Lake Brewing.

What was that like sitting down with these guys who would go on to be leaders on the forefront as far as Minnesota Craft Beer goes?

It was pretty exciting because I heard a lot of interesting information from them in the way that I structured it to get two people from a brewery to sit down and talk to each other. I was also able to capture some of the excitement and the passion between the two of them and in most cases, it was people whose business was working very well at the time so there was a lot of positive energy when I go out and talk to brewer's and that was a really nice thing for me.

During the year and a half you were filming it, what moment stood out to you the most as you were putting this documentary together?

The most interesting thing to me was how many different ways people went about building a brewery. I kind of thought there would be....alot of people went to the same brewing school or the Siebel Academy so I thought "OK, there will be 5-6 different ways to build a brewery and there'll be some version of that." But there is so many different business plans and so many different focuses and passions. For some people, it's about branding, some it's about beer, some it's about the community. So it was amazing to me how many different way there were to build a brewery.

With this legislative session over, how do you see legislation changing the craft beer scene in Minnesota in the next couple of years?

Well unfortunately, I don't see it changing very much based on what happened this last session but I really think that if the politicians and the legislators were serious about building economies and creating jobs, they would look to see what is happening in the craft brewing sector and see what's actually happening there; It is stimulating the economy and it is putting people to work. So they would need to reform the laws to help them: Let us buy beer on Sunday, equalize distribution laws between brewpubs and breweries. I think they could do a lot to help the industry continue to grow to create jobs.

Something I noticed about this documentary is that it has all original music and I noticed there was an IndieGoGo campaign for the music. Could you go into detail about that?

Well my thought with the campaign for music was to try to create a mechanism where the money that I generate from the beer community or people who are interested in a film about beer would get directed right back into another local community of musicians and that's based on those tight economic cycles that you get with local economies. It was the reasoning behind the campaign for music rather than just giving me money to make the film, I thought I could be explicit about that I am just a forum for another community. The campaign for music was designed as that force-multiplier, something to take the money that came in and direct it right back into our community in a way that we can continue to stimulate.

A little off-topic here, what's your favorite style of beer?

Style-wise, I'm at the dark end of the spectrum. I really like stouts and porters. I've learned over the past couple of months to really appreciate Black IPAs; The one from Indeed, their Haywire is still one of my favorite beers and I really like the Olvalde Ode to a Russian Shipwright. I just found some 2012 the other day on sale in the liquor store.

If there is one thing you want people to take away from this film, what would that be?

Just one thing....would be about how small breweries are local businesses. It's not only about a bunch of people who like to get together and drink beer, it's also about your local economies; It's stimulating what's happening in your state. That's part of the title: Crafted to Last. It's so integrated into the local economy now with hop farms and other things like that are being stimulated that it can't really go away, that's why it's crafted to last.

I've noticed that one of the places you interviewed up here was Carmody (Irish Pub & Brewery) and Fitger's (Brewhouse.) What do you think of the Duluth Craft Beer scene? What is your impression of what we have up here in our fair city?

I think that Duluth is really really doing a good job. I mean Duluth kind of had it own culture even before the beer scene came on, so it's natural that they kind of have their own take on craft beer too.

Of all the things you've seen in the Minnesota Craft Beer Scene, which direction do you see that going?

Well we have alot of room to grow when we look at the demographics and the numbers so there is still a lot of room for growth in the craft beer scene in how many people are consuming craft beer regularly. One niche that I think that Minnesota and the Midwest in general moving forward can do is to get into specialty in craft malting in a much bigger way. That's an advantage that we have in this part of the country and those cold, dry winters that really help us out when malting.

What is one trend you see growing in the craft beer industry? Not just in Minnesota, but in general?

I think experimenting with styles in a way that hasn't been done....I don't know...ever in beer. Taking a basic standard traditional recipe and tweaking it this way. The latest trend is Imperializing every style and making it bigger and bigger and then there is a hop trend: Let's put hops into styles that aren't typically hoppy and things like that. So really it's just experimentation and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight for what kind of new beers beer makers can create.

So let's talk about the premiere of the film....

It's at the Parkway Theater on Chicago Ave in South Minneapolis on July 19th. We have the film, you'll get one free beer; We've helped the venue to expand in their range of Minnesota beers available for that night. There will be a beer list coming out soon, we're still putting that together.  Then the film will have some free food at the event, some tapas snacks and then some really powerful music for the afterparty. A lot of people I know from my earlier artistic days are working the lights, so it's going to be a bash.

And the Duluth premiere is more straight forward? It's just tickets and beer?

It's pretty straighforward. Tickets and beer. You can get tickets online or at the theater.

A big thanks to Dave Okar for sitting down to talk with me. I am very excited to see how this film turned out and I'm really excited to see it. 

You can see the premiere in 2 locations:
July 19, 2014
Parkway Theater in Minneapolis, MN
Tickets: $30 (click here to buy tickets)
The show will include the film, 1 free beer, all night tapas snacks, 3 local bands and a liquid light show.

July 25, 2014
Zinema 2 in Duluth, MN
Tickets: $10 (click here to buy tickets)

Beer and will be available for purchase at the theater

You can check out the Official Crafted to Last on either their official website: www.craftedtolast.org or by checking them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CraftedToLast

I hope that everyone who has an appriciation for Minnesota Craft Beer will check this film out. I hope to see you all there!



Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Glarus Scream IIPA Review

Name: New Glarus Scream IIPA
Style: Imperial IPA

Since starting this blog, I reviewed a wide range of beers from New Glarus Brewing (23 including this one and not counting the other ones I've had before I started writing) but not once have I had a traditional IPA from New Glarus and IPAs aren't typically what they are known for. Today that is all going to change because I have their Scream IIPA which was recently released as part of their Thumbprint Series.

The first thing you'll notice right away about the label is that the State of Wisconsin that usually acts as a centerpiece on most Thumbprint beers is replaced by an eagle who has the look of wanting to peck your eyes out while clutching some hops in it's talons. According to the New Glarus website, the name derives from the eagle which circles the brewery on a regular basis. You do have to give credit to New Glarus for switching it up for a change though.

Scream pours a pretty orange color with just a tinge of darkness. It looks fairly clear in appearance with only some minor haze and only a couple bubbles of carbonation rising up from the bottom of the glass.

The aroma is very grapefruit forward with some citrus hop notes and a bit of caramel maltiness in there as well. There is also a bit of fruitness in here too, consisting mainly of mangoes and apricots.

Much like the nose, the flavor is very grapefruit heavy followed up by some tropical/citrus hops with some noticeable hop bitterness at the very end. The caramel malt base is substantial but not as much as the apricot/mango fruitness.

The palate is moderately weighted and there is a bit of thickness. The carbonation is fairly low and it actually has a very creamy texture. For an Imperial IPA, this is very easy to drink!

Scream is another solid offering from New Glarus. It doesn't do anything that I haven't already seen in an Imperial IPA before but it packs a robust taste and I got this at a very reasonable price. Any hop head looking for a fix will definitely not be disappointed by this beer!

New Glarus Scream IIPA - 9/10

Goose Island The Ogden Review

Name: Goose Island The Ogden
Style: Tripel
ABV: 9%

It's been a while since I've reviewed a Tripel-style ale so for this review I'm breaking that dry spell and taking a look at The Ogden, a new limited release beer from the Goose Island Brewing Company. Recently they have been stepping up their releases of Belgian-Style ales, much to the surprise of some beer drinkers since they were bought out by Anheuser-InBev just a couple years back.

Now I've mentioned in some of my previous reviews that Goose Island loves to toot their horn over the fact that they are based out of Chicago, even though many of their beers are now contract brewed around the country. To my understanding, this was brewed in the Windy City itself. As for the name "Ogden" I'm going to guess that it's named after William Ogden, the first mayor of Chicago.

The Ogden pours a mildly-to-moderately hazy yellow color. I'm picking up a fairly high amount of carbonation, more than what I'm used to seeing in a Tripel.

The nose has fairly potent Belgian Yeast scent with a sweet citrus hop profile that gives it an almost mango-like quality. I'm also picking on some grapefruit notes and some toffee malts in the background. It smells good though!

The flavor is pretty Belgian yeast forward and a pronounced mango flavor with a distinct resin bitterness on the back of the palate. I'm also picking up on some pale/toffee maltiness and even some light piney hop notes in here as well. The aftertaste for the most part is a resin hop bitterness with a slight touch of mango fruitness.

The body straddles the border between mild and moderate in terms of weight with a bit of thickness. The carbonation is moderate and not too overwhelming, a stark contrast compared to my observations when first poured.

I found The Ogden to be a very good Tripel style ale. If I were to warrant one major complaint about this beer, I would say that it's very pricey for what it is when you consider the fact it comes in a 4-pack ($15.99 in my area) which makes me thankful I got this as a standalone bottle. All and all, The Ogden is a good representation of the Tripel-style ale and I would recommend checking it out if you're willing to spend a couple extra bucks on a good Tripel.

Goose Island The Ogden - 8.5/10

Saturday, July 12, 2014

CDDF Productions Presents: Crafted to Last - Minnesota Beer Blossoms

Over the past few years, the craft beer scene here in Minnesota has experienced tremendous growth that is unlike anything else we have ever seen before. That is why it is my pleasure to announce the premiere of Crafted to Last - Minnesota Beer Blossoms directed by Dave Okar of CDDF Productions.

Crafted to Last will feature 16 different Minnesota breweries, each one with their own story to tell. From Carmody Irish Pub in Duluth to Harriet Brewing in Minneapolis; From Surly Brewing in Brooklyn Center to the Historic August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm.

This one-of-a-kind documentary chronicles the growth of the Minnesota Craft Beer Industry from February 2012, when the craft beer boom began thanks to changes in legislation, all the way to August 2013.

The film will have 2 premieres:

July 19, 2014
Parkway Theater in Minneapolis, MN
Tickets: $30 (click here to buy tickets)
The show will include the film, 1 free beer, all night tapas snacks, 3 local bands and a liquid light show.

July 25, 2014
Zinema 2 in Duluth, MN
Tickets: $10 (click here to buy tickets)
Beer and will be available for purchase at the theater

You can also check out Crafted to Last on Facebook or their official website, www.craftedtolast.org, for more information.

Come see the growth of the Minnesota Craft Beer industry firsthand and get a more detailed look at what has become one of the fastest growing industries in the State of Minnesota. If you enjoy drinking Minnesota craft beer, then you owe it to yourself to come check this out!


- Nick

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Belgium Wild² Dubbel Review

Name: New Belgium Wild² Dubbel
Style: Dubbel 
ABV: 8%

Since it's been a while since I reviewed anything from New Belgium Brewing, I figured I would take my first in-depth look at New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series. I had their Yuzu on tap last year and thought it was different but good nonetheless. 

For this review, I'll be taking a look at their Wild² Dubbel Ale brewed with Schisandra, a type of berry that originates from Southwestern China. According to the clerk who convinced me to buy this, it's a berry that "tastes like everything." And despite it's name, it is not a Wild Ale.

Wild² Dubbel pours a dark crimson red color when held up to a light but is otherwise quite dark in appearance. There's also a couple of bubbles climbing up the sides of the glass as well. 

The aroma starts off with a prominent dark fruit/plum scent as well as some cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. I'm also picking up on some light sour and tart notes but it's not obvious until it warms up just a bit. Otherwise, it's very malty in terms of smell.

Dark fruits and strong candied caramel malts start things off in the flavor. I'm picking up on the cinnamon & brown sugar that was present in the nose but with that is also a very distinct peppery-like flavor, which I'm fairly certain is from the Belgian Yeasts. One thing is for sure, this is not like any Dubbel I've had before. 

The body is fairly moderate in weight and thankfully light in carbonation. It possesses a fairly creamy texture and is pretty easy to drink.

After having this, I will be looking into the Lips of Faith series a bit more because I found this to be a very vibrant and tasteful beer and I could see myself buying this again. If you're looking for a different take on the Dubbel-Style, then this beer is definitely worth your attention.

New Belgium Wild² Dubbel - 9/10

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Brewery Ommegang Fleur De Houblon Review

Name: Brewery Ommegang Fleur De Houblon
Style: Belgian Pale Ale
ABV: 6.8%

With the exception of their Iron Throne Blonde Ale, I have never had anything that is a limited release or a seasonal from Brewery Ommegang. In fact, up until now, I didn't even know they did seasonal releases but thanks to the Keyport Growler Fill Station (and Wikipedia), I now know that this is not the case.

Coming from a growler, I give you Ommegang's Fleur De Houblon: A Belgian Pale Ale that just so happens to be the brewery's Summer Seasonal; The name, Fleur De Houblin, is French for "Hop Flowers." I have never had any of Ommegang's beers on tap, let alone, from a growler and I'll be honest, I never thought I'd ever have anything from the brewery in a growler.

Fleur De Houblon pours a fairly clear yellow color with some fizzy carbonation rising to the top of the glass. The head, while quite foamy, did not produce that trademark voluminous head upon pouring that I'm used to seeing from most Ommegang beers. I suspect that the reason for this is because it's from a tap line and not a bottle.

The aroma possess a pretty solid Belgian yeastiness to it with a nice floral and piney hop scent. I'm also picking up on some cloves, spices, some light lemon zest and sweet maltiness which sit at the back of the nose.

The flavor carries over some aspects of the nose, certainly in regards to the Belgian Yeasts with the cloves hanging off of that. The hop profile is pretty vibrant and is a mostly even split between Floral & Resin Hops with the latter comprising mainly of the aftertaste. The malty backbone is best described as moderate at best but does provide some needed balance to the flavor itself.

The palate possess a fairly heavy body and there is also some moderate carbonation in here too. There's also a bit of a light thickness in here too.

Fleur De Houblon is a very good Belgian Pale Ale. It may not break the mold in terms of style but the vibrant flavor is more than enough to justify the purchase, whether you're getting it in a growler or a bottle.

Brewery Ommegang Fleur De Houblon - 8.5/10 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Weekly Duluth Beer Roundup for July 7, 2014

These past couple of weeks have been a busy one for myself between work, wedding planning and the 4th of July Weekend. As such I was unable to get out until this last Thursday when I made my way over to Fitger's Brewhouse which is conveniently located just a few blocks from my place of residence.

When I made my way there, I ran into an acquaintance of mine, Ellipsis, from The North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable event along with a couple of her friends. While we were out on the patio, I sampled a to a couple of beers that had just been added to the Brewhouse line up.

Fitger's 1100 Wheat Wine (10% ABV) -  It's a barleywine but brewed with wheat. It's a good thing that I was given this in a 10 oz. snifter because this is a powerful beer. The flavor starts out with some strong toffee sweetness and malted wheat. From that point on, it opens up to a rather strong hoppiness along with some vanilla bourbon booziness and just a bit of heat on the back end of the tongue. Despite the intense flavor, the overall palate is surprisingly mellow. The last time I had this was in the fall of last year so be sure to check it out while it's still on tap.

Fitger's Highland Fling Scottish Ale (5.8% ABV) - A clear brown color upon pouring, the flavor has a nice caramel maltiness to it along with some roasted barley and a light hoppiness. For a Scottish Ale, it's quite lighter than what I am used to in terms of appearance (brown) and overall flavor.

Later that evening, my future brother-in-law and his girlfriend made their way into town to spend the 4th of July here where we feasted on dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, whose local selection I still find a bit lacking sadly. If they were to feature more local beers on tap (Bent Paddle, 612, etc.) I would be visiting there more often.

The following day we made our way to Canal Park Brewing where I had the Resonation Belgian IPA while my fiance had the Ankle Deep Pilsner and my future brother-in-law's girlfriend had the 40 Acre Saison, to which she found quite enjoyable. I was a bit shocked she enjoyed it since she later told me that it was not only her first craft beer but her first Belgian-style ale ever.

After having lunch, we made our way back to Fitger's specifically to try out their Red, Wheat and Blue beer, which was brewed specifically to commemorate our nation's birthday. It was not on tap the day before yet I wanted to try it out to see how it was since it was one of the reasons why we decided to pay a visit to the Brewhouse for the second day in a row.

Fitger's Red, Wheat and Blue (5.7% ABV) - The first thing that popped into my head was how much it reminded me of New Glarus' Raspberry Tart. Pouring a bright ruby red color, you've got a very strong raspberry flavor with some wheat notes. Not overly complex but extremely vibrant in terms of flavor. If you're a fan of fruit beers, this is a love letter made specifically for you. It makes wish the Brewhouse did fruit beers more often.

While I would've liked to have sampled more beers this past week, time constraints left my hands somewhat tied. Hopefully this week I'll be able to get out more and sample some more local beers. Until next week!


- Nick

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Third Street Brewhouse Spotlight Review

Name: Third Street Brewhouse Spotlight
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.3%

Last year I did a review of Cold Spring Brewing's IPA and found it to be very lacking and made a good argument that quantity is not always better than quality. Since that review, the brewery itself has pretty much completed their metamorphosis to become the Third Street Brewhouse. I bring this up because today I have Third Street's Spotlight IPA, which is the brewery's newest release, at least to my knowledge. Since it's been a while since I've had anything from the brewery itself, it's time to see how this stacks up to their old IPA.

Spotlight pours a dark yellow color with a fair amount of haze floating around and some mild visible carbonation.

The aroma starts off with a solid grapefruit scent along with some citrus hops and a bit of a apricot sweetness. There is also some caramel maltiness in here too but everything else seems a bit more prominent.

The flavor has some fairly strong piney/resin hop bitterness to it along with some citra hops and mild caramel maltiness. It's not exactly what you'd call a West Coast-style IPA.

The body is more on the lighter side in terms of weight with a slight thickness. The carbonation is fairly low so it's not exactly an intense beer to drink.

Compared to their old IPA, this is by far a much better beer and the improvement in quality is definitely a welcome change. With that said, it hasn't done anything that I already haven't seen before in an IPA but you aren't making a bad choice by buying a six-pack of this either.

Third Street Brewhouse Spotlight - 8/10

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Magic Hat Elder Betty Review

Name: Magic Hat Elder Betty
Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.5%

In all my years I've been drinking craft beer, I've never had anything from Magic Hat Brewing with the exception of having one of their beers (I can't remember the name, sadly) on tap at The Rail Station in South Minneapolis about 3 years ago. Regardless, that is going to change today because I'm looking at Elder Betty, their summer seasonal hefeweizen that's brewed with elderberries. It's also worth mentioning that I have no idea what elderberries taste like.

Elder Betty pours a fairly cloudy orange color and the head, while initially thin upon pouring, is pretty much nonexistent after a couple of minutes. There is a small amount of visible carbonation with a couple of bubbles here and there.

The nose has very sweet and blueberry-like fruitness, which is probably coming from the elderberries themselves. I'm also picking up on some malted wheat in there also well but for the most part it's very fruity smelling.

The flavor, much like the aroma, is very sweet & fruity tasting, thanks in part to the elderberries. There's also a solid malted wheat base and some citra/floral hoppiness, the latter of which is relatively mild compared to the rest of the flavor.

The palate is very light in terms of weight and carbonation so this is pretty easy to drink. Since this is a summer seasonal, it makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

I found Elder Betty to be a pretty good beer. It doesn't do anything too extraordinary in terms of flavor (save for the elderberries of course) but it's a nice summer seasonal beer and that's all that really matters. Definitely check this out if you get the chance.

Magic Hat Elder Betty - 8/10

Odell St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale Review

Name: Odell St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6.5%

It's been a busy past couple of days with the 4th of July and getting more stuff moved into my new place, so I'm going to be playing catch-up with some review drafts that I have.

As such, the first beer of the day that we will be looking at is St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale from the Odell Brewing Company based out of Fort Collins, Colorado and is listed as Summer Seasonal by the brewery.

St. Lupulin pours a fairly clear orange color with just a slight haziness. The head, while starting out fluffy, becomes quite thin but stays that way. There is also some decent lacing to be had here as well.

The nose has a very sweet kick to it in the form of freshly peeled oranges and a bit of floral hoppiness hanging off of that. There is also some mild caramel mild sweetness in there but it's quite secondary compared to the rest of the aroma.

Flavor-wise, it's very citrus hop forward but not in the overpowering sense but rather that freshly peeled orange sort of way. With it are some floral hops, mild bitter resin hops and a malty backbone, which is more prominent here than it was in the nose.

The palate is fairly moderate in terms of body weight with a bit of thickness to it. The carbonation is fairly mild and a creamy-like texture which makes it fairly easy to drink.

I found St. Lupulin to be a very good American Pale Ale. While some people may find the flavor a bit one-sided because of the strong citrus characteristics, I found that to be it's strength and I think that makes it stand out amongst other APAs. If Odell were to make this a year-round offering, I would definitely be finding myself having this again.

Odell St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale - 9/10

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor Review

Name: Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor
Brewed by: Miller Brewing Company
Style: Malt Liquor
ABV: 5.6%

Every once in a while, I like to look at beers that have either a questionable (at best) reputation or something that I very well know will taste bad. That's why for this review, I'm changing things up a bit by tackling a beer that has a fairly low opinion in the craft beer community, to put it mildly. That's right, I'm reviewing Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor from the Miller Brewing Company; All of it contained in a 40oz "shatter-proof" green plastic bottle that I picked up for $2.

Now some of you may be wondering why exactly I'm reviewing this? The same reason why I review beers like Molson XXX and Miller Fortune: I review it so you don't have to deal with the experience of drinking a bad beer.

And in case you're wondering: No, I didn't drink the entire thing.

Mickey's pours a very clear pale yellow color with a soapy white head. There's no lacing to speak of on the sides of the glass and the visible carbonation is quite high.

The nose consists mainly of cardboard, pale malts, cooked adjuncts and a very mild but noticeable skunkiness. I'm not picking up on any boozy scents which I'm actually pretty surprised about.

The flavor is mainly just pale malts, some booziness, cardboard, cooked veggies, adjuncts like rice and cereal grains and a fairly dry aftertaste. The skunky flavor does start to become a bit more noticeable as it warms up. The body is fairly light but, as expected, it's got some fairly high carbonation.

To it's credit this isn't as bad as I expected it to be. At the most it's like a less intense version of Bud Light Platinum. Don't get me wrong, it still does taste pretty rank and there's no getting around that but at the same time, I've had much worse than this. My advice though would be to spend an extra dollar or so on a bomber of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale instead; You'll get much more of your money's worth with that.

Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor - 3.5/10