Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Stone Unapologetic IPA Review

Name: Stone Unapologetic IPA
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.8%

It's been over a year since I've reviewed anything from Stone Brewing, but given my geographical location, my chances to try out more offerings from them is uncommon to say the least.

For the time being, I'm going to take a look at Stone Unapologetic IPA, which is a collaboration with Heretic Brewing and Beachwood Brewing & BBQ. The beer also features brand new hops including ones from Yakima Valley in Washington that don't even have names yet.

Unapologetic pours a hazy orange color with a thin white head. There really isn't too much to speak of in terms of visible carbonation and the soapy lacing gives this a fairly clean finish.

The nose has some very strong grapefruit and citrus hop notes upfront with some toffee/caramel maltiness and piney hoppiness in the back end.

Interestingly enough, the flavor starts out very malt forward with some toffee maltiness followed up by some strong piney hoppiness & grapefruits with a bitter resiny aftertaste.

The palate has a very heavy body to it with some moderate carbonation. There's also a very slight thickness to this beer but doesn't venture anywhere near what I would categorize as "chewy."

Unapologetic doesn't do anything new with the Imperial IPA style, with the exception of new hop types in the brewing process. With that said, it's still a very well put together and hoppy Imperial IPA. Those who know the Stone brand well know what they are getting when they have this beer. It's no Gotterdammerung, but you aren't going wrong with trying this out either!

Stone Unapologetic IPA - 8.5/10

Friday, September 26, 2014

Northgate Parapet ESB Review

Name: Northgate Parapet ESB
Style: Extra Special Bitter
ABV: 5.6%

With all the new breweries that have opened up in Minnesota, it's sometimes hard to keep tabs. Which is a good reason why I'm excited about tonight's interview as I have an offering from a fairly new brewery. All the way from Northeast Minneapolis, I present to you Parapet ESB from Northgate Brewing.

Now the first question I asked myself when I picked this up was "What's a Parapet?" I did a bit of research and found out that a parapet is: a low wall at the edge of a platform, roof, or bridge. When you take into consideration that Northgate's logo resembles a castle, it starts to make sense.

Parapet pours a hazy orange-brown color with a fair amount of visible carbonation. The head is very foamy upon the first pour but settles into a rather thin appearance once it settles down. Not really much in terms of lacing, but what is there is quite soapy.

The nose has a nice yeastiness to it with a bit of marmalade sweetness in there as well. Also on the back end are some flaked barley, toffee malts and a slight bitter hoppiness.

Much like the nose, it starts out very yeast forward. The marmalade sweetness is a tad bit stronger here. The toffee malts provide a good foundation for the rest of the beer. The aftertaste is actually quite bitter compared to the rest of the flavor with a strong piney hop bitterness. The body is moderate in weight with some moderate carbonation.

Being that this is my first offering from Northgate, I found this to be pretty good and reasonably priced for what I got it for. It's got a robust enough flavor profile to the point that I would buy this on a regular basis once it becomes available in my area. If you're ever in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, I would make it a priority to try this out!

Northgate Parapet ESB - 9/10

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Northland Beer presents the OctoberFest Local-Motive

As we make the transition from summer to fall, not only do the color of the leaves change but also the beer that we drink. That is why it's my pleasure to announce the OctoberFest Local-Motive brought to you by Northland Beer.

The OctoberFest Local-Motive will take passengers on two and a half hour train ride up Lake Superior's North Shore Scenic Railroad, all while being treated to a dinner courtesy of Duluth Grill.

The dinner will be paired with local craft beer from Blacklist Brewing, Bent Paddle Brewing Company and Lake Superior Brewing . Keeping in the spirit of eating and drinking local, the event will also feature local Twin Ports-based musical acts.

The train will depart Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 5:30 to 8:00PM from the Historic Depot located at 506 W. Michigan St. in downtown Duluth. Tickets are $60 and you must be 21 or older to attend. To register, you can sign up at Duluthtrains.com or by calling 218-722-1273

Come celebrate the fall season with Northland Beer and have a great dinner paired with locally-made beer that perfectly showcases Duluth's vibrant craft brewing community. This is truly an event that can only happen along Minnesota's North Shore.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Interview with Sarina Otaibi of Bluenose Gopher Brewery

Bluenose Gopher Brewing is an upcoming brewery which will be based out of Granite Falls, MN and it will be a cooperatively owned brewery in Minnesota. Granite Falls, MN is also, interestingly enough, the home of Andrew Volstead, who was responsible for the National Prohibition Act which banned the sales of alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933.

I sat down with Sarina Otaibi, Chair for Board of Directors of Bluenose Gopher, to discuss the history behind the brewery and what the plans are for the future.

Now I read a little bit about your background. You went to Stetson University in Florida and University of Maryland - College Park and now you're all the way out in Granite Falls, Minnesota. How did you end up there?

So I'm originally from the area, so I have a connection here already and I did goto high school here for a couple years while I was here but I did grow up in the Middle East so every summer I'd spend summers in Minnesota and travel back and forth. So after graduate school, I was offered a job to work for a non-profitc called Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) and D.C. was expensive and it was very competitive over there so I just decided to leave, take a chance and move out to the middle of nowhere and see where it took me.

Granite Falls, Minnesota, Birthplace of Andrew Volstead, who was the reason why Prohibition happened in the 1920's. Everyone who knows Minnesota Beer and it's history knows who Andrew Volstead is. Was the choice to set up Bluenose Gopher there a coincidence, an ironic gesture or just because?

So I'm really into history and I'm a historic preservationist, like that's my passion and I'm also on the Granite Falls Historical Society Board and we actually manage the Volstead House. I also learned through preservation that old buildings and breweries really go well together and brewpubs and that's very well known and so with people using Volstead's name in marketing and what-not for their breweries. I'm really into revitalizing downtowns and small towns, especially in rural areas. So, on purpose, I had a gut feeling that having a brewpub or brewery in Volstead's hometown is.....to me, has to work. So it was the perfect combination especially using the cooperative model as well because he did some really important legislature for that movement as well. So it was taking those two combined that we wanted to base the story and kind of bring it to the town's history as well as combine it with community and beer and what-not. It definitely wasn't an accident that is was directly related to the history of the town with Volstead's history and what-not.

Andrew Volsread

Speaking of the cooperative model, for those not familiar with it, how does the brewery model work?

So the cooperative model......people are familiar with food co-ops, but it's going to be similar to that structure. It's basically the business....in this example will not be owned by certain individuals, it'll actually be owned by members and it will be overseen by and run but not on the day-to-day operations but overall operations by a board of directors that are elected by it's membership. That will happen on an annual basis and any profits that the brewery makes will go to it's members. At first it will go to business itself but later on in the years it will go to it's members; It doesn't goto one entity and it also serves the community and it's members. It's more of a consumer run business than say...run by a couple of individuals, so it's that different model.

Now this will be the fourth cooperatively run brewery in the United States, is that correct?

There's actually....through internet research, there's a few that I found but I don't know what stages they are at. So there are so many cooperative breweries and I found at least over ten just through looking it up frequently. I don't know the exact number, I have it on a document that I have been updating and that they're in-progress. So we're still in progress but we have been incorporated as a co-op and we are accepting memberships so we're on our way but we are not as far along as Fair State (Brewing) where they have the building; Like they're already open, so they're different stages that different co-op breweries are at. So I don't know what number we are and I wouldn't want to say as I don't know the stages of other breweries.

Speaking of Fair State, what the decision to become a cooperative brewery based on what Fair State was doing or was it a choice independent of that?

It was definitely a choice independent of that because I didn't know that they existed actually. The way we found out we already started & incorporated and we found out through a friend actually that was picking hops in New London (Minnesota), trying to learn more about great beer and was talking to a friend about it and said to him that "My friend from college, he's actually starting one in the Cities" and I was like "Oh I thought we were going to be the first one." So it's just...that I found out through him that I looked them up and then they came out with their new website and what-not. So it was definitely the Volstead history with the co-op and the brewery but actually I should say that one of our board members, he became a member of Flying Bike (Brewing) in Seattle. I don't know if you've heard about them but they're still raising money and he became a member of their co-op brewery and that's actually how we made more of a connection like this is a thing that people are actually on this type of model. That's how I felt, just like how my friend who decided to become a co-op member of a brewery in Seattle which he's never been to or seen, that's where I got the idea that if he would do it, other people would be interested in it and that it would not be such an impossible concept.

How did you get together with the other people on the Board of Directors? 

It's actually made of people we know that have already started out since we haven't had an annual meeting yet where people are elected and we don't have any members, we just kind of started off with the founding Board of Directors. So the people that joined, it's just basically myself and this other guy Andrew Hodny, who's the Vice Chair; He's a lawyer in a neighboring town. My boyfriend, Tim Beckman, he's in charge of the brewing and learning that; He's an engineer in another town. Just our group of friends kind of. My mom, Mary Gillespie, she's a member of our board because she's a Chamber Director in our town and what not. So it's just kind of people like that which we started off with. There's only six of us right now but later on......we're still looking for another board member and hope next year to hold our first annual meeting where we can actually have proper election and people running and what-not.

Now I'm curious, where did the name Bluenose Gopher come from?

It actually came from a local blogger here and she's in Maynard. Sally Jo Sorensen, she's like a political blogger and she wrote as a status update one day "Well, I'll be a Bluenose Gopher" and she's actually referring to Volstead. My mom saw that and I saw it too and thought it was pretty funny and really catchy and so we have to credit her with that. We took it, she knows about it and she's proud! She does alot of research and what-not and I guess it was a term used in that time period and Bluenose, according to the dictionary, refers to somebody whose conservative, something similar to what prohibition kind of represents basically. For "Gopher", it's referring to the Minnesotan part. So it slyly refers to him without directly saying Volstead Brewery; Without using has name basically. We thought of other names but that one just kept coming up and it fit so well with the history and it was perfect, so it worked out.

Are there any plans of Bluenose Gopher to give back to the community? For example: Cleaning up the environment, etc.?

We do hope that where we succeed enough to where we can give to environmental causes. The brewery is right next to the Minnesota River; Actually our building is right along the Minnesota River and we have a view of it. So definitely those kind of things and also help revitalize the downtown and give to public art projects; We hope to be able to do that and we hope that we're successful enough to where we can do that. These are ideas we just talked about but we'd like to highlight non-profits, give certain proceeds. We do have to look at the business aspect of it  but yeah, we do hope to be giving somehow back to the community.

Now will this be a production brewery or brewpub?

We're going with a brewpub model. We weren't sure at first because we did think about using the taproom model, but after we figured out the differences and really thought it through, we felt like the brewpub model would work best in a small town in a rural area where people aren't as familiar with craft beer and so we like to have available other craft beers so we can help educate people about craft beer in general. Also we feel we need other options and food there to make it sustainable for now. Although we heard that it would be possible, if we want to expand in future years, to switch models if we could; I think that was my understanding anyway. Currently in our current building, it's a smaller building so a brewpub probably would work best right now.

And if people want to join, how do they go about doing that?

So our website would be a great place to start. We have a printout form that people can mail in if they prefer that method, but we also have an online application and it'll take credit cards pretty easily. We've actually gotten alot of memberships through our online application process. People can also email us at info@bluenose.coop with any questions or if they need any help.

For more information regarding membership, you can head on over the official website at www.bluenose.coop

You can follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BluenoseGopher
You can also follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Bluenosebrew

A very special thanks to Sarina for taking time to sit down with me for an interview. I'm looking forward to trying out offerings from Bluenose Gopher in the future!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sam Adams Honey Queen Review

Name: Sam Adams Honey Queen
Style: Braggot
ABV: 7.5%

For this post, I bring to you something completely new and different that I have never reviewed before but have always wanted to try. I'm reviewing my first ever Braggot, which comes in the form of Sam Adams Honey Queen.

Since it's more of an obscure style, not many people are familiar with what a Braggot is. It's basically a beer whose fermentation process if like that of mead. They're typically very malty, brewed with honey and can either have hops or have no hops. In this instance, Honey Queen is brewed with hops.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not terribly familiar with the Braggot style. In fact, the only Braggot I've had prior to having this was from Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery as part of their Small Batch Sunday series.  Sadly I wasn't taking any notes at the time, but I thought it was solid!

Honey Queen pours a relatively hazy yellow color with a reasonably thin white head. The visible carbonation is somewhat moderate and the lacing is quite abundant and sticky.

The nose starts things off with a prominent Belgian yeast and honey aroma. This in turn is backed up by some cloves, floral hops and flowers, which I'm guessing is the chamomile used in the brewing process.

Now in the flavor, you have have some yeastiness, floral hops and chamomile at the front end of the palate. It isn't until you get to the back of the flavor and aftertaste that the honey makes it's way through and it does so in a fairly strong way because the aftertaste of honey and chamomile sticks around for quite a while. There is a slight boozy characteristic to the flavor itself but I didn't think it affected the overall quality.

The palate as a whole is moderate in both weight and carbonation. I do think the carbonation adds a little bit of dimension to the flavor so I can't find anything wrong here.

Since I'm not familiar with the Braggot-style, I really don't have a bar as far as what constitutes a good example of this style. With that said, I enjoyed this quite a bit and I feel it's safe to say that those looking for a great way to get into an obscure style would be wise to try this out.

Sam Adams Honey Queen - 8.5/10 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Announcing BradtoberFest 2014

BradtoberFest Run/Rawk/Crawl to celebrate life in Duluth, benefit young musicians

September 18, 2014 – The Friends of Brad Memorial Foundation (FOBMF) will channel the celebratory, community-minded spirit of Germany’s Oktoberfest with an upcoming festival that connects Duluth area music, craft beer, and running communities.

The BradtoberFest Run/Rawk/Crawl will take place in Duluth on Sunday, October 5

The event offers participants a unique opportunity to listen to live music and taste 4-ounce samples of local craft beer while traversing a path that links local breweries and beer-centric venues. 

Duluth’s burgeoning brewery scene provided the impetus for BradtoberFest. For the first time, all 9 Duluth and North Shore breweries will be united for a single community event. “When we noticed there’s roughly a 5K route connecting all of Duluth’s breweries, we had to do something about it," says Troy Rogers, FOBMF president. "We’re a music-focused organization, but we appreciate the craft beer aesthetic that is emerging in Duluth. It's a culture that encourages conscious, active living. It embraces art and music. These are all elements our organization seeks to cultivate in our community."

Participants can either run or walk the approximately 3-mile route that begins at Bent Paddle Brewing Company, stops at a number of breweries and pubs and finally culminates at the Fitger’s complex courtyard in a finish line celebration featuring food, music, games, and a silent auction. An after party with additional music will follow at the Red Herring Lounge.

Events organized by the Friends of Brad always include elements of humor and absurdity, in keeping with the playful disposition of their namesake, Brad Rozman. Participants can choose to be pied in the face at the finish line and are encouraged to wear costumes and sport “tighty-whities” underwear.

Proceeds will benefit young musicians, supporting programs such as the Duluth Music Resource Center and FOBMF's scholarship, fellowship, and other charitable programs.

Ticket information and further info:

BradtoberFest Run/Rawk/Crawl
Sunday, October 5
Starting at Noon at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.
1912 W Michigan Street, Duluth, MN
Registration fee: $25*

Registration includes: a 4 oz. beer sample, live music at each stop and entrance to the Red Herring Lounge after party. Early registrants also get a BradtoberFest t-shirt (limited availability) and can sign up for add-ons like a shuttle from the start to the end point through the Duluth Experience.

Fun video from the inaugural BradtoberFest Run/Walk/Crawl

***To donate, volunteer or become an event sponsor, please contact info@bradfest.org***

About the Friends of Brad Memorial Foundation
Bradley E. Rozman’s life was tragically cut short in May 2009. The Friends of Brad Memorial Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was created by a group of Brad's family and close friends to honor his memory. The Foundation celebrates and cultivates young Minnesota musicians through a variety of programs, including BradFest, a music festival. For more information or to contribute to the Foundation, contact info@friendsofbrad.org or visit http://www.friendsofbrad.org.

About Bradley E. Rozman

Brad Rozman discovered a love for drumming at a young age and pursued this passion with vigor for the rest of his life. In the early days, he formed garage bands with his musician friends and led the drum line in the VHS marching band. After high school, he went on to study percussion performance at St. Cloud State University and the University of Illinois-Urbana. When he returned to Minnesota from graduate school, Brad became involved in many music-making endeavors in the Duluth area, most notably as the drummer for the bands High Volt Rustler and Equal Exchange.

It will be tons of fun and I hope to see you all there


- Nick

Regular Guy Brewing Extra Pale Ale Review

Name: Regular Guy Brewing Extra Pale Ale
Style: English Pale Ale

It's time to look at the final beer sent to me by Seth from Regular Guy Brewing. For this review, I'm treading familiar territory with their Extra Pale Ale and I say that because Summit Extra Pale Ale just so happens to be a regular visitor to my fridge (amongst other things, of course.)

Unlike the last two bottles I got, the label on this is basically a sticker that was drawn on with a Sharpie. That's because it's still a beer in the testing stages as evidenced by the label.

Now originally I was not going to give this a score at Seth's request because it's an unfinished product, but because of my rebellious nature, I'm going to give this a score anyways as you will see why shortly.

Regular Guy EPA pours a very dark orange color with a very hazy appearance. The head is very foamy and voluminous, especially with an aggressive pour which I found out the hard way. The lacing is somewhat soapy and some mild visible carbonation.

The nose has a very distinct citrus and tropical fruit scent upfront with the tropical fruitiness smelling a lot like kiwis. There's also some toffee malt sweetness and some mild yeastiness on the back end of the nose.

A relatively strong yeastiness starts things off in the flavor but with some prominent citrus hops, mangos and kiwi fruitness. There's some floral hoppiness in here too along with some caramel maltiness, which are on the back end of the palate. As for the aftertaste, it's actually very dry with the exception of a light yeast and floral hop flavor.

As for the body, it is pretty light with some fairly moderate carbonation, which is on par with other EPAs that I've had before.

For an "Unfinished" EPA, this is actually quite good and the flavor provides a unique spin on what is an otherwise familiar style to myself. While some traditionalists may be put off by the fruitness of the beer, I for one welcome it and would gladly buy this if this were available in stores.

Regular Guy Brewing Extra Pale Ale - 8.5/10

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Regular Guy Brewing Hot Blonde Review

Name: Regular Guy Hot Blonde
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 4.5%

It's time to look at my second beer that was sent to me by Seth from Regular Guy Brewing. This time it's their Hot Blonde. As you may have guessed from the name, it's a Blonde Ale brewed with Jalapeno peppers.

Now I'm going to go on the record here and say that I'm not terribly familiar with chili beers. In fact, I've only had maybe one of them in my life, which was from Fitger's Brewhouse. Come to think of it, my only exposure to spicy anything comes from my wife, who happens to make Indian dishes on a regular basis.

Much like Smokey Grove, Hot Blonde has a very professional looking label that could probably pass off as one from an actual brewery. The only thing missing is the Regular Guy custom cap, but I've already got one for my collection but I'll let it pass!

Hot Blonde pours a very hazy yellow color with a thin, yet foamy head. The lacing retention is actually quite good and the carbonation is rather low in terms of appearance.

The aroma is somewhat yeasty with a nice spicy aroma that is not too overbearing. There's also some pale maltiness in here too with a bit of barley, some mild hoppiness and light peppers.

The flavor, much like the nose, starts out with some yeastiness and a nicely balanced spicy heat. On the back on the palate is a very strong peppery taste that starts to interfere with the rest of the flavor save for the spiciness. There are some malty notes and light hops, but they're all but eclipsed by the sheer raw peppers.

The palate is thankfully very light in terms of body and the carbonation is also very light, which is a good thing too when you consider that this is a chili beer and any carbonation would no doubt intensify those spicy flavors.

I like the aroma, I like the overall body, but the flavor needs some work. To be fair, the flavor itself is actually quite good and has a nice heat to it but it tasted like too much like a liquid Jalapeno and therefore way too peppery for my liking. All that needs to be done is to tune down the raw jalapeno taste (not the heat itself) and you'll have an awesome chili beer on your hands.

Regular Guy Brewing Hot Blonde - 7/10

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Regular Guy Brewing Smokey Grove Review

Name: Regular Guy Brewing Smokey Grove
Style: Porter
ABV: 6.5%

Well it's finally time! After months of waiting, I'm finally getting the chance to review some beers from Regular Guy Brewing Company. Some readers may recall my interview I did with Seth Treptow, one of the brewers from Regular Guy Brewing, that I did earlier this year. Right now, they are planning on opening up a nanobrewery in the St. Louis, Missouri area but for the time being, they're brewing in the comfort of a tricked-out garage.

I received 3 beers from them last week and I was going to hold off reviewing this particular beer until I went through the others but temptation got the better of me. I give to you Smokey Grove, Regular Guy's Smoked Porter which is brewed with apples. Ever since I first heard about Smokey Grove, I've been curious to try it out and was actually about to get it back in May, but the forces that be broke the bottles while in transit. Luckily, things turned out differently and now I finally get a chance to try this out.

First thing you'll notice about the bottle in the photo above is the label. I may not be the most knowledgeable about graphic design (even though I do dabble in Photoshop,) the label looks professionally done or could be passed off as such. However, my favorite part is the custom "Regular Guy Brewing" bottle cap. It's definitely going on my bottle cap fridge magnet collection!

Smokey Grove pours a pitch black color with a very foamy head. The lacing retention is quite good and there is a hint of carbonation climbing up the sides of the glass.

The nose has a strong smoked malt and apple scent. Also present in the nose is a prominent oak characteristic and a moderate roasted barley profile. It's like they took a rauchbier and infused it with apples. It smells like autumn.

As far as the taste is concerned, smokey is right! That is because the smoked malt and apple flavors again take center stage in the overall taste itself with a solid roasted barley foundation with some chocolate notes and a very mild bitter hoppiness. As far as the aftertaste goes, it's more smoked malts and apple flavor that was present at the beginning.

The palate is moderate in terms of body and carbonation. It's also got a bit of thickness to it as well, which is actually quite nice.

If this were to, somehow, be made available in stores, I would be buying this on a frequent basis because this is an outstanding porter! Everything from the aroma and right down to the taste is rich and robust in its very own way. If I had it my way, it'd be available year-round but I can see this being an excellent fall seasonal. For the time being, the only thing I can do is wait until I can get this in stores.

Regular Guy Brewing Smokey Grove - 9.5/10

Monday, September 15, 2014

Angry Inch Four Horseman IPA Review

Name: Angry Inch Four Horseman IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.3%

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see." And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.

"The Man Comes Around" - Johnny Cash

It has come time for me to review the final beer I received from the guys at Angry Inch Brewing. For this review, I've decided to end it all with the Four Horseman IPA. I actually took a look at Four Horseman back when I was visiting them in May but like many of the beers I sampled from them, I never got to do a proper review until tonight.

Despite the rather ominous-sounding name, Four Horseman doesn't draw its name from the bringers the end times. In fact, it's called that because it utilizes four different types of hops in the brewing process.

Four Horseman IPA pours a very hazy orange color. Not really too much in terms of head aside from a very thin filmy appearance and it possesses some fairly moderate visible carbonation.

The nose is very citra & resin hop forward with a solid caramel malt base and some nice toffee sweetness.

The flavor, on the flipside, is actually fairly piney hop forward which is followed up by some mild citrus hoppiness. The caramel malt sweetness is actually more moderate here than in the nose and is placed second in favor of some musky-bitter hoppiness with an equally bitter hop aftertaste.

The palate is moderately weighted as a whole with a bit of thickness. The carbonation is a bit more on the moderate side so there's a slight kick to the overall mouthfeel.

While the flavor could've used a bit more maltiness to help balance things out, it's still a very good and quite hoppy IPA that hop heads will no doubt enjoy. It's a good beer from Angry Inch overall, and I cannot wait to see what other beers these guys will churn out in the future.

Angry Inch Four Horseman IPA - 8.5/10

P.S. I also wanted to Angry Inch for providing me with the tasty beer that made all these reviews possible!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Angry Inch Menage a Trois Review

Name: Angry Inch Menage a Trois
Style: Tripel

I'm on the second half of my beers from Angry Inch Brewing, whom are based out of Rosemount, MN. The next beer up that I received from Angry Inch Brewing is yet another offering which I have not had before. Switching it back over to the Belgian Style, I give to you Menage a Trois, Angry Inch's Tripel-style ale. To my understanding, this is one of the newest beers that they have brewed.

Also, if I have to tell you what Menage a Trois means, then you're probably not old enough to drink (And probably shouldn't even be reading this blog.)

Menage a Trois pours a very hazy yet bright orange color with a very thin and filmy. The visible carbonation is surprisngly active for the style; Not really getting anything in terms of lacing though.

The nose starts out very Belgian Yeast forward with some candied caramel malts, tropical fruitiness, mild cloves and citrus hops.

Likewise, the flavor is Belgian Yeast strong upfront with the cloves taking on a more active role. There's also some mango fruitiness, citrus hop and candied caramel malt notes on the back end of the taste. There is some booziness in the flavor itself, which doesn't interfere too much with the overall flavor but it is noticeable.

The body is really heavy with a fair amount of thickness to it, but not enough to be chewy. The carbonation is on the lighter side, contrary to my early observations which helps bring some balance.

Menage a Trois is a solid offering from Angry Inch. With that said, it isn't the best Tripel I've ever had but to be fair, the kinks still need to be ironed out with the flavor but it is still pretty good. My advice would be have a glass and decide for yourself.

Angry Inch Menage a Trois - 8.5/10

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Angry Inch 42 Short & Portly Review

Name: Angry Inch 42 Short & Portly 
Style: Porter
ABV: 8.3%

It's time to take a look at the second beer given to me courtesy of Angry Inch Brewing. For this review, I'm taking a look at one of their newest offerings which happens to be their 42 Short & Portly Porter. What makes this porter unique is that it's aged on cocoa nibs and it's also the first porter I've had from Angry Inch.

42 Short & Portly pours a pitch black color with a thin khaki colored head with some mild carbonation and lacing along the sides of the glass.

The nose is roasty yet malty at the same time. I'm picking up on roasted barley & chocolate malts at first. However the further in I go, I start to pick up on some vanilla sweetness and the cocoa nibs used in the brewing process. It smells almost like a cross between a porter and an imperial stout...almost!

The flavor very roasty upfront, but once you get passed that, it starts to taste surprisingly sweet! At first, it's roasted barley which transitions into a chocolate maltiness with cocoa nibs and that distinct vanilla sweetness that was in the aroma manages to make it into the flavor as well. The aftertaste is fairly roasty with some bitter hoppiness.

The palate is pretty heavily weighted and has a good amount of thickness to it. The carbonation is pretty light and it makes for a reasonably easy drinker.

42 Short & Portly is a very well put together porter. The cocoa nib and vanilla flavors in particular make me absolutely enjoy what this beer has to offer. Another excellent offering by the guys from Angry Inch Brewing and definitely one of the better porters I've had!

Angry Inch 42 Short & Portly - 9.25/10

Angry Inch Daddy's Honey Pot Review

Name: Angry Inch Daddy's Honey Pot
Style: Saison
ABV: 8.6%

For these next few reviews as I will be looking at some beers from breweries that are currently in the works. While they are technically still considered "homebrews," I will be treating these beers the same way I would from any brewery in terms of scoring.

Also, new logo!

My first review comes courtesy of Angry Inch Brewing based out of Rosemount, Minnesota. I've been talking with the guys from Angry Inch for about a year now and even did a write-up on them a few months back where I sampled their beers. This time around, I'm able to sit down and take a more in-depth look into their offerings. The first beer I will be taking a look at is their Daddy's Honey Pot Saison, which is a Saison brewed with honey. 

The monkier of this beer comes from a nickname that a friend brewer/co-owner Jon's goes by. This beer also won them 1st Place at last year's Beer Dabbler in the Belgian Homebrew Category and is a crowd favorite at tasting events.

Daddy's Honey Pot pours a very hazy yellow color with little in terms of visible carbonation. The head pours a thin white color before fading away, although it does leave behind some soapy lacing.

The nose is fairly Belgian Yeast forward with some sweet honey notes, cloves, and toffee-like malts. There's a bit of mild hoppiness in here too but it's tucked away in the back.

The flavor strikes more of a balance with prominent Belgian Yeasts & Honey notes upfront followed by some floral hoppiness and cloves. The back end of the flavor and aftertaste is a cross between honey and caramel maltiness with a hint of hop bitterness.

The palate possess a reasonably heavy body but has some mild carbonation. It's the type of mouthfeel you'd expect if you want to experience the flavors that this beer has to offer.

I mentioned a few paragraphs up that this was a big hit at the Beer Dabbler and the reasons are apparent: It's a flavorful saison with a sweet and unique spin to it. Should you find yourself at one of their tasting events, I would highly recommend checking this out.

Angry Inch Daddy's Honey Pot - 9/10

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Flat Earth Hep Cat Review

Name: Flat Earth Hep Cat
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 4.5%

It's been just about a year since I've had anything from Flat Earth Brewing, which is based out of St. Paul, Minnesota. Since I've reviewed a good amount of their products, I decided to grab a new product of theirs that I spotted while I was down in the Cities for the State Fair a couple weeks ago.

I give you Hep Cat, Flat Earth's Session Blonde Ale. The term Hep Cat comes from the slang term used to describe Hipsters back in the 1960's & 70's. I also shouldn't be calling this "new" since it was first brewed for the St. Paul Jazz Festival a few years back. Since this is the first time I've seen it in bottles, I'm guessing it was popular enough to bring it into the form of a bottle.

Hep Cat pours a fairly dark yellow color with a bit of clarity to it but is otherwise pretty hazy. There's a fair amount of active carbonation inside of the glass. The head is pretty thin and white in appearance and there's a fair amount of lacing in here too.

The nose has a prominent pale maltiness to it, some yeastiness, flaked corn sweetness and a very light floral hoppiness. It smells pleasant to say the least!

The flavor starts out with notes of flaked corn, barley and mild yeastiness. On the back end of the flavor is a hoppy bitterness and pale malt sweetness. As expected though, the aftertaste is very dry.

The palate is light both in terms of body and carbonation. I feel pretty confident when I say that virtually no beer drinker should have trouble drinking this.

Hep Cat tells you upfront about being a good sessionable Blonde Ale and it delivers on that promise. I have to admit I wasn't expecting too much in terms of flavor but this was actually quite tasty. It's safe to say that even those who aren't into craft beer or even session ales will find something to love about Hep Cat.

Flat Earth Hep Cat - 8.5/10

Monday, September 8, 2014

Flat 12 Walkabout Pale Ale Review

Name: Flat 12 Walkabout Pale Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.3%

Tonight I have yet another Indiana beer that I will be reviewing that is not from Three Floyds. This time, it's from Indianapolis-based brewery Flat 12 Bierwerks with their Walkabout Pale Ale. Since Three Floyds is synonymous with Indiana beer, I'm very curious to try beer from the other breweries in The Hoosier State.

Walkabout Pale Ale pours a very hazy dark yellow color with a very foamy head; We're talking Brewery Ommegang calibur head here. I made the mistake of aggressively pouring it for not even 2 seconds before the head started started pouring over the sides of the glass. I had to spend 10 minutes trying to pour this beer before taking the photo out of fear that it would happen again. Once the head does settle down, there is no lacing to speak of along the sides of the glass with very little in terms of visible carbonation.

The nose is pretty citrus hop forward with some yeasts, toffee sweetness and mild floral hops at the back end of the aroma. Pretty standard smelling in terms of APA terms.

The flavor is very hop forward much like the nose, but it's split down the middle between citra hops and bitter piney hops with a fair amount of yeastiness. The aftertaste is a very bitter resiny flavor and possesses a mild amount of toffee maltiness.

The palate has a very thick body and is quite heavy. The carbonation is pretty light though, which makes this a relatively easy drinker.

Extremely foamy head aside, this is a very well put together APA. It doesn't break the mold too much but with its solid flavor and easily drinkability, it's very easy to recommend. Should I get the chance, I would love to try out more beers from Flat 12 in the future.

Flat 12 Walkabout Pale Ale - 8.5/10

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A second visit to Pitchfork Brewing

Right after our visit to American Sky last Sunday, me and Frank made our way to Hudson, Wisconsin's other craft brewery: Pitchfork Brewing. This time, we were there for the Sunday tour that was offered by the brewery. Some of my regular readers will remember that I visited the brewery back in May during Minnesota Craft Beer Week as a last minute decision; A decision which I don't regret at all.

Sure enough when we walked in the door we were greeted by Mike, the owner & brewmaster of Pitchfork, who was working the taplines along with another gentleman. After sampling their Oktoberfest beer (more on that shortly,) me and Frank along with 2 others took a tour of the brewing area (Sunday at 2PM for those wondering.)

Now the brewing area is, admittedly, quite small as expected. However with Mike giving us a tour, he kept us hooked by telling us about starting in homebrewing, his experiences working at Northern Brewer, his efforts to relax homebrew laws in Wisconsin, as well as getting Pitchfork Brewing started. He could've kept talking all day and I still wouldn't have been bored. Mike also expressed his desire to stay small, a decision I respect because I feel like it would give one a lot more creative control over deciding what to brew.

After the tour, we decided to try out some of the latest offerings from Pitchfork. Like last time, it was a mixed bag of offerings that provided a craft beer lover with a good amount of diversity.

Pitchfork Oktoberfest - Much like my visit to American Sky, an Oktoberfest was also the first beer that we tried out. Solid Munich/Marzen malt base with some caramel sweetness and a fairly strong-for-the-style floral hop profile. It may not be autumn yet. but it sets the mood right.

Pitchfork Thistle Scottish Ale - Fairly roasty and chocolate malt flavor overall with just a bit of vanilla sweetness. It does taste pretty sweet though, especially on the back end of the flavor. I've been on a bit of a streak with having some fantastic Scottish Ales lately and this just continues that trend.

Pitchfork Night Shift Dry Stout - Usually I don't find dry stouts outside the spring months and yet here was one right in front of me. The flavor starts out with some chocolate maltiness and even a flaked oats taste. The aftertaste, as expected by the given name, was quite dry with just a slight hop bitterness on the back end of the palate. This is a pretty good "sessionable" stout!

Pitchfork English Old Ale - An old ale during the summertime? Count me in! The flavor is very molasses and caramel malt forward with some chocolate sweetness and a strong licorice aftertaste. Very heavy body and very thick to boot, thanks to the molasses. Needless to say, this was very tasty and I can only imagine the work that Pitchfork had to go through to make this!

Pitchfork Dig Deep Double IPA - There is always a spot for an Imperial IPA, regardless of what season it may be and this beer is no exception. Strong citrus hops and grapefruit notes make up the bulk of the flavor with a nice caramel maltiness with a piney/resin bitter hop aftertaste.

After I left Pitchfork with my growler of their Pale Ale in hand, I stopped by Casanova like I always do whenever I'm in Hudson and ended up picking up some beers for reviews down the road.

Overall, it was another fantastic visit to Pitchfork Brewing with some quality brews to boot. Having their beers makes me wish that I could drink them on a regular basis. For the time being, I'll just have to grab a growler (or two) whenever I'm down in the Twin Cities.

Keep up the great work, Mike!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A visit to American Sky Brewing

Over Labor Day weekend while I was down in the Twin Cities for the State Fair, I decided to pay a visit to a couple of breweries over in Hudson, Wisconsin on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon. I was invited by Frank, who hosts the Minnesota Skinny Radio Hour on Sizzlin' 99.9, over to American Sky Brewery where we met up for Beer and Free Bacon.

Upon entering the taproom, the first thing that popped into my head was that it was exactly how I had imagined it would look. It resembled a giant airplane hanger and adorned on the wall were photographs of men & women, both past and present, in uniform. Even the bar itself looked like it was ripped from a World War 2-era hanger.

While we were there, I decided to get a flight along with some bacon and try out the offerings that the brewery taproom had to offer on a cool propeller flight board. All the while we were talking about beer, culture, politics, and everything else in-between.

Amber Salute (5.5% ABV) - Starts out with a solid roasty maltiness with some nuttiness and a sweet malty and light dry hop finish. Nothing that I haven't already seen in an Amber Ale before but it was drinkable and quite good.

Tailgunner Blonde Ale (5.0% ABV) - I want to make a formal apology to American Sky on this one. In my original review, I said that this beer was bland, unremarkable and that anyone looking for a decent blonde ale should pass this one up. Upon having this again, I noticed a vast improvement in terms of flavor. Everything from the pale maltiness, the hop profile and even the overall quality were much better from when I had it in a bottle, which leads me to believe that the bottle I had was older.

Wombat Combat Belgian White IPA (6.3% ABV) - Starting out with a nice citrus hop profile, this beer has some nice Belgian yeastiness and a nice wheat malt base. White IPAs have been gaining popularity in recent years and this is one example as to why that is.

Hellcat Munich Helles (5.2% ABV) - A nice, lightly hopped Helles lager with a good pale malt backbone. Considering that it was a was a nice, warm summer afternoon, it's a perfect beer for such an atmosphere.

Red Tail Oktoberfest (5.6% ABV) - Is it fall already? Well, it's pretty darn close when you start seeing Oktoberfest beers on tap. Red Tail has a solid Munich Malt base with a nice mild hoppiness, light boozy and roastiness. Not overly complex but it was nice!

Dogfight Sorachi Ace Saison (9.2% ABV) - The brewery's Saison. In addition to a strong Belgian Yeast profile, there's also a prominent lemon and berry sweetness and a light hoppiness and dill tanginess on the end of the palate. I can safely say that if this were available in my area, this would definitely be a regular of mine.

All and all, me and Frank had a great time at American Sky....and we weren't finished! After finishing up, we made our way over to the other Hudson-based brewery. Stay tuned for my next post as I revisit an old favorite of mine: Pitchfork Brewing!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three Floyds Gumballhead Review

Name: Three Floyds Gumballhead
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale/Wheat Beer
ABV: 5.6%

Now for the last Three Floyds beer from my beer which I received a few weeks back. This time around, it's Gumballhead, the brewery's Wheat Ale. The beer's name comes from Gumballhead The Cat, which is an Underground comic series by Rob Syers and Skin Graft Records. It's hard to describe what EXACTLY Gumballhead is about but from I've read, it's about an anthropomorphic cigarette-smoking cat whose average day is like a cross between that of Frank Castle and Tyler Durden.

I've actually had this beer before at Jack's Tap while I was living in Chicago. At the time, I was really impressed with how good it tasted but I don't remember much else. The only other thing I remember about Gumballhead was that my co-worker at the time raved about how it was his favorite beer.

Gumballhead pours a very hazy yellow color with a decent amount of visible carbonation and the head is soapy white in appearance.

The nose starts out with some fairly strong citrus hops and an equally strong malted wheat profile. I'm also picking on some fairly strong grapefruit notes in here too as well as some lager yeasts which sit on the back end. Even though it's been a couple years since I've had this, I never noticed how similar it smelled to a Pale Lager.

The flavor is pretty citra hop forward at first but the malted wheat backbone gains some momentum here to the point where it slowly starts to overtake. There is also a minor but encompassing grassy and yeasty taste at work here too. The aftertaste is a bit on the dry side with a light but sweet tangerine flavor.

The body is moderately weighted that is light in terms of thickness. The carbonation is pretty moderate which gives it a nice crisp texture.

Gumballhead is held to high regards in the craft beer community for being an explementary example of the Wheat Beer style and having this beer only reinforces that belief. Everything from the robust hop profile and well-balanced maltiness makes this an absolute pleasure to drink and one of the best wheat beers out there right now. Even those who aren't huge fans of the Wheat beer style will no doubt find something to enjoy about with this beer.

Three Floyds Gumballhead - 9.25/10

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A visit to the Minnesota State Fair - Beer Edition 2014

Well, another Minnesota State Fair has come and gone. Like many of us here in Minnesota, our hearts are empty but our stomachs are uncomfortably full due to the delicious yet unhealthy, heart attack-inducing food that one eats while there.

In recent years, thanks to the the explosion of craft beer in Minnesota, beer has played an ever increasing role at the State Fair.  Of course there is the Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit, put on by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, which does an extraordinary job on highlighting Minnesota's brewing past, present, future and even offers flights (more on that later.)

However, I want to talk about the beer at the State Fair....but not in a way you might expect. You see, there are people (and brewers) out there that have, in State Fair tradition, taken their product and make it special in some way. Some even make beers & products exclusively for the State Fair. As a "writer" and seeker of all things craft beer, I feel it is my duty to inform those about what goes on here at the Great Minnesota Get-together.

Flat Earth Giggle's S'more Beer - Located at Giggle's Campfire Grill, this is an offering from Flat Earth Brewing. It's basically their Cygnus X-1 Porter with a cup rimmed with graham cracker sprinkles & melted chocolate along with a marshmallow thrown into the beer itself. The X-1 Porter actually makes for the S'mores beer. It's just got the right amount of roastiness and chocolate maltiness that makes this a good match for such an idea. At the same time, it is, admittedly, something best meant for the State Fair. Speaking of which.....

Lift Bridge Mini Donut Beer - How could I forget a beer that I stood an hour and a half in line for last year? Thankfully I only had to wait a couple minutes in line at The Ball Park Cafe as opposed last time. Unlike the S'more beer, this is a beer that was brewed by Lift Bridge Brewing exclusively for the State Fair and not based on any existing beer that's already in the brewery's lineup. It's very yeasty tasting on it's own and not much else, which explains the sugar and cinnamon that lines the rim of the glass. Like an actual bag of mini donuts, it's a very filling beer and when consumed with the cinnamon and sugar, it does taste like an actual mini donut in liquid form. A novelty beer to say the least, but worth trying out.

Land of 10,000 Beers Exhibit - I could spend hours talking about everything on display there. From the special events to the history behind Minnesota's brewing past along with the flights offered. Each flight ranged from Light and Pilsner to Dark and Hoppy, along with a mixed bag flight.

Each flight accurately represented it's respective style and was carefully picked. My only wish would be to see an Imperial Stout Flight, I would gladly pay an extra couple extra bucks for that. In the meantime, I'll stick with my IPA Flight.

Summit Oatmeal Stout Gelato - Believe it or not, I actually came upon this by accident as me and my brother-in-law were on our way to stock up on Sweet Martha's Cookies. However, I stumbled upon the Summit Brewing Oatmeal Stout Gelato at the Mancini's Booth. On the surface it doesn't look like too much. Upon first trying it out, it tastes a lot like Vanilla Ice Cream. However on the back of the palate is where the oatmeal stout starts to make itself known with it's roasty, oaty(?) and chocolate-like profile. My only suggestion would be to make the Oatmeal Stout flavor just a bit more prominent in the front, but I would still recommend checking this out!

Summit The Villain - It appears Summit is going to make their State Fair-exclusive beer offerings an annual tradition. Last year it was the State Fair IPA and now this year, it's The Villain: A sessionable Black Lager with an ABV of around 4.5%. Despite it's roasty flavor yet light berry fruitiness, it finishes rather clean. Given the atmosphere, it's a surprisingly good sessionable ale much like the ones I'll sometimes have at Thirsty Pagan.

Much to my disappointment, I was unable to check out the Grain Belt Blu due to the schedule we had set. My only hope is that it's available next year for me to try out. Overall though, it's nice to see the creativity at work when it comes to craft beer at the State Fair and I look forward to seeing what comes forth next year.

Three Floyds Robert The Bruce Review

Name: Three Floyds Robert the Bruce
Style: Scottish Ale
ABV: 6.5%

After nearly a week of being out of commission, the charger for my Macbook finally arrived in the mail! With power restored to my laptop, it's finally time to look at a beer that I have been meaning to getting around to posting. However my notes were on the Macbook so I had to use my wife's laptop to post my articles.

Tonight's beer is Robert The Bruce, yet another offering from Three Floyds Brewing which I received in a beer mail trade. The beer is named after Robert the Bruce, whom fought for Scottish Independence while the King of Scots during the early 14th Century.

Robert The Bruce pours a very dark brown color with a shade of crimson tinge along the sides of the glass. The head is best described as a thin, off-white khaki color. I'm not picking up on too much in terms of carbonation or lacing though.

The nose is very chocolate malt forward, some roasted barley in the middle with a slight hoppiness on the backend. Not overly complex but to its credit, it does smell pretty good.

The flavor is very chocolate malt heavy upfront and some barley & coffee ground roastiness to help balance things out. The aftertaste is fairly roasty and I am picking up on a light hoppiness as well but it isn't apparent at first glance.

The palate possesses a moderate body weight with some mild thickness and some equally mild carbonation. Overall I found this pretty easy to drink.

To me, Scottish Ales are usually pretty good but are seldom the type of beer that make me want to come back for more. That said, this was an absolute pleasure to drink. The flavor is very well-balanced yet vibrant at the same time and I would go out of my way to try this again.

3 Floyds Robert the Bruce - 9/10