Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Summit Herkulean Woods Review

Name: Summit Herkulean Woods
Style: California Common
ABV: 8.2% 

Happy Birthday to me! Today I celebrate another year of being alive. To mark this momentous occasion, I've decided to have a beer!

That's right, it's time to look at one of newest releases in Summit Brewing's Unchained Series. This time around it's Herkulean Woods, an Imperial California Common Lager that is brewed with Maple Syrup and Spruce Tips. I have mixed emotions about trying this out; On one hand, I have never had a bad beer in the Unchained Series (let alone from Summit). On the flipside, the very first Imperial California Common I had did not exactly go over well with me so I'm mildly apprehensive as to how this will be.

Herkulean Woods pours a very clear copper color with a foamy khaki colored head. There's nothing here in terms of carbonation save for a couple of bubbles and the lacing retention is solid.

In the nose, I'm picking up on some lager yeasts with some mildly roasty malts. To go along with that is some mild maple sweetness, mild floral hoppiness and some very faint spruce notes.

The flavor is fairly lager yeast forward with the maple syrup playing a much more active role in the center of the palate. The spruce notes and roasted malts come into play on the back end of the flavor and helps finish it off appropriately. There's also a mild hoppiness that encompasses the flavor and gives it a nice dimension.

The palate possesses a moderately weighted body but light carbonation. Despite the presence of maple syrup, I'm surprised to see there is no thickness in here. Regardless, this is pretty easy to drink.

For a while, I didn't think that an Imperial California Common could work, but Summit managed to pull it off quite well. While I think the maple aspect was just right, I think it could've used a little more spruce in the taste but it's a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things. Be sure to grab this up before it's gone forever because a Fresh Hop IPA from them is coming!

Summit Herkulean Woods - 8.5/10

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Glarus Cran-Bic Review

Name: New Glarus Cran-Bic
Style: Lambic
ABV: 6%

It's been a couple of month since I've reviewed anything from New Glarus Brewing, so I think it's time to break that dry spell. For this review, I will be taking a look at Cran-Bic, their cranberry lambic which is aged in oak barrels. I've never had anything sour from New Glarus before and lambics are not exactly as mainstream as IPAs are.

Cran-Bic pours a clear pink color with a high amount of active carbonation. The head itself too, is a bright pink color but the retention is quite fizzy and disappears almost right after the pour. As expected there is no lacing retention here either. Looking at the beer, it kind of reminds me of a bubbly pink Moscato.

The nose has a strong cranberry scent with some equally strong lacto notes to back it up. I'm also picking on some oak notes, which no doubt comes from the barrels that were used to age this beer.

The flavor is surprisingly sweet upfront with some sweet cranberry notes with moderately tart lacto taste. The oak isn't as prevalent in the flavor but it does provide some dimension to the actual taste.

The palate has a pretty light body along with the carbonation, so this is a pretty easy drinker.

Anyone who is not a lambic fan will not be won over by this, but this is a nicely balanced and flavorful beer. Although I haven't had as many lambics as I've had say.....IPAs, I can safely say that you're getting your money's worth by checking this out.

New Glarus Cran-Bic - 9/10

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Une Annee Austere Review

Name: Une Année Austere
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%

Tonight I've got a beer from a new brewery called Une Année (French for One Year), based out of Chicago, IL. What makes Une Année so unique is that they're an American Brewery dedicated to making traditional Belgian & French styles of beer. Going from the information on their website, they've been open since 2012, which makes me wonder why I didn't hear about this place while I was living in Chicago.

Recently Une Année became available in my area, so I've decided to take a look at Austere, one of their four Saison offerings, which in this case is their traditional Saison. I'm curious to see how this turns out so let's try this out.

Austere pours a hazy yellow color with a very foamy head. The lacing retention is quite high and the visible carbonation is moderate to high.

The nose starts off with a sweet lemongrass scent, with some pale-pilsner malts, floral hops and some Belgian yeasts.

Flavor has some strong Belgian yeast esters and cloves on the front of the palate which are backed up by some floral hops, lemongrass and pale malts. The aftertaste is a mix of pale malts, floral hops and cloves.

The body is fairly surprisingly heavy with some moderate carbonation, which gives the beer a bit of depth. Aside from the heavy body, the palate is fairly typical of that from a Saison.

I was quite impressed with Austere and how true it stays to its Belgian roots and I think Une Année nailed it! Had I not known this was made in Chicago, I would've assumed it was imported from Wallonia itself. When it comes to traditional Saisons, this is probably the closest you're going to get without having to travel across the Atlantic. Anyone who has the opportunity to buy this would be wise to check this out.

Une Année Austere - 9.25/10

Monday, October 20, 2014

Evil Twin Yang Review

Name: Evil Twin Yang
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10%

It's now time to look at the last beer in my fridge from Evil Twin Brewing. Tonight I have Yang, their Imperial Taiji IPA. It's the other half to Evil Twin's Yin, which its supposed to be mixed with. Maybe in another review perhaps?

Yang pours a hazy orange color with a thin off-white head. I'm not picking up on any visible carbonation but the lacing retention is pretty good.

The nose is fairly caramel malt forward with some pungent piney hop and grapefruit notes with some bitter hoppiness on the back end. For what it is, the smell is pretty vibrant and robust.

Flavor-wise, it's pretty similar to the aroma. You've got a fairly strong caramel maltiness upfront that is followed by some piney hops, apricot fruitiness and some grapefruits. The aftertaste is mainly bitter hops, grapefruits and some light caramel maltiness.

The body is fairly heavy in terms of weight and has some thickness to it. The carbonation is light but there's enough there to give the flavor some dimension.

I was expecting Yang to be the same outcome of Yin, which I thought was an okay Imperial Stout so I assumed Yang would be an okay Imperial IPA. To my surprise, this is actually a very good Imperial IPA that manages to stand on its own two feet. If you so happen to come across this, it's definitely worth checking out.

Evil Twin Yang - 8.5/10

Evil Twin Yin Review

Name: Evil Twin Yin
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10%

I've got a couple more beers from Evil Twin Brewing that I have been meaning to get around to review and the first one is another Imperial Stout simply called Yin. According to the label, it is suggested that you mix it with Yang, which is an Imperial IPA also made by Evil Twin and will be my next review.

The brewery refers to Yin as an Imperial Taiji Stout, so of course I had to find out what Taiji meant. According to my research, Taiji is a small town located on the southern-southeast coast of Japan

Yin pours a pitch black color with a dark brown head. The lacing left behind is pretty good and the head has some pretty good retention.

The aroma starts out with a strong chocolate malt profile with mild bitter hoppiness, roasted barley and a marshmallow-like sweetness. Compared to I Love You, this one smells more like a traditional Imperial Stout.

Flavor is very roasty upfront followed up with some chocolate malt notes before ending with a bitter hop and roasted barley aftertaste. It's unusual to see the flavor isn't as complex as the nose leads me to believe, nor as vibrant in terms of taste.

The body is surprisingly light and this, which is unusual for an Imperial Stout. The carbonation is also fairly light too.

If the flavor were as complex and robust as the nose, this would be an excellent Imperial Stout. As it stands right now, it's an okay Imperial Stout but my overall thoughts on this beer are that it leaves something more to be desired.

Evil Twin Yin - 7.5/10

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout Review

Name: Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 12%

It's time to look at another offering from Evil Twin Brewing. This time around I'm reviewing their I Love You With My Stout, which is one of their Imperial Stout offerings. As for the long winded, oddball name, your guess is as good as mine.

The head pours a dark tan color with a thin appearance out along with a pitch black body. There is some visible carbonation on top and sides of the glass with some mild lacing

The aroma is quite roasty with some roasted barley and chocolate malt notes along with some strong bitter hoppy notes in the back

Flavor has some strong roasted barley notes with some chocolate malts along with a strong citrus hop sweetness and bitter hoppiness on the back end of the palate. The aftertaste is a mixture of bitter citrus hops and some chocolate malts. The flavor almost reminds me of a chocolate orange!

Body is moderate in terms weight and the carbonation is light. It also has a very smooth texture so it feels quite creamy.

The strong citrus hop profile is definitely something out of the ordinary for the style yet it works in synchronicity with the chocolate and roasty aspects of the flavor. While some traditionalists may not be a fan the sheer citrus hoppiness of the flavor, I enjoyed this a lot and would easily recommend this to anyone.

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout - 9/10

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five Review

Name: Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.7%

For this review, I have a brand new beer from Bauhaus Brew Labs, a new brewery which just opened its doors in Northeast Minneapolis this past summer. Last weekend, I was in Minneapolis and decided to swing by Bauhaus' Taproom to sample their beers. I also decided I might as well as grab a few cans to bring back for me to review. My first Bauhaus Brew Labs review will be of their Sky-Five IPA, which I was told was their most popular offering.

Sky-Five pours an extremely hazy orange color and what I mean by this is that it's so hazy that light has some trouble getting through. The head is nice and foamy with a two-finger width and the levels of visible carbonation are very low.

The aroma is a mixture of rich citrus hops, orange peels, grapefruits and piney hops with some caramel & pale maltiness. This may be a bit of a stretch to say, but the smell reminds me of of a glass of orange juice

Much like the nose, the flavor possesses a strong citra-hop and tropical fruitness upfront & some grapefruit notes with some bitter piney hops on the back end of the palate. The aftertaste contains some bitter resin hoppiness, a slight but noticeable orange sweetness and some pale malts.

The mouthfeel on this beer is rather moderate in terms of weight but its lightly carbonated, however not to the point where one could call it flat.

I'm going to make a pretty bold statement here but I think this is one of the best Minnesota-based IPAs I've ever had, even rivaling that of Surly Furious. While some may find it a bit too overwhelming in terms of citrus hops, I was blown away with how good this is. If you're ever in Minneapolis and looking for a top quality IPA, this would definitely be at the top of my list as far as local IPAs are concerned.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five - 9.5/10

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Swag Brewing Beer Candle Kickstarter

Last year I was contacted by Max from Swag Brewery, a company that specializes in craft beer-themed gifts. He provided me with some of their hand crafted beer soap for me to review, of which I fell in love with.

Now they are looking to expand their product lineup with something completely new and different: Beer Candles! Currently they have 3 candles lined up: Apricot Wheat, Vanilla Porter, and Hoppy IPA but they need our help. That's why they have decided to create a Kickstarter to help make the sales of this possible.

Should you choose to donate, there is something in it for yourself. It can be anything from a mention to some beer soap. Heck, you may even get some of the aforementioned candles! The goal is $3,000 and at the time of writing this, they have just passed the $2,000 mark; I think this is a reachable goal.

If you wish to contribute to Swag Brewery's Kickstarter, you can visit

If you'd like to buy some beer soap or other craft beer-related goodies, you can visit their website at

After having trying out their beer soap last year, I was convinced that Swag Brewery made quality products that craft beer lovers would fall in love with. I cannot stress to you enough how much potential this product has. Let's make this happen!


- Nick

Evil Twin Freudian Slip Review

Name: Evil Twin Freudian Slip
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 10.3%

It's time to take a look at another beer from Evil Twin Brewery. As some of my readers may recall, I did a review of their Molotov Cocktail Imperial IPA, which could've been better in my opinion. For this review I have Evil Twin's Freudian Slip, which is their Barleywine style ale. Even though my first beer from the brewery was not exactly the best, I am willing to give this brewery another go. This was also

Freudian Slip pours ruby red color that takes on a mildly hazy appearance. The head is fairly thin and khaki-colored in appearance with some moderate visible carbonation.

The nose is very caramel malt forward with some piney hops, toffee sweetness and dark currant aromas, which take on an almost licorice/plum-like quality. The aroma gives the impression of a barley wine with a slight hint of dubbel.

The flavor is very caramel malt forward with a healthy dose of piney hops to go along with it. The licorice and dark fruit notes dominate the back end of the flavor profile. The aftertaste finishes with a piney hop bitterness and a light caramel sweetness.

The palate has a moderately weighted body that feels fairly thick. The carbonation has a mild texture so you're able to take in the flavors this beer has to offer.

While I was not so impressed with my first beer from Evil Twin Brewing, Freudian Slip gives a much more favorable impression of the brewery. What we have here is a very nice English Barleywine that is sure to please anyone who is a fan of the style. Be sure to check it out if you get the chance.

Evil Twin Freudian Slip - 8.5/10

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bell's Mars Review

Name: Bell's Mars
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10.1%

The other Imperial IPA from Bell's Brewery is Mars: The Bringer of War. Mars is the first beer of seven in Bell's Planet Series, which is inspired by Gustav Holst's musical composition aptly named The Planets.

The Planets is an orchestral that was written between 1914-1916 and is considered one of the most influential musical pieces of the 20th Century. Just how influential? It served as one of the inspirations for John Williams when he was writing the score for a little film called Star Wars.

Mars pours a very hazy orange color with a thin creamy white foamy. The lacing is quite abundant and I'm not picking up on any visible carbonation.

The aroma starts out very malt forward with some caramel sweetness mixed in with some strong citra hops and grapefruit notes. There is also a lingering bitterness in the back but it's masked quite well unless you pay attention. Unlike The Oracle, this is more malt forward.

Much the nose, the flavor is very caramel malt forward with some candied sweetness. Luckily the citrus hops and grapefruits really help balance things out. Interestingly enough, the aftertaste is only mildly bitter and ends on a sweet caramel note

The body is on the heavier end, and the thickness makes it pretty chewy. The carbonation is pretty light here so you're allowed to savor the flavors here.

Keeping in mind the flavor profile, Mars is a nicely balanced Imperial IPA. If this is any indication as to what to expect from the Planet Series, then I'm looking forward to trying out the rest of the offerings down the road.

Bell's Mars - 9/10

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bell's The Oracle Review

Name: Bell's The Oracle
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10%

For these next two reviews, I'll be taking a look at a couple of Imperial IPA offerings from Bell's Brewery. The first on my list is Bell's The Oracle, which is their interpretation of a West Coast-style Imperial IPA.

As for the name, I tried doing some research in hopes that I would find out the story behind the name, which there sometimes is. This time around my efforts turned up nothing, so my guess is that it's just a name conjured up by the marketing department.

The Oracle pours a fairly hazy dark orange color with a foamy white head with good retention. The lacing is very abundant here and the visible carbonation is mild.

The aroma has a strong resin hop scent with some grapefruit notes and some toffee/caramel maltiness in the background. I'm also picking up on some mild grapefruit notes but it isn't as apparent until the beer warms up just a little.

The flavor packs a very strong piney-resin hoppiness upfront that can only be described as "in-your-face." This hoppiness is followed up by some caramel maltiness & toffee sweetness. As for the aftertaste, it finishes with some piney hop bitterness and grapefruits.

Body is on the lighter side with a slight bit of thickness but nowhere close to being chewy. The carbonation is also light as well.

The Oracle is a pretty good beer. It's not the most complex tasting Imperial IPA out there but the sheer robust quality of the flavor more than makes up for it. I'm not 100% of the availability at this time so be sure to check this out while you still can!

Bell's The Oracle - 9/10

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Nick of the Northland

When I first started this blog last year, my intention was to make it an outlet for my thoughts about the different craft beers I tried out and nothing else. To me, there was nothing better than coming home from work, sitting down at my desk, cracking open a beer, and writing my thoughts about it.

A few months after my blog started, my job brought me to Duluth. It was when I moved here that I discovered that the craft beer scene in this area had a lot to offer and I tried covering it to the best of my abilities. However with all the writing that I was doing, I still considered it to be a hobby, went about my daily routine and gave it no second thought.

Then earlier this year, Dave Grandmaison from The Duluth Experience contacted me to help promote the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable, to which I was more than happy to help with since I knew just how vibrant the craft beer scene in Duluth-Superior was. After the first Roundtable event, I drove home with my notebook full of notes sitting in the passenger's seat and was thinking of ways I was going to present my notes in a blog post. It was during this time I was hit with a realization that came out of nowhere: I wanted to make a living in the craft brewing industry.

Back in 2012, during my last semester in Augsburg College, I along with other seniors had to take a Keystone course prior to graduating and the purpose of the class was meant to make us reflect on our college experience as well as our respective career paths we had carved out for ourselves. Now when you take a bunch of graduating seniors and put them in a room once a week for 2-3 hours to talk about their college experience, chances are that their attention span will be like that of a five year old who just drank a can of Mountain Dew.

For all the times we brushed off the lectures, one of the professors talked about finding our personal vocation and how some of us will realize our calling when we least expect it. It took me two years after taking that course to figure out what exactly he meant by that, so perhaps he knew what he was talking about after all.

After this actualization, I began to take myself as a writer seriously. Suddenly my writing was no longer about beer reviews. As I continued to do more promotions for The Duluth Experience, I started conducting interviews with figures in the craft brewing industry. I was even taking time to attend craft beer-related events as well as visiting different breweries that were either well-established or that were just starting out.

Then this past June, I met a gentleman by the name of Lee Witte, who runs along with his partner, Marissa Sauer. I told him about my blog and offered to help promote events that Northland Beer was organizing, of which you have probably seen posts on this past summer.

Recently I was given the opportunity to become a major contributor for Northland Beer as a columnist called Nick of the Northland. It is a position that I am very honored to have and I'm excited to bring my knowledge and expertise to a wider audience. My duties will be mainly covering the craft beer and events in the Upper Midwest, as well as doing special interest posts (i.e. Seasonal recommendations, Q&As, etc.) as well as highlighted beers that I feel should be shared with readers.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that when I first started this blog that it would've taken me here! From all the awesome people I've met to all the fun times that I've had (as well as many more I'll have down the road), I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me.

Now before you start getting any ideas, I'm going to get this out of the way right now. This blog isn't going anywhere. I will still be posting on here as usual. After all, it has been good to me and I still feel there is tons of ground to cover both on the local and national level.

Thank you all for your support & remember.....

"Good people drink good beer."

- Hunter S. Thompson


- Nick

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rogue Marionberry Braggot Review

Name: Rogue Marionberry Braggot
Style: Braggot
ABV: 11.42%

A couple weeks ago, I took a look at the Honey Queen Braggot from Sam Adams and found it to be quite tasty. Then a couple weeks ago, I found yet another Braggot-style, this time coming from Rogue Brewing (or Rogue Farms if you want to be technical about it.) For an obscure style, it's interesting to see a couple of big name craft brewers taking up the style.

I give to you Rogue Farms Marionberry Braggot. What's a marionbeery? It's essentially a blackberry that was originally bred by the USDA guessed it........Oregon! The other thing noteworthy about this beer is that while the Sam Adams Braggot was 7.5%, Rogue decided to 1-Up them and make this 11.42%, which makes this the heaviest beer I've had from the brewery to date.

The beer pours a very dark plum color that borderlines into becoming black, which turns into a mahogany color when held up to a light. The head takes on a khaki color, but at the same time, fairly thin. There is some slight visible carbonation along the sides of the glass but really hard to tell the rest based on how dark it is.

The nose starts out with a distinct smokiness and honey sweetness. I'm also picking up on some dark fruity notes which I'm guessing is the marionberries. Interestingly enough, I'm getting some rye-like spiciness in the aroma too, which I did not expect to find here.

The flavor starts out very sweet with some prominent dark fruit notes paired with some floral hops. The backend of the taste finishes off with a strong honey sweetness paired with a mild rye-like spiciness. As for the aftertaste, it's a lingering honey sweetness paired with a distinct smokiness.

The body teeters between that of mild and moderate with a slight thickness. The carbonation is actually fairly light and it allows you to take in the flavors that this beer has to offer.

To say there is a lot going on the flavor would be an understatement! It's sweet, fruity,smoky and slightly spicy all at the same. What we have here is a unique, flavorful beer that is worth your attention. All I can say is that I hope that the Braggot-style itself gets more attention as time goes on; I really do!

Rogue Marionberry Braggot - 9.5/10

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Steel Toe Size 7 Review

Name: Steel Toe Size 7
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7%

I was recently down in Minneapolis with my wife when I decided to grab a couple bombers of beer to take back with us; The first of which I will be taking a look at today which is an offering from Steel Toe Brewing called Size 7, which is the brewery's standard IPA. Since this St. Louis Park-based brewery is not available in Duluth yet, I decided to grab it.

Interestingly enough, Size 7 is just one part of the brewery's IPA lineup; The other two being the Size 4 IPA (Session IPA) and Size 11 (Imperial IPA). Next time I'm down in the Twin Cities, I should try and acquire at least one of them.

Size 7 pours a dark orange color with a foamy white head. The amount of visible carbonation is low and the lacing retention is quite good.

The aroma starts out with some citrus hop and grapefruit notes with some apricot sweetness and a caramel maltiness lingering in the back.

Much like the nose, the flavor starts out very grapefruit and citrus hop forward with some apricot sweetness. However the caramel malt backbone plays a more active role here by keeping the hops from taking over the flavor, while at the same time providing a good malt sweetness. As for the aftertaste, it takes on a bitter citrus hop flavor with just a touch of maltiness.

The body is quite heavy and has a good amount of thickness to it. The carbonation is on the moderate side but it does help give the flavor a little more depth than it already has.

Size 7 is a excellent example of the IPA style. It has the strong hoppiness that many IPA fans crave yet it's malty enough to keep it from being too overbearing. I encourage anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of the IPA style to try this out!

Steel Toe Size 7 - 9/10

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Victory Golden Monkey Review

Name: Victory Golden Monkey
Style: Tripel
ABV: 9.5%

It's time to take a look at another beer from the Victory Brewing Company. For this review, I have Golden Monkey, their Tripel style ale. Since their availability has gotten better where I live, I hope to be doing more reviews from Victory from the future.

Maybe it's just my overactive imagination at work but having grown up on Hong Kong action cinema, I can't help but think that "Golden Monkey" would be a good title for a 1970's Kung Fu movie. Interestingly enough, when I did a search on Google, I did find this....

Okay, so maybe it's not my overactive imagination after all. Anyways, let's take a look at this beer!

Golden Monkey pours a fairly clear yellow color with a slight haziness. I'm picking up on some pretty active carbonation in the center of the glass and moderately active along the sides. The head itself quite thin, yet slightly foamy and the lacing retention is sparse and soapy.

The nose starts off with a fairly strong clove and Belgian yeastiness scent. There's also some citrus hoppiness in here with some toffee maltiness.

The flavor starts out with some strong cloves and spiciness, taking on an almost cinnamon-like characteristic along with some prominent Belgian yeasts. The citrus hops really don't show up until the end of the flavor which provides for a fruity yet bitter aftertaste. The toffee malt backbone also provides a good foundation for the flavors but it takes a while for that to really shine through. The palate possesses a very heavy body and the carbonation is also very high by Tripel standards.

While I would prefer the flavor to be a bit more balanced, this is still another great beer from Victory Brewing and I would recommend checking this out. As for pairings, I say it would go really well with an old school John Woo movie.

Victory Golden Monkey - 8/10