Monday, June 29, 2015

Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy Review

Name: Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy
Style: Radler
ABV: 4.2%
IBUs: 13.5

Well it's been a long time coming that I review this beer and seeing as how it's my Summertime Series, I figured now would be a most opportune time to take a look at this beer. For this review, I've got Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, a name which my readers in the Midwest will instantly recognize.  Summer Shandy is a Radler, which is a German word that means "Cyclist." Radlers are basically beer mixed with lemonade or juice and was originally meant to be a thirst-quencher for bikers during their long bike treks across the German countryside.

Summer Shandy is one of those beers that you'll find at virtually every Bar-B-Que, 4th of July Celebration, Picnic or any outdoor related event in the Midwest. I also consider this beer to be the brewery's flagship beer. In any case, I've had this many times before at various outdoor events since I've started drinking beer. For this review, we're also bringing back the mason jar!

Appearance - Maybe it's because it's in can form but the head is quite foamy and voluminous initially before becoming a mildly foamy film. The beer itself an extremely hazy yellow color with no visible carbonation.

Aroma - Lemonade and barley on the front of the nose with some pale maltiness and maybe just a hint of lemon twist. There's nothing more to it then that, so bottoms up!

Taste - Lemonade, sparkling water, light pale malts and a hint of barley on the tail end of it all. There isn't much in terms of an aftertaste so it's really quite dry.

Speaking as someone who bikes almost every day, a beer like Summer Shandy after a 20 mile bike ride would taste pretty amazing and would be an adequate thirst quencher; Or if you're out on a hot July evening at a Bar-B-Que. However if you're just chilling at home and you so happen to drink this, then it'll probably be some more left to be desired. That's my way of saying it's a good summer beer for the great outdoors, but less-than-ideal if you're just staying in for the evening.

Still, I don't mind this beer. It serves it's intended purpose and that's all that really matters.

Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy - 7.5/10

Sam Adams Downtime Pilsner Review

Name: Sam Adams Downtime Pilsner
Style: Pilsner
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: 30

Continuing on with my Summertime Series beer reviews, I have another summer seasonal courtesy of Sam Adams with their Downtime Pilsner. Since it's my day off and there is a raging storm going on outside right now, I figured now would be a good time to review this beer; It is my.....downtime, after all!

Appearance - A fairly clear bright orange color with a foamy two-finger width head. The lacing is on the soapy side and there is a mild amount of carbonation to be had here.

Aroma - Pilsner malts and yeastiness are fairly prominent on the front of the nose. This is followed by some floral hoppiness and some potent lemongrass that takes on some lime-like characteristics. No earthy scent though, so there's that.

Taste - Pilsner maltiness and lemongrass notes. I'm also picking on some pale malts, yeasts and light citra-hops. I wish there was more to write about the flavor, but that's pretty much it.

Much like their Summer Ale, this is a simple & straight forward beer and about what I'd expect from a Sam Adams summer seasonal. At the same time, it tastes fairly good and it's worth adding to your mix-a-six should you be given the chance.

Sam Adams Downtime Pilsner - 8/10

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sam Adams Summer Ale Review

Name: Sam Adams Summer Ale
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale/Wheat Beer
ABV: 5.3%
IBUs: 7

Guess what everyone? It's summertime!

That's right, I'll be reviewing some summer seasonals for the next few reviews. The first we'll be looking at comes from Sam Adams Summer Ale, which is a Pale Wheat Ale. Aside from it being a wheat beer and a summer seasonal, there isn't really a whole lot to say about this beer. Although I have seen this during the times I goto Buffalo Wild Wings/Outback with the wife, though I haven't really bothered with it until now.

Appearance - Mildly hazy bright yellow color with tons of carbonation. The head is fairly foamy but with no lacing retention.

Aroma - Starts out with some malted wheat and orange peel followed by a little bit of citrus hops and a good amount of pale malts. Fairly basic so far.

Taste - Very similar to the aroma. You've got malted wheat and orange peel on the front with some light bitter citrus hops and pale malts in the back.

There really isn't a whole lot to say about this beer. It's simple, it's light, it's refreshing, and the perfect beer for those hot summer nights. Sure you're not getting the most complex tasting beer out there, but that isn't always necessarily a bad thing.

Sam Adams Summer Ale - 8/10

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Victory Kirsch Gose Review

I forgot to take a photo, here's the label...

Name: Victory Kirsch Gose
Style: Gose
ABV: 4.7%

I apologize for the lack of reviews this past week. I've had a lot going on that I've had to deal with. Amongst them was dealing with the death of one of my best friends, preparing things for grad school and getting things packed for my move in a couple of weeks. So if my reviews are spottier, you now know why. Anyways, let's get to the beer.

About 2 years ago, I had my first Gose ale and I wasn't too impressed with it. In fact, I was so unimpressed with it that I actually haven't had a Gose since then. Frankly when I did that review of Goosetown, I had written off the style as a whole and thought that it would never catch on. Well since I did that review, it seems like every brewery and their mother has released their own interpretation of the Gose style. But I always continued to ignore the trend because my first experience with the style was not-so-ideal. It's something I'm ashamed to admit considering how popular this style has gotten.

Today I'm turning a new leaf in regards to this style with Victory Brewing's Kirsch Gose, which is a Gose that is brewed with cherries. I'll admit I'm a bit anxious to see how this turns out seeing how as my first experience was not good.

Appearance - Fairly hazy dark red/salmon color with a foamy pinkish head. There's a little bit of carbonation in here and some soapy & sparse lacing.

Aroma - Bitter hoppiness mixed in with some cherries. There's some mild sour funk along with some pale maltiness and some salinity. So far so good.......well, bottoms up!

Taste - Sour cherry notes followed by some pale malts. I'm getting some saltiness too, some grainy notes and a very light touch of funk.

I'm guessing this is how a Gose is supposed to taste because I'm enjoying this quite a bit! Sure the flavor didn't quite blow me away, but it's quite good when everything is said and done. My only regret is that this wasn't the first Gose beer that I ever had. Then again, it wasn't released until long after this blog was first made.

Victory Kirsch Gose - 8.5/10

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter Review

Name: Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%
IBUs: 60

A new IPA from Sierra Nevada, who would've thought? Well actually, it doesn't come as too much of a shock to me seeing as how the brewery itself has already made at least 75 different IPAs throughout their history, both bottled, draft-only, and limited release per Beer Advocate stats. However if the brewery is to be believed, Hop Hunter is no ordinary IPA as Sierra Nevada has apparently found a new way to incorporate hops into their beers.

Apparently this an IPA made with Distilled Hop Oil. They are using a process that extracts the hop oil from the hops using some sort of steam process, which in turn they use it during the brewing process in addition to using actual hop cones know what, I think the video from the brewery does a better job of explaining the process....

Sounds interesting, if not a little novelty-esque.

Appearance - Mildly hazy bright orange color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head starts out quite foamy, but it starts to fade away after a couple of minutes before settling for a thin filmy appearance and bringing with it decent lacing.

Aroma - Even before I brought this close, I managed to get a whiff of the beer and it had a very strong citrus hop aroma to it. Bringing it closer, I'm still getting a strong citrus hop aroma along with some grapefruitiness, piney hops, pale malts and some rather potent yeastiness. So far it doesn't smell any different than any other IPA I've had before.

Taste - Strong citra hop and bitter hop notes on the front of the palate, followed by some grapefruitiness, a moderate pale malt backbone and some more yeastiness. The aftertaste is composed of bitter grapefruit hoppiness and what appears to be some light yeast notes.

I don't think there is anything terribly special about this that I already haven't seen in an IPA and I still think the whole distilled hop oil process is more of a novelty than anything else. However, this is an extremely easy to drink beer with a good flavor profile, and it feels very crisp on the palate. I'd say this IPA is a crowd pleaser to both seasoned IPA fans and those new to the style. As such, I'd say you really can't go wrong with this beer.

Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter - 8.5/10

South Shore Bourbon Barrel Coffee Mint Stout Review

Name: South Shore Bourbon Barrel Coffee Mint Stout
Style: Stout
ABV: 6.1%

Tonight I've an offering from South Shore Brewing, based out of Ashland, Wisconsin. I have their Bourbon Barrel Coffee Mint Stout, which I found on sale for $5 at one of my local stores that was sitting next to the Alaskan Barleywine amongst other things. Now I did have this beer once before at the Hot Air Balloon festival in Duluth last year, but like many beers I had that night, I wasn't taking notes.

Before starting this review, I did a bit of research on this beer which included reviews of this beer. I was a bit perturbed to see that a few of the reviews had mentioned that this beer was like mint mouthwash and there was even one review claiming it to be to it an infected batch. It's at that point I asked myself if it had been on sale for a reason.

Appearance - Pitch black with a thin dark khaki-colored head with some moderate lacing. There's also a bit of light visible carbonation along the sides of the glass.

Aroma - My first thought is that this smells like those mint chocolates you get after eating at Olive Garden. You've got strong peppermint and chocolate malt notes dominating the front of the nose, with some bourbon, oak & vanilla notes following that. Rounding all that up is some mild coffee notes & roastiness.

Taste - There isn't too much of a difference from the nose here. Once again, you've got that strong peppermint & chocolate maltiness upfront with the roastiness and coffee flavors taking on a bigger role. In between all of that is where I'm getting that bourbon & oak flavor that compliments the other flavors reasonably well. Even though the ABV of this beer is only 6.1%, the bourbon flavor gives it a warming sensation.

This beer is an interesting concept that I think is pulled off fairly well.....for the most part. At the same time, this is certainly not a beer for everyone and many will be turned off by the sheer mintiness of the beer. However if you're looking for a truly unique stout that, then this one is worth trying out so long as you aren't paying full price for this beer.

South Shore Bourbon Barrel Coffee Mint Stout - 7.5/10

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Clown Shoes Bill vs. The Mosquitos Review

Name: Clown Shoes Bill vs. The Mosquitoes
Style: White IPA
ABV: 7.5%

Even though Clown Shoes Brewing isn't exactly a local brewery in our neck of the woods, they still manage to give shoutouts to the areas in which they sell their beer, usually in the form of limited release beers for the said states. Which brings us to today's beer: Bill vs. The Mosquitoes, a Belgian-style White IPA which was released by Clown Shoes exclusively for Minnesota

For those not familiar with Minnesota culture, the mosquito has been dubbed the Unofficial State Bird of Minnesota, due to the fact that during the summer months, they seem to be everywhere and more so than pretty much anywhere else in the Northern part of the United States. Which is why there is a dude (who I assume is Bill) in a makeshift suit battling dog-sized mosquitoes in downtown Bemidji, where the Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox statues are found, which you see in the background.

Since I feel my photo doesn't do the label justice, I'll post the actual label itself at the end of this review to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

Appearance - Mild-to-moderately hazy bright orange color with no visible carbonation. The head fairly foamy and white in appearance before settling to a thin film but there isn't any lacing to speak of.

Aroma - Orange peel and citrus hop notes, followed immediately but some light hop bitterness. I'm also picking up on some malted wheat notes, a bit of grapefruitiness thrown in for good measure and some Belgian yeasts in the back to help balance things out.

Taste - Citrus hop, orange peel and pungent grapefruit notes, followed by some Belgian yeast notes. Right after that is some pale maltiness, malted wheat sweetness, bitter hops and some light cloves on the end of the palate.

This beer is meant to be a love letter of sorts to the Minnesota craft drinking crowd and it does so both in the style & cultural department quite well. If you live in Minnesota, it's certainly good enough to warrant a purchase. Plus it's a good, albeit, stronger summer seasonal beer.

Clown Shoes Bill vs. The Mosquitos  - 8.5/10

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can't Buy Review

Name: Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can't Buy
Style: Quadrupel
ABV: 11.5%

In all the time I've had this blog, I have never once reviewed a Quad ale or rather.....never have had the chance to sit down and actually take a closer look at one. With that said, my favorite Quad I've had so far since I started drinking beer was the Barrel Aged Quad Ale from Brau Brothers....but that hasn't been made in about 3 years so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll one day bring it back.

Until then, I've got the next best thing: The Peace That Money Can't Buy from Clown Shoes Brewing, which too is a Barrel Aged Quad Ale. I'm not going to bother looking more in-depth into this, but I'm fairly certain that this beer has the one of the longest titles for all the reviews I've done so far, tying with that of Schell's Stag Series Cave-Aged, Barrel-Aged Lager.

Appearance - Fairly cloudy dark brown color with a little mild carbonation along the sides of the glass. The head is pretty thin for the most part while retaining a thin khaki colored appearance. Really isn't too much in terms of lacing though, with just a light rim of it up top.

Aroma - Right I'm getting strong candied caramel malts, some vanilla sweetness & notes. I'm also getting some Belgian Yeasts as well and some toffee sweetness. Needless to say, it's a very malty smelling beer but considering that it's a Quad, I'm not too surprised.

Taste - Strong plum and juicy pear sweetness on the front of the palate, followed by some strong oak and vanilla notes. I'm getting a slight peated scotch taste that comes off as slightly smokey and the candied caramel malt backbone are also quite vibrant here as well. I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm getting what seems like Granny Smith apples and some light citrus hop notes, that latter of which shows up primarily in the back of the flavor. There's a lot going on here in the flavor!

If you like your beers nice and complex, then I see no reason why you wouldn't be able to enjoy this beer. It could've used a little more hops, but it's a minor complaint to what is an otherwise fantastic beer!

Clown Shoes The Peace That Money Can't Buy - 9.5/10

Monday, June 15, 2015

Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher Review

Name: Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10%

Today I've got another beer from Clown Shoes Brewing called Undead Party Crasher, which is an Imperial Stout Brewed with hickory, ash and holy water. And no, I'm not making this up. I couldn't even if I tried!

So why the oddball combination, you ask? Well, originally this was called Vampire Slayer until a trademark lawsuit came up and the brewery threatened legal action over the trademark infraction, with a trademark lawyer leading the charge against them. Long story, short: Clown Shoes was forced to change the name to what is now Undead Party Crasher. The new label shows a guy impaling a werewolf with the banner "Welcome, Trademark Attorneys!" above it. How subtle....

Appearance - Pitch black with a light amount of visible carbonation along the sides of the glass. The head takes on a thin brown look with some good lacing.

Aroma - Chocolate malts, mild smokiness & oak, along with some mild floral hoppiness. Yes, there's even some light ash in here too which strangely goes along with everything else Though I'm not picking up on the holy water though, maybe it's time to get my nose checked.

Taste - Smokey & Chocolate malt forward, followed by some oak & vanilla notes with some roastiness and light floral hop-like sweetness on the back end of the flavor. It's worth noting that this definitely gets sweeter as it warms up.

It doesn't do anything I haven't already seen in an Imperial Stout and the addition of hickory, ash, and holy water aspects are mostly novel at best. However I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this and there's no reason any seasoned Imperial Stout fan wouldn't enjoy this either

Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher - 8.5/10

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Great Lakes Alberta Clipper Review

Name: Great Lakes Alberta Clipper
Style: Porter
ABV: 7.8%
IBUs: 40

Before I get started with this review, I wanted to address two things regarding my last post that I've gotten a couple of emails about and I figured now would be a good time to end the confusion right now:

  1. No, I am not ending my blog. In fact, I'm quite excited to continue writing once I move.
  2. I will be doing a couple more Duluth/Superior Beer Roundup posts before I move back to Minneapolis

Since we got that out of the way, let's get to the review!

Despite me not reviewing the majority of Great Lakes Brewing's beers, I am quite familiar with the line-up as a whole. With that said, I have never seen this beer until maybe a couple of months ago and that beer is the Alberta Clipper Porter. It's a porter that is brewed with chocolate and raspberries.

Knowing that it's named after a weather phenomenon that brings cold temperatures and high winds to the Great Lakes area, I assumed this to be a winter seasonal. That is until I did my research and found out that this is actually released on a rotating basis.

Appearance - Pitch black with a khaki colored head. Not really too much in terms of visible carbonation and the lacing is more on the sparse-side

Aroma - Strong Chocolate sweetness and mild floral hops in front. Followed by some raspberry fruitness and light roastiness. It smells good but I was expecting a bit more roastiness, this IS a porter after all.

Taste - Strong raspberries and chocolate malts upfront with some potent roastiness to back it up. The back end of the flavor consists of mild bitter hoppiness with some more roastiness that is fairly mild when compared to the front of the palate.

As cliché as it sounds, it's like drinking a chocolate-covered raspberry in beer form. It's got a fairly simple flavor otherwise, but it all comes together so nicely and in a vibrant way. Though it would work better as a winter seasonal, I'll have this regardless of the time of year.

Great Lakes Alberta Clipper - 9/10

Friday, June 12, 2015

Where my life is headed....

To all of my readers,

For the past couple of years, I've had the pleasure of calling Duluth, MN my home. From the beautiful sights, the great people and of course, who could forget about the great craft beer scene? When I first accepted a job offer here, I quickly learned that Duluth is a unique & wonderful place that is unlike anywhere else I've lived. I have gotten the chance to meet some truly remarkable people here and have made memories that I will remember for the rest of my life.

At certain times, I have talked about myself at some length but mainly for the purpose of relating to the post at hand. For the first time ever, this post will be about myself in general.

Ever since I was a junior in college, I have always wanted to run my own brewery. In fact, I did a presentation on it for a senior year project about 3 years ago. I had constructed a business plan complete with an overhead cost analysis, forecasting, marketing trends and the whole works. I made that plan with the idea that I would one day use it to open my own brewery.

When I graduated, however, I had to put all of that on hold because I became too preoccupied with the sudden reality of becoming a working adult. This meant going to work in the morning & coming home in the evening on a daily basis. The idea of owning my own brewery and getting those plans off the ground had pretty much become dead in the water. In fact, the very reason why I made this blog was so that I could keep myself in the loop as far as the craft beer scene was concerned.

About a year after I started blogging, I was contacted by Dave Grandmaison from The Duluth Experience, who wanted me to help promote his Roundtable discussion event, which focused on the craft brewing scene in the NE Minnesota/NW Wisconsin area. It was a life-changing event for me because, like the majestic Phoenix, it made that idea of having a career in the craft brewing industry rise from the ashes and it started shining brightly again!

Suddenly I was no longer just a blogger with a love for craft beer, I was taking an active role in promoting and raising awareness to the regional craft beer scene. It was the first time since I had been in college that I had something to actively work on that I truly felt a sense of accomplishment from. A couple months later, I connected with Lee & Marissa from Northland Beer, who I would ultimately end up writing for. I could finally, for all intents and purposes, call myself a writer.

With all these positive changes in my life, I still harbored a desire to one day open up my own brewery. I enjoyed my day job but I knew deep in my heart that it wasn't something I was content with doing for the rest of my life. Then one day, my wife suggested to me that rather than continuously dream about opening my own brewery, that I instead start exploring options as to how I can start laying down the foundations to one day open one up. Fast forward a few months, hours upon hours of studying, research and countless applications later, I was given a very unique opportunity to help make this dream of mine become a reality: I was accepted to Graduate School. I will be the first in my family to attain an MBA and it is something I am very proud of.

There is, however, a trade off for this opportunity and it is one that took a lot of soul-searching. It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that I will be moving back to Minneapolis this summer so I can pursue my degree. This was not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination and I am giving up many things to make this possible but at the end of the day, it is a change that I am willing to make.

Sure I'm going to miss being within walking distance of Fitger's Brewhouse and being able to have their newest beer on tap or heading down to Carmody's Irish Pub to have a pint and catch a local band playing. Most importantly, however, I'm going to miss all of the people that I've gotten to know here.

As such, I still plan on doing beer & product reviews like I have been doing these past couple of years. I also plan on continuing writing for Northland Beer as there is much to cover down in the Twin Cities. I'm also hoping to do Twin Cities beer round-up posts....if my timing and finances permit of course.

The path to getting my MBA will no doubt be a long & difficult journey but I took this opportunity knowing all of this. Plus I always enjoy a good challenge as it gives me something to work towards! It was not a choice that came to me easily but in the big picture, it's the right thing to do. None of this would've been possible were it not for all the people I've met and the events I have attended over this past couple of years. Everything from the roundtable events to meeting with existing and aspiring brewers, who one day, plan to open their own brewery. All of this inspired me to take a good look at what I wanted to do with my life.

All of this helped me come to the conclusion that the dream that I had back in college is worth pursuing after all! I'm going to end this post with a quote from a card my Grandma gave me when I first graduated from High School and it has stuck with me since then.

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go."

- Dr. Seuss

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Royal Nektar Review

Name: Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Royal Nektar
Style: Braggot
ABV: 9.5%
IBUs: 12

Remember last week during my Cherry Doppelschwarz review when I made a promise to keep up to date with the latest releases in Leinenkugel's Big Eddy series? Well, a promise is a promise and today I have the latest release in the series: Royal Nektar. It's a braggot made with cranberry blossom honey and rye. It's a an odd couple of a combination to say the least.

I'm going to throw this out here, never in a million years would've imagined that Leinenkugel's would release a Braggot because it's a pretty obscure style of beer even by craft beer standards. However the same was said about the Gose-style just a couple years back and it now it seems every brewery is releasing their own interpretation of the style.

Appearance - Fairly clear bright golden color with a fizzy head. There is a lot of carbonation going on in here and there is no lacing to speak of. Maybe it's my glassware but it has a slightly thick appearance to it.

Aroma - Very sweet honey forward aroma with some pale maltiness. I am getting that slight rye spiciness and even a bit of what appears to be Belgian yeasts in here as well, though I could be confusing that with the rye. I'm also getting some light pear notes in here as well.

Taste - Potent honey notes mixed in with light cranberry and pear notes. I am getting some yeastiness in here along with some pale maltiness, the later of which is rather moderate. The rye element of the flavor is surprisingly mild and nowhere near as strong as I was anticipating it to be, but it provides a nice kick to the overall flavor without it being in your face.

As I mentioned earlier, a braggot is one of the last styles of beer that I would've expected from Leinenkugel's. With that said, I think they nailed it as far as the style goes and putting their own spin on both the type of honey and rye used in the brewing process helps out a great deal. I'm hoping the braggot enjoys the same type of resurgence of popularity as the Gose-style has been experiencing as of late.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Royal Nektar - 9/10

Base Camp In-Tents IPL Review

Name: Base Camp In-Tents IPL
Style: India Pale Lager
ABV: 6.8%
IBUs: 62

Base Camp Brewing Company, based out of Portland, Oregon, has recently arrived on the shelves of Minnesota stores. They're a brewery that appeals to hikers and outdoorsmen & women with their imagery and marketing. In fact, judging from the design, I'm kind of shocked that this bottle didn't come from REI themselves. Speaking of which....

What also makes these guys so unique is that all of their bottles are made out aluminum with the idea that it'll keep the beer cool outdoors and thus allow it to cool faster when the bottle exposed to cold water, snow, etc. because no one likes warm beer; Let's not kid ourselves here.

On to the beer itself, I've got their In-Tents India Pale Lager, which I admit would probably be amongst my first choices of style to drink if I'm going on an all day mountain-bike excursion. It is also considered by the brewery to be their flagship beer. They also have a rye pilsner, saison and witbier available in my area as of right now but they also have a S'mores stout, all of which sound very tasty right about now.

Appearance - Mild-to-moderately hazy dark orange color. Not really too much in terms of carbonation and the head is more or less on the thinner side, but it has some good lacing to go along with it. Not going to lie, this looks a lot more like an IPA than an IPL.

Aroma - Citrus hop & orange peel notes on the front of the nose, along with some toffee sweetness and pale maltiness. I'm also getting some lager yeasts that aren't immediately apparent but become more noticeable after a couple minutes.

Taste - Starts off with some citrus hops & mild bitter hops. The pale maltiness is a lot stronger here along with the toffee sweetness, which I mentioned earlier. Along with all that is some lager yeasts, which encompasses the flavor as a whole. As for the aftertaste, it's bitter hops, lager yeasts and a certain type of sweetness I can't quite put my finger on. It's also worth noting too that it feels very smooth on the palate and it's quite easy to drink.

I could totally see myself drinking this after a long day of mountain biking in the wilderness. It's not too complex and it possesses some very easy drinkability. On top of that, the bottle itself is nice and sturdy and can take a lot of punishment should you somehow wipeout on your bike or trip while hiking.

Base Camp In-Tents IPL - 8.5/10

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Big Sky Ivan The Terrible Review

Name: Big Sky Ivan The Terrible
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.5%
IBUs: 65

It may be the start of summer, but there's always time for a good Imperial Stout regardless of the seasons; At least in my opinion. Today I've got Big Sky Brewing's Ivan The Terrible Imperial Stout, based out of Missoula, Montana. On the front of the label is someone who looks like a Russian Strongman, whose name just so happens to be Ivan. As to what exactly makes him so terrible is beyond me.

Although they could be alluding to Ivan The Terrible, who was the czar of Russia during the 16th century. Ivan is known for expanding Russia's influence as a whole into that of an empire & conquering areas of land that became modern-day Russia....but he was also known for his paranoia and mental illnesses, which were probably the reasons why he needlessly killed his heir to the throne, took land from his people and even massacring a whole village.

You know what? I take that back, I don't think they would actually name it after that guy.....

The bottle is also spray painted black for reasons I'm not quite sure of. Though if I had to venture an educated guess, I would say it's an extra precaution to prevent light from getting in when you consider that the brown bottle is meant to filter out light but I guess you can't be too careful.

Appearance - Pitch black color with a moderately tan colored head that is fairly foamy. Lacing is also quite abundant but there isn't a whole lot in terms of visible carbonation.

Aroma - Strong chocolate malts and moderate roastiness to start things off followed by some light vanilla notes and a bit of cherry sweetness. Pretty standard nose by Imperial Stout standards.

Taste - Chocolate malts and cherry sweetness dominate the front of the palate. There is some light oakiness in here as well as some vanilla sweetness. I'm picking up on getting some mild earthiness in here too along with some bitter hoppiness, both of which come to light in the back end of the flavor. Speaking of which, the aftertaste is a mixture of oak notes and bitter hoppiness. There is also some smokiness in here too, which lingers throughout the flavor, which is a nice surprise.

What I enjoyed about this beer is that it's flavor is a lot more complex than the nose leads you to believe. To me those are the surprises that I always enjoy. If you so happen to come across this, I would highly recommend checking this out.

Big Sky Ivan The Terrible - 9/10

Monday, June 8, 2015

Great Divide Old Ruffian Review

Name: Great Divide Old Ruffian
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: 90

Here's a beer I haven't had for about 3 years now: Great Divide's Old Ruffian Barleywine. I'm not sure why it's called Old Ruffian but I do know that the label has changed since I last had it. I know all this because the last I had this beer was when I was living in Chicago (3 years ago) and at the beach for a barbeque that a friend of mine was throwing. Amongst the many tasty beers there was this beer, which I'm just now getting down to reviewing.

In the previous design, it just had the silhouette of a guy getting ready for a good ol' fashioned bar brawl against a mahogany background. The current design shows the same silhouette but this time, the backdrop is what I assume is the skyline of downtown Denver, which is where Great Divide is based out of.

Appearance - Very dark red color that has a bit of shimmer to it when you hold it up to a light, taking on a darkish crimson look with a mild amount of haze. The head is about 2 fingers in width and takes on a khaki colored appearance. The lacing, however, is more on the sparse side.

Aroma - Very piney hop and caramel malt forward with some light toffee. I'm also getting some mild grapefruitiness and maybe tiny hint of rye spiciness. Maybe my mind (or nose) is playing tricks on me but that is what I seem to be getting.

Taste - Quite piney hop and grapefruit forward, despite my earlier observations, backed up by a strong caramel malt back bone. That rye spiciness that I first spotted in the nose is also here in the flavor, but much like the nose, it's mild at best. I'm also getting some very light roastiness, which is something I'm not used to seeing in barleywines. The aftertaste is also pretty much all bitter hops and not much else.

Not quite as good as I remember it, but it's held up quite well these past three years; Whether it's a change in recipe or the changes in my palate are unknown at this point. What I do know is that it's a good barleywine for both beginners and experienced drinkers of this style.

Great Divide Old Ruffian - 8/10

The Angry Inch Brewing Kickstarter

To all my fellow readers,

You all know that I love Angry Inch Brewing and I have written about them on several occasions. Some of you may even remember my excitement when I announced that they were going to finally open their doors later this year.

Right now, they are on track to open their brewery sometime this summer in beautiful downtown Lakeville, Minnesota. However like many starting their own small business, not everything goes according to plan.

Recently a good friend of theirs, who was also an investor, had to back out due to a life-changing family emergency. So now they need our help to cover the cost of finishing the construction, which is why they have launched a Kickstarter campaign.

With this Kickstarter, they are looking to raise $30,000 to complete their taproom build out with an extended goal of $50,000 to help furnish the taproom, purchase glassware and finish their pilot system so they can focus on making great beer. For rewards, they've included rewards which include limited edition growlers & apparel and exclusive AiBfriend membership. They've also sweetened the deal by giving people the opportunity to be assistant brewer for a day and, for the highest reward tier, being able to design and brew a batch of beer with the brewers that will be served in the taproom.

I'll say that again: You get to design and brew a batch of beer with the brewers themselves.

I am sharing this all with you because I believe that, with all the ideas and innovation they have going on, they are going to become one of the next big craft breweries in Minnesota. I remember first meeting these guys back when they were nothing more than a garage set-up and now they're on the verge of becoming a fully fledged production brewery; To say these guys have come a long way would be an understatement.

I'm asking everyone to help spread the word about this Kickstarter and, if possible, help Angry Inch Brewing reach their goal. At the time of writing this, they've raised just over $7,000 over the course of four days.

As always, If you'd like to get up to date information about Angry Inch Brewing, you can follow them on both:

Twitter -
Facebook -

I think we can do this, everyone!



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Cherry Doppelschwarz Review

Name: Leinenkugel's Cherry Doppelschwarz
Style: Schwarzbier
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 27

While getting everything ready for this review, I decided to find out when was the last time I had reviewed anything from Leinenkugel's Big Eddy series. After all, it is a series that has yet to disappoint me and there's always something new coming out of it. So imagine my shock when I discovered that the last time I had actually did a review from the Big Eddy series was back in September 2013 with their Uber-Oktoberfest, an Imperialized version of an Oktoberfest beer.

Well today, I'm back with their Cherry Doppelschwarz. Judging by the name, you'd guess that it's a cross between a Doppelbock and a Schwarzbier, right? Wrong! The word Doppel means......say it with me......Double in German; So it's actually an Imperial Schwarzbier that just so happens to be brewed with cherries. I've also received word that the newest entry in the Big Eddy Series is a Braggot brewed with rye so expect to see a review for that in the not-too-distant future.

Appearance - Very dark brown/black color that becomes a dark shade of crimson when held up to a light with little in terms of visible carbonation. The head is quite thin and filmy with some decent lacing to boot.

Aroma - Potent caramel malt and black licorice notes with some mild cherry & toffee sweetness. I'm also picking up on moderate smokiness and some mild roastiness here as well.

Taste - Moderate smokiness paired with chocolate-covered cherries along with some toffee sweetness. I'm also getting that mild roastiness and light black licorice notes. The aftertaste is made up light smokiness, toffee malts and some roastiness.

Though I didn't find anything particularly earth-shattering about this beer, the concept is definitely executed quite well and the end result is a nice, flavorful beer. After having this, I'm convinced that I really should start paying closer attention to the Big Eddy Series again.

Leinenkugel's Cherry Doppelschwarz - 8.5/10

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree Review

Name: Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 12%
IBUs: 55

I feel a bit ashamed of myself for reviewing this right now, because I have never tried the original of this beer prior to what I'm having today, which is Dark Horse's Double Crooked Tree. A few days ago when I was putting together a mix-a-six, the beer which we have today was present but the original Crooked Tree was not. Once I locate the original, I promise that I will do a review on it.

Now moving on....when they named this beer Double Crooked Tree, they were not joking when they called it Double because this has almost double the ABV of the original Crooked Tree, which has just an ABV of 6.5%, though the IBUs were only 47 in the original.

Appearance - Very hazy dark orange color with what looks like a very faint amount of carbonation; It's hard to tell with all the haziness in place. The head is approximately one finger in width and it takes on a light tan-khaki color. The lacing is also pretty good.

Aroma - My first impression is very sweet. You've got some very pungent grapefruit notes backed up by a ton of caramelized malts and a lot of toffee sweetness. I'm also getting some mild cotton candy notes, as in the kind you would buy at the county fair; That is something I wasn't expecting.

Taste - Much like the nose, it's very malty. You have the caramel and toffee maltiness vying for control on the front of the palate, with some fairly aggressive grapefruit & piney hop notes but they are still second-in-command to the sheer maltiness of this beer. That cotton candy aroma I mentioned earlier is also present as well and it lingers throughout the flavor. Thankfully the booziness I was anticipating is nowhere to be found as it is very well hidden here.

Once Imperial IPAs venture beyond the 10% ABV line, the quality is usually hit or miss and thankfully this one is a hit. Sure it's more malty than it is hoppy but I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed this. In fact, I'd even go as far to say that if you're looking for a good gateway Imperial IPA, this will do quite nicely; Just be sure you have a couple of friends with you because looks are definitely deceiving here.

Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree - 9/10

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Macrobrewers & the Craft Beer Market Part 2 - Market Trends & The Future

Macrobrewers & the Craft Beer Market Part 2 -  Market Trends & The Future

In the previous post on this topic, I mentioned at the very end that Anheuser-Busch has started buying up craft breweries to add to its portfolio. I already talked about the purchase of Goose Island, which is/was arguably the most high profile of their purchases. Last year, Anheuser-Busch purchased 10 Barrel Brewing based out of Bend, Oregon & Blue Point Brewing based out Patchogue, New York. However, when it was announced early this year that Anheuser-Busch was going to purchase Elysian Brewing, the craft beer community was in shock since Elysian had been a long cherished member of the craft brewing scene; Though rumors of a buyout had been floating around for a couple of months

Oh and remember that commercial from Budweiser? You know, this one.....

Did you catch the part where it talks about fussing over a pumpkin peach ale? A few months prior to Anheuser-Busch's buyout, Elysian actually released a pumpkin peach ale and many took this as a thumb-and-nose gesture on behalf of Budweiser. Upon hearing this information, many people were, understandably, rather upset.

As I've mentioned before, macrobrew sales have been declining steadily over the past few years while craft beer sales continue to grow with each passing year; Which could explain the buyouts we've seen over the past few years. However another reason why sales have been falling is because there is not only to a wider selection as far as beer in concerned, but also many of us (i.e. Millennials) don't have the brand loyalty that our parents had and what we want in a beer is, for lack of a better term, a higher quality of flavor.

Speaking from a Millennial perspective, it's not that I don't have brand loyalty, though you would never guess from all the reviews I do. It's just that I was introduced to craft beer fairly early on, about a couple years after I started drinking beer in general. At the risk of sounding snobbish, my standards as far as the quality of flavor I expect from a beer are considerably higher than what people my age expected 20 years ago.

Furthermore, there are actually few beers that I have as a go-to option when I'm not feeling like writing or I'm just looking to relax for the evening. They're not necessarily amongst the best beers I've ever had but they're great beers that I know I'm getting my money's worth for when I buy them.

So what happens from here? Will craft beer one day reign supreme while AB-InBev & MillerCoors go extinct? Will Budweiser, Heineken & Miller Coors join forces to form a Voltron-like robot and try to wipe out everything craft beer? Truthfully, I don't see any of those happening but I do have an idea of what we will start to see in the foreseeable future.

  1. BMC (Budweiser MillerCoors) will continue to buy craft breweries.

    I mentioned in my previous post that macro-brewers will want to retain their share of the marketplace and we've already seen the expansion of Goose Island to a national level and it has worked favorably for Anheuser-Busch. Whether you like it or not, this is a trend that will continue. Given the recent purchases made on behalf of AB-InBev, don't be too surprised to see MillerCoors start to buyout various craft breweries around the country.

  2. Craft Beer will continue to grow its market share

    This shouldn't really come as too much of a surprise, but the craft beer industry will continue to grow its marketshare. At the time of writing this, craft beer accounted for approximately 11% of the beer industry in the United States. While I don't expect to see craft beer breaking the 25% marker for at least quite a while, I don't expect to see the growth stopping anytime soon.

  3. Expect to see Macrobrewers release their own interpretations of popular craft beer styles.

    For the past couple of years, we've been seeing AB-InBev & MillerCoors release beers with higher-than-normal ABVs in an attempt to draw in the craft beer drinking crowd. The results have been....not so good with just one that I would consider to be tolerable. The thing is that macro-brewers have the capability and resources to make the same thing as craft breweries but they aren't really making an effort to do so.

    I see that changing in the very near future and I expect to see Budweiser or Miller release their own IPA or Saison. This would no doubt be an effort to draw in the craft beer crowd and the quality of the beers would inevitably come into question upon release. Besides... if Blue Moon can make a White IPA that is actually good, I don't see any reason why Budweiser wouldn't be able to do the same.

  4. Microbreweries buying other microbreweries.

    Here's one that I don't think many people really consider since many craft beer drinkers have adopted an "Us Vs. Them" mentality. We all know that some craft breweries come in all shapes and sizes but they are still businesses nevertheless.

    Given the growth at which craft breweries are undergoing, I believe that it's inevitable that we're bound to see other microbrewers merge with or buy up other microbrewers. One prime example I've seen is with Bent Brewstillery, a local Minnesota brewery, merge with Pour Decisions, another Minnesota-based brewery.
So there you have it, my predictions for the future of the craft brewing industry and the brewing industry as a whole. Regardless of what happens, it's going to get very interesting here in the next few years and we all have a front row seat to all the action.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Molson Ice Review

Name: Molson Ice
Style: Adjunct Lager
ABV: 5.6%

Remember Molson XXX? For those of you not familiar with my blog, I consider it to be one of the foulest beers around and I've had my share of bad beers, trust me.

Well the other day I was putting together a mix-a-six when I saw this staring back at me on the shelves. I could tell that it had been there awhile and judging by the Expiration Date of June 11 of 2015, I knew it didn't have long to live. With its shiny label, blue-hued red Canadian leaf and 90's inspired futuristic look, I had found the father of Molson XXX: Molson Ice.

You see back in the 1990's when I was just a kid,  I remember seeing ads for Ice Beers while I was watching the Red Wings play on TV(Hey, we didn't have the Wild yet!) because Ice Beers were the big thing back then. Ice beers, as you may or may not know, are made when you take a standard beer, lower the temperature, remove the ice crystals from the said beer as a result of lowering the temperature. This in return gives it a higher-than-normal alcohol content but it also explains why it smells and tastes like freezer burn (more on that later.)

Right now, the two biggest ice beers that I know of are Natural Ice (Natty Ice) and Bud Ice. I know Natty Ice is still being made but I haven't seen a Bud Ice on store shelves for a few years now and I'm starting to wonder if it's been discontinued or if distribution has been reduced. Either way, I'm still seeing new check-ins and reviews for it on a fairly regular basis so I doubt production has been stopped completely.

Appearance - Clear pale yellow color with a moderate amount of visible carbonation. The head is quite thin and has a thin filmy retention. And.....there's lacing here!!! Not just some soapy lacing, but good lacing at that! I can't believe my eyes!

Aroma - I'm getting some cereal grains, a fair amount of pale malts, that signature cardboard scent that is fairly common in this style and some light rusty metal. There's also that smell of frost mixed in with that metallic scent. If you've even been outside in the dead of winter

Taste -  I wish there was any changes from the nose, but there sadly isn't. You've got the cereal grains, pale malts, some dried cardboard and that frost-burn/rusty metallic taste. At least the aftertaste is dry and nothing lingers on the palate long after consumption.

You know, after having this, I'm convinced that it's a good thing ice beers are no longer popular. I mean, anyone who's had freezer burned food knows just how unsavory it is and the same exact thing can be said about this beer. Now is it as god-awfully bad as Molson XXX? Of course not, but you still shouldn't drink this beer because it's still bad; Not extremely bad but just merely bad.

Molson Ice - 3/10

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Martin House The Imperial Texan Review

Name: Martin House The Imperial Texan
Style: Imperial IPA/Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 9%
IBUs: 100

I've made it to the last beer of my first (and hopefully not last) Texas craft beer care package. I've been saving this one for last as I think it'll help end this series on a fitting note. Today I've got The Imperial Texan from Martin House Brewing Company based out of Fort Worth, Texas.

Before we get to the beer, lets look at the label itself....

It's a beer label that screams "Texas." You've got guns & cowboys in 10 gallon hats with one of them taking a bullet to the chest. It even says Made in Texas by Texans. If this label had no text on it and you asked me where this label was from, I would say it was from Texas. You'll also notice too that the beer is called a Double Red Ale. On Beer Advocate & the brewery's website, it's also listed as a Double Red Ale. While the can I have calls it a Double Red Double IPA. Let's see how the flavor is first before we make a judgement.

Appearance - Moderately Hazy dark red, no carbonation. The head is nice and foamy and has a light tan color to it, though I'm not getting much in terms of lacing

Aroma - Strong piney hops dominate the front of the nose. Behind that is some toffee & caramel maltiness, some potent grapefruit-apricot notes and maybe just a hint of toastiness.

Taste - Piney hops are very pronounced and linger throughout, and is supplemented by the toffee & caramel malt backbone which is also very strong here. The fruitness is more grapefruit focused than in the nose. The aftertaste is piney hop bitterness and light grapefruit notes. I don't bring this up too often anymore but it's worth noting the mouthfeel is very smooth.

Despite what Beer Advocate say, I'm inclined to say that an Imperial Red Ale would be Fulton The Libertine. This, on the other hand, is an Imperial Red IPA, you would have to be a fool not to think it isn't, especially when you factor in the flavor. Whatever style this may be, I still enjoyed this a lot and would happily have this again should I be given the opportunity.

A big shout out to Ken for hooking me up with these awesome beers! Hopefully I will get to try out more beers from the Lone Star State in the future.

Martin House The Imperial Texan - 9/10

Monday, June 1, 2015

Saint Arnold Endeavour Review

Name: Saint Arnold Endeavour
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.9%
IBUs: 76

Well, we've come to the last beer in the Texas Craft Beer care package and I've been saving this for last. I bring to you Endeavour from Saint Arnold Brewing Company based out of Houston, TX. Endeavour is an Imperial IPA which is brewed with Simcoe, Centennial & Columbus hops. Also worth noting: on the label, it's called an IPA².

Fun Fact: The brewery gets its name from Arnold of Soissons, the patron saint of hop-pickers and Belgian brewers. Also, according to the brewery itself, they are the oldest craft brewery in all of Texas.

Appearance - Mild to moderately hazy dark orange color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head is lightly tanned and quite thin but there is some good lacing though.

Aroma - Rich citrus hoppiness on the front of the nose with a solid caramel malt base followed by some light bitterness & grapefruitness. Along with that is maybe a hint of apricot.

Taste - Robust citra and bitter hops, followed by caramel & toffee sweetness before finishing off with grapefruits and more bitter hops. The aftertaste is bitter resin hops and a light toffee sweetness.

The hop profile is nice and varied, yet balanced at the same time. Needless to say, I like this a lot and I'm glad I got to try this out. Hopefully if I find myself in Texas one day, I'll be able to have this again.

Saint Arnold Endeavour - 9/10