Monday, August 29, 2016

Castle Danger Red Hop Rising Review

Name: Castle Danger Red Hop Rising
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.9%

It's time to look at another beer from Castle Danger Brewing, based out of Two Harbors, MN because they have a new canned release. Well, to be fair it isn't exactly new as it's been in existence for about two years now. I'm talking about Red Hop Rising, their fall seasonal IPA.

You see, back in 2014 when their taproom & brewery opened up in downtown Two Harbors, this beer was part of their taproom grand opening lineup and it was a crowd pleaser to say the least. I'm guessing it was popular enough to warrent a can release. Unlike previous Castle Danger beers I've reviewed, this one comes in tallboy cans as opposed to the standard 12oz. cans.

Appearnace - Mildly hazy dark crimson color with a light amount of visible carbonation. The head is quite foamy and the lacing is abundant.

Aroma - Strong citrus & piney hops paired with an equally strong caramel malt backbone with some orange rind notes. I'm also getting a hint of toffee sweetness in here too.

Taste - Piney & citrus hops on the front of the palate with a strong caramel & toffee maltiness in the middle. In the back, both the malts come together with the piney & citrus hops to create a well balanced flavor. The aftertaste is mainly some bitter resin hops with a raisin-like sweetness, both of which linger on for a few moments.

Still as good as I remember it and that's always a good thing. It's still got that hop and malt balance that I remember from my days living in Duluth. You know the drill, if you are able to find it, this is most certainly worth checking out.

Castle Danger Red Hop Rising - 9/10

Epic Tart 'n Juicy Sour IPA Review

Name: Epic Tart 'n Juicy Sour IPA
Style: India Pale Ale/Wild Ale
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 50 (per Untappd)

Here's another beer from Epic Brewing and I'll admit I didn't exactly know what this was until I got home. I give to you Tart 'n Juicy Sour IPA, a name that I'm convinced Epic got from watching a Juicy Fruit bubble gum commercial, though Juicy Fruit isn't exactly what one would call tart.

When I first got this beer, I assumed it was sour on account of the supposed lemon/lime slice on the can but apparently this is a kettle soured beer. I'll admit that the idea of a Sour IPA sounds a bit off putting since you never associate those two styles ever, but if Jester King can pull off a Sour Imperial Stout, then I think there's no reason why this couldn't work.

Appearance - Very hazy & cloudy dark orange color with a high amount of visible carbonation. The head is pretty thin for the most part and there's no lacing left behind.

Aroma - Citrus hops and mango sweetness with hints of lemon & lime juice. Despite the overall appearance, I'm getting more of a pale malt aroma out of this as opposed to a caramel malt base but it could just be the overall scent.

Taste - Citrus hops on the front of the palate, but the sourness just dominates the middle of the palate with some strong lemon & lime tartness with just a tiny bit of funk, but even that's hard to pick up on. The back end of the palate is more of that tartness, but I do get a small hint of caramel malts. As for the aftertaste, I'm getting some more lemon tartness that lingers for a couple of moments.

I do enjoy sour beers and everything, but I feel like I'm sucking on a lemon more than I am having an actual wild ale. In short, it's an interesting idea but I can't really say this is going to be amongst my favorite sour beers anytime soon.

Epic Tart 'n Juicy Sour IPA - 6/10

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A visit to the Minnesota State Fair - Beer Edition 2016

Two years ago, unbeknownst to myself at the time, a legend was born.

It was a different time back then: I was not even married for a month, I was still living in Duluth, I still drove a Dodge Durango, and it would be another year before I would become a full-time graduate student. I'm talking about my Minnesota State Fair - Beer Edition 2014 Post that I put together one afternoon two years ago. I didn't know it at the time, but it went to to become one of my most viewed posts of 2014 and the feedback I got from it was excellent. So last year when the State Fair came around, I got a couple emails asking if there would be a State Fair 2015 Beer Edition Post, but I had other commitments at the time so I was unable to go.

This year is different because the legend has returned. That's right, it's the Minnesota State Fair 2016 Beer Edition Post. It's back and bigger and better than ever before!

As proud as I was of my last State Fair post, I didn't get to try out some beers that I was looking forward to and I kicked myself for not getting around to finding them. This time around, instead of going in the early afternoon like I did last time, I decided to wake up bright and early and get there right when the gates opened. With a bottle of water and a can of Red Bull, I was determined to try out as many beers as possible.

Name: Excelsior Maple Bacon Brown
Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 5.3%
Found at: Giggles Campfire Grill 

Served with a piece of cold bacon, which thankfully wasn't raw. It's got a good chocolate malt and roasty profile with a light smokiness and, of course, bacon. Maybe it's just me, but the beer also had an oily palate characteristic which may have been caused by bacon and that kind of ruined it for me. In any case, it's a solid brown ale but it definitely could've gone without the bacon. Don't get me wrong, like bacon and all, but this whole cult of personality surrounding bacon needs to go away. Yes, it's the State Fair and all but, seriously, gross!

Excelsior Maple Bacon Brown - 4/10

Name: Lakes and Legends Sweet Corn Summer Ale 
Style: Cream Ale
ABV: 5.1%
Found at: O'Gara's at The Fair

A cream ale made with locally made Untiedt's Sweet Corn. This had a solid pale malt and light floral hop profile. The sweet corn used actually gave it a nice light sweetness that accompanied the rest of the flavor profile quite well. Simply put, it was the perfect kind of beer for that day and dare I reminded me of New Glarus' Spotted Cow.

I may have been a critic of Lakes & Legends before, but they knocked it out of the park with this one right here. If anyone from Lakes & Legends is reading this, please make this available outside of the State Fair!

Lakes and Legends Sweet Corn Summer Ale - 9/10

Name: Summit Hop Merger White IPA
Style: White IPA
ABV: 6.5%
Found at: Summit on a Stick Booth

To my knowledge, this is the first White IPA Summit has ever done, unless they did a Taproom-Only or Unchained release at some point. This one had a nice citrus hop profile with some light Belgian undertones and just a light hint of a clove-like zing, along with a bittersweet finish. Much like the Sweet Corn Summer Ale, this beer could potentially be a nice seller for Summit if it weren't just only available at the State Fair. For the time being, try this out while you can because you won't be disappointed.

Summit Hop Merger White IPA - 9/10

Name: Schell's Grain Belt Frozen BLU
Style: Fruit Beer
ABV: 4.8%
Found at: Schell's Pavallion at Lulu's Public House

This is one that I actually missed two years ago and I kicked myself for not trying it. This is nothing more than Grain Belt infused with blueberries and it has a rather fruity & slightly tart finish. It's also served with a semi-frozen slush/foam of the same beer. In other words, Liquid Frozen BLUE with semi-frozen...Frozen BLU on top. It's nothing special, but it's damn refreshing when consumed and that's what they were going for. This may be more of a novelty, but it's a good one at that.

Schell's Grain Belt Frozen BLU - 8/10

Name: Bad Weather Funnel Cloud
Style: Amber Ale
ABV: 5.2%
Found at: Mancini's al Fresco

Inspired by the Funnel Cake food served at the State Fair. This one has a solid chocolate malt profile with some mild vanilla notes, accompanied by some very light citrus/floral hoppiness with just a touch of yeasts. It really doesn't remind me too much of an actual funnel cake but it's a solid and drinkable amber ale.

Bad Weather Funnel Cloud - 8/10

Name: Big Wood Chocolate Chip Cookie Beer
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.2%
Found at: Andy's Grille

Three years ago when Lift Bridge's Mini-Donut beer was unveiled, there was a line around the block. That wasn't the case this year, but it did inspire other breweries to come up with their own spin on State Fair Classics. This beer is served with mini-chocolate chips along one side of the rim of the glass. Much like the mini donut beer, it's quite yeast forward in flavor with a touch of floral hops but when consumed with the chocolate chips, it does taste somewhat like a chocolate chip cookie.

However, by itself it's nothing special and I feel that they got lazy with this. If you want to impress me, I suggest making this same exact beer but using Sweet Martha's Cookies. Hey if breweries can make beers with chocolate cake or ice cream, then there's no reason why we can't use cookies!

Big Wood Chocolate Chip Cookie Beer - 7/10

Name: Bent Brewstillery Sweat Together IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.3%
Found at: Ball Park Cafe

This beer was apparently made in collaboration with a State Fair winner in homebrewing for 2015, so they are giving us a West Coast-style IPA and it is a very good one at that! Rich citrus hops permeate throughout the palate with a nice caramel malt backbone keeping things in balance without making the flavor too bright for its own good, with a bitter hop finish.

It may be a bit higher in alcohol content, but this one is definitely worth checking out. I believe their words for this beer was "It's strong enough to help you brave the crowds, but not strong enough to place you on the bench all day people watching." It was something along those lines, but point being that you most certainly must check this out.

Bent Brewstillery Sweat Together IPA - 9/10

Name: Bent Paddle Hopmosa
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.2%
Found at: Ball Park Cafe

This is Bent Paddle's Bent Hop Golden IPA, but infused with actual oranges and all I have to say, Wow! They took an already great IPA, and gave it a sweet citrus spin. You've got a nice citrus hoppiness upfront with some caramel malts, but there's an encompassing orange juice sweetness that is reminiscent of a mimosa that finished with a bittersweet citra finish.

Out of all the beers at the fair, this was by far my favorite. Again, it's rather sad that this is only a State Fair-exclusive beer because I would imagine Bent Paddle could make a killing off of this. Oh well, for the time being, just swing by the Ball Park Cafe and get a pint (or two) of this.

Bent Paddle Hopmosa - 9.5/10

So overall....

Best Beer - Bent Paddle Hopmosa. They took an already great beer and somehow made it 10 times better. I would love to see this in canned or bottled form someday

Worst Beer - Excelsior Maple Bacon Brown. This is proof that adding bacon to something doesn't make it beer. It was decent tasting but the grease/oil on the palate from the bacon made it hard for me to enjoy it.

All and all, I enjoyed this State Fair outing much more than the one 2 years ago. On top of that, I got to try out a lot more beers this time around than I did before and I feel much prouder of this post than the one I did two years ago. At the time of writing this, there's just over a week left for the Minnesota State Fair, so make your way out there and use this as your guide.


- Nick

Monday, August 22, 2016

Ballast Point Pumpkin Down Review

Name: Ballast Point Pumpkin Down
Style: Scottish Ale
ABV: 5.8%
IBUs: 22

A caveat before we start this review, I've received quite a few emails regarding my Oktoberfest op-ed article. Sure enough, I gotten some "All Oktoberfests aren't alike, so try *random Oktoberfest beer*" emails and tweets. Rest assured I will get around to reviewing them when I have the chance, there are some other beers I have to review first plus this week is rather busy for myself as you will see later one.

With that said, let's look at the other style of fall beers: Pumpkin Ales. This one is from Ballast Point and it's actually a variation of their Piper Down Scottish Ale, which I have sadly not had as of yet. It's called Pumpkin Down, and it's their Piper Down but made with pumpkin..and is pretty much stating the obvious at this point.

Appearance - Mildly hazy dark amber color with no visible carbonation. The head is rather thin but there's a good amount of lacing left along the sides of the glass.

Aroma - Getting some moderate pumpkin spice & roasted barley notes followed by some chocolate malts and light hints of toffee.

Taste - Not terribly different from the nose. You've got those fairly potent pumpkin spice notes that linger throughout the palate with some chocolate malts & roasted barley to back it up. The key difference here is that I'm picking up on some mild bitter hoppiness primarily towards the middle.

While I can't speak for the original Piper Down, this rendition of it is quite good! The pumpkin spice is complimentary to the overall dark flavor of the beer and, in ways I can't put my finger on, it just works. I know I've been a fairly harsh critic of Ballast Point in the past mainly because of their price vs. quality, this one is very good and worth checking out should you come across it.

Ballast Point Pumpkin Down - 9/10

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout Review

Name: Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 7.6%
IBUs: 41

Alright, I guess I should start reviewing fall seasonals since any more summer seasonals I've been trying to locate are now AWOL. I might as well start things off with Millstream's Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout. As you may have guessed from the name, it's an Imperial Stout but made with pumpkins.

Appearance - Pitch black with no visible carbonation. The head is initially quite thin in overall appearance and fades away just after a few moments and there's not much in terms of lacing

Aroma - Chocolate malts and pumpkin that reminds me of a chocolate orange. I'm also getting some light spicy notes along with some mild coffee grounds. It kind of reminds me of halloween candy!

Taste - Strong pumpkin spice notes and coffee grounds upfront, the former of which lingers throughout the palate. In the middle, I'm getting some mild bitter hoppiness, which is overlayed by that pumpkin spice. In the back, I'm getting some light yam notes and moderate chocolate maltiness, along with hints of graham cracker. As for the aftertaste, It's mainly pumpkin spice and chocolate malts.

It's definitely a different spin on the Imperial Stout Style, and it's one that I feel you'll either love or hate. As for myself, the pumpkin spice aspect could've been toned down just a notch and give more balance to the chocolate/roasty profile of the flavor. As it stands right now, it's a solid stout that's worth checking out.

Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout - 8/10

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Against The Grain Citra Ass Down Review

Name: Against The Grain Citra Ass Down
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.4%
IBUs: 68

I've been trying to follow through on my promise to review more Against The Grain beers, which is helped by the fact that it's no longer available exclusively in overpriced bomber bottles. What I have today is a beer that I've actually heard quite a bit about and, according to what I've been told, is their flagship beer.

I'm of course talking about Citra Ass Down, which is a citrus forward Imperial IPA, of which that you "Citra Ass Down and drink this now." The artwork looks like something I would see in a college art exhibit complete with a mish-mash of paraphernalia on the label. I'm also told this is allegedly one of the best citrus IPAs in the country but I'll reserve judgement until I've actually had it.

Appearance - Hazy dark orange color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. There's a fairly foamy head her and there's some great lacing here as well.

Aroma - Right away I'm getting some rich citrus hops paired with some moderte caramel malts and a hint bitter hops and some light toffee sweetness.

Taste - Much like the nose, I'm getting some strong citrus hoppiness upfront which continues on through the palate, with a moderate caramel maltiness in the middle but the back end is mostly citrus hops with a very light touch of bitter hops in the back. As for the aftertaste, I'm getting some light orange rind sweetness.

Well now, this is rather good. Great even! I'm not sure exactly how widely available this beer is, but if you are able get a hold of it, then I would highly recommend checking this out. As far as citrus forward IPAs go, they don't get much better than this!

Against The Grain Citra Ass Down - 9.5/10

Friday, August 19, 2016

Founders reDANKulous Review

Name: Founders ReDANKolous
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.5%
IBUs: 110

Look at that, I'm actually keeping my promise to stay on top of beers released by Founders.....sort of! With today's beer, I've been seeing this for roughly a year now. Which beer is that, you ask? Why it's reDANKulous! And yes, that is the correct way of spelling.

What's the story behind reDANKulous? Well from what I have gathered, it's an Imperial Red IPA which started out as a limited release series in bomber bottles but it has since been released in 12 oz. bottles. Also according to the things I've heard about reDANKulous, it's is actually supposed to be one of the dankest IPAs out there, which is just an absolute shock. Well if you're going to call your beer reDANKulous (God, I love saying that!), you might as well do your best to live up to the name.

Appearance - Mildly hazy dark red color with some light carbonation. There's a reasonably foamy head here along with some decent lacing.

Aroma - Strong piney & bitter hops with some Munich, toffee and caramel maltiness along with just a light touch of citrus notes. It certainly smells dank at this point.

Taste - Pretty strong piney and citrus hops upfront that linger throughout the palate.Towards the middle is where 'm getting a big toffee & caramel malt backbone that continues on to the back. In the back, you do just get a touch of citrus hops on the very end. The aftertaste is fairly bitter hop and caramel malt forward and lingers on for a few moments after a sip is taken.

Is reDANKulous as dank as the name suggests? The answer is a resounding yes! It's hoppy, piney and bitter all rolled into one but the malt backbone gives it enough support that it doesn't collapse on itself into a dank mess. If you're not into bitter IPAs, then it goes without saying that this isn't the beer for you. But for those of us looking for a really dank IPA, then you will get more than your money's worth with reDANKulous.

Founders reDANKulous - 9/10

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Old Style Review

Name: Old Style
Brewed by: Pabst/Miller
Style: Adjunct Lager
ABV: 4.72%

What can I say about Old Style? Well for starters, if you've ever been to Chicago, you would know that there is an Old Style sign on virtually every block in the city proper. I'm not making this up either, you literally cannot wildly swing a bat anywhere in Chicago without hitting at least 2 Old Style signs. (Note: Please don't actually try this...)

Every bar in Chicago has it in stock, even places like The Maproom. And it is the official beer of the Chicago Cubs. In fact, it is probably the reason why attendance for Cubs games are as astronomically high as they are now, though that could be due to the fact that whenever I went to a Cubs game, the price of a Tallboy was around $3-4 a can. It is worth noting too that it is the very reason why the Red Line L-Train smelled like booze whenever I was unfortunate enough to be on there the day a Cubs game was happening.

Yet during my time in Chicago I never once had it. By that point, I was drinking nothing but craft beer and had moved along from macro-lagers. That changes today! So let's take a look at the beer that Chicago loves to call it's very own (despite no longer actually being brewed in Chicago.)

Appearance - Clear pale yellow color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head starts out foamy but fades away after a couple minutes and the lacing is on the spottier side

Aroma - Pale malts, cardboard, metallic rust & cereal grains with a light amount of skunkiness but otherwise uneventful.

Taste - Pale malts & light cardboard upfront with some cereal grains in the middle and back. In the back of the palate there's a strange bitterness but it's not a hoppy bitterness. It's almost like a rusty metallic bitterness. At the same time, it also tastes very watery.

Old Style reminds me of this one time I left a plastic bottle of water in a hot car for a few days then decided to take a swig of it once it cooled down, all the while not knowing how long it had been in there for. That's pretty much the flavor of Old Style in a nutshell.

Listen to me, Chicago; This isn't the beer you should call "Chicago's Beer" because this is absolute crap. I mean, you literally cannot get much crappier than this! It's watery, metallic & bitter (Not in the good way either!) Frankly the only thing that saves it from being bottom of the barrel god-awful is that there is no skunky taste that was present in the nose.. In any case, avoid this at all costs!

Old Style - 1.5/10

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tin Whiskers Watts Wheat Wine Review

Name: Tin Whiskers Watts Wheat Wine
Style: Wheatwine
ABV: 9.4%
IBUs: 15

I remember it like it was yesterday: it had been a couple weeks after I had moved back from Duluth that I first visited the Tin Whiskers taproom and had a chance to try out their Watts Wheat Wine. As I sipped upon it, I asked the gentleman working the taproom if they were ever going to bottle it, to which I received a shrug, for he did not know what the plans were for it.

Well, fate must've somehow heard my question because here we are a year later with a bottled version of Watts Wheat Wine. Like many of Tin Whiskers' beer names, this one has  a reference to some electrical term, which in this case is watts and if I really need to explain the definition, then I am worried for you.

Appearance - Hazy dark orange color with no carbonation. The head is rather thin but the lacing is decent lacing.

Aroma - Mild citrus hops, followed by some sweet honey and peppercorn-like spiciness that reminds me of Belgian yeasts. I'm also getting some light malted wheat and pale malts notes in here as well

Taste - It starts out with some mild citrus hops and malted wheat notes but the honey hits strong in the middle of the palate and lingers well into the aftertaste. Towards the back, I'm getting some more of that peppercorn spiciness that reminds me strongly of Belgian yeasts and cloves along with some more that light malted wheat. The aftertaste is more of that light Belgo-like yeast spiciness and that sweet honey.

There is so much going on here and each component of the flavor gives it a very well deserved complexity. In the end, it's a very nice beer that is worthy of being an Anniversary beer from the brewery. Speaking of which, this is also the best beer I've had from Tin Whiskers to date. Keep it coming, guys!

Tin Whiskers Watts Wheat Wine - 9.5/10

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Stone 20th Anniversary Citracado IPA Review

Name: Stone 20th Anniversary Citracado IPA
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 9%
IBUs: 80

It's that time of the year again where Stone releases their annual Anniversary IPA, with each year being different than the last and I've made it a duty of mine to review each one that comes out every year since I first started this blog. First one I looked at was the 17th Anniversary Gotterdammerang, then came the 18th Anniversary Brown IPA, and then came the 19th Anniversary Thunderstuck.

So what do we have for the 20th Anniversary? We have Citracado, an Imperial IPA with citra hops and......avocado flower honey? According to what I've dug up, the honey does indeed come from the avocado plant but it's derived mainly from the nectar of the plant.

Appearance - Hazy dark amber color with a moderate amount of carbonation. It possess a reasonable foamy head but there isn't too much in terms of lacing left behind, if any at all.

Aroma - Right off the bat, I'm getting some reasonably strong citrus hops with some hefty caramel & toffee malts. I'm also getting some of that honey sweetness and just a touch of dark chocolate roast.

Taste - Much like the nose, I'm getting some strong citra hops and caramel malts with some honey and bitter hop notes towards the middle. On the back end of the palate, that honey sweetness does get a bit stronger and lingers on in the aftertaste. Aside from that, it's mostly citrus and bitter hops that gives it a light dankness to it.

Each year, I hope that Stone's Anniversary IPA matches the quality and flavor that I saw in Gotterdammerang three years ago. This not that year, but this is still an outstanding IPA nevertheless. It's got an excellent hop profile and the malts help even it out perfectly. So with that said, go check this one out while you still can.

Stone 20th Anniversary Citracado IPA - 9/10

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Oktoberfest beer style is boring; So prove to me it's not!

The summer seasonals are currently taking their final bow for the year as they will soon be replaced by a tsunami of Oktoberfest & pumpkin beers, along with other fall seasonals. To some of my longer term readers, you may have noticed that during the fall months, you don't see too many Oktoberfest beers being reviewed, if any at all. Well there's a reason for that and I know some of you are going to hate me for this but frankly, I think this just needs to be said:

The Oktoberfest is one of the most boring, bland and uninspired beer styles out there and I think many of us are afraid to admit it.

Now before you get those pitchforks and torches ready, let me explain. Speaking in my capacity as a beer writer, my big gripe with the style is that I think that they all taste the same. I feel like regardless of where the beer comes from, there is virtually little to nothing that makes them stand out from one another.

I have honestly yet to see an Oktoberfest beer that people will actively go out of their way for, just to try it out. As boring and as uninspired as the style is, part of that fault lies with brewers. I get it, you want to honor what is a classic German style and draw in a larger crowd, but where is that innovation and creativity that I see in styles like IPAs, Imperial Stouts, Saisons, and even Pilsners? Actually, a better question would be: Is the Oktoberfest style even capable of being amazing? Is the style so restrictive to the point that putting even a slight twist on it will totally ruin the style?

As someone who has taken graduate-level economics courses along with keeping close marks on the brewing industry, I know that Oktoberfest beers are huge sellers for the likes of breweries like Sam Adams, Leinenkugel's and Goose Island; Which explains why numerous craft breweries always seem to have Oktoberfest beers at the ready and that's understandable. However, if you're going to release an Oktoberfest beer, make it stand out from the others. Hell, making your beer stand out from the rest is one of the main foundations of craft beer. Without it, we wouldn't have the likes of Heady Topper, Surly Darkness, Pliny The Elder, & Three Floyds' Zombie Dust.

I understand that the casual beer drinker will drink up any Oktoberfest beer out there, and that is their right to do so....but that doesn't mean we have to keep it plain and simple. The craft beer drinking community deserves so much more than just an army of what I consider to be an indistinguishable array of one type of beer style every year. We've come too far along to settle for something like that.

The Challenge

So I'm going to throw down a challenge to all my readers who don't agree with me regarding my views on Oktoberfest beers: Prove it. Prove to me that there is an Oktoberfest-style beer out there that will knock my socks off. Send me an email or a tweet and let me know which Oktoberfest beer I should have. In fact, send me a beer mail in the event that a supposedly amazing Oktoberfest beer isn't available in my area. I want to be able to prove to people that there is an Oktoberfest beer out there that can floor any seasoned craft beer drinker.

Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown Review

Name: Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown
Style: Imperial Brown Ale
ABV: 9%
IBUs: 40

Well this is troubling. If my website is correct, it's been about a year and a half since I reviewed any beers from Founders. "Big Deal, Nick. You say that all the time" you say. That's true but they've been seemingly releasing something new every other week it seems and it's hard for someone like me to keep up; Although according to Beer Advocate, this beer has actually been around for quite some time.

In any case, today I have their Sumatra Mountain Brown, an Imperial Brown Ale made with coffee from Sumatra, Indonesia. I'm not really big into coffee, but I guess coffee from Sumatra is a big deal...I guess?

Appearance - Dark brown color with no visible carbonation. The head is pretty thin for the most part but it leaves behind a really good amount of lacing.

Aroma - Chocolate malts with some strong coffee ground notes. I'm also getting some light bitter and floral hops along with just a touch of nuttiness.

Taste - Strong coffee grounds and chocolate malts upfront, the former of which lingers throughout the palate. Towards the middle is where that nuttiness starts to take hold along with some light bitter hops. In the back, I'm getting some light floral hops and strong roasted barley, with the coffee aspect giving it an amplifying effect. The aftertaste consists mainly of moderate coffee and barley roastiness with a lingering bitter hoppiness on the very end.

It's a bit too heavy on the coffee for my liking; At least more than I'm used to, but it's got a good flavor profile and those of you who enjoy coffee beers will no doubt love this. I'll be sure to be more attentive to Founders beers in the future.

Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown - 8/10

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Uinta Hop Nosh Tangerine IPA Review

Name: Uinta Hop Nosh Tangerine IPA
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.3%
IBUs: 82

Uinta Brewing is one of those breweries that has been on my radar but haven't really bothered to check out. With that said, today's beer is one that I've gotten a couple requests for and it's actually a variation of another beer. I give to you Uinta Hop Nosh Tangerine: an off-shoot of the original Hop Nosh, which I'm told is one of the best IPAs to come out of Utah.

Having never had the original, I feel somewhat bad for reviewing this first instead of the original, but it's not like they reworked the original recipe. According to what I read, they just added tangerine to it. Also, I think this beer is either an answer to Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin or New Belgium's Citradelic but let's see how this is.

Appearance - Cloudy dark orange color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head starts out pretty foamy but eventually simmers to a thin foamy appearance, but the lacing left behind is quite plentiful.

Aroma - Citrus hops and tangerine sweetness with some orange rings with just a touch of hop bitterness. There's also a solid but not necessarily strong caramel malt backbone at work here.

Taste - Citrus and bitter hops start things off on the palate, with some orange rind and moderate caramel malts towards the middle. In the back, I'm starting to get some of that tangerine sweetness more of that hop bitterness I saw in the front. The aftertaste, however, is mostly that tangerine tanginess with more of those bitter hops and some hints of caramel malt,

Having never had the original, I'm going out on a limb here by saying the following: this is one of the best IPAs that I've had in a long time. It's got a hefty amount of hoppiness with the tangerine and malty aspects of the flavor helping to centralize everything as a whole. My feelings of guilt by not having the original are quickly wiped away because I feel that even without the Tangerine portion of the flavor, this would still be a fantastic beer.

Uinta Hop Nosh Tangerine - 9.25/10

Monday, August 8, 2016

Central Waters Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale Review

Name: Central Waters Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale
Style: Scotch Ale
ABV: 9.5%

Three years ago this month, I reviewed what I consider to be one of the best barrel-aged beers that I've ever had. It was Central Waters' Bourbon Barrel-Aged Barleywine; Part of Central Waters' Brewer's Reserve Series. Even to this day, I still hold it in high regards as one of the best barleywines that I've had to date. Since that review, Central Waters has released several barrel-aged beers but they have always seemed to elude me whenever I tried seeking them out, with the exception of them being on tap at a few select locations.

Today I have their Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale, a beer that was among those that always seemed to slip away from my grasp. There's not really much else to say, except that what is already stated in the name. Oh and that this is supposedly one of the best barrel-aged beers available in the Midwest, if not, the country. I haven't been disappointed by their Brewer's Reserve series yet, so let's see how this goes.

Appearance - Black with a dark brown tinge along the sides of the glass. The head is khaki colored and pretty thin for the most part and it fades away after a few moments. There's also very little in terms of lacing along the sides.

Aroma - Caramel and peated malts with some vanilla sweetness and strong oak characteristics. I'm also getting some subtle smokiness and some raisins, along with some mild bitter hoppiness.

Taste - Raisin, vanilla and caramel malts start things off on the palate with some strong peated malts, oak, and smokiness towards the middle. In the back is where you get more of that oak and smoke characteristics with some more of that vanilla sweetness and a reappearance of those raisin notes. The aftertaste is more of that raisin and vanilla sweetness with some more subtle oak notes and a touch of bitter hops.

Oh my, this is excellent. It's peaty, smokey, malty, and woodsy; All put into one beer. Before this, I regarded AleSmith's Wee Heavy as being my favorite Scotch Ale, but I feel this one is superior in pretty much every way and that's saying a lot about a beer that I didn't think could be improved upon anymore than it already was, but this beer reminded me that it can always get better.

It goes without saying that you absolutely must try this beer out. I don't know what it is about Central Waters and their barrel-aged beers but they do them very well. As long as the keep cranking them out, I know beer lovers will keep drinking them; Just like they should.

Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale - 10/10

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Clown Shoes American Monastic Review

Name: Clown Shoes American Monastic
Style: Belgian IPA/Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.5%

Well, here's a fairly new offering from Clown Shoes called American Monastic. It's a beer I heard about late last year and never got around to trying it until just very recently. It's classified as a Belgian IPA but at 8.5% ABV, wouldn't this be considered an Imperial IPA...or a Imperial Belgian IPA? Just saying....

Appearance - Hazy dark yellow color with no visible carbonation. The head is quite foamy and there's a good amount of lacing along the sides of the glass.

Aroma - Belgian yeasts and floral hops with some light citrus sweetness, bubblegum, cloves and some moderate toffee malts

Taste - Strong Floral and bitter hops in the front and middle with an equally strong Belgian yeasts and bubblegum/clove notes in the middle while the back opens up to a nice toffee malt backbone along with some more floral hoppiness with some light orange rind notes. The aftertaste is pretty much more Belgian yeasts with a slight hint of hop bitterness.

It's a bit too heavy on the yeast aspect for my liking but the rest of the beer helps balance that out, though if the yeast was toned down, this would be much easier to recommend. As it stands right now, it's a good Belgian IPA and that it's drinkable.

Clown Shoes American Monastic - 8/10

Ballast Point Orange Vanilla Fathom Review

Name: Ballast Point Orange Vanilla Fathom
Style: India Pale Lager
ABV: 7%
IBUs: 70

It's been a quite some time since I had a Ballast Point beer. They make great beers but the prices at which they sell for don't quite justify making repeated purchases of. I know that people are buying it, which is why they have something new almost every week on store shelves but let's get real here; $15 6-packs shouldn't be a thing.

So what makes Orange Vanilla Fathom beer special, aside from the addition of orange and vanilla? Well for starters, it's an IPL, which is a style I am always willing to have more of, but also the price point. Usually I see Ballast Point bombers going for $9-10 but I only paid around $5.50 for this. Now I haven't had the original Fathom at the time of writing this, so if I see it, I'll try and review it.

Appearance - Fairly clear amber/orange color with a moderate amount of visible carbonation. The head has a good amount of volume to it and the the lacing left behind is quite plentiful.

Aroma - Getting some pale malts mixed in with some some piney & citrus hops. I'm also getting some lager yeasts and light vanilla & orange notes.

Taste - Pale malts with some citrus and bitter hops upfront with some lager yeasts in the middle. The back end of the palate has more of that bitter hoppiness with the addition of vanilla and orange, which show up right at the very end. The aftertaste consists mainly of light orange sweetness and bitter hoppiness.

I would've liked the vanilla and orange aspects of the flavor to be a little more pronounced but as it stands, this is a pretty good beer and the asking price is also very reasonable; Even by Ballast Point standards. If you so happen to see this, give this one a try.

Ballast Point Orange Vanilla Fathom - 8/10

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Schell's Firebrick Review

Name: Schell's Firebrick
Style: Vienna Lager
ABV: 5%

I recently came into possession of a Schell's sampler pack this past weekend since it's been a while since I've gotten my hands on a sampler pack. Plus the fact I haven't reviewed many of Schell's flagship beers and just their special edition ones would be considered criminal among some. After all, they are the second oldest craft brewery in America behind Yuengling.

For the first review, I have their Firebrick, which is a Vienna Lager. From what I gathered, this is Schell's flagship beer, which I thought was Grain belt ironically enough. Plus it's also considered to be one of the top Vienna Lagers out there, which I didn't know.

Appearance - Clear dark amber color with a moderate amount of visible carbonation. The head is pretty foamy for the most part but doesn't really leave behind anything in terms of lacing.

Aroma - Munich malts and florals hops, along with some mild chocolate roastiness with just a touch of resin thrown in for good measure.

Taste - Munich and toffee malts on the front of the palate with some mild bitter and floral hops towards the middle. In the back, I am getting some of that chocolate and barley roastiness along with a light raisin sweetness.

It's nothing terribly remarkable but the easy drinkability of this combined with the good flavor helps me understand why this has been a huge hit for those who have been loyal drinkers of this for years. If you haven't already tried this out, be sure you do.

Schell's Firebrick - 8/10 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Not Your Father's Root Beer (10.7% ABV) Review

Name: Not Your Father's Root Beer (10.7% ABV)
Style: Malt Liquor/Hard Soda
ABV: 10.7%

Last year, I reviewed Not Your Father's Root Beer (NYFRB) because at the time, it was a huge seller at all the stores. Also back then, I also assumed that the whole "Hard Soda" trend was going to run its course and that it would be nothing more than a distant memory in a short while. Well, I clearly underestimated the power of its appeal because in the year since I reviewed the original NYFRB, Small Town Brewing has released Not Your Father's Cream Soda and Ginger Ale, so somebody must be buying it.

On top of that, all the companies that make Four Loko, Joose and other various malt beverage producing have jumped on-board the hard soda train. Even Miller and Budweiser have decided to throw their hat into the ring but it seems NYFRB has got a solid hold on this market. So naturally they decided to release an Imperial Hard Root Beer. That's right, thanks to a couple requests I've gotten, I discovered that there is a NYFRB that is 10.7% ABV. The label even has a shirtless gentleman on the front, who looks like he's ready to engage in a friendly match of pugilism.

Aside from the ABV, what else is different about this? Well they've included vanilla & honey in the brewing process, so it has that going for it. I've even heard whisperings that there's a NYFRB that is around 20% ABV but if that's so, I won't be reviewing it; I do have my limits after all.

Appearance - It's still got a dark brown/black color to it with a thin foamy head that has a surprising amount of retention to it. However, as expected, there's no lacing.

Aroma - Sarsaparilla & honey, mixed in with some vanilla sweetness and some honey. Fairly identical to the original but with honey. No booziness here though, which surprises me.

Taste - You've got Sarsaparilla and Honey in the front of the palate with some vanilla sweetness and more honey in the back with a slight malt grit, which doesn't get in the way interestingly enough. There's a very mild booziness in the aftertaste with a mild spiciness, all of which warms you up.

I'm going to share something with you all: I wanted to hate this. With all the hard soda that has been going on as of late, I was expecting this to be bad; Like Four Loko Blue Hurricane bad. However, Small Town has managed to pull of the impossible and made a 10.7% Malt Beverage not only drinkable but also decent. Yes, all the flavors promised on the label are actually here and distinguishable, plus there's none of that malty grit that gets too much in the way, unlike the other hard sodas I've had as of late.

So in short, it's decent, though I would rather see this in 4-pack bottles as opposed to a bomber bottle. Being that it's a malt beverage, the asking price is a bit steep for what it is but I guess even from that point of view, you're getting your money's worth.....all things considered, of course.

Not Your Father's Root Beer (10.7% ABV) - 7.5/10

Congratulations to Angry Inch Brewing (with photos!)

When I first met John & Josh from Angry Inch Brewing a couple years back, they were brewing beer out of their garage in a quiet neighborhood in Rosemount, Minnesota. I remember the time we spent talking about their plans for what they'd like to have for a brewery someday. Fast forward two years later and now that "someday" is today. They finally have a bona-fide brewery to call their own right in the heart of downtown Lakeville, Minnesota.

I could go on about these guys but I've been doing that for two years now so I'll make it short & sweet: Congratulations guys, it has been a privilege and an honor watching these guys grow over the past couple years from a small (but complex) homebrew garage operation to a legitimate brewery.

Here's to your success, both present and the future. As for my readers, be sure to check this place out when you get the chance. Otherwise, look forward to seeing much more from these guys in this blog in the not-too-distant future.