Sunday, November 27, 2016

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA Review

Name: Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.9%
IBUs: 100

Every year I review Stone's Anniversary IPAs during the fall season and I have often times asked myself what the previous entries would've tasted like had I the chance to try them out. Well Stone has done me a favor and re-released some of their older Anniversary IPAs as part of their Encore Series, which brings us to Stone's 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.

Why the misspelling of "Imperial", you ask? Well, when Stone first made this beer, they used all British hops and malts in the brewing process, and since IPAs were first conceived during the British Empire ruling 25% of the known world, it starts to make sense.

Appearance - Hazy dark orange color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head is very thin for the most part but the lacing is moderate.

Aroma - Strong bitter hops and caramel malts with some faint citrus notes. I'm also getting a faint boozy scent from this as well.

Taste - Strong caramel & toffee malts upfront with some equally strong bitter and light citrus hops in the middle and back along with some woodsy characteristics that show up on the end of the palate and there's even some light pilsner grassy flavors. The aftertaste is a mix of that woodsy flavor mixed in with the bitter hops and light toffee maltiness. Thankfully there's no booziness in the flavor.

While I can't say this was absolute favorite Anniversary IPA from Stone, it does strike a good balance between being bitter & malty and the end result is a nice & strong, yet balanced, Imperial English-style IPA. As such, I'm glad that I at least got to try this out and anyone whose curious should check this out as well,

Stone 14th Anniversay Emperial IPA - 8.5/10

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Alpine Pure Hoppiness Review

Name: Alpine Pure Hoppiness
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8%
IBUs: 61

It's been a little while since I reviewed an Imperial IPA since hoppier beers tend to take a backseat during the winter months. So let's take a look at Alpine's Pure Hoppiness, a name that makes it obvious that it's just chuck-full of hops. That and I've heard it's considered one of the best Imperial IPAs on that market right now; I mean it does come from San Diego, but I'll wait to pass judgement.

Appearance - Mildly hazy orange color with a light amount of visible carbonation. The head is pretty thin but has some good retention and the lacing is plentiful

Aroma - Rich citrus hops with some moderate piney hops. I'm also getting some nice caramel maltiness and even some light yeastiness.

Taste - Rich citrus hop and tangerine notes, both of which linger throughout the palate. Towards the middle and back is where that caramel maltiness starts to show itself while those piney hops show up right at the end and they're there but are eclipsed by the citrus hoppiness. The aftertaste is light piney hops with more tangerine notes.

Well, it's got a bright & robust citrus hop profile and it manages to please the palate quite well. With that said, it's a fairly by-the-book West Coast Imperial IPA but a good one at that. In short, you aren't going wrong by buying a six-pack of this and if you're a fan of West Coast IPAs, you'll definitely find something to love about this.

Alpine Pure Hoppiness - 8.5/10 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Founders Lizard of Koz Review

Name: Founders Lizard of Koz
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: 40

If you're reading this right now at the time of this posting, chances are you are probably stuck with family eating copious amounts of turkey, watching football, drinking beer and awkwardly trying not to talk about politics. If so, Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Nick's Beer Blog. And by us, I mean me!

So I was at the store a couple days ago with the intent of only buying a re-release of Stone's 14 Anniversary IPA when I saw this beer from Founders and I knew I had to try this out. I give to you the Lizard of Koz, an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with vanilla and Michigan blueberries. As for the name, it was named after the head brewer's sister, who is named Liz and the "Koz" being the first three letters of their last name.

Appearance - Black with a slight purple hue when held up to a light. The head takes on a dark brown color and is rather foamy and the lacing itself is quite abundant.

Aroma - Cocoa nibs and chocolate malts with some vanilla and oak notes, along with a subtle blueberry sweetness. I'm also getting some mild bitter hoppiness along with a hint of cherries.

Taste - Vanilla and cocoa nibs upfront with a big blueberry sweetness and moderate oak notes in the middle. The back end of the palate opens up to more of that chocolate maltiness and vanilla sweetness and even the blueberries are still present here. The aftertaste is mainly light blueberry notes and vanilla.

It's not the most complex tasting Imperial Stout out there, but it's very robust and there's enough flavors here to keep the show rolling and then some. Plus the blueberries used in the brewing process give this beer a different enough character from other bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stouts out there. As such, that makes this extremely easy to recommend.

Founders Lizard of Koz - 9.5/10

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Schell's Snowstorm (2016) Review

Name: Schell's Snowstorm (2016)
Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 6.5%

It's time that of the year again to look at the newest Snowstorm beer from Schell's and the timing couldn't be better because we're on track to get hit with our first major snow storm today, with estimates as high as 6 inches by tomorrow morning; Oh joy!

So what style are they laying on us this year? Last year, it was a Wallonian Brown Ale and this year it's a....British Strong Ale? At first, I couldn't believe the label but when I looked it up, sure enough, there is indeed a English Strong Ale style. And get this, according to Beer Advocate, I've had one other English Strong Ale and that was Dogfish Head's Immort Ale, though I listed it as a Strong Ale for whatever reason.

Appearance - Clear dark orange color with a very high amount of visible carbonation. The head is nice and foamy and there's tons of lacing left behind.

Aroma - Caramel and toffee malts with some light biscuit notes and floral hops. It also has a light Munich malt quality to it. It kind of reminds me of a Vienna Lager...almost.

Taste - Sweet caramel and toffee malts upfront with some surprisngly strong floral hops in the middle and back end of the palate. There's some more of that biscuit like quality to it in the back as well. Aftertaste is mostly caramel malts and light bitter hops and I'm also getting a nice warming sensation from this as well.

Schell's has given us yet another solid Snowstorm beer this year and the warming sensation I got from this beer will definitely be welcome in the coming months By itself, it's nothing exciting but it's worthy of your attention nevertheless.

Schell's Snowstorm (2016) - 8.25/10

The Bruery 9 Ladies Dancing Review

Name: The Bruery 9 Ladies Dancing
Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 11.3%
IBUs: 0 (According to The Bruery's website)

More winter beers, hooray! Or in this instance, we have a Christmas beer courtesy of The Bruery with their 9 Ladies Dancing, which is either an American or Belgian Strong Ale (depending on who you ask) made with lactose, cacao nibs, vanilla and coffee. It is, in the brewery's own words, supposed to taste like a tiramasu desert cake. Also you'll notice too that I have the IBUs listed as 0 above; If I don't know the IBUs of a beer, I normally put N/A but 0 is what's listed on their website. Whether it's intentional or not is beyond me.

I did some research on this beer and it turns out that this is actually part of a series, with each beer being named after a verse from the Christmas carol "Twelve Days of Christmas", with the previous entry being 8 Maids-a-Milking, which was an Imperial Stout. That means next year, we can expect 10 Lords-a-Leaping.

Appearance - Cloudy dark brown with no visible carbonation. The head starts out foamy but quickly loses volume and becomes a thin film, though the lacing is quite plentiful

Aroma - Chocolate malts and vanilla, with some bready yeasts and lactose notes. I'm also picking up on some mild coffee roastiness in here as well.

Taste - Strong coffee start with vanilla, lactose, roasted barley yeasts and a sweet candied chocolate/caramel maltiness on the back end. Also I'm getting some very light bitterness, but I'm not sure if it's hops or just the flavors coming together in a certain way. Either way, it does remind me of tiramisu!

Even though different websites list this as either an American or Belgian Strong Ale, I feel the flavor definitely puts this into American territory based on the lack of Belgian characteristics that I came across while having this. On the flip side, the overall flavor definitely reminds me of a tiramasu and one of the better examples of a dessert beer that I've had in a long time. If you so happen to see this, it's a must have this winter.

The Bruery 9 Ladies Dancing - 9/10

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fulton Standard Lager Review

Name: Fulton Standard Lager
Style: Light Lager
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 18

Fulton recently launched a new year-round beer called Standard Lager....but the beer itself doesn't bear the Fulton name, save for the "Brewed at" location on the side of the can. In fact, the name of this article should technically just be called "Standard Lager Review," but for consistency sake, we'll go with what we got.

So why is this? Well, according to Fulton, they wanted to make a beer that doesn't bear their name in order to reach a broader audience of people who normally wouldn't drink craft beer, hence why it's a lager. They're also releasing this in 12-packs, so you can tell they're investing a lot in this new brand.

Appearance - Mildly cloudy dark orange color with a light amount of visible carbonation. The head is pretty foamy but there's nothing left behind in terms of lacing.

Aroma - Pale malts & grains with a light amount of floral hoppiness. Aside from that, not much else.

Taste - Pale malts and barley on the front of the palate with a light touch of floral hops in the back. The aftertaste is quite dry, save for some very light barley notes.

You know, if this is the beer that Fulton intends to use in order to reach a wider audience, then I am pretty confident that they will succeed. It's got a light-but-good flavor and it feels crisp and refreshing. It may not be the thing seasoned craft beer fans are looking for, but as a crowd pleaser, this does the trick.

Fulton Standard Lager - 8/10

Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Belgium Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale Review

Name: New Belgium Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 6%

Last November, I reviewed New Belgium's Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, which was a collaboration done with Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. When I closed out that review, I mentioned that if New Belgium were to ever do a collaboration with Ben & Jerry's again, that I would be sure to check it out.

Well, guess what happened? That's right, they got together again and made another beer. This time around it's a chocolate chip cookie dough-inspired beer....and it's also a blonde ale. An interesting choice, to say the least.

Appearance - Fairly clear yellow color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head is white in color & pretty foamy and there's a high amount of lacing left behind.

Aroma - Cookie dough, vanilla, & chocolate along with some pale malts and light floral hops. I'm shocked, this actually smells like chocolate chip cookie dough!

Taste - Vanilla and pale malts upfront, with some chocolate sweetness and cookie dough in the middle. In the back, I'm getting more vanilla and cookie dough notes, with the latter consisting of the aftertaste and lingering around for a couple moments.

Wow, this actually tastes like a chocolate chip cookie in beer form and the choice of style actually helps this beer display the contents of a chocolate chip cookie remarkably well. If you missed out on the Salted Caramel Brownie beer last year, wipe away those tears and get this instead; This is definitely the superior beer.

New Belgium Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale - 8.5/10

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stone Xocoveza Review

Name: Stone Xocoveza 
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.1%
IBUs: 50

In one of my previous reviews, I stated that I've gained an appreciation for coffee-based beers so I'm continuing this trend with Stone Brewing's Xocoveza, Stone's winter seasonal Imperial Stout made with coffee, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, pasilla peppers, nutmeg, and milk sugar; In other words, it's a laundry list of ingredients.

I recall seeing this last year....and actually remember having this at either the Republic last December (my memory is a bit fuzzy) but I do remember saying to myself "Man, I really need to review this." However as soon I ventured out to find a bottle, they were already gone and would be gone until the following year. Thankfully I secured a bottle much earlier this year and am now ready to give this a proper review.

Appearance - Pitch black color with a thin khaki-colored head that has some mild retention, along with a small amount of sticky lacing left along the sides of the glass.

Aroma - Chocolate malts and cinnamon, with a mild spicy/nutmeg zing. I'm also getting some coffee ground & vanilla notes along with some light lactose.

Taste - Chocolate malts and coffee grounds start things off on the front of the palate. The middle of the palate opens up to that nutmeg/spicy zing with some cinnamon & vanilla notes, while the back end of the palate opens up to some lactose notes along with more vanilla and chocolate maltiness. The aftertaste is made up of light cinnamon zing, coffee roastiness and some mild bitter hops.

There's a great deal of stouts & dark beers that will be released this winter, but this one stands out to me thanks to its complex and robust flavor profile. You've got roastiness, chocolate and bright sweetness all in one here, plus a nice spicy zing to liven things up. If you so happen to come across this, I would highly recommend checking this out.

Stone Xocoveza - 9.5/10

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rogue Double Brown Throwdown Review

Name: Rogue Double Brown Throwdown
Style: Imperial Brown Ale
ABV: 9.4%
IBUs: 36

It's been a bit since I've had a beer from Rogue, so let's check out their Double Brown Throwdown, which is an Imperial Brown Ale. There really isn't too much else to say about this beer, so let's take a look at this, shall we?

Appearance - Dark brown color that borderlines on being black. The head is initally quite thin and fades to a brown rim along the sides of the glass but the lacing is plentiful.

Aroma - Strong chocolate malts and roasted barley with some light floral hops. I'm also picking up on some toffee sweetness and some mild booziness.

Taste - Chocolate malts and toffee sweetness on the front of the palate. In the back I'm getting some mild boozy heat, more toffee sweetness and some roasted barley. As for the aftertaste, it's actually quite dry save for some light roastiness and chocolate malts.

It could've done with a little less booziness but the rest of the flavor is quite good and this an otherwise solid brown ale. If you're looking for a good brown ale to warm you up during the upcoming months, this will do just fine.

Rogue Double Brown Throwdown - 8/10

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Northgate Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout Review

Name: Northgate Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 12.1%

It's been a while since I've reviewed a bourbon barrel aged stout, so why not do so right now? For this review I have Northgate's...Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout, how convenient! Now the design is unlike anything I've seen Northgate put out when compared to the cans, because there's a different art design and font here. At first I was concerned (happy) that it was an older release but it turns out Northgate just released this very recently. In any case, let's see how it is.

Appearance - Pitch black with a fairly foamy khaki colored head, which has some decent retention and fades after a few monutes. There's also very little in terms of lacing left behind.

Aroma - Strong vanilla and oak notes with some strong bitter hops and chocolate malts, along with some roastiness.

Taste - Very strong bourbon, vanilla and oak flavors on the front of the palate with some mild boozy heat and chocolate towards the middle. The back end of the palate consists of more chocolate malts, along with some bitter hops and roasted barley. As for the aftertaste, I'm getting some light bourbon and moderate bitter hoppiness, along with some more dark chocolate.

The flavors are all there and come together very well and the booziness is masked reasonably well for what it is. In fact, my biggest complaint about this beer, and it's a fairly minor one, it's that the body lacks the weight I've come to expect out of Imperial Stouts and it comes across as rather thin for the style.

In the end, however, the pros definitely outweigh the cons because for what it lacks in body, it makes up for in sheer flavor. So if you see this, I'd highly recommend grabbing this.

Northgate Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout - 9/10

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Great Lakes Christmas Ale Review

Name: Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 30

Well it's happened. They've finally unleashed the winter seasonals upon us. Rather than get sad, I've decided to embrace it because there are some beers here that I've actually been meaning to review for quite a while.

Which brings us to Great Lakes' Christmas Ale, a winter warmer that is made with spices and honey. I've had this on tap before and while I enjoyed it, I never got around to taking notes on this but I intend to change that right now.

Appearance - Fairly clear dark orange color with a high amount of visible carbonation. The head is quite thin and translucent but there's plenty of lacing left along the sides of the glass.

Aroma - Toffee malts and floral hops with some allspice & nutmeg notes with just a touch of honey sweetness.

Taste - Toffee malts and spices upfront with some mild roastiness in the middle. The back end of the palate consists of light honey notes with a slight toffee malt aftertaste.

Fairly standard for a winter warmer, but the spices and honey give it a nice spin. Overall, if you're looking for a good winter seasonal, this one will do just nicely!

Great Lakes Christmas Ale - 8/10

Friday, November 11, 2016

Dark Horse Scary Jesus Rock Star Review

Name: Dark Horse Scary Jesus Rock Star
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 24

After doing some taproom write-ups it's time to get back to reviewing beer. So let's start by reviewing Scary Jesus Rock Star from Dark Horse Brewing, a pale ale made with chamomile that is a collaboration between Dark Horse and Chicago-based chef Cleetus Friedman. I never heard of him while I lived there, but by Googling his name, I see he is quite reputable.

Appearance - Very hazy dark orange color that borderlines on being brown and a light amount of floating sediment. The head itself is fairly thin but it has some good retention and the lacing is also rather plentiful.

Aroma - Apricot and Chamomile with some toffee malts, citrus and light floral hops. Very peculiar for a pale ale!

Taste - Caramel malts and floral hops upfront, while the back end of the palate is made up of chamomile, apricot and a light cinnamon/nutmeg-like spiciness. The aftertaste is made up of light chamomile and some mild floral hops.

You know what? I like this one! The chamomile adds some nice character to this beer and the citrus aspect really helps bring this beer together nicely. It may be a bit pricer, but I think the price of admission is well worth it. So if you see this, be sure to check this one out; You may be surprised!

Dark Horse Scary Jesus Rock Star - 9/10

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sixpoint 5Beans Review

Name: Sixpoint 5Beans
Style: Imperial Porter
ABV: 10%
IBUs: 38

Another new beer from Sixpoint? Don't mind if I do! Now that the winter seasonals are starting to roll out, so do the darker, heavier beers that come with it. Which brings us to 5Beans, an Imperial Porter made with coffee, vanilla and cardamom.

This beer is actually a variation of an earlier Sixpoint release called 4Beans, which I'm unsure if that saw a wide release. In any case, according to the label, this is a "Turkish-Inspired" porter. Since I so happen to be a fan of Turkish coffee, I'm very eager to try this out.

Appearance - Pitch black with a fairly foamy brown head that fades away after a few minutes, save for a ring along the rim. The lacing, however, is rather plentiful.

Aroma - Coffee grounds and strong vanilla notes mixed in with some cardamom and chocolate malts. It does indeed smell like Turkish coffee, albeit a very roasty one and with vanilla.

Taste - Cardamom and strong coffee ground notes, with some vanilla notes towards the middle. The back end of the palate & aftertaste consists of more coffee grounds and a hefty chocolate maltiness with some more cardamom.

I have to hand it to Sixpoint, they managed to make a good Turkish coffee porter and they also managed to give it enough character to where it easily stands out from the rest of the pack. It goes without saying that you need to try this out, should you get the chance.

Sixpoint 5Beans - 9/10

Monday, November 7, 2016

Take 16 Sundown Nut Brown Ale Review

Name: Take 16 Sundown Nut Brown Ale
Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 28

So I have a beer from a brewery that I, quite frankly, never heard of before.......and I'm kind of ashamed to admit it. The brewery in question is Take 16 Brewing, and the reason why I'm somewhat embarrased is because they're a Minnesota-based brewery. In fact, I only heard of these guys when I saw this beer featured on a Mix-A-Six rack.

I did some research on these guys and it turns out they're based out of Luverne, MN, which is a town I've never heard of before. Thanks to Google Maps, I've found they're located about 3 hours away from Minneapolis in the very southwest corner of Minnesota. Also according to the brewery's website, they've been open since 2014. Maybe it was my geographical location at the time in Duluth, but I'm kicking myself for never hearing of these guys before.

So the beer we have today is their Sundown Nut Brown Ale, which turns out, is a fall seasonal. They also have a few other bottles listed on their website, so I'll be sure to check them out should I see them in stores.

Appearance - Fairly clear dark brown color with a light crimson tinge. The head is off-white in color and takes on a fairly thin appearance but there's a good amount of lacing left behind.

Aroma - Chocolate & toffee malts & toasted cashews with some mild hoppiness. I'm also getting some roasted barley in here as well. Regardless, you can definitely smell the nutiness in here.

Taste - Chocolate & toffee malts with a strong nutty profile that reminds me of cashews and pistachios. I'm getting some mild roastiness towards the back and in the aftertaste along with some mild bitter hops, which lingers for a couple moments.

I often see a beer call itself a nut brown ale, only to devoid of any "nutty" flavors. Sundown has the nutty factor in spades here and the malty and roasty aspects of the flavor compliment it quite nicely and this makes it one of the best brown ales I've had in a while. So to anyone out there whose a fan of brown ales, you owe it to yourself to try this out.

Take 16 Sundown Nut Brown Ale - 9/10

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A visit to Flatland Brewery

The last brewery I stopped at in the Fargo area was a little place called Flatland Brewery over in West Fargo and was located just a few blocks from our hotel room. Unlike the last two breweries, which were located in old buildings or a warehouse, this place was located in a brand new stripmall/condo development area. Come to think of it, all the hosues, apartments and buisnesses in the area surrounding Flatland looked like it had been built maybe 4-5 years ago. I can only imagine what the area must've looked like before all this development rolled in.

As for Flatland Brewery itself, they opened up here very recently at the end of July of this year, so they're a fairly new brewery. Most of the owners are also experienced homebrewers and decided to take their passion to the next level. They're also the first brewery in West Fargo proper, which is a completely separate town from the City of Fargo.

Go Bulldogs!

Even though the taproom itself is very new, it has a certain industrial/rustic appeal and look to it which fits the setting quite well. Plus to make the experience even more enjoyable, they had the hockey game of University of North Dakota taking on University of Minnesota-Duluth; I may no longer live in Duluth, but you know I'm always gonna show some love to the UMD Bulldogs!

Now let's talk about the beer itself. These guys had a wide variety of beers to choose from. However, much like Kilstone I wasn't able to try them all out due to the fact that I had places to be and was on a schedule but I managed to sample a few libations while I was there.

Roggenbier - (Rye Beer, 4.8% ABV, 14 IBUs) - Subtle rye notes with a solid pale malt backbone and light flora hop notes, with a pretty dry aftertaste. Nothing special but this one is nice and drinkable

Weisse (Berliner Weisse, 3.6% ABV, 2 IBUs, Not pictured) - Light malted wheat notes with some lemon tartness on the back end of the palate, with an aftertaste that is rather dry. A nice & simple Berliner Weisse as far as I'm concerned

Octobeardfest -(Oktoberfest, 5.7% ABV, 22 IBUs) -  Floral hops with some light citrus notes paired with some Munich & Toffee malts. It's one of the better Oktoberfest beers I've had this year and it's worth trying out.

Brown Porter (Porter, 5.4% ABV, 20 IBUs) -  Roasted barley and chocolate malts with a slight hint of floral hops. Typical porter but a drinkable one nonetheless.

Orange APA (American Pale Ale, 6.2% ABV, 31 IBUs) - Orange and citrus notes with some mild bitter hops and light yeastiness on the end. A very tasty and crisp tasting beer and one that I could've drank all night!

Fresh Hop IPA (India Pale Ale, 6.1% ABV, 70 IBUs) -  Fresh Citrus hop and grapefruit notes with some mild toffee malts and a bittersweet aftertaste. Two for two as far as the fresh hop IPAs are concerned. Too bad there's not more of them!

All and all, I enjoyed this a great deal and I'm happy that I stopped in to this place. Like Kilstone before it, I hope these guys do great things in the future and I look forward to seeing what these guys will do again in the future!

On one final note, after I was done at Flatland, I mistakenly left my credit card there after I paid and through means that aren't known to myself, they somehow managed to find the hotel which we were staying at and called to informed us (well, my wife actually) about the credit card. So I wanted to give a special thanks to Flatland for saving my weekend vacation by finding us, I really do appreciate it!

Friday, November 4, 2016

A visit to Kilstone Brewing Company

After finishing at Rhombus Guys, we made the hour and a half drive down Interstate 29 to Fargo, where we would be spending the next couple of days for my birthday weekend. I had heard through the grapevine there have been some pretty solid breweries setting up shop in Fargo since the advent of Fargo Brewing Company. After making it to our hotel room and getting a growler of Surly Darkness.....wait, did I mention I got a growler of Surly Darkness, because I totally did!

A store called the Bottle Barn, which was located a couple blocks from our hotel, had a growler fill station! While the selection was more lacking than what I was used to, seeing Darkness available to go in a growler more than made it up for it. Plus, I literally paid less for a growler than I would've paid for a bottle of Darkness. Sure you'll have those who'll say you can't age a growler, but standards be damned, it was awesome to have and it made for a nice birthday gift!

Anyways, I made my way over to a relatively new brewery called Kilstone Brewing, located in the Near North End of Fargo in a warehouse complex. The taproom consists of some barstools and tables, along with an impromptu stage area right by the garage door.

There was some drumsets and a couple guitars there but we didn't stick around long enough to see the live music. According to what I found out, these guys have been open since February of last year (2015) and are available in a few locations in the Fargo-area.

Now let's talk about the beer. There was a nice variety to choose from here and since I was operating on a schedule, I only sampled a few before heading out for the evening.

Cinnimini Donut (Brown Ale, 4.8% ABV, 20 IBUs) - Well well, looks like someone has been taking notes from the Minnesota State Fair! This came with a glass that was rimmed with copious amounts of sugar and cinnamon. The beer itself has some nice chocolate malts and light roastiness with some bitter hops on the end. Paired with the sugar/cinnamon rim, it actually tastes like a mini donut; In fact, I'm going to say that this tastes more like a mini-donut than Lift Bridge's famous creation! It may be a novelty, but it's a very good novelty at that!

Crooked Captain Caramel ESB (Extra Special Bitter, 5.8% ABV, 20 IBUs) - Mild floral hops with a nice caramel malt backbone with some bitter hops on the back of the palate to even things out. I haven't had too many ESBs recently but this one was definitely nice!

Pac's Porter (Porter, 5.8% ABV, 30 IBUs) - Strong roastiness and chocolate malts upfront that linger throughout with some light floral and bitter hops on the back end of the palate. Nothing that I haven't already seen in a porter before but it was well put together for what it was!

Polyphonic Pale Ale (American Pale Ale, 5.2% ABV, 64 IBUs) - Surprisingly bitter hops with an almost equal toffee-like maltiness, along with some biscuit and yeast notes. Nothing special, but drinkable nevertheless.

Slovenian Titan (American Pale Ale, 5.8% ABV, 48 IBUs) - Now this was a very interesting beer as it uses hops grown in the mountains of Slovenia, but the location of where the hops are from isn't what makes this beer interesting. The hop profile is a mix of floral and resin esters with some light pale maltiness. However, there's an encompassing light spiciness that I was told comes from the hops used, and it really adds some character to the beer and it left me impressed!

All and all, Kilstone has some pretty good things going for it and I was fairly impressed with the offerings I had there. If I had more time, I would've stayed around to try the rest, but I'm satisfied overall with that I saw there and I hope they go on to do great things in the future!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A visit to Rhombus Guys Brewing Company

This past weekend I was in Northwest Minnesota visiting family as well as paying respects to my Grandma, who's grave I haven't visited since she passed away a few years back. After that, I spent the next couple of days in North Dakota, mainly because I had heard stories about how craft brewing is starting to take off there.

The first brewery I visited was Rhombus Guys Brewing Company in Grand Forks, ND and located literally 500 feet from the North Dakota/Minnesota border. Rhombus Guys actually got their start as a pizza chain in NE North Dakota/NW Minnesota about 16 years ago. I also recall having their pizza when I was visiting about 10-12 years ago and I found them to be quite tasty. In any case, before leaving for my trip, I was doing my research on potential breweries to visit when this popped up. It turns out Rhombus Guys opened their brewery operation last year and are even available in a few places in the Grand Forks area. It is worth noting, however, that the taproom itself doesn't serve pizza but has it's own separate menu. The actual Rhombus Guys pizza place is located right around the corner, so there is that.

The taproom itself is situated in an old Opera House and the outside design of the building reflects that. The taproom itself has quite a bit of seating, along with a few jumbo TVs to watch college football on; After all Grand Fork is the home of the UND Fighting Sioux/Hawks. However the best feature of the taproom (aside from the beer) would have to be the pinball machines!

You've got The Walking Dead pinball machine, a show which I'm a pretty big fan of but they also have a Bobby Orr pinball machine, which I considered to be a nice little slice of Americana; Again, college sports are huge in this town, in regards in particular to hockey.

Anyways, let's get to the beer. There were 11 offerings to choose from and seeing as how it was my birthday, I decided to get a flight of them all; Just because I wasn't sure when I was going to be back in the area. Plus it was my birthday that day after all, so I wanted to make the most of it.

Iconic Blonde (Blonde Ale, 4.8% ABV, 16 IBUs) - This blonde ale has a nice light floral hoppiness with some pale malts with just a hint of biscuit yeasts and a dry aftertaste. Nothing special, just a solid drinkable blonde ale.

Doc's Orders (Wheat Ale, 5% ABV, 20 IBUs) - Malted wheat with some light floral and bitter hops with just a touch of yeast. Like Iconic Blonde, this one also had a dry aftertaste. Again, nothing special but it's drinkable and there's nothing wrong with it.

Illusion (Amber Ale, 5.5% ABV, 25 IBUs) - Munich and toasted malts with light chocolate notes and light floral hops. Aftertaste is light toasted malts and mild hops. Once more, nothing remarkable but it's a solid beer nevertheless.

Invincible (American Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV, 34 IBUs) - Nice floral hop and biscuit yeast flavors with some bitter hops on the back end of the palate and in the aftertaste. A good pale ale, though nothing I'd consider to be out of the ordinary.

Act II (India Pale Ale, 7% ABV, 70 IBUs) - Strong citrus and resin hops throughout the palate with a nice hefty toffee malt backbone. The back end of the palate along with aftertaste consists mainly of bitter, resin hops. While it's nothing new, the sum of the parts comes together in a very nice good way

Collision Wet Hop (India Pale Ale, 6.2% ABV, Unknown IBUs) - A wet hop IPA with hops from Fertile Vineyards in Fertile, MN. Strong piney dank hops with some light floral notes and hefty pale and toffee malt backbone. The aftertaste is also on the piney side and it definitely tastes fresh. I haven't had many wet hop IPAs recently but this one does the trick nicely!

Vertical (India Pale Lager, 8.5% ABV, 86 IBUs) - Rich citrus and grapefruit notes with some light lager yeasts and a solid pale malt backbone with just a hint of toffee. The aftertaste is surprisingly dry, save for some mild grapefruit sweetness. It's definitely one of the best IPLs I've had in quite some time!

Train Wreck (India Pale Ale, 6.5% ABV, 69 IBUs) - Piney hops and grapefruit notes with a fairly big caramel malt backbone, along with a bitter hop aftertaste. If I didn't know better, I'd say I was drinking a Surly Furious. Excellent beer, nevertheless!

No Coast (India Red Ale, 6.2% ABV, 53 IBUs) - Moderate toffee malts with some mild piney & citrus hops. The aftertaste is also fairly toffee-malt forward with some light piney hops. I haven't been a fan of the maltier IPAs I've had recently, and this one didn't really do it for me. Probably the weakest of the bunch.

Oktoberfest (Marzen, 5.6% ABV, 24 IBUs) - Toasted Munich malts with some mild floral hops and light yeastiness. It's drinkable but not any different from any Oktoberfest beer I've had before. If you're a fan of the style, you'll like it. As for me, it's standard issue as far as I'm concerned.

Into the Darkness (Porter, 5% ABV. 20 IBUs) - Nice chocolate malts with some roasted barley and a touch of floral hops. As for the aftertaste, it's mostly roasted barley and light chocolate malts. It's nice and fairly sessionable porter, I just wish there were more darker beers like this.

Overall, Rhombus Guys Brewing had some mostly pretty solid beers, with the Fresh Hop IPA & IPL being my favorites. It would've been nice, however, to see fewer pale ales and an overall more diverse selection of styles like Saisons, Brown Ales,  etc. I understand IPAs and Pale Ales at large are in high demand and all but when half of your tap list is all pale ales, it starts getting predictable.

However as it stands, they've got some good things going there and if I'm ever in the area again, I'll have to swing on in and see what they've come up with. As for you, the reader, this place is for sure worth checking out.

I'll end the article by saying this: the food offered is excellent. I had a fantastic pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries and a S'mores desert to finish the meal. I don't know what it was about it (and I kick myself for not taking a picture) but it is literally the best S'mores desert that I have ever had. Be sure to ask for it if you're ever there!