Thursday, February 27, 2020

Bell's Bright White Review

Name: Bell’s Bright White
Style: Wheat Beer
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 21

Most of the winter seasonal beers tend to be heavier in style and alcohol content, but Bell’s decided to pull a fast one on us and give us Bright White, which is a Belgian-inspired wheat beer. Now I did some digging and I found out that this beer used to go by a different name: Winter White, which has been around since 2003. When I did some even further digging as to the reason for the name change, the best I could come up with was because Bell’s felt like it. Also, the Bell’s website goes out of its way to inform you that no spices were used in making this beer. In any case, let’s check this one out.

Appearance – A cloudy yellow color with a high amount of visible carbonation. The head is on the soapier side with some good retention and the lacing left behind is rather abundant.

Aroma – Malted wheat and Belgian yeast notes permeate throughout the nose, with a touch of floral hops backing it up.

Taste – Similar to the nose, those malted wheat and Belgian yeast notes dominate the front of the palate, with some bitter & floral hops in the middle. It finishes off with a nice Belgian yeast, banana & clove-like spiciness. In the aftertaste, there’s a linger bitter hoppiness that sticks around for a few moments.

I have to say, I’m impressed that Bell’s was able to pull off the flavor without the use of spices in this beer and stands as a testament to the talent of the crew working there. As a wheat beer, it’s a solid offering from them, but it’s made even more impressive by the fact that they were able to give us such a flavor without having to resort to the typical ingredients of a witbier. It might not be the newest beer on the block, but this still worth your attention, should you get the chance to come across it.

Bell’s Bright White – 8.5/10

Monday, February 24, 2020

Castle Danger Choice Pils Review

Name: Castle Danger Choice Pils
Style: Pilsner
ABV: 5.5%

It’s time to look at an offering from Castle Danger that I’ve had over the past year but am only now taking a closer look at it. I give to you Choice Pils from Castle Danger Brewing.

Castle Danger is does a great job of making beers for the segment of the market that doesn’t necessarily prefer craft beer and Choice Pils is intended to be sort of a gateway of sorts into the wonderful world of craft beer. Plus, I’m digging the old fashioned-style label in a nod to the designs from days past.

Appearance – Clear yellow color with a high amount of visible carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass. The head itself is fairly soapy and there’s some light lacing along the sides of the glass.

Aroma – Nice potent pilsner malts on the front of the nose backed up by some nice citrus & bitter hops. I’m also getting some nice biscuit notes in here as well.

Taste – The first thing that pops up is that strong pilsner malt backbone mixed in with some biscuity flavor. The back end up opens up to some mild citrus and floral hoppiness, with the aftertaste finishing off with a mild hoppiness that lingers for a couple seconds. Otherwise, the aftertaste is quite dry.

In addition to having a great flavor profile, this is a nice, sessionable beer that is perfect for pretty much any occasion. It’s a beer that is made for drinking and not thinking about and, quite frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Castle Danger Choice Pils – 8.5/10

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Central Waters Salted Maple Stout Review

Name: Central Waters Salted Maple Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.75%
IBUs: 32

Winter continues its icy grip on the Midwest, so leave it to the residents of the region to come up with ways to deal with the cold. Which brings us to Central Waters’ Salted Maple Stout, an imperial stout brewed with, what else, maple syrup. Oh and they’ve also added a dash of salt for good measure.

It’s worth noting too that while writing this article, I’m wearing what many would consider to be stereotypical Midwestern attire, which consists of a red plaid shirt, tan jeans and a pair of hiking boots. Hey, you have to dress for the occasion!

Appearance – Pitch black with a nice foamy tan-colored head. The lacing left behind is on the spotty side.

Aroma – Strong chocolate malt and roasted barley encompassed by a nice maple sweetness that doesn’t come across as too overpowering.

Taste – Dark chocolate and roasted barley start things off before transitioning to a subtle maple sweetness on the back end of the palate, while still maintaining that dark chocolate bitter sweetness. Aftertaste consists of some mild roastiness and a dash of floral hops and boozy heat.

You know, I like this! It’s nice, warm, possess a good flavor and, to top it all off, the price I paid for this was quite reasonable. It’s by no means the most complex imperial stout out there but this one is nice to sit back and sip on during a nice, quiet winter evening.

Central Waters Salted Maple Stout – 8.5/10

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Drekker Ectogasm Review

Name: Drekker Ectogasm
Style: India Pale Ale (NE/Hazy)
ABV: 7%
IBUs: 65

In my last article, I mentioned that certain breweries have gained a rabid following and it seems like their beers are dominating social media pages, at least on my end. Another brewery that has gained that reputation is Drekker Brewing, located in Fargo, ND. In fact, it seems that the breweries of the Fargo-Moorhead along with smaller metropolitian areas like Rochester, MN have gained a rabid following in terms of their beer offerings.

Much like Junkyard in my last article, Drekker is known specifically for their Hazy IPAs and sours. Today, I have what many consider to be Drekker’s flagship beer, which is their Ectogasm Hazy IPA. This is one of those beers that you consistently see online but the second you try and find it, it mysteriously vanishes like Sasquatch in a shaky potato-quality video posted on Youtube at 3am in the morning. Well, as we say to the God of Death: Not Today. This is because I have somehow come into possession of Ectogasm, so let’s take a look!

Appearance – Bright hazy orange color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head itself isn’t what I’d call foamy since it’s quite thin but it has good amount of thickness to the surface so, we’ll just call it thick. Also, there’s nothing here in terms of lacing. I know it’s been said before but this has the look and consistency of orange juice.

Aroma – Rich citrus hop and orange peel notes, along with fairly potent bitter hops and mild grapefruit notes.

Taste – The front of the palate starts off with a vibrant citrus hop and grapefruit fruitiness, while the back end gives way to a moderate bitter-piney hoppiness and mild toffee malts. The aftertaste is a mixture of that citrus and bitter hop aspect, which lingers for a moment before fading away.

I enjoyed this beer quite a bit. It’s nice, bright and easy to drink. It’s nothing that I haven’t already seen in a Hazy IPA before but this one is most certainly worth checking out, should you come across it.

Drekker Ectogasm – 8.5/10

Monday, February 17, 2020

Junkyard Church Giggles Review

Name: Junkyard Church Giggles
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 5.9%

In my absence from beer writing, there have been certain breweries that have gained a cult following of sorts and it seems that every time I log into any of my social media accounts, I can’t go two minutes without seeing a post featuring the said brewery with a caption along the lines of “OMG BEST BEER EVAR!!!!” Oftentimes, I don’t necessarily buy into the hype of what other people say about beers, mainly because I like to reserve judgment on my own terms. That and I’ve been burned before by buying into the said hype.

One of these breweries is Junkyard Brewing Company, located in Moorhead, MN. Best known for making their Milkshake IPAs and Sours, they’re located in a part of Minnesota that was, up until a couple years ago, a craft beer wasteland on account of the lack of breweries in the general vicinity of West-Central Minnesota. I decided to go out of my way this past week and try and locate their beer since any offerings from them seem to fly off the shelf as soon as it arrives. As luck would have it, that wasn’t the case on my last expedition. Which brings us to their Church Giggles sour ale, which is described as a cherry pie tart. It’s made with 800 lbs of cherries, vanilla and graham cracker sprinkles; Complete with Dana Carvey’s Church Lady on the front of the cover.

What are Church Giggles, you ask? Well according to Wiktionary, they’re described as: Uncontrollable laughter or giggling that occurs inappropriately in an inappropriate place and time, as when in church.

Appearance – Dark ruby red color with a mild amount of visible carbonation rising up from the bottom. The head has a foamy salmon pink color but there’s nothing here in terms of lacing.

Aroma – Strong cherry notes and pilsner malts are present upfront. I’m also picking up on some light graham cracker & vanilla tucked behind that cherry fruitiness.

Taste – That cherry tart/sweetness is ever present upfront and throughout the palate but those mild vanilla notes from the nose are suddenly standing shoulder to shoulder with the cherries. Backing that up on the rest of the palate are that graham cracker and pilsner malt backbone, which helps in balancing everything out. The aftertaste, as you might expect, consists mainly of a cherry tartness, which lingers for a few moments.

Wow, I have to say that my cynical assumptions about their beers not being as good as people say they are were horribly unfounded! Which is my way of saying that this beer was fantastic and that the crew at Junkyard really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Sours have never really been a preferred style of mine but after having this, I think I owe it to myself to check out more of them going forward. It goes without saying that you most certainly must check this out should you get the chance!

Junkyard Church Giggles – 9.5/10

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Short Fuse Low Spark Review

Name: Short Fuse Low Spark
Style: American Pale Ale (Hazy/NE)
ABV: 6.5% per the can (5.25% per Short Fuse’s website)
IBUs: 20

Next up in my Short Fuse beers is a Hazy Pale Ale called Low Spark, which is a Hazy American Pale Ale made with Sabro, Strata & Citra hops. Doing some research on the name, the only thing I could come up with was the album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys by The Traffic. In any case, let’s see how the beer is!

Appearance – Hazy dark yellow color with no visible carbonation. The head is fairly foamy and there’s a good amount of lacing left along the sides of the glass.

Aroma – Rich mango and citrus notes permeate throughout the nose, along with some apricot and pineapple notes. If there’s one word I’d use to describe this beer, it’d be “tropical.”

Taste – That tropical flavor that was present in the nose is out in full force here. Mango and pineapple sit on the front end of the palate while the back end opens up to a mainly citrus flavor. The aftertaste consists of a lingering mango and malty finish.

Another solid beer from Short Fuse as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice, vibrant and juicy and anyone who’s a fan of hazy pale ales will love this one.

Short Fuse Low Spark – 8.5/10

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Short Fuse Bear-ie White Review

Name: Short Fuse Bear-ie White
Style: Witbier
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 12

Recently my lovely wife was in Chicago on a business trip. While she was there, she managed to grab a few crowlers from Short Fuse Brewing Company, which was down the street from the hotel she was staying at. First up on the docket was one that caught my attention when I was reviewing their list of offerings and that is their Bear-ie White, which is a witbear made with 120 lbs of gummy bears. This means that Short Fuse took 24 of these…..

…..and put it into this beer. Well, let’s dive into this, shall we?

Appearance – Clear yellow color with a high amount of visible carbonation. The head is somewhat foamy but the lacing left behind is quite sparse.

Aroma – Well, they weren’t kidding when they said this was made with gummy bears because they are front-and-center on the news. I’m also getting some malted wheat notes and a touch of light floral hops.

Taste – Much like the nose, the gummy bears shine through here but they’re never to a point in which they are overwhelming, thanks in part to the malted wheat and floral hop aspects of the flavor. The aftertaste is fairly dry, save for a light touch of gummy bear sweetness.

It’s a bizarre & farfetched combination that somehow manages to work, and work well at that. Now if you’re not a fan of gummy bears, you will probably not like this beer but if you’re looking for something that’s out there, then I would wholeheartly recommend Bear-ie White.

Short Fuse Bear-ie White – 8/10

Monday, February 10, 2020

Modist Bite Size Review

Name: Modist Bite Size
Style: Stout
ABV: 6.7%

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything from Modist Brewing. They’re grown leaps and bounds since I last reviewed anything from them, so it’s time to take a look at one of their new offerings called Bite Size. This beer is described as a Pastry Stout made with Ghana Cocoa Nibs & Madagascar Vanilla Beans. I couldn’t find anything related to hops in my research, so we’ll leave the IBUs section listed as N/A.

Looking at the description of this beer on their website as an answer to those who don’t want to crack open a high-end ABV Imperial Stout but still want the flavor of one. Hence, the name Bite Size.

Appearance – Pitch black color with a fairly thin tan head but there’s really nothing here in terms of lacing.

Aroma – Potent chocolate sweetness is front-and-center on the nose with some light roasted barley. I’m also picking up on a mild nuttiness in here too, almost like smelling a Snickers bar. No sign of that vanilla sweetness yet though.

Taste – The front starts off with a solid nutty flavor but this is paired with a strong chocolate and roasted barley profile, both of which linger throughout the palate. The middle gives way to a fairly mild vanilla sweetness while the back end of the palate opens up to what appears to a bitter dark chocolate flavor, and it lingers for a few moments afterwards.

As far as I’m concerned, Modist Brewing knocked it out of the park with this one. Bite Size, despite its name, manages to have a vibrant flavor profile without necessarily putting you out of commission. As such, this is very easy to recommend.

Modist Bite Size – 9/10

Friday, February 7, 2020

Sixpoint Meltdown Review

Name: Sixpoint Meltdown
Style: Imperial IPA (NE/Hazy)
ABV: 8%
IBUs: 30

Ah Hazy IPAs, it seems that every brewery has their own interpretation of them. Enter Sixpoint Brewing with their Meltdown Hazy Imperial IPA. Why is it called “Meltdown” you ask? Well I did some digging and, if the Lab Notes from their website is to be believed, there is supposedly “enough hops to melt your face” in this. I’ll, of course, be the judge of that. Speaking of hops, the ones used in here are two of my favorites: Mandarina Bavaria & Mosaic. Let’s see how this is! I also got this for a very reasonable price, which is nice considering that a lot of the Hazy IPAs that I see are, in my opinion, fairly overpriced.

Appearance – Hazy yellow/orange color that has a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head itself is fairly foamy with some spotty lacing along the sides of the glass.

Aroma – Even before taking a whiff, I could already smell this beer even as I sat far away from the glass. Upon taking in the aroma, you’re treated to a bright citrus & orange peel profile and it smells magnificent! There’s some caramel malts in here too as well but it’s eclipsed by the sheer citrus aspect of the flavor. It goes without saying that the nose packs a real punch!

Taste – Much like the nose, the flavor has a strong citrus hop & orange peel profile the dominate most of the palate. The caramel malt backbone is present throughout, providing a balance from keeping it from getting too out of hand. On the back end, there is a mild bitter hoppiness that helps even things out even further. In the aftertaste, that citrus and orange peel flavor does make a brief return if but for a moment.

Remember when I said that I think a lot of Hazy IPAs are overpriced? Well, I find myself in an interesting position where if this beer were priced $2 higher than what I got it for, I would gladly pay the price of admission because the flavor is extremely robust. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that this is a textbook example of how to do a Hazy IPA correctly. So yes, I do agree that the name “Meltdown” is appropriate for this beer.

Fans of Hazy/NE Style IPAs will no doubt fall in love with Meltdown but even those who aren’t necessarily fans of the style will find something to enjoy with this beer. As such, this is very easy for me to recommend!

Sixpoint Meltdown – 9/10

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A Visit to Roets Jordan Brewery

In all my years of beer writing, it’s not too often that I turn my attention to breweries that are some of the most well-known ones. However there are certain breweries that…….well……..keep to themselves for the most part. Meaning that they’re smaller breweries that either don’t have a wide distribution footprint or do most or all of their business out of their taproom. Sure, I’ve covered them on occasion but never to a point where it became a regular thing. One of my resolutions for this new year is to find breweries that fit that description. Some call them “hyper-local” breweries, which is an alright description since I don’t have a better label for them

Which brings us to Roets Jordan Brewery, which is located in Jordan, MN & the story behind Roets Jordan is interesting to say the least. You see, back in 2014, the Roets family had plans to set up shop in an brewery building that, according to the Roets Jordan website, has been in existence since before Minnesota became a state in 1858. This all changed in 2014 when Mother Nature decided to intervene in the form of a rock/mudslide that originated from the hill behind the brewery. The damage sustained was confined mostly to the 3rd floor but it brought into question the structural integrity of the building and safety of the immediate area. So instead, they set up shop inside of a vacant library building in the heart of downtown Jordan, which is where they are today.

The brewery itself fits in perfectly with the storefronts of Jordan, lined with coffee shops, antique stores and even a comic book/arcade place. Coming to downtown Jordan reminds me almost of a quint New England town, with its historic storefronts and hills and snow-covered forests providing the backdrop. Parking, at least when I went, was easily accessible and plentiful.

The taproom in and of itself is a holdover from the previous occupant, with it’s old hardwood floors and green walls. The bar itself is reminiscent of an old-timey saloon that one might find in a photograph from the first half of the 20th century. Compared to other taprooms that have a modern or industrial feel to it, it’s a nice change of scenery.

So how’s the beer? Well, I managed to have a few of their offerings and managed to get a wide variety of styles in during my visit in order to get a good idea of how they are. Without further ado, let’s take a look

Name: Rude Boy
Style: Export Stout
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 45

 This beer has a nice roasted barley and a strong chocolate malt profile throughout the flavor with some moderate floral & bitter hops showing up in the back. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m also picking up on some light oak notes in the aftertaste as well, though that might have been just my palate playing tricks on me. Overall, it’s a great beer and a perfect one to have on a cold winter day.

Rude Boy - 9/10

Name: Berry
Style: Sour Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 6

A sour ale made with berries and black currant. This once had a very fruity flavor with notes of raspberry & light cherries. The aftertaste is where the sour aspect of the flavor shines the most but not necessarily in an overpowering way. Also present in the aftertaste is that light berry sweetness. Sours have grown on me these past couple of years but not all of them have been what I would call palatable. This one most certainly is! The sweet and sour aspects of this beer are nicely balanced and each flavor on display is nice and robust, so this one is easy to recommend!

Berry – 9/10

Name: Jordan Pale
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 46

Heading into Pale Ale territory, we have their Jordan Pale, which is described as a “Throwback Pale Ale” that is Gluten-reduced. Upfront, I’m picking up on a strong citra hop profile with some toffee and pale maltiness to back up; The latter of which lingers throughout. In the aftertaste and back end of the palate is where you start to see some mild bitter hoppiness, which is supplemented by the malt backbone. All and all, it’s a solid well-put together pale ale that will please any seasoned fan of the Pale Ale style.

Jordan Pale – 8.5/10

Name: IPA Infusion
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: 55

Lastly we have their IPA Infusion, which is an IPA made with Blood Orange.  Right off the bat, there’s a strong citrus hop and blood orange flavor, with the blood orange staying with you throughout and into the aftertaste. This is backed up by a strong caramel malt backbone. The second half of the palate opens up to a mild bitter hoppiness, which finds it’s way over into the aftertaste, along with that blood orange sweetness. Overall, all of the ingredients come together to form a nice & vibrant citrusy IPA which makes it very easy to recommend!

IPA Infusion – 9/10

I feel that Roets Jordan has a lot to offer to beer drinkers of all types. Every style that I had was wonderfully crafted and made with care and it shows in each glass of beer. If you find yourself in Jordan, be sure to check these guys out! They’ve got beers for all different palate types and preferences and they do each of these styles justice. You can find them at:

230 Broadway St S
Jordan, MN 55352

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Stacked Deck Snake Pilssen Review

Name: Stacked Deck Snake Pilssen
Style: Pilsner
ABV: 5.1%
IBUs: 24

Time to look at an offering from a reasonably new Minnesota brewery called Stacked Deck Brewing, based out of St. Paul, Minnesota. Like some of the beers I’ve reviewed in the past, this is one of those instances where I saw the can & name and just had to try this out.

I give to you Snake Pilssen, which is, as you might’ve guessed, a pilsner. It is interestingly enough, made with corn flakes. The name comes from the 1981 film Escape from New York, which stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a former solider-turned-criminal who is tasked with rescuing the President of the United States from New York City; Which, in turn, has been turned into a maximum security prison in a dystopian future set in 1997. It’s definitely a product of its time & is not as well known as John Carpenter’s other works like Halloween or The Thing. However it’s got a certain type of charm to it with elements of action & film noir all rolled into one.

In any case, the beer label artwork is pretty much a love letter to the original film, from the depiction of Snake holding a glass of beer to the retro-80’s future design of the can. For comparison’s sake, here’s the full label…

Big thanks to Stacked Deck for providing me the full artwork!

And here’s the DVD cover

And look at this, even the bottom of the can somehow manages to be awesome!

Appearance – Hazy yellow color with some mild visible carbonation. The head has a light amount of retention and the lacing is on the spottier side.

Aroma – Right away, I’m getting some pale and pilsner malts upfront, with some mild floral hops following. I am also getting some light grain/corn notes in here, which I’m assuming is those corn flakes.

Taste – Much like the nose, that pale & pilsner malts are front-and-center on the palate, with that light floral hoppiness & corn flake/grain flavor showing up towards the middle. On the back end of the palate, I’m getting some light hop bitterness and pilsner maltiness, which fades away after a couple of moments.

I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about the usage of Corn Flakes in this beer but I gotta say that this a nice & crisp pilsner that one can enjoy either in a glass or in a can! To top it all off, the asking price for this beer was extremely reasonable. If you’re looking for an excellent, crushable pilsner, then you owe it to yourself to try this out!

Stacked Deck Snake Pilssen – 9/10

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Schell's Shift Happens DDH Lager Review

Name: Schell’s Shift Happens DDH Lager
Style: Imperial India Pale Lager
ABV: 9%
IBUs: 80

Last year, Schell’s rocked the Minnesota craft beer scene by releasing it’s first ever IPA. Now they’re taking it to the next level by starting something called the Shift Happens series (or miniseries as Schell’s puts it) and the first entry in the series is their DDH Lager; With DDH being every brewery’s favorite acronym to throw on a beer label. So as you might have guessed, this is a double dry-hopped beer made with Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook, and Amarillo hops. Upon seeing this, I thought of a beer from a few years back called Arminius.

Back in 2014, Schell’s released their Arminius Pale Lager, named in honor of the Germanic chieftain who raised an army and successfully fought back against the Roman Empire. There’s even a statue dedicated to Arminius in New Ulm, Minnesota (Where Schell’s is located) though he’s referred to as Hermann the German. Anyways, I consider Arminius to one of my favorite offerings from Schell’s, even though it hasn’t been in production for about five years at this point. So to say that I have expectations about this would be a bit of an understatement.

Appearance – Fairly clear golden color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head itself is pretty foamy and the lacing left behind is plentiful.

Aroma – Potent citrus and lemon notes mixed in with some hints of apricot. I’m also getting some mild hop bitterness tucked between the citrus aspect of the nose. There’s also a nice solid pale maltiness in here that encompasses the nose.

Taste – The flavor starts out with a burst of citrus, apricot and light grapefruit notes, while the second half of the palate opens up to a strong bitter hop profile and pale malt backbone that helps keep everything in check. The aftertaste consists of a light bitter and citrus hoppiness, along with a very light boozy heat.

Is this as good as Arminius was? It’s hard to say, if I’m being honest. However, there’s no denying that this beer is very good. It’s hoppy and malty in all the right ways and, despite the light boozy heat, it’s not enough to interfere with the overall flavor. Frankly if this beer is any indication as to what Schell’s has got in store for us with their Shift Happens series, then I’m very excited to see what else they will give us as they continue forward.

Hoppy Lagers are more of a niche beer so if you’re not into the style, this beer isn’t going to necessarily change your mind. However, if you’re carving a good hoppy lager, like yours truly, than this beer is most certainly for you!

Schell’s Shift Happens DDH Lager – 9/10