Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stone IPA

Beer: Stone Brewing IPA
Brewery Location: Escondido, CA
Beer Style: IPA
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 6.9%

I've written about some of Stone's beer before, but this is the beer that started my love for Stone Brewing. IPA's are my favorite style of beer, and this is one of the best ones out there. This is one of my top three go-to beers and usually have some on hand in the house. Stone has some of the best bottle labeling out there. I am still curious what the cost of silk screening their bottles add to the price. The beer is very reasonably priced between 3.99 and 4.99 depending on where you are shopping.

Pours a light golden hue with a huge two fingered head that leaves sheets of lacing on my pint glass. The aroma is classic of a great IPA. A fantastic floral bouquet filled with scents of citrus fruit, sweet malt, and a second dose of grapefruit scent just to make sure you know the hops are in your face. It smells like I have fistfuls of hops cones. The taste is what a great IPA should taste like with the citrus, floral, sweet malt, and bold hop character playing off each other like the Harlem Globetrotters. The flavor profile just melts together on your palate and makes for a nice drinking experience. This beer is medium bodied with medium carbination. Alcohol is very well hidden and I didn't really ever notice it. This beer is highly drinkable and should be on the list to try for all hop lovers.

Overall this is an outstanding beer for the style, and just overall an amazing beer. Some say the hops are overdone, but if you are a hophead this is really nice for when you don't want a DIPA. This pairs quite well with a good burger, whereas DIPA's usually don't. Give this beer a chance if you see it out. I've found the best price on this at the Sunflower Market in the Broadripple village, and there is always plenty of it. Do the organic foodies not know how great this beer is or something?


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Beer: Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Brewery Location: Bend, OR
Beer Style: Porter
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 5.5%

This is another beer that I traded for. Deschutes is making some incredible beer, and is considered a top regional brewer in the country. They even have several beers that beer snobs and geeks alike would love to get their hands on. One in particular called "The Abyss" is only released once a year and is considered one of the very best beers in the world according to Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate.

The porter style is something I've only come around to in the last year or so, and particularly this winter I've been getting more into good porters. The porter is falling out of favor in the UK, but American brewers have taken off with the style. Porters are a close cousin of stouts, but stouts will have a much more pronounced roasted barley character and that is one of the main style differences.

Pours a dark mahogany and slight ruby accents with with a bubbly two finger tan head that left moderate lacing on the walls of my glass. Good toasted malt and roasted grain dominate the nose. The taste matches the nose quite well. Very strong on the roasted malt and hop flavor with coffee and bitter chocolate making their way onto the back of your palate. It has a very dry finish that is slightly sweet at the end. The mouthfeel is the winner on this beer for me. Silky smooth texture that borders almost creamy. This is a great drinking porter that is just overall a great beer.

I really enjoyed this beer. This isn't a big porter, but that isn't always what is called for. The body on this beer is still my favorite aspect of it. Overall just a great example of the style. Not tops in the category, but a great example none-the-less.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Alaskan Winter Ale

Beer: Alaskan Winter Ale
Brewery Location: Juneau, AK
Beer Style: Winter Warmer
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 6.4%

I've heard about the great things that have been coming out of Alaskan Brewing for a few years. They have such a small distribution area though I thought I would never really be able to try them unless I went to Alaska, but a kind soul traded with me for some Three Floyd's. I just reviewed a winter warmer a few weeks ago from Samuel Smiths, and I hope this will peak my interest a little more in the category.

The bottle states that this beer was brewed with spruce tips. I do believe this is my first beer with brewed with spruce tips.

Pours a bright amber hue with minimal head and slightly above average lacing on my glass. Tons of tiny bubbles heading to the surface in this brew. I am not really sure if I am smelling hops or the spruce needles. It's isn't quite strong enough for hops, but it's a pleasant citrus scent with some biscuty malt coming to my nose. This beer is actually quite sweet. The malty sweetness overpowers the bitterness coming from the finishing hops. Flavors of citrus and sweet caramel meld fairly well in this beer just leaning towards sweeter than balanced. The mouthfeel is medium carbination, slightly watery, and medium bodied. The alcohol is also fairly well masked in the beer and doesn't really make an appearance. This is a nice winter warmer. Easy to drink and I would purchase this again if I had the chance.

Overall I think this is a pretty solid offering. There is a slight flavor in the beer that I can't wrap my palate around, and I think it must be the spruce tips. This beer does give me hope for the winter warmer category though. I will give the style some more attention.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bells Two Hearted Ale

Beer: Bell's Two-Hearted Ale
Brewery Location: Comstock, MI
Beer Style: American IPA
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 7.0%

This is the beer that really got me into beer. I can still remember my very first two-hearted with my best friend Kevin. Earnest Hemingway wrote "Big Two Hearted River" and this beer carries that on by stating on the bottle: India Pale Ale style well suited for Hemingway-esque trips to the Upper Peninsula. It may sound corny, but I would like to drink a two-hearted in the Two-Hearted River in the UP.

Pours a beautiful amber/orange hue with a good sized pearl white head. The head collapses fairly quickly, but this beer leaves some of the best lacing on the sides of the pint glass that I've seen. The nose makes itself known while pouring the beer into the pint glass. Heavy scents of pine, ripe grapefruit, and orange rind. The floral nose is well done and matches perfectly with the taste. The flavor profile is the winner for me here. Starts out with bitter hops but the delicate pale malt comes into play to round out the bitterness. Fresh citrus fruit flavor, pine, and the sweet malt just work so well. This is probably the best balanced beer I've tried. The malt and the hops play the split perfectly here and neither ever dominates at all. Medium body and medium carbination leaves a slight dry sensation after the drink. The mouthfeel is actually a little creamy as well.

I just love this beer. There isn't a bad time of the year for this. It works for BBQ's, cold nights, fall tailgating, and about anything else you could think of. I was lucky enough to try this on cask earlier this year and the cask is really something special as well.

You know that commercial from Coca Cola where they want to buy the world a coke? I think this would a better thing to buy the world than a coke. This will continue to always have a home in my refrigerator.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin

Beer: North Coast Old Rasputin
Brewery Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Beer Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 9.0

I've been sitting on one of these bottles for over a year. I bought this beer Christmas of last year. I have no idea how long Party Pak had it on the shelves. I've had this before, but never took the time time to review it. I do have to say that in terms of pricing this is probably the best Russian Imperial stout that you will find for the best price around two dollars a bottle. If you think something else is a better value please let me know.

This beer pours a very deep mahogany. It poured with two fingers of brown head on it, but it quickly collapsed on itself, but it did leave decent lacing on the walls of my glass. Chocolate, espresso, and hops make their appearance in the nose as well as a nice earthy scent. The taste follows the nose quite well with big flavors of chocolate, smokey peat, toffee, roasted malt, and some dark fruit (mostly plums and raisins). The mouthfeel is full bodied with a fantastic silky smoothness coming through. You can tell the warming alcohol is in this beer, but is very subtle and well done. I could drink this beer again and again.

This is a very nice offering from North Coast. It is outstanding for the style and overall a very well made and well balanced beer. This beer is available all year long so pick up one when you see it out.


Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Beer: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Brewery Location: Brooklyn, NY
Beer Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 10.6%

I am not sure how long we have been able to get Brooklyn beers in Indiana, but I am sure glad we are able to get them after having this offering. My very first beer from Brooklyn Brewery was this one tonight.

I have said on several occasions that this is my favorite time of the year for beer, and I saw this at Party Pak and wanted to give it a try. I wasn't disappointed.

Pours a dark brown almost black with soft ruby accents. A small brown head started the beer off, but quickly dissipated and left minimal lacing on the glass. The nose is as expected by the title of the beer. I get alot of bitter chocolate with plenty of roasted malt and coffee. I also can barely smell some alcohol coming through as well. The taste is robust and full of bittersweet chocolate, coffee, and espresso. I also get a good dose of rum soaked raisins as well. I don't get much hop flavoring even though the grain bill says it has fuggle hops for flavoring. The mouthfeel on this beer is my favorite aspect. It is thick and coating, but still somehow remains a certain silky smoothness that is really remarkable. This has a high ABV, but the drinkability is really a nice surprise on this beer.

Overall this beer is above average for the style. This is easily drinkable and inviting with every drink. This must be served at cellar temperature though I think. I am glad this was my first Brooklyn brew. I will be coming back to this brew. I hope Party Pak still has some left when I go back.


Dark Horse Scotty Karate

Beer: Dark Horse Scotty Karate
Brewery Location: Marshall, MI
Beer Style: Scotch Ale
Serving Style: On-Tap
ABV: 9.25%

I was at MacNivens the other night for some dinner and a pint. They have had this on tap before, but I never tried it out. I've only had a few offerings from Dark Horse, and I honestly don't know that much about them. I am a big fan of scotch ales though, so I thought this would be a good choice for the meal.

It is served in a snifter and pours a deep chocolate hue with slight ruby highlights and a minimal off-white head. The nose is a combination of sweet malt, caramel, dark fruits, and more than a touch of alcohol with no hops to speak of. The flavor profile is very sweet, almost cloying, combining flavors of caramel, toffee, dark fruit, and toasted malt. The sweetness is really overdone for my liking here. It is medium bodied and almost a little chewy on the palate. The alcohol warmth on this is not well hidden and is what I would consider "boozy," but the alcohol is quite high on this beer.

I love scotch ales, but this just didn't live up to what I was after. The sweetness and the booziness of this beer just didn't sit well with me. Scotch ales are usually on the sweeter side, but this one just took it further than I wanted.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

Beer: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
Brewery Location: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, UK
Beer Style: Oatmeal Stout
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 5.0%

This is one of my favorite oatmeal stouts. This is brewed all year long, and it is available pretty much anywhere at any time. Trader Joe's has the best price on this that I've found in Indy.

I have personally never been disappointed in an offering from Samuel Smith's. Their winter warmer that I reviewed was one of my least favorites by them, but even with that it was still a pretty damn good beer.

Jeopardy side notes about oatmeal stout: It's popularity started in the mid 1800's and was once prescribed to nursing mothers because they thought it was healthier. The beer almost entirely died out until the beer I am reviewing started making it again in the late 1970's after the last brewer stopped making it. According to Wikipedia Michael Jackson, the beer hunter, is credited with getting the style back online by mentioning it one of his books. From that book is where Samuel Smith's began making oatmeal stout and now it's still a growing style with more brewers making a seasonal oatmeal stout.

Pours a nice deep black with two fingers of tan head. Head had great retention for the entire beer, and it left nice lacing on the walls of the pint glass. Great nose for an oatmeal stout with scents of sweet malt, coffee, toasted grain, and a bit earthiness as well. Taste is where this beer separates itself from other oatmeal stouts. Strong coffee and cream flavor mix well with roasted malt, chocolate and a slight grain/oatmeal flavor lingering at the back of the palate. The mouthfeel is like silk across your palate with a medium body on it. At only 5.0% ABV the drinkability is holds up very well. I could drink several of these and be just fine.

Outstanding example for the style. If you have never had an oatmeal stout before start with this one. There are many bad oatmeal stouts out there and very few that hold a candle to this brew. Grab yourself a few for the winter and enjoy this quintessential oatmeal stout.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dead Guy Ale

Beer: Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Brewery Location: Newport, OR
Beer Style: Maibock/Helles Bock
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 6.5%

I reviewed this beer on tap a while back. The first time I ever tried this beer was on tap, so I wanted to give it a try out of a bottle and see how the they compared. Beer on-tap is almost always better than out of a bottle, but I couldn't believe the difference on this beer.

Pours the same color of deep amber, but out of the bottle it had no head. I poured as normal and still didn't get anything. No lacing at all either on the glass. The scent was very light of mostly malty sweetness with a small touch of hops. I had to work pretty hard to get a good smell for this. Taste is mostly of toasted malt with a touch of caramel coming to the palate. As I let the beer warm up a bit more dark fruit comes in as well. I would like to see the grain bill for this beer because I am wonder if it meant to be there. Are they using dark crystal malt on this beer? The mouthfeel is very thin and overly carbonated. I have heard so many great things about Rogue, so I am willing to try this beer one more time out of a bottle and see if this is really how this beer should taste.

I still can't really believe how much I enjoyed this beer on tap, and how much I disliked it out of a bottle. Let me know what you think if you have tried them both.


Rabid Duck -- RIS

Beer: Duck Rabbit Rabid Duck
Brewery Location: Farmville, NC
Beer Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 10.0%

I do a fair amount of beer trading and this is an offering that I got as a little bonus from a trade. I've only ever had the Baltic Porter from Duck Rabbit and was really wowed by it. Now that it is winter the stouts are going to be making more of an appearance on this blog. This is my favorite time of the year for beer.

Here is a little bit about the Russian Imperial Stout style from the BJCP:

Brewed to high gravity and hopping level in England for export to the Baltic States and Russia. Said to be popular with the Russian Imperial Court. Today is even more popular with American craft brewers, who have extended the style with unique American characteristics.

Even though the name says Russian it is actually an English creation. The same way that India pale ale is an English creation. The higher gravity and hops helped the beer make it all the way from England to the Baltic area and surrounding.

Pours a very opaque black color with a deep tan head with great retention for the entire beer. The nose is a nice combination of roasted grain, chocolate, and dark fruit. When I was almost finished I got a slight smokey scent as well. The taste is of roasted malt, bitter coffee, sweet chocolate, and slight smokey touches as well. I really enjoyed the complexity in this beer with all of those flavors combining quite well. The mouthfeel is very creamy with low carbination. A silky touch of warming alcohol is well done.

There is just so much going on in the complexity of this beer. An outstanding RIS overall. I know we can't get this in Indiana, but if you are ever out on the east coast or know someone who will send you some, this is indeed a great treat. I know I will keep trading for this.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Beer Dinner Party

One of my new favorite blogs is Relentless Thirst from Eric Delia. I just write about my musings and my takes on beer, but Eric’s blog is thought provoking, well written, and sounds like he could do it for a living. One of his blogs (actually an offshoot from Appellation beer) was about the four people who you would invite to a beer dinner either living or dead. It got me thinking and I put together a list of people that I would invite to this dinner:

One of my personal heroes and favorite person to read about is Winston Churchill. I read in his biography that when Churchill was serving as an officer in the army that officers drank only tea and condensed milk. Alcohol was permitted on the front lines, so that is where Churchill headed. His love of the drink, food, and life would be a welcomed addition at the table. Churchill liked his whiskey so choosing a beer for him isn't easy. I am going to go with Duck-Rabbit Baltic Porter. I am sure Winnie is well used to porters, but something with a bit more flavor and bit stronger would be nice. He had an American mother as well, so an American take on an English beer would nice. A part of me also wants to serve him a warm Bud Light. Why you ask? So I could see and hear firsthand one of Churchill's off-the-cuff tirades.

Larry David would be my next choice. Besides creating two of my all time favorite shows hearing David's take on all subjects that would come up would be well worth the time. I don't think there could be a dull moment with Larry David. The beer on this is pretty easy. He'Brew Jewbelation 11. If you watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm" this just seems like the best choice.

Jamie Oliver. He really started my love affair with food. He is just such a damn nice guy as well. I actually sat next to him at his restaurant in London, but I didn't want to say anything and be an annoying tourist. Looking back I should have just done it. He has so many great programs going on out there trying to help the school lunch programs, turning crime likely kids into chefs, and putting out my favorite cookbooks. It is really hard for me to choose a beer for Jamie. He has such an amazing palate I would probably go with Russian River's Supplication Ale. I would think Oliver would appreciate all that was going on with this beer and would have the palate to really appreciate it.

Thelonious Monk. I hated jazz until I heard "Brilliant Corners" from start to finish. Every time people start talking about jazz I am very surprised that so few people have really given him a good listen. Just listening to the music he made and stories he has with all the famous people he made them with would be fantastic. I see Thelonious sipping a nice Belgian strong like Cuvée Van De Keizer from Brouwerij Het Anker. I just see him at the piano with bottle and chalice doing what he did best.

Honorable mention (but still not invited to dinner) Bill Belichick. He gets Arrogant Bastard and a solo cup (and he only gets the solo cup out of respect for Arrogant Bastard). No explanation needed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stickin' It to the Man

Beer: Tyranena Stickin' It to the Man
Brewery Location: Lake Mills, WI
Beer Style: Double IPA
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 6.5%

I am finally making it through all of the beer that my friend Courtney brought back from Wisconsin for me and her finance, my best friend and beer drinking buddy, Kevin.

This is part of their Brewers Gone Wild! series of beers. This is the second from the series that I've tried. The first was the Spank Me Baby Barleywine that I reviewed a while back.

Pours a deep copper hue with a small off-white head. Plenty of spent yeast still floating in the beer as well. You can actually see it in the picture that goes with this. Decent lacing on the walls of the glass and stayed for the entire beer. Good nose full of pine and sweet citrus fruit. Not as bold as many DIPA's, but still very good for this beer. Good balance of hoppy and malty scents as the beer warms. The taste isn't as bold as the nose would lead onto. A big malty base is really my first flavor, but the bitterness of the hops comes in at the back of the palate and leaves a bitter finish. Slight toffee and citrus notes as the beer warmed, but the citrus notes in the nose never really made it to my palate. The beer is medium bodied with very light carbination. Drinkability is good if I am looking for an IPA, but doesn't stand up to its peers.

I am going to go out on a limb here and not call this a DIPA as they indicated. I think it fits more into the regular IPA style than a DIPA. Of the Brewers Gone Wild series this was my favorite. I doubt I will ever get a chance to sample this again, but I am glad to have been able to give it a try.


Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale

Beer: Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale
Brewery Location: Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, UK
Beer Style: Winter Warmer
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 6.0%

I wanted to try a seasonal winter beer while we were at the Heorot. I have seen this bottle at Party Pak and haven't yet tried it, so this was a good opportunity for it. This is actually my first "winter warmer" styled beer. The BJCP says this about winter warmers:

Winter warmers are a more modern style that are maltier, fuller-bodied, often darker beers that may be a brewery's winter seasonal special offering.

I didn't notice until after the beer was almost finished that this was the batch from 2005. I would really like to try this as a vertical tasting to see if there is much difference at all.

Pours a medium ruddy hue with slight orange accents with three fingers of head from an unaggressive pour. Head dissipated rather quickly and left only a very thin blanket of lace with little to no lacing on the glass walls. I smell a sweet scent of toffee and caramel at first with slight touches of biscuity malt and cinnamon. The scent isn't heavy and you need to really get your nose into it for those smells to become dominant. The taste is very light and easy on the palate. I do pick up slight flavors of malt, dark fruit, and butterscotch. Mouthfeel is very smooth with low carbination and a nice sippable factor to it as well and lends itself for great drinkability all year long really.

Not personally one of my favorite offerings from Samuel Smiths, but a good effort nonetheless. I am going to give this another try from this years batch and see if there anything different about it.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Double Cream Stout

Beer:Bell's Double Cream Stout
Brewery Location: Comstock, MI
Beer Style: Milk/Cream Stout
Serving Style: On-Tap
ABV: 6.1%

I will be writing another review of it later, but Sunday I found myself at the Heorot in Muncie. I really can't say enough about the Heorot, but in a couple reviews I am going to try.

One of the beers that they had on tap (of the many) was Bell's Double Cream Stout. I've only ever had it out of a bottle and was a fan of it, but I really wanted to give it a chance on tap. A cold winters day in the Heorot with a pint of this was just about perfect.

It pours a black obsidian hue with a brown off color head into the pint glass. Great lacing as the beer progressed all the way to the end of the beer. It has a wonderful sweet roasted barley scent with aromas of vanilla, rich chocolate, and a bit of coffee. The taste follows the nose into roasted barley with chocolate and cocoa notes. I didn't get any coffee flavor on tongue, but a bit of vanilla did come to life as the beer warmed more. Not overly bitter with a sweetness coming into play on the back of the palate was nicely done. The mouthfeel on this is smooth and creamy and coats nicely with the alcohol very well hidden. Drinkability is also high due to the low carbination and silky smooth mouthfeel and not overly high alcohol ABV. I could easily make this a session stout.

Well done on this one Bells!


Friday, December 7, 2007

Extra ESB 471

Beer: Breckenridge Extra ESB
Brewery Location: Dever, CO
Beer Style: Extra Special Bitter
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 7.8%

I just reviewed a Breckenridge DIPA not long ago, and based on some of the responses I got I decided to pick up their ESB and give it a whirl. I really enjoy the ESB style. According to the BJCP this beer is all about balance for the style. More hops and malt than a traditional English bitter, but the most important thing is drinkability.

One thing I do with ESB's though is let them warm up. Personally I like my ESB's a little "warm." Rouges Brutal Bitter is best enjoyed about 50 degrees or so. I actually attended a vertical tasting (a slight variation of a vertical tasting) where Fuller's ESB and Brutal Bitter were both served at refrigerator temp and at around 50 degrees. ESB's really do open up a bit when served a bit warmer. You can easily do this at home and see what you think, but for me I will always like my ESB's just a little warm.

It pours a deep copper color approaching a rich mahogany color. Very thin head that quickly dissipated. The beer does leave small bits of lacing on the glass as well. I smell a great deal of caramel going on in the beer with a blast of hops I wasn't really expecting. I like that though. Toasted malt also makes an appearance about half way down the beer. A very nice balanced flavor of hops and malt. The hops take stage first but the sweetness of the caramel flavors tones it down quite a bit. Toasted malt really comes to life as well on the finish. This is much more in your face than other ESB's I've tried. The mouthfeel is actually quite nice and full. Low carbination with a nice bite both on the front and back of the palate. Very drinkable, but personally it would not make a good session beer for me.

I enjoyed this beer, but I really had my mind set on an ESB, and this beer doesn't really fit that bill for me. This is a beefed up ESB. There is no such than as a Double ESB, but if there was this would go in that category. This is well worth trying if you like ESB's and IPA's. I think it is a good mix of both of those styles.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hop Hearty Ale

Beer: New Glarus Hop Hearty Ale
Brewery Location: New Glarus, WI
Beer Style: IPA
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 6.10%

I am still working through some of the beer my friend Courtney brought back from Wisconsin. I didn't realize I even had this in my stash. It was a nice surprise to find this and give it a try. Regular IPA's are usually my go-to beers. I almost always have Two-Hearted from Bells or Stone's IPA on hand for just about all occasions.

Pours a slight hazed copper color with a small tight white head. The beer leaves decent rings of lacing on my pint glass. Good nose with a dominant scent of heavy hops and a slight grass scent with a touch of caramel about half way down. The taste is balance of toasted malt, slight caramel flavor with citrus fruit making its way onto your palate. The hop bitterness blends very well with the caramel flavor the entire beer. Lightly carbonated body, but it leaves very little aftertaste after swallow. I was hoping for a bit more here, but overall very solid offering. The drinkability is very good for this IPA, and with how well balanced it is makes for easy drinking that will have you wanting another one.

This isn't a smack you in the face IPA, and I tend to like balanced IPA's a bit more than the over-the-top hop profile IPA's with no malt balance. Solid offering from New Glarus. If this ever comes back to Indiana it is well worth the try.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Beer: Alesmith's Yulesmith (Winter)
Brewery Location: San Diego, CA
Beer Style: Imperial Red Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 9.5%

When you are a beer geek and you travel outside of the state you always look for something new and interesting to try. There are certain beers that just are not available here in Indiana. I wish Alesmith was available here in Indiana. I bought this beer down in Cincinnati a while back at Jungle Jims and still have a few left. I don't fully understand distribution laws, but it seems like if a beer travels past Indiana to get to Ohio, there is no reason we shouldn't get this here. When beer geeks find out how delicious this beer is they would be buying it in great quantities. I think I read that Alesmith is also distributed with Stone's beer, so we should hopefully get this beer in Indiana.

Jungle Jim's by the way is a great place to pick up beer as well. Their selection is as good or better than Kahn's and Party Pak, but it is housed in this massive building that has just about any food from any country you've ever imagined. It's well worth the visit if you find yourself down that way. It really is a unique experience.

Alesmith produces this beer twice a year. I am reviewing the winter offering. You can tell from the bottles because the winter bottle is in Christmas colors and the summer bottle in blue. They call the winter offering an Imperial Red Ale, but probably belongs in the strong ale category and is very close to a DIPA.

The beer pours a very deep rustic orange color with three fingers off-white head. The lacing on the beer is one of the best I've seen. Billowy pillows of head leave large creamy rings of lace all the way to the end of the beer. The scent on this beer is a hop lovers dream. You can smell the resinous pine and grapefruit that are very bold and you can easily pick out the sweet caramel scent vying for your attention as well. Truly one of the best noses I've ever smelled on a beer. The taste on this beer is really something special. The first sip grabs your attention with the hops taking center stage. Bold flavors of candied grapefruit, pine, grain, toffee, and caramel come to the palate before the huge malted and bready backbone balance out those flavors. It is so complex, but it is still so very easy to pick out things in the flavor profile. Each sip the creamy mouthfeel brings those flavors in and out and never falter during the entire beer. The mouthfeel is full, bold, sticky, syrupy, and the best of all velvety. This beer is really something special. Such a great winter warmer.

I normally don't really just shower attention on something and try and give a fair review of a beer, but this is truly one of the best beers I've ever had in my life. Everything I look for in a beer Yulesmith beats the expectation on every category. The taste and mouthfeel are the two biggest keys on this beer. If I tried to make beer commercially this would be my benchmark.

If I was going to die tomorrow I would want to drink this tonight. That is how good this beer is. Easily in my top five beers of all time. The bottle states that this is for gift giving during the holiday season. You would be my favorite person on Christmas morning if this was sitting under my tree.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Breckenridge 471 IPA

Beer: Breckenridge 471 IPA Small Batch
Brewery Location: Denver, CO
Beer Style: Double IPA
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 9.2%

I've been getting into beers from Breckenridge for a little while now. They produce a nice lineup of beers that are easily found in most decent liquor stores in the area. I first drank this this summer at a BBQ, and it was really nice for the occasion. This is a DIPA, but there are a few things different about this beer that make it unique for a DIPA.

It pours a nice hazy coppered hue with a slightly off white head. The head retention on this beer lasted for the entire beer(even though it was mostly a light blanket of head). Thick walls of lacing stay on my pint glass the entire time. The scent isn't quite what I expected. It is a unique blend of caramel malt and a hops scent that is complex and hard to pick out exactly what hop was used. There is a slight citrus scent coming through as well, but it is very undefined in the beer. The taste also isn't in your face as you would expect. Biscuty malt, toffee, and an almost syrupy sweetness start off with the complex hop flavoring coming in. Citrus, pine, and candied fruit change in complexity with each drink. This isn't like any other DIPA I've encountered. I enjoy the unique taste with the caramel coming into play more than I've experienced before. The mouthfeel is sticky and creamy at the same time. The sweet caramel and bitter hop flavor stays with you after you swallow. The drinkability is also really nice on this and would enjoyed about any time.

I really enjoyed this beer. As I stated before it isn't like any other DIPA I've encountered. That is what I love about all of the craft brewing going on in America. A different take on a beer is really refreshing. I just think this is a well balanced and well built beer. DIPA's keep getting more bitter and more harsh (we will see what happens this year) so I think it's more difficult to make a beer like this that will show the brewers mistakes, but I don't really find one on this beer. Well worth the try if you see it out in either bomber or six pack form.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

Beer: Sam Adam's Hallertau Imperial Pilsner
Brewery location: Boston, MA
Beer Style: Euro Strong Lager
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 8.8%

I do have to say that I have respect for the Boston Beer Company. Jim Koch and company continue to create beer that most likely doesn't have a large profit margin and releases it only for a short run. Many craft brewers do it out of love, but for a very large company like BBC to do this several times a year for their size is really nice. They seem to really still have the spirit of craft brewing even though they produce and sell more than just about any other craft brewer. Some people would even go as far as to say that BBC isn't really a craft brewer, but I think that is so far from the truth. They produce an amazing lineup of beer, brew a winning homebrewers beer every year (I know except for this year because of the hop shortage), and produce special beers outside of their regular lineup. I would say the proof is doing in being a craft brewer and not based on size.

I've heard mixed reviews on this beer, but I was at the Hop Shop and decided to pick up two bottles and give it a whirl. This is my second bottle to give a review on. I will be honest that the first beer I wasn't really a fan of and wasn't going to review it all, but the second one things came together a little better for me.

The beer looks very cloudy inside of the bottle before I poured it. The beer pours a nice golden hue, but very hazy. I assume the haziness is from the amount of hops that went into the beer. A decent finger of head started the beer off, and the head retention was great on this beer. Heavy lacing on the walls of the glass and a good blanket of head stayed on the beer the entire time. The nose is full of mostly of hops with some some sugary sweet malt. Biscuity malt is actually my first real flavor that I can pick out easily with heavy complex hop flavor trying to overpower the malt, but that never really happens. The taste is actually a bit on the sweet side but is still fairly balanced with the bitterness of the hops. The beer finishes slightly dry and doesn't coat very well. My biggest complaint for this beer would be the mouthfeel.

I think this is a good offering from the Boston Beer Co. I don't think I would go out of my way to get any more of it though. It was a good offering, but overall wasn't something I would come back to again and again. Still for craft beer people that want to try everything under the sun you should give this beer a chance.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Double Bastard 2007

Beer: Stone's Double Bastard Ale 2007
Brewery Location: Escondido, CA
Beer Style: American Strong Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 10%

I hope that all that read this blog have been introduced to one of the best breweries in the country and that is Stone Brewing Co. They continue to pump out amazing craft beer year after year and several times a year some special brews come out. Their winter release is Double Bastard. Double bastard is a beefed up version of their flagship beer: Arrogant Bastard. I've had a bottle of the 2006 stashed in my beer collection and haven't yet opened it. This year I grabbed multiple bottles and am going to age them over the years and see how the flavor will change for comparison, but I just had to have at least one right away.

I really like Stone's bottles. Great artwork on them and then the silk screening must be fairly costly, but the beer is still at a reasonable price. I picked this up at Party Pak for 7.99 a bottle. Just a few years ago you could pick this up for 4.99, but Stone's bombers still tend to be reasonable around 4.99 to 7.99 a bottle. They were on sale at the Sunflower Market in Broadripple a few weeks ago for 3.99 a bottle.

This beer pours a deep dark mahogany brown with rusted red accents into my chalice. It has a thin tan head that quickly disappeared with little to no lacing to speak of on the glass. The nose is already a workout on the senses. The smell is dominated by sweet malt and dark fruits coming through. The scent of alcohol and pineapple is present as well about mid-chalice. Sugary malt, pine, dark fruit, and a touch of citrus run across my palate. There is a great deal going on with this beer. Rich malted tones and a smoky caramel are the most dominant flavors to me in this beer. I served this beer at cellar temp and still somehow this beer tends to gain more life the warmer it gets. The sweetness of the malt and bitterness of the hops is very well balanced and well made. The taste is in your face the whole time and in no way subtle, but the balance is really a nice surprise. This beer is a very nice sipper and coats the mouth and tongue very well with it's stickiness. After finishing the bomber I don't really want another one right now and I wouldn't drink this beer with a meal most likely. It is very heavy and quite filling. I know the American strong ale category is a bit of made up category to fill a large variety of beers that craft brewers are making, but the flavors on this beer actually reminded me of a good barleywine.

This is a pretty great offering from Stone. It's absolutely a big beer and will be enjoyed by people that like those types of beers. I know some of my non-beer geek friends have told me they have hated some of the beers that I really love, so if you are drinking "fizzy yellow beer" (as Stone would say it) don't start with this beer. Craft beer lovers should pick this up and give it a try.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Three Floyd's Harvest Ale

Beer: Three Floyd's Harvest Ale
Brewery Location: Munster, IN
Beer Style: American IPA
Serving Style: Bomber
ABV: 6.5%

I've really been looking forward to this since I learned it was out in bottles this year. They have been making it for several years, but I do believe this is the first year that it was ever bottled. I picked up a bottle at The Hop Shop the other night.

Harvest Ale is an ale that is made using "wet" hops. That means the hops are undried when added to the beer. The undried hops preserves more natural hop resins and fragrant oils. According to the bottle it states "from vine to brewhouse in one day." I am curious where these hops are coming from in that time frame. FFF's usually has some interesting artwork on the bottles, but this one is personally one of my least favorites, but don't hold that against the beer.

The beer pours a beautiful copper/orange color into my pint glass. This has a nice color for the fall season. There isn't much head to speak of for this beer. I poured in a very unaggressive manner, so that may have something to do with it. It does leave a nice swirl of lacing that stayed for most of the beer and left ample lacing on my glass. The aromatics on this beer are top notch. You can easily pick up the citrus hop resin scent on this as you are pouring it. The nose is just really nice to smell for a bit. I can pick up a bit of bready malt also coming through, but doesn't have much of a chance against the hops. The taste matches the nose very well. Pine, citrus, and grapefruit flavors are the first things that hit my taste buds, but the heavy malted backbone brings flavors of biscuits coming in. The caramel character comes to life as the beer warms. Good complex flavors going on with this beer and it is still well balanced the entire time. There isn't much carbination on this beer and the beer finishes almost creamy, but still somehow finishes a little oily as well. The drinkability is solid on this beer and would go well on about any occasion.

This has been my favorite thus far of the wet hop beers. The Sierra Nevada is a little more gentle on the palate and is also well made and well balanced. This beer is 100% a FFF's creation and would be enjoyed by a hop head. If you are not much of a hop head and still want to try the wet hop beers I would go with the Sierra Nevada over this, but if you love IPA's I give this one the nudge over SN.

The Hop Shop

Place: The Hop Shop
Location: 96th Street

I stopped by The Hop Shop the other night after dinner at the Claddagh. Living on the south side I don't really get to make it up to here very often, but I do wish it was much closer to me.

The store is run by probably the best and most accessible shop owner that I've ever encountered. Courtney that owns the place is very knowledgeable about his products in the store and will talk with you about anything in his shop. I probably talked with him for a good thirty minutes ranging from the hop shortage, his competition, breweries, and local brew pubs. It is just good to do business with someone that still believes in customer service that much and taking care of the people that take care of him.

Everything is the store is impeccable. Everything is well sorted and in order, and it is all categorized by location of the brewery. The selection is great for craft beer enthusiasts. The selection isn't quite as big as Kahn's or Party Pak, but everything that I could want for the most part is there. Courtney also told me that they are trying to sell out of their liquor supply and will be replacing that section with more beer, so soon enough he will have a bigger selection than he already has.

If you are in the area check out this place for your craft beer needs. I also found his prices to be slightly lower than the other places in town. .50 cents or a dollar here and there really add up.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Beer: Guinness Draught
Brewery Location: Dublin, Ireland
Serving Style: Nitro-Tap
Beer Style: Irish Dry Stout
ABV: 4.2%

I met some good friends out at the Claddagh Irish Pub last night for a few drinks and some catching up. One of the best things about beer is the social aspect of it. When you put it with a good atmosphere and good people it's tough to beat.

I enjoy the Claddagh. Say what you will about chain resturants, but for me if I was going to eat at a chain, I like this more than most. We were at the 96th street location for the gathering. The downtown location is my favorite in terms of atmosphere. The other locations were made for the sole purpose of turning tables and making money. There is nothing wrong with that from a business standpoint, but they other locations just really don't have much character to them. I personally will also spend more money at the downtown location than the others just because I enjoy it there enough to order one more drink.

Guinness is one of my first loves in beer. I am not sure what originally turned me onto Guinness, but it was one of the first beers that I really loved when I had a choice of drink. This is my comfort beer is a good way of describing this beer. I've been lucky enough to travel to Ireland and go on the Guinness factory tour. According to a huge map in the factory the Guinness we drink here in the States is mostly brewed in Toronto. I am not sure if any Guinness from Ireland makes it into America at all to be honest though. Guinness is truly a huge company run by a large multinational (Diageo). I still enjoy a pint served on nitro-tap though from time to time. The funny thing about Guinness is people think it's heavy on the alcohol, calories, and mouthfeel, but it's lower in calories and alcohol than Bud Light.

The beer begins pouring a deep brown color mixing with the nitrogen and cascades into a midnight black beer with a soft two finger creamy head at the top. The cascading is always rather neat to watch. There isn't really much of a nose on a Guinness. Perhaps a bit of roasted barley, but not much. The taste is of the unique roasted malted flavor that allows for a bit of chocolate to find your palate from drink to drink and a dry finish leaves you going for another drink. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, but the beer is actually rather light and doesn't overly coat your mouth. The drinkability is very high on this. It's low in alcohol, refreshing, and satisfying. It would make a great session beer.

I will always like Guinness. It is a bit of nostalgia I guess. There are plenty of other stouts that Guinness doesn't stack up with, but you can't always get those when you want. I do have to say that I can't stand Guinness Draught out of a bottle though. It must be on tap for my liking. If you drink beer and haven't ever had a Guinness head out and get yourself one.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

90 Minute Imperial IPA

Beer: Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA
Brewery Location: Milton, DE
Beer Style: DIPA
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 9%

I've had this on a number of occasions since I started this blog, but I've just never took the time to review it. This is one of my very favorite beers, and I am really curious what the hop shortage will do to this beer. DFH I am sure has their contracts with their hop companies, but I am curious if the recipe will change, pricing will go way up, or if this beer will be harder to find in the Midwest.

DFH are known for their big beers and unique takes on beers. Their IPA's come in 60 minute, 90 minute, and 120 minute. The name is reference to how long the wort (unfermented beer) is at boil with the continuous additions of hops. They recommend this beer be served in a snifter according to DFH's website. It really does help the nose on this beer.

I read a story that they first made this with an old electric football game that slowly added the hops. The board shook and gradually added the hops to the boil. I would like to see a picture of how this was accomplished. Now, I am sure it is all done with process automation with as much of this as they make.

It pours a nice deep amber hue with a slight touch of orange. Decent head to start with, but it quickly dissipated and left good lacing on my glass. The nose is packed full of hop aroma settling into citrus and pine scent with the malt scent trying to make it through all of that hop scent. The taste is what makes this beer something special. Bitter at first, but the malt quickly comes into play balancing out that bitterness. The malt is big and bready and rings in the hops just right. The sweet caramel finish on this is my favorite aspect of the beer. It is just very well balanced and not a tongue/taste bud grenade that will make everything taste like pine cones for the next few hours. Each drink the flavors of those hops keep coming though. Citrus, pine, and grapefruit meld so well with the sweet sticky caramel finish. The mouthfeel as I stated is very sticky and the beer coats your entire mouth very well, and is still so crisp and actually extremely refreshing. I would drink this beer pretty much any chance that I get in pretty much any time of the year.

I do have to say that I prefer this beer on tap vs. the bottle. It's not that much of a difference really, but I think it is slightly better on tap (but most are). If you are a hop head this is a fantastic offering from DFH, and easily one of the top DIPA's that are widely distributed across the country. If you are not much for big, bold, and hoppy beers this may not be for you. I would still suggest giving it a try, but try a regular IPA first (particularly Stone's IPA and Bell's Two-Hearted Ale to break you into IPAs).


Monday, November 12, 2007

Spank Me Baby! Barley Wine

Beer: Tyranena's Spank Me Baby!
Brewery Location: Lake Mills, WI
Beer Style: Barley Wine
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 9%

This was another pickup that my friend Courtney brought back from Wisconsin. I've heard many good things about Tyranena, but this was my first experience with them.

This was actually part of their Brewer's Gone Wild series. I am not sure what exactly that amounts to, but it is classified differently according to their website, and it appears it is on a limited run available only from time to time and not seasonally. According to the website they are brewing a different beer that is "big, bold, and ballsy." As far as I know as well this brand is only available in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The beer poured a deep ruddy color almost a rusted amber hue. It's very dark and clouded in the middle of the beer. Left some slick lacing on the walls of my glass. There was a slight off-white head that dissipated very quickly. A deep malted scent hits the nose before you can really get a good smell of it. Toffee and dark fruits dominate the rest of the nose on this beer. I can also pick up a bit of almost raw sugar cane scent that reminds me of rum, but a little more mellow. The taste is fairly complex. The first taste is rather sweet with a heavy malted backbone that is present at every sip of the beer. As the beer warms it real character begins to come out. Toffee and caramel come to the front of the palate with heavy flavors of dark fruits, mostly plums and raisins, with a bit of warming alcohol to finish off. The mouthfeel is rather quite nice with a velvety coating with a creamy consistency.

This is a very nice offering for my first experience with Tyranena. I like Barley Wine style ales and this is a good representation for the style. Well worth the try if you can get your hands on it. The consistency on this beer was my favorite part of the beer.


Bell's Winter White

Beer: Bell's Winter White
Brewery Location: Comstock, MI
Beer Style: WitBier
Serving Style: On Tap
ABV: 4.5%

My second beer that I will be reviewing from my trip is the winter white.

The beer pours a very hazy cloudy orange hue with a very thin white head of lace. The scent is dominated by the wheat in this beer. That is honesty all I could smell for the first few drinks and then finally the bouquet opened up a little bit. I got some coriander and slight citrus notes. The flavor profile is rather unique. Blasted upfront with the sweetness of wheat followed up by a slightly bitter touch of hops on the finish. Very well balanced and kept me wanting another sip. The mouthfeel is what I wasn't a fan of on this beer. Very thin and didn't coat very well at all. The carbination is just a little to much. For my tastes I wish it was backed off just a little bit. The drinkability overall is very good for this beer, and I would order this if I saw it on tap near me.

A good effort from Bell's on this beer. Not my personal favorite, but good nonetheless. In terms of style representation I think it does a good job for a Witbier, but it wouldn't be one of my first choices in the style.


Bell's Scotch Ale

Beer: Bell's Scotch Ale
Brewery Location: Comstock, MI
Beer Style: Scotch Ale
Serving Style: On Tap
ABV: 7.4

My first beer from my Bell's trip was the scotch ale. I've never had this offering from Bell's, but I am a fan of scotch ales so I gave is a whirl.

It pours a mahogany brown hue with a very thin swirl of head that quickly dissipated. The nose is decent for a scotch ale. Malty bready notes make way for caramel and toffee scents and a slightly burnt/smoky scent as well. The flavor matches the nose fairly well. Toasted malt is the dominant flavor with the toffee coming into play as the beer warmed. The malted backbone is very nice and balanced on this beer with the other flavors on the palate. The carbination is low on this beer and very quaff able and satisfying. The alcohol is very well hidden and never really made itself known. Drinkablity is good and I would have another if Bell's were much closer to me.

Overall it is a good beer, but hovers around ordinary for the style. Worth a try if you see it out, but not worth going very far out of your way for.


Bell's Eccentric Cafe

Place: Bell's Eccentric Cafe
Location: Kalamazoo, MI

Me and the wife wanted to get out of town for the weekend. I am lucky she indulges me from time to time and allowed for that weekend to be up at Kalamazoo. The main reason for going was to visit the Bell's Eccentric Cafe, and really just get out of town. Sometimes you just need that.

Kalamazoo isn't that bad of a drive from Indianapolis. I kept the cruise control on about 80 the whole way up and we made in about 3 hours and 20 minutes or so. Mapquest said it would take over four hours. You are pretty much on 69 the entire way and just cut over a short ways on I-94 and you are there.

Getting into Kalamazoo from the main street in from 94 you see (if you catch it) the Bell's Cafe right on the street as you come into town. This used to the be the actual brewery for everything until a new brewing facility was built outside of town. Not much has been done to really let you know that the cafe is there. It looks exactly like what it is: an old factory building. I almost passed right by it, but I saw KraftBrau across the street and had read that Bell's was exactly across the street from it. You park in the back and then walk up the ramp to the building. There isn't much signage in the back of the place, and you almost feel like you are making a mistake walking in that door, but when you open the door you would never expect the atmosphere that is in there.

The whole place is laid out with wood tables and wood siding up the walls. You first see the bar with all the taps, lots of trinkets and unique items all over the wall, and the huge chalkboard letting you know what is on tap. African masks, Native American tapestries, and old maps cover the interior of the place. Tons of natural light flood into the seating area from several very large windows. We found a seat and I went to order. Everything is cash only in the cafe. I am not sure why that is, but that is they way it is. Ordering food is a little interesting as well. You order your food from a little window by the bar and then you go back to the bartender and pay him for your lunch. I wish I would seen that sooner so I could have just done everything all in one shot. The menu is about typical for a brewpub. A few starters, burgers, soups, and a few desserts. I do have to say that the food was very good though, but typical.

There was a huge choir in the bar at the time we were there. They were there for a Russian Festival at Western Michigan University. They were singing Russian drinking songs, and that was very interesting to hear that. I didn't know what they were talking about, but it was nice.

It was a bit cold to go out in the beer garden, but you can easily see in the summer that must be a great place to hang out and have some great beer.

You can also visit the gift shop on the front of the building. You have to actually leave the pub and walk around to the front of the building. They have plenty of beer for sale, brewing supplies, and clothing to help separate you and your money.

The town of Kalamazoo is an interesting place. We stayed right downtown at the Radisson (which is very nice) and walked around the downtown area a bit. I don't know if it's Michigan's economy, the downtown area on the weekends, or something else, but the town was dead. All of the shops in the downtown area were open, but if you walked by them the owners almost attacked you seeing if they could help you find anything. Even at night after dinner it wasn't all that busy. I am curious how the places downtown survive with what I saw going on in town. Places had people in them, but they were not doing what I would think sustainable business would be to keep the door open.

I would go back if I had the chance, but hopefully would pair it with a trip to Grand Rapids as well to hit up Founder's Brewing. I was pleasantly surprised with the eccentric cafe. It has a great atmosphere, comfortable surroundings, and amazing beer. The great thing about the beer as well is the price. Everything on tap is right around 3.75 for an imperial pint. You can get three sizes as well for most drinks. If you are anywhere near Kalamazoo it's a great stop for the beer enthusiast.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hennepin Farmhouse Saison Ale

Beer: Brewery Ommegang's
Hennepin Farmhouse Ale

Brewery Location: Cooperstown, NY
Beer Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 7.7%

Where to start on this. First, I will give you a little background on the farmhouse/saison style. It started in the French speaking part of Belgium a very long time ago. Before refrigeration this beer was made in late autumn and winter and was consumed during the harvest season of next years crop. The word saison literally means "season" in French. It was very low alcohol at the time and workers drank the beer in the fields during the harvest since it was sterile and easily portable, and at the time water was not. According to Wikipedia the style almost died out, but has experienced a huge revitalization both in Belgium and in the U.S. (Particularly the U.S.) The beers tended to be very refreshing and very low alcohol, as to not incapacitate the workers.

I've really liked the offerings from Brewery Ommergang that I've had the pleasure of tasting. I know the brewery is actually now owned by Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat who are the makers of Duvel. It's a very smart move on their part, and I am sure very profitable. Regardless of who owns the brewery this is an exceptional offering.

I let the bottle warm a bit before pouring. The bottle has a cork in it, and once you get it off the bottle you can smell a very inviting fruity scent. The beer pours a beautiful golden straw hue with a dense cloudy interior and a huge billowy white head. You can also notice a massive amount of yeast in the bottle from the bottle conditioning. The nose is fruity, spicy, bready, and bit hoppy. The taste is very refreshing with fresh fruit flavorings coming to the palate including apples and lemon with a certain earthy graininess coming to the back of the palate, and a sweet malt profile makes itself known as the beer warms a little more. Very complex on the palate, but overall very satisfying taste. The mouthfeel is interesting due to the high carbination in the beer. Very refreshing and inviting in the mouth, and it doesn't leave a very heavy coat in your mouth. The drinkability is great for this offering. Perfect to share with someone over a meal or just by yourself.

This is a great offering from Ommegang. This farmhouse ale is so satisfying and well made. I would rather see this at a dinner party than wine. I would highly recommend this beer to anyone.

4.2 out of 5

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Glarus Spotted Cow Cream Ale

Beer: New Glarus Spotted Cow
Brewery Location: New Glarus, WI
Beer Style: Cream Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 5.10%

A huge thank you to my friend Courtney that was awesome enough to bring me back some offerings from her trip to Wisconsin.

The name cream ale is a bit deceiving. It has nothing to do with cream at all. It's actually an ale that is made to mimic a lager beer. I am normally not much of a fan of lagers, but I've heard so many great things about New Glarus and their beers. Here is a nice rundown of the style from BJCP that does it better than me:

"An ale version of the American lager style. Produced by ale brewers to compete with lager brewers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. Originally known as sparkling or present use ales, lager strains were (and sometimes still are) used by some brewers, but were not historically mixed with ale strains. Many examples are kräusened to achieve carbonation. Cold conditioning isn't traditional, although modern brewers sometimes use it."

Basically, craft brewers can compete with the major lager producers and get it out very quickly, and have a nice gateway beer that will appeal to the masses, because it is really not that far off from the traditional American lager beer.

I've heard New Glarus used to be available in Indiana, but I've never seen it before, if you have seen it let me know about how long ago that was. I am curious why it isn't available here anymore. Onto the beer:

The beer pours a cloudy straw color with no visible head after an aggressive pour and left virtually no lacing on the glass. There really isn't much of a scent to this beer. I pick up on some slight citrus scent and almost a slight corn, but a very weak malt scent. The taste is very crisp and clean, and tastes like a better made BMC's product without the metallic twinge I usually pick up on in one of those products. No real hop flavoring to speak of, but I can pick up on the grain and lemony sweetness going down. The mouthfeel is actually quite nice and smooth and very easy drinking. It is refreshing and quite drinkable. The drinkability is good on this, and I think this would be a good cookout and "just mowed the lawn" type of beer.

All-in-all it reminds of what a good lager should taste like, but it's an ale. I would grab this over most lagers given the chance. It's not that cream ales or lagers are bad beers, but they just don't deliver the flavor I am looking for. An aftertaste is not a bad thing in a beer, and most of them seem very afraid of that. I can't really give this beer a rating. I just don't think it's fair. If you like lager beer then this is a great choice. In terms of being a cream ale (I keep saying Lager, but this isn't a lager) it is a great representation of the style, but if you are looking for a big bold beer this isn't the choice, and it's not meant to be. It's an easy drinking and satisfying beer that is a standout for it's style, but overall just didn't deliver for me.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Beer Tasting Friday Nov 2nd

For those that read my blog, but don't read Hoosier Beer Geek there is a beer tasting tomorrow in Fountain Square at the Big Car Gallery. I hopefully will make it out there tomorrow. Should be a good time.

Hoosier Beer Geek Link

Big Car Gallery Link

See you there.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sierra Nevada's Harvest Ale

Beer: Sierra Nevada's 2007 Harvest Fresh Hop Ale
Brewery Location: Chico, CA
Beer Style: American Pale Ale
Serving Style: Bottle
ABV: 6.7%

I was in Party Pak the other day and picked up a bottle of this years Harvest Ale. This is my first experience with the Harvest Ale, but I like Sierra Nevada and I've heard great things about this, so it was an easy choice. According to the bottle this is the 11th year for this special brew, and they used 8,000 lbs of hops in one day brewing this. I don't really care about them talking about that, because the proof is in the pudding (or in this case the beer).

This beer poured a nice amber/copper hue with a thick dense tan head that was a full three fingers worth. The head had good retention and left a decent amount of lacing on my imperial pint glass. With a name like Harvest Ale you would expect the scent of hops and this beer delivers. This is one of the best smelling APA's I've ever smelled. Strong scents of grapefruit and pine with slight grassy overtones. The scent is very pleasant and never leaves throughout the entire beer. The taste is just like the nose. Flavors classic of an easy drinking IPA with a good malty backbone that balances out the hops very well and doesn't let them overpower the beer. It is a well balanced beer that finished very smooth with very little bittering. Very nice considering the amount of hops that went into this beer. The mouthfeel is very smooth and slightly sticky. It coats the mouth very well and overall is very quaff able. Drinkability also holds very high for this beer. It's fresh, tasty, and it leaves you wanting another one.

This is just a very well made beer. It's crisp and refreshing. It provides so much more flavor than most APA's, but is better made than most IPA's. This is really a very nice beer and should enjoyed if you can find some. Party Pak had plenty when I was there. I just wish this beer would be available all year long, because I would find myself drinking it quite often, and this would probably be my go-to-beer (Sorry Two Hearted). This would be a perfect gateway beer for people that are looking to move on from BMC.

4.4 out of 5

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The London Brew-Nami of 1814

I read this on mentalfloss. I would have loved to have seen pictures from this. It's still really hard for me to imagine this story happening.

The Industrial Revolution wasn't all steam engines and textile mills. Beer production increased exponentially, as well. Fortunately, the good people of England were up to the challenge and drained kegs as fast as they were made. Brewery owners became known as "beer barons," and they spent their newfound wealth in an age-old manner -- by trying to party more than the next guy.

Case in point: In 1814, Meux's Horse Shoe Brewery in London constructed a brewing vat that was 22 feet tall and 60 feet in diameter, with an interior big enough to seat 200 for dinner -- which is exactly how its completion was celebrated. (Why 200? Because a rival had built a vat that seated 100, of course.)

After the dinner, the vat was filled to its 4,000-barrel capacity. Pretty impressive, given the grand scale of the project, but pretty unfortunate given that they overlooked a faulty supporting hoop. Yup, the vat ruptured, causing other vats to break, and the resulting commotion was heard up to 5 miles away.

A wall of 1.3 million gallons of dark beer washed down the street, caving in two buildings and killing nine people by means of "drowning, injury, poisoning by the porter fumes, or drunkenness."

The story gets even more unbelievable, though. Rescue attempts were blocked and delayed by the thousands who flocked to the area to drink directly off the road. And when survivors were finally brought to the hospital, the other patients became convinced from the smell that the hospital was serving beer to every ward except theirs. A riot broke out, and even more people were left injured.

Sadly, this incident was not deemed tragic enough at the time to merit an annual memorial service and/or reenactment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Divide: Old Ruffian

Beer: Great Divide Old Ruffian
Brewery Location: Denver, CO
Beer Style: American Barley Wine
Serving Style: Bomber
ABV: 10.2%

Holy palate-smacking deliciousness! I haven't had this beer in so long it's a crime for me to have forgotten how amazing a beer that Great Divide has come up with. As most of you know I am a big hop head, and if you are a hop head then barleywines are something you should give a try. Barleywines in my experience take on something that DIPA's just can't. A DIPA can tend to be a hop bomb that isn't well balanced, not well made, and full of brewers mistakes, but the hop bomb will cover up those mistakes. A barleywine on the other hand is something so much more. Smooth, bitter, complex, balanced, lively, and just has so much more character most of the time vs. a DIPA. I still like DIPA's more though when they are done right.

When sampling this beer get your palate ready. There is just so much going on with this beer at every single drink. The smell hits you before you can get it close to your face, the sweet intense front flavors followed by a huge bold finish and an amazing aftertaste that leaves you wanting more.

It pours a beautiful deep mahogany. When held up to the light colors of rust and crimson show themselves. A non-aggressive pour reveals a huge tan head that lasted throughout the entire beer with very big rings of lace all over the glass.

The nose on this beer is an achievement. Floral hops, oily hops, and then some more hops hits your nose with a deep aroma of toasted malt and caramel. The nose on this beer is by far the best of any beer I have yet reviewed.

The taste on this beer is exactly what I want from a beer. Huge flavors of bready malt hit your palate followed by an amazing caramel and candied fruit sweetness just before a hop wallop takes command of your taste buds. No part of your mouth is left without tastes of pine, grapefruit, malty backbone, and warming alcohol. In terms of balance on the big beers that I love so much there isn't much better than this. Each drink becomes better than the last drink. The beer provides the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness, but challenges the palate every single step of the way. Even at 10.2% the drinkability is so high on this beer. I finished my bomber and wanted another one. No flavor is so dominant that you won't want to come back for more. The warming alcohol was subtle and will be very nice during the winter as the temperature keeps falling.

Overall this beer is simply amazing. I don't normally gush over a beer, but this beer is really something. It's a very reasonable price for a barleywine and delivers the flavor better than the more expensive barleywines. I really can't say enough about how amazing this beer is all around for the senses. I will say again though be ready for the beer when you try it. I still can't give out a 5 out of 5. I just can't do it, but this is pretty damn close to it.

4.9 out of 5.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Brugge Brasserie's Lupulin L'Amore

Beer: Brugge Brasserie's Lupulin L'Amore
Brewery Location: Indianapolis, IN
Beer Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale/Blonde Ale
Serving Style: On Tap
ABV: 8.5%

The Brugge had five beers on tap when I was there and I have never heard of Lupulin L'Amore before. I asked the server about it and he said it was a blonde ale that was hopped like and IPA, so I said that was the beer for me.

It was presented in a Chalice with a solid sheet of white head and a floral bouquet that I picked up on when the beer passed by my nose as the waiter set it down. It pours a beautiful hazy-golden straw color that looks very inviting and ready to drink. The floral bouquet is a real winner on this beer. Scents of citrus and pine with bready malt overtones and a deep aroma of cloves and a touch of banana. The taste on this matches the scent perfectly. Wonderful hoppy bite on the front of the palate with hints of apple and fruity esters make their appearance as well. Medium carbination on this beer, but it still paired very well with my red meat dish I had for lunch. It is very satisfying on the palate. Mouthfeel is excellent and coats the tongue well and the alcohol is very well hidden.

I am not sure what style of beer this is though. The waiter called it a Blonde ale/Strong ale, but I really think it tastes and has the characteristics of a Belgian IPA. Clearly you can taste some strong amarillo hops in this beer, and it really reminded me of La Chouffe's Houblon IPA. I guess it still is a blonde though that is hopped like an IPA. If you anyone else knows different please let me know.

I really enjoyed this beer, and I hope they keep producing this beer, and maybe even eventually start selling the beer.

4.25 out of 5.

Update: Jim Matt the creator of this beer has been kind enough to give me a nice update on where this beer began and what style it actually is. He says the beer is actually a "hoppy triple." I can see that now that it's been pointed out to me. The Brugge made this beer from Jim's home brewing recipe and entered it into the Pro-AM at the Great American Beer Fest. Thanks for the info Jim.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brugge Brasserie

Location: Brugge Brasserie
Broad Ripple Village

I have been wanting the Brugge for a while now, but just haven't made it out, and we didn't have much going on today, and so the wife I am took off for Broad Ripple. This place is a real gem for the city, and it's great for foodies and beer geeks alike. The Brugge is set back off of Westfield Blvd. If you were not looking for it you may not even know it is there. There is an internet cafe on top of it that really seems out of place.

It's got a nice "artsy" feel inside the pub that is cozy and well maintained. The tables all have holes in them for your frites, and you should have the frites (with the curry gravy is my favorite). The menu is all Belgian as you would expect. Mussels, crepes, stews, salads...etc. They don't have many beers on tap, but that should be no deterrent. I actually respect a place for producing a smaller line of beer that they knock out of the park instead of 12 average beers.

Our waiter was very attentive and answered my beer questions with great confidence and really showed a nice knowledge of their beers.

Our food was excellent and the beer I will be reviewing was also a great compliment to the meal. Everything is paired nicely, and you can tell much thought went into the menu for this pub. The pub seems to me to have been designed with the owner in mind. I mean that it seems like there isn't variation in the Belgian theme, and I really like that. The owner made this place for himself, and if you don't like it, well then the 10 people behind you waiting for a table will enjoy it. I will be back as often as possible.

Other great news about the Brugge is that they will selling five of their offerings very soon in the Indianapolis and surrounding area. They bought the Terre Haute Brew works and are busy getting things ready to bottle for both commercial sales in bars and restaurants as well as in liquor stores.

4.3 out of 5.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

How I got started with Craft Beer

I just started writing this blog because I was bored, and I wanted people to really get a great example of the beer using all the senses. My format obviously isn't new or unique, but it's a good format and I hope people find it easy to understand, and it shares my passion for beer.

I figured a few of my friends and family would see this one time and no one else would ever read it, but the power of the internet is very strange. I got a message from Seattle from someone that reads my blog and asked how I got into craft beer, and how I trained my palate. That is awesome other people are reading this and getting more people interested in good beer. Thank you for the message and I will tell you how I got into it.

I was just about 20 (Disclaimer: I am not advocating underage drinking) when I got a job at the local Sears and worked with a guy who was a beer nut. I had been drinking cheap keg beer and the cheapest case from the liquor store at this point. I wonder if people look at me the way I looked at him when I first met him? He was crazy about beer. He talked about it, attended beer tasting events, bought all kinds of crazy beers I had never heard of, and took special trips to breweries on the weekends just to taste their beer. I remember thinking "Man, this guy is crazy. It's just beer." Lucky for me, I told him just that and he invited me over all the time to try new beers. He showed me how to taste a beer, what I was looking for in the beer, how the brewing process worked, and he began to help me to begin thinking in quality over quantity. Literally after three months of beer tasting with him I couldn't drink the big 3 any more. It was strange. Bug light had never tasted like water with a metallic twinge before, but now I no longer liked the flavor it at all. At this point I still wasn't sure about craft beer though. I was drinking Euro-Lagers, Guinness, and LaBatt's when I wasn't trying something with him. I wasn't 21 yet, so I asked for stuff I had heard of. Hardly much of a beer geek there huh? At the time I just thought big 3 were crap, but I was still drinking flavorless macro lagers (except for Guinness). Same sheep, but now it's an "import." Yes, I was that guy. I had no idea what a Baltic Porter or barleywine was, so I drank what I knew. I think that is much of the problem for most people. They drink what they know, and because of TV the big 3 is about all they know.

I was lucky enough to be able to go to London on spring break my junior year of college. I still wasn't 21 yet, but I was only a month away. I went with one of my best friends and met another friend in London. This is where my beer adventure really started. My goal was to never drink the same beer twice while I was there. We dropped our luggage off and were at the pub instantly. My first beer was a beer that was all around me back home, but I had never seen it since I wasn't 21. Young's Double Chocolate Stout. I was in love instantly, and it only gave me more reason to try every beer I could get a hold of. I was there for 10 days and had so many great English beers. J.W. Lees, Samuel Smiths, Fullers, Tetleys, Boddingtons, Morland Brewing. Those are what I can remember. It was amazing. When I drank I was looking for flavor and trying to decide what it was I tasted.

When I got back home I turned 21 the month after and started heading to the local liquor store. This is really how I would suggest getting into craft beer. Find a local liquor store using either or that will allow you break up sixer and build your own. I would always build my own sixer and try them each over the course a week to two weeks. I would try everything I could get a hold of. I really think this is the single most important thing is trying as much variety as possible. I am not saying binge drink here, but one or two beers in a sitting is what craft beer and respect for beer is all about. If you want to drink to get drunk this really isn't for you.

At this point I am really into other countries beers and not so much American craft beers. I had heard the term plenty, but I wasn't really seeking those out like my friend from Sears had. I was drinking some amazing beers from Belgium, Germany, and the UK, but not really much on the home front. I credit my best friend Kevin with getting me into good craft beer. I went to visit him at Purdue after I had graduated and he was still in school for another semester. We drank about four offerings from Bell's and I was really wowed by them and even more impressed they were only about three hours away and not across the ocean. I also credit Kevin with getting me into IPAs. I don't think I can ever return that favor. When I got back home I went to the local beer mecca, Party Pak. I just started making mixed six packs from local and regional craft brewers. If I haven't tried it before I pick it up. Life is good at this point.

My latest adventure in beer is thanks to my friend Joe. He introduced me to Three Floyd's right here in Indiana. Joe re-invigorated my passion for good beer, and helped me look even more local for beer to try. I bet you that there are several amazing places in your town producing award winning craft beer that you never even knew existed. I am still ever expanding and looking for something new.

Wow, that was a pointless ramble. My answer to your question is this: Try as much variety at this point as you can. Use the websites I posted to find a place local that will allow you to purchase by the bottle. Either in 12oz bottles or 22oz bomber sized bottles. As far as training your palate I would suggest just writing down what you taste while you are drinking the beer. You will pick up on things the more you try. When I started trying to pick out things I would go to the brewers website and see if I could find the recipe for the beer. In doing that I got to see what went into the beer for a good review and certain things will start to come out to you. Yeast strains, types of hops, roasted malts etc... Here is exactlty how I review a beer. I just took a great way to review it, and use it. I have a great deal of respect for the Alstrom Brothers from BeerAdvocate. You are the only person that knows what you like, so drink what you like, but still try other things. At one point your favorite beer was a beer you had never tasted before, and I always hope my next new beer might be just that. My new favorite beer.

I hope that answers your question a little bit better.