Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Alesmith IPA

Beer: Alesmith IPA
Brewery Location: San Diego, CA
Beer Style: IPA
ABV: 7.75%

It was my birthday this past weekend and I've been keeping a few beers back for the occasion. This is one of those beers that I've been saving. You've read about what I think of Alesmith, and their beer Yulesmith (the winter addition) is in my top five favorite beers of all time. I've read that Stone helps to distribute Alesmith's beers, but we have yet to see them here in Indiana. I've gotten several bottles of this recently at Jungle Jim's and have also traded for a few since I like it that much.

I really would like to make a trip to the west coast just for beer purposes. In San Diego alone there are several breweries that I would like to visit like Alesmith and Ballast Point, and hopefully could finish the trip up in Petaluma visiting Russian River, but that is just a pipe dream at this point, but someone I will make it out there.

This IPA pours a cloudy copper color with a bit of spent yeast floating in my glass topped off with a full three fingers worth of slightly off-white head. This beer left ribbons of lacing around the walls of my pint glass. As a hop-head I love smelling this beer. The hops are very fresh and vibrant with strong scents of citrus fruit and pine underpinned by a subtle soft earthiness as well, and I personally think one of the best American IPA noses you will find. The flavor profile first brings on the rush from all of those hops with flavors of orange rind, pineapple, sticky pine needles, and ripe grapefruit, but as the beer warms a bit I get more of the sweet caramel base to round everything out. I do get a bit of alcohol in the flavor as well, but that is fairly muted compared to the hops and malt. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and super smooth going down with no astringency and the alcohol that was present in the flavor was gone in the mouthfeel. The drinkability is superb on this beer and even at 7.75% I would have multiple offerings of this beer.

This beer is just a superior example of an IPA. The fresh scent of the hops and flavor profile are just about unbeatable here for an IPA. This easily goes in my rotation of IPA's if I could find it locally. The bottle has a few new acronyms for IPA, one being "I Prefer Alesmith" and "It's Pretty Awesome." I have to say that I agree with them.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

InBev possible takeover of Budweiser

This week there has been some controversy over the possible takeover of Budweiser by InBev. If you don't know who Inbev is they are a huge global presence brewing/distributing company based out of Belgium. They own brands like Becks, Stella Artois, Leffe, and Hoegaarden as well as several hundred others. This buyout makes sense because much of AB's product line and InBev's brands don't really cross the same retail footprint.

I am rather mixed about this possible takeover. Supposedly InBev is willing to go as high as 67$ a share and Budweiser closed on the American markets at $56.51 up from $52 dollars a share on this speculation. I imagine a big part of this is coming on because I would assume that five years ago Bud wasn't able to be bought because of the stronger dollar, but now that the dollar has tanked this is now a much more attractive buy for InBev. The buyout price is only 42 Euros for InBev whereas five years ago it would have been around 56 Euros. That is a big difference for them. There is much more to the story than just that, but that factor is helping.

What would this mean though? It would mean no more macros in America would be owned by American companies. SabMiller out of South Africa owns Miller and MolsonCoors owns Coors out of Canada. Brewing operations would still continue in the States of course and some jobs would be lost, but I would assume those would be at the top though.

Would this mean that outside large multi-national brewing companies would be possible to dictate the price of goods from farmers? Would the three conglomerates be the perpetual 900lb gorillas? What would this mean for our favorite local craft brewer? Would the conglomeration spell bad things for smaller craft brewers? Is it in America's best intention to keep Budweiser an American company? I will admit I am way out of my league on this one in terms of what might happen, but something internally just tells me this isn't a good thing for anyone except for InBev. August Busch says that this "won't happen on his watch," but he runs a public company where cash and shareholders are king. There is a tidy profit to be made by greedy shareholders right now. I am not sure AB can use a poison pill strategy in this situation or other takeover avoidance measures like taking on extreme debt right now, but that is just my guess. I don't know how AB can make itself look significantly less attractive to avoid a takeover. I will wait and see how this will shakes out, but personally even though I am not a regular drinker of AB products I don't want to see AB become a foreign company. What are your thoughts?


Friday, May 23, 2008

Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale

Beer: Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale
Brewery Location: Cleveland, OH
Beer Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 6%

Great Lakes is another one of my top breweries out there, but unfortunately we can't get any here in Indiana unless you live in South Bend. I've heard some stories on why we don't get Great Lakes beers in Indianapolis anymore, but I don't put much stock in them. Great Lakes brewing was the first micro-brewery in Ohio back in 1988. I've been drinking Great Lakes since my very first trip to Jungle Jim's down in Cincinnati several years back. This beer I am reviewing along with their Dortmunder Gold would have permanent places in my fridge if I could buy them locally. This beer is available in every state that touches us and as far north as Wisconsin and as far east at West Virginia. With gas prices at four dollars a gallon though, it is much easier and cheaper for me to trade for them with people from Ohio. I received this beer along with several other Great Lakes offerings in a recent trade.

This beer is named after the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River that helped to spark environmental change.

This beer pours a slightly hazed orange color with a decent cap of bright white head on it. The scent is really nice for an APA. Loads of fresh citrus, floral notes, and sweet malt in the nose. It is assertive, but it also doesn't cross the lines into other bigger beers like an IPA, and I think it is really nice and refreshing. The flavor profile is a good balance of bitter hops and sweet malt. I get more citrus than pine in the flavor profile that is balanced quite well with the almost bready malt. The mouthfeel is very smooth with maybe slightly above medium carbonation. The drinkability is really nice, and as I said before I would give this beer a permanent home in my fridge if it were available locally.

Obviously you can tell this is one of my favorite APA's. Alpha King is my favorite APA, but Alpha King is classified as an APA, but to me it is more like an IPA. It isn't going to blow your socks off compared to bigger beers, but in terms of style guidelines and how refreshing this beer is makes it a keeper to me. This is one of my go-to beers during the summer months, and when I think of a "lawnmower beer" this beer is my favorite. If it were possible I would really love to see Great Lakes come back Indianapolis.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Péché Mortel

Beer: Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel's Péché Mortel
Brewery Location: Montreal, Canada
Beer Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.5%

Other beer from Canada besides Molson or Labatt? It is true! Canada has a great brewing culture and many microbrewers and brewpubs all over the country. It is not the beer explosion that America has gone through, but it is a vibrant and growing culture. Did you know that Canada is the second largest country in the world when it comes to landmass? That was on Jeopardy last week.

This beer is rated as one of the top beers in the world according to both ratebeer and beeradvocate. I am a little weary of those sites when it comes to ratings since the top beers are almost always the high gravity and usually quite difficult to get your hands on. In either case I am always trying to get my hands on them to really see if they live up to any type of hype.
Péché Mortel is only brewed in about fifty case batches three or four times a year. I received this recently in trade along with another of Dieu Du Ciel's offerings.

Péché Mortel (Mortal Sin) pours an opaque black color with a tan colored head that left decent lacing for a stout. Loads and loads of coffee sometimes leaning towards espresso in the nose with cocoa and bitter chocolate mingling in the nose as well. The flavor profile blends those same flavors together with perfection. I am not usually much of a coffee stout fan, but the coffee/espresso flavor only co-mingles with the chocolate and roasted grain and never dominates. The coffee flavor is just done so very well. I also get secondary flavors of caramel and a slight bitter hop flavor. Coupled with the flavor the mouthfeel for a beer with this high ABV is well done. This beer is very smooth and creamy with only slight carbonation. I liked the drinkability on this beer, but one is about enough for me at time.

I had this beer around 7 p.m. last night and I didn't really think about the caffeine, but I was wide away for the next several hours. I am going to say this is the best use of coffee I've had in a beer. I am still very surprised how smooth this beer was and how well the coffee flavor only mingled and didn't dominate the flavor profile. I've got a few coffee stouts waiting for me, and I will compare them with this beer. Well done all around on this beer, and I think well deserving of the hype it gets.



Place: HopCat
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Another location that I wanted to visit during my trip to Grand Rapids was HopCat. I've heard about HopCat through the beer websites that I am a member of, and I've also seen them ranked as one of the best beer bars in America. HopCat is right downtown and is only about a mile or so away from Founders.

The bar is right on the corner in an older looking building. As soon as we walked in I already liked it. You quickly take notice of the 48 taps on the front of the bar, and not a single one of them is swill. I really liked the feel of the bar itself. It was nicely laid out in dark wood with comfortable seating. The ceiling of the bar is covered in vintage beer and liquor posters.

We sat down and ordered some food and beer. They have these fries there called "crack fries" and they were about the tastiest fries I've ever had. I don't know what kind of spices they put of them, but they were spicy and delicious.

I was a bit overwhelmed when I was ordering since I wanted to try just about everything on the draft menu. Check out the tap list on the picture I posted.

I settled on trying Short's Huma Lupa Licious. Short's brewing bottles a small amount of their beer right now, and most of the beer is found on tap around Michigan. The beer pours a deep cloudy orange color with a nice white head on it, and it left great lacing on my pint glass. The scent is very fresh with scents of citrus and grassy hops and pale sweet malt coming in as well. The flavor profile is a combination of spicy citrus fruit and the bready malt. A better than average IPA that was fresh and well made. I do hope I can get more of this beer in the future.

My second beer was a DIPA from The Livery brewing company's Double Paw. This was also my first beer from The Livery. I don't know much about them, but after looking at their website I need to stop in and see them. They are really not far into Michigan from NW Indiana. Their website says this beer is brewed using a single malt and single hop variety. I get grapefruit and pine in the nose and that comes through just the same in the flavor profile with enough malt to back up the hops. This was a good beer, but wasn't what I was expecting in a DIPA. The aroma was a bit subdued as was the flavor profile, but the other side of the coin is that this is a very easy drinking DIPA without any type of harsh bitterness or alcohol on the mouthfeel.

I also tried Jolly Pumkin's Madrugada Obscura on cask. The HopCat has a new beer on handpull every single Friday! Jolly Pumpkin is another Michigan brewer that has a great reputation for their beer, but are unavailable in Indiana (but are found in most states touching Indiana). Their beers are oak aged and bottle conditioned. They put some amazing dedication into their beer. I personally though did not enjoy this beer. It had loads of roasted malt in there, but also sour fruit in the flavor profile. The two together just didn't meld well for me.

CORRECTION: Chris from Dig-B corrected me that Jolly Pumpkin is available at Kahn's. I've never seen it up there. Thank you for the heads up Chris.

HopCat is a must stop place if you are in Grand Rapids. This was really a great value as well. We ordered food for two, three beers, and left for 28 bucks. All of the beers are around the four dollar mark. The only other bar I would rather be in would be the Heorot in Muncie. The Heorot helped me love craft beer, and I still have sentimental values towards it, but the HopCat is right behind them in my book. If, and when, I make it back to Grand Rapids this will be a place I go to again.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Founders Brewing Company

Place: Founder's Brewing Company
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

The wife and I decided to take a long weekend, and we settled on Grand Rapids, MI. It has plenty of things that I want to see, and Grand Rapids has plenty to offering if you are not a beer fan. I really liked my time there, and I will gladly go back again. They have a new museum of modern art, the Frederick Meijer Gardens, and plenty of mom and pop type places that make for more interesting food choices. We ate at a place called Maria Catrib's that was one of the best lunch meals I've had in a very long time.

Founder's is one of my favorite brewers out there. I like the line-up of beer they produce and I am hard pressed to find a more consistent craft brewer. I've never had a bad beer out of the bottle (or style) from them. Founder's is pretty much right downtown and was only a couple block walk from our hotel. We were walking right along and I was beginning to wonder where it was, but you come around the side of a large building and there it is. I was quite impressed by how big the place is. It is the largest brew-pub I think I have ever been in. The whole front of the building has large garage style doors on them that open up so you can sit outside and still look right in on the bar. In the back of the taproom you see the brewing facility itself. You can only see the clarifying tanks, mash tun, and a few other things from where we were sitting, but I still enjoyed the view. They have a two large chalkboards that state what is on tap for the day, and they have an even bigger chalkboard that you can order food from. I was only drinking while we where there.
(sorry these pictures suck)
I started off with the regular IPA, and my wife started with the Rubaeus. I've reviewed the IPA out of bottle, but on tap the flavors are much more vibrant with the pine hop flavors coming in much stronger and a bit cleaner on the finish. The malt comes through a bit sweeter as well. Not quite a session beer at 7%, but I would certainly have more than a few of these, and I think it is just a great representation of the style.

My second beer was the imperial stout. I've never had the imperial stout, but I love their other stout offerings (Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Breakfast Stout), so I went ahead with this offering. The nose had plenty of chocolate and dark roasted malts going for it. The flavor profile melded roasted grain, bitter coffee, dark chocolate, and dark fruits together with no flavor dominating the next. The finish is thick, but the mouthfeel is so exceptionally smooth. This is a big beer with one of the best finishes I've encountered. I was really wowed by this offering, and I am going to look for me around the Indianapolis area.

Rubeaus on tap as well brings on new flavors of the sharp bitterness from the raspberries and the malt tastes in better tandem than out of a bottle. Out of the bottle I think is much sweeter than it is on tap. I like it either way, but out of the tap is significantly better.

I really enjoyed my time at Founders. The atmosphere is laid back and I had great service. We were there for happy hour when pints are $1.00 off. A pint of their IPA is only 2.75 during happy hour. I would really like to make it back to Founder's soon, and it is a must stop if you are in Grand Rapids area. This was my kind of place.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BJ's Brewhouse

Location: BJ's Brewhouse
Greenwood, IN

I got an invite to the soft opening of BJ's Brewhouse tonight for a complimentary dinner to test out the menu, the beer, and to raise money for charity. I am always up for trying a new place and am even happier when it is a brewhouse.

They have built up the area around the Greenwood Park Mall quite nicely. It is nice to see new restaurants (albeit chain restaurants) new shops, and a new look to an old area. BJ's is a company out of California that has been in business since 1978. The Greenwood location is their first in Indiana.

The outside of the restaurant is a big box of place that fits well in a chain restaurant model. The inside is actually quite nice with plenty of flat screen tv's, lots of seating, and a very large bar. Even though they are called a "brewhouse" they are not actually brewing beer in the Greenwood location. I found out they are shipping the beer in from Reno, NV. They are making their own root beer on location though.

The meal I had was actually really really good. I had the fish tacos. It is hard to get fish tacos in Indiana as I only think I've seen them on the menu in about four locations downtown. My wife got a salad that wasn't anything groundbreaking, but just a simple and fresh salad that had very good flavor.

I had to taste a few of their beers as well. I tried the Nutty Brewnette brown ale, and Piranha pale ale. The brown ale was a lighter version of a heavier brown ale that I am a little more used to, but I got great flavors of the nutty chocolate malt and just a touch of bitter hops. There was little to speak of when it came to the nose. I wasn't wowed by this beer, but it is actually a tasty little session brew that I will be having again if I go there. The pale ale though said it was for "hopheads only" on the menu, and I laughed a bit at that. You can clearly taste the chinook and cascade hops, but nothing in the high IBU's on this and is only slightly bitter. Another midgrade session beer that I would have again. There wasn't much nose on either of these beers, but they were both served way to cold, and you can see in the picture how much moisture is on the outside of the pint glass.

I think this is another good place for Greenwood even though it is a chain restaurant. The prices are very reasonable as well. All of their beer is either 4.25 to 4.75 and that includes their Totonka stout that is a RIS.


Monday, May 12, 2008

You saw it here......second folks

StLouis Hops has the very first picture of Budweisers newest (they toyed with it back in 1997) beer called Budweiser American Ale. I've heard of this beer coming out, but this is the first picture of it I've seen. I am not a label whore, so I will give this a try when it comes out later this year. That a pretty good looking color it has on it though.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Cloud that Burps (and beer at MacNivens)

We went out last night for my early birthday present to see Eddie Izzard at the Murat. (A Cloud that burps is a line from his show last night). We stopped by MacNivens on Mass Ave before the show for dinner and drinks. I still can't put my finger on exactly why I like MacNivens, but I think it is a combination of good food, good service, and a quality beer lineup that I can be assured has been turned properly and the prices are usually fair.

If you have never been to MacNivens it is a Scottish themed restaurant that pays homage to Sean Connery, rugby, soccer, scotch whiskey, and good beer. That is right up my alley.

They have Founders Red Rye on tap right now, and I started off the night with that. As you well know Founders is one of my favorites, and Red Rye is one of their best I think. I've had Red Rye out of a bottle, but this was my first time on tap before. Out of the tap the beer has a much more pronounced pine hop presence and caramel malt scent. The flavor profile is a little more heavy in the hop department, but is by no means a "hop bomb." This is better on-tap than in the bottle, but I will always take either way I can get this beer.

My second beer though didn't stack up very well. I ordered a snifter of Brooklyn Brewery's Blast Pale Ale. It is supposed to be a DIPA, but I didn't think it was by any means. There were some floral hops in the nose, but also a lemony earthiness coming in as well. The alcohol isn't well hidden in the beer and it tasted of sour citrus fruit, and not the good kind that I like. Is this oxidized keg beer? I know other people have said the same thing of the Blast here in Indiana at other Indianapolis beer bars, but it gets high marks in other states. My buddy Nate who was with me had the same thoughts as me, but at 7.25 we made sure we finished our beers. What is up with Indiana's shipment of Brooklyn Blast? I've enjoyed Brooklyn's other offerings I've had, but this one was not good.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Russian River Brewing Temptation

Beer: Russian River Temptation
Brewery Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Beer Style: American Wild Ale
ABV: 7.25%

Temptation: "Aged in French oak wine barrels for twelve months with distinct characteristics of fruit and subtle oak" sounds more like a description of wine than beer. However, Temptation is indeed beer. Temptation is a Blonde Ale aged in French oak chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces. Flavors of wine and oak absorb into the brew throughout its aging. Temptation is re-fermented in the bottle to create its carbonation--a process commonly used to make fine champagne and sparkling wine. Spent yeast forms a thin layer of sediment to remain in the bottle.

That paragraph is from Russian River's description of Temptation. I've been looking forward to this beer for a very long time. This beer is called an "American Wild Ale" because of the addition of the Brettanomyces or "Brett" as it is often referred to. Brett is very bad for wine and can be very bad for beer, but in the right hands can be a great thing for beer leaving a citrus/funk/twist to the beer. I've even heard it called "horse blanket" in terms of the flavor it imparts to the beer. Earthy and leathery are usually more associated with Brett. The bottle tells me I can age this beer for four years, but I just couldn't wait.

Temptation pours a hazy yellow with two fingers of head in my tulip glass, and it left patchy lacing on the glass. The earthiness of the Brett comes out full force with a funky sourness with hints of lemons, apples, oranges, and "oaked" chardonnay. (I just made that up, but I mean it smells like chardonnay with an extra oak kick to it). The flavor profile starts out slightly sour with flavors that remind me of granny smith apples, lemons, and unripe cherries. I also get a good dose of chardonnay flavor from the barrel aging. This is so pleasant and the flavors meld very well in the profile. I was still finding new things as I drank the last drop of this beer. The ever changing fruitiness on this beer is my favorite aspect of this beer. There is a great deal of expected carbonation in this beer that leaves a dry sensation on the mouth that is actually quite smooth. The drinkablity for this beer is amazing and I hope I can get some more of this beer.

Overall this was an incredible drinking experience. I know it is beer, but right now is has a great deal of wine characteristics to it. I would really like to get my hands on more and age it for a year or two because I think this beer would only get better. I honestly hope though that it doesn't get any better because I would do despicable things to get more of this beer.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Schlafly Export India Pale Ale

Beer: Schlafly Export India Pale Ale
Brewery Location: St. Louis, MO
Beer Style: English IPA
ABV: 8%

I don't get enough Schlafly on this blog. It is my own fault for not getting more, but the Schlafly offerings I have tried thus far have been top-notch. I am not sure when we started being able to get Schlafly in Indianapolis, but I've been sampling them for about two years. I picked this up at Dark Lord Day as an extra from a St. Louis native.

This beer pours a cloudy golden hue with a frothy white head that left a thin blanket of head and good lacing on my pint glass. The scent is classic for American made English IPA's. I first get scents of caramel and toffee mixed in with an earthy/grassy hops mixed in with only a slight touch of citrus twinge. The flavor profile matches the nose with flavors of earthy and toasty maltiness and a bitter tea like flavor that adds to the flavor profile. The mouthfeel is smooth with medium carbonation. I would drink this beer again, and I hope to this summer.

I know the bottle I have is a little old, but I still really enjoyed this offering with a bit of age on it. Classic flavors of an English IPA with an American touch to it. I am curious what this tastes like fresh when I am sure the hops are a little more vibrant. I hope to be able to get some of this in Indiana this year along with Schlafly's other line up of beer available all over town.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hoppin' Frog Mean Manalishi Double IPA

Beer: Hoppin' Frog Mean Manalishi Double IPA
Brewery Location: Akron, OH
Beer Style: Double IPA
ABV: 8.2%

I haven't had any Hoppin' Frog in quite some time for some reason. I am not sure why I've strayed away from them, but this DIPA offering brought them right back for me. Hoppin' Frog has been in business for about eight years and make a well respected and solid line-up of beers. It was beautiful out today, so what better time for a double IPA than grilling out and sitting outside?

Mean Manalishi pours a deep rusted amber hue with a big two fingers worth of off-white head. This beer also leaves very good lacing as well as a small blanket of head for the entire beer. It is hard to miss the loads of fresh hops in the nose with big scents of resinous pine and pink grapefruit with little malt coming through. The flavor profile is in your face the entire way on this beer and come through so much better than the nose. The resinous pine flavor comes out full force with subtle flavors of caramel and citrus fruit. The pine flavor is so intense and lasts until the very last sip of the beer. The mouthfeel is quite nice on this beer even with the intense bitterness from the hops, but overall is quite smooth with very little alcohol noticeable on the mouthfeel. The drinkablity for this hop-head is perfect and I would go for another one of these.

Overall this is a very tasty offering from Hoppin' Frog. I really enjoyed the pine bitterness in the flavor profile that was bold enough to let you know it was there but not over the top in any way. This is a DIPA for hop-heads. Great effort Hoppin' Frog!


Friday, May 2, 2008

Fireside Brewhouse

Greenwood's newest beer bar is set to open on Monday, May 5th at 11:00 am. I tried to get in contact with someone from the bar and try and find out what beers they will be carrying, but I wasn't lucky to get that info, but I did find out that they will have 16 beers on tap and another 110 in bottles. I can't wait to give it a try next week. I've got high hopes they will be a great beer bar/restaurant.

Their website is currently under construction.

The resturant/bar is located on Emerson and County Line Rd in the most recent strip mall behind Chase Bank.