Friday, April 30, 2010
I just wanted to remind everyone about my beer tasting at the Coborn's Liquor in Hastings tomorrow. I will be pouring samples from 3 - 7pm. In the spirit of the upcoming Cinco de Mayo, there will be 4 Mexican beers along with 1 local seasonal. Stop by and taste some beer with me. If you're not interested in any of the beers I'm sampling, feel free to ask for other beer recommendations. I'll be happy to help you find something you would enjoy. I also encourage you to ask questions and talk beer with me. After all, it's what I do. I hope to see you tomorrow!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I have decided that I'm going to keep extending the Minnesota Breweries poll until I get at least 100 votes. At the time of this post, there have officially been 54 votes. Surly Brewing is in the lead, which is not a surprise to me. I'll post the official list from first place to last place once it hits the century mark. Thanks to all of you that have already voted, and sorry for the delay in results. If you haven't voted yet, help me out and do so. Thanks!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Man, this has been a good year for breweries starting distribution to Minnesota. The brewers must be recognizing our growing appreciation for craft beer. Deschutes is here now, Odell will be here next week, and another just started this week: Central Waters Brewing Company.
Central Waters is located in Amherst, Wisonsin and was founded in 1998. In 2000, they won a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup for their Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe Ale, which is a barleywine. I have heard good things about this brewery, but I personally have not had any of their beers yet. They have 7 year-round beers and a ton of seasonals.
As far as I'm concerned, it's a good thing whenever we get access to a new beer we've never had before. Don't fret, I will always support my local beers. They're my staple brews I can always count on. However, I also love to mix in a variety of beers I've never tasted before, because that's how I expand my palate. Check out your local liquor stores for any of these new visitors to Minnesota. I'm sure you'll enjoy trying them.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
As you might have read in one of my past posts, I was given a bottle of beer by a guy that I've run into a few times at various beer events. This was a special bottle of beer, because I do not have access to it in the state of Minnesota. The man was Rick Duff, and even though we only barely know each other, he was kind enough to give me a bottle of Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing. Thanks Rick, I hope you enjoy reading this session!
Russian River Brewing Company is located in Santa Rosa, California and was founded in 1997. The interesting thing to note about this brewery is that it was originally founded by Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, California. That's right, this brewery was started by a sparkling wine company! They hired Vinnie Cilurzo as brewmaster and started winning various awards. Korbel sold the brewery to Vinnie in 2002 when they decided to get out of brewing beer. Since then, he and his wife have relocated the brewery to its current location in Santa Rosa.
In case you don't already know, I'm a big fan of DIPAs (Double India Pale Ales), which Pliny the Elder is. It is 8% ABV and has 100 IBUs. I had read a lot of great things about this beer, but never thought I would get to try it. Now I find myself with the bottle sitting before me, beckoning me to take a taste. I'm excited to be given this opportunity!
I pour the 1 pint, 0.9 ounce bottle of Pliny the Elder into my tulip glass. It is very easy to generate a 3-finger off-white head, which slowly falls into a 1/4" thick blanket resting on top of the liquid. The body is golden with a hint of orange and has a slight haze.
The malt in this beer smells more like English toffee than caramel, which is nice. There is a beautiful citrus fruit aroma, along with the strong scent of piney hops.
Mmmm, tasty stuff! Sweet caramel presents itself first, and is quickly hidden by the hops. There are pine and pineapple flavors, followed by a bitterness that seems to start small, but builds quickly and deliberately. That strong bitter character lingers long past the finish and makes me thirsty for more.
The mouthfeel is thinner than I expected, especially compared to some other DIPAs I've had. However, it is still medium in viscosity, not too light or watery at all. There is a little warming effect from the alcohol, and some beautiful lacing is left on my glass as I drink.
This is a very solid brew, especially if you're a fan of DIPAs. The nice malty sweetness is overpowered a bit by the citrus, pine, and bitter flavors, just as it should be in this style. Yet somehow it still remains very well balanced. This isn't my favorite DIPA, but it is a great example of the style. It was quite tasty and very enjoyable to drink. Thanks again Rick, for sharing this bottle with me. Cheers!
Monday, April 26, 2010
I apologize to my followers that I wasn't able to keep up on my weekday posts last week. I missed Friday because I was packing and preparing for the weekend. I went out of town and have just returned from an annual beer event that I planned for a group of my friends. This was the 4th year of the event, which we call Beer-a-palooza. It is a weekend dedicated to quality beer!
This event happens in a different city every year. First, I decide upon a city with a brewery that we can tour. (Duluth was our destination this year.) Then I book hotel rooms for everyone in the group for Friday and Saturday night. This is the base of the event.
Visiting a brewery can be a lot of fun, but we have a lot of other time to burn over the weekend. This led me to the idea of planning additional beer activities. This all comes together to give us a great vacation.
On Friday night, I host an organized beer tasting at the hotel. I have to book a large room so that everyone in the group can fit and move around comfortably during the tasting. Each person in our group contributes some money to our beer fund, which allows me to purchase the beer for the tasting. This year, we had 10 tasty beers for everyone to sample. I introduce 1 beer at a time, and give a description and a history of the style. Then we taste. It's a fun format that everyone seems to enjoy. After our tasting, we chat for a while and then rest for the night.
On Saturday morning, we usually get up and eat breakfast in the hotel. The morning usually moves slow because some people need to recover from the night before. When everyone is awake and ready, we head out for lunch and then directly to the brewery for the tour. This year, we toured Lake Superior brewing. Head brewer Dale Kleinschmidt was there to give the tour and share his vast knowledge of the brewing process. He did a great job and I know a lot of people in our group learned a lot from him. When the tour was over, we went back to the hotel.
Saturday afternoon is pretty open. People usually do whatever makes them happy. Some nap, some start drinking more beer, some go out and check out the neighborhood. This year, we even had someone bring their PS3 and play some video games. I typically crack a beer with a group of the guys and watch a beer-related movie. This year we watched "American Beer," which is a fun beer documentary about a small group of friends traveling the country and visiting craft breweries. If you can find a copy online, I recommend buying it.
After our relaxing afternoon, we find a brewpub or a good bar where we can drink quality beer and eat dinner. Since we were in Duluth this year, we visited Fitger's Brewhouse. They make their own tasty beers and also have good food on the menu. We ate (and drank) our fill, and then ventured out to hit some of the local bars. As each person reaches their limit, they get a cab or walk back to the hotel and call it a night.
Sunday, it's back to reality. We eat some breakfast (at least those of us that can eat), check out of the hotel, and head home.
The first year I planned this event, I thought it would be a one-time thing. However, all of my friends asked me when we would do it again! I decided to make it an annual event, and we've been going for 4 years straight. Our group grows larger with each year, and this year we had 18 people. Thanks to my friends for coming, and I hope we keep it going for years to come.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I'm very happy to announce that I am now a part-time employee of the Hastings Coborn's Liquor. I will be pouring beers at the store twice a month for you to come and taste. This will give me a great opportunity to promote my own business and meet anyone who would like to talk beer with me.
The first tasting is scheduled for Saturday, May 1st. I will be pouring samples from 3 - 7pm. Since Cinco de Mayo is on the following Wednesday, this tasting will be in the spirit of that holiday. There will be 4 Mexican beers and 1 local springtime seasonal for your sipping enjoyment.
Come stop by the Hastings Coborn's so you can taste and talk about beer with me. I hope to see you on May 1st!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I just received an email from Todd at Odell brewing. I had emailed the brewery to get a few more details about their release in Minnesota.
He confirmed the release date of May 3rd. Their brewery website already lists Minnesota in their distribution area, but they are not selling beer here until then. We can wait, right?
I also asked him which of their beers will be available to us. He told me they are starting the release with 90 Shilling, 5 Barrel Pale Ale, IPA, and the current seasonal, which is St Lupulin. They will also be giving us some small batch beers in limited release, starting with Saboteur. I was just reading about the Saboteur, and it sounds good. It's a 10% ABV brown ale made with brettanomyces, aged in American oak barrels, and then bottle conditioned.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Abrasive Ale? Yep, that's what Surly calls it. (In the past it has also been known as 16 Grit.) It's named in memory of the industrial manufacturing factory that eventually became the brewery. Check out Surly's history for more information. On the can, there is a picture of a hand held grinder doing it's job while shooting off some sparks. Perhaps they're insinuating this is something to drink after a hard day's work?
From the description on the can, I see that it is a double IPA (or DIPA, as I'll be calling it). You can usually find the ABV listed on a Surly can, but not this one. I go to the Surly website and find that it is a healthy 9.7%. The IBUs are listed at 120, which means: nice and bitter, or perhaps, megabitter! While on the site, I'm interested to see that they list the style as a "Double Oat IPA." I don't believe I've seen that one before.
I really enjoy the DIPA style and I know this will be good. How do I know? Because I bought the 4-pack last Friday, and I couldn't resist having some before my official session! Now, I'm going to break it down for all of you...
I crack open the pint can and pour into my large snifter. A 1-finger off white head is generated and falls fairly quickly. All that's left is a thin coating with a few larger bubbles and a nice foam ring around the edge of the glass. The body is orange-copper in color and hazy.
There is some sweet malt in the aroma that reminds me of honey, but the hops take over quickly. All the smells I love are present in the form of a floral citrus combo. There is grapefruit and pineapple present and I find my mouth starting to water. I also detect some alcohol, but not much.
The taste has a very fleeting, but delicious, moment of caramel sweetness before lupulin shows up. There is a strong citrus fruit flavor and bitterness that keeps building into the finish. It definitely leaves me wanting my next sip. Alcohol is present, but that's to be expected with a beer this big.
There is a medium weight to the mouthfeel of this brew. When I saw "Double Oat IPA" on their site, I thought it might have a more substantial thickness, but it seems pretty standard for a DIPA. An alcohol warmth is building with each sip. There is a moderate level of carbonation and some lacing on my glass.
This is an awesome beer. Granted, I enjoy this style, so I might be biased. Sweet malt and a great citrus character are more balanced with the bitterness than you might expect. This beer may technically have more IBUs than Furious, but the perception is that it's less bitter due to the big malt bill and a cutting effect of the alcohol. At one time, I did not like IPAs because of the bitterness. The beer that converted me was a DIPA, because it seemed more balanced and cohesive. If you find that you, too, are afraid of IPAs, you might want to try a DIPA. This Surly Abrasive Ale is a tasty example. I wish they brewed this year round!
Monday, April 19, 2010
I was recently reading my favorite beer event site, mnbeer.com, and became excited when I saw that there would be an Odell Brewing Co. beer dinner at The Muddy Pig.
About 2 years ago, my family and I went to visit friends in Colorado. While we were there, they took us to a brewpub and 3 breweries. One of the breweries was Odell. We were not able to get a tour because we showed up too late, but we did get to sample many of the beers in their tasting room. From what I can remember, I was very impressed with their brews. When I found out that they did not distribute to Minnesota, I admit I was a little disappointed. I wondered if they would ever distribute here...
Fast forward to now, and the info about the Odell beer dinner made me curious. I did some email and internet research and got the answer I was looking for. Odell is starting distribution to Minnesota! It will be officially released here on May 3rd. If you're anything like me and like to taste new beers, start watching for Odell beers at your favorite liquor stores. If I remember my own experience correctly, you shouldn't be disappointed.
Friday, April 16, 2010
A lot more people seem to be talking about Flat Earth Brewing these days. That's a good thing, because they make some tasty beers and deserve some recognition.
Today, I will be having a beer session with Onvi Ale, Flat Earth's biere de garde. This is one of their beers that I have not tried before. I thought it was a seasonal, because I don't see it on liquor store shelves very often. However, the Flat Earth website doesn't call it a seasonal. They just list it as "Special." As I've said before, I enjoy reading their beer descriptions, so here's the one for Onvi:
"Available TBA In 1902, one hundred feet of the Eiffel Tower had to be replaced after it was struck by an electrical discharge. Many believe the source of that surge was from a passing flying saucer. Ovni (flying saucer in French) Ale commemorates the great craftsmanship that went into repairing the tower. This French style bière de garde is made with the finest imported malt and hops. This beer has a substantial malt character with a mild hop bitterness. Ovni Ale pairs well with bouillabaisse, wild game and pasta."
On the label, there is a picture of a little green man crashing a flying saucer into the Eiffel Tower. It must be fun coming up with this stuff! The ABV is listed as 7.1%.
I pour from the bomber into my tulip glass. A 3-finger off white head is easily generated, and slowly falls into a half inch blanket. That half inch isn't going anywhere; it's here to stay. The body color looks like red tinted caramel. It is clear and has lots of bubbles rushing toward the top.
In the aroma I detect some bready, biscuity malt along with a touch of sweet honey. There is a hint of tart fruit and a very mild grassy hop smell.
At first sip, I can't be sure of the flavor nuances. They blend together very well. After a couple more sips, I think I can break it down. There is light sweet malt, some fresh bread, and a tiny hint of earthiness. Then comes a slight tang which leads into the beer quickly turning dry. A moderate bitterness removes the memory of the other flavors and cleans the palate.
There is a medium weight to the body and a nice firm level of carbonation. It feels very clean and easy drinking. Nice lacing works its way around the glass as I drink.
I like it. This beer is pretty malty at the start of each sip, and then the dry and bitter qualities erase the starting flavors for a very clean finish. This makes the beer seem very light, much lighter than it actually is. I would really enjoy drinking this on a nice hot day. It is very refreshing, but it could be dangerous. Even though it is so easy to drink, it is decently strong. You should be careful with this one. It doesn't seem like a 7.1% beer. If you can find some of this beer, buy it and give it a try! I know they're selling growlers of Onvi at the brewery right now...
Thursday, April 15, 2010
It shouldn't really be big news when a brewery updates their website (this is only an update, not a new site), but the Brau Brothers Brewing website has needed an update for a long while. The main problem was that their beer brand list was incomplete because it didn't list all of their current beers. They recently updated that list by adding Sheephead Ale, Old 56 Light Beer, and the recipe for their version of a black and tan, called Blacksheep. There are also better descriptions and graphics for each beer along with serving suggestions. I think it turned out pretty good, and you should go check it out.
However, I do notice a couple things they still haven't caught up with. Most importantly, their 2 newest and perhaps best reviewed beers, Rainwater Oak Aged Stout and Elisha's Olde Ale, are not yet listed on the site. I realize these are probably limited release beers, but people would still like to read about them on the brewery's site. They also have not updated the "Brau Labels" tab to show the redesigned labels, but that's not as big of an issue.
Thanks for updating some of your site, Brau Brothers. I'll be checking to see if you update any more of it, though...
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, Oregon has finally gotten its beers into Minnesota. Their well known and highly awarded brews have been sought after here for a while, and now we can get some of them! As part of the celebration of their beers coming to Minnesota, they have sent Woody to visit us. Woody is a mobile bar that looks like a giant barrel on wheels and serves Deschutes brews to thirsty people. I'm sorry, but I was a little slow on the draw for this as Woody has been here since Monday at multiple locations. Don't worry though, Woody will be in town until Saturday. Click here for times and locations across the metro.
So far, I've had the Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter at a liquor store tasting. They were both very good. I've also purchased one bottle each of their Mirror Mirror and Black Butte XXI from the reserve series. I'm excited about these beers. If you want to get out of the house and have a taste of something new, give Woody a visit!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Well, here I sit with an enticing bottle of the Surly seasonal known simply as Smoke. I have been excited about having a session with this beer since I bought it about 3 weeks ago. It is a baltic porter brewed with some smoked malts from Bamberg, Germany and is oak-aged.
Baltic porters are unique when compared to the porters most familiar to your average person. The majority of beer enthusiasts think of porter as an ale, and generally, they are correct. This means the beer is brewed with top-fermenting yeast at close to room temperature. However, most don't know that baltic porters are different. They are traditionally lagers and brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast at cooler temperatures. Surly Smoke is brewed in the traditional method with lager yeast. Baltic porters are also typically strong, and this beer doesn't disappoint with it's 8.2% ABV.
It's time to open the bottle, but I find myself hesitant to do so. There is a cool gray wax that coats the top of the bottle, and I'm not sure I want to wreck it. I have to taste it though, so I decide to take a picture before and after I open it. That way you all can see the wax-dipped seal:
I pour the 750ml bottle of dark liquid into my mug. A 1-finger brown head emerges briefly before fading away to absolutely nothing. There is no trace of foam left at all. The body of this beer is black as an overcast midnight sky and doesn't let anything through when you hold it up to light. I can see a small number of fine bubbles emerging on the surface.
I smell smoke in the aroma, but not as much as I anticipated. It compares to a scotch ale level of smoke, not as strong as a German rauchbier. I also detect toffee, chocolate, and coffee. I think this is going to be good...
And it is! Rich sweet malt is the first thing I taste. Flavors from the malt are caramel, dark chocolate, and light roasted coffee. Then comes just a hint of raisins. The smoke level is perfect, in my opinion. There is enough to let you know it's there, but not so much that it overpowers the other flavors. A nice gentle bitterness comes at the finish, and allows the malt to stay in control.
The medium-heavy viscosity coats my tongue with malty goodness. There is a low level of carbonation and each swallow of this beer is a pleasure. A nice alcohol warmth builds with each sip.
I'm a bit surprised. Honestly, this beer doesn't taste like what I was expecting. In fact, it's much more tasty than I thought it would be. It is a big, strong, malty beer that is a wonderful experience. It brings to mind sitting by a fire on a cool evening. The chocolate and coffee flavors make me think of sweet warming beverages you drink around the glow of the pit, while the smokiness and alcohol warmth are a simulation of a campfire in my mind. This beer is damn good and you should try it if you ever get a chance.
Monday, April 12, 2010
I like to visit all the Minnesota breweries' websites when I get a chance so I can keep up to date with their happenings and news. In the process of doing so, I recently found this cool tidbit from Lake Superior Brewing:
Here is what Draft Magazine had to say about Kayak Kolsch:
Congrats to the brew crew at Lake Superior! I have been known to enjoy Kayak Kolsch on a hot summer day, and I've introduced it to friends that do the same. If you haven't already, give this beer a try. After reading this article, I know I'll have to revisit this for a beer session.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Recently, I was very excited to receive an email from a fellow blogger. Sean Inman is a beer blogger in Los Angeles, California. His website is www.beersearchparty.com. He contacted me to tell me he enjoys reading my blog and to request an email interview with me. Of course, I was happy to oblige.
He sent a list of questions to me, which I answered as best I could. Check out the interview here.
Thanks, Sean. It was fun to be featured on another blog!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
This past weekend, I was having a discussion with my brother-in-law. We were gathered with family for Easter and had started talking about our own battles with weight loss. Eventually, of course, beer made it's way into that conversation. (In a past post, I talked about how you can calculate the calories in your favorite brew.)
In some of the words we shared on Sunday, my brother-in-law said that beer has empty calories. I corrected him right away. "Beer doesn't have empty calories. It's good for you!" Then I started thinking there are probably a lot of other people who think the same way and believe there is no good nutritional value in beer. Let's take a look at what kind of healthy stuff is in beer, shall we?
Of course, moderation is important. Too much beer can cause things like weight gain and liver damage. So go easy on your favorite healthy beverage, and it will be good to you.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
In past posts, I've mentioned cask ale. If any of you were wondering what cask ale is, read on...
When you go to most bars and order a "tap" or "draft" beer, you're getting a "pushed" beer. A pushed beer is usually contained in a keg and is dispensed from the tap using a pressurized tank of CO2 or occasionally, nitrogen. The kegs come in different sizes, the most common of which are: 1/2 barrel, 1/4 barrel, and 1/6 barrel. These are sealed containers that keep the beer fresh. Each keg has an inlet and outlet valve. The bar has to connect a coupler to the keg, which allows the pressurized gas into the keg and pushes the beer out to the tap. The keg is in a cooler, which typically keeps the beer very cold. The tap handle is just a switch for opening and closing a valve that controls the flow of beer at the spigot. This is the way most people are accustomed to getting draft beer at a bar.
Cask ale, sometimes called "real ale," is a lesser-known way to serve a beer at a bar. That's unfortunate, because I prefer cask ales. A cask ale is packaged in a cask, not a keg. The beer that is put into a cask traditionally goes through a secondary fermentation in the container. The beer has not been pasteurized or filtered, so there is still residual living yeast in the liquid. When this "living" beer is put into the cask it is allowed to do it's work and generate carbon dioxide naturally. This is called conditioning and it's the natural way to get bubbles in your beer.
Casks can come in a number of sizes, but a "firkin" is the most common. A cask has an outlet tap for the beer, but it also has some sort of vent which allows air in to equalize the pressure when the beer leaves. Air will shorten the life of any beer, so the shelf life of a tapped cask can be very short. There are a few different ways to serve true cask ales. All of them involve laying the cask on it's side, unlike upright kegs.
- Gravity dispense - This one is pretty straight forward. The tap is just an open/close valve. Gravity does all the work as long as the tap is lower than the beer level.
- Tall fount - This method is used in Scotland. Air pressure created by an electric compressor is used to move the beer to the faucet.
- Beer engine - A beer engine looks similar to the faucets used for pushed beers. However, the handles have a long motion and are actually manually operated pumps. The pump draws the beer from the cask and dispenses it through the faucet. (This method is fun to watch.)
- Electric pump - Sometimes they look like a standard tap, sometimes they look like a beer engine. All that matters is the beer is moved by a motorized electric pump, rather than a manual pump. The handle is the on/off switch.
I love cask ales. However, just to note, we still need pushed beer. Pushed beer has a much longer shelf life, which is important to the bar and the consumers. Also, there is a reason it's called cask ale. Lagers typically need to be stored and served at cooler temperatures, and they are not served out of casks.
If you've never tried a true cask ale, I highly recommend it. Don't be scared off by the people who say it is warm and flat. It's not flat, it's naturally conditioned. It's not warm, it's just not ice cold. It has a great mouthfeel and delicious flavor. My favorite place to have a beer (besides home) is Great Waters Brewing Company in Saint Paul. They brew their own tasty cask ales and pushed beers. I'm sure there are other places in the Twin Cities area with cask ales, but I'm not sure where. Let me know in the comments.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Yesterday, I posted a beer session I had when I went to Great Waters last Friday. I tried a new beer (Glacier Pale Ale) and then I tried another new beer. I only covered the pale ale in my previous post, so today is reserved for that second beer.
Equinox Brown Ale is our subject. This beer is not a cask ale, like the Glacier Pale Ale. It is your typical "pushed" tap style. It is served chilled and pushed through a common bar tap by pressure from a CO2 tank. This is how most people are accustomed to having their beer poured at a bar. Here is Great Waters description of their brew:
"A lush, full-bodied brown ale brewed with Belgian yeast. Dark roasted malt mixes with fruit and spice. A fitting tribute to the equinox...the dark winter giving way to light freshness of spring. Get it while it lasts."
The beer is brought to me in a Great Waters pint glass. There is a 1/4" thick head that is light tan in color. It falls fairly quickly into a thin coating floating on top. The body is dark brown with hints of red around the edges.
Mmmm. This beer smells good. I detect some caramelly, almost toffee-like sweetness. Fruit is present, like figs and raisins, and there is no noticeable hop aroma. It smells like a rich Belgian.
First sip. Second sip. Third sip. Sorry, I got distracted. Tasty stuff. Brown sugar is followed by dark dried fruit, like dates. There is a moment of spice and then a slight bitter finish. I can also taste some of the alcohol. This beer is 7.5%, so that flavor is fine with me.
The mouthfeel is much lighter than I expected. It's not watery, but this beer seems like it should be thicker. There is a decent level of carbonation and it's easy to drink.
Why didn't I bring my growler? Equinox is on the "pushed" side, as I mentioned earlier. That means Great Waters sells it in growlers. I would happily take some of this brew home. It seems a lot like a Belgian Dubbel to me. It's dark, sweet, and fruity with enough hopping to cut some of the malt. If you're a fan of Belgian ales, definitely give this one a try. Maybe buy yourself a growler to enjoy at home, too!
Monday, April 5, 2010
On Friday, I only worked a half-day. Since I finished work at 11:45am, I figured I would head over to Great Waters to try a couple new beers they had listed on their website. Because I would be tasting these beers all alone, I decided I should write up some beer sessions on these brews. I thought it would be fun and different from my usual home sessions.
As long as I was there, I figured that I would also order some lunch. I always enjoy the food at Great Waters. When the waitress told me about their Salmon Burger special, I knew that's what I should get. It was very tasty, if any of you are curious. Sorry, no lengthy descriptive food review here. That's not what I do.
Since this was my first beer session away from home, I couldn't set up the awesome photo station that my wonderful wife helped conceive. I had to improvise with my phone's lackluster camera, so let me apologize for the picture quality.
This first Great Waters beer session is with their Glacier Pale Ale. This brew is 5% ABV and is a true cask ale served at cellar temperature (52°F) after being hand pumped through a beer engine. (Keep watch for a future post about cask ale if you have questions.) Here is the description from their site:
"This pale ale is single hopped with Glacier hops. It's not over-powering. A more balanced and biscuity beer, the Glacier P.A. resembles an English pale ale. It's appropriately being served on cask."
I like a good English Pale Ale, so let's see about this one. The Great Waters pint glass is set in front of me with a nice 2-fingers of frothy off-white head. The body is cloudy with sediment and is golden-orange in color.
After taking a whiff of this, it's hard to determine what I smell. There is a sweet malt aroma that reminds me of honey. There is also some fruit. I'd say apricots and peaches are the ones that come to mind.
The taste? Sweet mango-like fruitiness with some apricot and a slightly tart acidic flavor. There is a metallic bitterness that seems to come on slowly, but it eventually balances the malt sweetness.
The mouthfeel is one of my favorite things about cask ales. This beer is creamy and velvety with a medium viscosity. The carbonation level is light and natural. Each swallow is silky smooth going down my throat and there is lovely lacing on the glass.
This beer was briefly enjoyable to me mainly because of how different it is than I expected. However, I don't think I would go out of my way to drink it again. There is almost too much of a sweet fruit quality, especially for this style. There is some mild hop bitterness that tries to balance it out and make it a pale ale, but it only partially succeeds. It is far from what I usually enjoy at Great Waters. Thankfully, the second beer I tried was much better. Look for that session tomorrow!
Friday, April 2, 2010
Yesterday, I posted my beer session with Summit's Unchained Series Batch 02. Today, it will be Batch 03. They are calling this beer an India Style Rye Ale or IRA for short. Basically, it is an IPA that has some rye malt in the recipe. "Rye malt?" you ask. Yep. There are actually a decent number of beers with rye that are becoming, or have already become, quite popular.
When I heard about this beer before it was released, I was very excited. I've had this style of beer from different breweries in the past and I've really enjoyed them. There is just something about rye that complements hop flavors really well. When I went on a tour of the Summit brewery a month ago, I was very happy to learn that the IRA was available for sampling. I will tell you right now that I really liked it.
I forgot to mention yesterday that each beer recipe in the Unchained Series is created by a different Summit brewer. Batch 01 was Mike "The Miz" Miziorko. Batch 02 was Eric Blomquist. And now, for Batch 03, it's Mike Lundell. Thanks for all the tasty beers, guys!
On with the session!
I pour the IRA into my imperial pint glass. A coarse, 2-finger head is formed quite easily. It is off-white in color and eventually falls to a half inch layer that wants to keep hanging on. The color of the body is somewhere between ruby and brown.
Wafting up from the glass are some wonderful things. There is a slight smell of sweet malt, but it's not very noticeable. The reason for that is the awesome aroma of grapefruit and pineapple which, frankly, doesn't care about the malt. Those are some of my favorite hop smells, and they're followed by a bit of rye bread in the nose. Man, I can't wait!
Brief caramel flavor from the malt is a nice way to lead into the hops. I savor the citrus fruit flavor, then, the great taste of spicy rye. It all finishes with a nice bitter kick that lingers for a bit.
There is a medium bodied mouthfeel and a moderate level of carbonation. I notice that most Summit beers seem to have the same quantity of bubbles. Some lacing is showing on the glass as I drink.
This tasty brew is right up my alley! I love hoppy rye beers and Summit did this one well. The citrus and rye aromas and flavors go perfectly with each other. If you like floral, hopped up beers, you should definitely give this a try! At 6.3%, it's not too strong to have a few. Don't forget that it's a limited brew, so get out and try it while you can.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
I'm a big fan of Summit beers, and have been for a while. They have a nice solid base of good quality year-round offerings, along with some equally good seasonals. The only thing I ever felt seemed to be missing from their lineup were some different, tasty, limited-edition beers. As far as I'm concerned, they solved that minor problem with the introduction of the Summit Unchained Series last year. They are now up to Batch 03 in the series, and I've tasted all 3 of them. Each one was very well done.
Batch 01 was a Kolsch that I remember being very true to style and quite good. Unfortunately, I cannot get any more of that batch to do an official beer session on this blog. However, there is still plenty of Batch 02 left in liquor stores, so I picked up a 6-pack. Batch 03 is the newest release, and it has been starting to show up in stores as Batch 02 sells out. I'm excited about these beers, so I've decided that today and tomorrow will be dedicated to the lastest 2 releases in the series.
Summit Unchained Series Batch 02 is described by the brewer as a 90/- Scottish Style Ale brewed with heather. The ABV is listed as 7%. The name comes from the time when beers were taxed according to their alcoholic strength. The symbol "/-" is read as shiling, the unit of currency. There were many Scottish beers named in this way. The 4 most common each had a different strength along with an additional style name:
- 60/- was under 3.5% and also called "light"
- 70/- was between 3.5-4.0% and also called "heavy"
- 80/- was between 4.0-5.5% and also called "export"
- 90/- was over 6.0% and also called "wee heavy"
OK, on to the tasting, right? I pour the 12 ounce bottle of 90/- into my imperial pint glass. There is a nice 1-finger, light tan head which gradually shrinks to a paper-thin layer. The body is an enticing dark brown with hints of ruby when held up to light.
Can I smell heather? I can't be sure. What I do detect is some rich malt with a slight caramelized character, and a wonderful hint of smoke. It seems to be a simple aroma, but I'm looking forward to the taste.
Can I taste heather? Once again, I have no idea. The flavors are very similar to the aroma. There is a good roasted caramelly malt backbone followed by the same hint of smokiness as in the nose. A slight alcohol taste comes next, but doesn't last long. The perfect amount of hop bitterness finishes everything off – just enough to cut some of the strong malt character.
A medium weight to the body is appropriate, although I tend to enjoy this style more when it's chewy and thick. The moderate level of carbonation feels prickly on my tongue. Some slight alcohol warmth finds its way to the back of my throat. There is not much lacing to speak of.
This is a very tasty malty beer from Summit. It's simple and straightforward; clean and easy to drink. It might even be too easy to drink for the 90/- style. A just-right amount of smoke makes you remember it's a wee heavy, but I unfortunately can't tell you anything about the heather. I've purchased multiple 6-packs of this beer in the past, and I'll probably buy more before it's gone. You should go out and get some too, before it vanishes from the shelves forever.