Archive for June, 2009

IPA Week: Car Trouble Double

Monday, June 29th, 2009

2009-06-29-glacial-trailMy car died today in a big cloud of black smoke. It’s been something of a phoenix in the past but I don’t think it will wake up from this one. In mourning I am having a pair of India pale ales.

First up, from Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst, Wisconsin, the Glacial Trail IPA. Central Waters has been making major progress towards becoming an eco-friendly brewery, installing 24 solar power panels as well as loads of energy-efficient equipment and building with recycled materials.

Glacial Trail is topped by a pillow of the creamiest head I have seen in a while. It has a healthy opal haze as well as plenty of yeast sediment. The hue is a beautiful gamboge. An herbal and citric nose opens up as it waits, revealing lemongrass, basil, sage, lemon, and orange. A bit of floral hops come through as well. The aroma is delicate but not mild; that is, you have to lean in to get it but once you do the hops take you for a ride. This IPA is most certainly fresh.

A significant earthy bitterness greets you immediately and doesn’t let up. Initially it is quite direct down the middle of the tongue, but it widens as the citrus flavor joins in. A bit of pale malt sweetness is present as well, probably from a light crystal roast. Quite bitter, with a bit of lingering sweetness, and very sessionable. And when I said it has the creamiest pillow of head I wasn’t kidding: at the end of the glass that’s still at least a centimeter tall.

Next up is the IPA from the brewery that brought you Moose Drool, Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, Montana. Theirs is called simply Big Sky IPA.

2009-06-29-big-skyWhen asked to describe the Big Sky IPA my go-to response is “it’s a grapefruit punch to the face.” That might not sound pleasant but it is. Now that I’m tasting it ‘officially’ I notice that there is also a significant earthy hop character like pine, especially on the nose. Brilliantly clear and a tawny amber color, this IPA has an off-white head that quickly fades to nothing, the antithesis of that of the Glacial Trail. The aroma is strong with grapefruit citrus and some pine, with a bit of caramel breaking through the hops.

The taste is where the grapefruit character is almost overpowering. So citric it is just short of sour, and with a light fruity sweetness, this beer tastes exactly like eating a grapefruit. The sharp hop flavor is offset by a relative lack of bitterness and a shade of toasty sweetness. In a moment your mouth has neutralized most of the hop flavor and a mild citric aftertaste remains. The quite strong carbonation action doesn’t help make this an easy drinker, but I’ll have another if you will…

2009-06-29-noteBonus rating! When I was at Papago Brewing, a beer bar and sometime brewpub in Phoenix, I purchased a bottle of Rogue 10,000 Brews. I thought I had lost the review forever until I gave up hope. Then, while disc golfing, I discovered where I had hidden it. So here it is. (And just to generate buzz, it is this beer that made me decide to make the single hop saphir pale ale that I will brew this week.)

Made by Rogue Ales, the Ten Thousand Brew Ale has the look of cider: a milky cider brown that fades dramatically from light to dark. The nose is rich with exotic fruits like mango and pomegranate, and floral, slightly sweet, and alcoholic. The aroma reminds me of a brandy old fashioned.

The taste is just a bit too sharp. Very intense at first, it mellows and opens up as it warms and breathes. The 10,000 Brew has a spicy and fruity alcoholic flavor, something like a strong mixed (fruity) drink. A rich maltiness backs it up, with a lingering sweet malty and fruity flavor. Significant bitterness at first and also lingering and with a solid mouthfeel, this beer is quite complex. It moves from alcoholic to fruity to bitter to fruity again to musty to bitter again as I let it sit on the tongue.

Maybe you can see why I was disappointed that I lost this rating for several months?

++Rogue Ten Thousand Brew Ale

4.0 (4-9-7-5-15)

+Central Waters Glacial Trail IPA

3.9 (5-8-7-4-15)

+Big Sky IPA

3.3 (2-7-7-3-14)

IPA Week: Millstream Iowa Pale Ale

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

I will continue with IPA week by tasting another midwestern India pale ale, this one from Millstream Brewing Company in Amana, Iowa. Founded in 1985, Millstream is one of the oldest microbreweries in the country. Amana is a German town and Millstream is therefore a lagerhouse. That doesn’t mean they don’t do good work on ales: in particular their banana-fueled hefe is quite tasty. But this isn’t wheat week, though I do like that alliteration…

The cleverly titled Iowa Pale Ale pours an opalescent copper with a bit of creamy off-white head. Citric hops (definitely cascade) stand out on the nose, with a backing of earthy ones (probably fuggles). A bit of toast comes through as well in the delicate aroma.

A bit of pointed bitterness greets you on the tip of the tongue. This migrates to the middle, growing into an earthy and herbal flavor. Meanwhile, a mild sweetness builds on the sides of the tongue, joined by some citric hop character. Neither the bitter nor the sweet flavor is too strong, balancing out to a very sessionable beer. All I would ask for is a bit more prominent hop flavor.

+Millstream Iowa Pale Ale

3.3 (4-7-5-4-13)

IPA Week: Boulevard Double-Wide

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

The Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri has released a number of special-edition beers called the Smokestack Series. Tonight I will try the Double-Wide India Pale Ale. This is the bigger brother of their Single-Wide that I reviewed a little while back.

Double-Wide IPAThe Double-Wide pours a lusciously hazy deep caramel copper color with a thick, frothy tan head. The nose is full of hop complexity: pine and a rough floral aroma dominate, with significant notes of herbs and citrus. The grapefruit character of Pacific Northwest hops is assertive. A rich malty aroma matches the hops, manifesting as caramel and toast as well as raisins and prunes. There is but a hint of the sharp alcohol, but it’s hard to notice for the pine.

On the tongue the Double-Wide is slow to attack. First I notice a bit of caramel followed quickly by grapefruit and other citric hop flavor. Later the herbal and piney hops come, bringing along a significant but not overpowering bitterness. The citrus and herbs circle the caramel and raisins while the bitterness grows softer and eventually fades.

This beer is serious yet playful, strong yet drinkable. As much as I love their Single-Wide, Boulevard has worked a miracle with the Double-Wide.

++Boulevard Double-Wide IPA

4.2 (5-9-7-4-17)

New Milwaukee

Friday, June 26th, 2009

I just realized I forgot to post about my trip to Milwaukee two weeks ago. Too bad, because somehow (just as I did with the Rogue Ten Thousand Brew I got in Arizona) I lost the page of reviews I took at the Sprecher Brewery. Well, easy come, easy go. The brewery tour was good but the guide was a little misinformed. Maybe they’ll be kind enough to send me a case of beers and I’ll rerate them. I do have a bottle of the barleywine that I’m going to sit on for a little while.

Kyle directing beer flow.

Kyle directing beer flow.

I also visited the Silver Creek Brewpub in Cedarburg where my brewing school buddy Kyle works. They were doing an overnight brew of their Octoberfest. That was quite entertaining, if a little tiring after spending all day at the Locust Street Festival.

I’ve had a number of their beers (this time and before) but only remembered to write notes for one, the Imperial Maibock. I think I’ve made it clear that maibock is one of my favorite styles, plus you’ve gotta respect imperials, so I knew I was in for a treat.

Head brewer Steve checking the gravity.

Head brewer Steve checking the gravity.

This one pours a hazy golden amber color with some off-white head. The nose is delicate – toasty and dry with some hints of caramel. On the taste the spicy herbal hop character comes out, followed by some sweetness as caramel and toast. They’ve managed the great balance between the hops and malt that defines a maibock. It gives just a bit of a mouthcoating without being too cloying, the mark of a good imperial.

+Silver Creek Imperial Maibock

3.6 (3-6-8-4-15)

Iowa High-Proof Beer Sales

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Tim Hynds over at Sioux Brew posted the numbers on the top selling strong beers in Iowa for the first half of the year. The top seller? Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, outselling the second place Bigfoot (also from Sierra Nevada) by a factor of two to one. That in turn outsold third place Spaten Optimator by a factor of almost 3 to 1. Way to go Sierra Nevada, and keep bringing your big beers into Iowa! We appreciate it.

Session #28: Think/Drink Globally

Friday, June 5th, 2009

session_logoThe Session is a monthly beer blog carnival, that is, a beer-themed blog-off. This month is hosted by Brian of Red, White, and Brew. The prompt is located here and the roundup is here. He asks that everyone honor “Global Craft Beer Forever” and describe “the farthest brewery (including brewpubs) you have visited and specifically the best beer you had there” and then have that (or a similar one).

I believe that by great circle distance Munich is farthest. So Andechs monastery brewpub it is. This monastery not only makes some of the best beers in the Munich area, they also make amazing artisanal cheese. Taking the train from Munich, you walk through the quaint village of Herrsching and up a footpath through wonderful foliage. After a little while you come to the back wall of the monastery on top of the mountain.2009-06-05-church Continuing along the wall, eventually you make it to the original chapel and courtyard, complete with maypole. If you are able to hold your thirst, you’ll stop in and see how beautiful it is. If not, you’ll keep going to the beer garden that features a breathtaking view of the city 35 km (about 20 miles) away. Fortunately, there is a shuttle back to the train station because you’re going to need it after all the cheese and masses (that is, liters of beer).

My best story about Andechs is of my first visit. I had heard that it was at the end of the S5, but didn’t realize it was near Herrsching not Holzkirche. All I had heard was that there is a sign for the footpath right by the station. So my Aussie friend and I set out for a day trip.2009-06-05-us We rode all the way out to Holzkirche and walked around looking for any sign, finding none. So we inquired of the nice English-speaking clerk in the station cafĂ© where the brewery was. It was quite fortunate that she realized what we were talking about, and even more fortunate that my buddy wasn’t really angry at me. After walking around the village waiting for the next train, we rode for about an hour and a half back through downtown Munich and out the other side to Herrsching. But it was more than worth the wait. The footpath up Andechs mountain is remarkably pastoral and the beer and cheese and sauerkraut are unmatched.

2009-06-05-aventinusAndechs makes every standard Bavarian style and one interesting beer: a weiss with apples that you can only get there. Note that this is acceptable because the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law) does not apply to wheat beer. But my favorite was their Dunkles Weissbier. As far as I am aware you can’t find it outside Germany, so I’ll have a bottle of another Munich dark wheat beer, the masterful Schneider Aventinus made by G. Schneider & Sohn. In 1907, disturbed by what she saw as a troublesome proliferation of light beers in Munich, Mathilde Schneider created the first strong wheat beer, the dark wheat-doppelbock Aventinus.

The Aventinus is a lightly hazy bronze-caramel color with a thick, honey-colored head. The aroma is big with bananas, strong malty caramel, and some toast.

The flavor is also strong with caramel and banana. It is somewhat sweet, but sufficiently carbonated so it is far from cloying. Light and playful, the Aventinus is somehow sessionable, even at 8.2% alcohol. This is what caused me plenty of trouble over in Munich.

+Schneider Aventinus

3.8 (4-7-7-5-15)

The photos at Andechs are courtesy of my beer school friend Matt. Thanks Matt!

Bell’s Expedition Stout

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Bell's Expedition StoutFrom Bell’s Brewery up in Kalamazoo, Michigan I’m having a bottle of the Expedition Stout, their imperial. As I understand it this is basically twice the recipe for their Kalamazoo Stout, so it will be interesting to see how it compares with my rating of that beer.

The Expedition Stout has a pillow of thick, frothy bronze head atop a nearly pitch black beer. Holding it up to the light I see it has a tinge of a deep dark caramel or amber. This beer is richly aromatic, with the smell of dark roast coffee beans and mocha. Just a hint of sweetness on the nose, as dark chocolate. A sweet alcoholic complexity as well, like brandy. Just a bit of raisiny fruit.

The taste is rich, full and sweet, but neither cloying nor overpowering. Plenty of dark chocolate and caramel flavor, with a background of well-done toast. As it sits on the tongue the alcohol comes out just a bit: delicately hinting at strength, like brandy. The caramel recedes and in its place is strong black coffee, a dark South American roast. Remarkably thick, this stout is somehow still playful.

More action every time I set down the glass, the Expedition leaves a strong lacing. Wow this is good. I wish my roommate hadn’t just lit that cigarette, but it pretty much overpowers the smell drifting in my door anyway.

++Bell’s Expedition Stout

4.3 (5-8-9-4-17)

Capital Maibock

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Yes I’m a hophead, so the first time I was blown away by a malty beer it was an almost religious experience. That beer was a Capital Maibock several years ago. Let’s see what I think of it now…

Capital MaibockBrewed by the Capital Brewery in Madison, Wisconsin, a brewhouse well known for their highly acclaimed Blonde Doppelbock, the Maibock is traditionally the palest and hoppiest of the German bockbier pantheon. I meant to drink this a few days ago, when it was still May (or rather Mai). C’est la vie (or rather das ist Leben).

The Maibock is brilliantly clear with active carbonation. The color is a pale amber gold, bordering on straw. There is some near-white head, though it doesn’t last for long. The nose is relatively subtle, but preponderantly malty. Biscuits and light toast stand out, with a bit of fresh grains and hints of caramel. Through that I can detect just a bit of grassy hops.

The taste is immediately sweet but not unpleasantly so, a lingering malty sweetness. It is lively and refreshing, though I know it is over 6% alcohol. Reminds me of a sweet bread (challah?), but there is also the flavor of light caramel. Subtle. A delicate and pale beer such as this is quite a challenge to brew, so props to Capital. Leaves a complex lacing on the glass that I wouldn’t expect given the unimpressive initial head. All in all a solid, drinkable beer.

Now that spring is all but gone, it’s time to get tasting some summer beers.

+Capital Maibock

3.3 (3-6-7-4-13)