Friday, December 28, 2012

Best Beers of 2012

Admittedly, I'm probably the worst beer blogger on the planet.  It's been over a month since my last entry, which is not how I envisioned this blog going.  Finding time to sit down and organize a post has been challenging.  I have some new ideas for the blog which I will make an effort to launch in the coming year.  I will likely have less full beer reviews and begin doing a series called "quick sips" which will be a cliffs notes version of a beer review.  This type of article will likely be more conducive to my hectic lifestyle and should yield more blog activity.

I have been thinking a lot about what were the best beers I consumed in 2012.  This year has been a phenomenal beer drinking experience.  From special releases, to locals, to festivals, to bottle shares and tastings....I've had a plethora of incredible opportunities to enjoy some of the best beer on the planet.  Many beers have changed my mind about styles I typically didn't think I would ever enjoy.  There's no point in trying to rank my favorites of the year because that task is simply too daunting.  So here are the best beers I was able to have this year:

1.  Founders CBS:  Had this a couple times this year.  First time was at Dark Lord Day 2012, second was on tap at Twenty Taps Anniversary party, third time was during the Bears first game of the season.  Epic does not even  begin to do justice to how good this beer is.  Phenomenal combo of flavors between coffee, chocolate, and maple sweetness.  It's probably the best beer I've ever had in my life.

2.  Alchemist Heady Topper:  Speaking of the best beers I've ever had in my life, this gem from a small brewery in Vermont also Tops that list (no pun intended).  Bursting with dank hops this canned beer delivers a hop punch that is reminiscent to a 1980's Mike Tyson uppercut.  Probably the best DIPA I've ever had.  Even better than....

3. Russian River Pliny the Elder:  When a week or so fresh, this beer rivals Heady Topper for that top spot of DIPA's.  This one is pure IPA perfection.  Packed with Citrus hops and a nice dose of pine and tropical sweetness, it's a more complex IPA than Heady Topper.

4.  Stone Ruination 10th Anniversary:  This was a difficult bottle to track down, but I was lucky enough to grab a handful of them.  The citra hopping of this beer vaults it into top beer status for me.  It's a palate wrecker.  Fantastically bitter and hopped to the extreme.  I wish this would be a regular offering from Stone. Probably the best beer I've ever had from them.  I miss it.

5.  Three Floyds Dark Lord:  Enjoyed this bottle on my birthday.  Incredibly complex with substantial depth of flavors that progress and change as I drank it.  Took me an hour and a half to drink the bottle.

6.  Founders KBS:  Had my first one during a Skype session with my sister and brother in-law from Colorado.  Had one a couple nights ago as well.  This beer is magnificent.  Oak, bourbon, vanilla, chocolate,  and coffee flavors do an awesome dance on the palate.  Aging nicely also.

7.  Westbrook Citrus Ninja Exchange:  You all know I am a fan of the grapefruit heavy IPA's.  This one probably possessed the most grapefruit flavor I've had in a beer...ever.  Thanks to Mike from Westbrook for making it possible for me to get my hands on this one when I was in South Carolina.

8.  Russian River Supplication:  This beer began to change my mind about Sours.  Enjoyed it twice this year with my wife who also shared in the enjoyment.  Aged in Pinot Noir barrels with cherries, this thing is as dynamic a beer as I have ever had.

9.  Bells Java Stout:  The perfect example of a coffee stout for me.  Have had it multiple times in the past couple months.  The coffee is so massive.  One of the most under appreciated coffee stouts around.

10.  Flat 12 Brandy Barrel Aged Walkabout Pale Ale:  Enjoyed this at the Flat 12 anniversary party.  Definitely one of my favorites along with Van Pogue.

11.  Goose Island Bramble Rye Bourbon County Stout:  So far it's my favorite BCS variant.  Had it twice this year and it was better the second time.  The stout has an awesome combo of Bourbon, rye, blackberry, raspberry, and chocolate.  Such a phenomenal beer.  Opened my eyes to stouts that have a good tartness to them.

12.  Firestone Walker Wookey Jack:  Black IPA perfection.

13.  Bells Kalamazoo Hopsolution Ale:  Couldn't believe it when I had it a couple months ago, but I liked this better than Bells Oracle, which also is a top beer of the year.  This one surprised me.  Loaded with citrus hops and a nice light mouthfeel, I felt like I could drink it all night long.  That wasn't going to happen, though, because earlier that night I was lucky to have....

14.  Bells Black Note:  This one was better on tap than it was from a bottle.  The bourbon and vanilla creaminess really popped on tap.  What a great BA stout.

15.  Jackie O's Dynamo Hum:  One more sour to remember.  Loaded with Raspberry, Oak, and lemon.  This one was complex and tart as hell.  Definitely left an impression.  Many thanks to Scott for allowing me the opportunity to sample one of the best sours I've ever had.

16.  Oskar Blues Devian Dales IPA:  Probably my favorite beer from Oskar Blues.  Awesome citrus and pine flavors.

17.  Three Floyds Rye Da Tiger:  Double version of Rye Da Lighting.  It's everything I want in an Imperial Rye IPA.  Complex hop flavors with a nice rye spice.  Would like more Rye but that's being nit-picky.  Glad to see FFF decide to make this their standard December release.

18.  Sun King Pappy Van Muckle:  Wee Muckle aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels.  Incredible smoothness and depth of flavor.  This beer is pure gold....just wish I could get more of it.

19.  Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA:  Another IPA that surprised me with how great it is.  Awesome citrus and pine flavors.  Incredibly drinkable.  Could easily be an every day drinking beer.

20.  Three Floyds Zombie Dust:  A Best Beer list is not complete without Zombie Dust.  This american pale ale actually should be listed as an IPA according to style guidelines, but FFF generally bucks style guidelines.  Loaded with citra hops and is as drinkable as any beer I've ever had.  I can confirm that I have consumed over 100 of these this year....and I never get tired of it.

There are many many many other awesome beers I had in 2012.  In 2013 I am looking forward to enjoying more of the beers I already know that I love and sticking more to those standards that we take for granted.  Of course I'm going to be on the lookout for interesting trades and special releases, but won't do near as much of that in 2013 as I did in 2012.

What were some of your best beers of 2012?  What are you looking forward to in 2013?


Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts on aging beer...with Cellar pics

Been a while since I have been able to do anything other than parenting....let alone writing.  Today I was "lucky" to have an unexpected "day off" from work when our daycare lady came down with something that forced her to close which caused my "day off" to be spent watching the 5 month old.  So I took some time during naps to clean out my beer "cellar" and that gave me the idea to go ahead and take pictures of everything I have that is aging.

What makes a beer worth aging?  Well the answer isn't all that complicated.  Really, it just means that you want to know how a beer changes over time.  Some styles of beer are known to get better with age.  Stouts, sours, imperial porters, barleywines, Belgians, most high gravity or high ABV beers, anything that has been barrel aged already...usually.  Some styles, in my opinion are not suitable for aging.  I try to avoid aging IPA's and coffee beers.  Beer does change over time so part of the fun of aging beer is to see how the beer develops and how the flavor profiles may change.

The process of aging beer is often made out  to be more complicated than it needs to be.  Some people say the beer must be kept at 50 degrees in order to age properly.  Keeping it at room temperature may speed up the aging process while keeping it in a coors light super cold refrigerator may stunt the aging process.  I don't really get caught up in all that because I don't really have the space to control the temp of every single beer I want to age.  So I have many spots in the house where beer is stashed away for aging.  Hall closet, hutch, kitchen cabinets, and my very own "cellar".  Here are the photos of the beer I have lying around inside the house:

Hall closet stock

Hall Closet stock #2

Realized that i need a 2010 TJ Vintage...anyone?

Kitchen cabinet stock

2012 Bourbon County in cabinets

I inherited an ancient kegerator from a buddy of mine who moved out to Colorado a couple years ago.  My intent was to have beer on tap at the house, but the kegerator had some issues and rather than spend time trying to fix them, I just decided to use it as a beer "cellar".  It actually works out nicely.  My brother in law helped me add a shelf in the box which allowed for double the storage capacity.  The kegerator keeps the beers inside between 45-50 degrees...might not be good enough for the hardcore beer geeks out there, but it's good enough for me.  The only real issue I have with it is that water tends to pool in the bottom of it, so I made sure there is a hole on the top so that moisture can escape.  This actually is beneficial because it keeps the inside environment slightly humid, which is good for aging corked bottles so that the cork doesn't dry out.  But every once in a while I need to empty it and get some of the water out, which is what I did today.  While I did this, I took some photos of what's inside.....
The "cellar"

The only Indiana Beer i have in the box

2011-2012 Bourbon County, Bramble, Avery Uncle Jacobs, 2008 &2010 Mephistopheles

Some western stuff

Miscellaneous Cellarable beers

Founders stuff and one Bells Expedition
 After cleaning it out and reorganizing a bit, I found I had more space in there, so I took some other brews out of my regular fridge and added them to the box.
 And while taking inventory I decided to throw in a couple shots of the standard beer fridge.  I have had many more bottle cap magnets and stickers added lately.  If you have any stickers you'd like to add then let me know, I'd love to have them!

What are some of the beers you have in your cellar that you are most looking forward to seeing how they develop?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Beer Review: Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA

Been a while since I posted a beer review.  Doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying different brews, but it does mean that my life has been crazy busy lately with work and the family.  But when you run a casual beer blog sometimes you just need something that makes you stop and write.  Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA is the beer that made me stop to write.

Fat Heads is a brewery I know very little about actually.  I was at a DMB show in June in Noblesville and got to spend some time with someone from Ohio.  We discussed several brews.  He brought some Ohio locals and I shared with him a Zombie Dust.  Sadly, the Zombie Dust was past its prime and so I made a commitment to sending him some fresh Zombie Dust.  He sent some Head Hunter in return and I loved it then just as much as I loved his second shipment of it which arrived a couple days ago.  It's good to have friends in other states.

This is a small brewery based in North Olmsted, Ohio...southwest of Cleveland.  Head Hunter has been a medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup a few times in the past 3 years.  The distribution footprint is quite small.  Looks like the beer can only be found in Ohio and Pennsylvania.   Let's get to it:

I don't get in to the labels much, but I love this one.  A fat guys face that looks like it's about to explode from the massive flavors crammed in his hole.  Awesome.  First batches of this brew appear to be at 7% abv and 77 IBU's.  Seems that through the years this has crept up and now weighs in at 7.5% abv and 87 IBU's.  The more the merrier I say.

Choose Your Vessel:  The Bells 12oz Tulip.  Perfect for IPA's.

The Pour:  Clear deep orange in color.  A slightly darker orange hue than other orange IPA's.  Nice one finger head from the pour.  Lacing was outstanding as well....charting every sip on the inside of the glass as I enjoyed it.
Aroma:  Pungent hops.  Huge citrus on the nose from this one.  It really does smell like someone squeezed some fresh grapefruit into the beer.  You also get a prominent whiff of orange or tangerine.  Can not smell any malt in this one.  The hops are the star.  The description on the bottle indicates substantial pine, but I'm not getting that at all.  Mostly all citrus hops and maybe some sweet tropical fruit.

Taste:  Just like it smells.  Bursting with grapefruit goodness.  Fantastically bitter throughout with a touch of some pineapple sweetness that barely tames this hop bomb.  I'm not getting much pine in this at all, which for me is a good thing.  I am sure the only sweetness I am getting in this is from the sweet pineapple notes.  Also has a really nice earthy and grassy flavor.  Solid dankability.  Incredibly drinkable for me due to the bitter and slightly dry finish.

Overall:  It has to be up there as one  of the top IPA's I've been fortunate to try.  Many thanks to my buddy Walt for the brew.  Luckily he sent 2 more so I may go enjoy another after this review.  This beer hits all the right notes for me.  The label description indicates that this beer is a representation of a west coast IPA.  Typically known for heavy citrus and piney hops.  I have had a couple west coast IPA's like Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Green Flash West Coast IPA....and I would say that both of those beers could learn from this one.  Those two, in my experience, were heavier on the pine than the citrus which makes them less enjoyable for me.  This one focused more on the citrus with minimal pine which was right up my alley.  Hopefully some day they are able to distribute to Indiana because this could easily be an every day drinker for me.  Give me a grapefruity IPA any day....or just let me put this computer down so that I can have another Head Hunter.  Seriously, if you haven't had this one, get yourself a friend from Ohio or make a road trip.  This one is worth the effort.  Cheers, and happy hunting!! (no pun intended).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thoughts on Beer....

There always seems to be some special beer release coming.  I love beer.  It's hard to decide which releases to let slide by and which ones to buy the crap out of to store and savor.  Let's talk about a few recent or upcoming releases that you should be interested in....

1.  Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.  This beer has been out for about 2 weeks in the state of Indiana.  This is a ridiculous beer.  Loads of molasses, chocolate, oak, bourbon, and a touch of vanilla.  Very much worth seeking out because it is totally worth the investment.  A beer that is better 5 years down the road than it is currently.  It's amazing how the beer develops over time.  Grab a four pack, if you can, drink one and make notes of how it tasted.  Then next year open another, make notes. and so on and so forth.

2.  Three Floyds BrooDoo.  Quite possibly my favorite monthly release from my favorite brewery.  The fresh hop harvest ale is just bursting with hop flavors.  I drank the crap out of this last year and this year I plan to do the same.  This one hit shelves in Indy last week and continues to do so this week.

3.  Founders Backwoods Bastard:  Scotch ale aged in bourbon barrels.  certain to keep you warm during those winter months with a boozy sweetness that is nicely complimented by vanilla and oak notes.  This comes out at the beginning of November.

4.  Bells Java Stout:  One of my favorite coffee stouts.  You gotta get this one fresh so that the coffee is abundant, but it's well worth it.  Should be hitting shelves soon.  This one is not to be missed.

5.  Three Floyds Alpha Klaus.  A hopped up Christmas Porter.  I am not into Christmas Ales generally, but this is the one I buy several bottles of and enjoy throughout the holiday season.  November release.  Make sure you don't miss out on this one.

What are some other beers that you try and seek out during the next month or two?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Own Great American Beer Festival

Yikes, I haven't written anything in like 2 weeks.  Well that's going to change.

If you are into craft beer then you must be aware of the biggest craft beer festival that is held annually in Denver, Colorado.  The Great American Beer Festival is a 3 day celebration of craft beer where hundreds of brewers bring their creations for consumers to sample and judges to...well...judge.  I have never been but would love to someday.  It is literally the biggest craft beer celebration of all.

Inspired by this festival, I decided to peruse the list of last years medal winning beers.  There were 83 categories of beer up for judging.  Each category handed out gold, silver, and bronze medal recognition for deserving brews.  As I was browsing the list, I saw several beers that I currently have on hand in my fridge.  So I decided that I will pay tribute to the Great American Beer Festival over the course of the next 3 days by enjoying and reviewing some of the beers that won medals last year.

First up is Firestone Walker's Pale 31.  This was entered in category 49 last year under American Pale Ale.  There were a total of 105 entries in this category, and this beer won Gold.  I haven't tried this one before, and my awesome sister and brother in-law happened to send me one a few weeks ago.  Let's dive in:

Choose your vessel:  Bell's tulip.  Probably should have gone with a standard pint glass, but felt that a gold medal winner deserves a special glass.

The Pour:  Beer pours a fairly clear and bright golden color with a small one finger head.  Some mild lacing develops throughout consumption, but nothing substantial.

Aroma:  Bursting with crisp floral, citrus, and bitter hop aromas.  At the same time it smells quite delicate and light.  Incredibly impressive aroma for such a light and low ABV beer.

Taste:  Up front you get a little malt and fruity hop sweetness that quickly turns to citrus and pine hop bitterness.  The bitterness is there at the finish, but in a subtle way that just lingers ever so slightly.  This one is extremely light in mouthfeel, and the crispness of the hops make it ridiculously drinkable.  Medium to light carbonation.  This goes down so smoothly.

Overall:  This is a little pale ale with big hop flavors and ridiculous drinkability.  It's right up there with Zombie Dust for me in terms of how smooth and drinkable it is.  At 4.9% it's also extremely sessionable.  I could easily put away 6 of these in no time.  Incredible pale ale here.  It is packed with hop flavors, but the light mouthfeel and smoothness keeps you wanting to drink and drink and drink it.  I almost wish I had like 3 of them to pour into a large stein so that I could just guzzle the crap out of's that good.  I actually just reached for what I thought was my last drink, only to find the glass was empty....and I won't lie...I was a little sad it was gone.  Well deserving of the Gold Medal in the American Pale Ale category. Get it if you can.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Palmetto Espresso Porter

My best friend of 20 years recently got married in South Carolina.  I was lucky enough to be a part of the wedding party and this trip enabled me to make a trip to the well renowned Charleston Beer Exchange.  My time was extremely limited, so I communicated with Brandon from CBX via email in the days prior to my arrival so that my trip could be well organized.  They did not disappoint.  Upon my arrival at CBX the guys there had a box of about 12 beers ready for me to pick up.  I was interested in mostly local beers and was hooked up with beers from Palmetto, Westbrook, Coast, and Thomas Creek among others.  The Charleston Beer Exchange is probably one of the best bottle shops I have ever been to.  Shelves on top of shelves on top of shelves of beer.  The store itself is quite small, but it's absolutely loaded with what I can definitively say was the best selection of beers I have ever laid eyes on.  If you are ever in South Carolina, the Charleston Beer Exchange is an absolute must.  Cheers to the guys there for making my short experience an incredibly memorable one.  They also ship and I won't hesitate to use this service in the future because of the awesome customer service I received.

On to the beer.  I was fortunate to try the Palmetto Pale Ale at the wedding reception.  The bartender wasn't supposed to provide this beer, but after conversation about how Amstel Light wasn't cutting it for me, he conceded and hooked me up.  It was a fantastic pale ale.  So that made me even more excited to try one of the two bottles from Palmetto the guys at CBX provided.  This is the Palmetto Espresso Porter.

Choose Your Vessel:  The 16oz New Belgium Globe.  I like porters in globes.  

The Pour:  12oz bottle pours a deep brown.  At first glance it appears black in color, but hold it to a light and it's quite clear that this one is dark brown.  Thin tan head that vanishes quite quickly.   Minimal lacing, almost none at all.
Aroma:  Massive coffee roast is all I have on the nose here.  Smells quite rich of coffee.  Not much else to say.  Pretty straightforward here.  My notes indicate that the aroma got stronger as the beer warmed a bit.
Taste:  As I expected, this one had an awesome rich coffee flavor throughout the drinking experience.  Some slight roasted chocolate, caramel, molasses, a touch of vanilla, and maybe even a little hazelnut at times.  The coffee is predominant and lingers throughout the finish.  If hops are present, I can't tell, but that may be due to this little head cold I have.  Beer has a thin mouthfeel and an almost creamy texture with lively carbonation.  Typically I don't like lively carbonated porters, but the carbonation in this one actually seems to make the coffee flavors pop a bit more, which is quite enjoyable.  

Overall:  Pretty solid offering from the folks at Palmetto.  I love the coffee flavor that dominated the palate, but was balanced by a variety of subtle flavors throughout.  The lingering coffee finish made me want that next sip even more than the last.  I'd like it to be a little more full bodied.  Was quite thin for a porter, but that's just a personal preference.  Really looking forward to trying their Amber.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's a Glorious Time of Year

While I have previously written about my desire for seasonal beers to be available at all times, it is officially Stout Season and Fall beer season.  This is the time of year when an abundance of stouts, pumpkin beers, and octoberfest style beers are hitting stores and tap rooms near you.

Generally Octoberfest/Oktoberfest and Pumpkin beers start hitting stores in August and September.  Oktoberfest is a 16 day long festival that is held yearly in Germany.  This is a rich tradition and has been happening over there since the early 1800's.  The Oktoberfest style of beer has a rich malt profile with flavors usually in the caramel and toffee profiles.  The color is usually a deep amber.  These brews are fairly sweet and incredibly drinkable.  Good examples of Oktoberfest styles include:

Ayinger Oktoberfest-Marzen:  Probably my favorite and most true to style.
Three Floyds Munsterfest:  Only available in September.  Worth making the trip to Munster for this one.
Sam Adams Octoberfest:  This is a solid Octoberfest.  Probably my favorite seasonal that Sam Adams makes.  It's a good baseline american octoberfest.

Pumpkin beers are becoming increasingly popular.  I have found that pumpkin beers can be quite varied from beer to beer.  Typically you will find an array of pumpkin pie seasonings including nutmeg, clove, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and pumpkin of course.  Some brewers also seem to be able to harness an almost graham cracker flavor in their pumpkin brews.  The variety of spices that can be used gives these brews a unique character.  They can be hearty, sweet, and savory all in one great beer.  Good examples of the style include:

Southern Tier Pumking:  My favorite of the pumpkin beers.  This brew features nutmeg and that graham cracker character I referenced earlier.  It's possesses a great pumpkin pie-like flavor.  Unmatched in my opinion.
Schlafly Pumpkin:  This one has a gorgeous color and the clove spice really comes through heavily.  Some people love this one.  Wasn't for me, but might be for you.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead:   This one gets a bad reputation for some reason, but many people swear by it.
Dogfish Head Punkin: Lots of pumpkin and brown sugar.  Leave it Dogfish Head to create an awesome version.

Stout season.  It's a glorious beer time of year.  Without a doubt.  One of my favorite stouts, Founders Breakfast Stout, began it's distribution a few weeks ago.  This beer has massive coffee and chocolate aromas and flavors.  It's a little lighter on the palate than you would expect from a stout, but I find it to generally be a nearly perfect breakfast beer.  If you live anywhere in the Founders distribution area, Breakfast Stout is fairly easy to find and the release continues for several months.  Grab some if you haven't tried it, even if you aren't a fan of stouts or are just a little too afraid to try them.  This one can change your mind and open your eyes to the beauty of stouts.

Another seasonal stout that is making its way to stores is Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.  This enormous beer boasts strong flavors of molasses, chocolate, caramel, oak, and bourbon.  One of the best barrel aged beers around and it is not for the beginning stout drinker....unless you love bourbon, then go for it.  This beer warms as it goes down and will knock your socks off if you aren't careful with it.  Definitely a sipping beer.  I think the first time I had this beer it took me about 45 minutes to finish it.  Take your time.  The flavor profile only gets better as the beer warms up.  This one can be tricky to find.  Make sure you go to your local shop and ask to be put on a list for this one.  It does get distributed to stores, but rarely is ever seen on a shelf.  Typically beer stores will hold it "in the back" for regular customers to buy.  Even more difficult to find is the Coffee version made with Intelligentsia Coffee.

So get on board with the arrival of fall beers and stouts.  Give something new a try.  Visit your local craft brewery and discover what's brewing in your very own backyard!  What are some of your favorite stouts and fall beers?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Taylor's Pub Indy

Sitting here at the bar at Taylor's Pub. Admittedly I have never been here before. The biggest hurdle previously had been that the establishment was a smoking venue until the new law passed in June banning smoking in bars. I have always seen Taylor's since it is literally right down the street from my daytime employer and conveniently on the way home from my nighttime employer. But I just have never stopped in. That is until I found out via their twitter feed that Sun King's Grapefruit Jungle IPA would be on tap this week.

I was pretty disappointed that Sun King wasn't canning GFJ this time around. Being a father of two makes it difficult for me to get out to bars for draft releases. But this one is special and Taylor's is super convenient. So I made it happen. GFJ is incredibly citrusy and magnificently bitter with a crispness to it that equals refreshment and makes you crave that next sip. Trust me, I am on my second one already.

Taylor's itself is quaint and cozy. You can tell that there are regular patrons here, of which I am not, but could be someday. There is an outdoor patio for those smokers. Multiple tables. Only 8 draft beer lines and about 20 different bottle selections. The only bottles I see of note are Three Floyd's Pride and Joy and Sun King cans of cream ale and wee Mac. On tap today are a couple beers from Sun King, Fountain Square, and some macro brews including the typical stuff you would find most places. Guinness, Bud Light, Stella, and Sam Adams Octoberfest. Good to see that 50% of the draft selection is local.

The staff here are super friendly and nice. The smell of cigarette smoke is virtually a thing of the past. This could easily become my spot for an after work beer. Certainly this will hinge on whether I have time and if they keep bringing in local craft beers. Certainly seems like there could be space to add draft lines to get some Flat 12 and/or Triton beers in here.

Cheers to Taylor's Pub and cheers to Sun King for making and serving awesome local brews. My only problem was that they served it in a Colts glass. Ick!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beer Style #2: American IPA

Imagine, if you will, an American Pale Ale hopped up on steroids.  This is basically how I describe an American IPA to people.  APA's, if you recall from my previous post, have good hop character to them, but American IPA's the hops are kicked up several notches.  The flavor profiles can range from citrusy to herbacious to tropical fruits and so on.  Often some earthiness and floral tones to them as well.  The aromas of an IPA are incredibly intoxicating.  Common aromas again are citrus, pine, tropical fruits, and floral.  The aroma is what pulls you in to the beer.  There are few things beer that I like better than the aroma of a fresh, juicy IPA.  The color of an IPA can also be quite broad in range.  They can be a golden yellow to a deep amber color.  Many of them have a nice orange color to them.    .

IPA's really showcase the hops.  English IPA's are not as hoppy as American IPA's.  I remember trying Greene King IPA when in England last summer and my initial impression of it was that it was fairly light and the hops were minimal.  American IPA's also are medium bodied and have a nice malt backbone which holds the flavors together beautifully.  They often have a bitter finish, which is really what puts new IPA drinkers off.  Definitely an acquired taste, but once you get to the point where you appreciate an IPA, it is very likely to become your go-to style of beer.  This might be why the IPA is one of the most popular styles of beer in the craft beer world.

So what are some of my recommended IPA's....let's take a look:
1. Bells Two Hearted Ale:  A classic in the style and consistently one of the best rated IPA's in the world.  This is the beer that got me into IPA's and is always a good go-to beer.
2. Founders Centennial IPA:  Featuring the Centennial Hop in the very best ways.
3. Triton Railsplitter IPA:  Local from Indianapolis, this one packs an awesome hop punch with fantastic bitterness.  One of my favorites.
4. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA:  Another one that is consistently rated one of the best in the world.  But you won't find it in Indiana.  Definitely worth trading for or ordering online if you can find it.
5. Sun King Grapefruit Jungle IPA:  One of my favorite local Sun King brews.  Comes out twice a year and actually there is a tapping party for it on 8/30.  Amazing grapefruit flavor.  Crisp and refreshing.  Well crafted beer.
6. Surly Furious:  Possibly the best IPA I've had.  Can only get it in Minnesota. Again, very much worth trading for if you haven't had it.
7.  Stone IPA:  A classic west coast IPA and one of the most popular out there.
8.  Odell IPA:  Bold and complex.  Nicely bitter.  Not available in Indiana, but it's out there.
9.  New Belgium Ranger IPA:  A great starter IPA.  This beer renewed my faith in New Belgium as a brewery.
10. Three Floyds BrooDoo:  Only available in October, this fresh hopped IPA is one of my favorites from Three Floyds.  Be on the lookout for this one, don't miss it.
11. Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA:  Recently won an award for best in style beating out Sculpin IPA.  Massively hopped.  Can't get it in Indiana, but Ohio has it....and who doesn't love a road trip?
12.  Dark Horse Crooked Tree:  Definitely lives up to its description, crisp and dry.  Featuring the hops with a solid bitterness.  Great brew from Dark Horse out of Michigan.

Need some variation in your IPA life?  Well, there are some creative spins out there on IPA's.  Black IPA's, Rye IPA's, Red IPA's, and White IPA's have all really taken off in popularity.  Black IPA's are dark in color with roasted malts.  Rye IPA's are made with copious amounts of Rye malt.  Red IPA's are simply hopped up Red Ales.  White IPA's usually have a bit of funk to them. It's interesting to see brewers using creativity to create some of these spins on a traditional IPA.  Examples of these styles include:

1.  Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale:  Probably one of the best Black IPA's I have had.
2.  Firestone Walker Wookey Jack:  Not available in Indiana, but worth trying if you make it to Illinois or California.  Incredible Black IPA.
3.  Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA:  Don't sleep on this Rye IPA from Sierra Nevada.  It's really tasty.
4.  Troegs Nugget Nectar:  Is it an amber or an ipa? Always a debate.  For me I consider it a red IPA.  Seasonal from Troegs in Pennsylvania.  Just a quick trip to Ohio when it comes out and this could be yours.
5.  Grand Teton Pursuit of Hoppiness:  Strong ale or IPA?  In my opinion it's an IPA.  My second favorite to Nugget Nectar.  This hoppy red delivers all the goods.
6.  Anchorage Brewing Galaxy White IPA:  Massive funk and complexity....if that's your thing.

Of the variants, I would say that I enjoy them all, except White IPA's.  Generally they have been too funky for me.  My favorite IPA is Surly Furious and my favorite IPA variant is the Wookey Jack from Firestone Walker.

One more thing about IPA's.  One of the most important thing to consider when buying one of these hoptacular beers is freshness.  Check those bottle dates.  If it's old (3-4 months) or has dust on the bottle on the shelf, please pass it by.  Hop flavors fade over time and nothing is more disappointing that an IPA that has lost its hop punch.  So get those IPA's fresh if you can.  Look for a future post dedicated to the Double IPA.  What are your favorite IPA's?


Friday, August 24, 2012

Mothers Brewing IPA's

Beer trades can be a great thing.  They often allow you to have a taste of brews you normally wouldn't get to try.  That's the case with these two IPA's from Mothers Brewing out of Springfield, Missouri.  Usually I review one beer at a time, but since I received these two in one shipment I will look at them both simultaneously.  These are two of the IPA's from this little brewery, one is called Lil' Helper and the other is called Trouble Maker.  Lil' Helper is a standard IPA and Trouble Maker is a double IPA.  Here we go:

Choose Your Vessel:  Went with the 12oz Bell's Tulip glass for these two brews.

The Pour:  Trouble maker poured an amber-ish orange, slightly hazy as well.  Lil' Helper poured a nice golden orange.  Both beers showcased a nice looking head with decent carbonation and the Lil' Helper had better lacing...pictured below.  Both beers looked beautiful in the glass.  Advantage: Lil Helper, seemed to have better lace retention throughout consumption.

Aroma:  Lil' Helper for me had a nice aroma of citrus hops balanced with some sweet malt and biscuit aromas.  Trouble maker was all floral hops for me.  Further sniffing revealed the sweetness of candied citrus.   Pretty big hop aromas with some complexity.  Edge on aroma goes to the Trouble Maker.
Taste:  Here's where we separate these two beers even further.  The Lil' Helper tastes like a very nicely balanced IPA.  Good hop bitterness.  Citrus, Pine, earthiness with some good sweet malt to back it up.  Nice bitter and clean finish.  The Trouble Maker was somewhat all over the place for me.  Has the nice floral hop flavors, but also getting malt and what seems to be a touch of honey sweetness followed by boozy notes.  Edge goes here to Lil' Helper because it seemed to more complete.
Overall:  The Lil' Helper was a nice standard IPA.  Had balance in aroma and taste.  Finished quite cleanly and really was a refreshing version of the typical IPA.  Not quite as bitter as I like them, but really solid.  The Trouble Maker bordered on a mess of flavors for me.  I like the individual components of aroma and the complexity of the flavors, but there was a distinct booziness and honey sweetness in the finish that was slightly off-putting for me.  Just didn't come together as a cohesive brew for me.  The advantage here for me goes to the Lil' Helper.  Both beers were good brews, no doubt, and I feel like the Trouble Maker could be something phenomenal with some more development.  Hopefully I get the chance to try it down the road.  
Lil' Helper in glass
Lacing from the Lil'Helper....beautiful

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

20 Tap Anniversary Celebration

Late in August of last year, my buddies Matt and Tom and I were talking about having a guys night.  Guys night was a fairly common thing for us.  We decided to go to Moe and Johnny’s at 54th and College Ave.  After all, it was one of our favorite places at the time because they had good beer and free peanuts.  As we were walking from our parking spaces, we noticed what appeared to be a new bar in the area.  We all peered inside and liked what we saw.  I saw a guy in the bar having a pint, but the doors were locked and they were clearly not open yet, so on we went to M & J’s.  After a couple beers and a bunch of peanuts, we headed back to our car.  On the way, the gentleman who was inside enjoying a pint was outside the building.  We asked about the place and he informed us that this would be an all craft beer bar called Twenty Tap and it would be opening next week.  He also informed us that it would be a non-smoking environment and they would also have a nice food menu.  We were quite thrilled about this new development.  Made me wish I still lived in that area.  After talking to him, I remembered my buddy Kevin telling me about the place a few months prior to actually seeing it. 

One year later, Twenty Tap has easily become my favorite Indianapolis spot to enjoy a pint or a flight and scrumptious eats.  In just one year, they have grown from 20 Tap lines to 38 Taps of delicious craft beers.  Mostly regional, but occasionally you will find some of the bigger craft breweries represented….like this week they have had Stone’s 16th Anniversary IPA on tap.  They also feature some of the best food in the city.  The spicy Cuban Sandwich, The Burn Burger, and Cheese Curds are my go-to items.  They post their tap list daily on their Facebook Page and I’m hoping someday they do the same with their twitter feed.  They have drink specials all week, usually a special beer at a cheaper price, and one day (Tuesday) each week where all pints are at a reduced cost.  Needless to say, Tuesdays are particularly busy.  It’s a fantastic place whether you want to sit at the bar and enjoy a pint or grab a table and have a meal with friends while enjoying and celebrating craft beer.
When I have friends come to town it’s one of the first places I recommend and we usually try to go.  I remember sharing a Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11 with Jason from Cavalier there one evening.  I remember talking smoked turkey and beer around Thanksgiving with a server from Brugge around the holidays last year.  Countless times I have met up with buddies for a quick drink or two just to connect and have a place to enjoy quality beer and company.  I have even talked about social work with one of the employees over the summer while sipping my Stone Imperial Russian Stout at closing time.  When I have been there, I have always really enjoyed not only other patrons, but the employees that work there are some of the most endearing people I’ve met at any establishment I’ve been to.

But Being a busy father of two and working two jobs makes it quite difficult for me to be there on a regular basis.  I think I currently average about 1 trip every 2 months.  So I am certainly not a regular there.  If we still lived in that area of town I mostly likely would stop by every day for a pint after work.  Bottom line, I would be there as much as I could be if given the opportunity.  For me getting there takes planning ahead.  Coordinating with my wife so that she knows I’ll be away for a few hours.  So when they announced their 1 year Anniversary Party slated to happen a week from today I immediately informed my wife of my desire to attend.  Not only will they be having epic beers on tap, including Founders KBS, CBS, and Bells The Oracle, but they will also have some live entertainment, great food, and of course, the people that make that place the best bar in the city.  The party doesn’t start until 6:00pm, but I plan on being there around 4:00 or as soon as I am done working so that I have a shot at a seat at the bar.  Hope to see many of you there as well!!  Cheers to Twenty Tap, awesome beer, and many many more years of being able to enjoy those delicious beers at the best bar in the city!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beer Style #1....The American Pale Ale

People often ask me what my favorite beer of all-time is.  I struggle, usually, to come up with an answer.  I obviously have favorites, but comparing Two Hearted to KBS for me is like apples and oranges.  Both are awesome in their own ways.  So this got me to thinking about different beer styles and I decided to start writing about them.  Not sure how many styles I will write about, but at the end I will provide recommendations and some of my favorites.  Today let's talk American Pale Ale.

American Pale Ales are usually quite different from British Pale Ales.  Typically with an American Pale Ale you get a significantly higher hop characteristic.  Not enough to make it an IPA, but the lines between the two styles are much more blurry.  British Pale Ales generally have a much more prominent malt profile, making them sweeter, a good example of this is Bass Pale Ale.  The American Pale Ale tends to usually have a more dominant hop presence.  Still, the APA is usually clean, crisp, and refreshing.  The American Pale Ale is also usually relatively low in alcohol content.  They typically hover in the 5%-6% range, which makes them quite drinkable.  The balance of hops and malts make the American Pale Ale a perfect beer for those drinkers who aren't quite ready to have their palate thrashed by an IPA or a Double IPA.  I have a buddy who generally hasn't been all that into craft beer, but then I introduced him to Sun King Osiris and he loved it.

The American Pale Ale is a great "gateway" style to getting into craft beer because it's usually suitable to many palates.  It's not intimidating in the flavors it puts out there.  There are some that are hoppier than others, but that's the fun in trying things out.  Probably the first true craft pale ale I tried was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  It definitely has a more dominant hop profile, but upon my first sip I did not find it to be offensive.  But there are lots of great APA's out there.  So let's take a look at some of my favorite American Pale Ale's.

1. Three Floyds Zombie Dust:  Generally only available at Three Floyds Brewpub, this is in the conversation for me of my favorite beer of all time.  If you ever have the opportunity, it's highly recommended, and it consistently ranks as one of the best American Pale Ales in the country.  If you can't find it, then I suggest...
2.  Three Floyds Alpha King:  Usually easier to find and just as awesome in its own way.
3.  Schlafly Dry Hopped APA: Generally easy to find and full of awesome flavors.  Great beer.
4.  Upland Helios Pale Ale:  One of the less intimidating APA's out there, very drinkable and rather easy to find in Indiana.
5.  Victory Headwaters Pale Ale: Nice citrus hops to this Pale Ale.
6.  Founders Pale Ale:  Some crisp malt and hop flavors.  Well balanced.
7.  Flat 12 Walkabout Pale Ale:  If you are ever in Indianapolis, this one is a must try.  The use of Galaxy hops gives this APA a distinctly sweet and passionfruit hop profile.  The sweetness plays well with the malt tones.  Truly an awesome APA, but only available at the brewery.  My favorite local APA.
8.  Sun King Osiris Pale Ale:  My second favorite local APA.  A really good every day drinking pale ale.  My buddy Matt really enjoys it, so trust me, you will too.

Those are just some of my favorites, and most of them are easy to get if you are here in Indiana.  My favorite American Pale Ale is Zombie Dust, by just a hair over Alpha King.  If you are unsure about craft beer and pale ales, my recommendation is to go to your local shop and do a mix and match six pack of pale ales, have some friends over, and have a good tasting.

Cheers to the American Pale Ale....what are some of your favorite American Pale Ales?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lancaster Brewing Rumspringa

I love gifts.  More than regular gifts, I love beer gifts.  The next beer for review was a gift given to me by my good friends Matt and Erin Milanese.  They thought this beer was amusing and I'm happy to drink it.  This one is made by Lancaster Brewing and is called, Rumspringa.  Those of you familiar with the Amish culture know what a Rumspringa is, but if you aren't, here is an explanation.  I love witty beer names and this one definitely provides some humor that will last forever.  But will the beer be something to be taken seriously?
First let's look at the style.  The can states that this one is a Golden Bock.  This is really a hybrid between a couple of styles in the Lager family.  If you are looking around for information on Golden Bocks, you won't find much.  This beer falls more into the category of a Heller Bock, which to me is kind of like a cross between a Maibock and Helles Lager.  It's all a little confusing, but what you should know is that this is a lager, not an Ale, which already puts this one at a disadvantage for me because I'm not a huge fan of Bocks in the first place.  Fun fact, did you know there are really only two major families of beer?  Ales and Lagers. That's it.  Every beer out there falls into one of those 2 families.

What do the beer geeks think of this one?  Read more here.

Choose Your Vessel:  I went with the standard pint glass with DMB firedance logo today.  The style doesn't really require anything special, although a Lager glass may have been more appropriate.....I don't have a Lager Pint glass it  is.

The Pour:  True to its name, this one pours a Golden color with maybe a slight amber hue.  Thick white head, zero lacing on the glass.  Typically, these beers would be fairly clear, but this one is definitely not.

Aroma:  My first note was "Smells like a Golden Lager".  Noticeable are the pale malt aromas, smells a little of fermented corn.  Maybe a touch of caramel and toffee.  Incredibly sweet smelling, which may be due to the unmistakable presence of that Lancaster honey.  Minimal hop aroma.

Taste:  Sweet.  Some earthiness to it.  Honey present throughout.  Light to medium bodied with a good amount of carbonation.  Lots of pale malt and corn flavors, reminding me of a light lager.  Rather unpleasant for me mostly.  I keep searching for those "feisty" hops the brewery claims are in this one, but I can't find them much at all.  Maybe a touch in the finish.  The honey in this brew helps me get halfway through it before turning the rest of the glass over to my wife to finish it off.  I did intentionally plan to share it with her.

Overall:  Just not a lot going on with this one.  It was already disadvantaged because of my dislike for the style, but I imagine that the honey makes this one a more interesting brew in its family.  My wife, on the other hand, took her first sip and stated "Oooooh, I could drink that".  She very much appreciated the sweetness of the beer.  I appreciated the gift and the opportunity to try a rather unique beer....but I don't need to have it again, unless it's for shits and giggles.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Seasonal Shmeasonal....

The calendar recently changed from July to August.  But you wouldn't know it based on what I've seen at the local liquor stores recently.  Perusing the beer aisles I have noticed several beers you don't normally see on the shelves in early August.  Recently I have spotted Sam Adams Octoberfest, Shipyard Pumpkinhead, and have been hearing that my favorite fall beer, Southern Tier's Pumking, is slated for shelves very soon.

Browsing various message boards, the consensus opinion on releasing these "fall" beers is that it's way too soon.  Various beer geeks say that it's still summer, so the IPA or the pale ale, lager, or pilsner should be the easy choice for those hot August days.  Why in the world are beers that are supposed to conjure up memories of leaves changing and pumpkin pie being released in the middle of the summer?

My response is quite simple:  "Who Cares?".  "seasonal shmeasonal".  The beers are good.  I'll drink them whenever they come out.

For me, the season or weather really has no influence on my beer selection.  You better believe I'll grab some Octoberfest beers in August if they are available because I love the style.  And when I see Pumking on the shelf, I'll snatch that up quickly.  The notion that you have to have a certain beer for a certain weather pattern to me is blown completely out of proportion.  I mean, those poor folks in southern California or Arizona must never enjoy a thick stout because obviously people can only drink stouts in the dead of winter right?

I enjoy many styles of beer.  I'm not going to let the weather or the season change how and when I choose a frothy beverage.  Make no mistake, there certainly are beers that lend themselves well to the season.  I mean, a Pumking on Thanksgiving sounds fantastic.  Alpha Klaus Christmas Porter is incredible around Christmas time.  There are few things I enjoy more than a crisp IPA or pale ale after mowing the yard in the summer.  But I have zero problem mowing the yard, getting cleaned up, and then rewarding myself with an awesome stout or porter.  Look, 90% of my drinking is done inside the comfort of my house or my favorite bar.  Inside.  Not outside.  And while I wish I was able to drink more outside on various patios and such, I can't, and that still wouldn't change my selection of beers.  In the summer, my house is set inside at around 70 degrees.  In the winter we are around 68 degrees.  So 90% of my drinking is done in the same environment.  When I can drink outside, I don't choose my beer based on the weather.  I base it on what sounds good.

It's been nearly a year since the last release of some of these "fall" beers.  Let's not get caught up in what we should be drinking seasonally, just get caught up in drinking good beers....there are lots of them coming.  Don't let the season or the weather cause you to miss out on the various craft offerings.

What are some of your favorite "Fall" beers?  Do you live by the seasonal mentality like many others?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Strawberry Shorts Cake

Michigan is well known for amazing breweries.  I don't know what it is about Michigan breweries that makes their beers so divine, maybe it's in the water.  Who knows.  Regardless, I have come across several breweries in the giant mitten that produce sensational beers.  Founders, Bells, Dark Horse, Greenbush, Saugatuck, and for this blog I will focus on another quality Michigan brewery: Shorts Brewing.

My first introduction to Shorts was following a visit to Bells this past spring.  I ventured into a bottle shop and the beer guy recommended a couple brews from Shorts.  Huma-Lupa-Licious IPA, which is a pretty solid IPA, and Pandemonium Pale Ale which I found to be rather mediocre.  I met up two weeks ago with a buddy that I've met through Beer Advocate to exchange a couple bottles, and upon the exchange he surprised me with this brew from Shorts.  It's called Strawberry Shorts Cake.  When I first heard of this beer, I knew it probably wouldn't be my thing, but figured it might be one that my wife may enjoy.  I'm not big on fruit beers, but there have been a few I have liked and I figured Shorts would deliver.  Let's dig in:

Choose Your Vessel:  For this one I went with two larger tasting glasses.  One standard half pint glass and one Greenbush taster.  Sharing the bottle with my wife.  My taster, seen below was the Greenbush vessel.

The Pour: Amber-ish in color.  Slight off-white head.  Just a small tint of light pink.  Head disappeared almost immediately and there was minimal lacing throughout consumption.

Aroma:  Lives up to the name.  Smells exactly like strawberry shortcake.  Reminds me of enjoying strawberry shortcake at home when I was a child.
Taste:  Hits you right away with strawberry and milk sugar.  Extremely sweet and tart.  The strawberry and candied sugar flavors really  overwhelm the palate with this one initially.  As I continue to drink my small sample,  the strawberry and sugar flavors start reminding me of something unpleasant.  After many more sips I figured out that what I was tasting was more like a strawberry flavored medicine.
Overall:  This one, surprisingly, missed the mark for me.  My wife also found the flavor to be somewhat off-putting, although she seemed to enjoy it more than I did.  The strong medicinal quality of the beer made this rather unpleasant.  Initially it was tolerable, but as I progressed through it the beer became almost undrinkable.  I can imagine that people who really enjoy sweet and tart beers probably would love this one, but for me it's definitely one I likely won't try again.  Despite the negative experience, I welcome trying more beers from Shorts.  They are, after all, in Michigan, and I fully believe that they have many other quality beers.  One thing I admire about this beer and this brewery is that they don't seem afraid to take risks when brewing unique beers like this one.

Anyone have a different experience with this beer?  What are other fruit beers I should try?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

National IPA Day

This thursday, August 2, is the second National IPA Day.  It's a day to celebrate one of the most popular styles of beer brewed today.  Here is an article with more on this special day created to encourage people to honor what is likely the most popular style of craft beer.

So why should you drink an IPA on this day?  Why do we even have a day like this?  Beer geeks will obviously participate in honoring the IPA.  We don't really need a special day to consume such a great style of beer.  However, if someone tells me they are gonna have a special day to honor the IPA, then of course you don't have to tell me twice.  I'm going to participate.

My challenge is to you non-craft beer drinker, or maybe you closet craft beer fans out there. Step out of your comfort zone and try a couple different IPA's that you normally pass on when browsing the shelves of your local beer store.  Push yourself to drink two or three of them.  Many times people who aren't into IPA will take one sip and pass because "it's too hoppy".  Hey, you probably didn't love coffee or that first college sip of natty light in your initial journey down those beverage paths.  Those are acquired tastes, and the same can be said about IPA.  I didn't love my first taste of Bell's Two Hearted many years ago, and now it's one of my favorite IPA's on the market.

There are IPA's out there that are not insanely hoppy and can be quite enjoyable to the IPA newbie.  Let me give you some recommendations:

Sixpoint Bengali Tiger:  This beer, while not my favorite, is a nice entry to an IPA.  It's non-threatening with it's hop presence, is quite drinkable, and goes down smoothly.  Not as bitter as some IPA's can be.
Founders All Day IPA:  Extremely refreshing, full of nice hop flavors, and insanely light.  This IPA you can really drink "All Day" because it is only 4.7% ABV.
Bell's Two Hearted Ale: One of my favorites.  Maybe a little more hopped than others, but it is nicely balanced and is quite true to style.  Make sure you drink 2 though....because I said so.
Stone IPA:  A little more bitter than others, but still quite refreshing and crisp.  Easy to find and rather enjoyable.  Go for it!
New Belgium Ranger IPA: I was pleasantly surprised the first time I had this one.  A nice IPA by a brewery most people who are new to craft beer aren't afraid of and could definitely be on board with.

The best recommendation I can make, however, is to just go local.  These days most places have a craft brewery that's within driving distance.  Many of these craft breweries will have special IPA's on tap that day to celebrate.  Be watching your favorite brewery's twitter feed or website for more information on what they will be pouring.

What will I be doing this year for IPA day?  Well, being the beerdaddy, my evening will likely be spent at home with my wonderful boys and awesome wife.  I would love an opportunity to go out to my favorite local spots, but I wouldn't trade my time with my boys for anything.  What will I drink?  This is a great question.  I have many many options for this day, and I have not made the decision yet.  Look for another blog post about this later this week.

What will you drink for IPA Day?  Let me know via comments here or tweets.  Looking forward to hearing from people about this, and spread the word by adding #IPADay to your tweets to add to the celebration that is IPA!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Spunky Imperial IPA....Ska Decadent IIPA

I didn't know much about Ska Brewing before diving into their Decadent Imperial IPA.  So I decided to check out their website.  The first thing i noticed was the blaring Ska style music coming from the page, and then the really awesome web design they have.  It's an awesome website, I recommend you check it out.  These guys seem like they have fun doing what they do and this is part of the joy of craft brewing.  I also have a special place in my heart for Colorado breweries.  My sister lives there.  We vacationed there a lot when I was a kiddo.  It's one of the most beautiful states in our awesome country.  No coincidence that Colorado produces some of the most awesome beer in the country either.

I have had their Modus Hoperandi from a can previously and really enjoyed it, so when I landed the Decadent Imperial IPA in a recent beer trade I was ecstatic to give it a try.  One of the benefits of having friends located throughout the west coast and rocky mountain area is that I am lucky to receive some awesome beers that are not local.  These are real treats.  So let's dive into this wax-dipped gem....I mean, if it's dipped in wax it has to be awesome right?  Here is what the beer geeks at Rate Beer have to say about this one.
Choose Your Vessel:  For this brew, I went with the Bells 16 oz Tulip glass.  I do actually have a Ska Brewing Pint Glass I received from my sister, but it was for a different beer and I wanted to use a tulip.  The larger Bell's Tulip is awesome for these larger bottles.  Getting into this brew was a bit of work.  The wax didn't want to come off easily and I had to be careful to not get any wax in the beer during opening.  I like the look of wax-dipped bottles, but in actuality, I'd rather this practice disappear.

The Pour:  Deep orange in color and fairly clear.  As the beer fills the glass I thought for a minute that no head would form, but thanks to the design of the glass the head begins to form towards the end of the pour.  A solid one and a half finger white foamy head appears and really sticks around for a while.  Indicates to me that this will have some nice lacing, which it did, and would also be somewhat resinous, which again it was.

Aroma:  Mostly citrus hops.  Orange peel and some grapefruit.  I'm getting a hint of some sweet mango as well.  Also present is the slight smell of alcohol and a hint of some sweet caramel malt.

Taste:  Tastes less hoppy than it smells.  Definitely get the orange and grapefruit hops with a little bit of malt.  Alcohol swarms the palate towards the end but the beer ends up rather sweet and somewhat syrupy in mouthfeel.  Alcohol is not as well hidden as with other Imperial IPA's I've had.  However, in a strange way, the beer is quite balanced and incredibly smooth to drink.  Sweet and maybe just a trace of bitterness.  I definitely get some sweet tropical notes as I progress through the beer.  I also am getting more malt than I expected with this one.  Bottle says best before 4/2013 which tells me this is pretty fresh.  So I expected more hops especially with the advertised 95 IBU's.  Quite drinkable.  3/4's of the way through I really start to feel the 10% ABV.  A little more carbonation would make this brew more crisp, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Overall:  Not the most incredible Imperial IPA I've had.  Does have some uniqueness which is what I always look for in a beer.  I expected it to be hoppier than it actually was, but it definitely had a nice balance of sweet flavors with the hops which you don't see often from Imperial IPA's.  These guys know what they are doing. I look forward to trying more beers from Ska in the future.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Local Flavor...Flat 12 Amber Ale

I had an intern at St. Vincent a couple years ago who told me of this local brewery that was just getting started.  She knew the head brewer, Rob, and she spoke very highly of his beers.  This was when I first heard about Flat 12.  At that time I was just starting to scratch the surface of craft beer and so I was eager to experience Flat 12, but wasn't able to find time to get down there.  My first trip to Flat 12 happened last September with my buddy Phil.  I had the chance to speak to Rob, and although he is a Red Wings fan, he is a pretty cool guy and really knows his beer.  A couple years later, Flat 12 Bierwerks is growing, flourishing, and putting out awesome beer after awesome beer.  I had the privilege of attending their anniversary party earlier this year and enjoyed some amazing rare brews that they celebrated.

Until recently, you could only go to the tasting room located downtown in Indianapolis and purchase growlers and enjoy pints.  Last week, however, bottles of two of their standard beers hit shelves in 6 packs. I chose to go with their Amber Ale, which is one of my favorite Ambers and if it's ever on tap in my area, I typically order it.  Now I have the chance to enjoy a bottle at home and for the purpose of todays blog I get to review it.  Here is what the folks at Rate Beer have to say about it.  Now, it's my turn:

Choose Your Vessel:  I went with the brewery pint glass.  Picked up the Flat 12 glass back in September in hopes that someday I could use it with a bottle of their beer.  I like the glass, but I would prefer one with their traditional winged 12 logo.  Nevertheless, the pint glass is a great choice for an amber such as this.

Let's also take a moment to comment on the bottle label.  There is a lot going on with this label.  I appreciate the drawings, the letters, and the whole "Hello My Name is Amber" Amber Ale portion.  It's quite comical and enjoyable to look at.  Impressive job with this one.  It's quite unique and sets itself apart from other labels.  Not quite as out there as artwork from Three Floyds, but it has its own identity and I really appreciate that.

The Pour: Deep Amber in color.  About a one finger head.  For some reason a bunch of carbonation swarmed the logo so my photo of the beer didn't turn out as well as I had hoped.  Decent lacing throughout consumption, but not as impressive as other brews.  Ambers, however, aren't usually known for incredible lacing, so it's not really an issue here.  Really a nice looking Amber Ale as you can see in the photo below.

Aroma:  Sweet malt aroma, hints of toffee and caramel.  A touch of citrus hop aroma is noticeable here, but definitely a malt forward smell overwhelms the olfactory senses.  It's quite nice.

Taste:  The sweetness of an Amber is the first thing I pick up, but shortly after the palate is dominated by a really nice blend of hops and malt.  Makes this a hoppier amber than most.  Toffee, Caramel, slightly nutty with a nice citrus hop flavor.  Medium carbonation.  Nice bubbles.  Sweet throughout with a strong punch of hops.  The beer starts to finish sweet, but actually ends up bitter.  A nice and welcome change to the drinking process.
Overall:  Extremely drinkable Amber Ale.  This one, while not a traditional amber due to the increased presence of hops, is probably one of my favorite Amber Ales I've had.  Maybe not quite as good as Bells Amber, but it's in the discussion for sure.  I really like the complexity of it.  Typically when I hear "Amber Ale" I know this is going to be malty and sweet, but with some depth of flavor as well.  This one has those components, but the hop presence just adds to the depth of flavor and makes this one an Amber that all hopheads can get on board with.  

You can pick up the Amber Ale at many liquor stores throughout the area.  Go get some!  Cheers and Enjoy!!