Thursday, March 10, 2016

Eighteen – Central Waters Brewing Co.

                Since 2012, Central Waters Brewing has released a Barrel Aged Stout as an anniversary release.  Beginning with 1414, the annual releases, Fifteen, 16, and 17 had represented the epitome of barrel aged stouts, and each has sold out quickly at the brewery release party.  This year Eighteen sold out in three minutes to those lucky enough to make it to the anniversary party.  I was unable to make it to Amherst myself, but I fortunately had a friend who was heading up and didn’t want to purchase his whole 8 bottle allotment, so I was able to get a couple of his bottles, one to enjoy now and one to age.  I love it when everything works out.

                As with all barrel aged releases, it is both the type of barrel used and the spirit that is aged in it that impact what we think of as the barrel character in a barrel aged beer.  One of the great trends in the craft spirits community is the move to aging alcohol in wood that would have otherwise not touched the inside of a barrel.  Barrel aged gin and barrel aged vodka releases are capitalizing on the note of oak, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, coffee, notes that come from barrel aging.  The spirit, of course, contributes notes to the barrel from the herbal notes of gin, to the grape notes of port, or from the peaty notes of scotch to the notes of leather and tobacco from bourbon.  The combination of the two with a solid, well brewed craft beer can become a masterpiece if done right.  Sure, there are stories of barrel aged beers gone bad, even here in Wisconsin where, at least in my opinion, some of the best barrel aged beers are brewed and released.  I’m sure if you are reading this you have had a barrel aged beer at both ends of the spectrum, but fortunately for us all a vast majority capitalize on the greatness of the base beer style as well as the best aspects of the barrel and the spirit that was aged within it.

                With bigger releases like Central Waters Eighteen, multiple barrels are blended to obtain the final commercially released product.  The blending in itself can have a huge impact on the finished product because even the beer aged in two barrels that are sitting side by side can taste different.  The devil as they say is in the details, or in this case in the artistry of blending barrels together to be able to release a spectacular product.  Central Waters has never let me down, so I was definitely looking forward to my first taste of Eighteen, but I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.

They Say:

                With each passing year, we refine our art and showcase our efforts in our anniversary release.  Eighteen is a blend of stouts that gain more depth and complexity from the bourbon barrels they call home for years.  Cheers!

I Say:

                Eighteen pours an opaque black with slight walnut highlights when held to the light.  It is capped with a creamy, light brown head with a light rocky break up.  The head holds excellent retention before fading to a thick collar around the edges of the glass and leaving a moderate amount of complex lacing behind.  Strong, boozy vanilla and bourbon notes lead in the aroma amply backed up by coffee and chocolate.  The chocolate character in the aroma becomes richer and more complex as Eighteen warms taking on notes of cocoa powder, bakers chocolate, and even a hint of milk chocolate courtesy of the vanilla notes.  The finish has subtle notes of light caramel, and bourbon-y sweet alcohol.

                With the rich bourbon in the complex aroma, the flavor did not disappoint.  Bourbon, toffee, and an underlying note of roasted barley lead in the first sip.  The boozy bourbon flavor picks up additional complexity with vanilla, cocoa powder, and subtle caramel notes with an underlying oakiness.  Semi-sweet bourbon, vanilla, and toffee linger into the drying, smooth finish and aftertaste.  Full bodied and silky smooth with a moderate level of carbonation, Central Waters Eighteen has a full, almost viscous maltiness with just enough hops added to offset the malty sweetness that can tend to dominate other big Imperial Stouts.

                Central Waters Eighteen is a remarkable barrel aged imperial stout with its notes of bourbon, complex chocolate, toffee, and vanilla.  With Eighteen, Central Waters has once again shown that they are one of, if not the best brewery in the country for barrel aged releases.  This is definitely a beer worth tracking down, but be sure to get your hands on at least two - one for now, and one to savor in a year or three, preferably as part of a vertical tasting.

                That’s all for tonight, be sure to check back soon for another review!

                Happy Drinking, and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!

Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 Double Vision Doppelbock – Grand Teton Brewing

It’s that time of the year again, when the next round of Grand Teton Cellar Reserve beers is released.  Leading the pack this year is Double Vision, first brewed in 2009 and re-released as part of the 2013 Cellar Reserve series and now re-released as part of the 2016 Cellar Reserve series.  The 2016 series has some great beers on the horizon with a return of Double Vision Doppelbock as the first release on February 15th, a Gose on May 15th, and the return of Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter in April, followed by a barleywine brewed with rye in December.  It will certainly be an interesting Cellar Reserve release year!

                Doppelbock, literally a double bock is a traditional German Strong beer (Starkbier), also commonly referred to as a Fastenbier (Lenten beer).  The double bock originally started as a bock brewed in the 1630s by the monks of order of Saint Francis of Paola in Neuhauser Straße in Munich, doppelbock was a stronger version of the traditional bock the monks brewed and relied upon for sustenance as “liquid bread” during Lenten fasting.  During lent, the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday the monks believed that the beer they brewed would cleanse their body and soulm and because it was a holy rite, imbibing the beer brought them closer to God.  Even the monks grew concerned that their strong beer was taking the holy rite a little too far so they sought and obtained papal sanction and continued to brew the beer in greater quantities.  Over time the strength of the Fastenbier brewed by the Paulaner monks gradually increased in alcohol content and the beer was first illegally then legally served to the surrounding populace.  The beer style has a checkered and interesting past since the first release was apply named Salvator, for the Savior the monks honored when they brewed and consumed it.  While I won’t go into the intricacies of the history of doppelbock here, the German Beer Institute has a great write-up on the style, and the Paulaner monastery that created it:

                I first reviewed Double Vision with the 2009 Cellar Reserve release.  The 2013 release was a great beer, and I picked up a few bottles that I enjoyed during the spring and early summer, so it was a great throwback to try the beer again three years later.

They Say:

                Double Vision Doppelbock was first brewed in 2009 to highlight our brewery’s wonderful water. Like all the great traditional brewing towns, our home, Victor, Idaho, is in or near some of the world’s best barley- and hop-growing regions, and is distinguished by an ample supply of top- quality water.

Our Double Vision Doppelbock is brewed with Idaho 2-Row Pale and German Munich, Cara- Aroma, CaraMunich and de-husked Carafa malts to an original gravity of 22˚ Plato. The malts provide a dark leather color with ruby notes, a luxurious tan head, and a bready aroma with a hint of smoke. It is lightly spiced with German Hallertau Tradition hops and fermented with lager yeast from a monastery brewery near Munich. In the traditional manner, Double Vision is fermented cold (48˚F) and lagered a full 12 weeks for smoothness. At 8.0% alcohol by volume, it is a deceptively drinkable springtime warmer.

The 17th century Paulist monks of Munich were allowed no solid food during their twice-yearly fasts. They brewed an especially nourishing strong dark lager they called “liquid bread” and named “Holy Father” to help them through the Lenten and Advent fasts. The beer was known as a doppelbock, which signifies a strong lager. Since “bock” also means “billy goat” in German, these beers are often decorated with images of gallivanting goats.

Double Vision’s slightly burnt caramel flavor and malt sweetness make it an incredible match for game—venison, moose, duck, goose, and wild boar—especially when prepared with fruity sauces or reductions. Try it with pork and sautéed apples, roasted root vegetables, sweet sausages, ham or prosciutto. It’s wonderful with cheese and dessert, too. Pair it with an aged gruyère, a caramel flan, or a crème brûlée.

Original Gravity (Plato): 22.0˚
International Bitterness Units: 40
Alcohol by Volume: 8.0% 
Color (Lovibond): 47.0˚

Double Vision Doppelbock will be available February 15th, 2016 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 6/750 mL cases.

I Say:

                Double Vision Doppelbock pours a translucent deep walnut with mahogany and garnet highlights when held to the light.  It’s capped with a thick, small bubbled khaki head with a light rocky breakup.  The head holds excellent retention and leaves moderate lacing behind in the glass.  Bready and caramel malts lead in the aroma with notes light chocolate, and a finish reminiscent of fresh baked whole grain bread crust.  Slight notes of alcohol and plum arise as the beer warms to room temperature.

                Rich whole grain bread crust leads in the flavor with notes of burnt caramel and notes of dark stone fruit.  Burnt caramel ad dark plum notes become increasingly prominent as the Double Vision warms.  Just shy of being full bodied with a moderately low level of carbonation, Double Vision is slightly viscous, a perception which was further enhanced for me by the brews full maltiness, and just the right amount of hop bitterness to balance the malty sweetness without the beer being perceptively bitter.  It’s fair to say that I really enjoyed this beer and I hope that Grand Teton Brewing doesn’t take another 3 years to re-release it.  Perhaps it could enter a seasonal rotation like Snarling Badger did a while back, so I guess if I had one request for Rob Mullin and the brewing staff, it would be that.
                Grand Teton Cellar Reserve releases have not disappointed me in the past, and Double Vision is yet another example of the high quality product the brewery releases on a daily basis.  Unfortunately Grand Teton beers are becoming increasingly hard to find in Wisconsin, but hopefully that will change sometime soon and the full lineup, along with every special release will once again be available.  If you do happen to find a bottle of Double Vision Doppelbock, by all means pick it up, heck pick up as many as you can get your hands on because it is a great beer that should age extremely well, if the 2013 release is any indication.

                That's all for tonight, check back soon...  I am trying to get more reviews out more often...

Happy Drinking!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sippin’ on G&J - Mobcraft Beer Co

                On those very rare occasions when I’m not drinking beer, I am partial to gin.  So when I found out about theMobcraft Sippin’ on G&J release I was, to put it lightly, intrigued.  A few years back I tried a gin and tonic beer released by Shorts Brewing at the Great American Beerfest, and other than the rare gin barrel aged beer from Vintage Brewing I haven’t seen a gin beer since.  Fortunately Mobcraft was there with a gin beer for my enjoyment.

                If you are unfamiliar with Mobcraft Beer, they have a unique business model, leaving a majority of their beer releases up to the beer buying public.  Almost every new Mobcraft batch begins as a recipe concept submitted to the Mobcraft Beer website.  This beer, batch 22 was submitted by Taylor Rucks of Madison, WI.  The submitted recipes are then pitted against each other in a competition to find out which beer will receive the most pre-orders through the Mobcraft website.  Because Mobcraft is reliant upon customer feedback for the creation of its next release, there have been quite a few interesting one-off beers in their short history, a trend that is sure to continue.
On to the review.

They Say:

                A beer that brings you back to 1994 where you can be laid back while sipping on gin and juice. Mosaic, Citra, Cascade and Galaxy hops provide the juice while juniper berries bring on the gin.
Scaled down so you can brew your own 5 gallon batch.

·         4oz Crushed Juniper Berries –Secondary

·         Wyeast 1968 London ESB Ale

·         11.5lbs Two Row Malt
·         1.5lbs Munich Malt
·         1.5lbs Crystal 20L

BOIL TIME – 60 minutes

·         1oz Cascade @ 60
·         .25oz Citra @ 30
·         .25oz Mosaic @ 30
·         .5oz Cascade @ 30
·         1oz Citra @ 15
·         1oz Mosaic @ 15
·         1oz Cascade @ 15
·         1oz Galaxy @ 15

GRAVITY - 1.076/1.012

IBU - 82

ABV - 8.5%

I Say:

                Sippin’ on G&J pours a hazy orange-ish copper.  A thick, creamy white head with a rocky cap sits atop the glass holding excellent retention (5+ minutes), and leaves heavy lacing behind in the glass with each sip.  Strong juniper notes lead in the aroma, wonderfully representing gin, with citrusy hops standing in for the juice.  With the diverse hops used for the 15 min addition in the homebrew version of the recipe, you would probably be expecting a complex hop aroma and you would be right.  Orange and ruby red grapefruit hop aromas bound out of the glass and go from being overshadowed by the juniper berries to moving to the forefront as the brew warms.

                As in the aroma, juniper leads in the flavor when the beer is still cold from the fridge.  While it warms, the red grapefruit and orange notes become increasingly prominent.  The juniper and citrus fruit flavors mingle remarkably well, creating a complex flavor that even the Snoop D-O-double-G would love to sip on as he rolled down the street with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.  As the G&J continues to warm to room temperature the citrus hop flavors are dominant although the underlying piney juniper notes remain.  The citrusy hops take on a note of grapefruit peel on the back end, although the lingering aftertaste is almost exclusively a deliciously gin-like juniper berry flavor.  Sippin’ on G&J has a moderately high hop bitterness which aids in the perception of citric tartness and a low level of maltiness combined with juniper berries which enhance the perception of gin.  With a moderately light body and a moderately high carbonation, the mouthfeel is similar to a gin with the mouth cleansing carbonation of a gin and tonic.

                Sippin’ on G&J is not your typical beer but it never claims to be.  With the combination of juniper berries and citrusy hops, this beer goes a long way towards simulating a well-mixed gin and juice.   In replicating a gin and juice this beer hits the mark.  Mobcraft Beer often goes out on a limb to replicate flavors or takes a random winning recipe to brew the next release.  The downside of releasing beers based on recipe concepts is that the beers will sometimes be a weird mashup of flavors that may or may not mesh.  Fortunately with Sippin’ on G&J, Mobcraft Beer has knocked one out of the park.  I can only hope that a couple bottles were sent out to Snoop so that he could try the beer that was inspired by one of his best raps.

                That’s all for tonight, check back soon for another review!

                Happy Drinking, and Remember to Always Drink Wisconsinbly!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Barrel Aged Witchcraft (2015) - Brenner Brewing Company

The Brenner Brewing Grand Opening took place the weekend of November 21, 2014.  One of the featured beers the first Friday of the Grand Opening weekend was Witchcraft, a 13.1% Russian Imperial stout brewed with 43lbs of Anodyne Coffee, 144lbs of Kallas Honey, 70lbs of Molasses, and 9 malt varieties.  At $10 a glass it was easily the most expensive beer on tap, coming in $2 higher than the $8 taster flight containing samples of every other Brenner Beer.  Even at this price the half barrel went fast and it was widely regarded as an excellent Russian Imperial Stout.  When Witchcraft was released, Mike promised the world that he would be releasing an oak aged version of the beer within 6-12 months; now, 11 months later Mike is fulfilling that promise with a Halloween Day release of Barrel Aged Witchcraft.

The beer, which is selling for $10 per 12-oz bottle, will likely sell out at the release party unless secret backroom deals are made to stash bottles away for a local liquor store (not that I believe any such deal is in the works, but you never know).  Fortunately I was able to snag a bottle at a press event last night for a pre-release review.

They Say:

 With the warmth behind us, and cold ahead, the inaugural batch of Witchcraft was Brewer under the harvest moon of 2014. This beer prepares you for the annual descent into darkness. Nine malt varieties, molasses, honey, and Anodyne coffee. Aged for one year in bourbon barrels and virgin Missouri oak barrels. The result is nothing short of perfection.

I Say:

                Witchcraft pours a deep, opaque, oily black and is capped by a moderately thick small bubbled mocha brown head that holds moderately low retention (less than 2 min) before fading to a thick collar around the edges of the glass and leaving a fair amount of lacing behind.  Not quite leggy, the viscosity of Barrel Aged Witchcraft is immediately apparent as the unfermentable sugars in the beer cling to the edges of the glass with a slight swirl.  The aroma is led with coffee and rich dark chocolate with subtle notes of caramel adding depth and complexity to the nose.  Slight dark malts and woody oak ease in, lingering in the background to be replaced by a touch of honeyed bourbon and a slight charred aroma reminiscent of toasting marshmallows.  A semi-sweet boozy back end betrays Witchcraft’s 13.5% ABV.  I always like picking up alcohol in a high ABV beer and fortunately the alcohol in Witchcraft adds to the experience rather than detracting from it, as is often the case in young high ABV beers.

                Milk and dark chocolate lead in the flavor, blending effortlessly with notes of a high end medium roast coffee.  Bourbon and caramelized vanilla beans rounds out the experience with semi-sweet chocolate and caramel in the back end and a lingering semi-sweet bourbon-y praline chocolate finish.  As the beer warms in the glass it becomes increasingly sweet, without the sweetness ever reaching the point at which it detracts from the beer.  Witchcraft is full bodied, viscous, and as smooth as silk with a moderately low level of carbonation.  The 13.5% is pleasantly numbing which, of course, is a good thing.

                Witchcraft is an excellent beer that is by far one of the best Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stouts that I have had the privilege of drinking.  The malty sweetness is perfectly complemented by the coffee and bourbon barrels, with the virgin oak making an appearance as well.  For those of you showing up to the release tomorrow, there is a distinct difference in both aroma and flavor between the draft and bottled versions.  Both are exquisite, but I strongly prefer the bottled version if only because it’s easier to control the serving temperature.  This is definitely a beer that improves as it warms with a good serving range in the mid to high 50’s, although by the time I finished my bottle to write this review I was drinking it at room temperature and it was still excellent.  Cheers to Mike Brenner on this one!  The non-barrel aged release of Witchcraft was a great beer and the extended aging in barrels really turned the dial up to 11.  I for one will be picking up my full allotment at the 10/31 release and highly recommend you do the same - if barrel aged stouts are your thing.

As a side note, I’m currently on a mission to make the hashtag #BetterThanDarkLord become a thing, because yes, this is a RIS that is better than that fabled limited release down south.  Here’s to hoping that in another couple years Mike Brenner will throw Witchcraft Day and the lines will wind around the block.

That’s all for tonight, be sure to swing by Brenner tomorrow morning (10/31/15) for your bottles of Witchcraft or by Anodyne Coffee tomorrow night to enjoy a couple bottles during the Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound show!

Happy Drinking and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Black Cauldron – Grand Teton Brewing

                The latest Grand Teton Brewing Cellar Reserve beer, Black Cauldron Imperial Stout, released earlier this month, August 15th, in 750ml bottles.  However if you have been keeping up with Grand Teton Brewing over the years, you might recognize Black Cauldron as having previously been a seasonal beer.  So, I thought it was a little strange to see it make the jump to the limited Cellar Reserve release schedule.  I reached out to the Grand Teton Brewmaster, Rob Mullin and he was kind enough to provide the rationale for the move and add a few great insights into other aspects of the brewery, so be sure to check that out below.  Long story short, Black Cauldron is a popular beer that deserved a slightly stronger release 8% (seasonal) to 9.5% (Cellar Reserve) to highlight the aging potential of the beer and show off the love for what has become one of the favorite beers amongst the brewery staff as well.

                 I always look forward to the Cellar Reserve releases, and although it seems too hot to be drinking an Imperial Stout in August, September is right around the corner so it will soon be stout weather again!  There’s a lot I could say about Imperial Stouts and the early brewing traditions that inspired Black Cauldron, but between the original description and the added info from Rob Mullin, it’s pretty much covered.  On with the review!

They Say:

There are few styles of beer more flavorful than Imperial Stout. Our thick, rich version is brewed with plenty of caramel and roasted malts and subtly spiced with Cascade and Super Galena hops. We accentuate the natural smokiness of the brew by adding a small amount of beechwood-smoked malt. At 22.5 degrees starting gravity and 9.5% alcohol by volume, this beer boasts flavors of chocolate and coffee, along with raisins and dried fruit soaked in sherry.

Black Cauldron is a strong ale best enjoyed in moderation. Try pairing it with full-flavored grilled or roasted meats. Rich desserts like chocolate cake, truffles, fruit tarts, caramel flan or crème brûlée are all excellent matches.

We brew our Black Cauldron Imperial Stout to recognize and honor the women in the history of brewing. Brewing has been women's work since the dawn of civilization. In all ancient cultures, beer was a gift from a goddess, and women maintained status and power through their skills as brewsters. This remains true today in indigenous cultures from Asia to Latin America, Africa to remote villages in Scandinavia. Around the world, women bake bread and brew their own beer.

In Europe, the rise of cities brought commercial brewing, as governments realized the potential tax revenue to be had from large breweries. By 1445, the first all-male brewers' guild was established, the campaign against witchcraft burst forth across Europe, and the purge of women from brewing had begun. Beer historian Alan Eames has written that, when an occupation was listed, most of the women burned for witchcraft in Europe were brewsters or alewives.

Most of the imagery we associate with witchcraft today originated with the brewster. The large black cauldron bubbling over with foam? A brew kettle, of course. The black cat? Necessary to keep rats out of the grain store. The tall pointed hat? It allowed the brewster to be seen over the heads of taller men in the marketplace. A broom? The symbol of household domesticity, it is still associated with brewing all over the world.

Without the work of these women through the ages, it's entirely possible beer would not exist today. To learn more about the role of women in today's brewing industry, visit For more on the history of brewing,

With its dark malts, alcohol and unfermented sugars Black Cauldron is ideal for prolonged cellaring. We’ve enjoyed samples aged as long as nine years.

Original Gravity (Plato): 22.5º
International Bitterness Units: 54
Alcohol by Volume: 9.5%
Color (Lovibond): 40.0º

Black Cauldron Imperial Stout will be available August 15, 2015 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.

Brewmaster Rob Mullin adds:

Black Cauldron is definitely one of our favorite beers to brew, and it's become one of our fans' favorites as well, consistently ranking among the best beers we brew. The beer was one of our first Cellar Reserves, and it really belongs in that series. We've tasted Black Cauldron as old as nine years, and found them quite good. Everything about this beer asks for extended cellaring: the tannins from the dark malt, the unfermented sugars and the alcohol all work together to help Black Cauldron age gracefully.

We like this beer so much that we wanted to brew it every year, and several years ago we moved it to the Seasonal Series so we could do that. Then we realized that our packaging was causing confusion for our distributors and customers. We had some hoppy beers in big bottles that were mistakenly cellared, and many didn't realize the Black Cauldron could be aged, since we were putting it into 12 ounce bottles. In order to simplify and rationalize our packaging we decided to put only beers we think truly cellarable into the big bottles, and we moved hoppy beers like Pursuit of Hoppiness and Trout Hop Black IPA into the Seasonal Series (and 12 ounce bottles.)

Our compromise (with ourselves and our fans) is that, unlike the other Cellar Reserves that must wait at least three years before they're brewed again, we'll be releasing Black Cauldron every other year. That way we and our fans can put away enough bottles each time to get through to the next release. In addition, with this year's batch we've increased all those things that make the beer cellarable, including bumping the alcohol from 8 to 9.5% abv. Our guess is this (and future) releases will age even better than past versions.

You might have noticed new label artwork with this release, too. The previous Black Cauldron label, designed by our then-artist Gabby Prouty, was one of my personal favorites. It included two beautiful "brew faeries" or brewsters, and allowed us to tell the very cool story of women in brewing's history. I really like the link between the historical brewster and today's witch imagery. That story is still available on our website.

Beginning with this summer's Sour Grand Saison our current artist, Kathleen Hanson, has been redesigning our Cellar Reserve Labels with her own wonderful original watercolors and updated graphic design, including the removal of our old, iconic oval with barley sheaves. Kathleen struggled, but was unable to find an artful way to keep the brewsters on the label. She amplified the focus on their cauldron, and on the fire-dragon encircling it. That dragon, by the way, references the original inspiration for the beer's name: Black Dragon's Cauldron, a spectacular geothermal feature in the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone, named for its resemblance to a "demon of the backwoods."

I Say:

                Black Cauldron Imperial Stout pours a deep opaque, pitch black with a thick, creamy dark tan head capped with a few rocky bubbles.  The head holds excellent retention (5+ min) before fading to a slight haze with a thick collar that leaves light lacing being in the glass.  Aromas of charred barley, coffee, milk chocolate, and a subtle smokiness waft off the glass following the pour.  As Black Cauldron warms, notes of plum and sweet alcohols become more prevalent betraying the 9.5% ABV of the beer.  The aroma is pleasant but a little fruitier than many imperial stouts.

                Sweet, smooth caramel maltiness leads in the first sip with notes of dates and raisins. Slight notes of roasted barley, light coffee, and smoked malts round out the sweetness and draw attention to the moderate level of hop bitterness.  Sweet alcohol notes are also present in the flavor, serving as a reminder of the 9.5% strength, but without becoming overwhelming.  Full bodied, Black Cauldron has a smooth maltiness that is always welcome in an imperial stout, and a moderate level of carbonation which helps to break up the viscosity of the beer.

                I really enjoyed this Cellar Reserve release of Black Cauldron, and thought it was an excellent beer.  Oddly though, I had my first bottle of Black Cauldron a few years ago when it was part of the seasonal release schedule, and frankly I don’t think I enjoyed it back then.  My how the years have changed, my palette has developed, and my appreciation for Black Cauldron has grown as well.  The higher ABV is much appreciated and serves the notes of dates and plum excellently.  The slight notes of roasted barley and smoked malt serve are reminiscent of the open wood fires used in the early days of brewing.

                This is a wonderfully enjoyable beer that should age well for years to come, and it is great that it was released in the larger format bottle as opposed to the 12 oz bottles of previous releases.  If you can find this on a shelf, pick up a few bottles one for now and a couple to age!

                That’s all for tonight, check back soon for another review!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vanilla Wafer Porter – Mobcraft

Many Mobcraft releases are an interesting take on a style, or a blending of two different styles to create a unique new product with the potential to be great!  Vanilla Wafer Porter, Mobcraft’s 20th release seems a little tamer than many of the other recent Mobcraft releases, falling back on an adjunct addition that is definitely at home in a well-brewed porter, vanilla and cocoa nibs.  Now I love a good Vanilla Porter, especially in the winter when the dark malts and vanilla can be paired with Christmas cookies or pumpkin pie.  Vanilla Wafer Porter however was released this past July, as a byproduct of it receiving enough pre-orders in April to be released as the 20th batch.  For those of you who are unaware, almost every new Mobcraft batch begins as a recipe concept submitted to the Mobcraft Beer website, batch 20 was submitted by Colt Seaberg of Rockford, IL.  The submitted recipes are then pitted against each other in a competition to find out which beer will receive the most pre-orders through the Mobcraft website.  This creative means of deciding what to brew next has led Mobcraft to release many interesting one-off beers in their short history, and I am sure there is no shortage of interesting beers in their future.

On to the review…

They Say:
Rich Porter with a little cocoa throughout the mouthful with a strong vanilla wafer finish.
Scaled down so you can brew your own 5 gallon batch

·         1oz Vanilla
·         2oz Cocoa Nibs

  • Safale US-05

  • 1.5lbs Victory
  • 7lbs Pale Ale Malt
  • 3lbs Amber Malt
  • 1lbs Red Wheat
  • .75lb Roasted Rye

  • 60

  • 1oz Willamette @ 60

GRAVITY - 1.068/1.015

IBU - 25

ABV - 7%

I Say: 
                Vanilla Wafer Porter pours a very clear dark walnut color with dark mahogany highlights around the edges when held to the light.  It is capped by a moderately thick, small bubbled, white head with slight rocky breakup.  The head holds moderate retention; lasting 2-3 minutes before fading back into the glass and leaving a minimal amount of lacing behind.  Rich biscuit and vanilla aromas waft out of the glass, joined by light notes of milk chocolate.  A slight hint of toasted malts and vanilla round out the aroma invitingly.

                Slight vanilla and milk chocolate notes lead the flavor with notes of roasted malts coming out later.  Vanilla and slight biscuit flavors become increasingly pronounced as the beer warms with the chocolate notes never quite dissipating as the roasted malt flavors fade.  The overall impression is of one of those cream filled wafer cookies that I loved as a kid.  With a moderate maltiness and a moderately low level of hop bitterness this beer comes in a little light on the bitterness for a porter, although a more pronounced hop bitterness would not have provided the same drinking experience.  Medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation, this beer comes in as expected for a good porter.

                Vanilla Wafer Porter is definitely reminiscent of a cream filled wafer cookie with the added benefit that it doesn’t taste stale immediately after opening the package.  It is a well thought out and playful beer that brings back childhood memories.  While drinking it however, I couldn’t help but feel that a full body would have really knocked this beer out of the park; as the biscuit, vanilla, and chocolate flavors would have greatly benefited from the full bodied beer giving it a richer feel.  I suppose that would have been a step away from the wafer cookies it was attempting to emulate however.

                Vanilla Wafer Porter is a solid beer that is well worth picking up if you can find it at a store near you.

                Well, that’s all for tonight, check back soon for another review.

Happy Drinking, and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

City Fox - Brenner Brewing

                I often try to have a new beer every night, and while I do have a kegerator I have been through quite a few commercial kegs and never even thought of getting the same keg more than once.  That changed with City Fox though, the Mosaic hopped pale ale from Brenner Brewing Company in Milwaukee.  With summer right around the corner I wanted an excellent fruity pale ale, and took a cue from brew master Mike Brenner when he mentioned that City Fox was his favorite beer.  While I was at the brewery I ordered a City Fox at the bar, had one sip, and immediately ordered a 1/6th barrel to keep on tap at home. 

Until recently, ordering a keg, or filling up a growler at the brewery were the only ways to enjoy City Fox at home, which was great for those of us with a kegerator but not so great for the majority of craft beer enthusiasts.  Fortunately a few weeks ago bottled City Fox made its debut at Milwaukee Discount Liquor, and recently became available at multiple outlets the Milwaukee area and as far west as Madison.  As one of the Brenner Brewing’s flagship beers, it shouldn’t be too surprising that City Fox is quickly selling out in the stores that stock it.

The beer, a pale ale brewed with Mosaic hops, is a pretty straight forward pale ale with a fairly simple grain bill using only 2-row malt, one of the more common base malts in American craft beers, and caramel 20 malt (20 lovibond denoting the color of the malt). Unlike darker caramel malts which can provide considerable sweetness and well defined caramel flavors, Caramel 20 is roasted at a lower temperature resulting in much more subdued flavors, adding a light maltiness while providing a note of sweetness as well as light toffee notes with a subtle hint of caramel.  Mosaic hops are well known for being particularly fruity, with flavors of stonefruit, lemon, mango, melon, berries, peach, grapefruit, with floral and earthy notes.

City Fox is open fermented at “elevated” temperatures, which can enhance the fruity esters created by the yeast during fermentation.  It has something to do with reducing the CO2 saturation and hydrostatic pressure in the beer, which I suppose would make sense.  Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure at a given depth of a liquid, and it takes into account any additional pressure pushing down on top of the liquid.  In a sealed conical fermenter, the CO2 that is being generated during fermentation only has a small blowoff tube, building up pressure on top of the fermenting wort until it is able to escape out of a relatively small hole.  In open fermentation on the other hand the CO2 that is being created can more easily leave the headspace in the fermenter, decreasing the downward pressure of CO2 while also reducing CO2 in suspension.  The lower concentration of CO2 allows the yeast to be more active, and produce more esters.  The elevated temperatures meanwhile also aid in the production of esters while increasing the rate at which the yeast reproduce, eat sugar and make alcohol.  Open fermentation is a wonderful thing, but it can be tricky and produce unintended off-flavors if it is not closely monitored, which is why most breweries have moved away from it for a majority of their production.

I apologize if anything I mentioned above is technically incorrect, although I am sure someone will call me on it if it is.  Moving on to the review…

They Say:

                This session ale has a simple grist of just 2-Row and Caramel 20 malts so we can showcase the fruit and citrus that come naturally from the Mosaic hops and fermenting this beer at elevated temperatures in an open fermentation tank.  We hope you love it as much as we do.  Everything we do starts with art.

I Say:
                City Fox pours a crystal clear copper tinged amber with a thick, creamy white head and a slight rocky breakup.  The head holds decent retention (3-5 min) before fading into the glass and leaving moderate lacing behind.  Tropical and citrusy fruit aromas abound from the glass.   Fresh mango, papaya, lemon, grapefruit, guava, and gooseberry aromas mingle with notes bubble gum.  A subtle maltiness adds light bready notes that blend well with fresh melon in the finish.  The aroma is amazing, and surprisingly complex for a single hop beer, even if that hop is Mosaic.

                City Fox has an upfront sweet maltiness with subtle notes of toffee.  The sweet malts add complexity to the hops and additional fruitiness arising from the open fermentation.  Tropical and citrus fruit flavors are dominant throughout with notes of mango, minello oranges, sweet pineapple, and ripe cantelope.  Melon, orange, and sweet malt notes linger into the finish and aftertaste.  Moderately malty with a moderate level of hop bitterness, City Fox is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                This is easily one of my favorite beers right now with the strong tropical fruit and citrus notes that come from Brenner’s combination of Mosaic hops and open fermentation.  As I mentioned towards the beginning of this post, I never get the same beer twice for my kegerator, but City Fox has proven to be the exception and honestly, after getting back to back kegs of City Fox.  I’m planning to get a third keg the next time I have a spot because I really miss having City Fox on tap in my house.  City Fox is also available in 6-packs, or growlers if you are close enough to the brewery to pick one up.  I also recently found out from Mike that all 6-packs sold in the month of July at Discount Liquors (Milwaukee-metro liquor store) come with a free tour at the brewery so head out and pick up a 6-pack soon to take advantage of the awesome deal!

                Well, that’s all for tonight, check back soon for another post!

Happy Drinking, and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!