Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oktoberfest – Bull Falls Brewery

                After reviewing six Oktoberfest brews with statewide distribution, I figured I would focus on an offering from a smaller brewery with a more limited distribution.  A few weeks ago, I was up in Wausau on a business trip and enjoyed the local breweries up there.  However Bull Falls stood head and shoulders above the rest.  Fortunately they had an Oktoberfest available in cans; so I figured what better beer to wrap up this fall’s Oktoberfest Series than with a beer from the brewery that I had just visited.

                Like many great brewery stories, the story of Bull Falls Brewery begins with co-founder and brewmaster receiving his first homebrew kit.  Mike’s kit, a gift from his wife in 1998 soon lead to medals at homebrew competitions and eventually enrolling in an online course from the Siebel Institute of Chicago.  Nine years later, in 2007, Mike and his father Don, founded Bull Farms Brewery on the east side of Wausau, Wisconsin.  Originally opened in a 5,000 square foot space, the Zamzows quickly realized their small setting was going to be unable to keep up with the increasing demand for their product.  A new, $1.5 million, 8,000 square foot expansion, was completed in the summer of 2013.  The expansion brought with it a larger brew system, additional fermentation tanks, a canning line, an expanded tasting room, and a new gift shop.  Early 2013 also brought a major distribution contract with Mid-Wisconsin Beverage, a Pepsi distributor that brought Bull Falls on as its first beer account in generations.  The move signified a shift back to Mid-Wisconsin’s roots and an excellent business opportunity for Bull Falls.

                I will update you all with more information on Bull Falls Brewing as I get it and I am going to set up an interview with co-owner Mike Zamzow soon!  That said, on with the review!

They Say:

The brewery's inaugural beer is brewed with all German ingredients. Golden amber in color with a malty aroma and flavor that contributes to a clean crisp taste.

I Say:

                Bull Falls Oktoberfest pours a crystal clear light copper with a thick, creamy ivory head that holds moderate retention (lasting about a minute and  half), before leaving heavy lacing behind in the glass.  Biscuity malts lead the aroma, while a prominent toasted quality balances out the middle and the back end.  The aroma in this festbier is all about the malts, with no discernable hops.

                Semi-sweet, bready malts serve as a pleasant greeting on the first sip of this Oktoberfest with toasted mingling in the middle to add additional complexity.  The malts definitely are strong in this one, coming across as full and well-rounded.  Balancing out the bready malts is a very slight spicy hop flavor, and moderate level of hop bitterness that serves to dry out the beer on the back end, leading to semi-dry finish with a lingering bitterness.  Bull Falls Oktoberfest is very smooth with a soft, palatable maltiness that makes it especially quaffable.  With a medium body, and moderate level of carbonation, this beer hits the marks perfectly.

                  I know that “drinkability” has been co-opted by the macro-breweries to the point that it has practically become a dirty word.  That said, however, this is a remarkably drinkable beer that should definitely be served by the liter.  Bull Falls Oktoberfest is an exemplary beer that is remarkably malty without lingering into the overt sweetness trap that many other festbiers fall into.  The hop flavor and bitterness likewise are evident without being too prominent, mingling well together to make this a very well-balanced beer.

                Unfortunately distribution too far outside of Wausau is a bit of an issue for Bull Falls, although when I was up at the brewery a couple weeks ago brewmaster Mike Zamzow mentioned that they do distribute into the Minneapolis/St. Paul market, so those of you in north western Wisconsin should have some luck finding this in stores.  If you do live up north, or happen to drive near Wausau, Bull Falls Brewery is definitely worth the stop, and they keep a pretty decent selection of their canned beers on hand at the brewery.

                That’s all for tonight, check back next week for the Oktoberfest Series wrap-up post, and don’t forget Keagan’s weekend posts on Saturday and Sunday!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oktoberfest Lager – Lakefront Brewery

                With the 2014 fall Oktoberfest series beginning to wrap up, we are now on the second to last review, Oktoberfest Lager from Lakefront Brewery.  Lakefront has long been a Milwaukee favorite, and holds the distinction of being the first Milwaukee Craft Brewery to grow to the point of being a Regional Craft Brewery (an annual production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels of beer).  Lakefront Brewery currently distributes to thirty-five states, although around 80% of their beer is sold in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.  It is great to see a Wisconsin craft brewery distribute outside of the state and be so successful doing so.  Before moving on to the review, let’s cover a quick history of Lakefront Brewery, and what brought them to being one of the most successful breweries in the state.

Founded in 1987 by brothers Russ and Jim Klisch, Lakefront Brewery is one of Milwaukee’s oldest breweries.  After developing a rivalry, constantly competing to see who could brew a better batch of homebrew, and having their brews win multiple homebrew contests; the brothers choose a building for their new brewery, a former bakery in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee.  Starting with used dairy equipment and 55 gallon steel drums, they were up and running.  December 2, 1987 marked a turning point for the brewery, when the first barrel of beer was sold to the Gordon Park Pub.

It didn’t take long for Lakefront to become a local favorite with the brewery selling 72 barrels of beer in 1988 and 125 in 1989 before growth really took off, nearly doubling in each subsequent year.  With the growing popularity of Lakefront Beer, Russ Klisch built a bottling machine in 1990 so the brewery could distribute bottles.  As the brewery continued to grow, the brothers brought more equipment into the brewery.  By 1998, with production just under 3,000 barrels a year, it became apparent that the original 3,600 square foot bakery was getting a little too crowded, so Lakefront went on the lookout for a new location.  The new and current location of Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce Street, originally housed the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant.  As luck would have it, the City of Milwaukee was considering tearing the building down until the brewery purchased the building.

In 2000, Russ Klisch replaced the homemade brewing equipment that the brewery had used for the previous 12 years and installed a professional brew house.  Production continued to increase, reaching 33,268 barrels in 2012.  Earlier this fall Lakefront broke ground on a new expansion adjacent to the current location.  The additional space means Lakefront can continue to grow and expand their barrel aging program as well.  An expanded barrel aging program would be great for Lakefront Brewery, but that’s a topic for another post, and another beer.  As for this post, how about we move on to the review section.

                At Beeradvocate, Lakefront Oktoberfest Lager currently has a score of 79, with an 83 from the Bros.  At ratebeer, it currently has a score of 33 Overall with a 40 for style.  Again with the low ratebeer score, then again there is a reason I take the scores from these two sites with a grail of salt.

They Say:

The radiant copper-orange hue and rocky, off-white head of our traditional Märzen-style lager comes from generous amounts of Munich malt. Caramel malt aromas compliment the German lager yeast’s slightly floral aroma. Mt. Hood hops balance the substantial malt body, while the lager yeast adds a subtlety to the flavor, making this a great rendition of a classic German lager.

A good pairing for the hearty German fare served at Oktoberfest parties in Munich: rich sausages and pretzels, buttery spaetzle or creamy soups.

5.8% ABV
10–14 IBUs

Cases: 4/6/12 oz bottles (355 mL)
Half Barrels (15.5 gal)
Quarter Barrels (7.75 gal – WI only)
Sixth Barrels (5.16 gal)

I Say:

                Lakefront Oktoberfest lager pours a very clear copper with a thick, creamy, off-white head.  The head holds very good retention, lasting just under a minute, and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  Low level sweet bready malts serve as a pleasant greeting to the beer out of the bottle.  The bready malts take on more complexity as the beer warms, becoming biscuity with lingering toasted malt notes.  The aroma is right about where it should be for a festbier.

                Toasted and biscuit malts lead the flavor with an excellent complex malt profile up front.  Floral hops (or yeast according to Lakefront) assert themselves midway through the experience, ushering in a relatively firm hop bitterness.  The finish is malty and slightly floral with notes of biscuit, toasted malt, and a hint of hops.  With a moderate hop flavor and a moderately low hop bitterness, Lakefront Oktoberfest is almost on target.  With a medium body, and a moderate level of carbonation, this beer is holding true to the guidelines of a festbier.

                The floral hop notes are a touch too prominent in Lakefront Oktoberfest for my taste, but they are still well within the bounds for the style, so it is hard to find a reason to hold that against this otherwise remarkable festbier.  There is a lot to like with this beer, with its wonderful malt backbone, and its drying finish, and it’s certainly one of the best festbiers this state has to offer.

                That’s all for today, check back later this week for the last Oktoberfest review before the Oktoberfest wrap up post early next week.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Surly Brewing Company | Barrel aged Darkness 2014

Surly Brewing Company | Barrel aged Darkness 2014 | Russian Imperial Stout aged in rye whiskey barrels . (11-12%)  750ml bottle 1 of 3 bottles. 

A huge shout out to my buddy Nick and his friend for hooking me up with 3 of these beasts . This is my first time trying Darkness , so if I am not correct on the original flavors of non-barrel aged version , please don't hesitate to correct me on missing flavors of this once a year released beer . Awesome event by the way. The event was one of the most life changing events as a beer-geek and as a person . 

Pour: Well the name clearly represents the color of this beer . Thick pour , leaving just a pitch-black color in the Teku glass. A nice fluffy , java colored head . Looks really milky , and just scrumptious to be honest. 

Aroma: Wow this reminds me of Speedway stout , Black Butte XXVI , and possibly even Resolute. The reason why I say this because Speedway has this banana type aroma I get right away. Tart cherry from the Black Butte XXVI , and a thick chocolate raisin note I got from 3 Brothers| Resolute . Very smooth barrel quality in this beer . I am getting a little bit of rye , vanilla , a strong hop presence as well . Whiskey-soaked dark fruits in the aroma that emerge when it warms . It's smells awesome !

Taste : Wow , this is highly and dangerously smooth for a barrel aged RIS. A creamy mouthfeel , I get a tartness right away from the cherry followed by milk chocolate , chocolate covered banana bites , vanilla , raisin , whiskey-soaked chocolate covered almond (if that makes sense). This beer is ridiculously smooth for the abv on this . It's really like drinking a chocolate shake , with cherry and some whiskey . It's really damn good and I would even pour this over ice cream. It's a magical beer . The Harpy that is indicated on the label , defiantly lured me into the depths of darkness and murdered my palate in a good way ! 

Verdict : 97/100 . Trade if you can for this awesome beer ! Super good fresh right now , and better aged . Get an extra for ice cream beer floats too ! Cheers !

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ride the Lion / Wee Heavy aged in Bourbon Barrels

Clown Shoes Brewery | Ride the Lion Wee Heavy / Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels . (11%)

Hey ladies and gentlemen . Sorry I haven't reviewed a beer in quite some time , but I had a huge project due and just finished it last night , so I celebrated with this beer as a night cap, and this is a beer I've been kinda wanting to try . It's rather affordable for a barrel aged beer , and I have heard some great reviews on this wee heavy style beer . So let's get this poured into a glass , and find out what it means to "Ride the Lion." 

Pour : A murky mahogany color , looking almost a light dark ruby red almost brown color . It looks like a really nice scotch ale . Very little lacing to this one , dissipating rather quickly. Alcohol legs are strong on this one . I can tell this is going to be a great beer just by the appearance . I'm kinda quick to judge , but I know a good beer when I see one . 

Aroma: A very nice smell of bourbon, followed immediately by toffee , dark fruit , bourbon soaked plum , raisin, and vanilla . I also get candied root beer , sugar coated almonds too. It smells amazing . 

 Taste : This is really good . A solid amount of caramel flavor along with bourbon . No heat at all from the barrel , it's smoothed so well with the flavors of the wee heavy , that it makes the beer dangerously drinkable at 11% . Lots of toffee , oak , a little bit of a rye note , and lots of sugared dark fruits. A very nice medium bodied Wee Heavy . 

Verdict : 92/100 . Super good Wee
Heavy and I recommend the pick up and age it for a good year or so to bring in more barrel flavors . Cheers !

Friday, October 24, 2014

Oktoberfest – Capital Brewery

                Five posts into this fall’s Oktoberfest series, it’s about time that I get to a beer brewed by a Wisconsin Brewery that has a strong tradition of brewing German style lagers.  The Oktoberfest release from Capital Brewery is an award winning brew (three medals), and was personally one of my first Oktoberfest releases from a Wisconsin Brewery oh so many years ago. 

Founded on March 14, 1984 by Ed Janus, Capital Brewery was opened in the former Mazomanie Egg Factory.  On the way to converting the building into a brewery, brew kettles from Hoxter Brewery in Germany were installed in 1985.  After renovating the building for almost two years, Capital Brewery released its first two beers, Capital Pilsner and Capital Dark in the spring of 1986.  The two beers have gone on to win a combined 25 medals.  The brewery continued to grow and in 1997 became the first craft brewery to can, releasing cans of Wisconsin Amber.  At the 1998 World Beer Championships, Capital was named the #1 Brewery in the U.S. and 7th in in the world by the Beverage Tasting Institute.  In 2013 Capital was named the Grand National Champion at the US Open Beer Championship, winning six medals.  The most recent news is that Capital Oktoberfest won the gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival in the German-style Märzen category. 

In 2012, brewmaster Kirby Nelson who had been with Capital for most of its existence left to formulate plans for his own brewery, handing off the reigns to Brian Destree.  Kirby’s departure turned out to be great for the Wisconsin craft beer scene however because it not only led to Capital branching out into new styles, it also led to the founding of the Wisconsin Brewing Company.

The brewery now produces over 30,000 barrels of beer annually and brews 19 different beers listed on their website, although the excellent Ghost Ship White IPA is noticeably absent from their website so the number could be higher.  With history of producing excellent German-style lagers, it should come as no surprise that Capital Brewery stays true to the strict Reinheitsgebot guidelines for a majority of their beers, which require that only Malts, Hops, and Water be used in the brewing of beer.  Yeast, which is noticeably absent from the original rules was unknown at the time.

            After a bit of background on the brewery, let’s move on to the review.  At Beeradvocate, Capital Oktoberfest currently has a score of 82.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 83 overall, with a 98 for style.

They Say:

                OKTOBERFEST - The mother of all seasonal beers has a firey amber hue with rich malty overtones that dominate the flavor.

Available: August-November
MALTS: Brewers, Munich, Caramel & Aromatic 
HOPS: Liberty
ABV: 5.5% 
IBU: 24
OG: 14%

I Say:

                Capital Oktoberfest pours a crystal clear light coppery amber with a thick, creamy off-white head with a slight rocky breakup.  The head holds excellent retention and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  A complex sweet breadiness leads off the aroma, with toasted malts on the backend and the slightest amount of buttery diacetyl lingering throughout.  If it weren’t for slight buttery notes of diacetyl that intertwined with the bready and toasted malt aromas, this would hit the mark for an Oktoberfest perfectly.

                Lightly toasted biscuit malts come to the forefront in the flavor with an underlying malty sweetness that serves to accentuate the toasted malts.  Toasted malts linger on the back end, although not for long necessitating a return to the glass.  Capital Oktoberfest is very smooth with moderately full malts, and a prominent, but moderately low hop bitterness.  This is most definitely a beer defined by the malts, as any good festbier should be.  Coming in as a medium bodied and moderately carbonated beer, this is extremely quaffable and satisfying on a cool fall evening.

                Capital Oktoberfest is a pretty remarkable beer, one that I would be tempted to call the best I have had yet in this series were it not for the hint of buttery diacetyl in the aroma.  Diacetyl, a byproduct of fermentation can get cleaned up by the yeast at the end of the fermentation.  The formation of diacetyl in beer fermentation is a pretty interesting topic, but not being a chemist myself, I will just link you to a great article by Chris White of White Labs.  While diacetyl, always an off aroma/flavor, may blend in better with a bareleywine or English ale, it seems a bit out of place here.  Fortunately the aroma somewhat blended in with the biscuity malts to come across more as buttered toast rather than completely overwhelming the malts as can be the case in an unfortunate batch of homebrew.  The problem however, is that I am unsure whether this bottle is a stand out, or whether it was a batch issue.  I do know however that I have not noticed a buttery aroma in this beer on previous occasions.

                Capital Oktoberfest is a pretty remarkable beer, even given the slight off-aroma that I experienced, and it is a beer that I can whole heartedly recommend to anyone looking for a good festbier!

                That’s all for today, but there are still a couple more Oktoberfests in this fall’s Oktoberfest series, so check back soon!

                Ein Prosit!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Point Oktoberfest – Stevens Point Brewery

                After a less than spectacular beer contract brewed by Stevens Point Brewery, I figured it was a good idea to give their own release a fair shake.  In that vein I picked up a six pack of Point Oktoberfest.  The seasonal Märzen is an award winning beer with 1 gold, and 6 silver medals at prestigious competitions (more on that in the “They Say” section).  The beer is somewhat authentic to style, at least in the ingredients list, so it should be an interesting beer.  Before moving on to the review however, Stevens Point Brewery has a storied past, going back 155 years.

                Founded in 1857 by George Ruder and Frank Wahle, Stevens Point Brewery is the fifth oldest continuously operating brewery in the US.  Shortly after founding the brewery, in 1859, Ruder left to found the George Ruder Brewing Company, which remained open until the 1950s.  Frank Wahle remained with the brewery until 1867 when he sold it to Andrew and Jacob Lutz who in turn ran the company for 30 years.  Lutz sold the brewery to Gustav Kuenzel, who, three years later, renamed it the Gustav Kuenzel Brewing Company.  After less than a year with the new name, Kuenzl re-named the brewery again, this time to Stevens Point Brewing Co.  Stevens Point Brewery changed hands and names again when a controlling interest was purchased by Ludwig Korfmann in 1924.  Korfmann reorganized the company and rebranded it as Stevens Point Beverage Co, an excellent move given that 1924 was in the midst of the depression and the brewery had shifted production to near beer (non-alcoholic beer) and soda in order to stay in business.  Controlling stake in the brewery continued to change hands until the 1990’s.  Stevens Point beers were first marketed outside of the state in 1990 with a move into Minneapolis/St. Paul, and later Chicago-metro in 1991.  Less than a year later, the brewery was purchased by Barton Beers, an odd move considering Barton’s success as an importer and distributor, as well as the interesting fact that Point Beer was the only domestic brand in Barton’s product line.  In 2002, Barton Beers sold the brewery to Joe Martino and Jim Wiechmann, two real estate developers from Milwaukee.  The brewery is fortunately still in the hands of Wisconsin owners 16 years later.

                Okay, enough history, let’s get on with the review.  At Beeradvocate, Point Oktoberfest has a score of 79.  Over at ratebeer it has a 29 overall, with a 30 for style.  Again with ratebeer having such a low score for an Oktoberfest, at this point I don’t know why I am even surprised.  Rather than rant on it here, let’s just move on to what you came for.

They Say:

Point Oktoberfest is an authentic Marzen Style Lager beer, a style reminiscent of the beers originally brewed for the first Oktoberfest Celebrations in Germany during the early 1800's.  Craft brewed using Hallertauer Hops and sweet Vienna roasted malts result in a full flavored, finely balanced beer brewed in celebration of the upcoming season.

Brewmaster Notes                                                                                         

AVAILABILITY: August 1 - October 31
PROTEIN: 1.55 g/12oz
IBUS: 15
MALTS: 2-row, 6-row, Crystal, Vienna, 2-row Munich
HOPS: Tettnanger, Hallertau, Perle
CARB GRAMS 12 OZ: 16.5 g/12oz
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 5.67% by volume
FAT GRAMS 12OZ: <0.25 g/12oz

Gold Medal Winner - Great American Beer Festival, 2012 - Amber Lager Category
Silver Medal Winner - World Beer Championships, 2008
Silver Medal Winner - World Beer Championships, 2010
Silver Medal Winner - World Beer Championships, 2011
Silver Medal Winner - World Beer Championships, 2012
Silver Medal Winner - World Beer Championships, 2013
Food Pairings                                                                                                    
Wine relatives are unbaked Chardonnay or zesty Sauvignon Blanc.
CHEESE: Pair with Muenster or aged Swiss Cheese.
WINE: Wine cousins are Pinot Noir, German Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Grenache.

I Say:

                Point Oktoberfest pours a crystal clear golden amber with a thick, small bubbled white head with rocky breakup that holds moderate retention and leaves thin lacing behind in the glass.  Rich biscuity, bready malts lead off the aroma with toasted and sweet malts in the finish.  The strong, biscuity malt aromas of a solid Oktoberfest are in evidence with just the right amount of toast to
round out the back end.

                Biscuity malts and a moderate dose of floral hops combine with slightly fruity, sweet malts in the forefront of the flavor.  The beer dries out considerably with a moderately bitter finish.  Biscuity and slightly toasted malts linger after the last sip, providing Point Oktoberfest with an excellent malty finish that hits home without any lingering sweetness.  Point Oktoberfest is medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation, right where it needs to be to hold to the style.

                Point Oktoberfest is a pretty solid festbier, coming in almost exactly as expected for the style.  While everything else played harmoniously, the floral hops seemed a little too high, and the malts were a bit too fruity for my taste.  The finish however, was spot on and was probably the most refreshing so far in this Oktoberfest series.  Point Oktoberfest is a noticeable improvement over the festbier that I had, and wrote up before it.  It is great to see such a solid offering from Stevens Point Brewery.  I was a little concerned after having such a mediocre experience with a beer that they contract brewed, but their own offering is definitely a beer that I would pick up again.

                That's all for tonight, with three beers left in this fall's Oktoberfest series, check back soon for another review!

                Happy Drinking!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bottle Logic / Recursion IPA

Bottle Logic Brewery | Recursion IPA (6.5%) . Anaheim , CA. 

My first beer from Bottle Logic that I got extra in a huge trade . It's an IPA brewed with Simcoe , Citra , Centennial , Columbus , and Cascade . Good hop varieties in this beer . 

Pour : A glowing orange , with a nice fluffy two-finger head . Nice lacing around the glass and head retention is nice . Looks like a solid IPA .

Aroma : I get orange , grapefruit , a dry hopped aroma of the Columbus hops . It's very dry , nothing really stands out for having 5 hops in it . It smells like a normal IPA , I was expecting a lot more tropical fruits , but I wasn't getting that at all . 

Taste . Yeah more of the same thing on the aroma . It's a good IPA , just nothing stands out to me on this one . Lots of dry hopped flavors  , grapefruit , pine , and grassy notes . It's good , but nothing special . 

Verdict 84/100 . A good IPA to drink after work , but nothing worth seeking for IMO. Cheers