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Friday, August 30, 2013

Bone Warmer (2013) – Grand Teton Brewing




                The third release in the 2013 25th Anniversary Cellar Reserve series is the Bone Warmer Imperial Amber Ale.  First brewed in 2006, it still holds the record selling out faster than any other beer that Grand Teton has brewed.  I have been impressed with the Grand Teton Cellar Reserve series since I took notice of it with the Snarling Badger release in 2012.  Since then, I called around Milwaukee looking for bottles of each release and buying what I could find in stock.  While there are a few limited releases that I miss for one reason or another, I try to ensure that I never miss one from Grand Teton.

 The reserve lineup this year has been impressive so far, beginning with Double Vision Doppelbock in January, Oud Bruin in May, and now Bone Warmer Imperial Amber, which releases next week on September 2nd.  A somewhat big beer, at 8.2% ABV, Bone Warmer is sure to be a welcome treat on cold fall nights, and it has the potential to be a good addition to a beer cellar for some extended aging.  For more information on Grand Teton Brewing, click on the Grand Teton Brewing tag at the bottom of this post.  On to the review.

The 2013 release of Bone Warmer is not listed at either of the two ratings sites yet, since it doesn’t come out till next week, but they both have ratings for the original 2006 release.  At Beeradvocate, the first release has a score of 85.  Over at ratebeer it has a score of 90 overall with a 49 for style.

They Say:



2013 marks the 25th anniversary of Grand Teton Brewing. In celebration, we’re bringing back three of our favorite styles for this year’s Cellar Reserves. Bonewarmer Imperial Amber was first brewed in 2006 and sold out faster than any other beer we’ve made. Bone Warmer, brewed in the “strong ale” tradition, is a beer of great character, with exceptional malt flavor and warming alcohol content.

Historically, brewers often drew three different runs from the same barley mash. The first, used for strong ale or “best beer,” had the most flavor, color and fermentable sugars, and produced beer with the most alcohol. The second was used for a less strong “table beer,” and the third, a lighter and cheaper “small beer.”

Our Bone Warmer is brewed the same way, using only the first runnings from an extraordinarily thick, strong mash of Idaho 2-Row Metcalfe and Harrington barley malt, along with dark German Munich and caramel malts. We subtly spiced it with Idaho Chinook hops, fermented it at cool temperatures and cold-conditioned it for smoothness and drinkability.

The resulting ale is the color of roasting chestnuts. It is voluptuously malty and only slightly sweet- with a hint of toffee and a warming dry finish. It’s an ideal accompaniment to rich meaty stews, wild game, roasted fowl or root vegetables, and aged cheddars.

Bone Warmer Imperial Amber Ale is a one time release available September 1, 2013 in 1/2 and 1/6 bbl kegs and bottle-conditioned 750 mL cases.
Original Gravity (Plato): 22˚
International Bitterness Units: 22
Alcohol by Volume: 8.2%
Color (Lovibond): 36˚


I Say:

                Bone Warmer Imperial Amber Ale pours a slightly hazy deep coppery, reddish amber with a moderately thick, creamy tan head that holds retention for well over a minute before fading to cling to the edges of the glass.  The aroma has a strong, slightly sweet malty profile with rich toffee notes a hint of honey and golden raisins on the backend with a moderately sweet alcohol finish.

                The flavor has a very rich, full malty profile with notes of toffee and sweet caramel counter balanced with a moderate level of hop bitterness and moderately sweet alcohol.  Bone Warmer finishes smooth, creamy and moderately sweet.  It has a moderately full body and a moderately low level of carbonation.

               Bone Warmer is another excellent beer from Grand Teton, one that I am definitely going to get a few more bottles of when it is released next week.  Bone Warmer should age very well over the next couple of years, so be sure to pick up a few bottles if you find it near you when it arrives in stores on September 1.  This is a cold weather beer though, so you might want to wait until the temperature drops a little before you contemplate drinking it.

                That’s all for today!  Check back soon for another post, I have a few in the works, and I am still working on typing up my interview with Kirby Nelson from the Wisconsin Brewing Company.

                Have a great three day weekend and Happy Drinking!

Friday, August 9, 2013

K4 - Good Beer Inspires Good Conversation


               Check out the latest post from Brian, below!


Since they opened at the end of last year Karben4 has been one of my favorite spots around Madison to talk beer.  I’ve heard good beer inspires good conversation and this tap room is not lacking when it comes to either one.  Ryan (the brew master) will stop by to say hello every time I’m sitting at his bar… normally with a sample of his newest batch.  As some of you may know from a post back before the first of the year, he tapped a sample of SamuRyePA directly from one of the fermenters into a measuring cup for me to sample… if I remember correctly they only had one or two beers on tap at that time because they technically weren’t even open yet.  They have come a long way in just over 8 months.

I stopped in for some lunch last Friday, hoping to shake off the mild IPA Day hangover from the previous evening.  Full disclosure… I sat at the Tipsy Cow with Ryan and his crew the night before and went pint for pint mixing it up between (his own) Fantasy Factory, One Barrel Brewing Co.’s Hopticity Jones and Founders’ All-day IPA, with a NightCall Smoked Porter (also from Karben4) mixed in to balance things off and clear my palate a bit.  For lunch that day I went with the chicken salad sandwich on a pretzel roll and another pint of Fantasy Factory.  Props to Chef Jeff back in the kitchen because the food over there is every bit up to par with Ryan’s brewing and the two work very well together.  I could go into much more detail about how Chef Jeff has rocked my world on more than one occasion but, this a beer blog- so I’m going to stick to my guns.  Fantasy Factory… a beautifully hoppy brew that has the perfect malt back to balance the hops, it’s a BIG IPA that leave you with a very clean finish.  Put it on a Nitro tap and I’m in heaven! As I was finishing up my sandwich Ryan came strolling out of the back and sat down next to me.  I told him “it was you beer that provided me with this hangover so I’m going to make you guys feed me to get rid of it”.  He laughed and joked about how we were really putting them away the night before. 

Then out of nowhere, Ryan gets a big grin on his face and asks… “Do you wanna smell something?!” Now normally, when someone randomly asks me a question like that my answer is ‘no’ straight away- maybe it was just the group of friends I used to hang out with.  But I took my chances and followed Ryan back into the brewery.  Fortunately for me it was a couple casks that he wanted me to get a wiff of (… and not something else).  The big one he had me stick my nose in first was a Chardonnay barrel full of UnderCover, their session ale.  He also encouraged me to check out the smaller gin barrel that they got from Few in Chicago.  He said it was oozing with aroma when he got it in the mail.  It showed up in a couple layers of bubble wrap and the postal info was on a sticker that was just slapped on one end.  He will be, or already has (depending on when this post goes live) kegged the contents this week and it will be making its debut appearance in the tap room on Friday evening.  I certainly recommend trying this one, I had the first round of this “gin barrel experiment” a couple months back when they had it on in the tap room.  It was a complex balancing act and the subtle gin flavors played off the ‘almost piney’ flavors from the hops.  They are also featuring Fantasy Factory on a Nitro Tap.  Karben4 will definitely be one of my stops on Friday, just have to decide where it will fall into my schedule.  If you are trying to decide the best time to check out Karben4 I recommend you go when you’re hungry!

It turns out that when I dropped in on him (last week Friday) it was almost a full year since he packed up his life into a moving truck and made the 10 hour drive back to his home state of Wisconsin (from Montana).  If you ask me they have been kickin’ ass and taking’ names ever since!  But enough about their history, I want to talk about their plans for The Great Taste of the Midwest!

I started off with the easy question… “What are you guys pouring at the Great Taste?” Ryan and the crew will be pouring Fantasy Factory, UnderCover Session Ale, NightCall Smoked Porter and Lady Luck (their Irish Red).  I asked him a few more questions about the big event and furiously jotted down not as he gave his answers.  Please note that I have paraphrased his words in some places.  (Hope I can do you justice Ryan!)

BR: What are you most looking forward to at the Taste this year?

“The experience!”  This will be Ryan’s first Great Taste of the Midwest but he knows it’s a big deal.  “This is one of the biggest beer festivals in the country and it takes place right here in Madison.”  He looks forward to seeing all the craft beer fans out and about in Madison the week leading up to the Taste and all of the people who come in from out of town, not only from the Midwest, but from across the country and even internationally. 

BR: What’s one thing you want to take away from the event as a brewer?

“Well… not a hangover… But really, I just want to absorb it.”  He hopes to ensure that he and the rest of his servers don’t get overwhelmed with pouring beer and putting out fires the day of the event.  “The customer… well, the beer geek (at the festival) obviously comes first because that’s the whole reason we’re there.”  He alluded to the fact that he and his partners have been sinking their whole lives into this project called Karben4 and that it will be really great to get feedback from the crowd and bask in the glow that the Great Taste of the Midwest provides Madison on that magical Saturday in August.  “This whole thing is coming full circle for me… I moved back here almost one full year ago and this dream we had is real!”
BR: Any Brewery/Brewers you are hoping to mix it up with or meet for the first time?

“Some of my favorite beers come from western Michigan like Founders, Bells and New Holland.”  Ryan is looking forward to start matching names and personalities (of the brewers) with the brews they make and he has grown to love.  He also mentioned that the move back to his home state of Wisconsin has provided the opportunity for him and his wife to visit her home state of Michigan more often.  He would love to start building relationships with these brewers, not only on a professional level but also on a personal level too.  “…So when we go visit family in my wife’s hometown… I can just drop in on them!”


               That's all for today!  IF you are going to Great Taste over the weekend, enjoy and stay safe!
Check back next week for another post!

Happy Drinking!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oak Aged Mocha Stout – Peak Organic Brewing Company


                I have been a fan of Peak Organic Brewing Company since I tried their Weiss Principal Ale just over a year ago.  As one of the few organic breweries in the US, they aren't out to make it on the organic label alone.  According to Jon Cadoux, “We strive to produce beer that is extremely exceptional, as well as organic.”  I think that exceptional, organic beers is a fitting description for the beers that Peak releases. 

Oak Aged Mocha Stout from Peak Organic Brewing Company brings together four of my favorite things: coffee, barrel-aged beers, chocolate, and stout.  In the middle of the summer, oak aged stouts aren’t my first choice, but being a big fan of Peak Organic, I picked up a bottle when I saw it. After all, for a beer that’s hard to find in Wisconsin, I have to get it when I can find it.  On to the review:

On Beeradvocate, Oak Aged Mocha Stout has a score of 85.  Over at ratebeer it has a score of 95 overall with a 46 for style.

They Say:

                This is an extravagant, immoderate beer.  We mixed together our three favorite things – beer, chocolate and coffee.  A rich stout serves as the backbone, with organic black malt and chocolate malt providing a luscious foundation.  During the boil, we add artisan chocolate from our friends at Taza.  During conditioning, we add coffee from our friends at Coffee by Design.  Then, this concoction is oak-aged, resulting in soft vanilla notes.  We hope you enjoy this beer as much as we do.

ABV: 8.4 %
IBUs: 22

Suggested Food Pairings: Delectable Deserts, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, and Salted Pretzels

I Say:
                Peak Organic Oak Aged Mocha Stout pours opaque black with a thick, creamy tan head that holds excellent retention, lasting through almost the entire glass.  The aroma is complex and multifaceted.  The first aromas off the glass are pleasant roasted malts and a hint of smooth oaky vanilla from the oak aging.  Lingering throughout is a rich, dark chocolate note that adds considerable depth and complexity.  Light smoky and earthy notes blend in towards the back end, and the finish is full of coffee and subtle vanilla notes.  All the aromas blend together throughout the drinking experience to enhance the equally complex flavor.

                On the front end, the flavor is defined by a nice, full rounded coffee note that blends into dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and vanilla.  There are hints of toasted oak and dark roasted malts and cocoa in the middle before it finishes out with more dark chocolate and vanilla.  The complex flavor profiles highlights the complimentary effects that oak aging can provide to an already complex beer.  Oak Aged Mocha Stout is an exceptionally smooth and creamy malt bomb; it is full bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.

                I have been very impressed with every beer that I have had so far from Peak Organic, and the Oak Aged Mocha Stout serves as another excellent example of the brewing expertise that can be found at Peak.  I only wish that I was able to find their beer more readily here in Wisconsin, but sadly bottles are few and far between.

At just over $5, Oak Aged Mocha is well worth the price and a much better value than many of the other oak aged beers on the market.  If you love stouts, coffee, and chocolate, be sure to pick up a bottle if you can find it.  If you are not a fan of stouts, check out my other Peak Organic reviews.  I can guarantee they have an organic beer for you!

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


Happy Drinking!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The House That Page Built

Brian or “BR” as the facebook crowd knows him, being the wonderful guy that he is took advantage of the fact that he lives out in Madison to get some exclusive Great Taste info!  With cutting great posts like this, I will start demanding more from him!  Check it out below!



I dropped in on Page from House of Brews last week to get the down low on his plans for The Great Taste of the Midwest.  One of my favorite things about Page (other than he is WAY too nice to a humble beer geek like me) is the great company he keeps over there at House of Brews.  I was able to speak with two brewers (other than Page) from two other up and coming brewing companies here in Madison.

 As some of you may be aware, Mobcraft has started making waves here in Madison, around Wisconsin and at a number of beer festivals this summer.  At this point they are doing all their brewing out of House of Brews.  Henry, Giotto and Andrew are working very hard to become the first brewery (in my knowledge) to “Crowd Source” their recipes to determine which will be made.  You should definitely check them out on Facebook.  You can submit your own recipe, suggest ingredients or just build the buzz for one of the recipes they created and have stored on their website.  Once it’s determined which recipes are most popular, you go to their website and vote on which one you want them to make.  Here’s where things get really crazy… your vote counts as an order (4 pack of 22oz bombers… yes bombers!).  If the recipe you selected does not win the vote you don’t have to buy, but you also have the option of purchasing the winning recipe whether or not your choice wins (that’s what I did for the first round of voting and I’m pretty excited get my hands on the upcoming release of Most Mobbed Double IPA, which wasn’t my pick.  I voted for the Chipotle Porter, but I’m not complaining either…).  Once all the licensing is worked out they will begin shipping your order directly to your door, but I will continue to pick up my 4 packs over at House of Brews (that will also be an option until they get their own building).  Pretty cool, huh?

So Most Mobbed is fermenting away over there and will be ready for release at the end of August… but you don’t have to wait until then to sip some Mobcraft suds!  If you are going to be in Madison for ‘Great Taste-Eve’ you can meet me at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace where they will be  tapping and extra special firkin of their first flagship beer, Participation Pale Ale.  It’s a nice pale ale all by itself, but the firkin has been spiked with Wild Sumac.  Andrew even showed me where they harvested the Sumac back behind the brewery.  If you’re not familiar with Sumac, the ‘flower’ looks like a bunch of berries.  However, I was surprised by the stringy texture when he dropped a bunch in my hand.  He told me to crush it between my fingers, like you are trying to get the aroma out of a fresh hop cone.  I followed instructions and was surprised to get a ‘pink lemonade’ scent and fuzzy, stringy texture as it left dark pink stains on my fingers.  I ended up tossing the crushed Sumac in my mouth and was delighted by the taste… pretty weird texture though.  How will the texture affect the finished beer you ask?  Well it won’t, because they steeped about 2lbs of it in water and made tea to add to the firkin.  Andrew said they strained it a bunch of times to make sure no solids found their way into the finished product.  All in all they added about 1 gallon of the ‘tea’ to 11 gallons of Participation to fill the firkin.  They still weren’t entirely certain what time the firkin will be tapped on Friday but keep an eye on our Facebook page for final details.  I’d love to enjoy a pint of this experimental beer with you. And the guys from Mobcraft are always up for some good beer conversation… so meet us at Tex Tubb’s this Friday night!



… Ok back to the guy that actually owns the brewery…

This Friday Page is opening House of Brews early @ Noon to accommodate all the out of town beer geeks.  He will be running tours starting at 3:30, so stop in have a pint and ask him about the history behind his equipment.  Many good stories that I certainly cannot do justice here, you’ll have to hear it from him.  Page told me he may have a lead on a secret ‘late-night’ party Friday night but wouldn’t give me any more details at the time.  Check back because I will be bothering him until he gives in and divulges the details… that’s a promise!

For those of you outside the Madison circle, Page has been around the block a couple of times at the Great Taste.  The past two years I have actually purchased my tickets from him because he helps out with ticket sales at Star Liquor (my local bottle stop).  He has poured his beer for a number of years, but even before he opened his brewery he was attending on ‘our’ side of the tap lines.  He looks forward to this event each year because “It all comes full circle”.  If you have the pleasure of meeting him there, ask him your best beer questions and tell him I sent you!

This year Page will be pouring A-Frame Amber, Bungalow Rye ESB (his own play on the traditional ESB style), Prairie Rye (a crisp, Kolsh style ale) and my favorite of his flagships, Standing Stone Scotch Ale.  He also has a few surprises up his sleeves.  At 1:30 he will be pouring a limited amount of his new Dark Strong Ale, at 2 he will be sampling his scotch ale that has been aged in a bourbon barrel, at 2:30 its Rickhouse Stout (also bourbon barrel aged) and at 3 it’s a blend of his scotch ale and stout that has been aging in a rye barrel.  If you ask me the highlight of the day will be the barrel age scotch ale.  So I will be stopping by his table at about 1:45 to make sure I get some.

The surprises don’t stop there… Keith Symonds (brewer at the ‘to open’ Next Door Brewing Company) let me know that he will be sharing some space with Page at the fest (I did my homework and confirmed this with Page too).  Keith is no stranger to the Madison beer scene and Page told me that Keith was a huge help when he was first opening House of Brews a few years back.  I plan to dive deeper in to Keith’s story in a future post… his brewpub is opening up down the street from my house at the end of the month and I plan on getting very comfortable at his bar.  But on to his beer… this will be the first chance to try 3 of Next Door Brewing Company’s flagship brews.  At 3pm he will be tapping 3 1/6 barrels (one of each of the following).  “Wilbur!, yes with an exclamation point, is our yellow beer”  It’s a cream ale brewed with corn and oats.  I was able to try a bit and this will make for a nice refreshing sample if the weather’s as warm as it was last year.  Lots of flavor, good mouth feel but on the lower end of the ABV scale.  The other beer Keith let me sample was called Sevex.  Just like ‘seven’ but switch the ‘n’ with an ‘x’.  This is a ‘stock ale’.  He told me the idea came from hanging around breweries out east.  He told me that each brewery had a ‘stock ale’ which was the brew master’s creation, really made to the taste of the brew master (and normally higher on the ABV scale).  These ‘stock ales’ were normally not available to the brewery loyal, just the brewers and were therefore marked with ‘X’s.  The more ‘X’s the higher ABV… thus Sevex.  I’ll let you guess what the ABV for Keith’s ‘stock ale’ is.  And rounding out the trio for Next Door Brewing Company will be their WPA which is made of all Wisconsin ingredients.

That’s all for now, but keep checking back for more on the Great Taste leading up to the actual event on Saturday; and check back tomorrow for a review of Peak Organic Brewing’s Oak Aged Mocha Stout!

Happy Drinking!