Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Trixie’s Kiss – Mobcraft Beer

Trixie’s Kiss from Mobcraft Beer is a seasonal offering of sorts, a chocolate and mint stout brewed for Trixie’s Liquor Store in Madison, WI.  Mobcraft Beer, which is quickly becoming a standout brewery in the Madison area, is known for releasing excellent beers.  That alone however is not the best part about the brewery, after all many of the Wisconsin craft breweries release excellent beers.  The aspect of their business that really helps Mobcraft stand apart from their competitors is that all of their beers have been brewed because they received pre-orders from craft beer drinkers.  Every new beer recipe is voted on, and must win out in pre-orders over alternative beers before any new beer is brewed.  The twist to put their customers in charge of the beers they brew helps to ensure that every new Mobcraft beer is particularly unique, off the wall, and often completely different from any beer brewed by any other brewery. 

Opened in mid-2013 by Henry Schawartz, Giotto Troia, and Andrew Gierczak; the story of Mobcraft Beer goes back to 2008 when the three met in South Central Wisconsin.  Before founding Mobcraft, each sought to gain experience in the craft beer industry.  Giotto gained experience at Capital Brewery as a bartender and tour guide. Andrew gained experience with microbiology at UW-Madison, and wrapped up a Bacleors in Entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater.  Henry has a strong Entrepreneurial background, founding multiple businesses prior to entering into a partnership with Giotto and Andrew to found Mobcraft.

            After home brewing together, and gaining experience, the three pooled their cash to purchase a 7 barrel (220.5 gallon) fermentation tank and started brewing out of House of Brews in Madison, WI.  Over time the Mobcraft crew scaled up, and in Septemper of 2014 they became the first business in the state of Wiscosnin to take advantage of the new Wisconsin Crowdfunding Law, which allows the brewery to sell stock over the internet to the general public to fund expansions.  The law, while somewhat controversial should allow Mobcraft to increase production and expand beyond the walls of House of Brews and open a location of their own.

            Much like Mobcraft Beer, Trixie’s Liquors is quickly becoming a Madison landmark, having only recently celebrated their third anniversary (June, 2014).  Choosing to focus on craft beers, with a great selection of Wisconsin craft beers, Trixie’s is at the forefront of the Madison craftbeer scene.  It’s only fitting that a great Madison liquor store should be honored with its own beer; the only question is whether Trixie’s Kiss lives up to the best that can come out of Mobcraft, and the reputation of its namesake.  On with the review…
            Trixie’s Kiss does not currently have a score on either Beeradvocate or ratebeer, likely due to its limited release.

They Say:

Mint Chocolate Stout - Mint? You want Mint?! We've got some Chocolate too, so BOOM! This baby's full bodies, not too viscous, but will make your mouth happy! Fresh Mint leaves and Chocolate Malts are used to tickle your winter fancy! Enjoy this fabulous limited collaboration!

I Say:

Trixie’s Kiss pours an opaque black with a thick, creamy tan head that holds very good retention (3-5 minutes), and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  With the oils from the mint leaves, I was expecting this beer to have a small head that dissipated immediately, what I got was a pleasant surprise.  Minty aromas come to the forefront during the pour.  In the glass, roasted malts, dark chocolate, and vanilla mingle well with fresh mint and a hint of malty sweetness.

            Sweet chocolate malts come to the forefront in the flavor, with notes of vanilla, peppermint and cocoa nibs rounding out the back end.  Cool mint and a hint of chocolate linger long after the last sip.  The flavor is reminiscent of the best parts of a Peppermint Patty, a Grasshopper mixed drink, and a Show shoe (peppermint schnapps in hot chocolate) all mixed together.  This is a moderately malty stout with just enough hop bitterness to keep it from being cloyingly sweet.  It is moderately full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation.

            When I picked up this bottle, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  There are many ways that a Peppermint stout can go wrong, fortunately that is not the case with Trixie’s Kiss.  This beer, like many previous releases from Mobcraft is an excellent example of what craft beer can be.  The smooth chocolate malts blend perfectly with the mint, with neither one stealing the show.  This is truly a remarkable beer and I for one hope this becomes a Christmas seasonal.  What better way for two champions of the Madison craftbeer scene to celebrate the holidays than with this amazing beer being added into rotation?  If you have not tried it yet, and can find it in stock, pick up a few bottles to toast on New Year’s Eve.  This is an amazing brew, you will not be disappointed!

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

            Happy Drinking, and remember to always Drink Wisconsinbly!

Friday, December 19, 2014

St. Nikklilaus – Black Husky Brewing

                It’s time once again for the Christmas spiced beers to show up on the shelves.  The quality of the Christmas offerings varies widely from brewery to brewery, and more Christmas spice beers show up every year.  The latest release from Black Husky is St. Nikkilausthe brewery’s take on a Christmas Spiced Ale.  Christmas beers can be hit or miss, and even great breweries can release a less than stellar Christmas beer just to have one in their lineup.  People like seasonal beers, just look at the annual release of pumpkin beers; and any new seasonal beer that can be added to a lineup represents additional sales potential.  That said however, I have never had a bad beer from Black Husky so I figured it was safe to pick up a bottle the last time I was out looking for beer.         

                Moving on to the review, neither Beeradvocate or ratebeer currently have a score for St. Nikkilaus since it’s new to the shelves.

They Say:

                Nikki is the most unlikely of candidates to wear a silly Santa hat?? and be the spokesdog for our Christmas beer as he came to us from a musher who treated him unkindly.  Over time Nikki learned that there is kindness and there is charity to be found on this earth – and after all, is that not the true spirit of Christmas?

I Say:

                St Nikkilaus pours an opaque deep black walnut in color with a thick, creamy khaki head that holds very good retention (~4 min) before fading to a collar around the ends of the glass and leaving thin lacing behind.  Sweet caramelized sugars, dark malts and Christmas spices lead the aroma.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, and cloves are all prevalent along with a slight hint of citrus on the back end.  The aroma is reminiscent of Wassail.

                The flavor is very similar to the aroma, although it is both more complex, and more intense.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and clove lead in the flavor with slightly sweet, toasted malt notes and caramelized sugars rounding out the back end.  The finish and aftertaste, much like the front end has a massive dose of all spice, clove, and cinnamon.  St. Nikkilaus is a full bodied beer with a moderately high level of carbonation, giving the beer a hint of carbonic bite.

                St. Nikkilaus is exactly what I expected out of a Black Husky Christmas beer.  It is decidedly not balanced, but balanced isn’t really what Black Husky is all about.  This is not a beer for the meek, or for that matter, the average beer drinker.  If you like Christmas spices, or mulled beverages, you will love this beer.  If however, you have an aversion to Christmas spices, please send the bottles my way and I will dispose of them properly.  As with every previous Black Husky release, St. Nikkilaus is a great beer, it might just be a little extreme for some people but pick up a bottle while it’s still in stock, and toast it at over the holidays!

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

                Happy Drinking, Happy Holidays, and always remember to Drink Wisconsinbly!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Coming Home 2014 – Grand Teton Brewing

             It is that time of year again, when the fourth installment in the Cellar Reserve series from Grand Teton Brewing is released.  This year, the 2014 Coming Home beer is a Belgian-style Quadruple, which many of you may be more familiar with by its alternate name, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  What barleywines are to traditional English and American brewing, so a Belgian-style Quadruple is to Belgian and Trappist brewing; both are strong flavorful beers meant to be enjoyed when the weather is cold and the additional alcohol and flavor are most desirable.

As you may know if you’ve read my previous posts on Grand Teton Cellar Reserve releases, many have been excellent (if you have not, check out the tags at the bottom of this post).  While I have enjoyed all of the Grand Teton beers that I have had, the brewery really shows off what it can do with the Cellar Reserve series.  As with all previous Cellar Reserve beers, the Coming Home 2014 should cellar well and take on added complexity as it ages.  Good luck finding a bottle however, as the Coming Home releases have historically been pretty rare.

I usually enter into the review with scores from the two major review sites, but it neither has reviews or a score at this point so, on with the review.  Previous Cellar Reserve posts have had additional information from the brewery; if any comes in I will edit this post.

They Say:


Our intent for our annual Holiday Ale series is to release a special beer each November to be enjoyed with special friends on special occasions. This Belgian-Style Quadrupel ale is full-bodied and robust, boldly showcasing flavors of sweet dried fruits delivered on a smooth, velvety palate.  Specialty malts and roasted barley give this beer a sweet malty aroma that complements its complex fruitiness. Brewed in the Belgian tradition with dark and clear candi sugars and a Trappist ale yeast, Coming Home 2014 is rich and flavorful.

The use of traditional Belgian candi sugars allows the alcohol content to be boosted without imparting too many other flavors or a heavy mouthfeel. At 10% alcohol by volume, this beer is warming and complex. Serving the beer at a slightly warmer temperature will help release even more complex aromas and flavors. This Belgian-Style Quadrupel has a dense, pillowy head and a gorgeous dark ruby color, thanks to the dark sugars and special malts.

The Belgian-Style Quadrupel is the biggest and darkest of traditional Belgian-Style ales. Historically brewed by Belgian monasteries as the highest strength beer, the Belgian-Style Quadrupel usually consists of the first runnings from a mash. This style of beer typically sports an ABV of 9% or higher. The high alcohol content, dark malts, and Belgian yeast make this beer a great addition to your cellar and will develop for years to come. The aromas are sweet and rummy, reminding us of delectable treats. Subtle hop flavor gives enough bitterness to balance the brown sugar and caramel flavors, mingling with figs, raisins, and dates. A robust beer on its own, this deceptively drinkable ale complements gamey meats, fruitcake, and pumpkin pie.

Belgian-Style Quadrupel
Original Gravity: 24˚                       
ABV: 10.0%
IBU: 27
Lovibond: 28˚

Coming Home 2014 will be available November 1, 2014 in bottle-conditioned 750mL cases and keg-conditioned 1/6 bbl & 1/2 bbl kegs.

Limited quantities, pre-order only

I Say:

             Coming Home 2014 pours a translucent mahogany with cherry and ruby red highlights.  It has a thick, creamy, khaki head with slight rocky breakup on top.  The head holds moderate retention, and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  Coming Home is a pretty good looking beer.  The aroma is interesting, but a little odd.  Slightly sour and metallic notes are evident when the beer is cold out of the bottle.  Fortunately, the sour and metallic notes fade and the aroma takes on the notes of a good Belgian Quad as the beer warms.  Slight roasted barley notes blend well with tart black plums, red grapes, and caramelized sugars, and a note of rum cake.  Sweet boozy notes round out the back end.

             Smooth, sweet malts come to the forefront in the flavor, with moderately strong notes of dark fruits.  Figs, dates, tart black cherries, plums, and red raisins blend with a slight breadiness, adding to the complexity of Coming Home 2014.  Sweet alcohols and black plums round out the beer and lingers in the after taste.  The moderate maltiness pairs well with Coming Home’s low bitterness, leading to a semi-dry finish.  With a medium-light body, and a moderately high level of carbonation, Coming Home 2014 comes in right about where it should for the style.

             Coming Home 2014 is another solid release in the 2014 Cellar Reserve series from Grand Teton Brewing.  The slight metallic and sour notes in the aroma threw me for a while, although they were short lived.  Fortunately as Coming Home 2014 warmed, it took on the dark fruit notes that should be prominent in a Belgian Quad.  The warming, sweet alcohols were also welcome, although they did betray the alcohol content in this beverage.  I am usually a big fan of the Grand Teton Cellar Reserve beers, but while I did enjoy this year’s Coming Home, it only gained the complexity that I look for in Belgian Quad after it was in my glass for an extended period of time.  Perhaps I served it a little too cold, and had I waited I would not have been greeted by slight metallic notes.

             As with all previous Coming Home releases, this one is extremely limited and was available for pre-sale only.  If I am able to find another bottle somewhere, I will definitely pick it up as I am curious how this beer will age.  If you are able to find a bottle near you, remember to serve it around 50-54 degrees for the best experience and by all means serve it in a clean goblet, snifter, or tulip glass for best effect.

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

Happy Drinking!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 Oktoberfest wrap-up

                This past Friday marked the final review in the 2014 Oktoberfest series of reviews. There were certainly a lot of great Wisconsin festbiers, a couple of which nailed the style dead on, and a couple that just barely missed it, one that fell way short, and one that turned the style on its ear, reimagining it as an ale. Each brought with it a unique experience with the fingerprint of the brewery that released it readily visible in both flavor and aroma. For those of you who might not have read the posts in this fall’s Oktoberfest series they were; Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest from Tyranena Brewing Company, Black Husky Brewing’s Jodlerkönig Ale, O’so Brewing’s O-toberfest, Central Waters Oktoberfest, Üfer Bier from Big Bay Brewing Company, Point Oktoberfest from Stevens Point Brewery, Capital Brewery Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest Lager from Lakefront Brewery, and Bull Falls Oktoberfest.

                While that is not an exhaustive list of the festbiers released by Wisconsin breweries, they are the ones I covered this year. There are a few noticeably absent from the list, New Glarus Staghorn, Milwaukee Brewing’s Hop-toberfest, and Leinenkugel’s Über-Oktoberfest, just to name a few. It isn’t so much that I left them out on purpose, or that I don’t have a high opinion of each, they are all very good beers that I usually stock up on this time of year. Staghorn in particular is one of my favorite beers. For this year’s Oktoberfest series I wanted to highlight a few great local breweries which you might not be familiar with. With the exceptions of Black Husky Jodlerkönig and Bull Falls Oktoberfest, each of the beers reviewed have statewide distribution, which was another important factor in choosing the beers for the series. Obviously being based out of Milwaukee, I am going to choose beers that are readily available in my location, or that I can pick up on a trip to another part of the state. Out of the nine beers reviewed, Bull Falls is the only one not available in the Milwaukee market.

                So, now I will move on to the part of this that I really am not looking forward to, a ranking of the nine.  Whenever I attempt to rank my favorite beers, or favorite beers of a style I feel as though I am trying to pick my favorite child.  Sure, some favorites are easy...  Favorite football team? Packers!  Favorite state?  Wisconsin, obviously…  But favorite beer, that takes the discussion to a whole new level.  Regardless, here it goes…

                1)      Black Huskey Jodlerkönig – Call me a sell out who loves almost everything Black Husky releases, or mention that Jodlerkonig is not an Oktoberfest, but this ale interpretation on a traditional festbier is an excellent fall beer that will leave you wanting to try the rest of the Black Husky line-up.

                2)      Bull Falls Oktoberfest – Coming from one of the newest breweries in the list, this festbier was dead on, with the right amount of bready maltiness combined with an appropriate amount of hop bitterness.  The malts refrained from coming across too sweet, while still being prominent and both the hop flavor and bitterness were pleasantly subdued.  It’s only a shame this beer has such a limited distribution.

                3)      Central Waters Oktoberfest - A solid all around festbier with strong bready malt notes in the flavor and aroma.  While it was lighter on the toasted malt notes than many of the other beers in this series, the malty sweetness was right where it should be, and the hop bitterness served to mellow out the malts but didn’t detract from the malty nature of the beer.  For a bready Oktoberfest with a low level of toasted malts you would be hard pressed to find a better festbier.

                4)      O’so O-toberfest  - A touch sweeter than the other beers in this series, O-toberfest has moderately strong biscuity malts, with moderate toasted notes.  The rich maltiness was well balanced by hop bitterness, but there was never any doubt that this was well-balanced, malty beer.

                5)      Capital Oktoberfest – At the time I reviewed it, I was close to calling this beer the best so far in the series if it weren’t for the buttery diacetyl in the beer that I had.  The beer was almost perfect, with an excellent maltiness and a nice restrained hop bitterness.  I would like to believe the bottle I had was the exception, but for this beer at this time, I was disappointed to find a fault in the aroma.

                6)      Tyranena Brewing’s Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest – Aside from the caramel notes in this beer, it was right where it needed to be for the style.  The strong malt backbone was balanced out by a moderate hop bitterness, causing the beer to dry out on the back end.  Toasted and nutty malts added malty complexity that went was on par with beers higher up in these rankings, however the caramel notes dropped it further down.  The floral hops were a little pronounced for my taste, but they lingered in the background in the aroma and did not follow through to the flavor, holding to style.

                7)      Lakefront Brewing Oktoberfest Lager – I am a big fan of Lakefront Brewery, and I am kicking myself for ranking their festbier this low, because most of the time they are one of my go to breweries.  The fact they fell so far in the rankings says more about the caliber of the other festbiers in the state than it does about their offering.  That said, I do like my festbiers to have less prominent floral notes, which this beer certainly had in spades.

                8)      Steven’s Point Brewing  Point Oktoberfest – Point Oktoberfest, like Lakefront above it was a very good festbier.  The fruity malts and floral hops in the flavor drop this one further down in the rankings than it otherwise would be.  I really enjoy floral hops and fruity malts in many beers, but they seem out of place in a festbier.

                9)      Big Bay Brewing Üfer bier – I really wanted to like this beer, because I would love to support a local Milwaukee business.  Unfortunately however, this was easily the least enjoyable festbier of the series.  It is not nearly rich enough to be in the festbier category, and while it might pass for a decent Vienna lager, it is so far removed from the festbier category that I was tempted to not even include it in this series.  Then again, the brewery claims it is an Oktoberfest, so there is that.

Okay, so there you have it.  What I really wanted to do was put places 6 through 8 tied at sixth, but I always hate when someone does that.  There is also a fairly large drop off between 8th and 9th places but that’s a bit hard to show in a straight ranking of nine beers because the lowest the last beer can go is last place.  Rankings aside however, the top 8 are all excellent beers and it took me a couple days to figure out how to rank them.  If I spent more time on it I might mix the rankings up a bit more, but eventually this post has to be posted.

                That’s all for tonight, check back again soon to read about some more great beers!

                Ein Prosit!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Knee Deep | Hoparillo

Knee Deep Brewing Company | Hoparillo Triple IPA. Ale brewed with Amarillo , Citra , and Mosaic hops . (11.1%) 122 IBU. Placer County , CA. 

Knee Deep makes some great year round IPAs and probably one of the only breweries that really focuses on year round triple IPAs . I am a fan of huge triple IPAs , but I have yet had there quadruple IPA . 

Pour : A nice bright orange color , a slight haziness , but mostly clear . The head is around a finger worth , but dissipating to a nice rounded white lacing . Alcohol legs are strong with this beer and already I am getting a nose off this , so let's dive in . 

Aroma : A nice amount of grapefruit , citrus , and dankness . Citra hop is dominant in the front , then leading into caramel , cracker malt , and a pop of pine and mango . At 11.1% the alcohol is present in this beer as it should be. It smells great though . 

Taste : Huge amount of bitterness and alcohol . This reminds me of a "weaker" 120 min IPA from Dogfish . Not as much alcohol fumes like the 120 min , but still present . Lots of caramel notes , pine , citrus , grapefruit peel , bread crust from the malt , and a medium full body that coats the mouth with a nice warmed-hop bitterness . It would be great on a could winter day . Very smooth , not overly bitter , but a smack in the face with a bready, boozy note . Nicely done . 

Verdict : 90/100. One of my favorite Triple IPAs to date . It's very well balanced at a high alcohol and Founders Devil Dancer was to hoppy I think and too boozy , and also had a lower abv and IBU level , but I'm not grading by that . This beer is just more balanced then the other triple IPAs I've had. Cheers !

Sunday, November 2, 2014

BarrelHouse Brewing Company | Curly Wolf

Barrelhouse Brewing Co. | Curly Wolf / Barrel aged Maple Vanilla Imperial Stout, Paso Robles, California (9.4%). 

"Introducing the first beer to be released in our Reservado de Robles Series. This oak barrel aged, limited release series is the canvas for our beer artists. Creamy and complex, this Russian Imperial Stout was aged in 11 year old bourbon barrels for 6 months until the time was just right. We added fresh maple to the boil and whole vanilla beans into the barrels as it aged to impart sweetness and complexity. This beer is dangerously smooth, 100% barrel aged and 100% delicious! "

I hope all of you had a great and safe Halloween weekend . I am going to try a brewery not a lot of people are talking about , but are producing some great IPAs and barrel aged beers as well . This is Curly Wolf Russian Imperial Stout with maple and vanilla beans added into the bourbon barrels for extra complexity . No surprise to you guys that I love RIS and barrel aged stouts , so let's crack this bad boy open ! Also rated 92/100 on BA and an average of a 4.23 rating . 

Pour : Pitch black , no light coming through what so ever . I was expecting a darker head for being a RIS , but the head appears to be a mocha brown color , with a slight egg-white lacing. Also the head is dissipating quickly , fizzing like a soda almost which I don't get in an RIS pour . 

Aroma : Well the bourbon is present and I've smelt this type of barrel character before and not sure if it's my favorite barrel . When I reviewed the Prairie Noir variants I got this weird vanilla smell and an infected type quality . This beer doesn't smell infected , but the barrel character of smoked oak , and vanilla is the same as the barrels used in Noir and other cheaper barrel aged stouts, even though this is a $17.00 barrel , I do get a little maple , oats , vanilla , milk chocolate and powdered chocolate. . Smells alright so far , but nothing that's blowing my mind . 

Taste : Almost the exact same thing as the aroma . I get huge barrel character , vanilla , a little chocolate , but no way this is an RIS . To thin , and not enough chocolate notes or malt to me to be considered RIS . With this beer I wish the barrel character wasn't as dominant as it is because all I am getting is barrel , and really strong vanilla and a burn as well . Not a lot of sweetness , not a lot of maple , but I believe in barrel aged beers with maple it's going to be one of the hardest flavors to find and training the palate to get the flavor is challenging , but I think with this beer it's making it's challenge present with not just maple , but all the other flavors as well . It's good , but not what I expected at a $17.00 bottle . 

Verdict : 84/100 . It's just dominant over two flavors ; barrel and vanilla. I do love vanilla , but when it's completely by itself , it isn't as pleasant in my opinion . As it warms up to 60 degrees it's getting a little better with flavors , but it's still really boozy and charred like . 

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 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Modern Times Brewery | Monster Park / Coffee Imperial Stout aged in Rye Barrels

Modern Times Brewing Company | Monster Park / Coffee Imperial Stout aged in Rye Barrels . (13%) 

This is a huge beer ladies and gentlemen . This is Modern Times special release of their Monster Park , which is an imperial stout , then aged in 3 different variations of barrels ; The first is in rye whiskey barrels , the second is rye whiskey barrels with there own coffee added , and the third is aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels . This one is the Rye with coffee added . Another fact to know is that Modern Times is one of few known breweries to actually use there own blend of coffee into their beers . Let's get a pour on the Monster Park / Coffee Imperial Stout.

Pour : It is black as pitch . I thought I was going to get some head on this massive beer , but I was mistaken . The head that was there was a light brown hue , but dissipating rather quickly , and being 13% I understand that . I can see the alcohol legs on this beer clearly , streamlining along the glass . Almost reminds me of Black Note stout from Bells.

Aroma : Wow , lots of coffee on this imperial stout . I didn't want to age this one to long and decided to drink it fresh so I can get the coffee at it's peak , but lots of dark roast coffee , oaky- vanilla , dark fruits , powdered chocolate , a strong presence of the rye coming through . This reminds me of Bells Black Note Stout and a little bit of Bourbon County Brand Stout . Very unique blends of coffee that they are using .

Taste : Huge amount of coffee bitterness followed by chocolate , powdered chocolate you get from Nesquick, vanilla , rye , and a lot of sweetness . What I'm really surprised about this beer is that the mouthfeel is very thin for a coffee imperial stout , it's super thin. I get a lot of flavors though , but I was expecting a thicker body on this beer , so it coats my palate better and I get flavors in the back of my throat . I'm not saying it's a bad thing , but very surprised that it was this thin. It is very similar to Black Note Stout , and has a KBS body . It's really good , but just a tad to thin for me . 

Verdict : 93/100 . I think if it had a better body , and a touch more of carbonation , it would be right next to the top coffee beers I have had . It's still a trade worthy beer for sure . It's got a lot of coffee still , and a unique blend of chocolate and malts as well . Cheers !

Also huge thanks to The Beer Exchange for this sweet Teku glass . Awesome part of my growing glass collection . Check out their website too! Made great trades off of it .