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 . 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Üfer Bier – Big Bay Brewing Company

                Prior to Üfer Bier, I have not had one of Big Bay Brewing’s offerings, but at the liquor store last weekend I thought I would pick up a bottle for this fall’s Oktoberfest series.  Big Bay Brewing was founded in 2009 by Jeff Garwood, and at least one unnamed business partner.  In May of 2011, Big Bay opened a tasting room in Shorewood, WI although the venture was short-lived, as the tasting room closed in April 2014.  The closure did not spell the end of the brewery however, as the beer is contract brewed at Steven’s Point Brewery, having previously been contract brewed by the Milwaukee Brewing Company.  I wish there was more information out there on Big Bay, but the little information that exists is pretty sparse.

                While Stevens Point Brewery does put out some pretty solid beers, I have not had a Big Bay beer previous to this, so I went into Üfer Bier with few expectations, hoping that it would be as good, if not better than the other fest biers that I have had within the past month.

                Üfer Bier has a score of 78 on Beeradvocate.  It does not have a score at ratebeer, although the reviews there seem to be fairly negative.  Another reviewer over at Beeradvocate has a few unkind words, but then gives the beer a great score leading me to believe that something is amiss.

They Say:

                Sadly Üfer bier has no commercial description; there is an associated blog post however:

Hope you caught our Next Wave! We introduced our Üfer Oktoberfest Lager September 1. The nice back story is Üfer came out of my kitchen with a home brew batch. Of course my final product was better, much better, than the home brew batch out of my kitchen. So for the aspiring brewers out there making a great home brew, yes you can scale up a home brew to a commercial batch. They only caveat being get feedback from many people- from home brew judges, a chef, wife, good friends, consumers at your tasting room (you don't have a tasting room?), or even a master brewer or two. Take their feedback and consider what purposeful choices you'd like to make to improve your beer... but always make sure you keep that personal finger print on the flavor that makes it yours. I hope you get to try Üfer. Your feedback is always welcomed at Big Bay Brewing. Prost! Cheers! Yay Beer!

I Say:

                Big Bay Üfer Bier pours a crystal clear amber with a thin, small bubbled white head that holds moderately low retention, lasting just under a minute, before fading to slight collar around the edges of the glass; and leaving minimal lacing behind in the glass.  I was able to coax a thicker head out of the beer when poured into a tulip, but the head still maintained minimal retention.  The aroma has light bready notes, with just a hint of toasted and biscuit malts.  Light floral and spicy hop notes mingle with the bready malts, accenting them and adding a bit more complexity.  Overall though, the aromas are pretty faint and did not become more prominent as the beer warmed in my glass, even though I switched from the pint glass pictured above to the tulip pictured below in attempt to get more aromas.

                The flavor has some bready malt notes and a very dominant malty sweetness on the front end.  Fortunately the sweetness fades and dries out after the initial burst and give way to slightly floral hops.  Moderately low malts and moderately low hop bitterness make this a fairly well-balanced beer, although it is a bit light in both for an Oktoberfest.  Üfer Bier is just on the light side of being medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation. 

On many fronts, Üfer Bier seems to fall short of being a good fest bier.  The malts, while having bready notes are not as rich as other fest biers.  The malty sweetness In Üfer Bier is also a bit overwhelming and does this beer a disservice and detracts from this beer’s drinkability.  While I hate signing out on a post with a recommendation to not pick up a beer, there are many great fest biers out there, but unfortunately this is not one.

That’s all for tonight, there are four more fest bier reviews in the Oktoberfest series, so check back soon for another review!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oktoberfest – Central Waters

          This brief fall tour of Wisconsin festbiers brings me to Oktoberfest Lager from Central Waters.  What better way to follow up the post on O-toberfest than to cover the brewery that helped to inspire the founding of O’so.  With Central Waters’ great 16 year history of brewing, the highlight arguably being their amazing barrel aged beers, this is definitely a beer that I went into with high expectations.

                Before getting into the review however, let’s briefly touch upon the brewery’s history.  After spending two years restoring an original Model-A Ford dealership, and converting the building into a brewery, Mike Elwain and Jerome Ebel founded Central Waters Brewery in Junction City, Wisconsin in 1998.  Scaling their homebrew recipes up to commercial production, Mike and Jerome rolled out their original lineup, two of which are still available, Ouisconsining Red Ale and Mudpuppy Porter.   In 2000, Central Waters released their first, of many award winning beers, Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe Ale, a 10% ABV Barleywine, which took Bronze at the 2000 year's World Beer Cup.

                After a few months running Central Waters, Mike and Jerome brought in Paul Graham to act as the brewer, a move that was fortuitous as it turns out.  Three years after opening, the original duo sold the brewery to Paul Graham and local home-brewer Clint Schultz.  These two expanded the line up to include Lac Du Bay India Pale Ale and Satin Solstice Imperial Stout.  Following the change in management Central Waters purchased a bottling line and started rolling out 6-packs.  Unable to keep up with the spike in activity the original brew kettle cracked, leading the duo to purchase a 15-barrel brew house and two 30-barrel fermenters on the Central Waters five-year anniversary.  In 2006, Clint Shults left the brewery, with his stake going to Anello Mollica, who brought his 24 years of brewing experience to Central Waters.

Central Waters continued to expand, moving into the current brewhouse in Amherst, Wisconsin in January of 2007, in order to support demand.  With distribution in over 200 retail locations in Wisconsin, and 18 beers in the current lineup, Central Waters has developed a strong presence in the region and become one of the state’s best breweries.

Central Waters doesn’t just brew great beer however; they are also one of the country’s most environmentally sustainable breweries, taking a wide range of steps to minimize their environmental footprint.  The beer industry isn’t known for being especially environmentally friendly, but its great whenever a brewery takes concerted steps to make their product have as small of a footprint as possible.  To that end, Central waters sources bottles from the greenest manufacturer in the county, uses post-consumer recycled cardboard for all packaging, and sources all hops and barley from local farmers?.  The brewery sources barley from Bries Malting in Chilton, WI and was one of the founding breweries of the Midwest Hops and Barley Coop.  Both moves are part of a larger aim to support the local production of hops and barley.

While sourcing locally and sustainably is one of the cornerstones to being environmentally sustainable and responsible; the remainder is all about resource and energy usage, and Central Waters has that covered with their 2 large solar arrays.  One is a solar thermal array that provides hot water to heat the 12,500 square foot brew house and to pre-heat water for brewing.  The other solar array is a 20kW photo-voltaic array that produces 20% of the breweries total annual power.  The tasting room likewise exhibits their commitment to environmental sustainability with the bar in the sample room made out of recycled materials.

The combined efforts have led to Central Waters gaining entrance into the state of Wisconsin’s Green Tier program, which recognizes businesses that are sound environmental stewards.  They are also currently the only brewery in the state that is a member of the state’s Green Master’s program.  Representatives of the brewery also promote sustainability by giving speeches and presentations local and regional events in addition to helping other members of the industry adopt environmentally friendly practices.  It’s always great to see a business that not only cares about their own bottom line, but also the health and wellbeing of their local economy and environment.  That is really just one more in a long list of many reasons why the craft beer industry is so great.

That was a little lengthy, so let’s get back to the review.  At Beeradvocate, Central Waters Oktoberfest currently has a score of 80.  Over at ratebeer, it has a 49 overall with an 82 for style.  Again with the considerably lower rating on an Oktoberfest over at ratebeer, at least for an overall score, it seems a bit strange.

They Say:

With an enticing, bready maltiness characteristic of traditional Marzen-style lagers, Octoberfest is a radiant amber-colored brew that finishes crisp and clean. Enjoy this fall seasonal as summer turns to autumn and the colors of the Northwoods are ablaze.

I Say:

                Central Waters Oktoberfest pours a crystal clear light coper with a moderately thick small bubbled white head that holds very good retention before fading to a hazy layer surrounded by a thick collar at the edges of the glass.   Biscuity malts with a hint of clover honey come to the forefront in the aroma with faint toasted malts lingering in the background.  Over all, the aroma is very bready with an excellent malty sweetness and the right amount of toasted malt characteristics to round it out.

                A large dose of bready malts about in the flavor profile, and are balanced out with a very well rounded, moderate level of hop bitterness.  The bitterness serves to offset some of the sweet malts and leads to a drying finish that feels like a more delicate transition than the other beers reviewed in the Oktoberfest series so far.  Medium bodied, with a moderate level of carbonation, Central Waters Oktoberfest is most definitely hitting the fest bier marks.

                As with the rest of their offerings, Central Waters Oktoberfest is a very well brewed beer, and definitely a great Oktoberfest that you should consider purchasing.  The toasted malt aromas aren’t as prevalent as some of the offerings from other breweries but they are still present and add an extra dimension of complexity.  The honey notes in the aroma also added additional complexity to the aroma and served to foreshadow the sweet malts in the flavor.

                This is really a great beer, and whether it is the Oktoberfest for you or not all depends on how strong you want the toasted malt notes to be, this one sits at the low end for the style.

                Well, that’s all for tonight!  Check back soon for another review!

Happy Drinking!

Friday, October 10, 2014

O-toberfest – O’so Brewing Co.

                After a slight diversion from the Märzen/Oktoberfest style it’s back to a Märzen-style lager in this fall’s Oktoberfest series of posts with O-toberfest from O’so Brewing Co.

With all the great beers being released by so many excellent breweries in Wisconsin, it’s hard to choose just one.  If you live in North Central Wisconsin however, it is hard to ignore the rise of O’so Brewing in Plover, Wisconsin.  The story of O’so Brewing starts in 2003 when, after joining the Focal Point Homebrew Club, and observing the first batch of Central Waters beer being brewed, Marc Buttera and his wife Katina opened Point Brewing Supply with the eventual plan of opening a craft brewery of their own.  The dream became a reality in 2007 when they opened O’so Brewing.  In 2013, O’so was declared the 2nd fastest growing brewery in the state by the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association.  Since then they have continued to diversify their offerings, getting more involved with barrel aging and sour beer production. 

The future is bright for O’so Brewing, and I poured this beer hoping that O-toberfest would accurately portray the highs that this great brewery is capable of achieving.  Sadly, now that I look at the scores while I am writing this they are mixed.  O-toberfest currently has a score of 78 at Beer advocate.  Over at ratebeer it comes in at a 37 overall and a 45 for style.  Ouch, it’s a good thing that I don’t base what I drink on scores at either site.  In fact a quick glance at the reviews on both sites suggests that the reviewers are either drinking their beer out of bottles left in the sun, or served through dirty draft lines.  Both are always a problem, but a decent reviewer shouldn’t fault a beer for problems that can easily be avoided.  Personally if I get a bottle or pint that has noticeable off-flavors, at least if it is one that I am going to review, I pick up another to verify whether the problem is limited to one bottle, or the draft lines at one bar.

They Say:

Beer Style: Marzen
Alcohol by Volume: 5.5%

Rich German heritage finds it way into development of this malty Marzen-style Oktoberfest. Vienna and Munich malts play a bready, malty symphony. Prost!

Released early August.

I Say:

                O-toberfest pours a crystal clear copper amber.  The head is moderately thick, with ivory colored small bubbles that hold very good retention before to a thick collar around the edges of the glass and leaves heavy lacing behind.  Malty, bready and toasted notes come to the forefront, with a hint of fresh baked biscuits on the back end.  There is the slightest hint of underlying sweetness, which isn’t an aroma, but for lack of a better term I am going to stick with it.

                Rich, smooth, sweet malts immediately come to the forefront in the flavor.  The malt takes on the characteristics of fresh baked biscuits with a blend of bready and toasted flavors mingling effortlessly.  Toasted malt characteristics become more prominent as O-toberfest dries out on the back end.  The rich maltiness is amply paired with a moderate level of hop bitterness.  Medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation, this is a very enjoyable beer.

                O-toberfest like many of the other beers from O’so Brewing is definitely a beer worth drinking.  I know that the scores given to it at the two major sites are less than stellar, but I am very rarely impressed by their accuracy.  When served out of either clean draft lines, a bottle that hasn’t spent time soaking up the sun’s rays, and in an appropriate glass at the correct temperature, this is actually a pretty great Oktoberfest.  I wouldn’t rank it as high as many of their other excellent beers, but it is still a solid example of what an Oktoberfest should be and it is one of the better American festbiers available. 

                If you are lucky enough to live in Wisconsin, you should have no trouble finding O’so beers in your local liquor store.  It might be a little late in the year to pick up a bottle of O-toberfest, but it is definitely a beer to be on the lookout for next year!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jodlerkönig Ale– Black Husky Brewing

                Have you ever wondered what a Märzen/Oktoberfest-ish beer would taste like if it was fermented with an ale yeast rather than a German lager yeast?  Fortunately Tim Eichinger at Black Husky Brewing is more than happy to show off his brewing skills with his own seasonal beer, JodlerkönigAle.  Fermenting what would otherwise be a Märzen lager with an ale yeast opens up a whole host of new possibilities.  In addition to the bready, biscuit, and toasted malts in a Märzen there are now the additional flavors and aromas that fermenting a beer with an ale yeast adds.  There are many different ale yeast strains, with many creating fruity, spicy, sour, clove, or earthy characteristics in a finished beer.  All that is before even getting into the additional roundness and mellowing of aromas and flavors that many lagers have due to their extended lagering period, or the aromas and flavors that come from simply fermenting an ale yeast at a higher temperature.

                Aside from the obvious differences between Jodlerkönig and other fest biers (a shortened term for Oktoberfest bier), it still uses all of the traditional German ingredients that make Oktoberfests an excellent fall bee
r.  While the shift in yeast strain can have a large impact on the aroma and flavor of a beer, there is still a lot to be said for using high quality ingredients with the same regional origins because even the location in which the grain or hops are grown can subtly influence the final beer.  The usage of regional ingredients is always appreciated and Black Husky Brewing has never let me down.  Any of Tim’s creations are bound to be good, drinkable, and satisfying if not excellent and among the best in the country.  His belief that beers should be as extreme as possible could potentially come into conflict with a fest bier, but Black Husky releases quite a few extremely malty and complex beers, just the qualities that make a good fest bier so refreshing.  So, as always I was ecstatic to pick up a bottle and actually write a review of it this year.

                As with many Black Husky releases there is no score for Jodlerkönig on either of the two major review sites although another of the local bloggers posted his thoughts a while back, but as a general rule I don’t read other beer review blogs so that my personal reviews aren’t influenced by their musings.

They Say:

In years past, Milwaukee’s German Fest crowned a Jodlerkönig each year. In 1991, Jacob Eichinger won the contest at 10 years old. Jodlerkönig is brewed in the spirit of the German and American fest beers. After all, no fest is complete without a Jodler, so join Harold as he extends Gemütlichkeit to all his friends as they raise a stein of Jodlerkönig.


7.1% ABV
15 IBUs
12 SRM

Tim adds: It’s an ale not a traditional Oktoberfest yeast but it uses all German Pilsner and Munich malts with German and Slovenian hops...  I'm a big fan of Styrian Goldings.  It’s good, in fact I’m drinking one right now, although that’s not really relevant.

I Say:

                Black Husky Jodlerkönig Ale pours a very clear light copper tinged amber with a thick, small bubbled head with a slight soapy breakup.  The head holds moderate retention, fading back to a collar on the edges of the glass within 5 minutes and leaving heavy lacing behind in the glass.  Toasted and biscuit malts make up the front end of the aroma with a hint of light caramel as well as herbal and earthy hops rounding out the back end.  The aroma is pleasantly malty without going over the top, right around where it needs to be to still stay relative to what everyone expects out of a good fest bier.

                Toasted and biscuit malts come to the forefront in the flavor transitioning to light caramel malts, and a smooth blend of floral and earthy hops.  The flavor takes a fruity turn with notes of red plums and figs, likely from the use of ale yeast.  The fruity flavors mingle with toasted malts in the finish, and aftertaste.  Jodlerkönig is moderately malty with a moderately low level of hop bitterness.  It is just on the high end of being medium bodied with a moderate level of carbonation.  As with any good fest bier, Jodlerkönig is smooth, rich, and malty with just enough hop bitterness to balance out the malts so that it is it not cloyingly sweet.

                The subtle caramel notes and the fruity red plum and fig esters in Jodlerkönig aren’t necessarily at place in a fest bier, but a lot of the additional aroma and flavor notes, or at least the fruity flavor notes, likely came from fermentation using an ale yeast rather than a traditional Oktoberfest lager yeast.  They might have come from the malt, but based upon the available information, the stone fruit in the flavor seems unlikely.

                Whether the fruity notes belong in a fest bier or not is unimportant here however.  The real question we should be asking is, is this a great fall beer, and in the case of Jodlerkönig, the answer is a definitive yes.  As with many of the beers that come out of Black Husky, Jodlerkönig is technically not to style, however that makes it no less delicious!  There will still be bottles of Jodlerkönig in select liquor stores around Wisconsin for a while yet so be sure to head out and pick up a bottle of this year’s batch while you still can.

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

                Happy Drinking!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest – Tyranena Brewing Company

Few beer styles are as appropriate for the season as the Märzen, more commonly referred to by its alternative name, Oktoberfest.  Technically only Märzen beers brewed within the city limits of Munich are an “authentic” Oktoberfest, but let’s not get involved in technicalities.   Märzens have historically been brewed in March and cellared in ice filled caves during the hot summer months and pulled out of storage for consumption after extended aging.  Beer started to be brought out of storage late summer, but there was always so much that full barrels were still in the cold storage through mid-September when it was time for harvest.  Every year as the grain was harvested there was a conundrum.  What better use for grain than the brewing of beer, but there was still beer left over from the March batch (the Märzen).  What better way to fix the problem than to drink all that beer.  Sure, the original Oktoberfest was the impressively long celebration of the marriage of King Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Sax-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810, but those crazy Germans have found a reason to celebrate almost every year since.  Oktoberfest has grown to become the largest beer celebration in the world, King Ludwig would be proud.

Fortunately Wisconsin has a strong German heritage, so over time Oktoberfest celebrations have become increasingly popular here.  Almost every brewery in the state releases an Oktoberfest Märzen, or an Oktoberfest inspired beer this time of season and it just so happens that one of my favorite Wisconsin breweries, Tyranena has one as well, the Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest

Founded by Rob Larson, Tyranena has been producing “Legendary Wisconsin Beer” from their Lake Mills location since October 21, 1999.  Lake Mills is situated between Madison and Milwaukee on I-94, 25 minutes east of Madison and 50 minutes west of Milwaukee, making them an ideal stop on a drive between the two cities.  If you are near the brewery on a Saturday, be sure to stop by before 3:30 to get a brewery tour.

            Their taproom is staffed by a knowledgeable crew of bartenders who will happily recommend a beer if you are not sure which you should start with, or share the stories behind the beers in their Brewer’s Gone Wild series, their line of extreme beers.  Every beer that I have had from Tyranena has been extremely enjoyable and I am always on the lookout for their next BGW or seasonal release.

            At Beeradvocate, Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest currently has a score of 82. Over at ratebeer on the other hand, the current score is a 57 overall with a 90 for style.  The two sites, appealing to different groups of beer drinkers, often have radically different scores for the same beer, but they seem particularly off for this one.  So much for using them as a benchmark, eh?

They Say:

            Gemüetlichkeit translates from German as “the fondness of feasting, drinking and merry company.”

            This is true of most everyone in Wisconsin, especially those of us at the brewery.  Each September in the nearby city of Jefferson, Wisconsin, thousand turn out for Gemüetlichkeit Days, a celebration of the area’s German heritage.  We invite you to celebrate the spirit of Gemüetlichkeit with us.  Don your lederhosen, kick up your heels with a polka and raise a stein of our Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest with a friend.  Ein Prosit!

            ABV: 5.5%
            IBU: 22
            Serving Temp: 45-50°
            Malts: 2-row, Pale, Caramel, Munich, Victory
            Hops: Liberty, Tettnanger

I Say:

            Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest pours a very clear orange/coppery amber.  With a moderately thick, creamy white head that holds very good retention and leaves a thick collar around the edges through the remainder of the glass and leaves light lacing in the glass.  The aroma is rich and malty with toasted biscuit and nutty dimensions.  Hop and yeasty aromas are noticeably absent, as they should be in a good Oktoberfest.

            The flavor, like the aroma, is rich, with toasted and nutty malt notes that pair with slight floral hops.  It is slightly sweet with a subtle caramel character on the front end with very smooth, creamy, moderately high maltiness and a moderate hop bitterness that helps to balance out the sweetness. Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest has a medium body with a moderate level of carbonation.

            As with many Oktoberfests, Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest has a strong malt backbone with just enough hops to balance out the sweetness and make it especially quaffable.  I only wish I had either a 1 liter bottle of Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest, or a Tyranena mug to pour this excellent beer into.

            With the inclusion of American 2-row, Pale, and Caramel malts, this is Gemüetlichkeit is missing out on some of the soft, toasted biscuit notes of a traditional German Oktoberfest, it also has slight caramel notes which are out of style.  More importantly however, Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest is a great beer that I am more than happy to drink in mass quantities, style guidelines be damned!  If you are looking for an easy drinking Märzen lager to get you through the early fall, Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest will certainly fulfill your requirements so raise a mug and experience Gemüetlichkeit!

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

Ein Prosit!