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Saturday, August 31, 2013

American Amber (Rogue)

I got a pint of this Amber on the tap at my neighborhood chain restaurant/pub. It's a good spot for a patio (and cheese-drenched food) on a nice summer day. I've had an assortment of Rouge beers ranging from their flagship Dead Guy Ale to some more innovative brew in their Grow Your Own (GYO) series (full list here). I don't remember having this one though, so I took some notes down.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This bright amber brew had a thin white head that quickly disappated. It smelled slightly toasty.

Taste: It had a generic bitterness I couldn't place. Probably added to the boil early on when making it. That hop flavor didn't overpower. It was a good amount for the style. It finished malty, grain bag malty. It was really nice. When I go for an Amber, this is what I'd expect. Smooth bitterness and good-quality grains.

From the Rogue site:
Tawny in color, with a coffee aroma, tight head and a delicate roasted malt accent. Generous use of hops and a smooth finish.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bombshell Blonde (Newcastle Breweries)

On a hot summer day, on the patio of my local chain restaurant/pub, I encountered a brew that I'd been avoiding. As many humans do, I have a tiny fear of the new. Not so much a fear, but an overly critical view at times. I love Newcastle's brown so much, I didn't want to taint positive thoughts with a bad brew. I hate to say it, but even though their brown is a good standard, I didn't have much hope that any of their other beers would be good. Maybe it's because they are owned by Heineken now (since 2008) and maybe it would be mass-produced swill. Even with a very good friend praising the not-brown Newcastle offering, I was skeptical.

I bit the bullet...and it was ok.

A bit of background. This brew was introduced this year as a limited summer release (May-July). They have two listed on their site for a winter line up: Alternate Ale and Winter IPA. (UK distribution only.) So they are definitely branching out.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This clear-yellow brew had a white, frothy head. It was incredibly carbonated with bubbles rushing up to the head. A ring stays around. I wasn't able to smell much over the cigarette smoke around me.

Taste: It was watery and sweet. It wasn't as flavorful as a good German pils. As an ale it was better than most lighter beers (no lager aftertaste). If it was incredibly hot, it might do the trick. There was nothing horrible about this brew. I just look for a little more flavor. Maybe I can chalk it up to the smells around me or an overly salty meal. I'd give it another shot next year.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bacon Fest Portage 2013: Bacon Bust?

I arrived at the first annual Bacon Fest Portage unsure of what was in store. It was free and in a park I'd never been to. I knew it would be a different take on a bacon fest, different from the elite Baconfest Chicago. There were no big names to sell this fest, other than bacon of course. The American obsession with bacon has had me scratching my head for years. Is it wonderfully delicious if done right? Certainly. Do many other cultures have bacon and cured pork? Of course. But why the need to push the limit? Why the bacon soap and bacon candies made with low-grade sweets and sodium-laden meat?

Would I find my answers at this hometown fest?

Well, not really. What I observed was long lines for deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dogs with cheese. Lines that went by the port-a-potties. How could you have a taste for food standing by the johns? Was it the bacon they were after, the deep-fried-ness of it, processed meat, or the cheese? Maybe it was the picture on the sign of a well-endowed woman enjoying that big sausage. It also could have been that it was one of two booths that still had bacon at this mid-point of the festival.

Friday, August 23, 2013

It Must Have Been the Roses (Hunter's Brewing)

This is my last in a long series of Hunter's Brewing notes. I know I'll have at least one more to add if I visit their fine pub tomorrow. Never ending this note taking seems.

This Belgian IPA was put on tap as we were ending our visit, but we couldn't walk out of the door without trying this rose hips-infused nectar.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This brown/dark-gold brew had a tan head that lingered as a layer. It left heavy lacing on the glass as I drank it down.

Taste: This was a complex flavor explosion. It was tart from the hips, floral from the hops, sugary from the malt, and had that Belgian-yeasty flavor. It was different. It didn't have the bitterness of Houblon Chouffe. Maybe it was because the tartness balanced it out, maybe it was because the hop flavor was more floral than citrus or pine. I can't say, but I really enjoyed this one. Very long name, very tasty brew.

Steel Town Girl (Hunter's Brewing)

I was able to have a short pour of this saison before it got tapped out. It was a good light brew. I could see it coming back next summer, if not before.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This yellow-gold brew had a bubbly white head that quickly dissapated. It smelled sugary.

Taste: It was lemony tart. It was a bit of a contradiction; it was acidic and silky at the same time. This was a good simple saison.

Side note: I'm not one for beer blends. If they wanted to make the beer that way, they'd add it to the recipe. That said, whilst mocking the idea of blends, I ended up trying a blend of this with the Aubade Hefeweizen. It was a nice extra lemon to complement the citrus of the wheat while cutting some of the hearty grain.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Benevolence (Hunter's Brewing)

This Belgian Dubbel was on tap at Hunter's a few weeks ago. It was a brew to savor.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This dark amber-brown brew had a cream-colored head. It smelled incredibly grainy.

Taste: This tasted like the grain bag. It was toasty with some caramel maltiness too. The Belgian sugars were a nice balance (think syrup in oatmeal). It was rich and delicious.

Aubade (Hunter's Brewing)

This cloudy wheat was a good summertime brew. It's not on tap anymore, but I could see it coming back as some sort of summer standard.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This straw-colored brew had a frothy white head. It smelled wheaty.

Taste: The heaviness of this brew is cut by a sharp lemony acidity. It leaves a clean finish. This brew is refreshing and hearty. I wanted to just soak this bright and flavorful beer in. While the wheat was definitely present, it wasn't bready. My mouth is watering thinking about it, not a bad sign.

We The People (Hunter's Brewing)

Another Hunter's beer to add to the list. This brew was on tap last month. I had a quick pour while catching up with a friend. The notes are terse; I give it a general thumbs up.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This dark-brown brew had a creamy head. It smelled very roasted.

Taste: It tasted like roasted sugar. Not like caramel, but sort of. The hop bitterness melded so well with the roast smoothing it out and making it all fit well with the style. A nice simple brew. I'd really like to try this side-by-side with the Mild Child. In my mind, they are both pretty similar, but I won't know unless I try them together.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ailbe (Hunter's Brewing)

As of last week, this Irish Blonde was still on tap at my new favorite, local brewery Hunter's. I'm starting to slow down a bit notewise; I've had most of what are becoming standard offerings. Though every time I stop in they still have one or two new brews. Six months in business, and they've already had around 35 different recipes (27 of which I have notes for with six in queue). It's hard to keep up, but I like to keep the notes, so I'm in a constant state of catch up. These notes are mostly for me and the locals, since these brews are not available outside of the taproom (yet). But even if you don't have access to these wonderfully-crafted brews, it may give you some ideas for your next brew!

This brew is a standard for it's style. It's light and balanced. On nitro it would be like the more widely-available Wexford.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This light-gold brew had a white froth for head. It smelled sweet.

Taste: It was richer than expected, but still refreshingly light. It was balanced with a slight bitterness, so you knew it was beer. It was sweeter than it was bitter. This one would have a large appeal to those who like everything and those who go for something a little more light.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Valpo After Hours: Taltree's Glow

Valparaiso's Taltree Arboretum hosted their first Glow: Art After Dark event this week. The weather was fantastic, and I was looking for a way to get the most out of my day. This event was a great time for kids to enjoy the thrill of being out late at night and learn a little something in the process. The upbeat music and interactive tours made the event fun for the whole family.

The admission fee ($10 for adults) is a donation to preserve the native landscape in Northern Indiana. It goes to supporting educational programs as well. Well worth it for a nice night out.

It had four main attractions: Stargazing, Guided Hikes, Moth Exhibit, and Art Exhibits. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Local Brew at The Cardinal: Weizen Bock (Sand Creek)

This is not a typical summer brew, but with the dip in temperatures in much of the nation, it's worth writing about. This weizen bock was on tap at Cardinal Bar in Madison, WI. The Cardinal was a fun little spot with a good selection of spirits and local brews. They even had a local Wisconsin rum available. It was a great spot to enjoy some jazz and standards and nibble on some Cuban fare from the spot next door with a convenient window by the bar. Skip the bread unless you get the olives (it's good for soaking). The croquetas were tasty, but no need for the dipping sauce. It's laid back in the afternoon, but seems to be a party spot late night.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This cloudy, dark-brown brew had a white head that stuck. I didn't really smell much on it, but I wasn't sniffing it too much.

Taste: It was very sweet and very banana/clove. It was rich and spiced. It was a hearty brew, representing the other side of weiss bier. The complete antithesis of a refreshing citrusy summer wheat. It was a good representation of the style. That little spice complemented the sweet malt nicely.

From the Sand Creek site:
A true to style wheat doppelbock. Sip this beer slowly and taste the banana, cloves, figs and dates imparted by the German yeast. Allow to warm slightly and the caramel, toffee and brown sugar flavors will shine from the various specialty malts used. Prosit!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another Year, Another County Fair

This year was another year for the Lake County Fair. I was able to get to the fair the day before it ended, there was no way I'd miss it. This fair holds fond memories as the first county fair I'd ever attended. (Check out my post about the 2011 experience). This year was worth writing about again. The weather was nice enough for healthy agricultural exhibits and happy animals. I knew the lay of the land this time. With no heat to slow me down, I methodically worked through the fair.

First stop, a cheese curd brunch. I had readied myself for a quest for the perfect cheese curd, but seemed to hit gold my very first stop. They were light and crisp. The cheese was creamy and salty (but not too salty). All of the crisp little nuggets were full of cheese too, no empty shells of batter. Well worth the $6.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Replique (Crown Brewing)

This past weekend was the perfect time to hit the county fair. And I made it the day before it ended! The weather was gorgeous, and all of the fruit and veg exhibits were as fresh as the first day.

After enjoying all the fair had to offer (food, animals, shows, and crafts) we hit up Crown. It's been two years since we've visited, and they were on our way home. First off the tap for me was Crown's version of 2013 Summer Replicale. It was a Saison with loads of additions.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold brew had tiny white bubbles for head. It smelled lemony and musky. It left moderate lacing as I drank it down.

Taste: The lemony flavors of the Sorachi Ace hops came through fully. It had a sharp bitterness to it that got stronger as it warmed. The dry and peppery flavors of the yeast (and additions) came through. I would have liked if they left out the white peppercorn and grains of paradise seed and just let the yeast alone carry those flavors. It had both a pithy bitter and a neutral hop bitterness. That bitter spike kept me from fully enjoying this. I like a good, bitter IPA, but I wasn't going for an IPA. The French Saison has such a naturally good and complex flavor and the additions detract from that.

From the menu:
This year's Replicale (many Indiana breweries brewing the same style) is a deep-gold, pale-orange colored beer with a fruity aroma reminiscent of oranges or lemons. The flavor is a combination of fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character. This thirst-quenching Saison finishes dry with a peppery note. Brewed with white peppercorns, grains of paradise seed, and Sorachi Ace hops.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

2013 Replicale (Hunter's Brewing)

I'm admittedly behind on my Hunter's notes. They have so many good ones on an ever-changing tap list, it's hard to keep up. I picked this one to write about today because it's still on tap, but it will probably be gone fast. I had this Indiana Replicale last weekend. This year's 2013 summer Replicale is a Saison, but it seems that breweries are doing wildly different things with it, so it's hard to make any type of comparison.

It's been a few years since I was introduced to the idea behind the Replicale. Indiana breweries brew the same recipe for the most part, using their yeast of choice (matching the style). They can throw in whatever additions they want, and it seems this year whatever hops they want, so I'm not sure it's even required to be the same recipe anymore! Somewhat confusing, but nevertheless fun to try out what the different breweries are doing. It's easier when you're surrounded by breweries in Indy, but I'll try to make my rounds here for 2013. This brew has made me curious once more.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This orange-amber brew had a creamy ring for head. It smelled like gingerbread to me.

Taste: It was spicy and bready. Those savory flavors were balanced out by a caramel flavor. It was slightly sour and dry. I've been brewing quite a bit with French Saison yeasts lately (last two batches and a cider), and I'm really in love. The yeast really came through. It was crisp, a little sour, and slightly peppery. It really complemented the rye spice. A good union of flavors.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gimmicky Beer Hall and Watery Dunkel (Hofbrau)

I've been to Überstein in Chicago and drank my way through Hofbräu brews. They've never really been go-to lagers for me, but I've been known to have one when it's on tap at a fest or other event.

It was a long week for me. I was picking up Mr. K at the airport so we hit the newly-opened Hofbräuhaus Chicago (Rosemont). It was like a beer hall theme park. It was gimmicky. The food was bad. There were televisions everywhere. With no soft surfaces between the posters of Old Bavaria, the television and few people around were a loud echo.

I really wanted a beer though. And this is what I got, the dunkel.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This brown-amber brew had a white froth for head. It smelled malty sweet and toasted.

Taste: It was sweet with a toasted flavor. It was very watery. It was a watery Märzen (more toast than a deeper dunkel).

From the Hofbräuhaus Chicago site:
Today, Hofbräuhaus Chicago’s Dunkel – the archetypal Bavarian beer – is still as popular as ever. With an alcohol content of around 5.5% by volume and a subtle spicy and rich flavor, this is a refreshing beer that suits all kinds of occasions. A beer in the traditional Munich style!

Friday, August 9, 2013

80 Acre (Boulevard)

Boulevard beers are now widely available. I had never heard of them until I moved to Missouri, and now they are everywhere. From the East Coast to Alaska, this beer is getting around. Their recipes are becoming more consistent, their product line is expanding, and they are putting out some nice collaborations with local businesses and breweries around the nation.

I enjoy their standard Unfiltered Wheat and ZŌN their Belgian-Style Wit, so when I saw this Hoppy Wheat on tap at my local chain restaurant-bar, I figured I'd give it a shot. It was a chilly summer day on the patio, but it was still summer after all!

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This straw-colored and cloudy brew had a white bubbly head that coated the glass. It smelled like lemon and heavy, earthy wheat.

Taste: It was a thick wheat. The hoppiness was mostly finishing (added at the end so you get the hop flavors without the oils breaking down to bitter it). There was no bitterness to this at all. It was still beer, don't get me wrong. It was quite tasty. I haven't had a Gumball Head (Three Floyds) in ages, but people who like that would really enjoy this.

From the Boulevard site:
With roots in two of today's most popular brewing styles, 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer is the result of careful cultivation by our brewers and cellarmen. Their efforts to craft a hybrid yielded a bumper crop of flavor; a delightfully distinctive ale with the aroma of an IPA and the refreshing taste of a wheat beer.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

How Do You Remember?

Everyone seems to remember their lives a little differently. Me, I remember the intricate details, well the all the details except time. I seem to have no concept of time. 

I don't remember dates. I may not be able to tell you the exact dates I left and came back, but I can recount in detail the taste of food I ate, the importance of historical sites I toured, and facts surrounding certain architecture on my first and last vacations. 

I know exactly how it felt to watch that sunset in Juan-les-Pins. The sounds of the water lapping the shores. Watching the little birds taking a dip in the water. Seeing the children, sticky with ice cream, softly talking to their parents. 

I remember the salty olives with the perfect sangria served at a spot on a busy street in Madrid. The spot had a tin napkin dispenser on the table and was far from upscale. The sangria was served in a standard glass with a white plastic bendy straw. It didn't look like much, but it was one of the best I've had. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Moylander Double IPA (Moylan's)

I've had this IPA in my fridge for a bit. It was nice and chilled for this 3rd Annual IPA Day. I've had good experiences with Moylan's for the most part, some exceptional too. This was different than expected.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold brew had a white froth for head. It smelled a little piney.

Taste: It tasted like pine and grapefruit. I wasn't expecting the fruitiness. I was thinking it would be earthy and piney, not sure why, but that's what I was after.

From the Moylan's site:
“If One is Good, Then Two is Better!” Our Moylander Double IPA is fat and resiny, with aggressive and excessive hops swinging on an enormous malt backbone like naughty monkeys on a vine. Double malt, double hops - do the math, it’s academic. This brew has twice the things you’re looking for, and it’s big enough to share with the one you love. And isn’t that what it's all about?

Blackheart (Three Floyds)

I must have started this blog after I had this brew and just assumed later that I had written about it. I have it lurking in my notes now.

I enjoyed this English IPA on the patio of a not-so-great local pub. But it was beautiful out and my friend was visiting. The high point of this bar is the Three Floyds offerings. They generally have a couple of standards and a seasonal. This is actually the first place I had Three Floyds beer. IPA Day gives me a good reason to get these notes out of the way.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This orange-tinted brew had a creamy white head that stuck around. The hop oils left heavy lacing on the glass.

Taste: It had a musky hop flavor. It was piney and dry. It was yeasty too, an ESB-type yeast that made it taste distinctly English. I never picked that up before, but it's been a while since I've had this brew. I've all but abandoned FFF.

From the FFF site:
This beer is Three Floyds’ U.K. IPA brewed with all English ingredients and aged on toasted oak. An artistic collaboration with our friends at Blackheart Tattoo in San Francisco. Check it! May release.

Two Hearted (Bell's)

I figured this 3rd annual IPA Day was a good time to catch up on my notes. With all the beer notes I have to catch up on, this is only one of two straight IPA. I have hopped up Belgians in queue, but no IPA. Quite a departure from my normal drinking habits.

This is a nice, standard IPA. It was the first Bell's brew I ever had, courtesy of a buddy of mine.

I drank it from the bottle at a little coffeehouse meeting up with friends to play board games. So, the notes are terse and light on sight and smell. The picture was a quick one of the bottle. I can post a better one next time.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold-ish brew has a white frothy head. While I had it out of the bottle, this wasn't my first time enjoying this IPA.

Taste: The pithy hop acids cut through a slight creaminess. The aftertaste was properly bitter. It's not Imperial, it's a normal, standard hopped brew with a nice malt balance. They don't try to numb your senses with extreme bitterness. This is not a "hop bomb" as it were. It's a good standard to bring to a party.

From the Bell's site:
Bell's Two Hearted Ale is defined by its intense hop aroma and malt balance. Hopped exclusively with the Centennial hop varietal from the Pacific Northwest, massive additions in the kettle and again in the fermenter lend their characteristic grapefruit and pine resin aromas. A significant malt body balances this hop presence; together with the signature fruity aromas of Bell's house yeast, this leads to a remarkably drinkable American-style India Pale Ale.