In May of this year I married the most wonderful person. It was a ceremony that people will remember (it was 32 degrees out in the orchard) and a reception people may not (we went through over 2,000 bottles of beer). 3 months later we went on our honeymoon to Colorado and stayed at a house near Edwards in the Vail Valley. It was there that we stumbled upon, literally, Crazy Mountain Brewing Company.

In Denver, where they began, rent is not cheap and space is hard to come by. In Edwards, the “downtown” is the opposite. Crazy mountain expanded into the community a few years back and their remote brewing facility began and the taproom we found opened. Touring the area we always found our way back to this one – it was small, yet developed, engaging and tasteful – something you will find in this Wit.

Drinking this beer takes me to a barbecue, and in winter that is not an easy task, mentally. On the nose there is a hint of molasses, mixed in with marmalade and a light green fruitwood smoke. Drinking it does not give the same flavors – its botanical like my father’s garden, full of floral and herbs. So the whole package here is late summer with the cookout made with the fruits of the labor in the garden. Its like my favorite event – smökathon – that we put on every summer, full of flavors and experiences you may not expect.

While Wit may not be my favorite style by far, this beer does well in my book for what it does in my head, remind me that I am fortunate to have all of you with me. So from the pit to the garden I raise this glass to you – thanks, and happy trails.

Holding this beer in hand you have to feel a little giantesque. Its a 14oz tallboy. Weird. Its like a small redbull with beer instead of funk. But the funk is still in there – this one gives it off as a funk of old malt on the nose instead of the funk of college. That comparison doesn’t quite do the beer justice, as this one also smells like college as well after drinking it for a while…

Its Crisp! The name got it right. This lager beer gives rise to grain fields and bubbly yeast. Its a flavorful beer in a small vessel. Hopefully in the future they can expand on their ideas and offer something more inside the can, either in volume or in flavor. That is all.

 

“Brewed under the purity law of 1516”

We were fortunate to get this beer as a 24-pack (some of you following us in the beer advent have found a one-off or two due to not being able to find 24 of one type). Total Wine was unloading this case as we were coming around and the research we did on it had us tac this one into the list.

This Doppelbock has all that the style has to offer. Malty, toasty, boozy. It even has that bit of metallic twang at the end. There is a german restaurant in the area called the “Black Forest Inn” (and how do we not have a review of there on this site!?) that imbues the ideas I get while drinking this beer.

Story time: There was a winter a few years back where the twin cities were hit with snowstorm and proximity and a gift certificate had us push the snow aside as we opened the doors to the german joint we had heard so much about. A few regulars sat at the bar and we sidled up next to the least-drunk ones and ordered our first round and gravy-ridden appetizers. By the end of this drink, and a few that others sent our way, we were raising our mugs to the air and singing drinking songs of the motherland while snow continued to pile up outside. We left with a group of friends that night who we had never met before.

Thats what this beer tastes like to me. Easy – like a night spent staying warm and having conversations with people while eating wonderful food. But thats just me – whats your thoughts? Leave you comments below.

summit-barleywineAs the post-modernists taught us- it’s all about context. You should know that the context of me sampling this brew includes me just coming home through a -5 degree evening and the disclosure that English-style brewing is pretty much as good as it gets in my world. Add the anticipation of a Hammer Horror flick on Svengoolie tonight and you pretty much get an idea of the setting.

This barleywine has the delicious mouthfeel of a good mix of malt with just a bit more hops flavor than most British ales. It warms the heart on a cold night and the mouth on the way down the tube thanks to the 11.5% ABV. Summit claims that toffee, marmalade and citrus ought to make up the taste (along with some spices) – my read is yes to the toffee, yes to marmalade, and after you are told it is there, not so much for the citrus (which is good for me). I think the citrus gets a bit lost in the high alcohol?

This is a great sipping beer for the winter. I’ll have to see if I can get some before we get completely snowed in. I will admit that the first swallow was bit overwhelming. The rest has gone down smoothly. Summit continues to hit the mark. It is the best of our many local breweries, and many of them make some excellent beers. I served mine in a snifter-like glass at about 50 degrees.

 

28 IBUs – 6.1% ABV – Caramel, Apple, Earthy, Floral, Earthy

This beer is a malt powerhouse. The color conveys it all, a deep red that has almost no visibility through the glass. There is a surprising faint aroma of caramel apple on the nose. Not heavy, but faint like a pie baked at the neighbors house. It is a basic beer, nothing to note on either side – good or bad.

New player in town. Located in Faribault MN, famous for their caves and F-Town is trying to make it famous for their beer as well. To me, it is an odd composition of a brewery saying they are going to be famous when they are also advertising that they need a head brewer as well…

This poured into a glass with no head, and low carbonation climbing the sides. Decent beer, but I might go for the Barley John’s Wild Brunette instead – both were high malt big beers but the Brunette had a better mix of flavors and balance of carbonation, hops and malt.

First thing of note: Before you open it, notice the word “Crushable” given as a complete sentence in its side. Not in reference to the can it resides in, but in reference to the liquid it holds. The phrase itself gives way to the memories (or absence of memories) of nights spent in old basements on college campuses and the lingering smell of this beer in the air. Yes, I would say this beer smells like college. Giving heed to the can, I decided to try to crush this beer and drink the whole thing in one go. Sorry Baderbrau, this beer is not “crushable”. I would have your marketing department try “$1 Happy Hour Worthy” instead.

Its not that this beer is bad. It is what it claims to be – easily drinkable. Its carbonated water with a barley insert. So the second thing of note: What makes this a Bohemian Pilsner? There is almost no head on the pour, there is no spice from the hops, and the flavor has no complexity to it. If they did use the Saaz hops required of the style, there is little lasting effects of its addition to the brew.

So, the final thing of note to this review: Chicago, you can keep your pilsner, the twin cities will continue to drink the bohemian pilsners here that truly represent the style.

baderbrau-logoFull disclosure on this one- I am a bit of a pilsner snob. With so many mediocre American Lager/ Pilsners dominating the market for so many years I really do have a strong bias toward the great taste of traditional pilsners like the mighty Pilsner Urquell. Unfortunately, this “Chicago Pilsner” does not hold up.

pilsner-urquell-logo-1024x784

Let me digress – Would a “Minneapolis” Pilsner be Grain Belt’s Nord’east? A St. Paul Pilsner be Hamm’s (the beer refreshing)? Both are reasonably tasty on a warm summer day and both much better than this Chicago entry. The Baderbreu simply lacks the crisp clarity of the pilsners I favor- it feels more like a lager of the mid-eighties variety.

This canned sample poured a good head but had little carbonation at 35 degrees, it did leave a nice lace on the sides of the Brooklyn Brewing shaker glass. If I see it on tap somewhere I’ll give it a second try, until then I’ll have to settle for the sold-out-to-the-big-guys Goose Island/ 312 options from the city of wind.

troispistoles1I had serious issues with this beer. After pouring the glass I offered a taste to my wife, whereupon she said she liked it and headed off into the next room! What to do? Fortunately she returned shortly with the glass half empty allowing me to continue the review.

A dark ale with good roasted malt and cherry flavor and just a tiny hint of hops. Poured a nice head and left just the right amount on the glass as I drank it. Not enough bite to drink more than one at a sitting but I did like the flavor and my wife REALLY liked it. Even at an ABV of 9.0 it did not have a high alcohol feel. This one  could sneak up on you.

Recommended. I had it at 35 degrees in a Guinness pint glass. Might be fun at bit warmer in a snifter while wearing a smoker jacket in front of a fire.

This beer pays an homage to a lady the brewer knows that could be classified as a “wild brunette”. Having known brunettes in my past it makes sense that this beer company moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin, and lets everyone know that they came from MN. Left too early to see the beer boom here and now longs to be known once again as a Minnesotan…

You might be confused when you drink it – unless you know what wild rice tastes like from the field. This is not a beer that will blow your mind or having you set it down the first time to a “wow”. This one builds on you. Like “Minnesota Hot Dishes”. An outsider looks at it and tries it, but there is not much there. Then there is the second tasting. For this beer, this is the subtle harshness of the Wild Rice – for the hot dish it is the subtly of the minor flavors like mushroom or potato. The color comes from the wild rice as well, with a red-brown hue.

Overall, this one is a tasty treat, but its wonderment may be lost to those who do not treasure the flavor of wild rice as we do – which may be why Barley John’s is trying to be “Minnesotan” again…

ABV 6.5% – 75 IBUs – Citra & Cascade hops – Tangerine Puree

This is an IPA that was made for the nose. Pouring this into a glass it comes out orange-brown and has the distinct, and heavy, aroma of citrus rind. It has more grapefruit than tangerine on the nose, but the flavor comes through with a blood orange and clementine taste. Its description has it brewed with tangerine puree, but after tasting it this could just be spooned out of a cylinder of juice from your freezer.

I’d call this one a gateway IPA. Something you give to your aunt who loves grapefruit but can’t drink it anymore, and at a holiday gathering you pass this to her and just say “Try it”. “But I don’t like beer, what kind is this?“. “Violet, you’ll like it”. “But what kind is it?“. “It is an IPA, just try it already!”. “Ok, but if I don’t like it I am giving it back“.

Later that night you find your empty case in the beer cooler of a garage and Aunt Violet digging around in the attic for her old doll set, half naked and yelling that someone downstairs ruined her childhood. Like I said, gateway IPA. I’d say its good for a one-pour at a bar, but I would not go for another.