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.

jps-craft-beer-4-cansIn the 24 beers of Advent schedule it is entirely possible that I’ve sampled this one out of turn. Nonetheless, let’s get to it.

I sorta liked this beer. It fails the German purity law on many counts and is outside my usual reaction to “they put what in my beer!?” but it is smooth and goes down just fine. No hops of note. Kinda sweet and chai-like, chocolate malts. Even though it went down fine I had to rate this one with a “4”- would only drink this if it’s free. Better than 21st Amendment’s Watermelon, but not as good as Pyramid’s Apricot Ale.

On a related note, the JP is for James Page. James Page was a very early microbrewery in the Twin Cities that made a fine lager and sold home-brew gear. I miss the lager- perhaps now that Stevens Point bought the label it will offer it again?

If there is one thing that I love in life (other than the obligatory wife and puppy response) I would say sitting down in the couch after a day on the job and hearing the crack of a beer and the long sigh that reciprocates from my body.

When looking around to find a “dark” beer or two to fill that criteria in the beer advent I found JPs Brewing sitting on the shelf. This caught my attention because – A: never heard of them, and B: they have a White Stout. For those of you who got the White Stout, you are in for a treat. For those of you who got the Porter, I am doubly jealous. We split this company up randomly for who got the cases

Who knew you could make a Stout that looked like a pilsner? These guys have it [mostly] figured out. Too many times working behind the bar I have been told that a person does not like “dark” beers but in our conversation I slide them one and they say “oh… I like that!” Where did this mantra come from!

JPs White Stout is a stab at that idea. It is a beer that pours light amber but tastes just like a robust stout. Its not a doppelgänger to a stout it has the right ideas – light in flavor, malt backbone, and high drinkability. What really can you ask for in a beer?

Today’s beer is Belhaven‘s Scottish Ale. This brewery has been around a while, first opening its doors in 1719- as a reference: Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire in that year. This beer sits at 5% ABV and 21 on the IBU scale.

Let me take a moment to walk you down memory lane. I spent some time in Kenya, in the farming city of Naru Moru specifically. I was there to climb the mountains and work with the schools that were in the area and how they could exist with the system of testing that they have. Often I would walk the 30 minutes after school down the gravel roads to the pub that existed at the crossroads. This place really only had two beers, and only one was ‘cold’ – White Cap. The taste of that beer after teaching those days made me feel like I was at home with a cold one, even though it was nothing like the beers I would pull off the shelves here. That being said, this beer tasted just so, in a way that my mind could go one of two ways – back to the homeland sitting on a couch, or wondering how a place could produce beer in a land of sagebrushes and dust storms. There really was nothing to White Cap Lager, only sugared malt and carbonation, and Belhaven’s Scottish Ale tastes the same to me.

Now that being said, I am not going to rate this one highly. The taste of crystal malt is not one that my tongue approves of. Although they may get a couple points due to taking me back to a place that my mind has not revisited in a while…

This begins our 24 days of beer reviews as we joined with Beer with Brendan to send cases out to friends and family to taste both what is new, local and unavailable in our area.

To start us off we have Two BrothersHeavy Handed” which is their wet hopped IPA. It sits at 6.7% ABV and 65 IBUs for their 12 for oz bottles. This beer has been produced for a couple years and has a 86 on the Beer Advocate scale of 100. Two Brothers brewing started in 1996 and with “You can buy our beer. You can’t buy our brewery.” proudly plastered on the front of their website you know these two are in it for the beer and not the trend.

Late in the wet hop lifespan this beer has lingering tangy bitter notes and a big mouth of malt. There are citrus tastes like pine and orange rind on the tongue. As it pours there is almost no head and very little lacing down the glass as the contents emptied. The beer finishes with a light linger but not dry as you would expect from heavy-hopped beers. Amber in color (had to ask, I am pretty decently colorblind).  Marked on the back of the bottle is “Cascade Lot #2706” and searches of this only produced real estate in Cascade TX, probably no correlation. They do different batches of this beer with different acreages of hops – It would be beneficial in the future to try a flight of these now that I know this, testing the base with different hops would be great!

What’s your comments on the beer? I gave this one a 5/10 as it tasted overly… everything. Too much of one doesn’t get balanced out by increasing the other for me. But this is coming from someone who does not have a taste for IPAs. Leave your comments.

Living in North Minneapolis we have welcomed the boom of the North Loop as it continues to bring in new places close to home, while still being far enough away to avoid the traffic that follows as well.

Modist Brewing has recently opened and ventured down there to test it out on a rainy Twins game day. The place is sterile, cement varnished floors cover their space and white subway tiles cover the walls that you look at, namely behind the bar. For as expansive it seems, their ceilings are quite high, but the layout makes it crowded even with a modest *ahem* crowd. Their brewing equipment has a unique layout, we will have to stop in for a tour sometime to see how they utilize it.

There was a lot of hype around Modist before its opening, with explanations of who they are and their ideals behind beer, but the night that we came in I did not see those come into play. We tried the beers that they had that night, pHresh, Toats, and Smoove – all with lackluster reviews from our tasting panel.

Modist – we know you have the ability and know-how to create wonderful brews, when should we stop back in to give them a try again after some “Calibration.”

If you live in the Twin Cities you have heard of Surly Brewing Co., beer drinker or not. They are a powerhouse of both brewing and initiating movements – it was the Surly Bill that opened the door for the over 100 brewery/taprooms that are now open in Minnesota where there were less than 10 in early 2011. We have been to Surly’s taproom restaurant many times since it had opened but always for family gatherings or to meet old friends, so our focus was on who we were with and not our surroundings or even what we had. With the temperature dropping below 0 outside and the holidays over we ventured over with hopes that others were going to stay indoors.

The place is a spectacle even by the time your turn onto their street. Located in a field of abandoned grain silos Surly is a beacon of modern. Their sign is a concrete sculpture and right after you walk through the football field of a parking lot you can take a moment to warm up with their olympic style torch at their front door. The interior is an homage to cement and stainless steel with a wood accent poetically conveying the idea of their growth.  Within their vast space is also a sea of people waiting to get a table or just a horizontal plane to set their beer down on. Our wait time on this blustering night was an hour and ten minutes, the hostess informing us that it was a “very typical wait these days”. We would like to think of it as more time for sampling the beer… Looks like our plan to avoid the crowd did not work, even on this frigidly cold day.

Surly Brewing Co. Destination Brewery Beer Hall and Restaurant
View of the beer hall

The hall is alive with streams of employees picking up empty glassware and dishes, and it was an ebb and flow to the people standing on the outskirts waiting for the levee to open and be given a table in the center. The fault in their layout was that the bar had only a small section where those waiting could come up and grab a beer, causing confusion as to who was in line or just standing around. It did seem that there is no ‘Minnesota Nice’ when it comes to getting in front of someone waiting for a beer here, with many groups properly directioned to where they should queue.

The beer list that is served every day is impressive – breaking the choices down by malt-forward and hop-forward categories with a few other beers not being able to be defined as thus as well.  Being regulars of Surly’s section in the coolers around town we tried a few irregulars (Devil’s Work and Witches Tower) and had wished we ordered those as tasters since we were unimpressed with the styles, but happy to have tried them at the source instead of grabbing them in four packs at home (are they even available elsewhere?).

Given a German beer-hall style table we cozied up next to the party already sitting there and ordered right away as we had menus in our hands during the wait. This was a different feel from our recent visits to RAMEN KAZAMA. There were people standing around us waiting for a table, but with beers in hand and merriment all around there was no feeling that we were being rushed or onlookers glaring at the people who continued drinking at tables with empty plates.

The food list is mouthwatering, and their prices match the ingenuity. We got a burger and a cut of pork steak with some cauliflower on the side. The pork was extremely salty but cooked to the right temp and the  sauce almost made you not notice. While rabbit food is not a typical staple next to our meats, the greens were mixed with fruits and sauces that were a bit overloaded on the tart and tangy side, but mixed well with the meat sauce. The burger was a high class big mac (even they say they use ‘fancy’ sauce, a nod to McD’s special?) and the fries that came with it were smaller and crispier than run-of-the-mill ones and quite delicious. We also recommend the cauliflower but avoid dredging them through too much of the sauce, the flavoring at the bottom is hard to get rid of from you mouth.

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Our one wish was that our server had been able to direct our beer orders in a more harmonious direction with the food we were concurrently putting on our bill. Ordering the Smoke with our plates left some bad tastes, but easily erased as we switched to water for a while. It would be hard to avoid this place in the future as it is on the radar for all those who live in the Twin Cities – and even those who do not – but with the atmosphere that they provide and a ever-improving beer list, why would you?

Food: 3.5/5 Unique and delicious, but tasted untested and experimental.
Drink: 4/5 Their usuals are amazing, but order others and you might be disappointed.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Hard pressed to find another place full of people enjoying themselves.
Overall: 4/5 A wonderful place to be and to eat. What’s next for Surly?

I recently found myself 1200 miles from home in Atlanta with a completely free evening and made it my quest to scope out the local brewery scene. As any 21st century person would I took to the web to assist in determining how to spend this serendipitous moment.

SweetWater

SweetWater Brewing Company continued to pop-up in searches, news articles, and reviews. This place has clearly brought craft brewing into the mainstream in the southeast and promotes itself as one of the highest production craft breweries in the country (according to the Brewers Association they were #18 in 2014 – Summit Brewing was #28 in comparison).

The brewery is located in an industrial park north of the midtown area of Atlanta. The “tours” run from 5:30 to 7:30 and the charge when I attended was $10 for a souvenir pint glass, tour, and 6 half glass pours of whatever beers they had on tap – This is how they get around not being able to sell their beer, they sell tours and serve you beer! While they do run their tours throughout the night, chatting with the crowd and servers I found that many people use the brewery as a gathering place to drink a decent amount of quality craft beer for a decent price without ever taking the opportunity to go back into the production area. Fortunately for me this meant that I was able to get my own private tour of the brewery!

Dank TankHaving visited a fair share of microbreweries I was awestruck by the shear scale of this place.  Upon entering, there are racks upon racks of barrels (whiskey, bourbon, gin, tequila) where all kinds of miraculous brews are waiting for just the right time to be tapped.  In the entry area I also came across the “dank tank“, which is basically the pilot vessel for the brewery with an interesting character immortalized on the front.  According to an employee this is an homage to the ambiguously gendered prostitute who would hang around the brewery’s old location and would occasionally complete odd jobs around the brewery for beer.

The rest of the tour covered the usual equipment.  In passing they were emptying one of the fermenters and the remnants from the dry hopping were drained all over the floor.  I have had many exposures to wonderful hop aromas from both home brewing and drinking various high IBU brews, but having pounds upon pounds of hop sediment drained right before you is definitely a sensory experience my olfactories will remember.

Now to the important part, the beers! Like many popular craft breweries, a majority of SweetWater’s beer offerings had higher IBUs (EPA, IPA, double IPA). One beer that I did not try that was popular with many at the brewery (predominantly female or self proclaimed “regular beer” haters) was a blueberry infused pale. Here are notes from what I was able to sample:

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Georgia Brown: Knowing the hop onslaught was coming I went for the brown first. Malty, slight biscuit and nut. Pretty decent brown and a good way to start the evening.

Hop Hash: A “hop hash” infused double IPA.  While I admit I was first apprehensive that the “hop hash” was just a gimmick I was a believer after trying this brew. Strong hop aroma (piney and subtle fruit) well balanced with the malt.

420: This is their flagship brew.  Being an EPA I went in knowing full well that Summit EPA is a standard at home and that the bar was high. Body was a bit lighter than the Summit, distinct hop difference.  Overall I would drink this again but not unique enough to be a “go to” instead of the Summit (if they actually distributed in MN).

IPA: At this point I will admit my palate was pretty blown and my senses were recently rocked by the dumping of hop sediment from a fermenter. Overall it was a solid IPA with a good amount of citrus and medium-light malt profile.

Final Recommendation: If you happen to be in an area where SweetWater distributes, pick some up, and if you find yourself in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend a visit to the brewery. You will not be disappointed!

 

What better way to celebrate National Lager Day and our first single beer review than to drink a hometown classic, Summit’s Pilsener. The beer is a family brew and we like that – the Summit’s founder has family in ND who grows all the grain for this brew.

It pours a crystal clear pale-gold in color with a frothy head. The beer is drinkable, and to quote the macro brew’s favorite word, the drinkability of this beer is immense. I brought this beer to a gathering recently and those present threw those back quicker than any other collection that was available in the coolers (which at this point in December, was the outdoors). The beer has a light aroma to it, like driving past a grain field right before the harvest and there has been no rain. After setting down the glass there was a light buttered caramel and spice from the hops that lingered in the mouth.

Overall, Summit’s Bohemian Style Pilsener is a 4/5. Light in body, and and a beer that is safe to order anywhere its offered.

mancuisine has been a location for us to gather, eat and decide. Decide on how we believed in a place because of the way that we felt while dining and how the food tasted as we enjoyed the company of family and friends.

One thing that we have left out since the beginning has been how the beer that we drank at each gathering [and there has been nothing else] was a part of the experience in their own right. We begin now to also share our words on our drinks and how we rate and taste each one. Our members have been rating beers on Untappd since its inception but have felt stifled by its format.

So here we begin with our beer reviews. With all of the places opening and exploring the craft, its sure to keep us busy.