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.

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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.

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?

Taking the chance to add your homebrew to an event that rates and compares a diverse array of top brews from professional breweries across the planet is a bold move.  You are putting your craft out there for comparison with a variety of tested and often perfected recipes produced by brewers who have made the switch to brewing as a profession. In addition The decision of where to place the brew in a twenty four day event had to be a difficult decision. Put it too early in the list and risk that some have not had the opportunity to expand their palate to the variety of adjuncts and new flavors that many breweries are playing around with lately, too late and people may be more locked down on the flavors and styles that they have liked thus far. Being the third in a series of twenty four I need to disclose first that this entry came after two brews that I found highly palatable and will may end up purchasing at a future rate having enjoyed both.

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I chose to pour into a glass to best matching the style (Belgian Dubbel). It poured well with a decent head with a dark reddish amber color. The aroma had rich malty sweetness with slight notes of cranberry and very slight clove spiciness that can come from Belgian yeast. The flavor was very tart which partially distracted from the malty sweetness. The back end was somewhat bitter and the tartness from the cranberry flavor definitely remained.

Out of the gate I approached this expecting a traditional dubbel but was overwelmed by the tart cranberry. I found that given some time to come closer to room temp the tartness mellowed and I found it to be a more drinkable brew for the last few sips. I would place this brew in the category of specialty holiday brews to try once but couldn’t see going through more than one.

img_3677In the dance between malt and hops the Scotts favor the flavor of the malt. This brown ale is smooth and just a bit sweet, but very drinkable. Not the kind of taste you’d spend an extended afternoon with but certainly something tasty for the 11.3 ounces this bottle contained. Better than the more common brown ales and from a brewery deserving our respect I was glad to see this one in the mix.

Still, rated it only 5/10. Served at 38 degrees in a Guinness (did I cross a line?) pint glass.