Beer Brief #58 – John Henry Colonial Cream & Brown Ale

Brewery – Cold Spring Brewing Company, Cold Spring, Minnesota

Beer – John Henry Colonial Cream & Brown Ale

Style – Imperial cream and brown ales blended and aged on brandy oak spirals

ABV – 9.3%

Color – Reddish copper with a light tan head

Aroma – Brown sugar, waft of tart cherry, little bit of spice, toasted bread, hint of alcohol

Flavor – Caramel, toasted rye bread, light roast coffee, raisin, slight tart cherry again, balancing bitterness, bit of alcohol

Verdict – A very enjoyable sipping brew with an aroma that pleasantly matches the flavor, but with less roast. While alcohol is definitely noticeable in the aroma and flavor, it is towards the subtle end of the spectrum and doesn’t detract at all from the rich character. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this beer, but after trying it I would definitely recommend that others do as well.

P.S. – This brew is advertised as being aged on brandy oak spirals. Rather than using oak barrels, it can be more cost effective for a brewery to use spirals like this. Due to their large surface area, they can increase the amount of oak characteristics extracted. Typically, if there is a spirit associated with the oak spirals (like the brandy for this beer), it means that the brewery has actually soaked them in the spirit before aging the beer on them. I haven’t officially confirmed that this is what Cold Spring did with this brew, but it is a good possibility.

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Tin Whiskers Brewing Company Visit

Recently, I visited the most recently opened brewery in Saint Paul, Tin Whiskers Brewing Company. I had been following their progress for a couple months, and joined their email list so I would know when they planned to officially open the doors to the taproom. Last week, I received that notification. They opened on Friday, May 16th, and it was reported that they had a full house that night and on Saturday. I wasn’t able to make it this past weekend, so I decided to stop into the brewery yesterday.

Walking into the brewery, the first thing I noticed was the very large and open taproom. The outside “wall” facing 9th street is all windows, allowing the space to be illuminated by daylight. A useful arrangement (and a good number) of tables and chairs are spread throughout, including a couple of well placed sofas. There is also a nice long bar for anyone who wants to be right next to the taps and get a good view of the brewery. Nothing separates the open space of the taproom from the brewery area, which makes the whole place feel that much larger.

I sat down at the bar and took a look at the TV displaying the available beers and prices. They have 4 beers at the moment, along with a bonus nitro version of their stout. I ordered a flight so I could sample Batch Alpha (American Wheat), Batch Beta (Stout), Wheatstone Bridge (American wheat with honey and chamomile tea), and Flip Switch IPA. Check out my twitter feed if you want to see details from the experience. I will say that I was mostly happy with their solid selection of beers for having just recently opened. While at the bar, I was also fortunate enough to get into a fun bit of conversation with one of the 3 founders of the brewery, George Kellerman. Thanks for the beer chat, George!

On the bar, their were little flip-book style signs that had various relevant information. One of the pages encouraged taproom patrons to bring their own food and/or order from any of the nearby restaurants, including Key’s Cafe, Sawatdee, and Black Sheep Pizza. I was very tempted to order some delicious food, but I resisted this time. I’m sure I’ll end up ordering something next time.

Another of the pages in their book describes how they have a “stage” for each of the beers that they have on tap. The “stages” are listed on the TV alongside the beer names, and this page from the bar-top sign is the key to understanding them. Here is a pic:

I personally think it’s a pretty cool idea. They’re keeping their customers well-informed this way and also giving them an opportunity to share opinions on the Alpha and Beta beers, which might even be reflected in the next batches.

When I was done with my pint of nitro Batch Beta, I got up from the bar and took a couple pictures as I made my way to the exit. I had a good experience in this new taproom and I felt that a return trip was inevitable. Then I looked at this wall and I saw that the Tin Whiskers mascot already knew I would be coming back. Just look at what I’m talking about:

Yep, I’ll probably be visiting again soon to have a beer with the robot…

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Back From Unofficial Hiatus

Wow.

Has it really been 3 months since I made a post? It seems that it is so…

I dropped the ball on that one. Although, I did have a few other things contributing to my delay. Let’s see. Loss of 2 loved ones in a short time (sad), birth of a new child (happy, but hectic), and changing of employment (first scary, then exciting). Yep, a lot has happened to my family in a brief period…

As I sit here sipping on a Schell Shocked Grapefruit Radler (which I do enjoy), it’s occurring to me how much my life has flown apart in such a short time. Getting spread in so many different directions due to major events tends to do that, I guess. Along with neglecting the blog, I haven’t brewed a batch of beer in months, and I haven’t been keeping up with my Coborn’s beer tasting responsibilities.

Well, it’s time to start pulling things back together. And returning to the Lupulin Libations blog is one of the steps that will help me to accomplish that goal. I miss writing about beer. I’ve continued to stock up on local brews in my absence, and tried my best to keep up on my knowledge of our local brewing culture. So, let’s get this thing going again, shall we?

Many of you realize we’re in the middle of a major craft beer renaissance. Breweries are popping up like weeds in a garden (which are a little delayed for us this year, thanks to the Minnesota chill hanging on). Our local beer scene is no exception to that rule. Whether it’s HammerHeart Brewing with its Norway-trained head brewer or the soon to open Tin Whiskers Brewing with its 3 electrical engineer founders, we have quite a variety of fresh and interesting local beer options.

This is a great time to be a fan of quality beer, and I intend to continue my quest to learn more about our Minnesota brewers and the tasty brews they offer. With each passing week, more local zymurgic companies, products, events, and culture emerge here in Minnesota. I will do my darndest to resume my duties as a local beer advocate and blogger to make at least one blog post per week pertaining to my chosen brew-topic.

I hope you’ll all welcome me back. Let’s have a beer to celebrate!

Cheers!

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Beer Brief #57 – Black Ops

Brewery – Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York

Beer – Black Ops

Style – Imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and re-fermented in the bottle with Champagne yeast

ABV – 11.5%

Color – Opaque black with a tan to light brown head

Aroma – Milk chocolate, toffee, anise, blackberry, vanilla, hint of coffee, bourbon, sweet alcohol aroma similar to sake

Flavor – Semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla, medium roast coffee, bourbony goodness, definite alcohol flavor, blueberry in the finish?

Verdict – This is a very enjoyable rich imperial stout that has the noticeable aroma and flavor of alcohol, but drinks lighter than one would expect. There is not a discernible “hotness” from the ABV, even though it makes its presence known through the other senses. Still, if you’re lucky enough to find a bottle, I would recommend aging it for at least 6 months. That should mellow out the strong alcohol character. As is though, this is a solid and enjoyable brew. If I can find some more (which I doubt), I will have to buy a bottle or two and put it in my Brewbicle for future sampling…

P.S. – The mystique revolving around this beer is awesome. I went to the Brooklyn brewing website to get more info for this Beer Brief, but didn’t see Black Ops listed with their other brews. I had to do a Google search to get the “secret” Black Ops page on Brooklyn’s website to show up. Here’s the link to the page so you can read the very cool description on their site.

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Beer Brief #56 – La Lune Special Ale

Brewery - Borealis Fermentery, Knife River, Minnesota

Beer – La Lune Special Ale

Style – Belgian style special ale brewed with spices

ABV – 7%

Color – Reddish copper with a thick, rocky, off-white head

Aroma – Honey, cotton candy, biscuity malt, bit of stone fruit, herbal spice

Flavor – Honey, caramel, toast, bubble gum, light fruit, strong earthy bitterness

Verdict – A nice Belgian-style that starts off great but finishes much more bitter than I like for this type of beer, so much so that I’m finding it challenging to consider buying another bottle. Of course, that’s just my thoughts on the old balance of malt sweetness to bitterness. La Lune does seem well crafted and I am definitely intrigued enough by this brew that I will want to check out the other beers in the Borealis line-up.

P.S. – The name of the brewery, Borealis Fermentery, instantly caught my attention. Being a native Minnesotan who visited the BWCA twice a year during my teenage years, I developed a great fondness for the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) after watching them in the night sky numerous times.

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Beer Brief #55 – 120 Minute IPA

Brewery – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Delaware

Beer – 120 Minute IPA

Style – (super huge) Imperial IPA

ABV – Anywhere from 15-20% according to the website

Color – Hazy reddish copper with an off-white head

Aroma – Biscuit and caramel malt, brown sugar, green resiny herbal and spicy hops, surprisingly slight alcohol

Flavor – Big rich malt profile, caramel, toffee, a bit of toasted bread, chewy resiny hops, a bit of grapefruit, maybe a hint of mint leaves, semi-sweet wine, alcohol (although not in the levels you might expect for a beer this big), bitterness that struggles to balance the sweetness of the brew

Verdict – This beer does not drink at all like it’s ABV would imply. This is a big, rich, sweet brew that obviously used a lot of hops, but not enough to overpower the malt bill and the alcohol. It drinks somewhere between the qualities of a English barleywine and an American barleywine, but with much higher alcohol. Although, you’d be hard pressed to guess that it’s ABV is any higher than 10-12 percent. I am really enjoying this, and I think it would make a great after-dinner brew to share with a good friend.

P.S. – I’ve always wanted to try this beer, but have never been able to get my hands on a bottle of it. (It doesn’t help that Dogfish Head doesn’t distribute to Minnesota.) I was finally fortunate enough to try this big brew thanks to some friends of mine. I recently saw them when they were up for a visit from Texas and they gave me this very special brew as a birthday gift. Thanks for the tasty experience, Reid and Brenda!

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Beer Brief #54 – St. Whatshername

Brewery – Pour Decisions Brewing Company, Roseville, Minnesota

Beer – St. Whatshername

Style – Belgian tripel, fermented with brettanomyces and aged in wine barrels

ABV – 9%

Color – Between straw yellow and gold with a white head

Aroma – Honey, hay, barnyard, cotton candy, white pepper, tart cherries

Flavor – Mellow sweetness, grassy, touch of lemony tartness, leather, dry white wine, herbal bitterness

Verdict – As a fan of brett beers, I have to say this brew is really enjoyable! The fact that the entire fermentation was done with brettanomyces is amazing to me as a homebrewer. It has just the right amount of funk and acidity to go with the tripel malt base, while the wine barrel aging has definitely added a noticeably crisp character to the flavor. I might have to buy another soon…

P.S. – Pour Decisions is no more! I had been a fan of this brewery since the beginning when I attended their grand opening celebration. At first glance, it would seem that this was the end for the Roseville brewery. Luckily, that’s not the case. Pour Decisions recently merged with Bent Brewstillery (who had been brewing their beer in the same brewhouse) under the Bent Brewstillery name. According to the website, Pour Decisions head brewer Kristen England will continue to be the head brewer and keep pumping out the beers from the Pour Decisions lineup along with the Bent beers. So, that means we will hopefully continue to see St. Whatshername for years to come!

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Coborn’s Tasting Today!

I fell behind schedule and didn’t get this post up as early as I would have liked…  Oh well, better late than never, right? This is very short notice for any of you who read the blog, but here goes:

Today, from 2 – 6pm, I’ll be pouring some delicious samples at the Hastings Coborn’s Liquor. What’s more, this will be my first time sharing delicious brews with you since I officially became a Certified Cicerone®! Stop by the store and have a taste from these options:

  • Bell’s Christmas Ale
  • Green Flash Le Freak Belgian IPA
  • Samuel Adams Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout
  • Summit Unchained Batch 14 Biere de Garde

Also be sure to enjoy a little beer talk with me while you’re there. I can help you find the perfect brews for gifts and/or pairing with your holiday meals!

I hope to see you there!

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Beer Brief #53 – Old Friend Holiday Ale

Brewery – Indeed Brewing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Beer – Old Friend Holiday Ale

Style – Winter warmer brewed with honey and fresh ginger

ABV – 7%

Color – Red with some copper and a light tan frothy head

Aroma – Toffee, ginger, biscuity malt, hint of nuttiness

Flavor – Very similar to the aroma, biscuity nutty malt, caramel, very faintest hint of chocolate, ginger, touch of berry fruitiness, herbal hops, nice balancing bitterness

Verdict – Quite the enjoyable winter warmer. The malt and hop profile reminds me a bit of an ESB, while the ginger adds a nice complementary spice. Moderate carbonation does a great job of amplifying the ginger, and the pleasant medium-body mouthfeel is capped off nicely by some alcohol warmth after swallowing. I’d definitely be happy to call this brew an “Old Friend”.

P.S. – So far, this is the seventh beer I’ve had from Indeed. I must say, I haven’t been disappointed by a single one. If you have an opportunity to try any of the brews from their line-up, I highly recommend you do so! I know they are ranking pretty high on my “favorite Minnesota breweries list” these days…

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Bomber Tasting on Thanksgiving Eve

Just wanted to make a quick post to invite all of you to the Hastings Coborn’s Liquor tomorrow for our first ever Thanksgiving Eve Bomber Tasting. From 4:30 – 8:30pm, I’ll be pouring some tasty samples from multiple 22 ounce bottles from our shelves. Beers present will be:

  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
  • Lagunitas Imperial Stout
  • New Belgium Lips of Faith Coconut Curry Hefeweizen
  • New Belgium Lips of Faith Yuzu

So stop on by the store and try some samples with me. I’ll also be happy to help you find the perfectly delicious brews to pair with all your favorite Thanksgiving dishes. I look forward to seeing you there!

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