Sweet, Boozy Relief, …just in time.

Into my Flat Earth snifter you go, Winter Warlock….the name and occasion is apt, as I thought last week, when we spent time in summery sun and basked in 60-degree weather, and the melting snow slipped out the sins of winter, that spring was finally here, at last. I was the fool, and the magician who rules the weather made a mockery of my delight…we’re back at winter again, for awhile, and it’s warlock now rules us. Aw, well… on to investigate this ale.You are golden, sorcerer, with a quickly gone head… your aroma is mostly rich, sweet, boozy malt…I’m not feeling much more from it. Taste: more slick, more sweet, more malt, more booze…not exactly what I expect from the barleywines I enjoy most, and have historically found to my favor, but it is quite nice in it’s own regard. Lacks the hops of many of those, and leans heavily on the malt…something about that dynamic takes it somewhere else, indeed.  Golden, bright, crisp, and, yes, boozy…the 9 % isn’t shy at all. Not that I’m complaining.I think Jeff Williamson has a thing for Fantasy/Sci-Fi/sword & sorcery,Tolkien, mythology, etc…not that I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons with him, but I bet if you played craps at his house, the dice would be twelve-sided.  Sweetness is just right for a dessert or a nightcap, and the alcoholic warmth is well-needed in chilly evening (okay, mornings) as this…  ’tis a fine ale…works nice, tonight …another winner from Flat Earth. I almost forgot the Haiku!Okay, here goes….”Winter Warlock brew/ rich, sweet, malty elixir/ thaw my chilly bones.” 

Sessionable English ale, from Duluth

Haven’t had one of these in a while. Let’s crack a crown and jump right in… Cloudy coppery color, slim off -white head…nice…Aromatic bitterness greets the nose…classic English-style hopping. Green apple tinge to it, with a bit of the pine thing from American hops, mixed with  caramel malt.Tastin’ it…bitter hop smack on the palate, then the apple and a bit of butterscotch,…bitterness reigns, though isn’t overpowering, just right for an English style pale ale. I’m no expert, I can’t say if it’s Fuggles or East Kent Goldings, I just know it tastes British, and fits right in for the style.Though I favor American style pale ales and IPAs these days, I can drink this down without a problem. Just enough hops and flavor to keep my tastebuds occupied.  Haiku #9 (for week 10)…”Lake Superior/ Northern-most of the Great Lakes/ not bad beer, either.” 

A bite of springtime

Good ol’ August Schell, our standby, our stalwart, keeping the German styles going for nigh on 150 years. Good ol’ gold and green MaiFest label…the bottle’s open and now I drink…Clear, golden hue, big, lasting, creamy white head…loverly… Sweet malty nose, apples and cereal husks, with whiffs of honey…wow, a lot going on here. Shines bright in the nose, but in the taste… beautiful. Tons of fresh malty flavor, but never too heavy, very drinkable, and floods of flavor keeps rolling in…Crisp and delicious…lays on the palate a bit, then softly drifts away. Seems better than I remember it…are these guys improving after nearly a century and a half? Haiku #8 (for week 14? I’ve got catching up to do!)Though April showers/may come your way, drink the beer /that they brew for May.

I drink your pilsner! I drink it up!

In a Flat Earth pint glass (too lazy to search the cabinet for a proper pilsner glass), it’s a clear golden color, lovely white head, starts proud and slips down in size. Flowery aroma, and the hops are happening, clean and level headed.Drinking it…smooth, even, mild, and watery. Tidy bitter smack from the Hallertau hops right up, and then they slide back and merge with the water and disappear down the throat without a thought. Hops return with each sip and enjoy a nice visit on the palate each time. Light bodied, easy drinking, and right on for style. Almost perfect. And I’m no huge fan of lagers or pilsners, but this suits just fine. Haiku #7:  Czech town of Plzn / birthplace of clear, golden beer / look what you started!

Not…quite…exactly…right

“How fortuitous / that these brothers’ mother did / meet a Mister Brau”..Haiku #6 for you!My second Minnesota-brewed Belgian pale of the night, having just finished a Flat Earth. Not my favorite style, but it has it’s charms. Cloudy crimson colorings, little head on it. Aroma of soft, ripe fruit, yes, plums are detectable, also apple, grape. Fruit is big, followed by Belgian yeast character, and malt. A little spice, maybe. Bolder,  brighter, spicier, frutier in the flavor. A little louder than it ought to be, maybe missing some malt/yeast character to give it identity. But it has some appeal, easy drinker, interesting flavor, just …not quite…exactly…good. Like that jigsaw with the missing pieces that were probably eaten by the dog years ago…it’s just not together. The problem is, it’s okay as it is, but should be a lot better. 

On my ship the Rocinante/ wheeling through the galaxies/ headed for the heart of Cygnus/ headlong into mystery

“Not a fan of Rush/ a bit too trippy for me / this porter rocks, though.”Haiku #5, collect ’em all.Pouring this into a Flat Earth snifter, maybe not the perfect vessel, but my FE pint glass is dirty.  Dark, fairly black, nicely toasted tan head. Roasty, bittersweet nose, some espresso notes, cocoa, vanilla & cream. Rye really comes through.Solid. Good entry on the palate, even, smoothish, well-balanced, dry finish. Roasty, some coffee feel, some chocolate, hardly any sweetness,  ultimately dry. Medium bodied, long, dry finish. Like they say on the label, it really is a porter like no other, and I’ve got to give it up for that. Very satisfactory. I’m partial to porters, and I think they’ve got a winner, here. 6.5% alcohol, a bit high for a porter, but when it’s as cold as it is tonight, I’ll take all the heat I can get!This pleases me the more I drink it. Great to have another well-done locally-brewed porter, and an acceptable alternative to Surly Bender! 

Think “dessert beer”… enjoy in patient moderation.

“Surly, two years old/ not ev’ryone’s cup of tea / as this beer will prove.” Haiku #4, you’re welcome. I had the first taste of this when I tapped it on the 23rd of January, (at the Blue Nile) and I sipped it and raised my glass and smiled. The bar was surrounded by throngs of Surly fans, and I didn’t want to spoil their enthusiasm. It didn’t win me over with the first slip down my lips, unlike Surly Furious or Darkness.

(I’ve heard this from other folks since then, that the first sip is not the best.) By night’s end, though, when I got a chance to relax and take my time, I was won over. Deep black, with crimson tinges, cocoa-tan head, with purple tints. Fruity nose, matched with roasted malts. Lightly sweet, with a side order of tart.Taste: there’s the tannins. I heard Todd Haug talk about why cranberries have that tannin feel we know from red wine, but I forgot most of what he said. Damn. Something in the bogs, I guess. There’s a flash of sweet, met with a smack of tart, a fun little jitterbug on the palate, followed by some black and chocolate malt flavors. A very unusual brew, closest I’ve encountered has been Bell’s Cherry Stout…never heard of one done with cranberries. It’s probably been done, heck, just about everything’s been done with fruit and beer by now, but I haven’t had it, yet. More I drink, more I like, not too sweet, not too dark, not too rich, not too tart…an intriguing blend, very fresh and lively, a labor of love to commemorate two fun years of great beer. I can certainly see how opinions here will divide on this one, and the extreme flavors, and high alcohol will surely temper enthusiasm. It’s not a session brew, and maybe would be best enjoyed as a dessert brew. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with “one and you’re done”…although I could go for another. But, just one more. So, don’t knock this for what it’s not. You can only enjoy it for what it is.

Crack for the Hop Head

Hops, hops, hops, hops, hops/ bed of Golden Promise malt/you are perfection…there ’tis, #3 in the haiku series, enjoy!Fresh off the tap. Cloudy and red, big head, leaving lace…lovely to look at, delightful to smell. Grapefruit, pine, pithy citrus, and loads of other tropical fruits, a bit of mango, too, I swear. Blissful bitterness!Drink up! A blast of beautiful hoppy flavor, mixed with lush Scottish malt, full of satisfying flavor for any hophead. Not one? Not for you!It’s a lip-purser, and a mouth puckerer, a palate smacker, a bitch slapper! Each swallow and sip brings it back. The hops slip under the tongue, lay on the palate, and hang around. Some don’t like that, some compare it to “aspirin”…I think it’s tingly tasty ‘tantastic!  If you hunger for the flavor of hops, this is your candy, your mistress, your heroin, your hustler. The malt is here in plentitude, too, and eventually reveals a hint of chocolate, as well. I’ve been loving this for two years now, and await a lifetime of more such love!Looking forward to the rest of your thoughts, but take it easy on the can copy…I wrote that stuff! Will you perceive it as a tempest on your tongue, or…will you love it? You know I do! 

Points for trying

German brewery / makes Belgian abbey dubbel / not half bad, at that. There you go, haiku #1…don’t worry,  they’ll get better.(wait…is “belgian” two syllables or three?)I reviewed this from a bottle back in November, for beeradvocate.com, gave it a 4.05 (out of 5). But for this site, I feel I should do it fresh and stay in the game, so I stopped in at McKenzie’s last night to taste it on tap. A 20 oz pint for $4.25 during happy hour.Didn’t like it as much this time. Poured a clear, deep garnet hue, with small head, very sweet nose, flavors of dark fruit and light spice, turning dry and peppery.Mix of the same continues in the taste, berries match cocoa powder, rounding out dry and balanced, with easy drinkability.However, the body is too light, and there’s just not enough meat on this dog’s bones to really do justice to the style. I love dubbels, consider them my favorite style of beer, and would rank Ommegang, Westmalle, & St. Bernardus  as the top for me. This version falls among the lower tiers, sorry to say. I’d like this darker, as well, and without the syrupy sweetness that pops in from time to time.  Still, props to this old, tradition-bound brewery for giving it a go! Who knows what’s up next from them?