Bender, but don’t break ‘er

I absolutely love everything about Bender.  The look, flavor, aroma-all of it.  Deceptively smooth and expectedly delicious.  It is a bastard child of a brown ale and a porter, with a little more hops than either bring to the table alone.  I’d constantly keep this in the fridge if the price was a little bit easier on the pocket.  Go on a bender with Bender and your wallet will certainly feel it too.  But as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  A premium price for a premium beer.  Don’t let imminent economic meltdown make you drink crap beer, though.  I think it was the Bible that stated, “Man cannot live on crappy beer alone.” Preach. 


While much better than the 2007 Snowstorm, I’m not really that impressed with the 2008 version.  Definitely malty, with the rye coming through as well.  They say hints of chocolate, but I’m not catching it.  Good head and carbonation.  Not bad, not great.  Pretty much par for Schell.

The old reliable Twin Cities metro area beer

The reason I say this is that, usually, no matter where you go in the TC,  you can at least get yourself a Summit EPA.  I take advantage of this when I end up at bars/restaurants that have limited beer selections.  The Summit EPA, to me, is what Grain Belt Premium is to a lot of people.  The EPA is not a world-class talent, but it sure beats the pants off of the typical bland domestic light beers.  It is versatile enough to appeal to the light beer crowd, but is hoppy and flavorful enough for those like me that would rather take a punch in the teeth than to be stuck sipping a Bud, Miller, Coors, Busch, or Michelob.  A reliable old friend that can be counted on to be there for me when others don’t show up, that’s my Summit EPA.

The Best of Schell’s Line-up

Not that it takes much, but the Stout is far and away the most flavorful and impressive of all Schell beers.  Looking more like a bottle of root beer that you might buy at Gander Mountain or Cabela’s than an actual bottle of the suds, it’s a bit deceiving to the eye.  Good, bold choco-coffee stout flavor and heavy enough to fill the belly with warmth, I really enjoy this beer. 

Third is the word

I have to agree with Rett here.  Putting the Schell up against the Summit and Surly varieties is a guaranteed bronze for the New Ulm nectar.  Not that its a bad beer, which it is not.  It is just that it lacks the personality and “flava” of it’s Oktoberfest counterparts.  On par with most Schell offerings, which always just seem to lack a little punch.  Schell:the C-student Minnesota beer.  Don’t get down, though, you can still be President.

The hops define this beer

The extra hoppiness contributes wonderfully to the overall flavor character of this beer.  It has the look and initial similarities to the other Oktoberfest beers, but the extra hop kick puts Surlyfest miles ahead of the competition, at least in my book.  I felt like the aroma was a little like an old dishrag, leaving me thinking that I might not have washed my beer glasses properly, but, no, it was the beer.  That would be my only dislike about this beer.  Otherwise, the Surly boys have brewed up another winner.  The can design is a beautiful touch as well. 


While I’m not out slashin’ police cruiser tires and protesting, I am taking part in an even better aspect of this year’s RNC.  The Convention Ale is a well carbonated, reddish hued beer with an excellent malt to hop balance.  I can’t tell much by the aroma, but the taste is subtle and smooth.  A very light malt flavor that doesn’t linger on the buds for too long, you don’t have to be a beer aficionado to appreciate this beer’s craftsmanship.  Once again, the St. Paul water is doing it for me.   I don’t even care if it’s daughter is knocked up or not, Flat Earth is bound to steal some votes with this one.  Three cheers, four stars.

Bocky Porter

This is more of a bocky porter than a portery bock, in my taste.  It pours nicely and looks promising, but the overall character of the beer leaves something to be desired.  Like most Cold Spring beer, it just lacks a little personality.  Now I’m not saying this is a bad beer, in fact, it was quite enjoyable.  It just sounds like a better idea on paper. 

Pils popper

Per usual, the Schell folks put out a good, not great, beer that is light in flavor and easy to drink.  I can’t think of much to say about this offering, except that I prefer it to the typical domestic light beers.  A little more body, a lot better flavor, and overall a more satisfying bottle of suds.  A good balance of malt and hops.  I will drink it again.

I’m not Bitter

I’m not bitter about picking up this beer, but I am a little disappointed that I didn’t like it.  The Surly guys have the Midas touch when it comes to beer, yet I can’t really see myself ever buying the Bitter Brewer again.  The aroma and aftertaste was a bit too floral for my liking.  Sure, it’s got a clean crisp intial taste, but something about it just doesn’t turn my crank. 

State Fair beer

Let me be the first to not give this beer 5 stars.  I guess it might be because I taste this beer with my tastebuds and not my heart, but Grain Belt is sub-average in the taste department at best.  Although I agree that it is a good beer for binge drinking, I see little value to it other than that it is always the cheapest beer available at the State Fair.  I do, however, prefer a Grain Belt any time the other choices are Bud, Bud Light, Mich Golden, Miller Lite, and Coors Light, which is often the case at bars back in my little hometown.  Not being a hater here, just my opinion.

Special is as special does

I was in Duluth the other night and ordered up a Special Ale at Grandma’s.  This was my first encounter with the Special, though I am a huge fan of the Oatmeal Stout.  The coppery red color and hop aroma were the first things to stand out.  The initial sip was great, finishing with a nice hoppy nudge (weaker than a kick)  and a slightly citrus-y aftertaste.  A smooth beer with decent flavor and a respectable level of carbonation to boot.

I find myself liking the Lake Superior beers more and more with every one I drink.  Visiting their website, I wish that we could get more of the seasonals and special brews down here.  The selction looks fantastic, especially the brown ale and IPA.  Does anyone know of liquor stores down here that may carry the specials?

A Superior Oatmeal Stout

I like my beers dark and roasty and coffee-y, so it comes as no surprise that I love the Oatmeal Stout.  I’ve had many oatmeal stouts from a number of breweries, and the Lake Superior offering is right up there among the tops. 

I have very little to say about it other than that it is a great beer for those whose likings are a little on the dark side.  This beer has been a fairly regular selection for my home refrigerator.  I’m heading to Duluth tonight, and hope to find this on tap at some local watering holes. 

Mai oh Mai

First of all, I must start off by saying that Maibocks aren’t exactly my favorite types of beer, so I have a difficult time judging them.  The Summit Maibock, while in my opinion is better than the Maifest,  still leaves something to be desired.  It is a bit on the sweet side, and lacks the hops to really make a mark on the palate.  I really can’t say much more about it, except that it isn’t really something that I would drink very frequently and would probably only order one if the alternatives are domestic light beers.

Cygnus a song, you’re the piano man.

Great roasty, malty, mochafied, chocolatey taste when it hits the mouth.  I can kinda pick up the rye on the aftertaste, but probably only because I read the description stating that it was in there.  I can see where some others liken it more to a nut brown ale, reminiscent of Goose Island perhaps.  Good aroma and dark in color, just like I like ’em.  The carbonation seems to be on the brink of perfection.  This bowl o’ porridge is juuuuuuust right.   The more I drink it, the more I like it.  These Flat Earth cats know how to craft a fine brew.  I give it a 4.5 only because perfection is the end of progression.

I love potatoes!

But I’d rather sip on a cup of mashed ones with gravy than to drink this crapola.  Weak flavor, flat, and has a crummy aftertaste.  It doesn’t help that my first experience with Finnegan’s is when I ordered it at a half-ass Irish pub (Kip’s in St. Louis Park) and caught major attitude from a 1/4-ass waitress.  Maybe that’s the bad taste in my mouth, nope, wait, it IS the beer.  Boo this beer.  BOO! My rating is extremely generous at 1.5

My frame still hangs a little to the left

The color looks good, decent carbonation, has a little baby head. Clean taste. Goes down pretty smooth. I can pick up a little clove on the aftertaste. Doesn’t linger too long. Surprisingly short on hops. Thought it would be hoppier? Like many others, I thought it would have a little more oomph, what with the name and all. I’ve been trying to train my sniffer to differentiate odors better, but all I smell is…beer? As it warms (which I hate to let my beer do) I can start to detect the plum aroma. All in all, I am quite satisfied, though hardly overly impressed. My socks are still on my feet, if you catch my drift. A solid contribution by the Braus. I think even a few of my blue collar buds might actually like it, and they hate nearly everything that isn’t Busch, Mich, or Bud. I’ll give it a notch above plain jane average-3.5 of 5. That’s passing nearly anywhere you go.

Where can I find a barrel and a waterfall?

The mildly hoppy aroma complements the hints of clove flavoring quite well.  The taste lingers on your tongue long enough to be enjoyable without being overdone.  Not overly hoppy, just enough to let you know they’re present, but not enough to have to do the roof of the mouth/tongue smack thing.  It’s not a beer that I would typically buy, but I’m glad that I joined Brew 52, otherwise I would probably have never just picked one up.

By the end of the bottle, the spice-y aftertaste begins to take hold.  I wonder how my breath smells to other people after drinking this?  By the way, the guy on the bottle reminds me of a lot of the empty suits I see walking in the skyway during lunch hour.  Classic.  Re: the bottles being too big? I disagree.  Just better for sharing the wealth, though my girlfriend didn’t like it much.  Oh well, more for me I guess.  Things could be far worse.

I suppose it’s close enough to Mai…

…to start enjoying some Maifest.  The Loon already has it on tap, so I reckoned I’d give it a try at last Friday’s happy hour.  A decent hoppy aroma gives this blondey a better than expected flavor that goes down smooth and bitterness-free.  I happened to drink the Maifest right after a Newcastle, so my bias (and residual taste) was difficult to overcome.  Another enjoyable, albeit unspectacular offering from the Schell’s folks.  Next time I’ll drink it with a clean palate and see what I think of it then.  3 out of 5 ain’t bad, though. 

The March 31st Snowstorm

I was able to find a sixer of Snowstorm lurking in the back of the liquor grocer’s cooler and decided to pick it up. No wonder it was sitting alone on the shelf. I poured it down the middle of the glass and got nary a bit of head out of it. After settling for 15 seconds, there was no carbonation whatsoever. The taste was flat to boot. In fact, it tasted like I was drinking it out of a soiled pair of Sorels.

I had last year’s Snowstorm and remember being quite impressed by it. Well, no two snowflakes are alike. This much is true. I could pick up the raisin aroma after it warmed up a bit, but the overall flavor was as bland as a fratboy’s musical tastes. I kinda wish I had left that sixer sitting on the shelf. And so it goes.

Don’t let winter get you down…

…get down with winter beer.  The Summit Winter Ale is a darker beer that can be enjoyed by those whose palates are more accustomed to enjoying lighter offerings.  The subtle coffee and caramel/chocolatey floavor is what I like most about this beer.  You can definitely have more than a few without feeling overly full, in contrast to what a lot of people generally think drinking dark beer will do for the stomache.  Compared to Sam’s Winter or Schell’s Snowstorm, I would definitely take Summit over either of these any day. 

Furiously Surious

The strong hops and piney flavor may cause most casual beer drinkers to recoil in horror.  Resist this urge.  Upon first taste, my ‘buds were surprised as they had never quite experienced this type of flavor.  However, after this initial reaction I found that I really enjoyed the Furious and came to appreciate its unique construction.  You probably won’t want to knock back a 4-pack of pints at first, but once you acclimate to its hoppy goodness, you may find yourself changing your tune.