The Target: Mikkeller Beer Hop Breakfast

Brewed by: Mikkeller (brewed at Amager Bryghus)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: American Stout
ABV: 7.5 %

Commercial description: [translated from Danish] An Oatmeal Stout brewed with: water, malt, hops and yeast. Special version dry hopped with Simcoe and Columbus hops. Idido region coffee from Denmark’s coolest coffee guys at the Coffee Collective.

APPEARANCE (5/5)

Pours a really nice opaque and sludgy brown/black color, one finger deep mocha rocky head the holds its shape similar to whipped cream. Some sticky leggy lacing is left on the glass.

AROMA (9/10)

Dark roasted coffee beans, the slightest amount of citrus and pine. Faint hint of hops with a backing of earthy cocoa and dark roasted malts. Little bit of tobacco in there too. A near perfect marriage of dark or espresso roast coffee, toasted rolled oats, and tarry pine sap hops.

FLAVOR (19/20)

Starts off with a pleasant sweetness of milk chocolate followed up with a slight coffee bitterness. In the middle there is a smoked wood flavor coming out. In addition, the citrus hop profile starts to come through. On the back end the citrus and earthy hops come through and really balance out the malt. The combination of the hop bitterness with the roasty grains and the strong coffee taste is superb.

MOUTHFEEL (5/5)

Medium to low level of carbonation combined with a silky mouthfeel from the oats gives a big, rich feeling as it slides down the palate. No overt residual sweetness or cloying qualities. This, combined with the prominent hop bitterness, makes it quite a clean, sharp finish. Strong notes of pine sap and black coffee remain for a long time after you finish a mouthful.

OVERALL IMPRESSION (9/10)

This is a really well put together Stout with just enough hop character to balance out the rich thick malt flavors. One of my favorite Mikkeller offerings.

FINAL SCORE  (47/50)

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The Target: Elysian Bête Blanche

Brewed by: Elysian Brewing Company
Seattle Washington USA
Style: Abbey Tripel
ABV: 7.5 %

Commercial description: Belgian-style Tripel. A twist on the French expression “Bete Noire”, Bete Blanche is extremely drinkable, blonde and somewhat treacherous.

APPEARANCE (5/5)

Large pillowy white head forms quickly. It doesn’t stick around very long, settling into a generous amount of picturesque lacing. Body is a very deep hazy gold with an orange cast.

AROMA (8/10)

A sharp, spicy aroma greets the nose with notes of ginger, tart citrus, earthy coriander and nice honey-like notes. The classic candy sugar aroma is here in spades as well. A backbone of solid, clean malt character is found with notes of biscuit, soda crackers and even some sweet malt aromatics.

FLAVOR (14/20)

This is where the beer starts to come undone for me…at least from a Belgian Tripel stylistic point-of-view.  Too much sweetness up front. Followed by pear and apricot and to a lesser extent by banana and clove. Mid-palate, plenty of bitterness arrives, with some woody pine. I find the hop bite should have been more on the spiced side as opposed to the bitter side. It’s lacking that pleasant pepper spicy finish of a classic Tripel.

MOUTHFEEL (3/5)

Light body. Moderate carbonation. Fruity and a tad too sweet. Really could use some balance overall.

OVERALL IMPRESSION (7/10)

Based on it’s own merits it’s a pretty nice and drinkable beer…nothing too exciting. Judged strictly as a Belgian Tripel, it’s on the sweet side which the style dictates it should never be.  The esters are somewhat there but I would have liked to taste more banana, clove and pepper spiciness.

FINAL SCORE  (37/50)

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Beertography and Review: Elysian The Mens Room

Brewed by: Elysian Brewing Company
Seattle Washington USA
Style: American Amber / Red Ale
ABV: 5.6 %

Commercial description: A portion of the net proceeds from every Mens Room Original Red sold goes to helping support the families of our military vets through the VA Puget Sound Fisher House and Ft. Lewis Fisher House. The Mens Room Original Red is brewed for The Mens Room Radio Show on 99.9 KISW The Rock of Seattle.

APPEARANCE (4/5)

The beer pours a hazy, dirty orange color with a two finger frothy khaki head that very slowly settles into a thick lasting ring.  Glass is left coated with soapy lacing.

AROMA (7/10)

The nose is of a slightly grainy caramel and sweet bread malts that nearly cover up some piney and citrusy hop notes. Pleasant and appropriate for the style, just not terribly strong in the nose.

FLAVOR (17/20)

Malt up front;  graham crackers and caramel. The floral hop character comes through in the middle to a sharp bitter. Some hop bitterness to balance, but the sweetness is lacking, from what you would expect from a red/amber. Citrus notes exist along with a bit of spiciness and a peppery finish.

MOUTHFEEL (4/5)

Good mouthfeel, a little sticky. Alcohol, though not strong pulls some of the cracker like dryness off your tongue, leaving an unusually clean feeling palate.

OVERALL IMPRESSION (7/10)

Pretty nice and drinkable beer…nothing too exciting.  I wouldn’t go out of my way for it,  but I wouldn’t turn it down either. Besides, it’s for a good cause.

FINAL SCORE  (39/50)

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Beertography and Review: Oskar Blues Gubna

Brewed by: Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery
Longmont Colorado USA
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 10.0 %

Commercial description: Emphasizing that complexity of character can arise from simple elements, this ale is made with 3 malts and 1 hop. Its light amber color and slightly spicy malt character are derived from the use of German Dark Munich Malt and Rye Malt respectively. North American 2-row barley combines with the other grains to lay the foundation for the hop onslaught to come. Summit hops are used exclusively in the boil for bitterness, flavor and aroma but it doesn’t end there. Post-fermentation dry hopping allows the 10% ABV monstrosity to gently coax the citrus rind and grapefruit aroma to join the 100 IBUs already present. This beer will greet you with a pungent citrus blast, provide a spicy yet round middle and finish with a brisk, clean bitterness.

APPEARANCE (5/5)

Gorgeous deep orange with golden tones. Upon the pour, a two-finger off-white head develops and  quickly dissipates into small rocky islands of foam. No doubt the high ABV is responsible for the lack of staying power.

AROMA (9/10)

Complex and extremely floral bouquet of lavender and jasmine at first, with a pineapple, apricot, and honey sweetness in the middle, and finishing with piney, resiny hops at the end. Also has a weedy, hemp-like quality.

FLAVOR (18/20)

The taste delivers the promise of the nose. Tropical fruit quality lands the first punch in the form of mango and pineapple.  Grapefruit, blood oranges and perhaps a hint of lemon as well.  The generous malt backbone is sticky sweet with caramel. It helps balances out the intense notes of wet and juicy hops nicely.

MOUTHFEEL (5/5)

The mouthfeel is medium-bodied Bitter and piney up front with creamy, slightly sweet middle and long bitter finish. I found the  carbonation level spot-on. Just a warning…it’s extremely drinkable but at an ABV of 10% it will catch up with you.

OVERALL IMPRESSION (9/10)

Refreshingly drinkable and doesn’t wreak havoc on the palate even though the hop profile is so intense. I would not hesitate to put it in the company of Dogfish Head 90 Minute, Bell’s Hopslam, and Avery’s Maharaja. This has to be the best combination of thick, piney, syrupy, resiny hops combined with a crisp, clean, fresh floral aroma. And extra points to Oskar Blues for the homage to the Mel Brooks masterpiece, Blazing Saddles. Every can is ring with the phrase, “Give the GUBNA a Harrumph. Harrumph.” Unfortunately, Oskar Blues is not distributed in Ohio at this time. Luckily, our neighbors to the east in Pittsburgh have plenty on hand 🙂

FINAL SCORE  (46/50)

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My Friday Fieldtrip to JAFB Wooster Brewery

Friday afternoon I made a little field-trip to JAFB Wooster Brewery. Yes folks, there’s a one-man craft beer revolution going on in the heart of Wayne County‘s Amish country. That man is Paul Fryman.

I had a chance to sit down and sample their offerings with owner and brewer Paul Fryman. Eight years ago Paul was an Allegheny college student studying abroad. Over time his tastes shifted from the standard American fare of mass produced pilsners to the tasty brews he encountered in pub after pub.  Paul returned from oversees and brought back his new cravings for craft beer. Fryman, an economics major, wrote his senior thesis on the “economics of beer” and realized that his real passion was beer and not economics. The fire was lit…

Fryman did stints at several breweries across the country including Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Snake River Brewery in Jackson Hole WY and most recently as assistant brewmaster at the Great Adirondack Brewing Co. in Lake Placid, N.Y.  He earned two silvers and a bronze medal for a stout, kolsch and saison at the Great American Beer Festival while brewing at Great Adirondack.

                

The seven-barrel, steam production brewery and large tasting room are located in a large red brick building dating back to 1899. In 2006 Fryman’s father purchased the former buggie shop and most recently NAPA Auto Parts store.  Since then, he estimated they have spent roughly $200,000 to build it back up to house the 120 Artists Co-Op, and  brewery.  The building screams small town Americana with it’s red brick and four American flags perched along the length of the structure.

                 

The interior is cavernous  at just over 3,100 square feet. The vibe is Outdoor Life Magazine meets MoMA. Seating consist of long communal bench seats similar to German beer-hall  seating.  Fryman’s father built the  large communal tables and benches out of local ash and oak trees. The bar area has two seating areas separated by the entry into the brew house. One of the bar surfaces is wood similar to the elder Fryman’s handmade benches…the other is a rough and industrial looking aluminum surface. The bar stools are the star of the show; shiny black vinyl background  licked by flames that look they came off a bad ass 50’s roadster.

                          

Patrons are surrounded on all sides by various objets d’art and…well…just objects. The ceiling is dominated by an ultralight aircraft, a giant embedded razor blade and buggie. However the one object in the room that grabs you be the collar as screams “LOOK AT ME DAMNIT!!!” is the life size crucifix. The grotesque metal figure nailed to the cross is both creepy and breathtaking. You can’t ignore it. The first twisted thought that went through my mind as I gazed at it was, “He died for our beers?”

                                    

Well I hope I painted a picture for you. You have to experience it yourself.

On to the beers! Paul said he brews what he likes to drink. Selections are very tradition styles which in today’s market of crazy over the top hopped brews can seem boring to some. Nope. Paul’s brewing skills result in some of the most delicate and beautifully understated beers I’ve ever had. Most are nice sessionable ales ranging from 4.9 to 6.4 ABV. I’m not going to review each of the ten beers I had but let’s touch on a few. My favorite was the Session IPA. I hate to repeat myself but such a beautifully delicate offering. The HefeWeizen was full of crazy banana notes with just a tiny hint of clove. The mouthfeel on the Wooster Cream Ale was silky smooth and refreshing. Paul told me he generally judges a brewery on their lager which he feels is such a labor intensive and difficult style to get right. He seems almost hesitant to put one out at in the near future. Trust me, Paul strikes me as a guy who enjoys a challenge. He have one someday and odds are he’ll knock it out of the park.

                             

It takes time for most breweries to get their beers “dialed in.” JAFB Wooster has been opened for five weeks. Paul’s lineup is scary good right now. If this guy isn’t dialed in I can’t wait for the future of JAFB.

JAFB is a cash only business. A pint is $4.50, growlers with a fill are $18…refills are $12. All four beer flight runs $7. Wooster Brewery ordered 500 glass growlers and have sold over 450 of them. The refill business is brisk to say the least. I was there on Friday afternoon for two hours and saw over a dozen refills poured. Amazing!!! Friday and Saturday nights are packed. They have a bring your own food policy.

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Beertography and Review: Sierra Nevada Imperial Red Ale (2012 Beer Camp #65)

Brewed by: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Chico, California USA
Style: Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 8.1 %

Commercial description: This imperial red ale takes the intense hop profile found in traditional double IPA and turns up the malt. It has big aromatic hop notes of grapefruit, peach, and melon–balanced by a smooth and surprisingly robust malt body.

APPEARANCE (5/5)

Clear dark amber with slight ruby highlights, topped with a two-finger fluffy khaki head. Head is long lasting and generous sticky lace.

AROMA (8/10)

The aroma was very good and surprisingly well-balanced. The aroma is full of caramel from the crystal malt. There is a nice note of floral hops in the nose as well.

FLAVOR (16/20)

The flavors started out with a bit of malt sweetness, then the hops came on strong The hops were tart and citrusy with a tangy finish. Finish is a slight hop bitterness being washed away by sweet sugar and toasted caramel malts and them a final bitter hop bite to close things out. It is an odd finish, not unpleasant but odd.

MOUTHFEEL (2/5)

The body is a bit heavy with good carbonation. A tad sugary and sweet in the back of the throat. That goes with the style but it is not my favorite feeling on the palate. Overall this one is mediocre. It’s fair enough, but my least favorite so far of the beer camps.

OVERALL IMPRESSION (7/10)

This is an easy to drink red ale. It’s solid and balanced, but unfortunately it’s not very flavorful. It’s malty with some light hoppiness. It’s good and worth trying,  but I don’t think I would purchase it again..

 FINAL SCORE  (38/50)

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Beertography and Review: Sierra Nevada Imperial Pilsner (2012 Beer Camp #43)

Brewed by: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Chico, California USA
Style: Imperial Pilsner
ABV: 5.6 %

Commercial description: Produced especially for the OBF, Beer Camp’s golden color and medium bodied sweetness comes from pale, Europils, Munich and acidulated malts. Magnum, Crystal and Pacifica hops provide a distinctly American bittering and hop flavor profile without going over the top. The result is a refreshing, balanced, crisp pilsner, easy to drink on a hot summer festival day – or to take with you to beer camp.

APPEARANCE (5/5)

Pours a crystal clear golden yellow color with a two-finger head that slowly falls to spotty foam. Minimal lacing present.

AROMA (9/10)

Aroma of pils malt and noble hops with a touch of lemon. Backed by some zesty, slightly grassy hops as well.

FLAVOR (17/20)

Overall, the taste reflects the aroma, but more subtly, which is appropriate. The taste has mellow bready malt character. This quickly turns into zesty spicy hops with some decent grassy character. Sweet malt base, grass, some biscuit, and a bit of lemon zest is nicely balanced by a moderate bitterness.. Ends with a touch sweetness similar to raw honey.

MOUTHFEEL (5/5)

Medium bodied beer. Crisp throughout with a bit of dryness late. Short lasting aftertaste. Alcohol is well hidden.

OVERALL IMPRESSION (8/10)

This is a first rate pilsner. The feel is smooth, subtle and easy drinking.

FINAL SCORE  (44/50)

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