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Monday, July 28, 2014

Confluence Brewing's High Water Oatmeal Stout

  • Style: Oatmeal Stout
  • ABV: Confluence's Website lists it at 6.0% while Untappd claims that the ABV is  5.3%  What's a few numbers between friends, after all? (To be clear, no ABV % was marked on the actual growler label.)  Confluence lists the IBUs as 29 and since Untappd is silent on this point, I'm going to take that as an agreement
  • Ease to locate:  They distribute throughout Iowa.  Here's their Beer Locator because they don't seem to update their Twitter or Facebook account with deliveries all that often.  I bought my half growler at a Des Moines Hy-Vee grocery store.  Yep.  A growler at a grocery store.  How awesome is THAT?
  • Color: Dark brown cola with golden tones. 
  • Head: 1/2 finger light tan head that falls immediately to a ring.  No real lacing
  • Aroma: Lots of chocolate with a hint of coffee & dark fruit (Thanks Special B Malt!) 
  • Mouthfeel: Kind of light for an oatmeal stout, but perfectly fine for an under 6% ABV stout I suppose.  Well carbonated
  • Finish: Medium.  Begins with the chocolate/ prune/ raisin notes and ends with an earthy hop character.
  • Food Friendly: The carbonation and lighter than expected mouthfeel makes this easy to pair with summer meals.  Try it with meaty baby back ribs or Tomato based veggie chili.  You know that you have to do something with all of that zucchini in your garden anyway. 
 Apple User's link: One of the most difficult lessons you can learn as an adult. I have yet to master it.

This concert is from Glastonbury Festival 2013.  Mick Jagger was 70 years old and rocking like a 25 year old.  Obviously not always getting what you want is good for you occasionally 

The Rolling Stones have a song that goes :You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need.  If you remember from my previous post on Toppling Goliath's Zee Lander IPA, I'm related to a good majority of Iowa (or at least it feels like that sometimes.)  A few weekends ago, my family and I drove across great stretches of cornfields, over the mighty Mississippi, past The I-80 World's Largest Truck Stop (the only place that you can get a shower, eat some Dairy Queen, buy a mud flap with a 1950's pinup girl and see the dentist all in one place) and across some more cornfields for long weekend in Des Moines.  While I was there, I had one mission, obtain a few bombers of anything (but Dorothy New World Lager) of Toppling Goliath.  I failed miserably.  Everywhere I went, every place I called, they were out of everything but the new world lager (if you want to see what I thought of Dorothy, you can check out my  guest apereance on ABV Chicago's podcast where we discuss Toppling Goliath Brewing and, apparently, I compare the ABV Chicao guys to Beyonce.)   I did discover something remarkable about the grocery stores of Des Moines in the process though.  They are incredibly well stocked with craft beer.   I mean, really well cultivated with a good mix of domestic, imports and local craft beers.  Some of the more local Locals even stock half growlers there. I can't even begin to imagine my world if I could pick up a half growler of Pipeworks or Lake Effect at Mariano's.  I think that would be called Heaven, right? And I know that you are hearing in your head right now, "No it's Iowa" and that's alright. 

My Confluence Brewing's High Water Oatmeal Stout poured a dark brown liquid tinged with golden tones and was rather reminiscent of cola.  A half finger light tan head fell quickly to a ring around my snifter glass.  I didn't find any real lacing to speak of, just a few bubbles clinging to the side here and there.  Again, it reminded me of a glass of pop (I'm from Chicago.  We say "pop" here.  It's endearing.  Deal.)  The nose helped to make up for the stout's rather pedestrian appearance.  I could detect a huge amount of chocolate in the aroma.  Some stouts have a dark chocolate quality, others a milky one.  This beer sported a Hershey Bar sort of character; not the most expensive or deep chocolate available, but also not complete cheaply produced crap.  A hit of lightly brewed coffee and some sticky dark fruit helped to round out the nose nicely.    The taste followed suit.  The light chocolate note was dominant, bittered by a mild roasted coffee quality.  Confluence lists American Fuggle hops as the bittering hop used in the brew.  A slight dirt taste, typical of Fuggle, was there on the end of the swallow.   Some toasted grain, raisin and prune completed the mouthful.  It was a classic example of what someone should expect taste-wise from an oatmeal stout.  The mouthfeel, however, was much lighter than I expected.  In my experience, oatmeal stouts tend to have a creamy sort of character that lends itself to a satisfyingly full mouthfeel.  This beer was light, well carbonated and rather thin.  While it wasn't what I normally look for in an oatmeal stout, at 5.3% ABV (or 6.0% depending on what you choose to believe) and taking into account that I was drinking it in the middle of summer, the thinner mouthfeel didn't bother me as much as it possibly should of.  A medium finish began with the chocolate and dark fruit notes and jumped to the earthy, dirt Fuggle tail rather abruptly.  There may not have been a lot of tricks and whistles in this oatmeal stout, but sometimes you really don't need those whistling tricks to enjoy yourself.
I'd serve Confluence's High Water Oatmeal Stout with a variety of heartier Summer meals.  The light mouthfeel and classic oatmeal stout taste lends itself to such meals as Fall Off The Bone Baby Back Ribs. Let the chocolate note in the ale work with the tomato acidity of the bar-b-que sauce while the abundant carbonation cust through the chewiness of the meat.  You could also serve it with an Easy Summer Vegetarian Lasagna.  You reaped the bounty of your hard work in the garden, right? Or battled the crowds in your local farmer's market?  OK.  You at least had to put gas in the car to drive it to the closest grocery store, didn't you?  All that zucchini isn't going to eat itself (Note to self: pitch Roger Corman a new movie: Attack of the Cannibal Zucchini.  I smell an Oscar!). But no matter what you eat with your Confluence growler, don't stew on the beers (and by beers, I mean all things Toppling Goliath) that got away.   You may have desperately wanted them ( and by you, I mean me) but a beer in the hand is certainly worth two in the bush.  Because who the hell wants to drink in a bush anyway?

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Glarus Brewing Co.'s Scream

  • Style: IIPA (Imperial IPA AKA DIPA AKA "You're drunk IPA, go home")
  • ABV: Untapped lists it at 9.0%  Of course, New Glarus rarely every lists their ABV so I'm not sure how accurate it is. Untapped also lists it at 85 IBUs .  I can only assume that they have photos of Dan Carey that warrant them this kind of insider info (actually, NG lists their IBU on the label for this one.  But the blackmail theory still stands)
  • Ease to locate: Only in Wisconsin, but as of this writing, it's still pretty easy to get.  Thumbprint Series are only for a limited time so don't wait too long.
  • Color: Light caramel with yellow & amber tones; relatively clear with visible carbonation
  • Head: 1 & 1/2 finger just off white head with thick clumps of simply gorgeous lacing. 
  • Aroma: Grapefruit, mango, lemon, pineapple and a bit of herbal notes all working in harmony.  Some malt sweetness and just a hint of booze.  Extremely well balanced. 
  • Mouthfeel: Pretty perfect for an IIPA.  Just thick enough to give you a lovely coating without the typical syrupy feel.  An unexpected dryness elevated this beyond the usual IIPAs out there.  The body might just be my favorite part of this beer and that says something.
  • Finish: Medium boarding on long.  It slides from the citrus/herbal notes to some light sweetness and  then springs back with a resin tail.
  • Food friendly: Yes. Oh, you want more?  Choose meals that will benefit from a bit of acidity, such as beef tenderloin or a medium rare steak.  You could also try Scream with a slightly spicy and hearty veggie burger.  Veggie burger are good.  Stop making that face.     

Apple User's link:  We all have them.

                                        Bad days know no gender, social class, age or ethnicity.  They are equal opportunity sons of bitches.  You sort of have to admire that, just as long as it's not your bad day.

I'm not much of a screamer.  I'm definitely a yeller, however.  My co-workers and various family members will be very happy to back this claim up (they'll do it quietly, however,  No need to poke the bear after all.)   Some say it's my Irish temper.  Others might attribute it to a certain lack of self control on my part.  I prefer to think of it along the same principal as a tea kettle.  All of that steam needs to be released at a certain point to keep the kettle from exploding.  So, instead, the kettle produces an ear splitting shriek when the pressure gets too much.  And, like every other human awake on this planet, there are days in my life when the pressure can get too much.  Take today for example.  I have spilled coffee on my shirt, been bitched out for things at work that are well beyond my control (unless I've developed some sort of super power that allows me to control the minds of the US Postal Service unaware to me) and have seriously considered changing my name AND not letting anyone known what it's been changed to.  A good yell really can make things feel easier to handle.  Plus, it's quicker than a six mile run.  A good beer can also have similar medicinal effects if taken on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.   Luckily New Glarus  is there for us.  As long as you have the gas money to cross the boarder and grab a four pack.  I'm just assuming that if you live in Wisconsin already, you know enough to sooth your horrible days with a paste of Spotted Cow and cheese curds.  
My New Glarus Scream IIPA poured one of the loveliest glasses that I've seen from a New Glarus beer in a long time.  The color was a light caramel tone with golden amber highlights.  The IIPA was relatively clear , although not quite see through, with visible carbonation.  A thick one and a half finger head of barely off white foam rose in the glass and stuck around for a majority of the drink.  An appealing mix of tight and large scale bubbles left behind a webbing of soapy lacing.  The scent of citrus forward hops, mainly grapefruit and lemon, mingled on nose nose with the expected (from New Glarus) fruity scents of mango and pineapple.  An herbal character was also present, as well as a hint of resin.  This may well have been the most hopped up beer I've had from New Glarus to date and I mean that in the best possible sort of way. Underneath the bitterness, I found a lightly sweetened malt presence as well as a hint of alcohol.  IIPAs dn't usually WOW me with their nose, but Scream was an exception.  The flavor reflected the nose rather well.  A great mixture of grapefruit, mango, pineapple and lemon brightness as well as that herbal character that I found in the aroma.  The taste was a bit sweeter with a brown sugar note towards the middle of the sip and the resin pineyness emerged on the very end.   I was expecting the typical syrupy mouthfeel that I usually encounter with most IIPAs and was delighted to discover a crisp dryness to this ale.  It was just thick enough to lightly coat the tongue but without any sort of heaviness to the mouthfeel.  I absolutely loved it.  The finish bordered on long.  It began with the hoppy, citrus/herbal notes which quickly faded to a light sweetness, which is where I thought the swallow would end.  But Scream was a sneaky son of a gun and doubled back to end with a resin note on the tail.  Tricky bastard.        

I can give or take most IIPAs.  I know that some in the craft enthusiast world might call it sacrilege, but I am less than impressed with certain breweries who think that the higher the ABV percent or IBU count, the more impressive the beer.   At a certain point it starts to feel like a measuring contest.  Who can brew the highest ABV without giving their customer acute brain damage before the bottom of the glass?  How high of an IBU can you get away with without permanently destroying the target market's taste buds?  To me, it all comes down to one thing and one thing only: Do I care if I ever have another glass of this beer again?  If the answer is a resounding yes, then I know that the ale in question is a winner.   And New Glarus Brewing Co's Scream IIPA is a winner winner chicken dinner sort of beer (although the chicken is optional.)  I would serve a pint of Scream with a meaty Bacon Wrapped Pork Shoulder, letting the simple ingredients work harmoniously with the more complex citrus, fruity, slightly sweet aspects of the beer (and I would personally leave out the optional liquid smoke which I think might taste a bit overpowering in this match up.)  Alternatively, this ale would work well with a Vegetarian Black Bean Quinoa Burger since the drier mouthfeel will help to quench the heat provided by the teaspoon of Sriracha involved.  But if you are experiencing the epic sort of bad day that Micheal Bay movies and Good Ole Boys Country songs are made of, my suggestion to you is to crack open a slightly chilled bottle of Scream, pour it into your second favorite glass (in case of accidental breakage) and sip it while letting some one else cook for you. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Odd Side Ales' Pineapple IPA

  • Style: IPA (shocker, I know.  Here's another spoiler.  It has pineapple in it.  Shhh.)
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Ease to locate: Michigan only.  Or do an ABV Chicago Podcast and maybe you'll get a parting gift too.   Or not. But you should definitely take something from their studio if they don't offer
  •  Color: Slightly hazy caramel tone with a hint of amber
  • Head: One & a half finger white head with great retention.  Uniform smear of lacing clinging to all sides of the glass
  • Aroma: Pineapple, a little lemon and pine with sweet malt as a backbone.  Nice but not extraordinary
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body.  Not dry, but also not syrupy.  Moderate carbonation
  • Finish: Medium. Pineapple fades quickly to a pine ending.
  • Food Friendly?: Yes.  Fruity IPAs are pretty easy to pair, especially in Summer.  Try this with something that will bring out the pineapple/fruit flavors like fish tacos, Chinese takeout or chicken with a tropical fruit salsa. 

Apple User's link: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? No, the other guy.

                                                               Why are the theme songs from kid's cartoons such earworms?  It's got to have something to do with Hasbro, subliminal advertising & sugary cereal, right? 

About seven years ago I went to Hawaii for the first time.  I say "for the first time" because while I have no immediate plans to jet back to paradise any time soon, there is always the possibility that at any point I could come into some extra cash and decide to blow it on a freshly made Mai Tai.  For those of you who have never been fortunate enough to visit Hawaii, I suggest that you start saving your pennies now and make it happen. No where else on Earth can you visit a working winery, speak with real cowboys and stand on the top of a freaking active volcano all in the span of one day.  Plus, it's the place that taught me that pineapples do not, in fact, grow on trees.  I can't be the only Midwest city girl who thought this, right? (Right???  Oh, crap.  Never mind.)  My first view of an actual pineapple field left me amazed, a little bit sheepish and yes, rather hungry.  We ate fresh pineapple every day of our trip and by the time we left, I could slice up one blindfolded with a Lava Flow held firmly in one hand.   Hell, by the end of the trip, I could do most things with an umbrella drink in one hand.  It's a life skill.  What strikes me as funny is that the first pineapple forward beer I've encountered isn't from Kona Brewing (as far as I know, the only Hawaiian brewery out there, even if they operate partially out of New Hampshire), but from a relatively small brewery located in Grand Haven, Michigan. 

My Odd Side Ales' Pineapple Ale poured a hazy (without being juicy) caramel brown color with hints of orangey amber around the edges.  I'm not sure why I expected this IPA to be lighter in color but I did.  I suppose I assumed that it would look more like pineapple juice.  A solid one and a half finger head of white foam rose quickly in the teku glass (BTW- also swag from a gig on a different ABV Chicago podcast.  Next time I'm hoping for a pony.)  This IPA sported wonderful retention.  The thick foam took it's time to settle and produced a uniformly smear of lace circling the sides of the glass.  It was definitely a pretty pint (Teku.  Whatever.)  The aroma of fresh pineapple, sharply citrusy and very fruity, immediately hit my nose.   Odd Side Ales brews this beer with fresh pineapples and this nose gave me no problems with believing that some poor intern in Grand Haven is now as adept at carving one as I was.  A hint of lemon, some light pine and quite a bit of sweet malts rounded out the aroma..  It was a pleasant nose, but not particularly remarkable in it's complexity.  I was expecting a huge pineapple presence on the taste, but unfortunately I came away rather disappointed.  The pineapple flavor was there, at first.  It quickly faded from a tropical fruit forward beer to just your run of the mill basic IPA flavor profile.  After the pineapple note disappeared, all I could taste was the light pine hops and a semi strong malty backbone.  Just as on the nose, I was hoping for some sort of complexity, but personally found this IPA rather one note.  While I was well aware that this beer wasn't called Pineapple AND something else IPA, I couldn't help but wonder just how amazing this beer could have been with a bit of tweaking.  A secondary note of fruit, mango or nectarine spring to mind, could have given the flavor profile some needed depth while highlighting the tropical aspect  of the ale.  A moderate body that leaned neither too much towards being dry nor fell into the syrupy category that some IPAs (or especially many DIPAs) can find themselves in didn't really help with distinguishing this beer from a basic IPA.  The finish began with the tasty, yet fleeting, pineapple note and quickly faded into a lightly bitter and sweet tail.

IPAs, especially ones that are lower in ABV %, work wonderfully with food.   I would pair Odd Side Ales' Pineapple IPA with light summer dishes that could help bring out the fruity note in this beer.  Try it with  a Margarita inspired Fish Taco with Mango Salsa . The citrus forward Margarita mix and the fruity mango salsa should compliment the pineapple note in the beer (and possibly get the depth that I so wanted to find when drinking my glass.)  Alternatively, you could also drink it one night with some delicious  Chinese takeout.  I can easily see this IPA working with anything from sweet & sour shrimp to cashew chicken to vegetable lo mein.    Or if you wanted to  get your hands a bit dirty, prepare an easy Pineapple Chicken Stirfry  (with the inpired addition of Kiwi fruit) and a side of Homemade Potstickers.  Yeah, who knew that you could make those suckers yourselves?  In any case, I think that Odd Side Ales' Pineapple IPA  is one of those beers that will benefit greatly from being eaten with food.   Plus, popping a cap off of a bottle of beer is so much easier than coring a fresh, slippery when wet, pineapple.  With or without a Mai Tai in hand.   

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lake Effects Brewing's Brett Frambois

  • Style: American Wild Ale (USAUSA!)
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Ease to locate: Chicago area craft beer stores & some craft bars.  Here's a link to their Beer Menu page for locations.  I don't have a link for places that won't show the World Cup matches in the background though.  So sorry.     
  • Color: Ruby liquid with orange tones.  Hazy like fresh fruit juice. Very pretty coloring for a summer beer.
  • Head: One finger head of pure white, tight foam.  Not much retention to speak of.  Slight, soapy lacing.
  • Aroma: Huge raspberry note with funky Brett on back of the nose.  Bit of spice as well.  Not particularly tart.
  • Mouthfeel: Light, crisp & extremely effervescent.  Refreshing.
  • Finish: Medium body.  Begins with the fruit & funk notes and slides to just funk on the tail.
  • Food friendly?: Try it with summer salads accented with fresh berries or lightly spiced grilled chicken.  Love this with buttery & creamy cheeses, such as Swiss or Goat cheese

 Apple User's link: Rodney Dangerfield kind of wraps up exactly what's wrong with soccer. Creepy men in shorts.

                                                                                                                                              Creepiest smile.  Ever.

It's amusing to me just how many seemingly normal people turn into rabid soccer (excuse me, futbol) fans once every 4 years.  These are the same people that I've given my cell number to.   People who know what I looked like during that "awkward age."  Hell, I've even shared a beer with most of them!  At any other point in time, I might let it slip that I happen to think that soccer (I mean, futbol) is a stupid, over hyped, waist of space on ESPN and no one would blink an eye at my statement.  World Cup time comes and BAM!  If I even roll my eyes at the mention that day's soccer (damn, futbol) game I'm suddenly deemed uncouth and unamerican.  What's worse is that these so called fans try to convert me to soccer (FUTBOL!) fandom like some sort of crazed cult members of a group that worships honeycombed balls and scarves in the summertime.  Ain't gonna happen.  No way.  No where.  No how.  I will tell you what I am a crazed fan of and that's beer brewed with fresh summer fruit.  Say, just picked raspberries (excuse me, framboise) for instance. 

My Lake Effect Brewing Brett Frambois poured a gorgeous ruby liquid that was tinted with bright orange tones.  It was opaque and lush looking (and sort of reminded me of a glass of freshly pressed grapefruit juice.)  A one finger, pure white head formed and fell very quickly to a ring around the snifter.  Shallow, delicate lacing crept up the sides of the glass.  It certainly looked refreshing.  I could smell the raspberries on it right away.  And they were fresh raspberries.  Like over priced, smugly self sustaining, farmer's market raspberries.  There was a strong funk presence just under the fruit and a hint of spice on the very end (I was thinking cloves or cinnamon.)  The taste was a bit different than the nose.  It was dominantly funky in the best possible sort of way.  Imagine KC & the Sunshine Band playing a concert in your mouth.  Yes, it was THAT funky.  I was a bit disappointed that the raspberry flavor was muted on the taste.  The fruit note was still there, but I found it slightly over powered by the Brett character.  As I was drinking this Wild Ale, I kept wishing for more tartness and a stronger fruit note (following the example of the nose.)  Of course this, like the forbidden love of soccer, all comes down to personal taste.  Did I think that the heavy Brett quality harmed the beer?  No.  Did I read the label which mentioned the name as Brett Frambois?  Yepper.  So there you go.  The slight spice element, however, was very welcome and gave the funkiness a needed depth.  I did find this beer very refreshing, especially on a warm summer's day.  The light and extremely effervescent mouthfeel contributed greatly to my refreshment.  A medium  finish that began with a dry funk and fruit feeling faded nicely to all funk during the swallow.

I would pair Lake Effect Brewing's Brett Frambois with slightly sweet and mildly spiced dishes to offset the beer's inherent funk-attude (yes, I just made up that word.  It's pretty awesome, isn't it?)   Try it with Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken .  I believe that the honey & Dijon marinade might compliment the Brett note while the addition of a steak sauce to the sauce's profile will add a savory element.  Alternatively, a fresh beery studded salad, such as a Berry & Spinach Salad with Curry Dressing will work at bringing the fruit flavor forward while letting the Brett note off set the mild curry spice.  Or, honestly, just wait to crack this ale open on a hot & humid Saturday afternoon.  Maybe while (other people's) kids are in some random field kicking a battered ball around in a seemingly pointless fashion.  I guarantee that it will help make those 2 hour games that end with a 0 to 0 tie a bit easier to swallow.