Saturday, June 17, 2017

Spring

 This spring has flown by.  From selling our house to buying another, busy times at work, Joseph finishing the fifth grade and joining the swim team, a great vacation to Maine, and of course all the wonderful beer along the way.

The first I'll mention is Narrow Gauge out of the St. Louis area.  Thanks to Lisa and Rick (my profession beer mules) for bringing me a few crowlers back with you.  http://www.narrowgaugestl.com/home
These guys have quickly made a name for themselves in just one year, even being named the best new brewery in Missouri.  After having this IPA, I can see why.  I know a lot of people are jumping either on or off the NE IPA craze, but I love it (when done correctly.)  This is done to perfection.  Some haze from the massive amount of hops used, huge citrus aroma and flavor, balanced nicely with the right amount of bitterness to keep it from being too sweet.  Honestly, it reminds me of  Pulpit Rock IPA, and that is a very good thing.  I have another in the fridge that I will be enjoying very soon.
 Sometimes, when life is insane, the best thing to do is get away with the family for a bit, and that's what we did.  The three of us took an amazing trip to Maine, spending our time in the Bar Harbor area and exploring Acadia National Park.

The scenery was absolutely incredible, unlike anything I've seen before.  The rocky shores were stunning, and it's always great to be by the ocean.  Of course fresh Lobster, crab, and haddock was on the menu daily while we were there.

However, I wasn't impressed with the local beer scene.  These NE breweries are getting a lot of hype, but I'll take our Iowa beers over most of what I could find in the Bar Harbor area.  Since I'm a nice guy, I won't list the so so breweries I encountered.

 Instead, I will list a few notables.  I have to start with Maine Beer Company.  https://www.mainebeercompany.com/  This is a very hyped brewery so I really wanted to try them.  While I was there, I had 2 of their beer and brought back a 3rd.  The guy at the store told me "Lunch" was the best beer he ever had, so of course I had to try it.  Well, it wasn't close to the best beer I've ever had, but it was a very good beer.  A nice, clean IPA, that was well balanced and brewed with skill.  I would certainly buy this beer again and again, but to say it's even in the realm of best beer I ever had, would be a big stretch.

Peak Organic Brewery was the other highlight for me, with The Juice and Crush being the beers I'll remember.  Both solid IPA's with loads of citrus aroma and flavor, and more bitterness than I expected.  That also made them very easy to drink, and the few I brought home will be great to enjoy on a hot Iowa night.  http://peakbrewing.com/

We had a night stay in New Hampshire before flying back, so I made one last stop at a local store to bring back a few more beers.  Unfortunately, I only bought single cans, but I sure am glad I at least bought some.  Ransack the Universe from Collective Arts Brewing out of Canada was actually the best beer that I bought while I was there (even though I enjoyed it back home.)  http://collectiveartsbrewing.com/home/

This is a brewery that I will seek out whenever I travel.  I was immediately hit with loads of citrus, mango, and orange aroma when I opened the can.  The flavor matched perfectly with the aroma, and was dare I say "juicy."  It was also extremely well balanced both with the malt profile and the perfect amount of bitterness.  This beer was fantastic.  I also recently drank IPA #2 from them and it was nearly as good.

I'll even give an honorable mention to Hose Krusher APA from Strange Men Brewing.  Unfortunately the bottle I had was flat, but it was another well balanced beer with great aroma.  Hopefully I can join these guys in the future to brew (and drink) some beer with them.

I have a few more random NE beers to try that I've brought back with me and a few crowlers of Pulpit Rock's Loopy Lynn (possibly my favorite DIPA of all time) that I'll be enjoying soon and while they are fresh.  I plan on enjoying them even more on my new backyard patio while the dogs run around our big yard.  Until next time.  Follow me on Twitter: @Crinkletalk
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Cheers!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Beer Art

 Karben4 out of Madison, WI may just have the greatest label of all time with their Fantasy Factory IPA, and the beer's not bad either.
https://www.karben4.com/  I've heard a lot about this beer, some true, some not.  This beer falls into the hype category.  People have been saying it's super juicy and talking like it's a NE IPA.  It's not.  What it is, is malt heavy, wonderfully balanced with the hop bitterness, and a fantastic citrus aroma.  This beer was not at all what I was expecting from all the "juicy" descriptions I've read about it.  That being said it is a fantastic IPA that I would buy again and again.  Before NE IPA's came around this is exactly what I would search for in an IPA.  I'm glad I have family in Madison so I can get fresh Fantasy Factory on a regular basis.  Cheers Karben4!!  Nice work.
 A few more first time beers for me (also with great can art) come from Chicago's Pipeworks Brewing.  Thanks to Rick and Lisa for muling me these great beers.  http://pdubs.net/home-1  The two most hyped beers are Ninja Vs. Unicorn, and the Mosiac hopped Lizard King.  This is where I'll start.

Mosiac hops may just be the greatest smelling aroma hop there is.  Citrus fruit explodes your senses when you take that first smell (yes, I'm a nerd that smells my beer.)  The great thing about Mosiacs is that they taste like they smell, and there's another citrus fruit explosion when you have that first drink.  After the first few drinks however, that's where single hop Mosiac beers loose me.  The "juicy," fruity flavors subdue and a musty, earthiness of the hops take over tasting like dirty gym socks.  Strange to say that's not necessarily a bad thing, but can get a little overwhemling.  So, for me, I like Mosiac hops, but I prefer them to be blended with other hops to help alleviate some of those musty flavors.  Don't get me wrong, this is still a great beer, and I know there are a ton of people out there that love single hop Mosiac beers.  So, if you're one of those people, you should definitely try this beer.
 Ninja Vs. Unicorn is my clear winner between these two Pipeworks beers.  This Double Pal Ale has more citrus flavor and a little less malt and bitterness that Karben4's Fantasy Factory, while still being incredibly well balanced.  It doesn't have quite the citrus aroma as the two beers above, but it makes up for it by being a  well rounded brew.  This is a dangerously "crushable" Pale Ale.  The danger being it's a Double Pale Ale weighing in at 9% ABV, but drinks like a 5% ABV beer.

I love this beer, and will absolutely be buying more whenever I have the chance.  It was so good, just writing about it makes me want to have another!  This is crazy to me, I've tried beers from two different breweries that actually live up to the hype around them.  That really doesn't happen very often.  Great work Pipeworks,  keep churning out these fantastic beers.  And kudos to your can designers on the great labels.
When you talk about well hyped beers, you can't leave out Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stouts (BCBS.)  The pinnacle of the BCBS line is their Rare, This version of BCBS is aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels for two years before being released.  This is a bottle of 2015 Rare that I've cellared for over a year.  So when my good friend Pat came to town, we took it to Decorah to share with some of my favorite brewers at Pulpit Rock.

First let me say this.  It is a fantastic barrel aged stout.  It's a thick, syrupy, dark beer with sweetness, roasted flavor, and well balanced with the bourbon.  I would buy this beer again, for $10-15 dollars, not for the $60-70 they sell it for.  It's not worth that much.  Too be honest, there's not much difference from the normal BCBS that you can easily buy for $10. This is a beer that has been hyped up for no reason in my opinion.  Yes it's a great beer, and you should try it if you don't pay full price for it, but there are plenty of great barrel aged stouts on the market for a third or even a sixth of the price!
Luckily I was able to share that beer and several others with Pat, and brewers from Pulpit Rock, Mike, Justin, and Bob.  The two things I love about visiting Pulpit Rock is their amazing beer, and getting to see the brewers.  These guys are great, and I consider myself lucky to call them my friends.

I'm also lucky to drink IPA's like Mr. Hoppy Pants (shown to the left.)  I would put their Double IPA's (and many of their other beers) against any brewery in the country, and they will hold their own.  Pat, whose not a big IPA fan loves coming here for the Double IPA's.  Last time it was To Hop and To Hold (let's hope Justin doesn't have to get remarried for them to brew it again,) this time Mr. Hoppy Pants.

I also want to say congratulations to Pulpit Rock on having Saftig being named one of the best beers in America by Men's Journal.  This is a well deserved distinction for them.  While I didn't have any Saftig that day, I did bring home a few crowlers to enjoy. http://www.pulpitrockbrewing.net/

One last thing I want to mention quickly is Des Moines Beer Week starting June 16th.
I went to the beer fest last year (see earlier entry) and had a blast.  Check out the website so you don't miss out on the fun!  http://dsmbeerweek.beer/

It looks like spring is here, and I now have some great patio beers to enjoy.  What are some of your favorite nice weather beers.  Comment below or on Twitter @Crinkletalk
Cheers!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pudgy in My Glass

I don't write many beer reviews anymore.  I know there are many people out there that do a better job of that than I (search Twitter for @iabeerbaron) but sometimes you get the opportunity to try a great beer that you feel the need to share your experience.  I recently wrote about the good people at Pulpit Rock Brewery in Decorah, IA and their first ever bottle release.  Pudgy, an 11.6% abv Imperial Stout aged on 4 different kinds of vanilla beans lived up to the hype.

It poured dark and thick with little to no head.  The smell of vanilla was predominant along with some roasted and chocolate malts.  The mouth feel was creamy and velvety smooth with soft carbonation.  Marshmallow, vanilla and chocolate danced on my taste buds, not competing with each other, more working and blending together.  I had some chilled and allowed some to warm to see how  the flavors differed, and honestly I didn't notice a great deal of difference.  All the same flavors where there, maybe just in a slightly different balance.

In short, if you were lucky enough to get a bottle it's worth keeping and drinking.  I know the thought of trading is tempting when you can get 3-5 other great beers for this one, but I think you'd be doing a disservice to yourself not to enjoy this brew while you can.
Fun with filters

If I'm going to talk about one beer, I might as well talk about two.  My first true attempt at a NE IPA (or NE Iowa IPA) called Hazy Little Thing Called Love was inspired by the IPA's brewed by 515 and Pulpit Rock.  I'm quite happy with how it turned out.  Don't get me wrong, it's still not in the same league as 515 and PR, but good enough I'm happy to share this beer with others (including the brewers at PR) and not feel ashamed by it.

I used a pound of home grown hops that I split in the beginning and end of the boil (mixture of Nugget and Mt Hood.)  I also mixed several ounces of Mosaic, Galaxy, and Wai-iti hops at the end of the boil, and double dry hopped during and after fermentation.  This resulted in a well balanced IPA with enough bitterness to keep from being too sweet, yet loads of passion fruit, peach, and citrus making it very easy to drink.  I also used a pound of flaked oats during the mash process for the first time.  This added a little haze and smoothed out the mouth feel.  This is a beer I will likely brew again.  Will I make some minor changes?  Sure.  I would probably add more dry hops and try to keep the carbonation on the softer side.

After slowing down on my home brewing the past few years, I've been a bit underwhelmed by my last several brews, and I finally feel like I'm getting back into my brewing groove, if you will.  The pursuit of making the perfect beer still eludes me, but I finally feel I'm back on the right track.  I'm thinking about brewing smaller batches more often so I can keep experimenting with my recipes and improving my brewing skills.  In the meantime, I'm lucky to live in Iowa where there are many fantastic breweries only a short drive from me.  Cheers!

Friday, March 3, 2017

PR/515

The last few weeks have been incredibly stressful at work, but I was lucky to have a little time on the weekends to spend some time at two of my favorite breweries.  515 in Des Moines and Pulpit Rock in Decorah are straight killing it.  The small but mighty breweries are kicking out some fantastic beers made even more enjoyable by the awesome people that brew them and work there.

Scottie and Whitney keeping everyone hydrated!

I'll start first with Pulpit Rock and their first ever bottle release.  Pudgy, an Imperial Stout aged with vanilla beans.  They had just 400 bottles of liquid goodness for sale on a cold Iowa morning, the day after a snow/ice storm, and the craft beer community still showed up to sample some incredible beer.  1 bottle of Pudgy may not be be enough so luckily the guys at PR (Pulpit Rock) out did themselves with the on tap line up.  A few of the standouts, Stink Juice (Double IPA,) Pillow Talk (fruit beer,) and Sticker Shock (Imperial Stout.) 
The craft beer community has quickly caught wind of the beers these guys are making, and the trading sites are going crazy as everyone tries to secure a bottle from the first release.  I've seen people offering up to 5 great beers just to get a hold of one Pudgy.  You may ask, is it worth it?  Honestly, I can't answer that yet, as I have yet to enjoy my bottle.  I can tell you this, if it's as good as their other great beers like Stink Juice, Loopy Lynn, Sticker Shock, or #Gallagher, it most certainly is.  I'll post an update after I indulge myself on its vanilla goodness.

http://www.pulpitrockbrewing.net/

Check out their Facebook page for more of these great photos from the release courtesy of Erik Dutcher.  And don't just check them out online, if you haven't been there, make a point to go, you will not be disappointed.
When you go to PR, one thing you'll notice is the small space they have.  You'll also notice they recently started a barrel aging program and some of the barrels are tucked away in any spare space they had around the taproom. I noticed this little note on a barrel as I walked past and it made me laugh.  Please don't touch the barrels when you visit, nobody wants to see Bob cry!!

Bob, Justin, and Mike are the brewers at Pulpit Rock.  They are talented, creative, funny, kind, and just plain good people.  This brings me back to a theme from a previous entry when I met with Austin from Single Speed Brewery.  Good people make good beer.  Much like Austin, these 3 are some of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.  They love what they do, and really enjoy great beer.  Don't be afraid to say hello, or bring something special to share with them.  Also, bring some growlers to fill, or buy their crowlers when available, because you are going to want to take their beer with you.  Trust me.
Speaking of good people and good beer, there's plenty of both at 515.  Every time I visit Des Moines I have to stop at 515.  I know there are plenty of other great breweries in the area, but this place keeps drawing me back.  Partly due to beers like Hopitits, OJ IPA, Dart Dodger, and Castaway Porter, and partly because of the people that work and visit there.  They have a little more room that PR,  but every time I go it always seems to be packed.  There's a good reason for that, the beer is that good.

You can get their Milk Stout, Brown Ale, Doppelbock, and many other great beers, but I tend to be drawn towards their hoppy selection.  That is because Barb makes some of the best Pale ales and IPA's around.

Not to be outdone by the guys at Single Speed or Pulpit Rock, Barb, from 515 is again, not only a very talented brewer, but an exceptionally good person.  After chatting over Twitter with her, I was finally able to meet her on this visit.  Again the brewing passion is evident as is her kindness.  She let me try some of Unholy Trinity, an IPA brewed in collaboration with Alluvial and Pulpit Rock, straight from the brite tank.  The beer wasn't for sale yet, or even kegged, but she knew I was interested in trying it and wouldn't be around Des Moines when it hit the tap room.  That is above and beyond what anyone should expect from any brewer or brewery.  Yet it is just another example of what makes places like 515 so great!  http://www.515brewing.com/

515 IPA Flight

Being inspired by all these great IPA's being made in Iowa, I decided to try my own NE IPA, or NE Iowa IPA as we like to call them.  It's a simple mix of Maris Otter and 2 Row Pale malts with an abundance of Galaxy, Mosiac, and Wai-iti hops at the end of the brew and double dry hopped.  I won't pretend it's as good as those IPA's mentioned above, but I do think it's one of the best beers I've made in a long time. so thanks Pulpit Rock and 515 for the inspiration!

If you like to know the people that make your beer, follow them on Twitter (Mike and Barb are very entertaining #SexyRespirator.)
@brewbarb515
@ClipperShips
@PRBC_Justin
@PRBC_Bob (fun game, finish a growler every time Bob tweets!)
@1SpeedAustin
You can also follow me @Crinkletalk