Saturday, December 6, 2014

Beer Changes with the Weather

 As the weather gets colder, you'll find many beer drinkers turn to darker, thicker beers like Stouts.  I am no exception to that, not to say I still don't enjoy a good Pale Ale, Lager, or IPA too.  Some of the best Stouts in Iowa, and in the country are from Millstream Brewery in Amana, IA.  They are the oldest craft brewery in Iowa, and I think with all the new exciting choices of breweries we have these days, they sometimes get forgotten.  I'm here to tell you, that is a big mistake.  Their standard brews are perfect examples of high quality, dead on representations of their styles (i.e. Bock or Pilsner.)

But Chris really showcases his creativity with their Brewmaster's Extreme Series.  The Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout is exactly what I crave in the
fall.  It's a thick and complex Stout with loads of smooth pumpkin flavor.  This is one of my favorite pumpkin beers, and must have every autumn.

New to the lineup this year is the Raspberry Latte Stout.  I love a good coffee beer, but they are not easily found.  I thought Chris found a perfect balance of his great Stout, good strong coffee flavor (but not over powering,) and just a hint of raspberry.  Being a home brewer, I know how hard it is to blend the flavors properly, and on this beer there are so many great ones coming together it would have been very easy to mess this up.  I thought they nailed it.  This is a great beer that I can't wait to share with my brother in-laws at our next get together.
 When I first started to truly appreciate good beers, New Belgium was a mainstay for me.  These day, I don't buy them very often any more.  Is this because they aren't a great brewery?  No, it's because there are so many excellent options out there, I rarely buy the same beer multiple times anymore.  Sometime it's nice to get back to a familiar taste.  Their 1554 Black Lager is a perfect brew for that.  It's an extremely smooth beer, but still packed with complex flavors.  I think this is an excellent beer to try if you think you don't like dark beers, this may be the one to change your mind.
 The Bitter End by Two Brothers as an interesting take on a Pale Ale.  Good hop balance, and an unusual grain choice made this beer memorable to me.  I haven't had much from this brewery, but what I've had, has always been good and solid.  This is certainly a brewery worth trying.
 The beer I got from Doug (thanks to the Lions, see my last post,) was St. Bernardus Prior 8.  It's a tradition Abbey Dubbel, and it's exactly what I want and expect from this style.  It's thick and sweet with just a bit of the alcohol burn you'd expect from a Dubbel.  This is a great beer, and made all the better, because it was free and the Detroit Lions won.  Thanks Doug!
 I have some friends that I occasionally supply with some of my home brew.  A few weeks ago, I gave Pam a bottle of my Nugget Galaxy Amber Ale, and was surprised with a 6-pack sampler of New Glarus.  They are one of my favorite breweries, but you can only get them in Wisconsin.  Next time you get there, skip the cheese and check them out.

Spotted Cow is a mainstay for them, it's a light, yet flavorful brew that any beer drinker can enjoy, not just us beer geeks.
Speaking of beer geeks, I've been seeing this beer pop up on the Iowa beer Baron's Twitter feed lately (@iabeerbaron,) so I thought I should try it.  I was not disappointed.  Sour beers are an acquired taste.  The ones I like, I really like, and the ones I don't, I would never drink again.  This falls into the first category.  It's a great blend of maltiness and sour, and I found it very refreshing.  This is my first beer that I've tried from Destihl, and I can't wait to try more.

Below is my brother in-law Dale.  He's one of my family members that appreciates a good beer.  So when the family got together for thanksgiving, I had to share a Dale's Pale Ale with him.  This Pale Ale is loaded with hop flavor and bitterness, but also has a great malty backbone to balance that out.  Oskar Blues is another brewery that I have enjoyed the few selections that I've had so far, and can't wait to get a hold of more.

My next blog, I will list some of the best beers I've had this year.  Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.  You can also follow me on Twitter @Crinkletalk or on Untappd - Crinkletalk.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Road Trip

 Who in their right mind would drive 15 1/2 hours to party for 10 hours, than drive back the next day?  Apparently me.  When The Chive offers you 2 free VIP tickets to ChiveFest Dallas, you have to go.  So, after work Thursday, I drove 2 1/2 hours to Des Moines, IA and stayed with Sherri and Doug (my wife's Aunt and Uncle.)  After having to physically force Doug to pay up on a bet from a year ago, where my Detroit Lions beat his Washington Redskins, I took my beer and left for Dallas.  ChiveFest here I come!
ChiveFest is a music fest put on by  Lots of bands, lots of beer, lots of shots, and a ton of interesting people from all walks of life.

 My personal favorite, was the John Butler Trio.  He played a ten minute instrumental that was ridiculous.  Seriously some of the best guitar playing I've ever heard.  It ranks right up there with my old college friend Paul.  I've never heard of this band before, but I'm going to be checking them out, they were very entertaining.
 If you know me at all, than you know I'm not a big fan of country music.  Jake Owen was the headliner for this event, and although I knew who he was, I really didn't know any of his music.  What I can tell you now is that he's a hell of a musician, and he put on a great show.  I really enjoyed his music, his performance, and he seems like a pretty damn cool guy.  I'd say ChiveFest did a hell of a job putting together their musical lineup, and can't wait to see what they do for next year.
 If you're familiar with The Chive, than you probably know Mac.  He's known for his love of cats, his dead pan facial expressions in photos, and his ability to make a complete fool of himself.  You may not know, that Mac is one of the nicest people you will ever meet.  He came right over to me, and immediately asked if he could get a photo of him on my lap.  To be honest, I would've been insulted if he didn't, seeing many of his past photos.  He said my lap was comfy, and hung out for a few minutes shooting this shit.  This is a guy I could hang out with and never have a dull moment.  Check him out on Twitter  @macfaulkner
Kat is the Chivette who made this trip possible.  When I told her that I didn't get a chance to get a picture with her in Denver, She went to The Chive's Co-Founder, John, and got me the VIP tickets.  She also made sure I had the chance to meet John before the night was over.  Kat has always been extremely nice online to me, and she's just as kind in person.  Thanks again for inviting me to the fest. You can follow her on Twitter @Miss_Kittyy

After meeting Kat, Mac, John, and Jessie from The Chive, I was pretty blown away at how nice they all are.  Obviously this is part of their job, but you can tell they all genuinely enjoyed meeting and talking with everyone, and are just all around good people.  Please check out their Chive Charities page, and see all the good they are doing with their time.
Hanging out at ChiveFest with  my cousin Bobby

  One of the coolest experiences of the weekend was hanging out with my cousin, Bobby. Other than on Facebook, I didn't really know Bobby, I was pretty young the last time we saw each other.  He (along with his wife, Becky,) very graciously opened their house to me.  I got a chance to catch up with him, Becky, Scott, and my aunt Joanne.  Before Chivefest, Bobby took me on a driving tour of Dallas, culminating with lunch at  The best ribs I've ever had, hands down.

 I had a great time at ChiveFest with Bobby while he was there, and can't thank him and Becky enough for driving out of their way to pick me up, and get me safely back to their place.  I had an absolute blast with them, and look forward to seeing them in the future, hopefully sooner than another 20 years or so!

 I have always enjoyed Shiner Bock, and have heard it's better in Texas, again thanks to Bobby, I found out that is true.  I also has several KCCO Gold lagers at ChiveFest, and they were great.  Smooth, and easy to drink, yet they had a really good, clean flavor.  This is not my favorite style by a long shot, but I could very easily have some more.

Pictured to the right is one of my favorite breweries, Toppling Goliath.  They are located out of Decorah, IA, and are quickly gaining attention for making amazing beers.  Zee Lander is no different.  A very smooth, and easy drinking IPA, Zee Lander continues in the TG tradition of making super hoppy beers without making them overly bitter.  The best part about this beer is, it was my least favorite of all the TG beers I've had so far, and it was still great.
Dogfish Head is the brewery that really opened my eyes as to what beer can be.  In my opinion, their Indian Brown Ale is simply one of the best Brown Ales on the Market.

In contrast to TG, where I have enjoyed every one of their beers, I actually truly dislike some of Dogfish Head's beers, but I think that's OK.  They try to push the boundaries of what beer should and can be.  Some of those beer are incredibly amazing, like any of their IPA's, Burton Baton, and Palo Santo Marron, and some I would be fine never drinking again like Raison d'Extra (which is my brother in-law, Dale's favorite.)  To me, that's what makes them so interesting.

I have some great beer at home, that I'll be writing about in the next blog.  Until than, you can keep up with me on the beer app Untappd search for Crinkletalk, or follow me on Twitter @Crinkletalk.  Thanks to all that helped make this last post so memorable for me, and to my amazing wife, who puts up with all my shenanigans. Until next time, keep drinking good beer and Chive On!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fall is Here

So, after doing well with my back for several months, the pain is back.  As I had mentioned in my August 3rd post, I have developed Spinal Stenosis in my lower back this year.  It has just added another obstacle for me to over come.  I noticed the pain coming back in the beginning of August, and every day, it got a little worse.  Thanks to the games the insurance companies like to play, it took me 6 weeks before I could get into the specialist for a spinal steroid injection for some relief.  In those 6 weeks, I deteriorated rapidly, forced to be dependent on my cane and wheelchair again as the pain got worse.

I finally had my injection last week.  Let me tell you, this is not a fun procedure.  After numbing the area with lidocaine injections, they insert a long needle into my back guided by x-ray.  When they believe they found the correct spot in my spine, they inject some dye.  An extremely sharp burst of pain, lets me know they're in the correct spot.  That's the good news, they're in the correct location.  The bad news is they still need to inject 4cc of steroid solution into my back and there's zero room of it, so it will be going directly onto my nerves.  Painful.  Every time he injected a small amount, intense, shooting pain in my lower back and going down my legs.  It takes about 10 minutes for this process of injecting some, letting me recover, and injecting more.  To put it in easier terms.  He's injecting the equivalent of a can of soda into a space the size of a pea, and that pea is engulfed by stinging jellyfish.  Good times.  The next few days were pretty uncomfortable, but I'm finally starting to get some relief, and every day I wake up with a bit less pain.  Enough of the torture, let's talk beer!

It's Fall, so that means the pumpkin beers are hitting the shelves.  Some are great, some, not so much.  One of my favorites (not shown) is Schlafly's.  It's thick and sweet, and really is like drinking a pumpkin pie.  I've already had one this season!

My second pumpkin beer is from Shock Top.  Really not that great, but I can say I've had worse.  For me, if I'm going to drink a Shock Top, I'll stick with their Apple, it's much better.
 You have to love New Glarus.  Whenever I get over to Wisconsin, I always try to find their "Thumbprint" series.  It's basically them letting their brewmaster make whatever he wants, and it's always good.  Scream IIPA is no exception.  Very smooth for a double IPA, and loaded with citra hops.  This is a great beer.  It reminds me of  a higher alcohol Psuedo Sue from Toppling Goliath.  Both beers are worth a try.
 Shown is Shiner's Oktoberfest.  This is a fairly good representation of the style.  Nothing wrong with it, just nothing special either.  For my money, I'd rather drink locally, and go with an Oktoberfest from Millstream Brewery instead.
Here is on of the first pours of my "Nugget Galaxy" Amber.  This one turned out great.  Great fruitiness from all the hops, yet not overly bitter, and very easy to drink.  While not the most exciting of styles, I do feel that my Amber Ales can compete with the best breweries in the world.  If you're in NE Iowa, give me a shout, I'll be happy to let you try one!

Recently, I won tickets to Chive Fest Denver, and decided to say what the hell, and took a last minute road trip to enjoy the fest.  While there, I met some great Chivers, and got to hang out with my oldest friend.  I was able to see John, Mac, and the Chivettes, but didn't get the opportunity to talk to or get a picture with them.  After expressing my disappointment to the above mentioned on Twitter, I was shocked when I got a direct message from Kat, one of the Chivettes.  She said she was sorry I didn't get to meet them too, and after talking with John, they offered me VIP tickets to Chive Fest Dallas on November first.  I have to tell you, I was, and still am, totally blown away by their kindness.

If you aren't familiar with The Chive, please check them out.
The website is a mix of pictures and stories of silly things, good looking women, an awesome online community, and amazing charities.  This is why I Chive.  It looks kind of silly from the outside, and some of it is, but these really are some great people doing great  things, and I'm proud to be a Chiver.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chive On!

  This is me and my best friend since the 2nd grade, Waylen on our road trip to Colorado.  I won 2 tickets to Chive Fest Denver from and we took advantage of it.  It was a 12 hours drive followed by some over priced whiskey at the hotel bar in downtown Denver.  A short bus ride the next morning (and meeting a new friend Dan,) and we were at City Park ready to rock.

It's also worth noting that after years of pushing me in my wheelchair when we were younger, Waylen still has it.  Nobody can push a chair like him.
 We enjoyed some good music, made some new friends, got to see Mack, John, and the Chivettes, and drank $8.00 beers.  Thankfully, we were spared from drinking Bud Light, because Redhook had us covered with some easy drinking Longhammer IPA's.

After many hours of enjoying the fest, our age and the 95 degree temps got the best of us, and we headed back to the hotel early to relax in air conditioning.  Of course we enjoyed a few more whiskeys and good old Coors Banquet beers before calling it a night.  I would love to do another Chive Fest, just maybe it could be a bit cooler next time!
 Here's my "Nugget Galaxy" Amber Ale getting kegged.  This is a session beer at 5% ABV, but packed with nearly 3 pounds of fresh nugget hops.  This one should be about ready to try now.
 Perfect beer for my birthday.  Deshutes does it again with their Black Butte XXVI.  I can't say this enough, if you haven't tried them yet, you need to.  This was a very smooth, yet complex brew with hints of oak and cranberry, and at 10.8% ABV I could feel it.
 I found this little gem in Wisconsin Dells at a Famous Dave's.  This is a brewery from my home town of Dubuque, IA.  They aren't open any more, but there is a cool museum down town that you should check out.
In my next blog, I will review my new Nugget Galaxy Amber Ale, as well as Schlafly's Pumpkin beer.  Cheers and Chive on!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Not all beer is good beer

Saying that all craft beer is good just isn't a realistic statement.  I always have a hard time when someone asks me what my favorite style is.  I always tell them, I don't have a favorite beer style, it just depends on what kind of mood I'm in, and how good the beer is.  Just because I like IPA's, certainly doesn't mean I like all IPA's, in fact, I've had quite a few I didn't enjoy at all.

Of course, the same goes for when people tell me they don't like dark beer.  I always tell them they just haven't tried the right one yet.

This week, I had a few beers that I've been wanting to try from a local brewery that I really enjoy.  Peace Tree Brewing out of Knoxville, IA makes some wonderful IPA's, and their Belgian Blonde recently one Gold at the GABF.  Simply put, they know how to make good beer.  One that I've heard a lot about is there Templeton Red.  It's a red ale aged in barrels from Templeton Rye Whiskey (one of my favorites, also made in Iowa.)  I've never been a fan of Peace Tree's Red, but this sounded interesting to me.  I was a bit disappointed.  The Red Ale, was sit the same old Red that I don't care for, and there was way too much Whiskey/oak flavor for me.  It was just too overpowering.

A few days later, I tried their Royale 41 Imperial IPA.  This was much better.  It was still overly bitter, in my opinion, but still a pretty decent Imperial IPA.  I still highly recommend that you seek out this brewery and give them a try, because they do a fantastic job.

 Deschutes Brewery is one of my favorites in the country.  Their Chainbreaker White IPA continues to show me why.  It's delicious, easy to drink, and perfect on a muggy Iowa summer day.  This is a fairly new style to me, a Belgian Wit that is hopped like an IPA, but it is quickly becoming one of my go to styles.  Alaskan Brewery and Single Speed Brewing also make excellent examples of this style.
From left to Right: Me, my son Joseph, my
Brother In-Law Chad, and hist wife Annie

What do I do when there's not great craft beer available?  I drink Coors Light, of course.  Whether is fishing, hanging out at the local dive bar, or at a family wedding (right) this is my American Lager of choice.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back in the saddle

Zip Line Brewing out of Nebraska has been showing up a lot on the the shelves in Iowa lately.  I finally tried one of their brews.  The Oatmeal Porter was a good start for me.  Nice balance of roasted malts, and the smoothness from the oatmeal helped make this a very tasty beer.  I will certainly be trying more of their beers in the future.
I first came across this beer almost a year ago, while I was in Kansas City.  Avery Brewing has made a great summer beer with their White Wheat.  A bit fruity and spicey, light, refreshing, and easy drinking helps me give this beer high marks.  For those of you that are just starting to explore the world of beer, this one is a great leap into it, and for the experienced Craft beer drinker, you'll be pleased with this well crafted, delicious, Belgian style wheat.
You may have to make a road trip to Decorah, IA to get a hold of one of the most popular beers made in the state.  Toppling Goliath's beer is in such demand, it usually sells out in stores within a few hours of delivery.  Once you try their beer, you will understand why.  They sell their beers in 22oz bomber bottles that are perfect for sharing, but once you try this refreshing Citra hop bomb, you'll want it all for yourself.  They have a way of loading their Pale Ale's and IPA's with great hop flavor and aroma without making them overly bitter.  Something a lot of breweries out there today struggle with.

Next time you're in NE Iowa, head to their tap room in Decorah to try one of their fantastic brews.
On a recent trip to North Carolina, I came across this gem from Oskar Blues Brewery.  An old college buddy of mine has been posting pics online of him with his cans of Old Chub, so I thought I should do the same.  This 8% ABV Scottish Strong Ale is thick, rich, and sweet.  Despite it's unusual name, it's a very solid beer, and I recommend you grab an Old Chub when you get the chance!

This winter I developed a serious back problem, that was/is excruciatingly painful, and causes sharp pains to shoot down my legs.  I became completely dependant on my cane in my house, and wheelchair bound out of it.  After having and MRI, and discovering I very claustrophobic, they diagnosed me with Spinal Stenosis.  Basically a build up around my spinal column in my lower back caused from arthritis, that is squeezing my nerves in my lower back.  It will require surgery to fix it, but we agreed, to try other treatment first to delay surgery.  After months of physical therapy, pain meds, steroids (unfortunately I didn't develop any super powers,) I had a steroid injection in my lower back (again, no super powers.)

The injection has helped immensely, I'm about 70% better than what I was.  So I still have to be careful, not lift things, keep my cane around, and sometimes use my wheelchair, but my life is livable again.  So, after nearly 8 months away from homebrewing, I'm back in the saddle again.  I'm starting with extract brewing for a bit, to make things easier on me, but I hope to be doing some all-grain before the year is over.

My first brew back is my California Common, or American Amber Ale.  I used half ounce of Galaxy pellet hops at the beginning, and the end of the boil, along with two pounds of Nugget hops fresh from my freezer (from last years crop that my wife grew.)  I'm saving nearly 3/4 pound of hops for dry hopping, that is an unknown mixture of Nugget, Cascade, and Willamette hops.  This is one of my favorite recipes that I'm come up with over the years, but this is the first time I've tried this hop combination.  I'm hoping for good things from this brew.  Below in a video of the airlock bubbling away as the yeast does it's magic turning the wort into beer.

Since I've been lacking on my blog this year, I'm going to attempt to blog once a week in August to try and make up for it.  Maybe it will help me pass the time until I can finally drink the first homebrew I've made in 2014.  Prost!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I haven't brewed any beer in quite a while now, but of course I've still been drinking it.  Matt's Burning Rosids from Stone is a high alcohol Saison.  This is definitely a beer worth trying, there was a bit more complexity to it as it warmed up.  As far as Saisons go, it was middle of the road for me.

Not shown is my Hoodang Fresh Hop IPA.  If you read my last entry, you know I used 4 pounds of home grown nugget hops to brew this.  It was a lot of fun to make, and has turned out to be quite tasty.  The first 2 months or so there was a lot of "green" flavor to it, almost vegetable like from all the fresh hops, now that flavor has dissipated, and it has turned into a really good IPA.  It will be a perfect spring/summer beer for me to enjoy.

One of my favorite non local breweries has to be Deschutes.  If you haven't tried their beers yet, you need to.  One of their latest beer I've tried is their Fresh Squeezed IPA.  This is truly a thing of beauty if you like hops.  I can't tell you how glad I am that they're available in Iowa now.

A few months ago, I went to Beers to You in Waterloo with my 2 brother in-laws and father in-law.  The night was a bit of a blur, but there definitely were a few stand out beers of the night.  Keeping with IPA's was Annabelle's IPA from Galena Brewing.  So far this is the only beer I've had from them, but it was fantastic.  I thought it was similar to Schlafly's Tasmanian IPA.  I will absolutely be trying more of their brews in the future.

Another big hit from that night was Jobu from Capital Brewing.  This 8% abv brown ale aged in rum barrels was my favorite beer of the night, and I can't wait to get my hands on some more.

A local favorite for me was SingleSpeed Brewery.  I'm never dissappointed having one of their brews, and they brought 2 fantastic beers to the event.  Brewed X 2 and IPA Blanco.  I couldn't tell you which one was better, because they were both fantastic.

We are lucky to have a booming craft beer industry here in Iowa with greats like SingleSpeed, Toppling Golliath, Court Avenue, Millstream, and now gold medal winning (from GABF) Peace Tree Brewing.  Next time you're in Iowa take a look around, and I bet you can find a great, locally brewed beer near you.