Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Lakefront Brewery Fixed Gear American Red Ale

Brewery:  Lakefront Brewery
Locale:  Milwaukee, WS
Craft Circa:  1987
Style:  American Red Ale
ABV:  6.5%
IBUs:  34

UPDATE:  2012 GAFB Silver medalist for American-Style Amber / Red Ale

Label:  A good or bad thing that the labels of Lakefront are inconsistent.  Hard to spot Lakefront brews in a crowd. 

Overall:   Where were you in 1987?  I was cheering on Barry Bonds as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates before his neck became the size of a mutant experiment gone wrong.  I believe my favorite song at the time was “The Gambler”.  And I believe I was taking my first sip of beer from my dad’s MGD.  Well Lakefront Brewery was brewing beers.  Now when the American Red Ale hit the market I haven’t a clue; but it’s a fair beer.  Where else you going to find ‘fair’ and ‘Barry Bonds’ in the same paragraph on the world wide web?

It’s slightly bold and smooth as it should be for a Red.  It came off initially a tad sour, but mellowed out as you progress.  The flavor comes and goes, and actually as I was typing up some notes a flavor or two popped up like an arcade gopher.  At one point I even got a hint of something that may have come from a whisky barrel.  I know that isn’t the case, but this is a learning process for pinpointing specifics, especially on American Red Ales.  Overall it was a worthwhile beer to explore if the hankering for a Red persists.

An American Red Ale, also called American Amber Ale, is a richly flavored, sweet, hoppy beer popular on the West Coast of the United States, and especially in the Pacific Northwest. It usually features a reddish or orange color and a sweet malt flavor from the use of caramel malts, and a strong hop character often including grassy notes from dry hopping.  This is taken from; a wonderful site for the beer intrigued like us.

Quite honestly I did not mind the brew a bit.  I usually do not consume red ales, and I bought this through a 6-pack sampler, but it was everything an American Red should be with a little bit more attitude with the 6.5% ABV.  Smooth enough that you can take down these in the masses.  Just don’t be making out with any mannequins. 

… also from 1987.  It was the #1 song ending the week of April 4th believe it or not. 

Acquisition:  6 pack - $9

Review: Flying Dog Wildeman Farmhouse IPA

Brewery:  Flying Dog Brewery
Locale:  Frederick, MD (Originally Aspen, Colorado as a brewpub)
Craft Circa:  1990
Style:  Farmhouse / Saison IPA
ABV:  7.5%
IBUs:  75
Notables:  Year-round IPA

Label:  Typical Flying Dog fashion.  Their artwork is unique and vows to get noticed in a world full of craft brews itching to get noticed.  You can associate these splattered Picaso style etchings with just about every Flying Dog Brew.

Overall:   In craft beer years, Flying Dog has been around the block.  They generally produce standard quality brews that are available year around.  This brew seems to be a little more out of their element of pale ales and lagers.  Farmhouse ales are another term for a Belgian style of ale.  Per wiki, it’s a brew that is distinguished by culture and craftsmanship in the Belgian tradition.  Saison yeast - Saison (French, "season") is the name originally given to low-alcohol pale ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. Modern-day Saisons, particularly those brewed in the USA, and are generally bottle conditioned with an average range of 5 to 8% abv.

With that said, this beer has also been labeled by some as a Belgian IPA.  I disagree with that, and it cannot be true.  It’s not good enough to be associated with that class of criminals (the BIPA - - Injustice League).  The brew is way too sweet.  I would not consider this a BIPA, but rather a tart variation of it.  The wallop of citrus and sweetness overpowers any of the malt and hops.  The taste buds are ruined after the initial sip and it skews any judgment your taste buds may subsequently have. 

I like all shapes and sizes of IPAs, love to get my hand on any variation of one, but this one just does not do it for me.  This one merely grazes my palate the wrong way. 

Acquisition:  6 pack - $10

Notes:  The BIPA Injustice League established July 26, 2012.  The organization was created for the hardcore criminals with the malicious intent of taking over your palate, knocking you out with hops and flavor, with a reckoning appetite for destruction, and stealing you blind... burning through your wallet as you increasingly want more.
BIPA Injustice League Members:
Pipeworks Glaucus – Founding Member:


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Two Brothers Dog Days Lager

Brewery:  Two Brothers Brewing Company
Locale:  Warrenville, IL
Craft Circa:  1997
Style:  Lager – Dortmunder Style
ABV:  5.1%
IBUs:  17
Notables:  Seasonal between April & August

Label:  Appropriate for dog lovers and beer lovers alike.  

Overall:   Brings back memories of my first sip of dad’s MGD way back when…. only much better.   I usually do not drink too many lagers unless it’s an Iron City during a Stillers playoff game.  The lager is a crisp, refreshing beer.  It’s full of flavor, has slight caramel, and a hint of hops… overall a very good, quality lager.  The beer has stamina, and keeps delivering the goods.  I believe Two Brothers nailed this style.   

I rarely purchase lagers, but I would definitely drink this beer under the right circumstances.  For example, if Gooner was having a bash, and had some in the cooler, I’d be enthralled to drink a few or twelve.  If there are lager drinkers who are not accustomed to branching off from their MGD’s, get them a six pack to try.  They’ll love it.

It’s the best thing to come out of Germany since Indiana and Henry Jones on a zeppelin. 

Acquisition:  6 pack - $10

Windfall:  Dortmunder means something or someone from Dortmund, Germany.  In this case, it refers to the style of Lager.  Lagers are interesting in that it is one of the few basic brews that cannot be made by the amateur home brewer because it is a type of beer that is fermented and conditioned at low temperatures, which are difficult to control and mandate for the amateur brewer.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Wild Onion Summer Wit

Brewery:  Wild Onion Brewing Co.
Locale:  Barrington, IL (Chicagoland)
Craft Circa:  1996
Style:  Belgian White
ABV:  4.2%
IBUs:  13

Label:  Misleading.  The can could easily be mistaken for an Orange Faygo in the fridge. 

Overall:   Wanted to go with the Hop Slayer, which is another Wild Onion Brew.  That brew jumped out at me because I prefer the hops, but I will save that for when the weather drops a little.  Due to the unpleasantness that this summer has provided thus far, I went with the summer seasonal. Per Wild Onion, their warm weather seasonal is perfect for enjoying the long-awaited days of spring and summer. This Belgian-style White Ale is traditionally brewed with a large dose of wheat malt and a splash of coriander and orange peel.

There WAS orange right off the bat, a little sour mash to an extent as well.  Although the initial tang was immediate, it was one dimensional and ran off like a thief in the night.  The tip of the tongue enjoyed it.  The rest of the mouth didn’t know it was there.  The brew dissipates on the palate.  It’s nowhere to be found after the initial taste.  An optical illusion of what seems to be a refreshing summer beer. 

I’ll pass.

Acquisition:  4 pack of Cans - $9

Tidbits:  Speaking of oranges, no words in the English language rhyme with orange.  Same goes for silver and purple.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: Julius Echter Weiss & Resi's Bierstube

Craft Circa:  1643 
Style:  Hefeweizen
ABV:  4.90%
Notables: Available year-round

Restaurant:  Resi’s Bierstube
Restaurant Circa:  1973 
Type: German
Notables: Great beer garden and cool taps

Overall:   Good beer and great food.  Resi’s offers an extensive menu of traditional German delicacies and beer.  So what’s a bierstube?  According to Wikipedia, it’s German for “beer hall” or a large pub that specializes in beer.  I went to Resi’s because I felt like sitting outside on a warm Chicago evening and enjoying German food and wheat beer.  It seems German restaurants have disappeared here in Chicago so it’s not often that I partake.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  The beer garden was bustling. The inside, while not as packed, had great ambiance, there were posters everywhere, and it had a good vibe.  The one and only waitress was bouncing from table to table like a pinball.  The bartender actually came out and took our drink order.  “I’ll have the Julius Echter.”  Why, you ask?  Honestly, I thought the name was cool.  And the beer hit the spot.  I wanted a German wheat beer or weiss (Wikipedia) and this looked like it would deliver.  Granted, I squeezed and twisted the lemon slice, it went for a swim, and then I took my standard two sips.  Some would say “You did what?  You put the lemon in?  AND before you did your taste test?”  No disrespect to the traditionalists out there but I like it this way.  The beer was refreshing; a classic wheat.  While the service was slow at times, I was in no hurry.  I was having dinner and beer with a very dear old friend. No, he’s not 70 and I’ve only known him for a year.  He’s a high school buddy. 

So my friend ordered the classic Rahmschnitzel Dinner (no, not made from “ram”), and I had the Schnitzel Sandwich.  We steered clear of the Schnitzel with two eggs, as my friend said, “It comes with a cardiologist.” So watch out; your heart may go “Pop!”

The sandwich came with German style potato salad and sliced pickles.  I added the gravy for more cholesterol ;).  We shared Resi’s famous potato pancakes with sides of apple sauce and sour cream … yummy.  We were not disappointed.  Each bite was a trip back to Deutschland (though I’ve never been, I have had my share of German food and watched plenty of travel shows. Think Anthony Bourdain and Rick Steves.  Yeah, I know.  I actually referenced Bourdain and Steves in the same sentence. That’s like referencing Alice Cooper and Church Lady).

I suspect Resi's would be an ideal place for Oktoberfest revelry and if you go during the Oktoberfest season, make sure you bring your very LARGE pretzels.

Acquisition:  Schnitzel Sandwich, Weiss Beer on Tap, Potato Pancakes $28-$32 (while a bit pricey going with friends you can share the food because the portions are plenty, of course DO NOT share the beer)


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: 3 Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf

Craft Circa:  1996
Style:  Imperial IPA
ABV:  9.5%
IBUs: 100
Notables:  Year round double IPA.

Label:  It’s not their best, but still pretty good.  Should we expect anything else from 3 Floyds?  It’s another flamboyant, effective label.  

Overall:   It has an initial bite similar to that of Jon Voight.  You think to yourself: OK, these 22 ounces are not going to be a relaxing stroll in the park.  It’s going to be more of a Space Mountain kind of ride, hitting you fast and often with unexpected turns and drops.  However, as you are bracing yourself for the next dip, the brew starts to smooth out, and become quite pleasant.  Not that I am any expert by any means, but this beer is one of the more complex ones I have come across.  The bottom line though is that it is a strong finisher, and the more you consume it, the more you want of it.  It’s a very solid beer.  Hops all over the place, full flavored, a malty backbone, and a voyage that will leave you wanting to get back in line for another spin. 

Imperial IPA, is basically a double IPA.  Breaking it down, Imperial is defined as an empire.  The Yankees of IPAs if you will, wanting more, taking more, buying more, incorporating more… you get the idea.  It’s basically more of everything…. and that explains the wild ride.  I’m just thankful I was tall enough TO ride and enjoy the trip.  

Imagine if they served this at the Epcot American Pavilion instead of Budweiser.  At 9.5%, we’d all be singing it’s a small word after all.

Acquisition:  22 oz. - $12

Windfall:  The "it's a small world" attraction was first designed for the 1964 New York World's Fair and later moved to the Disneyland Resort in California along with 3 other attractions, including Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (which became part of the Hall of Presidents) and the Carousel of Progress. ~


Locale:  Munster, IN

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Pipeworks Brewing Company Glaucus

Brewery:  Pipeworks Brewing Company
Locale:  Chicago, IL
Craft Circa:  2012
Style:  Belgian IPA

Label:  Love it.  Shout out to a local artist, always a homerun.  The bottle art is by Emily Cunningham.  The creature depicted is a Glaucus, which is basically Ariel if she was a dude.  A batch number is hand written on the label, which you can research and discover when that batch was bottled according to their website.  That shows confidence that they feel they will be selling these fast. 

Overall:   For every Belgian Style IPA I’ve had, I’ve probably had 100 American IPAs to counter it.  I have not had too many Belgian IPAs yet in my day, but I hope to surmount all of them at some point.    I have not had a bad one so far.  This beer is right up with the others.  Quality brew.  Full flavored, very delicious.  This BIPA packs a nice array of spices from start to finish.  It generates excitement for the Chicagoland area, that yet another quality brew maker may be on the horizon.

This style of beer is solid in that it encompasses both IPA and Belgian beer lovers with this collaboration of flavor and hops.  It’s a hybrid beer in essence, between an American IPA with a Belgian Tripel.  On top of that, this appears to be a very trendy style of beer, with more and more pour houses and breweries offering at least one.  We are just at the tip of the iceberg for BIPAs. 

Praise and rejoice.

Acquisition:  22 oz. - $9


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Big Muddy Brewing Pale Ale

Brewery:  Big Muddy Brewing
Locale:  Murphysboro, IL
Craft Circa:  2009
Style:  American Pale Ale
ABV:  6%
IBUs:  38

Label:  Big fan, and appropriate.  The artwork looks as something you may find on the Mississippi Blues Trail.  Big Muddy makes you think of Muddy Waters as well, and wonder whether Muddy Waters passed through Murphysboro, IL en route to Chicago in the 40’s from Rolling Fork, Mississippi.  Good chance.   

Overall:  Well, it’s Pale Ale.  If you were wondering what a basic pale ale tastes like, this is it.  Or if you were to start home brewing, and wanted to make a batch of pale ale, this would be it.  With other Pale Ales, there are distinctions that set that pale ale a part, no matter how subtle that distinction may be.  This one is very basic, and not enough for me.  I prefer other Pale Ales over this one, but that’s my taste.  

Calling this brew very basic is not necessarily a bad thing.  Some may prefer that.   However, appreciating pale ales can be a journey in itself similar to the musical journey the blues trail presents.  Much like gaining an appreciation of the blues, you may enjoy Robert Johnson, The King of delta and folk blues.  Born in Hazlehurst, MS, his music is the foundation of Blues today.  Would you call it basic?  Very.  Is that a bad thing?  Absolutely not.  The appreciation that blues music has for his works today is unprecedented and would not be where it is today.  He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame merely on "Early Influence" stature alone in the very first induction ceremony in 1986.

So whether you are beginning your pale ale journey, or appreciate an example of a modest pale ale, grab yourself a bottle.  They sell at a great price, so get ‘em while they’re red hot…

Acquisition:  22 oz. - $5


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Meantime IPA

Brewery:  Meantime Brewing Company
Locale:  London Borough of Greenwich
Craft Circa:  1999
Style:  India Pale Ale
ABV:  7.4%

Label:  Sleek, Royal-esque.

Overall:   Very good beer.  It smelled very nice with floral kicking in immediately.  Not overwhelming with hops, not very bold either.  You are wanting it to come off smoother than what it is because the initial taste reminds me of other solid IPAs that I’ve had, but didn’t quite finish off as well as you hope it to.  With that said though, I would definitely give it a shot, and for the price, it’s feasible to give their other beers in their lineup a shot too.  Just remember if you ever visit the U.K., this brew is a definite viable option for the hop drinkers who want a change up from their Boddingtons. 

So why venture off to the land of Cockneys for today’s brew?  Well 50 years ago today, July 12, 1962, marks the date the Rolling Stones first took the stage.  Their first gig was at the Marquee Club in London’s Oxford Street.  50 years of rock and roll… quite amazing.  Rolling Stone Magazine has a great little piece on the night that was to be.  Check it out. 

The Rolling Stones were my high school sweetheart that I am still happily married to today.  Through great memories and not so great memories, they were and continue to be the soundtrack of my life.  Here's to another 50 years. 

Acquisition:  11.2oz - $4

Windfall:  Top Album, such a masterpiece.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: Local Option Bierwerker Dampf Loc

Brewery:  Local Option Bierwerker
Locale:  Brewed at Dog Brewing Co., Westminster, Maryland via Chicago
Craft Circa:  2011
Style:  Bavarian Ale
ABV:  5.3%

Notables:  There are limited quantities once a year around Fall.  Tap or bottle at a select few and fortunate locations.

Label:  Local Option approved?  Good enough for me.

Overall:   Honestly…  I came across this beer in our local store, and merely got it because of the Local Option stamp of approval, knowing nothing further.  I’ll get into Local Option later for you interstate, international, or just living under a rock Chicagoan followers.  

The beer is really, really good.  Reading about it beforehand there were different versions of the story behind Dampf Loc:  Is it a Bavarian Ale, Dampfier, Traditional Ale, California Common, or Steam Beer?  Whatever, it’s a great beer.  The ale contains a pleasant blend of malt, hops, flavors, the whole hashbang.  Per the Local Option website, this “Dampf Loc” is an all-barley warm fermented ale brewed originally crafted by medieval peasant inhabitants of southeast Bavaria.  During the fermentation process generous amounts of foam and surface bubbles burst in the tank, giving the illusion that the ferment is boiling or “steaming.” 

Why did I jump all over the Local Option stamped beer in our local grocer?  Well the stamp represents one of their many homebrews crafted and created by one of their own.  Read more about their story here.  

The Local Option is one of the cooler, hipster if you will, establishments in the Chicagoland area.  They continuously have a great selection of beers, both hard to find brews, rarities, hidden gems and even batches specifically created for this local option… pun intended.  I’ve had a couple of these Local Option specific batches in the past, and the worst part about it, is that you leave there pouting that you can’t purchase it anywhere else. 

Acquisition:  Irish Pint - $9

Windfall:  Local option goes through plenty of beers, and they rotate their taps continuously.  Their chalkboard changes constantly and in my opinion, that’s what it’s all about:  Look for the chalkboard.  My theory, whether you are wondering if you have walked into a beer geek worthy, snobs of brew approved, fine craft establishment, look for the chalkboard.  The chalkboard indicates they take their beer turnover seriously and you’ll get a great pour every time.  A good portion of the time, their Facebook page cover art will contain their most recent chalkboard, and is one of the many reasons Brews and Beyond likes and follows the Local Option.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: Finch's Cut Throat Pale Ale

Brewery:  Finch’s Beer Co.
Locale:  Chicago, IL 
Craft Circa:  2009
Style:  American Pale Ale
ABV:  5.6%

Label:  Like it.  Nice artwork and slogan: “Enjoy the Beer in Here”.

Overall:   It smells very pleasant, and provides a great deal of intrigue to dive in.  This Pale Ale is bold and bitter.  The hops hit you quite forwardly, but they are not overwhelming.  It’s indicated to have orange peels brewed within but I did not catch that.  I captured toasted or burnt nuts of some sort on the back end, and it stuck around a little while.  This brew is much darker for a pale ale.  It comes off as almost a harvest or amber ale of sorts.  Overall it’s middling.  For the price, it’s fairly good. 

Now typically Finch’s are served out of cans or on tap around the region, but this was sampled and consumed in a 22 oz bottle. I am typically not a fan of any beer particularly in a can, but that’s just my taste.  Canned beer has come a long way.  Technology has improved in regards to the elimination of the aluminum flavors.  We read a recent study a while back that had consumers take a blind taste test between bottles and cans.  3 out of 4 tasters actually preferred it in the can, and 54% of consumers were able to indicate which brews were canned beers.  Canned beers are designed to prevent light pollution and cut down on skunked beers.  With all that said…  I still prefer the bottle.  It’s probably psychological, but who cares, it’s all about preference.  It’s your liver right?  It may as well have favorable taste even if it is mind over matter, in the process.  The poll associated with the first link indicates that I’m not alone on this preference either.

I would rate this merely the middle of the road, but I would consider giving it another shot if I come across it on tap.  I would probably pass trying it in the can down the road, unless it was January 24th, then I would consider another try.

Acquisition:  22 oz. - $4


UPDATE 7.13.12:  Consumed Cut Throat Ale on tap and noticed an improvement over the bottle.  The lingering effect of the burnt nuts does not last quite as long making it smoother.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Smuttynose Summer Weizen Ale

Brewery:  Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Locale:  Portsmouth, NH
Craft Circa:  1994
Style:  American Pale Wheat Ale
ABV:  5.46%
IBUs: 15

Label:  Nostalgic. 

Overall:   What an appropriate beer for today.  A string of hot and humid days here, and what better way to end this run of Gainesville (shout out to Gooner) Swamp like weather than to give this wheat ale a try.  The beer pours almost as hazy as today, a nice golden haze.  It is lightly hopped, and quite refreshing, but lacks tastiness.  Overall, it is an average beer.  For the style of beer, it’s above average.  For a Smuttynose brew, it’s below average.  Probably my least favorite Smuttynose I’ve consumed, and I’ve been impressed with a couple other Smutty’s that I’ve tried.  There are plenty of other summer seasonal beers that are worth acquiring, and with so many options, I feel this one does not stand out in a crowd of summer seasonals like a Seminole fan would at a Gator game (Gooner again).  There is just not enough to it. There are some hints of what you may expect in a beer referring to itself as a Summer Weizen, but that’s the point…  they are only hints.   

There’s one person in mind that may be able to save this beer, with enough hard work and enough prayer.  This Man. 

Acquisition:  6 pack  - $9

Tidbits:  Smuttynose is named after Smuttynose Island, the third largest of the nine islands that comprise the Isles of Shoals, a small, rocky archipelago that lies seven miles off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. The name appears on nautical charts going back as far as the seventeenth century, so its true origins are lost to time.  Prior to the arrival of Smuttynose Brewing, the island was best known for a brutal double axe murder that occurred there in 1873.  This is per Smuttynose website.