Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Letter to the President of the United States

I may be a little over my head here.  It started when I was perusing the stories in my Google+ feed and I came across the following story about a lawyer that was using the Freedom of Information Act to request the  President's beer recipe (Note: Full story posted by Beer Street Journal here).  And if you haven't read about the President's beer, then get out from under the rock you're living under and read about it here.

I am want.
Well, first things first, you can't create it "exactly" because it uses honey from Michelle Obama's very own hives.  That honey of course is made from whatever blend of flowers is in that vicinity; pretty abstract stuff.  Second of all, does this seem like a dick move to anyone else?  Sure, we'd all like a taste of some insanely rare beer made by the POTUS.  Sure, we'd all like to know how creative he was in the ingredient choices.  However, car-jacking his recipe using legislation seems pretty shitty.  If someone wants to give their recipe, great.  In fact, lots of breweries do just that.  I've seen it in the pages of Beer Advocate magazine.  But if someone wants to keep THEIR stuff THEIRS (hence the origin of copyright laws, trademarks, registered trademarks, patents, patent pendings, "Thou shalt not steal," and the fact that plagerism is a no-no), then they should be able to do just that.

This guy is basically demanding someone else's beer recipe!  How is that in the spirit of craft beer?  That's not being a beer geek.  That's being a beer douche.  It doesn't bring people together.  It doesn't foster creativity.  It doesn't encourage collaboration.  What it DOES encourage is a sense of entitlement.  It DOES encourage misusing legislation.  It DOES encourage performing idiotic acts to receive a ton of national press (I'm sometimes OK with that last one.  Usually when it involves jumping a vehicle over a large distance while performing an intensely difficult number of twists and/or flips).

It seems that whenever politics are involved, people are always ready to bitch about something, but never have a better solution themselves.  So that this post does not fall into the same category, I have written a much better letter to the POTUS and submitted it via this morning.  I'll include it here for your reading pleasure.


Dear Mr. President,

My name is Joel Kolander and I love craft beer. I was very excited to see that you also have an interest in craft beer, even taking the extra step to brew it yourself. Big props on that one.

Long story short, I've never felt the need to write to a president before or any other official, but I had to this time. The opportunity just seems way too fantastic. I am writing because I author a beer blog called "Sud Savant." I review beers in great depth and try to record those experiences for myself and my readers. I would love to review ANY of the Presidential beers that you brew. In fact, I'd be willing to trade some of my top bottles for such an opportunity. Now, I know the POTUS can probably get whatever bottles he wants, but let me offer the following:

-1 bottle of New Glarus Golden Ale. New Glarus is only sold in Wisconsin and this particular beer was only sold at the brewery as an R&D project. They are sold out.


-1 bottle of Three Floyds' Dark Lord. This bottle is only available once/yr at the brewery, during a festival for its release.

These are some of the most insanely tasty beers I have ever had and should be supremely tempting. Please know that in addition to the proposed trade & write-up, I'd also just be willing to sit down, crack these open, and have a tasting with you. Use it as an election gimmick - I don't care! It'd be a lot fun. Also, you should know that I am a non-partisan voter, so that any review of this Presidential beer that I write will be in form with any other review I do: honest, un-biased, and extremely descriptive.

I hope to hear back from you soon regardless of your response. Good luck in your re-election campaign and when things get a little stressful, remember to pry open a tasty American craft beer. I'll take comfort in knowing the POTUS can unwind and appreciate just like the rest of us.

Cheers and regards,

Joel R. Kolander
a.k.a. Sud Savant

It seems like a pretty good deal, right?  I mean, c'mon, it's not like the Pres can make it out to Dark Lord Day.  Those tickets are crazy impossible to get.  Plus, that New Glarus Golden Ale is as close to deserving the title "nectar of the gods" as I have ever tasted.  Needless to say, whatever the response, I'll definitely be posting it and keeping everybody up-to-date.

Photo "borrowed" from Wikipedia.

Official Logo!

How about these apples!  After months and months of me attempting to get a logo it has finally happened!  I'm very excited to introduce the new logo of Sud Savant.

This is the product of much hard work, hours, and patience by one Ms. Jaime Torraco.  Jaime runs her own site, does gallery shows, graphic design, freelancing, and now sells her work in Florida.  If you want to see more of Jaime's work, please check out her site Kittens of Industry (a.k.a. Kitty Coy).  

Big thanks to Jaime for all her work on this!  I'm super pleased with the results and can't wait to revamp the site to showcase this new logo.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Preview of MWBF 2012

Don't everybody thank me all at once.  I have a sneak peek at what is coming for the Midwest Brewers Fest in Plainfield, IL on Aug 25.  It's only 8 days away now and my excitement is pretty high!  Not only is it amazing craft beer festival, but the funds raised help to restore Plainfield Riverfront Park to its former glory.  Oh, did I mention that the very Riverfront they're raising funds for is where the park is held?  And that it also raises funds and awareness for "Pints for Prostates"?  I think that they're synopsis does a better job at capturing the basics:

"A Little bit about the Midwest Brewers Fest – is a true craft beer festival where you will find over 150 unique beers. Many of brew master’s and their staff will be on site to for you to directly interact and ask questions about your favorite brews. 

The event has three purposes. The first is to raise funds that will be used to restore the Plainfield Riverfront Park. The Riverfront Foundation plans are focused on a total restoration aimed at bringing people together ( ) so that generations to come can enjoy the scenic views and recreational amenities the park once held.  

The second is to benefits Pints for Prostates - a grassroots campaign that uses the universal language of beer to reach men with an important health message. Founded by prostate cancer survivor Rick Lyke in 2008, the campaign raises awareness among men about the need for regular health screenings and PSA testing by making appearances at beer festivals, social networking and pro bono advertising.  Pints for Prostates has registered as a 501(c)3 charity and 100% of all funds raised by the group go to fighting prostate cancer and assisting men with the disease.

The third is to introduce those not familiar to the art and craft of fine beer.

This event is 100% ran by over 350 volunteers and this year’s organizers are Rahul Wahi (President) and Chip Kahsen (VP) with other board members Kevin Herbst (Treasurer) and Ken McMullen (Board Member)."

First things first, if you haven't seen how awesome last year's fest was, then you really need to check it out.  Now, imagine that they actually plan on improving on it.  "How" you ask?  Let me tell you.

1.  The brewery list.  It's bigger than last year's.  Click here to check it out.  Most notable are the additions of Oskar Blues, Lagunitas, and Six Point!

2.  "Best of Midwest Brewers Fest" Craft Beer Competition - Marty Nachel will be conducting their 1st annual craft beer competition.  Marty Nachel is a craft beer celebrity!  He's been a BJCP since 1986 and recently was a finalist judge in Samuel Adams' "Longshot Homebrew" Competition.  Yeah, I think he's qualified.

Marty Nachel
3.  Food.  Last year, I was quite taken by Gilbert's Craft Sausages.  They're coming back.  Whole Foods was handing out free things dipped in chocolate.  They're also returning.  Plus 5 more food vendors!  One of which is Bigby's Pour House and the famous flatbread pizzas.  There's gonna be some good eats, kids.

A Gilbert's sausage.
4.  Music:  This year will have three bands and from what I can hear from the first two artists' websites, Beth Bombara and Overman, they both sound like just the right chill, Americana, acoustic tunes you want while sitting outside on a riverfront, drinking delicious beer, and having all sorts of good conversation.  The last band, The Jack Pines, plays much more driving music and adds a bit of blues to a rock-a-billy vibe.  Should be a good way to end the night.

5.  Extras:  Little things that definitely make the difference.  At this beer festival, that includes a bags (a.k.a. "cornhole") tournament, cigar booth, more brewmasters than I've ever seen in one place, PLENTY of rinsing stations, a really nice program for tasting notes, and lots of sweet merchandise.  Oh, did I mention homebrewing demonstrations, tons of volunteer pourers so you can actually talk with the brewmasters, and lots of local craft beer bloggers from Chicago and the surrounding area?  If you're part of the craft beer scene online (and if you're reading this, you're closer than you think), it's a real pleasure to meet some of these folks face-to-face.  Even if you're not part of the craft beer scene (online or otherwise), there will be a "Craft Beer 101" area hosted by the PALE Homebrew Club, so that folks can learn about craft beer.

6.  The grounds:  I know I already mentioned that the festival is being held on a back drop of the Dupage River and 80 acres of grassland.  This provides more niceties than one initially realizes.  Grass means plenty of places of sit or lie down.  Grass also means that you're not cooking on some blacktop or asphalt surface in the middle of summer.  The trees there equal plenty of shade should the sun show up the way it has been all summer.  Speaking of shade, even the tents are large enough where, last year, the first two to three people in line would actually be standing in shade while waiting for or receiving their beer.  Brilliant!

Still not sure you want to come?  OK, there's an after party and YOU'RE invited.  It's at the Tap House Grill across from the festival.  There may be a food and/or drink special from 6:00 pm til close.  Maybe.  You'll have to check to be sure, won't you?

I don't know what else to say!  If that doesn't convince you to find some tickets to this thing, I don't know what will.  If you still need tickets, you can save $10 by purchasing in advance here.  Needless to say, I highly recommend it.  See you there!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

B. Nektar - Evil Genius

You gotta have a lot of respect for a beverage style that survived the Middle Ages.  OK, so technically there is evidence for it stretching back to 7000 BC.  However, having been so popular with the vikings (and at every Rennaisance Festival ever), I tend to associate it with the Middle Ages.  It was an era of plagues, serfdom, Crusades, famines, Joan of Arc, a very angry church, knights, castles, endless jabs by Monty Python, and the aforementioned vikings, and none of them could send this style of brewing in to the forgotten annals of history.  Oddly, despite its longevity this style of fermented goodness is remarkably hard to find commercially today.  This brand of mead is no exception.  B. Nektar is only available in a select number of states (FL, IL, ME, MD, DC, MA, MI, NJ, NC, OH, WI, & SC) and I have @kellyrose82, and her seemingly frequent trips to Michigan, for this bottle.

In case you couldn't tell by the label, this style is going to be a little bit of an experiment for them.  B. Nektar Meadery has been pretty good about experimenting with different things that taste good: meads, ciders, cysers, cherries, vanilla, cinnamon, agave, lime, etc.  This brew is truly a blending of styles.  Hops... in a MEAD?  I've never heard of it before and have been curious about this brew ever since I first read about it.  B. Nektar uses Chinhook, Cluster, & Cascade hops to make its Evil Genius and that sounds fine to me!  Let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
This brew presents two very different aroma profiles depending on whether you see the forest or the trees.  The forest is an interesting "hop funk" that is not without its light sweetness.  If you begin to dissect that aroma to see the trees, you will find a lot of the quintessential characteristics that make a good IPA.  There is a nice spiciness, noticeable resin, and some lesser pine notes.  Granted, these are much more subdued than you would find them in an American IPA that craft beer folks are used to drinking, but they are undeniably present.  Blending with that is the delicate sweetness of the mead.  It smells of honey (duh) and fresh green apples.  As the mead warms the "evil" in the "Evil Genius" becomes steadily more menacing and the hop traits become more aggressive.  The spice and resin of the hops take a big step forward, leaving the pine scent in the lurch, but still allow that crisp apple sweetness to shine.  A fascinating blend, even if it lacks a robust quality.

Appearance 3/3
Meads are only lightly carbonated, so I won't be able to judge the head on this.  However, for a mead it looks spot on.  It pours and sits in the glass like a white wine, even though some of the carbonation initially fizzed to the top after pouring.  It has extremely high clarity and its color is off of the SRM/Lovibond scale, making it lighter in hue than even some of the palest lagers.

Flavor 17/20
Trying to put such a unique experience into words or down on paper seems a daunting task after just the first sip, but you shall all have my best effort.  The first sensation is the wash of honey that slides all too well over the tongue.  It turns sugary sweet and then begins allowing in other flavors, such as the dry fruits of a champagne, vanilla, and an interesting bitter.  The bitter is surrounded by such sweetness that it's reminiscent of when you bite too far into an apple and get part of the bitter core.  The sweetness fades slowly after the swallow into the champagne dryness, which in turn fades into a bitter aftertaste.  Not long after swallowing this very sweet mead, the mouth has the "apple core" bitter spread all over it and it leaves the mouth very dry.  Not an experience I was expecting from something this sweet, but definitely something I would expect from a hoppy IPA.  Overall, this is a very sweet drink that borrows very little from the IPA style.  I hope my inexpertise with meads doesn't effect this review too negatively.  I found it to be sweet for my taste, but maybe for a mead this is perfect.  I simply don't have the background to know.

Mouthfeel 5/5
There is so much that B. Nektar has done correctly I scarcely know where to begin.  Might as well start with the first impression?  This beer is criminally smooth.  It's "Eddie Haskell" smooth.  It knows exactly what it's doing and it's way too good at it.  If this level of smoothness came over to pick up my teenage daughter, I'd be sure to be cleaning a shotgun in a conspicuous area of the house.  It coats the tongue with its sweetness and then gives a surprise ending, by ending bitter and dry like an IPA.  It was a great twist considering there were no hops detectable in the flavor itself.  It's carbonation is infintesimal at best and not inappropriate for a mead.

Did I mention the kick-ass bottle art?
Overall Impression 9/10
This is pleasing and I love the creativity involved in its creation.  It features distinct traits of both the IPA and the mead.  IPA drinkers will be disappointed if they are expecting a large hop flavor, but mead drinkers should see this as a neat innovation that adds something different to a tasty beverage.  The IPA style was detectable mostly in the aroma and in the aftertaste and left the mead to its own devices the rest of the time.  My only negative about this beer is that the strong sweetness and the smooth body do not make this something that I could drink all night.  However, that's not much of a negative as there are many beers that I enjoy that I would not wish to drink head to tail all night long.

Total 4450
I dig it and as long as you're not expecting an American IPA because it says "IPA-Style" on the bottle than you should too.  This is first and foremost a mead.  It's going to be sweet.  It's going to be smooth.  It's carbonation is barely detectable at all.  However, the aroma and aftertaste really do capture of elements of the IPA that I never would have guessed that I would see in a mead.  Not only is this a unique experience because it's a mead, it's a unique mead on top of that!  If you love craft beer and trying new flavors and new breweries and new ingredients I don't know how that could not appeal to you.  Overall, it's sweetness was higher than my personal taste would've wished, but I'm such a n00b h4x0r in the world of mead that maybe this is exactly how it is supposed to be.  Looks like I'll just have to keep drinking them until they're more familiar to me.  At least, that's what I'll tell my wife.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Innis & Gunn - Rum Cask

Innis & Gunn is not a particularly well-known beer in the US.  I seldom see them talked about online, read about them as many times as I can count on one hand, and have never seen a tap handle of theirs at even the most reputable of gastropubs or taphouses.  That said, I understand that I had better fasten my seat belt for one amazing ride.  Innis & Gunn is out of the UK, has a reputation that precedes it, and has a really well put together web site, including a very informative video about their "accidental birth."  I suggest you check it out (  It really seems to embrace a lot of things that the American craft beer community does: flavor profile, tasting notes, food pairings, and oak aging.  Much craft beer love to my friend Keith for hooking me up with this bottle all the way from Florida!  I can't wait to pry this open.  Let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
First things first, it definitely enjoys the same spiced quality as a good rum.  Not a spiced rum mind you, just a good rum.  Easily detectable are a strong buttery toffee aroma and of course that of the rum and oak casks.  This barely smells like a beer!  Oddly or not, I detect no heat in the aroma, despite the beer's 7.4% ABV.  

Appearance 3/3
I was dubious after checking out their website and seeing the pictures of this brew.  "C'mon," I said.  "No beer can be THAT red and glorious."  I'm afraid it's better.  The actual beer shows more browns than the perfectly posed shot on the website, but the shades of red, scarlet, magenta, maroon, and almost purplish hues are unmistakeable.  The head was here and gone, but it was a moderate size, fizzed loudly, was almond in color, and had OK retention.  No lacing.  Its colors earned it full marks.

Flavor 19/20
Whoa!  WHOA!  Where did all this dark fruit come from?  It's a marvelously sweet medley full of raisins, plums, and figs that borders on being sugary!  Fantastic.  From these already rich flavors, the buttery toffee of the rum takes over with its mellow sweetness and subtle spicing.  The oak is detectable, but it hides well behind the buttery notes of the rum.  The finish is a continuation of the butter and spices, but adds some vanilla and it is a welcome touch.  The dark fruits quickly reprise and fade as the beer descends.  The aftertaste leaves the mouth dry and with the light tingle of rum spices.

Mouthfeel 5/5
Sometimes cask aging can leave beers feeling flat and sluggish.  Not this beer!  Its carbonation is a perfect blend of presence and still allowing the beer to feel silky in the mouth.  It is smooth, but not syrupy.  Oddly, the warmth never comes into play for a beer this inundated with the other characteristics of rum.

Overall Impression 10/10
If you can find it, buy it.  This beer is a superbly drinkable beer that harnesses all the characteristics of rum that it feels necessary.  It has a nice aroma, attractive colors, a knock out surprise flavor, and a helluva mouthfeel.  This synopsis seems brief, as does the whole review, but damn... it does what it does very well.

Total 47/50
Ummm... can we all agree to buy this whenever we see it and drive demand so much that I eventually see it in western IL?  That'd be great.  This beer is really a treat!  I could have it with butter pecan ice cream or a strong cheese.  While parts of me think that this beer could be a little more robust, the other part of me is more glad that they didn't resort to the rum's alcoholic warmth to characterize this beer.  Sure, they could've made a big, boozy, hot mess and hid an inferior beer behind it.  They certainly did not.  In fact, after drinking this beer, and tasting all the butters, toffees, and vanillas,  I think I have a better idea of what a high grade rum tastes like.  Such discoveries are a new flavor "adventure" for me, since most of my high brow alcohol adventures are in scotch, whiskey, bourbon, or brandy.  And if you know anything about me, it's that I LOVE a new flavor or food/booze discovery.  This definitely qualifies.  Thanks for the lesson Innis & Gunn!  I've one more of your beers in the cellar and I can't wait to try it out.  Cheers and keep up the great work!

Picture made noticeably less impressive
by clear glass bottle.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cisco - Moor Porter

Cheers everybody and thanks for reading!  Today's brew is another one from my anonymous East Coast friend.  Not that this person supplies all my brews by any means, but I'm finally digging into that stash and I am loving every minute of it.  I'm especially grateful to receive this brew since it's available almost exclusively on the East Coast (MA, CT, RI, VT, NH, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, D.C., SC, FL, & GA)!  Today's brew is the Moor Porter from Cisco Brewing in Nantucket, Mass.  No limericks please.   OK, maybe 1 or 2 about craft beer.  I'll allow that if you feel so inspired.  Poetry comes later, though... let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
The aroma on this gets better and better every time I sniff it.  It began with dark roasts that also implied a little smoke with them.  Lots of black malts involved here, friends.  A lesser cocoa is present as is the bittersweet calling card of molasses.  As this beer warms it becomes wonderfully rich and brings out a warming chocolate, a well-blended black licorice, and plenty of the molasses.  Complex and delicious, but stops short of being a powerhouse.  Very nice.  The chocolate and cocoa seem to grow stronger all the time!

Appearance 3/3
This pours like a porter should and looks like it means business.  The glass is all but completely opaque with black goodness and shows a chestnut brown toward the top if held to light.  The head is tan and not large, but it lasts an adequate amount of time and covers the surface of the beer.

Flavor 16/20
For how dark this beer is, it starts out quite lightly.  It's almost a clean beginning with a light general sweetness and then fades gradually into a darker, more flavorful backbone.  Full disclosure: even the backbone isn't that dark.  This doesn't make it bad, but it is a surprise considering the aroma and appearance.  Fading in from the initial flavors are the smoke from the aroma and a light char.  The licorice is in the background, but grows a bit as the beer is held in the mouth.  This beer does have an interesting light sour that punches through all the dark flavors the way a ray of light shines through clouds.  Surely, the beam of citrus is diminished in comparison to its surroundings, just as the light is by the clouds, however its presence is just as noticeable.  The chocolate shows its sweet side toward the end and when it mixes with the darkly roasted black malts, gives the illusion of a coffee-ish flavor.  The finish brings to light a flavor that was previously so well blended, it was nearly undetectable.  A round earthiness comes forward in the finish and when it does so, it makes it that much easier to find in other stages of the beer.  It also enjoys a brief wash of bitter, but settles back down with the flavors of the black malts.  Funny, even the lingering aftertaste has that same illusion of coffee thanks to the roasted/bitter combination.

Mouthfeel 4/5
This is not the worlds most robust porter, but that is exactly where its strength lies.  This porter is light bodied and easy drinkin'.  It is assisted by a higher than normal level of carbonation thanks to its bottle conditioning, and the aforementioned overarching light sour flavor.  When this beer is held in the mouth the carbonation dies rather quickly, transitioning it from a light refresher to a smooth porter.  The fact that the chocolate flavors show up about the same time as the smoothness is about as nice a touch as they come.

Overall Impression 8/10
There's lots of dark goodness in this brew, but not at the expense of becoming heavy or a burden to drink.  The aroma was phenomenal, but lead to a lighter taste than anticipated.  This is a highly drinkable, accessable beer that would lend itself extremely well to introducing those that feel they are ready to darker beer.  It's lighter but not at the expense of good flavor.

Total 41/50
Another "better-than-average" beer that has some really nice things going for it.  Very drinkable, wonderful and complex aroma, and an interesting mouthfeel.  However, the flavors seem to be fighting for space instead of complementing one another or flowing one into the next.  This is especially odd since all the right ingredients seem to be utilized.  As I mentioned earlier, this brew is not a stretch to consume on a hot summer day or one after another, even at 5.5% ABV.  However, I would be more prone to use this brew to convert people to the "dark side" of beer.  If they're ready, that is.  If they're not ready, then dark beers are still going to taste like crap to them no matter how light a version of the style it may be.  But those that are ready, need not resort to flavorless American Guiness Draught (I understand that foreign versions are better, I just have yet to verify this for myself) or kill themselves on some super delicious, thick, monstrosity of a stout.  This beer exists solely to introduce people to dark beers or to be a drinkable version of the style .  It's local.  It's tasty.  It's an introduction to darker beer.  Well, as long as you're in their distribution states.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Great River - Bix Street Fest Copper Ale

It feels like it has been quite some time since I reviewed a local beer and there's no better way to break that unsavory streak that with a brewery who crafted a beer especially for a local city's annual event.  Great River makes some darn tasty beers and this year they again made their "Bix Street Fest," a copper ale.  For those unfamiliar with turn of the century jazz musicians (essentially ALL of us), Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke was an Iowa boy born in 1903 and grew up in the Quad Cities area.  He taugh himself to play cornet by ear, had his first gig at 18 in a band under his name, and was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920's.  Unfortunately, he died in his Queens, NY apartment at the age of 28 and most of his music was not well known until after his death.

To remember this fine musician, every year the Quad Cities throws a street festival rife with live jazz music and hosts a 7 mile race known as "The Bix.".  Why seven miles?  I have no idea.  But regardless of its length, it's a fairly grueling race because the downtown area of the city is built on hills thanks to its proximity to the Mississippi River Valley.  It attracts runners from around the world and, no surprise here, is usually won by Kenyans.  After the race, there is much celebrating and Great River prints this on their cans for the finishers,

"You've trained hard and the run is over, now it's time to relax and enjoy a Street fest Copper Ale, brewed especially for the Bix weekend.  Handcrated in a limited volume, you'll find Street Fest Copper Ale to be smooth, refreshing, and light enough to keep you on your feet.  Everyone wins with a Copper!" 

Meanwhile in college, Bix was a great excuse to come back to college over the summer, hang out with all your friends, party, smoke cigars, cook out, and sleep on whatever couch you could find.  Both events bring back fond memories and to date it's the only "street fest" that makes me a bit nostalgic and reminds me of friends from my past.  Let's pour!

Aroma 10/12
While this beer is not a powerhouse style, it brings some nice things to the table.  It starts out malt driven, is somewhat grainy, and shows a moderate amount of roast.  Just behind that is a light citrus snap that keeps things fresh and clean smelling.  It all feels rather simple until the beer warms a tad and a sweetness starts to develop.  Eventually it shows itself to be toffee, but continues to evolve until there is also an unmistakable vanilla note.

Appearance 2/3
The color is as promised - copper - but not without some sunset oranges to add to its appeal.  In a lighter style like this, I wouldn't expect the colors to range so much, but this is definitely above average.  I'm going to assume that this beer has a fuller mouthfeel than the style typically demands.  The head is average at best.  It gives about a finger in height, is a faded beige in color, creamy in texture, and leaves no lacing.  I'm just happy there's still some around the edge of my glass.

Flavor 17/20
As expected, this is a malt-centered beer, but thankfully there is more to it than that.  It begins with a distinct dose of the copper malts and a faint hint of that great toffee from the aroma, but the main flavors of the beer rush in quickly to silence it.  The backbone is more of the copper malts, however it has also added a slight spice, and that timid citrus which seems quite content to sit on the sides and tickle the edge of your tongue.  The sweetness is definitely detectable, unfortunately the specific vanilla and toffee notes are lost and replaced with a general sweetness.  The finish is a nice change of pace and tries to fool you into thinking you're drinking a lager.  It has a lager's bitter and crispness yet maintains the great grain flavors of the copper ale instead of finishing clean.  The aftertaste is more of the grain and roast flavors that linger on the crest of the tongue.

Mouthfeel 4/5
This beer pulls a couple of interesting tricks in the mouth..  First of all, the brewers know that this is going to be drank en masse by the Bix runners after the race, so they can't make anything too heavy.  That said, this beer has a medium body, is insanely & ridiculously smooth, and only employs minimal amounts of carbonation.  What carbonation exists is tiny and likely drowned in the silky body.  However, this is far from a monster beer.  At 4.8% ABV and 25 IBUs, this beer's numbers allow it to be something that macrobeer drinkers won't feel uncomfortable drinking.  

Their super sweet, much-improved poster for this year! Oh,
and I don't own this image at all.  Please don't sue me.
Overall Impression 7/10
This is a good beer, but far from the best that Great River makes.  It's refreshing, crisp, crazy smooth, shows some great malts, and smells like a million bucks.  To its detriment, the smell doesn't translate quite as well as I'd like into the flavor, the carbonation vanishes quickly, and it's rather simple as a whole.

Total 40/50
Solid "B" material, which frankly might be the most a copper or amber ever gets from me.  It just seems too hard to make one into a flavor rich version of the style.  Not that this beer didn't have flavor, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it rich.  Nor SHOULD I call it rich!  It's supposed to be a lighter, more refreshing offering from a brewery known for putting vanilla beans into brown ale firkins on a whim.  Indeed, it is lighter than most of their offerings and likely crafted to both please the throngs of festival goers as well as show them that beer can be more than just the flavorless macrobrews that are all too easy to purchase.  I'd say that Great River succeeds on both counts.  Unfortunately, when you make a beer to help introduce the masses to craft beer, it's seldom a powerhouse of the style.  I'd be happy to drink this on any hot summer day, but don't sign me up for that 7-mile race just yet.

One of the best-known photos of Bix.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brooklyn - Black Chocolate Stout (2007)

This is another beer that I would not have been able to get my hands on were it not for my east coast trading partner who wishes to remain anonymous.  So first, big thanks to him (or her?).  Second, I loooves me a big ol' stout.  The bigger and darker, the better.  In fact, I'd even venture to say that stouts can have just as many flavors as the venerated IPA.  This stout looks especially promising as the ABV is 10.6%, a percentage not seen frequently, let alone crammed into a 12 oz. bottle.  Oh, and did I mention that this particular bottle is from  the "limited bottling" that occurred in the winter of 2007-2008.  "So I've got that going for me.  Which is nice."  Let's pour!

Sweet, fancy Moses that looks amazing!
Aroma 12/12
Even the initial aromas of this beer were enough to earn it a higher score: dark roast, dark chocolates, and alcohol warmth that wrapped the two of them up into a comforting, cohesive bundle.  After pouring the beer and allowing it to warm a tad more, the dark fruits emerge and evoke the Dark Lord (um, that's Three Floyds, not Harry Potter).  The dark fruits, which offer cherries & raisins among others, are also complemented by the warmth and again make me think of Port wine, but without as much smokiness.  This is phenomenal!  Let things warm even further and the chocolate turns into a darker cocoa nib with some anise/black licorice notes.

Appearance 3/3
This beer, true to its namesake, practically pours like melted chocolate especially in the color.  In the glass however, it is as black as night and only lets through a coffee brown around the top edge when held to light.  The head was low, which is to be expected in a bottled beer approaching 5 years of age.  It was a wondrous dark brown and left some nice, sticky lacing even in its humble quantity.

Flavor 20/20
This is everything that I hoped it would be.  The first taste sensations are confusing.  It seems like a sharp sour and a little salty, but once your tongue can comprehend all the wonderfullness that is happening to it things begin to take shape - a glorious, tasty, amazing shape. And yes, "wonderfullness" is a word.  Bill Cosby says so.  The malts take over and show your taste buds hints of coffee, an abundance of deeply roasted/nearly charred malts, tart cherries, plenty of alcohol warmth, port, a pronounced bitter, insanely dark chocolate, and the anise from the aroma.  These flavors are all quite intense, but have the good fortune remain detectable on their own, yet still form a wonderful cohesive harmony.  Wow!  The finish is one of the most complex I seen in quite some time, but that is undoubtedly due to the complex beer that begat it.  Its alcohol heat is unashamed and bold, and forces a less balanced composition though it still remains remarkably tasty; incorporating the tartness, dark roast, and dark chocolate from the backbone.  The aftertaste is curious.  It is mostly an alcohol-induced tingle along the sides of the tongue and a sticky roasted malt in the back of the throat accompanied by a lighter bitter.  The warmth provides a cleaner aftertaste than I ever would've thought possible after such an flavor intense brew.

Mouthfeel 5/5
Warmth is obviously the first mouthfeel characteristic that leaps to mind, but it is used well and never overwhelms all the other amazing flavors and aromas.  It threatens to, but never actually follows through on its threats of coup d'état.  The carbonation is initially stronger than anticipated, but eventually dulls down to a level that sits just barely on the right side of being too aggressive.  Were it not for the fuller body, age, and simple lack of quantity this carbonation might be too much.  As it stands, the carbonation is fine, especially after realizing that most of the prickly/tingly feeling on the tongue is due to alcohol and not the carbonation.

Overall Impression 10/10
What else can I say?  Amazing aroma, good lookin', complex, robust flavor, and a permeating alcohol are the fundamentals, but the wonderful blend, well-used warmth, and the rich malts truly set this apart.

Total 50/50
If you can't your hands on Dark Lord, I'd say that this is a fine substitute.  In fact, I ranked this higher than Dark Lord!  This brew has more of the dark roasts, making it feel more like a stout.  Some people may read that as "it's less unique that DL."  That may be true, DL truly stands on its own and I've never had another stout like it.  However, this Brooklyn Brewery creation is much more like a true stout and since I like stouts that's a very good thing.  I feel bad talking so much about DL in a review for another beer, but hopefully that shows people that other, more available, beers are out there that are just as capable of knocking off your socks.  Obviously, this beer ages extremely well and I can't wait to find a "fresh" package so I can try it at all its stages of development.  In case you're counting this beer is now only the fourth beer to which I've issued a perfect score and it is most deserving.  Cheers Brooklyn!!  I'll be buying this beer whenever I see it.