Boulevard Brewing Co. – The Calling IPA

I don’t have a lot of back-story here. I like the Smokestack Series beers from Boulevard Brewing Co. They have a new one that will be year-round. It’s called The Calling IPA. A simple malt bill of just pale 2-row barley malt supports a blend of eight different hops – Mosaic, ask Equinox, click Galaxy, seek Amarillo, Simcoe, Bravo, Topaz, and Cascade. That’s a lotta hops.

Here’s my notes:

the_calling_12oz_bottleThe Calling
Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Missouri
Style: American IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
8.5% ABV
75 IBU

Aroma: All hops – Citrus, lemons, grapefruit, tropical fruits. The deep, juicy kind of tropical – mango and guava. Low herbal/mint notes. Faint malt sweetness with neutral character. Low floral alcohol. Super fruity, sweet and juicy, with contrasting floral alcohol.

Appearance: Light gold and hazy. Moderate, creamy, white head with moderate retention.

Flavor: Juicy hop flavors dominate over low, grainy malt sweetness. Bitterness is restrained, but lingers into the finish at low levels. Pineapple. Tropical fruit. Mangoes. Lemon curd. Pine resin. The lemon shines bright in the off-dry finish. Moderate alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation. Low alcohol warming. Not astringent.

Overall Impression: Bitterness is surprisingly restrained at 75 IBU. The 8.5% load of malt sweetness more than amply balances it. This beer holds its alcohol well. It’s an example of style-creep that has occurred since the last BJCP guidelines were written. This falls into Double IPA range, but Boulevard calls it an IPA. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

LynLake Brewery – A First Look

LynLake Brewery

Progress has been slow in the continuing quest to satisfy my New Year’s resolution by visiting all the TC taprooms that I have neglected. I’m sorry. I’m really busy right now. But it is always on my mind – a little nagging voice in my head telling me, cure buy cialis “Get your butt out of the house and go drink some beer!” I finally listened to that voice, cialis pried free some time, hospital and got my butt into the next taproom on my list, LynLake Brewery.

lyndale bingoLynLake is located on South Lyndale Avenue just north of Lake Street (thus the name) between The Herkimer and Moto-I. It occupies a most fascinating building. The Lyndale Theater opened in 1915 as a silent movie house and operated as a cinema until it closed in 1952. An interesting bit of trivia, actor Eddie Albert was once a manager there. That’s Oliver Wendell Douglas for any fellow Green Acres fans. The building became a grocery store in 1954 and was a furniture store from 1962 to 1972. The American Legion used it as a bingo hall from 1973 to 1990. After that came an antique store, which closed around 2006.

The building’s history plays a role in defining the feel of the place. The high, movie theater ceiling gives it a fantastically open feel. Surviving gold gilt on the cross members, together with the exposed brick walls evoke a nostalgic feel of another era. I kept looking for a proscenium arch on the back wall. This old-time feel is amplified by the antique looking light bulbs that illuminate the space and the bent bike wheels that hang over the bar. The brewhouse rises at the back of the room like the set of a 1930s Frankenstein film.


They don’t serve food at LynLake, nor can they have food trucks parked on Lyndale Avenue. But the table flip-charts have menus from a number of nearby restaurants that will deliver. As the instructions on the cards say, just call them up, order, pay, and eat.

An elevator and rather impressive staircases on either side of the room lead up to a delightful rooftop patio. There is ample picnic table-type seating and two fire pits to warm you up on cooler spring and fall days. The Lyndale Avenue side of the patio offers a great view of the Minneapolis skyline. It will be a great place for a beer this summer.

Although nothing was terrible, I found the beers to be a bit hit or miss. Some were great, some not so much. So let’s start with the great.

Sideburns Oat Raisin Milk Stout on nitro was fantastic. It’s full-bodied, rich, and rummy, with huge cocoa notes giving the impression of creamy, melted, bittersweet chocolate. The raisins come across as a faint, background hint of dark fruit. There is some licorice. A touch of dry, black malt roast offers a balancing counterpoint to the sweetness.

My second favorite on the list fell at the opposite end of the spectrum from Sideburns. Ponyboy Gold Lager is light, sessionable, and utterly delightful. Beer nerds tend to poo-poo American-style lagers. There really is no reason for it when you can get one as good as this. It’s simple and lightly sweet, with overtones of toasted grain if you are willing to look for them. Bitterness is medium-low and supported by spice and lemon hop flavors. If you want a beer for the long haul, this is it.

MMC 63 American Brown Ale was one of the two cask-conditioned offerings available during my visit. It was a well-done cask – clear, smooth, and served at the proper temperature. The beer was good, too. Caramel, nuts, a touch of chocolate, and a bit of roast make up the body. It’s balanced by a moderate level of bitterness. Tasty!

Take 6 is a decent if not great American India Pale Ale. It emphasizes hop flavor and aroma over bitterness and in fact comes off as just a little bit sweet – Midwestern style. Peppery spice and lemon-pith citrus give the beer its zing. There is a hint of that hop-derived garlic of which I am not a fan. With so many great IPAs out there, I’d say drink something else while you’re here. Sideburns, for instance.

Rubbish Oat Amber Ale was the biggest disappointment. There is a lot going on in this so-called Scottish amber ale. Caramel, raisins, cherries, and chocolate all make an appearance. The beer poured with a heavy haze. The murky appearance matched the profile. The myriad flavors all just seemed jumbled together without crisp definition.

Despite a couple of less appealing beers, I’d say that overall for ambiance, beer, and the rooftop patio, LynLake Brewery is worth a stop. Hours are:
Wednesday and Thursday: 5pm-12am
Friday: 4pm-1am
Saturday: 12pm-1am
Sunday: 12pm-10pm


Utah’s Uinta Brewing Co. Enters Minnesota

I love Utah!

From snow-capped mountains in the north to slick-rock desert canyons in the south, it is a natural wonderland of truly extraordinary beauty. I visit the southern, high desert every year. If I don’t get my annual Utah fix I get all itchy in my soul. There is nothing more spiritually regenerating than being alone in the absolute silence of a canyon watching the bright blaze of oranges and reds as the rocks light up at sunset. I would move out there if I could come up with a way to make a living that I think I would actually enjoy.

What many people don’t realize is that there is actually a pretty decent craft beer scene in Utah. Salt Lake City is home to 18 breweries, including Squatters, Epic, Bohemian, Wasatch, and the oldest, Uinta. There are a number of others spread around the state for a total of 30-plus. As the headline on the Utah Beer Blog states, “We may live in a desert, but we’re not dry.”

There is a misconception about Utah beer that deserves clearing up. The belief is that brewers in the state can only make the dreaded “3.2 beer.” The first thing to tackle here is exactly what that means. There are two ways to measure alcohol content – by weight and by volume. The two are not equivalent. For whatever reason most state regulators measure alcohol by weight. The rest of us talk about alcohol by volume. 3.2% alcohol by weight translates to approximately 4% alcohol by volume – about the same as many American lagers or Guinness Draught Stout. The English and the Scots have been making full-flavored ales, bitters, browns, and stouts at 4% ABV and much lower for a very long time. The fact is that sessionable, low-alcohol beers don’t have to be flavorless.

The second piece of this common belief is that Utah brewers are not restricted to 4% alcohol. Draft beers have to be 4% or less. They can put whatever they want into a bottle. There are plenty of good IPAs, double IPAs, and even barleywines being made in the Beehive State.

I like to drink local when I travel. So when I make my annual western trek, I drink a lot of Utah beer. I have very seldom been disappointed, even by the low-alcohol offerings. A 4% beer tastes pretty damn good after spending an entire day hiking in the dry, desert air. One of my favorites has always been Uinta Brewing Company. Pretty much everything I have tasted of theirs – from small beers to big – has been tasty and satisfying. So I was pretty psyched to learn that this brewery is entering the Twin Cities market this week. The beers being launched here should put the 4% myth to rest. They include a 9.2% alcohol Imperial Black IPA and a 9.5% Double IPA!

We actually had Uinta beers in the Twin Cities for a very brief time several years ago. Co-owner Steve Kuftinic has relations here and brought the occasional case with him when he would he would visit. It’s good to see them back. There is a launch event this Wednesday at Mackenzie’s Pub if you want to check them out.

I sampled a few brews prior to the launch. Just to make sure they were up to snuff, you know.

Here’s my notes:

Uinta Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, Utah
Style: Extra Pale Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
4% ABV
29 IBU

Aroma: Aromatics are low overall. Bright and delicate citrus hops – lemon. Some floral notes. Sweet malt beneath, with some biscuit notes. Low esters – pineapple. Some English-like butter.

Appearance: Deep gold with a slight haze. Moderate, dense, white foam with good retention.

Flavor: Very light and delicate – almost thin. Bitterness is the focus. Initial bitterness gives way to sweetness and fruit, coming back to bitterness at the end. Malt is very low – light sweetness with a biscuity, grainy character. Hop flavors reflect aroma – citrus, lemon, oranges, some floral. Low esters – pineapple. Faint butter. Tannic, tea-like drying in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium carbonation. Low astringency.

Overall Impression: An English bitter profile with American hop flavor and aromas. Sessionable and summery. Grainy, biscuit malt supports impressive, yet smooth bitterness for such a small beer. Hops are what it’s all about, but not overly aggressively.

babaBaba Black Lager
Style: Schwarzbier
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
4% ABV
32 IBU

Aroma: Aromatics generally low, but malt dominated. Subtle roast malt – coffee and faint cocoa. Bread crust. Very low spicy, noble hops.

Appearance: Very dark brown, nearly opaque black. Full, creamy, beige head with good retention.

Flavor: Malt dominated. Leads with cocoa and roasted malt bitterness. Midway some creamy, bittersweet chocolate comes in, giving an impression of increased sweetness. Other malt notes of bread crust. Low citrus/spice noble hop flavor. Hop bitterness is medium. Finish is very dry, accentuated by dry, roasted malt – coffee grounds and lightly burnt acrid.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium carbonation. Low roast malt astringency.

Overall Impression: A really nice, if a bit roasty version of a German-style, black lager. Made with organic barley and hops. I would drink a lot of this. Actually, I have.

Style: Imperial Black IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
9.2% ABV
109 IBU

Aroma: Roast and resin. Chocolate and cocoa malt. Resinous citrus/pine hops. Oranges. Grapefruit rind.

Appearance: Very dark brown – nearly opaque black. Clear. Thick, creamy, tan head with good retention.

Flavor: Malt and hops in balance. Rich. Malt character is strong – chocolate roast. Medium sweetness balanced by high and long-lingering hop bitterness, which is accentuated by bitterness from roasted malt. Same resin and citrus hop flavor as in the aroma. High orange and grapefruit pith notes contrast the chocolate. Alcohol is apparent – a touch hot. Finish is off-dry. Very low acrid black malt notes add dryness.

Mouthfeel: Creamy. Full body. Medium carbonation. Medium alcohol warming.

Overall Impression: Big, black, bold, and bitter. The chocolaty malt plays a large role here, giving it a pleasing, creamy richness. Contrasting citrus makes is like a flavored chocolate bar. The only real distraction is a bit of booziness from the alcohol.

Grains & Grapes Tour De Oregon

oregon imageTraveling just got a little bit more interesting!

Announcing Amusée Excursions: Wine and Beer Global Travel led by certified beverage professionals – Sommelier Leslee Miller & Cicerone Michael Agnew.

Leslee and I have been joined at the hip for several years now, cialis spreading the good news of beer and wine. Our classes and events have earned a reputation for fun and excellence with aficionados across the Twin Cities and beyond. As our businesses have expanded and our relationships with breweries and wineries have strengthened, sick we feel it is time to share our insatiable love for not only beer & wine but travel as well!

With that in mind, we are launching Grains & Grapes Adventure Tours. And we’re starting off big. This year is already jam packed with a thrilling schedule of wine and beer adventures from Oregon to Germany.

Tour de Oregon (that’s o-re-GOHN), November 4-8, 2015

Leslee and I very excited about announcing our first trip. Tour de Oregon has taken us well over a year to plan (because we wanted it be THAT special!). It is now ready for registration. I can promise you it will be an amazing VIP travel experience for any wine/beer enthusiast!

Start your journey in Oregon’s ‘City of Roses’ — Portland! Explore Portland’s food and libation culture as we lead you through some of the city’s most coveted food sites and pairings. Enjoy a combo of privately led brewery tours by some of the city’s most talented brewmasters, taste from a variety of Portland’s legendary food-carts, and savor a perfectly paired chef/sommelier wine dinner in the heart of the city’s Pearl District.

Then travel to one of the world’s most envied, world-class sites for Pinot Noir – the Willamette Valley! We’ll stay in one of Condé Naste’s 2014 Top 25 Resorts, the Allison Inn & Spa, (named by the magazine ‘a jewel of a resort’) as we spend three days touring the terroir of the valley’s finest restaurants and wineries. Enjoy privileged access to many of the Pacific Northwest’s most talked about wine country experiences, as you sip your way through an array of fantastic Willamette Valley winery tours and tastings. Savor an afternoon walk through the Jory clay soils of a Dundee vineyard tour and experience a lavish winery cave dinner paired to one of the valley’s most celebrated Pinot Noir house’s exclusive portfolio. But the Willamette Valley is not just about wine. There is beer there as well. You’ll indulge in a brewmaster’s luncheon with the founder of one of Oregon’s newest and most interesting breweries, Wolves & People, with a collection of the brewery’s farmhouse-style gems paired to the Allison Inn’s award-winning food.

As if our adventure hasn’t already been a whirlwind of unbelievable experiences, we wrap up the weekend with a gorgeous private dinner in a cozy Dundee restaurant featuring a hand-crafted menu with beer and wine pairings selected by your Sommelier and Cicerone hosts.

This is truly an excursion you will be talking about for years to come; a trip that exceeds what Leslee and I plan for ourselves when we head to beer and wine territory!


Trip Inclusions:

  • 1 night stay at the historic Heathman Hotel, downtown Portland
  • 3 night stay at Condé Naste’s award-winning inn, The Allison Inn & Spa
  • Full luxury coach travel from the Heathman Hotel to the Willamette Valley
  • 2 Brewery tours & tastings in the city of Portland (Widmer Brothers, Hair of the Dog, and maybe one more surprise. Shhhhh…)
  • 2 hotel breakfasts
  • A Brewmaster’s luncheon with Wolves & People Brewery owner, Christian DeBenedetti, at the Allison Inn & Spa
  • A winery luncheon with winemaker & owner of Youngberg Hill Winery, Wayne Bailey
  • A private winery cave dinner at Archery Summit Winery
  • A Beer/Wine paired dinner at Reds Hills Provincial Dining
  • A Chef/Sommelier paired dinner at Blue Hour Restaurant of Portland’s historic, Pearl District
  • 3 Willamette Valley winery tours & tastings (Youngberg Hill, Colene Clemens & Argyle Wineries)
  • An afternoon guided vineyard tour through some of the valley’s most coveted Pinot Noir sites with one of the valley’s most famous vineyard managers
  • Professional onsite coordination and assistance

Trip does not include:

  • Round-trip airfare (Plan to arrive in ‘PDX’ in time for our first event which begins @ 5pm on Wed, Nov 4th–Departure at your leisure on Sunday, Nov 8th)
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal incidentals
  • Airport transfers in both your home city and Portland

Payment Details:

  • $2650 per person includes the details listed above
  • Payment may be made by cash or check, or by credit card (processing fee of 4% applies to credit card payments)
  • Checks may be made payable to Amusée & mailed to: Amusée, P.O. Box 583242, Minneapolis, MN 55458
  • Prior to departure, a trip itinerary and package will be mailed to each passenger with full detail of the trip’s layout
  • Once payment is made, trip cost is nonrefundable.
  • Call 612.655.4839 to reserve your spot today! (Trip is limited to just 20 seats.)

Due the nature of the program inclusions combined with the limited space, we are giving priority to double occupancy requests (couples or two singles sharing a room) so we can fully use our block of 20 rooms. Single occupancy participation in group programs requires an additional fee or ‘single supplement’ as you would encounter on a cruise. We wanted to avoid this on our inaugural excursion, but will evaluate the demand and consider this option for future excursions. Thank you for your understanding.