Surly Brewing Company – Todd the Axe Man

I find myself at a rare loss for words. At this moment, seek I have no stories to relate – no odd ramblings about styles or trends. My mind is preoccupied with other things, find so I’ll cut to the chase.

Here’s my notes:

todd-the-axe-man-present-465-x-622Todd the Axe Man
Surly Brewing Company, rx Minneapolis, Minnesota
Style: American IPA
Serving Style: 16 oz. can
7.2% ABV
65 IBU

Aroma: Hits your nose from a distance as soon as you pour. Hops dominate with little backup – citrus pith and geraniums. Pink grapefruit slices. Low pineapple background notes. Light and airy.

Appearance: Medium gold/orange. Hazy. Moderate, creamy, white head with excellent retention.

Flavor: All about the hops. Bitterness is high and lingers long into the finish with a citrus pith quality. Hop flavor is the main event – citrus, grapefruit, and floral. Low pineapple and tropical fruits come in midway. Lemony highlights. Low garlic note, but not distracting. Low alcohol that gets stronger as the beer warms. Low malt sweetness and background, neutral grainy flavor. Very dry finish with lingering citrus.

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

Overall Impression: Those who know me know that I’m not all about the IPAs. I can’t say that I will drink a ton of this, but if I want an IPA, I could do far worse than this one. It’s light, refreshing, and smooth. Although malt plays a very minor role, the bright hop flavors make up for it. Those flavors are expressed in delicate and clearly articulated layers. It’s really quite well done. If you are a fan of the hops, drink this.

 

Coney Island Hard Root Beer

As long as we’re talking about root beer…

We were talking about root beer, weren’t we? Judging from the response to my Not Your Father’s Root Beer post of a few days ago, apparently we are. We REALLY are.

Well, the Small Town Brewery offering isn’t the only new kid on the block. Coney Island Brewing Company recently released one of its own. The folks at Coney Island were kind enough to send me a sample for tasting.

Coney Island Brewing Company was founded in 2007 by Jeremy Cowan as a spin-off of Shmaltz Brewing Company. You can read my profile of Cowan in the upcoming issue of Beer Connoisseur Magazine. Cowan sold the brand to Alchemy and Science, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boston Beer Company in 2013. The sale helped finance the expansion of the Shmaltz core lineup of He’brew beers and the construction of its new brewery in New York.

To extend the argument over whether these things are beer or not, the promotional material for Coney Island Hard Root Beer states, “Coney Island Hard Root Beer is a beer made with all natural, traditional root beer flavors. It begins with 2-row malt, caramel malt and European hops. It then undergoes a secondary fermentation with additional sugars and ale yeast, which is filtered to develop the perfect root beer base. From there we add the final all natural flavors from the best ingredients available, including Madagascar vanilla.” Sure sounds like beer, but it’s an FMB.

Here’s my notes:

Coney Island Hard Root BeerConey Island Hard Root Beer
Coney Island Brewing Company, Brooklyn, New York
Style: Hard Root Beer
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
5.8% ABV

Aroma: Wintergreen aromas hit the nose from 18-inches away. Refreshingly minty. Low vanilla. Faint anise background.

Appearance: Stout-like black, opaque. Low, soda-like, tan foam with no retention.

Flavor: Sharp. Peppery. Clove and spice. Wintergreen is still dominant, but with more of the anise and spice balance. Vanilla is low. Brown sugar or molasses. High sweetness, but the spiciness really helps to cut it. Low alcohol. Finish is moderately sweet with strong lingering wintergreen and gentler notes of anise, clove, and pepper. Slight alcohol aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. High carbonation. Low warming. A bit cloying, like soda.

Overall Impression: A very botanical beverage. I like the sharper edge than NYFRB. I am a fan of root beer and this tastes like a good one to me. If you like root beer, then I think you will like this. If you don’t like root beer, then drink something else. This tastes like root beer. If you are going to get all pissy about whether or not this is beer, then just get over yourself.

Summit Unchained #19: Make It So

As I sit here typing, pills I am sipping on a cup of hot, tadalafil Earl Grey tea. It is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Hot tea in general, medicine actually. I am a person of rituals. Every day I have two cups of coffee in the morning and then drink cup after cup of hot tea through the rest of the day – even in the summer. The first at 10:00am give me a nice mid-morning break from work. Then there is one after lunch, one or two through the afternoon, and finally, one after dinner.

Another great pleasure in my life is English beer. Bitters, porters, and stouts with their earthy/herbal hops, toasted biscuit malt, and funky, buttered-marmalade fermentation flavors are soothing to my soul. German lagers have taken over the top spot in my hierarchy of beer styles, but English beers still hold a place of very high esteem.

I wouldn’t call myself a Star Trek geek, but I have been an avid follower of the show. I watched the original in first run. (I just dated myself?) I hated Deep Space 9. It sucked, admit it. But I watched the others religiously. I dug Data, had a crush on Seven of Nine (who didn’t?), and I do love me some Jean Luc Picard. Wait…that came out wrong.

New Summit Brewer Nick Hempfer has combined all three of these things in the newest Unchained Series beer Make It So. It’s an English Extra Special Bitter brewed with Earl Grey tea, Captain Picard’s favorite sip.

Tea beers aren’t new. There are a few of them out there. Funkwerks Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado had a winner with Leuven, a green tea-infused, brettanomyces-inflected saison. Japanese Green Tea IPA from Stone Brewing is another one worth checking out. They can work quite well if you get the balance right. Star Trek beers have also been done. Stone Brewing did Farking Wheaton W00TSTOUT with actor Wil Wheaton who played Wesley Crusher on Next Generation. Someone even came out with Klingon Warnog and Vulcan Ale in cans.

But I do believe that young Nick Hempfer is the first to bring together all of these things in a truly coherent conceptual package. Earl Grey, ESB, and Jean Luc Picard. It all makes sense.

Here’s my notes:

Brews_Can_MakeItSoUnchained #19: Make It So
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Extra Special Bitter with Earl Grey Tea
Serving Style: 12 oz. can
5.3% ABV
40 IBU

Aroma: Fruit and buttered toffee. Notes of herbs and orange citrus. Iced tea. Toffee malt with low perception of sweetness. Iced tea lingers in the nostrils.

Appearance: Medium amber/orange. Brilliant. Full, creamy, ivory head with excellent retention.

Flavor: A bit malt forward with soothing, English toffee and toasted biscuit character. Bitterness is medium and lingers long into the finish. Hop character is low – herbal. Some subtle, orange-citrus esters and low butterscotch. The Earl Grey has a presence mid-palate – blends with hops and brings a light iced tea quality similar to that from the aroma. More the black tea flavor than the bergamot that defines Earl Grey. Some black tea tannin joins in the finish to grab the sides of the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Low carbonation. Light tannic astringency. Low creaminess.

Overall Impression: Lovely. The tea makes a subtle addition, blending nicely with the hops, the yeast, and the malt. Like spice in a good Belgian ale, it adds depth without calling itself out. The Base ESB is solid. Wonderful toffee malt and English fermentation character. One of my favorite beer styles with one of my favorite kinds of tea. This is all that I hoped it would be.

The official release party Make It So happens this evening (8/1/15) at the Summit Brewing Company beer hall at 5:00 pm.