Finnegan’s Hoppy Shepherd

I remember the first time I tasted Finnegan’s Irish Amber. I was attending some kind of showcase event for community engaged entrepreneurs and it was the only beer available. My beer nerddom was still in development, but I believe I was a bit pretentious. I was underwhelmed. I was an idiot.

I had never heard of Finnegan’s. I didn’t know why they would be sponsoring this do-gooder showcase. I knew nothing of their mission. Now, of course, it all makes perfect sense.

For those who don’t know about Finnegan’s, their succinct mission statement says it all – “Turning beer into food.” In every market where their beer is sold, Finnegan’s devotes 100 percent of its profits to the task of feeding the hungry. You read that right. 100 percent. Their Community Fund buys produce from local farmers and donates it to food shelves. They have turned the food truck thing that is such a part of the taproom scene on its head with their “reverse food truck.” Rather than selling food, it takes donations of food. That’s community engaged entrepreneurship.

Finnegan’s beer is currently contract brewed at Summit Brewing Company. But Finnegan’s has big plans for a downtown Minneapolis “brewtel” – a combination hotel, brewery and retail development. The project will also include an event center and the so-called “Finnovation Lab,” which will serve as an incubator for new socially centered businesses. The mission continues.

The partnership with Summit has helped Finnegan’s expand its beer lineup in delicious directions. Under the guidance of Summit Head Brewer Damian McConn, Finnegan’s has released the delightful Finnegan’s Blond (now sadly discontinued) and the dusky Dead Irish Poet Extra Stout. Now they have added a new one to the list – Hoppy Shepherd. It’s described as “a lively session ale made from Admiral, Centennial, Citra and Jester hops.” Session is all the rage and we Minnesotans do love our hops.

Here’s my notes:

Finnegan's Hoppy ShepherdHoppy Shepherd
Finnegan’s, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Style: American Pale Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
4.6% ABV
50 IBU

Aroma: Bright floral and grapefruit hops. Fresh and juicy. Minty. Apricot. Low grainy malt.

Appearance: Dark gold and brilliant. Full, fluffy, white head with excellent retention.

Flavor: Hop forward with low malt support. Malt has a toasted cereal character. Medium-low intensity. Low sweetness. Hop flavor is the driver – bright floral and citrus. Juicy grapefruit segments. Apricots. Bitterness is high. Very dry finish with lingering bitterness and toast.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium-high carbonation.

Overall Impression: A delightfully easy to drink pale ale. I love the toasted malt supporting the bright hop character. Not terribly complex, but it’s a “session ale.” It’s not supposed to be terribly complex. Drink this one when you want your beer to be satisfying, but not intrusive.

Indeed Mexican Honey Lager

Finally a real snowfall. 13 inches on Tuesday plus a dusting today. And the temperature is down to the normal range with lows around nine degrees Fahrenheit. Winter has come in fits and starts this year, look but now it seems it’s finally here. Time for a tall, cold Mexican lager.

(Sound of record scratching.)

It’s okay. Lager is good anytime – even in the middle of a Minnesota winter. And there really is nothing wrong with those Mexican lagers, even if so many of us want to deny their right to be called beer.

But when the Mexican lager is Imperial it’s even more winter friendly. Eight percent alcohol gives that little bit of warming to help take the edge off of winter’s bite.

But really? Imperial Mexican lager. What are you thinking, Indeed Brewing Company? It kind of reminds me of all the faddish Imperial Pilsners that are floating around out there these days. “What’s the point?” I ask of those. “Pilsner is perfect as it is.” I’ve seldom met an Imperial Pilsner that I liked. So why would I like an imperial Mexican lager? Even if it is made with orange blossom honey.

I looked back through my records and found that I had written notes on this one at some time in the past. I think it was 2013, the year this beer was first released. At least that’s what I’m going to say now. I like to do these comparisons. It gives a good perspective on the changes that can occur over time – in both beer and palate.

Here’s my notes:

Mexican Honey Imperial LagerMexican Honey Imperial Lager
Indeed Brewing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Style: Imperial Mexican Lager
Serving Style: 16 oz. can
8% ABV
17 IBU

Aroma 2013: Light grainy sweetness. Citrus hops are strong – tangerine and oranges. Low notes of honey.

Aroma 2016: Grainy sweetness with overtones of honey. Very light toasted grain. Hints of spicy hops. Low sulfur.

Appearance 2013: Medium gold and hazy. Full, rocky, dense white foam with excellent retention.

Appearance 2016: Full, creamy, mixed-bubble, white foam with excellent retention. Deep gold and brilliant.

Flavor 2013: Full, grainy malt sweetness. Some bready, pils malt character. Honey comes strongly mid-palate and remains in the finish. Bitterness is low, but just almost enough to balance. Overtones of orange and tangerine from the hops. Delicate. Nuanced. Faint apple notes. Finishes with lingering honey and sweetness. Floral.

Flavor 2016: Largely follows aroma. Malt dominates – toasted grain and medium sweetness. Honey is clear. Medium-low bitterness offers some balance. Medium spicy hop flavors. Low lemony citrus. Some alcohol. Finish is off-dry with lingering honey and spice.

Mouthfeel 2013: Medium-light body. Delicate. High to medium-high carbonation.

Mouthfeel 2016: Medium-full body. Low alcohol warming. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression 2013: Light and nuanced, yet full and filling. Imperial Mexican lager? WTF! On the long haul perhaps a bit one-note, but one glass goes down well.

Overall Impression 2016: Almost a Maibock, but with a simpler profile. The flavor is what one would expect from an oversized American lager. I expected more citrus from Amarillo hops. They really came off to me as spicy, almost Noble hop varieties. Overall I like it. A decent winter lager.