Posts Tagged ‘Summit Brewing Company’

Summit Unchained #16: Herkulean Woods

Monday, September 8th, 2014

As much as I would like to deny it, it’s fall. I love the fall. The cooling air and changing colors make it perhaps my favorite season in Minnesota. The problem with fall is that it means winter is not too far behind – another nine months of virtual hibernation.

One good thing that fall brings is a plethora of malty brews. It’s the season of Oktoberfest and brown ale. While the rest of the state’s beer drinkers are obsessed with hops, I do love malt. I especially love the toasty and toffee flavors of the mid-toast malts that to me epitomize the autumnal beers. Give me the Munich malt. Bring on the Biscuit. Toss in a pinch of melanoidin malt for good measure.

Herkulean Woods, the newest Unchained beer from Summit Brewing Company, drips with this kind of deliciousness. Christian Dixon, one of Summit’s newest brewers, has laced that toasty malt with a splash of spruce and a smattering of Minnesota maple syrup. Top that off with bracing bitterness and spicy woodsy hop flavors and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a dilly of a fall beer.

Here’s my notes:

Summit Unchained #16: Herkulean WoodsUnchained #16: Herkulean Woods
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Strong California Common with spruce and maple syrup
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
8.2% ABV
77 IBU

Aroma: Bright fruity notes dominate. The blueberry-like aroma of spruce. Hop spiciness like Indian lemon pickle. Low caramel, bread crust, and toasty malt stays just below the surface.

Appearance: Medium amber/copper and clear. Full, dense, creamy, ivory head with excellent retention. Leaves lace on the glass.

Flavor: Flavor is all malt at first – toffee, burnt caramel, and toasted bread. High melanoidin character. There is plenty of malt flavor, but not a lot of sweetness. That same blueberry spruce carries through from the aroma along with a hint of pine. Maple stays very low, noticeable mostly in the finish. Some buttery kettle caramelization. Bitterness is medium-high. Hop flavors present a Hallertauesque lemon-pickle spiciness as in the aroma. A touch of alcohol. Finish is dry and lingers on hop bitterness and burnt caramel melanoidin.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-high body. Medium carbonation. Some warming.

Overall Impression: A heavy dose of toasty, high-kilned malts – the kind I like. Maple could be a bit stronger, but then again, maybe I don’t actually want that. I’m happy with the malt. A rich and tasty treat that will go well with a chill fall night. Fire pit on the patio, anyone?

The official release for Herkulean Wood happens Tuesday, September 9th from 5-7pm at McKenzie Pub in Minneapolis. Other events are scheduled over the next couple weeks. Check the Summit event calendar for information.

Summit Union Series #3 – Southern Cape Sparkling Ale

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Beer styles emerge for many reasons. Ingredient availability, economics, consumer taste, and water are all factors. Even climate can play a role, as in the development of “steam beer” in San Francisco where 19th-century lager brewers were unable to rely on frigid winters and ice to achieve cold fermentation and conditioning temperatures. Because these factors tend to be regional, beer styles also often begin as regional phenomenon.

And so it is with Sparkling Ale, the native-born style of Australia. From the earliest days of the Australian colony, beer was seen as a more wholesome and less intoxicating alternative to rum, whiskey and other spirits. A strong brewing industry, it was believed, would also have a favorable economic impact on the new colony, providing jobs and promoting agriculture. Brewing was encouraged and even subsidized with government grants.

Brewing in Australia was a difficult proposition at the time. Ingredient supply was sporadic and the warmer climate than that “back home” in England led to beer that was often subpar. This led to the closure of many of these original breweries. Those that survived sometimes adulterated their beer with opper sulphate, tobacco and cocculus indicus (a very bitter poison) to make up for their shortcomings.

Australian beer gained a negative reputation, leading to a growth in the market for imported beers, including the newly-rising lager beers. The warm climate created a demand from consumers for lighter, more refreshing brews, and lager beers filled that bill. Like the inventors of cream ale in the United States, ale brewers in Australia responded by creating a light, effervescent ale that came to be known as sparkling ale.

The style’s popularity was short lived. As lager beer continued to dominate, sparkling ale breweries closed, eventually leaving only one – the Cooper’s Brewery. Cooper’s Sparkling Ale is still available and until very recently was the only version of the style to be had in this country.

With its newest Union Series beer – Southern CapeSummit Brewing Company has brought us another, at least for a limited time. The Union Series is designed to showcase new and lesser known ingredients. In this case these new ingredients all hail appropriately from the southern hemisphere. Malts come from Australia and Chile, hops from New Zealand and South Africa. Here is Head Brewer Damian McConn giving an introduction to the new ale.

Here’s my notes:

Summit Southern Cape Sparkling AleSouthern Cape
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Australian Sparkling Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 4.4%
IBU: 47

Aroma: Malt centered with underlying fruity hop and ester compliment. Honey – like a sheet of beeswax. Fresh bread and graham cracker. Juicy fruit gum. Dried apricots. Light white-wine vinous notes.

Appearance: Medium gold and clear. 1 inch, creamy, white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: Malt centered with more-than-balancing bitterness that lingers into the finish. Same honey notes from the aroma. Graham cracker and low toast. Sweetness is low. Hop bitterness comes midway, hitting the back of the tongue with a cutting sharpness. Hop flavor is low, providing a bit of spice and limey citrus. Subtle stone-fruit esters round it out. The end is all hops, with long-lingering bitterness dominating the dry finish.

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

Overall Impression: Delicate but forceful somehow at the same time. A super-dry finish and slightly higher-than-normal carbonation keeps it light and lively on the tongue. The waxy honey notes ground it. Bitterness is stronger than I personally would prefer, but not enough to stop me from drinking it. For some reason I have the urge to make salad dressing with this. Hmmmm…..

Summit Unchained #15: Fest Bier

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

It still seems to me like just a few months ago that Summit Brewing Company released the first beer in the Unchained Series; a tasty Kölsch style brewed by former Summit brewer Mike Miziorko. But here we are almost five years later looking at beer number fifteen – Fest Bier. And we’ve come nearly full-circle. The series started with a lager-like German ale. This newest addition is the first Unchained German-style lager.

When I interviewed Summit brewers at last year’s Great American Beer Festival, Nate Siats was excited about the possibility of adding lagers to the Unchained lineup. The brewery had just completed an expansion of its cellaring capacity that would make the long-aging of a lager beer less disruptive to the overall brewing schedule. Lagers tie up tanks. More tanks means the brewery is better able to work around them. He was looking forward to taking a shot at these difficult-to-brew beers.

In the press release for Fest Bier, Siats says that he recently fell in love with the German styles. I say, “What took you so long?” For his Unchained beer he took inspiration from the Märzen beers that we call Oktoberfest and Wiesenbier, the stronger, golden lager that is actually served at the Oktoberfest in Munich. He sourced his base malts from a small maltster in the Czech Republic. The beer received a full eight weeks of cold conditioning, something of a rarity in these days of “get it on the streets” brewing.

Here’s my notes:

Summit Unchained #15: Fest BierUnchained #15: Fest Bier
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Märzen
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Light grainy sweetness. Dark honey. Bread crust and toasty melanoidin. Low notes of golden raisins. No hops to speak of. Clean.

Appearance: Medium head of just-off-white, rocky foam. Good retention. Light copper color with brilliant clarity.

Flavor: Almost equal balance of malt and hops. Malt comes out just slightly ahead at first, but gains ground through the glass – bread crust and caramel-toasty melanoidin. Low malt sweetness. Hop bitterness is medium, but enhanced by carbonation and dry finish. Long-lingering hop flavors of licorice with background of black currant and lemon peel. Finishes crisp and dry with hops and underlying toasty malt.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Carbonation is high, almost prickly.

Overall Impression: A light and refreshingly crisp Oktoberfest style beer that rides a knife-edge balance of malt and hops. Carbonation struck me as very high at first, maybe even a bit intrusive. It smoothes as the beer sits and de-gasses. I would like a touch more malt character, but I’m a true malt lover and these are my favorite malt flavors. The lessening carbonation does allow a fuller malt to finally come through.

Summit Frost Line Rye

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

“Spring,” if you want to call it that in Minnesota, is my least favorite time of year. I grew up in St. Louis. With the arrival of March came warmer weather. Not so here. Winter grinds slowly on – March, April, May… Right now as I look out the window of my office, the sun is shining and I hear birds singing. If I don’t look directly I can almost imagine 70 degrees. But then the thick snowpack reminds me that the temperature hasn’t even cracked zero.

Summit Brewing Company is trying to give us some relief. Their new in-between-seasonal Frost Line Rye is meant to fit in this interminable gray zone that falls between winter and summer. Richly malty and bracingly hoppy all at once it keeps one foot in each season. Five kinds of rye give it a spicy bite that would be refreshing in warmer weather, but seems warming in the deep-freeze.

Here’s my notes:

Bottle_Frost-Line-RyeFrost Line Rye
Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Rye Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Hops dominate with pine, citrus, and noble-hop like spiciness. Malt stays just underneath – brown sugar, biscuit, hints of cocoa. Light orangy esters.

Appearance: Medium-amber with reddish tint. Brilliantly clear. Full stand of creamy, off-white foam. Excellent retention.

Flavor: Malt and hops are nearly in balance with malt having a slight edge; grain, cocoa, brown sugar, toffee, and biscuit that gets bolder as it warms. Rye adds a dry, spicy bite that accentuates the medium-level bitterness. Hop flavors bring orange and tangerine citrus as well as some spice. Orangy esters. Well attenuated for a dry finish, lingering on a complex mix of bitterness, toffee, and rye.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation. Slightly creamy.

Overall Impression: Layered and clean. This is a good in-between beer. It’s not quite an IPA (closer to a pale, but still not quite). Not quite a malty beer. A rye-tinged American amber ale. It’s brisk and yet comforting.

Summit Union Series: Rebellion Stout

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Summit Brewing Company just keeps cranking out new brews. Between the Union Series and the Unchained Series they have had by my count five new releases this year. The latest from the Union Series, Rebellion Stout, came out just this past week. It seems that it is an extremely limited-batch brew. My sources tell me that retailers got very small allotments, meaning that in many places it has already sold out. Will there be more to follow? We can only hope.

Rebellion Stout is an example of foreign extra stout. This strong stout style was originally brewed for export to tropical regions of the British Empire. The BJCP describes two different varieties of foreign extra stout – tropical and export. The tropical version has lower roasted malt character and higher levels of malt and fermentation-derived dark fruit notes. The export variety is drier and roastier with less fruit. Examples of the tropical version available locally include Lion Stout and Xingu. There used to be more examples of the export style available in the Twin Cities. Guinness Foreign Extra, brewed since the 1800s was here for a bit, but now is apparently no longer available. You can still find the old Guinness Extra Stout bottles that used to be the only variety of Guinness available. This lack of local availability makes Rebellion Stout, an export version, a particularly welcome addition to the Summit lineup.

The focus of the Union Series is the use of new and new-ish brewing ingredients. This beer is hopped entirely with Boadicea Hops, an English variety described as having light spicy and floral aromatics. They also used Propino malt, an Irish base malt created for porters and stouts that was recently released in the US.

Here’s my notes:

Summit Rebellion StoutRebellion Stout
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Foreign Extra Stout
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Tangy, noble-like hops lead off – spice, black currant, lime peel. Reminds me of Tettnang. After the second and third sniff, malt takes over – chocolate, dry graininess and light toast. Subtle coffee notes. Low alcohol.

Appearance: Voluminous, creamy, dark-tan foam with excellent retention. Opaque black. Appears clear.

Flavor: As in the aroma, tangy, noble-like, spicy/black currant hops hit first on the tip of the tongue. Malt quickly takes over and leads the rest of the way. Chocolate is the main note – semi-sweet amd dry like an Oreo cookie. Low caramel, grainy, and toasty malt flavors add complexity. Malted milk balls. Although made with Black Patent malt, there is no harsh or burnt flavor. Hop bitterness is low, assisted by bitterness from roasted malt. Finish is off-dry with lingering molasses, licorice, and chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Creamy. Velvet silk. Medium-full body. Low carbonation. Slightly warming.

Overall Impression: Rich and roasty, but with no burnt malt flavors, this high-test stout goes down super easy. Maybe a little too easy, as it’s quite tempting to down a few. This beer was lovely with a mild blue cheese, but it would stand up quite well to a more pungent one. It’s a shame that it might be so hard to find.

Summit Brewing Company at the 2013 GABF

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Continuing with the GABF video interview series, I visit Summit Brewing Company. I chatted with brewers Nate Siats and Jeff Williamson as well as Steve Secor from packaging. They gave me the low-down on expansion, new beers, and Jeff talks about making the transition from Flat Earth to Summit.

I think this one must have happened late in the session. I seem to be a little less focused than in some of the other interviews. It is GABF!

Summit Unchained #14: Bière de Garde

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Wow! It’s been a while since I posted anything here!

You know how sometimes you get yourself involved in a project that takes over your life? You think about nothing but that thing. Your reading all revolves around that thing. You start saying “no” to offers so that you can focus more intently on that thing. That’s where I’ve been for the last couple of months. But it’s over now. I can re-enter the regular world.

It seems fitting that my first post after emerging from the bunker is the same as my last post before going under – tasting notes for the latest Unchained Series beer from Summit Brewing Company.

Jeff Williamson is one of Summit’s newest brewers. You may know him as the founder and former brew-chief at Flat Earth Brewing Company. Jeff left Flat Earth in May of 2012 and was quickly scooped up by Summit. This is his first go-round with the Unchained Series.

For this the fourteenth installment, Williamson has chosen to make a bière de garde, the French version of the farmhouse style ales that originate in the region surrounding the French/Belgian border. I have already written an extensive piece about bière de garde in The Growler, so I’ll cut to the chase and get right down to the business at hand.

Here’s my notes:

Unchained14Unchained #14: Bière de Garde
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Bière de Garde
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Malt forward, but not sweet smelling. It features notes of caramel and dry toast, with low, coffee-like, roasted undertones. Maybe a faint whiff of smoke? Low dark fruit tones. Faint alcohol adds sharpness.

Appearance: Dark mahogany with ruby highlights. Brilliantly clear. The dense, off-white to ivory foam displays good retention.

Flavor: Malt is definitely the winner here. Dry, grainy, toasted and roasted malt flavors dominate from start to finish. Some light caramel sweetness gives a moister base that helps balance the dryness. A hint of raisiny dark fruit comes in the middle, but gives way to dry, roasted bitterness in the finish. Hop bitterness is medium-low, letting malt do the rest. The finish is just off-dry with roasted malt and hop bitterness lingering after swallowing. A faint note of dark, bitter cocoa powder comes in long after swallowing.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium to medium-high carbonation. Dry with a slight bit of astringency from roasted malts.

Overall Impression: Bière de garde comes in three flavors – blond, amber, and brown. This is definitely a brown one, and a roasty one at that. Not roasty like a stout or porter, but dry, and grainy roasty with toasted backbone. It’s similar in some ways to a Scotch ale, but without the caramel sweetness and thick body. It’s a lovely beer and perfectly suited to the season.

Summit Unchained #13: Another IPA

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Does the world really need another IPA? Aren’t there enough of them yet? According to this infographic created in honor of International IPA Day (Yes, there really is such a thing. Call it the Hallmark day of beer.) IPA made up 16.5% of all craft beer production in 2012. The volume of IPA sold increased 282% between 2007 and 2012. IPA is the single largest category in the GABF competition and the Brewers Association says the style is second only to the nebulous seasonal and specialty category in popularity. Isn’t it enough already?

Not according to Mike Lundell, brewer at Summit Brewing Company and creator of the thirteenth release in the Unchained Series appropriately named Another IPA. Lundell’s previous two contributions to the series were also IPAs of sorts – a brown, rye one and a black one. I detect a pattern. That pattern and IPAs ubiquity inspired this humorous video by Summit’s in-house video dude Chip Walton.

This time Lundell has made an English-style IPA. That’s my favorite kind. They tend to be a bit lower in alcohol than their American cousins with a more substantial toffee/biscuit malt backbone to support the hops. The bitterness is high, but typically lower than in American versions. The same is true for hop flavors, which tend more toward the herbal, grassy English varieties than the citrus and pine resin American hops.

Another IPA is being released today (August 1st) with a party at Barrio in St. Paul and Pat’s Tap in Minneapolis. It is International IPA Day after all. Information about other release events can be found on the Happenings page of the Summit website.

Here’s my notes:

Brews_Bottle_Unchained13Unchained #13: Another IPA
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: English IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Hops and malt vie for dominance, modulating back and forth as to which is on top. Hops barely eke out a victory. The malt has toffee and caramel notes with hints of biscuit. The hop aromas are lovely and complex; marmalade, bergamot, hay and earth. There is even pinch of pine, but in an herbal/rosemary sense, not American pine resin.

Appearance: Full, rocky, off-white to ivory foam that persists. Dark golden with orange hue. Hazy on first pour, but cleared up as the beer warmed up.

Flavor: The whole experience gives an impression of delicacy. Very balanced. Medium-high, stony bitterness lingers into the finish, accentuated by a high degree of attenuation. Hops and fermentation give notes of orange marmalade, melons and herbs. There is a low level of sweetness in the middle, but caramel, toffee and biscuit flavors come through well.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body – surprisingly light for an IPA. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: Take the bottle out of the fridge ten minutes before you pour it. When it warms up the biscuit and toast malt flavors really start to pop. It’s so refreshingly light on the tongue. Mr. Lundell did a nice job. I think I know what beer my clients will be drinking in the next few weeks.

[EDIT] Apropos the videos below, the 12/13/2012 date code indicates that I was enjoying beer from batch one.

Summit Brewing Company Meridian Session Ale

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

“New sells.” is the response I got from one Minnesota brewer when I asked about the plethora of new brews our legacy brewers are pumping out. Indeed, in today’s market it’s not enough to stand on your laurels. Innovation is the key to staying relevant.

Enter the Union Series from Summit Brewing Company. Union Series beers will be released “every so often” according to the brewery’s press release. For this series the Summit brewers are exploring the innovations being made in other sectors of the industry – malting and hop farming. Each beer will make extensive use of “new (and sometimes rare) hops and malts.”

Meridian Session Ale is the first beer in the series. As concocted by Head Brewer Damian McConn, it is a Belgian-style single (think a sessionable version of a Belgian tripel) that is brewed with Concerto malt and Meridian hops. Concerto is a pale malt from Norfolk, the prime barley growing region of Southeast England. It is said to deliver bready and toasty qualities. Meridian hops were discovered accidentally by an Oregon hop grower attempting to resurrect an older sister variety to Willamette. They are said to bring flavors of lemon and fruit punch.

Here’s my notes:

Meridian Session Ale
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Belgian Single
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Full-bore nose emphasizing grainy and sugary malt and yeast blend with tantalizing toasted notes. Malt dominates, but hops lend a wisp of lemony citrus and herbs, underscored by hints of stone fruits.

Appearance: Deeply golden with a slight haze. Dense head of fluffy, white foam that sticks around and around.

Flavor: A delicate balance of malt, hops, and yeast. Malt gives sugary sweetness and dry toast. Bitterness is moderate, but accentuated by the desert-dry finish. It tarries a while after swallowing. Hop flavors stress lemon zest. Tropical fruit punch comes in the middle and it really does taste like fruit punch. Belgian-yeasty, cotton-candy character and spicy black pepper rounds things out. Sometimes each flavor stands out alone. Others times they all meld into one.

Mouthfeel: Light body. Medium carbonation. Slight astringency.

Overall Impression: Very refreshing, but with intriguing depth. Will be a nice springtime beer if spring ever arrives. If I had any criticism it’s that it could maybe stand a touch more carbonation. This is a great beer to pair with spring veggies like asparagus and ramps.

Summit Unchained #12: 100% Organic Ale

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Gabe Smoley is one of the newest brewers at Summit Brewing Company. Unchained #12: 100% Organic Ale is his first entry into the Unchained Series. He went all out to make a certified, 100% organic brew. Says he, “Most USDA certified organic beers on the market are about 95-99.9% organic because it is extremely difficult to find ingredients like organic yeast. This beer is made with 100% organic ingredients including malts, hops and yeast. Summit microbiologist James Fetherston and I worked together to create our own certified organic yeast strain to do this, as there are virtually no organic strains available from laboratories.”

The aim was to craft a light, yet bracing beer appropriate for spring; a move away from the heavy beers of winter, with a hoppy kick to mimic the lingering cold. Drinkers who are too tied to the style guidelines may take issue with calling this an IPA, but they do say “sessionable IPA.” Just drink it and enjoy it for what it is, whatever that may be.

100% Organic Ale launches this week with meet-the-brewer events at bars around the Metro.

March 12: Release Party/Meet the Brewer – House of Pizza, Sartel, 5-7 pm
March 13: Meet the brewer – Brasa St. Paul, 6-8 pm – Brasa St. Paul and Minneapolis will also feature Unchained 12 food pairings from 5-9 pm
March 14: “Hoppy Meals” pairings – Republic Uptown, 4-6 pm; Republic Seven Corners, 7-9 pm
March 15: Firkin Friday with Organic Ale cask – Grumpy’s NE, 4 pm
March 21: Meet Gabe and sample Organic Ale – Four Firkins, 6-8 pm
March 28: Flight Night at Ginger Hop featuring Organic Ale. Flights include four Summit beers total.

Here’s my notes:

Organic-Ale-BTL-web2Unchained #12: 100% Organic Ale
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: “Session” IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Big aromatics from a fairly small beer. Hops hit the nose first – floral and citrus. Biscuity malt comes in shortly to offer support. Nicely balanced between the two. An undercurrent of candied fruit throughout.

Appearance: Dark golden color and clear. The off-white head is full, creamy, and very persistent. Settled after a long while to a sustained film on the surface.

Flavor: Light and refreshing. Very dry with pithy bitterness that lingers well into the finish. Floral and lemon-lime citrus hop flavors carry through from beginning to end. Some peppery spice in there as well. The malt fills in lightly underneath with a biscuit character that brings a vaguely English flair. It offers enough sweetness to temper the hops, but not quite enough to balance.

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

Overall Impression: This one leans a bit more to hops than I would like, but then that’s kind of the point of the beer. It’s close, but a hint more malt to back up the bitterness would have been welcome on my palate. Brewer Smoley says to drink this around 40°F. I would suggest a higher temperature to bring out more of the malt. While style-sticklers will have issues with calling this an “IPA,” it fits the brewer’s description of “sessionable IPA” quite nicely; light like a pale ale, but with a bigger hop load.