Friday Quick Pick - Summit Oktoberfest

Well, it’s that time of year when the colors start changing and no I don’t mean from green to red, I mean from pale yellow to amber.  That’s right, it’s Oktoberfest season!

Earlier this week, Guitarboy Johnny posted his review of Lakefront Brewery Oktoberfest, I figured for our Quick Pick we should feature one from this side of the Mississippi. Summit Oktoberfest.

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As Johnny mentioned in his post regarding Oktoberfest styles of beer:

The name implies it is brewed late in the year but it is traditionally brewed in late winter. It is then aged until autumn which gives it a distinct hoppy, malty flavor, and slightly higher alcohol content. In addition a beer cannot truly be called Oktoberfest unless it is brewed within the city limits of Munich. If it is brewed outside the city limits it must be called an Oktoberfest-“style” beer.

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Summit’s version of the beer appears to be a tad different than Lakefront. I found this beer to be medium bodied, but more malty sweet than yeasty, but there is a bread quality to the flavor. It has a great amber color body and bone colored head and the aroma is caramel sweet. At 6.6 % ABV it would be easy to knock back a couple on a nice fall afternoon.

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This beer is one of the easier to drink Oktoberfests I have had.  The flavor is rich without being overpowering.  I highly recommend picking it up.

Until next time.

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Lakefront Brewery - Oktoberfest

There are a few things in life I find inexcusable. I cannot tolerate when retailers put up Christmas decorations in September. It drives me crazy when Halloween displays appear in August. And the most annoying is seeing back-to-school sales on the first day of summer vacation. But there is one exception, and that’s when Oktoberfest beer appears at the end of summer.

Actually the term Oktoberfest is a bit of a misnomer. The name implies it is brewed late in the year but it is traditionally brewed in late winter. It is then aged until autumn which gives it a distinct hoppy, malty flavor, and slightly higher alcohol content. In addition a beer cannot truly be called Oktoberfest unless it is brewed within the city limits of Munich. If it is brewed outside the city limits it must be called an Oktoberfest-“style” beer. Another little known fact is that only true Oktoberfest beers can be served at the original Munich Oktoberfest.

The birth of Oktoberfest beer dates back more than 500 years. At that time German brewers couldn’t understand why beer brewed during the summer ended up tasting sour and medicinal, whereas beer brewed in the colder winter months tasted clean and refreshing. What the brewers didn’t know was that airborne microbes flourish in the summer and tend to destroy the taste of beer when it is stored in kegs. Because of this the breweries were forced to shut down during the summer months. To compensate for this loss in production extra labor was hired and long hours were worked during the winter months. Beer was stored in kegs that were moved into caves and cellars which were packed with ice and snow. This large stockpile was then sold throughout the spring and summer and maintained its pleasant flavor. But when the summer was ending many of the kegs were still filled and desperately needed to store the next batch. The citizens of Germany were faced with a daunting task. They asked a question heard only once in the history of the world.

“HOW ARE WE GOING TO DRINK ALL THIS BEER?!?”

And a timeless, nameless, historic voice echoed above the anxiety-ridden masses.

“PARTY!!!”

And the first Oktoberfest was born. The citizens of Munich slipped into their finest togas, spewed mashed potatoes from their bulging cheeks, and smashed every acoustic guitar within the city limits. A good time was had by all until Dean Wormer brandished his iron first. The rest is history.

For my subject I chose Milwaukee’s own Lakefront Brewery’s Oktoberfest. I picked it up at Trader Joe’s on North Port Washington Road. Oktoberfest has a rich dark caramel color that is very inviting. The taste is thirst quenching and satisfying. The yeast flavor stays in your mouth long after the beer has been swallowed; reminding you that this isn’t the beer you drank in college. I found Oktoberfest to be very drinkable, not too heavy, and not overboard with the hops. Half way through the first I was looking forward to the second.


Lakefront Brewery has been making affordable craft brewed beers since 1987. Some of the more popular names you may recognize are Fixed Gear, an American Red Ale, Fuel Café, an organic coffee stout, and the very popular Riverwest Stein, an American Amber Lager. Give them a try. I know I have.

So if Munich isn’t in your travel plans, throw your own Oktoberfest. Dust off that old toga, smash a couple of beer cans against your forehead, but remember to be nice to the guitar player. And don’t forget to invite me.

Much Love,

Friday Quick Pick - Schell Brewery 30th Anniversary Sampler Pack

The high temperature in the Twin Cities area hovered around 55 degrees today and when we woke up, it was in the mid 40’s.  Annie is visiting friends in western South Dakota and she tweeted a picture of snow.  Yep, summer is coming to a close.  Before it goes away though, I thought it would be good to take one last look at a light and crisp style of beer perfect for summer, the German Pilsner.

Based upon a little research, Pilsners aren’t all that popular in the U.S., which is actually surprising to me.  Most major beers describe themselves as having that great “Pilsner taste” but are, in fact, American or Light American Lagers.  Pilsners are very similar in aroma, appearance, taste and mouth feel, to American Lagers so it seems pretty odd to me that Pilsners aren’t consumed at a higher rate. Pilsners are light, crisp, have low ABV and can have a nice flavor profile without blowing you away.

Earlier this year, the eighth oldest brewery in the U.S. and a sixth generation brewer that prides themselves on brewing traditional German beers, Schell Brewery in New Ulm, MN celebrated the 30th Anniversary of their release of their German Pilsner.  To commemorate the event they released a sampler pack with beer made from their original 1984 recipe, their current recipe and two special recipes specifically brewed for this celebration.  Before we take a look at each of the beers, it is interesting to note that Schell used different malt and hop combinations for each of the beers.

1984 – As I mentioned before, this beer is the original recipe that Schell used 30 years ago.  These guys are so hardcore that they have their own yeast strain.  This beer is about as traditional a German Pilsner as you can find.  It is extremely pale and has a very light aroma with just a touch of hops.  The flavor is malty and just ever so slightly bitter.  It is really crisp with medium to high carbonation and finishes really clean.

2014 – 2014 is similar to 1984, but the presence of hops is much more prominent.  Don’t get me wrong, this will never be mistaken for a high hopped beer, but it is noticeably different than 1984.  2014’s appearance is similar to 1984, in fact, all four of them look exactly alike. Where this one differs is that it has more floral notes in the aroma and the flavor has a touch more citrus.  Mouth feel is similar between the two, but 2014 lingers just a bit more on the tongue.

Roggen – One of the differences with this version is that Schell used rye malt in addition to traditional barley malt for this beer. This creates a drier, spicier flavor profile that is very easy to pick out.  Of the four, this one has had the most interesting flavor profile.  All of the flavors are subtle, but you get the dry rye spiciness, malt backbone and just a touch of hop bitter.  So, so complex.

Mandarina – This one features a brand new German Hop called Mandarina Bavaria.  Per Schell, this beer “pushes the definition of a Pilsner” with a higher ABV (6.0%) and 60 IBUs (bitterness). The higher level of bitterness comes from the aggressive use of the new hops.  This one is by far the sweetest of the four.  You get the malt backbone, but the new style of hops increases the sweet citrus you get, that being said, it is still a fairly dry beer.

Schells sure knows what they doing when it comes to brewing traditional German beers with a modern twist.  I’d tell you to go out and get your hands on this sampler pack, but alas, it is no longer available.  However…they do have a 30th anniversary Hefeweizen sampler pack.  Based on the results from the Pilsner sampler pack, I’d recommend getting the Hefeweizen one while it is still available. 

Until next time

3 Floyds’ - Robert the Bruce

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THEY MAY TAKE OUR LAND, BUT THEY WILL NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself…I see the name Robert the Bruce and I immediately think of Braveheart.

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One of the nice things about living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is how close it is to Wisconsin.  While this means I’m closer to things like good cheese, the Green Bay Packers, and very good frozen custard, it also means I am closer to beers only sold in Wisconsin.  One such family of beers sold in the Motherland and not in my adopted home is from 3 Floyd’s.  We have reviewed Zombie Dust before on this blog, but when Annie and I made a run to Cassanova Liquors in Hudson, WI for a growler fill field trip, it took me all of 2 seconds to choose which beer I wanted. 3 Floyd’s Robert the Bruce.

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3 Floyd’s is out of northern Indiana and has been brewing serious craft beer for some time.  In fact, I’m not really sure if they know how to make a bad beer. Robert the Bruce is their Scottish Ale and available year round. For those of you that don’t know me, my list of favorite beer styles goes like this: Imperial Russian Stouts (preferably bourbon barrel aged), Black IPAs and Scottish Ales. 

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I like sweet, malt heavy beers which is why Scottish Ales are one of my favorite styles of beer.  While I have had a few Scottish Ales in my time, one of things that made this experience unique was the growler.  If you haven’t had beer from a growler before, it is a different experience.  The reason it is different is because, unless you are sitting down with a couple of friends and polishing off the growler in one sitting, you have a beer or two and you still have a lot of beer left in the bottle along with a lot of air which flattens the beer, even if you have one of those cool bottles with a rubber seal.  I liken it to having a regularly carbonated beer on nitro.  The flavor profile is pretty much the same, but the mouth feel is dramatically different on day 3 than it is on day 1.  This is why you have about 3-7 days to finish off your growler depending on the type of beer. 

Here is some information on the beer before the tasting note:

Price point - It was about $15 for a growler fill which is 64 oz. 

Cellar-able - at 6.5% ABV and such a sweet flavor profile I would not recommend cellaring it.

Availability - Year round, but only in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin.

On with the tasting! Keep in mind, I am drinking this on day two after having three out of the growler. That means the bottle is about 3/4 empty.

Aroma - Now with the beer being flatter it not only has an effect on the mouthfeel, but also the aroma.  No bubbles = no aroma getting released. So the aroma is pretty mild.  There are hints of raisins, toffee and vanilla with just a mild roast as well.  

Appearance - This is a really dark amber color.  I would say 30-31 which is pretty dark, but light really brings out the red in the beer.  The head is off white, but almost non-existing right from the pour. 

Taste - Pretty strong raisin flavor, lots of malt and vanilla with just a mild roast to it. It is sooooo sweet and good.  Love it. 

Palate - My uneducated college palate would have taken one sip and tossed this beer thinking it was flat.  Ah, but not my current palate.  There is just a touch of carbonation that hits the tip of the tongue and it works.  The beer is pretty heavy overall and lingers on the lips and the tongue.

Overall - Loving this beer.  I would really like to try in on tap or out of a bottle to see what the “regular” mouth feel would be like.  But the flavor is mild and not overpowering, assuming you like sweet.  Scottish ales aren’t for everyone, but if you like them, pick this one up.

Until next time

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Friday Quick Pick - Leinie’s Explorer Pack

Are you the type of person that has trouble with commitment? Does the thought of having six of the same beer make you run screaming from the liquor store like a frightened little girl? Um, no….so that’s just me? Never mind. (He does that you guys. He flails and screams like a little girl. I will try to get it on video sometime)

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ANYway, then sampler packs are made for you! It seems that this time of year there are quite a few out there. We picked up two in the liquor store and decided to try them. This week, we are featuring Leinie’s Explorer Pack.  

This sampler pack was intriguing because it is a good mix of some summer and fall flavors.  A perfect segue between the two seasons. Here are our thoughts on the beer:

Creamy Dark:

Doug - Mild chocolate and nutty flavors.  Slight malt roast as well.  It is described on Beer Advocate as a Euro Dark Lager, but I would say it is very porter like.  I wouldn’t exactly call it creamy though.

AnnieFor a beer called ‘creamy dark’, it’s not all that creamy. It has quite the carbonation to it. Has a bit of coffee, bark, mildly floral. Does get smoother as you drink it. 

Ocktoberfest:

Doug - A traditional marzen that has come nice caramel flavor with a touch of spice. Medium carbonation and it finishes clean which is to say that is not more there.

AnnieIt’s a little caramel, a little spice, a little floral, pretty mild, with a mildly spicy, then clean finish. It’s a nice smooth drinkin’ Oktoberfest

Honeyweiss: 

Doug - Really, do I even need to describe this one?  Who hasn’t had this?

Annie - No

Orange Shandy: 

Doug - Holy sugary orange smell Batman. Like traditional wheat beers, this is very cloudy.  This beer is very light though, the citrus taste is very subtle. It is crisp, clean and easy to drink.  It is pretty good.

AnnieOhhhhh I could drink a LOT of this on a hot summer day. Smells like Tang, and tastes like orange peel and dry grass. I’m seriously…this is a great beer.

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In all seriousness, sampler packs are a good idea when you have a small group with diverse tastes, or are looking to get a good variety of flavors in one package. If you are a fan of Leinie’s, this isn’t a bad sampler to get…Honeyweiss notwithstanding.

Until next time.

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Cheers!

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Craft beer at the Minnesota State Fair

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The reason I called this blog The Beer Stand is because next to beer, my other passion is deer hunting (i.e. from a tree stand).  Wanna know what one of my favorite parts about deer hunting is? The fact that when I am hunting, the nearest person to me is 200 yards away.  I don’t like crowds. 

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Yuck!

So why in the world would I go to the Minnesota State Fair, aka the “Great Minnesota Get Together”, where attendance for the day was 164,192 people? The beer, of course. 

To understand why Craft Beer and the Minnesota State Fair are such a good combination, you need to understand what makes craft beer so special.  The craft beer craze is about so much more than good beer.  It is about building community, sourcing locally grown ingredients and celebrating regional culture. That is exactly what any state fair is about too.

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This year, the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild carved a nice little corner out of the Agriculture Horticulture Building to promote craft beer and educate people on what craft beer really is.  

They called this celebration The Land of 10,000 Beers.  Clever. Not at all predictable. (Come on, I’m from Wisconsin, I have to get my jabs in every now and then.)

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There are two things that really stood out to me about how they set up this wing of the building.  One, they really set out to educate people about beer and the brewing process.  There were posters, displays and other information about beer in Minnesota and how it is brewed.

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They didn’t humor fair goers by any means either.  There was information on where the flavor of beer comes from, styles, color, and the brewing process.  I may or may not have contemplated stealing them some how. 

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They also had a huge map of the state that showed where all of the breweries in Minnesota are located.  This is was actually my favorite one.

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The second thing that stood out to me was how they organized the beer sampling. They offered seven different flights of four beers each.  Every flight was organized by a specific theme.  They included Belgium, Darker, Hoppier, Lighter, two Minnesota Mixture and a Specialty flight.  Each flight was $8 and offered 4 oz samples of four beers.  

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Here is what the Darker and Hoppier flights looked like.

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Now for me, the centerpiece of the State Fair beer experience was the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild area, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t other areas of the fair that featured craft beer.  Several permanent food establishments featured locally made craft beer.  Two in particular stood out to me.  

The first was the Ball Park Cafe.  The reason they stood out?  Mini. Donut. Beer. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t taste exactly like a mini donut.  The rim of the glass was sugar coated which helped give you a very sweet initial taste.  That taste was quickly followed by a blast of malt and carbonation, but the kicker is that the beer finished cinnamon-y sweet. It was really good.

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The next beer I found was S’Mores beer at Giggles Campfire Grill. I saw this beer on their menu and just had to try it.  Just to say I’ve had it once.  This beer was very chocolately, creamy.  The rim of the glass was coated with chocolate and ground graham crackers.  It was a pretty good milk stout with a nice creamy texture.

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I have to admit, going to the fair was a spur of the moment thing, so I didn’t really plan all of the places I should have hit.  If you want to give it a go yourself, Growler Magazine has a really good guide to craft beer at the fair

I will tell you this, if the organizers of the State Fair and the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild put on a display like this again next year, I will be going again and I will plan it a lot better.

Until next time.

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Smith & Forge Hard Cider

So I’m standing in front of my fridge full of beer looking for the next beer to write about.  The problem is, all of the beer in my fridge is being saved for future posts.  (Insert shameless “Check back later this week!” plug). I glance around and I happen to take a look at something I bought for my wife. I thought…..”Hm, what the hell.” So I picked up one of the hard ciders I bought for her.  

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The cider I got for her this week is from Smith & Forge.  You may have caught some of their commercials during the World Cup earlier this summer.  I have to admit, whomever their marketing person is should get a raise.  I usually don’t pay attention to ciders, but these ads caught my eye.  Heck, even their cans have a pretty cool look to them.

Here are some of their regular commercials:

Check out the rest of their commercials on their YouTube page. 

 If you haven’t had hard ciders before they can range in flavor from extremely dry, like champagne, to really sweet, like carbonated apple juice.  Most traditional ciders have a tendency to lean towards the dry spectrum. Another characteristic I have seen in the ciders is that they are highly carbonated. Where does Smith & Forge fall?  First, some additional info about the cider:

Price Point: About $8 for four 16 oz. cans.

Cellarable: Haven’t even really thought about it, but at 6% and with all the sweetness, I would think no.

Availability: Year round and all over the place.  Check their website to find it.

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On to the tasting!

Aroma - Very mild apple aroma. There is something else there too…can’t quite place it.  It is almost like a sparkling wine aroma.

Appearance - 11 on the SRM scale.  The head was a really bright white, but it disappeared really quickly. 

Taste -  This has to be one of the best combinations of sweet and dry I have had in a cider.  The sweet is not overpowering at all and the dry doesn’t make your jaw clench. I would compare the apple flavor to that of a braeburn or fiji. 

Palate - This has a great low to medium carbonation level and drinks like a an ale.   

Overall - I am thoroughly impressed with this beer…uh cider. It falls right in the middle of all of the cider characteristics I am used to.  It has great flavor and is easy to drink.  Plus, with the cool ad campaign they have you don’t have to worry about losing your man-card when you drink it. Unless of course you are a woman….and if you are a woman and have your own man-card, you have bigger issues.

Until next time!

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The BSB gets wet with the #ALSIceBucketChallenge!

In case you live under a rock, the #ALSIceBucketChallenge has taken over social media. It’s a great cause, and their donations are exponentially larger than they have EVER been thanks to the campaign. 

People are super awesome!

That being said, The Beer Stand Blog crew took the challenge this week, and here is the ensuing mayem!

We will go in chronological order, starting with our fearless leader himself, Doug BizzleB. He started this crazy, so he’s up first! I regret not being present to dump ice water on his head…

Next is me, Miss Annie, the lady of the blog. I wore a white shirt…but it wasn’t as much fun as it seemed it was gonna be. Mwahahahaha I’m so sneaky! And kinda mean! :) Also, Doug got to do the water dumping on this one…something he did not enjoy AT ALL.

Last but not least, our regular feature writer, @guitarboyjohnny. He took great efforts to conceal his identity AND produced a helluva piece. Impressive sir. Impressive.

@guitarboyjohnny ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from Billy C on Vimeo.

I love being a part of this blog, and a part of a team that hops on board with an enormous grandstanding trend that just so happens to support a great cause. 

To donate, head to the ALS website. Let’s work together to help eliminate Lou Gehrig’s Disease!

Cheers,

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Ale Asylum - Hopalicious

I don’t know why but I haven’t been able to shift gears to the smoother more refreshing beers this summer. Usually when the heat sets in I begrudgingly push aside the stouts and IPA’s and turn my attention to beers such as Heineken or Summer Shandy. So what was different this year? Maybe it’s because the hot, hazy months never came? Sadly, with every passing day, this indeed appears to be the summer that never was. On the brighter side my love for heavy, flavorful beer lives on in all its glory.

About a week ago while perusing the aisles of my favorite liquor establishment I happened upon Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious. Whenever possible I prefer to drink beers that are brewed locally in Wisconsin, and when I saw that Ale Asylum was located in Madison, I knew I had found my next tasty victim.

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Once I decided that Hopalicious would be a good beer to write about, I set out to do my mandatory research on the brewer, Ale Asylum. I was surprised to find I was already familiar with several of their selections. I had previously tasted Ambergedon, their amber ale, Contorter Porter, an English porter, and also Bedlam, their Belgian IPA. So it turns out that my taste buds are more up on things than my brain. Sounds about right. You may also notice that Ale Asylum has a clever tongue-in-cheek way of naming their creations. I like a brewery that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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My first taste of Hopalicious was out on the old patio, where I spend a great deal of my time.  The sun was just setting on a cool (of course) August evening. I poured the beer into a glass and noticed the appearance was a rich caramel color. I can best describe this color as what beer normally looks like when exiting the body, not entering it. But this was not going to be a deterrent for me.

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Editors note: Hopalicious?  I don’t think so.

The first sip, as advertised, was dominated with a full hoppy sensation. It’s a flavor that I love, but one that my wife refers to as “skunky”. In other words it is not for everyone. It’s what I like to call a good old fashioned “R-rated” beer. Along with the hoppiness was a very satisfying citrus flavor which I also find appealing. Ale Asylum describes Hopalicious as having a “bold hop flavor without crazy bitterness”. But this beer tastes bitter to me, and that’s not a bad thing.

Hopalicious is an American Pale Ale. It has a 5.8 ABV, which is slightly above average for this type of beer. An APA is generally characterized as having a good balance of malt and hops. My taste buds are not sophisticated enough to pick up on that, but I did know that it immediately found a place in my heart. This beer would go very well with almost any food, but might be a bit much if paired with anything hot and spicy.

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Hopalicious is available year round. That’s great news for pale ale lovers like me. It is designed to attract and satisfy beer drinkers who love a hoppy flavor. Curiously enough it is also meant to lure those who hover around full flavored beers but rarely find the courage to imbibe. It’s my belief that Ale Asylum has over-estimated the adventurousness of the everyday American beer drinker. I believe a Miller High Life drinker, upon tasting this beer, would run home screaming in terror with arms flailing. So approach with caution, dear reader. Take a chance! Run with the devil! Walk through the valley of the shadow of death! YOLO! Oops, forgot this wasn’t Twitter.

Much Love,

Guitarboyjohnny

Friday Quick Pick - New Belgium Tour De Fall

One of the first beer fanatic stories I ever heard was about a couple that I went to college with.  They used to take a trip out to Colorado every year with an empty car and return with it filled with New Belgium Fat Tire.  They even painted their basement the Fat Tire colors.  Every since that day I have had my eye on New Belgium Brewery. 

We’ve featured New Belgium on our Quick Pick before with Shift pale lager. This week’s quick pick is their brand new Tour De Fall.

We are starting to get into that time of year where tastes shift from light and crisp to slightly fuller body and mouthfeel.  This beer is no exception. I’d give you my own notes on it, but New Belgium sums it up better than I ever could:

VISUAL - Deep amber colored and bright with billowy foam.
AROMA - Hops dominate with pine, floral, tangerine, lemon rind and tropical fruit notes, honey bread malt character balances out the hop aroma bouquet.
FLAVOR - Bitter upfront, becomes balanced with malty sweetness, finishes with some light bitterness and fruity sweetness.
MOUTHFEEL - Round mouthfeel that finishes crisp.
BODY - Medium body.

This beer has an ABV of 6% so you can knock back a few and it’s reasonably priced at $8.99 a sixer.

This sucker is brand new and should be hitting your local liquor store shelves soon, if it hasn’t already.  Try this one if you are getting your palate ready for the fall beers that are coming up right behind it.

Until next time