Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Monthly Beer Review and Rating - February March April 2008

Instead of reviewing/rating beers individually each time I have one, I think I am going to just go through them all at the end of each month. Also, I will keep things pretty easy and brief overall. Some may have a photo, some may not. Some may just have my rating, without further elaboration. Some may be on tap at a pub, but many will be bottles that I have had at home. Since I just started this blog about a month ago, I will include February, March and April 2008 in this "Monthly Beer Review and Rating" from Highway to Ale. They will be listed in roughly the order that I had them (since February up until today). Since there are so many for this installment, probably I will just give my rating and give links, which will give more info about the beer, the style, or the brewery if you are interested. My Rating Guide is shown here at the top left of this post, and always on the right sidebar.

Additionally, you can check out the "Weird Beer Thursday" (Highway to Ale's "Special Feature") beers that I have reviewed and rated so far.

At Home:
Scotty Karate Scotch Ale - Dark Horse Brewing Company

My Rating: The glass is half full

review from Michael Jackson ("Beer Hunter")
My Rating: The glass is half full

Altenmunster Winterbier Doppelbock - Allgaeuer Brauhaus AG
My Rating: The glass is half empty

My Rating: The glass is half full

Conway's Irish Ale - Great Lakes Brewing
My Rating: The glass is full

Dubbel Reserve - Allagash
My Rating: The glass is full

ESB Special Ale - Ska Brewing
Yep, in a can. I wish more microbrewed beers came in cans.
Read this recent blog post, from A Blog About Beer, about how more craft beers are being canned.
Of course, I poured it into a glass. I just forgot to get a photo of this one.
My Rating: The glass is half full

Celis White - Michigan Brewing Co.
My Rating: The glass is half full

My Rating: The glass is half full

My Rating: The glass is full

My Rating: The glass is half full

Delicious and beautiful beer! And affordable! One of my new favorites.
My Rating: The glass is full

This is the first beer that I've had from this brewery in Indiana.
Interesting and good brown ale - I would try their others.
My Rating: The glass is half full

This is one of the few beers that I have ever bought, and have been truly disappointed to the point that I would say that I hate this beer. I feel that I wasted my money on this beer. Thought I would try it since it seemed like an interesting new seasonal. Supposed to be in the style of Biere de Garde. But it fails miserably. Tastes to me like Old Style, which would have been fine if I paid $3 for a six-pack (and was expecting cheap crappy beer) instead of $10! Actually, it seems worse than Old Style. Obviously, I think this beer sucks. If I ever want to try the Biere de Garde style again, I will be sure to try any of these instead. Or anything by Brasserie La Choulette.
My Rating: The glass is empty

Very nice bottle conditioned IPA. I had and enjoyed their Amber Ale a couple months ago. This brewery in Michigan is new for me, and I am really liking their beers. This is the brewery that makes the Tres Blueberry Stout, but once I heard about it I couldn't find it anywhere because Winter was ending.
They also make the Scotty Karate Scotch Ale, with which I started this long review post.
My Rating: The glass is half full

On Tap: Lots of excellent beers!
at Poor Phil's in Oak Park, Illinois (I hit the jackpot at this place!)
  1. Lagunitas Hop Stoopid - My Rating: The glass is full
  2. Three Floyds Travissimo - My Rating: The glass is full
  3. Two Brothers Imperial Cane and Ebel - one of my absolute favorites - My Rating: The glass is full
at Small Bar (technically in Avondale, just north of Logan Square) Chicago, Illinois
  1. Surly Furious - My Rating: The glass is full
  2. Three Floyds Gumballhead - My Rating: The glass is full
  3. Two Brothers Hop Juice - My Rating: The glass is full
  4. Victory Hop Devil - My Rating: The glass is half full
at Emmett’s Tavern and Brewery, West Dundee, Illinois
  1. Emmett's Victory Pale Ale - My Rating: The glass is half full
  2. McCarthy Red Ale - My Rating: The glass is full
  3. Double Barrel Oatmeal Stout - My Rating: The glass is full
at M.T. Barrels Brewery, West Dundee, Illinois
  1. American Pale Ale - My Rating: The glass is full
at The Hopleaf, Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois
  1. Surly Bender - one of my new absolute favorite beers - can't wait until I can get more here in Illinois and to try their other beers - and they come in cans! My Rating: The glass is full
  2. Surly Two - made with lots of cranberries, very interesting but not that great. My Rating: The glass is half full
  3. Dogfish Head Burton Baton - oak-barrel aged strong sipper. My Rating: The glass is full (but would not have more than one)
at Two Brothers Brewery, Warrenville, Illinois - I plan to write a separate post about my experience here, hopefully this weekend.

All About Beer Magazine's "125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die"

"125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die" according to All About Beer Magazine.

Looking through the list, turns out that I have been to many of these places already (I'm 29 years old). Plus, a few of my favorite places to drink beer in Chicago, Illinois not only made the list, but are in the top 50.

Below are the places on the list that I have been to, and of course, drank beer at. "Starred" are places that I have been to many times. The others, just once.

11. Hofbrauhaus, Munich, Germany
**24. The Hopleaf, Chicago, IL (Love it! Just went the other week, and tried three great beers for the first time - Surly Bender, Surly Two, and Dogfish Head Burton Baton. More about those later.)
35. Great Lakes Brewing, Cleveland, OH
**43. Clark Street Ale House, Chicago, IL
**47. The Map Room, Chicago, IL
71. The Brewer’s Art, Baltimore, MD
76. City Tavern, Philadelphia, PA (I walked by, but I think they were closed at the time)
**84. Goose Island Brewing, Chicago, IL
113. beerbistro, Toronto, Canada (we walked by to check it out, but went somewhere else instead. I think it was a little pricier than what we were looking for)
115. John Barleycorn, Chicago, IL (I assume that they are referring to the historic location in Lincoln Park. But still, um, whatever. I would definitely not recommend.)

One place that my girlfriend recently proposed that we go in 2009:
5. Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany (!!!)

Which places on the list have you visited and enjoyed a beer at?
Or is your favorite beer drinking establishment not on the list - what is it?
I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

DarkLord Day 2008 happened - I did not go but it looks fun / crazy / difficult

A couple other beer blogs that I've just started reading are buzzing about DarkLord Day 2008, which just happened this past Saturday, April 26. I could not go, 'cause I have too much work to do lately. I have been to the Three Floyds' Brewery/Brewpub in Munster, Indiana twice before and really enjoyed the place and, of course, the beer. I have never have gone to DarkLord Day in the past, but I have thought about it. I realize that there is much more that goes on than just trying to buy or drink Three Floyds' DarkLord Russian Imperial Stout, but everything about the huge crowd spending lots of time and money to try to buy a bottle of this stuff has always seemed pretty weird to me. I mean, it is the only day of the year that you can buy DarkLord, but c'mon. Not sure I would do this much for it. Actually, I have never had DarkLord, and honestly I don't think I will be that crazy about it when I do have a chance to try it.
Apparently, you have to get there very early in the morning to get in line (one person wrote that there were about 100 people in line already at 6:30 in the morning. And people that got in line later in the morning waited some 5 hours to try to get a bottle. And many who came around late morning didn't get any because they were sold out by 4pm or so.
Well, since I couldn't go, I have to live vicariously through the beer bloggers that did go.
So, these other blogs can tell you all about it with lots of interesting details, each with a different perspective on DarkLord Day 2008.

Chicagoist at DarkLord Day: Never Again (with comments) - Chicagoist

DarkLord Day 2008 troubles overshadow spirit of event - - which has a list of other beers that were brought by other breweries. The only one that I have had is the Piece Camel Toe.

DarkLord Day 2008 - Hoosier Beer Geek. This one has all the great photos of the super insanely long line!

DarkLord Day 2008 - Matt's Beer Blog. Some more photos of all the people in the line, and some other details.

DarkLord Day - Beers of My Life. I like this Matt's (from Beers of My Life) approach (strategy?) the best!

So, after reading the other blog stories, if I try to go next year, I think I wouldn't even care about buying a bottle of DarkLord, so I would skip waiting in the insanely long line altogether. Apparently, you can just sample other Three Floyds' beer and other great midwestern craft beers instead! But I guess you even have to get there sometime early-ish in the morning to get into the pub for all that too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Weird Beer Thursday - African-Style Mbege

Sprecher Mbege Ale

Why it's weird:
Fire-brewed African-style beer made with sorghum, millet, and banana juice. Um, yeah. This ain't your typical beer.

What's up with this beer:
OK, coincidentally this is the second Sprecher beer that I have tried and reviewed for Weird Beer Thursday. The first was the Mamma Mia Pizza Beer a couple weeks ago, which I had found at a promotional display in downtown Binny's. I found this Mbege beer at a small local liquor store, which also specializes in beer (of course!), as a single bottle in a discount bin. It was 50 cents, so I was like, what the heck - I gotta try this. Um, what can I say. The smell was unlike any other beer I've ever had. Obviously, I am not accustomed to drinking beers that are made with sorghum, millet, and banana juice. At first it was a little off-putting. Not really sure how to describe the aroma, maybe like a sweet 'n' sour. I was quite impressed by the pour, however, so at least it looked like a nice beer, as you can see from the photo. Well, I ended up drinking the whole glass, so it really wasn't that bad. I don't really have much to say, other than it is definitely like having banana juice in your beer (which I actually kind of like). On my old blog, I have already written about another beer that is brewed with bananas that I tried, which was Well's Banana Bread Beer, and which I thought was okay, but too lightly flavored.
Also, with this Mbege beer, I wasn't used to lack of wheat or barley, so the sorghum and millet used instead gave it a little unique flavor that wasn't all that bad, just something I'm not used to. Overall, it was kind of like a banana "cidery" ale, that was kind of refreshing and light, but I also enjoyed the unique and noticeable flavors. If it wasn't for these flavors, I may have given it my lowest rating, but instead I kind of respected it and liked it. But not that much, either.
It was also a little strong, so I could taste the alcohol, which I'm not saying was a bad thing. But one thing I am confused about, is that my bottle stated specifically on the label that it was 7.0% alcohol by volume (therefore, my noticing of such a level), but the Sprecher site says 5.2%.
And because they can explain this beer better than I can, here is Sprecher's brief description from their website:

"Bananas are the main ingredient in mbege style beers popular in Eastern Africa. In keeping with tradition, this is brewed with real bananas and presented unfiltered. Light hints of banana remain present in the aroma and flavor of this unique offering.

Originally conceived of in an effort to provide a traditional African style beer for Milwaukee's African World Festival, our Mbege and Shakparo have won the hearts of people here at the brewery and have been promoted to year round beer status.

Because barley and wheat are not grown in large quantities in sub-Saharan Africa, traditional Mbeges and Shakparos are brewed with sorghum and millet and are therefore able to be brewed gluten-free since neither sorghum nor millet contain gluten. Being gluten-free make Shakparo and Mbege excellent alternatives for those suffering from celiac disease, a genetic disorder that inhibits the digestion of gluten. Our Shakparo and Mbege offerings have been brewed with celiacs in mind and are carefully crafted to ensure they remain gluten-free."

Mbege Ale
Sprecher Brewing Company
Glendale, Wisconsin, United States
Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%
Degrees Plato (Initial Gravity): 13.25P
Weeks Aged: 6
Bitterness Units: 10 IBU
Year First Brewed: 2006
Recommended Serving Temperature: 50°
Sizes: 16oz Bottles

My Rating:
The glass is half empty.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

World Beer Cup 2008 Winners Announced

The winners have been announced for the World Beer Cup 2008, which happened this past week.

Here is a document which gives some news highlights. It says that Illinois ranked fourth among U.S. States for total awards won, behind perennial leaders California, Colorado, and Oregon.

Here is the full list of all the winners of the World Beer Cup 2008. This year, 644 breweries from 58 countries and 45 U.S. states vied for awards with 2,864 beers entered in 91 beer style categories. I haven't had most of these beers, which is good. This means that there are many great beers for me to possibly try for many years to come.
The beers on the list that I have had and agree that they are good are:
(To save time, I will just list the name of the brewer and beer and the category #, and you can look them up if you want to.) I've "starred" the beers that I especially like.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch (Category #10)
Samuel Adams Black Lager (Category #29)
Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager (Category #36)
Brooklyn Lager (Category #36)
Hoegaarden (Category #41)
Ommegang Witte (Category #41)
Mill Street Belgian-Style Wit (Category #41)
Goose Island Matilda (Category #42)
**Allagash Dubbel (Category #46)
Emmett's Belgian-style Dubbel (Category #46)
Allagash Tripel (Category #47)
Westmalle Trappist Tripel (Category #47)
**La Fin du Monde (Category #48)
Goose Island "312" (Category #51)
**MacTarnahan's Amber Ale (Category #52)
Bass (Category #52)
**Elysian The Wise ESB (Category #56)
**Left Hand Milk Stout (Category #62)
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (Category #65)
Great Lakes Blackout Stout (Category #65)
Schneider Weisse Original (Category #73)
**Schneider Weisse Aventinus (Category #74)
Samuel Adams Irish Red (Category #75)
**Three Floyds Dreadnaught (Category #82)
Rock Bottom Terminal Stout (Category #87)

Three Floyds has awesome coasters/labels

I have been writing quite a bit about Three Floyds lately. I recently enjoyed the excellent Rabbid Rabbit, and have also become very fond of the great Gumballhead, which I used to not be so crazy about. In general, I am a big fan, and I'll just say that I really like most all their beers, so there's no need to list them all here.
I also like collecting cool beer coasters that I find when I go out to different places.
So far, I have made one "beer coaster poster" that you can view down on the right sidebar of this blog. Since making this last year, I have obtained several more coasters that I guess I will save up for a second beer coaster poster.
The other week I was at my local (and one of my favorite) beer drinking establishment, and they had a bunch of these new awesome Three Floyds coasters. Shown here, are the four sides of the two Three Floyds coasters. Click on the pic to make it huge.
Not sure what's up with the winged-skull one that says "Crush your enemies, to see them driven before you", but it looks pretty cool. The two sides of the other coaster, was actually a label for their Fantabulous Resplendence X Anniversary Ale to celebrate their 10th anniversary, which I had last year when it was only brewed once. You can buy a poster of it on their website store.
The label/poster contains all the characters from all their other awesome beer labels, in a sort of Last Supper painting type of setting, with some other weird stuff in there. I don't know who is the artist for these labels, and I tried looking it up, but didn't find anything.
Here is what the whole label/poster looks like.

Three Floyds' wildly popular DarkLord Day will happen this upcoming Saturday April 26th. More info is here on Beer Advocate. I am not planning on going, because I have a lot of work to do. It always sounds like a lot of fun, but it sounds like it will be very crowded too!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Shiner Light Light

My girlfriend's parents gave us this. I just realized that it makes for a cool bedside light.
And of course, I could even fill it with Shiner Light beer. Or water. Pretty much the same thing. Create custom animated gifs at!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Weird Beer Thursday - Three Floyds Rabbid Rabbit

Three Floyds Rabbid Rabbit

Why it's weird:
Besides the Three Floyds Brewery stating on their beers "It's Not Normal", and each of their beers always having strange and fun labels (click on the photo to enlarge), this beer has some unique ingredients. The description on their website states that "corriander, lavender, chamomille, and rose hips, and 3 different Belgian ale strains of yeast are used in the brewing process". On the bottle, it also mentions that rock candy is added to the brew kettle.

What's up with this beer:
This was technically my second time having Rabbid Rabbit. The first time was the other week, when I had a 3 oz. sample of it at Clark Street Ale House downtown Chicago. I was very surprised that I liked it so much, because some beers of this style I haven't liked that much in the past. It had delightful spice flavors. So, after this sample, I was looking forward to trying the bottle that I had in my fridge at home.

Rabbid Rabbit is a deep golden, complex, spiced Belgian style ale. The slight haze is from bottle-conditioning, where yeast is added to the bottle for a secondary fermentation. The specific style is Saison / Farmhouse Ale. I didn't used to be that fond of this style, but I think I am starting to like it more now. I have had other saison style ales such as the well-known Saison Dupont from Belgium, and Hennepin from Ommegang Brewery in New York.

Like most of their beers, Three Floyds' Rabbid Rabbit had more of a heartiness/hoppiness than other saison style ales and I enjoyed this. Also, it may have been a little sweeter, and the other unique ingredients and the three types of Belgium yeast must have given the other nice complex flavors. It was such a great combination of flavors. A little spicy, a little sweet, a little fruity/citrusy (coriander), and a little hoppy all brewed together. Delicious! Now that I know how excellent this beer is, I will definitely be having it next time I have the chance. The bomber bottle was a little expensive at $10, but it was really worth it.
Come to think of it, I haven't really had a Three Floyds beer that I didn't like. They are all good to great! I have actually been to the Three Floyds Brewery. I will have to create some sort of section on this blog for the breweries that I have visited.

"Saison" is the French word for season, and real saison ales are brewed in the French-speaking region of Belgium, and have now become popular in the United States. Although these ales were traditionally brewed in the Autumn or Winter for consumption during the late Summer harvest, they also make great ales to have during Spring. Saison style beers are usually refreshing yet complex, with some fruit in the aroma and flavor, can be peppery and floral, and are now usually bottle-conditioned, with an average alcohol by volume range of 5 to 8%.

Rabbid Rabbit
Three Floyds Brewing Company
Munster, Indiana, United States
Season: Easter
Style: Belgian Saison “Farmhouse Ale”
ABV%: 7.4
IBUS: 45
Color: Light tawny

My Rating:
The glass is full.

Fruit Beer article from Chicago Tribune

Article titled "Fruit Beer, Redefined" from the Chicago Tribune, Good Eating section, April 9, 2008.

Click on the picture of the article to see very large view, so you can actually read it.

In general, I have not been into fruit beers very much at all. I may have to start exploring more fruit beers. I am really not a fan of Belgain-style lambics, such as framboise and kriek beers, though.

I was actually thinking about having Dogfish Head's Aprihop as the April Beer of the Month for this blog. I think it's really good.

There is another fruit beer that I want to try, but can no longer find it anywhere. I guess it was only around for the Winter and I missed it, or maybe it wasn't distributed here in Chicago. It is Dark Horse Brewery's Tres Blueberry Stout. I really like blueberries. Blueberry and stout just sound like a good combination to me. And I just saw they have a Raspberry Ale which sounds pretty decent from their description, which says that it is well balanced.

I have, in fact, seen Atlantic Brewing Company's Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale (from Maine) at my local liquor store, but I have always been skeptical of buying a 6-pack, with the thought that I would not like it. Maybe I'll give it a try soon.

I would, of course, very much like to try Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine. The only problem is that it is so darn expensive. A bomber bottle (22 oz.) was like $16, I think.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Revolution Brewing Company gets new brewery equipment

A new brewery/brewpub is being started up in the neighborhood where I currently live. It will be Revolution Brewing Company.
Today, there was a post on their blog, showing the process of obtaining brewery equipment from a former brewery in Michigan, and moving it to their location in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
Check out the short story and all the interesting photos in their post "How to Move a Brewery in Three Days".
I will likely not still be around here when this place officially opens up, which not until next year. But it is interesting to follow the progress of this brewery planning and building.

Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer - Update and Rating

Last week I picked up a bottle of the Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer at Binny's (South Loop Chicago). There was small display there and one pint bottle was $2. I tried it the other day. I thought about having it during a time that I was actually eating pizza, but then decided that it would be better to try it on its own, to only get the flavors from the beer, for an honest tasting. I have to say, it was much better than I had expected. I liked the overall texture/mouthfeel of the beer. It poured with a nice creamy head, too, which surprised me. You can see from the picture that the color of the beer is a hazy orange. Again, it is described as an ale brewed with oregano, basil, tomato, and garlic. I did taste and enjoy the distinctive herbal flavors from the oregano and basil. The aroma was strong with the herbs too, but I liked this. At first, it was fun and refreshing to drink. After I drank about half the pint, there was one thing that I started to not like so much. It was the garlic. The garlic flavor became overpowering, and I realized that I personally don't really like having garlic in my beer.
I do like the idea of a Pizza Beer and I very much like the originality of the brewers of this beer. I'm glad I got to try it. It was quite interesting.
After doing a quick internet search, I learned, not surprisingly, that there are many other sites that have written about this beer. And in a very similar fashion to this post! So, I will just list some of those here.

1) Looks like I agree with this first one about the garlic taste, but I definitely do not agree with their extremely low rating of 0/10.

2) This next blogger's post is very similar to my review.

3) Again, I also agree with this blogger's post.

4) "Suburban Hobbyist Puts New Spin on Beer and Pizza" - CBS2 Chicago news article and video. Definitely gotta check out the video - they first brewed it in their garage, and they throw real slices of pizza into the beer mix!!

5) Style Clarification for Mamma Mia Pizza Beer and Rant - written by the actual brewer (and now owner of Pizza Beer Company) Tom Seefurth, from St. Charles IL, and posted on Beer Advocate. Provides some helpful and interesting insight into how they started brewing this beer and getting it mass produced, first some by Walter Payton's Roundhouse, and ultimately now by Sprecher.

6) And of course, on the official Seefurth's Mamma Mia Pizza Beer website, they have tons of additional info and links, including a section with lots of informative, funny, and entertaining videos (many of which are about different cooking recipes using the pizza beer).
Also, there is a list of all the places you can find Seefurth's Mamma Mia Pizza Beer. Looks like it is even offered on tap at several places in Chicago and nearby suburbs.
So, go try some for yourself and see what you think!

My Rating:
The glass is half empty.

About Me

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Chicago, Illinois, United States

"Lines on Ale" by Edgar Allen Poe

Fill with mingled cream and amber

I will drain that glass again.

Such hilarious visions clamber

Through the chamber of my brain -

Quaintest thoughts - queerest fancies

Come to life and fade away;

What care I how time advances?

I am drinking ale today

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