December 2012 Archives

Waldorff Brew Pub and Bistro Hastings MI

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Pines.jpgThroughout the year I sample brews and take notes. Sometimes I don't have time to publish my notes, months go by, and by the time I could blog about them I have forgotten most of my impressions. Twitter helps a little in this regard allowing mirco-blogging on the fly when I don't have time to share my full thoughts. But this year, as always, there were plenty of brews that flew under the radar. Mostly due to my obsession with Mountain biking which occupies every free moment of my life until it's just too damn cold to think about it (yes they make clothes for that now, but they are expensive and it's just not the same).

But one drinking establishment from this past year stands out. This last April I made my first trip to Waldorff Brew Pub and had dinner with my wife. Waldorff is housed downtown Hastings, in a classic old brick building - technically two with the wall between opened partially up - with tall ceilings, a firebrick oven, tin signs and everything I would want in a pub if it were my own. I had sampled their brews at Winter beer festivals and they were always first class. I ordered their flight of four sampler which included Sundancer, Kolsch, Bee Sting Honey Rye, Hoipnoxxxious IPA, and Cobains Double Dark IPA (yes that's five). I also ordered the prime rib. Let me state for the record that I have had a lot of bad prime rib in my life, once and only once do I remember having the most amazing prime rib at a hole in the wall restaurant in Montana decades ago. But overall I am generally disappointed when I order prime rib. I was all prepped for the disappointment, I was not prepared to be taken back to my childhood with the most amazing prime rib on earth. It came accompanied with tasty mashed potatoes and vegetables.

The Sundancer was a sweet lemony wheat beer, the Kolsch had a incredibly sweet honey aroma, mild, with a medium body, it was sweet like a mead but lighter, a very decent golden session beer. The Bee Sting had an amber style character with sweet caramelized dark honey and fresh maple syrup notes, a coppery amber - very drinkable - ale.

Devils_Soup_Bowl.jpgThe Hopnoxxxious IPA is a nice balanced IPA dry hopped with Amarillo hops, overall a great IPA. The Cobains Double Dark IPA is an AMAZING ale, it was dark before dark was cool. Not your typical 'dark' IPA this 2010 World Beer Expo Best of Show winner is something to come back for, and I did.

This fall I managed to go biking down at Yankee Springs. If you haven't biked there you should, at bit sandy given the time of year, but fun none the less. I hiked down Devil's Soupbowl and took fuzzy photos which didn't do it justice. Yankee Springs has great pines, fast downhill and good climbs. Aside from the sharp slapper on the warm up loop it was a good time. Of course I could not help but swing by Waldorff afterward. I ordered a Cobains. Dark like a stout, a little dark roasted malt, Amarillo hops - lots of hops - this is a unique and incredible ale. I remember it standing out, unfortunately too much time has passed to give it an honest review. Hopefully I can do it justice in the future with a full review. I also enjoyed a Monte Cristo, deep fried heaven dusted with powdered sugar. Warning if you are not in good health it might fire you straight into cardiac arrest.

In the end, everyone I knew recommended Waldorf for the great food, comfortable atmosphere, and good beer. I was worried that with all the hype that I would be disappointed. It lived up to everything, with some of the best food and beer - maybe the best food and beer - in Michigan.

Lagunitas Little Sumpin Wild

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This ale pours a crisp clear honey, with great head retention. It has the classical Lagunitas hop aroma. Every Lagunitas ale I have had is a very solid brew and this ale is no exception. The Westmalle yeast strain ads a given complexity.  Overall - while I am a huge fan of Lagunitas - this is ale is nothing special. It's excellent but it's not that much different than the regular old hoppy Little Sumpin. I love IPAs so even though I was expecting a bit more wild ale characteristics I enjoyed the grapefruit, mild bitter finish, and the mellow sour fruit spiciness of this brew.

Great Lakes Blackout Stout & Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

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BrooklynandBlackout.jpgGreat Lakes Blackout stout is one of those ales whose reputation proceeds it, as a result it's hard to track down a four-pack. So I was excited to give it a try and wanted something as a baseline to compare it with. Black Chocolate Stout is exceedingly good this year, so I thought it would be the perfect ale to do a side by side comparison with. I have broken down the flavor characteristics below. The bottom line is that I will not be buying Great Lakes Blackout Stout ever again, as the Black Chocolate Stout is clearly the winner here, it is also easier to find and cheaper to buy.

The Blackout Stout (BS) pours a reddish jet black with a white head and an earthy, grainy, peaty aroma that turns to a mild sulfur as it warms. Black Chocolate Stout (BCS) pours a deep dark brown, not as dark as the BS, with a darker cream colored head and better head retention than BS. BCS has a viscous body while BS has a bit lighter body that is still sufficient for an Imperial Stout. BS is creamy and smooth without the mildly astringent malty bite of BCS. BCS coats the tongue with a velvety texture not present in the BS.

All in all, these are both excellent high quality stouts with a malty sweetness, complexity, and smoothness. However the BCS has more of a toffee caramel sweetness that I enjoy, while the BS has a bolder, dryer, roasted malt, flavor profile. The 'problem' with the Blackout stout is that is has a very strong unmashed malt arouma. I am not sure if this comes from the Harrington basemalt or some other factor. It tends toward the characteristics of Rahr basemalt, but much stronger. This graininess is so strong that it detracts from the ale, and gives me a mild feeling of wanting to vomit.

My take on the Great Lakes Blackout Stout probably seems a bit harsh, and it is. I took notes on these ales a couple of weeks ago. Just now I opened a second Great Lakes Blackout Stout, it's good, very good. It's sweet, roasty, and finishes with a little tobacco on the tongue. Unfortunately while a good stout, that holds its own against many an Imperial Stout, it just can't hold up to the greatness of Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout. So while my initial comments were that I will never buy it again - making it perhaps seem like a bad stout - it's not a bad ale, nothing could be further from the truth. It just doesn't suit my tastes like Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout. As of today's tasting the strong unmashed malt aroma seems to be fading, but I would prefer it was never there to start with.

Avery - Mephistopheles

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Meph.jpgSo I have been wanting to try this "Demons of ale" for a while. My first thought was 'just run this baby through the still', it's hot, very hot. Dark with a rich head, fruits and oak are hidden behind the ethanol - it becomes sweet and rich as the ethanol evaporates off. Sweet with a little spice, the hops are present, it burns as it goes down, it's hot. It has a given maltiness, good body, and as it warms you can detect a little tobacco in the finish. This is my fault for popping a 2012 ale that comes in at 16.2%. It's very good but needs to sit for at least two years. Given that it was fresh - the hop tang is still detectable - and overall I enjoyed this ale. I will review this one again in a couple of years. 

Firestone Walker Parabola

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For sometime I have wanted to try Firestone Walker Parabola. Firestone Walker is one of the handful of first class breweries who's ales are not available in Michigan. Matt Brynildson seems like a cool guy, and I wanted to check out his brews. After completing a few successful trades this month I could not help but crack one open.

It pours an intense black with minimal head, it was so dark I could not find any light strong enough to penetrate its malty depths. The nose presents oak with a mild ethanol maltiness. Very smooth, chocolate, vanilla, dark fruits, everything you would expect in a first class barrel aged Imperial Stout. At 12.5% this is a very drinkable ale, the ethenol is present but not overwhelming. I am very impressed, it does not stand up to BA Plead the 5th, but it is close, and it's balanced.

I am not the least bit disappointed, while a very hyped stout, I feel it lives up to the hype. The outstanding features are the oakiness and the balance. Without a side by side with CBS (which may just happen before too long) it's hard to say, but I think this might just be the most balanced barrel aged stout I have enjoyed.



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I just wanted to send a thank you over to the guys at for making this Christmas a little extra merry!


Dark Horse Barrel Aged Plead the 5th

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Normally good manners would dictate only one review per ale, and not blogging under the influence. But in the case of the Barrel Aged version of Dark Horse's Plead the 5th, all bets are off. I intend to review it, and review it again until I don't have any more left. In the summer of 2010 I sampled an 'experimental' brew from Dark Horse - my comments were "This beats out Founders KBS and Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout. It was perfectly balanced" it was the best ale on the planet - I came back for a second round, and confirmed it. Last winter I tried it again, in the cold, in a plastic glass, it was ok. But this year, holy smokes its back, the greatest ale on the planet. I showed up early (2 AM) to ensure I got my share. Truth be told I just had beer anxiety and couldn't sleep.  December 8th was the 4Elf party and I was there to get my share of Barrel Aged Plead the 5th. Not to get off subject but the party was awesome, the feast was amazing (so good I may or may not have lost a tooth chowing down on some ribs) and all in all I had a great time sampling all of kinds of crazy beer waiting in line.

Back to Barrel Aged Plead the 5th. It has the initial nose and flavor of dark fruits, vanilla, chocolate, and light caramel notes. It burns in the throat and as it warms up has a boozy grainy aroma. This ale gives Dark Lord a run for its money. It's so rich, creamy, full bodied and overflowing with caramel malt, raisin, just freaking amazing.

The only way to correctly rate this beer is to put it side by side with the most highly acclaimed barrel aged stouts in the world, and guess what, I intend to do just that. I broke open a Bourbon County Stout just to confirm that yes, Plead the 5th BA is more complex, perhaps not as boozy, but definitely more complex.

So there it is folks. The best beer in the world.

Olde Hickory Imperial Stout

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Olde Hickory Imperial Stout pours with a head reminiscent of red velvet cake, and a nose of honey, spice and everything an Imperial Stout should smell like.

My first impression of this stout is that it has an almost overt hop bitterness uncommon in most Imperial Stouts, the hop bitterness reminds me of Sierra Nevada's. It has a malty sweetness, big bold dark malt notes, and a dryness imparted from the honey. Extremely smooth and velvety, this is clearly a world class stout. While not something I would trade for, if it was a local offering I would have a cellar full of it.  

The spicy notes come in later when it has warmed up a bit, no fruit notes are detectable on my palate. This stout stands out for the deep rich reddish-black head and body, its unusual hop bitterness, and its spicy character.

While not the best Imperial Stout in the world, this stout holds its own in the category.

-- Thank you to Broomeman for the kick ass Brooklyn Brewery tasting glass

Michigan Beer Events This Weekend

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I remember back in the day before my webhosting company went to hell in a handbasket losing my entire site - I had made an effort to make much more than just a blog. I had created an 'events' calendar among other features. At the time it seemed that beer events, even across the US were limited. There were weeks without anything to speak of going on. How the craft beer world has changed. With over a hundred breweries in Michigan alone, and over fifteen breweries in town, along with countless beer bars and pubs, chances are something is going on at any given moment.

This weekend is a big one for events in Michigan. Dark Horse 4Elf party is Saturday with all kinds of off the wall food, Bell's Eccentric day is tomorrow, not to be outdone, it too has a vast selection of eccentric food from pickled eggs to rocky mountain oysters. I can't help but feel there is some healthy competition going on here.

I'll be honest I wish I could do both Bell's and Dark Horse's events, but I'll have to settle for one... I think.

Update: Earlier I stated that Kuhnhenn  was having their winter solstice party this Friday and Saturday, it's the Dec 21 and 22nd, not sure how I goofed on that one.


The Brewmaster


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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