Tag Archives: Brewery

Brewery Review: Tin Mill Brewery (Hermann, MO)

Happy ten year wedding anniversary to my wonderful wife! During our recent celebratory (kid-free!) weekend to winery-rich and historic Hermann, Missouri, we made a stop at the Tin Mill Brewery, just south of the Missouri River in the middle of our picturesque state.

Tin Mill Brewery

Tin Mill Brewery

A welcome sign to the wine-ignorant in Wine Town

A welcome sign to the wine-ignorant in Wine Town

Wine isn’t really my thing. Expensive red wine is wasted on me. I’m good with Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon for $3. But Hermann is home to dozens of wineries of varying quality, including what’s apparently the oldest family-owned winery in the US.

Side Note: While visiting the Adam Puchta Winery, someone ordered a Bud Light from the wine-by-the-glass booth. I’m no wine guy, but ordering a Bud Light at this place is the work of a truly remarkable dope. Even I had a glass of red wine. Bud Light is unacceptable anywhere, but particularly unacceptable here.

Back to the brewery…

Inside a hops refuge

Inside a hops refuge

A dozen and a half beers awaited us.

So many tap handles! None dispense wine!

So many tap handles! None dispense wine!

Beer flights are six 2 oz. samples for $8, so… an $8 beer.

Variety is wonderful

Variety is wonderful

The default flight includes 1, 3, 19, and 20. I chose 4 and 10 to round out my flight. Wifey chose 2 and 16.

Beer flights are a wonderful gift to mankind

Beer flights are a wonderful gift to mankind

My thoughts on these beers:

Skyscraper Pilsner – Light and airy with just a slight wheat flavor in the finish. If you were going to can one of these beers for some hefty yard work or to pull out of a cooler in a metal boat while fishing on a hot day, this is it. Quite refreshing and light. I could have gone for a heftier pilsner flavor, something a little less of a light beer. I got it later.

Red Caboose – Another solid red beer to shake my general dislike of red beers, which is now turning into more of a light malaise of red beers since I keep running into good ones. This is as good of a red beer as I’ve ever had. Not too dark. It’s flat and mild and envelops the tongue with a welcoming malty flavor. I enjoyed this quite a bit, but it’s something to have with a meal, not something to plow through in high numbers on a hot, humid day in a plastic chair in a chat biergarten in the Missouri River floodplain.

First Street Wheat – The only one of these beers that I’ve ever had before the flight. Robust orangy-amber color. It’s the most effervescent of the flight, with a hearty sour finish. I definitely don’t care for sour beers, but this had a nice zesty flavor that lingered after each sip. I got another afterwards. People like to drop lemon into their wheat beers – this one doesn’t need it at all.

Midnight Whistle – Smooth and rich with strong roasted malt flavor that gives hints of coffee and chocolate. It warmed and flattened quickly in the heat, bringing it down to the right temperature to enjoy the complex flavor profile. The toasty malt flavors dominated. The chocolate-caramel flavors would make this a great beer to sip down between bites of vanilla ice cream. Hell, you could probably make a float out of this.

Unfiltered Pils – My favorite of the flight! Better than the filtered Skyscraper Pils, in my opinion. These are the hoppy notes I was looking for, with a better finish and crispness than the filtered version. This beer carried a slightly deeper yellow color and stronger aroma. I also got a pint of this one after my flight, and then another pint the next day while buying my take home mix pack.

Summer Sun – Too bitter for my tastes, but a solid beer. When I think summer beer, I think Helles or Wheat. This was a little darker and hoppier than I’m used to for this seasonal beer. With a nice finish and a warm burnt orange color to complement the hoppy aroma, this beer will be loved by many – it’s just not quite my thing.

A world of wine awaits you outside.

A world of wine awaits you outside.

The next day, we boarded a massive trolley that rolled around town and surrounding areas to the various wineries. As the day progressed and the humidity rose, the winery trolley turned into the obnoxious drunken bachelorette party shitshow wagon, but we still powered through. If you ever find yourself in Hermann, either by design or against your will, swing by the Tin Mill Brewery for some craft beer in the middle of Missouri wine country.

By the way, Hermann, get your act together with these weak open container laws.!

WTF is this Soviet Russia?!

WTF is this Soviet Russia?!

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Brewery Review: 4 Hands Brewing Company

North of Soulard but south of downtown sits the 4 Hands Brewing Company, a just-the-right-size craft brewer and tasting room. What better stop on a whistlestop date night?

Having already reviewed two of the 4 Hands beers, and as an avid lover of quality local brews, I’m quite familiar with this brewery. But physically going to the tasting room had been an elusive trip for a while.

What an awful shadow-obscured, no flash picture of the sign. I smell a Pulitzer

What an awful, shadow-obscured, no flash picture of the sign. I smell a Pulitzer.

To select a beer flight, the bartender hands you a laminated deck of cards that describe each beer in some detail. At $8 for a flight of four 3 oz. beers, it’s a little pricey (although I think the beer pours were more than 3 oz. each). But, still, it was a nice experience. As you’ll read later, the food’s pretty darn good also.

Our beer menu

Our beer menu

Yet another photo where it’s hard to see what’s going on. I’m sorry. This was our third beer-serving stop, not including our dinner restaurant that also served beer.

If you could read that menu in the bad photo, you’d see that their featured beers are (from top to bottom) Single Speed Session, Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown, Reprise Centennial Red, and Divided Sky Rye IPA. Additionally, seasonals included Contact High, Pi Pale Ale, Prussia, and Ruby Red Prussia. (Hmmm. Didn’t notice the $5 bloody mary until now… I’ll have to hit that up when I return.)

We made our selections from the left end of the bar and gazed in awe at the clean new brewing equipment that filled an old factory or warehouse of some sort.

Alcoholic alchemy

Alcoholic alchemy

Since it had been a couple hours and more than a couple beers since dinner, we also ordered a nice hummus plate. The olives were particularly delicious.

Great beer demands good food

Great beer demands good food

In short order, our beer flights arrived. My wife’s tastes are distinctly lighter than mine, as seen from her flight:

Katie's beer flight

Katie’s beer flight

I went with the hoppier and darker options:

My flight

My flight

Of course, I tried them all. Each was distinct and delicious. I’ll review them right-to-left, beginning with my wife’s flight.

Divided Sky – Fruity smell, met with an equally fruity taste. Whatever hops provided the plummy aroma left a lingering hop bitterness. A cloudy amber beer with wonderful color. I swear this beer tastes like Fruit Pebbles… just like New Belgium’s Sunshine Wheat. Good beer, right up my wife’s alley.

Contact High – I’ve bought and enjoyed this one before. Smooth beer with only a light hop flavor. The fruitiness is mild and it’s a very attractive cloudy yellow. Speaking from experience, have this one with some chili dogs covered in raw onions and hot sauce. Football should be on while you eat & drink.

Pi Pale Ale – A few months ago I ran into a specialty Schlafly beer collaboration at Pi Restaurant in the Central West End and really enjoyed it, to the point that I wrote it up. This one is smooth and rich like a good ale should be, but has a hoppy fruitiness less adventurous than that of Divided Sky.  I prefer the 4 Hands project to Schlafly’s, but only slightly.

Single Speed Session – Easily my wife’s favorite. Apparently I’ve negligently passed over this beer many times at the local grocer or beer shop! I thought it was mellow and surprisingly bitter for a beer my wife would like. It was rich and enjoyable, and I wound up buying a few more the following week to bring home.

Reprise Centennial Red Ale – My notes are vague, but I first wrote good red. Then I revised it to great red. Apparently this beer really grows on you, and I’m fast becoming a big fan of high quality red ales. For too long have I shunned red ales. The best beer I drank at Bell’s was a (hopped) red ale. The best at Trailhead was a red ale. Maybe I just had a few crappy ones and got turned off. My eyes are opening. This was smooth and nicely bitter. The color was great. Really an enjoyable few swigs of beer.

Resurrection IPA – Amazing smells of tart pineapple and the bitterness was sharp yet subtle. What an amazing IPA. Probably the best beer here. I drank it too fast to really reflect on it’s complexities but bought more when I went to the grocery store recently. Wifey barely got a sip.

Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown – Heavy burnt smoke aromas, rich in texture and flavor. There’s a nice cocoa finish that rolls over your tongue. I’m not a huge brown fan, but this was pretty good. A little heavy on the roasted malts, though you need to take into consideration my personal preference. Perhaps a porter fan would go nuts for this beer.

Prussia Berliner Style Weiss – I reviewed this a few weeks ago and made the horrible discovery of it’s sub-3.5 ABV. Still, my wife loved it nearly as much as the Single Speed. It’s a tasty beer that’s fresh and clean. Went well with the hummus.

With a birthday coming up, my wife wanted to buy me a raglan t-shirt. I just need to act surprised when the kids give it to me to unwrap.

I pay them to be a walking ad for them? Makes sense.

I pay them to be a walking ad for them? Makes sense.

The whole tasting room experience was great. Quaint space with character, and not very crowded for 9-ish on a Saturday night. We found seats at the bar with no issue. No loud noise or smoking or music. Everyone was friendly. My wife demanded an imminent return trip. Fine by me!

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Texas Beer Review: Real Ale Brewing Company

No longer just the state of origin for “steers and queers”, Texas has been producing some quality craft beers. These beers, boastfully mailed to me gratis by my college friend and fraternity brother Andy, are mine for the sampling and reviewing. Today’s burden: Real Ale Brewing Company.

Remember these?

Remember these?

Among my bounty were two Real Ale beers: 15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout and Brewer’s Cut Imperial Red Ale.

15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout

After opening and while pouring the beer, I get strong malted chocolate aromas. It’s a particularly smooth pour that requires aggressive down-the-center pouring to get any head. The head, once acquired, is dense and firm like a well-made root beer float. I’m excited to sample.

If this is what they drink in Russia, can really be so bad?

If this is what they drink in Russia, can really be so bad?

The color is unmistakeably black, but not black and fizzy like a Guiness stout. This is a traps-all-light stout. A black hole that bends space time, and hopefully my BAC.

Like the aroma, it has a strong roast flavor with a mellow cocoa finish. It’s got a subtle smokiness that adds another layer of flavor. You take a big drink and enjoy it… then wait a little while for another one. A solidly delicious stout with an impressive 9.8 ABV. Take your time and savor the flavors and experience here. Damn good beer.

Brewer’s Cut Imperial Red Ale

Imperial this, Imperial that. What’s going on here?

My bias against red ales meets yet another obstacle – a really good red ale from a keen craft brewer.

Hard to hate on a really good beer

Hard to hate on a really good beer

Since I drank this one after knocking back it’s 9.8% ABV brother, it probably tasted extra yummy.

Nice amber color with strong reddish hues, typical ale head and aroma but without any noticeable hop aroma. I smelled the bottle after opening, and then the beer in the glass once poured and struggled to get any bitter hop notes. But, yes, after taking some sips you do get the elusive hop flavors. It’s particularly palpable in the post-swallow aftertaste and tongue sensation. A smooth drinking experience, the beer gives a typical red ale flavor (a good one… not the ones I dislike) and finishes with a more-than-subtle hop profile.

Good balance of flavors and bitterness, despite the lack of floweriness or fruitiness in the hops. I sense knowing restraint in the hands of the brewmaster with this beer. Hop flavors tempered by malt. Yet another good beer from this brewery. I wish Andy had sent me more of these. Instead, I will have to seek out this brewer at my local beer shop.

Two solid beers that I didn’t pay for? Damn straight. Recommendation for Real Ale Brewing Company: Drink These Beers

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Instant Beer Review: Keweenaw Brewing Company

On picture says it all for these local Michigan beers from Keweenaw Brewing Company.

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Brewery Tour: Bell’s Brewery, Inc. – Kalamazoo, Michigan

Family vacation. Time spent on the beach, enjoying the company of your children and siblings, reliving childhood memories, visiting famous epic craft breweries. What? You don’t do that last one? Well, I did. Today I trekked about an hour or so east on Interstate 94 to visit Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI. What a trip it was.

An unassuming entrance to the wonders it holds

An unassuming entrance to the wonders it holds

On a damp, drizzly day in southwest Michigan. while the lake offered only treacherous waves and undertows, and whilst my wife and children were off picking pounds and pounds of blueberries , I rounded up my father, brother, and sundry others for a trip to one of my favorite breweries.

The many coming events

The many coming events

Adjacent to the original brewery is the Eccentric Cafe, where we ordered our flights of beer and lunch before the 1:30pm Sunday tour.

Beer flights are my friend. Bell’s gives you a piece of paper and you can write down any six beers you like. None of this rigid beer flight menu nonsense – this is a true a la carte beer selection. Nice.

Six little brewskies

Six little brewskies

My choices were many. I selected, from left-to-right: Third Coast, Round House IRA, Quinannan Falls, Smoked Stout, Larry’s Latest Pale Trial #1, Midwest Pale Ale.

Hard to go wrong

Hard to go wrong

You’ll find these six beers to be amazingly awesome. How good were they?

Third Coast Beer

You can find this locally, at least that’s the case in St. Louis area grocery stores. It’s light and crisp with a nice hoppy note. There’s a barely cloudy and yellow body, with a fresh and enjoyable flavor and texture. If you’re out on a hot day, this is a great beer. Unfortunately it’s about 60, cloudy, and drizzly in late July. What kind of weirdo part of the country is this?

Roundhouse IRA

Two drunks at the bar said that this was the best Bell’s beer ever, and the bartender agreed. IRA stands for Indian Red Ale. Basically this is a thoroughly hopped red ale, and I have to agree that this is quite the beer to behold. Malty, caramely, with a nice hop and spice finish. Smooth, excellent body with a mellow aftertaste. I could (and did) drink this all day. There’s a rich dark red color and a wondrous (rye?) aroma. I have to agree that this was a splendid beer, unlike anything I’ve had before.

Quinannan Falls

Officially called the Quinannan Falls Special Lager Beer, this beer presented mild hops and a light color. The aroma was neither fruity or flowery. Really this is a light hoppy one note beer, although crisp and fresh. Nothing noteworthy and probably not something I’d get again, though a solid effort.

Smoked Stout

I like smoked beers and I like stouts, so I thought this would be a good choice for my flight. It was dark and definitely smokey without being meaty or baconish (like the O’Fallon Smoked Porter, for example). Super smooth with mild richness and nonexistent effervescence. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lack of overpowering aftertaste. This is a nice novelty beer, but the one beer flight sample was sufficient. I did sip on my brother’s cream stout, which I actually prefer over the smoked stout.

Larry’s Latest Pale: Trial #1

I guess Larry Bell regularly experiments and this beer is one of his latest trials. Well done, Larry. This pale ale was amber and translucent, with nice pale ale flavors, lighter and smoother than other similar style pale ales (like Schlafly’s). Lighter doesn’t necessarily mean better, because this is a great beer. Despite being a little flat, I got great grain flavors that were stronger than the hops profile, without much of an aroma. Imagine a mild yet traditional English-y style ale. That’s this beer – I really enjoyed it.

Midwest Pale Ale

Another beer you can probably buy locally, this was lighter in color than the Larry trial beer. With a subtle hop flavor, I got a nice light beer taste without being a light beer. This is a great hot day beer… which, again, is a shame since it’s so chill today.

Six great beers. Let’s soak in the ambiance and sip.

I love the breweries that reclaim old buildings

I love the breweries that reclaim old buildings

I violated a cardinal rule of restaurants. Usually, if there’s a Cuban sandwich on the menu, I order the Cuban sandwich. I also passed on the brisket platter. I was in the mood for something lighter, so I stuck with the turkey avocado sandwich on wheat with a side of salt and pepper chips. Save room for beers.

Turkey sandwich

Turkey sandwich

Lunch won’t overpower any beer, and it was pretty good, even if the turkey was a little dry. They used a creamy potato salad style mayo on the bread, which was a nice touch. The pickle was some kind of super tart dill – a damn good pickle.

I came across some light reading on the way to the restroom. This is important journalism, people:

News you can use

News you can use

Apparently I missed some kind of amazing party last night:

7/27... what?!

7/27… what?!

Those beers in my belly, it’s time for the beer tour. We can bring beer in a plastic cup… no glass. How about another IRA?

Beer in hand. Ready to learn.

Beer in hand. Ready to learn.

The beer tour was hipster-heavy that day, my friends. Me and the other Simpsons, and a bunch of hipster people. Awful hats and beards and tight jeans and girls who look like a depressed Lisa Loeb.

Of course the first question on the tour, hosted by the knowledgeable and diligent Kenny, came from my father. Bell’s uses Kalamazoo municipal city water, though they filter out the chlorine and iron. Dad’s had a beer flight and more, so why not ask Kenny what the pH of the water is after filtration? Kenny doesn’t know. Raise your hand during the brewery tour? That’s a paddlin’.

Paddlin' the Bell's canoe? You better believe that's a paddlin'.

Paddlin’ the Bell’s canoe? You better believe that’s a paddlin’.

Most of the people on the beer tour had a beer in hand, not including my preggers sister. Always bring a DD on your beer tour, even if it means a hyper-pregnant sister.

I took some needlessly detailed photos of hops and hop pellets.

Hops!

Hops!

Hops again!

Hops again!

Rabbit food! No wait... hops pellets!

Rabbit food! No wait… hops pellets!

My brother, Officer Stinkypants, wanted his photo in front of a big metal barrel. Done.

Represent the 'Lou in MI

Represent the ‘Lou in MI

Kenny the tour guy explained the whole beer process… I wasn’t really listening. The mash tun (pictured above) is where the malt mash, which is hot water and grain, turns into sugar. That is then mixed with hops and yeast, which ferments somewhere else to provide acid, flavor, and alcohol. Beer is made. Boom.

While I was taking this picture and Kenny was talking, Dad dropped his empty plastic cup onto the echoing concrete floor. Cut that man off.

Barrels full of sundry beer

Barrels full of sundry beer

I even posed for a quick photo.

Beer in hand; Beer behind

Beer in hand; Beer behind

I admired the many knobs and tubes and doodads that the brewers used.

Thingamajiggers

Thingamajiggers

We noticed the old tymey sign outside that belied the modern operation indoors.

A bare marquee

A bare marquee

Just look at all the special craft beers they make here!

So hard not to turn a nozzle with my mouth underneath

So hard not to turn a nozzle with my mouth underneath

Kenny told us that many beers were made at the Kalamazoo location that were only available at the attached cafe. Most of the nationally-available beers are actually brewed 10 miles away in Comstock, Michigan. The specialty craft beers are made here in this room. Yum.

All their beers are non-pasteurized and unfiltered.

Speaking of specialty beer…

Now that's a big assed barrel

Now that’s a big assed barrel

Kenny told us that these monstrous barrels were Cabernet Sauvignon barrels from California that will ferment beer through 2014, and they aren’t sure what they are going to get out of these! The small barrels only age for six months, but I’m sure the contents will be amazing. It took quite a bit for me to restrain myself from causing a distraction so my brother could heist a barrel.

Of course, while we are ready to go… Dad is chatting up poor old Kenny.

Yak yak yak yak

Yak yak yak yak

On the way out the door, we snapped some pictures of the sample grain and hops that were passed around on the tour. Gratuitous over-sharing, people. I can’t help it.

Important ingredients

Important ingredients

So many beers from which to choose. It’s difficult to restrain myself.

The plethora of beers available to us

The plethora of beers available to us

On the way out, we hit the gift shop. I bought a skull cap, t-shirt, and trucker hat. And four six packs of beer.

What an amazingly successful vacation trip. I thank my wonderful wife for taking my children for a few hours so we could venture out to the beer capital of southwest Michigan. Well worth the hour drive each way, ideally the first of many brewery tours. Such is my burden – try and sample so many beers.

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Drink This Beer: 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout

What surprise awaited me at my in-laws’ in their garage fridge but an intriguing Big Beer that some careless brother-in-law had left behind. Behold the 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout.

MOO!

MOO!

As a lover of chocolate milk and beer I didn’t pay for, what was there to lose? Time to crack this bossie and pour.

Not my glassware

Not my glassware

The smell of the beer in the bottle is pure stout without much of a hint of chocolate. When poured into the rising body of the beer, I was met with a thick lustrous head. As the beer breathed, the head settled into a thicker-than-Guiness landscape of froth.

Looking at the beer, it’s 100% non-translucent. The rich dark color shows it’s brownness only at the edges of the curvature of the bottom of the beer glass. The aroma once poured has traveled from stout to chocolatey stout.

Drinking this beer, it’s kind of luxurious. There’s a definite chocolate finish, but it’s purely dark chocolate with zero sweetness. Rather than competing with it, the chocolate flavors complement the strong toasted malt stout flavors.

Texturally, I’m really wowed. There’s almost a true milky sensation of the beer rolling around in the back of my mouth, though it’s definitely a beer. At a mere 5.5%, I could easily handle the Big Beer.

Perfect pairing

Perfect pairing

Unfortunately the beer doesn’t suggest pairing with ice cream, except perhaps chocolate ice cream? Could this be the perfect ice cream float beer? (Unfortunately my in-laws had no ice cream but for some rainbow sherbert… that would have been disgusting.) I was between meals, so no beef either.

How about pairing it with a Cardinals shellacking of the Brewers?

Pow. Down goes Bernie!

Pow. Down goes Bernie!

Super smooth. Easy to drink. Great flavors that are well-balanced. Nice job.

My applause to the people at 4 Hands. They know what they’re doing in dessert beers for sure. I’m always looking for more local beers, and 4 Hands is on my radar going forward. My recommendation for this decadent dessert of a brew: Drink This Beer

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