Tag Archives: united states

Rogue Brutal IPA

Rogue Ales need no introduction. They haunt the United States like a spectre, appearing here, there and everywhere, dominating conversations, elbowing out Barbarians, Bards and Wizards with beard yeast, peanut butter beers and Brutal IPAs.

This 6.3% beer, which must be Rogue’s 250th variety of IPA, is a lusciously luminescent mandarin colour with moderate head and carbonation. It reeks of citrus, orange muscling in over pineapple and sweet sugar syrup. It’s smooth, thick and tannic, with a big bitter bite backing up a deliciously warm, gluggy brioche malt cocktail. Hop flavour peeks out here and there but the blanket of malt wins out. Nice.

I bought a pint of this beer at Rossi’s Bar, Chicago, IL. This tiny place had possibly the blandest bartender I’ve ever encountered, tinged with an edge of seething hostility. Quite something. Definitely affected how the beer tasted and the atmosphere as a whole, which I didn’t mind really as I was only stopping in. So much for the friendly Midwest!

Fargo Brewing Stone’s Throw

The Fargo Brewing Co. started in the wave of openings at the turn of the decade and characterise their rise as home brewers to pro brewers, with a distinct inspiration stemming from the pacific northwest. They started contract brewing in Wisconsin, opening their own brewery in Fargo in 2014.

Their Scottish Ale, aptly named from I assume the highlander games, has a nice moderate ABV of 4.5%, a welcome relief after so many in the range of five-plus. When I brew at home I aim for around the 3.8% – 4.3% range for most beers (imperial IPAs etc. obviously exceptions) as I find this best suits my palate and desires. Being in the United States is a constant experience of higher ABVs; you do get used to it.

This beer is copper-acorn colour with a plastic-y white head. It smells of apple and pine, a little pancake batter, a little sweetness. The mouthfeel is chewy and sticky like a wad of sap. Major flavours march in unison: honey, biscuit, butter, raisins, a touch of bitterness and no hop flavour. It’s all malt, all the way. Not a bad beer at all, it put me in the perfect mood to see a film at the historic Fargo Theatre.

And what a place that is! Independently owned, heritage architecture, cheap tickets and zero advertisements before the film screenings. OK, I’m getting distracted.

I bought a pint of this beer at The Boiler Room, Fargo, North Dakota. It’s a pretty straight-forward, subterranean bar with little to distinguish it, although it seems to put a bit more effort into its tap selection than its competition in downtown Fargo.

Finch’s Beer Co. Fascist Pig Ale

Finch’s Beer Co. is another Chicago native brewery that keeps a humble profile. They’ve been around for five years brewing and packaging out of Elston. Their cans are great to look at – speaking to the founder’s background in visual communication – and I selected the can with the name that spoke the most to me …

The 8% ABV Fascist Pig Ale is a murky amber colour with a frothy uneven head. It has the lemon zesty aroma that I often associate with rye beers and an understated but fresh hop aroma. Think sauerkraut, onions and freshly ground leaves. There’s even a little background generic maltiness in the aroma. Although it’s not a mental cacophony, as so often is the case with a U.S. beer at such high ABV, this beer’s aroma has a lot going on.

Flavourwise the first truck to hit you is caramel, toffee-sweet malt. Then comes the bitterness wagon; again, a fresh, acerbic hop character, with a devastating afterbitterness that lingers on. A slick mouthfeel assists the malt-bomb along and restrains the affect of the alpha acids and spicy rye. This is a beer that I can’t drink quickly, but I sure can drink.

If I had to put it into a BJCP style, I guess it would be either a double IPA, with an unusual aroma, or a thicker example of an American Brown Ale, but without the citrus whack ova’ the ‘ead.

I bought a can of this beer at Sky Liquors, Norwood Park, Chicago, Illinois and drank it in a house nearby, after feasting on the immensely delicious Red Apple Polish buffet. Oh my. Still reeling from the meals I had there; I expanded my stomach to new limits.

Kona Big Wave Golden Ale

The Kona Brewing Company is a Hawaiian brewery, originally a family-run operation, and the beer in this post has pedigree, going all the way back to 1995. The fact that a Hawaiian beer is being served by keg in Minnesota does jar a little: they brew substantially on the mainland, though will always call “The Big Island” home. Operations go on in Portland, Oregon, Woodinville, Washington, Memphis, Tennessee, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

This Golden Ale rests peacefully in the glass, straw-gold yellow, completely sans head but quite carbonated. The aroma is characterised by hops, hops and more hops: equal parts pineapple slam, grapefruit crush and deliciously tart citrus. Underneath, the headless ale is dry, thin and spritzy, but this does nothing to help the flat, insipid flavours. Apple and malt shake coexist at low levels with an equally marginal bitterness.

It’s drinkable and fault-free but hardly a winner.

I had a pint of this uninspiring draught beer at Port 104 Bar-Grill and Bowling, Lake City, Minnesota. It was a fairly done-up family-style bar with bowling lanes, a pool table, lots of seating and early closing hours. Lake City is not exactly a drink-party town; more a wholesome-party town. But I am getting old so that’s fine with me.