A wee little review heading into Christmas.

I was curious what the folks over at Summit were going to ferment up next as the second offering in their recently introduced Unchained Series, considering they set the bar pretty high with their very well done Kolsch. Turns out beer number two is well-suited to the cold winter months, a Scottish 90/- conceived by brewer Eric Blomquist.

Summit took a more traditional approach with their version of a Wee Heavy, opting to brew with heather, a purple flowering plant native to the Scottish highlands. These days, the herb is more commonly used in making Scottish liqueur Drambuie. But for many Scottish brewers who didn’t have ready access to hops, it served as the primary bittering agent, providing a touch of balance to their malt-forward ales. Interestingly, the underside of the heather leaf also contains a fungus that is known to cause hallucinogenic reactions, making proper cleaning of the plant before brewing of utmost importance (unless you’re into that sort of thing). 

Summit’s Scottish 90/- poured with a deep burgundy and maroon coloring, with crystal clarity. Rich caramel, dark fruit and a bit of smoke in the nose with a very unique and enjoyable herbal quality that finishes out the aroma, likely the heather. Malty sweet taste, a nice combination of roasted flavors and slightly caramelized malt, somewhat reminiscent to what you might get with a stein bier. The hop/heather bitterness helps balance out the sweetness, but not enough to draw attention away from the trademark malt backbone. The beer’s 7% ABV is well-hidden, making this a dangerously drinkable selection.

Another fine offering from Summit, get some before it goes away. Sounds like the third in the series will be an India Rye Ale brewed by Mike Lundell.

Rating: A-

dsc008541I’m repeatedly impressed with the beer every time I visit Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery.

The brewpub itself sits in a surprisingly well-cloaked building, perched on the corner of an oddly configured intersection near the West Bank of the U of M campus, referred to by locals as “Seven Corners.” Each time I’ve been there, I’ve been faked out by the front windows of the place thinking I’ll find the entrance, when in reality the smallish metal front door is tucked around the side of the building near the patio. But that’s fine by me, as it probably keeps out some of the non-beer-appreciating riff raff.

The pub opened in 1997, and ever since has been brewing up award-winning beers, including their legendary Masala Mama IPA. After being completely enveloped and sidetracked by Masala Mama on one of my recent visits, I decided to purchase a growler of their Hope & King Scotch Ale for home inspection, winner of the 2002 Bronze Medal in the scotch ale category at the Great American Beer Festival. I haven’t had many scotch ales, so I was a little unsure of what to expect. 

Poured with a small khaki head and deep reddish brown coloring. Just about zero in the way of hop aroma. They clearly want to emphasize the very complex malt profile. And there’s several layers to the malty flavor. Caramel sort of dominates the taste, followed by a small bit of smokiness, maybe from black patent malt. I also wonder if they use just a little bit of flaked oats in this recipe, because I get a faint hint in the aftertaste that lends a smooth and creamy mouthfeel. It’s 6% ABV, so nothing too crazy there. From what I gather, it might be on the weak side stylistically.

Overall, a pretty interesting and enjoyable beer.

Rating: B+