About a year or so ago, I came across the blog of a homebrewer in Minneapolis that caught my eye. I’m sure the facial hair theme of The Bearded Brewer is what drew me in, but I have really come to enjoy his perspective on organic homebrewing and some of the interesting twists he takes on his recipes, as he is not afraid to deviate from traditional styles in search of unique brewing experiences.
I also admire, and am admittedly a bit jealous of, the Bearded Brewing brand he’s created. Facial hair is a key component of many brewer’s identities, and he has come up with some very creative names and labels for his beers that play off that theme. My favorite label is the Burning Beard, shown to the right. You should check out his label album and look at some of the others.
A couple months back, I contacted him to ask if he wanted to do a homebrew exchange and he was totally game. After working out the logistics and getting our beers ready, we finally made the exchange.
A bearded brewer drinking a beer from The Bearded Brewer.
I’ve been able to sample the five selections he sent me from The Bearded Brewer arsenal. I can definitely tell this is a brewer with skill and a passion for the craft. I’m definitely impressed and I hope we can do another exchange in a few months after we’ve had time to reload our cellars.
Here is what I found from tasting the beers:
Iowa Pale Ale (IAPA)
The Bearded Brewer (TBB): Straightforward pale ale using Cascade hops at 5 min and flameout.
Untamed Beer (UTB): Very clean and crisp. Slight citrus hop aroma. As the beer warmed, I started getting a bit of candy raisin and even Hawaiian Punch aroma. Mild bitterness on the finish, not harsh at all. I really enjoyed this beer and found it very pleasant and refreshing, the definition of a session pale ale.
Bearded Fury IPA
TBB: Citrus hops, but not extreme on the bitterness. Around 45 IBU.
UTB: Yellowish-orange color. A bit more bitter than the IAPA, but certainly not harsh or imbalanced. Citrus aroma and flavor from the hops. I got a tiny bit of peppery heat in the finish which gave this beer a unique twist.
The Gringo Imperial Mexican Cerveza
TBB: Hoppy Mexican lager style featuring Pilsner malt, agave nectar, and lots of sugar.
UTB: Probably my favorite of the selections, which surprised me because I’m generally not a fan of lagers. Maybe it was just the warm July day here in South Carolina, but this was a very pleasant and balanced beer. It had a distinguishable hop flavor and malt body, which is a far cry from Corona or Tecate. It definitely had a lager aroma and taste, but it wasn’t too “lagery” if that makes sense. That’s probably why I liked it so much.
Irie Imperial Caribbean Stout
TBB: Roasted malt and spices. Used Treacle, which is a type of molasses. 10% ABV
UTB: This was a very interesting beer, in a good way. Black color. I’m not sure what the spices or malts were specifically, but I felt this beer came out to be a lot like a Belgian stout. The aroma had a slightly sour, dark spiced fruit thing going on. On the front end of the flavor I tasted Belgian fruitiness which gave way to a roasted malt aftertaste. I felt that the fruit was bigger than the roast. The high alcohol content did give it a little heat.
(On a side note, The Bearded Brewer did express some concern over this beer. He said he had tweaked the recipe after some feedback from a homebrewing competition where the judges gave it lower marks because “it didn’t fit the style.” He wasn’t very happy with this latest batch and felt his previous batches of this recipe were much better and well-balanced. I did enjoy this beer and don’t consider it a failure by any means. I liked the interesting combination of the spiced fruit and roasted flavors.
I’m sure the Bearded Brewer would agree, the lesson I take home is that sometimes it’s better to follow your own ideas rather than trying to make something fit someone else’s definition of what something should be. It may not win awards or be widely popular, but at least it’ll still be good. After all, look at what happened to Guster.)
TBB: Unclassifiable beer. Pacific Gem hops lend a currant flavor, which gives the beer some fruitiness. Some people have liked it, some haven’t.
UTB: I found the beer malty, but it was more dry than sweet. I didn’t get as much of the fruitiness as I thought, and I have to admit, I’m not sure I could pick currant out of a lineup, so as a reviewer of beer I have some homework to do. It was pretty good and there was nothing wrong with the beer, but it wasn’t my favorite of the selections.