Rush River Bubblejack IPA

Rush River BubblejackSince I was a graphic designer in a former life, I have a mild fascination with beer labels and packaging (note: anyone cursed with a similar affliction should take a gander at Oh Beautiful Beer). It should come as no surprise, then, that I have major affection for Rush River Brewing Co. For a good long time, Rush River suffered from ferociously ugly branding. With a little help from a fancy-pants Minneapolis marketing firm, however, Rush River is now one of the finest looking brands in the cooler case.

Fortunately for those of us who are easily swayed by pretty pictures, Rush River also makes some darn tasty beer. Located in River Falls, WI, Rush River has been around for just over a decade, but only began bottling about five years ago. I first became acquainted with Rush River at a Great Taste of the Midwest festival in the distant past, during their pre-bottling days, and was thrilled when their wares became available in the Madison area.

A solid little brewery, Rush River eschews flash and glamour and instead offers reliable, well-crafted beers in a range of styles.Though it’s been a while since my last Rush River experience, I recall equally enjoying Unforgiven Amber, Lost Arrow Porter, and Double Bubble Imperial IPA. Bubblejack IPA, as it turns out, is another winner.

Bubblejack is light-bodied, effervescent, and quite hoppy. Citrus notes on the front are nicely complemented by a mildly bitter bite at the finish, resulting in a nearly perfect grapefruit effect. A refreshing, easy-drinking (or “highly sessionable“)  IPA, Bubblejack could easily serve as a house standard.

Rush River Bubblejack IPA

Style: IPA
Availability: Year-round
ABV: 6.5%
Hops: Yakima Valley
Notes: Light-bodied, effervescent, and hoppy; mild citrus and bitter notes provide a nice grapefruit effect
More Info:
My Take: Refreshing and easy-drinking; could become your new house IPA.

Great Dane Pub Carpenter IPA

The Great Dane Pub reminds me quite a bit of my favorite pair of ancient jeans – comfortable, casual, and reliable, with total disregard for contemporary fashion.

Fittingly, I’ve been frequenting the Great Dane just about as long as I’ve owned this now-ragged pair of pants. In the 10 years since my first visit, the Dane has grown from a single brewpub in downtown Madison to an empire of 5 dining and drinking establishments scattered across the city and suburbs, and even into the wilds of Wausau. A sixth mini-Dane fortifies weary travelers at the Dane County airport.

Sadly, my favorite pants have not realized comparable achievements during the past decade, but they do remain mostly intact. In a curious alignment of the cosmos, today’s tasting obligations were fulfilled at the Great Dane while wearing these beloved pants.


Classiest shuffle table in town

I love the Great Dane for many reasons, including its cozy, comfy atmosphere, reliably tasty pub food, and, of course, a first-rate shuffleboard table. Its beer, however, is not among these reasons. While the Great Dane’s high-alcohol beers, like Stone of Scone Scotch Ale, tend to be pretty decent, others are inconsistent or just boring. Emerald Isle Stout, for example, is one of the least-interesting stouts I’ve encountered; its lack of depth leaves it tasting something like stout-flavored water.

Today’s selection, Carpenter IPA, was unfortunately only slightly more appealing than the lifeless Emerald Isle Stout. A seasonal offering, Carpenter was light-colored and light-bodied, with minimal carbonation. Lack of fizz, combined with a strong soapy flavor made for a fairly unpleasant experience. A yeasty (but not in a good way), slightly metallic aftertaste compounded the suffering. For a more palatable IPA experience, steer clear of this seasonal and stick to a standard, like Speedway IPA. Or better yet, forgo the beer all together and head straight for the barley wine.

Great Dane Carpenter IPA

Style: IPA
Availability: Seasonal
ABV: Not specified
Hops: Not specified
Notes: Light bodied with little carbonation; soapy-tasting with a metallic, yeasty aftertaste
More Info: No info on this particular beer, but here’s some on Great Dane beers in general:
My Take: Skip this and head for the barley wine.

Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter + Week 3 Recap

Yet another week has passed, so it’s time for a little reflection:

  1. Northwoods Brewing Birch Wood Ale was either horrendous or mislabeled
  2. Founders Porter was dark, rich and sexy (as judged by pasty, cheap and awkward)
  3. Lake Louie Radio Free IBA was pretty good, though short on hops
  4. Vintage Derby Girl ESB was a good excuse for a journey to the west side
  5. Founders Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Breakfast Stout was a nutritious breakfast substitute, albeit a little sweet for my taste
  6. Point Special Lager was best used for washing down a Plazaburger
  7. Sprecher Winter Brew was not nearly as good as Sprecher root beer

Best of the week: Founders Porter, without a doubt

Worst of the week: Northwoods Birch Wood Ale, with special honors for an extraordinarily tragic bungling of a pale ale.

Back in the summer of 2002, I worked hauling trash in a plastic packaging factory. While it was glamorous, it was also an exceptionally hot, sweaty job. That summer, my best friend and I, who worked in the same sweltering factory, made a habit of cooling off after the work day with  refreshing (and nutritious) beer floats.

A thoroughly chilled beer topped with vanilla ice cream seemed just the thing to mollify the mind-numbing tedium of carting around industrial trash all day, and to bolster our rapidly dwindling body mass. Though it might sound like an odd concoction, with the right beer as a base, beer floats are perfectly delicious. That brings me to today’s selection, Leinie’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter. While barely palatable on its own, I suspect that Snowdrift might just be an ideal beer float medium.

Beer float.

Beer float.

Like many of Leinenkugel’s most egregious abominations of fermentation (ahem, Berry Wiess, Summer Shandy, Sunset Wheat…), Snowdrift is frightfully sweet. Nonetheless, Snowdrift’s creamy vanilla flavors and hefty carbonation result in a fairly tasty experience, so long as you disregard any associations between this stuff and actual beer. In fact, it more closely resembles Titletown Sno-Cap Root Beer than it does any porter I’ve encountered.

Sadly, no ice cream was handy during the consumption of this beer (although, to be fair, I didn’t actually ask the bartender at Monkeyshines), but I think a beer that tastes like Sno-Cap quite obviously yearns to become involved in a beer float. If you’re in the mood for an actual porter, look elsewhere, but, if you’ve got some ice cream to spare, Snowdrift might be worth a try.

Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter

Style: Porter (sort of)
Availability: Seasonal (winter)
ABV: 6%
Hops: Cluster, Wilamette
Notes: Sweet and creamy with strong vanilla flavor; heavily carbonated
More Info:
My Take: Would make for a might fine beer float.