Friday, December 14, 2007

Disaster Narrowly Avoided

After grabbing a beer out of the beer fridge earlier this week I noticed that we were dangerously low on beer. Really, there was only 1 bottle left (ok, that doesn’t include the 3 cases Mag picked up for New Year’s Eve but that doesn’t count because I’m not supposed to touch that stash). So on my way home from work I decided I had no choice but to make a quick run to the liquor store. That liquor store being Cellars meant I was setting myself up for some ridicule and I wasn’t disappointed. I missed the beer tasting they hosted last weekend and that wasn’t going to be allowed to slide by. However after some good natured ribbing I got plenty of good input on the many new things they had since I was last there. In the end I picked up Dark Horse One- an oatmeal stout ale that is nothing like the locally famous One from Surly but excellent in it’s own right. I’ve had plenty of oatmeal stouts that often feel light in the stout area. Not so with this one! This is a full bodied stout that rivals the other two of their line up I’ve tried- Crooked Tree IPA and Black Bier. If you see any Dark Horse in a liquor store, pick it up! You won’t be disappointed. The other one I picked up was Sam Adam’s Imperial Pilsner. I’m not generally a pilsner fan but add “imperial” on there and at the least I am intrigued. Sam Adams may no longer be one of the small guys but this is an outstanding beer, regardless of the brewery that produced it. I told the beer gurus over at Cellar’s I might be back tomorrow and after picking up two four-packs of excellent beer there’s a good chance our beer fridge will once again be in the dangerously low category by tomorrow morning.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Random Sunday Thoughts

Despite my last post about an affinity to drink on Sundays, Kris and I decided not to go out for a few beers and dinner tonight...at least as of 5:22 P.M. The self-control we sometimes exhibit is amazing. We did have a chance to grab a few beers at the Longfellow Grill and the Muddy Pig last night. I enjoy the Muddy Pig more and more each time we go. The only downer is that it can get a bit chilly. The top notch beer selection makes up for it, though. I had a chance to try Ommegang's Chocolate Indulgence. It was decent. I think I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have only because I'd just been drinking something else and only had a sip of the Ommegang. The Surly Smoke was much more enjoyable. I also enjoyed watching our Miller Lite drinking friend make faces after tasting our beers, especially the Bubblejack.

In a breach of tradition, Kris and I made a decision not to buy tickets to Winterfest this year. The first couple of years that we went when it was in the Hamm's building and then the St. Paul College Club were really enjoyable. We met a lot of great people and enjoyed the beer and atmosphere. Neither one of us enjoyed the Landmark's atmosphere. I know it's about the beer and all that, but the Landmark was just a bit of a buzz-kill. Or maybe it was the vibe we got from the crowd. The high price coupled with these other things just made us want to take a year off. Too bad. I think we'll drop our $90 in an environment we enjoy more.

Post-Script
At 6:02 P.M. a call to drink beer came in. So much for self-control. Bottom's up!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sunday Slummin'

I don't know what my problem is, but I seem to like drinking on Sunday's...often more than other days of the week. Maybe it's my way, albeit a small way, of sticking it to The Man. Or maybe it only happens at times when Monday productivity isn't high on my list of priorities. Who knows. Who cares.

Buster's is quietly becoming one of my favorite places to frequent. Hard to figure. We miss our favorite server, Aimee. The stools at the high tables are uncomfortable, as are the booths. I don't like coming home smelling of fried food. And yet I find the place to be warm and comfortable and I enjoy the beer selection. The food and beer menu are both good and getting better. Or maybe I was just feeling really good today b/c this weekend was the first weekend that Buster's was open for Sat. and Sun. brunch at 9 A.M. They don't have a fried egg sandwich per se, but they do have a fried egg croissant and a BLT w/ fried egg. Anyway, it's a good place to hang out and drink good beer.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Blue Nile

Last night I finally made it to the Blue Nile. Their name always seems to pop up in news about good beer and special releases but for whatever reason I just hadn’t gotten around to making it there. So thankfully Kat and Scott called and invited me out with them for some imperial stout drinking. Having paid more attention to MN Beer lately than me, Scott knew they were having Surly Darkness, Bell’s Expedition Stout and Old Rasputin all on tap last night. Since there were three of us and three beers to be had we ordered all three and proceeded to enjoy some very fine beer. I ended up being the odd man out, choosing the Expedition Stout as my favorite of the three although “best glass” certainly goes to Surly for their very nice Darkness goblets. When placed side by side Old Rasputin was the least favorite however all three are great brews and I wouldn’t be disappointed drinking any of the three any day of the week. Blue Nile is an interesting joint with some great snackies and a great bartender who ensures a fine selection of beer. I’m already looking forward to my next visit!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tyranena happenings this week

I thought about bending the rules a bit on MN Beer and posting these two tidbits of information that came from Tyranena via their newsletter today but figured all the cool people check this blog regularly anyway. So if you're not planning to find a place to watch the Pack and the Cowboys Thursday night or will be in Edina Friday evening you can find Tyranena at these places.

November 29, 2007 - Beer Dinner at Rascal's in Apple Valley, MN beginning at 6 pm. Located at 7721 147th Street West, Apple Valley, MN - 952-431-7777.

November 30, 2007 - Tasting at France 44 in Edina, MN, from 4 to 7 pm. Located at 4351 France Avenue South, Edina, MN - 612-925-3252.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Too Much Beer vs. Too Little Beer

I've had a chance now to try out both Barley John's double IPA and Town Hall's double IPA. And, aside from a double dose of heartburn, found both really enjoyable. I think I enjoyed Town Hall's more, but it's a close one. Town Hall's aroma was slighthly more...hm, enjoyable I guess and, to me, that's a huge part of my beer experiences. Also, I think I could enjoy a couple of their double IPA's without palate burn-out. In any event, I highly recommend both.

So, now we go from a beer-filled last couple of days in the Twin Cities to possibly a beer-sparse couple of days in Dallas. It's not exactly a good-beer wasteland, but good beer is a little harder for us to find at Grammama's house. That's okay, I guess, since I'm sure we'll be make up our carb shortfall from a lack of beer by eating a few pounds of potatoes and bread a day. Gotta keep my playing weight up, you know.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An Interesting Beer Weekend

Sometimes I'll go a whole weekend (or weeks at a time) without having a drop of beer. Other times I'm on the other end of the spectrum drinking too much, too frequently. This weekend I was somewhere in the middle...and I met some pretty good and interesting beers there.

I had a sip of Kris' Avery's The Beast, a Grand Cru, when we were at the Muddy Pig on Friday night. It was awfully good, but it's not something I could really enjoy, except in very small amounts. The really big beers can be yummy, but they can also ruin my evening of drinking by ruining my palate, giving me heartburn, or pushing me into drunken oblivion too quickly. None the less, you should try it. Incidentally, and I'll expose myself a bit here, Avery scares me. Drinking their beers is like playing with a loaded pistol. You never know when one's gonna go off and hurt someone.

I also had a chance to finally try this year's Schell's Snowstorm and Brau Brother's Ring Neck Braun Ale while at a marathon Guitar Hero III evening at a buddy's home in the hinterlands of Lake Crystal. I'm generally pretty pleased with Schell's annual Snowstorm offering, and this year was no different. Mine was served a bit too cold, but it was still enjoyable. And I also came away from my Ring Neck experience pleased as well. The one thing that really stands out about this beer is how the nut brown flavor just pops out of this beer. Good stuff, Maynard.

Friday, November 16, 2007

MNBeer Meeting at Barley John's

Kris and I went to Barley John's last night for the express purpose of getting together w/ some of the folks who contribute to MNBeer.com to talk about a new Beer of the Month feature. Of course, drinking and talk of beer related things supplanted any "work" we intended to get done. Colin, of Barley John's brewing fame, joined us. I've got a couple of take-aways from the evening:
1) I know nothing about brewing and beer, except how to drink it...and I don't do that very well.
2) I continue to be delighted by the fine, friendly folks I meet at any brew-pub, beer event, etc. I attend. Or maybe I just like hanging w/ drunks...
3) Barley John's continues to make damn good beer. I had avoided their Wild Brunette for the last couple of years, not because I didn't enjoy it the first time I had it, but rather because I have a psychological aversion to non-traditional (whatever that means) ingredients in beer, especially rice. And also, there are always other, tasty options available. Well, I finally broke down last night and had a Brunette. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

...'nough said

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

1 of 6

After resisting temptation for a few weeks now, we finally broke down and tried the first bottle of our six pack sampler Mag’s parents lovingly carted back from Virginia for us.

The St. George Brewing Company, Hampton, Virginia
IPA 5.5%

This IPA is not one of those over the top, heavily hopped beers that are abundant these days. Instead this is a very drinkable, copper colored brew that goes down easy. Too bad this came from the East Coast and there’s no way we’re finding it in this neck of the woods. Hopefully the rest of the six pack will be a good as this first one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Craft beer in the South

Last week I “got” to spend some time in New Orleans for work. I was not looking forward to this trip and wasn’t disappointed by what I found. Customer service certainly doesn’t mean the same thing down there and since I don’t live in North Minneapolis it didn’t occur to me until I got there that going out after dark would not exactly be the best of plans. That being said I tried to make the best of it and that meant finding some good beer. What I found was Abita. Abita is brewed in Abita Springs, Louisiana (about an hour north of New Orleans) and according to their website they have 5 flagship beers, 5 seasonals and a select line that changes every few months. For the most part I was pleasantly surprised. The drafts I tried were Andygator (described by the server as a barleywine at 12%...I’d put it at 9% tops…very smooth and drinkable), Turbodog (a dark brown ale with a wonderfully caramel chocolate aroma and flavor) and Amber (a lager but still a nice beer). I also had bottled versions of Restoration Ale (a moderately hoppy pale ale that could be a session beer), Harvest (apparently brewed with Louisiana pecans but I wouldn’t have been able to pull that flavor out), Fall Fest (their version of Octoberfest) and Christmas Ale (a yearly changing recipe). The Restoration Ale was the only stand out of the bottled beers and the Amber seemed to be the most readily available.
Making my way back home on Sunday I had a bit of time in the Atlanta airport and somehow found myself sitting at the bar of Sweetwater Brewing. They had 4 of their 7 beers on tap so of course my first question was, “Do you have a sampler?” While the bartender didn’t answer my question she did proceed to pull out 4 small glasses and filled each about half full. I realized that although they didn’t officially have a sampler platter she understood customer service and did what she could to accommodate me (what a wonderful change of pace after New Orleans!). Their Blue, a light beer brewed with blueberries and coming in at 4.9% was surprisingly well done for a fruit beer. Next up was Hummer, a 5.4% Belgian white, followed by 420, a 5.4% West Coast Style Pale Ale and finally, their crowing glory (at least in my opinion) the simply stated IPA. This bad boy came in at 6.9% and is a must for hop heads! Without a second thought I ordered a pint of this and drank as much of it as I could before I had to head to my gate to finish my trip home. So the moral of this long story, boys and girls, is that if you should find yourself stuck in the South, try to find some Abita or Sweetwater to drown your sorrows in.

Friday, October 26, 2007

2 in 1 night...we're party animals!

Last night Mag and I decided to head to Buster’s, under the guise of taking advantage of their beer special of the week- Bell’s Brown for $3 per pint. It is a mighty fine, easy drinking brown that went very well with the onion rings and Spanish Italian pizza. Mag tried to get a final glass of Surlyfest but they had just run the keg dry so it was Fat Tire for him. Surprisingly it was served in a 22 oz bomber. While Surlyfest fans may be sad to see it go, I was thrilled because to replace it Buster’s put a keg of Furious on. Go hops!! With our hunger sated and our thirst momentarily quenched we continued north to Town Hall. This was our first, but probably not last, visit for their Anniversary Week. I’ll be honest that I don’t remember what Mag had- maybe an Anniversary Ale, but I was impressed with both the Petunia’s Pumpkin Ale and the Belgian Raspberry Brown. I’ve been enjoying Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale for the last couple of weeks at home but Petunia’s is even better. The pumpkin flavor is deeper and the spices a bit more pronounced but still very smooth. While Steve tried to steer me away from the Raspberry Brown I took a chance and found it very much to my liking. We’ll probably be back on Saturday to pick up our newly purchased Pint Club cards and of course pick up our free growlers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

East Coast Beer!

In an effort to ensure they outlive their son, my parents kindly brought back some unhealthy, life-shortening beer they picked up in Virginia. During their last trip they brought back wine, which was pretty good...at least to this undiscriminating wine palate. We're pretty hopeful that this stuff is equally as good although I've never heard of the breweries before nor, obviously, the beer.
...even the dog likes it...or so she seems to think...

Anyway, the sampler pack is from The St. George Brewing Company in Hampton, VA. It includes a nut brown ale, pilsner, golden ale, lager, IPA, and an American brown ale. The other three bombers are from Williamsburg Ale Works in Williamsburg, VA. The 'rents picked up an imperial IPA (Ironbound Ale), an imperial brown ale (?!?!? - "400" Ale), and Wolfe's Trap Ale.

And no, we're not gonna share, but maybe we'll tell you about it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It didn't make me a man, but it sure was good

With only time for a short stop at Great Waters today, on the premise of getting a growler filled, I sampled two of their cask beers in those nifty half pints. The Bent Niblick Scottish Ale had the characteristic creamy cask head with a pleasant oat aroma. Colored slightly lighter than expected, more like an IPA, this is a very drinkable, slightly hopping brew that could nearly be considered a session beer. And if anyone is wondering about the name, apparently a niblick is a golf club and the bent part, well I guess the brewer makes beer better than he golfs. While the Niblick isn't bad I was completely bowled over by It Will Make You a Man India Pale Ale. Again, a creamy lasting head but with the beautiful hoppy aroma of an IPA. A true pleasure for any hop head and one I'll be sharing with friends this evening since this was the hands down winner in my choice to fill the growler. The other two casks currently on tap are their House Ale (an excellent session beer) and Black Watch Oat Stout. Their current pushed selection consists of Golden Prairie Blond, St. Peter Pale, Brown Trout Brown Ale, Pflugenpflagen, Time Warp Trippel and Black Watch Oat Stout. It's getting a little chilly to enjoy their patio but their beers have come a long way over the past few years making enduring their cold, loud bar worth it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Autumn Brew Review Review...um...

Extreme shame has prevented me from posting my pointless blather about how much fun I had at the Autumn Brew Review, or how much beer I drank, or where I peed, or the stupid things I said, or...well, you get the point. I was "one of those people" this year. Yeah, "one of those people" that you never see at beer events and you certainly don't know "one of those people" or at least you'd never admit it. I was "one of those people" that you don't see, but whom you certainly hear about. You know what I mean...when the loud, peaceful murmur of the pickled crowd is disrupted by the distinctive *skish* of a sampling glass being negligently shattered. Yeah, I broke my glass.
It wasn't as though I was stumbling through the crowd fighting for a special release or arrogantly waving my glass while telling some story about how the beer I tasted was sooo much better than the swill you drank or even awkwardly flirting with some beer wench. No, I was quietly off on the edge of the tasting grounds rinsing my glass out with water and getting a sip. I'll bet I dropped the damn thing from about a foot off the ground. Twelving f'ing inches and the sumbitch shatters. One goddamn foot and the sound was loud enough to carry farther than I can throw a beer can. Christ, what a loser. I should have gone down in more style.
And you'd think one would get a little sympathy for one's loss. Nope. I think 3/4 of the pourers I visited after that had some smart-ass comment to make (as they had every right to do) about my little plastic cup replacement. And then to top off the shame of the afternoon, I got mocked and ridiculed by some folks representing a brew-pub that shall remain nameless for wearing a Surly hat. THAT'S why I almost never fly anyone's colors at beer events. I don't want assumptions about my loyalty to be made.
All in all I had a great time! Losing a little pride isn't so bad when it happens among friends and all around good drunks.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Anticipating ABR

For better or worse, wetter or drier Mag and I are heading over to the Autumn Brew Review today. Hopefully it won't be a wash out like the City Pages beer fest was earlier this year however I've planned better this time in case we do get drenched. It'll be interesting to see how the new venue works out, especially in terms of how crowded it will feel. I was pleased to see the Craft Brewers decided to limit the number of tickets sold and even more please to see earlier this week it had sold out. This is the best festival within a two hour drive of the metro and I can't wait for it to begin!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Town Hall brews...mmmmmmm

Town Hall makes great beer. Really. And no, I didn’t just realize this, I’m just restating what we’ve come to take for granted. Last night for pre-dinner club drinks we braved the tornado sirens and hail, ducking into Town Hall just as it really started coming down. Surprisingly for me my first beer was their Smoked Hefe. Normally I steer pretty clear of hefes although I’m always willing to try a sip of whoever has some. This time between the intrigue of a smoked beer and Scott’s glowing recommendation I startled myself and ordered it. I couldn’t have been more pleased with this beer. The smokiness was subtle enough to avoid being overwhelming while at the same time provided enough of a cover to the wheatiness to produce a very drinkable beer. Another interesting looking beer on their menu was MN Harvest. This was described as a lighter beer made with maple syrup and wild rice. Gene graciously offered to let me try some of his and although I don’t think I would have enjoyed a full pint of it, it was certainly worth trying. It was lighter than I was in the mood for but had a very pleasant, nutty finish. Next up was their cask IPA. I’m a sucker for cask beers in general and can say I’ve never had one I didn’t enjoy. This was no exception and I thoroughly enjoyed all the hops it had to offer. Before heading off to dinner at Kafe 421 I decided that with the great impression the Smoked Hefe had made on me that Mag would probably enjoy it as well and exchanged my empty growler for one of the hefe.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

All-American Grill & Brewhouse

There's a new brewpub going up in Waverly, MN called All-American Grill & Brewhouse and they'll be featuring beers by Ugly Tree Brewing Company. Waverly's probably a good 40 minute drive from our joint in Eagan. Sounds like an opportunity for a road trip to me. They are opening their doors sometime in Sept. Part of me doesn't want to go until after they've been open a while so that I don't have to experience any of the newly-opened-restaurant-oopsies like we've seen at Buster's, but then again, I'm much too antsy about everything I do to bother waiting. Besides, it's nice to see the evolution of a restaurant from the very teen-like gangly, pimply awkwardness to...well, uh...a restaurant with a big rack and tight jeans??? Anywho...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Our annual Ren Fest outing

Labor Day weekend might mean the last chance to visit the Great Minnesota Get Together for many and more power to those folks. For us it meant a chance to head out to the Ren Fest while the crowds were manageable. Sunday was a near perfect day to be outside, gnawing on a hunk of meat, drinking and being as bawdy as one cared to be. We found an added bonus within the first few minutes of being in the doors. While standing in line to get our first beers of the morning we noticed Flat Earth’s logo on the program. The stand we were at didn’t happen to have a tap for Flat Earth but the server was happy to point us in the direction of one that did. That stand turned out to be just around the corner and from there on out it was Flat Earth all the way for me (at least until it was time to add some mead into the mix). As usual it turned out to be a long, hot, very pleasant day of drinking. Looking for a break in the afternoon we headed over to the hookah bar. We met some interesting characters there and probably would have stayed much longer except for the fact that we had to get up when we needed beer. Thanks to the King’s decree of 1 beer per person that meant we couldn’t send one person to get beers for the group. Two of the day’s highlights: Mag got called up to take part in the Ded Bob Sho and Kat nearly had it out with a grumpy old lady at a Drunk & Disorderly performance. However possibly the best was Scott’s farewell greeting to a family in the parking lot, “Happy for coming!”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Winterfest Date Set

Things haven't been feeling too wintery lately but with all the recent rain fall is feeling closer. That being said it looks like the folks over at the Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild have set a date for 2008 Winterfest. At this point there doesn't appear to be a location set nor a date when tickets go on sale although I feel fairly certain it will be December 1 at noon. In the meantime, mark your calendars for Friday, Feburary 8, 2008!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reuters: Bears Eat Man At Beer Festival

Found this Reuters story. Thank god we don't have bears or other dangerous animals at beer fests in Minnesota. Or maybe there was some confusion as to whether this deal in Belgrade was a bear fest or a beer fest?

Bears eat man at beer festival
Story Highlights
A 23-year old Serb was found dead and half-eaten in bear cage
Naked body was found in enclosure at Belgrade Zoo
Zookeepers believe man was drunk or drugged

BELGRADE, Serbia (Reuters) -- A 23-year old Serb was found dead and half-eaten in the bear cage of Belgrade Zoo at the weekend during the annual beer festival.
The man was found naked, with his clothes lying intact inside the cage. Two adult bears, Masha and Misha, had dragged the body to their feeding corner and reacted angrily when keepers tried to recover it.
"There's a good chance he was drunk or drugged. Only an idiot would jump into the bear cage," zoo director Vuk Bojovic told Reuters.
Local media reported that police found several mobile phones inside the cage, as well as bricks, stones and beer cans.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Our Balls Were Slippery and Cold Yesterday


I must have bitched too much about the heat the the Great Taste of the Midwest. The beer gods saw fit to make Saturday's bocce tourney at Town Hall a chilly and wet one. But man was it fun. I can't wait to do it again. Makes me want to rethink putting a bocce court in our back-yard. Cleo'll just have to find somewhere else to poop. Kris and I teamed up with Lori and Paul and, despite our team's inexperience w/ bocce, we fared quite well. We didn't out-right beat any teams in getting our 2-1 record because of the time limits imposed, although we did lose our last game to a 15-pt scoring team that pulled out a nice little come-back. Despite our 2-1 record, which we thought was sure to get us to the next level in the tourney, we were passed over due to a relatively low point total in our three games. But hey, at least I got myself a bit lubricated. Of course, I knew that was happening when I found myself doing the whole ride-the-horse-slap-that-ass motion to our opponents after a good toss on my part. Misplaced hubris...gotta love it. Anyway, thanks to Lori and Paul for a fun Saturday. We'll get 'em next year!

Town Hall was serving a raspberry-infused scotch that was damn good. They also had a pale ale special (J Pale) using American Summit hops that was quite good and very, very hoppy as well as a Belgian ale w/ apricot, Ambrosia by name. I also tried Kris' English summer ale on cask. Yeah, one could probably sit around drinking that one all day. Nice session beer. It also had an amazing cascade when poured that you don't really see outside of some stouts. We stuck around long enough for the Double Hefe release. It was certainly big on flavor, although I didn't particularly enjoy it. I also broke down at the end of the day and had a Rodenbach sour. Pucker up, baby!

Man, did I feel like crap at 6 o'clock though...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tucson Beer

While in Tucson on business this week I thought I would try to get a local beer at J Bar, located on the Westin La Paloma resort property, where I was staying. Since Arizona isn’t exactly a hot bed of microbreweries I wasn't too optimistic but at least the 3 beers they had on tap were all microbrewed. I started out with a Lost Coast Downtown Brown Ale (out of Eureka, CA). It wasn’t the best brown I’ve ever had, but passable and a middle of the road beer as browns often are. Then next one I had was better. I was sure the bartender said it was a Lost Coast Cream Ale, but Lost Coast doesn’t appear to make a Cream Ale according to their website so I had to call the J Bar back for clarification. Turns out that it is actually Sandstone Cream Ale made by Thunder Canyon Brewery located in Tucson. It was a very nicely done cream ale- light in color but quite flavorful. For a resort bar in I thought someone did a nice job of making sure they had a good selection both on tap and in bottles (including Moose Drool, North Coast PranQster, a few imports and some other West Coast beers that I’ll have to see about giving a go to next time). That next time will be in January and since this is a resort (aka- out in the middle of nowhere) my beer options will be limited but thankfully will consist of more than just macro options. That being said, I’m happy to be back and enjoying a Crooked Tree IPA from Dark Horse Brewing Company that we picked up in Wisconsin, ON SUNDAY, on our way back from the Great Taste.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Surly Open

Sunday morning we headed over to Hyland park in Bloomington with Kat and Scott to take part in the 1st Annual Surly Open- Leave Your Balls @ Home. We were signed up for the afternoon session and were eager to start partaking in $1 Surly beers. Being there were only four of us and each team was to be made up of five people we got to make a new friend. Our new buddy Dave/David was clearly the best and most motivated disc golfer among us. I think he ended up finishing with a score of 66 and mine was somewhere around 112. No one came close to catching me for last place. That’s ok though, I was just happy not to have passed out climbing the hills…yes, the ones that the ski lifts take people up in the winter…particularly when I was carrying a tray of beers up to the rest of my team. The best part of the day though was after we were done hiking the course and due to the thirsty Surly Nation, Omar brought out a keg of Coffee Bender to replace the empty CynicAle keg. It looks like the event was officially a success as Surly’s site is advertising that there will be a 2nd Annual event. I just hope they pick a flatter course next year.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Drinking Local

In our continuing search for places to drink good beer Mag and I picked up Kat and Scott and headed over to Common Roots CafĂ© on Lyndale in Minneapolis last night. I had read about this recently opened place and with their emphasis on local food and beer I was looking for a time to give it a try. We were given a good reason earlier this week when Surly sent out an email that Omar would be giving out free Bitter Brewer there at 7:30 Thursday night. Common Roots offers four beers on tap: Surly Bender, Surly CynicAle, Flat Earth Angry Planet IPA (their organic offering) and from Milwaukee, WI, Lakefront Organic ESB. While disappointed there was no Furious to be had I consoled myself with a Bender and happily ate my grilled cheese sandwich made with Gouda, Chevre and raw milk cheddar. I think I enjoyed my meal the most out of our group but since our real focus was the beer it all sufficed to pad our stomachs. About the time we finished our meal Omar had arrived and was setting up the pin of Bitter Brewer toward the back of the restaurant so we decided we’d better grab a table nearby. Heading back there we ran into Dave and Sharon and then Lori and Paul who had brought along Paul’s sister who was in town for a visit. So we pushed a few tables together, enjoyed some free Bitter Brewer and more purchased pints. Still in a drinking mood but looking for a broader selection our group headed across the street to the original Bulldog. I’d been to the new Bulldog NE previously but this was my first trip to the original. Walking in the door was like walking into a freezer so we headed out to their patio. It’s a cozy, completely enclosed patio so don’t expect to come here with a large group. The seven of us ended up crammed together around a table meant for four but since our waitress wouldn’t allow us to move another table over (fire restrictions) we made due. They do have a great selection of beers and seven varieties of Tator Tots! We got the Cajun and garlic ones along with some of their soft pretzels. While the Cajun Tator Tots and the soft pretzels were good, the garlic ones were outstanding! All in all we had a nice Thursday night filled with plenty of tasty beer which served to whet my whistle for Sunday’s Surly Open. I’m sure I’ll have the worst score of all of the participants, but I’m not too concerned…I’ll be spending the afternoon outside drinking $1 Surly beers.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Random Encounters

Kris and I decided to check out the newly opened Buster's on 28th in South Mpls. (42nd Street and 28th Avenue) yesterday. The reviews we'd read from its opening on the 24th were pretty much spot on (good food, great beer menu but many selections aren't quite available yet, very new servers still learning their jobs - kind of what you'd expect from a place just opening up). Overall, we had an enjoyable time, although I think we drove our server crazy with questions to which she did not know the answer and had to run inside and research.

Anyway, we grabbed a table for the two of us just outside the front door. Little did we know, but this table seemed to attract all the patrons that wanted to step outside for a smoke. They come out, grab our chairs, light up, and set their drinks on our table. Normally this would irritate the hell out of me, but I was a bit cheerful from the beer. So, rather than ignoring them or telling them to buzz off, we invited them to join us. All in all, this lead to some interesting conversations with a number of folks who live near Buster's and have done so for many years. One fellow was even kind enough to point out the local "crackhead" as she stomped and danced her way past us on the sidewalk. You don't get this kind of local color without chatting up the locals.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Dog Days of Summer- Drink Some Dog

Last weekend, on our way to a night of games with friends, we stopped by our local Cellar’s in Eagan. As always we got some great information from the guys that work there as we were selecting our poison for the night. Mag and I each selected a new one to try, both of which happened to be made by Flying Dog. Mag’s choice was Double Dog Double Pale Ale (only in a 4 pack) and I chose Road Dog, a Scottish Porter. Double Dog is a big beer, coming in at 85 IBUs and 10.5% ABV. Take time and slowly enjoy this big, full beer. Road Dog is more along the lines of your standard beer in alcohol content however the label has a great little slogan “Good Beer No Shit.” Yep, somehow these lucky Dogs slipped “shit” by the label Nazi’s that usually catch things like this. Both are great beers worth picking up next time you need some Dog.

And as a side note- THE GREAT TASTE OF THE MIDWEST IS LESS THAN 3 WEEKS AWAY…YAHOO!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Homework or Homehobby?

I'm taking a Corporate Venturing class at the UofM as part of my MBA. My CV group decided to propose, as our class project, a venture for Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams. I'm not terribly stoked about the venture we decided upon (essentially a distribution agreement b/n Boston Beer and Anheuser-Busch), but it'll work. In any event, I am rather proud of my novice artist work...here, presented for the very first time...*drum roll*


...and yet another masterpiece.


I don't know that we'll get an A, but we'll at least go down with style.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Unemployed Never Tasted So Good

Well, okay, technically I'm not unemployed since I'm still on someone's payroll and won't really have any days where I'm not on someone's payroll before I start my new gig, but it's fun to say I'm unemployed. If I hadn't expanded my waistline to the point where my pants don't fit during our trip to Chicago, I'd probably be more inclined to spend my week off between jobs in a pickled stupor at my local favorites. As it is, it's 5 P.M. on my first day off and I'm only now having my first beer. For shame.

Our local Cellars continues to do a great job in carrying interesting craft beers. The other day I picked up three six packs from a joint I'd never heard of before, nor seen in MN - Barley Island in Noblesville, Indiana. The brews I bought were Dirty Helen Brown, Blind Tiger Pale, and Bar Fly IPA. I had the Helen and the Tiger on Saturday, but frankly I was a bit toasted by then and don't really recall if I enjoyed them. I'll have to rectify that. The IPA is pretty damn good. It's got tons of bitter hop flavor and sufficient aroma to not disappoint. It's a bit on the bitter side in the after taste though (duh, no sh!t sherlock).

And oh yeah, New Belgium is now available in MN once again. Yippie! I don't care much for Fat Tire, but I do enjoy several of their other beers.

Finally, I did try the new Miller product, Chill or Chelada or whatever the hell it's called. It was pretty good. I'd certainly drink one of these green beasts before any other Miller beers. Anyway, it's worth checking out - especially since it isn't being rammed down our throats by Miller's marketing thugs...at least not yet anyway.

Monday, July 9, 2007

1st 100 down, hundreds more to go

Our recent trip to Chicago put me over the 100 mark for breweries and brewpubs I have had the pleasure (mostly) of visiting. And as with many beer focused trips this one had its highs and lows although it seemed to be more about the extremes than most. Lunar Brewing in Villa Park and Goose Island’s Clybourn Pub in Chicago were the highlights of the trip as far as I was concerned, with Govnor’s Public House taking the cake for lowlight. While their website and the sign outside their establishment both advertised that they were open at 11 AM daily apparently that doesn’t include the 4th of July. So although it seemed our intended first stop of the trip had started us off on the wrong foot, in fact it led us right over to Emmet’s Tavern in West Dundee which turned out to be a great place to begin our five day drinking/Tiki excursion of the greater Chicago area.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Chicago...the Gassy...er, Windy City

The McGerik's, Kris, and I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Chicagoland to attend a Tiki event, Exotica, and sample as many beers as our livers would allow at the area's many fine breweries and brewpubs. In five days we hit 9 breweries/brewpubs and three different beer bars. Now, considering two of the five days were spent driving to and from Chicago, that's not a bad count. The breweries we hit, in order, were Emmett's Ale House (West Dundee), Piece (Chicago), Taylor Brewing (Lombard), Two Brother's (Warrenville), Lunar (Villa Park), Goose Island (Chicago - Clybourn location), Mickey Finn's Brewery (Libertyville), Flatlanders (Lincolnshire), and Moosejaw (Wisconsin Dells, WI). The beer bars we hit, which were highly recommended to us by "those in the know" were The Map Room (Chicago), Clark Street Ale House (Chicago), and Firkins (Libertyville). Highlights and lowlights of each:
  • Emmett's Ale House: All-around great place for a beer and a meal. Friendly staff and nice joint. The brewmaster, I think his name was Ryan, actually did some of his novice work at Town Hall. We also hit Emmett's in Downer's Grove, but I recommend going to the West Dundee location as I think it was the first.
  • Piece: The service was a little slow (I guess the place WAS hopping) and the beer was very flavorful and pretty good. I didn't find any session beers, though, and they were out of some of the beers I thought I'd enjoy most. The 'za was pretty damn good too. Worth the visit.
  • Taylor Brewing: Meh. They charged $10 for a f%#king pint class and seemed their brewing focus seemed designed to please your Miller crowd. Overall, if you're driving by, hungry and thirsty, and you happen to be driving down the right side of the street...well, you decide for yourself.
  • Two Brothers: This was a brewery in a light industrial building. We couldn't get a tour and they didn't do any tastings. By and large, they seemed put out by our visit. They sent us to a local bar, John's (great place, by the way), to taste some of their beers. We all enjoyed most of the Two Brothers that we had at John's and other places. They definitely do a great job making interesting and tasty beers. That being said, unless you need a souveniour, don't bother stopping in. Find a nice bar to knuckle-down at.
  • Lunar Brewing: This may have been the highlight of the trip. The place probably falls into the dive bar category, which adds to the allure. The bartender was very friendly and helpful and there wasn't one beer there that we didn't enjoy. Lunar is worth going out of your way to visit.
  • Goose Island: I had my expectations set low and I was proved very wrong. We visited the brewpub on Clybourn. All in all, great beers, great food, friendly staff, and nice atmosphere. Unfortunately, this was the last place we hit on 7/5, so we were a bit beered out and didn't sample the full offering, but we had enough... A must see.
  • Mickey Finn's: When we first got here, we let out a collective groan due to the service, but our server ended up doing a fine job and we were surprised by the quality of the beer and food. Worth visiting.
  • Flatlanders: We got a tour of the brewpub from Art, the friendly brewmaster who went out of his way to make us feel welcome. Flatlanders was surprisingly large and looked to be a newer establishment. Art does a pretty good job with the beer and had a well-rounded selection (from grand cru to dunkel to stout).
  • Moosejaw: We decided to hit Moosejaw on our way back from Chi-town although we were all a bit leery given that it's located smack-dab in the heart of breeder country in Wisconsin Dells. Needless to say, we set our expectations low. We were wrong. They carried a large and varied selection of beers, most of which were pretty damn good. We also learned that the brewmaster is a woman. This is the first place we've been to where the brewmaster was female. We were also informed that this is the only such brewery/brewpub in WI where this is the case. Right on. Well worth the stop.

As an aside, The Map Room, Clark Street Ale House, and Firkin are all great beer bars, both in terms of selection/quality and atmosphere and worth checking out, although Firkin is the only place with a menu.

All in all, the trip was a lot of fun. Kris and I got our first taste of Tiki. I was happy to find that the Tiki crowd is just as geeky and friendly as the beer crowd with which I'm already familiar. Good folk. Anywho...this is too much already.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Sunday beer

Sunday was a perfect summer Minnesota day, made even better with some great Minnesota beer. We met some friends for lunch, finally making it to Great Waters’ Sunday special “Kegs, Pegs and Eggs.” Although we skipped the pegs (Cribbage) this time the kegs and eggs were worth coming back for, especially if the weather is cooperative and you can sit out on their patio. As part of this special bloody marys, screwdrivers and all beers can be had for just $2 each and they have a rotating egg special for just $4.95. I started off with their Hand Grenade IPA on cask which is a hoppy but smooth IPA with that creamy head you can only get from a cask beer. I jumped on ordering the egg special when our server, Molly, told me it was a fried egg sandwich with bacon and choice of cheese accompanied by Tator Tots. No one else at our table joined me in ordering the special but that was their loss. The egg was perfectly fried with a runny center and the brie I chose complimented the sandwich wonderfully. The Tator Tots were so good that one of our friends ended up ordering a side of them to accompany her pasta dish. After a tasty meal and coming highly recommended from Molly, I decided to give their version of a bloody mary a try. While it wasn’t the best bloody mary I’ve ever had I’ll have to admit it was pretty darn good and for $2, I’d order it again. My only criticism would be that they needed to add more edible goodies to it…there was only one large green olive and one pepperconi. While we had seriously considered spending the rest of the day on their patio we decided there were a few things that actually did need to get done so mid-afternoon we reluctantly drug ourselves away and headed home to be productive.
With an amazing amount of restraint we did manage to be spend a couple of hours getting some needed things done although in the back of our minds we were already thinking about returning to the joy of sitting outside having a few more beers. We must have been putting off some pretty good “let’s drink” vibes because within 10 minutes of concluding our productiveness for the day the phone rang and another set of friends called, inviting us to join them at Town Hall. Without hesitation we agreed, quickly fed the dog her dinner and hopped in the car. I had to start off with their cask Centennial IPA as the last time we were there that was the next beer that was going to be released. I’m glad I was able to have some before it was gone as this is one good beer! Our server was wearing one of the special shirts they had printed to coincide with the release and I nearly bought one. Still might have to check out their website to see if I can order one as they are quite cute and appear to have been ordered in women’s sizes as well so I won’t be swimming in even the smallest men’s size. Dinner for me ended up being the hummus pizza from their appetizer menu. I’ve had this before and it was as good or better than I remembered. I’m sure they make their own hummus and it’s a wonderfully garlicky version. Along with that I had their other IPA on cask. It seems to me this is one of their standard beers on tap and equally as good as the Centennial although the two are noticeably different. All in all it was a great end to the week and a nice primer for the upcoming trip to Chicago on Wednesday that will no doubt involve plenty of beer.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oh happy day!!!!

I’ve been waiting for so long for this wonderful day to arrive and it’s finally here! Today my tickets for the Great Taste of the Midwest arrived! For the last couple of weeks I’ve been eagerly checking the mail box every day hoping to find tickets. I knew they should be coming since my check was cashed but I was starting to get a little concerned that someone had hijacked the mailman and taken them. But upon rifling quickly through the rest of the junk that was delivered today I spied the bright yellow envelope containing the tickets. Now I can look forward spending August 11th with 5,000 other beer lovers in beautiful Olin-Turville Park enjoying beer after delicious beer. Maybe if the beer gods have shined favorably on you and you are one of the other lucky ticket holders I’ll see you there. With that thought and the weekend just around the corner I think a beer is in order.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Almost Like Reliving the Glory Days

Kris and I joined Kat and Scott for a bit of homework on a new feature for Scott's website (a listing of craft-beer bars in the Twin Cities - http://http://scott.mcgerik.com/craft-beer-bars-in-the-twin-cities/ ). I've done more mid-week drinking since we met the McGeriks than at almost any time since college. Dangerous. Very dangerous. It's almost like college all over again, albeit without the shameless leering at any maiden, fair or foul and the lack of self control...well, okay, without the leering anyway. First up was Sweeney's Saloon and Cafe:
  • The Good - fine beer selection, Monday movie's on the patio (e.g. Big Lebowski, Beerfest, and other high-brow flicks)
  • The Bad - there was a definite urine smell in the bar area...maybe it was those damn wine drinkers in the wine bar that takes up half of Sweeney's
  • The Ugly - Too-tan Malibu girls hawking crappy booze, although it was free

And after we got ourselves a bit lubricated, it seemed only right to head over to Pizza Luce in St. Paul for some more beer, 'za, and more homework.

  • The Good - well, I normally prefer my Luce 'za at about midnight when I'm three sheets to the wind, but this was still some damn tasty grub, decent beer selection
  • The Bad - hmm, the poor tatoo job that Kat did on my wife
  • The Ugly - they've got a painting of some kind of chicken lady on their wall. Check it out. As you walk back to the bathrooms, it'll be the last painting on your left (assuming it hasn't been purchased by some lecherous chicken lover). Creeeeeepy.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening. Good beer, good friends, and good pizza. And due to a rare modicum of self control, no hangover.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Drinkin’ in the rain

All last week I anticipated spending pleasant Saturday evening drinking outside at the City Pages Beer Fest in Uptown. Saturday dawned with the weather forecasters predicting a chance of rain but saying most, if not all of it, would be North and East of the Twin Cities. Foolishly we trusted them, although as we were driving towards Uptown the skies to the East began looking quite ominous. At that point there wasn’t much to be done so we kept our fingers crossed that any rain would be light and short lived. We couldn’t have been more wrong! Standing in the very slow moving line, waiting to get in, it started raining. At first it wasn’t coming down too hard but after making it in and getting the first few beers down it began to come down in earnest. Still we were hopeful, and thirsty, so we started making the rounds.

Much to my disappointment Town Hall, Great Waters and Barley John’s were nowhere to be found. Local turnout consisted of Summit, Herkimer, McCoy’s, Finnegans, Flat Earth and Surly. I have to admit that of those, Surly was the only one I visited and could be found there enjoying glass after glass of Furious, progressively getting wetter and wetter.

After about 2 hours of being soaked to the bone and there appearing to be no end in sight to the rain, we decided it was time to warm up and get some grub. We downed our last samples, dumped the plastic glasses and headed down the block to Passage to India. The first good sign upon walking in was that they did not have the air conditioning on and the second was that they didn’t appear to bat an eye at the four drowned rats asking for a table. Much to my relief, the chairs were not upholstered in fabric. We sloshed down into our chairs and took our first steps to warming up by ordering some hot tea. With some tea in our tummies and my fingers starting to return to a healthier color, it was on to a fantastic dinner. Each of us ordered one of their meals that included appetizer, main course and dessert. My beef curry was amazing and the reviews on the tandori chicken and vegetarian dishes were equally complimentary. With full bellies and lots of leftovers to be enjoyed later on we hurried to our car where the heat was cranked up for the entire ride home.

I can’t say the outing was a complete bust since there was some good beer to be had and a great dinner afterward but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience either. The rain and our lack of rain gear, prompted by our misguided faith in the weathermen, certainly made a significant contribution to the misery. But beyond that the quality of the beers and breweries still leaves much to be desired. I don’t know if the organizers aren’t asking certain places to participate or if those breweries are deciding not to waste their time and brews on this festival but of the 27 places listed on the Brew Card, 6 were distributors (Alcorn Beverage, Capitol Beverage, Crown Imports, Green Mountain Beverage, MGM and RJM Distributing), 5 were macro breweries (Coors, Heineken, Labatt USA, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Miller) and I have some question as to if Boston Beer Company and Bolder Beer Company were there as opposed to being brought by some distributor.

This is the weakest of the local beer festivals and I’ll have to see when next year rolls around if I’ll be making it to this festival again or not. Maybe I’ll hold off buying tickets in advance and wait to see if it’s going to be another rain event or not as I don’t have any faith the organizers will be making any great effort to bring in better breweries and brews.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What The Firkin Is That?

Well, just got back from the Bell's beer tasting with Kris, Mike, Gene, and Jeff. Phil Platt of the UofM's Campus Club throws a pretty nice party. There was a nice selection of sausages, nasty cheese (or yummy cheese if you like the fancy-schmancy stuff), steaming pretzels, and some mustard that about melted my sinuses. Oh, and did I mention beer. A Bell's rep, Jason, brought six different Bell's for sampling (Oberon, Two Hearted, Pale, Third Coast, Amber, Expedition Stout). The highlight was the firkin (cask) of Two Hearted. I over heard Phil say something like, "We'll have to see if we can get Summit to do this." Well done, Phil! If Gene is willing/able to loop us in to future events, I'd love to stop in for a scotch, porter, or wine tasting as well. Nice venue. Nice event.

Jason did make mention of efforts by local craft brewery and distributor reps. to host a real ale/Belgian beer tasting in the Twin Cities given that Chicago is no longer hosting such an event. I'm not much of a Belgian fan, but I'm sure I could be convinced to fall on this grenade. There isn't any specific time set, but Jason thought they'd shoot for something in the fall.

After the Bell's tasting we stopped by Spill the Wine for a bite to eat. The place was hoppin', the decor was comfortable, and the wait staff was very knowledgeable (at least compared to me) of wines and friendly. I think everyone enjoyed their food and Jeff and I enjoyed our drinks (he, some kind of ginger sour and I had several glasses of wine). Spill the Wine offers several various wine flights (3 samples) that are switched up each week. It's a great way to sample wine. I had a chance to try my second Malbec, which was very enjoyable.

Despite the fact that I'm not even buzzed and cannot justify 2 A.M. 'za, I had a good time. Maybe I should try this whole "moderation" thing more frequently? Yeah, and then I'll make my run at Broadway and buy some new clothes...pshaw!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Arborfest & The Pedal Pub

Friday, May 4th was our first visit to Arborfest at the campus of Macalester. The organizers did a great job putting together a classy and fun event. I especially liked the condom trees flanking the entrance. One would have thought that a night of drinking would have ultimately led to me absconding with a pocket full of condoms for future use in some sophomoric prank, but I think our end-of-night plan to grab chow at Mickey's Diner in downtown St. Paul probably had priority in my one-track mind. The event is a fundraiser for the Family Tree Clinic (http://www.familytreeclinic.org), so the high ticket price ($40) is a bit more palatable. I highly recommend!

We also got a chance to meet Al Boyce who many of you probably have seen at other beer events wearing a pick and black bowling shirt and sporting a pony-tail and beard (all of which I approve of...well, except for the pink part...that's just me). Al was wearing the bowling shirt that night, though, but rather a T-shirt advertising his new venture, The Pedal Pub (http://www.pedalpub.com). If you haven't heard of it, check out their site. I'm getting a bit antsy about gathering a few friends who don't-truly-know-better to go bar hopping. Anywho, check it out.

Finally, as often happens at beer events, we made a few new friends. All in all, not a bad night. The next morning, however...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I recently found myself on the wrong end of some Russian beers. Baltika #4 and #9 to be exact. Good stuff on the take-off but the re-entry was a little rough. Or maybe it was the vodka...or the Leinenkugel's...or the nachos...or the 'za... Anyway, not the most inspired post (and not in the most inspirational mood), but it's a start.

Hmm, there's a Campus Club Bell's Brewery tasting this Thursday, 5/24. I'm quite certain the good folks at Bell's will light the fires of creativity.