Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not one new beer

As the weekend winds down it occurs to me that although I enjoyed plenty of good beer this weekend, not one beer that graced my lips was something I hadn’t had before. Now I’m sure that this has happened previously, but for as much as we enjoy trying out new beers this seems like it must be a rare occurrence.

Friday night was a good time serving up Surly beers during their tour (of course taking it upon myself to verify the quality from time to time), followed by a couple of beers at Great Waters with Kat & Scott. Saturday at Town Hall I stuck with their tasty Apricot Wheat, even passing on the opportunity to taste their Belgian Saison and Ol’ Jackfrost. During the game night we hosted that evening all the beers I had were from the beer fridge. And today, returning to Great Waters, I continued my re-exploration of their standards – Stout, House and Brown (many thanks to Lori for reminding me about the stout last Sunday and Kat for knowing that’s what I wanted to drink on Friday).

While it’s fun to try new beers it’s been a mighty enjoyable weekend filling my glass with tried and true thumbs up beers. Besides, with the exception of a Guiness Extra Stout Saturday night, all of ‘em were local. Local and good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lift Bridge + Ngon = Yummy Happy

After our recent questionable “summer” weather, Mother Nature reminded us last night that it is still July. The rain in the morning cleared off to a humid, but clearer afternoon and I was hopeful that we would indeed be able to utilize the patio at Ngon for the Localvore Lift Bridge dinner. Alas, the threatening skies and pre-dinner hail kept us inside but didn’t put a damper on the excellent beer and food.

Most of the Lift Bridge crew was able to attend, mingle and enjoy the great dishes Hai created. The five course menu was paired with two Lift Bridge staples: their flagship Farm Girl Saison and Biscotti, their summer seasonal: Minnesota Tan, and two cask treats: Kimono Girl and Double Hopped Crosscut. I’ll own up to the fact that I’ve been harping on Brad for more Kimono Girl since I first had it earlier this year at Firkin Fest, so that was the beer I was anticipating the most.

The first course was great, the second better and so on through to the grand finale dessert. If you’re interested in more details about each course and perusing my less than professional photos, keep scrolling down. If not, just know that the next time Ngon and Lift Bridge team up you really should be there. Or, stop by Ngon just about anytime as they’ve been great supporters of Lift Bridge and generally have one of their beers available.

1st Course: House cured Wild Acres duck prosciutto with swiss chard, snap pea and Minnesota Tan Vinaigrette paired with Farm Girl Saison.

2nd Course: Fischer Farms bacon & daikon cake, sliced radish & anise cured salmon with cilantro sauce paired with Minnesota Tan. Although this course provided two of Mag's arch enemies in the food world, cilantro and anise, even he agreed that it was good eatin'.

3rd Course: Wild rice crusted Star Prairie Trout with grilled asparagus and rhubarb mango chutney paired with cask Kimono Girl. I've never had rhubarb prepared this al dente but combined with the sweetness of the mango, the combination worked very well. And although the trout was amazing, the grilled asparagus really made an impression. It wasn't just grilled, somehow Hai wrangled it into taking on a fully smoked flavor - mmmm.

4th Course: Thousand Hills short ribs braised in Ngon's pho spices with wasabi potatoes and five spice sauce paired with cask Double Hopped Crosscut. The meat was perfection, needing only a gentle push from the fork edge to spread out and meld with the potatoes.

5th Course: House made Lift Bridge Biscotti ice cream with currant cookie paired with Biscotti. This picture doesn't nearly do justice to this amazing ice cream! It was even better than I had remembered and I hope they'll continue to offer it from time to time.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Making Beer Suicides

Remember when you were a kid, probably around junior high age, when out to eat at certain restaurants you were given an empty cup an allowed to get your own soda? And at some point the idea took hold to have not just one kind of pop, but ALL OF THEM?

Fast forward some twenty odd years to this past May at the Stillwater Brewers Bazaar. Sometime during the latter half of the festival Jason’s friend Toby decided to go for a grown up version of the soda suicide using all of the Surly beers they were pouring that day. Had this happened at the beginning we would probably have just blown him off, but being that we now had a few beers under our belts, it didn’t seem like a completely crazy idea. And you know what? It was actually pretty damn good!

Skip ahead a couple more months and we decided to have our own in-house beer suicide making evening. Kat & Scott came over, bringing with them some good base beers to compliment the many more aggressive beers we had on hand. Some of our concoctions were great, some “meh” and others were not good (but none so bad that they were poured out).

New Glarus Raspberry Tart + Ale Asylum Ambergeddon + Central Waters Glacial Trail IPA = reminiscent of a sour beer
Oskar Blues Old Chub + Lift Bridge Farm Girl + Surly Cynic = very smooth
Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball + Furthermore Oscura
Pearl Street Downtown Brown + Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA + Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout +Lift Bridge Farm Girl
Surly Coffee Bender + New Glarus Raspberry Tart + Pearl Street Downtown Brown
Central Waters Glacial Trail IPA + Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout + Oskar Blues Old Chub = fruity & nutty

Surly Cynic + New Glarus Raspberry Tart
Lift Bridge Farm Girl + Surly Coffee Bender + Summit Horizon Red
Founders Dirty Bastard + Surly Bitter Brewer
Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout + Surly Cynic + Ale Asylum Ambergeddon + New Glarus Raspberry Tart

Beer suicides aren't for everyone, but if you're creative, open minded and use small glasses you just might surprise yourself with some unlikely but tasty creations.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ten Fidy

Black as night.
Good as hell.
All it was hyped up to be.

Except "hype" isn't right. That would imply the real thing doesn't live up to the buzz. Ten Fidy does.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Aww, Who Broke the Chatterbox?

I used to love the Chatterbox. I mean, aside from your own abode or that of a brother-geek, where can a 30-something man-boy grab a beer and get an old fashioned Nintendo blister while greasy food fumes clog your lungs and weave themselves into your clothes? The Chatterbox is a fantastic bar for gamers and gamer-ilk and those just generally looking for a good time.

So imagine my chagrin when a buddy and I went to the Highland Chatterbox this past Saturday to have a few beers and play a bit of Bo-Jackson-is-forbidden-Tecmo-Bowl and found the place teeming with kids. It was about 7 P.M. and the place was about a quarter full and I figured our chances of scoring a t.v. and some games was pretty good. But no. The place was a quarter full, but all the friggen game stations were being hogged by little kids. Little kids with little orange lips drinking big orange sodas, flashing big, orange-toothed grins and picking orange boogers. And there was a waiting list of more kids waiting for game stations. How very annoying. Granted, the Highland Chatterbox is a bit more of a family friendly bar (if there is such a thing as a family friendly bar), but come on. Strike one.

So, our little two-person brain-trust decided to head to the South Minneapolis 'box. Heck, I prefer that one anyway, but figured the Highland one had a better video game selection. As luck would have it, we were able to score one of the two games (the other was being used have it, kids). But alas, they did not have Tecmo Bowl. Hmm, strike two? Nah, I don't think so, but close. But then I went to the bathroom.

The South Mpls Chatterbox used to have damn cool bathrooms. I can't speak for the women's bathroom, having never been in there, but the men's bathroom had very cool cartoon murals. If I remember right, Spidey, the Scooby gang and other cartoon/comic personas had been painted on the dark blue interior of the bathroom. I loved those murals and the fact that someone thought to grace the walls with them and took the time to paint them. But the murals are now gone. In their are those tan plastic walls you often see in bathrooms. I was crushed. That place has lost a lot of character. Strike two.

So, the evening wasn't a total bust. I mean, I did score buffalo nachos at Sally's and 16 Grit and Farm Girl at Sturbs to salvage the evening. But for that, the evening could have been soul-crushing.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why the 2 1/2 hour drive to Duluth is worth it

For some, 2 ½ hours in the car is nothing. For others, who already live in a beer rich area, taking precious time (precious drinking time) to drive elsewhere might seem an unlikely choice.

For the past couple of years we’ve used our one weekend per year pass to Duluth to attend the Gitchee Gumee beer fest (and yes, that is technically in Superior). This year we decided to skip what has become more of a college fest than it was in the past and instead use our pass over the July 4th holiday weekend.

To keep your attention and provide a handy dandy list of not-to-miss places should you find yourself there, off we go.
Fitger’s: They never fail to deliver tasty beer and on this trip we got hoppy with 20/20 IPA and Trampled by Hops.

Sir Benedict’s Tavern: They don’t make their own but offer such delights as Surly, Bell’s and Lake Superior with a great patio offering a lake view. Oh, and yummer sammiches.

Northern Waters Smokehaus: No beer but smoked meats and fish, sammiches and a great selection of cheeses and olives.

Hell’s Kitchen: You can get beer, but food is the star, especially a breakfast of Mahnomin Porridge.

Seven Bridges Road: You’ll have to bring your own refreshments to this park but once you find a place to take a load off maybe you, too, will be lucky enough to have picked up provisions at the Smokehaus and have great friends who have brought along such things as Eel River Raven’s Eye, Rare Vos, a couple of Belgians and the weasel poo beer, Mikkeller.
Should time permit, Superior is just a short cab ride away. Check out the Anchor Bar for a brew and a burger. The really hungry will appreciate their Gallybuster, a 1 lb triple decker burger for $5.50. For the brewpub minded, Thirsty Pagan serves up a number of brews along with ‘za, the steak and blue cheese being a winning choice.

To complete the trip round up, two awards:
The award for “Skip it unless you enjoy indifferent-bordering-on-rude service with so-so food” goes to At Sara’s Table.
And the award for “Well, if you’re there and got time to kill, why not?” goes to the Lester River train ride. It's a fairly relaxing way to spend a couple of non-drinking hours, assuming you're lucky enough to get on a car that is rug rat free.

If your weekend was half as fun as ours, chalk that up to the good.