Sunday, December 28, 2008

Surprised by Beer

Being surprised by beer isn’t exactly something new, but it happened twice this week. First, it was trying a New Belgium 2◦ Below Ale. In general, although they have a mighty fine brewery, I’m not a fan of their brews, with the exception of their 1554. So I wasn’t expecting to like this 2◦ Below. Having had my second bottle I’m still not sure exactly how to describe it other than, “I like it.”

The second beer thing that surprised me was going to a grocery store in Denver, IA (population 1,629) and finding a decent beer selection. Decent considering Iowa isn’t much of a beer mecca and as everyone knows, the smaller the town no matter where you are generally the worse the beer selection. However, this place had Leinie’s Creamy Dark, a couple of Sam Adams products and a cider. Sure, nothing great, but at least there was more than the big boys to choose from and when it come to small town selections that’s about all you can ask for.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

So many good beer things, so little time

I am just amazed at the number of beer happenings that are going on in the final two weeks of the year. Unfortunately, with all the other things going on this time of year, there just isn’t time to fit ‘em all in. And then there’s the weather making it pretty hard some days to venture back out into the deep freeze, even for good beer.

What I missed last week:
-Rock Bottom’s 15th Anniversary: Too bad, I heard that both their Old Curmudgeon and their hoppy Anniversary IPA were worth having. Plus, you really can’t beat $5 growler fills.
- Freewill Porter at Flat Earth: I haven’t missed a week yet of their infused porters, but after a rough commute and bad weather I just couldn’t bring myself to venture back out. I doubt there is any left as I think they’ve sold out every week, but if I can get there this week maybe the beer gods will smile on me.
- Darkness tapping at Blue Door: Darkness release + a jiffy blucy = heaven I’m sure. However considering that it was a gazillion degrees below zero today, heaven would just have to wait.

What I found this week:
- Growler of Mystic River from Flat Earth: Sure, I tried this raspberry infused porter the day I picked it up, but that was a whole week and a half ago. Besides, being able to open the beer fridge and just pull it out was great. It was as good if not better than I remembered. Too bad it’s all gone now.
- Two great brews at Town Hall: Snow be damned, Saturday was pint club day! Plus, they still had Festivus XXX and Grinch’s Grog on tap. Milk stouts, especially when done as well as this, are one of the best parts about winter. If I hadn’t wanted to try the Grog, too, I think I would have kept drinking this all afternoon. But the Grog was calling and once you go green it’s hard to go back. Love a stout, but really love hops! The biggest bummer though was that my empty growler was in the car and by the time we were ready to leave, the temperature had dropped and making a run to the car and back was out of the question.
- Mulled Old Man Winter Warmer at the Blue Nile: After hitting Town Hall it would have been blasphemy not to stop in at the Blue Nile, especially since Al was mulling beer just for us beer geeks. Warmer was right! Warm, spicy, yummy.

With only two actual days of this holiday week I’m not sure there will be much time for beer enjoyment, but I’ll give it my best!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What to do on a wintery Sunday afternoon

Yesterday afternoon, as the wind was starting to pick up but before the snow came, we headed to the Old Chicago just up the road. Now I must say that beer wasn’t the only reason we were going. The Vikings game would be starting shortly and they have good football watching food.

As expected their selection wasn’t outstanding, but since I’d had zero, count ‘em zero seasonals during my favorite beer season, this was as good of a place as any to try some of the more widely distributed ones. The first one I ordered was Schell’s Snowstorm. Three or four years ago I really loved it, but the past couple of years I haven’t been as enamored by it. What I was brought was very different from what I expected (and Mag suspects that it was in fact another beer…but that’s something to investigate another day). It was much lighter in color and body but actually had good flavor, so who knows.

Mag had ordered a Summit Winter first off and was kind enough to let me try it. I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. This is another one that has been hit or miss for me, but it’s a definite hit this year.

With my maybe-Snowstorm gone I felt compelled to order Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale since a couple people I know had commented on how good it was. And was it ever! Much hoppier than I would have expected but for a hop lover, pure joy. After a second one of those, the Vikings making a pretty good showing and the weather getting worse we decided it was time to head back home.

Although I don’t enjoy trips to Old Chicago as much as I once did that’s probably more about what I’m looking for having changed rather than an actual change to their selection. For the most part it’s not a half bad destination, especially when you’re out in the ‘burbs and want to go some place close that will satisfy both food and beer requirements. Now if they could just bring back the NTN trivia….

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chuck the 'Bucks and Grab a Beer

I just got back from a whirl-wind work trip to Dayton, Ohio. I'm usually disappointed if I don't get to hit some brew-pub or brewery on work trips, but it happens, especially when the trip is a day trip or, in this case, a 30 hour trip. So, I didn't do much prep work for Cincinnati or Dayton, Ohio since I really didn't have any time in my schedule to make a stop. When I got to the Cincinnati airport for my trip home, I had enough time to stop in for a beer, so I did just that. I swung by one of the nicer airport restaurants and was disappointed to the same-old-same-old. So I punted and got myself a coffee instead. That's fine. Airports aren't generally great beer destinations. Besides, I was already in my designated terminal and concourse, which was the one waaaaay out in the boonies (I had to take a train and then a bus to get there...and that was after security) from which the smaller lead zepplins are launched.

But then, as I sat down to drink my go-juice, I got to thinking about hitting a Rogue bar in Portland's airport and brewpubs in other cities. My peripheral vision must have caught sight of something, sent a little electrical impulse to my subconscious, which then cranked up the warm, fuzzy memory machine. With this memory playing out in my mind, I caught sight of a small sign down the concourse that had nothing on it but "BBC." Now, having been to 140+ breweries and brewpubs, I've come to recognize any abbreviation ending with BC as a probably drinking hole. So I chucked my 'bucks to the side and went to investigate.

Lo and behold, the fates were kind to me! It was a bar serving a local brew-pub's beer. Good enough. Bluegrass Brewing Company was offering up a Golden, Alt, Kolsch-style Kentucky Ale, American Pale Ale and Porter. And they were better than I expected (I tend to lower my expectations when drinking beer from the Southern half of the U.S.). I liked the pale ale but was very disappointed in the porter. Nonetheless, it was good end to an interesting trip.

Yay beer! Yay peripheral vision! Yay toilets on planes!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Recession-Proofiness of Beer

Now that we are slowly and painfully climbing through the thick mud of a recession, listening to the wet-sucking of our GDP, chatter about the impact on craft beer has picked up. There are a couple of products/industries that are commonly touted as being recession-proof, including candy and beer. The explanation behind it is pretty simply. Folks may not be able to or want to buy a new car or a new stereo, but they'll still seek out the less expensive but enjoyable pleasures of beer. Of course, the discussion of beer being recession-proof has not been tested to the extent it is now in this craft-beer-crazy economy where premium prices go hand-in-hand with premium beers. This is the kind of crap that people who like to think they know what they are talking about but probably don't, like me, like to talk about (wow, what a painful, awkward sentence). Makes for good beer-chat.

Or it used to. Now this discussion is more than just idle beer musings. Now it's hitting close to home. I learned last night that a couple of friends have been laid-off. I've also got friends who are having their time/pay scaled back or are struggling to find jobs. There will certainly be more of this during the next couple of months. Now we'll all get to see just how recession proof beer is. Beer drinkers apparently aren't recession proof, but they are passionate and loyal. But passion and loyalty can only do so much. Hang in there gang. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and a friend at the end of the bar.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Five Questions

I know we have at least a few people that read our blog. Some of you leave comments, some of you reference a post when we see you and some of you poke us when it's been too long since the last post and you need some new reading material. I also figure it's possible that there are a few others that do none of the above but for some reason still check in to see what we've been up to from time to time.

James Norton from City Pages found our blog and contacted us a few weeks back for his Five Questions series. With it being the holidays I'm not sure I'm going to have anything too interesting to write for you for a couple days. Maybe our Five Questions responses will tide you over until we can come up with something better. Oh, and a belated Happy Thanksgiving! May you have recovered enough from yesterday's food coma to be ready to do it again today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

At long last

I finally made it to the Blue Door. The first time we tried to go, we were going to meet Kat & Scott there. They arrived first, told us there were so many people waiting that there was no more room to wait. Since then, Mag has gone there for lunch during the week and we’ve talked about trying to go up there again however it usually ends up being a Thursday, Friday or Saturday and we have figured it would be packed so haven’t even tried. Last night Mag suggested that we go up there for a late dinner. Figuring that if there would ever be a time when they wouldn’t be too busy, a Sunday night at 7:30 should be it. Sort of.

When we arrived all the tables and the seats at the bar were filled except for one booth. If you’ve been there, this isn’t saying much since I can’t imagine they can seat more than 50 or 60. Anyway, glad to have gotten a table I was even happier to see that they had Lift Bridge Harvester on tap. Mmmmmmm. After enjoying ½ of the growler of Flat Earth cherry infused porter (gotta make sure there's an empty one to get filled with hazelnut this week) earlier I was ready for something else.

At first our server told me it would be a few minutes on the Harvester as they had to change the keg. Then she came back and delivered the bad news…they were out of Harvester. Disappointing, but since they also had Lagunitas IPA that was an easy back up plan.

With beer on the way we felt compelled to give their Spam bites a try. After placing that order and waiting for the beer, our server came back empty handed. I thought for sure she was going to tell me they were also out of the IPA. No. Instead it was the Spam bites they were out of. Blow number two for the night. Deciding that we didn’t really need an appetizer both of us ordered their Jucy Blucey with some tots. This was what I had come for.

Even after the disappointment of no Harvester and no Spam bites, the Blucey made up for it. I mean really, what’s not to like about a hamburger stuffed with pepperjack cheese and topped with peanut butter and bacon? My only criticism was that I think it could have done without the mayo. Oh well, next time I’ll ask that they leave it off, because yes, there will be a next time. I’ll have to steel myself for a likely wait for a table but with a pretty good beer selection and their food to look forward to it’ll be worth it. In fact, I can’t imagine much better than nabbing a seat in this cozy joint on a bitter cold winter day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Is there ANY chance?

A couple blocks from our house there was a Bakers Square restaurant that abruptly closed oh, six months or so ago, leaving us high and dry for drive through pie. Since then the place has been empty with the exception of some work to remove/clean up whatever was left inside. The other day when Cleo and I were out for a walk I saw a sign had been put up. I know it's foolish to even think it might be something good, but one can hope, right? You don't have something up your sleeve for the south metro do you, Omar?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gotta love the locals!

There are many reasons to love our local brewers and the beers they produce. Besides being cool people in general, with jobs most of the rest of us are envious of, they are extremely creative. Last night I made it up to Flat Earth’s growler fill day, lured by the introduction of Starman Porter, their porter infused with star anise from Penzey’s that had been soaked in Ouzo. I was pretty sure I’d at least like it but man, this stuff is really good! The anise flavor is certainly there but not overpowering and I’m going out on a limb betting that even black-licorice-averse Mag is going to enjoy it. Luckily after gabbing with Jeff, Mikey, Drunk Dave, and the other folks that showed up to get growlers Kat and I were able to score the last two growlers of this ambrosia. Note to self: Next time, buy first, gab second.

While I had planned to go straight home after picking up my growlers, and possibly doing something productive, Kat and I decided a better plan would be to grab some dinner. We offered to have Scott and Mag join us but they both declined so we headed off to Great Waters. Some event must have been going on from the looks of the parking situation and how full GW was but we were able to get a table in the bar with a minimal wait. Just after we ordered our drinks, Bob, who was there brewing with Joel came over to say hi. He confirmed our theory that while there may be a recession going on in some parts of the economy, that is not the case with the beer crowd. They have apparently been going through their brews at an incredible pace. Luckily I was able to have a couple pints of what I assume was brewed for Halloween, Hop Scare. It’s hoppy, but not over the top, and a true joy to drink. If I would have had an extra growler in the car I would have taken some home, but that not being the case I may have to resort to plan B: seeing if I can get Scott to share some of his.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

'Twas a Surreal Weekend

Well, Kris and I had a pretty interesting weekend...and a weird one. Friday night we attended a zombie-themed Halloween costume party at Gene & Jeff's. They put on a very impressive show for Halloween that draws in hundreds of people. The last I heard, they'd had 212 trick-or-treaters. We usually spend the first couple of hours out front, scaring kids and acting like dorks. Following that, we sit around inside drinking beer and...acting like dorks. Much of the crowd in attendance is a beer-saavy crowd, you so can ususally find something good to drink. Kris and I brought growlers of Barley John's Oktoberfest and Great Waters St. Peters Pale. I didn't care much for the Oktoberfest, but the Pale was as good as usual. And I had my first taste of this year's Darkness from Surly. As I was a one-armed zombie with an exposed brain, I had a helluva time getting my beers open, getting through doorways holding my beer, and...uh, relieving myself. All in all, a good time was had by all.

On Saturday the Blue Nile held Ale Saints Day, a porter/stout party schemed up by Al. Lots of friends showed up, and that made for a very good time. The turn-out was great and the beers were phenomenal. Between Kris and I we had the Bell's Porter cask, 2007 Bell's Expedition Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin, Leinenkugel's Big Eddy, Moylan's Imperial Stout (Ryan O'Sullivans), Southern Tier Oatmeal Stout, and some others we can't recall. There were a few we wanted to try but never got around to. Of course, we could have bought $2 samplers and tried more beer, but we both decided we needed pints.

Anyway, at some point I was struck by what an unusual amalgam of themes were being presented. Here we were, at an Ethiopian restaurant with many folks dressed up in Halloween costumes, drinking beer with a hard-core beer crowd while bag-pipers honked to their heart's content. Totally weird...certainly fun. I've actually never eaten at Blue Nile, for some unknown reason, despite their reputation for good chow. Kris and I talked about grabbing some dinner there, but those plans were derailed when there was a somewhat drunken rally cry raised for fried egg sammiches at The Herkimer. Now, I'd previously had the fried egg sammich at The Herkimer and I'd proclaimed it the best fried egg sammich I'd ever had (I was sober, btw). But last night they disappointed me. The yolk had been cooked all the way through, so there was no goooshy factor to the sammich (over-hard vs. over-easy?).

Anyway, candy, beer and fried egg sandwiches generally make for a good weekend. And a good weekend it was indeed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tomorrow... Halloween and damn I'm excited! I put the finishing touches on my costume and make up over the weekend and Mag finished his up tonight. Last year I found a great blood recipe and this year a recipe for rotting flesh (perfect for the zombie party Gene and Jeff are hosting) and one for scars (who knew Hubba Bubba was good for anything else besides blowing huge bubbles). Here are the practice shots. Notice my fabulous White Elephant coat and stylish orthopedic granny shoes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surly 1, Braincells 0

I had the good fortune to be able to volunteer at another Surly event yesterday, this time for their Darkness Day. I hadn't made it to any prior Darkness releases and I wasn't able to get to this one as early as I would have liked on account of some edumacational classes I'm taking on Saturday mornings. Nonetheless, by the time I got there with Kat and Sharon, things were still hopping, but I think the apex of the day was behind us. But it was still a madhouse. Cool shit. It was a great event, although I wish Surly had been able to bottle more Darkness for the event. I talked to quite a few disappointed folks yesterday. Cest la vie, I guess. As a volunteer, I was guaranteed 6 bottles of the good-stuff without having to brave the long lines, and I took full advantage of that. Since I'm a huge proponent of all things bulleted...
  • The Surly volunteers are a great group of people. They are a lot of fun to hang out with and I look forward to more opportunities to belly-up to a bar with them.
  • As is always the case with beer events, I met a few new folks yesterday. And as is always the case with beer events, I'm sure I'll remember the faces but forget the names the next time I see them. Please accept my pre-emptive apologies.
  • After yesterday, I realize I would be a horrible bar tender. It's not that I couldn't do the job, but rather that any bar that employed me would likely go under in a matter of weeks and I'd end up in personal bankruptcy. I absolutely enjoy giving away beer. I know how giddy I get when someone gives me a free beer. I find it a wonderful, generous gesture. But we're not supposed to give away beer at these events, and rightfully so. It's a business and not a charity. So, what I did was buy a bunch of drinkin' tokens so that when friends, members of the bands, etc. stopped by, I could hand them a "free" beer. Christ, I'm such a sucker! I burned through those tokens in a matter of minutes. Oh well. It was fun.
  • Thanks, Angie (or was it Angela?), for the bacon-flavored caramels! You'd better have some bacon flavored something-or-other the next time I see you, otherwise I'm not gonna give your drunk brother any more rides!!!
  • I found my evil twin yesterday. He was taller, better looking, and a personal trainer that is moving to California soon. Good bye and good riddance!
Out. Cheers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Officially back in the States

Our vacation to Toronto is officially over, as evidenced by the two of us showing up at our respective places of employment this morning. However this was preceded by a fine day of lying around the house, doing little if anything productive, yesterday.

You’ve heard Mag’s take on the trip (or at least the first part of it), so now it’s my turn. I have to echo his comments on how nice the Canadians are. Maybe it’s just the Toronto-ites, but I felt almost too much of a b&%*# even to be visiting. There’s probably a niceness test potential transplants have to take to be let in and I’m pretty sure I’d fail it. Still it was nice to see more people being helpful than I’m used to at home.

But enough of the nice and on to the beer. I’d have to give the Beer I Was Most Surprised I Enjoyed So Much award to Amsterdam’s Natural Blond Lager. Now before you go thinking I’ve lost my mind let me say that none of the lagers I tasted in Toronto had the nasty lager aftertaste and smell I’ve become accustomed to here. And for the blond part, for once it didn’t mean tasteless. This beer actually had quite a bit of flavor and good flavor.

The next award also has to go to Amsterdam, for the Beer I Most Regretted the Airline Nazis Prevented Me From Bringing Home. This would be for their Framboise, delicious raspberry nectar that I know our friends would have loved to have been able to try. It was sweet, but not overly so and at only 6.5% it’s not going to knock you over too quickly.

My final award, for Most Balanced Yet Flavorful Beer, goes to Great Lakes Brewing for their Peach & Pepper beer. Unfortunately for the general consumer, this has not yet made it to their line up. They only made 1 cask of it, especially for Volo’s Cask Beer Days. I didn’t know that at the time as Cask Days was before we visited Great Lakes but I was even happier upon hearing it that I had taken my opportunity when it came along. This beer, brewed with home grown peaches and jalapeno peppers, it exactly what it says it is and completely balanced. The peaches hit you first, followed by a hot, but not inferno hot, shot of jalapeno pepper.

There was plenty more to the trip than just the above so if you’re interested in hearing more, just ask next time we’re out drinking together. And if you’re considering a trip to Toronto yourself, do it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oh Canada...How I Love Thee!

Kris and I are still in Toronto, eh, and having a good time. It's been a pretty good trip, thus far. My preliminary thoughts:
  • The stereotype of Canadians being friendly is well deserved. It's been very refreshing to see how they treat one another and visitors. I mean, it goes beyond friendly hotel or restaurant staff to helpful and friendly strangers on the street who provide unsolicited help because they noticed a confused look or saw a map in our hands. And we've seen similar actions between locals. Maybe passive-aggressive isn't a good way to go through life.
  • Canadian craft beer is still heavily focused on lagers and, by and large, craft brewers have not pushed as far along the flavor spectrum as American craft brewers have. That means its been a bit hard to adjust our palates from what we're used to. We have enjoyed a number of good beers, including lagers. But we've also had quite a few unremarkable beers.
  • Not helping the Canadian craft beer scene are very strict laws surrounding how beer is sold. You'll find a ton of foreign imports in a province and craft beers made in that province, but you will not find many craft beers from other provinces. For some asinine reason, federal and provincial governments have very tight restrictions on beer movement between provinces. I suspect it has something to do with the mafia-like Molson-Labatts oligopoly that exists. Molson-Labatts run the only non-governmental beer stores and have significant influence over the beer industry in Canada. It's a shame...really. I guess that, after seeing the stifling of Canadian craft beer, I should tone done my rhetoric regarding beer laws in MN and the U.S.
  • I was absolutely delighted to find a bag of ketchup flavored potato chips yesterday. They taste just like plain tater chips that have been dipped in ketchup. For you ketchupophiles out there, you know the unique and wonderful taste of ketchupy chips. Well, move to Canada and you can enjoy ketchup flavored chips for breakfast, just like I did this morning. Pure joy.
Yay Canada. Cheers!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Toronto, here we come!

Yep, you heard right, tomorrow morning we're off to Toronto for 5 days of checking out their craft beer scene...and I suppose a few touristy things, too. We've learned the hard way that starting drinking early in the day can mean in bed by 6 pm. Plus, they have a castle! So, adios, enjoy your weekend and hopefully we'll have lots of fun stuff to tell you about when we get back.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Recession, what recession?

Last night we attempted to check out The Blue Door. We’d heard great things about it, both in terms of their beer selection and food, and were excited to get the call from the McG’s that they were heading up there. They arrived at The Blue Door before we had left the house only to find that there was a huge wait and not even standing room in which to do the waiting. So, on to plan B which was to go to Groveland Tap. Another call came that the situation was the same there!

Plan C…Muddy Pig. By this time we were leaving the house but keeping the phone handy just in case. It turned out that although there were people at the Muddy Pig it wasn’t being mobbed and in fact there were booths open. So as far as I can tell, there might be a recession going on in the larger world but apparently not here amongst the craft beer crowd. Who would have thought that on a Wednesday night not one, but TWO places would be so packed?

I’m still looking forward to checking out The Blue Door at some point but our trip to the Muddy Pig didn’t disappoint. Seeing Furthermore’s Fallen Apple on their menu I knew I had to give that a try. It’s not a cider and not really a beer either, but some combination of the two that works. I’m thrilled that I continue to be impressed with each new brew I try of theirs.

There seemed to be quite a few hoppy beers and many above 8%, of which a good share made it to our table. My contribution to the hoppy beers was Two Sisters Double IPA from Left Hand. Hoppy, yes, high in alcohol, yes and yummy! However I think my favorite of the night would have to be Kasteel Rouge. This one is so good it just might knock the Duchess off her pedestal. I’m not sure who else carries it but I know I’ll be looking for it from here on out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bigger Courage, Smaller Brain

I came across this story today at talking about drinking's effect on brain size. Overall, the story doesn't say a whole lot, but one thing it does confirm is a suspicion I've had about booze shriveling up women's brains. "In women, even moderate drinkers had a smaller brain volume than abstainers or former drinkers." Whereas, with men, this was only noted in heavy drinkers. This seems like enough of a compelling reason to require sober-cab duty from the women in our lives with more frequency. Also, it's proably prudent to split all six packs with four bottles to the men and two to the women so as to prevent any shrinkage imbalances. Sorry ladies, but it's science!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It doesn't take much of an excuse

Last night we decided to use the excuse of the new floor installation as a reason to go out for dinner. After quite a few rounds of, “I don’t care, wherever you want to go,” we settled on Buster's since the last time I was there was for Schell’s Dampfbier release and Mag’s last time was even earlier than that.

When we got there the place was pretty full and the wait staff pretty slow to seat us but we were able to get a table. Perusing the beer menu, knowing with the way things were going I’d better be ready with my drink order as soon as she came back, Surly’s Coffee Bender popped out at me, then Tyranena’s Hop Wh0re but what really drew me in was Rogue’s Anniversary Ale. I’ve had quite a few Rogue products and to be sure I can’t list them all but this was one, looking at the name, I was pretty sure I hadn’t had and after tasting it, I’m more sure I haven’t had it before.

I was hoping to pull the description off of Buster’s menu, but the one they have posted on line is not up to date, because for once I thought the description was right on the money. Suffice it to say this is a tasty one, overall very balanced and full of flavor. Since it’s not listed on the Rogue website I wonder if it isn’t part of their Locker Stock series or some type of limited release. Either way if I can get some more of it before it’s gone I sure will.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Autumn Brew Review

The best beer festival within a three hour drive has come and gone but not without a great afternoon spent with a ton of friends drinking some really great beers. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere, except for during Town Hall pint club, where I’ve run into so many people I know which was really fun. Usually at these things once we’re inside the gate Mag and I part ways, knowing we’ll run into one another sooner or later. On Saturday, I think hardly 5 minutes went by between my departure from some group or another to get my glass refilled before I’d run into someone else.

For the first time I also went with a fairly well laid out plan. I had down the first place I wanted to go (the Surly tent to see if the VIPs had left any of the Oak Aged Cranberry Cynic), as well as the next four, and an additional 12 more I didn’t want to leave without trying. All in all, I did pretty well even though I had to wait to try Avery’s Brett Gueze (way too much gueze for me) and I missed three others.

Besides just drinking Mag and I also helped Ryan out with the MNBeer mystery tasting game. While it did mean I might have missed out on some drinking it was a great time and once things got going people seemed to really enjoy it. Lots of people gave the wrong answers but all were good sports and honestly, I’m not sure I would have done much better than the average person. The biggest challenge was trying to remember which beer I’d given to which player and that’s while I was pretty much sober and limiting myself to two players at a time. I knew there was a reason I’ve never been a waitress!

There were way too many beers to evaluate them all but my top three probably were Barley John’s Wedding Ale, Town Hall’s Fresh Hop and Flat Earth’s Rode Haring. There were some disappointments, too, but there’s no reason to dwell on those. Everyone will make something now and then that won’t be up my alley but overall I had nothing but a great experience. Oh, and Barley John's and Lift Bridge had some REALLY cute long sleeved girl shirts, both of which I intend to pick up very soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lead up to ABR

Some of last week’s lame beerness seeped into the beginning of this week but things are turning around as ABR approaches. Last night we went up to Stub & Herb’s as they were supposed to be having some pre-festival festivities. Although there wasn’t any organization to the matter, we did have the chance to share our table with Jim, part of the Lift Bridge crew, and Bob from Great Waters. It’s always nice to hear what the brewers are up to and of course ABR was the main topic of the night.

Besides brewers, some of the usual suspects showed up. While not as extensive as the crowd that tends to gather at Town Hall on Saturdays it was still nice to walk in, see some familiar faces and catch up.

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t much in the way of beer specials although they did offer a Two Brothers tasting consisting of three 7 oz pours- Domain Dupage, Cane & Ebel and Oh Brother Triple. It’s not hard to guess which my favorite was, just find the one with the most hops and there you go.

Seeing how we hadn’t had dinner, food was in order. Instead of ordering something remotely meal-like I chose the Tachos. This is a big plate of Tator Tots topped with nacho cheese (the semi-liquid kind), sour cream, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes and jalapenos. There’s no denying that this is mighty tasty, but a word of caution: DO NOT consume the entire plate yourself. Mag warned me I was going to regret it and he was right. I had the most bizarre dreams and woke up with a horrible gut ache.

It sounds like there’s going to be some more pre-festival fun over at the Muddy Pig tonight. Not sure how wise it would be go to. Maybe better to lay low? Or maybe pull out that seldom used self control.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lame beer week

So far I’ve been having a pretty lame beer week. It started off ok, going over to Kat & Scott’s to help them finish off the Surly keg from their party on Saturday, however once we got over there we found out that in fact the keg was already nearly gone. I think there were about 4 pints left in it so once we made good and sure it was empty we began helping them with their overabundance of bottles. For a Monday night I think we did pretty well however they still have quite a few left. Scott’s going to have to shift into overdrive if he really wants to get the fridge cleaned out.

By Wednesday I’d only managed to kill the growler of GOP from Great Waters that we took and opened at their place on Saturday night. It was pretty flat by the end but still had a nice flavor. Hopefully this is as close as I’ll get to the political scene.

Last night I finally got around to opening a bottle from Curt, a French Country Ale called St. Amand from Brasserie Castelain in where else? France. Curt, if you’re reading this, it didn’t take me so long to open it because I wasn’t looking forward to trying it, but being a 750 I wanted to do it when I could share it with someone (besides Cleo). It turned out to be a very drinkable beer, appropriately compared by Mag to a table wine.

So now it’s Friday and I’m starting the weekend off easy with a Summit Pilsner, courtesy of our non-drinking friend Lars who inadvertently acquired it through a fundraising auction. There’s too many possibilities of what the weekend might be to really speculate. All I know is I’m glad it’s the weekend.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Special Treat

As a thank-you for volunteering last weekend at Surly Fest, Kris and I, along with all the volunteers, were invited back to the Surly on Friday night to have a few beers. It was a good chance to catch up with our co-volunteers again, sign up for a second volunteering opportunity on Darkness Day, and enjoy a few great beers.

Omar's dad was there pouring beer and he shared with us a hilarious story about a conversation he had with his brother about what Omar's business was. As a practicing Muslim, his uncle may not have been terribly excited about Omar owning a brewery. Mr. Ansari, as he told the story, initially tried to pass off Omar's business as, "just know, business." But the uncle probed further. So Mr. Ansari shared a bit more. "He makes barley water," he said. That satisfied the inquiries and avoided any familial conflict. It also made for a damn good story. I can't come close to doing it justice.

Anyway, thanks to Omar and the folks at Surly for the invitation. We had a good time. And congratulations goes to Omar and the family. I didn't realize it at the time, but the newborn brought into the Brewery that night was Omar's new son. Congrats.

Post-script!!! I almost forgot, while being regaled with Mr. Ansari's story, we were being served up Darkness. Yay beer!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bad night for football, good night for beer

Last night Mag and I met up with Lori and Paul at Herkimer to watch the Vikes take on the Packers. We’d heard that Herkimer is a Packer bar and while it seemed that there were just as many Viking fans there as Packer fans it was a full house!

Herkimer had a game night special of all you can eat (BBQ pork, coleslaw, beans, potato salad) and all you can drink for $15 from 5-7. While Mag opted to go with his original plan of a fried egg samich, I took them up on the special and wasn’t disappointed. The pork was excellent, with some pleasantly spicy BBQ sauce on the side, and the potato salad was some of the best I’ve had. Not being a fan of German beers, the only one I had was the Alt but I must say whatever the new brewer has been doing is a good thing. This was the best version of their Alt I’ve ever had and the other three seemed to think the Gose was pretty tasty as well.

Although both my fantasy football team and the Vikings started off the season on a downer, I’m excited to have had a great eating and drinking experience at Herkimer. German beers aren’t necessarily my thing but I’d like them to have more of a presence in the local brewing scene. Maybe the new brewer is just what they need to make it happen.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Huzzah, a Sober Beer Event!

Yesterday was the first annual (hopefully) Surly Fest held at Surly's brewery. Kris and I were at the event, her as a fester and me as a volunteer, as was Kat. This was my first time volunteering at an event like this and, I have to admit, I enjoyed helping out. Volunteers were limited to three beers for the whole event (1 before, 1 during, and 1 after) and I actually only had about a beer and a half. I was a little disappointed at first to see that fest attendees were limited to only four beers during the $30 event, but in retrospect, that was probably more than enough beer (about two liters), plus the steins handed out were pretty damn cool. Gotta keep everyone safe, you know. I am not aware of any major issues at the event and I'll be curious to find out if the event was as successful as they were hoping it would be. Since I'm a big fan of bullet points, here my beer (albeit sober) musings of the event:
  • Being a beer pourer is damn cool - chicks desire you, dudes respect you, cops fear you, and the power you wield is addicting.
  • While being a beer-pouring volunteer is fun, I imagine being a brewery employee is even more so. I was standing around with two other volunteers (men) chatting towards the end of the event when a very attractive woman sidled up to us, cooing and wooing in a manner that I rarely see. We chatted with her for a couple of minutes and it became apparent that she thought we were employees. When I informed her that those of us in the great-looking green shirts were actually volunteers, all indications of any interest she had in us disappeared and she pretty much walked off without further comment. *sigh*
  • While I was bit flattered at the kiss offer I received (and declined), I was disappointed to learn that the would-be kisser was laying smackers on everyone. Everyone. And I missed the Mardi-Gras-like flashing she dished out.
  • Having left the event stone sober, I am amazed at my recall of all the conversations I had and the names I learned. After a few beers, my ability to remember names of folks I've met is hamstrung, but not so this time. What an amazing thing!
  • As usual, the Surly's beer was damn good.
  • Getting rained on at beer events sucks. Being given a dry shirt rocks. Enduring cold rain at an event and not seeing any of a certain type of attendee with a wet, white t-shirt sucks. Having at least one of those certain type of attendees flash her wares rocks. Missing it because you're being an industrious volunteer sucks.
Anyway, thanks to the folks at Surly for an enjoyable event.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Last week on a trip to Cellar’s I picked up two bombers from Southern Tier – Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout and Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale. Having tried the Crème Brulee first and being very, very pleased with I was looking forward to trying out the Pumking.

Pouring it into a glass the butter pasty crust aroma combined with pumpkin pie spices screamed fall. The thick, creamy head along with the amber-orange color rounded out the picture and left me salivating. The flavor, gently spicy, was well rounded but left me wishing that somehow they could have included some of the butter crust aroma.

While this is certainly a well done pumpkin flavored beer maybe it’s just that the leaves haven’t started to turn and it’s still necessary to turn the air conditioning on that it just didn’t do it for me the way the Crème Brulee did. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone that was interested in it and should probably pick some up closer to Turkey Day. In the meantime, after being happy with the two Southern Tier bombers I’m interested to try more of their line up.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ren Fest

Saturday we made our annual visit out to the Renaissance Festival. Probably the most surprising thing turned out to be that none of us got blotto. That’s saying a lot considering some of the folk you’ll see there (and it’s usually the ones that don’t actually work there that tend to be the weirdest).

One reason for the lack of blottoness may have been that we were more selective in our beer this year knowing that there were supposed to be multiple stands selling Flat Earth. So once we filled up at one and started our wandering about, we couldn’t get another beer until we found another stand selling Flat Earth. Probably also contributing to that was the fact that at least some of us got really blotto last year and as fun as that is when you’re doing it, dealing with it later on in the day isn’t so fun.

Anyway, we found that there were at least four stands selling Flat Earth’s Belgian Pale Ale along with some serving Woodchuck cider, a refreshing drink on a warm day, and what we had considered might only be a myth – one stand selling at least four of Schell’s products including Pale Ale and Firebrick.

Interestingly, just down the way was from the Schell’s selling stand was the Catacombs & Torture Chambers. For a buck we decided to go in and see what they had to offer. It was similar to something Mag and I had seen somewhere before, although where exactly is still something we’re trying to remember, in that it depicted various torture methods used in the past. While interesting, the best part however though was having a family behind us in which Dad was trying to make up stories that were G rated versions of the visuals for his two young daughters. For example, the one in which a man’s head is enclosed in a cage with rats, according to Dad those rats were just whispering in the man’s ears (instead of chewing them off).

Although we watched fewer shows this year than in the past it was still a good time. Because really, what wouldn’t be good about wandering around on a beautiful day, drinking good beer, eating a gigantic turkey leg and smoking a cigar?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crème Brulee

Think eating crème brulee is decadent? Try drinking it! I’m not suggesting you abuse a fine crème brulee by tossing it into the blender and pulling out a straw. No, instead you should run, yes run, not walk, to your nearest fine purveyor of quality beer and pick up a bomber of Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout.

For the regular readers out there you know that I recently picked this brew up, hoping it was the same crème brulee brew I enjoyed at the Great Taste. That didn’t turn out to be the case but if this isn’t as good, it’s darn close! And it’s certainly as close as I expect to get to a firkin of Kuhnhenn’s version.

While I generally try to relate the aroma, color and flavor of whatever beer I’ve recently had I’m not going to even try with this one. I don’t think I could do this ambrosia justice. Just trust me and BUY SOME!


Sunday Mag and I decided to head up to Great Waters for lunch. Couple their “Keg, Pegs and Eggs” going on from 12-2, meaning $2 pints and a yummy egg special, with a beautiful day to enjoy food and drink on their patio and you’ve got one great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

When we got there the sun was just starting to make its way around the corner of the building and warm the patio. Being the first ones there we snapped up the first table to be in the sun. As we enjoyed some RyePAs and waited for our food to arrive a familiar looking figure came walking our way. My suspicion was right and it turned out to be Michael, who we had met there a few weeks ago and is friends with Kat and Scott. We waylaid him for a bit to chat and then before he got tired of us our food arrived, giving him the opportunity to get to work.

After lunch we decided to head indoors and see how Chuck the bartender was doing. As usual there were a couple other folks already at the bar. The gentleman at the corner seat turned out to be the one whose name plate was on that seat. He’s a local, a regular at Great Waters and from the sounds of it, could drink most of us under the table. The other gentleman was fairly new to Great Waters but had taken a particular liking to the Brown Trout. Shortly after gentleman #1 left another guy bellied up to the bar. If I recall this was his first time at Great Waters but it sounded like he was going to make a day of it. He’d made his way over from Minneapolis on public transit, which was good considering the way he was chugging his beers.

All in all, it was a nice relaxing way to spend a Sunday: a little outdoor time, a little time chatting with Chuck and Michael and a little time meeting some new, interesting characters. That’ll have to tide us over for the next week or two as I’m planning to steer a wide path around St. Paul with the coming of the RNC.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Oscura, lovely Oscura (and other goodies)

Thanks to our beer loving (and beer sharing) friends Kat and Scott who came over for some grilling Thursday night I found out that Furthermore’s Oscura has made its way into bottles and into local liquor stores. They were kind enough to share two of their stash but that was really only enough to tease me so I decided yesterday I would have to go get some for myself.

That meant going to my local Cellars where Jason scared me for a minute telling me he thought they only had one six pack left. Thankfully upon checking he found three more, making it possible for me to go home with the two six packs I had intended. I was really tempted to buy all four of them but that seemed a little too greedy, even for me. Even with Oscura being at the top of my coffee beer list right now I know there are others out there that would like to be able to take some home, too.

As always tends to be the case, I couldn’t just leave with what I came for. I stayed for a while, chatted about the new, yummy treats that had come in and then had to make some hard decisions about just how much I really needed. In the end I went with their suggestion of a bomber of Southern Tier’s Imperial Pumking and also picked up a bomber of their Crème Brulee. Having had an excellent Crème Brulee beer recently at the Great Taste in the Real Ale tent I was excited that this might be from the same folks.

As it turns out, when I checked the Great Taste information, the Crème Brulee there was made by Kuhnhenn and is called Crème Brulee Java Stout where Southern Tier’s is called Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout. I’m still hopeful because if Southern Tier can even do half as good as Kuhnhenn did, this should still be one darn good beer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Are we winners or losers?

And does it really matter if we look that happy? I suppose in the world we live in the answer is yes, it does matter if we are winners or losers. Keep reading to find out…

Yesterday the four of us, also know as “Happy For Coming” played in Town Hall’s bocce ball tournament. For all of our enthusiasm, unfortunately the bocce gods once again did not shine their favor on us. We had a great time playing and did a pretty good job holding our own but in the end we didn’t make it to the playoffs. I suppose that’s not all bad considering our (my) ability to pull off two days of full on drinking in a row.

It looked like everyone else involved in the tournament was having a pretty good time as well so I hope this is something Town Hall continues to do. I’ll be interested to hear who wins the tournament and I’m really, really hoping it isn’t the Paisanos and I’d be doubly happy if it wasn’t Corner Bar. Not to be a sore loser but as far as I’m concerned both teams didn’t exactly play a fair game. Enough said (unless you really want the details and then I’m happy to rant a little).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flat Earth & Lift Bridge

Yesterday after receiving an email from Dan over at Lift Bridge about their inaugural brewing day at Flat Earth I decided to head over there to say hi and of course to bring home at least one growler from Flat Earth.

By the time I arrived the brewing had been completed but two of the Lift Bridge guys were still there. As they always are, both the Lift Bridge and the Flat Earth folks were warm and happy to talk to whomever came in, including me. Farm Girl Saison was the brew made that day and I found out there are plans for additional brewing both of the Saison as well as some of their other recipes. After tasting their products at the Stillwater Brewers Bazaar I’m excited about this partnership and increased production ability.

Additionally, I’m really impressed with Jeff going to the effort to support another “new kid” on the brewing block. While it is true that all craft brewers are competing for essentially the same market I think being collaborative instead of competitive will help everyone to a greater extent in the long run. Certainly from a craft brew drinking standpoint I enjoy having options, especially really good options.

Along with the chatting, I also tried the two newest additions to the Flat Earth lineup, Ovni Ale and Convention Ale. I slightly preferred the taste of Ovni, and would never have guessed it weighs in at 7.1%. It’s that smooth and it has a dang cool, little green man label. In the end I stuck to my recent infatuation with Angry Planet and happily carted a growler of it home with me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Common Roots Cafe

On the way to dinner last night I stopped off at Common Roots. Since I was in the area I had briefly considered stopping in at The Bulldog, but since we were just there a couple weeks ago I decided I should probably give Common Roots some love. They may be a bit on the crunchy granola side but considering they only have seven taps and all are local they deserve more attention than I’ve been giving them.

Currently they’re sporting three from the Surly stables (Furious, Bender, Cynic), Brau Bros Frame Straightener, Finnegan’s Irish Amber, Flat Earth Angry Planet and Point Nude Beach.

As much as I wanted to order a Furious, I hadn’t yet tried Angry Planet and with that also being up for review on Brew52, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. Besides I’ve yet to have anything Jeff makes that I didn’t like.

Angry Planet is a beautiful copper color, reminiscent of many an IPA. There was sufficient head, enough so that the server had to pour some off, and a mild hoppy-sweet aroma. With a creamy feel in the mouth and just enough hops to make my taste buds smile without going over the edge, this is one I would have liked to enjoy more than one of. But alas, after one pint it was time to head off to dinner. I guess I’ll just have to try to make it back there soon as I also haven’t tried any Frame Straightener. While the food might not be quite my cup of tea, the beer selection is arguably one of the best for this size establishment, and heck there’s always garlic Tater Tots to be found just across the street!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Yay for Beer!

The 2008 Great Taste of the Midwest was a great taste indeed.

We (we being me, Kris, Scott and Kat) started the weekend off on Friday with lunch and beers at Ale Asylum. That was our second time there. If you're in the area, you must stop in. All the beers were excellent and the place has a great atmosphere. Dave and Sharon caught up with us there and the six of us bummed around the rest of the evening together. We also made some new friends in the chatty, beer-enthusiast crowd. That seems to a be a common theme at beer bars and beer events.

Our next stop was a newer joint in town, The Malt House, that opened in June. A fellow named Bill Rogers, former president of the Madison Hombrewers and Tasters Guild (as I'm told), owns the joint. It's a humble beer bar with a pretty good selection of beer. They had a nice variety of beer, including two from Stone Brewing. It's a little bit off the beaten path (i.e. it isn't downtown) but a worthy destination.

We ended Friday night, unfortunately, at Capital (which was in walking distance of our hotel). They had live music and a festive crowd, but it wasn't much of a beer lover's event. They shut things down at 9 P.M., which I guess was okay since we weren't having much of a good time there anyway. One highlight was that Scott and I bumped into a fellow beer loving Minnesotan, Jason (I believe, anyway. I'm bad enough with names as it is, but put a few beers in me and I can't remember my own.). He was wearing a Surly shirt, which drew our attention. Like I said before, it wouldn't be a worthy beer event if we didn't make new friends.

The weather on Saturday ended up being perfect for the Great Taste. It was sunny and warm with a nice cooling breeze. And yet there was a dearth of scantily clad, buxom women. That was the only downside. Many buxom men, but too few buxom men. *sigh* We met up with Cal and Al of Blue Nile fame in line. As usual, the folks running the Great Taste were extremely organized and put on a very well run event.

The group didn't hang together inside as everyone ran off to all corners to chase their favorites or try new stuff. We bumped into one another from time to time...just enough to share recommendations and highlights. I had absolutely no plan this year and simply wandered around trying random stuff. For me the highlights were Gray's bourbon barrel aged stout and Ohio Brewing's dopple alt. That's not to say I didn't have a lot of other great beers, but those two stood out as being especially good and from breweries to which I had not had much, if any, previous exposure. I had a chance to chat a bit with Omar of Surly and Jeff of Flat Earth as well, but mainly I sought out beers we can't get in Minnesota. Scott and I bumped into Jason again and I spent much of the afternoon chatting w/ some fellows from Michigan. And, as usual, the evening ended pretty early for Kris and I. All that sun and beer is good for the soul but tough on the body.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Countdown has Begun

24 hours from now we will be nearing our destination of Madison! The ultimate goal is of course the Great Taste but we're heading out a day early to allow some additional time to savor the delicious hop based treats Wisconsin has to offer.

I've been busy doing my job collecting information on all the places we could go and I'll be passing the second half to that task - figuring out where we will go - to the rest of the group tomorrow. In the meantime I'll continue to dream about all the goodies I anticipate finding this weekend.

Happy drinking, whereever you may be doing it!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

RyePA Returns!

Last night we met up with Kat and Scott at Great Waters. I don’t know what was going on in downtown St. Paul but street parking was nearly impossible to find and there seemed to be an inordinate amount of people with white hair. The patio at GW was pretty full but luckily they got there before us so we didn’t have to waste a beautiful night sitting indoors.

When our server came to take our drink orders I was thrilled to find that RyePA had returned! I’m not sure how long it had been absent, maybe up to a month. All I know is that when I was there a week or so ago there was none to be had and Liam didn’t mention that it was going to be on again soon. I just assumed that the rye time had passed and maybe if I was lucky it would return next year. I’d love to see this become a semi-permanent beer.

We also got the pleasure of another beer geek’s company, Michael, and one of the regular street musicians provided some good background music. Too bad it was only a Tuesday night and work was waiting for all of us the next morning.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Bulldog

Yesterday, after Mag put in a solid morning of studying, we headed out for a late lunch and beers at The Bulldog. A few blocks after we left we realized that neither of us had bothered to look up their address. Now we’ve been there enough that we should know, but as it was we only had a general idea of the area. No doubt due to Mag’s amazing navigational skills, we didn’t spend too much extra time in our efforts to find it.

In addition to sandwiches, and of course garlic Tater Tots, we tried a couple of new things suggested to us by our server. I can’t remember the guy’s name, but we’ve had him before and he’s made great recommendations in the past. The first Mag selected was a 750 ml of Ommegeddon from Ommegang, described as a dry hopped funkhouse ale with Brettanomyces. For those of you that attended Firkin Fest earlier this year you might remember that there was a beer there with Brettanomyces, which is reminiscent of cheese…funky cheese. I was surprised with the flavor- lemony with a cheese aftertaste in my opinion- as the aroma I got was one of a tart cherry or raspberry lambic. If nothing else the name, meaning the time when the forces of light and dark will battle for domination of the world, makes it interesting.

We were planning to go after that bottle but our server came back and convinced us (you can guess how much arm twisting that took) to order Cuvee Rene, an unflavored lambic by Lindemans. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. I agree with the server that it could almost pass for sparkling wine, except for the tart aftertaste that screams lambic to me. Too bad this one wasn't in a 750 ml, too!

Once that was finished it really was time to hit the road as Mag still had to squeeze some more productivity out of the weekend. I, on the other hand and with his blessing, enjoyed a couple more. Sunday afternoons are always too short.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The best way to off one's self

Saturday was a fine afternoon to spend out on a patio drinking beer with friends and that was exactly what I did. Leaving Mag home, responsibly studying for a Monday final, I went to Town Hall to booze it up.

Not surprisingly I found friends there doing the same. There was the usual, “what have you been up to?” and “what have you been drinking lately?” discussions. Then somewhere along the way we started pondering the best way to off ourselves, should we ever need to. It was decided that you shouldn't leave a huge mess someone would have to clean up nor should you use any method that might not ensure success. I believe the consensus was a combination of carbon monoxide and drinking into oblivion or pills and drinking into oblivion.

Now some might think such a discussion would be a bit of a downer and mood killer but no, we continued on our merry way. The fair amount of Warrior consumed at our table probably contributed to that.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Brewpubs serve their own beers

My most recent trips to Great Waters (last Friday) and Town Hall (last night) had two things in common. The first is not surprising and that’s great beer- Giant Star IPA and cask Gold at GW and Warrior and Cara-Java Brown at TH specifically. The second however is something I often wonder about how often it happens and that is someone coming into the establishment and asking for some macro, most likely a “lite”. At GW it was a woman, who upon sitting down at the bar was asked by the bartender what he could get for her. Her reply was “I’ll take a $*%&^ Lite.” And his reply, which I took an inordinate amount of pleasure in hearing, was “No, you won’t. This is a brewpub and we only serve our own beer.” Note, however, that he said this in the most reasonable voice without the sneering you would have heard if I had said the same thing. She ended up ordering a vodka 7.

At TH it was two twenty-something guys who ordered lite beers. The bartender proceeded to let them know that this was a brewpub that served their own beers, offering that there was a lager on tap as well as a wheat beer. I didn’t really pay attention to which they ended up ordering but they downed those beers in record time! That probably isn’t a surprise if they’re used to drinking beers with virtually no flavor. I’m not sure if they were short on time to begin with or decided their lite palates would be quenched more appropriately somewhere else.

I don’t know how all such interactions play out but I was pleased to see that in both cases the lite drinkers didn’t depart the bar without ordering something. I doubt situations such as these ends up in making converts of anyone but that’s ok. It leaves more good stuff for me!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The weather is miserable...thank goodness there's beer to keep us cool

So far I’ve only drank half of the Dogfish Head but if this heat keeps up the rest will be gone before the weekend is over. In the meantime I’m enjoying a solid warm weather favorite, Groovy Brew, that unfortunately graces our beer fridge a small number of times each year (dang those Minnesota laws).

Generally I prefer more strongly flavored beers but this is one of the few exceptions. There isn’t a ton of aroma and upon first entering my mouth there seems to be something lager-ish going on but if finishes smooth, balanced and slightly sweet. Plus it’s got a cool label!

Since I was near the computer with a little time to kill I figured maybe I should consult the experts to see what kind of beer they call this. Wanna guess? Bet you can’t. The answer is Kolsch. So I was right on detecting some lager notes. I like to be right but more than that I love a great beer. Next time you make a run across the border you really should pick some of this up, if for no other reason than to have it for me to drink when I come over.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Home is where the good beer is

Back in the comforts (aka nearby beer fridge) of home it’s time to crack into some of the treats picked up with Kat & Scott last Sunday in Wisconsin. The first to grace my glass is Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche. At Chicone’s I only read “malt beverage brewed with peach concentrate” but as I opened it this afternoon I searched further for a more expanded description and found “Festina Peche is a neo-Berliner style Weisse fermented with peach juice.” Hmmmm...weisse…not generally one of my favorite styles but it’s already purchased so there’s no turning back now. The color is reminiscent of freshly squeezed lemonade, without the pulp, and the first sip was very tart, almost bordering on sour. Halfway through my first bottle, I’m sold on this beer! It’s light, refreshing and at only 4.5% abv I think I’ll easily make it through the four-pack. Now the question is, will I leave any for Mag to sample?

San Fran Part 2

As it turns out I was able to find time to try my remaining two brews, but after enjoying both of the pale ales, they were a letdown. The Firestone DBA (Double Barrel Ale) by Firestone Walker was nothing memorable and a bit too sweet for my liking. According to their website the have a “Passion for Pales” and this one is supposed to be a British Pale Ale made in their patented Firestone Union oak barrels.

The Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery had a mild smoke aroma and reminded me quite a lot of Guinness. Not being a fan of Guinness this wouldn’t be one I’d purchase again. That being said, I think if this beer were served on nitro it could be quite nice. Out of a bottle it just doesn’t quite cut it for me.

In addition, at a good Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building called The Slanted Door offered me the opportunity to try Biere de Miel, a Belgian bottle-conditioned honey ale. It’s a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle and as expected it came in a very heavy bottle. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it as Belgians can be hit or miss for me but I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll have to keep my eyes out for this to see if anyone locally carries it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So Now I'm in San Fran for Work

The flight is a bit longer than to DC, but worth it. The weather's better, the hotel gave me decent beer in my room (Anchor Steam) and just across the street there's a liquor store, a place selling bubble tea AND Taco Hell.

Yesterday afternoon I picked up four brews not available in MN to try out: Fire Rock Pale Ale from Kona Brewing, Firestone DBA from Firestone Walker Brewing Company and two from Deschutes Brewing- Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter.

So far I've tried the Fire Rock Pale Ale and the Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Both were quite good with the Fire Rock being a bit sweeter and stronger flavored overall. The Mirror Pond is certainly a session beer...too bad I don't have a session to enjoy it in. At this point I'll just be happy to crack into the other two before leaving tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coffee and beer…what a lovely combination

Last night the four of us headed over to MacKenzie for Furthermore’s release of Oscura. We got there before the 7:00 release and I was pleased to find that they still had some Surly Coffee Bender and Two from the night before, as I’d been too lazy to make it there two nights in a row. Coffee Bender is one of my favorites so I enjoyed a pint of that before switching over to Furthermore for the night. Chris made it there just in time for the tapping of Oscura as he’d had another Furthermore event at Zip’s at 5:00.

I love Coffee Bender and am always pleased when it turns up somewhere, but Oscura really blew me away. I don’t think I’ve ever had a coffee beer that was this smooth, both in flavor and mouthfeel. Steve thought maybe this was the result of the maize used and having not ever had a beer like this before I’m willing to go along with that. Furthermore describes this beer as warm-fermented and cold-lagered. However it came to be I hope they keep making this one!

In addition to the Oscura tapping they were also giving samples of their Knot Stock, Three Feet Deep and Proper. I hadn’t had the Proper before and will have to try it another day to give it a fair chance. After Coffee Bender, Knot Stock and who knows how many Oscuras my palate wasn’t in any state to appreciate the subtleties of this beer.

The turnout for this event was better and probably more suited to the beer than the Fatty Boombalatty one a Harvey’s (before it became the Ugly Mug) a couple months ago. I’m glad Furthermore is still pursuing this market, even will all the distributor issues of late. Can’t wait to wear my new Grrrl T out soon…thanks Chris!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Notes from The Cellars

I stayed away as long as I could but on this warm Friday afternoon I could no longer resist. It was time to see what goodies were waiting for me at The Cellars in Eagan. In addition to goodies, I found out a few things I feel compelled to pass along.

  1. There is still some Surly Bitter Brewer to be found although Cellars is down to their last two cases.
  2. Dark Horse is pulling out of the local market. This is both good and bad news. Bad because we won't be able to get it any more but good because the reason is the demand for their products is more than they can handle. Let's hope that demand continues so they can expand and return to the Twin Cities in the future. For now, if you see it.
  3. The new Flat Earth labels are cool! (yes, I know, it's been a while since I've been to the store)
  4. The Cellars is carrying five of the Southern Tier brews- Cherry Saison (also to be found on tap at Town Hall), Heavy Weizen (Imperial unfiltered wheat), a barleywine, Unearthly (an Imperial IPA) and an Imperial EPA (which I picked up).

Ok, now that I've done my good deed for the day, it's time to start the weekend...with a Bitter Brewer!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So I'm in DC for work

And I’m doing my best to find some decent beer to drink. I got into town on Saturday and had dinner at a pretty good Mexican joint, however being a Mexican joint meant only Mexican beers to choose from so I ended up with a Negro Modelo and a Dos Equis Amber. Neither were bad, neither were great but the table side made guac was excellent!

Sunday night dinner was a working function and a totally Kosher meal. I believe there are a few Kosher beers out there but none to be found that night. Instead I had an ok, but drinkable red and a surprisingly pleasant white. My boss, as much a wine connoisseur as I am one of beer, said it was very “oaky.” Guess I like oaky wines.

Monday I had a little time to spare after my time with the treadmill so I ended up in the hotel lounge that had a limited selection so I went with a 22 oz can of Sapporo. It wasn’t bad, especially since I think it’s a lager. There weren’t any really strong lager flavors or aroma and none of the aftertaste. Being late afternoon in a lounge they brought out a bowl of salted nuts and assorted olives. Both yummy but the surprising part was I found out the olives went very, very well with the Sapporo.

Monday night was another working function but this time I was able to get beer- Oak Barrel Stout by Old Dominion in Ashburn, VA and Mount Vernon Harvest Ale brewed by the same folks (this was at the Mount Vernon Inn). The stout was niiiiice, chocolately, smooth and not too sweet. My only complaint would be that I was drinking it in the summer instead of a cold, winter day. The Harvest Ale wasn’t so good but that might be because I’m not an Oktoberfest fan.

Tuesday, the meeting’s nearly over and during a non-working lunch of sushi and cheese I had another Sapporo (don’t worry, there’s been no converting here, it’s just there’s so little beer to choose from here!). I found an even better thing to consume with a Sapporo…ginger. The kind of ginger that’s served with sushi. This might even be a combination I would seek out, well, if my beer choices were limited like this again.

In about 24 hours I should be on a plane headed back to good beer. I hope Mag’s ready to go out or at least sit home and have a few beers with me because I’m gonna need something good to drink by then. Oh yeah, and as soon as I get home my weekend starts so why not start it off right with a great brew?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sheesh - Hey Sconie! Can I Come Over?

I was mostly through pounding out a long, mean rant regarding the following article in today's Star Tribune, but I decided to delete it and remain silent. Read the article. It really embarrasses me. I'm generally proud to be a Minnesotan, but sometimes I want to crawl to our Eastern border to beg to be let in. sheesh

"Bar Fight Brewing Over $2,500 Minneapolis, St. Paul Intend to Charge"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good beer and a beautiful day

It took both of us to accomplish “sunburny and drunky” but we did it. Wanna guess which of us got the sunburn?

As anticipated we had a great time at the 2nd Annual Surly Open, although one thing would have made it better. And that would have been if the Three Rivers Park District hadn’t had their beer Nazis working who allowed only one beer to be bought per person. That made it really hard to do my beer wenching duties properly however I did manage to carry Kat and my four beers around for a few holes. (Apparently selling one person one beer three minutes after the last one they bought wasn’t a problem…just don’t try to buy one for a friend.)

We got there earlier this year than last and were rewarded by finding that Surly had brought Coffee Bender, as well as CynicAle, for the morning group. Once the Coffee Bender was out, on went Furious. I don’t know if they ended up replacing Cynic with anything since as long as there was Furious to be had I didn’t look any further. Needless to say I found something yummy to fill my glass (I should say glasses since even though I requested they refill my used plastic glass that was apparently another no-no…gotta keep the plastic manufacturers busy!) all day long.

Eric did end up joining Kat, Scott, Mag and me along with his friend, Darren. So the six of us, along with some random guy that got there 1 ½ hours late, spent a beautiful day outside enjoying great beer. And to round out the day, a stop on the way home at Taco Hell…mmmmmm!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gunna get me sunburny and drunky

Ahoyhoy! Today is the 2nd Annual Surly Walk-Up-Some-Big-Friggen-Hills-and-Sweat-Alot Open dealio! We had a blast last year and I'm sure we will again this year. I'm just wondering how many folks are gonna wander away from the disc golf an hour into it to drink beer in the chalet. I can pretty much guarantee my wife will and I think Scott will. Kat's a trooper, so I don't think she will. Me? Well, we'll see. Our five-some is rounded out by the ever-bearded lobbyist, Eric, who was supposed to join us last year, but we never hooked up. Instead, we played with a fellow we named Drunk Dave. Dave was flying solo and asked to join us. We had a blast, although his l33t disc golf skills put ours to shame. Of course, I ended up driving him home as he had a wee bit too much. Now we'll see if Eric can fill the void that Drunk Dave left. Dave was tall, skinny, bearded and a Sconie. Eric is skinny and bearded. So far he's batting .500. But I think he can hold his beer. Hell, he can hold mine too while I'm tossing.

Here's a pic from last year. Using my uber technology skills, I've blotted out the faces of the innocent and added a moustache to myself to make me look cool. This is incontravertable proof that the event is a good time. I mean, where else can you stuff bills into a stranger's cleveage and no one thinks it odd? Well, aside from gentlemens clubs... Bring lots of ones.

Kris and I elected to not go to the National Brewfest in Mankato (6/21 and 6/22) We'd gone the first two years of the event and felt we could take a guilt-free break this year. As far as beer fests go, I'd rate it a bit lower on the scale. The beer selection is so-so and it seems like the focus is on the music and not on the beer. But if anyone is sitting around with nothing to do today, check it out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gone Downhill

No, we didn’t go downhill yet…we’re leaving that for Saturday over at Highland. Instead, I’m sad to say that after a visit to Old Chicago in Eagan last night both their food offerings and beer selection have gone downhill. Being a beautiful evening we decided finding a place to sit outside, have a couple beers and dinner would be a good idea. However neither of us was particularly motivated and even the thought of driving up to Town Hall, much less Barley John’s, was too daunting. So we surveyed the nearby options, settling on Old Chicago. Although their patio is small and the scenery isn’t great we’ve always been able to get a seat out there and last night was no exception.

Upon perusing the food menu we noticed that they seemed to have cut out a lot of items and there wasn’t much that caught our attention. We ordered the quesadilla and Italian nachos, both off the appetizer section, and I’m happy to say they were both good. The nacho chips themselves instead of being the sturdy corn tortilla variety are lighter and possibly made from wonton wrapper material. Light, crispy and a great accompaniment to the sausage, pepperoni and pepperoncini!

The beer menu was disappointing both from a micro beer selection stand point as well as from the area where they seem to be trying to highlight certain beers. For example, the had a macro product that starts with a "M" listed as the MN beer of the month and another domestic macro listed as the import of the month. Unlike in the past there was little, if anything, that I had not had before (and would actually want to drink). In the end we both ordered a Bell’s Oberon. Although it was served with an orange wedge that was easily remedied and the 25 oz went down well on a warm, summer evening so all was not lost.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Minneapolis Sunday

After getting a few necessary things done Sunday morning we headed out to Herkimer to give them another try now that there is a new brewer in place. We seated ourselves out on their patio (as the sign instructed) and waited and waited and waited for a server to arrive. Since it didn’t seem like that was going to happen anytime soon Mag went in and ordered beers directly from the bartender. I’m not a big German beer fan so the majority of their lineup didn’t interest me so I went with the Alt. Mag ordered their Toolers Weiss, which had far too much clove aroma for me to even sip, but he liked. Both beers had nice flavors and thankfully none of the sulfur qualities that seemed to be present in many of the beers in the past. Although I could have been persuaded to hang around for another Alt the bad service prompted us to move on.

Many a times we’ve talked about going to Bryant Lake Bowl but up until today just never made it over there. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, other than maybe it being a little bigger, but overall it’s a place I’d return to. The tap selection is nice and varied, the menu looked pretty good (although we didn’t order food) and the staff was friendly. They even helped us as we tried to pin down the name and location of our next stop, Merlins Rest. In fact, the woman who knew the place we were looking for had the location dead on- 36th and E Lake.

So into the car, out of Uptown and down Lake we found Merlins Rest. I can’t recall exactly who had mentioned this place and we didn’t know much about it other than it’s an expatriate bar. Not surprisingly for a beautiful Sunday afternoon the place was pretty quiet. The majority of their taps are imports with the two local beers represented being Summit EPA and Finnegan’s Amber. While it’s no craft beer bar the selection is good, there are no TVs to be seen (although at least 5 video cameras from our vantage point) and the bartenders were friendly. It seems like it could be a cozy, friendly place to spend some time in on a winter’s day.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Great Waters Saturday

After a stop at the St. Paul Farmers Market to load up on locally produced cheese, meat and incredibly fresh produce we stopped in at Great Waters for a few pints and lunch. Since it was a relatively nice day we opted to sit on the patio. Seeing that they still had RyePA on tap I dove in there first (and second). Figuring it would be a waste to be there and just have one of their beers I finished with the ever enjoyable standby, St. Peter Pale Ale. Mag moved around the board a bit more and among others, ordered their most newly tapped beer, the Cywren Saison. I’m not much of a Saison fan in general but couldn’t resist trying it and was pleasantly surprised. There wasn’t so much of a Belgian flavor to turn me off and the mouth feel…well, really it was like drinking velvet. Before heading home we settled on a growler of the RyePA for future enjoyment.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Town Hall Thursday

Last night Mag and I went to Town Hall for dinner and of course, a few beers. I had been eager to go and have their Milk Porter before the rest of the locals drank it all. Since Mag ordered first, the porter and I didn’t want to look like a copy cat, I chose the 1800 English IPA. The cascade on the porter was amazing, almost mesmerizing! The flavor lived up to my hopes with the wonderful smooth mouth feel the “milks” typically have. However tonight I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for the smoothness of the porter and instead preferred the 1800 by far. I vaguely recall drinking it last year but there have been a lot of beers consumed between now and then so I had forgotten just how nice it was.

Reluctantly my next pint (goblet actually) was the Mango Mama. I say reluctantly because I was so enjoying the 1800 but knowing how quickly the seasonals rotate at Town Hall I suspected that even if I went back over the weekend there was a good chance this brew may be gone by then. I was sure as I had been with the 1800 that I’d had some the last time they brewed it. And sure enough, that first taste confirmed it was still a winner in my book and although the 1800 won out at that sitting I wasn’t disappointed ordering the mango.

With the Milk Porter having whetted my thirst for milk, I can’t wait for the Dark Chocolate Milk Porter and the Lingonberry Milk Porter!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Beer and chocolate

Beer is tasty. Chocolate is yummy. However as much as I like the both of them on their own (and paired in a chocolate stout) it rarely occurs to grab a hunk of chocolate when I'm having a beer. Last night during a game of Killer Bunnies there happened to be some Chocolate Bridge Mix from Candyland at hand. At the other hand was a glass of Flat Earth's Belgian pale ale. Mag was the first to mention it and the rest of quickly followed suit to verify that indeed the milk chocolate brought out some very nice and pronounced floral flavors in the beer. If I've ever had beer and chocolate in the same sitting it surely didn't produce results like this! Next time a growler of the Belgian pale ale graces our house I just might have to make sure there's some milk chocolate around.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rye for me

Last night I met Kat and Scott at Great Waters for a couple of beers. Upon walking in I was greeted by the always pleasant smell of beer being brewed. Bellying up to the bar I was pleased to see they had a nearly full board of beers- Golden Prairie Blond, Brown Trout, Kaizerweizer Hefe, Skip & Go Naked and RyePA for pushed and on the cask side House Ale, Black Watch Oat Stout and Tartar Control IPA. During the time we were there Mr. Smooth got put back on tap as well.

I played it safe with my first beer going with the Tartar Control and got to taste Scott’s Hefe and Kat’s RyePA. Not surprisingly the Hefe was too hefe for me. The surprise came when I tried the RyePA. I’m generally not a huge fan of rye beers but this was very pleasing, likely because of the amount of hops, which balanced out the rye. As I understand it, this is beer was creation of Joel’s and his first one for Great Waters. If this is any indication of his brewing talents, the powers that be are fortunate to have hired this young guy on. I’m looking forward to seeing what his next brew will be.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

They're almost as good as gold

At long last our two Great Taste tickets arrived in the mail today! For those of you who may have forgotten, Mag and I each sent in a request for 2 tickets. Mag got his request promptly returned and sadly unfulfilled. I've known for a few weeks now that someone, hopefully the Madison homebrewers, had cashed my check. So every day I've been checking the mailbox, sure that today must be the day they would arrive. (Lately I was becoming more and more convinced that the mailman stole them.) Thankfully I was wrong and when I opened the mailbox today, there they were.

Truth be told we had a back up plan which involved our very generous friends offering up their extra two tickets so the question of our attendance at the Great Taste wasn't in question. It was more a matter of it we would need to take them up on the offer or not. Now the only question is do we just go down for the festival or take Friday off work and do some pre-festival drinking in the Madison area?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

City Pages Hail & Rain & Drunk Fest

Well, Mother Nature did it to us again this year. About an hour into the City Pages Beer Fest it started raining big, fat, cold drops of rain...and then the marble sized hail came...lots of it. I happened to be outside the tasting area at the time so I was able to find shelter and Kris had her poncho with, so she stayed dry, but she ended up with welts on her arms from the hail. Luckily the rain and hail didn't last long, so the festing could continue. At least until the second band of storms came through. And for anyone wondering, there weren't really any wet, see-through t-shirts present. hrmmm

Kris was pleased with the event, overall. I was less so. The beer selection was as we expected; lots of crap which was made up for by great beers from some of the craft beer joints. One annoying thing about the fest is that most of the beer is served by volunteers who 1) don't know squat about beer (most of them), 2) were often pretty rude (some of them), 3) weren't even filling the tasting cups to the damn 2 oz. line (about half of them). And the crowd was mainly rude drunks who also didn't know crap about beer. I happened to be standing at the Flat Earth tent towards the end of the evening when some d-bag came pushing through the crowd, stuffed his arm over my shoulder, and shouted for Jeff to "Give (him) some of that dark shit. That dark shit is good." Of course, he was referring to Black Helicopter. *sigh* Too much of that. By the way, Flat Earth's dark shit is good if you haven't had it. Real good. Jeff used coffee from Paradise Roasters, a premier, local roaster in the beer.

  • Flat Earth, Surly, Summit and Schell's were anchors of the event, in my opinion. The crowd didn't appreciate their "dark shit," so you could generally get a beer at their tents without too much trouble, unlike the Land Shark and Schlitz tents. And these breweries had representatives present and serving beer. There were enough other craft beers represented (e.g. Boulder Brewing, Boulevard, Bell's, etc.) to provide a good selection.

  • Herkimer was there and I was able to chat with their new brewer for about 5 minutes. I enjoyed what I had of Herkimer's and liked what I heard from their new brewer.

  • There actually were a few new beer offerings to be had. Peak Organic Brewing out of Portland, Maine had beers there, including a pale, nut brown, amber and maple oat. Decent. Atlantic Brewing Co. also had beers there including a blueberry ale, ginger, nut brown and a porter. They may have been there in the past. I don't remember.

  • We bumped into a number of friends and it was fun hanging out.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Drink Enough to Cover Your Bases

A co-worker sent me a BusinessWeek article discussing the impact of drinking on bone fragility. See the link if you want the real scoop. But here's my skewed summary. Using 0 drinks a day as the base, the report basically says that if you drink up to 1/2 drinks a day, your chance of hip fracture is reduced by 15%. 1/2 to 1 drinks a day means your chances are LESSENED by 20% and 1 to 2 drinks means your chances are LESSENED by 9%. If you drink more than 2 drinks a day, your chances are INCREASED by 39%. That's great news.

Now, by my math, by my first 1/2 drink, I've lowered my chances of breaking a hip by 15%. As I finish my second 1/2 of the drink and move on to my second drink, my chances are lowered by another 20% and when I quaff my 2nd drink to the bottom, my chances are lowered by another 9%. That gives me a 45% lower chance for breaking a hip. That means when I crank through drinks 3 thru whatever, I increase my chances of breaking a hip by 39%. But what do I care, I've got a spare 6% (45% minus 39%). Hell, my bones are getting stronger. I don't see any flaws in this logic.

I didn't see any mention of double bonuses from milk stouts, but I'm guessing they are there. What I also didn't see were the chances of severe brain damage from this level of drinking, but I doubt there is any real evidence of that. I'm living proof.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


While driving back from a scrumptuous breakfast at the Longfellow Grill today, Kris and I and my folks drove past a side street with a situation requiring a second glance. My first thought was that someone had a helluva night. I giggled at the park job. We couldn't resist circling the block to get a better look and snap a photo. Of course, from the new angle it looked like someone rear-ended the poor S.O.B. Okay, I started to feel a little bad for laughing. Then we saw the baby seat. Crap. Now I feel like an ass. I hope no one was hurt.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Microbrew in Orlando?

This week I had to go to Orlando for a quick work trip and not surprisingly as soon as I go the work portion of the trip over I was off to see if I could unearth any good microbrew. According to Beer Advocate there was a brewpub not far from my hotel so I felt it was my duty to check it out. When I got in the cab the guy didn’t know where it was so had to call the number I provided him to get directions. It turns out Big River Grille and Brewing Works is on the “Boardwalk”. I didn’t have high expectations and they fell even further as I walked up to it.
Following our general rule I headed straight for the bar and promptly ordered a sampler. Scott, the bartender, brought over their Southern Flyer Light Lager, Gadzooks Pilsner, Steamboat Pale Ale, Rocket Red Ale, Wowzer’s Wheat and their seasonal, a bock. The first good sign was his instruction to drink the red last as the pale was an American pale ale and not very hoppy. All of the beers were pretty cold, had no aroma and no head. As would be expected the lager was a lager and the pilsner a pilsner. Scott was right that the pale ale wasn’t very hoppy but the flavor was intriguing probably because I couldn’t quite put my finger on where part of it was coming from. Maybe the American Perle hops? The flavor came across on the back of the tongue and I thought it was reminiscent of rye. The wheat was surprisingly flavorful and lightly spiced to be very drinkable although I detected a slightly off/sour flavor. The red was my hands down favorite and one I ended up having pints of. It was a beautiful mahogany color that went down easily, was well balanced and after having the opportunity to warm up a bit had a slightly sweet hoppy aroma.

In addition to a great bartender I ended up talking to a guy from Chicago and a couple of folks from Cincinnati, one of which is currently living in Chicago. Having just been out there last July we had plenty of places to exchange comments about. The night turned out much better than I feared it would so if you’re ever in the land of Mickey, Snow White and way too many children try to get over to the Boardwalk and belly up to the bar at Big River. While it’s not Portland quality micro, it’s still pretty good and I’m willing to bet some of the best you’ll find in the area.