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!