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.