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!