Monday, December 28, 2009

If you can't say anything nice, find something else to drink

I don’t expect it will come as a surprise to anyone that I don’t have any great, “look what I found!” beer stories to relay from the trip to Iowa. In fact, the only Iowa brew I picked up, well a sampler pack from an Iowa brewery to be specific, falls into the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice-don’t-say-anything-at-all category.

So instead of regaling you with Iowa beer tales, I decided to crack open the two 21st Amendment brews that showed up on my doorstep. Hell or High Watermelon Wheat and Brew Free or Die IPA are two of the most easily found brews of theirs around here, but neither of which I had tried before.

Hell or High is a low ABV beer, weighing in at only 4.9%. The slight fruity aroma and flavor aren’t distinctive enough for me to identify as watermelon but neither do they come off as artificial. Wheat beers aren’t my thing in general and there’s certainly nothing offensive about this brew however I’d issue that warning that if you order one, don’t let it sit around too long. Drink it and be done with it as I found it to be less palatable as it warmed.

Brew Free or Die IPA lays claim to 70 IBUs and 7% ABV. The strong hop aroma leads one to believe this IPA has considerable potential but surprisingly it was booziness, rather than hoppiness that jumped out at me upon drinking it. That’s not to say this isn’t a good beer, simply that from my point of view, there’s more hop aroma than hop flavor.

Taking all four 21st Amendment brews I’ve had into account, I have to say I’m looking forward to seeing more of their product. It’s a toss up between the Monk’s Blood (from the taps at the Muddy Pig) and Black in Back IPA (from the taps at Triple Rock) as to which I prefer, mostly due to having them weeks apart. Were I to have them in succession I’m guessing one would stand out as my favorite. And the IPA and Wheat, while not at the top of my list aren’t bad. There are few breweries that I can say I love their entire line up so with the 50/50 score so far, 21st Amendment is a good addition to the other brews we can get here in Minnesota.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Even though I know that I wouldn't want to buy, much less drink, anything they're selling I must admit there's still a little part of me that wants to do it, just for the novelty of it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To Take, or Not to Take?

We’re supposed to be in Iowa for Christmas this year and although the weather is conspiring against us I think we’ll make it. It’s always a tight fit when Cleo’s coming along so I need to stick to the necessities. But when leaving our well stocked beer fridge, and nearby back-up, Cellar’s, where’s the line between necessity and indulgence?

Granted, in Iowa you can pick up beer at any gas station or grocery store and they have come a long way since I moved north, but even with their more liberal laws (including buying on Sundays), they still have a long way to go to catch up to Minnesota in quality. So what makes me look like more of a lush – arriving with a car loaded down with tasty brews or leaving for the liquor store half an hour after arriving in town?

Of course, even if I arrive well stocked, I’m still going to have to make an exploratory trip to the Hy-Vee Liquor Store up the road just to see what they’re carrying these days. And if by chance they have any new brews from the Iowa breweries I’m familiar with or anything we can’t get in Minnesota you know I’m not going to be able to resist picking them up. Besides, even if the weather cooperates and allows us to make it back to Minnesota on Sunday, that’s a good 3 – 4 days of family time.

Maybe a compromise is in order. No growlers, a few bombers (to give the illusion that we’re all drinking, not just me) and an effort to drink down some of our more heavily stocked favorites. That seems reasonable, right?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Fulton Verdict

An unusual situation has been in play regarding a new beer on the market – Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine. It’s been available for weeks, possibly months, and until last night I hadn’t had it. Now I must say that I hadn’t really been seeking it out but on the other hand I was looking for an opportunity to try it.

Previously the closest I had come was at Stub & Herb’s. The last time I was there I only had time for a single pint and as I was a couple of delicious sips into it I noticed the bartender changing out a tap handle, replacing it with a Fulton one. Dang! If I’d only gotten there 10 mintues later I could have had it. Ah well, I figured, my first taste of Fulton just wasn’t in the cards that day.

Last night, arriving at the Edina Grill early for the Lift Bridge event, I spied the Fulton tap handle (good thing since it wasn’t listed on the menu). Excited to finally be able to try it, but tempering my excitement with the mixed bag of reviews I had heard, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. My verdict? This is a really good beer!

Now don’t go and think that after a single pint I’ve drank the Fulton Kool-Aid. As much as I enjoyed it, I’ll be interested to see if I enjoy my next pint as much as the first. Plus, they are still newbies and my overall impression won’t be complete until I have another brew or two from them. And I’d like to meet the guys as well so hopefully the next time they’re making the rounds I won’t be as busy as I was when the Child came out. But they’re off to a good start in my book.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Vegan Beer, REALLY?

Last night, upon stopping by and chatting with my favorite bartender, I learned that at least some vegans apply their beliefs not only to their food but also to their BEER.

My first question, and maybe yours, too, is how is beer NOT vegan? I’ve yet to run across a beer brewed with bacon (but just think of the possibilities!!) and although if brett is used in the brewing you may get a cheese smell, there isn’t actually cheese in it.

The answer apparently has to do with the filtering process. Isinglass is commonly used to filter beer and like many things in this world, the name doesn’t give a hint as to what it is actually made of. So here it is: the dried swim bladders of fish. According to Wikipedia, it was originally made exclusively from sturgeon, but later on the process was refined so that cod could be used as a much cheaper substitute.

So there you go.

Monday, November 23, 2009

That Itch Has Been Scratched

You know when you get something in your head and it just won’t leave until you fulfill it? Like when you’re watching TV and there’s a commercial for some new, super yummy looking Blizzard? Or when there’s a beer you can’t wait to try? Or that new place that’s gotten rave reviews?

Well, Gastro Non Grata was an itch for me. I had been reading review after review each time a GNG event happened. Sometimes there were already other plans on the calendar, sometimes hauling my lazy butt out of the house at 6 pm on a Sunday was more than I could manage. This Sunday was different.

I’d been thinking about it all week, knowing we didn’t have any plans for Sunday and thinking maybe, just maybe I’d make it this time. A little extra push of guessing it would be the last GNG event of the year didn’t hurt either.

So out into the darkening late afternoon I went, planning a quick stop at the Blue Nile, hoping Al would be working. Not only was he working, but Dave and Sharon were already there when I arrived AND Al still had Mummy Train on tap. Oh yeah, and it was happy hour (aka 2-4-1s). Things were off to a good start.

Parking near Triple Rock was challenging, but I was pretty sure I’d parked in a 1 hour space. However, as I made my way into Triple Rock the signs seemed to indicate that was not the deal and a sure ticketing and towing was in my future. So I decided to split the difference – I’d hang out for an hour, then go back to see if my tires had been chalked and go from there.

Inside I ran into two beer friends, Steve and Jason, who helped fill me in on how these events went down and provided me someone to talk to as this was clearly NOT my crowd. Crowd is also an operative word here, which if you’ve been to festivals and such with me you know is not my cup of tea.

Since no beer was being poured gratis for some time I bought a pint of 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA and was pleased to find it a worthy purchase.

Things finally got rolling about 45 minutes after the doors opened with the first band playing and Northern Brewer sampling the lambic they’d brewed at the last GNG event. Great music and a very nice, not sweet and appropriately sour lambic.

About ½ hour later the first of the meat raffles was held, the first sample of 21st Amendment (Brew Free or Die IPA) was offered as was the first food sample, Chef Landon’s take on tator tots.

After braving the madhouse to get a sample of beer and food, neither of which I found remarkable, the second band started. They were even less remarkable than the other two components and it was at that point I decided to cut my losses and depart.

I was really looking forward experiencing GNG and really wanted to like it. But apparently it just wasn’t in the cards. Maybe I’m too old, maybe I like a better setting to enjoy good beer, maybe I like to be able to talk to the people I’m with and actually be able to hear what they’re saying. Whatever it was, it wasn’t for me but at least that particular itch got scratched.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

"A great marketing event around shitty beer is only going to lead to people finding out you make shitty beer." - Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head

Friday, November 13, 2009

Buster's Revisited

When Buster’s on 28th first opened we went there fairly often, or at least as often as our constantly-seeking-the-newest-beer mouths would allow. However I’m pretty confident saying it’s been at least 6 month, maybe more since we were last there. There’s multiple reasons why not and none of them particularly great, we just haven’t been for a while.

Last night Mag and I met up with Andrew and Ryan for a little beer talking and Buster’s was the place. We got there early to eat dinner and had I not forgotten my phone (which gets spotty reception in this bomb shelter disguised as a beer bar) I probably wouldn’t have seen one of the most exciting things written on a chalk board in ages. The cheese plate has returned to Buster’s!!!! Cheese, lovely, cheese…right then and there the mental battle between the Elian Gonzalez and a bison burger was over.

The three cheeses they were serving up were Benton Harbor Brie, Prairie Delight cheddar and Cypress Grove, a blue goat cheese, with a nice hunk of bread from their neighbor, A Baker’s Wife. All were excellent and the plate was HUGE, so I didn’t really need the cup of “World Famous Chili”, but dang if that wasn’t mighty tasty, too!

But the beer, that’s what you really want to know about, right? Mag had gotten there a little before me and started in on a bomber of Rogue St. Rogue Dry Hopped Red Ale. A good red, but a little disappointing that the wonderful b.o. aroma was more prominent than the actual hop flavor. I started out with a New Holland Cabin Fever, which was sweet, but not in a syrupy way, more raisiny and very nice. Next I couldn’t pass up trying the last in the Schells Anniversary Series, #8 – V.T., which I’m disappointed to say didn’t do much for me. On the latter half of beers, things took a turn for the better, including a bomber of Rogue Captain Sig’s Northwestern Ale (yes, Deadliest Catch fans, THAT Sig). Besides a cool bottle with Sig’s mug on it, it’s a tasty brew that I’m going to have to seek out on my next beer run.

Andrew took advantage of the ability to do a beer flight of any five of their tap beers and was kind enough to share. The picks included a New Belgium that was just too much on the bile side of sour for me and the highly regarded Goose Island Night Stalker that lived up to the hype. The rest fell in between and I’d love to tell you what they were however although their food menu has improved and they’re getting better about keeping their on line beer menu up to date, it’s still not usually current so I can’t rely on that, nor my memory.

So if you like cheese and good beer, get over to Buster’s. But if you go, go early as this joint is tiny and now that the weather has turned the patio is closed so seating is at a premium many nights.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beer Fridge Update

I don’t think I’m drinking enough. Either that or I’m buying too much. Regardless of the reason for the imbalance, the result is a beer fridge that is getting pretty full. Not that I’m necessarily complaining. I mean really, when your fridge is full of this much good stuff it would be an offense to the beer gods to complain.

Some of the recent additions:
- A growler of Vine Park Mulligan IPA, courtesy of Mag. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any Vine Park (and it still makes me sad that the former incarnation as a brewpub is but a memory) so I’m quite looking forward to cracking this open. While not quite a wet hop, locally grown Cascade hops were used so I’ll be interested to see how this comes out on the hop spectrum.
- Two growlers procured on a recent trip north: Wildfire Lager and XXX English Ale from Fitger’s. Now if you’ve done much drinking with me you know I’m not a lager fan, but when you spice it up like this (with Hatch chilies) you’ll peak my interest. The XXX falls completely on the other end of the spectrum and should be a nice session beer.
- A growler of Great Water’s Giant Star. A couple weeks ago I’d stopped into Great Waters and found out that Giant Star would soon be making its return. I recalled that I had enjoyed it before but hadn’t recalled just how much I’d enjoyed it. After a goblet of it, there was no way I was leaving without a growler full of it (good thing I made it there on a Saturday).
- Founders Cerise is not a stranger to the fridge but it had been absent until my local Cellars was able to get a super good price from the distributor. The result: a near hording of this lovely brew.
- Also from Founders, Dry Hopped Pale Ale. I don’t know much about this brew other than it’s from a brewery that doesn’t seem to make a bad beer and I’ve not had it before.
- Finally, from another sure bet brewery, Dark Horse, Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock. When I heard Cellars had gotten this in stock I thought it sounded familiar but once I saw the label I knew I’d had it before. I mean really, how many two headed, winged creatures are out there gracing bottles of beer?

It looks like I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Too bad there’s that silly little thing called work…

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Ok, be honest, did you know that Schell's cans any of their beer (and no, Grain Belt doesn't count)? I don't have any problem admitting that I had no idea.

So I've heard that you should learn one new thing every day. I've also heard that alcohol consumption can help ward off Alzheimer's. Combine my new found knowledge that Schell's puts at least Fire Brick, if nothing else, in cans on top of its disease fighting properties and it looks like I'm starting off the week on a good note.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Head for the Hops

Last night we made it to Al’s place for, apologetically, the first time but already the third weekend of the 20th Anniversary celebrations. This weekend: Hop Heads Only.

Of the 14 beers I can confidently say I’ve had five of them before, possibly a couple more. Taking advantage of the three 4-ounce pours for $7, it was pretty easy to make it through the list. In the first round I opted for some of the lower ABVs and ended up with Steam Works The Conductor Imperial IPA, Boulder Flashback India Brown Ale and Left Hand Warrior IPA. The IBA hit me as a bit too sweet, The Conductor a bit too malty but the Warrior, right on the mark – num, num hops!

Mag took the lead ordering the second round, choosing Poperings Hommel Bier, Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale and Eel River Organic IPA. No surprise, the Poperings being a Belgian was not for me at all but the next two surprised me. I’m not shy about saying I’m generally not a fan of the Flying Dog stable of beers but this one, this one was pretty darn good! And the Eel River, well, I was hoping for more as I’ve enjoyed the couple of other beers of theirs I’ve had before but this one I found to be too floral for my liking.

In the final round Mag picked Urthel Hop-It, Avery The Maharaja Imperial IPA and after a bit of haggling, agreed to include Moylan’s Hopsickle for me in exchange for most of the pint of Surly Wet. Having had the Urthel in Al’s Battle of the Belg Part I, I had no need to try this Belgian again. The Maharaja was good, but a little strong on the alcohol at 10.24%, and the Hopsickle was nicely hoppy but sweeter than I was hoping, probably in part due to its 9.2%.

All in all, a nice evening of sampling with friends and a great bartender who always makes sure the beer geeks are properly taken care of.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday Night

Not much of an inspired title, huh? Really though, keep reading.

After going out Thursday night to the Angry Hippie release at Rock Bottom (which is quite a nice beer, but the service, seriously?!?), we decided to stay in last night. The weather wasn’t exactly conducive to traipsing around, so cold out that I finally broke down and turned the heat on, in part due to the prediction of SNOW overnight. Staying in can be as good as going out sometimes, especially when you invite your fellow beer lovers over.

On Thursday I stopped over at my local Cellars and picked up three beers I’ve been hearing good things about: Founder’s Harvest, Goose Island Sophie and Boulevard Saison, hailing from MI, IL and KS respectively, made for a nice Midwest lineup. With the latter two being bombers, or thereabouts, having Kat and Scott over was the perfect time to test them out. The Boulevard Saison was good, certainly no regrets about picking it up, but Sophie really shined.

Sophie is a limited release from Goose Island and with the tiny bubbles and pale honey color, is reminiscent of champagne. Not a Belgian Saison fan myself, those characteristics of it were mild enough for me to really enjoy this one. According to Goose Island, this beer is supposed to pair well with brie, so the additional bottles I’m planning to pick up today might have to be paired up the next time around.

Founder’s Harvest, which I initially and incorrectly assumed was their version of an Oktoberfest, is in fact a wet hop. Mark insisted that I could not leave the store without buying it and he was right. It’s listed at 70 IBU’s but tastes hoppier and man, does it make my hop loving mouth happy.

A great night all around, including the brats, spicy eggplant stir-fry Kat was kind enough to cook up and the bottle of Fallen Apple (Furthermore), my first of the season, courtesy of the McG’s stash.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Does John Henry have any brothers?

I first had Cold Spring’s John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale at Indulge in June. This was the first thing I’ve ever enjoyed that came out of Cold Spring and it’s been stuck in the back of my mind ever since. I guess in part because it is such a good brew and in part because I just can’t reconcile Cold Spring with a beer of this caliber.

Here we tend to go by the old rule everyone’s mom drilled into them: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. So I don’t want this to come across as saying something not nice. Instead, I’d prefer to think of it as a bit of a challenge to the brewers at Cold Spring. With John Henry, you’ve proven that you can make an absolutely incredible beer. I challenge you to do it again…and again.

I enjoyed it in June, but now that the weather has most definitely turned, I’m enjoying it even more. At 9.1% ABV this is a sipper to be sure, one that fills the nose with aroma, coats the mouth with flavor and leaves a pleasant, lingering aftertaste until you lift the glass again and enjoy the next sip.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

These Hops Are MINE, Not Yours!!!

Kris and I read a Strib story today, "Ethanol Industry Solves New Problem With An Old Remedy," that sent an uncomfortable shiver up our spines. The short-version is that ethanol producers have recently begun adding hops to their production processes to help cut back on bacteria in the saleable by-products. Great. So what are the implications?

I think the ethanol industry in the U.S., in its current form, is a sham. Corn-based ethanol production is not an efficient process (in terms of energy use) and the only way ethanol can compete from a price perspective is with major government subsidies. And besides, Americans like supporting American farmers, even if the support is illogical, non-competitive and a bad idea in the long-term. Government (or political) support is pork-barrel in nature and is driving dramatic spikes in demand that are mostly fabricated and not sustainable. So now, in classic American-agrarian fashion, too many producers will jump into the market, over-build plants, over-produce ethanol. This will drive prices for corn, and now hops, up and will cause short-term shortages and cause more volatility in the respective markets (oh yeah, it'll also cause producers of corn and hops to think, "Hey, we should produce more too!") .

Then, of course, the pendulum will swing the other way and no one will be able to make money at ethanol and a bunch of plants will shutter their doors, causing a precipitous drop in demand for corn and hops, thus causing prices to drop and for corn and hop producers to lose their shirts and go out of business. In the meantime, all this volatility will make it hard for brewers to get a hop supply (and possibly barley too, as we've already seen some impact of ethanol production causing farmers to shift their efforts towards corn and away from barley) at a consistent or predictable price. To further exacerbate this problem, a bunch of douche-bag finance guys will decide to make a living off the price/quantity volatility, causing further problems to the market with their speculative trading and margin-taking.

So, in short, this use of hops could have an impact on hop supply and demand (and thus prices) and could ultimately on the quality of the craft beer I drink (I've skipped a few linkages here). I guess that if I felt U.S. corn-based ethanol production were really a viable fuel additive (in terms of pollution, cost, sustainability, etc.), I could live with this. But what really chaps my butt is that we could see some major changes to the hop industry (many for the worse) in support of a industry whose benefits are suspect.

Man I'm a cranky tool.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Victory Wild Devil

A few weeks back I picked up a bottle of Victory Wild Devil and it’s been patiently sitting in the beer fridge waiting to be uncorked. It almost happened a week ago, but we ended up going out for beers instead of staying in so it went from “on deck” (aka in the fridge in the house) back out to the beer fridge in the garage.

On Saturday at ABR I had a chance to try Victory Wild Devil on tap and I mentioned to the guy that I had been looking forward to the bottle I had of it at home. Quite surprisingly he told me it was much better in the bottle than in the keg. Seriously, this is the first time I’ve heard this. Usually it’s the other way around.

So after sleeping off ABR it was the first football Sunday of the year and we had plans to watch the game with some friends. As we were packing up beer I made sure the Wild Devil went along since the taste of the kegged version was relatively fresh in my mind.

Upon arrival, with Mag’s help, the Devil was uncorked. Highly carbonated, only about ¼ of a glass could be poured no matter how gently I tried to ease it down the side. Then the waiting began as the huge head slowly began to recede and I was able to get my first taste. And you know what? The guy from ABR was completely right. The brett was only faintly detectable in the keg but took a nice front row seat in the bottle. According to Victory’s website, they brew this year round so I’m looking forward to having more.

Monday, September 14, 2009

ABR 2009

I did something at this year’s Autumn Brew Review that I’ve never done at a beer festival before. I voted for my favorite beer.

Usually I just get too caught up in talking to friends, talking to the brewers, making sure to try all the beers that are new, making it to a couple of the special releases. This year however I tore the ballot out of the program and stuck it in my pocket. So in the end it was a matter of sticking my hand in my pocket a few times, feeling the paper and remembering I should vote.

If you’re wondering which one I wrote down, it was Great Water’s Zauer Brown. Like a couple of their special beers from Winterfest, I’m pretty sure this beer falls into only two categories for people: YUM! or ish. However, like those Winterfest concoctions I enjoyed, I’m pretty sure this beer is just a memory now. That is unless I can figure out which direction to turn Bob’s arm to get him to make some more.

Besides Zauer Brown, I really enjoyed Surly’s Jesus Juice (and what a great name!), Ommegang Rouge (of course), Victory’s Yakima Dark IPA, and of course those very tasty malted milk balls Bell’s had at their booth.

At long last, since I drug my feet last year, I was finally able to try Furthermore’s Thermo Refur. Beets, who woulda thunk it? But if anyone could pull it off, it’s Aran and Chris.

Kudos to Lift Bridge for both Chestnut Hill and Chai Girl. Kimono Girl is still my favorite "special" beer from them but Chai Girl gives her a pretty good run for the money.

And finally, it was great to be able to try something out of Dave’s Brew Farm. I can’t wait to see what he has coming in the future.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A (Long) Weekend in Beers

As you can see from my last post, my Labor Day weekend started off with a half day of work Friday and lunch over at the Blue Door. I've been even more of a fan of Founders since we visited them in Grand Rapids and their Red Rye was exactly what I was craving that afternoon so didn’t venture into some of the other great stuff they had on tap.

That night we headed over to the Blue Nile for Al’s Battle of the Belg, Part I. I freely admit that Belgians are not my beers of choice and had anyone, really anyone else been having this event I probably wouldn’t have gone. But Al always does such a great job with his special events for us beer geeks that I couldn’t not go.

Between Mag and I going the (3) 4-oz for $8 route we made it through nearly everything. This is where I am happy to report that I had a lot of great beers! This would be no news to anyone who enjoys Belgians but it was a revelation for me. I went into the evening with the same mindset that I do at beer festivals and that is, “well, I might as well try it now and if I don’t like it, no big deal but there are few chances to taste things I would avoid if I had to order a full pint of it.” My descriptions aren’t very good but my clear favorite of the night was Ommegang Rouge. Ommegang, you need to bottle this ambrosia!

Saturday I was mostly on my own as Mag was out at the Ren Fest doing judging for the homebrewers. I had intended to make it up to Town Hall for pint club but the day got away from me. In the end I did make it up there, but first made a return visit to the Blue Nile with Kat and Scott for, yep, you guessed it, more Rouge. While there wasn’t anything that really caught my eye at Town Hall I knew I couldn’t go wrong with more of their Traditional.

Sunday was the day we had picked to hit the Ren Fest this year and while you can’t expect super beers out there we were hoping for some Flat Earth. Turns out as they were pouring the first one we ordered the keg blew. After making the full rounds and determining none of the other stands had any either, I made do with Schell’s (Oktoberfest, Pale and Stout) as well as a couple glasses of mead. My long weekend was very much enjoyed, beerwise and otherwise…hope yours was, too!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Life is good today

Office closed at noon...a beautiful afternoon...lunch at The Blue is good today.So many good beer choices but it was Founders Red Rye that won out today.So many good burger choices but it was the Merriam Park that won out today.

And to top it all off, our dear waitress brought us a tasting of their newest menu item - Pie Bites. They look similar to Spam bites from the outside but are a wonderful, creamy, sweet battered and deep fried cheesecake ball served with sides of chocolate and strawberry for dipping. is good today.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Hops are Mine

While it's not always appropriate to have a beer in hand, I now always will have hops on leg, courtesy of Miles over at Steady Tattoo.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Social Networking Confusion

I constantly struggle with finding the best way to stay on top of goings-on. I like to know what my friends are doing, I like to know what's going on around town, I like to know what various breweries and brewpubs are doing, and so on. I've got about 329874932874 tools available to do this...and that's the problem. For all the tools we have available to simplify this kind of stuff, it seems to have gotten more complicated. If I'm looking for information to post to MNBeer or for my own interest, do I check websites and homepages or wait for e-mail blasts or do I look to Facebook or MySpace or, or, or or do I check out Twitter or do I go to BeerAdvocate or, or, or maybe I should send out e-mails or maybe I should just visit these places or, or, or maybe I should pray or maybe I should slit my wrist. Aaaaiiieeee, I feel so insignificant!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brewing, Growing...It's All Good

Today I was in Barley John’s neck of the woods and since that’s not something I can say very often I felt obliged to stop in, say hi and grab a growler. (It would have been a perfect day to grab a pint and enjoy their patio, too, however I resisted the temptation to do what I wanted to do and instead do what I knew I should do.)

As I walked in the door, the windows between the brewery and the vestibule were all full of condensation and since the awful heat and humidity of the weekend was behind us that could only mean one thing: brewing! Sure enough, even before my hand reached the inner door the wonderful, wet, grainy smell of brewing wafted to my nose. Heaven, pure heaven.

I probably wasn’t inside more than five minutes to get my growler filled (with Stockyard IPA) and pay. Reluctantly, I headed out with my jug 'o goodness but before I completely departed I took in the hop vines that are going to town as well as the garden. It’s a beautiful site to see so much green and growing on this strange, triangular patch of asphalt Barley John’s calls home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Bottle of Beer I Couldn't Buy

One beer I couldn’t buy yesterday at The Cellars has been rumbling around in my head, apparently, for over a day. But it didn’t speak up until this afternoon as I was contemplating dinner.

Driving in to Minneapolis the subject of dinner came to mind and at some point it wasn’t a matter of if I was going to stop somewhere, but where I would stop. Round and round I traveled the options in my head finally narrowing it down to three: The Blue Door, Birchwood Café and Ngon Vietnamese Bistro.

The Jiffy Burger at The Blue Door is amazing, they have mostly if not all local taps and of the three, it’s the one it’s the longest time since I’ve been to. Birchwood Café makes a killer Thousand Hills burger as part of their beer & burger special on Sunday nights and although they only have a couple of taps they supplement that with cans or bottles, all of which are local.

Then there’s Ngon, which doesn’t have any hamburger option. And I wasn’t all that sure I was really in the mood for Vietnamese. That being said, I’ve never had anything there that wasn’t stellar. Plus, they have a beautiful, serene patio and according to Brad, currently have Minnesota Tan on tap. That ended up sealing the deal in my mind. No surprise, both the #32 and the Minnesota Tan hit the spot.

Beer Buy

While it never takes much prodding to get me to head to the liquor store, yesterday there was a one, two punch encouraging me. First, Lift Bridge (specifically Brad and his lovely wife) was doing a tasting at The Cellars located less than a mile from my house. Second, an email from Jason over there letting me know that among other things, Crème Brulee was back in stock.

After working up the motivation to head out into the hot, steamy out of doors I made my way over there. I had a nice chat with Brad, which included hearing about the previous night’s Brew at the Zoo (it was sold out AND I’m told was a pretty good event). Then I made my way back to see all of the new things that had arrived since my last visit. Mark pointed out a few not to be passed over things and warned me away from a couple he knew would not be to my liking.

I’m not sure how long I was there, but like usual, it was probably a really long time to spend staring so intently at bottles of beer. In the end, I made out with 5 bombers, 1 single and a 6 pack of Lift Bridge Farm Girl.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Great Taste: Kris Says...

I’m happy to report that I can tell you what my first two beers of the fest were (Piece IPA, followed by Surly Bourbon One). What I can’t tell you however is what some of my last beers were. But, such is the way of beer fests.

I’m also happy to say that although there were a lot of beers I realized I had missed upon opening up my cheat sheet the following morning, I tried a lot of new things and enjoyed nearly all of them. One category that there seemed to be quite a lot offered in, and I partook in, was that of the meads and ciders. White Winter is a pretty standard player at beer fests and I know Aeppeltreow Winery has been at the Great Taste in years past. B. Nektar Meadery, however, is newer and Dragonmead Brewery for the first year brought a mead along with their beer, which turned out to be a grape mead (pyment). It was amazing, but at 13% + this one could really knock you out. The pear was my favorite from Aeppeltreow and the vanilla-cinnamon from B. Nektar was surprisingly well balanced (plus, they had some super cool black girly tanks!). White Winter always makes a quality product but compared to the others they were a bit stingy on the samples.

To balance out my sweet tooth I also had plenty of IPAs including Lake Louie’s Kiss the Lips and Emmett’s Jaw Jack. Both gave me the hop fix I was looking for.

I’ve been coming around to the sour beers so couldn’t resist trying Lakefront’s Rosie (on completely the other end of the world from locally loved Barley John’s Rosie) and Jolly Pumpkin’s Roja Du Kriek. Their tables were nearly next to one another so I was able to do a head to head tasting and although Rosie is a lambic-kriek hybrid, it still put Roja to shame. There was a clear difference in quality although Roja was certainly a prettier girl. Looks aren’t everything!

With only a few exceptions, I steered clear of the Minnesota breweries. It's not because they don’t produce a quality product but because I’m lucky enough to get them on a regular basis. Instead I tried to focus on things that at best I can find at quality beer bars or during a run across the river to Hudson, at worst, things I likely won’t be tasting again until the next Great Taste.

Sitting in the rain for 1 ½ hours and sweating my ta-tas off aside, it was again another great Great Taste that I’m thrilled I was able to go to. Thank you, Beer Gods, and please remember me again next year.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Oh, the anticipation!

In less than 24 hours we’ll be making our way to Madison and in just slightly over 48 hours that which is the Great Taste will be underway. And I’m just giddy in anticipation!

Since the start of the week I’ve been rabidly checking the MHTG website for the program to be posted. Almost as a tease, they posted a combo map/listing of brewers Monday. That didn’t do much to scratch the itch so back I went again and again until mid-day Wednesday when the program appeared.

Being the geek I am, I had to sacrifice a few tree limbs and print the darn thing out. I’ve already given it an initial once over and later today I’ll be going back with a more detailed eye, already mapping out who I should hit first, who I want to make sure not to miss and who has said they will be doing special releases. Of course, as brewers are wont to do, some offerings will change and there will likely be plenty more special releases brightly written on chalk/white boards at the event.

Although the weather forecast (93 degrees!, are you kidding me?) has put a bit of a damper on my excitement it has also fueled the planner in me to try to figure out ways to mitigate the heat. The last couple years the weather has been pretty good, but there was one a few years back that was sweltering and we ended up leaving early, staggering back to our hotel. With any luck, some bit of self control and proper planning, will reduce the chances of that happening again. But really, the weather is secondary; THE GREAT TASTE IS ALMOST HERE!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


An impromptu stop at Stub & Herb’s yesterday yielded one of the most difficult menu decisions in a long time, especially considering we’re in the midst of high wheat beer season. Perusing their beer list I could only find a couple of brews I immediately discounted, put some of others into the “had and would enjoy having again” category, but found plenty “new” ones I was interested in.

The most intriguing one was from Dark Horse, which if you read about our trip to Michigan over Memorial Day, you’ll know is highly regarded by this beer drinker. Since the name, Rod “the boner beer”, didn’t give anything away as to the style I asked the bartender. He didn’t know much about it either but happily brought me a sample and filled me in on the name. Apparently the beer is brewed with some herbs that are considered aphrodisiacs. Upon tasting it, I found it to be watery and lacking much flavor at all. Oh well, there were plenty more to choose from.

This then led to my order of Founders Centennial IPA, again another great stop during our time in Michigan. Sporting a light amber color, it lacked much in the way of aroma, but the flavor offered enough hoppy b.o.-ness to be quite enjoyable.

Once the last of the IPA had made its way from the glass to my mouth, I went for one of my favorite coffee beers, Furthermore’s Oscura. A really fine beer in its own right, it also turned out to be a very complimentary follower to the IPA. The end of the pint of Oscura also brought an end to my menu deliberations at Sturb’s for the day as there were other afternoon obligations calling.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not one new beer

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lift Bridge + Ngon = Yummy Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Making Beer Suicides

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ten Fidy

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

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

Monday, July 13, 2009

Aww, Who Broke the Chatterbox?

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to Al

Happy Birthday to Al, Happy Birthday to Aaaaallllll, Happy Birthday to you!

Where else do you go to celebrate someone else's birthday and they give you gifts? Like Darkness on tap. Or a firkin of tea bagged Furious with Amarillo hops. And there's a bag pipper playing "Happy Birthday." Damn cool!

Thanks, Al! You deserve a most excellent birthday.

Monday, June 29, 2009

St. Paul Summer Beer Fest

Sunday’s St. Paul Summer Beer Fest capped off a month that has been chock full of beer events. Like last Saturday’s Indulge, this was the first go around for this festival. I’m pleased to say that other than two minor items they did a fantastic job. And it certainly didn’t hurt that it was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside at a beer fest, especially after the HOT weather we’ve been slogging through.

I’ll go ahead and get the two minor stumbles out of the way first.
#1 Apparently someone forgot to tell the organizers that us beer geeks are rabid about quick entry into festivals so the best way to appease us is to send two person teams down the line. One does the requisite ID check while the other tears tickets and applies wrist bands. A simple fix.

#2 While it was good to have water stations with dump buckets out in the center of the festival area, it’s also a super duper idea to have pitchers of water at each table. It kind of makes for an annoying disturbance to have to head to the middle between each sample. Again, a simple fix.

Now that’s out of the way, on to the good parts, in no particular order.
#1 Lots of places have good and/or easily recognizable tap handles. But then there’s a few that have really cool ones. Winner of “really cool ones” yesterday goes to Magic Hat.
#2 As I mentioned above in the first #2, water is an important feature at a beer fest. And no one took better care of folks yesterday than Barley John’s. Check this out! (picture courtesy of Cal)
#3 Crispin, which I was introduced to at Indulge, had a competitor this week. While I think Crispin makes a better product, Original Sin has some excellent artwork. Too bad they were only selling posters and not shirts. Hint, hint guys!!

#4 After enjoying seeing Chris at every event Furthermore has put on or been a part of, at long last I got to meet Aran!

#5 On a similar note, it was good to see Trevor, newest member and formerly mystery Beer Ninja, of Lift Bridge.

Two notable missing participants were Cold Spring and Great Waters. I’ll own up to not being a particular fan of Cold Spring in the past, but after having had their absolutely outstanding John Henry last week I was hoping to see them again and have some more of that beer. I didn’t get the skinny on why Great Waters wasn’t there, but did get to see half the team as Joel was helping out the Town Hall folks. Isn’t it great when we can play together nicely?

Overall, it was a great time and I look forward to this being an annual event on my beer calendar.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What a Beautiful Night

After a pretty warm day the evening turned out to be beautiful. Beautiful to sit outside, enjoy a well made fruit beer and a cigar.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tonight, a Three Way

A three way battle that is. After the fun we had with last week’s head to head battle of the coffee beers, this week we raided the beer fridge for IPAs.

The contenders tonight were Central Waters Glacial Trail IPA from our neighbor to the east, Wisconsin, Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA out of Ohio and Stone’s simply named, IPA, making the trip from California.

Pouring the beers, Stone had the best head with full, small bubbles that stuck around. All to start with were difficult to coax a decent aroma out of but improved, as expected, as they warmed.

Central Waters took the cake for a very nice mouthfeel, that while not typical of an IPA, made for a very easy drinker. The up front taste was caramely sweet with a full tongue bitterness. Apparently they’re somewhat secret over there in Amherst, WI, keeping both the ABV and the IBUs a secret.

Commodore Perry, a two time Gold Medal winner at the World Beer Championships, was very drinkable with a bitterness that was milder than one would expect from an IPA. A multidimensional beer, it does come into its own as it warms, with a brown sugar sweetness to balance out the 80 IBUs and 7.5% ABV.

Stone, “brewed with the good stuff” according to the bottle cap, was the most bitter on the tongue with a sharp hop aroma that comes out as it warms. Similar in IBUs and ABV (77 and 6.9% respectively) to Commodore Perry, this was the one with the most hops jumping out.

So what was the verdict, you ask. For me Central Waters was a bit too touchy-feely and Commodore Perry a little more sugary than I want in an IPA. I prefer to be roughed up a little bit when I’ve got an IPA in my hands and Stone delivered. Although this was a much more difficult tasting than with the coffee beers from last week, Mag agreed that Stone took top honors.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Indulge a.k.a. Eating and Drinking Oneself Silly

Last night's Indulge was the advent of a new beer experience in Minneapolis; beer and food pairing on a beer fest scale. The event was highly anticipated around this household and amongst our group of beer friends. The beers primarily consisted of familiar offerings, so there weren't too many to be had that one hadn't tasted before. But that's okay given that this was a pairing event. I think it was probably easier for folks to do their own pairings with mostly familiar beers. Here's our take on the event:

What Worked
  • Our friend Cal had a spot-on observation that there appeared to be a lot of beer education going on. We don't know if this was intentional or if it was a by-product of having an event not crammed wall-to-wall with people. Nonetheless, I took notice of many brewers, distributors and reps offering up unsolicited information about the beer they were serving and beer in general. I thought that was great and this seemed like an appropriate forum for doing so. I was annoyed a few times by chatty-cathys preventing me from getting a beer by blocking the station, but this the exception for the evening and not the norm.
  • Thanks Diana for pointing out the Magic Hat #9 paired with the the blueberry stilton. That was, by far, my favorite pairing of the evening. Kris was very happy with the cheese pairings overall (Lefthand's JuJu Ginger with the mango cheese and Goose Island's Matilda with brie) well as with the moonpie-thingy (cake cookies with cream) pairings. Based on my conversations with folks, I'd say that damn moonpie-thingy and its beer pairings were very well received.
  • There was ample food, ample beer, water for rinsing at each beer station, plenty of room to move around, etc. AND, there was no music (live or otherwise). I loved that. I had no problems conversing with folks throughout the evening, except for having to compete with the hubub of the crowd. I'd rather be able to chat with folks than have to listen to overly-loud music that I don't care for.
  • Lots-o-cleavage! It was everywhere and it was great!!! Unfortunately, I couldn't get anyone to pair their cleavage with the caramelized bacon. Meh, next time.
What Didn't Work
  • Each food item had a card by it listing what beers would work well with it and each beer station had a sheet of paper stating what food was paired with it. That was great, but I don't think it was enough. The problem was that after getting some food, you really couldn't remember what beer pairings were suggested. It worked if you only took an item or a beer at a time and sought out one of its suggested pairings. And with already holding a book, a plate and a tasting glass, it wasn't feasible to jot down the pairings to seek out. Maybe a piece of paper or two with the pairings would have worked, but maybe not. I guess there probably isn't an ideal way to address this problem unless humans begin growing a third arm or something.
  • Kris was a little disappointed in the food and, most especially, how it was set up. There were two rows of food situated between three rows of beer stations. Kris felt that having the food placed by the breweries would have been better from a pairing perspective, but I think that would have been a logistical challenge (although it would have helped with the issue in the previous bullet). In her opinion, the simpler food items (cheese, bacon, etc.) were good and worked well with the pairings but the more complex dishes were a bit lacking. But when you're trying to serve food to 500 people, I can see the challenge. My big issue with the food was the black been pate and the scallop dish served in these little plastic spoon deals. I couldn't get the pate out of the damn spoon without going at like a dog with a bone (lots of licking, gnawing and ass sniffing).
  • It might have been better to have had more of the tall tables scattered throughout. It was very hard juggling a plate, a beer, a book, a pencil, a camera and cleavage at the same time. Heck, Kris' hand is a bit sore this morning from juggling these items. My hands aren't sore, but I guess I've got a bit more practice in juggling stuff.
Overall, Indulge was a great event. We both had a really good time and I think most, if not all, of our friends did as well. I look forward to this event in the future, especially if there will be more cleavage. Did I mention the cleavage?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Equal Opportunity Drinking

After being proud members of Town Hall’s Pint Club for about a year and a half, we just became members #4 and #5 of Great Waters’ version. Theirs is the MBA, Master of Beer Appreciation, and works a bit differently than Town Hall’s but I think equally as good.

Joining us in the top twenty were Lori & Paul (#1 & #2), Steve, Scott (who kindly also picked up memberships for Kat & JD) and Cal (he came a bit later so he didn’t get to be in the picture).

Now we have one more reason to slack off on the weekends, spending time at a pub drinking mighty fine beer, likely in the company of some mighty fine friends!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Coffee and Beer

I love coffee. I really love coffee in my beer. And these days it seems like I have more choices than ever for coffee beers.

Not long ago most coffee beers were stouts or porters. These were big, thick beers suited for cold weather drinking and they were delicious. Now, though brewers seem to be branching out, experimenting by pairing coffee with other styles of beers, many of which are well suited for warmer weather.

One of the locals, Furthermore’s Oscura, has just come back on the shelves and it prompted me to do a mini head to head taste testing of some of the readily available bottled or canned coffee beers.

Mag and I sat down tonight with Oscura, Surly’s Coffee Bender, Flat Earth’s Black Helicopter and out of Portland, Maine, Peak Organic Espresso Amber. On any given day I’d be happy to drink any of these but having not had any of them in the same sitting, it was time to taste test them against one another to really tease out what characteristics of each spoke to me.
Both Coffee Bender (5.1% ABV) and Black Helicopter (5.2% ABV) were light on the tongue, finishing clean, with Black Helicopter having a bit more bitterness and smelling the most like a beer.

Espresso Amber (6.8% ABV) and Oscura (5.3% ABV) were surprisingly similar in light amber color with Espresso Amber having the strongest coffee aroma, like a cold espresso. They were more full bodied than Bender and Heli with Oscura taking the cake with its silky smooth mouthfeel, the result of the flaked maize.

From oatmeal brown to stout to amber to Mexican brown, these are all wonderfully made, easy drinking coffee beers. Tonight, however the Sconie beat out its Minnesota and East Coast competition.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Got an extra $720,000?

That you would like to use to purchase my Beer Bank for me? No, not a loan. More like a generous gift. Anonymous donations welcomed.

In case you’re not an avid reader (and why not?) you might be slightly confused. To clear it up, check out my earlier dreams for this former bank that’s for sale.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

They're Heeeerrrrreeee!!!

Praise be to the Beer Gods for once again shining their favor upon me. Glorious Beer Gods, in your honor I shall kill 10 bulls and sacrifice 2 virgins. Or, a happy dance and then drink some really good beer.