Today The Session is brought to us by Beer and Firkins, posing the question: What will I miss from 2008 and what will I excitedly await in 2009? Though this is a quite broad question that I’m sure everyone will respond to differently I know what I will miss the most from 2008 is growlers from Surly Brewing in good ole’ Minnesota. Though I love my state and its breweries we have the unfortunate problem of being stuck in a state that seems to have forgotten that “blue laws” are a thing of the past, that is for those who don’t know laws that were traditionally created to appease the church and the thought that beer should not be consumed on Sunday because you should be in church! Though these laws aren’t restricted to Sundays it is a common term used to describe limitations in liquor laws. Though I have nothing against spirituality I’m sure you can realize how many of these laws are outdated and simply not helpful. Though it is unfortunate that we can not buy beer on Sundays in our fine state I can handle it, what I can’t is the other hoops and complications the force breweries to deal with, limiting their business potential, costing them more of their hard labor and money and more humorously reducing the amount of tax revenue our state is able to generate. Though all of the laws limiting what breweries/brewpubs can and can not do bother me, such as the fact that you can legally only operate one of the two and not both the current law I am here to complain about and fight against is breweries (and brewpubs for that matter) ability to off sell their products. We all (should) know that our liquor distribution systems are unnecessarily complex, but that as well is a rant for another time…so to get to the nitty gritty. In many states breweries and brewpubs alike are allowed to off sell to customers bottles of any size to patrons that wish to purchase their product and are of legal age. Sure they need a license but there’s just more incentive for the state. Our fine Surly Brewing how ever has dealt with many hurdles in their journey to off sell growlers to the community. After going through all of the work of getting the city of Brooklyn Center to approve the sale of growlers and having great success for just over the past 2 years the joyous Saturday mornings of cycling up to their brewery and carting home their beer are over. Minnesota State law 340A.301 allows for licenses to be granted to brewers who produce less than 3500 barrels a year. As it should be everyone loves Surly Brewing and has made them a great success continually forcing them to brew more beer and causing them this year to surpass the limit for licensing. To me this is a very silly and completely useless law, and according to Omar on the last Saturday of this year while waiting in line for their wonderful 16 Grit Imperial IPA will loose the state $20,000 in tax revenue (I assume he meant annually).Â Luckily the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild currently has a petition to help change these things and I will do everything I can to support them in their venture. On to the happier things. What I look forward to in 2009 aside from simply more beer is the trend of collaborative ales that has sprouted in 2008 and where others may take it. I am a fan of all things communal and beer is always better when shared so I say the more the merrier. There was Flying Dog’s Open Source Beer Project that created a Dopplebock, there will soon be a joint effort by Dogfish Head and Beer Advocate which is sure to be interesting though I doubt I will have the opportunity to make it down to Boston to sample it, and what we are here to try today the effort by Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing: Collaboration Not Litigation Ale. Though there are a few more I neglected to mention this ale in particular has a wonderful story. Brewers at both breweries happened to meat a number of years ago and learned they both were brewing ales called Salvation. With all the silly legal battles people are fitting in this day and age the two friends considered what to do and came up with the perfect solution, make a whole new beer additionally that comprised of both ales. So at the bar of Russian River the two sat down and found the perfect mix of the two very different but uniquely Belgian inspired ales, Avery’s being a Golden Ale and Russian Rivers being a Strong Dark Ale both packing a solid 9% ABV. The first batch was bottled in December of 2006 and the second batch which sits on my table was bottled February 2008 and uses a slightly different mix. The proceeds of these ales will go towards sending brewers from not only Avery and Russian River but Port Brewing, Dogfish Head, and Allagash Brewing on a trip to Belgium to see how they have been doing it for centuries in attempt to improve their own craft skills, talk about a good cause. Now on to the better stuff. This beer pours a dark pumpkin color that is a bit hazy though no sediment is apparent, allowing a bit of light to shine through the bottom of the glass in orange and red hues even if it is not particularly translucent. Head is a solid three fingers or more and crisp white in color lasting for a couple minutes. Aroma is quite nice, gentle fruit aromas are dominate with some slightly floral hints as well giving a bit of a kick to the otherwise sweet malty scent. They must have had a blast sampling different mixes of this ale as the flavors are very unique. Prunes, and other sweet pitted fruits are noticeable as well as more somewhat hoppy citrus flavors. This ale is packed with malty sweetness and is obviously influenced by Belgian brewing with an interesting yeast no doubt contributing some flavor as well as other nice caramel flavors from the malt.. This ale has a rather light body and a slightly sticky but incredibly smooth mouthfeel. Though there are many flavors in this beer the sweet malt flavors do a impeccable job hiding the 8.72% ABV. I had no idea what to expect the mixing of a golden ale and a dark ale would create but this is certainly a tasty brew and a nice American take on a Belgian concept as well as a wonderful approach to an interesting situation. Probably not an everyday beer but a great after meal desert ale. If you are a fan of Belgian inspired ales that are sweet and malty but are still not afraid to pack a punch this is a good choice. To note, the last third of this ale had a hazier and darker color no doubt from sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Very smooth and delicious stuff. Give it a shot and ride your bike.