January 8th, 2009 beckel
Though I tend to be partial to the American Craft Beer scene today we have an ale from Meantime Brewing located in the land of Greenwich, England. Though I know very little about this company seeing the elegant bottle on the shelves of The Four Firkins was enough to convince me to sample their wares as I tend to be of the opinion that anything that is stocked there is most likely worth your time to enjoy. After reading some of the website it seems the folk at Meantime have no goal greater than to create quality artisan brews for people to enjoy and I have nothing but a tip of the hat to that and a greater desire to drink their brews. Scotch Ales always intrigue me, in fact I just picked up some more Scotty Karate on the way home, so it will be very nice to see an English and presumably more traditional approach to the style. My first pour easily produced a good four fingers of a nice light chocolate color head, with all but a few millimeters fading in a couple minutes leaving some lacing around the glass. Though it wasn’t a particularly heavy pour we will have to see what the next glass yields as large bottles can create some interesting pours if one is not careful. When I first popped the cork I got a whiff of what smelt like wine and was a bit surprised but upon smelling it in the glass you get all kinds of nice aromas of plum, grape and other dark fruits as well as some rich maltiness some of which are likely lightly roasted. The color is quite dark and opaque with some reds and browns coming through when brought to light. The flavor of this ale is very interesting, figs, raisins and other dark fruits are dominate flowing into a nice smooth malt flavor that is a bit sweet but compliments the other flavors very nicely. Interestingly enough the second pour produces almost as much head as the first, very nice. Though not surprising because of the noticeable carbonation in the mouthfeel as well as a bit of stickiness. The body is medium but this beer goes down quite easily and the 8% ABV of this beer though not completely hidden is very nicely disguised by this flavorful ale. If you are a fan of pitted fruit tasting Belgian Ales you will enjoy this beer as that is what it reminds me of most. Though not at all what I expected, a nice ale that only inspires me further to see what else Meantime has to offer. Particularly their IPA and their original offering, Union. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
January 6th, 2009 beckel
So yesterday was another lovely tasting event at The Four Firkins with a nice gentleman named Tom from Tri-County Beverage & Supply pouring samples of 8 different Rogue Ales. Though I’ve been less mobile with all the snow on the ground and lazy about making the usually very enjoyable ride down the Greenway to The Four Firkins, I could not resist comming down when I heard they were doing a Rogue tasting. I have been a fan of Rogue for a number of years, ever since my roommate who lived in Portland, Oregon for a number of years shared some Dead Guy Ale with me, but have not had the opportunity to sample many of their ale’s as they tend to be a bit on the pricy side because 22oz bottles are what is most available in Minnesota. After a nice ride and a short treck through the snow due to an unplowed Greenway exit, I entered the rather crowded shop and proceded to the samples. Layed out infront of me were 7 220z bottles and one 750ml ceramic bottle from their XS Series all lined up in order from lightest to darkest to encourage proper sampling. Very pleased to see 6 ales I had never tried I jumped right into a sample of their Juniper Pale Ale. Tasty stuff, pale but with some nice flavors and a bit of hop bitterness rounded off with a unique kick from the juniper and perhaps the yeast strains. Though I went out of order and didn’t sample it until the end the Dead Guy Ale was tasty as always; simple, flavorful and incredibly drinkable. A wonderful ale for any nice spring day. Next in line was the Smoke Ale which was decent and certainly a very smoky ale in both aroma and flavor. One parton refered to it as tasting like smoked sausage and I have to say I agree, it would go lovely with a nice hearty breakfast of hickory smoked baccon, eggs and hashbrowns. Not as dark and heavy in body as Surly’s smoke but certainly more intense of a smoke flavor. Then came the Dry Hopped Saint Rogue Red Ale, Yummy. This was a delicious and wonderfully dry hopped red ale, reminding me more of an IPA. Hops cover this ale’s aroma and flavor wonderfully but is not overly bitter, provided you are used to hops, it is a wonderful example of what dry hopping can do to an ale and would be in my fridge right now if my bag weren’t already too full of ale and will undoubtably be properly reviewed sometime soon. Then comes the ale of the season; Santa’s Private Reserve which I expected to be a Stout but it actually a Red Ale. A good ale with some very nice smooth well rounded hop flavors, but a bit on the sweet side. Now we have the ale I was most currious about, Rogue’s Chipotle Ale. Peppers are noticable in the aroma but not overbearing. The flavor is incredibly unique, it tastes of peppers but is not particularly spicy, that is until the finish where you will get a nice spicy flavor in your throat and the back of the mouth, probably good for my sinuses. Not a beer I could drink too much of but certainly a courageous experiment and a small glass would likely compliment a less spicy meal nicely. Then came the beautiful ceramic 750ml bottle of Rogue’s Imperial India Pale Ale,though I have sampled this ale before and you can read my review here I couldn’t help but partake in some more and it was certainly enjoyed. Then comes the dark stuff in the form of Shakespeare Stout a wonderfully black and relatively rich brew. A relatively simple but creamy and nice stout that I wouldn’t mind trying more of in the future. Over all it was a very fun time as it is always satisfying to browse the beautiful wooden shelves full of marvelous brew and chat with other beer lovers that show up to sample the wares. Cheers to Alvey and Tom for hosting and hopefully I’ll see you there next time.
January 2nd, 2009 beckel
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.