June 25th, 2009 beckel
Ah yes, it has come the time to talk about the lovely craft beer and food pairing experiment known as Indulge. First off I would like to give a big thanks to John and all of the others who put their hard work into organizing a beer and food paring event of this stature in our grand city of Minneapolis.Though it was over 80 degrees outside on Saturday I put on some nice pants and a dress shirt and hopped on my bike and pedaled over to Town Hall for a few pint club pints and then over to Stub & Herbs to meet up with a number of friends before the event. Aside from the heat I was a bit concerned about the no bags directive present on the web page (“for security”) though not the tickets interestingly. So I managed to cram my camera in my pocket decided to not bother with the notebook, slapped my lock on my handlebars and found a small nylon backpack to tie to my top tube for transportation of my inevitable tasting glass at the end of the event. Sweat be damned it was going to work out.
This years event was hosted at the Radisson University Hotel and the space was nicely accommodating for the 200-300 people that attended with beer tables around the outside of the room and then two rows back to back in the middle of more brew and two identical food tables spaced evenly between the beer tables with few small tables in between for patrons to stand and further tables in the entrance room to sit and enjoy your pairings if you were to prefer a bit more comfort. Luckily I was with a big group so we were able to quickly squat a table near the head of the food table and went off to fill our plates in turn.
Upon approaching the food table you are greeted with an interesting mix of foods from caramelized bacon to curried nuts, lemon shrimp to bean pate with (andouille or was it chorizo) sausage, rich dark chocolate truffles to homemade moon pies and plenty of cheese. Next to each item was a card suggesting half a dozen plus brews to pair with your various treats. It was nice to see multiple pairings suggested but the format made it a bit difficult as I found myself constantly peering over the shoulders of people in line to confirm what brew I had to grab for next item I intended to consume on my full plate. One thing that I did appreciate is how much room was present in the brochure for food and beer tasting notes, it would have been a great place for them to print the suggested food pairings for quicker reference.
My favorite paring was the cherry tart with Two Brothers Domaine DuPage [review] the sweet and tart cherry flavors combined with the rich toasted malt and fermented fruit flavors was very enjoyable end absolutely enhanced the experience. My roommate really enjoyed Flat Earth’s Xanadu (orange infused Cygnus X-1 Porter) with the chocolate truffle. With all the food and beer choices it was almost a little overwhelming but worked out just right as I had already tried most beers available that night making the paring experience simpler and feeling less of a need to make it through every brew. A few brews I had not sampled before include Lift Bridge’s Minnesota Tan which won best of show and is one interesting Tripel infused with lingonberries that delivers a lovely sweet fruity flavor that is really quite delicious, well balanced and a solid 8.5% ABV. Another delicious ale was Sprecher’s Bourbon-Barrel Dopplebock which was full of incredibly rich malt sweetness and some serious Bourbon notes coming in at 9% ABV. The last beverage that I’ll mention isn’t a beer but is delicious none the less. Crispin’s Honey Crisp Cider brewed with honey that is local to the brewery in California creating a fuller bodied cider with some additional sweetness that is actually really quite enjoyable even though I tend to prefer their drier and less sweet Crispin Brut. Not only is the Honey Crisp tasty but it also steps up the ABV to 7.3%.
Over all Indulge was a really fun event with plenty of brew to go around and probably just about the right amount of food for the number of attendees. Obviously some things can be improved upon and learned from for next year particularly the best logistical way for people to get their food and beer pairings together and have adequate space for their food, drink, note pad, camera and whatever else they may need. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many well dressed beer geeks in all my life, see you guys there next year.
June 19th, 2009 beckel
Today before me I have what is sure to be a tasty brew from the folks of Nogne O from Norway. Two avid home brewers . For their 100th batch they decided to brew a Barleywine style ale and due to popular demand decided to make it commercially available. Pours a dark hue that appears black but turns into a reddish date hue when brought to light though it is incredibly opaque. This is one carbonated beer, upon opening it it was evident that this beer would need to be poured carefully. Even when poured at an angle this beer will easily create as much head as you allow it and some of the creamy light toffee colored head will last until you finish consuming the brew. Aroma is rather alcoholic though that is no surprise as it weighs in at 10% ABV. Further I notice dark pitted fruits but not much else due to the strong alcoholic presence. Flavor is very nice, full of dark fruits such as date and even something like grape and cherry as well as a nice creamy malty sweetness throughout and just a hint of bitterness in the finish. Alcohol is obvious but not overpowering like it is in the aroma. Mouthfeel is a quite creamy and enjoyable though the body is light for a Barleywine. The balance between dark pitted fruits and a distinct malty creaminess is very well done and provides for one delicious Barleywine. If you enjoy Barleywines at all I would highly recommend trying this brew if you can find it. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
June 17th, 2009 beckel
Today I have another brew that I was ever so excited to see on the shelves of The Four Firkins last Monday at their Flat Earth tasting (North West Passage rocks by the way) He’Brew’s Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. an IPA brewed with rye in honor of the “obscene” Jewish comedian Lenny Bruce. Upon reading about this brew on their website I was very curious about the concept of an offensively intense 10% ABV India Pale Ale brewed with some malted rye. So far I have been very pleased with the beers I have tried from He’Brew and from reading the solid list of hops contained in this brew (Warrior, Cascade, Simcoe, Crystal, Chinook, Amarillo, Centennial) I doubt I will be disappointed. This beer pours a somewhat dark flat red hue that looks a bit like sherry but is relatively translucent. If you allow it to this brew will easily produce 3 fingers or more of off white head that lasts for a number of minutes and leaves a bit of lacing once settled. Aroma has some nice hop bitterness, dark pitted fruits, a bit of malty sweetness, a good dose of rye and even more alcohol. The flavor of this brew is quite interesting. Citrus and bittering hops hit my tongue first followed by a smooth malty flavors of dark pitted fruits particularly date with rye throughout and decent amount of alcohol in the finish though I find the hops and some malty sweetness lingering in my mouth after swallowing. While I wouldn’t call this brew obscene it sure does have a lot going on yet has a pretty nice balance provided you don’t mind a bit of an alcohol punch and the additional bitterness that the rye adds on top of the hops. The body of this beer is medium and the mouthfeel is smooth for this malty of a brew. This is one tasty rye beer and it will be interesting to contrast it with the other rye beers I have recently purchased. If you are not afraid of large doses of hops and malt and don’t mind alcoholic brews you will likely enjoy this beer. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
June 16th, 2009 beckel
Today is a bit of a special post with a very special brew. I found this brew on the shelves of The Four Firkins months ago and though it was quite expensive I couldn’t pass it up. Paradox is a limited series ofÂ Imperial Stouts aged in various whiskey casks by the fine Scottish folk of Brew Dog. This particular bottle is part of batch 11 that was aged in a 1987 Macallan sherry cask and is the perfect brew to commemorate thisÂ website’s 1st anniversary which occurred on Saturday as the cask is of the year of my birth. I was unable to enjoy this brew on the proper anniversary as I had planned because I was out of town completing the MS150 charity ride for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Minnesota which was a blast. This beer pours a completely opaque mat black and produces just over a finger of attractive toffee colored head that remains for a few minutes. As usual this beer has been sitting out for quite some time, about an hour now and is just the right temperature to enjoy its complexities as the bottle encourages as I do not live in an igloo. Aroma is of subtle creme and toffee hints as well as more obvious coffee notes, a bit of roasted malt, a nice hint of sherry and a dose of strong but not overpowering alcohol. Flavor is complex. Flowing from sweeter malt flavors that create toffee and creamy hints to a robust sherry flavor with moderately alcoholic scotch notes finishing smoothly with roasted malts that linger in your mouth until the sherry comes back just in case you forgot about it. When swirling it in my glass the body of this beer appears quite heavy though it is not too hard to drink having a very clean and smooth mouthfeel. The more I drink this beer the more the sherry wood notes come through and the more the roasted malt becomes subdued, quite interesting. Because of the sherry and scotch notes of this brew you will probably be aware that what you are consuming is rather alcoholic and at 10% ABV this brew fits the bill though it is not over the top. I always enjoy seeing people experiment with brewing and this is definitely an interesting and tasty brew but for the price tag of over $10 for a 11.2 oz bottle it is doubtful that I will be experimenting with much more Paradox in the near future, that would be if I could find it (thank you distribution laws, limited production and shipping expenses). If you are looking for something fancy and are a fan of Imperial Stouts and oak aging I would encourage you to check out the Paradox series, if you can. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
June 9th, 2009 beckel
Though I have yet to take a single sip or even pour this brew I am confident saying that this brew is an example of why Mikkeller has been such a successful brewery in its short history. Only an adventurous soul would contemplate brewing a session beer (4.5% ABV) yet add Brettanomyces into the fermentation process. Mikkeller takes inspiration from American breweries who joyously experiment with their brews and are not afraid to challenge the palates of their consumers and is like wise trying to take its Danish fan base on a similar adventure (as well as those of us lucky enough to find their beers across the world). Upon pouring this beer it creates over three fingers of loose white head that very quickly starts to dissipate leaving you with no head in just under a minute aside from a very small amount of lacing around the edge. Color is a largely translucent crisp golden hue. As soon as I opened the bottle a rush a Brettanomyces tartness hit my nose and upon smelling it in a glass it is even more funky. Your typical horse blanket notes are even more musky than many brews creating an aroma similar to mustard seed and some sort of fungus hint. There is a bit of sweet malt in the aroma but it is difficult to isolate. Whoa. That was an interesting first sip. Going from some solid tart funk into a wheaty biscuit flavor mid palate. This is truly one of the strangest sour beers I have ever had, not because of its funk but because of its balance, which I am still trying to grasp. As I continue to drink the initial tartness declines a bit and becomes a really neat accent to the light but bready flavor of this beer. The body is light and the mouthfeel is smooth and clean yet the finish tastes just like a biscuit. The more I drink this beer the more I can see its sessionability as the distinctly sour and grain based flavors start to mesh creating a balance that I initially thought was a bit unpleasant but ends up smooth and really quite nice. If you are a fan of funky beers and English biscuits this is the beer for you. If not you will still probably find it intriguing and surprisingly enjoyable after drinking half the bottle as I have. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
June 8th, 2009 beckel
Though I am not one that is easily swayed by appearance I must start by saying everything about the presentation of this beer from bottling to pouring is lovely. I found a bottle of Two Brothers 2008 Bare Tree Barleywine Style Weiss Beer at The Four Firkins and couldn’t resist grabbing one of the beautifully decorated 12.7 oz bottles. The labeling is quite different than Two Brothers traditional labels but was designed marvelously even if it is a petite and somewhat spendy bottle. Apparently the Bare Tree was the first beer they brewed under their Artisan line of beers and as it is still being produced is likely to be tasty so lets get onto that part. The pour of this beer is truly marvelous with crisp white head forming on top of an attractive bright orange brew cascading delicately down the center as you pour and watch the head steadily swell from a few millimeters up to three fingers and dissipate slowly leaving but a thin ring around the glass. Color isn’t particularly hazy but it is very difficult to see through. Aroma has a nice wheat base as well as a bit of orange, herbal notes and yeast character similar to many Belgian brews. Flavors of slightly tart orange citrus, sweet malted wheat and some light fermented fruits such as apricot as well as many herbal notes that add some spice throughout and create a hint of bitterness in the finish. For anything like a Barleywine the body of this brew is very light and has a very smooth and clean mouthfeel. Though I feel it a bit I wouldn’t have guessed this to be a 11.5% ABV brew from its taste. Nicely done. If you are a fan of Belgian Style Ales of the high gravity variety and aren’t opposed to wheat this would be a dandy choice. Not your standard American Wheat Beer in any way but if you are a fan of those and looking for something more funky and adventurous this would be a worthy decision. This brew probably won’t be around for long so grab a bottle while you can. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
June 2nd, 2009 beckel
Today I have a very interesting beer I found on the shelves of The Four Firkins a few weeks ago. I knew nothing of this beer upon picking it up other than it was from Esen, Belgium and that it was a 9% ABV beer brewed with some funk. From reading their website the De Dolle Brouwers (The Crazy Brewers) appear to be a pair of creative and humble brothers who took the opportunity to take over their brewery from the previous owners when they decided to shut the doors in 1980 and have continued to brew some interesting craft beers including their Oerbier, or Original I have here before me. This beer is bottle conditioned and said to age well but lets get to drinking. Though It was obvious this would be a carbonated beer as soon as I opened the bottle. Pouring it creates a massive four finger bouquet of off white head with loose bubbles that dissipate relatively quickly creating quite a show. Color is a dark and hazy brown hue similar to a date and is completely opaque. Initially I get some gentle tartness and carbonation in the aroma as well as some grain. I am consuming this beer at just below room temperature as it has been sitting out for about 50 minutes and the flavors are quite interestingly subtle. A nice malt backbone with dark pited fruit hints is present providing some sweetness to contrast the interesting but not overpowering tartness and a bit of additional funk that would seem to come from the yeast used in this brew, though their website clarifies that “Since 2000 as the yeast supply ceased, we installed a new yeast propagator. The tart aftertaste is obtained by lactobacterial fermentation (since 2005).” so obviously that isn’t quite the case as lactic acid is used. The mouthfeel of this beer is very carbonated but clean. Body is on the light end of medium. Overall this is an interesting sour beer. Certainly the strongest I have ever consumed at 9% ABV as well as one of the most carbonated. Flavors are reasonably balanced between tart and fermented pitted fruits which certainly makes for an interesting beer. Not a mind blowing beer but a good example of some of the funkiness you can create with beer and something that wouldn’t be a bad choice to sample even in its small 33cl bottle. Give it a shot and ride your bike.