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Battle of the Beers VI: You Can’t Get This Here

April 28th, 2009 beckel

Yesterday was another lovely Battle of the Beers event at The Four Firkins hosted by Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint. This session consisted of a variety of beers that you can not get in Minnesota due to distribution issues and the limited availability of some of these ales. I have always had a good time at the few of these events I have attended but I was particularly excited for this one as I had never sampled any of the beers that we were going to partake in that evening. The night started with something familiar to all (I hope) of us, some Surly Bitter Brewer and a bit of Cynic Ale as we waited for all 30 guests to show up.

PatronsEnjoying Some Beer

The first round consisted of hoppy beers, Pliney the Elder from Russian River Brewing out of  Santa Rosa, California and Hop 15 from Port Brewing of San Marcos, California. I was particularly excited about Pliney and I am pleased to report it did not disappoint. It is one amazingly smooth citrusy Imperial IPA that will impress any fan of well balanced beers, with an 8% ABV it was the lightest beer on the menu for the night. Hop 15 on the other hand is not really balanced in the conventional sense. Strong bitter flavors are present as is some tartness but none of this is particularly surprising as they use 15 varieties of hops to brew this beer. With only a sample I don’t think I was able to get used to all of the complexities of this beer and though it is a bit intense I would be happy to try it again. In addition to flavors this beer also kicked it up a notch in ABV with 9.7% and a bit of warmth on the mouthfeel. Upon the first round of voting there was only one soul on the side of the Hop 15 and after hearing his argument for the beer’s complexity I decided to join him. Alas I was the only one converted so obviously Pliney the Elder was the winner of round one.

Pliney the Elder
Pliney the Elder Imperial IPA

Hop 15
Hop 15 Imperial IPA

Round two was Belgian beers starting with Damnation 23 from Russian River and Les Deux Brasseurs which is a collaborative brew from Allagash Brewing from Portland, Maine and De Proef Brouwerij from Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium. Damnation 23 was quite tasty, dry with apricot flavors and some nice bitterness and a decent amount of wood from the oak aging, at 10.5% ABV the scale continues to rise. Les Deux Brasseurs is brewed with two strains of brettanomyces and was simply delightful. This beer has such a variety of flavors I don’t know where to start, a bit bready with wonderful grain aromas as well as some tartness due to the brettanomyces yeast. Flavors were complex and multi dimensional including many light fruits, sour wild yeast flavors, many grains and a good does of hop bitterness that was a lovely compliment to the over all flavor. With a 8.5% ABV we’re getting a little lower than the competitor but it is still no beer to be taken lightly. Though the Damnation 23 was very tasty I had to give the Les Deux Brasseurs my vote as its complex flavor profiles made me want to drink it all night long. This decision was split better than the first but Les Deux Brasseurs was the obvious winner none the less.

Damnation 23
Damnation 23 Belgian Triple

Les Deux Brasseurs
Les Deux Brasseurs Belgian Strong Golden Ale

Last but not least we had some solid dark ales starting with Old Viscosity from Port Brewing and Serpent Stout from Port Brewing’s The Lost Abby Brewery. Old Viscosity was one interesting beer that Port declines to classify into a style category as it may look like a stout but has many characteristics of other styles such as Barleywine Old Ale and Porter so they are happy to just call it beer and hope you enjoy it, which I’m all for. It is one thick dark ale with many dark malt flavors from coffee to chocolate, a bit of wood and much more that I would be happy to pick apart if only I had a bottle to myself. Serpent Stout is also one well crafted brew that is as dark and thick as oil. Contrasting flavors of bitter coffee and sweet creme are complimented by some spiciness and a bit of dark fruit, I particularly noticed plum. Both of these beers came in at 10.5% ABV though the alcohol was a bit more noticeable in the Serpent Stout. Both of these beers were very tasty and I would enjoy revisiting both of them but I decided to vote for the Old Viscosity simply because I thought some of its flavors were more dimensional than the Serpent Stout though it was the hardest decision of the night. Again the crowd was a bit split but Serpent Stout was the clear winner.

Old Viscosity
Old Viscosity Specialty Ale

Serpent Stout
Serpent Stout Belgian Imperial Stout

So finally the time of the night came where we had to declare an over all winner. Unfortunately there was little beer left to revisit, but that is the way of limited availability imported beer. Though all three beers got a number of votes Pliney the Elder was the clear winner due to its drinkability. As the night wore on more beers were consumed and good conversations were had. Many thanks to Alvey for hosting and Michael for the insight and entertainment.

The Finalists
The Finalists

Tyranena Tasting @ The Four Firkins

March 19th, 2009 beckel

So Tuesday was amateur night, or sorry St. Patrick’s Day but more importantly it was an evening of free beer at The Four Firkins. Twas a wonderfully warm day in the mid 60′s and my t-shirt clad bike ride over to St. Louis Park couldn’t have been more lovely, I even ran into a few friendly hooligans on the Greenway who decided to join me on my quest for free beer. The good folks of Tyranena Brewing made their way from Lake Mills, Wisconsin to share some of their beer with us thirsty Minnesotans. The nice gal they sent over had a few interesting treats for us to try including their Scotch Ale which has yet to be bottled though it sounds like it may very well happen in the future, it was quite tasty, sweet and malty and not overly complex. Next I sampled the other growler they had which was apparently brewed by one of their assistant brewers who was moving over to another brewery and wanted to brew a beer before leaving, and a unique beer did he brew. Imperial Chipotle Porter is was called and it was pretty damn good. The pepper was noticeable but not intense at all, unlike Rogues Chipotle Ale and it featured some nice rich maltyness that made it a very enjoyable beer to drink. Next it was time to try the only other beer there I hadn’t sampled before their newest release from the Brewers Gone Wild Series, Paradise by the Dashboard Lights and Imperial Cherry Porter. The cherry flavor was very nice and subtle and the malts in this brew do a good job creating some enjoyable flavors though I initially found myself wanting a little something more. Throughout the evening I tryed many samples of the Paradise and I must say it continued to grow on me tempting me to buy some of it before it runs out. In addition to the specialties they also had all of their year round beers available to sample I particularly enjoyed the rich maltyness of Rocky’s Revenge and the simple crisp flavors of the Stone Tepee Pale Ale. You can see all of my Tyranena reviews here. After 8 Alvey decided to share some brews, opening up a bottle of Southern Tier’s Back Burner Barleywine.  A very tasty brew that I will get around to writing about one of these days. Thus far I’ve ended up buying three bottles because I keep drinking it when I don’t have time to write a review, though a bottle currently resides in my fridge for this very purpose. Next I was very pleased to see him popping open a bottle of Deus a Brut from Belgium that I had never had the opportunity to try.  Obviously it is a rather carbonated beer somewhat reminiscent of Champagne and is quite light in color. The flavor was quite nice and I was thankful to have the opportunity to try such a fine brew and only further encouraged me to buy a bottle of Malheur Dark Brut which you should see a review of sometime in the near future. Lastly but definitely not least a bottle of Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale a hypocritical “Imperial Mild” was opened. This is one beer that I knew I wouldn’t be leaving without and I was happy to see that it comes in 6-packs. It’s certainly one unique tasty brew that I can’t wait to properly review. Overall it was a great way to start out an evening of drinking, big thanks to Tyranena and The Four Firkins for hosting.

Rogue Tasting at The Four Firkins

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.

The Four Firkins

June 16th, 2008 beckel

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of The Four Firkins in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The Four Firkins is the 1st specialty beer store in Minnesota and basically the best birthday gift I could ask for. They stock domestic craft beer as well as many imported craft beers, they do not sell liquor or crappy beer (read: miller, A-B, Coors). I am told they stock some root beer and NA beer, though I didn’t notice any as the store was quite crowded at the time, and in the future they may sell wine. The grand opening was fantastic, I didn’t come in time for the Brau Brothers samples but at 6PM Flat Earth was there with their Element 115 Lager a delicious hoppy lager I hadn’t tried before, certainly worth a shot. Summit had a keg of cask aged IPA, it was unfiltered as to allow for a secondary fermentation in the cask and provided a good deal of extra flavor that is not present in their regularly bottled IPA. I would like to see Summit continue to try creative things like this as I am not traditionally partial to summits IPA, but the cask aging made it a very worthy beer. Surly was there with their bitter brewer and Schells had many of their bottled beers available to taste, the hefeweizen was pretty decent. Aside from free beer always being grand this store is truly awesome the shelves are lined with good beers from all over, bottles big and small. I feel like a kid in a grown up candy store. They even have a decent sized cooler with some cold beer including plenty of Surly. The prices are reasonable and in the brief conversation I had with Alvery (the owner) he seemed like a nice guy, go on over and give him your support. He even has a bike rack up front. Support craft beer lovers!