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.
May 22nd, 2009 beckel
On Tuesday I made it over to Acadia Cafe located on Cedar & Riverside in good ole Minneapolis for their 6 Shooters event. For the low price of $10 patrons were presented with six 5 ounce pours of some very delicious India Pale Ales. Though I didn’t really consume these beers in the “proper” order I started with the beer I was most excited to have the opportunity to sample, Victory Wild Devil which weighs in at 6.7% ABV. This beer pours an interesting redish orange hue and unsurprisingly smells almost identical to the Hop Devil who’s wort this beer was fermented from, quite hoppy with a bit of sweet malt that is further balanced by a subtle tart hint from the Brettanomyces used in this special brew. Flavor is again the same as the Hop Devil with just a bit of tartness that adds a nice extra layer to contrast the intense hop profile of this beer. I expected this beer to taste a bit stranger and more sour but the tartness is all around mellow making for a very nicely balanced beer. I hope to find a bottle of this brew sometime in the future to give it a more in depth review than 5 ounces could provide.
Next I sampled our very own Summit IPA that was cask conditioned and dry hopped with Amarillo. As the least heavy beer of the night with a 6.4% ABV it probably should have been my starting point but I doubt any beer could have masked the intense Amarillo notes of this brew. Appearance was an interesting reddish amber that was somewhat hazy. Head was pure white and surprisingly retained for quite some time as this picture was taken a good 15+ minutes after pouring as well as leaving a good amount of lacing. Smells strongly of oranges and something like passion fruit or similar sweet citrus or melon. The same melon like sweet citrus is very present in the flavor and frankly completely dominates the flavor. It was a clean easy to drink brew but I felt the massive flavor from the Amarillo was a bit over the top and one dimensional.
Then came the most balanced but least hoppy brew of the evening, Sprecher IPA. Like Summit Sprecher brews in the English tradition and this brew is a beautiful example of the great beers that it can produce. Color is a reddish amber that is very translucent. Aroma is largely of caramely malt and subtle orange citrus notes with just a hint of alcohol though it rocks a solid 7.5% ABV. Flavor is relatively sweet and of caramelized malt with a wee bit of citrus hops. The more I drank this brew the more the hops became apparent and I started to notice a nice bitterness in the finish. Not nearly as hoppy as I am normally looking for in an IPA but very traditional, well balanced and tasty.
Then from d’Achouffe Brewery out of Belgium we have their very interesting straw colored Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen Belgian IPA Tripel. Aroma is largely of Belgian Yeast and some light malty sweetness. Taste is very similar to other malty Blonde Tripels with the yeast playing a major role in creating herbal notes and malty sweetness as well as candi sugar sweetness that is often associated with the style but with the addition of some nice bitterness and floral hints in the finish. A tasty and unique brew with a whole lot going on and a solid 9% ABV.
Then it was time to enjoy some 16 Grit [review] from our local Surly Brewing and Iniquity IBA [review] from Southern Tier out of New York. You can see my full reviews of these delicious beers by following the above links. Cheers to Acadia for putting on this event and including delicious beers at a reasonable price. Keep up the good work. Now go have a beer ride your bike, safely please.
May 21st, 2009 beckel
Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the Yeasty Beers meetup presented by Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint and graciously hosted by Cory. Michael had constructed a series of tastings around the core ingredients of beer; hops, malt and most importantly yeast. I was not lucky enough to make it to the prior meetups but I was pleased to be able to attend what was probably the most interesting of the series as yeast is one amazing creature that we must sincerely thank for the beer that we allow it produce. Upon entering Cory’s home I was greeted with a glass of brown ale that Michael had home brewed and even though it did not end up being the style he intended (dopplebock I believe) it was really quite tasty and enjoyable. Once everyone arrived we started with Huvila ESB which hails from Finland and was simply delightful. I didn’t write any tasting notes for the evening but I was incredibly pleased with its well balanced flavors and not really being a Bitter guy it really made me appreciate what the style can be. I would have happily drank this beer all night long and will unquestionably be properly reviewing it the next time I can find it on the shelf. This ESB was paired with some delicious mac & cheese expertly prepared by our host Cory, very tasty. (You can see the almost empty casserole pan in the picture two down)
Next came Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier a very traditional German Hefeweizen that is quite light and allows its yeast to shine through wonderfully.
Next we enjoyed a Saison from Boulevard Brewing’s Smoke Stack Series and I must say I was humbly impressed. I have had a few beers from this series and they are absolutely more complex and flavorful than Boulevards traditional offerings but their Saison delivered far above what I have experienced in the past from them and encourages me to sample more of their offerings. The beer very nicely complimented the aged Gouda and awesome home baked bread we were offered. Definitely worth trying if you enjoy a quality Saison.
Then came the always delicious Westmalle Dubbel. This creamy looking dark brown colored ale tastes strongly of dark pitted fruits and nice herbal notes as well as showcasing its wonderful Belgian yeast strain. This was paired with beef tongue and heart which were both incredibly tasty. I particularly enjoyed the intense meaty (and somewhat gamey) flavor of the boiled heart. Westmalle is unquestionably a classic Belgian brewer and is part of the renowned Trappist organization and certainly worth your time to enjoy.
Next came Rodenbach also from Belgium. I had never sampled this beer before and apparently it is no longer distributed in the country so it will probably be difficult to get your hands on it. This is certainly a tart ale but it was far less sour than I expected though I suppose I shouldn’t have expected too much tartness as it is a Flanders Red Ale which is on the low end of sour beers. An interesting and well balanced brew, I would curious to sample their Grand Cru which is presumably even more smooth. This we paired with pickled herring.
Then we moved onto Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza which is a delicious Belgian Strong Golden Ale that like all of Jolly Pumpkin’s brews does a wonderful job showcasing its yeast. Drinking this brew reminded me how much I enjoy the incredibly creative and largely sour beers that they produce out of Michigan.
As we enjoyed the above beer Cory was hard at work steaming mussels in 3 Fonteinen’s Oud Gueuze which smelled simply marvelous and you can see pictured below. After the mussels were finished and presented to us we got to sampling the Oud Gueuze which was quite interesting tasting and rather funky but enjoyable particularly with the delicious food to compliment.
Lastly we had a Kriek from Oud Beersel again from Belgium. This was a sweet cherry beer that had some nice tartness to balance and complimented the cheesecake we enjoyed perfectly. If you enjoy lambics and want something that is more interesting than your standard Lindemans this would be a good choice as it has many more dimensions and is particularly for desert as we did.
After the official event was over we proceeded to opened a number of bottles and enjoyed further good conversation. Many thanks to Michael for organizing this and Cory for sharing his space and tasty food. Hopefully I see you fine folk again next month and perhaps some new faces. Cheers to a grand evening!
You can check out Michael’s write up of the event 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.
The first round consisted of hoppy beers, Pliney the Elder from Russian River Brewing out ofÂ 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 Imperial IPA
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 Belgian Triple
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 Specialty Ale
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.
January 30th, 2009 beckel
Wednesday was Stub & Herb’s monthly tasting extravaganza and more exciting than most because it was a chance for them to showcase ales from not only one, but two Minnesota breweries. Both Flat Earth and Lift Bridge had some solid offers with their Rode Haring, Black Helicopter, Winter Warlock (bottle), Cygnus X-1 Porter; and Farm Girl Saison, Pale Ale, Biscotti, Double Hopped Pale Ale on draft respectively. The turn out was wonderful, I didn’t make it until a bit after 8 but found Sterbs to be full of us beer geeks bringing out our support of the local guys. Good times, lovely beer and wonderful conversation. With so many options I didn’t kn ow what to start with but the cask of Double Hopped Pale Ale from Lift Bridge seemed to be the most logical decision. Color is very amber and relatively opaque. For such a hopped up ale the aroma was very dull, or I am more congested that I realize because all I get off this ale is a slight hop & malt aroma none of which are strong. I will also note the ale came to me with more or less no head so that probably didn’t help the aroma come out. Luckily the taste was quite different, wonderfully hoppy. Tastes like a forest, quite piney and just a bit sour, really showing off its Cannabaceae family traits with an array of hop flavors you don’t often experience. Due to all of the wonderful hops present this ale has a bit of a sticky mouthfeel that may make you want to pucker your tongue. Mouthfeel is medium, definitely a unique brew. Then I went for some Flat Earth Winter Warlock as I have been wanting to sample this very different, golden Barleywine. Color is a nice light copper with some light amber hues and relatively opaque. Aroma has some nice hops but is also sweet and malty as any good Barleywine should be. Flavor is very interesting, particularly for the style. Sweet and malty with hints of citrus from the hops and a relatively smooth mouthfeel. Body was medium. Solid stuff will need to get my hands on more. Next came time for some Flat Earth Cygnus-X Porter. Color is very dark black. Aroma is very malty, largely of rich coffee. Tastes of coffee with some sweeter malts to tone it down a bit. Body is light for a Porter and the mouthfeel is quite smooth. Not bad but more coffee than I personally need. Afterward I couldn’t help but sample some Southern Tier Choklat that was on tap. Such a wonderful creamy sweet chocolate flavored ale. Though I did not grab a pint of it, Michael from A Perfect Pint shared a sip of his Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison and boy is that stuff good, no wonder it helped them grow as a brewery. Wonderfully flavorful, definitely in need of a proper review sometime when my palate hasn’t already been dominated by heavy ales. The ride there was a bit chilly but the hopslam in my belly did me well and the commute home was dandily drunk thanks to some tasty Southern Tier Choklate. Support local and get your stupor on!
Lift Bridge Double Hopped Pale Ale
Flat Earth Winter Warlock Barleywine
Flat Earth Cygnus-X Porter
September 9th, 2008 beckel
What better way to release a grand beer than a festival by our very own Surly Brewing from Brooklyn Center Minnesota. I will do a proper review of Surly’s great take on an Octoberfest lager when I have a can of Surlyfest in hand but let me say now this is one grand flavorful and drinkable beer. We arrived to the event a good 20 minutes early after a lovely bike ride from Minneapolis along the Midtown Greenway over to the Kenilworth trail around Cedar lake and over to North France Avenue finally ending up at the wonderful Surly Brewing Company. There was only a small line when we got there which was nice, but bike locking options were limited, luckily there were many fences lining the perimeter that made due. After a number of minutes of salivating for some Surly and enjoying a bit of water (yea I actually remembered my water bottle thank you very much) a SurlyFest staffer with her awesome green volunteer t-shirt came to the head of the line and ushered the herd of Surly lovers in. We exchanged our kick ass tickets (surly can tops with a little sticker) for a bright green bracelet with 4 tabs and what I was most excited to see (aside from the beer) our SurlyFest German made .5 liter steins. After getting in we of course made a b-line straight to the beer truck where they were serving everything wonderful that is Surly. The standard affair of Furrious, CynicAle and Bender were available as of course was SurlyFest, additionally they were offering to fill your glass with Hell which was nice to have the option but as I had already tried it I declined to do. So after filling my glass with the wonder that is SurlyFest we proceeded to a table to enjoy our brews. As we waited for the music to start we observed our food choices, Chicago dogs and brats to the right and falafels and gyros to the left. Simple but solid and reasonably priced. The brewery was open so we stopped inside to grab some swag and take a quick look around. As this was my first opportunity to look around it was quite fun, particularly to see the stacks of thousands of unfilled cans ready to be filled with beer for you and me including many lovely blue and white ones, not to meantion Surlys new tanks to keep us properly supplied. The weather was rather nice but just under 2 hours after ariving I snapped shots of the sky that shows heavy dark clouds to the northwest but a bright clear sky to the southeast. After it started raining most people retreated to the tent they had setup or went inside short of I believe 4 people who sat under their makeshift umbrellas and the wonderful SurlyFest staff that was pouring beers for the brave who would leave the tent for a few minutes to get more beer. After sitting under the tent for a few minutes my friend informed me he had purchased a Surly disc golf driver. Like the crazy idiots we are we ran into the rain and played catch. The disc didn’t throw the best but it was still a blast. I shouted at people encouraging them to join us, but I guess that just adds the the crazy factor, so I suppose I’m not surprised no one took me up on the offer. As we played we got a few people passing by to throw the frizbee but that was about it. After retreating to the tent for a minute someone offered to let us use their normal frizbee, Surly branded again that was much easier to throw and catch. After our fun in the rain we decided it was time for more beer and as Omar had already informed us the next band would be playing inside we decided that was the place to be. The music was entertaining and I had some good conversations and meet some friendly people, overall a really great time. Time wore on and as it was time to go and my 4 liters of Surly were settling in my belly I grabbed my bike to headed home. I’m not sure exactly how but I managed to loose track of my group and decided to just bike home alone (not the best decision but I guess I forgot about the fact I have a phone, oh well), a couple of falls later I am still rather sore and scraped up all over but I made it home so it’s all good. A grand day with a sore ending and no regrets. I can’t wait to get my hands on pack of SurlyFest but it should be in stores soon. Hopfully you can enjoy some and don’t fall off your bike like me.
July 17th, 2008 beckel
Last night was the Surly event at Mackenzie commemorating their new Surly Brewing neon sign. On tap was some rare Surly Two, Coffee Bender and a firkin of cask aged CynicAle. I was very excited to try the Two and was certainly not disappointed. Aroma is of dark malts and a tad sweet. Tastes of sweet cranberries initially but after taste is of mildly dark malt. Deep dark color, quite black. Medium mouthfeel. I was a bit hesitant to buy this beer when they were selling the 750’s because I expected it to be overpowering on the cranberry note but I was pleasantly surprised by its subtle sweetness and grand balance. I am not particularly a fan of coffee but I believe any Surly beer deserves to be tried. When I got this beer I immediately noticed how strong the aroma was of coffee. Color is very dark and mouthfeel is meduim but surprisingly light. The flavor of this beer is that of an Bender infused with espresso, slightly malty. Quite good, but too heavy on the coffee flavor for my tastes. It was my buddies birthday so we only had about a half hour and I was only able to get a sip of the cask aged CynicAle before we left to Ichiban (mmm sake) but it was quite good. The color was a bit deeper and more orange than usual and the fermented fruit flavors were a good deal more notable. Good stuff, wish I could have had more. Get surly, drink Surly and ride your bike.
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!