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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

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!