Dark Lord Day: A Journey

May 7th, 2010 beckel

What a weekend. Such a weekend it’s taken me more than a week to write about it, so lets just start from the beginning. Early Friday morning my friends Mike and Shawn of The Beer Genome Project gathered with another friend Jason and myself to start our adventure to the land of Chicago. On our way through Wisconsin en route to New Glarus we realized we were very close to The Grumpy Troll Brewpub and decided to stop by for a bite to eat and a few libations. Over all the food was decent, my beer cheese soup hit the spot but was nothing particularly special, though my corn muffin was awesome and Shawn seemed to particularly enjoy his black bean burger which looked very natural and hearty. I went with a pint of their Imperial IPA called Maggie which was dandy but of all the beers we sampled their two porters really stood out, I particularly enjoyed the Amnesia Baltic Porter which Jason ended up bringing a growler of home. Another unique brew that was highly enjoyed was Slow Eddie, a jalapeno session beer with some serious jalapeno flavor but not overly intense heat.

Grumpy Troll Brewpub
Grumpy Troll Sign

Old New Glarus Brewery
Old New Glarus Brewery

After driving through many winding, hilly roads we eventually made it to New Glarus and quickly checked out the exterior of their old brewery and made our way another mile down the street to their fantastic new brewery. The exterior of their new brewery is fantastic with cascading rocks and water running down the front of the building which is divided into three major sections: The brewery, the gift shop/tap room and their storefront. Not only is the exterior attractive but the massive brewery is absolutely fantastic. Not only is it the largest brewery I’ve ever seen state side but you are also allowed to view almost the whole place at your will free of charge. First of course we had to grab ourselves a beer. You can either get a pint for $6 and keep the glass (a $5 value) or you can get 3 pours in a sample glass which you also get to keep (1$.50 value) for $4.50. I started with their Stone Soup their Abby, which is not overly complex but sold enough. I also ended up trying a bit of their Moon Man Pale Ale a gently hopped ale that was very mellow in the finish with hops only being present in the beginning of the sip. The favorites of the day were their classic Wisconsin Belgian Red [review] which was fantastic off tap & their new Golden Ale a delicious very purely Brett flavored ale that I will write about in more detail when I open my bottle. As you walk into the towards the brewery you see their lab and quality assurance with people hard at work ensuring you get the best beer possible. Upon entering their brewery proper the wonderful smell of Spotted Cow being brewed was overwhelming and fantastically bready. The whole brewery was fantastic but the things that stood out the most for me were their insanely large fermenters and their massive magnetic bottling line. I was ecstatic to find some of their fantastic Cran-Bic at their bottle shop and grabbed two four packs but I ended up trading one back to a very happy brewery employee. A few other treasures included the aforementioned Golden Ale and another R&D beer called Two Women. Right before leaving we ran into a combination of local friends and not so local new acquaintances that had also traveled down from Minnesota together, Stu from Friday Night Beer, Aaron from The Captains Chair, another Aaron from The Vice Blog and Dave from The Drunken Polack. After some greetings and friendly harassment it was time to get a move on.

New Galrus Brewing
New Glarus Brewing

New Glarus Brewing
Even More of New Glarus Brewing

Awesome Sign at New Glarus
Awesome Sign at Brewery Entrance

New Glarus Bottling Line
Part of New Glarus’ Fantastic Bottling Line

Brewing Kettles at New Glarus
Gorgeous New Glarus Brewing Kettles

After painstakingly making our way through Chicago traffic and dropping off our gear at my cousins house it was time do do some real drinking and check out what the Chicago beer scene has to offer. Some local friends of Mike & Shawn wanted to meet at the well reviewed Revolution Brewing a new brewpub near Logan Square so we hopped on a bus and ventured forth. Upon entering I immediately knew it would be a task to find the people we were looking for as the place was packed as can be. Luckily we found them near the end of the bar and managed to snag a small area near some registers, regularly moving out of the way of bussers and servers. Regardless good conversation was had and it was nice meeting some fellow beer geeks including Ken & Brad of Hop Cast, Stephen of Fresh Brew Log as well as a very nice and equally geeky gal named Sarah. On tap was a large selection of their brews and a fantastic selection of guest beers. Being a brewpub and all I had to start with something home crafted so I opted for their Iron Fist Pale Ale which was quite tasty. After that I had to sample the two beers they had on tap that were made for the Craft Brewers Conference that had been held earlier that month: Lagunitas Chicago Fusion Ale & a hoppy Two Brothers brew I can’t recall the name of, both of which were solid but nothing mind blowing. Another ale from Two Brothers that was very nice was their new Resistance IPA which is fermented in their new foudre’s (large oak barrels) and is wonderfully balanced and smooth on the palate. At the end of the night I ended up sampling some of Revolution’s Samadhi Double IPA and had to get a glass for myself as it was absolutely fantastic. If we hadn’t been on our way to another bar I could have drunken it all night. Not only does Revolution Brewing have solid beers but their food was delicious as well. After about an hour wait for a table we started off with a few baskets of bacon popcorn, yes you read that right. Delicious popcorn smothered in bacon fat with crisp bits of bacon scattered and the most delicious and delicately fried sage I have ever consumed. Equally fantastic was the Working Man Burger I got complete with aged cheddar, beer battered onions, bacon and one of the most amazing and massive locally made burger buns I have ever consumed. If all that wasn’t enough one of our new friends knew the assistant brewer Matty who was courteous enough to give us a personal tour throughout their awesome brewing & cellaring area as well as their yet to be finished 2nd floor which will eventually host a 2nd small kitchen, stage and additional dining. Many thanks mate.

As if we hadn’t imbibed enough we decided the only appropriate thing to do was check out Piece Brewery & Pizzeria. A nice space with much more elbow room and a wonderful aroma of pizza floating through the room. There we ran into a few more local friends Dean & Rita and enjoyed some solid brews. I started with a pint of  Dysfunctionale a wonderfully hoppy Pale Ale and couldn’t help but continue coming back to it and it’s fresh resiny citrus characters. I also sampled a bit of a Strong Ale, a Smoked Stout and pint of their IPA collaboration with 3 Floyds hilariously titled Marketing Ploy, all of which were rather tasty. You can read my review of Dysfunctionale here. Unfortunately the two times we made it there we didn’t have appetites because their pizza smelt fantastic, definitely a to-do next time I’m in town. After bar close, a cab ride home and a New Glarus Cran-Bic night cap it was time to hit the hay for the big day ahead.

As the big day came upon us we awoke a bit later than originally planned but I was grateful for the extra rest after a big night of drinking till 2am or so. After gathering our bearings we headed off to Stephen’s place to snag a few “golden tickets” as he was unable to make the event and were kindly greeted with some homebrew as well. Which will be enjoyed and written about some time in the future in conjunction with The Beer Genome Project. A short drive across the border and we were in Munster, Indiana. After grabbing some grub and some technical difficulties the adventure to find parking started. After driving through many parking lots and every street around we finally found a parking spot on the grass and unloaded our brews. After walking a few blocks and my arms nearly falling off from the amount of beer being carried we observed the madness that is Dark Lord Day. The easiest analogy I can make is to imagine three blocks of tail gating but with good beer. Tents, grills and people as far as the eyes can see and 10 times as much beer. After finding my friends and dropping off my beer for safe guarding I made my way to the 3 Floyds tap tent and settled on a glass of Gumball Head a fantastically hoppy but very drinkable American Wheat Ale that was simply wonderful. After briefly checking out their large brewery and searching for my friend Stu I returned to our spot and sampled a few delicious brews including a side by side tasting of Dark Lord ’09 and ’10 as well as some Surly Darkness’ 09. The ’09 Dark Lord had mellowed wonderfully and had gone from an almost offensively strong motor oil of a beer to a beer that fit the style perfectly and showed off the variety of flavors present marvelously. The ’10 on the other hand showed great diversity in flavors even with its young age and was much more drinkable and smooth than the ’09 had been when it was young. I will do a proper review sometime in the future. Shortly there after Stu showed up with a bunch of glasses of  Vanilla Dark Lord which was very tasty and to me really brought out the chocolate characters of the beer which I found very enjoyable. We then ventured to the brewpub to acquire some Barrel Aged Dark Lord which was also quite tasty with gentle oak characters creating some nice mellowing esters. I then had to sample a half pint of their Dreadnaught a fantastic Imperial IPA and finished off with a glass of Barrel Aged Popskull a 10% Brown Ale collaboration they did last year with Dogfish Head and a simply phenomenal brew. If only I could have taken some home. A few trades and many samples later I found Shawn & Mike who were about to cart our allotted Dark Lord to the car and noticed it was almost 5pm so I hopped in line with my friend Jason to get some extra bottles of Dark Lord when the free for all happened. I was impressed with how well the 3 Floyds staff managed the hoards of people and managed to make the final sales run very efficiently. After a bringing our extra 3 bottles a piece back to our friends spot and some more consumption the weather gods finally decided to tear up on us. Finishing off the wonderful event in what became the trips constant fashion.

Some Bikes at DLD 2010
Some Bikes at Dark Lord Day

Crowd at DLD 2010
Some of the Crowd at Dark Lord Day

Russian Imperial Stouts
Vertical Tasting of Dark Lord ’09 , ’10 & Darkness ’10

3 Floyds Brewpub & Stu
More Crowds in Front of the Brewpub and Stu

Word had it that some of our friends were heading to the nearby Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery so we figured it would be logical to to grab some food there as well. We ended up splitting a massive sampler of close to twenty brews and grabbed some grub. I enjoyed my cheese steak, though frankly I would have enjoyed most food at that point. Aside from the massive number of taps available in our sampler it wasn’t really that impressive. I remember enjoying  a lager of some variety but my lack of taking notes isn’t helping here.

After enjoying the sobering effects of some food we made our way back to Chicago and decided to check out the Small Bar Fullerton location which happened to be just down the street from where we were staying. Though our stay was short the bar was very nice and their tap selection was even more fantastic. We all ended up with glasses of The Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments and were ever so pleased. Not only was it fantastic to be able to get such a beer on tap, it was also reasonably priced and wonderfully delicious.

To wrap up our evening we meandered back to Piece Brewery and  had the opportunity to meet and chat with Tommy Werner and some other friends. As well as being entertained by karaoke and more delicious Dysfunctionale, which I couldn’t help but grab a growler of. After another long night it was time to pass out before the journey home.

Aside from some crappy traffic in Wisconsin the trip home was pretty uneventful, but it was nice to be heading home. Overall Dark Lord Day was a fantastic event. If you are into craft beer and enjoy sharing it with others you will have a blast. Never have I seen such vast and awesome display of beer lovers doing what beer lovers love to do: drink, share & chat. Not to mention all of the other great places one can stop en route to Indiana. Probably one of the best opportunities to sample and share beers you never thought you would be able to get your hands on. If you have the means and the time to ever participate in this event I highly encourage it. Golden tickets or not.

New Glarus Goodies
New Glarus Loot

Other Goodies
Other Loot

New Glarus Organic Revolution

May 14th, 2009 beckel

I was going to continue my streak of Tommyknocker reviews but upon glancing over at New Glarus’ Organic Revolution sitting in my fridge and remembering a comment I had read earlier that day on The Captain’s Chair post about Hop Hearty IPA I decided it was time to see what a organic beer from New Glarus would be like. As I’m sure many of you know New Glarus is a regional brewery that only distributes within its own state of Wisconsin and pays a lot of tribute to things local and sustainable and apparently wanted to give the “purity” of organic a shot. This beer is bottle fermented and naturally carbonated…and carbonated it is, I had to stop during the pour as to not overfill my pint glass. Leaving me with a solid three fingers of pure white head that lasted for a few minutes atop this hazy, though translucent yellowish orange brew. Aroma is quite nice with slightly sweet pale malt and some moderately  pungent bittering hops here and there to give this beer a well rounded smell. The flavor is really quite interesting, you will have to try it yourself to really understand. The malt has a clean but somewhat flat flavor that I have noticed in all of the organic beers that I have tried and have a hard time putting proper words to, it is not a bad thing, simply different. In addition to somewhat sweet malt flavors you get some solid bitterness from the hops as well as a very nice gentle grapefruit citrus flavor that works to balance the malt used in this beer. This is a flavorful Pale Ale that sticks to New Glarus’ tradition of making tasty easy to drink beers. This beer should be approachable for pretty much anyone though I find it to be one of their more intricate flavored brews. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

New Glarus Organic Revolution

New Glarus Raspberry Tart

April 5th, 2009 beckel

With so many beers in my fridge to choose from I figured it was about time I consumed my bottle of Raspberry Tart from the humble folk of New Glarus Brewing. This bottle was picked up when I was in WI for a lovely bike race and I’m sure the memories of that icy lake will make the brew even more enjoyable, particularly as our lakes are currently working on melting. This beer pours a very dark color that almost appears black until you bring it to light where you can tell it really is a barely translucent dark raspberry color creating just over a finger of bright pink head that lasts for a few minutes. Aroma is full of raspberry, so much you may be inclined to think they use a syrup though their bottle assures us otherwise a bit of grain can be detected in the nose but it is overpowered by the fruit. The flavors of this beer are very similar to many other Framboise and largely just tastes of raspberry though It seems quite a bit less sweet than some which I appreciate. In addition to some nice tart raspberry flavors the medium body of this brew creates a really smooth and refreshing mouthfeel.  With a 4% ABV this should be an approachable brew for anyone. Though I probably couldn’t drink a ton of this beer the sweet and sour contrasts keep my tastebuds currious and enjoying the brew. A good desert beer or for those of you into fruit beers. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
New Glarus Raspberry Tart

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

February 18th, 2009 beckel

I spent  this weekend in small town Wisconsin with some friends to attend the best ever Valentines Day bicycle race. The race took place on the well frozen and slippery Lake Menomonie and required us to make it to 8 stops around the lake, how we chose to get there was up to us but I can assure you almost everyone fell at least; a lot. The warm temps (40 degrees) that we were blessed with the few days before the weekend were of no help as the rain that ensued melted the nice layer of snow covering the lake and exposed us to nothing but slick ice. People with wide tires and studs were in decent shape, however the bike I was riding lacked studs on the back tire and it was almost impossible to get traction. Though I had a grand time I’ve never walked my bicycle so much in a bike race nor fallen so many times. Sadly the worst time I fell I was just walking the bike and I wasn’t even drunk, maybe it just wanted to cuddle. Oh well, no visible bruises or blood so I think it went well. Many thanks to the organizers and for the hospitality  and great community we were welcomed into.  Though it was strange for me to ride in a city that has more or less a one street business district it was wonderfully refreshing to enjoy the freedom small towns offer. Though reminiscing is dandy this blog is about beer so I will cut to the chase. Today I will be enjoying another of the many brews I brought back from my trip and this time it is truly a Wisconsin beer. From the humble folk of New Glarus Brewing I have a somewhat less humble wax sealed 750ml bottle of their Wisconsin Belgian Red. Apparently each bottle of this ale contains an entire pound of local Door County cherries. Pretty impressive, guess I know what this beer is going to taste like. They seem to be very proud of this ale and I hope to be as well. Pours a very deep cherry color that is very bright when brought to light and only semi translucent but much darker when not in direct light. I managed to produce almost three fingers of playful light pink head with a slightly heavy pour that lasts for a few minutes. Smells largely of cherries, so much so it almost seems artificial but I have more faith in New Glarus than that. Aroma is rather wine like, slightly tart and carbonated,  with a barely alcoholic sweet cherry wrapping up the smell. Reminds me a bit of a Italian soda. Holy fucking cherry! Upon my first sip you could convince me I am drinking pure cherry juice. Body is rather light though I feel a bit like im drinking carbonated yogurt, the mouthfeel just isn’t that thick or creamy. This beer tastes of almost nothing other than carbonated cherry, some sweet, some sour giving it a nice balance. You get a nice maltiness in the mouthfeel but you can’t really taste it, or at least not separate it from the massive cherry profile. This is certainly a fruity beer in the Lambic style but with a less heavy more Americanized body and mouthfeel. Not quite my style but I am enjoying sipping on it as I type this. With a 5.1% ABV and almost no alcoholic taste this should be  a very approachable ale for those not used to beer. If you are a fan of Lambics, fruit ales or even just cherries in general you should enjoy this flavorful brew. Would be a great accompaniment for desert, particularly one with vanilla ice cream. New Glarus float anyone? Give it a shot and ride your bike.

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red

New Glarus Hop Hearty

November 13th, 2008 beckel

Today we have the last of the New Glarus brews I was able to bring back from Wisconsin, at least I still have two left to enjoy. Hop Hearty is a solid IPA dry hopped with Cascade and East Kent Golding and my favorite New Glarus yet. When not poured gently this beer produces a number of inches of almost white head, most of which settles rather quickly aside from about one inch that lasts for a few minutes. Color is a nice mostly red amber color that is transparent when held to light but quite dark in hue. You can tell what the dry hopping did to this beers aroma immediately, many scents are present including some orange like citrus, sweet malt, and a nice balance of hop bitterness with barely any alcohol present. Drinking this beer fills you mouth with hops, as I sip this beer the citrus tastes more like grapefruit and the malt becomes more pronounced still finishing with a nice little bitter kick. Though this beer is 6.2% ABV it like all other New Glarus brews I have had, is remarkably drinkable with a light body and smooth mouthfeel. Though this beer certainly has very nice hop contributions the simple malt balance should make this beer a bit more approachable to those who are intimidated by the concept of IPAs, not to take away from the marvelous hop flavors of this beer. Once again another delightful ale from the land of New Glarus, Wisconsin. I wish I could purchase this beer more often but until the day they change their minds and distribute to their neighbors in Minnesota, I guess I will have to convince my roommate he needs beer on Sundays more often. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

New Glarus Hop Hearty

New Glarus Totally Naked

November 5th, 2008 beckel

Today we continue with another beer from the New Glarus Brewing Company; Totally Naked. While in Wisconsin I was happy to find this seasonal beer; the first sentence on the label “Pure and crisp, this is a beer with nothing to hide.” intrigued me and I’m glad I didn’t pass it up. Though this is a lager I was still excited to see what it had to offer. I am happy to say I was not disappointed. This beer is a nice golden color that is completely transparent and produces close to an inch of head that it doesn’t retain for long. This beer smells largely of grains, corn and sweet light malted barley with only a touch of the German and Czech hops in the aroma. Tastes as it smells, of corn and barley. Light sweet malt flavors with a slightly bitter finishing taste, definitely a lager but still decently full of flavor for the style. Mouthfeel is heavier than one might assume but still rather light, body is light as well. This is definitely a drinkable beer and would be an acceptable, even if slightly heavy, session beer coming in at 4.2% ABV. Though I rarely drink lagers if this beer were available in my state I would likely regularly purchase it for a nice warm day in the outdoors. As the name suggests this beer really has nothing to hide, it is simple, light, and drinkable but still very flavorful and worthy of every sip. As with all of the other New Glarus beers I have had the opportunity to try this is an easy going quality brew, a lovely choice for a day of drinking. Obviously not the beer to satisfy your hop hunger but still a dandy drink. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

New Glarus Totally Naked

New Glarus Fat Squirrel

October 19th, 2008 beckel

Wisconsin Beer RunToday we ventured to the land of Wisconsin because it is Sunday and our state has made the conclusion that is better to not accept out tax money on this beautiful fall day. Though there is little room in my fridge for this beer I will surely be writing about a number of beers you can not get in my fine state of Minnesota in the near future. I am ever so excited to get to the Dogfish Head and Stone but we will start with a brewery that I have enjoyed and been wanting to expand my knowledge of, New Glarus. Here we have Fat Squirrel a Nut Brown Ale that was inspired by all of the fat squirrels that the brewmaster Dan Carey saw on a walk home from the brewery one “springlike” winter day. Brewed with six different varieties of Wisconsin grown malt and hops from Slovenia, Bavaria and the Pacific Northwest this beers flavor profile should be unique. This beer pours a nice unfiltered roasted brownish red color. Producing about an inch of just off white head that settles quickly. Aroma is of toasted malts and a bit of hazelnut that transitions to a slight alcohol scent. This is surely a brown ale, the flavor is overwhelmed by lightly toasted malted barley of a number of varieties that creates a slight hazelnut hint to this very well balanced and flavorful beer. In addition to the roasted flavors a nice slight bitterness smooths out the taste of this beer in the finish. Like Spotted Cow this beer is very tasty and has a number of nice flavors but is also immensely drinkable having a light body and mouthfeel. Coming in at 5.8% ABV it has been easy to drink a number of these on this nice fall night. If you like a well balanced brown ale that has a robust toasted malt profile but is well balanced and easy to drink you will certainly appreciate this beer. Would likely be accompany a nice beef stew wonderfully. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

New Glarus Fat Squirrel

New Glarus Spotted Cow

July 10th, 2008 beckel

This beer is not available in Minnesota, but my roommate delighted me when he returned from his cabin with a bottle of New Glarus Spotted Cow. This beer heading from Wisconsin is classified as a Cream Ale and is quite interesting. This cask conditioned secondary fermented ale has been enjoyed since before prohibition and has been enjoyed ever sense. Pours a light very yellow color that is quite transparent with very little head that fades rather slowly. Smells of pilsner malts, nicely sweet and sour at the same time. Mouthfeel is light and simple. Flavor is interesting, somewhat cirtus and carbonated though more is going on, you can almost taste the corn in this beer. A grand tribute to the Midwest. This beer reminds me a lot of a pilsner but it has a more complex flavor. Coming in at 4.8% ABV i would say this is a good session beer, though the professionals may disagree (looking for a lighter beer). This is a grand summer beer and would encourage anyone who ends up near Wisconsin to try it out. If you like simple beers that also have flavor this one is for you. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

New Glarus Spotted Cow