Friday, October 23, 2009

Four Peaks Brewing Co (Tempe, AZ)


Spent a Sunday morning with a bar full of rabid Minnesota Vikings fans, rooting for the last minute Raven field goal to miss and it did. If in Minneapolis--no big deal.  Doing it in Phoenix before flying back to the Twin Cities chill--a unique drinking and eating experience.

Besides being a Vikings bar, Four Peaks beer is quite good. Several of the beers have changed since I was here six years ago, but most match my rates and memory. The standard beers seemed to have improved a bit, according to my notes, and the new beers are good additions. HopKnot, an American IPA, was very tasty, especially you like big American hops and don't mind a bit of grassiness. The seasonal was a Pumpkin Porter, which my wife drank for the rest of the game. Mostly allspice for the pumpkin part, but blended well into the porter for a very pleasant beer.

Food was hot, fast and good. Surprisingly fast since the place was pack with purple clad fanatics that I've never seen anywhere short of the Metrodome.  And, while not as creative of a brewpub as others, the base beers are well brewed. Drinking in the heat (100 degrees in October!), a lighter interpretation of each style can be forgiven--and even encouraged.

Love this bar--maybe it will be my retirement pub.  On my first visit, I bought a bucket hat that I wore when my wife and I rim-to-rim hiked the Grand Canyon.  Old and battered now, I replaced the original with may have been the last one in existence.  At least it was the last one in the bar--they sold me the one in the display case.  Whenever I head into nature, I bring Four Peaks with me.

Sadly, I've only made it to Four Peaks twice, but these visits epitomize the very heart of why I beer hunt.

Oak Creek Brewery and Grill (Sedona, AZ)


While some of the beers were of a passable quality, this brewpub suffers from the same problem as many tourist trap restaurants: there's no real incentive to be good when tourists are going to eat and leave. The Micro Light lager was the best beer, which I mistook for a positive sign at first.  Then it went down hill at a break neck pace.

Our food, beer battered onions rings, were bland and the dipping sauce runny. Service was fine, but slow--even though we were sitting at the bar. While watching a baseball game, we noticed a pile of shavings from the ceiling, seemingly when the TVs were installed or dust, on top of the medal display. In the bathroom, the layer of dust on the towel dispenser was thick and seemingly undisturbed. 

Easily one of the most disappointing beer stops in a long time. If you truly must hit a pub while in Sedona, it's better than wine, and maybe no worse than other tourist spots. Or, go to Prescott.

Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Co (Scottsdale, AZ)


Because Papago's couldn't let in our underage niece from ASU, we headed to Oggi's, which was fortunate. Most of the beers were repeats of the same names from the San Clemente Oggi's we visited on our previous California trip, but were well brewed and enjoyable. The Black Magic Stout was especially good, and a fine dessert after pizza. 

The five cheese pizza was fantastic, and possibly one of the best cheese pizzas we've ever had. With multiple TVs around the bar, it was a nice place to catch up on baseball and football games while travelling while not being distracting to our conversation. A highly enjoyable stop that I would gladly repeat.

Note on 11/8/12: Sadly, between the writing of this post and today, Oggi's in Scottsdale is reported as closed on BeerAdvocate.  Beer and pizza were good, but the odd, strip mall location might have had something to do with the closing, but just speculation.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Samuel Adams Imperial Stout (Boston Beer Co, Boston, MA)

This one pours a jet black and a fluffy brown head that lingers for a long while. Especially as it warms, a clear alcohol hotness (9% so that makes sense) confirmed by legs when tilted to the side; a very strong oakiness in the nose over top of sherry and dark fruits. Bitter chocolate, stale coffee and dark molasses invades the entire mouth and lingers with a bit of hop. An extremely smooth but uncompromising version of a Russian Imperial Stout. Looking at other reviews, many seasoned drinkers seem to like it betterthe flavors are strong, but mostly balanced, but may turn off those who aren't accustomed to an RIS but giving the Sam Adams a try on recognition. Boston Brewing Company is kicking it up a notch with its Imperial series, and this is one not to be missed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewery (Mount Horeb, WI)


Met some friends at the Grumpy Troll on the way from New Glarus to Madison for the pre-Great Taste (2009) parties. Nice atmosphere and very accommodating waitress.  I've been trying to get here for a while since the Grumpy Troll pops up in my reading quite often and has a pretty good reputation. However, the beers didn't really live up to my expectations, which were evidently too high. All of the beers are good and well brewed, but nothing really blew me away as something I'd order over and over again. None of my usual dreaming of living down the street when I find a great pub or bar.

The Imperial Stout was good, and Curly, an amber smoked ale, was also unique and well done. The Norwegian Wit was probably my favorite of the stop as a nice twist on the style. Food was also good but odd--an opened face black bean burger, which was spicy black beans over a bun that wasn't exactly a burger but interestingly did its job. Not a bad stop and enjoyed the beer, food and friends--but I wouldn't drive out of my way again from the freeway to get there.  If I even find myself in Mount Horeb for another reason, I would be perfectly happy to stop again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Le Saint Bock Brasserie Artisanale (Montreal, QC)


Le Saint Bock is a very good brewpub with an interesting, well-brewed line of beers. The Envieuse, a porter, was my clear favorite. My wife liked the porter as well as the brune called Aportre.  In addition, the pub touted a range of Quebecois guest taps from La Nafrageur on the Gaspe Peninsula to Unibroue.

We tried the frites (french fries), which came in a bowl shaped like an oversized bomber bottle cut out, served with herbed mayo (like most places in Quebec).  A fan of frites in general, we found these more than satisfactory. Very hot in the pub on a rainy afternoon, something we didn't think about, but most places in Montreal seem to lack air conditioning, choosing to suffer along until the cold winter temps return.  So, we moved on; unfortunately, we should have stayed to try some of the guest taps rather than going to either of the other two pubs down the street (Les 3 Brasseurs and L'amere a boire). If in Montreal, I'd make Le Saint a fairly high priority.

L'Amere a Boire (Montreal, QC)


We hit L'Amere a Boire to get out of a pouring rain storm, wishing we were back at Le Saint Bock down the street.  I don't understand the high rating of this pub compared to others in the area.  Not a single beer inspired me to want to have a draft of any of them--in fact, we didn't even finish a single sample of any of the beers.  Each sample seemed to be very light bodied for each style and had a unpleasant taste that was consistent through each beer, though I'm unsure what it was about.  It seemed like a nice place: we were served quickly by nice bartenders and local patrons were attempting to be helpful in between sips of their drafts.  But, the beer was just not very good. This place seems to be very overrated, and, for us, not worth the effort of walking down the street a few more blocks.

In posting this review (11/29/12), I took a look at the BA rating again.  While the overall rating seems to be down, the most recent review is unusually enthusiastic with phrases like "highest recommendation" and "one of the best brewpubs anywhere" that seems out of sync with my experience.  My sampling was short and disappointing, so I didn't bother to explore the food or further into their beer; maybe there's a silver lining to this brewpub that I was unable to find.

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel (Montreal, QC)


Not going to be much of a surprise for this review--Dieu du Ciel! is possibly one of the best brewpubs I've ever visited. Food, service, atmosphere and beer are all excellent. 

While normally I order samples at a brewpub stop, I couldn't help myself and ordered drafts. Seventeen beers on tap plus a couple of casks.  Histoire Dun Soir #2 was a fantastic Imperial Brown Porter (according the board). Not sure what it was exactly, but I really enjoyed the beer. My wife's favorite was Rosee de Hibiscus, a Belgian wit with hibiscus flowers that was a beautiful bright rose colored ale that smelled of flowers and spice. So inspiring, I brewed a version of it at home, though mine was paled in comparison.  I unfortunately didn't try the Peche Mortal or any casks, and we didn't get back before flying out. 

Dinner was also very good, and, as vegetarians, that's not always the case in a brewpub. Nachos were simple but with an exceptional white cheese on top.  After eating local cheese and bread on the trip through Gaspe for a week, it tasted similar to the local cheeses we'd been sampling.  Our sandwich was simple but very good with chips and pretzels on the side. I would go here eat regardless of the beer. 

Dieu du Ciel! means "God in Heaven" or similar as an exclamation.  For me, it's simply a number one priority for any visit to Montreal because it is truly Oh My God good.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Moto-i (Minneapolis, MN)


Attended the tour of the sake brewery with the MN Homebrewers.  Our service was excellent and attentive to the needs of people who don't know sake, me included. I had a rice bowl for a larger meal than the small plate appetizers, per my server's recommendation. Overall, the food was excellent, except a friend's daily special meal, which was comped in spite of not really complaining.

Overall, a sake brewery in Minneapolis is interesting, as is doing a good job in a new food arena. Another friend on the tour had taken Japanese business associates here for dinner and they were impressed with the existence of a Japanese style pub but also the quality of the sake. Worth a trip IF one is inclined to go for the sake experience with good food. Also, the local MN beer I had, Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison, went well with the meal and was well served since I didn't have time for a second (highly alcoholic) sake before leaving.