Thursday, May 31, 2012

Steel Toe growler run (Steel Toe Brewing, St. Louis Park, MN)

Steel Toe Brewery
Finally, after several weeks of trying, I was able to get down to Steel Toe Brewing to pick up some growlers.  Hours are relatively short and St. Louis Park is a ways away for me.  Initial tastings were very good.

Dissent sample on site
served by Jason
I had samples of four Steel Toe brews: Size 7, Provider, Dissent and Rainmaker.  I had a draft of Rainmaker to end of my day at the Brown Bag Blind Tasting in January and really loved the beer. Oddly, not as excited about the sample on site.  Dissent and Size 7 were my favorites today, but impressed enough with Provider to go home with a growler (in part because they ran out of Dissent).

Got a two second tour of the brewhouse and an impromptu discussion with other beer geeks deciding what to purchase on a very wet Saturday morning.  A nice visit overall, and reviews of the growlers to follow.  You can get a better look at the brewhouse and Jason the owner/brewer on this week's KARE 11 Microbrew of the Week.

Size 7 review

Provider review

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

GP Liquor (Inver Grove Heights, MN)

Driving around Robert Street, I recently noticed GP Liquor in the small mall with Home Depot and Office Max.  Thought I should give a local liquor store a chance.  According to the little used Facebook page, they've been around for since 2010.  No website that I could find.  For the weekend of home projects, I was at Home Depot already, so took a minute to take a few pics and grab two test six packs.  I chose New Belgium Ranger IPA, often a daily standard for me and a beer that I know well, and Summit's new Saga IPA because it's new.

The selection of craft brew is pretty good.  The picture to the left captures most of the doors that are filled with craft brew before changing over to the macro section.  Pretty standard selection of craft brew--most regionals represented.  No single bottles that I noticed.

Person checking me out mentioned that they are open until 10 pm rather than 8 pm during the week because of the difference in the city ordinances, so that's a possible advantage.

Otherwise, GP is a convenience stop.  With Petschen's right down the street with singles, a wider overall range and a walk in cooler, there's not a lot of reason to hit GP Liquor again.  For me locally, Arbor Pointe Liquors has a similar but slightly more hopcentric selection and singles as well.   GP Liquor seems to be perfectly fine for a six pack stop (at least both six packs were in very good condition), but they aren't a beer geek stop at the moment.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Infinium (Boston Beer Co, Boston, MA)

Picked up a bottle of Infinium at Happy Harry's Bottle Shop while on a visit to my nephew in Grand Forks.  Odd place to pick up a bottle of Biere de Champagne, but I saw on the neck label that it is a collaboration brew between Sam Adams and Weihenstephaner, the oldest brewery in the world (if you haven't had their hefeweissbier, a draft is a must).  Pairing these two great breweries seemed like a must try, regardless of the outcome.

A bubbly white head dissipates quickly to a very thin film on top of a whiskey colored ale.  Light spice, heavily caramelized malt, dried raisins, figs and very apparent alcohol in the nose on top of a floral earthiness.  Syrupy sweet and oily on the tongue along with a distinct bubbly carbonation that tingles. Dark fruit, raisin, and yeast flavors expand as it warms.  Interesting and odd at the same time.

If you are expecting Deus from this champagne beer, you'll be disappointed.  Watching the video on the Boston Beer website made it clear that the goal was to create a beer style that had never brewed before, even in the 1000 year history of Weihenstephaner.  From my two samples, they accomplished their goal.  Infinium is both perplexing, challenging and defies any beer definition I have in my head.  If you're looking for a unique collaboration beer, drink a bottle--or two like me.  However, while I've enjoyed this beer, I doubt I'd pick up another if it crossed my path.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

KARE 11 Microbrew of the Week

Courtesy of Lucid Brewing's facebook feed this morning, I caught the start of this summer series: Microbrew of the Week.  Kicked off with Lucid, KARE 11 will spotlight a new Minnesota brewery every Wednesday.  Given KARE 11's recent collaboration to name Summertide, Lucid's summer saison, it's not hard to figure out why they started with Lucid.

While KARE 11's interest in all things craft brew is great, it feels like a lot more to me. And I grant, it could be seen as just a way to fill the summer news slot: watch the interview and you'll see that there's nothing new or revealing to the beer geek, except for maybe the Lucid Lemonade made with Air, lime and Sprite over ice.  But it's good, basic beer information that all of us learned at one time or another on a brewery tour or reading All About Beer.

It's the ubiquitous, every-day role that craft beer is starting to fulfill that is the real story.  BeerAdvocate presently lists 48 breweries in the state, and at least a couple start ups are missing from the list.  Last night I picked up the Twin Cities Beer Map while trading growlers at Harriet Brewing for a party this weekend.  It's like we're Napa Valley.  Maybe we are since I learned a couple of things reading the beer map from Minnehaha Media.  It just feels like we are witnessing a vibrant and growing local beer scene that is beyond what most of us would have imagined possible just a year or two ago.

Cheers to craft beer in Minnesota!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blessing of the Maibock 2012 (Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis, MN)

Hanging in our office is a print by Minnesota artist Terrance Fogarty.  It's #1 of 100 prints of the Blessing of the Maibock 2009 and matches the one that sits in the far corner of the bar by the Washington Street window.

Gloria and I were sitting at Town Hall for a now forgotten event (possibly anniversary week) and the bartender Andy asked if we wanted a raffle ticket because not many had been sold yet.  In theory, our odds of winning would be good.  So, we bought two tickets for a now forgotten fundraising cause, never thinking we would never win.

I didn't attend the 2009 blessing; as a result, sadly, I'm not among those partaking in the toast.  I recognize several of the patrons in the print and very much enjoy having my "local" sitting above my head when I drink beer at home.  However, not making the 2009 event has given me a weird mental complex and feel that I should attend future blessings as an atonement for my sin, a sin I'm continually reminded of by the print above my head.  Adding to my spiritual crisis is that maibock isn't a favorite style; however, Town Hall's version is one that I like to drink--especially since it's free during the blessing.

Fast forward to 2012 and I make it to the blessing with beer drinking buddy Ian.  Rev. Aron Kramer officiated the blessing with a helper (I'm sure there's a proper name I don't know) who was filling the place with extremely pleasant incense (sandlewood?).  After a reading from Gilgamesh, we engaged in a litany.  Responsive reading, as it was known in my church, was always one of my favorite parts.  Since childhood,  I've imagined the voice of God to be the multifaceted drone of a congregation.   In this one, we all intoned "Good Lord, Deliver Us" to the reverend's statements.

Preparing the incense
for the blessing.  
A few of my favorites from the bulletin:

"From wasting money on thin beer, and time in thinner conversation."

"From thinking beer has made us clever when we've only begun to sound stupid."

"From the foolishness of not having designated someone to bring us safely home other than you."

Because free beer and the blessing fills the bar, Ian and I sit outside on the patio in spite of the chilly evening and three friends from two different worlds of my life appear  from the wasteland and sit down.  Free beer turned into true communion and conversation and dinner at the Blue Nile--a blessing from the miracle known as beer.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wavehopper (Big Bay Brewing, Shorewood, WI)

I will admit up front that I am not a fan of kolsch as a style.  Occasionally, I will find an excellent, delicate and flavorful kolsch that I will tolerate and enjoy.  Tonight is not that night.

Wavehopper from Big Bay Brewing looks fine in the glass with a white head that falls with a nice lace over a slightly anemic looking yellow brew.  Pungent nose has some of the classic kolsch characteristics, but overwhelmed by a sour apple and mineral wafting up. Just as watery in the mouth as it looks, the taste has a barely perceptible sweet malt and a sharp chalky flavor and unpleasant sourness.

In spite of my general beer optimism, I cannot find any redeeming characteristics in this brew.  In a phrase, avoid this beer.  Unfortunately, I didn't review Big Bay's Portside when I had it in March at Grumpy's in Minneapolis.  My simple rating of Portside was much higher, which is what made me hopeful for Wavehopper.  While it would take some convincing to get me to try Wavehopper again, my experience with Portside on tap will at least give me reason to try Big Bay again some day.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

One-Eyed Pike (Brainerd Lakes Beer, Brainerd, MN)

I wasn't a big fan of Brainerd Lakes Beer's IPA, so took me a while to get up the courage (and not be distracted by other stuff in the fridge) to try their wheat beer.  Probably didn't help the beer much, but finally giving it a try.

Stark white head on top a effervescent straw gold ale. Light sweet malt in the nose with a slight tang of wheat and an extremely light spice from hop or yeast--not sure.  Sweet bready malt and cream corn in the taste with a better mouthfeel that expected from the looks of it.  Wheat shows up as well as light sharpness.  In nose and taste there's a mineral note that doesn't blend well.  If you're looking for a half a step above your basic macrobrew, this beer is adequate.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grand Cru (Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis, MN)

Stone growler as displayed
in my kitchen
Grand Cru is a perennial favorite at Town Hall and GABF medal winning brew.  It is also one of our favorites, especially my wife's.  I've had this in every form, including the briefly used Stone growlers for those Town Hall patrons who remember that experiment.  Over the years, we've loved and liked this beer, mostly loving it in earlier years and liking it now.  We are unsure if our tastes have changed over the years or if the beer has changed.  One possible explanation for the difference in perception is that is we tended to drink Grand Cru on the opening night that it was tapped when we first fell in love with the beer, and now we get it when we see it: too many variables and not enough background information to make a conclusion.  At any rate, I'm still a fan boy and like or love this beer a lot, depending on the particular version of it that is in front of me at the moment.

Took home a growler of this 9.4% Belgian ale.  Dirty white head is a tough pour and almost evaporates.  Draft on Saturday fell less quickly, but dissipated just the same.  Fusel alcohols apparent in the nose with a spicy hotness along with strong caramel, toffee and burnt malt.  Swirl the beer and full legs appear along the edge of the glass and betray the high alcohol. Sticky sweet, full mouthfeel with caramel malt and a yeast and alcohol spiciness.  This beer warms up nicely and really opens up, so take some time and enjoy.  Otherwise, the flavors are muted and the full potential will be missed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lucid summer seasonal announcement with KARE 11

Lucid Brewing announced tonight on KARE 11 the name of it's summer saison.  I recently sampled Lucid brews for the first time at the Big Brew on Saturday, and they are creating some great beers.  Unfortunately, the saison wasn't on tap, but I expect it will be a fine summer brew.  While a semi-creative name (you'll have to go look), this set up for the announcement is a great (yet limited) summary of the present state of Minnesota brewing.  It is amazing that comparisons to Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado are the only way to make the case that Minnesota is lacking in any way.

We are truly on the cusp of a local beer explosion and Minneapolis is the next great beer destination. Cheers to Minnesota craft drinkers.  The golden age is on the horizon.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Old Boardhead 2011 (Full Sail Brewing, Hood River, OR)

Full Sail is one of those breweries that has a good reputation in my head, but doesn't always deliver the goods when I pick up a bottle.  Like Boulevard, this is a brewery to drink the specials but I ignore their regular line up. So, when I see "reserve" and "barleywine," I figure it's time to give them a chance once again.

Popping the top, the smell of caramel, fig and alcohol wafts up immediately.  Thin light tan head dissipates quickly.  Apparent alcohol and hop spice over the malty backbone of this beer.  Very sweet malt, sharp hop bit and dark fruit that slightly overpowers a thin mouthfeel.

This beer is good but not mind blowing. I won't get it again, but don't regret the purchase. It's a perfectly brewed beer, but lacks a subtly and balance to make it great; I'd be happy if this was my own homebrew for half the cost.  Taking a look at BA, I'm being a bit generous compared to other reviewers, but I'm a sucker for big hop so guessing that would explain the discrepancy.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Big Brew at Lucid Brewing (Lucid Brewing, Minnetonka, MN)

Ian @ Lucid.  
Free on a very wet Saturday afternoon and heading to Town Hall for the Blessing of the Maibock, Ian and I decided to make a quick stop at the Big Brew get together of the Minnesota Home Brewers Association.  I've done the full day at the Big Brew in the past, but haven't been back in a while.  The owners/brewers of Lucid Brewing have connections to the club, so it's great that they are hosting an event.

I'm a MHBA member, but rarely make the meetings.  So, today, I thought it would be fun to drop in and say hi, and taste the Lucid brews for the first time.  I'm also a kickstarter supporter that gives space to homebrewers to collaborate with the brewers of Lucid to create limited release batches in the future.  It's a really great idea and I look forward to trying some of these collaboration releases.  

Lucid had a jockey box of their beers sitting on the dock, so we had some samples.  Air, while purposely a very light wheat ale, has a lot of flavor and is brewed exceptionally clean.  Moved on to Dyno, and was shocked by the hop punch because I didn't really know anything about the beer.  Compared to Air, it was a huge step up but Dyno seemed more in perspective after the Camo.  The  Double IPA Camo did not disappoint. Camo is a high impact DIPA that was quite enjoyable to drink.  I'm looking forward to being able to review some drafts in the future.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge (Brouwerij Bockor, Bellegem, Belgium)

My last beer to taste in its own glass from the Brown Bag Blind Tasting, and hopefully its going to end with a good Flanders Red Ale.  For those not familiar with the style, Flanders Red is an ale that is exposed to the air in coolships and spontaneously fermented with the natural yeast.  In addition, Cuvee des Jacobins is aged for at least 18 months in an oak barrel.

Dirty light brown head falls quickly enough that it's dropped by half by the time I get a picture.  Distinct sourness in the nose along with a sharp cherry supported by dark fruit, malt and clean oak.  Puckering sourness, fresh cherry and sweet malt in the taste the lingers pleasantly.  Acidic punch lessens and the oak expands as it warms, improving the balance.

Oddly, this is a name I recognize, but I had never tried it or any beer from Brouwerij Bockor.  Assertive and well blended, Cuvee des Jacobinsis a classic of the style and I intend to keep a look out for it and other beers from Bockor.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Triple (Brasserie St. Feuillien, Le Roeulx, Belgium)

Third beer in its own glass from the Better Beer Society event.  I've had the St. Feuillien Triple on a couple of occasions, but really enjoying this one tonight.

Fluffy snow white head sits on top of a hazy orange beer.  Assertive, yeasty nose with tons of lemon zest, orange, citrus on top of a light spice.  Carbonation bite emphasizes the fruit and yeast, and it punches through a sweet malt.  Light on the tongue but not thin.

A real pleasure to drink, so St. Feuillien may have just moved up the list for this summer's trip to Belgium.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Saison (Brasserie St. Feuillien, Le Roeulx, Belgium)

Next beer in the series of beer glasses that I won at Brown Bag Blind Tasting back in January is Saison by St. Feuillien.  I've been a bit busy this winter, but glad to be finally getting to taste these beer from its own glass properly.

Snowy white head with medium sized bubbles on top of a hazy orange ale.  Not an overly assertive nose, so the yeast floats over slight pepper and spice, lemon, orange and sweet malt.  Carbonation bite leads into the same lemon, orange and yeasty spice held up with a light bodied sweetness.

A very good but not amazing saison. Thins out even more when it warms, but remains well worth the effort.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti (Great Divide Brewing, Denver, CO)

Started off sharing Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti with my wife, so my leftover taste is pictured.  Roastiness built up for her too much, so I ended up with all of it.  Oh no!

Fluffy, tightly bubbled brown head wasn't as high on the main pour, which falls to a light film and lace.  Smells like Yeti pretty much straight up, as I remember it since I haven't had a glass in a while.  Heavy, dark malt, light fresh vanilla and huge chocolate with alcohol and hop in a supporting role.  As it warms, the hops fight their way to the surface and have a sizable impact.  9.5% ABV leaves clear legs on the side of the glass when I return it to the beer coaster.

More clear Yeti in the taste, but the roast and bitter chocolate grows fully.  The spice that I missed placing in the nose becomes apparent in the taste (after reading the description): cayenne pepper.  Probably the spice in the nose coming through as well.  The spice burns lightly off the back of the tongue and becomes uncomfortable as it warms.

Very good beer to try, though the cocoa nib bitterness and cayenne pepper are too much for me.   Chocolate so prominent in the name threw me for a loop.  I was thinking that I was getting a big chocolaty version of Yeti that would suit my wife to a tee, but got much more in the bargain.  I can imagine a neophyte grabbing this beer with similar reasoning and not liking it.  I wouldn't buy this one again but glad I tried it.  Great Divide is a great brewery and this is a well done beer that I'm sure if perfect for someone. Back to just plain and spectacular Yeti for me.