Thursday, January 24, 2013

Muddy Pig Festival of Hops 2013 (St. Paul, MN)

The Muddy Pig brings back its Festival of Hops again, and it's as fun as ever.  With 50+ taps full of hoppy goodness, for me the test is how many new drafts are ready to pour into my taste database.  To my surprise (or arrogance), I found nine new brewsa pretty amazing number for any stop.  Three samples for $10 is a fairly affordable way to taste these high hop beers.

Let's start with tips for a successful fest at the Muddy Pig:
  • Order by number.  With so many beers, the names are just a confusing mess for the servers.  Say each number clearly, in order.  The beers are served in order with a ticket to remind you what is in each glass.  
  • Every sample has a lace.  The MP does a great job of serving samples, so be confident that what is being tasted is what was meant by the brewer.  It's very tough to wash and serve in sample size glasses, but MP does it well. 
  • Show up early.  I was a bit after the dinner our and plenty of seats were left on a Tuesday night.  I chose the back because it's lighter and away from the commotion, and most were empty in the back but it filled up quickly
  • Free WiFi.  Ask for the code and get some monkey work done.  I was able to productive doing relatively mindless tasks with internet access, and could also research my samples on the fly and take notes.  I found it fun to have my full beery resources available while tasting.  
  • Be prepared.  Walk in, find the numbers, order when you get a chance, including water immediately.  The servers work hard, but its a popular place and hesitation will cost valuable drinking time. 
  • No Pints.  I didn't try this, but the table next to me ordered a pint and was rebuffed; evidently, they were only serving samples for the fest.  Happily, I was able to find enough to keep me entertained for the evening, so it didn't matter.  I fail to see the reasoning for no pints, but I'm guessing there's some pragmatic reason.  
I optimistically started to review each sample, but became distracted with other concerns.  My first set of samples started well, took a dip and then finished well.  I started with Two Brothers Revelry, a copper ale with an off white lace.  Spicy hop and caramel nose that leads to a solid bite.  Listed as a red ale, it packs a punch.  Good start.  Next was Bell's Roundhouse, a dark golden ale with a wispy lace and the nose of a fresh hop alefruit and grass, followed by a biting taste that is completely expected from the nose.  Listed as an amber ale on BA, I would call it a bruising APA that makes up its lacks in subtlety with an amazing bite.  Finally, I couldn't resist the Lucid Foto IPA, a hazy copper ale with white tightly bubbled head.  Elegant nose of grapefruit-orange juice, fresh bread, spice, and pepper underneath.  Spice seems to be a combination of hop and yeast, but not sure.  Nose is more promising that the than taste that seems a bit muddled.

Round Two: Lake Superior Black IPA, a midnight black with no head, nose and taste is unexpected, and oddly unbalanced.  Off fruit taste and its elements fail to meld.  Very disappointing.  A bit busy at school lately, so I have tried a Pour Decisions brew yet. My first was their Maroon and Bold, Imperial Red IPA; it's a maroon beer to match the name with a full lace, heavy malt and caramel nose with hops fighting to the top, and some hop in the taste but the sweet base overwhelms.  Adequate, but I'm not in love with the beer in spite of being in love with the name of the brewery.  Lift Bridge Hop Dish IPA was next, but my mushroom and onion pizza interrupted the sampling, so I need to try it in full draft to give it a proper chance in spite of my initial positive impression.

After dinner, I tried Boulder Nitro Flashback, Fulton The Ringer, and Mendocino Double IPA, but, as mentioned before, lost track of writing up each.  Strong finish and especially looking forward to visiting Mendocino during our summer trip.  As I'm finishing my last rack of samples, a group of youngster professionals were chatting away and oblivious to the hop fest.  Not of the bitter persuasion, they, sadly, had to resort to drinking bottles of Amstel light.

Well worth the effort, I've been to several of MP's fill-the-tap festivals and have enjoyed each one.  Low key but MP festivals provide a unique combination: good value for beer quality, excellent presentation of samples and a selection that can wow even a hardcore geek.  Pick a night, settle in and drink and learn.

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