Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beer Club, Volume Four - Winter Beers

Welcome to yet another episode of Beer Club where the style picks itself. With all the winter beers and Christmas beers coming out I figured it was obvious choice if we were ever going to do them.

November/December was an insanely busy time for me so I put pretty much the entire lineup in Alvey's hands and this is what he laid out for me:

Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Well, OK, not this one. I bought a Sam Adams variety pack for the Toyfest party and had some of these left over and since it's very available (even on tap in the Twin Cities) I thought it was a good starting point. This one was OK, but pretty much just OK. As I stated in my review, it was better than a fizzy yellow beer but for the most part it was a pretty small beer for what I expected. I'd definitely drink it if I saw it on tap and the rest of the options were macrobrews.

Summit Winter Ale
It took awhile to get one of my favorite local breweries in the Beer Club lineup but I finally got it done. To me this kind of tasted like a winterized version of Summit EPA. It was hoppy just like Summit EPA but some twists and turns to make it different.

Bells Christmas Ale
One of my biggest surprises of the night. This was a fruity beer, both in aroma and flavor. I couldn't really put my finger on exact flavors but it reminded me of a fruity candy wrapped up in a beer (and somehow not in a bad way). I really liked this one.

Anchor Christmas Ale
To me, this was the quintessential winter/Christmas beer in the lineup. Lots going on in the way of flavors in a aromas, plenty of good spices to make you think of this time of the year. I also love the concept of changing up both the recipe of the beer every year and the labels. I guess it could suck if you found one you really liked but maybe they could go the route of Schell's Snowstorm if that happened.

Southern Tier Krampus
This one was a style that I don't really seem to gravitate towards but considering that it was a pretty decent beer. I appreciated the hoppy fruity nature of the beer and that made it something that I'd try again if I had the opportunity.

Ridgeway Insanely Bad Elf
This was hands down the star of the night for me. It was one of my first real experiences with a barley wine and apparently I could be a big fan of them. It was very boozy and slightly fruity but also had a sweetness to it that I really liked. I definitely look forward to trying more barleywines in the new year.

This month's Beer Club was a bit different for us in that we had several different styles of beer and it was tough to know what to look for. It was still a good choice because it gave us all ideas of what to drink over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

I know this is a couple days after Christmas but I hope you all had a great one (or a great whatever you celebrate) and have a fantastic New Year and a great year to come.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Memoirs of a Slacker

So I've been frustrated at my writer's block for this blog for awhile now and I realized one of my problems is that I tend to make it too big of a project. I think that I can't put something up unless it's an epic entry.

Since I've been coming up with my rough draft of 2010 goals (a.k.a. resolutions but that sounds like something made to be broken) and I've decided to keep up with this blog even if it means a quick paragraph about a beer I just drank. So bear with me as I move along this learning curve and hopefully it'll turn out to be something decent.

First piece of business, catch up with the last two Beer Club meetings.

Beer Club, Volume Three - Imperial Stouts

The first two themes of Beer Club just kind of picked themselves and the third month did the same. As you can see from the Darkness Day post (Darkness Falls Across the Land), I was able to acquire some of the fantastic Russian imperial stout both for my personal stash and for Beer Club so imperial stouts were the theme for the month.

Unlike IPA month, I relied heavily on advice from Alvey at the Four Firkins to fill out my lineup here. He had recommended most of the beers we tried, both prior to Beer Club's existence and specifically for imperial stout month of Beer Club. He has been a huge help for us every month.

On to the beers -

Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout
The first beer was one that Alvey recommended to me a long time ago and I decided to just save for Beer Club so that I wouldn't always know what's in store for the meetings. It went over very well and seemed to me to be a very good starter imperial stout for people and it's a great value as well.

New Holland Night Tripper
I honestly don't know what made me buy this one when I did but it may have very well been the label, I think it's pretty cool. This one also went over pretty well, I actually thought it was like a very miniature version of Darkness. Not that it's in the same league by any means but it seemed to have a lot of the same characteristics of Darkness in a much smaller way.

Samuel Adams Imperial Stout
This is a beer that I had before but didn't particularly care for. I still had two bottles left from my original four pack so I thought I'd put it in the lineup to get everybody else's opinions of it. Paul was the only one who really liked it and I think the biggest issue with everybody else was the same problem I had with it - too much of the anise flavor. It didn't stick out like a black licorice sore thumb a la Jagermeister but it just put a bad taste in my mouth. Pun intended. Oh well, this is truly an example of "to each his own."

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
One of my very favorite beers, this is one of the first imperial stouts I ever bought thanks to Alvey's advice. I loved it then and I loved it the night we had it at Beer Club too. This beer is fantastic and may be the best value of any craft beer out there. You can usually get it for around $2.50 or less per bottle but I've seen four packs as low as $8 and once bought a four pack on sale for just over $6. It's worth whatever you pay for it. I'll need to re-rate this at Rate Beer one of these days because for as much as I initially loved it, I still under-rated it. Can't wait to see how this stuff cellars.

Victory Storm King Imperial Stout
This is a massive stout. Very robust flavors and incredibly hoppy for a stout. I was surprised to try a stout that had this level of hops in it. Another solid choice.

Bells Expedition Stout
The late comer to the party. I had heard lots of good stuff about this and it became available at the Firkins just a few short days before Beer Club so I added it as a last minute entry. This was a very complex big beer (notice the theme here?) and something to warm you up and make your tummy happy.

Surly Darkness
What more can I say about this beer that I haven't already said? This stuff is truly the nectar of the gods. It might be the gods of the underworld but damn is this stuff unbelievable. I've never had something with so many distinct flavors (coffee, chocolate, raisins, cherry, etc) that you can pick out by themselves yet blend together so well to give you a little taste of heaven on your tongue. This is the reason that we had imperial stouts for the theme this month and beers like this are the reason that I care enough about beer to spread the word to anyone who will listen. I hope you've had the pleasure of trying this beer and if you haven't, do whatever you have to do to get your hands on it.

This is the expression you have whenever you're drinking Darkness

Beers like the ones in this lineup are the reason that imperial stouts are nipping at IPA's for the top position on my favorite style list and to be honest, they might just be tied. There are no losers in a competition like this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Darkness Falls Across the Land

Last Saturday was Christmas for beer geeks across the land, for it was Darkness Day at the Surly brewery. Darkness Day is the one day out of the year that you can buy the holy grail of beer, Surly's Russian Imperial Stout - Darkness. (Actually, this year if you're lucky you might be able to track some down at liquor stores somewhere but I digress).

I've been up and down the spectrum on Darkness Day starting with "oh, that sounds really cool, I'll have to check it out" to "it costs HOW MUCH per bottle???" to "well, maybe I'll just get a bottle or two" to "people start lining up at WHAT TIME??? guess I won't be getting any" to finally "screw it, I'm just gonna wait in line behind the total die hards but ahead of the lazy wannabes and see where it gets me."

My plan was to get there at about 9:00 on Saturday morning and hope that I was one of the 800 lucky people to get a wrist band that allowed me to buy my allotment of 6 bottles of Darkness. I talked Allison into coming with me both for the company (although I made so many new friends that day it wouldn't have been an issue) and for her wrist. I'm not sure how many of my friends that wanted me to get them a bottle actually had plans or how many just didn't want to put in the effort but I'm a trusting guy and a good friend (I think) and bought some extras for them. I feel a bit responsible for getting my small group of beer disciples into loving good beer so I thought I owed at least a few of them a bottle.

I envisioned the scene at the brewery dozens of times the week before DDay both while awake and while sleeping and as I was getting ready Saturday morning I decided at the last minute to push it and get there a few minutes earlier. When I came around the corner and didn't see masses of people lined up for miles I figured I got lucky. Sure enough, we set up our chairs at about the #225 spot in line (according to the rough count of our new neighbors in line). That was at about 8:45 and by 9:00 there was probably another 50-100 people behind us and shortly after that we were now in about the middle of a 400+ line of people.

So it seemed that we got lucky showing up when we did and even luckier because the weather was picture perfect. Sure, there was a brisk fall chill in the day but it was finally sunny and after a few Surly Coffee Benders to kick off the day and warm me up a bit I didn't even need a jacket. Speaking of Coffee Bender, Surly c0ntinued to be a kickass organization by bringing out a keg of Coffee Bender for those of us waiting in line. It's a true sign of class to support your fans by bringing out free beer when you have nothing to gain from it and that's a shining example of why Surly is as great as they are.

It didn't take long to find familiar faces in the crowd and to make friends with new faces because everybody there was there for the same reason, they love good beer and wanted to have fun. Because of that reason and because of the nice weather, the time seemed to fly and before we knew it they were opening the gates and Darkness had begun to descend upon us (I swear they picked Darkness as the name of the beer because it's so fun to write shit like that).

Once we got inside the gate we met up with Phil and Becky and proceeded to get the business side of things done. We hit the Surly swag room to buy a couple t-shirts and some glassware and then got in line to buy the beer. The girls went on a beer run while we waited in line to buy our Darkness.

Allison brought me back a Birch Aged CynicAle (I liked it, I think I like regular Cynic better though) Then, I heard the news... there was one keg of Darkness tapped and for sale. The girls went to wait in that line while Phil and I bought our bottles and brought them to the car and I returned to the beautiful sight of a goblet full of Darkness.

I had it for the first time a few weeks back when they tapped a Firkin of it at the 501 Club (see Surly Darkness and Surly Wet) and thought it was pretty good but I wasn't sure that it was worth all the hoopla. I'm not sure if it was the extra bit of carbonation zip that the keg provided over the firkin but that glass of beer was maybe the best glass I've ever had. The flavors were alive and dancing through my mouth like nothing I had ever tasted before. It must have been the slowest I've ever drank 12 oz of beer before, I'd take just enough to coat my tongue and enjoyed every drop I could.

The highlight of my day happened when I met one of my Twitter buddies, Surly Boy Wonder who I saw walking around. We had been chatting back and forth leading up to Darkness Day and when I saw him, I walked up to introduce myself. After a few words he handed me a bottle of 2008 Darkness. I thought he just wanted me to check it out so I gave it back to him and he told me it was a gift. I've always said that you can't beat free beer. Well, good free beer is better. A free bottle of vintage Darkness? Well that just cannot be beat. It definitely made my day and that says a lot considering how great my day was.

We spent the rest of our day there just taking in the scene and trying some new beers. After my Darkness was gone I decided to try the Smoke. I thought that even if I couldn't get any Darkness I could at least drink something that looked close to it. It was pretty tasty. Another highlight of my day came when I decided to try a glass of the Tea-Bagged Furious. It was right in line with the Darkness for me for how great it was. It bums me out that a lot of these beers aren't available year-round but I guess that just makes days like today that much more special.

I wished that we didn't have plans that night because it meant we had to leave a couple hours earlier than I would have liked. But since that was the only minor downer of the day, I can't complain. I got Darkness for myself and for some of my friends and had a blast doing it. Just like after Surlyfest, I'm already looking forward to next year's Darkness Day and will be bringing more people with me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beer Club, Volume Two - India Pale Ales

So when I first envisioned creating Beer Club, the first goal I had was simply to find some people who would discuss all the good beers I was suddenly drinking. Since IPA's/Double IPA's are my favorite style of beer it was natural that I'd be drinking a lot of them (25 of the 95 beers that I've rated so far). Oktoberfest was too natural of a fit for the first Beer Club meeting since so many of them were coming out right before the first meeting.

The next meeting wasn't so natural to anybody but me and the more I thought about it the more I thought I might have made a mistake by picking IPA's so quickly in our lineup. Sure I had open minded people but still there were plenty who just weren't big fans of IPA's. Maybe I was just talking myself into it as well but I kept telling them that they just haven't had the right ones and that the concept they had in their minds of IPA's (bitter beers) wasn't completely accurate and I'd prove to them that they did like (the right) India Pale Ale's after all. (A little background if you're not completely familiar with the style, click here - India Pale Ale)

Another big part of the reason that I chose IPA's is because I figured I had some pretty good knowledge about them and could pick out a pretty good lineup. So while I wasn't going to learn much about the beer I knew that I could be a more effective leader/president/founder of BC/HMFIC and everybody else would be better off because of it. No use in the blind leading the blind this soon in the life cycle of the group.

After searching my brain's database and emailing Alvey at the Four Firkins, these are the ones that I came up with for tasting:

Founders Centennial IPA
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
Founders Harvest Ale
Stone India Pale Ale (IPA)

Two Hearted Ale
Surly Furious

I knew that the night would wrap up with Furious because I've been spreading that gospel for awhile now and Bell's Two Hearted and Stone's IPA have been two of my favorites ever since I've tried them. I wanted to throw Dogfish Head in the group even though it wasn't one of my favorites just because I knew it was a popular beer from a popular innovative brewery.

The Centennial and the Torpedo were on Alvey's advice and the Harvest Ale was a last minute addition by me. I didn't really want two from Founders but they were different enough from each other and I just fell in love with the Harvest Ale when I had my first one.

So, the group was a bit mixed up from last month's with Paul U, Kris, Mike and Pat returning and Phil and Brent joining as guest stars. All of the tastings went pretty well and people started to realize (much to my relief) that I was correct in that they did like IPA's, just didn't know which ones.

The star of the night was unquestionably the Founders Harvest Ale. I felt bad for the Stone IPA because it followed the Harvest and I couldn't believe how little support the Stone got until I started tasting it myself. Harvest was a TOUGH act to follow. Bell's definitely was well liked and the Furious performed like I thought it would (very well).

In retrospect I'm going to have to go back and re-rate some of these on Rate Beer because some of them lost a little bit when compared side by side to others and others gained a bit. I'm going to stay on record that Two Hearted and Stone's IPA are two of my favorite India Pale Ales, Founders Harvest Ale is officially my second favorite and Furious just cannot be stopped no matter what I put up against it. It is the godfather of all beers.

In hindsight, I may have still made a mistake by picking IPA's so early for the club even though they went over much better than anybody expected them to but at least everybody can get right to ordering one in the bar or picking some up from the store. In fact, I picked up some Harvest for Paul and for Kris when I made my run for more the next day.

I'm very pleased at how well the meetings have gone so far. People have been open minded and talkative and very receptive of everything way beyond my wildest dreams. Who knows? Maybe this thing has some legs and will be a fixture for a long time. I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Barley John's Brewpub

I read a blurb about this place a couple months ago and put it on my "places to check out" mental list. Allison works with a girl who lives in New Brighton and after arranging some logistical details we worked it out so I could pick up her husband and the girls would meet us there after work and serve as sober cabs for us since we'd be there well before them (an hour and a half head start as it turned out). I had been to Granite City many many times before and really enjoy their beers but they've lost a little bit these days when compared to what I've been drinking. Still good beer but doesn't quite stand up to some of the really good stuff. I was curious to see if Barley John's was the same way.

I picked up T and we were there by 5:00 hoping for a happy hour. Well not only were we there in time for happy hour, but apparently Monday's happy hour runs from 4:oopm to midnight. That's my kind of happy hour. After checking their website ( for a list of beers I knew the one thing I had to try was their seasonal Rosies Old Ale which they describe as:
Triple fermented Wild Rice brown Ale brings an elevated alcohol percentage to the glass. Aged 8 months in Old Fitzgerald Bourbon casks (third use of the barrel) to add a subtle bourbon and vanilla note. Subtle sherry flavor and a brilliant red color. Served in a 5.5oz pour.

I was delighted when our server told me that those casks once held Pappy Van Winkle's bourbon in it. When I made mention of my excitement and saw that she also recognized the significance of it (it's a $100+ bottle of bourbon that's aged for 20 years) and I knew we had a server with some knowledge.

But I decided to start off with their Old 8 Porter first which at $3.25 a pint seemed to be like stealing. Their website says the following about it:
Dark, rich chocolate and coffee notes with huge malt characteristics. This is a meal in itself!
8 percent alcohol

I absolutely couldn't believe how amazing this stuff was. When I decided to check this place out, I expected at worst a place that served beer around as good as Granite City and at best a place that had beer that I liked as much as I used to like Granite City's beer. Just to be fair, I'm not trying to knock Granite City in any way, I still absolutely love going there especially for the food and the beer is still very good when compared to boring yellow fizzy beers but the Duke is just nothing close to a Surly Furious. I do think their beers are great gateway beers to introduce the masses to good craft brews. But I digress.

The Old 8 Porter was literally one of the best beers that I ever had. I wanted to just buy a couple growlers and go home and sit on my couch for the night. I gave it a very hard to attain 4.7 rating on Rate Beer with the following notes:
Dark brown pour with a foamy tan head. Heavy chocolate aroma with some coffee notes. Flavor is slightly sweet chocolate with roasted coffee coming through. Sweet, slightly smokey finish.

I wanted to keep drinking this the entire night but thought I'd switch it up a bit and tried the India Brown Ale both because it was seasonal and the concept of a IPA style mixed with a Brown intrigued me. Their description of it:
This kicked up version of an American Brown Ale celebrates the toasty goodness of a brown ale while exploring the explosive and flavorful world of the Amarillo hop.

I really should have had the Old 8 last because most beers would pale in comparison but this still went over well for me and I gave it a 3.8 and said:
Dark brown pour with a creamy tan head. Hoppy floral aroma, surprising for a brown ale. Hoppy caramel flavor with a slightly bitter finish.

Finally it was time for Rosie. I wasn't even leery of the $9 price tag for 5.5 ounces of beer because somehow I knew it would be worth it. She brought it in a small wine glass which raised my eyebrow because I figured if you were going to serve something like this you'd have a good snifter but whatever I guess. The color was a dark brown and it had little to no head. One whiff and I definitely could smell the effect that Pappy had on Rosie. It was a sweet aroma with lots of bourbon coming through. The taste was very overpowering in a good way, heavy alcohol came through (our server said it was an estimated 20+% ABV) and the bourbon was very evident. It finished very sweetly with some caramel notes and warmed me to the core.

This one wasn't on Rate Beer (at least not this version) but I would have given a 3 for appearance (I like a decent head on my beer), a 9 for aroma (I could have smelled it all night), a 9 for flavor (way more going on than I listed), a 4 for palate and an 18 overall for a total score of 4.3. This could change (likely go up) with subsequent tastings and I'll definitely be back to find out.

I knew that after tasting the Old 8 and Rosie that most of the other beers would end up being a bit of a downer (the one I had and two others that I sipped were anyway) and decided to finish with an Old 8 to drink with my burger (which was also very good but since this is a beer blog and not a food one I'll just say their menu is a bit high priced but the burger was a great value and very tasty).

More "research" will soon be conducted starting with next Monday for another happy hour (if not sooner) and hopefully I'll have some more to say about a few other beers (if I can resist just sticking with the Old 8 and the Rosie).

If you haven't checked this place out yet, do it. If you need someone to go with you, call me. I only work 10 minutes from the place and it's on my way home!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Surly Darkness and Surly Wet

I've been looking forward to Surly's Darkness Day for quite awhile now so needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that they were tapping a firkin of it last Tuesday at the 501 Club in Minneapolis. I was able to somehow convince a couple buddies who are far from beer geeks to join me and after figuring out the logistics, all of us could enjoy as much Darkness as we could get our hands on and then move on to $2 Coffee Benders (that's like stealing) without having to worry about who was driving.

We got there about a half hour before the firkin was tapped and they gave me the look that made me wonder if I was worried about getting there early for no reason. After grabbing a Furious to sip while we were waiting and chatting with Omar Ansari for awhile we grabbed a table close to the bar to wait for the Darkness to be unleashed. As it got closer to eight bells, the bar area got fuller and fuller as other beer geeks poured in.

We each took a spot where we hoped to be noticed by the bartender and eventually got back to the table with 8 glasses of Darkness between the three of us. Here are my notes from it:
Appearance is that of...darkness. No head, sweet aroma with a soy sauce type of smell. Sweet, thick syrupy mouthfeel with little to no carbonation. Lots going on in the flavor with chocolate and coffee coming out the most for me. Nice smooth almost creamy finish.

To my surprise, my two friends (including Pat of Beer Club fame) also liked it. I didn't expect them to be big fans of such an aggressive beer knowing what they normally would choose. My main goal of course from this night was to finally get my taste buds on this insanely popular beer but I also to give it a taste to make sure I want to buy my six bottles of Darkness when the day comes (I do).

After finishing the night off with a couple Coffee Benders and a CynicAle, some very nice lady (I believe she said she was married to a Surly employee) gave me a kickass Surly T shirt on her way out of the bar. All in all, it was a good night.

I've been hearing plenty of buzz about the new IPA that Surly was working on lately, the Wet Hop, and I've been very antsy to try it. While imperial stouts like Darkness have been climbing my favorites chart, IPAs are still where my heart belongs. I ran into the brewery one night to buy a sweatshirt and they were in the process of brewing this and the place smelled like heaven.

I heard the first kegs were going to be unveiled at Roat Osha, a Thai restaurant the I've never heard of but it didn't matter, I wanted... nope, I needed to try this beer. So I convinced Allison to go there with me so I could give it a taste.

Turns out, it was damn good. The bar was crowded because of the beer and also the Twins game and I really wanted to try the food so we got a table and ate some amazing food while I sipped my beers. I was impressed at how well this beer went with spicy foods (I ordered mine a 5 out of 5 on the spice scale). Here are my notes:
Brownish red in color, not much head because of the pour. Very hoppy aroma, smelled a lot like tangerine to me. One of the best beers I’ve ever smelled. Flavor was more mild than I expected, sweet and tangy and still very hoppy with a nice lingering bitter finish.

I'm not sure if this makes sense or not, but in my very amateur opinion I usually draw a line between hoppy and bitter. I realize they go hand in hand but to me a beer can be very hoppy without being overly bitter (in either the good way or the bad way) and it can also be bitter without having the hoppy notes that I'm used to looking for and loving. Maybe one day I'll find out of it this is crazy or not but for not it's my story and I'm sticking to it.

That being said, it looks like more bars are popping up with kegs of Wet and I think I'd be doing myself a disservice if I didn't mosey around to those bars and enjoy them while I can. I'll make a toast to those of you who are unfortunate and do not have access to this Surly offering. I'll also think of how lucky I am to be living where I do, I guess part of me must have known deep down that Surly would be opening its doors less than five miles from me when I picked this neighborhood to buy a house back in 2005. Guess I'll have to toast to that as well.



As the NFL season drew near this year, I was really looking forward to tailgating again. Unfortunately due to a late starting season and two road games to start, I had to wait until the last weekend of September to get up at an obscenely early hour and drink beer before most of you were awake.

As you may know, I'm hooked up with the Finnegan's Irish tailgating group (mentioned here: and so I usually don't bring my own beer because of both the convenience of drinking out of the tap and of course the charity angle to it. But I knew with all the new stuff I've discovered, I had to at least bring a couple other beers to add to the mix. I remember one of the first things I thought after trying Surly's Coffee Bender was that it would be fantastic to kickoff a tailgating morning with. So I did exactly that at 6:45 am the morning of the Vikings-Niners matchup.

A couple Coffee Benders followed by a Founders Breakfast Stout with a Surly Furious tossed in made it a fantastic morning. The nice part about drinking craft beers instead of the others that won't be mentioned is that you don't drink nearly as many of them and you're not running to the bathroom so damn much.

This past Monday Night's game demanded some thing special thrown in the cooler so I brought a Little Sumpin' Extra to kick off the afternoon of tailgating with and a bottle of Old Rasputin as the victory beer and it ended up going very well with the victory cigar I enjoyed after the game as well. Fill in the middle with few glasses of Finnegan's (and one grossly overpriced Michelob Golden Lite in the dome) and it was a very nice night of beer paired with an all time fabulous Monday Night Football game.

Not sure what the remaining games of the season will bring but I do plan on kicking off every morning with a Surly Coffee Bender because it's never too early to get surly. If you're going to any home games, stop by our Finnegan's tent in the Purple Two lot, also known as the Star Tribune lot. Skol Vikes!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beer Club, Volume One - Oktoberfest

The first meeting of Beer Club kind of picked its own theme. Even if it seems a little weird, Oktoberfest beers all seem to come out in September and with a whole mess of them coming out the week or two before Beer Club met and Surlyfest occurring two days before it, the Oktoberfest theme seemed like a no-brainer.

My initial thought was to get a few of the brands that people knew (Schell's, Summit, Sam Adams, Leinie's) and then a few of the not-quite-so-known brands outside of beer geeks (Paulaner, Ayinger, etc). The lineup ended up also being on autopilot and picking itself for the most part and we ended up with the following beers:
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest
Bells Octoberfest Beer
Left Hand Oktoberfest
Schell Octoberfest
Paulaner Oktoberfest
Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest
Boulevard Bobs 47 Oktoberfest
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen
Capital Autumnal Fire
Surly SurlyFest

(and one more that I'll have to check my notes for)

Eleven beers in all, with Surlyfest being a last minute addition when a couple guys were able to procure some for the meeting. I knew that all of these should be pretty solid beers based off their scores on Rate Beer and off the word of mouth from friends and experts and my own personal experience with a few of them.

While the Oktoberfest theme was very timely for the calendar it may have not been the greatest style to showcase huge differences between the brands. I'm sure part of that is due to our inexperience with tasting and not being able to pick out the characteristics of the beer that seasoned beer tasters are capable of doing. We all seemed to notice that each brand was definitely different in aroma and flavor but it was hard to put a finger on most of them.

The one beer that stood out more than the rest of them was the Kaiser. Most of the club decided this wasn't their favorite one with Josh and I being the only ones who really liked it a lot. To me, it had some great characteristics that reminded me of what I love in IPA's (some citrus, some hops) and it also stood out in the crowd for me.

Overall, the Schell's and the Paulaner seemed to stand out (with the Paulaner being my second favorite) but there wasn't one that people didn't find very drinkable.

The beers aside, I think the meeting went very well. There were 7 of us total (with a guest as well) and everybody's comments and observations made us all notice things that we didn't notice on our own. A perfect example for me was the Ayinger. There was something to it that I couldn't put my finger, er, I mean taste buds on until Mike made me realize it was butter. Weird... I would have never been looking for a butter flavor in a beer but it was actually pretty good.

We have a very good core group of guys who seem to be coming for the right reasons and take this just the right amount of serious while still having a very fun time. I mean come on, we don't want to take the fun out of drinking beer. I'm already looking forward to next month which has already been pegged as IPA month (followed by November's Imperial Stouts).

The inaugural meeting with the charter members (L to R) Mike B, Bob, Pat, Kris, Paul U, Mike I and Josh. Not pictured, charter member not in attendance Paul L and Beer Club guest and picture taker Allison.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gentlemen, welcome to Beer Club

As my beer hobby as spun out of control (or is it into tighter control?) the past few months, I've been finding myself wanting to talk beer more with people. I don't have a lot of friends who like to step outside their normal beer drinking boxes and those that do still don't try half of the new stuff that I do. I could hang out at the Four Firkins all night after work but I'm sure even a patient guy like Alvey would eventually kick me out.

I work with a guy who belongs to a brew club and he told me to check it out sometime, but when I looked into it more online, it seemed to have a heavy concentration on home brewing which I am not looking to get into (quite yet).

That left me with the same option that I always seem to face when I'm looking for something that doesn't exist - start it myself. I have a pretty decent home bar that seats around 10 people quite nicely. I do the research on beers and buy them anyway. Why not find some of those outside the beer box friends of mine and get something going?

Beer Club was born.

I've heard about the beer tasting parties where everybody shows up and brings a six pack and everybody tastes the different beers either blindly or otherwise and then either rate the beers or just rank them and it's a good old time. I like the concept, but my fear about doing something like that is you'd wind up with three people bringing a six pack of Summit, two bringing a four pack of Surly and then a couple random other beers.

I wanted to be able to come up with a theme, to put like beers against each other, to make sure there was a revolving style of beers so that we had variety every month. I figured the easiest way to do that would be to make myself quasi-dictator (I put quasi in front of that in case any Beer Club members are reading this). I decided that I'd pick the style of beer for the month and then do some research, talk to some of those in the know, get some input from the Beer Club members and go buy the lineup beers for everybody to try on the third Monday of every month (Monday being chosen so that we can watch some football during a third of the year).

I thought that this strategy would accomplish a few things. First, it would eliminate the "too many chefs" syndrome. Second, it would allow for some consistency as to what we're trying and hopefully set up a good variety of styles and avoid IPA month 7 months out of the year. Lastly, I wanted to make it as easy as possible since everybody is so busy and not everybody has the time nor the inclination that I do to set this up. My hope was that if all people had to do was show up once a month with a $10 bill to put in the Beer Club fund it would make it less tempting to skip than if they had to figure out what to bring and then go buy it.

I set up a Beer Club group on my Ning website, explained my intentions and baited the hook. I tried to spark a few debates and planned the first meeting to be in September. I got some nibbles and reeled some guys in and started planning. We tossed around some clever names for our group (I really liked the Arrogant Bastards after Stone's notorious beer but ended up going that route with this blog instead) but since none of them hashed out, I think Beer Club has just stuck. I figured with us guys getting together underground just like Tyler Durden to escape our normal lives it was a little fitting (OK, so my bar is only halfway underground, big deal).

I decided that with the first meeting taking place in September, it would be a perfect month to plan an Oktoberfest theme especially it would be only two days after Surlyfest. As the time towards beer club ticked down I realized it was a wise decision because website after website, email after email and Tweet after Tweet was pimping the new Oktoberfest that showed up in liquor stores across the Twin Cities.

My plan was to have roughly 6-8 different beers for everybody to try but with Oktoberfests being a bit cheaper than I expected and some last minute donations, the lineup was set at ten different brews as the first meeting approached. It was a little rough to get people mobilized but I had heard from enough people to decide that it was a go.

So the stage was set, the players were chosen and we were ready to go.

We'll find out in the next post if my plan worked out. Stay tuned....

(how can you go wrong with a lineup with this?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some non-Surly ratings from last weekend

As I mentioned last post, I swung into the Liquor Barrel Friday night after work to order my next keg. I decided on Grainbelt Premium to placate my yellow fizzy beer fan friends instead of the Two-Hearted that I really wanted because the last thing I need is to be pouring a glass of nectar like that and having them bitch about how awful it is while paying 3-4 times as much for it. Why do I care what they like? Hmmmm, good question.

Anyway, after filling in the Oktoberfest hole still left in Beer Club's lineup (it really is coming, trust me) I noticed they had Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale and I was curious enough to give it a try. After I got home, drank and rated the Surly CynicAle that I also bought (see the Surlyfest post for that) I poured myself a Sierra Nevada. It was definitely unique, there were plenty of flavors and aromas that I couldn't put my finger (or nose or taste buds) on. Looking forward to another shot at it to see if I can pick anything else specifically out. It got a 3.6 from me and these comments:
Deep golden color, thick foamy white head. Sharp pungent hops aroma, touch of citrus with a hint of pine. Mild hops in the flavor with a bit of pine, finish is sharp like the aroma, bitter from the hops. Solid, unique IPA.

Sunday I got my first chance to sit down in front of my own TV to watch my beloved Vikes and I plopped down with a Lift Bridge Farm Girl Belgian Saison. I've heard about these guys for awhile and have been anxious to try this one of their offerings in particular. It was a very solid Saison and I can tell that I've been drinking awesome beer because when I looked back to see what rating this one got from me and saw 3.1, I wondered why I was so hard on it. Then it hit me that 3.1 is nothing to be ashamed of. Anyway, some notes:
Yellow pour, very fizzy/carbonated. Not much of a head. Not a very strong aroma, some yeast/wheat and slight citrus. Wheat flavor with the spicyness coming through faintly, clean smooth finish.

I followed that up with a Stone IPA, a Magic Hat #9 and split a Little Sumpin' Extra with my buddy Noe. Football and beer, nothing better.

Later that night for Sunday night football I decided to try a couple other new offerings, starting with Two Brothers Cane and Ebel. I don't remember where I read about this but I do remember reading good things, good enough to make me buy it without further research. This beer stands out very well in a sea of very good beers that I've been trying. It took unique to a whole new level with the fantastic rye flavor. It got 4.1 from me.
Deep brown color, thick white foam. Heavy rye aroma with a hint of the sugar coming through and slight hops as well. Rye is very prominent in the flavor, sweet and bitter also. Very nice combo of flavors.

To close out the night I went with a Rogue Half-E-Weizen (MoM Hefeweizen). I was very disappointed in this one. It just had nothing of note to mention, just a very boring beer that only got a 2.3 from me.
Cloudy orange pour, white foamy head. Wheat/yeast aroma with slight sulfur. Not very flavorful, slight yeast, bit of lemon, not much mouthfeel or finish.

I might as well throw my after work beer rating in this entry in case I get behind again. I've had several of the Summit Horizon Red Ale and each time it has grown on me. It falls into that unique category because it's a red ale but has some wonderful IPA qualities to it, namely in the aroma department. The flavor isn't quite as good as the aroma but it's still very good and has its own unique taste to it, no doubt due to some help from that smell. It sounds like they're planning on keeping this around all year round now and I'm very happy with that decision. Summit EPA has always been one of my go to beers not because it's the best out there but because it's often the only decent beer in a flood of otherwise boring macrobrews. Hopefully the Horizon Red will catch on like this and give me a better hops option when I'm out and about. I gave it a 3.9 and said:
Deep red color, light brown foamy head. Sweet hoppy aroma with floral notes. Slightly bitter hops flavor without the floral that’s in the aroma. Medium mouthfeel with a bitter finish.


I've been looking forward to Surlyfest ever since I heard about it and I wasn't disappointed. Luckily Josh was available to head to the fest with me since everybody else seemed to have a prior engagement.

I kicked off the day with a Coffee Bender and when Josh showed up at my house, we had a Surly CynicAle in my bar before we took off for the brewery. I had only had a sample of this before when I took the tour and wasn't super impressed with it but after hearing good things about it I decided to give it another try and picked up a 4-pack at the Crystal Liquor Barrel when I ordered my keg. I'm not sure if there were too many other beers for it to stand out or just my "well it's no Furious" attitude but after giving it another chance it blew me away. I'm sure part of it is the fact that I've been drinking and loving a lot of wheat beers and saisons over the summer but this is one of the top that I've had. Gave it a 3.9 on Rate Beer and said:
Cloudy yellow color, foamy white head that quickly dissipated. Wheat, yeast aroma with a hint of citrus. Wheat flavor with a slight hoppy note, lingering tangy finish. I enjoyed this much more than I did at the brewery tour. It stands up much better alone than in a lineup.

The day started off with a nice bonus as we found out we got 5 drink tokens instead of the 4 that we expected and got better when we heard Tool playing until the first band got fired up.

The place was surprisingly undercrowded for a sold out event but it might have just seemed that way because I'm used to Bockfest in New Ulm. The food was very reasonably priced and pretty kickass (Josh had his first Chicago dog experience). We got at couple of minutes of chat time with Omar and met head brewer Todd as well.

Ran into Alvey from the Four Firkins and he introduced us to some very cool fellow beer lovers. I found out that it's very easy to have a discussion with random strangers at an event like that because you know that most of them probably love the same stuff that you do.

Kudos to Omar for making the call to make the socially responsible decision and limit the number of beers everyone could have instead of seeing how many he could sell in a four hour time period. I would have loved more tokens but it was nice to not have "those guys" in the crowd that are working on their fifth beer by the time you get in the gate.

I didn't do an official rating on the Surlyfest beer even though I had a couple of them but do not fear, Surlyfest made an appearance at the inaugural meeting of Beer Club (more on that to come). It was a great time and I decided that we're definitely getting a good sized group or even a small army to attend next year. You heard me, plan on it next year.

Catching up with beers from the last week or so

Finally I get a chance to sit down and recap the last 10 days or so. Let's start off with a new source for beer that I discovered at my nephew's birthday party while chatting about beer with my brother-in-law's brother. Princeton's Liquors ( in Maple Grove was a very pleasant surprise for me. The Four Firkins and the Liquor Barrel remain my go to places for obvious reasons but these guys had some new stuff that I hadn't seen before and they give you a 10% break on bottles if you buy six at a crack.

I checked it last Monday before the kickoff of the opening double header of Monday Night Football. I decided to rate a few that I had tried before (and one that I hadn't) while cleaning up the bar after Freedom Fest the Saturday before. I started with the...

Surly Hell
As I stated when I first tried it, it reminded me of what I think Heineken (German for a skunk's ass) and Rolling Rock are trying to do. Although I found out at Surlyfest (more on that to come) that if you don't drink Surly plenty cold, that skunky aroma rears its ugly head. I gave it a 3.8 on Rate Beer and said:
16 oz can from Golden Valley Liquor Barrel. Light golden yellow in color, medium foamy white head. Slight yeast aroma and (perhaps due to unconscious suggestion from reading the description) fresh bread as well. Slightly bitter flavor from the hops but smooth and light on the palate. Not usually one of my favorite styles of beers but this is probably the best one that I’ve tried.

One of the summer's greatest surprises. I picked this up from the Firkins for the gal after asking what a good next step for a Blue Moon drinker would be and little did I know how much I'd like it myself. Too bad it's made by InBev. Oh well, I think this is still my favorite Belgian that I've tried so far. It got a solid 4.0 on Rate Beer for me and earned the following comments:
Pale yellow pour with thick foamy white head. Fresh, yeasty wheat aroma with some spice coming through. Clean taste with a hint of citrus and the coriander does make an appearance along with other spices. Light mouthfeel with a smooth finish. Great beer.

Point Nude Beach Summer Wheat
This one has been a bit of a Jeckle and Hyde for me. I loved it at the Point tasting at the Four Firkins but the first bottle I had at home didn't seem to have the same flavor. Each one has been a bit different for me but I still can recommend this, especially to someone who likes the lighter side of beer. I gave it a 3.2 on Rate Beer because it did what I expected of it and said:
Yellow pour, slightly cloudy. Aroma is wheat, faint citrus to it. Not a lot of flavor, slight wheat/yeast with a hint of orange. Not overly flavorful but as the description says, great beer to drink while enjoying summer activities as it is quite refreshing.

Founders Breakfast Stout
This is a bottle that I picked up at Casanova the last time I made my Stone/Dogfish Head/New Glarus run. I was saving it until I saw that the Four Firkins got some in and also that Princeton's carried it. A couple neighbors were watching MNF with me and I was exposing them to some new beer and they both gave this a taste when I cracked it and actually really liked it which surprised me because of what I know their tastes normally are. This was so damn drinkable and flavorful and definitely one of my top new beers. I can't wait to get some more of this. It got a 4.4 from me on Rate beer.
Thick black pour with a brown head. Heavy chocolate aroma with a hint of coffee. Smooth, definite chocolate flavor with a fantastic lingering sweet finish.

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful for me in regards to new beers even though I really wanted it to be a prolific beer rating week for me. Oh well, a nice treat for me was Wednesday night when I found out that Famous Dave's had Bell's Two Hearted Ale on tap. Why doesn't everybody?

The weekend in review is coming very soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Save yourself a few Hail Marys...

Last Thursday night I volunteered to help my friend Marie with a Finegans tasting at the Liquor Barrel in Golden Valley. I was a little skeptical because I hadn't done one before and Marie wasn't going to be there right away so I was on my own for the first 50 minutes or so. But Marie needed help and it was for a good cause so I decided to give it a try as long as I could get home for kickoff of the NFL season at 7:30.

If you haven't heard about Finnegans, it's a local company that contracts Summit to brew their Irish Amber and they donate 100% of their profits back into the community through charities. Irish reds aren't my favorite style of beer but it's a very drinkable beer and when you can literally drink for a good cause, that should be all you need to know. It sounds a lot better than when I decided to "drink for the kids" by donating 50 cents for every beer I drank on a camping weekend to try to make it sound better for my less-than-understanding girlfriend at the time. Check out their website at and try their beer sometime.

I'm part of the Finnegans tailgating group which whoops it up before every Vikings home game in the Star Tribune lot, otherwise known as Purple 2. Come by and see us sometime and try it and partake in the festivities.

That being said, the tasting went well. Apparently I feel pretty at home in a liquor store and even more at home talking about beer. I didn't keep a running tally but I think around six people decided to buy some Finnegans on my shift so I figured that wasn't all bad for a rookie.

An unexpected benefit of it was meeting Dylan, local beer expert at the Liquor Barrel. I spent my down time discussing beer with him and the time flew by. It turned out to be a great experience meeting everybody that I did that night and I'm glad I did it.

So once again, give Finnegans a try even if it's not your normal style of beer. It's also light and smooth enough that you could give it to normal yellow fizzy beer drinkers to get them to branch out and open their minds. If they hesitate, tell them it's for a good cause and to drink it anyway.

May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sam Adams Imperial Stout and the weekend review

Saturday night after the Renaissance I had a Hop Juice and then switched to some Bacardi Anejo with a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA as a night cap.

Sunday my only beer of the day ended up being a Samuel Adams Imperial Stout that I've been looking forward to trying for a few weeks now. After how much I've really loved the stouts that I've tried, I figured this one would fall right in for me. I was disappointed.

I was a little bit nervous when I read that anise was one of the flavors in the beer because black licorice is one of my least favorite flavors in the world. I'm not sure if that was what I didn't like about it, but there was one flavor that lingered for me that I couldn't put my finger on that made this not so drinkable for me. I finished it and it grew on me a bit (I started drinking it a bit colder than I ideally should have which probably didn't help) but I don't see myself buying it again.

Here's what I wrote on Rate Beer where I gave it a 2.6:
12oz bottle from the Crystal Liquor Barrel. Poured deep black color, not too thick. Quickly fading light brown head. Aromas aren’t too powerful, slight chocolate and coffee notes. The malted barley really comes through in the taste as does the coffee and chocolate, again in a non aggressive way.

Today the beer of the day was a Bell's Two Hearted Ale. That has to be one of my five favorite beers right now along with Furious, Stone's IPA and a couple others that I haven't thought of yet. I'd like to finish by saying it's good to have a Monday included as part of the weekend review. Life is good.

A Renaissance Man

Saturday I went to the Renaissance Festival for the first time. It seems like something I should have been going to for years. At least I finally corrected the mistake. It turned out to be a good place for beer as well as there was plenty of it on tap and luckily for me there was some from my hometown of New Ulm. Not only did they have Premium and Premium Light, they had the new Oktoberfest so my choice was easy.

There's always something that makes me smile about having a beer before noon, ten in the morning in this case. I didn't bother to remember enough about it to give it an official rating but I do know that I liked it quite a bit, it especially paired well with a turkey leg.

After getting so many props from the State Fair crowd about my Surly shirt last weekend I thought I'd see how the Renaissance crowd would react. Same thing, different festival. Apparently there is always a handful of Surly fans around and this shirt is like my secret handshake with them.

I also bought a few beer drinking receptacles at the festival as well, starting with a viking horn that performs double duty as a beverage holder and a noise maker. I also bought a nice commemorative mug as something a little bit nicer to drink from. The big purchase however was the leather mug. The price was a little bit sky high and it took me quite awhile to say screw it, I'm splurging. I really like the idea of using it at Bock Fest and any other beer festivals that I go to. It's nice and light and durable and should see hopefully many years of service. Next year I'll bring it to the Renaissance and tell them to fill my barrel with beer.


Friday, September 4, 2009

A Little Sumpin' Extra to kick off the weekend

I've learned to trust the Four Firkins whenever they email/Tweet about a new beer they got in because they have yet to steer me wrong. I'll be honest and tell you that when I heard about Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale from Lagunitas I was intrigued just because it was a cool sounding name. When I got to the store on Wednesday night I grabbed a couple of bottles because it was cheap (relatively anyway, I think it was $4.99).

It was sort of an afterthought but I threw one in the fridge because I figured if it was good I'd grab another couple bottles or so while it was still in stock for that price. Little did I know I'd be tasting one of the best beers I've had so far. This stuff is just amazing if you're a fan of fruity/citrus hops (and I am). The aroma is overwhelmingly pleasing to the nose, I could just smell it all night. The taste is just as good as the smell with wonderful flavors dancing on your tongue.

If you're a fan of the fruity profile of IPA's but not necessarily the bitter hops element, this could be the beer for you. Hell, if you just like good flavors in a beer this IS the beer for you. I just wish IPA's stored as well as stouts because I'd build a cellar to store stuff just like this. I'll be back to the Firkins this weekend to pick up at least a couple more bottles of this. You should do the same.


Some Fatty Boombalatty on a Friday Night

I finally have some time to catch up on some things and decided to keep ahead of the game.

I needed to try something new tonight and when I reached in the fridge, the Fatty Boombalatty from Furthermore that T-Mac picked up for me jumped out into my hands.

To be honest, I didn't know much about this except for seeing the name when I've been on Casanova's website. My first real exposure to Belgian whites/wheat beers has been this year and most of them I didn't really seek out, they just found me.

I'm glad they did because prior to this summer the only one I really tried was Blue Moon and I'm gonna go ahead and say that would NOT be a gateway beer for me. It was OK when I tried it but it's never been a beer that made me want to explore the world of Belgians.

Fatty Boombalatty has to be the most full bodied, flavorful beer on my short list of Belgian exposures so far. This stuff has an array of aromas and flavors and just makes your tastebuds happy. I rated it 3.9 on Rate Beer with the following comments:
12oz bottle from Casanova. Poured with a thin white head, dark orange in color, cloudy. Strong yeast & wheat aromas with notes of spice in it. Thick mouthfeel with a very tangy yeasty flavor. Very full bodied for a wheat beer, lots of good stuff going on in this beer.
I'm not sure how available this stuff is year round and actually I'm thinking this is best enjoyed during the summer anyway. But I know next summer I'll be looking forward to drinking a lot of this type of beer.

Recap of the Week

Tuesday night I had a Summit Horizon Red after work since they went down so well last weekend. Hanging the new TV in the bar was the project of the night and since it seemed like a special occasion so I figured a new beer was in order.

The Stone Smoked Porter intimidated me a bit since the Smoke Ale I had from Rogue was different and definitely situational and with Stone's reputation for big taste I was hoping I'd like this. I was shocked at how easy this went down. The smoke element of this beer was very understated and well placed. It was just put there to compliment the rest of the flavors. I rated it a 3.9 on Rate Beer and that number could climb in the future. Here are my thoughts:
22 oz bomber from Casanova. Medium thick pour, black in color. Smokey chocolate aroma. Thick mouthfeel, hints of chocolate with a smokey coffee flavor and a smooth finish. Very flavorful but surprisingly smooth.

The Stone website sums it up perfectly -
Smooth, with chocolate and coffee-like flavors balanced by the subtle "smoky" character of just the right amount of peat-smoked specialty malt.

I was pleased with myself for describing this beer in almost the exact same way before I went to Stone's Website. I finished off the night with an Old Rasputin because I was in the mood for a something dark thick and flavorful after that Stone went down too quickly.

Wednesday I had a Premium at my fantasy football meeting and a Stone Ruination (which I still have yet to officially rate).

Last night we went to Granite City and I was looking forward to rating a beer or two from them since I've really enjoyed them over the years. I normally like their IPA but when I found out that they still had their Wag’s American Wheat and figured I should try it while they still had it on tap since it's their seasonal for the summer.

I also ordered a Broad Axe Stout because I figured it would go well with the meatloaf that I ordered. I can sum up both of these beers with one description - they're both partial versions of what I've been drinking as of late.

I'm doing my best to not become one of the hated "beer snobs" that the lovers of fizzy yellow beer like to call people like us and in doing so, I do two things. I realize that beers like Bud Select have their place and are very drinkable on many occasions. I also realize that beers like Killian's Red, Amber Bock and apparently these two beers from Granite City are excellent gateway beers that can lead you to exploring beers outside the Miller Lite/Coors Light range.

I won't bother with detailed descriptions on either of these because looking back on the notes I took at Granite City, they were filled with words like faint and slight. These are both great beers in their proper place which can be anywhere from a stepping stone on your way to some of the big beers out there to something for someone like me who can enjoy beers all the way up and down the spectrum.

I also asked for a sample of their Blueberry Ale since it was still on tap. I had it before but wanted a review of it. It's not on Rate Beer and that doesn't surprise me but surprisingly it was very drinkable. When I had it at the tapping party, it was a bit too sweet for me and I'm not sure if they tweaked the formula or if it's just because it's a different batch but it actually wasn't bad.

Looking forward to their Oktoberfest tapping party soon. I'm also glad the weekend is here so I can just kick back and relax and drink a whole lotta beer.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A weekend of supporting my local breweries

Last Friday I swung by Surly Brewing to pick up my tickets for Surlyfest. I'm hoping that Paul is able to go with me but either way, I wanted to make sure I had a couple tickets. I also picked up a Surlyfest Tshirt and a Darkness goblet and chatted with Omar for a few minutes about the Vikes, tailgating and the Surlywagon which will have a presence in Minneapolis this fall at football games.

Had a wedding to go in Bloomington and decided to hit the area early to avoid rush hour traffic and have a beer in the meantime. Since Majors was just a mile or two from the church, it seemed like a good place to go. I saw they had Firebrick from Schell's on tap and had been meaning to try that again for awhile so I ordered. It happened to be happy hour so I got a 2-for-1. Nice. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not too familiar with that style (Vienna-style lager) but I wasn't able to pick a whole lot of flavors out of it. It's a solid beer that I rated a 3.3 but it didn't really stand out in the crowd for me. Of course, in a lineup of macrobrews, I'd order this every time. Here's my RateBeer review:
Tap at Majors. Deep copper color and a faint malty aroma. Medium mouthfeel, with the malt again coming through as the main flavor for me. Decent beer, I'll drink it again.

Saturday I went to the State Fair and of course my mission was to see what this beer on a stick from Summit was all about. So I took off, wearing my black Surly shirt to represent and was surprised by how many comments I got on it ranging from "nice shirt" to have-to-stop-and-give-a-high-five. Even the guy in the Summit booth liked it.

Speaking of Summit, the beer on a stick isn't exactly what you might think. It's a small paddle with holes cut out for you to put three 7oz cups of Summit into, one EPA, one Oktoberfest and one Horizon Red. At $7.50 it's not a bad deal for the State Fair, especially if you haven't had them and want to sample some of each. If you brought your paddle back you could get a "refill" for $6.50. So I did and since they let you call audibles I got one Oktoberfest for Allison and two Horizon Reds for myself because that beer is really growing on me.

Also traded in a 27" TV (the gigantic kind) for two four packs of Surly Coffee Bender. The price for electronics has definitely changed quite a bit in the past 5 years or so.

Went bowling later that day and had a couple Surly Benders on tap for only $3.15 which is pretty much like stealing. Check it out if you can - Great pizza, good deals on bowling and did I mention $3.15 glasses of Surly Bender?

Sunday was quite uneventful for beer due to back to back fantasy football drafts followed by volleyball at 8:00 but I had to have some beer or it wouldn't have seemed like a draft. Had a couple Coffee Benders during the first draft and a tall Honeyweiss during the second one.

Last night was pretty much the same story, had dinner downtown and it was accompanied by a couple Surly Furious pints. Looking forward to life slowing down again so I can get caught up with all the good beers I have on deck.


Catching up, starting with last Thursday

Last Thursday my new glassware from Stone showed up via UPS and the IPA glass was tested out shortly after I got home from work with...Stone IPA of course. The tasting glasses are very cool as is the rest of the merchandise.

I had a bottle of Un*Earthly from Southern Tier after the Stone and I've come to the conclusion that it must be the most volatile beer I've bought. As I've stated before, the first bottle I tried back in June did not go over well with me. Not the citrusy hops that I expected but a malty chewy beer that I wasn't too crazy about. The second one I tried was one of the best beers I ever had and the third one was right there too. But the one I tried this time was close to the first one I had. I know Alvey told me that the hoppy profile is the first thing to go with these kinds of beers but this one really surprises me.

I finished the night off with a couple Furious pints at Mainstreet while we watched Kenny, Josh and Tucker play.

Speaking of Surly, let's rewind a little bit and go over the first beer of the night. I called the Liquor Barrel in Golden Valley to see if they got any of the Surly Hell in and sure enough, they did so Allison picked up a couple four packs for me (the limit). After reading about the beer, I tempered my expectations because I too thought that something named Hell would be a more aggressive beer. But like all things, going into it with a bit of skepticism usually ends up giving you a pleasant surprise.

I figured this would be somewhere along the lines of Heineken or Rolling Rock and being that I hate these beers, it took Surly's name for me to even want to try this German style lager. I could taste that it was in the style of the above-mentioned skunky beers but without the stuff that I hate in those beers. Maybe there's hope for this style in my beer world yet. More to come on this when I officially rate it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Bit of Magic

Last night’s beer of the night was Magic Hat #9. I’ve had this one in my fridge for awhile because I didn’t know much about it other than I bought it because the Four Firkins mentioned it in a tweet. It’s funny how my perception on beer has changed in the past few months because I was skeptical about the beer because it “only” cost around $3 for the 22 oz bomber. After buying most of them at $6-9 a bottle I wondered what was wrong with this but in hindsight, it breaks down to about a $9 six pack and that’s not really “cheap” beer.

So I decided to give it a try before it hung around too long and I was surprised at several things. First, it was only 4.6% ABV and I’m not sure if I’ve ever had anything in a bomber with that low of an ABV. Its label calls it a “not-quite pale ale” so I expected it to smell a bit hoppy and when I gave it a nose, it smelled very fruity. Not the citrusy fruity that you get from IPA’s but it actually reminded me of the way Sam Adams Cherry Wheat smells. I later found out it’s categorized as a fruit beer and saw apricot tossed around a bit but since I’m not sure I could identify the smell of apricot I’ll just figure that was one of the prominent smells. It was a deep golden color and had a thick white head. The flavor was sweet and had a hint of hops to it, relatively light mouthfeel with a slightly bitter finish.

Not at all what I expected from this beer but that’s not meant in a bad way. Other than just a change of pace, I can see this beer being practical for a couple reasons. First, I think it would be another good gateway beer for people who are trying to move from their yellow fizzy beers. Introduces them to a light hops flavor with a bit more body than they’re used to. I also think this would be a good designated driver beer. If I know I have to drive, I usually like beers that take me a long time to drink so I don’t have more than a couple and this one was a bit filling and with the low ABV it would be the perfect beer to have a couple of when you know you have to drive.

Speaking of yellow fizzy beers, had the Landshark special at the Lookout last night. Didn’t expect much and got just that, not much. It wasn’t bad but fits in with the rest of the macrobrews. At least it didn’t have that sickening lime flavor that some of the others in its category have. Looking forward to some good stuff tonight in my newly acquired Stone Brewing glassware.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Point's Belgian White

I originally wanted to rate a few beers tonight but sometimes things just get in the way. Luckily I got one out of the way before I started a movie and had a Honeyweiss with my pizza.

I went to the Four Firkins for the Point tasting and their Belgian White was one of the big surprises for me. I was looking forward to having another but made sure it wouldn't be till I had time to do an official rating because I only had a six pack in the fridge. I forgot to do the swirling trick or the upside down pour trick you're supposed to do with this kind of beer (more on this in a future post) but it was as good as I remembered. I gave it a 3.6 on RateBeer and had the following to say:
Thin white head that quickly disappears, pale yellow in color. The coriander and orange peel really come through along with the yeast in both the aroma and the taste. Excellent beer.

I know Blue Moon is enjoying some pretty good popularity but with beers like this one and Hoegaarden, I don't know what everyone is thinking. Speaking of Hoegaarden, I see a posting of it in the near future.


Review - Goose Island India Pale Ale

Last night I decided to officially rate the Goose Island India Pale Ale. Had a few over the weekend and was surprised at how much I enjoyed this beer. It seemed to me on Friday night that the floral/citrus elements were much more present in the smell than they were last night. It was still very good though, it reminded me a lot of the IPA's that I drank back when I first discovered IPA's like Sierra Nevada and Summit's IPA in that the hops kick/bite was very prevalent but this did have a bit more of the floral/citrus hints than I remember those having. Here's my rating on RateBeer where I gave it a 3.8:
Bottle from MGM Mankato, pours with a golden browncolor, foamy white head that lasts a few minutes. Definite hop smell with some light floral and fruity notes. Flavor is definitely dominated by the hops in a good way, with the citrus flavor sneaking in. Lingering bitter finish that keeps the hops on your tongue.

This was my 30th official rating on RateBeer and was my 16th IPA. Maybe I need to diversify. Nahhhhh... it'll even ou
t eventually! Besides, there's a reason that I wear this t-shirt: