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.

Cheers!
Mike

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:

Last Weekend

Went to Mankato for a nice relaxing guy's weekend of football watching, golf, Tarantino and of course beer.

Mankato's MGM stores seem to have a great selection of microbrews for a big liquor store so I stopped by the North Mankato location to see what they had for me to drink during the Vikes game Friday night.

It took awhile to get things narrowed down because of the selection but I eventually decided to try a six pack each of Goose Island India Pale Ale and Bell's Kalamazoo Stout and grabbed a four pack of Surly Coffee Bender (why is that stuff so expensive these days?). Official ratings to come but after 2 of the IPA's and a Stout I could safely say I chose wisely.

Saturday morning I rolled out of bed for to relax for awhile before golf and had myself a Coffee Bender.

Decided not to have any while golfing but did have another Goose Island at the house before James and I took off at the bar.

While there I asked what they had for darker beers on tap and when I heard that they had Oktoberfests from both Schell's and Leinie's, I decided to start with a Schell's to support my hometown brewery. I'm not real familiar with Oktoberfests but James and I both thought it looked pretty pale and yellow to be one. No worries though, it tasted good and went down nicely. Found out when I ordered my next round that the first waitress was mistaken and the Schell's that I drank was actually Zommerfest and that my next beer would indeed be an Oktoberfest from Leinie's. That made a lot more sense after we found that out. Both beers were pretty solid and I had a second Leinie's which went down slow since a good dinner and the first two tall glasses filled my belly. Looking forward to my exploration of more Oktoberfests (including Schell's which should be out around now).

Sunday was quite eventful, just had one of the 32 oz mugs filled with Honeyweiss after our very successful volleyball match. Another good weekend with beer in the books.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Last Week in Review

Well, it has been a busy month so far and thanks to some ISP problems, I haven't been able to blog too much lately.

Last Monday a bunch of us went to Lord Fletcher's on beautiful Lake Minnetonka for one of the best happy hour specials you could ask for - $4 hamburgers and $1 bottles of beer. Granted, the beer was a choice between MGD, Miller Lite or MGD Light 64, but you can't argue with $1 beers while sitting on a deck lakeside on a gorgeous August evening in Minnesota. If you're in the mood for some comedy, read some of the reviews of the 64 on RateBeer. Good stuff - http://tinyurl.com/nw5a3a

I also found out on Sunday that Casanova had Stone's Ruination IPA in stock which was curious because they said they'd update the website when they got it back in. So Tuesday night I made the road trip after work to get some. Picked up two 6packs ($18.99 per) and two 6 packs of the Stone IPA (love that stuff). Also bought 3 more bottles of Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA since it ages well and so I can try the one bottle I had already. Paul at work wanted me to get him some Spotted Cow from New Glarus and so I also bought a 6 pack for myself to try. Also bought a bottle of Central Waters Brewhouse Coffe Stout and a bottle of Founders Breakfast Stout off the recommendation of the Casanova website. Bought a bottle of Founders Cerise as well for something different.

Didn't feel like trying something new that night so I had my last Hoplsam instead while I watched a movie.

Wednesday the 19th was my first fantasy football meeting in the Elk's League. They have Michelob Amber Bock on tap there and since I consider this to be another gateway beer for me, along with Killian's, I thought I'd get one and rate it. This used to be my favorite beer and it was amazing to me how much it did not hold up. It still has more flavor than your average yellow fizzy beer but not as much as it should. I realized that this is just a stepping stone to the realm of much better beers. It did lead me to the conclusion that outside of this and Schell's Bock I haven't had a lot of exposure to Bocks. We'll have to fix that. As for the Amber Bock, I'm not trying to rip on it, it's still a good beer. It just doesn't compete very well anymore for me. I gave it a 2.8 rating with the following comments:
Pint glass from tap. Copper brown color, quickly dissipating head. Slight malty aroma and flavor with a slight caramel taste to it. Slightly thick mouthfeel, smooth finish with slight linger in the finish. Used to be one of my favorite beers but seems watered down and low on flavor now. Good beer for something looking to cross over into darker beers for the first time.

Thursday I realized that I didn't have to hold off on new beers until I was ready to officially rate them so I cracked open my first bottle of Ruination. It's definitely one of the best IPIA's I've ever had but I'm not sure if it's worth $18.99 vs. $12.99 for Stone's IPA. Official rating and decision to come soon.

I also had one of the Spotted Cows by New Glarus. I gave it a 3.4 on RateBeer but that seems a bit low for how very drinkable this beer is. I guess it's the "light" beer glass ceiling that's keeping it down. It has a very clean and refreshing flavor that goes down smoothly. I highly recommend this beer. My RateBeer comments:
Pours with a yellow color and thick foamy white head. Fresh, clean aroma. Smooth, thin mouthfeel. Very refreshing flavor with not much aftertaste.


Also had some Bud Selects to clean out the fridge and some Leinie's Honey Weiss from the kegmeister and finished off the night with a Hoegaarden. Very prolific beer drinking evening.

Weekend update to come soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weekend Recap

I didn't have too much time spend on beer last weekend because I spent most of the time working in the room where we'll be doing most of the taste testing.

But I did manage to sneak a few beers in. Friday night I tried my first Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. After being underwhelmed by the 60 Minute, I didn't have too high of hopes for this one. I was very pleasantly surprised. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it went down too smoothly for me and at 294 calories a beer, this isn't one to be drinking all night. It was a fantastic brew. My RateBeer rundown (4.1 rating, maybe should be higher):
Golden brown in color with a quickly dissipating head. Prominent citrus hops aroma with a hint of malt. Thick, malty mouthfeel with a subtle but very good fruity hop flavor.

Had a Miller Genuine Draft with my pizza later on to try and purge the fridge of some older stock. Didn't want to rate it because it was probably past its prime but still tasted great with the pizza.

Saturday I shared an Oaked Arrogant Bastard with Paul because I wanted him to try it and give it another chance as well. I definitely enjoyed it more than the first one I had, I'm thinking this one will grow on me. To continue the fridge purge I had a Hopslam for a night cap.

Sunday saw me give the 90 Minute IPA another whirl to see how good it was the next time around. Yep, this one's a keeper. Also had a few Michelob Golden Draft Lights during sand volleyball. Yellow fizzy beers do have their place in the world & a volleyball court is one of them.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Officially Rating an Old Favorite

Last night I stopped by the Liquor Barrel to pick up a bottle of the Rogue Somer Orange Honey Ale for LeeAnn and figured I'd pick up an extra couple for myself. I also noticed a Half-E-Weizen (MoM Hefeweizen) from Rogue so I grabbed a bottle of that to try.

I saw they still had the Horizon Red Ale from Summit too so I bought a six of that since it's so popular and hard to find. It grew on me the last time I had it so it's getting another try. was reading about the Imperial Line from Sam Adams and bought a four pack of the Imperial Stout. Looking forward to trying this one day soon.


I swung by Buffalo Wild Wings to try their new flavors and when I got home I decided to pair them with a Two-Hearted Ale. Draft Magazine was right, it was a fantastic pairing.

After that I went to Mainstreet and instead of my normal Furious fest I decided to do official tastings and ratings of a couple beers that should have been rated long ago.

We'll start with the second beer I rated, Newcastle. I hate to say it but it really fell flat. I expected it to be a lot richer with more flavor and since I came around last year and started liking it, I was really disappointed. It didn't hold up at all to the stuff I've been drinking lately. It had no aroma at all and the taste was just not really there. I gave it a 2.2 on RateBeer:
Pours deep brownish red color, little to no aroma. Very small flavor, a slight malt note and a bit sweet. Overall not a very flavorful beer.

The other beer I rated was Guinness Draug
ht. As you can see I had one at home just the other night but decided not to rate it because it has been in my fridge for a few months and I wanted to go with it on tap to get a better feel for it.

This beer held up much more than I anticipated. It has been my favorite beer to pour ever since I poured one with the widget and getting it on tap doesn't disappoint. Easily the best looking beer out there and the aroma, while not too strong is very nice. The thick creamy head gives it great mouthfeel and while the flavor itself is a bit weak, it's still money. Very low ABV (4.1%) and its ability to fill you makes it a great beer if you want to hav
e a few but still need to drive home as well. Guinness belongs in the Beer Hall of Fame. I gave it a very solid 4.0 on RateBeer.com:
Guinness is the beer that I wish I could give a 20 for appearance. When they put that cascading beauty in front of me I could watch it for hours if I didn’t want to drink it so badly. It pours a deep brown color and cascades like a waterfall. Thick creamy head with coffee and chocolate in both the aroma and taste. Very smooth mouthfeel and goes down without effort. My only knock is that it could use a bit deeper flavor to it but overall this is a classic beer.

Cheers and happy Friday!
Mike


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Some Hometown Love & Something Stoopid

The first beer of tonight is from my hometown brewery, a Schell's Hefeweizen. I was never very crazy about most of Schell's beers but I'm guessing now it was because I never got into the kinds they are good at making. This was a very pleasant surprise, it's too bad we're at the end of the season for this brew. Makes me look forward to my first tour since their remodeling.

I gave it a 3.9 on RateBeer.com with the following comments:
Golden in color, slightly cloudy. Fresh aroma with a yeast element and a hint of lemon. Clean and very smooth mouthfeel. Tangy flavor, citrus notes. Very good beer.

Next up was Lagunita's Hop Stoopid. Dude at the Four Firkins recommended this when I told him I was a Furious and Un*Earthly Fan. It smelled wonderful and ranks closely to Un*Earthly but the finish is a bit too harsh to catch the top IPA's for me.

I gave it a 4.2 on RateBeer.com with the following comments:
Deep golden color, wonderful fruit & floral hops aroma. Thick and sweet mouthfeel with a bitter citrus flavor. Lingering bitter finish on the tongue. A little bit harsh on the finish but overall a great beer.

That's about it for the night, two excellent choices one off another Firkins suggestion and one from my own gut feeling. Looking forward to some 2-for-1's at Mainstreet tomorrow, it might be time for me to give an official rating to Newcastle.

Getting my goose on...

Tried the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout last night. I've been looking forward to this one since I've read lots of good things about it. I bought one bottle during my "stock up on imperial stouts" trip and after reading what I read and realizing that this might not be easy to restock, I figured I'd give the bottle a try so I knew if I needed to go buy some to stash away.

Here's what I wrote on RateBeer.com (4.3 rating):
Black thick pour into the snifter with a thing brown head that dissipates quickly. Aroma is charred, smokey with the strong ABV coming through. Thick, chewy, syrupy mouthfeel. Definitely can taste the charred oak, bourbon element to this and some molasses. Great sipping beer.

This IS the ultimate sipping beer. It has been years since I've tried the Sam Adams Triple Bock and I only vaguely remember it but the smell of this conjured up some of those vague memories. It has so much going on that it's tough to pull out specifics but I did go back for more bottles.

Unfortunately the Four Firkins didn't get their shipment in but I did get the two bottles they did have along with four more of the Rasputin, a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout, a Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti from Great Divide and a six pack of Hoegaarden. Another $48.65 goes into my hobby.

They were also sampling the new Summit, their German Style Kolsch. I wasn't too fond of it. It was OK but the aroma was a bit on the skunky side and the taste was nothing to write home about. It was the first tasting at the Firkins that didn't lead me to buying some of the product. Oh well, their batting average is still better than Tony Gwynn's back in the day. Makes me look forward to cracking that Triple Bock again one day.

My rating for it was a 2.2:
Tried some of this at a Four Firkins tasting. I love Summit and most of their beers but this one didn’t do it for me. The aroma was a bit skunky to me and the flavor was better but still not one I’d buy.

Had a Two-Hearted Ale to finish off the night. It was a productive day for the beer blog

Monday, August 10, 2009

Guest Blogger

My Flip video camera takes over tonight's blogging duties.

video

Guinness is by far my favorite beer to pour, long live the widget!

Dessert in a glass and some macrobrews

August 6th I was in New Ulm visiting my parents and brought a few brews with for the weekend. The first one I cracked open was and Un*Earthly by Southern Tier. Now I always give my mom a sip of whatever I'm drinking and she always takes it even though 90% of the time she makes the classic bitter beer face. I figured something that had 11% ABV and mad hops wouldn't be something to she'd like. She loved the smell, took her sip, nodded in approval and passed it on to my stepdad Marv who agreed with her assessment and they both took another swig before letting me have it back. Who knew? Maybe more people out there would like massively hoppy beer if they just gave it a chance.

August 7th we went out for supper at a local restaurant that of course had Schell's beers as 4 of their 5 taps - Grain Belt Premium and Premium Light and Schell and Schell Light with the standard Minnesota beer (Michelob Golden Light) being the 5th. I was in the mood to have a Premium so I ordered one and it went down so smoothly I had to order a second.

Later that night I opened up a beer I've been very excited to try, another Southern Tier beer called Imperial Creme Brulee Stout.

Here's what I wrote on RateBeer.com:

Wow, this beer has all kinds of stuff going on. Pours very dark brown with a brownish head to it. Smells amazing. Very sweet with aromas of vanilla, caramel. Flavor is also very sweet with the vanilla being the very prominent flavor. Massive beer that tastes like dessert in a glass. Had a 22 oz bomber that would have been perfect if I had 1-2 people to share it with.

I'm a little on the fence with this beer but leaning towards giving it big thumbs up. This would be the ideal beer to split between three people right after a meal for a literal dessert.

I thought I was done for the night but still wanted something so I cracked open the very refreshing summer beer, Rogue's Somer Orange Honey Ale. This stuff is so good in the summer that I'd drink tons of it if it wasn't so damn expensive. My RateBeer.com entry:

The commercial description is pretty accurate. Smelled very refreshing and tasted the same. Could definitely make out the orange and honey and didn’t find it to be too sweet which is what I was expecting. Went down very quickly, this is a very good summer (somer?) beer.

August 8th found me in Redwood Falls, MN for a wedding. Being the hate-to-be-late guy that I am, we were in town 45 minutes before the wedding started. After a long search for the only place in town to have beer (literally), I walked in with last night's Grain Belt still in my head wanting a glass of it more than anything at the moment. Score! It's one of 4 taps in the bar and went down as well as I had imagined on this scorcher of a day. I've decided this is going to be my next keg in the bar. It was my only beer of the day but I did have a couple of Johnnie Walkers at the wedding reception.

My first beer of August 9th was one of a Nude Beach by Point. The last bottle of this that I had was a little disappointing because it seemed to lack the flavor that I remembered when I sampled it at the Four Firkins. This one totally hit the spot though. It wasn't quite as refreshing as the Rogue from Friday night but wonderful none the less. Wussy beers do have their place and a super hot summer day is that place. Also had a few Mich Goldens at Mama G's before, during and after our volleyball games. Another beer in its proper place.

The sad news of the day is that the Cinema Grill doesn't carry its impressive array of microbrews during the summer. I went there excited to order a Furious only to find out that they only were carrying the 3 lightest beers on the menu until the fall. I changed my order to water because it seemed appropriate. Oh well, October isn't that far away I guess.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Catching up with the little black book


I decided that if I had to try to rate beers off memory whenever I made it to a computer that my full impression of a beer would suffer so I decided to turn this little black book into the official beer journal. Here's where it has taken me so far, beers listed with my RateBeer.com comments in italics.

July 30th - Tonight's beer is Two-Hearted Ale by Bell (4.1 rating, bound to climb).
Pours with a nice orangish/brown color, foamy white head. Aroma is incredible, sweet citrus smell, lemon zest almost. Taste isn’t so sweet, bitter and hoppy and very good. Smooth finish, the lemon tinge seems to linger on the tongue. Excellent beer.
This beer went down so smoothly and quickly I had to follow it up with a Surly Bender. Been there before, loved it but still have to rate it officially.

July 31st - Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (3.1)
Thin frothy head, not much aroma outside slight hops scent. Nice bitter hoppy taste with no detection of citrus or floral notes. Lingering bitter finish, in a good way.

August 1st - Had a Nude Beach and realized that it was a lot closer to flavorless Mich Golden / Miller Lite crowd than I remembered. Moved on to try Flat Earth Brewing's Belgian Style Pale Ale (2.6)and Element 115 Lager (3). I was also kind enough to share one of my Stone IPA's (4.5) with Paul and Marie. They don't realize how lucky they are.
Belgian -
Dark golden color, not much aroma. Standard Belgian taste to it, nothing special. Not a bad beer but not a great one in my opinion.
Element 115 -
Dark golden color, slightly malty aroma. Thick malty mouthfeel and a sweet finish.

August 2nd - Stone Pale Ale (3.4). I liked their IPA (4.5) way better.
Pale Ale -
Deep red color, thin white head. Malty hoppy aroma, maybe a hint of caramel. Sweet thick mouthfeel with a slightly bitter finish. Good beer but their IPA is significantly better for me.
IPA - White head, golden/orange in color. Prominent smell besides the wonderful hops was pine. Very refreshing major hops taste with a beautifully smooth finish.
August 3rd - Had a Furious (4.8) while waiting for the cable guy. Decided to start a beer club and got the foundation up and running, details will follow. So far it's me, Paul, Mike B and Bob H. It's gonna be legendary. I'm still brainstorming names but the front runners for me are the Arrogant Bastards and Beer Club (the first rule of Beer Club is...).

Also stopped by the Four Firkins to get some Imperial Stouts on Alvey's advice (along with a couple of IPA's). Bell's Two-Hearted ($10.99 for a six pack), Two Brother's Hop Juice ($8.49 for a bomber), Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (two 12oz bottles at $2.39 each), Goose Island Bourbon County ($5.49 for a 12oz bottle) and Yeti Imperial Stout ($7.69 for a bomber).

August 4th - Had several beers from my Honey Weiss Keg as I celebrated National Night Out with my friends.

August 5th - Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (4.1). This turned out to be one of the big surprises of the year. I asked Alvey to recommend some Russian Imperial Stouts to see how my palate would like them before Surly Darkness Day rolls around. This could be a new favorite style for me.
Picked up a couple 12oz bottles at the Four Firkins on Alvey’s advice. Unbelievable deal at $2.39 per bottle. Pours pitch black with a brown, quickly fading head. Chocolate aroma, almost a milk chocolate smell. Thick, chewy mouthfeel with a very smooth and subtle finish. Hints of chocolate and coffee in the flavor with the tastes lingering slightly in your mouth. I can’t stop drinking this beer, it won’t last long in my glass.




Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Getting up to date


Now that most of the background information has been taken care of, let's get caught up on what beers I've tried so far this year that have been memorable.

The first one that struck me (and eventually led to Furious) was Hopslam by Bell's. I rated it a very solid 4.4 (out of 5.0) on the www.ratebeer.com website.

Of course Furious is the champ so far with a 4.8 rating by me. I'm not sure if I'll be able to give out a perfect five because it doesn't leave room for finding a better beer. Although maybe if I find the perfect beer I'll know it. Eventually I could see myself saving perfect fives for a short list of beers.

Bender and Coffee Bender by Surly are also very solid options with the Coffee Bender receiving a 4.2 from me and Bender having yet to be officially rated. The previously mentioned 16 Grit was given a 4.1 by me, but in hindsight that might be a tad low.

Southern Tier's Un*Earthly is a solid challenger to the top spot with a 4.6 rating that could climb the more I expose myself to it.

Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale was one of the first beers I bought at the Firkins and is one of my favorites so far. It's a less intense but very flavorful IPA that is refreshing and goes down very easily.

Some quick notes on others:
Avery's Maharaja Imperial IPA & Great Divide's Hercules Double IPA - Both recommended by the Firkins along with the Un*Earthly, which ended up being their downfall. They were good but no comparison to the nectar made by Southern Tier.
Sierra Nevada's Torpedo IPA - Solid beer at a good price (around $8 per 6 pack).
Avery's 16 Saison Anniversary Ale & St Feullien's Saison - both very interesting, the first saisons I've tried. Good enough to try again sometime.

Hoegaarden White Beer - Recommended as something for a Blue Moon drinker. Not bad, good summer beer.

Rogue beers
Smoke Ale - I've only sampled at the store but bought a bottle for further investigation. I'd like to experiment pairing this with food. It's very similar to their Chipotle Ale which I couldn't resist trying. It is what it says it is and is very interesting. I shared it with Paul and Noe, 22oz is too much for one person. I sampled the Yellow Snow IPA and also bought a bottle for further testing. Bough the Northwestern Ale because I heard the Liquor Barrel was the only place left with any. It was OK but not good enough to get me to go back for the rest of it. The best one from them was the one I feel a bit girly for liking, the Somer Orange Honey Ale. Nowhere near in the league of my favorite beers but what a great refreshing summer drink. I went back for four more bottles.

Others from the Liquor Barrel
Hop Devil - not terrible but no Hopslam
Heavy Handed - didn't care for it, a but too heavy and chewy and malty for an IPA for me.

Bought but haven't tried yet, from the Four Firkins
Lagunita's Hop Stoopid Ale
Magic Hat #9
Southern Tier's Creme Brulee Stout
Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA ($19.99 for four 12oz bottles!)
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout ($5.49 for a 12oz bottle!)
Yeti Imperial Stout

From a trip to Casanova in Hudson
Stone's Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Smoked Porter, Pale Ale, IPA and Dogfish Head's 60, 90 and 120 Minute IPA's.

Sampled and purchased from the Four Firkins on July 28th the following beers from Point - Nude Beach (tasted a bit more flavorful in the store than at home but still a great summer beer), Belgian White and Whole Hog Six-Hop IPA.

Next we'll get caught up on some journal entries from the past week.

Another brick in the wall


Last Wednesday apparently saw another brick added to the foundation of this fun. Last month one of the guys at the Four Firkins told me about a place near the U called Stub & Herb's if I wanted a bar that served good microbrews on tap.

Surly was debuting their beer trailer there and for $5 you could get a burger and Surly on tap. After starting off with a Bender I bellied up to the bar to see what they had on tap. I can't even begin to describe the wonders but they have dozens of fantastic beers including a Surly (16 Grit). I also tried Hop Juice by Two Brothers and took the beer challenge (MN vs IL beers).

Most are $5 a pint ($3.50 during happy hour) and $2.50 for a 7oz glass which is nice if you'd like to try several beers. I'll be back.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In the beginning...

It's a shock that it has taken me all these years to document my great love of beers.

Of course, our relationship didn't start off so well. It was more like one of those where the girl punches the boy to let him know that she likes him.

In the beginning of my drinking career, I was a one alcohol kind of guy with Southern Comfort being my one and only. Sure, beer made plenty of appearances but how could it not growing up in New Ulm Beer City? But it just punched me in the gut to let it know that it liked me.

At first I was good at slamming (and funneling) beers because it made my slight dislike of the taste less of of an issue. Eventually it grew on me and I started to enjoy beer, even if it was just one sip at a time.

The first few years I stuck mainly to Michelob Golden Draft and saw no real reason to deviate. Eventually the 30 packs of Stroh's for a few bucks less made their appearance as well. I was far from the strapped-for-cash typical college student but I was a business major and my economics class taught me the concept of value and the taste was close enough.

The watershed moment of my beer careerwas the night I was at Big Dog in North Mankato with Tim back in 1995. He handed me a schooner of Killian's Irish Red and said "here, try this." I normally drank Mich Golden when I was there and know you should rarely trust Tim when he says "here, try this" but I tried it anyway.

The first sip wasn't bad so I continued with a few more until it was gone. Before that night all I drank were yellow fizzy beers and this was not only a nice change of pace but an introduction to life outside of macrobrews. I have long considered Killian's to be my "gateway beer."

It didn't start right away but not long after, when I moved to the Twin Cities I started to experiment with different craft beers and for awhile I would buy a new six pack of something I hadn't tried before.

This lasted for quite awhile and I still have some empty bottles saved to document some of those beers. Eventually my hobby slowed to a crawl and while I still preferred beers like Sam Adams and Summit to the Buds and Millers of the world, my regular experimentation had stopped.

Fast forward to the past year and a half or so. I was on my way to a party and wanted to bring a six pack or two and stopped in to the Liquor Barrel in Golden Valley. Much to my surprise they had a great variety of craft beers, much more than my regular store. Remembering that I liked the Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner (which, according the the first clerk I bought it from is "painfully hoppy") I picked up a four pack of beer with hops that made it hurt so good. That night I also acquainted myself with the Flying Dog brand of beers. The seed was planted and was waiting for the catalysts that would bridge the gap to today.

The Liquor Barrel was a bit out of my way so I didn't get down there too much but would buy something new whenever I did.

Then the three things happened that set off a chain reaction that catapulted me into the eyeball deep world of beer than I'm in today.

The first was the opening of a Liquor Barrel a few blocks from my house. The manager of this store was very helpful in advising me on new beers to try and was committed to having a great selection of craft beers in his store.

After taking his advice on the pricey but very tasty Hopslam by Bell's, I continued to ask him for similar ultra-hoppy beers to try. I had heard of Surly Brewing before but wasn't too excited to try anything from a new brewery that only sold beer in cans, even if it was local. But, what the hell, it was only $10 and worth a shot.

That was was catalyst number two. I'm not sure which can did it or me or maybe it was a pint from Mainstreet but Furious has turned into my favorite beer in the world.

This of course led me to seek out more info about the brewery and led to me wanting to explore as much of the local microbrew scene as I can. So far Surly is the only brewery I've toured in the area but there are more on my list.

The last catalyst occurred somewhere during the time of the previous two when Bob told me about a new beer store called the Four Firkins in St. Louis Park. I could write pages about Jason Alvey and his incredible store (and probably will over the years) but for now I'll just say that his willingness to give out advice about beer, even when it leads you to other stores, is something I value greatly.

Of course, this advice has lead me to spend hundreds of dollars over the past few months on new brews. That pace will slow down of course lest I run out of room in my bar and money in my bank account but I'm well on my way to being a beer enthusiast for years to come and I don't see another hiatus coming again.

I've decided to start a blog to keep track of my notes and will use it in conjunction with my beer notebook and tweets and other resources on the web to document my journey through the world of beer and hopefully help guide others on their own journey as well.

Cheers, Skol and Zicke, Zacke, Zicke, Zacke, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!
Mike