Wednesday, September 30, 2009
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
Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest
Boulevard Bobs 47 Oktoberfest
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen
Capital Autumnal Fire
(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).
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
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....
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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...
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
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 http://www.finnegans.org/ 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
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:
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.
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.
Friday, September 4, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 - http://www.newhopebowl.net/ 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.
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.
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.