Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Beer Club Volume Thirteen - Oktoberfests, Part II

***Editor's note - Yeah, I suck at keeping this thing up. I'll try to do better once I get caught up with the next three! ***

The anniversary event, a year in the making had finally arrived. As I stated in August's write up, I can't believe we made it this far. I can barely hold a fantasy football league together from year to year, let alone a monthly beer club.

Don't get me wrong, people love to drink beer. They just don't always like to have it structured and that's one thing this beer club's control freak leader requires, structure. I've had lots of ideas that I've had to politely (and sometimes not so politely) turn down because they don't fit my vision of the club. Yeah, I really do take it that seriously but it has worked so I'm not fixing what's not broke.

It was only fitting that we had record attendance to celebrate our anniversary. Initially we tied it with ten of us but Paul U decided he couldn't miss it so he showed up late to give us eleven people.

Since I'm playing catch up with the blog, this will be a shorter entry but here's the lineup (with stats) that we all enjoyed (not counting some extra credit beers!):

  • Samuel Adams Octoberfest (5.3% ABV, ~ $.122/oz)
  • Schell's Oktoberfest (5.5% ABV,~ $.11/oz)
  • Victory Festbier (5.6% ABV, ~ $.138/oz)
  • Spezial Rauchbier Märzen (5.3 % ABV, ~ $.296/oz)
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest (6.5% ABV, ~ $.138/oz)
  • Coney Island Freaktoberfest (6.66% ABV, ~ $.27/oz)
  • Two Brothers Atom Smasher (7.7% ~ $.327/oz)
  • Odell Woodcut Number 4 (11%, $25/bottle, ~ $.98/oz)

The finale of the lineup was far and way the most expensive bottle we've ever cracked for Beer Club but considering how cheap most Oktoberfests are and that this was a special occasion, it was definitely in order.

It was also the first time that we had a beer on tap since I had just picked up a keg of the Schell's Oktoberfest. The keg went over very well not just at Beer Club but also at Isenberg Freedom Fest a couple weekends before.

It was another great month for me because none of the of the beers seemed to be an overwhelming favorite and most seemed to have different fans. I like to see that because it means that Beer Club is accomplishing its goals of exposing several different people to several different beers to find out what suits each person.

The Odell of course, blew everybody way. Thankfully it did because I'd have been pissed about dropping $25 on a bottle that nobody liked!

Well, with the way the time is flying by I think we'll be celebrating two years of Beer Club before we know it. That's not a bad thing at all...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beer Club Volume 12 - Altbier, Kölsch, a little of this & a little of that

Beer Club Volume 12... it's hard to believe even as I type it. Not only did we not fall apart after a few months but we've grown to be a pretty strong club. We've added people and the only ones we lost are one who moved away and a couple that realized it just wasn't for them. We did have a prodigal son but like in the original story we were all glad to have him back.

Brent being welcomed back to Beer Club in July

I think the line up for this edition, hell even the style for this edition, changed several times before I settled on something. I thought about continuing the summer beer theme with Kölsch or some other easy-to-drink lawnmower beer. I thought about dipping into the sour category. Then I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a potpourri of beers that could serve as a gauge for me to see what others would like to devote a month to.

Then one day I was listening to a podcast with Todd Parker, brewer at Copper Canyon Brewery in Southfield, MI and he was discussing the altbier and/or kölsch and I thought of an idea that Josh had to do both of these beers in the same month. He was telling me how there was a rivalry between the two towns in Germany that make these styles of beer. I did a little Googling and was very intrigued at the bitterness between Düsseldorf and Cologne.

So I made it a mission to track down four of each style and make them a lineup. I knew
kölsch wouldn't be a problem with Schell's and Goose Island each putting one out as a summer seasonal and Lake Superior Brewing and plenty of others to fill out the last two.

Then I hit my brick wall. I realized as I talked/emailed/tweeted with people that altbiers were going to be tough to track down. In fact, most people couldn't even tell me what to look for let alone where to look for them. The first one was easy, I got word that Princeton's was carrying the Tyranena Headless Man so I grabbed a sixer of that.

At US Liquors in Hopkins I found something called Pinkus Münstersch Alt. I wasn't sure what the hell it was but I grabbed a couple bottles since it had Alt in the name. That my friends, was it. No more of it was to be found at this time of the year.

So, I decided to go with a hybrid of a hybrid of an idea. We'd do two
kölsch and two altbiers and then throw in another four beers styles that would never be its own month of Beer Club (at least not in the foreseeable future).

I went with the Schell's Zommerfest & Reissdorf Kölsch to go along with the two altbiers that I had and decided to go with a HeBrew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A (to give a taste of a rye beer), Founders Dirty Bastard (for a Scotch Ale experience), Brau Brothers Rubus Black (a blackberry imperial porter) and a Goose Island Fleur (which had just enough sour notes to it to allow me to test the waters for a potential sour lineup down the road).

Another reason I went with the Rubus was because Dan from the Four Firkins had taken a job as an assistant brewer at Brau Brothers and we were going to drink the Rubus and then ceremoniously change the Brau Brothers sign in my bar from "Population: 220" to "222" in honor of Dan and his wife.

Even had a first time guest at Beer Club

The beers went over pretty well I thought.
Kölsch is one of those styles that's very close to the yellow fizzy beers, but only made well. I think it would be a solid style to get macro fans to drink but I'm afraid they wouldn't appreciate why they're paying $13 for 12 pack of Zommerfest instead of $17 for a case of Miller Lite. Luckily, we all did.

I thought the altbiers were surprisingly closer to the kölsches than I thought they'd be. Trying them side by side makes you realize why they're a rival beer even though they look nothing alike (the alts being dark brown and the kölsches being very light yellow).

My favorite part of these beers was talking about the history between the two, it's one of the things I always enjoy about Beer Club. It was also cool to hear Brent and Josh talk about their time in Germany drinking these beers. The highlight of the night for me was when Brent took a sip of the Reissdorf and then said he felt like he was in Cologne again.

The rest of the beers went over pretty well too. I was shocked at the unanimous decision to put together a sour month after everybody tried the Fleur. They might be regretting it when every part of them is puckering from something like a La Folie but at least we'll say we give it a go.

The Lenny was probably the most brutally bitter beer that I've ever had... and I really liked it. Obviously I didn't expect any citrus notes in the beer being that it was a rye IPA but damn, this stuff was an assault on the tongue. Not everybody liked it a ton but it was acknowledged for what it was.

Brent trying to decide if he wants another go at Lenny

The Dirty Bastard was the low light of the night for the group as a whole and that surprised me. It's a pretty big beer but I expected everybody to be able to handle it better. I'm not sure if it was the size of the flavor (I doubt it because we've gone much bigger than that before) or the flavor itself but I'm sure it was the worst reception yet for a Founders beer.

The Rubus went over great as was to be expected. It's a great beer and fair or not, when you'd got to meet the guys who make a beer it always seems to taste better and nobody forgot how much fun we had in Lucan last spring. As planned, we had a ceremonious changing of the Brau Brothers sign in the bar and even made sure the letter was a little cockeyed so everyone noticed it was changed.

Before and after

The mix and match of the night was kind of fun for a change of pace but when we were done I was really looking forward to getting back to a theme for the night and of course, that next theme was not only Oktoberfest but it was the one year anniversary of Beer Club!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beer Club Volume 11 - Pilsners

*Editor's note - one of these months I'll get my Beer Club write up posted in time. July was not the month though.*

When I first started Beer Club, I would have never dreamed about doing a month focusing on pilsners. At the time, I associated pilsners with the yellow fizzy American macro lagers that Beer Club was supposed be leading me and my beer drinking buddies away from.

I'm not sure at what point it was that I drank a really good pilsner that made me re-evaluate what I thought about them but Pilsner Urquell was definitely one of the beers that made me revisit the style.

Somewhere along this beer journey of mine I got too consumed with bigger, badder and bolder beers to the detriment of appreciating and enjoying the more subtle and yet equally well-crafted styles of beers such as pilsners and even pale ales. Some people of influence made me realize the error of my ways. This Beer Club was designed to not only correct that but to illustrate just how far everybody had come in the past 11 months.

I picked out a lineup that did a pretty good job representing local stuff (Schell's) and US breweries from California (Lagunitas, North Coast) to Michigan (Bell's) to Pennsylvania (Victory) and threw in a couple from across the pond like Bitburger and the previously mentioned Pilsner Urquell.

From top to bottom, the beers went over very well with the guys (and girl). I actually thought there were a couple different ways to do the style and I couldn't decide which way I liked better. Beers like Scrimshaw and Pilsner Urquell had a very bakery fresh type of aroma and flavor to them in my opinion and beers like Schell's and Prima Pils had a very nice bitter hops character to them. I felt like a winner no matter which style I drank.

Just for fun, I took a Michelob Golden Draft Light (I believe this is somehow the most popular beer in Minnesota) that I found in the back of the fridge (left by guests no doubt) and had everybody try it in the middle of the lineup. It was pretty funny seeing everybody's reaction.

To me, it just tasted like carbonated water that I spilled an ounce of Schell's into. To others, it turned into a drain pour. This is the beer that half these guys used to stock their fridges at home a year ago and now they didn't even want to finish a 2 oz sample of it. Looks like I'm accomplishing something!

Like I said, everybody seemed to have a different set of favorites for the night. I already knew how good Pilsner Urquell and Schell's and Prima Pils were but the surprise to me was the Scrimshaw. It was a last minute addition when I couldn't find Brau's pilsner but it was damn good. I also think it was the best one in the bunch that could pull a yellow fizzy drinker over from the dark side.

I'm not sure if these beers will catch on for everybody and be the kind that they'd stock at home but now we all have better options when we want something on the lighter side of things than reverting back to Miller Lite or Mich Golden.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pilsner Urquell

Time for another quick review. I first had Pilsner Urquell as a sample at the Four Firkins a few months ago. I wasn't able to get a good feel for the beer but I did know that I wanted to try some more of it.

For our anniversary shortly after that, Allison and I went to Murray's for dinner. It's amazing how a place that tries to be that classy can give me their "beer list" on a quarter sheet of paper that looked like it was typed up on a typewriter. Luckily I saw Pilsner Urquell on the menu and took a shot at it.

It was one of the best yellow fizzy beers I've ever had. Yes, I used that term to describe it but in this case, this is a yellow fizzy beer that the American macrobreweries should emulate. I added it to last month's Beer Club lineup (which I'm running a bit late on the write up for) and it was a hit.

This beer looks just like any Budweiser or Miller Lite for the most part when you pour it but that's where the similarities stop. Every time I pour this out of a can (and do buy the can, for some reason they bottle it in the skunk inducing green bottles) I get a bit of an off aroma, a bit of a sulfur type smell. That quickly fades though and the dominant thing that comes through for me is a beautiful fresh bread aroma. I know that sounds weird if you've never smelled it in a beer before but trust me, it's awesome.

The flavor has a slight hoppy note to it but is more biscuity and again, tastes like fresh bread and has a much fuller mouthfeel than your typical macrobrewer's "pilsner." The finish has some hops in it as well along with some sweetness.

If you've never had this beer before and like the idea of smelling and tasting a bakery in your pilsner glass, pick up a four pack of Pilsner Urquell (again, in cans) and enjoy!

Do you have an opinion on this beer? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chimay Red

I figured what better way to get on a roll tonight than to review another beer. Since I bought some Chimay cheese last weekend and have been on a Belgian kick lately, I figured Chimay Rouge (or Red if you want to sound less pretentious... let's go with Red) would be a good choice for my second beer of the night.

If you've never heard of Trappist beers before, do yourself a favor and check out this link. When I chose Trappists for March's Beer Club, I found the history of the beer and the monks to be absolutely fascinating and loved everything about them before I even began trying all the beers.

If you've never tried a Trappist beer before, this may very well be your best place to start. There's a review on Rate Beer that puts it very much into perspective, when Bud Light was running its campaign on "drinkablity", this is the beer that should have been featured.

This stuff is just pure drinkablity beerified. The aroma and taste both fill your senses with sweetness, dark fruit, caramel and so much more with an absolutely beautiful finish. This review isn't to tell you what to expect from the beer. You either already know or if you don't, you just need to go buy a bottle right now.

You should be able to find it for about $4-6 which might sound a little steep but when you realize you're not buying a Bud Light but the equivalent of a (half bottle of) world class wine that's meant to be savored, you'll realize it's a good deal.

As for the cheese component, that's where the money thing gets a little crazy. The stuff isn't cheap at all, about $15-17 per pound. Not exactly Velveeta. But it's one of those things that's worth treating yourself every now and again. Plus wine's got nothing on these beers when it comes to pair with cheese. That being said, the cheese is not at all necessary to enjoy the beer, it's fabulous on its own.

I guess this entry isn't so much a review of Chimay Red as it is a recommendation of it and a blatant declaration of my love for it specifically and Trappist beers in general. Let me know if you'd tried this or not and if you haven't, let me know after you've made a run to your local beer store and gave it a try. If you don't like it, I'll buy ya a Bud Light. OK, that's not true. But I will buy you your favorite good beer if you don't like this one!

A review of Boulevard Collaboration No. 1 Imperial Pilsner

I figured it was time to get back to doing a few reviews on this blog from time to time. I realize I don't have the most sophisticated palate and sometimes have troubles picking out exact notes in the aromas and flavors but dammit, I like drinking beer and I can tell you if one is good or not.

So here goes, back in the saddle again with a Boulevard Smokestack series beer. This one is their first collaboration and it's an imperial pilsner made with the help of Jean-Marie Rock from the trappist brewery Orval.

After I was blown away by Odell's Double Pilsner (my first one), I was curious to see Boulevard & Orval's take on it. To clarify, I'm not saying I was blown away by how good it was (although it was pretty damn good) but by how full of flavors and aromas it was. It was an excellent beer, especially for $11 or so a sixer.

The Boulevard version poured with a pale orange color and a fluffy, white three-fingered head. I could tell by smelling that it wasn't going to be quite as big in the flavor department, but it had a nice grassy and malty flavor with a hint of hops. Using the Rate Beer rating scale, I gave it a 6/10 for aroma. I guess I expected more from an imperial version of the style.

The flavor was also a bit subtle but fortunately a bit more complex. I got more of the hops, some sweetness and some citrus. The finish was dry and crisp but unlike a lot of dry finishes, this one actually preserved much of the flavor and left it lingering on the tongue for awhile. I gave it a 7/10 for flavor and a 5/5 for finish.

I'd definitely drink this one again (I gave it a 15/20 overall), but don't know that I'd pay that price to buy it again (I can't remember exactly, but it was in the $8-12 range). I'd rather take the money and buy some Schell's Pils or some Pilsner Urquell. But if you're buying, I'm drinking!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Beer Club Volume Ten - Hefeweizens

June's Beer Club was such a good time it took me over a month to recover from it and write about it. Our newest member Todd is a party animal and we all drank non stop for the last five weeks. OK, not really... I've just been busy guy (or a slacker if you wanna go that route).

Let's rewind five weeks. It was time to introduce hefeweizens to the members of Beer Club who hadn't had the pleasure of trying them. This was another self scheduled month for us because I knew that Schell's version of the style came out in June and it was one that I definitely wanted to showcase.

After a few discussions with some people who know their beers, I decided to once again go with a lineup that would give us a good opportunity to compare and contrast beers that were unique for various reasons.

Here's the lineup:
Hacker-Pschorr (Hefe) Weisse
Schneider Weisse Original
Georg Schneiders Wiesen Edel-Weisse
Brauerei Aying Bräu-Weisse
Summit Hefe Weizen
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Kellerweis Hefeweizen
August Schell Brewing Company Hefeweizen
Brauerei Aying Ayinger Ur-Weisse
Brauerei Aying Ayinger Weizen-Bock

We had a few beers from across the pond which gave us an idea of how much is/isn't lost from a beer style that should always be drank as fresh as possible. We had a couple examples from the complete opposite direction with Schell's and Summit being made practically down the road and Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss which is not only domestic, but included so we could see if their open vat fermentation added anything to the mix.

I also included the last two on the list to give people an idea of how the closely related dunkelweizen and weizenbock styles would compare to the hefe style.

I expected the domestic examples to pull away from their German counterparts but to my surprise they were very good and very well received by everybody. I guess years of experience can help make up for the lead time it takes to get to us.

It was another month when the opinions varied quite a bit but the ones that seemed to be the most popular were the Hacker-Pschorr and the Schell's. Trying them all in a lineup together confirmed for me that the Schell's was still my favorite. That was no surprise to me since they combined the best of both worlds. They're a brewery with 150 years of experience that's located less than two hours from us.

Brett executing the "roll" technique (see step 7 here)

I'm not sure if I converted anybody to being a hefeweizen fan, but at least I opened some people's eyes to a new style and gave them an idea of whether or not they'd want to explore deeper into a style that's terrific during the dog days of summer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Great Minnesota Beer Get Together

As you may or may not know, the 2010 National Homebrewers Conference was in Minneapolis (technically Bloomington) last month. Homebrewing wasn't really on my radar when tickets went on sale for all the events so the seminars and everything else really didn't mean too much to me.

What did mean a ton to me though, was that a lot of my out-of-town friends were going to be in the Twin Cities for the conference and I was going to get to meet some of them for the first time.

Twitter was something that started slow for me, something I did just to see what it was all about. It also coincided with the explosion of my craft beer hobby and I soon found out that the two went hand in hand. I tweet about plenty more than beer but the majority of my interaction is about beer and most of it is with friends I met because of beer.

My biggest problem about social media is that too many people use it as a substitute for real friends. "I have 258 friends on Facebook" "Oh yeah? How many would meet you at the bar for a beer?" "Ummmmmm" Exactly.

I understand it's not always feasible to have a beer with a Twitter (or Facebook or whatever) "friend" when you live in Minneapolis and said friend lives in Texas. But that's what made last week so cool, I got to meet several Twitter friends in person for the first time and got to drink beer with them and friends that I met on Twitter but have had the fortune to hang out with before.

Here's the quick recap. Melanie from Atlanta (aka @mstrachan on the Twitter) was the first in town, she arrived with her friend Eric on Sunday night. I had volleyball league that night though so we didn't meet up till Monday night when we had a few beers at Town Hall. Josh (aka @joshareed on the Twitter) and his wife Elizabeth joined Melanie, Eric, Allison, Marie and me for a pretty fun get-to-know-ya Monday night.

Wednesday afternoon is when it all took off. Brett (aka @BrettGlenna on the Twitter) got tickets for a bunch of us to go to the Twins game that night and I decided to invite everybody over to Isenberg's Neighborhood Bar that afternoon so I could showcase some of Minnesota's finest beers before the game.

Josh was first to show up and eventually the rest of the crew showed up - Brett with Frank (@fnbarrett on the Twitter), Maggie (@SudsyMaggie on the Twitter) and Norm (@NormskiBrewer on the Twitter) in tow and Allison with Melanie and Eric. Norm and Maggie are from Washington and Frank is from Iowa (but don't hold that against him).

I spent the days leading up to Wednesday assembling as many Minnesota beers as I could find and the final count ended up being around forty available for us to try. We got through just over two dozen of them (give or take) before it was time to leave for the Twins game. Everybody got a taste of beer ranging from Schell's to Brau Brothers to Summit to Surly to Lake Superior to Lift Bridge. Not everybody tried every beer, but everybody got their fair share of a taste of Minnesota.

It was also the largest gathering of "Getting Tanked with Frank" panel members in history. OK, it was the first gathering in the short history of the hottest new podcast on the internet but that's what made it so significant. I had met Frank once before and Brett several times but this was our first group gathering (minus Mar, Ben & Laz).

The Getting Tanked with Frank logo was also born that day:

Allison and I met up with Frank and his wife and kids and with Brett and his wife and Maggie down at Target Field where we got to hang with Norm for a bit too. It was a beautiful evening and we got to see a fantastic game from Scott Baker, 12 strikeouts in a 2-1 Twins victory.

The next night, I got off work and stopped by home to grab some of the beers that we didn't get to the night before and headed down to Bloomington were the gang was hanging out (sans Frank & family and Melanie & Friend who headed home).

I brought some of the beers that we didn't get time to try from the night before including Surly Furious, Surly Abrasive Ale and a growler of Town Hall's Masala Mama. Didn't get a chance to stay too long since everybody had to return to the fun of the conference.

The next night Allison and I again headed down to the hotel after work, this time with a growler of Barley John's Wild Brunette and the just-released-that-very-day Lift Bridge Minnesota Tan and Brau Brothers Rubus (an imperial blackberry porter). Also included for the west coasters was a bottle of Bells Hopslam, past its prime but still worth trying for those who never have before.

After having dinner at the hotel with the gang, Allison and I left them to their fun again and headed back home since we were leaving for New Ulm the next morning.

While I was in New Ulm, I wanted to try a Schell's Hefeweizen on tap since it was in season and I had a hot tip that it was at the B&L Bar downtown. I ordered a hefe for me and a Schell's Stout for Allison and posted on Twitter that we were there. Not long after, I felt a pat on my back and saw yet another Twitter connection sit down on the barstool next to me. It was David Berg from Schell's (aka @schellbrewer on the Twitter).

Dave and I have been conversing on Twitter for awhile and I've wanted to meet up with him for awhile so it was great to finally have the chance to get to do that. We had a couple beers and shot the shit for awhile and had a great time. If my parents weren't waiting for their Happy Joe's chicken, I have the feeling we could have had a few more than we did. At least we finally got to have that first one and I look forward to having more in the near future.

The next morning after making a Father's Day breakfast for my parents, we took off for the Cities to pick up Norm & Maggie from the hotel so we could head to the St Paul Summer Beer Festival. Allison dropped us off and we soon met up with the rest of the crew and began sampling.

I was a little disappointed that some breweries only showed up with one or two beers and that some only showed up with regular stuff that I could drink whenever I wanted but I did find enough to sample about 24 different beers.

I was surprised that I didn't run into more people that I knew but I did run into a couple of very important cogs in the Twin Cities beer community, Dan and Bryan from the Four Firkins. Always good to see those guys, especially outside of work.

Eventually the day was wrapping up and Maggie, Norm and I had to figure out what we wanted for our last beer before Allison picked us up so that we could get Maggie and Norm to the airport on time.

We decided that it was fitting to end the day with a Surly. I hadn't been there all day since the program only listed beers that were already in my fridge at home. Maggie went up to grab a sample for both of us because I was busy BS'ing again and returned with the surprise of the day - Surly Brown Eye. Oops, I meant Surly IMPERIAL Brown Eye (sorry Todd!). I forgot the exact style that it was but it was a great way to end the day because it was easily my favorite beer of the day.

Thus ended an epic week of beer drinking with awesome people. Epic is a term that gets tossed around too much these days but I can't think of a word to better describe it. I was sad to see Norm and Maggie go, I had such a great time hanging out with them. I felt a lot better though because I knew we'd get to drink again hopefully very soon!

*Editor's note - Yeah, I'm a couple weeks late posting this son of a bitch. Sorry about that. I got writer's block for the events of the last day. OK, that's a lie. I just got lazy and then forgot about it. But better late then never. Now go drink a beer that was made close to where sleep at night.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


A couple Saturdays ago I attended my first ever BrauFest. As you may or may not know, Brau Brothers Brewing Company in Lucan, MN was the location of our beer club's first ever field trip (we even got our picture on the slideshow on their home page). The day we went included an open house at the brewery which included a self guided tour of the hop fields followed by a street dance outside the Brauhaus restaurant and bar (with supper in between at the Brauhaus for us).

I was hoping to get a good sized group of us down there again because it was the perfect set up for us. It's not too often that you can pitch a tent (or in our case, camper) right next to a brewery and drink beer until sleepy time and then sleep off all that beer until morning. Alas, a big group was not in the cards but we were not deterred.

I talked my sister Cheryl and her husband Bruce into coming and they met Allison and me at the brewery around 4:00 on Saturday afternoon with their camper in tow. What's better than owning a camper? Knowing someone who does! I was ready to sleep in a tent but glad that I didn't have to.

When we hit the brewery, I found out that rumors of the appearance of Rubus were true. Rubus is the newest Brau beer, a big ass imperial blackberry porter. Ignoring all rules about what order to drink beers in, I immediately requested one as my first beer. It was damn good too. Not too overwhelming with the blackberry, but just enough to give it a nice flavor. The 9.something% ABV was nicely hidden too. All that for only $5 in a Brau Brothers pint glass that you got to keep (and refill for only $3).

Now Cheryl and Bruce are pretty loyal to Michelob Golden Draft Light (no, I haven't disowned them yet) so I knew Rubus and Sheephead (7.7% ABV pale ale) were out. So we started Bruce off with their version of a light(er) beer, Old 56 and Cheryl had a Strawberry Wheat (and eventually switched to Old 56 as well.

Allison & Cheryl wouldn't hijack the van for me

I switched to Sheephead after a pilsner and soon realized that it was really growing on me. It's a big flavorful pale ale that, if you didn't know better, could easily be mistaken for an IPA. If you like big hops with big flavor, give it a try sometime. They went down way to easily and after a few of those and another Rubus, it was a wobbly walk up to the Brauhaus for me.

When we moved on to the restaurant to eat, we all ordered Brau beers again except Cheryl, who reverted back to Mich Golden form and ordered one. After I gave her crap and Bruce glared at her long enough, she changed her order to an Old 56 and stuck with it for the rest of the night. I'm not sure if they'll ever drink another Brau Beer (or craft beer for that matter) again, but I think I did my part to show them that their perception of craft beer is a little off (like most people's) and that there are some good starter beers for them in the better beer world.

I also bought Bruce an Old 56 t shirt and like I told him that the Brau Brothers might not be able to afford a Super Bowl commercial, but they can put a t shirt on a guy walking around Atwater, MN!

Bruce enjoying one of many Old 56's

After eating way too much good food, my stomach wasn't exactly ready to start drinking a ton of beer again so I decided to switch to the Brau Cream Stout. In spite of me being stuffed, it was still delicious to sip on which is a testament to how smooth that beer is. It was the perfect dessert/after dinner drink.

The street dance was pretty cool, not a lot of dancing going on except for the two little kids having a blast in front of the stage but the band (Hicktown Mafia)was pretty good and played a good mix of stuff from the 70's through the 00's and we had a pretty good time.

I read a comment online from somebody who went last year that said something along the lines of "it was mainly a bunch of locals drinking Bud Lights". For the most part, that's what it was again this year but I don't think you need to have a Mecca like Dark Lord Day with beer geeks crawling out of the wood works to be a good craft beer festival.

I actually appreciated the smaller crowd because you don't often get that kind of face time with the guys who run a brewery and as long as you have good beer to drink, having a good time is all up to you. I got to meet someone I've chatted with on Twitter at the brewery too and had some good conversation with her and her boyfriend. There's always an opportunity to meet someone new and talk about beer with them. Even if they're not big craft beer fans, you can still talk about it with them at an event like this one.

Hanging with Dustin & Trevor Brau

My goal is to get that good sized group to hit this thing next year and we can turn it into our own private beer festival (with a few locals thrown in the mix for fun). Or maybe word will start getting out and it'll get way bigger next year. Either way, I'm going to have fun and who knows, maybe my name will finally get on the plaque at the Brauhaus by then for eating those damn wings last spring!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beer Club Volume Nine - Wheat & Wit Beers

As with saisons last month, I wanted to plan May's Beer Clubl with some beers that everybody could try and enjoy during the hot summer months in Minnesota. Let's face it, Bourbon County Stout might be one of the best beers on the planet, but it's not something you wanna sit out on your deck drinking several of on a 95 degree Saturday afternoon in June.

Enter wheat beers and witbiers. Rather than do two separate months with these closely related styles, I wanted to keep things interesting by combining them so everybody could notice how one differs from the other.

At the same time, a line up of beers that similar to each other could be a little boring so Alvey and I decided to throw a few curveballs in with a strawberry wheat (and again representing a local brewery), a hoppy wheat beer, a dark Belgian ale brewed with wheat and even an imperial witbier. Here is the lineup:

Hoegaarden, a Belgian White from Brouwerij Hoegaarden (Belgium)
Strawberry Wheat, a Wheat Ale from Brau Brothers (Minnesota)
Hop Sun, a Wheat Ale from Southern Tier (New York)
Steenbrugge Wit, a Belgian White from Brouwerij Palm (Belgium)
Oberon, a Wheat Ale from Bell's (Michigan)
Chambly Noire, a Belgian Ale from Unibroue (Sapporo) (Canada)
Witte Noire, a Wheat Ale from De Proefbrouwerij (Belgium)
Imperial Dunkel Wit, a Belgian Strong Ale from Nøgne Ø (Norway)

This style wasn't the most interesting to break down or discuss in great lengths but I think everybody got to try something new (or in some cases, a half dozen or more new beers) and get an idea of what they want to grab a sixer of to bring to the cabin, fishing or to the park with them when the weather is hot. I also finally had an excuse to buy a Bell's mini-keg!

The thing I got most out of this meeting was how much fun it was, I don't remember laughing that much in a long time and it was pretty evident that we've gelled pretty well as a club it's proof that having beer as a hobby can make you great new friends.