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!