Monday, March 30, 2015

Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Blood Orange Gose Orange Ale. Boonville highway 128 Session Series. Bahl Hornin' since 1987.

Here's a head up. Or a shout out. This was given to me by good ol' Julie well over a month ago, no, probably six weeks, if not two months. And it lay in wait for the right occasion, the proper day and time for me to tackle it in a review, while Julie wondered what I thought of her gift. I'm pretty sure it was a month ago that she wondered once again when I would share my thoughts on this. Soon, I promised, soon. And then two weeks ago, I found myself in Wisconsin, and at last they had this beer at Casanova's in Hudson. I could have bought a 6-pack if I wanted to….but Julie already gave me one, back when I couldn't find one if I tried, without a trade, or a trip to California.

Enough. Time to drink it. This is the traditional Leipzig, Deustchland style of top-fermented wheat beer, brewed with salt. (Well, it was popular in Leipzig, but originated in Goslar, hence the name. Here, read this.)That, the salt and coriander,  used to be the singular nature that set this style apart, but the lactic sourness is what's turned it into the latest, greatest sensation that's sweeping the craft beer nation. So much so that you can't tell a gose-ah from a geeze-ah, we're so sour-happy. People are flipping their dang lids over freaking' gose-uhs, when I can't find mention of them in my old Michael Jackson volumes, and you can hardly find an imported version from the fatherland stateside. (A visit to BeerAdvocate says that I've reviewed one gose, Leipziger, from Gasthaus & Gosebrauwerei Bayerischer Bahnhof, back in December of 2003. I'll keep an eye out for another bottle, if it can be found. According to this blog (I haven't completely posted my reviews here onto BA, which is why some people out of the loop think that I've stopped reviewing), I've had two, both locally brewed.)

Enou--wait, I said that already. Let's just go….

Appearance: slightly haze, bright golden coloring, large and lasting white head.

Aroma: Tart, citric sourness, brazen orange flavor…little bits of cherry and berry. Definitely blood orange going on. And I think I can sniff out the salt.

Taste: On the tongue, bam! blam!, more and more sour, a blast and a half of fierce fruit. The tart attack never quits, it's a solid salvo that blasts anew, with each fresh sip. The lacto is hard at work here, spreading the sour. Lambics are so old-school, yesterday's news. It's fruity, it's dry, it's creamy and it's sour. What a truly magnificent beer this is. Bracing, refreshing, sweet and sour and everything nice.

Let's look at the label: "Alc. 4.2% by Vol. Copious additions of blood orange during fermentation impart tangy citric notes and a slight sweetness to compliment {I'm sure they mean complement} the salinity and tartness typically found in a Gose style ale."

Good work, Anderson Valley, and thanks, again, Julie!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Biking to Beer: Bigger, Longer, Stronger, Part Two---And So We Find Our Plans Thwarted

Even when it seems that spring is  here and we're in the clear, we know here in Minnesota, deep down, that there's always a chance that winter can return, if only briefly. This threat may last until May, even. Prince had a song along those lines, "Sometimes It Snows In April." I't's kind of a bad song, but I still like that one.

Add to this the definitive fact that I am terrible about navigating the change of the seasons, and the changing back again. I rarely check the weather reports, basing my comings and goings on a peek out the window. This Sunday, I had the notion of continuing my project of visiting and re-visiting the breweries of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul by bicycle, and once out the door, I felt the chill and the wind and began to amend my plan. I would not go to the most northerly brewery in the city (Insight), not when it's this cold.
Here is the rare example of when I use a photo swiped from someone else. But, hey, I figure, if they risked stealing my soul, by taking my picture without permission, then I can yank it off of Untapp'd for use here.

So, I decided that my plan would include a first stop at Eastlake Craft Brewery, where I draw a paycheck, and have a few while using the Wi-Fi to publish the first in this series of posts. My third beer there while at work on that was a Stick Style IPA, my second was a Nicollet Mauler Black IPA on nitrogen, and the first was our latest beer, one I haven't posted about here, yet, the American Brown Ale called Mud In Your Eye. I like it quite a bit. Here's the official description.
and here's what it looks like:

I spent a good two hours there, writing, editing, doing internet things, eating, drinking, hearing soccer fans cheering behind me. Thought about what other breweries I'd try to visit.

A word about where I work: I'm digging it. I'm completely behind the beers, utterly thrilled that they're a product I can really endorse. I've been trying to remain neutral here, so I don't display a conflict of interest. I'm trying not to hype the place too much, so as not to seem biased. Plain truth is: I feel that we're putting out some of the best beers in town, and those interested in such things seriously need to get over here and drink them. Take some bottles home, fill a growler. Take a chance, it couldn't hurt. (See how I'm downplaying it, to keep up that appearance of neutrality?)
My old friend Steve Legas chatting up owner Ryan Pitman while watching futbol on a Sunday afternoon. Our bear mascot growls in the background.

It was finally time to get going to stop #2, further down Lake Street, about a mile and a half to the west, and a swift right turn on Lyndale Avenue to LynLake Brewery, a taproom I've visited a handful of times since they opened late last fall. Why haven't they appeared here yet, why haven't I taken a growler home for review? Because I thought they were too expensive. It turns out that I was wrong. When I thought that it read $19 for a fill, it really meant including deposit. And they've lowered those prices, and also offered the 750 ml option, the mini-growler. Which I love. (And truthfully, the prices have dropped a few bucks, because a lot of people thought like me, and no one was buying them.)

The bar, at LynLake, bicycle wheels hang above, in between lightbulbs, the brewery's way in back, tap handles in the foreground. 

LynLake occupies a space formerly home to an antique store (I still have some items around the home that I bought there), and before that a theater. The marquee remains (the antique store went as Theater Antiques), and they're using it to promote the brewery, naturally. I made it out to their opening night, though I wasn't on the invite list. Just bluffed my way in, although I did know people inside. Their head brewer, Joel Carlson, used to brew at Town Hall, and plenty of people I know from there were in attendance. My subsequent visits were late at night on Fridays, it turned out, and the place was jammed with Uptown types. And plenty who don't reside in the neighborhood, but like to play there on the weekends. (I believe that in New York City they call them "the bridge and tunnel crowd.")

I snapped a pic of this beer, Raka-Waka, a New Zealand Pale Ale, back in November, I remembering it being fresh, citrus-y, and flat-out delicious.
Some beers were good, some were okay, but there wasn't anything yet that really stood out. They remained due for further examination, but I've been taking my time. I believe I mentioned the hibernation earlier.

The view of the Lynlake Brewery marquee from the side, walking up Lyndale Avenue.

So, I return on a Sunday, when it's quiet and mellow. First beer I chose was a recommendation from the bartender, on sale for only five dollars, the Sideburns Oatmeal Raisin Stout on nitrogen, and it was everything you'd want. Just the right amount of roast and toast, creamy and semi-sweet. I've always been fond of oatmeal stouts and this one fit the bill entirely.

Sideburns Milk Stout (with oatmeal and raisins) on nitro, 6.2% ABV, 30 IBU. 

I moved on to the Take 6 IPA (named for Joel's favorite gospel vocal group? not sure…) dry-hopped with Dr. Rudi (a new hop from New Zealand  I'd never heard of), on cask. It went down just fine, but was not especially remarkable. I'm not especially taken with the cask conditioning presentation (I know, a shock and a sacrilege to some), but I'll try one out from time to time. Perhaps I should test another one on plain ol' CO2 to be sure what I really think of it.

Take 6 IPA on cask, 5.7% ABV, 77 IBU. 

Finally, I ordered a pint of the Tradesman Robust  Porter, which was as straight-up as you're going to get, dark, full-bodied and smooth.
Tradesman Robust Porter, 5.5% ABV, 40 IBU. 
And as I drank it down, I glanced out the window and watched the snow falling on Lyndale Avenue. And a part of my proud heart, formerly emboldened by the onset of spring, had shrunk a little, and fell back, still, but still not cowering. Contemplated my next move, while assessing the beers I'd drunk.
One of two chalkboards at LynLake Brewery.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the staff at LynLake, brewers, bartenders, and all of them, would like see the beers bust out of the comfort zone that they're in currently. Were the beers always so stuck in regular styles? Did they ever make anything off the beaten path? A little research shows that there has been a double IPA, a coconut milk stout, some smoked stuff, among others. Maybe I need to pay a little more attention, break out of my comfort zone, step in there more often. I say it myself quite a bit, that you can't judge a place on a single visit.

And I turned again to the window, and the snow that wouldn't stop, and decided that it was time to go home, and not stretch this adventure out, not in this weather. I biked home via the Greenway with one  hand in my coat pocket and the other on  the handlebars and brakes, alternating them to keep the warmth flowing. It never stopped, not at all, all night long. Sob. Sigh.

Maybe on my next day off, things will improve and I can begin this again. We hope. We can only hope. And dream of spring.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm Little Wolf Lager

Dave's BrewFarm Little Wolf Lager. 4.5% aBV.

Appearance: clear, bright golden color, slim, but lasting white head. Looking good.

Aroma: Little bit of lemon, touch of spice, nice hop presence.

Taste: smooth and  clean and easy as can be-zee. Bright hoppiness leaps upon the palate, and plays about for a spell. Lean bodied, light malt character, but with just enough biscuity malt flavor. Ends on a dry note, clearing the palate. It's an unbridled lager, unchained and unfettered.

When I have a beer like this, I think about how bad and boring many mainstream lagers are, and far removed a brew like this is from them. What if you took the flavor away? What if you took the charm out? Plenty of fruit emerges. Low bitterness. Major flavor. Yum. This is nice. Creamy. Citrus-y. Clean and smooth.

Hey, what's Farmer Dave say? "The second in the Little Wolf series. Pale and rye malts, Azacca, Bramling Cross and Simcoe hops, fermented with a lager yeast. Smooth, crisp and hoppy!"

612 Brew Unrated Rye IPA

612 Unrated Rye India Pale Ale. Brewed at 612Brew in Minneapolis, Minnestoa. Alcohol 6.8% by Vol. 80 IBU.

I've had this beer on tap occasionally over the past couple of years, and liked it. Tried some of their others, too, but none made a big enough impact that I wanted to take home a growler from their taproom. Now we have cans, and I gambled about a buck and a half on a single can from Elevated. Let's crack it open and get into it.

One detail first: this was known as Rated R in the past, the R standing for Rye. But apparently the Motion Picture Association of America, the folks who create the ratings system for movies, objected to the use of their trademark. They didn't object to "Unrated", though, so away they went.

Appearance: thoroughly hazed, murky crimson/brown coloring. Long lasting, lace-leaving, creamy white head.

Aroma: spicy, bread-y notes from the rye malt, some hop character peeking through, citrus-y, spicy, but mostly hidden by the malt notes.

Taste: Smooth entry on the tongue, loaded up with rye. Malt character loads the palate first and foremost, hops bringing up the rear, getting bolder. On second sip, they're tearing up the tongue and spreading bitterness about the mouth. On first swallow, I felt this brew was just shy of the boldness it ought to exhibit, but I was wrong. It's busting out.

I'm going to examine the can for a minute. Artwork by Adam Turman shows a crowd watching a 3-D movie and spilling popcorn. There's the smallest glimpse of cleavage, so we know it's a Turman. Minneapolis skyline and landmark images circle the top of the can, rising out of the red the bleeds through the artwork. The 612 Brew logo is repeated twice, and the slogan "I'm thirsty already!" appears. I don't get it. "West Coast IPA meets Midwest Rye. This Rye IPA greets you with a burst of citrus hop aroma and tempts you with the spice from the rye. Unrated Rye is 612Brew's most hoppy beer, yet easy enough that your mom would like it. If your mom is awesome."

That's just a touch idiotic. Yuck.

I'm going to spill my guts now. I just haven't been thrilled by this brand and brewery.  I've been to the taproom once, almost 2 years ago. They draw in a nice crowd of thirsty locals, but the experience left me cold. The beers did nothing for me, and this is the only one that I've ever liked. But we all know that it's easy to please when you're hopping heavy. Hard to mess up an IPA, especially one with the extra, added element of rye malt.

Still, I've withheld judgement, even as I continue to avoid their beers. I skipped them on my attempt to visit all the breweries in town, but now that I'm renewing that focus once more, I will try them out again. I'll give them a few more chances, and pick up the other canned beers, singles, again. I'll give 612 a fair shake before giving any kind of final judgement.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Solemn Oath Kidnapped by Vikings IPA

Solemn Oath Kidnapped by Vikings IPA. Solemn Oath Brewing, Naperville, Illinois. 6% ABV. More information: …to be filled in later….

Growler filled at the Nova's, Hudson, WI, 3/15/15. The Ides of March!…Oooo….Consumed the evening of Thursday, the 19th of March. I don't usually wait this long to open a growler, but, somehow, it happened.

Appearance: slightly hazy, bright golden hued, nearing crimson, with a large, glorious, cloud-white, lace-leaving head.

Aroma: Ripe and rife with citrus fruit associations: orange and lemon and tangerine. Piney and pithy. Bold hop bitterness. Utterly lovely.

Taste: On the palate, it's bitterness blazing. Hop bitterness commands the palate, leaving traces of prickly pine and pungent grapefruit. Full bodied, full flavored, long, bitter finish. Just about everything you want in an IPA. Finished this growler with tremendous ease.

Sisyphus West Coast India Pale Ale

Sisyphus West Coast IPA. 8% ABV. 100 IBUs.

Appearance: mostly clear, with a slight chill haze. Bright amber/gold coloring, fine white lead, lasting a while.

Aroma: hops are bursting out all over. Powerful pine in here, and plenty of citrus notes, too. Orange, grapefruit, tangerine. Just the way I like it.

Taste: Now here's where it delivers. All the hoppiness dropped on the tongue, and roaming about the palate, delivering deliciousness. Succor for sure to a hophead like me.

Medium bodied, long, bitter finish. High drinkability, for the hop freaks among us. You're not one? Move along.

Raise the glass again, admire the lace left, point the liquid to the nose, and let it drift in. Invigorating. Bring it back to the lips, let the ambrosia slide back into the mouth and allow the humbles lupulus to treat the senses.

This may be my favorite Sisyphus brew, because it hits me right where I live. In a phrase that others use, it is in my wheelhouse. Or if were in the 1960's, I might say that it's my bag, man. We all got our bags. This is right in mine.

There may be other beers that are more complex, more difficult to make, a greater achievement of brewing prowess. A beer like this gets me every time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Boom Island Witness Witbier

My quest to try all of the beers has been called off, due to it's impossibility. My quest to try all the local beers, too, has been designated an implausibility. Can't do them all, not physically possible. What if I had a nine-to-five job, then I could make the rounds of all the brewpubs and taprooms, Monday through Saturday, every night, take notes on them all, bring back the growlers, check them off. But I don't and I can't.

No, I can't check off everything ever offered, but I do recognize once in a while when one slipped through the cracks, and here's one. The witbier from Boom Island, called Witness. First one I'm drinking from a 12 ounce bottle out of a 4-pack, rather than a big ol' bomber. Pouring it into a Galzen Toren D'erpe Mere saison glass. Just because.Why not?

Alc. 5.0% by Vol. Bottle conditioned. Born in Belgium. Crafted in Minneapolis.
Appearance: hazy and golden, under a bone white head.

Aroma: there's a little bit of spice, here's that wheat-y feel. Light and airy and lovely.

Taste: Light and smooth and sweet. Along comes coriander, ain't she sweet? A touch of orange, a spritz of lemon. The wheat and the sweet and the fruit and the spice, ever so nice. There's that slice of celery, there's the orange wedge on top of the wheat note. Light in body, lean in texture, ever so drinkable. Just like a good wit. Done right.

What's the gobbledygook? (they have such fine gobbledygook!) "Alert the media, You've just found a classic Belgian Witbier with real soul. Dig the way it's slight tartness opens into a refreshing smoothness with faint floral notes on the back. Can I get a WITNESS?"

Oh, she is some kind of wonderful. I am talking about my baby.

Borealis Fermentery Vinegoblin Belgian-style Pale Ale

Borealis Fermentery Vinegoblin Belgian-style Pale Ale.

Appearance: lightly hazy, bright golden/amber hue, large and lasting ivory head. Looks beautiful.

Aroma: All bright citric, spicy  and floral hops, surrounded by Belgian yeast funk. In every way, the very mark of a Belgian pale ale. Enticing.

Taste: Fruity at first, plump with luscious Belgian malts, hop bitterness arriving on the Belgian right after. This delightful dance continues, sip after sip, gulp after gulp. Terrifically tasty. Yum. Ken, you did it again. This beats the pants off of most other Belgian pale ales out there by a long shot. Love this beer. Mmm, mmm.

Let's see what the brewery says about it. The label begins the same as all the others, then the copy specific to Vinegoblin: "Vinegoblin was a runner up name for my kitten that used to play amidst the hop vines here at the Borealis Fermentery. This beer is a subtly malty concoction that incorporates copious additions of both kettle and dry hops for the true hop lover among us. Chill before serving, pour into your favorite glass, and enjoy this ode to Humulus Lupulus."

Unfortunately, I can't pour it into my favorite Borealis Fermentery snifter, because I broke it, like a damned fool. Luckily, I have plenty more. But if I see another one, I'm buying it.

Brewed "710212" ….not sure what that means…are they missing a zero, and it was 7/10/2012?

No word on ABV, but I'd guess it to be 7 percent, maybe?

In case you missed it the first time, I like this beer. Go get some right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm Saison du Nord

I have done something completely unprecedented in my life. I have waited one week before opening a growler from Dave's BrewFarm. I had too many beers as it was, and I never got around to them. Now, it's time to roll back the sleeves, crack the knuckles and pop the top. Saison du Nord, away!

This one is later than I thought it was: bottled on 2/22/15. Purchased 3/15/15. Now, I want to drink it.

Appearance: lightly hazy, bright crimson coloring, large and lovely, lace-leaving cloudy-white head. Looks beautiful.

Aroma: soft and fruity. Malt-forward. Slightly spicy, mostly clean.

Taste: Fresh and lively on the tongue, with a bit of a funky twist. A sweetness that veers towards sour, without ever getting there. Citrus notes blaze the palate, with a complex malt character taking over from there. Flat out deliciousness. Ends on a dry note, cleans out the palate entirely, until it's time for another go. Thirst-quenching, satisfying, a fine food brew, in-a-good-mood brew, just right for any occasion.

What's Farmer Dave have to tell us? "Born of the North with a foot in France. Pale, Ashburne Mild and Abbey malts. Magnum, Centennial, and Palisade hops with a kiss of lemon peel and fermented with a French saison yeast." 6.9% ABV.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Biking to Beer: Bigger, Longer, Stronger, Part One

Biking to Beer: Bigger, Longer, Stronger: Part One. Spring is here. Time to get back on the metal horse and re-acquaint myself with the local breweries, new and old.

If you were paying attention to this webular blogging activity of mine last summer, you may remember my effort to visit all of the brewpubs and taprooms in the city of Minneapolis on one day. This was timed so that I could make the attempt before it was impossible, for Sisyphus was soon to open, and after that Bauhaus and Fair State and Insight and Northgate and more were on their way. I could imagine having thirteen beers all over town in the course of a day, but not 18 or 20. In truth, I only did 11 of the 13 breweries, but it's close enough for jazz.

A new idea recently dawned upon me, to make the rounds again, but 3 or 4 in a day, on my days off. This will continue until I get to all of the breweries of the Twin Cities (yes, I'll get to St. Paul, or even some of the suburbs) by bike, and I'll write about my experiences with them, as well as the beers, and strive to include a new beer at each stop.

This anonymous lizard (surely he must have a name, but I don't know it) is the smallest taxidermied animal in the Harriet Brewing Taproom, after the armadillo and the fierce puma. 

First stop, at 5 pm, Wednesday, March 18, Harriet Brewing, 3036 Minnehaha Avenue. I can say with confidence that every one of the beers they've produced has been covered here in the Nib. I met owner and brewer Jason Sowards for the first time in the summer of 2010 as he was trying to meet the beer buyers and bar managers of the cities to find the people who would purchase his product, with his homebrew samples as the promise of beers to come. A call to him once I heard he'd found his space and was setting up his brewery led to the invitation to host the release party in early February of 2011. And what a day that was. For the next month, the Blue Nile was the only place you could get the first beer from the first production brewery in the city in over a decade, the first new one since the '90's. Before Harriet, there were three breweries in Minneapolis, all brewpubs. Since then, in less than four years, seventeen more have opened.

Over three years, I continued to tap every new beer Harriet released at the Blue Nile. In March of 2012, I was invited to play my jazz records at the soft opening of their tap room, which just missed being the first brewery taproom in Minneapolis, beat out by Fulton. After a bit, I was offered a regular gig DJ-ing there on my day off from the Nile, which continued for over a year, until they sought out more live entertainment. You may remember that I worked at their taproom after being unemployed last fall, and while waiting for my new job at Eastlake to start up. I still make it in a few times a month, checking in on the my records stored on their shelves, keeping up with their beers, soaking up the arty atmosphere.

Perhaps my quest to find a new beer I haven't logged here yet would fail early on, as I've tried ever Belgian and German-styled brew this outfit has offered. Luck was with me, as they had a brand new brew that wasn't on the chalkboard, and still had no name. An American IPA, their first American anything so far. (That is, unless you agree with me that the Belgian IPA, especially the style that West Side represents,  is a thoroughly American invention.) This anonymous IPA is everything you'd want, pithy and citrus-y and hoppy as any IPA you like. As an IPA critic, I can vouch that any hop-heads in the house would be easily pleased. (I'll get a growler soon, and do a full review then.) During my long association with the brewery, I've often wished they'd break away a little from the Euro-style schtick, just a bit. An English-style once in a while, an American-style now and then. Hey, they did a Finnish-style, why not go a little further? Or closer, even?

If I hadn't seen a friend there during my visit, I might have had one and be done, but Don was there, so we got to talking and I put back another, this one a Divine Oculust. Once that Belgian Golden Ale was finished, I got back on the bike and took Hiawatha Avenue, a few blocks from Minnehaha, northerly to Franklin and 27th, turning on Franklin and following it over the Mississippi River, from the West Bank to the East. It's only a matter of blocks from there to University Avenue, and once there, it's a small shot until we get to Malcolm Avenue, where at 520, we meet Surly Brewing Company.

In 2004, there was a mention in a Brooklyn Center newspaper about a man who wanted to start a brewery in that city. This report was repeated in a post on and it of course caused a minor flutter, as it should have. There had been no new breweries in the Twin Cities that had succeeded since Summit and James Page (which, ultimately, failed). In the intervening years, anyone with ambitions to begin brewing locally was discouraged or sent to Wisconsin. All I did was make a comment on that thread that a new local brewery would be welcome, indeed, and I received a private "beermail" on the BeerAdvocate site from a user by the name of "micro" identifying himself as Omar. He reached out to me to keep me aware of his activities creating this new brewery, visiting me at the Blue Nile when he had things to report.  Sometimes it was bottles of Michigan beer he brought me, sometimes his new business card, revealing the name for the first time, and sometimes a cap or a pint glass, picking my brain for insight or opinion.

If I were to detail the events that led up to the rise of the Surly Brewing Company, and my long association with them, it would turn into a mid-sized novella. Actually, it already did, but I edited it out of this post. Too long. Another time, perhaps. I confess, though I may have mentioned it before, that I'm still amazed at the evolution of it all. It's so incredible that  I find it hard to put into words. It took not only the building of a brewery and the invention of a brand, plus the growth of a cult following, but also the changing of laws, as well as minds and tastes. (Omar actually had to change the law in Brooklyn Center to allow him to found a brewery there.)

And here we are now, with the Surly Mega-Brewery at 520 Malcom Avenue, which I wrote about here….and the question was asked: when will it calm down? My second visit was on a Sunday night around 6 pm. The Beer Hall tables were full, but I found a seat at the bar easily. I had a couple beers, and a Surly Burger. A smart-alecky bar-back gestured to the open seats and said to anyone listening: "Is it 7 pm, or 7 am? Half the bar stools are empty!" Yeah, and it's a Sunday night, and you don't have any TVs showing the Big Game, and no happy hour, and no nothing that bars use to draw people in, and yet it's still busy enough that there's no need to complain because you have a momentary lull.

I'm not accustomed to downing my Cynic from fancy glassware, but I don't mind it either. Shaker pints are forbidden, it seems, at the Surly Beer Hall.

I still hear from people who say they haven't made it in, because the parking lot is full, or they walk in and there's a line. Don told me he walks out more often than he doesn't. So, what happens on a Wednesday in mid-March, around 7pm? A line, but short. My long bike ride made me thirst something simple and drinkable, and I went for a CynicAle, which I used to enjoy on a regular basis when I always had it on tap at the Nile, and I haven't tasted it much in the past year. One CynicAle while I stood near the bar and waited for a bar seat to open up. Took about 20 minutes, and I tried the lamb meatballs and ordered a Witches Tower. This was the first new beer released at the Beer Hall , a "session brown ale" with an extra dose of cardamom to make it truly unique. Warm, spicy, and terrifically drinkable. The name comes from a nearby Minneapolis landmark near the new location, the Witch's Hat Water Tower. I slowly savored my pint, while enjoying an appetizer of lamb meatballs, and engaging in conversion with my bar-stool neighbor, Dave, a bassist with the Minnesota Orchestra, and talked of music and beer.
Getting up close and personal with a Witch's Tower Brown Ale. Did I mention the house roasted cardamom, or the aging on toasted ash? 

It's a piece o' cake to get from Surly to Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. Surly is located blocks from University Avenue which runs parallel to Washington Avenue, and I took the latter street through the University of Minnesota campus to the Washington Avenue bridge over the Mississippi river, taking me right to one of my favorite beer spots in town. It's still a great mystery why I put off going there for the first five years of their existence. My best guess is that I simply did not trust brewpubs back then. How could their beer be as good as a "real brewery"? I was suspicious, and dared not enter. When my quest for beer kicked into high gear, I ventured inside and after Masala Mama went down my throat for the first time, I never looked back.

On this visit, there was Czar Jack Imperial Stout to be had, so I had to have one. Always have to have one, if ever I see one. But that's not new, so I tossed back a tasty Mocha Java Double Brown Ale. Not sure why it's "double", at only 6.1 % ABV, it's maybe one and a half times the strength of a normal brown ale, but it surely packs on the extra flavor, with serious doses of chocolate and coffee. It's another one that I'll probably pick up in a growler and do notes on then.

MJDB, or Mocha Java Double Brown at Town Hall. Not very double, but plenty Mocha Java. 

As I was getting ready to pack up and head to my next stop, all the way through downtown, across the Loring Park neighborhood, and into the Dunwoody campus, across from the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden, I was called over to some friends in a booth. I hated to cut the chit chat short, but there was a plan in play, and I couldn't lose a moment, especially because closing time was nigh. I made to Sisyphus Brewing at about 9:50, just in time to get last call and have a couple pints. Trivia was over and the place was emptying out. Albert the dog was being friendly as always, and there was time to play a couple games of pinball with Sam, but I couldn't compete with him because he's become a master of the game. Enjoyed hearing talk of his expansion plans while enjoying a West Coast IPA, another beer that will be described in full detail later. (I had arrived in time to secure a growler of it before the law forbade me from doing so.

Last beer of the night? Not quite, I had one more at home. And once I opened the growler, you can read my notes on the West Coast IPA. 

So, on a Wednesday in mid-March I paid a visit to four of my favorite local breweries, just the first leg of this longer, occasional journey. Next time, maybe they won't all be my favorites, but there will be beer involved, so that's a good thing.