Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm Hull Melon Single Hop Saison

Dave's BrewFarm Hull Melon Single Hop Saison, 6.4 % ABV.

Appearance: hazy, bright golden hue, short-lived, slim white head, shortens to a tight ring.

Aroma: Sweet, fruity nose, with, yes, melon leading the charge. Is that why they're called Hull Melon hops? Maybe some tropical fruit notes, just a little bit of citrus, but, man, it's a "melon bomb." (A little research show that Hull Melon was developed in Germany only two years ago. More information here.)

Taste: More fruit, more yum, and just enough bitterness to keep it fun. Smooth malt, just a touch of saison yeast funk. Easy-drinking as they come. Light-ish body, nicely hopped, plenty of farmhouse flavors and this delicious fruity hoppiness.

I gobbled down this growler, and it went smashingly with my chicken pad thai.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Brooklyn Winter Ale

Brooklyn Winter Ale. Brewed and bottled by Brooklyn Brewery, Utica, NY. 6.1% Alc by Vol.

Appearance: clear, light brown color, slim light brown head.

Aroma: Caramel malt meets toffee and nuts with a touch of cocoa.

Taste: Sweet malt greets the palate, with a minor dose of hop bitterness for balance. A little bit of cocoa to match the caramel and toffee. Sweetness continues, and it's tasty stuff in this malt-driven winter ale. While I like the taste, it's a bit too sweet for my tastes. Medium-bodied, long, malty sweet finish, ends on a dry note. It's alright, but I wouldn't want more than a couple at a time.

 What's the label say? "Inspired by the old ales of blustery Scotland and brewed in defiance of the cold wind off the East River. Brooklyn Winter Ale is richly malty, full-bodied, and delicious. It's lightly caramelized and roasted flavors are perfect with stews, roasts, holiday dishes, many cheeses or all by itself. See? You're feeling warmer already."

Deschutes Zarabanda Saison

Deschutes Zarabanda, Ale with lemon verbena, pink peppercorn, sumac and dried lime. What? Huh? What did I get myself into?

Best by: ? Can't read it.

Crafted in collaboration with renowned chef Jose' Andres.

Appearance: clouded, straw yellow color, slim and soon-gone white head.

Aroma: Spices and lemon zest. A little peppery, Belgian yeast.

Taste: Nice and citrus-y, neatly spicy, lean-bodied. Classic farmhouse ale flavor. Spice and lemon rises up in intensity, but remains low-key and pleasant. A little spice, a touch of sweet, and a hit of sour, here and there. Refreshing and terrifically drinkable.

What's a Zarabanda, though? Maybe the label will tell me…"We looked to acclaimed chef Jose Andres to help us create a Spanish take on the farmhouse style saison. The addition of lemon verbena, pink peppercorn, sumac, and dried lime infuse the chefs distinctive flavors into the brew--an ale purposefully crafted to complement all your culinary endeavors. Or to be savored by itself."

Well, I still don't know what a Zarabanda is, no thanks to Mr. Label Copy. (I've since discovered that it is the name of a Spanish dance.) Yes, it's a tasty saison, if heavy on the lemon and lime, but nothing too special. I can't think of whether Deschutes has made a beer quite like this, so I'm glad I tried it, and glad it was only $4.99.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dave's BrewFarm Dee's SOB

Dave's BrewFarm Dee's SOB. 6.1% ABV.

Why not SOB OMG? It's a fresh, hand-picked basil, different from the one used in that other recipe. Let's see if it's just as good.

Appearance: clear, amber-hued, slim white head.

Aroma: Basil hits first, a blast of it up in my snout. then the brown sugar shows. The orange and the sour have yet to reveal. But, it's getting there.

Taste: Here it comes, there's the sour orange, but blended well with the brown sugar, and, in the lead, that brash, spicy basil. Fruity, spicy, sweet, and delicious. Getting more and more more-more as we get deeper in. (Did I forget to define "more-more" for you? It's more of the more, when maybe you didn't think there would be any more. I think. Not sure. I just made it up.)

Sour and sweet and ever-so neat, just enough fruit, plenty of suga. Missing the particular kick of that other basil, from the SOB OMG, that special twist. That Thai thing. This one, unless I'm completely wrong, is Italian basil.

What did Farmer Dave say? "Remembering summer…featuring Basil form our neighbor Dee's garden. Pils and Ashburne Mild malts, Glacier and Ahtanum hops. Brown sugar, sour orange puree and a late addition of fresh basil." (that's pretty much verbatim from the original SOB OMG, minus the part about Dee.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

'T Gaverhopke Extra

'T Gaverhopke Extra Belgian Ale. Produced and bottled by Brouwerij 'T Gaverhopke, Strasegem, Belgium. "Ambachtelijk bier van hoge gisting." 12 % alc. by vol.

Never heard of this one, or this brewery, until it was pointed out to me by my friend Paul, at Lake Wine & Spirits. Hoppy Belgian pale ale it seems, or a Belgian IPA, is another way it's put. At 12%? Okay, I'm sold, let's get into it.

Appearance: dark, cloudy, burgundy-hued, under a creamy, light cocoa layer of froth, looking great. I didn't anticipate an ale this dark, for some reason.

Aroma: Beautiful. Dark and malt-accented, with that particular inflection of Belgian yeast. Reminds me a bit of a dubbel, though it's leaning toward a quad. Slightly spicy with mellow notes of dark fruit, raisin, fig, plum. Loving it.

Taste: Mmm. Rich, sweet, deep and delicious. Why I thought I was opening a bottle of any Belgian IPA, I'm not sure anymore, but what we certainly have is a quadruple that starts out tasting like a dubbel until the booze starts knocking. All those flavors noted in the nose are arriving on the palate, big and thick as can be. Delicious and drinkable. High hops here, but more malt, and tremendous sweetness kept at bay with a ballast of bitterness. More succulent fruits and such, rich and at times sugary, rum-drenched raisins, cocoa, depth and complexity. Nice, nice, nice.

There isn't any gobbledygook on the paper glued to the glass, not beyond the government warning. Well, there's that "ambachtelijk" stuff, but that doesn't count as gobbledygook. Not unless I can't translate it. (I can't find any translations on their website, the English section isn't up yet.) (Wait, I found something somewhat helpful.)

Past that, I'm glad I bought this bottle and doubly glad I drank it down.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Toppling Goliath Lightspeed Pale Ale

Toppling Goliath Lightspeed Pale Ale, Made With Millennium and Falconer's Flight Hops. Millennium? Falcon? Lightspeed? I get it! Brewed and bottled by: Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., Decorah, IA. Live beer, please refrigerate. I bought this dry on the floor of Casanova's in Hudson, WI about 9 hours ago, took it home 2 hours ago, and set it in the DBF (Dedicated Beer Fridge) immediately after. It's cold enough, now it's time to drink.

Appearance: light golden coloring, slightly hazed, slim white head atop.

Aroma: Fresh and vibrant tropical fruit notes hit the nose first. Stone fruit, too. Peach, apricot, pineapple, passion. A squirt of grapefruit and a slice of orange. Growing wider and more bitter with each passing second. Citric cornucopia.

Taste: Moderate bitterness graces the palate first, though it promises to grow and turn from a spark to a blaze. Hop flavors zoom along the tongue, leaving blistering flavors in it's wake. Wow. This one's got it. Body is light-ish, medium-y, full of significant maltiness. Little bit of dry cracker & biscuit in the malt, which the hops blast over. Hops have a spicy kick that dominates over all and delivers the flavor across the galaxy.

The force is strong in this one. It's damned delicious.

Hey, there's a "screen crawl" on the side of the label, what's it say? "This seasonal pale ale was crafted with a perfect mixture of Millennium hops and Falconers Flight blend inviting orange aroma and hints of lemon flavor int this medium-bodied beauty will make you want to drink yours at light speed!"

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

Another BrewFarm visit meant another stop at Casanova's in Hudson, WI, and a chance to fill in some of the gaps. I was amazed to discover that, although I had recently covered DFH's 61 minute, 75 minute, and 90 minute IPAs, I hadn't covered the original, the 60 Minute IPA. Took care of that right away, bringing home a 6-pack. I first reviewed it on June 25, 2003, and looking back at those nearly 12 year old notes, they seem suitable still. So, here they are:

Appearance: sets the stage uneventfully with the color, a typical bright orange for an IPA, then springs on us a huge, cloud-like head, milky-white, soft and lacy.

Aroma: a veritable pine forest that the nose is walking through, needle, sap and all.  There's other kinds of sensation, some fruity, citric character, but that sharp piney, grassiness dominates. Big, stinging, and arousing.

Taste is most unusual: biscuity, bready, yeasty, a substantial mouthful, slightly sour, still resonating with hops, and delivering an unspecific fruitiness, that mingles and blends with this breadish tone. Excellent texture, slightly chewy. Hoppiness rides above and shines throughout, but underneath is that other thick and yeasty quality.
Hops don't quit, either, they take up permanent residence in the mouth and continues to conquer throughout the tasty, long finish.
I kept smackin' my lips throughout the contents of this bottle. Great drinking for any hophead, like me, and deserves points for sheer uniqueness alone.

Fulton The Ringer American Pale Ale

Fulton The Ringer American Pale Ale. Brewed and packaged by Fulton Brewery, Minneapolis, MN.

Shameful admission: I wasn't aware that beer was in bottles. It was draft only for a few years, at least. Now, at last, I will formulate my thoughts on the pale ale, the second Fulton beer whose name is a reference to "The Big Lebowski." (After The Worthy Adversary, of course.)

Appearance: Hazy, bright orange, slim white head.

Aroma: Classic American pale ale aroma, probably Cascade hops, or one of the usual suspects. high alpha acid, piercing pine, sharp citrus. Pretty near perfect.

Taste: Ah! Yes! Citrus zest is first and foremost in this one, bright, bold and refreshing hop character. A burst of potent orange, lemon and grapefruit. beautifully spicy, delightfully drinkable. Medium-bodied, smooth and satisfying.

Alc. 5% by Volume. 35 IBU. "Bright hops, light body, and a clean finish: a classic American pale ale."

This one may be the Fulton beer that I hits me in all the right spots, and all the right times. Good one, guys. It's doing the trick.

Odell Loose Leaf American Session Ale

Odell Loose Leaf American Session Ale, Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado. Alc./Vol 4.5%.

Appearance: clear, pale golden color, bright chalk-white head above.

Aroma: Lively and likable hop character, spicy, citrus fruit, ultimately dry. Floral notes and light grapefruit peel.

Taste: More of the above bounces on the tongue. Juicy and bright, light bodied, ending on a spicy, dry turn. Lean finish. Good drinking ale, tasty, deftly hopped. It's a good beer, and you surely can drink a significant amount of them before your sobriety is threatened, or you waistline, but it doesn't offer much more than low alcohol and light body.

"You know those epic days that start with an idea, turn into a dare, and end with a great story to tell? This is the beer for those days. Crisp and refreshing like any respectable session, but a bit more hop-forward and flavorful than some. Perfect for going with the flow."

Maybe that's it, that I don't like "going with the flow." Though it boast more flavor and hops than some, it's not quite enough for me. Still, another well-made Odell beer.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Olvalde Farm From Field and Fen Mint Stout Ale

Olvalde Farm From Field and Fen Mint Stout Ale, Ale Brewed with Mint and natural flavors, lightly hopped, unfiltered, refermented in the bottle. Brewed and bottled by Olvalde Farm and Brewing Company, Rollingstone, Minnesota. No ABV given.

Appearance: Deepness and darkness, utter blackness, under a slim, cocoa-tinged head, lasting long.

Aroma: Creamy, minty, chocolate-y. Mint sweetness starts minor and grows in pitch. Tremendously pleasant.

Taste: More mint, when liquid first meets lips. Brightest, bolder, mintier. Mintier, and mintier, and mintier. With rich, dark malt holding court below. The mint never dims in the flavor, and the chocolate malt keeps adequate time. Full-body, long, malty finish. Sweet and minty continues. Minor hop bitterness, major mint sweetness. But never too much. Fine balance. And toward the end, it turns a little tart. Nothing wrong with that.

I like this. It's worth the drinking.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fulton Insurrection Imperial IPA

Fulton Insurrection Imperial India Pale Ale. The official India Pale Ale of the Insurrection Empire. Brewed and packed by Fulton Brewery, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Alc. 9.0% by Vol. 12 oz. REAL BEER.

My first time with this beer. I'd actually never heard of it
before the bottles were released. Where've I been?

Appearance: clear, bright amber hue, under a large, lasting snow-white head. Looking good.

Aroma: Pine and citrus and tropical fruit notes, but without bitterness. Creamy, even. Powerful and pungent, though, oily and resiny. Nice.

Taste: Mmm. hmmm. Yeah. Big hop flavor, sans harsh bitterness. Orange and pineapple and pine needles. Clean, while flavorful, with a long, creamy, fruity finish. Medium bodied. Alcohol well hidden. I like this one. I'm not sure if it would top my list of favorite double IPAs, but I'm digging it. The more I drink it down, the more I like it. Mmmmm. Yeah.

What's the label tell us? "Insurrection is an Imperial IPA charged with 3 lbs per barrel of Nelson Sauvin and Mosaic hops. Bolstered by a 9% aBV malt brigade and finished with an over-the-top explosion of citrus, tropical fruit, and sauvignon blank, this 95 IBU uprising leaves you no choice but to surrender to the hop rebellion."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

August Schell Noble Star Series #4: Black Forest Cherry

Man, oh, man, am I ever behind. I just posted the 2014 Town Hall Festivus here in week three of 2015. And now that Noble Star #5 is out, I'm just getting around to #4. Notes away!

August Schell Noble Star Collection Black Forest Cherry Berlin Style Wheat Beer Aged On Cherries, August Schell Brewing, New Ulm, MN. Bottled July 2014.

Appearance: clear, cherry-red coloration, much carbonation, but no head, utter stillness.

Aroma: there's the funk, there's the wild, and there is the sour. Followed by a big, bad batch of cherry. Urging me to taste…

And so I do: Brisk and tart, a fierce flash of sour, washed up with cherries and wood. Terrifically refreshing and definitely downable. Dry, complex, and richly rewarding. Effervescent, sparkling, lively, arresting. It's practically delicious. Ah, I'm smacking my lips with every sip, and each drink I take, I'm digging this more and more.

Black Forest Cherry comes with a tag around the bottle. here's what it says: "Black Forest Cherry, the fourth handcrafted edition in the Noble Star Collection, is brewed from German heritage, American innovation, and 5,000 pounds of tart red cherries. An experimental version of a malty Berliner Weisse aged on cherries, this vibrant beer pays tribute to the timeless European custom of adding a little something sweet to the classic Weisse. Fermented a la cerise for more than a year in our distinguished 1936 Cypress Wood layering tank, Black Forest Cherry is dry, complex, and delightfully tart. Our noble Star beers are unfiltered, hand-filled and bottle-conditioned to allow the flavors to continue to develop and evolve in the bottle. Enjoy this unique interpretation of a cherry Berliner Weisse chilled, in a pokal glass."

You know…I don't know if I have a …yes, I do have a "pokal", but I went with a Schell's branded pint, instead. Would that have made a difference? Maybe, not sure…but I did enjoy the hell out it. And, once again, the Noble Star collection proves that Schell's is invested in innovation while hewing to their specific Germanic tradition, largely due to the efforts of Jace Marti,

I'm actually behind a bit, as #5 in the series has been released and is receiving raves. I hadn't gotten around to it yet (the price tag does spook me some), but I wanted to tackle it before I took down a bottle of Dawn of the Aurora. So, now I'm on the hunt for that one. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Town Hall Festivus 2014

Town Hall Festivus 2014. Town Hall makes 3 seasonal brews every holiday season, some change and some don't. Grinches Grog is always some kind of a pale ale, Elves' Elixir seems to always be a Baltic Porter, and Festivus, for the rest of us, is the one that is drastically different every single year. This time it's a barrel-aged red ale with spruce tips. Something like that. I had it on tap some time after release at the pub, enjoyed a glass, and picked up a growler weeks later, last Wednesday. Thinking back, remember what I tasted before, I think back to what I wrote a few days ago in praise of the mini-growler, and wonder if this one would also be a good candidate for the smaller vessel. We can only find out for sure once I crack open this 64-ouncer.

Appearance: Clear, bright crimson coloring, slim, soon gone head.

Aroma: Lightly spicy, fruity, floral, a little sweet and mostly malty.

Taste: A big bolt of sweet at first, That spruce shines through it all. Wood-aging at work, too. Big spruceness meets a flash of sweet. Rosy, fruity and sweet. 'm almost ready to go ahead and call it a spruce bomb. Just because. The spruce is matching the malt, and threatening to stay on top.

In the end, I have to think: a noble experiment, but not what I want. Based on that, I do wish I had chosen a mini-growler for this one. four pints is a bit more than I feel like getting into. But, I made this bed, and I will lie in it.

Don't get me wrong, this is right on for a fun holiday ale, but only if you're having a few, and that's it. (Amend that to "only if I'M having a few" each their own, of course."

Dogfish Head Beer Thousand

So there I was scanning the shelves at Casnova's in Hudson, not quite sure what I "needed" from Dogfish Head (turns out, now that I've checked, that I "need" 60 Minute IPA. though I had thought for sure that I'd added that here. Next time…), and I grabbed a 4-pack of this thing called "Beer Thousand." I don't often go for double/imperial pilasters, but I always feel like giving DFH brews a shot. Also, I don't know much about Guided by Voices. Just that they're a band, and probably not an instrumental one, I'm guessing. Getting beyond that, it's time to crack it open and drink it down.

"A right-lyrical lager brewed with ten varieties of grains and ten varieties of hops." 10% ABV.

Appearance: clear, bright golden hue, beautiful white head.

Aroma: sweetness, grains, honey. and along comes alcohol.

Taste: Repeat the above, then add a touch of harsh bitterness, a whiff of astringency and the looming onset of alcohol, but faster. I avoid double pilsners more often because they remind me most of all of slightly refined malt liquors. Not really delivering more than the booze, and significantly lacking in flavor. I don't hate this. It is, after all, beer, and you can, more or less, drink it. But I'll be glad when it's done and won't buy another.

Hey, there's gobbledygook on the side: "Complex and rugged, 20 years in the making, and much like Guided By Voices' Bee Thousand, better than ever. 10 grains X 10 hops X 10%= Beer Thousand."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Harriet's Grande Zombi Belgian-style Stout

Harriet's Grand Zombi Belgian-style Stout. 10% ABV. Why Grand Zombi, I asked? Because that's what Jason wanted, I was told. Must be a real reason, I'll get to the bottom of it. Soon.

Appearance: solid blackness, rich, roasty tan head, looking perfect for any kind of stout.

Aroma: bittersweet at first, lightly chocolatey, dark fruits, molasses, charcoal, roast and toast, a little anise.

Taste: more bittersweet, expert balance, full body, richness and roastiness, but not too much of anything. Booze rises up with quickness and knocks on the brainpan's front door. It's a mix, to be sure, of rough and rich, of bitter and sweet, of fruit and funk, with a grit and determination all it's own. I could never call it smooth, for it has a gritty texture that rides over any calm. Altogether, though, it's a beautiful wreck, and a true treat to drink down, over and over. All those flavors noted in the nose come pouring back into the taste, and envelope the senses.

Mmm, I like this. A new favorite from Harriet.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout

Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist. Exponential Series. Brewed and bottled by Epic Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado. 10.7 % Alc./Vol.

Appearance: Complete and utter blackness, roasted tan head, looking great.

Aroma: Oh, that's the stuff. Rich, deep, decadent. Massive chocolate flavor, less cocoa than fudge. then comes the coffee, and wait, …whiskey? Before reading the label, and after putting the snifter to my sniffer, I had no idea it was a coffee & barrel-aged & cocoa nib imperial stout. Whoa, Nellie.

Taste: Dense and delectable. Immense mouthfeel, drastic texture, tremendous body. Thick and luscious. Bittersweet, some, with plenty of coffee, tons of cocoa, and some of that whiskey flavor. Sweet, medium-length finish. Nice balance.

Could this be better for an Imperial Stout, could it be more perfect-er? Of course. It could be drier, it could be bolder, it could even be more dense and ridiculously delicious. But as it is, I'm liking it very much.

Hey, is there gobbledygook on the neck of this bomber? Sure is! "You are holding something special--one of only a few thousand bottles released. Intrigued? Visit to explore this limited brew's precise details."

No! Tell me about them here, on the bottle, and now, right here, so I can read it, and not look it up. God damn it! Can't you just do that much? Sigh….Sorry I went off the rails there. It's okay. It's okay...

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Praise of the Wonderful Mini-Growler ...and notes on Town Hall Hopfen Ublich

Seen here, my first mini-growler from Town Hall, with a pour
of Hopfen Ublich at it's side.

In Praise of the  Mini-Growler (with notes on Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery Hoppfen Ublich double pilsner)

Hey, everybody. Let's go back in time a bit. In 2003, a law changed here in the state of Minnesota, and our breweries and brewpubs were finally able to sell growlers. Can you imagine the time when they didn't exist, when it was illegal? At long last, we could take home beer from our favorite brewpubs, like Town Hall, Rock Bottom, Fitger's, Great Waters, Barley John's and more. Only brewpubs did growlers at first, for there weren't many breweries small enough to do them then, and the ceiling was set at 3,500 barrels per year. (I may be wrong about some matters here, as I'm admittedly metro-centric. At some point in time, Brau Brothers was doing growlers, and maybe others that I'm forgetting.) In late 2006, Surly began doing growlers, around the same time they started canning their beers. And the next year, they started selling something else that became legal along with growlers: 750 ml/1 pint, 9 ounce, aka 25 oz. "bombers." That would be Darkness in 2007 and '08, and a certain bottle near and dear to me, Surly Two. )(For these reasons….)

The option to do 750's was not exercised very often. Fitger's does it, and Rock Bottom's done it, and for one year, Town Hall offered their Barrel-aged series in that format, but never again. I used to pester them about releasing more of their beers in 750's, but there was no interest in that. Was it because they didn't want to deal with bringing in new equipment and technology? Not sure, it would be speculation on my part, but it seems likely based on recent events. (Again, if I'm wrong and missed a fact or two, don't crucify me, folks, I don't know everything.)

Some brewery taprooms like to decorate with growlers from
other breweries, such as Excelsior Brewing does here.

So, growlers have been king for over a decade now, but not everyone likes them. Their size makes them ideal for sharing at parties and tastings, between two people or ten. If you're drinking solo, however, that may not be in your best interest. Personally, if I have an evening to myself, I have no problem putting back the equivalent of 4 pints by my lonesome. If we're talking about stronger stuff, and if there's less time at my command, we start scoring in the negative column. Other people who aren't me just don't want to commit to that much beer. They may only want one pint a night, and there's the problem. A well-filled growler can last months, even years (yes, it's true, I have story to tell you some time) unopened, but once opened, they will be no good after two days. If you don't want to, or can't drink two pints a night, two days in a row, you're wasting good beer and good money.

Enki Brewing, too, has a comprehensive and growing
collection. we're all one big happy family, it says.

Another reason that some have been anti-growler is that until recently, our Minnesota laws said that you could only get a growler filled with a glass vessel provided by the brewery filling it. If you get my meaning. You couldn't take one from Town Hall and get it filled at Great Waters. That's a no-no. Why? Oh, ….reasons. Some of them noble, but none of them necessary.

Dangerous Man Brewing Company has a most impressive collection of growlers, and this is only
a glimpse. You can see more arranged throughout the room. 

Because of this, if you, like me, enjoy taking home the beers of Minnesota breweries, you end up getting one or more from each of them that you visit. In my case, you end up with a lot more. Back in '03, I started trading growlers with folks around the country (chronicled here), and through these trades gathered up some from breweries and brewpubs I'll probably never visit in my life. (I've been retired from this for years, and will probably never return to it.)Some were donated to Town Hall when they started a growler collection (now vanished), some sold to the owner of the Growler magazine for display at the St. Paul store, and my Surlys all sold to collectors. Last year, I cleaned all my growlers and collected them in one place, and posed them for a photo. It was an astonishing 52! That was before the stack collapsed and a few fell to the ground, breaking, winding up in recycling, lessening the numbers a little.

A few months ago, I sorted them out again and had a new count…again, 52! When people say they have too many--10! or 8, or 6, I have to laugh! Ha, ha, I say.

Here was my collection in March of last year, before they came a-tumbling down.
I counted 47, but then I found some more. 
Currently, I have 4 each from Town Hall and Dave's Brewfarm and Fitger's (and I've only been there once), 3 each from Hammerheart and Dangerous Man, 1 each from just about every brewery in the state, and many from out of state. Some no longer have labels and I have no idea where they came from, or how I got them.

This growler display was curated and installed by yours truly on a slow Sunday at the Harriet Taproom. A stuffed puma guards it from above, while a hop-owl keeps watch below.

Four went away when the law finally changed and breweries could now fill any other brewery's growlers, and I returned my Harriet growlers to the brewery, as they were one of the few to embrace this change. The others, so far as I know: Bauhaus Brew Labs, and the one I work for now, Eastlake craft brewery. There are many and various reasons why other breweries do not fill other brewery's growlers, and I respect them all. Probably the best reasons is that these breweries have been filling their growlers by the brewers using a specialized system for many years, and they don't want to turn the job over to bartenders to fill when they might be too busy to tie up a draft line so that one customer can take 64 ounces home at a lower price. They might not have time to do, or to take the time and effort to do it correctly.

One way to lessen them is to return them for credit, which some do and some don't. I have multiples from several and need to check with them about their policy so I can pare it down to just one from each, or even two, if I desire. How about Town Hall, they sometimes give a credit …or…what about ….the mini-growler?

Did someone re-interpret the 750 ml bottle allowance and turn it into a 25-oz. growler? Or was that option always there? I know for a fact that the first to do so locally was Dangerous Man, earlier last year, but for some reason I thought it was a half growler, 32 ounces, never realizing that the law was so strict that it really meant you could only fill two sizes of bottles, 64 ounces or 25. Why not 32, or 44, or 22 or 16, or 56, or anything? I just don't know. It's the Minnesota way, that's why.

Sisyphus Brewing became the next that I know of to do a 750 ml growler, a few weeks ago, and they chose the smaller size vessel due to their smaller sized brew house. And this brings me to monetary value. Smaller growler sizes are not always particularly cost effective, but I excuse them due to the brewery's (usually) smaller size and quality. Dave BrewFarm's 1 Liter growlers sell for $10. I normally eschew a $20 2 liter growler fill, but in the case of the BrewFarm, the uniqueness and rare quality of the beer, and the small size of the brewery qualifies the higher cost. The 32 oz. growler I got from Oliphant a few weeks past cost me $9. Would I have paid $18 for a 64 ouncer from a larger brewery? Only if I knew the beer's quality was high.

Bringing us to: the arrival of the mini-growler at Town Hall. This is how they will fill the barrel-aged offerings this year. A tiny amount were filled of the Russian Roulette chocolate Imperial Stout (5!) yesterday, and I forgot to call them and have them reserve one for me. (If only I'd been like Frank!, who picked his up today, while I sat at the bar.)So, I went to the brewpub with 2 empty Town Hall growlers, of my four (!), thinking that I'd fill one and return the other, until I got to thinking…are all of their beers being filled in the mini-size? Yes! Then it dawned on me…what about those beers I want to take home, but don't really want to drink 64 ounces of? They're in the mini-growlers! But what about monetary value? I chose to get a 64 of one, and a 25 of another, one that I wouldn't necessarily want 64 ounces of,….and that smaller growler? After the deposit is subtracted, merely six dollars. That's it, I'm sold.

What are  the pro's  of the mini-growler? They're lighter and cheaper, for two. It's a pint and a half, easy to drink in one evening. Their smaller size means that I can fit more of them in the fridge, and don't need to drink them right away. They can hang out with the milk and the orange juice. I can think, "yeah, it's a beer and I can drink it, when I don't need, or want,  to drink 4 pints in one night."

My current plan is to still trade back two of my four TH growlers, and hang on to two minis, or even one. I no longer need worry about how much of my drinking time in the week will be occupied by the growlers I take home, and how long I have to wait until I can get to the bottles in my fridge.

So, now I get to the first TH beer I brought home in the mini-growler (Growlette, some call them, and I've heard Growlito.), Hoppfen Ublich, which is a beer they've made for a few years now. Why didn't I take it home and write about it earlier? Because I didn't think I would want to drink 64 ounces of a double pilsner. I didn't find any info on it on their current website, but found a lot on Cal's blog entry from 2012. I'll share that at review's end.

Hopfen Ublich double pilsner. 6.7% ABV.

Appearance: clear, bright golden coloring, head as white as the pure driven snow, leaving some lace, looking utterly lovely.

Aroma: Delightfully floral nose, slightly spicy.

Taste: Crisp and clean and wonderfully hoppy. Nicely spiced, with some citrus fruit character, and floral notes. Light bodied. Exceptional drinkability. Smooth and just short of sweet. Just plain ol' tasty every time I bring it up to the lips and let it slide down. A little sweet, a little spicy and plenty of hops.

Here's why I usually don't care for double pilasters: they too often come across as slightly rarified malt liquors. Lots of booze, and not enough flavor. The head rush comes in too quickly, boom, boom, boom! The opposite of what's happening here. It's nothing but smooth and nice and utterly all right.

Here's what I grabbed off of Cal's blog post from 2 years ago:

"Roughly translated - "Hops Traditional"

A very special double lager! We gained access to some of the only Floor Malted Pilsner available. The Floor malting process is way old school and a very traditional method of grain modification. This is extremely high quality barley used in this beer.

The hops are Hallertau Mittelfruh, one of the German Noble hops (very traditional to Hallertau region of Germany.) We used massive amounts of this hop in leaf format (our system is designed for pelletized hops) that created a challenge in the brewery.

The result is a beautiful pale double lager/pilsner that we are very pleased to be serving."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

DC Brau On The Wings of Armageddon Imperial IPA

DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon Imperial IPA, brewed and canned by DC Brau Brewing, LLC. 9.2 % Alc/Vol.

Appearance: hazy, pale gold color, apricot-ish, with a creamy white head.

Aroma: Gorgeous. Tropical fruit meets pine resin, mango, grapefruit, tangerine and more. Loud and pithy.

Taste: Packs a punch on the palate, smacking the senses with big hoppiness. After first sip, though, all is calm. Juicy fruit character blasts the tongue, then clean and cool. Medium body, sweet malt flavor, and non-stop hop bitterness. For a hop-head like me, it's highly likable. Yeah, for an Imperial IPA lover like myself, it's fairly right-on.

After that last DC Brau beer and having seen the label art and knowing the apocalyptic name, I'm betting there's some overly ominous, drastically dramatic, right out of Tolkien-style overwrought verbiage on the side of the can. Let's find out! "And so it was written…According to Mayan and Hopi calendars, the "transition from one world to another" will happen on December 21, 2012. As an homage to the "transition" DC Brau has concocted an Imperial IPA named "On the wings of Armageddon."

I'm a little let down by that. I wanted something from a heavy metal song lyric, or from a Conan the Barbarian novel. (thanks again to Dave A. for the can.)

Bauhaus Brewlabs Stargrazer German Style Schwarzbier

Bauhaus Brew Labs Stargrazer German Style Schwarzbier. 5 % ABV. 28 IBU.

Appearance: dark brown, not even nearly black, with ruby highlights, with a roasted tan head.

Aroma: sweet and malty, with traces of bitterness. hints of cocoa and coffee.

Taste: Sweet creamy malt hits first, with minor bitterness. Smooth stuff, and tasty, too. Clean, easy-drinking, everything you want from a schwarzbier is here. A mellow mix of cocoa and cream that plays well with a dark lager like this.

Is there gobbledygook on the can? Of course! "If you've never time-travelled, then take it from us, Stargrazer will be your personal slingshot through time and space. Our schwarzbier is a jet-black mystery, delivering a surprisingly light body and bright hop profile without the heavy roast qualities you find in most dark beers. It's as black as night, yet amazingly refreshing. How do we do it? It's like science. Don't overthink it, just enjoy."

There must be references I'm missing planted in there, or I'm sure it would make sense. Does anyone out there get it? "Slingshot"? "Amazingly refreshing"? I say it's beer and you can drink it. Or something.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DC Brau The Stone of Arbroath Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy

DC Brau  The Stone of Arbroath Limited Release Scotch Ale, brewed and canned in Washington DC by DC Brau Brewing, LLC. 6% alc. by vol. "serve in a tulip, goblet, or enjoy from the can." Okay, so, whatever, then. I'll try the tulip or goblet.

Appearance: dark brown coloring, slim dark head.

Aroma: Malt-forward, rich, mineral-y, sweet with notes of cocoa and coffee. Caramel. Nicely balanced.

Taste: Full body, rich malt, multiple layers of deliciousness. Cocoa and coffee once more, spilling tasty malt flavors all over the palate. This is a sweet one, but with plenty of hop bitterness, too. Caramel and toffee mingle with delicate dark fruits. I like it. It's good beer, and I can surely drink it.

Hey, there's an explanation for the ominous sounding name on the can, let's read it…."for centuries the Drosten Stone has remained shrouded in mystery. Scholars can not agree on the origin of this rock. The inscription "Drosten: Ipeuoret (E)ttfor Cus" is just as much of an enigma as the rock itself. This beer, as well, is such a conundrum. Please don't ponder it's existence for centuries as you would assuredly go insane. Just be happy it exist."

Well, thanks for clearing that up, fellas.

(thanks to Dave Anderson for the can!)

Bent Paddle 14º ESB

Bent Paddle 14º ESB, Extra Special Bitter Ale, Craft Brewed in Duluth, MN. 5.6% alc./vol.

Appearance: clear, bronze-hued, solid, staying cap of lace-leaving foam. Lookin' good.

Aroma: sweetly malty, lightly spicy & floral, judiciously hopped.

Taste: Clean and smooth, malt-forward, delicate hoppiness, expertly drinkable. Tasty, too. Prime candidate for session or such. Drinks a dream, and leaves the palate well satisfied. Lean bodied, light malty finish. Just an all 'round, well-balanced, right-on English-style ale. Good beer, and you can drink it.

What do they say on the can? "Our well rounded approach to the classic British Ale.  There's middle of the road, and there's middle of the river. And if there's one thing that's important in the middle of the river--it's balance."

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale (given a fair shake at last, with apologies)

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon. Crafted for Explorers Everywhere Since 1988. 5% alc./vol. Best by 02/19/15.

Time to re-discover this beer for reasons I'll get into after the notes.

Appearance: clear, copper-toned, with a large and lasting, lace-leaving head of creamy foam. Looks just about perfect.

Aroma: soft and slightly sweet at first, with a growing bitterness. Unfolding esters of citrus fruits and pine, matched with caramel malt character.

Taste: Snappy hop bite up front that lasts and lasts. Body is clean and malty, leaning toward medium in heft, with a lingering hoppy finish. Beautiful bittersweet hop kiss continues throughout, sliding back down the throat, lasting well into the next venture between lip and cup. Well-balanced and definitely drinkable. A classic Pacific northwest session pale ale. Just about right on.

So, end of notes. And now, this. I may have mentioned my efforts to tie up loose ends. Meaning: closing in on beers I haven't covered here yet, which I definitely should. Looking at the list of Deschutes beers here, I noticed the glaring omission of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and bought a single bottle at Lake Wine & Spirits. Next, I checked on BeerAdvocate, for I was certain that I'd taken notes on a bottle before. And here's what I found, from January, 2003, 12 years ago.

"Tiny head, near violet in color. Aroma: loads of fruitiness: strawberry, melons, raspberry, very tasty. Finish is swift, though, and body is weak. I'm becoming bored very quickly. Hops don't provide much spark on the palate, feels a little flat. Maybe it's supposed to , but I feel a bit let down.
I did like Black Butte Porter, and Obsidian Stout, but this one did little for me."

How very green was my palate then, how immature my judgment. Now, I wonder how I got the bottle, for it was before I began trading. Did I bring it back from my visit to Portland in the fall of 2002, or did I take notes while there? I don't recall at all.

But wait, there's more. I added this addendum to it in 2010, it seems: "(P.S., Seven years later, I'm a little embarrassed with this review. Now that it's becoming prevalent in my hometown market, I intend to review a freshly tapped pint someday soon.)"

I don't remember exactly when Deschutes arrived in our market, but I did tap some kegs of Mirror Pond at the Blue Nile quickly afterward. And I never fulfilled that promise from the apology, until now, this one, though, from a bottle.  I've certainly enjoyed every pint I've had locally for the past 4 or 5 years. Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking, this is an quality pale ale.

Neck label reads: "Bottle conditioned to keep your beer fresh and enhance the flavors our brewers intended. This may leave a fine layer of yeast in the bottom of the bottle." Wait, there's more. "A distinct hop nose and deft balance made this pale ale an instant classic. It is aromatically complex, multi-layered and unmistakably honest. Your handy compass of "right" when exploring beer."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Alesmith Decadence 2014- Wheat Wine

Alesmith Brewing Company Decadence 2014 Anniversary Ale Wheat Wine. 10% Alc. by Vol.

Appearance: Hazed, bold orange hue, slim white head.

Aroma: bright, brash orange-y hop nose, some lemon and lime and other citrus, with alcoholic fire burning beneath.

Taste: Smooth and strong. Bright and beautiful. All these things and more. Goes down easy, but packs a punch, with plenty of hop flavor. That's the San Diego way, as we know. Mmm,mm,mmm, mm. Yeah.

Notes ended there. It was late, and it was beer #6, and I had said enough.

Now for the Gobbledygook: Alesmith Decadence Anniversary Ale was originally brewed in 2005 to celebrate our first de ade in business. Our brewers had such a great time creating it that they decided to brew a new style each year to commemorate our anniversary. Now, nineteen years after we started, we're proud to present another great addition to this ongoing series, Alesmith Decadence 2014 is our interpretation of a wheat wine-style ale. The generous amounts of wheat used in this beer impart a heady aroma with hints of honey, ripe fruit, and a spicy graininess. In the finish, a pleasant and malty sweetness from the wheat is balanced by the addition of German and American hops. Enjoy this special brew now or…blah, blah, blah….

I checked BeerAdvocate to see if I've had any Decadence previously, and there was a checkmark by the 2010 edition, about which I wrote this:

Chestnut-hued, under tight, tan top.

Earthy, nutty aroma, caramel flavor, mixed with spice and fruit esters. A heady, burgundy-esque blend. Noice.

Delectable and deep at once, a bold entry on the palate, hanging full with weighty flavors. Sticks long on the tastebuds, rolls around with imperious aplomb, a brilliant mix of delicious malt, and just enough hops. Lip-smacking delight.

11%? I can feel it coming on...this is a fine, fine barleywine that will put an excellent close to the day. Half the bottle left...means I'm gonna feel twice as good when it's time to hit the hay.

When did I write that? April, 2006. Something's fishy there, or did I dabble in time travel somehow?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Glarus Scream IIPA

I bought a 4-pack of this New Glarus Thumbprint Series brew called Scream IIPA about 2 weeks ago. One bottle was opened and consumed and thoroughly enjoyed. More than enjoyed, really, marveled at it's marvelousness, ruminated while enraptured, swooned and surrendered to it's glory. I fell asleep with it and wondered if it was all a dream, after all.

Wait, was it that good, that magnificent, that otherworldly? I should open another bottle and take notes to find out, shouldn't I? Yes, that's what I will do.

Appearance: clear, bright golden hue, big and bountiful ivory head. Looking good.

Aroma: the intersection of tropical fruit fandango and cat pee bonanza. And it's delightful. Citrus cornucopia with pineapple puree. Utterly gorgeous.

Taste: Brilliant blast of bitterness. Fresh and arresting splash of fruity hop flavors, with a meager malt ballast below. Medium bodied at best, with a long, bitter finish. Tasty as heck all the way through. Lemon and lime meets resiny pine. Bright and shiny and ultra/super/mega/uber-hoppy. Yeah, I dig it.

What the label say? Tiny, tiny letters….where's me glasses?

Wait, guess what? They actually have information on their website, the same information from the label (I think), you can read it here. I still can't find the ABV there, though. Why do they keep that a secret? The mysteries remain.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Founders Big Lushioius (sic) Raspberry Chocolate Stout

Here's a word about this one before I begin. The price was a bit more than I normally like to pay, $15 a bomber. But, it's a Founders beer, and it's a raspberry chocolate stout. How could I go wrong. It's really a bottle meant for a tasting party or a bottle share, not for me to drink by my lonesome late at night, but I couldn't write notes in those circumstances. All of this, I do it for you. Ever so humbly. I drink the beers for you. Remember my sacrifice.

Founders Big Lushious (sic) Stout Brewed with Chocolate and Raspberries. 2014.

Appearance: Intense blackness, large toasted tan head, looking fantastic. Couldn't look better, in fact.

Aroma: Fruit is first out of the gate, raspberry is on top, wrapped in chocolate. More sweetness than tart, though they're both they're doing a fruit-cocoa tango. Right on .

Taste: Mmm, sweet and tart raspberry flavor floods the mouth, then chocolate takes over. It's nothing but big and bold and smooth and delicious. Loads and loads of dark, lush malt, dripped over with fruit and chocolate. Mmmm.

This one feels strong, but I can't find the ABV anywhere. Free of all gobbledygook, which is fine by me. Maybe gobbledygook, though, would explain the misspelling, or why the hot brunette of the label illustration is squeezing a raspberry over her shoulder.

I'll go back to the key word: yum. And then some.

Wait! I found some info! ABV: 7.8%. And: "Big Lushious is a deep, rich stout that’s packed with flavor: roasted malts, all-natural dark chocolate, a subtle suggestion of burnt coffee grounds and a kiss of tart raspberries. At 7.8% ABV, it’s big, sumptuous and extravagant, but also balanced."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pushing that Rock: Knocking back a growler of Sisyphus Maple Stout

Sisyphus Maple Stout. 7% ABV. Oatmeal stout fermented on hard maple honeycombs. Further details elude me. ABV? OG? I'll fill them in later, if I can.

Here's my first growler from Sisyphus. They started selling a few weeks ago, but I haven't had a chance to visit them and get one until now. Rather than 64 ouncers, they're using the only other size the law will allow a small brewery to use: 25 ounces, or 750 ml, same size as a bomber. Either 25 or 64, those are the choices. Not sure why. These are our rules, we've got to change them one by one.

A note on the glassware used. I held off on buying a Sisyphus snifter/tulip because I never had any of their beers to drink at home, and I had plenty of that style of glasses. For the first time I took home some Sisyphus, I contemplated bringing back a branded glass, too, until I decided I didn't want just another tulip of the same shape and style, with a different logo. So, I got the little guy, and gee, does it look silly, especially next to a growler. But, what the hell, so it's absurd. What in life isn't?

Enough of that, let's drink some beer.

Appearance: solid blackness, with a tight, toasted tan head.

Aroma: Roast-y and bittersweet at first, then smoothness reigns. Sweet malty notes are in there, too. Dark fruit hints, as well, raisin and date.

Taste: As in the nose, bittersweet-ness and roasty malt comes across first and foremost. The eponymous maple doesn't scream out of the brew, it hums and whispers. It's from the wood, not the syrup, and the effects are delicate and subtle, but highly rewarding. Oats aid the texture and the drinkability. Those dark fruit flavors from the aroma pop up now, too. It's tasty, tasty stuff and I'm glad to be drinking it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Avery the Beast Grand Cru (2006)

Here's a beer I haven't had in a while, and the bottle is a gift from a friend, pulled from his cellar. Bottled in 2006, this one. It's a beer that I would pause to consider purchasing, due to the expense. Much thanks to Brad for this. So, here I am, taking on the Beast Grand Cru Ale, brewed and bottled by Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colorado. There's gobbledygook on the label, but we'll forget about that for now.
OG 1.147. Alc by Vol 14%.

Appearance: Dark, plummy, burgundy hue, rich tan head that drifts down to nothing in no time.

Aroma: Booze hits first, whiskey, bourbon, vanilla, cherries, oak…but, this isn't barrel-aged, …is it? Rich and boozy, brandy, cognac, you name it….rum, molasses…whoa…

Taste: Sweetness is up front, slick and candy-ish, bountiful caramel, slick toffee, nougat, and massive malt. Alcohol doesn't take long to show itself, and once it's here, it's here to stay. Boom, boom, boom. The bigness of this beer smothers any subtler sensibilities. Richness only starts to tell the story, indulgent is a better word, but I still am left wanting. Boom, boom, boom.

I want to read that label now. Here come the glasses: "The Beast is a seducer, accommodating, powerful, complicated, dark, unfiltered, and created to last the ages. Beyond this, it's futile to try to describe him. He will unveil himself differently to each of his followers. The mark is in his constitution. Brewed with 2-row malted barley, honey malt, and imported Belgian specialty grains, (aromatic, pale wheat, roasted wheat, and Special B)hops (magnum, Galena, Saaz, Hallertau, Tettnang, and Hersbrucker), brewing sugars ( dates, raisins, blackstrap molasses, alfalfa honey, turbinado, and dark Belgian candy sugar), water, Belgian yeast and a hellion of a yeast strain."

It's a monster, all right. Probably best shared with a friend or two on just the right occasion. But, me being me, I had to have one to do this for this. Like when I first tried it, though that time in a bomber, for the love of Zeus and all his minions, back in June of 2004, and here are those notes:

Clear, rosy red color, good pale tannish head that fizzles down to a thin wafer right away.
Aroma, big sweetness, cherries and brandy, and big, fat booze. Medicinal and a tad bit harsh...thick with alky-hol, hot and horribly burnished.
Taste already: BAM! Massive flavor, huge, sweet fruit, and monstrous control of the palate. Tingles and tickles the tastebuds, maintains dominion over the mouth, has a clinging, cloying finish.
Damn, it's like they robbed from the vats of the Christian Brothers, really, or cribbed a few notes off of Ernie and Julie G., nearly cognac, this one, but lacks in drinkability, and the taste isn't delectable enough to make me happy all the way through this bomber.
I'll slowly savor it's sweetness, and abide by it's booziness through the end of the evening, and give thanks to ColoradoBeerMan for delivering it to my door!

june 2004.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Alesmith Horny Devil Belgian-style Ale

On my last visit to Dave's BrewFarm, we made another stop at Casanova's in Hudson, WI for more beer we can't get here. This time, I had actual money I could spend in the actual bank, so there were more choices to make. What haven't I had in a while from Alesmith, I wondered, and I found this one.

Alesmith Horny Devil, Belgian-style ale brewed with coriander. 10% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Alesmith Brewing Company, San Diego, CA.

Notes from my first bottle, March, 2005:

Appearance: Bright orange/peach color, small offering of foam.

Sweet, fruity aroma, pronounced spiciness, from the coriander and Belgian candi sugar. Very nice.

Taste: big, big,big, and bold in the mouth, slick and delicious, though it drifts away off of the palate quickly, though never exactly leaves. Fat fruit, utterly tasty, though it could stand to be a bit more complex. Like an extra-strong tripel, with a fuller body. Alcoholic strength becomes heavier and more predominant in the overall feel, and I actually like it better as the bottle drains. Funny, that.
Full-bodied, long, fruity, spicy finish. A nice brew for sharing with friends, celebrations, nice dinners....wish I had a bottle for every happy occasion that comes my way.

Here's the label gobbledygook:

Horny Devil is our interpretation of a Belgian-style Golden Ale. Brewed with authentic Belgian ingredients including candy sugar and a trappist yeast strain, it's fruity and spicy aromas include notes of orange, banana, and peppercorns, coriander seeds add refreshing citrus notes which meld seamlessly with the beer's delicate malt sweetness. Horny Devil finishes with a lively carbonation and a refreshingly dry finish."  That's white letters on a brown bottle. Then commences red letters on brown glass, and I'm not going to struggle through that. It's probably not that important.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Well, Hello, Surly!

This picture was taken on my second visit on a Sunday afternoon, three weeks
after they opened, with no line to get in and no wait for a bar stool,
though the Beer Hall was full. A bar-back wondered aloud what w
as wrong, but, come on, it's 12 degrees out,
and there's a Packers game on, they can't all be SRO nights.

Editor's note (that's me, too, of course): I wrote the bulk of this post the following day from my first visit to SDB (Surly Destination Brewery) on 12/19. I held off of publishing it immediately because I didn't feel that some of my photos were quite good enough. I planned to return and take better ones, give the merch store a longer look, maybe check out this new beer I've heard about. Surely, sometime soon, it'll mellow out, and you can just breeze in and get a stool without a care, right? Well, you'd think. I'm going to pick up where I left off and use the pics I have, for now. So, here we go...

I read something in the Star Tribune the other day about Omar Ansari telling his collected employees that the culmination of their efforts to build the "Destination Brewery"/beer hall/restaurant/event center had taken half the life of the brewery itself. Doggone it, he's right. Just about. It was in early February 2011, at the Surly 5th anniversary at the Muddy Pig that he unveiled the plans and commenced the campaign to change the necessary laws. I'll never forget that because we had our 5th anniversary party at the Blue Nile the week before, and I how I wished he'd done it then, we could have used the publicity. And the day after that exciting announcement, I was at Acadia Cafe's party (there were 14 5th anniversary parties, at the first 14 accounts they had...I was either #3 or #4.), hanging out with him, hearing about all the calls coming, people already asking for jobs, the media attention, the resistance starting from fiercely opposing parties. (Well, one in particular....yep, talking about you, MLBA.)
Here's the view of the building from afar, my first peek at it, turning the corner of Malcolm and University.

It took a matter of hard pressure on legislators, some concessions for the enemies of the cause, and months later, in summer of 2011, we all got our wish and the laws changed, allowing a brewery to actually sell their own beer on premise to customers for consumption on site. Over the next few years, taprooms starting popping up all over, to the point where you would rarely find a brewery without one. Surly was originally going to wait until their 30 million dollar facility was done until they had a taproom, but those things don't just bloom overnight. Hey, the public's embrace of their beer took several years. So, in the middle of 2013, they set one up in the original brewery and it lasted a good year and a half, closing shop in late October to get ready for the new one. (Yes, you can only have one taproom per brewing company here in Minnesota. That's fine, the old brewery will not be open to the public, anyway. And who would go out to Brooklyn Center, when their main attraction is in Minneapolis?)

Now in line, waiting to enter the behemoth. 

A glimpse at the brewery, from above, where the unfinished fine dining room and event center are located.
And now, finally, December 2014, a few months shy of 4 years from the start of it all we're finally here. My invitation to the special industry insider soft openings must have gotten lost in the mail (what, eight years of serving and promoting the brand doesn't get me a sneak peek?), so I got out of work early, and got out to the grand premiere of the dazzling new beer factory Friday night. It was remarkably easy to get to by public transportation. I took a 22 bus from Lake Street and Cedar Avenue near my home to the stop at Cedar and 5th Avenue on the West Bank, where I walked to the Transit Station a block away and walked down to the Green Line light rail platform. About 10 minutes later, the train came and whisked us through the University of Minnesota, past Stadium Village and to the Prospect Park neighborhood. I was told it's four blocks away from that stop, but wasn't certain in what direction, so I followed my instincts and walked eastward down University Avenue about two blocks to Malcolm Avenue SE. Off to the right I could see the Witches Hat tower, and once on the corner, I turned to the left and there it was, standing proud, shining, still two blocks away.

Another look down from above, peeking at the people in the Beer Hall. 

I joined the line, from the entrance to the street, wrapping around the fire pit,  to get in, which only shortened as people left the building. An elderly gentleman behind me wondered aloud, "do people really stand in line for beer?" Well, what are you doing, gramps? He also insinuated that I should be let in for wearing a Surly stocking cap. I then showed off my t-shirt (the first one Omar gave me back in January, 2006) and hoodie, and told him, hey, pops, anyone can buy these who wants to, I'm not the only one bedecked in Surly gear. The wait was about 25 minutes, and once inside, my friends among the staff gave me the low-down. I was blown away by the fact that it filled up immediately at 11 am (right around when I got out of bed), and remained full ever since.

Pumping out the pints at the "don't call it a taproom."
Here's a peek at the beer list from opening day (I was certain they wouldn't mind if I stole this beer-soiled menu that would only wind up in the trash).....

.....and the rest.

To the right, a peek at the enormous fermenting tanks, sticking out of the building and stretching to the sky, to the left, the Company Store (new name for the gift shop. Beyond that, the beer hall, with handy signs telling you where to get in line for your beer, or how to wait for a table. Upstairs in the not-yet-finished event center, cans of freshly canned Abrasive Ale were on sale. I got one of those, poured it into a plastic cup, and returned the empty can to the bar, where an employee asked, "done already?" Man, am I the only who who understands "beer from for a glass, from a can"? I toured the space, among the hundreds of others, marvelling at the beauty of the design, eventually standing in the "beer here" line. No rushing the bar, demanding the barman's attention, waving bills, pounding, all those things I'm used to, all those things that would be included in the "shitshow" everyone feared. As much as I hate standing in lines, it's the only way to really control the chaos.

Peering through my glass, looking at throngs once more, and all the masses also hanging out on the railings.

Once I had some beers in my mitts (it would be stupid to buy one at a time, only to wait in line again), and wandered a bit to find a stool open, and promptly sat down and perused the menu.I ordered. I chose an appetizer of tortilla chips and beans that must have a Pakistani origin as they're named for Omar's father. Naseem's Gheet, they were called. For an entree, I decided upon Beef Birria and it was delicious. Overall,  the menu looked ambitious, delicious, but slightly expensive. You're getting what you pay for here, though. It's disappointing some out there, who just want a cheap sandwich or burger with their brew. Those people, I feel, did not enter the halls of Surly with the right expectations. You're not getting typical "pub grub" here. Time to evolve, people.

Shiny, happy people drinking Surly.
Beer choices hang on the wall, while Surly art sits on the back bar. Below, cooler filled with cans of soda. Somebody has to drive, right? 

A word about the service: I groused about the lines, but beyond that, all was courteous, friendly, and orderly. One Beer Hall employee took orders and processed payment. Once it printed, another member of the team grabbed the ticket, poured and placed the pint properly, calling it out for the customer. If you're seated at a stool, you were allowed excellent attention. It's just the matter of getting there, is all.

Fore: Surly Doomtree (I'll review it when it's canned). Aft: The Devil's Work (will it be canned? Hmmm...)

I sat at the bar next to a couple who were merely the second people I heard remark "we must be the oldest ones here." They were fun to talk to, and in a moment my friend Doug came along, and took a seat once they left. I ordered a Todd the Axeman IPA, my fourth beer of the visit, and chatted with Doug. From my bar stool vantage-point, I saw Omar helping out a little, assisting in the pouring. I'm sure he must have been ready for sleep, right about then. I congratulated him on the success of this massive endeavor. He and the staff had been busy all day, from the minute they opened the door at 11 am (and earlier, setting up) and here it was past 11 pm, with no slow-down in sight. They just did an incredible expansion, and there seems to be no way to satisfy Surly Nation. Beer fans around the nation are always asking: When will you distribute to Texas, to Oregon, to Maine, they want to know. This greater capacity will help them cover the neighboring states and most of Minnesota. So, keep waiting, Houston, and Portland, and Portland.

So many lights give Doug and his beer a sparkly glow!
The view from the Beer Here line.

As I said earlier, I'd planned on visiting again once things settle down a bit. "Give it a few weeks," they said, meaning my friends among the staff and those who just guess about such things. I'm afraid, though, that after those two weeks, it'll be clogged up with all those people who waited two weeks. And so on, and so forth. Everything I've heard from everyone else who's gone is packed, jammed, and full. Still, there are waits to enter the doors. After two weeks, still? Yes. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesday afternoons. Will it ever let up? Who are all these people?

As the number of beers increase, the pics get blurry. Hey, that guy on the right doesn't look thrilled I'm taking his pic. No, wait, I know him, his name is Kipp he sings in a metal band that used to play at the Nile. They'd start with the good stuff, and end the evening with cans of Hamms. That's the rock and roll way

So, many questions. I will be back for the answers. Perhaps soon. (But not today, it's freezing out. I'm not standing in a line in zero degree weather.) And I've got to get a new Darkness t-shirt, for I couldn't afford one on Darkness Day (gee, it's good to be working again!) and some of those sweet new glasses. (Don't you have enough, Al? Yeah, but I "need" these!)

Why is Omar flipping me off? Is it because I called him a "sell-out?"

As I said, I'm looking forward to the day it won't be such an intensive tourist trap, where you can pay a casual visit without having to stand in too many long lines. Before that, though, I will return again to experience it anew, and maybe have better pics to replace these. Whenever I do, and even when I don't, I think back to the history of this brewery, and how far they've come. It's been pretty astounding that a scrappy upstart got so huge so fast.

Of course, I have to give huge credit to Omar and Todd for creating it and planning it perfectly, and to Linda for making this Beer Hall happen in such incredible fashion. It's an amazing accomplishment.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Bruery 7 Swans-A-Swimming Belgian-style Quadrupel Ale

The Bruery 7 Swans A Swimming. Belgian-style Quadrupel Ale. The seventh verse of our Twelve Days of Christmas series of beers showcases the rich, malty character of a Belgian-style quadruple. Happy Holidays! Alc 11% by Vol.

Appearance: thick, murky, bordering purple and black, with a head that lasts a blink  and nothing more, not enough to stay so I can snap a pic.

Aroma: dark fruit, light spices. huge malt tones, suggesting sweetness, molasses, grapes, dates, tobacco…other stuff.

Taste: Sweet fruity flavors climb on board the palate first, rich and luxurious. Medium-bodied, nondescript finish, sweetness lingers a bit on the palate. The tasty, tasty malt is the main thing here. I wish there was more, though.

Why am I so greedy? Why do I demand something extraordinary, isn't that an outrageous conceit? I need that otherworldly, ethereal specialness …is that too much? Perhaps? But, this is The Bruery, and there are certain expectations.

It may be over 10%, it may be malt-forward, but it misses the mark with the Belgian flavor. It lacks that spark. Take that particular insistence of mine away, and it's a damned tasty ale that works for right now. Yeah, the more I forget that stuff, I can let what it is sink in and enjoy it. Why not?

Minnesota Breweries One by One #16: Forager Brewery, Rochester

For the second stop in Rochester we chose Forager Brewery , as our collective stomachs were rumbling, and this one is a brewpub with food ...