Sunday, February 21, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One, #13: Lift Bridge Brewery, Stillwater

Lift Bridge Brewing in Stillwater.
With the bad taste of the last brewery's beer still in our mouths, it was imperative to get some better beer in there, pronto. And we headed out of historic downtown Stillwater and went to 1900 Tower Drive West, that's the street with the water tower, and the Lift Bridge Brewery, which was abuzz during our visit. It a Saturday in Stillwater, and people got to get their beers.

We scanned the chalkboard for options, and I knew that an instant source of happiness would be lots of hoppiness. Lift Bridge occasionally celebrates milestone batches with a double IPA, which seems to be different each time. When I picked special beers for my last day at the Blue Nile back in April, 2014, I chose Batch 500 to be among the beers of "Imperialized." Only a few months ago, I chose Batch 800 to be on tap at Acadia. Now, we've got Batch 1300. I talked to brewery rep Joe Falkowski about it only a few days earlier, and asked him how they got through so many batches so fast. "Brewing a lot of Farm Girl", he said. Is this Batch 1300 better than 8-, or 5-hundred, I
A peek at the brewing operations.
wondered. He assured me that it was excellent.

Jason got a flight, and I sat down with a glass of this hoppy nectar. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I did not take notes, nor am I adept in locking in my thoughts to put into words at a later date. This is why 99% of the beer reviews done here are written at home, where I can avoid looking like some kind of weirdo to the wider world. What I do recall is that it delivered the correct
Batch 1300 Double IPA. Hey, Joe,
got some nice lacing there.
amount of piney-ness and pungency that I require in a double IPA, smacked of resin, dripped with dank. Shot a round-house punch of juicy hop essence to my mouth hole. I did not bring a growler of this home, because the growler cooler did not have it listed, only the regular line-up of beers that I've already had in my bottled or canned form over the years. Looking on their website now, it is listed as available in growlers. Maybe I should have asked? Sometimes, tap rooms employees look way to busy for me to bother with trifling matters such as this.
Nitro Black Ale. Not great.
For my next selection, I went with something noted on the chalkboard as "Nitro Black Ale." It was one of those rare experiences where I was stunned that a top-notch operation such as this released something I regretted ordering. I watched it come out of the nitro faucet, yet there was no creamy cascading, and actually very little head at all. As far as flavor or character, there was hardly anything to recommend it at all. Perhaps my palate was pummeled by the aggressive hops in the Batch 1300, but I was not picking up anything of note. "Black Ale" can be an elusive term these days. Is it a black IPA that wants to skip the oxymoronic nature of the nomenclature? Is it a porter or a stout that wants to fudge the expectations of style. I couldn't be sure, because this was just blasé.

Jason was just as perplexed as I was at the failure of this brew. I finished the pint, as I almost always do, and chalked it up to an occasional miss. No harm done. I can't currently find any more information on it, and I'm not sure if the website is out -of-date, or what, exactly. There's no mention of it, anywhere. Ah, well, no big deal.
My beer, before consumption, Jason's flight,
Jason's hands, plus more of him behind them.

This will be the 13th entry on Lift Bridge here on the Bitter Nib. I've tried to keep on top of all their bottled offerings, but may have missed one or two. The Getaway Pilsner cans, I know, have not been reviewed. ( If you examine my posts and tell me, "Ah, ha, Al, you didn't review Hop Dish!", that's because I did do that, when it was called Hop Prop IPA.) I struggled a bit with this brewery initially, years back, when I found their initial offerings rather, shall we say, unspectacular, and I went at length about this in my review of Farm Girl Saison. They've certainly found their niche in the Minnesota beer scene through the years, and are consistently putting out quality beers that are finding favor with the public, and making great ones to please the discerning Beer Geek, like Commander Barley-wine or Silhouette Imperial Stout.

What's next in Breweries One by One? Another far-flung journey, or back to Minneapolis? Only one person knows....me. But soon, another....you.

1 comment:

Jason B said...

My flight, from left to right in the picture, was Farm Girl, The Warden, Silhouette, and the aforementioned Batch 1300.

I had the Farm Girl because, after the previous stop, I needed to be reacquainted with that beverage we call "beer". I was enamored with the Warden. Sometimes, milk stouts (or stouts in general) seem to have "perfunctory" written all over them; like pale ales, it's a kind of beer breweries seem to think they have to have in your repertoire, whether it interests them or not, or even if it fits their theme or plays to their skill set and competencies. The Warden is, to me, not one of these. It's like silk in a glass (and this was not the Nitro version!), and, though it shared the paddle with a meatier stout, it was substantial and far from thin, wispy, "perfunctory". Oddly enough, those adjectives could have been thrown at the Nitro Black Ale, which I only sampled courtesy of Al's full pour. But, enough on that one; when remembering that time Kirby Puckett went 10-for-11 against the Brewers over two games in '87, no one who isn’t an asshole focuses on the one miss. Lift Bridge gets the same courtesy extended.

That meatier stout mentioned above, Silhouette, lived up to the paeans and hosannas I've heard lavished upon it, and I gladly defer to Al on the Batch 1300, since what I could offer would only be complementary to his complimentary musings.

Now, about that flight's appearance; this picture was taken as the beers arrived. You may notice that two of the glasses are only half-filled. There are ways breweries and bars can deal with the inclusion of their premium offerings, and I prefer what Lift Bridge is doing in those regards. Some places either limit the number of premium offerings you can get, or cut those out altogether from flight consideration. The Bummer Option. Some add an amount to the price of the flight based on the varieties chosen. Great for the drinker - I get to try all that beer! - but I imagine for the server it would suck, having to remember yet another pricing structure for small pours instead of ringing up a flat flight rate. What Lift Bridge does, half pours for beers that are served in smaller volumes, is again great for the drinker - I get to try all that beer! - and better for the server, since volume is the only quirk. That concession is already being made for the large pours, so extending that to the sample pours should be little problem. Again, I like that this is the way they handle flights (and, as the driver, less of a big RIS was more!).

Of course, there is another possibility, the "Fuck It" method, where any and all beers are included at the same price, but that makes me feel almost like I'm trying to get away with something, as if I've embarked upon a Jimmy McGillian scheme (Better Call Saul, Monday nights at 10, 9 Central, only on AMC!).