Monday, September 19, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One By One #43: Excelsior Brewing, Excelsior

Those of you who follow this blog with any regularity and retain in your memory some of the trivial details that I divulge herein may recall that there was a lull in activity earlier this summer. A solid six weeks of no posts at all, and a full month of no new breweries visited. I have made up for it on the latter side, having been to 16 breweries in just the past month, getting up to a grand total of 82 Minnesota breweries so far. My list shows that there are 26 (8 of those are in Minneapolis, 5 in St. Paul) more to get to in the next 14 weeks or so. Definitely doable. This does not count, of course, about ten breweries threatening to open before the year is up. Maybe more, that's just the ones I'm keeping an eye on. At some point, I'll have to call it quits. If that place in International Falls opens on the 30th of December, I may have to leave it till next year. But the goal will continue beyond 2016, for once I've made to as many as I can in this year, I'll still keep trying to visit the new ones as they pop up.

I've kept up the pace of the brewery visits, but not the writing of them. Since starting up after the stall, I've only written up 14 of the new visits, out of 33, and haven't touched on the ones from April, May and June. We'll make some headway into this by going back to May 22, when Jason and I took some trips around the breweries near Lake Minnetonka and it's environs, starting with Excelsior Brewing in Excelsior, at 4231 Excelsior Street, just a few blocks away from where Prince insisted to Appolonia that she purify herself, in that purple-tinged film of long ago.

Excelsior, population 2, 397, approximately 12 miles west of South Minneapolis. What else to say? They love their boats and docks, and that big ol' lake. And they got a brewery.

Yoga at the brewery? Sure, who doesn't do that, but a
release party for a bike jersey? Whatevs.
I've reviewed six of Excelsior's beers here in the Nib over the years, covering the core brands and a few others, and visited the brewery taproom once before, in 2014, also with Jason.There's a few out there that have slipped past me, including the cherry wheat ale, Sunburn, which I just finished a keg of at Acadia. For various reasons, I don't take notes at the bar that often.

 This time, I was impressed by the larger selection of beers and styles beyond the flagships. And what else did I see, hear and do? Well, I'll tell you, once I start a new paragraph.



Over-dressed in Excelsior.
It's a beautiful Sunday, one of the nicest days of the year so far, the sun shining and summer is beckoning. It's seems that all of Excelsior is out there enjoying the weather and in the taproom digging the wide range of ales and lagers. And I'm the only schmuck in the joint wearing long pants and a hoodie and no sunglasses. Everyone else is in shorts and t-shirts or biking gear. We stepped onto the patio area, where a folky combo was making music under a tent, but couldn't find anywhere to sit. Over on the stage, a trio of women are demonstrating their hula hooping prowess. It's all hustle bustle over here.

(Editor's note: Many months later, on Halloween, those same women came into Acadia Cafe, hula hoops and all, and I told them I remembered them from this Excelsior gig. Crazy, man.)

We checked out the choices and I made my first one a "hoppy wheat" made in collaboration with the Enki & Waconia breweries, called Triad #3. It had a cloudy amber appearance, a distinctive hop bite, with a slight tartness to the flavor. Ultimately, it was nice, smooth, drinkable. Jason, meanwhile, chose the Peach Sour, and after tasting his, I kind of wish I had, too.
Sipping on Jason's Peach Sour.
Just enough peach, just enough sour. Nice.

Did someone say "barrel-aged imperial
stout"?
And then I had to go and be the only person in the place to order the 10.6% Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, because, you know, I had to. If anyone still suggests that this brewery makes tame or safe beers, well, let's let this post be a testament to the contrary. Roast-y, toasty, bittersweet, but just a bit more bitter than sweet. Notes of chocolate, cherry and espresso, getting bigger, richer and more intense as we get further in, picking up raisins, dates, vanilla and oak traces, too. This was one I really wanted to relax and luxuriate in. It's not the type of beer I'd have as my second beer of the day. Ideally, it's a nightcap, late-night chilly weather beer, but I had no choice. It was there and I had to drink it.

We couldn't luxuriate too long. There were two more stops to go in our drive along Lake Minnetonka and it's neighbors. Had to save rooms for more beers. And so we bid adieu to Excelsior Brewing, and it's boats and it's sports equipment and bikes hanging on the ceiling, and it's hulu hoopers and we're ready to visit another brewery obsessed with lakes and watercraft.
Hula hooping at the brewery on a Sunday afternoon. 
Every taproom has a growler collection, it seems, but
who else has waterskis on the ceiling?

This is the result of using the panorama feature on the iPhone camera
without knowing what you're doing. 

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