Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #88: Urban Growler, St. Paul, with Rhubarb Wit

Entrance to Urban Growler. 
It's Sunday, October 9, and my niece Anna had a coupon for the place, so I guess it's time to visit Urban Growler Brewing Company in St. Paul.

UGBC opened up as "the first woman-owned and -brewed microbrewery in the state of Minnesota" in the summer of 2014, at 2325 Endicott Avenue, a business park area in St. Paul. I didn't get a taste of them until the next spring, when I biked there on a Sunday afternoon, and you can read about that visit here. Did you go back and read it? I'll wait here while you do...

....dum, de dum....
la, de doo...
....doo, de dum...

okay, you back? Good.
Sarah Johnson, left, is the eldest daughter of my sister
Lynn Johnson. Anna Wagner Schliep is the eldest daughter
of my sister Jean Wagner. They grew up thinking Uncle Al
was kind of weird. They must have changed their minds,
because they now hang out and drink beers with me.
As you no doubt read, I only selected the three IPAs they had on tap, and skipped the remaining 7 more of their offerings. Looking back, I should have chosen a flight. I did get to try more of their beers when I started working at Acadia, and we had some on tap. MidWest IPA, Cowbell Cream Ale, City Day Ale, (kentucky common),  and De-Lovely Porter all found their way to our tap tower, but I never took notes on any pints I had. I found them all to be fine examples of their styles, but nothing really knocked me out. Good beer and you can drink it.

So, I decided to make this past Sunday my return visit for this project. Also, joining us is my craft beer-loving niece Sarah, the same age as Anna. I took a different path this time, approaching the place from a different direction, going down the University of Minnesota Transitway bike/bus road, going past Surly Destination Brewery another mile or so, taking Robbins Street and continuing until hitting the big brick building at Endicott St. Anna and Sarah were already there on the patio, Sarah with a flight and Anna with a Big Boot Rye IPA. I had been biking hard for well over an hour, and needed something down my throat fast, and I chose a Mocktoberfest, not quite realizing that I was going to get a 20 ounce stein. No matter, it was good beer, know the rest.

My notes were short. It's hard to take beer geek notes in social situations without coming off a little weird and, you know, anti-social. I guess it's different when I do this with other beer traveling companions, because they know that's what we're there for. But, then so did A & S....or, maybe I just really wanted to catch up with my nieces, and we didn't have hours in the car to take care of that? In any case, I didn't do much beer note scribbling while sitting on the patio on this nice fall Sunday. So, let's take a look at how the brewery's website describes it?

"Our take on a traditional Oktoberfest – Brewed with the finest German Malts and Noble hops, but fermented with our house Ale yeast.  This flavorful seasonal is rich and malty, yet crisp and refreshing – making it the perfect fall fest beer. "  My notes went: "softly spicy nose, yeasty, lightly toasty malt, slightly sweet, low hops, quenchable." I like it. Good enough.
Candy Corn Imperial Cream Ale. What? Yes.

Scanning the list, there were many other interesting options, such as Blueberry Wheat and Honey Double IPA, both in the Plow to Pint series. (The are other This to That Alliteratively Titled series out there, at other places: Garden to Growler, Grain to Glass, .Pumpkin Patch to Pint Glass. (I made that up)..I that that's enough. Just quit it, folks.). I'm still interested in tasting those, but I decided to go out on a limb and do the third P to P brew on the list, the frightening sounding Candy Corn Imperial Cream Ale, and I'll just go ahead and throw their description out there right now: "Some might say that there’s no such thing as an imperial cream ale, but some might say there’s no such thing as monsters but that doesn’t keep you from checking under your bed does it scaredy-cat?  Celebrate Halloween and the rest of the fall with this specialty beer brewed with plenty of candy corn.  This beer is smooth and strong with notes of caramel and a touch of sweetness. 9 oz pour.  Make it a Mad Cow – 1/2 CowBell, 1/2 Candy Corn Imperial Cream Ale (13oz) – Delicious!"
Snapping selfies and sipping in St. Paul

This sounds so unwise and so unappetizing. Candy Corn in a beer? No, no, no. I have enough of a problem with "Imperial Cream Ale", so much so that I tend to scoff at and avoid such things on principle alone. But, candy, not just candy but that horrible candy corn? No, NO, NO!!

So, of course, I had to try it. That's what this project dictates. Do it. And you know what? For what it is, it's not bad. The candy corn didn't destroy what would already be a questionable creation. (Shades of Maple Island Brewing, not a good thing.) Notes were minimal, they went: "Big, sweet, malty, a little odd, but...." and then, back to conversation with my nieces. I didn't mind it one little bit, but I didn't wow me in any way.

There was another Plow to Pint brew I wanted to taste, but I had snoozed and lost. This was the Rhubarb Wit, which had a further iteration, the Bubble Brew, an infusion with Japanese green tea, another head scratcher and chin stroker. Both of them were off the tap, but some growlers remained
Where's Uncle Al? Taking pictures of everyone surrepticiously.
and I decided to drop twenty bucks and take one home. Notes on that at the bottom.

Right about then, our time on Urban Growler's patio had come to a close. We had decided, us three, to give Indeed a visit for the close of their annual Hullabaloo event and that was rapidly approaching. Inside, the taproom was abuzz at 6:30 on a Sunday night. Urban Growler is one of those rare brewery taprooms with a kitchen, and the place was full for families dining. We stepped inside to take care of various business, and as we left I still wondered: why is it called Urban Growler? Are they trying to set themselves apart from all the Suburban Growlers or Rural Growlers? Someday, I'll find out.

Notes on Urban Growler Rhubarb Wit. 5% ABV.

Highly hazed, light orange hue, slim white head.

Rhubarb Witbier.
Aroma: sweet and wheat. Some banana and bubblegum. Nothing particularly rhubarb-y, though.

In the mouth: smooth, effortless drivability, lush malt. Low hops. Minor bitterness. All kinds of smooth. But very low on the rhubarb, and not exhibiting too much of the wit character, either. No orange or coriander really detected. There's some tartness coming through that can be attributed to the rhubarb, but there's not much of the true taste in the end.

Minor flaw, I guess. Certainly doesn't have the intensity of the Blacklist Rhubarb Wit.

Here's their gobbledygook: Wake Up Taste Buds – A Belgian Style wit ale that’s very pale and cloudy in appearance.  The crispness and twang comes from wheat.  The slight tartness in the background comes from Minnesota Rhubarb.  Highly carbonated and lightly spiced with orange peel and coriander, this is a refreshing early summer favorite.

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