Well the holidays are right around the corner and I’d better start thinking about gifts, cookies, and winter warmers. Lots of snow has piled up outside the snob’s door and instead of shoveling, I’ve decided to tap into my first holiday beer of the season (Sierra Celebration aside).
I recently scored some tasty Belgian Christmas beers from a variety of purveyors both near and far and thought that I’d have a little yuletide theme over the next few posts. I’m a sucker for nostalgia and have just started in on the x-mas movies, egg nog, peppermint schnapps, spacing at night to the colored light displays, and doing my best to be less naughty.
For no other reason than loving the bottle art, tonight I popped a big old quadrupel from Saint Bernardus. I haven’t ever had this one before but I find as is mostly the case with the Belgian brews, they are full of lovely flavors, amazing yeast character, high booze factor, yet quite subtle (esp. when compared to American micro offerings).
Poured from a painted corked and caged 750ml bottle this baby is a tawny brown with a long lasting tan head. I have it in a tulip glass cuz that was what was clean and the closest to the St. Bernardus goblet. The aroma is fruity with malt and full of yeasty goodness. On the tongue it is sweet like most quads but with very subtle (to me) spicing that unlike other tasters I cannot quite discern. It is a big beer at 10% yet isn’t really hot. Certainly some candi sugar adds to the body and flavor but what shines is the yeast which is almost tropical. Oddly the yeast hints of a Bavarian hefeweizen fermented at higher temps. Nice banana and spice!
I’ll get after more of these in the next few days and will report back. I’d recommend looking around for any of the Belgian seasonal beers as they are quite good and might remind you of the difference between white burgundy versus California chardonnay. Both good but one is in your face and the other is nuanced. Snobbery indeed.
“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
First off, happy one year birthday to the Duluth Beer Snob. Hard to believe that it has been a year since I started this. I haven’t posted enough in general but it has been fun to sit down and type. Hopefully y’all have found some humor. perhaps some interesting beer tidbits, not too many caustic comments, and most importantly to me - that you have gone out and tried some new beers.
In celebration of this grand milestone I decided to pop a bottle of sour effervescent goodness. I realize that some fellow beer snobs as well as a pile of bearded hipsters like to bag on AB InBev but let’s not forget what we get to drink because of their distribution prowess:
Bass Ale, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Labatt’s while fishing in Canada, Lowenbrau and Spaten, Hell, give me an ice cold long neck Bud after mowing the lawn and I’m happy.
Well today I want to tell you about a special beer made by another brewer in AB Inbev’s portfolio: Goose Island Brewing out of Chicago. Most of you have probably had the opportunity to have a Honker’s Ale at one point. Decent beer. However dig a little bit deeper into their large format bottles and you’ll find some gems (sorry AB haters). Have you tried Bourbon County Stout? Pepe Nero? Sofie and Matilda?
If your purse or wallet allows, I would strongly suggest that you get over to the Mt. Royal Bottle Shop and score a very limited set of Goose Island offerings which are known to some as “the sisters”. They’re not cheap but if my first encounter is any indication, they are very special!
Goose Island JULIET is a Belgian Style Wild Ale that has been aged in red wine barrels with blackberries. This is one of those sours (like La Folie and others) that when uncorked just gives these wonderful wafts of fruity sour funk into the air before you get your lips onto the glass. It pours between red and purple and has a lot of carbonation. On the tongue it is surprisingly light despite being 8% abv. It has great sour fruit coupled with what appears to be Brettanomyces funk. Even the label states “Develops in the bottle for up to 5 years”. Perhaps I went at it too early? Regardless, it was delicious and I am going to cellar the other couple that I bought and will check in on them in a few years.
This series from Goose Island (don’t forget, owned by the evil empire that brews Budweiser and provides thousands of jobs) consists of Juliet, Gillian, Lolita, and Halia. Sofie and Matilda probably have the same parents but they are easier to find. Only a case of each found their way into the Duluth market and now you know where to get them!
I’ll report back when I pull another of my sisters from the basement for a taste. That sounds kinda bad eh?
Last night a motley crew of five local yokel beer drinkers assembled at my place for the oft-promised regional beer tasting. Trying to find offerings from most of the breweries in the Twin Ports that were of the same style kind of reduced it down to India Pale Ales. Seems like this hoppy style is brewed by everybody and would provide a challenge for the group’s taste buds.
On hand were B, Bone Crusher, Douche, Cain and the Snob. SWMBO was the beer wench who served up all of the liquids in blind fashion. Everyone was given the task ahead of time to procure a local IPA. We ended up with five local growlers, all of which were filled within 48 hours of the tasting. Added to the tasting were four other Minnesota-bred IPAs just to make things interesting. It gets to be kind of spendy to just do growlers!
About the tasting: All of the beers were served at the same temperature in 2-3 ounce pours in clear plastic glasses. For palate neutralizers we had the lovely combo of Fritos, blue corn tortilla chips, and Old Dutch pretzel rods. Beers were served in three flights of three which were voted on and ranked. We then took the top beer from each round for a final flight of three. None of the attendees was a professional taster, no one was BJCP certified, and no one cared about any other accreditations. We are just beer aficionados who were provided with the BJCP American IPA guidelines and set loose to decide which beers we liked best.
Before unveiling the results, I will say that it was pretty challenging to drink this many IPAs. There were a couple of beers that were largely disliked and surprisingly there was a majority winner in each round (with one round having a unanimous winner). The three flight winners were all out of growlers and all were brewed here in the Zenith City! Perhaps freshness was a factor?
Castle Danger Fresh Hop IPA 7.1%
Fitger’s Brewhouse El Niño IPA 7%
Surly Furious IPA 6.2%
For this round we tasted two beers from growlers and the Surly out of a 16 oz. can. Tasters noted that the Castle Danger had a really long lasting bitter finish with lighter body. The Surly, despite its 99 IBUs, came across as somewhat fruity and not overly bitter. The El Niño had nice hop aroma and the best malt character to back up nice hop bittering.
Results: Brewhouse 4 first place votes, Castle Danger 4 second place votes, Surly solid 3rd.
Summit Saga IPA 6.4%
Bent Paddle Bent Hop 6.2%
Thirsty Pagan India Pagan Ale
Like round one, two of these beers came from growlers while the Summit was poured from a 12 oz. bottle. Tasters noted that the Summit was rather nondescript save one comment of the hops tasting like “cat piss”. The Bent Hop was the most floral beer of the night and also the lightest in color. It offered citrusy hop character with nice overall balance. The Thirsty Pagan beer was under carbonated with decent hop spiciness.
Results: Bent Paddle unanimous winner, Summit second, closely followed by the Thirsty Pagan.
Canal Park Brewing Stoned Surf IPA 7%
Lift Bridge Hop Dish IPA 7.5%
Lucid Brewing Foto IPA 6.5%
Only one beer from growler (CPB) with the two out-state beers poured out of 12 oz bottles. The Stoned Surf (the only standout beer from Canal Park so far IMHO) was dark amber and quite bitter. There were guesses that this was Furious due to the hop barrage. The Lift Bridge was pretty piney and well done. Quite honestly there wasn’t a kind word spoken about the Lucid. I have liked a couple of their beers tried previously but this one just couldn’t hold a candle to the other two in the flight.
Results: Canal Park 4 first place votes, Lift Bridge solid second, Lucid ranked the worst beer of the entire night.
These were brought to us in random order so that we couldn’t guess which they were. The Canal Park Stoned Surf IPA and the El Niño really battled it out against each other. Despite different flavor profiles they both presented on the high end of the IBU scale for the style and are obviously well made. Both had decent balance and similar appearance. The Bent Paddle Bent Hop Golden IPA was much lighter in color than the other two yet offered up more subtle use of hops and some fine malt body. I would have liked a bit more of the aroma hops like the other two but the bottom line is that the Bent Paddle swept the finals in first place with the votes split for second and third between CPB and Fitgers.
We were all surprised when the nine beers were unveiled. It is pretty well known that Bent Paddle is killing it locally and their very expensive cans are still flying off the pallets (at least on the East side of town). Congrats to all of the participants and especially to the local purveyors whose beers fared very well.
Just a tidbit:
I have been out in the western states a couple of times over the past month. It’s always fun to travel and check out the beers that aren’t distributed into our region. I purchased my requisite sixer of Double Barrel Ale from Firestone-Walker which I believe is the best pale ale in the US (regardless of who gets medaled at GABF).
One of the coolest things that I saw recently was at a large warehouse liquor chain out west. They had a growler station where you could either purchase the store-brand container or bring in your own clean growler from anywhere else and they had about ten beers in refrigerated tubes with a filler station. They were just setting it up and I didn’t see the pricing but how cool would it be to drop down to the store and fill ANY growler with a choice of several rotating beers? We have a long way to go in this Lutheran stronghold…..
On a flavorful note, I cracked my first Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale yesterday. I guess that it has been in town for at least a week (thankfully I’m not THAT in touch with the liquor store comings and goings). Once again this fresh hopped IPA is a treat to drink. One of my favorites out of Chico, this baby has wonderful hop aroma and beautiful hop flavor somewhat balanced by tasty sweet malt in the background. As I’ve said several times before, I’m not a real hop head and lean towards balanced styles. This one edges towards balance, has amazing hop character, yet without the palate wrecking bitterness of many other IPAs. 6.8% ABV
I’ve probably been drinking Celebration Ale for 20-25 years and along with Bigfoot Barleywine it keeps Sierra Nevada in the upper echelon of US brewers for this guy.
Go out and get you some of the freshies!
What a great logo!
A new friend swung by last night bearing two bottles from Borealis Fermentery: La Lune and Mon Cherries. Pretty nice of him and his wife to bring such local gifts. We popped the La Lune which I haven’t had for quite some time (maybe Lake Ave Cafe most recently?). I thought that it was pretty tasty with nice Belgian ale yeast fruitiness and a tastefully light usage of spices. I remain impressed by what is coming out of Ken’s efforts up in Knife River. Maybe tonight I’ll take down the Mon Cherries.
Forecast calls for highs in the 30’s all week. I’m going to go down to the cellar and queue up some heady brews for the next month or so of nourishment. Lots of barley wine aging that needs to be kept track of plus loads of other 8%+ nectar that should be ready to quaff.
A special shout out to my pal Mellow in Lake O. Tight lines on the John Day my friend. Unfortunately I am still rooting for the Tigers as I just love to watch Miggy hit. I can’t think of another batsman that compares since I’ve been watching the game. Rose, Carew, Yaz, all were outstanding but Miggy has such amazing hands and hits for power and average. Tigers haven’t won since ‘84 so I’m on their bandwagon for now. I’ll pull for the BoSox should they go to the big dance.
We’re still planning a local (DLH and maybe MN) IPA blind tasting. It has been hard to coordinate schedules but I am super curious to see how my illustrious group of tasters ranks the local hop laden offerings. Stay tuned amigos.
Despite all of the rumors of Trader Joe’s opening a Duluth store, I still don’t think that it is going to happen. One of the best explanations why not was written by someone on Perfect Duluth Day. They said that TJ’s does their regional warehousing in the Chicago area and Duluth is two hours too far for union truckers to drive in one day. Time will tell.
Anyway, last night I pulled out a bottle of 2011 Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. For those who are unfamiliar with this one, it comes out towards the end of every year and is sold at their attached liquor outlet (in the MN stores at least). Made by Unibroue out of Quebec, this is always one of the best deals in beer (only bettered by Victory Helios IMHO) at $4.99 for a 750 ml cork and caged bottle. It is a no-brainer to grab a case of 12, park it in a cool dark spot of the basement, and peck away at it over a couple of years.
The 2011 version is styled as Dark Ale brewed with Spices and Natural Flavor added. Five bucks for a 750 of 9% beer brewed by a really well-known brewery? Supporting Canada? Awesome all around!
The two-year old bottle is drinking perfectly right now. Lots of cocoa and spice with just a touch of alcoholic warmth. I drank a goblet full while watching the end of the AL playoff game. Go Tigers!
Keep an eye out for it this coming holiday season and snag a case to share with friends (or squirrel away and bring out aged for future gatherings)!
I was traveling last week and wanted to hook up with some old friends for dinner and beers one night. A buddy suggested we go to this pizza joint that had good beers on tap and nice pies to boot. SWMBO and I arrived there a half hour early to find that they were having their first annual Sour Sunday. What a stroke of good luck!
I have been pretty interested in the wild side of beers for maybe seven years now. It all started with New Belgian La Folie and then was quickly followed by Rodenbach and many more sours and also funky offerings from brewers both near and afar. I am pretty blown away by how many people are on this same wagon with me every time that I attend a tasting or visit a well known brewer.
It was pretty mind bending to arrive at a pizza place to find 34 sour/funk beers on tap (that is to go with their perhaps 50 other handles). Here are some of the things that I was lucky enough to try:
Avery Bad Apple 6% Sour Belgian Pale Ale with Granny Smith Apples aged in wine barrels.
Crooked Stave Baby Foeder Peach 6.7% Golden Sour Ale with Peaches
Crooked Stave Origins 6.5% Burgundy Sour Aged in Oak Barrels
Crooked Stave St. Bretta Fall 5.5% Belgian Witbier with Valencia Oranges and Brettanomyces aged in French Oak Foeders.
(congrats to Crooked Stave out of Denver for their medal at GABF!)
Jester King RU 55 Barrel Aged Sour Ale 7.3%
Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela No. 1 Pumpkin Ale 5.9% Sour Ale with Pumpkins, cocoa, and spices aged in oak barrels
New Belgian Love’s Leopold 9.5% Dark Sour Ale aged in Leopold Blackberry Whiskey Barrels (awesome!)
Russian River Consecration, Supplication, and Temptation!
Trinity 7 Day Sour 5% (awesome!)
All this and the pizza was quite good plus the chance to hang with friends made for a night to remember!
Been a while since I’ve slung any crap in the blog-o-sphere. Unfortunately I have to roll quite soon but wanted to throw a couple of things out there in case you thought I had bit the bucket.
1. I am still drinking a lot of fall themed beers. My favorites of late are Ayinger Marzen-fest and the orange bottled Rogue pumpkin. My least favorite remains that weak brown water from Chippewa Falls.
2. A local IPA blind tasting is being arranged soon. Hope to score things from most of the breweries in town plus some other MN classics. I look forward to this one despite my current aversion to the style.
3. Mystery beer at Sir Ben’s is a rye from Bell’s which is quite good and only $3 a pint. Get you some!
4. Currently I am trying a can of Morning Wood from Big Wood Brewing just north of St. Paul. I have tried a couple other of their offerings and they were kind of nondescript. This one is a coffee stout and could use a bit of body IMHO. BTW, “Big Wood” and “Morning Wood” would have been funny to me in like 8th grade. Pretty stupid marketing. Given the nature of their recipes I doubt that they’ll be around if/when the shakeup happens on the retailer’s shelves.
5. Last night I had a Tallgrass Zombie Porter. Textured can (now that’s a twist) with nice contents. Had it side by side with the porter from Great Lakes and I preferred the Tallgrass. They continue to make good product and their Saison and of course Velvet Rooster remain favorites.
More to come soon. I had a BIG sour beer night recently which necessitates a dedicated write-up.
Go Tigers/A’s! Gotta root for the AL and against the Red Sox when the time comes.
I had the distinct pleasure of being able to taste a couple of more well-made brews recently. Both of ‘em “porters” but not at all in the classic sense of the style (might as well have been called stouts).
First up is Southern Tier Plum Noir Imperial Porter. Imperial porters are beefed up versions of porter: super robust malt, high alcohol, estery, and a bit of hops but not high BU’s. I have written about Southern Tier before and am usually impressed by their efforts though some of their offerings can be a bit odd and over-the-top (i.e. Crème Brûlée Stout).
Plum Noir is made with puréed Italian plums which add fermentable sugar to the mix hence bumping up the gravity and helping make it achieve “imperial” designation. At 8% it is pretty deserving since classic porters typically range from 4%-5.5%. I thought that a bit of the plum character came through although it was nicely subdued. It isn’t too sweet and has some appealing roasted malt flavor. This one isn’t very boozy on the tongue and has a bit of chocolate and vanilla notes. I’m going to buy another bottle and forget about it for a couple of years to see what happens. Worth trying!
The other big ass porter that I dipped into this past weekend (post-Oktoberfest tasting) was Deschutes Brewery’s 25th Birthday Reserve Black Butte XXV. Compared to the Plum Noir, this one is truly IMPERIAL! Loads of heavy malt, fruitiness (from dates, figs, and the malt), and a decent amount of bourbon (from a portion being barrel aged). At 11.3% this is a serious venture to drink a 22 oz. bottle solo! I shared it with the Pro and we both got heavy eyelids and found ourselves falling asleep in the spaces between sips. If you like Black Butte Porter (which I consider one of the better US made examples of the style esp. on nitro) then you should try this one while it is around. Actually the label states best after June 2014. I would try one now as it is like drinking a young Bordeaux when you know the best is yet to come. Those with the patience and willpower to squirrel away some bottles will be most psyched. I dug deep and bought a case to share as gifts for friends in maybe two Xmas seasons from now. Get after it while still in town!!
I burned my first fire of the season last night and watched a little pigskin. Seattle looks like the real deal….
Coldest night to date this September so I decided to forgo drinking more Pilsner and to dive into something a bit more seasonal like Octoberfest beers. The Pro was up visiting from Saint Paul and I just happened to have built a sixer of mixed autumnal offerings earlier in the week.
Here are the brief notes and rankings from the Snob, the Pro, and SWMBO:
#6 Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest: Very thin, dry, mainly devoid of malt character. Almost seemed like drinking near beer of old. To be avoided even if free.
#5 Lake Superior Brewing Oktoberfest: More malt than the Leinie’s but rather one-dimensional and uninspired beer.
#4 Summit Brewing Oktoberfest: Nice color and lots of maltiness going on but in my opinion a bit too sweet for the style and it had an alcoholic heat to it. Decent but kinda disappointing for Summit.
#3 Great Lakes Brewing Oktoberfest: 6% SWMBO thought that it was somewhat creamy. Not very toasty with a dry finish. The only of the five Oktoberfest beers that had noticeable bittering hops in the finish.
#2 Surly Fest: 6% abv made with rye in the mix. Surly’s take on Oktoberfest but not meant to follow the style and it doesn’t. Dry-hopped to balance the great malt character. I really like this for what it is. Kind of like Hell, I appreciate when Surly brews the more subdued styles. I realize that Furious is well-loved but as I’ve mentioned before, I am currently into more balanced beers.
#1. Samuel Adams Oktoberfest 5.3%. Really wonderful malt in the nose and on the tongue. I haven’t had an authentic German fest beer yet this month but I plan on getting a few of the exported bottles (and maybe will head down to Grandma’s to get the real Fassbier) and tasting them blind with Sam in the mix. Highly recommended.