You may have heard about several new breweries opening in the Twin Cities lately, and if you haven’t had a chance to try them, here’s a little bit of liquid intel by yours truly:

Indeed: Coming strong out the gate with Day Tripper Pale Ale, a very hoppy “west coast pale ale” that has lots of citrus and melon, and Midnight Ryder, an American Black Ale that is a very balanced blend of chocolatey malts and orangy hops. Shenanigans, their summer honey wheat ale, is pretty good (not usually favorite style of mine), but was released in late summer, missing the main drinking season for that style. It might still be available around town.

Their most recent beer is their Fresh Hop, brewed with 100% whole cone wet Centennial hops. I was very excited for this, but I found it to be a little astringent and light on the aroma or fruitiness. I’ve heard others rate it highly, so I will have to try it again. Visit the cozy, beautiful, artsy taproom (in the Solar Arts Building, 711 15th Avenue NE, Minneapolis MN 55413) to get their beers on tap or cask. The Midnight Ryder dry hopped with Summit on cask is excellent. The herbaceousness of the Summit hops compliments the savory dark malts. The also infuse the Shenanigans with various berry fruits.

Look for their fall seasonals, a sweet potato beer and double American Black Ale, to be released October 13th at the brewery during their Autumn Release Fest (http://www.indeedbrewing.com/hullabaloo-2012-autumn-release-fest-indeed-brewing/). Later on, a winter seasonal will join the ranks with a recipe including raisins and brown sugar. With head brewer Josh Bischoff having over a decade of experience–8 of them as lead brewer at the venerable Town Hall Brewery– have high hopes for this artsy start up.

Northbound Smokehouse:

The first brewpub in the Cities in over a decade, this nice little spot features food built on a base of smoked  foods: meat, cheese, and even eggs. I’ve had the smoked trout wrap and the porketta sandwich, and I have paired them with both the fries and the onion rings (waffle battered! fantastic) and have been quite impressed.

The beers are variations on the classic American/English craft styles: a smoked porter, a pale ale, another pale ale made with 100 percent Columbus hops, a very fruity IPA, a rich, delicious honey ale (TONS of honey in the recipe.), and my favorite, an amber ale made with a heaping of Minnesota wild rice. Not sure how the rice adds such a rich fruit flavor, but it does, and it is tasty.

Right off the light rail at 38th street and 28th avenue, the brewpub features a friendly picnic table-and-grass patio and very nice service. They also have several Minnesota craft taps, including beers from Indeed, Harriet, Lift Bridge, and more. Hop off the train and drop in.

Pour Decisions:

Another new brewery! This might be the newest Minnesota brewery. Their first beer, a Scottish session beer, debuted at the Minnesota State Fair, and it was packed with flavor despite the 3% ABV. I also tried their Patersbier at the Autumn Brew Review, and it was a delicious take on the elusive Belgian “enkel”, a (relatively) low alcohol Belgian style that is brewed by Trappist monks for their own consumption. Although I don’t think there are any monks among the Pour Decisions ranks, they still managed to pull off a very tasty rendition of this rare style. Their booth at ABR had a bottled American Wild Ale that was tart, fruity, and fantastic. Impressive for a start up to nail these three difficult styles with fidelity and finesse.

That wraps it up for now, updates will come as each new wave of hometown sudseries opens.


The folks over at Lucette Brewing posted a on their blog about an issue that is arising in the craft beer scene here in the Twin Cities and across the country:

I envision a day when you can walk into an establishment and all beer available was produced within 500 miles.  The cynics tell me it’s not possible.  Not enough variety or unique beer is being produced locally they say.  I need to distinguish myself from other establishments so I need to import crafts from elsewhere they answer.  My response is simply give us time.  We have prodigious ambitions at Lucette and with time we will produce a great variety of solid craft beers.  The cynics also told us we couldn’t start a craft brewery in Menomonie and be successful.  Doubt is a powerful motivator.

I implore you to walk into establishments and support local.  Take a running account of what is being poured today.  I would venture to say at least half is still being imported from other regions.  As of today there are at least 20 manufacturing breweries within 100 miles of the Twin Cities metro area.  For argument’s sake, lets say each one of these breweries is producing at least 4 beers (most craft lovers know it will be more then this).  That gives us a running total of at least 80 beers!  Not enough variety?  I can understand Belgians, sours, and a few other exceptions, but we are talking about ambers, pale ales, browns, and other staples of the craft industry.  I do not believe an amber from Alaska, an IPA from California, a lager from New York, or a Maibock from Oregon are superior to what’s produced locally.  Have you had a Summit or Rush River lately?  If you haven’t then do so.

We are experiencing a boom in the industry that parallels pre prohibition.  Breweries are popping up what seems like every other day.  How much can the market support the naysayers ask?  My answer is all of it if we make an effort to consume products that are made in our backyards.  The last few weeks has seen an explosion of craft breweries trying to one up each other with expansions to other markets.  What are they trying to accomplish with this?  How many breweries do you want?  This is a capitalistic market, that I understand, but don’t criticise the big breweries for operating multiple locations when you favorite large craft is doing the same thing.  The ultimate goal for both is no different: get their product in as many hands as possible.

The next time another craft announces they are going to import their product into our market I implore you to pass on it.  I would venture to argue that in a year or two they will no longer be available here anyways.  Think of the breweries that have entered this market only to go to the wayside and/or pullout.  Do you think they generally care about this craft scene?  No.  They are here to pillage and cannibalize local craft breweries only to pull out and move to another state when their sales dry up and fizzle out.  I can assure you we are not going anywhere literally or figuratively.

I implore you to drink locally produced craft beer.  In due time, I give you my word that we will produce a whole plethora of awesome beers.  My current hope is that while you are reading this you are doing so while enjoying a Lucette, Rush River, Surly, or another great beer produced in our backyard.

Mike

This issue isn’t unique to the Upper Midwest, but a lot of people are talking about it here since our local scene has exploded over the last couple of years. I understand their point, and I love craft beer from Minnesota and Wisconsin, but if it weren’t for the excellent out of state/out of region breweries, people here would have never developed a taste for craft beer and the scene never would have flourished like it has. I’ve been into craft for about 10 years and when I started, the only decent local option in stores was Summit. I couldn’t have developed my love for craft beer on that alone. It took Sierra Nevada, Bell’s, Victory, Great Divide (which were the other high quality craft beers available back then) and Belgian imports to really develop my palate and my passion. I could easily get by on local beers now, but without the non-locals, they probably wouldn’t even exist.

I try to drink as much local beer as I can, and it’s getting much easier with the great options that we have available now, but I love the lineup from Stone, Great Lakes, Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Boulevard, Odell, etc., and with the influence of out of state breweries, our hometown heroes up the ante and compete with their own new recipes and ideas. Not only that, but when Minnesota and Wisconsin breweries expand and succeed in other states, it’s good for them and it’s good for our scene. The revenue they pull in from other states helps them grow and expand their options.

Local is great, but we can’t shut out breweries from other states in the name of hometown pride.


This week is Barrel Week at Town Hall Brewery! A highly anticipated event where each day features a different barrel aged version of some of their beers. All beers are aged in some kind of whiskey barrel, from classic standbys like Jim Beam and Jack Daniels to smaller producers like Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare. I went to the bar on Monday for the Buffalo Bock (weizenbock aged in a Buffalo Trace barrel) and found the beer to be quite nice, with banana and clove yeast flavors that were cloaked in a nice toasty vanilla oak shroud. I also stopped in Tuesday for Wee Jack (their wee heavy scotch ale aged in a Jack Daniels barrel) and was greatly impressed, with the beer showcasing smoky, oaky, and spicy barrel flavors to complement the fruit and leather notes of the base Wee Heavy. David, Emily, Rachel and I went on Wednesday after Beer School (at Republic across the street, check it out, it’s every Weds. at 5:30 and again at 7:00) to get some glasses of Twisted Jim, which is their Twisted Reality barleywine aged in a Jim Beam barrel.

 

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Twisted Jim glass plus bottles

For the first time, bottles of the barrel aged beers were available. Previous years had 64oz growlers available, but this year they went the waxed 750ml bottle route. Tickets had to be purchased to redeem for bottles, and I braved the cold to get some. Thank god for Android games.

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Daivd gettin' Twisted, seafood restaurant style

The bar manager and Tina the server gave us excellent, fast, friendly, service. For some reason, guys started playing bagpipes. It was great.

 

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More info from mnbeer.com:

Feb 20-25 BARREL AGED WEEK- Time for use to brush of the dust, spiderwebs, and pry open the cellar door…..creeeeeeeekkkkkk…………all beers will be released @6pm, growlers will be available of all but only by pre-purchased tickets (don’t worry I will send you that info in a follow up email)

Mon Feb 20- Buffalo Bock- Weizenbock aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrel

Tues Feb 21- Wee Jack- Scottish style Wee heavy aged in JD Tennessee Whiskey Barrel

Wed Feb 22- Twisted Jim- American Barley Wine aged in Jim Beam Bourbon Barrel

Thurs Feb 23- Tumaltuous Rare- Wheat Wine aged in Eagle Rare Bourbon Barrel

Fri Feb 24- Barrel Monkey- Double IPA aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrel

Sat Feb 25- Czar Jack- Everyone’s favorite barrel Aged Imperial Stout


Saturday night was Sa. da. tay.

An impromptu tasting developed in my basement Saturday night with David, Narth Müeller, and Uncle Steve. We started with Heady Topper, an amazing double IPA from The Alchemist in northern Vermont which I mentioned in the last post. Narth brought a bottle of Avery Eighteen, a dry-hopped rye Saison brewed for Avery’s 18th anniversary which gave us a full bodied, richly flavored Saison experience, with caramelly malt flavors accented with citrus and spice. Rich and decadent for a saison, this bad boy packs a stiff 8.1% ABV but without any ethanol heat.

We then drank a bottle of Peruvian Morning, a coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels from Central Waters in Amherst, Wisconsin. The coffee had already fallen off a bit in the cellar, but there was still enough to accent the rich vanilla tones from the bourbon barrels. This beer is in the same vein as KBS from Founders, but with a lighter texture and a sweeter, more mellow flavor profile. Delicious. We also cracked 2011 Bourbon Barrel Barleywine from Central Waters, and the year of age took most of the hop edge off the beer and left the vanilla and brown sugar notes to meld perfectly with the malt bill. Those three beers are a tough act to follow, but we managed to follow them nicely with B.O.R.I.S The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout from Hoppin’ Frog out of Akron, Ohio. This much lauded imperial stout and winner of two gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival (2009 and 2011) lived up to its reputation with a creamy, velvety soft texture from the oatmeal that was surprisingly mouth filling and flavors of coffee, choclate, cream, and oats that blanketed the palate.

After those four excellent beers, I thought we might just need a little more flavor in our night and I brought out Boogoop, an American barleywine brewed with buckwheat and made by “gypsy” brewer Mikkeller in collaboration with Three Floyds. This unique ale had a very full, creamy, velvety mouthfeel from the ample carbonation. The flavor profile was quite hoppy, with the signature Three Floyds hop profile with citrus, pine and more citrus. The malts had somwhat of a “raw” feel to them, with grainy flavors like that of buckwheat pancakes and Cheerios. This was a fairly hefty beer, and after we split it we were all pretty Boogooped.

Boogooper

Boogoopin' it


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I never thought I would taste a beer that even matches the venerable hop bomb known as Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company. But I have. The name is Heady Topper, from The Alchemist Brewery based in Waterbury, Vermont, and hop bliss is the game. This double IPA packs a lupulin punch with a scant 8% alcohol (for a double IPA, that is).

I set up a trade with a chap from Connecticut for a bottle of Mother of All Storms, a bourbon barrel aged barleywine from Pelican Brewpub, and he offered to throw in a four pack of Heady for a four pack of Surly Furious. I agreed and the package arrived a few days ago.

Heady Topper comes in a silver tall boy with the words “Drink From The Can!” emblazoned around the top. I complied, but I also had a nice tulip glass on hand to get a full feel for the aromatics. I’m glad I did. The smell leaps out of the can, with pineapple, pine, papaya, mango, and guava aromas that promise big things to come. The can concentrates the aromas, but the tulip lets them open up and mellow, for a nice, sublime scent.

The taste follows suit, with a masterful hop blend riding a creamy, soft wave of carbonation. The beer is only lightly bitter, but oh so hoppy.

A little backstory to this beer: this was originally just one beer in a stable of brews at Alchemist Brewpub, and the first to be canned at the Alchemist Cannery down the road from the pub. The northeast hurricane of 2011 flooded the original pub and they were forced to move all brewing operations to the cannery, which became Alchemist Brewery. Alchemist now only makes Heady Topper, and they distribute these hop rockets to several locations in Vermont.

More Info:

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120203/LIVING06/120202026/-1/RSS22?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.alchemistbeer.com/

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/27039/16814


I jetted into LaGuardia for a short New York visit last Thursday morning and started making my way over to my friend’s place in Hoboken to kick off his 30th birthday celebration. He informed me earlier that he wouldn’t be available until early afternoon, so I took the opportunity to check out some sights, grab a bite, and browse the craft and imported beers available in the Big Apple. I had been to New York before, but I had never seen Grand Central Terminal, and there was apparently a beer boutique in the concourse run by the folks at Beer Table, a specialty beer market in Brooklyn. Given that I was also feeling pangs of hunger, I figured I’d kill three birds with one stone.

I arrived at Grand Central station and spent some time admiring the Beaux-Arts architecture of the building amidst the whirl of departing and arriving passengers. I found the Beer Table Pantry in the Graybar Passage among the other wine and specialty food shops that appeal to the tourist, commuter, and Midtown crowd. The place is tiny, only a little bigger than an average newsstand. The bottles are presented in a very clean, neat setting. They had a nice cross section of American specialty craft and some of the better Belgian and Scandanvian imports such as Mikkeller. Some standouts were Boogoop, the Three Floyds/Mikkeller collaboration, Founder Curmudgeon, and Captain Lawrence Imperial IPA. The store was staffed by two very nice beer geeks, who I easily chatted up about the selection. While I was there, another customer stopped in and asked for Noble Rot, the Dogfish Head wine/beer hybrid brewed with Viognier grapes afflicted by Botrytis, a fungus known colloquially as noble rot for the flavor enhancing effects it produces. I wish I had grabbed a bottle, but the price was steep compared to your average shop.

I didn’t grab anything here since the prices were 50-100 percent more than the average retail price, but it was fun to stop in anyways.

I decided to stop in at the Whole Foods in Tribeca, since it was close to the PATH line and they usually have a nice selection.

And there it was in the cooler. One of my personal whales. Ballast Point Victory at Sea. An imperial coffee vanilla porter that I have wanted for quite some time. My heart leaped and I grabbed a bottle along with a bottle of Captain Lawrence Imperial IPA.

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Bear and I drank the IIPA later on the street (long story) and it was an excellent beer, very tropical, and a steal for $5/500ml. I cracked the Victory at Sea the next night. It was fantastic, easily the best coffee porter I have ever had and in the running for one of my favorites of all time. Layers of dark fruit, chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. Went knit and integrated, with a full but soft body and a slick, silky finish. Now I just gotta get me some of the Dogfish Head Noble Rot.

Links for more info:

http://btpantry.com/

http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/occasional-rarities/noble-rot.htm

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/199/48505


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I have been amazed with the quality of beer coming out of Central Waters Brewing from Amherst, Wisconsin. I initially tried their IPA, red ale, pale ale, and stout, and while they were all decent, none really stood out except the stout, Satin Solstice. Recently, I have been diving into their barrel aged and high gravity brews and finding them all to be exceptional.

Their barrel program is top notch, with specialties such as their Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Stout, Peruvian Morning (coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels), and the Bourbon Barrel Barleywine, which I am sipping right now. They also make an excellent hoppy barleywine known as Kosmyk Charlies Y2K Survival Ale (originally brewed around the year 2000 for their friend Charlie for his Y2K survival kit, and the base beer for the bourbon aged version mentioned previously), a fantastic hoppy and roasty porter (Mudpuppy), and a very nice double IPA (Illumination). They also have two new beers as of this year, Exodus, which is (or was, it sold out quickly) a sour Flanders red aged on wood with cherries, and Sláinte, which is their great new Scottish ale. These guys are experts at extracting a rich, warm vanilla note in all of their bourbon barrel aged beers, and it really leaps out in the bourbon barleywine and bourbon stout. Seek out these brews if they are available in your area. For more info:

http://www.centralwaters.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Central-Waters-Brewing-Company/115991068428811

 




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