Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Wee Heavy" Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company)

This is one of my favourite beers at the moment. I realize it's a little uncool to like a beer from what essentially is a "Macro-Micro-Brewery" from a behometh company like the Boston Beer Company but I prefer to let my taste buds judge for themselves and they like this beer. A lot. My view on Sam Adam's is that if it wasn't for the likes of them or Sierra Nevada or closer to home, Summit Brewing, I'd still be drinking Carling Black Label or even worse, Pig's Eye! Hats off to them for starting the brewing revolution that has turned what was a bleak beer landscape when I first came to the States into the most invigorating craft beer scene in the world.

Sam Adam's "Wee Heavy"

About the beer:

This is the fourth offering by Sam Adam's in their Imperial Series, comes in a 4 pack of 12oz bottles, that retails for anywhere from $7.99-$9.99. I picked mine up at Blue Max Liquors in Burnsville for the bargain price of $7.99, on sale. Other beers in the series include an Imperial White, Stout and Double Bock. From the label :

"Inspired by the traditional Scotch ales, has a deep, intense flavor from it's dark rasted malts. The addition of peat smoked malt adds a unique flavor of the Highlands to this complex brew".

Tasting notes:

Poured into a Jolly Pumpkin goblet.(Apparently it is recommended to use a "thistle" glass when pouring Scotch Ales or  a Wee Heavy but I have no idea what that is)*.
Black with a thin tan collar. Faint whiff of sour fruit. Thick and decadent, toasty with hints of caramel and chocolate and perhaps raison. Slight peaty taste but not oppressive (unlike "Three Feet Deep" by Furthermore" - holy sh*t)! Sweet, with a warming alcohol burn from the substantial 10% ABV. Intense and chewy, a perfect warming beer for a dreary winter day.


Perhaps closer in style to a RIS than a wee heavy but who cares? I think this is an excepional beer, despite some of the lower ratings I see other user's have posted on some beer sites, I highly recommend it.

About the style:

A "wee heavy" is a stronger, sweeter version of a Scottish Ale, known as 160/ Shillings in 19th Century Scotland. Sweeter and fuller bodied and higher in alcohol than regular Scotch Ales with a more pronounced malty caramel and roasted malt flavour. Low bitterness.

For beer geeks only :

Flavor: Intense and full bodied with a deep roasted flavor, subtle sweetness, and earthy smokiness from the peat smoked malt.
Color: Deep reddish-walnut, 50 SRM 
Original Gravity: 24.5° Plato
Alcohol by Vol/Wt: 10.0%ABV – 7.7%ABW
Calories/12 oz.: 348
IBUs: 30
Malt Variety: Two-row Harrington, Metcalfe, and Copeland pale malts, Caramel 60, Roasted malt, Peated malt
Hop Variety: Zeus Hops
Yeast Strain: Samuel Adams ale yeast
Availability: Year round
First Brewed: 2011

About the brewery:
30 Germania Street
Boston MA 02130
'PH: 617-522-9080

* Thistle Glass

A somewhat obscure glass, used by the Belgians for scotch ales. It is a footed glass, with a short stem. The glass starts very bulbous, as though it were a snifter, but then the upper half has straight sides that angle outwards. The mouth is basically the same radius at the bulb at the bottom. While it has a funky look to it, it is unsure what benefits it brings to the table otherwise - the funny shape makes drinking almost awkward, while the mouth is not wide enough to provide ample aroma. 
Above info from


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sour Apple Saison, Epic Brewing

This is really my first exposure to any Epic Brewing beers (Salt Lake City, Utah) apart from a few samples when they first arrived on the Minnesota beer scene, not enough to make an educated judgement. I was intrigued to try this - I like apple and I like saisons so what if it seems like an unlikely pairing for a beer? Worthy of further exploration, I think.

Poured from a 22oz bomber into a "Blanche De Chambly" glass. Label description : "Sour Apple Saison, Belgian-Style Ale, Malt beverage brewed with natural flavors". Bottle conditioned, this is from the top of the line (and thus most expensive) range that they call the "Exponential Series" (Epic uses a somewhat unique three tier sytem for it's beer releases, "Classic", "Elevated" and "Exponential"). Bottle also proclaims that I am holding something "special" - one of only 1,800 bottle released and numbered. While I couldn't find a number I did find it stamped "Release #3". 8.1% ABV.

Upon pouring I was surprised at how light in colour the beer was - lighter than a pilsener or lager even,  a light straw yellow, with a bright white head, that dies quickly. Cascading bubbles, champange-like, racing from the bottom of the glass. Smell was hard to pinpoint, musty but nothing too discernable. Taste was another thing - a rather unpleasant funky, tartness with a hint of spice (cinnamon, coriander)? Light mouthfeel with a very acidic aftertaste. This was not what I expected. I found it barely drinkable.

Rating : D

Perhaps a bit harsh but I really did not like this beer and found it hard to finish, normally not a problem for me. I've heard great things about their "Brainless on Peaches" in the same series but I'd be wary to try it after this experience.

Upon further research I found that Series #3 of this beer has the following notes on the Epic website :

Sour Apple Saison-Style Ale Release #3

Brewed on October 28, 2010.

This is a gorgeous saison, it has a nice mild sourness with a slight kick of apple and cinnamon.  It has a very dry finish from the classic sainson yeast that gives it a little earthy, pepery and spiciness.  This beer is fantastic for aging in a climate controlled temperature.

The Malts

Weyermann Pilsner is the base malt on this beer followed by Briess Flaked Oats and Muntons Wheat Malt.

The Hops/Spices

Saaz, Tettnang, ground Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Anise Seed, Grains of Paradise, and Coriander.

ABV 8.0% (my bottle said 8.1%ABV)

More info :
Epic Brewing Company
825 S. State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
'PH: 801-906-0123

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lagunitas Bavarian Style Doppel Weizen

The latest limited seasonal release from Lagunitas (Petaluma, CA) is described as "our own Bavarian Style Doppel Weizen". Having read an on-line review that likened the taste to ham (WTF)?! I simply had to try it.

Lagunitas DoppelWeizen

This is the first time Lagunitas have offered, essentially what is, a double hefeweizen and it's inspired by the German builders of their new brewery system (Rolec) who supplied the Bavarian yeast strain.

Poured from a 24oz bomber into (very appropriately) an Aventinus Weizenstarkbier .5L chalice. I'm not sure the picture does justice to the thick, fluffy, pillowy white cone-shaped head - awesome - and definitely on par with some of the German weissbiers I've had. Off to a great start then, now on to the colour - orangey (is that a word?), copper, hazy. Delicious looking.

Taste - to be honest I was expecting the signature Lagunitas citrusy hoppy taste on my palate but instead I got cloves and hints of banana and citrus. Sorry - no ham! I think an appropriate description of this beer would be a hefe on steriods, at 9% ABV this packs a punch that you can really feel by the time the glass is drained. Maybe a little strange to be drinking this in the first week of October but given our Indian Summer in MN this year didn't seem out of place on a glorious sunny Sunday watching football (newflash - Vikings lost)!

Rating : B/B+

Another solid offering from one of my favourite breweries. As always delivering bang for the buck, well worth the $4.99 or so you'll pay at your local store. Prost!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grand Cru, Rodenbach

This is a style of beer known as Flanders Red Ale, so called because it originated in the West Flanders region of Belgium. Very complex, these beers are typically sour and tart because they are traditionally blended and aged in casks using special yeast strains.

Poured from a 750ml corked bottle into a Konings Hoeven trappist ale goblet first surprise is the beer is not red in colour, but brown. Flavour and aromas insanely broad in spectrum - vinegar, plum, rason, sour cherries, oaky, woody, tannic, fruity but not overly tart. Incredibly balanced, I found Grand Cru less mouth-puckeringly tart than some sours I've tried (thinking "La Folie" by New Belgium here) and not as sweet-and-sour tasting as "Duchesse De Bourgogne". Easily the best sour beer I've tasted (admittedly I'm a bit of a novice in the style, been dabbling in sours for about a year and probably have tried a half dozen). For such a great beer I'm surprised at how affordable this is (about $8.99 retail) I would bet this would be awesome cellared. Refreshing and a relative low ABV of 6% makes this a very quaffable beer. World class.

Rating : A+

More about this beer from the brewery:

RODENBACH Grand Cru consists of one-third young beer and two-thirds oak-matured beer for two years. The result is a complex beer with a great deal of wood and esters, vinous and with a very long aftertaste, just like a vintage wine.

RODENBACH Grand Cru undergoes two stages of fermentation before it acquires its sweet-sour flavour.

The first stage of fermentation is unique because top-fermentation yeasts cohabit with lactic flora: so-called mixed fermentation.

RODENBACH Grand Cru only acquires its fruity bouquet, which is unmatched by any other beer, after maturation in oak casks.

The oak casks are crucial to the process. Each cask is made by the brewery's cooper using exactly the same method employed since 1821. Only the nicest wood without knots or gnarls is used. No nails or screws are used. To make the barrel watertight (or should that be beer-tight), the cooper stuffs reeds in-between the staves. Only the riveted iron cask rings hold the cask together.

A brief history of the brewery:

Originally founded in 1820 by Alexander Rodenbach who bought a small brewery in the canalside town of Roeselare, Belgium. It was not until another relative, Eugene, visited England in the 1870's to study brewery techniques that the brewery adopted the stale, sour styles that would make them famous....

brouwerij RODENBACH geschiedenis 1850-1889He travelled to southern England, where he trained for a time in industry and gained in-depth knowledge of the London Porter style of beer: intentional acidification with maturation in wooden casks. He refined the "vinification" process in oak vats ("foeders") in order to enhance the quality of the acidified beer. So, he was the founder of the current RODENBACH brewery.
He died at the age of 39 with no male heirs.

Fast forward to 1999 when the family sold the brewery to Belgium brewing conglomerate Palm Breweries but happily they seem intent on preserving the great history (and taste) of Rodenbach. Apparently it is still brewed in the original oak vats in Roeselare but bottled at Palm.


I've become enamoured with sour beers and I'm gratified that it's a style that seems to be catching on with more beer lovers .Every week sees more customers ask for a sour beer recommendation at the store where I work. I think part of it may be directly linked with the new "Muddy Waters Bar and Eatery" that recently opened around the corner on Lyndale and 29th, I've had several customers say they have had a sour beer on tap at MW and are looking to buy it. Checking the tap list that beer appears to be none other that Rodenbach Grand Cru.

"Grand Cru" - a term given to the finest beer of a brewery, one thought to typify the house style. Often used by Belgian brewers (Roger Protz, "300 Beers to try before you die").

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Creme Brulee Imperial Stout, Southern Tier

Part of Southern Tier's "Blackwater" Series of Imperial beers this is a special treat. First thing that hits you when you crack open the 22oz bomber is the aroma - it smells amazing! Just like the delicious burnt custard dessert it is named for (who knew that it had such a contentious history by the way - read the bottle yourself for more details on this) it smells just like creme brulee.

The pour is not as impressive, a rather ho-hum routine black body with a light tan head and not much in the way of carbonization or lacing. The taste however is a revelation - roasty caramel, vanilla, butterscotch with a sugary sweetess. Not for the lactose intolerant! This dessert beer is a definite sipper that should be shared and enjoyed in moderation as it gets a little sickening. I will admit it seems a little out of place drinking this in the middle of August, this seems more appropriate for a crisp Autumn evening, which is why I bought an extra bottle to cellar. I suggest you do the same! This is an absolutely unique beer that deserves your attention. Best enjoyed in a snifter at 42F, 9.6%ABV.

More info from the brewery :

PLEASE NOTE: This is a Milk Stout. Lactose sugar is added and is present in the product.
We are not the harbingers of truth as some may suggest but it may indeed be argued that our brewing philosophy is tantamount to a dessert with a bellicose past. How, you may ask, would a brewery determine a likeness to hard-coated custard? Our response is simple; it’s all in the power of history, and of course, the extra finesse needed to top off a contentious treat with definition.
By comprehending the labyrinthine movement of time, one would not think it strange to trace the errant path of an ordinary object such as a cream dessert only to discover that it has been the cause of cultural disputes since the middle ages. The British founders of burnt cream and from Spain, crema catalana, both stand by their creative originality and we respect that, but it was the French Crème Brûlée, amid the strife of contention, that survived to represent our deliciously creamy brew.
9.6% abv • 195º L • 25º plato • 22 oz / 1/6 keg
2-row pale malt / dark caramel malt / vanilla bean / lactose sugar / kettle hops: columbus / aroma hops: horizon
Rating: B (to be re-visited)

I must admit I didn't enjoy this beer as much as I remembered, last year I was blown away by it. Not sure if it's because it's just too early (mid-August) to be drinking such an exotic brew or if it just needs to sit awhile. I'll have to see what I think when I crack open another bomber in a couple months. One thing for sure it does not match the velvety luxurious richness of "Choklat", which I enjoyed more. Incidentally, is it just me that thinks it's ridiculous to already see Octoberfest and Fall seasonal releases already on the beer shelves before summer is even over? Seems like it gets earlier every year. As much as I like a decent marzen I can't bring myself to have one until at least September.

Useless information alert :

Creme Brulee is also know as Burnt Cream, Crema Catalana or Trinity Dessert and is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel, usually served cold. The earliest know reference to the term creme brulee was in a cookbook dated 1691 by French chef Francois Massialot.

So their you have it....(thanks Wikipedia).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild Ale

"Another big sister of the little sumpin' sumpin' ale. Loads of malted wheat for a curious malt foundation and a light colour, but our Belgian yeast leaves a huge flavour and complexiness".

Classified as a Belgian Pale Ale, this has all the hallmarks of a Lagunitas beer - piney, citrus, grapefruity hops. Don't be fooled by the light golden yellow pour, this is a big beer, with a 9.4% ABV to match. Brewed with a Belgian yeast strain (Westmalle) that imparts a spicy, orange and a hint of honey, has a subtle dry finish. With 72 IBU's I'd be more inclined to call this a double IPA or a Belgian IPA but whatever you want to label it it is undeniably delicious. I've rarely been disappointed with Lagunitas' seasonals (Brown Shugga, Hairy Eyeball, Undercover Shutdown Ale are all favourites) and it's true that using a blindfold you could identify the trademark Lagunitas taste but so what? It's all good.

I'm an admirer of any brewery that gives value for money (Sierra Nevada immediately springs to mind) and Lagunitas always does - $9.99 or so a sixer is a steal for this delectable brew.

Little Sumpin' Wild Ale 9.4%ABV 72.51 IBU's Original Gravity (OG) 1.082

Rating : A-

Footnote :

I had the good fortune to meet Karen Hamilton (Midwest Regional Vice Manager) just as I had decided to feature Lil' Sumpin" Wild as my pick of the week at the store I work at it this past week. What a great lady! She told me that her brother actually owned the brewery and they purposely strived to brew beers that offered affordability as well as having the same distinctive Lagunitas trademark taste. They want people to detect that it's a Lagunitas brew. To her credit she also said that many bars had told them they could command "Hopslam-esque" prices for their "Hop Stoopid" beer (retails for about $4.99 for a 22oz bomber) but they don't care, they want to remain affordable and approachable. Not that I need any incentive to drink Lagunitas but that refreshing approach just makes it taste that little bit better!

"Beer Speaks, People Mumble".

More info :

Address : 1280 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma CA 94954
Ph: 707-769-4495

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Favourite Places, Twin Cities : The Republic, Minneapolis

The former Sgt. Preston's spot in Minneapolis' Seven Corners area has been cleaned up and given a make-over. No longer college frat bar, it's been transformed into a bit of a gastro-pub with a great tap list (32 taps) and even better food. I must admit that it might seem a bit of a stretch to include a bar barely open a couple of months in my favourite places but having been there no fewer than 10 times (approx. 8 more than when it was Sgt. Preston's) I think I can speak from a position of authority. I like this place. A lot.

Best of all it has a great Happy Hour, Daily  4-6pm (yes that really means daily as in seven days a week not the lame M-F routine) - $3 domestic taps (in this case this truly means domestic, as in all non-European beers are included, not just Summit, Schell's and the like). HH also features house wine and rail drinks for $3 and food specials (fries - which are awesome by the way - chips and gluacomole are $3 each while burgers and fish tacos are both $5).
Happy Hour Menu 4-6pm Daily

As mentioned, Republic has a great tap selection with 32 beers offered on tap. Highlights include Fulton Worthy Adversary ($5), Two Brother's Cane and Ebel ($5), Left Hand Milk Stout ($5) along with no less than four Surly brews. They also have a strong Belgian selection, Kwak, Saison Du Pont, Tripel Karmeliet and Duvel all make an appearance, all at  a reasonable price ($6). Another favourite is Matacabras by Dave's Brew Farm (when I was last in the price had went up from $5 to $6 a pint but not extortionary by any means). Another nice feature is they also have a "beer of the day" (which they normally announce on twitter) on a recent lunch visit it was Founder's Dirty Bastard, at 8.6%ABV I showed admirable restraint I thought by limiting myself to just the 2 pints! Even without happy hour or daily special the beer is very affordable, I counted about  a half dozen selections at $4 a pint (including Bell's Two Hearted), certainly some of the best prices in town. In case you don't believe me here's t beer list :

Food menu is compact with an emphasis on quality and affordability, sandwiches, burgers (five are offered featuring local grass-fed beef or wild acres turkey), everything on the menu is under $10 bucks, even the entrees, with the exception of the hanger steak ($17). One slight annoyance is that burgers and sandwiches do not come with fries which means if you want them it will cost you an extra $4. Admittedly they are delicious and are a huge portion, perfect for sharing but a bit much for a single diner. Some of the items we have tried on the menu, along with ratings :
Sandwich - Grilled cheese, cheddar, chevre, tomato on whole wheat ($7) Fantastic!
Sandwich - Rosemary chicken breast, roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, toasted whole wheat ($8) Very Good
Burger - Aged cheddar, bacon, carmelized onion ($8) Fantastic!

Salad - Hanger Steak, bibb lettuce, bleu cheese, hard bolied egg ($9) Good
Entree - Local sausages, roasted tomatoes, mustard ($9) Disappointing

Another great feature of the place is how friendly the staff and owners are, on my most recent visit co-owner Rick recognized me and took the time to shake hands and chat for a few minutes. A nice touch. The other co-owner, Matty (O'Reilly, owns the Aster and 318 Cafe) is almost as friendly as well (!). The place has a great patio, spacious, almost rivalling Town Hall Brewery across the street.

A captivating audience
More info :

Republic at Seven Corners
221 Cedar Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55454
Hours : 11am - 1am Daily
Happy Hour : 4-6 Daily

Website :

Parking : Is a nightmare! With light-rail construction in full swing, many of the nearby parking meters (enforced until 6pm daily) are covered. I recommend parking in the pay lot behind the Jewel of India ($3 except for special events) or look for a meter further afield. Parking is also avalable in the ramp adjacent to the Holiday Inn but use only as a last resort, rates are ridiculously expensive (one recent 2 1/2 hour stay after 5pm on a weekday cost me $13)!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"The Don" : Town Hall Brewery

Apologies dear reader for the internet silence, it's been almost two months since my last post. Contrary to rumours I have not been in re-hab (!) Call it what you will - lack of muse, performance anxiety, or writer's block (more likely writer blocked - which is Northern Irish parlance for being drunk haha). On a brighter note, the free time has allowed me to catch up on my scrapbooking, so all was not lost. But as the ad says you never know when the right moment will strike, the view from the bath tub is exhilirating and I promise that if this column takes longer than four hours I will seek medical attention.


"The Don" Special Bitter at Town Hall

As a life-long Leeds United "sufferer" (symptoms include, but not limited to, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea -  prognosis is terminal)  you can imagine how "chuffed" (British : quite pleased, delighted) that my Local, Town Hall Brewery, released a beer in March to commemorate the 50th anniversary of "The Don" taking charge of Leeds. Donald George Revie, "The Don", was born July 10th 1927 and died at the age of 61 on May 26th, 1989 of motor neurone disease. It seems fitting today being the 22nd anniversary of his death I finally get around to writing this post. The Don was United's greatest manager and transformed the club from a forgotten provincial rugby town into a European soccer powerhouse. Not only did he preside over the most successful era in the club's history but he was a visionary ahead of his time and his profound influence inspired a loyalty among his players that was legendary. Not without his detractors, of course, success brought predictable revulsion outside of Yorkshire, but we remember him with respect and fondness and as the greatest figure in the club's history. "We all hate Dirty Leeds" is the ultimate compliment after all.

Don Revie and Billy Bremner, FA Cup Final 1972

Oh, the beer you ask?

"The Don" pours a beautiful copper orange and is a bitter that expertly disguises it's substantial 8% ABV. Malty, sweet and biscuity with a hint of honey this is a delicious and superbly crafted beer. Even better cask-conditioned, the flavours become more pronounced and enjoyable. In short a really nice beer (tasting notes from March 26th) and no, it's not on pint-club!


P.S. - Full disclosure -it should come as no surprise to learn that this was not in fact a tribute from Town Hall for Don Revie. Rather....

"This Special Bitter was made in memory of Don Younger of the famed Horse Brass Pub in Portland, OR. Thanks Don for inventing beer bars!"

No matter, RIP Don's, you are both legends.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Indulgence : Southern Tier Choklat Imperial Stout

I used to think that Young's Double Chocolate stout was the epitome of dessert beers (I know some restaurants feature it on their dessert menus) but Choklat by Southern Tier (Lakewood, NY) blows it out of the water. This is pure chocolate in a bottle, luxurious, deliciously decadent, bursting with cocoa, espresso and dark chocolate malt - a totally amazing taste sensation, you have to wonder how it's possible to get a beer to taste so much like chocolate. Rich, sweet, roasty, pours a Guinness black with a nice tan head. Anyway, did I mention it tastes like chocolate?! Picked up a bomber of this for around $10 at Blue Max Liquors in Burnsville in January. Too bad this is a seasonal - released in November as part of their "Blackwater" Series of Imperial Stouts - as I could drink this year round. Really looking forward to the June release of the beer that introduced me to ST - Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout - another sensational beer that has to be tasted to be believed. A word of caution about Choklat - it packs a wallop at 11% ABV that is undetectable in it's sweet goodness, so best savoured in moderation (a trait I am certainly not known for)!


More info :
                   Southern Tier Brewing Company
                   2072 Stoneman Circle
                   Lakewood, NY 14750
                   'PH: 716-763-5479

Website :

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Favourite Places, Twin Cities : Aster Cafe

Located on historic Main Street,  reportedly the oldest street in Minneapolis, the Aster Cafe is a gem of a place to spend a couple of hours, particularly on a dreary drab Sunday afternoon, which is when we found ourselves visiting. Even better than the picturesque setting in the shadow of the Stone Arch Bridge and the cobblestone lined street overlooking the Mississippi is the daily Happy Hour, 3-6pm, which features $3 domestic taps, house wine and $5 cocktails, as well as $5 cheese plates and flat bread pizza, if food is your thing.

Of course, I'm only here for the beer and the menu, although short, is eclectic and interesting enough,with an admirable focus on local beer. Minneapolis' Fulton being well represented with 3 taps - Sweet Child of Vine, Lonely Blonde and Worthy Adversary as well as Lake Superior's (Duluth, MN) Kayak Kolsch. Offerings from further afield included Rush River's Unforgiven Amber, Furthermore's Fatty Boombalatty (both WI), Bell's Two Hearted, Founders Dirty Bastard (both MI), Left Hand's Sawtooth Ale (CO) as well as Kwak Amber Ale (Belgium) and Tilburgs Dutch Brown Ale (Holland). The only cider on tap is Ace Pear (CA).

Alas, I was disappointed they no longer offered Kwak at HH for $3, which I had enjoyed on a previous  visit. According to the waitress they finally realized they were losing money on it - at $7.25 regular price it's still a good deal however.

With it's exposed brickwork and eccentric layout, the Aster has more of a comfortable coffee shop vibe than a bar. On this particular sleepy Sunday afternoon it was less than half- full but once the weather warms up and the courtyard seating opens I'd imagine it will be harder to find an opening, until then the perfect spot for enjoying a  pint of Worthy Adverary (9.2% ABV - not bad for $3 a pint)! was found on the elevated "music stage"  in front of the window overlooking Main Street.

A view of the bar from the stage :

Further info:

Address :  125 SE Main Street (St Anthony Main), Minneapolis MN 612-379-3138
Ph: 612-379-3138
Parking : Plenty of pay meters on Main Street (enforced daily) but side-streets not enforced on weekends.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A nice czarprise (surprise) : Czar Jack at Town Hall Tap

Very pleasantly surprised to see the legendary Czar Jack (Russian Imperial Stout aged in Jack Daniels barrells) at Town Hall Tap (Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery's sister satellite in South Minneapolis) when I stopped in for a quick pint before dinner. Especially grateful since I had missed the original release late February at the brewery and heard that it caused quite a stir in beer geekdom when growlers ran out immediately on release. Anyway, as good as ever, 10oz pour into Town Hall's majestic clock-logo goblet. Delicious, decadent, chocolatey, noticeable taste of booze but not overwhelming, not as chewy or as thick as some other RIS, nice and smooth and dangerously drinkable. 9.3% ABV which seems a bit paltry compared to Avery's 2009 Czar (had to be 13% ABV) I had on tap at Blue Nile on Saturday night but the less said about that the better! No danger on getting drunk with this one at $8 a 10oz pour however, seems rather steep, I mean some nation's GDP are less than that! Bonus chatting with Town Hall's master brewer Mike Hoops at the bar, this is one of his finest creations. Noticed this was rated #7 on for RIS, with 71 reviews, a fact that would only interest me. I'd have to agree with the consensus, a definite A rating for this.


Further info :

Town Hall Tap - no website but they are on Facebook

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery website :

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Historic Casanova Liquor in Hudson, Wisconsin

Anyone that has the misfortune to know me knows my reluctance to leave the comfortable and familiar surroundings of Minneapolis. Just crossing the Mississippi over to sleepy St. Paul causes me to break out in a cold sweat so with that in mind you can imagine my trepidation about travelling even further afield to Hudson, WI. But in the interest of beer such sacrifices must happen and a visit to historic Casanova Liquor is a worthy destination for Minnesota beer geeks, even if it means venturing into the land of cheese and fireworks. Wisconsin has something that puritanical Minnesota doesn't (no smartass not a Superbowl victory) - civilized liquor regulations (I know Wisconsin and civilized in the same sentence doesn't look right to me either)! Meaning that liquor stores can sell alcohol on Sundays (gasp - they are so going to Hell!) and more importantly fill "growlers" (64oz glass re-fillable containers  typically used for beer). You can buy an empty Casanova branded growler for $8 or you can bring your own (Rock Bottom, Townhall etc) and then just pay the re-fill charge.

 When I visited they had no less than ten beers available to fill for growlers,which is listed on a chalkboard,  including a stupendous $9.99 deal for Bell's Expedition Stout of which I picked up two of (who needs groceries anyway?). Also part of my haul was a Ommegang Rare Vos ($8.99) and a Southern Tier Chokalat (pricey at $15.99 but well worth it).

To me the growler availability is the best aspect of a visit to Casanova but they also have a nice selection of individually priced bottles that you can assemble in a 6 pack mix-n-match and of course another highlight is the availability of some breweries that aren't distributed in Minnesota - Dogfish Head ("World Wide Stout" 4 pack 12oz bottles $34.99 - it is 16% ABV after all), Smuttynose, Oskar Blues (the legendary "Ten-Fiddy" RIS 4 pack 12oz cans $16.99),Three Floyds, New Glarus - all spring to mind. With the explosion of new brands coming in to the Minnesota market - Brooklyn, Stone and Alaskan - it may soon become redundant to make a beer run to Wisconsin, but until Dogfish Head shows up in our state make Casanova your WI choice for beer, the staff were warm, friendly and knowledgeable, and really it was a straighforward 35 minute journey from Uptown Minneapolis on I-94 (Saturday morning with light traffic). Hey, I'll even overlook the Budweiser poster in the lobby with the Manchester United logo on it. Marching on together...

More info :

Address : 236 Coulee Road Hudson PH: 715-386-2545


The "Nova" is the wine bar that is attached to the liquor store (it has a separate entrance and is not accessible thru the liquor store). Tip - stop in at the "Nova" for a beer after placing your growler orders in the liquor store, as they can take a while to fill, especially if they are short staffed. Only a few beers on tap, but a decent selection and it's surprisingly comfortable and ornate, complete with fireplace and cosy furniture. The wine bar is not open on Sunday's.

Directions from Twin Cities :

Take I-94 ast across the St Croix river. Take 2nd Street Exit into downtown Hudson. At the first stop light take a right. It's located directly behind the Dairy Queen.

Hours : Open 9am - 9pm Every Day (Liquor Store)

Check out their excellent Beer Blog at :

Here they will normally list what is available for growler fills. You can also follow them on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Victorian Beer Mail

Discovered this buried in the bottom of a drawer from the days when I collected (geek alert) stamps and from a time when I had a disposable income to spend on frivilous nonsense! Anyway, thought it would be a perfect diversion for this blog. It's a letter dated September 6th, Glasgow, Scotland 1849 and is addressed simply to a Mr John Jeffrey, Brewer, Edinburgh.

Here's an image of the letter inside. It appears to be an urgent request for beer.

Here's the transcript, as best as I can decipher :

Glasgow, September 5th 1849

Dear Sir,

Having neglected to order ale from Mr. Rutherford you would much oblige me by sending one half of $5.50* if you have it back. I will be much obliged as I am nearly out.

                                                                                       I am Sir,
                                                                                       Your humble servant,
                                                                                       William Smith
                                                                                       241 Gallowgate, Glasgow

 * Note - This is in British Pounds, not dollars of course.

On the back of the envelope it has Glasgow 5 Sept. 1849 and the names of John Rutherford (which is crossed out - I assume that means he was aware that the letter was being sent) and also Wm. Smith, the sender.

From internet research I was able to establish that a brewery did exist in Edinburgh that was owned by a John Jeffrey and Co. in 1837 (see below, from the Scottish Brewing Archive). I've also included the updated history of the brewery for those that may be interested. It appears to have lasted until the 1990's in one form or another.

A brewery was reputedly operating on Heriot Bridge, Grassmarket, Edinburgh, Scotland, from the early sixteenth century. By 1800 the brewery was owned by Baillie Gordon, trading as Gordon & Hume, and in about 1820 it was acquired by Buchan & Co. Thomas Stewart took over the brewery in about 1830, followed by John Jeffrey and his younger brother David in 1837, trading under the name of John Jeffrey & Co. The Grassmarket site soon became cramped and land was purchased in 1865 at Roseburn, on the western outskirts of Edinburgh, where new maltings, an ale store and a cooperage were built.

A new brewhouse was added to the Roseburn site in 1880 but brewing continued at the Heriot Brewery until 1900 when the site was sold to Heriot–Watt College for GBP 2,500. The firm was one of the pioneers of lager brewing in Scotland and had a large export trade and tied trade in Scotland and northern England, with deposits in Glasgow, Scotland, Newcastle–upon–Tyne, England and Manchester, England.

John Jeffrey & Co Ltd was registered in July 1934 as a private limited liability company to acquire the business. The company acquired Edinburgh United Breweries Ltd in 1935 and was converted into a public company in 1938. It supplied ale to James Calder Co Ltd, Alloa, Scotland, from 1951 and a new bottling plant was built at Sighthill, Edinburgh, in 1955.

In February 1960 the company merged with Hammonds United Breweries Ltd, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, and Hope and Anchor Breweries Ltd, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, through Northern Breweries of Great Britain Ltd, York and London, England. United Breweries Ltd, as Northern Breweries of Great Britain Ltd was renamed, merged with Charrington United Breweries Ltd, London. Brewing continued at Heriot Brewery until its closure in the 1990s.

I was unable to find anything out about the sender of the letter, Wm. Smith, and it appears whatever pub existed at 241 Gallowgate is long gone. Hardly surprising, since the Gallowgate area of Glasgow had at one time 86 pubs in just over a 2 mile area, making it the most populous - or should that be pub-ulous - street in Glasgow. "Eric's Carpets" now resides at 239-241 Gallowgate. Apparently a pub must have existed at 241 Gallowgate at one time because in 1875 a listing of Gallowgate License Holders mentions one Archibald Mitchell with an address listed as 241 Gallowgate.

Much of this information was gleamed from this excellent website :

For a bit of historical background, Glasgow around that time was described as "possibly the filthiest and unhealthiest of all British towns" (and they had a lot of competition)! They had a cholera outbreak in 1849 and in 1850 it was reported that one half of all children born in Glasgow died before their 5th birthday. They also had a large influx of Irish peasants escaping the famine in Ireland at the time (1845-'52) that contributed to the overcrowding - it was said that Irish with money went to America, those with some money went to Liverpool and those with no money went to Glasgow. Queen Victoria visited the city in 1849 and was the first reigning monarch to do so since the 1600's. An estimated 400,000 people lined the streets along her route, which is quite impressive since the population of Scotland's biggest city was listed at 329,096 in 1851 (with over 18% Irish born).

That concludes today's history lesson, I hope you managed to stay awake....


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Odell Bourbon Barrell Stout

Stumbled upon this tasty treat after stopping in at Burger Jones (part of the Parasole dining empire) in Calhoun Village last night. This isn't supposed to be an in-depth review of the beer (how lucky are you?)! I didn't know Odell had a Bourbon Barrell Stout but upon further investigation from their website it is part of their "Single Serve Series" (available on tap and 750ml bombers) and is described thusly -

This limited edition offering begins with a full-bodied imperial stout that has notes of sweet milk chocolate, smooth vanilla and roasted coffee beans. Then things get interesting. We transfer it to Kentucky bourbon barrels where it’s aged for four months to let traces of oak and caramel come forward. The bourbon barrels have a remarkable effect on the beer. In turn, the beer has a remarkable effect on the senses.

I wouldn't put it in the same class as Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (one of my all time favourites) but what I liked about it was that it was well balanced and not as big and boozy or had an overpowering bourbon taste. Also more manageable to drink at 10.5% ABV (I didn't have a problem drinking three of these, who said this has to be a sipping beer?)! Definitely helped that this was included in their Happy Hour at $4 (which runs daily 2-6pm) while the place is a little too "happy" for me sitting at the bar wasn't too bad and I was surprised at the eclectic range of beers they had on tap (Delirium Tremens included in HH is another bonus). Food menu made Paula Dehn's cooking look healthy, make sure you bring a defibulator if you plan on eating here.

Beer rating : B+

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Napa Smith Organic IPA

A relatively new brewery from Napa (CA) established 2008 and only recently distributed here in Minnesota within the past month or so. Poured an appealing copper/amber colour. Unfortunately that was the highlight. Initial mouthfeel was a subdued hoppiness with a bitter astringent dry finish. Unpleasant. 7.1% ABV but I found little or no alcohol taste from this beer. Apparently they scored a coup by luring master brewer Don Barkley (one of the founders of Mendocino Brewing and with more than 30 years brewing experience) out of retirement, I'll let you be the judge if he made the right decision! One of the big emphasis the brewery has is pairing their beer with food - "our organic IPA pairs well with curry, buffalo wings and aged blue cheese" - no sh*t, doesn't any beer?! Anyway, almost as offputting as the beer is the packaging, which is amateurish looking, bland and contrived, like it would be more suited to the "value brands" shelf at your local supermarket. The beer itself is hardly value priced at around $8.50 for a 4 pack of 12oz bottles - way too steep when you can pay the same for Surly Furious or Bell's Two Hearted. Credit to them for having the courage to brew craft beer in the heart of wine country but unless the beer improves I can't imagine I'd be tempted to try another of their beers.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Smuttynose "Finestkind" IPA

Another score from our visit across enemy lines in Hudson, WI this is an IPA from Smuttynose Brewing Company (Portsmouth, NH). It's a dry-hopped IPA that is unfiltered, poured from a 12oz bottle that has a best before date of April 2011. If you are a typical hophead this probably won't be for you, since it's not a tongue biting crotch grabbing (OK so I stole that last part from somewhere else - sue me) mind numbing skull splitting IBU monster that paralizes the tastebuds. Instead I found it a pleasant, mellow, easy drinking, grapefruity, well-balanced beer that wasn't overly hoppy. More like a cask IPA or a typical British style-IPA in my opinion, with a bit more of a kick at 6.9% ABV. 65 IBU's. Extra points for the cool label, the old duffers are called Cy and Paul apparently in case you were wondering.


PS Given my taste in beer the above paragraph should automatically be dismissed if you enjoy IPA's.

Goose Island Night Stalker Imperial Stout

This is a big Imperial Stout from Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL) and when I say big, I mean big - 11.7% ABV. Intially I found it a little too boozy but as it warmed it became a bit more complex and palateable with notes of chocolate, coffee and molasses. According to the label it will continue to develop in the bottle for up to 5 years, I'd imagine if you did that the ABV would be pushing 14%! 60 IBU's, midnight black in colour my bomber was purchased at the legendary Cassanova's in Hudson, WI for the bargain price of $5.99. Seemed appropriate (or ironic) that I had it as a nightcap to console myself with the P*ckers winning the superbowl. Bottled on 3/6/10. Not a big fan of GI's regular line but they do a nice job with their extreme series. In truth, I prefer the Bourbon County Stout but who wouldn't?

Brewmasters notes -
"A heavily hopped imperial stout, Night Stalker is a heavyweight of a beer. It delivers a formidable punch of hops and rich roasted malt notes to the nose in a silky body that's as dark as night".


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA

This is a seasonal American pale ale from Deschutes Brewery (Bend, Oregon). Described as a Northwest Pale Ale I was surprised at how dark it poured, a reddish mahogany, not the light copper colour I was expecting. Next surprise was the taste - deliciously crisp, citrusy hoppy without a trace of bitterness. I really enjoyed drinking this and could imagine this being a great session beer at 6.2% ABV and 60 IBU's. Maybe not as impressed as the World Beer Awards who voted this as best beer in the world 2010 but definitely a great beer, even if it's a style I don't normally drink (I do have a fondness for a pint of Bass on occasion). Bonus - only 195 calories!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Summit Imperial Pumpkin Porter

Latest offering in Summit's (St Paul, MN) wildly popular "Unchained Series" this is as the label says a porter brewed with pumpkin and spices. I had originally tried a sample of this a few weeks back at Acadia and was not impressed but decided to give it another try and I was glad I did. Poured an intense black with a hint of chocolate and spice, I was surprised the pumpkin flavour was more of an after note and not very intense, which is fine by me, since I generally do not like pumpkin beers (Southern Tiers "Pumpking" excepted). Very drinkable, perhaps a little light for an "Imperial" at 7.5% ABV but enjoyable if not an exceptional brew (I thought the previous unleashed Belgian was fantastic). I'd have another one, although I think next time I'll let it sit out for a while as the flavours may be discernable at a warmer temp.


Southern Tier 2XIPA

I don't normally drink IPA's let alone Double IPA's but I found this very drinkable. To me this did not seem that much stronger than a regular IPA, even weighing in at 8.3% ABV. Not as hoppy as I would have imagined, more complex citrus, floral taste, maybe because they combined 3 types of malts and 4 varities of hops, helped smooth it out. Nice and drinkable. Southern Tier, Lakewood, NY.


Moylan's White Christmas Spiced Winter Lager

First time I've tried this White Christmas Spiced Winter Lager from Moylan's of Novato, CA. It's described as a lager brewed with spices (orange zest,mace, cinnamon, corriander and white pepper). It pours a nice golden yellow with a lovely frothy head. Most impressive thing I thought was the constant bubbling, the taste I thought was a bit subdued and unremarkable, a hint of spiciness maybe but for all the spices used I thought it fairly light and mediocre. 6% ABV.


Deschutes Jubelale

First time I've tried Deschutes (Bend, Oregon) Holiday offering and I was impressed. Pours a mahogany red colour. Malty, robust and warming, with a hint of spice and carmel notes. A nice winter warmer that weighs in at 6.7% ABV and is enjoyable to drink.


Central Waters Satin Solstice Imperial Stout

First time I've tried something from this brewery, located in Amherst, Wisconsin.
I was pleasantly surprised - a fantastic, chocolately stout that was very smooth to drink and not overpowered by the 8.2% ABV alcohol content, which might be a bad thing since I could have easily drank a few more. Alas, I only had the one 12oz bottle. Looking forward to trying other offerings from CW.


Fireside Chat 21st Ammendment

This is a winter spiced ale from 21st Ammendment Brewery in San Francisco that comes in a 12oz can. I was intrigued by the cool packaging which features FDR and an elf sitting by a fireplace. Pours a dark mahogany with a definite smell of spice. I prefer my winter beers to be big and malty but this was a very warming, spicy ale that I would say is a great representative of the style. Quite an impressive ABV of 7.9% and a substantial 45 IBU's. Canned in Cold Spring, MN!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Deschutes Obsidian Stout

As with most offerings I have tried from Deschutes (Bend, Oregon) this is a solid if unspectacular stout. Pitch black with a peaty, roasted malt taste. 6.4% ABV which is perhaps on the higher range for a stout but nonetheless a satisfying offering.


Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2010 Version

One of the few good things about the arrival of winter is the release of Sierra Nevada's (Chico, CA) Celebration Ale. Truly one of the best winter ales, this years model I find to be not as IPA-ish as previous years but delicately balanced with a wonderful fresh hoppy taste. Sierra Nevada has been brewing this affordable delight since 1981 and rarely disappoints. I always make sure I have a couple of cases saved for later in the year. 6.8% ABV.


Left Hand Milk Stout

This is a delicious sweet stout from Left Hand Brewery of Longmont, CO. One of my favourite beers, it has deservedly won countless awards in the "sweet stout" category. 6% ABV makes it a delicious easy drinking treat. The bottle on the right is the old packaging which I prefer to the Ed Hardy-ish revamped version (yes, I do regret buying the Tshirt at ABR but oh well) on the left. Still tastes the same though!


Bell's Oarsman Ale

This offering from Bell's (Comstock, MI) is described as "buoyant, tart and refreshing from using traditional sour mash methods". It pours a pale yellow with a lifeless body and almost non-existent carbonization. Weighing in at a measly 4% ABV I wonder what he brewer was trying to achieve? I have read some speculation that it was intended to be a Berliner Weiss style of beer, if that is the case it definetly needs an addition of something sweet (as traditionally used in Berlin) to balance up the overpowering tartness. For a sour beer I would stick to something more substantial and enjoyable such as New Belgium's "La Folie" or Rodenbach Grand Cru or Duchese De Bourgogne. To each their own but I found this to be an almost undrinkable disappointment (I used my last 2 bottles to boil brats)!


Summit Imperial Pumpkin Porter

Latest offering in Summit's (St Paul, MN) wildly popular "Unchained Series" this is as the label says a porter brewed with pumpkin and spices. I had originally tried a sample of this a few weeks back at Acadia and was not impressed but decided to give it another try and I was glad I did. Poured an intense black with a hint of chocolate and spice, I was surprised the pumpkin flavour was more of an after note and not very intense, which is fine by me, since I generally do not like pumpkin beers (Southern Tiers "Pumpking" excepted). Very drinkable, perhaps a little light for an "Imperial" at 7.5% ABV but enjoyable if not an exceptional brew (I thought the previous unleashed Belgian was fantastic). I'd have another one, although I think next time I'll let it sit out for a while as the flavours may be discernable at a warmer temp.


Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

This is the much ballyhoo-ed release of the "new" Guinness Foreign Extra Stout in the US market, although it has been readily available overseas (apparently making up 45% of all Guinness brand sales worldwide). Poured from an 11.2oz bottle into an Imperial Guinness pint glass what really struck me, apart from the characteristic midnight black colour, was the vigorous mocha head. It has the unmistakable Guinness taste of smoked, burnt, roasted malt with perhaps a woodsy, peaty dryness - I think this tastes very much like the bottled version of regular Guinness Extra Stout with a bit more alcohol warmth (7.5% ABV) and a more lively finish. Much better than the bland, tasteless, too smooth nitrogenerated Guinness that you get on draught, nonetheless I was left a little disappointed. Having grown up in Ireland I know I'm biased but Guinness just doesn't taste the same without the "craic" of a warm Irish country pub. For value and taste I'd go for "Lion Stout", around $10 for a six-pack 12oz bottles as opposed to a 4 pack of 11.2 Guinness FES at around $9, but that's just me.