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.