Tag Archives: microbrews

Ale Fest 2013

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A few months after we started dating, Rob wanted to teach me more about beer. So on our of our dates, he threw an Ale Fest.” He bought a series of beers that were unique and new-to-me.

This was ten years ago.

Rob and I have been trying to recall what beers we tasted back then. I knew one of his favorite beers at that time was Fullers ESB, but I’m sure he had me tasting that well before Ale Fest. And the closest thing we had to local microbrews at the time was Summit. Rob was lost not having any of the variety that he had while living in Seattle.

I recalled tasting some beers from Unibroue, a Barleywine and maybe something festive or with a vintage.

But Rob, who can hardly remember what I told him yesterday, recalled more specifically:

Now that I look back at that list, I’m thinking… Was he just trying to get me drunk!? 😉

I remember we also tasted the Quelque Chose Ale by Unibroue. I vaguely remember Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, but maybe that’s just a stout that I remember from those early days and not particularly that evening. Perhaps I’m confusing Sammy Smith’s with Samichlaus…

So why am I telling you all of this… my vague recollections of Ale Fest 2003?

Because when I asked Rob what he wanted to do during his birthday weekend he exclaimed,

“ALE FEST!”

So I present to you…

Ale Fest 2013

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When it comes to our personal Ale Festthere are NO rules! Just as Rob did for the original Ale Fest, we picked whichever beers spoke to us from the shelves. Or they just jumped into our basket. Yes, those are pretty animated beers.

We chose our beers from Zipp’s Liquor in Minneapolis. We’d never been there before, but it had good reviews and was just minutes away from Parka, where we enjoyed Rob’s birthday dinner.

There was a pretty decent selection. We chose about 11 beers, knowing full well that there would be no way we’d finish them all. But we wanted a variety to choose from when we finally sat down to sip.

Before I present these beers to you, I would like to point out that although I feel sort of snobbish about beer, I can’t really describe it. I read reviews on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer and sometimes get lost in the descriptions, as if it’s written in a foreign language.

Now I understand how people feel when I try to describe wine!

Still, I can describe beers at a basic level. I know the difference between ales and lagers. I can describe beers as hoppy or malty and can pick out the coffee and/or chocolate characteristics in porters and stouts. But I still have a lot of evolving to do. Maybe those of you new to beer can appreciate my simplistic reviews.

But as for all you beer geeks out there, please take my descriptions of these beers with a grain of salt. Something else to note: Our Ale Fest is very casual. We relaxed and took no notes. So this is all from memory {or lack thereof as the night progressed…}

Keep in mind that there were also no real rules to the order in which we tasted. This would make me cringe if I saw someone tasting wines in the wrong order! So I’m sure some of you will cringe when you hear about the order of these beers. But just humor us. Mkay?

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#1 – Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies Fresh Hop IPA

Oregon – American IPA – 7.2% ABV – 22 oz bottle for $5.29

I chose to crack open this one first because I actually was thinking a little about order. A hoppy IPA would work much more nicely before any porters, stouts or bourbon barrel fermented beers.

We were interested in this one because it was made with Amarillo Hops – something neither of us had had before. We are huge IPA fans. Although I think my days as an IPA fanatic are coming to an end. It’s those bourbon barrel fermented beers that have been capturing my heart as of late. And I don’t even like bourbon.

Anyway, this beer = not my cup of tea pint of beer. It had a strange aftertaste to me. So much so that it was the first beer in a long time that I dumped out. Sure, I probably would have finished it if I were in a restaurant. But we had just started Ale Fest and I knew there were a lot more beers to go. I wasn’t going to waste the alcohol on this one.

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#2 – Surly Abrasive Ale

Minnesota – Double IPA – 9% ABV – pint-sized can – $15.99 for a 4-pack

Okay, so yes, we have had this one before. But it’s not often on tap. And Rob said he rarely sees it in cans. He snatched it up, as it was the last single left. We are a huge fan of Surly Brewery. In fact, it’s all because of the Surly bill that we have so many craft breweries and taprooms in Minnesota now.

I actually find DIPAs smoother-tasting that IPAs, despite the higher alcohol percentage. Of course, this one didn’t disappoint. YAY, Minnesota!

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#3 Thornbridge Bracia Rich Dark Ale

UK – English Strong Ale – 10% ABV – 1 pint .9 Fl oz for $18.99

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Maybe you can read why this one peaked my interest:

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However, I was a little disappointed. Sometimes I forget how subtle the flavors are in English beers. Drinking all the local American microbrews lately, I’ve hardly had anything English in a while. It was a very, very good beer; but I think I’d spend my $18.99 elsewhere next time.

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#4 – North Coast Grand Cru

California – Belgian Strong Pale Ale – 12.9% – 500 mL bottle with cork for $14.79

This beautiful bottle lured me with wine words: Grand Cru. Plus it had that beautiful gold label and was stopped with a cork. Then reading this on the bottle sealed the deal:

ALE BREWED WITH AGAVE NECTAR AND AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS

Well, you can’t judge a book by its cover, because I just a tad disappointed. It was very good. But I think I’ve been spoiled by the bourbon barrel beers I’ve had at Steel Toe and in Temecula.

C’est la vie. First world problems.

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#5 – Indeed Old Friend Holiday Ale

Minnesota – Winter Warmer – 7% ABV – 500 ml wax-sealed bottle for $10.79

There is something familiar about this wine. I think the description on the back of the bottle says it all:

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It was pretty good. And unique. You can definitely taste the ginger. I’d order it on tap if I happened upon it. But my #1 fave from Indeed Brewing is still their LSD.

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#6 – Indeed Stir Crazy

Minnesota – Winter Ale – 6.5% ABV – 12 oz can for $.65

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Okay, so the sticker right on the can reads “$1.99,” but our receipt reads just 65 cents for this can. Considering that we were charged the $15.99 for the full 4-pack of Surly when we only got the single, I will be a little more careful watching the ring-up at Zipp’s next time.

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I have to say that I like the Stir Crazy. I have since ordered it on tap, too. But the “rich caramel” description is stretching it a little, in my opinion.

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#6 – Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter

Colorado – Porter – 5.9% – 12 oz bottle for $1.99

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Boulder Shake – Chocolate Porter {2nd from right}

This beer tasted just like a chocolate shake! YUM! Yup, that’s all I’ve got.

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#7 – Big City Jamaica Stout

Jamaica – Stout – 7.6% ABV – 12 oz bottle for $1.99

photo 3Apparently, we opened this. I don’t remember it. Rob said we liked it. I can hardly think I wouldn’t. I enjoy most stouts.

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So, there you have it… An account of Ale Fest 2013. Ten years from now {unless the lights go out and we have a (R)Evolution}, I shouldn’t have to think back to what we tried. I’m sure that my palate will have evolved a lot more by then. And I might just be able to describe a beer appropriately…

In any case, I’m sure I’ll still be enjoying every last sip.

Tell me about a unique beer or beverage you’ve tried lately.

Cheers~
Carrie

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Charlotte Breweries

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Did you know that National Beverage (containing alcohol) of the United States of America is Bourbon? Yes, Bourbon. We learned this on the Beer Trolley Tour we took in December. We were told that “They” are trying to get this changed to craft beer. There are more craft beer varieties and breweries in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world!

And guess what? Next week is…asdfad

When we visited our friends in Charlotte, North Carolina, it was North Carolina Beer Month!

TripC-NC Beer Month

And, boy, did we celebrate! Tay and Brendan took us on a tour of the city’s breweries. I never knew that North Carolina was such a brew-happy state! First, we sampled some great local beers while dining out… First at Mac’s Speed Shop, then at Mellow Mushroom. {Not to mention the beer we stocked up on for back at the house!} The Mellow Mushroom Beer Menu stated,“North Carolina boasts more craft breweries than any state in the American South.”

Let us compare with some of those other southern states, shall we?

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Each numbered black dot represents a brewery! It looks like there are at least 80!

Now check out Alabama:

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Not quite as many, you think?

Even Tennessee and South Carolina have considerably less:

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Quite a difference, don’t you think?

Hooray for North Carolina! While breweries are popping up quickly everywhere across the country, it seems North Carolina breweries do really have their mark on the map. We had the opportunity to stop at five of them!

Brewery Stop #1 – Four Friends Brewing

Our first brewery stop was on our second night in Charlotte after dining (and consuming a few beers) at Mellow Mushroom.

This taproom reminded me of the ones that we have visited in Minnesota… Kind of off the beaten path, nothing too fancy, just a garage opened up for tasting. The dog above was just one of the dogs we saw, met and petted. Most of the breweries we visited were very dog friendly. We LOVE this!

At Four Friends Brewery, I had my first Jalapeño Beer!

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Tres Hombres Jalapeno Beer

Nothing else looked interesting to me that night, so I almost just ordered a glass. Everyone warned me that I should sample it first. I loved it! And I did order a glass. {…With one of the brewers in the background, tee hee!} Some said that the jalapeno was a little too much for them, but I found it very well balanced. If you’ve ever read my posts on cooking like a Homesick Texan, you’ll know that I like heat in terms of spice, not necessary overbearingly-hot. And this is exactly what this beer offered. Plus, I had never had a jalapeno beer before… Why not try my first one in North Carolina, of all places!?

Rob says that this place was the least commercialized of the ones we visited and felt more like you were stopping at a friend’s place, who just happened to have a back warehouse where he made beer. 😉

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The next night, we continued our beer tasting tour of Charlotte…

Brewery Stop #2 – Birdsong Brewing Company

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I like the bird logo. Can you point it out?

Birdsong Brewing is located in the NoDa (North Davidson Street) area of Charlotte. The nice back deck was crowded with folks sipping brews. Inside, we pulled up seats to the tasting bar and listened to some music by a guy strumming a guitar with Eddie Veddar’s voice. I found the ambiance quite relaxing, something people might not associate with a taproom or brewery.

But look again closely at the photo above… They had a Jalapeno Beer, here, too! Why hadn’t I been introduced to these before Charlotte? However, here, I went with the Lazy Bird Brown. I just wanted something different from the IPAs, porters and stouts I’d been enjoying as of late.

Look at the photo above for a third time. I wondered why a brewery wouldn’t offer flights (small pours of samples of some/all of their current beers). It seemed a little strange to me. However, before I emptied my glass, the bartender flipped the sign over to read “flights.” My guess? They were out of sample glasses! Once washed, they can offer them again.

With our glasses empty, we had no problem sauntering over to the next brewery, as it was right next door!

Brewery Stop #3 – NoDa Brewing Company

Appropriately named, considering it is located in Charlotte’s historic arts district of the same name, no?

Building Mural at NoDa

Building Mural at NoDa Brewing Company

This place was packed! We threaded our way through the crowd to the bar to find this overwhelming beer menu!

NoDa beers

Beers on Tap? Beers in the bottle? Kombucha? Guest taps? Where to begin! Eventually, I chose the CoCo LoCo, a porter made with organic coconut. While I would never turn it down, there’s something a bit better about the Kona Brewing Company Koko Brown I had in Hawaii. Maybe it’s just location, but coconut does really take me back to Hawaii, not usually North Carolina! {On another note, the Koko Brown has proven to be a somewhat lucky poker beer for me since I’ve found it on tap and in bottles in Eagan!}

We spent much of the time outdoors, although it had just rained, sipping our brews in the cool air away from the crowds:

Rob and our lovely hosts Tay and Brendan

Rob and our lovely hosts Tay and Brendan

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We hopped in the car to make the five-mile trek to hit the last brewery (of the night).

Brewery Stop #4 – Triple C Brewing Company

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Sure, it looks like the night is just beginning as we make our way to the door. However breweries and taprooms in Charlotte generally close at 8 or 9pm. I think this is a good thing. Most don’t serve food. And people need food before and/or after consuming a few too many beers.

The first thing I noticed at Triple C was the TV screen connected to their beer menu:

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Since Charlotte is the home of NASCAR, it’s only natural that they’d be televising races right next to the beer menu! Since there were two IPAs on tap, Rob and I decided to order one of each for comparison.

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Greenway and 3C IPAs

You can’t tell because of the color of the table behind them, but these two IPAs were very different in color. Which one did I like better? I have no idea. We were having too much fun… listening to this band {which happened to include an old friend Brendan hadn’t seen in a while!} and sitting at this long table….

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… And taking blurry, cheesy photos of ourselves!

We did do just one more brewery… but for brunch the following day. Come back tomorrow to read about our Heist Brewery Brunch!

All I can say is that after this fun beer tour, Rob and I think we are ready to do this one in The Cities. Well… almost.

What is your favorite local brewery and why?

(It just make our must-do list while traveling!)

Cheers~
Carrie