Tag Archives: surly

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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Patty Melts & PumpKing

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One late Sunday afternoon, Rob and I decided to have an early dinner at one of our favorite Hipster joints – The Lowry. {Yes, I know. We’ve been there soooo many times and I still need to post about it.} However, forgetting that the Vikings’ game was in town, we ended up in the throes of traffic. Before we got stuck amidst it all, I called an audible {get the football reference?!} and told Rob to exit. We headed over to St. Paul to another Blue Plate restaurant – the Groveland Tap.

We had only been there once before. This time, we were able to pull a seat up to the bar. We were happy to see that one of our favorite Twin Cities breweries – Steel Toe – was featured on tap with their Size 7 IPA. And it’s always nice to see the local Surly representing, too.

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But we just had to have a bit of PumpKing since it is our favorite pumpkin ale and it was on tap. We wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on the last of it. It’s probably one of my Top Ten Favorite Beers, if I were to have such a list… Hmmm…

We also tried a the local Lucid Seasonal which was pretty good, too. If I remember correctly, it was even on Cask. Wait, it was! I just found a photo I took of the board that listed all of the beers: Lucid Amber with Pumpkin Spice & Clove.

002I was indecisive on what I wanted to eat and eventually ordered the Turkey Burger because it sounded similar to the one I love over at the Lowry, a sister restaurant. There’s no photo here, but rest assured I devoured it and a had few of the Cajun fries that came with it. It was very good, but not exactly the same as what I remembered from Lowry. But here’s the other thing eating that turkey burger reminded me to do:

Learn to make poblano pesto!

It’s what they put on their turkey burgers and I love it. There’s something about poblanos that I’ve learned from cooking out of The Homesick Texan, that gives Tex-Mex its flavor without being spicy like, say, a jalapeno. You know me, all about flavor.

I thought Rob would go with a Juicy Lucy, since he loved it last time. But he decided to go with the Patty Melt, instead, and this time with Parmesan-Garlic Fries.

001So, while the photo does this burger no justice {it was an afterthought}, at least I snapped one. Rob said this Patty Melt has usurped his best Patty Melt at Harry’s Café! It sounds like it’s time to update the Top 10 Burger List! And those parmesan-garlic fries put the cajun ones to shame.

So this is our formal personal reminder note:
Get the parmesan-garlic fries next time we find ourselves at the Groveland Tap.

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I mentioned that Groveland Tap is part of a group of restaurants owned by Blue Plate. Normally, I’m turned off by chain restaurants. It’s not a chain per se. Each of these restaurants has its own unique menu, character and overall feel. And the food is really good. We’ve been pleased every time. I liked this sign outside of Groveland tap that describes each restaurant:004And a quick skim of the Blue Plate website indicated that a new restaurant called the Freehouse is opening in December. I think we’re going to have to check that one out!

What are your favorite burger toppings?

Have you ever topped with poblano pesto?!

Cheers~
Carrie

Wine vs. Beer

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Things sure have changed in the Twin Cities since I moved here in 2002 and met my husband-to-be in 2003. He had moved here, too, from Seattle. It was quite a change for him not having a bunch of craft brews on tap. His best bet for local beer in the Twin Cities at the time was Summit.

I was more of a wine girl teaching him about wine and he was beer guy turning me into a beer snob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Then came the Surly Bill.

Surly is a local craft brewery established right around 2005/2006. The vision to expand into a brewery/restaraunt where they would serve their own pints challenged Minnesota laws. But the bill passed in the spring of 2011.

And many local artisan and craft breweries have been popping up all over the Twin Cities since.

We are so spoiled now!

It used to be that when we’d dine out, we’d order a bottle of wine. However, over the past few years, I’ve learned that the quality has gone down. It’s really hard to find a good value when enjoying wine with a meal.

You all know that I prefer quality over quantity. However, finding a quality wine by the glass is virtually unheard of {more detail on this in the coming weeks}. But most “value” wines by the bottle average about $40 in a restaurant. That’s about $8 to $10 per glass. And buying by the bottle is always the better way to go because you know that the wine hasn’t been sitting around open for days or weeks on end. Besides, most wines by the glass average $7 {if you’re lucky} to $12.

Here in the Twin Cities, local tap beers are a much better value. Well, it’s always been a better value if you are Michelob Golden Draft Light drinker. However, if you want an adult beverage with character to go with your meal, go for a pint of something different.

Ales, nut browns, IPAs, porters and stouts can be intimidating to those who haven’t tried them before. But when you are in a restaurant, there is no better opportunity to try them out, especially here in the Twin Cities. Why?

  • I’ve never had a bar nor restaurant not allow we to have a sample {just a taste} of a beer from the tap before ordering it. In fact, I often forget about it and they offer me one if I inquire about a beer.
  • It’s cheap. Pints these days run about $4 to $7 each. This is much cheaper than a mediocre glass of wine. Some higher alcohol beers will come in smaller glasses, but there’s no complaining as to why.
  • They may not advertise it, but a many bars/restaurants will offer a half-pint.
  • Furthermore, if there are lot of different kinds of beers on taps, a flight or a beer sampler is often offered for a surprisingly low price. Try many styles at once. It’s great for people like me who just can’t decide!
  • Whenever possible, support the locals.

Since beer can be confusing, I will be talking about specific beer types and maybe even reviewing local breweries over the coming months.

But don’t worry, my heart still lies with the wine. It’s just that there’s lots of local crafts to choose from on tap right now when I’m out. And for four pints of excellent local beer, we’ll pay $16 – $28 versus $40 for a bottle of mediocre wine sporting four glasses? It’s kind of a no brainer.

Right now, I’m in beer country… and I’ve learned well that I should drink wine in wine countries and beer in beer countries.

How ’bout you? Beer or Wine? Why?

Cheers~
Carrie