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This is my personal drinking blog: don't take it too seriously.

Previous Posts

Furthermore: Furthermore
Festival of Hops
Winterfest highlights
A fridge full of New Belgium
Darkness and the last Porterfest
Barry's B-day at the Pig
Happy Hour at the Blue Door Pub
In which sweetness is a weakness
Flat Earth Porterfest: Xanadu

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Winterfest highlights
Sunday, February 8, 2009   12:34 PM

I went to Winterfest with Jess this weekend. It was fun, but not quite as good as last year: there were less people I knew and the venue was more cramped. The glasses were way cooler though. Little mini-goblets.

The beers... I think the beers were better this year, though part of that may just be my palate changing. I actually didn't like Fitger's last time I had their stuff, but this year they were one of my favorite brewers. I tried about 30 beers; here are the ones that stood out:

  • Schell's U Bier, an uncarbonated, unfiltered pilsner. Reminded me of sitting around drinking kölsch in Germany.

  • Cold Spring's Moonlight Ale, a 50/50 blend of porter and bock that really worked.

  • Cold Spring's Honey Almond Weiss, an unfiltered honey wheat beer with almonds. Not mind-blowing or anything, but it had a cleanliness I liked.

  • Fitger's El Diablo, my favorite of the three Belgian golden ales they had. We recommended this to an older couple that liked lighter beers, and they thanked Jess later for the tip.

  • Fitger's Procrastinator Doppelbock, which was... delicious. Love the style, loved the execution.

  • Fitger's Framboise, the sour result of a 5-year wild lambic project.

  • Great Waters' King Boreas Imperial Witbeer, a 8.25% ABV witbier.

  • Lift Bridge's Imperial Stout, for which my only note here is "good." I'm a Darkness guy, but I liked this better than all the non-Surly stouts on offer.

  • Lift Bridge's Belgian Biscotti, which I foisted upon Jess immediately. I told her I'd double her vote if she picked something delicious, so this is what we both voted for.

  • Rock Bottom's Tripel Framboise, which was fruity and drinkable. Good, but not sour like you might expect from the name.

  • Surly's Three was good, 50% honey, 50% German Dark Munich malt. That was a nice surprise, since I didn't like Two when I tried it last year. I had this late in the night though, so ideally I'd like to taste it again on draft, unrationed.

  • Surly's Darkness is still good, still exactly what I'm looking for in an Imperial Stout. This was my original vote before I changed to match Jess.

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Darkness and the last Porterfest
Wednesday, December 31, 2008   1:10 PM

I had some Surly Darkness last night. So delicious. I couldn't mention it before because I was giving Ben a bottle for Christmas, but I was one of the extremely lucky final 10 people who got let in to buy on Darkness Day after the official limit of 700 had been reached.

I've got one bottle left now, and I'm thinking about either trading it on Beer Advocate (if I can figure out something I want) or just selling it. Or maybe I'll go ahead and drink it at some point... the opportunity cost is something like $20/pint, but assuming I don't lose my job, I'm expecting to have a lot to celebrate in 2009.

A few of us are heading over to Flat Earth today for the last day of Porterfest. Very exciting. I'm not the biggest porter fan, but I went to try the orange, raspberry, peppers, and peppermint offerings. Ideally I'd like to appreciate every beer on its own terms, and I think I've made some progress this month in enjoying porters.

(I've also been trying to figure out which of the standard Flat Earth beers I enjoy... they brew sort of perpendicular to my tastes, too dry generally, and while I love Curly Tail and Bermuda Triangle, I can never remember the one beer I like that they brew year-round. Maybe Angry Planet?)

I wrote before about the Xanadu's crazy nose, but the peppermint Snow Dog Porter may be my favorite Porterfest beer so far. I met up with Jess, Rae and Markie there last week and the Flat Earth guys were making Snow Dog milkshakes. Good stuff.

Oak-aged Summit Great Northern was one of my favorite beers at Winterfest last year, so I have some high hopes for today's Big Money Porter.

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Here in Toronto I had occassion to try some really good stouts on cask

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Happy Hour at the Blue Door Pub
Thursday, November 27, 2008   8:39 AM

Met Jess and Cari at the Blue Door Pub after work yesterday: I didn't have the money for such an adventure, but I've been wanting to check that place out for a while and this seemed like it would probably be my only shot.

The Blue Door Pub is fairly small, and I wouldn't recommend going there when it's busy. When I arrived at 5:20 there was a 20-minute wait for tables.

Since I wasn't sure if I'd be back, I got the weird stuff: Spam Bites (deep-fried balls of cream cheese, pickle, and Spam) and a Jiffy Lucy (a Juicy Lucy with peanut butter, mayo, pickles, pepper jack, and bacon). The Spam Bites were actually pretty boring, but the Jiffy was tasty and interesting. Like something from the State Fair.

The Jiffy destroyed my palate, so the beer info is pretty meaningless. I started off with a Brrr from Widmer Brewing, another freakin' Winter Warmer. There was zero nose that I could tell (I finally found instructions for testing your sense of smell objectively, so this will be my last hypochondriac post), but the beer itself was decent.

My second and final beer was a Surly Cynic — out of season, but I needed something light after that ridiculous food — and that was good, although I didn't notice the strong pepper flavor that's usually there.

The girls offered to let me owe one of them for the tab, so at around 7 or so I ducked out and made my way to a former coworker's holiday party, where I had, in retrospect, far too many screwdrivers. A little hungover today.

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A drink or two or three with Barry
Friday, August 29, 2008   9:07 PM

Went to the Gnome with Barry tonight. Don't go there on a weekend night, it's way different.

Basically he just wanted to give me some stuff to scan, but we ended up hanging out for a few hours, i.e. for two pints of Surly Hell and a pint of the new Bermuda Triangle, a tripel from Flat Earth.

I'd like to try it again as a first, rather than last beer, but it was still pretty decent. It didn't seem as malty or complex as most of the tripels I've had, but it's nice to have another beer I like from Flat Earth.

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Girl's Night at Stub and Herb's
Thursday, August 28, 2008   9:46 AM

Yesterday Jess, Rachael, Markie and Our Bold Hero went to Stub and Herb's for drinks before Project Runway. They have a great happy hour, but Ben advises you to stay away from the BBQ wings. So stay away.

I started off with a Surly Hell lager, a great session beer (we almost got a pitcher), but after that I caved and ordered a Leinie's Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout.

I've been trying really hard to drink seasonally... but it was overcast! That's almost like fall! It was foolish though, since most of the other craft beers were $3.50 for happy hour and these were like $5 apiece. Not a huge waste of money, but still.

So good. Rachael, not a huge beer fan, said it "didn't taste like beer" (this is a compliment), but a whole glass was too much for her to finish... which meant another glass for me. I really liked it, but since I seem to like all Imperial Stouts, who knows how it stacks up.

I'd love to have a tasting, but Graham made a good point recently about how Pepsi generally wins tastes tests even though people, when they want to drink more than a sip, are happier with Coke. So maybe I'd just end up with the sweetest Imperial and not the best. Then again, it would be fun.

Markie and Jess were overjoyed when I mentioned that this place still served Coffee Bender. To each his own. I didn't so much as try a sip, so my worst decision yesterday would have to be drinking some wine during Runway. I like having something to sip on while I watch t.v., but it could just as easily have been water.

I'm still working on avoiding that last, pointless glass of alcohol after a night at the bar.

Bonus Big Eddy story: When I was last in Chippewa Falls, home of Leinenkugel's, a clerk at the liquor store explained that Big Eddy was contract-brewed in Madison and currently not available — Leinie's was going to tell them as soon as it was. She was a bit... surprised when I mentioned that a bar in Minnesota has had it on tap for months.

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The Gnome and Raspberry Tart
Thursday, August 21, 2008   8:13 AM

Let's review two different methods of not getting too drunk:

Stopping after two beers at happy hour: smart
Overeating at the company picnic: not smart

I was stuffed, and so while I enjoyed the conversation with Jess (and eventually Barb and Markie and Shelley) at the Happy Gnome yesterday, I was in no condition to enjoy more than the first half pint of my beloved Fatty Boombalatty, and I had to nurse the Surly Cynic I ordered afterward.

Barb really likes the Tyranena Scurvy. It takes all kinds, I suppose...

At Barry's I excitedly poured everyone a half-glass of New Glarus Raspberry Tart. It was good, maybe very good, but personally I didn't think it lived up to the rather extreme hype it got from Beer School. I'd like to try it again at some point, as a first beer rather than a end-of-the-night affair on a full stomach, and I'm excited that there's a good, relatively inexpensive domestic framboise... but I'm not a Raspberry Tart apostle just yet.

(I also got to try a bit of Barry's Flat Earth Convention Ale. It might be a bit too smoky for me.)

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A beer that's too smoky for you? Never...

There are some localish breweries around here, namely in Atlanta and other large Florida cities, but nothing in Tallahassee. Although one of the bars here has 85 cent tap beers every night, so who am I to complain?

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Ben and Nora's Going-Away
Tuesday, August 5, 2008   9:27 PM

Went to the Happy Gnome tonight for a final happy hour with Nora and Ben; plenty of other people showed up to see them off as well. I started off with a Golden Cap from New Holland.

I'm not sure, but this could have been the spelt Saison we had at the Four Firkins. If it was, then I liked it more, it was decent, but I couldn't identify any of the flavors (maybe honey?) and I'm not sure that I'll have it again. There are plenty of Saison beers that I like more.

It turned out that they were out of the second beer I tried to order, so I panicked and got the Schell's Bavarian Forest Dampfbier, from their 150th Anniversary Series. I should have known better, as I don't think I've ever really liked anything from Schell's: the beer tasted like caramel and little else. (Standard caveats about my stuffed-up nose apply.)

In any case, this will quite likely be my only exposure to the Dampfbier style.

I pondered over the menu for a while tonight, but I think I may have tried everything at the Gnome that I'm interested in. For my last beer I went with a Surly Cynic. It was delicious as always, and bold enough (especially for a Saison) to stand out even as the last act.

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Wednesday: good beers once more
Wednesday, July 30, 2008   10:16 PM

Tonight for Wednesday happy hour Ben and I went to the Muddy Pig. I started with a Surly Cynic (a nice panic beer if ever there was one) and then, on Ben's recommendation, tried a pint of Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale.

It was very good, especially for a style that doesn't usually stand out for me, but I'm still surprised to discover that this beer is brewed for export by Koningshoeven, a.k.a. La Trappe, one of the seven Trappist breweries.

For Project Runway we each had a bottle of the Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel. There wasn't much to it that I could tell, but then again there's something going around so my taste buds might be pretty lousy this week. At the very least this was better than when I had it before, poorly paired with a bacon-and-spaghetti dish.

I just remember malty deliciousness. And at 8.5%, Jenna's claim to have gotten drunk off a single sip of it seemed, if not at all plausible, then at least more defensible.

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Saison class at the Four Firkins
Friday, July 25, 2008   11:55 PM

Tonight Ben and I went to the Beer Evangelist class on Saison over at the Four Firkins. This could well be our very last beer snob outing before he and Nora move to Florida.

The "beer evangelist" pitch seemed kinda weird, since everyone there already reads MnBeer or shops at a specialty beer store — that is to say, it seemed like preaching to the choir. But hey! It was a good time, and there's something special about a group of people brought together by geeky enthusiasm. I don't think I've ever been around a group of strangers that friendly.

We learned about the beer's history and sampled five or six progressively better Saisons. It's apparently a very broad style: over the course of the evening I tasted mustiness and citrus and apples and honey and various unidentifiable spices. Other people were able to pick out additional flavors, but my palate wasn't up to that task.

(I also don't think that I can get a really good sense of a beer, certainly a light one, from a single tasting glass. I submit that I'd like several of these Saison beers more if I went to the Gnome and ordered a pint.)

We also tried the Jenlain, a stake-in-the-ground Biere de Garde, because the style is similar to the Saison. I liked the Jenlain more than the weak Saison that preceded it, and more than the impenetrable Two Brothers Biere de Garde I had a few weeks ago, but ultimately I still would much prefer the Flying Dog version.

My still-favorite Saison and our last beer of the night was the Surly CynicAle. Very assertive compared to the other beers on offer.

I almost bought a 4-pack with the $15 in store credit we got with our $15 tickets, but instead I purchased a Southern Tier Imperial Cherry and a 4-pack of the Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel. I am set for beer now, thanks. I mean, I was before too, but now I really mean it.

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Thanks mate! Glad you had a good time!


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Happy hour at the Blue Nile
Wednesday, July 23, 2008   9:39 PM

Ben, Nora, and I got together at the Blue Nile for happy hour today. Two-for-ones on drinks under five, patio, good service, no crowd. The food didn't impress, but then again none of us ordered an Ethiopian entrée.

Nora had some decent wine, I don't recall the name, and Ben and I started off with Surly CynicAles — I completely forgot that I actually like that beer, with its fruity peppery flavor, and now I'm really excited for the Saison class we're attending on Friday.

And for maybe getting some delicious Cynic in cans later this summer, once I work my way through all those Lakemaids. Drink locally and all that.

Surly beer roundup: I dislike the Bender, I think I like Furious (grapefruit!), I despise the Coffee Bender, I don't understand the Surly Two, and I love the Darkness and the Cynic. I always mix up the Bender and the Furious, but Ben set me straight tonight, so I'll have to give the Furious another shot at some point. I think I liked it back before I started paying attention to beers, and I haven't really had it since.

My second and final beer was the Imperial Cherry Saison from Southern Tier Brewing. (Incidentally, this is probably the best brewery website I've seen in a while.) The fruit flavor was as subtle as advertised, but it was there, and once again the beer was delicious. Not as peppery as the Cynic, but even I could tell that they were in the same genre.

I see that it's 8% ABV, which would explain how it kicked my ass. That "Imperial" in the name was obviously an important clue.

At Ben's while waiting to watch Project Runway, I had a Paulaner — it's so satisfying to have only delicious beers all night — and he drank a Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse. That beer has a somewhat interesting backstory.

His beer wasn't as tasty as the Paulaner, but it was nevertheless (easily) the best Weizenbock I've ever had. I really, really don't understand that style. I've been wanting to read Garrett Oliver's beer-pairing book for a while; if he was involved with this, I take that as another sign that he knows his stuff.

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