Today, I leave Minnesota. Luckily I’m writing this post a day in advance, because right about now I’d be too teary-eyed to write, no matter how many notes I’d already taken in preparation for this post. I expect that, once home, I will revert to my less adventuresome and more hermit-like self, e.g. the lousy Canuck of my blog tagline.
One of the things I regret most about being a teetotaler through my university career (though the fact served me well in my studies) is that I simply didn’t have any experience with beer at all, so when I started drinking years later, my first experience was with the commercially mass-produced pap that is Molson Canadian. I was turned off of beer for a very long time thereafter. Until I started drinking Rickards Honey Brown, which introduced me to the novel concept that, hey, beer is actually possibly quite drinkable and even — dare I say it — tasty.
Since then, I’ve tried a whole lot of different kinds of beers, and usually I go for a new beer if one’s available on the menu. I go for a known-good beer if I can’t find one that’s novel, and if there are no four- or five-star beers (by my own ratings), then I’ll abstain. I wasn’t really taking notes before this trip, but I’m going to make a fresh start of it once I get home. For the record, Innis & Gunn’s original, a Scottish import, is my gold-standard 5-star beer. It’s a toffee-tasting, intentionally skunked (e.g. stored in a clear glass bottle) ale, deriving much of its flavor from the casking process. I have, in the process of collecting “empirical data” for this post, discovered I strongly favor stouts.
Here are my notes for the various beers I’ve had opportunity to sample while in Minnesota. I tried to note wherever possible how much I had, what percentage alcohol it was, and how it was served. I tried to stick to roughly 355ml (12oz, you yanks!) servings wherever possible, but in some cases, I only had a slug off someone else’s beer. (All from my own table, I assure you. I only wandered around the restaurant demanding drinks from other patrons the once.)
Bell’s Java Stout
355ml, 7.5%, brown bottle
Biting, dark, toasty. Some chocolate, mostly coffee flavor. Not unlike a cold mocha. Very good stout.
Rogue Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale
355ml, 5.1%, brown bottle
Strong malt and hops flavors. Not a bad red, but I prefer Sleeman’s or Rickards’ Red.
Rush River Winter Warmer Winter Ale
355ml, 8%, brown bottle
Very strong malt, sweet finish, made as a Scottish ale. Like an unskunked, smoother, creamy (but less tasty) Innis & Gunn
Rush River Imperial India Pale Ale
355ml, 9%, brown bottle
Sour (citrus?), smooth, not nearly as much honey as the bee would imply. Decent cold, but not one I’d seek out.
Bell’s Best Brown Ale
355ml, 5.8%, brown bottle
Good for a brown ale, but I’m not much for brown ales. Lots of flavor texture in it, I’m sure a brown ale drinker would enjoy this much more than me.
Ben Zvan’s Raspberry Cream Stout
1 pint, 5.5%, homebrew
Delicious. Bloody delicious. Chock full of chocolate and raspberry flavors. Shame I can’t take it with me, because it’s all gone.
Rogue Mocha Porter
355ml, 5.1%, brown bottle
Very much like a liquid bar of dark chocolate. Very few other flavors, very creamy. A good drink, but with little complexity. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Grand Teton Black Cauldron
355ml, 8%, draft
Translucent, malty, chocolate-colored, tastes incredibly thick, ends like cocoa. I suspect mine might have been watered down, because commenters at the website seem to think it’s “black-hole black”.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
1 drink, 10%, draft
Mildly citrusy but very chocolate still. Clean finish. Maybe a bit overly complex, and I’m averse to the anise flavor to begin with (I hate anise).
Bell’s Sparkling Ale
1 drink, 9%, draft
Cloves are the dominant flavor, a little bit of honey. Excellent creamy ale, especially if you like the taste of cloves. I could see drinking this with ham.
Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat Stout
355ml, 5%, draft
Amazing stout. Sweet, creamy, pitch black, and completely drinkable. Probably my favorite of the trip outside of Ben’s homebrew batch.
1 drink, 6.5%, draft
“WTF. What is wrong with this?” Those were my exact notes from immediately after tasting it. Very bitter, strange aftertaste — I have no idea what vegetable I tasted in it.
Surly Coffee Bender
355ml, 5.5%, Canned
An excellent ale. Maybe a 4.5 stars. Makes up for the Furious. Tastes of coffee, caramel, chocolate.
355ml, 6.2%, Draft
Slightly fruity, sweet, clean pilsner. Drinkable but not one I’d seek out.
Summit Seasonal Winter Ale
355ml, 6.1%, Draft
Dark, nutty, heavy, very quaffable.
355ml, 5.4%, Draft
Mexican beer. Caramel colored. Slightly sweet, pleasant and inoffensive. By far better than the well overrated Corona.
Orkney Red MacGregor Ruby Ale
2 drinks, 4%, brown bottle (500ml!)
Strong florals, very hoppy. Bitter, too complex for my tastes.
Leinenkugels Apple Spice
355ml, 4.9%, brown bottle
Much like a non-alcoholic apple cider mixed into a beer — very tasty. Apparently discontinued. Shame.
Bell’s Two Hearted India Pale Ale
355ml, 7%, Draft
The two hearts are sour and hoppy. A star for each heart. Bummer way to end the beer list on this trip.