Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye

I had the chance to try Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye. This isn't something we can get in Minnesota, but I picked up a bottle while over the river in Wisconsin. After getting it home and taking a closer look, I braced myself for a poor drinking experience. The bottle wasn't even completely full. As you can see below, it was filled about an inch or more below the normal fill level for a 12 ounce bottle.

It was also completely full of yeast and hop residue. I normally take care to leave sediment behind in the bottle when pouring, but this one had so much it was almost unavoidable (I almost wonder if this was the very last bottle off the line) and it basically looked like OJ with pulp.

mmmm pulpy.
To my delight, though, it tasted fantastic. It poured with a pretty small head which dissipated quickly. The aroma was thick with dank hops in the aroma. Full of moss and orange peel hop-bitterness, it was attention grabbingly bitter and nicely sweet and full bodied to match. The flavor was like honey-and-maple drizzled hops. West coast brewers often seem content with pushing one flavor-dimension to the obvious extreme, but this beer happens to push them all to the extreme in equal portions, and ends up with something balanced. Extremely balanced? I am informed by the label that this beer is brewed with rye, although I can't really pick anything rye-ish out in the flavor. It does have a nice crackery malt component which I sometimes associate with rye malt, and either way it's very pleasant. My only regret is not buying more.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dave's Brewfarm

I [finally] had the opportunity to get out to Dave's Brewfarm last weekend. After hearing about it I've been dying to check it out. If the name doesn't give you an idea, it's a farmhouse brewery, Wisconsin style and it was fantastic. If you haven't heard of Dave's Brewfarm, it's probably due to the fact that they do not do any advertising or even internet or "street" marketing. Instead, just as you might hope, the farm-brewery happily maintains a low volume business and relies on word of mouth and locals for support. They have 2 beers available in bottles or cans which are contract brewed in a near by production facility. The brewery on the farm serves to brew pilot batches and supplies for the tasting room. As you can see below the eponymous brewmaster crafts beer on a small-brewpub sized rig as well as some homebrew-sized equipment. It's enough to make a Minnesota dwelling* homebrewer extremely jealous.

Dave's BrewFarm's farm house brew house

The brewfarm is a short hour-drive from the Twin Cities, and not a bad drive at that. I love Wisconsin. The weather and scenery at this time of year is almost Irish. As such, it was grey and drizzling when we left. After crossing the St Croix River, we quickly stopped for some fried cheese curds. Further along, near Baldwin, WI it was realized that the Brewfarm is almost certainly cash-only (it is - be forewarned if you plan to go) and so we stopped to get some cash. The woman behind the counter at the gas station informed me that all the ATMs in the whole town were down (still not sure exactly what that meant) but that she could give me some cash from the register. How nice! Cash in hand we were minutes from arriving.

Raindrops on the windshield

The tap room was surprisingly full. The St Paul Homebrew Club happened to be there on the same day, but even so, apparently 40 or so people during tasting hours is about the average. Despite the noise produced by a largely drunk homebrew club, it was fantastic. The tap room and the brewhouse share the same room and complementary Fleet Farm peanuts top the bar and folding tables. With 8 beers on tap (2 rotated in while we were there for 10 total) and flights available, it really feels more like a tiny beer festival than a bar or a tap room. Correction, it's more like what you would want a beer festival to be like: small, intimate, completely lacking loud douchebags, and the actual brewer is there and willing to talk for a bit.

Dave in the back and a beer he made

And just like that as we left, perfectly on cue, having had a wonderful time and moods being lifted as they do by good company and good beer, the sun came out. Sadly, they do close and so we had to leave but will surely be back.

*Minnesota laws prohibit selling on-premise alcohol from a home, brewpubs from distributing off-premise beer, wholesale breweries from serving beer in a tap room or holding a liquor license, and many breweries from selling growlers.

Monday, May 2, 2011

City Pages Best of

The City Pages best of the Twin Cities came out recently. Generally I find their results to be misinformed and frustrating. See: best brewpub 2009 - the Happy Gnome (which, mind you, is not even a brew pub) but this year they did alright. Below are the beer-centric cliff notes.

Best Beer List
The Muddy Pig

Best Brew Pub
Town Hall Brewery

Best Neighborhood Bar St Paul
The Muddy Pig

Best Neighborhood Bar Minneapolis
Tootie's on Lowry

Best Local Beer
Surly Abrasive

It may be a little silly to have picked the same place for two awards, but I love the Muddy Pig so damn much, it doesn't bother me. Some of the other selections might not have been my picks, but they at least made sense. I've never been to "Tootie's", for example (nor will I ever), but it seems like a nice enough place. I think we've also produced better beers than Abrasive, but it's a beer that captures the ideology behind one of the defining breweries in the Twin Cities and so, I can see it's place on the list.

As I write this, I also realize I have never blogged about Town Hall brewery which is the clear choice for best brew pub and probably ever will be so. It's one of my favorite brew pubs I've ever spent time in, and despite some minor quibbles, it is well deserving of a blog post and a visit again, soon.