Beer Run Podcast Episode #8 Blog Recap

Review: Leinenkugel’s 150th Anniversary Lager (Collaboration with Hofbrau Munchen)

Leinie-Hofbrau

 

Featured Interview: Jim Stirn of Brewster Bros. Brewing and Chippewa River Distillery

 

Brew News:

 

Upstart Update with Agonic Brewing Co.

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Putting Beer on the Map: Interview with Jesse Darley of Beer Cap Maps

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Click below to listen. Or check out Episode #8 on iTunes, Stitcher or Tunein. Cheers!!

Review: Short’s Bellaire Brown

by Ryan Urban

Brown ale. There may be no more generic name for a beer style. There may also be no style so nuanced.

Southern English Brown, Northern English Brown, American Brown. They are generally malty, with toffee, caramel, nutty, toasty, earthy tones. But hops can play a role too, providing slight or considerable bitterness, fruity or earthy aromas and flavors.
Brown ales fall somewhere between an English mild and a porter–another category of lots of variation.

Brown ales are kind of hard to pin down–at least for my palate. Many I’ve had can simply be described as “meh.” But others really hit the spot.

After reviewing my Untappd history, it seems I’ve good ones–from Ale Asylum, Surly, South Shore, Stevens Point, St. Francis, Pearl Street, New Holland–but I haven’t revisited any of them in 2 years or more. The exception is Bell’s Best Brown, which, honestly, I buy every fall for the packaging alone–owls are my favorite–though the beer is pretty good too.

When  I want a malty, easy-drinking beer, lagers come to mind–those great Bocks and Dunkels. I’m a lager man–what can I say?

But I can’t help but think I’m overlooking those top-fermenting browns. This realization came to me recently when I bought Short’s Bellaire Brown.

Shorts began distributing in Wisconsin last year, and this is the first and only beer I’ve tried from the Elk, Michigan brewery. I Ignored Short’s unfamiliar lineup for months  until a trusted bottle shop employee recommended Bellaire Brown.

This is my kind of brown. Those heavily-hopped or overly-nutty browns aren’t for me–keep the hazelnut out of my coffee and my beer.

But the Bellaire falls on the subtle side of the style, with nice caramely, toasty tones. The beer also has a wonderful dark brown appearance, perfect tan head and a full body.
However, Short’s says it’s “It’s hardly classifiable as a brown.”

What?! So, I guess I’m still trying to wrap my head around browns.  The journey continues. For now, I’ll pour another Bellaire and just enjoy it.

Goes great with a plate of Gouda and crackers.

Rating: Glass — GROWLER — Case — Keg

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Review: Blacklist Verte

By Ryan Urban

Last winter on a trip to Duluth, Minnesota, I made the goal to visit all of port city’s breweries. Bent Paddle, Canal Park, Fitgers and Lake Superior all offered distinct spaces and great beers.

After browsing Blacklist’s lineup, I searched the Internet earnestly to find its location. I was, of course, disappointed to find it didn’t have one. It was an increasingly-rare contract brewery only.

But, I received a serendipitous consolation, finding Or de Belgique on tap at the Tavern on the Hill restaurant.

I had never heard of Blacklist before that weekend, and had no real expectations.

But I was blown away at first sip. The beer is a malty 9.5% Belgian Golden Strong Ale with all the wonderful complexity associated with the best in the style–Honey, lemongrass, pear, banana, spice and more.

This past January, I visited the Twin Ports again. A quick “Google” revealed that Blacklist now had a taproom. It became the first stop.

In a long, but spacious building with minimalist reclaimed wood trim and barrel-based tables, my female companion and I enjoyed being waited on by a helpful server.

An export stout—simply titled Dark–caught my eye, and proceeded to please my palate. But what next?

Though it wasn’t on the menu, I asked for Or de Belgique, hopeful there was a bottle somewhere. No such luck. But the server pointed to Verte, which he said was Or de Belgique with some extra dry hopping. I took a bomber to go.

I popped it a week later, and was not disappointed.

Dangerously easy-drinking, Verte has the marvelous complexity of the original, with an added dimension with tangy aroma and dryness from the Saphir hops.

I’ll be seeking another bottle on my next trip north. Paired with a salmon plank would be perfect.

Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Review: Door County Brewing Silurian Stout

By Ryan Urban

It’s rare that I remember the first time I had a specific beer. But I remember the first time I had Silurian Stout by Door County Brewing Company.

I was watching Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 at a bar called the Court N’ House—it was near the court house—in Eau Claire.

As an avid Packer fan, I had no reason to root for either team, and just wanted to see a good game. But the bartender asked me to pick a side—there were orange or green Jell-O shots on the line, depending which team scored.

I bet on Denver, which proceeded to get blown out by the Seahawks 43-8. One shot. Thanks, Peyton. The game was… forgettable.

But one beer was not!

Dark, nice tan head served in a weizen glass. Vanilla is apparent on the nose, but subtle enough on the tongue. Sweet and creamy, almost a peanut butter quality, but dark chocalaty, toasty malts held their own—unlike the Broncos.

I began seeing Door County on the shelves shortly after that. With other great beers in the Door County lineup—Polka King Porter, Pastoral Saison, Le Printemps Saison, L’automne Biere De Garde, etc.—the Baileys Harbor brewery has since grown to the point that it is contracting much of its brewing to Octopi, down state in Waunakee, Wisconsin.

I’m not sure where Silurian—a reference to the Silurian Period when the Great Lakes were a much larger inland sea—is brewed currently, but it’s still as tasty as I remember back in 2014.

It would be a good choice once again alongside some bar peanuts and friends when New England and Atlanta play this Sunday. If I can’t pick a winner in the game, I can at least pick one on tap.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg

Pour one out for 2016, fill a glass for 2017

by Ryan Urban

The year 2016 won’t go down as a favorite in my book, but it did have some redeeming qualities—one being in beer.

Where to begin? I figure: Close to home.

In the craft beer desert of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, we finally have a place to get a decent beer. Opening in June was the White Stag, which also has awesome food and allows me to live my dream of playing trivia master once a month. In the vast world of beer, this is the biggest to me.

One needs a local watering hole, a place everybody knows your name–if you will. Every time I walk in, I see friends and also meet new people. After 6 years in a small city, this was well over due.

Soon, hopefully, local options will grow. Another taproom is nearing completion and, though setback-laden, there are plans to open a brewery in Rice Lake.

Elsewhere, the word uttered more and more is saturation. America now has more than 5,000 breweries, finally surpassing the number open prior to prohibition. But signs of an apex are showing.

A Wausau brewer noted it recently. The owners of Minneapolis brewery Harriet also used the term in explaining a decision to close. I just happened to stop at Harriet shortly before the announcement. Super chill atmosphere, live music and very good beer—I was surprised.

But in a market of many great breweries, some are bound to fall. I have an almost constant desire to make the 2-hour drive to the Twin Cities and hit a taproom or two. Many expansions in the metro give me hope that more may distribute here. Some that really caught my attention in 2016 were Urban Growler, Fair State, Sisyphus, Bauhaus… But there are so many I have yet to visit… sigh.

But I would be remise not to mention the great things happening in the Chippewa Valley. In Eau Claire, though Northwoods Brew Pub went south to Osseo, Lazy Monk opened a fantastic taproom and the Brewing Projekt finally appears to be on track to a major expansion. Brewster Brothers became neighbors with Leinie’s in Chippewa Falls. Even Cornell has brewery now. New distribution into northern Wisconsin from great brewers like Bent Paddle was also a big plus.

Looking at Wisconsin as a whole, the big action is taking place in Milwaukee. There’s a beer renaissance happening there big enough to attract the North American Guild of Beer Writers to hold its annual conference there in 2017, which I’m really looking forward to.

Mobcraft hopped ship from Madison, where the opening of Lone Girl and Rockhound brewpubs still produced a net increase in options in the Capital.

But back to Milwaukee—I enjoyed visits to Brenner, Urban Harvest and Good City in 2016. Good City appears to be well on its way, already distributing its Motto Mosaic-hopped pale ale. Breweries like 3rd Space, Westallion, City Lights, Broken Bat, Big Head, Like Minds and others give me much to look forward to in 2017.

All the same, it’s the veterans of the industry that I keep going back to. Lakefront’s My Turn series was a highlight at my local liquor store all year, with Evan Mexican Lager, Howard Helles and Latif double chocolate stout. Summit had a phenomenal 30th Anniversary lineup, including the Keller Pils, English Barleywine, Us & Them threads and Unchained Dark Infusion. The old standbys from Lakefront, Summit, Bell’s, New Glarus, Sierra Nevada and other craft beer pioneers are still among my favorites and constantly in my fridge.

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Nationwide, big mergers caught headlines as InBev bought up SAB Miller, a couple craft brewers and homebrew mainstay Northern Brewer. Craft brewers Cigar City and Oskar Blues; and Victory and Southern Tier formed new ties.

Hop bombs, sours and barrel-aged beers—and combinations therein–remain ever popular, but more traditional styles like the Pilsner seem to be regaining respect as more new breweries release their own renditions. The year gave rise to the crowler as another awesome way to get beer from the brewery to the fridge.

I’m out of analysis and prognostications. Simply stated: What a great year for beer! The glass is full for 2017, and I’m just going to try and enjoy it. Cheers!

Best beers I tried for the first time in 2016

By Ryan Urban

As I work on a larger year in review article, I thought a good way to start would be to review the best beers I tried for the first time in 2016. Some are new, some are classics. Some are regional, other came from the southern and western U.S. and beyond. Here’s the some of the best I had in 2016:

  1. Toppling Goliath Pompeii—Though I am not a hophead, this beer made me realize the draw of this craft beer giant. It has all the wonderful fruity flavors of late-hop additions, without the mouth-numbing IPA bitterness I associate with the style. Pompeii blew my mind.
  2. Burial The Rosary Export Stout—I had the pleasure of visiting the Asheville, N.C. in 2016 and touring a beer scene that definitely lived up to the hype. The unexpectedly pleasant surprise of the trip was Burial Brewing Company. The Rosary is all the black goodness of stout with a Belgian twist—something sure to be emulated more in the years ahead.
  3. Hi-Wire Lager—Another Asheville favorite. My fondness for a flavorful, easy-drinking lager was satisfied with this beer.
  4. Green Man Porter—One more from Asheville. This made me fall in love with porter all over again after tasting a long series of “meh” versions. This is a ROBUST porter, and everything it should be.
  5. Live Oak Pilz—I only ventured outside the Midwest once, but my girlfriend Anna did many times and brought me some great stuff from many places. Austin, Texas proved to have awesome stuff. This has soft maltiness and spicy Saaz hops that make Pilsners so satisfying.
  6. Austin Beerworks Black Thunder—If there’s anything I like better than a good pils, it’s a tasty schwarzbier. Oil black, big on flavor, this was just the ticket.
  7. Summit Keller Pils—This St. Paul craft beer pioneer delivered again and again in 2016. A highlight of this well-rounded 30th anniversary lineup was this refreshing lager. Superb summer beer.
  8. New Glarus Oud Bruin—New Glarus remains No. 1 on my list of favorites thanks in part to a winning regular lineup and once-in-awhile gems like this. I don’t go wild for sour beers, but this was awesome.
  9. Central Waters Cassian Sunset—Another winner in a phenomenal barrel-aging program. I was skeptical at first, but goddamn was this delicious. Central Waters makes awesome beers top to bottom, sunrise to sunset.
  10. Sierra Nevada-Mahrs Brau Oktoberfest—Have I mentioned that I like lagers? This was a super cool interpretation of a German classic. I refilled my stein many times over.
  11. 3 Floyds Wigsplitter—I had come to think of 3 Floyds as one of the most overrated breweries out there. Same for coffee beers. But I finally came around this year, and boy was this tasty tribute to dark brewed goodness.
  12. Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale—The best of beer is barleywine, especially on a cold night in the Upper Midwest. I had many of those, and nothing warmed me more than Bell’s Third Coast. Every sip is a bit different, more complex than the last.

Check out the archives for more beer reviews from 2016. And follow me on Twitter and Untappd for more throughout the coming year.

Beer Run Episode #7

To listen now, click here. Or enjoy our blog recap first.

Beer Review: Ale Asylum Oktillion

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Not to be confused with this Disney villain—though we didn’t get her name right.

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We talked Oktoberfest variations.

Oktoberfest beer

Drink up the best of Oktoberfestbiers before they’re out of season.

In Brew News:

Self-Driving Truck’s First Mission: A 120-Mile Beer Run
World’s longest pub crawl: Maths team plots route between 25,000 UK boozers
Voldemort buys Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies

Interview: Isaac Showaki of Octopic/Third Sign.

 

We gave a shout out to our good friends at the Handy Homebrew Show!

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Matt Paulson of the Handy Homebrew Show and our very own Carl Cooley.

Kick back, uncap and listen to our full episode below. Cheers!

Beer of the Week: Urban Growler CowBell Cream Ale

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Like Wisconsin’s staple ale, Cowbell offers a refreshing choice for Minnesotans.

by Ryan Urban

A while back, a friend in Minnesota asked me if there are any beers like Spotted Cow available in Minnesota. Spotted Cow is of course the the flagship of “Only Available in Wisconsin” New Glarus Brewing Company.

One came to mind immediately, Urban Growler Company’s Cowbell cream ale.
Urban Growler describes Cowbell as such: “Our cream ale is light gold in color and low in bitterness; the specialty malt and flaked maize add complexity to this smooth thirst quencher. This is a ‘lawnmower beer’ that will leave you wanting more – no worries, just yell “‘I need more CowBell!’”

And New Glarus on Spotted Cow: “Brewed with flaked barley and the finest Wisconsin malts. We even give a nod to our farmers. Naturally cloudy we allow the yeast to remain in the bottle to enhance fullness of flavors, which cannot be duplicated otherwise. Expect this ale to be fun, fruity and satisfying.”

I sense that Cowbell’s similarities to Spotted Cow are quite intentional. The name seems almost a dead giveaway.

Spotted Cow has long been wildly popular. A fact that Urban Growler co-founder Deb Loch—an Appleton, Wisconsin native—is surely well aware of.

An Urban Growler bartender told me recently that their own Cow beer is a top-seller, holding its own with a pair of tasty IPAs and De-Lovely Porter.

The ingredients might not be the same, but both the Wisconsin original and Minnesota spinoff hit the spot as light, hazy, refreshing ales.

Minnesotans accustomed to crossing the border to load up the trunk with Spotted Cow would be wise to grab a growler of Cowbell for a change.

It’s not the original, but it’s pretty dang close.

Try it with a Cubano sandwich at home or in the Urban Growler taproom.

Rating: Glass – GROWLER – Case – Keg

P.S. I have no affiliation with Urban Growler, but I love the name and the beer.

Beer of the Week: Valkyrie Big Swede

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Valkyrie Big Swede

I live in a beer desert. I live in a town of 8,000+ that doesn’t have a brewery. I lived here 5 years before any place even offered an IPA or stout on tap. One Wisconsin brewmaster once told me Barron County is where craft beer goes to die.

But there has always been a single saving grace. Twenty miles down some county roads lies a beer Valhalla at Valkyrie Brewing in Dallas, Wisconsin.

When I think of Valkyrie, I think of small town charm, unique beers and nice people.

When entering Dallas, it would seem the last place to have a craft brewery, much less one that’s been around 22 years. With a population of 400ish, there isn’t much happening in Dallas. There’s a gunsmith shop, antique store, post office, fire hall, one bank, one gas station, a church, a park, a restaurant, another bar and Valkyrie. But owners Randy and Ann Lee keep the beer flowing for cheap ($1 for 8 oz.), served with smiles and hearty laughs that would make anyone feel more than welcome in their taproom, which is adorned with medieval weaponry.

When I think of VaIkyrie, I also think of truly one-of-a-kind beers. A Valkyrie beer never reminds me of another beer. There’s a smoked Marzen (Whispering Embers), coffee milk porter (Warhammer) and black licorice IPA (Raven Queen). Some are more traditional, like the Velvet Green Irish stout, Night Wolf schwarzbier and Abbey Normal tripel, but they are still all their own.

One of my favorites—right up there with Warhammer and Berserk Barleywine—is the Big Swede Swedish Imperial Stout.

What makes it Swedish? I’m not sure, but it has all the hallmarks of delicious big black stout. Loads of caramel, vanilla and booze all the way down. A year in the fridge makes it all the better.

It will be a go-to this winter while the brewery is closed (January and February). Make a trip before then to stock up. The best time is this weekend at Dallas Oktoberfest, featuring a kubb tourney, 1860s baseball, polka band and weiner dog races!

Rating: Glass – Growler – Case – KEG