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!

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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

Beer of the Week: Sierra Nevada-Mahrs Bräu Oktoberfest

It’s about high time I wrote on a beer from Sierra Nevada, a pioneer, a staple and a true favorite brewery of mine.

The brewery is legendary for its pervasive Pale Ale and legacy as a trailblazer in the craft beer industry, dating back to 1978. I didn’t realize how significant the company’s influence was until I read “Beyond the Pale” by brewery founder Ken Grossman. I highly recommend it.

As the book titles indicates, Sierra Nevada is more than a great pale ale. The brewery makes consistent, balanced beers of all styles. I especially look forward to the fresh-hopped Celebration Ale toward the end of every year.

This year the wait is tempered by the arrival of crisp, flavorful Oktoberfest. It is the second lager collaboration Sierra Nevada has done with a brewery in Germany—this time  Mahrs Bräu, of Bamberg.

I am a fan of the 2015 version made with Brauhaus Riegele. I drank my fair share of it before it left the shelves.

How wunderbar that not only is Sierra Nevada doing another collab, but it turned out awesome.

The 2016 Oktoberfest is lighter, but malty enough, with a blitz of spicy noble hops.

Sierra Nevada indicates that it is brewed with a number of relatively unsung American and German hops—magnum, palisade, saphir, crystal and record, which the brewery says has been “nearly forgotten.”

Nearly forgotten?! I’ve never heard of it, but this scheiss is great!

Just as refreshing as this beer, is the fact that Sierra Nevada continues to do new, genuinely interesting things. I see many veteran breweries throw themselves at cringe-worthy fads or simply go stale.

With a dedication to the beers it makes well combined with a willingness to branch out through Beer Camp and other collaborations like this, Sierra Nevada keeps it interesting and keeps its crown as one of the best in the business. They might even be the first brewery to make a tasteful Oktoberfest-themed game.

This Mahrs Bräu collaboration will likely remain my go-to light lager for the rest of 2016, preferably with some good butterkäse and crackers.

Rating: Glass – Growler – Case – KEG

More on my Sierra Nevada experiences here.

 

Beer of the Week: Brewing Projekt WISCoast

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Brewing Projekt WISCoast.

I am proud of the brewing scene in Northwest Wisconsin. Breweries are relatively sparse over a large area spanning from the Chippewa River to Lake Superior, but most of the dozen or so make great beer. Some are among the oldest microbreweries in the Midwest—South Shore in Ashland and the one and only brewery in my county, Valkyrie. More recently, Hudson, Hayward, Superior, Menomonie, Somerset and other towns have become home to some skilled brewers serving beer in distinct spaces with great character. Oh, and there’s good old Leinenkugels.

Soon, the region may have its first mid-size craft brewer. After months of negotiating terms with the City of Eau Claire—without little evidence of progress—The Brewing Projekt reached an agreement to move into a larger, vacant space across the street from its current site in the heart of Eau Claire. The news came after a rally attended by more than 500 people, including myself. What a fun affair, with music, great weather and a dozen style-shifting, flavor-packed beers on tap.

It had been an extra-long time coming for these brewers, who had to cut through a considerable amount of red tape just to be licensed to brew, in large part because owner William Glass also owned Fire House bar in Eau Claire.

But where there’s a will there’s a way. Now, the Brewing Projekt envisions its new space as a destination brewery. It is my hope that the “Projekt” will be a stepping stone to making Eau Claire a destination city for beer lovers. Though much different than The Projekt, a block down Oxford Avenue, Lazy Monk Brewing makes superb representations of classic Central European styles—more about that here. Further, K Point Brewing is growing on the south side, Brewster Bros. and, of course, good old Leinenkugels up the road in Chippewa Falls. There are many more within 30 miles of Eau Claire, all serving beer on par in quality as that of most breweries in Madison, Milwaukee or the Twin Cities.

Eau Claire also offers other amenities prized by many beer lovers—an extensive system of paved trails and singletrack for bikers, good paddling waters, Ice Age hiking trail, challenging disc golf courses and a fantastic music scene highlighted by the Blue Ox and Eaux Claires festivals.

But let’s get back to the beer. My first from The Projekt, and a delight during the dog days of summer, WISCoast Pale Ale is a good introduction to the brewery’s distinct lineup.

First of all, having grown up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, I’ll drink anything with a cow on it. Citrusy hops and wheat make this an incredibly fruity, refreshing beer. The Brewing Projekt states, “Crafted to be wickedly crisp and totally refreshing.” Agreed.

Don’t wait for the expansion to visit The Brewing Projekt. Make a day or weekend of it. Eau Claire is very cool.

Rating: Glass – GROWLER – Case – Keg

 

 

Beer of the Week: Summit Keller Pils

 

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Summit 30th Anniversary Keller Pils.

Oh, the sizzingly dog days of summer. As I write, it is hot, humid with a strong south wind that warns that a thunderstorm is coming. Not good weather for doing much, except perhaps cooling down with a refreshing pilsner.

I’ve found none better this summer than Summit’s 30th Anniversary Keller Pils. It is one of four anniversary beers the St. Paul brewery is releasing this year. Given the brewery’s legacy of producing a variety of flavorful, easy-drinking beers in its regular lineup—like the summer-ready Pilsener—I find this one most appropriate and welcome to my taste buds.

Given the rarity of kellers or zwickelbier on American shelves—a damn shame in my opinion—I can only compare this to the excellent occasionally-released Yokel or Zwickel from New Glarus.

German-style Kellerbier is traditionally akin to classic Pilsners in taste, but differs with its hazy appearance and low effervescence. There is also more of a yeasty character and, overall, is bigger on aroma and flavor–seriously, why are there not more kellers?

This beer’s ingredients are somewhat foreign to me, but produce amazing results. The base malt is a traditional Barke Pilsner, which creates a very full body and flavor in this beer. The noble Tettnang and Hallertau Melon hops produce noticeably spicey, floral notes. Summit brewer Damian McConn explains more here.

For me, Summit’s Keller Pils goes down incredibly easy with a satisfying full, zesty finish left tingling on my tongue with every sip.

The heat has ruined my appetite, except for this sweet, crisp, complex lager. I just have to crack open another can.

Rating: Glass – Growler – Case – KEG

 

Beer of the Week: Bent Paddle Black

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Bent Paddle Black Ale.

A rare summer day in Duluth–upper 70s balanced by a cool, gentle breeze off Lake Superior. This after quite literally 8 months of mainly cold weather.

Really a shame I wasn’t paddling a kayak, shredding trails on a mountain bike or hiking to an overlook of the Great Lake on the Superior Hiking Trail.

But I was doing the next best thing, sipping a few cold ones with friends in the taprooms of the Twin Ports. We were in town to celebrate the marriage of two good friends after all.
Home to eight breweries, Duluth has quality and variety that does not disappoint. There are distribution only Blacklist and Borealis Fermentery. Carmody and Dubh Linn add Irish pub options. Founded in 1990, Lake Superior harkens back to the early days of the craft beer boom.

In this most recent visit, I enjoyed quality food, beer and atmosphere at Fitgers (quirky, cool historic building) and Canal Park (beer around a campfire near the lake after dark).
The only better option might have been a deep dish pizza and any number of flavor-packed brews at Thirsty Pagan across the St. Louis River in Superior, Wisconsin.
But that’s a story for another post.

Given the recent expansion of distribution into my home state, I’m highlighting a Bent Paddle beer this week.

Set apart from other Twin Ports breweries, but following the no-food, taproom-first, distribute-second philosophy common to many breweries today, Bent Paddle frankly has a good thing going.

Tucked into a somewhat-shabby part of town in an unremarkable warehouse building, Bent Paddle’s street parking draws many a Jeep/Suburu with a kayaks/bikes on the rack. Inside, a mixed crowd gets into games of cribbage, marvels at a myriad of shiny tanks, all the while filling the ample industrial, yet rustic space with a dull roar of conversation.

The beers share the liveliness of the taproom and the bold, adventurous spirit of the North Shore—e.g. Roof Rack Lager, Harness IPA, Venture Pils and 14º ESB–a two-time medalist at the Great American Beer Festival.

The lineup is solid top to bottom. But needing some dark beer in the fridge as a contrast to many summer lagers and pale ales, I grabbed a sixer of the Black Ale on the way home.

Bent Paddle says, “This Black Ale drinks like a porter but is opaque like a stout. Brewed with a generous amount of oats to round out the flavor.”

I can’t describe it any other way. It seems neither a stout or porter. Black ale is a wholly appropriate title. The beer is jet black with an easy-drinking body, but full roasty, chocolaty flavor.

Such a satisfying beer, I’m going to burn through this six pack quick, maybe while enjoying a hobo dinner of sausage and root vegetables somewhere along the way.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg