An experiment, born in the year 2000, has blossomed into a highly anticipated event at the reputable Town Hall Brewery at Seven Corners. Czar Jack (an Imperial Stout), which was their first Barrel Aged beer, went on to win a medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 2001. This was before there was even a category for the Barrel Aged style. The category itself was called “Experimental Beer” and Brewmaster Mike Hoops acknowledged the risk in entering a Barrel Aged beer back then. “You’re throwing at a dart board,” he said.
After 15 years and 15 GABF medals (3 for Barrel Aged beers) the brewery has a reputation to live up to. They don’t take that lightly as evidenced by the time, money, and skill they allocate to the program. This is important as more and more breweries enter the market and quality tends to be all over the map. At Town Hall, quality is the first priority—even if it means dumping a batch that doesn’t meet their standard. “Tickets went on sale and all of a sudden there’s this line and people are buying these tickets for these beers and they’ve never had them before. They’re going off reputation,” notes Hoops. “So we got a barrel that wasn’t what we expected; so it’s going down the drain,” he explains. “We don’t have the space to see what it will do in time, and it’s certainly not the quality that consumers have grown to expect. So we’re not going to give it to them. It wouldn’t be fair.”
A sense of pride emerges from Mike’s smiling face as he is asked about his favorite offering this year: Foolish Angel. “If there’s a day to come, Tuesday is the day.”
The beer release schedule looks like this:
Monday at 5 PM - Manhattan Reserve Cherry Gran Cru
This beer is a bit fruity from the Belgian yeast and tart cherries plus it has a wonderful bourbon character from the Woodford Reserve barrel.
Tuesday at 5 PM - Foolish Angel Belgian Quad
Expect a lot of malt character in this one, which was aged in an Angel’s Envy bourbon barrel. ***Brewmaster Mike Hoops considers this the “brewers favorite” for this year.***
Wednesday at 5 PM - Buffalo Bock Weizenbock
The Bronze medal winner at the 2014 GABF. Expect some banana flavor from the yeast and some nice, toasty, caramel notes from the bourbon barrel.
Thursday at 5 PM - Twisted Trace Barleywine
This took home the Silver medal at the 2013 GABF. Big on caramel and toffee and heavily hopped, this is what we call a perfect winter warmer.
Friday at 5 PM - Project 3106 Kumquat Chocolate Brown
Another newcomer to the lineup, this brew offers toasty flavors of dark Belgian chocolate and a little coffee with hints of citrus in the nose from the kumquats.
Saturday at 11 AM - Czar Jack Imperial Stout
The Gold medal winner in the Experimental Beer category back in 2001. It’s no secret that this one is brewed in a Jack Daniels barrels and it brings the wood flavors from barrel straight to your palate. A robust and roasty beer that is the favorite of many.
Saturday at 3 PM - Brown Label Maple Syrup Bruin
This vintage beer (with the same base as Project 3106) offers a hint of vanilla—thanks to the homemade maple syrup—to go along with its lightly toasted, chocolate flavor.
Saturday at 3 PM - Duke of Wallonia Imperial Wit
The coriander comes alive in this unique, citrusy concoction and it finishes very clean. This one stood out; probably due to the fact that it was aged in a red wine barrel as opposed to a whiskey barrel. This one impressed me the most out of the beers I was able to sample.
Saturday at 3 PM - Le Baltique Baltic Porter
A dark and rich red wine barrel aged lager.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be limited to a fancy dinner and bottle of wine. Here are some date ideas for beer-loving couples who are looking to do something a little different this year.
Take Friday off and enjoy a weekend trip up North starting at Bent Paddle Brewing in the West End neighborhood of Duluth. Then swing into Canal Park Brewing to take in the lake view while enjoying a late-afternoon beer or two. Follow that up with a romantic sunset walk to Fitger’s Brewhouse to enjoy a wonderful dinner and stay for the beer and music. Wake up on Saturday and take a cruise up to the gorgeous, frozen Gooseberry Falls. Swing into the new Castle Danger Brewing taproom in Two Harbors on your way back to Duluth and explore their selection of beers by ordering a flight.
If you want to stay closer to town, take a day trip out to Stillwater and swing into The Wedge and Wheel for a cheese flight and ask owner Chris Kohtz to help you pair it with a beer or cider. For dinner, walk over to LOLO American Kitchen for a tasty meal and sip on one of the many craft brews or fancy cocktails available on their menu.
Host a fun couples evening where each duo brings a different beer and appetizer pairing to share with the group. A nut brown ale would pair nicely with an aged gouda and a big, hoppy IPA with a blue cheese.
For a more intimate night-in take your date to one of the many local bottle shops around town and pick out a mixed six pack to pair with a home cooked meal. Pair a nice IPA such as Hop Dish from Lift Bridge with a spicy Thai dish, a vinaigrette salad with a Saison such as CynicAle from Surly, and a nice Stout such as Foundation from Badger Hill Brewing with a rich raspberry chocolate cake.
There’s nothing more romantic than creating and learning something new together and brewing beer would surely fit the bill. Start by heading to Midwest Supplies or Northern Brewer and picking out one of their starter sets. Then pick out a pre-made beer recipe kit (instructions will be included) and “hop” to it! You can celebrate again in a couple weeks with a bottling date and keep the love alive next month when your beer is finally ready to drink.
Cheers to all the “hoppy” couples out there!
After a much needed break over the past couple weeks I’m officially back with some news and notes from around town.
Indeed Brewing is set to release Mexican Honey Imperial Lager in the next couple weeks. This brew made with Mexican Orange Blossom Honey and Amarillo hops weighs in at 8% ABV and 17 IBUs. It will be available through March.
It’s no secret that the beer scene has been blowing up here for a while and with that comes more coverage whether that be print, radio, or television. You may have noticed that there are now a few podcasts popping up that feature great guests from around town. My personal favorite is The Minnesota BeerCast hosted by Andrew Schmitt from MN Beer Activists and Andrew Lee of Twin Cities NewsTalk 1130. The format is pretty relaxed and easy to listen to and the guests are top notch.
Town Hall Brewery is hosting their annual Super Bowl Sunday Chili Cook off. I had the pleasure of judging last year and I can say from personal experience that this is worth your while if you are a fan of chili or if you like to cook. Attendance is only $10 for all you can taste chili along with a pint of beer. The winners are judged by a panel who will start tasting at noon on Sunday, February 1st and the winner will be announced at 2 PM. Contact the brewery for more details.
NorthGate Brewing is celebrating two years on Saturday, January 31st from 10 AM to close. The event is called Big Beer Birthday Bash and will feature Fiddle Smasher Wee Heavy, their Russian Imperial Stout, and Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Ale. These beer will be available for purchase and will come with a commemorative snifter and bottle opener. You can reserve bottle sets here.
That’s all for now.
Beer blogger and all around good guy Ryan Anderson over at MNBeer.com took a look back at the year in beer 2014. This inspired me to come up with some predictions for the year ahead of us—a year in which I expect to see even more breweries, some expansion projects, a possible law change, and a more consumer friendly growler system.
Sour and Barrel Aged beers become a trend. The Schell’s Star of the North Series has really taken off and I think we will see others follow suit. Indeed is beginning a sour program and Surly continues to impress in this category with beers like Pentagram. This is sure to continue as the old Brooklyn Center site is open for experimentation with new brews.
Steel Toe, Surly, and Lift Bridge continue to impress with their Barrel Aged brews and something tells me that we have only broken the surface in this category. Another brewery big on barrels is Town Hall Brewery who dedicates an entire week every February to the style and just won a big medal at GABF for their Barrel Aged brew called Buffalo Bock. Space and time seem to be the main deterrents but with the rate of expansion around here I am willing to bet we will see more of these on shelves starting this year.
A year of brewery expansion. After winning an awards at both the World Beer Cup and GABF I would suspect that Steel Toe Brewing is going to need to expand sooner rather than later given the size of their taproom and the excellent beer they have been putting out. The secret is out that great beer is flowing out of St. Louis Park and the demand for their beer is higher than ever.
Bad Weather and Badger Hill both have new homes in 2015 which means that they will be producing more beer. Indeed took on an expansion project recently and will now be distributed in northern Minnesota and into North Dakota soon.
Sunday Sales will pass this year in some form or another. Whether there are provisions or not I think that something gets done in 2015 if people continue to call and email their leaders. Consumers have been polled at places such as the State Fair where over 64% of people think that we should be able to sell liquor on Sunday. After all it is 2015, not 1920.
Growlers filling will become easier as proper labeling picks up steam. You’ve probably seen the forum topic on Beer Advocate calling for breweries to fill any growler provided that they are clean. This seems to make sense assuming that there is a proper system in place that allows for legitimate sanitation and quality control. I’ve heard positive feedback on this issue from a few breweries who are looking to start filling any growler that meets these standards. Who wants 20 growlers taking up space in their basement anyways?
Beer education on the rise. With demand for better beer comes a more educated group of beer drinkers and a demand for proper knowledge. Better Beer University is put on by Robin Shellman and crew (watch for a future piece on him) for a meager $75 per semester and is worth every penny for those who are curious about beer. Demand for these classes will rise this year and to further prove this point Dakota County Technical College is going to be offering classes on the business side of the beer industry. Who says you can’t major in beer?
Soon St. Paul will be home to yet another brewery. Bad Weather is planning a move from Minnetonka to a former tire shop at 414 7th Street West near Excel Energy Center in St. Paul. “That’s what we love about the space. We’re so visible from West 7th” said co-owner Joe Giambruno. Most new breweries are taking up residence north of 94 along the Green Line but Bad Weather will be just outside of downtown and close to the action. Joe along with co-owner Zac Carpenter are excited about the move and they anticipate that by June 1st they will be selling pints from their new taproom. Work on the space will begin soon with the roof being taken down this week.
The new space will be both a taproom and a brewery where the draft and taproom varieties will be made but their bottled varieties will still be made at the Minnetonka location for a while. “We’re happy with what’s coming out of the Lucid facility” said Carpenter. They got their start sharing space with Lucid and Badger Hill (now in Shakopee) and they like the relationship they have with those breweries. Canning is a possibility as both Joe and Zac are fans of canned beer but that would most likely be handled at Badger Hill’s new facility south of the river.
The taproom will sell 750 mL bottles along with growlers and the Cellar Series is very much alive so expect more of those in the future. The plan is to have 7-10 beers on tap at any given time and possibly add another year round beer to their bottle lineup. They expect to have food trucks on site and hope to be able to work with local restaurants (food delivery etc) as well.
What’s really exciting is that they plan to have a private event space to attract local business luncheons, homebrew clubs (both are homebrewers), groom’s dinners, and gamers alike. Both Zac and Joe stated that they would like to have a few arcade games set up in the space and possibly host some board game nights where people could congregate over games and brews. “If I wasn’t doing this now, this is what I would to see someone else doing” said Carpenter.
But more than anything else they are excited to be a good neighborhood establishment. “We’re in the heart of St. Paul but still in a neighborhood. We’ll be a neighborhood brewery” according to Carpenter.
Joe’s eyes gleaned with excitement talking about the location, “I don’t think you could ask for a better space.”