Saturday, March 14, 2015

Minneapolis, Spring 2015, Part 3: Bauhaus Brew Labs

We visited Bauhaus Brew Labs on a very cold Saturday afternoon in February. It was a bit hard to find, since the building is actually inside the block, in a courtyard area rather than directly on Tyler St.

A spacious warehouse taproom and brewery with an industrial sort of feel: cinder block walls, iron beams, ventilation tubes, huge glass overhead garage doors. A small stage for music acts; when I was there, it was full of kids playing and running around. Brewery equipment was visible in the back of the building.

The place was half full when we arrived, but it got crowded and very noisy within an hour. The group I was with said that the place was "very Minneapolis." No food was available, but a food truck was parked outside, and the food truck staff was inside taking orders.

Bahaus focuses primarily on German styles. Seven beers were on tap: four regulars and three seasonals /specials, including a schwarzbier which was run through a Randall filled with coffee. Flights of the four regulars for $7; pints for $5; growlers for $16. Pours were not really the best. Beers were all good to very good -- and their pilsner is exceptional.

Bauhaus Brew Labs was selected as the 2014 RateBeer New Brewery of the Year for Minnesota. It is a definite must-visit when in Minneapolis.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Wonderstuff Neü Bohemian Pilsner  (Czech Pilsner – 5.4%)     4 out of 5.0
Sweetish pale malt nose with a lot of grassiness and moderate pleasant hops. Clear bright straw color. Clean and very smooth grassy initial; the hoping enters and intensifies slightly through mid palate and final. Thin-medium. Mild and very flavorful stuff. As clean as they come; one of the better pils made in the US.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Stargrazer Schwarzbier  (Schwarzbier – 5%)     3.3
Delicate roast malt nose, a touch of sweet chocolate. Thin translucent brown. Mild sweet roast initial, light brown sugar, some cola notes. Thin-medium body. Okay. Very mild-mannered stuff.11

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five Midwest Cöast IPA  (India Pale Ale – 6.7%)     3.6
Good caramel aroma, with light nose-tingling hops. Copper/amber color. Chewy malt, bittersweet notes in mid, smooth hopping. Very good balance. Medium body. Pleasant and not over-the-top.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Über Düber Hoppy Bock  (Heller Bock – 7%)     3.5
Fairly malty nose, with some farty yeast and hopping and cola. Copper amber, filmy head. Solid malty initial, good roast notes, and some yeast bite. Medium body. Nice and smooth. Very rich malt. Tasty, but they need to dial down the yeastiness.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Jingle Fever  (Baltic Porter – 8%)     3.7
Toasty malt nose, marshmallow and some spiciness. Dark brown color. A creamy thick tan head, which fell and formed changing star constellation shapes. Rich dark caramel maltiness, dark sugar, lactic notes, some soy sauce (umami), and very sweet dark fruit. Medium-heavy body. Very rich.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Coffee Stargrazer Schwarzbier  (Schwarzbier – 5%)     3.5
This is the regular Stargrazer run through a Randall filled with coffee from Spyhouse Coffee (located just around the corner). Very rich sweet coffee aroma, streamed with hops. Dark brown color, good tan lace. Light roast malt, dark sugar initial. The coffee slips in smoothly. Nice rounded malt/coffee finish. Medium body. Very interesting little variant. The coffee notes give it more body and a better mouthfeel than the regular Stargrazer.

1315 Tyler St NE
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States 55413
612 387 1407

Wed - Fri 3:00-11:00pm
Sat: 12:00-11:00pm

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Minneapolis, Spring 2015, Part 2: Surly Brewing Company

The new Surly Beer Hall is quite a different experience.

The old one, a reappointed former abrasives factory, was outside of the city, at the end of a dusty road. The taproom was fairly small, with low ceilings, painted cinder block walls, and a linoleum floor. It had all the appeal of a high school cafeteria. There were not really enough tables or places to sit, and many people lined up along the walls, which had narrow metal shelf-like counters.

The new location, which opened late last year in Prospect Park, near the University of Minnesota football stadium, is a large open space, with a modern clean industrial chic look. The big brewing area is visible at one end of the building, behind massive floor to ceiling windows.

I visited on a Friday at lunch time, and it was starting to fill up quickly and was already quite noisy. I was seated at a long table with a group that was finishing up.

14 taps were on. Most brews are priced at $3 for 8oz. and $5 for 16oz. glasses. No sampler sets available. Beers are all Surly house brews, regulars and seasonals (some available only here) and, of course, all good to very good.

Service was great, but the food menu is a bit overpriced. I had the Surly Burger and was not disappointed.

I recommend visiting during the daytime on weekdays, and most definitely avoiding week nights and week nights. I’ve heard that there is often a one- or even two-hour wait in the evenings. But it certainly is a must-stop for all beer geeks when in MSP.

Surly Doomtree  (Premium Bitter/ESB - 5.7%)     3.8 out of 5.0
Heavy caramel and roasty nose, resin, something moldy or overripe, and somehow it all balances well. Bright, dark copper color, thick off-white head, clumpy lace. Very chewy maltiness, nice mix of bittering hops, some dark fruit, and piney tracks in finish. Medium body. Very tasty. Bittering creeps in slowly in increments and doesn’t take over.

Surly Devil’s Work  (Porter – 6.7%)     3.6
Dark roast nose, with burnt pine, anise, and some molasses. Near black, thick tan head, sticky lace. Sweetish strained dark fruit, some spiciness, with a good, slightly heavy finish. Medium body. Fruit and spice emerge well but do not really develop much beyond that. Kind of a clean porter with a bit of good spice.

Surly Fiery Hell  (Dortmunder/Helles – 4.5%)     3.7
“Cask conditioned Helles Lager aged on Hickory wood and Puya Chilies.” Clean malty nose, rich, with some good pushes of fruitiness. Brilliant dark straw color, thin filmy head. Sweet light tropical fruit, and the peppery heat jumps in after a second or two. Fruit reemerges, and then there are long peppery tracks. Thin-medium body. Nicely fruity, and the heat is just right. On the edge of too hot. Interesting, how the chiles wait politely for the fruit to show off first.

Surly Witch’s Tower  (Brown Ale – 4.5%)     3.2
Roasty nose, herbal and medicinal. Very dark brown, thin tan head, good lace. Smooth dark roast initial, thinly spiced up with the cardamom, touches of dark fruits, including raisins, prunes. Thin, with a tiny astringency. Okay. Kind of understated, possibly intentionally.

Surly Mild  (Mild Ale – 4%)     3.4
Light chocolate nose. Dark translucent brown color, thin tan head, great lacing. Light chocolate initial, very pleasant, toasty sweetness. Basically just thin chocolate throughout the palate, without much development. Okay. Smooth and moderate all the way. "Mild" is an understatement.

Surly / Amager Todd - The Axe Man (Surly Version)  (India Pale Ale – 7.2%)    3.7
“…a one-off keg of the Amager/Surly Todd - The Axe Man, brewed at the Surly brewery…” Shots of citrus in the nose, dank with the Mosaic hopping, tropical fruit. Hazy straw color, finely-beaded 2cm. white head, good lace. Thin fruity initial, pale malts, nice blend of hops, a bit of alcohol warmth, and a good, balanced finish. Medium body, and very smooth. Nice development of the fruit flavors, a touch rude in spots. Very good -- but Surly’s regular IPA, Furious, is better.

520 Malcolm Avenue SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States 55414
763 535 3330

Sun-Thu: 11am-11pm
Fri- Sat: 11am-12am

Minneapolis, Spring 2015, Part 1: Fair State Brewing Cooperative

Since (or perhaps even before) opening in September last year, Fair State Brewing Cooperative has been getting a lot of buzz from Minneapolis beer geeks. Certainly, the progressive co-op model is somewhat rare among breweries and offers some cachet, but it’s the beer made here that has locals crowing.

We visited just around opening time on a Friday afternoon. A long narrow room, with high ceilings that give it an open feel, and a sort of a clean, bare bones, and understated décor of scrubbed bricks and an old wooden floor. A large section of one wall is filled with large photos of the many co-op owners (who will get a hand in the brewing process); on the other side, there is a space for darts and also a selection of board games. There are bar seats for around 15 people; tables and long benches for maybe 40-50.

A very cool set of three electronic tap list menu boards sit above the bar, offering rotating descriptions of the beers on tap, as well as upcoming events and even Twitter feeds. 

Weirdly, there was classic rock, soul, and disco on the sound system; this seemed out of character for the place. Ten taps going, and a good variety of styles were represented. Half-pints for $3; pints for $5. No sampler sets available, unfortunately.

To be honest, I find the coop/crowd source brewing plan a bit worrisome. I’m not sure if it really means that all members will be able to influence the brewing, but it does not seem like the way you want to have your beer made -- the brewing design and production should probably be left to the experts.  However, I recently read an interview with the head brewer, in which he said that it would be limited to one brew twice a year or perhaps quarterly.

Fair State India Pale Ale (IPA - 6.4%)     3.4 out of 5.0
Mildly dank hop nose, citrus/pine mix. Light medium straw color, some lace. Chewy malt initial, good hop blend emerges, and it goes to balance slowly, with some good hop tracks in the finish. Medium-heavy body. A clean, flavorful, and fairly well-mannered IPA.

Fair State LÄCTOBÄC: One (Sour/Wild Ale - 5.9%)     3.3
A sourish floral aroma, crushed weeds, cat piss, and some nutty notes. Hazy light straw color with good lace. Very small sour initial flavor, apples, yogurt. Thin body, with a tiny bit of astringency. Not too bad, but rather thin and understated.

Fair State The Winkelman (Imperial/Double IPA - 8.4%)     3.4
A decent grapefruit nose, in front of the caramel base. Light hazy peachy straw color. Tangy initial, moderate bittering, rough ripe dates. Lightly vegetal in mid palate. Moderate hop tracks in the finish. Medium body. Nice enough. Doesn’t really bomb off in any one direction. It seems less of an imperial than a simple regular IPA.

Fair State Vienna  (Amber Lager/Vienna 5.2%)     3.5
Creamy malt nose, light roast, and some mild grassiness. Clear copper/straw color. Solid malty initial, rich caramel, a bit fizzy. Medium body. Well-balanced and well-constructed Vienna.

2506A Central Ave NE
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States 55418
612 444 3209

M/W/Th: 4-11pm
Fri: 4-Midnight
Sat: Noon-Midnight
Sun: Noon-9pm

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 8: Culmination Brewing Company

We ended our Zwickelmania day at Culmination Brewing Company. This was the newest brewery in Portland at that time (opened in January 2015), and it was still in a pre-opening mode, with only a few beers and limited business hours.

The tap room (in front) and brew area (in back) are both one large, airy space, divided somewhat by the high bar wall. A long bar, with several high tables scattered about. 

Six taps going, two of their beers (brewed at Brannon's Pub and Brewery in Beaverton), two guest beers, and two guest ciders. Their two beers were competently made and fairly tasty but seemed a bit young.

Culmination 4 & 20 Black IPA (9.2%)     3.2
Named for its four hops and 20 plato. A rather oozy nose, with dark fruits: prunes and raisins. Some chocolate and roast notes, too. Dark roast initial flavor, but it goes thin in mid palate. The alcohol is a decided presence. Medium body, fairly flat. Low on hops, for the style. Okay initially, but it fades out in mid and then there’s not a whole lot else.

Culmination Reynard the Red Fox Belgian IPA (6%)     3.4
A fresh fruity nose, citrus hopping, and small estery notes. A slow starter in flavor. Some maltiness sneaks out and a sort of bitter peach pit hopping develops in mid palate. Nice flavor changes. A bit young and fresh, perhaps. This one shows promise.

2117 NE Oregon Ave
Portland, Oregon, USA 97232
503 353-6368

Wed - Sat: 6-10 pm

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 7½: Rikishi Rider

Outside Baerlic Brewing Co.....

Yoshi! Why do I have to stay here and guard your bike while you drink good beer in there?

Still waiting.....

Friday, March 6, 2015

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 7: Baerlic Brewing Co

Our penultimate stop during Zwickelmania 2014 was at Baerlic Brewing Co., located in the same general area as Apex, Beer Mongers, and The Commons Brewery

The name of this brewery is an Old English word (bærlīċ), meaning “barley-like” or “pertaining to barley.” Open for less than a year (June 2014), they have a respectable list of five year-round beers, six seasonal/experimental ones, and have already retired 21 brews.

The taproom was crowded but a lot of fun. A long line of patrons snaked out the door and down the street, perhaps half of them waiting for the tour. We avoided that group and somehow managed to get a table. Service was surprisingly fast and also friendly. They had 10 taps on, including a few new special brews. An interesting mix of styles, too.

We focused mostly on their seasonals and experimental beers. Here are a few:

Baerlic Cowabunga! (6.2%)     3.6
A smooth chocolaty nose, a bit tangy, with some lactic notes. Dark brown color with a tan head. Mild buzzing sweetish initial, and then mild bittering throughout the palate. Medium body. Sweet but a bit fizzed up, too.

Baerlic Doug E Fresh IPA (6.7%)     3.5
A nice juicy hop nose, quite citrusy and zesty. Moderate malty flavors, with a substantial citrus/pine hop mix. Medium-light body. Very smooth. A lighter sort of IPA, but quite flavorful

Baerlic Invincible IPA (6.8%)     3.5
The only year-round beer we had here. Smooth, fruity nose with a backing of moderate caramel. Muddy amber/orange color. Well balanced from the start, with good lip-smacking hops, and long hop tracks in the finish. Medium body, and actually a bit underdone, really. Middle of the road IPA. Tasty enough

Baerlic Filbert Reynolds Hazelnut Porter (6.8%)     3.4
Sweet, coffee-ish nose. Flavors of coffee, dark roast, sugar, light hazelnuts, and minimal hopping. The hazelnuts add an extra dimension. Well-balanced finish.

Baerlic Wildcat (5.3%)     3.3.
Very fresh citrusy nose, lemon, bit of funk, yeast. Cloudy bright yellow. Small fruity tang in initial, mild bittering, and then goes weak in mid and final. Thin body. Very nice initially, but kind of gives up halfway through.

2235 SE 11th Avenue
Portland, Oregon, USA 97214
503 477-9418

Mon: Closed
Tues-Thu: 4 - 10 pm
Fri: 2 - 11 pm
Sat: 12 - 11 pm
Sun: 12 - 9 pm

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 6: Portland Brewing Company

After Occidental, we headed around to the Portland Brewing Taproom, located in a rather gritty industrial section of the city.

Portland Brewing, founded in 1984, has been the focus of numerous buy-outs, corporate consolidations, and rebranding schemes. In 2004 it was sold to Pyramid Breweries, and the Portland brewery was renamed MacTarnahan's Brewing Company. In 2008 Pyramid itself was acquired by Magic Hat Brewing Company, which was in turn bought by North American Breweries in 2010. In 2012 Florida Ice & Farm Co. bought the whole group. Then in 2013 the Portland facility regained its original name. Whew! What could be next? 

Currently, the brewery produces beers under three labels: Portland, MacTarnahan’s, and Pyramid.

For Zwickelmania, the staff was conducting a blind tasting quiz. We had to sample four different Pyramid beers and identify each one. We were able to identify .... only two. Quite a humbling experience for three guys who think they know beer.

We had not planned on taking the tour, but they offered a $10 discount on lunch to tour participants and off we went. The tour was a bit long, and the tour guide perhaps overly chatty, but the samples we received at the end were something of a revelation. 

Earlier, the three of us agreed that, when beer shopping, we tend to walk right past bottles of Portland, MacTarnahans’s or Pyramid – and instead search for newer and perhaps more credworthy beers. (I think the last time I had a Pyramid beer was at a Seattle Mariners game several years ago.) But these Portland samples were all fairly tasty brews. Perhaps it was their freshness, or perhaps we were simply thirsty, but it was clear that these beers deserve another chance.

The restaurant/tap room had 16 taps on, including the Pyramid regulars, four seasonals, and two special featured brews. Samplers were available. Since it was rare sunny day, we ate lunch in a pleasant outside space. And talked about how it’s not just the newer guys on the block who can make decent beer.

2730 NW 31st Avenue
Portland, Oregon United States 97210
503 228 5269

Mon: 11-9pm
Tu-Thu: 11-10pm
Fri: 11-11pm
Sat: 12-11pm
Sun: 12-9pm

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 5: Occidental Brewing Co.

During last years’ annual Zwickelmania event, we often had to wait in lines to enter breweries for the free tours and samples. In some cases (Widmer and Cascade), we simply glanced at the crowds and just kept on driving.

For this year’s event, we decided to visit some of the less-popular places, ones that are not so much on the Portland beer geek radar.   

Our first stop of the day was at Occidental Brewing Co. This brewery, which opened in 2011, is one of the few places in Oregon that focuses on traditional German styles. They have a fairly bare-bones tap room next to Cathedral Park, under St. Johns Bridge, an area of Portland that is not overrun with breweries or beer bars.

Eight beers were on tap, including their five regulars (Hefeweizen, Kölsch, Altbier, Dunkel, and Pilsner) and three seasonals.

Occidental Kölsch (4.5%)     3.4 out of 5.0
Fresh and light pale malt nose, tiny grassiness, and gentle hops. Clean medium straw color. Sweet malty initial, mid palate flavor changes with light hopping, finishes soft and fruity. Thin body, light carbonation. Smooth, fresh, and clean. According to the bartender, this is Occidental’s flagship brew.

Occidental Bohemian Pilsner (5.8%)     3.6
Pleasant and lightly grassy nose. Clear medium straw color, creamy white head, and good lace. Grass, grain / mid palate moves to light sweet pale malt / thin hop tracks in finish. Thin body. Clear and clean across the palate. Europeans might describe it as an American-style pils. Pretty good.

Occidental Alt (5.3%)     3.7
Good mild, sweet malt aroma, with some spiciness and slight floral notes. Clear dark amber color, really pretty. Bright sweet cereal initial / smooth rich malt mid palate, reminiscent of Bass Pale Ale / light bitterness and then a balanced finish. Thin body. A pleasant alt, just a touch hoppier than a German alt.

6635 N Baltimore Ave
Portland, Oregon United States 97203
503 719 7102

Wed-Thu: 4-8pm
Fri: 3-8pm
Sat: 12-8pm
Sun: 12-6pm

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 4: Bridgetown Beerhouse

Bridgetown Beerhouse is a pleasant, fairly low-key, bar and bottle shop in N Portland, just off of rising, trendy Mississippi Avenue.

Bar seating for 8-10 people, and tables for maybe 30 or so. It was not very crowded on an early Tuesday afternoon. The décor features old dark brick walls, stone tile floor, and weird shiny red tiles on the ceiling. The bartender/owner, Mychal, was friendly and also quick and efficient with orders.

Eight taps, with a decent variety of styles. 400+ bottles in the long row of coolers along one wall, maybe half from western US, and a very wide selection of Oregon brews. The tap list is frequently updated on their Facebook page.

915 N. Shaver
Portland, Oregon United States 97227
503 477 8763

Mon-Thu: 12-9pm
Fri-Sat: 12-10pm
Sun: 12-6pm

Monday, March 2, 2015

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 3: Buoy Beer Company

My second stop in Astoria was at Buoy Beer Company, set in a former cannery building along the Columbia River waterfront. A loud, boisterous colony of seals were swimming and barking in the pier area next door.

Open nearly one year, the restaurant/taproom is a large airy space with huge windows for river viewing. Old exposed wooden beams on the ceiling and ancient weathered brewing or cannery equipment as decorations. There is also a TV showing a live satellite map of shipping traffic along the mouth of the river. Near the entrance, a plexiglass floor window allows a view of seals sleeping on the pier planks below. Seats for maybe 50 people in the main area; also a separate bar area, which was closed at the time I was there. Food includes burgers, salads, seafood, and steaks – and the prices were a bit high.

14 beers were on tap, all house brews, and mostly a range of lighter styles. A sampler set of six 5oz. glasses cost $8; 12oz. glasses for $3.50; 20oz. for $5. Beers are okay. Several of them seemed underattentuated – although they were fairly clean, the flavors were not developed well.

Buoy Beer Company was selected as the RateBeer New Brewery of the Year in Oregon for 2014. Last year’s was De Garde Brewing, which makes world-class sour /wild ales .... Anyway, I expect that Buoy will improve over time.

Here are the six beers I sampled:

Buoy Kettle Demon IIPA (9.5%)     2.6 out of 5.0
Caramel and overripe dates in the aroma. Cloudy copper/brown color -- really looks like liquid caramel candies. Large caramel initial flavor, the hopping barely makes a dent. Ripe dates. Overly sweet. Medium-heavy body. Slick, sweet, even cloying. A caramel bomb, but even the caramel seems wrong.

Buoy IPL (6.3%)     2.8
A small grassy nose, with some sea water. Hazy straw color, no head. Thin stream of hops in initial, light grainy malt in mid palate, and a mild sweet finish. Thin-medium body, rather slick. Seems underattenuated for sure.

Buoy Helles (5.3%)     3.1
Mild grassy nose, bread dough, light citrus. Very light yellow straw color, almost greenish in the slanting afternoon sunlight. Sweet pale malts, light bittering, a touch of sourness, and a rusty metal note. Very thin body. Light and bready. Clean and fresh, but....

Buoy Pale Ale (5.2%)     3.2
Citrus and pale malt nose. Medium copper/amber color. Medium fruity initial, smooth and gentle hopping comes with the rising carbonation, a bit of artificial-seeming sweetness in mid palate, and thin hop tracks in final. Thin-medium body. Nice enough, a bit chewy. Maybe a bit too sweet.

Buoy IPA (7.5%)     3.3
A citrus aroma, with a bit of smacking caramel. Cloudy medium dark straw color, thin head, with some lace. Tangy fruit initially, some juicy hopping. A bit warming. Thin-medium body. Tasty, but the flavors don’t really blend or develop. A good bit of aroma hopping. Somewhat thin for the alcohol level.

Buoy Czech Pils (6.2%)    3.3
Grassy, weedy nose. Medium light straw color, thin head, some lace. Light grassy initial, some tang in mid palate, Mild Saaz hop notes. Finishes lightly sweet. Thin body Pleasant enough. Seems a touch overhopped for the style, or maybe the bittering additions or dry hopping didn’t work out right?

1  8th Street
Astoria, Oregon United States 97103
503 325 4540

Monday – Thursday: 11am – 9pm
Friday – Saturday: 11am – 11pm
Sunday: 11am – 9pm