Higher temps yearned for in beers, too

Outdoor temperature and weather can be a real annoyance — both in the news and to your life — but it’s an important ingredient in enjoying beer. We’re not just talking about creating warmth through a boozy barleywine or kicking off your sandals with a light hefewiezen. We’re talking about physics and the temperature of the beer itself.

Glasses can affect the temperature of beer. Thicker glass actually makes a beer warmer faster because the glass itself pulls coldness away (convection: it’s science). But that plays on the assumption that you always want your beer to be cold. Not true.

Truth is, the colder a beer is, the less you’ll be able to taste. Howard Hillman’s “The New Kitchen Science” says that chilling beer below 60 degrees begins to reduce taste awareness, and reducing it below 50 degrees significantly masks a beer’s flavor.

You know it’s true when you look at the styles recommended to serve at the lowest temperatures — pale lagers, malt liquor, Canadian. These are typically beers you don’t want to taste in the first place. Ever wonder why breweries like MillerCoors constantly convince you to drink their beer cold? Ice-cold beer is refreshing and, oftentimes, pretty awesome. But it’s not something you worry about pairing with your beef bourguignon.

Yet, if you’re spending $8 on a 6-ounce pour of some Russian imperial stout, you want those aromas to be released. You want the warmth of the alcohol to be paired with a high (for beer) temperature of roughly 61 degrees.

Most places that sell those booze bombs are adept at adjusting the temperature to suit the style — at least to a point where it only take a minute or so to warm up. Our bottles of Bourbon County Brand Stout have never been refrigerated — they just stay in our cool basement and are opened at that temperature.

So where do you draw the line? How do you know where your bock should be compared to your English bitter? Michael Jackson (no, not that one) created a five-level temperature scale for beers:

Well chilled (45 degrees): Light beers and pale lagers

Chilled (46 degrees): Wheat beers of all styles — from hefewizens to Belgian whites to Berliner Weisse

Lightly chilled (48 degrees): Pale ales, dark lagers, less-boozy stouts and a bunch of German lagers

Cellar (55 degrees): British ales, Saisons, Belgians

Room (60 degrees): Imperial stouts, barleywines, double/triple IPAs

Does it really matter? Depends on where you’re at. If you challenge me to distinguish between 45 degrees and 48 degrees, I’m not going to pretend I know. But I know when my Old Rasputin’s being served too cold, and I’m going to wrap my hands around it and cool it down.

Is it worth it? Yes. It takes one sip of a room temperature Russian imperial stout — the deep chocolates hit your nose, the burn of the alcohol coats your tongue, the warmth pulling you into a black hole — to change you on drinking beer at near freezing ever again.

Corey Vilhauer, For Link

Tags: Food beer

Pairing good music, dark beers

When the deep, dark, gray horizon leads to slightly smoky skies overhead, the freshly fallen snow coats the ground pure white and the all-too-often subzero temperatures give me little encouragement to ever leave my home, I turn to a crackling fire, Hüsker Dü’s “Warehouse: Songs and Stories” on the hi fi, and dark, chewy brews to keep my soul aligned.

As my turntable started to kick out “These Important Years,” I cracked open a collaboration brew between Odell Brewing Co. and Leopold Bros. Microdistillery: Fernet Aged Porter. This über unique brew is a combination of 50 percent Cutthroat Porter and 50 percent Cutthroat Porter aged in Fernet Barrels. Fernet is an Argentinean staple believed to have healing medicinal properties, and this spicy and herbal liqueur is very present. You can really taste the mint, pepper and ginger, along with a potpourri of floral notes. A friend described this beer perfectly: “It tastes like Jägermeister infused in a rich, robust porter.”

Time to flip the LP, carefully place the needle to engage side two and peel away the wax-dipped seal of a Deschutes Brewing Co. 2013 Abyss. This is a special yearly offering of an imperial stout barrel-aged in oak bourbon barrels, oak barrels and oak wine barrels and infused with molasses, licorice, cherry bark and vanilla. Journeying further into the darkness of the Abyss complemented my musical companion perfectly. For me, the beer and band were one.

On to the second album of this double LP (which is a classic example of Minneapolis garage/post-punk sounds from the ’80s), I decided such stellar licks deserved a special brew. I felt a North Coast Brewing Co. 2011 Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin XIV, cellared for more than two years, was a perfect way to pay tribute to one of my favorite bands. This beauty is a Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. Slightly boozy and exceptionally smooth, this beer is outstanding.

To all craft beer lovers, we can only hope 2014 will continue to keep our palates challenged and invigorated. I do have some insider info to pass along — keep salivating because a new brewery offering will be in our midst soon. Stay tuned.

- Kosta Theodosopolous

Beers I’ve Been Drinking: a Scattered 2013 in Review

Oh, hey. Did you hear? It’s my last column of the year, which means TIME TO MAIL ONE IN.

Kidding, everyone! No mailing in from THIS guy. Just another year-end list on the never-ending pile of year-end lists - another group of beers you’ll never see from the wild and varied travel I’ve experienced over the past year. Luxury from San Diego! Southern hospitality from Richmond and Atlanta! Grey skies and endless industrial parks from Long Island!

Enough already. Let’s look back on this year.

Trend I Finally Got Over and Accepted: Putting stuff in my beer.

Oh, Corey, you rail against fruited beers like they might invade your house and take over your crisper drawer. Can’t you just let go and understand that you are the anomaly? That people like Shiner Cheer and Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and Bud Light Lime?

Well. Maybe not that last one.

Yes. I can get over this. I can let go. I can do this because everywhere I went, I’d find a surprising non-hop addition, a delicious note within a delicious beer. Traditional Germans might not be crazy about it, but I can start to rally around it.

Done well, it can be nearly mind-blowing, like Ballast Point’s Indra Kunindra, a thick stout deeply infused with a combination of spices traditionally found in an Indian curry - a spicy and intense beer with a serving suggestion of one.

Sometimes, it can intensify the already existing flavors, like Epic Brewing’s Utah Sage Saison, the sage mixing and raising the spicy saison profile to an unforgettable level, or Dogfish Head’s Piercing Pils, a pear-infused pilsner that pulls the essence of a fruit wine, but without all of the cloying sweetness.

Or, it can be such a natural pairing that you can hardly tell there’s an addition at all, like Terrapin Beer Company’s Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout or, more locally, Odell Brewing’s Lugene.

Worst Beer of 2013: Schell’s Schell Shocked Grapefruit Radler

Schell’s, I love you more than any brewery, but you put out a few real stinkers this year - this one being the worst. Everything I said above? It does not apply - I still can’t handle these grapefruit-juice-pretending-to-be-beer beers.

Thankfully, Schell Shocked took a lot of attention away from the overall worst beer of this year’s Autumn Brew Review: Imperial Grain Belt. No, Schell’s. No.

Best New Renewed Style: Gose

We don’t know gose like the Germans knew gose. Schell’s second best new beer - Goosetown - is a modified gose, with less salt (and less sour) than the traditional gose, leading to what tastes more like an inspired witbier.

My sources say Lucid Brewing’s Goslar provided more salt and more tradition this year, though it sold out so fast I never got to try any. That’s okay - the style seems to be catching on, and summertime is better for it.

Favorite Brewery I’d Never Tried Before: AleSmith

If you read last year’s column, this might be a surprise. All I ever wanted in life was to be bathed in beer from the mythical New Glarus Brewing, and this year I tried what seemed like ALL of it.

But a trip to San Diego will really screw with your perception of great beer.

The winner of our vacation was AleSmith, the only brewery that has ever made me care about ESB again. In addition to AleSmith’s signature EXTRA special bitter, they exposed us to an amazing Speedway Stout, a fantastic Grand Cru, an itty-bitty “grumbler”, the cleanest taproom in San Diego, and (a few months later) the idea of mail-order beers.

Honorable Mention: New Glarus, obviously, and Mahr’s, who make a mean Helles and a fantastic Hefeweizen.

Favorite Beer We’ll Never See Again: Cocoa Mole

New Belgium’s Cocoa Mole was a thing of beauty, and those of us who attended Bros Brasserie’s New Belgium Lips of Faith beer dinner got one of the last barrels in existence. Which should teach you all a lesson: MAYBE YOU SHOULD STOP MISSING THE BROS BRASSERIE BEER DINNERS, EVERYONE.

Favorite Beer I Had an an Airport: Surly Darkness 2013

I had this - and only had this - at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Because it’s the best airport in the entire world.

My Favorite Beers of 2013

Finally.

I did this last year, and I was nice about it - it was just beers you could get here in Sioux Falls. This year, I can’t be that nice. My favorite beer above all others is located in a tap room in Northeast Minneapolis, and I refuse to leave it off the list.

So you get two lists. Lucky!

(These are all beers I tried for the first time in 2013, not just beers first released in 2013. They are in no real order.)

The Best of Sioux Falls

Deschutes Armory XPA - I sometimes can’t tell if I like this because it’s hard to find (growler and tap only, from what I’ve seen) or if I think the name sounds cool, or if it’s really good. Probably all three.

Green Flash Brewing West Coast IPA - I first had it in San Diego, but now that they sell it in Sioux Falls I can put it on this list. The standard bearer that named the style.

Great Lakes/Deschutes Class of ‘88 Imperial Smoked Porter - The breweries behind my two favorite porters (Edmund Fitzgerald and Black Butte) join forces for this smoky porter.

Ovila Abbey Saison (w/Mandarin Oranges and Peppercorns) - Hey, tell the people at Ovila and XXX to keep making beers together, because this is everything a saison should be - spicy, fruity, awesome - with a touch of that good ol’ Belgian spirit.

Odell WellSpring Dry-Hopped Saison Ale - It’s hoppy enough to be an IPA, but with that saison funk you love. Odell really hit it out of the park with their sampler beers this year (I feel like I’m one of the few who really liked the Loose Leaf session they put out).

Schell’s Fresh Hop - A case study in why Mosaic hops are so good, Schell’s Fresh Hop - a now-yearly single-hop beer that sprouted from last year’s Stag Series Citra Pils - might take a few to get on board, but once you do you might not drink anything else this winter. Or, at least, that’s what happened to me.

Honorable Mentions: A trio of beers pulled from this year’s Bourbon County Stout vertical at Monk’s: Bourbon County Stout 2008, Bourbon County Stout 2010, and Nightstalker 2010.

The Best of Everywhere

Dangerous Man Belgian Golden Strong - I am in serious love with this beer, guys. I need help.

Russian River Brewing Company Pliny the Elder - It’s as good as everyone ever said.

Great Lakes Brewing Company Eliot Ness - HAHA! HEY COREY! IT’S FUNNY THAT YOU LOVE VIENNA LAGERS. Yeah, maybe, but Eliot Ness is hands down the best Vienna Lager - and one of the best lagers in general.

New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat - Sometimes I forget that wheat beers can be awesome. Like this one.

Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Cold Press Black Ale - Like a hot cup of delicious coffee, except it’s actually cold and it’s a black ale. Taproom only, which is a total bummer because Duluth is a really long drive from my house.

Snake River Brewing Co. Double Fistin’ IPA - And if you think Duluth is a long drive, imagine driving to Jackson, Wyoming, for this amazing taproom-only double IPA. (I’ll give you a hint: it’s about three times as far away.)

Best Closing Paragraph of 2013

It’s this one, because it follows 1,300 words of collected beer experiences, travels, tastes and illumination. Your lists will vary, and I hope they do - the idea that we all follow the same breweries and champion the same beers is as boring as listening to these Coldplay Christmas songs that sprouted up all month long.

Here’s to hoping 2014 is as fruitful as last. (Except for the beer. Keep the fruit out of there.)

Cheers and happy new year!

- Corey Vilhauer

Land of 10,000 beers

As a beer lover, working at Monks House of Ale Repute is a pretty great gig. And while I avoid writing about it for conflict of interest reasons, occasionally my job affords the opportunity to try many different beers and share my thoughts with you. Last week’s Minnesota Craft Beer Week was one such chance.

If you were on top of your craft beer game, then you were able to experience one or more of over one dozen specialty brews from the great beer state of Minnesota. If you missed out, I’ll let you in on five beers I had in a flight that were winners.

First up was Schell’s Brewing (New Ulm, MN) Fresh Hop Pilsner. An excellent blend of a traditional German-style pilsner, single-hopped with Mosaic hops. Simple pilsner malt forms the base vehicle that showcases the subtle and fresh Mosaic hops nicely. The hazy/golden appearance was inviting. It was light-bodied and easy drinking, along with being crisp and clean. The hop presence is unique, delivering lemongrass and citrus flavors. This is the second year of this delicious offering from Schell’s. I wish I had forgone my brewery job-tied hands and delved into a six-pack last year.

Next was Surly Brewing (Brooklyn Center, MN) Dampfbier California Common/Steam Beer. Golden amber in color, dry initially with a slight sweet finish, the aromas were a tad odd with a metallic note. It’s a steam beer with a twist. It’s very fruity, with banana dominating, a spicy, clove presence, and a yeasty abundance of bready malts. Surly continues to push the envelope with their signature Surly spin on traditional styles. I’d say it’s one of the better I’ve had of this type.

Third was Indeed Brewing (Minneapolis, MN) Daytripper Pale Ale.
I love this beer! The color was a brilliant sunset orange. It has a strong taste of citrusy grapefruit, orange, pineapple, tangerine, lemon, and passion fruit, a surprisingly dank taste of pine resin spice and earthy grass, and a bitter but fairly clean hop profile. The hops are pretty dominant here. A very good, juicy taste. In the background are some bready malts with notes of caramel, biscuit, and cracker. This is a tasty offering from Indeed, and it drinks more like an India Pale Ale than an American Pale Ale.

Fourth up was the Summit Brewing (St. Paul, MN) Rebellion Export Stout. From the limited-release Summit Union Series comes a single-hopped dry stout. This has an inky-black appearance. There are big flavors of dark roasted malts with notes of dark chocolate, dark coffee beans, burnt caramel, toasted bread, toffee, nuts, biscuit, grains, cream, and yeast. It has a big presence of a spicy hop with notes of pine resin — enough hops that it almost tastes like a black ale. I also sensed some notes of molasses, and dark fruits like fig, plum, and raisin. The only fault I found for this special release is that it’s a little thin for a stout — I like to chew my dark brews.

Finally, Brau Brothers Brewing (Marshall, MN) Bancreagie Single Malt Sour Scotch Ale. Bancreagie is named after the granite that creates the aquifer from which the water for the beer comes from in Lucan, MN (the former Brau Brothers location). This is a deep ruby reddish-brown with a sour aroma. It’s smooth, rich, sweet, smokey, and sour. A fabulous combination of flavors! This is aged and soured in Templeton Rye Whisky barrels. I got lucky and saved the best for last. Puckering and outstanding!

Two notable mentions were Schell’s Framboise du Nord Raspberry Berliner Weiss and Indeed Midnight Ryder Black Ale.

Exceptional beer is being made in right in our midst. So next time you’re reaching for a brew, forego the norm, give up the tall mug two-fer and expand your taste buds.

Minnesota Nice!

- Kosta Theodosopoulos

Rambling About Winter: Winter Warmers, Lagers and Carols.

"You can’t get too much winter in the winter," Robert Frost once said, because apparently Robert Frost was a jerk who never lived in South Dakota where, LET ME TELL YOU, you certainly can get too much winter.

Romantic blathering aside, I get what Frost was trying to say. Winter is beautiful, and anyone who spends their time complaining about the weather is either too boring to think of anything else or an employee of the National Weather Service. Weather is weather. It happens, and we can’t do anything about it, and so maybe the best thing we could do is just shut up and make the best of it.

The best of it - at least for those of us who consider Sam Calagione as much a visionary as Robert Frost - often shows up in a late fall delivery of winter warmers. I wrote about them last year, and even did a quick tasting of the big name offerings in preparation for an interview on Dakota Midday; my conclusion is the same as it’s always been: winter warmers are either boozy and thick or spiced and toasty, and while I used to be a huge fan, this year I tired of them rather quickly.

Bucking tradition has been the unintended consequence of becoming a beer columnist - my brain tends to tire of the mainstream, so I veer dangerously close to ironic contrarianism. You say you love fresh hop season? I will agree, but will endlessly make fun of the hippie names hopheads slap on their bottles. You say you love winter warmers? I’ll stupidly argue with you about how a good rauchbier or Baltic porter is way better.

You put spice in a beer, and I’m done.

Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas, everyone. Corey’s turned into a jerkface snobhead.

Let’s be honest, though - I don’t hate many beers, and I don’t begrudge anyone’s tastes. A too-high percentage of people sing the praises of Shiner Cheer, despite the fact that it’s one of the few beers I’ve ever poured down the sink, which is proof enough that personal taste is subjective. What I do begrudge, however, is the idea that seasons should dictate what we’re drinking.

I talked about this during the summer, when finding a good porter became impossible among the shelves of shandies and hefeweizens. But in the winter, it’s even worse - outside of the too-small fresh hop season, there’s a vast cavern where the light, fresh, delicious and easily-consumed beers once stood. Everyone puts their special lagers and their light Belgians away, opting for another Belgian Strong and a Double Russian Imperial Rocket Aged Bourbon-Barrel-Inside-A-Wine-Barrel Stout.

It’s at this time I seek refuge in the year-round German beers. Bombers or pints of Hell by Mahr’s Bräu. Some of those leftover Ayinger Oktoberfests in the basement. Some hefeweizen we purposely brewed for winter, when everything gets dark and no one can see through their glass.

It’s enough to think I have some kind of beer-season affective disorder, but that’s not the case. I love the season - more and more as I get older. I don’t mind getting my daughter’s Christmas pageant songs stuck in my head, and I don’t scoff at bad winter drivers anymore. I’m too happy. ‘Tis the season.

There’s always more room for the season - even if it means opening up your mouth a little more than you’d like. Monk’s will host one of these mouth-opening events this Thursday - a Beer and Carols sing-along, combining the never-ending joy of holiday cheer with the never-ending taps of Gandy Dancer and Company.

Dozens of people, knocking back local brews (and plenty of Minnesota beers) as they sing about geese a’layin’ and maids a’milkin’. If we’re lucky, we might see Jerry himself climbing up on the bar for a solo performance of Dominick the Donkey.

I doubt Robert Frost had have the guts to do it himself. Come to think of it, I’m not sure Robert Frost really understood what winter was really about: it’s okay to be miserable in the cold, because that miserableness gives us the excuse to seek out companionship. That miserableness forces us to be resourceful. What doesn’t freeze us makes us stronger.

So raise a glass - a glass of whatever you like, whatever the season - and sing along.

- Corey Vilhauer

(Argus Leader file photo)

Minneapolis Brewery Tour: Thirsty Trekkers

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These are the voyages of the 4Runnership Theodosopouli. Our 3-day mission: to explore great new breweries; to imbibe in new beer culture and new civilization; to become sideways where we have not stumbled before.

Beer Date 1120.4
Beer Captain’s Log: Our destination is Dangerous Man Brewing Co. in the northeast quadrant of Minneapolis. There we encountered a Dogwood Coffee Dubbel, brewed with Dogwood Coffee Ethiopian Amaro Gayo beans, which lends to fruity subtleties in the coffee. This dubbel is a beautiful burgundy brown in color. It’s a malty and somewhat spicy brew with hints of biscuit bread, banana, and dried fruits. Dangerously delicious!

Beer Date 1120.7
Beer Captain’s Log: Our destination is Town Hall Brewery in the West Bank area of Minneapolis.
The local flavor was Big Citrus American IPA, an American IPA dry-hopped with Citra hops. Town Hall’s AIPA is golden orange in color. Big tropical fruits dominate this brew. Flavors of mangos, grapefruits, pineapples, and lemons really shine through. Only slight bready malt notes are present. Bitterly bold!

Beer Date 1121.4
Beer Captain’s Log: Our destination is Indeed Brewing Co. in the northeast quadrant of Minneapolis.
Our guide served up a Sweet Yamma Jamma Sweet Potato Ale, a fruit/vegetable beer. This is Indeed’s take on a fall seasonal. Brewing it with sweet potatoes and candied yams makes this a unique fall brew, deep caramel brown in color. The brew is well complemented with seasonal spices such as cinnamon, all spice, and (possibly) ginger. Magnificently malty!

Beer Date 1121.6
Beer Captain’s Log: Our destination is 612Brew in the northeast quadrant of Minneapolis.
Our quest uncovered a Rated R Rye IPA, an American IPA with Rye. 612 misses with this brew. Faint orange and brown in appearance, it lacked any spicy, earthy aroma that should be expected from a rye ale. Malts dominate with very little hop presence. One and done. Poor pint!

Beer Date 1121.8
Beer Captain’s Log: Our destination is Fulton Brewing Co. in the north area of downtown Minneapolis.
We took on Batch 300 American IPA, Fulton’s Anniversary Beer, the 300th batch of beer brewed by Fulton. The color was a brilliant sunset orange. The aroma is of catty stank….Wonderful! The hops are delivered up, down, and all over the palate with a very minimal malty presence. By far the best brew of our exploration. Dank and delightful!

With our exploration complete, livers in need of some rest and faith in the unconquerable craft beer world intact, we set our navigational numbers to 43.5364 N and 96.7317 W. Home was only a few clicks away!

Not our final frontier of beer!

- Kosta Theodosopoulos

On the Frustration of Rarity

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Though I wasn’t specifically trying to buy a bottle of Deschutes’ The Abyss this weekend, I still came up short.

This particular passion play begins at Taylor’s Pantry, where I stopped to pick up a bottle of Schell’s Framboise Du Nord, the latest in the Noble Star Collection, and then figured, “HEY, WHY NOT.” Knowing it had just been released, I asked Chad if there was any Abyss in the back.

Nope. None.

This was a surprise. In years’ past, I had never had trouble finding Abyss, yet here - just a day or two after release - it was sold out at my local haunt?

Wondering if this was a common occurrence, I did some JOURNALISTIC RESEARCH (i.e. - I called the rest of the usual suspects - JJ’s, Fogies). Over and over, I heard the same thing.

"Nope. We’re out."

It was at my last stop, though - HyVee Wine and Spirits on Minnesota Avenue - when it struck me that things had changed.

"Do you by any chance have any Abyss left over?"

The answer was what I expected. No. All out. “Someone came in this morning and bought all eight of our remaining bottles,” the clerk told me.

Wait. What?

Sioux Falls has reached the tipping point. It takes less than it used to for a beer to sell out. Sometimes, all it takes is a lack of limits.

The Change in Our Landscape

Four years ago, I tried my first Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. I’m not going to say I was a changed man - on the contrary, I thought it was boozy and thick and not at all what I wanted at the time - but I was blown away by what a beer could become given several months and what seemed like billions of pounds of malt. I was also blown away by the price. Not because I’m a prude, but because I hadn’t yet reawakened the homebrew monster inside and didn’t really understand all that goes into a beer as thick and boozy as Bourbon County Stout.

A year later? Taylor’s Pantry had several four-packs of Bourbon County Stout sitting out in a display. No one was clamoring for them. Most people didn’t know what it was.

Let’s think about that for a second.

Three years ago, the market for what has become the most sought after beer in Sioux Falls was nil. You could walk into a store and just buy it. JUST BUY IT LIKE YOU WERE BUYING MILK.

2011 saw no Bourbon County Stout.

2012 saw it sell out faster than ever.

And now here we are, where every new boozy beer is in danger of disappearing before we even get a chance to see it. I’m not sure we’re ready for the consequences of that shift.

Black Friday

This Friday is Black Friday, which means those with the strength to brave holiday shopping will be fighting back bargain hunters and cursing the unruly as they slink from store to store in search of holiday gifts. It’s the perfect opening volley in what has become a game of attrition: who can make it through the holidays with their sanity in check.

Black Friday is also opening season for this year’s Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. Since Sioux Falls isn’t able to get other regional rarities like Surly Darkness or Three Floyds Dark Lord, we instead flock toward this Chicago-born beer just like thousands around the country.

I’m not convinced I’ll get one - not because I don’t want one, but because, as Philip Montoro writes in his Chicago Reader preview, “highly sought-after limited releases provoke the craft-beer boom’s grossest bull**: nerds with more free time than sense queuing up outside a liquor store before dawn, for instance, or shadowing a delivery truck from one stop to the next, or buying a shop’s entire bottle allotment to sell or trade online.”

It’s funny, but it’s true. While Sioux Falls is behind the curve on this level of hoarding, it’s still slowly creeping into the beer culture.

This is good - this shows that craft beer has truly infiltrated our fair city. But it’s also bad, because while we have plenty of people clamoring for great beer, near-national breweries like Goose Island and Deschutes are still reluctant to send large amounts of product, especially when they can easily sell out in their larger markets with little trouble.

This means that, if you really want something rare and big, you might have to be one of those nerds who sit out front of the liquor store waiting for a box of Bourbon County to be cracked open. It also means, if you own a liquor establishment, there’s a balance you must strike between getting bottles out the door and keeping people happy. Do you save bottles for good customers? Do you put in place a “first come first serve” unlimited purchase policy? Or do you limit the number of bottles you allow each person to grab, thus destroying any flexibility one might have in saving and savoring.

I don’t have the answer. It’s frustrating, beyond a doubt. As someone with a full time job (and as someone who values his time) I often never even have a chance at those big beers. But who am I to begrudge those who make pains? Is it about who wants it more? Or is it about who has access in the first place?

All I know is this: if you ask me to stand in line for electronics, clothing, gifts, toys or beer, I’m going to choose the beer every time.

Just don’t let the person in front of me buy eight of them.

- Corey Vilhauer

Green Flash Brewing a score for South Dakota

We’re going with a game-time theme in today’s blog. It’ll be like breaking in a new pair of cleats: both a thing of beauty and punishing at the same time.

Green Flash Brewing Company, hailing from sunny San Diego, CA (Est. 2002), has hit the South Dakota market, and thankfully so. They are known as pioneers in the craft beer industry. Recognized for pushing the envelope with their big, bold, unique styles, Green Flash beers have won numerous awards.

These beers are very visually appealing and flavorful, but also wallop a punch with their high ABVs. I may need a stretcher afterward or at least fake an injury to my liver, take a roll on the pitch, and be cured with a rejuvenating aerosol spray.

Our starting lineup: West Coast IPA, Imperial IPA, and Green Bullet IPA.

West Coast IPA will wow the crowds. Coming in at 7.3% ABV and the MVP of the team, West Cost IPA will always be an all-star. It starts out with a severe kick of hops, which should be expected, with a vibrant combination of citrus, grapefruit, and pine. The medium orange-amber color is inviting. Expect a slightly dry finish. This is a multi-dimensional player in the field of IPAs. This first beer is a thing of beauty; a cross-goal header into the corner.

Coming in at 9.4% ABV and a solid mid-fielder, Imperial IPA will have a long career.  Imperial IPA pours a cloudy yellow/orange. Aromas are of pine and alcohol. It’s crisp and refreshing, not too heavy and not too light. A solid IPA to have on your team.

The final beer is like a broken play, or a trickling left-footed shot past the goalie. Green Bullet IPA, at 10.1% ABV, lacks a few skills. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good IPA, but is short on some qualities. The hop aroma is fair, it’s decent tasting, and it packs a kick. Honey apricot in color, this sweeter tasting IPA just doesn’t do it for me — too boozy.

Keep an eye out for Green Flash Palette Wrecker IPA to make a call-up in January. It’s a killer beer!

Not only can you find these wonderful IPAs on draft at select bars, they’re also in four packs and 22-ounce bombers in area bottle shops. Be sure to imbibe on Green Flash’s full all-star lineup, which includes (at this time) Barleywine Ale, Le Freak Belgian/Imperial IPA Ale, Hop Head Red India Pale Ale, and Double Stout Black Ale. They truly have a winning team. All are well crafted!

Goal!!!!!

- Kosta Theodosopoulos

Learning Local Culture, One Airport Bar At a Time

I have a funny habit. When I go to a grocery store, I *have* to look at the beer cooler.

I marvel at the colors and brands, and I comment to myself about each out-of-character beer on the shelf. “Oh, this one sells Nordeast tallboys!” “Oh, this one carries the entire line of Odell!” “Oh, this one is just like every other gas station, except they decided their obligatory craft beer is going to be Fat Tire instead of Blue Moon.”

Am I thirsty? No. Will I buy any beer? No. Why do I do it?

I don’t know. I’m just curious. I love the regional and class affectations each cooler brings. I love thinking about the decisions that led to each marketing decision. I’m weird. Probably.

While grocery stores and gas stations have their own culture of beer selection - they are, ultimately, one of the few places that serve an all-encompassing audience; everyone needs food, everyone needs gas - I’m even more obsessed with viewing beer labels at an even more cold and sterile and all-encompassing facility: Airports.

Airports are weird places. For just a few hours, you’re in what’s the equivalent of a really expensive mall. You make bad decisions. You’re bored, so why wouldn’t you eat a Five Guys burger? You’re stuck, and that lack of mobility subconsciously sends you into a panic. Airport bars are there for you. Apparently.

There are few places where we can be exposed to entire regions of beer as quickly as in an airport. You can go from Chicago to Atlanta in just hours and find the logos of several new breweries all along the way. The standard lineup is always a mix of national light beers, a handful of nationally-distributed craft beers, and two hyper-local craft beers - Surly in Minneapolis, or Goose Island in Chicago, or New Belgium in Denver.

An airport in Philadelphia, where I spent an hour, served Yuengling. An airport in Hartford, where a late flight stranded me for three hours, served two Long Island beers I thought I’d never see again. There are local themed bars - Boston has Sam Adams, Denver has New Belgium - and there are no fewer than a thousand Chili’s Too locations in case you need to find Miller Lite.

Airport bars are weird places, too. I don’t care what time it is, there’s always three people alone at the airport bar, all three of them with an empty glass, all three of them staring into a screen - a television, a phone, a laptop - and all three of them patiently waiting for the regional beer that most closely matches their hometown favorite.

I want to make this clear: I’m cheap, so I rarely go to the airport bar. But I check every major airport bar to see what’s on tap, just as I would in the grocery store. One out of four times, I’ll order a beer with dinner as I’m waiting on my flight. And while I don’t think airports count as part of the regional culture - their sterile walls and cattle-call lines betraying any cultural guideposts they may have installed - those few beers are as close as I can get to knowing what it’s like outside of those walls. Outside of that security. Outside of the difficulties that come with extended travel.

There’s no practical reason that I care about what beer is being sold inside some store or restaurant that I may never see again. But I believe the difference in regional selections from store to store - and from bar to bar - helps prove that, despite our tendency to gravitate toward mass-market products, each of us live in a very different place, with different beers and different people and different lives.

Peeking into the airport bar isn’t practical. But I still do it. It’s what keeps me in my personal rhythm. It’s what reminds me that I’m still a person, not just a ticket and a name.

And sometimes, I stop. Sometimes the loneliness of travelling alone and the frustration of being shuttled around with little regard for humanity leads me to a small bar in the G Concourse of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Sometimes, I pull up the fancy iPad menu and see a rare jewel: Surly Darkness 2013. Sometimes, I have to stop being cheap, press a few buttons, and nod appreciatively as my glass of smooth, dark Surly-style imperial stout is placed in front of me.

Sometimes, I have to give in and relax and understand that while airport bars are weird and desperate, they can also be a beacon in the storm. Sometimes, I find something fantastic in all of that sprawl.

But I’ll never know if I don’t look. And that’s what keeps me looking.

- Corey Vilhauer

Winterize your fridge with seasonal beers from Dark Horse

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With the daylight waning and darkness dominating, this time of year is ripe for hibernation.

As I hunker down for the season, trade in my two-wheeler for snow shoes, and accept that my belt may have to move a notch or two, I long for snow-filled evenings with a crackling fire and bold beer to warm my soul.

Dark Horse Brewing suffices. With their five-month stout series, belly-warming scotch ale, and spice-filled winter warmer, I’m positive you’ll find a way to cure the cabin fever blues (or at least become content with staying inside).

The first beer I opened, as early dusk (5 pm!) approached, was Dark Horse’s Scotty Karate Scotch Ale. The beer is a clear, dark chestnut color with a syrupy appearance. The smell is like freshly baked wheat with an intense malt presence, and slightly boozy. There’s a creamy, bready malt flavor throughout, not overly sweet with a hint of caramel and bread crust. There’s a touch of fruitiness to it, but I can’t pinpoint what exactly. The finish is malty sweet. With this beer coming in at 9.75% ABV, it’s definitely a bone warmer.

As the evening grew darker (faster than I remember), I cracked the One Oatmeal Stout. According to the brewery, this beer is “one in a series of five stouts produced to help ease you through the cold and grey Midwestern winters.” The series will commence with Plead the 5th Imperial Stout in February. The beer itself pours thick and black as motor oil. On first sip, there’s a flavor that I find reminiscent of baker’s dark chocolate and bitter espresso. This is a beer that you could have instead of dessert after your big helping of comfort food.

Hunkered down by the roaring fire and craving one last brew with which to lift and warm my spirit, I decided on the 4 Elf Winter Ale. This is classified as a winter warmer, which is the general name given to any cold weather ale with spice additions and a strong alcohol content. The 4 Elf doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The spice aroma is amazing, full of clove, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. That doesn’t overpower, though, as it is supported well by a chocolate body and well balanced, warming alcohol. To be honest, I couldn’t help but be thrown back to the Fig Newtons from childhood. Of the three, this is my favorite.

You can find all of the Dark Horse seasonals around town currently. I know Good Spirits Fine Wine and Liquor and Look’s Market carry them.

The winters are long and cold. Warm your belly and keep your spirits lifted.

Kosta Theodosopoulos


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