Friday, May 16, 2014

Minnesota Craft Beer Week - Day 4 (A personal account)

Friday morning rolled around and before we were even out the door, I already had a laundry list of places to go to. Of all the days during Minnesota Craft Beer Week, I would have to say that this was by far the busiest out of all the 6 days as you will see why shortly.

For our first stop, we decided to swing by Town Hall Brewery which is right by my alma mater: Augsburg College. I have some fond memories of this place during my time in college: From having a pint with my classmates after a 4 hour lecture, to celebrating with my buddies right after finishing very last final of our college careers. Yes, it's safe to say that this place holds a special place in my heart.

The place had undergone some renovations since I had last been there, with an expanded back area and the main doors now being located on the east end of the building as opposed to the southeast corner. Still for all the changes that it undergone, it still had the same vibe that I had come to know and love from Town Hall.

Knowing that a rather long day was ahead of us, I opted for a flight this time around as opposed to a pint of just one beer. After all, variety is the spice of life and what better way to utilize that example than with beer?

Town Hall Masala Mama - Their signature IPA and considered by many to be Town Hall's flagship beer. This beer contains a strong citrus hop profile with a solid caramel malt backbone and a slight spicy/rye flavor to top it off. It might be a little intense for newcomers to the IPA style but this is an incredibly good beer.

Town Hall S.S. Cascade - Town Hall's APA which was on tap. This beer contains a very sweet floral hop profile and a good caramel malt backbone and it's got a fairly dry aftertaste. Not too complex in terms of flavor but still very good!

Town Hall Hefeweizen - Fairly potent clove & banana sweetness upfront with some malted wheat, light fruity citra-hop sweetness. Not too much else going on here, but quite good nonetheless

Town Hall Parkway Java Porter (On Nitro)-  I'm not much of a coffee drinker because I'm not a big fan of the taste. However I found this to be surprisingly good! It has some fairly strong coffee and roasted barley notes and chocolate malts to help even things out. Being that it's also on nitro helps in terms of drinkability and makes the strong coffee flavor seem less overpowering.

Town Hall Czar Jack - Their signature Russian Imperial Stout aged in whiskey barrels. It shows particularly in the flavor with some strong vanilla notes, chocolate malts, mild whiskey and oak notes. Even though all of the beers were extremely good, this was probably by far my favorite beer. I know it's not available all the time so I consider myself to be very lucky that I got to try it out.

After finishing lunch, we decided to make our way down Washington Avenue toward The Freehouse, a fairly new brewpub that opened late last year. Unlike Town Hall, this place had more of a contemporary/modern feel to it as opposed to Town Hall which invoked more of a classical atmosphere.

I wanted to do a flight but the closest things they had to that were what they called "ponies", which are little vase shaped glasses as you can see above. Since we had a couple hours to kill before moving on to our next destination, my fiance opted to finish some of her homework while I decided to sample each one of the house beers using the pony glasses

The Freehouse IPA - A fairly straightforward IPA with some good citrus and piney hop notes and a nice caramel maltiness. It was also fairly smooth in terms of texture, so I found this to be a very easy drinker.

The Freehouse IPL (India Pale Lager) - Brewed specifically for MN Craft Beer Week, it's a style which I have seen catching on slowly over the past couple of years. This starts out with a strong pale malt backbone with a fairly prominent piney hop and mild citra-hop flavor. I've been kind of a sucker for IPLs recently and this is certainly no exception.

The Freehouse Bock - Just in time for spring! This beer possessed a fairly bready/yeasty flavor with subtle roasted malts, light chocolate and caramel malt sweetness. Nothing that I haven't seen before but a very solid beer nonetheless.

The Freehouse American Wheat Ale - I had a few witbiers during that week and this one struck me as quite different. It had a very strong malted wheat, grassy and light floral hop flavor profile but none of the berry-fruity sweetness that I have come to expect, giving it an organic-like flavor.

The Freehouse Hoppy Amber - I'm not terribly big on Vienna/Amber Lager style with the exception of Great Lake's Elliot Ness. With that said, I found Hoppy Amber to be surprisingly good. A nice roasted barley profile along a solid Munich Malt backbone topped off with some piney hops. Not my favorite beer of the bunch, but much better than I expected.

The Freehouse Stout - A nice chocolate malt flavor balanced out with some roasted barley and a mild hoppiness. On top of that, it had a very smooth texture and mild carbonation. It's easy to drink and pretty tasty.

The Freehouse Kolsch - Light grape flavors along with light floral hops and pale malts. Nothing too complex or anything; Just a very simple and easy to drink beer.

The Freehouse Brown Ale - The last pony glass of my stay. Nice chocolate malts and a minor roasted barley profile paired up with some minor dry hoppiness. It's not too different from other brown ales I've had in the past but it's still very good!

After finishing up at The Freehouse, we decided to make our way up to Barley John's Brewpub in New Brighton for the tapping of their Warrior's Passage 2.0 Imperial IPA on Falconer's Flight Hops as part of an event for MN Craft Beer Week. Seeing as how we were anticipating it to be quite busy when the event started, we arrived about half an hour before the actual tapping of the keg/pin took place.

When we got there, it was pretty empty with the only two people in the place sitting at the bar waiting to get their hands on the Warrior's Passage. Since we had a bit of time to kill before it took place, I decided to help myself to a couple of beers while we waited.

Barley John's Rosies Old Ale - A beer that is released once every 3 years according to the brewery's website and it clocks in at a whooping 18% ABV, so it's a good thing that I just got a sampler glass of this beer. Very strong booziness along with some oak, rum raisin, vanilla and caramel malts. That, along with the slight burning sensation in my throat made it seem like I was drinking a shot of Malibu Rum; Don't worry though, I love my rums!

Warrior's Passage 2.0 Imperial IPA w/ Falconer's Flight Hops - Equally strong caramel malt and citrus hop notes. In the background is also a lingering bitter floral hoppiness. Very smooth and lightly carbonated. It goes without saying that I found it to be quite tasty!

After that, we decided to call it a day and head back to my fiance's place where we proceed to have a nice steak dinner while we watched the Wild proceed to beat the Blackhawks 4-2, though little did we know that the playoff semi-finals would go to the Blackhawks. Maybe next year, but the Wild victory still made an already great day even better!

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