Monday, December 29, 2014

A look back at 2014 (Yeah, it's one of these)

So I was going to start working on this post early next week since I was originally going to designate this holiday weekend to playing video games and not much else. However due to Playstation Network being down thanks to a hacker group that hates humanity and not being able to play Destiny (You need an internet connection to play the game,) I decided to pass the time by starting to write about this year in review.

2014 has been a year full surprises and life-changing events; Some of which I saw coming and others I did not expect. Here I'll be writing about the beers I've had as well as some happenings to mix it up. So without further ado, I give you my recap of 2014!

**Disclaimer: I'm also going to point out right now that this is also a fairly long post, so just a heads up**


What can be said about January? To be honest, not a whole lot. I guess the only memorable things I could take away from January would be the record breaking god-awful cold temperatures we had and a little something called Deschutes The Abyss.

With its rich and complex flavor, this beer easily stood out as the best beer in a month that I considered to be lacking. New Glarus' Raspberry Tart also was pretty good but The Abyss edged that one out, though it did make for a good trade a few months down the road.


The month of love was also a fairly slow month. However there was one beer that stood out to me...for all the wrong reasons. My regular readers probably know what I'm talking about but I'll explain a little further. I follow a philosophy that I never turn down free beer, regardless of who it's from. In other words, you have to screw up pretty badly to make a beer so horrible that even I wouldn't take it even if it were free.

Lo and behold, a beer matching that description made its way into my hands and it went by the name Miller Fortune.

I promise this is the last time I talk about Miller Fortune. Fortune was Miller's answer to Budweiser Black Crown and was no doubt marketed to the craft beer drinking crowd by promising bourbon-like flavors and toting a higher-than-normal ABV; Which I've mentioned a couple times before is pretentious and unnecessary. 

Needless to say, this ended up being one of the worst beers I had ever had. How could somebody take a wonderful thing like beer and make it so awful? I understand that it's a Miller product and all, but even their regular stuff like MGD, Pabst & Miller Lite, while not great, I would still consider to be tolerable at the very least. In any case, I hope Miller's next attempt at trying to gain a share of the craft beer market is....less terrible.


Finally a month that isn't mediocre! In early March, I was contacted by David Grandmaison and was offered the opportunity to help promote The Duluth Experience's North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable, which was a series of four roundtable events pertaining to the craft beer scene in NE Minnesota & NW Wisconsin. 

I cannot express enough how great it was to see well-respected individuals in the craft beer scene sit down, talk, and share their experiences in the industry. On top of that, I got to meet and network with so many great people.


April saw the continuation of the The Duluth Experience's Roundtable event, which featured the head-brewers from the various breweries located in the Duluth-Superior area. Much like the first event, the second part was just as engaging and interesting as the first one. 

So what made this month as interesting as March? Well for me it was the interviews I conducted. The first being the interview I did with David Grandmaison from The Duluth Experience, which I found to be extremely interesting and insightful. The second interview I did was with these guys....

I met Seth from Regular Guy Brewing on Twitter in the wee months of 2014 and we have since become good friends. Seth was awesome enough to give me the chance to interview him, which we managed to pull-off despite Google Hangout's attempts to cut our connection. Overall it was a fun month but it was only a prelude to what was to come.


During the first half of May, I spent a week down in Minneapolis/St. Paul for Minnesota Craft Beer Week, in which I covered various events which celebrated Minnesota Craft Beer. It was a week full of fun and it made memories that I will remember for the rest of my life. Needless to say it was also a very busy time but they always say time flies when you're having fun.

Among the thing I did during that week:

Those events were awesome and all, but they don't hold a candle to what the final day of Minnesota Craft Beer week had in store for me. That's because on the last day of Minnesota Craft Beer week, I met these guys for the first time....

I met with Jon & Josh from Angry Inch Brewing in Rosemount, Minnesota for a private tasting event. Originally it was supposed to be an hour long affair but it ended up turning into a 3 hour conversation about their experiences in brewing as well as the story behind each beer and just getting to know them; All the while drinking some fantastic beers which they made for the tasting event. 


June started off with me moving into my new place, which put me in close proximity to all the breweries & brewpubs located in Duluth. It was during this time I started doing weekly roundup posts which continued until the end of July; I would also like to take this time to point out that those posts WILL be making a return in the near future. As for when, I don't know yet.

June also marked the final event in The Duluth Experience North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable event, which focused on the role of women in the Craft Brewing Industry. Of all the roundtable events, I found that one to be the most educational and interesting of the topics that were covered during the Roundtable series

As for the beer, there was a lot of great beers that I had that month but the one I found to be the most memorable was Heady Topper from The Alchemist. Talk about a great and well balanced Imperial IPA, I can see why all the craft beer fanatics love to post pictures and boast about this beer online.


July brought about something new for me: an interview with a film director. I sat down with Dave Okar, director of Crafted to Last: Minnesota Beer Blossoms, a documentary which covered the rapid expansion of Minnesota Craft Beer movement thanks to the Taproom Bill that was passed back in 2011. It was a fun interview and it gave me a really good appreciation for all the local beer which we here in Minnesota have the pleasure of drinking.

Next up is The Duluth Experience Saturday Evening Brewery Tour, which consisted of tours at Vikre Distillery, Bent Paddle Brewing Company & Fitger's Brewhouse. For me, it was my own fun little mini-bachelor party that I threw for myself. It was a great time and it gave me a much greater appreciation for the craft beer scene in Duluth.

I ended July by going to camp.....Beer Camp that is! I acquired a 12-pack of Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp, which featured collaborations between Sierra Nevada and twelve different breweries across the country. Some of my favorites included:

Just a few days after I finished with that 12-pack, a big life changing event happened to me....


I got married.

Wait, that doesn't count? My mistake!

I suppose if I were to talk about anything beer related, the first order of business would be my mini-honeymoon up to Ely, MN for a couple of days right after we got married. It was my first time going through the Mesabi Iron Range and the sights were truly something to behold. 

Nestled deep in the northern edge of the Iron Range is a small brewery called the Boathouse Brewpub. It was a far cry in terms of size and scale when compared to other brewpubs in Minnesota. With that said, it was a nice and cozy place to eat and drink. 

Speaking of which, the beers were fantastic and quite tasty. I can also tell that it doesn't possess the same traffic and reputation as Town Hall & Fitger's but any craft beer fan owes it to themselves to check this place out. On top of that, the drive up there is gorgeous.


This the month of homebrew reviews. I reviewed not one, not two but seven homebrews. Remember Regular Guy & Angry Inch Brewing? Well I finally was able to sit down and do a proper review of their beers. 

From Angry Inch Brewing:
From Regular Guy Brewing:

Also worth noting is my interview with Sarina Otabi, who is the co-founder of Bluenose Gopher Brewery, an upcoming brewpub that will be based out of Granite Falls, MN which is scheduled to open sometime in the near future. It was a fun interview and I enjoyed learning more about the brewpub and what the future plans are.


The big thing to happen to me in October was being brought on board by Northland Beer, a website that is dedicated to raising awareness of the craft beer scene in the Upper Midwest. I am extremely grateful to be part of such a wonderful team and I really enjoy having another outlet to get my name and writing out there.

November & December

Finally to wrap up the year, a couple of pretty big things happened and the first thing I'd like to bring up is finding out that Angry Inch Brewing is planning on opening up their own brewery sometime next year in Lakeville, MN. They were also kind enough to let me officially announce the opening on Northland Beer's main website. 

During a tasting party I attended for Angry Inch Brewing back in November, several people who were at the event were familiar with my blog thanks to word of mouth by Angry Inch and quite fond of my work. To me, it was a very humbling experience and it was fun talking with everyone. 

Overall, it was a fun year and I am looking forward to what next year has in store for me. In fact, I know 2015 is going to be a great year. How do I know this? You'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy New Year!

- Nick

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