Tag Archives: Imperial Stout

Great Notion Brewing – Portland Oregon

Great Notion is a young Portland Brewery that has gained a huge following thanks to their embrace of quite a few beer trends including juicy IPAs and big adjunct stouts. When I visited on a Sunday they had a decent crowd upon opening because they also serve food and many people were there for brunch. They offer a few of their beers on any given day in crowlers that you can bring home with you. I had a flight of the seven beers they had on tap and was overall quite impressed.

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The Old Barn tart saison was a light amber color with an excellent balance of citrus notes and a mild tart finish. It was an excellent beer for the style. The Blueberry Muffin takes a style of saison that tends to taste like white cake and adds blueberries. The flavors blend together wonderfully so that it really tastes like you are drinking a blueberry muffin. If you are in the mood for something sweeter, but not overly sweet, this one is for you.

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On the IPA side, I had the Grass Roots, a dank IPA with mild herbal finish and notes of grass. Though ordinarily I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of the hop profile the flavors were balanced and it worked quite well. The Juice Junior was the hazy IPA of the day and it had a super soft body and tons of melon and sweet tropical fruits without much bitterness. After these, the Black Math, black IPA didn’t stand a chance, despite being well done. It had notes of smoke, toasted marshmallow, and bitter chocolate with a light bitter finish. This was a well done black IPA but I much preferred to drink the others on my flight.

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The double stack imperial stout with maple and coffee came on strong with tons of coffee and maple with a smooth lactose sweetness that didn’t overpower the rest of it. I can see why this one is so popular. I finished with Stacks of Coconut, their imperial stout with coconut. It was pure liquid coconut, a total coconut bomb with hints of vanilla on the finish. Like double stack, it was just the right amount of lactose to support the beer.

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For IPAs and Imperial Stouts in Portland, Great Notion rocketed to the top of my list in this short visit. I hope to return soon. Keep in mind that since it is a restaurant it has a fairly high amount of ambient noise and the seating at the bar is fairly limited.

Top 3:
Old Barn Tart Saison
Juice Junior
Double Stack

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Fort Lauderdale Breweries – Funky Buddha and LauderAle

Funky Buddha

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There are two locations for Funky Buddha, their large brewery with a traditional tasting room, and their hookah lounge, which is only open in the evenings. I visited the brewery. They have a large indoor space with plenty of tables and a lengthy bar. There is also outdoor seating for those who don’t mind drinking in the heat, though it isn’t the best setting to sit and sip their stouts. I started with their strong stouts, which are some of their most popular.

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The Maple Bacon porter was smooth and creamy with just the right amount of maple and fantastic balance. Often maple beers have far too much maple but this was nice and subtle. I didn’t taste much bacon or coffee though, and the beer was a bit on the sweet side for me but one of the best out of their stouts. The I’m So Excited coffee stout was also super sweet with tons of lactose and some mild coffee and caramel. I’m used to coffee stouts with strong coffee kick and didn’t get that here.

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Nikolai imperial stout had tons of dark cherry notes with a super sweet boozy finish. Jitterbug is their white stout with coffee and it tastes like most of the same style with tons of lactose and strong coffee. I’m not normally a fan of naughty sauce from Noble Aleworks so if you like that style of beer, this one is for you. Though I am well used to stouts being sweet, I found many of the offerings in my first flight at Funky Buddha to be a bit sweeter than my preference.

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For my second flight I went to their lighter stuff. The passion fruit berliner weisse had an intense passion fruit flavor with a mildly tart finish, a fantastic beer. The Hop Gun IPA had floral hop notes over a soft and creamy body that makes it really easy to drink. It finished with a mild lemon character.

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The Double IPA was a similar style but with more fruity hop notes and notes of honey at the finish. I preferred the fruity hops and had a full pour of this after the flight. The Nib Smuggler was a perfectly balanced mix of marshmallow and subtle lactose with a bitter chocolate finish. The more subtle lactose made for a delightful creamy beer.

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Top 3:
Passionfruit Berliner
Double IPA
NIB Smuggler

LauderAle

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After Funky Buddha I went to LauderAle, a location that is about 15 minutes drive south. They have a beautiful outdoor space that was full of people playing games with their beer. Their indoor space gets just the right amount of light from outside and they keep it at a comfortable cool temperature. I had a flight of four beers.

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The blonde with habanero and pineapple was delightful. The pineapple flavor was strong and sweet and backed up by just the lightest heat from the habanero. Even with all that fruit character, it still retained its light body and went down really smooth. I had three pints of this after the flight. The Coffee Porter had some mild roast and subtle vanilla mixed with coffee and spice at the finish. I thought the flavors were all too subtle, though it was easy drinking.

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The Rauch was smooth and smoky though the smoke was mild for the style. There was some light fruit under the smoke but like the porter, it felt a little too mild overall. The barrel aged coffee porter was creamy and had tons of vanilla with a mild bourbon finish. This was an excellent beer and much more flavorful than its base.  Though you probably won’t read much about LauderAle outside of Florida, I found their tasting room to be a great spot to visit with a solid lineup of beer.

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Top 2:
Pineapple Habanero Blonde
BBA C Porter

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Miami Breweries – J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing

J Wakefield Brewing

Both J Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing are in the Wynwood neighborhood known for graffiti and a small distance outside of downtown Miami. If you are staying on Miami Beach it is a bit of a drive to get out to the breweries but worth it if you are serious into beer. J Wakefield had their air conditioning at full blast, making it uncomfortably cold in the tasting room and music to match the urban graffiti look of the brewery complete with pounding bass on most songs. I came for their sours and stouts and was not disappointed, though the tasters were each $3 because of the beer styles. I chose to visit Wynwood Brewing after J Wakefield based on the recommendation of the server at J Wakefield.

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Their gose was clean and crisp with notes of citrus and fruit with mild salt at the finish. One Trick Pony is a bright pink color from the various fruits and I got notes of grapefruit rind, passionfruit and ginger. This was the most tart of the bunch and was very refreshing. Phat Bottom tastes like an apple tart (the pastry) with notes of honey and caramel, though was a bit too sweet for my tastes. Hops 4 Teacher was a bit sweet with a bitter finish that lingers on the tongue. It was fairly average as far as IPAs go.

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For my second flight I went high alcohol, with each beer over 10%. Brush has an intense chocolate marshmallow nose that translates nicely on the taste and a warming finish going down. The chocolate was subtle and everything was wonderfully balanced. Too Sweet was thick and tasty but overpowered by cinnamon and other spices, reminding me of a holiday ale. Gimme S’more was a more artificial tasting version of Brush without the fudge notes and compared to Brush wasn’t as good. I finished with Upper Body Strength, a collaboration triple IPA with Trillium. The beer had a light color and masked the alcohol really well. The hops gave off tons of fruit with lots of mango and citrus notes. It was a perfectly balanced triple IPA, a rarity for the style. I probably would have bought cans if they hadn’t sold out before I got there.

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Known For:
Come for fruited berliner weisse and intense adjunct stouts.

Top 2:
One Trick Pony
Brush

Wynwood Brewing

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In some ways I may be extra harsh because I came here after J Wakefield but I was not too excited by the beers here. They are slightly more established and had a clear draw in the community with people having parties and kids running around. I started with the Magic City pale ale which smelled like overripe fruit but once I got past that it was a solid balanced pale ale with fruity hops and a mild bitterness.

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House IPA was a bit herbal with a bitter finish, very similar style to the pale, probably the same malts. I couldn’t stand the hops they used to I didn’t finish this one. Citranella was their citra hop IPA but it tasted more like a lower alcohol barleywine with its strong malt backbone. Seems like a waste of the citra hops, which were barely detectable. The imperial stout was smooth and mildly sweet with hints of caramel and vanilla and some mild smoke.

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Wynwood seems to know how to make beer but their IPAs are all far too malty and lack the intense hop aromas that make the style enjoyable. If you prefer the modern style of lower malt IPAs then you won’t like their beers all that much. I didn’t try their other styles that people seemed to be drinking a lot of, like the blonde ale.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Breweries in Western Michigan – Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and other areas

There are many breweries in Western Michigan. I could never visit all of them in a span of two days, nor can I give sufficient time to all the breweries I did visit. I stuck to those breweries most recommended on Beer Advocate message boards. In this post I will cover Brewery Vivant, Founders, New Holland, Arclight, Transient, and Bell’s. I didn’t try anything on tap at Arclight though so I will be posting based on the bottles of sour beer I picked up recently on my way to Transient. I also didn’t taste anything but stouts at Bell’s because I happened to visit on their All Stout’s Day.

Brewery Vivant

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Vivant is known for its Belgian style beers and the few that I tried were quite well done even if some were not to my tastes. Vivant is located inside an old funeral church and they have a gorgeous space with two large stained-glass windows. They have tons of seating and a full menu of food. I stopped in quickly for a flight. Keep in mind the tasters are on the expensive side, with prices ranging from $3 to $4. I’m not sure that I understand why they have such pricing. Thankfully, the bottles are more reasonably priced and they have cans of most of their core beers.

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Their farmhouse ale was dry with notes of white wine and some mild peach with minimal spice character. It is a very well-done saison. The maelstrom stout is bitter and smoky with some mild roast and hints of burnt caramel. It has a creamy finish and if you give it some time to warm up and for your palate to adjust to the initial shock it is a fantastic beer. The Verdun Biere de Garde has notes of dark fruit with a mildly sweet finish. It wasn’t as dry as I expected but I enjoyed it enough and the beer was nicely balanced. The Liquid Crystal Belgian IPA was intensely floral with a fruity base malt similar to the Verdun. I wasn’t a fan of the mix of flavors and it was not my hop profile but it is a well-made beer.

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Their stone fruit sour was excellent with some intense brett on the nose and a puckering tart at the finish that gives way to sweet peach and nectarine. I left with two bottles of this for myself and another for a friend. It is worth checking ahead to see if the brewery has any sours because they are excellent. The barrel aged stout on raspberries was a shock at first with a mix of flavors I haven’t experienced before. I’m not sure I like the blend of bourbon and raspberry. To me this is almost a sour and not something I would recommend for someone who is mostly into sweeter stouts. The raspberry comes on as mildly tart and overpowers the bourbon. If you like sweeter stouts you should go to Founders or New Holland instead.

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Top 2:
Farm House Saison
Stone Fruit Sour

Founders

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Compared to the spacious area of Vivant, which is already a good size as breweries go, Founders is massive. While they do have some people taking orders from the tables, you can also line up and order beer or food directly from the counter, which is faster. They also have a water bottle filling station near the restrooms to make it easy to hydrate. Because of the huge space, Founders has live music and we were blessed by some bluegrass during our time there. I’m not sure why the groups seemed to only play one song and then switch but I wasn’t complaining because despite being bluegrass they had a ton of bass in the music. Come with ear plugs if you like a quiet brewery experience, especially on weekends.

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I tried a couple of their IPAs and a couple of stouts but we didn’t have a ton of tasters because they didn’t have many stouts on tap and I wasn’t a huge fan of the IPAs. The harvest IPA was a fantastic mix of resin and grapefruit and nicely balanced with a mild sweetness and bitterness. I got some notes of fresh grapes at the back. The Beer City IPA was quite old school with a prominent bitterness and tons of pine. It was well-made but not my favorite hop profile.

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The Rubaeus was a tasty raspberry ale, jammy and not too sweet with the right blend of amber malts to support the berries while giving it some additional fruit notes. The watermelon gose was sweet and mildly tart with a great balance of flavors. It wasn’t too salty and is probably the first really good watermelon beer I’ve had. My husband went up to order the nitro breakfast stout and backwoods bastard tasters but the server heard him to order a pint of breakfast stout. Though he hadn’t been in love with breakfast stout before, he really loved it on nitro. I got an intense nutty coffee with a smooth mild chocolate. The nitro made it extra special.

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I had tried the regular dirty bastard before and really liked the flavors of the base beer. The backwoods bastard has a ton of caramel and bourbon and is super smooth. I passed this up in the stores before based on the price of a four pack but now I might consider buying some because it is so good. It is quite easy to spend a full day at Founders if you are staying in town longer. How long you want to stay depends on what sorts of beers they have and your preference. I would recommend Founders more for their stouts though the Harvest IPA was excellent too.

Top 3:
Breakfast stout on nitro
Watermelon gose
Harvest IPA

New Holland

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I almost skipped visiting New Holland because we already got their new coconut rum dragon’s milk in San Diego. It was worth a stop to try a few other variants of their beer. The Down Dogger, a hoppy wild Belgian golden was fruity with lots of spice from the Belgian yeast and super dry but it wasn’t sour, funky, or hoppy. It was a fairly standard beer. The Harvest 2, a fresh hop pale, was bitter and malt forward with some notes of grape. It didn’t stick out at all or suggest from the flavors that the hops were fresh. The Vanilla Chai Dragon’s Milk had tons of cinnamon and clove with mild vanilla. To me the spice overpowered the rest of the beer too much. I didn’t really care for it. The Brewer’s Select Dragon’s Milk, a slightly stronger version of the regular, was smooth with notes of vanilla but the alcohol came out a little too hot on the finish.

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Comparatively, the coconut rum version, released this year, is much better. It has tons of coconut flavor and a mild rum note at the back. I’ve been enjoying these bottles for a couple of weeks at home prior to visiting. I’ve also had the regular Dragon’s Milk in the past and thought the standard was more balanced than the Brewer’s Select version. The few beers I tasted at New Holland tell me that it is worth sticking to variations of Dragon’s Milk and having other beer styles at other breweries in the area. Since you can find Dragon’s Milk in four packs as far out as the West Coast (we started receiving them in San Diego) I would recommend grabbing some bottles to enjoy at home instead.

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New Holland’s various locations are restaurants and they tend to get crowded quickly. The location in Grand Rapids had such an insane wait that we decided to stop in Holland on our way south to visit the original brewery. Since we already ate at Founders, we only had a little dessert at New Holland to go with the stouts.

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Known for:
Known mostly for their popular barrel aged imperial stout called Dragon’s Milk and the different variations.

Transient Artisan Ales

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Transient is a very young brewery but has developed a ravenous following from the nearby areas for its release of juicy North East style IPAs in cans as well as the different variations of sours. It is quite a drive to get to Transient either from Grand Rapids or Chicago, and will likely take you over an hour either way. Coming from Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo you can stop by another brewery along the way called Arclight. I stopped there briefly for a few sours they were releasing but they had plenty of other beers available on tap. Considering all the fantastic stouts at Founder’s and Bell’s I might still recommend coming out to Transient for their Buckley light chocolate stout.

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I started with the Cromulent pale ale. It was juicy with notes of orange peel and peach with tons of hops and not a lot of bitterness. It is a very respectable juicy pale. I had a small growler of this beer at home the next day and it was still quite good. The pineapple salarium is tasty pineapple, not too acidic, mildly tart, and a dry finish. It reminded me of the Beatitude series of beers from San Diego’s Council Brewing. Bottles were already sold out when I got there. The Indoorsman brett pale ale had a strong woody bite with an herbal finish and some mild bready malts and peaches at the finish. I couldn’t get over the lingering bitterness at the finish and did not finish the taster.

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The Henry porter was smooth and smoky with a ton of burnt caramel. Though this one was a bit shocking at first once I adjusted and it warmed up the beer had more caramel and I enjoyed it better. The Double Barrel Obelus was super smooth with notes of honey, peaches, and a mild buttery finish from the American oak. It is a fantastic complex beer that I enjoyed so much I left with two bottles. The Buckley light is pure liquid dark chocolate and creamy smooth. This is an excellent chocolate stout and worth seeking out.

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Top 2:
Double Barrel Obelus oak aged saison
Buckley Light chocolate imperial stout

Bell’s Brewing

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Despite Google showing multiple locations for this brewery, they have only one location that is split into a general store and a cafe. The brewery itself is not open to visit or drink in a tasting room. I visited on the day when they had All Stout’s Day, which meant all but two of the taps at the brewery were replaced by stouts. Thus, I won’t be including any commentary on how good their IPAs or other styles are.

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I started with the java stout. It has mild smoke and tons of coffee roast, a very easy-drinking beer. I had two varieties of their expedition stout, one of their flagship brews. The 2014 and 2015 were not all that different but both were fantastic. The beer has tons of caramel and roast and a nice thick body.

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The whiskey aged expedition stout was super smooth with a creamy mouthfeel and a strong but not overpowering or hot whiskey. The black note on tap had some nice notes of chocolate and fudge when compared to the whiskey expedition. The whiskey aged 30th anniversary had tons of fudge and cinnamon with some mild vanilla on the finish. The barrel aged dagger stout had tons of vanilla and espresso with a super smooth finish. All of the barrel aged stouts on tap were fantastic but the barrel aged 30th anniversary and barrel aged dagger stout were my two standouts. With such strong beers it gets difficult to give more detailed descriptions after a while.

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Known for:
Intense stouts and barrel aged variants, also some old school IPAs that are quite popular.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Reno Area Breweries Part 1 – Brasserie St James, Brewer’s Cabinet, Fifty FIfty Brewing

Brasserie St James

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Brasserie St James is the only brewery in Reno I had heard about prior to visiting. Even that was by accident. I happened to see one of their beers on tap at a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant in San Diego and assumed it was from Belgium until I googled it. St. James is a brewery and a restaurant and finding seats in the restaurant area can be quite difficult. Thankfully they have a bar area that is open seating and some outdoor seating upstairs that is also open. I started with a flight of almost all their core beers and finished with two more beers before leaving.

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The schwarzbier was smooth and creamy and a good mix of caramel and dark fruit. Like the classic beers of this style you could easily down one after another. The red farmhouse was spice forward with a dry bitter finish. It was a solid beer but I preferred some of the others. The Tripel was mildly sweet with a flavor reminiscent of a white cake and a good dry finish. This is one of the better American tripels I have tasted, coming closer to the dry beers of the style as they are brewed in Belgium.

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The saison was effervescent and super dry with notes of lemon and some earthy malt notes. I quite enjoyed this one and left with two bottles to bring home. The brett saison, known as 1904, was very similar to the saison with a little more fruit notes. It seemed based on the bottle prices that it is a better deal to enjoy this beer on tap. The double IPA was smooth with tons of grapefruit and pine at the start but a strong floral hop finish that I didn’t care for. This one I didn’t finish.

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The Peach 1904, was tasty with the peach adding some mild acidity in the finish. The peach flavor was relatively subtle. The quad was dark and thick with some of the same cake flavor I noticed in the tripel. Also like the tripel, I was glad that the quad wasn’t overly sweet.

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While a good place to stop in if you like saisons, I wasn’t a big fan of the atmosphere inside. It got noisy quickly and often crowded. Thankfully it was a cold night so the outdoor seating wasn’t full and it was quiet out there. I found the bottles of sours to be quite expensive at $30 for a brewery that doesn’t have a lot of hype behind it. Thankfully the saisons were a more reasonable $12 for a bottle. I have enjoyed one at home already and liked how it was in the bottle.

Top 2:
Saison
Brett Saison

 

Brewer’s Cabinet

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While I was at Brasserie St. James, one of the locals recommended I visit The Brewer’s Cabinet. And since the other breweries I had on my list in town were no longer open as it was getting late I decided to head there next. This post will also include some specifics about beers I had at the same location two days later.

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My first visit was at night and it was crowded still. I immediately ordered the double IPA based on the description of the hops included. My husband ordered the imperial stout with coffee. The double IPA was bitter and balanced with some resinous hops and a bit of juicy melon. It was a tasty double IPA for sure. To go with the coffee stout my husband ordered the bread pudding. It was a fantastic dessert but so big that you would want to share with a friend. The coffee stout was smooth and creamy with a mild yet prominent coffee flavor. Though I would have preferred it to be stronger alcohol, it was plenty to satisfy my husband.

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Two days later, I came back to try some of their other offerings. I wasn’t big on the hop flavors of the first few I tasted and I ended up ordering the heff, which was a hazy bright yellow with notes of vanilla, citrus, and mild banana. It was an excellent beer. The pale ale was also fantastic, balanced amber color and a good mix of mild pine and fruity hops.

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Brewer’s Cabinet stood out as one of the better breweries from my visit and I would quickly return if I was in town again. They also have a full kitchen so they are open late.

Top 3:
Wit
Tahoe Pale
Coffee imperial stout

Fifty Fifty Brewing

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Though not in Reno and instead 30 minutes drive to the west in Truckee, I stopped by Fifty Fifty brewing hoping to try some of their popular barrel aged stout on tap. Sadly, the Eclipse beers were not on tap and at $30 a bottle I wasn’t going to buy some blind. I did enjoy the core beers I tried on tap though.

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The saison was tasty with tons of herbs, spice, and mild fruit notes. The session IPA was a nice mix of grapefruit and a rye spice kick, excellent balance and not overly bitter. This is one of the more impressive session IPAs I have had lately. The brown ale had a nice medium body and a good mix of roast and espresso. This is one of the few brown ales I like.

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The porter had a nice medium body and tons of roast and espresso notes. I preferred this over the imperial stout. The imperial stout has tons of burnt caramel and a strong bitter finish, almost smoky. This is the base beer for their Eclipse barrel aged series but I didn’t care for it on its own. While they had one oaked beer on tap, it wasn’t one of the series I wanted to try so I left after the initial flight to move on to more Reno breweries.

Top 2:
Session IPA
Porter

Because I visited so many breweries in this trip, I split the write-up into two posts. Part 2 will conclude with the rest of the Reno breweries I visited.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Spokeane Area Breweries, Twelve String and Iron Goat

12 String Brewing

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12 String was not on my list when I planned out the area but I arrived there thanks to some people I met at Selkirk Abbey. They had some excellent beers in a wide variety of styles. My very first beer in the taster flight was the passion fruit gose, one of the most balanced fruited gose beers I have had. It is balanced in that the fruit doesn’t overpower the complexity present in the base beer. The beer had a mild tart kick to it and an overall nice balance of flavors.

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The Jam Session IPA was a balanced IPA with lots of fruit and citrus notes, fairly standard. The C# #5 IPA had tons of pine and fruit from the hops but a bitterness that dominated it too strongly. The Rye IPA was malty with barely noticeable citrus hops and a good rye bite, fairly average. The Double Drip Imperial Stout was thick and mildly smoky with tons of roast and coffee. My husband really enjoyed this beer and we ended up bringing a 32oz growler home with us and giving one to my uncle the following day. Really excellent beer. The electric slide Double IPA was the best of the IPAs with tons of citrus and super smooth overall.

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Top 3:
Passion Fruit Gose
Double Drip Imperial Stout
Electric Slide Double IPA

Iron Goat

Iron Goat came highly recommended and I thought that all of their beers were very well done. They have a large tap room that is also a restaurant and it was busy but not overly so when we visited. I had a large flight of varying styles but focusing on the sours, IPAs, and farmhouse offerings.

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The Farmhouse ale was quite solid with a nice mix of spice and a good dry finish. The Rhubarb farmhouse was a tasty twist on the base beer with a good bite from the rhubarb. Both were very drinkable. The cherry sour was smooth and fruity and moderately juicy. At first it didn’t seem very sour but it got a bit tart as it warmed up. The blackberry apricot sour was my favorite of the bunch with lots of jam and a good tart finish. All the flavors blended very nicely.

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The headbutt IPA was super floral and piney with a strong bitter finish. This is a great beer to order if you love pine hops in your IPAs. The Impaler double IPA was balanced with dank citrus notes from the hops and a smooth caramel malt backbone. This was also a very tasty beer.

Top 2:
Blackberry Apricot Sour
Impaler Double IPA

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Breweries in Anchorage, Midnight Sun and Anchorage Brewing

It is fitting to start a post about Anchorage breweries with Midnight Sun because from what I have been told by the locals, the brewer who now brews all the beers at Anchorage brewing was originally at Midnight Sun. These two breweries are fantastic to hit although you may find the on-tap selection at Midnight Sun somewhat lacking like I did. They make up for this with their bottles available to-go.

Midnight Sun Brewing

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Midnight Sun is a brewpub so they have food and serve brunch on the weekends, making it a great first stop once you arrive in Anchorage if you already need a beer. Depending on how far you traveled to get there, you will most likely be ready for a beer immediately. The brew pub has ample seating and a wide tap list. Though the items on tap were not of the sort that blew me away, no imperial stouts or sours on tap, the beers I did get to try were well-made. Since flights are limited to specific sets of beers, we ordered half pours of everything, which was plenty. In total I tried the Alt Bier, Coffee Porter, Pleasure Town IPA, and Imperial Pumpkin Porter.

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The alt bier was quite fruity and super smooth and clean. I could easily see myself going through multiple pints of this. The coffee porter was smooth and mild and quite light bodied. It could have used a bit more coffee kick but it was done well. The pleasure town IPA was quite bitter and dank balancing the three hops nicely with the occasional citrus or tropical fruit coming through. Overall I thought it was just a tad too bitter such that the aromas got a bit overpowered. Still it is a solid IPA and one you can’t go wrong with bringing with you on a hike. The imperial pumpkin porter had a ton of dark fruit from the malts and lots of spice. It was thankfully not made overly sweet. To me the spice was a bit overpowering of the rest of the beer as is common with this style.

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I left the brewery with a number of bottles to bring home and have already opened two of them. The wine aged brett pale ale was quite delicious. The other imperial stout was well-made but pretty solid. I am excited to try the Berserker bottle I have in the cellar as well.

Anchorage Brewing

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Anchorage Brewing is one of the few breweries that completely lived up to the hype. Though they only allow you to order full pours of beers, which made me come back two days in a row to enjoy everything, everything was very well made so I didn’t mind this at all. The tasting room has no food and tends to have close to 10 beers on tap at any given time. Because no tasters are served they are fine with giving you a few splashes.

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I started with the Migrating Eyes brett saison. I found it very smooth and funky with a nice tart kick. The anadromous dark sour was a nice mix of jam, vanilla and oak, and was quite smooth. My husband went straight for the darkest hour imperial stout. It had lots of molasses and caramel and was super smooth. Despite being 13% it wasn’t very boozy. He loved this one so much that coming back the second day he didn’t mind ordering it again.

Brett saison and Imperial Stout.
Brett saison and Imperial Stout.

The triple IPA they had on tap was absolutely delightful. The beer was smooth and juicy with a bright orange cloudy color. Flavors included lots of citrus and mango. I ended up ordering this a second time the second day after trying a few others. When I came back the second day I tried the single IPA, which was well-made but didn’t have the same intense flavors of the double IPA. The Bitter Monk, was a delicious brett-forward Belgian double IPA. It had the right mix of bitterness, brett, and Belgian yeast. I also left Anchorage with a number of bottles because they have quite a wide range of beers available to bring home.

Dark sour
Dark sour
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Triple IPA, super juicy

Anchorage Brewing is one of the most exciting breweries I have visited and is a great way to spend a few hours if you happen to be in town. Though they tend to focus on sours and tarts they do hoppy beers well and their imperial stout was quite impressive.

Top 2:
Triple IPA
Migrating Eyes Brett Saison

Though I did visit a couple of other breweries in town for a few beers, these two were the most excellent and would be worth planning a trip around to visit. Though both breweries do distribute to San Diego, you may find a few bottles at the breweries that you can’t find down here.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Portland Maine Breweries, Oxbow, Bissel Brothers, Foundation, and Maine Beer Company

The astute reader may want to jump right to the comments section to note that Maine Beer Company is not in Portland Maine. While this is true, the beers are widely enough available in Portland that a review of what I had at the tasting room can be useful for someone planning a trip out to Portland Maine. Oxbow is also not in Portland, the brewery itself is further north, but they have a tasting room available that you can visit where you can buy bottles and try tasters. Sadly, like many trips the number of breweries i could visit was limited by both time and the day of the week when I visited so certain other breweries were not an option either.

Oxbow Blending and Bottling

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Oxbow has a tasting room in Portland Maine where they have a good number of beers on tap and offer flights. They also have some guest beers on tap and in bottles that you can drink while you are there. I stuck with the house beers. The basic farmhouse ale was earthy with a nice mix of fruit and funk and some mild hop flavor coming through. Both this and the Loretta are quite low alcohol and yet manage to deliver plenty of flavor. Loretta is also quite subtle but it has some tasty earthy hops, mild fruit notes, and a dry finish. Freestyle 37 is a tasty farmhouse pale that blends the earthy farmhouse malts with fruity hops quite nicely though you might want to skip this and the Domestic Farmhouse IPA if you don’t care for hops.

My delicious taster flight.
My delicious taster flight.
Plenty of indoor seating.
Plenty of indoor seating.

Domestic Farmhouse IPA is a flagship of theirs and sadly wasn’t availble in bottles when I visited because it was delicious. The beer blended really nicely with the subtle earthy farmhouse malts and delicious juiciy hop character the area is known for. The Biere de Garde was quite complex with notes of dark fruit and caramel and some mild bitterness from the hops.

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Top 2:
Domestic Farmhouse IPA
Freestyle 37

Maine Beer Company

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Though not in Portland Maine directly, it is a short 30 minute drive or less to Maine Beer Company where you can order flights, buy bottles, or do some full pours. I stuck to the hoppy options because they are most hyped for them. The Beer II Session IPA was quite nice for a session and not too bitter with lots of hop character. The Mo Pale was slightly stronger than the session and added on some fruit notes but was otherwise not drastically different than the session.

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Another One IPA was smooth and low on bitterness though I didn’t detect any specific hop flavors. Lunch was a little smoother and has a nice balance of malt character and citrus and resin hops. Lunch would fit right in with the various San Diego IPAs and is quite a tasty beer. I chose to not leave with any bottles, despite their high trade value, because I thought a few of San Diego’s IPA offerings are better and I prefer to only buy individual bottles of hoppy beers if they are quite exceptional especially on a trip where I brought back quite a bit of hoppy beer in cans.

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Though Maine Beer Company does brew a stout, it was not available on tap at the time so I am glad we stopped in Vermont and picked up a bottle to taste. It was quite a nice stout with notes of vanilla, tons of roast, and mild smoke character.

What to drink:
If you are going out to Maine Beerc Company, look for Lunch and Dinner, their two most popular IPAs. If you don’t value the tasting room experience you can usually find their beers around Portland Maine quite easily to bring back with you.

Bissel Brothers

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I only tried two beers at Bissel Brothers because they were not selling any cans. I found out the hard way that they don’t sell cans on Sundays. The two beers I had were quite good and both made me wish I could buy a few cans. The Rye Pale was super juicy and cloudy with some herbal notes, very impressive. The IPA I tried, their flagship, was juicy with tons of grapefruit and some mild spice. I thought overall the beers at Bissel Brothers and Foundation were more impressive than Maine Beer Company. The tasting room is also quite noisy and tends to get loud even with a small number of people.

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What to drink:
Come to Bissel Brothers for IPAs and to try the signature North East style juicy IPAs.

Foundation Brewing

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I almost didn’t visit Foundation but since the tap list was limited at Bissel Brothers I wanted to hit another brewery. I tried their Afterglow IPA, Epiphany Double IPA, and imperial stout. The Afterglow was smooth and juicy and not too bitter with some nice orange notes, like drinking orange juice. Epiphany was extra juicy and fruity with lots of citrus character and super smooth, also not very bitter. I thought Epiphany was the best beer I had on tap for the trip and was up there with the Trillium Double IPA cans I brought back with me. They also had an imperial stout on tap, a first for the area, and it was fruity with notes of bitter coffee and a bitter finish, quite a nice stout. My husband ended up having two tasters worth because he liked it so much.

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The tasting room at Foundation was a bit small but had a good sized outdoor area open where you could enjoy the beers. Some locals I saw indicated that there is usually more room inside for you to drink. Foundation is also in an area where you will find a bunch of other breweries including Allagash, which happened to be closed the day I was in town. If you make a trip to visit Allagash, keep in mind that doing tours is the best way to taste the most beers.

After some noisy indoor breweries, I was glad to have some outdoor seating options.
After some noisy indoor breweries, I was glad to have some outdoor seating options.

What to Drink:
Like Bissel Brothers, this is a brewrery you visit for cloudy juicy North East style IPAs.

Towards the end of my time in Maine I visited Trillium and picked up some cans in Boston. It is easy to add on a visit to pick up cans at the end of a trip if you are returning your rental car at the Boston airport. The store Trillium has in Boston doesn’t get very crowded and so you can quickly buy cans and get on your way.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Montreal Breweries, Dieu du Ciel and Station HoSt

While in Montreal I visited two breweries, Dieu du Ciel, and Station HoSt where they serve beers from Hopfenstark brewery. I really enjoyed the overall atmosphere at Dieu du Ciel and how they served flights and full pours of their beers plus light food. It was a little strange that you couldn’t buy their bottles at the brewery but had to visit nearby bottle shops but we managed to find a place to buy some bottles of Peche Mortel. I tried quite a number of beers and ultimately went for more Peche when I was finished with the tasters, though this didn’t make the experience any less awesome. I left with one of their fantastic glasses that will be fun to use regularly.

Dieu Du Ciel

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In total I tasted 5 beers at Dieu du Ciel and my husband tried 3, which I sampled as well. All of the beers were quite impressive but a few stood out among he bunch. They didn’t have any IPAs in the traditional sense but the various hoppy beers were delicious and were more than enough to satisfy my hop addiction. I started with a rye pale which became even more impressive once I translated the beer name and realized it was rye I was tasting. The beer did a great job of highlighting the spice from the rye while keeping the overall beer silky smooth and mildly bitter. This is a beer where the malts shine. The mosaic pale was delightful as well with the malts staying mostly in the background and letting the juicy fruity flavors of the mosaic hops shine as good as I have tasted them anywhere else. The saison I tasted was a fantastic mix of citrus and spice on the nose. The beer has a chewy mouthfeel and has earthy malt notes along with some peach notes and a dry finish. It is quite the impressive saison.

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The porter was really smooth with hints of roast and caramel, subtle yet very well done. The oatmeal stout, which appeared to be on nitro, was silky smooth with mellow smoke and bitter chocolate. The Peche Mortel is one of the most popular beers Dieu du Ciel brews and when I tasted it I could immediately tell why. I have tasted quite a lot of coffee imperial stouts in the past and this one is up there with the best of them and I would even say I prefer it over Sump from Perennial. It is luscious and creamy thanks to being poured on nitro and has tons of coffee and caramel with a perfect balance. This was the beer I stayed and sipped on after all the other tasters and the one I decided to bring back with us to the US though hopefully my husband doesn’t drink it all without me.

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Before leaving I tasted two sours and they are some of the least acidic sours I have ever tasted. The mango sour was almost like drinking mango juice, with very low acidity and some mild sweetness. The framboise was also super smooth and jammy with some hints of hibiscus and mild sweetness. These two have also been the only sours so far my husband enjoyed. They are so unique that I would consider another trip to Montreal to buy them if they happen to be available in bottles in the future. Dieu du Ciel has not only some of the best beers of any brewery I have visited but also one of the best experiences and most relaxig tasting rooms of any brewery I have visited. They serve food as well though I didn’t partake.

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Top 3:
Peche Mortel Coffee Imperial Stout
Mango Sour
Mosaic Pale

Station HoSt – Hopfenstark beers

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Station HoSt is a bar that serves exclusively beers from a brewery called Hopfenstark. I admittedly raised the bar ridiculously high by visiting this brewery after Dieu du Ciel but I was not impressed by the beers I tried and would recommend you skip this bar if you are in the area. I only tried a few tasters to start mostly so that I could leave quickly if I didn’t like what I had without drinking a ton. Part of this had to do with he noisy bar atmosphere they have, which wasnt exactly inviting me to tay very long. I started with the framboise which I found quite sweet and reminiscent of cough syrup but also quite acidic. I could understand if it ended up simply being too acidic for me but it happened to be too medicinal as well.

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The rye saison was pretty solid and quite malty but also a bit boozy and reminiscent of pumpkin pie spice. Also quite unbalanced. The gose wasn’t bad but also seemed a bit lacking in flavor in general. It was mildly tart with hints of fresh apple. I was about to leave but the bartender who may have been the owner offered me a taste of the imperial stout, which wasn’t available in tasters and only in a full 8 ounce pour. This was the best beer of the bunch and was a good mix of caramel and coffee while being sticky and thick, quite a tasty imperial stout.

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I would recommend only stopping by the brewery if you like a good imperial stout because their other beers need a little work. Even then their imperial stout didn’t come close to Peche Mortel from Dieu du Ciel.

I had also considered visiting a few other breweries in the area as well but when we went to the bottle shop to buy some Peche Mortel to bring back with us, I found some other beers that I ended up drinking on my last night instead of going out to another brewery. If you do happen to visit, consider visiting Benelux, another brewery, or if you prefer bars, Vices et Versa or Le Cheval Blanc. All came highly recommended.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Select Breweries in the Twin Cities

I visited Minneapolis Minnesota on the weekend of May 20, 2016 and I got to visit a few local breweries. My experience was slightly different than usual because of an art festival that was going on, which actually made Surly not as busy as usual and made it a madhouse at Indeed Brewing, really busy at Dangerous Man, and made Fair State not so fun to visit, since they chose to use plastic cups for the weekend. This led me to visit two other breweries I wasn’t planning on visiting, thanks to a recommendation from a friend, Sisyphus and Boom Island.

First I will start with some general thoughts on the area. I really liked that the breweries were all in an area that is pretty small so that the breweries are not too far apart and none are too far out of town. Also a lot of the larger breweries don’t serve tasters, thus I didn’t try as many beers at the breweries listed as I normally would. While I might taste a lager of a pale ale and end up liking it enough to do a pint, I rarely will just order one I haven’t tasted before. Also if you happen to come visit wanting to bring bottles home, the liquor stores are all closed on Sundays so plan accordingly.

Surly

This photo somewhat gives you an idea of how massive Surly's brewery location is.
This photo somewhat gives you an idea of how massive Surly’s brewery location is, thanks to the person sitting in front.

Surly is probably the most popular of the breweries around the area and certainly one of the larger more widely distributed breweries. Their cans are a mainstay in the general area extending to neighboring states. During my visit to Surly I tasted the Pentagram dark sour, Furious IPA, Four Imperial Stout, and Todd the Axe Man. Pentagram was a very tasty nicely balanced dark sour with plenty of jammy wine notes, and a light sour finish. I mainly tried a small pour on tap so I could make sure I wanted bottles for myself. Furious is Surly’s first IPA and while it was I’m sure groundbreaking when it first came out I didn’t really get into it. It is super dry and quite bitter with a mix of citrus and pine flavors. While it is not overly malty, the malts do give it a solid balance. I found it to be a bit too bitter personally such that it lacked prominent aromas from the hops.

The delicious Pentagram sour.
The delicious Pentagram sour.
Four imperial stout.
Four imperial stout.
Todd the Axe Man, delicious IPA.
Todd the Axe Man, delicious IPA.

Four Imperial Stout was originally their fourth anniversary beer and it was the one beer my husband enjoyed during our visit. It is a double milk stout made with espresso. It was super smooth and creamy with powerful coffee flavors, very reminiscent of some recent San Diego espresso beers. Surly also has lighter coffee beers but when trying one back home I wasn’t too big on them and found them to taste a bit thin. Todd the Axe Man, while also quite bitter, is much more balanced than Furious and it is exploding with fruit flavors including lots of tangerine and melon. I really enjoyed this one and ended up coming home with a four pack to share with my friends back home. I recommend skipping Furious and going straight for Todd if you are into IPAs.

The brewery had a huge beer hall feel to it inside.
The brewery had a huge beer hall feel to it inside.

Top 2:
Four Imperial Stout
Todd the Axe Man

Fair State

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I only briefly visited Fair State because they had run out of most of the specialty beers they had earlier in the week and they were serving beers in plastic cups and were not allowing tasters. While I only tried one beer at the brewery, I did pick up two bottles of their specialty offerings to bring home with me for later, that I am excited to try. I tried the Lactobac 12, a ginger and lemon grass sour. It was tasty and balanced with a solid ginger taste and a good light tart kick. The alcohol is so low you might confuse this beer for Kombucha. I would have loved to have tried more but I don’t like drinking from plastic cups. Perhaps on another visit I will try more. Fair State is known for their sours and wild ales. I was quite impressed by the dark sour I brought home with me after visiting.

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Mpls Breweries 10

Dangerous Man

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I also only tried two beers at Dangerous Man. This was mostly because I didn’t really get into the two stouts I tried and they were quite crowded at the time. They are often praised for their chocolate milk stout and the peanut butter porter so I started with those. The chocolate milk stout was super smooth but also fairly light body and didn’t have a ton of chocolate flavor to it. While it wasn’t dry either, I didn’t get much flavor overall. The peanut butter porter is a good example in the style that has gotten popular at a number of breweries and has a nice smooth light body and a solid nutty finish. If you have enjoyed other popular peanut butter porters then you will also enjoy this one.

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I would have tried more beers at Dangerous Man but they didn’t offer tasters and I wasn’t excited to try any of the other beers on tap at the time.

Sisyphus Brewing

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This is the only brewery where I got to do a flight of tasters. The brewery is fairly new and brews on a really small system but came highly recommended by a friend. They have a nice relaxed tasting room that was even more relaxed since they were not close to the festival going on. I tasted the amber ale, apple ale, apogee IPA, Feast of Littlefoot IPA, and India Brown Ale. The amber ale was really smooth and fruity with hints of peach and a mild caramel malt finish. This is one of the best ambers I have had and really says a lot about the talents of the brewer. The apple ale was tasty and very crisp with a light body and mild apple flavors. It is a mix between a cider and a beer but not fully a cider.

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Mpls Breweries 18

The two beers I list as IPAs might have been listed as pale ales on the board but they are both strong enough at 6.5 to be an IPA to me. The Apogee was really balanced fruity/juicy IPA with a dry finish of citrus and pine. I enjoyed this one the most of the two IPAs and was glad that it was fairly low on the bitterness. Feast of Littlefoot was also quite fruity and citrusy but a lot more dry and bitter on the finish. I went back and forth between the two IPAs and enjoyed how they both developed over time. The India Brown Ale is a really hoppy brown ale that is dark enough to be a stout. It was super bitter and hoppy with a bit of a smoky finish. To me it was simultaneously too bitter and too smoky and I didn’t really like it at all. For a new brewery, Sisyphus was quite impressive and I was glad I visited. I’m sure they will become a mainstay in the community over time.

Nice inside space at the brewery.
Nice inside space at the brewery.

Top 2:
Amber
Apogee IPA

Boom Island Brewing

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Boom Island is known for Belgian beers and they were my last stop for this trip. I tried the triple brett wild ale and the Belgian chocolate stout. The triple brett was very smooth and malty and tasted like a dubel style beer with added brett. The malts give it delicious flavors of dark fruit and the brett balances things out with some nice funk. Neither my husband nor I really cared for the Belgian chocolate stout. It was super dry and mildly hoppy, which combined with the Belgian yeast for something I didn’t enjoy. It didn’t seem to have much flavor of chocolate or roast to me either. Still, I got the sense from the triple brett that the brewery knows how to do Belgian styles right and I would have ordered a flight if they hadn’t had the triple brett available.

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Mpls Breweries 22

In general I found the beer scene to be vibrant and worth visiting during my visit to the Twin Cities. Cans of Surly’s Todd the Axe Man are easily obtainable outside the area but their more limited Pentagram not so much. Also Fair State’s sours are fantastic and worth stopping by to check out if you are into the style. They seem to have a great tasting room spot so it is a shame that I visited in the middle of a festival. As far as visiting a brewery directly, Sisyphus is a great place to hang out while you are in town. I really wish I had gotten to visit Indeed brewing but it was way too crowded for me.

There are tons of breweries I missed so if you think I missed a key one that I didn’t even mention, tell me in the comments.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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