troispistoles1I had serious issues with this beer. After pouring the glass I offered a taste to my wife, whereupon she said she liked it and headed off into the next room! What to do? Fortunately she returned shortly with the glass half empty allowing me to continue the review.

A dark ale with good roasted malt and cherry flavor and just a tiny hint of hops. Poured a nice head and left just the right amount on the glass as I drank it. Not enough bite to drink more than one at a sitting but I did like the flavor and my wife REALLY liked it. Even at an ABV of 9.0 it did not have a high alcohol feel. This one  could sneak up on you.

Recommended. I had it at 35 degrees in a Guinness pint glass. Might be fun at bit warmer in a snifter while wearing a smoker jacket in front of a fire.

This beer pays an homage to a lady the brewer knows that could be classified as a “wild brunette”. Having known brunettes in my past it makes sense that this beer company moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin, and lets everyone know that they came from MN. Left too early to see the beer boom here and now longs to be known once again as a Minnesotan…

You might be confused when you drink it – unless you know what wild rice tastes like from the field. This is not a beer that will blow your mind or having you set it down the first time to a “wow”. This one builds on you. Like “Minnesota Hot Dishes”. An outsider looks at it and tries it, but there is not much there. Then there is the second tasting. For this beer, this is the subtle harshness of the Wild Rice – for the hot dish it is the subtly of the minor flavors like mushroom or potato. The color comes from the wild rice as well, with a red-brown hue.

Overall, this one is a tasty treat, but its wonderment may be lost to those who do not treasure the flavor of wild rice as we do – which may be why Barley John’s is trying to be “Minnesotan” again…

ABV 6.5% – 75 IBUs – Citra & Cascade hops – Tangerine Puree

This is an IPA that was made for the nose. Pouring this into a glass it comes out orange-brown and has the distinct, and heavy, aroma of citrus rind. It has more grapefruit than tangerine on the nose, but the flavor comes through with a blood orange and clementine taste. Its description has it brewed with tangerine puree, but after tasting it this could just be spooned out of a cylinder of juice from your freezer.

I’d call this one a gateway IPA. Something you give to your aunt who loves grapefruit but can’t drink it anymore, and at a holiday gathering you pass this to her and just say “Try it”. “But I don’t like beer, what kind is this?“. “Violet, you’ll like it”. “But what kind is it?“. “It is an IPA, just try it already!”. “Ok, but if I don’t like it I am giving it back“.

Later that night you find your empty case in the beer cooler of a garage and Aunt Violet digging around in the attic for her old doll set, half naked and yelling that someone downstairs ruined her childhood. Like I said, gateway IPA. I’d say its good for a one-pour at a bar, but I would not go for another.

jps-craft-beer-4-cansIn the 24 beers of Advent schedule it is entirely possible that I’ve sampled this one out of turn. Nonetheless, let’s get to it.

I sorta liked this beer. It fails the German purity law on many counts and is outside my usual reaction to “they put what in my beer!?” but it is smooth and goes down just fine. No hops of note. Kinda sweet and chai-like, chocolate malts. Even though it went down fine I had to rate this one with a “4”- would only drink this if it’s free. Better than 21st Amendment’s Watermelon, but not as good as Pyramid’s Apricot Ale.

On a related note, the JP is for James Page. James Page was a very early microbrewery in the Twin Cities that made a fine lager and sold home-brew gear. I miss the lager- perhaps now that Stevens Point bought the label it will offer it again?

If there is one thing that I love in life (other than the obligatory wife and puppy response) I would say sitting down in the couch after a day on the job and hearing the crack of a beer and the long sigh that reciprocates from my body.

When looking around to find a “dark” beer or two to fill that criteria in the beer advent I found JPs Brewing sitting on the shelf. This caught my attention because – A: never heard of them, and B: they have a White Stout. For those of you who got the White Stout, you are in for a treat. For those of you who got the Porter, I am doubly jealous. We split this company up randomly for who got the cases

Who knew you could make a Stout that looked like a pilsner? These guys have it [mostly] figured out. Too many times working behind the bar I have been told that a person does not like “dark” beers but in our conversation I slide them one and they say “oh… I like that!” Where did this mantra come from!

JPs White Stout is a stab at that idea. It is a beer that pours light amber but tastes just like a robust stout. Its not a doppelgänger to a stout it has the right ideas – light in flavor, malt backbone, and high drinkability. What really can you ask for in a beer?

Today’s beer is Belhaven‘s Scottish Ale. This brewery has been around a while, first opening its doors in 1719- as a reference: Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire in that year. This beer sits at 5% ABV and 21 on the IBU scale.

Let me take a moment to walk you down memory lane. I spent some time in Kenya, in the farming city of Naru Moru specifically. I was there to climb the mountains and work with the schools that were in the area and how they could exist with the system of testing that they have. Often I would walk the 30 minutes after school down the gravel roads to the pub that existed at the crossroads. This place really only had two beers, and only one was ‘cold’ – White Cap. The taste of that beer after teaching those days made me feel like I was at home with a cold one, even though it was nothing like the beers I would pull off the shelves here. That being said, this beer tasted just so, in a way that my mind could go one of two ways – back to the homeland sitting on a couch, or wondering how a place could produce beer in a land of sagebrushes and dust storms. There really was nothing to White Cap Lager, only sugared malt and carbonation, and Belhaven’s Scottish Ale tastes the same to me.

Now that being said, I am not going to rate this one highly. The taste of crystal malt is not one that my tongue approves of. Although they may get a couple points due to taking me back to a place that my mind has not revisited in a while…

This begins our 24 days of beer reviews as we joined with Beer with Brendan to send cases out to friends and family to taste both what is new, local and unavailable in our area.

To start us off we have Two BrothersHeavy Handed” which is their wet hopped IPA. It sits at 6.7% ABV and 65 IBUs for their 12 for oz bottles. This beer has been produced for a couple years and has a 86 on the Beer Advocate scale of 100. Two Brothers brewing started in 1996 and with “You can buy our beer. You can’t buy our brewery.” proudly plastered on the front of their website you know these two are in it for the beer and not the trend.

Late in the wet hop lifespan this beer has lingering tangy bitter notes and a big mouth of malt. There are citrus tastes like pine and orange rind on the tongue. As it pours there is almost no head and very little lacing down the glass as the contents emptied. The beer finishes with a light linger but not dry as you would expect from heavy-hopped beers. Amber in color (had to ask, I am pretty decently colorblind).  Marked on the back of the bottle is “Cascade Lot #2706” and searches of this only produced real estate in Cascade TX, probably no correlation. They do different batches of this beer with different acreages of hops – It would be beneficial in the future to try a flight of these now that I know this, testing the base with different hops would be great!

What’s your comments on the beer? I gave this one a 5/10 as it tasted overly… everything. Too much of one doesn’t get balanced out by increasing the other for me. But this is coming from someone who does not have a taste for IPAs. Leave your comments.

Tooties on Lowry is a bar that if you were to see inside in the dead of night when there is no people, beer or food around, you might go in but not without some serious hesitation. It has the look of a place you would find tucked away in a small town in the boondocks of Wisconsin – wood paneled walls, vinyl stools with rips in them, a gravity furnace hole in the center of the place, a ficus tree in the center of the dining room…

But you do not notice those things when you enter in the height of things. What you do see are families and friends gathering and hugging each other. Old friends bellying up to the bar and shaking hands with the person sitting next to them. Kids running around the game room playing with each other in games of hide-n-seek. Though the physical aspects of the building detract from the appeal, it’s the people and the employees that generate the merriment and jovial nature of the atmosphere.

Credit: foodio54.com

Having eaten there before, my comments on what Tooties is only solidified with this mancuisine visit – It is a community space that locals come to eat food, drink, and be together. Being at Tooties just makes you feel warm inside, before you even have a beer or bite of food.

Their tap selection is notable, at our visit they had just had Insight over for an event and had some of theirs, along with many other local breweries (an a surprisingly absent presence of the big brew dogs, which we enjoy).  We tweeted Tooties in the morning of our visit asking what food we should try and one recommendation was to have the peanut sauce from their wings cover a burger patty and served. It was delicious [thanks twitter Tooties!].

Top commendation goes to their wings. We did Tooties’ “Wing of the month” which has ghost pepper and Surly and they were top notch. Their wings have the right amount of meat, cooked at the right temperature for the right time and covered with deliciousness. Their wing cooking process is refined, and creates delicious and filling wings.

If you are ever in the Robbinsdale area, at North Memorial Hospital (knock on wood – you won’t need to!), or in North Minneapolis and you are looking for a place to settle in, we strongly recommend giving Tooties on Lowry a visit.

Food: 4/5 typical bar food, made in a way that raises them above.
Drink: 3/5 Beer and wine bar, with local selections but not too diverse.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Welcoming, friendly and warming
Overall: 4/5 Good food, great atmosphere, tired building.

The idea is novel: pour your own local beer from a tap handle and eat some food from their kitchen that they make. The follow through with that idea in practice lost something in translation to the people who work there…

Credit: craftcouncil.org

Its a beautiful space in Grain Belt’s retired keg house in Northeast Minneapolis. The owners of the building turned the warehouse into smaller office-style spaces and Community Keg House occupies the first door upon entering from the parking lot. Traverse to the counter and you have found the pivotal point: the man with the clean glasses. Order your food their chalkboard menu and a pint with him and he hands the vessel over and directs you to the “taproom”.

Here comes the decision. All the taps are from local breweries and each one has as full description of the beer that would pour when you bring the handle towards you. The “taptender,” as they are called, will offer you a very small pour of the beers to try if you are fickle about the flavors your are looking to have. They will also direct your process on how to pour the correct way and fill the glass without the foam head so many would walk away with, uneducatedly.

The business models looked like there was one person in the tap area and the other was the cashier/food runner. One stays around the taps and makes sure that the lines are running and the people have their glasses filled (only once). The other(s) are to work the register to send the ticket to the kitchen and then bring the food out when its done. Here was our biggest disappointment – Our food sat on the window for as long as it took us to drink a pint, and when we ordered the next one we asked if that was ours and he said “maybe, check the ticket next to the plates.” That type of service has not been beleaguered to us since the bartender at the Cedar Inn was drunk enough to have us pour our pitcher since he was drinking with others. Why give out table numbers if they do not signify where the food goes?

Overall the place was a wonderful space that could have been better utilized and hired/trained more effectively. Sad, since this was a bar that we were pumped to be regulars at and try all the beers!

Food: 1/5 the food was tasty but expensive and it took too long to get out.
Drink: 3/5 selection is limited in variety of styles, but not in companies.
Atmosphere: 4/5 open and warm
Overall: 2.5/5 A bit rocky now, with hopes of their improvement.

Edit: Permanently Closed [we called it!]

Living in North Minneapolis we have welcomed the boom of the North Loop as it continues to bring in new places close to home, while still being far enough away to avoid the traffic that follows as well.

Modist Brewing has recently opened and ventured down there to test it out on a rainy Twins game day. The place is sterile, cement varnished floors cover their space and white subway tiles cover the walls that you look at, namely behind the bar. For as expansive it seems, their ceilings are quite high, but the layout makes it crowded even with a modest *ahem* crowd. Their brewing equipment has a unique layout, we will have to stop in for a tour sometime to see how they utilize it.

There was a lot of hype around Modist before its opening, with explanations of who they are and their ideals behind beer, but the night that we came in I did not see those come into play. We tried the beers that they had that night, pHresh, Toats, and Smoove – all with lackluster reviews from our tasting panel.

Modist – we know you have the ability and know-how to create wonderful brews, when should we stop back in to give them a try again after some “Calibration.”