Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Voyage to Twin Cities and St. Paul's Best Bars

As anyone that talked with me over the past month realized, I was really looking forward to my trip to the Twin Cities during second weekend in July for my friend Dave's wedding and more importantly checking out a couple of St. Paul's finest beer bars, The Muddy Pig and The Happy Gnome (just kidding on that Dave, I thoroughly enjoyed the wedding bud).
One Pleasant Pig

On that fateful Friday the 9th the erstwhile Brad Boman and myself embarked on our trip to the Pig and Gnome.  I instantly fell in love with the Pig because of their laid back atmosphere that nicely complemented an extremely strong tap list.
Happily discovering Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA on tap, I was ready for a strong opener (after enjoying a Surly Furious in the hotel room-Surly becoming distributed in Minnesota only ensures that I'll be hitting the Twin Cities more than periodically).  Always ready for a hoppy start to the night, the Commodore replied to the challenge and let me enjoy another strong GLBC brew as the subtle hop texture balanced with the floral taste made for a well designed IPA.  Not quite the kickass hop factor of Burning River, the Commodore was a strong English style IPA that thrives with balanced hop flavor.

Cleveland will always have a winner with GLBC
Round two at Pig called for a Rogue Double Dead Guy but unfortunately I was not prepared for the alcohol punch that the 9.0% ABV brew delivered.  After settling in about halfway through, I started to understand where Rogue was going with this brew and enjoyed the latter half much more.  However, as in many high ABV bocks, the prominence of the alcohol flavor overwhelms the beer and makes enjoyment of the beer that much more difficult (at least for me).  Definitely prefer the original Dead Guy and in this case bigger did not mean better.

A Quality Hefe from St. Paul
The finale at the Pig was time for a local taste as the bartender recommended our group the locally brewed Summit Hefeweizen.  Having a tepid reaction to Summit's Hefe out of the bottle, I went with the flow and hoped for the tap version to be an upgrade.  Indeed, it was much more enjoyable from the tap and one of the better hefe/wheat beers that I have enjoyed (not at level of Three Floyds Drunk Monk, New Glarus Dancing Man, or Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, but a couple of notches above Goose Island 312 and at least on par with much ballyhooed Bell's Oberon).  As with most hefes the prominent citrus flavor complemented the grainy wheat body and the flavors were in good balance with each other.  A few beers in now (and running on much too little sleep), I was rocking and rolling and ready for destination number two.

Joined by our old college buddy Rich,  the now three man group made short trip to Happy Gnome.  Initially worried about the Gnome having a pretentious atmosphere, we were pleasantly surprised by a second straight friendly, strong bartender that knew his beer (shout out here to the people of Minnesota, they really could teach many of us Chicagoans some lessons in enjoying life and dealing with people).

Yeah, I'll gladly be naughty for this Goose
After hearing the news that the Gnome was out of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (probably good news to me, who did not need that knockout blow), I went with the bartender recommendation of GI's Extremely Naughty Goose Imperial Brown.  Whatever disappointment lingered about not trying the well reputed BCS quickly dissipated after tasting the first few sips of Naughty Goose.  Malty, sweet notes of chocolate and vanilla easily masked the 9.0% ABV.  Extremely drinkable for a 9.0% beer, the Extremely Naughty Goose was one delightful sip after another and just one phenomenal brew (definitely in contention for my top five all-time beers).
Good Times at Gnome

The night cap at Gnome was quite the interesting experience.  Per my recommendation Brad tried the Tyranena Chipotle Smoked Porter and shall we say struggled with the complexity of the brew.  Brad did not enjoy the self-described taste of barbecue pork (I will say, I also did not find the sweeter notes that made me such a fan when I enjoyed one at Brixie's a few weeks back).

Meanwhile my fervor for trying Rogue's Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout was quickly quelled after tasting one of the most highly decorated beers of its style.  For whatever reason I could not taste anything beyond the weakish oatmeal body, failing to enjoy any sweet and/or coffee notes inherent in most stouts.  After this night I was not exactly rushing to purchase any shares of Rogue (though I will make an attempt to try Shakespeare Stout  again as I realize a beer rated as an A by Beer Advocate is not the lemon I portrayed it as).

Meeting up with our buddies that were finished with the rehearsal dinner, it was bon voyage to the Gnome and a night of quality beer bar hopping was in the books (at least as it relates to quality beer bars).  The events of the rest of the night are sort of a blur anyways (thanks Vern for the tequilla shot), but thankfully I made sure to take strong mental notes on my trips to the Pig and Gnome and look forward to frequenting these spots on future trips to Minnesota.

Quick Addendum:

Deep into my enjoyment of the wedding reception Saturday night, I capped off the reception with Summit's Extra Pale Ale.   A strong bodied pale ale, Summit's EPA hit the spot with its hops and tasty floral notes (bitter, but tastefully bitter).  After a night with the liquors that Summit still went down smoothly and my taste buds enjoyed the change of pace.

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