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Winterfest Wrap-up

The audience chose beers from Great Waters and Barley Johns as winners.

MN Beer friends Cassie and Luke.

More MN Beer pals, Cory, Carrie and my lovely partner in crime, Dawn.

And of course, your host, Ryan and MN Beer friend Carrie.

We had a really great time. From what I hear, Dawn even toasted me for peaking her interest in good beer. We won’t mention that it took almost 9 years! I think it’s a big deal that someone who previously enjoyed light beer is now embracing hoppy pale ales, dubbels and dopplebocks. Of course my own father has moved from drinking Red Dog to Dogfish Head, so anything is possible! I had the pleasure of speaking with Dustin Brau from the Brauhaus, Dave Berg from Bandana Brewery, Chris Laumb from O’Hara’s, Jacquie Berglund from Finnegan’s and Omar from Surly. Great people who carry their hearts in their beer!

The beers? They were indeed big, with Fitger’s 1100 Wheatwine topping the scales at 11.1% ABV. Aw hell, let’s go through the list…

August Schell had their Carmel Bock, Firebrick, Pale Ale, Pilsner, Smaltz Alt and Snowstorm as well as Grain Belt Premium and Premium light. I actually didn’t try any of these beers as I bought a mixed 12-pack with most of these beers about a month ago. FWIW, I like this year’s Snowstorm (I believe it’s an alt) and their Pale Ale.

Bandana Brewery brought their Hanska Baltic Porter and Hamburg Dopplebock. I really liked the Baltic porter and Dawn loved the doppelbock. The brewer, Dave Berg, just happens to be from my hometown, Fergus Falls.

Barley John’s had their Wild Brunette, Old Eight Porter, Stockyard IPA and an altbier. I’ve tried their porter and their alt and enjoyed both, though their Porter was a standout, and I can see why people chose that beer as one of their favorites.

BrauHaus had a Scotch ale, a tripel from 2004 and perhaps a dubbel (?). The tripel, though darker than most, was really tasty… spicy, tart and a bit citrus-y. Good!

Finnegan’s had their Irish Amber available for tasting. You’ve got to hand it to them, Finnegan’s has donated over $50,000 to projects for at-risk youth and the working poor in Minnesota. That’s cool.

Fitger’s had a Barleywine from 2003, another from 2004, Edmund Imperial Stout, Procrastinator Doppelbock, 1100 Wheatwine, a Scotch ale and an India Brown Ale. I especially enjoyed their Barleywines and the wheatwine. Dawn fell in love with their doppelbock. Incidentally, I think their India Brown Ale is even better than Dogfish Head’s IBA.

Great Waters brought their Winter Strong Wit and Belgian Yule Ale. The Wit was one of the two beers voted as everyone’s favorites. It was an interesting brew with a a lot of clean licorice flavor. I enjoyed the wit as well, and was surprised at the alcohol content (6.5%). I’d actually been craving a wit, so I was happy to taste this beer… twice!

O’Hara’s brought their Dubble Trouble and a mystery beer, an oatmeal stout. I enjoyed both of these beers. Dawn and our friends especially liked the oatmeal stout.

Rock Bottom brought three intersting beers, their Old Curmudgeon Winter Warmer, Belgian Trippel and Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout. I especially enjoyed the Impy Stout, but was pleasantly surprised by all of the beers.

Summit Brewing brought along their EPA, Great Northern Porter, IPA and Maibock. I was hoping for something cask-conditioned (like the EPA at Autumn Brew Review). However, we were treated to an early taste of their Maibock. It was also said that the Great Northern Porter was spiced, but honestly I didn’t really notice it.

Many, many of us were excited that Surly was present. They brought along their Bender (a tasty brown ale) as well as a highly-hopped amber. I really enjoyed both of the beers, but I’m a hophead, so the amber especially appealed to me. I hope to see good things from them.

Town Hall brought their Banana Bread Beer, Barrel Aged Northern Waters Smoked Porter, Ol’ Jack Frost Imperial Stout, Foolish (Quadrupel) and Twisted Reality (barleywine). My favorite was the quadrupel, though I really enjoyed the barleywine and the Banana Bread Beer as well.

So much good beer, so little time. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Winterfest on January 19th at the Historic Landmark Center in St. Paul.