Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Valentine’s Day with a couple of Russians

Since my wife is finishing up her MBA this semester and has class Monday nights, we decided to celebrate V-Day a little early this year, which of course included seeking out some new beers to sample.

I follow local brewery Fulton on Facebook and they had posted an update Friday afternoon on how Grumpy’s downtown was tapping a cask of their Worthy Adversary, a 9.2% ABV Russian Imperial Stout. I’ve had good experiences with the two cask-conditioned beers I’ve had over the last few months, so I was pumped to try a big stout on cask. Since we had already had late-evening dinner reservations at The Inn, a new restaurant downtown Minneapolis, Grumpy’s sounded like a good option for a pre-dinner drink or two.

Worthy Adversary

Ok, so I’m aware cask conditioned beers aren’t served as harshly carbonated or as cold as keg beers, but I still have to say I was a bit disappointed by the presentation of the Worthy Adversary. The carbonation level was very low. Beyond the first few sips, I felt like I was drinking straight syrup. Delicious syrup, yes, but still… Maybe it’s supposed to be this way? Not sure. All I know is I’m not likely to order a high-gravity beer on cask again. As far as the taste, Worthy Adversary reminded me of Surly Darkness if you toned down Surly’s roastiness and kicked up the black licorice flavors. The beer tasted very much like a normal stout would taste if you dropped in a shot of Jägermeister. I’d order Worthy Adversary again – as an after-dinner beer next time – but only if it were bottled or kegged, not out of a cask.

A bit disappointed,  I decided to switch it up and try something different before we left for dinner. Grumpy’s has a way better beer selection than you’d expect from looking at the place, as the decor of this Minneapolis mainstay really embraces it’s dive-bar roots. I chose a brew on tap from Maryland, Flying Dog’s The Dog Schwarz. Their smoked double lager definitely hit me like a bat outta Bamberg. You get those smoked malt characteristics right away with the familiar lager yeast flavor coming through on the back-end. I liked it very much. Probably wouldn’t ever drink more than one or two of these at a time, but that’s cool.

Dog Schwarz

Finally, we made it to The Inn for dinner (they don’t have a site yet, but here is their Urban Spoon review). The place is kinda spendy, but the food was really, really good and locally sourced for the most part. The bar area up front was packed when we got there! Glad we had reservations. They had a great bottled beer selection, but only three tap lines. One of the taps was Fulton’s Sweet Child O Vine, so I’ll give The Inn props for supporting the local boys. I’ve had that brew many times before, so I passed on it to try another interesting tap selection: North Coast’s Old Rasputin, my second Russian Imperial Stout of the night.

Damn, it was good. With the roasted malts definitely taking the lead, they were still balanced nicely with a solid supporting hop profile. This imperial stout came much closer in flavor to Surly Darkness than Worthy Adversary (not that Darkness is the best beer ever or anything, just that I think it’s a great exemplar of the style). I’d heard of Old Rasputin somewhere before, but not sure exactly where. I did some research on North Coast after we got home and it turns out they’re based in Fort Bragg, CA. This was kinda cool to learn, as that’s where my paternal grandparents met while my Grandpa was stationed there during WWII.

I’m certain love was in the air there as it is now. I bet it smelled just like a Russian Imperial Stout, too.

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