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

Beer Events

Nordeast Big River Brew Fest homebrew competition results 2012

The Nordeast Big River Brew Fest homebrew competition, put on by my homebrew club (Nordeast Brewers Alliance), culminated with the sour/wild/brett beer judging and best-in-show judging today along with the announcement of winners for all categories. Check out the image below to see the winners of the competition: I picked up three medals, a silver and two bronze. Check out my scores and the feedback: (more…)


I met John Palmer at Northern Brewer’s grand opening

I met John Palmer last weekend, author of How to Brew (2006), a seminal homebrewing text for many who have picked up the hobby in the last few years. John was at Northern Brewer’s new Minneapolis location for the last two days of their week-long grand opening celebration, giving presentations on a few different brewing topics and selling his books (I ended up buying the one he co-authored with Jamil Zainasheff called Brewing Classic Styles). In addition to speaking with John about how to best avoid and eliminate acetaldehyde, we discussed his move to L.A. from Michigan, quitting his job as an engineer last year to promote his books full-time and the hoops one must jump through to get a book published.

I was able to attend John’s session that afternoon on foam, specifically head retention. John explained all the factors that go into creating a nice sustainable head in beer and gave some suggestions as to how to ensure retention. He got very detailed into the chemistry of this and honestly he lost me for a good portion of it. I don’t think I was alone, however. Not many people had questions when he completed his presentation, so either I was in a room full of chemists or everyone else didn’t quite understand what he was talking about enough to ask informed questions. (more…)

Northern Brewer opens a Minneapolis location

Northern brewer opened a Minneapolis location last month (they have two other locations in St. Paul, MN and Milwaukee, WI) under 5 miles from my house! Pretty excited. I went to check it out and buy supplies for my rauchbier brew day a few weeks back. The grain room is open and spacious. I was the only one buying grain at the time but the room could handle three or four people measuring grain at the same time compared to only one at the St. Paul location (Midwest can handle two effectively). The biggest plus is that NB Minneapolis has two – count ’em – two mills in a separated mill room.

The entire space seemed very planned and thought out, unlike NB St. Paul which comes across as a crammed afterthought. It was so spacious and clean I told the guy it felt like Crate and Barrel in there! He seemed troubled by that, which was my intention. And PARKING! They have dedicated parking around back, something NB St. Paul severely lacks.  (more…)

1st Annual Nordeast Big River Brew Fest

The Northeast Homebrewers Association (NBA) has been on the hunt for more members, mainly because we need to reignite some enthusiasm and generate fresh ideas for how the club can be successful – and maybe we even need to spend some time first defining “success” for us. In pursuit of new members, and in order to get into the 1st annual Nordeast Big River Brewfest free of charge, one of the founders of NBA got our club a booth/table at the event which was held Saturday 10/15/11 at the historic Grain Belt Brewery’s bottling house in Northeast Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the guy who coordinated it ended up being busy that day, but a few others from the club were able to man the both in his place.

We setup right next to the Northern Brewer table, so it was cool to speak with a few of those guys about brewing and the new location that will be opening near my house in Southeast Minneapolis in the coming weeks (yes!). We also managed to snag a few email addresses of interested homebrewers, so on the whole I think our presence there was as successful as we could have reasonably hoped. Also, it was a beautiful day so it wasn’t too terrible sitting at our location outside. (more…)

Darkness Day 2011 at Surly Brewing Co.

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Beer dinner with Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery

Man I’ve been busy. Again. Not only with work doing the day, but I’ve also been working pretty hard to book my cover band’s 2012 summer/fall wedding schedule (we’re placing an emphasis on weddings next year, which means brides are looking to discuss and sign contracts right now). This, along with keeping up my beer-related activities has left zero time to sit on the couch and actually blog about those experiences. But, I’ve found some time on a Sunday morning to crank out a bunch of posts for the coming weeks, so here I go.

A few weeks ago, I learned through the St. Paul Homebrewers’ Club (SPHBC) that Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster from Brooklyn Brewery would be coming to town to put on a few events in promotion of Brooklyn Brewery’s arrival to Minnesota this year, as well as his new book, The Oxford Companion to Beer (which has since been met with mixed reviews – here is a dissatisfied contributor’s). The event my wife and I attended was a beer dinner Sunday night 10/9/11 at Grumpy’s up in Roseville, MN.

Garret had a lot of great beers to show off and food pairings to match. I don’t remember too much detail from this event, however, as there were only four people (one of which was my pregnant, abstinent wife) at my table set for eight and thus we received just as much beer as any other table. I took full advantage of this scenario and felt HORRIBLE the next day. 🙂 I can relay that Garrett was nearly as engaging a public speaker as he is skilled with the mash paddle. It was refreshing to be unexpectedly entertained by his dialogue, as he seems completely comfortable discussing his beers and promoting the brewery in front of an audience. When Garret came around to say hello to our table, I asked him how he’s developed his public speaking skills and it sounded like it has a lot to do with a broadcast journalism background (that I’m not sure he ever ended up utilizing). I was pretty buzzed by the time he made it to our table, so forgive me if I’m totally remembering that conversation incorrectly. (more…)

1st Annual Minneapolis Beer Fest

My wife is pretty cool. I’ve mentioned this before but thought I might as well score some points and say it again, especially because it’s legitimately warranted. She sent me a link to a Crowd Cut coupon for the first annual Minneapolis Beer Fest saying I should check it out. Knowing she’s pregnant and can’t drink, I responded with “yeah that’s cool but the only problem is you can’t really enjoy access to hundreds of beers to sample unless you plan to cab it and that can be expensive” thinking she meant I should go with one of my friends. Apparently she meant that she would come with and be my DD for said event. Since we were getting 1/2 off with the coupon, she didn’t see much issue with paying the $15 entry fee. Now that was cool. AND… I got to drink for two (instead of her). Double the selection for the same amount of time spent in line at each booth. Guys – I’d seriously consider getting your significant others pregnant if possible. We’re about 5 months in and it’s been all fun and no work so far. Of course, I can blindly expect this trend to continue indefinitely, right? (more…)

Surly’s 5th at Pizza Nea

"Omar, what do you think of Barking Dog Beer as potential competition?"

This past Wednesday, I met up with Cristof and Dan (of Sammy’s Golden Porter and Darkness Day fame) at Pizza Nea in Northeast Minneapolis for one of many celebrations Surly Brewing is having for their 5th birthday. Each of these events features some interesting variations on the Brooklyn Center brewery’s standards and seasonal brews.

The party we attended featured a cask of their Abrasive Ale (more or less a double IPA) that had been aged in oak barrels. I don’t believe I’d tried an oak-aged beer before, no less one that I’d also tried many times over in its original form (from both cans and tap). The oak aging, and more likely the cask conditioning, gave Abrasive a much smoother body than it normally has, making it dangerously drinkable. The 8.8% ABV didn’t hit me hardly at all until the middle of my second pint. Then bam! Sneaky.

Furious (left) and Oak-Aged Abrasive (right)

I’m not sure if I really liked the oak-aged Abrasive more than the original. I’ll say that I liked the first pint of it more than I would a first pint of normal Abrasive, but the oak got to be a little much after pint number two. For me, this is a great dinner beer and would be smart to pair with a meal of hot Asian barbecue, a spicy Mexican dish or a smoked salmon appetizer. I ended up ordering a shrimp pesto pizza to go with it, which probably wasn’t the smartest selection I could have made had I not been too buzzed to care at that point (afternoon snacks are key in these situations!). We also enjoyed a complimentary Furious with our pizzas, as that was the deal of the night – and apparently is the case on every Wednesday at Pizza Nea. Pretty cool of them.

All that aside, I sure as hell didn’t expect to meet and speak with the founder of Surly and the 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year, Omar Ansari as well as head brewer and the brains behind their brews, Todd Haug. But guess what? I did. (more…)

Harriet Brewing’s West Side release party

Some friends and I hit up Harriet Brewing’s official release party for their first beer, West Side, this past Wednesday night at the Blue Nile up on Franklin Ave. I could definitely tell a difference between West Side and  the growler of “batch one” I’d purchased at my visit to the brewery back on January 29th.

The official first offering from the first brewery to open within Minneapolis city limits in decades hits the tongue as a bit thinner in body and hoppier than the preliminary batch one I’d tried previously. Flavors imparted by the Belgian yeast strain were still quite evident and more challenged for dominance by the hop profile than they were previously in batch one. I could see how the recipe has evolved as Sowards continues to dial in his new brew house. I found one thing odd though: Wednesday’s version of West Side had what appeared to be some chill haze issues. (more…)

Harriet Brewing is open for business in Minneapolis

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