Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Fall Beer Sampler

October 31, 2009

Or, how I spent my Halloween.

Tyranena Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale

Tyranena Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale

I wasn’t getting so much of a pumpkin spice vibe from this one, but it still was quite enjoyable. It had a nice toffee color and a toffee/caramel flavor. The first few sips had a hoppy finish, but the last few sips had a very creamy, sweet finish with just a touch of hops. It was very smooth.

Shipyard Pumpkin Ale

Shipyard Brewing Company Pumpkinhead Ale

It had a light golden color, and it smelled very spicy, and it had a crisp taste with a strong and sweet cinnamon spice flavor. It was closer to a cider than to a beer (even though it’s technically an ale). I wasn’t really feeling the cider vibe, but if you’re in the mood for cider or something sweet and light, this might be a good seasonal choice.

Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Spice Lager

Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Lager

I thought this was the best of the lot. It embodied the spirit of pumpkin beer. It had a strong spice flavor to it (more like clove than cinnamon), was a nice amber color, and had a deep, rich flavor.



August 23, 2009

About a month ago, I picked up a copy of Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine’s burger issue. They had several different burger categories, but Smashburger won the “Thin Burger” category and had the highest overall score.

Smashburger opened a store in Roseville in Har Mar Mall on August 19th, and because it was only a five-minute drive from our house, Tim and I thought we’d investigate. And are we ever glad we did.

We went around 4:15, and there was no line. By the time we left, the line stretched halfway through the restaurant. We ordered at the register. They gave us our beer and a number, and we found a booth to sit in. Our food was delivered a few minutes later. I took pictures to capture the moment, then we dove in and experienced meat ecstasy.

I ordered the Smashburger 1/3 Pound Burger and Smash Fries:

Smashburger 1/3 Pound Burger and Smash Fries

Tim ordered the Twin Cities Smashburger and Smash Fries:

Twin Cities Smashburger and Smash Fries

Things I love about Smashburger:

  • The burgers are delicious. I just tried to eat my monitor as I was uploading the photos. They are juicy, but not greasy. I’m not sure what’s in the smash sauce on the 1/3 pound burger, but I want more of it. The burger is a little messy, but not enough to be bothersome, and the bun is sturdy enough to make it through most of the meal. The vegetable toppings are fresh and crisp.
  • The fries are phenomenal. They are flavored with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. I could not stop eating them even though I was slightly full from the burger.
  • The booths are long, so you can fit at least three people on each side.
  • The burgers come in 1/3 lb. and 1/2 lb. choices, depending on the amount of meat you want.
  • The prices are very reasonable ($4.99 for a burger, $1.79 for fries, and $2.99 for beer). I’ve paid much more for burgers that weren’t half as flavorful.
  • The service was friendly.
  • They serve beer, and I was very pleased to see that they had Summit represented.

Things I do not love about Smashburger:

I need to increase the amount of time I’m working out because I’m going to be stopping here often. While their milkshakes did not bring me to their yard, they looked extremely tempting.

Vincent and Hell’s Kitchen

May 14, 2009

Looking over the last few posts, it’s been beer beer meat cocktails beer beer meat beer. And I wonder why I’ve gained several pounds over the last few weeks.*

However, that did not stop me from meeting my friend Andrea at Vincent in downtown Minneapolis. We’d both heard wonderful things about the burger, and it did not disappoint.

I ordered a glass of the Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon, because I was in the mood for red wine. It was very good, especially for $3 a glass. I would have ordered beer, but they only had Summit Extra Pale Ale and 1664 on tap, and I love red wine with burgers or steak.

The burger was made of ground beef with short ribs in the middle, covered in melted Gouda cheese and a subtly tangy sauce, accompanied by two fresh slices of tomato, shredded lettuce, and onions. The bun was lightly toasted to perfection. The burger was outstanding, and I loved having a little savory pork surprise in the middle of each bite. The fries were also amazing. They tasted like McDonald’s fries (which to me is not an insult, and I feel much better about eating these fries than the ones at McD’s). They were hot and salty and fresh. For $8 on the bar menu, the burger is an incredible deal, and it’s the best burger I’ve had in the Twin Cities in a while.

Service was excellent. We had a very attentive (and attractive) waiter, who was always available but didn’t hover. The bar began to fill up, so we vacated the table and walked down Nicollet Mall, where we were pelted by wind and some flying debris. We sought shelter in a booth in the tavern of Hell’s Kitchen. I was tempted by their cocktails, but asked the bartender about their house beer. I believe it was called “Angel’s Demise” and it was from a brewery near Duluth, but I’m having a hard time finding it in The Googler. Based on his description, I took a chance and it was wonderful. It was a beautiful red color and had a hint of spice and the tiniest bit of hops. It was full-bodied and delicious, and I will be returning to learn more about it.



*Incidentally, did you know that if you wave your hands in the air for three hours, you’ll be sore all over for two days? I call it the Springsteen workout. If we could follow Bruce on tour, I could have all the food I wanted and I wouldn’t have to go up a pants size.

Weekend Beer Sampler

May 12, 2009

Apparently I have a new hobby.

I stopped into Cellars in Roseville, because I was running an errand at Chuck and Don’s and I thought I’d see what they had to offer. I was silly to think I’d walk out of there empty-handed. As I was wandering in the beer aisle, I started to talk to the guy restocking the bottles, and before I knew it I was leaving the store with a six-beer sampler with his recommendations. He did not steer me wrong.

I started with the Rush River Small Axe Golden Ale, and I was thrilled. It had a beautiful golden color, and it was light and crispy yet had some depth to it at the same time. I will definitely buy this again, along with some of the brewery’s other offerings. I just can’t get over how much I like this beer. It reminded me of some of the Belgians I’d been sampling. And they’re just a few miles down highway 94!

We went to Old Chicago for dinner, where I took advantage of the opportunity to try Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat. It was a light golden color. I had Boulevard previously in Kansas City and it was more of an amber, but this was quite pleasant, and it was nice to have it on draft. Despite being a chain, I was really impressed with Old Chicago’s deep dish crust. Deep dish can be really greasy, and this crust was soft and bready and almost pastry-like.

When we got home, I had some Goose Island Honker’s Ale. They describe it on the label as “A smooth drinkable English-style bitter for drinkers who want more from their beer.” Hey, that’s me! The beer was slightly more hoppy than my previous samplings, but still very enjoyable.

I finished, appropriately, withThe Bitter End Pale Ale from Two Brothers Brewing Company. It was another English-style bitter, even more hoppy than the Goose Island, but quite tasty.

Later that weekend, I tried a Victory Prima Pils. It took hops to a whole other level. I think it would have been better at the end of a sampler where I slowly worked my way up to it, but not something I would grab as the first option. But if you like hoppy, bitter-style beer, this is for you.

Happy Gnome, The Sequel

May 12, 2009

Patio season is finally (if inconsistently) upon us, and my friend Janeen and I took advantage of it at The Happy Gnome last week. We were able to find a spot in the shade for most of the evening, and although we were a little concerned it would be windy, it was perfect.

We each had the warm spinach salad, which really wasn’t warm at all. The waitress said that only the dressing was warm, but by the time we got the salads they were room temperature, which was just fine with me on an already warm day. The salad was a delicious blend of leafy spinach, shredded parmesan, pancetta crisps, and pecans, from what I remember. (I really need to take notes and bring a camera more often.) We also split the elk tart, which was a meat and gruyere cheese concoction served in a pastry crust. It was divine. We joked with one of the servers about licking the plate.

For beer, I started with the Belhaven Scottish Ale. It had a slight hint of toffee, and a smooth malty head that was Guinness-like, except that the beer was a dark amber color. I followed it up with the Left Hand Ju Ju Ginger, which was light and crisp and (as expected) gingery. The head was more foamy. It would go really well with Asian food. I would definitely order both of them again.

Fogo de Chao / Brit’s Pub

April 5, 2009

It’s taken me a week to write about the all-you-can-meat buffet at Fogo de Chao for a couple reasons:

  • I am still trying to kick this stupid cough/cold thing, and it’s making me tired and crabby.
  • The thought of meat in the following days was too much to bear. And I really like meat. But I overdid it a little.

If you were to swear off meat for Lent, or convert to vegetarianism, or otherwise put yourself in a meat-free situation, Fogo de Chao would be the best place to have your last meaty meal. Not only is a wide variety of succulent flesh paraded before your eyes, but you might not want to eat meat for a very long time afterwards. Or maybe it’s just me. Like I said, I showed no self-control and I might have overdone it.

We were seated at a table near the salad bar, on the main meat path servers took to the kitchen, so it was ideal for both courses. I ordered a half bottle of Roberto Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (very reasonable for $15– I was expecting to spend at least $7 or $8 on a glass), and Tim ordered a vodka/soda with lime. After our server asked us if we’d been to the restaurant before, and we answered affirmatively, we were off to the salad bar.

The salad bar could be a meal in itself. They have a fantastic array of vegetables (mixed greens, spinach, red and yellow peppers, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes which are probably a fruit but I’m listing them here), and cheeses (balls of mozzarella, sliced cheeses, and a huge barrel of freshly cut parmesan), along with some starter meats (prosciutto and salmon). The key to the salad bar is to take one bite-sized portion of everything that interests you, and even then it’s probably too much because the meat will start taunting you when you’re about halfway done with your salad plate. Don’t be like the guy in front of us who had a huge mound of lettuce and assorted accompaniments stacked several inches high on his plate.

There are also little heavenly bread puffs with cheese in a basket at each table. They are tiny, and they are tasty, but again, they take up valuable real estate in your stomach.

Finally, we flipped the discs on our table from red to green to signal that we were ready, and the meat parade began. It’s all a sizzling, salty, carnivorous blur in my mind so I’ll list the different varieties we consumed:

  • Pork loin encrusted with parmesan (this was excellent, and I don’t think I’d had this before– a welcome addition to the meat parade)
  • Picanha (the restaurant’s signature cut of beef, seasoned with sea salt and very tender and flavorful)
  • Filet mignon (extremely tender and delicious)
  • Garlic beef (not overpoweringly full of garlic, but very tasty)
  • Pork sausages (these can be hit and miss, depending on the spices they use and my mood, but they were quite savory)
  • Pork ribs (I always seem to get more bone and less meat, but the meat was satisfying; that’s what she said)
  • Top sirloin (they always seem to give me a huge portion of this when I’d rather be saving room for other beef, but I’m usually so hungry at this point that I’m ready to start biting the arms of the meat wranglers, so I take it)
  • Bottom sirloin (see top sirloin above)

I bypassed the chicken (saving room for the beef and pork family), and the lamb never arrived at a convenient time, so we skipped that as well. Tim had some of the chicken wrapped in bacon and he enjoyed it very much.

The wine was the perfect accompaniment to all of the meats, and it also paired well with the cheeses from the salad bar and the little cheesy poofs in the basket.

After pushing the boundaries of our stomachs, we flipped the green discs back to red to signal that we wanted no more meat. After paying the bill, we grabbed a few complimentary chocolates from the lobby, and we were off.

We waddled down Hennepin then crossed over to Nicollet Mall to visit Brit’s Pub. I’d been craving a proper draft beer since I’d returned from England, and Fuller’s ESB was exactly what I was looking for. It was a dark amber color (it’s killing me to not type “colour”), and had a full, flavorful (again, “flavourful”) body. I can’t think of an accurate way to describe the taste other than fantastic. Tim started with a Guinness and after tasting my beer, had a Fuller’s ESB for his second round. I found room in my stomach for a second Fuller’s ESB too. After standing for a few minutes commenting on a genealogy chart of the monarchy, some stools at the bar were available and we sat down, watching trays of fish and chips go by.

We let our meat and beer settle for a few minutes, then headed home, where I learned a valuable lesson that wine, beer, and tequila do not mix, even though it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Happy Gnome

April 5, 2009

This post was supposed to start out something like this: “Just got back from seeing The Gaslight Anthem, and it was one of the most transcendent experiences of my life.” However, fate and a medical emergency in the band intervened (hope everything is OK), and we were forced to find other entertainment on Saturday night. We decided to drown our sorrows in beer.

All About Beer named The Happy Gnome in St. Paul as one of the top 125 places to have a beer before you die, so we were off. We arrived at about 5:20 and sat at the bar. I ordered the Coniston Bluebird Bitter, but the tap had just shot out the last of the brew, so I settled for the Belhaven Scottish Ale instead. It was fine, but it wasn’t a life-changing experience like the Fuller’s ESB I’d had at Brit’s Pub a week earlier. Tim had his usual Stella Artois.

For food, Tim ordered the Roasted Chicken Orecchiette Pasta with spinach, red onions, and mascarpone cheese. It looked like gnocchi, and he loved every bite. I had the Chicken and Artichoke Pizza from the bar menu. It had roasted tomato sauce, Kalamata olives, red onion, and feta cheese. I ate four slices and took two home for lunch the next day. It was very good. The chicken was spicy and savory, and all the ingredients were fresh and not dry.

For our second round, Tim branched out a little and ordered the Moinette Blonde, which was excellent. It was a golden amber color and had just a hint of spice. After debating between the Delirium Tremens and the Kwak, I ordered the latter, not realizing that it came in a fancy glass. The bartender said that you could take it out of the wooden holder to drink it, but the glass would tip over if it wasn’t returned to the holder. I played it safe and used the wooden contraption the whole time, because I have a natural tendency to spill things and to forget important pieces of information after I’ve had a few sips.

The beer itself was outstanding. It was a beautiful amber color, and it had slightly sweet tones mixed with hints of spice. I wasn’t really tasting a banana flavor, but that was OK. I would definitely order it again, and it’s a reason to return to the bar, which is only a few miles away from our house.

The service at the bar was great, and the bartenders were friendly and willing to answer any questions about the menu. We were fascinated by all the different taps on display. Each tap had a unique decoration, and the one that stood out was the Rogue Mogul which had a carved skeleton on top.

The Happy Gnome also has a nice patio area, and it should be opening in the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to a warm night and a cool, refreshing Kwak in my hand soon.