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Christmas 2012 Beer Tasting

January 1, 2013

This year we tried to spice up Christmas Day (day 3 with the family) with a beer tasting.  It was my daughter’s idea and maximized by my wife procuring  4 oz mini pilsner glasses.  Each branch of the family was to come up with the selections – but a special  shout out to my nephew Michael for picking up truly exotic selections.  All went well until we had traditional Christmas dinner of Swedish meatballs.  We all ate too much and we hit the wall.  It took everything in our power to muscle through the last selections (beer drinking should not be so hard).

We had a collection of beer snobs, regular beer drinkers (American lager of the lighter variety) and non-beer drinkers.

day tripperFirst up was as pale ale – Indeed’s Day Tripper. Indeed is a Minneapolis craft brewer.  Per Indeed: Day Tripper’s description:

Regionally grown American pale malt is blended with rich European malts to produce a lighter bodied beer, bright in color, with a taut white head that keeps track of time as you sip. Then there are the hops – four pounds per barrel to be exact. Willamettes, Cascades, CTZ and Summits give this brew a citrus punch and spicy character that greets you in the nose and embraces your mouth with a clean, crisp bitterness. (ABV 5.4%)

Our crew had a variety of reactions: flat, dry, hoppy, spicey, “don’t mind it,” nasty, long after taste and KKLUKC (a cry of disgust from a light beer drinker not used to a hoppy beer).  The pale ale fans found it a light first taste followed by a nicely bitter after taste.  Over all on the mild end of bitter hoppy beers.



schellsNext up was New Ulm Minnesota’s Schell’s Doppel Alt Schmaltz’s Ale  Per Schells:

The rich, sweet malty flavor with hints of licorice is balanced by a chocolaty bitterness. Dark brown in color and topped by a thick, creamy tan head.

The light beer drinkers found this an acceptable dark beer – smooth and drinkable.  The beer snobs found it unremarkable – not bad, just not special.






grimNext was Grimbergen Double Ale.  This is beer brewed in Belgium.  The official website is worthless – all flash and no legitimate content.  I guess that is the value you get from Heineken ownership.  My favorite quote from our crew was: “It smells like wet dog, but it tastes pretty good.”  An inexperienced beer liked the sweet taste. The beer snobs found this yet another unremarkable beer.






backwoods bI could have stopped here – this was the most remarkable beer I have ever tasted – Founders Backwoods Bastard.  Per Founders:

Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice, and a scintilla of dark fruit. It’s a kick-back sipper made to excite the palate. (ABV: 10.2%)

Holy Crap was this a good beer – it tasted like bourbon candy.  Some found it a little too boozy, but even the light beer drinkers found this beer appealing.  If you had an extra bottle it would make an amazing meat marinade.  This is beer would go so good with a rare steak!

Unfortunately this is a very seasonal beer (November) and rare in Minnesota.



founders ipaThis was followed by another Founders – Centennial IPA.  Per Founders:

Get ready to bask in the glory of the frothy head’s floral bouquet. Relish the citrus accents from the abundance of dry hopping. This one’s sweet, yet balanced. Malty undertones shake hands with the hop character for a finish that never turns too bitter.

Inexperienced beer drinkers found this sour with a strange after taste – one called it perfume.  One of the beer snobs calls this his all time favorite IPA.  It has a nice fruity flavor – it is hoppy without being overly bitter.

Ok this Founders beer is pretty damn good.  A couple of days after the tasting I had their Porter.  That does it – every beer I have tried by this brewery is fantastic!


WARNING – this is where the food coma took over – this seriously compromised some very good beers – I am so sorry. 


DeliriumDelirium Noel was the first post dinner tasting.  Per Delirium’s website here is some descriptors:
Colour and sight: chestnut amber. A fine, white, creamy and lacing foam.
Scent: A complex entity of caramel malt, fruit, spices and the sweetness of the alcohol.
Flavour: A strong presence of alcohol, very spicy, slightly bitter. The aftertaste is sweet, spicy and slightly bitter.

Our gang was not over impressed with this beer – even the beer snobs.  Comments included: yeast smelling (in fact a suggestion of semen-like smell); vinegar taste; hard first taste, but mellow with repeated sips; and finally “not overwhelmed with joy” from one of our beer snobs.

However the coolest bottle in the bunch – especially for the season!



surly smokeSurly Smoke was exactly what it is called – a good beer and campfire rolled into a single punch.  Per Surly’s website:

Ebony-hued, Smoke wafts out of the bottle and into your senses, borne on the wings of European traditions, wrapped in American innovation. Lager-brewed, like any true Baltic Porter, with smoked malts from Bamberg, Germany, the home of Rauchbiers, then mellowed by oak-aging. Black malt flavors mesh with notes of raisins, plums, figs and licorice with the subtle smoke on the side, for a complex and luxurious, yet silky smooth drinking experience. It’s a sipper at Alc. 8.2% by VOL., but everyone knows you can’t have Smoke without fire!

Per our crew: Our 91-year-old drinker cried out “Timber!.”  A light beer drinker said “Worcestershire sauce!”  Lots of complex flavors here – would love to have this with a big piece of red meat! Malty goodness.



bourbon countyBourbon County was even more intensely bourbon than Backwoods Bastard.  This would make an amazing marinade.  Very powerful stuff that I am sure I would have enjoyed if I was not so over the top full at this point.  This is a thick and boozy brew.

This is a Goose Island product and per their website:

Brewed in honor of the 1000th batch at our original Clybourn brewpub. A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.




surley darknessLike Jesus, nephew Michael saved the best for last.  Unfortunately it was wasted on this bloated and by now inebriated crowd .  I have no recollection of the taste, but fortunately I scrawled some notes – barely legible they say: “serve over ice cream, chocolate, coffee, goodness.”  This is basically a desert beer, I look forward to my next chance to taste with a clearer palate and state of mind.

Per Surly: This massive Russian Imperial Stout brings waves of flavors; chocolate, cherries, raisins, coffee, and toffee. We add a touch of hops to make this delicious brew even tastier.


In summary this was a great idea for what would have been a very boring day 3 of holiday with the family.  Lesson learned – less beers – I think four would be the right number – then you could really savor and analyze each one.  I would be more deliberate about the choices.  A couple of beers for before dinner (one bitter or sour and one simple lager for the non-beer snobs), a beer selected deliberately for a meal paring, and finally a desert beer.  We ate dinner too early – a later dinner would have probably helped with the food coma.  The tasting glasses made a huge difference – it made it seem more special.  Another act of grace was the hostess had pretzels on hand.  These were essential for pallet cleansing.  It was nice to have a mix of drinkers: wine/cocktail drinkers, regular American lager drinkers, and some beer snobs.  It was fun to see the inexperienced try some of these beers.  Too many beer snobs would have been a drag.

See you next year!

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