HOPtoberfest: New Twin Cities Autumn Craft Beers

The leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter, there is a crispness in the air. The lighter, sessionable, citrusy beers are making way for more malty, caramel and darker beers to help us stay warm. I love fall for many reasons, and the Oktoberfest beers are one reason. At HOPtoberfest at the Cub Stillwater Wine and Spirit shop last week, I sampled local craft beer and met the brewers from Rush River, Lift Bridge, Summit, Bad Weather and Fulton breweries.

HOPtoberfest Cub Stillwater | Kale and Ale

The scene at HOPtoberfest at Cub in Stillwater.

It was fun to talk in an intimate setting to the brewers and those on the front lines in the shops, about their beers and thoughts on beer. And it was fun to talk with others there about what they liked, why and what brought them out. It was a diverse crowd. I love beer tastings, because I’m a lot more likely to try a few ounces of a style of beer I would never order a pint of. Case in point: My favorite non-hoppy beer was Lift Bridge Fireside Flannel Brown Ale (a rebranding of the Chestnut brown ale) with coffee, chocolate and just the right amount of cinnamon.

HOPtoberfest Rush River | Kale and Ale

Rush River with it’s Wet Hop Minion IPA growler.

I also finally tried Fulton’s Hopstar, and learned that shortly there will be a hopped up version of it, Specter NE IPA. I can’t wait to try that. While Summit brought it’s 25th version of the Unchained series, the brewer for 26 was there talking about it. West of Seventh will be a Belgian dark ale available later this month. How perfect will that be for winter? Bad Weather brought it’s Earl Gray beer, Tippin It Down. The Earl Gray is noticeable, but not intrusive, as it lends a great balance to the beer. Rush River threw a happily surprising curve by bringing a growler of it’s wet-hopped beer, Minion IPA with wet hops. What a treat, I’m glad I could experience that, since I don’t see myself getting to the taproom during the wet-hopped beer timeframe.

What seasonal local beers are you now drinking or looking forward to? Do you plan to try any of the above beers?

Morning Delight 2017 Release

Morning Delight 2017 package | Kale and Ale

 

Saturday I went 3 hours away to the beautiful town of Decorah, Iowa. For about 2.5 hours. And then turned around and came home. All in the same day. It takes a lot for that to happen. And the reason was a beer release. Not just any beer release, but Toppling Goliath’s Morning Delight beer release. This is consistently one of the highest-rated and most anticipated beers in the world, and I couldn’t pass up the fact to experience it.

Valerie Morning Delight 2017 release | Kale and Ale

When I saw the lottery was open to win a ticket to attend the release, I registered. And I won! I would have the opportunity to purchase a 4-pack of 12 ounce beers and two glasses. Morning Delight is an imperial stout brewed with coffee and balanced with maple syrup. It has a great, thick mouth feel and is nicely balanced. Not my typical type of beer, the fact that I won a spot to receive a package of the beer and experiencing the release was enticing, but it really is a good beer.

RELATED: Road trip to Decorah, Iowa, for a weekend.

I haven’t been to many specialty beer releases, but this is run about as smooth as one can expect. Winners have to bring cash and two forms of ID, and come at an assigned time. Parking was easy, it was clear where to go and the event was organized. I got my beer, sample and extras that were for sale (in my case, Supa Sumo, another fantastic beer that is only being sold in Northeast Iowa) and was in and out in less than 30 minutes. I know it takes trial and error to get to that point, I’ve heard about past Morning Delight days and, having lived in Florida, have heard how Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day has evolved, so I appreciate the process.

Morning Delight 2017 Toppling Goliath | Kale and Ale

The big learning experience between going to Decorah on Saturday and even my experience at Surly’s Darkness Day in 2015 is to learn how much you can about what’s going on for the event. In Decorah, bars and restaurants were having special releases and concurrent events for people who didn’t get Morning Delight tickets or who were waiting for the brewery to open after the release. One bar had seven pours of rare and special release kegs for $25. A great, fun deal if we didn’t have to turn around and drive home.

Point is, find out as much as you can about the release, any food trucks or special releases, etc., you can before you arrive. I would make an overnight trip of it next time, and even if you don’t get the special release of Morning Delight, you can still get to town and try it (as I could when I went to Darkness Day). Find someone who has been there before, check the internet and message boards, ask on social media, etc., to “know before you go” so you can roll into the event like and experienced fan of the release.

Have you ever been to a specialty release? What was your experience like and what tips do you have?

Tips to Drink Beer From Afar at Home

Tips for drinking beer from afar in your home | Kale and Ale

Original photo by Flick user quinnanya.

One thing I love about craft beer is its exclusivity. By nature craft beer is not as widely produced, meaning it’s not as widely available. (There are exceptions to this, for example, some brewers have set up shop on both coasts.)

Because of this, it’s exciting to get my hands on brews not available in Minnesota. When I travel—even home to Iowa—I look for beers I can’t get from my own liquor store. It’s part of what’s fun about traveling.

Case in point: A recent weekend I had beer in my home in Minnesota from three well known places to have a unique selection: Wicked Weed in Asheville, N.C., Surly in Minneapolis and Russian River in Santa Rosa, Calif. Only Surly is sold anywhere near here.

Wicked Weed Russian River Surly beer Kale and Ale

From top left: Russian River Pliny the Elder, Surly Barrel Aged Pentagram, Wicked Weed Freak of Nature

Through the years, and specifically more recently, I’ve gotten more savvy about getting beer to me that I can’t buy locally, from transporting it myself or getting it from others. Below are some tips I’ve learned to cast as wide a beer-sampling net as possible in your own home.

Get a Growler to Go

A growler is a jug used to transport tap beer. The vessel is usually 64 ounces, and it’s often found at breweries and taprooms where you can fill up beer from their tap (typically good for three to five days) and take it off site for consumption. This is good because if you have a growler or buy one their, you can take beer that might not even be bottled, or certainly not sold where you live. Growler laws vary widley by state, so know before you go (can you bring your own growler, can you use the growler your size, etc.). Find growler laws by state.

Friends Going on Trips

Find a beer buddy near you and let them know what you like. I can think of two people this year alone who brought me back beers from their travels without me asking before. And because of that, I’ve done the same for them. I’ve also asked non-beer drinkers to keep an eye on things for me, too. So don’t be shy and ask, the worst they can say is no.

Pack Carefully

The above Wicked Weed bottle came back thanks to bubble wrap that I brought for that purpose. I’ve had 3 Floyds Zombie Dust the day it was bottled from the brewery by my husband Aaron packing the beer in his clothes and shoes. Take a chance if it’s worth it to you (beer won’t usually stain if you take care of it right away) and the reward can be great.

The Travel Channel video gives inspiration on the best ways to pack and travel with glass bottles.

Beer mail

Another option that you have to be careful about is trading beer via mail. You have to be careful as it’s a liquid and alcohol, so check with the carrier. Also important to keep in mind is the actual shipping. Beer Exchange has an excellent guide on how to ship beer. You can ship among people you know or find people on beer boards. Again, be smart and find out what you can ship, where and with whom.

Cookbook Review: Wild Drinks & Cocktails

This post contains affiliate links, where I may get a small portion of sales to fund this blog.

Wild Drinks and Cocktails

I’m back with my second cookbook review. Last time it was vegan party food with “Thug Kitchen Party Grub,” and this time it’s another thing I really enjoy, “Wild Drinks and Cocktails.” It is a book full of handcrafted squashes, shrubs, switchels, tonics and infusions to mix at home. It focuses on making handcrafted drinks using fresh, foraged ingredients.

Related: Read my review of “Thug Kitchen Party Grub.”

As the name and description imply, there are drinks for syrups, infused beverages, sangria, bases of other drinks both alcoholic and non, and an entire chapter devoted to soda recipes and fizzy drinks.

The range of recipes is incredible, from both the standpoint of ingredients to how long they take to prepare; one drink I made had to ferment for a month. Already a fan of infused vodka (see my instructions on how to infuse vodka) and recently getting into preparing fermented food and drink (think beermaking and canning), this book is calling my name. There are drinks appropriate for every season, so this is a book you can go to year round. Case in point are three drinks I’ve made:

  • Fire Cider: A vinegar tonic that includes horseradish, garlic, ginger, onions and chile peppers. This is full of flavor, but is said to ward off a cold or flu, relieve sinus congestion and warm up on a cold day. It is full of flavor but surprisingly easy drinking.
  • Haymaker’s Punch: Also known as a switchel, becoming the new hip drink. It is full of electrolytes and iron, this is a great drink after a workout or a hot day. It was easy to make with common ingredients and a nice alternative to kombucha. (There’s also a recipe for a Turmeric Switchel, another popular ingredient right now.)
  • Citrus Squash: Not the food, the squash is a base of mixed citrus that is like a concentrate. Add water for juice, add champagne for mimosa or do as I did and add wheat beer for a nice beer cocktails.
Wild drinks and cocktails fire cider | Kale and Ale

Fire cider, the real (healthy) deal.

Enter to win “Wild Drinks and Cocktails”

Enough about what I think of the book and what I’ve had from it. Now it’s your turn to see for yourself. The publishers Quatro Cooks (check out their blog for more great books and recipes) have been kind enough to provide a copy of the book to one lucky reader of Kale and Ale and a recipe from the book for all readers to try. What? I know!

Right below this is the Rafflecopter widget to enter to win a copy of “Wild Drinks and Cocktails” for yourself, and below that read the recipe for the Claret Cup. The giveaway is open worldwide to anyone 18 or older. The contest starts at midnight Wednesday, June 1, 2016, and runs until Tuesday, June 7, 2016, midnight central U.S. time. Winner will be picked at random via Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Claret Cup | Kale and Ale
Claret Cup
Print Recipe
“THE LEAVES AND FLOURES OF BORAGE PUT INTO WINE MAKE MEN AND women glad and merry and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy,” wrote sixteenth-century herbalist John Gerard. With its brilliant blue flowers and cucumber-like flavor, borage (Borago officinalis) has enhanced wine for centuries, even millennia. Roman and Celtic warriors drank borage-steeped wine for courage, while the Victorians used borage to garnish the claret cup, a popular punch made with red wine from Bordeaux plus various liqueurs, herbs, fruits, and spices. (Pimm’s Cup, which also traditionally includes borage, may have originated as a variation of the claret cup.) This is my version of a claret cup, and it’s inspired by recipes in historical cookbooks. The first delicious step involves creating a fragrant blend of lemon oil and sugar called oleo-saccharum, a classic technique for adding depth of flavor to punches.
Claret Cup | Kale and Ale
Claret Cup
Print Recipe
“THE LEAVES AND FLOURES OF BORAGE PUT INTO WINE MAKE MEN AND women glad and merry and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy,” wrote sixteenth-century herbalist John Gerard. With its brilliant blue flowers and cucumber-like flavor, borage (Borago officinalis) has enhanced wine for centuries, even millennia. Roman and Celtic warriors drank borage-steeped wine for courage, while the Victorians used borage to garnish the claret cup, a popular punch made with red wine from Bordeaux plus various liqueurs, herbs, fruits, and spices. (Pimm’s Cup, which also traditionally includes borage, may have originated as a variation of the claret cup.) This is my version of a claret cup, and it’s inspired by recipes in historical cookbooks. The first delicious step involves creating a fragrant blend of lemon oil and sugar called oleo-saccharum, a classic technique for adding depth of flavor to punches.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the lemon peels and sugar in a bowl. Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, muddle the lemon peels and sugar until the peels start to release their oils. Let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the lemon peel and sugar mixture in a clean pitcher with the borage sprig, sherry, and red wine. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard the solids.
  3. To serve, pour into ice-filled glasses and top with club soda. Garnish with borage flowers.
Recipe Notes

Makes 1/2 gallon drink

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Review: Craftapped Craft Beer Community

Craftapped gave me a three-month membership at no charge to review it’s service, which focuses on connecting craft beer lovers in the Twin Cities with venues. All opinions are my own. Site contains affiliate links where I earn a free beer voucher if you sign up using my link.

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Craftapped is a social revolution built by beer lovers, for beer lovers.” That’s the slogan, and it’s quickly clear it’s how they really feel. Craftapped is a new service available in the Twin Cities area that allows you to try beers at area partner establishments (bars, taprooms and restaurants). With the program, subscribers get four vouchers a month, each good for one free beer that can be used at a different location, with new locations constantly being added. In addition, there are many member happy hours where Craftapped provides the first beer. I’m going to my first member event tomorrow (Thursday), so if you’re at Wicked Wort, please say hi! Join here to get in on the fun.

I’m into my second month of membership and it’s great. One month is $9.99 with one month free. No fewer than eight beers for less than $10, the happiest hour (er, two months) in the Twin Cities! The best part is that with the membership you have to redeem at a variety of places. While I love exploring new venues, it’s very easy to get stuck in old habits. But with Craftapped vouchers in hand, I have no excuse not to explore that restaurant in St. Paul or tap room in Northeast that I haven’t been to yet. No excuse, yes beer.

Craftapped voucher

Photo courtesy Craftapped

One warm Saturday I visited Bauhaus Brew Lab for the first time and headed to a nearby taproom, Indeed, which I haven’t been to in far too long but I like. Two free beers in one neighborhood! I’m planning to use a warm weekend day and my vouchers in March as a reason to explore Wayzata.

RELATED: Day trip to Waconia, where a few member establishments are reviewed.

Thanks to Craftapped for getting me out there trying new establishments and beers. It’s great to have this service available in such a beer-forward area, and I love the idea of bringing the beer lovers of our community together. If you would like to try Craftapped, check it out and get started here. Gift subscriptions are also available.

YOU MIGHT LIKE: Craft beer event bingo boards.