Eric's Beer Blog

My online journal for beer (and other drinks) tasting, brewing, tourism, and general musings.

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Location: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Favorite Beers

I am really bad at favorites. "What's your favorite movie/book/food/beer/etc." is one of my least favorite questions, because I have a terrible time coming up with anything other than "ummm." I can come up with a list of favorites, but not a single favorite anything.

So, since I am often in the position of being a "beer authority" (i.e., I've drunk more beer than most people I know), I am relatively often asked about my favorites. Here's my attempt, more or less off the top of my head, to list some of them.

5 Favorite Breweries:

  • Bar Harbor Brewing Co., Bar Harbor, ME. Three words: Cadillac Mountain Stout.
  • Dogfish Head Brewing Co., Delaware; all of their many beers are interesting, most are amazingly good, among them Aprihop, 60-, 90-, and 120-minute Ales, World Wide Stout...
  • Bell's Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI. Two-Hearted Ale, a variety of incredible stouts (including the inimitable Cherry Stout), various crazy seasonals.
  • Three Floyds Brewing Co., Munster, IN. All of their beers are fantastic-- Alpha King (pale ale), Robert the Bruce (Scottish, natch), Alpha Klaus (Xmas porter)... if only we could get them here in Minnesota!
  • Surly, right here in the Twin Cities. Bender and Furious, their first two beers, are both delicious. Their first anniversary beer, One, was astounding. And I've heard that their seasonal imperial stout, Darkness (released at Halloween) is something special.
5 Favorite Brewpubs:

  • Minneapolis Town Hall. I'm not just being biased because I live so close by. It is legitimately one of the very best in the country. Their Masala Mama IPA is nectar from heaven. Their insane seasonals (Cabernet Stout? c'mon!) make each visit exciting.
  • McNeill's, Brattleboro, VT. Really the first brewpub I visited, and still one of my favorites. The beer is all very good, but the atmosphere is what sets it apart. The closest I've ever seen in this country to a real neighborhood pub-- there are usually kids, dogs, and all kinds of people sitting around the long tables, playing darts, and enjoying a pint.
  • Bosco's, Germantown, TN (now relocated). This was my regular place for the 5 years I lived in Memphis. I'm not just being sentimental, either-- their beer was excellent, and the atmosphere superb. Amazing bartenders who treated regulars like royalty-- free drinks and/or food, first-name service...
  • Amnesia, Portland, OR. The latest one to get added to my list. Great beer, great atmosphere (complete with a brewhouse dog).
  • Great Dane, Madison, WI. Incredible number of beers available, and all of them excellent. Great service. A lovely place... and thank goodness it's not too far away!
Also in contention: Franklin's, Hyattsville, MD; Magnolia, San Francisco, CA; Dogfish Head (the brewpub), Rehobeth Beach, DE, Three Floyd's (brewpub), Munster, IN.

Five Favorite Beer Bars:

  • Toronado, San Francisco, CA. We've only been there once, but any bar that has a barleywine festival with approximately 50 barleywines ON TAP... well....
  • Rich O's, New Albany, IN. Actually also a brewpub and a fine one at that, but they also have an amazing selection of other beer. And good atmosphere.
  • Michael's Bistro, Charlottesville, VA. A small but fabulous and ever-changing beer list. Introduced me to some of my favorite beers...
  • The Saloon, Washington, DC. Again, a small list, but with stuff you don't ever see elsewhere (Urbock?), and a wonderful atmosphere, amazing bartender, great regulars...
  • The Happy Gnome, here in St. Paul. Excellent list, changes often, and regular casks. We need to go here more but we usually end up at their sister establishment the Muddy Pig (also great list, but no casks).
Also in the running: the Map Room in Chicago, but too crowded; RFD in DC, tremendous selection but crappy service and no atmosphere; Racer's in Baltimore, MD, only been there once, but it seems like a great place (and Geoff would agree).

5 Favorite Beers Not Mentioned Elsewhere in This Post:

  • Anchor Liberty Ale, Porter, and Our Xmas Beer (Anchor is too big to really be a microbrewery, but darned if everything they make isn't incredibly good)
  • Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout-- doesn't it just sound delicious?
  • Victory Storm King Stout-- Victory's beers are all good, but this one is world class.
  • Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout-- seems I've gotten on a bit of a stout kick...
  • Tilburg Dutch Brown Ale-- the only non-American beer I'd cross the street for. Frequently in our house as a great session beer.

Did I miss any?

Drinking locally

(cross-posted at The Menagerie)

Daniela has written about the "Eating Locally Challenge" in which we're participating this month. She mentioned in one post that we're trying to drink locally, too, so I thought I'd expound on that aspect a bit.

Drinking locally is quite easy here in the Twin Cities. We have Summit, one of the larger "craft breweries" (they say they're too large to be considered a microbrewery these days) around, whose beers are available just about everywhere-- even at the Metrodome (home of the Twins and Vikings).

Then there's Surly, which Beer Advocate recently named the best brewery in America. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but Surly is undeniably very very yummy stuff.

Just this year we've also added Flat Earth, a brand new brewery operating here in St. Paul. I just had their Angry Planet Organic Pale Ale and found it to be very tasty.

Minnesota also has a number of old breweries which somehow survived the massive consolidation of the 20th century-- Schell, Grain Belt (actually now brewed by Schell, but still), Stite, Gluek, to name a few. These breweries generally make beers in the American light lager category (ala Budweiser), but at least they're local! Then there are the micros located outside the Twin Cities metro area, like Lake Superior (Duluth).

And last but not least, included in the "local" category are beers from nearby Wisconsin. That means that even the crappy bar with nothing but lousy beer might have something local (Miller, anyone? or Pabst, or even Leinenkugel, though they're better than the other 2). Milwaukee was recently named America's drunkest city, (Twin Cities were #2!) and there's no shortage of beer made in Wisconsin. Putting aside the bad stuff, there are some great micros from the Cheesehead state too-- New Glarus, Furthermore (whose interesting smoked stout I'm drinking as I type), Sprecher, and Viking, to name a few locally available ones.

All in all, I'd guess that outside of the Pacific Northwest or northern California, we're probably in the best area for beer in the country. Or right up there... (if only we could get Three Floyds beer here, I'd have no problem with the previous statement)