What We’re Drinking: Stouts, sours, and sparkling wine

Excelsior Brewing's Barrel-Aged Scofflaw Russian Imperial Stout // Photo by The Growler

Excelsior Brewing’s Barrel-Aged Scofflaw Russian Imperial Stout // Photo by The Growler

Welcome to What We’re Drinking, the new bi-weekly feature wherein The Growler editorial staff look back on a recent remarkable beverage. What are you drinking, Growler Nation? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Fair State Rye Falutin – Joseph Alton, Editor-in-Chief

Walking around the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild’s Winterfest in late February, it was impossible to ignore a wildly growing trend—sour beers are all the rage. There were more than 24 beers claiming the sour designation at the Friday night affair, but none quite as funky as Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s Rye Falutin. Fair State actually took home an award for another one of their sours (Raspberry Roselle) that evening, but their collaboration with the yet-to-open Oude Oak was my highlight of the night.

Produced at Fair State, the brewers used some of the wild yeast cultures Oude Oak has been developing. Though slightly under-carbonated due to the fact that it was pulled early from conditioning tanks for the event, it was a layered and intricate presentation of the art of mixed culture (or mixed fermentation) beers. Rye Falutin’s complexity and balance are a product of the Kay Gray and Edelweiss grapes (grown at Community Homestead in Wisconsin) that helped ferment the beer, and the year it spent in red wine barrels in Fair State’s barrel room.

Crisp, slightly spicy flavors seem to emerge from the beer, but that’s not the only reason the guys chose rye. “Caleb [Levar] and Levi [Loesch] are big proponents of the use of rye in beers like this, for a variety of reasons,” said Fair State brewer Niko Tonks, “but primarily because of the tasty tidbits it leaves around for [Brettanomyces] to chew on.” Available in limited quantities, Rye Falutin and its sister beer (Wild Rover) will soon be available at the Fair State taproom and in limited supply at local liquor stores.

Surly Two — Keith Grauman, Web Editor

Secrets of Surly 7

A bottle of Surly Two // Photo courtesy of Surly Brewing

Surly is in the process of “re-brewing” their limited-edition (until now) anniversary beers. Both One (a “quad-bock”) and Two (a cranberry stout) were on tap at the Surly Beer Hall in late February, and we had a tulip of Two while waiting for a table.

About 20 pounds of cranberries go into each keg, according to the menu. We found the tartness and acidity of the cranberries to be impeccably balanced with the rich, sweetness of the chocolate malt. At 9.4% ABV, Two is also sneakily strong.

Get it while it lasts by checking the Beer Hall tap list (One is no longer available).

Excelsior Barrel-Aged Scofflaw Russian Imperial Stout – Ellen Burkhardt, Associate Editor

Excelsior Brewing's Barrel-Aged Scofflaw Russian Imperial Stout // Photo by The Growler

Excelsior Brewing’s Barrel-Aged Scofflaw Russian Imperial Stout // Photo by The Growler

We opened a bomber of Excelsior’s inaugural barrel-aged stout—an 11.7%ABV, 77 IBU, boozy beast of a beer—on a Friday afternoon in early March. It was raining/snowing outside and the sun hadn’t graced us with its presence for days, and it just seemed like the right thing to do.

The Wild Turkey bourbon, in whose barrels the stout was aged for 10 months, came through heavy on the aroma and carried through the initial taste, but didn’t dominate the flavor. That territory fell to dark chocolate notes: bitter, sharp, and efficient in cutting through the velvety smooth richness of the beer. Like most Russian imperial stouts, Scofflaw gets better as it warms up a bit, opening up and revealing the layers of flavor hiding within its deep, dark body. Dry on the finish, this is dessert in a glass, and helped us forget about the snowflakes falling outside, if only momentarily.

Try it for yourself at the release party on March 10 at Mac’s Industrial Sports Bar. Let’s hope the sun overtakes the snow by then.

2016 Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout — Brian Kaufenberg, Managing Editor

Lift Bridge Irish Coffee

Lift Bridge 2016 Irish Coffee Stout // Photo by The Growler

Beer and St. Patty’s Day. You’re probably imaging a plastic cup full of green-tinted light lager, but there are plenty of local craft beer options to wash that image from your mind—case in point, Lift Bridge’s Irish Coffee Stout.

The 2016 version is an 8.0% ABV blend of whiskey barrel–aged imperial stout, milk stout, and cold press coffee. Pouring deep black with a creamy latte-colored head, the nose has a pleasant booziness with an aroma of strong, bright coffee. Irish Coffee Stout slowly coats the tongue with a layer of sweet, dark malts before the crisp carbonation and bright coffee bitterness cut through, leaving the whiskey flavor to linger for a second longer. Strong and warming with a certain amount of brashness, the 2016 Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout is the one I’ll be reaching for this St. Patty’s Day. Oh, and did we mention you can use this beer to make a killer brownie?

2014 Scholium Project ‘Blowout’ — John Garland, Senior Editor


Blowout // Photo via Scholium Wines website

The Scholium Project is known for making some esoteric wines that challenge conventional winemaking wisdom. This crown-capped sparkling wine is 80% verdelho, 20% gruner veltliner from the Sacramento River delta. The bubbles are not from bottling the wine with active yeasts, like with Champagne and pet-nat, rather, it’s force-carbonated in a brite tank like many of the bottom-shelf sparklers. But, the winemakers figured, if force-carbonating is a shortcut that’s only applied to already-terrible wine, why not run a well-made wine through that process and see what happens?

Blowout is light and breezy, with bright acids, juicy flavor, and a trickle of carbonation. It’s downright gulp-able. We’ve seen it, among other places, on the wine lists at Revival, Nightingale, and Heirloom, and on the shelves at France 44, South Lyndale Liquors, and Lowry Hill Liquors (around $20 retail).


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