On a Rainy Walk


During my recent visit to Rochester, MN to see family, I took a short walk to grab a couple things at Walgreens in a neighborhood I had never been in before. It was a little rainy, and had been a long day – the kind that can really only be cured by a little alone time, a good walk, or a great beer.

On my walk back, I stumbled upon a sign for Forager Brewery, so I went on in. First I’ll say that these folks are nice. Midwest nice is still real even since I’ve left the region. I was welcomed by a host who let me know they operate a restaurant, brewery, coffee shop, and even a little market on the grounds I visited. The wood fire pizza smelled amazing.

I went to the bar to ask about some of their staples, and some of their more interesting beers. I was on a sour kick, so first I tried an Apricot & Wild Plum Sour (5.2% ABV, 20 IBU). You can tell someone spent some time working on this. It smells like wine with a little tartness. Your first sip will taste sharply sour and bubbly, and settle in slowly so that you enjoy every moment of this beer being perfectly refreshing. This sour has a pleasant aftertaste, and can only leave you feeling happy. If you don’t like sours, get ready to pucker up a little – it’s a risk – but a risk worth taking.

Next I tried the Imperial Blackberry Berliner (8% ABV, 5 IBU). If the Apricot & Wild Plum sounded too sharp for you, but you don’t mind a little more alcohol content, this may be the beer for you. This is a pretty straight forward beer – it tastes just like a good blackberry. Like the berry, this beer smells sweeter than it tastes – and a consistent taste stays in your mouth from the first sip. Unlike what you might think of a beer with such a sweet name, this one sits well in your stomach, and leaves room for you to have one more.

I couldn’t resist tasting one of the landmark IPAs made at Forager. Hip Hops IPA is one of the house favorites as recommended by my bartended – and I can see why. Your standard hop head loves this because it straight up smells like hops and tastes like hops. The first smell is crisp and piney, and when you taste, you can grab a hint of pineapple.

Everything I tasted here had good flavor, started with a little bite and really, really settled in well. The staff at Forger were great, friendly, and game to talk to you about what you’re looking to sip on so you have the best experience possible.

I should also add that at Forager you can find Kutzy Market – a locally sourced market, great food, awesome coffee, and can witness some great artwork (that you can even see  when you take a look at Forager’s Beers online). They appreciate art so much that the wall paper in their bathroom is old sheet music where you’re likely to find at least one classic you sang in high school choir.

This place doesn’t just have good beer – they have a personality and a mission. I recommend checking them out.

Check out more from Forager on their website, on Facebook & @ForagerBrewery on Twitter.


Tasting Sunshine


I stopped by a friend’s office shortly before Election Day this year to see how things were going, and grab a quick beer that would also hopefully serve a pick-me-up during a busy, stressful season. Sip of Sunshine could quite possible be the best name for a beer to drink during this time of year, if only for the suggestive happy nature of the title. I was thrilled to find Sip of Sunshine made by Lawson’s Finest Liquids out of Vermont. I had never tasted it before – and it’s one of those beers that made my eyes light up and gave me a cheek to cheek smile as the flavor settled in. This is a real gem.

Let me back up and start with the smell. This smells like daisies and lemon, and there’s no way that doesn’t make you happy. Your first taste is just like being outside, it tastes like crisp pine needles and moves quickly towards the beer’s hop forward flavor that takes over your taste buds. It will settle into your month with a light floral taste, and you’ll need to let everything you just experienced soak in. On top of this beer’s flavor being a perfectly timed experience, it’s also only mildly coarse, and is light enough not to bother your stomach.

My recommendation – have two at a steady pace. It’s 8%, so if you need a nice, relaxing evening – this is your beer.

You can follow Lawson’s Finest Liquids on Twitter at @LawsonsFinest, and visit their website to read more about Sip of Sunshine.

Citra Ass Down (it’s a beer)


I came across Citra Ass Down as an afterthought to buying some bourbon one night when I quickly wanted to grab some beer. I saw the name and some cool artwork and thought I might try it – my experience turned out great. It turned out so great that it inspired me to pick myself up and start my blog post again. This awesome IPA from Against the Grain Brewery in KY is 8% ABV, and 68 IBU.

This lovely beer smells so juicy and crisp that I wasn’t even thirsty anymore when I took my first smell. The first sip was equally awesome. It tastes citrusy and light, and becomes increasingly bitter very quickly as it moves to the back of your tongue, and you figure out why this beer with a blend of great hops has a 68 IBU. The flavor lasts for awhile, but after a few seconds you’ll be left with really clean hoppy flavor that will last. If you want to check out some information on this beer from the brewery, this is the place to go. Also follow these guys on twitter @AtGBrewery.

Great for Everyone


I am loving Finback Close of Day so much I need to post about it… now. It’s a Saison with lime and hibiscus that comes in at 6.4% ABV.

This drink has a sweet, sweet nose (it really almost smells like sugar smacks with a sour touch). When you try it you’ll taste the lime on the front of your tongue and the hibiscus floral flavor rolls onto the back of your mouth so smoothly you’ll hardly notice.

Close of Day will sit nice in anyone’s stomach – and is just the right weight for a Saison. Not too coarse, but just coarse enough to hold on to.

Close of Day leaves a nice lasting flavor in your mouth that balances the citrus and floral flavors really well. I would recommend it to beer lovers and first timers alike. Have two – you won’t regret it.

Stone in Hartford!


It’s been a busy couple weeks and I haven’t gotten the chance to post on this experience as quickly as I had wanted to. That said, it was too good to let slide. One of our great local spots here in Hartford, the Wood n’ Tap, had a Stone Brewery Tap Takeover that I stopped by just by chance. I was thrilled. I had the chance to sample five awesome Stone beers and had the privilege of experiencing it with two of my friends who aren’t regular beer drinkers. That meant I got to hear some genuine opinions from them – and you’ll see a few in this post.

First I tried the Hibiscus beer. If you don’t like your beer too sweet, don’t have more than one of these, but certainly try it. It smells almost rosy, has a light fruit taste with a coarse texture, and has a wonderful orange after taste. Everyone at the table liked it.

If you like hoppy beer, and coffee, the Ruination is your dream come true. You’ll experience so much balanced flavor that it will make your pallet scream. The Ruination smells nice and roasty, and once you have your first drink all you taste are hops. The hop flavor quickly shifts to a roasted coffee taste once the beer hits the back of your tongue, a wonderful bitter flavor resonates in your mouth for as long as you can hold off on your next beer. I’ll say personally, this is one of the best beers I have had in awhile and I’ll absolutely drink it again.

Next was the Porter with Chocolate and Orange Peel. It tastes like it sounds like it tastes; there’s no mystery here. It smells like chocolate and has a good balance between chocolate and orange when you drink it. It has a light smooth texture and is easy drinking. Old and new beer drinkers all liked this one too. 

The Master of Disguise is the beer I recommended to my friends who don’t drink beer, and say they don’t like hops. The Master of Disguise is smooth, hoppy, and has a straight forward, clean flavor all the way through your experience. My friend Jen, who typically sticks to wine approved this one. A new beer drinker doesn’t usually notice quite how bitter this is because it’s so smooth.

When I was done tasting samples, I stayed awhile and had a glass of the Double Bastard because a person absolutely has to. This a strong, hoppy beer that goes well with both sweet and salty. A group of us agreed that beyond the hops – you can almost taste a salty maple syrup flavor. The Bastard series is an awesome line from Stone everyone should take some time to look into, especially if you’re with a group tasting beer.

This was a lot of drinking, but really a small sample of all the greatness that Stone has to offer. I want to extend a special thank you to Jen Putetti and Mollie Dananberg for teaming up with me on this one!

You can look through all of Stone’s brews here.


My Last Minute Beer Post Vacation

Cigar City

Last week I finished a much needed no cell phone, no computer vacation on a cruise ship that went to Mexico and the Cayman Islands. I stayed the night after my cruise in Tampa, and with the free time I had, there was really no choice but to check out some local beer. I decided on Cigar City Brew Pub where I had an appetizer, dinner, and sampled six beers. Just a quick note – Cigar City has a Brewery and a Brew Pub in Tampa. They do have many beer selections in common – but some are different.

First I want to acknowledge we were at a super early dinner, so it was pretty empty. Our waiter was still very welcoming and wonderful and recommended beer really well for me. He even talked to me about what folks typically drink in Tampa and some of the feedback he gets on beers. A few quick notes on the food before I dig into the beer, because I have to:

  • If you’re from Wisconsin like me, you’ll appreciate their beer cheese pretzels (top notch).
  • Everyone everywhere should start putting plantains on cheeseburgers. Everyone.

On to the beer!

I’m going to start with two basic beers that are a go-to at Cigar City. They’re both must haves if you visit.

First, the beer that put Cigar City on the map, the Jai Alai IPA. It’s a perfect IPA for a vacation in Florida and I absolutely understand why everyone loves it. This beauty has a light hop and orange fruit (almost melon-y) smell. Once you taste it, the experience gets even better. It tastes bitter, but quickly leaves you with a fruity aftertaste.

Next I want to highlight the Tocobaga Red Ale, which our bartender insisted had quite the following of loyal drinkers. It has a clean spicy hop smell, and that’s exactly the aftertaste the beer leaves you with – making it a really well rounded experience. The taste when the beer hits your tongue gives you a quick kick of sweet caramel malt flavor before heading back to hops. Overall the flavor in this beer is really clean, and with a smooth texture and medium weight it’s easy to drink.

There are four other beers that I tried on draft at Cigar City – and I wanted to do my best to summarize them all here quickly for you.

The Cody Fowler Brown Ale is great for those of you who want a smokey beer and a hoppy beer all at the same time. This beer wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not well put together. It smells like roasted chocolate, and has a bitter smokey taste. If you like smokey beer you’ll absolutely like this. If you don’t like smokey beer, you should stay open and take a note that Cody Fowler is actually a little less bitter than you’d expect and doesn’t have a typical dry sticky aftertaste of smokey beer, it has a light hoppy one.

Next up is the Clara Frye Rye IPA (which people should really call RyePAs – right?). This might be my favorite. Smells like light floral hops, bitterness, and a hint of orange peel. What’s great here is the flavor follows the smell, and it only remains consistent from there. This is a straight forward, ultra bitter, medium weight beer. If you like hoppy beers with a little bit of creative flavor, this is the beer for you.

The Minaret ESB (on Nitro) has an interesting malty tart apple smell, and the bitter hop flavor is added in when you start to taste it. The aftertaste is light and since it’s on nitrogen, it goes down very smooth. If you like a lot of flavor, give it a try!

Last but not least, the La Rubia Blonde Ale is one of those nice beers for those of you who aren’t typically beer drinkers because it’s a lighter weight than your average blonde, and sneaks that hop flavor in really discretely.  La Rubia smells floral and lemony and begins with the same taste. Some super subtle hops pop up late in your tasting. It leaves you with a crisp aftertaste and is easy drinking.

Cigar City Brewing has a lot of creative brews, which usually means something for everyone. I didn’t like them all, but they’re certainly decent quality and a good bunch to taste. There were two good defining traits of Cigar City’s beer for me. One was that the aftertastes were all clean, complementary of the beer’s flavor, and not overwhelming. The second is that most of the beers were slightly lighter weight than I thought they would be – which made for easier drinking.

For more on Cigar City, you can follow them on twitter @CigarCityBeer, and check out more of Cigar City’s Beers on their website. You’ll find a lot of great looking brews that should be great to try.