Monday, March 23, 2015

New Blog/New Site

Hello Beerploma Nation! Thank you for visiting our blog regularly! We are currently in the process of moving to our new blog which you can find here at  We hope you will join us at our new home!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Confessions of a Sober Cab - The Parental Version

Cousin Mark was getting married! Clearly that meant two things; his wonderful girlfriend would now be an official member of the family, and we were going to party! The hubby and I were in a pickle though, seeing as we both wanted to get a little pickled ourselves that evening. I knew that Andy would want to drink and celebrate with his cousin and I certainly didn’t want to ruin his fun by asking him to sober cab. Besides, I knew the only way I’d manage to get at least one dance out of the guy was to get him drunk enough to not notice he was dancing. I wanted to cut loose as well and enjoy my night drinking with my siblings in law. It’s not very often that we’re all in town together, much less for a party, and a wedding at that. Plus, craft beer loving Mark would be supplying the party with kegs galore of Schell’s Oktoberfest. I really enjoy their Oktoberfest and wanted to take full advantage of the bride and groom’s hospitality. We did have an option for a ride though… Ma and Pa Strom.
Our sober cabs for the evening. (Studio Veil photo booth)
Really, it was perfect. They were going the same place we were, at the same time! Those are of course, the most basic rules of carpooling. And since they planned on driving home we knew at least one of them would be sober. Which is the first rule of taking a sober cab – making sure your driver is actually sober. Besides, if your parents were like the majority of parents I knew growing up, they always stressed the same rule – don’t get in a car with someone who’s been drinking. Andy’s parents were no different. And just because we were now adults and could legally drink didn’t mean that they had stopped worrying. Sometimes I think they worry more especially because we can legally drink. So of course they weren’t going to tell us that they couldn’t give us a ride. Go back on what they’ve been preaching since we were sixteen? That’s something no parent ever really wants to do. Besides, Andy still mows their lawn and they really didn’t want to mess that up.

As a bonus, brother Bob and sis-in-law Nichole were rolling in from out of town and needed a ride too. It was a regular family reunion. As we piled six deep into the old minivan I got the distinct impression that Ma and Pa Strom were actually enjoying themselves. Ok, maybe not so much when we were hinting (and not so subtly) that we wanted to pregame the wedding at the bar near the church. The idea was shot down and instead we arrived early and found our seats with the rest of the Strom clan in the church. We were witness to a beautiful and touching wedding, complete with a family photo at the end. And then it was on to dinner, dancing, and a night of debauchery!
Photographic evidence of debauchery. (Studio Veil photo booth)
 It was the best of both worlds – a lovely family wedding and a night of beer drinking with the buds.  The beer was wonderful, as the Oktoberfest from Schell's always proves to be, and it was free and free flowing. The beer flowed so freely in fact that Mark’s loving cousins got together and rewrote the announcement on the marquee sign at the venue with a touching message for the loving couple. I did successfully get Andy drunk enough to dance with me for the last song of the evening and my mood got as ripped as my fishnets stockings did after a night of breaking it down on the dance floor.  The ‘rents drove us safely home and I could tell that they were touched by our drunken bonding in the back seats of their van. They had most of their clan safely in their care, giggling over a night of drunken escapades and fun. We took them at their word, to always let them know when we needed a safe ride home, and they in turn held up their end of the bargain. Who knew mom and dad would provide one of the best sober rides we’ve had in a while. Besides, they got to spend some time with the kids, even if we were a little extra bubbly, and what parent doesn’t like that?

This is what happens when you provide such good beer. (via Mark and Jess Strom)
So while you think your parents are the last people you'd like to get a sober ride from, remember that they really do want to see you just as safe now as they did when you were younger. And if you're going the same place already, why not take them up on a ride and carpool? Besides, you're a legal, drinking adult and they can't yell at you for drinking all the free beer you can hold! Consider your parents the next time you need a sober cab, and hey, if they need a ride, return the favor!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Playin' With Your Beer: An Exclusive Interview With Adam, Creator of Brewin' USA

Our team got an opportunity to sit down with Adam Rehberg, the maker of Brewin' USA board game.  Before we get into the interview be sure to check out his Kickstarter effort and help get this game published.  Also be sure to check out his website here!

Q:   Hey Adam, thanks for sitting down with us.  So before we begin talking about your game, tell me about the last memorable beer you drank?

A:  Every home brew really tends to be a memorable beer experience for me and the last one I brewed and drank was pumpkin ale brewed this fall.  This particular home brew didn't turn out as well as I had hoped but there is something about putting the time into the brewing process that always makes it memorable.  This pumpkin ale was brewed together with my wife and it was one of the first times we brewed together.  Of course the beer choice was hers.  This pumpkin ale mysteriously made it to the Christmas season and ended up in a White Elephant party where somebody was actually very enthusiastic to get a home brew as a gift.

Q.  Do you have any favorite Minnesota Beers that come to mind?

A:  My favorite Minnesota beer has to go to Surly Furious.  It's pretty widely distributed in the area but is a very balanced IPA in my opinion perfect for the dining or drinking experience in almost any occasion.

Q.  So you decided to come up with a Craft Beer Board Game?  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

A:  Brewin' USA is a game that is all about craft beer in the USA where the player goal is to become the best brewery in the nation.  The player will need to compete over obtaining ingredients so they can brew and launch their beer and then again compete over market demand in the US.  The game uses thematic beer bottle caps and "Beer coaster" inspired game tiles as components which is very unique in the board game space.  I am also partnering with local and national craft breweries to be part of the game with their logo and beer names as artwork.  Brewin' USA is game designed for the hobby game space, but has theme and components that are more approachable than most hobby games.

Q.  What was the inspiration behind the game?

A:  The inspiration behind the game actually came with the thought of hanging out with friends and drinking a craft beer and then adding the bottle cap as part of the playing pieces.  The bottle caps as game components stuck as a worthy idea but the concept of drinking to play quickly departed from the hobby gaming design space I intended to target.

Q.  What was the most challenging part of designing a game?

A:  The most challenging part of designing a game is literally when to know a game is complete.  Through the Kickstarter community and working with Breweries, I have been challenged to stretch and mold the game design to fit new ideas and be true to the theme as possible.  This has been a huge benefit as well as a challenge though because people show great appreciation when you listen to feedback and strive to make the best game possible as the number one goal.  Starting out designing games there is obviously a learning curve that people will go through but knowing when to stop adding or subtracting features and when the product is finished is the largest challenge in my opinion.

Q:  What is the premise of the game?

A:  [Taken from an official release document]:  You are an Entrepreneur at the inception of the Craft Beer revolution. Your goal is to become the best Microbrewery in the USA but competition is fierce. You will need to win Key Ingredients to brew your product line of Craft Beer. To become the best Microbrewery in the nation, your beer will need to control Local and Regional markets fending off any competition with the infamaous Brewfest.

Q.  Any memorable stories from the play testing groups?

A:  The most memorable stories from play testing groups are always when something broken is uncovered or the game play emerges to a new idea or play style.  I remember one specific game where there was a Brewfest with 23 Market Demand Bottle Caps (Victory points) at stake in the final play and somebody swooped in with a special additive on a beer and swapped 23 Market Demand Bottle Caps with a stack of 2 resulting in a massive catch-up play.  As the designer of a game, having the potential for this play is fun and exciting to the winner and cruel or unfair to the losers so setting up systems that put a maximum on unfairness become critical to the balance perceived by others.

Q.  How do you think your game will impact the craft beer industry?

A:  I would be thrilled if the craft beer industry sets Brewin' USA in their taprooms for both craft beer enthusiasts and gamers to enjoy.  I also think that the international Kickstarter platform gives some really unique marketing potential for Craft Breweries to get some exposure in new territory.  It won't be massive, but the better the game is the more lasting it will be.

Q.  So what are the next steps for you, and when can we expect to see your game on shelves?

A:  The next steps from me are to be [laser] focused with designing a quality product to Kickstarter backers for Brewin' USA.  The project is funded, but there is still a lot of work to do throughout the entire process.  I will also look for new opportunity to expand on the Brewin' USA property if the demand exists as well as pursue new and exciting board game projects in the future.  Game design is still a hobby and a passion but is quickly turning into something more than that with great support from the Craft Beer industry and Kickstarter backers.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Adam!  We look forward to seeing your project get published, and good luck with the Kickstarter!  PROST!

Beerploma's Interview with Summit's Eric Harper, Brewer of Hop Silo Double IPA

Summit Brewing Company's 18th Unchained Series, Hop Silo, has been available a little over a week now.  It has met with a myriad of positive reviews.  Hop Silo is a Double IPA that has the hop punch to satisfy even the biggest hop-head while remaining incredibly drinkable and smooth.  I sat down with the man behind  Hop Silo, Eric Harper, who had the responsibility of brewing up this fantastic brew.  The atmosphere of the Summit beer hall complete with open windows and delicious beer acted as the perfect backdrop for this interview.  Our chat was both informative and enjoyable as Eric is a very knowledgeable and down to earth brewer who likes to talk beer.

Eric has been with Summit for 6 years and New Glarus before that, so he has a great pedigree when it comes to brewing.  Hop Silo is Eric's third Unchained beer; the previous Unchained brews were Series #4 a Belgian Style Golden Ale and Series #11 Old 152, a Kentucky Common Ale.  The seven brewers at Summit rotate who gets to brew the Unchained beers.  Eric said that being able to have 100% control over the development of a beer that Summit makes is incredibly cool.  He loves the fact that he gets the trust of the Brewmaster and Head Brewer to do something that he feels incredibly passionate about.  Summit has never brewed a Double IPA before, but when Eric was out in the Yakima Hop valley, he discovered some hops that he felt he absolutely had to use and that was what put the wheels in motion.  

Eric used Azacca, Zeus, Lemondrop and Cascade hops as well as a Beta Aroma Hop Extract.  All these things work together to give Hop Silo a decent hop presence, but not to the point where it will overwhelm the palate.  He wanted to maintain a balance between aroma and bitterness and I think that he does that because there is enough malt in this beer.  When you drink Hop Silo, it doesn't taste like it is 8.3% ABV, and that is why it is so drinkable.  One reason why I am always a little wary of a Double IPA is that it can be so strong and so astringent, that it is hard to enjoy more than one without totally destroying my palate.  Hop Silo did not destroy my palate and I even enjoyed another!  The only negative about this beer is that it is a somewhat limited quantity.  It released about 10 days ago and people are responding positively to Hop Silo.  Summit brewed roughly 900 barrels of this beer (a barrel is 31.5 gallons) and is available in 16 oz. cans as well as on tap at many of the places in the Twin Cities.  

As a local craft beer fan, I am so happy that Summit puts such trust in the capable hands of their brewers.  Eric is incredibly passionate about beer and in talking to him, the pride that he has in this beer comes across genuinely and unabashed.  His ear to ear grin about how happy he is that Hop Silo turned out so well speak volumes about what this opportunity means to him.  Not many other breweries in this market do a series like this where they give over total control to every brewer to create something unique that may or may not be in their regular portfolio.  Get out and try this wonderful beer while you can.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Beerploma Taproom Tour: Fair State Brewing Cooperative

There are plenty of places in the city to and get a beer.  However, in the last five years, the focus has turned from places to get a beer to places where you really want to go to get a beer.  The drinking options in the midst of the Twin Cities taproom explosion have increased in a staggering way.  As places continue to open, it becomes more and more about providing drinkers with great beer to drink, but also an atmosphere that is conducive to enjoying the company of others as they drink craft beer.

Fair State Brewing Cooperative has been open for just about six months and provides craft beer drinkers with unique and delicious beers.  Fair State also fosters a wonderful craft beer drinking community with a co-op membership that is over 600 strong and growing.

Lets start with the look of the taproom.  The exposed brick and long, beautiful bar give the taproom a very comfortable feel.  The bar was made of the reclaimed wood from the original building.  The uniqueness and high quality of the bar allow for plenty of seating, as it stretches far down at least half the length of the taproom.  The layout is perfect for meeting people and having great conversation.  There are windows that allow you to see into the brewhouse.  The bathroom is down a hallway and on the wall of that corridor the words, "Drink like you own the place" are painted.  That statement speaks volumes about the experience that the founders of the brewery want their patrons to have.

Fair State Brewing Cooperative was founded by three college friends, Evan Sallee, Niko Tonks and Matthew Hauck, who all have shared an interest in beer dating back to 2002 when they met in college.  The cooperative nature of the business stems from a desire to connect good people with good beer.  The state of MN has a very high number of cooperative businesses ranging from farm shares to places to shop for groceries, so a cooperative brewery seemed like something that would work well.  As of 2-19-15, Fair State had over 600 members, a number that has far exceeded what they initially projected.  The membership benefits include, but are not limited to voting on different beer styles every couple of months.  Members also enjoy Happy Hour prices ($1.00 off pints and $.50 off half-pints) all day on Monday and Wednesday-Friday from 4-7pm.  Recently, a Fair State Brewing Cooperative-themed Members Only jacket became a perk for signing up!

Fair State's beers are the deft and nuanced concoctions of Head Brewer, Nico Tonks.  Nico started at Jester King Brewing and Live Oak Brewing in Austin, TX, where he learned the art of brewing continental lagers and wheat beers.  The availability of local ingredients often dictates what is brewed.  Although, Pilsner is the favorite style of the taproom and their version is on-point.  In addition to lagers, they also brew ales and will usually have a nice selection of each on tap.  One of the things I was especially impressed with was their sour beer, Lactobac 1.  Their barrel aging program is expanding and in the future, there will be more and more delicious barrel aged selections to enjoy.

Groucho Marx once said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."  Fair State Brewing Cooperative's passion for beer combined with the amazing community being fostered there might cause him to rethink his prolific statement.  The options for drinking good beer in the Twin Cities and beyond are great, but finding a place with this type of inviting atmosphere is not as easy.  Fair State has hit all the marks, so get there and try the amazing drinking experience for yourself.  Prost!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How to Talk Like a Beer Geek: We Aren't in India Anymore!

Did you know ‘India’ Pale Ales aren’t even from INDIA?! Uhhhh... What?!?! Yep, they were actually made for British Soldiers. The astringent nature of the extra hops made it possible for the beer to survive travel to faraway places... Like India!

Nowadays it is getting increasingly hard to find just an IPA without a word or two before ‘IPA’ on the label. A style of a style if you will. Confusing, yes. But, I got your back! This isn’t necessarily meant to be an actual style guide per se, but more of guide to help you understand and decode those qualifier words.

First English IPAs. These are the first. The original. The real deal! English IPAs were basically Pale Ales that were hopped up, a bit maltier, and a bit bigger on the ABV percentage. Again, made so that they would survive the long voyage to the British troops in India.

Next up, American IPAs! USA! USA! USA! American IPAs are a bit more robust in the ol’ flavor area than an English IPA. Typically more hopped up and usually with hops from this side of the pond. Now, this is where things get interesting! Much like the rappers of the rap battles of the 90s, American IPAs are often either West Coast or East Coast.

West Coast IPAs are the hoptastic flavor blasts that are pretty popular. Hopped usually with exclusively west coast hops, these beers don’t try to hide the floral citrusy hoppiness. Balance? Screw balance!

East Coast IPAs on the other hand tries to save your palate a bit from the hop overload. East Coast IPAs are still hoppy, but they tend to be balanced out better with a bit more of a malt profile. East Coast IPAs are basically West Coast IPAs’ more conservative brother.

For the last one, let’s hop back over to the other side of the pond; Belgian IPAs. Belgian IPAs are IPAs that have been made using Belgian yeast strains. Think of crossing a Belgian beer with an American IPA. You get the hoppiness of an IPA and you get the flavors from the Belgian yeast like you would in a dubbel or tripel. To me, this one is the most complex of the IPAs.

There we go! IPAs are not just IPAs anymore. Next time you want to pound a couple of these hoppy tasty beers you will be able to better decide what style of this... ummm... style you wish to get in your beer hole!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Pint Report: Surly Abrasive VS. Bell's Hopslam

Craft beer drinkers look forward to the release of Bell's Hopslam every year with a vigor matched only by someone who consumed 8 Fiber One bars on a road trip and is looking for a rest stop.  This beer is iconic and believed by many to be the standard to which all others should be measured.  Luckily, for Minnesotans, and more recently people in Chicago, Surly has a beer called Abrasive Ale, which is also a very uniquely uber-hopped Double IPA.

Surly Abrasive and Bell's Hopslam are now both available in our market.  These are probably two of the best representations of Double IPAs in this market and craft beer drinkers will naturally be having the debate about which of these beers is better.  Is it even fair to compare these two beers?  Maybe not, but I like to live on the edge and a comparison of these two fabulous beers cannot possibly be worse than my Fiber One Bar debacle on my way to Wichita. . .

Let's start with the local beer, Surly Abrasive Ale.  As of 2/15/15, it is ranked 51st on Beer Advocate's list of the top 250 beers.  It was released a little after mid-January and is widely available in the metro at bars, liquor stores and at the brewery.  It is an American Double IPA/Imperial IPA with an ABV of 9% and 120 IBUs.  It is brewed with Warrior and Citra hops and balanced out with malted oats and 2-row malt according to the Surly Brewing Company website.

Bell's Hopslam started showing up in MN around the 9th of February and is also an American Double IPA.  It ranks 66th out of 250 on Beer Advocate's list of the top 250 beers.  Hopslam has an ABV of 10% and 70 IBUs.  The Bell's website states only that is uses hop varietals from the Pacific Northwest and that it is dry-hopped with Simcoe hops.  According to their website, Bell's uses a "generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey" to balance out the hops.

Let's start with the things that these great beers have in common.  The rich hue of vibrant marmalade orange makes this a breathtaking sight in a nice goblet.  The ABV of the beers are also in the 9-10% range, so more of a sipper as opposed to something you would invite the frat boys down the street over to play beer pong with.  These beers are also incredibly sought after.  There might still be some available in your local craft beer liquor stores, but it might be easier to find these beers on tap.

Head of Bell's Hopslam
The differences that set these beers apart are also what makes them similarly great.  When I tasted them side by side, it was a very pleasant way to spend my time.  I will start with aroma and tell you that they are both extremely aromatic, but in two separately distinct ways.  The Hopslam has a very citrusy and sweet aroma.  Whereas the Abrasive is more piney and almost woody.  Both hop aromas are inviting to the nose and really stimulate the olfactory senses.

Hopslam has a little head retention where the Abrasive has almost none.  The mouthfeel of the Hopslam was slightly more effervescent and eventually smoothed out.  The resiny nature of the Abrasive lingers on the tongue and transitions to a pretty bitter bite in the aftertaste.  Hopslam is a lot more balanced because of the honey as opposed to the Abrasive that is pretty hoppy the whole way through.
Head of Surly Abrasive

Flavor-wise, these beers are both tremendous.  In the abrasive, amongst the piney and grapefruity intensity, there is also almost the bitterness of citrus pith.  Obviously, diehard hop-heads love Abrasive for this quality.  Hopslam is citrusy at first and then melds into a more grapefruit hop bite which is balanced out by the malt and honey, resulting in a much more balanced taste.

To say which one is better is tough.  Is it possible to say which animal print pattern of Zubaz go better with a fanny pack?  Can we possibly say that there is one distinct Kim Kardashian quote that proves her to be the queen of stupidity?  Can we truly look at the label of a Fiber One bar and think to ourselves that 35% of your daily fiber is more of an estimation than a scientific certainty?  I believe that it is not fair to say one is better than the other.  They are each superb representations of a style while being drastically different in hop character.  That is why they are sought after and rated highly.  There is not one person who considers themselves a fan of hoppy beer who would say that either of these beers are bad.