Welcome back 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.
Coffee Chocolate Golden Ale at Birch’s On The Lake – John Garland, Senior Editor
I’m pretty sure that half of my high school class at one point held a summer job at Billy’s Lighthouse on Long Lake. I remember Billy’s as mediocre in every way. Food? Meh. Service? It was my stupid high school chums, so yeah, pretty terrible.
Thank goodness Birch’s On The Lake has reinvigorated that space. The space is cozy and the food is better than the brewpub average. Make sure to stop there for brunch and get the walleye benedict and huevos rancheros.
But before that, start your Sunday off right with their coffee chocolate golden ale—a beer that’s as confusing as it is delicious. It smells like cocoa nibs, the first taste is a light morning blend coffee, but then it finishes like robust golden ale, just the way it looks. The only beer I can think of in this same vein is Goose Island’s Fulton St. Blend, and I can’t think of a better breakfast beer in the Cities.
Brooklyn Defender IPA – Keith Grauman, Web Editor
It’s finally time for me to get something off my chest: I own the movie “Alien vs. Predator,” paid actual real money for it, and wholeheartedly enjoy watching it, which I have done more times than I can count and as recently as late 2015.
If you’re still reading this, my sincerest thanks. Most people slowly back away from me while maintaining trepidatious eye contact after I reveal this little-known detail of my life. But what does one of modern cinema’s greatest achievements have to do with Brooklyn Brewery’s Defender IPA? Glad you asked.
This beer brings together two of my favorite things in life: Aliens and Predators. (Wait, no, sorry, once I get AVP on the brain it’s hard for me to switch gears.) Beer and comics, that’s it. I was just as delighted to see the return of Brooklyn Defender as I was the first time I saw the silhouette of a camouflaged Predator creep out of the shadows and come mouth to mouth (to smaller, extendable mouth) with an Alien.
So, who is the masked hero that graces the beer’s label and gives it its name? I’ll let Brooklyn Brewery explain: “The Defender is constantly vigilant, standing guard over all those who dare to create, to dream, and to drink great beer.”
As it has been for the past several years, the beer was brewed in collaboration with New York Comic Con to serve as the official beer of the convention. This year’s label art comes courtesy of Khary Randolph, whose previous credits include work on Spider-Man, X-Men, Hellboy, and Boondocks. In the past, according to Brooklyn’s website, the beer has taken the form of an amber IPA, “darkly hoppy ale,” and a red IPA, but this year it’s a juicy, 6.7% ABV West Coast-style IPA.
Pouring a reddish-amber with an off-white head that quickly dissipates, Defender bursts with hop aromas of melon, citrus, and pine. But just like many modern vigilantes, the real hero of this beer lurks in the shadows, rarely getting the recognition it deserves: the malt bill, which consists of Pilsner, Crisp, CaraRed, and Crystal. Each sip leaves you with just enough sweetness to keep you coming back for more, and while the Pilgrim, Willamette, Cascade, Mosaic, and Amarillo hops are ever-present, you’re not left with a tongue that feels like it needs to be scraped off.
Defender is now a year-round beer for Brooklyn, and is currently on store shelves.
Summit Brewing Company 30th Anniversary Double IPA – Ellen Burkhardt, Associate Editor
Spring is temperamental. It wafts in on warm breezes and happy sunshine one moment, then blasts you with freezing rain and a foot of snow the next. It’s bitter yet bright, intense yet smooth. It packs a punch while simultaneously soothing our winter-inflicted wounds.
Summit’s 30th Anniversary Double IPA has a lot in common with Minnesota spring. It’s bitter on the sip, immediately triggering a lemon-sour reaction from the tongue, but then soothes that zing with a more mild-mannered body that’s smooth and full. The nose is crisp and balanced, with hop aromas and biscuity malts coming through. It warms you up while waking you up, then uses its 8.5% ABV to help you settle in for the long haul of waiting for summer.
Bavarian beer straight from the source – Brian Kaufenberg, Managing Editor
I’ve always had an affinity towards German beer styles, so my trip to Munich, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria, was a veritable pilgrimage for me. Unsurprisingly, beer served straight from the source tasted more delicious than the imports I enjoyed back in the U.S. Sure, the atmosphere inside the bustling beer halls filled with stein-hoisting waiters, giant pretzels, and polka bands certainly added to the subjective enjoyment of the beer, but more importantly the beer was fresh and served at the right temperature.
The hefeweizen at Paulaner was zestier with more fragrant esters than any I’d ever had before. The malts in the dunkel at Hofbräuhaus asserted themselves, thanks to being served a few degrees warmer than most American beer. The fastenbier and Märzen poured straight from oak barrels at Augustiner Bräustübl in Salzburg had the soft, fine carbonation expected of cask conditioned ale.
Only centuries of brewing can make such outstanding beer seem so effortless.