On the way up to Minnesota for the holidays, we stopped for lunch in Ames, IA. We had spent a weekend there before due to travel for a previous employer, and we had a good time in the college town.
One of our finds was a cool place called Cyclone Liquors. They have a great beer selection, and with liquor laws/distributorships being what they are, they carry a lot of stuff you can’t find in KC.
We picked up a six pack each of Sea Dog (Bangor, ME) Riverdriver Hazelnut Porter and Brau Bros. (Lucan, MN – pop. 220!) Cream Stout.
The porter was delicious. There is a nice hop-to-malt balance with a faintly sweet hazelnutty finish. The flavoring complements the beer and doesn’t overwhelm it. Honestly, I can’t imagine too many beer drinkers (devotee or casual) who wouldn’t enjoy this one.
The cream stout was a solid example of the style. I had never heard of Brau Bros. before, but I am eager to try more of their stuff. Cream stouts tend to land between the dry irish stouts (Guinness) and the thicker oatmeal stouts of the world, and this was no exception. Not too sweet, not too dry. I would compare it to a slightly drier version of Left Hand’s Milk Stout. Tasty.
In Duluth, we stopped at Fitger's Brewhouse (more than once). This is a must-visit if you're ever there. Very good food, live music most nights, and wonderful beer. They have 6 year-round beers and several creative, rotating taps. I partook in the RedBeard Barleywine (10oz. drafts only) and the Sasquatch Scotch Ale (yummy malty goodness)! The Big Boat Oatmeal Stout is also a highlight.
Finally, on the way home, we made our obligatory stop at Trader Joe’s near Minneapolis. Besides accidentally discovering Minnesota’s McCoy’s Public House (SCORE!), we found that the most excellent Unibroue had developed a brew specifically for the Trader Joe’s chain. It was a dark Belgian abbey-style ale (probably a dubbel). It had the trademark scent and caramelly, slightly fruity finish one would expect from a Belgian beer. It was very good--you won’t be disappointed. I'll admit it’s not quite Brother Thelonious, but then again, what is?