Tuesday, October 16, 2012

B.O.R. Abroad (Nederlands): Brouwerij't IJ

Should you find yourself in Amsterdam, congratulate yourself with kaas, bier, and many pats on your back. Indeed, that's what the Bottle Opener Review does when on holiday. While the Netherlands may not strike you as a bottle opener / beer destination (1), the international city, canal-crossed countryside, and maritime culture inspired the consumption of more than a few adult beverages.

(1) Belgium has the best beer and Germany the best beer culture, but guess what lower-than-sealevel country touches them both!

While Dutch beer might be synonymous with Heineken, we casually skipped their tour, floated down the canal, and docked ourselves at the Brouwerij't IJ, shadowed by the De Gooier windmill in Amsterdam. This brewery holds all the appeal of a micro establishment with its rotating small-batch taps, clean design, surly bartenders, and oh-so scrumptious cheese / beer combinations. Not only could you sample their beer on tap, you could buy any combination of their suds in bottle form - the form we like best!

They of course offer tours: in Dutch at 2PM, English at 3PM, and never in French, as a sign on the wall proudly proclaimed. But we didn't need a tour as much as we needed 12 beer samples and 1 bowl of stinky cheese.

Our flight, from lightest to darkest, included the Plzen blond, IJ Bok, Natte double, Struis organic, and Columbus double IPA. These beers proved to be a hit for our crew's varying tastes and having two flights meant we could trade beers like fisherman trade tall tales(2). And, the alcohol content of these brews rose steeply into the 8-9% range after the first draft (3). Not surprisingly, the memories of the rest of the afternoon remain cloudy.

(2) Which is freely. 
(3) Making "beer for lunch" the best idea we've had while in the Netherlands! Our plea for startchy salvation at the brewpub went unanswered and we careened home like a landed crew on leave.

2 flights of beer and stinky muenster with celery salt.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tip, Tap, Tow: Pedal Tour of MN Breweries

Occasionally, we take a break from our fascination with bottle openers in order to hit the streets and meet the brewmasters where the pedalist meets the road. This week we will recap a recent excursion into the streets of Minneapolis, on a search for beers, atop our bikes, and equipped with local booty. And, ironically enough, not a single bottle opener was required.

A bike parked outside Harriet Brewing proudly bears 2 St. Valentine's Day Hustle spoke cards - Bomb City, represented.
Our destinations for the day included fabled Flat Earth Brewery, scenic Harriet Brewing, the mighty Fulton Brewery, and Indeed Brewing Company (Indeed). 

West Side Belgium-Style IPA, Harriet Brewing.
Why did we choose these four breweries? Because they offer Free Saturday Tours, obviously (1).

Cruisin' from Northeast Minneapolis to St. Paul, we arrived 40 minutes late to Flat Earth Brewery. As we had been required to book a tour spot, we figured we had missed the boat. Not so! The boat was still at the dock, bobbing leisurely, its' captain telling us that everyone was free to scour the decks and sample the cargo until 7 PM that night; making the Flat Earth Brewery tour an official 9 hour event for those who could keep their sealegs that long... we welcome the stories of any that do.

(1) Our Sakajawea of SudsAnusha, planned the tour and led us along like pioneers seeking the calming shores of each brewery by direct and practical bike route.

Local lady/picnic lunch at Harriet Brewery.
Our Indian(2)-by-way-of-New-Jersey guide next led us north along the Mississippi until we reached Harriet Brewing in South Minneapolis.

Harriet provided us with the proverbial shelter from the storm. While sipping tasty twists on Belgian style beers, we partook in our rations (imported from Wisconsin, of course), and dodged the harsh rays of the sun under the conveniently placed umbrellas. While the selection is small, Harriet brews up some delightful beer, and the outdoor seating - complete with Hammerschlagen stations - is a must for any voyage. Plan a stop there on a fair day, and you won't be disappointed.

(2) Continent.
At last, a stop where we enjoy the same view as our parked bikes.

The next hop was downtown to Fulton Brewery, albeit a brief one. (3) Suffice it to say that we don't envy the brave barmen and barmaids that draw the short straw to work shifts before the mighty Minnesota Twins display their prowess at nearby Metrodome Stadium.

(3) The beers were delicious but the crowds rowdy, too much so for these weary sailors to stay in port for long.

The Midnight Ryder atop a table carved with names from antiquity.
The capstone to our travels around the fair city of lakes was at what could only be described as a sight for sore eyes and tender calf muscles - otherwise known as Indeed Brewing Company. The beverage selection was a modest 3 taps - but emboldened with 2 casked, dry hopped varieties. As luck would have it, we also had the good fortune to encounter a wandering sea-gypsy food-caravan (know to the layman as a food truck), with which to re-supply rations - both vegetarian and otherwise. While being beguiled by the house ales and lulled by the gentle sounds of trains rolling past, we sunk into the comfortable chairs and rich antique wood environment of the taproom. It was enough to make any seafaring band consider calling home. Who knows? Maybe next time we might not escape the siren call of hops, well restored architecture, and fresh tattoo ink.