My second Great Taste of the Midwest is in the books.  I definitely had a more focused game plan than last year, which you can read here, Great Taste of Midwest 2013.  I am going to preach for a moment and say everyone that attends this event really needs to do a bit of research.  Now you don’t need to sit down and spend 2 hours combing through the 116 page booklet.  But, if you spend even 15 minutes to half an hour, you will get a lot more out of the event by being able to pinpoint a few things that look really interesting to you.

Stats for the Event: 50 beers tried with an average rating of 4.02 out of 5

This year I spend a large amount of blood alcohol volume devoted to sours and it was an impressive body of work out there.  I was really shocked by the quality of sours I tasted on the day.  Here were my favorite sours on the day:

  1. Side Project Blueberry Flanders – This beer was pure magic.  Very assertively tart with the blueberry in the back which is what I prefer with fruited sours
  2. Destihl Here Gose Nothin’ – This style is very difficult and brewers often lose the beers with the salt.  This one was more tart and atypical for the style, but absolutely delicious
  3. August Schell Champagner Weiss – Another unique interpretation of a more common style.  Much more complexity with layered flavors
  4. Jolly Pumpkin Saison Z – Was excited to see these guys on the schedule this year.  All of their beers tend to be more subtle and nuanced and this was my favorite of the group achieving a great level of balance
  5. Destihl St. Dekka French Saison – Destihl is arguably my favorite booth to visit, the quality of the sours they put out is amazing and this one was up there on the list
  6. Surly Bourbon Pentagram – Another tricky style to pull off, mixing bourbon barrel with sour cultures.  The bourbon was out front and melted away into the sour brett notes.  When done right, these beers are amazing
  7. Brugge Brasserie Super Kitty – Another booth I would never miss with tons of quality sours.  This one was the most assertive of the group
  8. Jolly Pumpkin Rambic – The most sour of all the JP brews.  Did I mention I was glad to see them in the program?
  9. Perennial La Boheme – The flanders style isnt one I gravitate towards due to the pension for sweetness to overrun.  This one finds that right mix or sour and sweet
  10.  August Schell Brünette – August Schell knows berliners!

My first love will always belong to stouts and as much as I love sours, stouts can achieve higher levels of complexity that aren’t possible in other styles.  Here were my favorites of the day:

  1. Goose Island Proprietors – This beer has a lower ABV compared to regular BCBS along with coconut to kick out the back end.  It is hard to improve such a great base beer, but this is a homerun
  2. 2nd Shift Coffee Liquid Spiritual Delight – One of only 2 beers on the day I got 2 pours of.  I had the bourbon barrel version of the beer recently and the coffee takes this to another level
  3. Perennial Barrel Aged Abraxas – You can see my notes from last year.  Still phenomenal and wouldn’t have missed it
  4. Haymarket Clare’s – This big stout has raspberries added to it.  These fruited stouts tend to be misses for me, but this one absolutely nailed it
  5. Minneapolis Town Hall Ol’ Jack Frost – If this brewery brings a Russian Imperial Stout, you make it a priority.  This one didn’t let me down

When doing my research I really had a hard time identifying any hoppy beers that I was really excited about.  I tried to interject some in throughout the day and missed on a few I really wanted to try.  Note for next year, try more IPA’s:

  1.  DryHop 3PEAT – This was hands down my favorite hoppy beer of the day.  ABV is in the sweet spot to avoid it getting too syrupy
  2. Half Acre Navaja – Another brewery that knows how to make hoppy beers right in my wheelhouse and this one was pretty great
  3. Surly Overrated! – Been waiting to try this one for a while.  I love the west coast take so light and beautiful with all the focus on the hops
  4. Toppling Goliath SueMo – Wouldn’t be right to have this list without TG.  One of their cask creations that was being poured off to the side of the booth.  I wasn’t going to brave the TG line this year
  5. DryHop Shark Meets Hipster – For you hop heads out there, don’t miss this brewery next year if you didn’t see them in 2014

Other notes:
-I am a huge fan of barrel aged barleywines.  Part of the reason is because pretty much all of them are good.  The other reason is that it takes something special to make them great.  I found that greatness in 3 Floyd’s Barrel Aged Behemoth.  Great bourbon up front, huge sweetness in the middle, with some dryness on the back.  It was one of the beers I had to try and was glad I didn’t miss it since the 3 Floyd’s booth can be tricky to navigate

-I got drink a bottle of Against the Grain Bo & Luke earlier in the year and got a sample at the booth.  The base beer is really remarkable with the balance they achieve by incorporating smoked malts.  The only variant I was able to try was the Peanut Butter and Jelly version.  Wow that was interesting!  The peanut butter up front worked really well.  The infusion of fruit in the back definitely didn’t compliment the beer, but was really glad to be able to try it.

Swing and miss of the year:
Off Color Brewing – Fierce was a solid berliner.  Troublesome was a gose that went the way of many goses, getting carried down by the salt.  Ice Predator, an eisbock, was highly anticipated and a huge miss.  Too heavy on the belgian notes, smooth, but way too mild in flavor.  Plus I get their shtick of being abrasive at the booth, just doesn’t do much for me across the board.

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