Saturday, March 21st was Firkin Fest at the Happy Gnome. For those of us wanting to enjoy good beer and good company without the hype and crowd of a festival, there was Malty Beer Night with the Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club. Seven people gathered at the home of fellow club member Kevin Butler to chew on cheese, munch on malt, and best of all drink a lot of great malt forward beers. This was the first of three monthly meetings that will explore the flavor contributions of beer’s three main ingredients, malt, hops, and yeast. April is hop month for any interested hopheads out there.
The night started with Fuller’s ESB. Chosen to show a balanced representation of all three ingredients, this beer starts with a sharp bitterness and herbal hop that quickly gives way to luscious caramel/toffee malt with a good dose of yeast derived fruit. It was a favorite for the night. From there it was on to an assortment of full-on malt focused beers, starting with Weihenstephaner Munich Helles. Like an under-hopped pilsner, this beer features clean bready malt with moderate bitterness and a background of spicy continental hops. This was followed by another southern German lager, Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel showcasing deep toasty bread crust malt. Another crowd pleaser, we emptied these bottles early.
The next beers brought us closer to home with a local and a regional pick. A growler of Hope and King Scotch Ale from Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis introduced the rich, nutty sweetness of caramel malt with just a hint of roast. This growler didn’t last long either. For real roast malt character we had Three Feet Deep smoked stout from Furthermore Beer in Wisconsin. This is a somewhat sweet dry stout with nice coffee and chocolate flavors and a subtle smoke from the use of peat smoked malt. While this was one of my favorites for the night, others found the smoke to be too intense. Oh well, more for me.
At this point, we moved into the realm of big beers starting with Celebrator Doppelbock. Rich, toasty, caramel flavors meld with malt derived, raisiny, dark fruit notes and a pleasantly warming alcohol to make this another winner for the event. Or maybe it was the added bonus of the little plastic goat that comes with every bottle. Next was Rejewvenator, a doppelbock/Belgian dubbel hybrid brewed with fig juice from Shmaltz Brewing/Hebrew Beer. The group was split on this one as some found the figs to be too intense. We closed the night with Back Burner Barleywine from Southern Tier. This was the only beer of the night that I had not already tried. The description on the bottle and on the Southern Tier website led me to expect a big, malt-forward, English style barleywine. Unfortunately (for the event, not for the beer) the bitterness was too intense and the hop flavor was decidedly American. While it was a tasty beer, it wasn’t quite the malty sweet English barleywine that I was going for.
One thing at this event that all found helpful was having examples of brewers malt on hand to chew on and compare to the flavors in the beers. There were six malts to taste including two base malts, pilsner and Munich, as well as English and American caramel malts, Belgian Special B toasted malt, and English chocolate malt to represent the dark roasted malts. Some of us decided, myself included, that a little bit of Munich malt would be a great addition to breakfast cereal. All in all, good company and good beer made for a good time. The next Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club will be on April 10th. Hoppy Beers is the theme. Come check us out.