Summit Unchained #10: Belgian Style Abbey Ale

Summit Brewing Company’s Unchained Series hits a milestone today with the release of its tenth beer, Belgian Style Abbey Ale. It’s a Belgian Dubbel style beer brewed by Summit brewer Nate Siats, who also brought us the fifth beer in the series, Imperial Pumpkin Porter. Belgian styles are sometimes hard to pull off for American brewers. Many domestic renditions don’t quite live up to their Belgian models, often ending up too sweet or too boozy. Did Siats do justice to the dubbel? Here’s my notes:

Belgian Style Abbey Ale
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Belgian Dubbel
Serving Style: 12 oz Bottle

Aroma: Bread crust and subtle dark fruits; dates. Prominent banana and sugary cotton candy (as I call that Belgian yeast character). Background of pepper and allspice.

Appearance: Clear amber/red with some chill haze early on. Creamy, ivory head with very fine bubbles that was moderately persistent; a ring of creamy foam remains around the edge of the glass all the way to the bottom. Nice lacing on a clean glass.

Flavor: Herbal hops kick things off, but quickly give way to bread crust and melanoidin sweetness. Dates, pears and raisins join in and linger into the finish. Highlight notes of sour fruit, like tart cherries. Moderate cotton-candy Belgian yeast character. Alcohol is apparent, but not hot. Dry and slightly tannic in finish with lingering notes of tea leaves.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body. Effervescent high carbonation. Warms on the way down.

Overall: I love bread crust malt flavor in beer and that is the predominant flavor in this beer (at least on my palate). You have to let this beer warm just a bit to let that flavor come through. In fact, there is a tight temperature range for this beer; too cold and it comes off harsh and slightly sour, too warm and the flavors become murky. The tannic character that I get in the finish detracts a bit, but overall it’s a nicely balanced beer that is dangerously drinkable in the best Belgian tradition.

This new Summit brew can be sampled starting today at launch events throughout the metro.

MN Brewers Bringing it Strong to Duluth Beer Fest

The MN Craft Brewers Guild is heading out of the Twin Cities for the first time this weekend with the All Pints North Summer Beer Fest in Duluth.  If these exclusive and first-peek brews don’t make you want to sell the kids and pack up the house for a trip up north then I don’t know what will.

Fest Only Beers

Schell’s Fass Firebrick infused with red oak
Surly Fiery Hell aged on Hickory and Puya Chilies ON CASK!
Surly SYX (First Pour!!!)
Dubrue Strong Belgian Ale (First Pour) and Berliner Weiss
Badger Hill American Rye (First Pour)
Barley John’s Brew Pub – Cask Stockyard IPA with Sriracha(holy hot-sauce!)
Lift Bridge Brewing Co. Mango Hop Dish on cask
Summit Unchained No.10 Belgian Strong Dark on cask with Citra hops

But wait, there’s more!

La Lune Special Ale by Borealis Fermentery (Ever had Borealis Fermentery beer? I haven’t either. Can’t wait to try them.)
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love pilsner. There will be pilsners a plenty from Harriet, Lift Bridge, and Vine Park.

Fruit & Spice beers anyone? Check these out.

Cardamom Porter  and Peppercorn Pale Ale by Barley John’s Brew Pub
Mon Cherries by Borealis Fermentery
Black Pepper IPA by Carmody Irish Pub
Apricot Wheat by Fitger’s Brewhouse
Mango Mama and Nitro Java Porter by Minneapolis Town Hall
Bourbon Barrel Coffee Mint Stout by South Shore Brewery
Cacao Bender by Surly

You wanna go, don’t you. There are still tickets left.

Glad I’m going to be there. I’m thinking my booth might be empty a good deal of the time…

Public Events & Classes from A Perfect Pint

I realized recently that I have a ton of public events coming up. Whether you want to learn the basics of making your own beer, find out what’s happening beer-wise in the upper-Midwest, or sit down to a tasty and educational meal paired with both beer and wine, I’ve got something here for you. Check it out!

July 10, 7 pm, $18
Homebrewing 101
How is beer made? What is beer made of? What is malted barley? What are hops? What causes that grapefruit flavor in my beer? What flavors should I taste in this beer? How does one taste beer? Questions, questions, questions…
The Garden by the Woods Garden Center
78 W 78th St
Chanhassen, MN 55317

July 11, 6-8 pm, $50
Trappist and Abbey Beers of Belgium
Monastic brewing in Europe goes back to at least the 700s CE. It’s probably much older than that. While there are monasteries making beer all over the continent, it’s the Belgians that have elevated the tradition to exquisite heights. Only seven Trappist breweries have earned the right to use the trademarked label “Trappist Beer” and they are making some of the most complex beers available today. Another group of secular “abbey” breweries are not far behind; making beers of similar styles that can give the monks a run for their money. Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint introduces you to the world of beer-making monks. You’ll learn what it takes to be a Trappist brewery and discover what makes them different from the abbey brewers. Along the way you’ll sample some of the best beers in the world.
Sunfish Cellars Wine & Spirits
803 Sibley Memorial Hwy (Hwy. 13)
Lilydale, MN 55118

July 17, 6-8 pm, $50
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark
Dark beers are heavy, right? Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Color tells you very little about the taste or heft of a beer. As I am fond of saying, “dark is not a flavor.”  While there are heavy-duty dark beers, there are also some super hefty light-colored beers. A Belgian tripel looks like a pilsner, but can top 10% alcohol. A beer like Guinness that many perceive as weighty is actually very low alcohol and just as light as a “lite” beer. In this class Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew from A Perfect Pint guides you through the gamut of black and brown brews. You’ll learn where the color comes from and taste the full range of flavors that dusky beers can bring. Even those who say they don’t like dark beer will find something to love.
Sunfish Cellars Wine & Spirits
803 Sibley Memorial Hwy (Hwy. 13)
Lilydale, MN 55118

July 18, 8-9 pm, $15
The State of the Midwest Craft Brewing Industry
Two years ago, while observing the first pops of what is now a full-on, beer-brewing boom, I hatched a hair-brained scheme to find out what was really going on beer-wise in the upper Midwest. I had this notion that the region well may be the next beer Mecca – a successor to the Colorado Front Range – and I wanted everyone else to know about it. A guide book was the way to do it. 10,000 miles, 25 hotel rooms, and 1800 beers later the book is with the publisher. I have personally visited 180 breweries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, and interviewed the brewers at nearly every one. I have intimate knowledge of what’s happening in one of the fastest growing beer scenes in the country.
This class will take you on a beer tour of the upper Midwest featuring brews from beer makers old and new in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. We’ll look at overall trends in the region and explore some of the new styles being crafted to suit the regional palate.”
The Four Firkins Specialty Beer Store
5630 W. 36th Street
St. Louis Park, MN 55416


July 21, 3-7 pm, Festival admission $30 advance or $40 at the door
Tasting Beer: The Beer Flavor Triangle
Beer is made from three basic ingredients, malt, hops, and yeast (I know, water is in there too.) Each of these ingredients imparts its unique character to the beer as flavor, aroma, color, and mouthfeel. Beer styles are identified by the relative weight of character from each ingredient. In this session we’ll talk about what those characteristics are and how to identify them so you get the most from your beer at the festival and beyond.
All Pints North Beer Festival
Bayfront Festival Park
700 W Railroad St
Duluth, MN 55802

July 26, 6-8 pm, $50
Beer 101: Beer Flavor and Where it Comes From
Most people readily accept the notion that wine is a beverage worthy of contemplation and consideration. Recognition of the subtleties of varietals and terroir is firmly established. After 50 years of a market dominated by light lagers, the same cannot be said of beer. For most people beer is a pale-yellow, fizzy liquid with very little flavor and hopefully even fewer calories. But good beer never went away and is currently enjoying a worldwide renaissance driven by the emergence of small craft breweries throughout the United States. Well-crafted beer rivals wine for flavor and complexity. Join the instructor, a certified Beer Cicerone, or beer adviser similar to a wine sommelier, for a course on the basics of beer tasting and appreciation. During the session you will learn about beer styles, ingredients, brewing processes through demonstration and tastings. You will gain an understanding of how ingredients such as hops, barley, and yeast contribute to the overall character of particular beers.
Sunfish Cellars Wine & Spirits
803 Sibley Memorial Hwy (Hwy. 13)
Lilydale, MN 55118

August 1, 6-9 pm, $75
Farm to Table Beer Pairing Dinner
Midsummer is the high season for fresh-from-the-farm produce. Nothing goes better with fresh veggies than crisp, light summer beers. Chef Philip Dorwart from Create Catering demonstrates great seasonal recipes, paired with craft beers by Cicerone Michael Agnew.
Menu: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Sweet Sherry Vinaigrette, Reggiano, Arugula and Toasted Barley; Grilled Asparagus with House-Made Lemon Agrumati, Crispy La Quercia Prosciutto and Poached Egg; Hops-Smoked Lamb Ribs with Rosemary-Malt Syrup Glaze, Roasted Grits and Spinach; Frangelico Milk Shake with Toasted Milk and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Mascarpone Cookie.
With Chef Philip Dorwart of Create Catering/The Dining Studio
Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul
877 Grand Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105

September 21, 6-9 pm, $75
Grapes, Grains & Fromage
With Sommelier Leslee Miller & Fromager Benjamin Roberts of France 44
Do you love beer, wine and cheese? Then this is the class for you! Learn how to pair three of your favorite treats, all in one class. Sommelier Leslee Miller and Cicerone Michael Agnew team up with pal, Fromager Benjamin Roberts of France 44 for one fantastic festival of cheese, vino and brew.
Cooks of Crocus Hill in Edina
3925 West 50th Street
Edina, MN 55424

October 18, 6-9 pm, $75
Midwest Cheese & Ale
With Becca Dilly and James Norton, Authors of The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin
Cooks of Crocus Hill in Edina
3925 West 50th Street
Edina, MN 55424

October 23 & 30, 6-8 pm, Cost TBA
Fireside Sippers – Warming Beers for Fall and Winter
Autumn is an in-between time. There is a chill in the air, but it hasn’t yet turned brutally cold. The leaves are turning colors and beginning to fall, but the trees are not yet the gray skeletons that they become in the winter. It’s time to put away the barbeque and break out the firepit. So what makes a beer appropriate for fall? Well, slightly higher alcohol for one thing, just enough to take the edge off the chill air. A little color would be welcome, amber, red, orange, and brown to match the seasonal hues. A bit of spice is always nice, and perhaps a wink and a nod to the fall harvest, be it of hops or pumpkins.Winter’s brutal bite and early darkness drive most people indoors to curl up next to a crackling hearth. This is the time for snifter beers; malty old ales, barleywines, and big imperial stouts. These are beers to savor slowly through the evening, letting them warm you from within.Fall and winter are great seasons for beer. Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew takes you through the best these seasons have to offer from the brazenly bitter fresh hop beers to soothingly sweet English barleywines. Apple beers, pumpkin beers and spicy holiday ales are all a part of the mix. Along the way we’ll cover the histories of the styles and how they’re made.
University of Minnesota Learning Life
The campus Club
403 Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington Avenue SE
Minneapolis MN 55455

November 8, 6-9 pm, $75
Fall Harvest Beer & Wine Pairing Dinner
With Sommelier Leslee Miller and Chef Mike Shannon
Cooks of Crocus Hill in Stillwater
324 S. Main St.
Stillwater, MN 55082