No Ragrets – 6 days in San Fransisco

A few months back, the wife and I decided that we were going to take a vacation to San Fransisco over the long labor day weekend. I had never been west of Vegas, so at the ripe age of 31, I would finally be in California, walk among Redwoods, and see the Pacific ocean.

Oh, and drink all the beer and eat all the food.

We went to a few bars and restaurants over six days.  Ok, we went to A LOT of them. In an effort to try and be concise here, I’ll  provide some info on all the worthwhile establishments we visited. In chronological order, they are:

1) Precita Park Cafe – Small corner cafe that carries superb local beers on tap, wine, coffee fare and had a pretty stellar food menu.  I caught the halibut sandwich in my mouth which had avocado, chipotle mayo and some other stuff that I can’t remember because it was the first place we ate when the plane landed and I was malnourished, parched, delirious.  Paired it with an Almanac Golden Gate Gose – bright, bubbly, and a touch of salt. A good way to start the trip. That Almanac portfolio is legit.

2) Old Bus Tavern – Later that night, we hit up a new brewpub in the Mission area (we stayed at a place near Bernal Heights)  called the Old Bus Tavern. Apparently once a food truck or something in an old VW bus, some dudes got together and made this little badass brick & mortar spot. It’s only been open for a couple months, but you couldn’t tell as the service, food, and beer were all pretty good. They had plenty of guest taps along with 4 house brews – Lemon Basil Saison, Rye Pale Ale, Chipotle Porter, and Lemon Drop Session IPA.  The Lemon Basil Saison was as advertised, basil nose and lemon flavor.  It was a little clumsy in execution, but not terrible. I went with the Lemon Drop Session IPA, where at 6%…was not a session. Chicken Liver mousse and pickled quail eggs (on top of fried onions – a cute little nest for the puckery devils!) were highlights food-wise. I expect this place will be great for the area.

3) BEL – After Old Bus, we walked a bit south to a new Belgian bar, aptly titled BEL.  This also seemed new, as the walls were somewhat bare and a bit lacking in character.  But the bar was busy, and the Belgian beer-centric taps were ordered often. Being in SFO, I went with an Anchor Porter, which is admittedly an odd choice, especially given the heat wave they were in. Call it a dessert craving, I don’t know.  Add some more Belgian breweriana, and this place is a winner.

4) Dynamo Donuts & Coffee – Early the next morning, it was our first donut shop stop. High end, delicious circle pastries make my heart flutter. Sit inside to watch the donut makers at work, sit outside to enjoy the sun. (This unseasonably warm weather hung around our entire stay. 70s & 80s every day – no fog, no rain, no nothing. It was strikingly beautiful every day – at some points 10 degrees over the avg high.  I’ll take it).  Espresso crunch donut with an iced coffee that I never really finish. Enjoy the Mission Murals as you make your way over to Dynamo.

5) Jack’s Cannery Bar – Fishermans Wharf! Quite possibly one of the biggest tourist traps I’ve ever seen. Colors! Lights!  Shops full of plastic-y knick-knack stuff made in China! The wharf has it all. In that loud-noised & burst-graphics heaven, offset a block or two is Jack’s Cannery Bar.  An odd everyman’s watering hole boasting 68 taps, dark wood interior, RedBull logoed umbrella outdoor patio, and a small food menu. The Anchor Meyer Lemon Lager was interesting, but I definitely enjoyed the Heretic Brewing Evil Cousin IIPA more. West coast hoppy beers are pretty prevalent here, umm, obviously. I’ll take another. Both bartenders were English, which was weird. An interesting spot, but probably the best available in that area if you’re around there.

6) Alioto’s – After a short hop up to the windy Lombard Street to complete our tourist trap Thursday, we ventured back down to the wharf because … well, clam chowder.  I needed it. All of these waterfront places looked the same, so of course we chose the place that also has a Milwaukee bar by the same name. Someone on Twitter notified me that this spot actually does have ties to the brew city bar, but I don’t know what kind. Clam chowder in a bread bowl is fantastic. Crab sandwich not so much.  It’s expensive down here obviously.

7) Pi – Fast forward a few more hours when my urge to shove more stuff in my gullet roars back. We walk to Pi Bar – pizza and beer is what they do here. I’m a sucker for pesto on pizza, so that was conquered, with portabella shrooms & Italian sausage thrown on for good measure. Thoroughly enjoyed a Moonlight Death & Taxes black lager, which tasted more like a malty, cocoa-infused porter. Was later told that this beer, among many others from their brewery and even other local breweries – are gluten free.  Plenty of breweries don’t advertise that their stuff is gluten free, which I find odd.  They don’t want the stigma.  Little do they know that Wisconsinites would be rabid over that stuff.

8) Craftsman & Wolves – a yuppie, expensive, ridiculous breakfast joint that was completely over the top yet pretty delicious. If you go, get the Rebel Within. It’s basically a muffin with a soft-boiled egg shoved inside with onions and crumbled sausage throughout. Warmed up for your enjoyment. It’s a stupid savory snack. C&W is your bakers favorite bakery.  Or something.

9) Faction Brewing – Drive through enough stop signs, hairpin turns, one-ways, over railroad tracks and next to what looks like government housing and you’ll find Faction. You will need a GPS (phone) and a co-pilot to talk you through directions as if you’re driving a rally course. Faction (and St. George Spirits, no less!) is not easy to get to, but once you’re there it’s most certainly worth it. In what was once a military instalation, Faction (and other distileries nearby) are nestled in old hangars. Serving only their own brews, Faction proved to be a diamond in the Alameda/Oakland rough, literally. Had a 5-brew sampler which included a true-to-style Porter, an interesting South African hopped IPA, a nitrogenated white chocolate stout, a decent pils, and a perfect IPA consisting of sticky, floral resinous equinox and mosaic hops. The patio was full on the mid Friday afternoon that we went. What an interesting view of the San Francisco bay from here – dry & desolate in the forefront, aquatic and … bridge-y in the background. Definitely a worthwhile stop. Very impressed with the beers here.

10) Oakland Coliseum – aka O.Co Coliseum.  Boy I’m struggling to find some nice words to say about Oakland Coliseum here.  Yeah I’m still coming up empty.  We attended an A’s-Mariners matchup Friday night, and lo and behold there was an ‘Oktoberfest’ celebration in the club level beforehand.  Goose Island (huh?), Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Strike Brewing, Drake’s, Firestone Walker, were in attendance. Easily the best part was the ceramic commemorative steins that each attendee was given. But all beers were poured into 6oz plastic cups instead, so that was dumb. Even your chicken tenders sucked, Oakland. Better beer available than Miller Park though, I will say.

11) Mikkeler Bar – Mikkeler bar is every beer geek’s wet dream. Quite possibly the most audacious, fun beer list I’ve ever seen – with prices to go with it.  Mikkeler is not cheap – nor should it be, when you have stuff from overseas that I can’t even pronounce. Now a hard-to-vocalize name doesn’t mean the beer is good obviously, but when there’s Cascade sours next to Jolly Pumpkin rarities next to Hill Farmstead collaborations on draught from a specific cooler temperature on a holy grail of a pouring system – it’s hard not to get a little excited. Add a downstairs room with even more sour bottles to choose from, and there’s really no reason why anyone should ever want to leave here. Unless of course you run out of cash flow. Shoutout to bar manager Kirby, who was extremely kind all around and showed us a great time.  Regretfully didn’t have any food, but from what I saw it looked phenomenal. Mikkeler bar is that bucket list beer bar that one must experience to believe. Honestly. I want to live in it.

12) El Farolito – In the same day as a rich man’s bakery visit in the morning, an expedition to a small Oakland brewery, followed by that spot where the ‘professional’ athletes play (Brett Lawrie can go straight to hell), then back to downtown to see young kids drink crazy beer…one gets hungry. El Farolito (24th & Mission) was highly recommended, and now I know why. This is, without a doubt, some of the best drunk food I’ve ever had. Al Pastor super burrito at midnight? Don’t mind if I do.  The clientele was hammered and obnoxious, much like the self-serve sauces. Packed to the gills and cash only, this place was easily one of the highlights of the trip. Quick service was the guinda del pastel.  That means ‘icing on the cake’ in spanish, according to google search I just did.

13) Wise Sons Jewish Deli – A jewish deli smack-dab in the middle of a predominantly Latino neighborhood.  I love you San Fransisco. You get the idea here – bagels, lox, pastrami, eggs.  You know, breakfast stuff. L’chaim.

14) Mitchell’s Ice Cream – It’s a busy ice cream shop.  Everything was busy this weekend.  Never before seen flavors like Ube (purple yam ice cream?), Thai Tea (a blaze orange colored dessert), and a ton of other tropical flavors with names I’d never heard of.  I ordered a peanut butter indulgence and was given pistachio.  That’s not even close, but I’m a pistachio fan too so I win. Are you still with me?

15) Public House @ AT&T Park – How a restaurant within a baseball stadium plaza should be done.  Beers, and lots of them, available on tap and in bottle. They even allowed you to carry it into the stadium in a plastic cup. Allagash (which I still can’t believe is distributed in Cali but not WI), Cellarmaker, Anchor, Almanac, and a few other local breweries rounded out their good tap list. Very busy on game days and event settings, much of it standing room only. Get there early.

16) Russian River – When your buddy who lives in the area offers to drive you to both Russian River and Lagunitas in the same day, you take him up on that. The wonderfully gracious Nick (check out some of his fantastic artwork here) was kind enough to escort the wife and I up north on a sunny Sunday.  In my mind I pictured a wood-accented picturesque brewery with gleaming stainless steel tanks..sitting outside on a table which overlooked the Russian River, among large indigenous coniferous trees.  This was not to be, as the only thing outdoorsy about Russian River is their logo.  The place is in a strip mall. For real! A line had already formed by the time we got there around 10:15am (it opens at 11), and by the time we got in line around 10:30am, we were about 20 people back.  At opening, the line had grown to about 50. But ultimately it doesn’t matter where RR actually is – their beer is amazing.  And not just the favorite Pliny (Blind Pig is better, btw, and I’ll fight you over that), or all their “-tion” beers – ALL of their stuff was downright amazing. An English style Pale ale? Perfect. A robust porter? Done. A nitro stout? Forget about it.  Every beer I had was wonderful. Watching the (3? 4?) bartenders continuously fill growlers for people’s labor day parties, or pour 2oz tasters for the many tasting trays (one of which was for us) that went out was quite a sight. Not only is their beer delicious, but I found their food (we had a bbq chicken pizza) to be great too. Yet another brewery that you just have to visit. It almost angered me how great their beers were.  You get a gold star, Russian River.

17) Lagunitas – Writing this now, after the Heineken buyout, and my feelings don’t change one iota. Although typically a little one-dimensional (Hey, do you like hops?), I am a fan of Lagunitas beers. I am still a fan of Lagunitas, and their brews. On their BUSIEST day of the year (no joke – there were people in every nook, cranny, and crevice of this place the Sunday afternoon we visited), I found the Lagunitas operation to be…oddly well-run.  Efficient, little worker bees scurrying around carrying their iconic mason jars filled with beers, plates of cheese boards, salads, and burgers.  This hive was buzzing – from the gift shop, to the open grassy space on the hill, to the taproom which was 3-4 people deep the whole day. Truly impressive to see everything going on all at once.  People were happy. I was happy. The food we had was good – bahn mi & a hummus plate.  The taproom only cherry hotside sour was an interesting mix of approachable sourness and grassy hoppiness. Their hospitality was unmatchable. My feelings on the company acquisition will be for another post (no, it wont), but I can tell you that this place will be just fine. Good people (thanks Johnny) & good vibes.

18) Trick Dog – I don’t typically take naps, but after sending my stomach and brain into a California tornado of tastebud stimuli, I needed one. Groggy, but ready to ‘make the most out of our vacation!!!’, we headed to Trick Dog. Winner of many a cocktail award, Trick Dog was a nice change of pace from our beer-heavy week. A cocktail program that changes with the seasons, ordering is a fun game in itself. Here’s a dog calendar, order a drink by dog breed/month and page through the cute canines. We opted to sit in their tiny, 10-table dining room upstairs. It was approximately 90 degrees. Better than 50 I guess. My bourbon-focused and gin-focused cocktails were good, but for $13 a pop I was waiting for free refills, or something. San Fran you’re great but expensive. Trick Dog’s “Trick Dog” is not just a clever name – it’s a hamburger disguised as a hot dog in a hot dog bun. I don’t know how you don’t get that if you’re dining in.

19) The Mill – What is it with people and toast here? I’ve never seen a line out the door of an establishment for toast. Just toast!? Seriously, toast. A thick-cut $4 slice of charred bread with toppings.  I don’t get it, but I guess I’m part of the problem.  I opted for the dark rye with cream cheese and salt & pepper. Companion ordered the lemon poppy with almond butter and honey.  They were good, but again, it’s toast. TOAST.  The toaster assembly line had 2 people feverishly taking tickets out of the printer and popping bread in the slots. Something I never thought I’d see…a toaster assembly line in a coffee shop.

20) Toronado – With our trip winding down, I really had one more spot that I just had to visit. The no-nonsense, decades-old (I think?), cash-only Toronado.  A small, yet awkwardly charming bar with a deep Cali brew draught list among some high end Euros. Dusty Duvel magnums lined the one wall, while the other was plastered with stickers from years ago (Milwaukee institutions well-represented!).  I’m grouping the Rosamunde Sausage shop from next door into this entry, as you’re able to take the gourmet grilled sausages into Toronado to devour.  Let me tell you that imbibing the Almanac Citra Sour while binging on a hot Italian with sweet peppers & grilled onions is a near cathartic experience. “Is this heaven?”, I ask myself. Close.

Even with all the places we visited, here’s a small list of the ones we didn’t: Anchor (closed all weekend), Cellarmaker (next time!), Almanac, Rare Barrel, cocktail destinations Elixir, Comstock, and Rickhouse, Magnolia Brewery, Speakeasy Tap room, Church Key…and I’m sure there’s more.  Clearly there’s not a lack of places to go out in this hilly bayside haven. A great vacation destination. I have no ragrets with my decisions, except writing this much content.

Visual stimuli:

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Great Taste of the Midwest 2015: Caffeine Dreams

Yesterday was the 2nd Saturday in August, which meant it was time for thousands of people to gather in Olin Park in picturesque Madison, WI for the Great Taste of the Midwest. New brewers, new beers, new layout. The weather was overcast but some sprinkles weren’t going to impede anyone’s desire for more beer. But you’re not here for a weather report, you’re here to waste 10 minutes of your life and read about what beers I liked.  At least that’s why I think you’re here.

5) Off Color Brewing – Whiskers
The Chicago-based brewers collaborated with Central State Brewing out of Indianapolis for this Rose-inspired American Wild Ale.  Central State focuses on Brettanomyces brews exclusively, so that’s neat.  This beer was tart, sour, barely pink-hued and an impossible 8.5% abv but was easy-going on the palette.  The ale was aged in puncheon barrels, which I had no idea were until I googled it just now. Wonderful stuff.

4) Revolution Brewing – Cafe Deth
One of the very few lines I waited in yesterday, and boy was it worth it.  Revolution brought the heat, in beer and tubed meat form. You have to give a brewery credit for slinging free Chicago-style dawgs during a beer fest. Anyways, here we have a 12.5% barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout with added coffee & cherries. The beer poured black as my non-functioning fitbit band, with a dark mahogany ring around the perimeter. Truckloads of chocolatey oak, coffee, and a barely-there dark fruit sweetness in the finish. Dark brown head & an aroma of fresh coffee grounds.  This was from 2014, so I’m just going to take a guess & say age has done good things to this. Have always been a fan of the Eugene series, and this one further catapaulted my affinity for Rev.

3) New Glarus Brewing – R&D Wild Barrel
Ah yes, the rare bottles of Bramble Berry Bourbon Barrel were flowing at breakneck pace yesterday. Lines moved quickly for a small taste of the delicious nectar from New Glarus’ new fruit caves. More sour funk than bourbon barrel presence, this spontaneously fermented sour brown showcased fruit backed by wood. A wonderful example on how funk should be handled. Bottles sold out at the brewery by 10:30am on Friday and by 11am on Saturday. Glad they kept some cases behind for the Taste. Obviously.

2) Perennial Artisan Ales – Kyoto Coffee Abraxas
Let’s keep the caffeinated train rolling. Holy shit, all aboard. Like Sump & Abraxas banged in an alley & 9 months later we have this coffee infant. But it’s not an infant, it’s a 10% imperial stout brewed with Kyoto coffee.  Not sure if the usual addition of cinnamon & chiles were added to this batch, as I didn’t get much heat, or spice. Regardless, this was downright amazing – chocolate on chocolate, with espresso backing the sweetness. Mouthfeel was actually in the medium range – this wasn’t as viscous as I thought it would be.  Something tells me Corey King had something to do with this one. YOU WONDERFUL BARISTA, YOU.

1) 4 Hands Brewing Co – Madagascar
From the back seat of their creepy black-matte ‘falcon’ van came the absolute best beer of the fest.  It wasn’t even close – one sip and you knew you tasted perfection. On an island all its own (get it?), this bourbon aged imperial milk stout was created with the addition of vanilla beans.  I typically enjoy vanilla, but find beers with the bean usually tasting of an artificial, cloying sweetness. Not here though. A perfect blend of roasty malt with sweet milk sugar and vanilla  in the back end, Madagascar was everything perfect with yesterday. The magicians of 4 Hands had the difficult task of competing with the nautically-inspired Bell’s brewery booth and boat, and admittedly had a strange/poor booth placement, sort of in no-man’s land. I went back and consumed Super Flare IPA, a collab with Wicked Weed brewing.  Delicious. Walked back awhile later and had a pull of the coveted Volume 1 – an imperial whiskey-bbl aged stout with coffee and cacao nibs. Also pretty tasty.  4 Hands slayed everything else I had yesterday, by a longshot. Between Perennial and 4 Hands, you could basically spend an entire day in beer heaven should you go to St. Louis.

In addition to the beers listed above, I probably had almost 10 other beers with coffee added. As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I find my fascination with the caffeinated bean unknown. Whatever it is, I drank them by the glass half-full yesterday. Other styles that I gravitated to included berliner weiss’, goses, and wild ales. I also missed out on a ton: DinoSmores from Off Color, the delicious Mango Mama from Minneapolis Town Hall, TG’s Mornin Delight – the list could go on. I missed SO MUCH. Let these pics percolate:

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#Burbdrankin – Mequon Pizza Company in Mequon

I love thin crust pizza. Like, saltine cracker thin that it almost breaks when you pick it up. Deep dish is just too doughy for me.  Unless I’m in Chicago, then yeah, gimme that shit. Otherwise, I have always been a thin crust dude. Wells Brothers in Racine is my absolute favorite, but Mequon Pizza Company is a seriously close second. And that kinda-sorta-proprietary cheese on the bottom, then sauce, then toppings thing they do is great. Why didn’t I think of that? I’ve never had a bad pie there, I don’t even think it’s possible for them to make one. The MPC is fast, efficient, and the staff is always great.

But what about the beer? There’s a mix of domestic and import, from easy-going like Miller Lite and Spotted Cow to bigger stuff like Great Lakes Chillwave Double IPA.  Would you expect a large pink elephant Delirium tower pouring Tremens & Nocturnum? Well they do, and that’s awesome. Dogfish 120 was on too, as well as other fun oddities from O’so. The tap list was all over the place, but in a way that everything pouring made sense.

Sitting at the bar, I noticed that there was a great variety of Dogfish bottles in the cooler, with a few larger-format bottles above them.  Never in a million years did I think I’d see 22oz Alesmith IPA bottles at a pizza place in Mequon, WI.  Lo and behold, mere minutes after spying the California beauties, 2 younger guys sat next to me and each ordered one to take down themselves. Craft beer really can reach the burbs. Again, I have to give credit for these smaller establishments recognizing that good beer wins, and ultimately can be very profitable to stock.

#burbdrankin yall.
IMG_20150410_165908966  IMG_20150410_165855602

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#Burbdrankin – Crafty Cow in Oconomowoc

So last Wednesday on April 9th, our area saw a little severe weather. To our south, this Darwinistic dipshit had a ” completely crazy” “holy smokes” moment, in which he captured some “oh my gosh” footage:

Totally ridiculous video, fella. The elements certainly weren’t optimal in southeast Wisconsin either, but I’ll take my chances driving in inclement weather if it means doing some necessary #burbdrankin research for my 6 readers. And research I did. When I left the Milwaukee area around 6:45, it was lightly sprinkling with a few sad, gray clouds looming ahead. Half an hour later, I’m white-knuckle driving under a death-metal black storm cloud unleashing torrential downpours in between specks of lightning. Exiting hwy 67, I believe I muttered something like “Well this was stupid”. Actually that is exactly what I said. But burgers and beers were within reach, so I pressed on amongst swirling ominous clouds.

It’ll normally take around 50 minutes to get to the Crafty Cow from Milwaukee; this instance was an hour. Smack dab in the middle of this quiet town lies a bar-restaurant that can hold it’s own against any city spot. Open since December 2014, the Crafty Cow specializes in microbrews alongside ‘stuffed’ burgers. 20 tap lines in all, with 2 dedicated nitro lines and 2 cider taps as well. The room itself was spacious and welcoming – a long narrow space filled with a few high tops, ample bar seating, and some larger bench tables for bigger groups.  A big, bright logo is painted on the west wall under some spotlight lighting. An out-of-order skeeball machine was the only dark cloud in terms of the venue. The back bar shelves were littered with purposely-placed empty bottles of a who’s who in hard-to-find beers from around the country.  Looks like many a bottle share has been had here.

While the beer list was good, the spirits list was surprisingly great. Stranahan whiskey, Breckenridge bourbon, and a variety of other gems rounded out a well-curated whiskey list. Nice to find that upon a visit where I expected that beer would rule. If cocktails are your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

The stuffed burgers reigned a beef thunderstorm on my tastebuds (see a pattern here? I’m relating everything to weather! Gee willikers!) I went with the Aloha burger, which shoved mozzarella cheese and ham slices inside a burger patty.  Topped with raw onions, bbq sauce and pineapple rings.  I’d eat it again, no doubt.

The proprietor Devin was one of the nicest dudes I’ve met in the business.  Very young, but extremely smart and incredibly ambitious – this place is in great hands. It takes stones to open a craft beer stable in a previously-untouched area. He told me that he spent a lot of time in Minneapolis (a city that I believe kicks Milwaukee’s ass in terms of beer) and therefore his draught list tiptoes high-end with solid entry-level suds.  The drinks appeal to the novice and nerd very well. Case in point I started with a Boulder Mojo Nitro IPA, and finished with an imperial citra IPA from Tyranena.  Similar style from different sides of the craft spectrum.

Overall the Crafty Cow is a fun place with an impressive array of both brews and booze. The theme seems to be working – there’s rumblings of some bars opening close by that are trying to appeal to the savvy drinker as well.  Easily my new favorite go-to spot on excursions between Milwaukee and Madison.

And since it’s closer to Milwaukee, they’ve decided to partake in Milwaukee Craft Beer week with the following upcoming events:
Saturday April 18 – tapping a Double Crooked Tree. Let’s hope Oconomowocans (yeah?) are ready.
Thursday April 23 – Putting all 4 of the New Glarus Fruit beers on tap. I haven’t seen Strawberry Rhubarb & Serendipity for awhile.  Having all 4 next to each other is a thing of beauty.
Friday April 24 – Two words: Perennial Abraxas. Get on it.

I took a pic while driving because I'm dumb.

I took a pic while driving because I’m dumb.



Inside the Cow that is Crafty

Inside the Cow that is Crafty

Taps on top of taps

Taps on top of taps

Reflection of empties on the back bar shelf.

Reflection of empties on the back bar shelf.

Check that spirits list

Check that spirits list

Tyranena Citra IPA

Tyranena Citra IPA

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#Burbdrankin – Champps Americana in Brookfield

What can be said about this not-so-hidden gem that hasn’t already been said?  It what seems like overnight (it wasn’t, but it feels like it), this national corporate chain has transformed itself from run-of-the-mill to a venue with one of the greatest beer lists in the outskirts of the city. I’ll admit that I know nothing about the sports bar group, but I find it amazing that the people in charge are given such freedoms to put what they desire on tap. The variety on draught is astonishing.  Would you expect to see 5 Ballast Point handles, or the new Lagunitas High West BA Coffee Stout being poured? Session IPAs, Unsessioned IPAs like Double Crooked, Foreign Export Stouts, and the rest of the best.  Well, they were all on the night I waltzed in. The volume that pumps out of here is absurd, so you can bet that this place will continue to see more rare treats you won’t believe they can acquire. On the evening I was there during March Madness, the bar and the dining section were full for hours.  It really was amazing to see. The food was good, the beers were better.

Champp’s is impressive and a worthwhile stop if you’re in the west ‘burbs. The place is already a staple with folks from New Berlin and Brookfield. Kudos to the owners and managers of this place to have the stones to put delicious beers on tap and trust that the clientele will come around to them.  And they definitely have. So even though people who don’t know any better might initially look at you funny after suggesting Champp’s for a visit – just smile inside when they realize they were wrong.

This is the spot where pictures would go if I had taken any that were good.

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#Burbdrankin – Magellan’s in Waukesha

Sometimes, you just don’t want to drink at the place you always go. That other neighborhood bar has gotten a bit stale & you just don’t want to see the regulars that you’re accustomed to seeing. You’ve been to that highly touted beer bar on plenty of occasions – weren’t you just there last week? It’s time for something different, something new. Venturing out of your comfort zone for beer pleasures can be a fun, rewarding experience if you know where to go. Often times, those beer pleasures can be found

[pause for effect]

IN THE SUBURBS.  Away from the hustle, the bustle, and the muscle of the city. Into the wooded areas where clear skies, fresh air, and jacked-up trucks with those ridiculous tires that are loud and probably make that vehicle get 5mpg are common. (We’re not going that far out, though).  I call this #burbdrankin. Drinking in the suburbs can be entertaining, and most importantly – cost-effective! And sometimes, you might be pleasantly surprised at the beer selection too.  Throughout April I’ll be highlighting a few of the suburban venues that are doing beer-loving folks a favor.

In this case, can Waukesha be described as a “suburb”? Probably not, but let’s roll with it anyways. I ventured into Magellans on a Sunday afternoon.  It was 12:15, and I was the only person there. Matter of fact, I’m not even sure they were ready to open yet. The Old Style sign on the exterior doesn’t scream “CRAFT BEER HERE”, but don’t let it turn you away (Or the road construction, which is a pain in the ass). 30+ taps await you inside, from domestic shit like Coors, Miller and Blue Moon to fun shit like new-to-WI Ballast Point Sculpin, trusty Great Lakes Eddy Fitz, a Karben 4 line, and a duo of Wisconsin’s Central Waters & New Glarus. I first went to Magellans almost 5 years ago, and to see them add a boatload of taps and redo the side room with new tables/walls/art was great to see. Braving the one-way labyrinth that is Waukesha streets, one can certainly get thirsty. I quenched mine with a Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter followed by a Central Waters Illumination IPA. So the beers are good. What about the food? Magellan’s has you covered. A double-sided bar menu has more than enough choices to sustain even the pickiest of eaters. The pizzas are what get me going though. I ordered the “So Ho Special” – a ham, mushroom, ricotta, onion, green pepper and pesto pizza. I’d love to tell you how great it was, but I instead received a Mexican breakfast pizza. It was topped with Chorizo, eggs, chilli powder, and green pepper. And it was delicious, no complaints here. The 10″ was more than enough, and was probably closer to 12″, but who’s measuring? The beers are beer-y and the food is great, no matter what you get. Go here.

Magellan’s is an unassuming bar with a great variety of beer on draught and highly underrated pizzas. I don’t go to Waukesha much, but you can bet that when I’m there I’ll make it into Magellan’s.  It’s #Burbdrankin done right.

Scan these with your eyeballs

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My Top 20 Beers (and 1 Cider) of 2014

Ah, 2014.  The year brewers resurrected gose. The continued punch of the mislabeled “session” ale.  The jowl-curling funk of endless sours. The hoppy lager. The menial task of barrel-aging everything. You were a strange year for beer, 2014, and the future looks just as weird. (* denotes beer is/was available in Wisconsin) Let’s get crazy:

21) Virtue Mitten* (Bourbon barrel-aged cider. Bottle, ?%) This is not a beer. This is a cider. I originally included it in the top 20, but that’s not fair. Because this is a list for beer…not ciders. However this semi-sweet cider from Michigan had an incredible balance of caramel and oak that blended supremely with the contents in the bottle. I rarely drink ciders, but if I’m in the mood, I prefer an English dry. American sweet ciders are the devil, but this one happened to be angelic.

20) Surly Cacao Bender (Brown Ale. Tap, 5%) My favorite brown ale on the planet due to a robust addition of cacao nibs, coffee, and vanilla. Surly makes a lot of great brews, but I keep finding myself fawning over this one every year.  Now that the destination brewery is complete, a trip to the source is necessary. Until then, cross your fingers that they continue to bring it to Great Taste.  Just missing the top 20 was 3 Sheeps ‘Hello My Name Is Joe’, also a coffee-induced brown ale. That one is good as well, but not quite Surly good.

19) Summit 3X Mild Ale* (English Mild Ale. Bottle/Tap, 7.2%) The Union series of beers from the St. Paul brewery continues to impress. Finding new, intriguing, different ingredients and pumping out stellar beers. Do not sleep on this one. I won’t even try pretending to know how these ingredients work so cohesively, I’ll let the brewer tell you in this informative piece here. Recently on draught and in bottles in WI.

18) Logsdon Farmhouse Ales  Peche ‘N Brett (Saison. Bottle, 10%) A brettanomyces & sour peach explosion to the senses. Aged on oak and 10%abv. Quite the designated hitter, I enjoyed this in the parking lot of Miller Park before a ballgame. That makes no sense.  Is it weird that I can’t remember what vintage release I had? Oregon, I love you, but you’re bringing me down (because I can’t get stuff from you easily).

17) Green Flash Road Warrior* (Double IPA. Bottle/Tap, 9%)  Probably my surprise beer of the year.  Would you guess that Green Flash would make something hoppy? Well they did, and they added a dump truck full-o-rye to the brew. Things escalated quickly with this one; whether fresh or with some age on it, this beer continued to impress me. Piney, resinous hops in the front with a biscuit-y, malty cradle in the end. Obvious GF hop bite paired with a tinge of spice, but the (crystal?) malt softened it overall.  Green Flash is all hops, but this one offered just that little bit more.  Still tasting good right now if you can find it, I think this was a late Summer release this year.

16) Westbrook Gozu (Gose. Bottle, 4%) Ah yes, the year of the Gose. A true session beer,  this little delicacy was brewed with a special addition of Yuzu fruit. Lemon warhead candy flavor, eye-squinting sourness reminiscent of 5Alive soda, prickly bubbles in the back.  Odds are you might have seen the canned Gose from the South Carolina brewers floating around;  God knows I saw enough it around at friends houses & bottle shares. While I loved that beer, the Gozu took it a step further.  It was just so damn good, the sourness was off the charts, but you could taste a hint of the sweet-salt seesaw too. Pleasant notes of malted wheat, coriander; finish was semi-dry and champagne-like. The style made famous by brewers in Leipzig, Germany saw a huge push due (in my opinion)  to Anderson Valley’s Kimmie, Yink & Holy Gose cans earlier this year. Looks like the rise in popularity is here to stay, as Brewers seem to be toying with Gose recipes all the time now.

15) Sixpoint Hi-Res* (Double IPA. Bottle/Tap, 10.5%)  This little golden canister of sex assaulted my tongue precinct during the early part of this year. An endorphin-morphing hop bunker-buster that ravaged my mouth.  Not complete deforestation like Dogfish 120, which I still don’t know how people drink (authors note: Do not drink 120 if you’re already intoxicated).  Hi-Res made Bell’s Hopslam its bitch in a blind taste test. Even better than Sixpoint’s popular Resin, Hi-Res is the older brother that only visits the family during holidays. Hopefully we can expect this one back in early 2015.

14) Founders Dissenter*(Imperial India Pale Lager. Bottle/Tap, 8.7%) I don’t even like TYPING the words ‘imperial india pale lager’.  Alas, this beer worked wonderfully. The hoppy notes of an ipa with the clean, crisp finish of a pilsner lager. The two essences didn’t fight with each other, rather serenaded and danced, like Carlton Banks to Tom Jones. My only problem with this beer was the terrible label art which depicted Harry Potter pausing on a mid 18th century English cobblestone street.  Someone in the Founders art department needs a swift strike to the septum.

13) New Glarus Moon Man* (American pale ale. Bottle/Tap, 5%) Yeah that’s right.  Good ol’ no coast pale ale New Glarus Moon Man.  When was the last time you were truly able to appreciate this Carey masterpiece? Have you ever had a bad Moon Man? Why do I keep finding myself seeking this beer? How can it always be so perfect? When was the last time YOU had this beer?  Find yourself. Find this beer. Recreate the love.

12) New Glarus Berliner Weiss* (Berliner Weiss. Bottle, ?%) So there might have been an issue with bottle refermentation, but it doesn’t matter. They say good things come to those who wait. Well, if you still have any bottles laying around, you’ll be waiting awhile to sip it upon prying off the cap. Takes about 5-10 minutes for the oceans of billowy foam to recede. The taste is near perfection though.  A poppy, carbonated shot of sour and tart. Here’s to hoping this can be an annual Summer release.

11) Black Husky Howler (Simcoe)* (Imperial pale ale. Bottle, 10.2%) – From the best nanobrewery in Pembine, WI comes Howler. A big, daunting double IPA that featured the simcoe hop.  Later on the Equinox version was also released, and while I enjoyed both, I preferred this dog. Big mouthfeel, with the alcohol extremely well-hidden. Not sure where that 10% is hiding. Not overly bitter, but the piney hops are definitely there. Bark at the moon.

10) Karben4 Fantasy Factory* (IPA. Bottle/Tap, 6.3%) As I write this, Fantasy Factory is currently, slowly showing up on draught all over Milwaukee. And for good reason – it’s delicious. While the uninspired tap handle reminds me of the pipe weapon in the Clue board game, the bottles are exciting and showcases a kitten riding a unicorn with rainbows and other shit like that.  The ADD child in me is squealing with delight! Anywho, the beer is sparked with orange zest, a darker hue, and a conifery, grapefruit-y finish alongside a medium body. I could drink this all day. A welcome addition to the Wisconsin brewing scene.  Bottles in Madison only, it seems.

9) O’So Convenient Distraction* (Porter. Bottle/Tap, 10%) From the description: Imperial Porter masterfully blended with Aquacate coffee from the Narino region of Columbia and Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans. Say what?! A pitch-black brew that held zero head retention. An ungodly amount of coffee grounds in the nose – you could smell it from a few feet away, either after opening the bottle or pouring from the tap. Coffee, cocoa, vanilla, caramel…all wonderfully molded together with ease. A solid step up from Night Train, which I also adore. Will be seeking this one out again. According to the internet, Bourbon Barrel Aged Convenient Distraction will be released January 23, 2015.

8) Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin (Barleywine. Bottle, 12%) I can’t even begin to describe what’s going on here, so I’ll let the brewery tell you. This beer was unbelievably delicious.

7) New Glarus Scream IIPA* (Double IPA. Bottle, 9%) What was once simply known as IIPA shifted into Scream. Apparently named after an eagle that circled the brewery at one time. Yeah, ‘MERICA! Hoppy talons stalked Wisconsinite taste buds early in the summer, and then more rapidly into the Fall and Winter. New Glarus kept on producing it, and we kept on drinking it. Quite possibly the best double ipa to come out of WI to date. Who wants to fight about it?

6) Central Waters Sixteen* (Imperial stout. Bottle/Tap, 11%). The anniversary imperial stout kept in 21 year-old Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for a few months. This beer somehow popped up at nearly every Central Waters beer dinner in the city, and I was elated every single time. A true gem of a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. We’re a month away from their 17th anniversary party, and hopefully I’ll be there.  Can’t get your hands on any Sixteen – the brewers reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout 4 packs are out now, but going quickly.

5) Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue* (Pale Ale. Bottle, 6%) Have you not had the citra-magnified Pseudo Sue yet? Well take your tiny T-Rex arms somewhere to drink it. When you get there, bask in the grapefruit flavors of Iowan heaven.


3) Perennial Abraxas* (Imperial Stout. Tap, 10%) Perhaps my most welcome addition to Wisconsin. St Louis’ Perennial Artisan Ales finally made me like a beer that had a little spice kick, something I don’t normally gravitate towards.  Ancho chilis, chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon provided a complex backdrop to this imperial stout. The bouquet is all cinnamon & red pepper flakes, the taste a luscious dark chocolate bar.  I’d take Abraxas over Prairie Bomb! any day. Killer beer from the heart of the heartland.  Haven’t had coffee or barrel-aged versions yet.

2) Side Project Blueberry Flanders (Flanders Red. Tap?, 7%) Sweet Heavenly Father I need more of this. On a bright sunny day in August during the Great Taste of the Midwest, Perennial brewer Cory King  poured one of the greatest beers I’ve had to date in my little souvenir 4oz mug. A midnight purple hue, standard Flanders red balsamic sourness packed with blueberry fruit. The brew was fermented in Missouri oak Chambourcin (don’t ask me)  barrels then aged atop Michigan-grown blueberries. The end result was perfection. Released in July of 2014, my dream is to one day hold my very own unicorn bottle.

1) Cigar City Forgotten Islands (Quadrupel. Bottle, 15%) Listen, I realize that in terms of being an actual beer, it fails. This is, legitimately, a Mai Thai in a beer. Orange curacao parading with Peychauds bitters, prunes & plums, and Goslings Black Seal rum. A beer cocktail, this delicious boozy mess was so off the wall, yet so perfect. A 15% quad aged in Jamaican Appleton Estate Rum barrels showcased an explosion of tropical fruit flavors from orange, guava, mango and papaya. The spices of cinnamon, clove, and even a hint of ginger were also present. This concoction was all over the place – one could probably subjectively pick out 20 different flavors and aromas in it with ease. It was complex, but not overbearing somehow. The alcohol finally came out as the liquid warmed, but it only made it more perfect. This beautiful disaster was chaotic, raw, silly, and sweet. I’ll never understand how Tampa, FL’s Cigar City brewed this, and now that I look back on it, I’m surprised they even released it. Makes me long for a drink with an umbrella in it right now.

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