France 44 Brews: 3711 Rue Bourbon

Nearly four years ago, in September 2013, the France 44 Beer Crew had a brewing opportunity at Fulton Beer in downtown Minneapolis. Jake’s friendly neighbor, Fulton brewer Matt Moon, graciously invited the team over for a Sunday brew session on their nifty Northern Brewer 15-barrel pilot brewhouse. With much guidance and planning from Matt, we settled on brewing an Imperial Stout fermented with French Saison yeast, and then aging it in our France 44 Buffalo Trace Single Barrel. To those of you who think that brewing is all glamour and fame, think again. We learned first-hand the effort that goes into every pint you gulp. These guys put in long, hard days!

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Arriving just as the sun crested above the horizon, Matt threw on the tunes and quickly put us to work. Kegs were cleansed and rinsed. A variety of malts were selected for our grain bill, this had to be a BIG beer! What surprised me most through this process was how little dark and black malt is necessary to make a beer that pours black as night. Using a hand-drill powered mill, we learned the precision it takes to get a proper crush. Too little and you won’t release enough fermentable sugars, too much and you risk not being able to filter your wort properly. It was going to take three batches on the brewhouse to fill that barrel, so we had to get moving.

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Taking turns lifting buckets of milled grain up the ladder to mash-in, we then learned the correct mash paddle technique. From there on it was a frenzy: mash, lauter, boil, chill, whirlpool, transfer, repeat. Though our beautiful wort had yet to begin fermentation, I think we were all feeling a sense of accomplishment. The brewing process and all its variables were quite intriguing! Before we knew it, the day had passed and the sun was making its way across the western vista. Bill and I left the brewery smiling ear to ear, what a day it was! Props are due to former F44 beer guy Jake Wolf (say hello to him next time you’re at Steel Toe Brewing) as he outlasted us and made it to the very end of brew day. Now we had to wait…

Only the most undiluted, sugar-filled wort could be used to create a beer with the strength we desired, so we used just the uber-concentrated first runnings. This sugar-rich liquid was introduced to Wyeast’s 3711 French Saison yeast strain, the namesake for our brew. This versatile strain fermented vigorously, making the beer strong and dry, with a silky body. After fermenting out, the brew went to rest in our France 44 Buffalo Trace Bourbon Single Barrel for half a year. Just a handful of kegs resulted. Quite a bit of work for so little beer! Luckily for you, we will be pouring the final keg this Friday, July 7th from 4-6:30pm at the beer tasting bar. Stop in to have a chat with Fulton Ben, try our beer and all of Fulton’s stellar line-up. We hope to see you there!

Fulton Brewing

7 Fruit Beers You Should Be Drinking This Summer

So many breweries have been releasing fruit-infused beers lately that the France 44 beer cooler is starting to take on the feel of a smoothie shop. Close your eyes, point in any direction and chances are you’ll be looking right at one. A perfect companion for the steamy summer days ahead, these juicy brews deserve a spot in your fridge. Here are our favorites for the months ahead:

  1. Oskar Blues Fugli IPA – $9.49/6pk
  2. Lupulin Apricot Blonde Ale – $10.99/4pk(16oz)
  3. Indeed Peach Bum IPA – $10.99/6pk
  4. Schell’s Tidal Disruption Blackberry Berliner Weisse – $17.99/750ml
  5. 21st Amendment Blood Orange Brew Free or Die IPA – $8.99/6pk
  6. Stiegl Radler (Grapefruit or Lemon) – $8.99/4pk(16oz)
  7. Stillwater Insetto Dry-Hopped Plum Sour – $8.99/4pk

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit 4pk

Lawnmower Beers

A hard day’s work of lawncare and gardening must be rewarded with a refreshing beverage – beer! There are just a few ground rules to follow…

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Cloudy with a Strong Chance of Hops

Do you drink beer? If so, you have probably noticed the opaque, juice-like beer flowing from draft lines across the country. These aromatic, pulpy, hop-bomb IPAs are currently the hottest trend in beer, elevating some small brewers to near superstar status. But this popularity has its roots in a style that’s been brewed in New England for nearly fifteen years now. John Kimmich, owner of The Alchemist brewery in Vermont, has been brewing the famous Heady Topper IPA since 2004 – a stalwart on BeerAdvocate’s Top 10 list since 2011. Kimmich doesn’t filter or pasteurize his celebrated product. Heady packs fruit-bowl sensations and silky, seamless bitterness into an unassuming silver can.

Kimmich and other noteworthy New England brewers are viewing IPAs through a different lens. Throughout much of the 2000s the belief was that bitter is better. Brewers, chiefly from the west coast, were punishing palates by elevating IBUs (International Bitterness Units) to extraordinary levels. Beer connoisseurs were deemed worthy by summiting Mt. Bitterness at an elevation of 100+ IBUs. But this youthful league of east coasters have turned their back on bitterness, favoring intensely aromatic and flavorful hop character. A Boston Celtics – Los Angeles Lakers like rivalry has ensued.

It all comes down to how and when the hops are utilized. Hop flowers have compounds called alpha acids that are isomerized when added to boiling wort (the precursor to beer). This isomerization is what creates bitterness. Adding hops early extracts more bitterness, but less character. Late addition hops are retain more volatile aromatic and flavorful compounds in the beer, but contribute less bitterness. New England brewers have been crafting their IPAs by favoring the latter. Little attention is given to IBU levels, the goal being bright hop aromas, a full, juice-like mouthfeel, and low bitterness.

Where does the haze come from? It’s actually a byproduct of the methods used to create this flavor profile. East coast IPAs receive little bittering hop additions, with lots of late addition hops and aggressive dry-hopping. This regimen can be carried out to such a degree that the beer is inflicted with a permanent “hop haze,” caused by microscopic vegetable matter. Certain yeast strains will also encourage turbidity and produce fruity esters. The last step is minimizing or omitting filtration. Fining and filtering is important for shelf life and stability, but it can also strip particulates and proteins from beer that enhance mouthfeel and flavor. New England style IPAs are best consumed fresh, and if you can find one on shelves it probably hasn’t been there long anyway.

Once just a modestly popular regional specialty, New England IPAs are a sensation that is here to stay. Brewers from the Midwest and West coast have even hopped on the bandwagon, putting their own spins on the style. Though there are just a handful available in the Midwest at the moment, don’t expect it to stay that way. Here are some of our France 44 favorites:

Sixpoint Puff Cloudy Double IPA – $11.99/4pk

Modist Dream Yard IPA – $13.49/4pk

Lupulin Blissful Ignorance Double IPA – $11.99/4pk (this ultra-popular beer is hard to keep in stock–check with us next week!)

Insight East vs. West IPA – $12.49/4pk

Ballast Point Unfiltered Sculpin IPA – $14.99/6pk

 

 

Drinking Outside the Box

Do you occasionally find yourself stuck in a routine? Despite the great capacity of the human mind, we are capable of slipping into a state of comfortable apathy. You venture out for the weekly beer-run: grabbing the old stand-by IPA, a quaffing 12’er of lagers, perhaps a stout or porter to boot. The familiarity of these flavors soothes you into complacency.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with the tried and true approach. A well-worn path is smooth and easily traversed. But, do you wonder what you might be missing along the way? A new six pack of some weird style you hadn’t heard of? That bomber of a unique barrel-aged beer that was just outside your comfort zone? You are left wondering of what might have been. It’s time, I say, to “risk it for a biscuit.” Today’s craft brewers are creating some distinctly delicious beers that are breaking down conventional flavor barriers. Here are some of our favorite unique brews that are worthy of your attention.

Funkwerks Apricot Provincial – $9.99/4pk

The France 44 beer crew has been all aboard the Funkwerks train recently, with a compelling collection of farmhouse and sour ales that run with the best of ‘em. Apricot Provincial is a sessionable Belgian-style sour ale inoculated with lactobacillus. Fermented out with a Witbier yeast strain, the Provincial has a dry, spritzy shell that encapsulates juicy notes of apricot and lemon zest. Sweetness and acidity are in perfect harmony, this beer is the metaphorical transition to spring.

Prairie Artisanal Merica Farmhouse 4pk

Prairie ‘Merica Farmhouse Ale – $12.99/4pk

These Sooner State suds-makers have long been playing around with farmhouse ales. ‘Merica is a single hop, single malt farmhouse ale that is partially fermented with Brettanomyces. “Brett” can be a nightmare for most vineyards, but when used judiciously, it can be quite intriguing in beer! Hallertau hops open it up with bright citrus and the typical noble aromatics, underpinned by funky hay-like notes. A tropical character on the palate melds gently with the Brett’s temperament. A crisp whack of bitterness brings everything together.

Schneider Aventinus Eisbock 12oz

Schneider Aventinus Eisbock – $5.49/12oz

Eisbock – this German rarity has few examples, but deserves recognition! Beers of this category undergo a freezing process to separate out water, concentrating the other components, leading to increased strength. Freeze distillation can occur in beer because water has a lower freezing point than ethanol. This technique was (disputably) stumbled upon in Kulmbach, Germany when a barrel of bock beer was misplaced during an especially cold winter evening. Schneider’s Aventinus Eisbock clocks in at 12%, and boasts it beautifully. Aromas of plum, almond, and marzipan dance atop the much recognizable banana and clove notes found in German wheat beers. Its mahogany hue readies you for the full palate of banana bread, caramel, chocolate, molasses, rum cake, and nuts. This distinctive beer is nearly unparalleled.

Bent Paddle Imperial Kvass – $9.99/750ml

Kvass is a style with Slavic origin. It is most commonly made from rye bread and then flavored to the brewer’s choice, generally with fruits and mint. Though somewhat common in Russia and countries of the former Eastern Bloc, it is nearly impossible to find stateside. Bent Paddle’s iteration is of imperial strength and spiced with raisin, lemon peel, and spearmint. It shows a bright zestiness and full bready palate. You could say it kicks Kvass!

Dochter Charbon Smoked Vanilla Stout 22oz

De Dochter van de Korenaar Charbon Smoked Vanilla Stout – $9.99/22oz

Somewhat of an anomaly, Dochter is a Belgian brewery with an inclination towards American styles. Charbon is a dry stout flavored with Madagascar and Réunion vanilla beans as well as Weyermann oak smoked wheat malt. It pours an extremely dark brown, bordering on black, with a lacy mocha-hued head. Smoke-infused aromas of chocolate, mocha, treacle and liquorice. The mirroring flavors are enhanced by woodsy smoke and a coffee-like bitterness. The interplay of sweet and smoke is captivating.

Off Color Bare Bear Finnish-Style Sahti – $10.99/4pk

Sahti is one of the oldest surviving beer styles, and in true Finnish fashion, is typically brewed in a sauna. Juniper branches are used as the filter medium to separate wort from grain, and hops are rarely used. The Finns would use baker’s yeast to do the deed, resulting in banana bread-like qualities. On top of all this, they used obscure outdated brewing vessels which are most uncommon today. Bare Bear is brewed in a traditional format brew house, but Off Color makes up for it. Juniper berries are added to the mash of barley and rye, with oak staves used to impart some tannin. Woody, banana and dark fruit aromas complement a malty, sweet and spicy flavor profile.

Sociable Burn Out Cucumber Habañero Cider – $9.99/4pk

Thought I was just going to talk about beers, didn’t ya? Well here’s a cider that spits hot fire! Your expectations will be smoked when it hits your lips. Fresh Freewheeler Dry Apple is infused with macerated cucumbers and habañero peppers during the conditioning process. The pepper’s heat just barely scratches your throat before a wave of cucumber crashes in to soothe you. Any of my skeptical thoughts were quickly diminished. Sociable, you’ve made me a believer!

The Year of Beer: 2017’s Up-and-Comers

As we transition into 2017, there’s no better chance to reflect on how far craft beer has come, or where it is headed. Like most of the nation, Minnesota’s beer business is booming, with nearly 150 active breweries. Over the last five years beer production by volume has doubled. This rapid growth can be mostly attributed to a handful of breweries that opened between five and ten years ago, who are now in full stride, only slowed by supply, not demand. What breweries will you be seeing a lot more of in 2017 and beyond? Here are a few of our predictions.

Able Seedhouse + Brewery (c. 2015)

Able was founded less than two short years ago by a group of friends with aspirations of building things together by hand. In an age where people live with all the comforts brought by technology, they wanted to remind us all that we are Able. After setting up shop in a former GE light bulb factory, Able has been quick to pounce with a selection of beers on draft and two flagships beers packaged in cans. You may notice the word ‘Seedhouse’ in the title; the brewery has aspirations to one day perform all the malting necessary for their brewery operations in-house, a sort of farm-to-brewery business plan. Able has been forging relationships with local farmers to acquire small batches of grain, grown for flavor, not yield. Modern malting can be a complex process that is typically performed in large facilities with advanced technology. Able is planning to show that high-grade malt can be produced on a small scale. We look forward to seeing what’s on tap from this rising star in 2017!

  • Supergiant Golden Ale – This beauty is brewed with a bit of oats and lactose sugar, adding a light creamy sweet mouth feel with notes of pear and melon. Supergiant is clean and bright, ready to be your pal at moment’s notice.
  • First Light IPA – Yearning for an IPA that goes down easy? Look no further. First Light clocks in at 6.0% abv but drinks like a session IPA. Juicy aromas of tangerine and mango dance atop a cracker-y malt character. Deceptively light, with a crisp whack of bitterness on the finish.

***Stop by the France 44 Tasting Bar this Friday, Jan 13th from 4-6:30 p.m. to hang out with the Able crew and sample their fantastic flagships. ***

Modist Brewing (c. 2016)

Modist has flipped an old Morton’s salt factory into a gleaming, industrial space that features futuristic equipment capable of brewing categorically unique beer. What separates Modist from every other craft brewer in the US is how they separate wort from spent grain. Modist purchased a customized mash filter that acts similar to a French press, replacing the need for a lauter tun, which acts like a pour-over coffee filter. Why does this matter? There are a few benefits. Modist can utilize grain flour, which would otherwise clog conventional lauter tuns.  They can create beers that feature any grain in any ratio. Wheat, rye, oats, etc could all potentially serve as the base grain for a beer. A mash filter vastly improves their brewhouse efficiency, allowing them to brew the same batch as a traditional brewhouse, but requiring less hops, malt, and water. Because of their unique approach, Modist’s beers don’t fit into BJCP style guidelines. Come grab a Crowler from the France 44 specialty cooler and prepare yourself for an imaginative tasting experience!

  • First Call Cold Press Coffee LagerThis fair-hued, quaffable lager is here to trick your senses. Is that coffee? Yes, a punchy coffee aroma greets your senses like freshly ground beans. Soft grainy malt notes lay the base for notes of java, raisins, and caramel. The overall dry, crisp palate finishes with a delicate sweetness.
  • Toats Oat Pale Ale – This sessionable oat ale is comprised of almost 70% oats. White grapefruit and toasty oat aromas leap out of the glass. A big, creamy mouth feel from the oats lead to a citrus-driven hop finish.
  • Wasteland Rye IPA A hoppy, dark brew created with over 50% rye. Dense and malty in character, with a resinous, citrusy hop note. Dry, with a spicy rye finish.

Sisyphus Brewing (c. 2014)

Sisyphus, the man damned to push a rock up a hill for all of perpetuity. It sounds like an existence engulfed by struggles. But you won’t struggle to realize why this brewery has a bright future ahead. Brewer, co-founder and comedian, Sam Harriman, was a philosophy major as an undergrad, and found resonance with the myth. As part of the human condition, we all find ourselves in similar struggles. How do you create meaning with what’s in front of you? Brewing quality beer is one way to create opportunity. Batches have always been small, so the beer rarely makes it out of the taproom. Times they are a changin’ though. This week Sisyphus released their first bottled product:

*** Not only does Sisyphus pour a good pint, they double as one of the premier comedy venues in town. Check online for a list of upcoming acts and information on amateur night.***