dsc01171John Hoffoss is proof there is a god. Or, at least still some really nice and generous people out there willing to help out a lowly beer blogger and homebrewer like myself.

Got a brief email from Mr. Hoffoss last Monday with the simple subject line of “16 Grit”. It was nearly enough to make me jump right out of my chair. He said he found my blog, read my sad plea, and was open to sharing his single growler of it with me in exchange for some other good stuff, like Darkness. Only problem was, I’d of course guzzled down all my bombers (again, I’m not the most patient person in the world) and didn’t have any left to offer. No problem, he said. Just bring over something nice to share. 

A few days later I started my way over to John’s house in Minneapolis after work with some DFH 60 Minute, North Coast Old Rasputin and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2008 in tow. Seemed like a reasonable swap for some 16 Grit, especially considering some of my stuff wasn’t readily available in the Twin Cities and I had about zero chance of ever trying the new Surly offering again (barring any unforeseen changes in Surly’s production plans). However, before I left for the beer summit, I was sure to give my fiance John’s home address, link to his blog, and access to my email account in case I didn’t end up coming home and the cops needed a place to start looking. I envisioned Horatio Caine from CSI Miami slowly taking off his jet black sunglasses, staring at the ground with his “can’t look anyone in the eye while I turn every one of my lines into a matter of intense gravity” method of over-acting, and questioning my friends and family — “So, a fatal cocktail of beer and blogging. 16 Grit was rougher on this guy than he ever would have imagined. You play with the devil, you wake up in hell.” But, much as I suspected, turned out John was nothing but a scholar and a gentleman. And even cooler, a pretty avid homebrewer like me.  

dsc01173Once I got to John’s house and made nice with introductions, he walked me through his brewing operation, first showing me his really sleek mini kegerator he got for Christmas. Really cool, and even better, he’d already kegged his Belgian strong dark ale for all to enjoy. And enjoy I did. Seriously good stuff, especially considering John has only been homebrewing for about a year, with extracts to boot. I was very impressed with the quality of his brew. We checked out his cellar where he stores a number of his brews while they condition in the bottle, and took a look at his primary fermentation area, a corner of his basement where he’d constructed a light-resistant baffle for his wort to properly ferment without interruption from snooping pets or curious friends wondering why the bubbles keep coming up and out of that funny looking air lock thingy on the top of the 5 gallon pail. Smart.

As we discussed homebrew and enjoyed what was a remarkably solid Belgian strong dark ale, I realized I heard a faint voice coming from a closed-off back room of the house. “Oh, that’s my friend Tom, he’s live on talk radio commenting on the local political scene.” Really? Well, apparently Tom was Tom Elko, a name that vaguely rang a bell for me as a PR person in the Twin Cities. Tom had spent some time with our local NBC affiliate KARE-11, and was currently freelancing as an environmental/political reporter for some local media outlets, making him an expert on all things related to the ethanol industry and our governor Tim Pawlenty. Tom wandered into the room after his segment was over, looking for a refill of homebrew. We introduced ourselves, and immediately dove into a discussion on the degrees of narcissism related to blogging and posting on Twitter. The conversation took several turns from that point, evolving into the state of the local craft beer industry and why Dogfish Head’s cult following is cultivated through the use of compelling story hooks associated with each of their beers.

In the midst of all this discussion, we enjoyed Surly 16 Grit, poured from a growler with a fantastic rocky head. To say this beer is world class may be somewhat of an understatement. As is the Surly style, you’re assaulted right up front with a highly citric aroma, but it’s rounded off with a sweet caramel note. Actually reminiscent of a less potent version of DFH 120 Minute IPA. Absolutely fantastic. The taste is even better. Nothing short of ethereal. 130 IBU’s of the best DIPA you’ve ever had. A complete and pleasant mouthfeel, masking what is a dangerously potent 9% ABV. I very slowly savored each sip of the stuff, not wanting it to end.

We worked our way through most of the growler, at which point Tom decided to part ways. Too bad, because he missed out on what came next on the beer line-up, which included the aforementioned DFH 60 Minute, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2008 (ummm…phenomenal), and North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. About halfway through Old Rasputin, I was hit by something that I hadn’t felt in many, many years. The unfamiliar sensation of a jackhammer slamming me square in the forehead, signaling the advent of too much alcohol on my tiny little brain. I decided to just cut myself off right there, as I’d just enjoyed a sequential series of 9%, 6%, 13%, and 10% ABV brews in one short sitting. Wow. 

To put me back on the right track, John graciously heated up some leftovers from Chang Mai Thai (some of the best pad thai in the city) so I wouldn’t go home on an empty stomach, and we continued our boozey discussions of homebrewing and the local political scene.

I gotta say, a very cool night with some very cool people. Made even better with some fantastic beers enjoyed by those that truly appreciate what a good beer can really be. Look forward to the next beer summit with my new friends. Thanks again to John for sharing his 16 Grit.    

Rating: A+

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