If you haven’t been over to Kramarczuk’s in Northeast Minneapolis, I recommend you go as quickly as you can.

It’s a fantastic little neighborhood sausage maker, bakery and restaurant all wrapped into one. They’ve been making some of the best sausages this side of the Mississippi since 1954, and have truly made a name for themselves as a Minneapolis landmark. This last weekend, several of us got together for a little spring cook-out, and my friend tossed Kramarczuk’s andouille and curried brats on the grill. It was seriously some of the best stuff I’ve ever had. And paired with two incredible IPA’s and a nice imperial stout,  you couldn’t really ask for a better evening. Here’s the rundown on the beers:

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Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

This is a fantastic and unique blend of a Belgian IPA/Tripel from Brasserie d’Achouffe. Pours with a big yeasty head, with all kinds of champagne-like carbonation escaping from the beautiful lemonade colored beer below. The hops are certainly there in the nose, but the yeast also plays a nice role, kind of like each knows their place in the symphony. Some apple and pear notes come through as well.

Taste is magnificent. Unlike the nose, which trends more to the IPA side, you get more of the sweet malty tripel effect combined with some of the yeast and alcohol. A spicy finish that keeps you coming back for more. Really one of the more complex and well-balanced beers I’ve had in a long time. I’m hoping Alvey at the Four Firkins still has some of this in stock.   

Rating: A 

dsc01883Southern Tier Oak-Aged Unearthly Imperial IPA

As if Houblon Chouffe didn’t impress me, along comes Southern Tier with its enormously complex Oak-Aged Unearthly Imperial IPA.

My wine conoisseur friend, who has one of the more finely tuned palates I know of, couldn’t get over how well the oakiness came through like a fine wine. Not too much, but perfectly balanced with the combination of piney hops and caramel malt.

Pours with a great amber coloring, not a big head but you still get a great nose of the oak and hops. Taste is extraordinary, just so much going on. At once you get the big malt backbone, some caramel, maybe a little vanilla. Then the oak coats your mouth as the bittering hops come back in full force. Very thick and dense mouthfeel, something you just want to savor for hours.

Rating: A 

dsc01897Boulevard Smokestack Series Imperial Stout

One of Boulevard’s offerings in their Smokestack Series, and I’d have to say probably not my favorite of the bunch.

Pours with a jet black coloring, not much head, but a chocolately aroma mixed with possibly some licorice or molasses. A smoky quality in the taste, which I didn’t pick up in the nose. The sweet malt balances the bittering hops, but you do get a somewhat dry finish. Mouthfeel was a little thin, considering the style. But a decent imperial stout, nonetheless. I’d like to try it on its own sometime, instead of following a couple other big beers.

Rating: B

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