Darkness and 16 Grit

Darkness and 16 Grit

The scene at Stub & Herb’s was raucous for Surly Tasting Night. 

Patrons packed into every available booth, standing two and three deep at the bar, and hovering over high-top tables sipping on one of eight Surly offerings on draught — Mild, Furious, Cynic, Bender, Coffee Bender, Smoke, 16 Grit and of course Darkness. It’s not often you’re granted access to such a wide variety of Surly stuff all at once. So when you get the opportunity, you need to take advantage of it. And by the increasingly intoxicated sounds of the pub as the night wore on, people certainly were.

I met my friend Ryan there who had thankfully already secured a booth for us. We perused the formidable craft beer menu, knowing full well we’d both just end up ordering Darkness to kick off our evening anyway. When the waitress arrived, I threw my friend a curveball and opted for the 16 Grit, which ended up being especially tasty on draught, even better than a fresh growler. Nicely hopped, a hefty malt backbone that lent some balancing sweetness, and a smooth finish that made you think for a moment that you weren’t actually drinking what was likely a 9% ABV double IPA.

My friend, a Darkness virgin, philisophically stared at his glass with each slow pull of the imperial stout. He couldn’t get over what a complex ale it was, at the same time mind-bendingly malty while also offering a surprisingly nice touch of hops in the nose. He ordered a second one after he worked his way through the first, just to make sure it qualified as one of the best beers he’d ever had.

We pressed on, ordering several others including Smoke, which seemed to go well with my simple burger and fries, and Cynic, which made my friend quickly realize that his palette had been destroyed by the crushing weight of Darkness. It’s a tough act to follow, no matter what beer it is.

Coincidentally ran into some craft beer-loving high school friends I hadn’t seen in more than a decade, including Brian over at East-Lake.net (nice work on eight years of blogging, by the way). He posted a nice write-up on his evening, as well.

Fun night all around. Darkness made such an impression on my friend we decided to try our hands at brewing our own version of it this weekend. Definitely going to do a double mash on this one to get the gravity as high as I can (this 5 gallon mash tun thing is getting old). I’ll let you know how it goes.      

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I felt a little like we crashed the study party when a handful of us walked into Acadia Cafe on the West Bank of the U of M campus last night for our inaugural First Tuesday Beer Club meeting. Undergrads seated around pub tables with open books spread about, quiet conversations about the day’s lecture. A relaxed and scholarly environment mixed with the faint smell of hops and quality craft beer.

Calling our rendezvous a “meeting” might be a little formal. The small group was really a spin-off from a larger wine tasting circle, consisting of seven guys who realized that they all maybe enjoyed drinking and talking about beer slightly more than they do wine (maybe I’m just speaking for myself). After our last wine event, we decided to meet up at Acadia to test drive a few of their offerings, informally calling our gathering the First Tuesday Beer Club. But unlike the more rigid and structured wine events where scoring and extensive tabulations took place, we were just going to drink good quality craft beer and nod our heads in approval when we liked something. Maybe a few grunts mixed in for good measure.

We started the night with Surly Mild. I’d actually never seen this one on tap before, and was very eager to give it a shot. The menu described it as an English-style dark mild ale that resembled a malty version of iced tea. And that really wasn’t too far off. Given it was Surly, I was very surprised at just how little was really going on with this one. Barely noticeable aroma (save for the small hint of toffee), relatively nondescript taste, and thin mouthfeel. What immediately came to mind after taking a few sips of Mild was “session beer.” At 4.2% ABV, there’s no way anyone was going to have four or five or twelve of these and be in any danger of stumbling home. While this is probably a good stylistic example of a lighter English-style ale, it’s definitely the least favorite Surly offering I’ve had (Rating: C+).

The rest of the night went something like this:

Southern Tier Gemini Double IPA (far and away the crowd favorite – Rating: A-)
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA (so-so, pretty drinkable but compared to Gemini a little lower on the IPA scale – Rating: B)
Anchor Bock (very good…I’m not a big lager guy so I was pleasantly surprised – Rating: B+)
North Coast Old Rasputin (I’d had this in the bottle before, and was even more impressed with it on draught – Rating: A)
Saison Dupont Organic Farmhouse Ale (ick…something medicinal and uninviting about this one – Rating: C+)
Bell’s Sparkling Tripel 2007 (solid example of a Belgian tripel…yeasty up front with a nice, sweet finish – Rating: B+)
Bell’s Cherry Stout (enjoyable, nice way to cap off the night – Rating: B)

We each had our share, and ponied up the $8 per guy to settle the tab (seriously…I think they must have forgotten to put a couple pitchers on the bill). Next stop on the First Tuesday beer tour…The Muddy Pig. See everyone there.