Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Duluth or Superior? You decide.

You may have the noticed the unusually long lag time between the last couple posts. While it could be attributed to generally laziness (it wouldn't be the first time), it's actually because I was engrossed in some in-depth research for Capitol Brewhaha. While covering politics is certainly amusing, it is no where near as fulfulling as the effort it takes to find and learn about beer.

Case Study One: Norshore
My research first took me to Duluth and, more impressively, Superior, WI. I was dragged up north by a friend of mine who is soon to be married and wanted to usher out his single days where, I'm told, many of his better ones were spent. A visit to Duluth-Superior is not complete of course without a cashew burger and a fine beer at the Anchor Bar in Superior. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for New Glarus beers, I ordered a Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing. As the saying goes, when in Wisconsin....The more I drink this the more I enjoy it--it's a great session beer, and perfectly accommodates just about any meal.

I was anxious to continue my studies back at our weekend accommodations, where my keg of homebrew was finally going to be tapped. But thanks to the persistence of Altronix, a stop at Twin Ports Brewing was in order. Let me take this opportunity to say that the next time you're in the Duluth-Superior area and looking for some great microbrews, please pass right on by Fitger's Brewhouse, cross the bridge and go to Superior. Both have great beers, but the commitment to service and the happiness of their customers is on a much higher level at TPB.

Case in point: TPB doesn't normally don't open for business until 4pm on weekdays, so when our party of 12 pulled up at about 3:30pm, and employee (manager?) Steve Knauss was locking up and leaving the parking lot, after apparently just checking on some of the beer, we thought we were screwed. But no, he rightly sees the potential, turns around and opens the bar early. He proceeds to gives us free samples to help us decide what to order and puts on some good tunes, ensuring us that our satisfaction is his top priority. But the cherry on top was a private tour of the brewery. Granted, it consisted of standing in their one room brew room and him explaining the brewing process to us, but it was by far the best and most complete tour I've ever had. While I wish I could give you more insight into their beer--their amber ale sticks out in my mind as amazing--but really, the amazing quality of the beer was surpassed but the top notch service we received.

Compare this to Fitgers, who despite being told on several occasions over several weeks that a group of 20 was headed their way on this particular night, and subsequently giving us assurances that they could accommodate us, in the end, they couldn't. They didn't even try. Nope, they were understaffed on this Saturday night, and I guess didn't need our money. Needless to say, we ended up somewhere else for dinner.

But I digress. Back to that homebrew. I had agonized over transporting a five gallon keg of beer 150 miles, leaving it sit in a hot car for 4 hours, all the while keeping it cold. This was accomplished by keeping it in a garbage can with--get this--ice. Amazing stuff, this frozen water. Still, 7 weeks of cleaning and waiting and bragging, and the pressure is on. Literally. We got back to the resort we were staying at--nice blinds BTW--and I hooked the keg up to the CO2 tank, adjusted the pressure, and let it flow.

My heart raced, because the last time I sampled it, it was a bit off. Tasted a little moldy and mildewy. But this time? The time that mattered? The Bitter End was perfect. The smell was full of hops with caramel undertones. Even though I wasn't really sure how much pressure to put on it, the carbonation was right on, giving it a nice head and a velvety appearance. But what really made the difference? The taste. It was thick and chewy, and that hint of wet cardboard was washed away by the hops (although even my hop-timid friend JL had two glasses, so I knew it wasn't too over-the-top). The only problem with the beer was the amount; 5 gallons doesn't last too long at a party, and it was cashed by night fall.

Many more beers were sampled over the course of the weekend, but none could match the quality (and experience) at Twin Ports Brewery or the personal touch offered by The Bitter End. And that concludes the Norshore Case Study. Results? Duluth is a fine city to drink beer in, but don't neglect Superior.

Up next: Case Study Two: Munster, IN

4 comments:

saintpaulcave dweller said...

mmmmm... "nice head and velvety appearence"

moo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

ALWAYS pick Superior. Duluth is overrated. Wisconsinites know their beer.

cadigan@umn.edu said...

Oh Eric....the stories I have about the Anchor. Other Superior bars, too, but I spent more time at the Anchor than in class while in college. Love your site! xo