Millstream Brewing


Maybe I’m deviating a bit from my “Marta Drinks MN” motto for a moment as I’m writing today about beer from Millstream Brewing out of Amana, Iowa. But, I was drinking it at Grumpy’s NE, so I was, in some way, still drinking MN. I’m betting Pat would back me up on this.

Having made fast friends with the guys at Clear River (our distributor), I’ve heard a lot about unique beers and other beer events happening in the area. While out with one of the reps last week, I overheard that a special firkin of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Back Road Stout from Millstream was going to be served that Friday at Grumpy’s. As it turned out,¬†Millstream owner Theresa was going to be visiting town and Grumpy’s NE had agreed to feature several Millstream taps as the beers of the night for Friday. Making a mental note, I planned to visit Grumpy’s that Friday to try a few Millstream beers, especially this PB&J stout.

At 4pm on Friday, I headed up University to meet with Clear River and Theresa at Grumpy’s. Having this PB&J stout in my head for several days, I immediately ordered a pour, very eager to find out what it tasted like. The Back Road Stout is a regular offering from Millstream, and this was a dressed-up version for the occasion.

This beer did not disappoint. I was greated with smooth chocolate notes and a perfect hint of peanut butter, very well balanced, but what surprised me the most was the prominent raspberry flavor. For me, the raspberry really completed the beer and made it taste very much like peanut butter with raspberry jelly. With enticing flavors and a very smooth body, I had to remind myself to savor the beer, and not down it in one gulp.

The next beer after the PB&J Back Road Stout was one that I was somewhat apprehensive about, but after hearing reports from the guys, I decided to go with it. Millstream makes a witbier called John’s White Ale, but this one had been aged on Jack Daniels whiskey barrels and was cleverly named John Meets Jack. I wasn’t entirely convinced that a witbier aged on whiskey barrels would taste very good, but Theresa insisted. “We just decided to give it a try and see what happens,” she said. “And it turned out really good!”

She was right. The added dimension of whiskey gave this beer a nice boozy quality while still retaining the lighter flavors typical of a witbier, all combined in an incredibly smooth texture. Like the PB&J, this is a beer that could’ve disappeared fast. I never would have imagined that a whiskey barrel-aged witbier could taste so good, and now it’s the only thing I want to drink. Of the two beers, I think I have to say this one was my favorite… but it’s a really tough call.

It was a great evening of good beer, friends and making new friends – Theresa was a delight to talk to! If you happen to be down in Iowa, plan a detour over to Millstream and see what they’re all about. You won’t be disappointed.

Post Script – to round out my weekend, I then enjoyed a bottle of the infamous Ride the Wendigo by Clownshoes that I’d had over at The Happy Gnome along with the Chokolat by Southern Tier, both split in the good company of another craft beer fanatic. It was a beer-filled Saturday to follow Friday, but hey, that’s what weekends are for.

The Fun in Beer

Girl Scout Cookie Flight + Beer Pairing at Sisyphus Brewing

Sometimes, beer can get serious. Maybe a bit too serious. We can sometimes fall into the habit of critiquing beer too much – analyzing the flavors, aromas, texture and more – and in doing so, we can forget to simply enjoy having a beer in the first place.

This past week I got to attend two events in which all the seriousness of beer got put aside for a moment, and I had the opportunity to just enjoy beer in some unique settings. These events were the Girl Scout Cookie Flight + Pairing at Sisyphus, and the Clown Shoes Barrel-Aged Madness takeover at The Happy Gnome.

When I first heard about the Girl Scout Cookie Flight at Sisyphus, I was immediately determined to go. Not only did it combine two of my favorite things (beer and cookies), but the concept was just fun. Who wouldn’t want to go sample Girl Scout Cookies paired with beer? I didn’t want to miss out, and made my way over to see just how well cookies and beer can go together.

And the experience of tasting Girl Scout Cookies with beer? Surprisingly good! The staff set out the beer flight and a pre-arranged plate of cookies, and instructed guests how to try the two together. In sampling the cookies and beer, it almost seemed as if the beer had been brewed with this particular Girl Scout cookie flight in mind! The flavors of the beer nicely complimented those in the cookies themselves, and it was a great way to spend time after work. My favorite was the Winter Warmer paired with a caramel samoa – the right amount of spice in the beer with the sweetness in the cookie resulted in the perfect pairing.

The next event was the Clown Shoes Barrel-Aged Madness at The Happy Gnome. After being tipped off by my friends at Clear River (thanks, guys) and hearing hype from them about it for several weeks, I knew I needed to check this event out. And what an event it was…

The “lightest” beer on the Clown Shoes barrel-aged menu was 11%. I opted to play it safe and ordered that option, which was the Ride the Wendigo, a Scotch Ale aged in cognac barrels. The beer was incredibly smooth and could have gone down real easy, but I know better than that and slowly savored it over conversation with the Clear River group. Other beers that were featured included Itasca Loonidragon (Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels), The Entertainer (American Amber barrel-aged in cabernet barrels), Crasher in the Rye (Imperial Stout aged in rye & bourbon barrels), Extremely Angry Beast (an Imperial Stout concoction), Flight of the Angry Beast (American Strong Ale, another mix of multiple beers), Space Cake (double IPA), and Moses and the Misfits (Imperial Cream Ale).

I should add that this is not to say that barrel-aging beer is not serious. In fact, I’m sure it is quite the opposite given that the brewer needs to determine what beer would age and develop well in what particular barrel. But the experience of tasting the result – big, strong, flavorful beers – is just fun in itself.

So drinking beers with ABV that’s only in the double digits? Eating cookies that were intentially paired with beer? I’ll take it – that all sounds like a good time to me!