Belgian Beer Fest

BeerGlass

One of the craft beer meccas in the Twin Cities also happens to be my personal favorite, and has been since I was an undergrad at St. Catherine’s. Tucked on a corner in St. Paul, I’m speaking of course about The Muddy Pig.

“The Pig”, as it’s known among my circle of friends, has been an honored favorite for years for the selection of beer and the friendly and knowledgable staff. As I started to get into craft beer back in 2010, the Pig was my spot to find something new and interesting, and to get solid recommendations. Whenever my friends and I want to grab a beer, the Pig is always a welcome choice (even if it means driving the distance over from Minneapolis).

The Pig is also known for their festivals that they hold throughout the year, the most recent of which was Belgian Beer Fest. I’d known about this for several weeks and secured a Boom Island Yule for them in advance, so I was especially excited to go and taste more Belgian beers. Here’s what I tried and the impressions that I got:

Prearis, Quad, De Proefbrouwerij, Oedehen, 10% – A golden-amber in color (keep in mind, bar lighting), this beer had a sweet candy-like flavor with a pleasant lingering finish. Its texture was thicker, somewhat like syrup, and evenly coated the inside of the mouth. The boozyness of this beer was very noticable on the nose and palate, yet I wasn’t affected by its prominent alcohol content. An interesting characteristic of the Prearis was the fact that it is comprised of 7 types of malt, 2 of which are chocolate. It resulted in an extremely pleasing and complex beer, one that I will certainly keep my eyes open for in the future

Lupus Wolf 7, Belgian Pale Ale, Brouwerij Wolf, 7.4% – As the next beer I tried, this was quite different from the Prearis. With a very light body and clean finish, this beer was easy to consume. With bubblegum on the nose and in its flavor, the Lupus also had hints of stone fruit along with the hops coming forward towards the end of the experience.

He Said, Tripel, 21st Amendment, 8.2% – This beer was not one I selected to try but happened to sample thanks to the generosity of my drinking companions. Brewed with pumpkin, this beer had prevalent spice in its aromas and flavor. The pumpkin flavor was especially noticeable, but rather than being sweet, this pumpkin was savory and actually tasted real. I enjoyed the beer for what it was, but favored other options on the menu.

Goudon Carolus, Cuvee, Van De Keizer Blauw, 11% – Thank God (literally) for Belgian beers. The first thing that entered my head as I tasted this was Berry boozy!”. The Goudon had very prominent fruit in the entire experience, and to me could be thought of as having an almost jam-like quality and sweetness. With a full, thick texture and candy-like flavors, this is a beer that I befriended very quickly. It’s one I will certainly be buying for myself when I come across it at a liquor store.

St. Feuillien Speciale, Belgian Strong Dark, Brasserie St. Feuillien, 9% – This beer distinctly stood out from the others that we were sampling. Immediately upon taking in the nose and with my first sip, I was greeted with prominent notes of anise & orange. The texture was thin which coupled well its clean body overall. As the beer warmed, notes of stone fruit emerged with hints of molasses & cinnamon. The St. Feuillien was certainly a beer that showcases spice and stood out among the others, and was one I enjoyed. For those who are not as fond of spice beers and anything related to anise, I would suggest not selecting this beer. 

Piraat, Belgian Strong Pale Ale, Brouwerij Van Steenberge, 10.5% – Upon coming to the Piraat, this beer was a bit different from the others I’d tried. Immediately, I picked up on just a touch of funkyness, likely made more obvious to me after consuming a number of beers that were sweeter in flavor. The Piraat was slightly bready and had subtle fruityness (mostly apple) and bubblegum that I noticed in its flavor profile. The body on this beer was mild and had a bit of a lingering finish. Personally, I’m still warming to beers with the funk quality in them, but I found this beer to be nonetheless an interesting and enjoyable experience to drink.

Val-Dieu, Triple, Brasserie de l’Abbaye du Val-Dieu, 9%  – The Val-Dieu was a good follow-up to the Piraat, which also showcased a touch of funk in its profile. With a dry texture, this beer had a distinct pear flavor throughout. Light in body and with a clean finish, the Val-Dieu was a beer that had wine-like qualities to it, and was one I enjoyed trying. 

Saxo, Blonde, Brasserie Caracole, 8% – The citrus is strong in this one. With prominent lemon, the Saxo blonde sported a noticeable tartness with hints of sweetness hidden behind the it. It’s light body lended itself to being an easy beer to consume, and it ended with a dry finish. This was a pleasant beer that I would likely prefer more in warmer weather.

Millstream Raspberry Blonde, 9.2% – This beer was practically dessert. Light & fruity, “airy” texture, very drinkable. I say airy as one might compare eating a tart or coffee cake like eating a “cloud” (or maybe that’s just me). This beer is pure joy in a glass. Extremely drinkable and flavorful, we ended the night on a good note. 


Overall Experience – It was a treat to hang out at the Pig and enjoy a wide variety of Belgian beer that would likely be difficult to find anywhere else. The experience alone makes you appreciate the extensive range of flavors that can emerge out of a particular style of beer. Granted, there are many styles that fall under the umbrella of “Belgian beers”, but still, the diversity among them is still impressive. You might try four tripels, but each one will show its unique personality. It’s events like these that are really eye-opening and, for me personally, are extremely interesting.

Also – special thanks to my drinking buddies for being willing to share their beers with me, although it was practically necessary given the high ABVs of the entire menu…

The Beginning

MNLandscape
The northern Minnesota landscape is as vast & unknown as 2016

I think it’s safe to say that this year got off with a bang. Or in my case, given who my employers are, a boom.

2016 immediately proved to be a year of change, especially as Boom Island became partnered with Clear River Beverage Company as of January 1st. This meant that my position as a Boom Island sales rep ceased to exist, but instead, I was shifted into a marketing position. In addition to assisting with the transition for my customers, I was also wrapping my head around organizing myself for the new job. Luckily, from my “office”, beer is readily accessible…

But as for the actual start of 2016, it proved a fitting way to ease into a new year and calm my nerves about the unknown ahead. As I’m not one for big, flashy parties on New Year’s, I wandered over to one of my favorite bars, the Pig & Fiddle, where the staff and I have grown from acquaintances to friends during my time as a sales rep. Upon arriving, I was immediately handed a beer shot (it’s exactly what it sounds like) accompanied with the toast of “You’re my rep for 2 more hours.” 12:01AM rolled around and I was given my 2nd beer shot to ring in the New Year. Then approximately 15 minutes after that, I was gifted a consolation beer shot with a saracastic “Oh hey, former rep” directed my way. As I downed the shot, I rolled my eyes at the bartender who gave me a teasing wink in return.

Despite being slightly apprehensive about the oncoming weeks (typical of my nature as the perpetual worrier), seeing the New Year arrive among new friends was the best reminder of the support that I’d built throughout 2015, and I knew that it would carry over into 2016. I may have met these people through work, but I’ve found that work is where some of my closest friendships form. Maybe I won’t see my contacts as frequently now that I have a new role at Boom Island, but I know that these connections will continue beyond the transition. I’ve promised to keep in touch with many people, and I intend to see those promises through.

And so 2016, let’s see where you go. You came in roaring, and so I only have one thing to say back to you:

This blonde is ready. Bring it on.


 

To read more about the recent partnership with Clear River Beverage Company, have a visit to the Boom Island blog.