When you get the opportunity to try some of not only the best, but rarest beer in the world, you take it. That opportunity came up this past weekend as I attended the Northern Lights Rare Beerfest thanks to my good friend Karl and our gracious host Mike who opened his home to us as we visited the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
This post will heavily venture to the nerdy side so bare with me and I will try to explain in the process.
In the world of craft beer some brewers and breweries have developed near cult like followings of fans due to their regular and special renditions. Some beers, because the breweries are not hell bent on dominating the market, only brew so much every year. In some cases they are even limited on the resources that they use or the space they have available for brewing. For these reasons and others some of the best these breweries have to offer can significantly limit the supply. Couple that with the fact that so many of these brews are barrel aged and tie up valuable real estate in the barrel warehouses for as many as three years and it is no wonder they can be hard to come by.
When I first got the invite I was a bit hesitant. I had not yet attended an event of this magnitude. At some level I knew that if I went, I was fully committing to official beer nerd status. Then again, I have a blog on the topic so I think I already made that commitment some time ago. At $100.00 plus food for the weekend, beers that i may buy at some of the great liquor stores in the area (Thanks Mike! And check out his blog too!) and time away from my wonderful family, it was a reasonable investment. Needless to say, it was well worth it! When I think about the quantity and quality of the beers available (unfortunately I could not try them all) it is hard to believe it was not more expensive in some ways. Check out the program for the full lineup at http://www.rarebeerfest.com
So when we arrived (30 mins prior to the doors opening) there was an estimated 350 people or so in front of us! Looks like we lost ultra-nerd status. No worries though, we had a plan, as soon as grabbed our snifters we would bolt straight for the 3rd floor, the home of the very rare Ardea Insignis from Central Waters and Mornin’ Delight From Toppling Goliath. In an orderly fashion we grabbed our snifters and then made our way to the three flights of stairs. We made quick work of them two at a time to arrive at the 3rd floor where a line had already formed at approximately sixty people deep. That line quickly developed to over an estimated 150 in short order. Waiting in line, as we made some progress forward, some people were coming out of the fray with a relatively light pour in their snifters. Occasionally you would get a sweet, bourbonesqe scent wafting by. The anticipation was growing. Finally we rounded the corner and we received our pours. A full 1 second of open tap. Considering the Ardea Insignis is a 3 year aged Imperial Stout and that Central Waters does not brew it in large quantities, it was sufficient for a good taste. Not only that, it is arguably one of the most sought after beers in the nation right now after winning best beer in America at the rate beer awards.
The initial smell confirmed what my nose had only hinted at just minutes earlier, a sweet stout laced bourbon aroma. The first sip was quite an impressive assault on my taste buds, sweet, yet highly complex with chocolate, some hints of coffee and of course some slight vanilla laced bourbon capped with a slightly boozy finish. It was a sense of accomplishment. I had now tasted all the rarest beers that Central Waters has offered in the last two years.
After the Ardea Experience, we quickly moved into the line for Mornin’ Delight. Talk about an amazing brew. Heavy coffee aroma followed by complex semi sweet coffee, chocolate and maple like notes.
After checking in another half dozen or so beers we made it to the Surly booth where we had the opportunity to sample a true gem. Surly brought out a version of Barrel Aged Darkness but not your run of the mill bourbon, whiskey, or brandy barrel aging process. This one was barrel aged in virgin oak barrels with tart cherries. Loads of complexity were present in this beer and it was one of the best of the evening.
Prior to this event I had only rated one beer Five Stars on Untappd. That total grew to four beers by the end of the evening with each of the three I have mentioned here making that prestigious leap. If you have the chance to sample any of these please take it to understand craft brewing at its finest.
To cap off the evening, I had the opportunity to chat with Anello Mollica, head brew master and co-owner of Central Waters. He is an excellent guy who is down to earth and willing to talk beer with most anyone. Stay on the lookout for more news on this topic in the future.
For a full run down on all of my beers tasted that evening feel free to look me up on Untappd under Stout Central. Send me a request to connect if you are interested.