Wednesday, May 14, 2008


There’s a bar-restaurant not far from where we live called Granite City. It’s become a chain and so the "micro-brewery" in back isn’t really one, because the chain, in total, brews more than 50,000 barrels of beer a year. On the other hand, the setup in each place is micro-brewery in style, because they make beer in each bar-restaurant. The master brewer in the St. Louis Park one has become my source for micro-breweries. Kevin has a degree in chemistry and in biology, and actually persuaded his biology professor to allow the class to make beer one semester. His interest, you see, is both professional and passionate, a marvelous combination!

I had lunch there yesterday – their Asian chicken salad is to die for – and took advantage of a beverage offer they have. Instead of a glass of beer, they will bring out six small glasses of different beers. I’m not a beer drinker, mostly because I don’t like the bitter flavor of hops. But this is research. As I’ve been saying, a character in the novel I’m writing owns a micro-brewery. So sitting at Granite City, enjoying a delicious salad, talking with the master brewer, and tasting six very different kinds of beer is a tax-deductible research expense. Have I mentioned (more than five or six times) than I love my work?

Starting with the darkest, I tasted Broad Ax Stout first. This beer is almost black. The head is meager and cream-colored. It has a thick, creamy texture, and there are undertones of something like coffee or maybe chocolate. Kevin says this is entirely a product of the malt (roasted barley) and the yeast – different mixes produce different flavors. The stout wasn’t as hoppy as some stouts – Guiness almost bites your tongue off.

Next was Brother Benedict’s Bock, a dark copper color. I almost liked this one, it was not very hoppy at all, and had a "malty," roast-grain flavor that was very nice.

Then came a blend of Bock and a light lager, a copper-colored beer that was, well, beer. Have I mentioned that these are all Granite City’s own beers?

Then Duke "IPA" – India Pale Ale, a light copper beer that had a distinctly citrus flavor, very refreshing and unusual. I was sure there was a grapefruit peel in its background, but Kevin says nope.

Then the golden Spring Ale, fresh from the fermentation vessel, a light-colored beer that had a taste that actually made me think of grass and flowers.

Last was the Northern Light Lager, which was extremely pale in color, light in flavor, and seemed to be about half ginger-ale. This is a beer for people who don’t like beer.

Interestingly, there is only about one or one-and-a-half percent difference in alcohol level between the darkest and lightest of these beers.

The reason I am late posting this morning is because we are having our carpets cleaned and I was so busy shoving furniture around last night, I forgot all about writing a post.

And I apologize to those of you who know, somewhat vaguely, that there is a beverage called beer, and don’t wish to know more about it.


BeadKnitter said...

Very interesting information. I have a brother in law who makes beer. Now I know why some of it tastes so horrible I wanna throw up, and some of it is nectar of the gods.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Actually, Monica, when I drank a portion of the free pint offered at the Guinness factory soon to be closed (ARGH!) in Scotland, I didn't find it to bite my tongue off. I found that I had no tongue, no limbs, no will...that stuff's strong!

Camille Minichino said...

You can make even beer sound interesting, Monica.

I remember being in Milwaukee once and people was with had that sampler of 12 tiny steins. I asked if they would do that with the dessert menu, but they declined!

Monica Ferris said...

Joanna, did you know that British physicians used to prescribe Guinness to their pregnant patients? Guinness had (has?) a slogan: Guinness is GOOOD for you!

Oh, Camille, a sampler dessert, what a gorgeous idea!

Beadknitter, Kevin says the real secret of good beer is *extreme* cleanliness. Everything washed, sanitized, rinsed thoroughly, and covered. Everything.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Oh, no, Joanna. We missed the Guinness tour and hoped to go back again to take it. The factory's closing???
I, for one, love a nice, hearty beer.

Sheila Connolly said...

Love it, love it (the post, not the beer). I used to live near a John Harvard brewpub which offered the same sampler. And recently a friend introduced me to a New Jersey liquor store where you could assemble your own six-pack of micro-brewery bottles, so you could taste whatever you wanted. Sad to say I don't live in New Jersey.

And isn't this kind of research wonderful? I plan to introduce a new restaurant into my fictional town in a later book in my forthcoming Orchard Series, using artisanal foods. Of course I have to do research! Let's see, how many restaurants can I check out...