Monday, December 21, 2015

Time For Grand Rounds! Grand Rounds Brew Pub

I never thought I'd be so excited to go to Grand Rounds.  As a Medical Doctor, I look back at much of my schooling with a thankfully distant sleep-deprived haze of ambiguity.  While I value the experiences and the things I learned during those years, it was punishing on the body and mind.  Nearly every week (depending on what rotation you were on) you were expected to go to Grand Rounds--usually a complicated learning case study presented in front of the other doctors.  These were usually open to the entire medical staff and required you to get in to the hospital even earlier (4-5AM) to see all those patients on the floor before making your way to the lecture hall.  On at least one occasion I had to personally present a case in front of all my resident peers, attending physicians, and more.  I'm a bit of a social-phobe, so this was quite upsetting to me.  Long story short (to late!) when I heard that Rochester, MN--the home of Mayo Clinic--had a brewery called Grand Rounds I had to try it out!

On this rainy fall day we drove into town and went straight to Grand Rounds Brewpub for an early day tasting.  The brewpub is located right downtown near a couple of other pubs and speakeasys, and across from part of the medical center.  The huge old solid building was built in 1866 (one of the oldest in Rochester) as a bank, and still retains some of its early trappings.  Entering the front door there's a host stand (empty this time of day) directly in front of you.  Entry to Tessa's Office (a super cute little upscale wine shop next door with wine on tap) is directly to the right, but was closed at this early hour.  To the left you enter into the very spacious pub area, filled with tables and chairs as well as plenty of seating along the bar.  An attractive stainless steel tap set-up behind the bar provides many different beers for tasting, and eclectic frames above the bar display the current tap-list.

Some of the fancy light fixtures are actually from the old Mayo building!  Our server on this day (Tap Room Manager Kelly Griffin) was kind enough to take us and another interested couple on a quick tour of the place as well.  The brewery itself is a 7 barrel affair using tall skinny wine fermenters nestled just behind the bar and visible through glass. Past the bar is a another large sectioned-off room for special events.  Then down some stairs into a darker low-ceilinged accessory lounge.  Beyond that was a veritable catacomb of hallways, storage, refrigeration, and even closed-off old tunnels that once led to Mayo!  This was one of the most interesting brewery tours I've been on, so thanks much for making the time for us!

Being a brewpub, Grand Rounds has food, and quite an impressive looking menu.  We got a big order of duck nachos to go with our beers and it was very good.  I imagine the rest of the food is good as well.  While sipping beers and eating our food, we also got to meet the very pleasant Tessa Leung, the Chief Operations Manager for the pub (and I'm assuming the brains behind Tessa's Office next door!)

How about the beers?  Well, I took copious notes for your reading pleasure!  We tried all the beers, 11 in all, including one infusion and one cask offering.  A huge variety for such a young brewery, and arranged with care by Kelly in best tasting order.  I'll give my quick notes and rating of 0-5.  I'll happily drink a 3, I'll search out a 4, and hoard a 5 beer.

1) KA Minnesota Kolsch--made with local honey from The Bee Shed.  I get light pear esters, honey sweetness, light sulfur nose.  Crisp with a light hopping (don't believe it is 72 IBU!)  3.5

2) 10,000 Lakes Sommerweiss--Very bright lemon, hint of esters like mild banana.  No clove phenols.  A bit of spicy wheat malt.  Hops present but in the background.  Well done. 3.75

3) CSI--Citra Session IPA--Aroma is crazy Citra cat box mixed with tropical fruit.  Fruity.  Dry.  Slightly astringent finish.  Tasty and easy to drink.  3.75

4) Grapefruit Rind Infused CSI--This has serious grapefruit aroma!  Bite-y and brisk flavor.  Actually overall a bit more mellow than the regular CSI.  Tastes like a Radler.  Still a hint of astringency on finish.  Body seems increased.  Head fades quick.  Tart.  3.5

5) Hop Bollocks Session IPA--Not much aroma.  Better body than CSI.  Pine and lemon flavors. Finish a bit astringent.  Nice overall.  3.5

6) Nelson IPA--Made with New Zealand Nelson hops 7.3% ABV, 75 IBU.  Strong aroma of grapefruit and white wine grapes.  Malty but not sweet.  Lingering grapefruit zest, muscat grape, and lemon.  4

7) VMO--Vienna, Marzen, Octoberfest.  Malt character in this is unreal!  Bisquit, bread, toastiness, with a grainy finish.  No hops.  Middle is very smooth.  Not crisp as some lagers are, but not overly sweet.   Malt more complex, flavorful, and dark than most Octoberfest beers, but this one hits right in my preferred heavier end of the style guidelines!  4.25

8) Freedom Scotch Ale--Makes me want to paint my face blue and wave around a Claymore.  Lots of dark fruit (possibly Special B malt) leading to raisin and prune flavors.  A hint of smoke, but not overwhelming.  A bit on the sweet side, but OK for style.  3.75

9) Coffee Stout--Light roast and coffee aroma, but mild.  Tastes like a dry Irish stout and is very roasty.  Pretty dry, but not astringent.  I get more coffee flavor and aroma as it warms up.  4

10) Hawii 507 Coconut Stout--on Nitro.  Very subtle coconut and vanilla in aroma, as well as flavor.  Very sweet up front.  Body creamy and mouth coating.  Vanilla accentuates the sweetness.  Yum.  4

11) Cask Coconut--More coconut aroma that regular version.  Smooth and medium body.  Less sweet than the regular as well.  Coconut flavor up.  4.5

I liked the cask coconut and the VMO the most. Sj liked the VMO and Scotch the best.  But honestly all of these beers were good to great in my book.  I'm impressed with the overall quality, especially knowing that these guys have only been open for a few months.  This was a really polished brewpub, with great customer service, very good beers, and a comfortable cool old building.  This one is highly recommended if you are in the Rochester area.  In fact, make a day trip of it and visit Forager Brewing as well!

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