Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oliphant Brewing: Not Just for Hobbits Anymore...

Recently my wife (Sarajo) and I took a little day trip to Stillwater, MN.  We stayed at the Rivertown Inn for our first anniversary (14 years ago!!!) and haven't been back to the Stillwater since.  With our 15th anniversary looming we decided to take a little jaunt and stay the night back at the B&B!  And of course there is beer nearby...

"Mr. Frodo, look!  It's an Oliphant, no one at home would believe this."  --Samwise Gamgee

We had heard great things from several friends about Oliphant Brewing, just across the border in Somerset, WI.  With under a 20 minute drive from Stillwater this seemed like a no-brainer.  It was spitting a bit of rain when we arrived, so didn't take my real camera along--hence the below par iPhone photography of this particular post.

Awesome mural by Taylor (server and artist!)

The brewery itself is in a small warehouse right behind the Liquor Depot (convenient?)  and is decorated by a colorful mural on an outside wall.  The outside and inside of the place is painted a somewhat hideous shade of faded smurf-flesh blue.  Some outdoor seating is available out front, and then inside is a small utilitarian taproom.  The place was pretty crowded when we arrived, but we were able to snag two seats at the end of the wood-topped bar.

Mr. F!

The walls are lined with an eclectic array of artwork, ranging from strange child-like scrawlings to more professional work, much of it sci-fi themed.  A large blackboard by the bar hosts a bewildering plethora of oddly named beers, many with corresponding amazing chalk art.  Many of the beer names and artwork nod to geekery with a bit of Arrested Development thrown in for good measure.  This odd mix of comic book, science fiction, and comedy gives this place a bizarre but pleasing comfortable feel.

Our main server (Josh I believe) reminded us quite a bit of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and was incredibly jovial, funny and helpful.  We were able to taste all of the beers by getting and sharing two samplers.  Apparently there was some sort of Groupon for a beer sampler going on so they were running low of tiny glasses, but we got 'em eventually!

These beers deserve a write up!  I'm going back over my brief notes and 0-5 scores from Untappd as a reference here.  For me a 3 is an average beer that I'd be OK drinking, a 4 is a very good example of the style, and a 5 involves angelic choruses.

1) Pizza Demon: Light English mild ale.  Fruity.  Well...mild.  Pleasant English malt character.  A good start to a sampler!  3.75

2) Anutart:  A solid Berliner kettle sour with red wine grapes.  Nice tannic bite adds complexity.  4

3) PlumBob Chamomillionaire: A lager with plums and chamomile.  I felt like the fruit esters from the plum cut the crisp lager character.  Chamomile not very apparent.  3.5

4) Turtle Lord:  Hefe.  This one was not good.  I get enteric in the aroma (fancy term for poop smell).  Flavor OK initially, with some German Hefe esters, but end is bitter and soapy.  This one is infected with something unpleasant.  2.25

5) EnniPA with TNT hops:  A bit of sulfur in the aroma.  Taste is lager crisp.  Bitter orange rind finish is astringent. 3

6) Wislard - The Lizard Wizard:  Seriously where do they get these names???  I like the Wizlard!  Aroma of white wine and citrus.  Flavor similar to that.  Bitter but pleasant IPA.  4

7) Hunk Boy: A porter.  Roasty with a hint of dark fruit.  Slightly thin on body.  Coffee finish.  3.75

8) Also-Bort: Belgian strong ale.  A bit sulfury.  Good Belgian ester character to the flavor though.  End is nice and dry like they should be.  3.5

9) Gobias Variant Cover Issue #1:  Combining Arrested Development with comics...  This was a Stout with coffee and vanilla.  Aroma bursting with those.  Flavor roasty, dark chocolate, coffee, hint of vanilla on the end.  Balance is great.  4.25

10) Teenage Muten Ninja Roshi: Double IPA.  Well balanced.  Sweet but dry finish.  3.75

11) Mothra Vs. Mothra: A decent hoppy lager.  Not my favorite style, but well done.  3.75

We also took home a crowler (can-growler) of Groot, a non-hopped gruit style ale for later.  This was a very malty and pleasant beer but could have used a bit more bittering as it got sweeter once warmed up a bit.  3.75

I can geek with the best of them...

Overall, the beers were well above average with only one having significant problems.  Out of 12 beers from a tiny (3 barrel) system, that's pretty impressive!  They're really able to brew a lot of experimental batches and seem to take great pleasure in trying new things.  Living close by would be a treat.  In fact we ended up sitting next to a semi-local member of their of version of a mug club, Matt, who extolled the virtues of getting to try all their cool new variants.

This place was a pleasant surprise for us.  I loved the geek imagery, and the fact that these guys don't take themselves too seriously.  The beers were very good and the service was stellar despite the place being very crowded at the time.

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