Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Trip to the Summit

Summit's Really Big Stocked Fridge

One recent Saturday morning I attended a Summit Brewing Company brewery tour in Saint Paul with a few guys.  I had only had a Summit product once before so for me Summit Brewing was a company that I was not overly familiar with other than knowing it’s a local company.

My tour was a late morning tour.  After check in our tour guide gave us a brief history of brewing and the Summit Brewing Company.  I was impressed how the role of monasteries and abbeys were specifically called out in the history of brewing.  Additionally, the lecture gave me information about home brewing and microbreweries that I was not familiar with.  Afterwards we were given a short walking tour of the plant.  Bottling was not occurring this Saturday and I would have loved to see the bottler in action.  The highlights of the walking tour included the giant refrigerator filled with packaged bottles and filled kegs and the fermentation room with its massive steel vats filled with beer finishing as it prepared for bottling. 

During this tour I was impressed with several things about Summit:
  • ·      Summit is a very green company.  Not only do used foodstuff and water get reused or resold     for other purposes but the major brewing equipment was second hand within the plant.  The bottler also was purchased used at a large discount from another brewer, while Summit also sold off their old bottler to yet another brewer.  This pattern of buying used equipment means that equipment in the plant was gathered from locations as far as California and Germany. 
  • ·      No matter your age, everyone loves standing in a giant refrigerator.  I can remember when I had taken kid groups through pizza restaurants with big freezers and watched them giggle.  Adults do the exact same thing. 
  • ·      The staff and volunteers really knew their beer and were enthusiastic in sharing it.
  • ·      Summit is generous.  The samples they gave participants were far from a taste but a satisfying draft.  Additionally they gave away several tap handles in a short trivia game which we found out later cost over $25 a piece in the gift shop. 
  • ·      Spirtual conversations are everywhere as I bored tour guides and my companions with information from The Search for God and Guinness

I chose the following three beers for my samples, samples which were quite generous.
  • ·      Honeymoon Saison from the Unchained Series: I chose this since it was a limited edition brew that I was not likely to stumble on before it was retired.  It was a very hoppy beer that my friends did not enjoy.  I found it interesting but not something that I would typically select for myself.  But the unchained series and Honeymoon Saison are getting some nice press locally
  • ·      Silver Anniversary Ale: Again with this being a limited edition I had to sample it.  Being a highly trained palate, joke, I found the fruit flavors added to this ale to give a tang that I just did not appreciate.  Tang, is that a real word?  My companion who also sampled this brew also did not like it.  

Though I did not love neither brew, I would happily drink both of these if offered and I finished my glasses.

  • ·      Summit Oatmeal Stout: I love dark beers and was planning to sample Summit’s porter.  But availability and knowing my palate dictated my decisions.  I tried the first two because they would not be widely available.  The stout beat out the porter because the stout is only available by draft.  And honestly the spots that have the stout available don’t serve Happy Meals so I would not be likely to stumble on it.   This was by far my favorite of the three samples with its dark smooth goodness.  My mouth is salivating as I think about my beer desert.  

Great Northern Porter Would Like Your Attention!

Overall this was a really good day and tour that I would urge anyone to try once.  My companions would have preferred more but smaller samples so they could have dialed in their own preferences from Summit’s offerings better.  One stated he preferred weird Belgian beers, but with the Summit Belgian not available this day he had to seek something new outside of his comfort zone.  While I knew at the end of the samples, though I was being adventurous, I could guarantee my final beer sample was something I would really enjoy.  And I did enjoy it!  

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