As part of Nathan's birthday celebration, we visited Crown Valley Brewery. I was so anxious to see the brewery that I think that I may have gotten a bigger kick out of the visit then Nathan did.
Crown Valley had beer making in the works for awhile. In fact, this time last year we visited another CV site and one of the Crown employees said that the Brewery was actually originally set to have it's grand opening July 4th, 2008. Hmmmm....only 10 months late.
But let me just tell you, so worth the wait. Overall I was very impressed with the nine beers they offered. And since I figured the experience may turn into a blog worthy post, I took the time to rate the beers on a scale of 1 to 10 and asked Nathan to do the same.
In order of the way the brewery suggests tasting them:
Barwood Blonde Ale
This beer was described by our waitress is close to a mainstream beer like Budweiser. I found this statement to be pretty accurate. It is very smooth and a beer that would be good for consuming multiples of while watching a game.
My rating: 8, Nathan's rating: 7.5
Antique Amber Ale
I don't remember much about exact tastes of the beer because I didn't enjoy it that much. I was surprised too, because I usually like Amber beers.
My rating and Nathan's: 6
Old School Pilsner
90% of the time I love Pilsners and now was no exception. The Pilsner had a nice touch of bitterness to it, not quite as much as say, a Heinkein, but just enough to balance out the lightness of it.
My rating: 8.5, Nathan's rating: 7
Horseshoe Pale Ale
If I would have been drunk, I would have sworn this was Schafly's Pale Ale. In fact, I am still not convinced that the brewery didn't run out of pale ale and go buy some Schafly Pale Ale to substitute in. Of course, this meant the beer was yummy.
My rating: 7.5, Nathan's rating: 6
Typical Hefeweizen. I felt like it was lighter than others I enjoy, but still very good.
My rating: 8, Nathan's rating: 5
I am really picky about fruit beers, and while I didn't mind this one, there are about 5 others I would drink before I would drink this one. Nathan was being super critical the entire tasting, but he seemed to enjoy this one.
My rating: 7.5, Nathan's rating: 8
Sleighbell Spiced Ale (Limited Edition)
I have to take a breath before I write this....OMG. BEST. BEER. EVER (ok, almost). I am so in love with this beer my mouth is salivating just thinking about it. It is basically Pumpkin beer without the pumpkin flavor, but still the flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and orange. To me, this beer equalled happiness. In fact, during my post tasting glass of this ale, I made the statement three or four times, "I am so happy drinking this beer, I can't stand it." I just totally ignore the fact that it is a Christmas beer being served in May and go with it.
My rating: 9.5, Nathan's rating: 9.5
This Porter is very Guiness like. I really don't mind Guiness on occasion, but this was no of my least favorite of the line up. The description said barley and chocolate malt, but I didn't taste those.
My rating: 6.5, Nathan's rating: 6
Big Bison Ale
So if I can't have my Sleighbell Spiced Ale, I'll take the Big Bison. A quite yummy Belgian style Dubbel (according to the description). And also the beer that with our combined scores, Nathan and I liked the best.
My rating: 8.5, Nathan's rating 8
A little more about the Brewery itself....
I loved the set-up. Instead of crowding around a tasting bar you could grab a table, look at a list of descriptions, and have a waitress bring your selections. Very different then what Crown has done at their wineries and wayyy more relaxing. And even though I love a free tasting, the brewery actually has a very good deal. For $7 you get 8- 3 oz beers plus a tour. Not bad at all considering Nathan and I recently went with some friends to a local, very popular, new beer bar and a 7 beer taste that came from a clueless waitress was $14. But I digress....
Some of the beers are bottled and in addition they have a bottled cider. It wasn't available for tasting, but Nathan ordered one and enjoyed it. Another option for taking the beer home is getting a growler, which is a little bit of an initial investment, but has discounted refills when you bring it back.
Now the not so good stuff, no hot food served. Now come on Crown.....if I am drinking beer I don't want a cold turkey sandwich or cheese and crackers, I want a burger or some onion rings, or even a frozen pizza that is reheated and marked up at a ridiculous amount because it is at a brewery in the middle of nowhere. With their wineries it doesn't bother me that they don't have a lot of food options because I always enjoy packing a picnic basket, but wine drinking and beer drinking are two totally different worlds.
Another down side which doesn't really affect me is no other alcoholic beverage is offered but beer. While this doesn't really bother me, a non beer drinker was with Nathan and I and only halved enjoyed the cider, so therefore it bothered them. However, there is a bright shinning light for those non beer drinkers out there. If you have read anything about the brewery you may have noticed the official title is Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling Company. Well, the Distilling part is in the works and will include Crown Valley's very own vodka and bourbon. No telling how long it will be before those are complete though.
As I said before, I was very impressed. I agree with STL Hops that it appears that no expense was spared in the brewery. If you are thinking about heading down to Ste. Genevieve for a visit, do it!!