The Four Firkins in St. Louis Park is Minnesota's first specialty beer store, and after talking to store manager and beer connoisseur Bryan Buser, we're not sure we can ever crack a Natty Ice without some serious guilt. In between ordering the store's many craft brews (everything from the classiest Belgian ales to obscure IPAs), Buser set us straight on how to best enjoy a beer.
1. What's your favorite Minnesota beer right now and why? I've really been enjoying Brau Brother's Ring Neck Braun Ale lately. It has amazing nutty notes combined with subtle chocolate and berry flavors. Great for this time of year. I also just had Flat Earth's Pumpkin's Ale, and that has been my favorite pumpkin beer of the season. It tastes just like homemade pumpkin pie.
2. On the flip side, what does it pain you to see people drink? It really pains me to see people drink good beer out of a can or bottle. Seventy-five percent of taste is smell, and you're not fully tasting your beer if you're not using a glass.
3. What questions do you get asked the most at Four Firkins? We get a lot of food pairing questions. If people are running a special event and want to really impress some guests with new flavors, they come in and rely on our knowledge and depth of selection. We have between 750 and 800 different beers on hand, most of which we've tried. We can find something to fit, no matter what kind of food you have on your table.
4. Will beer snobbery ever compete with wine snobbery? There are some pretty vast differences between the two groups. Beer is much more approachable because you can buy a world-class beer, say Rochefort 10, for well under $10. A wine with similar complexity would run you $500. Beer also pairs better with food than wine because there is a broader palette of ingredients and flavors in beer that wine can't match. So yeah, wine will never really catch up to beer.
5. How often do you cook with beer? Do you have a favorite beer-infused recipe? I drink beer pretty much every night with dinner and cook with it as often as I can. I just made a beef roast with LaTrappe Dubbel that I enjoyed quite a bit. The sweet rum-raisin and herbal flavors soaked into the meat and potatoes and was pretty amazing. I am also in the middle of perfecting a recipe for a Surly Furious cream sauce. You have to be careful in reducing a beer that hoppy because it can easily overpower the other flavors with bitterness.