Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | September 22, 2014

The 100 Beer Summer

Jaan and Mark in Estonia.

Jaan and Mark in Estonia.

I’ve often had trouble doing things just for the joy of it. I have to make it a contest. A game. A sport. I need a tangible goal.

When I was riding my bike to work back in Minnesota, every day I would pick out a rider who was far ahead of me and I would “race” them. By doing this, I pushed myself and then “defeated” them in our “contest.” Obviously, these people didn’t KNOW they were racing me. But that’s not the point. I knew. This is what motivates me. I need a target, a deadline, a contest. I just don’t do things for the fun of it.

This started a long time ago. I competed for food at the kitchen table with my two brothers (and my dad). I competed in my own imaginary basketball games when I couldn’t find a real one. I’d race cars down the street (me on foot) — for at least a short distance. I’m sure this isn’t unusual. I’m sure many of us do this. For me, it’s essential.

So with that as my prelude (or, as I might accuse a student, my throat-clearing lead), I introduce you to my Summer 2014 challenge: The 100 Beer Summer.

When I told my brother Gary about my quest, he joked: “That’s sounds like a good week for me.”

But I wasn’t counting TOTAL beers consumed. I wanted to taste at least 100 different beers. To make the task a little more challenging, I decided to confine myself to those beers that most interested me — ales, EPAs, IPAs, Black IPAs, etc. I added a few crappy beers, and a few surprises (for reasons stated in my list below). But mostly I was aiming for a variety of satisfying beers, knowing that thanks to the multitude of micro-breweries in the U.S. (not to mention the beers I’d tackle on our trip to Iceland, Finland and Estonia), it’d be a tasty summer.

Now, you might ask, why is this worth writing about? I didn’t rank them. I didn’t review them. I just drank them.

Well, simply put: It was a chance to push myself to experience something new. I am a creature of habit. I struggle to avoid routine. It’s comforting, sure. It’s helpful to live in our highly organized society. But I don’t want to be a prisoner to this thing. I’ve done it my entire life. I embrace schedules. I find comfort in predictability. It might be why I am so adamant about my AUBG students getting to class on time (but that’s a topic for another day). These days, though, I’m looking for reasons to avoid a rut. It’s why we moved to Bulgaria, and it’s why I wanted to taste 100 different beers this summer. A little contest. I had to win, and so I did. Without further throat-clearing, here’s my list:

1. 312 Urban Pale Ale — crisp, clean, easy-drinking ale from Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company.
2. Bells Two-Hearted Ale — hoppy IPA brewed in Kalamazoo, Mich.

A classic.

A classic.

3. Old Glory American Pale Ale. Great Dane in Wausau, Wis., on the trip up to Wisconsin with Jenna (our daughter) and Melody Gilbert (my wife) to visit my family in Brantwood.
4. Miller High Life — hey, it’s the Champagne of Beers and it even has its own entry in the Urban Dictionary. And, when in Wisconsin, you drink Miller products — even if the venerable beer company is now owned by some foreign conglomerate that will someday soon move all of the production out of the proud union-working state and slide it somewhere else. I’m guessing force of habit will still compel most Wisconsinites to cling to their stubborn Miller-drinking ways.
5. Miller Genuine Draft … Not sure how much different this is than Miller High Life, but that’s neither here nor there. This, too, is brewed by the MillerCoors Brewing Company (allegedly of Milwaukee, Wis.). But Miller, that former proud Milwaukee brewery, is now headquartered in Chicago. Chicago!!
6. Heineken.  We were invited to a good old-fashioned American barbeque with our friends from Bulgaria, who moved to Minnesota from Sofia, basically a year after we moved from Minnesota to Bulgaria. Anna and Lubo cooked a mean BBQ and we were happy.
7. Summit Extra Pale Ale. This was with our friends Dan and Mary and Summit EPA used to be the only beer I ever drank. (See above mention of routines, ruts and inability to fight same. This beer comes from the wonderful Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul, Minn.)
8. Summit Saga IPA at Ngon, a great visit to a fabulous Vietnamese bistro with Dan and Mary — and more Summit product-testing. If you ever visit St. Paul, I highly recommend it.
9. Three Way Pale Ale, Third Street Brewhouse, Cold Spring, MN. (Visiting with our friends Larry and Julie for another fabulous Minnesota BBQ. This beer was smooth and drinkable. Perfect for a summer evening on the porch.
10. Lucid Dyno, at Wilde Roast with Melody and her gal pals. I revisited this American Pale Ale several times over the summer. Good stuff.
11. Indeed Day Tripper – American pale ale (Minneapolis brewery/Groveland Tap, our old neighborhood pub, with our good buddies Chris and Misty).
12. Bang Brewery Neat, a hoppy ale at the brewery in a “silo.” St. Paul, MN. Awesome spot. Visit it if you haven’t already.
13. Dale’s Pale Ale … Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, Lyons, Colo. I was told by friends Charlie and Marisol that this beer was made in a can for hikers in Colorado. If you’re going to carry it for any distance, it’d better be good. And it is.
14. Saison Brett, a farmhouse ale style beer. Made by Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Mo. Didn’t love this beer.
15. Third-Shift Amber Lager, Coors Brewing Company. Hell, was with my brother Gary at Miller Park for a baseball game (Brewers-Twins) so a MillerCoors product was inevitable. Good enough. Beer and baseball do, indeed, go together.
16. Sweet Child of Vine, IPA, Fulton Brewing Co., Minneapolis. It was a home-coming for us and a “welcome” part for one of our students, Igor, who spent the summer as an intern at Bolster Creative, where he learned the art of making things beautiful in video. At least I think that’s what happened.
17. Revolution Anti-Hero IPA, Mystic Celt in Chicago. Brewery is in Chicago. Beer is good.

The Armstrong clan, with a couple of honorary members.

The Armstrong clan, with a couple of honorary members.

18. Yuengling traditional lager, Pottsville, PA. (America’s oldest brewery, apparently.) Enjoyed this with long-time Minnesota friends at a gathering at the Armstrong Estate in St. Louis Park, MN.
19. Centennial IPA, Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Mich.
20. Mad-Hatter IPA, New Holland Brewing Company, Holland, Mich.
21. India Pale Ale (IPA), Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
22. Glacial Trail IPA, Central Waters Brewing Company, Amherst, WI … you’ll notice a run of beer-brewery listings here. … This is, more or less, a part of the summer that we spent in Chicago, so I needed to just start knocking off as many of these beers as possible. Sorry for the lack of more description. But you’re not even reading this list, so why am I even bothering with this note? Who are you? Why are you here?
23. Sidekick  EPA, Two Brothers Brewing Company, Warrensville, Ill. Nice drinking lunch beer after a two-hour bike ride.
24. Dos Equis Amber Lager, Mexico. We visited with our Minnesota/Romanian friends Adrian and Monica in Chicago before they moved back to Minnesota. Always happy to have a Dos Equis. Makes me feel, well, interesting.
25. Budweiser, Chicago Ribfest …. For when they run out of the good stuff at Ribfest.
26. Miller Lite, at our friend Jeff and Cindy’s … for when your friends run out of the good stuff.
27. Guinness, Irish dry stout, Guinness Brewery, Dublin, Ireland. I think I had this with Adrian — but it got misplaced on my list. … No list of beer, no matter what kind of list you’re making, is complete without at least one Guinness. There, I said it.
28. Landshark Lager, Margaritaville Brewing Company, Jacksonville, Fla.
29. Fat Weasel Ale, Steinhaus Brewing Company, Monrovia, Calif.
30. Gigantic IPA, Gigantic Brewing Company, Portland, Ore.
31. Brickstone Pale Ale, Burbonnaise, Ill., Brickstone Brewing Company.
32. Menabrea “Birra Ambrata” Amber Ale, Biella, Italy.
33. G. Menabrea e Figli Amber, Biella, Italy. (A 750 ml bottle of beer). Dinner with Jenna and Melody at a wonderful — and expensive — Italian restaurant in Chicago. Can’t remember the name of it, but it’s better that way. … I can’t afford too many dinners like that. It was great, but I will have to play the lottery to revisit it, I think. Still, it was pretty great.
34. Sweetgrass American Pale Ale, Grand Teton Brewing Company, Victor, Idaho. With Mystic Pizza at Jeff and Cindy’s.
35. Green Line Pale Ale, Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, Illinois. While bowling with Jeff and Cindy. Southport Lanes. If you’re in Chicago, you should visit there just for the trip back in time. They have human pin setters. One of only a few still in existence in the U.S. (or anywhere else, most likely).
36. Stone Enjoy By 07-04-14 (July 4, 2014) double IPA. At Fish Bar, Chicago. Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, California.
37. Lagunitas IPA, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Chicago, Ill.
38. Kirin Ichiban (means No. 1 in Japanese, apparently). It’s an American Pale Lager made by the Kirin Brewery of America LLC, Los Angeles, California. Gathering with the Garelick girls, Jenna, Melody, et al
39. Hop Nosh IPA, Uinta Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, Utah. Accompanying kosher BBQ at Milt’s in Chicago the day of our condo inspection.
40. Summer Love, American Blonde Ale, Victory Brewing Company, Dowington, PA.
41. Magic Hat #9 Not Quite Pale Ale, Magic Hat Brewing Company, South Burlington, Vermont. (40-41 enjoyed at Jenna’s sort-of housewarming party in Chicago.
42. Fixed Gear, an American Red Ale, Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, Wis. At DMK for burgers. Amazing burgers and a nice, drinkable beer. Double yum.
43. Scurvy IPA, Tyranena Brewing Company, Lake Mills, Wis. At Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub (Milwaukee) at the old PBR brewery, now a renovated hotel property in downtown Milwaukee. Great spot.
44. Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
45. Rush River Double Bubble Imperial IPA, Rush River Brewing Company, River Falls, Wisconsin. These last two at the new French Meadow Bakery restaurant in St. Paul with Larry, Julie, Dan, Mary and Melody. Food, friends and good beer. Well, all three deserved the “good” label.
46. Summit True Brit IPA, a more bitter bite than Saga. Visiting the Tumas and listening to Kevin play my old saxophone. Really touching.
47. Small Axe Golden Ale, Rush River Brewing Company, River Falls, Wis. Dinner with Dan at Brassa. Tasty, not awesome.
48. Alaska Ale, Alaskan Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska … With Tilsen at Groveland Tap. Good.
49. Lagunitas Nighttime Ale (a black IPA), Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif. Looks like a stout, tastes like a great IPA. Better. NEW FAVORITE.
50. Stella Artois, at niece Sara’s grad party … Stella Artois Brewing, Leuven, Belgium.
51. Green Flash Black IPA, Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, California.  Dan and Mary, Pizza Luce. Mmmm.
52. Fat Tire, New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo. at family reunion.
53. Goose Island IPA, Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago. At the MSP airport, waiting for the flight to Iceland.
54. Einstök Icelandic Pale Ale, Akureyri, Iceland. Nice, drinkable ale … Best enjoyed in Iceland. Small batch brewing is taking hold in Iceland, we’re told.
55.  Borg Bríó #1, brewed by Borg Brugghús, Reykjavik, Iceland. A nice pilsner enjoyed with leg of lamb with our friends Arndis and Arnar (and Tomas Mani). Amazing night.
56. Olvi Suomalainen Saunaolut III, pale lager, Olvi Brewery, Iisalmi, Finland. Good lighter beer to accompany salmon and veggies at a waterside spot in Helsinki.
57. Plevnan Seelanti, American style pale ale, Brewed by Koskipanimo Brewery,
Tampere, Finland. Enjoyed at Villi Waino “Beer House” near our hotel in Helsinki. Afternoon “snack.” Nice beer. Tasted like home.
58/59. Flying Dog Pale Ale and Snake Dog IPA … Enjoyed both while eating dinner at Moroccan-Finnish restaurant in Helsinki
60. Karjala IVA …. From bar in Helsinki.
61. Karl Friedrich, Saku Brewery, first beer in Estonia.
62. A. Le Coq Premium, Le Coq brewery, Tallinn, Estonia. Belgian brewer who made this beer in Estonia.
63. Kanapinis Nefiltruotas Tamsus Alus, kind of a sweet, carmely stout. Tarudku Bravoras, Lithuania. Not my favorite, but my first Lithuanian beer. If you’re Lithuanian, let me know if I got the link right.
64. Humal & der, Humalarikas Lager, Saku Õllethaus (beer factory), Tallinn, Estonia.
65. Humal & der, Humalarikas Pilsner, Saku Õllethaus (beer factory), Tallinn, Estonia. Both of these were good; the pilsner had more hops and was more of a pleasurable drinking beer.
66. Saku Hele, Saku Õllethaus (beer factory), Tallinn, Estonia. Light but hoppy beer. Great summer drinking beer with a nice grilled meal with Jaan at the grill.
67. A. Le Coq, Alexander. More drinkable beer from the Tallinn brewer.
68. Saku Dublin … A little dark beer, Irish style, from the castle outside Tartu —
69. Saku Taurus … Obviously, my Estonian friends decided to make sure I drank every single Saku and A. Le Coq beer that they could get their hands on. Among other things …
70. A. Le Coq Double Bock … These last two are “strong” beers from Estonia that were good sauna beers for watching the World Cup with Siim and Juta and Melody in the sauna itself.

A special night in an Estonian manor house. And beer, of course.

A special night in an Estonian manor house, with Juta, Siim and Melody. And beer, of course. (Non-sauna night.)

71. Krusoviche Czech beer at Turkish restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia.
72. Ukrainian pale lager (road beer in Estonia!), Obolon Brewery, Kiev, Ukraine.
73. Lithuanian bock beer … Never got the names of the two Lithuanian beers and they didn’t have labels, so they might have been real small batch gems. Perhaps my friends in Estonia will be able to fill in the blanks about these two.*
74. Lithuanian rye ale.
75. Gull, a European Pale Lager, brewed in Iceland at the Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson brewery. Enjoyed this one on the plane ride from Iceland back to the United States.
76. Hitachino Nest Red Rice … a Japanese red ale (made in Ibaraki, Japan) with Tomas, one of our former Macalester students. Beer was meh, but the company was lovely.
77. Japanese IPA with Tomas at our hotel in NYC. See above.
78. Xingu lager beer … Brazilian beer. Ok, easy drinking. Nothing special.
79. Rebel IPA, Mystic Celt, Chicago. Brunch with Alex and Jenna. Made by the Boston Brewing Company, makers of Samuel Adams beers.
80. Lucky U IPA at Justin’s bar to watch the World Cup final. Made by the Breckenridge Brewery in Denver, Colo.
81. Modus Hoperandi, another tasty IPA at the bar in Southport in Chicago for the World Cup. Made by Ska Brewing Company, Durango, Colo.
82. Hop Henge IPA, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
83. Armory XPA (Nitro), American Pale Ale, Deschutes … Dinner with Jenna and Melody at Standard Market Restaurant in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
84. Stone the Crow, American Pale Ale, enjoyed at Dry Hop Brewery with Melody after visiting our new apartment building and filling out the final forms for our condo. Made in the Lymestone Brewery, Stone, Staffordshire, UK.
85. Dogfish 60-minute IPA, Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Del. Nice accompaniment to dinner with Cindy and Jeff in Chicago at Wilde Restaurant and Bar.
86. Wisconsin Amber Lager, Capitol Brewing Company, Middleton, Wis. Picked up on the way to my parents’ house in northern Wisconsin. A great accompaniment to a dinner of T-Bone steaks on the grill. Nice, easy drinking beer.
87. Spotted Cow, a farmhouse ale, New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, Wis. Ok. Don’t love it, but it’s a solid ale.
88. Red Stripe, lager made in Kingston, Jamaica.
89. Presidente, American style lager made in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Great scene, dinner with rick at restaurant in village. Restaurant was Joe & Misses Doe, a three-table bar and restaurant in the east village.
90. Bengali Tiger IPA at the Joe’s Bar “Library” with Rick. Great locally brewed  beer from Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn.
91. Dogfish 90-minute IPA. Like the 60-minute, but — um — plus 30 minutes.
92. Back in Black, black IPA, 21st Amendment Brewing Company, San Francisco, Calif. … Another black IPA treat — good even from a can! With el and rick.
93. Citra Ass Down! IPA. Tasty and awesomely named. Against The Grain Brewery and Smokehouse, Louisville, Ky.
94. Bohemia Classic, brunch with Jenna and Alex. Pre-prohibition lager, Monterrey, NL, Mexico. Lunch at Tacombi at Fonda Nolita. Great tacos! New York scene.
95. McSorley’s Ale, from burger joint at 12th and 8th Av or so, with Alex and Jenna after the ‘Motown’ musical. Can’t remember the name of this place, but the next time I’m in New York, we must go there. Alex, do you hear me?
96. Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, Heavy Seas Brewery, Baltimore, Md., American IPA.
97. American Tap Room Ale, Heavy Seas Brewery, Baltimore, Md., an American pale ale at dinner at the American tap room in Bethesda with bro in law cliff and Melody.
98. Commodore Perry IPA, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio. This was a tasty IPA enjoyed after the screening of “Starfish Throwers” in Chicago.
99. Flower Power IPA, Ithaca Beer Company, Ithaca, N.Y. … At applewood restaurant in Brooklyn with el and rick. Excellent beer, amazing restaurant.
100. Rock Bottom Red Ale, a deep amber ale that’s more in the pale ale family, according to the brewer, Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery (this is a chain with its home in Chattanooga, Tenn.). The space in Chicago, though, was great and the rooftop deck was definitely worth a visit on a beautiful summer night. Tipped a couple with new friend Tim Schellhardt.

If you notice a duplicate in here, rest assured I have stacked up at least another half a dozen or so beers, but this was my best effort at logging and noting each of the beers and where and with whom I was drinking them. … I would have liked to have included more detail, but then this would have been more insanely long than it already is. Thanks for hanging with me, if you indeed hung with me this long. … It’s much appreciated.

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(Coming later on this blog from The Summer of 2014: The Song Festival of Estonia, New Digs in Chicago, and The Biking Adventures, Hither and Yon.)


  1. […] […]

  2. Thanks for the shoutout, and ranking Miller High Life in the top 5! It goes great with cheese! There’s always a cold one here for ya bro…

  3. Reblogged this on AUBG Bloopers and commented:
    Cheers to that story!

  4. Nice list Mark, yup. I read it! If you can find it from Stone Brewery, Ruination IPA,, the very best IPA I’ve
    had! You have earned the title “Professor” sir!

  5. competitive beer drinking!! this is a competition i can get behind. i like summit pale ale, too, and would probably drink only that (or Harp. or Guinness.) except that my husband is always trying new beers (and sharing). this summer i have gotten fond of Lonely Blonde by Lift Bridge (a minnesota beer).

  6. Son, I did read all through the list. It was a challenge that I couldn’t ignore. And to think that I kept a lock on the fridge when you were growing up!! Enjoyed your itinerary of beers.

  7. Holy moly, Mark … this is extraordinary! I’m heartbroken that doctor’s orders will keep me from trying all 100 species. But I’ll prolly sneak in a few before summer’s end — and I’ll definitely pass on your post to my many beer-enthusiast friends. You’ve done a great service to mankind here.

    PS: Only you would move to Bulgaria to avoid getting into a rut. Like I said: extraordinary. 🙂

  8. Mark, I’m sad to report that the Goose Island beers are now brewed in upstate New York. An abomination, I know. I feel as bad about this as you do about Miller being headquartered in Chicago.

  9. […] largest choir (25,000 people!) even though he doesn’t sing and he didn’t know the songs (and he drank a lot of beer that summer!).  Here is is being interviewed on Estonian television (and tested on his knowledge of the […]

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