Category: mnbeer.com

Early Summer Beer Preview

Warm weather is just around the corner and there are plenty of new local beer options hitting store shelves soon. Summit is releasing a Boundary Waters twelve pack while Surly is going year-round with their Xtra Citra release. Steel Toe will be releasing Sommer Vice and Fair State just released their Du Pounde and Pilsner. We tried these out with our thoughts below.

Summit Wit – This is going to be a hit on those 90 degree days. It’s got all the things you look for in the style. Spices, citrus, and those nice bubblegum notes from the Belgian yeast drive this beer. A perfect replacement for that Blue Moon sitting in the back of your fridge. This is part of the Boundary Waters twelve pack.

Summit Hefeweizen – It’s back! This is a well-balanced Hefe with some nice banana and clove notes that aren’t as overpowering as some of the other options out there. Not my favorite example of a Hefeweizen but it’s certainly tasty. This can also be found in the Boundary Waters pack.

Steel Toe Sommer Vice – This is one of my favorite local examples of a Hefeweizen. Big clove and bubblegum flavors in this hazy beer set it apart from some of the others. This will hit the taproom and store shelves in May. My only issue is that I want this in cans. One 22 oz. bomber won’t do the trick. (Notes for this were taken from last year. The recipe will be the same I’m told)

Fair State Du Pounde – Centennial hops give this a nice floral character in the nose and contributes a nice dose of citrus in every sip. This wheat based beer also utilizes a French Saison yeast which provides a slight funk to this one. Fill your cooler with this at your picnic or graduation party and you’ll be the most popular person there.

Surly Xtra Citra – Session beers are still growing in popularity, here and around the country. Xtra Citra is Surly’s version of the style and it doesn’t dissapoint. In fact, this is my favorite local session beer along with Size 4 from Steel Toe. Huge citrus flavor with a light body, and for the low price of $6.99 a four pack this should be in your fridge all summer long. I’m told this will also be available in twelve packs of 12 oz. cans around Memorial Day.

Summit Keller Pils – They say the best way to judge the quality of a brewery is by trying their Pilsner. This is because it’s near impossible to mask any off flavors in this style of beer. Well Summit hit a home run with this offering and I dare you to find a better local option outside of Schell’s. This is easily the best new recipe (debuted last year) from the 30-year-old brewery in St. Paul. Be sure to soak your brats in that cheap domestic stuff and save this for sipping out by the grill. This is available in twelve packs and can also be found in the Boundary Waters pack.

Fair State Pils – A nice, dry Pilsner with earthy aromas and a heavy addition of Hallertau Mittelfruh hops. Not quite on the same level as the Schell’s Pils, but certainly worth a spot in your cooler on a fishing trip. Drink this one as cold as possible.

 

Cheers!

Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest Announces Breweries and Ticket Sales

Mark Opdahl and Juno Choi of Chop Liver Inc. decided four years ago that the Twin Cities needed a rare beer festival. Something similar to the Firestone Walker Invitational, Denver Rare Beer Fest, and the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers. Their solution was a rare beer festival held at the beautiful Minnesota Historical Society called Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest. “We wanted to take those ideas, hand select the breweries, and give the beer community what they want” says Opdahl.

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The breweries (30 in total) are a mix of local and national, which provide a nice variety of beers that are hard for Minnesotans to get their hands on. “We’re pretty lucky too” says Opdahl. “It’s a testament that they want to have some of their beers up against the best in the country. It really shows that they appreciate what we do the rest of the year with Chop Liver Inc. events.” This event is also rare in that food is included in the cost of the ticket ($100 with a portion of the proceeds going to Pints for Prostates) and is often better than you’ll find at other beer events around town. “It’s not just deli sandwiches and potato chips” he says laughing. For example, last year they served pork belly sliders, beer cheese soup, along with all sorts of snacks.

Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest

Another thing that sets this event apart from others is the venue. The Minnesota Historical Society hosted Winterfest for years before they outgrew the space with so many new local breweries. “The venue is really what makes this event what it is” he proclaims. “Marble top to bottom, and a view of the capitol from the 3rd floor. We only sell 750 of these tickets so it’s easy to get around. If you spend this kind of money, you should be able to move around.” So how do they get so many of these breweries on board? Experience. They had been running beer events for 6 years before the first Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest giving them the opportunity to meet representatives from many of these breweries. The other co-founder Juno Choi has been working at Brewers Supply Group for years where he’s built relationships with some of the most notable people in the industry.

Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest

This year’s event will take place on March 11th with tickets going on sale this Friday at 10 AM, just in time for the holidays. The festival provides attendees the chance to try a lot of these beers without committing to full bottles and long lines outside of liquor stores. “Its a great opportunity to try unique beers that are often not found in stores. If you go into a normal bar and pay for a single flight, you’re already at $15” states Opdahl.

 

All in all this is one of the best beer festivals held here in Minnesota, and a ticket to this event is a great gift idea for those who seek out hard to find beers.

So which breweries are gonna be there? We at MNBeer.com are proud to announce the brewery lineup which can be found below:

unnamedAugust Schell Brewing Company (2015 winner)
Avery Brewing Company
Ballast Point Brewing Company
Bells Brewery
Bemidji Brewing Company
Bent Paddle Brewing Company
Boulevard Brewing Company
Central Waters Brewing Company
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Deschutes Brewery
Elysian Brewing Company
Fargo Brewing Company
Fitgers Brewhouse (2016 winner)
Forager Brewing Company
Fulton Brewery
Goose Island Beer Company
Grand Teton Brewing Company (2014 winner)
Great Divide Brewing Company
Great Lakes Brewing Company
Indeed Brewing Company
Lagunitas Brewing Company
Left Hand Brewing Company
Lift Bridge Brewing Company
Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery
Oskar Blues Brewery
Steel Toe Brewing Company
Stone Brewing Company
Surly Brewing Company
The Bruery
Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

Cheers!

Noteworthy Beers from Autumn Brew Review 2016

With so many fantastic beers on display at the 16th annual Autumn Brew Review, it’s hard to choose favorites. Instead I’ve highlighted some that stood out. Here they are:

Whiskey Queen from Indeed Brewing – A smooth Russian Imperial Stout that delivers flavors of bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, stone fruits and oak to the palate.

Twisted Zweig from Forager Brewing – This was probably my favorite beer at the festival. An Imperial Berliner Weisse aged on black currants. Sour, juicy, and extremely drinkable. You’d never know this was an 8% (ABV) beer, which is almost dangerous. This brewery has really impressed me this summer and it would be worth your while to visit them down in Rochester. I was honestly shocked that there wasn’t a line at this booth.

Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout from Dangerous Man – Smooth and creamy milk chocolate with a little bit of heat (alcohol) on the end. It’ll be fun to explore some these barrel-aged beers coming out of Dangerous Man in the coming months.

IWL from Town Hall Brewery – This wheat based lager was very heavy on my two favorite hops—Mosaic and Citra. Another fine creation by Mike Hoops and his team of brewers over at the Seven Corners brewery. There’s a reason it’s the first place I take anyone new to the Twin Cities.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout from NorthGate – Dark stone fruits, chocolate, and bourbon dominated the flavor profile of this one. Nice example of the style for a brewery that focuses on British ales. This one stood out among the many other Imperial Stouts available at ABR.

Cheers!

Craft Beer Pioneer Summit Celebrating 30 Years

hardroad-letterThirty years ago Top Gun was all the rage. That was 1986, the same year that Summit Brewing opened its doors in an old building that used to sell truck parts on University Avenue in St. Paul. To say this was a humble beginning is an understatement as founder Mark Stutrud received a letter from the Brewers Association back in 1983 during the early planning stages advising him not to attempt such an endeavor.

That was just one of the many challenges for Mark, challenges that microbreweries today do not face. For one, there was no blueprint for a small brewery to succeed in the midwest. At that time was no such thing as a microbrewery. “Thirty years ago there was no regional point of reference as far as other small breweries were concerned – ‘microbrewery’ was not in the wholesaler’s or retail customer’s vocabulary. The idea of ‘craft beer’ didn’t exist in the drinker’s mind. The beer landscape was sterile” says Stutrud.

Two of the beers they produced that first year would pioneer a movement toward beers with a little more flavor, beers that would challenge palates on many levels. Those two beers of course are Summit Extra Pale Ale and Great Northern Porter.

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Summit EPA seems to be the most established and well-known variety that they make and the beer itself was born with a local touch. “The ‘extra’ in EPA was a reference to the love that we put into our beer [the overused word passion wasn’t in fashion in 1986]. The flavor profile of projecting a malt structure with a definite hop balance was a direct reference to the fact that we live in ‘barley country.’  We didn’t realize at the time that we were creating and establishing a specific style.”

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Great Northern Porter was a complete gem of a beer upon its arrival. Even storied beer journalist Michael Jackson loved it. It was so good that it earned Summit a Gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in its first year. “Great Northern Porter was the second beer that we introduced in late 1986” says Stutrud. “At that time, we were one of five breweries in the WORLD that produced a porter. Great Northern Porter received a Gold Medal at the 1987 Great American Beer Festival. Michael Jackson had a deep respect for our beer” he stated.

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If there’s one thing that’s true about Summit back then and now, it’s that quality always comes first. People can say what they want to about Summit not making a crazy one-off beer that sets beer fans abuzz, but the fact of the matter is that they want to make beers that they know how to make—and they make them great every time.

They started the Unchained Series as well as the Union Series to allow their brewers to experiment a little with different ingredients, and to inspire their creativity. All of the beers they make are brewed on a state-of-the-art system that is admired by many across the country. In fact, it’s what separates them from the other local breweries and from those across the country. “No other brewery in the region takes quality assurance to the deep level that we do. These attributes and qualities not only separates us from local breweries, but it distinguishes us on a national level” he says.

When he’s not drinking a Summit, Mark enjoys Pinot Noir, margaritas, the Noble Star Series from Schell’s, Anchor Steam, and Liberty Ales, an occasional Steel Toe, and a Budweiser from his neighbor.

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Summit is celebrating 30 years with a Backyard Bash at the brewery (910 Montreal Cir, St Paul, MN 55102) headlined by local punk legend Bob Mould (formerly of Hüsker Dü and Sugar) and taking place on Saturday from noon until 8 pm. You can grab tickets ($30) online here or at Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. There will be plenty of music and food trucks where you can purchase food. Part of the proceeds will go to Minnesota Music Coalition, an organization that Summit is proud to support. “The originators of this relatively new non-profit organization asked me to serve on the Board of Directors to an entrepreneurial and business perspective.  MMC has become an effective change agent for the independent music scene in Minnesota” says Mark. The band schedule (descending order) is as follows:

6:00 pm – Bob Mould
4:40 pm – Bully
3:35 pm – Dem Atlas
2:30 pm – Bad Bad Hats
1:25 pm – Apollo Cobra
12:20 pm – Nooky Jones
12:00 pm – Hotpants Minneapolis Minnesota (and between all live sets)

Food trucks on site include: The Anchor Fish & Chips, the Black Forest Inn, Bennett’s Chop and Railhouse, Pizza Lucé, Signature on Wheels, World Street Kitchen, FrioFrio MN and PoppedCorn.

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Summit has 30 years under its belt, and they are taking the appropriate amount of time to reflect while still moving forward. Their 30th Anniversary beers are some of the best beers they’ve come up with in recent years and they are not going to stop anytime soon. “Several individuals have asked me if I ever stop and look at what ‘I’ve’ created…There is an awesome and overwhelmed look on their faces when they tour the brewery.”

A brewery that will most certainly live to see 60.

Cheers!

Beers to seek out at the Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair is the place for gimmicky food, and beer of course is no different. This year there will be a couple of new beers that fit this category including a cider and another beer based on a deep fried sugar bomb staple of the fair. We’re not gonna waste any time, so here are some beers that you may want to seek out at The Great Minnesota Get Together.

Mini Donut Beer from Lift Bridge – Yep, this is a huge hit every year at the fair and it’s not going away anytime soon. This malt monster is a real treat, one that I only want once a year. The cinnamon sugar rimmed glass gives a much needed touch to base of this beer. You can find this at Ball Park Café.

Hopmosa from Bent Paddle Brewing – No, this doesn’t taste exactly like a mimosa—but the folks at Bent Paddle know a thing or two about infusing beers. The beer being infused is Bent Hop IPA and the addition of orange zest will only make this more appealing on a hot summer day. Find this over at Ball Park Café.

Sociable Caramel Apple Cider from Sociable Cider Werks – Jim Watkins over at Sociable Cider Werks is known for carefully sourcing the apples that he uses in his products over at the taproom in Northeast Minneapolis. This one is a blend of a few different varieties along with a simple syrup he concocted with a little help from a childhood friend. Expect this to be topped off with an apple slice drizzled with caramel. You’ll only find this at Giggles Campfire Grille.

Red Sangria Lager from Schell’s – Radlers are known for being a tad sweet, yet make for a refreshing summer treat. This one promises to be less sweet but should deliver in terms of drinkability on an 85-degree day in Minnesota. The beer is said to feature flavors of elderberries, pear, citrus, and apples. It’s only 4.8% ABV and will be topped with a Red Citrus Sangria Beer Foam. The Schell’s Stage Stand might be my first stop. It’s also available at LuLu’s Public House.

Funnel Cloud from Bad Weather Brewing – This would seem at first glance to be a sugar bomb. Joe at Bad Weather tells me otherwise stating that this won’t be overly sweet like some of the others. I’m skeptical, but head brewer Andy Ruhland knows what he’s doing over there, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Expect this to have undertones of vanilla and cinnamon/sugar. This beer is exclusive to Mancini’s Alfresco so it will only be available there.

Your best bet though is to visit the Land of 10,000 Beers Exhibit near the food building where you can purchase a flight of beer to wash down those cheese curds. This is where you will get a real taste of the beer being made here in Minnesota.

Cheers!