April 10, 2013
The new mantra we keep hearing about is eat local or support your local merchants! For the longest time Minnesotan’s were limited in what local beers they could drink. But finally we long suffering Minnesota beer drinkers have some local choices!
Five years ago I was jealous of Wisconsin and their reputation as the beer capital of the Midwest and their numerous craft breweries. Brands like Leinenkugels, New Glarus, Sprecher, Capital and more were invading Minnesota bars and liquor stores. All are good tasting beers made with a local touch. But as a life long Minnesota resident I watched as our local breweries struggled to maintain our state pride. Minnesota stalwarts like Schell’s and Summit stood alone—but fought valiantly everyday defending our local taste buds!
Schell’s is a 6th generation brewery in New Ulm Minnesota. It was founded in 1860 and fought thru the dark ages of Prohibition by brewing Root beer and other soft drinks. Now it brews German and American hand crafted brews in enough variety to satisfy every palate! My Favorite Schell’s is the Firebrick. It is an Amber colored all malt lager. Ted Marti owner describes it as having “subtle maltiness with a hint of hoppy taste”.
Summit is the St Paul Original. Started in 1986 in a garage on University Avenue, it has now moved to a state of the art brewery in the Crosby Lake business park in St Paul. Their Flagship ESB is Minnesota’s number one selling Craft Beer. I love it for its slight hoppy flavor and great aftertaste.
However in the last few years, new defenders of our state pride have also stepped up to make some unbelievably great beers. A few of these are popping up in Rochester all the time! Surly has become the BMOC in Beer Geekdom. Its first claim to fame is the Surly Furious. An American IPA(India Pale Ale) it is made with 4 different hops and lives up to its name! Surly is also gathering Kudos for its one off or special brews. Typically made only in 25oz bottles or draught, these special unique beers are sought after by all beer lovers. The most recent of Surly’s great beers is the Surly Pentagram. It is brewed with a special sour flavor and is a truly new take on a old world taste. It is totally different and will blow you away! A few other famous Surly seasonals are the SurlyFest and Darkness.
Fulton’s is a 11 year old brewery in the shadow of Target Field. A fun project for 4 friends has turned into a burgeoning business. Fulton’s has two main beers. The Lonely Blonde(an American blonde ale that is very drinkable) and the Sweet Child of Vine IPA. A hop monster made with a great balance to really tantalize your taste buds!
Lift Bridge is Stillwater’s first brewery since Prohibition. They make a few different beers like Hot Dish IPA, Crosscut Pale Ale and the Farm Girl Saison which is my favorite. It is a true French Farmhouse Saison which is a style of dry hoppiness and a little spiceiness!
A few other great Minnesota beers which I will talk about in the future are Brau Brothers, Big Wood Brewing, and Lucid. These are the beginning of a revolution and I’m sure in the coming months there will be more and more coming! But in closing I better mention Rochester’s nearest craft brewery. Olvalde Brewing in Rolling Stone is a great example of one mans love and passion. He makes his beer in a old barn just outside of town. He makes it, bottles it, sells it, and distributes it all by himself! He has one standard brew, the Auroch’s Horn which is totally unique and is patterned after some great European recipes. His other seasonals like Ode to a Russian Shipwreck and Brynhildr’s Gift are worth the wait and if you see them try them!
As you can see, we are in the midst of a Minnesota comeback in the brewing industry! It is great! But as a beer lover we can only hope Wisconsin comes back with even more great beers! To paraphrase the famous quote from Field of Dreams—if you brew it we will drink it!!