Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top 10 Minnesota Beers

The Minneapolis CBS affiliate, WCCO, released their list of the 10 best local beers. While there are some bright spots, the piece casts its net too wide, ensnaring some less then deserving brews, perhaps in the name of the diversity. Thus, it's BOTB's task to set Minnesotans and our neighbors straight as to the best beers from the land of 10,000 lakes.

Many of these beers have been reviewed in some fashion by BOTB and most have earned the much coveted "Beer of the Week" designation. Where I have previously discussed a brew, I have put a link for your reading pleasure.

In no particular order:

1. Surly Furious

In 2007, Minneapolis based Surly was named Best Brewery In America by Beer Advocate magazine. Furious is the beer that got them there. A british style ale with gobs of hops, Furious' bold taste is reminiscent of the West Coast IPAs and APAs that redefined the art of American brewing. The hops evoke hints of apricot, and the bitter finish smacks refreshingly off the lips. Surly's flagship makes Minnesota proud.

2. Surly Cynic

More on Cynic here.

3. Surly Bender

More on Bender here.

4. Summit Winter Ale

More on Summit Winter here.

5. Summit Hefe-Weizen

More on Summit Hefe here.

6. Summit Koelsch

More on Summit Koelsch here.

7. Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison

A relative new-comer to the craft beer scene, Stillwater based Lift Bridge takes its name from the city's famous (infamous?) St. Croix River crossing. Farm Girl is actually a little rough around the edges (lacks a little body, lacks enough aroma), and will have to take the silver medal behind Cynic as Minnesota's best Saison. It is, however, still a pleasure to drink and tastes great sitting on a Minnesota lake in summer.

8. Flat Earth Ovni

Ovni is a Biere de Garde, which I'm pretty sure is French for "delicious." Big caramel and toffee notes in the aroma with just a hint of hops. Ovni tastes a lot like it smeels: smooth and caramelly with an earthy finish. Although new to the St. Paul brewery's repertoire, Ovni just might be their best.

9. Flat Earth Belgian Style Pale Ale

More on Flat Earth Belgian Style Pale here.

10. Fulton's Sweet Child of Vine

Fulton's is the new kid on the block in Minnesota brewing, and they're off to a fine start. Their Sweet Child is an IPA (although I might argue APA), which pours an exceptionally dark amber. The hop profile is strong on the fruity side, with some grapefruit and general "sweet fruit" scents. You can also pick up a slight smell of pine. The body is bold and hearty, with enough of a biscuity back to stand up to those hops. An excellent first effort.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Local goes Global

According to the Chicago Sun-Times President Obama paid off a soccer bet with British Prime Minister Cameron with 312 Wheat from Chicago's Goose Island.

While I applaud the President for choosing a smaller craft brewery for his payment of choice, I think his choice of beer could have been better. Goose Island makes some good beers, but 312 is not one of them. Perhaps Matilda next time?

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Beer of the Week

There's something about a pale, yet flavorful ale, heavy on the hops, that is the perfect crisp smack off the lips on a summer evening. Stone IPA fits the bill, and is our BOTW.

Founded in 1996, the Econdido, CA based brewery has grown from 400 barrels to 98,500 barrels in just 13 short years. Stone's IPA was released shortly after the brewery opened, in 1997.

The beer is a rich golden color, perhaps a little lighter than some other IPAs. The nose is all hops: a mix of Columbus, Chinook, and Centennial. You can really tell this brew was dry-hopped.

The taste reflects the smell: strong hop flavor, as well as bitterness. There is just enough biscuit and grain tasting malts to balance this one out. The beer finishes clean and crisp, leaving a little hop flavor and fruitiness on the tongue.

This is an IPA's IPA: big, bold, and bitter. If you're just getting into hoppy beers, you might want to try a few others first. Not only is this a West Coast hop bomb in terms of aroma and bitterness, it also tops out at 6.9% ABV. Not for the faint of heart.

That said, it truly is a clean and crisp beer. Perfect for patio sipping and savoring on a warm summer evening.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pack It In

It's summer in the upper-Midwest, and for those of you like me, you want to seize this precious 6 weeks and cram in as much outdoors time as possible.

When it comes to "drive-in" camping, one doesn't have to put much thought into what beer to bring: if it fits in the cooler, it works. When it comes to day-hikes, backpacking, or boating, however, one has to plan a little better.

With hiking, beyond the obvious concern of weight going in (glass is heavier than cans), you have to consider the weight coming out. With hiking or boating, you certainly don't want to leave your trash behind (or toss it in the lake), so whatever you "pack in" you'll have to "pack out." This again, suggests that canned beers are the preferable hiking beers. Finally, bottles break. You don't want broken glass in your pack or in your boat. Bottom line: start looking for cans.

Unfortunately, many, if not most craft beers fail to offer their wares in cans. Fortunately, there are some craft offerings that are both delicious and canned.


1. Dale's Pale Ale - Oskar Blues (Colorado)

Oskar Blues was the pioneer in canning craft beer. Since 2002, Dale's Pale Ale, Oskar's signature ale, has been offered only in cans.

This American Pale Ale has a nice citrus/grapefruit hops nose and a slightly sweet bready malt body. It's bitter, with a clean hop finish that's perfect on a hot sunny day. Lots of flavor, but not too heavy.

2. Surly Cynic - Surly Brewing (Minnesota)

Surly is a staunch advocate of canned beer, choosing to release their entire line of award-winning craft brews in cans.

The Cynic is a Saison/Farmhouse style ale and pours a rich vibrant gold. You can smell some Belgian-style yeast notes as well as some coriander and spice. The beer has a medium body, smooth, with the perfect level of carbonation. Being Surly, there are a bit more hops in this one then you'll find in others of the same style. Great for a hot day. If you can find a better Saison in a can, well, if can find another Saison in a can, you'll be lucky.

3. Brew Free or Die IPA - 21st Amendment Brewery (California)

Although founded in 2000, 21st Amendment has only recently found its way out the Midwest. We're happy it made it out here. With a six hop punch in the nose, and a nice balanced malt back, their IPA is another solid offering from the Left Coast. Bonus for us flyover-land hikers and boaters? It comes in a can and is generally cheaper than the aforementioned beers.

Honorable Mentions:

Fat Tire - New Belgium Brewing (Colorado)

New Belgium's flagship is also available in a can. Surprisingly, should you take the time to pour one out, it tastes better out of the can, then out of the bottle! This is no coincidence. As Bon Appetit puts it, "New Belgium adds a slurry of active live yeast to its Fat Tire cans just before sealing to take up oxygen and prevent stale off-flavors. The result is a fresher, more complex beer. Think of it as a mini keg."

Hamm's Lager - Hamm's (Wisconsin)

It might be owned my MillerCoors now, but those of us in the "Land of Sky Blue Waters" still know that a Hamm's tastes great out on the canoe. Lest you think I'm succumbing to nostalgia and clever marketing, Hamm's won the gold for best American Lager at the Great American Beer Festival in 2007.

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Back in the Sixer Again...

I've tried to resurrect this blog before, but hopefully with some new inspiration, this one will stick.

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