The Minnesota brewing scene is on fire. New breweries are popping up so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Each new entry brings with it a full rack of beers, including year-round standards and a dizzying array of specialties. Add to that a string of new releases from the state’s more established breweries and it makes for a lot of beers to try.
It’s a daunting task to taste them all. So where do you start to get the best ones first? Allow me to help. Here is my list of new, must-try beers from Minnesota brewers.
Patersbier from Pour Decisions Brewing Co.: Pour Decisions Brewing Co. in Roseville debuted last summer at the Minnesota State Fair. They specialize in low-alcohol, English-style brews, but there are some high-test bruisers and sour beers in the mix, as well. Taking inspiration from historical recipes, Pour Decisions brews beers that taste familiar, but aren’t quite like anything you’ve ever had.
Patersbier is a Belgian single, a moderate-strength ale of the type that the beer-brewing monks of Belgium might have made for their own daily consumption. It’s light and very dry with fruity notes of apple and candied citrus. Peppery, yeast-derived spice reinforces the spicy flavors of European hops. Biscuity and graham cracker-like malt provides a delicate base of support. This is one refreshing and satisfying brew.
Chimney Sweep from August Schell Brewing Co.: August Schell Brewing Co. is the elder statesman of Minnesota brewing, but it’s not resting on its laurels. In the past year Schell’s added two beers to its year-round lineup and three installments in the brewer’s-choice Stag Series. A new Goosetown collection of German-style sour ales comes out this month.
Chimney Sweep is a smoked version of the German-style black lager called schwarzbier. Malt dominates the profile with bittersweet chocolate and campfire smoke. The smoke is prominent, but not at all overwhelming. After a moderate dash of sweetness in the middle, it goes out with a flourish of hop and roast bitterness. This will make a great barbecue beer this summer.
Chocolate Milk Stout from Dangerous Man Brewing Co.: Dangerous Man Brewing Co. is one of a bevy of new brewers in northeast Minneapolis. Don’t look for Dangerous Man beers in stores or bars as these crafty creations are only available at the brewery’s taproom. Belly up and enjoy a pint or grab a growler to take home.
Chocolate milk stout is hands-down the brewery’s best beer, and it is fantastic. This silky-smooth brew is moderately sweet and boasts a boatload of chocolate flavor. Roasty bitterness is light — just enough to balance the sweetness. Subtle notes of toasted grain send it over the top.
Pentagram from Surly Brewing Co.: Surly Brewing Co. has a reputation for pushing extremes. Pentagram — their newest, seasonal, big-bottle beer — certainly does just that. This wine barrel-aged beer is fermented with a strain of yeast that brings high levels of acidity and earthy “barnyard” character. The sour first sip is a shocker. Work your way past that, though, and you are treated to layers of complexity that change with every sip. Juicy fruit and Sweet-Tart sourness mingle pleasantly with creamy caramel and bitter chocolate. Funky notes of leather, tobacco and stable hay form a flavorful background. It’s crazy enough for sour beer fans, but should be approachable for those who’ve never tried one. If you are new to the sours, look for it on draft. This version is less acidic than the bottles.
Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts private and corporate beer tasting events in the Twin Cities, and can be reached at email@example.com.