The holiday season has a way of bringing out the best in mankind. There’s a general sense of goodwill in the air. Life’s hustle and bustle relents a little, and family time becomes a top priority. But there’s one thing even more joyous than hugging out-of-town loved ones or seeing the glimmer in someone’s eye after getting them the perfect gift.
We’re talking about beer, of course.
Let’s be real, your family hates each other and Christmas means dropping your hard-earned dough on crappy toys for your unappreciative nieces and nephews. But these Minnesota-made holiday and winter brews offer seasonal salvation. Grab a bottle or four to help you through the, um, most wonderful time of the year.
Indeed Old Friend and Stir Crazy: After memorable summer and fall releases, Indeed has embraced the colder weather with a duo of snow-ready brews. Last week the northeast Minneapolis brewery’s Old Friend holiday ale returned, towing a redolently ginger nose, warming spiciness and a sturdy malt bill. The fresh ginger root permeates without overwhelming this limited, honey-sweetened winter warmer. Cocoa cravers might prefer Stir Crazy after trudging through a winter wonderland. Aside from the chocolate notes, the cozy seasonal offers hints of brown sugar and lingering vanilla — it’s almost like drinking a lightly frosted, Milk Dud- and raisin-topped gingerbread house.
Badger Hill Cherry Double Dunkel: Skip the cranberry sauce at your next holiday feast and treat yourself to a pint of Badger Hill’s newest cherry-bombed beer instead (well, at 8 percent ABV, maybe start with a smaller pour). The Minnetonka beermakers originally hoped to brew this fruity weizenbock last year, but a frozen cherry crop pushed its debut to this November. The second small-batch adventure in its Wanderlust series is a rich, man-law-breaking wheat beer mingling those mildly tart Door County cherries with a deep sweetness. Pair with any baked dessert you could slather in butter sauce.
Lift Bridge Commander: While this English-style barley wine was actually named after a downtown Stillwater grain elevator, the “Commander” title is appropriate for such a powerful and dignified brew. Bold cardamom and sweater-weather sweetness pervade this domineering after-dinner sipper, which has been aged in bourbon barrels. This heavily malted brew is suited for intimate enjoyment during Minnesota winter’s frigid, shut-in nights (bunkered in the den, fire ablaze) or as a holiday party favor. At a formidable 12.5 percent ABV, Commander can give you the strength needed to withstand your father-in-law’s snidest remarks.
Schell’s Framboise Du Nord: While not a winter beer, per se, this limited Berliner weisse could be the most talked-about beverage at your holiday gathering (aside from maybe your aunt’s questionable eggnog). The second installment in Schell’s Noble Star Collection had lofty shoes to fill, after Draft Magazine dubbed the series’ inaugural Star of the North one of 2013’s 25 best beers. But this ultra-low ABV, raspberry-refermented sour does not disappoint. A bona fide “wow” beer, Framboise Du Nord pours a Kool-Aid red and its ambrosial fruitiness and wild-yeast kick marry for a delicate pucker, finishing dry and tight.
Mankato Mint Stout: During especially arctic midwinter spells, hearty Russian imperial stouts offer solace in a glass (just a few more weeks till Fulton’s Worthy Adversary). In the meantime, give this refreshing Mint Stout a go. Mankato Brewery translates the Andes candy formula to the beer world, blending cool, cleansing mint and silky dark-chocolate notes with incredibly smooth results. Its invigoratingly minty aroma and menthol-y finish sandwich those mellow cocoa and roasty characters. This isn’t a beer for everyone, but it could play well with vanilla ice cream and an entire row of Oreo cookies.
Cheers to this
Don’t get us wrong, we love freedom of speech and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures as much as the next guy. But perhaps the best amendment to the U.S. Constitution was No. 21, which lifted Prohibition’s iron curtain on Dec. 5, 1933. North Loop cocktail spot Parlour is celebrating the 80th anniversary of re-legalized liquor next Thursday with its Repeal Day Celebration, replete with bathtub gin, punch bowls and classic cocktails. Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, cover two drinks, some grub, a champagne toast and a gift bag with booze samples, a vintage glass and a few cocktail recipes. Prohibition-era garb is encouraged.
8 p.m.-1 a.m. Dec. 5, $50, 21-plus, Parlour,
730 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-354-3135,
Local rag Minnesota Monthly is getting in on the Repeal Day party action, too, hosting its second annual Minnesota Monthly Fine Spirits Classic at Mill City Nights. MNMO promises a smorgasbord of high-end hooch for the sampling — everything from Scotch whiskey to vodka — including products from Gamle Ode, Bittercube Bitters and Beam Inc.’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection. Chat up master distillers and brand reps while noshing light bites from Ruth’s Chris Steak House and enjoying music from DJ Twice as Nice.
6-9 p.m. Dec. 5, $45-$55 ($10 designated driver), 21-plus, Mill City Nights, 111 N. 5th St., Mpls., www.minnesotamonthly.com
Michael Rietmulder writes about bars, beer and nightlife.