Beer is booming in Minnesota. Having lagged behind much of the nation for years, the state's brewers are working hard to catch up. The past two years have seen eight new breweries open in the state. At least five more are waiting in the wings.
The two newest additions to the scene, Lucid Brewing and Steel Toe Brewing, are making beers that are definitely worth a try.
Lucid Brewing is the newest kid on the block. Situated in a nondescript industrial park in Minnetonka, the brewery celebrated its official launch last month. Like many craft brewers, Lucid's dynamic duo -- Eric Bierman and John Messier -- started out as home brewers. Bierman, who started developing the brewery several years ago, also has completed training at the prestigious American Brewers Guild.
The two hope to craft beers that will please a wide range of palates. Their first two releases fall on opposite ends of the beer flavor spectrum. On the light end is Air, a refreshing, golden ale that will appeal to standard lager drinkers, but has enough character so that hard-core beer nerds needn't turn up their noses. Its modest alcohol, low bitterness and bright, citrus hop flavors invite another pint.
Camo, on the other hand, is a big, bold, double IPA made with multiple varieties of hops. It's bitter but without a bite. Balance is the key word here. They don't call it Camo for nothing; it hides its 9 percent alcohol well. The light feel and crisp finish practically dare you to drink more than one.
Also worth a sip
Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park released its first beers in August. Brewer Jason Schoneman brings with him a prodigious pedigree. His years of professional experience include a course at the Siebel Institute brewing school in Chicago and a long run as head brewer at the award-winning Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City, Ore.
Schoneman's beers don't necessarily fit into particular style parameters. Like Lucid, his first release was a lighter beer intended for a wide audience. Called Provider, it is a hazy, unfiltered beer that features light malt sweetness, moderate bitterness and delicate floral hop flavors. It's a thoroughly satisfying easy drinker.
Other Steel Toe beers include Rainmaker, a hoppy West Coast-style imperial red ale, and Size 7 IPA, bitter but balanced with loads of citrusy hop flavor. Then there's Dissent, a moderately bitter black ale with flavors of molasses, bittersweet chocolate and orange/grapefruit citrus. All are well made and worth checking out.
Steel Toe beers are available on draft and in 22-ounce bottles. Lucid beers are currently available only on draft.
- Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.