Minnesota on Tap

Ryan Tuenge is an avid home brewer and craft beer lover who is not afraid to spend his last $5 on a pint of beer at the local pub. As a member of the Minnesota Home Brewers Association, Ryan has tried a wide variety of beers and has toured many of the local breweries. He also has a blog about craft beer in Minnesota. He likes to read, write and travel with his wife. Follow him on Twitter @lodgefather.

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The Tree of Local Brewers

Posted by: Ryan Tuenge Updated: January 17, 2013 - 10:33 PM

 Over the past few years our local craft beer market has grown considerably. In 2010 alone, our market produced 386 brewing jobs—providing 23.5 million dollars in wages. With this growth, opportunities have opened up for understudies to take their skills to the next level.

Where are these new brewmasters coming from? Take a look around—many of them are coming from local breweries and brewpubs. Here are just some of the examples:
  • Indeed brewer, Josh Bischoff, cut his teeth for years behind Mike Hoops at Town Hall Brewery.
  • Also coming from Town Hall is Jamie Robinson, who recently opened Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub where he is the brewmaster and creative mind behind their offerings.
  • Bob DuVernois left Great Waters Brewing Company to take his talent to Excelsior Brewing where he is making waves with some quality brews on the lake.
  • Formerly with Summit Brewing Company, Horace Cunningham is now with Third Street Brewhouse out of Cold Spring, MN.
  • Colin Mullen of Bent Paddle Brewing in Duluth came from Barley John’s Brew Pub and his business partner, Brian Tonnis, put his work in at Rock Bottom Brewery in Minneapolis before heading north.
  • Also coming from Rock Bottom was Todd Haug, who went on to become head brewer of Surly Brewing when they opened in 2005.
Since 2005, the following breweries have opened right here in Minnesota. In no particular order: Surly; Fulton; Lift Bridge; Harriet; Olvalde; Boom Island; Northbound; Indeed; Carmody; Dubrue; Canal Park; Bent Paddle; Third Street; Staples Mill; Pour Decisions; Excelsior; Borealis Fermentary; Flat Earth; Lucid; Badger Hill; Leach Lake; Mankato Brewing; Jack Pine; Vine Park; and Steel Toe.
Coming soon are: Dangerous Man Brewing (January 25th); 612 Brew; NorthGate; Bad Weather Brewing; and Wolf Brewing out of Stillwater, which will be re-opening. That’s 30 new breweries in 8 years with no end in sight.
One thing is certain: if you have quality brewing experience it is a good time to be living here in Minnesota.

News and Notes for Late Fall

Posted by: Ryan Tuenge Updated: November 14, 2012 - 12:25 AM
This is the time of year when we are all reminded of how lucky we are to have such great local beer to enjoy. Late Fall is a great time to get acclimated with a favorite winter warmer or to try something new at your favorite bar or brewpub. Here are some things you can look forward to now and in the coming weeks.
At Barley John’s in New Brighton the smooth and slightly sweet Tropical Stout is on tap as well as their Zombie Ale, which is a dark British Mild Ale.  Also on tap: Dark Knight Returns, a Porter that was aged for 18 months in bourbon barrels. Some of you will remember that the original Dark Knight won the Snowshoe award at last year’s Winterfest in February.
Chad Hilgenberg, brewer at Great Waters, has been busy concocting some new brews at downtown St. Paul’s beloved brewpub. Right now you will find Canty Smeek, a Smoked Scotch Ale pumped from a cask, which will be featured all winter long. Currently on tap are Figgy Stardust—an American Strong Ale and Madcholly Union Ale—a Belgian Blonde ale brewed with 65 pounds of local honey and created to celebrate Chad and his his wife Molly’s recent nuptials (congrats Chad and Molly). 
The time is here again to celebrate the release of Commander, a fine Barleywine made by the fine folks at Lift Bridge. The event will be held at the brewery on Saturday, November 17 from 3 PM to 8 PM. Admission is $10 and you can expect music, games, a mustache contest, an old time circus costume contest, and (of course) there will be food trucks on hand selling some delicious fare.


Canning Indeed

Posted by: Ryan Tuenge Updated: October 27, 2012 - 12:15 AM
Once thought to be inferior to bottles; cans are now making a comeback around the country as the craft beer craze continues to grow. There are over 689 craft beers being canned by 223 breweries across the nation. Right here in Minnesota, two of the local favorites Surly Brewing and Indeed Brewing have chosen to package their beer in cans. Surly, who has been known for their quality beer since they began in 2005, still proudly cans almost all of their beers.
Canning has many advantages over the historically preferred bottling option. First and foremost, canned beer is 100% protected against light, which is beer’s mortal enemy. Second, cans tend to travel well since they are near unbreakable and most public places that allow alcohol will not allow bottles on their premises such as beaches and parks. 
Aluminum cans are also one of the most recyclable products because they are often melted down and made into more cans or sent to auto manufacturers to use in light-weight car parts. Other notable breweries across the nation such as 21st  Amendment, Tallgrass, and Oskar Blues are also packaged in cans and are available around the Twin Cities at your local liquor stores. 
Indeed cans, which hit store shelves on October 11th, feature the excellent artwork of Chuck U. They are available in both Midnight Ryder, which they call a Black American Ale, and Day Tripper, which is considered a Pale Ale. You can find Indeed in cans at Zipp’s, Central Avenue Liquors, France 44, Thomas Liquors, Four Firkins, and The Ale Jail.
*Two side notes: Remember that today is Surly Darkness Day. Get all the details here. Also, I have been nominated for Best Beer Writer in Growler Magazine and you can vote for me here if you agree. Voting ends on November 6th.


Beer Gone Sour?

Posted by: Ryan Tuenge Updated: September 25, 2012 - 11:34 PM
On September 29th Republic at Seven Corners is playing host to an event called Where the Wild Beers Are.  They are calling it a “collaborative” festival for wild beer enthusiasts—think of it as a sort of potluck for wild beer. The cost to attend the event is $10 plus your beer contribution. For every 750 ml of sour beer you will receive 10 tickets for beer samples, assuring that everyone gets an equal amount to try. This is the 5th year that this event has taken place in the Twin Cities; bringing together fans of “wild or sour” beers—a style that originated in Belgium where wild yeast is introduced to the wort via open fermentation. Jeff Halvorson and Tim Stendahl are the men behind this event, as well as the one held in Brooklyn, New York.
The process of creating a sour or wild beer can be rather lengthy; often taking years for the beer to properly mature. Debuting at this year’s event will be Mark 1 and Mark 2, which are two special sour beers created by some of the previous year’s attendees from the bacteria and yeast left behind in the bottles at last year’s event. The ten-month old Mark 1 was made with white wine-soaked oak staves, while Mark 2 will feature cherries.
So, you may be asking yourself: Just what is a sour beer and what is the difference between regular and open fermentation?
 According to University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Microbiology Jeff Gralnick, the difference between open fermentation and normal fermentation is all about how you “inoculate” the fermentation. “The open fermentation style in many cases is literally a fermentation vessel that you leave open to the air. Microbes floating around in the air (typically this can be around 100,00 per square meter) have a chance of landing into the vessel. The majority of things that land probably don't know how to live in this environment, but some of them do.”
One might wonder where an ideal place to execute an open style fermentation would be. “Sometimes these open fermentations are done in orchards, where the number of microbes who really like to ferment sugars can be higher in the air (think about rotting fruits, for example),” Jeff said. It may also be as simple as reusing your fermentation vessel, “In the next batch, the microbes can come from the nooks and crannies in the wooden vessel when it is reused.”
And just what, exactly, creates those unique, sour flavors? According to Jeff, “Often these wild microbes (both yeast and bacteria) make sour and funky tasting compounds in addition to ethanol, which an organism like Saccharomyces (the yeast species typically used in making beer) typically don't make.”
Many examples of this style can be found at places such as The Four Firkins in St. Louis Park, The Ale Jail in St. Paul, or Zipps in Minneapolis. So be sure to stock up before you attend this year’s event.


Hops From Down Under

Posted by: Ryan Tuenge Updated: June 5, 2012 - 11:00 PM

 New Zealand hops are a growing trend in the craft brewing industry where breweries such as New Belgium, Anchor, Odell’s, and many more are using hop varieties from the pacific island to flavor some fantastic brews. 

For over 150 years hops have been cultivated in the Nelson region of New Zealand and with good reason. There the weather is mild, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and is perfect for growing hops because the sun shines over 2,400 hours per year. Not only is the weather perfect but the whole harvesting process is environmentally friendly due to the fact that, in most crops, no chemicals or pesticides are needed. 
Many of the diseases previously found in these hops have been breed out thanks to a world class hop breeding program that has been functioning for over 50 years. Internationally, brewers have long tapped the island for its seedless hop supply, a popular commodity among lager-style brewers.
You may start to notice some of these New Zealand hop varieties on ingredient lists:
Nelson Sauvin
Hallertau Aroma
Pacific Gem
Pacific Jade
On the local scene, Summit chose to use Rakau hops (a rare variety) in their new Saga IPA, which gives the beer a citrus punch and has left the local hop heads buzzing about this new refrigerator staple. Other local breweries, such as Town Hall Brewery and Barley John’s Brew Pub, have also been experimenting with New Zealand hops, often incorporating them into specialty beers. 
Home brewers can also get their hands on many varieties of these hops at both Northern Brewer locations and at Midwest Supplies in St. Louis Park. One can’t help but think that these varieties would make a fine addition to your summer homebrew. 


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