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Minnesota on Tap

He writes about beer.

Catching up with Rob Shellman from Better Beer Society

Rob Shellman and his posse of beer educators have ventured into new territory, a beer quality certification program. The benefits, as you can imagine, will be immense for both customers and businesses.

Meanwhile, his Better Beer Society University still is going strong, holding classes every Wednesday at Republic 7 Corners. Guests are not limited to the brewing industry as evidenced by the recent charcuterie class — which featured Red Table Meats, Lone Grazer Creamery and Corner Table.

I had a chance to catch up with Rob recently.

What inspired you to start BBS?

I started BBS out of my sheer love for educating people on beer. When I first learned about Ray Daniel's Cicerone program in 2008, I was immediately inspired to follow the path of beer education and was certified in 2009. In fact, I believe I was one of the first 100-200 Cicerone's in the country. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I knew that talking about beer made me happy and I wanted to share that happiness. I went to work on both the retail and supply side for a few years and quickly saw the need for further education in all parts/tiers of the industry. So I created BBS to be the "fourth tier," if you will, the education tier. I wanted there to be an option for Certified Cicerone's who, like me, wanted to further educate and help apply their knowledge in the trade for everyone, rather than working for one specific brewery or distributor channel. 

What effect has beer education had on the Minnesota craft beer scene?

I believe that while our market is still far behind other burgeoning beer markets for numerous reasons, we do have a very educated consumer base. Thanks to our creative and progressive minded culture, guys in the industry like Matt Kenevan at The Growler, who is producing a unique monthly trade publication for the Minnesta beer community. Not many other states can claim this. Also, our sheer love to support local in Minnesota has created a huge opportunity for brewers to be involved with other culinary events, creating multiple teaching moments and exposing their beer and stories to new palates. All of this creates better beer drinkers. Consumers are becoming more versed and as a result are developing a deeper appreciation for beer, which adds to their desire to support it. 

What are the benefits of being certified by BBS for local establishments?

Well, I think if your bar or restaurant sees the value in investing in a beer program, you should also see the value in truly showcasing that beer in its best light. Brewers work extremely hard in creating these unique beers, and they rely on their retail partners to help sell and handle their beer properly. This only happens by investing in your staff’s knowledge. Our certification program helps establishments achieve those best practices, as well as offers those bars, restaurants and taprooms a sense of distinction while improving their bottom line. Brewers are happy. Establishments are happy. Consumers are happy. 

How will this impact the craft beer consumer?

Well, to start, consumers will no longer be fed misinformation about a specific beer or beer style. In fact, they'll receive far better flavor descriptors as the staff will have a better understanding of ingredients. Also, things like understanding the principles of food pairings, and being able to determine off-flavors, these all attribute to a better experience for the consumer. In addition, consumers will be served (ideally) perfect pours and will receive "beer clean" glassware. Beer enthusiasts are some of the most knowledgeable consumers around. They know how the beer should be served and described ... fortunately, a program like this helps bridge that gap and allows consumers a choice in who they choose to support. It's my hope that this program builds awareness that we need improved quality standards in the marketplace, from draft maintenance to the front-of-house. It's our hope we can play a big part in changing this.

For more information on Better Beer Society check out their webpage.


New beers from Fair State Brewing in northeast Minneapolis

Thursday will be a big day for the year-old Fair State Brewing in northeast Minneapolis. They will be releasing bottles of their first spirit barrel-aged offering called Old Richmond Rye. The supply is limited to 700 bottles which will be for sale starting at 3 p.m. until they run out.

The name of this Imperial Brown Ale stems from the rye whiskey barrels in which they aged the brew — which come from 45th Parallel Distillery out of New Richmond, Wis.

The limit is two bottles per person per day for this one.

On Friday Single Barrel Sours #5 and #10 will be released beginning at 3 p.m. in a very limited quantity (250 bottles of each). These beers were brewed in collaboration with Oude Oak which will be a new brewery in northern Minnesota founded by Caleb Levar and Levi Loesch.

Levar has been the assistant brewer at Fair State, which is a big reason their sour program has really taken off. Fair State's head brewer, Niko Tonks, was very excited to bring Caleb on after an encounter at a local beer fest. “We got drunk at Winterfest and I was like hey” said Tonks.

Co-op members will get first crack at the supply which will certainly not last throughout the busy weekend, with the brewery also hosting Co-Optoberfest.

Barrel #5 is a Rye Saison which is bottle conditioned and dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops adding a nice layer of pineapple to the French Oak red wine barrel-aged beer. Coconut seems to come through as well which is most likely due to the 10 months it sat in the oak barrels. It weighs in at 7.2 % ABV with a pH balance of 3.45. The limit is 1 bottle per person per day.

Barrel #10 was the most interesting of the three. This is a Sour Stout where the malt actually comes through really well lending a nice roasty chocolate flavor to the brew. Normally this flavor would be outshined by the sour funk. “You tasted it and it was just like those chocolate covered cherries,” said Levar. This was also aged for 10 months on French Oak red wine barrels like #5. Weighing in at 6.9 % ABV and sporting a pH balance (which is a measurement of acidity) of 3.65, this one is begging to be picked up before it runs out.

If all goes well, the crew plans to release these Barrel Aged Sours quarterly in the future. "We are super happy to be releasing these beers after 10 months,” said Tonks. You should also be excited, so much so that you should probably line up before they open on Thursday and Friday. These beers are that delicious.

If you go:

Old Richmond Rye release, 3 p.m. Thur., Oct 8.

Barrel #5 and Barrel #10 release, 3 p.m. Fri., Oct. 9.

Co-Optoberfest, 2 p.m., Sat., Oct. 10. Live accordion, food, live T-shirt printing and 17 beers on tap!

Fair State Brewing Cooperative, 2506 Central Av. NE., Mpls.


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