These are boom times for Twin Cities beer lovers. The local brewing scene is growing quickly. Since the end of June, we've seen five new metro-area brewery openings.
Badger Hill Brewing Co. was launched June 28. It shares a Minnetonka brewery with Lucid Brewing in an alternating proprietorship relationship. This arrangement allows two independently licensed breweries to use the same equipment. Brewer Broc Krekelberg describes the Badger Hill approach as "staying close to the style, mostly." The brewery focuses on the classics, but adds its own special touches. The flagship MSB (Minnesota Special Bitter) is an Extra Special Bitter, a slightly stronger and maltier version of the English pale ale. Caramel and toffee lead the way, with moderate touches of bitterness at the beginning and end. Notes of orange marmalade wend their way through the middle.
Excelsior Brewing Co. opened its taproom doors July 2. Located at the edge of Excelsior's quaint Water Street district, the brewery is a convenient refreshment stop amid an afternoon of shopping or a day on Lake Minnetonka. Excelsior was launched with Bridge Jumper, a hefty 8 percent alcohol IPA that is loaded with tropical-fruit hop flavors. If you want something less weighty for a day on the lake, try its Big Island Blond. The beer is light, smooth and easy to drink, with just a touch of bitterness.
Northeast Minneapolis was once the cradle of brewing in the Twin Cities. Indeed Brewing Co., which opened in mid-August, is bringing a bit of that history back to the neighborhood. Indeed was the state's first brewery to include a tap room in the plan from the start, and the warm, wood-paneled space is indeed a beautiful place to enjoy a pint. Their Day Tripper Pale Ale features huge melon and tropical fruit aromas. Hop flavor and bitterness are similarly pronounced, but the slightly caramel-sweet malt keeps it balanced.
Roseville-based Pour Decisions Brewing Co. debuted at this year's State Fair. Head brewer Kristen England developed some serious brewing chops with years of homebrewing, winning numerous medals in both local and national competitions. His specialty is true session beers, the kind that allows you to drink several pints and still walk out of the bar. Pubstitute is a dark, Scottish-style ale that weighs in at under 3 percent alcohol. But don't let that fool you; this beer is loaded with flavor. Dark caramel, toffee and dark fruits are set off by the lightest touch of cocoa roast in the finish.
The newest addition to the scene is Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub, which opened Sept. 20 in a historic building just steps from the 38th Street stop of the Hiawatha light-rail line. Northbound offers a small menu of house-smoked meats, fish and cheeses (the porketta sandwich is a must-try). I especially liked the Light Rail Pale Ale, an easy-drinking American pale with moderate bitterness that lets the huge citrus flavors and aromas of Cascade hops shine through.
More in the works
Five new breweries in three months may seem like a lot, but the rush is hardly over. Several more are set to open yet this year or early next year. Northeast Minneapolis will reap more beer bounty with 612 Brew, Dangerous Man Brewing and Northgate Brewing Co., all currently under construction. Lino Lakes will soon be tasting brews from HammerHeart Brewing Co. Big Wood Brewery is moving forward in White Bear Lake. Outside the metro area, look for Reads Landing Brewing Co. in Wabasha County and Canal Park Brewing Co., set to open soon in Duluth.
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.