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Another gubernatorial hopeful, former Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers, made an apology tour to Chippewa Falls this month, his penance for having described Wisconsin’s beloved Leinenkugel’s as “bath water” compared with “good Minnesota beer.” Apology accepted, Zellers launched his own gubernatorial campaign days later.
For Minnesota beer lovers, these are the best of times. There are new regional flavors, quirky new neighborhood watering holes, and Surly is planning a $20 million destination brewery and taproom in southeast Minneapolis.
There are so many beers being invented, you can find a brew that pairs well with almost anything. Just ask Pete Rifakes, who is about to open a new brewpub-meets-bowling-alley in south Minneapolis. He’s brewing up a new beer — Superstrike — for the occasion.
“I love to bowl and I think bowling and drinking beer goes hand in hand,” said Rifakes, who opened his first brewpub, Town Hall Brewery, in 1997, long before the state’s beer boom. His new venture, Town Hall Lanes, will be his third brewpub when it opens in mid-July.
Even with all this supply, Roberts estimates that 90 percent of Minnesotans still aren’t drinking local beer. The Craft Brewers hope to set that right at this year’s State Fair, where they’ll host an exhibit offering tastes of more than 30 Minnesota beers. Last year’s exhibit, which offered 21 types of beer, was so popular that fair visitors were coming at 9 a.m. to ask which beer paired best with their morning scrambled eggs (Roberts suggests darker beers with breakfast).
Some worry that Minnesota could get too much of a good thing and that the number of breweries eventually will exceed the number of people thirsting for craft beer.
People say “‘Oh, there’s so many breweries, there’s so many breweries,’ but all the breweries are different,” Whisenand said. “Some want to grow like us, and distribute to the whole metro and possibly the whole state, and some want to sell just in their neighborhood or their bar … The one thing we all have in common is that almost all these breweries are owned by dudes like me and [co-founders Nathan Berndt and Rachel Anderson]. They’re people. They’re people who live there, who aren’t Anheuser-Busch.”
Roberts argues that the state has not even begun to tap the public’s appetite for locally made beer. Wisconsin easily supports more than 80 breweries. Bend, Ore. — population 76,000 — has 20 breweries at last count, which is more than Minnesota used to have statewide.
“Quality is going to reign supreme,” Roberts said. “Being adventurous and inventive with beer is going to be important. Really, the big winner in all of this is going to be the consumer.”
Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049