10 local beers to serve the unruly, repugnant horde you call a family

A beer for each and every miserable branch of your family tree.

A beer for each and every miserable branch of your family tree.

Congratulations, you’re an adult.

As such, you and your life partner have been selected to welcome the unruly, repugnant horde of malignants you call a family into your house. The holidays are magical like that. You have little more in common with these people than a couple genes and an inbred need to get drunk in order to cope, so what the hell do you serve them?

The beauty of hosting Chrismukkah in the North Star state is that there are over 110 brewhouses that should make it easy to find a spiritual match for each and every miserable branch of your family tree.

Your Disapproving Republican Dad

Fulton the Libertine Imperial Red Ale

Let’s start with the man who drove you to drink in the first place. Pa’s got some opinions on things, none of them good. He’s not sure how he feels about you, but he sure loves Scott Walker, so plug his welfare-and-women-hatin’ maw with a Fulton the Libertine. Fulton’s an agreeable brewhouse, and even the man who never once said “I love you” can appreciate this Minneapolis-made beer that pours red as the blood of a god-fearin’ American male. It’s also just as vicious, with a nascent cherry and toffee flavor adding to the slight syrupy-ness of the beer. But other than that, there’s no fuckery at work here. None of that fussin’ and artisanal sensibility that he detests in you. Just a straight up, roundly hopped red ale that never cried to get out of little league practice or voted for Barack HUSSEIN Obama.

Your Doting Saint of a Grandma

Insight Sunken City Saison

Oh Grandma. The ultimate enabler. Too sweet to ever say no to giving you a drink since you were 16. The old lady rarely ventures away from her box of Franzia at family gatherings, but this holiday season, you can flip the script and slip her one of Insight’s newly canned concoctions. Sunken City is brewed with sauvignon blanc grapes, so it has the same herbal exuberance of a low-rate vino, but it’s built up on the smooth and spicy backbone of a classic French-style saison. At 7.8 percent ABV, it should take your G-ma twice as many servings to get to the point where her slur isn’t just from her dentures coming loose.

Your Schlitz-Swilling Bumpkin Grandpa

Tin Whiskers Wheatstone Bridge American Wheat Ale

Grandpa has been drinking Milwaukee factory beer since the Korean War, but he’s gonna have to venture outside his comfort zone before he shuffles off this mortal coil. Why not this holiday season? The surly geezer spent his childhood in the grain fields of northern Minnesota, and he’s always had a respect for the back-broken blue collar class, so hand him a chilly Tin Whiskers Wheatstone Bridge to bring his beer palate into 2015. The St. Paul ale will definitely have some flavors he isn’t used to in his suds — chamomile, honey, and apple dominate this genre-bender. Gramps may balk at the funky flavor profile, but the beer is built off a foundation of good ol’ Minnesotan wheat. One deep sip followed by a solid belch, and he’ll feel the kinship this new-age ale has with his humble childhood.

Your Granola Yogi Aunt

Fair State Cromulence Sour Wheat Beer

What pairs well with a nice, pallid Christmas tofurky? It’s a question you’ll have to answer when your flowerchild of an aunt comes into town looking to get some ethically produced suds to go with her extra-firm, sprouted abomination. Get a Fair State Cromulence in her hand before she corners you to opine the benefits of water birth. She’ll love how Fair State is brewed at an employee-owned facility in Northeast, and once you tell her that sour beers are made with what’s essentially free-range yeast, she should be more than willing. Cromulence isn’t a very aggressive sour, and it has a bit of that vinegary, kombucha-like taste she’s used to. If she’s still not completely sold, you can tell her that shamans in Borneo feed it to infants to help establish their gut microbiota. It’s an outright lie, but it’s just as veritable as all the New Age junk she shares on her Facebook.

Your Pencil-Necked Accountant Uncle

Excelsior Spresso Milk Stout

This poor bastard. He’s been up to his yambag in Excel spreadsheets so long that he’s forgot how to interact with anyone outside of a cubicle. The guy is basically a walking office joke, and he’s yukking his chinless way to your place for the Yuletide. Your uncle is always going on about how he’s useless without his coffee. “Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my cuppa joe!” he probably says 80 times a day to the same vacant laughter. The best way to get him to loosen his ugly holiday tie is to start him off with something he’s comfortable with — how about Excelsior’s Spresso? Truthfully, this artfully crafted milk stout tastes more like a coffee than a beer. The heavy mocha presence is only partially balanced by the sudden crispness of the aftertaste. A sixer of these will have this spreadsheet-enslaved number-cruncher comin’ out of his shell like it was 8 p.m. at the annual office holiday soiree.

Your Crossfit-Obsessed Cousin

Big Wood Amigo Grande Mexican-Style Lager

The holidays are the one time of the year Brock breaks his paleo diet, so he’ll be able to enjoy some good-ol’-fashioned liquefied grains. Your cousin is gonna have a tough time sharing a table with people who don’t understand his passion for injurious cult fitness, so slip him a can of Amigo Grande. He’ll appreciate the boner joke in Big Wood’s name, and as someone who’s looking for a beer that tastes as good going down as it does being upchucked on the floor of a converted garage full of coked-out exercise gurus, he’ll dig Amigo Grande’s Corona-imitating smoothness. It’s one of the lowest-concept microbrews in Minnesota, and it’s the type of refreshing craft beer anyone — even dudes who think cavemen had the most nuanced grasp of nutrition — can get down with.

Your Insufferable Hipster Brother

Burning Brothers Roasted Coffee Strong Ale

Perhaps the only person in your family with a more deliberately restrictive diet than your meathead cousin, your brother is the most sigh-inducing member of your holiday assembly. It’s hard to keep up with the micro-gastro trends he’s cycling through, but there are certain buzzwords that will get this mass-appeal-averse sibling interested, and gluten-free is one of them. Burning Brothers in St. Paul runs a zero-gluten facility. They use sorghum to make their brews, and their Roasted Coffee Strong Ale is the crowning achievement of this grain alternative. Balanced, smooth, and creamy, Roasted is an unassailable option for folks who think the craft beer scene is too mainstream.

Your Basic-Ass Sister-in-Law

Indeed Yamma Jamma Harvest Ale

Sarah loves fall. And wine. And painting with her friends while drinking wine. That’s all you know about her, because that’s really all there is to her. She’s a caricature of a woman stuffed into a chunky sweater and yoga pants, but your sibling loves her, so it’s your duty as host to make her feel at home. What better way than to appeal to her sensibilities? Indeed took a root vegetable and made it the root of their harvest ale, the brilliantly autumnal Yamma Jamma. To be honest, the beer is better than she’ll probably appreciate — it takes a keen alchemist to prop up the banality of a brown ale on a potato, and Indeed have created a smooth-drinkin’ Frankenstein with Yamma Jamma — but once you suggest she chase every sip with a marshmallow to recreate her favorite holiday casserole, Sarah will be all in on this local craft brew.

Your Niece who Never Outgrew her Goth Phase

Steel Toe Dissent Dark Ale

With the amount of money this dastardly outcast puts into mascara, she probably hasn’t ventured very far into the craft beer market. You want something that matches her pitch-black aesthetic, and St. Louis Park’s Steel Toe Brewing cooks up the perfect match. The name Dissent is almost too on-the-nose for this little creature of the night, and the beer is so dark that light won’t pass through it. But it’s actually quite roasty and warm with strong coffee flavors, and the malty vanilla body betrays its unwelcoming exterior. Likewise, your once-darling niece still has some of her childhood pleasantness dormant inside her vampiric shell, and maybe sharing one of Minnesota’s finest foreign-style stouts will help bring that out.


Summit Sticke Alt Düsseldorf Ale

Who the fuck is Drew? He RSVP’d to your Christmas Evite, but you have no idea who he is or who he’s with. Is he your cousin’s boyfriend? Your new uncle-in-law? Your grandma’s hospice nurse? Well, shit, you gotta get the guy something, even if it’s not very expensive. You could just settle for Summit’s more readily available options like EPA or Saga, but even if you don’t know Drew’s obviously white ass, you still want something less ubiquitous to impress him. The solution? Edition 20 in Mike Lundell’s Unchained series — the Sticke Alt ale. Sticke Alt is a “secret”-styled German altbier that is heavy on malt and hops. Sharing your secret with Drew should create some instant bonding, especially as you note its synergy with the yams. Hopefully Drew is a cool dude, because if he’s a weird asshole, you’re gonna be stuck with him after giving him this one-year-only brown beer.

All photos by Jerard Fagerberg