We’ve all heard how important it is to drink local, which is often interpreted as “Made in Minnesota.” Well, a little publicized fact is that the Wisconsin border is closer to the Twin Cities than those lovely beers coming out of Duluth and New Ulm. We should remember to try the influx of new craft beers coming out of Packer country in addition to all those new Minnesota-born flights.
Somerset’s Oliphant Brewing is about 40 miles east of the Cities and, besides their own beers which have yet to cross the border, they have a few suggestions of key Wisconsin beers that Minnesotans can buy here at home.
One of Oliphant’s most popular beers is Gobias, an Arrested Development-named coffee black ale made with mashed oats and steeped with River Moon coffee. A coffee beer, says co-owner Trevor Wirtanen, should allow the two flavors to complement each other. “But if I'm going to drink a coffee beer, I want it to have a significant coffee presence,” he adds. With Gobias, Oliphant uses the cold steeping of coffee grounds in a special black ale recipe. “We wanted it to exhibit the chocolate, nuttiness, and slight fruitiness that you can get from a really nice espresso without any acrid bitterness."
Your best bet for finding Gobias is at the taproom but it’s also sold at Casanova and Chicones in Hudson, Liquor Depot in Somerset, and elsewhere near the border.
As for some other Wisconsin beers to check out, here are the top recommendations of both Oliphant owners, Wirtanen and Matt Wallace.
1. 3 Sheeps Nitro Rye Stout - Cashmere Hammer
3 Sheeps has been popping up all over Wisconsin and Minnesota with their c"ewe"te sheep logo sliding down waterslides and dressing in the finest regalia. Cashmere Hammer is an impressive endeavor, being that it's the only bottled nitro beer in the United States outside of Left Hand's Nitro series (that we currently know of). A heavy hammering of rye spiciness, roasted malts eased in by the cashmere kisses of a stout on nitro. An impressive beer and brewery out of Sheboygan, WI.
2. Central Waters Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel-Aged Series
Central Waters has made a name for itself with barrel-aged beers. Their brewery in Amherst has a whole separate facility for the barrel program which is filled to the gills with different bourbon barrels: no wax dipping, no price hike, no hassle. To make things even better, Central Waters has a large focus on renewable energy and checking their environmental footprint which has earned them entrance into Wisconsin's Green Tier program, the only brewery in Wisconsin to do so. Solid beer, solid company.
3. MKE Outboard Cream Ale
MKE has worked hard to be where they are now. Starting as a brewpub in 1997, MKE now has a second production facility, and like Central Waters, has a focus on renewable energy. Their Cream Ale is top notch and drinks like heaven in summer. If you find yourself out in the St Croix County, and meander to Perch Lake, make sure to stop in the Liquor Depot to pick up a 4-pack first. It's what we did all summer…
4. Old Milwaukee
…which leads to the next beer, Old Milwaukee. If you can get a 30-pack to float on a lake with the sun beating down and the dog on a paddleboard, you're probably a hero. A hero deserving of a few Old Mils. This lager takes the cake for macrobeer.
5. Rush River Uber Alt
Rush River has been brewing since 2004, first starting near Maiden Rock, WI, and eventually moving into River Falls, WI. They have several established staples and a few seasonals—including the Uber Alt. This beer is in the Dusseldorf style, an exceptional winter lager.