Leinenkugel family road trip hits the Twin Cities
The Leinenkugel brothers are in town. In fact the whole "famn damily" is here. Led by the current brewery CEO Jake Leinenkugel, a fifth-generation decendant of the founder, they are making a stop in the Twin Cities as part of a months-long, multi-city road trip to visit Leini's top 24 markets. "It's a family road trip," says Jake. "With all the good, the bad, and the ugly involved with that." The entourage includes the three Leinenkugel brothers, Jake, Nick, and John, as well as Jake's son and daughter CJ and Ellie.
I caught up with Jake at an event at Maynard's in Excelsior last night to find out what's up.
With a retrofitted 1976 airstream trailer in tow, the family has been crisscrossing the country since March. They started in Phoenix during baseball spring training. Next was the East Coast, including New York, the Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. They were in Indianapolis for the Indy 500 and came to the Twin Cities from Kansas City. At each stop the Leinenkugel clan is attending state fairs, beer festivals, and doing restaurant and store events, as well as meeting with their distributors. "It's a demanding schedule," said Jake. "But it's fantastic meeting with beer drinkers. It's tiring, but it's a good tiring."
While on tour they are promoting new releases in the brewery's Big Eddy series. These bigger, bolder beers are named after the spring that originally supplied the brewery with water. As Jake describes it, "The Big Eddy series is really a demand from our brewmasters three years ago to do what some of the other craft brewers were doing, and that is just making bigger beers. Higher alcohol, bigger hopped, different styles of hopping. So we basically did a brewers unleashed." While many beer nerds regularly dismiss the Chippewa Falls beer maker, the Big Eddy series is making some of them take a second look. "They look at us as being too big and too commercialized. I get it. It doesn't bother me in the least, and I tell a lot of them that, because everybody's got a point of view about beer, and that's what I love about beer. It's personal. It was our brewmasters that were hearing this and that it bothered. And that's why I told you the story of letting our brewmasters be unleashed and saying, 'Okay, show us what you can do.'"
The series was launched a few years ago with a Russian Imperial Stout. The latest release, a Scottish Wee Heavy, is just winding down. An Imperial IPA is being rolled out this week. The IPA is big and bitter with lots of grapefruit-pith hop flavors. The malt was a bit syrupy for my taste, but it's worth trying.
Reflecting on the current growth in the beer industry, Jake took a cautiously optimistic tone. "I always worry about quality. I really do. I worry about that not from a personal standpoint alone, but from an industry standpoint. We cannot afford to have bad beer out there. It doesn't matter if it's us or anybody. The brewers that are coming onboard have to be very cautious about quality. That's the one thing that concerns me."
If you want to catch up with the tour you can find the family and the airstream today at Sam's Club in Shakopee (Old Carriage Court) from 2:30-3:30 P.M. and at Cub Liquor in Rosemont (150th Street West) from 4 to 6 p.m. After that I believe they are headed to Target Field to watch the Twins defeat the Cubs.
Cheers, Michael Agnew Certified Cicerone A Perfect Pint
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