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Local suds: 5 Minnesota beers to drink in December

Lift Bridge's new biscotti brew: chocolate-dipped, not chocolate-drenched

Lift Bridge's new biscotti brew: chocolate-dipped, not chocolate-drenched Photos by Jerard Fagerberg

Local Suds is, at its heart, a democratic column.

As such, I try to feature beers that are widely and readily available. That’s not always easy when you’re covering new releases, since most aren’t the kind you’ll find in liquor stores immediately -- they’re more liable to be one-off taproom exclusives or limited-run bombers.

But December is the best month for beer hunting. Got a hophead you’re shopping for? Hopefully you can nab an exclusive beer and make their holiday. In that spirit, I’ve included three limited-edition beers that’d make for good gifts.

That is, if you can find them.

Lift Bridge Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti
Amber ale, 7.8% ABV, 23 IBU

Dessert beers can be overpowering. Usually, when you order something with “chocolate” in the title, you’re readying yourself for a sickly sweet, bready behemoth of a beer. But Lift Bridge’s new Biscotti series is the antithesis. It’s an amber that drinks like a brown ale: light in the body, definitely sweet in the flavor, but absolutely clean in the finish.

Released on December 9, the Chocolate-Dipped Biscotti variant is based off a biscotti recipe brewer Steve Rinker’s grandmother used to make for the holidays. It’s got plenty of that cookie malt flavor, but the Belgian yeast adds in playful, spicy notes. The 750 mL variant flavor is a limited release, but you might still find it on tap in Stillwater.

Summit Imperial Russian Stout
Imperial stout, 10.5% ABV, 70 IBU

Summit has never been about playing “me too” with the competition, and so it’s no wonder it took the St. Paul stalwart so long to release their own version of the now-ubiquitous Minnesota flagship beer: the Russian imperial stout. No doubt knowing they’d be compared to Lift Bridge Silhouette, Fulton Worthy Adversary, and, of course, the progenitor, Surly Darkness, Summit decided to stick to tradition and brew up their Imperial Russian Stout according to an 1840s British recipe that head brewer Damian McConn drank two decades ago.

The sixth in Summit’s small-batch Union Series, Imperial Russian Stout is incredibly smooth for the style, without an iota of booziness coming from the 10.5% ABV. Instead, there’s big, silky mouthfuls of roasty malt and coffee flavors. The UK ale yeast finishes the beer dry and keeps the sweetness at bay. Summit jokes that Russian foreign agents tampered with the beer during the six-month aging process, but it’s almost believable, given how unnaturally easy this one is to drink. Enjoy at 50 degrees for maximum smoothness.

Inbound Super G LOV
Double IPA, 7% ABV, 108 IBU

Most “milkshake IPAs” (a.k.a. IPAs brewed with lactose) are cloudy and overpowering. They rely too heavily on added milk flavor and drink like pureed fruit. Inbound Brewco’s delicious double IPA Super G LOV is quite the opposite. It’s clear and brassy, with deep resin flavors and fruity hop overtones.

Super G LOV is flavored with orange and vanilla -- LOV stands for “lactose, orange, vanilla” -- so there are some creamsicle flavors, but it’s really the hops that run the show. Super G LOV is one of three crowlers released at Inbound starting this month, and fresh 750 mL cans of Super G can be bought at the North Loop taproom, though it is a limited release.

Dangerous Man Laphroaig Scotch Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout, 10.8% ABV, n/a IBU

You can practically smell the smoked peat before you even uncap your bottle of this Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout. The sultry RIS was aged in Laphroaig Scotch whiskey barrels by the Dangerous Man team and was dropped in a super-limited bottle release on Saturday at the taproom.

Cedar and smoke flavors overrun the beer, with only a light booze scent working into the earthy aromas. If you’re not into Scotch, it'll probably turn you off, but if you have a wide booze palette, you’ll welcome this counter to the waves of bourbon-aged beers hitting the market in December. Only 1,200 bottles were produced, so unless you were in line on Saturday, your best bet will be the secondhand market. There are also a few kegs on tap at Dangerous Man, but those won’t last much longer than the bottles.

Junkyard Vanilla Cream Shake-o-Matic
IPA, 7% ABV, n/a IBU

Now that Junkyard crowlers are all over the Twin Cities scene, it’s amazing there hasn’t been a petition to move the state’s capital to Moorhead. The big cans are selling off the shelves in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and the crown jewel of the brewery’s portfolio is the experimental, fun-as-hell Shake-o-Matic series. While the strawberry variant was met with a few mixed reviews, the latest vanilla cream iteration is goddamn perfection.

There’s a big, piney El Dorado scent in the nose, but the vanilla beans in the brew are what dominate the flavor. Predominant hop flavor aside, Vanilla Cream Shake-o-Matic tastes like a mix between an IPA and cream soda. There are plenty of soft fruit flavors, but the milkiness of the lactose balances the mustiness with some delightful cream. This one should fly off shelves, too, but be sure to check the resurgent Hum’s Liquors (2126 Lyndale Ave. S), as they’ve committed to keeping Junkyard in stock.

Brewers interested being featured in Local Suds should email [email protected].