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Local Suds: 5 Minnesota beers to drink in December

Photos by Jerard Fagerberg

Photos by Jerard Fagerberg

The darkest days call for the darkest beers.

Every Winter Solstice, the Twin Cities welcome a run of limited-release, booze-heavy dark beers. Bent Paddle Double Shot Double Black, Inbound Russian Imperial Stout, Lift Bridge Commander (see below), Indeed Rum King—all debut when the days shorten, giving you a liquid proxy for all the despair you’re feeling.

I don’t always think it’s a good idea to let the weather dictate your drinking habits, but in the dead of winter, it’s undeniable. Give into the inky black emotions you’re feeling. Curl up in front of the hearth as the final lashings of your fire die out, and thank the Dark Lord Morgoth for the obsidian beer in your clutches.

56 Brewing White Elephant
Double IPA, 8.5% ABV, 30 IBU

If there’s a white elephant gift exchange going down at your family/corporate/self-help group holiday party, chances are the beer is going to be changing hands a lot. 56’s new double IPA White Elephant pays homage to the grand tradition of fucking over your loved ones for your own personal gain, positioning itself as “the gift you didn’t know you needed.” The bundle of Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau hops is definitely welcome, giving the beer an outrageous grapefruit aroma, and the Minnesota-grown wheat used in the malt bill creates a silky mouthfeel. White Elephant hit liquor store shelves December 10.

Surly Immortal Sun
Porter, 5.5% ABV, n/a IBU

Though famous for their darker-than-Slayer imperial stout Darkness, Surly has never brought a traditional porter to market. Mortal Sun, released as part of the stalwart brand’s new Frost Pack, is a true Surly beer in that the traditional sweet, roasty American porter has a bit of a twist. The beer is dry hopped with Willamette hops, giving it a punchy, verdant finish. Not bad for Surly’s first try at the style. Mortal Sun joins sparkling IPA Liquid Stardust as new additions in the Frost Pack, and be sure to track down the 2018 release of their annual double IPA Abrasive, which appeared on shelves this month as well.

Eastlake Tsathoggua
Imperial stout, 11.1% ABV, n/a IBU

Eastlake Craft Brewery is celebrating their fourth anniversary with a slew of barreled special beers. They’re dropping their first ever barrel-aged sour (Neon Camp) and a whisky barrel-aged brown ale, but more striking than these two special brews is their Spanish brandy-aged imperial stout: Tsathoggua. Named for the pot-bellied toad god from H.P. Lovecraft, Tsathoggua was built to be a peer of not only Cthulhu but also Darkness. Overrun with raisin and booze flavors, this is a certified creature of the depths. Tsathoggua hits tap lines at Eastlake on December 11. But Eastlake also cooked up two variants—coffee/oak-aged and chai-spiced—dropping on December 12 and 13, respectively.

Lift Bridge Commander 2018
Barleywine, 12.5% ABV, TK IBU

Barleywines have seemingly fallen out of favor in recent years, but Lift Bridge hasn’t wavered on the English-style brute. Their annual Commander dropped in late December, showing off the Stillwater brewery’s expertise and craftsmanship with the high-ABV style. Commander 2018 was aged in bourbon barrels from Kentucky’s Heaven Hill Distillery, giving it a wonderful, smoky booze flavor that sits beneath the sweet caramel body. Off the top, you get scents of cardamom and chocolate, letting you know that you’re about to imbibe a deeply complex beer. Commander is a very limited release, so you may need to go to the secondary market to get this year’s score.

612 Light into Ashes
Imperial stout, 8.8% ABV, n/a IBU

Northeast’s 612Brew took Black Friday to literal ends this year, debuting a opal imperial stout named Light Into Ashes. The 8.8% beer has silky notes of bourbon and tawny port balanced by light fruit esters of currant and plum. It’s a sophisticated drink that looks to have some sticking power. Next winter, 612 plans to package and release Light into Ashes as a seasonal release.

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