Local Suds: 5 Minnesota beers to try in April


We're a little late for April's Local Suds, but that's only because this edition has some legs.

Local Suds was founded on the idea of opening up the horizons of Minnesota beer drinkers. Yes, we have plenty of great brewers in the Cities, but some of the greatest beers in the state can't be found in Northeast or on the shelves of Zipp's or Elevated. You have to make a day of it.

To that end, we have young breweries from New London, Victoria, and Waconia all getting nods this month. In fact, the only Minneapolis brewery featured here is brand spankin' new. Even though we're three weeks into the month, this roundup still feels like a success for that reason. But, just to keep it familiar, we start with an old standby.

Grain Belt Lock & Dam 
Amber lager, 5% ABV,  50 IBU

Schell's has shown a dogged determination to expand the Grain Belt brand and its blue-collar glory, and its acquisition of the iconic, Hold Steady-referenced sign on Nicollet Island was only the first step. In celebration of that nostalgia fest, the New Ulm brewery has released Lock & Dam, a copper lager that drinks clean and refreshing. It's basically the Sam Adams Boston Lager of the Twin Cities, though it retails for a much more reasonable $6.99 per six pack. As utilitarian as Premium or Nordeast, Lock & Dam is a logical move for the storied lager imprint. If it feels weird drinking Grain Belt out of a dark-glass pry-off bottle, the beer will be getting the tallboy treatment it so rightly deserves this summer. Pack your canoe coolers.

Enki Litmus Pils
Czech pilsner,  6.1% ABV, 13 IBU

Ask any brewer what the toughest style to brew is, and they'll tell you pilsner. Because of that, the style has become a litmus test for any brewery — an idea Enki brewmaster Jason Davis built right into the branding of the Victoria brewery's new pilsner. Enki's lightest beer before April 1 was a nutty little cream ale called the Victoria's Gold (available in bombers in the Twin Cities), but Davis wanted a better, simpler inroad for new drinkers familiar only with the traditional European tastes of beer. Their lemon-yellow, Czech-style pilsner is a great introduction to Enki's full collection. It's uber pale and crisp, with a cleanness that'll remind Pilsner Urquell drinkers that you can have the same (if not better) taste without leaving the continent.

Schram Biere De Garde
Biere de garde, 6.7% ABV,  19 IBU

On Wednesday,  Waconia's Schram Vineyards Winery & Brewery — the only brewery/winery hybrid in the state, dontcha know — will have a hot air balloon on premise to celebrate the release of their smoky Biere De Garde. A little less golden than the traditional Belgian biere de garde, Schram's interpretation showcases a smoked malt that's almost reminiscent of a well-smoked cheddar. It's not as robust as a rauchbier (more on those here), but it's certainly earthier than the typical de garde. Schram has some wild ideas on the horizon, and their gigantic lakefront estate is just brimming with secret experiments. It's a worthy destination for any in-state drinkers looking to get away on a sunny Saturday.

Modist Toats
Oat ale, 4.8% ABV, 38 IBU

Fulton and Freehouse have a new neighbor — the iconoclastic Modist Brewing. Technically all six of their beers are new, but the one most worth noting is the oat ale Toats. Made of 60% oats (more about how they manage that alchemy here), the beer is the first to use oat as a backbone and not an adjunct flavor like an oatmeal stout. The effect is a little gritty, but it gives the beer a smooth body. Plus, there's a bounty of citrus hops on the top to counterbalance the odd grain, and Toats leaves your palate feeling dry and bitter. Modist is officially open as of April 15, their beers available only at the taproom, in the shadow of Target Field.

Goat Ridge Beelzebubba
Belgian strong ale, 8.5% ABV, 22 IBU

Since opening in April of last year, New London's Goat Ridge Brewing has tapped an amazing variety of beers. Owner Josh Hill estimates it's around 45 different brews, with few latching on as returners. Now in their second year, they're bringing back the hugely popular Beelzebubba, a potent Belgian strong ale that Goat Ridge's drinkers voted back to life. Yes, this rundown is typically reserved for new beers, but for once, it's regularity that deserves a highlight here. The beer is a beautiful bronze ale that goes down with plenty of the imperial alcohol its ABV suggests, though there's something so refreshing about it. The brewer is still experimenting, though, and has just released the (seemingly) Misfits-inspired Devilock Stout to drinkers in the northwest of the state.