Consider the brewpub.
Most breweries in Minnesota rely on food trucks to supplement their beer. They keep their focus on the product rather than creating a bona fide restaurant experience.
By contrast, the actual brewing at many brewpubs can seem like an afterthought (see Rock Bottom). But that isn't always the case; many establishments in the Gopher State pull off the restaurant/brewery dynamic with aplomb. This month, we salute them.
The lead pair of breweries in this month’s Local Suds place equal emphasis on their kitchen and brew floor -- a feat that doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves. Some of the best beer in the state is made alongside a set menu. It barely gets bottled, and it turns over on tap quicker than at most beer-only facilities.
August’s rundown shows that you should never sleep on a beermaker just because they have a dining room next to the mash tun.
Northbound Bridge Hanger
Belgian strong ale, 9.5% ABV, 42 IBU
Every time Northbound Smokehouse’s Bridge Hanger comes out, it’s a little different. When it debuted two years ago, it was 0.2% lighter with a bit more spice. Since then, the south Minneapolis brewpub has streamlined its sweet and boozy Belgian strong. 2016’s Bridge Hanger is a proper strong ale in the way that it overpowers every corner of the palate with its strong alcohol flavor and indelible caramel character.
With every big beer comes a big story. This one stems from an incident during an employee outing near the Wisconsin Dells where a couple of emboldened souls decided to hang from a bridge as a train passed à la The Lost Boys. Everyone survived, and the legend of that afternoon lives on in the soul of this equally bold, ever-evolving yearly release that came back into rotation on August 1.
Grand Rounds Zeitgeist
Berliner weisse, 4.5% ABV, 3 IBU
Berliner weisses are undersold yard beers. With a practically negligible ABV and seemingly boundless fruit esters, a good Berliner weisse can turn a muggy August afternoon at the grill into a brisk, nearly tropical affair. Rochester brewpub Grand Rounds released its German sour right in time for August. Zeitgeist lives up to its name by being a galvanizing brew for anyone who thought the definition of “summer beer” didn’t extend into the sour territory.
Leaning toward blueberry flavors and going down with an almost cider-like body, Zeitgeist is a superbly fresh drink. Grand Rounds also has a tart cherry infusion, but that upgraded funk is much more limited than the normal, wheaty version. A trip out to Rochester is warranted regardless of which iteration you end up getting crowlered and taking back to your yard.
Fair State Du Pounde
Saison, 5.5% ABV, 25 IBU
Saisons have kind of run off the rails, trending more toward the over-spiced, under-balanced profiles of big-brewery Belgian wits. Fair State’s Du Pounde -- released at the brewery on August 11 -- takes the saison back to its French roots with the extremely pale, extremely dry Du Pounde. More Wallonia than Flanders, Du Pounde leans on Pilsner malt and malted wheat to make it the easiest drinkin’ saison to hit the market all summer.
Du Pounde is destined for a tallboy release, making the name an excellent double entendre. Beyond being a nod to the famous Saison Dupont, it’s a premonition of things to come. Once you have a four-pack of 16-ounce pounders in your hand, you’ll understand just how easy Du Pounde is to take down in sequence. For now, you can tackle pints of this exceptionally clean saison at Fair State’s taproom in Northeast.
Lupulin Blissful Ignorance #4
Double IPA, 9% ABV, 70 IBU
Big Lake brewery Lupulin Brewing calls its latest 750 mL bottle release “hop juice,” and that’s about right. The fourth in their annual series of double IPAs, Blissful Ignorance #4 certainly has the hops to earn the title, but it’s the “juice” part of the nickname that makes it a genius stroke. Despite the overpowering aroma and flavor of citra, mosaic, and columbus, 2016’s Blissful Ignorance swallows like silk. There are some latent fruity notes -- citrus and melon -- but it’s mostly just a funky, grassy beer that goes down like Hi-C. Careful with this one; if you plan on daydrinking with it, its 9% ABV will put you to bed before dinner time.
Lupulin's #4 is being released on Saturday just in time for Big Lake’s Monticello Lions Brewfest, so those of you attending the Summer Dabbler won’t be enjoying a pour from Lupulin, but a supremely limited run will be in local liquor stores. Check in at Elevated in Minneapolis and Top Ten Liquors in St. Louis Park starting on August 25. If you make it to the brewery, June release Spudfest is also still available.
Lakes & Legends Sweet Corn Summer Ale
Ale, 5.1% ABV, 31 IBU
Lakes & Legends’ Farm to Glass has a penchant for bringing whatever fresh, local produce is all up in your co-op to their beers, and the Loring Park brewer is closing out summer with the most logical extension yet. Sweet Corn Summer Ale is brewed with fresh, seasonal sweet corn from Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm in Monticello. For those of you paying attention, yes, that is the place that provides all the delicious cobs for the Minnesota State Fair, and that’s why Sweet Corn will only be available August 25 to September 3 at O’Gara’s at the Fair.
Sweet Corn isn’t overpoweringly corn-y like you’d think, though. It’s mostly a malty, somewhat earthy ale that carries a corn essence right through the swallow. The taste left after a sip is like a mouthful of kernels, which, as anyone who’s enjoyed a roasted ear at the fairgrounds can tell you, is surprisingly refreshing on a hot day. O’Gara’s has all the Sweet Corn Summer Ale ever made, and it will be available only at their stand at the Fair. It will be available every day, but each daily release is likely to run out before the ferris wheels shut down.
Brewers interested being featured in Local Suds should email [email protected]