Local Suds: 5 Minnesota beers to try in March

A saison for the start of spring.

A saison for the start of spring. Jerard Fagerberg

Last month, Local Suds celebrated its first birthday -- 12 months of rounding up the latest and greatest of beers on the Minnesota scene.

In those first 12 entries, we profiled 62 beers from 42 breweries across the state -- 20 in Minneapolis, four in St. Paul, and 18 in the suburbs and exurbs. That representation could certainly be better, and the goal for 2017 is to bring dozens more breweries to this column and really challenge the geography, as well as the complexity, of the local beer palate.

The beer world is expanding as eagerly as ever, which means we have even more unexplored territory to get into in the months to come. We'd love to have you along for the ride.

Summit Unchained 24: Spring Saison
Saison, 4.7% ABV, 30 IBU

Perfect for your unseasonably warm winter, Summit’s Spring Saison has just joined their Unchained Series. Packaged in a green can that offsets it from the previous 23 Unchained beers, Spring Saison is brewer James Birnie’s first recipe to go to production, and it hit shelves in six packs the first week of March.

The beer itself is lighter and more crisp than a lot of the gauzy saisons that populate straight-Belgian breweries, giving the beer a knockback factor beyond its style. Building on the aroma of the Czech saaz hops, Spring Saison is herbal and rosy, finishing with a fragrant dryness. Saisons and farmhouse ales are usually loaded with odd grains like corn and wheat, but Birnie kept it simple, allowing the Belgian yeast to do the work in creating a beer that ushers in an early season.

Insight East and West IPAs
East Coast IPA,6.4% ABV, 41 IBU
West Coast IPA, 7.6% ABV, 92 IBU

As a Midwestern state, Minnesota has no de facto allegiance to the East Coast or West Coast. However, the greater brewing world is seeing each region’s definition of the IPA come into opposition. Northeast’s Insight Brewing is releasing Minnesota’s first mixed four pack to help decide which style resonates most deeply in this flyover state.

East represents the emergent New England IPA. Modeled after beers from The Alchemist, Treehouse, and Trillium, East is juicy and aromatic, showcasing citra hops in a cloudy, yeasty body. Big notes of passionfruit burst out of the glass, but there’s no catty off-aromas that can sometimes be found in the style.

West, on the other hand, represents the now-archaic West Coast IPA popularized by Stone and Lagunitas in the aughts. It’s piney and crisp, incorporating a staggering 92 IBU. There’s significantly less aroma in the nose, but the bitterness is extremely aggressive thanks to the chinook, centennial, and simcoe hops.

The pair together showcase the versatility of the hop, challenging the drinker’s perception of what “bitterness” can mean in the context of different styles. Insight is also inviting drinkers to vote their preference on social media using hashtags #EastWins and #WestWins. The winner will enter Insight's seasonal beer program.

Modist Dreamyard
IPA, 7.1% ABV, ~50 IBU

Speaking of New England IPAs, North Loop’s Modist Brewing has perfected the recipe for their own take on the hazy juice bomb Dreamyard. They’re committing the final product to tallboys for their first can run.

Fastidious drinkers will remember Dreamyard as a standout of their Deviation series. Like Insight East, Dreamyard is a big goblet of citra hops, with the grapefruit flavors carrying through the swallow. The addition of Denali hops -- called “nuggetzilla” by the more bro-tastic sectors of the beer world -- gives the beer a pineapple aroma, but the true difference between Modist’s NE IPA and everyone else’s is the malt bill. Composed almost entirely of oats and wheat thanks to Modist’s futuristic mash filter, the mouth feel is chewy and slightly granular -- an enviable trait for brewers trying to master the young style.

Dreamyard joins First Call Coffee Lager as the first canned options for Modist.

Omni Loonacy
Belgian strong ale, 8% ABV, 50 IBU

Last year around St. Patrick’s day, Omni Brewing introduced the ginger red ale Rua. This year, Rua came back on tap, but it returned alongside a sibling, Loonacy, Omni’s first bottled beer distributed outside the taproom. 1,008 bottles of the yeasty Belgian strong ale were produced, hitting the market on March 11.

Loonacy contains all the spicy and herbal notes of a traditional Belgian, but there’s an underlying juiciness that’s reminiscent of an IPA. Mixed in with that is the paleness of the sterling hop -- an American takeoff of the famous Czech saaz hop -- creating a crisp and dry finish that transcends the style’s heritage.

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