Brewing takes time. Planning. Patience. Things don’t always finish how they should, and they very often don’t finish when they should.
For generations, brewers have relied upon the changing seasons in their beermaking. Lighter, more refreshing brews for summer. Malty ones for fall. Dark insulators for winter. Now, with November bringing sunny days in the 70s, the black and boozy winter seasonals that have been fermenting and aging in anticipation of chillier weather are hitting shelves with the absolute wrong temperature in the air.
It’s sad, but there’s nothing that says you can’t take down an 11% ABV bomber on your sun porch the week before Thanksgiving or welcome December with a bready milk stout and a t-shirt. Even if the weather outside calls for that shandy stuck in the back of your fridge from July, you’re better off going with the fresh stuff. Don’t let the unseasonably warm weather spoil the run of great, bold beers Minnesota brewers are putting out this month.
Modist Lord Humungus
Imperial ale, 10.5% ABV, 76 IBU
For those of you not studied-up on your 1980s post-apocalyptic fiction films, Lord Humungus is an imposing, hockey-mask-wearing marauder from Mad Max 2. So, obviously the politically wry Modist Brewing found Humungus to be a perfect mascot for their first bottle release, which was sold off at their Pre-Post Apocalypse Party on Saturday. A tongue-in-cheek reaction to the 2016 political election, Lord Humungus comes in a gorgeously designed bottled capped with toxic yellow wax.
Inside the bottle is a beer made of “blood, fire, and gasoline.” But it’s not as sinister as it may seem. Without much heat, it carries a big ABV. 58% of the grain bill is rye, which makes it a buildout of their Wasteland rye ale and chocolate rye malt. But the notes of caramel and sugar take over, leaving a surprisingly soft taste in your mouth. Humungus bottles are limited (and probably already gone), but it will hang around on tap. Modist has also released an “atomic ale,” a beer that has equal characteristics of an imperial stout and a barleywine, which should be there even if Humungus isn’t.
Summit Unchained 23: Dark Infusion
Coffee milk stout, 8.5% ABV, 40 IBU
Put simply, Summit’s Dark Infusion is a goddamn masterpiece beer. Honestly, it could unseat Bent Paddle Cold Press Black Ale as the best coffee beer in Minnesota. As the St. Paul legend’s first coffee beer in its 30-year history, there was a lot at stake with Dark Infusion, but brewer Pete Stacy made his debut in Summit’s ongoing Unchained series one worth remembering forever.
With a light, drinkable body and a huge coffee aroma constructed by Stacy and Blackeye Roasting (learn more about that here), the body finishes super creamy and soft. There’s also generous carbonation, making Dark Infusion less dense than coffee stouts elsewhere on the market. Unchained 24 is due out in January, so stockpile tallboys of Dark Infusion while you can, even though, in all honesty, this beer could be built into a permanent Summit seasonal.
Wild Mind Winter’s Edge
Brown ale, 8% ABV, 25 IBU
Wild Mind Artisan Ale’s first winter in business will be complete with a run of new, seasonally appropriate beers, but the first is the Winter’s Edge, which came out the first week of November. With 66 pounds of dates incorporated into the brew, Winter’s Edge takes on a big sweet taste that’s cut by the lemony esters of the mixed culture of yeast at work. There’s also gobs of honey in the mix, something that’s reflected in the rich copper body of the beer. But through it all, malt is the predominant flavor, making this brown ale much more flavorful than many of it style.
But that’s not the extent of the experimental flavor add-ins. Wild Mind’s brewers have also put half the batch in bourbon barrels, a beer they plan to release around Christmas. In the meantime, they’ve got a dark farmhouse -- a winter version of their summer dark ale -- on nitro. Then, early in 2017, Wild Mind will begin bottling, giving their patrons 750 ml takeaways only available at the brewery.
Bad Weather Calamity
Russian imperial stout, 10.7% ABV, 65 IBU
Hats off to St. Paul's Bad Weather Brewing, who celebrated their first taproom anniversary in early November. The party came with a gamut of new beers -- a sour version of Ominous, a barrel-aged Cauld Weather, a Belgian tripel called Baril de Pluie, and six (six!) special-edition casks. They also dropped Calamity, their Russian imperial stout that drinks like pure velvet. Like its big brother (a possible inspiration) Surly Darkness, it holds a mighty ABV, but there’s a fine milkiness that conquers the light booziness.
Only 12 barrels of Calamity were made, and most of those other anniversary releases are gone, but Hibernation -- a brown ale with cacoa nibs and blackberries chucked into the mix -- is still around keeping the memory of the party going.
Spilled Grain Dark House
Imperial stout, 9.5% ABV, 92 IBU
Annandale’s Spilled Grain Brewhouse likes to wait on its beer. Most are keg-aged for a year before being released, and the 2016 Dark House has reached maturation and will see release on November 17. With notes of raisin and date, the double stout balances the high ABV with sweetness. In fact, Dark House is more stout than imperial, going down smooth and malty with a khaki coffee lace on the glass.
Next month, Spilled Grain with release another beer that’s been waiting all year. Their dopplebock Emancipator -- which made an appearance at All Pints North -- comes back in December, joining Dark House in the second-year brewery’s returning offerings.
Brewers interested being featured in Local Suds should email [email protected].