Beer and happiness are two things intrinsically linked to the weather. A change in seasons signals a rotation on the tap lines, and new beers come onto the scene like dandelions on a spring lawn.
With May in full effect, all 100-plus brewers in Minnesota have sprung into life. Their IPAs are brimming with citrus. Their wheat beers are spilling on canoe floors. A few iconoclasts (like one in this month's Local Suds) are clinging to dark beers, but for the most part, brewhouses in the North Star State are embracing the persuasions of spring.
It's the most exciting time of the year to be a beer drinker 'round here, which is why May's Local Suds includes a bonus sixth beverage for your thirsty eyes. As usual, this sextet of selections is really only a fraction of the good, fun shit coming out of the bright tanks all around Minnesota. Do yourself a favor — take advantage of the good weather, hop in your car, and go find some of the ones that didn't make their way into our roundup this month.
Boom Island Triple Brett
American wild ale, 7.2% ABV, 7 IBU
The latest entry in Boom Island's consistently superb Spontaneous Series, Triple Brett is a far mellower sour beer than we've seen from the Belgian-inspired brewhouse. With three strands of Brettanomyces going to work in French oak red wine barrels over the course of 10 weeks, the beer is unsurprisingly complex — the woody flavor is enhanced by a booming aroma of hay and fruit.
Triple Brett isn't nearly as tart as many of the sour beers on the local market, and it drinks more like a fine wine because of it. Only 1,800 bottles of Triple Brett were brewed, and the beer was released on May 13 at the taproom and select liquor stores.
Badger Hill High Roller
Extra pale ale, 5.2% ABV, 43 IBU
You can't drive to Badger Hill's taproom in Shakopee without passing through the shadow of the roller coasters of Valleyfair Amusement Park. Naturally, the park came to Badger Hill to brew up something special for their 40th anniversary. The result is a malty, piney beer not unlike Summit's trailblazing EPA. Dubbed an "Extra Park Ale," Badger Hill's High Roller is ideal for the hot Saturdays of late May and early June.
The style was selected by the Valleyfair crew above a cream ale or a blonde ale, and the smooth brew was definitely the right pick for parkgoers in the Minneapolis suburbs. High Roller is only available at Badger Hill's taproom, at Valleyfair, and at Turtle's in Shakopee. Look out for its distinctive tap handles, which were crafted from wood from the original High Roller coaster.
Finnegans Freckled Rooster
White ale, 5.8% ABV, 18 IBU
2016 has been an unprecedentedly busy year for Finnegans as the charity brewer pushes for $1 million in donations (more here). You'll recall Finnegans also released a session IPA in February, and as they build toward their own facility in Minneapolis, the mostly Irish brewhouse is expanding into new styles, thus their new French-inspired white ale.
They bill it as "the perfect summer beer," and the so-called bière blanc is indeed a refreshing drink. Showing characteristics of both saisons and witbiers (think Hoegaarden but filtered for more crispness), Freckled Rooster is a beer that'd go down well in the sun. With ample coriander and spice, it has a much prouder profile than your typical canoe beer.
Golden ale, 5.2% ABV, 18 IBU
Just in time for Art-A-Whirl, Nordeast farm-to-table beermaker Able Seedhouse + Brewery has released its most refreshing patio beer to date. Supergiant is a crisp golden ale with a mighty froth on top and plenty of bitterness in the middle. Released yesterday at Able's Paddles Up Party, Supergiant leans heavily on its hop character of mandarina bavaria for citrus, ahtanum for paleness, and jarrylo for melon notes.
The jarrylo strain is a new American hop, and it's pretty rare on the scene right now. Supergiant makes really good use of the unique bittering agent, working it cleanly into the beer's brassy body. Grab a pint to cool yourself off as you're touring Brewer's Row during Art-A-Whirl this Saturday.
Beaver Island Crosby Pilsen Mash
Imperial pilsner, 7.5% ABV, 58 IBU
A 7.5% gravity is pretty low for anything considered "imperial," but Beaver Island Brewing knows that all things are good in moderation, even a boozy German pilsner. The brewery's Crosby Pilsen Mash, which premieres at the St. Cloud taproom on May 26, leans heavy on the Czech Saaz hops, giving it a beautiful paleness modulated by a sneaking alcohol taste that comes after the swallow.
Tying the beer back to its German inspiration, Beaver Island calls the Crosby a "doppel pils," a traditional/non-traditional moniker we've seen at Herkimer before. But unlike the Minneapolis brewpub's version (known as Tomorrow), Crosby has a refreshing dryness that only comes from liberal dry hopping. It almost finishes with a fizzle, making it a great pair for a grill session out by the bug zapper. Even if its stiff stature means you should only drink a half growler at a time.
Gull Dam Jet Ale
Imperial wheat IPA, 13.5 ABV, 156 IBU
Holy hoppy hell, Nisswa's Gull Dam has no reverence for the sensibilities of the spring drinker. They took the invitation of May and turned it into the darkest, fiercest beer they've ever served. While much of their stock at the taproom focuses on clean, crisp beers, Jet Ale is a so-called imperial blackened wheat IPA that punishes as much as it delights.
Jet Ale deals in aggressive levels of every possible beer flavor. The bitterness is robust, the maltiness is robust, the richness is aggressive. It even finishes with an aggressive smokiness — something the aviation-themed brewer cheekily calls an "afterburn."
It's also one of the rarest beers we've ever featured here. Only 1,000 bottles of this high-octane bad ass are being made available, and you'll have to trek the 2.5 hours north to secure one for yourself. If demand is high enough it may come back, but your first (and probably only) chance to taste Jet Ale is May 28 until supplies run out.