The announcement should’ve been a joyous moment for the host city, as state flagship beer Surly Furious was sure to be named, having made the previous seven top 50 countdowns (2010-2016). Which other Minnesota beers would join it on the 2017 countdown?
Alas, there’d be no celebration, as not a single beer from the North Star State made the AHA’s list for 2017.
The list, as usual, was populated by craft beer standbys. Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale -- one of the top two picks going back to 2010 -- won this year over perennial rival Russian River Pliny the Elder. Founders KBS, the Alchemist Heady Topper, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Ballast Point Sculpin all made their obligatory annual appearances.
Surly Furious was one of very few regulars left off this year's list.
Maybe not shocking, given that the Furious rank had been gradually sliding since it peaked at No. 20 in 2011, just clinging to the No. 46 spot in 2016. But overall, 2016 had been so promising for Minnesota’s national beer standings. Surly’s Todd the Axe Man cracked the list, outpacing Furious at No. 42. The hope was that Axe Man would cement itself as a new contender, and perhaps that’d open the door for another Minnesota brewery to place in the top 50 for the first time since 2011 (Summit EPA, No. 48).
It was not to be, as local beer boosters learned on Monday. The Minnesota inferiority complex grew three sizes that day.
But there is an upside. Though the list is largely a celebration of staying power, Furious was not the only regular in relegation. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, Founders All Day IPA, and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA all found themselves on the outs.
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout fell to its lowest point since 2013, and Arrogant Bastard Ale, which once finished third overall, came the closest it’s ever come to dropping off the list at 38. Meanwhile, New Holland Dragon’s Milk made its debut alongside Melvin 2×4 DIPA, Tree House Julius, and Fat Head’s Hop Juju -- three criminally underrated beers that’ve been escaping national adulation despite a long pedigree.
As a city of long-running sports underdogs, Minnesota is no stranger to the "rebuilding year." It seems like that’s exactly what 2017 is for the brewing scene. A sea change is taking effect nationwide, and the old guard is bowing to the next wave of beer icons. With a glut of contenders waiting in the wings, Minnesota has positioned itself well to be part of that movement.
Could 2018 be the year that a newcomer like Steel Toe Size 7, Indeed Rum King, or Lift Bridge Silhouette takes the place of one of the old standbys? Could there be a young beer that takes the rankings by storm -- say Schell’s Star of the North Berlin Style Wheat Beer or Summit Keller Pils?
We can't say until early next summer. What we know now is that the field is more open than ever.