Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Lakes, soon to be the Land of 10,000 Beers. Our craft beer culture is rapidly expanding, pushing us to challenge our palates and discover new things.
But sometimes you just want the best of the best.
See also: The 10 Best Minnesota IPAs
There are a lot of solid beers in Minnesota, local favorites and brews that have won national awards for their innovation and quality. Here are 10 of the best, listed in alphabetical order instead of by rank. Sometimes it's just so hard to choose, and comparing stouts to IPAs to saisons and porters is just too hard to do.
10. Bent Paddle (Duluth) Cold Press Black Black Ale For years, the Reinheitsgebot demanded that beer include only water, barley, hops, and yeast. While the limitation of ingredients spawned master brewers in some classic European styles, it also kept the world from discovering a wealth of flavor combinations. Black Ale is a fine brew, but when Bent Paddle adds Duluth Coffee's Crazy Juice blend to the formula, it steps up the game. The coffee works wonders at the base, coating the tongue and waking the senses, while the carbonation and hops rise to the surface. It's not a coffee-beer hybrid, it's a beer with coffee, and that is an important distinction.
9. Dangerous Man (Minneapolis) Chocolate Milk Stout Stout Dangerous Man displays its creativity in bold beers rather than inventive brand names. Chocolate Milk Stout has been synonymous with the taproom-only brewhouse since Day One and it continues to garner excitement and dominate their offerings, with special cask variations often being introduced. Chocolate Milk Stout bears the heartiness of a winter warming stout, complemented with chocolate milk sugars that make it part milkshake, part beer. Despite the sweetness, it's balanced enough to be an anytime beer and not relegated to the dessert table.
8. Indeed (Minneapolis) Day Tripper American Pale Ale Indeed marked a turning point in local beer. Summit set the tone, Surly brought the hype, and Indeed introduced something that tastes truly local -- the heavily hopped and adventurous beers, all with a certain neighborhood charm that leaves the taproom along with beer. Day Tripper tastes of Northeast. Whether purchased at a bar in Roseville or from a St. Cloud liquor store, the beer is artistic but accessible, new but familiar, and it makes you want more and more.
7. Lift Bridge (Stillwater) Commander English-Style Barley Wine There are strong beers and there are strong beers. Commander is a limited-time offering this year, packing a walloping 12.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and a strong vanilla flavor added by bourbon-barrel conditioning. With a large dose of malt and just a hint of cardamom, it's a big beer that is to be imbibed in carefully. It's best to get a bottle and share with friends.
6. Lift Bridge (Stillwater) Silhouette Russian Imperial Stout Imperial stouts are big beers with a lot of nuance, and those distinctions are what makes the beer, from the dark fruit notes to the balance of a high alcohol content in competition with subtle flavors. Silhouette is one of the best Minnesota has to offer, with a chocolate impression that fades into bitter coffee, all with an undertone of raisin, cherry, and a mild peppery spice. It's a big, strong beer, but one that is easy drinking enough to make it dangerous with that 10% ABV.
5. Steel Toe (St. Louis Park) Size 7 India Pale Ale This Pacific Northwest-style IPA sets the bar for the style here in Minnesota. It's citrusy and delicious, light enough to drink a few or to sip in your tulip glass after a Pumpkin Peach Ale. With a beautiful nose and great taste, this is a top beer, period.
4. Summit (St. Paul) Oatmeal Stout Stout Perhaps the seasonality of the list is affecting us, perhaps it's that our climate encourages malty, heavier beers. Regardless, Minnesota has some fine stouts and few are older than Summit's draft-only Oatmeal Stout. The oats give a thick, creamy texture that softens the drier malt tones. While somewhat limited in comparison to the rest of their stable, the presence of Oatmeal Stout on a tapline has long been a symbol of a quality beer bar in town.
3. Surly (Minneapolis) Darkness Russian Imperial Stout The marketing of this beer may be evil, but the black beer with the velvet pour is more sultry than sinful. Furious is the brand's public face, but Darkness is the mascot, embracing Surly's hellbent metal tastes and spawning a devoted Surly Nation that camps overnight to get the wondrous beer.
2. Surly (Minneapolis) Furious India Pale Ale Surly left the station and kept on running when the brand launched with Furious almost a decade ago. A $30 million facility later, it's still the flagship brand and what we think of when we think Surly. It's bold, complex, and defies categorization with a bitter hop profile overloaded atop a soothing malt base.
1. Town Hall Brewery (Minneapolis) Masala Mama India Pale Ale Long a crowd-pleaser, even back into the days before "Minnesota IPA" was a thing, Masala Mama is the go-to beer at Town Hall Brewery locations across town and it's a wonderful combination of everything that makes the style work, from the fragrant citrus to the sweet malt base.
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.
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