There is something almost religious about the shared revelry of good beer and spring weather. Now that the thaw is well upon us, Minnesota beer lovers can officially move their drinking outdoors and begin the sacred ritual of porch drinking.
Spring in Minnesota is notoriously finicky. Sixty and sunny turns into three inches of snow overnight. Luckily, the 72 breweries and brewpubs of the North Star State churn out a bevy of light, easy-drinkin' brews for the days when the deck is habitable. The problem is regional suds come in a wide swath of styles -- everything from floral wheat beers to crisp pilsners -- and that makes choosing the right drink for the day difficult.
Every minute spent debating at the liquor store is a minute of spring dalliance that you're missing, so in an effort to cut down the decision time, the Hot Dish has surveyed the finest porch-friendly beers made within the state lines.
Honorable mention: Grain Belt Premium (of course), Summit Maibock, Lift Bridge Crosscut, Fulton the Ringer, Surly Hell, Big Wood Amigo Grande
10. Schell's Shocked Grapefruit Radler, 4.6% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 77
Radlers belong to the most maligned genre of beer -- the juice-cut, soda-y shandy family. Leinenkugel has long since tarnished the shandy name for all other brewers, but Schell's has managed to put out one of the most balanced grapefruit beers on the cut-rate market. Schell's Shocked is nonconfrontationally sweet, with the bitterness of the grapefruit mingling with the malt profile. The color is rosy and nearly clear, giving Shocked a much less pulpy feel than kindred brews like Harpoon's Big Squeeze UFO. This makes bottle after bottle of this radler simple to take down in the shade of a porch awning.
9. Finnegans Blonde Ale American blonde ale, 4.6% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 79
Finnegans is a nonprofit brewery that recycles all its sales into fighting hunger, and their product comes from local organic farms. So, if you want to feel like you're accomplishing something while you laze in a hammock and watch your neighbors mow their lawns and pull weeds, this is the perfect beer for your afternoon. Finnegans Blond Ale has a fuzzy , mellow tickle and is an absolutely effortless drink. It has a purposeful lack of character that's perfect for shaking the dust after a sun nap.
8. Excelsior Big Island Blond American blonde ale, 5.1% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 79
Like the Finnegans Blonde, Excelsiors American blond ale is grainy and easy to drink. Unlike Finnegans, Big Island Blond has a thicker, marzen-like middle that is rich in caramel. There's a higher degree of complexity at work -- a layered amber flavor that Budweiser could only dream of accomplishing -- which you may or may not notice as you empty bottle after bottle into your leisurely gullet.
7. Indeed Mexican Honey Imperial pilsner, 8.7% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 88
Indeed's Mexican Honey pilsner is dangerous. "Imperial" is brewer code for "alcoholic as shit," and this 8.7% brew is wickedly easy to drink. The beer has a fresh sweetness that cascades through the nose upon the first drink, but other than that, it's all smooth. The orange blossom honey that's folded into the beer makes it infinitely drinkable, if not too sweet (my girlfriend remarks that it reminds her of Golden Grahams). If you're looking to drink fewer cans en route to getting fall-off-the-stoop drunk without even noticing it, there's no better option. [page]
6. 612 Gateway Park Lager American pale lager, 5.6% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 79
Lagers are, by nature, great porch beers, but that doesn't mean you need to go macro to get a crisp, clear beer on a warm afternoon. 612Brew, Northeast Minneapolis' imaginative brewhouse, has made a lager worthy of the state's area code. Gateway Park purs with a mighty, thick head and finishes with a sharp dryness. It'd be a real frothy motherfucker after being rattled around a cooler for an afternoon, but in the context of a windswept porch in a generous beam of sunshine, Gateway is a blissful companion.
5. Badger Hill Minnesota Special Bitter English bitter, 5.7% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 83
Bitter beers are not, despite what you may have been told, the enemy of the porch drinker. Sure, there's not much natural integration between red British lagers and Minnesota sunshine, but Badger Hill's MSB is one of the most even beers made in-state, so it's perfect for outdoor enjoyment. The copper-colored Shakopee ESB isn't even as bitter as the name suggests, going down in smooth gulps of malt. Ideal for washing down popcorn, pretzels, or whatever other deck snacks you can scrounge up. This brew won a gold medal in the ESB category at the US Open Beer Championships in 2013, and it's universality is a big part of the reason why.
4. Bauhaus Wagon Party West Coast IPA, 5.4% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 86
Bauhaus' mad scientists have slapped together the Platonic ideal of a steam beer with their Wagon Party West Coast IPA. Wild, rambunctious scents of tangerine and lemon come off the top, and the blended, consistent body follows up. Wagon Party was formulated after the beers pioneers would enjoy after a day on the trails. In the modern context, the beer's bright yellow cans beg to be cracked as you recline on your porch at sundown after a stressful day at the desk.
3. Boom Island Witness Witbier, 5% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 82
Witbiers are an underrated warm-weather beer. Even though many branded "summer" beers take notes from the wheat-and-citrus palates of Belgian beers, few can compare to how refreshing it is to take down a witbier like Boom Island's Witness. Witness is far from the spiciest of its kind (it's a bit milder than, say, Paulaner or Hoegaarden), which makes it a friendlier drink for porch sessions. The beers unfiltered, bready body and delicate rose flavor will certainly slow you down, but that's not always for the worst.
2. Lake Monster Calhoun Claw German pilsner, 5.4% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 82
If you live in Minneapolis, chances are your deck isn't far from a lake. Shit, you might be able to see the inviting waters of one of Minnesota's 11,842 lakes from your deck, which makes Lake Monster's Calhoun Claw such a great pick for outdoor binging. Claw is a gloriously bronze pilsner that's not nearly as sweet as a cider but still comes through with a delightful apple flavor. The bitterness is even and unassuming, a fitting tribute to the Uptown lake whose name it bears.
1. Lucid Dyno American pale ale, 5.2% ABV, Beer Advocate score: 79
Lucid brands Dyno as a "hop hot rod," which is an oversell. In actuality, it's more of a hop pontoon boat, which is why it tops this list. Dyno's floral taste pairs well with the IPA dryness. There's a big, germy middle that persists, even though the beer is filtered (and therefore not too filling). Giggle and sip as the couple across the street glares at your decadence while they take out the recycling. Doff a bottle to the passersby in jogging shorts disgusted by how carelessly you fill your late morning with hops and honey. Dyno is the reason good weather and porches exist.
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