Here in the agricultural and frozen Midwest, a good stout beer is a no-brainer. So who makes the best?
See also: The 10 Best Minnesota IPAs
Unfortunately, some high quality beers didn't even place in the top 10 -- some because of limited availability, and others simply because we had to stop at 10. Here's a shout-out to runners-up such as Czar Jack (Town Hall), Foundation (Badger Hill), Imperial Chocolate Rye (Barley John's), Gravity Well (Insight), FSB (Fair State), and War and Peace (Fulton).
10. Night Terror, LTD Brewing Company Perhaps the richest on the list, LTD's Night Terror isn't messing around with the chocolate addition. However, they aren't letting it override a solid beer in the process. Chocolate carries the profile of Night Terror, but the beer maintains a roasted malt distinction. Think of it like French silk pie: It's great, but one piece is more than enough, and the 10% ABV suggests that LTD feels the same way.
9. Sir Duluth, Lake Superior Brewing Company Sir Duluth is a flagship of the brewery, established in 1994. It's a stout with a near-black pour and a sweet chocolate malt character, though that sweetness is offset by nutty oatmeal notes. Texture-wise, it's mid-body and mid-carbonation, with a lighter finish after that thicker first impression from the oats.
8. Sideburns, LynLake Brewing Sideburns is rich, but more creamy than sweet, which is a winning characteristic when it comes to milk stouts. The beer has hints of chocolate and a clean milky finish that makes it easy to drink, and easy to order another. LynLake opened with Sideburns on tap, and it was a wise beer to highlight their brewing capabilities.
7. Morning Wood, Big Wood Brewery Coffee and stout make sense together, with the matching bitter profiles and pitch-black aura. Often, though, the pair doesn't balance well. Morning Wood gets it right. The beer is an American stout at heart, with the bitter finish defining its flavor. That base recipe gets combined with a heap of Dunn Bros. Add some carbonation, and it's a match-up done right. The beer tastes like a classic stout but with a firm backdrop of coffee flavor that's remarkably light on the bitter, all things considered. It's refreshing, yet deep in flavor.
6. George Hunter, Castle Danger Brewery With a new brewhouse and a new canning line, Castle Danger is making itself known well beyond Highway 61. The North Shore brewery's stout, named from the owners' family tree, is pretty much what one expects of the style. It's consistent, smooth, and balanced, with the roasted malt giving off hints of maple, coffee, and more.
5. Oatmeal Stout, Summit Brewing Company The Summit EPA bitterness has had a sizable impact on Minnesota palates. But the brewery knows malts just as well as hops, and the draft-only Oatmeal Stout is one of its top recipes. It's full of roasted heartiness, touched up with that thick oat mouth feel that makes a beer feel truly heavy (even while the calorie and ABV meter stays modest). Summit has been making Oatmeal Stout since 2004 and it seems to be available on tap at more locations every year. There is good reason for that.
4. Rum King, Indeed Brewing Company Barrel-aging is typically a bourbon affair, but Indeed found something special in Jamaican rum barrels. The Rum King imperial stout boasts a sweet molasses character in addition to the complex body feel -- lying low where the usual vanilla tones of bourbon can overwhelm. Rum King is a boozy doozy and it plays out in a stout with hints of chocolate, cherry, and a bit of a sting on the lips.
3. Darkness, Surly Brewing Company This is the only beer on this list with a varied annual recipe. We almost disqualified it for that, but why? It's still consistent, year in and year out. It's hard to come by, but that's in large part due to demand. The bottles make it to many stores around town, but Darkness Day Eve is when the dedicated camp out overnight at Surly for the evil nectar. The beer itself, though, is what should be talked about. It's smooth and silky, with a milk stout softness, but a devilish alcohol content and layers of raisin, cherry, and more within its profile.
2. Chocolate Milk Stout, Dangerous Man Brewing Company A lot has already been said about many of these beers. You know why? Because they rule. Chocolate Milk Stout is just one of many great Dangerous Man brews, but it's also their most readily available. Milk stouts carry a distinct sweetness and a clean, no-linger flavor, and this one delivers all of that with an added bonus. It's milk chocolate. The "adult milkshake" comparison gets old, but it gives an idea what this beer is about. It's a delicious beer with a sweet chocolate note -- but just the right touch so that it's a regular rotation beer, not just for dessert.
1. Silhouette, Lift Bridge Brewing Company
Silhouette is an amazingly complex yet accessible beer. It's an imperial stout, which automatically puts it into the pricier range, but Lift Bridge keeps it a wise $10 instead of going for the wax-seal and aging crowd. It pours black with a khaki head and carries impressions of dark chocolate, coffee, cherry, and more, all while going back and forth on the alcohol impression. At 10%, there are shades of booziness, but they never take over the many subtleties within.
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