Archive for the ‘Announcements’ Category

Beer & Wine University is Back

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Beer & Wine University is Back!

Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee and Certified Cicerone® Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint are bringing the popular libation bootcamp back – not just once, but twice a year!

Each session we promise to mix up the fun & education, so you can build upon your repertoire of delicious wine and beer knowledge. If you made it to our last series, come again! It’ll be different each time around.

The next session’s fun starts on October 21st and runs three consecutive Tuesdays through November 4th!

When: October 21st, 28th & November 4th. Class starts promptly at 6:30pm and run until 8:30pm.

Where: TBD

Cost: $40 per class session or sign up for all three at once for just $100!

Buy your ticket here!

Contact Leslee Miller directly at for all questions & inquiries.

The Sessions:

Oct 21st: Beer for wine lovers, Wine for beer lovers

Let’s agree to come together! Wine lovers will find much to love about beer and vice versa in this interactive class taught by Sommelier Leslee Miller and Cicerone Michael Agnew. From grape varietals to beer styles, you’ll discover the right beverage for your palate. Are you a Cabernet drinker? Let us show the beer that best matches the complex bold flavors of this grape. A Pilsner drinker? We’ll give you the grape alternative for this crisp, refreshing beer style.

Oct 28th: Why oaking matters

Toast, caramel, macaroon, pancakes and crème brûlée. You guessed it! These are all descriptions for the impact of oak on a libation. Elevate your senses in this creative ‘why oaking matters’ class with Cicerone Michael and Sommelier Leslee. Not all oak is the same. The wood’s subtle nuances vary by country of origin and level of toast. Explore those differences and more as we examine the effects of wood on your favorite drinks from grapes to grains!

Nov 4th: Festivus for the rest of us!

A joyous, holiday feast – what else? Sorry, Kramer won’t be there, but we will! Come learn the art of combining beer and wine with food as two of the Twin Cities’ most passionate food and libation instructors, Sommelier Leslee Miller & Cicerone Michael Agnew, pair their way through three genres of holiday celebrations. From a traditional turkey dinner, to a full Festivus layout (spaghetti & meatloaf), to a Hanukkah feast with latkes and jelly doughnuts, you’ll sample the wonderful variety of the holiday table and pick up some tips on the best beverage accompaniments.

Cicerone Michael Agnew & Sommelier Leslee Miller
In May of 2009, Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint and Certified Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee teamed up for the first time to teach a beer, wine, and cheese class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. It turned out that the pairing of the two of them was as magical as the ones they created with the cheeses. Since that night their professional relationship has grown to include joint classes and private tasting events, food-service consulting that encompasses both beer and wine, and the highly successful, bi-annual Beer & Wine University. The teaching chemistry between them is so strong that a class alum once told them, “you two are more recognizable together than separate.”

Working together allows Michael and Leslee to speak to audiences they might not otherwise reach. During the course of an event even the most hardcore wine or beer people find at least one sample that makes them want to know more about the other side. 



She Said, He Said: Endless Summer Pairings at Cooks of Crocus Hill

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Cooks Logo

Sommelier Leslee Miller, Chef Mike Shannon, and I have been teaming up to teach She Said:He Said beer/wine/food classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill since 2009. (Really? 2009? It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.)We’ve built up a camaraderie and easy-going teaching style that has made our classes the most popular of the Cooks lineup. They always sell out – usually very quickly.

Our next beer/wine pair-off happens August 8th at the St. Paul location on Grand Avenue. You don’t want to miss this. Leslee and I are going head-to-head with thoughtfully selected beers and wines paired to four courses of Mike’s summer deliciousness. Check out this menu.

  • Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad
  • Mediterranean Lemon Quinoa Bowl
  • Lamb Chops with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
  • Lemon Blueberry Mascarpone Tartlets

There are still a few spots available. You can register online at the Cooks of Crocus Hill website. Come join us!

Education Programs at the All Pints North Summer Beer Festival

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

In the hierarchy of Minnesota beer festivals, two stand out to me – Winterfest and All Pints North – both sponsored and organized by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. Winterfest is an intimate affaire. Ticket sales are limited and the space is cozy, in contrast to the sprawling outdoor festivals that are the norm. It has an air of elegant sophistication. The brewers – all Guild members – bring the good stuff in an attempt to out-do each other.

All Pints North is held at the Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth. Despite the spacious outdoor setting and large attendance, Bayfront Park with its bayside location and magnificent view of the iconic lift bridge give this festival an easy-going, relaxed feel. There is none of the hustle and bustle of the other fests.

All Pints North happens this Saturday, July 26th from 3 – 7 pm. Tickets are still available, although hotel rooms might be harder to come by.

As a beer educator, I like that the Guild values education at their festivals. They recognize that an educated consumer is a better consumer; that the enjoyment of craft beer increases with a little bit of knowledge. They also know that craft beer aficionados are eager to learn.

ABE-SquareSign 4ft

The Alliance for Beer Education (ABE) is a joint project of A Perfect Pint and the Better Beer Society dedicated to providing the highest-quality educational programing at Minnesota’s beer festivals. Collaborators Rob Shellman and Michael Agnew, both Certified Cicerones®, have a combined 11 years’ experience as beer educators. Their credits include the Better Beer Society University, BBS Brown Bag Blind Tastings, The University of Minnesota Department of Continuing Education, Cooks of Crocus Hill, Kitchen Window, and Betty Crocker, as well as countless corporate and private events.

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild has partnered with ABE to provide the educational programming at this year’s All Pints North. We think we have put together a great lineup with some amazing guest speakers. Check it out!

Beer Barrel BBQ 3:30 – 4:00p
Chef Tony Beran (Lake Ave Café) and Nate Beck (Natedogs)

Minnesota summers offer the perfect weather to fire up the grill. Why not make beer a part of your cookout? Join Chef Tony Beran of Lake Ave Cafe, as he showcases slow roasted pork shoulder smoked over Surly Pentagram staves, as well as a sour cherry Pentagram sauce to pair with. Nate Beck of Natedogs is loved among the beer community with his delicious dogs and mustards. He’ll guide you through the process of creating your own unique beer mustard. Join us for a delicious lesson in outdoor cooking with beer and building the best sauce.

Backwoods Brews 4:10 – 4:40p
Jake Boyce (Day Tripper of Duluth)

Last month Duluth was named as Outside Magazine’s best outdoor city in America. Outdoor activity is central to the Duluth lifestyle. This session pays homage to that by exploring the potential and practicalities of enjoying beer in the backcountry. What’s allowed? What type of beer is best? Can beer be part of your campfire cooking? Come find out from adventure guide Jake Boyce and share your own stories about enjoying beer in the backcountry.

Homebrewing Berliner Weisse 4:50 – 5:20p
Jeff Merriman (Northern Brewer/Certified Cicerone®) & Jace Marti (August Schell Brewing Co.)

One of the growing trends in American craft beer is the revival of nearly-extinct beer styles. Gose, Grätzer, Sahti, and Berliner Weisse have all seen a resurgence in the last few years. With a little bit of know-how you can make great versions of these beers at home. Jace Marti from August Schell Brewing Company shares the insights gained from creating the Noble Star series of Berliner Weisse style beers. Northern Brewer manager Jeff Merriman brings it home with the practical knowledge for backyard brewers.

Terroir of Twin Ports 5:30 – 6:00p
Emily Vikre (Vikre Distillery), Bryon Tonnis (Bent Paddle), Heiko Edwardson (Red Herring)

Alongside craft beer, craft distilling is booming. And the two have turned out to be terrific partners with artisanal spiritmakers and small brewers teaming up in the production process. The popularity of beer cocktails shows that the final products work pretty well together, too. Find out how Bent Paddle Brewing and Vikre Distillery are partnering right here in Duluth and learn how to whip up a tasty treat from Red Herring cocktail whiz Heiko Edwardson.

Rob and I hope to see you in the tent. Cheers!


A Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide to the Heartland

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

A Perfect Pint's Beer Guide to the Heartland

In December 2010 I embarked on a journey to catalog every brewery in four states; Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. Three-and-a-half years, over 10,000 miles, 30 hotel rooms, countless road meals, and a whole lot of beer later, the job is complete.

I am thrilled to announce the publication by the University of Illinois Press of A Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide to the Heartland, a comprehensive compendium of brewing in the upper-Midwest. In it I profile 236 breweries, of which I actually visited over 210. On my visits I talked to brewers and owners, toured facilities, sampled beer, chatted up customers and tasted food to get a clear picture of the story behind each and every place.

Every profile includes the basic who-what-where, along with other information such as brewery size and maker, lists of beers, nearby attractions, amenities, and my personal notes on what made each place unique to me. I also give my personal pick for which beer to try from every brewery. It’s a great companion for beer travelers to the region.

In addition to the brewery profiles, three historical articles at the beginning chart the rise of the brewing giants after prohibition, tell the story of the Grain Belt brand, and show how old lagering caves are now being put to other uses. In the back is a glossary of beer terms.

The book is currently available at all the online booksellers as well as in major bookstores. If you want a signed copy, order it from my Perfect Pint Square Marketplace page. I’ll sign it and ship it off to you.

I’ve got a number of signing events schedules for the coming weeks.

Keep an eye on the Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide to the Heartland Facebook page for more events as scheduled.

Beer & Wine University is back!

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Beer/Wine University

Due to overwhelming success of our fall Beer/Wine University Series, Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusee and Certified Cicerone® Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint are bringing the popular libation bootcamp back – not just once, but twice a year!

Each session we promise to mix up the fun & education, so you can build upon your repertoire of delicious wine and beer knowledge. If you made it to our last series, come again! It’ll be different each time around.

The next session’s fun starts on April 17th and runs three consecutive Thursdays May 1st!

When: April 17, 24th & May 1st. Class starts promptly at 6:30pm and will run until 8:30pm.

Where:  The Carlyle Building, 100 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis

Parking: There is absolutely no inside building parking.  Street parking is available, along with an open air CASH pay lot across the street from the building.

Cost: $40 per class session or sign up for all three at once and receive a $20 discount!

Buy your ticket here!

Contact Leslee Miller directly at for all questions & inquiries, DO NOT contact The Carlyle Building

Session #1 – April 17th: Back to Basics: Wine/Beer Bootcamp: Learn the basics of beer and wine with two of the Twin Cities’ most passionate beer and wine educators, Sommelier Leslee Miller and Cicerone Michael Agnew. From styles, regions, grape varietals to all the sensory perspectives of grains to grapes – Michael and Leslee introduce the basics of beer/wine in this introductory 2 hour course.

Session #2 – April 24th:  Pantry Pairings: Understand the basics of how to pair beer and wine to the world of food. Whether the dish is light and bright, salty and savory, or earthy and umami, you’ll learn the time-tested tricks of correctly pairing the right libations to the right foods and gain an understanding of when the ‘old school’ rules need not apply.

The best part…we’re pairing to all the easy eats that you prepare Monday through Thursday; things found in your pantry, from guacamole, chips & dip to Minnesota hot dish! We have the libation answers to your weeknight cravings.

Session #3 – May 1st:  Open that Bottle Night!: Looking to really step outside your box?  This is the class for you!  From weird and whacky grape varietals, obscure growing regions, and funky vintaged wines to the world’s most interesting specialty and extreme beers (and maybe a beer cocktail to boot!), this class takes your knowledge of beer and wine to the next level.  Beverage selections for this class won’t be revealed until the night of!

Announcing the Alliance for Beer Education

Thursday, January 30th, 2014


For the past several months I have been semi-secretly working out the details of an educational collaboration with Rob Shellman at the Better Beer Society. I’ve worked with Rob on past events, most recently hosting the fall semester of Better Beer Society University at Republic 7 Corners. This new project stems from our desire to see the education that happens at Minnesota beer festivals achieve the same level of quality as the festivals themselves.

With that in mind, A Perfect Pint and Better Beer Society are excited to announce the “Alliance for Beer Education (ABE)”, a new joint project aimed at providing quality education programs for Minnesota’s beer festivals.

The increased attention to craft beer in the media has brought with it a blossoming of enthusiasm among consumers. New palates are being brought into the fold every day, many of them at beer festivals that happen through the year. Educating these new consumers has never been more important.

Rob and I are both Certified Cicerones® with a combined 11 years’ experience as beer educators. Our credits include the Better Beer Society University, BBS Brown Bag Blind Tastings, The University of Minnesota Department of Continuing Education, Cooks of Crocus Hill, Kitchen Window, and Betty Crocker, as well as countless corporate and private events.

Minnesota’s beer festivals are second to none, and we applaud festival organizers for incorporating education into their events. We look forward to bringing our passion and high level of commitment to beer education tents statewide, beginning with the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s Winterfest.

If you are going to Winterfest, please do check out the great programming at the education area. We’ve got some fantastic speakers lined up to cover some really interesting topics.

7:15:      Michael Agnew & Rob Shellman – Beer Basics
Where do beer styles come from? How do I get the fullest taste experience from beer? What kind of flavors am I looking for and where do they come from? Is there a right way to serve beer? Rob and I will lay out the basics to help you get the best enjoyment from every beer you sample at the fest.
7:45:      Josh Havill – The Mighty Hop
Josh Havill is an Undergraduate Research Assistant at University of Minnesota, working primarily on the University’s hop research program. He’ll be outlining the utilization, history, and botany of hops, as well as discussing the U’s research on hop growing in the Midwest.
8:15:      Gary Muehlbauer – How Beer Saved the World
Gary J. Muehlbauer is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Department Head in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Minnesota.  He will be discussing the history of barley and relating it to the Discovery Channel documentary How Beer Saved the World about all the good that beer has brought, from the birth of civilization to the development of automated manufacturing.
8:45:      Michael Wagner – “The art of selecting: Choosing the right beer for you”
Michael is the Manager of Strategic Imbibing a the Four Firkins Specialty Beer Store in St. Louis Park. The world of craft beer can get a bit overwhelming with new choices arriving on local shelves literally every day. Michael will discuss the trends and changing tides of taste preferences. He’ll dispel some myths and discuss how he goes about curating choices specifically for individual people at the Four Firkins. When it comes down to it you should drink what YOU like.

An educated beer drinker is a better beer drinker, and we look forward to expanding your palate and understanding of the world’s finest beverage.

Cheers! We hope to see you at an upcoming fest.

612Brew and Steel Toe Brewing Taprooms Open This Week

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013


I first met the guys from 612Brew in the early spring of 2010 while working on a piece about soon-to-be breweries for Heavy Table (there were only five at the time…crazy!). They were working in a South Minneapolis garage, tweaking recipes on a cobbled-together homebrew system and dreaming of bigger things. Two years later their “garage” is a 5000 square-foot warehouse space in a multi-million dollar commercial re-development in Northeast Minneapolis. The five-gallon, glass carboys have been replaced by 30-barrel tanks of mirror-polished stainless steel. The steps in-between included three business plan revisions, two cancelled leases, and a change of personnel, including hiring brewer Adam Schil.

Almost three years after than initial meeting, the crew is ready to launch. 612Brew already has beer in metro-area bars. The taproom at the corner of Central and Broadway will open tomorrow night, February 13th at 4:00pm.

612Brew (2) small

The taproom retains the retro-industrial ambiance of the 1924 factory building that it occupies. Thick, maple timbers rise up two stories from the polished concrete floor. The bar top is made of re-purposed bowling alley lanes, while the bottom is faced with boards salvaged from an 1850s-vintage home. The gleaming brewery is separated from the public space by wooden standup bars. A tall, glass overhead door looks out onto a patio and rain garden, which is anchored by a stone amphitheater where live music is planned for the warmer months.

612Brew (9) small

612Brew’s focus is on hop-centered session beers. They aim to satisfy that craving for bitterness with lower-alcohol brews that allow for more than one pint after work. They are launching with four beers. Six is a sessionable American Pale Ale with biscuit malt and bright citrus hops. This is the same beer – with some recipe tweaks – that I sampled three years ago in the garage. Zero Hour is an American black ale brewed with roasted wheat for a smoother, less-bitter roastiness that lets the hops shine through. Bitter Cold Winter Ale is a single-malt, single-hop IPA brewed with Maris Otter malt from England and Willamette hops from the Pacific Northwest. My favorite brew is Rated R, a balanced rye IPA. The focus here is on flavor and aroma hops. The bitterness bites, but not too hard. Spicy rye notes come in late and linger into the finish.

It’s hard to believe that I would call a one-and-a-half-year-old brewery old, but in today’s crazy world, with breweries popping up like popcorn, it’s the truth. Steel Toe Brewing Company is old. But that doesn’t make them any less wonderful. In my view Steel Toe is one of the top-five breweries in Minnesota. Size 7 might just be the best IPA made in the state. A recent blind tasting re-confirmed for me the brilliance of the light and lovely Provider Ale.

The opening this Friday, February 15th, of Steel Toe’s long-awaited taproom makes this a busy week for Twin Cities beer fans. The fun begins at 3:00pm and I’m guessing it will be crowded. Steel Toe is located at 4848 W. 35th St. in St. Louis Park. Be there!

Public Events & Classes from A Perfect Pint

Monday, July 9th, 2012

I realized recently that I have a ton of public events coming up. Whether you want to learn the basics of making your own beer, find out what’s happening beer-wise in the upper-Midwest, or sit down to a tasty and educational meal paired with both beer and wine, I’ve got something here for you. Check it out!

July 10, 7 pm, $18
Homebrewing 101
How is beer made? What is beer made of? What is malted barley? What are hops? What causes that grapefruit flavor in my beer? What flavors should I taste in this beer? How does one taste beer? Questions, questions, questions…
The Garden by the Woods Garden Center
78 W 78th St
Chanhassen, MN 55317

July 11, 6-8 pm, $50
Trappist and Abbey Beers of Belgium
Monastic brewing in Europe goes back to at least the 700s CE. It’s probably much older than that. While there are monasteries making beer all over the continent, it’s the Belgians that have elevated the tradition to exquisite heights. Only seven Trappist breweries have earned the right to use the trademarked label “Trappist Beer” and they are making some of the most complex beers available today. Another group of secular “abbey” breweries are not far behind; making beers of similar styles that can give the monks a run for their money. Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint introduces you to the world of beer-making monks. You’ll learn what it takes to be a Trappist brewery and discover what makes them different from the abbey brewers. Along the way you’ll sample some of the best beers in the world.
Sunfish Cellars Wine & Spirits
803 Sibley Memorial Hwy (Hwy. 13)
Lilydale, MN 55118

July 17, 6-8 pm, $50
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark
Dark beers are heavy, right? Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Color tells you very little about the taste or heft of a beer. As I am fond of saying, “dark is not a flavor.”  While there are heavy-duty dark beers, there are also some super hefty light-colored beers. A Belgian tripel looks like a pilsner, but can top 10% alcohol. A beer like Guinness that many perceive as weighty is actually very low alcohol and just as light as a “lite” beer. In this class Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew from A Perfect Pint guides you through the gamut of black and brown brews. You’ll learn where the color comes from and taste the full range of flavors that dusky beers can bring. Even those who say they don’t like dark beer will find something to love.
Sunfish Cellars Wine & Spirits
803 Sibley Memorial Hwy (Hwy. 13)
Lilydale, MN 55118

July 18, 8-9 pm, $15
The State of the Midwest Craft Brewing Industry
Two years ago, while observing the first pops of what is now a full-on, beer-brewing boom, I hatched a hair-brained scheme to find out what was really going on beer-wise in the upper Midwest. I had this notion that the region well may be the next beer Mecca – a successor to the Colorado Front Range – and I wanted everyone else to know about it. A guide book was the way to do it. 10,000 miles, 25 hotel rooms, and 1800 beers later the book is with the publisher. I have personally visited 180 breweries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, and interviewed the brewers at nearly every one. I have intimate knowledge of what’s happening in one of the fastest growing beer scenes in the country.
This class will take you on a beer tour of the upper Midwest featuring brews from beer makers old and new in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. We’ll look at overall trends in the region and explore some of the new styles being crafted to suit the regional palate.”
The Four Firkins Specialty Beer Store
5630 W. 36th Street
St. Louis Park, MN 55416


July 21, 3-7 pm, Festival admission $30 advance or $40 at the door
Tasting Beer: The Beer Flavor Triangle
Beer is made from three basic ingredients, malt, hops, and yeast (I know, water is in there too.) Each of these ingredients imparts its unique character to the beer as flavor, aroma, color, and mouthfeel. Beer styles are identified by the relative weight of character from each ingredient. In this session we’ll talk about what those characteristics are and how to identify them so you get the most from your beer at the festival and beyond.
All Pints North Beer Festival
Bayfront Festival Park
700 W Railroad St
Duluth, MN 55802

July 26, 6-8 pm, $50
Beer 101: Beer Flavor and Where it Comes From
Most people readily accept the notion that wine is a beverage worthy of contemplation and consideration. Recognition of the subtleties of varietals and terroir is firmly established. After 50 years of a market dominated by light lagers, the same cannot be said of beer. For most people beer is a pale-yellow, fizzy liquid with very little flavor and hopefully even fewer calories. But good beer never went away and is currently enjoying a worldwide renaissance driven by the emergence of small craft breweries throughout the United States. Well-crafted beer rivals wine for flavor and complexity. Join the instructor, a certified Beer Cicerone, or beer adviser similar to a wine sommelier, for a course on the basics of beer tasting and appreciation. During the session you will learn about beer styles, ingredients, brewing processes through demonstration and tastings. You will gain an understanding of how ingredients such as hops, barley, and yeast contribute to the overall character of particular beers.
Sunfish Cellars Wine & Spirits
803 Sibley Memorial Hwy (Hwy. 13)
Lilydale, MN 55118

August 1, 6-9 pm, $75
Farm to Table Beer Pairing Dinner
Midsummer is the high season for fresh-from-the-farm produce. Nothing goes better with fresh veggies than crisp, light summer beers. Chef Philip Dorwart from Create Catering demonstrates great seasonal recipes, paired with craft beers by Cicerone Michael Agnew.
Menu: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Sweet Sherry Vinaigrette, Reggiano, Arugula and Toasted Barley; Grilled Asparagus with House-Made Lemon Agrumati, Crispy La Quercia Prosciutto and Poached Egg; Hops-Smoked Lamb Ribs with Rosemary-Malt Syrup Glaze, Roasted Grits and Spinach; Frangelico Milk Shake with Toasted Milk and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Mascarpone Cookie.
With Chef Philip Dorwart of Create Catering/The Dining Studio
Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul
877 Grand Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105

September 21, 6-9 pm, $75
Grapes, Grains & Fromage
With Sommelier Leslee Miller & Fromager Benjamin Roberts of France 44
Do you love beer, wine and cheese? Then this is the class for you! Learn how to pair three of your favorite treats, all in one class. Sommelier Leslee Miller and Cicerone Michael Agnew team up with pal, Fromager Benjamin Roberts of France 44 for one fantastic festival of cheese, vino and brew.
Cooks of Crocus Hill in Edina
3925 West 50th Street
Edina, MN 55424

October 18, 6-9 pm, $75
Midwest Cheese & Ale
With Becca Dilly and James Norton, Authors of The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin
Cooks of Crocus Hill in Edina
3925 West 50th Street
Edina, MN 55424

October 23 & 30, 6-8 pm, Cost TBA
Fireside Sippers – Warming Beers for Fall and Winter
Autumn is an in-between time. There is a chill in the air, but it hasn’t yet turned brutally cold. The leaves are turning colors and beginning to fall, but the trees are not yet the gray skeletons that they become in the winter. It’s time to put away the barbeque and break out the firepit. So what makes a beer appropriate for fall? Well, slightly higher alcohol for one thing, just enough to take the edge off the chill air. A little color would be welcome, amber, red, orange, and brown to match the seasonal hues. A bit of spice is always nice, and perhaps a wink and a nod to the fall harvest, be it of hops or pumpkins.Winter’s brutal bite and early darkness drive most people indoors to curl up next to a crackling hearth. This is the time for snifter beers; malty old ales, barleywines, and big imperial stouts. These are beers to savor slowly through the evening, letting them warm you from within.Fall and winter are great seasons for beer. Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew takes you through the best these seasons have to offer from the brazenly bitter fresh hop beers to soothingly sweet English barleywines. Apple beers, pumpkin beers and spicy holiday ales are all a part of the mix. Along the way we’ll cover the histories of the styles and how they’re made.
University of Minnesota Learning Life
The campus Club
403 Coffman Memorial Union
300 Washington Avenue SE
Minneapolis MN 55455

November 8, 6-9 pm, $75
Fall Harvest Beer & Wine Pairing Dinner
With Sommelier Leslee Miller and Chef Mike Shannon
Cooks of Crocus Hill in Stillwater
324 S. Main St.
Stillwater, MN 55082

Four New Craft Beer Projects in the Twin Cities Metro

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The Minnesota beer scene continues its mighty growth surge. Yesterday was a big day for beer-world announcements – two very public and one that came to me late last night in an email.

612 Brew

I first wrote about the 612 Brew guys (and gal) in the Heavy Table two years ago (almost to the day). At the time they were working out of a garage just south of Uptown, brewing small batches and dreaming of big ones. They had done a few publicity events, leading me to wonder just exactly what they were. Were they homebrewers showing off their beer at very public gigs, or were they a production brewery that didn’t seem to have beer available anywhere but these shindigs? Turns out the homebrew side was closer to the truth, but they were in the process of getting licensed, so the TTB put a stop to those events.

Not much had been heard from 612 since, until yesterday. On 6/12 – get it, 612 – they announced that a lease had been secured, a brewery had been ordered, and things were moving forward to open a brewery in Nordeast. The building at the corner of Broadway and Central sits below street grade. It’s an old industrial building about to be redeveloped that the brewery’s press release says will feature “exposed brick and timber along with polished concrete floors, an outdoor patio and a rain garden, creating a perfect atmosphere for the brewery.” Indeed, renderings of the finishes space make it look very inviting. The team is working with local manufacturer Minnetonka Brewing and Equipment, to build a custom 15-barrel brewhouse designed to be architecturally compatible with the space.

612 is steering away from the big beers that have been all the rage in craft-brewing for the last several years. They plan to make lower alcohol session beers, starting with SIX, an American pale ale, and Rated R, a spicy and hoppy Rye IPA. Other brews are also in the plan including a German lager with ginger called Mary Ann (a Gilligan’s Island reference for those too young to remember). The plan is also to serve Indian street food in the taproom.

Fitger’s Brewhouse

The second big announcement came from up north. The Star Tribune reported that Fitger’s Brewhouse plans to open a new brewpub in downtown Minneapolis at 107 3rd Ave. N. They plan to open in late fall or early winter, but the brewery won’t be in place until sometime next spring or summer. In the meantime they will feature some made-in-Duluth Fitger’s brews along with guest taps from other Minnesota beer makers. The design may include outdoor seating and a possible rooftop beer garden. This is big news to many Twin Cities beer fans that currently have to trek the 150 miles to Duluth to enjoy some of the best beers in the state.

Blacklist Brewing and Wolf Revival

The last announcement came to me in an email with the subject line “Two More Beer Projects.” The first of these project is something called the Blacklist Brewing Beer + Art Project. The brainchild of 7-year veteran brewer Brian Schanzenbach and marketing guy/Certified Cicerone Jon Loss, Blacklist will operate as itinerant brewers in the mold of Mikkeller in Denmark, leasing time and space in other brewery’s facilities to make their beers, although they haven’t ruled out eventually building their own plant. They’ll form collaborations with regional artists to meld unique beers with artwork to match, a different beer and a different artist every month. The pair plan to work on a membership model similar to Crooked Stave in Colorado. Membership buys you a monthly shipment of beer and art starting in 2013. Different membership levels get you different amounts of each. Memberships are already available for purchase at the Blacklist Kickstarter project page. A glance at the proposed beer list reveals some creative concoctions including a lot of sours. How ‘bout a white grape strong Belgian golden or an imperial IPA with fennel and spruce.

But that’s not all. Loss and Schanzenbach are involved in a second project centered in Stillwater.  They are collaborating with the great-granddaughters of the Joseph Wolf family to revitalize the pre-prohibition brewery of the family name. They plan to introduce 750 ml bottles of Belgian strong golden and Berliner Weiss in Stillwater and limited outlets in the TC Metro later this summer. Initially these beers will be brewed at Dubrue in Duluth. Apparently the group is trying to purchase the old Wolf brewery buildings on Main Street in Stillwater, but are running into some difficulty.

It’s definitely an interesting time to be a beer fan in Minnesota.

Jeff Williamson Out at Flat Earth

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

In news that has shocked the MN beer world, Jeff Williamson posted on his Facebook feed this morning that he has been sacked from Flat Earth Brewing Company, the brewery that he founded in 2007. In his post Williamson said, “We’ll it’s been an interesting ride, but I was just fired from Flat Earth this morning.” A few minutes later Cathie Dirks-Williamson, Jeff’s wife and Flat Earth Co-founder followed up, “Jeff was fired this morning from our beloved Flat Earth Brewing Company. Thank you to all our family, friends, and fans. We brewed for you and we hope you enjoyed our beer in good times and bad. Peace out.” I have not yet reached the Williamsons for comment.

A spokesperson at the brewery declined to go into detail, but said that Williamson “has chosen to leave the company.” According to this spokesperson the decision was made by Williamson a month ago and they were tying up loose ends before he actually departed. The current Assistant Brewer Bob Roepke will continue brewing until hiring decisions have been made. Flat Earth currently has an ad on looking for an Assistant Brewer.

The Williamsons founded Flat Earth in 2007. By 2010 the brewery had hit financial difficulties and the decision was made to sell the company to an investor to head off foreclosure. John Warner bought Flat Earth in that year, with Jeff Williamson staying on as Brewmaster. There have been rumors of tension between them for some time.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: 10:15 AM, 4/9/12

Flat Earth Brewery just posted the following statement on its Facebook feed .

“Jeff submitted his intent to leave the company over 3 weeks ago, yesterday was his last day, why he chooses to say he was fired is not accurate. Please be sure you know all the facts. We wish Jeff the best.”

UPDATE: 2:39 PM, 4/9/12

Flat Earth Brewery has removed the statement above from its Facebook Feed.

The Williamsons have declined to comment citing possible legal questions and stating “we certainly don’t want to battle the brewery on FB.”