Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Fulton Beer’s New Production Facility

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

I first interviewed the guys from Fulton Brewing about four years ago. They had come out of nowhere to put beer in bars all over the metro. No one knew who they were or what they were up to. The interview was conducted in a garage in the Fulton neighborhood of South Minneapolis. We drank beers poured from corny kegs in a chest freezer. At the time they were contract brewing their beer at Sand Creek Brewing in Black River Falls, Wisconsin.

They have come a long way since then. I just a few years they opened their taproom near target field, taking over the brewing of all of the kegged product, while moving bottled beer production to Point Brewing in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Last year Fulton’s total production was around 15,000 barrels. That’s a lot of beer. This year they will complete construction of a new 7 million dollar facility in Northeast Minneapolis that will increase their capacity to a point that they don’t even know. For the first time Fulton will be producing all of its own beer in-house.

I had a chance to visit the facility last night. Quite impressive.


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 leslee@amuseewine.com 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!

Magic Hat Heart of Darkness Stout

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

It’s winter. It’s been really cold outside. It’s good stout-drinking weather. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Here’s my notes:

Magic Hat Heart of Darkness StoutHeart of Darkness Stout
Magic Hat Brewing Company, South Burlington, Vermont
Style: Stout
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle

Aroma: Medium-level, dry, black-malt roastiness. Licorice and black coffee. Some light-molasses and brown sugar sweetness balances the roast. Low, toasted-bread notes fill in the background. No hops.

Appearance: Black, nearly opaque with ruby-red highlights. Appears clear. Moderate head of creamy, beige foam with larger bubbles interspersed. Moderate retention.

Flavor: Creamy dark chocolate kicks things off with some black-malt, dry roastiness that comes in midway. A touch of caramel sweetness tempers the roast. Bitterness is medium-low from both hops and roasted malt. Low earthy hop flavors with light citrus overtones. Secondary notes of coffee grounds, licorice, dark fruits, and berries. A hint of roasted malt acidity. The dry finish lingers on roast.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation. Low creaminess.

Overall Impression: A smooth stout that falls somewhere between BJCP styles. It’s not quite sweet, not quite dry, and not hoppy enough to be called American. I like the light, background toasty-bread notes of Munich malt. I’m munching on some cheese as I drink this. What I’m missing though is a good, mild, blue cheese. It would be very good with this beer.

Lakewood Brewing Company at the 2013 GABF

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

“Internationally inspired, locally crafted beer.” That’s the motto of Lakewood Brewing Company in Garland, Texas. Founder/brewer Wim Bens was introduced to good beer while growing up in Belgium. Here in the US it was his love of Belgian beers that led him to American craft beer. His split influences are reflected in the beers that he brews at Lakewood. They layer an American sensibility onto a base of classic European styles.

In the lineup you’ll find a classic Pilsner, a Munich dunkel with pumpkin and spice, and a Belgian-style IPA among other Euro-marican brews. The crowning glory is The Temptress, a rich and chocolaty imperial milk stout that Bens calls “dessert in a glass.” The description is apt. It is one very tasty beer.

Excel Bottling Company at the 2013 GABF

Monday, November 25th, 2013

As a writer I’m a storyteller. I like breweries that have interesting stories. They make my job easier. The story can come from anywhere. It might be the brewer’s career path or brewing philosophy. It could be the history of the brewery or the building in which it is housed. Or maybe it’s the beauty of the countryside that surrounds the brewery. A brewer can make the best beer in the world, but without a captivating backstory it’s terribly difficult to pen an interesting profile. I’m left trying to manufacture magic from the rather mundane reality of making beer.

Excel Bottling Company in tiny Breese, Illinois made my life very easy. The company was founded in 1936 when Edward “Lefty” Maier captured a bank robber and collected a $500 reward. He used the windfall to purchase a bottling machine and open the third soda making plant in Breese. The others have long since closed, but nearly 80 years later Excel is still making soda the old fashioned way. They use real sugar, natural flavorings, and returnable bottles. And those bottles are still filled on that original 1936 machine.

Excel started making beer in 2012. It was mostly a business decision says Paul Maier, “Lefty’s” son. Returnable bottles have to be ordered in massive quantities and they needed another product line to keep them all filled. The current boom in brewing  and a change in the law allowing small brewers to self-distribute made beer a likely choice. They hired long-time homebrewer and homebrew store owner Tony Toenjes to oversee brewery operations. Rod Burguiere, a former brewer at Stone Brewing Co. was taken on as assistant brewmaster. Burguiere was looking for a way to move back to his native Midwest and jumped at the opportunity to bring a West Coast sensibility to Southern Illinois.

Scratch Brewing Co. at the 2013 GABF

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Some breweries are just more interesting than others. This has nothing to do with the quality of the beer. It’s more about the brewery’s story and philosophy. One such brewery is Scratch Brewing Co. in the tiny, southern Illinois town of Ava.

Many breweries call themselves “farmhouse” breweries, but for Scratch Brewing Company the term is especially appropriate. The brewpub is located on a plot of forested land about five miles outside Ava. It is truly a farmstead that has been in co-owner Aaron Kleidon’s family for 25 years.

But “farmhouse” in this case also applies to the way they think about and brew beer. They follow an ethic that looks to back to a time when beer making was carried out on every farmstead using the ingredients at hand. They want Scratch beers to smell and taste like southern Illinois. The rustic flavors of their traditionally styled brews are enhanced by the addition of local ingredients, many of which are foraged from the property. These have included such things as nettle, elderberry, ginger, dandelion, maple sap, various roots, and cedar, among others. They grow some of their own hops and source others from Windy Hill Hops, a nearby grower.

The brewery itself is a mix of primitive and modern that reflects the different personalities of the owners. Aaron Kleidon is an expert forager who pushes a more primitive process that includes brewing in a copper kettle over an open fire. Ryan Tockstein represents the modern side of brewing seen in their 1.5-barrel Stout Tanks brewhouse. Foodie Marika Josephson fall somewhere in between and forms a bridge between the two.

While the character of Scratch beers leans heavily on unique ingredients, don’t look for them to be extreme. These brewers make beers to which modern palates will respond, but that are deeply rooted in older traditions. They look to their ingredients to complement other flavors already in the beer, not to overwhelm them.

I had interviewed Marika on the phone for my upcoming Midwest brewery guidebook, but hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the brewery or taste the beers. I was so excited to see them on the list at the Great American Beer Festival.

Steel Toe Brewing Size 11 Double IPA

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Size 7 IPA from Steel Toe Brewing is I think my favorite Minnesota-made IPA. Having honed his skills in the Pacific Northwest, brewer Jason Schoneman likes IPAs that favor hop flavor and aroma over palate peeling bitterness. That’s my kind of IPA. I love the juicy fruits and pine sap. I’m not so crazy about the bitter.

I’m also not crazy about double IPAs. They tend to be overly bitter or overly syrupy for my taste; a lot of hops an little else or under-attenuated and sticky. There are a few that I enjoy; Avery Maharaja and Pliny the Elder come to mind. But even those I’m pretty much done with after one glass.

Given how much I like Size 7 though, I was intrigued by the prospect of a Steel Toe double IPA. I figured if I were going to like anyone’s version it would be Jason’s. I somehow missed last year’s release of Size 11. This year I made sure to pick up a bottle before it disappeared.

Here’s my notes:

Size 11
Steel Toe Brewing Company, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Style: Double IPA
Serving Style: 22 oz. bottle

Aroma: A basket of juicy fruits. In fact it reminds me a bit of Juicy Fruit gum. Kiwi, tangerines, and tropical fruits like mango. Underneath is a light, grainy maltiness, with subtle tones of biscuit and toast that get stronger as is warms.

Appearance: Medium amber to copper and very clear. A towering cap of creamy, ivory foam that lasts all the way to the bottom of the glass.

Flavor: Hops are king and bitterness is high, but it’s not insane. There is enough malt there to maintain balance. It’s malty but not sweet.  Caramel notes combine with the biscuit and toast that carry over from the aroma. Toast gets stronger as it warms. It’s just a guess, but I’d say that there is a good bit of Munich or some such malt in there. It dries out in the end, leaving it refreshing. Now let’s get back to those hops. The bitterness has a sharp, mineral quality and leaves a cooling sensation on the back of my throat. Those fruits from the aroma come back in the flavor. It’s that same juicy fruit gum thing, but this time with some herbs added. Mint? Bitterness lingers, but it isn’t astringent. Hop flavors hang around with it. Dry finish to keep it light.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: I’m the oddball who first considers the malt in an IPA. I know the hops will be there. I want to know what else is going on. Jason didn’t neglect the malt. It isn’t just there to keep the hops company. It adds interest of its own and is a nearly equal partner to the hops in the overall experience of the beer. It’s nicely layered and complex. The hops dominate but don’t overwhelm. This might be my new favorite DIPA. I’m sorry I only bought one bottle.

Lucid Brewing Duce

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Lucid Brewing has recently released two new big-bottle beers. The first is Craig’s Ale, number one of their homebrewer collaboration beers. The second is a 7.5%, oak-aged, imperial red ale called Duce. It’s pronounced doo-chay, like Il Duce, the name given to Italian National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini who ruled the country before and during World War II. I’m not sure about that as a name for a beer, but whatever. I had a chance to taste this woody brew.

Here’s my notes:

Lucid DuceDuce
Lucid Brewing, Minnetonka, Minnesota
Style: Oak Aged Imperial Red Ale
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle

Aroma: Caramel malt and woody oak. The wood dominates but malty sweetness offers some balance. A touch of herbal – almost minty – hops in the background.

Appearance: Dark amber/red color and crystal clear. Voluminous, beige head that is creamy-rich and very persistent.

Flavor: Woody oak dominates, presenting some cabernet-like tannins. Caramel malt sweetness offers some support, but not enough to overcome it. The balance does even out some as the beer warms and the caramel comes more to the fore. A faint touch of roastiness adds a bit of interest to the malt. Bitterness is medium-low. There are some low-level herbal hop notes. Dig deep and you will find dark fruits in there as well. Alcohol is there, but not offensive.

Mouthfeel: Super creamy with a medium-full body. Medium to medium-low carbonation. Warming alcohol.

Overall Impression: To my palate, the wood comes on a little strong in this one. This is a shame, because it obscures what seems like a darn tasty base beer. I’m not sure if this is 100% oaked beer, but that would be my guess. A bit of back-blending with some un-oaked beer would have delivered better balance and a better beer.

Wanna Buy a Brewery? Leech Lake is for Sale.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Leech Lake Brewing Company

Some time ago someone (I don’t even remember who) mentioned in passing that Leech Lake Brewing Company in Walker, Minnesota was up for sale. I took note and meant to do a search to verify this myself, but promptly forgot…until today.

For anyone wanting to break into the brewing business, Leech Lake is indeed for sale. The asking price is $500,000 for the whole kit and caboodle – that’s building, 1-bbl brewery, land, and all the accoutrement that come with running the business. You can check out the listing here.

I contacted Leech Lake co-owner/brewer Greg Smith to get the skinny.  In an email he said:

We listed LLBC for sale with the intent of selling it for nothing less than our asking price—$500K.  We are continuing to operate the business as usual until such time as we close on a deal with a suitable buyer.  I have plans to develop and market a product in the sports and fitness industry for which I’ve held a patent for the past seven years.  It’s been a goal of mine much longer than has been founding a microbrewery.  So, whenever it happens we’ll move on to the next project (although I’m simultaneously pursuing the other project while operating the brewery).  Not much else to tell you at this point.  Just moving forward each day…

So there you have it. This is your opportunity. Will you take it?

Leech Lake Brewing Company

Dangerous Man Brewing Company – My First Look

Monday, January 21st, 2013

dm logo

These days it’s almost like there is a race to see who will be the next Minnesota brewery with beer on the street. Jack Pine just opened up north. Northgate’s launch is close at hand. The prediction looks good for Bad Weather. 612 should be coming any day now.

Here in the Metro the next new kid on the block is Dangerous Man Brewing Company. After a start-and-stop journey to find a space and get approvals and a long process of construction, the husband and wife team of Rob Miller and Sarah Bonvallet will celebrate their grand opening this Friday, January 25th.

Dangerous Man Brewing almost never happened. After attending school and frequenting brewery taprooms in Montana, Rob Miller returned to Minneapolis intent on opening a taproom-only brewery. He wrote up a business plan and started scouting spaces only to learn that his idea wasn’t legal under Minnesota statute. The plan was shelved and he went into the job grind.

When the “Surly Bill” passed allowing Minnesota breweries to sell pints for on-premise consumption, he dusted off his plan and got back to work. He found a space at the corner of 13th Avenue and 2nd Street NE and started the process of getting licenses and approvals. The space was perfect. The location in the heart of the “Nordeast” nightlife district promised a steady stream of traffic. The 1920s-era bank building offered a stately yet comfortable space with massive columns rising from the floor all the way to the high ceiling. He fell in love. The only problem was that it sat directly across the street from a church. A prohibition-era city ordinance prohibited establishments that sell alcohol within 300 feet of a place of worship. It nearly derailed the project once again, but Miller was persistent. Working with the church and his city councilman he got the ordinance changed.

dangerous man (6) small

That’s a good thing, because the space does have a great vibe. The ambiance – which I have dubbed “industrial arts” – evokes a mix of trendy bar, early 20th-century factory, and junior high shop class. It’s a minimalist look with lots of metal and lots of wood. Shop stools line the bar and surround the high-top tables. The bar top is an impressively thick hunk of wood – a beam salvaged from an old, downtown Minneapolis building. The brewery is just visible behind the welded-metal and wood bar back. It looms in the dark like some fantastical, steam-punk contraption. The room just feels good.

dangerous man (9) small

The beers that I tried at Dangerous Man were a mixed bag. The two standouts for me were at opposite ends of the flavor spectrum, a rich and creamy chocolate milk stout and a light and lovely cream ale. The chocolate milk stout was hands down the best, and it is fantastic. This silky-smooth brew is moderately sweet and boasts a boatload of chocolate flavor. Roasty bitterness is light, just enough to balance the sweetness. Subtle toasted grain flavor sends it over the top. The cream ale is light and quaffable with delicate grainy sweetness and bright, orange-citrus hop flavors. The least successful beers for me were the IPA and Belgian golden strong ale. Both were under-attenuated, leaving them too sweet on my palate. The Belgian especially lacked the dry, spicy sharpness that the style demands. Because Miller plans an ever-rotating selection you can always expect something new. The beer you loved (or hated) probably won’t be there the next time you visit.

dangerous man (5) small

Grand opening festivities get underway at 4:00 PM on Friday, kicked off with a bagpipe serenade. Dangerous Man is located at 1300 2nd St NE in Northeast Minneapolis. If you’re hungry you can order in fish and chips from the Anchor bar across the street.