Part Two of Rachel Hutton's series on Minnesota's Beer Renaissance is out in this week's City Pages. This time she focuses on three new kids on the block.
Brau Brothers' offering--they make five year-round beers, plus several seasonals--are rather eclectic, likely because of Dustin's brewpub background, which encourages a small-batch, experimental approach. While beer has only four basic ingredients--water, grain, hops, and yeast--its various formulations can create seemingly infinite flavor profiles. Dustin credits Surly Brewing for helping spur the local thirst to taste as many of them as possible. "Surly pushed the limits and made other beers more mainstream," he says, noting that even the most conservative drinkers were encouraged to at least trade their mass-market lager for a more interesting Summit or Schell.
I just happened to have quaffed a Sheep Head Ale from Brau Brothers' this evening and it was a hoppy taste treat.
Flat Earth's beers tend to be flavorful but not as outrageous as their conspiracy-theory-referencing names, such as Black Helicopter Coffee Stout; Bermuda Triangle, a high-alcohol Belgian, or tripel, beer; and Element 115, a California-style beer that originated during the Gold Rush but is rarely brewed anymore. The Williamsons named their Cygnus X-1 Porter after a song by their favorite band, Rush, and made it with malt rye--a grain that's as closely associated with Canada as its most famous band--which adds a slight whiskey-like dryness. Although Flat Earth's brewers have infused their porters with raspberry, peppercorn, peppermint, and hazelnut, and even oak-aged them by adding wood chips to the beer, their most unusually flavored brew is probably their Rode Haring Flanders Ale, which is the only sour ale being commercially bottled in Minnesota, as far as I know. It's tart and funky, with plenty of pucker, and it may be the local beer most likely to win over diehard wine drinkers.
And Stillwater's own Lift Bridge:
So far, Lift Bridge has produced two year-round beers. One is the Farm Girl saison, a French/Belgian beer that Lifter Dan Schwarz describes as a refreshing spring beer for farm workers. The beer had to have a high enough alcohol content to keep through the summer, he says, but not be so strong that it kept the workers from coming back after lunch. Farm Girl has a golden glow, a slight sweetness, and a hint of orange-peel bitterness on the finish. ("We see a lot of women like to drink our beer," Schwarz notes.) Farm Girl's sibling, Kimono Girl, is the same saison infused with lemongrass and loganberry to add fruitier, floral notes. While the Lifters have experimented with infusions of hibiscus, rose petals, and even roasted garlic, they want their main beers to be easy drinkers. "A lot of craft brewers tend to go toward the edge or extreme," Schwarz says. "We're trying to make something a little more balanced." (For events such as the Craft Brewer's Guild's Winterfest, though, they reserve the right to serve beers like the Facemeltör, a high-alcohol aged barley wine. "It would warm your whole face," says Schwarz. "It was a fun beer to do--but it's not good to have so much access to it.")