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The Northern Ale Guide is the exclusive sponsor of Beerploma’s Best MN Breweries of 2018. Many of the breweries highlighted in these articles are featured prominently in the 2019 Northern Ale Guide which can be purchased here. So, have fun exploring the vibrant and exciting Minnesota craft beer scene. Prost!
Dan’s Top 30 MN Breweries of 2018

Personally, 2018 was the worst year ever for me. At my day job, where I teach Language Arts at a middle school, 3 students passed away in the span of 3 weeks-2 because of suicide. Right after that, my mother passed away unexpectedly. For the next few months, I struggled mightily emotionally and fell into a bit of a depression. So, typically, when I look at a year in review, I can pinpoint moments and breweries that strung the year along as I live life passionately as a beer geek. 2018 was not one of those years.

Amidst the sadness and depression of losing irreplaceable people, I relied on friends and family. I also relied on craft beer. Ok, I know what you are thinking. How can it get darker than the first paragraph? Well, let me explain what I mean by relying on craft beer. I did not decide to one day clear out my cellar and go on a bender-I know better. However, I did embrace what craft beer has become for me. Over the years, craft beer has always been a way to decompress and enjoy time with friends or total strangers. My favorite taprooms became beacons of refuge-places to go and just be. I would doodle, read, and sip. When I was lucky enough to see a familiar face, they would join me and friendship would provide a respite from the pain of losing my mom.

So, it is bittersweet and somewhat difficult to look back at 2018. Yet, 2018, among its challenges, offered up some wonderful experiences with friends. Craft beer continues to provide me with joy and knowledge. Taprooms continue to be the backdrop for connecting with people and augmenting the thread count of my community fabric.

List Criteria

When I say best of 2018, there are several things that factor in to that. First, if I didn’t go to this brewery in 2018, it didn’t make the list. Second, breweries on this list had many quality beers that I thought really hit the mark. This list is not about who has the trendiest beer, although there are a few breweries on here who are leading the way when it comes to IPAs, sours, and pastry stouts. If a brewery makes my list, it means that their service is great, their message is easily articulated, and they are not just in it to make a quick buck. Luckily, places who adopt the latter as a business model don’t last long.

If a brewery makes my list, it is because they brew beer that I enjoyed and provided a space for me to enjoy the beer in. Last year, my list was so incredible that it appeared in a forum on BeerAdvocate. Many passionate beer geeks had taken issue with the fact that I did not put Surly on my list. Oh, they had a field day with that. There were a few people who actually read the article and understood my criteria. Others simply glanced at it and decided, as one person put it so succinctly, “Seriously though, there is fuckery going on at ‘Beerploma’.”

Love it or hate it, this is my list and a snapshot of my beer experiences throughout the year in Minnesota. My favorites are not going to be your favorites and that is ok. It is fine to disagree. I would even like to hear where you think I misstep in my rankings. I ask that you would do so with civility, but hey, this is also the Internet, so that is a big ask.

So, here we go, my top 30 breweries of 2018 in MN.

Top 30 MN Breweries of 2018 30-Montgomery Brewing Company (Montgomery, MN)

In a small Minnesota town, there is a small brewery that brews beer with big flavors. On a mini-tour of a southern swath of the state, I happened upon Montgomery Brewing in the fall. I really thought that they had some fantastic beers. The Peanut Buster Porter was roasty and delightful. They had an ESB that was incredibly well balanced. I loved the feel of the taproom made me want to come back.

29-Voyageur Brewing Company (Grand Marais, MN)

It took 39 and a half years on this planet to finally get up to Grand Marais this summer. Lo and behold, Voyageur Brewing Company has a fantastic rooftop patio that overlooks the bay. The sun was shining and I was enjoying every sip of their Swamper Pilsner and Double Amber Ale I had up there. The fact that a brewery can stand out amidst all the other hidden gems of this magnificent place is truly astounding.

28-Wabasha Brewing Company (St. Paul, MN)

I continue to enjoy what Wabasha Brewing Company puts out. They are small enough to be really creative. Westside Popper and Darktober are stellar. I enjoyed their pumpkin ale quite a bit and their taproom is a wonderfully cozy place to have a beer. The thing you should know about these guys is they turn their beers over quick, so if you see something you want to try, get your buns down there or you might miss it!

27-Surly Brewing Company (Minneapolis, MN)

I have a strange, love-hate relationship with Surly Brewing. Their big and beautiful taproom is a must-see, but I have never once been there and felt like I mattered as a patron. When it comes to Surly’s beer, it seems like they have lost their edge. Maybe this is a factor of other breweries catching up.

This year’s Abrasive Ale was really good. I liked this year’s Darkness, although it is definitely not the crown jewel of stouts that it once was. I liked the Heat Slayer and Xtra-Citra is a perfect summer crusher. Their New Haven-style pizza upstairs is delicious, unique, and satisfying. Not having an anniversary beer was a real head-scratcher. How a brewery with as many resources as they have cannot prevent a beer from becoming infected is beyond me. So, Surly continues to be a mixed bag for me.

26-Castle Danger Brewing (Two Harbors, MN)

I had a really hard time placing Castle Danger in my rankings this year. Their cream ale is fantastic. I like the George Hunter stout. However, I am really waiting to see them break out and show me some other styles. Their Ode IPA is good, but I think it kind of gets lost in the shuffle a bit amongst other hoppy options. If we were going solely based on taproom aesthetics in summer, they would be in my top 5.

25- Bad Habit Brewing Company (St. Joseph, MN)

I apologize for being so late to the party on this one. I think that every single beer I had at Bad Habit impressed me. Their Dark Addiction really checks all the boxes for what I look for in a stout. I think that their Flippity Flop triple IPA came across as complex and intriguing. As they expand into a bigger space, I hope they can maintain the cozy, small town feel that the taproom has. Aaron Rieland made me feel so welcome and graciously took time to chat beer with me on a day when the brewery was absolutely slammed with people.

24-Wild Minds Artisan Ales (Minneapolis, MN)

Other than Fair State Brewing Cooperative, you won’t find a better mixed culture beer in MN. Wild Minds Artisan Ales is fueled by Matt Waddell’s boundless creativity and love of spontaneous fermentation. I wish I was closer to this place because I don’t get there as often as I would like. If you want to introduce someone to something that is a step above a kettle sour, this is the place.

23-Spilled Grain Brewhouse (Annandale, MN)

Spilled Grain Brewhouse is probably one of the best breweries that you haven’t been to in MN. They have quietly been kicking butt and taking names with beers at the World Beer Cup and more recently, GABF. I think that they have the best Oktoberfest in the state-apologies to Schell’s and Summit. Their tap list reads like a book and definitely has something for everyone. Jacob and Anastasia Schnabel are the perfect combination of passion and kindness and the vibe of their brewery shows this.

22-Jack Pine Brewery (Baxter, MN)

If you go up the Brainerd/Nisswa area, there are now several breweries available. However, I think that Jack Pine stands tall above the rest when it comes to quality and offerings. Their Vengeance Jalapeño Cream Ale is incredible. However, their taproom has an extensive list of beers that changes quite often. It is always a must-stop for me and I am sure other will agree that they have definitely elevated the beer scene up in Central Minnesota.

21-BlackStack Brewing (St. Paul, MN)

BlackStack Brewing has joined a select few in setting the bar for hazy, NEIPAs. Their Local 755 IPA is a fantastic beer. This is a beer I could drink all the time. I also like that they have delved into some more sessionable styles in addition to their bigger IPAs. Their Keller Bier is solid and I think that their Ratify! is a solid homage to the Allagash White that it is modeled after. If all those things aren’t enough, they have Murphy. Murphy Johnson is affable, hilarious, and has my vote for best handshake in the MN beer scene. The entire family behind the brewery exudes hospitality and will gladly chat beer with you if you ask.

20-Unmapped Brewing Company (Minnetonka, MN)

Finally, I have an after work happy hour location that doesn’t suck! Unmapped Brewing Company is a wonderful place to grab a beer. No matter the style, the beer that you choose will be deftly brewed by someone who knows his stuff. I speak, of course, of Derek Allmendinger. Derek is incredibly nice to chat with about beer and life. At a festival or at the taproom, when I see him, my day always gets better. Their Belgian Quadruplication is masterful and is a great example of why Belgian beers can be great if brewed with skill. If you are lucky enough to be there when Mind the Map is on, get it-you will thank me.

19-Indeed Brewing (Minneapolis, MN)

I know that Indeed Brewing has a following and a tapline presence that makes other breweries blush. To me, some of their mainstays other than the B-Side Pils seem pretty pedestrian. Indeed’s Wooden Soul series and Rum King are quite good. I wish that they would can or bottle Whiskey Queen. I know that they are opening a brewpub in Milwaukee, WI, and so they show no signs of slowing down.

18-Urban Growler (St. Paul, MN)

Over the years, Urban Growler has always been on my list of places to go for fun. I love the vibe here. Jill and Deb have created a wonderful community and it shows in their staff and space. I also love that they continue to bring new innovative beers to the table. Recently, they added a mild and a Mexican Lager to the fold and they are both tremendous. This year’s barrel-aged porter was phenomenal. Their food is tasty and if you haven’t tried the fried chicken sandwich, drop everything and go there now to do so!

17-Bad Weather Brewing Company (St. Paul, MN)

Bad Weather first caught my eye back in the day with their Cauld Weather, a Wee Heavy that had everything I wanted in a malty beer. Lately, I have been craving their lagers. Andy Ruhland is a master in my eyes because everything he releases is brewed well, no matter the style. His Munich Helles is incredible and it really showcases how malty beers can be sessionable and fantastic. Of course, you really can’t go wrong with any of their selections and they have an awesome taproom with videogames and epic artwork on the walls. This is a frequent stop for me and I love what they do.

16-Modist Brewing (Minneapolis, MN)

It would have been tough to top last year’s amazing Dilly Dilly! moment. However, a GABF medal for First Call, Modist Brewing’s epic coffee lager was a definitely a way to do it. I recall a conversation I had with one of the co-founders a few years ago when they said that it will be tough for them to win a GABF medal because they don’t necessarily brew to specific style guidelines. Well, Modist proved that if a beer is awesome and drinkable, it will garner accolades. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention their Lord Humungus Rye Stout that was sensational. They have a handle on things at Modist and I continue to be wowed by them.

15-Tin Whiskers Brewing Company (St. Paul, MN)

Tin Whiskers had a really great year in 2018. They doubled their taplines from 8 to 16. They really let out the creativity clutch and brought us the Waveform West Coast IPA, a Kölsch, a coconut milk stout, a cream ale-soon to be released in cans-and had perhaps one of the biggest beer splashes locally with their Nut Goodie Porter, a collaborative effort with the Pearson’s Candy Company in St. Paul. I thought that their lineup had gotten a little stagnant, but they really impressed me with a lot of new offerings this year.

14-Waconia Brewing Company (Waconia, MN)

Waconia Brewing Company is a fantastic reason to venture west, young man. Their iconic Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter is a treat and was well-received when I passed it around at the beer bloggers conference bottle share this summer. However, they are far from a one-trick pony. They have a wonderful Kölsch, a dreamy milk stout, and one of the better Oktoberfests. Their taproom is a great place to spend an afternoon playing games with friends and enjoying life. The family behind the brewery is one of the nicest you will meet and they brew some damn good beer.

13-Insight Brewing Company (Minneapolis, MN)

Insight Brewing continues to be a go-to when I am in Northeast Minneapolis. They have one of my favorite seasonals in Gravity Well. This year’s variants of Gravity Well were some of the best yet, in my opinion. Their Berliner Weisse was extraordinary and sits in a class by itself. Their brewery events are always a great time and their taproom is great for a big gathering with coworkers or just a quiet chat with a friend.

12-Utepils Brewing Company (Minneapolis, MN)

As my drinking preferences have changed and I have learned more about what makes a quality beer, I have really loved everything that Utepils has done. They have fantastic beers that, in their simplicity, display an exquisite technique and acumen of the brewer. The space is ideal to get together and be with friends. If you are longing for summer, just go in and order a Kölsch and close your eyes-there she will be. They also have one of my favorite beer slangers in the world, Tom Holzinger to make your day better with his witty banter and Ragnar Lothbrok eyes. He knows beer and loves to chat about it; make sure you do that with him.

11-Schell’s Brewery (New Ulm, MN)

Last year, around this time, my neighbor had a bottle share featuring each of the Noble Star Series beers that Schell’s has ever released. It was a marvelous night of drinking. Whenever I see that they have a new lager or an old familiar beer releasing, it usually finds its way into my beer fridge. They have been doing great things for a long time. As craft drinkers are finally realizing that lagers are flavorful, crisp, and refreshing beers that can be enjoyed for hours, Schell’s is gaining new fanboys and fangirls by the minute.

10-Lift Bridge Brewery (Stillwater, MN)

Lift Bridge Brewery has had much success over the years. So much, in fact, that they need a bigger facility. They announced where that facility would be going and it is not far from their original location. Their barrel-aged Silhouette is a work of art. However, they have many other fantastic beers in their repertoire that keep them in the top ten for me. I love their taproom vibe and when they throw a release party, they always have great music and food. I am already giving my liver a pep-talk for the Silhouette release party on January 19th. . .

9-Forager Brewery (Rochester, MN)

Forager Brewery in Rochester, MN, has the market cornered on pastry stouts (stouts made with flavors that you would find in pastries) and amazing fruity mixed culture beers. Their brewpub is a wonderful place to eat, drink, and be merry. Zach and Austin are doing incredible things in an extremely small space. Their lines at beer festivals are always long and people rave about their beer. I can also say that Zach and Austin are some of the nicest, most down-to-earth people you will find in the industry. You will go for the beer, but you need to stay for the food. The menu is changing constantly and the culinary wonderment that you can enjoy is mouth-watering and spectacular.

8-Junkyard Brewing (Moorhead, MN)

There was a time when if you wanted some of the liquid gold that Junkyard Brewing put in crowlers, you had to venture up I-94 to the windswept prairie of the Red River Valley. Well, thankfully, those days are over. In probably one of the most impressive and grass roots distribution efforts-thanks to Minkus and Aminn, Junkyard crowlers are not only delivered, they make it to places all over the Metro! Junkyard also has expanded their brewhouse and taproom space up in Moorhead. The new taproom kept to cozy, small town feel of the original space while at the same time providing plenty of room to sprawl out. Junkyard is also one of the few places that I think really does the milkshake IPA justice among their other stellar styles.

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Beerploma by Dan Beaubien - 2w ago

Winterfest 2019

On Friday, January 25th, the swankiest of all Minnesota beer festivals is happening downtown St. Paul at the Union Depot from 7-10 pm. This festival is put on every year by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild and it is not to be missed. Tickets may be purchased online for $90. I would not wait too long, however, this event typically sells out.

Beer & Food Pairings

Like last year, Winterfest will once again showcase how beer and food make wonderful bedfellows. For a complete list of the Beer & Bites, click here. I love pairing beer with food and I hope that there is a little better synergy between the restaurants and the breweries this year when it comes to pairing.

Of the successful pairings from last year, I really thought that the Threat Level Midnight from Barrel Theory with the Nosh’s whipped foie gras parfait was a match made is decadence heaven. The way the richness of the foie gras parfait went perfectly with the texture of the beer actually highlighted flavors instead of canceling them out. It was an amazing sip and a bite.

Is It Worth It?

While the $90 price is a definitely up there, you will not find a more unique food and beer pairing event. The unlimited pours of beers that, quite frankly, are some of the best that the Minnesota breweries have to offer, more than make up for the price of admission. When you factor in the restaurants and their curated bites, it is really a fantastic value.

I major benefit of being at the festival is that the brewery owners are typically the people at the booths. So, you can engage them in dialogue in a meaningful way that you cannot at some of the other, oversold festivals. They do a nice job of capping the number of tickets sold at Winterfest so that it does not feel crowded or like you can’t ask questions about the food and beer.

For a detailed recap of last year’s Winterfest event, check out my article. I am sure that once you read my detailed report of the delicious sips and bites, you will be ordering your tickets sooner than later. Winterfest is my favorite beer festival in Minnesota because of the eating, drinking, and conversations. I fully recommend you give Winterfest 2019 a try.

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .

The post Winterfest 2019 is Coming appeared first on Beerploma.

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Northern Ale Guide

The Northern Ale Guide is the exclusive sponsor of Beerploma’s Best MN Breweries of 2018. Many of the breweries highlighted in these articles are featured prominently in the 2019 Northern Ale Guide which can be purchased here. So, have fun exploring the vibrant and exciting Minnesota craft beer scene. Prost!

OK, it’s time to post my yearly top Minnesota Brewery list!  Click Bait Extravaganza!  Trolls take note, you will have all sorts of options on how to proceed!  With so many breweries to choose from now, we expanded from 25 to 30 this year and I still struggled with the ones that didn’t quite make the list.  Dan will be posting his list as well soon. We don’t look at each others lists until they are published, so part of the fun is seeing how we agree and disagree on these rankings.  We’ll be talking about these lists in our upcoming A One Pint Stand podcast as well, so if you want more details, please tune in!
 
So who am I to make such a list for general consumption, you may ask?  I’m just a long time fan of craft beer. I’ve been a homebrewer for 25 years, a BJCP judge, and now I’ve brewed beers with several professional breweries.  Over the year I’ve kept a careful list of all the Minnesota breweries, bumping them up and down as I taste beers or visit taprooms.  With so many breweries in the state, this is an epic undertaking indeed!  With help from Dan, Jim, and Sarajo we’ve even made field trips to visit breweries in the farther reaches of the state.  But even with this, I’ve only been able to visit just over half of them!  To make sure I get to try more breweries’ beer than I can visit, I also make sure to try them out at various festivals, beer dinners, and other events.  This is serious work people!
 
I judge a brewery based on several things.  The first is beer quality: if you are serving me beer with flaws, you’re not making the top of my list! Taste is subjective and I certainly have my own foibles here, but I try to judge based on style guidelines first, personal taste second.  I don’t drink wheat beers much, but I can tell if one is an amazing example of the style!  Second would be consistency: can you continue to put out good beer or is this a “even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes” kind of place.  Third would be taproom/brewery experience: how interesting/cozy/comfortable/friendly is the brewery and would I want to come back to visit.  Last would be the people: if I know or have spent time with the owners and brewers, I feel like I can get more background and understanding of what the brewery is trying to do–but I try not to let this overcome my first three criteria!
 
With all that behind us, your list will not be the same as mine, and that is just fine!  Embrace the differences in our taste and experiences!  Dan won’t let me do a Worst Brewery list so you will have to just suffer through the Best.  Also please give us your opinions, we love to have feedback (just be nice!) about what our readers like.  So here goes with Number 30!
 
 
 
30) Lost Sanity (Medelia): This was a bit of a surprise to us on a recent trip to visit some of the farther-out taprooms.  New in 2018, this family run brewhouse is putting out really good beer!  We got to meet with brewmaster Caleb Fenske on this visit and he knows what he is doing.  (Full Pulp NEIPA, Manic Black Lager)
 
 
29) Shakopee Brewhall (Shakopee):  I’ve managed to get here three times in the last 3 months and have been impressed with the variety and quality of beers available. Brewer Ben Salyards is stretching his wings and has outdone the breweries he cut his teeth on earlier in his career. (Fine, Whatever, Voices in My Head)
 
28) Surly (Minneapolis): Surly is still responsible for a lot of positive changes in the Minnesota beer landscape. However, I do feel that the brewery has been at a bit of a stand-still since the loss of Todd Haug.  I have been less than impressed with the new beers coming out in the past 2 years, feeling they have lacked the creativity of the old brand.  And what ever happened to Twelve???  I still like a lot of the old stand-bys and have not noted a drop in quality, which is why the brewery is still on this list.  However, since first writing this (at the #16 spot) I have just discovered that Surly will be ceasing production of Cynic and Bender for packaging.  What????  I’m sorry Surly, you are dropping lower on my list.  Also, with being available all across the Metro, I still probably drink more Surly at events and restaurants than most other beers.  (Hell, Smoke, Bender, Coffee Bender, Todd the Axe Man, Cynic)
 
 
27) Roets (Jordan): Tim Roets and family have put together a great little small-town taproom in an old bank building right downtown.  Beers range from subtle to over the top with glorious abandon.  You will always feel like one of the family here.  (Superfruit, Bearded Lad)
 
26) Spilled Grain Brewhouse (Annandale): A bit off the beaten path, but a great brewery and taproom waiting to be discovered by the Twin Cities beer crowd.  Winners of a GABF Silver medal for False Hope wheat wine in 2018.  Jacob Schnabel is doing great things with a plethora of styles.  (Oktoberfest, doppelbock)
 
 
25) Back Channel  (Spring Park): Open September 2017, Marc and Olie are putting a remarkable number of good beers out of their small brewery.  Now with actual channel access, the brewery can be reached by boat!  The guys hosted Sj and I for a tasting and tour, and I never quite got around to my write-up…but they made it onto my list!  (The Lakemaker, Bus Driver IPA, Padre Imperial Stout)
 
24) Fulton (Minneapolis): Fulton is one of the bigger players on my list.  I’ll admit that I don’t like a few of the core beers (Lonely Blonde and Sweet Child I’m looking at you), but some of the others are well done.  Fulton is dropping a bit on my list this year due to that and because I feel that my previous favorites Worthy Adversary/War & Peace have seemed a bit more hot and green this past year.  (300, Insurrection)
 
 
 
23) Wild Mind (Minneapolis): This one jumped up on my list after last year’s list came out and several people suggested I give them a try.  Yup, they are putting out some pretty unique beers, including some really complex sours.  Good call Beerploma readers and keeps the suggestions coming! (Camille, Vitesse)
 
22) Jack Pine (Baxter): Jack Pine is always good, but always missed due to it being outside the TC Metro area.  I’ve heard they are starting to send us some beers though!  I haven’t been to the new taproom since last year, but the beers still impress when I can get them.  (Vengeance, Deadfall RIS)
 
21) Castle Danger (Two Harbors): I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while now.  They continue to put out good beer and are in liquor stores all over the Twin Cities now.  I haven’t had much new from them in the past year and hope to see some new offerings in 2019.  (Fresh Hop Mosaic, Castle Cream Ale)
 
20) Pryes (Minneapolis): A new taproom, but Jeremy has been putting out his flagship Pryes Miraculum for some time now.  I’m happy to see a lot of new beers and unusual styles and the taproom is beautiful. (Barleywine, Irish Dry Stout)
 
 
 
19) Tin Whiskers (St. Paul): Tin Whiskers has been a popular stop for me over the past few years in the rare instances of making it to St. Paul.  In the past year I have been impressed with some of the new beers (finally some new IPA options) and with the expansion to 16 taplines there are a lot more options at the taproom.  Just a quick disclaimer: I brewed a beer with Tin Whiskers investor and Beervangelist Jim Stroner this year on thier pilot system, and the scaled up version of this coconut, chocolate, vanilla double stout should be on tap within the month.  (Nut Goodie Porter, Funkenfest, Brut IPA)
 
18) Hoops (Duluth): At last year’s grand opening I felt that Hoops had tried to do too much too quickly and the results were overall good but not what I had hoped.  I felt a bit like a hater, but with the brewing talent involved I think I was justified in having high expectations.  This past year at All Pints North, I got to visit the taproom exactly a year later and feel it is on track!  The beers were all solid and I could find no fault with them at all.  (No. 21 IPA, No. 81 Hell)
 
17) Dangerous Man (Minneapolis): Always unique.  These guys put out some great beers, but I’ve had a few mixed results which keep it a bit lower on my list than a lot of folks.  I recently visited early on a Sunday and was able to get a seat at the bar and a very tasty beer.  When I mentioned that one of the bottles I’d had from the previous year was flat, the server ended up making it right and really improved my estimation of the brewery right then and there. (Chocolate Milk Stout, Rum Barrel Imperial Pumpkin)
 
16) Unmapped (Minnetonka…kind of): Going on second year open now and still brewing solid beers.  Head brewer Derek Allmendinger is a fantastic guys and really passionate about his beers.  Dog friendly taproom: seriously, seems I feel like I should go adopt a dog just to be like everyone else…(Mind The Map, Freq Drive DIPA)
 

Games at Waconia Brewing!

15) Waconia (Waconia): This is my local watering hole. I think Tom and the crew here continue to put out great beer in a small brewery.  This is the brewery I visit most frequently and keep track of quality control (ie. drinking beer).  (Mo’ Winta Milk Stout, Barrel Aged Driftwood RIS, Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter,  Deepwater DIPA)
 
14) Modist (Minneapolis): A good brewery with a lot of flair.  I’ve been happy with the Pale and IPA styles from these guys. We did a beer dinner with these guys at Iron Tap in Waconia last month that was wonderful. (Dreamyard, False Pattern)
 
13) Forager (Rochester): I really like this brewery. Small but strong, they have a great restaurant and a cool mix of beers.  I have never had a bad experience at the tap room. I just wish I could get the beer out where I live! (Magnus, Pudding Goggles, Sherpa’s Survival Kit)
 
12) August Schell/Starkeller (New Ulm): I’m excited to see the evolution of this old dog learning new tricks over the years.  While I like the new sours, they continue to put out some classic and well crafted lagers. (Firebrick, Octoberfest)
 
11) Lift Bridge (Stillwater): I still love Lift Bridge but am more of a fan of their specialty beers than their core brands.  Barrel Aged Silhouette is still one of the best beers to be found anywhere.  (Silhouette)
 
10) Steel Toe (St. Louis Park):  From day 1 Steel Toe has put out superior quality beer in a controlled and unassuming fashion. If they had wanted to, they could be where Indeed, Insight, or Fulton are right now in terms of production.  I have been happy to see some new beers enter circulation in the past year.  (Wee Heavy, Dawn Juan, Before the Dawn, Lunker, Size 4)
 
9) Insight (Minneapolis):  Insight still does some cool stuff, also with varied styles and ideas.  I actually haven’t had as many Insight beers this year, but quality is still solid and they do one of my favorite Imperial Stouts in Minnesota.  (Sunken City, Devil’s Companion, Gravity Well in all it’s incarnations)
 
8) Barrel Theory (St. Paul):  These guys are doing very cool things and have maintained the quality and variety since last year.  Still focused on hazy IPAs, but with several outstanding kettle sours and one of the best coconut beers to be found to round things out.  I want some barrel aged stuff!  (Black Lotus, Cryptocurrency, I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying)
 
7) Indeed (Minneapolis): Indeed is another of those early boom companies that continues to innovate while increasing distribution and sales.  I love their branding and art.  I also love that they are doing cool things with sours.  (Peach Bum, Rum King, B-Side Pils, any Wooden Soul, Mexican Honey, Mexican Cousin)
 
6) Junkyard (Moorhead): I’ve loved these guys for years and they consistently make my top 10.  I’ve now been to the brewery twice and we can find little crowler drops around the Twin Cities nowdays.  Everything from these guys is good.  Even their milkshake IPA’s which I mostly consider a stunt.  (Free Candy, Key Lime Gose, King Size, Peanut Butter Bandit)
 
 
5) Fair State (Minneapolis):  Fair State started small and has continued to up their game, both in production and quality.  I’ve been very impressed with the beers coming out of this brewery and look forward to more.  They also have a large range of styles to choose from.  (Brut Squad, Pils, Vienna Lager, Spirit Foul, Roselle, Mirror Universe)
 
 
 
4) Lupulin (Big Lake):  I have yet to taste a beer from these guys that I don’t like.  Disclaimer, I have brewed two beers with them so I can’t rule out some personal bias.  That being said, I’d put their beers up against anyone in the state and outside of Minnesota.  Lupulin also hosted the first Minnesota IPA invitational this year and other than rain, it was a blast!  Look toward next year’s which I bet will be even bigger.  (Blissful Ignorance, Hooey, Straight Hash Homie, Night Witch)
 
3) Summit (St. Paul):  The old venerable Minnesota craft brewery who keeps trucking away and proving their place in the beer culture of our state. These guys have been climbing my list each year (and topped Dan’s last year) due to continued quality as well as new and intriguing beers from the Unchained and Union series.  Called the Coldplay of breweries by some, but hey, I like Coldplay!  I also enjoy watching Summit goodnaturedly troll people on Untappd.  Thanks for bringing back Dark Infusion–now bring back the Export Stout!  (Dark Infusion, Keller Pils, Great Northern Porter)
 
2) Bent Paddle (Duluth):  Bent Paddle continues to kill it with great consistent beers from the far north.  With the new taproom, it is even more fun to visit and easier to find a table!  (Double Shot Double Black, Venture Pils, 14 Degree ESB)
And the Winner this year is…
 

Town Hall Anniversary Beer Dinner!

 
1) Town Hall (Minneapolis):  These guys have always been in my top 5, but this year they take the gold for me.  Continued amazing varied line up of beers and good hearty food.  I went to the Anniversary Dinner there this year and had a fantastic time.  Barrel aged options are some of the best in..
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As we near the end of the 2018 year, we live amongst an embarrassment of riches when it comes to taproom options in Minnesota. At the original epicenter of the Minnesota craft beer boom, a list of Northeast Minneapolis breweries reads like a Rick Bayless molé recipe. Is it possible for a new brewery to exist and stand out from the rest in this pool that seems to be ever-shrinking? If Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative has a say, the answer is “Yes!”

Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative

Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative is fostering a robust craft beer community with their constantly growing membership. They also brew fantastic beers to keep their members from going thirsty.

The Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative has a membership of just over 700 members. That list grows each day as more people discover the unique community and diverse beer offerings that Broken Clock has. The taproom space has been open a little over a month and a half. However, they have been brewing out of this location for several years.

The Taproom

There is some good beer mojo in the space because the address has been home to two other craft breweries over the years. 56 Brewing and NorthGate Brewing both started there before moving into bigger facilities. Broken Clock started there and decided to expand at that location. The result of that choice is a spacious and open place to enjoy multiple types of seating along with a nice lineup of craft beer.

One of the great things about the taproom is the designated children’s play area. It is surrounded by a bar top so that parents can either watch their kids play in the enclosed area or sit nearby on the picnic tables. To me, if you are going to let kids in your taproom, you need to have a designated play area. Most of the parents that bring their kids to taprooms are watchful and keep them civil. However, there are also those few parents who let their kids run wild and behave like idiots while they sit obliviously sipping their beers.

Another awesome thing about the Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative taproom is all the unique touches that showcase the talents of their members. For instance, all the tables are built by a member who specializes in woodworking. The tops are all unique and that adds a fun touch to the taproom. There is also a mural on the wall behind the music stage that spells out “A Beer Revolution” with all the names of the members.

There is always a great mix of people at Broken Clock. Their furry four-legged best friends are also welcome. So, if the thrill of having your leg humped by a pooch gets you going, Broken Clock is the place for you.

I also appreciate the different types of seating in the taproom. There are bar stools if you like to belly up. There are communal picnic tables if you want to be non-Minnesotan and sit among strangers and make new friends. They also have low-top and high-top tables. Perhaps the most unique thing that they have is a lower height section of the bar that is perfect for someone in a wheelchair. This may seem like a no-brainer, but very few breweries that I have been have this amenity.

So, What is a Brewing Cooperative?

The only other brewing cooperative in town is Fair State Brewing Cooperative. I am sure you are familiar with them and have been to their taproom to see all the pictures of their members up on the wall. The Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative functions in much the same way for its members. They have two levels of membership, a regular member and a Brewer membership.

When you become a member ($200 single or $300 joint membership), you get to have a say in how the business is run. All members can attend board meetings. Members have voting privileges and can even run to be on the board of directors. Broken Clock members earn dividends, get free beer, and always get 10% off of beer and merchandise.

If you get a Brewer membership ($350 single and $500 joint membership) you get all the basic membership benefits plus the opportunity to join the brewers in monthly round table discussions to design upcoming pilot batches and joining brewers on select brew days to brew pilot or big batches of beer. This is definitely a great perk for the homebrewer looking to expand their skill set.

I visited on December 20th after Tom Peets got in touch with me on social media about stopping by. When I got to the brewery, he was helping some people collect their trivia prize growlers and merch from a previous trivia night. Tom definitely looks the part of a “beer guy” with his longer hair and classic beard. His persona is also one that is warm and friendly, another hallmark of a successful craft beer lead sales rep.

Tom gave me the tour of the facility and then set me up with a couple flights of their beers. What stuck out to me about Tom was how much pride he has for representing the Broken Clock brand. He kept pointing out the different little things that gives Broken Clock an identity. He seemed to know everyone in the taproom which tells me that he is connected to their community.

Beer Time

Of course, a brewery could have the best staff, coolest aesthetics, and funkiest merchandise around, but if their beer is sub-par, they won’t last long. So, it is time to talk turkey. Tom poured me their beers and gave me a little info on each one and I began tasting.

The Kölsch was a nice starter and reminded me of the warmer days of summer. It drank crisp and clean with a dry finish. It was missing the touch of honey that usually comes along with this style, but that did not deter me from finishing it.

Next was the 2Brew, a coffee Kölsch. It had a fantastic and rich aroma of the Ethiopian cold press coffee from Tiny Footprint Coffee . While the Kölsch reminded me of summer, the 2Brew reminded me of the best part of a perfect morning. Despite its rich aroma, the coffee flavor is balanced and blends harmoniously with the bready malt flavor in the beer.

I thought that the Standup Stout lacked a bit in the body department. As I let it warm, the flavors and aromas powered up and it was a nice mix of chocolate, smoke, and toasted bread. On Nitro, the Standup Stout really shines as its body is buttressed by the creamy texture that the Nitro imparts to the beer.

The Law & Porter Ancho Chili Edition is definitely an English Porter and not the thicker American Porter that is more familiar. I like that the body is a little thinner because I think that it allows the dryness from the chili to make for an enticing sip.

The Pocket Watch Pecan Brown Ale is a delicate confection in a glass. Brown sugar and vanilla add sweetness and they tag in the pecan nuttiness for balance and an extra oomph. This is a special beer and one that sticks out in my mind as a more memorable brown ale available in this market. Far too often, I come across a brown ale that seems like it is there because the brewer thought they needed to have something malty that wasn’t a stout on the menu. When this happens, the half-assed nature of the beer is evident in aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. Broken Clock has done this style proud with the Pocket Watch Pecan Brown Ale because of its complexity and drinkability.

The Minute Man NEIPA is a marvelous example of a style that garners so much hate from so many people. I think that the hate for NEIPAs stems from so many atrocious examples. I could do an entire blog post on local breweries who have bastardized this style, but I don’t want to have my garage set ablaze. Luckily, Broken Clock has the bright and juicy notes of Mosaic and Citra hops in this beer. The Minute Man has the mouthfeel that is representative of the style-and the hardest characteristic of this style to nail. It has a hop bite at the end to round it out and not leave it just a sweet, alchoholic glass of orange juice. I would drink this early and often and this beer belongs in the conversation with the successful hazy IPAs from Lupulin, Barrel Theory, and Forager.

The Red Coats is the Minute Man NEIPA with blood oranges. See above for why everyone should try this so that they can see what a great NEIPA tastes like.

The Summer Dreamin’ Milkshake IPA is another controversial style. If you want to cause a stir among beer geeks, just talk about this style. I will admit that I am in the skeptical camp when it comes to this style. I get what they are supposed to be and I like them, but only for about 10 ounces. Broken Clock has again caused me to check my bias at the lip of the glass and allow myself to be surprised.

The Summer Dreamin’ is magical. It transported me right back to July as I stood in line at Conny’s Creamy Cone pondering which of the 28 flavors of soft-serve to get. The vanilla sweetness from the lactose is pleasant and not at all cloying. I would drink more than just one pint of this and that is saying something.

The Lavender Uprising was not my jam because the lavender was just too much for me. Instead of a pleasant herbal note, all I got was soap. I am sure that if you are a fan of lavender, this will be good, but it is hard for me to get past that much lavender in my beer.

The RISé 2018 is a dark and dreamy stout. It boasts flavors of molasses, dark chocolate, and a little bit of coffee. It has tremendous body and a snifter of this will make even your most annoying friends talking politics palatable.

All in all, the Head Brewer Will Hubbard does a superb job of brewing beers that not only represent their respective styles well, but they also stand out with unique flavors and aromas. Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative owners Jeremy Mathison and Jerome Passe are lucky to have a brewer who is so deft when it comes to balanced beers that appeal to everyone.

I thought that the beers at Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative were definitely worth the trip. However, the conversation that I had with Tom Peets is what really made my time at Broken Clock awesome. Tom gave me more time than I deserved and I was happy to get to know him better. Do yourself a favor the next time you are there and ask him to tell some hockey stories. You will not be disappointed and you will understand why Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative is a great place to belong. Prost!

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  He mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .

The post Brewery Bound: Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative appeared first on Beerploma.

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Bad Habit Brewing Company

In St. Joseph, MN, there is a quaint little taproom that brews anything but quaint flavored beer.  Bad Habit Brewing Company has a wonderful array of quality craft beers on tap. Bad Habit has been operating out of this cozy space since its inception in 2014.  Soon, they will be moving to a bigger location that keeps them in the heart of this lovely Minnesota hamlet, but closer to quite possible the best place to get a sub sandwich in the Midwest, Bo Diddley’s.  On my way back from Thanksgiving, I decided to stop in and finally visit the brewery.  This has been on my list for a few years now and it felt like a great achievement to unlock on this Small Business Saturday.

When I stepped into Bad Habit Brewing Company, the place was full because St. Joseph was having a shop small event for all the shops in town.  Seems like people were gravitating towards the brewery today to quench their thirst and give their chip cards a rest.  Luckily, I found a table next to two local ladies who were getting some of their holiday shopping done while taking a break from their families. 

Before I knew it, Aaron Rieland, Bad Habit’s owner and brewer, is next to me telling me I picked the wrong day to stop by if I wanted a quiet and relaxed taproom.  I assured him that I didn’t mind a crowd and was happy to see so many people enjoying craft beer.  He graciously set me up with some tasters and chatted with me for a bit despite the fact that he was busy.  When our conversation was finished, he got right back in the trenches behind the bar.  

Before I get to my flight, I have to have a pint of their milk stout, Dark Addiction.  This beer is the perfect blend of lactose sweetness and roasty bitterness from the malt.  Dark Addiction is a balanced and easily quaffable beer.  From there, I board my flight of four different beers.  The colors and aromas bursting forth from this collection of beers is delightful. 

Crush-A-Lot

Nowadays, no visit to a taproom is real unless you drink a hazy IPA.  This is for the most part in jest, although I believe that many breweries feel like they have to have something New England IPA-ish on tap.  There are many of these that fall flat and do not check any of the boxes of what I believe to be the right qualities of a New England IPA.  Luckily, for me, Bad Habit’s Hazy game is on-point.  This beer has, what I believe, to be the trickiest quality of this style to accomplish-the soft mouth feel.  The aroma of tangerine flesh is invigorating on this dreary Saturday.  Pineapple sweetness and brightness are the main highlights in the flavor, but there is also a little bit of cantaloupe sweetness as well.  The bold hue of goldenrod is eye-catching and really looks the part with its haze.

Beautiful Conclusion

Kettle sours are also a style that seems to show up everywhere.  I hate to say it, but finding a good one that doesn’t give you gut rot is easier said than done.  As I look around the taproom, I see that I am not the only person drinking this beer.  Right away, I can smell the lactobacillus and it kicks my salivary glands into action. The fruit in this beer is all about the blazzberry. Yes, you read that right-blazzberry. A blazzberry is not a wacky central Minnesotan designer drug reference, but a hybrid fruit. The Beautiful Conclusion has tartness and acidity without tasting artificial. It is complex and there is a definitive fruit presence in the beer.

Flippity Flop Milkshake Triple IPA

Seemingly an amalgamation of all the beer geeks hopes and wants, this beer is a wacky hybrid style. We are familiar with Milkshake IPAs by now and we are at least somewhat acquainted with a Triple IPA. However, this baby is all that and a bag of fruit. Mango, passion fruit, and pineapple, to be exact.

I am a little apprehensive about this one, but Aaron picked it out for me and everything else has been good so far. The Flippity Flop does not disappoint. This will come as a surprise to nobody, but it is juicy as an orange grove at high noon, both in aroma and flavor. What impresses me most about this beer is that all 3 fruits are discernible. Despite the 10% heft of this beer, it drinks smooth and refreshing. I am sure that the sweetness and lactose don’t hurt, but this is a palatable beer for a Triple IPA.

Double Dark Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout

The piece de resistance of most brewery portfolios is the big, bad, imperial stout. Well, this baby is also up there in the high alcohol stratosphere of 9.5%. There are aromas of black licorice, coffee, and rye bread in the nose of this beer. The flavors consist of molasses, dark cherries, and a nice element of dark chocolate for decadence. The slight warming from the booze is not at all overpowering and this beer would really kick ass alongside a nice wedge of irish cheddar. The roasty notes from the malt and sweetness from the lactose all make this beer a stunner.

Learn From My Mistake

I should have visited this place a lot sooner because their beers are well-crafted and inventive. Bad Habit Brewing Company embodies all the nice things about a small town and makes you feel welcome. Trust me, that is not always the case for a brewery. I think that the openness comes from Aaron Rieland’s personality and desire to do things right. I can say that the beers all impressed me and I am hopeful that the quality and variety continues as they transition into their newer and bigger location. So, if you haven’t made the trip up yourself, hopefully this is the kick in the rear that might help you get going. Prost!

Bad Habit Brewing Company 15 E. Minnesota St., St. Joseph, MN 56374

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .

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This is the 13th in a series of blog posts about our epic trip to Germany and the Czech Republic in search of food, castles, and of course beer.  My travel companions included my wife Sarajo (Sj for short), as well as Jim and Lori Stroner.  Jim is a seasoned beer geek (and part owner of Tin Whisker’s Brewing in St. Paul) as well as a great photographer.  He did most of the organizational work for the trip, so he gets extra kudos!  Our hero’s journey continues now with day 13…

Cesky Krumlov

Jim and I woke up way too early this fine day to take pictures of the nearby castle before hoards of tourists settled on it like flies on…  Well we got up early.  With only the odd cleaning crew or biker zipping by we really had our run of the castle grounds and took many a picture.

We ended up back at our Pension Danny (hotel) for breakfast, which was a little disappointing.  Sunny D instead of orange juice and instant powdered coffee were not on a par with our other places on this trip.  At least the place was right in the old town and just blocks from the castle.

Wandering the city, we took in the medieval splendor: walking on cobblestones, marveling at decorative ironwork and doors, looking into shops selling everything from crystal to touristy junk.  Restaurants and sweet shops put off a plethora of amazing aromas.  As the morning advanced the streets became crowded with tourists, many in tour groups.

Cesky Krumlov Castle

The castle is a huge sprawling complex including stables, gardens, a baroque theater, fountains, and more.  There are actually several different tours of the grounds and it could take days to really see everything.  We took one of the interior tours and got to see some really interesting art, furnishings, and views.  We also got a pretty extensive history lesson, which started to really seal together the stories and history we had been getting throughout the trip so far.  We couldn’t take pictures of the inside, but we got some exterior and rampart shots.

Baroque Theater

Jim had organized an English tour of the Baroque Theater that was part of the castle complex.  This was really interesting and we got to see the very old sound machines (thunder, rain, wind) and were amazed at the ability of the quick-change sets for that time period.  And we couldn’t take pictures so you will have to take my word for it!

After our tours we wandered more about town, looking for cool doors and shops.  We got Sj a really cool necklace made of garnets and moldovite at one of the jewelry shops.  Jim and I looked at a few antique shops hoping for beer signs, but the only ones we found were pretty beat up or too big to get home easily.  We noticed a lot of store proprietors would follow up around the shops and watch us like hawks so we didn’t steal anything.  I’m not sure if this was because we were American or if they’ve just had too many things walk off in the past.

Krumlov Brewery (Old Eggenberg Brewery)

We did find the one brewery in town, which was formerly the Eggenberg Brewery but had recently been bought and renamed the Krumlov Brewery (or Pivovar).  A lot of the signs were still for the old brewery so we were a bit confused at first but figured it out.  The light colored lager was pretty good with just a hint of diacetyl (a common finding in many of the Czech lagers we had).  The unfiltered lager had more of this butter flavor and was harder to handle.  The dark was actually pretty smoky and I’m not sure if it was meant to be like that or not!

Strange discovery…

After a filling lunch we headed back to the castle to find the gardens and walked a lot of uphill cobbles!  Thanks Sj!  After this I tried a trdnlnek: a traditional pastry formed into a tube and coated in nuts and cinnamon sugar.  It was wonderful but the yellowjackets were swarming me as I tried to finish it quick!

We ended up having dinner along the river at Bolero and relaxing with a couple more beers.  This had been a long day of walking and touristing, but nice in that we didn’t need to get the car out and drive anywhere.  As darkness came across the city we moved from spot to spot to take some night photography, having scoped things out on our daytime wanders.

We ended the night at one of the few bars that was open late, a place that specialized in cocktails.  Here we tried an assortment of Czech specialties including several flavors of Becherovka (and herbal liqueur that tasted of allspice) and Slivovice (a rocket-fuel distilled from plums).  Lori–usually our teetotaler–decided this was her chance to dance with the green fairy and had a shot of absinth!  Go big or go home I guess!  Properly fueled for sleep we walked a block or so back to our hotel and went to bed.

Running Tally

Breweries visited: 25

Bierkellers visited: 7

Cities visited: 25

Castles: 5

Brewery Museums: 3

Torture Museums: 1

Lori dancing with the green fairy: 1

Really high places that Eric is terrified of: 5

Mileage walked today: 7.4

Lori dances with the green fairy…

The post Czech Please! Post 13: Cesky Krumlov appeared first on Beerploma.

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A Sneak Peek at Stacked Deck Brewing Company

On Saturday, December 1st at noon, Stacked Deck Brewing Company will open its doors to the public.  Stacked Deck is on the first level of the Treasure Island Center.  Those of you Saint Paul lifers will probably remember when the Dayton’s perfume counters graced the space and filled the high ceilings with aromas of Chanel #5 and the clop-clop of high heels.  Well, those high ceilings are about to be awake once again.  Although, this time, they will house the enticing aroma of malted grains a the clinkety-clink of pint glasses coming together to signal the start of happy hour.  I got a chance to get an early look at the space and try their beers.  I came away impressed on all counts and am excited to see another fun place to drink craft beer in Saint Paul.

Gambles Do Pay Off

In Fall of 2015, I met founders Andy, Brad, and Scott. The Stacked Deck Brewing team hosted a tasting event at Andy’s house.  They had several beers that they planned on serving along with a phenomenally smoked pork belly that I still dream about.  I could tell way back then that the beer was good and definitely had potential to ramp up to the professional level.  I remember being struck by Andy’s demeanor-humble, kind, and crazy about beer.  Scott, his friend and brewing partner, was very much of the same ilk and I thought that they made a dynamic group.  Brad was also there and he has a warm and inviting smile.  All three of these guys are folks that you could sit down and have a beer with.  Back then, they were working on a location that they had to be pretty mum about, but the plan was definitely on-track to be open sooner than later.

While every brewery has their fair share of challenges when it comes to opening the brewery to beer-loving patrons, Stacked Deck definitely had a rough opening deal.  Originally Loony Bin Brewing Company, the founders, Andy(Brewer), Brad(Marketing and Communication), and Scott(Brewer) decided to change the name after people spoke up about the name maybe being not in the best taste.  Thus, Stacked Deck Brewing became the moniker.  Stacked Deck Brewing has been in the works in one form or another for 4 years.  With backgrounds in construction, Andy and Scott did a lot of the work themselves to help keep the costs down.  Brad came on originally to help with marketing, but became a founder not long after he realized how passionate and driven the team was.

Once Stacked Deck secured their desired location.  They didn’t say much about it until the Minnesota Wild signed the lease.  When that happened, they began construction, in earnest.  Andy, Brad, and Scott have a lot of sweat equity in this place.   They also have an extremely supportive group of family, friends, and investors.  They also got quite a bit of advice from Ilan Klages-Mundt, who also knows a thing or two about running a quality brewery at Insight Brewing.  With guidance from Ilan and the passion for brewing beer, they created Stacked Deck Brewing Company.  The team also were adamant about saying how helpful Kyle at Venn Brewing, Bartley at Bent Brewstillery, the guys at BlackStack Brewing, and the team at 12welve Eyes all were in advising them and recommending people to help get them to where they are now.

The Taproom

The brewery has a primo location in downtown Saint Paul.  It is right off the Green Line and there are countless bus routes that go right by the building.  They are close to restaurants and other local taprooms for those of you craft beer geeks that like to brewery hop.  

The taproom is definitely a chic place to sip on a pint.  They have a one-of-a-kind metal light fixture that hovers majestically above the centrally located bar.  There are many different seating options depending on the size of your group.  The brewhouse is open and visible to everyone in the taproom.  The ambiance is swanky, with just the right amount of glitz to pay homage to the classic old Saint Paul.  The lighting is low and definitely feels like a place to unwind with a friend with some good conversation.

Stacked Deck is not only catering to beer enthusiasts, they are going to be a home base for Hockey fans as well.  The MN Whitecaps, a professional women’s hockey team, and Hamline University call the rink atop the building home.  So, there will always be hockey fans around.  Also, the Minnesota Wild practice in the same building and so there will definitely be a lot of pucks being dropped at this locale.  Due to all the professional, college, and youth hockey being played here, there will be a live-feed video on at all times when there is a game on for people so they can keep track of all the fast-paced action while in the comfort of their bar stools.  There will be an expansive game collection so people can hunker down and play games with their family and friends.

While they will have TVs, this will not be a sports bar atmosphere-the focus will be on gathering around beer.  People will feel comfortable stopping by for a pint after work by themselves or on Saturday afternoon with the entire family.  There will be musical acts there on weekends to draw people for people who enjoy live entertainment.

The Brewhouse

Their 15 barrel brewhouse comes equipped with6 fermenters and 2 bright tanks-all 30 bbl capacity.  They will plan on making the most of their space with sights set on distribution sometime after six months or so.  

The Beers

They will open up with 8 beers, but eventually plan to have 16 beers total.  Those taps include 2 nitro taps.  They will also have root beer as a non-alcoholic option.  When I visited a week ago, I tried all the beers they had on tap.  I even witnessed the first growler being poured!  Of the beers I tried, I thought that four stood out among the rest.  The All-In Amber Lager had an crispness to it which I felt would appeal to many people.  The Well-Mannered ESB is a nice re

presentation of a beer style that embodies balance between the hops and the malt.  I thought that the Bad-Luck Brown on Nitro was smooth and quaffable.  The Fortunately Moist, a fresh hop IPA with Cascade, Centennial, and Magnum hops made for a nice and resiny change of pace from the malty options.

It seems like a long time to wait for your dream to become a reality.  Thankfully, Stacked Deck didn’t let the things that got in the way cause them to fold.  On Saturday, they can open the doors and the taps while the room fills with laughter, friends, and family.  I definitely am happy that Lady Luck is a beer drinker.  Prost!

Stacked Deck Brewing Company

Hours: M-Th 3pm-10pm, F & Sat. 3pm-12am & Sun. 12pm-10pm

Address: 421 Cedar St.  St. Paul, MN 55101

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The holidays are upon us and its time to start thinking about that perfect gift for the Craft Beer Adventurer in your life!  The Craft Beer Passport is one of the best gifts that you can give them because it is the gift that keeps on giving for an entire year.  For those of you not familiar with the concept it is a pocket sized passport booklet you get, that you take to designated breweries.  They stamp your book, and you get a BOGO (buy-one-get-one free).  2016 Minnesota saw the first passports hit the scene starting with Northern Ale Guide.  Now there are a few more options available, each with their own unique offering.  Today’s guide will be a look at the most popular Craft Brewery Passports available, and look at the pros and cons of each.  As always feel free to leave your comments below and lest us know your thoughts!

Northern Ale Guide:

Photo Courtesy of Northernaleguide.com

The Northern Ale Guide is the original, and in my opinion still the best.  Each year this book gets better and better, and this year has the biggest, and best changes since the original.  The iconic passport blue book fits easily into your pocket.  Each brewery listed has its own page that features a little snippet about the brewery, including hours of operation, and little bubbles that let you know if the brewery is family friendly or dog friendly, outdoor seating and more.  This year’s book includes 70 breweries and the list of participating breweries is their strongest line up EVER.  They have great Minnesota craft beer powerhouses like:  Tin Whiskers, Bent Paddle, Inbound, Summit, and Lift Bridge.  Also they have expanded into our neighboring state Wisconsin, and they now have a passport of their own! For and additional purchase you can add over 35 additional breweries from Wisconsin.  You can also buy a woodbound version (shown below) that includes BOTH Minnesota and Wisconsin.  So start planning the brewery road trip of your dreams!

PROS: By far the largest brewery list of all the Minnesota Craft Brewery Passports.  Easily fits in your pocket, and are extremely durable.  The guide is useful with giving you great information on each brewery allowing you to custom tailor your trip to your unique needs.  I also want to point out that this passport and Sidewalk Dog are the two on this list that are “homegrown”, so buying this goes to supporting some fellow Minnesotans.

CONS:  Its the most expensive one on the list with the Minnesota version being $5 more then the next closest one on our list, but keep in mind you are getting A LOT more breweries too.  The only other thing to note is that the other passports on this list really focus on the Twin Cities.  Some of the breweries included in here like Revelation, and Voyager are in the far reaches of Minnesota.

COST:  Minnesota:  $35, Wisconsin:  $20, Special-Edition (wood-bound and includes MN and WI):  $60.

Where to Buy:  northernaleguide.com

Photo Courtesy of northeraleguide.com

Minnesota Hop Passport:

Photo Courtesy of Craftbeertime.com

Minnesota Hop Passport is back for another year.  Many of you might be more familiar with this one because it is sold in participating breweries.  This passport offers a lineup of 68 Minnesota breweries, and it too has grown it’s list from the previous year.  While the lineup has some overlap with Northern Ale Guide, there are quite a few differences too.  Some of the more popular breweries in here not found in the Ale Guide include Urban Growler, Fitger’s, and Wooden Hill.

PROS:  The Hop Passport is slightly cheaper then Norther Ale Guide, and there are also other states available if you are buying this for a person out-of-state.  Again, this is a very sturdy, easy to transport book.  There is also a different list of breweries so it might appeal to you more if the breweries you love are in here.  Lastly this book does have a smattering of breweries outside of the Twin Cities, but most of the breweries are within 30 minutes of the Cities.

CONS:  While the Minnesota book did get some GREAT additions this year, I personally don’t feel the brewery line-up is as good as Northern Ale Guide.

COST:  The Minnesota book is $30.  There are other regions available for $25 to $30.

Where to Buy:  Hoppassport.com

Minneapolis/St. Paul Pub Pass:

Photo Courtesy of getpubpass.com

I am not nearly as familiar with this one as I am the other three on the list.  There are some really cool differences that make this worth your consideration though.  For starters, this one if focused on the Twin Cities.  That means not having to trek up to Duluth to finish this one off!  Another key difference is this one has pubs as well as breweries and includes popular hangouts like the Chatterbox, and the Red Stag Supperclub.  It is also the only pass on this list that lists the Minnesota legend Surly.  This pass is great for the craft beer drinker who doesn’t like to go to far from the cities.

PROS:  This book is cheaper then the first two options, and like the Hop Pass you can buy other city areas as well for your out of town friends and relatives.  This pass also has the best list of places that also include food.  This passport would be a great pick up for a craft beer lovin’ couple who are looking for places to go on date night.  Lastly, Surly, if that is your thing.

CONS:  With only 25 breweries/pubs listed this gives you the least bang for your buck.  And while the addition of pubs is cool, the lack of any of the premier Minnesota breweries (sorry, I LOVE you Bent Brewstillery and Wild Minds) also don’t help this book in the standings.

COST:  $25

Where to buy:  getpubpass.com

Sidewalk Dog Brewery Pass:

Photo Courtesy of Sidewalkdog.com

Last but not least is a specialty niche passport from Sidewalk Dog.  This one is an absolute must for the dog lover in your life.  The breweries listed in here are all dog friendly venues that you can bring your pooch along to.  Our staff member Jason has this and takes Bella, his golden lab, with him for a pint.  It’s great socializing for the dog AND you! This dog friendly passport gives you some unique breweries too, the biggest of which are Fair State Co-op and Bauhaus.

PROS:  Part of your proceeds for to support Pinkyswear, and also keep Sidewalk Dog running.  Also this is the best list for dog friendly breweries.

CONS:  If you are not a dog owner you are better off buying one of the others.  There are more breweries, and they are better deals as this book only has 17 breweries in it.

COST:  $25

Where to buy:  sidewalkdog.com

So there are plenty of options out there for you to fill your Craft Beer Adventure’s stocking with.  We hope this guide helps you select the right guide to give, or maybe order a second one for yourself!  Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know about your experiences with the Craft Beer Passport in your life!

Thanks for reading our article.  Be sure to visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Untapped for the latest and greatest in Minnesota Craft Beer News!

Will Matthews has been involved with Beerploma and the Minnesota Craft Beer scene since 2013.  Will is in charge of business relationships, beer review articles, and gadget reviews.  Will’s favorite beer styles include sours, saisons, flavored porters, and California Commons.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Will at will.a.matthews@beerploma.com.

The post Beerploma Holiday Gift Guide: Craft Brewery Passports appeared first on Beerploma.

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