Written by Michael Agnew for starttribune.com
The selection of palate-pleasers for Minnesota craft-beer fans has grown a little bit larger. Three high-profile national breweries entered the state this spring and one new home-grown start-up has put beer on store shelves.
Stone Brewing Co. of San Diego crashed the state in March. Their highly hopped ales and cocky promotional copy have made them legendary among craft-beer aficionados. Fans in the Land of Lakes previously had to trek across the St. Croix for these palate-pushing brews. Now they are as close as a trip to the local beer store.
The label for Stone’s best-known beer, Arrogant Bastard, throws down an audacious challenge, proclaiming that the drinker may not be worthy of consuming the bottle’s contents. It boasts an aggressive bitterness that lingers long into the finish. Pine-resin hop flavors overlay a malt profile that features a complex mix of toast, bread and raisins, with touches of Tootsie-Roll-like chocolate. It’s a style-bending beer that would be great with a grilled steak.
Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale is a big and bitter black beer from the San Diego brewer. Coffee and dark-chocolate flavors meld with brassy pine and grapefruit hops, while wisps of orange rind peek around the corners.
Live from New York
The Brooklyn Brewery celebrated its local launch the first week of April. Brooklyn’s lineup of core brands highlights well-crafted, easy-drinking examples of classic styles. Their flagship Brooklyn Lager puts an American twist on the traditional Vienna lager by adding hops in the fermenter for a burst of fresh hop aroma. It’s a malt-forward beer that leans to the sweet side with toasty and biscuit notes adding depth. The sweetness is moderated by mellow bitterness and delicate citrus and spice aromas.
The biscuity notes also appear in Brooklyn Brown Ale, where they combine with toffee and toast. A touch of roasted malt adds oomph to the moderately bitter hops. Light, orange-marmalade flavors hover over the top. It’s a crisp and easy-to-drink quaff that will let you enjoy a few pints.
Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Co. rolls into town this week. Alaskan Brewing is best known for its award-winning Smoked Porter, a light-bodied but full-flavored porter that manages a delightful balance of meaty smoke, caramel sweetness and dusky, roasted depth. This beer is great fresh, but also ages well.
Another standout in their lineup is Alaskan Amber, a top-notch example of German Altbier. Its blend of smooth, toasty-sweet malt and assertive spicy hops made me say “wow” the first time I tasted it.
Olvalde Farm and Brewing Co. is Minnesota’s newest home-grown brewery. Olvalde is situated on an actual family farm in the tiny town of Rollingstone, near Winona. Owner and brewer Joe Pond crafts traditional, farmhouse-style ales that hark back to a time when nearly all beer was brewed on farms, using the ingredients at hand.
His inaugural beer, the Auroch’s Horn, is a strong golden ale made with barley malt, wheat and honey. Honey sweetness stands at the forefront, supported by soft, bready and yeasty flavors. Slight caramelization and loads of juicy fruitiness complete the package. It’s an auspicious first brew.
Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts private and corporate beer tasting events in the Twin Cities, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.