On a winter day’s dusting, I found myself venturing to the city that lays claim to being the birthplace of Minnesota – to take in the historic sites, beautiful downtown, antique shops and of course Stillwater’s own Lift Bridge Brewery and taproom. Lift Bridge has the honor of being Stillwater’s first post prohibition era (Prohibition ended December 5th 1933) brewery and Minnesota’s first brewery to take advantage of 2011’s so-called Surly Bill – allowing them to have a taproom.
As the name suggests Lift Bridge is engrained in the storied city and their goal of being the premiere regional brewery has certainly come to fruition and offered the city of Stillwater and St. Croix Valley something they can be proud to call their own. Lift Bridge began as many breweries do, with five friends sharing a passion for home brewing – so, of course the only course of action one (or five) could take was to open a brewery and share their passion with the masses.
Now five and a half years into their existence, they are one of the old dogs on the block of the Minnesota craft beer scene. Lift Bridge was preceded only by a handful of breweries in the current craft brewery boom that began with Brau Bros. & Surly in 2006. With the beginnings of Lift Bridge coming in the form of contract brewing with Flat Earth Brewing Co. out of St. Paul, they then focused on building a reputation and following with their flagship beer, Farm Girl – an approachable Belgian Saison. CEO Dan Schwarz explained that many domestic drinkers found Lift Bridge’s beers to be quite approachable and they saw a lot of cross-over drinkers. Moving beyond Farm Girl – a great beer in her own right – Lift Bridge has kept the craft beer community intrigued with offerings like the year round Hop Dish, an American IPA with 7 variety of hops; and with limited edition beers like Commander, an English Barleywine; and two of my favorites: Silhouette a Russian Imperial Stout with complex coffee, toffee and licorice notes (a bourbon barrel aged Silhouette was available at the taproom at the time of my visit – GO NOW); and the 3rd annual release (coming soon – March 8th release party) of their appropriate seasonal offering Irish Coffee Stout, a Russian imperial milk stout, whiskey barrel aged and cold press coffee – there is a variety for every palate. Dan attributes the variety of beers Lift Bridge offers to the distinct tastes and personalities of himself and his co-founding members.
Upon entering Lift Bridge’s brewery you note immediately the comfortable and welcoming ambience in the taproom – wide open windows allow for an invasion of natural light and a wooded cabin feel with bench seating, you will get to know your neighbor and be happy about it. Three tours run on Saturdays at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm – but pre-registration is required. The drive and pre-registration is well worth the effort and trip to Lift Bridge – and with cask and specialty brews like the Batch 500 Double IPA only available at the taproom, it pays to be early.
(Image from City Pages)
I recommend attending the tour given by Bryon Wheaton (@BryonWheaton); he is knowledgeable, engaging and ensures an entertaining diatribe on the origins of beer while you sip on a flight of Lift Bridge’s current selection. Look for Pathway Pilsner (light lager) and Irish Coffee Stout on your next tour.
(Dan Schwarz, yours truly, Jennie & Bryon)
Lift Bridge beers can be found in most Twin Cities liquor stores. And for the much anticipated summer beach season, Farm Girl is available in cans.
March 8th Irish Coffee Stout release event: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/irish-coffee-stout-release-event-tickets-10299248329?aff=es2&rank=3&sid=77ef62029fda11e3a9aa123138106897
See Lift Bridge at the 8th Annual Brewers Bazaar: Saturday, May 17, 2014.
Don’t miss out on Lift Bridge’s Mini Donut beer at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.
Lift Bridge Brewing Company, 1900 Tower Drive West, Stillwater, MN 55082
- Tuesday-Thursday 5-10PM
- Friday-Saturday 12-10PM
- Closed on Sunday and Monday
For a current list of taproom beers: http://liftbridgebrewery.com/#brewery/tap-room
Cheers to you for reading me.
For more beer geekery:
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On a frigid winter afternoon I found myself driving northward to the North side of Northeast Minneapolis in search of the somewhat elusive Northgate Brewing. Tucked away in the corner of a fenced-in industrial park I arrived without incident to the small but emerging brewery on my first try – and judging by the button I received upon arrival which read, “I FOUND IT!”, this was quite a feat.
Walking into what is little more than a garage, it is amazing to see that Northgate has occupied this space just over a year and already have plans for an expansion. Somewhat bucking the trend of their Nordeast counterparts (612Brew, Indeed & Dangerous Man) they started as a production brewery choosing to focus on kegs in near-by restaurants and on-site growler sales instead of opening a taproom. That however, is also changing – head brewer Tuck Carruthers informed me that they will be moving to a new space (783 Harding Street NE in Minneapolis) that will be nearly 10 times larger than their current location. This will allow for increased production (20 Barrel brew house) and host a 1500 sq. ft. taproom. They are targeting a summer open.
(Adam, Todd & Tuck – image from Nortgatebrew.com)
Co-founders Adam Sjogren and Todd Slininger opened Northgate a little over a year ago, debuting at Grumpy’s NE and differentiated themselves by focusing on British Style session ales. A session beer has a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) and needs to be fresher and thus closer to the source. Northgate’s offerings include: Wall’s End (Year round – English Brown), Maggie’s Leap (seasonal – English Sweet Stout), Parapet ESB as well as a spring and summer seasonal, but even their lineup is growing. Their one year anniversary beer is a Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale) aptly named, Fiddle Smasher – as it comes in a 7% ABV (higher than any other Northgate brew) and is their first bottled beer. Now available in 22oz. bombers. Retail locations found: http://northgatebrew.com/blog/2014/01/27/happy-birthday-to-us/
(image from Ale Jail Twitter – @alejail)
Northgate will also be featured in the most recent Tuned brew. Tuned teams together local breweries and artists. Buy local beer and get a free downloadable song of a local artist. Northgate is currently bottling their Tuned brew, a Chocolate Cherry Porter. Rogue Valley is the featured artist: http://www.tunedbeer.com/home.html https://www.facebook.com/roguevalleyband
(image from Northgatebrew.com/blog)
Northgate growler sales Saturdays 1-5pm.
@NorthgateBrew | firstname.lastname@example.org | 612-234-1056 | 3134 California St NE Mpls, MN 55418
Stay tuned – when the Gate opens on their new taproom this summer, another entry will follow.
Here’s to you for reading me. Your support and encouragement is sincerely appreciated – join me on my next visit. Follow me on my new Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TallPourMN and on the twitters @TallPour for more preposterous beer geekery.
On a recent trip to the ‘great plains’ of southwestern Minnesota – one which was taken with the intention of running a 5K and turned into a weekend of paninos, burgers and – to my great surprise and elation – a trip down craft beer memory lane. In a college town (SMSU) known for it’s entrepreneurial ice cream business (Schwan’s) as much as the stench that can sometime emanate from the corn processing plant, the town will now be known as the home of one of Minnesota’s veteran breweries, the expanding but small at heart Brau Brothers Brewing Co. As it happened, a college buddy knows Trevor Brau (one of the brothers – obviously) and we were able to take a personal tour.
Walking into the former Runnings building, I had no idea what to expect. My eyes were drawn directly to a large deep red antique fire engine, Old #56 from Lucan – which will now serve the brothers as their bar and tap area. The 37,000 square foot facility will house more fermenters and will allow the brewery to brew specialty beers for the taproom. The space will also feature soda and will have a restaurant to boot (thanks to the so-called ‘Surly Bill’) – with a menu created by head brewer Dustin Brau. As we walked the brewery grounds – with construction ongoing – I realized how innovative this family was. The Braus still utilize land in Lucan to grow hops to be used in their fresh-hopped 100 Yard Dash – which they process on a conveyer system they created using kegs and other pullies. Later on the tour, while sipping on Brau’s White Cap (Crystal Wit beer) and enjoying the hop aroma filled cooler, I found out the previous brewery was barely the size of the room I now found myself freezing in. With seven times the space, the brewery also has a section for all sorts of swag below a glowing neon Brau Brothers sign.
Brau Brothers Brewing has come a long way since they started in nearby Lucan (pop. 220) in 1998 as a brewpub (BrauHaus) and expanded to a production brewery in 2006. Beyond having great beer, the Braus hold a special place in my heart. My journey into craft beer, as with many beer geeks, started with Sam Adams – the readily available, extremely successful Jim Koch-led brewery out of Boston, Mass. But my introduction into the Minnesota craft scene some 8+ years ago began with Brau Brothers Scotch Ale and Cream Stout (now retired and refashioned under Bancreagie & MooJoos, respectively) – these beers were a revelation of high quality beer, made locally and drank locally by the students at SMSU – including me.
The Brau Brothers new restaurant-brewery-taproom opened October 4th(soft opening). Until I am able to emote in person the thanks they deserve – CHEERS – wishing Brau Brothers Brewing Company a great opening and for making a great product right in southwestern Minnesota!
1101 East Main Street Marshall, MN 56258
Follow Brau: @BrauBeer
Follow Me: @TallPour
In a Land o’ 10,000 mini donuts…I was able to find mine.
It was a hot morning of about 90 degrees when I showed up to the fair. It was 11am on a week day and I was there to see a nationally syndicated radio host do his program live at the “Great Minnesota Get Together.” I knew I would be attending the fair later in the week with a beer geek friend, so getting the much-hyped Mini Donut beer from Lift Bridge was not my priority on this trip. However, the heat and an urge to have a frothy brew while I enjoyed the show changed my mind.
I headed to the food building where I thought (foolishly) that I would casually ask one of the vendors, “where do I get the mini donut beer?” I never thought to check the tapping times, and when the vendor smiled and said – “through that door at the Ball Park…and bring me one …when you get it” I knew I was in trouble.
I got out to the patio area of the Ball Park Café and saw the line was already curved down to the street and glanced a sign that told me the tapping was at noon. I maneuvered my way out and settled in line at about quarter after eleven. As I looked around it became clear by the bemused cynical stares and occasional inquires that we who were waiting in line were “in the know.” Both they (the passer-bys) and we (the beer geeks waiting in line for an hour for a beer we had never tried) were ok with that.
As the hour inched closer to noon, I began to grow nervous, especially when I read the “While Supplies Last” sign. Despite having waited in line for nearly 45 minutes for this new instant State Fair classic, I began to wonder if I would still be left on the outside looking in.
I chatted with some folks in line and heard that the beer usually lasted for a couple of hours and my fears began to subside. As I listened via phone to the broadcast I’d come to see (across the fairgrounds from where I now stood), I knew this experience would really be the sugar on my mini donut as the announcement came, 10 minutes…
The line finally began to move. When I came to the bar I was intrigued as I saw the rim of the glasses were being wetted and glazed with cinnamon & sugar. I watched the pour; a pleasant amber brown hue plunged into my glass. I accepted my beers (yes, I got two) and walked to the street, finding an alcove where I could take my first smell and taste. The aroma was a pleasant one, with a nice full malted character; then I sipped. The sweetness of the sugar interacted with the malty beer. Truly I had found the only mini donut I needed when visiting the fair.
For those of you that missed Lift Bridge’s Mini Donut beer, mark you calendar for the 2014 Minnesota State Fair, tweets at me @TallPour and we can share this brew at a higher altitude.
There seems to be no better time to write this entry about the misunderstood style of beer that is wheat beer than while I am drinking Town Hall Brewery’s Apricot Wheat. The wheat beer has all too often been labeled a “chick beer” by some naïve few. Not only is the intent of this label to diminish the style but it is insulting to the many stout and craft beer drinkers of the female persuasion I know, who would likely threaten me with bodily harm should they ever hear me utter that phrase.
The wheat beer has garnered a reputation over the years as, “a weaker style”, “a sweet light beer”, “a beer for newbs”, “a beer for non-beer drinkers” and with the oft added slice of lemon (or orange) who can blame some for their misconception of this refreshingly complex and diverse style. In the event you have no interest in the history or the characteristics of this style, please skip two paragraphs and get to, “The point”.
History: The modern wheat style traces its roots back to the late Middle Ages in Bavaria, where by Royal privilege wheat was allowed to be used in weizen styles in violation of Reinheitsgebot (German Beer purity law: Water+Barley+Hops+Yeast=Beer). The majority of wheat beers use between 40-60% of wheat malt (remaining is usually barley malt) and have a hazy white/pale complexion (unless filtered) although any beer that contains wheat and yields wheat characteristics can be considered a wheat beer…hence the variety: Weis, Weiss, Weisse (all meaning white-eluding to the hazy appearance), Weizen (wheat), Hefeweizen (yeast-wheat), Dunkel(dark)weiss/weizen, Wit, White, (and that’s just the beginning). Additive spices are often used in the Belgian style Wits/Wheats such as coriander, orange peel and anise which separate them from their German brethren in the wheat family. Wheat beers commonly only use a touch of hops.
Character: With all the varieties within the wheat family, yielding such subtle (and not so subtle) flavors as: clove, banana, bubble-gum, vanilla, spice and fruity tones, what these beers lack in hop character they make up in complexity (wheat yeast strains often create vanilla and spicy notes). With a flexibility that lends itself to being spiked with different fruits or even hops these wheat’s create and offer even more of a variety of flavors to the beer drinker. What follows can be a fruit beer such that I am drinking now; a hopped up wheat with tangerine citrus character; or all the way to an India wheat ale with more of a hop kick.
The point?… Should be obvious! Wheats are not bound by definitive style and there is such a variety that any beer drinker – amateur, enthusiast or Cicerone – can discover one for themselves…but where to look locally?
-Canal Park Neoprenanzug Malfunction http://canalparkbrewery.com/
-Harriet Wodan Weizen http://www.harrietbrewing.com/
-Schell’s Hefeweizen http://www.schellsbrewery.com/
-Steel Toe Sommer Vice http://www.steeltoebrewing.com/
-The Herkimer Tooler’s Weiss http://www.theherkimer.com
-Boom Island Witness http://boomislandbrewing.com
-Borealis White Throated Wit http://borealisfermentery.com/
-Harriet Luv Jus http://www.harrietbrewing.com/
-Herkimer Gose Speziell Weizen http://www.theherkimer.com
-Canal Park 40 Acre http://canalparkbrewery.com/
-Harriet Nourrice http://www.harrietbrewing.com/
-Lift Bridge Farm Girl http://www.liftbridgebrewery.com/
-Lucid Silo http://www.lucidbrewing.com/
-Dangerous Man Belgian Table http://www.dangerousmanbrewing.com/
-Excelsior Big Island Blond http://excelsiorbrew.com/
-Finnegans Blonde Ale http://finnegans.org/
-Fulton Lonely Blonde http://fultonbeer.com
-Great Waters St. Jude American Wheat Ale http://www.greatwatersbc.com/
-Indeed Shenanigans Summer Ale http://www.indeedbrewing.com/
-Northbound Honey Wheat Ale http://www.northboundbrewpub.com/
-Summit Summer Ale http://www.summitbrewing.com/
In no way is this an exhaustive list of local fare, but it should give you a good start and help you to find your way back to the summer we’ve missed in July.
Tweet me @TallPour, on your journeys in wheat and the person who tweets/facebook documents (on my personal page) the most Minnesota wheats consumed by the end of August will receive a growler of their choice on me, TallPour.
Here’s to bringing you the summer brews from a higher altitude.
When the rains shift to grueling humidity and give leave to swarms of mosquitoes you know it is summer in Minnesota; when the Twins are teetering on irrelevance and fan apathy and everyone is waiting for the second half surge, you know it is summer in Minnesota; when no one is paying attention to the NBA finals because the T-Pups have never been close to getting there, you know it is summer in Minnesota. When nearly everyone is looking forward to Cordarrelle Patterson in purple and salivating over getting the number 1 draft pick in their fantasy league (Adrian Peterson), you know it is summer in Minnesota. But, the past few years have cemented another tall tell sign of summer’s arrival in Minnesota… and that is the BEERFEST.
We have already seen Brau Brother’s BrauFest happen in Lucan and now the Twin Cities are collectively looking forward to kicking off the summer beer season with St. Paul’s Summer Beer Fest. This annual event (5th year) takes place at the International Bazaar on the Minnesota State Fair grounds (TODAY from 2-6pm) and with weather that promises to be in the 80s by mid afternoon, 100+ breweries, live music, excesses of food, symposiums by professionals (and amateurs too, no doubt!) and a silent auction benefiting the St. Paul YMCA, you can not only enjoy the brews, fare and activities but feel good about yourself while doing it!
On deck, we have the Beer Dabbler at Pride in late June; All Pints North in scenic, brewery abundant Duluth; The Beer Dabbler at Highland Fest returning the beer festival fun to St. Paul on July 20th all leading up to the Autumn Brew Review ushering us into the fall season.
Be sure to follow me on twitter @TallPour for further updates on these events and more beer fun! And as always, please offer any feedback, criticism, witticisms, beer stuff or asinine antics you have had, are having or plan to have surrounding beer!
Here’s to you for reading me bringing you Minnesota beer news from a higher altitude.
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Whether or not this was actually said by Benjamin Franklin is not and should not matter, because the sentiment rings truer today than ever. We as Americans have always loved beer and more and more people are now home brewing just as our founders did. Beer has been one of the driving forces in bringing societies and communities together and is truly a bringer of joy, if not revolution.
As Minnesotans, we have observed, imbibed and a privileged few have taken the entrepreneur’s leap into one of the greatest craft beer booms in post-prohibition era.
I have pondered the perfect date to start my blog- TallPour. I have seen the great American-Irish beer holiday of St. Patrick’s Day come and go; the fasting of Lent has ended and the return of winter has hit Minnesota with a cruel backhand. I had created justification in my mind to continue to push this out and wait for that perfect moment. But as I sit enjoying Dark Horse’s Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, smoking a Romeo Y Julieta Medallas De Oro, enjoying the sweet soulful soothings of Al Green’s Greatest, I realize there is no more appropriate day than this surprisingly delightful sunny afternoon.
I just received a call from my older, more successful brother, asking for my advice and recommendation on brews featured at a local annual beer sale, and I realized that is why I am starting this blog. I am the go-to beer enthusiast for many of my family and friends and have made it a constant goal to find and introduce the most appropriate beer for all of them (and trust me, there is one out there for all of you!).
The goal of this blog is to bring you reviews, ratings, releases, tastings and overall information for the local craft beer industry. I am not a particularly gifted writer; I tend to be wordy…weird, I know! I am no beer expert, although I am working to become Certified Cicerone; not a brewer, though I have begun to home brew with some buds. I have never worked in the industry but have dreams to do so one day and I have no credentials but my own personal experience and love for the Minnesota beer scene. One thing is certain: my passion for sharing the joy of beer is unequivocal and it is my motivation bringing you this blog.
I am excited to start this journey and I hope you will join me. The blog will start with monthly entries, likely to start with brewery visit reviews/recommendations, but my twitter (@TallPour) updates will be littered with beer releases, pictures, memorable beers and much more. I want this to be a fun and informative experience for you as much as me…so please offer me feedback, likes & dislikes and I will grow as much as you will.
Lastly, I need to thank a dear friend for without her help in so many facets of this blog (and social media in general) would not be possible but would be equally absurd to attempt to list here. Our friendship started with Colonel Tigh and our shared love for the local scene has helped to sustain and grow it, thank you Rachel Peterson (@RachelMPeterson)…and you’re welcome!
Cheers to bringing you Minnesota beer news from a higher altitude.