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.
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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.