Photo by Paul Vincent
Day Block Brewing
Cuvee de Boom, Boom Island
Why did Minnesota's most accomplished Belgian-style microbrewery make a beer that was 45 percent pinot grigio grapes? Because brewer Kevin Welch knew it was a traditional, if currently rare, Belgian-style beer. The result was fascinating, with white wine delicacy woven through Belgian yeast funk and a hoppy thread of nerve. Will he do it again? Who knows?! But Welch's fragrant and lively Belgian ale Brimstone Tripel remains one of the best beers in Minnesota, and if he wants to explore new tasty frontiers in the Belgian beer universe, we'll follow him anywhere.
Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale, Steel Toe Brewing
Black IPAs swept through town like an inky force of nature, as black bear-wolf beers. The black bear is the soft, big, malty part of the beer—like a Guinness, something to float into. The wolf is the IPA, aggressive, piercing with hops, elegant. The standout was Steel Toe's, which had sensually tarry malt elements, with a crisp frame of bracing hops.
Breweriana at The Four Firkins
If you slip into one of the best craft beer stores in the state, look to the corner and spend a minute appreciating the display cases of historical breweriana: collectible bottles, cans, and marketing tchotchkes from beers and breweries past. It's like a junky yet amazing portrait of our bygone brewing landscape with nostalgic Hamm's cans featuring The Bear, the wildlife series of Schmidt cans, and bottles from the very first run of Grain Belt. Makes you think, someday someone will be dusting off that can of Day Tripper in your hand.
Is it masochism that makes someone obsessed with the crazy-hopped, slightly painful 100-IBU beers of Dangerous Man? IBUs (International Bittering Units) put a number on the bitterness, the hoppiness of a beer. That tingling, scouring, whipping hoppiness of The Imperial India Pale Ale clocks in at 138. The first sip makes you plant your feet on the floor and straighten your spine. It's the ghost pepper of beer, the hops revealing a thousand aromas of lemon, hay, and pie. By the time you're done, there's only one question: Please sir, may I have another?