I used to drink this a lot…

…but then discovered local craft beer. Chance are good that if you’re a Minnesotan, you know this beer. It’s our version of PBR, Iron City, Blatz, etc., etc. The beer pours pale yellow in color, with a light white head. The aroma is light and sweet, not hoppy or overly malty, but definitely more flavorful than your typical American pale lager. The old timers will tell you that they could detect a flavor change (water?) when this beer moved to New Ulm… me, I couldn’t tell… Not my favorite, but definitely one of my favorites for this style of beer.


I don’t particularly care for many of the beers that fall under the “red” distinction. Regardless, I tried “Life” a couple of years ago and was happy to see it return again. This doesn’t taste like a typical Irish Red. The malt profile seems to be more complex – slightly toasty, almost earthy. Despite the alcohol content, this beer isn’t “Hot” or strongly alcoholic. Overall very nice.

I can’t think of anything remotely witty…

The beer pours out a clear, dark copper color with a decent off-white head. Solid malt aroma, but nothing terribly roasty. I get a whiff of brown sugar and caramel. The flavor is of more malt, slightly sweet. I taste the hops upfront, but it’s light and caramely on the finish. Crisp, clean… probably a great session beer. Bonus: cans or bottles.

Love it…

This beer became a new favorite for me this summer. I’ve been drinking it for quite some time, but I don’t think I fully appreciated it until recently. It pours a nice cloudy pale yellow with a rocky white head. I smell bread and weizen yeast, a bit of clove and some bubblegum. Much of the same comes through in the flavor – a decent yeasty profile with equal parts clove and banana. Ever-so-slightly tart. Yum. This beer is an easy, easy drinker. Definitely a new summer favorite.

I’m lazy… but I drank this beer this weekend so…

So I actually had the double dry-hopped, cask-conditioned version of this beer on Saturday at Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison. I think it’s a nice, multi-dimensional pale ale, and the fact that it’s organic is cool too. It’s crisp, just a bit caramel-y and hoppy but not extremely hoppy. Nice, floral… grapefruit. A good drinker. Yum.

I think he’s a teddy bear…

…despite the long hair and the affinity for Satan’s music, I think Surly brewer Todd Haug is a softie and the “bitter” thing is just a front. I have a sinking suspicion that Todd was more bitter in the 80s while playing in the Twin Cities’ metal band, Powermad. But that’s just me. Of course he ain’t exactly emo, either.

On to the beer… Slightly toasty and earthy with some spiciness from the hops – this comes through in both the flavor and aroma. Pretty nice, though not exactly what you’d expect from an English Bitter (and that’s fine… no one is pretending that this is such a beer). Very drinkable. I threw three 4-packs of this beer in my messenger bag when my neighborhood liquor store started carrying it and either the dog started drinking beer or Dawn and I consumed the beer at a furious pace. Yum. Glad to see this in cans this year.

Good coffee, good beer, everybody wins.

I like good coffee, I like good beer. No surprise that I like this combination. Roasty, earthy… notes of chocolate, a hint of smoke. Very nice. Flat Earth did something that no one else has done with their coffee beer, as far as I can tell. Paradise Roasters pulled a ton of coffee through a Clover machine, a labor-intensive job, to say the least. If you haven’t had coffee made in a Clover, I implore you to visit Kopplin’s in St. Paul. In any case, the coffee comes through quite nicely… not bitter or acrid, just lovely. Yum.

This beer pours a nice golden color with a tight white head. Biscuit malt comes through in the nose as well the earthy, grassy Fuggles hops. More of the same with the flavor with the addition of a fruitiness that I can’t quite place – slightly citrusy and sweet with some spicy notes from the hops. Extremely drinkable for a 9% abv beer. Very nice.

MY Fest

First… this isn’t my favorite style. Second… that being said, I think this is one of the better examples of the style. Rogue’s Dead Guy is probably one of the more well-known domestic examples, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Maifest. The beer is very clear and golden in color with a nice white head. I smell floral hops as well as some toasty (biscuit?) malt. More of the same comes through in the flavor along with some caramel sweetness. If I loved maibocks, I’d drink this often.

I wish I had a cool last name like “Brau”

The Brau’s have been plugging away in the brew world for a number of years – first with the Brauhaus brewpub in tiny Lucan, Minnesota and more recently with Brau Brothers Brewing Co. It’s a small, family-run affair and they do almost everything in-house, from the brewing to poster-printing, silk-screening t-shirts, etc. Up until recently, they were even hand-screening their beer bottles.

On to the beer…  Brau Brothers’ Frame Straightener is a Belgian-style pale ale, not terribly unlike Flat Earth Belgian Pale Ale. Copper color, with a thin white head. Think old man in Miami. The yeast comes through in the aroma as well as some fruit and biscuit-like notes.  More of the same in flavor with a touch of sweetness and a dry finish. The six pack is already gone. Dammit. Nicely done. Dustin has a history of brewing tasty Belgian-style brews with the Brauhaus, so it’s nice to see him using their Single Batch Series to reach back into his bag of tricks.

A sipper…

Deep and dark in appearance with some reddish hues. Deep mocha-colored head that stuck around for a bit. I’m smelling some rich dark and toasty malts as well as cranberries.  The taste is a mix of dark roasty, toasty malts and a huge, tart cranberry presence. I’m actually detecting some hops here too. I’m enjoying this beer, though I will admit that I’m a big fan of cranberries.

A tasty offering from Surly – probably not my favorite, but still tasty.

Getting warmer…

Dark, malty, roasty. Hints of chocolate, coffee. Smooth and creamy and full of flavor. This hangs heavy on the tongue which could be good or bad depending on your perspective. Right now I’m really enjoying it. This beer especially shines as a cask-conditioned beer. I enjoyed some in December at the Groveland Tap… I believe it was dry-hopped with fuggles hops. Very smooth, very complex and extremely tasty.

…and don’t call me Surly

This beer pours a purdy ruby/copper color with a a nice think tan head. Lots of citrus in the nose, with some notes of resin-y pine and an aroma I can only describe as Hawaiian Punch-like that’s all in the Simcoe hops. I loves me teh Simcoes! A deeper sniff (or six) pulls out some nice, caramel malts. I can totally understand if people don’t catch this because this is a super hoppy beer throughout… huge bittering hops, huge flavor hops and huge hop aroma. Yup. More caramel sweetness and lots of citrus come through in the flavor. Yum!

It’s funny… two years ago when they debuted this beer at Winterfest, I couldn’t get over the hops… now I sit here on my couch and can’t help but notice the malt sweetness. In any case, a nice, local hoppy HOPPY beer. Good in the can, better on tap, best in a pin or firkin.

Why doesn’t it taste like EPA?

Just to clarify (or beer-dorkify), Belgian Pale Ale, in itself, is a style of beer. If you’re expecting a blend of Summit Extra Pale Ale and Chimay, you’ll probably be disappointed…

That being said, Flat Earth’s Belgian Pale Ale pours a clear copper color with a slightly off-white head and tons of sticky lacing on the sides of the glass. Give it a sniff and you might catch some spice, Belgian yeast and some caramely sweetness. Biscuity malts definitely come through in the flavor as well as more yeast and spice. Very drinkable. Drunkable, in fact.

We managed to kick one of Al’s kegs at the Blue Nile on my wife Dawn’s 30th birthday. Given the selection of good beer at the ‘Nile, I hadn’t really planned on drinking the stuff all night (though the Surly one was 9% abv, so this was probably a safer option), but once I got started, I just kind of fell for the stuff.

If you get a chance, stop by the brewery for a tour sometime. Jeff and Cathie Williamson (some of you might remember Jeff from Town Hall) put their hearts and souls into this brewery, and it comes through. Good work!

I’m not in love…

…with this beer. Surely Dan Gladden can’t be wrong, can he? This beer pours into the glass as a dark amber color with a nice, off-white two-finger head that quickly disappears. It sure looks pretty. Caramel malts are in the aroma, however slight. Not much else there other than some other sweetness in the aroma. So far so good… it’s a bock, after all, right? The taste is sweet… a little caramel comes through, but not really much more aside from the alcohol bite. There’s not much body, either.

I imagine that I would have liked this when I was younger, back in the day when our local watering hole featured “Schmidt Dark” and when Michelob Amber Bock actually seemed interesting to me. It’s a clean beer, just not for me.

A fresh, local dubbel…

If you’re familiar with Schell’s Snowstorm, you may know that the style changes yearly… last year’s Snowstorm was a London stout (which, incidentally, will be re-appearing as their latest year-round beer, Schell’s Stout) and the year before they offered up an altbier.

This year’s Snowstorm pours into the glass with a nice ruby/mahogany color and a slight, creamy head. The aroma reminds me of dark fruit, brown sugar and caramel. More of the same flavors come through in the taste and the Belgian yeast really comes through as well.

Belgian beers are a bit of an acquired taste and I think Schell’s did a good job of making a tasty dubbel that is also palatable for folks whose most adventurous experiences with a darker beer beers are Newcastle, Moose Drool and Guinness. The yeast character is more subtle than other dubbels and it lacks some of the stronger dark candy sugar elements of other dubbels, but it’s still a really tasty, easy-drinking beer. Kudos to the oldest family-run brewery in the state for another gem.