The Six-Pack Project, a collaborative effort from a group of beer writers across the country, was started by Bryan Roth of This is Why I’m Drunk. The project is designed to help highlight the local craft beers each writer thinks best represents their respective state. I was selected to represent beer in Minnesota!
Here are the rules:
- Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
- Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
- Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
- Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.
I can remember one particular trip to The Four Firkins with friends who were putting together a selection of beer for out of town family. Suffice it to say, we were all juggling bombers and six packs with little hope of narrowing it down. No glass was broken, but I’ll just say we left with twice the beer they were imagining.
Today, with even more excellent breweries in the North Star State, this is a very difficult task to narrow down 6 individual beers that represent Minnesota, but I will do my best!
Minnesota has over 90,000 miles of shoreline: more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined. One of my favorite places to enjoy this fact is in downtown Duluth. With multiple breweries within the city limits alone, I chose Canal Park because brewer Badger Colish and their wonderful and helpful staff embody the attitude Minnesota Nice, which we are now known by!
The Canal Park Stoned Surf IPA is one of the most balanced and refreshing IPAs I have ever tasted and it is not to be missed. It features prominent grapefruit with secondary resin and floral notes and very fresh-tasting hop bitterness. Available in growlers.
August Schell Brewing Company Star of the North = Minnesota History Minnesota has an unparalleled immigrant history and has seen diverse waves of immigrants even before becoming a state. The first waves of immigration to Minnesota happened in the 1860’s-1870’s and the majority of those arriving were from Germany. New Ulm, Minnesota was one of three major places where German immigrants settled. One German Family, The Schells, founded a brewery there.
Despite severe clashes with Native Americans that took place in southern Minnesota, the brewery was not harmed, due to the fact that the Schell family was always kind to the Native Americans that often visited.
Because of this historical partnership between Germany and Minnesota, I urge you to try Schell’s Star of the North Berliner Weisse. The Berliner Weisse is a very old style of beer that is exceedingly rare. Described by Napoleon as “The Champagne of the North”, this crisp and tart beer features refreshing carbonation and low alcohol.
Toast Minnesota’s German history!
Surly Brewing Company Hell = Minnesota Activism
It’s as though the brewers at Surly never learned to swim with the current. When outdated laws prevented Minnesota breweries from opening tap rooms, Surly worked to change the law. As a result, several breweries opened tap rooms within months after the law changed and Surly themselves will open their own next year.
Minnesotans aren’t just politically active, they are politically active about their beer! Minnesota Beer Activists and Jason Alvey, owner of the Four Firkins specialty beer store, among others are still working to overturn the ban on Sunday sales in Minnesota. I say — give ’em Hell!!
Hell – a Munich Helles style beer – is not as hyped as Surly’s other more extreme releases. This brew deserves recognition, however, for seriously standing out as a lager while others are “blah”. Hell has a crisp but substantial body with dark, earthy hops that build nicely.
Boom Island Brimstone Tripel = Minnesota Arts
You may not know that Minnesota boasts an incredible number of theaters per capita, second only to New York. The Walker Sculpture Garden is the largest display of outdoor sculpture in the nation, and the oldest theater in the U.S. is located in Minnesota. Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater is the largest regional playhouse in the country.
When it comes to music, the stats are just as impressive. Not only are we the birthplace of Prince, each of the Twin Cities boasts their own symphony orchestra. Multiple high schools are focused on the arts, and several colleges are dedicated exclusively to music (offerings include the first hip-hop degree granted in the U.S.).
Two of Minnesota’s world-class musicians are also brewers: Kevin and Qiuxia Welch founded the Boom Island Brewery in 2011. Using authentic Belgian techniques and DIY brewing equipment, Boom Island is producing what I venture to guess is the best Tripel created in the United States.
Brimstone Tripel hides its high alcohol content very well. It is complex with esters of banana and citrus that do not hog the stage. It is a pretty amber color in the glass, too. If you visit the brewery to try the Brimstone, you may even hear Kevin close the taproom with a few notes on his horn.
Summit Brewing Company Extra Pale Ale = Minnesota’s Capitol St. Paul was built on three peaks – one where the St. Paul Cathedral is located, one where the Capitol building stands, and the third is the downtown business district. The intent was that public life would take place in and around these hills.
Nestled along the river near downtown St. Paul, Summit Brewing Company continues to produce the beer that paved the way for today’s craft beer boom; today’s additions to the craft beer scene owe their existence to Summit. Since their founding in 1986, Summit has showed no signs of slowing down. They produce enough beer to be in the top 50 production breweries in the U.S.
I consider Summit Extra Pale Ale to be the Minnesota craft beer ambassador and it should definitely be part of the six pack. The brew is distinctly malty – toasted grains and breadiness abound. It also carries unmistakable spicy and herbal hops throughout, with a moderately bitter finish. The brew is distributed to 17 states – more than any other local craft beer.
Dangerous Man Brewing Company Chocolate Milk Stout = Minnesota Hipster Although it may seem impossible to quantify, Minnesota has been dubbed the most hipster state in the U.S. It follows naturally, though, when you consider that Minneapolis consistently ties Portland for the most bike-friendly state, and that flannels and beards are often more practical here than simply stylish.
Dangerous Man Brewing Company houses a confluence of Minneapolis hipsters, many of whom just stepped off their fixies and are sporting excellent beards. You may be surprised to learn that hipsters don’t just drink tall boys of PBR, they love craft beer! And if there is one beer name that leaves their mustachioed mouths most often, it’s Dangerous Man’s Chocolate Milk Stout.
The beer is difficult to describe. It is a perfectly synergistic crossroads of chocolate sweetness, roasty depth, and very subtle alcoholic warmth. The smooth cocoa notes are highly addictive and pair well with vanilla ice cream or an Oreo. Consider it the dessert for your Minnesota six pack. Available in growlers.
More than just a hipster brew, this chocolate milk stout embodies the craft beer surge that has swept the Twin Cities and entire state.
This six pack tells one part of the Minnesota beer story, from Germans in the 1860’s to the major changes taking place today. It spans the often icy shores of Duluth to the Capitol of St. Paul and tells the story of artisans and activists.
Do you have a Minnesota Six Pack you’d like to share? Tell us about it below!
Other Bloggers Picks
Alabama by Blake at The Southern Committee
Alaska by William at Drinking on the Last Frontier
California by Max at The Beginner’s Brew
Connecticut by Kristen at Now Beer This!
Colorado by Eric from Sheppy’s Blog
Delaware by Ed of Dogs of Beer
Florida by Gerard from Beer in Florida
Illinois by Grant of Hop Brained (focus on Chicago) and Jeremy ofSubBeerBia (outside Chicago/downstate)
Indiana by Rebecca of Bake and Brew
Kentucky by Tom and Carla of Hoperatives
Louisiana by Nora of NOLA Beer Blog
Maryland by Oliver of Literature and Libation and Douglas of Baltimore Bistros and Beer
Massachusetts by Heather of HeatherVandy.com
Maine by James at Insurance Guy Beer Blog
Michigan by Mark (guest post)
Minnesota by Paige of Alcohol by Volume
Montana by Ryan of Montana Beer Finder
New Jersey by Ryan from Mould’s Beer Blog and by Vin at Bier Battered
New York by Lacey of Once Upon A Stein
North Carolina by Bryan from This Is Why I’m Drunk (and where to buy your NC beer)
Ohio by Tom from Queen City Drinks
Oregon by Chris at I Think About Beer
Eastern Pennsylvania by Justin from Justin’s Brew Review and Western Pennsylvaniaby Bill from Pittsburgh Beer Snob
South Carolina by Nick from Drink. Blog. Repeat.
South Dakota by Eric from Sheppy’s Blog
Tennessee by Charles from Swen’s Brew Blog
Vermont by Tom at The A Position
Virginia/DC by Scott from Beerbecue
Belgian 101 by Chris at I Think About Beer
Bolivia by Kyle at The Brewolero
British Columbia by Matt at Great Canadian Beer Snob
Italy by Matt of Birra Pioneer
Lithuania by Lars at Larsblog
Sources: August Schell History, Minnesota Fast Facts, Arts in Minneapolis, Music of Minnesota, Summit Distribution, MN most hipster state. Iric Nathanson, Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century. 2010, Minnesota Historical Society.