Good people of Minnesota: It is barrel-aged beer season.
Now that we have the first half-dozen or so snowfalls under our belts, breweries are starting to crack open the barrels they’ve been keeping in their clutches. While Russian Imperial Stout has been the predominant wood-aged beer in the Land of 10,000, breweries are getting more creative with their cellaring.
In this month’s Doin’ Beers, we see a couple examples of that as well as the typical array of classic styles. Also, there’s one super weird holiday beer I almost didn’t try. But I did, and then I wrote about it. For you, good people.
Schell’s Cave-Aged Barrel-Aged
Barrel-Aged Baltic Porter, 10% ABV, n/a IBU
Schell’s Cave-Aged Barrel-Aged is one of those beers you should set your calendar by. The Baltic Porter (they call it a “Dark Lager” for marketing reasons) is a sultry, big-bodied harbinger of winter. Aged in the subterranean caves of southern Minnesota, this cocoa-dark beer was born in the cold, a heritage it rejects with its heavy booze and warm vanilla flavors. If you’re prepping to hibernate through March, fill your den with as much Cave-Aged Barrel-Aged as you can.
Giesenbräu Barrel-Aged Doppel the Hutt
Barrel-Aged Doppelbock, 8.8% ABV, n/a IBU
Have you tried buying Giesenbräu beers at a Twin Cities liquor store lately? The German-style brewery just celebrated its fifth year in New Prague, but the local buzz has not died down. Even though I couldn’t score one of their core beers, I did grab a swingtop bomber of their anniversary beer, a barrel-aged variant of their Doppelbock, Doppel the Hutt.
It’s maybe not the most representative sample of Giesenbräu’s beers, but Barrel-Aged Doppel the Hutt is a really fine beer. It gets great brown sugar and raisin notes from the Roknar rye barrels it was aged in, and the Far North Spirits bourbon barrels give it plenty of spice on top and even a little burn on the end. I’m dying for a sip of their pils, but this is the first barreled Doppelbock I’ve ever had, and it was a bona fide masterpiece.
Lake Monster S.K. Coffee Belgian Ale
Belgian Ale with Coffee, 6.5% ABV, 25 IBU
There’s almost nothing I love more than local breweries and local roasteries teaming up, especially when it’s for an unexpected beer. St. Paulites Lake Monster and SK Coffee came together for a surprising Belgian Ale infused with SK’s Guatemalan Huehuetenango cold brew. The combination of Belgian yeast spice and bitter coffee is both delicate and robust, and the java addition gives some strength and grit to a classically balanced golden ale. This was a limited engagement, but Lake Monster has been turning out a series of Belgian ales, so if you miss out on this coffee house-meets-abbey concoction, there should be another hit rising to take its place.
Lupulin Swanky Sloth
Triple IPA, 11% ABV, n/a IBU
The latest IPA from Lupulin isn’t barrel-aged, but it is indeed barrel-strength. Swanky Sloth is every bit the technicolor headtrip the can art implies. This triple IPA is juiced to the gills with El Dorado, Sultana, Strata, and Idaho 7 hops, abounding with extra-ripe cantaloupe and pineapple aromas. This is the shit that Lupulin specializes in. They’ve tapped a nonstop cascade of haze, and yet, every time they release a sturdy double or triple, it feels brand new and exciting. Swanky Sloth is a powerful IPA that caps off another great year of slingin’ murk out of Big Lake.
Beaver Island Resting Grinch Face
Bock, 6.5% ABV, 37 IBU
My grandma was a big Grinch-head, and based on that alone, I was willing to give this spiced-up Bock a try. Normally, no. No, no, no. Allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a dark lager? As much as I wanted to humbug about it, Resting Grinch Face lived up to the pun in its name. The bouquet of spices doesn’t override the simplicity of the sweet, malty Bock, complementing the base beer with a Yuletide punch-up. A six pack of this will go down easy, especially with a roaring fire in the hearth. Goddamn, the holidays are here.