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Food & Drink

Doin’ Beers: 5 Minnesota Beers to Drink in February

It's Stout Month, baby!

February is Stout Month. You probably didn’t know this, since no one in Minnesota celebrates this most noble of barley related holidays. But don’t worry. Walk with me a bit, and I’ll tell you the lore.

Stout Month was invented by Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery in Boulder, Colorado, in 1993—back when my primary fascination was making my Barbie kiss my best friend’s Barbie. And, well, some things never change. Girls kissing girls is still one of my favorite pastimes, and Stout Month is still rad.

These days, multiple breweries in Colorado—and a handful of others in the U.S.—observe Stout Month. My first Stout Month experience came about by accident when I wandered into Mountain Sun’s “sister” location in Denver (Vine Street Pub) for some hot nachos on a cold winter day. Crossing the threshold, I found myself in a new world; the staff were wearing “I ❤️ Stout Month” shirts, and all the yuppies around me were talking excitedly about which of the 10+ stouts on tap they were going to try first. I was very confused. But, as someone who first got into beer because of my love of Guinness (and later, Bell’s Cherry Stout and Great Divide’s Yeti), it ended up being a truly magical experience.

I want to share some of that joy with you in the form of five stouts brewed right here in Minnesota. They will make you believe in the magic of Stout Month. And, if we all believe hard enough, maybe we can make Stout Month a thing here in Minnesota as well.

BlackStack Brewing: Routine

“Straight Stout” / 6.5% ABV / ?? IBU

When I set out to write about stouts this month, I didn’t really expect to find myself writing about a beer from what I sometimes think of as Willy Wonka’s Hazy IPA factory. But, as seems to happen a lot lately, BlackStack reminded me that they have more than just juice on offer. And, what an offer. Routine is one of the most imminently drinkable stouts currently available in Minnesota. It has a pleasant roast, a moderate malt sweetness, and medium body. The aftertaste is mild coffee. If you’re stout-curious, Routine is a great one to explore and learn the ropes with. You probably won’t marry her, but she’ll teach you what you need to know. And, when you inevitably break up, she’ll probably set you up with her best friend.

Inbound BrewCo: Contains Nuts

Peanut butter milk stout / 5.4% ABV / 25 IBU

I’m a bit iffy on milk stouts as a style, mostly because the vast majority of them are overly sweet with very little additional flavor to balance things out. But Inbound’s Contains Nuts is a wonderful counterpoint to that unfortunate trend. For a milk stout, it’s surprisingly light and only mildly sweet. It has a nice smooth finish, and the nuts come through mostly on the nose, at a very enjoyable but not overpowering level. Most milk stouts fall into the “dessert beer” category for me. However, Contains Nuts has a much broader application, and is likely to be more accessible to the poor heathens in your life that haven’t heard the good word about stouts.

La Doña Cervecería: Enmolada Stout

“Mole Stout” / 7% ABV / 31 IBU

Putting peppers in beer is a time-honored tradition at this point, though the results are often hit-or-miss. It’s hard to hit the perfect balance of spice where it enhances but doesn’t overpower the other flavors. Stouts, since they bring a lot more flavor and body to the table than most styles, are a perfect canvas for peppers. Still, most breweries struggle to get everything to come together. La Doña, however, knows exactly what they’re doing. Enmolada is, at its foundation, a nice middle-of-the-road stout with the usual body and roast. However, La Doña has taken that foundation and greatly enhanced it through the addition of cacao and serrano peppers. The result is a stout with a wonderful smokey spice that reaches down into your soul. I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about this beer for a bit but, much like a sleek black dress with a somewhat scandalous boob window, it needed to be saved for a special occasion. This is that occasion. Go ahead, try it on. You’ll like how it makes you feel.

Wooden Ship Brewing Company: I’m Over Dry January

Imperial stout / 11% ABV / ?? IBU

After getting very gay about Wooden Ship’s Hefeweizen back in August, it was only a matter of time before I swung back around for another go. This time, it was kismet. There I was, looking for stouts to write about in February, and in walks a big beautiful stout called I’m Over Dry January. Talk about fate! I’m Over Dry January has a strong hazelnut aroma, and drinks smooth with a bit of bitter molasses and vanilla. There’s some white chocolate in there, too, and I think I get a little bit of that cocoa butter flavor from it, but not a lot. At 11%, she has one goal: to take you to bed. Personally, I appreciate it when a beer is nice and forward like that. Why play games when we both know what we want?

While the beer’s name might be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Wooden Ship recently posted a very heartfelt message to their Instagram about the difficulties of being a small brewery during the winter in Minnesota while weathering “Dry January.” When I went in a couple days later, the taproom was bursting at the seams from community support, which was wonderful to see. But, it was a great reminder—even to me as someone who writes about beer and knows the landscape for breweries can be brutal—that we need to support our local breweries, or risk losing them.

Shakopee Brew Hall: Pie Fight

Double pastry stout / 11.2% ABV / 32 IBU

Double. Pastry. Stout. Or, as she is more commonly known, my “big titty goth girlfriend.”

Double pastry stout is not a style to hold back on, and Shakopee Brew Hall absolutely didn’t hold back on Pie Fight. They describe it as a “Banana Coconut Cream Double Pastry Stout.” For me, it’s bursting with sweet orange cream, backed by a very mild roast. The banana comes across on the back end, but I can’t say I get a lot of the coconut. However, there’s a lot to get here, so that’s understandable. The end result is still a very unique and tasty stout. It’s definitely “dessert” worthy. Shakopee Brew Hall has posted pictures of this beer with whipped cream on top, and honestly, that sounds amazing. It’s also got me dreaming of using it for a beer float.

I must admit, I do not often find myself out in the suburbs, but this beer—and the wonderfully cozy and warm space that Shakopee Brew Hall has—makes me wonder if I ought to make the trek out more often.

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