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Food & Drink

Doin’ Beers: 5 Minnesota Beers to Drink in June

This month, we’re doin’ beers and bikes.

8:09 AM CDT on June 21, 2023

Photos by Nissa Mitchell

So you’re riding around on your bike, as one does, feeling cool, feeling hip, feeling… a little thirsty to be honest. Water is objectively the best choice when it comes to hydration, but surely there are other options? More interesting options? Options that are crisp, bubbly, and maybe make you feel a bit funny if you drink them too fast? Good news, friend: There are other options! I’ve done the research. 

But wait—I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Nissa, and I’m your new Doin’ Beers columnist.

Limited availability of many of the more interesting beer styles led me to start brewing my own beer 14 years ago, officially turning my already embarrassing interest in beer into full-on nerdery. Since then, I’ve brewed a bunch of beers; won a handful of ribbons; given a couple presentations about brewing’s history as “women’s work;” and collected entirely too many books on water chemistry, yeast propagation, etc. At this point, I think I might know a thing or two about beer. And through it all, I’ve never stopped searching my local taprooms and liquor store shelves for beers that take water, barley, yeast, and hops and transform them into an experience.

When I heard Jerard (the previous Doin’ Beers columnist) was moving on, I figured—why not share my expertise with the fine readers of Racket? So grab your helmet, and straddle that bike. This month, we’re doin’ beers and bikes.

Arbeiter Brewing Co.—Haha Pils

German Pilsner, 5.1% ABV, 39 IBU

Arbeiter calls this one a “Northern German Pilsener.” Apparently the extra “e” is important there. This beer says, “Nein, Bruder,” to the more mild and malt-forward Pilsners you may be familiar with, and instead focuses its efforts on being dry and hoppy, which it does very well. Drinking it is like riding through a grassy field strewn with wildflowers—and maybe even eating a couple of them (in a good way). The first time I had this beer was after a day of riding around Minneapolis on my single-speed with my wife. Sitting in Arbeiter’s taproom, sunburned and covered in sweat, Haha Pils got me right back on my feet in a jiffy. A+, would be sweaty and gay in this taproom again.

Fair State Brewing Cooperative—Köld

Kölsch-style Ale, 4.7% ABV, ? IBU

Fair State’s newest year-round beer is deserving of their reputation for putting out consistently solid beers. The only “ale” on this list, it’s crystal clear, crisp, and modestly hopped with American-grown Sterling hops—leaving it with a slightly spiced finish. It’d be perfect for a celebratory drink after passing someone wearing head-to-toe spandex and riding a $3,000 dollar bike while you’re wearing jorts and riding your ‘round town beater. In the EU, Kölsch has a “protected geographical indication (PGI)” meaning that no beer produced outside of a specific region—in and around Köln, Germany—can call itself a “Kölsch.” Everything else is just “sparkling top-fermented beer (ale) that resembles bottom-fermented beer (lager).” That doesn’t really roll off the tongue, so Fair State using “Kölsch-style Ale” was probably the right move, marketing-wise. You can read more about how the Kölsch style, and the accompanying traditional service, are taking over the Twin Cities in this Racket feature from a few weeks back.

Venn Brewing Co.—Venn Pils

Czech-ish Pilsner, 5.6% ABV, 35 IBU

Unlike Arbeiter, Venn went for more of a Czech vibe with their pils. While it’s not quite a Czech-style pilsner, there’s a bit more malt here, and the hops are more restrained. It pairs a traditional German pilsner hop (Tettnang—related to the Saaz hops traditionally grown in the Czech Republic) with a more recent varietal (Loral—grown in the U.S.) to achieve a nice even bitterness with floral and earthy overtones. Despite being available for more than three years, I’d never had it until I tried it for this very column. But Venn’s minimalist packaging is always a joy, and the matte-black label with metallic champagne writing called to me from behind the liquor store’s refrigerator door, promising a good time. Venn Pils is a perfect beer to throw in your panniers before biking over to a friend’s house for a low-key summer hangout.

Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative—Down by the River

Lager (German Pilsner?), 5% ABV, ? IBU

I’m a sucker for cooperative brewing, so when I stumbled across this friendly fella at Ombibulous, I knew I had to bring him home. Down by the River is labeled simply as a “lager,” and I like that. Unpretentious, approachable. Matt Foley would approve. Of course, because people like me can’t leave well enough alone, the Broken Clock website throws us a bone by calling it a “traditional pilsner,” and their Untappd claims it’s a German pilsner. I think this one skews more Czech, though. The aroma comes across almost identical to the pilsner, Pilsner Urquel, making me think of traditional Czech hops like Saaz. I eagerly await being told I’m wrong; in the meantime, I’ll be drinking this beer after a nice slow ride along the Mississippi Trail.

Photos by Nissa Mitchell

Falling Knife Brewing Co.—Tomm’s

American Lager, 4.8% ABV, ? IBU

Following Mitch Hedberg’s eternal wisdom, if I ever bump into Tomm while drinking this, he’ll be well within his rights to demand it from me. Joke’s on him, though. I would have offered it to him anyway. This beer pours crystal clear and very pale. While many American lagers were derisively referred to as “piss water”—or just “piss”—by the craft beer evangelists of old, the truth is that it’s often the breweries, not the beers themselves, that deserved to be maligned. And, like those beers, Tomm’s takes the goal of improving on water’s near universal drinkability seriously. I can’t tell you that you should drink this by a lake after riding around it above the posted speed limit while shouting, “Bike goes zoom!” But, I wish I could. I think it’d be a pretty nice time.

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