Every month, I drink a whole scad of Minnesota beers, and I share my notes here, in this funny little column that I’ve been writing, depending how you count it, for 87 months. Now, that all comes to an end.
In that epoch, thousands of Minnesota beers have been released. Breweries have opened and closed. I got married, had two kids, and, weeks ago, bought a house in Maine. And on that last point: This edition brings an end to my tenure as the writer of Local Suds, as it was known in City Pages, and now Doin’ Beers, as it lives on in Racket.
It’s been an honor—sappy shit incoming!—to write this little list every month for these last seven-odd years, and I thank the dozens of you who bothered to read it. If this column led you to even one beer you enjoyed, hallelujah. It wasn’t in vain.
For the farewell edition, I wanted to look back at my time here and highlight some of the consistently incredible beers that propelled me from month to month. In the tide of new beers coming every day, these were the beers I’ll look back on fondly from my nine-year tenure as a Minnesotan.
Castle Danger Castle Cream Ale Cream Ale, 5.5% ABV, n/a IBU
I’ve written about this before, but I served Castle Cream Ale as the highlight beer at my wedding, and the guests—many of whom had never been to Minnesota before—drank me out of stock by 8 p.m. It’s obvious why. This is perhaps the most eminently drinkable beer made in the North Star State. With a fully round malt flavor and a corn-like sweetness, it’s the ideal everyday beer. I don’t think there’s a can I’ve popped more times since I moved to Minnesota in 2014.
BlackStack Fugazi Italian Pilsner, 4.8% ABV, n/a IBU
BlackStack is more renowned for its big, murky IPAs and cobbler-style sours, but what makes all that maximalist shit work is that fact that the St. Paul brewery knows exactly what it’s doing. If you can’t make a beer that meets table stakes, you can’t make a beer that surges across the flavor spectrum. Fugazi, a perfectly crisp and balanced pils that breaks clean as a biscuit across the palate, is the beer that proves BlackStack is among the top of the top in Minnesota.
Junkyard Riding with Jules Hazy IPA, 9% ABV, n/a IBU
Yes, Riding with Jules is fantastic, but this is really a stand-in for any Junkyard NE IPA. I just so happened to have the matching glassware for this Pulp Fiction-themed juicy beer, so it made the countdown. Living in Minnesota through the Haze CrazeTM, I’ve seen so many breweries try to glom onto the trend with gross-ass undercooked IPAs. Meanwhile, Moorhead’s Junkyard has been creaming every New England they’ve come out with—and they come out with five a week. Junkyard is a dream factory, and Minnesotans are lucky to have their fast-turning concoctions in 16 oz. cans all over the metro.
Utepils Loonar Eclipse Czech Dark Lager, 5.1% ABV, 42 IBU
There's no beer that I fell in love with as immediately as Loonar Eclipse. The creamy, sultry tmavé is a beer that I bought nearly on instinct for years. I could not deny its call from the cold box. It’s also the best local example of the Czech dark lager, a style whose unheralded trendiness was one of my favorite surprises of the past decade, though Fair State’s Tmavé Pivo was close.
Fair State Lichtenhainer Lichtenhainer, 5.1% ABV, 10 IBU
Speaking of: A bias that I've poorly hidden over my years in Minneapolis is my undying admiration for Fair State. It’s a brewery that simply does everything right, from haze bombs to snappingly crisp pilsners to this maddening smoked sour.
The first time I had Lichtenhainer was on tap at Common Roots, and I was immediately beguiled. It tasted like, as I dissected in October, Black Forest ham. I know that sounds weird, and it is, but the beer is very intentional. By using beechwood and oak smoked malt sour wheat and wild yeast, Fair State created a beer that, as co-founder Niko Tonks told me, “shrinks the room.” Suddenly, you are arrested by the glass in front of you, taking in the exotic bouquet of flavors it presents you.
Lichetenhainer is a taproom exclusive now, because I don’t think you can sell a lot of ham beer to Hamm’s drinkers, though it is emblematic of the kind of pioneering spirit Fair State gives to the Twin Cities.