Today my wife and I made a special trip to out-state Minnesota to visit some new breweries that have opened up in smaller towns in the past year. We first headed out to St. Joseph, MN (my wife’s hometown) to sample beer at Bad Habit Brewing. They had four beers on tap, and I found all of them to be quite pleasant. I would never drive an hour just to visit this taproom, but I found their brews to be well made, and if I ever found myself in town with a few hours to kill, I could see myself sitting in their taproom.
Our second stop was at Beaver Island Brewing Company. This is a new taproom/brewery that is located near the campus of St. Cloud State University. Thankfully, the Saturday night rush of students had not hit the place and we were able to try a flight of beers in peace. Overall, I found their offerings to be quite well made, with no detectable flaws. I was blown away by one beer in particular however. Their winter ale was brewed with a bit of beechwood smoked malt, and spruce tips imported from Colorado.
At first, one wouldn’t think that this combination would work out well, but in reality, these two flavors mixing amazingly well and the complimented each other perfectly. The smokiness of the malt was perfectly offset by the subtle sweetness of the spruce tips, and combined to make something truly unique that I have never had before. I even brought a small growler home so that I could share this beer with some friends.
Our final stop of the night was at Lupulin Brewing in Big Lake, MN. This is the most recent brewery of the three, and they had seven different beers on tap for me to try. Many of their beers were Belgian inspired, and had a unique European flair to them. I enjoyed most of them, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they came very close to nailing a Belgian Table Ale. It needs a few more tweaks, but it’s really nice to drink as it is.
The only disappointment was their attempt at a Black IPA. The malt character was nice and roasty, however, it was overly bitter in its roast character. That alone isn’t a fatal flaw, but when you combine it with an aggressively hop schedule to give solid IPA bitterness, you end up with bitter on top of bitter, and the end result isn’t pleasant. At all. I couldn’t even finish half of this sample and had to abandon trying to down it.
The other beers were good, and since it’s only 45 minutes north of the cities, it’s not an obscene distance to go for an occasional visit. I’m very grateful that my wife enjoys doing these beer adventures with me, and is willing to drive me home after I’ve reviewed over 50 oz. of beer in an evening.
Outstate Minnesota is catching up to the beer scene that is exploding in the Twin Cities. I’m happy to say that people who live in these communities have some great options for really great beer.