The amazing evolution of Minnesota brewing

As all readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of beer. I’ve been drinking craft beer since the only game in town was Old Chicago and their Beer Tour. However, for many decades the only real craft producers in Minnesota were Surly, Schell’s, and Summit. There were a few small brewpubs around, but in general, if you wanted Minnesota-made craft beer, those were your choices.

Oh how times have changed. The introduction of the Surly Bill in 2011 completely changed the landscape of Minnesota brewing. No longer were breweries locked into the rigid three-tier system of producer, distributor, and retailer. Finally, breweries could sell their beer direct to the public, mostly through the creation of taprooms that are quickly taking the place of the ‘local bar’ in many neighborhoods.

This allows a brewery to start small, sell direct to the consumer, and if they so desire, grow their business to expand distribution and market share. Some breweries have done just this, while others have taken advantage of the new interest in craft beer to push their product onto store shelves. What this means for the consumer is that we now have an amazing amount of choices for Minnesota beer that rival some of the best beer coming out of the more traditional craft beer meccas.

IMG_057610K Brewing is a perfect example of a brewery taproom that is quickly becoming the ‘neighborhood’ place to hang out in downtown Anoka. Their beer is fresh and interesting, and they have a solid set of local regulars that keep them constantly brewing more. Similar to Dangerous Man, which pioneered the local brewery scene in NE Minneapolis, 10K Brewing caters to people who want to try something new and different every time they stop in.

3C1D1349-3163-429E-B06E-C4A366363EEFFulton is an example of the smaller brewery and taproom that has expanded into a full scale production empire. They got in early to the boom of development in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis and have become a staple hangout for many people before and after Minnesota Twins games. They’ve since expanded to build a production brewhouse and now distribute all over the state.

1B17F805-748C-4881-A2A8-E5C490F91015Bent Paddle and Indeed started as production brewhouses but they’ve taken advantage of the interest in taprooms to help boost their recognition. Despite this, they’re still mostly restaurant taps and retail beers, and they’ve taken up residence next to the big “three S’s” of Surly, Summit, and Schell’s. They’ve each become a staple beer of mine when I hit the liquor store. I love the seasonals that Indeed does, as they are some of the most unique and well-made specialty beers around.

What all this goes to show is that Minnesota been can now hold it’s own against many of the larger, more well-known, breweries from other states. I no longer feel like my best choices are Deschutes, New Belgium, New Holland, or Alaskan. I have real local choices that taste good and make me proud to be a Minnesota beer drinker.

Next time you’re in a liquor store see if you can find some Minnesota beer, especially from some of our newer players. I think you’ll find that we’ve got a lot going for our beer community, and it’s only getting better every year.