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DeRushaEats: North Dakota Barley Inside Your Summit


In the midst of this craft brew revolution, I think a lot of us forget about Summit. It's been around so long, it doesn't seem like one of those cool, upstart, small batch brewing operations.

But in many ways, Summit forged the way for a lot of the other beers we're seeing in Minnesota. Mark Stutrud started brewing Summit 25 years ago. A lot of beer talk focuses around the hops: Surly has made its name by brewing some really hoppy beers like the delicious Furious.

"Some people say hops are the soul of beer, but I couldn't disagree more," said Stutrud. Instead, he says: "Barley is the soul of beer, hops are really like a spice."

To me, part of what makes one wine taste better than another is its story. The same is true of beer. These are romantic drinks, in a way, and the story is what gives an alcoholic beverage its specialness.

Summit's Pilsner is 95% Moravian 37 barley, grown on a North Dakota farm, owned by Mark's cousins Jim and Todd Stutrud. That's a good story.

Stutrud tells me this is the second season the cousins are growing his barley. This year they planted 300 acres of Moravian, about 900,000 pounds of barley. That's a lot of barley.

North Dakota is really a great place for barley; NDSU put out a pretty interesting guide on the grain's role in beer, if you're interested.

According to NDSU, one acre of barley production in North Dakota yields about 84 barrels of beer—that works out to 27,232 bottles per acre! So 300 acres is about 8 million bottles of Summit! And North Dakota farmers produce more than 30% of the barley in the USA.

I haven't tasted the Pilsner in awhile, so I tried a six-pack the other day, and I gotta tell you—it's really a nice beer. Spicy/floral notes at the nose, but really a crisp, clean flavor at the finish. If you're a Bud or a Miller drinker, this Pilsner is a nice bridge to get you into some craft beer.

They're also using the Stutrud barley in the Maibock (spring only) and Oktoberfest (coming in fall).

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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