Last week, 219 judges gathered in Denver, Colo. for the biennial World Beer Cup. There were 4,754 beers and 1,400 breweries from 58 countries entered in 94 categories, and five Minnesota breweries walked away winners. Here are the standards winners must uphold:
Gold: A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma, and appearance.
Silver: An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma, and appearance.
Bronze: A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor defects in taste, aroma, or appearance.
We had winners at all three levels: August Schell Brewing’s Firebrick won gold in the Vienna-style lager category, while its Framboise du Nord won bronze in the German-style sour ale category. Steel Toe Brewing’s Wee Heavy won gold in the Scotch Ale category, Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub’s Snownami Chocolate/Raspberry Imperial Stout won silver in the chocolate beer category, Summit Brewing Co.’s Extra Pale Ale won silver in the classic English-style pale ale category, and Canal Park Brewing Co.’s Nut Hatchet Brown won silver in the English-style brown ale category.
Better than just being home to all of these standout breweries, you can either tour or take a seat in the taproom of every single one of them. If you find yourself near, I highly suggest you do so.
August Schell Brewing Co. (New Ulm): This is the oldest brewery in the state, as well as the largest in terms of gallonage. The company serves 15 beers under its own name, and an additional three varieties of Grain Belt, a brand they acquired in 2002. They also host events like Oktoberfest, Bockfest, with beer, food and music, in February, and the Lager Lauf (May 17), a run through the city with beer stops. Plus, every Sunday (Memorial Day-Labor Day) there’s music, root beer (and real beer), bread and cheese on the grounds.
Tours: Memorial Day-Labor Day: Monday-Friday 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. & 4 p.m., Saturday on the hour noon-4 p.m., Sunday on the hour 1-4 p.m. Off-season: Friday 1 p.m. & 3 p.m., Saturday on the hour noon-4 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. & 2:30 p.m.
Steel Toe Brewing (St. Louis Park): What started as a man brewing in his bedroom led to stints as a cellarman, assistant and head brewer, a degree from World Brewing Academy, and in 2011, opening this very brewery. Steel Toe produces four year-round brews and six seasonal, and last year, they opened a taproom. Try the award-winning Wee Heavy, a velvety brew with flavors of biscuit, sweet caramel and malt.
Taproom: Wednesday & Thursday 3-8 p.m., Saturday noon-10 p.m. Food trucks park here Friday and Saturday.
Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub (Minneapolis): A little different than the others, this is a restaurant with an on-site craft brewery; the first of its kind in Minneapolis in more than a decade. Here craft beer is matched with house-smoked meat-based fare, with the focus being taking the characteristics of craft beer classics and intensifying what people love about them.
Summit Brewing Co. (St. Paul): The first brewery in St. Paul is probably the Twin Cities most popular. Its best selling blend is the award-winning Summit Extra Pale Ale, a mix of caramel, biscuity malts, hop and citrus. The brewery offers popular (i.e. reservations required) tours, covering the beer making process and company’s history. Tours are free, but it’s asked that you bring canned or boxed food for donation.
Tours: Tuesday & Thursday 1 p.m., Friday 3 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Taproom: Friday & Saturday 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Food trucks come around, and there’s patio seating in the warmer months.
Canal Park Brewing Co. (Duluth): Inspired by the spirit of the north and south shores of Lake Superior, the brewers here set to serve thirsty travelers. And of the six seasonal and five year-round offerings, there’s a type for every personality. Like the winning Nut Hatchet Brown, said to be perfect for people who like down jackets, jackrabbits and whispering to pines, or the Stoned Surf, for those who like frozen mustaches, fresh air and cannon balls off cliffs. You can enjoy these brews on the all season patio.
Tours: Friday on the hour 4-7 p.m., Saturday noon-7 p.m., Sunday noon-3 p.m.
For more stellar local breweries to hang at, click here.