This is a guest post by our friend Mike Marani.
Here at 110, we laud quality. So when we see it, we like to share it. We’re also all about originality and standing out from the rest. Being unique is a necessary trait in these days of flooded markets. So, this is the first installment of our series on recognizing quality and originality. Minnesota is known for their formidable, burgeoning craft beer scene. This great state (yes, I am lucky enough to have grown up here 😎) was named the #10 craft beer state back in 2013, and hasn’t slowed down since. I’ve been able to sample plenty of these great brews, and I’ve been able to visit many as well. That being said, here are 5 very unique craft microbreweries that you must check out when visiting Minnesota. And let’s be honest, the only reason you would visit this (underrated, beautiful) land is for either business or visiting family; both of which definitely call for an evening away.
This gem of a brewery has easily (and quickly) become the most popular in the state. Starting out in 2004, Omar Ansari convinced his parents and wife to convert their family business (creating industrial abrasives) into a brewery. They sold their first kegs in early 2006, and only 16 months later were rated the Best Brewery in America by BeerAdvocate (they now hold 23 spots on the Top 100 Beers in Minnesota, and currently their Russian Imperial Stout Darkness is ranked as the 5th best beer in the world!) Their timing was perfect, lining up with the sudden surge of local interest in craft beer. Their popularity grew and quickly spread their reach of distribution well-beyond their home roots.
Surly is well-respected locally for working with local Senators and Representatives to draft a bill making it possible for brewpubs to sell pints of their own beer! In 2013 they invested in a new facility, dubbed Destination Brewery, which boasts a beer hall, restaurant, event spaces, and a chef-driven restaurant upstairs that is a unique experience all itself!
I’ll just let them say it best:
Sociable is driven by a pretty simple vision. Cider should be much more than the lightly-alcoholic, made-from-concentrate, sweet apple juice boxes that currently dominate the shelf space. Sociable ciders are well carbonated, dry and always made from real apples. Simply put, they should be enjoyed like great draught beer. Sociable is not just hard cider, we’re much more.
What I like about this place is their taproom. Their canning floor is right in the open next to the bar. You can watch how it all works as you play Foosball (the canning equipment is not updated in this indoor Google tour yet). They use the first edition of (local) Inline Automation‘s beer canning system, which includes a unique rotary can filler, and a labeler made by a (local – seeing a trend?) manufacturer, which allows them to can small batches. It’s all pretty fun to watch.
Ok, I’ll be honest, the best thing about this place is the Bacon flight. Nuff said. What I tasted here was literally the best food I had ever tasted. They have house-cured bacon with amazing sauces. The Thai Peanut was by far the best, though they were all delicious. And, what could be better than an amazing flight of bacon, except an amazing flight of bacon with delicious beer?!
Based on the name for their Double IPA (Infuriatingly Passive Aggressive), you know they’re from Minnesota. Among their plethora of unique recipes for beer, they also have a distillery which produces whiskey, gin, and Poitín (they even give a list of drinks you can make with them on each respective page). In 2015 they were named Minnesota’s Distillery of the Year!
What they have that’s really unique, however, is their very own Bent Up Cold brew coffee served on nitro. You can even add a shot of this to their #4 Nourishing Stout, making what they call a Mocha Stout. Yum!
This brewery is very unique in a very specific way. They don’t have bacon flights, or a specialty restaurant, or fancy canning equipment in the taproom. What they do have, however, is really what they don’t have. Gluten. The story behind this place is pretty interesting. The guys (Dane and Thom) who started BBB were originally planning your typical craft beer shop, until Dane was tragically diagnosed with Celiac disease. After coming to terms with this, the professionally-trained chef that he is, Dane started exploring gluten-free beers. What came out of that was a newfound passion for brewing beer, just of a different variety.
BBB boasts the only dedicated gluten-free brewery in the midwest (though our friends above at Sociable also provide gluten-free and gluten-removed drinks!) and gets a lot of traffic because of that! You can find their canned goodness in 2 varieties around the midwest.
So what do you think? Have you ever been to these microbreweries? I know there are a bunch more that should be on this list – don’t hate on me too hard – I had to narrow it down somehow! Let us know in the comments below. Also, if you ever do make it to Minnesota, be sure to hit these places up and give us a shout out!