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Food & Drink

Doin’ Beers: 5 Minnesota Beers to Drink in November

This month we’re thankful for barley, water, hops and yeast.

Nissa Mitchell

Thanksgiving is a weird holiday. It’s equal parts national revisionism built around our continued exploitation of stolen land, and a time for families and friends to come together around the unobjectionably pleasant notion of thankfulness. (At least until your uncle tries to goad you into a chat about "the transgenders,” and you remember why you had stopped inviting him a few years ago.)

So, it’s no wonder that every year we focus more and more on savory foods and less and less on unsavory history. What you eat on Thanksgiving is important, which is why endless debates about the best way to prepare the bird and the merits of canned vs. homemade cranberry sauce abound. But what about what we’re drinking? Shouldn’t we care about that, too?

Well, I do. I will carry this holiday booze burden. So, without further ado, here’s my Thanksgiving beer tasting menu—please take it slow.

Portage Brewing Company: As Old As Time

Wood-aged Vienna Lager / 5.4% ABV / 22 IBU

I’ve been on a wood-aged lager kick lately. Festbier on oak? Don’t mind if I do. Schwarzbier on oak? Yes, please. And now, a Vienna Lager fermented with maple? Of course, how could I not?

The malt here combines with the maple wood to lend the beer a strong maple syrup aroma, but without the sweetness and heaviness on the palate you’d expect from something that smells like maple syrup. The tannins you expect from a beer with wood are there, and they mix in with the moderate malt flavor to dry it a bit and prevent it from coming across as sweet as it might otherwise. Crack this one open while dreaming of the feast to come.

Nissa Mitchell

Lupulin Brewing: Two Nutz

Brown Ale / 6.0% ABV / 30 IBU

Lupulin’s packaging has a very distinctive style. I’ve bought more than a handful of their beers based on the artwork alone. However, when it came to this one, something about Matt Schiller (one of the co-founders of Lupulin) staring at me with bloodshot eyes and a toothy grin made me feel a bit uneasy. But you know what they always say: “Don’t judge a beer by the illustration of one of the brewery’s artistically rendered co-founders on the cover.” Besides, “brown ales” are a dying breed. And it’s our fault. Us. We’re to blame. I know I’ve been doing a bad job of supporting brown ale conservation efforts for years now—can any of you say different?

That ends here. Two Nutz is a great reminder of why brown ales were a staple of many early taprooms. It’s a bold example of the style, with lots of roast, and just enough caramel sweetness to balance it out. Drink it on its own, or while shoveling sweet potatoes into your mouth like some sort of weird little gremlin.

Nissa Mitchell

Blacklist Brewing Co.: Or de Belgique

Belgian Strong Golden Ale / 7.5% ABV / ?? IBU

I love Belgian-style beers. If I could marry them, I would. No. Hold on. That doesn’t do my feelings for Belgian-styles justice—let me try again.

If “Belgian-style beers” was a person, I’d go home with her on the first date, move in with her after a couple weeks, marry her after a couple months, get a rescue dog shortly after that, and then spend the rest of my life gazing at her with lovesick eyes, spouting off embarrassingly purple prose about her to anyone who would listen and donating childless white gays money to MPR. The fact that we don’t have many breweries in Minnesota consistently brewing Belgian-styles is a grave injustice, and one I hope is rectified soon.

Thankfully, Blacklist knows how thirsty I am for Belgian-style beers. They’ve been brewing Or de Belgique for over 10 years now, and it’s been a joy the entire time. I pick it up whenever I want a little treat, and it hasn’t let me down yet. It’s fruity, sweet, and mildly tart with notes of overripe banana alongside the traditional “spiciness” of a Belgian golden strong. Don’t bother with the “Snickers Salad” this year, just grab one of these.

Nissa Mitchell

Vanilla Bean Porter: HeadFlyer Brewing

American Porter / 5.8% ABV / 28 IBU

November is definitely porter weather. In fact, at one point, I considered making this month’s column solely about porters. Wouldn’t that have been something? But, I only recently got done drinking the backlog of Oktoberfests from my September column, so I decided to hold off on tackling that one. A girl can only drink so much beer in a month, after all.

That said, we have a lot of great porters available to us in Minnesota, especially now that the weather is colder and breweries are rolling out their winter seasonal lineups. This beer, with its relatively mild roast and Madagascar vanilla bean sweetness, is one you might be able to convince your mom to drink. It’s not the most unique or dynamic porter you’ll find, but it’s incredibly drinkable. Forget the coffee with dessert, drink this instead.

Nissa Mitchell

Dual Citizen Brewing Co.: Dreaming With Our Heads Cut Off

“Pacific NW IPA” / 7.2% ABV / 72 IBU

Listen, my dudes—my duders—this beer is delicious, but I refuse to accept “Pacific NW IPA” as a thing. Just because we have “New England IPA” doesn’t mean we suddenly need an IPA style for every corner of the United States to call its own. We are not Europe, with their distinctly defined beer cultures, and histories that resulted in a plethora of unique regional styles that evolved over hundreds of years. No, we are the United States—where stealing things from other people and calling it our own is something of a national birthright.

That being said, I do understand why Dual Citizen was reticent to call this a regular old “American IPA,” or even a “West Coast IPA.” It’s juicy in a way your typical West Coast IPA would never dream of, and hazier than anyone would accept from a “traditional” example of the style. It’s equal parts citrusy grapefruit and pine. The best traits of both, West Coast and Hazy IPAs all rolled up in one. Hazy West Coast IPA? Maybe. But then again, maybe the limits of language just don’t do it justice. All I can say is that this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for this beer.

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