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Food & Drink

Doin’ Beers: 5 Minnesota Beers to Drink in October

Is beer spooky? Let’s find out!

Nissa Mitchell

October. Depending on who you ask, this month is either “spooky season” or an excuse to break out the wool coats and sheepskin boots. It’s a time for skeletons, and using costume parties to explore gender boundaries with plausible deniability, and realizing you’re into vampires in an unexpected but exciting way—or a time for flannel, and pumpkin spice everything, and posting pictures of maple leaves on Instagram, and finally starting back into that knitting project you said you’d finish two years ago.​​ The two October vibes: horror and hygge. The two genders.

I hope, going into my fifth Doin’ Beers, it’s obvious which group I belong to. But if not, maybe what follows can help clarify.

Portage Brewing Company: North of Schwarz

“Oak Black Lager” or Schwarzbier / 4.8% ABV / 25 IBU

Schwarzbier, as a style, is like a skinny German goth girlfriend who won’t stop talking about how Robert Smith stole his look from Siouxsie Sioux, while simultaneously pounding americanos as if she plans to vibrate through the veil between worlds in order to commune with the void and offer her services in cultivating the dithyrambic darkness inside all of us. In other words: really cool and great, actually.

North of Schwarz, beyond having absolutely A+ October vibes in terms of packaging, is a great Scwarzbier. It’s light, with substantial coffee roast that doesn't go overboard. The oak it references is there, but not necessarily in the way you might expect of a “oak” beer—it’s mostly mild tannins. You should absolutely want to drink this beer for what it is, but if you’re the sort of person who just hasn’t been able to get into porters and other dark beers, please—please—take this as your opportunity to broaden your horizons and join us on the dark side.

Nissa Mitchell

Island City Brewing Co: High Forest

Red Lager / 5.2% ABV / 25 IBU

SMASH beers, so-called because of their adherence to using a “Single Malt” and “Single Hop” are popular with brewers largely as a way to get to know different ingredients and experiment with as few variables as possible. Most of the time, when we consumers encounter them in the wild, they take the form of an IPA or a pale ale. Because, well, of course they do. Not every attempt is successful, which makes good SMASH beers feel somewhat magical to behold. And I finally realized why—good SMASH beers are actually fae beers which have been swapped with human beers for unknown and potentially malicious (but still delicious) reasons.

Making a red lager out of a single malt (Red X in this case) and single hop (East Kent Goldings) seemed absurd to me. But it works quite well! The strange magic employed by Island City here leaves a complex malt profile and satisfying balanced bitterness. If you had your fill of marzens last month, but still want more malty lagers, look no further.

Nissa Mitchell

Revelation Ale Works: 100 Watt Blackout IPA

“Black India Pale Ale” / 7% ABV / 50 IBU

Black IPAs are strange creatures. As with many other styles, they had their moment a few years ago, and then disappeared from taprooms and liquor store shelves. Is it because the beer snobs tried to rename them “Cascadian Dark Ales?” That certainly didn’t help. Is it because “Black IPA” as a style is hard to articulate in strictly rational terms, leaving Black IPAs to drift in liminal space, like eldritch gods waiting for unsuspecting mortals to speak their names and return them to the material plane? Almost assuredly. I’m like, 90% sure that’s what’s going on.

This one’s name is a variation on another Revelation beer—100 Watt IPA. I think that does this beer a disservice, though. They’re really nothing alike. “Blackout” is roasty, and packs a solid punch of Simcoe and Centennial hop bitterness, while maintaining a relatively light body. This lighter body is especially impressive given its alcohol content. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a Black IPA, this is a good one to pick up. Speak its name. Let it into the material plane. Bow down to its unknowable power. Or, you know, drink it as you relax after dinner or something.

Nissa Mitchell

Fair State Brewing Cooperative: Stranger in the Alps

“Alpine Lager” / 5.1% ABV / ? IBU

This lager is lemony, golden, and, dare I say, quite approachable and kind. Pretty cool stranger, honestly. While I don’t get a lot of the “foraged spruce tips” that it’s brewed with, it’s probably one of my favorite lagers right now. And I know what you’re saying, “How the hell did this end up on the ‘spooky season’ list?” Bear with me.

Stranger in the Alps is named after something Walter says in the edited for TV version of The Big Lebowski. Those of a certain age have almost assuredly been to a costume party where at least one person showed up dressed as The Dude. There’s point one in my favor. If that’s not enough, the beer also shares its name with a Phoebe Bridgers album. And Phoebe Bridgers, as we all know, has become known for turning skeleton vibes into high fashion, starting when she released Punisher in 2020, on the cover of which she wears a skeleton onesie that became her iconic fit. So, you know, put that in your white Russian and drink it (but please don’t, drink this instead).

Nissa Mitchell

Starry Eyed Brewing Co: Glasgow Kiss

Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale) / 9% ABV / 23 IBU

You’re sitting in a pub, full of dark wood and shadows. You’re a couple drinks in, and thinking you really ought to go home and get to bed. But something compels you to look off to the right. It’s then that you realize that someone—something?—is trying to catch your eye from the booth in the corner. It might be the alcohol, but somehow you find yourself walking over to them... it? As you get closer, the creature occupying the booth pulls you in, and you realize you might not be going home after all. Maybe, you think, you won’t ever go home.

To say that this beer is intoxicating is an understatement. At 9% ABV, you probably shouldn’t go near it if you’ve already had a couple drinks. But the aggressive malt and coffee flavors Glasgow Kiss brings are hard to deny, and the fact that Starry Eyed brewed something at 9% without it getting syrupy is impressive. I’d seen some of this Little Falls brewery’s stuff at South Lyndale Liquors previously, but it was never in the cooler, which is usually a red flag for me. Keep your beers cold, folks. “Shelf-stable” doesn’t mean “shelf good.” The stubby bottles called to me, though, and I risked it. I’m so glad I did, I think you will be, too.

Just make sure you make it home, okay?

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