There’s been a lot of talk about pilsners on Minnesota beer Twitter these past few weeks.
Since the onset of the craft beer revolution, this mild, crisp brew has been cast aside in favor of big, bold beers like IPAs, sours, and imperial stouts, but by all insider estimations, pilsners are the next wave in American microbrewing. Craft pilsners are already popping up all over the Cities, and they’re deviating pretty wildly from the Czech and German roots of the beer.
In the next year, expect to see big, aromatically hopped pilsners, imperial smoked pilsners, and yes, probably even sour pilsners. Though this will probably get the Braumeisters rolling in their Bavarian graves, it’s still exciting to see this overlooked style getting new life in the hands of craft beer’s new revolutionaries.
Fair State Flyover Country
Sour ale, 5.2% ABV, 25 IBU
Fair State Brewing Cooperative seems to be releasing their beers in multiples nowadays. After a four-beer February, the sour specialists have dropped a threefer of new releases: 16-ounce cans of their outstanding Pils, a sour red named Stupid Sexy Flanders (their second Simpsons-themed beer), and the fascinating barrel-aged sour Flyover Country.
Flyover Country takes a humble malt bill of corn and two-row, adds a simple lager yeast, and flips it into a lightly malty sour beer that bridges the brewing history of Minnesota with the tart future Fair State is trying to usher in. Even the barrels the beer is aged in -- a Minnesota oak that adds a delicate woodiness to the beer -- are local, making this one of the truest homages to the flyover states ever bottled in Minneapolis. 750 mLs of Flyover Country hit shelves on March 25.
Lift Bridge Mango Blonde
American ale, 4.75% ABV, 13 IBU
Blue skies and lawnmower noise are on the horizon -- something Stillwater brewer Lift Bridge is counting on with their latest barbecue beer, Mango Blonde. Unlike many fruit beers on the market, the wheatiness of Mango Blonde is minimal, and the beer has more of a pilsner/light ale mouthfeel.
Brewmaster Matt Hall was inspired to create the easy-drinking Mango Blonde after spending years brewing in Hawaii. To recreate the tropical ease of island living, he dumped mango puree in the brew, lending a big fruity aroma and a clear candy body. Released originally in 2015, Mango Blonde was formerly a taproom-only beer, but April will see its distribution in tiki-themed tallboys in the Twin Cities metro. To celebrate, Lift Bridge is throwing a luau at their facility, which will go down April 8 from noon to 10 p.m.
Sour ale, 4.2% ABV, 27 IBU
Sour beers don’t typically need the designation of “sour,” but Indeed’s new canned sour Lucy is so palate-friendly, the descriptor is necessary. Sporting a manageable pH and a hazy body to balance off the tartness of the lactobacillus, Lucy is one of the few sours fit for a six pack.
You may recognize the lemongrass-tinged sour as previous entry in Indeed’s Derailed series, but now Lucy has been slightly modified for its new life in psychedelic 12-ounce cans. Unlike most kettle sours, Lucy is dense and cloudy. There’s no metallic aftertaste like in many lacto sours, and Lucy leads with an earthy, uncharacteristically bitter Meyer lemon flavor that’s fulfilled by the hazy body. Lucy’s release will be celebrated on April 20 at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul. Since the beer is a great companion on the links, mini golf will be involved.
Wild Minds Hops of the Fallen
Double IPA, 9% ABV, 75 IBU
Brewer Mat Waddell swore he wouldn’t put an IPA on his tap list when he opened Wild Minds Artisan Ales. He didn’t want his brewery to be another hovel for IBU-chasing hopheads. But his Windom neighbors would not let it be. They came out in droves to support him, so Waddell coalesced and brewed up a double IPA to sate the believers.
But Hops of the Fallen is an IPA on Wild Minds’ terms. Waddell calls it the “epitome of how [he wants] to brew IPAs.” A little bit funky and extremely juicy, Hops of the Fallen defies a lot of IPA conventions. It hits with a big fuzzy peach aroma, a sensation created by the local yeast Waddell cultivated in Windom. The fruitiness and cloudy body mask the array of hops -- including three varieties of New Zealand imports -- crammed into beer.
Only 500 bottles of Hops of the Fallen are available, and they went on sale at the taproom on April 10. It is the second release in Wild Minds’ brand new hand-filled bottle program.
Schell’s Fort Road Helles
Helles lager, 4% ABV, n/a IBU
A former favorite limited release in the Biergarten summer sampler pack, the locally farmed helles Fort Road from Schell’s is the latest in the New Ulm brewery’s permanent year-round offerings. The beer gets its name from the historic New Ulm road where the barley for this malty, pale German-style lager is grown. Pouring a straw yellow, clear body, it’s a fitting addition to the Bavarian old schooler’s portfolio.
Fort Road’s biggest asset is its gorgeous, bready aroma. Deriving from the lager yeast used to ferment the beer, the scent is immediately intoxicating, drumming up agrarian visions of old Bavaria. While the beer feels nostalgic, there’s been a definitive turn in the American craft beer market back towards these classic European master styles, and Schell’s is positioning itself as an “I told you so” brand with releases like Fort Road Helles.
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