Monday, February 17, 2020

Junkyard Church Giggles Review

Name: Junkyard Church Giggles
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 5.9%

In my absence from beer writing, there have been certain breweries that have gained a cult following of sorts and it seems that every time I log into any of my social media accounts, I can’t go two minutes without seeing a post featuring the said brewery with a caption along the lines of “OMG BEST BEER EVAR!!!!” Oftentimes, I don’t necessarily buy into the hype of what other people say about beers, mainly because I like to reserve judgment on my own terms. That and I’ve been burned before by buying into the said hype.

One of these breweries is Junkyard Brewing Company, located in Moorhead, MN. Best known for making their Milkshake IPAs and Sours, they’re located in a part of Minnesota that was, up until a couple years ago, a craft beer wasteland on account of the lack of breweries in the general vicinity of West-Central Minnesota. I decided to go out of my way this past week and try and locate their beer since any offerings from them seem to fly off the shelf as soon as it arrives. As luck would have it, that wasn’t the case on my last expedition. Which brings us to their Church Giggles sour ale, which is described as a cherry pie tart. It’s made with 800 lbs of cherries, vanilla and graham cracker sprinkles; Complete with Dana Carvey’s Church Lady on the front of the cover.

What are Church Giggles, you ask? Well according to Wiktionary, they’re described as: Uncontrollable laughter or giggling that occurs inappropriately in an inappropriate place and time, as when in church.

Appearance – Dark ruby red color with a mild amount of visible carbonation rising up from the bottom. The head has a foamy salmon pink color but there’s nothing here in terms of lacing.

Aroma – Strong cherry notes and pilsner malts are present upfront. I’m also picking up on some light graham cracker & vanilla tucked behind that cherry fruitiness.

Taste – That cherry tart/sweetness is ever present upfront and throughout the palate but those mild vanilla notes from the nose are suddenly standing shoulder to shoulder with the cherries. Backing that up on the rest of the palate are that graham cracker and pilsner malt backbone, which helps in balancing everything out. The aftertaste, as you might expect, consists mainly of a cherry tartness, which lingers for a few moments.

Wow, I have to say that my cynical assumptions about their beers not being as good as people say they are were horribly unfounded! Which is my way of saying that this beer was fantastic and that the crew at Junkyard really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Sours have never really been a preferred style of mine but after having this, I think I owe it to myself to check out more of them going forward. It goes without saying that you most certainly must check this out should you get the chance!

Junkyard Church Giggles – 9.5/10

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Short Fuse Low Spark Review

Name: Short Fuse Low Spark
Style: American Pale Ale (Hazy/NE)
ABV: 6.5% per the can (5.25% per Short Fuse’s website)
IBUs: 20

Next up in my Short Fuse beers is a Hazy Pale Ale called Low Spark, which is a Hazy American Pale Ale made with Sabro, Strata & Citra hops. Doing some research on the name, the only thing I could come up with was the album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys by The Traffic. In any case, let’s see how the beer is!

Appearance – Hazy dark yellow color with no visible carbonation. The head is fairly foamy and there’s a good amount of lacing left along the sides of the glass.

Aroma – Rich mango and citrus notes permeate throughout the nose, along with some apricot and pineapple notes. If there’s one word I’d use to describe this beer, it’d be “tropical.”

Taste – That tropical flavor that was present in the nose is out in full force here. Mango and pineapple sit on the front end of the palate while the back end opens up to a mainly citrus flavor. The aftertaste consists of a lingering mango and malty finish.

Another solid beer from Short Fuse as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice, vibrant and juicy and anyone who’s a fan of hazy pale ales will love this one.

Short Fuse Low Spark – 8.5/10

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Short Fuse Bear-ie White Review

Name: Short Fuse Bear-ie White
Style: Witbier
ABV: 4.8%
IBUs: 12

Recently my lovely wife was in Chicago on a business trip. While she was there, she managed to grab a few crowlers from Short Fuse Brewing Company, which was down the street from the hotel she was staying at. First up on the docket was one that caught my attention when I was reviewing their list of offerings and that is their Bear-ie White, which is a witbear made with 120 lbs of gummy bears. This means that Short Fuse took 24 of these…..

…..and put it into this beer. Well, let’s dive into this, shall we?

Appearance – Clear yellow color with a high amount of visible carbonation. The head is somewhat foamy but the lacing left behind is quite sparse.

Aroma – Well, they weren’t kidding when they said this was made with gummy bears because they are front-and-center on the news. I’m also getting some malted wheat notes and a touch of light floral hops.

Taste – Much like the nose, the gummy bears shine through here but they’re never to a point in which they are overwhelming, thanks in part to the malted wheat and floral hop aspects of the flavor. The aftertaste is fairly dry, save for a light touch of gummy bear sweetness.

It’s a bizarre & farfetched combination that somehow manages to work, and work well at that. Now if you’re not a fan of gummy bears, you will probably not like this beer but if you’re looking for something that’s out there, then I would wholeheartly recommend Bear-ie White.

Short Fuse Bear-ie White – 8/10

Monday, February 10, 2020

Modist Bite Size Review

Name: Modist Bite Size
Style: Stout
ABV: 6.7%

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything from Modist Brewing. They’re grown leaps and bounds since I last reviewed anything from them, so it’s time to take a look at one of their new offerings called Bite Size. This beer is described as a Pastry Stout made with Ghana Cocoa Nibs & Madagascar Vanilla Beans. I couldn’t find anything related to hops in my research, so we’ll leave the IBUs section listed as N/A.

Looking at the description of this beer on their website as an answer to those who don’t want to crack open a high-end ABV Imperial Stout but still want the flavor of one. Hence, the name Bite Size.

Appearance – Pitch black color with a fairly thin tan head but there’s really nothing here in terms of lacing.

Aroma – Potent chocolate sweetness is front-and-center on the nose with some light roasted barley. I’m also picking up on a mild nuttiness in here too, almost like smelling a Snickers bar. No sign of that vanilla sweetness yet though.

Taste – The front starts off with a solid nutty flavor but this is paired with a strong chocolate and roasted barley profile, both of which linger throughout the palate. The middle gives way to a fairly mild vanilla sweetness while the back end of the palate opens up to what appears to a bitter dark chocolate flavor, and it lingers for a few moments afterwards.

As far as I’m concerned, Modist Brewing knocked it out of the park with this one. Bite Size, despite its name, manages to have a vibrant flavor profile without necessarily putting you out of commission. As such, this is very easy to recommend.

Modist Bite Size – 9/10

Friday, February 7, 2020

Sixpoint Meltdown Review

Name: Sixpoint Meltdown
Style: Imperial IPA (NE/Hazy)
ABV: 8%
IBUs: 30

Ah Hazy IPAs, it seems that every brewery has their own interpretation of them. Enter Sixpoint Brewing with their Meltdown Hazy Imperial IPA. Why is it called “Meltdown” you ask? Well I did some digging and, if the Lab Notes from their website is to be believed, there is supposedly “enough hops to melt your face” in this. I’ll, of course, be the judge of that. Speaking of hops, the ones used in here are two of my favorites: Mandarina Bavaria & Mosaic. Let’s see how this is! I also got this for a very reasonable price, which is nice considering that a lot of the Hazy IPAs that I see are, in my opinion, fairly overpriced.

Appearance – Hazy yellow/orange color that has a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head itself is fairly foamy with some spotty lacing along the sides of the glass.

Aroma – Even before taking a whiff, I could already smell this beer even as I sat far away from the glass. Upon taking in the aroma, you’re treated to a bright citrus & orange peel profile and it smells magnificent! There’s some caramel malts in here too as well but it’s eclipsed by the sheer citrus aspect of the flavor. It goes without saying that the nose packs a real punch!

Taste – Much like the nose, the flavor has a strong citrus hop & orange peel profile the dominate most of the palate. The caramel malt backbone is present throughout, providing a balance from keeping it from getting too out of hand. On the back end, there is a mild bitter hoppiness that helps even things out even further. In the aftertaste, that citrus and orange peel flavor does make a brief return if but for a moment.

Remember when I said that I think a lot of Hazy IPAs are overpriced? Well, I find myself in an interesting position where if this beer were priced $2 higher than what I got it for, I would gladly pay the price of admission because the flavor is extremely robust. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that this is a textbook example of how to do a Hazy IPA correctly. So yes, I do agree that the name “Meltdown” is appropriate for this beer.

Fans of Hazy/NE Style IPAs will no doubt fall in love with Meltdown but even those who aren’t necessarily fans of the style will find something to enjoy with this beer. As such, this is very easy for me to recommend!

Sixpoint Meltdown – 9/10

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A Visit to Roets Jordan Brewery

In all my years of beer writing, it’s not too often that I turn my attention to breweries that are some of the most well-known ones. However there are certain breweries that…….well……..keep to themselves for the most part. Meaning that they’re smaller breweries that either don’t have a wide distribution footprint or do most or all of their business out of their taproom. Sure, I’ve covered them on occasion but never to a point where it became a regular thing. One of my resolutions for this new year is to find breweries that fit that description. Some call them “hyper-local” breweries, which is an alright description since I don’t have a better label for them

Which brings us to Roets Jordan Brewery, which is located in Jordan, MN & the story behind Roets Jordan is interesting to say the least. You see, back in 2014, the Roets family had plans to set up shop in an brewery building that, according to the Roets Jordan website, has been in existence since before Minnesota became a state in 1858. This all changed in 2014 when Mother Nature decided to intervene in the form of a rock/mudslide that originated from the hill behind the brewery. The damage sustained was confined mostly to the 3rd floor but it brought into question the structural integrity of the building and safety of the immediate area. So instead, they set up shop inside of a vacant library building in the heart of downtown Jordan, which is where they are today.

The brewery itself fits in perfectly with the storefronts of Jordan, lined with coffee shops, antique stores and even a comic book/arcade place. Coming to downtown Jordan reminds me almost of a quint New England town, with its historic storefronts and hills and snow-covered forests providing the backdrop. Parking, at least when I went, was easily accessible and plentiful.

The taproom in and of itself is a holdover from the previous occupant, with it’s old hardwood floors and green walls. The bar itself is reminiscent of an old-timey saloon that one might find in a photograph from the first half of the 20th century. Compared to other taprooms that have a modern or industrial feel to it, it’s a nice change of scenery.

So how’s the beer? Well, I managed to have a few of their offerings and managed to get a wide variety of styles in during my visit in order to get a good idea of how they are. Without further ado, let’s take a look

Name: Rude Boy
Style: Export Stout
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 45

 This beer has a nice roasted barley and a strong chocolate malt profile throughout the flavor with some moderate floral & bitter hops showing up in the back. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m also picking up on some light oak notes in the aftertaste as well, though that might have been just my palate playing tricks on me. Overall, it’s a great beer and a perfect one to have on a cold winter day.

Rude Boy - 9/10

Name: Berry
Style: Sour Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 6

A sour ale made with berries and black currant. This once had a very fruity flavor with notes of raspberry & light cherries. The aftertaste is where the sour aspect of the flavor shines the most but not necessarily in an overpowering way. Also present in the aftertaste is that light berry sweetness. Sours have grown on me these past couple of years but not all of them have been what I would call palatable. This one most certainly is! The sweet and sour aspects of this beer are nicely balanced and each flavor on display is nice and robust, so this one is easy to recommend!

Berry – 9/10

Name: Jordan Pale
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 46

Heading into Pale Ale territory, we have their Jordan Pale, which is described as a “Throwback Pale Ale” that is Gluten-reduced. Upfront, I’m picking up on a strong citra hop profile with some toffee and pale maltiness to back up; The latter of which lingers throughout. In the aftertaste and back end of the palate is where you start to see some mild bitter hoppiness, which is supplemented by the malt backbone. All and all, it’s a solid well-put together pale ale that will please any seasoned fan of the Pale Ale style.

Jordan Pale – 8.5/10

Name: IPA Infusion
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: 55

Lastly we have their IPA Infusion, which is an IPA made with Blood Orange.  Right off the bat, there’s a strong citrus hop and blood orange flavor, with the blood orange staying with you throughout and into the aftertaste. This is backed up by a strong caramel malt backbone. The second half of the palate opens up to a mild bitter hoppiness, which finds it’s way over into the aftertaste, along with that blood orange sweetness. Overall, all of the ingredients come together to form a nice & vibrant citrusy IPA which makes it very easy to recommend!

IPA Infusion – 9/10

I feel that Roets Jordan has a lot to offer to beer drinkers of all types. Every style that I had was wonderfully crafted and made with care and it shows in each glass of beer. If you find yourself in Jordan, be sure to check these guys out! They’ve got beers for all different palate types and preferences and they do each of these styles justice. You can find them at:

230 Broadway St S
Jordan, MN 55352

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Stacked Deck Snake Pilssen Review

Name: Stacked Deck Snake Pilssen
Style: Pilsner
ABV: 5.1%
IBUs: 24

Time to look at an offering from a reasonably new Minnesota brewery called Stacked Deck Brewing, based out of St. Paul, Minnesota. Like some of the beers I’ve reviewed in the past, this is one of those instances where I saw the can & name and just had to try this out.

I give to you Snake Pilssen, which is, as you might’ve guessed, a pilsner. It is interestingly enough, made with corn flakes. The name comes from the 1981 film Escape from New York, which stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a former solider-turned-criminal who is tasked with rescuing the President of the United States from New York City; Which, in turn, has been turned into a maximum security prison in a dystopian future set in 1997. It’s definitely a product of its time & is not as well known as John Carpenter’s other works like Halloween or The Thing. However it’s got a certain type of charm to it with elements of action & film noir all rolled into one.

In any case, the beer label artwork is pretty much a love letter to the original film, from the depiction of Snake holding a glass of beer to the retro-80’s future design of the can. For comparison’s sake, here’s the full label…

Big thanks to Stacked Deck for providing me the full artwork!

And here’s the DVD cover

And look at this, even the bottom of the can somehow manages to be awesome!

Appearance – Hazy yellow color with some mild visible carbonation. The head has a light amount of retention and the lacing is on the spottier side.

Aroma – Right away, I’m getting some pale and pilsner malts upfront, with some mild floral hops following. I am also getting some light grain/corn notes in here, which I’m assuming is those corn flakes.

Taste – Much like the nose, that pale & pilsner malts are front-and-center on the palate, with that light floral hoppiness & corn flake/grain flavor showing up towards the middle. On the back end of the palate, I’m getting some light hop bitterness and pilsner maltiness, which fades away after a couple of moments.

I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about the usage of Corn Flakes in this beer but I gotta say that this a nice & crisp pilsner that one can enjoy either in a glass or in a can! To top it all off, the asking price for this beer was extremely reasonable. If you’re looking for an excellent, crushable pilsner, then you owe it to yourself to try this out!

Stacked Deck Snake Pilssen – 9/10

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Schell's Shift Happens DDH Lager Review

Name: Schell’s Shift Happens DDH Lager
Style: Imperial India Pale Lager
ABV: 9%
IBUs: 80

Last year, Schell’s rocked the Minnesota craft beer scene by releasing it’s first ever IPA. Now they’re taking it to the next level by starting something called the Shift Happens series (or miniseries as Schell’s puts it) and the first entry in the series is their DDH Lager; With DDH being every brewery’s favorite acronym to throw on a beer label. So as you might have guessed, this is a double dry-hopped beer made with Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook, and Amarillo hops. Upon seeing this, I thought of a beer from a few years back called Arminius.

Back in 2014, Schell’s released their Arminius Pale Lager, named in honor of the Germanic chieftain who raised an army and successfully fought back against the Roman Empire. There’s even a statue dedicated to Arminius in New Ulm, Minnesota (Where Schell’s is located) though he’s referred to as Hermann the German. Anyways, I consider Arminius to one of my favorite offerings from Schell’s, even though it hasn’t been in production for about five years at this point. So to say that I have expectations about this would be a bit of an understatement.

Appearance – Fairly clear golden color with a mild amount of visible carbonation. The head itself is pretty foamy and the lacing left behind is plentiful.

Aroma – Potent citrus and lemon notes mixed in with some hints of apricot. I’m also getting some mild hop bitterness tucked between the citrus aspect of the nose. There’s also a nice solid pale maltiness in here that encompasses the nose.

Taste – The flavor starts out with a burst of citrus, apricot and light grapefruit notes, while the second half of the palate opens up to a strong bitter hop profile and pale malt backbone that helps keep everything in check. The aftertaste consists of a light bitter and citrus hoppiness, along with a very light boozy heat.

Is this as good as Arminius was? It’s hard to say, if I’m being honest. However, there’s no denying that this beer is very good. It’s hoppy and malty in all the right ways and, despite the light boozy heat, it’s not enough to interfere with the overall flavor. Frankly if this beer is any indication as to what Schell’s has got in store for us with their Shift Happens series, then I’m very excited to see what else they will give us as they continue forward.

Hoppy Lagers are more of a niche beer so if you’re not into the style, this beer isn’t going to necessarily change your mind. However, if you’re carving a good hoppy lager, like yours truly, than this beer is most certainly for you!

Schell’s Shift Happens DDH Lager – 9/10

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A visit to Summit Brewing

I’ve covered Summit Brewing extensively since I started this blog up. From their classic Extra Pale Ale to their more limited releases, it has been a constituent staple on this website for quite a while. I mean, they are one of the biggest and oldest craft breweries in Minnesota after all. And yet, I’ve never really covered the brewery itself. Like where it all comes from and the story behind it. Sure I’ve touched upon few tidbits in the various Summit reviews but never anything that I would consider to be in-depth.

Since I had a few days off after Christmas, I came to the conclusion that it was time to change that. I decided to make myself useful and take a deeper look into this seasoned brewery. I mean, after all, you can’t go into any bar or liquor store in Minnesota swinging a stick without hitting at least a bottle, can or tap handle that doesn’t brandish the “Summit” name on it. (Note: Please don’t actually try this.)

Summit Brewing is located off of West 7th Street, just a couple blocks east of Interstate 35-E in St. Paul in an office park. When they first opened their doors in 1986, they were located off of University Ave, which is on the other side of St. Paul. It wasn’t until 1995 that they moved from their old location to their current one, which was once home to a Texaco Oil Refinery and they got the land at a fairly good price since St. Paul was looking to expand its business appeal. Since then, it has continuously grown into the behemoth-sized building that it has become today.

The Ratskeller of Summit is one that I have visited a few times since it first opened a couple years ago and it has undergone some fairly changes. Gone are the wooden benches and tables, which I actually didn’t mind since they actually looked like the tables you’d see in an authentic German bierhall. In place of that are some rather fancy chairs and tables, which fit the overall feel of the Ratskeller. The other thing that is gon-…er……changed is that now there’s a jumbo screen over the entrance displaying pretty much the entire history of Summit. Also, the pictures on walls do an awesome job of improving the atmosphere. Oh and that beautiful oak bar that was tucked away is now front-and-center. Because, let’s be real here, no one puts baby in the corner.

Now I learned quite a bit about the history of Summit during my tour, so I’ll do my best to tell you, the reader, what I found out. So let’s begin with the name. Originally the founder, Mark Stutrud wanted to name the brewery Stutrud Brewing, but it slowly became apparent that, from a naming perspective, the word “Stutrud” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue (At least, according to our brave tour guide, Phil). So they decided on the name Summit Brewing for a couple different reasons. The first being that it represents the pinnacle, the apex, the… get the idea. The other reason being that Summit Avenue is a prominent street in St. Paul.

The other thing you’ll notice too are the copper kettles that flank the right side of the Ratskeller as well as a sign above it that says “Hürnerbräu Ansbach.” This is because those kettles were purchased from the Hürnerbräu Brewery in Bavaria, Germany. Copper Kettles are somewhat or a rarity now as a lot of new brewing equipment is now stainless steel. The copper kettles that I’ve seen in my travels are used for display purposes but not Summit’s. They still utilize them for brewing purposes in all of their batches.

Earlier, I mentioned that the building itself is absolutely ginormous. It looks big on the outside but seeing all of the equipment from the inside makes you feel even smaller in comparison. The pictures themselves do not do this view justice, which is why I strongly suggest seeing this in person. Up until the tour, the biggest fermentation tanks I had seen were at the Yuengling Brewery in Tampa, FL; The views in here give them a run for their money.

The scale of how big Summit is isn’t just limited to their fermentation tanks, the bottling and canning line is also a sight to behold; Which makes sense seeing as how it once belonged to Sierra Nevada. Hearing the story as to how it was shipped halfway across the country (in pieces, mind you) and how it was assembled is a story in and of itself.

Then there’s the storage room, where all the beer is kept before being sent out this includes kegs, bottles and cans. At one point, I saw there was a few cases of the Warpigs Foggy Geezer standing out amongst the crowd. Curious, I asked brave leader Phil what that was doing amongst all the Summit. He pointed out that since Warpigs doesn’t have a physical brewery, they use Summit’s brewing equipment as one of their facilities. In fact, if you look on any Warpigs can (at least in Minnesota) you’ll see in tiny letters on the back that it was indeed brewed at the Summit Facility. After all these delightful sights, we went back to the taproom for some beers.

Brave Leader Phil showing us one of the tools used by professional brewers

One of the key highlights for myself personally was the topic of distribution. Right now they are currently in five states and at one point they were in seventeen before having to pull back, and that was something I knew of prior to coming on this tour. The reason for this? Growth. It turns out that since the country has been undergoing craft brewing these past few years, the demand for more local beer has increased ten-fold. Many breweries have felt this and Summit is no exception to that rule. Basically the demand for Summit in their former areas was either not sufficient or the demand for more local beer became too great to keep up with.

Still, with all that in mind, Summit still plays a pivotal role in providing the Midwest with their offerings and libations. Being on this tour makes one (or at least myself) appreciate all they have done for craft brewing in Minnesota and the role they will continue to play going forward. Whether you’re there for a tour or just to chill out in their Ratskeller, you really get the sense that you’re standing in a place of great significance. If you’re a seasoned Summit drinker, it goes without saying that you owe it to yourself to check this place out.

For tours, you can either book a tour online, like yours truly. Or you can buy a ticket in the gift shop.

However, if you just want to sit back in the Ratskeller and have a few beers, that’s alright too. Either way, they can be found at:

910 Montreal Circle
St. Paul, MN 55102

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Rise & Fall of Lake Superior Brewing

Last week, it was revealed that Lake Superior Brewing had closed its doors. What makes this news so different is that it not only was it one Duluth's first microbrewery but it was also one of Minnesota's first breweries that was established after prohibition had ended. The closing of Lake Superior Brewing has certainly grabbed the attention of the craft brewing scene in Minnesota since it is the most high-profile closure to date. The reactions have, understandably, been that of shock and sadness.

However, it's an entirely different feeling for myself.

Sure, whenever a brewery closes its doors, I feel sorry to see it go and that's the case here with Lake Superior Brewing but I can't say that I'm surprised. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that I'm shocked at the fact that it didn't happen sooner and....well I'm going explain why this is. Bear in mind too that a lot of what I’m going to say is speculation but keep in mind that I'm taking into account information, statistics and my own personal experience with the brewery.

To start out, it's worth noting that Lake Superior Brewing, which opened in 1994, has always been on the smaller side, with distribution being limited just to Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. To put that in perspective, peak production for Lake Superior occurred in 2014 around 2000 barrels before dwindling to 736 barrels in 2018. Bent Paddle, which opened in 2013 in the same neighborhood, produces just under 20,000 barrels a year and they distribute all over Minnesota, North Dakota and Northern & Western Wisconsin.

Now I want to make it very clear that Lake Superior Brewing was not a bad brewery, far from it. They were one of the first breweries that I tried out when I first got into craft brewing and I can safely say that their offerings have been consistent throughout the years. When it came to quality, they were certainly no slouch in that department. In fact, I consider their Old Man Winter to be one of the best MN-Based barleywines that I've ever had and is standard for what English-style barleywines should be like.

However, my criticism lays in the fact that innovation was never really their strong suit. Prior to 2018, with the release of their Riptide IPA, they had not released a new beer since 2013, with their Deep Water Black IPA.

This strategy might’ve worked 15-20 years ago but we’re living in an age of craft brewing that it’s not only expected that there’s a new beer on a regular basis but it’s pretty much an unspoken requirement if you want to survive. Many breweries, both new and seasoned, have followed suit with this rule but Lake Superior seemed to be an exception to that rule and yet they pushed on.

The other factor lies in branding. It’s no secret that for the longest time, the branding of Lake Superior Brewing was, for lack of a better term, outdated. It was by no means aesthetically offensive, but it wasn’t what I’d call eye-catching. Rather it was just…..boring. It had been around for the long time and at no point did they change their label and branding up 2017 (More on that in a bit.)

Now in terms of quality, they had no issues in that department. As I mentioned before, they were always consistent with their products and there was nothing wrong with their offerings but with the exception of their Old Man Winter Warmer, there was never anything that I would necessarily go out of my way to try unless I was at a friend’s house or if it was offered to me. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that when it came to their lineup, there wasn’t necessarily anything exciting about it and the lack of new offerings really hurt them in the grand scheme of things.

Now I mentioned before that their branding was, for the longest time, on the dull side. In fact, prior to 2017, myself and many of my peers saw Lake Superior’s branding as somewhat outdated in terms of look and design and it we just accepted it as it was. Now you might have noticed that dropping the years 2017 & 2018 a bit here. I bring this up because this changed in 2017.

What happened? New ownership!

At the time of hearing this news, I was excited for Lake Superior because I read about the plans the new owners had in mind. This included revamped branding, growth and even new offerings from them. At the time, I was excited for them and happy to see what changes would come. The rebranding of Lake Superior hit the shelves and I, for one, was pleased with it. It was an updated design while also staying true to its roots.

Another change that was made was the overhaul of the website. For example, here’s the website as it is right now:

Looks great right? I think so to! Everything is sleek and thoroughly designed. Thing is, it wasn’t always that way. Here it is from 2016:

And here it is from 2014:

Now I’m going to reserve judgment since I’m aware that my own website design hasn’t changed since 2014, which I’m working on, but I will say that the current design definitely is the strongest of the three.

All of the pieces were there to help raise Lake Superior’s status once again but I can’t help but feel that these changes came too little & too late. I mentioned before that their first new release in five years occurred in 2018 with their Riptide IPA…..but nothing else further materialized from that and I took notice. Steps in the right direction were most certainly taken but I keep thinking that these long overdue changes were too little & too late. I am by no means disregarding any of the changes made by the new ownership but I feel these changes would’ve been much more impactful had they occurred four or five years earlier.

However, the story might not be over just yet. The current owners of LSB (Lake Superior Brewing) are looking to sell the brewery and is, at the time of writing, up for sale. In any case, all of this is just my personal view on how things are and anything that happens at this point. Who knows? Maybe something else will start up in its place?

As always, thanks for reading!

Sources used:

Minnesota Department of Revenue

Saturday, January 4, 2020

A Visit to Cannon River Winery

Cannon River Winery holds a special place in my heart…or at least… past. Back when I was a Senior in college, I interned for a wine education company and during my tenure there, I got a visit a few Minnesota-based wineries and one of those wineries was Cannon River Winery, located in Cannon Falls, MN. I still remember that nice spring day seven years ago when I arrived there with the trees in bloom and the usually warm temperatures we had that day.. When me and my boss went inside to check the place out, I was amazed and how busy and vibrant it was there. I knew that the fanfare about local wine was sizable but it didn’t strike me as to just how big it was until I stepped foot in there. Remember, I did this internship a few months after I dove head-first into the craft brewing scene.

During my time there, I served as a “guinea pig” of sorts for the wine tasting since my boss was pregnant and wanted to avoid any sort of complications. It was a task that I was all too happy to fulfill. My favorite wine during our visit there was their Apple Wine, but only because it wasn’t a tannin-overload and my palate wasn’t fully refined by that point. Fast forward to today where I’m starting to dabble heavily into wine and the idea struck me that maybe it’s time to revisit this winery that piqued my curiosity years ago. So I decided to make the journey back to Cannon Falls.

Cannon Falls is one of those towns that looks like it belongs in Christmas Card Artwork, with its old brick storefront and buildings along with Christmas lights stretching across an intersection in the heart of downtown & it reminds me almost of my parents’ hometown. And of course, the Cannon River runs through it, which the winery takes its name from.

Fun Fact: Cannon Falls is home to Pachyderm Studios. This is where Nirvana’s In Utero album was recorded, which is one of my all-time favorite albums. Other bands to record there include: Live, Mudvayne, Soul Asylum, Motion City Soundtrack & Trampled by Turtles: Just to name a few. It isn’t the first place you’d expect a recording studio to be, yet here we are.

Anywho, the interior of the winery has changed in terms of layout but not necessarily in atmosphere. The wooden interior mixed with barrels and fermentation tanks and rustic lighting gives the winery a very unique feel. Plus the winery itself is housed in what I assume to be an older brick building. You have the option to either sit by the windows or in the back more but no matter where you sit, you’ll get to soak in the atmosphere either way.

Now let’s talk about the wine. I was able to sample a good variety of wine styles and get a better idea as to the offerings of Cannon River Winery. Without further ado, let’s take a look!

Name: Gunflint Gris
Style: Gris
ABV: 12.1%
Grapes used: Frontenac Gris

Taking its name from the Gunflint Trail in Northeast Minnesota. This wine has a bright pear & white grape flavor to it that has an almost citra-like quality to it with a fairly dry aftertaste with just a touch of tannins. It’s a simple yet solid wine that you won’t see me getting sick of anytime soon.

Gunflint Gris – 8.5/10

Name: Feisty Bitch Rose
Style: Rose
Grapes used: N/A

An interesting choice in terms of naming, but who am I to argue with the creative process? This wine has a nice raspberry & blackberry flavor with just enough tannin bitterness on the front end of the palate to help balance it out. The aftertaste is a short-lived but sweet raspberry-like fruitiness. All and all, another great wine that I could see myself sipping on a lazy afternoon.

Feisty Bitch Rose – 8.5/10

Name: Minnesota Marquette
Style: Marquette/Red Wine
Grapes used: Marquette

A wine made with grapes that were developed by the University of Minnesota for the purpose of growing grapes in the harsh cold Minnesota climates. This wine has a nice blackberry uprfront with a dark currant & oak flavor in the middle and back. There’s also an encompassing earthiness and light tannin flavor throughout the palate. The aftertaste is rather dry, save for a light oak flavor. It’s an eloquently put together wine that has enough overall layers in the flavor to keep things interesting.

Minnesota Marquette – 9/10

Name: Sparkling Edelweiss
Style: Sparkling/White Wine
Grapes used: Edelweiss

For my last wine, I decided that I was in the mood for something with a bit of a bubbly kick, and this was perfect. Light pear & vibrant apple flavors are on the front of the palate while the back end opens up to some white grape and tannin notes. The aftertaste is also quite dry, almost like a good Champagne or Brut. All and all, a great wine to close out my visit and amongst my favorites that I had there.

Sparkling Edelweiss – 9/10

There’s the old saying that the more things change, that the more they stay the same & that certainly applies to Cannon River Winery. As I said before ,there has been changes made to the overall layout of the tasting room, along with changes in ownership that occurred during these past seven years. However, what hasn’t changed is the overall feel and atmosphere of the place. After making the drive from my home located about 40 minutes away, walking into Cannon River Winery made me forget just how monotonous and cold it was outside that day and it made my trip all the worthwhile.

Interested in checking them out? They can be found in beautiful downtown Cannon Falls, which is located about 35 miles south of St. Paul, MN. Their address is:

421 Mill St W
Cannon Falls, MN 55009

I hope this article inspires you to check out any local wineries in your area. Or if you’re in the Twin Cities vicinity, check this place out. I think you’ll be surprised!