Dave Hoops, For the News Tribune
As the leaves are starting to turn, folks will head north to check out the colors. I thought it would be fun to mention the many great Minnesota breweries that are flourishing or about to open north of the Twin Ports. Bemidji Brewing Co., Bemidji The four-year-old brewery has been a very popular and successful endeavor. The beers have been well-received locally and their sour beer program has quickly made them a go-to brewery statewide. They've also received national attention with their awards from the Great American Beer Festival.
IPA. Every engaged beer drinker has heard or seen these initials whether it's on a billboard, in ads, or on the beer list at your favorite taproom or bar. IPA stands for India Pale Ale.
I love wheat beers. I have as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure my first taste of a deliciously banana, clovey hefeweizen was Franziskaner from Spaten Brewery in Munich, Germany. In the late '80s when I first tried it, Spaten was one of the few imports I could find in Minnesota. I was impressed with the drinkability and thirst-quenching attributes of this previously unknown beer, and quickly started researching the style. I learned that in Germany a hefeweizen must contain at least 50 percent wheat and be warm fermented with top-fermenting yeast.
Beer has a bit of a journey to make to end up in your stomach. In fact, it has to pass some pretty rigorous and protective barricades — our sensory shield — before it's allowed in. The senses are the messengers to the control room we call the brain, and choosing a specific glass for different styles of beer can greatly enhance the sensory experience.
With the continued and explosive growth of craft beer in the market, the old rules have been expanded on a bit. Brewers are always looking to create new beers, and some enterprising brewers have been putting very unique ingredients in beer.
As we head into summer, now is a perfect time to talk about the growing popularity of beer tourism. Duluth is a destination for all types of people: campers, history lovers and families — you name it, people are coming up north. Along those lines a new type of tourism has arrived. Enter beer tourism or beercation. Our Twin Ports region has been recognized as a serious national player for beer and breweries. Because of this, more people are coming to enjoy great beer along with the area's natural beauty.
One of my favorite things to do in the brewery is to age beer on wood. Fermentation of beer in wood vessels was done for centuries, but the inside of the barrel was covered in pitch for sanitation reasons, so the beer never actually contacted the wood. Today, I'm talking about beer and wood contact. The beer actually makes its way into the wood as it ages, allowing flavors and aromas to develop over time.
I like change-of-season beers to innovate and create approachable beers. Many breweries embrace the transitions of the season to showcase their talents. First, let's talk style. Some of my favorite styles of beer are dubbed "spring beers." Of course, we'll start with bock — the quintessential spring brew. The bock style is more than 800 years old and originating in Germany. With many different variations, bocks are typically strong lagers brewed in late winter, stored cold and ready to drink right about spring. They're malty and truly refreshing to drink.
Here are some of my favorite books about my favorite subject: beer. While there is almost unlimited information online, I still like holding a real-life book in my hands. Lifestyle and beer The first of my two favorite authors on beer lifestyle is Pete Brown. Brown is an amazing storyteller and a very astute writer on beer culture.
A question I get often is: "How did you get into this business?" In my case the many years ago that I became a professional brewer make that question less relevant for today's fledgling brewers trying to break into the industry. Simply put, I started home brewing at my apartment in San Francisco and read every possible book I could find on brewing. Since I lived in the bay area where craft brewing pretty much started, I was able to work for almost nothing and learn from some of the pioneer brewers that started this industry.