Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #50: Beaver Island, St. Cloud

What is this?, you're asking yourself. Minnesota Breweries One by One #50? What's the deal, Al, you're now asking me. Wasn't the last one #30, and didn't you publish that one two months ago? What gives? We all thought you'd given up. Explain yourself!, you're now yelling at me.

Okay, fine. You win. I was a bit behind on the writing. As of May 17, I had been to 42 breweries, but only published 30 reports. Twelve more were waiting to be written. Then, disaster struck, and my laptop computer that I do all of this on was no more. Let's not go into the details of the whats and the whys, it happened and it can't unhappen. No use pointing fingers and playing the blame game. Although I was behind, I put the process of getting a new laptop on hold, while I dealt with some other issues. I continued taking notes, and visiting breweries. By early June, the count was up to 49, and a notebook was stuffed with beer reviews. Some pictures sat in an iPhone, waiting to be transferred to a new computer, and others were stuck inside a classic iPod, hoping for similar salvation.

For much of June, this project was on hiatus while I concentrated on moving to a new home. On none of my days off did I enjoy investigating new breweries for this blog, only occasionally enjoying myself at favorite watering holes, still cursing myself for not spending time on the move.
Then, last week the move was done, and the itch had to be scratched. Jason and I hit the road again, getting out to check out new breweries once more, marking #s 50-52. By July 3, I had made it to half of the reported 104 breweries in the state. Not bad. I'd say we're still on track.

A few days ago, I finally got a new computer, and decided to begin again, starting with the most recent trips, so I don't get swamped, covering the newer stuff first, so it doesn't all drift off in my memory. Visits #31-42 may take a bit to get to, as the iPod is having trouble importing it's photos into the new device. I can't wait to get that hurdle jumped though, for there are some stories there that I've been aching to tell. Please indulge me, dear reader, while we jump back and forth in time, as I make up for what I've been putting off in this project.

So, let's look back to this past Sunday, July 3, and the 3 breweries we saw on that day, all north of my home in Minneapolis. We went the furthest north first, and worked our way back down, starting with Beaver Island in St. Cloud, Minnesota's 10th largest city, and home to 67, 000, only 84.6% of them belonging to the caucasian race. Located within the counties of Sherburne, Stearns and Benton. (What, they can't pick just one?) Home to St. Cloud State University, and named for the 6th Century French monk, Clodoald (who knew?) It's about 75 miles north-west and took us just an hour and 10 minutes to get there.

216 6th Street is where we found Beaver Island Brewing, makers of "Dam. Fine. Beer", located on the edge of a little strip mall area. It was important that Beaver Island be our first visit of the day, due to their strange Sunday hours of 11 am to 2 pm.
(Only open 3 hours, closing so early in the day, what's the point, I wonder. I'll never understand decisions like that.) We found our seats at the bowling lane-topped bar, and perused the choices. Five beers on tap, so we both did a flight of all five.

First up: Ripple Kolsch, 4.8% abv., lightly fruity, crisp, clean and smooth, just like you want your kolsch. Pretty near right on the money.

Next in line: Fabulous Armadillo IPA, named for a local band, a 4.7% session IPA. Bright and juicy, aburst with citric hop aromas, mild bitterness, very easy-drinking, quite enjoyable.

Third in the flight, 39 Red IPA, 6% abc., good and malty, with Golden Promise and Belgian Special B malts, less hoppy, and quite complex. Quite enjoyable.

Number Four was Lane Five, a double IPA, which I decided to take home in a growler, and those notes will be at the bottom.

Rounding it out, Sweet Mississippi, a likable sweet stout, but a bit bigger than norm, at 6.5%.

Flights finished, with time to spare, I decided to do a snifter of the Lane 5, even as I decided to take a growler home. We were fairly satisfied with the output here at Beaver Island, and I was impressed with the number of accounts they service throughout the region. I sometimes buy beers from the distributor and wondered if any kegs might come down to the cities. Not really, said the bartender who is also the head of sales, only for special events, perhaps. I have no problem with that. Keep it local, I say, make the best beer you can for your community and keep it fresh. Do what you do and do it well. We were told that they've done about twelve beers in the year or so they've been open. Nothing wrong with that.

It wasn't long before the clock was near two in the afternoon, that fateful hour, and we had to close up our business and go. It was a quiet time in ol' St. Cloud town, and during our visit we saw other tourists, a few locals, as well as local tavern operators picking up kegs. Good beers, good folks, good times. I was admiring the t-shirts and hats and other merch, but remembered that I do not need anymore hats or t-shirts, and would keep my souvenirs to patches, buttons, magnets, stickers, and/or coasters. Sure, that had some of those, and got them gratis, a nice little gesture that sealed the good will. I like this brewery, and wish them the best.

The time had come to gather up and get on to the next stop, Lupulin in Big Lake...next on, The Bitter Nib!

Here are the notes on the growler:
Clear, dark amber color, huge white head, leaving lace.

Soft, delicate aromatics, at first. Malt driven, with hop bitterness creeping out. Nice mix of malt sweetness, hop bitterness and a little dose of spice.

In the mouth: More of that mix. It's a heft blend of rich malts, spicy and citric hops, and then the rising promise of alcohol. Sweet, bitter, then dry, with the warming ABV increasing in the senses. It's a hop monster, sure, and boozy, too, but there are other elements that keep this one interesting.
I like this so much that I forget that it's 8%+. It's just too damned delicious. I will enjoy emptying this growler, that's for sure.

And here's what the website says:
The name Lane 5 pays homage to our taproom bar top’s past life, a bowling alley. We could use clich├ęs like “we throw a strike to your taste buds with a heavy dose of hops,” “we spared no expense,” or “this is no turkey.” But we’ll let this hop monster speak for itself. Enjoy.

Availability: Late Spring, Malts: Maris Otter, Pale, Caramunich
Hops: Magnum, Bravo, Columbus, Mandarina, Cascade, OG: 1.079, IBU: 109, SRM: 10.4, ABV: 9%

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