In January the lines at Surly Beer Hall in Minneapolis were practically out the door. On Dec. 31, they’re likely to be the same. Minnesota beer remains popular and growth remains a constant. 2015’s wave of new breweries extends well beyond the metro. St. Paul is booming, the suburbs are making their own mark, and outstate has grown everywhere from Delano to Faribault to New London. In February, the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild’s annual local brewery showcase Winterfest expanded to two days, highlighting just how much is going on within the state’s borders.
A complete recap of the year take longer than waiting in line at Darkness Day, but here are a few notable developments from the past year. Fittingly for craft beer, whatever is new gets the most attention:
The New Breweries
Wabasha, 56, 10K, Birch’s on the Lake, Grand Rounds, LTS, Forager, South Fork, Goat Ridge, Lupulin, Lupine, Beaver Island, Lakes & Legends, Sidhe, Bad Habit, Omni, Union, and more opened doors for the first time. In similar fashion, a few familiar brands opened either new taprooms new spaces. Badger Hill in Shakopee opened officially in Dec. 2014 while Barley John’s (in New Richmond, WI), Lake Monster, Bad Weather, and Flat Earth have all started selling pints in-house this year as well.
Other breweries either built-on, added event spaces, or announced future expansions. ENKI, Indeed, 612, Steel Toe, and Bent Paddle all had significant growth. Dangerous Man notably opened their next door Growler Shop in October, and Sisyphus Brewing is the state’s only nano-brewery/comedy club. Mankato seriously gussied up their taproom barroom as well.
The Breweries Lost to the Ages
On the other end of the spectrum Walker, MN’s Leech Lake Brewing closed doors in July, and Minnetonka’s Lucid bought out Hudson based American Sky Brewing in late summer. It was also announced on Sept. 1 that Tim Nelson had sold his shares of Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth to business partner Rod Raymond, with both Nelson and head brewer Dave Hoops leaving the popular North Shore brewpub.
There Was Beer on Sunday and There Was Much Rejoicing
One of Minnesota’s biggest accomplishments is the legalization of Sunday sales. Well, of growlers (per individual city rules). Instead of a mad border rush for that kickoff 6-pack, now you can grab a 64 oz. growler of fresh beer from any licensed brewery or brewpub. In related container news, the year also saw breweries like 612 and Insight add canning lines, Summit and Fair State created their first tallboys, and Boom Island started bottling in 12 oz. containers. Sociable Cider Werks, Sisyphus, and Junkyard in Moorhead are among the breweries selling a canned 750ml container, the crowler, from their taprooms. For those who can’t leave home for your beer, both 56 Brewing and Eastlake (via TacoCat) offer bike delivery service.
It’s been a busy year. Dangerous Man and Electric Fetus teamed up for a one-off beer, Surly and Dillinger Four made ‘Merica in July, Fulton brewed with Bachelor Farmer, and the Red Stag block party once again offered the unique collaborations at their In Cahoots event. Fulton got national attention with the General Mills’ partnered HefeWheaties in September (did you save your can?), Bauhaus Brew Labs threw a night market that Northeast won’t forget, and Darkness Day brought the Surly Nation back to Brooklyn Center.
And a Toast to the New Year
Minnesota brewing has something for everyone as it continues to grow. Ownership, attitudes, and the beer itself vary wildly between visits to Burning Bros, Sidhe, Urban Growler, Surly, Bang, Bent, Schell’s, Forager, Able, Castle Danger, Schram, or anywhere else. 2016 also has promises of Inbound, Modist, Utepils, and maybe a brand new Finnegan’s.
2015 has been a wild year in beer, with a soggy memory and ever evolving palate. What did we miss, and what do you expect in the year to come? Hit the comments and let us know.