Oktoberfest isn’t the only October beer celebration.
Every fall, brewers from across the country gather for the Great American Beer Festival to evaluate and appreciate each other’s work. It’s hard to quantify just how important a GABF medal can be to a brewery -- it’s more or less the peg Sam Adams hung their hat on to get the craft beer movement started in the early 2000s -- so for local brewers, taking home hardware at the nation’s biggest awards ceremony can be a lightning rod.
That’s why we’re taking a moment here to congratulate Freehouse (silver, No. 33 Gose, and silver, No. 20 Barleywine), Summit (silver, Extra Pale Ale), Lupulin (gold, Dortmunder), Bent Paddle (gold, 14º ESB), and Beaver Island (silver, Oktoberfest) on their wins this year. Each one of those medals raises the visibility of the Minnesota beer scene in the national estimation. Thanks for carrying the flag for us out in Denver.
Able Cosmic Fruit
Pale ale, 5% ABV, 30 IBU
This last month, Able Seedhouse + Brewery released two new canned beers to celebrate their first year in production. The first was an outstanding, creamy stout named BLK WLF that’s probably best suited for next month’s weather. While we still have some sunshine left, let’s admire their Cosmic Fruit American pale ale. With its pithy grapefruit notes and El Dorado bitterness, it’s the beer for anyone in denial about the leaves changing color.
Unlike many of the juicy pale ales on the market, Cosmic Fruit has a well-rounded malt body, utilizing English pale ale and caramel malts to add some sweetness to the beer’s backbone. Of course, the fruity hops are the star here. Unlike Able’s year-round IPA First Light, Cosmic Fruit takes the wet, ripe characteristics of the chinook and centennial hops and turns them into counterbalances for the candy in the malt bill.
Lake Monster Loonatick
IPA, 6.5% ABV, 60 IBU
Fresh hop season is nearly at its end, but Lake Monster’s new seasonal Loonatick is sending out the season with a bang. Their caramel-brown fresh hop IPA has wet, Minnesota-grown centennial hops from Foley’s Mighty Axe Hops. Piney and resinous, Loonatick hops out of the glass immediately, making a mockery of its 60 IBU.
In a world of citrusy juice bombs, drinking something this strongly fortified in the nose is almost strange. The bitterness is nearly overwhelming, but it finishes crisp as Christmas. Loonatick is the first seasonal Lake Monster’s distributed since they launched their line of cans in October 2016.
Bauhaus Crop Circus
Double IPA, 8.4% ABV, n/a IBU
The New England IPA isn’t as otherworldly as it may have seemed a year ago (see my recent distillation in City Pages), but deconstructing the emergent style is exactly the kind of challenge Bauhaus Brew Labs would glom onto. Their Crop Circus is a double IPA that has the juice and opalescence of a normal Northeast IPA, but the ABV is totally blown out, and the body still goes down with Bauhaus’s signature German smoothness.
In the hilarious promo video for the beer, the Bauhaus crew spoofs Ancient Aliens to marvel at the technology that must exist to enable such an atypical brew, but the truth is that the brewers used cryogenically separated hop resins and aromatic oils to accomplish their strange beer from another star. The IBU for this one has been redacted by Big Brother, but almost all of the bitterness comes from the dying seconds of the sip, ironically making the finish more like a west coast IPA than anything else.
Surly Furious Black 2017
Black ale, 6.7% ABV, n/a IBU
An annual release since Darkness Day 2015, Surly’s gothy take on their flagship beer has become a tradition for the decreasingly metal Prospect Park brewery. Darkness Day falls on October 21 this year, but Furious Black is on shelves already, giving aniticpant beer nerds a taste of the obsidian flavors to come.
Pouring with a dynamic mocha foam, the 2017 cascadian dark ale replaces Furious’s brassy hop flavor with roasty maltiness. Furious Black is the smoothest-drinking version of Furious on the market, making great use of the English ale yeast to build the aroma and finish. The amarillo, cascade, and simcoe hops are largely subdued, but a familiar bitter hop tickle carries each sip home.
Lift Bridge Imperial Pumpkin Porter
Imperial porter, 11.5% ABV, 45 IBU
People love to gripe about pumpkin beers in the fall, but Lift Bridge Brewery’s Brewers’ Series has a well-fortified retort for anyone who criticizes the gourd’s presence in autumnal beers. The Stillwater brewery’s Imperial Pumpkin Porter is bold and boozy. Aged in Bourbon barrels, it billows out the glass with strong booze scents and hints of nascent vanilla. You don’t even get to the pumpkin until midway through the first guzzle.
Even then, it’s not cheap off-the-shelf pumpkin spice you’re getting, but roasted, earthy notes that permeate. Bourbon is definitely the beer’s strongest flavor, but there’s an almost creamy softness from the pumpkin that counterbalances each sip. IPP is the kind of beer that’ll make you question your previously held opinions on pumpkin beers. Be sure to look out for their fresh hop IPA Harvestör if you just can’t get over the pumpkin thing.
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