Sunday, January 28, 2007

Beer and geography

I live in southern Minnesota (USA). I love living here. I love the fact that a 120°F temperature range between summer and winter is normal. There are many other reasons why I love living here, but that isn't the point of this post. The point is to point out one of the things I really hate about living here. Beer distribution.

There must be some double secret embargo on the import of good beers into southern Minnesota. Sure, there are a few, but not enough. I just discovered Longshot from Samuel Adams. Longshot is six pack featuring three winners of a homebrew competition held by Sam Adams. This is fantastic and I was so excited to find it (more on this below). Then I realized, this competition has been around since 2001. I had never heard of it. The fact is, MN is not the first place they are going to distribute this beer, not by a longshot.

The bottom line is, MN beer drinkers are just too accustomed to the bland macrobrews of the mega brewers to demand better beers (in effective enough numbers, at least). Now, don't get me wrong, I do not dislike macrobrews. I drink plenty of them. I will never turn away a Bud or Miller or PBR or High Life. These are fine drinking beers, BUT THERE IS REALLY GOOD BEER OUT THERE!!!! Don't be afraid of it. A case in point:

The number one beer in Minnesota (or so the legend goes. I have no data to back this up) is Michelob Golden Light. Be honest, have any of you who living outside of MN or Iowa ever heard of Michelob Golden Light? Minnesotans cannot get enough of this stuff, and I will admit, I don't mind it. However, I believe the distribution area is primarily MN and Iowa. They stack this stuff to the ceilings in liquor stores.

Good beers will eventually find their way here. Moose Drool for example can be found in stores and on tap. Moose Drool is one of my favorite brown ales. It is from the Big Sky brewing company in Missoula, Montana. So, why is Moose Drool here and not other beers like, Mirror Pond Pale Ale from the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon or even Fat Tire from the New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado? Well, when I lived in Montana, I noticed there were a LOT of transplanted Minnesotans in MT. I think MT is to MN what OR is to CA. The Minnesotans that came back to MN from MT begged for Moose Drool. And so, it is here. Only time and persistent requesting will improve the beer selection in southern MN.

My point of this post is that we are missing out on a lot of good beers that a lot of other people have access to. That does not mean we don't have good beer here in MN. There are in fact a few fantastic breweries in MN. Two of my favorites are the Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul and August Schell brewery in New Ulm. Summit makes my favorite pale ale. The Schell brewery is the nation's 2nd oldest family owned brewery, and they make great stuff. They also contract brew a lot of beers.

My solution to lack of access: brew my own. That's what I do.

As for the Longshot beers. I drank two of them (the Boysenberry wheat and the Dortmunder Style Export). Both were very good. I like the Dortmunder best. The maltiness and hopiness were superb. Bruce Stott, the fellow who made it, could deliver a case a week to my house and I would not complain.


Anonymous said...

sorry to say this mate, but by reading your post it looks like you (and I am not pointing my finger here as it is the rule rather than the exception when considering north americans) have no idea what beer is all about.

enough said

The Nebraska Rules said...

Can you even imagine going through life with a British accent? Shiver.

Bring on the Moose Drool, Red Hook ESB or 1554.

Anonymous said...


Alright, people – I seem to remember being off my calendar by about twelve months this time last year so here’s a fond FAREWELL to 2006 and here’s looking FORWARD to an even better 2007 (raise glass here). I’m a word person not a numbers guy – but I’m always happy to entertain, even at my own expense...

Shall we do a misty-eyed recap? Why not – there’s time. You guys remember Skinny Dip - the little beer that could? Holy smokes – best rollout of a new beer since Fat Tire. Yep – good ol’ Skinny Dip will definitely be coming back for the season of “raised eyebrows and lowered inhibitions,” (metaphorically, of course).

How about Tour de Fat? Pretty good chance more than a few of you hit that free-wheeling madness. We toured eleven cities, poured 571 kegs, danced and biked with 31,000 people and raised more than $166,000 dollars for bike and environmental non-profits. We’ll be adding a city or two next year, bringing back some old friends and introducing some new ones. If you haven’t caught this show… you owe it to yourself. People trek to the Fort Collins show from Iowa and beyond. That’s what makes it great.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Fort Collins maybe you made it to one of our Bike-In Outdoor Movies. The concept is simple – it’s just like a drive-in minus the cars. People ride their bikes to the brewery, gather for a beer with their neighbors, and laugh together beneath the summer stars. We raised over $12,000 for local non-profit, Arts Alive! in our third season together. I get a happy thrill watching those bike lights ride away at the end of every show. I really do.

Maybe you joined Team Wonderbike this year – if so, thanks for riding your bike. We have almost 5,000 Team members and, collectively, we came close to eliminating nearly a half-million car miles by riding our bikes to work or for errands. That kept nearly 450,000 lbs of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. That alone makes 2006 a pretty great year (for bikes, anyway). Check if you want to join Team Wonderbike.

And what will the future bring? Well, we’ve got a brand new beer called Springboard coming out right after 2 Below – it’s a good ‘un - made with ancient Chinese spices like your Mom used to do. How ‘bout a whole website overhaul and relaunch with a series of New Belgium-produced short films celebrating artists and iconoclasts who lead the way when it comes to sustainability and fun? Sure – check it this spring. New territory? Iowa and Minnesota – you are coming online in 2007 - and we are glad to be there.

That’s about it from the New Belgium Buzz desk. We’re wishing you all the very best in 2007. In the words of the inimitable Elvis Costello, “What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?”

Truly. Have a great year.

Chemgeek said...

Who was that masked anonymous man?

Fat Tire in MN in 2007????? Thank God!!! I can quit trying to clone the nectar and just buy it!!!!!!!!!! (Although, my last batch turned out quite good despite being quite unlike Authentic Fat Tire).