Dave Hoops, For the News Tribune
As the leaves start to turn, folks will head north to check out the fall colors. Those who want to grab a beer can pick from 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.
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.
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.
There are many questions about cask beer and nitro beer: What do those terms mean? Is that the warm beer? Doesn't that mean Guinness? Yes and no, it depends on a few factors. Both cask and nitro are expressions of how the beer is carbonated and served, which affects the mouthfeel and flavor most of all. Let's start with cask ale, which is sometimes called "real ale" because it contains live yeast and is dispensed from the vessel in which the beer's fermentation is finished. Cask ale is made just like any other ale until the step after primary fermentation, where the magic happens.
If I made a top 10 list of my "best beers," it would probably contain five or so picks that are permanently on the list, along with others moving in and out depending on time of the year, availability, my mood and my style focus at the time. The "quality" of a beer as far as best taste is subjective and could be discussed for thousands of words. My goal today is to capture the "feeling" of a great beer in an unforgettable moment. So on to the feelings: