Ranking Minnesota Breweries (May Update)

Discussion in 'Midwest' started by ZAP, May 12, 2016.

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  1. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    It's been a month of so since my last rankings. Here is my ever slightly changing list of the top Minnesota Breweries I have had. I decided to include all breweries this time regardless of size. Also moved a few more into the best of the best category.

    Breweries move up or down based on new experiences I have with places. Most stay about where they are.
    Biggest mover is Junkyard which continues to impress along a wide variety of styles. Bemidji, and Birch's also moving up slightly. Stopped by Nutmeg this week and they aren't serving any of their beer currently so no ranking there. LTD is #1 on my next to hit list as well as the Rochester breweries but that might be awhile before I get down there. I also aim to give Omni another try as my first stop was decent enough and the arrow may be pointing up there. I revisited Herkimer after a few years away and my thoughts did not change much there.

    BEST OF THE BEST:
    Schell’s
    Town Hall
    Fitger’s
    Summit
    Indeed
    Fair State
    Liftbridge
    Steel Toe
    Junkyard

    EXCELLENT
    Dangerous Man
    Bent Paddle
    Bemidji
    Birch’s on the Lake
    Sissyphus
    Hammerheart
    Badger Hill
    The Freehouse
    Castle Danger
    Waconia
    Bad Weather
    Lake Monster
    Northbound

    VERY GOOD:
    Lynn Lake
    Bauhaus
    Lupulin
    Enki
    Able Seedhouse
    Beaver Island
    Northgate
    Schram
    Jack Pine

    GOOD:
    Barley John’s
    Day Block
    Harriet
    Lupine
    Insight
    East Lake
    Bad Habit
    Great Waters
    Canal Park
    Disgruntled

    AVERAGE:
    Rock Bottom
    Omni
    Tin Whiskers
    Lucid
    Wabasha
    Flat Earth

    BELOW AVERAGE:
    612
    Bang
    Big Wood
    Excelsior
    Gull Dam
    F-Town
    Bent

    POOR:
    Big Axe
    Herkimer
    10K
    Maple Island
     
  2. beerindex

    beerindex Initiate (134) Jun 18, 2007 Michigan
    Trader

    You seem to have left Surly off the list.
     
  3. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    Good eye...wow how did I do that. i can't edit it so I'll repost it here.

    BEST OF THE BEST:
    Schell’s
    Town Hall
    Surly
    Fitger’s
    Summit
    Indeed
    Fair State
    Liftbridge
    Steel Toe
    Junkyard

    EXCELLENT
    Dangerous Man
    Bent Paddle
    Bemidji
    Birch’s on the Lake
    Sissyphus
    Hammerheart
    Badger Hill
    The Freehouse
    Castle Danger
    Waconia
    Bad Weather
    Lake Monster
    Northbound

    VERY GOOD:
    Lynn Lake
    Bauhaus
    Lupulin
    Enki
    Able Seedhouse
    Beaver Island
    Northgate
    Schram
    Jack Pine

    GOOD:
    Barley John’s
    Day Block
    Harriet
    Lupine
    Insight
    East Lake
    Bad Habit
    Great Waters
    Canal Park
    Disgruntled

    AVERAGE:
    Rock Bottom
    Omni
    Tin Whiskers
    Lucid
    Wabasha
    Flat Earth

    BELOW AVERAGE:
    612
    Bang
    Big Wood
    Excelsior
    Gull Dam
    F-Town
    Bent

    POOR:
    Big Axe
    Herkimer
    10K
    Maple Island
     
  4. MNBeerGeek

    MNBeerGeek Zealot (588) Jun 25, 2013 Minnesota
    Trader

    I very much approve of your ranking for junkyard. They are, quite simply, fantastic.
     
  5. TEdubbaD

    TEdubbaD Aspirant (291) Oct 31, 2013 Minnesota

    Where does Fulton rank?
     
  6. Nivek43

    Nivek43 Initiate (101) Mar 22, 2012 Minnesota

    Bring me all the junkyards
     
  7. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    Boy how did I lose them from the list. Thought I had them on the others. I'll add them next time. Somewhere in the Excellent category would be my initial thought.
     
    MNBeerGeek likes this.
  8. mjryan

    mjryan Zealot (520) Dec 22, 2007 Minnesota

    Bad Weather?
     
  9. HomeBrewed

    HomeBrewed Initiate (197) Dec 10, 2006 Minnesota
    Brewery

    Is listed in the Excellent category.
     
  10. Rob-P

    Rob-P Initiate (48) Feb 29, 2012 Iowa

    IMO Bent Paddle should be in the very top tier.
     
    Metalsnota, josephwa, BigAl18 and 2 others like this.
  11. holzwama

    holzwama Initiate (98) Aug 27, 2015 Minnesota
    Trader

    I appreciate the list. I mostly agree on many of the rankings. I can maybe agree that Dangerous Man, Sysiphus and Bent Paddle are not in the top category, but still Excellent. I only have a problem when I see places like Badger Hill, Waconia and Bad Weather in their same category.
    I know it would make it more difficult, but it would be interesting if you had a ranking 1-10 to put them in. That way, you can differentiate for the top of the groupings. Steel Toe is great, but at the bottom of the Best of the Best list. Similarly the places I named early would be at the top and bottom of the Excellent category.
     
    JMN44 likes this.
  12. KarlHungus

    KarlHungus Poo-Bah (3,083) Feb 19, 2005 Minnesota

    I can't say I agree with the Lyn Lake placement. I've only been there twice, and have only had four or five of their beers. However, two of those beers were complete diacyetl bombs that shouldn't have been served. That doesn't get a brewery into my very good category.
     
  13. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    I've heard bad things on them but I was there about three weeks ago and sampled every beer they had on tap...ten or so...and all were very good to excellent. When was the last time you tried them? Going from there to Herkimer was a huge drop off. Yes Herkimer is not very good but LynnLake was very good with everything I had when I was there. I firmly stand by my impressions there. I got notes on my phone for everything I had. I may enter those reviews later.
     
    #13 ZAP, May 12, 2016
    Last edited: May 12, 2016
  14. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    To be honest Dangerous Man and Bent Paddle I had at the bottom of the Best of the Best category and at the last second slipped them to the top of the Excellent. Splitting hairs but they probably do belong grouped with the top group when I look at the others in each group in comparison. They probably compare better to places like Indeed, Fair State, Liftbridge and Steel Toe rather than Bad Weather, Waconia and Badger Hill (who I feel are all very good breweries as well).
     
    holzwama likes this.
  15. KarlHungus

    KarlHungus Poo-Bah (3,083) Feb 19, 2005 Minnesota

    I don't doubt your experiences in the least bit, and being that you and I seem to have the same beer tastes and beer philosophy I will make it a priority to recheck out LynLake soon. Thanks, man.
     
  16. sevenzig

    sevenzig Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2015 Minnesota

    Since I've moved to MN, Excelsior has gone from the absolute bottom of the list to the middle of Below Average. I fully expect them to reach Average by 2017.
     
    mkhartnett likes this.
  17. mrpeterandthepuffers

    mrpeterandthepuffers Aspirant (249) Oct 24, 2014 Minnesota
    Trader

    Are you ranking based on overall brewery experience or beer only?

    Bad Weather and Badger Hill both have cool taprooms but I would certainly not rate the beer as excellent.
     
    holzwama likes this.
  18. Victory_Sabre1973

    Victory_Sabre1973 Poo-Bah (2,194) Sep 15, 2015 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    So should I try their stuff again? Last time I had it, it was horrible.
     
  19. sevenzig

    sevenzig Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2015 Minnesota

    I don't know. I live in Excelsior, but I haven't been there since my first week in town because they're always overflowing with people and I loathe crowds.
     
  20. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    Yeah we do seem to be on the same page a lot. Let me know what you think.
     
  21. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    Just their beer. I personally think they both do excellent things. What don't you like?

    Badger Hill's Foundation Stout is top notch. One of the best stouts in the state. I have it at 4.50. I also love High Road Everyday Ale (4.59). Traitor IPA is a very good IPA as well. I have it at 4.27. The MSB I haven't rated but thought it was pretty solid and unique. Sure they don't do anything crazy or super big but for what they do I think they are excellent.

    Bad Weather I guess I only reviewed Windvane (3.42) and that was more than three years ago. I love Ominous. I can't remember the others I had at the brewpub this winter but I'd rank them all as very good to excellent. I guess, I'd be more apt to lower Bad Weather to very good if I had to pick one of these two.
     
    garymuchow likes this.
  22. Cibsie

    Cibsie Initiate (179) Jan 10, 2015 Minnesota
    Trader

    I take it you haven't been to 10k since around opening time? I felt the same way after going in the first week. They've really stepped up their game since then. They recently had a barrel aged scotch ale on for Batch #50 and it was incredible
     
    Gables likes this.
  23. jera1350

    jera1350 Poo-Bah (2,557) Dec 15, 2007 Minnesota
    Society

    Cauld Weather, their scotch ale they had on tap this winter was terrific. Hopcromancer was a solid IPA. I think where you ranked them is pretty fair.
     
  24. psychotia

    psychotia Disciple (304) Jun 27, 2009 Wisconsin

    Thanks for the update. Again, I generally agree with your ratings, especially the almighty Fair State (cough best IPA in MN cough).

    Now, I must ask: have you been back to BANG? I have, and for those interested, here are my thoughts:

    1) Better hours. Now it's something like 4-10pm on Friday, 2-8pm on Saturday.

    2) They used to have 4 varieties on tap. Now they have 8ish.

    3) Their beer was originally limited by scarce availability and price of organic ingredients. Now they seem to have access to a wider variety, allowing to branch out and experiment.

    4) My first visits and tastes left me feeling as though the recipes needed a few kinks worked out. For example the Pale ale was incredibly dry and bitter, and their special bitter (IIRC) was a touch high in terminal gravity. Upon my return, I didn't feel this way about anything. It could be time or changes to my palate, but the pale ale tasted more balanced. My favorite was the CLUB lager. That was a refresher; dry and crisp, slightly grassy, with a touch of grain!

    ...
    Anyways. I thought BANG was a tad low on this scale, and I still stand my ground. Please take another look at them, and if you already have, please post your recent impressions! If it means anything, I'd compare their quality and vibe to Northgate, and considering NG is "very good", I'd put BANG no lower than "good".

    ***I am in no way affiliated with BANG, nor am I benefiting from this post. I just like good beer!***
     
    jera1350 likes this.
  25. mnbrewery

    mnbrewery Initiate (0) Feb 28, 2008 Minnesota

    I personally would put Lake Monster MANY notches below Bent Paddle, Dangerous Man and Sisyphus.
     
  26. Rajaholick

    Rajaholick Initiate (157) Jan 9, 2011 Minnesota
    Trader

    Indeed has slipped a bit for me. I didn't like let it ride this year and their wooden soul beers have not impressed me. They're ok but I expected some improvement.

    Fair state has been killing it since they opened. I've loved all their beers and their BA stout is the only beer I've had from them that was just "ok".

    Would love to try junkyard sometime soon!
     
    Cfred371, josephwa and holzwama like this.
  27. dlphnfn

    dlphnfn Initiate (61) Aug 13, 2011 Iowa

    When I went up last summer we hit quite a few but didn't hit all those "Best's"... I need to get back to clean up!
     
  28. MNBeerGeek

    MNBeerGeek Zealot (588) Jun 25, 2013 Minnesota
    Trader

    Not that my opinion means anything, I just thought this would be kind of fun to do. I will only put breweries on here from which I have had multiple beers (more than 2) and mostly within the past year. A lot can change in a year, I know, and there are certainly some I should revisit because it has been too long or I went too early (East Lake and Able, respectively). I also changed the "average" and "below average" categories because I'm a dork and average indicates a mathematical average, to me. Not really a particular order within category, except Best of the Best.

    BEST OF THE BEST:

    Surly
    Town Hall
    Junkyard
    Schell’s
    Steel Toe
    Bent Paddle

    EXCELLENT:
    Summit
    Sisyphus
    Indeed
    Fair State
    Liftbridge
    Dangerous Man
    Fitger’s

    VERY GOOD:
    Castle Danger
    Insight
    Fulton (depending on the beer they can span Poor to Excellent)
    Lakes & Legends

    GOOD:
    Hammerheart
    Bad Weather
    Bauhaus
    Northgate
    Harriet

    FAIR:
    The Freehouse
    Northbound
    LynLake
    Lupulin
    Day Block
    Barley John’s (never had the BA stuff)
    Bad Habit
    Brau Bros

    MEDIOCRE:
    Great Waters
    Canal Park
    Lucid
    Bang
    Enki
    LTD
    Red Wing (the pizza, though…)

    POOR:
    Able Seedhouse
    East Lake
    Herkimer
     
    JMN44 likes this.
  29. maximum12

    maximum12 Poo-Bah (4,639) Jan 21, 2008 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    I wouldn't bother. I was out that way to play poker a couple weeks ago & stopped in to grab a four-beer taster. Nothing terrible, but nothing rose above the level of "That's OK" & all four beers had that uniformity of taste that I find in low-tier brewers. But yeah, it was packed. The Michelob crowd moving one step up, I assume.
     
    Victory_Sabre1973 likes this.
  30. HomeBrewed

    HomeBrewed Initiate (197) Dec 10, 2006 Minnesota
    Brewery

    You absolutely need to get back to Able. To rank them as Poor is ridiculous.
     
    Penguin3200 likes this.
  31. MNBeerGeek

    MNBeerGeek Zealot (588) Jun 25, 2013 Minnesota
    Trader

    I have heard that I need to. Went there a couple weeks after they opened and not a single beer was close to drinkable. My wife and I have both been known to enjoy our beers and we could not finish a beer on the flight split between the two of us. Walked out and went to Indeed. They were the worst beers I have ever had out at a brewery (dethroned Drekker in Fargo, ND). However, I do understand breweries need time and I do plan on revisiting them. It honestly just put such a bad taste in my mouth (literally, I suppose) that I have been wary of returning.
     
  32. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    Fair enough. My initial impressions mirror your first visits. I'll give another shot.
     
  33. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    No I haven't been back since. Someone on a different thread said they were just there though and they couldn't drink half the sampler...a few others piped in saying they thought they saw improvement recently.
     
  34. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    Have you had beer from their taprrom. I thought their early contract brewed beer they released a couple years back was pretty unmemorable but the beer they are putting out in their tap room is really good.
     
  35. Victory_Sabre1973

    Victory_Sabre1973 Poo-Bah (2,194) Sep 15, 2015 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    Ok, I will keep avoiding their beers in the liquor store.
     
  36. mjryan

    mjryan Zealot (520) Dec 22, 2007 Minnesota

    Yeah, I've been a couple of times and found the beer to be quite good.
     
  37. Cibsie

    Cibsie Initiate (179) Jan 10, 2015 Minnesota
    Trader

    Maybe I just had some really good luck in picking them. The Batch #50 was amazing, Chocolate Moose Nuts was very good, and the Sweet Vanilla Oatmeal Stout with Coffee was pretty good too. They also had a citra beer on for a while that seemed a little better than Xtra Citra. Though I hear that was pretty hit or miss with people.
     
  38. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,308) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
    Society

    I wanted to try the Moose Nuts...hazelnut right? That wasn't on when I was there but the way they all tasted I doubt it would have mattered. I'll probably revisit late summer early fall again..
     
    Cibsie likes this.
  39. Cibsie

    Cibsie Initiate (179) Jan 10, 2015 Minnesota
    Trader

    I believe it is hazelnut, yes.
     
  40. pmccallum86

    pmccallum86 Zealot (554) Apr 7, 2009 Minnesota

    Pretty good rankings, Bent Paddle not being in the top category is an obvious mistake though.
     
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