2018 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners

BEER

Photo via Happy Gnome Facebook

Photo via Happy Gnome Facebook

Craft Beer Bar or Restaurant (Mpls & St. Paul) – The Happy Gnome

Decisions are hard. Deciding what beer to order after a long day? The worst. Luckily The Happy Gnome beer menu is always stacked with goodies and explained in easy-to-navigate categories. Still not sure what to get? Ask one of the beertenders—they’re pros. 

Silver: Dark Horse Bar & Eatery

Bronze: Grumpy’s NE

 

Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Craft Beer Bar or Restaurant (Metro Area) – Yard House, St. Louis Park

Strong and spiced, or refreshing and crisp? Strong and hoppy, or dark and roasted? It’s up to you at Yard House, where more than 100 beers await your tasting pleasure. Local, national, international; cider, light beers, high ABV beers: it’s all here. 

Silver: Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill & Lounge, Eagan

Bronze: Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill, Plymouth

 

Photo via Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake Facebook

Photo via Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake Facebook

Craft Beer Bar or Restaurant (Greater MN) – Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake, Duluth

Lake Superior in the distance. Favorite (or new favorite) beer in hand. Things don’t get much better than life at Sir Ben’s. With live music most nights of the week, more than 20 beers on tap, and two happy hours daily, the English-style pub is everything a pub should be.

Silver: 7 West Taphouse, Duluth

Bronze: B & L Bar, New Ulm

 

Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Bottle Shop (Mpls & St. Paul) – The Wine Thief & Ale Jail

A store stocked full of beers you’ve never heard of can be straight up nerve-wracking. But not at Ale Jail. This St. Paul shop specializes in education and can answer any and all beer-related questions while helping you build the perfect six-pack for the picky beer nerd in your life. 

Silver: Zipps Liquors

Bronze: Stinson Wine, Beer, and Spirits

 

Photo courtesy Top Ten Liquors, St. Louis Park

Photo courtesy Top Ten Liquors, St. Louis Park

Bottle Shop (Metro Area) – Top Ten Liquors, St. Louis Park

SLP residents are lucky to have a Top Ten in their neighborhood—the store boasts Sunday-only specials and a staff that’s knowledgeable and friendly.

Silver: Elevated Beer Wine and Spirits, White Bear Lake

Bronze: Blue Max Liquors, Burnsville

 

Photo via Mount Royal Bottle Shop Facebook

Photo via Mount Royal Bottle Shop Facebook

Bottle Shop (Greater MN) – Mount Royal Bottle Shoppe, Duluth

Community focused, locally owned, and still sparkling after a full renovation in 2015, Mount Royal Bottle Shoppe has been Greater Minnesota’s go-to beer, wine, and liquor store since 1939. 

Silver: Historic Casanova Liquor, Hudson

Bronze: Liquor Mart, New Ulm

 

Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Happy Hour – Blue Door Pub

Tots. Beer. More tots. More beer. What else does one need in a happy hour? Blue Door dominates the (twice daily) happy hour game, especially since each of their four locations has its own specials. Visit them all and find your favorite. 

Silver: Red Cow

Bronze: Groveland Tap

 

Photo by JaneCane Photography

Brewery Taproom – Bent Paddle Brewing Company

Every detail of Bent Paddle’s new taproom has been meticulously executed: the 36-foot-long bar made from area maple trees, floor-to-ceiling windows illuminating local artwork, leather booth cushions custom-made, map-topped tables. It’s all a reflection of and complement to Duluth, and it’s your favorite place to relax with a beer. 

Silver: Surly Brewing Company

Bronze: Bobbing Bobber Brewing Company

 

Photo by Daniel Murphy

Photo by Daniel Murphy

Beertender – Jennifer Proesel, Lift Bridge Brewing Co.

Lift Bridge beertender Jennifer Proesel can make a pint a memorable experience. Whether she’s sharing beer knowledge or swapping stories, Jennifer makes patrons feel like they walked into an episode of “Cheers!” 

Silver: Josh Leddy, Back Channel Brewing Co.

Bronze: Travis Stanich, Barrel Theory Beer Company

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Photo via Lift Bridge Brewing Website

Photo via Lift Bridge Brewing Website

Beer Name – Hazy McHazeface, Lift Bridge Brewing Co.

Inspired by the unforgettable Boaty McBoatface incident of 2016, Hazy McHazeface is an IPA bursting with fruit aromas that is as delightful to order as it is to drink. 

Silver: Hopcromancer, Bad Weather Brewing

Bronze: Crazy Aunt, Insight Brewing

 

Photo via Fair State Brewing Cooperative Website

Beer Label – Spirit Føul, Fair State Brewing Cooperative

A Twister mat meets an eye exam meets a stereogram: That is the Spirit Føul label. It’s colorful and playful, and only gets more so once you’ve finished a tallboy (or two).

Silver: Hooey, Lupulin Brewing Company

Bronze: Hopcromancer, Bad Weather Brewing

 

Photo courtesy Franz Marti

Beer Tattoo – Franz Marti, Schell’s Brewery

You have to really love something to make it the centerpiece of a full-sleeve tattoo. Which would mean that Franz Marti really loves hops. A lot. 

Silver: Jason Dixon, Modist Brewing Co.

Bronze: Matt Klisiewicz, Bauhaus Brew Labs

 

Photo by Melissa Macki

Photo by Melissa Maki

Brewpub – Fitger’s Brewhouse

There were just four breweries in Minnesota when Fitger’s Brewhouse opened in 1995. Today there are more than 170, among which the Duluth staple still shines bright as it cranks out some 50 varieties of beer a year as well as some of the best food in the city. 

Silver: Town Hall Brewery

Bronze: Forager Brewery

 

A Growler Photo

A Growler Photo

Brewery – Dangerous Man Brewing Co.

Any night of the week, at any time of night, Dangerous Man is sure to be packed. But packed in a good way—an “all my friends are here” way. The Northeast Minneapolis brewery has built its reputation on making creative-but-balanced beers and not distributing, making it a mecca for beer lovers local and visiting alike. 

Silver: Schell’s Brewery

Bronze: Fair State Brewing Cooperative

 

Photo by Victoria Shoopman

Photo by Victoria Shoopman

New Brewery – Bobbing Bobber Brewing Company

Hutchinson’s first craft brewery is also your first-place pick among this year’s lineup of new breweries. Bobbing Bobber has the norm (IPA, Hefeweizen, porter) to the surprising (brown graf ale, Grodziskie, salted brown), and goes all in on its fishing theme with Porta-Docks-turned-taproom tables and a bar that resembles the stern of a boat.

Silver: Venn Brewing Company

Bronze: Invictus Brewing Co.

 

Photo courtesy Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

Photo courtesy Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

Out-Of-State Brewery – Toppling Goliath Brewing Co.

The bright and hoppy IPAs from Decorah, Iowa, have been the stuff of legend since they opened in 2009. Now that they’ve expanded to Minnesota, beers like Pseudo Sue, Pompeii, and Fire, Skulls & Money have made Toppling Goliath your favorite brewery from outside of the state.

Silver: Deschutes Brewery

Bronze: Bell’s Brewery

 

BEER STYLES

Photo courtesy Bauhaus Brew Labs

Photo courtesy Bauhaus Brew Labs

Lager – Bauhaus Wonderstuff

No flashy grains. No fancy hops. No bells, whistles, or glitter. Just beer: straightforward, clean-drinking, wonderful beer. When that’s what you’re craving, Bauhaus’ Wonderstuff is what you’re reaching for.  

Silver: Fair State Pils

Bronze: Summit Keller Pils

 

Photo courtesy Modist Brewing Company

Photo courtesy Modist Brewing Company

Specialty Grain Beer – Modist Dreamyard

Oats, wheat, and a whole lotta hops constitute the dream team that creates Dreamyard. The unique grain bill gives the beer a smooth texture and doubles as the ideal blanket for the truckload of Citra and Denali hops, resulting in this juicy, easy-to-drink hazy IPA. 

Silver: Fair State Keep the North Cold

Bronze: Modist False Pattern

 

Photo courtesy Lift Bridge Mango Blonde

Photo courtesy Lift Bridge Mango Blonde

Session Beer – Lift Bridge Mango Blonde 

Following the high-ABV, dark, malty beers of winter (and extended winter), Mango Blonde is a ray of freaking sunshine. The mango-kissed, light-bodied ale sings of warm weather, and is just sweet enough to erase any memories of late-spring snowstorms.

Silver: Indeed Lucy

Bronze: Surly Xtra-Citra

 

Photo courtesy Schell's Brewery

Photo courtesy Schell’s Brewery

Wheat Beer – Schell’s Hefeweizen

The first wheat beer made in the United States post-Prohibition, in 1984, Schell’s Hefeweizen is still the one to beat. It’s a little bit citrusy, a little bit banana-y, and a seasonal favorite for anyone craving an Old World classic made right here in Minnesota. 

Silver: Tin Whiskers Wheatstone Bridge

Bronze: Fair State Hefe

 

Photo courtesy Lift Bridge Brewing Company

Photo courtesy Lift Bridge Brewing Company

Belgian-style – Lift Bridge Farm Girl 

Lift Bridge’s most popular beer 10 years and counting is also your favorite Belgian-style beer for the third year in a row. The lightly peppery, mild saison tastes as good on a sweltering summer day as it does on a freezing winter night, and fits the bill for all the days in between, too.

Silver: Bauhaus Hairbanger

Bronze: Boom Island Brimstone

 

Photo courtesy Summit EPA

Photo courtesy Summit EPA

Pale Ale – Summit EPA

Perhaps the most important beer in Minnesota brewing history, EPA’s fans are legion and incredibly loyal. And for good reason: This extra pale ale is neither too hoppy nor too malty, sweet, or bitter. It’s exactly what you want it to be every time you drink it, and has been since its debut in 1986.  

Silver: Indeed Day Tripper

Bronze: Fair State Pahlay’Ahlay

 

Photo courtesy Fulton Brewing Company

Photo courtesy Fulton Brewing Company

Blonde Ale – Fulton Lonely Blonde

Can a beer that’s so well loved really be lonely? We’re not convinced, but we do know that Fulton’s slightly sweet, always smooth blonde ale has captured your hearts and your taste buds.

Silver: Lift Bridge Mango Blonde

Bronze: Bent Paddle Paddle Break

 

Photo courtesy Surly Brewing Company

IPA – Surly Axe Man

Your favorite IPA for four years in a row recently got a name change, but don’t worry: it’s still the flavor-packed, bold, balanced beer you know and love. Axe Man packs a punch in the best way possible, and is what you reach for when you’re craving an IPA.

Silver: Fair State Clarity of Purpose

Bronze: Steel Toe Size 7

 

Photo courtesy Lupulin Brewing Company

Double or Imperial IPA – Lupulin Blissful Ignorance

Weighing in at a whopping 9% ABV, don’t let the soft mouthfeel and juicy goodness of this heavy-hitter trick you: Lupulin’s “unapologetically hazy” double IPA will put you in a state of bliss sooner rather than later.

Silver: Surly Abrasive

Bronze: Modist Double Dreamyard

 

Photo courtesy Fair State Brewing Cooperative

Hazy or New England IPA – Fair State Mirror Universe

Hazy IPAs flooded the beer scene this year, and Fair State’s version rose to the top. The double-dry-hopped, 7% ABV, deep-gold IPA is made with wheat, oats, and oodles of hops, and is a lesson in balance in this classically push-it-to-the-extreme category.

Silver: Lupulin Hooey

Bronze: Lift Bridge Hazy McHazeface

 

Photo courtesy Lift Bridge Brewing Company

Photo courtesy Lift Bridge Brewing Company

Fruit Beer – Lift Bridge Mango Blonde

Fruit beers have it rough. Too much fruit and they become syrupy and sweet; not enough fruit and the flavor is lost. Neither problem exists with Lift Bridge’s spring seasonal: the sweetness of the mangoes laces the light-bodied ale with just the right amount of fruitiness, resulting in the beer you crave to drink when it’s time for the seasons to switch.

Silver: Grain Belt BLU

Bronze: Bauhaus Short Pants

 

Photo via Indeed Brewing Company Website

Spice or Specialty Beer – Indeed Lavender Sunflower Honey Dates

There’s no lack of flavor in this complex, funky, truly one-of-a-kind ale. With herbal/floral notes from the lavender, depth and richness from the sunflower honey, and an earthy fruitiness from the dates, “LSD” lives up to its abbreviation as a total trip of a beer.

Silver: Wild Mind Pass the Kvassier

Bronze: Insight Rowdy Uncle

 

Photo courtesy Fair State Brewing Cooperative

Photo courtesy Fair State Brewing Cooperative

Kettle Sour – Fair State Roselle

Intensely pink, tart but not piercing, balanced and fresh: Roselle reigns as the king of kettle sours. Soured with Fair State’s house lactobacillus strain and infused with hibiscus flowers, it looks like summer but hits the spot year-round.

Silver: Pryes Raspberry

Bronze: Indeed Lucy

 

Photo via Indeed Brewing Company Facebook

Spontaneous or Wild – Indeed Wooden Soul: Cherry Dust

It takes more than a year for the stars to align and Cherry Dust to emerge. The result of tart cherries, wild yeast, and bacteria mingling together in Indeed’s Wood-Aged Red Ale, it’s a beer unlike any other. Really: no two batches are exactly alike, which only adds to the magic.

Silver: Fair State Barrel-Fermented Du Pounde

Bronze: Schell’s Electrik Empress

 

Photo via Dangerous Man Brewing Company Facebook

Photo via Dangerous Man Brewing Company Facebook

Porter – Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter

Peanut butter is an elixir, a soother of sadness, a cure for all that ails. It’s also an ingredient that can quickly overtake any ingredients that are paired with it. Fortunately, the folks at Dangerous Man have dialed in the ideal peanut butter-to-porter ratio and created a beer that satisfies all of one’s cravings in one sublime pint. 

Silver: Summit Great Northern Porter

Bronze: Saint Paul’s Flat Earth Cygnus X1

 

Photo via Dangerous Man Brewing Company Facebook

Stout – Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout

Just like every kid in their right mind opted for chocolate milk over plain in the lunchroom, so, too, do adults flock to Dangerous Man to get their 21+ chocolate milk fix. The stout is creamy and sweet (but not overly so), and tastes just as good as that lunchtime treat did way back when. 

Silver: Summit Oatmeal Stout

Bronze: Fair State Giantsbane

 

More 2018 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Winners:

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