About Michael Agnew, A Perfect Pint

Michael has a passion for beer. He is Minnesota's first Certified Cicerone (think sommelier for beer) with the Cicerone Certification Program, and a National Beer Judge with the Beer Judge Certification Program. In addition, Michael is himself an award-winning brewer. He writes a monthly column on beer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Bob Was There: From Town Hall to BlackStack, Bob DuVernois’ career spans Minnesota’s craft beer history

Ask any old-school brewer how their fire was lit and the answer will almost always be, “I started homebrewing…” This holds true for Bob DuVernois, head brewer at BlackStack Brewing. His spark came in 1979 when he tasted a dark beer made by a friend’s father. Not a fan of the macro lagers that monopolized the … [ Read more]

The Taste Test: Blind Tasting 24 Minnesota Porters

This black beer in my glass, is it a porter or a stout? What’s the difference, really? In my opinion a beer is one or the other mainly because the brewer says it is. With the exception of certain easily identifiable modern styles like Irish Stout, the sensory differentiations are fluid. The lines that separate … [ Read more]

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Surly pushing brewing boundaries with the formulation of a crystal clear lager

Seeking a return to its radical roots, Surly Brewing Company has announced a new cutting-edge addition to its seasonal lineup—Crystal Surly™. Brewed especially for summer, this lager is almost entirely clear. “When people think of clear beer, they usually think of alcoholic malt beverages like Zima,” says co-head brewer Ben Smith. “But Crystal Surly™ is … [ Read more]

The Taste Test: Blind-tasting 25 Minnesota Pilsners

Whenever I visit a new brewery or taproom, if a Pilsner is available, it will be my first selection. It represents the perfect test of a brewer’s skill. Pilsner is a straightforward style. The recipe is simple—Pilsner malt, noble hops, lager yeast, and water. The profile is not overly complex—a blend of grainy malt sweetness, … [ Read more]

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Busting Up the Brotherhood of Beer: Time to confront sexism & harassment in the industry

Last April, the Brewers Association announced that it would no longer publicize medals won by beers with sexist names or labels. From now on, beers like Thong Remover, PD (Panty Dropper), and Pearl Necklace could win in competition, but the win would not be published. The comment threads and forum posts that followed the announcement … [ Read more]

Hazed and Confused: Defined style or passing fad–examining the fate of NEIPA

In 2009, craft beer was rocked by controversy. A new kind of beer was making the scene. It was dark like a stout, but heavily hopped like an IPA. What exactly was this strange chimera? What should it be called? Was it even a style? Factions formed. “It’s a Cascadian dark ale!” proclaimed one side, … [ Read more]

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The artful science of beer and food pairings

Taste begins with chemistry. Esters, phenols, aldehydes, linear-terpenes, ketones, lactones, thiols, and a host of other compounds lock into olfactory receptors, sending electric pulses through the olfactory bulb and into the inner sanctums of the brain. On the tongue, a different set of chemicals stimulate sensations of bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and umami. These stimuli—smell … [ Read more]

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The Taste Test: Blind-tasting 53 Minnesota IPAs

Blind tastings. If you’ve never done one, you should. Comparing beers of similar style without the biases and preconceptions that come with brand identification is humbling at the very least. It’s mind-blowing at best. Beloved beers fall short of expectations. That much-derided brew suddenly gains new luster. You’re left with the realization that you don’t … [ Read more]

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The thirsty business of beer: How breweries are confronting the industry’s water problem

The pentagon is worried about water. A 2012 National Security Assessment called climate change-induced water shortages the greatest threat to global security. The report warned of impacts on food and energy production, which would lead to political instability and mass migrations as water conflicts erupt between farmers and city dwellers, ethnic groups, and upstream and … [ Read more]

Crap Beer: Slipping standards & lack of quality control threaten the industry

Let’s just put it out there: There’s a lot of bad beer being made these days. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good beer as well—even some great beer. The rapid expansion of small breweries has brought with it a new breed of innovative brewers cranking out finely tuned beers of all shapes … [ Read more]

Style Profile: Why is it called Belgian Tripel?

“Why is this beer called a ‘tripel’?” I am asked that question a lot. There are nearly as many explanations for the Belgian style designations “single,” “dubbel,” and “tripel” as there are drinkers who love imbibing them. Is it called a tripel because it’s brewed with three times the grain? Is it boiled three times? … [ Read more]

5 factors driving the evolution of Minnesota beer

August Schell Brewing Company marked its 150th anniversary in 2010, a milestone that only a handful of other breweries can claim. The brewing industry has changed a lot in those 150 years: the advent of mechanical refrigeration, the ascension of the first beer barons, Prohibition, industry consolidation, near bankruptcy, and the rise of the craft … [ Read more]

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Style Profile: Pumpkin Ales

Pumpkin beers are a love ’em or leave ’em proposition. Those who love them eagerly await October (or July as is often the case these days). They can’t wait to snatch up six-packs or bombers of the latest gourd-infused grog. Those who hate them… well, they really hate them. Whichever side you fall on, the … [ Read more]

Brewers Association’s Paul Gatza on AB InBev–SABMiller Mega-Deal & what it means for craft beer

The beer world shook with the September 16th announcement that brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev was weighing financing options for a takeover of fellow behemoth SABMiller. Rumors and speculation about such a merger have swirled since at least 2008, when St. Louis based Anheuser-Busch was purchased by the Belgian-based InBev in a hostile takeover. This time though, … [ Read more]

Style Profile: American Amber Ale

Fall comes quickly in Minnesota. The steamy heat of August yields almost overnight to the relieving snap of September. The days get rapidly shorter. By the end of the month the first blazes of orange and red are appearing in the trees. September is arguably the best month to be in Minnesota. The air is … [ Read more]