Beers for Bob: 10 perfect pairings honoring Dylan’s Nobel Prize


Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited // Photo via Flickr user mtarvainen, CC 2.0

Bob Dylan became the first singer-songwriter to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

In honor of this achievement by one of Minnesota’s most recognizable native sons, here are 10 of our favorite Dylan songs or albums and their perfect Minnesota beer companion.

“Blonde on Blonde” – Bemidji Brewing German Blonde & Fulton Lonely Blonde

With a freshly-minted bronze medal from this year’s Great American Beer Festival, grab a pint of Bemidji Brewing’s German Blonde in one hand and a bottle of Fulton’s Lonely Blonde in the other for the perfect complement to Dylan’s 1966 “Blonde on Blonde.”

“Highway 61 Revisited” – Castle Danger Brewing Mosaic Fresh Hop IPA

In his memoir, “Chronicles: Volume One,” Dylan had this to say about the road that inspired the name of his 1965 album: “Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of the country blues, begins about where I began. I always felt like I’d started on it, always had been on it and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep Delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one-horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors […] It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.” Situated just blocks from Highway 61 in Two Harbors, grab something from Castle Danger Brewing, like their Mosaic Fresh Hop IPA due out next week, as you throw on this Dylan classic.

“Blood on the Tracks” – Blood Orange Traitor from Badger Hill Brewing

Badger Hill’s Blood Orange Traitor was one of our favorite beers at the 8th Annual Summer Beer Dabbler and Badger Hill recently bottled a limited run of it. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Dylan’s 1975 “Blood on the Tracks.”

“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” – Sociable Cider Werks Freewheeler

This 1963 release includes some of Dylan’s most well-known songs, including “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Girl from the North Country.” Pair it with a pint of Sociable Cider Werks’ Freewheeler Dry Apple.

“Maggie’s Farm” – Maggie’s Leap from NorthGate Brewing


Maggie’s Leap // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Bob Dylan drew a line in the sand at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when he played a set that featured more of an electric blues/rock and roll sound than the acoustic folk sound he was known for up until then. The rendition of “Maggie’s Farm” he played during that set was one of the songs at the center of the controversy surrounding the performance, with Dylan playing much faster and more aggressive than the recorded version from “Bringing It All Back Home.” It was a first for Dylan, which makes it the perfect pairing for Minnesota’s first canned nitro beer, NorthGate’s Maggie’s Leap.

“Like A Rolling Stone” – Olvalde Rollingstoner

While listening to what might be Dylan’s most recognizable song, reach for Rollingstoner from Olvalde Farmhouse Ales, which is located in… wait for it… Rollingstone, Minnesota. The beer is an unfiltered real ale, which is an apt description of Dylan himself.

“All Along The Watchtower” – Surly Witch’s Tower Session Brown Ale


Surly Witch’s Tower // Photo via Surly Facebook page

Dylan spent time living in Dinkytown around 1959 and it’s rumored that “All Along The Watchtower” was partly inspired by the Witch’s Hat Tower in Prospect Park, which Dylan would have been able to see from his Dinkytown dwelling. When Surly was getting ready to open their Minneapolis destination brewery in 2014, they named this session brown ale after the landmark, which can be seen from their patio.

“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” – Steel Toe Rainmaker

Steel Toe’s double red ale, brewed “a torrent of hops,” is the perfect companion to this 1963 song that evokes stories of injustice, suffering, pollution, and warfare.

“The Basement Tapes” – Fair State/Fulton/Oakhold Frontenac

Barrels at Fair State Brewing Co-op

Barrels in the basement at Fair State Brewing Co-op // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Apparently magical things can happen in basements. Exhibit A: The songs featuring Dylan’s vocals on “The Basement Tapes” were recorded in houses in and around Woodstock, New York, where Dylan and The Band lived in 1967. Exhibit B: Nearly every square inch that’s not being used for some other purpose in Fair State’s basement is being used to age beer in barrels. Frontenac is a barrel-fermented sour beer made collaboration with Fulton and Oakhold that was aged in Frontenac and Marquette wine barrels from Parley Lake Winery.

“Forever Young” – August Schell Brewing’s Noble Star series


Cypress Blanc, a release in Schell’s Noble Star series // Photo courtesy of Schell’s

At more than 150 years old, Schell’s is the oldest brewery in Minnesota and the second oldest family-owned brewery in the country. Instead of using their age as an excuse to rest on their laurels, however, Schell’s continues to innovate, living up to a line from this 1974 Dylan classic: “May your hands always be busy, May your feet always be swift, May you have a strong foundation when the winds of change shift.” Schell’s Noble Star series deserves a lion’s share of the credit for sparking the current popularity of mixed-fermentation, or “sour,” beers in Minnesota, making it the perfect pairing for “Forever Young.”

About Keith Grauman

Keith Grauman is the web editor at The Growler. When he's not drinking beer at work, he can be found homebrewing, reading comics or playing with his kids in the front yard of his south Minneapolis home.

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