Harvest Season: Minnesota’s Bounty of Fall Brews

Lift Bridge's Pickin' and Grinnin'

Lift Bridge’s Pickin’ and Grinnin’ fest is an annual celebration of the hop harvest / Photo by Jeff Wegge / Courtesy of Lift Bridge Brewing Co.

Fall is officially upon us.  The harvest season offers more than perfect sweatshirt weather, football on TV, and the scenic majesty of autumn in the Midwest. This time of year also happens to be a busy one in terms of beer. Craft breweries across the country (and the world) are releasing their varied versions of  the fall seasonal—from fresh-hopped brews to classic Märzen/Oktoberfest style offerings. Minnesota is no exception. Whether it’s an award-winning Oktoberfest, a beer brewed with fresh hops grown right here in Minnesota, or a classic brown ale—there are plenty of great options to help you cope with your Seasonal Affect Disorder.

Minnesota-made Fall Seasonals:

612Brew Oktoberfest (5.5% ABV)

612Brew’s Head Brewer Adam brewed this Oktoberfest lager with Pilsen, Vienna, and Munich malts balanced with noble hops. 612Brew says it is “a wonderful rich, malty beer with a color reminiscent of the seasonal falling leaves.” You can find this beer on tap right now at the brewery.

Barley John’s Oktoberfest (7.71% ABV)

Barley John’s Brew Pub makes their traditional Oktoberfest beer in their German-made brewhouse in New Brighton using the traditional decoction mash process. Made with Pilsener, Vienna, and Munich malts, and Hallertau and Mt. Ranier hops, this Märzen is available in pints, pitchers, growlers at Barley John’s Brew Pub.

Bemidji Rye Saison (6.75% ABV)

Bemidji Brewing is kicking off their first fall with two fall seasonals. The first is a rye saison brewed with unmalted rye that the brewery says “is full of malty goodness paired with that classic Saison spice.” Bemidji is taking the Saison season into the fall and clocking in at 6.75% ABV, it will prove to be a good companion on a chilly night this October.

Hop Harvest Celebration

Bemidji Brewing Company is having a Hop Harvest Celebration on Oct 5

Bemidji Brewing Co. Fresh Hop Red Ale

The second of Bemidji’s fall seasonals, their Fresh Hop Red Ale takes advantage of the local hops harvest. Utilizing fresh Nugget and Cascade hops from their friends’ hop yards. This red ale will be released on October 5 at their Hop Harvest Celebration at the brewery.

Boathouse Brewpub Oktoberfest

On October 1st, this Oktoberfest will be available at the brewpub. Autumn in Ely and Oktoberfest beer? Sounds like its worth the trip.

Boom Island Thoprock Wet IPA (8.0% ABV)

Take Boom Island’s Thoprock IPA and add in freshly picked wet hops. This wet hopped IPA is Boom Island’s fall seasonal and should be available very soon.

Boom Island Thoprock Wet

Boom Island is wet-hopping their Thoprock IPA

Canal Park Wet Hop Harvest Ale (6.8% ABV)

From Canal Park: “As CPBC prepares for the final days of summer, camp counselor Badger Colish led a group of spirited amateur-farmers out to Brule River Hilltop Hops to harvest these ethereal, fleeting and volatile little beasts. After picking the hops, the group had just 6 hours to make a brew as bitter as the camp cook’s attitude during a food fight. More than 200 pounds of fresh, wet hops were hand harvested to concoct this complex Ale with hella hop aroma. Happy wet hop American Summer, campers.”

2013 Canal Park Wet Hop

Badger Colish adding some of the 200 pounds of hops to the 2013 Canal Park Wet Hop

Excelsior Brewing Bitteschlappe Brown Ale (6.8% ABV)

From Excelsior Brewing: “Heilige Kuh! Es ist die Bitteschlappe! Our traditional Munich style brown ale features a medium body with brisk carbonation and a Munich sweetness carrying the beer to a soft finish. The quintessential beer for your main course, enjoy with a savory steak or pork dish.”

Fitger’s Brewhouse Oktoberfest Wiesn (6.1% ABV)

From Fitger’s: “It’s brewed strictly according to the Bavarian beer purity law of 1516 and made only from the best natural ingredients available. It has the character of a typically light bottom-fermented festival beer—a deep golden yellow, with a balanced harmonious taste and the pleasant fragrance of hops.”

Flat Earth Mummy Train Pumpkin Ale (5.2% ABV)

Mummy-powered locomotives were once a frequent sight throughout Egypt, conveying gold, spices and mystical artifacts across the vast desert sands. They have since faded until innuendo and rumor, their presence diminishing with the power of the pharaohs. Now, the Mummy Train of yore passes by just once a year. You may hear its ancient howl in warmer months, but dismiss it as deja vu. The train’s siren song grows through the summer until its unmistakable wail builds to a crescendo in the fall.

Fulton Brewing's Libertine Imperial Red Ale

Fulton Brewing’s Libertine Imperial Red Ale

Fulton Brewing Libertine Imperial Red Ale (8.5% ABV)

A libertine is someone living free of society’s restraints. Similarly, The Libertine doesn’t constrain itself with preconceived notions of what a beer style should be. Loaded with malts that include the UK’s premium Maris Otter and Caramel 60, and topped off with Rye to impart a distinct reddish hue, the Libertine is a malt-dominated red ale like none you’ve ever had before. It boasts a rich, indulgent body without being overly sweet. Conventional classifications fail The Libertine, but who really wants to play by the rules anyway?

Castle Danger Fresh Hop(s)

This north coast destination brewery brewed two fresh-hopped beers this year—a fresh Mosaic and a fresh Cascade with Brewers Gold from Brule River Hill Top Hops. Make your way up to the brewery for a growler for your next autumn adventure.

Dangerous Man Vanilla Porter

Chocolate & Roasted Barley malts, and vanilla from five different parts of the world (Mexico, Indonesia, Uganda, Madagascar, and India). Stop into Dangerous Man for a pint of this rich, complex Porter. Brewed with 2-row Rahr, Marris Otter, several Crystal malts, Aromatic, Special B, Chocolate, and roasted barley—this beer is sure to take the chill from your bones on these autumn eves.

Great Waters St. Catherine’s Harvest Ale (5.6% ABV)

From Great Waters: “This deep red ale is made with European oats, barley, and wheat. English hops compliment the multilayered malt bill. It’s a great way to welcome back autumn. St. Catherine, a philosopher and martyr, was a favorite of Irish poets. Realta [an] chruinne Caitir Fhiona.”

Lake Superior Brewing Oktoberfest

From Lake Superior: “Our first Oktoberfest held at the brewery was a resounding success! All German malt hops and authentic German Oktoberfest yeast rounded out to a true German Märzen beer. It’s as close to Germany as you can get without going over the pond. O.G. 1.068”

Harriet Brewing Rauchfest (5.5% ABV)

From Harriet: “Rauchfest is our German-Style Smoked Lager. It celebrates Oktoberfest the Harriet way, with a smoldering savoriness! The 50% beechwood-smoked malt and tinge of noble hop character contribute a balanced layer of complexity to this toasty brew. The drink is medium-bodied with a moderately dry finish.”

A mug awaiting a pour of HARRIET'S RAUCHFEST German-Style Smoked Lager

A mug awaiting a pour of HARRIET’S RAUCHFEST German-Style Smoked Lager

Harriet Brewing Märzen / Oktoberfest (5.0% ABV)

From Harriet: “[Our] Märzen is our interpretation of a traditional German Märzen/Oktoberfest, and it’s all about the malt. Märzens were brewed in the Spring, cellared for the summer, and consumed in the late summer and early autumn months culminating to the Oktoberfest celebration (Rauchfest on September 28th). Notes of toasted malt dominate the aroma and flavor. A blend of Vienna, Munich, and Pilsner malts provide a richness up front that gives way to a moderately dry finish with a faint noble hop character.”

The Herkimer Oktoberfest (7.0% ABV)

From The Herkimer” [Our] Oktoberfest is a strong version of our Märzen Lager, we brew a batch or two of this each fall to commemorate the great Munich Oktoberfest. Reddish in color, forward malty flavors and higher alcohol give this beer a sweet flavor.” This beer is released in late September or early October.

Sweet Yamma Jamma

Fresh Sweet Yamma Jamma coming off the canning line at Indeed.

Indeed Sweet Yamma Jamma (5.0% ABV)

From Indeed: “Indeed chef-ed up something special for fall with Sweet Yamma Jamma, a spiced sweet potato ale. Brewed with pulverized sweet potatoes, candied yams, and a special blend of spices, Yamma Jamma is full of flavors and aromas that pair well with fall colors and crisp nights.”

Mankato Leaf Raker (6.9% ABV)

From Mankato: “When the seasons change, so too do our outdoor chores. Leaf Raker is named after the perennial task that is laid before us, and rewards that hard work with malty, nutty flavors and hints of caramel, smoke, and roasted malt. Take a break with Mankato Brewery’s newest Center Street Series Limited Release Series, those leaves will still be there when you get back.”

Growler_2013_FreshHopMinneapolis Town Hall Brewery Fresh Hop 100 (6.1% ABV)

Not only does Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery make a wet-hopped beer—their Fresh Hop 100 is brewed with 100% wet hops—they’re also throwing a party. The Fresh Hop Fest: “America’s Oktoberfest” will feature  more than 20 fresh-hopped beers on tap. The event will take place Saturday, Oct 19, 2013 fro 2-7 pm. Outside of Town Hall Lanes.

Jack Pine Brewery Harvest Red IPA

From Jack Pine: “It’s hop harvest season, so it’s time for Harvest Red IPA! This bold ruby beauty is dosed with a heavy hand of hops fresh off the bine giving the beer a brightness that can only be found in fresh (or wet) hopped beers. Look for it to hit the taproom mid-October.”

Lift Bridge Harvestör (6.0% ABV)

From Lift Bridge: “Celebrate the hop harvest with this bounty of fresh-hopped IPA. Organic Cascade hops fresh from Hippity Hops Farms in Forest Lake, MN impart this beer with its unique hop character, while aromatic and caramel malts hold things down in the back, creating a balanced beer that celebrates the hop harvest without sacrificing your tongue. Pairs well with bluegrass music that’s created by the volunteers who pick the hops.”

Lucid Foto (Fresh)

A wet hop version of Lucid’s FOTO.We don’t know a lot about this brew, but  last we heard it was being filtered (9/26) and should be available soon.


Summit Oktoberfest (6.6% ABV)

From Summit: “Brewed in the classic Märzen style with Northern Brewer hops from Germany. Rich, toffee malt flavors up front with a clean hop finish as crisp as the autumn air. Unfortunately, like the fall colors, this seasonal beer is gone before you know it.”

Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub Wild Rice Amber (6.6% ABV)

From Northbound: “An American Amber Ale brewed with Minnesota grown wild rice. 5% of the grain is wild rice giving this beer a unique flavor of nuttiness, earthiness and a hint of vanilla.”

Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub Granola Girl Pale Ale (5.3 ABV)

From Northbound: “An American Pale Ale brewed with English Golden Naked Oats. Oats add a nutty and berry flavor. Finished with earthy Willamette hops to compliment the oat flavors.”

Rock Bottom Rocktoberfest (5.3 ABV)

From Rock Bottom: “An award-winning German-style Oktoberfest lager has a rich, toasted malt character and a subtle hop finish.”

Schell’s Fresh Hop Mosaiac Pils

Schell’s Fresh Hop with Mosaiac Pils

Schell’s Fresh Hop Mosaiac Pils

Following the success of Schell’s Fresh Hop Citra Pils last year, the oldest family-owned brewery in Minnesota will release the first in a series of fresh hop pilsners during prime hop harvesting season. The first Fresh Hop Pilsner in the series will be a single-hop pilsner using Mosaic hops, which they say are “floral, tropical, fruity, earthy, and sweet” with notes of “blueberry, mango, lemon, lime, other citrus, pine, fruit punch, herbs, spice, stone fruit, mint, bubblegum, and black pepper.” Whew! Mosaic indeed. This is going to be a very limited brew with only 100 barrels being made and distributed in 6-packs and 1/6 barrel kegs. Be on the lookout for release dates in the coming months.

Schell’s Oktoberfest (5.5% ABV)

From Schell’s: “The Oktoberfest or Märzen (March) type of beer was originally brewed in March, and laid down in caves before the summer weather rendered brewing impossible. Stocks would be drawn upon heavily during the summer, and exhausted by October. In Germany, this tradition has come to be associated with one specific style, Oktoberfest Bier. In keeping with true German tradition, August Schell Oktoberfest beer is brewed just once a year. Brewed with the perfect balance of Pale, Munich, and Cara Pils malt with Liberty and Perle hops to create a rich, smooth taste.”

“August Schell’s Annual Oktoberfest beer just keeps getting better and better. It is big, full bodied, complex, balanced, smooth and delicious. It’s hard to ask a beer to be all of those, but it is.”

– James D Robertson, author, A Connoisseurs Guide To Beer.

Steel Toe Dissent Dark Ale (7.0% ABV)

From Steel Toe: Bold and complex from a tremendous amount of roasted malts, yet smooth and rich from the addition of oats. Dissent has its own opinion of what a dark beer should be.

surly-surlyfestSurly WET (7.5% ABV)

From Surly: “1,200 lbs of hops picked fresh in Michigan and shipped to Minnesota immediately. From bine to brew in less than 24 hours. Utilizing in-house-designed wet hop steeping tanks, this IPA uses 10 pounds of wet hops per barrel, resulting in a resiny and dank IPA.”

Surly Surlyfest (6.0% ABV)

From Surly: “A traditional Oktoberfest bier from Surly? Nein! If you want one of those, grab your passport and head over to Munchen (bring us back some pretzels.) SurlyFest is brewed with three different types of Rye and a single variety of American Hops. Malted Rye, Flaked Rye, and Crystal Rye impart a distinctive biscuit flavor to the lush Vienna Malt body, and dry-hopping with Sterling Hops adds bright, floral hop aromas. A single hop, dry-hopped, rye lager bier? Ja!”

Third Street Jack’d Up (5.4% ABV)

This autumn ale incorporates flavors that will compliment autumn season celebrations and food pairings for all of the servings for a banquet. This is a traditional autumn style ale jacked up with pumpkin spices. Six different malts combine for a mild malty taste with a perfect level of spiciness to remind you of our autumn season.

Vine Park Oktoberfest

A medium-body amber lager, balanced with toasty notes from the use of Vienna Malt. Very clean finishing. Available in growlers at Vine Park.

Or stop by and brew your own batch of Oktoberfest with your friends. Reserve a brew kettle today by visiting vinepark.com.

After sampling the locally brewed fall seasonals, dig into some national favorites . . .

Try some great fall beers from around the country:

Abita Brewing Pecan Harvest (5.2% ABV)

Bell’s Brewery Best Brown Ale

Brooklyn Brewery Octoberfest

Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale

Central Waters Brewing Octoberfest Lager

Deschutes Brewery Hop Trip (5.5%)

Epic Brewing Fest Devious

Goose Island Oktoberfest

Grand Teton Brewing Bone Warmer Imperial Amber Ale

Great Lakes Brewing Oktoberfest

Hinterland Brewing Oktoberfest

Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Lager

Lakefront Brewery Oktoberfest

Left Hand Brewing Oktoberfest (6.6% ABV)

Millstream Brewing Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout

New Belgium Brewing Pumpkick

Sam Adams Octoberfest (5.3%)

Sierra Nevada Brewing Harvest (6.7% ABV)

Shiner Oktoberfest

Shipyard Brewing Pumpkinhead

Southern Tier Brewing Harvest Ale

Southern Tier Brewing Pumking

Southern Tier 2x Rye

Two Brothers Brewing Company Atom Smasher

Victory Brewing Festbier (5.6%)

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Widmer Brothers Okto

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