2015 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners


Best Bottle Shop (MSP) – Zipps Liquor


Zipps Liquor // Photo via facebook.com/zippsliquor

How do we love Zipps? Let us count the ways. The expanded cooler space in the back, giving us more cold local beer. The mix and match six-pack selection. Access to rare and limited beers. But during their in-store tastings, when we get to drink and chat with their funny and personable staff— well, that’s what keeps us coming back.

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

Mount Royal facebook.com:mountroyalbottleshoppe

Mount Royal Bottle Shoppe // Photo via facebook.com/mountroyalbottleshoppe

You know better than to panic when you get halfway to the North Shore and realize you’ve forgotten to fill your cooler with beer. Why? You know Mount Royal Bottle Shoppe is there, ready to fulfill all your craft beer needs. From local favorites to national treasures, it’s all there, waiting to welcome you to the North.

Best Craft Beer Bar (MSP) – Happy Gnome

The Happy Gnome // Photo by Joseph Alton

Happy Gnome // Photo by Joseph Alton

In a beer scene that moves faster than a riptide, it’s easy to get swept away in the sea of new beers. Luckily, craft beer enthusiasts can anchor down at St. Paul’s Happy Gnome and take refuge in its extensive, well-curated beer list and knowledgeable staff. Add to that a fine selection of Scotch and Irish whiskeys, a warm atmosphere, and a food menu that lives up to the gastropub title, and you’ve got the best craft beer bar in the Metro.

Best Craft Beer Bar (Greater MN) – Tycoon’s Alehouse, Duluth


Duluths Tycoons Alehouse // Photo via facebook.com/duluth.tycoons

Located in a historic building on Superior Street, Tycoon’s Alehouse is stocked with fresh craft beer from Fitger’s Brewhouse and dishes like pot roast, smoked fish, and steak from locally raised Scottish Highland beef cattle. Live music from Duluth’s up-and-coming artists and hometown favorites Charlie Parr and 4onthefloor round things out, making it your favorite craft beer bar in greater Minnesota.

Best Happy Hour – Red Cow, Minneapolis

Red Cow Oskar Blues Burger // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Red Cow Oskar Blues Burger // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

There’s no shortage of happy hour options in the North Loop, but when you’re done working, you’re looking to dig into poutine, wings, and beers at Red Cow. And just in case your quest for burgers and cocktails runs late into the evening, you can get your onion ring fix at a second happy hour from 10pm until close.

Best Beertender – Sam Holzinger, Dangerous Man


Sam Holzinger // Photo courtesy of Dangerous Man

The cleanest glassware, expert knowledge of the beers on tap, and executing perfect pours with just the right amount of head—these are the responsibilities great beertenders shoulder so patrons can just enjoy each sip of suds. Dangerous Man Brewing Company’s taproom manager Sam Holzinger not only wows you with his knowledgeable service, but his personality makes even first-time visitors feel like Norm from “Cheers.”

MN Homebrew LogoBest Homebrew Club – Minnesota Home Brewers Association

Minnesota Home Brewers Association has been helping brewers craft better beer at home by hosting regular meetings, sharing brewing techniques, organizing club trips to breweries, and competing since 1986. With more than 150 members, it’s no wonder this is your choice for best homebrew club.

Best Homebrew Store – Northern Brewer

Northern Brewer 1

Northern Brewer

A brewer is only as good as her ingredients. Thankfully, Northern Brewer’s two Minnesota locations and robust online store are supplying local homebrewers with everything they need to brew that next batch of IPA, smoked porter, or braggot. The staff’s expansive knowledge in brewing techniques and recipe formulation makes every trip to the store an educational experience.

Best Beer Artist – Adam Turman


Adam Turman // Photo via facebook.com/Art-of-Adam-Turman

From murals on the walls of breweries, restaurants, and bottle shops, to commemorative prints and beer labels, Adam Turman’s instantly recognizable style has become nearly synonymous with the Twin Cities craft beer scene. Both modern and nostalgic, his work reminds us where we’ve been and hints at where we might be heading.

Best Beer Industry Beard – Mark Schwandt, Bauhaus Brew Labs

Mark Schwandt

Mark Schwandt of Bauhaus Brew Labs // Photo courtesy of Mark Schwandt

Like a fine lager, the best beards are crafted with time and patience. This year, Mark Schwandt of Bauhaus Brew Labs ascends the Beard King throne thanks to his glorious red mane—so impressive it would make even the burliest pirate captain weep. Fiery, thick, and a bit wild, Schwandt’s beard was a thing to behold.

Best Beer Tattoo – Tiki Tischleder, Wabasha Brewing

Tiki Tischleder

Tiki Tischleder of Wabasha Brewing // Photo courtesy of Tiki Tischleder

Wabasha Brewing co-owner Tiki Tischleder wears his love of hops on his sleeve—literally. Each of Tiki’s forearms are adorned with the names and depictions of five varieties of hops—in alphabetical order, no less—from Cascade, Chinook, Crystal, Fuggle, and Galena on his right, to Hallertau, Liberty, Mt. Hood, Nugget, and Willamette on his left. Your move, all other hop-heads.

Best Beer Branding – Surly Brewing

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Few beer brands are as well-defined and unabashed as Surly. Loud, in-your-face, unapologetic, and set to a soundtrack of heavy metal, Surly’s brand leaves beer drinkers with two choices: get on board or get out of the way. Choosing a different local artist to create art for SurlyFest, Darkness, and their anniversary beers ensures their labels and posters are being constantly reinvented while staying true to their core.

Best Cidery – Sociable Cider Werks

Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson of Sociable Cider Werks // Photo courtesy Sociable Cider Werks

Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson of Sociable Cider Werks // Photo courtesy Sociable Cider Werks

It may have been that not a single Minnesotan knew about graffs before Sociable Cider Werks came along. Now, we can’t imagine life without Freewheeler, Spoke Wrench, and Hop-A-Wheelie. Their Northeast Minneapolis annex is our go-to spot for a midday pint and whatever Ian Gray is serving up from the Curious Goat food truck. Apples to apples, they’re the best cidery around.

Best Brewpub – Fitger’s Brewhouse

Fitger's Brewhouse - Maki 5

Fitger’s Brewhouse // Photo by Melissa Maki

There are a few non-negotiable stops when you visit Duluth. A latte at Duluth Coffee Company. Smoked fish at Northern Waters. And a pint at Fitger’s Brewhouse. Over its 20-year history, the Brewhouse has crafted several award-winning beers, but nothing says Duluth quite like a burger and a Starfire Pale as you watch the wind whip over Lake Superior.

Best New Brewery – Fair State Brewing Cooperative


Fair State head brewer Niko Tonks // Photo by Aaron Davidson

When the third co-op brewery in the U.S. opened in Northeast Minneapolis, people didn’t know what to think. It was different, new. And, as it turns out, fantastic. Fair State head brewer Niko Tonks cranks out unique beers faster than we can tie our shoes, they opened a beer garden this summer, and there are dozens of great places to eat within a few blocks of the front door. What’s not to love?

Best Brewery – Surly Brewing


Surly Cultivate // Photo by Aaron Davidson

You camp out for Darkness, you pack their yard for SurlyFest, their beers are full of flavor and attitude, and the beer hall is full of sausage and brisket. With a rabid fan base spreading the good word nationwide, Surly Brewing is becoming shorthand for the best that Minnesota beer has to offer.

Best Out-of-State Brewery – Deschutes Brewery


Deschutes // Photo via facebook.com/deschutes.brewery

A one-trick pony Deschutes certainly is not. Their porters and stouts are as sought after as their more hop-forward beers, and all sit comfortably among the best in their respective style categories. In an era where it seems like the new guys in town get all the attention, it’s stalwarts like Deschutes that are proving that craft beer isn’t a passing fad.

Beer Styles

Best Session Beer – Steel Toe Size 4

This beer beat out 160 other entries at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival to take silver in the session IPA category. While Steel Toe sometimes flies under the radar in the Minnesota craft beer scene, those in the know will tell you this St. Louis Park brewery is making some of the best beer in the state.

Best Pale Ale – Indeed Day Tripper

Indeed’s flagship Day Tripper has quietly become a go-to pale ale for many Minnesotans, which is certainly saying something in this state. With huge, dank hop character and a malt profile that’s more sidekick than leading lady, this 45 IBU pale ale feels as right on sunny, summer days as it does in the dead of winter.

Best Wheat Beer – Schell’s Hefeweizen

The grandfather of all Minnesota wheat beers is still the crowd favorite. Schell’s has been brewing hefeweizen for over three decades and their experience shows in every cloudy, yeasty, delicious pint.

Best Belgian-Style – Dangerous Man Belgian Golden Strong

At 10.4% ABV, Dangerous Man’s Belgian golden strong ale is true to its name. But more than just boozy, this Belgian-style ale has pear and other milder fruits on the nose, with biscuit, candy, and toffee flavors on the palate. The finish is slightly hot and warms all the way down. It’ll have you dreaming of moules frites, chocolate, and waffles.

Best Lager – Summit Oktoberfest

Ein prosit! To Summit Oktoberfest, a beer that ushers in the fall festival each year with traditional rustic German märzen flavors. The anticipation and excitement for this fall seasonal is palpable, and just like the Oktoberfest celebration, after it’s gone we’re left yearning for next autumn.

Best IPA – Surly Todd the Axe Man

Surly isn’t exactly known for subtlety. And that’s a good thing, especially when it comes to IPAs. Todd the Axe Man delivers an assault of Citra and Mosaic hops. It’s a tropical storm of fruit and unapologetically bitter. Simply put, it’s a Surly.

Best Fruit/Spice/Specialty –Indeed Yamma Jamma Harvest Ale

Every autumn, when gallons of pumpkin ales clog the seasonal shelf, Indeed’s Yamma Jamma comes along and reminds us what a fall beer should be. It’s a comforting, spice-inflected beer with a luscious sweet potato body for which we’d trade our last slice of pumpkin pie.

Best Sour – Surly Pentagram

Sours are one of the hottest styles of the year, and more breweries are doing them better than ever. Surly Pentagram, a 100% Brettanomyces-fermented dark ale, takes home the award for best sour for a second year in a row. Bold and lip-puckering, this sour packs a punch with cherries on the nose and light tobacco flavors on the finish.

Best Porter – Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter

For most of us as kids, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were among the most coveted items from our annual Halloween hauls. Dangerous Man’s Peanut Butter Porter proves that even as we grow older and our tastes mature, we’re all still kids at heart. This beer is a crowd-favorite at festivals and Dangerous Man’s taproom alike.

Best Stout – Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout

Silky smooth and as comforting as cozying up to a roaring fire wrapped in your favorite blanket on a cold winter night, there’s a reason everybody raves about Dangerous Man’s Chocolate Milk Stout. Put simply, it meets all of your requirements for a perfect stout, and then some.

Best Local Cider – Sociable Cider Werks Freewheeler

Not too sweet and not too dry, light and crisp and with just a touch of bitterness and body thanks to Willamette hops, Sociable’s Freewheeler isn’t your average cider. Made with Minnesota-favorite Haralson, Honeycrisp, and SweeTango apples, it’s become as much a local staple as the bike.

2015 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Award Winners: Beer, Spirits, Food, Culture

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