Rye Pale Ale at the Herkimer in Minneapolis

Straight from the Source visits a Minneapolis institution.

By Doug Hoverson
Photo courtesy of The Herkimer

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It’s been a successful neighborhood bar—and a popular Packer bar during football games. Minnesota’s fifth-oldest brewpub has developed along the lines founder Blake Richardson set back in 1999. However, one part of the founding vision may have kept The Herkimer from catching on with the Twin Cities craft beer community as much as other brewpubs—the decision to make only traditional German-style beers. While this still allowed for Gose and Berliner Weisse, as well as a range of seasonal lagers, it excluded a lot of styles in demand by local hopheads. Minnesota is an incubator for variety and extreme styles—what Richardson described as “beers that fall under the category of remarkable.”

The decision to open the brewhouse to more styles came a few years ago, after Richardson happened upon a German video of an interview with Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman. In the interview Grossman praised the German styles, but lamented that German brewers could brew even more outstanding beers if they would consider less-traditional styles. As Richardson said, this wasn’t exactly a revolutionary idea, but it made sense. Some of the first experiments were to make the German styles remarkable. Guests at Winterfest in February 2012 may remember the 11% ABV Doppelsticke Alt Bier or the Toripuru Triple Bock fermented with sake yeast.

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Today, visitors to The Herkimer will find a menu that is balanced between ales and lagers. The brewers agree that it has worked out well. They have been getting a lot of good feedback on their ales, and Richardson concludes: “It’s nice to be able to offer our version of something they want.” The beer list in recent months has also included Baltic porter, a West Coast IPA, a Belgian Pale Ale, and a variety of stouts from their Small Batch Series. Brewer Matt Asay says that the variety makes the work environment more interesting, a sentiment supported by the newest member of the brewing staff, Rachel Grey. However, the brewers maintain part of the old German tradition by using decoction mashes whenever appropriate.

The Herkimer has developed the After Workin’ Firkin each Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. During the summer, the offerings ranged from a Black Peppercorn Rye Pale Ale to a Bourbon Oak-Aged Stout to a Lavender Kölsch. Like all Minnesota brewpubs, they may only sell on the premises, and they do not currently fill growlers, so the only way to catch up on the evolution of this veteran brewpub is to pull up a stool and have a beer Straight From the Source.

Rye Pale Ale

Availability: Year-around (occasionally out of rotation)

ABV: 5.5%, IBU: 43, SRM = 10

Grain: All Weyerman grains except a bit of Castle Special B. About 37% rye, with most of the remainder pils malt.

Hops: Bravo, Northern Brewer, Tettnanger, Delta Legacy (sometimes dry-hopped)

Flavor: Pleasant spiciness from the rye, the mix of German and American hops create a balanced bitterness and aroma. A flavorful session ale.

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