Before Indeed, before Surly, before Summit’s Mark Stutrud was but a twinkle in his father’s eye, back when August Schell himself was alive and in his heyday, nearly every town in pre-Prohibition Minnesota had its own brewery.
And now in the days of the craft beer boom that history is repeating itself. More than 115 breweries have cropped up across the state, from Grand Marais all the way down to Blue Earth. Craft beer connoisseurs are getting back to their ancestral roots every time they stroll down to the neighborhood brewery and come home with a growler of fresh beer.
Twin Citians are especially spoilt for choice, with a large proportion of the state’s breweries located inside the 494/694 loop. When you can access some of the best beer in the state just a few blocks from home, why go anywhere else?
As Jacob Schnabel, head brewer of Spilled Grain Brewhouse, points out, all you craft beer homebodies are missing out on the greatness Greater Minnesota has to offer.
“The outstate breweries, that’s where a lot of the growth is,” Schnabel said. “There are lots of great breweries just under a one-hour drive from the Metro.”
Schnabel, whose brewhouse is located in Annandale, wants to show Twin Cities craft beer lovers that there are beers across the state well worth the gas it takes to find them. This July, Spilled Grain launched a new collaborative project called “Outside the Loop,” a clever play-on-words to introduce more beer lovers to Minnesota’s vast creativity and innovation.
Outside the Loop features breweries outside of the Interstate 494/694 loop collaborating on “beers that are a twist on standard styles, ones that have not been done much, if at all, in Minnesota,” Schnabel said.
For Schnabel and his project, brewing collaboratively means much more than just sharing recipes. The collaborating brewers develop the recipe together, sampling existing styles for inspiration and crunching numbers on water chemistry and IBUs. Then, together, they brew a batch of the same beer at each other’s brewery.
Collaboration comes naturally. All the brewers in the series are old friends, respected peers or brewers Schnabel met at local beer fests. Each collaboration brings about a totally different experience, Schnabel said.
“It’s been a ton of fun, especially to go and see someone else’s brewery,” Schnabel said. “You know, a lot of these brewers, we all came up together. It’s not an us versus them mentality.”
The inspiration for Outside the Loop came when Schnabel was invited to collaborate on an imperial brown ale with an old friend, Matt Schiller of Lupulin Brewing Company in Big Lake. Released in January, the big, nutty brown ale was a crowd pleaser, eliciting comments like “hit the spot” and “very delicious” from Untappd users. The experience of traveling to Big Lake and brewing alongside Schiller stuck with Schnabel and set his own collaboration series in motion.
Schnabel called up Ryan Fuchs of Foxhole Brewhouse in Willmar to kick off Outside the Loop. Their creation, a honey rye ale with made with Minnesota honey, was perhaps “one of the best beers I’ve ever made,” Schnabel said.
This October, Schnabel worked with Zack Ward, owner and head brewer at Maple Grove’s OMNI Brewing Co., on a bière de garde made entirely with French malt, hops and yeast. Look for that beer’s release today, Nov. 3, at Spilled Grain and in about two weeks at OMNI.
“We want to educate people in terms of what’s available,” Schnabel says. Take his advice, and get outside the loop.