Last-minute Christmas

So, I have waited until the last second to buy my Christmas gifts. As someone who does not drink (ever) I need some help.

Which area microbrewery is the best? Where can/should I buy their products? Can anyone recommend any Minnesota-made wines? Where can I buy them in Duluth?

27 Comments

Barrett Chase

about 11 years ago

Fitger's Brewhouse (Duluth) and Thirsty Pagan Brewing (Superior) both sell 64-ounce growlers, which you can purchase at each of the pubs. Lake Superior Brewing Co. makes bottled beer which you can buy in pretty much any area liquor store.

I'll let others debate which is best. I'll attest, however, that they all make good beer.

flateric

about 11 years ago

Assuming the recipient doesn't have any allergies to honey... I highly suggest the meads from White Winter Winery in Iron River.  I know you can get them in Superior (Keyport is your best option), and you might be able to find them in Duluth.  The black currant mead is great, along with the raspberry and the cyser (cider + honey).  The Acer is interesting (in a good way), maple syrup + honey.

And if you can find it, their hard cider is also quite tasty.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

Piggybacking on Flateric's comment, I'll second that White Winter is great and make this general observation: Wisconsin beats Minnesota for wineries.

digit3

about 11 years ago

They are brewing now at Carmody Pub also but I'm uncertain about growler availability nor quality of product.

The Brewhouse Nalgene growlers are the way to go IMHO. Hands down the beers there are far superior in taste to the local competition. 

The Thirsty Pagan beers are definitely improving but I think are best quaffed with their most excellent deep dish pizza. As to the Lake Superior beers, my taste buds report that they are marginal at best and I for one am surprised that they are still in business as their product is so darned inconsistent.

Barrett Chase

about 11 years ago

I think the best places in the Twin Ports to buy good wine are the Keyport and the Shack in Superior and Fitger's Wine Cellars in Duluth. The people at any of those places can most likely help you find what you're looking for.

There are some more corporate-feeling places that might work out, too, but since you're trying to buy local I won't mention those.

Of course, the absolute best place to buy wine is in the basement of Last Chance Liquor on the $2.99 rack, but I don't think that's quite what you're after either.

Barrett Chase

about 11 years ago

I should also mention that if you're going to follow digit3's advice and get a Brewhouse growler, they deliver.

wildgoose

about 11 years ago

I have heard those comments about Lake Superior Brewery before but I don't believe them.  However, since I do not drink (like you) I am forced to concede those points to other people's taste buds.  

The reason I don't believe them is that the beer has won many many awards, when I was in business and sold it it sold very well, and was highly regarded.  Also, it seems to me that whenever I dig a little deeper I find that the complainant has some ties, employment or interest in another microbrewery (the Brewhouse is a common one) or to the big time beer industry ("I just love Bud in long neck bottles ...")  I am not saying that is true in Digits case I am just sharing my experience that it usually seems to be more about presentation, connections or "image" rather than taste when I hear those complaints.  

As for why they are still in business, I think it is a wonderful thing that we have such a brewery in our town and I am often shocked that people aren't more supportive of the place.  Shocked I tell you.  August Schell's has been in New Ulm for over 150 years, now.  They have lasted as a small family owned brewery in good times and bad, even through prohibition.  Not many towns can claim such a thing, but part of how they made it is their strong ties to the local community and the community giving them support right back. How about a little of the same love for Lake Superior Brewing? 

Finally, I do know a thing or two about root beer, and I can fully attest that Lake Superior's High Bridge root beer is a fine, fine thing.  You can't usually get them in bottles, but a keg is about $50 bucks or so, maybe less depending on the size, and that could make a nice party libation and an excellent addition to any large to medium sized holiday gathering, especially one with people like me (and kids) who don't drink.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

Lake Superior Brewing Company's seasonal brew, Old Man Winter Warmer, is a barley wine style ale that is sensational. 

Then again, I think all barley wines are sensational.

edgeways

about 11 years ago

Something different: South Shore Brewery (out of Ashland)  Rhoades' Scholar Stout and/or Nut Brown Ale are both pretty good can find it in many of the local shops.

H!N!

about 11 years ago

Not as local, but my husband is a HUGE fan of New Glarus beer, from New Glarus, WI. It's only sold in Wisconsin, however, so I think you have to go at least to the Hammond to get it. I think its only in bottles, too. Cheers!

erktheviking

about 11 years ago

FYI: Lake Superior Brewing just won a Gold medal at the 2009 World Beer Championships.  Dale, Ben or anyone else down there will gladly give you a tour and sell you a growler.  Worth checking out.  They had a Whiskey-infused Stout on tap, delicious stuff.  The Old Man Winter Warmer is also wonderful.

Bret

about 11 years ago

Witch Tree ESB from Fitger's.  Mmmmm.  Classic goodness.

Patrick

about 11 years ago

I also love the Lake Superior brews and gladly support them (as well as the Brewhouse)!

Hampers

about 11 years ago

I've never bought wine in bulk, but if it saves $, why not? How many bottles in a case? South Shore Brewery (out of Ashland) Rhoades' will do better.

skybub

about 11 years ago

Fitger's brews a tasty German style smoked beer that was on the rotation when I was last in Duluth in July. A growler of that would be an excellent accompaniment to some local homemade sausages and a big pile of sauerkraut.

digit3

about 11 years ago

I have zero connection with any of the beer producers nor sellers in town. 

Agreed, Old Man Winter is a nice barleywine. I rarely have barleywines that I don't appreciate. I'm a big fan of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and Anchor Brewing Old Foghorn. 

I have tried over the years to support all of the local brewers. Lake Superior Brewing's Special Ale has at times impressed me. However, as I mentioned in my first post, this beer in particular is highly inconsistent especially after the price in hops went up a couple of seasons ago. I would much rather have a brewery raise their prices temporarily to account for an ingredient price hike instead of modifying a recipe.

As to local politics, I think that it is total BS what Dale and John have done (and tried to do) to prevent the Brewhouse from selling growlers, bottled product, and to serve kegged beer offsite (at Bayfront Park for example). The Lake Superior guys have complained to local legislators in an effort to undermine their competition. If they could just focus on their beers, improve their quality, and learn how to market, perhaps they would get a more loyal following. 

Remember when Pizza Luce stopped having Lake Superior beers on tap? They pulled them due to the aforementioned actions of John and Dale.

Carl

about 11 years ago

I would recommend thirsty pagan brewing, was just there last night and the ICE PRINCESS IS Delicious and setan elap ela (Nates Pale ale) is absolutely wonderful.  Yay Nater!

Carl

about 11 years ago

oh and I stopped going to brewhouse because their beer all tastes the same primarily (piss) and both of the owners are petterasses.  :)

zra

about 11 years ago

wow. if ever there was a reason to quit Hoops' hops...carl just gave it.

not.

Carl

about 11 years ago

Okay, I'll be clear with this explanation. 

The ONLY good reason to go there is Charlie Parr/Sam Militich and the Clear Water Hot Club.

Menu: Has not changed, same food = creativity?
Beer: All generally has the same "taste", although I think Townhall in the cities does it better (supreme brother brewer?)
Atmosphere: Very nice people.  

Oh yeah and the owners are petterasses.  :)

skybub

about 11 years ago

Okay, I'm 5000 miles from Duluth, so forgive me if I'm missing out on an insider's joke, but does Carl mean pederast? I'm not familiar with who he's referring to, but that's a mighty strong accusation. Perhaps better suited to a different forum. I thought we were trying to help Vedge pick out some local beer and wine.

digit3

about 11 years ago

Yep, all Hoops' beers taste the same. Perhaps you should go down there right now and try his barleywine, blueberry porter, juniper porter, edelstoff, stout, and starfire and report back to us.

Hoops certainly loves his hops but he also has a deft touch with lagers, wheats, and other interesting ales. 

Agreed about one of the owners though and the lack of freshness in the menu. It's a good menu but NEVER changes (except for the prices).

zra

about 11 years ago

carl's trying to be hip and funny by coining up a line from the Big Lebowski in which Walter calls "The Jesus" a pederass for exposing himself to a kid.

Carl

about 11 years ago

dang Zra I thought that was hip! all love and fun though folks! I do like brewhouse beer I admit, sorry for the slander! I'll be down there tonight for charlie! however if someone is to purchase a gift for christmas I would suggest going elsewhere as Brewhouse has become a STAPLE in this town and by staple I mean pederasses creeping on local workers, employees, and students.

Swan

about 11 years ago

Fitgers Brewhouse all the way. Starfire Pale Ale is one of their best tasting and selling beers, accessible to most palettes. You cannot go wrong with it as a gift.

To the ignorant detractors, Fitgers' beer does not taste the same. Duluth is very fortunate to have world class beer brewed fresh and locally with over 100 varieties each year. Dave Hoops is a dedicated craftsman and a master brewer and will cheerfully walk you through brewery and educate your palette with samples. 

I live in an area without a brewpub and always load up on growlers whenever I visit. You do not know how lucky you are. If you don't like their beer, there is always Bud Light.

db

about 11 years ago

Brewhouse:  Good, but over-rated.  Menu has been better lately, incidentally;  the specials posted on the FB page have been enough to make me visit, despite the more questionable ethics of the ownership team.

Local wines are available at CashWise, as well.  It's a chain, but there are some nice numbers there.  Stillwater wines are nifty, but the Bailey wines in Hastings are to die for, in my opinion.  Special grapes designed for Minnesota.

I've not tried this mead / honeywine stuff -- can it be described?

flateric

about 11 years ago

db: Since there are lots of different honey types (wildflower, clover, orange blossom, etc), meads can range in flavor wildly.  I find most dry meads to be a little lacking in honey character, so I prefer semi-sweet to sweet meads that have some residual honey sweetness.  On top of that, the variety of honey used can create a world of other flavors.  Not to mention, if you add fruit, spices, apple cider or grape juice, you can have even more wonderful creations.

Fruit meads are my favorite to drink (and make).  I tend to prefer fruit meads (melomels) with darker fruits (blackberry, raspberry, and my favorite... black currant) since they tend to leave deeper fruit flavors than lighter fruits like watermelon or strawberry.

I've also recently made a pyment, which is honey mixed with grape (wine) juice.  You get the wine characteristics from the grapes and the honey sweetness... which can be heavenly if done right.  Unfortunately you won't see many commercially-available pyments... I've been exposed to them via the homebrew club I'm a part of.

So in short, meads can be described, but it's better to taste them yourself.  If you can make it to White Winter in Ashland, they have free samples of all their meads, along with a full store where you can buy them along with other White Winter swag.

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