by Bennett Porter
“What’s new?” is the most often heard inquiry in the beer cooler these days. A fervor for new, experimental beer flavors has fueled consumer’s desire to constantly search for what’s next. The result? For today’s beer industry, the only constant is change. Five years ago, we knew that craft beer production was, especially here in Minnesota, really taking flight – but it turns out those jets still had much more propulsion. On average, twenty to thirty new beers have wiggling their way on to our shelves each week. Coupled with the fact that our active beer and cider inventory floats around fourteen-hundred products, making decisive purchases has never been tougher. Highly sought-after, flash-in-the-pan releases barely graze the shelf before being scooped up by eager hands. If your timing isn’t right, they’re easy to miss!
Much has been written about the paradoxical nature of choice and the consequences of a phenomenon called “overchoice”. When faced with so many similar options, we can actually have a tendency to freeze up, unable to determine the best route to take. What if the Session IPA I bring home isn’t as flavorful as the other one I was considering? Though it may seem like a trivial concern, I believe that many people ruminate over this dilemma. Amidst all the enthusiasm for the freshest, tastiest new brews, I think it’s an important reminder that some of the best beers in our selection have been here for the long haul. These beers exemplify the best qualities of their style, demonstrating balance, consistency and timeless flavor. And we hope that you haven’t forgotten! Following below are some of our favorite France 44 selections, beers that have been highly-esteemed since their introduction.
An iconic Minnesota IPA with Pacific Northwest-inspiration. Steel Toe’s owner/brewer Jason honed his skills at the famous Pelican Brewpub in Oregon, clearly influencing his take on the IPA. At 7.0% ABV and 77 IBUs (hops undisclosed), Size 7 pops with zesty orange aromas and a pleasant wallop of bitterness to satisfy any and all hopheads.
I swear, Le Merle is the American doppelgänger of my personal desert-island beer, Saison Dupont. This rustic Saison-style ale is bountifully hopped and fermented with traditional Belgian yeast. Exotic, peppery and orange and yellow-fruit aromas welcome a refreshing fruity palate with a dry, earthy finish.
A respected former colleague of mine frequently called Moose Drool his favorite cook-out beer, because well, it goes with just about anything. It’s easy to forget how nice a brown ale can really be, they haven’t been the “in” style in quite some time. But Moose Drool runs with the best of ‘em. Nutty, caramel-y, chocolate-like malt is the driving force, yet it glides smoothly across the palate. Just enough bitterness balances out its subtly sweet notes.
The mightiest of pilsners, this German-inspired lager features a bracing herbal bite from whole-flower European hops that heightens a clean, smooth malt base. This Pils is the perfect reward after a hard day of work or getting chores done around the house.
If you’re a MN local, Coffee Bender is most likely your first foray into the world of coffee beers. This oatmeal brown ale is tuned up by the addition of locally-roasted Guatemalan coffee. Beautifully integrated, wafting coffee aromas and creamy, cappuccino-like flavors make this a great choice at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s never too early to get Surly.
Brewed with three grains: barley, wheat, and oats. Steiermark hops and proprietary yeast give this beer pronounced fruity and herbal aromas. Leaping banana and vanilla aromas mingle with pleasing citrus notes and a quinine-like bitterness on the finish. Be careful, it goes down quite easily for its firm strength.
What’s better than a Bavarian-style wheat beer from a Bavarian-influenced brewery? Schell’s has long been making some of the finest German-style brews this side of the Atlantic, and the Hefeweizen is a pride of their stable. Wheat and barley malts and authentic Weissbier yeast produce scintillating notes of banana, clove, and a tart citrus zippiness. Pairs perfectly with lazy summer afternoons.