Beer drinkers are serious about their beer. And these days more people seem to be beer drinkers. Local craft brews have amassed a passionate following. Enthusiasts cite beer descriptions with encyclopedia-like fastidiousness. The qualities of beer are defined in terms that rival fine wine vintages. Craft beers are all the rage, and fantastic beers are on tap throughout the southwest metro.
Craft beer lovers can’t help but like Lucid Air, a popular beer for about 10 years running. The light blonde “enlightened” ale was the first brew crafted at Minnetonka-based Lucid Brewing. Since beer and pizza make good friends, the light-hearted but luscious Lucid Air is a good choice. Flavors of malt and hops have a smooth finish. Supplement your beer with a house special pizza topped with Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives and real cheese. Check online for coupons. $4.10 pint, $20 large pizza. 6207 Dell Road, Eden Prairie; 952.934.0333.
True to the name, Furious has a lively following of beer devotees. The amber-colored beer makes a popular pick, especially as a $2 bar special on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to Mike Palmer, bar manager. “It has good hop notes that people like, but is still very drinkable,” he says. Minneapolis-based Surly Brewing Co. makes the American-styled IPA beer with a whisper of citrus, caramel-toffee and pine. With its slightly darker tendencies, the Surly Furious pairs well with spicy appetizers like nachos or buffalo chicken tenders, and “always goes good with a burger,” says Palmer. Short 14.5-ounce $4.79, tall 22-ounce $6.79. 8010 Glen Lane, Eden Prairie; 952.942.3331.
Touting floral and citrusy hop flavors with a rich golden color, the Tail Feather brew is one of Enki Brewing’s year-round IPA features. An unusually high alcohol content of 8 percent inspired the beer’s name. “After you’ve had a couple of them, you’ll be shaking your tail feathers,” says John Hayes, owner.
While food is not served in Enki’s taproom, deliveries from the nearby Victoria House or Roulette’s Pizza are an option—or even pack in your own munchies. “We encourage people to bring their own food,” says Jason Davis, brew master.
Make a visit to the taproom and embrace their slogan: “Make the world a friendlier place—two beers at a time.” 13.5-ounces $5. 7929 Victoria Drive, Victoria; 952.300.8408.
Prairie Tap House
Known for steer and beer, the Prairie Tap House has no shortage of brews with more than 50 brands of bottled beer plus 30 beers on tap. Among them, craft beers are customer favorites. “The first thing people ask is what do you have that’s local on tap,” says Micah Sunde, general manager.
Waconia Brewing Co. makes a stand out IPA with a hoppy pine taste that kicks up floral citrusy notes in the nose, according to Sunde. Amber in color, the 90K IPA falls between a light and a dark beer. The name has regional interest. “There are 90,000 kilometers of lakefront in Minnesota, so they named it after that,” says Sunde. All this beer mapping can leave you hungry. Tame your 90K IPA with a Thai dragon shrimp egg roll appetizer. Pint $6.50, egg rolls $12.95. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.217.4054.
It’s not St. Patrick’s Day without Guinness at Hopper’s Bar & Grill.
What would the coming of spring and St. Patrick’s Day be without Guinness beer? In March, demand picks up for the traditional favorite from the Emerald Isle, according to Paul Mackenthun, owner. “People get a St. Paddy’s Day jig in their step, and Guinness definitely comes to the top of the list.”
The rich, dark, dry stout cascades with a creamy white froth when poured. “It gives a really neat presentation,” says Mackenthun. “It is definitely a distinct beer that people who like dark beer, like.”
Guinness is also used as the base for a shot-infused beer drink dubbed the Irish car bomb or Irish blessings, as it is called in the Old Country. A shot glass filled with Jameson Irish Whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream goes in the center of a Guinness-filled beer glass. $5.50 can, $6 Irish blessings drink. 119 S. Olive St., Waconia; 952.442.1149.
Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout
Brewed along the rolling river banks of Stillwater, the Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout is as mighty as the St. Croix. The seasonal brew is “aged in whiskey barrels with a little bit of coffee and cream,” says Michael Clausen, owner. The Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout ranks as an especially memorable spring beer and repeat performer for Clausen, who often sees a new craft beer every week. A delicious, well-made balance with hints of sweetness makes a good after dinner dessert drink, according to Clausen. “You could do a chocolate cake or a cheese cake with it.” 750 ml. bottle $13–$15. 8971 Crossroads Blvd., Chanhassen; 952.975.9175.
Leinenkugel’s Special Ale wins the hearts of fans as the Who’s Brew at the Who’s On First Saloon & Eatery. The famous Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” skit led to the tavern’s name—a play on its first street address. An appropriately designated beer evolved from the baseball theme. Enter Leinenkugel Special Ale, an American pale ale from Chippewa Falls, Wis. Patrons enchanted by baseball surroundings assume that the beer is a custom brew. “People think it’s uniquely ours, but it is not,” says Suzanne Wille, owner. “We go through quite a bit of it. We’ve had it on tap for eight or nine years.” The pale ale tastes similar to Killian’s Red only a little sharper, she says. 16-ounce $4.95, 22-ounce $5.95. 36 W. First St., Waconia; 952.442.6301.
Ask for the Czech, please, and make it a Summit Pilsner. The award-wining, light beer has an authentic Bohemian appeal. St. Paul-based Summit Brewing Co. produces the beer with a refreshingly light hop taste. Served ice-cold, the beer makes an ideal accompaniment for a juicy bacon cheese Smashburger. “Everyone just loves beer and burgers,” says Jon Nelson, assistant manager. Enjoy your burger and beer break with a refreshing Summit Pilsner. 12-ounce bottle $2.99, 1/3-pound burger $5.99, half-pound (scant) burger $6.99. 8045 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.943.9010.