Breweries outside Twin Cities making waves in craft beer scene

The inside of Spilled Grain Brewhouse. Photo: Courtesy of Spilled Grain Brewhouse
The inside of Spilled Grain Brewhouse.

March 22, 2019 05:06 PM

The Best of Craft Beer Awards honored six Minnesota breweries last month for being among the country's best. 

The competition, which includes 90 different categories for Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) members to decide on, was held during the weekend of Feb. 8-10 in Bend, Oregon.


A total of 162 breweries from 33 states took home medals in 2019. 

One of the breweries walked away with more accolades than most. Spilled Grain Brewhouse in Annandale captured two golds and one silver over that weekend. 

It won gold in the 'American-Style Barley Wine or Wheat Wine' category for its False Hope beer, and another gold in the 'Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer or Aged Beer' category for its 2017 False Hope.

Co-owner and head brewer Jacob Schnabel said the business was started in a unique way.

"Some of the future owner's wives formed a mom's group and used to get together for dinners and get-togethers," he said. "Then one of the husbands had a building open up... the rest is pretty much history."

Jacob said Spilled Grain Brewhouse started to get the wheels turning in early 2014, and was open for business in July of that year. Since then, it has claimed many medals at numerous award shows. 

"We brew very traditional styles to try and meet everyone's criteria. We like to keep it fun," Schnabel said. "Honestly, when you venture out (of the metro area), the craft brew scene is the next wave of success in areas like this.

"Tons of breweries all over the place."

Nearby Cold Spring is home to another brewery that claimed two silvers in the Craft Beer Festival. Cold Spring Brewery has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s, according to its website.

The company was sold in 2017 to the Brynwood Partners, a Connecticut-based private equity firm with exisiting investments in a variety of food and beverage companies.

"We have a very rich history here," said Maranda Theis, the taproom manager of the brewery's Third Street Brewhouse. 

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Third Street Brewhouse is a branch off the bigger tree of Cold Spring Brewery, and medals were awarded for their 'American-Style Amber/Red Ale' and 'American-Style Cream Ale' in 2019. They opened the brewery in 2012.

Since 2017, the company has won seven medals in three different craft beer award contest. Among those, two golds, four silvers and one bronze was awarded.

"We have been brewing on this site since 1874," Theis said. "We expanded our brand to a larger manufacturing company. However, we established (Third Street) to continue our work in the craft beer scene." 

Then there's the Wacona Brewing Company, who captured a gold medal for their 'German-Style Maerzen' or 'Oktoberfest/Wiesn.'

In early 2014, the company was started by the DeLange family. The brewery officially opened in October of that year. Head brewer Tom Schufman says the place has a nice "small town taproom" feel to it. 

"It's only about a 30 to 40 minute drive from (the metro area) and presents a great small town vibe," Schufman said. 

The taproom was created by two DeLange brothers (Bob and Pete) and their wives (Kay and Dee). 

Schufman said many customers keep coming back for the traditional taplist and properly fermented brews, which takes about eight weeks. They possess five flagship beers and five or more rotating beers on tap that flow seven days a week.

"We also like to reach a greater audience by having a nice variety of beers," Schufman said. "Generally we like to keep 10 to 13 (beers) on tap."

Before Waconia Brewing opened for business, the city hadn't seen a brewery since 1890, when the last one closed down. Schufman said one of the most popular tap choices is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, which was a 2017 and 2018 bronze medal award winner at the Best of Craft Beer Awards. 

Two breweries in Minneapolis (Pryes Brewing Company and Indeed Brewing Company) and one in Duluth (Blacklist Artisan Ales) also won medals in the Best Craft Beer Awards event. Pryes Brewing won silver in the 'Berliner-Style Weisse with Fruit or Flavor Added' category for their Royal Raspberry Sour.

And Indeed Brewing took home gold in the 'Wood and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer' category for their Wooden Soul In The Thicket beer, going up against 46 other entries in the competition. Blacklist Artisan Ales took home a silver for their Classic Wit brew, winning in the 'Belgian-Style Witbier' category. 

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Tommy Wiita

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