Appetites: How to prepare for Minn. Craft Beer Week

Michael Agnew
Michael Agnew, a cicerone, beer author and member of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, photographed Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014 at his favorite Minneapolis bar, Republic.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

Starting Monday, the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild is presenting 10,000 Minutes of Minnesota Craft Beer.

Look for events across the state, from tastings in Duluth to firkin tappings in Southern Minnesota and plenty of other beer-centric fun in between.

Professional beer guide Michael Agnew, Minnesota's first Certified Cicerone, spoke with MPR News' Tom Crann about Minnesota's beer culture and what beer enthusiasts should know in preparation for next week's festivities.

Here are highlights from their conversation along with links to some of Agnew's recommended brews:

Minnesota's calling card: hops

"Minnesota is a hop region. The bitter IPAs; the hopped-up double IPAs, that's what people really seek out here and that's what every brewery in the state makes -- at least something similar to that."

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How Minnesota compares to other states

"This region is catching up quickly. Compared to some older regions where craft brewing already took off like Denver or the West Coast, we have a long way to go to catch up to them. But, we're building fast."

"Minnesota breweries do really well in competitions. This past year at the world beer cup, which is held every other year, five Minnesota breweries took home medals. They do really well at the Great American Beer Festival, which happens every year. Good old Summit Extra Pale Ale, everybody's standby beer, has won some medal in some competition pretty much every year for the past several years."

On pairing beers with food

Beer and carrot cake
Agnew says beer pairs well with desserts. A combination he likes is Steel Toe Size 7 IPA with carrot cake.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

"Beer is great with dessert. Going back to the IPA -- a good, hoppy, citrusy IPA is great with carrot cake. Because you have the ginger and the spices of the carrot cake really pick up on the spicy flavors of the hops."

Steel Toe Brewing's Size 7 IPA

"Another one would be chocolate desserts, like a cheesecake with raspberry sauce. Put that with a strong stout."

Dangerous Man Brewing's Chocolate Milk Stout

Beer vs. wine

"Beer goes better with food than wine. Wine has an ingredient: You've got grapes. This is a simplification, I know, but you've got fruit juice. So you're putting a fruit sauce with everything. With beer, you've got four different ingredients. Each one of those has a myriad of different varieties, and the brewer can put those together in a whole bunch of different ways. So the flavor palate is huge."

"And then, some of the same chemical reactions that happen when you cook, also happen in the malt making and the brewing process. So the flavors are not just similar, they are actually the same flavors of what you find in food."

How to introduce a Grain Belt drinker to craft beer

"I would start with a blonde ale or a pilsner. Those are similar profiles to the bigger beers, but more flavored."

Excelsior Brewing's Big Island Blonde

Fulton Brewing's Lonely Blonde

Schell's Pils

Bent Paddle's Venture Pils

"Another place to go would be a Vienna-style lager. It's rich and malty and doesn't have the bitterness that some people find objectionable."

Schell's Firebrick

"I even find that strong Belgian beers, surprisingly, are great introductory beers. People who aren't familiar with craft beer love them.

Boom Island's Hoodoo Dubbel

If you go
Minnesota Craft Beer Week
Where: Various locations across the state
When: Monday, May 5 - Sunday, May 11
More information:

Map of breweries in Minnesota: