2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners


Illustration by Brent Schoonover

Craft Beer Bar / Restaurant (MSP) – The Happy Gnome

Happy Gnome - JDA 17

The Happy Gnome // Photo by Joseph Alton

This beloved St. Paul drinking hole claimed the Best Craft Beer Bar award once again—and for good reason. The Happy Gnome is still at the forefront of craft beer bars with 89 taps and an extensive bottled beer list. Add to that some of the most knowledgeable beertenders in the Twin Cities and you have a recipe for one fine craft beer bar.

Craft Beer Bar / Restaurant (Greater MN) – Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake, Duluth


The view from Sir Benedict’s patio // Photo via Sir Benedict’s Facebook page

There are more places to find good craft beer than ever before around Minnesota, but above all the rest, you voted Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake as the Best Craft Beer Bar in Greater Minnesota, and it’s easy to see why. Just a stone’s throw away from Lake Superior, Sir Ben’s has an authentic English-pub feel, an amazing patio, and most importantly a well-curated list of 25 taps and bottles and cans.

Bottle Shop (MSP) – Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop


Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop

What does it take to be named best bottle shop? An extensive list of local, national, and international beer? Check. Top notch service from knowledgeable staff? Check. How about home delivery service through Amazon Prime? Awesome. Plus an attached meat and cheese shop for perfect pairings? Gravy! Only one store has it all—Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop.

Bottle Shop (Greater MN) – Historic Casanova Liquor, Hudson, WI

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Historic Casanova Liquor

Sure, it’s technically in Wisconsin, but for many Minnesotans it’s close enough. From the ability to score brands like Dogfish Head and Ale Asylum that don’t distribute in Minnesota to their always-impressive growler list, a short trip across the St. Croix to Casanova is a common occurrence for many Minnesotans.

Happy Hour – Red Cow

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Red Cow St. Paul

Forget the half-hearted nacho plates, Red Cow is dealing out boats of poutine, Scotch eggs, ahi crisps, and cheese curds for $6 twice a day, every day of the week. Wash it all down with discounted craft beer, wine by the glass, and specialty cocktails, and you’ve got the perfect salve for a long workweek.

Taproom – Surly Brewing


Surly Beer Hall // Photo via Surly’s website

Aptly named the “Beer Hall,” Surly’s taproom is as vast as the beer list. Plenty of communal seating, a glass wall that allows visitors a full view of the brewhouse, and clear signage denoting what’s on tap all contribute to making this your favorite taproom in the state.

Beertender – Charlie Tonks, Fair State Brewing

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Charlie Tonks // Photo courtesy of Fair State Brewing

At times, craft beer can be intimidating. Walk into a taproom and you might be confronted with a chalkboard loaded with beer names that you can’t pronounce and styles you’ve never heard of. But that’s where a good beertender comes in handy. Charlie Tonks, Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s taproom manager, puts patrons at ease with a fun-loving personality and strong knowledge of beer.

Homebrew Store – Northern Brewer


Northern Brewer // Photo via Northern Brewer Facebook page

Selection, service, and more combine to make Northern Brewer your favorite homebrew store. (Apparently the rumors of homebrewers’ outrage over its sale to an arm of AB InBev have been greatly exaggerated—this one wasn’t even close.)

MHBAWEBHomebrew Club – Minnesota Home Brewers Association

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, the Minnesota Home Brewers Association has claimed the award for Minnesota’s Best Homebrew Club. With over 150 members, the club is advancing the cause of craft beer by helping homebrewers improve their tasting skills and brewing techniques.

Beer Artist – Adam Turman


Adam Turman // Photo via Adam Turman Facebook page

Bounce around from taproom to taproom and you’ll undoubtedly spot his art. From beer labels to murals and screenprinted posters, Adam Turman has captured the spirit of the state’s craft beer movement in his art. That’s why, for the fifth year running, Turman has claimed the honor of Minnesota’s Best Beer Artist.

Beer Branding – Bent Paddle Brewing

Bent Paddle Dock

Bent Paddle beers // Photo via Bent Paddle Facebook page

Canoe paddles, rock climbers, and island campsites adorn their cans. Fall foliage, Lake Superior, and campfires flow through their social media feeds. The stories behind their beers are often tied specifically to the Minnesotan experience. It’s no wonder that Bent Paddle peddles your favorite branding.

Beer Industry Beard – Matt Anhalt, Insight Brewing

Matt Anhalt

Matt Anhalt and his glorious beard // Photo courtesy of Insight Brewing

A hallmark of the beer industry, beards are more than just facial hair. They are symbol of independence from the clean-cut corporate lifestyle, with its power suits, neckties, and red tape. Matt Anhalt’s magnificent mane is a testament to the individual creativity in craft beer. Plus, it keeps his face warm.

Beer Tattoo – Chris Kolve, Wabasha Brewing

Chris Kolve Tattoo

Chris Kolve’s winning tattoo // Photo courtesy of Chris Kolve

Apparently the guys at Wabasha have a knack for awesome beer tattoos, with Tiki Tischleder taking home this award last year. Chris went all-in on his tatt by adorning his forearm with the Wabasha Brewing logo flanked by hop bines.

Cidery – Sociable Cider Werks

Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson of Sociable Cider Werks // Photo courtesy Sociable Cider Werks

Jim Watkins (left) and Wade Thompson of Sociable Cider Werks // Photo courtesy Sociable Cider Werks

With a slew of new releases, including summer, fall, and winter seasonals, and the launch of a barrel-aging program, Sociable Cider Werks will have nearly doubled its production from last year—a surefire sign that Minnesotans are digging what they’re canning. Sociable Cider Werks is your pick for Minnesota’s Best Cidery.

Brewpub – Fitger’s Brewhouse

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Fitger’s Brewhouse // Photo by Melissa Maki

When the Brewhouse opened in 1995, they were one of only four breweries in Minnesota. The fact that they’re still making waves in the state’s craft beer scene and serving wild rice burgers that would make even the most ardent carnivore reexamine their existence speaks volumes about this Duluth staple.

Brewery – Bent Paddle Brewing

Bent Paddle Taps

Bent Paddle tap handles // Photo by JaneCane Photography

Every six-pack they brew is on point. They’re revitalizing their neighborhood. They’re supporting conservation and giving back to the community. There’s no doubt about it: Bent Paddle Brewing has risen to the top of the Minnesota brewing world.

New Brewery – Modist Brewing


Modist Brewing // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Salted caramel and golden coffee lagers, beers with insane amounts of rye and oats, and the “phreshest” taproom in the Warehouse District. The lovable weirdos at Modist have no reason to be modest, they’re the best new brewery in town.

Out-Of-State Brewery – Deschutes Brewery


Deschutes tap handles // Photo courtesy of Deschutes

Their IPAs run the gamut from piney to citrusy, their pale ales are legendary, and they make perhaps the finest porter on the planet. There’s no out-of-towner we’d rather see on our local tap towers than Deschutes.

Beer Styles

Lager – Bent Paddle Venture Pils


Bent Paddle Venute Pils // Photo via Bent Paddle website

There’s a reason Pilsners are often seen as a measuring stick for the overall quality of a brewery: their deceptive simplicity means there’s nowhere for flaws to hide. Noble hops and classic malts combine to make Venture Pils a pristine example of the style.

Session Beer – Steel Toe Size 4


Jason and Hannah Schoneman of Steel Toe Brewing accept the silver medal in the Session IPA category for Size 4 at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival // Photo by Aaron Davidson

With Steel Toe’s lauded Size 7 IPA and Size 11 Triple IPA to contend with, you might think Size 4 would have a crippling Napoleon complex. You’d be dead wrong. This session IPA more than holds its own against its more well-endowed brethren.

Wheat Beer – Indeed Shenanigans Summer Ale


Indeed Shenanigans // Photo courtesy of Indeed

With its billowy white head, dry body, and aromas of sweet honey and light citrus, Indeed’s summer seasonal, Shenanigans, is your choice for Minnesota’s Best Wheat Beer. The brewery uses white wheat and regionally sourced honey to make this ultra-quaffable beer, perfect for those sweltering summer days.

Belgian-style – Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison


Lift Bridge Farm Girl // Photo via Lift Bridge’s website

Versatility is an oft-overlooked quality of a good beer. Farm Girl is equally at home in the hands of a craft beer newcomer as it is in the hands of the most experienced aficionado, which is why you’ve selected it as your favorite Belgian-style beer.

Pale Ale – Indeed Day Tripper Pale Ale

Indeed Day Tripper // Photo courtesy of Indeed

Day Tripper continues its reign as your favorite pale ale, having been crowned Kind-of-a-Big-Deal every year the award has been given out. At 45 IBUs, the beer is dank and citrusy thanks to use of four pounds of hops per barrel.

IPA – Surly Todd the Axe Man


Tongue-shredding bitterness, bright, tropical aromas from Mosaic and Citra hops, and a clean, underlying sweetness from Golden Promise malt, Todd the Axe Man is a West Coast IPA in its truest form. In spite of its namesake’s recent departure from Surly, the beer lives on.

Fruit Beer – Fair State Razz Roselle


Razz Roselle // Photo via Fair State Facebook page

Fair State’s red-hued, hibiscus-infused kettle sour, Roselle, levels up with a heaping addition of a raspberries. Although Razz Roselle was a limited release, it made quite the impression on drinkers, who loved the beer’s juicy raspberry character and lip-puckering tartness.

Spice / Specialty – Indeed Yamma Jamma Harvest Ale


Indeed Yamma Jamma Harvest Ale // Photo via Indeed’s website

Nowadays, when autumn turns the corner, the arrival of all things pumpkin-flavored pop up across the market. But Indeed was bored with the gourd. Enter: Yamma Jamma Harvest Ale. It’s a comforting blend of warm fragrant spices with a satisfying sweet potato body—reminding us what a fall beer should be.

Mixed-Culture Beer – Indeed Heliotropic


Indeed Heliotropic // Photo via Indeed Facebook page

To the delight of many sour beer fans this July, Indeed’s Heliotropic, the Belgian-style Brett saison that kicked off the brewery’s Wooden Soul series, was released in bottles. Fermented with a blend of three yeasts, Heliotropic spends a full year aging in white wine barrels where it develops the funky, fruity character that makes it your choice for Minnesota’s Best Mixed-Culture Beer.

Porter – Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter


Dangerous Man Crowlers // Photo via Dangerous Man Facebook page

And you thought the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch was the best it could get… This beer could easily fall into the gimmick category if it wasn’t handled as deftly as it is by the brewers at Dangerous Man.

Stout – Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout


Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout // Photo via Dangerous Man’s website

For the fourth year running, the readers voted Dangerous Man’s Chocolate Milk Stout as Minnesota’s Best Stout. Thick and creamy, this fan favorite is almost always on tap at Dangerous Man’s taproom, and makes the perfect companion during the long and dark winter nights.

Locally-made Cider – Sociable Cider Werks Freewheeler


Freewheeler // Photo via Sociable Cider Werks’ Facebook page

From a humble fruit comes a first-rate cider. Not too sweet, not too tart, Sociable’s Freewheeler is just right. Haralson, Honeycrisp, and SweeTango apples are juxtaposed with a touch of brewed cane sorghum and Willamette hops, making it boast as the state’s Best Locally-Made Cider.

More 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Award Winners:

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