2019 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners


Photo via Fair State Facebook

Pilsner – Fair State Pils

Fair State knows its way around a lager. Their Pils is as simple as beers get but is brewed to absolute perfection—a crisp, clean, textbook example of what this classic beer style can aspire to be. 

Silver: Bauhaus Wonderstuff

Bronze: Utepils Pils



Photo by Tj Turner

Specialty Lager – Schell’s Oktoberfest

Can you imagine a more perfect Märzen than Schell’s? The New Ulm brewery has been perfecting German beers for a century-and-a-half at this point, and their spot-on Oktoberfest showcases their prowess. Prost!

Silver: Summit Oktoberfest

Bronze: Bad Weather Munich Helles


Photo via Modist Facebook

Specialty Grain Beer – Modist Dreamyard

Modist can do what other breweries only dream of—such as, brewing an IPA made entirely of oats and wheat. With their state-of-the-art brewhouse, they bent the laws of brewing to make Dreamyard, a luscious hazy IPA that is your favorite specialty grain beer of 2019. 

Silver: Bent Paddle Harness IPA

Bronze: Modist Supra Deluxe




Photo via Fulton Facebook

Craft Hard Seltzer – Fulton Blood Orange

It’s officially the year of Minnesota hard seltzer. There were over 28 local varieties hitting taps and store shelves throughout 2019, but Fulton’s Blood Orange, brewed with cane sugar and real fruit, rose above the pack to win gold. 

Silver: Lift Bridge Northwoods Juice Box

Bronze: Fair State Hibiscus and Orange Zest


Photo via Lift Bridge Facebook

Session Beer – Lift Bridge Mango Blonde

Easy-drinking without being light. Simple but with a rich mango character. Lift Bridge’s fruited blonde ale is one that Growler readers can order again and again without getting fatigued with flavor or too much booze. A true session beer. 

Silver: Steel Toe Size 4

Bronze: Fulton Hopstar


Photo via Utepils Facebook

Photo via Utepils Facebook

Wheat Beer – Utepils Ewald the Golden

The OG hazy beer, hefeweizen can be a divisive style for many drinkers. But Utepils’ Ewald the Golden lives up to its name, winning gold in this year’s awards. It’s a crowd-pleaser with a round, smooth body, a billowy head, and bright aromas. Pure summer in a glass. 

Silver: Schell’s Hefeweizen

Bronze: Fair State Hefeweizen


Photo via Lift Bridge Facebook

Belgian-style – Lift Bridge Farm Girl

Today’s beer drinkers can be a fickle bunch and Belgian beers and flagship brands are not necessarily trending up in 2019. But the popular support for Lift Bridge’s classic Farm Girl proves there’s still room for a well-made flagship Belgian saison in the market. 

Silver: Dangerous Man Belgian Golden Strong

Bronze: Lupulin Belgian Blonde


Photo via Fulton Instagram

Photo via Fulton Instagram

Blonde Ale – Fulton Lonely Blonde

German noble hops, American pale and crystal malts, and a touch of white wheat give this blonde ale its smooth, lightly sweet character, which has made it a fan favorite for years, including again in 2019. 

Silver: Lift Bridge Mango Blonde

Bronze: Steel Toe Provider


Photo via Indeed Facebook

Pale Ale – Indeed Day Tripper

Pale ales are often in danger of being forgettable, but Day Tripper is a triumph. Its firm bitterness and complex citrus notes are enough to keep a drinker interested through an entire pint but restrained enough to never cross into the palate-busting territory of some hop-loaded IPAs on the market. 

Silver: Summit EPA

Bronze: Modist False Pattern



IPA – Surly Axe Man

Double dry-hopping with Citra and Mosaic hops gives Axe Man its signature tropical fruit and citrus aromas, and for the fifth year straight you’ve voted Surly’s Axe Man as the best IPA in Minnesota. 

Silver: Steel Toe Size 7

Bronze: Lift Bridge Hop Dish


Photo via Fair State Facebook

Double IPA / Imperial IPA – Fair State Double Spirit Føul

Fair State cranked their Modern Times collab Spirit Føul up to 11 with Double Spirit Føul. Cloudy and dank, it packs a serious hop wallop from double-dry-hopping and a boozy punch at 8.2% ABV. It’s so good, you’ve voted it the best double IPA in the state. 

Silver: Modist Double Dreamyard

Bronze: Lupulin Blissful Ignorance



Photo via Fair State Facebook

Photo via Fair State Facebook

Hazy / New England IPA – Fair State Mirror Universe

Wheat, oats, and lots of hops—El Dorado, Citra, and Mosaic, to be exact—are what add the haze to this top-notch hazy IPA from Fair State that has all the brightness expected of the style without the bitterness. 

Silver: Modist Dreamyard

Bronze: Barrel Theory Rain Drops


Photo via Lift Bridge Facebook

Fruit Beer – Lift Bridge Mango Blonde

When the long gray of winter has us yearning for a sun-kissed beach but taking a vacation south is out of the question, Lift Bridge’s Mango Blonde brings a taste of the tropics to Minnesota with ripe fruit flavors overlaid a crisp ale body. 

Silver: Bobbing Bobber Wanna Shake Your Tree Peach Cream Ale

Bronze: Uncommon Loon Force of Nurture


Photo via Indeed Instagram

Spice / Specialty Beer – Indeed Lavender, Sunflower, Honey and Date

Everything you need to know about this specialty beer from Indeed is spelled out in its name. The lavender offers a delicate floral fragrance, the sunflower honey adds sweetness with real depth, and the dates bring a mild funk to this complex, challenging beer. 

Silver: Barrel Theory Key Sublime

Bronze: Modist Boozehound


Photo via Fair State Facebook

Kettle Sour – Fair State Roselle

With a potent pucker from lactobacillus, Roselle is a textbook kettle sour from Fair State that sports a lovely ruby hue and cranberry-like notes of hibiscus. And for the third year running, Growler readers have deemed it the best kettle sour in all the land. 

Silver: Pryes Royal Raspberry Sour

Bronze: Barrel Theory MPG


Photo via Surly Facebook

Spontaneous / Wild – Surly Pentagram

One in the first wave of wild beers in Minnesota, Surly’s Pentagram has been around for years, but the intensity of this 100% Brett-fermented American wild ale has never waned. It’s still dominated by the sour cherry, tobacco, oak, and barnyard funk that make it your choice for gold in 2019.

Silver: Indeed Wooden Soul: Cherry Dust

Bronze: Wild Mind Spontané Framboise


Photo via Dangerous Man Facebook

Porter – Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter

When you want something decadent and downright delicious, treat yo’ self to Dangerous Man’s Peanut Butter Porter. This gold-winning porter has the perfect balance of malt roast and nutty flavors that fill out its lush, rich body. 

Silver: Bent Paddle Black Ale

Bronze: Summit Great Northern Porter



Photo via Dangerous Man Facebook

Stout – Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout

The Dangerous Man Dynasty lives on! Each year since 2013, Growler readers have voted this chocolate milk stout as the top stout in all of Minnesota. Full-bodied with just the right amount of cocoa flavor, it is again your gold winner. 

Silver: Castle Danger George Hunter

Bronze: Lift Bridge Barrel-Aged Silhouette


Photo via Modist Brewing

Beer Label – Modist Brewing Dreamyard

Splashed with psychedelic color and subsumed with cyberpunk panache, the artwork for Modist’s flagship IPA Dreamyard is a perfect match for brewer Keigan Knee’s innovative, tech-forward approach to brewing. 

Silver: Fair State Spirit Føul

Bronze: Lift Bridge Juice-Z NE IPA


Photo via Barrel Theory Facebook


Beer Name – Barrel Theory Shooter McGavin

“This is golf, not a rock concert!” In the pantheon of sports movie villains, “Happy Gilmore’s” uptight and arrogant tour pro Shooter McGavin is a particularly delightful specimen. Barrel Theory’s beer, in contrast, is a not-at-all smarmy and quite delicious double IPA. 

Silver: Bobbing Bobber Wanna Shake Your Tree

Bronze: Lift Bridge So Jelly

Photo by Tj Turner

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

In the pre-Sunday sales era, Hudson’s Casanova Liquor was an oasis for desperate Minnesotans who had forgotten to do their Saturday shopping. These days, it’s still an essential for any beer lover in either state, with a sizeable collection of taps for growler fills, rare bottle releases, special tastings, and even an adjoining wine bar.

Silver: Mount Royal Bottle Shoppe, Duluth

Bronze: Liquor Hutch, Hutchinson


Photo via Haskell’s Facebook

Bottle Shop (Metro Area) – Haskell’s, White Bear Lake

Carving out a well-earned reputation as wine specialists since their first shop opened on 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis in the 1930s, Haskell’s also stocks a great selection of craft beer and spirits, and their White Bear location’s extra size and parking make it a hit with the locals. 

Silver: Elevated Beer Wine and Spirits, White Bear Lake

Bronze: Blue Max Liquors, Burnsville


Photo via France 44 Facebook

Bottle Shop (Mpls & St. Paul) – France 44

Housed in an impressive structure in the quaint neighborhood of Linden Hills, France 44 has been keeping the southwest suburbs well-lubricated with great wine, craft beer, and spirits since 1959. With an adjoining cheese shop and butcher, France 44 can be a one-stop-shop for all that your dinner party requires.

Silver: Zipps Liquors

Bronze: The Wine Thief & Ale Jail


Craft Beer Bar or Restaurant (Greater MN) – Sir Benedict’s On the Lake

A venerable stalwart of the Duluth beer and music scenes, Sir Ben’s was the location where Trampled by Turtles and countless other North Shore musicians got their start. With a homey pub atmosphere and a lovingly curated tap list, Sir Ben’s is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. 

Silver: 7 West Taphouse, Duluth

Bronze: The Boulder Tap House, St. Cloud


Photo via Ansari’s Facebook

Craft Beer Bar or Restaurant (Metro Area) – Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill & Lounge, Eagan

Mediterranean cuisine and craft beer are a relatively uncommon pairing, but don’t tell that to the folks at Ansari’s, who have built a staggeringly large and well-curated tap list to go along with their tasty riffs on Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese favorites.  

Silver: Grumpy’s Bar & Grill, Roseville

Bronze: Iron Tap, Waconia



Photo via Happy Gnome Facebook

Craft Beer Bar or Restaurant (Mpls & St. Paul) – Happy Gnome

A mandatory stop for any St. Paul pub crawl, the Happy Gnome’s extensive tap list always seems to have a few gems that nobody else in town can get their hands on. Throw in a long and comfortable wooden bar and a menu full of thoughtful upgrades of classic pub fare, and you’re really making it tough for us to leave. 

Silver: Red Cow

Bronze: Grumpy’s NE


Photo via Grumps NE Facebook

Dive Bar – Grumpy’s NE

Forget the “dive” classification—Grumpy’s might be one of our favorite bars in Minneapolis, full stop. With precious few frills outside of a sterling tap list, Grumpy’s proudly wears the colors of a blue-collar Northeast watering hole, albeit one with a few extra tattoos and piercings. Stop by during Art-a-Whirl season for a reliably great lineup of live music. 

Silver: Cuzzy’s

Bronze: CC Club


Photo via Red Cow Facebook

Happy Hour – Red Cow

With both traditional and late-night happy hours daily and generous price cuts, local burger chain Red Cow is versatile enough for after-work functions or cheap dates. Save $2 on several great craft options and try to resist their mouth-watering apps. We dare you. 

Silver: Blue Door Pub

Bronze: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub


Photo via Surly Facebook

Brewery Taproom – Surly Brewing Company

Surly’s sprawling destination facility in Minneapolis has become a national tourist destination thanks to its expansive beer garden, wealth of food options, and an entertaining and occasionally hilarious brewery tour crew. Throw in the state’s best outdoor music festival experience in the backyard and you’ve got a taproom that’s tough to top. 

Silver: Bauhaus Brew Labs

Bronze: Bobbing Bobber Brewing Company


Photo via Toppling Goliath Instagram

Photo via Toppling Goliath Instagram

Out-of-State Brewery – Toppling Goliath Brewing Company

The makers of King Sue reign supreme as your favorite out-of-state brewery for the second year running. Toppling Goliath is based in Decorah, Iowa, but its cult following has obviously expanded into Minnesota along with its hop-forward beer lineup. 

Silver: Deschutes Brewery

Bronze: Drekker Brewing Company


Photo by Maxwell McGruder

Brewpub – Fitger’s Brewhouse

With a story dating back to the 19th century, Fitger’s is steeped in Minnesota’s rich brewing history and still manages to deliver the goods on thoroughly modern styles in their North Show brewhouse complex. With multiple restaurant concepts and an adjoining event space, Duluth’s original brewpub is still a must-visit for Minnesotan beer lovers. 

Silver: Pig Ate My Pizza

Bronze: Town Hall Brewery


Photo by Martin Rittenberry

New Brewery – Pig Ate My Pizza

Pig Ate My Pizza’s fervent following from its days as a restaurant were justifiably enthused by its reopening as a full-on brewpub. Although they just began brewing beer on-site this fall, head brewer Andy Goettsch gave customers a taste of what’s to come through a series of collaboration beers with other local breweries and it was enough for Growler Nation to name PAMP Best New Brewery. 

Silver: La Doña Cervecería

Bronze: Ursa Minor Brewing


Photo Courtesy of Castle Danger

Brewery – Castle Danger Brewery

One of the most inspiring success stories in Minnesota beer over the past decade, Castle Danger has grown from a humble Two Harbors brewhouse into a massive, 40,000-barrel-capacity facility whose distribution rivals that of our states heaviest hitters. Anchored by their pitch-perfect cream ale, Castle Danger has a deep roster of straightforward, approachable beers with a refreshing lack of hype. 

Silver: Fair State Brewing Cooperative

Bronze: August Schell Brewing Company



More 2019 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Winners:


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