I live in Chicago but I was born and raised in Minnesota. Like many people know, Minnesota has a ton of lakes and a ton of people who enjoy them, but it only has one brewery that really encapsulates that lifestyle, and that’s Excelsior Brewing. Quick disclaimer, I’ve been to Excelsior Brewing Co. tap room numerous times, so it only makes sense that I wrote a review on what is probably my favorite brew spot in Minnesota.
A few weeks ago I got a chance to go home and visit my parents in Minnesota, and no trip (when I was of drinking age) is complete without a visit to Excelsior Brewing. Excelsior is now a huge part of the city that it’s named after – from winter biking races and live music every weekend, to numerous acts of charity and community outreach events, Excelsior Brewing has become the go-to spot in the local southwest Minneapolis suburb community for catching up with friends, reuniting with buddies from high school or having a family outing. It also does a great job of embodying the lake it resides near, through both its beers and through its branding. Speaking of – Excelsior Brewing makes really great beer, which is probably why you came to this post.
When I went recently I got to try out a few small batch options (reviews below) but no trip to Excelsior is complete for me with tipping back a Bridge Jumper IPA or Big Island Blonde – two of their most popular beers that are now available for consumption in 6-packed quantities around Minnesota. Why the unique names? Well, both invoke experiences that are common to those that frequent Lake Minnetonka – bridge jumping is prevalent and Big Island is home to one of the wildest Fourth of July celebrations in the Midwest (please drink responsibly).
Now, to the beers I reviewed recently. Excelsior always has a list of small batch seasonal varieties they rotate based on the season and ingredient availability. Side note – if you’re ever there in the winter and like ginger-spiced beers, their Shattered Solstice spiced beer has an awesome flavor. When I went – I tried out their Triad #3 Hoppy Ale and Sunburn Cherry Wheat Ale, here are my thoughts.
Triad #3 Hoppy Ale
Stats: 6.2% ABV, made with Citra, Azacca, Mosaic & Equinox hop
Thoughts: Triad #3 is the third variant between Excelsior Brewing, Enki and Waconia Brewing, and its unique flavor showcases the creativity that comes out when these brew masters get together. I’ve honestly never had a beer like this before. At first smell, it almost reminded me of an IPA due to the four types of hops it incorporates, and on first sip you get a full burst of hop flavor that’s really great. But then the beer changes – there’s no bitter aftertaste that you expect with a hop-heavy beer but instead an intense tart and fruity flavor that makes you appreciate the complexity that went into its creation. It’s a really fun and unique drinking experience that both my Dad and I enjoyed.
Verdict: I’m a big fan – more so for its uniqueness than its drinkability. Its light enough that you could drink several but the intensity of flavors you encounter probably mean that one or two servings is probably best. If Triad #3 is on the small batch tap list when you visit, get it if you like trying something new.
Sunburn Cherry Wheat:
Stats: 5.6% ABV, part of their Off-Shore 20bbl Series, only available on draft.
Thoughts: If you saw my recent Bells Poolside Ale review, you’ll know I’ve grown partial to cherry ales, especially as a summertime drink. Excelsior’s Sunburn does a
good job of being a no frills cherry wheat – it has the familiar gold color, scent of wheat and cherry taste you expect. At first I wasn’t really getting a ton of cherry flavor hitting me but after a few sips I started to get a much fuller cherry taste that had a hint of tartness – maybe it was just my taste buds getting warmed up. Its drinkable and refreshing, but is probably a one and done beer for me.
Verdict: Good but not great. It didn’t have the distinct flavors I usually expect from Excelsior but it’s still worth a shot – especially if you’re looking to impress at your next patio hangout. Love the name too.
Described above are two beers Excelsior Brewing makes, but the great thing about this place is the range of beers, varieties and flavors they’re able to showcase throughout their rotating lineup. And although they don’t serve food in-house (that’s what the food trucks are for of course), you should have no doubts that visiting Excelsior will be a fulfilling stop on your craft brew quest – just make sure you take a walk by the lake when you go, I hear it’s nice this time of year.
As always, these are my thoughts – I welcome any feedback, comments or criticism you might have. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter as well. Cheers!
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