A look at the many craft beer brewers and retailers in the lake area

Sip-worthy craft brews are taking over, one frothy pint at a time.

Ten years ago, we’d have said, “What local craft beer movement?” State regulations hampered Minnesota from keeping up with the rest of the nation’s microbrew craze. Hurray! Things have changed. People are making all kinds of exciting new beer in our area, and it’s a unified front. “We share everything we know [with other brewers]. We’re not competitive; we’re here to help each other,” John Klick of Excelsior Brewing Co. says. So help yourself to a tall frosty one. Here’s our look at a few notable local breweries and their purveyors. EXCELSIOR BREWING CO. 952.474.7837; excelsiorbrew.com John Klick is what you’d call a beer nerd, and we definitely mean that as a compliment. He started in the marketing division in the beverage industry, putting together trade shows for craft brewers. “Of course, I love beer,” he says, “but what interested me most was the people. The camaraderie among brewers intrigued me.” Research revealed that craft beer was growing like gangbusters and Klick was gunning for a career change. The city of Excelsior was instrumental in the birth of the brewery. When Klick went to a city council meeting to test the waters, there was a reporter lurking in the audience. The news of the incoming brewery made the cover of the Sun Sailor before Klick had quit his job. Then a brewer read the article and got in touch. It was a match. “He was the first and last guy that we talked to [about brewing our beer],” Klick says. “And the city was amazing to work with—very supportive and accommodating.” The brewery opened in July 2012. Klick is a graduate of Wayzata High School and a water lover. “I’ve always been on or around water. I always wanted to cater to the lake audience and give back to the lake community.” His business partners Jon Lewin and Patrick Foss are also lake babies. “I’m sure there’s a hater or two out there, but so far, so good. We have a great local consumer base, and our target is always our backyard first,” Klick says. Excelsior Brewing Co. (EBC) beer is all about balance. Many microbrews tend to go heavy on the hops while EBC leans more toward malt. “We have hoppy ones, too, but we’re not getting stuck with too much sweetness or bitterness,” Klick says. EBC makes 10 different beers: three flagship beers and a variety of seasonal sippers. Their biggest seller is XLCR (pronounced “Excelsior”), an American pale ale; Big Island Blond and the brown ale Bitteschlappe round out the offerings. “Bitteschlappe is just fun to say,” Klick says. “People make up their own meanings. You can imagine the stuff they come up with!” And the future? It’s bursting with possibility. Klick envisions expanding with a small gift shop and retail store. He’d also like to add more beer making equipment, a packaging line, triple the production capacity and make a bigger taproom. EBC even won the “Best Customer Service” award in Lake Minnetonka Magazine’s Best of 2013 readers’ survey. “No one understands the faces of customer service are all volunteers,” Klick says. “That’s how we won: No one has to be there; they choose to be there because they are so into the company, the people and the project.” Sound fun? There’s a waiting list for new volunteers. TONKA BEER COMPANY tonkabeer.com The Tonka Beer Company was ignited by a brainstorming of common interests among friends. The partners had all grown up in the area and wanted to found a company to preserve our lakes and rivers. They paired their love of the lakes with a long-time dream of starting a beer company. “The lake area is home for all of us at Tonka Beer,” says owner Chad Mayes. “We all grew up in the area and migrated back home to raise our families. It was a very easy choice.” Tonka Beer and Save Our Lakes have been very well received by locals. The message of water conservation is simple enough and easy for local residents and lake lovers to get behind. Who knew there was a connection between divine beer and evil zebra mussels? The philosophy at Tonka Beer has always been to produce great beer that can be enjoyed by many and leads to cleaner lakes and rivers. And Mayes is thrilled with Tonka Beer Company’s location in Minnetonka. “The lake-area beer scene is as strong as ever,” he says. “It’s been a great and fun spot to nurture a new company.” LUCID BREWING 612.615.8243; lucidbrewing.com Lucid Brewery, also in Minnetonka, snagged the 2013 Best New Brewery award from the Star Tribune. Their attractive tagline: “Craft beer that is drinkable is no longer unthinkable. From the first sip to your final belch.” Their two lighter beers are blonde ales called AIR and the classic American pale ale DYNO. Their West-coast style IPA, FOTO, clocks in at 6.5 percent alcohol and is humorously described on their website: “With higher alcohol and hoppiness than DYNO, nothing looks better on a craft enthusiast. Post a picture of you tipping a FOTO on our Facebook, and it might make you hotter looking than you already are.” The brewery’s hilarious website also claims that AIR was made by aeronautical engineers. Lucid’s seasonal offerings change regularly, including a double IPA Cammo and an oak-aged imperial red ale named DUCE. And the hits keep on comingCheck out the new guys, ENKI Brewery enkibrewing.com in Victoria, whose mission is “to make the world a friendlier place—two beers at a time.” Besides, any quaff named after the Sumerian god of water has got to be good. FUN FACT:  Back in the day, brewers used corks to seal the bottles of beer. Air would leak out and make a groaning noise, hence the term “growler.” LOCAL CRAFT BEER PURVEYORS SHARE Autumn Beer PicksNate Strong, Strong LiquorIndeed Brewery Day Tripper Pale Ale (5) Lighter in body; delicious hop profile with a citrusy kick.Fulton Brewery Worthy Adversary (9) Super dark beer comparable in color to motor oil; a roasted, sweet malty flavor with a hint of alcohol to let you know to beware. Finnegan’s Irish Amber (4) Medium-bodied amber ale with a creamy finish. Feel good drinking it knowing that 100 percent of the profits go back to the community. Now available in cans, too. Gina Holman, Wayzata Wine and SpiritsBig Wood Forest Fire Imperial Smoked Rye (6) A tribute to autumn from Big Wood Brewery. This specialty craft brew packs a punch of flavor and complexity. For the rye lover, this is a must try. Imperial India Pale Ale (3) Also from Big Wood, this has proved to be a crowd favorite for the IPA lover. The mix of Columbus and Centennial hops lends itself to a beer with incredible aromas of citrus and floral notes with a solid malt backing. Flavors of orange peel, grapefruit and lemon create a refreshing brew.Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison (2) This Belgium-influenced ale is a selection everyone will enjoy. The tradition for a beer of this style has a dry malt finish and a wonderful spice that only Belgium yeasts can create. This beer is smooth, well-balanced and is sure to satisfy the masses.   Tyler Melton, The Wine ShopOmmegang Abbey (7) Ommegang is the New York sister brewery to the famous Duval Brewery in Belgium. Their goal is to produce amazing quality and high-gravity Belgian beers for a reasonable price. This fall favorite is their take on a classic Belgian Double style. The bottle-conditioned ale pours a beautiful mahogany and shows flavors of figs and toffee.  North Coast Brewery Old Rasputin (8) Old Rasputin has always been held as one of the finest domestically produced Russian Imperial Stouts. This monster pours pitch black and is dominated by toasty dark espresso flavors. A must-try for when you need a beer that will put a little meat on your bones. Poire Authentique Cider from Eric Bordlet (1) While not exactly a beer, this is a favorite fall fizzy beverage, produced entirely from estate-grown heirloom pears in Normandy, France. The fruit is hand selected and undergoes a drying period before being hand pressed in small batches. This process intensifies the flavors before native ambient yeasts ferment this bottle-conditioned masterpiece.