Ask the Patch Pros: All About Beer

Want to start homebrewing? Or just want to buy a good, new beer? Our pros are here to help.

Ah, beer. Such a lovely beverage.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, there is more to suds than Bud. The world of beer is much more complex and interesting, and we have a few pros who can help break it down.

Jason Alvey, owner of craft beer store in St. Louis Park, can help you find a delicious new craft beer—particularly one that is off the beaten path.

And Todd Jackson, customer service manager at , can help you get started if you've always wanted to try brewing at home.

If you have any beer-related questions in the next few days, please post them in the comments below. One of the aforementioned gentlemen will get you an answer ASAP.


Update: Jason Schoneman, founder and owner of Steel Toe Brewing, is going to be jumping into the fray on Thursday. Feel free to fire questions his way!

Jason Alvey June 14, 2012 at 07:09 PM
If you mean Deschutes "Dissident": Lots of people scoring it high on Beer Advocate.com or Rate Beer. If you are talking about Steel Toe Dissent, we weren't aware it had that distinction yet. It would be very impressive considering how long the beer has been in production. We certainly enjoy the beer!
Jason Alvey June 14, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Hi Jim, you are correct. The final step in making NA beer is to take the newly fermented but un-carbonated beer and either boil it to the boiling point of alcohol, or, you can reduce the air pressure so that the alcohol boils out at room temp. Either way the product you end up drinking is still beer. It still contains barley, yeast, hops and water. Just very little alcohol. The price of NA beer is indeed similar to "normal" beer because it has to be brewed in just the same way with all the same ingredients. NA beer is certainly not soda, (as some people have tried to argue with me!) As for flavor, well, that's tough. Most NA beers are based on light lagers. There's not much to choose from. We sell the Paulaner Thomas Brau (German) and that's certainly one of the best ones we've ever tried. If you can have some alcohol you might want to consider session beers. Full flavored low alcohol beers. Surly Bitter Brewer is a good example. It's only 3.7% ABV and has a gorgeous flavor of toasty orange marmalade. Love it! 21st amendment "Bitter American" is another one I like. Check them out if you're not completely alcohol free.
The Twilight Clone June 14, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I'm interested in the discussion of how much "room" is available for craft brewers here. It's my impression that the market is getting crowded. I sense this when everybody makes the same beers. It's getting tough to stand out. We did a "tour" of Lift Bridge Brewery in Stillwater. It was fun (hell, free beer is always fun), but the beer is decidedly unremarkable. Brewers need to make something interesting or risk going belly-up.
Jason Alvey June 14, 2012 at 08:09 PM
To answer the second part of your question, I assume when you say "loggers" what you mean is "Lagers"? With that assumption here's your answer: Yes, many, many craft breweries brew lagers. All beers are either a lager or an ale. Every beer on Earth is either one or the other. Lagers include all kinds of styles like, Pilsners, Dopplebocks, Dunkels, Schwarzbiers, Dortmunders, Bocks, Maibocks, Viennas and all many more. If you are talking about Pilsner style lagers specifically then yes, many brewers here in the U.S. brew them too. They do take more skill. A traditional Pilsner is not easy to brew, it is the mark of a talented brewer of they can brew a good one. So, not every craft brewery takes them on but there are certainly some excellent examples brewed all over the U.S. Cheers!
Jason Alvey June 14, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Twilight, We've actually already addressed this question, take a look at the top of the thread, it's a complicated issue. We talked about the growth of the industry and I talked about the importance of the quality of the beers. It goes without saying that the brewers have to be able to make their beers stand out from the crowd. Everyone has different tastes. As long as your beers are not full of off flavors and problems there'll be a customer for it. I personally love the Lift Bridge beers. That's the nice thing about craft beer, everyone has different tastes and there's enough variety for every palette.
Todd J @ Midwest Supplies June 14, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Just a second upvote for the Lift Bridge beers. To me, they are proving that brewing solid beers can make a successful brewery. Overall though, to each their own. Craft brewing and craft beers are just going to get better and more diverse. I have a female friend that hopes that somebody comes up with a "sex on the beach" beer, I however do not.
SomeGuy June 14, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Anybody can make a big or boozy or uberhoppy or over-the-top beer and there is a market for those. But don't be too quick to dismiss the skill required to make a nice session beer on a consistent basis, batch-after-batch ... or that there is a serious market for them, pretty much ignored until recently. It's a big pool, everybody in!
Dr. Jacob Conway, DC June 14, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Can anyone recommend a good Gluten-Free beer?
Jason Alvey June 14, 2012 at 09:05 PM
St Pete's Sorgham beer is nice. As is Bard's and Sprecher's Shakparo. All solid. Otherwise experiment with Ciders. Cider is not beer, it doesn't have any grain in it at all (which makes it gluten free). The "craft cider" options these days are expanding dramatically. Come check out our cider selection sometime. I think you'll be impressed.
Phil June 14, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Lakefronts new(ish) gluten-free beer really surprised me. Not at all what I expected. Delicate, floral and extremely drinkable!
A Schmizzle Dizzle June 14, 2012 at 09:27 PM
What is the best place/resource for a newcomer to craft beer to learn about styles, pairings, and flavors in beer?
steve June 14, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Guys, I have really been leaning towards Black IPA's lately, started back with Widmer a few years ago...now on to Hop in the dark from Decheuttes, and Black IPA from Alaskan....and of course home brew version, sorry Todd from your competitor in town- last i looke dmidwest didn't offer one, So i guess my question is other beers in this space you would recommend? To me this style brings the things I love from stouts and porters and hops them like an IPA. Perfection!! thanks guys great forum!!
steve June 14, 2012 at 10:00 PM
ooops forgot 21st amendment back in black also.....
Jason Alvey June 14, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Hey Schmizzle Dizzle, As for the best place to learn about beer, that's easy: The Four Firkins! Seriously, we are all trained professional beer experts and we are happy to share our passion with you. We will happily spend as much time as you like teaching you all about beer. That is one of the biggest differences between us and other liquor stores. We are absolutely, undeniably here to help you enjoy beer as much as possible! If you want more we can also recommend some great books and websites. We mentioned some websites earlier in this thread too....
Susan June 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Thank you so much for asking this, and for those who have replied. I have Bard's in the fridge now, but I don't love it. So far Red Bridge is my choice, but I have only tried a few. I will try the St. Pete's, Lakefronts and the ciders. Any other suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.
Joanne Simons June 14, 2012 at 10:58 PM
If you can put up with a little shameless promotion by a mom, my son Matt Allyn (Maple Grove grad, now in Allentown, PA working for Bicycling Mag) has a new book he co-authored with Greg Koch of Stone Brewing. It's The Brewer's Apprentice. Includes interviews with 18 world-class craft brew masters from Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada, Summit, Stone, Three Floyds, Tugwell Creek and more. Here's link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Brewers-Apprentice-Insiders-Brewing/dp/1592537316
Glenn Tennis June 15, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Hi Jason - I have traveled extensively in the lower 48, and I find that local beer is often the best beer. I am assuming it has something to do with the freshness. Am I correct?
JASON SCHONEMAN June 15, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Hey folks, Jason from Steel Toe Brewing in St Louis Park here ready to answer questions.
JASON SCHONEMAN June 15, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Its all the love that goes into the beer. Dissent is unique in that it isn't over the top roasty and is very well attenuated for a stout so it is not as sweet as some. I think the medium body makes it easy to have several pints and not feel too full. Great malt character including caramel, toffee, molasses, cocoa and espresso keep it very interesting. Glad you enjoy this wonderful beer. We will bring it back in September.
Michael Rose (Editor) June 15, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Nice to have you, Jason S. I'll ask you a question: Is there one ingredient that you find to be most important in making beer? Put another way: If you had to pick one thing to be of the finest quality, what would it be?
Jason Alvey June 15, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Hi Glenn, I must say I'm very humbled and frankly a little intimidated that you would ask me a question on this forum. How is Grum these days? Are you still a T.V. star? You are always correct, about everything. Especially Cinco products and Thanksgiving movies. Local beer is awesome because we have so many talented brewers. Minnesota beer drinkers are very, very lucky! You're a legend mate, say hello to your Dad for me. Cheers!
Jason Alvey June 15, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Nice one mate! Good to have you on here!
JASON SCHONEMAN June 15, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Thanks Michael and Jason. The most important thing in beer is yeast because yeast make beer. Healthy yeast is the key, although a good recipe and proper brewing techniques don't hurt either.
Chris June 15, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Hi Jason S! My wife and I did a tour of the brewery a while back. Great tour and a great bunch of people. We had just started homebrewing so it was good to see a brewery on a larger scale and how it all comes together. For anybody interested in learning more about craft brews and developing your tastes, tour the local breweries! It's always a good time and you get to taste and maybe even bring home some local beer. Speaking of..my Steel Toe growlers are empty and it's Friday.
Todd J @ Midwest Supplies June 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM
The Four Firkins is THE spot to learn. They are the Michael Jordans of beer. I will add though, that learning on your own is pretty awesome. Use the build you own six pack options and commit to drinking in moderation to really learn the styles and flavors. Drinking too many of a good thing is fun sometimes, but it really only teaches you that you should have drank more water before bed. Check out some beer dinners (www.mnbeer.com is great resource on those) for great pairings. Also, http://www.midwestsupplies.com/tasting-beer-mosher.html is a great read for learning to use your palette.
Todd J @ Midwest Supplies June 15, 2012 at 01:22 PM
We do not carry a kit for the black IPA year round. We do offer one up in "MOvember". Keep an eye out for it, it's wicked good. Commercially, Mountain Standard from Odell is another great offering, but it is more like a big brother to the Black IPA.
TSfan14 June 15, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Im a homebrewer, and would never try to make a Bud or Miller clone. However I will go to my nieghbors house and trade one of my beers for a Grain Belt Priemium.
Marc June 16, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Alvey, can I get your honest opinion on a local brewery? Do you find Sweet Child of Vine to be as inconsistent as I do? Seems the bottle, the growler, and various taps all vary in hopiness to clarity. It's ok if you don't want to answer since you are a retailer. Just wonder if I'm insane. They are all good, just different from each other.
Jason Alvey June 16, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Hi Marc, you'll always get some subtle differences from the bottled beer to keg beer. As long as the beer is good a little difference in clarity isn't a big deal. Hoppiness can be diminished in a bottle if it sits for a long time. Try to buy your bottles from a place that turns it over quickly so you'll get the beer as fresh as possible. Beer from a keg is obviously going to be as fresh as it gets. However, some bars are going to go through a keg faster than others. Line cleaning plays a part in it all too. Having said this I have never had any off flavors or problems with Fulton Sweet Child of Vine (or any of their other beers). I enjoy it from the bottle quite frequently and when I get time I pop on in to the tap room for a special treat of the super fresh variety. Honestly, we have never had any issues with Fulton's quality. They know what they are doing and do it well. Cheers!
gitsglenda July 11, 2012 at 05:54 PM
who distributes tonka beer and does it reach to sw mn like worthington,,mn windom etc.


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