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​Dangerously good ales from Two Harbors, Minnesota

Beer Snob | July 26th, 2017

Minnesota is certainly well known for being a hotspot for craft brewing. While most of the action has been centered around the Minneapolis metro area, yet another brewer from the Northern part of the state has decided to bring its beer across the border and into the North Dakota market.

Originally brewed at the Castle Haven Cabins, a small resort in Castle Danger on the North Shore of Lake Superior in 2011, the brewery operations for Castle Danger Brewery were moved to a brand new facility they built just a short distance away in Two Harbors where they have been brewing and canning their beers since August of 2014.

A recent expansion, expected to be complete in November, will bring their total brew capacity to 40,000 barrels annually and set them up to brew 13,000 barrels by the end of 2017. This output would make them the 8th largest brewer in the state of Minnesota.

They have chosen to distribute to North Dakota and part of Minnesota through Beverage Wholesalers out of Fargo, whose footprint helps Castle Danger achieve some immediate goals. According to Lon Larson (VP/Co-owner), “Signing with Beverage Wholesalers (BWI) allowed us to complete our Minnesota footprint. Previously we covered the eastern two-thirds of the state. The bonus for us is BWI’s strong presence in North Dakota, including Fargo and Grand Forks. This allowed us to enter the North Dakota market a year ahead of our original plan. “

The Castle Danger approach to beer is to first focus on a flavor profile, rather than attempting to make beers that are completely true to style. While they do often start with a base style in mind, the focus is more on creating an interesting and unique beer that is brewed using traditional methods rather than recreating a traditionally true to style beer.

I could immediately taste the results of this approach when sampling their Danger Ale. A very well-rounded beer that sits comfortably within the very wide open American Strong Ale category, this brew has plenty of caramel and bready malts and those wonderfully fruity esters from the yeast, but is finished with German noble hops that give it a great balance and crispness that is too rarely seen in the strong ale category. Full of flavor without being something you have to chew through, this strong ale comes in fairly low in ABV (for this style) at only 6.5%, and is one of the very few strong ales I’ve seen in a can.

When asked about which of their beers seem to generate the most excitement, Lon has two particular beers that should make strong impressions on new customers. First, is their most anticipated seasonal beer: Mosaic Fresh Hop IPA. Lon remarks, “The Mosaic hops are picked fresh from the vine and literally overnighted to the brewery. They are immediately used in the making of beer and are still “wet,” having just been picked.

Hops grow in a way to protect the Lupulin glands, which produce the hop flavors we love. Hops are traditionally pelletized which locks in the majority of oils for long-term storage but removes some of the delicate flavors they can offer. Fresh-hopped beers are a way for brewers to use hops in their purest form”.

He continues, “Our top selling year-round beer is the Castle Cream Ale. Often described as a light beer with flavor, it appeals to a broad range of drinkers from light lager types to the to the most craft-centric. It is deep gold in color, it has a soft malty aroma, slightly sweet creamy texture with a balanced bitterness, while finishing smooth and clean.”

After just one sip, I can immediately sense why they call this a light beer with flavor, though personally I think this is better described as a very easy drinking ale that will appeal to light beer drinkers. It is simply packed with too much flavor and too great of a creamy mouthfeel for me to think of it as a “light” beer. It certainly won’t weigh down your pallet and it could work extremely well to wash down any variety of foods, especially if grilled.

In addition to the beers already mentioned, they offer an American Pale Ale (17-7), and an India Pale Ale (Ode IPA) year-round.

You will be able to try all of these beers -- and perhaps some very special limited release kegs -- at the Front Street Taproom on August 17th when Castle Danger will be coming to Fargo for a Tap Takeover that starts at 4pm. Sit down and have a beer with a representative from the brewery and learn more about one of the newest brewers to hit the local market.




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