How much has Rochester changed in the past year?
It’s changed enough that we can now debate which brewpubs and taprooms have the hoppiest, locally made IPA.
Not long ago, we had the great early adopter, Kinney Creek Brewery on Seventh Street Northwest, and that was it. In the past year, we’ve added Grand Rounds Brewing Co. on Historic Third Street and last week, LTS Brewing Co. in northwest Rochester. Before long, the Forager brewpub and restaurant will open near Kinney Creek in the Kutzky Market building.
There are at least two other brewpubs in the area, one in Reads Landing, just west of Wabasha, and the other in Red Wing. And who knows what’s brewing for next year?
My beer of choice, currently, is a cold, hoppy India pale ale, so I’ve checked out the IPAs at the local and area brewpubs and taprooms to compile my Four Stars of Rochester Area IPAs.
Grand Rounds, the excellent brewpub in the former Sontes building on Historic Third, has two IPAs to choose from — three, depending on the night. There’s the Hop Bollocks, one of my go-to local beers, a full-bodied IPA with a 72 IBU — you can’t have an IPU too high, in my book, and this is one of the hoppiest in the area. It’s a session beer, with a modest 5 percent ABV, so you can sip and enjoy through a long conversation with lots of good food from the Grand Rounds kitchen.
The other night I stopped in and they were also pulling a Hop Bollocks Equinox, a slightly lighter-hued cousin, but with more structure and and bite. Like the regular Hop Bollocks, it’s Simcoe dry-hopped at the end.
They also have the Nelson IPA ($5 a pint), which is darker and heartier, with a higher ABV and just slightly fewer IBUs. The name doesn’t pay homage to Nelson, Wis., the little fireworks town on the other side of the Wabasha bridge; it’s brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, which give it a crisp, almost citrusy edge. I’ll give the Four Stars plaque to Lord Nelson, but you can’t go wrong either way.
At Kinney Creek, they have a nicely balanced IPA, and the name is a reflection of that — Canoe the Zumbro IPA. Even on the mostly sluggish Zumbro, you want to keep that canoe well-balanced, and the enterprising brewers at Kinney Creek do that. It’s a robust brew but lighter on the hops, with 60 IBU, and 6.1 percent ABV.
Kinney Creek is all about beer. There’s occasionally a food truck out front, but you’re otherwise there to enjoy a few of the 10-12 beers that are typically available. It’s a great place for sampling — four beers per flight for $6. The Zumbro IPA is $6 for a pint, $7 for a 750ml can, which just became available Tuesday, and $12 for a growler.
At LTS Brewing, which opened last week in the business park just north of 19th Street Northwest and the Rochester Athletic Club, their Inspiration IPA is a light-bodied brew that packs more flavor and hops than expected. It’s a refreshing brew for the patio, and comparable to the Kinney Creek IPA at 6.4 ABV and 60 IBU.
The most distinctive IPA in the area, though, goes to Reads Landing Brewing Co., the brewpub with the million-dollar view of the Mississippi River, just below Lake Pepin and west of Wabasha. Owner and brewmeister Bob Nihart makes an inky black IPA called Night Crawler ($5) that looks for all the world like a stout but has the lofty IBU (70) and lightness to work as a refreshing IPA.
Bob uses a Midnight Wheat Malt rather than roasted barley, “which adds a little lightness and adds to the flavor profile.” Then come the hops — a lot of them. “I use quite a variety of hops — Amarillo, Centennial, I dry-hop with Cascade…I probably add about half the hops in the last half-hour of the boil, which gives it more flavor than bitterness,” Bob said.
Reads Landing has four other beefy brews to check out, including the Pullman Porter and Burkie’s Brown Ale. They’ll begin Sunday sales of growlers this weekend, since the city of Wabasha just approved an ordinance.
All the beers above are available by growler, which is a huge quality-of-life improvement in Minnesota, especially on Sundays. Dare we dream that someday soon you’ll be able to buy the full range of beer, wine and liquor on Sundays in Minnesota? Probably not.
FOUR STARS OF ROCHESTER AREA IPA’S
Reads Landing Brewing Co.
70555 202nd Street, Reads Landing
Grand Rounds Brewpub
4 Third St. SW, Rochester
LTS Brewing Co.
2001 32nd Ave. NW, Rochester
Kinney Creek Brewery
1016 Seventh St. NW, Rochester