While there are various business models in the growing craft-beer industry, it is unheard of for a new brewery to launch in Minnesota without a taproom. Since taprooms became legal here in 2011, it’s difficult to recall a grand opening of a brewery that only distributed to liquor stores and did not serve its first pints across its own bar.
Cosmos Brewing in Hugo, Minn. is the counter-example. The beer became available to consumers on draft and in bombers late last year. There was a launch party of sorts in December 2016 at Grumpy’s Northeast during which a handful of beers were available on draft and were soon rolled out elsewhere, but the team has no plans to serve out of their north metro location. Instead, they have a wider vision, with out-of-state distribution as a primary goal.
Since the launch, nearly a dozen beers have been released, and Cosmos has begun canning as well. Head brewer Jared Camic trained in England and Wisconsin before founding Cosmos with his business partner, Daryl Bolicek. The two met in the music industry years ago.
The initial releases were typical — IPA, pale ale — but Camic doesn’t plan to adhere to specific styles. His recent release is a gose, or German-style ale made with salt and coriander that’s historically on the slightly tart side. The GoseRound is made with wheat, key limes, sea salt, and Indian coriander.
On first sip, the beer is mineral-forward, with a sulfur presence that is slightly strong. The sea salt, while not directly perceived, likely enhances the intensity of the citrus and spice, and the degree of sourness is appropriately low. Unfortunately, the flavors are a bit muddy, with no clear lime component, only a pithy sour note, while the coriander element is oddly sweet rather than serving as a savory and spicy counterpoint. Overall, it was unimpressive with a Flintstones vitamin profile.
For a more bitter option, the Double Black Hole hits all of the American black ale notes. An intensely earthy, bitter flavor from Mosaic, Simcoe, and Nelson Sauvin hops persists from aroma to aftertaste, to the detriment of all other flavors. It’s a deep black beer with persistent head, and the high carbonation gives a small amount of buoyancy to what is otherwise a palate-wrecker. There is no malt character to be found.
Crop Formation (pictured top), a wheat ale with basil and wildflower honey, is far more enjoyable. Though it’s only 5.7 percent ABV, it tastes far more substantial due to the combination of honey notes, medium body, and high carbonation. Much of this beer’s favor is fermentation-derived: The yeast character is akin to a saison, with mild clove and pepper notes that underscore the basil.
With a space-themed aesthetic and a location distant from the Northeast Minneapolis beer hub, Cosmos is forging a new path, one that more breweries may adopt, especially those that aren’t interested in running both a brewery and a bar. The downside of regional competition can’t be overlooked, though, with more and more regional brands competing for tap and shelf space. And without a place to visit, the brand loses some of its local loyalty.
Cosmos Brewing 9480 140th St N, Hugo, MN 55038 (not open to the public)