Mayor R.T. Rybak recently wrote that the “business of Minneapolis is beer.” With alcohol statutes being adjusted and the brewery boom in full swing, the city’s new brewers face a real challenge in trying to distinguish themselves from one another.
Believing they’ve found the right niche are Eric Biermann (left, above) and Jon Messier (right). Armed with 15 years each of home brewing experience, and Biermann with additional training by the American Brewers Guild, they’ve opened Lucid Brewing in Minnetonka.
Lucid’s focus will be attempting to walk the treacherous line between craft beer flavor and macro-brew drinkability. Their flagship ale, Air, is so light it may not appeal to committed hopheads. That said: Their upcoming double IPA, Camo, definitely will. Camo even manages to retain very a light profile, despite weighing in at 9 percent alcohol.
Currently, Lucid is only available on tap (a bottling line tops their list of future brewery additions). Air is available at Lucid’s current accounts now. Camo was officially released last Friday, and will be proliferating in the coming weeks.
We stopped by the Minnetonka brewery for a pint of Air and Camo and a quick chat.
HEAVY TABLE: How is it that a brewery can have the phrase “Clarity in Thinking” in its marketing tagline?
JON MESSIER: [laughing] If you have “Clarity in Thinking,” you’ll have “Excellence in Drinking,” because you’ll have a Lucid.
ERIC BIERMANN: You work your job, it’s crazy, you come home, and you want to relax. But then you have the kids, you deal with them and whatever else, finally get them to bed, and then you have that brief moment of lucidity — when you can unwind and relax. It’s about that moment of clear thinking.
HT: In The Tap, we alluded to a “pro-am” brewing program at Lucid. Tell us more.
EB: Jon and I both come from the homebrew world, and there are some amazing home brewers in the area. We’re hoping we can be that place to help them build their recipes, not just for competitions, but hopefully to bring to market.
JM: We did a Kickstarter drive, it was very successful. So we’re going to upgrade our brewery and get another tank to allow for amateur brewing. We can’t just brew crazy chocolate-vanilla bean porters on a whim. But in a one-off batch, paired up with a homebrewer who will share the cost, I mean, why not?
EB: If they’re really serious, we can register their brand, help brew some pilot batches, get it out there, and get feedback before doing the huge batch.
JM: And we already have some people interested in doing this. [Lucid] is a dream come true for two homebrewers. Why not help the community that helped us?
Style: American Ale
EB: There’s a hole in the market for easy-drinking craft beer -– ones lighter in alcohol that are sessionable. Air has enough flavor to appeal to the craft drinker, but also a light feel to hopefully bring in some Amstel or Stella drinkers.
HT: It is extremely light. You get some malt up front and the carbonation keeps that flavor on your tongue, until the finish, which is very clean.
JM: Even when we sampled this out to bars, they were saying it was a little too bitter to be considered a light beer.
HT: Wait, really? [Note: Air is the least bitter craft brew you’re ever likely to taste.]
JM: It all has to do with perception. For people who are Bud Light drinkers, they’re more heightened to the presence of bitterness.
EB: We kind of had to mimic the bitterness of a macro beer to keep it palatable… I don’t expect we’re going to be replacing Bud and Miller taps any time soon, but we wanted to give people something similar to that if they want something local.
JM: It’s the beer you want to drink when, say, you’re digging a 100-foot-long trench.
EB: Yeah, where Camo is a beer that you want to talk about, Air is a beer for whatever you happen to be doing. It’s not going to be memorable, it’s just going to be easy.
HT: Does the businessman inside you worry about that — making a beer designed to be non-memorable?
EB: Hopefully it’s memorable enough that next time you go to the bar you want to order it. It has some subtlety to it, some citrusy hops. But the IBUs are in the single digits, which is unheard of for a craft beer.
JM: We think there’s something in this beer for everybody.
Style: Double IPA
EB: It’s a nice, strong Double IPA. At 9 percent [alcohol by volume], you’ll definitely get some alcohol flavors on it. There are five different kinds of hops in there, added at five different times in the brewing process. It hasn’t been dry-hopped, it’s all kettle additions. We use a blend of pellet hops and hop extract to get the flavors right. It’s an IPA, so we tried to get the citrusy flavors in there and a little bit of pine. But we try to keep it balanced. It’s only about 65 IBU, so with all the alcohol and the malt, it stays easy-drinking.
HT: Nice light caramel color and a very pleasant hop aroma. At the end of the sip, you’re not getting hops; it’s malt and alcohol. There’s not much of that residual IPA burn.
JM: You will get a little bitterness at the end.
EB: But hopefully you’ll find all our beers have a clean finish.
HT: This is absolutely one of the lightest-tasting 9 percent alcohol beers I’ve ever had. There’s no way I would have guessed 9 percent — maybe I would after having two and I’m fumbling for my credit card.
JM: That’s why we call it Camo. It’s a sneaky beer. We like it a lot, market-wise, because there’s not a ton of Double IPAs in the area, though nationally there are so many good ones: Dogfish Head, Weyerbacher, Pliny the Elder. Why is no one making one in Minnesota?
EB: Well, Surly has done one. A seasonal, but it’s drastically different than ours.
JM: So we’re going to run ours full time and see how it goes. We have a good feeling. There’s a lot of room for drinkable IPAs.
HT: Even with those good national ones, they’re not entirely sessionable. With, say, a Dogfish Head 90 Minute, for example. It’s a great beer, but there’s a sweetness about it that, combined with the alcohol, doesn’t always beg for a second pint.
JM: Dogfish Head was definitely part of the inspiration for Camo. They do the continual hopping that Eric was talking about.
HT: [tasting a pint poured directly from the fermentation tank] Is this representative of the level of carbonation it’s going to have?
JM: No, it will be more carbonated than that, which will lighten the mouthfeel even more, and the bubbles will help pull out the hop flavors a bit as well.
EB: This would be good for casks.
JM: Yeah, maybe better for firkins, which we plan to do. Some day.