In today’s America, we’re at a crossroads vis-a-vis the concept of prison. On one hand, the rise of mandatory minimums, three strikes, and the prison-industrial complex have led many (on both the left and the right) to conclude that something’s seriously wrong with the system. On the other hand, the idea of “jail” will always have a sort of absurd sexiness associated with it — think of tours of Sing Sing, swank, overnight jail-stay evenings for charities, the breathless excitement that surrounds a prison break, and well, jail-themed beers.
The Warden, a new milk stout beer by Lift Bridge Brewing, is a tribute to Stillwater’s Minnesota State Prison (formerly the Minnesota Territorial Prison), which operated from 1853 to 1914 and housed the likes of the Younger Brothers, members of the Jesse James gang. The prison burned down in 2002, and the site is now a condominium complex, a nice symbol for the taming of Stillwater in general — fine cheese and craft beer have a replaced a rough-and-tumble frontier attitude.
As for flavor, The Warden packs plenty. The beer is smooth and creamy, leading with a touch of smoke from the roasted barley and concluding with a dairy-evocative note that is true to the milk stout style. You can and should sip this beer alongside autumn comfort food. It would play well with stewed red meats, squash dishes, or loaded hash browns. At 5.75 percent ABV and 25 IBU, this is a beer that’s likely a great deal more affable than its namesake.