DULUTH – Pennsylvania's famous groundhog saw his shadow earlier this month, typically a harbinger of six more weeks of winter. But as we near the end of February, it's starting to feel more and more like a Minnesota spring. Did Punxsutawney Phil lead us astray in thinking that 40-degree patio season was still a far-off fantasy?
Check out this week's North Pour list for ideas of what to drink this weekend at area taprooms, many of which have outdoor seating. (And please don't blame us for jinxing things when the late-spring snowstorms inevitably arrive).
Buffalo Check Bock
Ursa Minor Brewing
The dark lager is back and ready to rush in the new season with caramel, raison-y and fruity aromas. On Fridays and Saturdays, the Lincoln Park brewery will have its patio set up so guests can "poke the bock" —because apparently it's common to warm this German-style brew by sticking a hot fire poker into your malty beverage.
Details: Head to the taproom for a drink or a crowler to go, or pick up a four-pack at local liquor stores.
Wild State Cider
Starting Friday, try this cider made with honey from Hinckley-area hives. Its golden color almost looks like the fruit of the busy bees' labor.
Details: Available in the Lincoln Park taproom.
Last Pale on Earth
Blacklist Brewing Co.
This 5.5% ABV brew — "clean and citrusy with just enough hoppy bite," according to Blacklist —is making a temporary reappearance. True Duluthians will recognize the punny name on the label, a nod to the downtown taproom's notorious former occupant.
Details: A taproom exclusive, available only in cans.
Tugboat Irish Stout
If you're already gearing up for St. Patrick's Day, try this Irish-style dry stout served on nitrogen à la Guinness or Murphy's. With notes of coffee and dark chocolate, Fitger's said its new brew is "proof that not all dark beers are heavy."
Details: Grab a pint at the brewhouse or get a crowler with your takeout.
Coffee Pale Ale
Castle Danger Brewery
Duluth Coffee Company cold press combines with notes of orange and citrus in this twist on a standard American Pale Ale. It's the second brew in Castle Danger's #FreeTheGrowler series campaigning to change state liquor laws.
Details: Available only in the Two Harbors taproom.
These offerings from previous weeks may also still be available.
Strawberry Pineapple Hefeweizen
Blacklist Brewing Co.
The Hefeweizen's classic banana and clove notes combine with strawberry and pineapple flavors for a robust fruity brew.
Details: Available in the taproom, on draft or to go.
Pôrdij #6: Hazy IPA
Bent Paddle Brewing Co.
Hop alert! Those bright flavors "lend a tropical citrus forward nose that supports the ample malt frame," according to Bent Paddle's website. It's the latest release in the brewer's series of Pôrdijs, which "navigate the ever-changing currents of the IPA style" like a portage leads to a new body of water.
Details: Now ready in the Lincoln Park taproom and hitting the stores next week.
Mango Citrus Smoothie Cider
It's the Lincoln Park business' first-ever smoothie cider. After surviving the recent cold stretch, we could all use a little taste of the tropics.
Details: Get it in the taproom starting Friday.
No. 21 and No. 48
Hoops' flagship IPA, No. 21, and its big brother, No. 48, are rarely on tap at the same time. Hop lovers should try both — though the more full-bodied No. 48 is described on the brewery's website as "a beer drinkers' IPA."
Details: Available in the Canal Park taproom and to go.
Ruby Cranberry Cider
Get a 32-ounce bottle of this seasonal tartness plus a branded fleece blanket and two glasses for $60 and treat your sweetheart to a nice picnic for Valentine's Day — bonus points if it's an outdoor picnic amid this Arctic blast.
Details: Order online, pick up at the taproom.
Don't Bring Me Flowers
Among the holiday additions to the Canal Park distillery's cocktail kits is this whiskey, hibiscus, pineapple and Szechuan pepper potable that probably pairs perfectly with some Chinese takeout. There's also the I'll Have What She's Having — a gin drink with strawberry, coconut and mint — plus the whiskey-infused dark cherry hot cocoa kits for the romantic overachievers.
Details: Order online and pick up curbside or swing by the taproom.
Cedar Sour Red Ale
Earth Rider Brewery
The first release of Earth Rider's mixed fermentation series is an amber ale aged in French oak barrels with a bacteria and yeast culture that brings a bubbly sourness. The brewery recommends tasting it alongside the original Allouez Ale to "to get an understanding of what bacteria, yeast, wood and time can do to a beer." Cellar it for three-plus years to see what even more time can do.
Details: Available in bottles from the brewery's taproom, the Cedar Lounge in Superior.
Thunder Mountain Rumble Dunkel
As fun to drink as it is to say, here's a traditional German lager with some nuttiness — go nuts.
Details: Get it on tap at the brewhouse and in crowlers and growlers to go.