The Year in Beer

December 28, 2018

More was the theme of 2018, it would seem. The drink scene in Rochester and the surrounding area had another good year. One constant we saw here was more breweries, more restaurants, more cocktails, and better beer.

While I am firmly a beer nerd, I do tend to stay away from the chaos overzealous fandom often brings, and 2018 was a year I was able to step back. Not that I cared about beer less, but I moved away from the obsessive components. After all, beer is supposed to be fun and about the community.

Personally, as far as drinks go, it was the year I started to dive into the world of cocktails, but also the year I landed some very big, rare beers. I was able to get up at a normal time on a lazy Sunday and buy 12 bottles of Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight. I attended every Forager bottle release. I slept in late and still acquired a bottle of SR-71, another rare beer from Toppling Goliath. That’s a win in my book, though not a win for fiscal responsibility!

2018 has been a year of ups and downs. We did see places like Bar Buffalo and Cameo at the Castle open. You really can’t argue against a proper gin bar dishing out jackfruit tacos and a place that serves Little Thistle’s Wetlands IPA. Unfortunately, The Doggery, that Prohibition-era-style haunt, is no more.

Speaking of Little Thistle, co-founders Steve and Dawn Finnie launched the brewery just four months ago, and the place has been churning out great beer ever since. Wetlands, Steve’s east-coast IPA, has become the brewery’s most popular beer (I’ve even been lucky enough to help him brew a batch of it, which showed me just how much care he puts into the staple). He’s also used the brewery to make collaborative beers with the soon-to-open Thesis brewery. It’s quickly become a community hub that welcomes everyone from all walks of life.

Forager had a big year with its Nillerzzzzz barrel-aged stout, which was filled to the brim with vanilla beans. That stout put the brewery on the map nationally. Subsequent releases of Breakfast Nook and Freedom Toast also proved to be popular, with hundreds waiting in line for a bottle of each. The new Drift Dough donut shop also opened within Forager, and the donuts found their way into Forager stouts.

Casablanca co-owner Youness Bojji received recognition for the great work he’s doing, with Foodservice News naming him one of Minnesota’s top chefs of 2018. Not only is his food divine, but when the Bojjis moved into their new location, they added a fun little bar that is serving up cocktails with a bit of pageantry and expert craftsmanship.

Upon reflection, you could say that Rochester is getting to where it needs to be when it comes to food and drink. However, it still has a lot of room for growth and creativity. With places like Thesis on the horizon, and Cameo and Little Thistle already pleasing crowds, Rochester seems poised for an even better 2019.

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