#39 Summit Extra Pale Ale: Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota
State: Minnesota, a dark and cold woods with two large villages sitting along the not-yet-massive Mississippi River. This is where white people go to rap, play hockey and shop at Target.
Brewery: Summit, founded in 1986 it’s the state’s second largest brewery, behind August Schell Brewing Company, which was founded back in 1860 and is basically a Northwoods Yuengling. Summit was much celebrated in the early days of American craft beer but it’s decidedly old guard now. Instead of pushing its “Unchained” limited edition brews to liven up its line it’s presenting an oatmeal stout as “a taste you won’t find everywhere.” Which is true, if “everywhere” means Target. Today, Minnesota beer geeks go nuts for Surly Brewing but it’s not widely distrbuted.
Beer: Summit Extra Pale Ale, the flagship, which was surely very, very exciting in 1986 but did not impress our tasting panel some 25 years later.
Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Moderately easy. Summit distributes everywhere in the Midwest (except Indiana) as well as Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Surely you know someone who can send it?
Minnesota tries so hard. It’s essentially snowed in for six months, but those crazy kids ride their bikes everywhere. They want to have a hip-hop scene but can only give us Atmosphere. And then there’s Prince... assless pants, the symbol thing, an album every two months... Man, that guy is giving it his all.
Maybe it’s the old Lutheran woodsman thing, but it seems as though Minnesota works so, so hard for things that come easy to other places.
People there carry on as though a moment without vigilance would leave them open to a marauding horde of snowmachining rednecks led over the Wisconsin border by General Scott Walker. Along with colluders at the quietly Republican Target Corp., the conquerors would march all the hipster kids to Portland, sell the Vikings to Los Angeles and subject Garrison Keillor to a relentless campaign of subversion and subterfuge. Vigilance, then, is important.
And when Minnesotans get lazy we get something like Summit Extra Pale Ale. This beer isn’t trying very hard. It’s that good ol’ standard American pale ale, without either a hoppy punch or a sweet maltiness. It’s boring. Or so said our tasting panel, which, trying it blind, described it as “another boring pale ale!” that was “undistinguished” and, according to its most excited fan, “moderately good.”
So keep slogging, Minnesota. Drill a hole on a frozen lake to go fishing. Vote in the most meaningless of primary elections. Be unnecessarily nice to everyone. Listen to an terrible old timey radio show heavy on jokes about mosquitos.
To stop working is to become Summit Extra Pale Ale. Next thing you know, you’re some slob breakfasting on beer and barbecue potato chips.