While they’re still being courted by distributors to determine who will carry them locally, the highly regarded 21st Amendment Brewery out of San Francisco will be hitting the Twin Cities market in the coming months with two offerings from their stable of beers — Brew Free or Die IPA and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. No…your ears aren’t plugged. I did say a watermelon wheat.

According to the brewery’s representative I met with, their 12 barrel system back home at the brewpub clearly wasn’t going to be enough to handle the volume for this market expansion. So they made a quasi-contract brewing arrangement with Cold Springs here in northern Minnesota. But interestingly enough, 21st Amendment’s own head brewer, Shaun O’Sullivan, has flown out to personally oversee brewing and production of the beers. I’d imagine the boys at Cold Spring likely aren’t used to working with watermelon in bright tanks.

21st Amendment plans to offer their beers in cans, a nice move and a growing trend evidenced by fellow craft brewers like Surly, Oskar Blues and even New Belgium in select markets out west.

Hell or High Watermelon Wheat
Like alot of beers at smaller craft breweries, this apparently started as a homebrewed creation from co-founder Nico Freccia. They enjoyed it so much, it quickly became part of their regular rotation. Poured like a very light hefeweizen, a bit cloudy but a nice fruity aroma of various berries and watermelon. Taste was refreshing, trending a bit more to the watermelon side of the equation as opposed to wheat, but not bad. Somewhat thin mouthfeel, but for the style I’ll give it a pass. I gotta say, quite an interesting beer, and one I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did.

Rating: B+

Live Free or Die IPA
This is west coast all the way, with a load of Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus (CTZ) hops smacking you in the nose right up front. But unlike most super ballsy IPAs that make your eyes water with IBU punishment, this one comes in at a mere 70 bittering points, putting it more in line on the hoppy spectrum with local stuff like Summit Horizon Red. Taste was fairly clean, not as much malt backbone as I’d like, but good overall. It’s a well-balanced beer, dare I say even to the point where one could mistake it for a pale ale in its relatively reserved nature. As I sipped the beer, it immediately invoked past memories of something else I’ve enjoyed…mildly reminiscent of a tamer version of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder in its bright hoppiness, if you’re fortunate enough to have tried that. I’m sure this one will be well received here in the Twin Cities.  

Rating: B+