Ken Thiemann of Borealis Fermentary is your modern day 'beer brewing badass.' A near-death fall and a four year construction process did not even yield the one-man-show from his determined goal - to share his love of Belgian style ales with the North Shore of Minnesota.
Between the Borealis brews' taste and the architecture of his brewery, Thiemann is heavily influenced by the Netherlands and Belgium. He built his straw bale brewery 'literally by hand' surrounding the shores of Lake Superior and it is one of the few in the United States. He almost did not finish the process - by falling 30 feet off of his roof head-first. He miraculously managed to survive and continued on the constructing process, until the fun part - the brewing!
Thiemann is the only full time brewer for the fermentary and takes tremendous care of the small individual batches. Borealis is the smallest distribution brewery in Minnesota and fortunately for us, quality reigns over quantity for these brews - starting with the vibrant whimsical illustrations on the labels and ending with the last sip.
We sampled three of the five total Borealis brews - all of which are paired with playful names. See below for what we had to say about the Raisin Liason Saison, La Lune and Speckled Ghost in our 2 O'Clock Tasting.
Our first sample is a Belgian-style saison ale, rich in appearance with copper tones, a carbonated feel and a dark varnish from malts. A tan head forms when poured. Aromas of mild funk, tartness, pit fruits and raisins come to mind when examining the beer. On the first sip it was tart, metallic and slightly hoppy - while also being very dry and malty. Flavors of raisins were present as they were added in secondary fermentation.
La Lune took us by surprise between its array of spices and a noted secret blend. When observing the clear pour, fine bubbles were noticed as well as shades of light maple syrup, orange peel and white honey. Everything seemed expected … and then the aroma was the ultimate game-changer. Imagine smoky scents of roasted chicken, coriander and a 1950s' style pineapple honey glazed ham (we couldn't believe it either). The savory taste undoubtedly was similar with hints of fall spices. The Borealis Fermentary recommends this rich brew to be paired with fish or poultry!
Colored dark brass and clear as a bell, the Tripel had orange blossom and dried orange rind hues that matched its label. We noted all the elements of an Old Fashioned in the nose, from bourbon and Agnostura bitters to Maraschino cherry. Notes of baking spice and clove were also present, and even gin-like, juniper qualities were detected. The Tripel tasted like an Old Fashioned as well, with smooth, sweet caramel flavors.