Put Your Spin On Spring

Cabin fever is in full swing here in the land of 10,000 lakes. The frenzy of the holidays is nothing more than a distant memory and our days are filled with a silent (OK, maybe not so silent) yearning for warmer days to come. Chocolate milk stout and winter ale may still be appropriate for the snow-covered wasteland we currently inhabit, but deep in our souls we know better. It’s time to brew for spring.

Being a homebrewer has always meant looking ahead. Anyone can grab a random seasonal beer on the way to the first BBQ of the season, but it takes a true, far-sighted homebrewer to anticipate this joyous moment and arrive with something brewed specifically for the occasion.

These are the kind of deep thoughts that have been concerning me of late, when I should have been plugging away at my latest Excel monstrosity. (Sorry, boss.) What will pair perfectly with that first, true BBQ-worthy weekend of spring? Wheat beers are always a hit. A blonde ale, perhaps? Something a little more challenging…A maibock? So many options, and any one of them would be a great first spring beer. But only one of them will be My Spring Beer.

After a consulting my Personal Beverage Oracle, Laura (a.k.a. my infinitely understanding wife), the verdict was in. I would invoke the true spirit of spring with a brew that celebrates life and can be enjoyed by all. An old college favorite inspired by my days in Duluth and many well-spent hours at Fitger’s Brewhouse. An apricot wheat was to be born.

I know what many of you are thinking. “That’s not HOPPY!” You’re right; It’s not.

“Hello, my name is Nick, and I am not a hop head.” Whew…Glad I was able to get that off my chest.

Over the years, I have often heard the question: What’s the best way to add fruit to a beer? My answer is, generally, it depends. Fruit can be added any number of ways, some ways contributing more fruit flavor than others. The most important thing to remember is that this is YOUR BEER, and that is a thing of beauty. You can do anything you like, because it’s yours.

There are two methods I recommend. The first requires the use of a keg system. I of course recommend the Draft Brewer Keg Systems. The second can be done using conventional bottling, but will result in a less sweet or “fruity” finished product.

Method 1: Using a Keg System (Recommended)

1.) Brew the Northern Brewer American Wheat with no modifications to the instructions.
2.) Allow fermentation to complete. Take a hydrometer reading to confirm.
3.) Add one 3 lb can of Vintner’s Harvest Apricot Puree (You can sub a different type of puree here if you like. Remember, it’s your beer.)
4.) Add ¼ tsp of potassium metabisulphite for 5 gallons of beer. This will stop active fermentation & keep the yeast from eating the sugar in your fruit puree.
5.) Add ½ tsp of potassium sorbate per gallon of beer. This will stop fermentation from beginning again.
6.) Allow to stand for 24 hours to ensure fermentation does not begin again.
7.) Transfer into your keg system and carbonate.
8.) Enjoy!

Method 2 Bottling

1.) Brew the Northern Brewer American Wheat with no modifications to the instructions.
2.) Allow fermentation to complete. Take a hydrometer reading to confirm.
3.) Add one 3 lb can of Vintner’s Harvest Apricot Puree (You can sub a different type of puree here if you like.)
4.) Fermentation will begin again. Allow this to complete fully.
5.) Once secondary fermentation has completed and the beer has cleared, follow standard bottling procedure.
6.) Allow bottles to carbonate about 2-3 weeks
7.) Enjoy!

(Note: Using this method will result in a “dryer” finished product as much of the sugar from the puree will be consumed during fermentation. This is why I really recommend using a keg system for fruit additions.)

So what are you waiting for? Spring is right around the corner, and the BBQs will be heating up all across the northland in a matter of weeks. If apricot wheat beer in not your thing, there are plenty of spring seasonals to choose from. My advice is simply this: Take a beer you love, and make it your own.

Remember: Our brewmasters are here to help. And we’ve got plenty of experience putting our own personal spin on right-out-of-the-box recipe kits. When in doubt, just text us at 651-273-9869 for expert tips on how to make your next brew uniquely your own.


Game Day Beer Pairings

Get ready for it, Super Bowl LII! Whether your team made it or not, millions will be watching the game. What this really means is lots of beer and even more food! Nachos, wings, and pizza will adorn coffee tables all across America, as well as the obligatory light lagers. This year, let’s see if we can’t mix things up and make something memorable with a few great beer pairings to go along with those ubiquitous snacks. Choosing the right beers to go with each food can really highlight both the brew and the munchies.


Cheers To Charlie

Words can’t express how the news of Charlie Papazian stepping down after 40 years as head of the American Homebrewers Association hit us here at World Headquarters. Well, maybe some words. To quote Luke Skywalker, “Nooooo! That’s not true! That’s impossible!”

Where would any of us be without Charlie?


34th Latitude South African Hops

South African Limited Release hops! We have leveraged our way into securing an extremely limited quantity of rare South African hops JUST for homebrewers. Expand your brewing horizons with these special hops that you cannot find in the US. They are currently sold only to craft breweries in very small quantities. Be the first brewer in your club to try them out!

William Richartz

William Richartz

Where are you from?  Menomonie, WI “When in doubt, go to Stout.”

What is your favorite brewing topic to talk to customers about?  Really, I love to talk about any topic. Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus and their roles in sour beer top the chart. I also enjoy barrel aging, clean or sour, and barrel maintenance. I have a horticulture background, so any time people want to talk about unusual grains or herbs, I am game.

What was your biggest brewing blunder? Accidentally adding a pack of Brett. Lambicus to my yeast starter for an Russian Imperial Stout. Had two starters going for two different beers and made the cardinal sin of having one too many on brew day. It was not until I went to pitch the Brett starter that I realized it was just wort. The RIS went down the drain a few months later.

What movie have you watched the most times?  Star Wars Empire Strikes Back, and anything with Milla Jovovich. Seriously she is awesome, Return to the Blue Lagoon, Kuffs, The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet to name a few. My wife gets upset if we watch too many in a row.

What was your proudest moment in your fermentation history?  Traditional blended Kriek. Years to make, pounds and pounds of cherries and then it was gone in no time.

My first time in New Zealand I collected some spontaneous wild cultures and currently have a few batches of beers going from that. Hopefully that become my proudest moment if they turn out. So far so good.

Why do you brew?  At one point in my life I wanted to be a chef. I grew up watching all the great cooking shows on PBS. Yeah PBS, there was no Food Network or Cooking channel. I find that brewing is a great way to satisfy that same creative process, plus you get beer in the end.

When did you start brewing?  I believe it was 2010, shortly after buying a house. I finally had room to brew!

What is your brewing system?  A pretty simple 18 gallon kettle that I made into an electric kettle with the classic 10 gallon cooler, immersion chiller, and elbow grease. I think most people would be surprised to see my system, very basic. Oh, not to mention my notebook, refractometer, pH meter and my two cats that are WAY too much help.

What is your favorite style of beer for drinking and for brewing? Munich Helles, German Pils, and anything Farmhouse or sour. I try to brew a turbid mash lambic twice a year to keep a good stock for blending and fruiting. I also enjoy brewing historical and obscure styles. Otherwise I like trying out different grains to see the flavor profiles. Always trying to find grains that will help build body into Brett beers. Brett can real chew up beers and leave them with a thin mouthfeel. Spelt (raw or malted) has proven great for this but malted rye and malted oats are great as well. Honestly people need to play more with grains. Just no Hefes please.

If you could share a beer with anyone throughout history, of even fictional, who would it be?  Anthony Bourdain, but he better take me to Thailand for real deal pho.

Where do you spend your non-brewing time?  Gardening and Vacation! New Zealand anyone!? Everyone should have a chance to drink German Pils made with Nelson Sauvin hops while down under.

Who are your three favorite musicians/bands?  Trent Reznor/NIN does that count for one or two? Pink Floyd and Nirvana.

Aaron Finger Brewmaster at Northern brewer

Farley’s Feature – This is Not Your Father’s AB InBev!

This is Not Your Father’s AB InBev

I first got into homebrewing in the early 1990s after I spent a year studying in Scotland. While I was there, I traveled the continent and tried a huge variety of beers. Coming from the United States, I found European beer totally mind-blowing. I discovered malty 90 Shilling Ale in Scotland, well-balanced bitters in London, refined and wine-like Trappist ales in Brussels, bready and clovey Hefeweizens in Germany, and hoppy and robust golden pilsners in Prague. It opened up a whole new world: I had no idea there was so much diversity of flavors and experiences out there to explore.

In 1993, I found myself back in the States. Apart from a handful of visionary brewing pioneers, the United States was largely a beer desert. It was in that environment that I started a small homebrewing shop that I named Northern Brewer.

Northern Brewer’s mission was to educate our customers about the amazing diversity of international beer styles and to help people brew those beers on a hobbyist-scale. It was quite a challenge to convince somebody to brew a lambic, a stout or an IPA when 99% of the beer being sold was an American lager made with corn or rice.

But an amazing thing has happened over the past 20-odd years. Everything has changed.

Today, whether you are in New York or Memphis, you can’t go into a restaurant without finding a variety of delicious, interesting, and often locally-produced beers on the beer list. Everybody, everywhere is demanding better beer. It is clear to me that homebrewers drove this change, transforming the United States into the most exciting and dynamic beer scene on the planet. And who are the proprietors of the thousands of new local breweries? Homebrewers like you and me.

So when I sat down recently and thought about our 20-year old mission — particularly the part about educating people about beer — I began to look around the office for a spot to hang the “Mission Accomplished” banner. And then the phone rang. On the other end AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer and parent of Anheuser-Busch. As you might imagine, I was more than a little skeptical that we would have anything at all to talk about.

What I soon realized is that this is not your father’s AB InBev! It turns out that the world’s largest brewer has also seen the light — which is something that was unfathomable even 10 years ago.

Our relationship with AB InBev is already paying dividends. We’ve joined the brewers at Goose Island to make an authentic homebrewed version of their wonderful Milk Porter. This is just the first in what will become a regular series of partnerships with brewers across the country. If there are particular beers, styles or breweries you’d like us to work with, send us an email or give us a call. We want to hear from you!

We’ve also been working with the AB InBev team to source ingredients that have never before been available to North American brewers. Southern Star — a unique, pleasant hop variety bred and grown in South Africa will be available later this month. You won’t find this hop available anywhere but Northern Brewer! We are also on a mission to bring European craft recipes to American shores through an exciting new program this year, and this is just the beginning.

AB InBev understands that today’s beer drinkers are looking for creative, flavorful beers that are produced by local breweries, often in settings like neighborhood tap rooms and brew pubs. And they are transforming their company to deliver that experience.

Over the past five or six years, AB InBev has assembled a truly remarkable portfolio of craft beer brands. While many craft beer fans were justifiably concerned that the world’s largest producer of “macro beer” would destroy these beloved breweries, they have in fact been allowed to operate independently and far exceed their dreams for reaching new levels of innovation with their styles and serving more beer lovers. When we agreed to join AB InBev, we did it so that we could continue our mission with a partner that shares our values about what beer can be. We want to enable tomorrow’s brewers to unleash their creativity, and continue to drive the brewing culture — not only in the United States, but throughout the world.

For our customers, of course we need to continue to earn your trust every day, just as we have since I started this business 23 years ago. Northern Brewer is still dedicated to helping you unleash your creativity and passion for great beer. We know the freshest and most exciting beer you will have this year is probably one that you made yourself. Knowing we will be moving forward in our mission with the proud backing and full support of our partners at AB InBev fills me with tremendous optimism for the future ahead.



Java junkie brewers, this one’s for you.

How much coffee is too much coffee when it comes to beer? According to this Punch article on an all-coffee beer fest, there’s no such thing. We reached out to one of our favorite local, fair-trade bean bros, Peace Coffee Community Manager, Ryan Brown, for his take on the latest coffee beer trends.

Take it to the next level Own a brewery

For your viewing pleasure: Brew Rebellion’s road to going pro!

If you’ve ever dreamed about opening a brewery, here’s your front-row seat. Next month, Amazon Prime will be airing “Barely Beer Barons,” a series offering a no-holds-barred look at what it takes to go pro, from the ground up. Spoilers: It’s a lot of hard work and even more heart. We’re pulling for the guys at Brew Rebellion because we know a lot of talented


A brewery on every corner? Sounds amazing.

This article predicts the beer version of “a taco truck on every corner” and we at Northern Brewer couldn’t be happier. Our own HQ is based smack dab in the heart of one of the greatest beer cities in America, according to Thrillist. And knowing you’re never too far away from amazing, local beer is, we can attest, really good for the soul. Not to mention, strike up a conversation with just about anybody, and you’ll find out they’re somehow linked to either beer and brewing, or simply a die-hard, knowledgeable fan.


Happy to see MN leading the way when it comes to women brewers!

We’re proud to count many of these brewers among our friends and brew heroes…including Urban Growler’s Deb Loch, who was our very own Product Development guru way back when!