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James E. Pepper 1776 Brown Ale, aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels

Posted on by Eric Burke

There is a store in Wisconsin that on certain days, probably get’s more business from Minnesota than it does from locals. I will admit to being one of many Minnesotans who likes buying a beer or whiskey from a store on whichever day I happen to be at it. Unfortunately, many stores in the state of Minnesota don’t feel it is in their best interest to serve their customers on the days the customers want to be served, preferring instead to lobby against changing a law who’s time has long passed it by.

See, in Minnesota, it is illegal for a liquor store to be open on Sunday’s regardless of the fact that it is one of the two busiest shopping days of the week. Many liquor stores prefer it that way. Why? you might ask. Well the thought is that they will make as many sales if they are open 6 days a week as if they are open 7 days a week. Plus they won’t have to pay anyone on that seventh day. It doesn’t matter what the customers overwhelmingly want. And sadly, politicians in Minnesota are just like they are everywhere else. People that pay, get the votes in the legislature and those who don’t, get the shaft.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, its two largest population centers are also on the border with a state who is more than happy to take the tax dollars on Sunday. There are 4.14 million people in the two largest population centers in Minnesota. There are 5.5 million in the state. And though people might not drive an extra hour to get a beer, many places in the Twin Cities metro are about a half hour apart meaning over 40% of the the population of the state* could conceivably make a run for the border while on regular shopping trips without going very far out of the way. Sending tax dollars out of state.

All because some store owners would rather enshrine their dislike of competition in law instead of giving customers what they want. It’s one of the reasons I try to choose places like Ace Spirits who would be open on Sunday if the law would let them. Plus, since I visit family in Wisconsin quite often on Sundays, the purchases I might have made in Minnesota are made at Casanova Liquors in Hudson, just before I hit the border. 

One of the things I found on a Wisconsin trip this summer was 1776 Brown Ale, aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels. I held it in the closet until the weather was right for a barrel-aged ale and here it is.

James E. Pepper 1776 Brown Ale, aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels

Purchase Info: Casanova Liquors, Hudson, WI. I didn’t keep a receipt for this one, but it was roughly $10 for a bomber.

Details: Brown ale aged in rye whiskey barrels. 10.4% ABV. Brewed and bottled by Georgetown Trading Co., Sterling, VA.

Nose: Bready and vineous.

Mouth: Sweet caramel layered over typical bready brown ale notes. After a few sips you start tasting the spiciness of the rye.

Thoughts: This is sweet, but not as sweet as most barrel aged beers I’ve had. Whether that is due to the use of rye barrels or from a quirk of the aging process, I have no idea. I like the spiciness in the back of the mouth though. If you like barrel-aged beers, certainly check this out. If it were available in Minnesota, I would definitely pick up another bottle…just not on a Sunday.

*figuring that half of the population of the metro area of the Twin Cities and all of the population of Duluth could make Wisconsin part of their Sunday shopping trips without going too much out of their way. Yes, I get that socioeconomic factors might drop this down quite a bit, but even half of that would be still be 20% of the state population…


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