Grain Belt’s logo shines over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis as a beacon of the city. Even though Grain Belt is no longer brewed in the Northeast Minneapolis (it’s been produced by New Ulm’s August Schell Brewing Company since 2002), the Big Friendly maintains an iconic presence in the Twin Cities. As Old Style is to Illinois, as Rainier Beer is to Washington, as Lone Star is to Texas, Grain Belt is to Minnesota. But if you grew up in the home of one of those budget beers, is it good enough to knock your own local favorite off the pedestal?
Grain Belt’s charm and its criticism are both built on the fact that the beer looks like the clarified juice of a corn cob. Unflattering as that analogy may be, it’s an iconically clean pour. Your grandpa might tell you it’s so clear you can read the newspaper through it.
Grain Belt’s shallow malt aroma is one of its calling cards— like inhaling a jug of nutritional yeast. With one sniff, you can almost smell it spilled across the laminate flooring of a bar that sells $3 burgers. It’s a nostalgia trigger, but beyond that there isn’t much charm.
Taking a swig tastes like walking into your hometown dive bar and ordering the regular.”
IBU, OG, SRM: If you hold these abbreviations high in your esteem, this beer is not for you. Grain Belt is beer-flavored beer. There’s no philosophy greater than pure refreshment. A hair sweeter than it lets on, Grain Belt washes the palate clean every time. That means there’s not much in the way of mouthfeel, but taking a swig tastes like walking into your hometown dive bar and ordering the regular.
If you’re ever in Minnesota, drink it first. Let Grain Belt Premium paint the Land of 10,000 Lakes in broad, somewhat messy strokes. But don’t trust it to be your tour guide. Grain Belt may have been Minnesota’s first great beer, but it’s greatness is now only a symbol. For more than 100 years, this beer has been a dutiful steward of Minnesota culture, but it’s no longer a good enough mascot to tell the whole story.