ROCHESTER — The highest ranked beer in Minnesota is available again this weekend — while supplies last.
Forager’s Nillerzzzzz is a stout aged with five varieties of vanilla beans (one z for each variety).
The beer is released once a year with the latest batches available at an event April 30.
Nillerzzzzz has caught the attention of beer lovers, BeerAdvocate, and Facebook’s filter for pro-Russian propaganda.
The letter “z” has become an emblem of support for Russia in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Facebook algorithms have pulled down some of Forager’s posts promoting the beer release, said Forager founder Austin Jevne.
He said it was an unexpected hurdle to promoting the beer release, but he doesn’t expect it to hinder interest or sales. The beer still tops BeerAdvocate’s list of highest ranked beers in Minnesota.
The Nillerzzzzz release draws people from the region to claim a spot in line days before the actual release to ensure they have a shot of buying a bottle.
“It’s something we take pride in,” Jevne said about the dedication people have to the beer.
This is the fifth year of the Nillerzzzzz release which will feature six varieties of vanilla stouts each made with a different combination of vanilla beans from around the world.
Vanilla stouts aren’t unheard of, but Nillerzzzzz is more than a single batch of beer. Forager brewers and barrel program leader T.J. Gedicke choose a blend of barrel-aged stouts to be the base beer for each batch of Nillerzzzzz. This year they narrowed hundreds of gallons of beer to a blend of 120 gallons for the base for six varieties of Nillerzzzzz.
It’s not a typical practice for breweries, Jevne said.
“We look at this like a vintner blending their signature wines,” he said.
The process began months ago as each variation had to have time to condition on its blend of five different varieties of vanilla beans.
Using the same base beer helps distinguish the flavors the different varieties of vanilla beans add to the beer.
The stouts that are candidates for the next batch of Nillerzzzzz (and various other beers) sit throughout the Forager building. They range in size from 30-gallon bourbon and rye barrels to 15-gallon whiskey, maple syrup and coffee bean barrels to a five gallon barrel Jevne points to that holds the last of a peach saison brewed long ago that now resembles a peach brandy.
Gedicke is learning how the barrels throughout the brewery affect the beer.
Staff tighten and inspect the barrels before they’re put to use, Jevne said.
“You really have to tighten them up before you put the beer in there otherwise it just drains out,” he said.
The wood the barrels are made from, what they once held and other factors affect how the contents change.
Anyone who has ever been to Forager has been a part of that process. The barrels in the entryway aren’t for show. The entryway windows let in sunlight and warm the vestibule. Every time the doors open in the winter, the space gets a blast of cold air. Cool air contracts the wood, warm air relaxes it.
“It’s a big push and pull,” Jevne said. “It’s like massaging the barrels.”
The release event begins at 10 a.m. and includes live music on the patio. Nillerzzzzz will be available for $50 each and will also be on tap to enjoy at the event while supplies last.
What: Nillerzzzzz beer release
When: 10 a.m., Saturday, April 30, 2022
Where: Forager Brewery, 1005 Sixth St. NW