Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What I Did After Winter Break (AKA - Gettin' Drunk, Part Two)

Today's post is going to veer very far off the course of healthy lifestyle info.

Be forewarned.


To begin: this is a post about tap rooms within driving distance of the Twin Cities.  If you didn't read my first post about tap rooms, go there to get caught up ... since this is just a continuation of that story line, you'll want to start there. 

This post includes my first few visits to tap rooms after the New Year.

All caught up?  Ok, let's go!


American Sky Brewing
Hudson, WI
Visited: Early January
On Tap: approximately 6 beers, one of which is charity brewed (all sales/profits donated)
Flights: Yes
Food: Not when we were there, but looks like they occasionally have food trucks ... well, except for the fact that we were there on a Sunday ...
In case you can't see it:
Yeah.  I had bacon.  Not gonna lie.
Ambiance: Made to look like an airplane hangar inside, this brewery definitely lives up to it's name.  Beer is served from a horseshoe shaped bar that looks like an airplane wing.  Keeping with the aviation theme, flights are served on a wooden "propeller".  Brewing operations are tucked back in the hind quarters of the "hangar".  And, fun fact, their tap lines hold 6 gallons of each beer, since the cooler is in the back of the building... but it's kept cold, don't worry.

Worth noting: this brewery likes their vets.  If you missed it on the chalkboard above:

Thoughts: I really liked this place.  It's a long drive from the metro area, but worth it if you're looking for a day of entertainment.  The guy at the tap when we were there was tremendously friendly, fun and knowledgeable.  We even liked one beer so well that we bought our first growler, which we could do on a Sunday because ... Wisconsin!!  (Sneak Attack Imperial Stout, if you're wondering). 

Tin Whiskers
St. Paul, MN
Visited: Mid January - OK, OK ... technically a repeat so I won't bore you with another recap of this one (see my previous recap for that).  I only went back because:
The infusion was fun to try, but I had been hoping for a little more pineapple flavor.  Regardless, it was citrusy and good.  And of course, while there, I had to live it up a little

Burning Brothers
St. Paul, MN
Visited: Mid January (same day as Tin Whiskers, above)
On Tap: approximately 5 GLUTEN FREE beers
Flights: Yes
Food: Not when we were there, but they occasionally have food trucks and also sold a decent selection of "brewery approved" snacks (more on this in a minute)
Ambiance: This brewery is tucked away in a mostly residential neighborhood located in the Midway area of St. Paul.  The owners appears to want to emphasize its brewery space over the tap room; I say this because while the tap room doesn't feel crowded, it was smaller than many of the other places I've visited, whereas the brewing area seemed much larger in comparison.  Brewery operations are visible through a window in the tap room ... which has an interesting art display inside.

Thoughts: There is no question - this is a gluten free facility.  A sign greets you at the door informing you as such, and asks you to see the staff prior to bringing in food that may contaminate the operation.  While this is great for anyone who needs to avoid gluten, it's kind of a drag for those of us who like a good pizza with their beer ... oh well.  Staff was friendly but not overly informative about their beers, which I was kind of curious about, because what the heck do you use in a gluten free beer?!  (Answer, per the article they have hanging in the tap room: sorghum, millet and quinoa).  Given these beers are made with ... not beer ingredients, they taste pretty good!  If I were a celiac, I'd be pleased.  But since I'm not, unfortunately they left me yearning for more of what I had at Tin Whiskers just an hour prior...


Dangerous Man
Minneapolis, MN
Visited: Later January
On Tap: an impressive amount - I lost count, but maybe 10-12
Flights: No :-( I made my own by buying 4 of their beers in $3 tulip servings and sharing with the husband
Food: A food truck was parked out front
Ambiance: A unique place filled with unique people, beer and things, this unassuming brick building packs a lot of punch inside... and might make you question if you're in a tap room or an art gallery celebrating their newest talent.  Pull up to the bar, or find a table or couch in the lounge area.   Brewing operations are located at the far side of the bar (you can see the copper kettle, center left, in photo #4 below).
Thoughts: I think I was enamored with this place before I even went inside simply due to their rusty, patina worn sign, and the fact that this simple brick building was nestled in a quiet downtown neighborhood.    Once inside, I was a Dangerous Man convert - funky art everywhere, crazy hipster servers, delicious beers (mmm, peanut butter porter), and a bubbly clientele made me want to stay all day.  The place was a little too trendy/hipster for my husband, but that's ok ... I'll make him suffer through a revisit in the future anyway.  NOTE: To be fair, our experience here may have been a bit more spectacular than normal, as we found out later it was their 2 year anniversary weekend.  Perhaps that's why they were letting you do custom silk screened shirts (which was genius, btw - I've never seen a tap room sell so many shirts at once... I hope they continue to do that on a monthly or quarterly basis, since I'm kicking myself now that I didn't buy one).

Badger Hill
Shakopee, MN
Visited: Later January - OK, OK ... another repeat (see my previous recap ).  We went back because it was a lazy Sunday, and why not?!
Pro tip, don't take a big drink of beer just before someone throws down a card in Cards Against Humanity.  I almost needed to borrow the tap room's mop.
While there, I found out they were selling this thing... happy Valentines Day, husband!  (Ssssh, don't tell him).

Sociable Cider Werks
Minneapolis, MN
Visited: End of January
On Tap: 4-5 beers, 4-5 ciders
Flights: Only in the first hour they open, which we missed :-( 
Food: Food truck on site
Ambiance: It seems that most of the tap rooms in Minneapolis are tucked into random warehouse spaces that have a stark outside and a homey inside.  This taproom is no exception to that rule, PLUS they have a piano!!  I especially enjoyed the fire pit out front.  Brewing (and canning) operations are visible behind the bar area.

Thoughts: I walked away from this location just kind of ... meh.  I think it was because if I want a cider, I want it to taste like a cider - whereas Sociable is hopping and blending their ciders to achieve some sort of beer/cider hybrid.  Call me a purist, but that just isn't my taste.  Also, the staff drank behind the bar, which seemed wholly unprofessional and felt a little skuzzy/unsanitary.  I mean, I don't mind if you want to have a good time, but do it after work ... or at least out of site of your customers.

LTD (Live the Dream) Brewing
Hopkins, MN
Visited: Super Bowl Sunday, around the lunch hour
On Tap: 9 beers
Flights: Yes
Food: Various snacks sold in house, but we opted for burgers at Pub 819 before coming over, which was not even half a block away 
Ambiance: LTD assimilates into one of the various ... not really strip malls, but more like strip of stores on each block of downtown Hopkins.  From the outside, the brewery doesn't look like much, but inside it is surprisingly spacious and welcoming.  Brewing operations are located in the back, just past the bar (in the back left of photo two below).

Thoughts: The staff here was incredibly friendly, helpful, and happy to talk about their beers.  Unfortunately, many of their beers were scotchy and smoky, which I didn't care for (although my husband loved it).   But, they had two great IPAs, and I wouldn't mind going back just for the $4 rootbeer float on the menu!!


Now that I've been to more locations, how would I amend my previous summary?

Top three spots overall
   Tin Whiskers, Badger Hill, Dangerous Man

Best places for sampling many varieties (via flights) in one day
   612, Boom Island, LTD

Places where I could definitely burn an afternoon playing Connect 4 (or Cards Against Humanity)
   Sisyphus, American Sky, Badger Hill

Best beers to buy for at home (and avoid the crowds)
   Fulton, Indeed, Surly

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