Monday, June 8, 2015

What I Did Before Summer Break (AKA - Gettin' Drunk, Part Five)

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 (mostly) within driving distance of the Twin Cities.  If you didn't read my first , second, third or fourth posts about the tap rooms I have visited, go there to get caught up ... since this is just a continuation of that story line, you'll want to start there. 

Taprooms included in those posts are:

Recap One
Enki - Victoria, MN
Waconia Brewing Company - Waconia, MN
Fulton - Minneapolis, MN
612 - Minneapolis, MN
Urban Growler - St. Paul, MN
Indeed - Minneapolis, MN
Boom Island - Minneapolis, MN
Surly - St. Paul, MN
Badger Hill - Shakopee, MN
Sisyphus - Minneapolis, MN
Tin Whiskers - St. Paul, MN

Recap Two
American Sky - Hudson, WI
Tin Whiskers (revisit) - St. Paul, MN
Burning Brothers - St. Paul, MN
Dangerous Man - Minneapolis, MN
Badger Hill (revisit) - Shakopee, MN
Sociable Cider Werks - Minneapolis, MN
LTD - Hopkins, MN

Recap Three - all in the Duluth area
Bent Paddle
Castle Danger
Lake Superior
Canal Park
Thirsty Pagan

Recap Four - some in Northern MN
Maple Island - Stillwater, MN
Lift Bridge - Stillwater, MN
Steel Toe - St. Louis Park, MN
Bent - Roseville, MN
North Gate - Minneapolis, MN
Gull Dam - Nisswa, MN
Jack Pine - Baxter, MN

And just to make this list above comprehensive, the below blog recaps my last few stops:
Insight - Minneapolis, MN
Town Hall - Minneapolis, MN
Bauhaus Brew Labs - Minneapolis, MN
Lucid - Minnetonka, MN
Hayes' Public House - Buffalo, MN

Oh!  I also did a couple of international stops to Heineken and Brewery I'J (Brouwerij't Ij) in Amsterdam and the Hofbrau House in Munich if you're curious about those (although they're not written in a true brewery recap format like this blog, since they're included in my Euro trip recaps).

Anyway!  This post is essentially me playing sweep-up for the last few places I haven't in in the Twin Cities area yet.  And in fact, this may be my last taproom post ... unless by some chance I end up hitting a handful over the summer that I missed because: by now, if I haven't hit a local taproom, chances are I don't know about it, may eventually make it there some day (but don't see it as a major priority), or simply don't want to go there.  So, after this recap the ball's in your court.  If I missed something, me below where to go next!!

Ok, let's go!


Minneapolis, MN
Visited: Late March
On Tap: 6 beers
Flights: Yes 
Food: Nothing while we were there, but it appeared they may host food trucks on occasion
Ambiance: Yep, another taproom in an area of Minneapolis that is industrial warehouse chic.  This location, however, seemed to be of newer construction - I felt like I should be able to still smell sawdust, everything was so spanky new.  Plus, whoever designed this place knew what they were doing, as the space is very open and bright AND HUGE.  Seriously, this place could really accommodate a crowd.  Brewing operations are visible through garage doors on the far side of the taproom.
Thoughts: This tap room was nice, and the beers reminded me of the kinds of flavors you'd experience over at Badger Hill - approachable, even profiles with nothing too bold or obnoxious.    If I was in the neighborhood, I would stop back.  But, there wasn't anything about the place that would make it memorable to me or would call me back to visit again.  That could be because the place is so new and still needs to develop a character?  Right now it seems a little ... blah.

Town Hall
Minneapolis, MN
Visited: Late March
On Tap: ? beers - the brewery needed emergency repairs, so many were off tap unfortunately
Flights: Not that I saw :-(  I settled for a pint
Food: This is a brew pub, so a full menu is available
Ambiance: Right off the U of M campus, this British feeling pub definitely caters to the youth of America.  I think I was at least 10-15 years older than everyone in the building, and that made me feel old (sad clown whistle).  However, the old timey feel of the place made up for it.  I really loved the tin ceiling and woodwork.  I don't recall being able to see brewing operations from the restaurant area.

Thoughts: Although we unfortunately decided to stop by right when the brewery was shut down due to flooring issues (emergency repairs), we were lucky enough to catch them with still a few options on tap that were home brewed.  I opted for the mocha java, which was fantastic.  Plus, the staff was quick and friendly.  If I was looking for a meal out when I was out that way, I'd head back ... and of course, enjoy another tap or two while I was there!
Bauhaus Brew Labs
Minneapolis, MN
Visited: April
On Tap: Whoops, I waited to long to do this recap.  If I recall, they had 6-8 on tap
Flights: Yes!
Food: Yes!  Mmm, Gastro Truck
Ambiance: Oh the typical, you know it by now. Brew house tucked into an industrial warehouse area. At least this one offered some variety in that it was near a very active train track, so that was cool. And the furnishings were spectacular – I loved the bright colors and witty signage. Brewing operations are roped off but visible behind the bar area.

Thoughts:  I liked this place a lot. It was open, airy, welcoming … the staff was incredibly friendly, and the beer was good. Their location was good in that there were actually things to see out the windows (not just warehouse wasteland), and that view just added to the stellar patio outside. Truth: I liked this place so much so that I’m bumping Badger Hill off my top three spots overall (sorry guys – I’m still keeping you on the VIP list, just not in my top three). I could definitely see myself going back there in the future.

Minnetonka, MN
Visited: April
On Tap: 5 beers and one "partner" brew (not Lucid brand)
Flights: Technically, this is a "sample room", so you can't get flights or pints, just free tastes of their current beers for sale in growlers
Food: Not while we were there
Ambiance: Quite frankly - there was none.  This place is hidden in the back of an industrial building, and is basically identifiable because they simply roll up their loading dock door and plop a bar with a tap just inside the opening.  Since you’re smack dab in the middle of their production facility, brewing operations are clearly visible everywhere you look.

Thoughts: This is one of those tap rooms that leaves me feeling kind of … meh. I understand that Lucid started brewing beer well before the taproom craze, and that they are also working on finding a location for a “real” taproom in the near future, but still – I just can’t get excited about a brewery that slaps a bar and tap in the middle of their production area and calls it good. Especially when they just roll open their loading dock garage door to allow in light and offer minimal seating. Unlike anyone else in the area that has a true tap room, this place is just kind of ... a dump.  I hate to say it.  Sorry guys - I do look forward to seeing your tap room if you ever get it worked out!
Fair State
Minneapolis, MN
Visited: April
On Tap: Whoops, I waited too long to do this recap.  If I recall, they had 8-10 on tap
Flights: Sort of - you could buy half pints and share, which is what we did

Food: Nothing while we were there, but we did eat at Betty Danger's Counrty Club prior to arriving, so we were full anyway

Ambiance: To be 100% honest … coming here scared the shit out of me. We ended up parking a few blocks away from the tap room on a side street, where just as we were circling to find a spot, a load of people filed Chinese-fire drill style out of a car and started beating the crap out of someone right on the sidewalk. Then, as we walked to the taproom, we passed a bus shelter where a bunch of dudes with multiple tear drop tattoos were hanging out. Not gonna lie, I was in a hurry to get in and out of this place. My husband even said to me “where are you taking me?!” Once inside, the quiet and modern interior made the ruff and tumble aura of the area melt into the background as if it didn’t exist. So at least there was that. Brewery operations were not easily visible from the taproom.


Thoughts: This place was technically fine, and I'm sure the things we saw were likely a fluke.  But .. well ... I don't know that I'd be back.  The staff was friendly and the beer was ok.  I'm just gun shy from the rest of it.

Hayes' Public House
Buffalo, MN
Visited: May
On Tap: 7 beers - including one that was more like a cider than a beer
Flights: Yes!
Food: There's a food truck parked out front most days I think, but it wasn't open when we were there
Ambiance: Just across the street from the lake in Buffalo, MN, this place has a beautiful location.  And, the interior is equally as beautiful, with a very tidy appearance and an Irish Pub theme.  Brewery operations are visible through a doorway behind the bar.

Thoughts: It seems like there's just something about the whole Irish thing ... either you love it or you don't.  While I like the old pub d├ęcor in pretty much any bar, I'm just not into the "hit you over the head" Irish feel of places that really push that look.  Nothing against this place, it's just not my thing.  So when I walk into a place that's playing Irish music and hanging an Irish flag and what not, I'm just kinda meh about the whole thing.  That being said, putting the Irish thing aside, this is a great pub.  Even better than a lot of places closer to the Metro, in fact.  I really liked their beers and the service was extremely friendly.  If you're out on a road trip or passing through that side of the cities - stop in.  Or make a special day trip out to Buffalo, have lunch at Norm's Wayside and a flight of beers here, and call it a day.  You won't regret it.


Now that I've been to most of the tap rooms in the Twin Cities, what do I think? 

(Note: I am leaving out any non-Twin Cities metro breweries in this summary due to convenience of commute.)

Top three spots overall
   Tin Whiskers, Bauhaus Brew Labs, Dangerous Man

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

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

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

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