Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

December 31, 2013

Beer Diary:

Minnie Destination

The frost-covered Big Apple of the Midwest is quickly becoming a beer town worth visiting.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
Even if you don’t live in the Midwest, you’re probably aware of the frigid weather conditions gripping, well, the entire fucking country at the moment. Such weather usually gets people to thinking about traveling, and, I’ve gotta tell ya’, you should be traveling to Minneapolis.

Yes, that Minneapolis, where, at the time of this writing, it is -2° Farenheit. And the reason you should be traveling there, of course, is beer, because, thanks to what has come to be known as the “Surly Law,” the frost-covered Big Apple of the Midwest is quickly becoming a beer mecca.

Full disclosure for all you whiners out there who can’t stomach sub-zero degree weather: my visit to Minnie was in May, when it was unseasonably warm and muggy, when it was possible to just hike to a choice few destinations from a downtown hotel without freezing one’s knickers off. But there’s no better winter warmer than beer, folks, so don’t let dangerously low temperatures and blizzard like conditions keep you from seeking out some great beer.

When most beer dorks think of Minnesota, they think of craft brewing pioneer Summit and, of course, the forementioned Surly. Summit is in Minnie’s sister city, St. Paul—a little too far for me to walk—and Surly has yet to build their massive new “destination brewery” (and they’re located in the ’burbs, anyway) so I picked a few interesting places to visit in the downtown Minneapolis area.

Like my first stop, Fulton Beer, literally a stone’s throw away from Target Field, the relatively brand spanking new home of the Minnesota Baseball Twins. Looks-wise, Fulton is straight out of the craft beer start-up how-to guide, with lots of concrete and steel, long wooden tables, a big chalkboard behind the bar, and a food cart out front (Minneapolis is big on the food carts, at least when the weather is agreeable). But it sets itself apart with what counts: the beer. My first beer of theirs was The Expat, an absolutely beautiful rye saison. I followed that up with Sweet Child Of Vine, a very different IPA, but good in its own way.

And, yes, there was some shithead at the end of the bar with a handful of ice in his beer. Sure, it was pretty damn out hot for May in Minneapolis, but that’s like going to a fancy restaurant with a world renowned chef, ordering the most expensive steak on the menu, and then putting ketchup on it.

I rounded out the night by stopping at a random stadium bar (thankfully there was no home baseball game that night) for a Summit Red Horizon and then on to the Devil’s Advocate, a great beer bar with a pronounced English slant.

Day two in Minneapolis started with some breakfast, bumming around looking at the local scenery, having my picture taken next to the Mary Tyler Moore statue, then heading out to the wonderfully named Dangerous Man Brewing … which has for a “web site” a fucking low-rent WordPress blog. Even so, the brewery’s a neat place in a neat neighborhood just north of downtown. The place was doing a brisk trade in growlers and brewery-branded baby clothes from a local, afterwork crowd. I weaseled my way onto a seat at the small, crowded bar, and sampled a few brews. I liked all their beers—it was a fairly short list—but their Session IPA stood out, along with the Milk Stout, despite the hot day.

I probably should have stayed there. But instead I hiked through the neighborhood to Indeed Brewing, tucked away in an old industrial warehouse. The surroundings were very cool—gigantic wooden beams, ancient-looking brick and mortar walls, and imposing steel doors—and the place was jam packed, but they had only three beers on tap, all of which tasted like the same lackluster pale ale. Hopefully I just caught them at a bad time.

Undaunted, I pushed on, walking even farther through some patchy rain to get to 612 Brew, a cavernous room of a brewery that shared space with a nouveau hipster art gallery. This place was crammed to the gills as well, standing room only inside, and the worst hip hop band ever outside. Seriously, this was ear-bleedingly bad music. Thankfully, there was beer. Their menu was craft beer basics, fairly centered takes on your more common styles. Everything was perfectly good beer, but nothing stood out, maybe because it was the last stop of the night, or maybe because the band was so fucking bad that it deadened my tastebuds. Either way, I decided to call it a night, called a cab, and promptly waited for damn near an hour for nothing. If you’re ever in Minneapolis, do yourself a favor and never call Red and White Cab and subject yourself to their shitty ass service. Fuckers.

Day three meant getting outta bed at the crack of noon and heading out to try a Minneapolis classic: a Jucy Lucy (or Juicy Lucy, depending on where you eat) at the famous Matt’s Bar. The place is your basic old school neighborhood dive bar, and the Jucy Lucy is just a big-ass hamburger with cheese in the center. Thanks to some national media attention, Matt’s is a tourist destination, and I had to wait in line for maybe 10 minutes to get a seat. Normally I wouldn’t see the point, but you can buy a beer at the bar and sip and savor while doing your waiting. Their beer list is dive bar typical, mostly macro swill with some retro taps to keep things interesting, and one craft handle to save the day: Summit Extra Pale Ale. Maybe not the most exotic craft beer out there, but, hey, it went great with a big ass greasy burger and a pile of salty fries.

The rest of the day was pretty ho-hum. Back to the hotel bar to discover, perhaps, the best hotel tap line up ever (Surly Furious and Bender, Fulton Sweet Child Of Vine, Lagunitas Pils, Furthermore Fatty Boombalatty, and, of course, Porpoise Hork, er, Stella Artois. I also had to pop into the First Ave bar, which sported a pretty nice beer list and a well-informed bar staff. The night ended with a stop at Gluek’s, an old German-style tavern whose schtick is a huge selection of retro shit beer, like Red Dog, Milwaukee’s Best, and their terrifying ilk. Vaguely interesting but not exactly worth it.

The next morning I piled into the van, stopped at a liquor store (thankfully it wasn’t a Sunday) to grab some hard-to-get brews, and hit the road. I only barely explored the best of what Minneapolis has to offer, but it’s clear it’s becoming a great beer town. It’s got a ways to go—for whatever reason Michelob Golden Draft Light is the most ubiquitous beer in the city, on shelves, tap handles, and giant obnoxious billboards—but that’s changing every day. By the time Surly opens their long-awaited new digs, Minneapolis should be a destination on every beer dork’s wish list, regardless of the weather.

Today is the feast day of St. Arnold, patron saint of beer.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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