Twin Cities, Beeresota

14 Apr

Full disclosure: this post title is garbage. Judge me all you want.

When I first found out I’d be traveling to Minnesota for work, I had two thoughts: 1) holy shit it’s going to -20℉ and I’m going to freeze my thin-blooded Southern ass off and 2) I hear the Twin Cities have a pretty good beer scene. Thankfully the weather turned out to be quite lovely (for MN in April) and the beer scene did prove to be quite legit.

Other than the Trillium I brought along with me, my first MN beer experience occurred Tuesday night at State Fair Brewing Cooperative. This was the location from where I officially launched the Brittski Beers website and social media accounts, and it also proved to be a worthy celebration spot.

My beer choices leaned heavily towards sours: a lovely Mosaic dry-hopped sour, another funky dry-hopped sour, an interesting self-described saison I thought of more as a hop forward hefe / saison hybrid, and an excellently named Flander’s Red to close things out. I didn’t get to try the IPA and Imperial Stout before they kicked, but I quite enjoyed their lineup of sour forward brews.

Wednesday evening provided a surprise meet up with friends who had recently moved to Wisconsin and who were in Minneapolis for a show that night. I suggested we meet up for dinner and beer at Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. That decision was slightly based on their beer lineup, but it was mostly because of the duck poutine on their menu. As a Southerner, I have a sore lack of poutine in my life, so when I visit more cheese curd blessed regions of the world, I make sure to indulge in the delicious delicacy. To accompany my duck-topped, melting cheese curd, brown gravy slathered fries, I went with a flight of their hoppy beers. Three of them were standard, but the 10% SalmiVaara IIPA stood out for its pungent Citra and Mosaic hop bill as well as a surprising drinkability.

With a belly full of poutine, it was time to do a little walking and check out the surrounding area. Nearby was Acadia whose motto “No crap on tap” proved to be true. Having Bell’s Expedition Stout on draft was quite the treat. A not so pleasant surprise was the karaoke night that began as I was enjoying said stout. My zen moment was interrupted by the off-tune wailings of a Kurt Cobain wannabe. Time to head home for the night.

Thursday night was Surly night, the brewery I had been most excited to visit. I knew that Surly had recently built a destination brewery and had seen pictures of it, but I was not prepared for the sprawling ode to MN craft beer that I was to experience. When first walking into the beer hall, you’re met by a massive expanse of tables and sea of bodies. The brewery was packed, and I was told by multiple people that this was the norm any day of the week. I was meeting up with two friends I knew from back home in Fort Worth, and the wait for a table of 3 was around 30 minutes. Not one to be caught empty-beer-handed, I started off with a Hopshifter, the latest entry in their rotating hop series of IPAs. This particular one used an experimental hop that imparted strong citrus and grapefruit flavors. As with the other Surly IPAs I’ve had, it was an excellently balanced affair. I also tried a few other IPAs and ended on a Pentogram, a devious dark sour that tickled yet didn’t quench my sour stout obsessive thirst. As all around awesome as Surly’s beers are, their food is perhaps just as good. To continue my string of unhealthy french fry and exotic meat combos, I ordered the Hog Frites accompanied by a pepper jack fondue and giardinera. It was delightful. For dessert I shared the Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with the crew, and we all agreed that it was decadently delicious. After the beers and food, it was time to roll me out to my awaiting Lyft.

Friday would be my first day to let loose, and it just so happened that it was National Beer Day. After wrapping up a half-day of work in the office, it was off to Indeed Brewing for some lunch and brews. The Double Belma on cask was my first beer choice, but the bartender unknowingly poured me the last of the cask. The brewmaster sitting at the end of the bar noticed the overly cloudy and opaque nature of the pour and immediately recognized it as containing too much yeast sediment. I received another beer free of charge and was even given a fresh taste once they put on a new cask of Double Belma. Breweries take notice: it’s small things like this that greatly grow or shrink your customer’s confidence in your business. Needless to say I was impressed by the professionalism and haste to correct a mild mistake. During my visit I tasted a solid triplet of IPAs and came away most impressed by another cask beer, the Day Tripper with Citra and Mosaic.The combo of two of my favorite hops helped the flavor of this brew stand out despite my generally not liking hoppy beers on cask. Because I had seemingly vowed to not eat healthy food during this trip, I ordered in some Pizza Luce. The Fire Breathing Dragon proved to be an excellent choice: sweet chili sauce, spicy jerk chicken, pineapple salsa, green onion, mozzarella, and smoked Gouda all in perfect harmony.

Post-lunch was time for a little more work and some writing, and then it was time to really let my weekend begin. I met up again with my trusted female friends from last night, and we got things started by going to Young Joni, a speakeasy style cocktail bar where one of their boyfriends worked. As you may have deciphered, Brittski does not exclusively beer. Although beer is certainly my drink of choice, sometimes I can be found enjoying a classy cocktail or glass of wine (or cheap cocktail or bag of Franzia). My friend’s boyfriend hooked us up with several delightful celebrity themed cocktails, and the “Panamanian surf music” (as described by the boyfriend) created a lively and dance inducing environment. Of course there was also the requisite pizza to accompany our drinks. Once we had a nice buzz going, it was time to check out the brewery conveniently located next door: Dangerous Man Brewing Company. The party was bumpin’ once we made it inside, and the double fisted House IPA and Tropical IPA I started off with were creating their own party in my mouth. The Tropical was especially bursting with juicy citrus fruit flavors of orange and grapefruit. The most popular beer at Dangerous Man is seemingly their Peanut Butter Porter, and I was not disappointed by the liquid Reese’s I was presented with. My favorite beer of the night was the Coconut Milk Stout. The creamy mouthfeel combined with an abundance of coconut presence to make a surprisingly light and drinkable coconut milk shake. After drinking at the brewery we headed back towards Uptown Minneapolis to have a nightcap Surly at CC Club. It was an appropriately divey and vibrant spot to end a fun night.

Saturday proved to be pretty low key. My agenda was light, and my friends weren’t going to be able to meet up. Once I’d arose from my slumber and downed some leftover pizza, it was off to my first brewery of the day where I could get some writing done while enjoying the local flavor. Sisyphus Brewing was a relatively short walk from my Airbnb, and I got to check out the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on my walk. Sisyphus was a cool spot and relatively chill for a Saturday afternoon. The beers I tried were solid, but I wasn’t blown away by anything. Most of all it worked out perfectly as a place to sip on some beer while writing on my laptop.

After finishing my beers and my article, I used the ever handy BreweryMap app to see if there were other breweries on my walk back home. As it turned out Lakes and Legends Brewing Company was conveniently located about halfway back to my place. I stopped in and tried a refreshing citrus saison. It was cool to see a brewery thriving in the downtown urban core of Minneapolis. They occupied a surprisingly spacious corner of a building amongst the urban hustle. After Lakes and Legends it was a quick power nap at the Airbnb and then back out on the town. Fulton Beer was a nice walk from my place on the other side of Downtown next door to Target Field. They had a solid lineup of hoppy beers along with some interesting looking barrel aged beer in bottles. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try the bottles because I wasn’t about to down 22oz of a 12%er by myself. On my walk back home I used the Nearby Verified Venues of Untappd to find The Bulldog Downtown. The beer I was served was probably an old or overoxidized keg, but the cheese curds I ordered were on point. I had to ensure that I had a late night 1,000 calorie addition to my diet, and the cheese deliciously delivered.

Sunday was my last day in MN, and I wanted to hit up more breweries before flying out. Because they had a good looking brunch menu, my first destination was Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub. Before my food arrived, I got down with the house favorite Big Jim IPA. Hop forward in a west coast manner, it was a good way to get my Sunday started. The real winner of my brewery experience was the Chorizo Benedict I wisely ordered at the bartender’s recommendation. The combo of sweet cornbread and hollandaise sauce was magical, and as Ice Cube said I knew today was going to be a good day. I finished off my meal with the help of a black IPA.

My hunger blessfully satiated, I was off to my last brewery of Minnesota, Wild Minds Artisan Ales. I was glad to have saved out for a good one. I really enjoy breweries whose style, decoration, ambience, and character are all reflected through their beers. Holy Mountain immediately comes to mind as a place where the beer and the brewery itself have a complementary and cohesive feel to them. 3 Floyds also pulls it off well as metal music blares from their speakers and you’re drinking some big bold ales. Locally to Houston, Brash certainly maintains cohesion between their brewery space and the brash beers you imbibe when visiting. Wild Minds joins this list for me. The brewery was modern and minimalist, and you could tell that a designer had put a lot of thought into their decorations and art work. The beer benefitted from the same modern thoughtfulness. The Sol funky IPA was bursting with mango tropical flavors and a refreshing mild funk. Oakley was one of the most unique and enjoyable beers I’ve had in awhile. Technically it wasn’t even a beer: Wild Minds described it as a spontaneously fermented cider that had been aged in wine barrels. It definitely had some cider sweetness, and the wine barrel and spontaneous fermentation imparted a lovely tart funk. I finished things off with Cafe Up, unique in its own way as a coffee oatmeal black saison. The flavors worked together well, and it was the perfect “dark” beer to end my brewery expedition.

I made it to the airport in one piece, and I had to have one final brew before departing. Lucky for me the airport lounge had the option of Surly’s Todd the Axe Man. Much to my chagrin it was not free (what are lounges even for if all the booze isn’t free?!?), but the accompanying whiskey on the rocks I had was. I guess I’ll take what I can get, and what I got from the Twin Cities was a lot of delicious beer and cool breweries and good food and some memorable times with friends. Until my next adventure…

Britt Antley

Britt is a native Texan, lived in Houston for 12 years, and loves his current life in the Big Easy (although his liver is having second thoughts). His liver is also not nearly as proud of his 10,000+ Untappd uniques as he is. Stupid liver. He loves flavorful complex beers from juicy IPAs to fruited sours to barrel aged stouts, and he has vowed to some day be buried with a 4-pack of Yellow Rose.