Perhaps you’ve heard I have an online radio show about beer now? Well, I do.
Since I’m not what you’d call “known” among the beer industry’s key names, I introduced myself to some Saturday … by visiting 15 brewhouses in a span of 10 hours. I tasted well over 20 beers, talked with brewers and figureheads, and cruised through an adventure no amount of words could capture.
It began outside Dangerous Man. Cue the action music!
Cue the lobby music.
My adventure began, not with a boisterous toast or a knee-slapping tale from a brewer but with the fidgets and watch-ogling that come with waiting in line. My wife’s first drink had Stephen King’s name on the cover, a copy of Danse Macabre from the bookshop next door. They let us in; and, by the time I got to the bar, the chocolate milk stout was already sold out. The Hazelnut Porter, that stupefying liquid Nutella, is too good to be called merely a “substitute.”
If putting us behind the clock was its purpose, it sure as hell did that too.
Our goal time to reach Indeed, 12:15 p.m. You could look at this one of two ways: On one hand, we were only eight minutes off pace; on the other, it took us 50 percent longer to get here.
We got ourselves back in the game, though, by ordering the day’s first growler and going. Inside the jug was a contender for our 2014 summer soundtrack, a sit-and-ponder-licious honey ale, suitably dubbed Shenanigans. My camera game stinks, but trust me when I say the artwork is must-see in there.
I mean, it’s frickin’ Indeed. If you haven’t been yet, it’s probably too late to save you.
My wife pulled up near a sign that specifically pointed out 612 as “GUESTS OF THIS BUSINESS WILL BE TOWED” and powered off anyway. Illegal parking would be one of the day’s key subplots.
“The yoga people take all of our parking,” said the bartender at 612 (who shares a building with eye-roll sources like Corepower and Spyhouse).
We passed a visibly confused bride and a party limo on the way into the ever-jammin’ taproom, but not before marching up into the Motley Crew’s food truck (Editor’s note: RIP).
Fine — the name wasn’t winning Creative Thing of the Century, but how many food trucks did you know that rolled up with speakers to set outside? The Funky Philly was my favorite fast-lane foods. Marty and Lisa could have renamed that truck Kenny G’s Perm Wagon and I’d have be okay with it, so long as that sandwich kept rocking. Editor’s note: This paragraph was changed to past tense.
Bauhaus Brew Labs
They’re working all day, and their Kickstarter funding goal — $25,000 by the end of May — was blown out in two days, so what’s the point letting some tickle-brain (thanks, Shakespearean insult generator!) into their taproom to be a distraction?
Because Bauhaus, that’s why.
It was by no cosmic disorder that the taproom I loitered the longest was the one not yet operational. I mastered the art of the Sky-Five, sampled their Wagon Party (yet another boogie-inducing Bauhaus effect) and saw the piece of graffiti that won’t come off their wall — even with an acid bath. Someone REALLY wants you to know that Norman eats monkey dick.
Sociable Cider Werks
The Bauhaus crew recommended having Sociable’s cider in snakebites, but the folks at Sociable recommended something else (by saying “no”). While men danced and banged sticks, we played hot potato with a swifty of Spoke Wrench. It just wasn’t for us.
There was no time for seconds, either, because we had a …
An emergency re-route through Target to replace busted flip-flops, that’s just life with my wife. Also on the PO were beef jerky and water. It happens.
Boom Island Brewing
‘Give us one of everything!’ we didn’t mean to declare, but a pint turned into a flight turned into an ultimate flight that didn’t even fit on their carriers. The bartender, Jim (pictured), lent a hand and I got to work.
This exclusively Belgian brewery had some curiously-colored offerings, one peach, another a hazy bright yellow, all precariously tasty. I say “precariously” because they were “strong” and my wife was “only tasting” which meant I was “about to do some dumb stuff in public.”
Fulton Brewing Company
Don’t act like you’re not impressed with that arch.
Q: How do you speed up a downward spiral?
A: Fulton Worthy Adversary.
I don’t want to hear about how it was the middle of May and why am I drinking an imperial stout in the middle of May? My body’s 98.6 degrees all the time. There’s no such thing as “too warm for a stout.”
If you’re wondering how close I was to sticking my face in weird stuff at this point, the answer was 1.6 miles.
Day Block Brewery
We stayed a while.
“Aw, man, You’re out of Frank’s Red Ale!” said I upon hearing the news. Instead, we enjoyed a Batch 019 IPA/spicy bacon pairing. Day Block, by the way, REALLY does bacon/beer pairings.
You’ll begin to notice the recollections getting vague.
Day Block’s brewers were at a table, with hops piled on it Scarface-style for a smell-and-identify challenge. I’m sure the point was to lift some in your hands up to your face and take an elegant, discerning sniff — or at least not to stick your face in and motorboat the piles like I did.
Motorboating earned me a 50-percent score, thank you very much!
There were four more, but the clock forced us out. It would be the first of many abrupt exits we’d make Saturday.
Town Hall Brewery
I was so excited to finally get a growler of Hope and — WHAT?! STILL growlers aren’t available?
With the clock shoving us toward St. Paul, I couldn’t even sit for a pint. This was the day’s casualty, one I’d rectify 100 times over in the months to come.
We were scheduled to relax here, but we’d apparently relaxed everywhere else because the only relaxing we had time for here was waiting in line at the R.A. MacSammy’s truck. We bulldozed the boat of mac, grabbed a growler, and bolted. Burning Brothers was closing in a half-hour. Mission Hit-15 depended on this next drive.
We made it! Woo! By the skin of our teeth, by a nose if you will! What a dramatic finish!
“Oh, we usually stay open past 5,” said the bartender as she slid us an APA.
For those out of the know, Burning Brothers is only the second entirely gluten-free beer in the country. I can tell you, gluten-free beer doesn’t differ drastically from what you’re used to. My wife made note of a cleaner taste, and there was nothing weird about it at all. They say it on their website and it’s true: No need to fear the beer.
The taproom is small and inconspicuous for now, but expect to hear about them in larger media helpings before long. We had some time to hang out, finally, and caught our breath before invading the new Flat Earth facility.
There’s only one way to drive into Flat Earth, and it looks a lot like the way drug dealers drive into deadly traps on TV. The actual brewery is nothing like that; and, to demonstrate, we were given free samples and followed one of their henchmen down into the brewery’s inner reaches. We saw all kinds of closets filled with … er, supplies.
Did you read that samples were free? Read it again if you need to. You can “buy” samples, but the money goes to charity. We had plenty of fun before filling my growler up and flying back to the mothership.
Are you noticing less pictures? That’s because my phone’s battery was flat and everything my wife’s had left was put into the navigation.
Great Waters Brewing
Thanks to Groupon (or possibly Living Social), my beers and a growler fill were pre-paid for. Our dollars fed us instead, in the form of a pretzel and a slice of cheesecake.
Aboard my flight was a special Habenero IPA, Saint Walpurgis Night Maibock, and a Saint Peter Pale Ale. We followed that up with a Joe Moment brown session. I enjoyed the Habenero IPA in a small dose, but I’m not sure I could’ve guzzled a pint of it (no way my wife lets me into the bed after that). Saint Walpurgis won growler rights, and the Joe Moment was a decent brown. Its backstory is kickass, though.
We cleaned up our plates, and set off on the longest point-to-point drive of the night.
Big Wood Brewery
WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY?!
A new growler of Amigo Grande stepped in for the unavailable Town Hall jug, and it was given to me in a hurry — impressive, considering the crowd on hand. However, when it came time to pay up, I became invisible to the staff. I suppose I could have left the $20 there, but the bar was hopping and I’m paranoid about leaving money in public.
The young man who filled my growler never came back. When I stood by the cash register and waved it like it was on fire, I was shooed away. Finally, my wife got someone’s attention. She gave me the words I had been longing to hear: “I’ll take your money!”
I should point out this is the first gap in service I’ve experienced at Big Wood, and I’m there often.
Speaking of taprooms accustomed to me …
Lift Bridge Brewing
A band was jammin’ and the lights were low as we strolled across the finish line. It was almost as if they knew we were coming. We celebrated with their Craft Beer Week special — ready for this?
A chocolate-dipped-bacon imperial stout.
It tasted the part, with notes of cocoa mixed in with the otherwise smoky stout, and the temperature had calmed down just enough to make this a bold exclamation point. We left with a growler of Getaway Pilsner (THIS CAN, YOU GUYS!) and hung out with the crew. After about an hour, we set off to cap the night. The way we did it will make a lot of beer nerds shiver their beards off.
Is that a $1.50 mug of Grain Belt with my Meisterburger? You bet it is! It’s the only way to roll on the immortal corner of Churchill and Fourth.
My wife was losing her wind, but I was lively enough to go behind the bar and cook our Meisterburgers. We tasted bacon for the fourth time that day, and reduced a bowl of tater tots to crumbs in mere minutes. I even managed to bomb a selfie or two. We tabbed out and headed home.
POST-SCRIPT: I will do this again, but much differently.
What I now know is it makes much, much more sense to do this route in reverse: Start at Lift Bridge, use Big Wood as that first resting point (it’s gonna be key), and loiter at Flat Earth. We could then eat at Great Waters and hit Burning brothers, but do so in a more sensible order as opposed to doubling back to catch everyone open. Bang Brewing and Summit were missed altogether; this probably doesn’t happen if we start in Stillwater. With the spots Northeast open until midnight, that’s two extra hours on the back end as well. Next time, however, we’ll veer south to hit Steel Toe, Lucid, and Excelsior.