Drinkin’ in the Woods with Bailee Duke

"CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CH--shoot, I had my camera on a weird setting. Can you do it again? CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! There we go."

“CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CH–wait. I had my camera on some weird setting. Can you, maybe, do it again? I need to re-take it. CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!”

One of the area’s grandest annual barrel-aged beer events is less than two days away, and where do you think that’s happening?

If your answer was “That Grizzly’s next to that hotel in the woods there off 494,” BINGO!

For the third year, Grizzly’s Plymouth is hitting the west metro with barrel-aged liqui-hugs right as the winter chill eventuates. Into the Woods, they call it. The pouring begins at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8.

To the uninitiated, yeah, it might sound weird what’s goin’ on up at Grizzly’s. Truth is, while chain restos around the Twin Cities are still sheepish about local craft beer – opting to hide under AB-InBev’s umbrella – Bailee Duke came to town in 2013; and, as GM and Craft Beer Curator, almost immediately turned Grizzly’s into a powerhouse.

How did she do it, and what are we drinkin’ Thursday? Duke sat down (over email) for a brief Q&A, wherein we recounted her path to Plymouth, found out whether she’s got beef with her neighbors, and maybe something about actual grizzlies.

I don’t think I’ve met a single person “from Plymouth.” Are you “from Plymouth?”
BD: Nope, I’m a ‘Sconnie! From Eau Claire, Wisc.

How did you end waaaaay over here, then?
BD: I transferred here from the Grizzly’s back home.

Very first job in the restaurant biz: Where was it and what did you do?
BD: I’ve always been in the biz. My first job was a Culver’s when I was 15. I killed it as a cashier, even made Employee of the Month.

What was on tap at Grizzly’s on your first day there?
BD: Oofda! That was three years ago. When I started, I knew almost every tap had to change. They had 16 taps, only had a handful that rotated, and at least 4-5 of them were domestic lagers.

How quickly were you able to change it up, and have everyone on board?
BD: I essentially started changing it right away. The staff was excited for the change, but the hardest transition was for guests when I slowly took away the domestic beers. Our regulars were not as ready. I did compromise, however; whatever domestic tap I took off, I added to our bottles.

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How did ‘Into the Woods’ come to be?
BD: I selfishly like to plan beer events with beers that I love and would want to drink, and barrel-aged beers are at the top of my list. In my years of being a bar manager and putting together beer events, I’ve discovered you need to cater to the beer geek. You probably won’t get a huge crowd with tapping a brewery’s flagship beers, but once you get their specialty limited beers … if you tap it, they will come.

What’s all on tap?
BD: This year’s line-up in the best one yet. We’ll have 10 total this year: Surly ’15 Barrel-Aged Darkness and Bourbon Barrel Pentagram; Indeed Rum King and DIDDCWQMS; Founders KBS and Lizard of Koz; Central Waters Cassian Sunset and Bourbon Barrel Stout (that we’re infusing with ‘Smores); Sisyphus Double Barrel Ass/Toy, and Disgruntled Imperial Brunch Stout.

How did you get your hands on all of that?
BD: I have a great relationship with my reps :-)

Am I seeing this right on Google Maps? You’re the only Grizzly’s in the Twin Cities area?
BD: Yes.

Is that an advantage or a disadvantage, and why?
BD: I guess I would say it’s an advantage. I am a competitive person, and I wouldn’t want to compete with another store from our company in the same city. It’s also an advantage in that guests who have been to other locations and had great experiences, will want to check out others. When they’re in Minneapolis, they’ll come to ours.

A real-life grizzly bear breaks into the restaurant, and you can choose any one thing from the kitchen to fight it off with, but only one thing. What’s your weapon?
I forgot to ask her this question. Great question, though, innit?

What is your relationship with the hotel you’re attached to?
BD: We aren’t affiliated, but we do help each other when needed. They bring us some great business!

Tell me about the last time one of you needed to borrow something from the other?
BD: There have been plenty of times we’ve utilized each other, but the last time was when our ice machine was broken. We used their ice vending machine.

If you HAD to wager on it, the first keg to blow will be:
BD: That’s a tough call, but Minnesotans love their Surly. I would guess ’15 BA Darkness will kick first.

You can find more information on Grizzly’s here.

Editor’s note: Shortly after publication, I realized the introduction stunk and fixed it. Some grammatical fixes were also made.