The Happy Gnome – St. Paul


In early April, my friend Jared was starting a new part-time job at the Urban Olive & Vine – a restaurant, bar, coffee & tea shop, music venue and specialty store in Hudson, Wisconsin. He is a Certified Wine Professional, but wanted to learn more about beer so that he would be able to appropriate suggest beers when they were ordered. {He’s never really been a beer drinker.}

So knowing that we are beer snobs, he naturally asked us to teach him a little.

My husband chose The Happy Gnome in St. Paul as our classroom. This lively place does not only have over 75 craft brews on draft, but also a wide selection of bottled beers and wine. The draft beer menu is printed on easily disposable folded sheets of paper because the array of beers can change daily.

Beer Menu

The beers are listed in different categories. When we were there, they were listed by the following:

  • Looking for something Lighter?
  • Looking for something with Depth?
  • Looking for something Hoppy?
  • Looking for something Double Hoppy?
  • Looking for something Malty/Sweet?
  • Looking for something Delicious?
  • Looking for something Fruity?
  • Looking for something Belgian-y?
  • Looking for something Unique?

Each beer lists the state in which it is brewed, the alcohol content, the size (and price, of course), as well as a description. Even people who don’t know beers well can be steered in the right direction. If you can’t decide, you can order a flight of a half dozen of any beers on the menu! And if you have a favorite, make sure you get a second or come back soon before it runs out…

Rob and I arrived early, so we sipped a couple of new-to-us beers while we looked over the beer menu to find something for Jared to sample. I seriously thought Rob would find a good sampling of different types to showcase the color, body, aroma, flavor and style – just like wine. I expected that he would want to illustrate the differences between a lager and an ale, or a porter and a stout. I guessed that he would choose maybe a lager, an IPA, a Beligan, a porter, a stout and maybe something else unique with a distinct flavor.

But Rob decided skip Beer 101 and went right to Beer 202! I think he just wanted to pick some fun ones!

Jared’s Beer Flight

I no longer remember which beers are which, but they included the following:

  • Two Brothers Cane and Ebel (red rye) – (IL)
  • McNeills Warlord Imperial IPA – (VT)
  • Boulder Mojo on Nitro (IPA) – (CO)
  • Tyranena Rocky’s Revenge (brown ale aged in bourbon barrels) – (WI)
  • Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout – (NY)
  • New Belgium Cocoa Molé (spiced up ale) – (CO)

Seriously? How was he going to learn anything with all of these specialty beers? I know, I know. They are really good picks. In fact, when I was looking for a recommendation {the list can be overwhelming!}, our server suggested the New Belgium Cocoa Molé. Just the words “New Belgium” made me apprehensive. Contrary to popular opinion, I am not a fan of the Fat Tire Amber Ale nor the Ranger IPA by New Belgium Brewing. There’s just no character there. Okay, so get over it. I told you I’m a beer snob! In any case, he knew exactly what I was thinking and after describing it a bit a further, convinced me to give it a try.

We sampled a lot of beer that night including:

  • Surly Darkness (Russian Imperial Stout) – (MN) – local! We love our Surly!
  • Founders Breakfast Stout – (MI)
  • Surly Five (sour) – (MN)
  • Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree (DIPA) – (MI)

But my favorite ended up being the:

New Belgium Cocoa Molé!

Way to go, New Belgium! You found flavor!

New Belgium Cocoa Molé – “Spiced up ale full of cocoa and ancho, guajillo, chipotle peppers. But don’t fear the heat, because penty of caramel and chocolate malts bring a a smooth, complex” {Okay, so they didn’t finish the sentence here. They must have been too busy drinking the beer.}

You know those trendy chocolates now that have chiles in them? That’s what it reminded me of! But waayyyy better. I mean, it is beer after all. And after I read the description, I remembered that I had first had guajillo chilies just a week prior and fell in love with them then. My, oh my… this is one well-seasoned beer!

And food? This is not pub grub. It is pure gastronomic heaven. Just check out the menu online to see what I mean.

We started with the:

(Jumbo) Tater Tots

Rob ordered:

Angus Cheeseburgercrispy onion straws, garlic aioli

I ordered:

Merguez Sausagecannellinis, egg, harissa

Jared ordered:

Grilled Lamb Chops – rapini polenta, salsify, asparagus, black olive

While Jared really enjoyed his lamb chops, overall, the food was not as impressive as the first time Rob and I had entrées there. {We ordered the scallops and beer-braised short ribs, which were on their winter menu.} But that’s okay. This is still the place in the Twin Cities for craft beer on tap. In addition, there are still a few things on the menu that intrigue me. Has anyone had the Fried Vegetable Juicy Lucy?

What is your favorite style of beer?



16 responses »

  1. Oh, I just love the Happy Gnome! I’m so glad you got to go. Lately, I’ve been leaning more towards IPAs (which is new for me), otherwise I very much like malty, dark beers and all manner of Abbey and Belgian-style brews.

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