Tag Archives: craft beer

SW Craft {Closed}

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I would have never known about SW Craft Bar had I not seen it on Groupon. I had never known there was a craft cocktail, beer and burger bar in Lowertown St. Paul. We absolutely love The Bulldog Lowertown, known for its excellent selection of craft beer. But it’s nice to know that there are some other options in the area, too.

So when I saw the Groupon offer for two flights of beer and two burgers (or sandwiches), I thought that the deal had Rob’s name written all over it! I snatched it up.

There is a good reason why there is a Groupon out there for SW Craft Bar. It needs a little advertising because it isn’t very well marked. It’s located in the Kellogg building and we had to walk around a bit to find it after parking.

The interior surprised me, too. It was about 5:30pm on a sunny summer afternoon and it was so dark inside! There were very few people there, too, despite that it was Happy Hour, which I’d like to point out includes more than your average bar food! Check out the online menu.

Another thing to note is that while SW Craft Bar may not have the as many craft beers on tap as, say, the Bulldog Lowertown or The Happy Gnome, they do have a varied selection. There weren’t a lot of my favorite styles on tap, which forced me to order outside the norm and try something new! It wasn’t until now that I realized how the growth of my beer palate has stunted. {Huh?}

Here were the selections available when we were there:

{The beer list is ever changing. I love that!}

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I love when bars list what is “on deck” so you know what kegs are waiting to be tapped. It’s a great way to bring customers back to try something new. Every single one of those craft cocktails {to the right} looked mighty interesting to me, too!

Here was the flight I put together and my thoughts on each beer:

  • Square Mile Dry Hopped Cider (OR) – I was a little iffy about ordering this because of some of the cider-beer hybrids I’ve had at our local Sociable Cider Werks; but I gave it a shot because it was new to me. I’m so glad I did! It had a ton of apple flavor going on and I’d easily order it again.
  • Millstream Brewing Bitter End Imperial Brown Ale (IA) – This was a pretty decent brown, but nothing screaming, “Special!”
  • White Birch Brewing Son of Ned the Red Flanders Red Ale (NH) – The bartender warned me that this is a sour. I’m glad he did because I’m still working on acquiring a taste for sours. In fact, that is why I decided to give it a try. Still, this one was a little too much for me. It didn’t taste very balanced; but I know nothing about sours, so I can’t really make that call.
  • Rodenbach Grand Cru Sour Red (Belgium) – Yes, another sour! And do you want to know something? I loved this one. It was a bit sharp on the palate for me at first, but it continued to grow on me. I will definitely order this again. This must be a good example of a well-balanced sour because Beer Advocate gives it a 95 (The Bros-100)!

Here is where I’d normally suggest that if you are doing beer flights with someone else that you select all different beers so you can double the number of beers you get to taste! But there weren’t eight beers I wanted to try. And I think we were both feeling a bit selfish.

For that reason, you’ll see two repeats in Rob’s lineup:

  • Northgate Brewing Parapet ESB (MN) – I was surprised Rob ordered this because I thought we had tried it when we went to Northgate and weren’t all that thrilled. During this taste he said it was fine.
  • Square Mile Dry Hopped Cider (OR) – Rob was in agreement with me on this one.
  • Local Option Sweet Lief Biere de Garde (IL) – I was also surprised Rob ordered this one, but he didn’t mind it.
  • Millstream Brewing Bitter End Imperial Brown Ale (IA) – Rob said he’s had Millstream beers in the past and hasn’t been too impressed. This one shows improvement by leaps and bounds! I think it was his fave of the four.

Our deal included a choice of a burger or sandwich.

Rob, of course, chose a burger!

el presidente angus beef patty, refried beans, chihuahua cheese, caramalized onions, roasted sweet peppers, sauteed mushrooms, mayo, crispy bacon, house-made adoba bbq sauce

el presidente  angus beef patty, refried beans, chihuahua cheese, caramalized onions, roasted sweet peppers, sauteed mushrooms, mayo, crispy bacon, house-made adoba bbq sauce – $10.95

All sandwiches are served with a side salad with a choice of ginger vinaigrette or spicy sesame dressing. You can upgrade to fries for just a buck, which is exactly what Rob did here. The fries were pretty basic, but well-seasoned. Rob finished them all before moving on to his burger, which he said wasn’t really seasoned and that the flavor was in all of the toppings. That kind of makes sense because if you read the description, there is a lot going on there! The bun was nicely toasted, too.

One thing that I didn’t realize until his burger came out was that he was never asked how he wanted it cooked. It looked almost well-done to me, but Rob said it was about medium. {We both prefer medium rare.} For the record, Rob did not get the refried beans on his burger because he is allergic.

All of the sammies sounded so flavorful, that I couldn’t decide at the moment. I enlisted the help of our bartender. He noted two of his favorites and I chose one.

torta de carnitas slow roasted pork, chihuahua cheese, refried beans, guacamole, tomatos, pickled red onions, cilantro, arugula

torta de carnitas – slow roasted pork, chihuahua cheese, refried beans, guacamole, tomatoes, pickled red onions, cilantro, arugula – $9.95

I loved this sandwich! My bun was perfectly toasted, to the point where it was crunchy without being hard. Rob took a bite. Whoops! I forgot there were refried beans on this sandwich until I started writing this post! However, that night I did note that they looked like black beans {which he can eat} rather than the usual pinto beans that are often assumed when I read “refried”.

He didn’t think the pulled pork had any flavor or seasoning; but I disagree. It was juicy and tender and not as salty as how mine tends to turn out at home in the crockpot. And I loved the mixture of flavor from the toppings. This one was right up my alley! I ate the entire thing.

Rob finished off the night with a glass of the Odell Stalwort English Strong Ale, which neither of us have had before. In fact, after tasting how smooth {and dangerous at 11% ABV!} it was, we looked it up on both Beer Advocate and RateBeer, neither of which have ratings yet. We’d give it a high score if we were so inclined to post on those sites.

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I could see SW Craft Bar as a great place to get a beer {or flight!}, cocktail or bite to eat before after an event in Lowertown. In fact, their website boasts free shuttles to events at the Xcel Center, Ordway or Fitzgerald Theater. {Just call in advance for times.}

It would also be a great alternative to other establishments in downtown St. Paul when everything seems a little too packed. Just be willing to walk a bit or take said shuttles. You just might try something out of the ordinary!

Do you like to do flights of beer, wine, cocktails or bacon?

If so, how do you choose if they aren’t pre-determined?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Thirsty Thursday: ENKI Brewing

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Happy Thirsty Thursday!

Boy, I’m hopping all over the Twin Cities this week!

This week’s MN Brewery edition takes us 25 miles west of Minneapolis to Victoria. Let me introduce ENKI Brewing!

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ENKI. You are probably wondering where that name came from. I did! And I spent a lot of frustrating, non-connective wi-fi time trying to figure it out. But there it is right on their website:

Most notably recognized as the Sumerian God of Running Water, ancient Sumerians believed that ENKI brought life-giving waters to the Fertile Crescent, enabling grains to grow and ultimately beer to flow. ENKI also represented creation and wisdom–both virtues important to the integrity of the craft of brewing beer, a practice as old as ENKI himself.

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Appropriate, no?

But ENKI Brewing has another mission:

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I don’t see anything wrong with that!

The people who live in Victoria and the vicinity are lucky to have a brewery in their midst, without having to trek all of they way to Minneapolis. For us, it was a bit of a hike. Such that, this happened:

We went on the wrong day to use our Groupon. {You can’t fill a growler on a Sunday! Doh!} We decided to just order the beers we wanted to try rather than go with the beers that would have been included in the Groupon flight. We gave our Groupon to a friend who lives in the area. Truth be told, I think we wouldn’t have liked the flight as much as the beers we tried!

ENKI’s taproom interior is pretty small. There are only a couple of seats at the bar. And only a handful of tables in the main room.

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There is additional seating in odd little corners throughout the building as well as on the patio when the weather is nice. Unlike other breweries, there is no food truck parked outside. But there is ENKI Express, a small menu offered in conjunction with the local restaurant Victoria House.

Yet ENKI does display two things that every local craft brewery should:

  1. A display of growlers from every other local craft brewery they’ve enjoyed,
  2. The current tap list.

(Though not necessarily in that order.)

We were so lucky to arrive on the day that we did. There was a very special beer on tap – the Mocha Porter. It was an experimental beer that they were testing out and they… NAILED IT!

The only problem was that it made every other beer taste subpar!

Well, in my opinion, anyway. Rob really enjoyed the Tailfeather IPA and the Warming Hut Brown Ale. After trying my friend Jen’s Mocha Porter {the specialty beer}, it was tough for me to go back to my Cacao Porter {the year round beer}. I knew that on any other given day I would have found the Cacao Porter to be sensational.

I tested this theory a few months later at a restaurant that had the ENKI Cacao Porter on tap. It was smooth and creamy with a hint of chocolate. I was pleased. But I didn’t have the Mocha Porter alongside it to taint me. 🙂

Yes, ENKI Brewing was most definitely worth the trek. Stop by if your are in the area. Or consider taking following this SW Minne Tour!

Have you ever had a food or beverage that you know you liked but that didn’t taste as good because you just consumed something even better?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

Thirsty Thursday: Barrel-Aged Libertine

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Oh, boy do I love me some Libertine from Fulton Brewery in Minneapolis. It’s a unique, flavorful imperial red ale.

Oh, boy am I obsessed with bourbon barrel beers.

When we saw this on a shelf in a liquor store recently, it promptly came home with us:

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I love that there were only 2160 of these bottled! This beer was actually aged in rye whiskey barrels, not bourbon.

Believe it or not, we waited about a week before we opened it.

It was worth every minute of the wait.

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Cheers to another Barrel-Aged Beer success!

Thank you Fulton!

~Carrie

Once in a Blue Moon – Thirsty Thursday

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You may have probably did not notice that I skipped Wine Wednesday yesterday.

{Kangaroos are a bit more exciting, no?}

I think I’m going to let go of those Wine Wednesdays. Maybe I’ll do one from time to time or maybe I’ll do a Thirsty Thursday post once in a blue moon or so. That way, I can write about wine, coffee, beer, tea, cocktails or whatever else strikes my fancy.

I’d rather write about what’s itching me at any given time anyway. It’s a little more freeing. Let’s throw out any “rules” I’ve imposed upon myself!

So welcome to this…

Thirsty Thursday

{To be posted once in a blue moon.}

Speaking of blue moons…

As a semi-beer snob who prefers to drink only craft beers and locally whenever possible, I’m willing to admit that I have guilty pleasure:

 

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Rob doesn’t like wheat beers; but I do. And I love Blue Moon, especially in summer with a nice slice of orange. It’s kind of like Fruity Pebbles cereal. But kind of not. You can find it on tap most places, especially if there are no local or craft beers to be found. In those cases, this will be their “specialty” beer.

To be truthful, we found Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat to be more flavorful when we did a side-by-side taste test with Blue Moon a few years back. But that’s even harder to find on tap now that Summer Shandy seems to be their distributed summer beer of choice.

Although Shock Top is supposed to be similar as well, it’s just not an option for me. Blech. {Although I was pleasantly surprised by Shocktop Pretzel Wheat at the German/Beer night at a St. Paul Saints game this summer…}

I digress…

I’m not huge into Sampler Packs of beer, in general, because I find that 50% of the beers in the pack usually disappointment me. But when I saw Blue Moon’s Fall Sampler Pack, I was intrigued. There were three beers in there that I was dying to try:

  • Harvest Pumpkin Ale
  • Caramel Apple Spiced Ale
  • Cinnamon Horchata Ale

Although Rob isn’t usually a fan of wheat beers – the exception being Cherry Wheat, he was game to try a few with me. The first two up:

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Caramel Apple Spiced Ale

I took one sip of it and handed the bottle over to Rob. I didn’t like it at all. I’ll take a cider instead, thank you very much. But now that I think about it, I always found the concept of Redd’s Apple Ale pretty strange, too. Why not just drink cider? Rob didn’t think the beer was great either, but okay enough to finish it. I will be using the other bottle for cooking!

Tip: If you want a Caramel Apple Hard Cider, take 12 oz (a bottle) to 16 oz (a pint) of cider (Angry Orchard is good for this) and dump in a shot of Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Vodka. I came up with this creation a couple of years ago when they had that vodka on hand at the now defunct Burnsville Ale House. The bartender was wondering how we could possibly use it. Ta da! We got a few people drinking those at Rob’s 40th birthday party!

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Cinnamon Horchata Ale

Love this! I let Rob have a sip, while he finished the Caramel Apple Ale. Then I hid the other bottle of Cinnamon Horchata to save for myself another time. {I’m so greedy!} This beer is brewed with long-grain rice for a creamier texture. This was my favorite of the Sampler Pack.

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Then, on another day where the temperatures dropped and we dreaded the oncoming snow and polar vortex, I decided to say, “Goodbye,” to fall with the Harvest Pumpkin Ale.

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Harvest Pumpkin Ale

I have really high expectations when it comes to pumpkin beers due to my undying love of Southern Tier’s Pumking. Although we had a pretty incredible Imperial Pumpkin Ale at Dangerous Man that could give Pumking a run for its money. Since they only serve at the brewery and do not distribute, we were lucky to get it before it was gone! And the Schottky Pumpkin Ale by Tin Whiskers Brewery in St. Paul, is worth a try, too!

With so many good pumpkin beers, my expectations were low for this one. But I was pleasantly surprised. I can appreciate this beer for what it is. And I would drink it again. You definitely get the pumpkin flavor with the wheat in the finish. Nice job, Blue Moon.

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Still, when I picked up this Sampler Pack, something caught my eye on the way to the cash register… And I just had to grab it:

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Let’s just say a few things here:

So much so, that before all of this cold and snow came in, we were planning a little road trip to Central Waters. I think that’s going to have to wait…

How do you feel about Sampler Packs (for anything, not just beer!)?

Cheers~
Carrie

Day Block Brewing

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Well, you might be anxious to see pictures and hear all about Australia. Don’t worry. They will come!

If I had to put it into one word, I’d say Australia is… well…

Otherworldly.

I’m still downloading pictures and collecting my thoughts. But for now, let’s just say it was an extraordinary trip that I can barely even believe happened.

Coming back…

A whole different story. The jet lag was more difficult coming back. And after 24 hours of traveling, I went to work the next day. I mean, would sleeping during the day really get me back on track anyway? I think I’ve finally fully adjusted and I’m starting to get caught up enough at work.

In the meantime, Rob and I came back to the realization that we had several Groupons expiring before the end of the month!

One of those Groupons took us to Day Block Brewing. We had been holding on to this Groupon Living Social voucher for a while because every time we checked their website, not many of the beers looked appealing to us. But it was about to expire on September 30th. So off we went…

First, we started with a flight of beers.

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Here is a list of the samples we received of all the beers on tap that day:

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I am really glad that we did the flight! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those. By now, you’ve probably learned that I’m an IPA-porter-stout-anythinginfused kind of girl. But the one I really loved out of this bunch at Day Block?

Frank’s Red Ale

What?

I KNOW!

I was so surprised that I enjoyed this beer more than the Porter (which was solid – well, not literally) and the Double IPA (made with Amarillo hops), that it was what I ordered for my pint included in the deal.

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Then there’s the food…

OH! The food!

Because Day Block Brewing is a brewpub, you don’t have to order in from a restaurant down the street or hope that there is a food truck parked outside like you’d have to do at other breweries. And it’s not just your average fare here either.

Take a look at some of the offerings that beautiful Saturday!

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 If only I had seen this board before I ordered. I would have gone with some Burrata!

We started with a bacon flight.

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You all know by now how I feel about bacon. I like it by itself, NOT in dishes. I thought I might be okay with these because the focus is bacon, not a dish that is supposed to have bacon IN it, but then that’s all I end up tasting.

Here are the flavors of the day that we tried:

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Oh that Pineapple Jerk Bacon!! Who would have known? The Thai Peanut Bacon was our second fave. And the other one just tasted like those times you get your bacon mixed in with the syrup from your pancakes or French Toast on your plate. These flights change daily; so there will always be something new!

We then ordered a little lunch. We must have been craving Mexican/Tex-Mex/Southwestern fare that day because we chose similar dishes.

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Mexican Pulled Pork {Lunch Only} – Cemita Bun, Braised pork, red onion, avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, cheese

Oh this pork! It had the perfect amount of heat for me. For those of you who are looking for Minnesota spicy, this might be a bit over the top. But I loved it! The bread is made in house, too.

Taco Truck Pulled Pork, Radish, Cilantro, Pickled Jalapeno, Onion, Cotija, Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Taco Truck Pizza – Pulled Pork, Radish, Cilantro, Pickled Jalapeno, Onion, Cotija, Tomatillo Salsa Verde

This dish was similar to mine. Rob commented that he didn’t usually like this style pizza. {I think he said that after taking one look at the crust.} But he was pleasantly surprised. Although this was also made with shredded pork, the flavors were a bit different from my sandwich due to the salsa verde sauce and the cojita cheese. It was just as yummy and a little less spicy.

Day Block Brewing is the perfect place to take a friend that might not even drink beer, too. In fact, at the time of this writing, there is a Living Social deal that includes Bloody Marys. They have a liquor license. So they can do other cocktails and wine, as well.

The other Living Social deal at present includes a bacon flight, a Growler and a t-shirt. We’ve purchased that one, so we’ll be going back!

Ever try a bacon flight before?

What is the most interesting flight (samples) of something that you’ve ever tried?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

American Craft Beer Week

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If you don’t live in Minnesota and weren’t celebrating MN Craft Beer Week last week, you can celebrate American Craft Beer Week this week!

In honor of American Craft Beer Week, I thought I’d share with you my personal favorite craft brew right now. It comes out of this brewery in Wisconsin:

CW - Overview

Talk about craft brewing, eh?! You’ve seen Central Waters Brewing before on this blog, when I wrote about barleywine.

It’s not always easy to find Central Waters beers in Minnesota, but they do distribute here. So when I saw both of these available at the same time, I decided to pick both…

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And do a little side-by-side tasting…

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But then I realized rob had a leftover bottle of this…

CW- Satin Solitude

So we had to do a little tasting of all three.

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Left to right: Central Waters Satin Solitude Imperial Stout, Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout, Brewer’s Reserve Barleywine Ale

Let me just say that ALL of these beers are absolutely extraordinary.

There is one that wins out for me, but only by a narrow margin.

CW - BB Stout

Yes, the Central Waters Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout from Amherst, Wisconsin is my favorite American Craft Beer right now.

I need to take a brewery road trip.

  And now it’s time for….

planning

Food

Dinners:

  • MondaySan Marzano Tomato Pasta
  • Tuesday – Dinner either in or out – TBD – with a friend
  • Wednesday Andouille Sausage with Red Beans & Rice and Creole Roasted Veggies
  • ThursdayChops with Butter Sauce and Pesto Green Beans
  • FridayCheeseburger Wrap at Carbone’s – It’s our Final Poker Tournament and I am so lucky to have snagged a seat at the Final Table!
  • Saturday – 5k Race – Yes, we signed up for a 5k the morning after our Final Poker Tournament. Crazy? Probably. Brunch afterward – I’m guessing here.
  • Sunday – TBD

Lunch:

  • Leftovers – We’ll have a lot this week!
  • Snacks – fruit, nuts and dark chocolate

Breakfasts:

Fitness

We completed Couch to 5k – Week 8 last week. I haven’t run a full 5k in a year and a half. I thought about trying one on tonight, but fear I’ll wear myself out for Saturday’s race. Runners, thoughts on this one? I can do a shorter run on Wednesday and rest Thursday and Friday.

  • Monday – Run – 5k
  • Tuesday – Yoga
  • Wednesday – Run – 2mi? 20 min? Not sure if I want to do a time or distance run.
  • Thursday – REST
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – Challenge Obesity 5k Race
  • Sunday – Yoga

What is your favorite craft beer right now?

Cheers~
Carrie

Dangerous Man

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Two beer posts back-to-back? What is this blog coming to?

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It was a cool, brisk March Saturday afternoon, the kind that makes you believe that spring has arrived until you realize it was all a tease when it snows again the following week. Rob and I had intended to spend our Saturday in Northeast {aka Nordeast} Minneapolis using one of our Groupons. On our whim, we detoured…

because there is a

 Dangerous Man

in Nordeast Minneapolis!

Dangerous Man Brewing is located in a historic bank building at the corner of a fairly residential neighborhood. There’s a lot of street parking. We arrived  about 3pm that Saturday afternoon. We walked in and to us, the place looked packed! All of the tables were taken and the bar seats filled. It was standing room only. We had to wait in line for a beer.

I loved the decor with the copper and metal backsplash and the display of Growlers from other local breweries.

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Little did we know that the place would fill up to capacity. When we departed, there was a line out the door and people smiling that two of us left so that two more could step inside! {Beard = optional. It is not required for entry. 😉 } Originally, we had planned to go with a group. But with how packed and how long of a wait there may have been, we are kind of glad we didn’t. If we do in the future, it’ll take a little more planning on our part. {Aka, get there early.}

 The beers available are constantly rotating. Here were the ones on tap that day:

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The one I was excited to try: The infamous Chocolate Milk Stout!

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It was good, but I found it to be a bit too cold and a little over-carbonated. But what did I know? I was coming off a beer on nitro from the night before. I think my expectations were too high. Kind of like when you are the last one to see That Epic Movie and you think, “I don’t understand the hype. It’s good and everything, but…” I just wanted it to be a little creamier. You know, like chocolate milk.

That being said, I had no trouble finishing this bad boy!

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Don’t you love that glass?! Rob and I try to pick up a pint glass at every brewery we visit. We’ve got a nice collection going, but we completely forgot to get back in line to get one here. They aren’t prominently on display to remind you to buy. Although, they do have a variety of items in their store online. Also, no food is served, but there is usually a food truck parked outside or a special event that will provide some nosh.

I was driving, so I just had a few sips of the beers Rob ordered while we were there.

Triple IPA - 12% ABV / Hazelnut Porter - 6.6%

Triple IPA (shown right) – At 12% ABV, this IPA is Dangerous, Man! It’s so smooth and delightful. But because of that, I think it’d be easy to drink it too quickly. Why is it that double and triple IPAs nearly always seem smoother than the standard ones to me?

Hazelnut Porter – Now this is the one that wowed me. I’ve never had anything like it before. There was so much flavor there! The aromas of hazelnut alone were transcending. It smelled like they had been toasted. The flavor was just as good. And we declared it the favorite of the day.

But alas, because gear and such wasn’t prominently displayed to remind us to buy, we completely forgot to get a Growler to go. But there might be a reason for that. Today I read their website:

Beer sales are flying through the roof; they’ve busted up some cumulus and are now on their way into the outer atmosphere of the Earth.

An unfortunate side effect of this is that we have to reduce our growler sales. Why? Because our production level needs to be balanced with our demand and most importantly of all — we need to have beer in our taproom.

Currently, we are selling 20-30 growlers a day – 1 per customer. Being present when the taproom opens is your best bet. We apologize for this inconvenience. We are currently working on increasing production which will allow us to sell more growlers. More than anything we’d like our beer to go home with you.

So my tip for you. Go early. Like, when they open.

The thing I love most about Dangerous Man Brewing is that  they don’t distribute.

The thing Rob likes least about Dangerous Man Brewing is that they don’t distribute.

You can only get their beer at their taproom. This keeps the beer made in small batches and makes it a true destination brewery. Rob declared it his new favorite in the Twin Cities. So we’ll be back. And we’ll plan to go early. Want to join us?

Do you drink local?

Cheers~
Carrie