By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The beers: You can get Lonely Blonde and Sweet Child of Vine at almost any bar or restaurant with a semi-decent beer list, but the taproom gives you the chance to preview what's coming up next — the beer you won't find in bottles and definitely can't get at the stadium. Past experimental batches have included an American barleywine brew called the Ambassador; Insurrection, a double dry-hopped cask ale; the Proverbial Buffalo, a mosaic-hopped farmhouse style; and the latest release on tap right now, Preservation, a mild ale with a low ABV percentage and a connection to the local organization Friends of the Mississippi River, a group that's committed to preserving (get it?) and improving the water quality of the old 'Sip.
The location: Don't be discouraged if you go up to Harriet's main entrance on Minnehaha Avenue and find that the door is locked. Remain calm; you can still get beer. The front entrance is just for tours and the tasting room, but if you follow the tinny sound of banjo pickin' and the wafting curls of pipe tobacco smoke around to the back of the building, you'll be led directly into the warm embrace of the Harriet taproom. When the weather is agreeable, the brewers throw open the big garage doors to reveal the small stage, bar, serving area, and massive brewing kettles inside.
The vibe: Of all the taprooms we visited, Harriet Brewing in Longfellow is perhaps the one that is best integrated into its surrounding neighborhood. It's open Wednesday through Saturday, and its seating ranges from picnic tables on the patio to a few high-top seats at the butt end of a bar to a big worn-in leather couch. The event schedule is active and varied, hosting everything from weekly jazz showcases, DJ nights, and cover bands to beer dinners and slam poetry readings. Food trucks are in regular attendance here, so count on food from AZ Canteen, Cajun 2 Geaux, Tollefson Family Pork, and Simply Steve's, among others. There's a psychedelic quality to much of the company's branding, the bright colors and kaleidoscopic lines of which seem to carry over into the interior decor, complete with paintings by local artists and a taxidermied mountain lion. The overall effect is a bit like spending the evening in the romper room of your parents' hardest-partying friends, who keep their kegerator full and have every Grateful Dead album on vinyl. It's kooky and unpretentious, and there's always something entertaining happening, even if it's just people-watching.
Dangerous Man Brewing 1300 Second St. NE, Minneapolis 612.209.2626 dangerousmanbrewing.com
Fulton Beer 414 Sixth Ave. N., Minneapolis 612.333.3208 fultonbeer.com
Harriet Brewing 3036 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis 612.315.4633 harrietbrewing.com
Pour Decisions Brewing Company 1744 Terrace Dr., Roseville 612.567.6871 pourdecisionsbrewery.com
612 Brew 945 Broadway St., Minneapolis 612.217.0437 612Brew.com
Steel Toe Brewing 4848 W. 35th St., St. Louis Park
Indeed Brewing 711 15th Ave. NE, Minneapolis 612.843.5090 indeedbrewing.com
The beers: Harriet founder Jason Soward started out as a chemical engineer, and the brewery is often recognized as a precise interpreter of Belgian styles. They have four beers on tap in the taproom, all sold by the pint for $4 to $7 with some available for growler fills. The selection changes often, but they usually feature two seasonal beers (right now it's the fantastically fresh Woden Weizen, a hazily unfiltered Hefeweizen, and the sneaky, citrusy Sol Bock, a German-style maibock), as well as at least one of their flagship beers such as the West Side, a distinctive Belgian-style IPA, and something from the darker end of the spectrum.
The location: If you weren't specifically looking for Pour Decisions in Roseville, it's extremely unlikely that you'd just happen upon it, unless you're the kind of person who spends a lot of time in mostly empty industrial parks. But this lesser-known, newer brewery and taproom is worth a jaunt. Parking is ample, and there are a few picnic tables available for seating outside the taproom doors. If the Grumpy's behind Rosedale mall is your usual happy hour or Saturday afternoon spot, consider changing it up. Pour Decisions is less than a five-minute walk from their patio, but the beer is in another territory entirely.
The vibe: It may sound a little strange, but Pour Decisions Brewing is actually kid-friendly. Playing cards and other games are laid out for the taking, and you'll find free bags of potato chips and homemade sodas on tap in flavors such as raspberry-basil and apple hojicha that are even more impressive than some of the beers. There's also a changing table in the bathroom stocked with diapers of various sizes, a feature that I'm pretty sure few other breweries can boast. The 7,500-square-foot facility and taproom are run by co-founders and brewers Kristen England and B.J. Haun, both of whom have Ph.D.s in the hard sciences and started the brewery with an impressive array of awards for their homebrewing. Though there is clearly a lot of research and testing going on behind the scenes, Pour Decisions feels homey and laid-back, a perfectly lovely place to while away the afternoon over a game of cribbage and six-ounce sippers of their beers. Food trucks including Bacon Trolley, Saucy Burt's, and Simply Steve's roll up to the parking lot on Friday evenings, but if you're there on an off day and feeling peckish, they also sell some British snacks and candies in honor of one of the brewer's English mums. Like a prawn cocktail-flavored crisp with your Leipziger Gose? Oh, you've never had either? Then by all means sidle up to a barrel (which double as makeshift tables) or the bar and start asking questions. The staff here are excited to chat with people who are excited about beer.