By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The beers: PDBC's underdog mission is to introduce the Twin Cities to some of the less common beer styles through an eco-friendly process, and it seems that the stranger the brew, the better they do. Their flagship beers are the Pubstitute, a Scottish session ale that proved a little too watery for our taste, and the Patersbier, a crisp, perfumey golden ale that is excellent for day-drinking. But the ones that left a far more indelible impression were the oddballs. Infidelity, a cheekily marketed, dark and hoppy Burton ale, was full of herbs and mystery — a beer that will easily tempt you into cheating on your old standby order; the Hau Ruck, a surprisingly low ABV German-style that started out chocolatey sweet but balanced itself out with a sour finish; and finally the Scytheman, a Polish brew that ended up being the biggest surprise and runaway winner of the bunch. Though it has all the smoky, meaty intensity of a porter, this beer pours crystal clear and drinks almost like a spicy, bready cider. Wholly unique and most definitely not a poor decision.
The location: Even from the intersection of Central and Broadway in the Arts District of Northeast, you still wouldn't know that 612 is there. Thankfully there's a glowing red light atop the Broadway Building that acts a beacon to the brewery, and as you wind down behind it, the sheer size and ambition of the operation are revealed — first in the monolithic-looking patio and mini amphitheater and then in the high-ceilinged, mural-decorated taproom. An ideal Central Avenue bar crawl should include dinner and drinks at Sen Yai Sen Lek, a stop for samples at 612, country karaoke at the Vegas Lounge, and dancing at Lush.
The vibe: Maybe it was the multiple stretch limos attempting to navigate the parking lot or the Mötley Crüe blaring outside (courtesy of the Heavy Metal Grill food truck, which sells an item called "my ex-husbands nutz"), but 612 feels raucous, slick, and almost pristine in its newness. If it weren't for the fact that it's actually housed in an old building, 612 Brew's taproom would almost feel factory-made. That's not to say it doesn't have character, it's just much more like drinking in a full-blown, Target Center-adjacent bar than some of the other local taprooms.
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: While the other breweries may have one sessionable ale or a lighter lager, 612 Brew's focus is on the lower-alcohol styles. You can order them by the pint or in flights served on an ingenious little paddle that allows servers to fill all the glasses simultaneously. The paddle also makes a handy portable table, which you might need during the extra-busy periods. There's the Six, an American pale ale; the assertive Zero Hour, a treacly black ale; and the citrusy, rye-forward Rated R. But the beer we liked best might not be to everyone's taste, kind of like the fruity-flavored vodkas that give all the fabulous ones out there a bad reputation. The Mary-Ann, a German-style beer brewed with 25 pounds of fresh ginger, did a better job of waking us up than our mug of morning coffee. It's so spicy, so fresh, and it opens up your sinuses to help you experience the next wave of flavors that develop as the beer goes down.
The location: Located in an office park that seems incongruous with its decidedly blue collar-sounding name, Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park has one of the smallest taprooms on the list but also offers some of the biggest beers of the bunch. There's not much else of note nearby, but it's only a five-minute drive from Park Tavern, so if you're planning a group outing any time soon, consider an evening of bowling followed by good beer. People will like it much more than a scavenger hunt or some other team-building thing you think sounds like a good idea, we promise.
The vibe: Compared to the commissioned artwork and architectural nuances present in most of the other taprooms, Steel Toe feels downright austere. But the no-gimmicks, no-frills environment means beer takes precedence, and the crowd is never obnoxious. Head brewer Jason Schoneman, a transplant from Pacific City, Oregon, designed and built much of the taproom himself and embodies Steel Toe's straightforward, self-sufficient "find a stool and grab yourself a pint" attitude. Food trucks including House of Hunger, Gastrotruck, and Tot Boss all stop by on occasion, but the brewery is cool with you getting Pizza Lucé delivered right to your seat if you're hungry.
The beers: There are eight on tap, with four mainstays including Provider Ale — aromatic, unfiltered, and easy-drinking; Rainmaker Double Red Ale, a simultaneously bitter and malty, complex copper brew; the Size 7 IPA, an underappreciated hop-slapper in a town where we like our IBUs toward the higher end of the scale; and Dissent Dark Ale, a rich, oatmeal-y and chewy dark brew. Four more limited release and seasonal beers round out the selection. Right now it's Lunker, an English barleywine ale that always seems to clean up at competitions, and a barrel-aged Wee Heavy. Growlers are available for purchase and re-filling right from the taproom. After tasting these beers and chatting up the brewers, it's hard to leave with just one.