Brewpubs are known for keeping a steady rotation of brews. These restaurants that make and serve their own beer take advantage of their smaller systems to crank out a greater variety of recipes than the average brewery.
Though the influx of brewery taprooms and canned craft beers has snagged a bit of the limelight from brewpubs, the staples of the local brewpub scene are going strong: veterans like Great Waters, Town Hall, and Barley John's alongside newcomers Northbound Smokehouse, Day Block, and the Freehouse.
Great Waters head brewer Tony Digatono has some suggestions for beer drinkers who want to get to know their local brewpub.
"When I'm at work," he says, "I drink the cask Black Watch Oatmeal Stout. It's full of bitter chocolate and coffee notes that balance out with a ton of malted oats."
Black Watch was originally a recipe of longtime local brewer Bob DuVernois in the mid-aughts, and has been tweaked a number of times since. Digatono settled at the current recipe a couple of years ago when some of the original recipe's ingredients were on backorder. He experimented, liked the result of his changes, and the new recipe stuck.
"That kind of thing can happen a lot in a brewpub," he says, because the brewpub business model allows more flexibility to change a recipe.
In addition to the malted oats, Digatono notes the effects of cask conditioning. "Those extra 20 degrees or so bring out the complexities of the malt in a way not possible with a tap beer."
Great Waters embraced cask conditioning well before its current popularity. The brewpub is even certified by British beer consumers organization CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, which emphasizes traditional brewing techniques such as casking.
Digatono shared some of his brewpub favorites for beer fans to seek out. Call ahead for availability.
- The Freehouse Kolsch: I always start and finish my meal with a Kolsch when I'm at the Freehouse. It's a great blend of hoppy and fruity yeast notes on top of a light malt bill.
- Rock Bottom Skol Vinr! Amber: A classic amber with toasty malt notes with a solid ABV. Get the Baltic Porter for dessert.
- Northbound Smoke House Light Rail Pale Ale: This has to be one of the best aromas in the city. It's all I drink when I'm there. My wife says I'm nuts for passing up the porter.
- Town Hall Masala Mama IPA: This beer is perfect. A malty sweetness blended with a complex blend of hops. This should be the most popular IPA in the world, but Minnesota's stupid laws prevent brewpubs from distributing.
- Barley John's Cask Wednesdays: On Wednesday they tap a cask of something fun. I don't want to tell anyone how to live, but you should drink as much cask beer as possible.
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