When the Harriet Brewing Company opened it's doors in January of 2011, it was the only (but not the first, of course) production brewery in the city of Minneapolis. There hadn't been a production brewery since the end of the James Page company in 2005. "Production" is the key word here, meaning a facility that produces beer for sale and consumption elsewhere, different from a brewpub. Many of the newspaper articles about Harriet got it wrong, claiming "brewing is back" in Minneapolis. That presumes the non-existence of brewpubs, where a brewery is combined with a restaurant, and is only sold on the premises. (Of course, this is not true everywhere, and efforts have been made to change the laws in this state that prevent brewpubs from selling their beer to other bars in keg form or to stores in bottles or cans. No luck on that, yet.) There were three brewpubs at that time, the downtown Rock Bottom, (open since 1994, and part of a chain based in Denver, Colorado), Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery in the Seven Corners neighborhood along the West Bank of the Mississippi river, near the University of Minnesota (1997), and Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street's The Herkimer (1999). (According to Doug Hoverson's "Land of Amber Waters", a definite history of Minnesota brewing, published in 2007, Minneapolis was home to The District brewpub in the warehouse district from 1996-1999, and Taps Waterfront Brewery along the river from 1989-1991. There may have been spots here and there when brewing was absent in the city, but it's been going on non-stop since Rock Bottom's arrival.)
So, that makes four breweries inside the city limits as of three years ago. Later in 2011, the so-called by the media "Surly Bill" allowed production breweries to sell pints of their own beer (Surly named their success in this "the power of the pint") and brought on the age of the taproom, where production breweries, not just brewpubs could have a space where their beer would flow into customers glasses and tills would overflow with cash. In 2012, Harriet actually became the second brewery in the city with a taproom (Lift Bridge was the first in the state), beaten to the punch by a week by Fulton at their new downtown brewery, after 3 years of having their beers produced by contract in Wisconsin. That year also brought us the breweries Boom Island, Indeed (the first brewery to open with a taproom), and Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub (who I now work for). The next year, 2013, saw the founding of Dangerous Man, 612 Brew, Sociable CiderWerks, and The Freehouse, a creation of the Blue Plate Group chain of restaurants. Day Block Brewing opened in January of this year, bringing us up to six brewpubs and seven breweries with taprooms, a total of thirteen breweries in the city one can visit if one wishes.
This number will change soon. NorthGate Brewing of NorthEast Minneapolis is planning a taproom, and we're looking forward to the new Surly facility in Prospect Park. Lake Monster Brewing is looking for a facility, and who else is coming to the City of Lakes? Bauhaus (NE), Lyn-Lake (Uptown), Sisyphus (Loring Park)…others? Will we be at 20 by this time next year?
So, that's been on my mind. Also weighing on my occipital lobes is that I haven't visited The Freehouse or Boom Island yet. Further, I haven't been to any of the NorthEast breweries in about a year, mostly due to my schedule. At my previous job, I worked almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the only days some of those places are open. And one last thing: I've been meaning to give The Herkimer another chance, since hearing better things about their brews. It had been nearly 10 years since I stepped through their doors. (Looking at Beeradvocate.com, the last beer I reviewed there was in December, 2006. So, 7 1/2 years, still a long time.)
All of that led me to an idea last Wednesday, while I pondered what to do with myself now that I have Thursdays off from Northbound. What if I took care of all those problems of mine at once? Could I possibly visit them all in one day, on bicycle? I plotted it out on Google Maps, left Rock Bottom off the list because it's part of a corporate chain, and Sociable, too, because their primary concern is cider, not beer. The breweries that open the earliest are conveniently located roughly together. Herkimer, Northbound, Town Hall, Day Block, Rock Bottom, and Freehouse all open before noon, while Fulton, Boom Island, Harriet and the NE locations all open at 3 or 4 pm. A logical plan was in place. One beer at each stop over the course of 11 hours? That's doable, right? Eleven beers, stretched out over that much time, with breakfast, lunch and dinner? I'll get home in one piece, for sure.
And if it is doable now, it's only now, for soon there will be too many to have a beer at each. By next year, it would have to be a 2-day project.
So, I woke up with a good eight hours sleep last Thursday around 11:30 am, got some coffee, eggs and sausage in me and headed out on bike into Uptown and the Herkimer. Saw assistant brewer Rachel Grey (I promised her I'd come by the place last fall, and have been beating myself up, internally, about the delay) outside as she left for lunch, and she recommended that I try their Baltic Porter. Normally, I'd gobble one of those up, as it's a favorite style, and it's certainly a surprise to find one at the Herkimer. But I told Rachel it wouldn't be wise to pick an 8% alcohol beer as my first of eleven, and she recommended the Golden IPA, called IP-say, after the brewer's name. I enjoyed the crisp, clean and thoroughly hoppy ale quite well. The Herkimer's trade in the past has been German-style lagers and ales only, and past experience with their products left me disappointed. IPAs and Baltic Porters? Now, we're talking!
My visit was quick, the ale enjoyed, and I was back on the bike around 12:45. Eight blocks to the south to 38th Street, then taking a left and heading east towards 28th Avenue. I chose Northbound as my second stop, where I could get my lunch and beer on the house, one of the perks of my employment. Arrived about 25 minutes later. Greenway IPA was scheduled to be tapped at 3pm, but I got one a few hours early. (You'll get my thoughts on that one soon, when I open the growler in my fridge.) A glance through Facebook showed me that Town Hall had a new Apricot IPA on, and I wondered if this could be not just the day of a beer at every brewery, but maybe an IPA at each? One never knows.
|An IPA at the Herkimer? Actually, there were two on for this visit, I just chose the newest, the Golden IP-say.|
And then it all fell apart. I neglected one crucial part of planning any journey that requires expenditure of funds. A bunch of things happened recently. I no longer tend bar, and don't leave work with cash tips in my pocket every night. Rollie the Cat got diabetes and the cost of his diagnoses and treatment cost me half of my first paycheck. I didn't keep solid track of money spent, and went to the ATM where I was crushed to learn that I didn't have enough cash on hand to get another nine beers over the next nine hours at nine more brewpubs and brewery taprooms. If only I had nine friends to buy me one at each. And I no longer use credit cards, so that was out. I was so dejected by the destruction of my grand plan that I was too depressed to finish my Northbound Burger. Payday was a day away, but that didn't matter at all, for I worked from 10 -6 Friday and didn't have another day off until the next Wednesday. I dedicated to do it again when I could afford to, and spent the rest of my night off visiting my old familiar haunts, Town Hall (where pints were only $3 at the time, though my Raspberry Ol' Jack Frost was not discounted) and Harriet (where the bartenders bought me a few for helping bus table, and an astounding eight varieties of their ales were available.)
|Northbound bartender AJ serving up my all-Centennial Greenway IPA. A week later, this batch is almost gone.|
Why, you may be asking yourself, did I spend all this time telling a tale that didn't end as anticipated? Because I will do it, with cash in pocket, and when I tell the story that time, you'll have heard the first part.
I did another trial run, a test jaunt, last Friday when I biked from my home near Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis to meet friends and visit Boom Island at North Washington Avenue for the first time. I had two beers there, including a new one for me, their smooth and spicy saison. My friends went on their way, so I met another friend at Indeed, my first time there in almost a year. I was easy to get from Boom Island to Indeed, across the river, and should be a cinch to tie Dangerous Man and 612, not to mention Sociable, if I choose to include it, into the circuit. (Is 12 or 13 beers in a day a good idea? Perhaps it might be okay to not necessarily make it a pint at each, do some smaller pours at some spots, and keep higher alcohol brews off the menu.)
|Also at Town Hall, the Raspberry Ol' Jack Frost Imperial Stout. I don't normally like nitro stout, and am especially against it in imperials, but I had no quarrel with this one.|
|At Town Hall Brewery, the Apricot IPA.|
Last Friday ended with a visit to Day Block before heading home. So, hey, a visit to seven breweries in two days. Not bad. Perhaps I could do another trip of half of these before finally attempting the "Golden Mile"? I've got a feeling this would be more like 20 miles, in total. Stay tuned. This will happen. (My next full day off is next Friday, which is also my next payday. That's when it will go down.)
|I've only had this bottles before. Boom Island's Hoodoo dubbel.|
|Bereft of a funky appellation, Boom Island's saison is simply called saison.|