Friday, March 4, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #17: Kinney Creek Brewery, Rochester

Steer clear away when you see this sign.
We bade reluctant farewell to Forager Brewery, and walked around the block to Kinney Creek Brewery, at 1016 7th St. NW in Rochester, Minnesota. I'd been told that it was previously a pawn shop, and the walls still had the slots for merchandising racks. There were loud children playing Jenga in the middle of the taproom, and some dudes watching sports on a TV. The aesthetic was metal and sharp edges, with Gothic fonts that together gave the overall feel of a heavy metal car garage. There couldn't be a greater transition from the ambience over at Forager. It might work for some, but it was not warm and comfortable for me.

"First official brewery in Rochester since Prohibition!", they boast. What's an unofficial brewery, I wonder? Well, in any case, hey, they were the only game in town until recently. And I've heard all manner of stories about them from Scott and Heather, and here I was to find out for myself. When I imagined it from the tales they told, I kept picturing this as a larger place, a brewpub, with a longer bar. It's actually a fairly small space that somehow hosts live music, too, and has a minimal number of stools at the bar and a limited range of tables. The four of us settled in and scanned the TV screen with the current offerings. They seemed impressive in scope. There were thirteen beers available, of a range of styles, not including the root beer. The website currently lists fourteen. I'm wrong, I accidentally counted a "bottle only" beer.

Observe Scott's body language. He is here,
but he ain't having none of it.
I asked for a sample of the Barrel-aged Strong Ale. It was a wreck. There was some manner of barrel-aging, but nothing else of pleasure in it. The server, clad in a Punisher t-shirt and neon green shorts, waited to find out what I thought of it., thank you, please. Meanwhile, my companions had discovered the "fun-size" option. A couple ounces for a couple bucks. Dan and Scott each chose one, and Jason picked two. Me, I had to go all the way. A full pint. And here's where I want to take a detour.

West Coast IPAs don't look like this.
They don't taste like this. They certainly
shouldn't taste like a sucking on a scab.
There are different ways to sample beers in this adventure of ours. Do flights, and try to sample as many as I could during a brief visit? Have a few full pints or 12- /10-ouncers, and get a good sampling of some, miss a few, leave myself wanting more? And in a situation like this, try some and let the wisdom of those who tried more before guide my judgement? There have been people telling me "don't go there, skip them", etcetera, but that's not the point of this venture. It is to taste them for myself and say that I had their wares,  that I went there and I drank their beers. No matter how bad people said they were, I had to taste them on my own, and perhaps add my voice to theirs.

Dan and Jason are sampling the "fun" size serving, but
no "fun" was being had.
For no reason at all, except that I love the style, I picked a beer called Canoe the Zumbro IPA, which was advertised as a West Coast-style IPA. Because of this beer, you will not get me near the Zumbro river. It didn't look like a West Coast IPA, didn't smell like one, and tasted like crap. In short, it was a messed up beverage that I could best call "band-aid soup." I tasted this wretched brew once and again, just to be sure what I had in my mouth, again and again, but there was no happiness, no satisfaction, no nothing, just pain and struggle. My soul sank down several levels every time this excuse for an India Pale Ale stuck my lips. It was the very opposite of it's own intent, dragging my mood down along with it's awfulness.

Here are the exact notes, as best as I can transcribe them: "mostly malty nose, ...ah! Oh! oooh! UGH. thick malt, (indecipherable) hot, holy hell! BAND-AID!!  ....doesn't look like a WC IPA, doesn't smell, doesn't taste, wrong, wrong, wrong!"

I never want to make this face again.
Now, I'm not just being a judgmental beer geek when I criticize this beer, because it fails on so many levels that you have to wonder if the brewers even know this style of beer is supposed to be. I know what West Coast IPAs are, I adore them, and this is so far off and tastes so bad and is so wrong....what are thinking? Do they know how bad it is? Do they care, at all?

Now, here's where a new question comes up. If you've read this blog, you know there's a a phrase I use from time to time. "It's good beer, and you can drink it." That doesn't always mean faint praise, it means just what it says. It is good beer, and you can drink it. This was terrible beer, and I could not drink it. So, people have asked me, "did I say anything?" I did not. Is it because I don't want to be rude, don't want to confront or cause a scene, want to be "Minnesota nice"? Or is it because Scott already told me that he'd told the brewer that his beers were flawed and was blown off, basically told that he didn't believe him or didn't care.

I honestly can't believe that the owners and brewers and servers can't know how bad it is. How are they serving this stuff? I've read all kinds of reviews, heard from people who said that some of them were "okay" and "drinkable" and I believe them. Maybe I picked the wrong one that day, and some of the other beer were passable, but after all the things I've heard, I can't give them the benefit of the doubt. It's not that I got the one bad one, and the others are good enough. No, these were the indicators that the whole operation is misguided. I've had the one bad beer from the great brewery. If someone had the okay beer from this travesty of a taproom, congratulations, they won the lottery. We should all be so lucky.

Should I have told them that their beer was crap? Maybe, but would they have believed me? I've been in this story before, trying to tell people who don't know bad beer from good that their bad beer ain't good, and they think I'm the one who's wrong. They look around their taproom and point to the people sucking it back and say, "See, they like it." Here's the true tragedy, that there would be people who drink it down and think that this is craft beer, that it is as good as it gets. Do I go around to the tables, smack the pints out of their mitts, crashing to the floor below and bellow at them that they are wrong and march them over to Forager, just a block away? In the movie of my life, maybe. In the real world, I just shake my head and shiver.

In truth, I did more than shiver and shake. I wept. I sunk. I was deflated, my soul shrunk and shriveled from forcing down almost half a pint of this wretchedness. And we abandoned our glasses and hoped that these unfinished pours would be some testament to the badness we could no longer endure. And we set off to the fourth brewery in Rochester, hoping to find something to wash away the bitter aftertaste of bad, bad beer.


Winston Wood said...

It is a dilemma to determine what to do when you come across a brewer that clearly doesn't know what they're doing. You don't want to be rude, because invariably the owners & brewers have a much higher opinion of their wares than does everybody else. And there's always the chance that perhaps you are the outlier, and that their particular brewing technique, yeast strain, etc. just doesn't jive with your individual palate. But in my experience, if beer after beer falls below the all important drinkability threshold, then it's assuredly them and not you. At that point the dilemma becomes, do you do them a favor and alert them that their beer is flawed before it's too late and they go out of business? Or do you instead keep silent and justify it by assuming that if the majority of the beer drinking public still drinks watered down swill that a flawed craft brewer can find enough people to drink their flavored swill in order to survive?

Dan Bird said...

I'm always careful to say it's not my style or something similar. I'm In this case it's just plain bad. I'll give feedback and don't shy away from it not that I'm an experienced brewer but I am experienced at drinking.i just got the vibe that saying something wouldn't go over well. And dear God they have been open t long....

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