I've known the owners of Bent Paddle for years. Bryon Tonnis since he took over the reins of the downtown Minneapolis Rock Bottom from Todd Haug in 2005, and Colin Mullen from his years brewing at Barley John's Brewpub. And their wives, Karen and Laura, as well. (In fact, Karen recently revealed to me that the four of them cemented the plan for Bent Paddle while having dinner and drinks at my old place, the Blue Nile.)
|Left: Me. Right: Bryon.|
Cities in early 2014, but once I started ordering beer for Acadia, I brought them into that bar for the first time ever, and haven't been without their beers ever since.
And so, it's been three years for them, and three years that I haven't been to their brewery. Four years since I've been to Duluth, and I was chomping at the bit to take a seat at their taproom. Total disclosure: word got out that I was coming, and so we got comped. I have to admit that it's nice when that happens, and it's good for my budget. (Visiting 8 breweries in 2 1/2 days can do a number on the bankbook.) The taproom manager Pepin Young was on hand to give us a tour, and Bryon happened to be in the brewery. (Colin was waylaid in the offices across the street, unfortunately.) We arrived at the taproom just about an hour after opening, and it was already nicely populated for a Thursday afternoon, getting downright frisky by the time we left. I can only imagine what this smallish space is like on a Friday night.
Bent Paddle has appeared in the Bitter Nib ten times so far, covering just about everything they've produced in cans. One glaring exception is Double Shot Double Black, which disappeared swiftly in bottles locally. I tasted some from a keg that we had on tap back in March. (Hey, if you have an extra bottle that you don't know what to do with, hook me up with a trade. )
The selection on tap included the seasonals, the full regular line-up, an infusion, two nitro beers, the collaboration with Surly (called Mother of the Gut, for reasons still unknown to me), and the promise of cask to come. I took a sample of the collab, a Belgian blonde with tea, and it was nice, but not what I wanted to drink. I went with a pint of Cold Press Black, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and picked a Bent Hop IPA to take inside the brewery for the tour.
The Bent Tap, as the taproom is called, is a cool, homey space of wood, brick and steel, though is seems a bit small for a brewery as popular as Bent Paddle. I was told a plan is in the works to move it to a larger location. All the normal taproom things are in place: board games, merch racks, a food truck idling outside. But this is a brewery that needs a wide open drinking hall, not a cozy room.
Beer #3 for me was the HopMosa, which I took home in a growler, with notes below. My fourth beer of the visit was a pint of the seasonal Roof Rack Lager, also recently reviewed from a can. I've got a firkin of that to tap soon at a Acadia. Cask Vienna Lager? Yeah, that's new to me, too. Looking forward to trying it, that's for sure.
And so we'd seen the facilities, we got the low down, we soaked up the atmosphere, and enjoyed some fine beers. It was time to move on to the next one and check yet another brewery off the list until I can say that I've been to them all. But, I'll be back to Bent Paddle the next time I'm in Duluth, and every time after that.
Now here are some notes on a growler I took home with me:
HopMosa, beer I had for the first time as part of the Infusion Evolution event we hosted at Acadia in March. Bent Hop Golden IPA infused with orange zest. This was so popular it's been brewed over and over again, with an extra large batch just for the Minnesota State Fair. It was on tap when I visited the brewery and it's taproom for the first time, and I was lucky enough to get a growler. I'm definitely more of larger taste than I did on the day of the event.
Clear, vibrant golden/orange coloring, stable white head rests above.
Citrus explosion in the nose. The largest and loudest expression of fresh orange in any infusion I've ever had. And I like it! The hop notes are nearly blocked out by the zest, but I don't particularly mind.
In the mouth: Big orange zest again, meeting the hop bitterness, all kept in balance with lush malt. Medium-bodied, easy drinking, just delightful.