Friday, November 18, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #98: Bang Brewing, St. Paul, with Bang Hoppy Strong Ale

December, 2013, not October 2016, because of
thirst and dark. You'll find out. 
In December of 2013, I took a Saturday off and Dave A. and I took in 6 breweries in one day: Bang, Hammerheart, Surly (original location), Sociable Ciderwerks, Northgate, and Harriet. (Dave, the driver, stopped tipping back pints after the first four, of course.) One heck of a day. It was my first time at Bang Brewing in St. Paul. Bang, the little organic ale brewery inside a grain bin in an industrial area right next to Urban Growler, had only been open a few months at the time, and had only a couple of beers on tap (they started with just one, Neat). The tradition had begun, and shall continue, that all of their beers would be named with four-letter words (but not the bad kind, of course).

I thought Minn and Neat and Nice were fine (they haven't done that one yet), but I wasn't exactly impressed. There was nothing wrong with them, it was good beer, but I didn't find myself overly excited about them.

My friends on the other hand, that's a different story. Not only Dave, but also Joe and Liz, not to mention Renee and Jeff, and others went on about their love of Bang Brewing, but I never really found much of a chance to return and see what the fuss was about over the years. This is mostly due to the fact that their taproom hours were only on Fridays and Saturdays, and partially due to their location. I couldn't justify taking a Friday or Saturday night off of work just to check on a little brewery.

That changed when they added Thursday hours, and I finally took a bike trip out there on October 27. The plan for the day had me checking out two St. Paul breweries, and Bang would be the second of the day, making it #99 for the project. Unfortunately, I followed some bad directions that put me in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and, long story short, I skipped that other brewery and arrived at 2320 Capp Road and Bang Brewing much later than I had hoped. It was 7:25, and they were closing at 8:00. But there was no crush at the bar, and I could get my beer rather quickly, and quick was what I wanted. I was quite thirsty after such a long bike trip. (Note: I was so thirsty and it was so dark, that I didn't get that picture of the outside of the building that I normally, but not always, include. This is why I dredged up that old picture from nearly 3 years ago. Dave wasn't with me on this visit, and it hasn't snowed yet this year.)

A few words first about the unique taproom space that is Bang Brewing, aka The Bin. It may lack many things that seem de rigueur at every other taproom, the TV for the Big Game, the vast sea of tables, chairs, benches, comfy couches, the shelves full of Sorry, Connect Four, and Jenga. It's quite simple. The are a few seats at the bar, a small amount of industrial chairs about for those who like to sit, and standing room for those who don't mind that. Brewery and owner Jay Boss Febbo plays some off-kilter tunes and you've got a good beer in your hands, while hanging in a grain bin, what could be better than that?

So, I asked him if he'd ever expand, create more space for his patrons. He said, no, there's enough room for them as is, he had no need for more customers. Their 10 barrel system provides enough beer for local restaurants and bars, some bottles at local shops, and not too much left over to worry about how to sell it all. Jay told me you can keep your scale small, and subsist minimally, provided you are debt-free. And you know what? That's pretty cool. I like small and simple, just as much as I like complex and grand, in it's way, as well. He did suggest a plan to add more tanks, on the outside of the building.

I had a friend in attendance (DJ Brian Engel, who you saw if you took a peek at the Summit entry in this series), and chatted with him for a while, as the place closed down. There were eight beers on tap, and I decided to go with a fresh hop ale called This. (Not to be confused with at
the dark mild ale called That.)What I got, through some error, was not that, or actually, maybe it was That, but not This. The bartender admitted to always being confused by these names. Just picture it. Patron hears or reads about beers, makes a choice, says "I'll take that." "Wait, do you want "that" or do you want "That"?" Who's on first, What's on second. A That then appeared and I had the This, if that's what that was, on the side. I enjoyed them both, but took no notes. Good beers, and I could drink them.

I rounded it out, just as last call came around, with a Mosh, an aptly named Maris Otter Single Hop beer. (Further investigations show that it is a name for a series, though, of rotating single hop brews.) Another delight. This was, again, one of those situations where I was enjoying my conversations with Brian, then Jay, and also the barman, and not going deep into my beer trance and jotting words down in the notebook. I'd decided to take a few bottles home, and review those. One of them, Time, has already been posted here on the ol' Nib, and one will appear at the bottom of this post.

More and more, I really started to admire this place and these people. Think about it. They didn't move into a grain bin, they built it on that spot. It's a matter of eccentric intention: we're going to do this very unusual thing, because. Good beers, good people, good place. I'd clearly been missing out all these years, and I vowed to try to keep some Thursday appointments at Bang in the future.

(I'd contemplated saving this report until future visits were made, but I changed my mind. Despite the crappy pics and lack of notes on the pints consumed, the impression was made. I can always take better ones in the future and edit them in, but for now I want to get this one done and move on to the next. We have two reviews based on the bottles brought home, and I've decided that I will definitely be back and that I do like this brewery. )

Bang. Hoppy Strong Ale.

Clear, bright golden/amber coloring, large white head, lasting long, looking lovely.

Aroma: pungent. potent. I struggle to not use a certain word I hate, but, yeah, "dank." Dripping with dank. Earthy, fruity, all together everything, and it's, damn.

In the mouth: rich and full and malty and hoppy and, yeah, damn, and all that. Boom. yes. Oh, yes. Full of all of it. Juicy malt, never-ending hop flavors, and definitely delicious. Yum. Yu-um. Oh, um, yes, to the -um. Delicious hoppy beer that I can drink.

(I know these notes are not especially articulate and technical, but they bring forth my feelings pretty well. I think I like Time even more.

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