Monday, December 12, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #100: Great Waters Brewing, St. Paul, with a status report

Great Waters Brewing Company, St. Paul
Dear readers, faithful followers, friends and comrades, it's time for the status report for this little year-long and never-ending project called Minnesota Breweries One by One. It began in early January of this year, and the original concept was that I would visit and write a report on a different Minnesota brewery each week until I get to them all, as there were so many I hadn't seen yet. Soon came the realization that this would only get me to half of them (and they keep coming) if I wanted to get them all done in the calendar year 2016, and I did. Also, logic dictates that visiting one far-off site on one day, rather than seeing two, three, or even four on one day, is one way to go, but not the best way to go, we decided. And "we" became myself and my friend Jason Braunwarth who is the driver and sometimes imbiber, and once-in-a-while fellow cyclist, also guide, organizer, and many other things. Couldn't have done it without him.

Here, I attempt to get a group self-portrait photograph, and
can't quite get everyone in...try, try again. They should
invent something that extends the length of your arm
for better self portrait photograph taking. 
There have been a few hiccups along the way, due to misfortune and stumbles with technology. In May, I lost my computer and the pictures from the visits to breweries #31-43. On the bright side, I had saved them somewhere. On the not so bright side, I can't load them up to my new computer. Someday, I'll find a way. Meanwhile, I took the month of June off of breweries visits (save one weekend) to focus on a move, and took notes on beers the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. (There were about a dozen or so beer reviews I still haven't added to the blog. )

I started things up again in July, but haven't been able to keep pace with the reports. In October I realized that if I wanted to have them all written up by the end of the year, I'd have to do almost one every other day. In November, I knew I had to pick it up, and now it's December and it's impossible. They take so long to write that I just don't have the hours available every day. So be it. They'll all get done, eventually, even if it's into next year.
Beer #1 at Brewery #100. I swiped this pic from
Jeff's Untappd entry, for I was so thirsty I forgot to
take a pic, and it's the only know photo in existence
of the St. Peter Pale I had on that day. 

But the visits? Will I meet the goal? Maybe, and maybe not. Part of the process of arranging these
stops is the timing involving breweries that have yet to open. There's a place in the farthest corner of NorthWestern Minnesota that keep threatening an opening date, but has yet to come through. We've been putting off Bemidji Brewing, a four hour drive away,  for the sake of tying in this new one, but we'll have to stop waiting and go up there anyway. Leave Revelation for later. But not Bemidji, we have to make that long trip, for they've been around for 3 years, and besides I have empty kegs to return to them from an event in March at Acadia. We considered a deadline, to say that if you open too late in the year, we can't go out of our way to see you, sorry, we tried. How about that we went to every brewery in the state that's been open more than a month. So, I guess that means December is our cut-off.

And where are we now? On November 6, we hit #100 (for me, Jason's been to almost all of the ones we didn't go to together, but not necessarily this year), 101 and 102, all in St. Paul. Two weeks later on the 20th, we did 103, 104, and 105. Last Saturday, we drove up to Cold Spring, MN, to make Third Street Brewhouse's taproom #106, leaving 4 left in our always-changing number, currently at  110. What is left? EastLake in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, the easiest brewery for me to get to, but one I've put off for various reasons, and then the aforementioned Bemidji, plus Bad Habit in St. Joseph and Urban Lodge (formerly Urban Moose) in Sauk Centre. Could those three be done in one day? Possibly. And we've got 20 days to do it.

Then, as we were coming back from Cold Spring Saturday afternoon, I checked Facebook and got some news. One of the breweries we'd been watching all year, Roet's in Jordan, finally opened. They are close enough to the Twin Cities that we can easily draw up a plan to get there in time. Also, Blacklist Brewing in Duluth finally opened their doors. Is a third visit to Duluth this year likely? Probably not. I'd like to see them when Hoops Brewing opens up in Duluth next year. Duluth gets better and better, it seems.(And actually, I have been to Blacklist's new space, I just couldn't drink a beer there. This was a sneak peek I got back in September. Does that count? Can I just say it does?)

It looks like I can lay the claim to seeing 111 Minnesota breweries in 2016, maybe more if we can find time to see some others than are telling us that they'll open still this year, if they're not the ones that are a six-hour drive away. I think I can be happy with that.

And what of the others that we are skipping entirely? Olvalde Farms in Rollingstone, and Borealis Fermentary in Knife River are two of my favorites, but they don't have taprooms. I'd need to make some special request to come inside, which is entirely up to them. Borealis allows tours, but only through a special Duluth Brewery tour arrangement, which we chose not to affix to our agenda. Also, the Granite City chains, anchored in St. Cloud, and owned and originated by former owner of the late, lamented Sherlock's Home brewpub. The satellite locations do not actually brew their own beer, but ferment it from the wort provided by the central location. Those off-shoots of the chain do not deserve a visit, but the original may net a peek, for the sake of completion. Let's also consider Stagecoach Brewing/Mantorville/St. Croix/whatever else Tod Fyten is involved in? They have no taproom and occasionally offer brewery tours. We've opted to eliminate them from the list, but may take that tour one day. No rush, though.

Anyone else? Vine Park brews beer, but not for public consumption, so they can't be on our list. Cosmos in Hugo is selling kegs, but hasn't a taproom yet. One list I've used includes Pryes, but they've been contract brewed. Next year, I look forward to visiting their new facility on the banks of the Mississippi in North Minneapolis. Also, the previously cited Hoops Brewing in Duluth, Barrel Theory in St. Paul, and those others in Cannon Falls, Alexandria, Utepils and Broken Clock in Minneapolis,  the Finnegan's hotel/brewery complex in downtown Minneapolis,  Blackstack in St. Paul (originally promised to open months ago).... Looney Bin in St, Paul, ...Island City in Winona....we're still going. And there's more I've lost track of, and others yet to reveal themselves. It's quite a boom we've got, and it's a lot of work to keep track of it all!
Cheers, Jason! 

Is my list accurate? I checked another listing, the one on BeerAdvocate.com, and it claims 144 breweries for Minnesota, but as I scan it, I find brewing concerns that haven't opened yet, that have closed, that once brewed and now no longer do, duplicate listings, brewing companies that have their beers contract brewed elsewhere, bars that give their names to beers brewed by others, and the like. Nothing missing, so I'd say yes, I've got an accurate list.

So. Though. Number One Hundred. It's a beautiful November Sunday, and Jason and I knew it would be the last. We left my place around 11:30 AM, wound our way across the Mississippi river and into that strange terrain called St. Paul, Minnesota, into downtown and a brewpub in the historic Hamm building, 426 St. Peter Street, on the original site of the St. Paul cathedral. It's called Great Waters Brewing Company, and it's been turning out traditional ales, and sometimes non-, right there since 1997.
Vintage Hamm's Beer signage hangs above the whiskey
and wine, with the brewhouse behind the glass.

I've been to Great Waters many times. According to BeerAdvocate.com, I've reviewed 24 of their beers, from 2004-2006, mostly from growlers, some written while imbibing on the premises. What happened in/after 2006 that all the reviewing of Great Waters' beers stopped? The beer scene started bubbling up, both locally, and with out-of-state beers coming into the market. I didn't need to go across the river to find new beers to try. Does that mean that it's been 10 years since I've been there?
Not necessarily. I've stopped in a few times in the interim, but never taking home a growler, or writing notes. Just hanging and drinking.

And drinking a beer was something I wanted to accomplish immediately, after that long ride. I didn't pause for a moment before asking the barman for a St. Peter Pale Ale. I needed something easy-drinking and understandable to slide down my gullet ASAP.  It was exactly that, although back in January of 2004, the user named "feloniousmonk" (that's me) had this to say: Clear amber color, decent head. Aroma is light hops, mild fruity esters. Neat little spritz of hops on the palate, tingly, tasty. Rather light in body, with a brief finish. A pretty average pale ale, decent session brew, nothing to wake the neighbors for..."
Cheers, Jeff and Shelly!

Well, weren't we a picky little beer snob? I can't argue with anything younger me (that apple-checked lad of a mere 35 summers) said, but at that moment it did the trick. Before we could receive our beers, though, two of our friends had joined us to celebrate the century mark on this foreign soul, a couple of St. Paulites we've both known for years, Jeff and Michelle. Jeff, aka "tavernjef" on BA, is an ale enthusiast I've known for going on 14 years, ever since the day a dozen or so BeerAdvocate users convened at Town Hall on a Saturday in 2003 to get to put some faces to the user names. I've known Shelly since the two of them, now newly married, began dating some seven or so years ago. Cool kids, I dig their company lots.

Citra Nova IPA. Go drink it.
I might have to go back soon for some of that
Paranoid Android. Love a Douglas Adams reference.
Consulting my notes taken that afternoon, it seems that others in the group had a light and nicely spicy Belgian table beer called Stenen Tafel (Shelly, I think), a Lloyd's House Mild (Jason, maybe?), and Samuel Ryder Oatmeal Pale Ale, which had to have been on cask, because process of elimination makes that one Jeff's, and he historically only drinks the cask beers at Great Waters. Consistency is a good quality, in friends and in beer consumption. I will take a cask beer once in a while, for my beer consumption is much more promiscuous in many ways.

For beer #2, I picked an ale that was a bit of a surprise for me, a Citra hop and rye malt IPA called Citra Nova. Big citrus and rye bread aroma, warm and hoppy, juicy and delicious, bitter and sweet. Those were my notes. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Such a unique recipe, it defies the expectations of this pub, where standard styles of the British Isles are the order of the day. It, as well as the Belgian ale my friends enjoyed,  gave me reassurance that interesting beers are coming out of this brewhouse.

I liked the Citra Nova so well that I would have had another, but we were only doing two beers and breakfast at this stop, before moving on to the next one, so we could make it to two more St. Paul breweries by bike that day, before it got too dark and late, getting the number to 102. We checked #100 off of the list, and I was happy with the beers, the food, the service. The waitress took notice of the brewery t-shirts worn by my friends. I had to be the odd one out, wearing a garment featuring the likeness of Marvel super-villain M.OD.O.K., for I decided earlier in the year not to wear other brewery t-shirts on these trips. "You're all wearing brewery t-shirts," she said. "Why not get one of ours?" We like your beer and your restaurant, but let's not go crazy here!

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