Monday, January 2, 2017

Minnesota Breweries One By One #111: Blacklist Artisan Ales, with notes on Classic Wit

It's December 28, 2016, and it's time for the final trip of the year, closing in on the last breweries left in my goal of seeing them all. We (Jason and I) had decided that if a brewery opened too late in the year, we couldn't be expected to go out of our way to make a visit. If you hadn't opened by December, you are an asterisk. I was fully expecting to leave Blacklist Artisan Ales in Duluth until next spring, when we would want to pop into Dave Hoops' new establishment, Hoops Brewing in that city's  Canal Park neighborhood.

But Jason surprised me and announced he wanted to see Blacklist first before Bemidji, because, why not. A whole hell of a lot of driving, from Minneapolis to Duluth, to Bemidji, staying overnight, then back home the next day, stopping in Alexandria along the way to taste the newest Minnesota beers at Copper Trail Brewing, open a mere four days. This would make for Minnesota Breweries One By One #'s 111-113, closing the circle. The only breweries we did not visit are those who do not have taprooms, and do not have hours available to let people in and drink their beers. I would say that we saw all of Minnesota's taprooms, except that two of these visits were breweries that do not have taprooms, but were allowed a special occasion to serve beer in plastic cups in their parking lot, provided they offer up outdoor facilities for the handling of natural waste evacuation. (Call them porte-johns, if you will.)(Take 16, in Luverne,  and 56, in NorthEast Minneapolis,both yet un-reported here.) Also, my trip to Summit did not include a visit to the taproom, which was closed, but they were serving beer outside for their party.
The penny-plated bar at Blacklist.

Also, ....DAVE...yes, I did get a sneak preview of the Blacklist location back in September, with a tour from co-owner Jon Loss. But you can't call a building that isn't brewing beer yet a brewery. We didn't drink beer there, so that one did not count....DAVE.

We actually began the day on Wednesday with a tour of the Pryes Brewery facility by Jeremy Pryes, before the equipment arrived. Based on what I saw, this is going to be an amazing site. But no beer was brewing, no beer could be drunk. I cannot count that one as brewery #111. There has to be beer there, for me to drink (and you, too, of course) for it to count. Have to wait a few months for that.

The lovely ladies from labels of Cran and Verte look
out over the the backroom and board games, a must for
every taproom, it seems.
And after the tour of this new facility along the Mississippi, we drove away for 158 miles, a good 2 1/2 hours, to that lovely city on the shore of Lake Superior, and pulled up to 120 East Superior Street,  Duluth, and Blacklist Artisan Ales. This was formerly the location of a reportedly grungy and disreputable "head shop" called The Last Place on Earth". The Blacklist crew thoroughly gutted it out and cleaned it up, but were to late to uncover the thousands of dollars stuffed in the walls by the previous owners. The feds got to that. Alas, could have paid for more brewing equipment.

Halfway through my Verte.
Blacklist started in 2012, brewing in the now defunct Dubrue facility on 2nd St, then moving into a small warehouse on Michigan Avenue not far from the new location, eventually sending out 750 ml bottles of their Belgian inspired brews to the Twin Cities.  I've reviewed six of their beers so far here, the Rhubarb Wit, Cran, Tripel, Verte, Wit Noir, and Or de Belgique. I thought I had tried a majority of their output with those six, but looking on Untappd I am proven very wrong. Imperial Hefe Weizen with Grapefruit. Coco Noir Dunkelweizen. Spruce Tipped Imperial IPA. Sour Wit, Sour Red, Honeysuckle Lambic, and on and on. I've missed out on a bunch from these guys.

And so we arrive, and enter, going up the stairs (if I remember that tour right, the brewery is downstairs.) in the taproom which opened less than 3 weeks ago. To the left, an assortment of tables, then continuing on we get to the bar and find a seat. Ten tap handles, though only four beers were on at the time, Or, Verte, Cran, and Classic Wit, which I hadn't had, and would take home in a growler, with notes below. A Belgian IPA went on tap after we left, though I'm sure I can taste it soon enough, either when cans make their way down here, or perhaps a keg I can acquire for Acadia some time soon.

I raise my Cran in a toast to my drinking companions,
Jason, Scott, and Heather.
The space, though, is lovely, with exposed brick, gleaming copper pennies decorating the back bar, beautiful lighting and posters from the label art decorating the walls. A cool spot to drink some fine Belgian-style brews. Past the rest rooms and an elevator, more seating. Unlike most taprooms, there was a server dedicated to bringing beers out to tables, but we were content to belly up at the barstools. I began with a Verte, the dry-hopped version of the Or de Belgique golden ale. It was as bright and assertively hoppy as I remembered from the first bottle I had over two years ago. Delicious. As we soaked up the atmosphere and relaxed with our beers, a couple of friends arrived, Heather and Scott, who I hadn't seen in some time. (Scott sooner, he'd been with us for most of the Rochester trip back in February.) We chatted with them, catching up on our beer experiences, and I picked a second one, this time Cran, the cranberry infused Belgian Strong Ale. Tart, dry and fruity. And, yes, Cran-tastic.

There are other beers that will be released in cans, and with an extensive backlog of recipes, those 10 tap-lines will fill up soon. There's no food, nor food trucks, but guests are encouraged to order from nearby restaurants and consume inside. Blacklist is doing a fine job of replicating Belgian style beers and this new taproom is only adding more vitality to Duluth's brewing scene.

As for us, though, we had to go. It would be getting dark soon, and we wanted to get on the road. There was another 153 miles to go, another 2 hours and 42 minutes over snow and ice, until our next destination, Minnesota brewery #112, Bemidji Brewing.

And now those notes on Classic Wit. 5.5% ABV.

Clear, light golden hued, light white head.

In the nose: big spice, bright citrus, right on the money.

In the mouth: spice is back, citrus spikes up, and the wheat keeps it nice and smooth. Flavor remains strong throughout. Coriander and orange zest never quite quits. Light in body, but full with taste. Easy drinking. Meets every mark of a classic witbier.

Good job, Blacklist, I salute you. This ranks among the best locally produced wits I've had.

1 comment:

Dave Anderson said...

Beers cannot be drunk. Beers can be drank. Al can be drunk, I swear it.