Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Brew Pubs and Beer Bars

Tilia in Minneapolis

Recently my wife and I hit up Tilia in the Linden Hills neighborhood of South Minneapolis. It was very busy for a Wednesday night. We found out why. Fancy and reasonably affordable gourmet fare paired with a selective tap list. Very impressed. I even finally found a Saison Dupont that wasn’t skunked! Awesome.

I appreciated the bar tender’s honesty as he guided us away from poor choices. Here’s a convo excerpt:

Me: “I’d like New Belgium’s Lips of Faith please.’
Him: “No you wouldn’t.”
Me: “But I like sours!”
Him: “They neglected to sour it!”

He then let me try a sample of it. He was right! They pasteurized it too early and it didn’t really sour. I would have been disappointed. We got to talking about homebrewing and  he bought a round for my wife and I. Free beer and a discerning guide? I like this place. The food was good too. We had a duck pate, scallops and a pasta dish. All were top notch. I’d go back, though maybe try to show up earlier than 7pm on more popular nights unless you want to wait.


Fitger’s brew pub

During the week between Christmas and New Years, my wife and I were up at Lutsen with some friends. On the way back, we stopped for lunch at… where else but Fitger’s Brew Pub in Duluth. I’ve been to Fitger’s a few times before, but that was years ago before my beer obsession firmly took hold. (more…)

The Lowbrow, Minneapolis

Have you been to the Lowbrow in Minneapolis yet? Check it out. This place deserves to be more crowded than it is. Good beer list, good service, no wait at 7pm on a recent Saturday night and decent pub fare (stay away from the bland veggie burger though). The wife and I checked this place out with friends on a recent weekend after nearby Pat’s Tap – which didn’t seem super crowded – told us it would be a 60 to 90 min. wait. No thanks. Just seven blocks south on Nicollet, we had a table at the Lowbrow right away, no reservations. That’s more my style. (more…)

Great job on your tap list Sun Street Breads!

My wife and I checked out the new Sun Street Breads for breakfast on a recent Sunday morning. The sourdough pancakes I had were quite tasty. The place was bustling with activity, quite popular as well-rated new Minneapolis breakfast joints are wont to be. Turns out they do lunch and dinner as well and boast a small but selectively tasty bottle and tap beer list. Check it out: (more…)

Avery Mephistopheles’ Stout at Town Hall Tap

Counting down the days until the baby arrives, my wife and I hit up Town Hall Tap last weekend for one of our final nights out pre-baby. I finally branched out from ordering the Heidelburger (I’ve had it probably five or six times, quite good!) and tried a wild rice and mushroom burger which also blew me away. Great food at this place.

The first beer I ordered was a weizenbock, a Town Hall seasonal. Never had this style before but it was great for winter. The combo of over-the-top maltiness and creamy wheat gave the beer an excellent body, an appetizer onto itself. The next beer I tried was Avery’s Mephistopheles’ imperial stout. At 15% ABV, I didn’t require another beer after this one. Black as hell, super smooth and very easy to drink for a beer of that strength. Dangerous! Avery must have to go to great lengths to exercise proper fermentation control and properly oxidize the wort to come up with such a smooth, non-astringent beer of this caliber. It would have probably paired much better with chocolate cake than it did with my wild rice burger, but I enjoyed it thoroughly all the same.


Pizzeria Lola still going strong a year after opening

Glad to see Pizzeria Lola is still going strong a year after opening! Here’s a review of Lola I wrote last January just after it opened. It was very busy in there last Friday. We got there around 5:30pm and still had to wait 10-15 min. for a seat. Their owner was present on the pizza assembly line that night, keeping an eye on the shop.

My wife and I managed to get the best seats in the house Friday night: at the bar right next to the taps. Those seats are a beautiful marriage of being able to see right into the huge copper wood-fired pizza oven and attentive drink service. Another plus during the cold winter months is that these seats are the warmest in the house. It was fun watching this dude manage all the pizzas cooking inside, constantly adjusting their positions for even heat distribution:


Sweet Child of Vine at Wise Acre

Recently I made a repeat visit to Wise Acre, a great new organic restaurant in my hood. Very good, flavorful food (skip the pumpkin custard… way too frozen, if that makes sense). Pretty decent small beer list, too. Both times there, I’ve had a Founder’s Red RyePA. Love that beer. The spiciness of the rye does some cool stuff in an IPA. Additionally, I decided to give Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine another try. This beer has never quite hit me right, though upon hearing from another member of my homebrew club that he’d had good and bad Fulton pints, I decided to test my luck again. (more…)

The Herkimer

The wife and I hit up Lake of the Isles dog park with friends Laura and Cristof last weekend and then headed to the Herkimer for lunch. Turns out the Herk was having their Oktoberfest bier release party. Perfect timing! Both Cristof and I had some of this year’s fest bier (very carmely, malty, Oktoberfest perfection) and I also tried their version of Gose beer (tasted a lot like a saison, not as sour as I would have expected). The only crappy part was the HORRIBLE service by our hipster waiter. Wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt but he kept being fucking up and not caring about it. I won’t promise that I’ll never go back to the Herk (I’ve usually had unmemorable waiters there, which is a good thing), but I’m not exactly itching to return. (more…)

Brasserie Federal – Zurich, Switzerland

I’ve been procrastinating writing the last post in the hopper from our Europe trip, but here it goes:

After taking a beautiful 3 hour train ride from Lugano back up to Zurich, the wife and I were looking around for a relatively reasonably priced restaurant (for Switzerland) at which to have our final meal in Europe. Not wanting to stray too far from the train station, we happened upon Brasserie Federal (which was actually IN the main train station). I didn’t expect anything extraordinary, but unbeknownst to me at the time, this place was on Beer Traveler’s list of 150 great places to have a beer. I got to check this place off the list without even trying!

The food was pretty good, albeit expensive as was to be expected in Switzerland. They had a really nice bottle selection with an emphasis on Belgian beers as well as a small but unique (to me) draft selection. I tried a schwarzbier by Falken, a brand brewed in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. It was very clean with hints of roast, paired with a similarly subtle hop bill. I could get into lagers like this. The second beer I tried (almost out of compulsion, as they had so many signs about the place that I thought it was the restaurant’s name at first) was a hell beer  by Haldengut. This brewery in Churn, Switzerland was purchased by Heineken just a few years ago. Their hell beer was pretty much as I expected: very clean but with that familiar lager taste I can’t get myself to fully enjoy. Very similar to Surly’s Hell beer I tried last summer. Just can’t get into hell lagers. (more…)

4th of July Weekend in Chicago – Part 2: Goose Island’s Clybourn Brew Pub

On Saturday afternoon of our trip to Chicago over the 4th of July weekend this past month, my wife and I took the train with her brother and his wife from their place over to Lincoln Park and Goose Island’s original brew pub on Clybourn Ave. This is one of the places I knew I really wanted to check out during our Chicago trip. My recent affinity for Goose Island developed after being subject to their PR-tinged Beer School session back in early May at the Happy Gnome in St. Paul. The session focused on their recently expanded series of Belgian-inspired brews. I’ve been digging Belgian beers a lot in the past year, so their efforts in this segment prove to be a good fit.

Of the five beers from their “vintage ale” collection, I was able to sample four when Goose Island hosed Beer School. The one beer that wasn’t quite ready to serve yet at that time was their Fleur. I made sure to buy a pint of Fleur with lunch before we toured the brewery. It came across very clean with definitive yet subdued Belgian character. I didn’t really get much aroma or flavor off of the hibiscus and kombucha tea that is apparently added during the production process of Fleur. Definitely one of the least interesting beers of the “vintage ale” collection (I think Pepe Nero is still my fav). (more…)