Let’s face it, for a long time Fitger’s Brewhouse went unchallenged in producing the best beer north of the Twin Cities. Enter Bent Paddle Brewing, a 50% female-owned brewery, which opened this past weekend to a line out the door and full-to-capacity for the first two nights.

It all started a couple of years ago when Brian Tonnis and Colin Mullen began discussing their future after some convincing from their wives—and realized that they shared the same goal of someday owning their own brewery. At the time, Brian was brewing at Rock Bottom in Minneapolis and Colin was brewing at Barley John’s in New Brighton.

The foursome ultimately decided that they would go into business together and open a brewery. They chose Duluth because it was Lauren Mullen’s hometown and Brian and Karen had met there in college back in the mid-nineties.

The taproom has a warm, industrial feel. Boasting artful black and white photographs and a beautiful bar constructed of re-purposed wood. The beer list consists of five beers with two available on nitro in addition to CO2.

The options are Bent Hop Golden IPA, Black Ale, Cold Press Black infused with Duluth Coffee Company coffee beans, Calibration IPA (nitro or CO2) and the Calibration Dark Ale (nitro or CO2).

The Calibration IPA on nitro is especially good and tastes completely different than it does on CO2. Both are great but the nitro gives it a creamier, smoother consistency and the hops don’t hit as hard on the tongue as they do with the CO2.

The Cold Press Black is also very tasty but is not yet available on nitro (hopefully they make this happen). There is a nice velvety touch to the body of this one, perhaps some oats in the malt bill, and the hops stand up to the malt without dominating the flavor. The coffee flavor is wonderful and unoffensive.

The brewery itself is sparkling clean and offers plenty of space to expand if need be. They plan to self-distribute for a while for a more hands-on approach. They also plan to start canning the Bent Hop Golden Ale as well as the Black Ale. Expect to see hard plastic six-pack carriers similar to the ones that Indeed Brewing uses. This makes the packaging 100% recyclable, which is important to these outdoor-loving brewery owners.

Distribution should hit the Twin Cities in the fall if all goes well, but you won’t want to wait until then. Make this a priority on your beer destination list and you won’t regret it.


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