I call it beer babble. Mainly because I'm not smart enough to understand it. I witnessed it again, this time at the Pig & Fiddle, the three-month-old pub near the corner of 50th & France. Four guys were sitting at the bar, engaged in a passionate discussion. From afar, you might have thought they were talking about "Star Trek" or the upcoming Hobbit movie. The level of nerdiness was that apparent.
They spoke of quads (Quadrupel-style Belgian beers) and IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Like I said: beer babble.
This is good news for the pub's owners, Mark van Wie and Paul Schatz, two guys who know their beer. For almost a decade, the duo's Muddy Pig in St. Paul has reigned as a top Twin Cities destination for adventurous beer-drinking. Now they're hoping this retail district on the border of Minneapolis and Edina -- an area more known for shopping sprees than Surly fans -- will embrace their second bar, Pig & Fiddle.
So far, so good. Besides the always-popular Fulton, the top selling beer at Pig & Fiddle is Tripel Karmeliet, a high-alcohol, bold-flavored Belgian that costs $7 a glass.
"Turns out people will drink beer anywhere," Van Wie joked with me last week.
Let's take a look at what this Pig is offering.
The original Muddy Pig is the type of place you walk into and yell, "Hey, give me an Isid'or from Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven," and the bartenders know what you're talking about. Beyond the esoteric suds, the pub is beloved for simply being a neighborhood joint that's gotten better with age.
Its new sister bar is a Pig of a different sort -- she's all dolled up. Located in one-half of the former Pearson's, the bar features a shiny white granite bar-top, murals in the dining room and a Euro country-style menu courtesy of chef Stephanie Kochlin (formerly a sous chef at Heartland). It's old-country grub meant to satisfy us hardworking peasants. Think pierogies, pasties, various stews.
The beer list is smaller than the original Pig (36 draft lines compared with 48), but it's a nicely balanced list. It's basically a union of American craft and bold European beers. You'll find Bud Light bottles hiding in the cooler.
Pig & Fiddle was the first Twin Cities bar to carry beers by Boom Island, a new microbrewery in north Minneapolis. Its hoppy Thoprock IPA goes down surprisingly smooth. Next Thursday the dining room will host a four-course beer dinner with acclaimed Colorado brewery Odell. Van Wie hopes to do more beer dinners at Pig & Fiddle.
Now about that food. Back in the day, the Ploughman's Plate ($13) -- with its meats, cheeses and pickled veggies -- would have been a farmer's best friend. Now it's the perfect snack after being dragged around 50th & France by your significant other. Other Old World favorites include rabbit stew and braised beef carbonnade. I enjoyed the pot roast pasty ($10), an epic grilled cheese ($9) and one juicy burger ($11). All come with great hand-cut fries.
Some of the pricing is odd. The sandwiches and burgers were affordable, but a pierogi entree (four average-sized dumplings with a smattering of mushrooms) cost $14. The pub is within spitting distance of Edina, so I guess you have to expect some overpricing.
One other nitpick (and maybe this is unfair): The place is too clean. I love the original Muddy Pig because it's weathered and worn, like a good pair of Red Wing boots. Van Wie said he'll clutter up the place in due time. "I'm not a shiny and sparkly kind of guy," he said.
Pig & Fiddle definitely fills a void at 50th & France. Whether you're seeing an Oscar contender at the Edina Cinema or on a weekend shopping extravaganza, Pig & Fiddle is a stop you'll want to make.