Come mid-September there may be some new beers brewing in South Minneapolis. That’s because Jamie Robinson, Amy Johnson, and Bryce Strickler have tentatively scheduled that timeframe as the opening of the newest brewpub in town called Northbound Smokehouse just off the light rail at 38th and 28th Avenue South.
This, however, will not be a typical brewpub where the focus is solely on the beer. “I think when people look at brewpubs they say that the food is not that great but the beer is good,” said Jamie.
The focus here will be on both the beer and the food thanks largely to the cooking expertise of Bryce Strickland, who has 10 years of kitchen experience and a passion for making great food. “I am very proud to have cooked at two fine establishments on the Iron Range: the Whistling Bird and the El-Roy. As both have helped me to become the cook that I am today,” said Bryce, who is also the former cook at Town Hall Brewery.
You can expect to see a lot of smoked meat on their menu including turkey, beef, and pork as well as trout, whitefish, and salmon. The menu will also feature smoked vegetarian options for those who do not eat meat and many of the menu items will be prepared with the beer that is made in-house by brewer Jamie Robinson.
Jamie, who learned a thing or two about brewing at Town Hall Brewery, will be crafting 4 year-round beers on his 7-barrel system. He named one of them, Big Jim IPA, after his father. Jim stands only 5 foot 4 inches but he is a stout man in that frame. “Big Jim will be a big beer in a pint-sized glass,” said Jamie. Coming in at 7.2 ABV and sporting 90 IBU’s one can see what he is talking about.
The beer menu will also feature Light Rail Pale Ale, which will be dry-hopped for an intense hop aroma and will weigh in around 5.3 ABV. Smokehouse Porter will be made with smoked malts and have more of a caramel flavor than a roasted flavor and at 6.2 ABV it will be a beer that can be enjoyed in any season. The Honey Wheat will be a honey-forward beer that promises to be a hit on their 54-seat, outdoor patio all summer long. At 5.2 ABV you can have a couple of these on those hot July days.
Jamie is not stopping at just 4 year-round beers. He also plans to make some seasonal varieties; the first of which will be a single hop IPA made with Columbus hops and a Wild Rice Amber Ale which will have some vanilla notes to it.
The inside of the brewpub will seat 76 people. Amy Johnson and her staff of 30 employees will be prepared to help even the most novice beer drinker find a beer they will like on the menu. “Our servers will be able to talk about the flavors of our beer,” said Amy, who will run the front of the house. Amy will bring her three years of serving experience at Stub and Herbs in Dinkytown and a Hotel/Restaurant degree to Northbound Smokehouse.
How did Northbound Smokehouse begin? Jamie and Amy met online a little over four years ago and Amy remembers that Jamie had said he wanted to own a brewpub. Similarly, when Jamie met Bryce back in 2008, Bryce had a vision. When Jamie asked what his story was Bryce said, “I’m just working my way, trying to open my own restaurant... No, I will open my own restaurant.” A year ago, the trio began taking on investors who would put $1,000 down and, in return, get free beer for life at the brewpub. The project was a success and their dreams were one step closer to coming true.
Now that the three of them have joined together, each one specializing in their own area, it is up to them to see their dream through. “Everyone will have their own creative license,” said Amy. Meaning that each of them will put their own stamp on their area of responsibility. If this trio has their way, both beer geeks and foodies alike will be flocking “northbound.”
What is a brewpub? To keep it simple it can be described as an onsite brewery that serves fresh beer, good food, and encourages conversation between patrons. The brewpub is a special place where brewers are not afraid to take risks because they brew in small batches, and they are free to experiment with a multitude of ingredients. They are modeled after the public houses in Great Britain where the focal point is the social experience. Forget about the 20 flat screen TV’s often found in local sports bars, you will not find them here. There may be one or two but it’s pretty clear that people who frequent the brewpub are there to socialize and discover the brewer’s latest concoction.
If you want to know where the freshest beer in town is, look no further than your local brewpub. Here you can try a beer without paying for a 6-pack of it at the liquor store. Often times the bartenders at these establishments will let you try a sample before you order a pint which is important in a world of choices. The beer poured here will always be fresh and the tap lines are always clean since the focus is always on the beer first. The wait staff is always knowledgeable and able to recommend beers that best suit your palette. Often you will see a “cask” offering on the beer menu which is a beer that is stored at cellar temperature and is naturally carbonated (no C02). This is often called “real ale” and comes highly recommended among beer aficionados. This is the way that beer has been proudly served in Great Britain for hundreds of years and the tradition still continues today. If you love beer, do not miss the opportunity to try “cask” ale if it is on the menu.
It seems to go hand in hand that those who like hand crafted beers also tend to enjoy a good meal. For this reason you will often find brewpub food to be tasty and affordable. If you see fresh pretzels on the menu you will want to try them. Frequently served with mustard, these delectable treats pair great with beer and are always a favorite. You will usually find a menu full of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, soups, burgers, and even pastas. The food at most brewpubs is made from scratch and they don’t cut corners. On your way out the door be sure to check the “growler” menu. A growler is a 64 fl oz jug of beer that you can buy to take home and is a hit at small gatherings or bonfires. They are great for sharing and they are environmentally friendly because you return the jug (rinsed of course) to the brewpub to be sterilized and refilled.
Here are some local recommendations along with a couple located up north in the Twin Ports:
Town Hall Brewery: If you love Craft Beer you’ve probably already heard about Town Hall. This Cedar/Riverside staple has been brewing beer since 1997 and Mike Hoops is one of the best brewers around. Well known for the Coconut Milk Stout seasonal and Masala Mama IPA (an everyday offering), the Town Hall will not disappoint. Try the Original Town Hall Brew Burger with the Masala Mama IPA.
Fitger’s Brewhouse: A must visit anytime you head up the North Shore or if you’re just visiting Duluth. Dave Hoops masterfully creates beers that satisfy any craving. This creativity can lead to somewhat of an identity crisis as they often transcend traditional beer categories. Try the Big Boat Oatmeal Stout or the El Nino Double Hopped IPA.
Barley John’s Brew Pub: This hidden gem is located on the North side of the Twin Cities in New Brighton. Here you will find a cozy establishment with a small bar and employees with bright personalities. The Wild Brunette, a wild rice brown ale, is highly recommended and you can’t go wrong with the Little Barley Bitter. They are also known to serve “guest beers” which are drawn from their beautiful blown-glass tap handles.
Thirsty Pagan Brewing: From the outside the Thirsty Pagan may not look like much, but once you step foot inside this Superior, Wisconsin establishment you will like what you see. They offer a good variety of brews and are known for their pizza as well. Recommended here is the Derailed Pale Ale and when it’s available, the “hop shot” which is served in a shot glass. These two are certain to please hop enthusiasts.
Great Waters Brewing Co.: Your answer to a good beer before a hockey game is Great Waters. Located in downtown St. Paul, it is a short couple of blocks from the Excel Energy Center. This place regularly fills up before Minnesota Wild games and concerts. The food selection is good and the Brown Trout Ale and Saint Peter Pale Ale are some of the favorites here.
To say that the brewpub is the science lab of the Craft Beer industry is an understatement. This is where you’ll find the latest and greatest creations. It is one of the many reasons that beer lovers seek these places out. Now get out and make some friends at your local brew pub and maybe even try something new. Salud!