This reporter had barely tipped his pint of Day Tripper pale ale at Indeed Brewing Company before spotting two familiar faces at the northeast Minneapolis taproom that's the city's newest -- at least for a few weeks.
Of course, Council Member Kevin Reich and aide Shannon McDonough insisted they were at the First Ward's flagship brewery to make "quality control" checks.
But it's getting so that you can hardly turn around in the Mill City without bumping into a new brewmaster. In the interests of research, this reporter assembled a small crew of beer enthusiasts to tour the city's three operating taprooms, with the new Northbound brewpub thrown in for good measure. We wanted to act now before the proliferating brewery scene makes such an inspection too taxing.
We traveled by bike on the theory that it was the perfect vehicle for getting from taproom A to taproom B because a) bikes can use off-road paths, and b) do less damage in case of a mishap.
Indeed was the highlight of the trip for several reasons. There's a long bar, the outdoor seating is shaded, it's next to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe track, and lots of nifty old brick buildings surrounding it. They have their own coasters. And the best set of bike racks.
Reich waxed so enthusiastic about the pending brew district in Northeast that he neglected to place an order before launching into a preview of suds salons pending in the area. Dangerous Man plans to open later this fall at 1300 2nd St., NE, not far from the Modern Cafe..
Northgate is expected to open about the same time in the Marshall Terrace neighborhood. Another brand, 612, may open by the end of the year at 945 Broadway NE. Also looking is Urban Growler. Other sites potentially luring new brew are the back of the building housing Diamonds Coffee Shoppe cafe in Logan Park and a potentially refurbished storefront in the Holland neighborhood, both farther north on Central.
With such a concentration of brewers in a section of the city that once held
much-bigger Grain Belt and Gluek brands, perhaps Northeast is ripe for some sort of branding akin to Nicollet Avenue's Eat Street. Something with a that's a play on beer. Hopkins is already taken. Malttown? Yeast Infection? Your ideas?
The plans of 612 to open, along with those of Fulton and Harret, the other two brands on our bike tour, date back to when the City Council loosened brewing sales laws to help microbrewers. First, they were allowed to sell 64-ounce growlers, and later to open their open taprooms, both measures that are more profitable than selling through distributors.
With all this local brew activity, sparked in part by the so-called Surly law, that Brooklyn Center brewer is starting to look like a laggard in getting out of the retail chute. Colleague Eric Roper and I bat back and forth the impact of letting all these Minneapolis taps develop customer loyalty. He argues that Surly's proposed scale will make it a success regardless; I posit that the success will be diminished by proliferating taproom loyalties.
Sounds like that's worth another research trip.