I have this thing now where I refuse to drink beer unless it's served in its own glass. And I'm not talking about any old beer glass. I'm talking about those ornate beer goblets that look like overgrown wine glasses. I like to call them "chalices."
Malarkey, you say.
No, I'm quite serious.
You've heard of wine snobbery? Well, this is beer snobbery. And I'm not alone.
Gone are the days when beer drinkers were happy to crack open a cold one and chug. Shoot, some beer geeks don't even like their beers cold (Belgian styles are typically served at 50 degrees).
It's almost clichéd to say this, but it's true: Beer is the new wine. And one of the best places to experience beer at its finest is at Buster's on 28th, a hidden gem of a bar in south Minneapolis.
Last summer, Buster's joined a small group of bars leading the beer-geek revolution in the Twin Cities. Others include the two Bulldogs, Bryant-Lake Bowl, the Happy Gnome and the Muddy Pig.
While these bars aren't brewing their own beer, they are bringing in the best beers from around the world. Their M.O. is typically two dozen tap beers, plus an arsenal of amazing bottles.
The 28 taps at Buster's are a good mix of American craft beers and exotic international beers, with such colorful names as Liefman's Lucifer, Franziskaner Dunkel and Kwak. Trust me, with no Budweiser and Miller Lite in sight, people aren't drinking to get drunk here.
"People aren't coming in to have six Budweisers," said owner Nick Miller, who also co-owns the Happy Gnome. At Buster's, he said, customers define excess as: "How hoppy is my beer?"
The neighborhood bar sits between a bakery and an empty Ace Hardware at 42nd Street and 28th Avenue S. Weekend nights are packed. Step inside and the first thing you'll notice is the assortment of funky-looking glasses on each table.
For Miller, these chalices are an important part of the Buster's experience. Almost every beer served at the bar has its own branded glass. While beer glassware has a long tradition in Europe, Miller said it's just catching on in the Midwest.
It's not just for looks. The shape of a glass can amplify the taste of the beer. Many are bell-shaped with a wide opening, which helps the beer breathe. "Some people go to the extreme of [swirling the beer] in the glass to open it up, just like with a wine," Miller said.
Miller also puts his servers through beer training, where they are educated on taste and presentation. If you've ordered a bottle, servers often will offer to pour it for you (as they would with wine). Afterward they'll set the bottle down with the label facing you.
There is a certain spectacle to drinking beer here, and Miller wouldn't have it any other way.
"If you're going to spend $18 for a bottle of beer" -- such as the 750-milliliter Chimay -- "you should have it properly presented to you," he said. "It's about creating an experience."
With so much to experience here, I asked Miller to point out some extra-special beers.
• Most complex beer: If it's taste you're after, Miller said Avery's The Maharaja is a doozy. An imperial India pale ale from Boulder, Colo., it's described on the menu as having "a deranged amount of hops."
• Strangest glass: Hands down it's Kwak's crazy glass contraption by Belgium's Bosteels brewery. The glass is a tall, slender flute whose bottom forms a tennis-ball sized sphere. With no flat base, the glass must sit in a wooden stand, which most people use to grip when drinking.
• Most expensive: A 12-ounce bottle of Avery's Mephistopheles at $16. Why? An imperial stout, it has an alcohol content of about 16 percent. It's meant to be shared, Miller said.
• No. 1 seller: Surly is big here. The Brooklyn Center-based brewery has taken Minnesota by storm with its wild flavors, so it makes sense that its beers would rule at Buster's.
Of course, Buster's isn't just about the beer. The food is good, too. It's mostly gourmet bar food with some fine-dining touches, such as crab-stuffed halibut and balsamic-glazed beef short ribs. For my taste, a big basket of the freshly cut fries goes well with a couple rounds.
After finding success with Buster's, Miller said he's hoping to open two more beer bars this summer.
"We've just tapped the envelope here," Miller said.
Beer geeks, rejoice.
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