March 3, 2020
- Brewery growth has exploded over the last decade. In 2019, The Brewers Association reported that the industry saw just over 1,000 new breweries added, with as many as 3,000 more in planning. That is almost 7,500 craft breweries currently operating in the United States. Here in Minnesota we have over 174 breweries as of 2018.
- For the last six years I have traveled the country sampling over 3,700 beers from almost 400 breweries. The Twin Cities and surrounding area has increasingly become a top destination for beer lovers. This will be the first in a series of articles to share some great spots to grab some of the best brews our area has to offer!
Barrel Theory opened in 2017 with a lot of anticipation. Started by some formerly Surly Brewing folks, this brewery has quickly become one of the hottest in the area. In less than three years they have received local and national recognition for their location and amazing brews. It stands as my favorite destination in the metro, and among my top five breweries in the country.
What I personally love about this brewery is that they do a great job with every style they make. Whether it’s a big (i.e. high ABV) stout with multiple adjuncts (i.e. ingredients that impart flavors such as nuts, chocolate, coffee, etc.), a constantly-changing list of IPAs using different hops and malts, or a fruit-filled sour, it is guaranteed to be spot-on. Seasoned beer drinkers will find it difficult to decide where to start, and newcomers to the field will have a great range of beers to explore.
The taproom features hardwood floors, a beer hall-style table, and individual tables. The best seats in the house can be found at their 25-seat L-shaped bar. Sitting at the bar gives you a front row seat to their brewing system along the street-side of the taproom, but the real benefit is a chance to visit with the great staff who love talking about beer. These people know their stuff and are happy to steer you in the right direction based on your tastes. Since it is walk-up service in the taproom you will get the added bonus of staying put to order your next pour.
Finally, you can take some beer to go! Nearly everything on their tap list is available in 32-ounce aluminum crowlers. Stouts are a bit trickier to get in this format, but the rest of their beers are usually ready to take with you. IPAs and sours are always in the cooler and ready to go!
One more reason I like this destination: Dark Horse Bar & Eatery next door. Sharing a wall featuring windows into each other’s space, their doors are literally steps from each other. Dark Horse features a full bar, its own great beer selection, and a fantastic and diverse food menu. From the Coconut Lime Rice Bowl, to several delicious pizzas, and sandwiches featuring fresh ingredients and smoked meats (the Smoked Cubano is my favorite), there is something for everyone. Reservations are available on OpenTable.
Whether you have beer lovers in your group or not, head to Dark Horse for dinner together and a full bar, and afterwards the beer drinkers can break off for a few at Barrel Theory while the rest stay and enjoy the Dark Horse drink menu!
Here is a PAINFULLY short list of beers I count among my favorites. I stopped at four, but this could have easily stretched to 20.
Some Favorite Readily Available Brews:
- Rain Drops New England IPA, or the Double Dry Hopped (DDH) version if available
- MPG Berliner Weisse Sour – MPG stands for “Mango, Passion Fruit, Guava”
- Midwestern Exotic – Gose-Style Sour featuring calamansi (lemon/lime), blood orange, tangerine, and peach
- Shooter McGavin Imperial IPA, or the DDH version if available
Some Favorite Brews Overall (may not be available)
- Gucci Pinata Berliner Weisse Sour featuring mango, passion fruit, and pineapple
- Threat Level Midnight Imperial Stout
- Barrel Aged Black Lotus Imperial Stout
- Fan the Flames Imperial IPA
Please note these opinions are my own and may not reflect the opinions of others. If you have any questions or want to hear other suggestions, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!