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what is the best brew pub in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

  • m

looking for a place that even a beer/ale snob would appreciate!!

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  1. I have been to almost all of them and I like Barley Johns the best and Rock Bottom the least. Town Hall in Minneapols and Vine Park in St. Paul are also good. I go for the overall ambience as well as the brew. I put Rock Bottom at the bottom because of the brew. One place I really enjoyed that is long out of business was Sherlock's Home.

    If I am not seeking breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches then I am seeking brew pubs. :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Davydd

      FYI, Vine Park Brewery (the restaurant/pub) closed years ago. They still have a brew-it-yourself operation a little ways down West 7th.


      1. re: Davydd

        I could have cried on my knees when Sherlocks closed. It was like losing an old friend.

      2. I have to second some of the recs that Davydd made. Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery is great. They brew excellent beer and have (IMHO) the second best fries in town.

        And Barley Johns is great too... great food and super beer. Both beer snob places.

        I have yet to see the appeal in Rock Bottom, but I chalk that up to not having returned since they got a new brewer (i hear?).... when last I went I was underwhelmed at the beer.

        2 Replies
        1. re: poivre

          If Poivre likes it, it is good, if he doesn't it is not; this is his area of expertise, so mark his words!

          1. re: poivre

            Yeah Rock Bottom did get a new brewer, and yeah it is still is a corporate brewery. My first choice is to go to Town Hall, but (BUT) since Bryon replaced the Todd at RB in late 2005, AND they changed the beer lines (which hadn't been replaced in 11 years as of mid to late summer 2006), the beer has been outstanding. Try out his new Angry Hippie Ale on nitro or his reinvented pale ale (tastes like Mirror Pond out of Oregon. MMM...)

            Still I am a foodie, and the food still sucks there and you are paying into a giant corporate chain where passion comes in dead last. But if you go just for the beer I promise you not to be disappointed.

          2. Town Hall would get my vote as the best brewpub, but I have never tried Barley Johns. I am a fan of cask conditioned beers and Town Hall has two handles of c.c. beer nearly all of the time.

            I don't think that our pubs are at the level of Chicago's Goose Island, Cleveland's Great Lakes (ooh, the lagers...), or Denver's Wynkoop but it's cask IPA will compare with any of them.

            I'm always amazed at beer snobs disdain for Sam Adam's products. They do a very good job with all of their styles and their distribution is excellent. I travel frequently and am pleased to find this beer on tap in so many places. Rock Bottom (so aptly named) is a national chain as well. It has impressed me as lame, at best. I had a good hefe once at their State Street pub in Chicago, but that was a long time ago. The best thing about Rock Bottom is that it keeps the riff-raff out of the other pubs...

            6 Replies
            1. re: joejr

              Town Hall is ranked #9 on Ratebeer.com in the Best in the U.S. for Micro breweries.
              Have never been, but the high ranking by I what I deem to be a very good site, has me thinking I need to head up to MSPL.

              1. re: Bobfrmia

                Ooh! I feel a Bobfrmia "Town Hall" chowdown coming on...


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Don't go to Town Hall for the food. The beer is amazing good, the food straight from Sysco.

                  1. re: ibew292

                    If so, then this is a recent change. Last I was there (winter of 05), the food was definitely not sysco. Nachos with pasta chips, caramelized onions, hand cut pepperoncini and melted goat cheese. Hand crafted patties for burgers, etc. Definitely not sysco, which is why I feared for their future as a brewpub. Typically if people want beer, they want typical bar fare. Town Hall never had typical bar fare.

                    1. re: ibew292

                      I have to agree with Nathan. The pulled pork sandwich comes on what feels and tastes like an unprocessed bun and the burgers do not appear to be from frozen patties. Also the meat did not appear to have been of the pulled-pork in a bag variety

                      However, I really do not think it matters from where a beer bar sources the wings I use to help wash down my beer. Just my take. It is sad though that you can either go to the Herkimer and get passable food and bad beer or somewhere else and get good beer with bad food. I smell Steven Brown's next venture! ;)

                      1. re: ibew292

                        I agree with Mr. ibew292 that the beer is very good. Not always, but usually, the best brewpub beer around. The funky fruit or flavored beers are not my cup of tea, and I have yet to enjoy one of the "belgian" offerings, but their more straigh-ahead brews are very, very good.

                        I also agree that most of the food is mediocre with a few items that are not bad. Nothing is good enough there that I would make the trip primarily for eating. And I've spent some time there. . .

                2. Barley Johns!!

                  Try the "J" Pizza, its like fondue on crust!

                  The beers are amazing.

                  I need to check out the Town Hall, I haven't been there in YEARS.

                  1. I like Town Hall.

                    Where is Barley John's? I've never been there.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Mill City Modern

                      barley johns:

                      It's in New Brighton. That's kind of my only complaint about the place, the location. But the beer is FANTASTIC.

                      Hear, hear, MaryMN, the pizza indeed is great!

                    2. I really don't like town hall. A few of their dark beers are decent but in general there is a flavor that is in all of their beers that i really don't like. The two belgian style beers I had were unsconsumable. I also think that it is over priced and a bit snooty with the food being mediocre to passable.
                      I havent been to any other brew pubs in the area but it looks like i"ll have to find barley johns.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kolgrim

                        The Belgian Ale I had there had a sour off taste that I sent back. I thought it might have been dirty glassware. I'll give it another try after the taste leaves my memory.

                        Surly and Summit are delicious across the board by my measure. They would both do well to open a brew pub format, but they probably have no desire to get into the insanity of the restaurant business. Side note: Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley opened an immense restaurant operation next to the brewery. In a food mecca the fare is mediocre at best, but the beer brings 'em in any way.

                        Best brew pub in the world (so far) Altstadthof Brauerei in Nurenberg http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/5.html . Very small scale place. Outstanding beer. Delicious simple food.

                      2. Unless they've slid a lot recently, I would disagree with kolgrim. One of the charms of Town Hall that differentiated it from most brew pubs is that they actually had decent, interesting food, and not the usual pub fare.

                        And in response to joejr, my own personal snobbery regarding Sam Adams comes from their history of contract brewing. Like PBR today, Sam Adams started with a recipe and a marketing concept and there was no Sam Adams brewery, in Boston or anywhere else. The story when I was growing up is that they opened their brewery in Boston solely so that they could legitimately call themselves a craft brewery and compete in brewing competitions.

                        It would not surprise me that contract brewing is the secret of their "distribution". They're in every airport bar along with Bud/Bud Light because they're brewed and distributed by the same folks.

                        That said, I do share your lament that Minne is not in the same league as many other cities when it comes to brew pubs. We have some good ones, but no true destination brew pubs like some cities have.

                        1. When discussing brewpubs I think only of beer and ale brewed on site. To introduce Goose Isiand, Sam Adams, Summit, Surly, etc. is mixing microbrews with brewpubs. I like to keep them separate in discussions. I've been to brewpubs in Anchorage, Ketchikan, Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Orlando, Houston, Port Huron, Tahquamenon Falls, Boston, some I am sure I have forgotten, and of course Minneapolis/St. Paul. Minneapolis/St. Paul holds its own.

                          The most interesting brewpub is the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. It is in an old converted Catholic church. The brewery is located on the alter. The brewpub I would like to frequent every day is in Ketchikan, Alaska. I stumbled onto it off the beaten tour boat path. It is one small room with a bar and no seating other than the bar. The locals come for growlers. One guy came in for one while we were there to take back to a business meeting. What a life. The beer was very good. So if you ever take an Alaskan cruise, search it out.

                          5 Replies
                            1. re: KTFoley


                              A jug with a good seal for hauling off some freshly dispensed beer from a tank system.

                              1. re: KTFoley

                                Karl found the web page with a complete description. One thing to know about a growler is the beer ought to be consumed immediately. So it is a form of transport for consumption off premises. Generally once poured beer does not keep well.

                                1. re: Davydd

                                  Thanks, Davydd and Karl. Learned something new from you today!

                              2. re: Davydd

                                Goose Island's first brewpub is just off of Clybourne, I think that they have been there for some fifteen years or so. Their off-sale business not as long...

                              3. A little off topic, but the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen in Clarkston, Michigan is also in an old church, and has the absolute best Macaroni and Cheese I've ever eaten. Add that one to your list. ;)

                                1. I agree with the pro Town Hall posters. Went there a few months back and really enjoyed the beer and food. Although not a "brew Pub" in the true sense of the word, I really enjoyed hanging out at Brits as well!

                                  Billy Bob

                                  1. Last night we went to Barley John's for dinner. We live in NE Minneapolis, and the drive there took maybe 5 minutes. From the outside, it looks like a crummy sports bar or similar. Inside, though, it's cute cute cute! Like a little Canadian bar or something.

                                    All the beers we tried were quite good, but the thing that ensures my speedy return is the burger. Wow. By far the best burger I've had in the TC. Certainly, the only burger I've ever ordered medium rare that actually came out that way.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Mill City Modern

                                      Thanks for this report! We too live in NE and some friends told us about Barley John's after a stop there last weekend and said it was fantastic. We will have to make a stop this Sunday!

                                      The best burger in the TC though? Better than Ike's?

                                      1. re: Foureyes137

                                        I've never been to Ike's, but this burger blew me away. Though it pains me to say it, I think it may be even better than the burgers I make myself (the fact that I don't have to do the dishes afterwards gives Barley John's the edge, ha).

                                      2. re: Mill City Modern

                                        I thought Barley John's had a super pizza selection as well. I have to qualify that though because I haven't been there for about 3 years.

                                        1. re: Davydd

                                          Nye's is best when Phil is working the back bar. He works the early shift though.

                                      3. There are a few bars / pubs that I feel are must visits when my more discerning friends visit the TCs for the 1st time.

                                        1) Nye's....nothing like it, anywhere, period
                                        2) Brit's or The Local in the Summer for Happy Hour...Pub feel, fashionable Targetron eye candy of both sexes on the patio(s)
                                        3) Town Hall...Beer Beer Beer

                                        The beer snobs among them (my old man included) insist on Town Hall because they've heard it praised time and again on Beer Advocate...a pint of the Masala Mama IPA and an order of fish & chips is about the best weekend lunch treat you can muster without a ticket to London.

                                        1. I definitely second the Barley John's and Town Hall recommendations and am so glad that Town Hall has been able to survive this long. When I was a student at the U, my friends and I used to hit Town Hall before and after every hockey game and were always stunned at the lack of people there (this would've been 98, 99). The food is far from typical bar food fare, there is always a consistent beer selection along with their seasonal or craft brews which change over periodically. My personal favorites are the Mai Bock (if you're lucky enough to get it before they run out) and the Scotch Ale.

                                          1. Best brewpubs? Townhall and Barley John's. Both places consistently produce very, very good ale. The rooms and food are different, so I alternate based on my mood. If I HAD to choose one, I'd pick Townhall. Someone mentioned they found the prices a bit high there - I strongly disagree. Their regular price for most beers is around $3-4 per pint. During Happy Hour (late afternoon and 9-midnight), the beers are in the $2.50-3.50 per pint range. I'm sorry, but that is NOT overpriced for a finely crafted ale.

                                            1. you can get rip roaring loaded (not that I condone that sort of thing) for $15 @ the Town Hall.

                                              1. Barley Johns by far. All have some good bews. However the food and the care are the best there. Try their Sunday Night comfort food meals. Good beer and great food!

                                                1. I stopped by Great Waters in downtown St. Paul on Friday evening for the first time in over a year. The food was decent (Townhall-ish...fairly unremarkable bar-menu options..yet slightly better than most bar food). All (4...or was it 5...???) cask-conditioned ales were quite tasty. The space is nice (airy, high ceilings, huge windows, not too loud).

                                                  Great Waters is worth a stop if you're in St. Paul.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Lionel Hutz

                                                    I totally agree with your assesment. Their Outmeal stout on cask is great.

                                                  2. Agree that Town Hall is the place. My favorite brew is their Scotch Ale. For food, I stick to chili -- surpisingly good.

                                                    But, the real treat is the "take home" beer in a growler. Take a bottle home ($12-13 dollars for beer and the half gallon-type bottle). Bring it back and they give you a replacement for $8. That $8, my friends, is the best beer investment in my world!

                                                    1. Hey -anyone been to Herkimer's Pub and Brewery off Lyndale? Don't know if that is any good - see no posts about it. Also, while "brewery" might not be completely accurate - while a bit expensive, Happy Gnome is good - at least in terms of beer selection (somewhat like Brit's category).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                                        I've been to the Herk many many times, and while the food is good (not great) the beers are nothing special. Generally they have their 5 beers that do not change and 2 rotating seasonsals that are usually the same year to year.

                                                        For me, it just feels like the beer is not the primary focus of the Herkimer which makes it less a brewpub a more a restaurant that brews beer. The Kolsch style they make in summer is good and Handy's isn't bad, but none of the beers are terrific.

                                                        Plus, during Packer games they serve brats WITH YELLOW MUSTARD AND NO SAURKRAUT! That alone is a transgression worthy of a sneer in my opinion.