I have been waiting patiently for Bent Paddle Brewing Company to open for years, and now it has finally opened its doors and is putting out excellent beers. Some background first: The brewery was started (at least in planning) in 2011 and just opened for the public in May 2013. CEO and Director of Brewery Operations Bryon Tonnis has been brewing for more than 12 years, and was putting out fantastic beers at the Minneapolis Rock Bottom prior to this venture. Colin Mullen (now President and Director of Brewery Communications) had his start as the brewer at Barley Johns. I had the pleasure of meeting Bryon several times at RB brewmaster dinners and festivals and have been hoping to see him back in action. Also several years back I won a brew day at Barley Johns at a silent auction and was able to help out Colin with a batch there. He is a really mellow guy with a lot of brewing knowledge to share. Not to forget them, (but I haven't met them yet), wives and partners Karen Tonnis and Laura Mullen are probably the true power behind the throne!
On our trip to Duluth for the All Pints North beer festival this summer we finally had a chance to get to the brewery. The shuttle driver from Fitgers (more on that place in another post) was kind enough to pick us up from dinner and drop us off at the brewery. We were very happy of that since the place is about a 2 mile walk from the Canal Park area...doable, but a bit much after all the walking we had done already that day. Our friends Randy and Andrea had brought their bikes and ended up meeting us at the brewery after dinner as well.
Upon entry, I was struck by the mixture of exposed brick, deep chocolate paint and stainless steel in the place. It was a nice combination of new industrial and comfortable history. There was plenty of seating and a long bar the back of the building. One can see the brew house through a large pair of sliding glass doors near the bar. I hate taprooms that hide the equipment! Lurking at a table near the bar when we arrived was my good friend Shawn and friend Brad! We happily ended up hanging out with them for a while until our other friends arrived and Shawn wanted to head over to Canal Park Brewing.
The brewery has only been open a couple of months and only has a few flagship beers, but still offer a surprising array of taps. The current basic beers are the Bent Hop IPA (very well balanced and better than many I had in Oregon), and Black Ale (riding the line between porter and stout and hitting all the right notes for me.) To mix things up a bit they had a blonde ale that I didn't try and a cold press coffee version of the black ale on tap as well. They also had experimental Calibration ales (and IPA and a Dark) both served on nitro for a change of pace. Rock Bottom under Bryon was the first place I've ever seen an IPA on nitro and I'm glad they brought this trick with them! They don't have samplers, but do offer 10, 16 and 20 oz glasses of the beers. I was impressed with the overall quality of the beers, every one of them was incredibly drinkable and full of character. This should not surprise me based on the brewing skills of both the brewers here, but I'm still excited by how well they are doing right out of the chute. I believe that they tied with Town Hall for best beer at All Pints North the next day and the line at their booth was always long. I was happy I had tried most of the beers the night prior to the fest so I didn't have to wait in those lines.
The shirts look nice and they actually have a long sleeved T! Stainless steel growlers and locally made canvas growler cozies are pretty sweet. If we didn't have such draconian laws on needing a separate growler from each brewery, I would have picked up one of those. After visiting Oregon where every place will fill a growler you bring in, as well as having special beer stores that can fill them with other commercial beers, I feel like this is something Minnesota needs to change if they want to keep up with other brewery-heavy states.
With the APN going on that weekend, there were tons of brewers from the Cities in town and we ran into Peter Mack (previously also from Rock Bottom and currently a brewer at Town Hall) at Bent Paddle. Bryon and Colin were both present and I got to talk briefly with Bryon about the brewery and his plans for the future. It sounds like they are having a hard time keeping up with demand for their beer locally so it may be a while before we get some distribution down here in Minneapolis. Selling out of beer is a great place to start for a new brewery!
Overall, this place is fantastic and they are putting out some of the best beer in the state only two months after opening. They have immediately jumped into my top five or six breweries in Minnesota, and I wish them much luck for the coming years. Based on the response at All Pints North I think that many other beer geeks are agreeing with me!