Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Herkimer: Revisited

One of older brewpubs in Minnesota is The Herkimer, located on Lake St. and Lyndale in Uptown.  I tried the place out a few times several years ago and found their German style beers to be less than thrilling.  I'll admit I pretty much wrote them off in my book.  Being a local guy, I used to frequent this area of the Twin Cities in high school, college and even when I moved back here for residency.  Now that I am firmly entrenched in the Far Reaches of the Western suburbs I seldom get over to Uptown anymore.  But this past week I found myself in the area around lunch time and decided to give The Herkimer another spin.  Here is the result of my visit, and remember, this is a single spot in time and your results may vary!

I found some metered street parking nearby with relative ease on a Tuesday afternoon, but I imagine this would be more of a chore come Friday or Saturday night.  The pub itself is easily found from the corner of Lake and Lyndale.  Moto-I, the sake brewpub is owned by the same folks and is just around the corner.  I need to get out there again and do an official write up soon.  Interestingly the upcoming Lyn-Lake Brewery will be setting up shop almost right next door in an old theater building, making this a more brew-centric block than ever before.  The side of the building is decorated with a large and colorful mural including some of the pin-up style beer logos from past days.  An unassuming green sign and awning invite thirsty travelers into the place.  They usually have some outside seating, but this hadn't been set up yet on my visit.  They were also doing some renovation to the side patio area at that time. 

Inside, this is a fairly dark pub (even in the daytime) with a large island bar in the center of the main room.  Tasteful logo signs decorate the walls here and there without making the place feel cluttered.  A large chalk board at the rear of the building presents the current tap line up including info about ABV and IBUs.  Tile mosaic lined support pillars sprout from the floor in a few places.  When I was here, there were a few people drinking at the end of the bar, but otherwise I had the place mostly to myself. 

My tattooed and pierced server, Bekah, a very upbeat and friendly uptown resident helped me with my beer and food decisions.  She was very knowledgeable about the beers and the styles they represented--something one does not always find in a brewpub or craft beer bar.  Luckily they have started doing a beer sampler since the old days, getting 5-6 oz of four beers of your choice. 

My favorite beer was their Maibock.  It had a sweet and slightly sulfury lager nose.  The beer was a deep copper color with a fine white persistent head.  Flavor was sweet initially with a hint of alcohol tingle on the tongue.  The taste faded to an aggressive bitterness and dry finish, striking me as more like an Alt beer, but very nice overall.  I gave it a 4 star review.

The Alt had a light hop aroma and graininess.  This one had a creamy mouthfeel and sweet tart flavor at first.  After a couple of sips I got more caramel and grain with a mildly bitter finish and some citrus and earthy hop flavor lingering after.  Not a bad beer, but I would have liked a bit more assertive hop bitterness like the Maibock had.

The Rye Pale ale was unusual.  In the aroma I got sweet honey, passion fruit and not much of what I'd typically expect as classic hop aroma.  The flavor was very strange with a Skittles flavor at first, that smoothed out after a couple sips to more of a real fruit blackberry or currant flavor.  This was brewed with Junga hops, which I had never heard of prior to this.  Looking them up, it appears that they are known for a blackcurrant flavor, so perhaps this is not an off-flavor in the beer, but simply a weird hop character.  After learning this, I like the beer more!  There is certainly something about expectations that color one's understanding and enjoyment of a beer.

The last of my beers was a Baltic Porter, a stronger alcohol dark beer with a deep mahogany color and ruby highlights.  Flavor was malt forward with a hint of toffee and raisins.  A bit of alcohol warming and a spritzy to almost creamy mouthfeel.  Ends very dry and drinkable.  This one could be a bit more complex, but a very nice example of the style.

Overall I was heartily impressed by the improvement in the beer quality and range in styles since my last visit.  I was also lucky enough to speak briefly to Rachel Grey, the assistant brewer, who was in that day.  Rachel is one of only about four female brewers in the state, and I noticed her at first because of her characteristic pink welly boots!  She has been brewing at the Herkimer for the past year and has learned a lot in the process.  I was impressed by her obvious passion for the job and interest in feed back.  I appreciate her time in talking to me, and can honestly say that the beer quality at the Herkimer has greatly improved.  I'm sorry that I was visiting too early in the day to try the firkin of kolsch with Wisconsin Door County cherries that was to be tapped that evening!

This is where the magic happens!

Now, I did not just drink my lunch this day.  Bekah steered me toward the Southern soul food breakfast classic the Chicken & Waffle.  Coming out of the kitchen this dish was gorgeous and a big surprise coming out of a brewpub kitchen.  The waffle was light, fluffy and perfect--and I just got back from Belgium, the land of waffles!  The chicken was flattened boneless flavor-packed thigh meat, lightly breaded and quickly fried to a crisp and crunchy texture that contrasted with the soft waffle.  The dish came with a well flavored gravy and maple syrup--I did half and half of my dish and both the savory and sweet worked quite well.  This was not your typical bar food by any means.

Chicken & Waffle goes great with Baltic Porter!

Thanks to wonderful service, excellent food and a good mix of beers I had a very pleasant experience here for lunch.  This really exceeded my expectations and I will likely return here the next time I'm back in my old stomping grounds.  Perhaps my readers will also check them out again and comment back on how their visits went...


B K Edgar said...

Since I live nearby, I have been there several times. They have done some seasonal brews that were quite nice. One reason I hate going there is the noise level after 5pm. When the place fills, the noise approaches deafening. You have to shout just to talk to the person sitting right next to you.

Brady said...

It is a Green Bay Packer Bar (strike 1) so that would explain all the loud and obnoxious people! :) Been awhile since I've been to the Herk, may have to give it another chance.