Monday, September 8, 2014

Northbound Smokehouse Tour 2014

This past weekend, my wife and I were lucky enough to be invited along with several members of the Primary Fermenters Homebrew Club for a tour of Northbound Smokehouse.  I have been there twice before, but the last time was over a year ago, so it was time to go back and see how things were going. 

The brewpub is going on its second year now, and seems to be going strong, often struggling to keep up with demand for their beers.  That problem is both good (they are selling lots) but also bad (people can't always get the beer they want!)  Located in a quiet neighborhood of Minneapolis, the brewery takes up the corner of an old brick building.  There is a pleasant and sunny outdoor patio surrounded by colorful plants, flowers and several appropriate hop bines.

We met at the brewpub at 11:00 and killed some time waiting for our entire party by trying out some beers.  I tried my previous favorite--the Smokehouse Porter.  This beer was better than I remember it, with just a hint of smokiness and an off-sweet finish.  Inside the brewpub is dark, but open and comfortable.  A small bar hosts house and guest taps with a limited selection of liquors and wines as well.  The beer serving tanks are visible through glass behind the bar--a nice touch.

Once we had all gathered (Beau, Mark, Pat, Shannon, Sj, and I) we got to business!  Joel, (one of the brewers), took us on an informative tour of the small brewery.  We started out by heading down a wide stairway into the cool basement.  Surrounded by bags of BSG malt that has to be hand-hauled down those stairs, we spent quite a bit of time talking to Joel.  Since all of us were seasoned homebrewers, he was able to forgo the usual "This is how beer is made..." lecture and focus on nerdy brewer details for us!  It was very interesting to get his take on things like hops and grain shortages, brewery politics, and of course recipe development and brewing techniques. 

We next checked out the tiny grain mill room followed by a short jaunt into the cold room filled with storage tanks and wonderfully aromatic hops.

Lastly we spent some time in the actual brewery area, under the shadow of full stainless steel conical fermenters.  I really appreciate the time that Joel spent with our small group, and I had a very informative time of it!  I feel slightly bad that I badgered him about not having enough smoked beers on tap (it is a Smokehouse!)

Joel talks brewing tips with avid homebrewers!

After our tour we had worked up an appetite.  Smelling the aroma of smoked meat permeating the restaurant had not helped with this!  We ended up sitting outside on the sunny patio on the picnic tables there.  I tried the Wild Rice Amber which was well fermented and subtle.  We also shared a few Pale Ales and IPA's amongst us.  I enjoyed the Exile quite a bit--bursting with catty Simcoe hops!  The food I had was excellent!  The Buffalo wings were divine: smoked before given the Buffalo treatment, these were the most tender and flavorful I've had in years!  The Porketta sandwich was a huge mound of smoked meat topped with smoked Swiss cheese and BBQ sauce.  Yum! 

Overall I have a lot of respect for what the guys at Northbound are doing.  The beers have improved greatly since my last visit and the food is great.  Thanks to Joel for the tour, and to the Beau for inviting us along!

Outside the brewpub!

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