Monday, September 14, 2015

Bang! Brewery of Few Words, Many Beers

On a recent trip to St. Paul (someplace I don't tend to visit often) I finally had a chance to visit Bang Brewing.  I first went to Urban Growler Brewery since they serve food and I was famished, but then discovered that Bang was only about 50 feet away!  Of course in the time it took me to eat my lunch and have a half-pint of beer the skies had decided to dump a ton of cool and heavy rain upon me.  I ran across the intervening distance, becoming drenched with rainfall, to the circular metal silo building, unsure if they were even open, or where the entrance was located.

Eventually finding the entrance on the opposite side from which I was scrambling, I dove into the shelter provided.  The brewery is simply one large circular open space, with the brewing equipment and fermenters located along the external wall.  A very small stainless steel bar seating 7 was arranged near the center of the building, with a glass-ware washing station and taps behind it.  A portion of the building behind the bar was walled off (covered with an attractive mix of reclaimed woods), featuring a tiny bathroom and probably hiding much of the brewing gear.  Everything (minus the wooden wall) within the space was of bright, reflective metallic tones.  A scattering of 14 camp stools in the center of the space provided some seating for patrons.  Despite the weather, the place was fairly crowded and vibrant with activity.  Americana and country music played over hidden speakers, accentuating the fact that we were drinking beer in a 42 foot diameter metal grain bin!

I made myself a spot at the end of the bar for a closer look at the process.  I dripped more water onto the shining surface of the bar to join condensation rings from freshly poured cold pints.  The owners, Jay and Sandy Febbo, were serving at the bar, cleaning glasses, changing kegs, and everything else that needed to be done.  This is a two person show.  After talking to Sandy and discovering that little gem of information, several of the questions I'd come up with prior to the visit were answered.  No wonder they are only open Friday and Saturdays!  With only two people to do everything needed to run a brewery and taproom on a commercial scale, I totally understand the slow/relaxed style and vibe of the brewery.  They have a 10 barrel brewing system which is fairly small in the grand scheme of things, but not minuscule.  They do provide beers to about 10 or 11 draft accounts--mostly upscale eateries like Heartland, Tongue in Cheek, and Ngon Bistro.  The brewery uses only organic ingredients and they seem happy to take a small niche within an already small niche market of craft beer.

But what about the beers?  When I sat down I asked about samplers.  Sandy was happy to give me samples of the beers, but served (a small splash) in full pint glasses--I hadn't realized that they didn't really have a "sampler tray" of the beers.  I appreciate getting to try them all though!

1) Neat--Described as a sparkling bitter, this was a tad unbalanced to the bitter side for me, but still good.  They also serve up Bloody Neat with organic heirloom tomato juice for that bloody Mary vibe.

2) Dave--An American lager brewed in collaboration with Dave's Brewfarm.  This had a sulfury lager note that concerned me, but also a strangely pleasing and crisp finish that I enjoyed.

3) Good--A well named and humble beer!  4.2% ABV, 42 IBU.  Somewhere between and English bitter and an American pale ale, I found this very drinkable.

4) Nice--STP Dark Ale.  This was my first choice but was crossed off the list when I first entered the taproom.  Jay came out of the back a bit later, poured one, tasted it, then started pouring for folks.  I ordered a short pour of the version with cold press coffee added.  I found it to be very roasty and just the pick-me-up I needed on this dark and stormy day.  I would like a hint less bitterness and more body to be perfect, but still a very good beer.

5) Boss--Hoppy Strong Ale.  Well described, this one was very hoppy and bitter, a bit out of balance for me.  Not really a classic IPA or DIPA though--something in its own class.

Overall, I was more impressed with the beers than I had expected to be.  There was certainly a house style--most things were fairly dry and perhaps a bit high on the IBU scale.  However, everything was cleanly fermented and no major flaws jumped out at me.  By personal taste my favorite was the Nice.  I also appreciate the concise nomenclature and lack of pretentiousness in the beers.

One thing I noticed during my lurking at the bar was that the owners were actually having a good time, not just working and selling beers.  They were really enjoying talking to people and providing folks with the fruits of their labors.  This is a small brewery and taproom that seems to have a relaxed and comfortable personality.  Organic without being militant or tree-hugging-love-fest.  Fun without being forced.  The one thing I might recommend to the owners would be working a bit on the marketing side--perhaps a more robust website and more swag for us consumers to buy.

I would highly recommend checking out the place.  Bang is certainly one of the most interesting taprooms you are likely to see and the beers are worth trying.  Make a Friday or Saturday afternoon of it and visit Urban Growler as well--there's room enough for both places on your schedule!

The view from below!

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