Recently I've made it to nearly 20 breweries and distilleries! I'm going to chip away at them in the order we visited. Keep in mind that I'm reviewing based purely on my (and my wife's) experience on a certain day and that your results may vary. I tend to wait until a brewery has been open for 6-12 months before reviewing, unless my visit is above par and deserves a write up. I try not to be a dick but pride myself in being honest. I've been a homebrewer for nearly 26 years, a BJCP National ranked judge, and have been to hundreds of breweries over the years. I think I might spark some controversy with this one. Here is the fifth in the series...
Bauhaus Brew Labs
Bauhaus Brew Labs pretty much burst onto the Minnesota craft beer scene in July 2014. The owners/brewers noted a distinct lack of good craft lager beers (other than Schell's of course!) in Minnesota and decided to fill this relative void. The name comes from German art and craft schools in the post World War I era, and the brewery has embraced the German beer hall concept for their tasting room. I remember trying my first Bauhaus beer at my friend Chad's place where he poured me a sample of their holiday spiced Baltic porter named Jingle Fever. I was immediately excited! I've had a few of their other lager beers at restaurants around the Twin Cities since, and have been impressed with how wide their reach has become in such a short time. The first time I had Wonderstuff in the can I was happy to find a crisp pilsner with an aggressive American hopping regimen. So why did it take me so long to finally get to the brewery? I have no idea, other than the fact that they aren't open the days I usually like to drive into the cities (Tuesday and Sunday).
The brewery is in a huge building in Northeast Minneapolis with plenty of room for fermenter expansion to my eye. I'm not sure what the building used to house, but it has trappings of either a train or trucking depot with intact machinery for moving heavy loads outside and inside the brewery itself. Its one of the coolest looking breweries I've been to in a while. I actually wandered around outside for a while taking pictures before actually going in, but the day was pretty overcast so my pictures aren't amazing.
My wife (Sj) and I arrived just after some sort of fund-raiser event had ended, so the place was busy but clearing out on this fine Saturday afternoon in late October. The taproom is spacious and open, just partitioned off from the main huge brew-house (brewhaus?) area, by a few half-walls and a serving bar. Some high top tables and picnic tables provide seating, and a small stage takes up one corner. There's a large covered outdoor patio area just outside that I'm guessing is packed in the summertime.
When we visited they had four beers on tap--all their flagship beers. I was hoping for something tap-room specific or special, but hey, sometimes it's better to just try the freshest possible version of a brewery's beer. We got the sampler tray to try them all before we had to head out for our next stop. Here are my quick reviews based on my Untappd notes. My personal rating scale (out of 5) is 3 I'll drink, 4 I'll seek out, 5 I'll hoard.
1) Wonderstuff--Still crisp and refreshing. Plenty of hops to this one. Some sulfur notes that I don't remember from last time. Not quite as good as I remember. 3.75
2) Wagon Party--Bauhaus' version of a California Common or Steam beer made with lager yeast at warmer temperatures. I do not like this one. Aroma is like lake water with a hint of floating dead carp that makes me very hesitant to even taste it. Flavor is crisp, hoppy, fairly sulfury. Sj wouldn't even taste it based on the smell. 2.75
3) Sky-Five!--Finally badgered into doing an IPA, this is Bauhaus' attempt. Very little aroma. Tastes like a sweet and overly mellow pale ale--not an IPA. Needs much more hop aroma and bitterness to make this work. 3
4) Stargazer--A German style Schwartzbier or dark lager. I had given a 4 the first time I tried it, but this time was a 3.25. Still has a good flavor, but more sulfur and a harsher finish than I remember. Just tastes young.
So overall I didn't hate the beers, but to a one all tasted worse than I remember. I've downed a couple cans of Wagon Party before, but here fresh at the brewery it was kind of gross. What's going on here???
I really like the space and would love to come when they're having one of their many social events. I'm also very happy that Bauhaus is trying to fill the craft lager niche in Minnesota. What I'm not happy about is the decline in quality of the beers over the past 6 months or so. I would venture to guess that this is coming from rushing the fermentation process. Cool conditioned lager beers take more time than warmer fermented ales, and that time lag difference can mean less sales for a brewery while they wait for their beer to mature. With Bauhaus trying to supply a plethora of restaurant and tap accounts as well as canning their beers for distribution all over the state, I think they're having hard time keeping up and aren't waiting until the beers are ready. Oh, they're drinkable, but that sulfur taste from lager yeast will usually fade out with some age and cold lagering time. Also, scrap the IPA entirely or make it an India Pale Lager and keep your own twist on the Americanized lager category. There are already too many really good IPA's in the marketplace for this beer to compete! I hope that Bauhaus will take a hard look at their quality and institute some more testing/sensory techniques to rein this in before the brewery starts to lose their core followers. I know I'm less likely to order one of these beers right now than I was last year...