Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lupine Brewing--A Wolf Among Sheep

Recently my wife (Sj) and I took a Sunday drive into Delano to visit the two breweries in town.  You can check out my South Fork Brewing review HERE.  After finishing our beers there, we bundled up against the bitter wind, the last pink light of dusk lighting our way the two blocks to Lupine Brewing Company.  I managed to grab a couple pictures of the exterior before the light completely failed us and the howling tauntaun-killing cold turned my exposed fingers to icicles.

Entering the old 1800's era building we were struck by blessed warmth, mellow lighting forming comfortable pools of yellow radiance around the space.  My first impression was of restfulness, age, and history.  Exposed brick walls added a depth of character, while reclaimed rustic wood from the other half of the building formed the bar and the tops of solid tables scattered about the taproom.  Before we had our coats completely off, one of the owners, Michael Dumas, had handed us a bowl of pretzels and introduced himself to us.  With this warm greeting we were seated at one of those hefty tables.  There were about 8-10 people in the taproom, resulting in a quiet buzz of conversation that was not overly distracting but actually added to the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.

Not long after getting seated, another of the three owners, Eric Sargent, came over to say hello. I met Eric briefly at All Pints North in Duluth this past summer while he was pouring beers and he seems to be very good at remembering people!  Sj and I sampled through the whole line-up of beers and Eric stopped in a couple more times to see what we thought of them and tell us more about their process and recipes as well as history.  Apparently the building had most recently been a Mexican restaurant and after tearing up several layers of flooring they discovered 1900's birch hardwood floors that now add character to the taproom.  They were also able to recover the original tin ceiling tiles.  I recently talked to Paul Jostwick (owner of the fantastically beer-centric Hollywood Roadhouse) and apparently he was involved in the build-out of that restaurant and was sad to see all those old features covered up.  Here they are again, revealed and used to best effect!  Their 10 barrel brewery equipment had been located in St. Cloud prior to moving to Delano, and they'd been using it there since 2014.  I honestly hadn't realized they'd been brewing that long and had assumed they were contract brewing somewhere.

Here's my quick review of the beers with a rating on 0-5 scale.  3 is average, 4 I'll actively seek out, and 5 worthy of my secret dragon's hoard.

1) Wheat Ale--An American wheat beer.  Easy drinking, clean and well balanced.  Not my favorite style but well crafted. 3.75

2) IPA--Fairly sweet with some caramel notes.  Hint of diacetyl buttery flavor.  This tastes much more like a pale ale than an IPA and just lacks the hop punch in flavor and aroma that I'm looking for.  Still pretty drinkable though. 3

3) Rout Brown Ale--A very flavorful and balanced English brown ale.  Wayyyyyy better than Newcastle.  4

4) Murder of Cranberries--An oatmeal stout with cranberries.  Interesting beer and more subtle than expected.  I've had this before at Hollywood Roadhouse and liked it.  Some oatmeal slickness on the palate helps with the body.  Roasty.  Mild tartness from the cranberry.  3.75

5) UnCayndness Stout--Not bad.  Very subtle chili pepper spice on the finish.  I want more pepper!!  3.5

6) Three Bandits--Locally roasted coffee infused in this stout.  Very strong cold-press coffee flavors dominate this, but the mouthfeel is still full and creamy.  I'm a home coffee roaster and love the freshness of this brew.  Not for the hater of coffee!  My favorite of the night.  4.25

7) Oatmeal Stout--Had a strange Smarties roll candy aroma and flavor that hurt this for me.  Sj described it as Necco Wafers without me even mentioning my thoughts... This one was odd since Lupine proved to me that they can do stouts well (see above!) 3

Lots of dark beers to choose from, perfect for the season!  Overall, I was fairly impressed with the line-up.  While a couple of the beers had some minor flaws or stylistic issues, all of them were drinkable.  The Three Bandits was my favorite for sure and I took home a growler of it for later...

Lupine was a bit of a surprise to us.  We were immediately put at ease and really loved the ambiance and service of the taproom.  The beers weren't too shabby either!  I would highly recommend a visit to the brewery.  I'll be watching what the guys do closely over the next year and hope they continue to try new and interesting things.

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