Monday, February 1, 2016
If You Aren't Able, Might As Well Raise Cain
Not long ago, some friends of mine wanted to get together for a weekend afternoon in Minneapolis. Being the beer geek I am, I suggested trying out the relatively new Able Seedhouse, and everyone was game. The first I heard of this place was actually a review I saw from fellow blogger Paige Latham on her Alcohol By Volume blog, and I was intrigued right away.
A little history: The head brewer is Bobby Blasey, a guy with an official American Brewer's Guild diploma under his belt. The brewery is focused on locally grown grains, and has the goal of malting their own grains in house. I'm not sure where they are sourcing said grains, but with Rahr malting of Shakopee being a local maltster I'm wondering if that might be the source. I'm also unclear on what the brewery is doing to roast/kiln these malts. This involvement in the processing of grains into what will ultimately become beer is a step beyond what anyone else in the state is doing for their beer, with a few exceptions like an upcoming limited release Brau Brothers estate beer. I actually wish there was more info on the website about what they're doing since I think this is the thing that will distinguish Able from the hoard of other budding (sorry couldn't help it) breweries in the state.
Able Seedhouse + Brewery is located in the Logan Park area of Minneapolis in a somewhat industrial area (I know shocking for a brewery!) This is not an area I had visited before, and I'm always happy to explore new places in the city. Unfortunately the temp outside was hanging right around 0 degrees F that day, discouraging wandering around with my camera and dragging my group all over the neighborhood. We were able to park in a lot right across the street from the brewery--something not always easy to do in Minneapolis. We bolted across the icy street and into the blessed warmth of the large brick brewery building.
The place is huge, with high ceilings, open spaces, and minimalist design. The decor is a strange mix of reclaimed or re-purposed materials, and newer spartan furniture. A small bar sits within the taproom proper, the brewery equipment visible behind and partially cordoned off by a honeycomb patterned wooden screen on one side. A large white mural with a naturalistic black pattern, possibly mimicking tree rings or seed layers, takes up a wall across from the entrance and provides a nice focal point for the brewery. Huge windows provided rare and warming sunshine for us chilly travelers, but I'm wondering how bright it might get in summertime. At least one garage door is placed in the taproom exterior wall that can be opened to provide access to a patio area in warmer months. Some beautiful long and thick solid plank tables with natural curved lines provide seating, as well as some smaller high-top tables.
Two pleasant and helpful young ladies were serving patrons during our visit and seemed very interested and knowledgeable. They were serving up the house beers with a few twists for us, as well as cold press coffee for those needing a little kick. Let's go through the line-up shall we? I rate beers on a 0-5 scale with 3 being an average beer I'd drink, 4 being a great beer, and 5 being the Holy Grail.
1) House Red: This one is hoppy and a tad astringent. Hints of dark roast malt? Seems like a cross between a hoppy west coast amber and an Irish red. Very clean and dry. 3.75
2) Propers Pub Ale: Not a bad beer. Served on nitro. Has the hop bitterness of an English bitter, but very little hop aroma. A bit harsh on the finish. 3.5
3) First Light: American IPA. Sage aroma mixed with tropical fruit/mango rind. Flavor very similar to aroma, unique. Very dry with astringent finish. 3.75
4) BLK WLF: 3.7% ABV Stout. This is very much an Irish dry stout (in the vein of Guinness). I get a strong roastiness, hint of caramel as it warms. Very dry, despite addition of lactose. At first too dry for my taste, but as it warmed up the body seemed to improve. 3.75
5) BLK WLF Neon: This version was mixed with the cold press coffee they have on tap. Smoother body, sweeter flavor. Strong fresh cold press coffee aroma and flavor. This one popped! I ordered a full glass of this one after my sampler was done. 4.25
6) Two Sparrows infused with Raspberry: A wheat pale ale. I didn't like this one. Astringency overpowered the wheat flavors. Raspberry aroma and flavor were very artificial and medicinal. The fact that there was no pink or red to the beer tells me that this was likely an extract and not real raspberry. 2
So overall, just one I didn't like, otherwise all were above average. Everything was cleanly fermented and attenuated. However, all of the beers really had an overly dry/astringency to them that really only fit stylistically with the stout. I'm wondering if this is water chemistry related? I've come across a few other breweries that have the same type of "house flavor" notably Sisyphus. Insight Brewing used to have this issue, but right after visiting Able we went over there and their beers seem to have gained body and balance since last time I was there. Might want to check in with them and see what they have done recently...
I give the taproom high marks for vibe, for while its open and somewhat sparse, it has a cleanness of line and decor that appeals. We had excellent service and decent beers. I was happy to be able to visit and write them up. I won't blog about a place under 6 months old if I don't like them, but if I have overall positive things to say I'll jump ahead and do it! I really want to find out more about what they are doing with the seedhouse!