You know it’s a great time of the year when the warm weather and blue skies make you drag yourself out to the local taprooms for a drink—whether you’re out with friends or taking a day for yourself. Having just finished a month-long vegetarian diet experiment, resetting my drive to delve into my local food culture (and cooking at home) some more, and having my first day off spring began, I thought it fair to give myself a properly celebratory afternoon out.
Thus I took a nice trip to the Midtown Global Market to visit one of the newer breweries in town, Eastlake Craft Brewery.
Located in a great open-walled corner of the market, with some patio seats outside and a very attractive and tractor beam-like counter, Eastlake has already taken great command of their location. Hanging black wooden menu boards compound the stark gastropub-ish design to the place.
Eastlake doesn’t serve any food themselves (not that they even need to!), but one can enjoy whatever they choose from other vendors in the market and bring it right up to the bar. Thus, they continue the perfect tradition of being able to explore your favorite outside foods while enjoying some awesome beer. I myself took the opportunity to finally try Taco Cat for the first time, but I won’t go into that here.
Truth be told, Eastlake barely has any room for a kitchen even if they wanted one. All their brewing is done right on site, the brewery room amounting to what’s basically a very large closet behind the bar. It’s completely crammed with the 4-6 of the large wash/fermentation tanks, with the rest of the space filled up by various kegs, boxes, etc. The giant bags of malt have to stay waiting outside the garage door that keeps it open and closed! The fact that they’re able to keep even a taproom stocked for service from this set-up—let alone offering a mix of 10 different beers at the time— is quite impressive! Makes one wonder what the plans shall be if and when they start getting the popularity they deserve.
But enough about the atmosphere—let’s get to the beer! Eastlake’s online description indicates a focus on “American and European” styles, though in reality you could classify the menu into two main sections: IPAs and Belgians. The former offers a fun little variety, from double-style to black malted, while the latter reveals itself with pale ales, classically tasty wheat and flavored Saisons, and an interesting little “Vietnamese fusion” number called “Eye of the Tiger.” Of course they carry a few outliers here and there, some cask-aged stuff now and then, but those are the mains.
Starting off with a flight always seems to be fun; just like the styles, they offer an IPA and Belgian Flight (I wanted saison, so you can guess which one I decided to go for.)
At $8, you get 3 tulips filled halfway with the select beers— so, a strong 6 oz. pour. This particular flight begins and ends with a saison, offering the Belgian Pale (L’ogre de Turvueren) second. The first had the delightfully flowery farm-field nose I enjoyed, with some noted wheat aroma, flavor, and body backing it up; not quite the bright and fruity example that I usually wish to delight my tongue, but it’s a solid drinker certainly. The Pale follows with some great mouthfeel, refreshing maltiness and just that hint of herbaceous bitter finish. These would be some fantastic food beers to have with a classic smorgasbord of Eastern European fair.
Then we have the Arcturan Mega, of which I humorously listened to multiple people ordering thinking it was the only saison on the menu, infused with Pink Lemon and Ginger. Who knew there was an actual thing as pink lemons? I thought it was just propaganda for giant powdered lemonade corporations. Though the overall flavor additions come in naturally subtle, that almost-bitter, fresh, ginger bite comes in with a light chew, carried by the now much cloudier beer to work around in the mouth for briefly curious contemplation.
Carbonated malt fermentation isn’t the only option of course, Eastlake also keeps Dean’s Kombucha on tap, hosting two different flavors at a time. This is a delicious and affordable option for those not looking for alcohol at the moment, though on the other hand, an interesting idea is offered. Calling it the “One Two Punch,” Eastlake will take any of the Kombuchas and blend it, 50/50, with any of the beers, for the typical $3 13oz Tulip and $5 pint. This price goes for any beer, even the $5 tulips, giving you a chance to try them at a more affordable price, slightly adjusted.
With this, I had a chance to not only get my hands on an extra glass of Eye of the Tiger, which I had been kicking myself in the ankle pretty hard for not ordering after getting my flight, as well as try the Kombucha-element at the same time. On its own, the tiger takes coconut, cardamom, ginger and spices, infusing it into a strong ale; and taking an even further step toward Vietnamese flavors, they used classic palm sugar from the region for the added sucrose element (which strong ales need to ferment big). The resulting beer comes out a dark, richly deep and shiny amber, almost like some of those good sour ales can get.
Mixed with blackberry Kombucha, a sour ale is exactly what it tastes like; deep and rich with a bit of tart happiness on the tongue. The complex spices and other flavors are more subdued, but one can still get gentle bits when they sit and drink through this foamy, malty sour cocktail.
Did I mention they sell bottles too? They’ve bottle a few of their main selections in tall brown-glassed cylinders for purchase alongside their Growler sales purely in-taproom, for anyone who just can’t miss out on the chance to hear that classic ‘pop sizzle’ of opening a good beer.
With the droves of taprooms having set up and still opening near the Downtown and Northeast Minneapolis, Eastlake brings a solid gathering point for Uptown beer lovers, providing an amazingly open venue with great beers, trendy fusion flavors, access to amazing food, and the complete ‘microbatch’ persona we all want to flock to. Perhaps the little area can bring some more breweries like this in the coming years. But until then, I’ll gladly curb my travels down to Midtown when I start getting thirsty for something tasty from a keg.