Editor’s note: Bill of Fare is a feature on St. Paul dining that runs on the first and third Thursday of each month. Capitol Report is building an online dining guide, which is available here.
Thirsty State Capitol denizens don’t need to venture far to enjoy the fruits of the so-called “Surly bill,” which allows craft breweries to sell pints of their beer in on-site taprooms.
Three of the dozens of taprooms that have opened in the five years since the bill took effect are just minutes away via the Green Line and a short walk.
Visiting them, however, will mean braving possible encounters with (former) fire-eaters, lake-dwelling leviathans (or those who believe in them) and electrical engineers.
At Burning Brothers Brewing, founders Dane Breimhorst and Thom Foss, former Minnesota Renaissance Festival fire eaters, left behind the flaming swords to launch their brewery what they bill as the only dedicated gluten-free brewery in the Midwest.
The gluten-free focus came about because Breimhorst has Celiac disease, an immune disorder that requires him to avoid wheat, barley, rye and other grains with gluten.
The difference from other gluten-free brews, according to the Burning Brothers, is that “our beer tastes like BEER!” Their Pyro American Pale Ale, described as an American twist on an English bitter, and new Grapefruit Infused IPA lived up to their declaration on a recent visit. Gluten-free fare is available when food trucks stop at the brewery.
A few blocks away, Lake Monster Brewing features a “cryptid” theme, welcoming patrons regardless of their belief or skepticism regarding creatures like the Loch Ness monster that thrive in popular culture but have not been scientifically documented.
On the beer menu, Lake Monster’s mission is “exploring the depths of beer flavor” with its own twist on classic beer styles. That exploration ranges from Lake Monster’s hop-heavy Empty Rowboat IPA to its lower-alcohol but still hoppy Buddy Check Session IPA.
With a large bar at its center, Lake Monster’s large brick-and-steel taproom opens onto an even larger patio space for outdoor seating, concerts and events and curbside food truck stops. It’s one of many businesses at Vandalia Tower, the renovated campus of a former King Koil mattress factory at the foot of an old water tower.
In downtown St. Paul, a scientific approach to craft beer is on tap at Tin Whiskers Brewing Co. Tin Whiskers is the brainchild of three electrical engineers who met at the University of Minnesota and worked together at a small engineering company before launching their brewery.
The engineering theme plays out in everything from beer names — including Ampere Amber and Short Circuit Stout — to the circuit board holder for beer flights. The flagship brews here are Flip Switch IPA and Wheatstone Bridge, an American-style wheat beer. The brewery’s anniversary brew, Watts Wheat Wine, is a must for barleywine fans but is nearing the end of its run.
Big windows allow plenty of light Tin Whiskers taproom, with brewing equipment visible behind the large bar. Several restaurants are in the same building.
Burning Brothers Brewing
1750 W. Thomas Ave., St. Paul
Cuisine: Food truck schedule on website
Two most popular beers: Pyro American Pale Ale, Grapefruit Infuse IPA
Cost range: $5.50 and $7 a pint, respectively; flight of four, $9
Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday; 4 to 10 p.m. Friday; 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday; 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Closest Green Line station: Fairview Avenue
Lake Monster Brewing
550 Vandalia St. #160, St. Paul
Cuisine: Food truck calendar on website
Two most popular beers: Empty Rowboat IPA, Buddy Check Session IPA
Cost range: $5 a pint; flights, $2 a glass
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 2 p.m. to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Closest Green Line station: Raymond Avenue
Tin Whiskers Brewing Co.
125 E. 9th St., Unit 127, St. Paul
Cuisine: In same building as Sawatdee, Blacksheep Pizza, Key’s Cafe
Two most popular beers: Flip Switch IPA, Wheatstone Bridge
Cost range: $5 a pint; flights, $2 a glass
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 3 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Closest Green Line station: 10th Street (or about a 15-minute walk from the Capitol)