able seedhouse + brewery now open
How should we sort through the riff raff, so to speak? I get this question a lot – from locals and travelers alike … “where should we go if Mr. BeerFriendFromDenver is in town?” or “Is it really worth driving to Duluth/Rochester/Stillwater for beer?”
First, Minnesota has a lot of great beer; the number of breweries that I routinely advise against are very few. But the liver can only take so much, not to mention other limiting factors like time and money. With that in mind, I often proclaim the tried-and-true over the brand new, but Able Seedhouse + Brewery is an exception.
Able has a dramatically local lens – grain will be sourced from the upper Midwest and Canada, even if that means enlisting the U of M to develop specialty strains of barley or rye to get there.
Even more importantly, however, their beer is very good. I enjoyed a flight on a quiet Sunday, mere hours from the zoo-like opening days, and I essentially had the place to myself. The flight is $8 for 4 pours of about 4 ounces each. Pints, by the way, are $5.
Favorites were hard to choose. Although there were only four beers, each stood alone. None had noticeable flaws and perhaps the only thing that set one above another was personal preference.
Next was the Two Sparrows, a beer I liked so much that I actually wanted it to be better. What do I mean? Two Sparrows is a Wheat Pale Ale (so that’s a thing now). However, the wheat isn’t allowed to contribute much…maybe some softness on the palate. While it isn’t filtered, according to taproom “mastermind” and co-founder, Casey Holley, something is lacking. The malt is 50% wheat, so that is not the issue, but perhaps another yeast strain that allows some residual sugars to sneak by would elevate the balance and the body of this one. But its herbal finish has hooked me and I can’t wait to see where this work-in-progress lands.
Finally, the “session oatmeal milk stout” – a style that’s sure to catch on – clinches the series with immense flavor devoid of the usual accompanying alcoholic heat. Clocking in at an impressively low 3.7% ABV, the BLK WLF drags the mind and the palate out of a flavor-means-alcohol box. But take time to admire the brewing prowess here…not wanting to produce a weak, anemic stout, brewer Bobby Blasey (formerly of Mankato) added oatmeal and lactose for body and residual sweetness. The result is an ideal balance that shines on standard carbonation and on nitro. The coffee and chocolate notes are clear and the texture works. It’s by far the most impressive of the Able beer to any brewing nerds out there.
Able will become a regular spot for me. The staff are kind and knowledgeable, willing to answer questions and genuinely interested in the product and consumer preferences. We were asked multiple times about favorites, criticisms, and whether the music was too loud.
Most importantly, the place doesn’t have the air of complacency that so many new taprooms do. Meaning, I see Able as the curious, experimental, and quality-oriented type. And as their beer continues to improve, their successes will be beneficial to all of us.
To get back to the dilemma of where to spend beer time or where to send travelers, Able is not just a place to stop if it’s convenient. It’s a destination worth adding to any itinerary.