Paige Latham Didora
Lupulin Brewing in Big Lake
With so many breweries proximal to the heart of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the amount of airtime that Lupulin Brewing gets may be surprising. The quality of their beer is no secret, though, and their lines at festivals routinely stretch a dozen or more deep.
For the average beer drinker, a 45-minute trip to a taproom may not be a regular thing, but somehow, Lupulin manages to draw from a wide radius. I’d guess that their cans of legendary hazy IPA and the occasional bomber of stout have pushed their reach from taproom to liquor store, resulting in more Big Lake pilgrims.
Given their tagline, “work sucks, drink beer,” they aren’t shy about capitalizing on the commuter crowd. Similarly, the warmer months bring crowds of Minnesotans heading Up North.
Our visit was on an unseasonably warm Sunday. The taproom is located in a strip mall, but a corner spot allows for a patio which was billowing with aromatic campfire smoke all afternoon. We were pleased to find very good, personal service, especially towards those who appeared to be regulars, stepping inside with branded growlers and making quick decisions.
Exclusively on Sundays, Lupulin offers an infused cask, affectionately called BrAdam after Brian Burke and Adam Skjefstad, two taproom employees who faithfully worked Sundays. During this visit, the cask was a red ale from a previous batch infused with oak spirals. The extreme amount of caramel malt and vanilla verged somehow on piña colada, and it was a wonderful introduction to Lupulin, though not at all indicative of what they are known for: hops and lots of them.
Lupulin has become synonymous with their de facto flagship, Hooey, an unfiltered IPA (third from left, above). The menu doesn’t even mention New England, but that’s where this is headed. Hooey is positively worth its hype. The aroma is a bit predictable, with passionfruit, resin, and herbaceous notes. The flavor, however, is far from the yeast-laden NE-syle IPAs you may be familiar with, and their mineral or acrid profiles. Hooey has a soft but not thick mouthfeel without astringency. The finish is pleasantly dry and moderately bitter with jackfruit and pear flavor.
The Belgian Dubbel, made in conjunction with my friends at Beerploma, was also properly attenuated and flavorful. Typical Belgian aromas of bananas foster and mild clove were apparent immediately and became exaggerated on warming. There was a faint acetaldehyde aroma and flavor that dissipated over time, meaning it was possible that the been didn’t condition properly. It was not entirely distracting, though, and the low carbonation and candi sugar notes were much appreciated.
Also on the malty side was the Two Nuts Enligh-Style Brown, a favorite among our group. It could have been the power of suggestion, but the mild esters indicative of UK yeast came through nicely as part of the malt profile. It was light on the palate but potent in its caramel and pecan flavors.
Finally, the Blissful Ignorance, an Imperial IPA, was a textbook example of the style. The increased malt-derived viscosity and honey-like profile were perfectly matched with heavy hopping using Columbus, Mosaic, and Citra. That being said, it somehow left a bit of a generic impression with little personality. It would be interesting to see a twist on the typical double IPA with Southern Hemisphere or experimental hops.
Being in a strip mall, the ambiance leaves something to be desired. However, the owners have made the best of the lofty space, using barnwood above the bar to create a cozy, contained bar. Music is mostly metal and but rock. The taproom often hosts live music and food trucks, though in reality, I have to imagine that most people show up for the beer — and that’s how it should be.
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