Today in the Toast: Eagan’s Bald Man Brewing, cocktails at Hi Lo and more.
A First Look at Bald Man Brewing
With help from the city of Eagan, Bald Man Brewing has become the first brewery in the area just south of the Minnesota River. Officials agreed to rezone the building to allow for the operation, which officially opened on August 27. Owner Dan Jacobs and head brewer Tristan Kusnierek intentionally launched the business in an area with little access to taprooms in the belief that their customers shouldn’t have to go north into the 494/694 loop for quality beer.
The taproom space is open, with a layout and open tanks similar to those at Urban Growler, plus a semiprivate boardroom space and an outdoor patio. At first glance, it’s farm-chic meets contemporary. Barn doors divide the space, while an oversized chalk drawing covers much of one wall. A long bar offers drinkers an opportunity to interact with friendly staff.
Beer prices are reasonable: A flight of 5 beers is a good deal at only $8. Two sizes of pours are available, and growler fills are offered, but only in proprietary glass.
Kusnierek was an intern at Lift Bridge Brewing Company after training through the American Brewer’s Guild, and he has been involved in home brewing since the early ’90s. Bald Man houses a 20-bbl system, similar in size to that of Able Seedhouse or Bent Brewstillery. Overall the beer showed promise, but much of it missed the mark.
The most problematic beer was the blonde ale, Blinded by the Light ($4 for a pint). It was oddly odorless, even with some headspace in the glass. The flavor, though, was intensely clear. Heavy notes of malty cereal precisely mimicked the flavor of Kix. The corny notes didn’t dissipate or intensify over time, making it seem like breakfast in a glass in the worst way. On warming it became more metallic.
An improvement is the Young American Pale Ale ($5). This beer didn’t display any off-flavors but overall it was oddly bland. After a few sips, there was an intense, growing, unpleasant bitterness that lingered in the back of the throat. This type of hopping is lacking in character and seems present only to increase the perceived bitterness of the beer. For improved flavor and aroma, more late-addition hops or different varieties of hops would be needed.
One of the more promising beers of those available now is the Tupelo Honey Brown Ale ($5). An immediate malty aroma with pleasant nutty notes sets this beer apart. Its body, too, leaves a medium heaviness on the tongue without any unpleasant slickness. Unfortunately, this beer is too sweet, even for an American brown ale. While not wortlike in taste, its sweetness doesn’t have the flavor one would expect from honey. Due to the quality of carbonation and the sweet aftertaste, it’s ultimately cola-like.
The most impressive beer at Bald Man is also the first beer brewed on its current equipment. Calibration Day SMASH ($5), an acronym that means Single Malt And Single Hop, is made exclusively with the Mosaic strain of hops. Much more aromatic than the other hoppy beers, Calibration Day is set apart by its fresh citrus and passion fruit notes. The drawback is that it is uncharacteristically light in body, meaning that it doesn’t fit IPA standards, but it is nonetheless enjoyable.
There is currently no timeline for distribution of kegs or packaged beer, so the taproom will be the only place to find Bald Man for the foreseeable future.
Bald Man Brewing, 2020 Silver Bell Rd, Suite 25, Eagan, MN 55122; 651.600.3164; Tue-Thu 3 p.m.-11 p.m., Fri -Sat 11 a.m.-midnight, Sun 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Mon closed
Hi-Lo Diner Cocktails
Hi-Lo Diner in the Cooper neighborhood of Minneapolis offers something not found at most other diners, and would be entirely unexpected from a quaint classic dining car: a full liquor license. About 12 tap beers are available at Hi-Lo, plus a variety of cocktails, including several made with ice cream. Our team has consistently been impressed with the food at Hi-Lo, and the cocktails offer another reason to pay a visit.
The Fjord Fiesta appears as a fruity summer cocktail but avoids being overly sweet or tropical. It is made using Tattersall Aquavit and Cocci Americano, with lemon, cinnamon, and pineapple. A splash of Senior Blue Curacao adds dimension. Dominant flavors are citrus with anise and spicy cinnamon as well as faint pineapple. It is crafted in the spirit of a grownup tiki drink while also being a nice intro to fall flavors. The cinnamon stick adds aroma and depth while sipping.
If classics are what you’re after, the Fender Bender is a twist on an Old Fashioned. Rebel Yell Bourbon anchors the taste, but the Cynar and Carpano Antica build after a few sips. The maple waxes and wanes but remains mild. The balance of this drink is less successful — those who enjoy herbaceous, almost astringent mixed drinks would approve. The bitter orange character in the finish in universally appealing.
Dessert and booze come together in a selection of ice-cream-based cocktails that are refined, yet possess characteristics of classic malt flavors like cocoa, banana, and maraschino. The grownup milkshakes are served in tulip glasses, and are thankfully much smaller than the typical diner malt but the perfect size for enjoying. High-quality ice cream, Sebastian Joe’s Minneapolis Vanilla Bean, and heavy cream set these concoctions up for success. They are served with a straw — just too thin to be spoonable — and a layer of froth sits atop the more viscous liquid below.
The Aaron Brrrr is perfect for banana malt fans, as it’s made with a fresh banana, Plantation Dark Rum, Geijer Glögg, and house orgeat, garnished with pecans. Rum and vanilla are certainly prominent, but the creamy nature cuts any alcoholic heat while the almond from the orgeat pairs perfectly with the banana. A hard-to-screw-up combination? Possibly. But the high-quality ingredients are key to the symphony here, which could otherwise have come off like a sugary, alcoholic malt. Even one might make rude straw sounds in the bottom of the glass in public, the drink isn’t as decadent or guilt-inducing as it appears.
Service can be a bit spotty and is often faster at a table than at the bar, depending on how busy the place is. But the wait for a table isn’t bad typically, especially when the patio is open. The overwhelming amount of Tattersall spirits stifles any representation from the rest of the local distilling scene, which is a ding on an otherwise strong menu.
EastLake Kirby Pucker #10 featuring DuNord botanicals
EastLake Brewery in the Midtown Global Market has released the 10th beer in its Kirby Pucker sour series. The newest bottle, named The Long Goodbye after the Raymond Chandler novel, is inspired by the gimlet cocktail. In partnership with DuNord Craft Spirits, the aromatics from the distillery’s Fitzgerald Gin, including citrus peel and juniper berries, were used in the creation of the beer.
Rather than going through a straightforward, controlled fermentation, the wort is allowed to cool over time in the vessel, allowing microorganisms present on the grains or in the air to take on the sugary liquid. After this process has begun, lactobacillus is dumped into the tank for added funk. (When microorganisms are added to wort it is called “pitching.”)
On pouring, the aroma is immediately tart with a barnyard funk and spicy phenolic notes. There is a pleasant grassy element that follows through into the first few sips. The beer leaves a slightly over-phenolic taste in the mouth, though, including some plastic-like notes. One possible cause is a mild infection due to undesirable microorganisms.
On the other hand, the layering of lime on top of the sour nature of the beer adds an interesting dimension to the sourness. The botanicals do not contribute much, sadly, and the beer did not live up to its potential, overall. The bitterness in the finish is out of place, too, and doesn’t taste as much like hops as it does a byproduct of fermentation.
Bottles are available at the brewery and several local liquor stores.