It has been almost a year since Roseville’s Pour Decisions and Bent Brewstillery (Minnesota’s first combined brewery and distillery) merged, and while the taproom has been open since August 2014, it has yet to hit its stride. The facility is in a warehouse located behind rows of strip malls. Beside its stark patio is an ominously blank door with the words “The Foreign Service” above it.
The taproom makes a hodgepodge first impression: One sees a vintage piano topped with family-friendly games, a Scarface poster, and 1950s-style vinyl booths. Classic rock plays over the speakers a smidgen too loud. The room’s best feature is the crescent-shaped bar that dominates almost half the room.
Bent Brewstillery takes a different approach from other local craft breweries because it also distills alcohol. To quote their website, “brewing is cool; distilling is sexy.” Bent’s goal for both is to “bend” traditional styles and make beverages that push boundaries and palates. The execution of the current beers on tap, however, seems to be less well thought out.
There are four beers and a wine currently on tap, and they make a ragtag collection: Nordic Blonde (amber blonde ale), MOAR (Scottish session style IPA), Funked Up Series #5 (Belgian Berlin urbock), #4 Nourishing Stout (chocolate XXX stout), and #3 Orange Blossom Gewurztraminer Pyment (honey wine made with grapes). The tastiest tipple is what they call Mocha Stout: the #4 Nourishing Stout with a shot of their Bent Up Coffee — it’s cold-pressed coffee on nitro.
The Belgian urbock, while showing some brewing prowess, is somewhat startling with a peppery fruitiness. The Nordic Blonde tastes like a gateway beer for lager-only lovers, creating a generally underwhelming flavor experience, even for a blonde ale. The MOAR is probably the most unusual, as a different take on a session beer, a popular move right now in the Twin Cities craft-beer scene. Definitely not devised for hopheads, despite the claim on the menu that it has a “ripping hop heavy finish,” at 47 IBUs, it was well-balanced and had the right amount of piney bitterness for a low-gravity IPA.
The Nourishing Stout sans cold press is two-dimensional and thin. Sweet and chocolaty, it slipped down the throat without a trace. However, the honey wine is fruity and effervescent, bright and sweet, like sunshine in a glass. With slightly less depth than one would expect from an all-grape wine, the breadth it brings to the menu is greatly appreciated.
Average beers, in tandem with the disparate taproom decor — which also includes electrical outlets in the bar and the Wi-Fi password on the menu — create an odd experience overall. To add to the opacity, spirits can be tasted only after a brewstillery tour (schedule unknown). One can only hope that the beers coming out of Bent’s small barrel-aging program are more exciting than the ones on tap, and that the occasional return of the fan favorite, the Dark Fatha (American imperial stout), will drum up more excitement.
Bent Brewstillery, 1744 Terrace Drive, Roseville, MN 55113; 844-TRY-BENT; Wed-Thu 4-10 p.m., Fri 2:30-p.m., Sat noon-11 p.m., Sun 1-5 p.m.