The taproom (here, called a “tavern”) is directly adjacent to the one-room brew operation. While the crowd successfully captures the namesake road’s kinetic energy, almost ironic dead animal heads lurk above, reminding us we are indeed in Minnesota.
The cozy-yet-hip interior offers variety: TVs and game day deals (Increasingly Lost Saison goes for $3 per pint when a local team is winning), outlets close to bars facing the street for laptop-slinging coffee-shop types, tall shared tables for the familiar biergarten feel, and an air hockey table in the back for the kiddos. On a Tuesday night, it had a strong neighborhood vibe: It was filled with people who had clearly biked there, wore the brewery’s gear, and looked like owner Ryan Pitman, bearded and kind-eyed.
The beers, showcased on a trendy subway tile backdrop, are competitively priced at $5 for a true pint (16 oz of beer, 3 oz of space for head) and $3-$5.50 for a 10-13 oz tulip pour. We tried two of the three flights available, the “malty” and “hoppy,” leaving the “Belgian” one behind. Most of the beers tasted a little safe. The Mud in Your Eye brown ale had a Belgian yeast flavor that may have been intentional, but felt imbalanced and thin. The Stick Style IPA was too malty and not bright enough to be a solid flagship IPA. The Slop City rye stout, while an admirable effort, was lacking in both bitter rye flavors and the dark, smoked malt flavor we expect from the hybrid style.
The stars of the show were in the Belgian realm, and the heavy-hitters unavailable in flight form. The Nicollet Mauler Black IPA on nitro was a frothy treat wrapped up with an elegantly hopped bow. The chocolate and coffee notes played well with a nitro-softened, pine-scented bitterness that managed to linger with each sip without sabotaging the overall smoothness.
With the figurative and literal support of the Midtown Global Market and the steady audience it brings in, it seems likely that Eastlake will continue to improve as Pitman learns more about his audience’s tastes and his own skill. However, Pitman and team will have to step outside their comfort zone and experiment with more adventurous beers — like some of their current specialties — to home in on the post-modern environment they seek to foster.
Minneapolis, MN 55407