Bar Abilene is in the midst of reinventing itself. “We’d like to guide people on what beers should be had when,” says Assistant General Manager David Paradeise, who took on his position in July. He’s been working to transition the restaurant from 12 to 24 taps, meeting with lots of local breweries, and designing a revolving list of craft beers to suit the seasons.
As part of the transition, on September 26 Bar Abilene hosted Lucid and Badger Hill breweries for a beer dinner that just pulsed with the kind of camaraderie that can bring out the best in many. Lucid and Badger Hill’s alternating proprietorship over their 10,000-square-foot brew space in Minnetonka is the kind of fledgling relationship that makes you hold your breath (we spoke in depth with Lucid in 2011 and Badger Hill this summer). But so far, so good. And with Chef Angel Campoverde’s menu as a travel guide of sorts, we finally tested their unique flavors side by side.
Within their partnership, you could call Lucid “The Dabbler” and Badger Hill “The Rock.” Lucid’s arsenal swings from an energetic IPA to a light, session-worthy beer, while Badger Hill is slowly establishing itself as a master of balance.
“We talk about it [our brews] in advance and we never butt heads,” says Lucid’s Jon Messier, who first met the Badger Hill crew at Barley John’s one famous St. Patrick’s Day. Like a good friendship, the two groups complement one another. “And we drink a lot of beer together,” says Messier.
At Bar Abilene, Badger Hill’s Three Tree rye arrived with the chef’s buttery salmon carpaccio. “This was a big risk for us,” says Badger partner Brittany Krekelberg. “A lot of people do really hopped-up ryes, but we wanted to do something different.” Brewed with seven grains, Belgian malt, and 23 percent rye, Three Tree comes off as a pleasant, non-aggressive beer that opens up as you sip. Its hoppy side is balanced with a gentle maltiness, and the beer slipped in perfectly between bites of the soft, decadent salmon.
With beef tenderloin and roasted Brussels sprouts, we drank Badger Hill’s flagship beer, Minnesota Special Bitter. Despite its name, MSB is even-tempered and played a supportive, palate-cleansing sidekick role to the hearty meat and nutty sprouts. As one fellow diner put it, “It’s not extreme in any way. It’s a go-to ale.”
Lucid brews bookended the meal. Their new pleasantly bitter IPA, called Foto, cut the somber attitude of an earthy, throat-warming lentil soup, and played well with a wonderfully tangy and crunchy quinoa and jicama salad. For dessert, Lucid Air was the obvious companion to Chef Angel’s swoon-worthy take on tres leches cake. A gland-zapping drizzle of passionfruit puree energized the cinnamon-spiced cake. There was lime zest too. And Air was refreshing enough to wash it all down, as well as citrusy enough to keep you drinking after the last bite.
“I’m hoping after this that we can start looking at the menu,” said Paradeise. Chef Campoverde, who infused the night’s menu with good, warm spices characteristic of many Hispanic cuisines — like cumin, chiles, and epazote — doesn’t often get to stretch his talents. According to Paradeise, the restaurant’s menu rarely changes, and they only feature two or three specials a week.
Thirty plus people left Bar Abilene feeling good. The amicable partnership of two distinct breweries, who lent their goods to a restaurant in transition, is a true snapshot of Minnesota’s growing craft beer community, and the sort of eating and drinking going on in the Twin Cities. “Celebration over competition” is one way to describe it. Bar Abilene’s General Manager (also David’s father) Francois Paradeise takes it a mouthful further: “People with passion and fire in the belly — they are the ingredients of success.”