Taste the Town

As much as I’d like to be, I am not a foodie.

I do take Insta-worthy pics of my meals, but I don’t think I can really be a foodie if the first foods I want when I return to Minnesota are Top the Tater and fried cheese curds. I’m pretty sure this does make me a true Minnesotan, though. By the way, have you ever dipped cheese curds in Top the Tater? Amazing. Seriously. Try it. Thank me later. Just don’t send me your doctor bills when you end up with coronary artery disease.

What!?! You haven’t heard of Top the Tater??? Well, let me help you. You can learn all about it here. But, you can’t get it shipped overseas. A sad truth. Possibly a reason to move back home.

But I digress. As I was saying, I’m not a foodie. I’m more of a drinkie. Is that a word? If not, it should be.

A favorite New Griswolds activity when we return to Minnesota is exploring brewhouses, ciderworks, and distilleries. Here is a rundown of our summer tour…

*I am not a social influencer or paid promoter. I receive no compensation for these reviews. However, if any of these businesses would like to offer a free beverage to me next time I’m in town, I’d graciously accept.

Invictus Brewing (Blaine): Their beer menu changes quite often. We were there twice, about 2 weeks apart. If you enjoy one of their beers, stock up while you can. It might be not be there the next time around. On the first visit, we tried 2 Apple Shine ciders – a raspberry and a cranberry. The raspberry was a bit on a sweet side for Jim’s taste. Both were light and refreshing. On a sunny day, they would be a perfect treat. Even on the rainy day we were there, they were quite nice. The second time we visited, we tried two sours: Gimmie That Razz and For the Passion. I enjoyed the Razz very much. It’s effervescence added to the sour flavor just enough. The Passionfruit flavor was a bit odd as a beer. I enjoyed it, but likely would not order it again. I do hope the Razz is available when we visit again next year.

Invictus is a favorite brewery of mine. It just happens to be in our old neighborhood, though it opened after we moved. More importantly, they are committed to being good stewards of resources and the environment. You can read more about their focus on sustainability on their Facebook page.

Source: The Tipsy Steer Facebook page

The Tipsy Steer: This restaurant is located within Invictus brewery and another we visited, High Pines. So, yes, we ate there 3 times in 5 weeks. Totally worth it. The Tipsy Steer provides delicious pub snacks as well as a diverse menu of meal options. They focus on locally sourced ingredients and are “passionate about serving you the tastiest selections while also supporting local farmers and businesses.” We tried the Bavarian Pretzels with Gouda (amazing!), Spinach Citrus Salad (light, refreshing, fantastic mix of flavors), Short Rib Grilled Cheese (gooey, flavorful, very filling), Cheeseburger (one of the best in the Cities according to our teen burger connoisseur), and the kid’s Mac-n-Cheese (yummy! was the description of our youngest). I don’t think you can go wrong with any choice on the menu. The recipes are clearly created with much thought put into how flavors will mix and the portion size in generous. Even the kids’ meal required a to-go box! Check out their Facebook Page for more information about their philosophy, menu and events.

One place our kids desperately wanted to go to eat before leaving the US was The Olive Garden. Those bread sticks!!! We don’t have one in Hong Kong (there wasn’t one in Bahrain either). On our way there, we passed a restaurant that closed years ago, Joe’s Crab Shack. As we turned the corner, I said, “Hey! That’s a new brewery!” We did take the kids to Olive Garden that night, but soon after found our way to High Pines Brewing.

High Pines Brewing (Roseville): The space is huge, with ample outdoor space with patio games for the whole family to enjoy. I enjoyed a sampler that included their Bahama Llama with Coconut (I was pleasantly surprised by the smooth, sweet, but not overpowering, coconut flavor), Love Letters to Whatever w/raspberry (the fresh, fruity flavor was refreshing on a warm day), S.assy O.ld U.nicycle R.ider (very SOUR, which suited me well). We also ordered food from the Tipsy Steer menu. In addition to food, we ordered the Psycho Milkshakes. Psycho is an apt description. The Cookies and Cream comes with a 2.5 inch diameter sandwich cookie on top. The Chocolate Dream Xtreme, well, the name says it all. It has a brownie AND a cupcake balanced precariously atop a mound of whipped cream.

The only disappointment at High Pines was that I missed out on their 0.5K fun run by one day. Maybe next year. You can find more information about their events on their Facebook page.

Torg (Spring Lake Park): Torg became an instant favorite. Besides a vast list of brews that includes several dark beers – often difficult to find in the summer – and an expansive space that includes a patio, entertainment room and several gaming spaces, the brewmaster was incredibly welcoming. Dave chatted us up, sharing stories of his experiences overseas. We discovered we’d both spent time in Bahrain. Small world!

Again, I tried a sampler (best way to get a feel for a brewery, I believe). I started with Libidinous, a Hefeweizen. It was a light, tasty summer drink. From there, I went to the Pilsbrucker (a refreshing, light Kolsch), Rambling Lady (smooth start, bitter finish – apt name), and finished with their Randy Paramour (a bit malty with a smooth finish). I also purchased a crowler of the current specialty beer to enjoy at home. The label was absolutely beautiful – they have a set of 4 – but sadly, I can’t remember the name… something with Marshmallow. As the name implies, it was quite sweet. Definitely a sipper for me, but quite enjoyable.

If I lived in the area, I would definitely purchase a membership at Torg. You can learn more here or check out the Torg community on Facebook. If you have the chance, attend one of the many events at Torg and enjoy a pint and conversation with Dave. You won’t be disappointed.

Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Company (Wisconsin Dells): A trip home would not be complete without the annual “reunion” gathering with several other families at Wisconsin Dells and the traditional visit to Moosejaw. Moosejaw is the only brewpub in Wisconsin Dells. It’s a favorite of kids and adults alike, with their beers, seltzers, homemade sodas (my kids can’t get enough of them) and moose ears to wear, not to mention their unique delivery vehicles.

Source: Dean Heyboer Jr., Moosejaw Facebook page

Although I’ve been there often and know the tastes of most of their brews, I still always get the sampler. This year, I settled for the 8-pointer rather than the full 12. My favorites from the sampler: Rustic Red (my perennial favorite), Strawberry Lemon-Ale, Relaxin Raspberry, and their Pear Seltzer.

I do want to give praise to the servers who worked with us the night we were there. We had a party of 38, with over 20 kids aged 2 to 14. The staff was organized, helpful, friendly, efficient, and got all of our orders right. Not an easy task. When you get great service, do what we did, make a point of telling the manager on duty… and, of course, leave a healthy tip!

We packed a plethora of tasting into the few weeks we had back home this summer. The Asian leg of our tasting tour now begins. First stop: Hong Kong.

What do you think? I welcome your feedback.

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