The Major League Baseball winter meetings just wrapped up in December, as did the second annual Beersball Christmas bottle exchange (I got a Mobcraft Arabian Date Night, pretty excited tbqh), and it's the end of the year -- okay, technically the start of a new one -- so what better time than now to look back on Beersball 2014? We hit two cities this year, and recommendations? We've got 'em.
A whim of a notion in 2013 -- "Hey should we do two of these next year?" -- became reality as we arrived in the shadow of the Arch at the end of May. I've detailed a lot of the hits of this edition of Beersball in a previous post (Kyle Ate Here - 2014 at halftime), so I'll just run them down for you now.
- Strange Donuts. Seriously, the place that's still haunting both our dreams and waking moments. We're so fully in the bag for this joint that we've considered trying to schedule Beersball 2015 around what Stranger special will be on offer.
- The Bridge. Growler fills of almost everything on tap, and it's a BIG tap list. Cozy second floor (though it gets a bit hot in the warmer months). Savory bread pudding. Don't sweat that it's part of a restaurant group; Madison, I have to tell you you have way too big of a hangup about that shit.
- Bailey's Range. Same restaurant group as above, but burgers and shakes at this place. Appropriately sized shakes, too, so you can get a large and not feel like a total hog.
- Schlafly Bottleworks. Quite possibly the most gorgeous brewery beergarden you'll find. The pavilion was added on in 2012 and it's just amazing. Beers are pretty dang good too.
- Perennial Artisan Ales. Listen, I won't lie: I bigtimed it here, with multiple friends who work in the beer industry getting us some slightly special treatment (COUGHbarrel-agedSumpCOUGH). But even without the connections, Perennial is great shit and the understated taproom is fun. There's old-school darts -- real metal tips! Though now that Side Project is up and running over in Maplewood, we may have to split time...
- Craft Beer Cellar. Beersball must contain a bottle-shopping trip, and CBC was where we landed. A new shop, doing some great work, with a solid email newsletter game, too. It's one location out of many, but good stuff.
(You may notice, if you're paying a frankly weird level of attention to the Beersball phenomenon, that two things were left off the recommendation list. First, Blind Tiger -- which was fun, if not stellar -- closed earlier this year. Second, the actual baseball part of Beersball: St. Louis was kind of a bummer. Rain delays, mediocre beer selection, and no real noteworthy ballpark novelty food. We'll probably skip the game here next year. But speaking of skipping the game.)
This was the third year of Beersball: Minneapolis, and we completely trashed our traditions for this outing. No baseball game (inconvenient day-night doubleheader schedule change), no Brit's Pub, no footlong sausage at the Butcher and the Boar's beergarden. We did rectify one serious miss, though.
- Matt's Bar. Yep, the Jucy Lucy. How we'd managed to not prioritize this place for two years is beyond me. Cheap, not-even-that-shitty beer, really solid fries, and a burger stuffed with molten cheese? GTFO.
- The Four Firkins. Forever the official Beersball beer shopping stop in Minneapolis. Our dude Michael has moved on to new and exciting challenges, but we'll still be back in 2015. We might even pay him a visit at his new gig.
- Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. This place, literally something like 20 steps from our hotel, pretty much nailed every beer we tried. They even put up with our drunken asses when we asked for taster glasses after deciding that it'd be a good idea to blend two complementary beers. (Spoiler alert: it totally was.)
- Victory 44. Slightly inscrutable -- a mobile browser-pesky website, a menu that provides very little detail -- and way more modernist than I expected (dill pickle gel spheres with your tater tots, natch), Victory 44 served up some really exceptional liver and onions, if slightly glacial service.
- Kyatchi. You want service? Owner Sarah Peterson has the service at Kyatchi running like a well-oiled machine. Though, when the State Fair is sapping your business, and there's just one table full of fairly food-literate dudes (hi!), it's easy for the boss to hang out and chat. But Peterson was never over-present, chummily conversational but brief, and the whole visit (yes, including the Japanese/American hot dogs and potato salad, and more traditional izakaya fare) was a real treat.
- The Minnesota State Fair. I mean, duh, right? Of course this was the first state fair -- for any state -- that I'd ever been to. It was both absolutely worth it, and totally in keeping with the Beersball ethos: A thing we haven't done? Let's do it!
"A thing we haven't done? Let's do it!" Way to be on-the-nose with your New Year's optimism messaging, Kyle. Happy New Year, you guys.