Brewery Bound: Hayes’ Public House

On a lazy Fall Saturday, I find myself outside the 494/694 loop in search of good Minnesota craft beer. As a resident of St. Paul, I rarely get to Buffalo, MN. However, tonight I am finally checking out Hayes’ Public House.

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday is discover a new place to drink. I also find that the successful breweries outside of the Twin Cities happen to really take on the feel of their community. Who knew that I was about to discover the welcoming and communal feel of an Irish pub in a brewery in Buffalo, MN?

The Publican

I have met Pugs Hayes, the owner of Hayes’ Public House, a few times at various craft beer events, and once at Lupulin Brewing Company. In those cases, it was very busy, and I never really conversed with him. As I walk in, I am happy to see Pugs hanging out behind the bar. I anticipate an easier chance to converse and get to know him tonight.

If there is one thing I love, it is a brewery owner with a sense of humor. When Pugs told me my flight would be 84.00, without missing a beat, I replied that I had to run out to my car and get my sack of quarters. He laughed and I realized that I was in for a treat. Pugs’s sense of humor is drier than his amazing and true-to-style Irish Stout. He is definitely in his element on this Saturday evening. I watch him converse, laugh, and one conversation at a time, make people know that their presence at Hayes’ Public House is important to him.

As more people filter in from the outdoors, the cacophony of conversation and laughter provides a soundtrack to my evening. I love it here, and I haven’t even had a sip of beer yet.

Sometimes it Feels Like a Pub, Sometimes it Don’t

The Hayes’ Public House taproom is a rarity in Minnesota in the sense that it feels like a pub. All cards on the table, I have never been to Ireland. However, I have been to many Irish-inspired places to drink that call themselves pubs. I think that when a drinking establishment annoints itself as a pub, that automatically sets an undeliverable set of expectations. I hate to say it, but many of those self-proclaimed pubs feel more like an Applebee’s on St. Paddy’s Day than a true Irish pub. Slap a few shamrocks on the walls, wear a green polo, and call it good, they say. Well, that is just a bunch of bollocks.

Hayes’ goes past the self-proclaimed pub and actually has the pub feel. The first thing I notice is that there are not seats at the bar. If you want to sit, you have to do so at any of the many tables scattered around the place. The taproom has a cozy feel to it. The tables and chairs are all wooden and of various shapes and levels of wear. Looking around the room, I see many people who clearly know each other and are conversing. I also see newcomers having some very safe Minnesotan small-talk. What will people do once they go through the weather? I guess we are about to find out.

The aesthetics of the taproom go a long way in providing that pub atmosphere. Flags of various sports teams and clubs hang from the ceiling amidst lights on strings. The weathered wooden tables have probably heard countless stories and soaked up more belly laughs than drops of stout. The backdrop for conversation is perfect. However, we all know that a brewery is only as good as the beer they serve.

Time to Tipple!

I decide to go with a flight since I have quite the drive ahead of me to get back home. There are quite a few things I want to try, but I will just have to make another trip out to round out the other ones I miss this time around.

Uroica Scottish Heather Ale

This beer is not an homage to a former girlfriend of the barkeep, rather, it references a spice that used to be used as a substitute for hops in Scotland. This is a variation of a recipe dating back 2000 years. Pugs explains that you have to use a lot of heather in the beer. A more traditional heather ale uses oats as a filler. I have to say that the Hayes’ Public House take on this beer is tremendous. The Uroica has an herbal and spicy aroma that I really like. It drinks really crisp, and I like how the heather comes across. It finishes almost dry which just makes your palate scream for more.

O’Ruaidhri Irish Red Ale

The first beer that I ever liked was Killian’s Irish Red. It had a nice malty flavor, or so I thought. Back then, and we are talking early 2000s, my palate left much to be desired. Now, a good 18 years later, I realize that compared to this O’Ruaidhri Irish Red Ale, that Killian’s wasn’t so special.

The roasted malt aroma of the O’Ruaidhri Irish Red only magnifies the tremendous aesthetics of my pub experience. The flavors are a rich mix of toasted bread and nutty flavors. The body is medium, and it finishes relatively dry. A few more of these and I might be tempted to dance a jig on the stage. Then again, why ruin a perfectly good night with a pulled groin and a citation? I opt to stick with the the drinking and leave kicking-up of heels to Michael Flatley.

Hayes’ Irish Stout

A good Irish Stout is like meeting up with an old friend. It could be a few weeks or month between visits, but you can always pick up right where you left off. I think that this style of beer is perfect for a night of decompression and conversation. The 4.3% ABV will keep you minding your Ps & Qs.

However, it would be a mistake to think that due to the low ABV that this is not a special beer. The waking aromas of fresh ground coffee and dark chocolate excite my olfactory senses immediately. The roasted dark malt bitterness gives the beer character and edge. The finish is dry and makes it easy to keep sipping.

Daiker’s Wee Heavy

I love a good Wee Heavy. The wonderful combination of body and malty flavors make this a go-to for me when there is a chill in the air. The Daiker’s Wee Heavy has a familiar aromas of toffee and peat. The flavors of caramel, brown bread, molasses, leather, and even a hint of anise blend together wonderfully. The body of this beer is smooth and fulfilling. At 9% ABV, this is not a session beer, although I am sure many have tried to make it so. I like this flavor and level of booze to enjoy slowly over a good conversation.

Bonus Beer-BA Russian Imperial Stout

In Godfather III, Al Pacino says, “Just when I think I am out, they pull me back in.” As I am halfway through my flight board, Pugs bring me over an additional taster of something that looks like liquid black magic. It is a sample of their barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout that is for an anniversary release.

This beer is full of molasses, bourbon, and dark fruit aromas. The flavors of dark chocolate are fully on display amidst this slightly boozy delight. As it warms up, flavors of fig vanilla, toffee, and brown sugar step into the spotlight. Pugs used Jack Daniels Bourbon barrels to age this beer and it turned out to be a stellar way to end my visit.

Why You Need To Drink at Hayes’ Public House

At the point in time when there are roughly 8,000 craft breweries in the United States, it may seem like it is hard to keep track of all of them. People always ask me if we are becoming saturated or if the bubble is close to bursting. I have seen enough market data to let me know that growth in craft breweries has slowed, but it is still growing. A number of years ago, there was no craft brewery in Buffalo, MN. Pugs saw a need for a place for the community to gather and he helped create this place.

If every brewery that opened had the character and variety of beers on tap that Hayes’ Public House delivers, we could hit 16,000 breweries and not slow down. The fact that this brewery exists so far outside the Twin Cities and thrives reinforces the mantra of “If you build it, they will come.” I told Pugs that I will be back sooner than later. I walked out of Hayes’ Public House legitimately impressed by the entire experience from the beers to the people, and I think you owe it to yourself to enjoy it, too. Prost!

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .