On one of the few beautiful weekend days left to us in the Minnesota, our friends Randy and Andrea invited us to join them on Lake Minnetonka for an afternoon of boating and relaxation. Prior to this outing we met up at the fairly new Wayzata Brew Works for a bite and some brews…and for me to get a chance at ticking off another brewery from my ever expanding list!
The brewery is located in Wayzata within the historic Moore Johnson Boatworks building, right on the waterfront of Lake Minnetonka. My wife (Sj) and I used to come down to this building for the now defunct restaurant NorthCoast. The fantastic chef there (Ryan Aberle) was the one who introduced us to coursed wine dinners, and then beer dinners. I remember sitting down on the lutyens garden bench to a Surly beer dinner there when they were just over a year old and had brought on of their first kegs of Coffee Bender to test out on us! While that restaurant is now gone, the bar itself lives on in Wayzata Brew Works! This place is just a newborn babe on the Minnesota beer scene–opening May of 2016–and as such I usually wouldn’t review them yet. However, when I find a place doing good work, I feel obligated spread the word early.
On this fine sunny Saturday afternoon we met up with our friends Randy and Andrea on the outdoor patio, facing the docked boats and the sparkle of gently rolling waves. A large yellow umbrella provided shade and a mild breeze kept us cool. I promptly ditched my wife and friends to run about taking pictures with my camera. The brewery itself is well decorated with mostly polished wood boating periphernalia, including motors, vintage posters, and even an entire wooden boat mounted upside-down on the ceiling! A shiny new stainless steel brewery and a tiny copper still are located behind glass at the rear of the main bar area.
I was surprised at how empty the place was on a Saturday (I’ve seen the joint jumping before from our friend Shawn’s boat out on the lake) but maybe everyone in Wayzata was at the Ryder Cup that weekend. This worked out well for us since we had easy parking, seating, and service! As usual I had to order the big sampler so I could try all the beers…a good way to get a feel for strengths and weaknesses of a brewer. They also have the ability to serve some frozen pizzas and soft pretzels so we ordered a couple pizzas to go with our beers.
Our server, Anna, was very friendly and knowledgeable about the beers, which is always a big deal for me at breweries! She brought out my beer samples in two boat shaped wooden paddles that were pretty cool and spot-on for the style of the brewery.
Here’s where I get all “Beer Judge-y” on the place! My personal rating scale goes like this: 3 is a decent beer that I would finish a pint of; 4 is a great example of the style and I’d readily order it again; and 5 is one I’d drive all over creation to find more of. Here goes in the order I tasted them.
- Kolsch: I’ve been seeing a lot more of these around recently, and that is a very good thing! This one is bright and crisp–bordering on lager-like. I get more citrus hop and a hint of melon than expected for the style, but I like it. 3.75
- Brown Ale: Deep brown in color. Roasty notes bordering on a porter, but has a pleasant English malt background that adds compexity. 3.75
- Moore Moore Moore: A light lager made for the boat crowd. Not bad. Light and refreshing like it should be. Hint of lime? Difficult to hide flaws in this style and this one is spot on. 3.75-4
- Shandberry: A shandy made with the Moore and strawberry lemonade. To me this was overly sweet and a bit fake flavoring tasting. I also hate shandies. Sj thought this was not bad. I won’t rate it because I thing shandy is a travesty and know that’s my own bias.
- Hoppeweissen: A very hoppy wheat-based beer. Plenty of hop in aroma and flavor–borders on astringent due to bitterness. Does have an unusual tropical fruit flavor on the finish that I like. 3.5
- English Ale: A very smooth and pleasant beer. Distinct Golden Promise malt character. Tangerine and herbal hop notes that remind me of Surly’s Bitter Brewer. Ah, glacier hops! My favorite of the sampler. 4
- Belgian Wit: Perhaps the coriander and orange peel are a bit too extreme in this one. Bitter finish. Not my fave. 3
- Wayzata Bay IPA: Very strong citrus hop aroma with hint of malt. Flavor is more malty and caramel than expected. Strong hopping in flavor but sweeter and more mellow than expected from aroma. Not bad. 3.5
Overall, I was happily surprised by the quality of the beers. While I don’t think Wayzata has jumped to my top breweries of the year, every beer was drinkable and they had none of the classic fermentation flaws that I’m getting tired of with new (and some not so new) breweries in the area. Looking on the website, the Head Brewer is Tim Manley who has a brewing degree from the Siebel/Germany program. I feel like he has a good grasp on the base styles here, and is putting his own spin on things (Jarrylo hops? Hoppy weissen? Glacier hops in an English ale?) but doing this well and not just throwing random stuff in to see what happens. Other than the shandy, I’d drink any of these beers and be happy to visit the place again. I’m looking forward to seeing what beers Tim (and GM/brewer Rich Anderson) put together over the coming year.
I’m curious about the distilling side of things, but didn’t get a response when I sent a question to the folks at the brewery. Following in the footsteps of Roseville’s Bent Brewstillery, these guys have combined the beers and spirits into one business and location. Unfortunately for these hybrid businesses, due to a stipulation on the taproom laws they’re unable to serve both beers and hard liquor, despite the fact that both are created there. This is unfortunate, because I would have loved to try a cocktail or sip of the brand new spirits they are working on. This will also cause problems with brand recognition for the spirits in the future. Good luck I say!
I’m going to be honest here–I went into this brewery visit with somewhat low expectations. I assumed that this place was a cash-grab location dependent place that would put out mediocre to poor quality beer but get along by location alone. We’ve all seen them before. However, once I had hesitantly sampled two beers, I felt a smile crossing my face and immediately felt that I had been wrong to pre-judge. For my reviews of breweries I try to let the beer speak to me, but account for overall vibe and service as part of my overall rating. Based on our visit this fine fall day, I’d give Wayzata Brew Works good marks all around. Add in the youth of the place and it jumps out compared to several of the other new breweries I’ve been to in the past year. Worth a visit!
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