Pros: Excellent sour beers, beautifully lit space
Cons: Pretty much nothing but sour beers, not a log cabin
Number one reason you should go: In the words of my friend Evan, “No one goes to St. Paul.” Which is true, but anyone who follows the Twin Cities beer scene knows Lowertown is popping off right now. Breweries are springing up so fast the City of St. Paul can’t even keep their poster updated. Get in and visit some of them before they get cool.
Before visiting Barrel Theory Beer Company, I looked at pictures online and thought the most distinctive thing about it would be a log cabin vibe. When everyone else was trading in the 30-foot warehouse ceilings and car dealership windshield aesthetic, here was a brewery that would give me a darker, more cozy sauna aesthetic re: this picture.
That was not the case.
Don’t get me wrong, the vibe is good. Chiefly, the vibe is popular. Like, Dangerous Man popular. At 5:30 on a Friday, Barrel Theory was loud and brimming. Though corrugated metal and old farmhouse accoutrements did give it a shack-like vibe, I would still place it in the industrial chic category to which a majority of Twin Cities breweries subscribe, Edison bulbs and all.
Okay, I thought, then perhaps what will set it apart is the fact this campy SyFy movie featuring Betty White (or a Betty White lookalike) is playing on every single television:
But you have Pig Ate My Pizza and Up Down to compete with for ironic movie features.
So maybe it would be Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, the “barrel theory” for which the brewery is named:
…which explains that the capacity of a barrel is always limited by its shortest stave. Picture a barrel on standing upright with varying stave lengths, the content that the barrel can hold isn’t determined by the taller staves, but by its shortest.
At Barrel Theory, we don’t define our brand by our best-selling or most successful product, but by the overall quality of our beers and customer service. Our quality-control philosophy is simple: If the beer isn’t something we are proud of, we won’t serve it to you.
It’s a good thought. Most breweries hang their hat on a signature brew (usually an IPA), but Barrel Thoery takes the tack you’re only as good as your worst brew, so every beer you put out should be something you can hang your hat on.
And this is where things get interesting, because Liebig’s Law of the Minimum seems to have applied here in an unintended way. Specifically, in that about half of Barrel Theory’s beers look, and taste, like Tang.
Now, it’s possible the universal color swayed my perception, but to my taste, none of these every strayed far from the “OJ” side of the flavor spectrum.
Again, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like sour beers. And it’s also not to say Barrel Theory didn’t have other types of beer to try. Their Purple Lamborghini and Java Oats brews helped give the menu a little variety.
Just know if you don’t like sour, sweet, or fruit in your beer, you may be disappointed in Barrel Theory’s options. Check out my Untappd reviews below:
- Purple Lamborghini Berliner Weisse (4/5)
- Java Oats Coffee Stout (3.5/5)
- Raining 3s Double IPA (4.25/5)
- MPG Berliner (4/5)
- Rain Drops Northeast IPA (3.75/5)