First look inside Tin Whiskers Brewing

A brewery and taproom is coming to the building I live in (the Rossmor) in downtown St. Paul. The owners of Tin Whiskers Brewing Co. held an open house Saturday to meet neighbors. The guys are three electrical engineers who have basement-brewed for several years in Roseville, but are now launching their taproom in the fairer of our Twin Cities.

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Jeff Moriarty (left) and George Kellerman in their new Lowertown St. Paul space. The Tin Whiskers Brewing Co. owners held an open house for friends, family and neighbors Saturday, Dec. 21.

Beer was available for tasting, so I tried the Flip Switch IPA, which contains a variety of American hops and was nicely balanced. The guys said they’re still on track to open in the second quarter of 2014. George said they’re hoping for April if everything goes as smoothly as possible. For now, the owners said they are holding onto their day jobs, joking about how “all the money is in craft beer,” but hey, look at Indeed and its meteoric rise in the local market. It feels like yesterday when I was touring the skeleton of Indeed’s now buzzing taproom in northeast Minneapolis during Art-a-Whirl a few years back. More photos of the space, which looks to be about 3,000 or so square feet with 16-foot ceilings:

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The windows out to Ninth Street. Jeff said one of the reasons he liked the space was because of how much natural light the massive Rossmor building windows provide.

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The windows out toward the Rossmor back parking lot. Jeff said the majority of heavy brewing equipment will line this back wall, and will be partitioned by the bar and seating area that will be closer to the front windows and Ninth Street.

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The owners said this pillar will kind of split the two halves of the space. Behind it will be the brewing equipment, in front of it will be the bar and seating area.

Saint Paul stuff Dec. 3-6

My first visit inside the Minnesota Wild offices building off Rice Park (near the Herb Brooks statue) was to stuff all-you-can-eat finger food from various fine St. Paul restaurants into my beautiful mouth. Apologies, because the name escaped me, but the event gave me an excuse to try out my freshly-tailored Jack Victor, which was nicely slimmed by Tom’s Tailors on Grand (Bonus Fact: Tom actually has a second, less lucrative location in Woodbury “All my business (is) here” he says).

After dropping a napkin on the floor, made buddy Fred pick it up for me because of the nice fit to the pants. Perfect. Well done, Tom. Here’s a festive pic I took from a lobby chair, after eating several delicacies from the likes of Twisted Fork, Salut and Burrito Mercado among others:

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Thursday was hockey night. Snagging the Wild tickets required exposing myself to the elements. First, the car dig-out process after Wednesday’s heavy snow, then, the perilous drive to Highland Park to meet a Craigslist seller. It was 2 p.m., yet Snelling Avenue over 94 maintains a rush-hour worthy level of chaos. Game was fun. We beat the Blackhawks, and the tickets ($92 face, paid $90, oh well) were worth it.

As a wise friend (who is writing a book for his philosophy doctorate at Columbia) once said: "I'm here to watch (insert sport or live event), why would I want other people between me and (said sport)?"

As a wise friend (who is writing a book for his philosophy doctorate at Columbia) once said: “I’m here to watch (insert sport or live event), why would I want other people between me and (said sport)?”

Later on, Artists’ Quarter and Mickey’s for some repulsive (if you haven’t had several drinks) greasy spoon. Swinging into the Artists’ Quarter was quite a treat. If you haven’t heard, the venerable jazz club is set to close Jan. 1. I’ve been in there Wednesday nights where I was maybe one of four people in the audience. Thursday was a bit more busy, and the trio played a mix of Thelonious Monk and originals. What I love about the place: It’s underground. Visitors walk down a flight of stairs, which makes an immediate impression. The door guy has a huge Santa beard. It’s only $5 (most nights). It’s someplace to hunker down on cold nights and drink brown stuff. More than a few Thursday had such drink. I drank beer because of a 5 a.m. shift the next morning.

Hit a few more spots Friday. Ward 6 celebrated its one-year anniversary this week. Had something called Cicero stew, which is chickpeas, broccoli and potatoes in a tomato-based stew served on basmati rice. Another Bonus Fact: My pops grew up a neighborhood away from Cicero, which is a first-ring suburb of Chicago (At least it was a “suburb” when he was growing up). Ward 6 also has Surly Abrasive on tap at the moment. I usually splurge on the overpriced four-packs at least three or four times a winter, since the stuff is so exceptional. It’s like Furious, yet somehow more intensely bitter with an even more cerebral malt after-bite for balance (how do they do it?). Anyway, Ward 6 was moderately packed, with tables occupied, but not packed as in people standing around at the bar.

Louie at Cossetta was decidedly not packed, but there are people who go there Friday night and keep the bar open until around 11, it appears. A bright-eyed, eager-to-please head bartender type was making our cocktails like he invented the list (I think he did). They were good. One was called apple chider, or something close, and was very good and worth trying. I think the owner is trying to build a respectable craft cocktail list like Minneapolis spots such as Eat Street Social or Marvel Bar by putting one ace bartender in charge of them. Ward 6, actually, has its own new-school cocktail list, with Manhattans and other creative drinks for $6 to $8, like an East Side-priced version of those aforementioned MPLS bars.

Last stop was Hot Pants East (the other Hot Pants rendition is at Nomad on the West Bank) at Amsterdam. I love the music and theme, and I really want the Dam to do good, but it’s yet to catch on, like most shows and events I attend at the place. Around 11:30, there were maybe 10 to 15 brave (drunk? naive?) college-aged hipsters limply swaying to soul and funk tunes. The DJs play 45s all night, and they know their stuff and play choice cuts. I had to get out of there before 1. Here’s my formidable Christmas tree:

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Gallery

Northern Spark 2013 in photos

This gallery contains 17 photos.

As promised, a gallery and captions from my time at this year’s Northern Spark festival. Enjoy.  

Northern Spark house burn

Took some video of the house at Northern Spark going up in flames. It’s the first moments of the giant bonfire. The crowd was allowed about 100 yards clearance, and the heat of the inferno could still be felt.

I’ll post more photos and video of the all-night art fest later.

I joined downtown YMCA

This junky elliptical I bought several years ago gave out last February, and I was stuck wondering how to get workouts in amid the horror that is Minnesota winters.

Looked at a couple different gym options. Downtown YMCA is fairly close to me in Lowertown, skyway accessible, and $45 a month if I go 12 times (health insurance benefit). Anytime and places like that are cheaper, but I don’t want to drive anywhere.

Anyway, downtown YMCA is pretty good. The facilities are a bit worn, and there aren’t any sparkling atrium-like mega cardio rooms like some YMCAs around the TC, but the four floors offer a variety of exercise options. There’s a pool, hot tub and sauna. On the fifth floor, a running track circles the basketball courts, a feature that is absent in some other newer YMCAs, including Lino Lakes and White Bear Lake. Mainly, I want to be able to run in the winter, not outside and not on a treadmill. Call me a hamster, it’s better than the treadmill.

What else is going down around here? It looks like current hole-in-the-wall The Liquor Vault is going all emporium on us by moving into the old Eisenberg’s space, according to research done by someone who decided to comment on a previous blog post. Btw, shout out to that person for inspiring me to get back on here and keep blogging, I was flagging for a while.

The Penfield project is moving at a rapid pace. The framing and insulation is up on about five stories above the foundation of the future Lunds, and it keeps growing taller. It won’t affect my view of anything but many neighbors have views of the Capitol. I look at Region’s Hospital all day.

Because I didn’t have any pictures for you, I’m inserting this ace footage of the Purity Ring show at First Avenue last Thursday:

How will Penfield affect Northwestern Precinct?

I snapped some photos of the Penfield construction last week.

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It’s taking form nicely, with an old facade still standing along 10th Street, and about four stories of the wooden frames of apartments stacking up along 11th Street. That, along with the impending light rail bells about to ring throughout our fair downtown, is giving my recent strolls around these blocks a “transitional” feel, as in a “neighborhood in transition.”

photoOr more aptly, a neighborhood first forming. If and when the Pedro Park gets built, and people are living at Penfield, I suspect a lot of dog owners to congregate at the park, like a mini-Mears. It won’t quite have the quadrangle feel of Mears, but on at least two sides there will be impressive, historical and aesthetically-pleasing building features facing the park. It will be nice to get it established.

I’m not expecting a flourishing Mears Park-style environment for some years, but it will be better than what was at the corner since I moved here, namely a Penfield sign announcing big changes soon that were delayed a half-decade. There still isn’t critical mass to get residents to *want* to walk around outside around here, but hey, it wouldn’t be St. Paul if it did.

My Mexico City hotel review

I reviewed my hotel in Mexico City for Orbitz. You can read it below, or check it out on the Orbitz site, it posted the other day:

http://www.orbitz.com/hotel/Mexico/Mexico_City/Hotel_San_Diego.h980061/#reviews

I was happy with this place for my first stay in Mexico City, but I’ll also make this an honest review. Firstly, the Internet is extremely nice to have if you have devices to help plan and map out your trip. However at times it faded in and out. One night it was frustratingly in and out and streaming video didn’t work, but otherwise it works well enough for e-mail and social media. Ask the front desk for the password (contrasena), before heading to your room. The location of this place is a bit odd. All of the people I know in Mexico City were a bit puzzled as to how to get to this place in a car. If you’re going by yourself and plan on using the Metro, it’s fine, but trying to drive a car through the tiny, narrow streets in this neighborhood can be a time waster. Luis Moya is a nice enough street to walk despite narrow sidewalks. You can walk north to Alameda Park and the Juarez Monument, and then swing over to the historic center and Zocalo, or you can walk south to Arcos (a lively strip with a bunch of streetside food and magazine vendors) on your way to Balderas, which was my Metro stop of choice. Balderas is only two stops east of Insurgentes, a convenient way to get to tourist area Zona Rosa, and the Paseo de Reforma, which has a big American style mall at 222. The room was always clean, and the bathroom was nice and modern. The sheets have a few holes in them, but that’s not a big deal. Unfortunately, they were cleaning and renovating other rooms around mine for a couple of days during my stay, but they were only making noise during the day. The staff is nice, they give you a free bottle of water everyday. There appears to always be someone at the front desk. When you leave, they ask you if you need a taxi, which was considerate. Overall, if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay, this place doesn’t disappoint. The city sort of comes down to neighborhoods. This one is interesting because it sits between the historic center and its stunning architecture and the more modern, Euro-influenced Zona Rosa. Colonia Centro is more working class and blue collar. It has a bunch of hardware stores and streetside vendors. If you want to see that sort of everyday life, by all means stay here and walk or use the Metro. If you want something right in Zona Rosa, the historic center, or in some other westside neighborhood (Condesa reminded me of nice Brooklyn), then look at hotels there.