Lake Monster opened December 4th, 2015 in a warehouse off of Vandalia St. in St. Paul. The wide open taproom has all the furnishings of a converted warehouse, exposed air ducts and brick, cement floors, and a fair amount of space to drink in.
They describe themselves thusly:
“At Lake Monster Brewing we aim to make unique versions of classic beer styles, putting our own subtle twist on the flavors craft beer drinkers have come to love. Ranging from esoteric to approachable, subtle to over-the-top, our beers adhere to the philosophy that there is always more to be discovered.”
Lake Monster Brewing
550 Vandalia Street
St. Paul, MN 55114
Beer (Variety, Self Brew/Local, Taste)
DHM: A smaller selection of beer than some of the other places we’ve ventured, Lake Monster Brewing had 5 beers on tap, and 1 casked version of their stout. As their mission statement describes – the beers are pretty straightforward versions. When we visited they had an IPA, an Irish Red, a Bock, a Milk Stout, and a version of the Milk Stout from a Cask with espresso added. All-in-all I was actually pretty impressed by them. Basics, but they were all pretty delicious. The casked version of the Milk Stout was out of the ordinary since it was much flatter (intended) and the added espresso overpowered the flavor quite a bit.
Big points for me was that they had a choose your own flight list, each half-ish pour was only $2. A full pint was $5. Very affordable to drink a lot. 4 of 5.
IDK: I’m a huge fan of the choose your own flight concept in general, and I have to give them credit for that. A little more variety would have been nice, but I can’t fault a newer brewery for focusing on a few beers at a time and getting them (mostly) right. I went with a flight of four beers, listed below in order from most successful to least:
- Calhoun Claw Pilsner (3.75 out of 5): Just a really solid, well-made classic Bohemian pilsner, with grassy/spicy noble hop flavor supported by a light bready malt.
- Empty Rowboat IPA (3.75): A well-balanced IPA with low malt character and pleasant, but not overwhelming citrus, pine, and flowery hoppiness.
- Murmur Milk Stout (3.5): This didn’t wow me, but it was a perfectly fine milk stout and not too sweet. There was a roasty note on the finish that was just a little on the harsh side for my taste.
- Irish Red (3): Served on nitro, but I found myself wishing it hadn’t been. The nitro gave it a creamy mouthfeel, but it also seemed to mute all the other flavors. As served, it was not bad but pretty one-dimensional.
Overall beer score: 3.5 out of 5.
Aggregate: 3.75 of 5
Environment (Noise, Service, General Ambiance)
DHM: We arrived around 3:00pm on a Saturday to a growing crowd of people hanging out, biking through the area, or drinking while watching the Masters that they had on a few TVs lightly placed around the tap room. It was loud, but not overbearing. This was Order at the Bar, and the pours, service, and recommendations were quite good considering the amount of people that were there. Not once did I feel out of the ordinary having the kids in the tap room… mainly because… [continued in “Kid Friendly-ness] 5 of 5
IDK: I agree with Dan’s impression. We got there later than him, and when I pulled into the parking lot and saw how many Subarus and minivans there were, I began to suspect we would not be out of place with our little ones. Noise level was fine, service was friendly and the atmosphere was very pleasant. I totally understand why taprooms have TVs with sports on, but it was really nice that they were not obtrusive and we had the option of sitting somewhere where there was no TV in view. My son completely loses the ability to focus on anything else when there is a TV in his line of sight. There were also plenty of high chairs. 5 of 5
Aggregate: 5 of 5
Kid Friendly-ness (Menus, Area, Stroller Friendly)
DHM: Holy crap – this place was pretty damn great for kids. I estimated that by the time we left (5-ish?) there were equal, if not more couples there with kids than without. Babies and toddlers alike. Aside from having a mix of high tops and standard tables with plenty of room around for strollers and ambling kids, they also had one entire corner section specific for kids. A raised platform held books, coloring supplies, big building blocks, chalk and a chalkboard, and plenty of kid friendly spaces. There was also a red walking car that kids could hope in and cruise around the area in. The floor – however is a pretty solid cement. A tumble, or a fall off that raised platform can be pretty ouchie for younger kids. 5 of 5
IDK: By the time we left, I was feeling left out because I only had one kid with me. I have never, ever seen so many children in a brewery. We didn’t all have strollers, but it felt like there was enough room that we could have, even when the place started to fill up. The kid area was a really nice touch, and if we had older kids I imagine they would have been all over that. I agree with Dan about the potential danger of the platform, though. I think the intention was to create a separate space, but I think it would have been safer to gate it off instead. Still, that’s a minor demerit for the most kid-friendly brewery I have yet seen. 4.75 of 5
Facilities (Changing tables in bathrooms, kid “area”)
DHM: This is another brewery that is attached to a larger, general use building. The bathrooms were relatively new, so not only did they have a changing table in the clean men’s room – but it was OUTSIDE the stall. I could just roll right up and use it. They even had easy access to actual paper towels, instead of just the super loud dryers. The changing table was sturdy – but out of the wipes/pads. 4.5 of 5
IDK: Dan was the only one of us who had to do a change while we were there, but it’s really nice to know that there is a table available, and that it’s outside the stall, so no waiting 10 minutes with a dirty-diapered baby while someone peruses Facebook on the pot. 5 of 5
Aggregate: 4.75 of 5
DHM: To be fair – I have no idea. I didn’t look nor did I consider it… NA
IDK: Ditto – a non-alcoholic option never crossed my mind. NA
PatP Final Thoughts:
Let’s be fair – until now the bar has been pretty low. Lake Monster Brewing Company raises that bar pretty high. Kids area, Family Friendly, Decent Changing Stations, and Decent Beer. What more can you ask for?
Final Score: 4.59