This weekend we’re up north again, and I had the opportunity to check out the newest taproom in Duluth, MN; Hoops Brewing. The ownership of this brewery has a pedigree with Fitger’s in Duluth, and so I was excited to see what they had to offer.
We called ahead to Grizzly’s Woodfire Grill across the street and grabbed some takeout on the way. Once we arrived at Hoops we were handed a menu and we looked around for a table. At first I didn’t know if I was supposed to go up to the bar to order my beer, but I then saw servers running around to different tables and took a seat. Eventually, our server came over and asked us what we would like. They don’t serve flights, but in a round about sort of way I was informed that I can get 5 oz pours of any beer. Basically, this is make-your-own-flight.
As we ate our dinner and I waited for my beer to arrive, we noticed a gentleman next to us changing the TV channel. I recognized him as the owner and complimented him on the beautiful space that Hoops has. They are built into a gorgeous old brick building with lots of exposed wood and brick. It’s a really great environment, and I could see enjoying a lot of time in this space.
Eventually my beer arrived and I got to sampling. Since we still had some driving to do, and it was very warm out, I didn’t get anything too heavy. I stuck mainly to the pale ales and wheat beers, and ended up ordering a second one of their wheat beers when there was a mis-communication with the server about which wheat I had ordered.
Overall, everything was well made, and there were no flaws in any of the beers. Everything tasted as it should, and I enjoyed each of the beers. My personal favorite was the summer wheat beer, as it was light and refreshing with a little lemon zing to it. The perfect type of beer to have out on the patio on a hot summer night. I enjoyed it enough that I bought a crowler of it on our way out.
Since Hoops has only been open a week or so, I wasn’t expecting a ton of weird or unique beers, and what they have on tap is solid. Combined with a beautiful space, it’s a great place to hang out and drink beer. I only had one little complaint. I hate the paradigm of a server bringing me my beer.
I’ve been to dozen, and perhaps hundreds, of taprooms, and the only time I want to see a waiter/waitress is if they’re also serving food. I have no problem with standing in line and ordering my beer, like every other taproom. When I have a waiter to deal with I have to order beer on their schedule, as they’re trying to serve other tables. Then at the end of it all I once again have to think about tips and waiting for my check before I can leave.
I realize that during busy times, a brewery might worry that the line could get too long. However, other breweries have solved this problem with a large, dedicated space to order beer, and staffing it with 2-3 beertenders who are not tending the bar. I saw many, many servers last night that simply didn’t need to be there, when we could have all just ordered our beer at the bar. Perhaps others really like the idea of having a waiter bring you your beer, but it just irks me, and next time I visit, I plan to try and find a seat up at the bar so I don’t need to deal with waitstaff.
Despite my quibble about how you’re served, Hoops is a solid brewery, and is putting out good beer. It’s got a beautiful location, and is in the heart of Canal Park, so you know it’s going to be popular. I’m certain I’ll be hitting it again in the future as I pass through, and I hope to see even more unique experiments on the menu next time.