This past weekend, while in Duluth for a race, I took a brief break in the action to stop by the newest taproom on the North Shore, Blacklist Artisan Ales. I only had about 45 minutes between activities, and so we walked down Superior Street for a quick taste of what they had to offer.
I took a seat at the bar and ordered up a flight. They had a pre-set flight, which was fine with me, as I had just finished running 16 miles and wasn’t in the mood to think too hard. The beertender explained that they specialized in Belgian style ales, and on the flight I had a Belgian Wit, Belgian IPA, Belgian Golden Strong, and a stout on nitro.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Belgian beers, as I find the yeast flavor a bit too “strong” for my liking. I can’t explain it fully, but there’s a sweet character to Belgian yeast that I find distracting from enjoying the malt and hop character of a beer. I started my sampling with the Belgian Wit. It was pretty much as I expected, a very boldly Belgian beer, but on par it was pleasant to drink. The lighter malt body of the wit was refreshing, and since it was just a flight sample, I found the beer acceptable.
Before I went to the next beer on the flight the beertender offered me a sample of their Keller Vienna which they had brewed up just for their Oktoberfest celebration that was going on. There was polka music on the speakers, and a small stage set up for people to dance. The entire space is a beautiful old building, with windows facing the street as well as Lake Superior. It’s light and fun, and is the type of place I could see myself sitting at for long periods of time.
The second beer on the flight was their Belgian Golden Strong. Immediately I noticed that it had a much, much more subdued Belgian quality than the Wit. It actually surprised me a lot, as I was expecting an even stronger sweetness. Instead, I found a very pleasant and drinkable beer, that still hinted at a Belgian ancestry, but it didn’t knock you in the face with sweetness. I’ve only occasionally enjoyed Golden Strong’s, but this beer was something I could see drinking more of. That’s a high compliment in my book.
Next up was the Belgian IPA. Again, this beer had a much more subtle Belgian character to it. It was distinctly Belgian, but not so strongly that it overpowered the hop character. It was a well rounded beer that would appeal to IPA fans as well as Belgian drinkers. Finally, I finished up with their Stout on nitro. Holy cow was this a perfect stout! It had a beautiful hint of chocolate that balanced wonderfully with the roasty character of the malt. Serving it on nitro just made everything better, as the smooth finish left the chocolate notes dangling on your palate well after you had taken your sip. They distribute this beer in cans, but on CO2. If I want the nitro version, I’ll have to come back.
Finally, I was treated to a quick taste of their Spruce DIPA. This was a nice refreshing beer, but at 9.5% is has to be a sipper. I usually have a hard time tolerating such high ABV, so I was pleased I got to get a simple taste before ending my visit.
I can say without a doubt that Blacklist is worth stopping by. The space is warm and inviting, and our beertender was friendly and helpful. As for the beer, it is all brewed exceptionally well, and for a non-Belgian drinker like myself, it provided a lot to enjoy, while still being a Belgian-heavy brewery. I loved the balance that they were able to achieve in their brews, and I will most certainly be making a stop back here from time to time as I’m through the area. I’d suggest you put in on your list as well.