An Ode To The Dangerous Man Northeast Taproom

On Saturday, October 21st, the Dangerous Man Brewing Company taproom will pour the final pints in their Northeast taproom. Dangerous Man Brewing Company now has a production facility in Maple Lake, Minnesota, and will continue brewing operations there. Thankfully, we will still be able to enjoy the beer we have come to love in packaged form. There are currently no definitive plans for a taproom in Maple Lake. However, it would not surprise me if there is eventually a farm brewery event space. What is definitive is that the Dangerous Man taproom closing feels like the soul of the Northeast craft beer scene is being removed.

Dangerous Man Brewing Company’s taproom space means so much to so many. Above all else, it was the first Minnesota brewery to create a dynamic demand for beer served only in the taproom. Dangerous Man opened in the fall of 2013. At the time, there was not the plethora of breweries in Northeast that exist today. Furthermore, the concept of a taproom-only spot seemed to be only reserved for brewpubs thanks to one of the many ridiculous laws on the books in Minnesota. If you wanted a Dangerous Man beer, you had to go to the taproom to get it.

In addition to pushing the envelope on flavors and styles, all the while holding fast to the paramount commitment to quality, Rob and Sarah added stellar human beings to their staff. One thing that made the taproom special was the love and respect their staff had for the beer and the space. An employee told me once that the interview for Dangerous Man seemed more like a friendly conversation about the individual than anything formal and intimidating. In many ways, I think that Rob and Sarah hired extensions of themselves and their values. Even if they couldn’t be there all the time, they wanted people to feel welcomed. What better way to do that than have friendly folks pouring you a beer and chatting you up?

My early Dangerous Man experiences aptly paralleled my foray into craft beer. When I first got excited about craft beer, I knew very little about it other than it tasted better than Killian’s Irish Red. I remember thinking that everywhere I went, I felt slightly out of place. Part of this was because demographically, craft beer is very white. As a person of color, this made it hard to feel a genuine sense of belonging in craft beer spaces. I also think I had a bit of imposter syndrome. What business did I have hanging out in places where seemingly so many other people knew so much more about this beverage than I did? There was also a small but vocal minority of people who lorded their beer knowledge over others in way that was more off-putting than my Mother-in-Laws overcooking of a Thanksgiving turkey.

The mythical Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout was creating a fervor amongst the local craft beer geeks. People talked about this beer the way I talked about cheese fondue. After hearing the rave reviews of this beer, I knew I had to try it. This seemed like a good entry into Dangerous Man because I really enjoyed that style of beer. The first time I stopped at Dangerous Man to try the beer it was sold out. The second time I came in for a pour it was also sold out. When the chocolate milk stout was out, I courageously ventured into the realm of the unknown and tried their other offerings. I learned to love their cream ale, IPA, and Belgian strong ale.

The masterful chocolate milk stout.

When I finally did get to experience the glory of the chocolate milk stout for the first time I remember thinking how heavenly that beer was. The beer was the perfect mix of roasted barley bitterness and chocolate sweetness all in a velvety and pleasing sip of beer. Tasting the chocolate milk stout for the first time made me realize how special this place could be and how worth the wait my first pour of chocolate milk stout was.

On my first couple visits to Dangerous Man, I always seemed to see the same collection of regulars who would be talking and laughing together as if they had known each other for years. They would have more than the cursory small talk with the bartenders and really seemed like they belonged here. I remember thinking how great it would be to walk into a brewery and know both the people behind the bar as well as the ones on the bar stools. At the time, this seemed like a dream so far out of reach because I barely knew anyone in and around the Minnesota craft beer scene.

I also realized that most of the people hanging out in the Dangerous Man taproom had trendy eye wear and lots of waxed facial hair. I wore contacts. At some point along the way, I had angered the Magnum P.I. Mustache Gods and was sans facial hair. I also was devoid of tattoos and hip taste in music. Based on all of these facts, I was skeptical that Dangerous Man could be a place for me.

However, I quickly learned that the Dangerous Man taproom was a place for everyone, especially if you loved plants. People gathered here to experience a unique sense of community. I remember thinking that if Ramsey Louder, a black, skyscraper of a man worked here then it must be a welcoming place for all. Ramsey started working the door and eventually became a brewer at Dangerous Man. Ramsey would also help create a non-profit called Brewing Change Collaborative. I mention this because it is a testament to the inclusive culture at Dangerous Man.

Rob and Sarah addressing the crowd at the DM 10th anniversary party.
A birthday visit in 2018 to get the barrel-aged Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout.

Over the years I learned to love all the Dangerous Man beers. I transitioned from only going there with friends to happily going by myself. This is because I figured I would probably run into someone I know there. I went from learning about the beer styles at Dangerous Man to standing in line for the barrel-aged bottle releases.

In fact, on one early Saturday morning when the wind was boisterous and the tips of my toes were tingling from the cold. The owners, Rob and Sarah, were walking along the line of people and chatting. They were personally thanking them for coming out to support the brewery. This simple act of kindness and hospitality really made me feel like I belonged.

Waiting in line was also the site of one of my greatest one-liners of all-time. I believe it was a barrel-aged stout release and the line wrapped around the building. I found myself in line with some friends I had made through beer. As we shifted our weight in our winter boots and breathed warm air into our stiff, cold hands, the line slowly inched towards the door. We were within about ten feet of the door when a car pulled up. The driver rolled down the passenger-side window and asked, “What is the line for?” Without missing a beat, I replied, “Bruce Springsteen is inside giving free back massages!” Laugher erupted and my friends Andy and Craig still chuckle every time we reminisce about that memory.

In the last few weeks, I have visited Dangerous Man 4 times. Each time, I have been there with friends in Brewing Change Collaborative who might as well be family. Last week, we held a baby shower for Juno and Kate, two members of Brewing Change Collaborative. I remember thinking how happy I am to be at Dangerous Man with my favorite people.

Photo Credit: Shaunté Douglas

Wednesday, October 18th. A group of us from Brewing Change Collaborative stopped by Dangerous Man to get one beer in before last call. On my drive over, I had a profound thought. I realized that I finally reached the thing I used to think was unachievable in craft beer-a true sense of belonging. Just like the previous 3 visits, I was going to hang out with my BCC friends. We would be laughing, drinking, and belonging together. The ability to have that shared experience with others is immeasurably special.

Rob and Sarah, I am forever grateful for the role the Dangerous Man taproom played in my life as a craft beer geek. I will cherish the memories made over the years in your taproom space. The fact that you cared so much to create something so special with a team of wonderful people speaks volumes about your heart and character. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Cheers!

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