For years, Mike and I have had to drive to a neighboring suburb or northeast Minneapolis to get our craft beer fix. That changed a couple of weeks ago when Elm Creek Brewing Co. opened in our Champlin neighborhood. We decided to check them out on June 26, 2020, a week after they opened. Here's what we learned about the beer and the atmosphere, as well as what a taproom experience is like in the COVID era.
The beer: Technically, there were three beers on the tap list when we visited: Chronic Obsession, a hazy IPA; 7-10 Split, an IPA; and Granted, a Belgian Dubbel. They were sold out of the IPA by the time we arrived, so Mike tried the Chronic Obsession and I went with the Granted.
Mike enjoyed the Chronic Obsession so much that he ordered a second (he's a big IPA fan). Belgian Dubbel isn't a style I'm particularly partial to, but it's a good option if you're not into IPAs. I'm looking forward to revisiting when the tap list has a broader range of beers to pick from—the week after our visit, Elm Creek Brewing closed temporarily in order to ramp up beer production to meet demand.
Since our beers were higher ABV (7.9% for the Chronic Obsession and 8.0% for the Granted), they were offered in 8-ounce tulip glasses for $5. As far as non-alcoholic beverages, there are cans of pop and bottles of water.
The atmosphere: Elm Creek Brewing is housed in a former Ruby Tuesday, and the taproom's interior decor hasn't changed much—think commercial-grade carpet, wainscotting, and very beige walls. (They are planning to display works by local artists in the future.) The major upgrade is a pair of glass garage doors that open up to a dog-friendly patio with picnic tables and umbrellas.
While the decor might not be terrifically inspiring, it is highly functional. Typically taprooms have concrete floors, high ceilings, and terrible acoustics—I feel like Mike and I spend the evening shouting at each other and still miss about half of the conversation. Thanks to the carpet and suspended ceiling, the noise level at Elm Creek Brewing is quite pleasant, and we really appreciated being able to carry on a conversation.
Overall, the vibe is low-key and family-friendly (although kids do have to be out the door by 10:00 p.m.) There was live music the evening we visited, and the brewery plans to have food trucks on hand.
COVID precautions: Online reservations are required for indoor seating, and walk-up patio reservations are available on a first come, first served basis. All reservations are for 90 minutes. The host stand is protected with plexiglass barriers, all staffers wear masks, and the paper menus are single-use. Instead of ordering at the bar, a server comes to your table to take your order—you're required to remain seated during your time at the taproom to ensure proper social distancing.
We sat indoors, at a table near the garage doors that open up to the patio. Our table was significantly distanced from the adjacent tables (I would guess about 10 feet). Personally, I felt comfortable with the safety precautions taken, but when deciding whether to go out you need to make the best decision for you based on the health risk factors for yourself and those you come into close contact with, as well as your personal values.
If you'd prefer to get your beer to-go, Elm Creek Brewing is planning to offer crowlers—sign up to be notified when they're available.
The takeaway: It's great to have a taproom in our neighborhood, especially one that offers a low-key atmosphere conducive to date night conversations. We're looking forward to revisiting, especially once the tap list is a bit longer.
Elm Creek Brewing Co.
11469 Marketplace Drive N
Champlin, MN 55316
This post isn't sponsored by Elm Creek Brewing—we paid for our beer out-of-pocket.
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