Oliphant Brewing

April 25, 2019

Most of the focus of this blog has been centered around Minnesota breweries. Occasionally, I dip my toe into the craft beer scene across the border into Wisconsin. When I heard the weekend was bringing warmer weather after an extremely long and cold winter I decided that I wanted to drive somewhere, even if it wasn’t quite warm enough for a patio. The taproom of Oliphant Brewing seemed a world away in Somerset, and their adventurous beers would be the perfect compliment to our newly lifted spirits.

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It’s hard for me to leave my local bottle ship without one or two crowlers from Oliphant. Their wacky can design (@gummyshoes1) draws me in, the beer names give me a chuckle, and their seemingly mix and match styles make the final decision trivial. I was hoping their taproom would dial that whimsy up a notch and kickstart my spring.

Our current approach to visit breweries is to arrive as soon as they open. We do this for a couple of reasons. I can get photographs without bothering others, walk around the taproom to look at all the details, and it gives us maximum time with the baby before a possible meltdown. To date we have not had issues with our daughter but we’re on high alert because we don’t want to be the couple with an annoying child. These were the factors at play when we parked in the Oliphant parking lot 15 minutes before noon, waiting for their sign to flip from Closed to Open. It gave baby Ellen a little more time to sleep.

Oliphant has a small taproom in a pale blue building with a large glass garage door taking up most of the facade. A mural on the building adjacent to them features what appears to be an alien and an Egyptian god toasting a couple of beers, priming you for the playful spirit that awaits inside. Things got even weirder upon entry. Organ music and a spooky reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven filled our ears as we got situated at a high top near the front of the taproom.

I approached the bar and began to read through their list of twelve tap beers. Their tap list is on a chalkboard to the left of their bar and features art from the same illustrator that does their crowler designs. The bartender asked me if he could offer any help, and when he told me they offered a flight that contained all of their beers my wife and I decided that would be perfect to split. Choosing which beers to order is difficult for me so this more than welcome.

While he filled the first half of the flight I took a walk through their taproom. It was short! There is a dark back room with a handful of tables and VHS tapes lining the wall. There is a projector that brings these old films to life on the opposite wall of that room which is far better to me than having a television showing sports. I enjoy watching sports but I find televisions in taprooms a complete distraction. The front room features a large mural of their tusked elephant skull logo against a blue cinder block wall. They’ve got an eight seat bar and four high tops and stools in a range of colorful pastels. A tiny patio (closed during our visit) rounds things out which makes this one of the smallest and coziest taprooms I’ve visited. It was charming; I loved it!

Their tap list was ordered from light to heavy, with some exceptions due to the necessity of rotating taps. Our flight arrived in the same order: Sadtana Golden Ale, The Mangus Milkshake IPA w/ Mango, Secret Squishy Sour w/ Lemon & Raspberry, Mr. Samurai Karateguy Hazy IPA, Honees Honees Peanut Butter & Honey Golden Ale w/ Lactose, She Hunk Milkshake IPA w/ Coffee, Teenage Muten Ninja Roshi DIPA, Cmdr. Ryeker India Red Ale, Peanut Butter Rodent Black Ale w/ Peanut Butter, Gobias Coffee Black Ale, Boo!Doir Bourbon Barrel Aged Doppelbock Lager, and Hungry for Goomungee Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale.

Reading through those beers you may be thinking that it’s all a mess, but I assure you there is some mad genius at play. There wasn’t a single beer I didn’t like, and five of them earned stars in my tasting notes. Secret Squishy was smooth with a great raspberry flavor rounded out by a bit of lemon and sea salt. She Hunk had just enough of a hop bite to balance the coffee latte aroma and flavor. Peanut Butter Rodent, my favorite of the trip, was like a liquid dark chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup! Boo!Doir, as expected, was boozy with a full bourbon aroma and flavor that resulted in a sweet and sticky lager. Hungry for Goomungee was an impressive and dangerous barrel aged beer that was full of maple syrup flavors and extremely easy to drink. That last note may have had something to do with it being the last beer too!

Oliphant has an eclectic decor that plays against their innovative tap list. One of my favorite things was their wood slat half wall. Tons of breweries have these but they took the wood, cut it at odd angles, and spray painted it a variety of vibrant colors. They’ve got a logomark that is almost hidden throughout the taproom. It’s prominently displayed on their tasters, an O with a dot below it, but if you’re vigilant you can spot it on their tap list and some of their art. Music can often make or break a taproom experience for me. They had a mellow playlist and a volume level that provided a backdrop to conversation. If you enjoy their beer they’ve got a list of beers that are coming soon behind the bar so you can plan your future trips. As the sun passed overhead and began to encroach on our table I decided that the summer would be the perfect time for a second visit. I can’t wait.

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  • Reply Erik April 27, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Love Oliphant! I live in south Minneapolis and frequently make the trek out there to get some of that awesome Honees Honees.

    Another one of my favorites not too far from Oliphant is Maple Island in Stillwater. They have a great Maple Bock (maple syrup beer) as well as a Blueberry Hefeweizen (tastes like fresh blueberries, not like blueberry flavoring). There’s also Hop and Barrel down in Hudson. They have a banana-flavored Belgian Strong Ale that packs a punch ABV-wise but is very drinkable. It’s only a limited release though, so may not be there much longer.

    • Reply ryan April 30, 2019 at 6:20 pm

      I have yet to visit Maple Island, but I have a review for Hop and Barrel that you should take a peak at in my archives. I don’t remember trying the Belgian Strong Ale, but I generally avoid those styles if I have a limited amount of beers I can try because it’s not my favorite style.

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