As a beer lover, I was very excited to see Twin Ports beer scene expand, although CPB seemed to be one of those places that was destined not to live up to the artificial hype, I was glad to see it wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan. Although some definite improvements are needed to make this a destination beer brewery, I think CPB can be something pretty great in the future.
First off, upon arrival, I can say I was let down that there was pay parking. While it makes sense logistically for the Canal Park area, it seems like this could be a large deterrent to the place's ability to draw a crowd. Parking it cheap--$2 for two hours--and you can bring in your parking ticket for $2 off your bill of $10 or more. That's a pretty good deal, because you'll surely pay more than $10 at CPB.
The thing I really like about the design of CPB is that the emphasis is definitely on the beer. The fermenters are housed in a giant, glassed-in area right when you walk in. The construction is simple here...just iron and wood...and the bar area is sprawling. The dining area is narrow, putting forth more of a tasting-room vibe than a dining-room vibe. The front of the brewery has big windows that look out at Lake Superior. One small gripe: why didn't they put windows that opened out toward the lake? How great would it be to crack those open on a warm night and let the lake breeze in?
Now, to the good stuff: the beer here is good, though has a way to go. While the beer isn't what I'd call a destination beer (such as the El Nino at The Brewhouse, which I'd gladly travel from Superior to Duluth to have), each beer is well on it's way to being something I could go the distance for. We got two flights of all seven beers available (their IPA was out) and found each beer to be very well-rounded in flavor. Each beer fit it's style...the Nut Brown was a typical nut brown, the Trippel was a Trippel (although bubble-gummy), etc. This was very welcomed. To me, it seems that a lot of breweries fall into a rhythm where they brew different beers that all taste similar (as my friend said, a "any Summit beer tastes like Summit."). The Pack Sacker stout was my favorite...it had been a long time since I'd had a beer that I exclaimed was delicious aloud and in one sip. Since each beer was singularly good in their own style, it made me really excited to try the IPA when it's back on tap.
The food plays second fiddle to beer here...like I mentioned, it's all about the beer at CPB. The menu is simple...burgers, sandwiches, and a few main dishes. I've been on a life-long quest to find the best fish taco in the nation, so I opted for the Lake Superior fish tacos. My wife had the Reuben, and my friend had the fish and chips, which was said to be delicious by other patrons. I was very happy with the fish tacos, although not the best I've ever had. They do this crazy-yet-delicious thing where they put sticky rice in the tacos! All the ingredients were fresh and well-prepared. The fish had good flavor, and was fresh as well, although I was a little sad that one of the tacos had the end of the fillet (you know, the chewy part). I got a side salad for an astronomical up-charge of $1.99 and thought that this was the most delicious part of my meal (the ranch dressing is really great). My wife said that the Reuben was delicious, and that she really liked the fries, which were typical pub fries but covered in sea salt. My friend who got the fish and chips couldn't stop raving about how good the fish was. He was also surprised by how much food he got...so much, he had to take it back in a to-go box. Sadly, when my wife got a side of mayo, we were shocked to see a $.99 cent charge for a tiny side of mayo. This is a little disheartening to see the place nickel-and-diming the customer, especially after a pint of beer is $5.50.
Lastly, the service is very average here. I'm going to accredit this to the fact that the joint is really new, but hopefully they pick up on the friendliness and welcomeness that should be a staple at a new place striving to gain a foothold. I felt more like I was being asked to leave by the waitress when she visited the table, rather than encouraged to stay. Plus, the staff at the door didn't say "welcome" or "have a great day" when we left.
I think CPB has a great future ahead of it once they settle into their new digs and get into a routine. I really am excited to have some competition to the Brewhouse and their related venues. I'm also excited to see the craft beer scene expand in the area. If CPB can make their prices for a pint a bit more competitive, make some niche beers, and improve their staff's service, I think this place will really catch on. (I think $5.50 for a pint of moderately-good beer is overpriced greatly...I'd be more apt to drink a beer here at $5 a pint). I think in a few months I'll go try CPB again and see if they've improved their beers and service (and prices, ugh!)...I'm confident that they will.
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