Finding a spot for a weekday morning beer is a unique needle to thread. There are places you can feel comfortable drinking in the morning, but where you wouldn’t touch breakfast with a ten-foot fork. Conversely, there are plenty of amazing spots that serve a boozy brunch that aren’t open for weekday breakfast. And there are too many great breakfast spots with no beer whatsoever.
So let’s start with choosing the right beer. Generally, you’re looking for something lower in alcohol, malty, and smooth. The well-regarded Founder’s Breakfast Stout is so aptly titled because it’s rich and bitter like coffee and creamy as milk. From there, it’s easy to imagine milk stouts in the morning—Brau Brothers Moo Joos is a personal in-state favorite—or something in the caffeine family like Surly Coffee Bender or Big Wood Morning Wood.
Since coffee and eggs are so perfect together, head to one of Kim Bartmann’s eateries for this pairing. They all seem to endorse a little hair-of-the-dog. Though I love Red Stag Supper Club and Bryant Lake Bowl, for breakfast I’m heading to Barbette for a ham and Gruyere omelet with sweet caramelized onions. On the side, have their “Wake Up! Beer,” cold press coffee mixed with Left Hand Milk Stout.
Or you could head over to Colossal Café in St. Paul for one of the best breakfast sandwiches you’re likely to find anywhere in town. When biscuits come into play, it’s nice to have something with a little more hop presence to wash the palate clean. When it’s biscuits and gravy, like the amazing rendition they do down at Sun Street Breads, Bad Weather Windvane is a fine complement.
Once you get into the realm of pancakes, waffles and French toast, you have a choice to make. You could get them dripping in syrup, caramel, whipped cream, cake frosting, glazed strawberries, and rum-soaked bananas, and spend the rest of your day in a pre-diabetic coma. For that, just go to a pancake house and get a deplorable stack of flapjacks stuffed with pieces of cheesecake.
Or you could decide to eat breakfast like a grown-up. I’ve found it much more satisfying to keep the toppings minimal and add some sweetness with the right brew—an Indeed Stir Crazy with its warming vanilla notes or a Third Street Sugar Shack that brings the maple.
I don’t feel like French toast needs anything more than warm butter and a little maple syrup. Anything more seems contrary to a dish that, at its very heart, is a breakfast of only three ingredients—bread, milk and eggs. That’s why I dig The Lowry’s ciabatta French toast. It’s four big slices, nothing fancy, just like it should be. Pair it with a Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. The semi-sweet bite of cane sugar and sweet malt strikes a great balance.
The same general rule of restraint should apply to pancakes, but I’ll happily make an exception for Hell’s Kitchen lemon-ricotta version. They make for a fun, fruity pair with the apricot notes of a Magic Hat #9. And if you feel the need to gussy-up a waffle, go savory rather than sweet, like they do at Birchwood Café. They stuff their waffle with grains, kale, and fontina cheese, and topped with crumbly bacon and a runny egg. It’s a fine choice to complement an altbier or amber lager.
John Garland also writes about food and drink for The Heavy Table.
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