The Freehouse brewpub is now open at 701 N Washington Ave.
The warehouse formerly home to the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company has been renovated in the upscale, faux-industrial style that has become popular in the North Loop neighborhood. Bare lightbulbs hang down from a maze of exposed duct work that has been painted in a muted black and white color scheme, adding a bit of incandescent flair to the ample natural light streaming through its large, street-facing windows.
Away from the windows on the other side of the restaurant, the shiny metal brewing system is housed behind floor-to-ceiling glass. It looks and feels like a high-tech laboratory; a manager aptly compared it to Gus Fring's lab in Breaking Bad.
Tim Piotrowski, head brewer for The Freehouse, was ordering parts at the computer station in the middle of the brewing area. He previously worked for Rock Bottom Brewery in Denver and Minneapolis, and said the brewpub will start with four of its own beers on tap, but that number could eventually climb up to ten.
The Freehouse's IPA (called No. 2) was light, crisp and hoppy, and its Brown, (called No. 3) was on the lighter side for a brown ale, with a good malty finish. Both were solid, but not as complex or unique as some of the other new breweries' offerings.
The drink menu has a number of interesting cocktails ranging from $8 to $10. The Wake-Up Call is made with Crown Royal Maple, Jagermeister, bitters and orange juice, and is served with a slice of candied bacon. It was sweet, mellow and pretty strong - an ideal drink to have before a day game at Target Field. The bar also had two fancy growler-filling stations that contributed to the brewery's high-tech vibe.
The coolest decoration in the building is a beer bottle cap collage fashioned into a portrait of Andrew Volstead, the former Minnesota congressman whose name will be forever associated with the legislation that enacted Prohibition. It hangs at the back of the restaurant, underneath a ceiling with upside down kegs mounted to it. Some of the kegs have lightbulbs screwed into their taps, making them into a sort of steampunk ceiling light. It's as cool - and weird - as it sounds.
The Freehouse will be open every day from 6:30 a.m. until 2 a.m., and its expansive menu reflected that. It had a lot of items that could be described as gourmet classics, like the breakfast sandwich, in which a house-made english muffin enveloped a thick portion of folded egg, two slices of bacon and chipotle aioli. It still had the hearty quality of a traditional breakfast sandwich, but the english muffin and tangy aioli took it into gourmet territory.
Overall The Freehouse nails the upscale, funky, post-industrial vibe that has developed during the North Loop's revival. It's creative gourmet menu and forthcoming development of an extensive, seasonal in-house beer list should have neighborhood residents excited.