Driving to and from Winnipeg is a long, boring activity. And highway speeds in North Dakota make it harrowing in no uncertain terms, even in the best of weather. The near-zero temps and our successful re-entering of America (with Rick’s fresh documents) meant it was time to warm up and to celebrate.
Thankfully, Grand Forks has a brewery. One that is open on a Sunday at 11AM. It’s called Rhombus Guys, and no, our trip there was not planned ahead of time.
Head brewer Chad Gunderson isn’t offering the typical beer expected of a new brewery. And he, along with co-founders Matt Winjum and Arron Hendricks, also isn’t falling into the usual traps involved in operating a new brewery. That is because he has quite a bit of commercial experience brewing, mostly in Montana.
Winjum and Hendricks aren’t new to the business arena. The duo owns and operates a few other local spots, including Rhombus Guys Pizza, which is around the corner from the brewery. The newest venture, though, has a real draw to it, from its location in the historic Metropolitan Opera House, to its silly name.
Contrary to what I have come to expect, their hoppy beers are far better that their dark selections. Perhaps that is why their menu swings towards the bitter.
Favorites of our round included the Iconic Blonde, which might seem like the throwaway or the “gateway beer” offered for the average drinker apprehensive about craft beer. But in fact, it displays incredible brewing prowess with a clean, bright character and a pleasant Cheerios finish. The high carbonation made it even more refreshing.
The Invincible American Pale Ale was also a hit. The array of hop flavor was akin to a typical IPA but without the bitterness or alcoholic intensity. The Opening Act session IPA, on the other hand, is quite good, but monotone in comparison.
For something a bit darker, opt for the Freak Show English Strong Ale. While it is far roastier than is appropriate for the style, it is enjoyable and unique with a coffee-forward nature. A more ester-producing yeast would emphasize it’s British character.
The flop was a dark beer, which I did not expect. Lately it seems as though the more successful beers at new taprooms are the dark ones. Rhombus’ Into The Darkness Porter has the aroma of espresso with Hershey’s syrup, but unfortunately, at first sip the flaws abound. The body is like flat Coca-Cola, and the taste is acrid roasted malt with little depth of flavor. If I had to write the troubleshooting guide in this case, I would guess too much specialty malt.
The menu follows the Gastropub tack with mostly upscale bar food. Our deviled eggs were phenomenal – three distinct varieties ranging from bacon and cheese to Sriracha-curry, each had me licking my fingers.
Service, while very pleasant and natural, certainly reminded me that I was in a college town. Despite the fact that our visit was at 11:45 for Sunday lunch, our server spoke to us as though we were heading into an afternoon of binge drinking: “the session IPA is a good place to start your night”. A bit of an odd way to approach a table devoid of athletic wear, face paint, or bachelorette regalia.
Rhombus Guys is impressive, especially given that the place is only about six months old. They aren’t taking the easy road by banking on the fact that college students will drink nearly anything. If it weren’t for some of the language on the menu (“enjoy one more” / “I’ll take another”), I would have forgotten I was in Grand Forks. The brewery is worth a visit, without a doubt. I have no doubt that Gunderson has much more to come here.
If North Dakota isn’t in your near future, look for Rhombus Guys at the Winter Beer Dabbler this weekend.