In May, Señor Wong restaurant in St. Paul took a hard look in the mirror. "It was a tongue-in-cheek name," says Son Truong, owner of the restaurant that serves both Asian and Latin foods. They launched a rebrand, changing the name to SW Craft Bar. "Three years ago I started taking the concept in a different direction, focusing on craft beers and cocktails. I not only felt that we outgrew the name and needed to change it," he says, "but people often thought were a fusion restaurant." It’s not just a handcrafted menu of exotic dishes, but also a craft bar featuring a wide selection of curated beers and spirits. "SW" is a link to the past, "Craft Bar" is the present.
"The menu hasn't not change dramatically, but we are focusing more on global bar food. The ‘Craft Bar’ part was to let guests know what we were all about," he adds, noting that he handpicks the beers and has a unique cocktail menu as well. For Truong, it’s not about how much beer you have, it’s about taking care, keeping it fresh, and selecting the good ones. "You don't need a 100 taps if you are doing it well."
That will be showcased on Friday Nov. 20, better known as Imperial Black Friday, when the bar changes over their taps to host rare imperial stouts from across the country for the fourth straight year. In total there will be 24 imperial stouts on hand and 18 on draft. Among the bounty will be multiple vintages of Surly Darkness, aged by Truong himself, a rare Minnesota offering of Goose Island’s renowned Bourbon County, AleSmith Speedway with Vietnamese coffee, and a nitro pour of Old Rasputin.
With so many big beers and hard to find specialties, it’s a way to indulge in post-Thanksgiving revelry while getting far away from the busy malls and shopping complexes. Besides the beer, there will be live jazz from Quasi Mofo, a recording of Minnesota BeerCast and giveaways of tickets to the Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest (taking place March 12, 2016), and a special menu made with imperial stout pairings in mind.
As the turkey and gravy are finally digested, keep that holiday weekend coma intact over some of the boldest beers around. "The first ones to go have always been the Bourbon County and Surly Darkness," Truong notes, so come early if those are on this year’s bucket list. "But," he adds, "we have a lot of great beers this year that I think will give them a run for their money."
Beers will include Surly Darkness Barrel-Aged 2014, Surly Darkness 2015, Indeed Rum King, Clown Shoes Undead Party Crasher, AleSmith Speedway with Vietnamese coffee, Evil Twin Even More Jesus, Bourbon County Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin - Nitro, Odell Russian Pirate and many more.