The Wine Thief & Ale Jail
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Ratings: 35 | Reviews: 25 | Display Reviews Only:
4.85/5 rDev +9.5%
quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
The new Ale Jail (separate room off of the Wine Thief) is now the best beer store in St. Paul. The beer manager is unbelievably knowledgeable and helpful, and the selection is great (unless you want macros, which I certainly don't). Huge range of English, Belgian and German beers. Lots of American craft beers as well, but probably can find a few more American beers at some other places.
A large portion of the selection is singles, which are grouped by style instead of brewery. The singles have decent prices, unlike some places, which gouge on singles. They also have a cooler with six and four packs for most of the American craft beers, but many of the imports are singles only.
08-21-2010 13:42:11 | More by bsp77
5/5 rDev +12.9%
quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | $$
What was already one of my favorite places to shop has gotten a huge makeover this summer; The Wine Thief now has her lovely counterpoint in The Ale Jail. In my previous review, the only shortcoming of The Wine Thief was the lack of selection. This is true no longer. The new Ale Jail has a 5 door cooler stocked with mostly American Microbrew six packs, a few import sixers, a fair amount of Belgian 750's, and what I explicitly wished they could sell last year in my previous review: SURLY!
But what makes this place even better is that they have an absolutely massive selection of build your own six pack single bottles--there must be hundreds of them--and they take 10% off of the build your own sixer when you get a full 6 or more.
Finally, The Ale Jail does FREE beer tastings every Tuesday evening! The tastings I've been to are not, moreover, just a couple bottles open. Recently, I went to a tasting and Adam (their new beer manager and cicerone to be) ran me through the gamut of about a dozen different Deutsches Bier offerings from Aktienbrauerei and Ayinger, clarifying the history and style of the beers I tasted through them.
I'm moving away from the Twin Cities in the near future, and even though I'm moving to the Beer Mecca Boston, I'll miss this place dearly after I leave, and I'll be sure to stop back whenever I'm in St. Paul. If you live in the TC metro, you've gotta check out the Ale Jail.
Despite the fact that it's a wine shop, The Wine Thief has a remarkable selection of beers in the back corner, probably over a hundred different kinds. They have single bottles, six packs and twelve packs but no cases. Except for a couple of mixed packs, the twelve pack selection is pretty standard and static (Three S's: Summits, Stella and Session), but the six packs are pretty varied and they get new stuff with relative frequency. They have the full line of Rush River beers along with several sixers from Bell's, Boulder Brewing Co. and Two Brothers.
I buy a fair amount of sixers here, but I think the single bottle selection is where this place really shines. The Belgians include the standard array of Chimays, Duvel, Kwak and Piraat, but also a few others that are a little more off the beaten path (I think the Golden Carolus Tripel is a diamond in the rough, among the best Belgians I've had and only $9 here!). They also have the full line of Unibroue 750ml's as well as smaller, 12 oz bottles from them in kind of a make-your-own six pack style. Single bottle American craft beers abound, and among the usual suspects--Avery, Flat Earth, Southern Tier--there are a couple others like Pretty Things that you don't see as often.
The staff are friendly, and don't let the fact that it's a wine shop fool you, they're pretty enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the beer too (I think that one of them mentioned that she actually used to work as a beer rep?).
The only major drawback of The Wine Thief is it's size. They do a good job of maintaining a pretty wide array of Belgian and American craft beers, but other countries--Germany especially--aren't as strongly represented. Also, perhaps more importantly, the small stature of the store precludes refrigeration units, leaving them without cold beer, and cold beer purveyors--namely Surly--that don't sell to retailers sans coolers.
Still, it's certainly worth a trip to check out what they have, especially if you're into wine as well.
08-07-2010 15:46:51 | More by EJNibs
4.5/5 rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
Heard some good things about this place recently and was in the area. This has to be the cleanest beer/liquor store I've ever been in. One side of the store is for wine and the other beer. Both are laid out exquisitely which makes for really easy shopping. Nice selection of beers with the focus being on singles. Not a whole lot of sixers, but enough and the quality of them was good. So back to the singles. Huge wall of shelves dedicated to single twelve ounce beers and another for larger single bottles. I picked up eight 12 oz. beers that I hadn't tried before. All of the singles were categorized by style which made shopping slick as well. I was asked if I needed help by one employee and had a nice beer focused conversation with him upon checkout. They also have a 10% discount when you purchase six or more singles. Some of the prices were a little higher than other places I've shopped, but not astronomically high and some prices were right on. A really nice beer shopping experience. I would recommend this place.
07-24-2010 21:52:55 | More by jera1350
4.5/5 rDev +1.6%
quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | $$
There are several wine boutiques in Saint Paul that also happen to offer beer selections, and after scrutinizing them for years it's become clear to me that The Wine Thief & The Ale Jail clearly maintains the best beer selection of the bunch.
And what a BEER selection! But this is a great wine shop first and foremost, with wines organized in a way that makes return visits essential, particularly for people -like me- who are beer lovers that only dabble in wines. On this visit we picked up a sweet German wine that was perfect for matching with a dinner we had planned for the evening. There are no spirits here but a nice selection of sake warrants more attention from me on my next visit.
Returning to the topic of beer, this is a better selection than you might find at many neighborhood liquor stores, and it is all carefully-chosen. In order to find this treasure you need but navigate to the rear of the store, where several warm shelves are grouped along the east wall (note: there is no cold beer, so plan as you feel necessary.) One full shelving unit is dedicated to a variety of Midwest and regional Craft beer in six, 12 packs, and bombers (but no singles.) Bell's, Flat Earth, Jolly Pumpkin, and Rush River were just a few of the breweries I noticed on this visit, alongside two varieties of Butte Creek which weren't yet priced for sale. Opposite this is a shelf stocked with a good selection of European and Canadian imports (mostly singles) and several domestic bombers. In between these two shelves is their selection of Belgian ales, which could well be a focal point of a visit for some: Fantome Hiver, Chocolate, Brise BobBons, Cantillon Rose and Iris, plus the full line of Gouden Carolus. Rochefort 8 and 10, and several gift sets rounded out this selection and will doubtless bring me back soon.
After looking around quite a while I noted that the prices seemed very reasonable all around, which is reason enough for me to poke my head into The Wine Thief on a more regular basis. We rounded out our selection with an Olfabrikken Porter and a La Fin du Monde. Although I don't need any instruction in the way of beer (and the wine is grouped very intuitively) the service at check-out was good and more importantly very friendly, making for a very good retailer overall.
7/2010 EDIT: Rather than re-write my earlier review, I will add, here, and quite simply, that 'The Ale Jail' offers what is quite possibly the very best "mix-a-six" selection in the Twin Cities metro area!
Having not visited TWT/TAJ in over a year, I was simply astounded to find the selection on-hand, and also amazed to learn that there are three dedicated Beer Experts available to help you learn more about the products on-hand and help you to 'train your palate', as it were.
Upon entering the newly-expanded store, I was greeted by Adam, who quite literally blew me away with both his product knowledge and his professionalism: The Ale Jail is what Twin Cities area beergeeks have always dreamed of having - a retailer that treats beer with the very same respect that wine has always been given!
On top of the fantastic selection, top-flight service, and product knowledge, there's also reading material available on-site that you may browse and consult during your visit to the store, all of which might help you to better understand the expansive world of Craft and Specialty Beer.
07-15-2010 03:34:15 | More by Chaz
3.6/5 rDev -18.7%
quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 2 | $$
Located a few blocks from Macalester College, this is really a nice little wine store, clearly the emphasis, as there isn't much room for more. The beer is definitely an afterthought. There is but one shelf of beer, really just a bookshelf stocked with mostly 750s, but the quality is top notch. Delirium, Corsendonk, Tripel Karmeliet, Avery, etc. Everything came in singles, with the exception of three types of Summit (IPA, Maibock, Pale Ale) in 12 packs. The service was good, though I didn't have much to ask or say. Basically, a good place to stock up on good stuff if you live in the neighborhood, but otherwise I'd have no reason to go.
04-03-2006 03:24:47 | More by objectivemonkey
The Wine Thief & Ale Jail in Saint Paul, MN
96 out of 100 based on 35 ratings.