1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

The Wine Thief & Ale Jail

Not Rated.
   No picture uploaded.
   Have one? Upload it now.
BA SCORE
97
world-class

39 Ratings
Ratings: 39
Reviews: 26
rAvg: 4.44
pDev: n/a
[ Store ]

1787 Saint Clair Ave
Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55105-1941
United States
phone: (651) 698-9463

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @alejail

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: summitepale on 01-28-2006)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | next › last »
Ratings: 39 | Reviews: 26 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of mothman
3/5  rDev -32.4%

Photo of JosephThompson
3.2/5  rDev -27.9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3

The store itself is nice. Cool concept and it's played up and out on the walls all around you. Front entrance walks you into the wine area with a door frame a few steps to the right opening into the beer area.

Product is laid out nicely. I'm sure they have stock somewhere but oftentimes you'd only see one bottle of a label on the shelf. Whether to encourage you to buy or simply to save some space I'm not sure. There was nothing rare or special about the selection though what they have is what I'd consider the better quality of beers from the market.

Lots of local stuff including Braun Brothers, Steel Toe, etc. Remember a pretty decent sized Mikkeller selection if that's your thing. Of course, mix a six pack is available.

Service-wise, not much to say. They didn't bother me as it seemed they had other things going on. I visited on a weekday afternoon and saw one other customer so perhaps there was a massive event being planned that took up their time.

Photo of
3.45/5  rDev -22.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3

Well I had heard so many great things about the place and I finally had to make the trip in to check it out. I do agree with some of the things that have already been mentioned, but when I was in the store they did have a couple of guys in. I did wait around to talk to the beer guy but was unable to on a couple occasions. I had tried to inquire about items and was kind of ignored, seemed like he was too busy talking to his regulars/ buddies. The selection is nice but it's a lot of things that I can find at a lot of other stores. Cool vibe to the store, might stop back sometime in the future I would really have enjoyed a chance to talk to a cicerone. :( As for price a wee bit on the high side on some items.

Photo of objectivemonkey
3.6/5  rDev -18.9%

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.

Photo of ZMOS
3.66/5  rDev -17.6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5

A= A funky/artsy fartsy presentation that definately orchestrates the gimmick of name play. Lots of murals painted about.

Q= Nice little store with good mix and match 6 pack program. Not a lot of cold storage available.

S= Service was helpful without being pushy. One guy was working at the time of my visit and was restocking.

S= A lot of cool beers but space limits their overall selection. I did find some more eclectic things here though which was a good surprise.

F= N/A I did notice that they do serve samples of cheese cake and other foods during tastings.

V= Fairly reasonable for the area.

Photo of greenspointexas
3.75/5  rDev -15.5%

Photo of Sludgeman
4/5  rDev -9.9%

Photo of zeff80
4.08/5  rDev -8.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

Located a short distance from Groveland Tap in a neighborhood that looks straight from the 1960s. It is a nice, clean well-lit store with an entire room dedicated to beer. Less than a quarter of the beer is kept in coolers. It is organized by style throughout the room with a large selection of single 12oz bottles. The service was helpful and pleasant in late afternoon on a holiday weekend. The quality of every beer I've tried so far has been good. The selection was good but not as great as I had pictured from the other great reviews. I hoped to see more local/Great Lakes area beers in bombers/750s. This is a really good store that is pretty close to downtown St. Paul. It is worth taking the short drive to visit.

Photo of lonewolfcry
4.25/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of jarrgal
4.25/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of SlightlyGrey
4.25/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of Fluffheady
4.32/5  rDev -2.7%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.25 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.25

We are from out of town and visited several beer stores in Minneapolis. This place is where we gladly dropped most of our budget, and the place that any BA reader should visit. There is a great collection of growlers. They had the original half acre growler AND the new one. Any time I see that, I’m SOLD (living on the north side of Chicago). And the Russian River growler, etc, etc, etc. The man working the beer side of the store was extremely knowledgeable, and another one of the customers was a certified beer tasting judge. It is a great place. Stop here if from out of town. Shop here if you live here. These places need to survive.

Photo of Tamarack22
4.36/5  rDev -1.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

Let me get straight to the point; this is by far the best store I have ever been to for buying single bottles of beer. They have a great selection, but the best part is the price. Every bottle is priced in relation to it's case price. Every other store I've been to seems to round up to the nearest dollar; $2, $3, or $4 per bottle. At Ale Jail you pay the same price per bottle whether it's a 12-pack, 6-pack, or single bottle. Awesome!

Not a single "BMC" brand is to be found. Only the finest craft breweries on their shelves. Lots of Belgian beers and hard to find bombers and 750's. Cooler space is limited, but that doesn't bother me.

Knowledgable staff that is always willing to answer questions with straight answers. Great atmosphere. This is a beer store for beer advocates by beer advocates.

Photo of Expedition
4.44/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

I love this little joint in the East Side. A great destination beer store with a great selection, and the place is organized really well. It is not pretentious in any way. The cooler space is adequate as well. I see some folks complain about it where other beer stores in St. Louis Park have a single 2 door. Cooler space is over-rated.

I had a great time looking around here and the staff was great as well. I will always make a stop here when in the St. Paul area. Thanks Paul and crew! You made my day!

Photo of mnredsoxfan69
4.48/5  rDev +0.9%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.75 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

The Wine Thief & Ale Jail are two halves of a whole store with a wall and open doorway dividing them. The senior beer staff is extremely knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. The junior staff, not quite as knowledgeable, but still friendly and helpful. Their selection of superior beers is excellent with less attention paid to the low end. I saw no Keystone or Mountain Crest, but I did see a large variety of sours and Belgians and lots of other goodies. The prices are reasonable, some a little above what I've paid elsewhere, and some a little lower so it all evens out in that respect.

I'll be doing more shopping here.

Photo of gatornation
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

was in st paul today and went down snelling to st claire,,and parked right in front,,you enter on the left front door,,wine is immediately in front of you the beer is on the right thru another entry,,place is very cool inside.. its an old building with all wood floors inside.. beer chilled 4/6 packs are in a cooler on the back wall with a limited chilled selection..big single selection by variety is all around the floor space by style in bomber/750ml and singles imported and domestic..so much to choose from ..the help is knowledgeable,and great to talk with about brews and knowledge of product..really like this place

Photo of accordselux
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

A great place to shop. I've been shopping here since it was only the wine thief, and the beer selection was a single shelf.

The expansion is nice. An entire room devoted to wall-to-wall beer.

It's well lit, with nice wood shelving, nice paint and decorations, and a wall of coolers.

beer is top quality. Turnover is pretty good, and they always have the latest releases.

Service is great. I've talked to many of the employees, they are always in good spirits and there is always someone knowledgeable on staff.

Selection is very good. It is well organized by style, and stocks some high quality stuff.

My only complaint is that since it is a go-to store, things sell out quickly, and even though I shop frequently, I don't know if I'm readily recognized.

Photo of Chaz
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

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.

Photo of jera1350
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%
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.

Photo of heytomcat
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of CCutch
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

Great and variable selection with excellent turnover on IPAs and local beers. Nice and knowledgable staff that will help you find what you need and provide some honest opinions and great recommendations.

Photo of TGanyone
4.5/5  rDev +1.4%

Photo of augustgarage
4.6/5  rDev +3.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

I had the good fortune of staying less than a mile and a half away from this establishment during my visit to Saint Paul and was able to make repeat visits during the week.

The store is divided cleanly into a small room full of wine and a small room full of beer. A short wall is devoted to coolers, while the longer walls are lined with floor to ceiling shelves where you can select bombers, singles, etc. Everything is clean and well organized and protected from excessive light exposure.

I purchased an embarrassing amount while I was there, and the quality of every beer was superlative. You won't find a fresher can of Surly in the city (e.g. TWO DAY old Furious!).

Selection was fairly wide ranging in style with plenty of excellent German and Belgian beers intermingling with the wide array of local (Summit, Surly, Flat Earth, Steel Toe, Brau Brothers, August Schell) and mid-west/southern (Tall Grass, Bell's, Founders, Great Lakes, Rush River, Left Hand, etc.) offerings.

The staff was incredibly kind, knowledgeable, and accommodating without ever being pushy. It doesn't take long to realize you are among fellow enthusiasts when you step through the door (I noted a few growlers in the back of the fridge as well, shared among the employees as well as empty bottles of rarities the staff had obtained in trade). There is a secondary emphasis on food/cheese pairing to further elevate your beer enjoying experience.

With the 10% discounts on mixed 6 packs (make them up yourself), you can walk out with a large burden of bottles and cans for not a lot of money.

The only fault I could find is that they sold no glassware, but if this leaves room for more ale and wine it's a very minor complaint.

Photo of cpolking
4.64/5  rDev +4.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

This is a large, roomy, area and bright with natural light, boutique looking store. However, the prices are reasonable.

There is an extremely large selection and basically everything is available as a single. There is a great and varied selection of American craft beers, both those local to the Twin Cities area and nationally. There is also a decent international selection.

The staff when I visited was friendly and helpful but not pushy or hovering.

This is in a nice area of St. Paul and is a must stop if you are in the Twin Cities. It is my new favorite beer store.

Photo of dirtylou
4.64/5  rDev +4.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

I built the Ale Jail into my itinerary on a recent drive from Madison to Seattle. Of all the heavy hitter beer stores in MSP, this added the least amount of time to the trip. Other location notes - gas station right on the corner, Thomas Liquors a few blocks away and a Whole Foods in the immediate vicinity.

The focus of the stop was to grab a light stock of Surly cans and keep travelling. I was a little delayed by a lethal lightning/hail storm and had to wait outside the store for 15 minutes before it was safe to leave the car.

Surly bender, coffee bender, bitter brewer and hell were available. They had drained their furious stash but were kind enough to proactively call down to Thomas Liquors and gave me detailed directions on how to get there - very cool.

The focus of the main room is wine while the back room houses all the beer. There are a lot of bombers/750's and 4/6 packs in coolers and a large dry storage area housing singles, imports, etc.

Surly, Brau Brothers, Flat Earth, Rush River, Daves Brew Farm and lots of other midwest staples highlight the stash. I saw the Deschutes/Boulevard collaboration along with all the other Boulevard highlights as well.

A farmhouse 750ml (Auroch's Horn) was suggested by the shopkeep and thoroughly enjoyed.

Cool stop - very satisfied. Oh and whatever music they were dialed into was strong - heard an LCD Soundsystem song while browsing.

« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | next › last »
The Wine Thief & Ale Jail in Saint Paul, MN
97 out of 100 based on 39 ratings.