The Wine Thief & Ale Jail

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50 Ratings

Type: Store

1787 Saint Clair Ave
Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55105-1941
United States

(651) 698-9463 | map

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Added by summitepale on 01-28-2006

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Ratings: 50 |  Reviews: 29
Photo of zeff80
4.08/5  rDev -7.9%
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.

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Photo of accordselux
4.5/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

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Photo of Hopstout
5/5  rDev +12.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I discovered the Ale Jail only about 6 weeks ago and have already stopped in 6 times.
I have a few favorite local beer shops that I visit in the Twin Cities area, and this one has become my most favorite.
It's a fairly small place, but somehow they fit a HUGE selection of quality ales inside. They have MANY single bottles and they are displayed so that you can find what you are looking for easily.
I have found very rare and hard to find items here almost every time I have hopped in.
The staff is both incredibly knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with. Very down to Earth people. Not pushy at all.

Highly recommended.

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Photo of ZMOS
3.66/5  rDev -17.4%
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.

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Photo of dirtylou
4.64/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

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Photo of Tamarack22
4.36/5  rDev -1.6%
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.

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Photo of cpolking
4.64/5  rDev +4.7%
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.

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Photo of Expedition
4.44/5  rDev +0.2%
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!

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Photo of gatornation
4.5/5  rDev +1.6%
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 much to choose from ..the help is knowledgeable,and great to talk with about brews and knowledge of product..really like this place

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.8/5  rDev +8.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

I am very impressed with the beer selection at The Wine Thief and Ale Jail. Their singles selection is among the best in the Twin Cities, as is their Belgian selection, and their selection of unique/hard to find beers. The only thing I can say negatively about their selection is that their cooler space is somewhat limited. The service is really good, and even the wine guys seem to be very beer savvy. The atmosphere is inviting with a lot of space to move around in. I will definitely be going back here when looking for something odd.

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Photo of
3.45/5  rDev -22.1%
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.

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Photo of doucmehu
4.78/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

The Ale Jail is one of my favorite beer stores in all the land. I have only been coming here for a couple months, but they do not disappoint.

* Tastings - Every Tuesday they do a really nice tasting with at least 4 bottles. Examples are: Lips of Faith series, Lagunitas, Great Lakes, Great Divide, Brau Brothers....

* Social Media - Great job on posting good info, reviews, reminders, upcoming events, humor, etc.

* Selection - over 1000 beer sku's, all categorized and sortable online with current stock status!!

* Approachable - amazing staff, they can geek it up or be very down to earth for a newbie.

* The Boss - the manager of the beer store is a really nice guy, easy to talk to, extremely knowledgeable and unpretentious.

* Singles selection - simply excellent, including lots of imports.

My only two gripes with this store could be the prices and refrigeration, but honestly paying an extra buck or two for this selection and dealing with room temp on a lot of beers is acceptable for me.

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Photo of zeledonia
4.8/5  rDev +8.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

Seems like every time I go there, it's empty. And I can't fathom why. In fact, I'm tempted not to review it so I can keep it to myself and the others who already know about it.

You have to walk through the wine side to get to the "Ale Jail." Once there, it's roomy and quiet. Great selection, a wall of single 12 oz. bottles, a wall of bigger bottles, a wall of coolers, and tables in the middle with 4- and 6-packs.

The mixed 6-packs are the best value I've found; the per-bottle prices are the same as if you bought a pack of each. Awesome selection, mostly organized by style. They also seem to get less traffic than other spots with similar selection, so they have the limiteds and other sought-after stuff for quite a bit longer (e.g. they had plenty of Founders Imperial Stout long after it was gone from my local more-popular shop).

Staff is super helpful, and usually very available. Seriously, why is there never anyone else there?

Great place, well worth a visit for the value and selection. And I hear the weekly tastings are great, though I haven't yet made it to one.

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Photo of corcoranjc
5/5  rDev +12.9%

This is a wonderful place, and I regularly drive out of my way to visit this store. Prior to the Ale Jail side opening (there is both a beer store - Ale Jail, and a wine shop - The Wine Thief on the premises), my wife and I would regularly go here for wine. Now that the Ale Jail has opened it's an incredible one stop shop. Really the only reason I go anywhere else at this point is if I am pressed for time and need to just stop at a local shop in South Mpls where we live or if I'm short of cash and am looking for some sale items.

The shop is small and they do not usually have a lot of items on sale, but it is the best place to find some rarer beers and to try a wide variety of selections (their singles wall is exceptional). Adam who runs the beer side is very knowledgeable and approachable. Also, stop by on Tuesdays for their tastings....really great!

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Photo of plfahey
5/5  rDev +12.9%

Ale Jail has quickly become the best place to buy beer in St. Paul. They boast an incredible selection of single bottles (on their build a 6-pack wall) at quite cheap prices-this is where you'll find the best deals in the store. They also regularly get in special offerings that are difficult (if not impossible) to find elsewhere in the twin cities.

Adam, who is in charge of the beer side of the wine thief/ale jail enterprise was recently certified as a cicerone, and it shows in his knowledge and familiarity with the beer that they offer. He's easy to talk to and enthusiastic about what he does-always ready and excited to help you find a beer to suit whatever you may be looking for.

I'm so excited to finally have an excellent beer store on this side of the river-tho even if you're a Minneapolis resident this one is definitely worth checking out.

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Photo of bsp77
4.85/5  rDev +9.5%

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.

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Photo of EJNibs
5/5  rDev +12.9%

*UPDATE* 8/7/10
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.

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Photo of jera1350
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.

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Photo of Chaz
4.5/5  rDev +1.6%

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.

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Photo of objectivemonkey
3.6/5  rDev -18.7%

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.

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The Wine Thief & Ale Jail in Saint Paul, MN
Place rating: 4.43 out of 5 with 50 ratings