As OTE is your Midwestern lifestyle blogazine of choice (or not, whatever), I figured I would fill your time with a little craft beer chatter, as it’s been a while since we’ve had some good, simple conversation over beer we’ve enjoyed recently.
Short of sharing our Untappd information and trying to aggregate things that way (though feel free to do so in the comments!), I figured it’s never a bad time to share a few of the places we’ve been across our great Heartland—and beyond. So here’s my aggregated list of the last month or so—new breweries, fun things, etc:
Most of these came on a trip across Wisconsin after a series of meetings in Milwaukee, hitting up three breweries—don’t worry, all flights, stretched out over a 15-hour period—off the beaten path. I eschewed the breweries right on the freeway (your Tyranena in Lake Mills, your Madison breweries, your Sand Creeks in Black River Falls, etc.) in favor of something that required a little jaunt off the beaten pavement.
I didn’t realize I had been through Columbus once before on the Amtrak from Minneapolis to Milwaukee, but getting out and seeing the town was cool. Cercis is going on a couple years old, located in an old bowling alley but having divided the space up into a beautiful front sitting area, a restaurant/bar with a full menu, and nice sitting areas with a lot of that natural wood, small-town bar kind of feel.
Bartender was really friendly and forthcoming, beers were interesting if skewed toward darker (I guess it’s winter), and the crockpots of soup and chili sitting out really made me wonder if a meat raffle was breaking out any time soon.
Beers I Had:
- Ten Pin Pale Ale
- Toast 2020 Spiced Belgian
- Columbus IPA
- River Bend Red
They were very high on their Belgians; not my style, but I gave them a try. I actually liked the Ten Pin a lot more than the Belgians—well-balanced, good flavor, a nice, standard American pale with mild hoppiness and some nice citrus flavors.
Tumbled Rock Brewing
Definitely a well-capitalized tourist hub, Tumbled Rock is just outside the north entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park, so if you’re ever out for a weekend hike, it’s worth a stop. The spaces were beautiful—as you park and walk up, there is a rustic-style restaurant to your left and a smaller, rustic garage-looking building to the right, separated by what I’m sure is a nice, open patio in the summer with turf, some bonfire pits, and appropriate farm implements scattered about to remind you that you’re in the country.
I didn’t go into the restaurant, so I can only speak to the brewery side of things and the flight I tried. And...well.
Beers I Had:
- Chuck Brown Dog Brown Ale
- Tumbled Rock IPA
- First Blood Blonde Ale
- Raspberry Imperial Stout
This basically goes in order of “beers I had” to “things I enjoyed,” with the blonde ale (their first beer) providing a nice little bitter and fruity twist on a blonde and the raspberry imperial combining the chocolate and raspberry flavors in a really easy-drinking imperial stout. A good palate cleanser.
PS, a pro tip: If you work at a brewery with a separate restaurant, it’s usually not the best idea to say “I like working in the other space better” in earshot of your patrons.
Words can’t describe this place, a little 40-acre farm (that’s for sale!) out in rural western Wisconsin just off I-94. Dave, a longtime brewery consultant and small-scale brewer and farmer, is an incredibly interesting and engaging guy, and his brewery is quite impressive—in the basement garage of his farm, with binders full of old recipes, self-installed brewing equipment and coolers, and old shirts bragging about the size of his windmill (as we all do).
These recipes and the whole setup are Dave’s (the guy in the flannel) brainchild—note on the picture how this is BrewFarm Menu #237: That number goes up by 1 every time at least four (I think that’s what Dave said) of the beers on tap change. It’s an awesome thing—a lot of locals, people who ride snowmobile, all based on word-of-mouth: Dave does no advertising and just brews for fun and a little profit, opening the brewery for business with an announcement on his website at the start of the month.
I can’t recommend Dave’s BrewFarm enough: Dave is incredibly forthcoming with ideas, philosophical chatter (he just finished an MA in Servant Leadership from Viterbo and has amazing thoughts on AI and ethics in medical equipment and robotics), and thoughts on his beers.
And the beers. It’s a simple, elegant setup: $5 for a snifter glass, cash only, just sit and talk.
Beers I Had:
- Gentle Misnomer Pils
- CinnaPepper Saison
- Rustique de la Hopp
- Cow Pie Stout
- The Bloody Scot
Oh my. After the nice, gentle (sorry) introduction of his pilsner, a really easy-drinking beer, I really got a taste of the creativity on display. The CinnaPepper Saison—so named because of the cinnamon and pepper Dave adds to the brew, which...what a cool idea—had a nice spiciness on the nose that gave way to peppery, malty bread flavors.
At least I think.
Rustique was an understated sour (“understated” feels like very Dave’s style), and Cow Pie Stout (the OG of Dave’s beers) was smooth, rich, with chocolate and coffee backing up the roastiness of the stout. My goodness.
Go. And go now. It’s been up for sale for a long time, and you never know...
PS: A HUGE thank-you to chitownhawkeye for recommending Dave’s long, long ago and badgering me until I went. Well worth it.
As I prepare to head to Winter Beer Dabbler next weekend (gonna be there? email’s in the profile! say hi!), I’ve made a couple fun stops in the last week or so that’s given me an idea or two on new breweries around the Metro, particularly Minneapolis west.
(I know. I’m not happy about it either. But until South St. Paul gets a brewery or something or I have a reason to head to Rochester or Hastings, I’m stuck with where I live and work, and that’s west and central Minnesota.)
Lupine Brewing Co.
Just across the street from the Crow River in downtown Delano, Lupine has that small-town boutique brewery feel—exposed brick, local art for sale, yadda yadda—and is a nice place to swing in for a beer if you’re headed out of the Cities on U.S. 12 or looking for a stop as you cut south from Saint Cloud to the West Metro.
Beers I Had:
- Murder of Cranberries Stout
- Convocation Tea Ale
- Drooling Gary IPA
- Collective Buzz Honey Ale
I don’t know why I keep going back to tea ales. They weren’t my favorite at Milwaukee Brewing Company (who loved throwing Rishi tea into everything—not sure if they still do), and they’re not my favorite now. But Convocation was fine—nice earthy flavor backed up by a floral tea aroma. Collective Buzz is another nice, easy-drinking beer.
The Murder of Cranberries came on the recommendation of the bartender, and it was an excellent choice. A really solid, roasty stout with no frills on it.
And now, as I read this, their Twitter says they’re coming out with a Webbed Waddler West Coast IPA. Just need another reason to be going from Saint Cloud to Chaska during rush hour...
La Doña Cervecería
Did this one on Saturday with former BHGP editor GospelofMax. Good conversation, good beer, etc. La Doña has a great vibe, mixing the industrial city brewery feel (cinderblock walls, cement floors, etc.) with really cool ornaments highlighting how it’s a Latinx-owned and -operated cervecería: A Día de Muertos display, veladoras on little ledges on the walls, and a stand serving burritos and tacos. Oh, and there’s an outdoor soccer rink that I’m excited to head back to this summer.
Beers I Had:
- Doña Fria Mexican Lager
- Ifrit Smoked Chili Pepper IPA
- Enmolada Mole Stout
If the setting wasn’t enough, the beers...holy moly. Or...holy mole? (Sorry.)
Doña Fria was an excellent introduction to their samplings, a really smooth and drinking Mexican lager. And then...we got weird. The Ifrit is a collaboration with Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub in Minneapolis, blending their affinity for smokin’ shit with the pepper-based cuisine of La Doña, and...oh man. A nice peppery spice that gets your tongue tingling, followed by a smoky, hoppy mixture that washes it all down. Nothing too overpowering (though you might let slip an “Ope! That’s spicy!” betraying your Midwesternness), but certainly a delicious beer.
The Enmolada, as well...wow. Not too syrupy or thick like some mole- and chocolate-based stouts I’ve had, but with a nice creaminess and spiciness. Really good, can’t wait to come back and play some 3-a-side this summer.
Brew D’Etat and Ombibulous
A Burnsville brewery without a physical taproom. A Northeast Minneapolis liquor store that sells all their wares—and then some from the wide world of Minnesota (and Minnesota-only) beer, wine, and spirits.
Max and I (dear God, why am I hanging out with a Hawkeye so much?) went to Ombibulous’ two-year anniversary party in January, sampled stuff from Hastings’ Spiral Brewery, Hallock’s Far North Spirits, and a couple other stops. But Brew d’Etat—which, as mentioned, doesn’t have a physical taproom and brews in 2-barrel batches at a time—collaborated with Ombibulous on a two-year anniversary beer, and oh man, it was amazing.
Beers I Had:
- Dirty Chai Latte Stout
- Boss Voss Triple IPA
- Fast Track to Enlightenment Sour
These are just a few of the examples, and the only one I’m going to really bend your ear about here is the Dirty Chai, the two-year anniversary beer (pictured in the sidebar). Really smooth, with spices that I thought I’d mind but didn’t (I’m not a huge chai latte guy) and a crisp finish. I could’ve had a second crowler—that smooth.
Anyway, give a look for Brew D’Etat, and definitely check out Ombibulous (and their adorable corgi) for a wide panoply of Minnesota beers and wines, from Junkyard in Moorhead to Brew D’Etat in Burnsville to Klockow in Grand Rapids to all the various and sundry Twin Cities beers.
Alright. 1800 words on breweries I’ve visited are enough. Where have you been recently? Any new breweries I should try out on my upcoming trips to Des Moines, Milwaukee, or other various cities you’ve been to? Hit the comments.