As I mentioned in my previous post about my visit to Jack Pine Brewery, I was in the Brainerd lakes area for a bachelor party at the end of August. Mid-day on Saturday I had to leave early to get to a wedding, but I took a slight detour into Nisswa, MN to get one more stampy in my Northern Ale Guide. So, on a windy overcast day, I pulled into the parking lot of Big Axe Brewing Company.
Big Axe Brewing Company joins Gull Dam Brewing, Jack Pine Brewery, and Roundhouse Brewery in making the Brainerd lakes area a destination for beer enthusiasts. The industry fits perfectly with the outdoor culture already present in the area and both the tourists and locals will benefit from the craft beer movement. I can see several other breweries opening in the next couple of years.
I hadn’t expected things to be too busy on an early Saturday afternoon but that idea quickly faded as I struggled to find a parking spot. When I walked up to the door I could see that there were plenty of people enjoying the weather on the patio and as I entered the door I found myself already in line for beer. This gave me a little time to look around the taproom. Big Axe Brewing Company opened in a building that was formerly a sandwich shop and they still had a room where they were serving lunch. The menu looked tasty but as I would find out later it was taking them a long time to get food out of the kitchen. I didn’t have enough time to wait but from the looks on people’s faces it seemed like they were enjoying themselves.
The brewery portion of the taproom looked like an addition and the seating in there was fairly minimal. The atmosphere and decor are fantastic. I grabbed my pint and sat at a bar along the wall. A slightly cracked window gave me a nice refreshing breeze and as I watched the clouds roll in the sun peeked out to light up my beer. A wooden sign was nestled in the rafters which I took a lot of pictures of. Adding to the scene was one of the brewers working on a batch of beer as the patrons sat and drank. They also have one of the nicest bars I’ve seen. The back is made up of many beams cut to different depths. It’s a fantastic look and added a contemporary twist to the backwoods decor.
There was a steady stream of people ordering beer, and each one had a smile on their face. It struck me that this is one of the things that I like about breweries and taprooms. Nobody can be in a bad mood while ordering a beer. So what about the beers I tried? The first was the Citra Wheat, one of three wheat beers on tap. This one had a citrusy lemon aroma and was cloudy straw gold in color. The flavor was as expected: crisp, refreshing, and wheaty. A lacy head remained on the walls of the glass as I finished the beer. The second that I tried was called Matty’s Mosaic. As could be guessed by the name, this was a pale ale brewed with mosaic hops. It had a wonderful fruity hop aroma with a flavor to match. A great pale ale that I thoroughly enjoyed.
It was a short visit to Big Axe Brewing Company but I had a really good time. I was solo once again which allowed me to focus a little more on the ambience than usual. The crowd was mostly families and your out of town lakes crowd. I’m sure the locals enjoy the place but I don’t think they were there on an August Saturday afternoon. The area can certainly support a large taproom but I like the intimate feel that they’ve got. I’m ready to go back and reading through my notes I wish I would’ve had more time to try some of their other beers. If you’re in the area, it’s a must stop!
My wife and I basically traced your trip to the Brainard area. We stopped at Big Axe, Gull Dam, and Jack Pine on the last Saturday in September. We ordered flights of beer at each location. In all we tried 19 different brews that day. It is a good thing they are only 3 oz. glasses. We enjoyed each of the breweries and all were staffed with pleasant people. Our favorite site was Gull Dam because of the patio. We love to explore the culture of the new age of beer. Thanks for sharing your experience with everyone on your website.