During our effort last year to complete our Northern Ale Guide we knew we’d have to make a trip or two to knock a bunch off the list. We set aside a weekend with our friends Megan and Mitch to hit the southeastern Minnesota breweries. So on an early October evening we started our journey at Rochester’s Forager Brewery.
As the name suggests, Forager Brewery specializes in using foraged ingredients for both their beer and food. The ingredients they are unable to locate in the wild are sourced from local farms, which helps support the local economy. In keeping with the theme of unusual ingredients, they’ve also got several sour varieties on tap and other less common styles available. To create their sours they use barrels that begin their life as bourbon barrels which are used to age honey from Turkey Hill Apiary and then appropriated by Forager to age beer from one month to two years! This spirit of sustainability and creativity is seen throughout the entire taproom experience.
My brother and his family live in Rochester so we’ve had the chance to visit Forager Brewery several times. With how often my brother talks about them (who is not a beer drinker by any stretch of the imagination), I can tell they are making waves in the area for culinary purposes alone. I can honestly say they’ve got the best food I’ve had at any brewpub I’ve visited. I am a hobbiest forager myself so I can really respect and appreciate the effort that goes into identifying and locating the ingredients they utilize. It also adds unique and subtle flavors to their food and drink. On this trip we had one of their wood fired pizzas with foraged wild mushrooms. Quite delicious!
Once you enter, you walk through the Kutzky Market portion of the building. This is made up of a lovingly decorated coffee shop and leasable pop-up kitchen space. The fixtures and decor continue into the taproom which has an eccentric vintage atmosphere. There are multiple levels to the dining area, with a mixture of seating including a room that is more reminiscent of a library than a brewery. The taproom spills out to a patio area and while I’ve not been able to visit in warm weather I’m to understand they grow their own variety of plants onsite.
What about the beer? I’ve enjoyed their beer each time I’ve visited but this time I took a closer look at a variety of their styles. I tried Thirsty Lungs, Moon Hops, and Flood. Flood was a robust english porter that was clean and smooth with a touch of dark chocolate bitterness. It reminded me a bit of chocolate milk. Moon Hops was a double IPA with a nice grapefruit aroma. Thirsty Lungs was my favorite of the three. It was described as a Mosaic Hopped American Ale. It had a great aroma, a crisp hoppy bitterness, and gives me an excuse to use my favorite adjective in describing beer: drupaceous.
Rochester may seem like a world away but it’s actually a relatively short drive from the Twin Cities. In addition to several breweries and brewpubs there are a host of other food and drink options. Forager Brewery is a unique concept that’s worth the trip alone. If you see something with mushrooms on the menu, just order it. I’ve never been let down, and if you’ve never tasted morels, hen-of-the-woods, or chanterelles, you owe it to yourself to give them a try. While the food is the star, the beer is pretty damn good too!