In late August I found myself driving up to the Brainerd area for a bachelor party. Having had the foresight to keep my Northern Ale Guide in my car at all times, I decided it was worth a short detour to nearby Baxter before heading to the festivities. The destination for that day was Jack Pine Brewery.
Having done no research beforehand it was a surprise to me as I rolled into the parking lot to see the Jack Pine Brewery’s location. Like so many other small breweries they’ve carved a spot out of a formerly industrial area to brew beer. With the garage door open I got a glimpse into their small taproom and knew it’d be a unique experience. The moment I entered I realized it was just as expected with backwoods decor set within an industrial garage space. Most patrons seemed local yet there were a few outside visitors. This is to be expected for the area but that Friday afternoon we were greatly outnumbered.
The space is small and the operation matches that scale. Their tap list however is anything but. As I approached the bar to order the first of two pints I was surprised to see eleven beers on tap! This is a lot for any brewery but particularly large for one that seemed to only have capacity for around 50 people. I ordered a Dead Branch Cream Ale and grabbed a corner at one of their standing counter tables. Like most beers of the style it had a light body with a smooth and creamy flavor. There was a light bitterness and it was very refreshing. Perfect for the warm sunny day.
This was my first solo visit to a brewery so I had a good chance to really make note of my surroundings. I noticed flights being served in neat wooden containers. The seating area itself was at the center of brewing equipment and ingredients. There was no patio but a light breeze blew into the shaded taproom from an opened garage door. Their branding was fantastic and was capped off by a great wooden sign featured prominently behind the bar with their logo burned into it.
While I enjoyed the fantastic weather I grabbed my second and final beer: Hornet’s Nest. This one was a honey lemon wheat beer. It was very sweet with a great lemon aroma and flavor. The ABV was higher than I’d expect but it didn’t taste like it. It hit the spot on a balmy summer day. As I sipped the refreshing wheat ale I wondered if the locals knew how lucky they were to have this space available to them.
My only regret with Jack Pine Brewery is that I had a limited amount of time to enjoy it. I hope to return the next time I’m in the area. They had many beers that would be great to try out. Among them were a Nut Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Jalapeno Cream Ale, Imperial IPA, S’mores Stout, Wild Rice Brown Ale, Rye IPA, and a Dopplebock on Nitro! For a small town brewery this is a great variety of beers that the locals are fortunate to have. The setting would be perfect for a summer weeknight with friends since the self described nano-brewery doesn’t seem like it would be too loud or busy. Based on my short stay I would highly recommend a visit. I just need to find an excuse to get back up there!