During my childhood Germany was the home of beer. The mere mention of the country evoked visions of jolly bearded men in lederhosen clinking their overflowing steins and swaying back and forth to Bavarian folk music. It wasn’t just any beer either, I’d heard they had “dark” beer which, for the delicate palate of rural Minnesota, meant a truly undrinkable draught. I didn’t develop a taste for beer until we were planning our honeymoon in Europe. Our itinerary would bring us to Munich at the start of Oktoberfest, and preparation for that trip was the catalyst for the love of craft beer that would follow.
In January my wife and I were determined to visit our friends in Cleveland for a birthday party. That’s a significant drive, so we decided to make a pit stop in Chicago to visit my old friend and roommate Adrian. I slipped out of work around lunch, swung home to pick up Samantha, and texted my friend our estimated time of arrival. He was well prepared for our visit and had planned our night accordingly. The first stop was for food and beer at the Two Brothers Brewing Roundhouse.
It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect upon the breweries that I visited in the past year and identify some of my favorites. Since this is the second time I’m doing these awards I added some ground rules. I’m only assigning an award to somewhere that I visited in 2017. If you don’t see one of your favorites then let please let me know. Rest assured that with the amount of breweries now in Minnesota there is a great chance I didn’t make it there. In an effort to shake things up, I decided to ensure there were no repeats from last year. Lastly, to recognize the best of the breweries that opened in 2017, there is a new category called Best New Brewery. Let’s get started!
The company I work for does an event every quarter. After we’re done there are a handful of regulars that like to keep things going. We were in Eagan and someone mentioned that there was a new place that had opened recently. Before long I was closing my vehicle door and searching for the entrance to Union 32 Craft House.
There are a couple of breweries that have been on my “must visit” list for a couple of years now. The issue is that they are usually a bit out of the way or may have beers that may not be that approachable. When my friend Mitch expressed that he had a night free and wanted to visit a brewery I realized that the stars had aligned. It’d be just us, two craft beer lovers always looking for something new. I was quick to suggest HammerHeart Brewing Company, and he was quick to accept.
We haven’t taken this year’s Northern Ale Guide as seriously as we did last year. It’s looking like we’ll be lucky to finish half of the book, a far cry from the full stamping we previously notched. While snacking on delicious salsa at Pajarito in St. Paul our conversation naturally led us to where we should end our evening. It was only natural that we’d take a peak in the book and take the short drive to 12welve Eyes Brewing.
I’ve got a bad habit about buying a Groupon and forgetting to use it. There is even a brewery that closed after I bought one and I was unable to redeem it. On a brisk Autumn evening my loving wife informed me that we were down to the last day of my latest purchase and I was bound and determined not to let it expire. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to join me as she was preparing for a dinner party the following evening. So I called my father, never one to turn down a free beer, and we headed to Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative.
We’ve got a couple of friends that live south of the metro area that enjoy visiting new breweries with us. Because of this we’re always looking for openings in that area. This allows us to spend more time in the taproom and waste less of our weeknights on the road. One thing we noticed was a pocket of new breweries opening near Northfield. The newest of these is Chapel Brewing and not long after they opened we stopped by for a visit.
These days most of our friends know that I blog about our breweries. When they want to hang out, we don’t need to suggest a venue. Usually people want to share one of their favorite spots, their local taproom, or are looking to try something new. We recently had some out of state friends that wanted to meet up and they were quick to suggest a new brewery near the area they were staying. That’s how we found ourselves in the parking lot of Unmapped Brewing Co.
When you backpack for 22 days you find yourself with a lot of time to think. If you’ve got nothing to drink except artificially sweetened water your mind inevitably wanders to beer. After completing our trek we had one last stretch to retrieve our car. With pavement pounding against our weary feet we had one criteria for our final evening: no walking. So we booked a room at the Suites Hotel in Canal Park, inhaled some pizza at the Old Chicago below, and strolled down the hall to our final destination. Hoops Brewing Company beckoned.