It was the first wedding anniversary since our daughter was born. My wife was on maternity leave and I was on paternity leave and we were determined to get out of the house and enjoy what was left of the summer. We chose to begin by giving the tread of our new stroller an off road test on Fort Snelling’s Pike Island. Instead we got lost immediately after leaving the parking lot, took a harrowing trip down a steep path, and ran out of energy before we really began. Once we pushed the stroller back up the hill we agreed that it might be more fun to just go have a drink at the Summit Brewing Company Ratskeller.
I’d been to Summit’s taproom many times, but this was the first that I had visited since the relaunch and rebranding of their Ratskeller. It’s one of our favorite low key spots to visit in the warmer months due to the quiet sleepiness of the patio that flanks the building. Nothing flashy, just a little oasis in the city. Our arrival assured me that the patio had remained the same post-remodel but with our newborn in tow our plan was to retreat into their expansive air-conditioned interior.
The first thing you’ll notice about Summit is the scale. They must have the highest ceilings of any taproom in the state, and I’d expect nothing less from Minnesota’s second largest brewery! For those that have never visited I’ll give you a quick sense of the changes. The bar has been moved from its previous position tucked in the corner and is now centered on the back wall. It anchors the room beautifully and becomes a centerpiece with its decorative woodwork, brass foot rail, and shiny wooden top. Large black and white photos ring the walls of the room. A herringbone brick floor provides a steady base for their tables and chairs. Those have been replaced with the kind of seating that you’d typically see at a bier garden in Munich. I’m also happy to report that their giant copper kettles are still visible in the corner of the room. These beauties were brought over from Hürnerbräu in Ansbach Germany and they served as the basis of their mid-90’s expansion. The door has also been moved to the front of the building, although during our visit the concrete was still drying and we had to use the old side door.
We arrived shortly after they opened and I was surprised at how busy they actually were for that early in the afternoon. It turns out that most of the people were waiting for the tour. I’m fairly sure they give these for free. I’ve never taken Summit’s but I imagine it’s pretty impressive due to the scale of their operation. Our spot was near the center of the room and we both remarked at how much natural light was spilling in. That was due to a bank of windows facing the patio side of the building the green trees and blue sky provided a nice backdrop during our visit.
It’s a shame that Summit isn’t mentioned very often when it comes to the best beer in the state. Sure, if you’re looking for the latest milkshake IPA or pastry stout you’ll be let down but if you want standard styles brewed incredibly well then it’s hard to go wrong with their lineup. The EPA is their best seller and you only have to drink one to see why. It still holds up incredibly well, it’s just not sexy or new. They have branched out recently and now have a whole host of taproom only beers that stretch outside their comfort zone.
I had a mixture of full pints, 7 ouncers, and tasters. Those beers were their Golden Fruited, Cranky Woodsman, Helles Yah, You Betcha, Lazy Sipper, and Oatmeal Stout. Two of those beers were the State Fair beers from the last two years. First was 2018’s Helles Yah, You Betcha. I lost the contest to name that beer so it was with a bit of a heavy heart that I ordered it! It’s a dry hopped lager, crisp and delicious, with a nice dry finish. 2017’s Lazy Sipper was fruity and flavorful with great notes of grapefruit and citrus. My favorite though was the Cranky Woodsman. It’s a Nut Brown Ale and had a touch of smoke, heavy malt backbone, and a splash of citrus to balance the sweet. It was brewed with wild rice and maple syrup which makes it sort of like Minnesota in a glass. Highly recommended!
If you’ve never visited Summit then there is no time like the present. Not only do they have some of the most underrated beer but I think their taproom has flown under the radar as well. They are the most European of any brewery that I’ve visited in Minnesota so far and it’s one of our favorite spots to spend a lazy summer afternoon. Put them on your list!