Chippewa Falls on a cold winter’s night leaves you with only a few options. That’s why we’d found ourselves on a brisk walk along the Chippewa River. Our plans were to end the night at a local bas, a wish we would grant for someone’s 60th birthday. But before a local dive, we wanted a trendier option. We would soon spot the blue and yellow signs of the Chippewa River Distillery & Brewster Bros. Brewing Co.
My father in-law isn’t a big craft beer drinker. He suffers through the endless breweries trips that the family likes to take fairly regularly, and only he has recently found a couple of beer styles that he can be familiar with. There is one craft beer that you can consistently find in his fridge, which led us to take a road trip for his birthday. That drive took us over the border into Wisconsin and ended at the Leinie Lodge, the birthplace of Honey Weiss, and the home of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company.
There are a handful of breweries that open and I earmark as a must visit. In February of 2017 one brewery joined the ranks of many other Minneapolis brewers, and it stood out from the others. Early reports were favorable, but I like to let places condition a bit before I visit. More than a year later, my father mentioned that if I were to make the trip to Utepils Brewing, he would want to join. So we went.
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!
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.
New taprooms continue to open every month, and the summer is high season. When my brother-in-law mentioned he wanted to visit a taproom that “nobody had been to yet” I knew there were several to choose from. I told him that Pryes Brewing Company had just opened their new riverside taproom. A day later we were working up a thirst and cruising along the river road.
On a Saturday morning in early December, Samantha and I were sitting at a small table in New London’s Middle Fork Cafe. We were enjoying a small brunch in preparation for our the next taproom on our list and trading stories about our travels from the night before. The food was good but once I finished my sandwich the mind switched gears to beer. We paid and then took to the cold streets to arrive at our next stop, Goat Ridge Brewing Company, just as they opened at noon.