After a night of drinking, a rare opportunity to sleep in, and a breakfast of french toast we hit the road. Because our next taproom wasn’t open until the afternoon we needed to kill some time. We made a day of it by visiting a couple of apple orchards (tasty hot cider and crispy donuts), ate lunch at the historic Hubbell House, got a very informative tour and beer samples from Tod Fyten at nearby Mantorville Brewery, and took in Winona from the Garvin Heights overlook. After a full morning working up a thirst we finally arrived at our destination: Wenonah Brewing Company.
The origin of Wenonah Brewing Company is older than most other craft breweries operating today. It began in 1998 as Backwater Brewing Company, a brewpub located in Wellington’s Pub & Grill. Now fifteen years later they’ve outgrown their location and Chris Gardner joined with two of his friends and fellow homebrewers Steve Barber and Dave Weinhold to open Wenonah in nearby Goodview, MN. Hopefully a sign of things to come to an area that has a rich brewing history with many breweries formerly located in the area.
I thought LTS Brewing was salt of the earth, so that makes Wenonah Brewing Company the Bonneville Salt Flats! Its location appeared to be an old gas station convenience store, complete with the old pump island out front. The interior was dark, lit mostly by the sun streaming in from the front windows. Seating and decor was mismatched and reminiscent of a small town dive bar (not a bad thing). The area we sat in you could hit your head on a fermenter if you leaned too far back. Truly a unique environment as far as taprooms go.
Unbeknownst to us, we visited during their Oktoberfest release party. The locals had definitely heard the news as the taproom was busy and the outdoor area behind the building was full of people playing games and eating food. There was also live music playing inside while we were drinking which was unexpected, but a nice surprise. This kind of atmosphere captures what craft beer is really all about: community and the arts coming together.
We only had time for a couple of beers. The first I had was their Oktoberfest. It was sweeter than I expected, not as clean and spicy as other Märzens but not too bad either. I also had a glass of their Hop Backed Cascade Ale. Either something was wrong with my palate or their was an issue with the batch because the flavors I was getting were not what I had expected. My wife had their Wenonah Nut Brown and enjoyed it, so I’m thinking something was just off that day.
Their logo features an illustration of the iconic Sugar Loaf bluff. It’s simple, but sometimes less is more. They’ve also got the nicest chair of any brewery I’ve been to. I even took a picture of it to share with the world! This sounds silly, but sometimes it’s these small details that stick in your head. I want to give Wenonah Brewing Company another shot, because we didn’t have a lot of time set aside for them. They had a good selection of beers on tap and I would like to try them all. Their whole vibe was truly unique and it’s great that people from the area finally have some options for something other than a light lager.