This past weekend the wife and I took a trip to the north shore to get away a bit before the holidays hit. As luck would have it, Minnesota got socked with a snowstorm the day before we were supposed to leave. We kept an eye on the forecast, and snow reports, and decided to give it a go. As it turned out, the driving was fine and the weather ended up being perfect for some winter hiking fun (more on that in future posts). It was also perfect weather for checking out a new brewery we had never been to before.
Voyageur Brewing Company is a cozy little brewery and restaurant in Grand Marais, MN, right off of 61 through town. We checked their website and saw that they opened at 11 on Sunday and arrived right before 11:30. When we got there we found a sign on the door stating that they weren’t opening until 11:30 and we quickly found out why. Since it was only a minute or two before 11:30 I tried the door and we walked inside. What met our eye was a bunch of studio lights and a camera crew filming some type of program. They saw us come in and motioned us to a table off the side and the waitress came over and explained what was going on.
Apparently, Voyageur Brewing was being featured on a pilot for a new show on the Travel Channel about a British gentleman touring America one brewery at a time. She informed us that they were just finishing up and we simply had to keep our voices down for a few minutes while they completed the interviews. I ordered a flight and listened in as they put together the a few different takes with a few different questions about local brewing and ingredients. It was actually really interesting to listen to the conversation as the brewers talked about using Minnesota ingredients and the differences in American beer from British brews.
Soon the filming was done and returned my attention to the beer. Voyageur has a nice staple of regular beer, and their flight comes with their standard four, plus a choice of two seasonals. Overall, every beer I had was well made. One of my favorites was actually their IPA, despite the fact I’m not a huge IPA fan. Their balance of hops was spot on, and made for a really easy drinking beer. I could easily see drinking that one again.
The only beer I had an issue with was their porter, and not because of the flavor. I actually really enjoyed the brew, but it was more akin to a Schwartzbier/black ale than a porter. It was very easy drinking and smooth, which isn’t what I usually expect from a porter. I wanted a bit more chocolate and toasty overtones. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the beer; I love black ales, and this was a really great one. It just wasn’t a porter in my mind.
After my flight I got a chance to talk with the star of the pilot show and hear about how much he was enjoying getting to see America beyond New York and Vegas. I got to talk with him about our new Major League Soccer team and the differences with American Football. As I was chatting I was also enjoying my final beer of the visit, their Imperial Stout imbued with oak chips. This beer weighs in at over 9%, which puts it outside of my usual comfort zone. However, this beer was so smooth and flavorful, without the harsh alcoholic burn, that I really, really enjoyed it. I was told they only bring it out a few times a year, and I was honored to get to try it on our trip.
Voyageur Brewing is a wonderful place that we loved visiting. The taproom is comfortable and inviting. The walls were adorned with artwork from the local art community, and it even motivated us to visit a local gallery and buy a few prints to bring home. The staff was welcoming and really made us feel at ease despite showing up during an important event for their company.
I haven’t even talked much about the food which was really great, and worth the visit alone. The cheese curds were actually from a family that runs the cheese curd stand at the county fair where my wife grew up. One of the owners of the brewery was from her hometown. My pork sliders, on brew bread, were really tasty and just the right portion size. My wife enjoyed her Thai tacos, and we left feeling satisfied with both food and beer.
If you’re ever up in Grand Marais, Voyageur Brewing is worth the visit. It’s a great addition to a wonderful northern Minnesota town.