A couple weeks ago, we headed up to the Brainerd area for a weekend getaway. As is our custom we hit some breweries while we were up in the area. Once again, this trip showed me that you can get decent craft brew outside the metro areas. Although none of these breweries would be considered a destination on their own, they are all well worth the visit if you’re in the area.
First up, Starry Eyed Brewing Company, in Little Falls, MN. This brewery is right off the highway and has ample parking next to it’s hop farm. It was cool to see another brewery that is investing in growing some of it’s own ingredients. We got a flight, and some food from the fundraiser going on outside, and I started my tasting. Overall, the beers were on point for style, but the one that stuck out for me was the coconut porter. That one was top notch, especially if you really like coconut flavor.
After we had gotten settled into our campsite, I headed in to Baxter to visit the new location of Jack Pine. I’ve been to Jack Pine before, a few years ago when they were in a different location, and I was curious to see their new space. I remembered being really impressed with their beers the last time I was there, however this time, I found their selections to be just average. Perhaps it’s because the last time I was there in the winter, and their winter lineup is more impressive. Nothing was particularly bad, but there were only a couple of standouts. The most impressive being their jalapeño cream ale, which was incredible. The heat balance was perfect for me, and I loved every last sip. I brought home a crowler of it and shared with with friends this past weekend. This is one that I could see getting every time I visit.
The next day we ended up in Crosby, MN and visited Cuyuna Brewing Company. This is a small brewery in what has become a very bike centric town. They had a nice selection of fruit style beers, and they were all really solid. I brought home a crowler of their apple lime saison that they did in collaboration with Sociable Cider Werks, as it was a great blend of beer and cider. They also had a nice cozy taproom, right on main street, with friendly people behind the bar.
Our final stop of the trip was Roundhouse in Brainerd. This is another one we’ve been to before, and our impression of it was probably tainted by the wonderfulness of the evening. It was a snowy night and there was music playing, and some folks working on the giant Jenga game. It’s a night that felt relaxed and special. However, this time it was a little less pleasant. There were a couple people who insisted on smoking on the patio, and seemed like they had been drinking a bit too much. They were a little over the top and it diminished the enjoyment of the evening a bit. The beer was all pleasant, and I liked that I could get a good Grodziskie. It’s not a beer style I drink often, but I don’t mind one once or twice per year.
Overall, it was a great weekend of fun, and the brewery tourism was just one part of it. It’s nice to have so many options when we travel, and if you’re ever heading up this way, I’d encourage you to give these places a solid try.