On Saturday, October 11th, a new era for craft beer began in Nisswa, MN.  The weather was perfectly crisp and the sun was shining bright in the northern Minnesota sky.  Outside of Gull Dam Brewing Inc., the waterwheel stood still as the slight breeze whispered through the air and the sun radiated off of the water in the pond.  That serene image was the first thing I saw as I pulled up to the brewery.  I remember thinking that this scenic perfection is probably why people come up here.  How ironic, that just feet from this image of solace and serenity, a polka band was kicking out wonderful music and the taps were opening for the first time at Gull Dam, keeping patrons smiling after each sip of wonderful beer.

Barb and Mark Anderson were all smiles as they greeted the steady stream of thirsty and enthusiastic craft beer fans entering the big tent out back of their newly opened brewery.  As folks bellied up to the bar to partake in the selections that included a Honey Wheat Ale, a Scotch Ale, Amber Ale and Abita Root Beer, the energy in the taproom grew.  At 1:00 pm, the The Jolly Zuk Brothers kicked up the polka music with “In Heaven There Is No Beer.”  Like clockwork, a couple sitting at a big table in the tent got up to kick up their heels with an array of polka steps that would have made Deney Terrio change careers.   Just like that, we were all aboard the party train to Funville, USA.

Inside the taproom, Jr’s No. 19 BBQ was serving up some amazing ribs and brisket.  Their great recipe for slow roasting the meat paired with their signature sauces made it a great accompaniment to the Scotch Ale that I ordered.  I had a hunch the flavor of toasted malt in the beer might play nicely with the ribs and brisket.  Well, I don’t want to say that I transcended to a different plane of existence, but I did speak in tongues for about 3 minutes.  The BBQ went brilliantly with the Scotch Ale and as I wiped the sauce from my face and tears of joy from my eyes, I thought that this is what it is all about.  If the food wasn’t enough, Gull Dam Brewing Inc. has a great selection of merchandise.  From beer cozies to sweatshirts, there is something for every season to keep you equipped to enjoy the outdoors while representing Gull Dam Brewing Inc.

Looking around the brewery I saw so many people talking beer and having a good time.  There was a time, not too long ago, that all one could find to drink up in these parts was domestic mainstream beer.  The energy and fervor that was on display centered around the opening of a new craft brewery made me happy for the people of Nisswa and the surrounding area.  For Barb and Mark Anderson, this vision has been years in the making.  According to Gull Dam’s Facebook page, there were nearly 4,000 people who attended this event.  Lining up live music like the Jolly Zuk Brothers and The Lamont Cranston Blues Band is a good way to get people in the door, but in order to keep them coming back, a brewery
need to have something special in the kegs.

The architect behind crafting these delicious and zymurgically deft beers is Luke Steadman, perhaps better known as “Brew Man Luke.”  Luke is 26 years old and the head brewmaster of Gull Dam Brewing Inc.  What were you doing when you were 26 years old?  I can only speak for myself when I say I wasn’t that good at anything at age 26.  Luke understands that beer isn’t just something you drink; it is an art form.  Luke’s passion for beer is evident in chatting with him about what he likes to brew, the way he brews and the ingredients that he uses to brew.  Luke does not use typical ingredients and always wants to find the new thing to make his beers better.  One of Luke’s greatest assets is his effervescent personality.  When I told him that his Scotch Ale was one of the best representations of that style I have ever tasted, his smile lit up the room.  He cares immensely about the quality of the beer they serve at Gull Dam.  I got to smell some of the Empire hops from Michigan that he uses in his beer.  He seeks out ingredients that are not yet mainstream and uses them to make his beers stand out from the crowd.  With about 8 million things to do on this day, he chatted with me and was even kind enough to show me around the place.  This is not just the way he believes that people should be treated, it is also a culture at this place.  They want people to feel comfortable coming in for a pint of beer and having a Gull Dam good time doing it.

So, next time you are headed due north to go slay your limit of Walleyes on Gull Lake, make it a point to add in some time to stop in at Gull Dam Brewing Inc.   Everyone on staff at Gull Dam will greet you with a warm smile and a beer to quench your thirst and amaze your palate.  If the grand opening was any indication, this place will be the gathering place for a lot of happy beer drinkers for years to come.