A Revelation in Hallock
This past weekend Jim Stroner, myself, and my wife Sarajo took a long weekend to travel to some of the harder to get to Minnesota breweries. A recent thread on the Beer People Facebook site asked the question of how many Minnesota Breweries people have been to. After this trip, I’m up to about 123–just in Minnesota. Wow!
I remember moving back here for Residency and there were only about 7 breweries or brewpubs in the whole state. With many small towns opening breweries, it has become increasingly hard to get to some of these without making a special trip. I’ll be writing up more about our trip in another 1-2 posts in the coming weeks, but for now I wanted to focus on the shining star of the show: Revelation Ale Works.
Revelation Ale Works is located in the tiny (population 981) town of Hallock, Minnesota, located just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border and from North Dakota. As such, it is the farthest in the state that I’ve travelled to. We arrived in Hallock and checked into the only hotel in town, being the only car in the parking lot. Walking a few blocks we felt like the city was completely empty and vacant… was this an olde time Northern Minnesota ghost town? Wind off the prairie buffetted us as we strode down the empty streets. I half expected to see tumbleweeds roll across in front of us or a see a half-starved mangy cur growl at us hungrily. But then we turned a corner and discovered that the town was gearing up for their annual Rib Fest contest and celebration, and pretty much the half the town was gathering there for meat and merriment!
We walked another block down the cute and very classic small town main street to the brewery. The wind continued whipping through the city and keeping people indoors at the brewery. Revelation is located in an old 1930’s service station that was going to be torn down prior to its current incarnation. The owners of Revelation Ale Works, Ryan and Lindsey Evenson (and Ryan’s brother and brewer Josh) got the property in 2015 for a cool 100 dollars and have rescued this classic building by turning it into one of the most unique Minnesota breweries.
Opened in 2017 after extensive work, the place itself is small but comfortable, with a few different seating places and nooks available within, setting it apart from the more common high-ceilinged, too-open warehouse based tap rooms. This being a special town occasion, pretty much everyone not at the Rib Fest was apparently drinking in the brewery! The place was packed near to bursting with boisterous and happy locals.
We were greated immediately on entering by Lindsey as Jim had warned them that we were visiting. She was busy training in a new taproom manager on this particular day (talk about a trial by fire first day!) Despite the crowd and her many duties, she took time out to pour us some samplers and give us a little history of the brewery. While she went back to work, I spent some time talking to Ryan and Josh’s dad Mark, who is also much involved with the brewery these days.
Sarajo managed to find us some precious table space for our samplers and we proceeded to taste through all the beers. I’ve been doing less in-depth reviews of beers in my write-ups recently, but these Revelation Ale Works beers deserve some more time. I’m rating these on my own personal 0-5 scale, with 0 being like peat-bog squeezings from my wet socks in Scotland, and 5 being Cantillon sours from Belgium.
Revelation Ale Works Beers
Blonde: This is the beer for the locals and those not experienced in wilder beer styles. Gotta have something like this on tap in a small town! This is light straw in color, with a mellow graininess and subtle citrus hop flavor. A very good take on a classic style. 3.75
Blood Orange Wheat: This is a take on the classic Belgian Wit style, brewed with coriander and bitter orange peel, but with 20 pounds per barrel of blood orange puree added as well. I tasted this prior to reading the description and was expecting a typical American wheat (boring) with fruit flavoring. I was very pleased to find a complex and refreshing beer with plenty of real orange flavor and Belgian yeast character. 4.25
Tangerine Guava Smoothie Sour: This one is exploding with tropical fruit (guava) aromas and flavor, with finish of light tangerine. Tart, but with some body to it and much more complex than many non-wood aged sour beers. This was Sj’s favorite beer of the whole trip. 4.5
Apricot Sour: Along the same lines as the previous beer, but with 120# of apricot and peach puree added to the batch. I’m a huge apricot beer fan, and have brewed beers with it a few times myself. This one is great. The sourness accentuates and hints at the tart bite of a dried apricot, but the beer still comes off pretty balanced and fresh. 4
Kittson Table Bier: Named after the county Hallock is located in, this is a light 4% ABV farmhouse ale fermented with a French Saison yeast. As such, it is bright, refreshing, and easy to drink. I get a hint of black and szechuan peppercorns, as well as a bit of clove. This is one of Ryan’s new favorites and I can see why. I’d be drinking a lot of this beer if I lived closer! 4
Mango Saison: This is another Saison style beer but a bit stronger, and aged on mango and local honey. It is a little on the sweet side for me, but not cloying by any means. Zippy and a bit estery, with a strong mango finish. 3.75
Edison’s Medicine: A Northeast IPA. Because everyone needs to do one of these in this day and age! Properly hazy. Lots of fresh Citra hop aroma and flavor in this one. A well balanced version of the style that has enough hop bitterness that it doesn’t end up too sweet or filling. 4
Megawatt Double IPA: This is a take on the classic West Coast DIPA, a style I’ve seen less and less of as the NE IPA has taken over the world. This has long been one of my favorite styles, with the hop aroma and flavor of an IPA, but with higher alcohol and usually a bit more malty than the regular West Coast IPA. This particular beer is the best example of the style I’ve had all year. Perhaps the past 2 years. I give this a 5–one of 4 beers I’ve rated that high this year. I’ve already drunk one of the two crowlers I took home. Wow!
Chocolate Milk Stout: This is a smooth, velvety milk chocolate tasting beer. There is a pleasant roasty and grainy finish that is not astringent but manages to lead to a dry finish. 4.5
Peanut Butter Milk Stout: We tried this in can later that night. I liked this a lot, but peanut butter beers are not for everyone. I like the regular version a bit more. I’d put this slightly better than Dangerous Man’s and just below Waconia’s on my personal list. Let the flame wars ensue! 4
After tasting through these remarkably good beers, Ryan showed up (having cleaned up from a mishap with a diesel fuel can,) and took us on a tour of the brand new production facility. The brewery had been in the tiny back room of the place, and I can only imagine how tight the 7 barrel system and fermentors were in that tiny space! Now the brewing has been moved just down a couple of storefronts along the same street. This is a larger warehouse-type space with higher ceilings and much more room to grow. They are currently brewing 4 days a week, which is pretty impressive for such a small brewery. They have recently put in more fermentors as well to increase capacity.
Barrels from Far North Spirits (just a few miles from town out in a cornfield and worth a visit) were filled with various beers along one wall. They have enjoyed this particular colaboration and have put most of their beers in spirit barrels–even the blonde! I wish I could have tried some of those!
After a side trip to the aformentioned distillery, we ended up back at Revelation Ale Works. We had missed most of Rib Fest due to our (literal) field trip, and we needed food badly! The brewery has pizzas made for them and then cooked on site, and they were really good after a long day of drinking. By the time we returned, they had already blown one of the kegs and put on the Double Brown ale which was also quite good but I was eating and didn’t take notes. I’ll give it a 4!
While at the brewery we ended up spending a lot of time with the Evenson family (including their children who were also in and out of the brewery like it was a second home). I can’t emphasize enough their gracious and geniune natures. They knew most of the people in the taproom by first name and everyone was having a grand time at the brewery. We ended up talking to several people while there who were so happy to have this local meeting space/watering hole in their town. The brewery has truly added to the community of Hallock, which was one of the founding goals of the owners.
We ended up the day back at our hotel, playing board games, fooling around with ping pong balls, and drinking more beers, stymied only by the lack of a corkscrew for a rare sour Jim brought along. This particular leg of our trip had been such a perfect day amongst incredibly fine people. I’ve now discovered a new contender for my top 10 breweries in the state based on beer quality and this experience. It is a long trip (about 5.5 hours from Minneapolis) to Hallock, but the trek was well worth the effort. And, hey, you can visit some other breweries and even state parks along the way! Also, they do have beers in cans and on tap around Northwest Minnesota and even in Fargo.