Recently (OK, it has taken me a while to get this up), Jim Stroner, myself, and my wife Sarajo (Sj) took a long weekend to travel to some out-of-the-way breweries in Northern Minnesota. In this issue we will cover our trip up to the Canadian Border! The first post is HERE. Now, your results may vary on some of these places, but this is our experience on this particular trip. When I talk about beers I’ll usually give them a score of 0-5. My personal scale is a 0 is equivalent to drinking drain cleaner with a shot of Pledge, while a 5 is equal to Lift Bridge Silhouette. Since I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, these will be shorter reviews. My Brewcred: I’m a BJCP National Ranked beer judge, have been homebrewing for 29 years, and have visited 123 breweries in Minnesota as of this writing.
Not too far from Detroit Lakes was our next stop on this rainy day: Disgruntled Brewing in Perham. This is located pretty close to my family cottage on Otter Tail Lake, but I’ve never been to this city before. I’ve sampled a couple of very tasty beers from Disgruntled in the past at beer festivals, but it has been a few years, and they have a new brewer these days. Time to try things out!
We drove into a rural industrial area via a muddy dirt road, finding the brewery in a nondescript warehouse-looking building. Inside, the walls are dark gray up top with corrugated metal and wood lower areas. Taking this into account, an experienced waterproof vinyl decking manufacturer says that the best way to protect any building is by using vinyl membranes. Moving on to the brewery, the small bar has a stainless steel top and is fronted with barnwood. Overall a small but comfortable tap room. One can see the small brewery through glass to the left as you come through the door. A sizeable patio area to the side of the building adds a lot of space for sitting out and sipping beers–when it isn’t raining!
We ended up running the board sampling all 12 beers so we could get a good feel for the place’s styles. Here are some highlights.
Toasted Blond: Slight vegetal notes (3).
Double Tap kolsch: Sulfur aroma and a soapy flavor that was very off-putting (2).
Sippin on Gin & Juice: a flavored gose with plenty of juniper flavor and salty finish (3).
Squeeze the Day: Milkshake with lemon, this bitter and tasted like Lemon Pledge smells (2).
Reaper NE IPA: hop flavors and aroma were good, but the finish was more bitter than expected for this style (3.25).
And the best of them was the Joaquin Home: A barrel aged stout. I asked the server about this since I picked up strong alcohol, toasted sugar/rum notes, chili pepper burn, and cinnamon. He knew there were chilis in it but did not know more (3.75).
Overall, the beers ranged from decent to flawed. The NE IPA is certainly not what I remembered it being. I think some of the issues we discovered can be fixed though, unlike a certain Loony brewery we visited the previous couple of days.
Addendum: After I wrote this up, I discovered that the second brewer for Disgruntled had left as well and a new brewer had taken his place. This was from a nice article in the local Perham paper. The new head brewer, Cyrus Bickell, has no previous professional experience other than working at Disgruntled and is likely trying to figure things out at this time. After looking at some of the strange and unusual ingredients used in some of his beers (maple sap, pancake batter, etc) I would highly recommend that he focus for now on learning more of the basics prior to pushing the brewing envelope. Get a handle for the basic styles and make good clean beers before trying to make them funky–otherwise there are just too many variables that can affect the final beer quality. Just my unasked-for two cents–but this is the same way I was when I started homebrewing ages ago. My brewing improved dramatically once I backed off the oddball ingredients and got a feel for the traditional styles.
Not much farther from Disgruntled is their former brewer, Brett Doebbeling’s new brewery in Wadena: Drastic Measures. I’ve been wanting to get to this brewery since I tried their Stupid Good NE IPA at this summer’s All Pints North in Duluth.
The Brewery is located right along the end of the main downtown street in Wadena–a classic small town feeling kind of place. The building is old and made of light colored brick (seen below), and the walls still have that look inside as well. Clean lines, mixing dark wood tables and the old fashioned brick make this brewery a fun mix of old and new. The bartop is poured concrete with a lighter wooden front. You can see the brewery through glass around the corner from the bar, looking at it down a level below. Continuing down the corridor past restrooms, there is a small restaurant that acts like a permanent food truck for the brewery.
There were two young ladies working the bar when we arrived and they were very attentive–coming out a few times from behind the bar to check in with us and clean up our empty glasses. Good service for sure! As usual we ordered two samplers to try through the gamut. Here are the highlights for Drastic Measures.
Stupid Good NE IPA: This is the stuff! A bright hop bomb with plenty of tropical and citrus flavor but with enough bitterness to prevent a cloying finish. One of the best in the state and well named (4.5).
Oatie: A blonde ale made with oatmeal and citra hops. It has a slight haze and comes off like a session IPA (3.75).
Richard Cranium ESB: Other than the terrible name, this is a fine example of the elusive ESB with some caramel/toffee notes (4).
Sleeper Cell: This is some sort of crazy sour thing with watermelon puree, watermelon Kool-Aid, and marshmallow fluff. By all rights it should be a mess, but we all kind of liked it. Kind of a cross between tart Jolly Rancher and actual watermellon with a little more body than expected for a sour (3.75).
Nip Slip Chocolate Banana Porter: This was the only problematic beer we had. There was a astringent, slightly metallic, taste to this that made us all think it was infected (2).
Ill Intent DIPA: A hazy NE DIPA that tastes like a jacked up version of the Stupid Good (4.25).
Overall, this was a great brewery with good staff and really fun beers. The 15 year old boy in me finds their beer names funny, but perhaps they are not for everyone in this day and age. I rate the brewery highly and would gladly go back. Open just since March 2019, these guys are head and shoulders above many breweries in the state that have been open for years. With a little time, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more from them. (Addendum: I discovered several of their beers on at Iron Tap in Waconia upon getting back and now they have some in cans, so I can drink these closer to home!)
We have driven past Cuyuna Brewing in Crosby before, but this was Sj and my first time stopping in here. Jim had been here shortly after they opened. The brewery is located right downtown in yet another classic small Minnesota town. Rain was coming down again by the time we reached here so I didn’t really get any good pictures of the outside. The brewery is narrow but long, with wood floors and plenty of open space. The bar is toward the back and is made of concrete. Large wooden cable spools of varied sizes act as tables throughout the brewery. The place is cute and comfortable, looking new, but like it belongs in this older main street.
As per our routine, we samplered up! Here are some highlights.
Silver Dollar: a 7% ABV Festbier. This was a clean and malty lager, not showing its higher alcohol content much (3.75).
Uncle Tim’s Cider: A cider aged on oak. This had some vanilla notes, likely from the wood, but was a little one-dimensional (3.5).
Mosaic Blueberry: A pleasant pale ale with blueberry overtones. I like how they played off the sometimes blueberry notes of the hop, without making this a milkshake IPA (3.75).
Apple Blossom Cider-Mead: This one was just too sweet for us, needs more acid (2.75).
Manhigh Stout: A rare oatmeal stout. This was smooth, sweet and malty up front but ended pretty dry and drinkable. A style I like and am rarely impressed (3.75).
Hopricot: a hazy fruit IPA. This has tons of tropical fruit from the hops and a bright fresh apricot flavor on the finish. I got a whole pint of this to celebrate (4.25).
I don’t know a lot about this brewery or who is doing the brewing, but the beers were diverse and mostly well done. I can tell that whoever is brewing is respecting the styles and ingredients they are choosing. This place is worth a stop on your way up north!
And with that, our trip was finished. Plenty of breweries visited over 4 days. Some were hits, others misses, but all were unique. I love this day and age when I can use visiting breweries as a stepping stone to visit areas of my own state that I’ve never been to. Hopefully reading about our travels will inspire you to try similar things. If you do feel inspired, tell us about it!