I noticed that my last several posts were all about kayaking which is perfectly normal since its prime paddle season. I have been consuming some beer as well and with a bit of luck and perhaps the investment of a few bucks I might be consuming more locally brewed beer in one of the most unlikely places for a brewpub, South Minneapolis. Unlike Northeast Minneapolis where bars alternate with churches on every block of 4th St NE from Broadway to Lowry Ave, the upright Scandinavian Lutherans in the southern part of town have pretty much limited the beer drinking opportunities to a few 3.2 bars on the periphery of the area. This could change if the Smokehouse Brewpub gets off the ground.
The reason that Smokehouse as well as Fulton Brewery are even considering building facilities in Minneapolis is because of the passage of the Minnesota Pint Law, a law which allows breweries to sell pints of their own beer on their own premises. As John Tevlin, business columnist for the Star Tribune, wrote in his story on the new venture, "This is made possible by a new law that allows pints of beer to be sold at breweries in Minnesota, just like in many civilized countries". If a couple friends stop over on Sunday to watch the Packer-Bear game though, you still ain't gonna get a six pack in this state but one hurdle at a time I guess. The interesting thing about the Smokehouse project is the community investment aspect. With cash being tight these days, the three partners are selling shares or memberships to raise the seed capital, at which point Park Midway Bank in St Paul will lend them the rest of the money. It sounds like the vision is a neighborhood brewpub with smoked food that is made on the premises. Jon Tevlin's linked story above explains the concept in greater detail. What's not to like? They will still need to run the brain numbing, insanely complicated, and stultifying gamut of Minneapolis city inspectors, which should add at least six months to their tentative opening date, but I have to give them credit for the effort and wish them well. Up in Brooklyn Park, Surly Brewing, the folks that got the common sense Pint Law jump started, is planning a huge brewery complex where they will indeed be selling their own pints.
Overall beer sales in the US dropped last year while craft beer sales rose 11%. I would hope that more people are turning to beers with actual flavor rather than the over carbonated, 'only tastes good when ice cold' BudMiller products. In the 'think globally, drink locally' concept, we have more and more choices every week. A few weeks back we hit Black Rock brewpub in Marquette, MI. Tomorrow we are off to Red Rocks lake near Pella, IA and there have been promises of a trip to the Peace Tree Brewery near Knoxville. A certain Iowa paddler (I won't point any fingers Doc) claims he's been hiding a couple Blonde Fatale's in his fridge since he forgot to pack them for the trip to Gitchee Gumee in August. The trend of small, independent local breweries continues. It would seem like the BudMiller's acquisitions of local favorites like Red Hook and Leinenkugels has slowed as well as the expansion of chain brewpubs like Granite City and Rock Bottom. It's great that these organizations have realized that there is a growing market in craft beer but because of their desire to appeal to a broad range of the public, they just don't brew many interesting or assertive beers. I'll take a decent neighborhood bar with a half dozen tap handles that includes Summit Extra Pale, Bell's Two Hearted, and maybe Guiness every time over the brewpub chain.
There should be plenty of kayaking in the next few weeks before frost hits, leaves turn color and dropping, and horny bucks drive me up into my tree stand with my trusty bow. In most paddling venues including Iowa this weekend, Marquette, MI for the Gales event next month, and of course the Thirsty Pagan fueled run to the Apostles, good beer in friendly local bars and brewpubs is available to add to the total experience of the paddling road trip. Be sure to stop and smell the hops along the way.