First things first. This was not our average Beer Trip. Not even close. We were only going to go for three days, due to a couple guys being super busy with new careers and one moving soon. The prices of gas was around $3.70 here in the Midwest, and with us planning on heading east originally, the prices were only going to go upward. So without the normal fine-tuned itinerary thanks to Dan’s planning awesomeness, this was definitely not our normal Beer Trip. With us only rolling out for three days, we wanted to go someplace close, with good beer, and with enough brewpubs to keep us busy...Hellooooooo Minneapolis, Minnesota!
We start off about 8 AM from Dan’s house on a normal steamy July day. I decided to drive, which I have never done before on the first day, but we pile in to the EM-50, get on I-35, and head north. We go about 20 miles, and I decide to call my pops who lives about 70 miles north, in a area where we will be passing through in about 45 minutes. I ask him, “You ready?” “Ready for what?” “We’re coming by to pick you up; you’re going to go on Beer Trip aren’t ya?” After answering a couple more questions, I hang up the phone, look over at Dan, and I believe my quote was something like “Holy shit! Dude is actually going to go with us, I hope that’s cool.” Dan says, “Well yeah...that’s totally cool man!”
After our short stop to pick up my pops, Bill, we’re heading North to Knoxville, Iowa, and Peace Tree Brewing. We get there a little bit early and grab a quick bite. We meet our buddy Heemer who decided to join up with us from Des Moines. We were greeted by Dani who just also
happened to be the brewer’s wife, and Kaleb who is a college guy working at Peace for the summer. This was a very cool renovated building in downtown Knoxville. The tap room was very well decorated, with a cool vibe to it. Dani took us to back room where her husband makes some very nice beers. She gave us the quick and easy tour, which was totally cool with me. Dani and Kaleb started pouring us sample after sample of great tasting brews. They had an extremely cool cycling jersey that I knew Rob would be buying before we left since he was participating in bike ride across the state of Iowa. (crazy!) A big question for us was how they came up with the name Peace Tree. It’s a very cool story, and you can read all about it right here http://www.peacetreebrewing.com/about-3/ The brewery is fairly new and growing quickly, which is no real surprise with the beer they’re serving up. This is not a brewpub, so no food is served, however you can get food delivered to the tap room, which I personally think is a super cool idea. If you’re anywhere near Knoxville, or in Iowa, try to find their beer, as they do bottle. To keep up our newish tradition started on Beer Trip V, we had Dani and Kaleb place one of their cool stickers on the back of the EM-50. We say our good-byes and keep trucking north. Next stop, Minneapolis.
As we head north the sky is starting to look more and more gnarly. We get to the Minnesota border and the sky flat out opens up. It’s raining as hard as I have ever seen it rain while driving. There are two vehicles on the highway, us and a dude about five car lengths in front of us doing about 40 mph. Everybody else was on the side of the road. This lasts about 20 miles until we finally break free of it, only to be stopped about an hour later with a hour and 20 min delay sitting in traffic thanks to what I can only guess would be the state of Minnesota shutting down. We finally get to the hotel, check in, and go meet a Beer Trip veteran Travis.
We pile into the RV and head to hipster heaven, and Herkimer Pub and Brewery in Uptown. For whatever reason Mother Nature was being a complete bitch and decided to throw a bit of a heat wave right into the face of the Twin Cities.
We stroll into Herkimer and meet up with Travis. We’re all starving and thirsty! We all order up some brews that were pretty solid along with some food. It was a place that was really crowded and really hot so we decided to head across the street to a place called Muddy Waters. This place was just as warm, but it had a bunch of different beers available along with a really great server, whom Travis informed me about since he arrived fairly early and had been working this whole area over for the past six hours or so. After the guys had a few beers, it had quickly become a long day, so we headed back to the hotel where most of us went down to the bar to grab a nightcap.
We also met Fiona whom was a friend of Tim who he met, of all places, India. Fiona was originally from Dublin, and had lived in Minneapolis for a few years. Barley John's is a pretty small place with a really nice outside sitting area. It’s just a cool, small place to grab yourself a very, very well made beer. I didn’t eat there this time, but everything looked better than good. Dan got a beer called Dark Knight that we were told was 18%. I had just a sip, but it was just wonderful. On Rate Beer, it’s got a score of 100. So, yeah rock solid stuff from these guys. I think this is just a must stop if you’re in Minneapolis.
Next we decided we're going to head to a place that is only about 7 months old called Harriet Brewing. This is in an older neighborhood in what looks like a old warehouse. They didn’t have formal tours that day, but they did have an open house, where they were serving up their beers for people to sample. We walk in and are greeted by a guy in the tap room asking if we’d like a taste. Well hell yeah we do, this is Beer Trip! Inside the tap room they have some awesome art hanging up all over, most of it which is for sale. I tried like hell to get my dad to pop $450 for a really kick ass painting that happened to be the original to what was the label to one of their beers. Harriet was basically run mostly by volunteers that day, and they were all very cool and were all knowledgeable about what is going on. We tried everything they had to offer and it all was very tasty. Most of their growler sales were from people who live within a three-mile radius of the brewery. Harriet also had the only fermenters that had decorative wood on the outside of them. Only benefit was looking cool. A few of us grabbed growlers and Timmy even got some art work, which were very cool and basically mini prints of the originals.
So our Aldi visit had to do with our next stop. SURLY! Our friend Keith, aka Surly Boy Wonder, was able to get us into their tour for the Saturday we would be in town. We told SBW (SurlyBoy Wonder) we’d be there with plenty of canned goods, as they ask you to bring canned goods as your payment for the tour. We delivered as promised and had to borrow their dolly to bring it all in. We were allowed to show up a bit early where we met Jori, one of the many Surly Nation
volunteers who help out during tours and gatherings at the brew house along with doing other volunteering for the Surly Gives a Damn. She welcomed us with open arms and made us feel right at home by pouring us a nice glass of Surly beer. This was Beer Trip's second visit to Surly, but Rob and I have been up for Surly’s Darkness Day the past two years, where we became friends with SBW and Todd the brewer at Surly. We all just kind of hung out talked with Todd, who was gracious enough to hang out with us until the tour started.
The crowd for this tour was unreal! Over a hundred people show up, and they kind of split this up into two sections. The first part is about the history of Surly and how it started, with the second part being about how everything is made and canned up. During the history portion of the tour, Beer Trip was mentioned by the tour guide and what we’re about, which I believe most of the guys got a good chuckle from. What I didn’t expect was the reaction afterward. During the “intermission” of the tour, no less than 10 to 12 people stopped to talk with us about where we have been and/or how their grandpa lived in KC, or my favorite question, how in the hell did you do that many places in five days? (I wish I could answer that one myself). It was one of the coolest moments about this trip. People wanting to talk to us about our beer travels. Really, come on, how freaking awesome is that! I felt bad that I had to cut some of the conversations short, but we truly appreciate everyone who stopped and took time to talk to us. As time was winding down on the tour we had to get moving as we had dinner reservations at Café Twenty Eight. A fabulous restaurant that is owned by Todd’s absolutely lovely wife Linda. I have been here a couple times, once with Rob, but the rest of the guys, including a couple of Tim’s friends, had not been there before. Linda and her staff couldn’t have treated us any better than they did. The food was amazing and since they were Surly’s first customer, guess what they had on tap? You guessed it...plenty of Surly along with a boat load of other bottle offerings. For dessert, Linda and Todd, who even joined us for dinner, brought out a treat of treats, a bottle each of Surly TWO and FOUR. Like I said before, she couldn’t have treated us bette! Todd told me that he had this new place
close to Café 28 that he wanted to take us to, and that he even had a room in the bar reserved for us. I had no idea where we were going but it just so happened that it was Muddy Waters, the bar we were at the night before. Like I stated earlier, Mother Nature was just being a complete and utter bitch about the humidity and oppressive heat. This poor room had zero air flowing through it and was pretty warm for everybody. We all looked like we had been brutalized by the heat and a full day of drinking. We hung out for awhile until it was time to head back to the hotel. I can’t wait to go back to Muddy Waters when the weather is cool, cuz it really was a neat place.
The next day our first stop is Town Hall. Last time were in Minneapolis. I was driving the day we went to Town Hall so I was excited to try some of their beers. Travis had stopped in at Town Hall while he was waiting for us to arrive, and he told us we must try their beer LSD. We did and it was well, trippy. A lighter beer, with tons of flavor. They also known for having a great IPA named Marsala Mama. The food here is worth the visit as well. Dan and I got the goat cheese nachos, and we both were in awe of them. Their beers were all high quality and very tasty. The building this place is in is quite cool as well. The tin tiled ceiling really sets it off along with huge wood features. A great place to grab a bite, with a pint.
We have a long drive ahead of us so we make our way south where our next stop will be Rock Bottom in Des Moines. We meet back up with Heemer and some of his friends, who were homebrewers as well. It’s about dinner time so we all grab something to eat and a few beers to wash them down with. Rock Bottom has solid brews, and for a chain, they do a good job of allowing the brewers to have some freedoms. Apparently that’s going to change, but I hope not as drastically as I’ve heard that they might be doing. After dinner, we keep on heading south where we drop Bill off followed by a short trip to the airport to drop Kelly off, since he happened to fly in on Saturday morning to meet up with us for the rest of the trip. We got back to Dan’s, separated our beer haul, and headed home after a very fun, although short Beer Trip VII.
I like to take a moment to say a huge THANK YOU to any and everybody who had anything to do with any part of the Beer Trip’s I was on. I’m retiring from Beer Trip, and I have to say that each trip easily got better and better each time. I simply couldn’t imagine these trips being as fun as they were without Dan, Timmy, Ed, Rob, Kelly, John, Travis and even Jerry! I love these guys, and I am eternally grateful to each of them for making each trip a very memorable experience in my life. A very, very sincere "Thank you!" to each one you guys!