Archive for July, 2009

Family Reunion or Beer-cation?

My mother’s side of the family meets up every year for a reunion.  We generally congregate in Alma, WI – which is north of La Crosse and on the Mississippi River if you’re familiar with Wisconsin.

I love fishing – but decided to forego the opportunity this year and decided to mix some work into this reunion.  No – not my normal programming work – I left the laptop at home!

Being a homebrewing “Beer-natic” – I decided to find some brew pubs, breweries, and wineries to visit on this trip.

First on the stop – Moosejaw Pizza & Dell’s Brewing Company in WI Dells, WI.  First off – the decor was excellent.  The building is a large 2-story log cabin.  The lighting is all kinds of antler chandeliers – and there’s a huge fireplace in the dining room.  No fire int the summer – but I just may have to take a visit in the fall/winter when it’s a roaring!

I had the 10 beer sampler – which was all of their beers.  My favorite was the Dells Chief Amber Ale (5% ABV) – which was the 2008 Silver Medal Winner at teh Great American Beer Festival.  A smooth and malty beer I’d have again and again.

The big surprise beer was an Apricot Ale (4.4% ABV).  It’s a light and refreshing ale – with the right amount of Apricot.  Not so much that you’ll forget where you left your purse (AH – but you shouldn’t HAVE a purse) – but enough for great flavor.  Think of it as one of the perfect summer hammock beers.

If you go to Moosejaw – make sure you get some of their wonderful Beer Bread!

Next stop on the way up was in Winona, MN at the Backwater Brewing Company.  I figured this place had to be great since there’s a bowling alley there too!  Their popcorn on the table was so good – you ate it even though you weren’t hungry!  Unfortunately – the beers didn’t seem to follow suit.  They had 4 beers on tap – but the focus seemed to be other commercial beers – which was a little disappointing to me.

Of course – eveyone’s taste in beer is different – so this was MY opinion.  Their stout was a very VERY light tasting stout.  Almost like a stout with training wheels.  Of course – that could be the goal since I know a ton of people who taste with their eyes – so it’s surprisingly light.  They had a pale ale that was actually quite good and belongs in a brew pub!  The other two were mediocre at best – I forgot them pretty quick – I think one was a wheat beer.

The next day my wife, child, and I drove to Mantorville, MN to visit with Tod Fyten – the brewer/owner of Mantorville Brewing Company.  I had contact Tod a week earlier about a tour – and even though he had a beer fest the next day in Chetek, WI – he still took time out to meet with me.

I spent close to 4 hours talking with Tod – it was a real treat!  He’s very involved and knowledgeable – and shared with me a lot of the little things homebrewers don’t think about when they try their hand at making commercial beer.  Tod’s family has been in and around the beer industry for 4+ generations – and as Tod stated, he’s “been around fermentation all my life.”

He showed us his small brewery about the size of a large 2+ car garage – and let us sample his beers.  It was very interesting to see the huge mash tun he had.  The copper tubing inside was set up much like my mash tun cooler at home.  Makes ya feel you’re doing something right with your beers.

There’s currently 3 beer produced by Mantorville Brewing Company.  A Stagecoach Amber Ale which was the first beer released and is available in 6 packs across S.E. MN. He also offers lighter golden ale that’s made with Honey malt which I thought was pretty tasty.  But the beer that had both my wife and I licking our chops was the cream stout!   A big thank you to Tod for the tour and the extra time to just talk with me.

If you’ve visited any of these brew pubs or microbrewies – or others  I’d like to hear what you thought about them!  Also feel free to leave comments about the various breweries and brew pubs you visit on Foremost Brewing !