This past weekend an AHA rally was held at Summit Brewing in St. Paul, and a great time ensued. Summit Brewing is one of the oldest craft breweries in Minnesota (Schells has them beat) and has been at the forefront of bringing the taste of more flavorful beers to Minnesota drinkers for over 25 years now. Nearly every bar in Minnesota at least has Summit EPA on tap.
|3 of the 8 Jabbers present at the rally, enjoying free beers!|
The "new" Summit tasting room has actually been around for several years, but prior to the Surly Bill being passed they were only able to give free samples to tours and host private events there. I'm actually surprised that it took them so long to open it to the public, and at this point they only open Friday nights. I assume that the amount of business they do in the taproom is a drop in the bucket compared to keg and bottle sales--as opposed to some breweries like Dangerous Man and 612 that survive based on taproom sales. The taproom itself is spacious with high ceilings, picnic tables and a very old-fashioned bar in the back corner. Plenty of Summit signs from over the years adorn the walls, as well as the sign for the expired German brewery where Summit got its original equipment in the 1980's. On one wall is a framed letter from the Brewer's Association from the early 80's discouraging Mark Stutrud from opening a micro-brewery! During this event they had booths for Midwest, Northern Brewer and Brew&Grow, as well as a bunch of raffle items donated by them and the AHA.
We were given wrist bands with three detachable numbered tags good for a total of 3 free beers. They had a lot of beers on tap, and I started with the Oatmeal stout on nitro. They had a firkin of that dry-hopped with EKG and I was able to taste them side by side: the firkin was more bitter, but overall I liked it more. Since that beer is only offered on draft or firkin, try it if you see it on tap somewhere. They had Meridian, the first in their Union series of session beers showcasing unusual ingredients, made with Meridian hops, Belgian yeast and a newer cultivar of English malt. Thoughts on this beer were mixed, but as a Belgian beer guy I liked it. We were also able to do a side by side tasting of their original IPA (an English example) and the Saga IPA (an American version.) I enjoyed the Saga much more than I remember in the past.
There were tours of the brewery every 15 minutes and we were able to see most of the brewery this way. Several years back we had a personal tour there with a bit more behind the scenes stuff, so this wasn't quite up to my memory of the place, but still cool to see again. They have added a new bottling line and filtering system since were last here. They are also doing a large expansion out back for more fermenter space, which will vastly increase the amount of beer they can produce. They still aim to keep most of the beer in the Midwest, with the lion's share staying here in Minnesota.
With Chip Walton (of Brewing TV, and Chop&Brew fame,) acting as MC, we also heard from the new AHA rep and Summit head brewer Damien McConn. As a bona-fide Irishman, listening to Damien talk is a treat. All the women want him and all the men want to be him. Rough life he must lead! He gave a lot of history of the brewery as well as answered many questions from listeners. The whole trip out there was worth listening to him speak.
We had a great time at this event, and I thank Summit and the AHA for doing this, as well as the local homebrew shops who participated. I saw a lot of new faces and that makes me wonder why so many of these brewers are not involved in the local clubs and competitions! Between free beer, winning raffle items and our 10% off AHA discount at the Summit swag shop I walked away with a lot from this rally. It is cool to see Minnesota starting to shine in the beer world, and these types of events can only improve the scope and fame of homebrewing and commercial beer in our chilly state.