Recently I've made it to nearly 20 breweries and distilleries! I'm going to chip away at them in the order we visited. Keep in mind that I'm reviewing based purely on my (and my wife's) experience on a certain day and that your results may vary. I tend to wait until a brewery has been open for 6-12 months before reviewing, unless my visit is above par and deserves a write up. I try not to be a jerk but pride myself in being honest. I've been a homebrewer for nearly 26 years, a BJCP National ranked judge, and have been to many hundreds of breweries over the years.
Junkyard Brewing Company
The winner of best brewery we visited on our recent trip from the Twin Cities to Fargo was Junkyard Brewing Company. Hands Down. No contest.
I had never tried a beer from Junkyard, nor had I really heard much about them prior to this trip. Located just across the river from Fargo, ND, this little brewery is still just barely in Minnesota! The brewery was started by Aaron and Dan Juhnke in 2012--at least on paper. They built their own nano brewery--a 50 gallon system that was laughably small by comparison to most commercial breweries these days. By August of 2013 they were able to put their first kegs on tap for the beer drinking public. Then in the summer of 2014 they moved into a larger brew space and upgraded to a (still relatively small) 3 barrel brew system. They also added a taproom to the new brewery, serving 10 taps of their beers. They are currently having a hard time brewing enough beer to fill growlers! Time to upgrade again?
Our visit here was on a fine fall afternoon, sun warming us as we walked from the car to the little red and white painted building. The Junkyard dog logo was emblazoned on a small sign out front, as well as painted on the side of the building itself to the side. Entering the door, we discovered a small and comfortable space, filled with happy and thirsty folks. Our friend Mark Glennon, who abandoned us for Fargo about a year ago, had already arrived and was holding us a larger table. Junkyard is one of his favorite breweries and he was eager to share it with us!
The bar is fairly small, but two servers were working hard and fast to keep everyone filled up. The place seemed a bit like a rough timbered wood and steel NE MPLS brewery, but with a retro 80's and '90's vibe to it. Fun versions of their beer labels were painted on the walls, giving a lighter touch to the scene. A picture of The Terminator on the bathroom door warns "You'll be back!" So true!
The beers were good. Really good. Shockingly good. Here are my notes from Untappd and ratings from 0-5. I'll drink a 3, seek out a 4, and hoard a 5 beer. While they didn't have samplers, they did sell beers in half-pints and we all shared a bit so we got to try nearly all the beers between our group. My battery was going so I didn't take notes on all of them...
1) Coachgun--IPA. Really well balanced with some classic American hop character. Not overly bitter or overly hoppy. Well done! 4.25
2) Key Lime Gose--Sour with salt and Key Limes. Wow, this beer was crazy. Like a very tart margarita. One of the best kettle sours I've had this year. Or ever. 4.25
3) Skunk Ape--Pale Ale. A good American pale ale. Had some pine notes and wasn't too sweet. 3.75
4) Coal Miner's Daughter--Imperial Stout. A very roasty and less viscous/sticky RIS than many recent examples. Reminds me more of classic Old Rasputin. Almost a smoky hint to it. Solid. 4
5) Peanut Butter Bandit--Peanut butter stout. The only thing I wrote was "Holy Crap!" This is probably the best peanut butter beer I've had. I've brewed my own. Better than Dangerous Man. Better than Rocket Republic. Better than Terrapin. 4.75
6) Free Candy--Belgian Quad. Pretty sweet but very easy to drink. This one was aged in booze barrels and had added complexity. 3.75
7) Whistle Wetter--Double IPA. Really well balanced for the style. 4.25
So overall, every beer I had was well above average to great. None of our group of 5 had a beer they didn't like. With bright afternoon sun shining in through the window through our glistening beer glasses, we all talked, sipped, and relaxed in the warm glow of fantastic beer and a comfortable taproom. This place is my personal break-out hit from our trip, and will certainly make it into the top breweries I've been too this year. I am a bit annoyed that one can only find their beer at the taproom or in a few bars/restaurants in the Fargo area. I think they're having a hard time brewing enough to keep even those limited accounts full, and I now know why. These are complex, well balanced beers, made to appease the palates of the brewers--not the common denominator. I'll be first in line at upcoming beer festivals to try their newest batches!